Israel and Palestine
|The Tower.org staff||May 2nd 2013|
The Palestinian Authority (PA) will defy U.S. calls and pursue a unilateral diplomatic strategy unless Israel meets a series of preconditions by June 3rd, The Tower has been told. The Palestinian campaign would among other things see the PA seeking membership in a number of U.N. organs.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry began a renewed peace push last month. Israeli media outlets have previously reported that Washington made plain to PA officials that it does not accept a time-frame that would limit Kerry’s activity. The Secretary of State urged the Palestinians to postpone bids for enhanced status at U.N. and international bodies – including in the International Criminal Court – by eight weeks. Read more ..
The Boston Massacre
Authorities have taken three more suspects into custody in the investigation of last month's Boston Marathon bombings. The Boston Police Department issued a statement Wednesday saying there was "no threat to public safety" and that more details would be forthcoming.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) told CNN the suspects were all college students who would be charged with "disposal of evidence." "It is part of the ongoing investigation. And this basically is I believe going to involve three students who allegedly helped to dispose of evidence or remove evidence," King said on Wednesday. "Two of them had been in custody on visa violations and the other was an American citizen who has been picked up." Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|J. Millard Burr||April 30th 2013|
Economic Warfare Institute
While the United States media was enmeshed in the aftermath of the Boston bombing, on April 26, Karachi, Pakistan's former capital, suffered its own horrific bombing. An explosion at a street meeting of the Awami National Party (ANP), Pakistan's oldest political movement, left ten people killed and more than forty injured. A bomb using nearly ten pounds of explosives spewed ball bearings and nuts and bolts throughout a crowd massed to hear political speakers.
It was just the latest atrocity in this massive city. Although a census has not been taken in years, an estimated 18 million inhabitants survive in a 1,362 square mile polity. Since the recent arrival of a murderous Pashtun Taliban element from the north the city has grown more ungovernable. Even before the recent arrivals, dozens of people were killed daily. So many, in fact, that dependable statistics have not been kept. Read more ..
Israel's Next Northern War
|Susan St. Clair||April 29th 2013|
A spokesman for the rebel military in Syria has said that Israeli Air Force jets were spotted flying over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s palace in Damascus as well as over security and military installations, according to Israel’s Channel 2. The planes were spotted Sunday morning, the spokesman said. He added that no anti-aircraft shots were fired at the jets. Last week several Western nations, as well as the rebel army, confirmed that evidence suggesting that chemical weapons had been used by Assad’s regime had been gathered. The use of chemical weapons by Assad, considered a “red line” by U.S. President Barack Obama and Israel, have ratcheted up tensions even further in the region.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported: "Lawmakers pressed the Obama administration to intervene in Syria's civil war, citing the regime's alleged chemical-weapons use, as the White House weighed its response against a sobering fact: Damascus has developed a world class air-defense system. That system, built, installed and maintained—largely in secret—by Russia's military complex, presents a formidable deterrent as the White House draws up options for responding to a U.S. intelligence report released last week concluding that Damascus likely used chemical weapons on the battlefield. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Jeremy Herb||April 28th 2013|
As the Obama administration weighs responding to a possible chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, lawmakers say their chief concern is the weapons stockpiles falling into the wrong hands.
Lawmakers from both parties say they don’t support U.S. boots on the ground in Syria, but are warning that the weapons must be safeguarded from terror groups if Assad’s regime collapses.
There’s been a large outcry for the Obama administration to do more in Syria after the White House said that it believed Assad’s forces used chemical weapons. President Obama has taken a cautious approach, saying that the U.S. must first verify chemical weapons use before taking more aggressive steps. Read more ..
|Anne Michel||April 27th 2013|
The “Offshore Leaks” files published around the world on April 4 show that, from the late 1990s until the end of the 2000s, two major French banks, BNP Paribas and Crédit Agricole, oversaw the creation of a large number of totally opaque offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands, Samoa and Singapore for clients in search of secrecy and lower tax rates.
These are the findings unearthed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which has been researching the story for over a year. According to these secret documents, BNP Paribas channels operations through its Singapore and Hong Kong subsidiaries, whereas Crédit Agricole relies on its Geneva-based Swiss subsidiary.
Both banks have set up companies through their Asian subsidiaries with the help of Portcullis TrustNet, a service provider that specializes in offshore business and turnkey companies (the famous “quick” companies that can be incorporated within 48 hours) for rich clients claiming to be domiciled in Asia and concealed by nominees. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Jeremy Herb||April 26th 2013|
President Obama on Friday said "a line has been crossed” in Syria but cautioned that more “direct evidence” is needed to confirm a chemical weapons attack. Speaking alongside King Abdullah of Jordan in the Oval Office, Obama said that the United States was working with countries like Jordan to obtain more evidence and confirmation of a potential chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.
"To use weapons of mass destruction on civilian populations crosses another line in terms of international norms and laws. ... That's going to be a game changer," Obama said. Obama did not say whether his “red line” regarding chemical weapons use had been crossed by the Assad regime, but he said “a line had been crossed” when tens of thousands of Syrians had been killed by government forces in the two-year conflict. "Knowing that there's chemical weapons in Syria doesn't tell us when they were used or how they were used,” he said. “We ourselves will be putting a lot of resources on this.” Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Jeffery Herb and Julian Pecquet||April 25th 2013|
The White House on Thursday said the intelligence community believes the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons, crossing a “red line” set by President Obama.
“Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin,” Miguel Rodriguez, director of the White House office of legislative affairs, wrote to senators on Thursday.
But the Obama administration cautioned it still has to “build on these intelligence assessments as we seek to establish credible and corroborated facts,” suggesting that the administration is not yet planning any military action against Assad's regime.
“Given the stakes involved, and what we have learned from our own recent experience, intelligence assessments alone are not sufficient — only credible and corroborated facts that provide us with some degree of certainty will guide our decision-making,” the letter says. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Richard H.P. Sia||April 24th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
The Pentagon allowed a private firm providing food and water to U.S. troops in Afghanistan to overbill taxpayers $757 million and awarded the company no-bid contract extensions worth more than $4 billion over three years, according to the Pentagon’s chief internal watchdog and congressional investigators.
The deal represented one of the largest U.S. military contracts in Afghanistan. But the Defense Logistics Agency, which was overseeing the contract, failed repeatedly to verify that the contractor’s invoices were accurate, an official in the Defense Department inspector general’s office said. "This has to be one of the prime poster childs for a government contract spun out of control," Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said last week.
Mica and other members of the House Oversight and Governmental Reform Subcommittee on National Security expressed outrage at a hearing last week about the Pentagon’s handling of the deal, especially two contract extensions awarded amid a dispute between the government and the company over as much as $1 billion. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Canadian-US border outpost|
Read more ..
Canadian police and security services announced the details of the capture of two terrorism suspects in Toronto on Monday and that they thwarted a "major terrorist attack" targeting the United States. The two accused, Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser, who live in the Montreal and Toronto area were conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack against a VIA passenger train. Charges include conspiring to carry out an attack against, and conspiring to murder persons unknown for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group, according to a Royal Canadian Mounted Police statement.
During an afternoon press conference in Toronto today at 3:30 p.m., officials from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police provided the details of a “National Security criminal investigation." The press conference was held in English and French. The RCMP spokesperson said the thwarting of a major terrorist plot aimed at Canada comes amid a rise in concern about home-grown Islamists residing in Canada.
|Mike Lillis||April 21st 2013|
The Boston Marathon tragedy is a reason for Congress to move faster – not slower – to overhaul the nation's immigration system, according to two co-authors of a Senate reform package.
Some conservatives on Capitol Hill have suggested Monday's deadly bombings – allegedly orchestrated by a pair of young immigrants from Russia's volatile Caucasus region – should cause lawmakers to move more deliberately in their approach to immigration reform this year.
But Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) – chief architects of a sweeping bipartisan immigration proposal unveiled last week – argued Sunday that their bill will help prevent future terrorist attacks at home and should be taken up as soon as possible. Read more ..
The Boston Massacre
|Martin Barillas||April 19th 2013|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Crowds erupted in cheers and applause as it became evident that a suspect in the deadly Boston Marathon bombing is now under arrest. Following a tense day in the Boston metro area throughout April 19, police went to a neighborhood in suburban Watertown where he was detected using state-of-the-art detection equipment. After engaging in a firefight and a three hour wait, the Chechen Muslim suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev has finally been apprehended. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino tweeted, "We got him."
An alert homeowner in Watertown noticed a tear on a tarp covering a boat in his backyard that showed signs of blood. Police came after being contacted by the concerned homeowner. It was from his hideout in the boat that Tsarnaev shot at officers. The scene was described as a "bloody mess." Apparently wounded, Tsarnaev has been taken from the scene in an ambulance. The Boston Police Department has tweeted "CAPTURED!!! The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won. Suspect in custody." Following word that the arrest had been made, citizens congratulated law enforcement on the scene as they cheered and wept with joy. Read more ..
The Boston Massacre
|Russell Grayson||April 19th 2013|
Boston and its suburbs were turned into a near-war zone overnight as the two suspects in the Boston Marathon Bombings--brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, purportedly Chechen ethnics--ran amok in the streets in a high-speed pursuit and shootout. The bizarre chase, complete with grenades thrown at pursuing law enforcement, continued through the suburbs of Cambridge and Watertown. Boston and its surrounding suburbs are on full lockdown this morning--residents ordered to stay in their homes, vehicles and pedestrians barred from the streets, all public schools and universities ordered closed, businesses shuttered, and the transit system shut down--because there are unexploded grenades and explosive devices in the streets as a result of the violent chase. There are reports that another pressure-cooker bomb has been found and that the older brother, Tamerlan, had an additional bomb strapped to his body when he charged toward police and was killed at the scene of the huge street-battle in Watertown. His younger brother, Dzhokhar, ran the stolen SUV over Tamerlan's body as he escaped the scene of the battle. Read more ..
The Boston Massacre
|Rachel Quigley, Lydia Warren, Annette Witheridge and James Nye||April 18th 2013|
|Aamir Latif and Marina Walker Guevara||April 17th 2013|
The scandal-buffeted heir to one of Pakistan’s most powerful political dynasties, the Chaudhry family, owned a secret company in the British Virgin Islands he created with the help of Swiss bank UBS, according to documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Moonis Elahi, son of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who has just stepped down as deputy prime minister, was the sole shareholder in an offshore company called Olive Grove Assets Ltd, created in 2006 in the British Virgin Islands according to corporate records reviewed by ICIJ. In 2008 Moonis Elahi won a seat in the Punjab Provincial Assembly.
Elahi was swept up in scandal in 2011 when government prosecutors accused him of obtaining illegal payments in an alleged land scam involving the government-owned National Insurance Company Limited (NICL). Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||April 16th 2013|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
The FBI is looking for information from anybody who may have seen someone carrying a very heavy dark bag shortly before Monday's twin bombings at the Boston Marathon. Investigators have found pieces of black nylon which they say may have come from a backpack at the bomb site.
The FBI says the range of suspects is wide open, but that no one has claimed responsibility. It says authorities will "go to the ends of the Earth" to identify those responsible. Maryland Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger said after a security briefing on April 16 it is not likely that al-Qaida or any foreign government was involved because of the lack of prior intelligence.
Security experts in the UK, however, pointed out that the type of device used was very similar to improvised explosive devices traced to al-Qaida and related terrorist organizations. Investigators now theorize that at least one of the bombs that was detonated at the Boston Marathon finish line was contained in pressure cooking that flung pellets and other metal debris into the blast radius, thus causing deadly injuries. Similar bombs have been used in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere against U.S. and allied military targets. Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||April 15th 2013|
Two explosions rocked the finish line at the iconic Boston Marathon race, leaving an as yet undetermined number of persons injured. At least one police officer was injured, while one bystander said that injuries were severe. There are reports that there are now at least three fatalities and dozens of injuries. Dave Weigel, who witnessed the carnage, used social media to describe the scene as the smoke cleared. “I saw people’s legs blown off. Horrific. Two explosions. Runners were coming in and saw unspeakable horror,’ he wrote on Twitter. Some reports suggest that at least three persons have died as a result of the two blasts. The blasts took place approximately three hours after the marathon’s winners crossed the line.
Video and photographs from the scene showed emergency personnel going to aid the injured. The sidewalks near the finish line and the north side of Boylston Street were strewn with blood. Bloodied spectators were taken to a medical tent. “There are a lot of people down,” said one witness, according to AP news. His bib No. 17528 identified him as Frank Deruyter of North Carolina. Read more ..
Operation Pillars of Defense
In early February 2013 the IDF deployed the Iron Dome anti-rocket system in northern Israel, to fend off potential threats in the area. This system is truly an impressive technological achievement. It was evaluated as an asset, thanks to the system’s ability not only to save lives but to also afford greater freedom of choice for the political and military echelons regarding when and how to respond to attacks on the home front.
Praise for Iron Dome
Even initial critics have admitted that the system’s ability to intercept some 90 percent of the missiles fired at Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza in November 2012 – which would have otherwise hit populated areas – is beyond the developers’ expectations and a significant contribution to Israeli defensive capabilities. The system saved lives of civilians and troops, which makes it attractive to Israel’s casualty-averse society, particularly in conflicts that do not endanger Israel’s most vital security interests, let alone its survival. Read more ..
The Race for Natural Gas
|David Wurmser||April 13th 2013|
On January 17, 2009, Israel’s economy and even its strategic stature changed. A team led by the Texan firm Noble Energy Inc., drilled under 5,600 feet (1,700 meters) of water and 16,000 feet (5,600 meters) of rock and salt off Israel’s shores in the Matan license to explore a prospect called Tamar. On that day, they struck and flared methane, discovering a field which now is estimated to contain a probable 275 billion cubic meters (9.7 trillion cubic feet, or TCF) of natural gas. To compare the size of the field to consumption measures, the field represents over half of what the European Union’s 27 (EU-27) nations consume annually, which in 2010 peaked at about 522 BCM before declining in 2011 and 2012, of which now about 463 BCM is imported per annum). Moreover, the Tamar well-heads which contain methane gas are rated at a high level of purity, with an energy value of production per well-head over four-fold higher than Saudi oil well-heads. Read more ..
|Joop Bouma and Martijn Roessingh||April 11th 2013|
The Dutch banks ING and ABN Amro registered dozens of companies for their clients in offshore refuges with lovely beaches and low tax rates such as the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands and the Malaysian island of Labuan, an investigation by Dutch newspaper Trouw and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found.
Trouw found the information in leaked documents and emails from two companies — Singapore-based Portcullis TrustNet and British Virgin Islands-based Commonwealth Trust Limited — that specialize in helping customers set up and manage companies in offshore centers known as havens for individuals who want to reduce their taxes. ING and ABN Amro said they have never been party to tax evasion. “The companies were set up for international clients and always in compliance with local and international laws,” ABN Amro said in a statement. Read more ..
Foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States illegally have been known to avoid Border Patrol screening procedures by surreptitiously crossing into areas between these ports of entry, including Indian reservations, many of which have been vulnerable to illicit cross-border threat activity, such as drug smuggling, according to the Department of Homeland Security officials in a report released on Friday. The Government Accountability Office was requested by U.S. lawmakers to investigate DHS's efforts to coordinate border security activities on Indian reservations. In complying with Congress' request, GAO researchers examined DHS's efforts to coordinate with tribal governments to address border security threats and vulnerabilities on Indian reservations. GAO investigators reported that they interviewed DHS officials at headquarters and conducted interviews with eight tribes, selected based on factors such as proximity to the border, and the corresponding DHS field offices that have a role in border security for these Indian reservations. While GAO cannot generalize its results from these interviews to all Indian reservations and field offices along the border, they provide examples of border security coordination issues. Read more ..
The North Korean Threat
|Steve Herman||April 10th 2013|
There is growing concern in Northeast Asia that North Korea is about to conduct another provocative missile launch, possibly firing a number of rockets simultaneously. South Korean and U.S. forces in the country have gone to a higher reconnaissance posture, just one notch below that of wartime.
The status change from Watch Condition (Watchcon) 3 to 2 comes amid indications of the presence of missiles on mobile launchers in North Korea. Watchcon 2 denotes indications of a "vital threat." Domestic South Korean media say the change went into effect Wednesday.
Yun says intelligence obtained by South Korea and the United States has ascertained that “the possibility of a missile launch by North Korea is very high” and could occur “at any time from now.” Yun describes the Musudan, which Pyongyang has never tested, as having a range of about 3,500 kilometers and “it is up to North Korea how far it would fly.” Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Aaron Y. Zelin||April 9th 2013|
The Washington Institute
Early Tuesday morning, Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Husseini al-Qurashi al-Baghdadi -- the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaeda branch -- released an audio message announcing the extension of its "Islamic State" into al-Sham (the Levant), effectively bringing Syrian jihadist rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) into the fold. This comes on the heels of "al-Qaeda Central" leader Ayman al-Zawahiri releasing a video message two days ago calling for unification of the jihad in Syria. This is no coincidence -- rather, it highlights the continued relevance of al-Qaeda's central command. Although Baghdadi's announcement confirms what many already surmised and what the United States noted in its December designation of JN as a terrorist group, his words offer several important takeaways. Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||April 8th 2013|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died "peacefully" at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke, according to her family. Current Prime Minister David Cameron called her a "great Briton," while Queen Elizabeth conveyed her sadness at the death of the former leader. Foreign Minister William Hague spoke of Thatcher as a “remarkable” leader who “saved” the United Kingdom and gave hope to the peoples behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.
Thatcher was born in 1925 in Grantham, Lincolnshire, that daughter of a grocer and local alderman. She was married to businessman Dennis Thatcher with whom she had two children. Read more ..
North Korea's Nukes
|Steve Herman||April 8th 2013|
Pyongyang is to pull out all of its 53,000 workers from the only joint complex operated by the two Koreas.
North Korean state media quote the secretary of the Workers Party central committee, Kim Yang Gon, saying all the country's employees in the Kaesong industrial zone will withdraw.
An announcer on Pyongyang radio quotes Kim, who visited Kaesong on Monday, as saying operations there will be temporarily suspended and the fate of the complex will be examined. This depends, Kim is quoted as saying, on the attitude of the South Korean authorities in the coming days whom he characterizes as "military warmongers" seeking to make the joint industrial zone a point of confrontation.
North Korea last week had stopped issuing the daily permits for South Korean managers and cargo to enter the complex, which is just north of the border. Read more ..
Iraq on Edge
|Ron Synovitz||April 7th 2013|
Violence is rising again in parts of Iraq that are dominated by the country's Sunni minority. But whereas disputes between Sunnis and Iraq's Shi'a majority were the underlying cause in years past, experts are attributing the latest violence to a power struggle within the Sunni community.
And this time, the violence includes a wave of political assassinations that are disrupting upcoming local elections and threatens to destabilize the entire country.
So far, 11 candidates -- all of them Sunni Muslims -- have been assassinated in the run-up to the April 20 vote. Six slain candidates were members of Al-Iraqiyah -- the secular, mostly Sunni-backed political bloc within Shi'a Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's governing coalition.
Yahya al-Qubaisi, a political analyst at the Iraqi Center for Strategic Studies in Amman, sees a link between the violence and the disintegration of Al-Iraqiyah -- which has been plagued by defections since Sunnis launched daily mass demonstrations against Maliki's government in late December. Read more ..
Industry on Edge
|Antoine Blue||April 6th 2013|
It merited just one line in U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union address back in February, but it could change the very nature of manufacturing, alter the global trade balance, and potentially spark a new industrial revolution. It -- as Obama noted -- is something known as 3D printing, which the president claimed "has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything."
So what exactly is 3D printing? The term is actually a colloquial phrase for something called "additive manufacturing" -- a process of assembling products by sending a digital file to a machine that stacks layers of plastic, resins, ceramics, metal, or other materials on top of each other.
Engineers and designers in the automotive and aerospace sectors have been using the process for decades to build prototypes. Many complex parts manufactured by 3D printing are now present on aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and satellites. And in the medical industry, three-dimensional printing has also been used to make hip implants out of titanium and dental prosthetics out of ceramic material. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Justine Sink||April 5th 2013|
White House press secretary Jay Carney urged North Korea's leadership to "choose the path of peace" Thursday after reports Pyongyang had ordered missiles to its east coast.
"We continue to closely monitor the situation on the peninsula," Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One. "Threats and provocative actions will not bring the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] the security, international respect and economic development that it seeks. We continue to urge the North Korean leadership to heed President Obama's call to choose the path of peace and come into compliance with its international obligations."
Carney would not confirm the missile movements or say that the reports suggested North Korea was more likely to undertake military action. "I would simply say that we're monitoring both the actions taken by and the statements made by the North Korean leadership," Carney said. "And we're also taking prudent measures to respond to that activity and to those statements." Read more ..
North Korea's Nukes
|Martin Barillas||April 4th 2013|
Cutting Edge Senior Contributor
The United States expects North Korea will launch one of its missiles in the coming days. Defense Department officials told the Voice of America that intelligence gathered over the past few weeks suggests Pyongyang is serious about making good on some of its threats against Seoul and Washington.
North Korea said on April 4 that its military has been given final approval for a nuclear attack against the United States - a threat that most anlysts think Pyongyang would be unable to carry out.
South Korea said it has confirmed the North has moved one of its missiles to the country's east coast, and Defense Minister Kim Kwan-Jin said while the missile appears to have "considerable range," it is unlikely it could reach the U.S. mainland. "Looking at the missile's range, it doesn't look like it will be able to reach the American continent," said Kim. Read more ..
North Korea's Nukes
|Susan St. Claire||April 3rd 2013|
The North Korean army has warned Washington that its military has been cleared to wage an attack using "smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear" weapons. "The moment of explosion is approaching fast," the military said, warning that war could break out "today or tomorrow". The statement, carried by the Korean Central News Agency early on Thursday, said troops had been authorised to counter US aggression with "powerful practical military counteractions".
The warning came after the Pentagon said it would deploy a missile defence system to the US Pacific territory of Guam to strengthen the region's protections against a possible attack. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday labelled North Korea's recent rhetoric as a threat to the US and its Asia-Pacific allies. "Some of the actions they've taken over the last few weeks present a real and clear danger," Hagel told an audience at the National Defence University in Washington. Read more ..
Israel on Edge
Israel’s navy is scrambling to assemble a force of new warships worth $760 million to protect the country’s natural gas fields in the Mediterranean as the production from the first field discovered in 2009 went onstream this past weekend, reports UPI. The navy wants 2-4 patrol-class vessels as well as unmanned aerial vehicles to detect threats such a suicide frogmen and anti-ship missiles.
Due to defense budget cuts Israel is hoping that the U.S. will foot some of the bill, a plausible expectation considering that an American company–Houston’s Noble Energy — is operating the gas fields. According to UPI, the navy wants four 1,200-ton, long-endurance warships equipped with defensive missile systems to intercept anti-ship missiles, possessed by Syria and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, aimed at production platforms. Naval officials say the Defense Ministry has been in touch with several foreign shipbuilders, but no decision has been made on contracts. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Julian Pecquet||April 2nd 2013|
The United Nations' overwhelming approval Tuesday of an arms trade treaty opposed by the National Rifle Association sets up a showdown between President Obama and the powerful gun lobby's friends on Capitol Hill. President Obama is expected to sign the treaty within the next few months after the United States joined 153 other countries in supporting the treaty.
The Senate, however, has vowed to block ratification, which requires a two-thirds majority and is needed for the treaty to be legally binding on the United States.
“The United States is pleased that the United Nations General Assembly has approved a strong, effective and implementable Arms Trade Treaty that can strengthen global security while protecting the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade,” Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday. White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration was “pleased” that “the text achieves the objectives that we set out for this negotiation.” Read more ..
The North Korean Threat
|Douglas Birch||April 1st 2013|
The Center for Public Integrity
The U.S. delivered a very expensive message this week in dispatching a couple of its $3 billion, B-2 stealth bombers from Missouri to drop dummy bombs during training exercises in South Korea.
By some estimates the planes cost $135,000 per hour to fly — nearly double that of any other military aircraft. And their hefty price tag in today’s dollars makes them too expensive to put at serious risk in all but the direst circumstances. So how much did it cost to drive home the Obama administration’s not-so-subtle point at a time when Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says the Pentagon faces a $41 billion shortfall because of the sequester? Read more ..
Saudi Arabia on Edge
|Simon Henderson||April 1st 2013|
The Washington Institute
On March 25, Saudi newspapers reported that encrypted social media messaging services such as Skype, Viber, and WhatsApp will be blocked in the kingdom unless the government is permitted to monitor them. The details of Riyadh's demand are unclear, but the companies involved were apparently given a week to respond.
The move suggests that Saudi authorities are increasingly concerned about the population's use of the internet to circumvent the lack of political freedoms and undermine traditional societal reticence against questioning the kingdom's hierarchical structure. Stories criticizing the government -- which not so long ago would have circulated by word of mouth, if at all -- are now passed on almost instantly to a huge and seemingly avid domestic readership. These and other tensions at home and abroad could pose major problems for the kingdom's aging leaders if left unchecked. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Rachel Ehrenfeld||March 31st 2013|
"Terrorists use drug profits to fund their cells to commit acts of murder,” said President George W. Bush, on December 14, 2001. “It’s so important for Americans to know that the traffic in drugs finances the work of terror, sustaining terrorists.”
On March 19, 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft went on to say: “Terrorism and drugs go together like rats and the bubonic plague…. They thrive in the same conditions, support each other, and feed off each other.” Alas, the water flowing through the Potomac seems to have swept this acknowledgement down to Chesapeake Bay, off to the Atlantic Ocean. Incredibly, twenty-one years later, on March 20, 2013, Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, gave a press conference at the Pentagon to voice his concern about "A potential connection between crime syndicates and terrorists in Latin America.” Read more ..
The North Korean Threat
Bellicose North Korea has found a way to wratchet up its bellicosity by threatening to close a factory jointly operated with South Korea. The New Yorek Times reports: "The industrial park, the eight-year-old Kaesong complex in the North Korean border town of the same name, is a crucial source of badly needed cash for the heavily sanctioned North. It funnels more than $92 million a year in wages for 53,400 North Koreans employed there, and its operation has survived despite years of military tensions. The latest threat to close down Kaesong came amid a torrent of bellicose statements by the North in recent days, widely seen as a strategy to increase pressure on South Korea and the United States to soften their policies on the North. Although South Korean officials reasserted that they were ready to retaliate if the North committed any military provocations, they said they saw no imminent sign of any such attacks. On Saturday, cross-border traffic operated as normal, allowing hundreds of South Koreans to travel to and from Kaesong.
"Over 300 South Koreans remained in the complex, where 123 South Korean textile and other labor-intensive factories employ the North Korean workers, at an average monthly wage of $144. The fate of Kaesong is seen as a crucial test of how far North Korea is willing to take its recent threats against the South. Its continued operation was often seen as a sign that Pyongyang’s verbal militancy was not necessarily matched by its actions.“The South Korean puppet forces are left with no face to make complaint even though we ban the South side’s personnel’s entry into the zone and close it,” North Korea said Saturday in a statement carried by its official Korean Central News Agency. It said its dignity was insulted by South Korean news media reports that suggested the North kept the complex open to obtain hard currency." Read more ..
The North Korean Threat
|Susan St. Claire||March 29th 2013|
North Korea's leader has responded to America's use of nuclear-capable B-2 bombers in joint South Korean military drills with more angry rhetoric, saying his rocket forces are ready to attack US positions.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) news agency said on Friday that Kim signed off on the orders at a midnight meeting of top generals and "judged the time has come to settle accounts with the US imperialists in view of the prevailing situation". In the event of any "reckless" US provocation, North Korean forces should "mercilessly strike the US mainland ... military bases in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea", he was quoted as saying. Yonhap news agency said on Friday that increased activities involving vehicles and troops at North Korea's mid- and long-range missile units were detected by South Korea's military. Kim said "the time has come to settle accounts with the US imperialists in view of the prevailing situation", according to KCNA. Read more ..
The Cyber Edge
|Rachel Ehrenfeld||March 28th 2013|
Two major recent attacks on the Internet give us just a hint of what to expect if/when our economic and financial infrastructures are hit by different attacks at once.
Cyberbunker – not a Chinese – but a Dutch webhosting company, generated the largest global distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on the spam filtering company, Spamhouse.
What is said to be a dispute between Cyberbunker and Spamhouse caused the global disruption of Internet services, which according to the Moscow based Kaspersky Lab, is going to get worse. “Such DDoS attacks may affect regular users as well, with network slowdown or total unavailability of certain Web resources…There may be further disruptions on a larger scale as the attack escalates.” Read more ..
The Edge of the Universe
|Kane Farabaugh||March 27th 2013|
Scientists in Switzerland announced earlier this month that they are confident their experiments with the world's most powerful atom smasher have finally turned up the long-sought Higgs boson, also known as the “God Particle.” Discovery of the elusive sub-atomic particle, which scientists believe imparts mass to all matter, also provides tantalizing clues to some of the most profound mysteries of the universe.
The search for Higgs began decades ago at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. Scientists there are developing new technologies to delve even deeper into the mysteries of particle physics. At the Grid Computing Center at Fermilab - half a world away from the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland - the key to understanding how the Higgs boson works and what it means for the universe, could be on one of these digital storage devices.
“The data has much more information in it than just information about the Higgs boson,” said scientist Robert Roser, who is overseeing the effort at Fermilab to sift through the computer data generated when atoms are smashed together by the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC. Read more ..
The Water's Edge
|Terry Collins||March 25th 2013|
Amid changing weather and water patterns worldwide and forecasts of more severe transformations to come, calls have been growing for the UN Security Council to include water issues on its agenda.
And there's rising international support for adopting "universal water security" as one of the Sustainable Development Goals -- a set of mid-term global objectives being formulated to succeed the UN's Millennium Development Goals, agreed by world leaders in 2000 for achievement by 2015.
But what does "water security" mean? The absence of a definition undermines progress in international forums. Marking World Water Day today at UN Headquarters in New York, a common working definition was published, forged by UN and international experts from around the world.
UN-Water, the United Nations' inter-agency coordination mechanism for all water-related issues, says water security should be defined as: "The capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of and acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability." Read more ..
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