29 April 2015

How to meet a quake

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reflexes in rushing aid to quake-struck Nepal have been perfect. He knows about earthquakes from the time of the Bhuj tragedy, on January 26, 2001. He was not chief minister of Gujarat then, but he was on his way to assuming that office when Bhuj shook not just Gujarat but all of India out of seismological complacency.

And so our prime minister knows what an earthquake is and does. Also, how help comes pouring in from all over the country and beyond as well. Especially from neighbours.

We like to think of Sri Lanka as our “small neighbour”. But when Bhuj jolted us out of our smugness on Republic Day in 2001, then President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar did what any neighbour, small or big, would have done — they lost no time in offering and indeed, giving us help. For a nation that was battling, 24X7, a most brutal form of terrorism, had no foreign exchange reserves worth the name and was, in fact, in need of every kind of help from other nations, Sri Lanka’s response was noteworthy. Colombo rustled up a money contribution and a sizeable quantity of blankets and clothing for distribution to the quake-affected. “No used clothes”, Kumaratunga made clear. “Only factory-fresh items”.

In Nepal, it was more than violent geology

April 28, 2015

Kathmandu was ever a disaster-in-waiting. The densely populated capital of one of the world’s poorest countries clings to the slopes of the seismically unstable Himalayas. The city was nearly levelled and 8,500 killed in its last great earthquake 81 years before. It had history. On Saturday the long-feared calamity struck.

I first arrived in Kathmandu in 2007 to begin a new job with Oxfam. I’d been with the charity two years earlier as part of the international aid effort following the Kashmir earthquake. I saw towns there razed by the shifting tectonic plates that lie beneath that mountain range. More than 75,000 people were killed then, 85,000 were injured, and more than 3 million were made homeless.

With the Kashmir tragedy fresh in my mind, I remember looking at the thousands of flimsy shacks and hovels lining Kathmandu’s dusty slums and the sturdier, but still precarious, multi-tiered family homes, the cheaply built apartment blocks and ornate temples that collectively give the city its colourful, distinctive appearance. We all understood and feared what a big earthquake would surely do there.

Affairs & break-ups

Nawaz Sharif owes a huge debt of gratitude to the Saudi royal family... The Saudi monarchy rescued Mr Sharif from life imprisonment to which Gen. Pervez Musharraf had sentenced him in 1999.

To say that China and Saudi Arabia are the closest friends and biggest benefactors of Pakistan would be to stress the obvious. Nor can anyone deny that, but for Beijing’s consistent nuclear and missiles aid to, and the Saudi monarchy’s generous financing of, Islamabad’s clandestine nuclear programme there would have been no Pakistani bomb. The reason for mentioning these familiar facts today is an exquisite irony: the strikingly opposite manners in which Pakistan’s two mentors have treated their protégé during the last few days.

Arriving in Islamabad after several postponements of his visit, China’s President Xi Jinping gave such a big boost to his country’s strategic and economic relations with its “all-weather friend” that many were surprised but not those who have been duly watchful of the nuances in the relationship that is sometimes called “higher than the Himalayas and deeper than the Indian Ocean”.

Killing a country’s ecology

April 29, 2015

The Environment Minister insists on clearing all hydro projects, even when the government itself earlier agreed that the Himalayas must be avoided for development work.

A battle of epic proportions between the hydroelectric power companies and the people of Uttarakhand has now culminated with the struggle shifting to the office of the Prime Minister of India. It began with the extraordinary and far-sighted 2014 decision of the Supreme Court in the Alaknanda Hydro Power Company case, where the Court said it was concerned with the mushrooming of hydroelectric projects adversely affecting the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi river basins.

The cumulative impact of dams, tunnels, blasting, the construction of power houses, garbage creation, mining and deforestation on the eco system has not yet been studied. The June 2013 tragedy that affected the Char Dham area of Uttarakhand, where thousands of people were killed and there was massive damage to property, forced a rethinking on projects.

India Still Lacks Modern Battlefield Communication

April 27, 2015

The Indian Army’s Tactical Communication System (TCS) is facing additional delays, Defense Newsreports. In February 2014, India selected two domestic development agencies (DAs) to compete for the TCS project, which is worth over $2 billion. However, “since the selection of the DAs in early 2014, no headway has been made in the development of a TCS prototype,” a defense ministry source told Defense News.

The TCS — an interfacing mobile tactical communication system — is intended to replace the obsolete radio communication network (the Plan AREN system) of the Indian Army for offensive operations. The Indian Army is also planning to introduce the new Battlefield Management System (BMS) integrating all surveillance resources, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and ground sensors providing soldiers on the ground real-time information on enemy troop movement and the disposition of friendly forces, along with information on terrain features.

With AIIB, US Shot Itself in the Foot on Indian Infrastructure

By Raymond E. Vickery, Jr and Michael Kugelman
April 27, 2015

During his first year in office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has articulated his vision of Indian economic development to almost anyone who would listen – perhaps most notably to presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping. “Make in India,” electricity in every village, modern sanitation, and rising standards in health, education, and individual prosperity are all part of the Indian future according to Modi. With Obama’s visit to New Delhi earlier this year, U.S. support for this vision is now the cornerstone of U.S.-Indian relations. However, when Modi visits Xi next month, they will discuss India’s benefits from China’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and what India may receive from the $62 billion China has just announced for its “new Silk Road” infrastructure initiative.

Under these circumstances, the U.S. Congress has blocked the effectiveness of the most vital institutions for U.S engagement with India on infrastructure development. The Obama Administration has compounded the error through a futile effort to hamstring China’s attempts to provide a source of additional infrastructure financing through the AIIB. The U.S. effort has been rejected by India and 55 other nations, including some of America’s closest allies. Surely, this constitutes a self-inflicted wound—a shot in the foot.

India's Infatuation With the UN Security Council

By Kabir Taneja
April 27, 2015

While on a recent visit to Paris, France, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, made a clear pitch for the country’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The UNSC is one of the world’s most prestigious “big boys group,” in which all permanent members (the U.S., U.K., China, Russia and France) combine the organization’s collective elitism with questionable results leading the biggest multilateral forum for peace, justice and prosperity in the world.

Certainly on some levels, India’s aspiration makes sense. The country represents more than 1.2 billion people, has the economic might to back its bid, and is now relevant enough in all aspects of global politics to hold its own in the UNSC. The point of distinction here is not to question if and why India should become a member, but rather to ponder the relevance of the UNSC in today’s world.

Gallipoli 1915, a tale of Indian bravery buried in history

At daybreak on August 9, 1915, a young lieutenant of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, British Army, watched in awe as an Indian Army battalion almost ended the stalemate at Gallipoli. Men of the 1/6 Gurkha Rifles rose from their positions and pressed up the Sari Bair ridge, crested the heights between Chunuk Bair and Hill Q, and drove back the Turks after some desperate hand-to-hand fighting. The Gurkhas looked down at the waters of Hellespont—the original objective of the Gallipoli campaign. No Allied unit would repeat the feat ever again.

With no backup coming, the Gurkha commander, Major C G L Allanson, decided to go after the fleeing Turks. But they had hardly moved 200 yards when a murderous artillery barrage broke up the attack. According to Major Allanson, it was the Royal Navy that had shelled them, mistaking them to be Turks. The Gurkhas had to withdraw, but they did so in good order.

Violence in Afghanistan Delays Ghani on Trip to India

April 28, 2015

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, traveling to India for a three-day state visit, left a few hours later than planned in order to meet with General John Campbell, head of the United States’ follow-on training and support mission in the country, Resolute Support.

Details haven’t been released as to the specific contents of last-minute meeting, but it is believed that Ghani, his top security advisors, and Campbell discussed the deteriorating situation in Kunduz. Over the weekend violence spiked in Kunduz, which is in northern Afghanistan and borders Tajikistan. TOLOnews reported that the Provincial Governor Mohammad Omar Safi said 40 insurgents and 12 members of the Afghan security forces had been killed so far but that fighting was ongoing. TOLOnews also reported that 2000 reinforcement troops have deployed to the area.

China Will Supply Pakistan With 110 New JF-17s

April 28, 2015

China will sell 110 JF-17s Thunder fighter jets to Pakistan, the Economic Times reported.

The Economic Times cites Radio Pakistan as a source, which announced that Beijing will deliver the first patch of 50 planes over the next three years. Additionally, Chinese officials told local Chinese media that the total number of fighter aircraft delivered will be 110, although there is no set delivery schedule for the remaining 6o planes.

The apparent reason for the new delivery from China is that Pakistan’s military aircraft industry cannot keep up with its air force’s demand for new planes amid an intensifying campaign against Taliban insurgents in the country.

IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly summarizes the characteristics of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex/Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (PAC/CAC) JF-17 Thunder combat aircraft:

Obama Secretly Gave CIA Waiver to Conduct Intensive Drone Strike Campaign in Pakistan

Adam Entous 
April 27, 2015 

President Barack Obama tightened rules for the U.S. drone program in 2013, but he secretly approved a waiver giving the Central Intelligence Agency more flexibility in Pakistan than anywhere else to strike suspected militants, according to current and former U.S. officials. 

The rules were designed to reduce the risk of civilian casualties. Mr. Obama also required that proposed targets pose an imminent threat to the U.S.—but the waiver exempted the CIA from this standard in Pakistan. 

Last week, the U.S. officials disclosed that two Western hostages, U.S. and Italian aid workers Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, were killed on Jan. 15 by a U.S. drone strike aimed at al Qaeda militants in Pakistan. If the exemption had not been in place for Pakistan, the CIA might have been required to gather more intelligence before that strike. 

And though support for the drone program remains strong across the U.S. government, the killings have renewed a debate within the administration over whether the CIA should now be reined in or meet the tighter standards that apply to drone programs outside of Pakistan. 

Pakistan military's move on Karachi seen part of 'creeping coup'

By Mehreen Zahra-Malik 
Apr 27, 2015

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The chief of Pakistan's main spy agency is spearheading a campaign to wrest control of the teeming port city of Karachi from a powerful political party, the military's latest, and some say boldest, foray into civilian life in recent years. 

According to military officials, police officers and members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party which has traditionally dominated Karachi, Rizwan Akhtar has decided the time for policing the city from the sidelines is over. 

"There is a quiet, creeping takeover of Karachi by the military," said a government official close to Akhtar, head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, which traditionally acts as an extension of army power in Pakistan.

Chinese president Xi is making a $46 billion move in Pakistan

APR. 20, 2015

China and Pakistan launched a plan on Monday for energy and infrastructure projects in Pakistan worth $46 billion, linking their economies and underscoring China's economic ambitions in Asia and beyond.

China's President Xi Jinping arrived in Pakistan to oversee the signing of agreements aimed at establishing a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor between Pakistan's southern Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea and China's western Xinjiang region.

The plan, which would eclipse U.S. spending in Pakistan over the last decade or so, is part of China's aim to forge "Silk Road" land and sea ties to markets in the Middle East and Europe.


By Dr Shanthie Mariet D Souza
APRIL 26, 2015

Thirteen months after the then external affairs minister Salman Khurshid promised to deliver helicopters to Afghanistan, New Delhi has transported three Cheetal helicopters to Kabul. The training component of the transfer has been completed and the announcement of the delivery will be made during President Ghani’s visit to India. Cheetal is an upgraded Cheetah (Alouette) helicopter with a newer Turbomeca TM 333-2M2 engine. These choppers are capable of operating in remote and high altitude mountainous region with higher speed (more than 200 km/hr), range (more than 600 km) and payload. The Cheetal can be used for personnel transport, casualty evacuation, reconnaissance and aerial survey, logistic air support and rescue operations. As the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) face increasing insurgent onslaught, the need for airpower is critical gap that New Delhi intends to address in buttressing the capability of the Afghan Air force.

After Devasating Earthquake, China Rushes Aid to Nepal

April 28, 2015

Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal, registered atmagnitude 7.8 by the U.S. Geological Survey, has devastated the country, leaving at least 3,617 dead. The death toll is expected to continue to rise as rescue teams make their way to remote villages where damage is feared to be extensive. Survivors, meanwhile, must cope with shortages of basic necessities — food, water, shelter, and medical supplies.

Amidst the devastation, Nepal’s government is looking to the international community to provide desperately needed aid. In particular, Kathmandu will need help from its two powerful neighbors, India and China. China in particular, which is trying to bolster its presence in South Asia through the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, will find its actions heavily scrutinized by people wondering if China is really ready to play the role of a great power.

‘The Chinese Passport Demonstrates Its True Worth’

APRIL 27, 2015

HONG KONG — On April 25, a massive magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal near its capital Kathmandu, with the death toll topping 4,000. Thousands of Chinese tourists were among those who survived, and the vast majority anxious to flee would soon come to know the value, and the limits, of the passports they bore as they sought to return home.

Over the past few years, Nepal has become a popular tourist destination for China’s growing middle class; visitors pose with pigeons in the historical Dunbar Square in Kathmandu and trek in the foothills of the Himalayas to gaze at the snowy peaks. According to China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency, there were about 4,000 Chinese tourists in Nepal at the time of the earthquake. Almost all of them, in the chaotic aftermath, were anxious to get home. “Passengers can board [Chinese planes in Kathmandu] with or without a plane ticket as long as they have Chinese passports,” according to an April 26 Xinhua editorial, which concluded, “In a time of need, the Chinese passport demonstrates its true worth.”

What caused the Nepal earthquake?

The India tectonic plate moving north at about 45mm a year is pushing under the Eurasian plate beneath the Himalayas.

Two tectonic plates meet beneath the Himalayas along a fault line. The India plate is moving north at around 45mm a year and pushing under the Eurasian plate. Over time that is how the Himalayas were created.

Dr Brian Baptie, head of seismology at the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh, explains the potential after-effects of the quake.

Saturday's catastrophic earthquake in Nepal occurred because of two converging tectonic plates: the India plate and the overriding Eurasia plate to the north, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Tectonic plates are the large, thin, relatively rigid plates that move relative to one another on the outer surface of the Earth.

Where Do We Draw the Line on Balancing China?

APRIL 27, 2015

Is it time for the United States to get serious about balancing China? According to Robert Blackwill and Ashley Tellis, the answer is an emphatic yes. In a new Council on Foreign Relations report, they portray China as steadily seeking to increase its national power, reduce the U.S. security role in Asia, and eventually dominate the international system. To deal with this clear challenge to U.S. primacy, they call for “a new grand strategy toward China that centers on balancing the rise of Chinese power rather than continuing to assist its ascendancy.”

In their view, success in this endeavor will require the United States to revitalize its economy, build preferential trading arrangements with Asian partners (such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership), deny critical technology to Beijing, and shore up U.S. and allied military capabilities in Asia. They also recommend that Washington strive to manage Sino-American relations through sustained high-level engagement with Beijing, and good things like that. But their overriding goal is to “limit China’s capacity to misuse its growing power.”

Saudi Arabia’s Air Attacks on Yemen

28 Apr , 2015

Saudi Arabia informed the Obama Administration in the fourth week of March 2015 of their intention to commence a ‘military operation’ against neighbouring Yemen. The situation in Yemen, from the Saudi perspective, was grave: the Saudi supported elected government of Abou Rabbou Mansour al Hadi had been defeated in an armed insurrection by Yemen’s opposition Shi’ite Houthi tribesmen, President Abou had fled to the main southern port of Aden from the capital Sana’a and Aden itself was under threat of falling to the Houthi tribesmen.

The Saudi air attack, functioning under the aegis of an Arab coalition, comprising the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman, in addition to Saudi Arabia), Turkey and Egypt, followed on the early hours of March 26. Pakistan, eager to be associated with the causes of the mainline Sunni States of the Gulf and the Middle East, also made the cosmetic gesture of offering to join the bandwagon against the Houthis.

ISIS and the Principles of War

April 27, 2015

Ever since the Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu outlined principles required for the conduct of war in the fifth century B.C., military strategists have opined on what those principles are, and whether currently accepted principles need revision. A strong case exists for the principles laid by the 19th century Prussian military theorist Karl von Clausewitz: mass, objective, offensive, surprise, economy of force, maneuver, unity of command, security and simplicity. Although there is a realization that Clausewitz’s principles do not cover every situation a modern military must face such as humanitarian crisis or counterinsurgency – the actions of ISIS to date – demonstrate Clausewitz was right.

It is unlikely that a group of renegade jihadist extremists would abide by the principles, or even be aware of them; however, the invasion of Iraq by ISIS is a textbook example of the timelessness of the principles and a worthy example of their effectiveness. ISIS’ successes demonstrate how adherence to the principles can lead to success on the battlefield. Denying ISIS the ability to adhere to the principles will likewise lead to their defeat.

USAF Has Many Options to Destroy Iranian Nuke Facilities

April 27, 2015

Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told CNN the United States military has the capability to “shut down, set back and destroy” Iran’s nuclear program.

The highly-publicized yet classified weapon Carter was referring to is the Massive Ordnance Penetrator — a behemoth, 30,000-pound bunker bomb introduced specifically to destroy Iran’s underground uranium enrichment facilities.

In January, we told you the Pentagon was modifying and testing the bomb as the diplomatic push for a nuclear settlement with the pariah state intensified. But of course, that’s not all the U.S. military has been up to in the background.

For some Muslim youth, Islamic State's allure is a meaningful alternative to Western values

By Timothy Phillips and Nir Eisikovits

BOSTON — As the "Islamic State" takes its murderous Blitzkrieg across the Middle East, analysts and policymakers have struggled to understand how the organization attracts so many young people, especially from the heart of Western Europe. 

While precise numbers are elusive, recent studies (including, notably, Stern and Berger’s excellent book “ISIS: The State of Terror”) suggest that foreign European fighters are dramatically over-represented in the ranks of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS). 

Some point to the group’s social media savvy. But this explanation confuses the means of gathering support with the reasons behind it. Twitter and Facebook offer outstanding ways for organizing, but they do not generate the will to organize. 

Ukraine’s existential struggle: Russia employing scare tactics

As Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk, Kiev’s military reported intensifying attacks by pro-Russian rebels in the east and south-east.

The EU-Ukraine summit was the first since a political and free trade association agreement was signed by Poroshenko’s pro-Western leadership after the ousting of the Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich in a public revolt in Kiev in February last year.

The EU particularly is pressing Ukraine to take radical moves to rid itself of endemic corruption and reform its corruption-prone energy sector, give regions more power to run their own affairs and improve the business and investment climate.

Is Ukraine Conflict a Victory or Defeat for Russia?

Apr. 27 2015 

To paraphrase a famous expression, "Be careful what you complain about — or you might end up with something to really complain about."

Moscow officials have long complained that the international community did not give Russia the attention it deserved. "Those insidious Westerners ignore Russia's wonderful foreign policy initiatives," they grumbled, "because they are unable to come up with anything half as brilliant themselves."

But all of that changed almost overnight. Now Russia is once again firmly in the limelight — right alongside Ebola and the Islamic State.

A perfect illustration was the latest annual forum in Tallinn named in honor of that country's second president, Lennart Meri, and devoted to the most pressing international problems. Russia's outstanding successes in Crimea and the Donbass made it the primary focus of the entire conference. President Vladimir Putin figured in one way or another in almost every discussion panel.

America Is Never (Ever, Ever) Ending the War on Terror

April 27, 2015 

Over the past month, two members of the Obama administration have made public statements regarding different aspects of America’s ongoing “war on terror.” The second has (understandably) received much more public attention than the first, but the first says something more important about the ultimate course of that long struggle.

In the more recent of the two statements, President Obama spoke on Thursday about the deaths of two Western hostages, one American and one Italian. The hostages, Obama stated, were killed in “a U.S. counterterrorism operation targeting an al Qaeda compound in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region” this January. The president said “I profoundly regret what happened” and apologized to the families of the victims on behalf of the U.S. government, while also defending the broader thrust of America’s targeted-killing campaign against Al Qaeda and other groups.

Poorly Designed Immigration Reform Will Negatively Impact American Innovation and Economic Growth

WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 31, 2015 – The U.S. is on the brink of a new IT revolution that could produce $5 trillion in economic gains by enabling companies to drive innovation, jobs and income growth, and opportunity from a new wave of technologies requires updated immigration and visa policies, concludes a new report released today by the American Competitiveness Alliance (ACAlliance).

The new paper —“IT Services, Immigration, and American Economic Strength” by Professor Matthew J. Slaughter, incoming Dean of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth—identifies the policy challenges facing the U.S. labor market as it expands its high-value knowledge and technology-based economy. It advances the requirements for a suite of recommended actions that Congress can take to address the shortage of specialized STEM workers at U.S. companies and further harness the IT sector as a driver of American innovation and growth.

“Today a new wave of IT innovation is building around social, mobile, analytical, and cloud technologies,” said Slaughter, incoming Dean of the Dartmouth Business School. “This next IT revolution could create economic value worth 10% to 30% of U.S. GDP—manifested in new jobs, new goods and services, and rising incomes—if America has sufficient access to global talent.”

What Is AFRICOM Doing in Africa?

April 27, 2015

U.S. AFRICOM (Africa Command) reported that it had carried out 679 activities (missions, programs, and exercises) in 2014. This includes training, advising, intelligence gathering (via UAV, manned aircraft or people on the ground), logistical or technical assistance and so on. That was 23 percent more than in 2013 and four times as many as 2008 the first year AFRICOM was in charge of all American military activities in Africa. The number of activities (many of them classified SOCOM missions) is expected to be more than 20 percent higher in 2015. AFRICOM is in greater demand throughout Africa because of the growing threat of Islamic terrorism and the greater participation of African troops in peacekeeping operations (mainly within Africa.) American troops have long trained foreign troops in peacekeeping techniques and has a reputation for doing it well. Another increasingly popular AFRICOM activity is aerial surveillance, using manned aircraft, UAVs and satellites. AFRICOM also provides help with logistics and planning military and security operations. The armed forces in most African nations needs help in these areas and finds that the American aid works and is usually free. Such a deal.

The New Global Marketplace of Political Change

APRIL 20, 2015 

Western democratic powers are no longer the dominant external shapers of political transitions around the world. A new global marketplace of political change now exists, in which varied arrays of states, including numerous nondemocracies and non-Western democracies, are influencing transitional trajectories. Western policymakers and aid practitioners have been slow to come to grips with the realities and implications of this new situation. 

A transformed transitional era. Despite overall global democratic stagnation since 2000, the era of widespread national-level political flux that marked the 1980s and 1990s has not ended; its character has simply evolved. It no longer has any overarching directionality, with countries moving as often away from democracy as toward it or into civil war as out of it. 

A widespread phenomenon. The marketplace is not limited to high-profile hot spots like Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen. Competition for influence among diverse external actors impacts all countries experiencing fundamental political change.

The Path to Happiness: Lessons From the 2015 World Happiness Report


Getting richer but not happier: It's a familiar story, for people and for nations. The purpose of the World Happiness Report, now in its third edition for 2015, is to remind governments, civil society, and individuals that income alone cannot secure our well-being. True happiness depends on social capital, not just financial capital.

The evidence is straightforward. Around the world Gallup International asks people about their satisfaction with life. "Imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand?" Countries differ widely, and systematically, in their average scores. Using these scores, it is then possible to determine, statistically, the causes of life satisfaction around the world.

How China Uses its Cyber Power for Internal Security

April 27, 2015

On April 13, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and State Council issued new guidelines on strengthening internal security in the wake of unprecedented terrorist attacks inside the country, rising public order concerns, and increasing online dissent. The guidelines called out the use of new high-technology and cyber-based assets, including data mining, closed circuit TV, and satellites, to help restore central government control. This is the first in a series of five brief items by Greg Austin, based on his 2014 book, Cyber Policy in China, providing some political context on how the country is using its cyber power in the service of internal security. See also the author’s earlier post on how China will want to use artificial intelligence to support its internal security objectives.

Security companies hire hackers, ex-spies to fight cyber attacks

Computer hacker photo illustration arranged in Tiskilwa, Illinois, the US. Cyber security companies have hired hundreds of ex-government sleuths in recent years, capitalising on the boom in business caused by hackers who stole more than 1bn records in attacks last year.

It’s a seller’s market for the cyber war’s special forces.

Just ask Scott Davies, 30, who left a career snooping on Australia’s enemies in December for a similar gig at FireEye Inc Or Brian Varner, 35, who swapped a job with the US Department of Defense breaking into networks in hot zones to be a security engineer at Symantec Corp.

“I have a blank canvas to paint whatever I want,” says Varner, exulting at the lack of bureaucracy, not to mention his ability to work remotely from Florida.

NSA veteran chief fears crippling cyber-attack on Western energy infrastructure

26 Apr 2015

The West lacks a shield against formidable foes and is losing the battle against Jihadi terrorism as chaos spreads across the Middle East

Studying a new language doesn’t have to mean stepping back into the classroom. Babbel offers 13 language courses that can be studied online and on the go.

The West is losing the worldwide fight against jihadist terrorism and faces mounting risks of a systemic cyber-assault by extremely capable enemies, the former chief of the National Security Agency has warned.

"The greatest risk is a catastrophic attack on the energy infrastructure. We are not prepared for that," said General Keith Alexander, who has led the US battle against cyber-threats for much of the last decade.

Estonia recruits volunteer army of 'cyber warriors'

26 Apr 2015

Estonia has recruited a "ponytail army" of volunteer computer experts who stand ready to defend the nation against cyber attack.

The country's reserve force, the Estonian Defence League, has a Cyber Unit consisting of hundreds of civilian volunteers, including teachers, lawyers and economists.

The Baltic nation of 1.3 million people is one of the most technologically advanced in the world: almost every banking transaction takes place online and 30 per cent of all votes in the last general election were cast electronically.

But this also makes Estonia acutely vulnerable. In 2007, the country sufferedone of the biggest cyber attacks in history when the websites of banks, government ministries and the national parliament were swamped with data.

Estonia Recruits Guys With Ponytails in Battle Against Cyber Warfare

Estonia - with a population of just over 1.3 million - has recruited a "ponytail army" of volunteer computer experts to protect the small Baltic state against a cyber attack.

Estonia has been badly hit by a series of cyber attacks which began in 2007 as part of a protest against the Tallinn government following the removal of the Bronze Soldier Soviet war monument erected in 1947.

The protests on the streets turned to cyber warfare when prominent government websites along with the websites of banks, universities and Estonian newspapers were targeted in a series of denial-of-service (DoS) attacks. Aimed primarily at specific sites and networks, DoS attacks block the access of legitimate users, rendering the entire site or network unavailable.

Retirement overhaul on fast track

By Leo Shane III
April 27, 2015 

House and Senate lawmakers are moving ahead with dramatic plans to replace the current 20-year, all-or-nothing deal with a "blended" compensation system, complete with a 401(k)-style investment plan that promises all future troops will leave the service with some money for retirement.

The moves echo recommendations from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission earlier this year, which pushed for changes to recognize the estimated 83 percent of service members who leave the military with no retirement benefits.

But some outside advocates still worry that, while well-intentioned, the change could decimate the senior noncommissioned and officer ranks, by giving them too much incentive to start a civilian career earlier and not enough incentive to stay to 20 years.