31 May 2015

Shifting people from Bharat to India

May 29, 2015

Instead of delivering irrelevant homilies to small farmers, Mr Modi should be thinking in terms of creating a huge demand for alternative employment, mainly in the construction sector. His promised hundred new cities is a capital idea. 

In his speech to a farmers’ gathering in the capital on May 26, Prime Minister Narendra Modi advised them to retain a third of their holding for farming, another third for fodder for the cattle and livestock, and the final third to grow timber. He seems to be oblivious of the reality.

The average size of a farm holding is 1.15 hectare, of which Mr Modi wants the farmer to reserve about 0.36 ha for growing crops for sustenance and sale, 0.36 for fodder for livestock, and the rest for growing timber, which will take a quarter of a century to mature. How will the family live and who will feed them meanwhile?

Singapore Warns of Islamic State Base in Southeast Asia

The country’s leader tells Asia’s premier security summit that the terror threat could get a lot worse.
The Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s premier security summit, kicked off in Singapore on Friday with a keynote speech by Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Lee’s speech addressed three issues: the balance of power; regional cooperation and terrorism. Unsurprisingly, the terrorism portion of the speech focused on the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to Southeast Asia. As The Diplomat has noted, Singapore has been calling for greater regional cooperation to combat ISIS, with the city-state even holding its own counterterrorism symposium last month (See: “Singapore Kicks Off New Counterterrorism Symposium”).

In Battle of Jihadi Groups, Pakistani Taliban Prefers al Qaeda Over ISIS

MAY 28, 2015 

In the ongoing competition for top dog among international jihadi groups, the Islamic State currently reigns supreme. The group holds a huge chunk of territory in Syria and Iraq, and has established a caliphate that purports to bring back an extreme form of Islamic law. It attracts more recruits than any other group and has won the allegiance of a large number of jihadi organizations around the world. But the Pakistani Taliban is not impressed and on Thursday announced in a statement it is rejecting the Islamic State’s caliphate, its leader, and its tactics.

In an essay released online, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan said that the Islamic State has pursued too aggressive a policy by opening fronts against multiple enemies, destroying apostate shrines, and overextending itself in an effort to prematurely establish a caliphate. The essay argues that the actions of the Islamic State will bring about “disastrous results,” according to a translation provided by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online jihadi activity.

Afghan Military and Intelligence Surprised by Recent Taliban Surge in Kunduz Province

Civilians biggest losers on Afghan war’s new northern front 

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan (AP) – When the Taliban descended a month ago on Dam Shakh, a hamlet on the wheat-growing plains of northern Afghanistan’s Kunduz province, nobody was prepared.

“They turned up suddenly and took us completely by surprise,” said resident Ghulam Sakhi of the night of April 24 when hundreds of Taliban militants launched a coordinated attack. “It was horrific. People just started running away as fast as they could and for those who stayed, we were on our own for 10 days. The government just couldn’t cope.”

Military and intelligence authorities were equally surprised. Armed gunmen took over homes and used residents as human shields. Army reinforcements didn’t arrive for days and then lacked supplies - ammunition, food, fuel - because of poor logistics, Gov. Mohammad Omer Safi said. As government forces rallied their defenses, the fighting raged for more than two weeks as the militants came within three kilometers (less than 2 miles) of the provincial capital, Kunduz city, Safi said.

Beware China’s Strategic Doublespeak

May 29, 2015
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China’s latest statement of military strategy is full of doublespeak that whitewashes new and assertive content through self-contradictory statements and ambiguous phrases.

Asian states that worry about conflict with China have cause to worry even more. China’s recently released white paper, China’s Military Strategy, is new and assertive.

Only eight other defense white papers have been issued since 1998, and none focus on strategy the way this one does. It’s assertive not only because it reiterates a willingness to fight with its neighbors on all the familiar regional flashpoints, but also because it lays out expectations of having to do the same far outside its nine-dash line.

Yet, because of China’s reliance on doublespeak, this white paper does little to resolve debates about the proper image of China and its long-term intentions, which will ensure that consensus in the region about how to grapple with a more assertive China remains fractured.


The Divine Eagle is a low observable, high altitude UAV meant detect stealth aircraft at long ranges, using special purpose radars.Photos have emerged of the Divine Eagle, perhaps China's most ambitious drone design. Planned to hunt stealth planes from afar, it could turn out to be not just the world's largest drone, but one of the most important to the future of war.

While this might look like two UAVs, it's actually one. The Divine Eagle uses a twin fuselage configuration, in order to optimize both fuel efficiency and maximize surface area for the installation of conformal radar arrays.While the Divine Eagle reportedly first flew in February 2015, filtered photos of the UAV have only now emerged on the Chinese Internet (filtering photos to blur visual details is one way Chinese Internet denizens avoid censorship). The timing is notable. Coming shorty after the release of the first Chinese defense White Paper calling for Chinese military expeditionary capabilities and high profile Sino-Russian naval exercises, the Divine Eagle is a visual announcement that China's building unique technologies that could change the brewing arms race in the Asia Pacific.

Soros Sees New World Order Coming; War With China

May 27, 2015

The U.S. could be poised for a third world war with China and one key to avoiding it could be found in currency accommodation, George Soros said in a recent speech to the Bretton Woods Committee in Washington D.C.

Addressing an issue closely watched by certain hedge fund insiders, Soros bench-marked the declining U.S. role in the world, the rise of China's currency as competitive to the U.S. dollar and the potential inclusion of the renminbi (RMB) in the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR) currency basket, a topic ValueWalk has been following.

As China's economy transitions, Soros says watch carefully for a conflict trigger point

An Armyman’s assessment and a wake-up call for India

May 19, 2015

China’s Military Power: A Net Assessment By Maj. Gen. (Dr) G.D. Bakshi, SM, VSM Knowledge World and CLAWS, pp. 376, Rs 980

Following the massive earthquake in China’s Sichuan region in 2008, thousands of radiation technicians were reportedly sent there. When visuals on TV showed oddly collapsed hills across the province, officials eventually admitted there was a network of tunnels underneath, dubbing it their ‘Underground Great Wall’.

A study conducted by a Georgetown University student translating secret military documents and blogs revealed that China could have as many as 3,000 nuclear warheads, a lot more than current estimates of between 80 and 400. The as-yet-unpublished 363-page study has been discussed in Congress and circulated among officials.

Researchers concentrated on a 3,000-mile network of tunnels dug largely in Sichuan province by the Chinese Second Artillery, a secretive unit responsible for protecting the country’s nuclear weapons.

Russia and China sign record-breaking economic contracts

May 13, 2015

During Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s official visit to Moscow, Chinese banks signed agreements on financing Russian projects. For their part, Russian companies are ready to increase gas supplies and deliver civilian Sukhoi SuperJet 100 aircraft to China.

During Xi Jinping’s recent official visit to Moscow, Russian companies signed several major deals with their Chinese partners. Most of the agreements are designated in Russian rubles or Chinese yuan, according to RIA Novosti. “[Russia and China] intend to strengthen cooperation in the financial sphere, including through a wider use of the ruble and the yuan in mutual settlements,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said after the official meeting with his Chinese counterpart. He went on to add, “In the first two months of this year alone, the share of the national currencies in bilateral contracts exceeded 7 percent.” The signed agreements primarily concern Chinese banks’ funding for Russian projects. Analysts say this is particularly important given that Russian companies are denied access to Western capital markets because of the sanctions.

Important projects

Five Takeaways from China’s Bold, New Military Strategy

May 27, 2015

Military delegates leave the Great Hall of the People after the first annual full session of the National People's Congress, the country's parliament, in Beijing March 5, 2015. 

On Tuesday, the Chinese Ministry of Defense issued its first policy document in two years, a white paper titled, “Chinese Military Strategy.” The document, released amid ongoing Chinese island reclamation and increasingly hostile warnings to U.S. Navy aviation assets operating in the South China Sea, outlines how the Chinese armed forces are expected to support Beijing’s geopolitical objectives. 

In the white paper, a copy of which can be read online in English or Chinese, China vows to use the armed forces to create a “favorable strategic posture with more emphasis on the employment of military forces and means,” in order to guarantee the country’s peaceful development. The document also less-than-subtly indicts the United States (and other neighbors) for taking “provocative actions” surrounding Chinese reefs and islands. 

Why Won't the GOP Declare War on ISIS?

MAY 28, 2015
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Last week, in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, former Clinton and Bush administration counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke pointed out something extraordinary. “Congress has been asked by the President months ago now to make a decision, to vote on the use of force against ISIS. And they’ve refused to do it. It’s incredible.”

It is incredible. On the campaign trail, Republican presidential candidates endlessly slam Obama’s lack of a strategy against ISIS. And yet given the opportunity to help craft such a strategy, and back it up with an authorization for war, Republican leaders in Congress refuse. It’s a perfect illustration of the absurdity of GOP foreign policy today.

Last December, House Speaker John Boehner declared that, “I would urge the president to submit a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) regarding our efforts to defeat and to destroy ISIL.” In that demand, Boehner was echoing likely GOP presidential candidates like Ted Cruz, who claimed that “initiating new military hostilities in a sustained basis in Iraq obligates the president to go back to Congress and to make the case to seek congressional authorization” and Rand Paul, who said, “I believe the President must come to Congress to begin a war and that Congress has a duty to act. Right now, this war is illegal until Congress acts pursuant to the Constitution and authorizes it.”

In Praise of Uncertainty

May 28, 2015

It is very painful to watch the images coming from Iraq and Syria. It has often been said that our history began in the Sumerian city of Ur, about 5,000 years Before Christ. There is a continuous cultural line that runs from that remote Mesopotamian city to New York, Paris, or Montevideo. And thus the new jihad unleashed by the Islamic State affects all of us. The caliphate being forged in blood and fire, in the regions joining Iraq to Syria, not only revels in the slaughter of Shiites, Christians, and Yazidis, but also in the destruction of what remains of a splendid pagan past.

Many of these predatory Islamists are young men raised in the West. Why do they do it?

ISIS Wins No Matter What Happens Next

The latest planned attack on the terror army could be playing right into their hands.

The Obama administration is being slammed from all sides for its failing strategy against ISIS—and rightly so. But amid all the scorn, one question has yet to be asked about the resiliency of the terror army, which actually goes to the heart of its decade-old war doctrine. Namely: Does ISIS actually win even when it loses?

This isn’t an academic issue. America’s allies in the ISIS war are gearing up for a major counteroffensive against the extremist group. That assault that could very well play right into ISIS’s hands.

Having superimposed its self-styled “caliphate” over a good third of Iraq’s territory, in control of two provincial capitals, ISIS is today in the strongest position it has ever been for fomenting the kind of sectarian conflagration its founding father, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, envisioned as far back as 2004.

The Pitfalls of a Whack-a-Mole Strategy Against ISIS

MAY 28, 2015

Why deploying an American-led global army against the Islamic State would be a really bad idea.
The Islamic State has taken control of Ramadi in Iraq, and Islamic State franchises are popping up all over the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. Pressure is growing for the United States to “do something” as quickly as possible.

Some of America’s friends and partners are beseeching the United States to step in with greater force. Some of the “usual suspects” at home, like Sen. Lindsey Graham, have joined the cry, urging the administration to put U.S. combat boots on the ground and even go global and go big in a military campaign against the Islamic State. Pundits and administration critics argue that the current policies under U.S. President Barack Obama are failing and that the strategy of using “other people’s armies” carries grave risks for U.S. national security.

For Generals Fighting the Islamic State, a Sense of Déjà Vu

MAY 28, 2015

The military is still facing the same problems in Iraq it has paid billions of dollars to fix over the past decade.

Too few drones. No technology for preventing deadly roadside IEDs from detonating. No strategy for countering the message of violent jihad being spread by Islamist fighters.

Top U.S. special operations commanders have been complaining about those perceived shortfalls since shortly after American troops swept into Iraq in 2003. The Pentagon has dutifully opened its wallet wide and spent tens of billions of dollars to fix them. To hear today’s military leaders speak, however, you’d think that nothing had really changed.

To destroy ISIS in Iraq, start with the desired end state and work backwards

MAY 26, 2015

Gideon Rose’s 2010 book, How Wars End, suggests that when confronting a strategic challenge, it can be helpful to start with the desired political end state and then think backwards to determine the steps needed to get there. This desired end state should not be a starry-eyed vision of perfection, but instead should be a pragmatic notion of what is both possible and acceptable. In the case of Iraq, this realistic U.S. end state should focus on stability. It would entail an Iraq which is mostly free from Islamic extremists, is not a puppet of Iran, and is an adequate U.S. partner with some marginally acceptable form of democracy. If these minimal conditions were sustained, the U.S. should not have to launch new wars in Iraq in the future because this status quo would be acceptable.

Global cyber-strategy needed to confront 'IS' and other terror groups

"Islamic State" is not only a threat on the battlefield, but also on the Internet, writes Kyle Matthews from the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies.

The infamous "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS or IS) has proven its success both on the battlefield, with its recent capture of the city of Ramadi in Iraq, and in cyberspace, due to its mastery of social media and modern digital technology.

Not only has the group made public the horrific footage of the mass executions carried out by its jihadist fighters, it has turned the Internet into a “digital battleground” where it posts propaganda to indoctrinate individuals, promote hatred, recruit new foot soldiers, fundraise and plan mass casualty attacks.

How Disbanding the Iraqi Army Fueled ISIS

May 28, 2015

The U.S. decision 12 years ago has provided the enemy with some of its best commanders and fighters 

After nearly a year of air strikes led by the U.S. and ground attacks by the U.S.-trained Iraqi army, the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) is proving to be a far more cagey and cunning foe than the Pentagon ever expected. A big reason for its success is the George W. Bush Administration’s decision to disband the Iraqi army shortly after the 2003 invasion—without the knowledge or consent of either the Pentagon or President. 

It’s a jarring reminder of how a key decision made long ago is complicating U.S. efforts to fight ISIS and restore some semblance of stability to Iraq. Instead of giving Iraq a fresh start with a new army, it helped create a vacuum that ISIS has filled. Anthony Zinni, a retired Marine general and chief of U.S. Central Command from 1997 to 2000, said keeping the Iraqi army intact was always part of U.S. strategy. “The plan was that the army would be the foundation of rebuilding the Iraqi military,” he says. “Many of the Sunnis who were chased out ended up on the other side and are probably ISIS fighters and leaders now.” One expert estimates that more than 25 of ISIS’s top 40 leaders once served in the Iraqi military. 

Guest Article: Why we lose so many wars, and how we can win.

As the western nations begin a new round of interventions against insurgencies in the Middle East, let’s look at the record of such conflicts since WWII. They teach a simple lesson that if widely recognized could change our future. But the leaders of our national defense institutions do not want to see it, so we probably will not either. Failure to learn is among the most expensive of weaknesses, one which can offset even the power of even great nations.

The local fighter is therefore often an accidental guerrilla — fighting us because we are in his space, not because he wishes to invade ours. He follows folk-ways of tribal warfare that are mediated by traditional cultural norms, values, and perceptual lenses; he is engaged (from his point of view) in “resistance” rather than “insurgency” and fights principally to be left alone.

— David Kilcullen in The Accidental Guerrilla (2011).

Putin's FIFA Remarks: Russia Gives America a 'Red Card'

May 29, 2015
The deeper meaning behind Russian president Vladimir Putin's FIFA comments. 

Vladimir Putin's full-throated defense of embattled Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) president Sepp Blatter, who has seen the organization's top executives arrested in Switzerland on the basis of U.S. anti-corruption warrants issued in the Southern District of New York, should come as no surprise. Throughout his tenure in office, Putin has made it a point to stand by friends of the Kremlin no matter the charges and to demonstrate that the Russian state will do what it can to defend and support them, particularly when they face trouble in the West.

Russia's Eyes Massive Nuclear Submarine Deal with India

May 29, 2015
Russia may help India build nuclear submarines and stealth warships, according to Indian media reports.
Last week India’s Economic Times reported that the Indian conglomerate Reliance Infrastructure—which owns stakes in numerous Indian defense companies—is seeking Russian assistance for programs to locally produce nuclear submarines and other stealth warships.

According to the report, top Reliance executives were in Moscow last week to meet with Russian defense officials about finding a partner for a joint venture between a Russian defense company and Pipavav Defence & Offshore Engineering, India’s largest defense shipyard, which Reliance has an 18 percent stake in. Specifically, Reliance is looking for a Russian partner with the “requisite technology expertise for manufacturing warships in India.”

Here Comes Rick Santorum: Does He Have What It Takes to Be President?

Can the second be first? Rick Santorum certainly hopes so. In 2012, the former Pennsylvania senator finished second to the eventual GOP nominee Mitt Romney. Now Santorum hopes to improve on that surprise performance. Santorum recently announced he was entering the 2016 presidential campaign, afterconfirming his candidacy to George Stephanopoulos earlier in the day.

I profiled Santorum back in 2011 when he first ran for president. His worldview hasn’t changed since then. He is a social conservative and foreign policy hawk. Indeed, he stressed foreign policy topics back in 2012 when the smart money said GOP candidates should focus on jobs and deficits.

Russia's Mighty T-14 Armata Tank: Should America Be Worried?

Russia's new Armata Tank—actually part of a family of armored vehicles that share a common chassis—has attracted tremendous attention. Can it match all the hype? 

Russia has a new tank… maybe. Several National Interest articles have followedthe development of the Armata family of armored vehicles, a system that breaks with long-term Russian tradition in construction, design, and (probably) means of employment.

How much should the United States worry about the Armata, and where should that concern lie? The impressive nature of the tank notwithstanding, the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps are unlikely to encounter it directly on the battlefield. The bigger questions involve how the Armata might change the global market for armored vehicles, and how the tank might become part of the arsenals of Russian proxies.

What it can do

The Armata represents a family of armored vehicles that share a common chassis. As with the Israeli Merkava, this maximizes the flexibility of the platform, hopefully saving production and maintenance costs. The influence of the Merkava, which began its production life as a main battle tank but has spawned a series of spinoffs, is key to understanding what Russia is looking for in its new vehicle.

NATO Needs a Nuclear Strategy Update

May 27, 2015

Moscow is ready to use its arsenal to deter pushback against its aggressions. NATO needs a plan for how to stare down such threats.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization ministers meeting in Antalya, Turkey earlier this month heard from the alliance’s supreme military commander that Russia is using threatening rhetoric about nuclear weapons to intimidate the West. It’s designed “to give pause to NATO’s decision making,” said Gen. Philip Breedlove. This has included not only general references to Russia’s nuclear arsenal, the general pointed out, but also Moscow referring specifically to “the possibility of moving nukes into certain areas or employing nukes if something had not gone correctly in Crimea.”

Can Russia Even Out the Playing Field With China?

May 28, 2015

Russia and China recently have signed and executed a number of large-scale economic and military agreements - enough to make Russia's own so-called pivot to Asia, and toward the dynamic Chinese economy, seem a success. Multi-billion dollar oil-and-gas agreements and recently concluded Sino-Russian naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea point to strengthening relations between these major Eurasian powers. For Russia, the growing relationship presents many challenges. Foremost among these for the Kremlin is to ensure that such a relationship is balanced, and does not make of Moscow a junior partner to Beijing just as Russia seeks to re-establish its global prominence.

U.S. Navy's Big Mistake -- Building Tons of Supercarriers

May 28, 2015

“History,” it has been written, “does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.” Today it’s rhyming with Gen. Billy Mitchell. In the 1920s, Mitchell challenged conventional thinking by advocating air power at sea in the face of a naval establishment dominated by battleship proponents.

The hubris of the “battleship Navy” was such that just nine days before Pearl Harbor, the official program for the 1941 Army-Navy game displayed a full page photograph of the battleship USS Arizona with language virtually extolling its invincibility.

Of course, the reason that no one had yet sunk a battleship from the air — in combat — was that no one had yet tried.

US Navy Buys Old Helicopters from Japan for Spare Parts

by Mike Hixenbaugh
May 28, 2015

The Navy has purchased two decommissioned Japanese military helicopters and additional used parts, completing an international deal in the works for more than five years. The U.S. plans to harvest the aircraft for parts to maintain its aging fleet of MH-53E Sea Dragons.

A Navy spokeswoman couldn't place a value on the acquisition, but it appears the service bought the used helicopters and parts at a steep discount, paying about $67,000. One Sea Dragon is worth about $60 million new.

"This is the result of a lot of hard work and cooperation on both sides," said Kelly Burdick, a spokeswoman for Naval Air Systems Command, which is responsible for developing, equipping and maintaining Navy and Marine Corps aircraft.

The Navy's Sea Dragon program -- initially set for retirement a decade ago -- has long been hampered by a shortage of replacement parts, a problem that came to a head earlier this year after the service ordered fleet-wide inspections and repairs to fix potentially dangerous fuel lines and wiring bundles.

Reuters reporter: Russia is amassing unmarked tanks and soldiers on its border with Ukraine

MAY 28, 2015

KHUTOR CHKALOVA, Russia (Reuters) - Russia's army is massing troops and hundreds of pieces of weaponry including mobile rocket launchers, tanks and artillery at a makeshift base near the border with Ukraine, a Reuters reporter saw this week.

Many of the vehicles have number plates and identifying marks removed while many of the servicemen had taken insignia off their fatigues. As such, they match the appearance of some of the forces spotted in eastern Ukraine, which Kiev and its Western allies allege are covert Russian detachments.

The scene at the base on the Kuzminsky firing range, around 50 km (30 miles) from the border, offers some of the clearest evidence to date of what appeared to be a concerted Russian military build-up in the area.

Hacked Emails of Russian Official Show Covert Russian Military Acquisition of Sensitive Technology

Sharon Weinberger
May 28, 2015

Hacked Emails Reveal Russian Plans to Obtain Sensitive Western Tech

In April 2014, Viktor Tarasov wrote to the head of Ruselectronics, a Russian state-owned holding company, about a critical shortage of military equipment. The Russian military lacked thermal imaging systems — devices commonly used to detect people and vehicles — and Tarasov believed that technology might be needed soon because of the “increasingly complex situation in the southeast of Ukraine and the possible participation of Russian forces” to stabilize the region.

Tarasov, in charge of Ruselectronics’ optical tech subsidiary, was hoping that the head of Ruselectronics would write to the minister of defense for armaments to advance his company 150 million rubles, then about $4 million, to buy 500 microbolometer arrays, a critical component of thermal imaging devices. The money, Tarasov wrote, would allow the company to buy the equipment under a current contract from a French company without the need for signing a new “end-use certificate,” which requires the buyer to disclose the final recipient.

The Fine Line Where Secrecy Trumps Transparency: The British Case

Alan Cowell
May 29, 2015

British Inquiries Shed Light, Until They Don’t

LONDON — What do we really know about events that mold the national narrative? In this era of digital information harvested by whistle-blowers, who draws the line in the contest between security and openness? Is it, indeed, surprising that some might suspect the maneuvers of a hidden cabal of power and privilege narrowing the limits of disclosure?

The questions intrude insistently in this country with its reflexive reverence for official secrecy, despite — or perhaps because of — years of investigations and inquiries that have sometimes offered illumination and sometimes achieved the opposite.

Most notable at the moment is the panel investigating the Iraq war in 2003, named for its head, Sir John Chilcot, a retired civil servant. Although it began its work in 2009, it has yet to produce a final report on its interviews with 129 witnesses and its scrutiny of 150,000 government documents including confidential exchanges between Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush.

The Shadow NSA: The Growing Privatization of Cyber Espionage in the U.S.

Tim Shorrock

How Private Contractors Have Created a Shadow NSA 

About a year ago, I wangled a media invitation to a “leadership dinner” in northern 
Virginia sponsored by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance. INSA is a powerful but 
little-known coalition established in 2005 by companies working for the National Security Agency. In recent years, it has become the premier organization for the men and women who run the massive cyberintelligence-industrial complex that encircles Washington, DC.

The keynote speaker was Matthew Olsen, who was then the director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). He used his talk to bolster the morale of his colleagues, which had recently been stung by the public backlash against the NSA’s massive surveillance programs, the extent of which was still com-ing to light in the steady release of Edward Snowden’s huge trove of documents. “NSA is a national treasure,” Olsen declared. “Our national security depends on NSA’s continued capacity to collect this kind of information.” There was loud, sustained applause.

Reuters reporter: Russia is amassing unmarked tanks and soldiers on its border with Ukraine

MAY 28, 2015

Thomson ReutersTanks are seen on a freight train shortly after its arrival at a railway station in the Russian southern town of Matveev Kurgan

KHUTOR CHKALOVA, Russia (Reuters) - Russia's army is massing troops and hundreds of pieces of weaponry including mobile rocket launchers, tanks and artillery at a makeshift base near the border with Ukraine, a Reuters reporter saw this week.

Many of the vehicles have number plates and identifying marks removed while many of the servicemen had taken insignia off their fatigues. As such, they match the appearance of some of the forces spotted in eastern Ukraine, which Kiev and its Western allies allege are covert Russian detachments.

The scene at the base on the Kuzminsky firing range, around 50 km (30 miles) from the border, offers some of the clearest evidence to date of what appeared to be a concerted Russian military build-up in the area.

The U.S. Fed: Stuck in Neutral?

"Interest rates do not live in a vacuum, and the United States does not have the potential growth it once did."
There is always an ideal. For the Fed, the ideal is the neutral (or natural or equilibrium) rate of interest. The neutral interest rate can be defined as the Fed Funds rate consistent with an economy operating at its “potential.” And this—somewhat odd—economic guide may become an increasingly important data point for those watching the Fed’s policies closely.

The data shows that the policy neutral rate has been declining since the 1960s (with a slight uptick during the booming 1990s). A more accurate tagline might be “Still Stuck in Neutral.” One major bond house recently called this “The New Neutral.” But a declining neutral rate is anything but new.

PowerPoint should be banned. This PowerPoint presentation explains why.

By Katrin Park 
May 26 
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Katrin Park is a former UN staffer currently based in Seoul.

Invented in 1987, the Microsoft presentation software PowerPoint isreportedly installed on more than 1 billion computers around the world. It is estimated that more than 30 million PowerPoint presentations are given every day. But as PowerPoint conquered the world, critics have piled on. And justifiably so. Its slides are oversimplified, and bullet points omit the complexities of nearly any issue. The slides are designed to skip the learning process, which — when it works — involves dialogue, eye-to-eye contact and discussions. Of course PowerPoint has merits — it can help businesses with their sales pitches or let teachers introduce technology into the classroom. But instead of being used as a means for a dynamic engagement, it has become a poor substitute for longer, well-thought-out briefings and technical reports. It has become a crutch.

How Special Operators Are Taking Artificial Intelligence To War

MAY 28, 2015

Data and machine learning will steer missions and predict uprisings before they start.

The U.S. fight against the Islamic State and other extremist threats is increasingly in the hands of elite special operations units who will succeed or fail by their ability to collect, process, and exploit data at the speed of crisis. At the command level, that means reducing the number of analysts required to get data to make sense. On the ground, it means sending much more actionable data to the tip of the spear, and doing so faster and more cheaply. Even the best tech minds in commercial sector don’t produce the sort of product that special operators need, according to special operations intelligence experts.

Patrick Tucker is technology editor for Defense One. He’s also the author of The Naked Future: What Happens in a World That Anticipates Your Every Move? (Current, 2014). Previously, Tucker was deputy editor for The Futurist for nine years. Tucker has written about emerging technology in Slate, The ...Full Bio

Germans seek Indian IT cyber fighters

May 28, 2015

German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen said the highlight of her discussions with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi was cyber terrorism.

The minister who was speaking in Mumbai at a meeting organised by Gateway House, a think tank, said India’s talent pool in the IT sector has made the task of fighting cyber terrorism more realisable.

She also explained, on a suggestion of Satrupt Mishra, chief executive, Carbon Black and director, HR, Aditya Birla group that there should be cooperation between academia and small business, that in Germany in the small and medium enterprises (SME) sector , the workers go for vocational training during a week, so that they are skilled for the job they are doing. It is man-driven education, she said adding “this is what small and medium enterprises need for the future.

The Kremlin’s Secret Army of Online Trolls Operate From Building St. Petersburg

May 29, 2015

Russia Steps Up Propaganda Push With Online ‘Kremlin Trolls’

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Deep inside a four-story marble building in St. Petersburg, hundreds of workers tap away at computers on the front lines of an information war, say those who have been inside. Known as “Kremlin trolls,” the men and women work 12-hour shifts around the clock, flooding the Internet with propaganda aimed at stamping President Vladimir Putin’s world vision on Russia, and the world.

The Kremlin has always dabbled in propaganda, but in the past year its troll campaign has gone into overdrive, adding hundreds of online operatives to help counter Western pressure over its role in the pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine. The program is drawing Serbia, which harbors EU dreams, back toward the Russian orbit, and is targeting Germany, the United States and other Western powers. The operation has worried the European Union enough to prompt it to draw up a blueprint for fighting Russia’s disinformation campaign, although details have not yet been released.


Encryption is not the refuge of scoundrels, as Obama administration law-enforcement officials loudly proclaim – it is an essential tool needed to protect the right of freedom of opinion and expression in the digital age, anew United Nations report concludes.

Encryption that makes a communication unintelligible to anyone but the intended recipient creates “a zone of privacy to protect opinion and belief,” says the report from David Kaye, who as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression is essentially the U.N.’s free speech watchdog.

The significance of encryption extends well beyond political speech, Kaye writes. “The ability to search the web, develop ideas and communicate securely may be the only way in which many can explore basic aspects of identity, such as one’s gender, religion, ethnicity, national origin or sexuality.”

Encryption, like anonymity, is essential to artists, journalists, whistleblowers, and many other classes of people, the report says.

Why does the US have 800 military bases around the world?

May 18, 2015

The US has around 800 military bases in other countries, which costs an estimated $100 billion annually, a number that could be much higher depending on whether you count the bases still open in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is according to American University professor David Vine in his forthcoming book Base Nation, in which he seeks to quantify the financial, environmental, and human costs of keeping these bases open.

Bases around the world.

The word "base" is a broad term that captures all sorts of military posts, stations, camps, forts, etc. around the globe. The Pentagon specifics that a "base site" is any geographic location that is "owned by or leased to, or otherwise possessed" by the military.

Most of these bases cropped up after World War II when the US took position as the global leader and peacekeeper in and around Japan and Germany. The Korean and Cold Wars sped up the expansion of US military infrastructure to other countries. Containing Soviet communism led the US to set up posts all over the globe to ensure a geopolitical foothold in places that were vulnerable to Soviet influence — which basically meant everywhere.