12 August 2015

Who cares for the nation?

By K.N. Pandita
11 Aug , 2015

As the Independence Day draws near, our foes are getting activated to strike wherever they can. “Inflicting a thousand cuts” has become the gospel for them.

Recent weeks witnessed many gun battles between security forces and the terrorists in Sopore, Srinagar, Pulwama, Udhampur and some more places in Jammu and Kashmir.

…the judge of the Supreme Court who had sentenced Yaqub Memon to death is threatened by the accomplices of the executed terrorist. This speaks of a chain of fundamentalist-terrorist network pro-active in the country.

Pakistani Rangers open unprovoked firing and shelling of border posts and villages along the LoC. Several attacks have been made across the international border like Gurdaspur and Kathua.

India badly needs a separate Ministry of Homeland Security

By Brig Anil Gupta
10 Aug , 2015

It has been widely reported in American media that ISIS has a grand design of uniting the numerous Afghan and Pakistani terrorist groups to forge a new “Army of Terror” based in the Af-Pak region and triggering a war in India to provoke the United States.

Farooq Abdullah has even termed the waving of ISIS flags in Kashmir as “a mere expression of anger and frustration by the youth who want to wake up the nation.” Is the ISIS threat to India so trivial or is it time to wake up and smell the coffee?

The revelation is based on a 32-page document in Urdu that details the future battle plans of the Islamic State in pursuance of its ultimate goal of establishing an Islamic State Caliphate (ISC), a common goal of all global jihadist terror outfits. It urges the “ummah”, entire global Muslim community, to recognize Islamic State’s head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the sole ruler of the world’s Muslims under a religious empire “Caliphate”. It also reveals its focus on armed uprisings in the Arab world.

All About My Mother

7 August 2015

Krishna Bose witnessed the ecstasy as well as the agony of freedom. Her memoirs, now translated into English by her son Sumantra Bose, chronicle history's passion play

Krishna Chaudhuri in Delhi (1947) 

Krishna Bose , my mother, is now 84. She was sixteen when India gained Independence. This is her story of how she experienced it.

Her latest book Lost Addresses: A Memoir of India, 1934- 1955 was first published in Bengali in 2014. After reading it, I decided to translate it into English. It’s a vivid story of the simultaneous coming of age of an individual and a nation, told from the perspective of an ordinary Indian growing up amid tumultuous events.

Krishna Chaudhuri—as she was then—started reading newspapers aged eleven to make sense of the turmoil generated by the Quit India movement of 1942. In 1943 she was evacuated for several months to the family’s vacation home in the Santhal Parganas due to the risk of Japanese air attacks on Calcutta. On her return, she found Calcutta’s streets crawling with ragged, starving people from the Bengal countryside—the victims of the famine of 1943-44 which killed 3–4 million of the province’s 60-million population. Her first teenage memories are of emaciated columns of villagers staggering across Calcutta begging for morsels of food with haunting cries and dying by the thousands on the streets. As she turned 15, India was convulsed by mass protests triggered by the Red Fort trial of the three Indian National Army officers—Shah Nawaz Khan, Prem Kumar Sahgal and Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon. The unity between religious and political faiths in late 1945 and early 1946 in solidarity with the soldiers of Netaji’s movement dissipated in the second half of 1946, as the countdown to Partition began. In August, Calcutta turned into an inferno, convulsed by the ‘Great Calcutta Killings’, the communal carnage that began on the Muslim League’s ‘Direct Action Day’ on 16 August 1946. At 15, Krishna was an eyewitness to this as well—of a city under siege, of gruesome killings even in her genteel south Calcutta neighbourhood.

Nagaland: One political compromise after another

August 10, 2015

'The Naga Hills region, Nagaland and Manipur, have had the most uncaring and corrupt state governments with little to show on the ground despite the nation's highest per capita development expenditure,' says Mohan Guruswamy.

To understand the Naga problem better we must first recognise certain historical facts.

The first of these is that the Naga Hills was the very last British annexation in the sub-continent. That annexation began with the establishment in March 1878 of the chief administrative centre for the region at Kohima -- then a large Angami village.

This was completed in 1949 when the new Government of India extended its authority to the Tuensang region.

Before this, the Naga tribes were independent of the powers centered either in Assam, Burma or India. It is thus very unlike Jammu and Kashmir, which historically was always an intrinsic part of India's politico-cultural milieu.

The Naga tribes are generally considered to be of Tibeto-Burman stock, ethnically very distinct and separate from the peoples of the Indo-Gangetic plains and peninsular India. According to Hokishe Sema, a former chief minister of Nagaland and later governor of Himachal Pradesh, it becomes difficult to categorise the Naga tribes.

Nagaland: Tentative Accord

Ajai Sahni

A ‘historic accord’ was signed between the Government of India and the largest rebel Naga group, the National Socialist Council of Nagalim – Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) on August 3, 2015, at once raising hopes and apprehensions against the context of what has been India’s most enduring insurgency. While few details of the actual contents of the agreement are yet available, the Centre’s principal interlocutor R.N. Ravi has clarified that the ‘accord’ is, in fact, a “framework agreement” that spells out the terms of a “final settlement”. Reports suggest that such a final settlement would be worked out in three months, and would exclude any claims to sovereignty or alterations in state boundaries.

There can be little doubt that, coming after nearly 18 years of negotiations under ceasefire, this accord has major significance. That it has happened under the leadership of the Narendra Modi Government, with R.N. Ravi as the Centre’s interlocutor, and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval guiding the process, the credit will naturally go to the current dispensation. Nevertheless, it is useful to recognize that this is, at best, a no doubt big step in a journey on which several successive regimes had already covered many miles.

A release issued by the Prime Minister’s office on August 3, 2015, claimed that the Agreement would “end the oldest insurgency in the country… restore peace and pave the way for prosperity in the Northeast”, that it made an “honourable settlement” possible”, and that the “NSCN was represented by its entire collective leadership and senior leaders of various Naga tribes.”

The spoils of peace

Aug 8th 2015

IT IS understandable that India’s prime minister should celebrate a “historic” accord to end a bloody ethnic insurgency in the remote north-east of the country, announced on August 3rd. “The Naga political issue had lingered for six decades, taking a huge toll on generations of our people”, said Narendra Modi, as his government signed an agreement with the main Naga insurgent group, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN).

In practice much has yet to be worked out. Decades of rumbling violence by secessionists; murderous clashes between rival Naga tribal groups; extortion by former rebel fighters; and repressive laws, especially the Armed Forces Special Powers Act: all have fostered instability and discouraged investment. Today Nagaland is much poorer than most of India. For young Nagas and other north-easterners, the surest route to success is to leave.

Most of the serious fighting in Nagaland, a state of about 2m people, ended in 1997, when guitar-strumming rebels agreed to a ceasefire and quit guerrilla life in the forest for comforts in town, where many are lauded like rock stars. Talks over a final agreement dragged on because insurgency leaders stuck to demands for either full sovereignty or, failing that, an expanded Nagaland to include fellow Nagas in neighbouring states, notably Manipur.

Afghanistan's Ghani: Pakistan Needs to Do Something About the Taliban

August 10, 2015

After a bloody weekend in Kabul and a Monday morning suicide bombing at the airport, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani addressed the nation. His statement was firmly directed at Pakistan. One of the most-remarked-upon aspects of Ghani’s presidency has been his willingness to work with Pakistan–a country his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, had a noticeably antagonistic relationship with. But the rapprochement may indeed have been a mirage.
Ghani said, “Pakistan still remains a venue and ground for gatherings from which mercenaries send us messages of war.” He called out Pakistan’s relative silence with regard to the skyrocketing civilian toll of Taliban attacks. The Afghan president urged Pakistan to imagine that the spate of attacks rocking Kabul over the weekend had occurred in Islamabad, carried out by groups with bases in Afghanistan: “Will you have looked at us as friends or enemies?”

The latest iteration of the peace process in Afghanistan was born and died in less than a month. An early July meeting between a delegation from the Afghan High Peace Council and members of the Taliban in Islamabad, facilitated by the Pakistanis, was heralded as an extraordinary (though at the same time minute) step forward. I wrote at the time:

ISIS in Afghanistan declares war on the Taliban

August 6, 2015
ISIS in Afghanistan declares war on the Taliban without actually mentioning them. ISIS in Afghanistan/Pakistan (known as Khurasan Province) released an audio message in Pashtun by the self styled Emir of ISIS, Khurasan Haviz Saeed Khan, urging all Jihadists in Afghanistan and Pakistan to join ISIS and give their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The message released on August 5th by Haviz Saeed Khan suggests that ISIS in Khurasan are moving in to exploit the recently announced death of Taliban’s leader Mullah Muhammad Omar and the subsequent divisions within the ranks of Taliban leadership.

The Taliban Shoura Council announced the death of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the commander of the Taliban in Afghanistan, at the end of July, and elected his deputy (since 2010) Mullah Akhtar Mansour as his successor.

Signs That the Afghan Army Is Slowly Improving

Rod Nordland
August 9, 2015

In Handling Barrage of Attacks, Afghan Forces Show Training Is Paying Off

KABUL, Afghanistan — The unprecedented wave of attacks here — three major bombings in less than 24 hours that killed at least 65 people and wounded hundreds of others — was arguably a major victory for Taliban forces, who proved they could mount simultaneous operations with devastating effect, including on an American military base.

In Afghanistan, the attacks on Friday were also being seen in other lights. Afghan security forces handled three complex emergencies almost simultaneously, proving perhaps that training of Afghan forces has paid off. Afghan officials were quick to congratulate themselves, noting that in none of the three attacks, scattered widely around the capital, did the insurgents manage to breach their targets’ inner defenses. Most of the victims were outside the walls, either passers-by or defenders at the gates.

Afghan officials were quick to blame the intelligence agencies of “neighboring countries” — code for Pakistan, which has long sheltered the Haqqani network and given sanctuary to the Taliban’s leadership. “The insurgents carry out such attacks targeting civilians in order to attract the attention of the world, and to hide their failures on the battleground,” said Brig. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense. “On the front lines they’ve been defeated by the Afghan national security forces, so that’s why they resort to conducting suicide attacks.”

What Crimea Tells Us About Asia's Future Wars

Crimea and the complex military occupation that now exists in Ukraine is an all too reasonable and underexplored model for future conflict in Asia.

When we think about conflict in Asia, a handful of flashpoints come to mind: the Taiwan Strait, East China Sea, and the Korean Peninsula. Increasingly the South China Sea. And when we think about how these conflicts might erupt, we almost inevitably imagine a confrontation in which two parties deliberately confront each other, a test of resolve occurs, and undesirable but essential escalation ensues. In essence, we imagine a deterrence game between national militaries that gets out of hand. Far from being unthinkable, sadly, such scenarios are by far the most thinkable.

But modern conflicts don’t really look like that, and futurists who concern themselves with war and strategy suggest a different model for what future conflicts and conflict processes might resemble: Crimea.

Why Are Secular Bloggers Being Killed in Bangladesh?

The first quarter of 2015 has witnessed numerous attacks on civil society activists and bloggers in Bangladesh. Three bloggers—Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman Babu and Ananta Bijoy Das—have been killed since February, and the Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League government remains silent on the issue, while privately reaching out to victims’ families with condolences.
On Friday, another blogger, Niloy Chatterjee (he blogged under the alias Niloy Neel), was attacked by a gang armed with machetes and hacked to death. What is alarming is that Niloy’s complaint to the police about threats that he received had been disregarded: the police did not even file his complaint. If they had, perhaps he could have been saved.

According to the Bangladesh Blogger and Activist Network, Niloy was murdered on Friday after men broke into his flat in Dhaka’s Goran neighborhood. The blogger was a firm critic of religious extremism, and his murder is a sign of a deep political crisis between the Bangladesh Liberation Party and the Awami League that has allowed religious and militants groups to execute their plans and crush voices of dissent.

Why Is All the News From Central Asia Bad, Weird or Ugly?

Because when governments try to clamp down on bad news, they prevent good news from surfacing. All that’s left is ugly news.
Over a month ago, Saparmamed Nepeskuliev went missing. Authorities won’t say where he is. The freelance Turkmen journalist, who has written for the Netherlands-based NGO, Alternative Turkmen News (ATN) as well as the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) had been in Avaz (Awaza), near Turkmenbashi, researching a story when he was detained in early July. Eventually his family and colleagues learned that he had been arrested on illegal drug possession charges in Akdash (a town also near Turkmenbashi).

RFE/RL reports that their requests to confirm his detention have gone unanswered by the authorities. There is little surprising about the story.

China Responds to Afghanistan's Bloodiest Day Since 2009

August 8, 2015 was the bloodiest day for Afghanistan’s capital in years. Three bombings in Kabul– outside a U.S. military base, an Afghan army compound, and a police academy – left over 50 dead and 500 wounded. Most of the victims were civilians, despite the nature of the targets. It was the worst day for civilian casualties since data began being collected in 2009, the UN mission in Afghanistan said.

Two days later, on August 10, China’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Deng Xijun, held what Pajhwok Afghan News called a “marathon meeting” with Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar. During the discussion, Pajhwok reported, Deng offered China’s condolences over the recent bombings in Kabul. He also said that China was ready to offer equipment and support to Afghanistan’s security forces.

The Politics of History in China-Japan Relations

This article is part of The Diplomat’s series exploring historical issues in Northeast Asia in the run-up to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. See the rest of the series here.

Every nation has at least two histories, one about the origin and evolution of its civilization (the “us”), the other about its interactions with the outside world (the “other”). The two histories are often closely intertwined, as the (mis)presentation of the us can be heavily shaped by (mis)presentation of the other. This is particularly true in the case of China, which suffered “a century of humiliation” at the hands of foreign powers. Of all these foreign powers, Japan has had undoubtedly the most important impact on the post-1949 Chinese presentation of itself, primarily because of the Japanese invasion and occupation of China during World War II.

China’s Maritime Militia Upends Rules on Naval Warfare

China operates a network of fishing vessels organized into a maritime militia with paramilitary roles in peacetime and during armed conflict. The maritime militia forms an irregular naval force that provides the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) with an inexpensive force multiplier, raising operational, legal and political challenges for any opponent. The sheer size and scope of the vast network of China’s maritime militia complicates the battlespace, degrades any opponent’s decision-making process and exposes adversaries to political dilemmas that will make them more cautious to act against China during a maritime crisis or naval war. The legal implications are no less profound.

US-Thailand Relations on a Razor’s Edge

Could a further postponement of elections in Thailand trigger a more punitive U.S. response to last year’s democracy-suspending coup and subsequent heavy-handed military rule? Recent reports indicate the ruling junta’s roadmap to elections could be delayed from September 2016 to April 2017 if the military-appointed National Reform Commission rejects next month a draft constitution that aims to reorder the country’s turbulent politics. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha vowed upon seizing power in mid-2014 to restore democracy by late 2015, but as delays mount that narrative seems more geared to ease international pressure than reinstate civilian rule.

The U.S. has been a consistent critic of the coup and its authoritarian aftermath, a position the State Department has advanced on democratic principle to the detriment of the wider strategic relationship. U.S. envoys have doggedly emphasized the need to quickly hold new polls to restore normal ties, including a full resumption of now suspended high-level strategic dialogue, downgraded joint military exercises and trainings, and curtailed sales of certain types of weaponry and defense equipment.

Why Is China Buying One Million Tons of Rice from Thailand?

On August 10, Thailand’s Commerce Minister Gen Chatchai Sarikalya announced that China and Thailand had reached a government-to-government agreement for Beijing to buy one million tons of Thai rice.
The agreement is part of a broader memorandum of understanding (MoU) the two countries reached last December for China to buy two million tons of rice from Thailand (See: “Thailand Turns to China”). According to Chatchai, this particular sale involves Thai jasmine rice and Thai-5 percent broken white rice and would be done using market prices. Negotiations for the sale the other 1 million tons of rice to China under the MoU are expected to begin in September.

The deal is significant because it would allow Thailand – currently the world’s second largest rice exporter – to begin to ease the stockpiles of grain it accumulated under a graft-ridden rice-pledging program under former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was overthrown in a coup in May 2014. China had canceled an earlier deal to buy 1.2 million tons of Thai rice in February last year after the country’s anti-corruption agency launched a probe into the scheme, which was advanced as a major reason for her ouster.

China and Kyrgyzstan: So Near, Yet So Far

By Alessandra Colarizi
August 11, 2015

If only President Xi Jinping knew, maybe heads would roll. But, as the old saying goes, “the mountains are high and the emperor is far away,” and it’s hard for the watchful eye of the anti-corruption campaign to reach as far as this strip of land where China and Kyrgyzstan meet. The intrepid traveler who wants to cross the Sino-Kyrgyz border through the Irkeshtam Pass (the “smoothest” and most Southern) has to go through two border crossings, two checkpoints, and a 150 kilometer ride (using official taxis or hitchhiking) just to change sides. On the Chinese side, the final goal is an impressive modern structure resembling an airport terminal with a five-starred red flag waiving at the top. But inside, nobody is there to welcome you. No trace of officers either: only their photos, names and ethnicity posted at the entrance.

“Is it always like this around here?” I asked after more than an hour of waiting.

“Sometimes …” replied a Chinese Kyrgyz who seems to live this odyssey every day without the slightest hint of annoyance.

Can the Renminbi Take on the World?

AUG 5, 2015 

LONDON – The Chinese have a saying: “Take a second look; it costs you nothing.” This advice is apt in the context of China’s current equity-market volatility, the implications of which extend beyond the immediate anxiety that the recent turbulence has provoked. In fact, this turmoil should be viewed in light of one of China’s core strategic goals: to establish the renminbi as a global reserve currency.

The renminbi’s potential to serve as a reserve currency has gained increased attention this year, as the International Monetary Fund prepares to review the currency basket that determines the value of its own reserve asset, the Special Drawing Right. The SDR was created in 1969 to supplement member countries’ official reserves. China has been campaigning for years to have the renminbi included in the basket, alongside the US dollar, the British pound, the euro, and the Japanese yen.

China’s push to secure reserve-currency status for the renminbi is understandable, given the far-reaching benefits of such a change. It would make the currency more stable and reduce the need to hold massive reserves. With policymakers no longer forced to suppress domestic demand to sustain a high level of reserves, consumption could supplant fixed-asset investment, placing China’s economy on a more sustainable growth path. Excess reserves could be allocated to sovereign wealth funds and finance projects – including through the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank – that extend the country’s global influence.

Former Defense Intelligence Agency Chief Says Rise of Islamic State Was “A Willful Decision”

By Brad Hoff

August 07, 2015 "Information Clearing House" - "Levant Report" - In Al Jazeera’s latest Head to Head episode, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn confirms to Mehdi Hasan that not only had he studied the DIA memo predicting the West’s backing of an Islamic State in Syria when it came across his desk in 2012, but even asserts that the White House’s sponsoring of radical jihadists (that would emerge as ISIL and Nusra) against the Syrian regime was “a willful decision.”

Amazingly, Flynn actually took issue with the way interviewer Mehdi Hasan posed the question—Flynn seemed to want to make it clear that the policies that led to the rise of ISIL were not merely the result of ignorance or looking the other way, but the result of conscious decision making:

Hasan: You are basically saying that even in government at the time you knew these groups were around, you saw this analysis, and you were arguing against it, but who wasn’t listening?
Flynn: I think the administration.
Hasan: So the administration turned a blind eye to your analysis?
Flynn: I don’t know that they turned a blind eye, I think it was a decision. I think it was a willful decision.
Hasan: A willful decision to support an insurgency that had Salafists, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood?
Flynn: It was a willful decision to do what they’re doing.

The Brookings Institute Plan to Liquidate Syria

By Mike Whitney 

August 06, 2015 "Information Clearing House" - "Counterpunch' - Here’s your US foreign policy puzzler for the day: When is regime change not regime change?When the regime stays in power but loses its ability to rule. This is the current objective of US policy in Syria, to undermine Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s ability to govern the country without physically removing him from office. The idea is simple: Deploy US-backed “jihadi” proxies to capture-and-hold vast sections of the country thereby making it impossible for the central government to control the state. This is how the Obama administration plans to deal with Assad, by making him irrelevant. The strategy is explained in great detail in a piece by Michael E. O’Hanlon at the Brookings Institute titled “Deconstructing Syria: A new strategy for America’s most hopeless war”. Here’s an excerpt:

“…the only realistic path forward may be a plan that in effect deconstructs Syria….the international community should work to create pockets with more viable security and governance within Syria over time… The idea would be to help moderate elements establish reliable safe zones within Syria once they were able. American, as well as Saudi and Turkish and British and Jordanian and other Arab forces would act in support, not only from the air but eventually on the ground via special forces. The approach would benefit from Syria’s open desert terrain which could allow creation of buffer zones that could be monitored for possible signs of enemy attack. Western forces themselves would remain in more secure positions in general—within the safe zones but back from the front lines—at least until the reliability of such defenses, and also local allied forces, made it practical to deploy and live in more forward locations.

The Failure of U.S. Policy in Syria, the Destruction of Syria, and the Rise of ISIS

Anthony Sattin
August 10, 2015

Syria Burning: Isis and the Death of the Arab Spring review – how a small-scale revolt descended into hell 

Early 2014 wasn’t so long ago, but it is increasingly difficult to remember a time when the name Isis was not in daily use. Barely a day goes by now without mention of its strategic brilliance or imagination-defying brutality. Yet Daesh, as the terror organisation is commonly known in the Arab world, has only existed for a year under that name. In that time, it has become the poster boy of Islamist terror and the subject of a growing collection of books that includes Abdel Bari Atwan’s Islamic State, Benjamin Hall’s Inside Isis and Patrick Cockburn’s The Rise of Islamic State. Cockburn has also contributed a foreword to Charles Glass’s new book, Syria Burning.

One of the problems of writing about the current situation in the Middle East, as Glass, a veteran journalist, knows only too well, is that today’s certainties are tomorrow’s laughable speculations. Iran may still refer to the US as the “Great Satan”, but the two states now share some strategic interests. Although the US used to insist that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad must step down, it is now considering the very real possibility that he could survive the war and, like America’s lamentable “red line” of chemical weapons, what was unthinkable recently could soon be the acceptable status quo. But if news moves fast, assessments have not, which is one reason why we should all read Syria Burning. 

US’s Saudi Oil Deal from Win-Win to Mega-Loose

By F. William Engdahl

August 10, 2015 "Information Clearing House" - "NEO" - Who would’ve thought it would come to this? Certainly not the Obama Administration, and their brilliant geo-political think-tank neo-conservative strategists. John Kerry’s brilliant “win-win” proposal of last September during his September 11 Jeddah meeting with ailing Saudi King Abdullah was simple: Do a rerun of the highly successful State Department-Saudi deal in 1986 when Washington persuaded the Saudis to flood the world market at a time of over-supply in order to collapse oil prices worldwide, a kind of “oil shock in reverse.” In 1986 was successful in helping to break the back of a faltering Soviet Union highly dependent on dollar oil export revenues for maintaining its grip on power.

So, though it was not made public, Kerry and Abdullah agreed on September 11, 2014 that the Saudis would use their oil muscle to bring Putin’s Russia to their knees today.

It seemed brilliant at the time no doubt.

On the following day, 12 September 2014, the US Treasury’s aptly-named Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, headed by Treasury Under-Secretary David S. Cohen, announced new sanctions against Russia’s energy giants Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil, Surgutneftgas and Rosneft. It forbid US oil companies to participate with the Russian companies in joint ventures for oil or gas offshore or in the Arctic.

Japan’s Yucca Mountain: Nuclear Reboot Raises Questions on Waste Storage

By Logan Pettinato
August 10, 2015

The restart of Sendai 1 is nearly complete, but uncertainty looms over Japan’s disposal strategy for fresh nuclear waste.
In the face of concerns about Japan’s reliance on imported fossil fuels and natural gas, the Abe Administration has been working to reboot segments of the nuclear energy program over the past year. According to World Nuclear News, the Kyūshū Electric Power Company is expected to complete the restart of the Sendai 1 nuclear reactor this August, which will reintroduce nuclear power to Japan’s electric grid for the first time since 2013.

As debates continue over safety precautions and the government’s continued cleanup, efforts at Fukushima, Japan’s nuclear industry also faces the existing (and soon-to-be expanding) problem of nuclear waste disposal.

Although debates on nuclear power focus largely on the dangers of meltdown or natural disasters, emphasis on these issues can overshadow the increasingly significant problem of nuclear waste management. Unlike forms of ordinary metal or plastic waste, high-level nuclear material takes thousands of years to decompose. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the scientific community generally agrees that high-level wastes should be contained within underground geologic formations in repositories.

Google's Sundar Pichai To Replace Larry Page As CEO, Company Restructures As Alphabet


Google’s Sundar Pichai will replace Larry Page as the company’s CEO, as the company separates its core products from its moonshots. Pichai was formerly the senior vice president of products, overseeing most of Google’s biggest names. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Google's GOOGL -0.2% product czar Sundar Pichai will replace Larry Page as the company’s CEO, the search giant said Monday — a move that is part of Google splitting its core business from its ultra-ambitious “moonshot” projects.

Pichai, who as senior vice president of product oversaw Google’s main offerings like search, advertising, Android and Youtube, has long been considered the heir apparent to Page, who became CEO in 2011.

The announcement came with news that Google is rebranding itself as Alphabet, a “collection of companies,” the largest of which is Google. Page will be CEO of Alphabet and Google cofounder Sergey Brin will be its president.

Taiwan's Academic Future

“We cannot tear out a single page from our life,” George Sand wrote, “but we can throw the whole book into the fire.” These words, from the masterpieceMauprat, a novel about political equality and education reform set on the eve of the French Revolution, came to mind as I read J. Michael Cole’s July 24 andJuly 31 reports on Taiwan’s recent protests. Like the book, this is a story about political equality and education reform, and like the book, it too might end with a trial. Unlike Mauprat however, the changes in Taiwan seem more likely to begin a reign of tyranny than end one.

In July, hundreds of Taiwanese students staged a sit-in outside Taiwan’s Ministry of Education, protesting changes to history textbooks that promote a “one China” perspective. On July 23, a group of protesters climbed barbed wire fences, scaled ladders, and broke into Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa’s office, barricading the door with chairs, filing cabinets, and tables. Thirty-three (including 24 students) were later arrested.

Killer Robots: Programed Slaughter?

As I have argued previously (“The One Thing Geeky Defense Analysts Never Talk About”), when we discuss defense policies we often leave out the most salient aspect of the conversation: new tactics, new strategies, and new military technologies have the singular purpose of more effectively threatening or killing other human beings.

Last week, I covered the story (“Is a Killer Robot Arms Race Inevitable?”) of an open letter signed by 1,000 artificial intelligence and robotics researchers, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Google DeepMind chief executive Demis Hassabis, and Professor Stephen Hawking, that calls for a ban of “offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.”

The petition, while noble, will be difficult to live up to given the dialectical nature of military competition. However, what is immediately more striking is the euphemism-filled debate on the subject we are having (or rather not having). Current discussions focus on technical details and legal aspects surrounding the deployment of killer robots. For example, Kelley Sayler in a piece for Defense One makes the following argument:

Turkmenistan: TAPI Announcement Yet Another Disappointment

August 10, 2015

In choosing a domestic firm to lead the pipeline project, Ashgabat raises questions about future momentum.
After years of empty chatter, disappointing setback, and potential alternatives, it appears there may be some on-the-ground movement for the frustrating Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline. Earlier this week, Ashgabat announced that come December, the much-derided pipeline would finally see its groundbreaking. The Berdymukhamedov administration remained so confident on the date that Baymurat Hojamuhamedov, Turkmenistan’s Deputy Prime Minister for Oil and Gas and Special Envoy of Turkmenistan’s president, invited Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the ceremony.

However, the date for the groundbreaking wasn’t the only news spurring the pipeline. This week, the consortium backing TAPI selected Turkmengaz to head the pipeline’s enactment. As Eurasianet noted, “The statement notes that Turkmengaz has more than 50 years [of] experience in the development and transportation of gas resources, as well as in the construction of pipelines.”

Atomic Remembrance and Japan's Security Reform Debate

The 70th anniversary of the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a focal point for opponents of defense reform.

Last Thursday, Hiroshima commemorated the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing. Every August 6 is a somber day in Japan, but the outside world’s interest was particularly piqued this year. Foreign dignitaries from a record 100 countries participated in the ceremony – including representatives from countries that possess nuclear weapons: the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, and France. Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, attended for the second consecutive year, and Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, attended for the first time.

Today, Nagasaki holds its own Peace Memorial Ceremony in remembrance of the August 9 atomic bombing, the second – and last – in history.

DARPA Cyber Grand Challenge Competitor Portal

Welcome to the CGC Competitor Portal, the official competitor information site for DARPA's fully automated computer security challenge. This site provides official access to all DARPA Cyber Grand Challenge documentation, rules, software, and finalist login.

Details about the Cyber Grand Challenge and the teams can be found at http://www.cybergrandchallenge.com



Chinese Hackers Have Been Reading Emails of Top U.S. National Security Officials Since 2010, Report

August 10, 2015

China Hacked Private Emails of U.S. Officials Since 2010, NBC Reports

WASHINGTON — Chinese hackers have been accessing the private emails of top U.S. national security and trade officials since April 2010, according to an NBC News report on Monday, citing a U.S. intelligence official and top secret document.

The officials’ government email accounts were not vulnerable to the hacking because they were on more secure systems, NBC said.

A National Security Agency briefing in 2014 showed the email intrusion was detected in April 2010 and the U.S. official, who was not identified, said it was still going on, NBC said.

The official was cited as saying all top national security and trade officials were targeted.

Google acknowledged an intrusion into the private Gmail accounts of some American officials in 2011, and the NSA briefing made clear that email accounts from other providers also were compromised.

The hacking coincides with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

The targeted officials were not publicly identified.

U.S. officials code-named the email intrusion “Dancing Panda” and then “Legion Amethyst,” according to NBC.

The U.S. Intelligence Community’s Roadmap of the Future of Data Analysis

Aliya Shernstein
August 10, 2015

How Uber Could Contribute to the Future of Spycraft

The intelligence community this month quietly released an unprecedented, unclassified five-year-roadmap charting the future of data analysis it wants commercial startups like ride-sharing firm Uber to read.

The chart, part of a larger science and technology strategy, is aimed at encouraging unconventional makers like the car service app-developer and traditional tech contractors to help fund answers to oncoming national security problems.

The roadmap is an outgrowth of spring workshops with 40 companies that do classified work and a government analysis of the intelligence community’s science and technology needs.

By syncing private sector research now underway with the Office of the Director of Intelligence’s threat predictions, the right technology will be ready at the right time at the right price, DNI officials say.

The publicly available gap analysis, titled “Enhanced Processing and Management of Data from Disparate Sources,” maps out one of six future growth areas for the spy community. The other graphics are only for the eyes of individuals holding secret security clearances.

Newly Created Alan Turing Institute Works on Big Data Problems

Sue Gee 
August 10, 2015 

Alan Turing Institute Starts Work 

The UK’s new national institute for the data sciences has appointed Andrew Blake, Head of Microsoft Research UK, as the inaugural director of the Alan Turing Institute. The institute has also announced a partnership with GCHQ to work on next generation ideas and methods for the use of big data. 

The Alan Turing Institute was announced in March 2014 with the aim of promote the development and use of advanced mathematics, computer science, algorithms and ‘Big Data’ – the collection, analysis and interpretation of immense volumes of data – for human benefit. 

In March 2015 the institute’s founding partners were announced. They are the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford and Warwick. University College London and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The institute is located at the British Library in London. 

The latest announcement from the EPRSC indicates that the institute is now getting underway: 

There Is Now an Uneasy Relationship Between US Intel Agencies and Hackers at Annual DEF CON Gathering

August 9, 2015

Uneasy detente between Def Con hackers, ‘feds’

There was some bridge-building, but a real rift remained on Saturday between US spy agencies and the world’s most infamous hacker gathering.

Scandalous revelations about sweeping online snooping by intelligence agents caused fury in the Def Con hacker community two years ago. That led founder Jeff Moss to call for a “cooling off period” during which “feds” avoided coming near the annual conference in Las Vegas.

The chill has given way to uneasy detente in which the door could be open to US spy or law enforcement agencies to take part in panels or presentations, if they are ready to be honest about what is going on and face hostile questioning by wary hackers.

“They could come back and explain themselves, but nobody has had the guts to do that yet,” Moss told AFP.

“I would say that we are in a 'trust, but verify’ stage. If it is a national security thing, they need to have a real good story and be ready for hard questions.”

Performance of Russian SIGINT and Electronic Warfare in the War in the Ukraine

August 8, 2015

Electronic Weapons: Sniffing Russian Secrets In Ukraine

Since 2014 when Russia began threatening and invading its European neighbors (especially Ukraine and the Baltic States) NATO has learned a lot more about Russian post-Cold War EW (electronic warfare) capabilities. The fighting in eastern Ukraine (Donbas) led the Russians to use a lot of their most modern electronic warfare equipment. Not just Cold War era stuff (which Ukraine inherited a lot of after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991) but equipment NATO knows was developed in the 1990s or later but not encountered until now. NATO now believes that Russia has developed effective and reliable encrypted battlefield radios that are proving very difficult for Western forces to decrypt or jam. As expected, Russian eavesdropping and jamming gear turned out to be very effective. This Russian gear has greatly aided the rebels, who have neither captured any advanced Ukrainian electronic warfare equipment or possess the number of electronic warfare experts needed to operate the equipment required to explain the amount of jamming and eavesdropping the rebels are being supported with. Thus the rebels can jam or eavesdrop on all manner of Ukrainian communications (cell phones, military communications and control equipment for UAVs and anything else operated remotely) and jam those communications as well. It also appears that the Russians have not used all the capabilities of their electronic gear. 

Infographic Of The Day: The Best Apps For Elementary And Secondary School Students

It is amazing all the educational apps on the market at the moment.


Bodysuit by Baja East. Cuffs by Robert Lee Morris and by Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. Rings from Platt Boutique Jewelry.

It’s a little past midnight at HSN headquarters, and Serena Williams is nine minutes into a disquisition on a piece of fabric she’s called “Convertible A-line Top With Scarf,” available to you, the home shopper, for $39.95 or three “flexpays” of $13.32. “It’s like one huge circle that has a lot of style in it,” she says, not without conviction, fiddling with the bottom of the one she is wearing (“This is, um, mustard”), flapping it like a fan, rubbing one hand on her arm, and smoothing her hair. She forgets the names of colors, misstates a price. There with the right number and the right name is HSN savant Bobbi Ray Carter, sheathed in a hot-pink Convertible A-line Top With Scarf and raccooned in black eyeliner, filling in her co-host’s “ums” with the deft patter of a sales professional: “Amazingly transitional, think-fall-think-summer-think-winter-summer-into-fall versatility, quality, surprise scarf.” Bobbi Ray Carter knows how to touch a piece of fabric: She gives it a crisp snap between her fingers, smartly smooths the drape, all the while growing progressively more tense as Serena fumbles some hangers and launches, at 56 minutes, into a long anecdote about packing jeans for Wimbledon. “Mmmm,” says Bobbi Ray Carter, tight-lipped and possibly not breathing, awaiting the arc of Serena’s story to make its mumbly descent — “I felt good packing my own jeans, I had a moment there” — so she can finally change the subject — “And it’s our customer pick!” — and steer us back to the safe harbor of Denim Moto Legging color choices.