29 September 2015

PSLV Successfully Launches India’s Multi Wavelength Space Observatory ASTROSAT

By IDR News Network
28 Sep , 2015

In its thirty first flight (PSLV-C30) conducted today (September 28, 2015), India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle successfully launched ASTROSAT, the country’s Multi Wavelength Space Observatory along with six foreign customer satellites into a 644.6 X 651.5 km orbit inclined at an angle of 6 deg to the equator. The achieved orbit is very close to the intended one. This was the thirtieth consecutive success for PSLV.

PSLV was launched today in its heaviest ‘XL’ version with six strap-on motors of the first stage. The launch took place from the First Launch Pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR (SDSC SHAR), Sriharikota, the spaceport of India.

The 320 tonne, 45 m tall PSLV-C30 carrying seven satellites including the 1513 kg ASTROSAT, lifted off at 10:00 Hrs IST. About twenty two minutes after lift-off, ASTROSAT was successfully placed in orbit and separated from the fourth stage of PSLV-C30. The separation of all the six co-passenger satellites was completed in the subsequent three minutes. The seven satellites carried by PSLV-C30 together weighed about 1631 kg at lift-off.

After a 50 hour smooth count down, the 320 ton PSLV-C28 was launched with the ignition of its first stage. The important flight events included the ignition and separation of the strap-ons, separation of the first stage, ignition of the second stage, separation of the payload fairing after the vehicle had cleared the dense atmosphere, second stage separation, third stage ignition and third stage separation, fourth stage ignition and fourth stage cut-off.

1965 War: Observations, Comments and Lessons

By Gen KV Krishna Rao
26 Sep , 2015


A major national war aim of Pakistan was the annexation of Jammu and Kashmir by force. As has been brought out earlier the Kashmir Issue remained dormant for a considerable period after 1949, because of Pakistan’s intransigence, in not implementing the Security Council’s Resolution of August 13, 1948, which called for withdrawal of her forces from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. During the period, India held three General Elections in Kashmir (including one for Constitutional Assembly), where people turned up in large numbers and exercised their franchise without fear or favour. In these, they gave a constitution for themselves and elected Governments of their choice. Thus, the Security Council Resolution with regard to the Plebiscite in Kashmir, became irrelevant After President Ayub came to power, he decided to reactivate the Kashmir Issue. General Mohammad Musa, the then Pakistani Commander-in-Chief, stated that Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the Foreign Minister and other Advisors of President Ayub, pressurised him (the President) to take advantage of the disturbed situation in the Valley and direct the Army to send raiders into Indian-held Kashmir for conducting guerrilla activities there, for establishing bases, and for helping the locals in organising a movement with a view to eventually staging an uprising against the occupying power.

India and Nepal: Review of policies likely

By KV Rajan
28 Sep , 2015

Nepal has a constitution at last. On September 20, 2015, an overwhelming majority of an elected Constituent Assembly voted in favour of a constitution ushering in a federal, democratic, secular republic.

Following the end of the Maoist insurgency, for the past seven years political parties had been debating ad nauseum a new draft constitution which would transform Nepal into a federation with full devolution of powers and equality to all sections of its population, including the long marginalized Madheshis and Tharus in southern Nepal, bordering India; the Dalits, Janjatis and women.

The basis for determining seat entitlements, both under the first-past-the-post and under the proportional representation formulae, had also been changed to ensure that the Tarai and Tharu representation would be substantially less than what their populations would entitle them to.

Strategic relevance of Gilgit and Baltistan

By Vikram Sood
27 Sep , 2015

Gilgit and Baltistan are parts of India, as much as the rest of the J & K state is, but this region does not seem to figure too prominently on our collective radar screen. Instead, we seem to have made the sanctity of the LOC an article of faith and never “violate” it even though Pakistan began its invasion on India on October 22, 1947 and has continued to violate the LOC since the cease-fire 56 years ago.

All the waters of Indus and its tributaries would have substantially flown through Indian territory making the feudal farmers of Pakistan Punjab even more dependent on India.

The implication is that we are prepared to negotiate on the basis of the LOC as a boundary. Our media or our weather bureau seems to have forgotten this area also. Weather maps of the region do not show conditions in Gilgit, Skardu or Diamar like PTV, which never fails to tell us the weather conditions in Srinagar and Baramullah in ‘Maqbooza’ Kashmir. These are symbolisms but are important ones.

The Assassination of Indira Gandhi

By B Raman
25 Sep , 2015

Till 1985, the IB was the over-all in charge of the security of the Prime Minister — while he or she was in Delhi as well as during his or her travels in India and abroad. The IB’s duties,inter alia, included updating from time to time the Blue Book instructions relating to the security of the Prime Minister, issuing circular instructions on the subject, assessing threats to the security of the Prime Minister, co-ordinating physical security for the Prime Minister at Delhi through the Delhi Police, co-ordinating security arrangements for the Prime Minister during his or her travels in liaison with the concerned State agencies and foreign security agencies etc.

While the IB co-ordinated and supervised the security, the actual security-related tasks, including those of bodyguards, were performed by the staff of the police concerned. India did not have a dedicated physical security agency for the Prime Minister like the US Secret Service.

Till 1975,the Division in the IB responsible for the Prime Minister’s security had a very small set-up with just three officers — a Joint Director at the head, who was of the rank of an Inspector-General of Police (IGP), a Deputy Director, who was of the rank of a Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG) and an Assistant Director, of the rank of a Superintendent of Police (SP). This expanded after 1975 partly due to perceived threats to Indira Gandhi during the Emergency and partly due to the Anand Marg, a Hindu spiritual group with an international following, indulging in acts of violence in order to protest against the detention of its leader by the Indian authorities.

India Wants Its New Armed Israeli Drones Fast

September 28, 2015

India is speeding up its plans to purchase unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV) from Israel, according to recent reports. As The Diplomat recently reported, the Indian government approved the procurement of tenIsraeli Heron TP UCAVs for the Indian Air Force in a deal valued at $400 million earlier this month. The plan to purchase armed drones from Israel was originally conceived of in 2012. The new plans to accelerate the purchase of Israeli Herons comes a few short weeks after Pakistan announced that, for the first time ever, it had used its indigenously designed Burraq drone to strike at terrorists on its own soil.

The Heron, built by Israel Aerospace Industries, is a medium-albite, long-endurance UCAV. It has a range of roughly 7,400 kilometers and a maximum continuous flight time of around 36 hours, weather permitting. The UCAV is well-suited for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, and is capable of long-range limited strikes as well. The Heron is capable of serving a 1,000 kg payload. The Indian variant will feature air-to-ground missiles. India’s primary use case for the Herons will be for high-risk cross-border covert operations against militants and insurgents. One former Indian Air Force chief, P.V. Naik, notes that “Instead of sending a pilot in a high-risk area, it is best to use an armed drone. The system can also be used for a surprise, sneak attack.”

Will Raghuram Rajan Complete the Century?

By Anish Mishra
September 28, 2015

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is gearing up to release its fourth bi-monthly monetary policy statement on Tuesday. Since his appointment as governor in 2013, Raghuram Rajan has reduced interest rates by 75 basis points in three policy statements, with cuts of 25 basis points each time. Last August’s policy statement saw the repo rate kept unchanged at 7.25 percent in the midst of the global economic slowdown, uncertainty over a U.S. Federal Reserve interest rate hik, and Indian monsoon expectations.

Recently, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley have been traveling the globe in search of foreign domestic investment (FDI), hoping to boost economic growth. The government has also made considerable efforts to boost public domestic investment. Indeed, India should be looking to increase domestic participation in its growth, creating room for more private domestic investment. If India does not invest in its own country, who will?

Amartya Sen on poverty in India

Just before the release of his new book, The Country of First Boys, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen talks exclusively to the Hindustan Times‘ Manjula Narayan about our blindness to poverty, flaws of the Gujarat model, miniaturisation of great ideas by the Hindu right wing and interference in academia.

In your introduction to your new book, you talk about our general bias which makes us blind to the divide (between rich and poor Indians), which is what is at the root of all our problems.

Absolutely. Not just one divide; there is more than one. But the big divide is between the comfortably off, which includes not very rich people and also very comfortably off, and the masses of people who don’t have decent schools, decent health care, and often not immunised. That is a very big divide. And I won’t say the lack of outrage about it but lack of knowledge, almost lack of understanding about it — about how big this division is which is one of the major problems for a democratic country like India. I think, for us, development has to be a kind of comprehensive social engagement and so it’s not just the fault of the government but also the lack of pressure from the public to see the defects in the thinking of governance, to make sure that they are rectified.

Afghan Taliban Launch Offensive Against City of Kunduz in Northern Afghanistan

September 28, 2015

Taliban Fighters Breach Kunduz City in Afghan North

KUNDUZ CITY, Afghanistan — Taliban fighters launched a new offensive on the capital of northern Afghan province of Kunduz from three directions on Monday, and by mid-morning had entered parts of the city, burning buildings and briefly taking over a 200-bed hospital.

The assault was the second time this year that the Taliban have besieged Kunduz city, as the NATO-trained Afghan police and army fight largely without the help of foreign forces.

Breaching a provincial capital marks a troubling milestone in the nearly 14-year-old insurgency, though Afghan forces this year have driven the Taliban from most territory they’ve gained in the warm-weather fighting season.

By mid-morning, the Taliban fighters were inside the city limits. A Reuters witness saw buildings on fire in Police District 2, in the south of the city, and he saw Taliban fighters entering a government-run hospital.

Afghan military helicopters were firing rockets at militants in three areas on Kunduz city’s outskirts, a police spokesman said. Artillery and gunfire could be heard in the city center starting just after daybreak.

Why journalists get killed in Pakistan?

By Farooq Ganderbali
28 Sep , 2015

By no account can Pakistan be called a conflict-ridden country like Iraq and Syria but it is as dangerous a place for journalists. Two journalists were killed in the last few weeks. Last year, several more had lost their lives to targeted killings. But a lot more had been abducted, thrashed and hung upside down to punish for daring to speak out, to cross the red line, to speak against the military and to report the truth. No one has been held accountable for these killings. The media itself has chosen to be quiet on this. Truth has for long been a casualty in Pakistan.

No one likes the idea of a free media in Pakistan, except perhaps a handful of journalists who today live in the shadow of fear and death.

Revealed: Why China Is Selling Submarines to Pakistan

September 28, 2015

As previously covered by The Diplomat, Pakistan announced earlier this year that it has agreed to purchase eight modified Type 41 Yuan-class diesel-electric submarines from China. These boats will provide Islamabad with much-needed Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) capabilities against the Indian Navy in case of war. This would be especially useful in case of an Indian blockade of Pakistan’s coast and could give New Delhi grounds to pause before deploying its planned new aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant.

A Yuan-class submarine is undoubtedly a great piece of kit. It is China’s first class of submarines to incorporate an indigenously designed- and constructed Air-Independent Propulsion system (AIP), giving it a cruise speed of 18 knots and an operational range of 8,000 nautical miles. Although the export version of the Yuan, named the S-20, does not automatically come fitted with the AIP, Pakistan has apparently been able to secure it for its subs. Furthermore, the Yuan is integrated “with advanced noise reduction techniques including anechoic tiles, passive/active noise reduction and an asymmetrical seven-blade skewed propeller.”

After a Court Order, Pakistan Will Have to Clamp Down on Climate Change

September 26, 2015

A Pakistani court set an important precedent this week when it ordered the country’s government to enforce the 2012 National Climate Policy and Framework. Basically, the court order holds the Pakistani government to the country’s climate change law. According to recent reports, the court has ordered the government to establish a climate change commission to oversee the process of implementation.

The court order is the result of a public interest litigation case initiated by a farmer who claimed the the Pakistani government had neglected the implementation of its own climate policy. Ahmad Rafay Alam catalogs the detail of the case and the implications of the court order in more detail at the Third Pole.

China's Role in the Syria Crisis, Revisited

September 28, 2015

Recently I objected to Chinese media making political currency out of the Syrian refugee crisis by castigating the U.S. for not doing more to help. Friends and readers have since taken umbrage with the suggestion that China is throwing stones from within a glass house, and to be fair, the fault is mine for presenting an argument that appears guilty of causal oversimplification.

I had noted China’s armoring of Syria with air defense systems via Iran, but apologists have parried that this association is tenuous at best. And though it strains credulity to imagine China is ignorant of Iranian dealings, an airtight argument for China’s culpability should demonstrate causal dependence—that is, had China not taken certain actions, present circumstances wouldn’t have been possible. So, because al-Assad’s attacks supervene on his possession of chemical and ballistic technologies, we must show that China directly provided these to Syria. Fortunately, the historical record is very clear on this.

What to Read on Xi Jinping's US Visit

September 26, 2015

It’s been a huge week for U.S.-China relations, with Chinese President Xi Jinping making his first state visit to the country. Despite being only four days long (not counting the time, beginning this week, that Xi will devote to UN activities in New York), Xi’s visit spurred an incredible amount of analysis. Here’s a sampling to get you started on your weekend:

ChinaFile has a collection of experts’ thoughts on Xi’s big speech in Seattle. The general consensus: Xi’s speech was well-crafted and well-delivered, but there’s a lot of skepticism that his actions will live up to his words.

International Business Times has an interesting piece saying that China might actually be ready to alter its approach on economic issues that are of great concern to the United States. The author, Salvador Rodriguez, goes against the trend of op-eds arguing that U.S. tech giants are legitimizing China’s actions by meeting with Xi in Seattle. Over at The Telegraph, for example, Willard Foxton argues that Xi’s meeting with these U.S. business czars will put pressure on Washington to make nice with Beijing.

No More Dangerous Intercepts for US, China Miltary Aircraft?

September 25, 2015

The Pentagon announced this week that two Chinese fighter jets may have conducted an unsafe intercept of a U.S. surveillance place on September 15. The announcement came just as Chinese President Xi Jinping began his highly anticipated first state visit to the United States.

The U.S. Department of Defense was not nearly concerned by this incident as it was by another intercept in August 2014, which U.S. defense officials denounced at the time as “dangerous.” In the incident last year, the Pentagon accused a Chinese fighter jet of having come within 20 feet of a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft, then doing a barrel roll over the top of the U.S. plane.

The September 15 intercept saw two of China’s JH-7 fighters cross roughly 500 feet in front of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 surveillance aircraft, according to USNI News. Both planes were flying in international airspace over the Yellow Sea, roughly 80 miles off of China’s Shandong peninsula.

Thai Junta Chief Blasts Top US Diplomat

January 28, 2015

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha defiantly refuted criticisms of his junta government by America’s top Asian diplomat earlier this week, The Nation reported January 28.

On Monday, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel had urged the ruling junta to end martial law – still in place indefinitely – and to remove restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly in order to promote a more inclusive political process.

But Prayuth insisted that Thai democracy was alive and kicking, and that Thailand was a unique case where the military had sized power last May to restore democracy.

“Thai democracy will never die, because I’m a soldier with a democratic heart. I have taken over the power because I want democracy to live on,” Prayuth declared.

The Thucydides Trap: Are the U.S. and China Headed for War?

SEP 24, 2015

When Barack Obama meets this week with Xi Jinping during the Chinese president’s first state visit to America, one item probably won’t be on their agenda: the possibility that the United States and China could find themselves at war in the next decade. In policy circles, this appears as unlikely as it would be unwise. 

And yet 100 years on, World War I offers a sobering reminder of man’s capacity for folly. When we say that war is “inconceivable,” is this a statement about what is possible in the world—or only about what our limited minds can conceive? In 1914, few could imagine slaughter on a scale that demanded a new category: world war. When war ended four years later, Europe lay in ruins: the kaiser gone, the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved, the Russian tsar overthrown by the Bolsheviks, France bled for a generation, and England shorn of its youth and treasure. A millennium in which Europe had been the political center of the world came to a crashing halt.

U.S. and China Agree Not to Conduct Cyber Economic Spying on One Another

Ellen Nakashima and Steven Mufson
September 26, 2015

U.S., China vow not to engage in economic cyberespionage

President Obama and Chinese leader Xi Jinping pledged Friday that neither of their governments would conduct or condone economic espionage in cyberspace in a deal that sought to address a major source of friction in the bilateral relationship.

But U.S. officials and experts said that it was uncertain whether the accord would lead to concrete action against cybercriminals.

The agreement, reached in talks Thursday night and Friday morning between Obama and Xi, has the potential — if enforced — to confront one of the most significant threats to U.S. economic and national security and an irritant for American corporations trying to protect their intellectual property. The pact also calls for a ministerial or Cabinet-level process aimed at ensuring compliance.

Speaking alongside the Chinese president in the Rose Garden, Obama said that the two had reached “a common understanding on the way forward,” but he added that more needed to be done.

Increasing Success of U.S. Intel and JSOC SOF Operators in Killing HVTs in Iraq and Syria

September 28, 2015

CIA, special ops cooperate to kill terrorists in Syria, Iraq 

WASHINGTON (AP) — With no regular American presence in the war theater, the U.S. has struggled to answer basic intelligence questions about the situation in Syria and Iraq, including the Islamic State group’s fighting strength. And the overall U.S.-led bombing campaign has failed to dislodge the group from its self-declared caliphate across both countries.

But one element is seen as a growing intelligence and military success: The combined effort by the CIA and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command to find and kill “high value” targets from both al-Qaida and IS.

The drone strikes — separate from the large air campaign run by U.S. Central Command — have significantly diminished the threat from the Khorasan Group, an al-Qaida cell in Syria that had planned attacks on American aviation, officials say. The group’s leader, Muhsin al-Fadhli, and its top bomb-maker, David Drugeon, were killed this summer. Other targeted strikes have taken out senior Islamic State group figures, including its second in command, known as Hajji Mutazz.

Time to Confront Iran’s Human Rights Abuses

By Lord Maginnis of Drumglass
September 28, 2015

Whether one supports the nuclear deal with Iran or not, one must accept that it is the new reality in which further Western policies toward Iran will have to operate.

With that in mind, anyone who is concerned about Tehran’s behavior both within and beyond its borders should now be focused on the question of how to generate the strongest possible unity of purpose in confronting those issues diplomatically, economically, and if need be militarily. Regardless of how one feels about the nuclear agreement, it is time to put aside those differences in the interest of working together to the greatest extent possible with respect to the many non-nuclear threats that Tehran regime poses to the world community.

Deconstructing ISIS

September 24, 2015

William McCants is a fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy and director of the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University and has served in government and think tank positions related to Islam, the Middle East, and terrorism, including as State Department senior adviser for countering violent extremism.

How should we define ISIS? Is it a state, an insurgency, a terrorist group?

Today I see the group as a proto-state. It offers governmental services, provides security, raises taxes, and does everything that other states do. And it sees itself as a state. When the organization was founded back in 2006 it proclaimed itself to be a state but was nothing of the kind. It was an insurgent group, and then by 2008 an underground clandestine terrorist group. After 2014, the fact that it controlled so much territory and governed so many people gave credibility to its claim to be a state.

What are the core differences between al-Qaeda and ISIS?

As UN peacekeeping veers toward counterterror, US steps i

September 26, 2015 

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Along a quiet cease-fire line in Cyprus, U.N. peacekeepers handle an increasingly old-fashioned job: actually keeping the peace. The last deadly incident was in 1996. Today's challenges include keeping poachers and rogue farmers out of no man's land. "Most of the time we don't wear weapons," said the force commander, Maj. Gen. Kristin Lund.

In some places, trendy bars and cafes touch the walls of the buffer zone. "Club Med," some peacekeepers call their posting. They know the job has become far more dangerous almost everywhere else the U.N. has forces — notably Mali, where al-Qaida-linked fighters have claimed responsibility for deadly attacks.

Suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices and combatants with little regard for the rules of war are making the work of nearly 125,000 U.N. peacekeepers look more and more like counterterrorism operations.

Russia Tests Once Again Controversial Ground-Launched Cruise Missile

Bill Gertz
September 28, 2015

Russia Again Flight Tests Illegal INF Cruise Missile

Russia flight-tested a new ground-launched cruise missile this month that U.S. intelligence agencies say further violates the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, according to Obama administration defense and security officials.

The missile launch Sept. 2 was the latest flight test for what the Pentagon is calling the SSC-X-8 cruise missile. The cruise missile did not fly beyond the 300-mile range limit for an INF-banned missile, said officials familiar with reports of the test.

However, intelligence analysts reported that the missile’s assessed range is between 300 miles and 3,400 miles—the distance covered under the landmark INF treaty that banned an entire class of intermediate-range missiles.

The SSC-X-8 test also involved what officials called a “nuclear profile,” meaning that the weapon is part of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces.

An earlier flight test of the missile prompted the administration, backed by U.S. intelligence agencies, to declare the system a breach of the INF treaty.

U.S. Caught by Surprise by Iraq-Russian Intelligence Sharing Agreement

Michael R. Gordon
September 28, 2015

Russia Surprises U.S. With Accord on Battling ISIS

UNITED NATIONS — For the second time this month, Russia moved to expand its political and military influence in the Syria conflict and left the United States scrambling, this time by reaching an understanding, announced on Sunday, withIraq, Syria and Iran to share intelligence about the Islamic State.

Like Russia’s earlier move to bolster the government of President Bashar al-Assad by deploying warplanes and tanks to a base near Latakia, Syria, the intelligence-sharing arrangement was sealed without notice to the United States. American officials knew that a group of Russian military officers were in Baghdad, but they were clearly surprised when the Iraqi military’s Joint Operations Command announced the intelligence sharing accord on Sunday.

It was another sign that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was moving ahead with a sharply different tack from that of the Obama administration in battling the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, by assembling a rival coalition that includes Iran and the Syrian government.

The Return of Cold War Spying Paranoia in Putin’s Russia

Masha Gessen
September 27, 2015

In Putin’s Russia, Anyone Can Be A Spy

A middle-aged radio engineer has been sentenced to fourteen years in a maximum-security prison in Russia after being convicted of high treason. His crime: sending a résumé to a Swedish company five years ago.

Gennady Kravtsov, who worked for the Russian foreign-intelligence agency, G.R.U., was arrested in May, 2014; the government claimed that the résumé or the cover letter contained classified information. Kravtsov’s trial, which took place in Moscow this month, was closed to the public, so the only available sources of information about the case are the defendant’s family and his lawyers. According to them, Kravtsov’s security clearance expired in 2011, the year he quit G.R.U. and was granted permission to travel abroad. He sent his résumé out a year earlier, but his defense attorney claims that the information Kravtsov was accused of divulging was not secret. He was apparently charged with making mention of a satellite on which he had worked and with disclosing his job title, which the government claimed could reveal information about the G.R.U.’s staffing structure. As for the satellite, it has been decommissioned andinformation about it is widely available—indeed, it was originally designed and constructed in Ukraine, so foreigners have had access to it all along.

Is Australia's New Prime Minster Bad News for Japan’s Submarine Bid?

September 28, 2015

The recent unexpected leadership shake-up in Australia raises several questions about how the country’s foreign affairs will be conducted under a new prime minister. After a leadership spill in the Liberal Party, Tony Abbott is out and Malcolm Turnbull is in. For Japan, whose Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. are in the running for Australia’s largest-ever defense contract—to replace the $20 billion Collins-class submarine—the change will be a topic of great interest. The Japanese firms, manufacturers for the Soru-class diesel-electric attack submarines, are competing with Germany’s ThyssenKrupp AG and France’s Direction des Constructions et Armes Navales (DCNS) Group.

New Ambassador Holds Key to US-Thailand Relations

September 26, 2015

New U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies arrived in Bangkok this week after the senior post remained vacant for nearly a year amid troubled times for bilateral ties. The seasoned envoy, a 35-year veteran in America’s diplomatic corps, will be tasked with steering relations in the wake of last year’s military takeover and rising perceptions that China has stolen a march through overtures towards Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s rights-curbing government.

Thai-U.S. ties are arguably at their lowest point in decades, crucially at a time when Washington is bidding to marshal regional support for its China-containing ‘pivot’ policy. Outgoing U.S. ambassador Kristie Kenney staked out a hard line against the coup, a position the State Department has maintained on democratic principle to the detriment of the wider strategic relationship. Kenney’s stance has so far outweighed the views of Thailand specialists in Washington who have called for a more nuanced approach to guard the United States’ considerable economic and strategic interests in the country.

The Eurasian Economic Union’s ‘Single Information Field’

September 27, 2015

There are a handful of nominal perks to joining the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU): streamlined trade regulations, expedited access for migrant laborers within the Russian market, and increased access to Russian capital. To be sure, though, many of the perks remain in name only; the EEU serves to highlight the differences between regulation and reality. Intra-EEU trade has plummeted, with a floor yet to be found. Border checkpoints remain on paper alone. Protectionism has only increased. Today, the EEU is even farther from being the geopolitical “pole” promised by Russian President Vladimir Putin than when it came into force nearly ten months ago.

Satellite Imagery Suggests That China Is Building Its First Homegrown Aircraft Carrier

Sean O’Connor
September 28, 2015

Key Points

An unidentified hull in an advanced state of construction at Dalian shipyard could be China’s first indigenous aircraft carrier
While a conclusive identification of the hull as an aircraft carrier cannot be made until work is observed on the upper decks and potential flight deck, the slow pace of assembly and outline suggests a military hull under construction

Satellite imagery suggests that China may be building its first aircraft carrier at Dalian shipyard in northern China.

Airbus Defence and Space imagery captured on 22 September suggests that the possible carrier is under construction in the dry dock associated with the refit and repair of Liaoning (CV16), the Soviet-era Kuznetsov-class carrier acquired from Ukraine that is now in People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) service.

Chuck Spinney: Global Warming as Scam Cover-Up Distracting from Massive Water Theft Now

Chuck Spinney

Attached below this introduction is a very important report describing the problem of water depletion in Saudi Arabia and California. This report is interesting and important, both for what it says and for what it does not say. Note that there is no mention of global warming or climate change, although some of the papers hot linked in it do mention it. The problem of water depletion — over pumping of non-renewable deep aquifers to irrigate water-intensive crops in arid areas subject to periodic droughts is described in the report.

This kind of water depletion is clearly the result of human activity that degrades the environment in way that could lead to a dangerous crisis in the environment’s capacity to sustain human populations. The data supporting this conclusion is verifiable, and its signal to noise ratio appears to be very strong. This is a problem hydrologists have understood for a long time, yet very little action has been taken to mitigate this dangerous issue. More significantly, there is little political noise on the left or right on the need to do something now about the clear and present danger posed by water depletion. (Fair access to water, for example, has been long recognized but unaddressed causal factor in the Arab-Israeli conflict.) How often do you hear a major American politician try to scare you by noisily invoking the Precautionary Principle with regard to the ‘threat’ posed by global or national water depletion.

10 tips to prevent heart disease and stroke

September 24, 2015

Dr Manoj Kumar, Associate Director & Head, Cardiac Cath Lab, Max Balaji Super Specialty Hospital, Patparganj, New Delhi, gives practical tips to prevent heart diseases and strokes.

1. Control of blood pressure below 140/90

2. Control of blood sugar

3. Control of cholesterol level where bad cholesterol or low density cholesterol should be less 100 milligram per decilitre

4. Moderate physical activity: brisk walk for 30 to 45 minutes, at least five days a week or walk 10,000 steps everyday.

5. Quit smoking RIGHT NOW.

6. Maintain your ideal body weight, which means the body mass index or the BMI should be less than 30.

7. Abstinence from alcohol or moderate consumption of alcohol; MAXIMUM of 30 to 45 ml of whiskey per day can be consumed. This limit is for those who are already alcohol drinkers.

NSA Director Says End of Bulk SIGINT Collection Will Make it Harder for NSA to do its Job

September 26, 2015

NSA head warns Freedom Act will make Americans less safe

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 (UPI) – U.S. National Security Agency director Adm.Michael Rogers told U.S. lawmakers on Thursday the end of bulk data collection will make it harder for his agency to do its job, particularly when time is of the essence.

The NSA is scheduled to formally end its practice of collecting bulk metadata on November 29. This consisted of recording calls between people, but not actual contents of those calls. Instead, the NSA will rely on the private sector to keep the data and turn it over following the presentation of a court order. Adm. Rogers says Americans will be less safe as a result.

“Right now, bulk collection gives us the ability to generate insights as to what’s going on,” Adm. Rogers said in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.

Adm. Rogers then cited a National Academy of Sciences study released in January 2015, titled Bulk Collections of Signals Intelligence: Technical Options.

“There is no software technique that will fully substitute for bulk collection where it is relied on to answer queries about the past after new targets become known,” the study concluded.

KARMA POLICE: GCHQ’s Attempt to Record the Browsing Habits of All Internet Users

Ryan Gallagher
September 25, 2015

Profiled: From Radio to Porn, British Spies Track Web Users’ Online Identities

THERE WAS A SIMPLE AIM at the heart of the top-secret program: Record the website browsing habits of “every visible user on the Internet.”

Before long, billions of digital records about ordinary people’s online activities were being stored every day. Among them were details cataloging visits to porn, social media and news websites, search engines, chat forums, and blogs.

The mass surveillance operation — code-named KARMA POLICE — was launched by British spies about seven years ago without any public debate or scrutiny. It was just one part of a giant global Internet spying apparatus built by the United Kingdom’s electronic eavesdropping agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ.

The revelations about the scope of the British agency’s surveillance are contained in documents obtained by The Intercept from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Previous reports based on the leaked files have exposed how GCHQ taps into Internet cables to monitor communications on a vast scale, but many details about what happens to the data after it has been vacuumed up have remained unclear.

Welfare's last stand

From the Going Home of the Yankees (American Landscape) series. Photo by Yeon J Yue

Long in retreat in the US, the welfare state found a haven in an unlikely place – the military, where it thrived for decades

Jennifer Mittelstadt is a political historian of the United States and an associate professor at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Her latest book is The Rise of the Military Welfare State (2015).

Over the past four decades in the United States, as the country has slashed its welfare state and employers gutted traditional job benefits, growing numbers of people, especially from the working class, grasped for a new safety net – the military. Everyone recognises that the US armed forces have become a global colossus. But few know that, along with bases and bombs, the US military constructed its own massive welfare state. In the waning decades of the 20th century, with US prosperity in decline, more than 10 million active‑duty personnel and their tens of millions of family members turned to the military for economic and social security.

What to Do About North Korea’s Human Rights Violations

By Joseph Hong
September 26, 2015

Recent North Korean military provocations come out of its tested escalation playbook, demonstratingasymmetric capabilities and distracting its inhabitants and the world from the horrors within.

This raises a hypothetical policy proposal: Should the international community consider bombing North Korea’s network of gulags? Satellite imagery and corroborating refugee testimony – of crimes against humanity including deliberate starvation, public executions, forced labor, torture – have proved their existence for over a decade. While estimates vary on camp sizes the total population ranges in the tens of thousands. To reiterate, this is a hypothetical question, so some latitude on geopolitical risk and feasibility from the reader is requested. To be clear, the question is not asking how can we bomb nor is it implying that concentration camps constitute the only problem in North Korea. Rather, asking why concentration camps should be bombed builds a moral case with strategic policy implications.

After Inchon: Containment or Liberation?

By Francis P. Sempa
September 27, 2015

The success of the Inchon landing of September 15, 1950, had long-term consequences for U.S. foreign policy in Asia and the rest of the world. Inchon and its aftermath represented the first real-world test of whether containment, as advocated by George F. Kennan, or liberation, as advocated by James Burnham, would be the guiding postwar doctrine of American foreign policy.

Ever since Kennan wrote his famous “X” article in Foreign Affairs in July 1947, in which he advocated “firm and vigilant containment” of Soviet expansionist tendencies, and James Burnham responded in a trilogy of books –The Struggle for the World, The Coming Defeat of Communism, and Containment or Liberation? – that containment was not enough, that we needed to liberate territories and people under Soviet control, Americans and American policymakers debated the best approach to the Soviet threat. Inchon and its aftermath changed that debate from an academic exercise to an actual policy choice.

What ASEAN Can Teach the World About Surviving a Financial Crisis

By Sandra Seno-Alday
September 28, 2015

Founded almost 50 years ago, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established in order to promote regional political and economic stability. While the initial challenges faced by the region at its inception were largely political, the expansion of ASEAN membership in the 1990s coincided with proactive efforts to promote free trade in the region. These efforts were rewarded by phenomenal economic growth among Southeast Asian countries in the 1990s, thus earning them the moniker of “Asian tigers.” Foreign capital poured into the region in the early part of that decade, with investors scrambling to exploit profit-making opportunities. The regional euphoria was short-lived, however, when everything came crashing down during the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

A New Way To Command: Army Links Its Networks

September 25, 2015 

CRYSTAL CITY: Left with a patchwork of field and homebase systems as military networking exploded after 9/11, the Army is striving to rationalize its systems so troops can train with the same systems they fight with.

“During the last 12-13 years at war, units were buying capabilities that were not consistent across the board at home station just to make sure they can communicate,” said the Army’s chief information officer (G-6), Lt. Gen. Robert Ferrell. Units ending up having one set of systems they used for command, control, and coordination when in the US and a different set they used during deployments.

That’s a problem for training, for maintenance, and for conducting the smaller, quicker deployments called for in the Army Operating Concept. Now, with wartime budgets shrinking and the wartime legions of IT contractors going away, the Army wants to rationalize its networks into something it can more easily train on and support.