13 January 2016

Transcript of Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Address

JAN. 12, 2016
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Full Speech: Obama’s Final State of the Union
The president delivered his final State of the Union address on Tuesday. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS on Publish DateJanuary 13, 2016. Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times.Watch in Times Video »

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Following is the transcript of President Obama’s State of the Union address, as transcribed by the Federal News Service.

OBAMA: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, my fellow Americans: tonight marks the eighth year that I’ve come here to report on the state of the Union. And for this final one, I’m going to try to make it a little shorter. (APPLAUSE)

I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.


I’ve been there. I’ll be shaking hands afterwards if you want some tips.

Now, I understand that because it’s an election season, expectations for what we will achieve this year are low. But, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the constructive approach that you and other leaders took at the end of last year to pass a budget and make tax cuts permanent for working families.

So I hope we can work together this year on some bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform, and helping...


... and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse.


So who knows. We might surprise the cynics again.

But tonight, I want to go easy on the traditional list of proposals for the year ahead. Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty, from helping students learn to write computer code to personalizing medical treatments for patients.

And I will keep pushing for progress on the work that I believe still needs to be done: fixing a broken immigration system...


... protecting our kids from gun violence, equal pay for equal work, paid leave, raising the minimum wage.


All these things — all these things still matter to hardworking families. They’re still the right thing to do, and I won’t let up until they get done. But for my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to just talk about next year. I want to focus on the next five years, the next ten years and beyond. I want to focus on our future.

We live in a time of extraordinary change — change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet, our place in the world. It’s change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families.

* Pathankot terror attack: 26/11 again, in different mode

Posted on January 11, 2016
Brahma Chellaney, Mint
Make no mistake: The four-day terrorist siege of the Pathankot air base was the equivalent of the 26 November 2008 Mumbai terror strikes. In both cases, the Pakistani terrorists were professionally trained, heavily armed, and dispatched by their masters for a specific suicide mission. The main difference is that in Mumbai, the terrorist proxies struck civilian sites, while, in the latest case, their assigned target was a large military facility.
After the widespread anger and indignation triggered by the recent Paris and San Bernardino attacks, a Mumbai-style strike on civilian targets was not a credible option for the Pakistani military, especially because of the risk that such an attack could invite Indian retaliation. So, it chose a military target in India, orchestrating the attack through a terror group it founded in 2000 by installing as its head one of the terrorists the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government unwisely released to end the hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight 814.
That a pivotal Indian air base against Pakistan came under an extended siege represented a bigger hit for the terror sponsors than the earlier coordinated attacks on soft Mumbai targets. And this hit occurred without the international spotlight and outrage that the Mumbai strikes drew.
It was not an accident that the Pathankot attack coincided with a 25-hour gun and bomb siege of the Indian consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. The twin attacks, outsourced to Jaish-e-Muhammad, were designed as a New Year gift to India.

How did India come out from the crisis? Put simply, not looking good.
Leadership is the key to any country effectively combating the scourge of terrorism. India, however, has faced a protracted crisis of leadership for more than a generation since 1989. In this period, Pakistan has gone from inciting a Jammu and Kashmir insurrection, which ethnically cleansed the Kashmir Valley of its 300,000 Pandit residents, to scripting terror attacks across India.
Narendra Modi’s election win reflected the desire of Indians for a dynamic leader to end political drift. Yet, since Modi’s victory, cross-border terrorists have repeatedly tested India’s resolve — from Herat to Pathankot via Gurdaspur and Udhampur. And each time India flunked the test, as it has done since the Vajpayee era.
The Pathankot strike, above all, constituted an act of war, presenting Modi with his first serious national security challenge. Modi’s leadership, however, was found wanting in nearly every aspect — from leading from the front to reassuring the Indian public.

** Punjab: Increasing Vulnerabilities

Ajai Sahni
Editor, SAIR; Executive Director, ICM & SATP
Two major terrorist attacks – the assault on the Indian Air Force (IAF) Base at Pathankot through January 2, 2016, and January 3, 2016; and the strike at the Dinanagar Police Station in adjacent Gurdaspur on July 27, 2015 – have not only exposed tremendous vulnerabilities in Punjab, but gaping holes in national Counter Terrorism (CT) response protocols, capacities and capabilities. The Pathankot incident is particularly worrisome, providing an index of the extraordinary weakness in the protection of the country’s critical strategic assets. The IAF Base constitutes the frontline air defence for any confrontation with Pakistan, and yet the terrorists succeeded in penetrating into the campus and inflicting significant casualties. This was despite nearly 20 hours of clear warning, a definitive identification of the intended target, and a systemic response that had been initiated fairly early on January 1, 2016, after central intelligence agencies picked up conversations by the terrorists with their handlers and their families, and the Punjab Police received specific information about their movements and intention from the ‘abducted’ Superintendent of Police whose car was used by the terrorists. If the terrorists had the additional advantage of surprise, the damage they could have inflicted can now only be imagined. Evidently, the Pathankot IAF Base would not be unique in its vulnerabilities among various defence and security establishments across the country.

The responses to the Dinanagar Police Station attack were encouraging on many parameters. The challenge was quickly accepted by the first responders – the Punjab Police itself – and they were determined in their refusal to relinquish responsibility even after National Security Guard and Army reinforcements, with their vastly superior weaponry and training, arrived on the scene in strength; and the Punjab Police leadership led from the front. Nevertheless, there were obvious and visible deficiencies in protective gear, weaponry, training and fitness of the Police personnel responding, including those of the Punjab Police SWAT [Special Weapons and Tactics] team deployed, and an examination of various aspects of Police functioning in the wake of the attack exposed growing politicization, indiscipline, resource constraints and capacity deficits in the wider Policing apparatus of the State.
Compounding these factors is the manifest porosity of the elaborately fenced and patrolled border, and widespread allegations of political and Security Forces (SF) collusion in a rampant drug and smuggling trade that is also exploited by extremist and terrorist elements.

It is significant however, that despite these many deficits and defects, the Sikh extremism and terrorism that had ravaged Punjab in the late 1980s and early 1990s finds no resonance on the ground today. Indeed, the two major attacks that have been executed in the State in 2015-16 are the work of Pakistan-backed Islamist terrorists. This is despite the fact that Pakistan has done all it could have to keep the Khalistani movement alive, providing safe haven and funding to the surviving leadership and cadres in Pakistan, and also vigorously supporting and directing the activities of subversive elements across the world. Despite pressure from Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), however, these groups have failed to mount any significant operation on Indian soil in recent years. The last recorded major terrorist attack attributed to the Khalistanis in Punjab dates back to October 14, 2007, when seven persons were killed and another 40 were injured in a bomb blast inside a cinema hall in Ludhiana. While there has been no definitive identification of the group responsible, Police sources and contextual information suggest that this was the handiwork of a Sikh terrorist formation based in Pakistan.

Why NSA Doval Is Being Unfairly Targeted

Sudhi Ranjan Sen
Among the many questions raised about the attack at the Pathankot Air Force base, the most debated ones concern Delhi's role, India's capabilities and the strategic response to the terror attack.
One of our soldiers died in active combat with the terrorists.
This terror attack appears to be an example of Narco-Terrorism, where routes and "assets" used to smuggle narcotics into Punjab from Pakistan seem to have been exercised for terrorism. 24-year-old Ikagar Singh, a taxi driver, received a call from Pakistan before heading out from his home in a village just 500 metres from the border. On the night of December 31 he was found with his throat slit at a bridge six kms from the border. Subsequently, Gurdaspur police officer Salwinder Singh, his friend Rajesh Verma, and cook were kidnapped. The terrorists used the police officer's vehicle to reach the vicinity of the base. What lured Ikagar? Why was Salwinder Singh travelling without his gunmen or, for that matter, taking a longer route - these are intriguing and essential pieces of the plot. Interrogation of Salwinder Singh is expected to unravel further details.

I reported on and witnessed the operations from a distance; I visited the Pathankot base a few hours after the six terrorists were declared killed. I can confirm that it was difficult operation given the expanse - the base is spread over approximately 2,000 acres and about 1,500 families live inside the base.
The terrorists infiltrated India on the intervening night of 31st and 1st January. By 3.40 pm on January 1, the available intelligence was analysed, the threat discerned and disseminated to all stake holders including the Indian Air Force.

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval in consultation with the Army and IAF Chiefs and the heads of the Intelligence Bureau and the RA&W deployed Para-Commandos, National Security Guards and additional infantry soldiers. Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir too had been alerted. The Indian Army moved in by early evening, and the NSG reached the base by about 6.30 pm on January 1. In contrast, it took 12 hours to deploy the NSG commandos in Mumbai on 26/11. And if you go back further, the Crisis Management Group couldn't even meet before the hijacked IC-814 left Indian skies in 1999. The NSG then could take-off from Delhi only as the hijacked aircraft was landing in Dubai.

The Peshawar, Paris, Pathankot link

Vasundhara Sirnate,  Bharath Gopalaswamy
“The Pathankot case demonstrates that even when a country has actionable intelligence, controlling a terrorist threat requires better coordination, decision-making and presence of mind.” 
We no longer inhabit a world where the argument ‘your terrorist is not my terrorist’ holds much weight.
In the last 15 years, several major cities have come under attack — New York (2001), London (2005), Mumbai (2008), Boston (2013), Peshawar (2014) and Paris (2015). In the first week of 2016 alone, terrorists have struck Kabul, Pathankot, Tel Aviv, and various locations in Iraq. These incidents have flagged the limits of the operational capacities of intelligence agencies worldwide, and have demonstrated that terrorist group behaviour is unpredictable.

Take the Pathankot attacks. The Indian Army intercepted key phone calls a day before the attacks, and readied a plan (however flawed). Even so, it took several days for the security forces to control the situation. The Pathankot case demonstrates that even when a country has actionable intelligence, controlling a terrorist threat requires better coordination, decision-making and presence of mind. Having said this, it is still the case that many terrorist attacks are averted by intelligence agencies. As the Irish Republican Army said in 1984 after the failed Brighton bombing, the purpose of which was to assassinate Margaret Thatcher, “Today we were unlucky. But remember we only have to be lucky once, you [the state] will have to be lucky always.”

Off the radar
The spate of coordinated attacks that started last year, while not direct results of intelligence failure, do signal a mismatch between the capacities of intelligence agencies and the tactics employed by terrorist groups worldwide. The Paris attacks were similar in their modus operandi to the 26/11 attacks conducted by Lashkar-e-Taiba. Both attacks depended on youth who did not figure prominently on intelligence agency radars, and were suicide missions. Both attacks targeted population centres in megacities at times when the loss of lives from the attacks would be at the maximum. The Pathankot attacks used young people suspected of being recruited by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), but they were better trained than the 26/11 attackers. Later, the United Jihad Council (UJC) took responsibility for the attacks. JeM is not currently known to be part of the UJC.

Everything You Wanted To Know About Malda Violence, But Were Too Secular To Ask

Arihant is Digital Content Manager, Swarajya 
11 Jan, 2016 
Mamata Bannerjee’s refusal to crackdown on anti-national elements and rioters in Malda doesn’t augur well for the security of West Bengal as well as India. 
At the Times Lit Fest in Mumbai last November, Arun Jaitley said that the Supreme Court, whose order was unfavourable to homosexuals in the country, may have to reconsider its judgment, given the emerging jurisprudence all over the world on Gay Rights. 
On 2 January, responding to Jaitley’s speech, Azam Khan, senior minister in the cabinet of Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav, said that all RSS leaders were homosexuals as they don’t get married. 
A day later, self-proclaimed Hindu leader Kamlesh Tiwari was leapfrogged to national fame by the Old Media which quoted him as saying that Prophet Mohammad was the first homosexual in the world. Soon after, Tiwari was booked and put behind bars for hate speech. 
Unsurprisingly, matters didn’t end there. One fanatic even declared an award of Rs 51 lakh to whoever would behead Tiwari. What is perplexing is while Muslim mobs of thousands protested and rallied in different parts of the country, they managed to run amok and turn an entire district into a mini war zone in Malda of West Bengal. 
Is it just about Kamlesh Tiwari or there is something more to it? 
Heroin Is Villain? 

According to a Mail Today report, there is more to the Malda communal violence than meets the eye. Locals here are involved in poppy cultivation. Narcotics money dominates the economy of the region and is used to fund madrassas and buy sophisticated weapons, which are smuggled in from Bangladesh. The region is also a hub for the fake currency racket, due to its strategic location along the border. 
Mail Today’s report has quoted officials as saying that the entire violence was pre-planned and Kamlesh Tiwari was only the convenient excuse for carrying out attacks against the police administration which was trying to crack down on the illicit poppy trade. The whole thing is a retribution against the administration and an attempt to scare off them from pursuing their crackdown further. 

A terror attack after a chat with Pakistan is as certain as death Pakistan must get over its obsession with and fear of India

Written by Rohan Parikh | Updated: January 12, 2016
The January 2nd attacks in Pathankot confirm to us that like Death and Taxes, there is one more certainty in life – a terrorist attack after an India-Pakistan détente.
As with Kargil in 1999, the Parliament Attacks of 2001, and the Mumbai Attacks of 2008, there is a long list of atrocities, spectacular or minor, that severed otherwise thawing relations between the two countries. However, in this instance, I believe that optimism should not be buried under the bellicose rhetoric that has followed Pathankot.
Under normal circumstances, I would counsel skepticism in dealing with a Pakistan that is schizophrenic at best, and duplicitous, at worst. I would treat peace summits with cynicism. I would argue that even assuming the best intentions, the Pakistani civilian government is powerless over the military. I would argue that the real power center, the ISI, is overrun with ideologues that would cynically play up a fear of India to sell their own importance to the Pakistani people. I would even argue that one of the foundational myths of Pakistan (that bulwark against feared Hindu domination) make the population uniquely susceptible to irrational fears of its neighbor.
However, despite all of this, I am today cautiously optimistic of a breakthrough. I have long argued that there are two pre-conditions to India-Pakistan peace: both sides need to overcome their historical fears, and both sides need strong peacemakers at their helm.

Fragments of other facts - The decline of industry in West Bengal is not a simple story

First Person Singular A.M.
Interpreting economic history is a tricky business. It is particularly so when the period under focus is relatively proximate to our times. Notion is often described as reality. For instance, it is a pet assumption that the decline in industrial investment in West Bengal from the late 1950s was the consequence of the rise of the aggressive labour movement under the auspices of the communist party. Could it not be an effect enshrined as the cause?
In most of the current discussions, a crucial development which took place in 1956 is left unmentioned. T.T. Krishnamachari was then the Union finance minister. He had business and industrial interests in Tamil Nadu. He knew what policies would hasten industrial growth in the south and did precisely what he wanted to do.

The development of machinery and machine tools-producing industries is vital for the growth and expansion of all other kinds of industrial products. Besides, steel is basic to the production of machinery and machine tools; steel output is facilitated by the conjunctive availability of iron ore and coal. It was British capital which took the initial steps towards introducing modern industry in India. The narrow region comprising the borders of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa had under the soil ample supplies of iron ore as well as coal. The foundation of the steel plant at Sakchi by Jamshedji Tata enthused industrial investors. The railways had already arrived in this part of the country. With the assured supply of steel from Jamshedpur, clusters of machinery and machine tool-producing units, big, medium and small, came up in Calcutta and its outskirts, Howrah, Serampore, Burdwan, all the way up to the Asansol-Raniganj belt - and Kharagpur. What was additionally interesting was that while scores of small machinery repairing shops and small contractors supplying umpteen requirements for these units began to flourish on either side of the Hooghly river, skill in handling machinery and the art of improvisation got installed among novices who did not even know the letters. Such skill formation was a tremendous boost in fostering an industrial climate in the entire area.

Afghanistan's Promise for Regional Connectivity and Peace


Ashraf Ghani dreams of “breakfast in Delhi, lunch in Peshawar, and dinner in Kabul.”
By Aziz Amin Ahmadzai, January 11, 2016
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani came to truly understand the socio-economic and socio-political situation of South Asia during his tenure at the World Bank. And after his elevation to the presidential palace, one of his major objectives was to transform the region economically. He envisioned a region where stakeholders worked together to build consensus on transnational issues such as extremism, terrorism, and poverty, and promoted economic integration.

On his first official visit to India, Ghani stated that “breakfast in Delhi, lunch in Peshawar, and dinner in Kabul–that’s the world we seek!” Then, risking his political capital back home, he approached Pakistan, believing that a transformation in relations was necessary in order to build a new era based on mutual trust and respect. Mutual trust and respect are necessary for not only transforming relations and building a new regional order, but also for promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is the heart of Asia and regional states, particularly the Central Asian states and Pakistan, must be involved there. The Afghan state, after all, is largely fighting a war on their behalf.
At the fifth annual Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process ministerial-level conference, Afghanistan gathered all regional states and players on a single platform and crafted a collective strategy to overcome common problems and work for promoting economic cooperation.

Ghani voiced the idea that a stable Afghanistan can not only bridge South, Central and West Asia, but that it can do so exceedingly well given its strategic location and cultural similarities with its neighbors. Afghanistan can become a center of cultural and economic exchange. Ghani is of the opinion that Afghanistan can once again play its critical role in transforming this region.
Furthermore, the recent visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Afghan capital was part of that process for this region that Ghani envisioned. According to Afghan officials who spoke to The Diplomat on condition of anonymity, the Afghan president played an instrumental role by convincing Modi to normalize relations with Pakistan, including paving the way for Modi’s historic visit to Pakistan to meet his Pakistani counterpart.


GAYETI SINGH Monday, January 11, 2016
China in, India out
NEW DELHI: The recent meeting involving representatives from Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States on a roadmap to peace in Afghanistan must have come as a reality check for India, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a high profile visit to Kabul in a bid to demonstrate India’s continuing interest in the conflict torn country. 
The four countries met in Islamabad on Monday morning, with the meeting beginning with words of caution from the host country. Sartaj Aziz, advisor to the Pakistani prime minister on foreign affairs, warned against prematurely deciding which Taliban factions are ready to talk, urging instead "confidence building" measures to get even the recalcitrant Taliban to the negotiating table. 

The talks are aimed at putting together a roadmap for rebuilding Afghanistan, where a peace dialogue with the Taliban plays a crucial role. The dialogue had gotten off to a nascent start, till the news of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar dealt it a severe blow last year, with the Taliban stepping up violence in response and Afghan-Pakistan relations again dipping as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani pinned the blame on Pakistan for not doing enough to reign in cross-border terror. Pakistan’s direct link to terror in Afghanistan is a widely held view in Afghanistan, with analysts believing that US pressure is the reason behind Ashraf Ghani reaching out to Pakistan and singing a different tune to his predecessor Hamid Karzai. 

This is why analysts believe that even though four countries may be talking, the crucial role in the path to peace will be played by Pakistan, which continues to exert control over a large faction of the Taliban. That said, it is important to remember that the Taliban is not a homogenous group, as militants who were opposed to a peace dialogue with the Afghan government reneged on their pledge to new leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, who is seen as close to Pakistan. The BBC, in fact, quoted a Taliban spokesperson saying that newly appointed leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour had not been appointed "by all Taliban", going against Sharia law. A breakaway faction appointed another leader -- Mullah Mohammed Rasool -- and vowed to push on with their fight against the Afghan state. 

Nepal: Troubled Peace

S. Binodkumar Singh.
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management
Nepal, which had seen 4,896 fatalities, including 3,992 Maoists, 666 Security Force (SF) personnel and 238 civilians, in a single year at the peak of insurgency in 2002, sustained the environment of peace that had been established in 2013, through 2014 and 2015, with not a single insurgency-related fatality on record. However, though the insurgency has subsided, Nepal continued to witness significant political violence through 2015.

The current cycle of political violence began on July 1, 2015, when agitating cadres of the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) comprising of the Upendra Yadav-led Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal (FSF-N), the Mahantha Thakur-led Tarai Madhes Democratic Party (TMDP), the Rajendra Mahato-led Sadbhawana Party (SP) and the Mahendra Raya Yadav-led Tarai Madhes Sadbhawana Party (TMSP), burnt copies of the preliminary draft of the Constitution in the capital, Kathmandu, as it failed to incorporate their demands. During the first round of violence, between July 1 to September 19, 2015, according to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 44 persons, including 25 civilians and 19 SF personnel, were killed and another 229, including 166 civilians and 63 SF personnel, were injured in violent protests across the Tarai region. In Surhket District, adjoining the Tarai region, another two civilians were killed and 50 were injured.

Violence continued subsequent to the adoption of the New Constitution on September 20, 2015, with nine civilians killed and another 414 persons, including 321 civilians and 93 SF personnel, injured in violent protests across the Tarai region, according to SATP data. In adjoining Districts, one civilian was killed in Udayapur and another was injured in Dhading District (all data till December 31, 2015).

Beijing's Boldest Plan Yet Faces West

An ambitious 'One Belt, One Road' economic strategy by China takes shape.
Kyle Churchman, January 12, 2016
The One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative—a series of land and sea-based trade routes intended to link China more closely with the regions located to its west and south—was at the top of Beijing’s regional diplomatic agenda in 2015 and is likely to occupy just as important a position in 2016.

The Silk Road Economic Belt, OBOR’s land-based component, encompasses several economic corridors around China’s western rim, making it appear more like a grid instead of a single linear path. First unveiled by Xi Jinping during his September 2013 trip to Kazakhstan, the “belt” project envisions the construction of new rail lines, highways, pipelines for oil and gas, telecommunications infrastructure and fiber optic cables. Whereas two corridors will extend across the Eurasian landmass at different latitudes and terminate in Europe, another will connect China’s southwestern provinces with mainland Southeast Asia. The proposed China-Pakistan and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridors will be closely integrated with the belt project and provide important port access to the Indian Ocean.

The seafaring “Twenty-First-Century Maritime Silk Road” begins in the major port cities of southern China and passes through the South China Sea before extending across the Indian Ocean to East Africa and northward through the recently expanded Suez Canal to Europe. Infrastructure investment along this maritime “road” will primarily involve the construction of new ports and upgrades to existing port facilities. Beijing in particular seeks to facilitate greater Chinese commercial (and perhaps naval) activity in the Indian Ocean region.

China to build 20 showcase towns in Tibet in next 3 years

JANUARY 11, 2016
(TibetanReview.net, Jan11’16) – China said Jan 9 that it will build 20 distinctive towns in the Tibet Autonomous Region over the next three years, making them exemplary areas for comfortable living, work and tourism. With more than 80 percent of ethnic Tibetans in the region living in rural areas by official reports, the beneficiaries would be Chinese immigrants who define the TAR’s urban population.
A ceremony for breaking the ground for this purpose was held earlier in the week in Jedeshol Town, Gonggar County of Lhasa City, reported China’s official Xinhua news agency Jan 9.
The report said the 20 towns were in seven cities or prefectures of TAR, with most of them having finished their planning for the project.
Under the project, town infrastructure, including roads, will be improved, with the report claiming construction of the showcase towns will stick to the principle of prudent cutting of trees, no digging of mountains, no filling of lakes and little destruction of houses.

Deciphering China’s Armed Intrusion Near the Senkaku Islands


The appearance of an armed Coast Guard ship gives Japanese authorities plenty to ponder.
By Ryan D. Martinson, January 11, 2016
How to interpret the late-December appearance of an “armed” China Coast Guard ship near the Senkaku (a.k.a. Diaoyu) Islands?
The two tiny turrets fore and aft are not the story.Other Chinese vessels have sailed these waters with deck guns. Japanese ships operating here are, of course, armed. And in any case, the use – or threat – of force is inimical to the chief aim of China’s Senkaku Island patrols: i.e., to “demonstrate” Chinese sovereignty without risking military conflict. Acts of aggression, when they do occur in these waters, usually involve threatening others with collision, in which case the ship itself is the instrument of coercion.
With these facts in mind, what can we say about our armed intruder? CCG 31239, or Zhongguo Haijing 31239, was originally built for the PLA Navy, where she served for over 20 years. In the summer of 2015, the vessel wastransferred, along with two other ships of her class, to the China Coast Guard – specifically, the agency’s Shanghai “contingent” (zongdui). That CCG 31239 was once a naval vessel does not make her unique. China’s maritime law enforcement fleet has a number of former PLA Navy ships. Several, indeed, have sailed to the Senkakus. But those were all former auxiliary vessels: tug boats, submarine rescue ships, and icebreakers.

CCG 31239 was a frigate. Therefore, by China Coast Guard standards she is very fast. Moreover, she was built to naval specifications: her designers presumably intended her to survive cannon and even missile fire, as warships must in wartime. China Coast Guard ships built from the keel up are not expected to meet the same standards of survivability. All this means that CCG 31239 is much better prepared to prevail in any game of chicken that might take place in these waters. Moreover, CCG 31239 is no doubt equipped with advanced sensors and communications equipment, certainly superior to the commercial-grade hardware usually installedon other China Coast Guard vessels. CCG 31239 will thus improve maritime domain awareness in the waters where she operates.

How China Could Crash the Global Economy

Markets have paid too much attention to what the Chinese government says, and too little to what the economy is not doing.
“China has a major adjustment problem,” George Soros told a conference in Sri Lanka on Thursday. “I would say it amounts to a crisis. When I look at the financial markets, there is a serious challenge which reminds me of the crisis we had in 2008.”
Soros is wrong on one important count. The next global downturn, which looks like it is now beginning in China, will be worse than the one last decade.

Last week, China shook. Twice—Monday and Thursday—a just-installed “circuit breaker” mechanism, designed to limit volatility, caused Chinese stocks to crash. All of the market gains last year were wiped away in just four trading sessions. By Thursday, the widely followed Shanghai Composite Index lost 11.7 percent, while the Shenzhen Composite was off 15.2 percent. That meant the destruction of about $1.1 trillion in wealth.
Friday, Chinese stocks managed a “relief rally,” as Claudio Piron of Bank of America Merrill Lynch termed it in comments made to CNBC. Shanghai shares climbed 2 percent while Shenzhen rose 1.1 percent.
Nobody expects stocks to continue their upward path, however. “I think the impact should be short-lived, a couple of days maybe,” Piron predicted.

And why is that? As Peter Boockvar of The Lindsey Group, an economic advisory firm, said to CNN, “China’s stock market is going to go where it’s going to go.”
And China’s market wants to go down. The only reason for the rally Friday is that China’s “National Team” of state and state-controlled entities bought up shares in a bid to restore confidence.

China wants to show off its military power

January 09, 2016 
'The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.' Former RA&W official Jayadeva Ranade explains what China's military reforms mean for the world.
Crucial portions of the major military reforms -- described as 'far reaching and unprecedented' -- that were publicly announced on September 3, 2015, by Xi Jinping, who is concurrently the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, president of China and chairman of the Central Military Commission, have begun to be implemented.
On December 31, 2015, on the occasion of conferring flags on the newly created People's Liberation Army general command of army, PLA Rocket Force and PLA Strategic Support Force, Xi outlined the direction of the PLA in an official speech known as Xun Ci -- literally translated as 'admonishing words.'
Xi is only the second person to give a Xun Ci since the founding of the People's Republic of China. The other leader to have delivered a Xun Ci to the military in China's 67-year history was Mao Zedong, who did so in 1952 and 1953. Xi's decision to deliver the Xun Ci is a sign of his confidence and that he is consolidating authority to implement the plans for major military reform.
The substantive contours of these reforms are fast becoming clearly visible. On January 1, 2016, the Central Military Commission headed by Xi issued the full text of the 4,993-character Guideline on Deepening National Defence and Military Reform.

The Danger of Putin Losing in Syria

If Russia’s military adventure unravels, what happens next?

Last September, Russia deployed dozens of jets to Syria to rescue the ailing regime of Bashar al-Assad. Vladimir Putin aimed to protect one of Moscow’s few foreign allies and gain leverage for the coming peace negotiations over the Syrian Civil War. Russian media presented the mission as a heroic attempt to save the civilized world from Islamic terrorism. In Washington, however, Putin was widely seen as wading into a quagmire. According to The Economist: “If America’s Syria-watchers agree on anything it is that the Russian campaign, which has enabled Mr Assad’s forces to make only minor gains, will fail, and thereby encourage Russia to give up on its proxy. That would be a huge boost to the UN-backed peace talks John Kerry, the secretary of state, is brokering, with the aim of replacing Mr Assad with a transitional government early next year.”

But would a loss for Putin really be good news? While it’s tempting to take satisfaction in the Russian president’s travails in Syria—what you might callPutinfreude—Syria-watchers should question their assumptions. If Putin’s military adventure unravels, the result may not be peace.

It’s certainly easy to imagine the Russian intervention deteriorating. In recent weeks, Assad’s forces have made some limited gains around the Syrian city of Aleppo. But the overall strategic situation for Damascus remains highly precarious. Last year, the Syrian regime suffered a string of battlefield defeats, and Assadpublicly admitted to “fatigue” and “a lack of human resources [in the army].” The regime pulled back to defensible territory and was left in control of a rump coastal strip representing around one-sixth of the country. Russian jets are not enough for victory. It would likely take tens of thousands of troops to recapture and hold cities like Aleppo and Raqqa.

Russia is in a perilous position, internationally isolated and enduring economic turmoil. And now Putin has plunged into the unknown. Moscow doesn’t have experience coordinating military operations with Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah. This is Russia’s first military expedition outside of its immediate sphere of influence since the end of the Cold War. Putin has also pinned his fortunes on a highly incompetent dictator; Assad’s policies of systematic torture and barrel bombing of civilians brewed the hell broth in Syria.

China Drops 5-6%; Oil Poised To Break Below $30; RBS Advises Clients To Sell Everything’ And Brace For A ‘Cataclysmic Year’

January 12, 2016 ·
China Drops 5-6%; Oil Poised To Break Below $30; RBS Advises Clients To Sell Everything’ And Brace For A ‘Cataclysmic Year’
Another seesaw day in the U.S. stock market today; as the DOW and the S&P 500 eked out a small gain while the NASDAQ closed in the red. Considering oil fell 6 percent and is likely poised to break below $30. U.S. stock futures were up fairly moderately this morning, even though the Shanghai Composite closed lower by -5.29 percent, while the Shenzhen Composite lost -6.6 percent. There is reliable/credible reporting that the wealthy are moving their cash holdings out of Chinese currency and exchanging into either U.S. or Canadian currency. Credit ratings agency Fitch reported that there was $909B in currency outflows from China between the 2nd quarter of 2014 to the 2nd quarter in 2015, nearly a trillion dollars. And, this flight has apparently picked up steam in the past few months. It was a surprise that the DOW and S&P were able to eek out a gain while oil continued its slide. U.S. oil settled down $1.75, or -5.28 percent to $31.41. And oil looks like it is going to break below $30. Morgan Stanley, in a note to clients today forecast at least another $5 drop in the price of oil, should China devalue the yuan by 10 percent — which many traders believe they will.

U.S. Oil Industry May Need A ‘GM-Style’ Bailout ‘Oil Could Hit a Catastrophic Low’
John Kilduff, of Again Capital, in an interview on CNBC this morning said he is getting increasingly worried that oil could hit a catastrophic low. Mr. Killduff a well-respected oil analyst, believes oil could fall as low as $18 per barrel, which will lead to a fractured and disorganized shuttering of wells and leaving bankrupt companies in its wake,. Mr. Kilduff warns that if that scenario plays out, without some kind of intervention by the Federal government and the Department of Energy (DoE), the U.S. will lose its energy independence, and will once again find itself hostage to foreign benefactors that don’t have our best interests at heart. Mr. Kilduff is also worried about the critical skill-set atrophying, which would further undermine the U.S.’s ability to recover its critical oil infrastructure.

Do not underestimate the Russian military

8 January 2016
Electronic warfare that the West needs to catch up to 
Author:Josh Cohen
Much has been written about the weakness of the Russian military. Commentators describe it as a "paper tiger" that would not be effective against the more advanced weaponry of NATO. Even President Obama boasts that the American military is superior to Russia’s.
When it comes to traditional conventional weapons there is much truth to these assertions. However, these claims of Washington’s military superiority overlook a key fact: In the event of a war, Moscow possesses some critical asymmetrical advantages vis-à-vis the United States that the Kremlin would surely seek to exploit.

Russia’s electronic warfare strategy in Ukraine is one example of this. According to a recent article in Foreign Policy, after Russian electronic warfare equipment began arriving in Ukraine, Ukrainian troops noticed a problem: their phones and radios were unusable for hours at a time, essentially cutting off units’ ability to communicate with each other. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also felt the effect of Russia’s electronic warfare capabilities. On at least three separate occasions the OSCE reported its monitoring drones were subjected to military-grade electronic warfare while flying over territory controlled by the Russian-supported separatists. In each case, they were rendered blind and forced to end their missions.

Russia’s use of electronic warfare in Ukraine represents just the tip of the iceberg:
In Syria, Russia’s Krasukha-4 - a jamming system mounted on a simple four axle military truck – shields Russian forces from NATO spying, and is reportedly able to neutralize the United States’ low-Earth orbit (LEO) spy satellite.
Russia's Richag-AV radar jamming system fits on helicopters, ships and other military equipment and is reportedly capable of jamming an adversary’s advanced weapons systems as far as several hundred kilometers away. 
Russia is also developing a new electronic warfare system which it claims could disable American cruise missiles and other advanced precision guided weaponry employed by the United States’ Military. 

Russia’s advanced electronic warfare capabilities elucidates a broader point. The US Military’s superiority depends on advanced communications and electronics, yet these expensive advanced systems are highly susceptible to the Russian’ advanced jamming abilities.
These systems are also much less expensive to produce than many of the advanced weapons deployed by the United States. For example, a single Richag-AV radar system costs only $10 million – expensive in absolute terms but a cheap asymmetrical capability in relative terms.

Stratfor: Who Wins and Who Loses in a World of Cheap Oil

Stratfor, 8 January 2016
Summary: Stratfor looks at one of the big questions for 2016. Low oil prices will devastate those nations dependent on oil revenue and provide small benefits to those that consume oil. The destabilizing effect of the former will affect everybody, to vary degrees. Ten years ago people worried about running out of oil (see the comments to Peak Oil Doomsters debunked, end of civilization called off). Now they worry about too much oil. The Saudis have decided to financially destroy much of their competition (the first financial world war). When this is over Texas will beg to join OPEC. I predict that in ten years people will again worry about running out of oil. See the links at the end for more information.

Oil prices hit their lowest level since summer 2004 this week, continuing the rapid tumble that began in June 2014. The global benchmark, Brent crude oil, closed trading Jan. 8 at $33.37 per barrel, closing out the lowest week of prices in more than a decade. A number of factors contributed to the drop. The Chinese economy and financial markets performed poorly this week, sparking fears that a slowdown will dampen demand. In the major markets of Europe and North America, a mild winter has lowered seasonal consumption of natural gas and heating oil. On the supply side, Iranian oil will soon be back on the global market, and OPEC signaled that it would continue to supply high volumes of oil. The United States, too, has managed to produce a significant amount of oil, despite increased financial pressure on many U.S. producers. All of this may well push prices into the $20 to $30 per barrel range.
Oil is the most geopolitically important commodity, and the ongoing structural shift in oil markets has produced clear-cut winners and losers. Between 2011 and 2014, major oil producers became accustomed to prices above $100 per barrel and set their budgets accordingly. For many of them, the past 18 months have been a period of slow attrition. And with no end in sight for low oil prices, their problems are going to only multiply. Each nation, though, has its own particular level of tolerance, and the following guidance highlights the key break points to monitor.

Former Soviet Union
Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan stand to lose the most among the countries of the former Soviet Union. As one of the world’s largest producers, Russia is the most important. Russia’s economy relies heavily on energy, and energy revenues constitute more than half the current budget. This budget, however, is calibrated to oil prices of $50 per barrel. As prices deviate further from this benchmark, Moscow has two funds totaling $131.5 billion to make up the discrepancy. But the margins are tight: Nearly half the amount on hand may be needed to cover 2016 budgetary shortfalls even if oil rises to $50 a barrel.

Robert Steele: Saving Civilization – Time & Truth Matter

Robert David Steele Vivas
The tide has clearly turned against the techno-financial paradigm that disregards natural capital costs and exploits the 99% in favor of the 1%. Even a few billionaires have figured this out.
Time, however, is not on our side, nor is truth easy to find in today’s severely corrupt information environment where all eight tribes of information — including self-absorbed “progressive” activists — operate on no more than 2% of the relevant information and ignore the three things that I consider essential to saving civilization and creating a prosperous world at peace, a world that works for all: holistic analytics, true cost economics, and open source everything engineering.

I was asked recently to sum my life’s work up in an “elevator speech.” Below is an early attempt to do exactly that:
The truth at any cost lowers all other costs. We have been living a lie across all domains from government and corporate to academia, media, and non-profits, consuming natural capital and concentrating financial capital for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many. As Lady Lynn Rothschild (Inclusive Capitalism) and others (Redemptive Capitalism) are now realizing, nature bats last and a public uprising of the 99% is inevitable on our present course. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and stabilize the world — both protecting the existing wealth of the 1% and creating infinite new wealth for the 99% while stopping the suicidal paths we are on with unilateral militarism, predatory capitalism, and virtual colonialism, requires one simple but total change: a migration toward the truth as the new currency, manifested in holistic analytics, true cost economics, and open source everything engineering.
In this short post I will explain each of these three terms, and conclude with the specific institutional and local to global networks I believe we can and must build now if we are to achieve our potential as homo sapiens.
Holistic Analytics. The problem with all efforts by all tribes — without exception — is that none of them attempt to define and study all threats simultaneously with all policy domains against all demographics. Below is an illustration of one holistic approach, there are others. Noteworthy below is the reality that corrupt governments, led by the US Government, focus on inter-state conflict and terrorism — threats of our own making — while ignoring the fundamentals. They do this because an apathetic dumbed-down public does not realize that peace and prosperity are vastly more profitable for the whole, and failing to keep government honest — the point of democracy — is a form of social suicide.

True Cost Economics. We are close to but not yet at a point where everyone appreciates true cost economics as pioneered by Herman Daly and a few others. True cost economics refers to the actual natural capital cost of specific policies, produces, services and behaviors. Buckminster Fuller is reputed to have said that most Western jobs are not worth the petrol required to get the worker to and from their factory job or cubicle job. Today some of us understand the human cost, the social cost, the long-term economic and political cost, of truly insane choices including elective wars and legalized financial crime — what Matt Taibbi calls Griftopia, but this has not become mainstream. Also lacking is the ability to track true costs with geo-tagging of supply and use chains so that we can get to the exact amount of virtual water, fuel consumption, toxins generated, child labor, regulatory violation, and tax avoidance.

George Soros Sees Crisis in Global Markets That Echoes 2008

Adam Haigh adhaigh, January 7, 2016
Are Investors Right to Be Nervous Over China?
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-07/global-markets-at-the-beginning-of-a-crisis-george-soros-saysspeaks at economic forum in Sri Lanka's capital
China's devaluation hurting the rest of the world, Soros says
Global markets are facing a crisis and investors need to be very cautious, billionaire George Soros told an economic forum in Sri Lanka on Thursday.
China is struggling to find a new growth model and its currency devaluation is transferring problems to the rest of the world, Soros said in Colombo. A return to positive interest rates is a challenge for the developing world, he said, adding that the current environment has similarities to 2008.

Global currency, stock and commodity markets are under fire in the first week of the new year, with a sinking yuan adding to concern about the strength of China’s economy as it shifts away from investment and manufacturing toward consumption and services. Almost $2.5 trillion was wiped from the value of global equities this year through Wednesday, and losses deepened in Asia on Thursday as a plunge in Chinese equities halted trade for the rest of the day.
“China has a major adjustment problem,” Soros said. “I would say it amounts to a crisis. When I look at the financial markets there is a serious challenge which reminds me of the crisis we had in 2008.”

Soros has warned of a 2008-like catastrophe before. On a panel in Washington in September 2011, he said the Greece-born European debt crunch was “more serious than the crisis of 2008.”

Soros, whose hedge-fund firm gained about 20 percent a year on average from 1969 to 2011, has a net worth of about $27.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He began his career in New York City in the 1950s and gained a reputation for his investing prowess in 1992 by netting $1 billion with a bet that the U.K. would be forced to devalue the pound.
Measures of volatility are surging this year. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, known as the fear gauge or the VIX, is up 13 percent. The Nikkei Stock Average Volatility Index, which measures the cost of protection on Japanese shares, has climbed 43 percent in 2016 and a Merrill Lynch index of anticipated price swings in Treasury bonds rose 5.7 percent.

China’s Communist Party has pledged to increase the yuan’s convertibility by 2020 and to gradually dismantle capital controls. Weakness in the world’s second-largest economy remains even after the People’s Bank of China has cut interest rates to record lows and authorities pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy. Data this week reinforced a sluggish manufacturing sector.

** What Would Kennan Do? George Kennan, the Containment Doctrine, and ISIS

John R. Haines is a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and Executive Director of FPRI's Princeton Committee. Much of his current research is focused on Russia and its near abroad, with a special interest in nationalist and separatist movements. As a private investor and entrepreneur, he is currently focused on the question of nuclear smuggling and terrorism, and the development of technologies to discover, detect, and characterize concealed fissile material. He is also a Trustee of FPRI
January 2016

Executive Summary
It may have been William F. Buckley, Jr., who observed that Tocqueville's Democracy in America is as oft cited as it is infrequently read. Something similar might be observed about Containment, the doctrine articulated by George F. Kennan in his famous 1947 essay. It is paradoxical that containment, an indisputable cornerstone of American Cold War statecraft, is so widely (and seemingly at times, willingly) misunderstood. Today, there is much consternation over suggestions that ISIS be contained within the fluid battlespace of western Iraq and eastern Syria. In some instances it is either implied or inferred that containing ISIS means something qualitatively different than defeating ISIS (whatever that itself means).

The question of containing ISIS begins with distinguishing its two key embodiments within the battlespace, Territorial ISIS and Political ISIS. The former refers to the de facto territorial state that ISIS has established in the otherwise ungoverned space of western Iraq and eastern Syria. The latter refers to ISIS as the vanguard of a metastatic revolutionary movement. It is "Islamic" only in the restricted sense of using Islam to establish a group identity and a political power base. ISIS' governance, terrorism, and ideology constructs give it several dimensions, each of which must be understood before any effective containment strategy can be devised. The role of local forces and a Syrian ground partner — the proverbial "Arab boots on the ground" — are also assessed as elements of containing ISIS.

There is much consternation over the matter of containing ISIS[1] within the fluid battlespace of eastern Iraq and western Syria. The words "contain" and "defeat" are used as if the two were diametric opposites: for example, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's declaration, "Our goal is not to deter or contain ISIS, but to defeat and destroy ISIS."[2] It begs the question whether, in what Kennan called "a terrifying smugness and lack of historical perspective,"[3] we have forgotten the lessons of the Cold War. Among these is the necessity of distinguishing in practice between vital and peripheral areas. Another is that the United States has often overestimated the amount of political change that can be induced and maintained by superior force of arms or by economic sanctions.[4] A third is exigent:

"The conclusions to be drawn from a continuation of the doctrine of containment as practiced since 1947 are inescapable. As long as military considerations remain paramount in the execution of American policy, then military considerations will dominate the formulation of that policy. What may have begun as a political objective tends, by this process, to become a military objective."[5]

While bellicose declarations about defeating ISIS may be emotionally satisfying, they betray a fundamental misunderstanding of the choices before us. More to the main point of this essay, they betray lamentable ignorance within much of the political establishment about a concept —containment — that has been fundamental to American foreign policy and diplomacy for nigh on seven decades. This essay seeks to illuminate and expand the concept of containment in the context of United States military and diplomatic operations against ISIS. It also suggests another deficiency of the defeat-not-contain constituency. It is its disconcerting failure to understand behavioral and cultural dimensions of the conflict, and the necessity of integrating these dimensions into the formulation of a grand containment strategy.

Military Wants X-Ray Vision and Tunnel Robots To Fight Terrorists

The Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office has released their wish list for 2016 and beyond. 
Going after terrorists has never been a simple or straightforward affair, but does it really require something called “laser doppler vibrometry?” Affirmative, according to the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office, or CTTSO, which released its new broad agency announcement on Dec. 18. This year’s edition of the annual announcement, which outlines the various gadgets and tech that the office is looking to buy or build, reads like a prop list for a Marvel Comics movie — and yet they’re also technologies that could eventually make their way into wider commercial use. So what does the future of counterterror tech look like this year?
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
A helmet that gives bomb techs Terminator vision
Don’t you hate when you’re disarming an improvised explosive device and you have to drop what you are doing to make sure your oxygen tank isn’t running low?CTTSO wants a voice-activated “bomb suit helmet heads up display.” Basically, it’s a helmet that displays key pieces of information to the wearer in a way that doesn’t get in the way of the task at hand. Those bits could include details of the explosive device, radiological or chemical alerts, even the bomb tech’s heart and respiration rate, gathered from body sensors.

Similarly, the office wants a hands-free “augmented reality” navigation system for driving. Think Google Glass for driving a getaway car.
FitBit for soldiers under fire
Fast reaction team members, like the contractors that went in to secure U.S. installations in Benghazi in 2012, can’t always get on the radio when they’ve been hit. If they’re under fire or hiding, they may have to maintain radio silence. CTTSO wants “wireless health monitors” that soundlessly broadcast biophysical information about the wearer to a commander for at least six hours. The office also wants wearable chemical and biological sensors as well.


Amid Russian air and cruise missile strikes, civilian casualties, proposed no-fly zones, air-to-air shoot-downs, and new surface-to-air missiles in Syria, relatively few news stories have discussed the introduction of Russian artillery into the theater. Though the introduction of artillery may seem less significant than aerial attacks, remember that Napoleon observed: “With artillery, war is made.” By reintroducing artillery to Syria to support combined arms operations, the Russians may have revealed something about the war they and the Syrians envision. Together with increased air attacks, the Syrians and their Russian advisors seek to revitalize combined arms forces, and artillery is critical to their vision of such forces. Artillery is particularly important for offensive operations, providing a continuous presence that current Russian air deployments cannot sustain. The Syrian ground forces are now taking and holding ground, fighting urban and village battles where they must, but posing a threat of encirclement and maneuver where they can.

The Syrian military was once a large, well-equipped, Soviet-model Arab army capable of executing combined arms operations. While not often victorious, it was usually competent. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) was not then the principal internal guarantor of Bashar al-Assad’s regime — that was the responsibility of other military and security organizations. Primarily oriented against Israel, the conscript-based SAA drew on all sects and functioned as a key secular institution of a largely secular state.

Under the stress of the Sunni insurgency, the Syrian military has gradually degenerated into a less effective force in which the separate services and branches continue to exist, but no longer operate together in a coherent way. Throughout the regular army formations, the loyalty of conscripts could not be relied on to fight insurgents. Defections, desertions, and draft avoidance whittled down the force. The remaining infantry were spread out into checkpoints and strongpoints and found themselves increasingly replaced by militia forces chosen for their reliability or motivation in spite of their poor training. Armor was left to race through rebel-held territory unaccompanied by infantry, contributing only large-caliber drive-by shootings to operations.