8 May 2016

US-Foreign Military Sales 2016 Are Thriving; Middle East Among Major Buyers, Recipients Of Aircraft, Weapons

The United States has continued its foreign military sales (FMS) momentum from last year into the first half of this fiscal year and is on pace to exceed its 2015 profits from selling combat aircraft in part to countries in the Middle East and Asia, according to Defense News. Last year, the U.S. pocketed $43 billion in foreign military sales.
“Through the end of April, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency had announced about $29 billion in FMS cases, and there are a number of pending U.S. fighter aircraft orders that could bump that number up significantly if they are approved by the White House,” a report conducted by the Guggenheim Securities group concluded.
The group took various factors into account — such as the expectation that existing deals would go through before the end of U.S. President Barackbama's final term in office — when calculating its findings published in the report.
Just last month, Lockheed Martin's senior vice president for Washington operations, Robert Rangel, said Congress isn’t “making it a priority and expending the necessary energy and capital to push it through.” However, that tide seems to have changed in just a short amount of time.

In particular, sales of U.S.-made combat aircraft have been thriving, a trend that began last year, as well. Israel could shell out as much as $50 billion for various aerial vehicles. Thus far, the Middle East as a whole has dedicated more than $17 billion in buying power to U.S.-made military wares. That is likely due at least in part to the ongoing conflicts throughout the region, especially the U.S.-led international coalition to fight the Islamic State militant group.
Historically, U.S. government-to-foreign-government military sales have averaged $30 billion annually, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which describes itself as the "lead agency for the execution of Security Cooperation programs."

Has India Seen Its First ‘Lone Wolf’ Terrorist? – Analysis

By Balasubramaniyan Viswanathan*
MAY 6, 2016

In January 2016, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the anti-terrorism squad of the Telengana police force arrested Alem Jeb Afridi from Bengaluru, India. Among India’s most wanted men, he was staying in Bengaluru for more than three years as an air conditioner mechanic under a false identity of Javed Rafeeq. Little did the NIA and ATS realize that, they might have stumbled upon and arrested India’s first ‘lone wolf.’

According to NIA, Alem Jeb Afridi is known to be involved in multiple terrorist incidents in India from 2007. Born in Ahmedabad, he was a member of the radical Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which was proscribed by the Indian government in 2001. He was drawn to radical Islam during the mid 2000s.

Alem Jeb Afridi was wanted for his participation in an arms training camp at Wagamon in Kerala in 2007. According to the NIA, the participants were involved in arms training, firing practices, and the manufacture of bombs/petrol bombs in the camp. Afridi was part of a 30 member group, which had the likes of Abdul Subhan Qureshi, an expert bomb maker and Abu Faisal, the head of the Madhya Pradesh of the Indian Mujahideen, the successor of SIMI as his peers. After discovery of the camp, Afridi managed to evade arrest and was on the run till 2016.

India’s Submarine Modernisation Plans

By Cdr Abhijit Singh
06 May , 2016

India’s submarine modernisation plans have long been a subject of conjecture and debate in the Indian strategic affairs community. After an August 2013 explosion gutted the INS Sindhurakshak – the Navy’s premier Kilo class submarine – there has been much introspection over the depleting status of its submarine arm. Unfortunately, with the Navy unable to stick to scheduled timelines in the Scorpene programme – its principal submarine project – all talk of revamping the submarine arm has sounded hollow.

Last week, however, brought some cheery news. As Kalvari, India’s first indigenous stealth submarine, commenced sea-trails outside Mumbai Harbour, there was renewed optimism among naval managers. The Kalvari is the first of six Scorpene-class submarines being built under the much-delayed Project-75. Its sail-around was widely seen as an important step forward in meeting the September 2016 target for the submarine’s commissioning.

Despite the absence of its “primary weapon” – ‘Black-Shark’ torpedoes – the Kalvari’s presence in the open seas emphasized India’s efforts at rejuvenating its indigenous submarine production programme. While the project has faced long delays, naval technicians and project-managers have worked tirelessly to meet construction deadlines. Kalvari’s appearance in the open seas last week consequently created new hope for India’s submarine ambitions.

The Chabahar Project – need to accelerate

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch
06 May , 2016

A young Iranian diplomat interacting with a think tank at New Delhi recently was of the view that though India’s interest in the project to develop the Chabahar Port jointly with Iran went back many years, the pace at which India was moving on the issue was rather too slow. He pointed out that this was unfortunately so despite the fact that even when Iran was under sanctions, the US had no objections to Indian involvement in developing Chabahar. There is merit in what he says notwithstanding the fact that decision making goes generally into limbo closer to general elections in India and it is only the Modi government that has refocused attention onto the IOR which naturally includes Chabahar.

Chabahar is just 72 kilometers west of Gwadar, which once fully developed would give India a strategic advantage negating the need to keep negotiating the land route through Pakistan; providing direct access to Afghanistan and CAR.

Chabahar is central to India’s connectivity to Central Asia. Its importance is doubly important to India for connectivity with Afghanistan and beyond because of the dog in the manger attitude of Pakistan which appears getting worse with Chinese support and US-NATO thin out from Afghanistan. India’s willingness to join the Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement too was cold shouldered by Pakistan.

India’s Space Security Policy: A Proposal

By Gp Capt Ajey Lele (Retd.)
05 May , 2016

Several advancements made in the field of space technology over the last few decades have significantly benefitted mankind. Today, space technology is considered critical to human survival and progress. Since space offers numerous socio-economic benefits, the number of states investing in satellite technology has grown over the years. Satellites are now being used for many purposes: meteorology, television broadcasting, mobile telephony, navigation and internet.

Space systems are increasingly being used in multiple fields, such as financial management, education, tele-medicine, scientific research and disaster management, to gather real time information and increase efficiency and connectivity. Satellite technology is also playing a crucial role in measuring greenhouse gas emissions globally. In fact, space is rapidly emerging as an important component of the global economy.

New Inventions of DRDO

Apr 27, 2016 

New Inventions of DRDO

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is mandated towards design and development of strategic, complex and security sensitive systems for the Defence Forces. Over the past three years, DRDO has developed a number of products/systems which have either been inducted in the Defence Forces or in the process of trials/production/induction. Some of them are given below.

o 81 mm Anti Thermal Anti Laser Smoke Grenade

o Active Antenna Array Unit

o Air Defence Fire Control Radar

o Airborne Early Warning & Control System

o Akash Weapon Systems

o Anti G Suit Mk-III

o Aslesha Radar

o Auto injector Atropine Sulphate

o Bi Modular Charge System

o Bomb 120 mm ILLG

o Bomb 120 mm Mortar HE

o Bomb 81 mm Mortar HE

o Bomb 81 mm Mortar PWP

o Bomb Mortar 51 mm HE Mk-II

Successful Projects of DRDO

May 4, 2016 

Successful Projects of DRDO

The prime mandate of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is to design, develop and lead to production state-of-the-art sensors, weapon systems, platforms and allied equipment for our Defence Services. A number of products and technologies have been developed as spin-off, which are also beneficial with regard to industrial and public welfare, in addition to the national security.

During last five years (01 April 2011 - 31 March 2016) DRDO has successfully completed 248 projects in the following categories:

· Mission Mode (MM)

· Science & Technology (S&T)

· Technology Development (TD)

· Infrastructure & Facilities (IF)

· Products Support (PS)

Some of the major completed projects are:

· Active-cum-Passive Towed Array Sonar

· Advanced Fuel Cell

Pakistan Begins Construction of 600-Ton Maritime Patrol Vessel

May 06, 2016

Construction of the first out of four new 600-ton Maritime Patrol Vessels for the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) kicked off with a steel-cutting ceremony at the Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works (KSEW), according to a Pakistan Navy press release.

Next to senior PMSA and KSEW officials, the ceremony was attended by senior representatives of the Pakistan Navy and the China Shipbuilding Trading Company (CSTC). CSTC will construct four new vessels, whereas KSEW will build two. Two of the six new ships for the PMSA will be 1500-ton offshore patrol vessels, with China and Pakistan each building one respectively.

Initially, all six new PMSA ships were supposed to be assembled in Karachi. However, KSEW lost the construction bid due its purported inability to keep production costs lower than CSTC. China and Pakistansigned a transfer-of-technology agreement for the construction of the six vessels in June 2015.

Status Report on the Taliban’s Spring Offensive in Afghanistan

May 3, 2016

Afghanistan: The Annual Spring Offensive So Far

This year’s Taliban “Spring Offensive” officially began on April 12th and accomplished its initial goal of garnering worldwide media attention and lots of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) commentary from media pundits. Best of all the annual celebration of nationwide terror and violence masks what is really going on. Most of the organized violence in Afghanistan is made possible by the drug gangs, who use the Islamic terrorists to keep the government from interfering with drug production and distribution. The drug gangs would prefer to dispense with the Taliban and simply use bribes to keep the security forces out of the way. While that works some of the time it frequently doesn’t because the drugs are generally unpopular in Afghanistan. That is because the availability of cheap opium and heroin has turned 5-10 percent of the population into addicts. So the drug gangs need as many hired guns as they can get. The Taliban have proved to be the largest and most reliable supplier. Without the drug money the Taliban would be a nuisance in the south but nothing capable of grabbing the attention of the national or international media. 

The brand of Islam the Taliban represent is alien to Afghanistan and generally despised as an unwelcome foreign (from Saudi Arabia) import. The Saudis were able to install their Wahhabi interpretation of Islam in Afghanistan during the 1980s when millions of Afghans were desperate refugees living in Pakistan. The Saudis brought food, weapons and Wahabbi clergy and teachers. Afghan adults were not impressed by Wahabbism but the kids were impressionable and the Wahabbi religious schools were free and provided food and shelter for orphans as well as poor parents who appreciated the help. This is where the first generation of Taliban came from. They were a minority of a minority (the Pushtun tribes of Kandahar and Helmand) back then and still are. 

But Taliban leaders needed cash (the Saudis never got along with al Qaeda or the Taliban) and the drug gangs were willing to make deals. The initial 1990s arrangement was that the drug gangs could operate freely anywhere the Taliban were in control as long as they paid a large tax which, then as now, kept the Taliban going. When 2001 came around the Taliban had still not conquered all of Afghanistan and in their desperate efforts to do so had made themselves, and their drug gang allies very unpopular. Currently Afghans know the Taliban could never conquer as much of Afghanistan as they had in the 1990s but because of the need to protect their financiers (the drug gangs) the Taliban violence keeps much of the country in turmoil. Add to this the endemic corruption and the increasing number of educated (or simply the most resourceful and ambitious) Afghans leaving the country you have a national disaster of epic proportions. There are no easy solutions for all this, there never were. 

Changing The Rules 

Huge New Afghan Opium Crop Once Again Financing the Taliban Insurgency

May 4, 2016

Bountiful Afghan Opium Harvest Yields Profits for the Taliban

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — It is spring that determines how a year turns out, according to an Afghan proverb. And if the Helmand poppy fields this spring are any indication, the Taliban will have a very good year.

As the opium harvest winds down across Helmand Province, Afghanistan’s largest in territory and poppy cultivation, farmers and officials are reporting high yields. The skies were generous with heavy rainfall, and the Afghan government with its cancellation of annual eradication campaigns. It had lost much of the territory in Helmand to the Taliban anyway.

So it was with peace of mind that farmers, and thousands of seasonal laborers who had traveled to Helmand, scraped the gum from the opium bulbs. Taliban fighters were just around the corner to lend a hand — and to receive their share of wages and taxes, in cash or kind. The crowded fields amounted to an insurgent recruiter’s dream.

“We are happy that we had a good harvest this year compared with previous years,” said Abdul Rahim Mutmain, a farmer in Musa Qala district. Mr. Mutmain said his modest plot saw a four-fold increase in yield compared with 2015, which was plagued by crop failures and concerted government eradication.

The Rohingya and Suu Kyi’s Myanmar

By Adryel Talamantes and Austin Bodetti
May 04, 2016

The ballot held in Myanmar last November brought the first fair and peaceful transition of power seen by the country since the military seized power in 1962. Wracked by numerous insurgencies waged by separatists, social problems resulting from the large domestic drug trade, and anti-Muslim pogroms in the west staged by ultranationalist Buddhist monks, the victory of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) is one of the few positive developments Myanmar has seen in recent decades.

The previous three elections held in Myanmar since the NLD’s founding, in 1990, 2010 and 2012, saw it either excluded from participation or its victories reversed by the military, leaving many in Myanmar and the international community with little hope of seeing a clear and uninterrupted transfer of power in the country.

This time, the NLD won an overwhelming victory, ending the pro-military Union for Solidarity and Development Party’s (USDP) domination of the country. It was the culmination of efforts over half a century to return to civilian government. The NLD secured an absolute majority in the landslide elections and gained enough seats in the upper and lower houses of parliament to overcome the mandatory 25 percent guaranteed to the army, allowing them to install NLD member and Suu Kyi confidant Htin Kyaw as the new president on March 30. (Suu Kyi was barred from holding office herself due to a constitutional clause restricting anyone married to a foreigner or having foreign children assuming the presidency, a policy created by the army and believed by many to specifically target her because of her marriage to the late David Aris and their two sons, all three being British citizens.)

Why China Is Really Dictating Oil Supply Glut – Analysis

By Rakesh Upadhyay
MAY 6, 2016

Ship tracking data from Bloomberg shows that 83 supertankers carrying around 166 million barrels of oil are headed to China, which has stockpiled an impressive 787,000 barrels a day in the first quarter of 2016—the highest stockpiling rate since 2014.

While the world was speculating about oil prices plunging to $20 and $10 per barrel, China was busy stockpiling its reserves.

The chart shows an increase in imports as crude prices collapsed. Since the beginning of this year, China has imported a record quantity of oil.

Back in January 2015, Reuters had reported that China planned to increase its strategic petroleum reserves (SPR) from 30 days to 90 days. In January 2016, it was revealed that China was building underground storage to complement its above-ground storage tanks.

Chinese Military Targets College Students With Its Latest Weapon: Rap Music

May 06, 2016

China’s military steps up its publicity game, in hopes of bringing in more educated recruits. 

For years, China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), has been trying to increase its attractiveness to highly qualified young people – particularly college graduates – as it tries to make the transition to a more modern, more professional force. Now, the PLA has unveiled its latest weapon: a rap music video.

The new recruitment video, viewable here, treads the line between a music video and the advertisement for a new military-themed video game. It shows images of Chinese soldiers performing missions – hopping in tanks, launching missiles, at one point even sniping a man in the head– while a strong beat pulsates and a voice-over tells viewers that “war could break out at any time. Are you ready?”

The video is just the tip of the iceberg, according to Xinhua. The Chinese news agency reports that the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) Central Committee Publicity Department (formerly translated as “Propaganda Department”) has issued a plan to entice university students and graduates to join the PLA. In addition to music videos, “songs, slogans, advertisements and documentaries should be spread online, on TV, and in public places such as buses and subways” from now until the campaign ends in September, Xinhuareports.

Signs and Symbols on the Sino-Russian Border

By Bruno Maçães
May 05, 2016

A rare glimpse at the border between China and Russia, on a recently divided island. 

You may have seen this plot line in a number of movies. There is an island, prohibited and uninhabited, the secret gate to another world. Only in this case the island sits not in the ocean but in a river — or rather, at the confluence of two major and almost mythical Asian rivers, the Amur and the Ussuri.

The island is divided in almost equal sections between Russia and China. The Soviet Union occupied the whole of Bolshoy Ussuriysky Island (known as Heixiazi, or Black Bear, in Chinese) following the so-called Chinese Eastern Railway Incident of 1929, but in an historic agreement between Russia and China signed in 2004, Moscow agreed to return about half of it. The transfer took place in 2008. Since then the island in the Ussuri has become a miniature symbol of the vast Asian regions divided between the two geopolitical giants.

Visiting the island and the villages around it is as difficult as you might imagine. You must be accompanied by Russian border guards and before anything else a long interview with a secret service agent awaits. I was asked about every imaginable detail about my previous life and all the papers I had with me were examined and photographed. The interview was itself rather instructive. The first question I was asked was why someone from an enemy country — and a former politician to boot — wanted to visit the border between Russia and China.

Iran's Other ISIS Problem

May 5, 2016

On paper, Iran should be the one country in west Asia that does its utmost to counter the message of Islamic State (ISIS). The movement, after all, is both vehemently anti-Shia and deeply anti-Iranian in its messaging and worldview. However, Iran’s efforts to combat ISIS have been missing one important element, one that should be a prerequisite to any successful anti-ISIS campaign: taking innovative and meaningful steps to inoculate Iran’s own Sunni minority against ISIS dogma. Time is also a factor. Tehran sees ISIS’ rise in Iraq and Syria as a long-term challenge, but meanwhile, the movement’s emergence to Iran’s east, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, may not be as temporary as many have assumed.

A Problem at Home

Iran is concerned about the rise of Sunni extremism in the entire region, including within Iran. And yet Tehran has fallen short in recognizing the role of its own, often discriminatory, policies against its Sunni minority. It appears that the dominant view in Tehran is that the issue of Sunni extremism will be resolved once ISIS is defeated militarily in Iraq and Syria. At the same time, Iranian authorities closely monitor any activities by radical Sunni operatives in Iran’s Sunni-majority provinces of Baluchistan and Kurdistan, which border, respectively, Afghanistan-Pakistan and Iraq.

U.S. Says Better Intelligence Has Led to More Killings of Top ISIS Commanders

Paul Sonne and Julian E. Barnes
May 3, 2016

U.S. Cites Better Intelligence for Stepped-Up Airstrikes on Islamic State

The U.S. is increasing the tempo of its airstrikes on Islamic State in Syria as American military personnel on the ground help gather better information about targets to hit, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said Monday, vowing to step up strikes further as more targets become known.

Mr. Carter, the top U.S. defense official, is set to meet Wednesday in Germany with defense ministers from the most active countries in the U.S.-led coalition combating Islamic State. The meeting comes as the Pentagon faces criticism by defense analysts and members of Congress for the speed of its campaign against the extremist group.

Some lawmakers have said the U.S. is conducting too few strikes. Privately, some U.S. allies have also said they would like to see more strikes, arguing potential Islamic State targets should be developed more quickly.

According to Mr. Carter, an increase in airstrikes already has begun and will continue, in part thanks to a recently announced increase in U.S. troops on the ground.

“The air campaign, you see, is increasing the tempo,” Mr. Carter said. “Why? Because we have the opportunity to increase the tempo, because we have better information that allows us to be more effective from the air.”

Mission Creep: Pentagon Trying to Hide the Nature and Extent of US Troop Buildup in Iraq

Loveday Morris
May 3, 2016

U.S. troops are getting closer to the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq

MAKHMOUR, Iraq — At the base of a rocky ridge rising from the surrounding farmland, the barrels of American artillery poke out from under camouflage covers, their sights trained on Islamic State-held positions. 
Less than 10 miles from the front lines in the push toward the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the U.S. outpost, known as Firebase Bell, is manned by about 200 Marines.
“Having them here has raised the morale of our fighters,” said Lt. Col. Helan Mahmood, the head of a commando regiment in the Iraqi army, as his truck bumped along the dirt track that divides his base from the American encampment, ringed by razor wire and berms.
“If there’s any movement from the enemy, they bomb immediately,” he said.
The new firebase is part of a creeping U.S. buildup in Iraq since troops first returned to the country with a contingent of 275 advisers, described at the time by the Pentagon as a temporary measure to help get “eyes on the ground.”

Now, nearly two years later, the official troop count has mushroomed to 4,087, not including those on temporary rotations, a number that has not been disclosed.

The Aspiring Novelist Who Became

MAY 5, 2016

Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru

How Ben Rhodes rewrote the rules of diplomacy for the digital age.

Picture him as a young man, standing on the waterfront in North Williamsburg, at a polling site, on Sept. 11, 2001, which was Election Day in New York City. He saw the planes hit the towers, an unforgettable moment of sheer disbelief followed by panic and shock and lasting horror, a scene that eerily reminded him, in the aftermath, of the cover of the Don DeLillo novel “Underworld.”

Everything changed that day. But the way it changed Ben Rhodes’s life is still unique, and perhaps not strictly believable, even as fiction. He was in the second year of the M.F.A. program at N.Y.U., writing short stories about losers in garden apartments and imagining that soon he would be published in literary magazines, acquire an agent and produce a novel by the time he turned 26. He saw the first tower go down, and after that he walked around for a while, until he ran into someone he knew, and they went back to her shared Williamsburg apartment and tried to find a television that worked, and when he came back outside, everyone was taking pictures of the towers in flames. He saw an Arab guy sobbing on the subway. “That image has always stayed with me,” he says. “Because I think he knew more than we did about what was going to happen.” Writing Frederick Barthelme knockoffs suddenly seemed like a waste of time.

Survey Report: What’s Wrong With Russia’s Diaspora – OpEd

MAY 6, 2016

When Russian emigres in the West talk positively to their new neighbors about Russia, they perceive themselves as being largely disbelieved.

And when those emigres talk Russian politics with fellow emigres they are likely to be greeted by disagreement.

These are findings of a study I conducted last November. I invited readers from three online publications — OpEdNews.com, EurasiaReview.com, Russia-Insider.com — to participate in the study.

Responses came from both diaspora members and non Russians, about 60-40. Over 80 percent of all respondents reside in North America, the balance in Western Europe or elsewhere.

It was up to each individual reader to take part. That means those in the study are self-selected and do not represent a statistically valid sample. Accordingly, we can’t generalize from the results with certainty. But they do suggest some anecdotal patterns that are interesting to consider.


MAY 6, 2016

While China’s economic and geostrategic interests are more commonly associated with such bodies of water as the South China Sea or the East China Sea, the Arctic represents another area where Chinese maritime interests and investments have been growing. In 2013, China signed with Iceland its first free-trade agreement with a European nation and is involved in an oil exploration project, with Norway and Iceland, in the Dreki area. Chinese firms areprospecting for copper in Greenland and have considered investing in iron ore mining.

China’s Arctic ventures are quickly multiplying. The (mostly) state-owned PetroChina owns 20 percent in Russia’s Yamal LNG project, which will bring Siberian gas to Asian markets through the Northern Sea Route. In 2013, Rosneft and China National Petroleum Corporation signed a deal for joint exploration and production in the Barents and Pechora Seas. Further south, the two countries also agreed to build a 4,000 kilometer gas pipeline (baptized “Power of Siberia”) from Siberia to the border with China—a project estimated to cost $21 billion. China is not just interested in Russia’s energy resources, but also in its coastline: 2013 saw the first Chinese merchant ship use the increasingly navigable Northern Sea Route that promises to connect Asia to Europe in fewer days than through the Suez Canal, and without the hazards commonly found in the Malacca Straits. Russia stands to benefit directly, since it collects fees for the right to transit as well as to use its icebreakers for escort.


MAY 6, 2016

In the latest sign of how new entrants are upending the space launch industry, the Air Force announced last week that an $83 million contract awarded to SpaceX to put a GPS satellite into orbit would cost the government 40 percent less than the competing bid from United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. As impressive as that is, SpaceX’s competitiveness is set to increase further after the firm achieved a milestone in the history of space exploration. After numerous failed attempts, SpaceX successfully landed the first stage of one of its rockets on a “drone ship” floating in the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket’s payload, a cargo delivery to the International Space Station (ISS), was successfully lifted into orbit.

The achievement is a first step towards the reuse of SpaceX rockets (or more precisely the first of the rocket’s two stages), which previously would be lost after a single use. The next step will be to attempt to refurbish and reuse a rocket — potentially many times over — at acceptable cost and risk. The Space Shuttle’s solid rocket boosters parachuted to sea and were recovered by ship, but they did not themselves lift payloads into orbit and were very expensive to refurbish. Another rocketry firm, Blue Origin, has also managed to safely land its rockets after launch, but those are sub-orbital vehicles not meant to reach the ISS or place satellites aloft. ULA has studied reusability but has not implemented it.

Leicester City Displace Football's Financial Elite

by Felix Richter, Statista.com

-- this post authored by Niall McCarthy

Leicester City have won the Premier League with two games to spare, marking one of the greatest achievements in the history of sport.

It's 21 years since a team other than Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City or Manchester United have won the title and the Foxes' fairytale story shows that you cannot always buy success. When the season kicked off in September, Manchester City's squad was valued at £411 million. Leicester City won the Premier League this year despite having a squad worth a mere £53 million.

This chart shows the total cost of Premier League squads in September 2015.

The ‘tech bubble’ puzzle By David Cogman and Alan Lau

May 2016

Public and private capital markets seem to value technology companies differently. Here's why.

Aggressive valuations among technology companies are hardly a new phenomenon. The widespread concerns over high pre-IPO valuations today recall debates over the technology bubble at the turn of the century—which also extended to the media and telecommunications sectors. A sharp decline in the venture-capital funding for US-based companies in the first quarter of the year feeds into that debate,1though the number of “unicorns”—start-up companies valued at more than a billion dollars—over that same period continued to rise.

The existence of these unicorns is just one significant difference between 2000 and 2016. Until seven years ago, no venture capital–backed company had ever achieved a billion-dollar valuation before going public, let alone the $10 billion valuation of 14 current “deca-corns.” Also noteworthy is the fact that high valuations predominate among private, pre-IPO companies, rather than public ones, as was the case at the turn of the millennium. And then there’s the global dimension: innovation and growth in the Chinese tech sector are much bigger forces today than they were in 2000.2

TTIP—American Economic Imperialism

By Paul Craig Roberts
May 04, 2016

"Information Clearing House" - Greenpeace has done that part of the world whose representatives are so corrupt or so stupid as to sign on to the Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic “partnerships” a great service. Greenpeace secured and leaked the secret TTIP documents that Washington and global corporations are pushing on Europe. The official documents prove that my description of these “partnerships” when they first appeared in the news is totally correct.

These so-called “free trade agreements” are not trade agreements. The purpose of the “partnerships,” which were drafted by global corporations, is to make corporations immune to the laws of sovereign countries in which they do business. Any country’s sovereign law whether social, environmental, food safety, labor protections—any law or regulation—that impacts a corporation’s profits is labeled a “restraint on trade.” The “partnerships” permit corporations to file a suit that overturns the law or regulation and also awards the corporation damages paid by the taxpayers of the country that tried to protect its environment or the safety of its food and workers.

The law suit is not heard in the courts of the country or in any court. It is heard in a corporate tribunal in which corporations serve as judge, jury, and prosecutor.

Stiglitz Says Misdirected Monetary Policies Increased Inequality

Joseph Stiglitz 

Nobel-prize winner Joseph Stiglitz said monetary policies have exacerbated inequality and need to be redirected to better target getting money flowing into economies and helping small and medium-size businesses.

In a Bloomberg Television interview Tuesday with Francine Lacqua and Michael McKee in New York, he said policies such as quantitative easing were a “version of trickle-down economics” and the subsequent increase in asset prices only affected the wealthiest in society.

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg “The key problem is the access of credit to small and medium-size enterprises, is getting that flow of money into the real economy,” Stiglitz said. It’s “nice to have a stock market bubble if you have a lot of stock. But if you are in the bottom 80 percent of America, you have a little stock and you can feel a little good about the stock going up. But let’s face it, the overwhelming bulk of our stock market is owned by the 1 percent.”

Stiglitz’s comments come as some central banks around the world are being forced to delve deeper into their policy tools to help support their economies. As policy makers struggle to find a way out of the economic malaise, some have even raised the idea of helicopter money, which aims to direct cash straight to consumers.

Connectivity Of Online And Offline Activism – Analysis

By Zafar Shayan
MAY 6, 2016

The role of the internet and social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in promoting effective civic activism has been a major topic of debate in the Social Sciences. Indeed, it is argued that civic activities organized through social media have played roles in the processes of democratization in various cases around the world. The role of social media in different social movements such as the Arab Spring, the anti-finance and occupy movements in EU and the US, the 2013 Brazilian protests, Gezi protests in Turkey, and different public protests in Mexico are just a few of the cases explored within the scholarly contexts (Castells, 2014).

This article discusses the way citizens organize civic actions and use social media in their collective activities. The question that is sought to be answered here is why some social collective actions are ineffective despite their widespread use of social media and relatively suitable social and political contexts.

Here the article will argue that synchronicity and connectivity between online and offline activism can be a factor that promotes the effectiveness of civic activism. In this sense, it is worth noting that effective civic activity is seen in the extensive participation of people in a collective activity that becomes publicly recognized and increasingly influences public opinion.
Two forms of civic activism: online and offline

Will artificial intelligence revolutionize cybersecurity?

MAY 4, 2016

With criminal hackers becoming more effective at breaking into computer systems, cybersecurity researchers, government agencies, and academics are looking to artificial intelligence to detect – and fight – cyberattacks.

Most people probably have no idea they encounter artificial intelligence technology at nearly every turn on the Internet. It's how retailers track shoppers' behavior and show them ads that attempt to match their tastes in clothing or electronics. 

While that's a relatively simply use of artificial intelligence, often known as just AI, researchers, entrepreneurs, and US government officials are investing heavily into moving much more advanced AI into health care for such pursuits as drug research, automotive technology like self-driving cars, and even for teaching computers how to track and defend themselves against hackers. 

IBM reveals user-friendly quantum computing

MAY 4, 2016

IBM has launched a new simulator that allows users to tinker with quantum computing through the Cloud. 

Quantum computing is open to the masses, virtually.

IBM launched an online quantum computer simulator through the Cloud early Wednesday. The simulator will allow anyone with Internet access to run experiments on IBM's physical quantum processor. The project, called IBM Quantum Experience, is the first virtual simulator to be linked directly to hardware.

IBM's goal for the project? To raise interest in a technology that could accomplish tasks in moments that a traditional computer would find impossible.

"Quantum computing is becoming a reality and it will extend computation far beyond what is imaginable with today’s computers," said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director at IBM Research, in a press release. The "IBM Quantum Experience will make it easier for researchers and the scientific community to accelerate innovations in the quantum field, and help discover new applications for this technology."

Mind-Controlled Drones Are Now Real, And They Could Transform The Battlefield

May 3, 2016 

Brain-mapping technology is progressing at warp speed and can turn our minds into remote controls. So what does this mean for our military? 

On April 16, the University of Florida held the world’s first mind-controlled drone race, the latest signifier of this field’s rapid technological ascension. Although the drones only competed along a 10-yard course, the fact remains: These machines were commanded by human brainpower — or in technical terms, brain-computer interface.

The science behind BCI allows humans to manipulate machines with their thoughts by translating the brain’s electrical activity into code that drones can understand. The tool used to map and track this neuroelectric activity is called an electroencephalogram, or EEG, headset. These headsets are fine-tuned to identify the location and frequency of electrical activity linked with specific thoughts in the brain.

In practice, it’s not as complicated as it sounds. Let’s pretend you’re wearing the headset and your objective is to move a drone across a room using your imagination. When you are picturing this machine moving, neurons fire in specific sections of your brain. The EEG headset will recognize this activity and provide signals that can be translated into code. This code essentially “speaks” to the drone in its technical language and commands it how and where to move — like a remote control tells your television to change the channel, or turn on and off.

NATO Ratchets Up Missile Defense Despite Russian Criticism

MAY 5, 2016

A United States Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jet, which is part of the Operation Atlantic Resolve, an American commitment to NATO’s collective security and regional stability, at the Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, in April.CreditMindaugas Kulbis/Associated Press

LONDON — NATO’s European missile defense system will go live on Thursday when a base in Romania becomes operational. The next day, Poland is scheduled to break ground on its NATO missile-defense base.

The decision by the United States and its allies in Eastern Europe to proceed with ballistic missile defense in the face of increasingly loud Russian criticism is an important stage in the alliance’s new stance toward Moscow.

Those deployments will be coupled this spring with major military exercises in Poland and the Baltics, with significant American participation, and a beefed-up rapid reaction force of up to 5,000 troops.

Altogether, said Derek Chollet, a former United States assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, “There will be a quite robust display of military power in Europe and allied resolve, and hopefully Moscow will see it for what it is, an alliance improving its capabilities.”

The Art of the Military Deal

May 5, 2016

In his April 27 foreign-policy speech in Washington, Donald Trump leveled a number of critiques at U.S. allies around the world. He began to flesh out his now-familiar critiques of how America’s many allies and security partners—which number about sixty around the world—fail to do their fair share for the common defense.

It is only fair to acknowledge that some of Trump’s arguments about military burden sharing have merit. Most notably, America dramatically outspends most allies on its armed forces. Of course, the United States has the largest economy of any Western ally and thus, rather naturally, the largest defense budget by far. But relative to GDP, its contributions are still disproportionate. The United States spends about 3 percent of gross domestic product on its military. NATO allies are pledged to devote 2 percent of GDP each to their armed forces, but the alliance average is less than 1.4 percent. Only the UK, France, Poland, Greece, and Estonia are near or above 2 percent. Germany is at just 1.1 percent of GDP; Italy and the Netherlands and Turkey check in at 1.2 percent; Belgium and Canada do not even reach 1.0 percent. Yes, some of these countries contribute impressively—more than the United States does, relative to national economic strength—in areas such as development assistance and refugee receptivity, but Trump still has a fair point on this basic and important measure of military preparedness.

On balance, however, Trump’s explanation of the economics of America’s security alliances misses several core realities. The benefits of certain alliances can be debated—but they hardly constitute the wholesale drain on American coffers that he has made them out to be.