4 September 2016

*** China Heads West Beijing's New Silk Road to Europe

By Erich Follath

China is building new roads, railroads and pipelines from Central Asia to Europe in an effort to build new connections to the rest of the world. The results may be good for the Chinese -- but less so for the other countries involved.

In Kashgar, on the western edge of the Peoples' Republic of China, the view is reminiscent of the Bible and the days when the ancient Silk Road began to take shape here in the 1st century B.C. Today, the government plans to use Kashgar as the starting point for a new, global trade route -- but at this point, there is still little evidence of it.

"Posh, Posh," the men shout on their horse-drawn carts, as they make their way to the meadow where drivers are selling camels. Potential buyers expertly reach into the animals' mouths to examine their health. The air is dusty and filed with the sounds of animals neighing, braying and bleating, as if the horses, donkeys and goats know that they won't stay tied up for long. Women, only a few of them wearing veils, walk through the chaos carrying sacks of apricots and raisins.

The Sunday market in Kashgar, one of the world's largest, attracts several thousand livestock owners and traders to the oasis city on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert, near the high mountains of the Pamir and the Hindu Kush. It is a fascinating mix of ethnicities. Uighurs, wiry men with knives in their belts, are in the majority. There are Nomadic Kyrgyz wearing felt hats, and occasional light-skinned, green-eyed boys who look like descendants of Alexander the Great. The market is policed by the region's true rulers, the Han Chinese.

Here, people can still taste and feel the myth of the old Silk Road.

** Balochistan In India’s Pakistan Policy: Time To Up The Ante – Analysis


Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi would have endeared him to the ‘hawks’ in the Indian foreign policy establishment as he came out openly in support of “freedom” for Pakistan’s restive border province of Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied (administered) Kashmir (PoK). “I want to speak a bit about the people in Balochistan, Gilgit- Baltistan (GB), and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,” he had said. Earlier in the week at an all-party meeting on Kashmir, Modi had remarked that it was time for Islamabad to explain to the world “why it has been committing atrocities on people in PoK and Balochistan”.

Some observers view the references to Balochistan, PoK and GB as indication of a significant aggressive change in India’s Pakistan policy provoked by the recent Pakistani interference in the developments in the Kashmir valley; and as the proverbial last straw that has dented Modi’s outreach to, and patience on Pakistan which he had persevered since his government came to power two years ago. It is also an indication of the government in New Delhi’s conviction that external stimulus to the unrest in the Kashmir valley must end before any workable political solution can be found to the issues in Jammu and Kashmir within the framework of the Indian constitution.

This shift in India’s outlook to Balochistan from the oblique reference at Sharm el-Sheikh (after a bilateral between the then India and Pakistani Prime Ministers at this Egyptian resort) some years back to this direct broadside from the Red Fort this month, has been under consideration before but India had not taken this path as it is fraught with geopolitical challenges and implications. The geopolitical challenges on the Baloch issue are complex as Balochis reside not only in Pakistan but also in parts of Iran and Afghanistan. The plight and ethnic dispersion of the Baloch people mirrors that of the Kurds in the Middle East. India might face opposition from Iran and Afghanistan as it tenders its support for Baloch human rights and aspirations. Balochistan strife has a sectarian dimension which has been used by the US, Israeli and the Saudis in the past to build pressure on Iran.

Can SAARC Survive India and Pakistan's Squabbles?

September 1, 2016

A few days ago, I read an article titled “Imagine a South Asia without borders”written by Annette Dixon, Vice President of the World Bank. I acknowledge that it is the job of international organizations like the World Bank to provide optimism to aid/loan recipient countries and regions, but the ones facing the realities of South Asia find it difficult to imagine a region without borders—something that had benefited their ancestors before 1947. Considering it my responsibility, I would like to highlight some recent events that fuel scepticism shadowing the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC—an international association composed of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka) and pessimism with reference to a meaningful regional cooperation in South Asia. Here, the focus is on the recent India-Pakistan tensions affecting SAARC.

Most recently, bilateral relations have hit a significant low point due to the resurgence of violence in Indian-administered Kashmir (IAK). It happened after the assassination of a freedom fighter, a twenty-two-year-old Burhan Wani, by the Indian army in IAK. According to a renowned Pakistani scholar,Pervez Hoodbhoy, “Wani was hunted down, and killed instead of captured”. More than two hundred thousand attended Wani’s funeral, and the Indian authorities mishandled the situation by the indiscriminate use of pellet guns against the civilian population. With this has emerged a wave of media paying attention to the movement in IAK. Now, the movement is both on the ground and in social media. The recent events have also reignited the blame game between Delhi and Islamabad with India blaming Pakistan for the situation in IAK and Pakistan blaming India for the troubles in Balochistan. There is a connection between Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s remarks on Balochistan and the recent terrorist attacks for which the authorities in Pakistan had blamed Indian spy agency RAW.

Over 50 years ago, Bengal’s chief engineer predicted that the Farakka dam would flood Bihar

Though time has proved that the engineer was right, after he flagged fatal flaws in the project, he was vilified, called a Pakistani spy, and forced to resign. Image credit: Ministry of Water Resources

As Bihar faced devastating floods last week, chief minister Nitish Kumar made an unusually strong statement about a politically charged dam.

“The current flood situation has been caused by siltation of river Ganga,”The Indian Express quoted the Bihar chief minister as saying in a conference on August 21. “This situation is the result of silt getting deposited in Ganga after construction of Farakka dam. The only way to remove silt from the river is to remove the dam.”

Evidence now suggests that the flood at that time in Bihar was caused by the sudden release of water from the Bansagar dam across the Sone river in eastern Madhya Pradesh. The dam had been allowed to fill up to 96% of its capacity before more rainfall in its catchment area forced engineers to release that water at once.

But the criticism of the Farakka barrage for causing excessive siltation in the Ganga remains accurate. The dam was considered a doomed project even before it began. But in the 1960s, the media vilified Kapil Bhattacharya, who was the West Bengal government’s chief engineer at the time, for saying exactly what Nitish Kumar would echo five decades later.
Prescient voice

Kapil Bhattacharya is perhaps better known in activist circles today for his role as the first president of the Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights. But he was also superintending engineer with the Irrigation and Waterways Directorate of the West Bengal government in the early 1960s, when plans for the barrage had become all but settled.

What is the business model of Reliance Jio?

Kshitij Salgunan, Indian Internet activist


a. How are they offering 4G data at such cheap rates?

b. And how are they providing unlimited voice calls (local/STD) free to every JIO customer?

c. How they are offering unlimited 4G data at night? 

It is really simple. Most of you are going to pay the same or probably more money to Jio compared to your current network provider. After reading this answer, you will realize what a clever businessman Mukesh Ambani is. 

I have been following the news about Jio since many years, and have written multiple articles about Jio in the past many months. 

Why Mukesh Ambani wants to enter networking field so badly? 

This story requires us to know why Mukesh Ambani is investing so much in yet another telecom company especially when there is already another company named Reliance Communications. In 2002, when Dhirubhai Ambani died, there were some major ownership issues between his two sons - Anil Ambani & Mukesh Ambani. After some public feud between both the brothers for the control of Reliance empire, their mother intervened and split Reliance into two parts in 2005. Anil Ambani got telecom, power, entertainment and financial services business while Mukesh Ambani received Reliance Industries and IPCL. [1] 

Although Anil Ambani got the Reliance Communications, it was Mukesh Ambani who started it and revolutionized the Indian mobile industry by reducing the call rates in the early 2000s, which made mobile phones affordable to Indians. It was his baby all the way, while Anil Ambani was not even having a seat in it’s board of directors. 

That is not all. To prevent Mukesh Ambani from making another telecom company and competing with Reliance Communications, they had inserted a non-compete clause in the agreement. [2]

Why India May Miss The Demographic Dividend

India’s economy needs to change the way it has worked for the last 25 years, the years of globalisation, if it has to employ the growing working population.

In four years, India will have the world's largest population of working people, about 87 crore in all. When nations reach a high ratio of such people they are expected to earn something called a demographic dividend. This simply means that because most citizens are working, economic growth goes up. The expectation and anticipation is that India is approaching such a position soon.

However, there is a second view on this. A few months ago a report by Indiaspend, which does data-based journalism, looked at the issue of employment and made six observations. These were as follows:

1) "In 2015, India added the fewest organised-sector jobs — in large companies and factories — in seven years across eight important industries.

2) The proportion of jobs in the unorganised sector — without formal monthly payment or social security benefits - is set to rise to 93 per cent in 2017.

3) Rural wages are at a decadal low, as agriculture — which accounts for 47 per cent of jobs — contracted 0.2 per cent in 2014-15, growing 1 per cent in 2015-16.

4) As many as 60 per cent of those with jobs do not find employment for the entire year, indicating widespread ‘under-employment’ and temporary jobs.

A Call for Review: Supreme Court’s Decision on Reliance Jio Perspectives

The Supreme Court has ignored evidence of apparent forgery and auction-rigging while dismissing a petition seeking to quash the government's decision permitting Reliance Jio to provide voice telephone services over fourth-generation spectrum. The company, headed by India's richest man, has also failed to meet its roll-out obligations. The apex court should review its decision.

The writer acknowledges research and writing assistance by Abir Dasgupta, Honi Joshi, Natasha Bhide and Mugdha Kinjawadekar.

The 8 April decision of the Supreme Court to dismiss a petition (Business Today 2016) questioning the manner in which Reliance Jio (RJio) obtained a licence to provide a range of mobile voice services ignores evidence relating to criminal forgery of a bank document and rigging of auction procedures (Centre for Public Interest Litigation v Union of India 2016). The country’s highest court also chose not to take into account the failure of the company, headed by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani and which has reportedly invested a huge ₹1,50,000 crore in this venture, to adhere to contractual obligations relating to rolling out its services (DNA 2016). The verdict by a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices A K Sikri and R Banumathi needs review given the information that is now available in the public domain.

A public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan in May 2014 had argued that a kind of spectrum called broadband wireless access spectrum was acquired by RJio in 2010 using questionable means, by allegedly rigging the auction for it and by using a front company. The petition also argued that RJio had acquired a licence in March 2013 to offer voice telephony using the spectrum it had won in the 2010 auction without paying the amount it should have. Bhushan also requested an order from the Supreme Court directing the Department of Telecommunications (DOT), which is under the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, to levy on RJio spectrum usage charges (SUC) at par with other operators providing voice telephony. Finally, the petition also sought a court monitored investigation into the decision of the government to grant the licence to RJio.

Assam’s NDFB: A Battered Militancy That Refuses To Die – Analysis


“The gruesome killing of innocent people by the NDFB (Songbijit) on December 23, 2014, in Assam had led to an operation which was carried out jointly by the State and Central forces. We also got support of the Government of Bhutan. Therefore, there is no question of talks with the NDFB (Songbijit) because it has carried out mass killing of innocent people.” – Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Home Affairs, on 27 July 2016.

Both (NDFB-S and ULFA) “have not been able to carry out any major attack in the past several months, as a result of which they are now desperate to strike in a big way to prove their existence.” – Assam Police, on 29 July 2016

Actionable inputs preceded the 5 August 2016 attack by the suspected National Democratic Front of Bodoland-Songbijit (NDFB-S) militants. On 29 July, a source in Assam Police had told, “The ULFA and the NDFB have not been able to carry out any major attack in the past several months, as a result of which they are now desperate to strike in a big way to prove their existence.” An intelligence led operation had been carried out in neighbouring Chirang district leading to the arrest of a 30-year old NDFB-S cadre and recovery of an INSAS rifle, which had been looted from a Territorial Army personnel in 2014. Two days later, another 22-year old militant belonging to the outfit was arrested in Kokrajhar district. A pistol with live ammunition were recovered. And yet, the attack by a two member team who came in a shared auto-rickshaw wearing blue raincoats, on a busy market could not be prevented. 13 civilians were killed and 20 others were injured. The death toll rose to 14 with a civilian succumbing to his injuries on 6 August. The chance presence of security force personnel who happened to pass by the market, prevented what could have been a far worse massacre. In the encounter, one of the militants was killed while another managed to escape. The slain militant was identified as Monjoy Isliary alias Maudang, ‘commanding officer’ of the 16th battalion of the NDFB-S.

Here's a weapon better than pellet guns

September 02, 2016 

Ramananda Sengupta explains how 'crap cannons' can be an effective mob-control weapon.

Imagine a sonic weapon that could make everyone within a 100-metre radius involuntarily evacuate their bowels.

Now imagine the impact that would have on a frenzied mob storming an embassy or a police station; or a crowd of stone-throwers in Kashmir.

It has been variously described as a 'crap cannon' or 'brown note'. It has also been debunked as an urban myth.

But sound, however, can be and has been used often as a weapon. And no, we are not talking about the loud bass at rave parties which has been known to induce heart attacks or collapse the lungs of those standing too close to the speakers.

We are not even talking about Heavy Metal, used to good effect in places like Guantanamo to soften prisoners unused to such sounds before interrogation.

More recently, Long Range Acoustic Devices, or LRADs, have been used effectively against pirates off the coast of Somalia.

Then there's infrasound, which can scare the living daylights out of most of us, literally.

Sounds between 7 and 19 Hz could induce fear, dread or panic.

China Will Have to Get Used to Being a Terrorist Target

Vyacheslav Oseledko—AFP/Getty ImagesPolice officers gather outside the Chinese embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Aug. 30, 2016. A van driven by a suicide bomber exploded after ramming through a gate.

Its plan to forge a trade route across Eurasia, through the dangerous territories of Afghanistan and Pakistan, will only expose Beijing to more risk 

China isn’t immune to global terrorism. That’s one of the troubling lessons of yesterday’ssuicide attack on the Chinese embassy in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. The driver of the car managed to only kill himself but he wounded five embassy employees after storming through the diplomatic mission’s gates. And by detonating his deadly charge, the attacker proved that China cannot avoid the surge in religious and ethnic strife that has roiled international geopolitics.

Echoing media reports in Kyrgyzstan, Li Wei, a terrorism expert at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, which is associated with China’s Ministry of State Security, tells TIME he believes the attack was instigated by a separatist group of ethnic Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim minority native to China’s northwest and other parts of Central Asia. Beijing has previously tied the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), also known as the Turkestan Islamic Party, to other deadly assaults in China, claiming the group maintains links to al-Qaeda.

“Terrorist attacks around China have risen in recent years,” Li says, “due to the continuous penetration of Islamic states and organizations from western Asia.” Other security analysts, however, have downplayed ETIM’s ability to organize terrorist plots and instead characterize the violence as disparate outbreaks without a unifying mastermind.

Morocco’s Indignation With Ban Ki-Moon: Is Western Sahara An ‘Occupied’ Territory? – Analysis

By Khadija Mohsen-Finan*

The Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, has incurred the wrath of Morocco by referring to the ‘occupation’ of the Western Sahara and recalling the uncertainty that has surrounded the status of this territory for over 40 years.

Morocco’s anger remains palpable. Ban Ki-moon carried out a visit –the first of its nature– to the Tindouf camps in Algeria, where thousands of Sahrawi people claiming independence for the Western Sahara have lived since 1975. The UN Secretary-General also went to Bir Lehlu, a town in the north-eastern part of Western Sahara, in the region controlled by the Polisario Front and deemed to be a ‘liberated zone’ by the Tindouf Sahrawis. This is the same town where the Polisario Front proclaimed the creation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) on 27 February 1976 and from where the National Radio of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is broadcast. The Moroccan press talked about provocation.

Apart from the visit itself, Morocco has described as ‘unacceptable’ the comments Ban Ki-moon made at places that are so heavily loaded with symbolism. The highest-ranking representative of the UN, who normally exhibits exemplary restraint, expressed his great compassion for the Sahrawi refugees he met in Tindouf: ‘I was very saddened to see so many refugees and, particularly, young people who were born there. The children who were born at the beginning of this occupation are now 40 or 41 years old. So 40 years of a very difficult life. I really wanted to give them a sense of hope that this is not the end of the world for them’. The response from Rabat was that the Secretary-General crossed a red line when he explicitly used the word ‘occupation’ to describe the control exerted by Morocco since 1975 in the Western Sahara, a territory whose status the UN has not made any ruling on.

Kurds Fear the U.S. Will Again Betray Them, in Syria

SEPT. 1, 2016

Kurdish fighters near Qamishli, Syria, last year. The Syrian Kurds say their aim is to establish an autonomous region, not their own state, where their rights are protected, in whatever settlement comes from the long Syrian civil war. 

ISTANBUL — For almost two years, Syrian Kurds, with American weapons, air cover and training, have fought and died in battle against the Islamic State. They have taken pride in their status as the United States’ most faithful proxy in the fight against the militant group, and they have hoped their effectiveness as warriors would lead to American support for Kurdish political gains inside Syria.

So, many Kurds shuddered when Turkish tanks and soldiers recently rolled into northern Syria, with American support, to push back against Kurdish gains. They saw it, perhaps prematurely, as a replay of a century of betrayal by world powers, going back to the end of World War I, when they were promised, then denied, their own state in the postwar settlement.

“The Kurds are going to scream betrayal at every turn when they think things are not going to go their way, because they’ve had a century of it,” said Joost Hiltermann, the program director for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, and a longtime expert on the Kurds.

The Syrian Kurds say their aim is to establish an autonomous region, not their own state, where their rights are protected, in whatever settlement comes from the long Syrian civil war. And they say they hope that the United States will support them in that desire.

"Statecraft lessons from Northern Syria"

Author: Rami Khouri, Senior Fellow, Middle East Initiative
August 31, 2016

The unprecedented combination of political chaos, cross-cutting military confrontations, and strategic contradictions in northern Syria reached a record-setting point two days ago. That was when Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State, and the Department of Defense (DoD) said, “we call on all armed actors to stand down and take appropriate measures to deconflict and open channels of communication.”

I salute them heartily, for this is a very sensible statement, and would make an excellent policy for any government involved in Syria. I applaud the U.S. government for this statement because standing down, deconflicting, and opening channels of communication are precisely among the urgent moves that need to be taken to find a way out of the hell that Syria has become for its people and for many others.

The really awkward problem, however, is that McGurk and the American government do not seem to follow their own rhetoric. American actions on the ground in Syria have been precisely the opposite of what McGurk and the DoD now recommend. Washington has repeatedly fueled and funded military attempts to topple the Assad government in Syria; played a major role in expanding the conflict to encompass all the major regional and many world powers; proved incompetent or unwilling to communicate with both legitimate and unsavory actors on the ground (rather bizarre, given U.S. negotiations with the Taliban); and, enhanced regional disorder by actively pursuing ground and drone-and-missile militarism in half a dozen Middle Eastern states.

The United States is not the main or only party responsible for wars and chaos in Syria and the Middle East. Every major local and foreign party has a share of the blame for the troubles and traumas that define many shattered quarters of the Arab world. We should criticize the actions of the Syrian government, Iran, Hezbollah, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, various Kurdish groups, the U.K., France, Jordan, Qatar and many others.

"The Third Lebanon War"

Author: Chuck Freilich, Senior Fellow, International Security Program
August 23, 2016

A Hebrew-language version of the op-ed appeared inHaaretz on August 15, 2016. The translation was provided by the author.

Following the recent tenth anniversary of the Second Lebanon War, the media and think tanks have flooded us with contradictory assessments by current and former military leaders. On the one hand, we have heard the all too familiar reassurances from the past, on the other, a simply terrifying picture of what awaits us is.

Those who have chosen to sound the alarm warn that we will be hit in the next war far harder than in 2006. Hezbollah now has approximately 130,000 rockets, dispersed in thousands of sites in heavily populated areas of Lebanon. Tens of thousands rockets will hit Israel each day for a protracted period and will cause severe damage to cities and vital infrastructure sites. The defensive system (Iron Dome, Magic Wand) will provide an only partial shield.

The IDF, we are assured, has learned the lessons of 2006. Its intelligence, offensive and inter-service capabilities have improved immeasurably and the response will be tens of times harder than it was at the time. Thousands of targets will be attacked from the air each day and a broad ground campaign will be conducted to push the short range rockets out of range. The fighting is expected to last a month or more and Lebanon, so we are informed, will suffer unprecedented destruction which will set it back by decades. Thousands of civilians may be killed and Lebanon will become a "country of refugees." In a worrisome throwback to 1982, some even foresee that the Lebanese government will be weakened, Hezbollah will lose control over the country and the resulting void will be filled by Salafists and Jihadis. Others believe that Israel will make do with a more limited objective: restoring the status quo ante, with some improvements.

So much for the public picture.

The Daily Fix: Take American promises on the Nuclear Suppliers Group with heaps of salt

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).Image credit: Reuters

India's ties with the United States took a big step forward this week with the signing of a military logistics agreement, which allows the two sides to share refueling and repair facilities around the world. For India in particular the signing of the agreement, after more than a decade of debate, represented a larger shift in its approach to the US, as equally reflected by the various others agreements signed over the course of the last few days which included the visit of American Secretary of State John Kerry.

Speaking to the Times of India, Kerry claimed that the US will work harder to get India into the Nuclear Suppliers Group – an international network that controls the flow of nuclear fuel around the world. The NSG for a brief period seemed like the linchpin of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's foreign policy efforts. But that bid failed last year after India was unable to push through its application at a plenary meeting in Seoul.

"We want to make it happen before the year end," Kerry said, and the joint statement between the two countries reflected that. But there are serious doubts over whether America has the capability, or even the willingness, to pull its weight in getting India into the nuclear suppliers club.

That was the technique used by former US President George W Bush in 2008, when he made a personal call and managed to get India an NSG waiver, but we are dealing with a different president, a vastly different America and an upcoming US election that will not make things easy for any side.

Russia's Avoiding Its ISIS Problems, Not Solving Them

September 1, 2016

For Russia, ignoring ISIS abroad will eventually have domestic consequences. Vladimir Putin has made Russia a key actor in Syria—and his policies there, which involve using Russia’s military might primarily against Bashar al-Assad’s moderate opposition and not against ISIS, leave Russia exposed to a bigger enemy down the road. And this one’s heading for Moscow, not just Damascus.

Putin is no stranger to dealing with terrorism in Russia. His ascension to the presidency began with an act of terror that claimed over three hundred lives in a series of Moscow apartment bombings in September 1999, setting into the motion Russia’s controversial invasion of Chechnya and Boris Yeltsin’s subsequent resignation. As a result of strong-arm counterterrorism tactics and his flattening of Grozny, Putin replaced Yeltsin as the head of the country.

Chechnya still captures the headlines today. Many Americans recognize the North Caucasus republic as a result of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, orchestrated by the ethnically Chechen Tsarnaev brothers. Akhmed Chatayev,the apparent mastermind behind the recent Istanbul Atatürk Airport terrorist attack, also participated the in the two Russo-Chechen wars of the 1990s. Before traveling to Syria to join ISIS, he spent time in Ukraine and Georgia.

Chatayev’s trajectory of moving away from the Russian homeland is important. Whether due to the rigor of Russian security forces, or the assessment that the Caucasus is currently less fertile ground to wage a war against the state than unstable Syria, Chatayev and other Eurasian fighters traveling south lure Moscow into a false sense of safety. From 2012 to 2013, Russia witnessed a 30 percent drop in terrorist attacks. The following year, as Putin reportedlyopened borders to allow for an exodus of radicals before the Sochi Olympics and ISIS declared a caliphate in the Middle East, attacks decreased by half again.

Human ingenuity has created a world that the mind cannot master. Have we finally reached our limits?

is a Senior Adjunct Fellow of the Silicon Flatirons Center at the University of Colorado. His work has appeared in The New York Times and others. He is the author of The Half-Life of Facts (2012).

Despite the vastness of the sky, airplanes occasionally crash into each other. To avoid these catastrophes, the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) was developed. TCAS alerts pilots to potential hazards, and tells them how to respond by using a series of complicated rules. In fact, this set of rules — developed over decades — is so complex, perhaps only a handful of individuals alive even understand it anymore. When a TCAS is developed, humans are pushed to the sidelines and, instead, simulation is used. If the system responds as expected after a number of test cases, it receives the engineer’s seal of approval and goes into use.

While the problem of avoiding collisions is itself a complex question, the system we’ve built to handle this problem has essentially become too complicated for us to understand, and even experts sometimes react with surprise to its behaviour. This escalating complexity points to a larger phenomenon in modern life. When the systems designed to save our lives are hard to grasp, we have reached a technological threshold that bears examining.

For centuries, humans have been creating ever-more complicated systems, from the machines we live with to the informational systems and laws that keep our global civilisation stitched together. Technology continues its fantastic pace of accelerating complexity — offering efficiencies and benefits that previous generations could not have imagined — but with this increasing sophistication and interconnectedness come complicated and messy effects that we can’t always anticipate. It’s one thing to recognise that technology continues to grow more complex, making the task of the experts who build and maintain our systems more complicated still, but it’s quite another to recognise that many of these systems are actually no longer completely understandable. We now live in a world filled with incomprehensible glitches and bugs. When we find a bug in a video game, it’s intriguing, but when we are surprised by the very infrastructure of our society, that should give us pause.

Brexit And The Baltics – Analysis

By Eriks Selga* 

(FPRI) — The Baltic reaction to the United Kingdom’s referendum on European Union membership strongly aligned with the response of other EU member states. Their opinion is best summed up by Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves’ statement: the decision to leave the EU was a “disappointment,” but one that “will be accepted.” Of course, the decision provoked several serious concerns among Baltic leaders. The status of Baltic citizens in the UK, British cooperation within NATO, and the ramifications for the EU budget, were all urgent questions. Yet, as the dust begins to settle, the damage of the “Leave” vote appears less extensive than initially expected.

The next steps the UK will take are still unclear. While debate continues in the UK about the finality of their decision, most EU states are more concerned with how and when the exit will take place. The Baltics have always supported EU solidarity, and they ranked among the strongest supporters of Britain remaining in the EU. The region has previously supported exceptions to European integration requested by the UK, hoping to maintain EU unity. In an effort to sustain European solidarity, the Baltic stance continues to reflect that of the European Council, which as of its last meeting seeks a maximally “orderly exit” of Britain, and aims to promote close cooperation between the remaining 27 EU states.

Baltic leaders have now shifted their focus to answering more tangible questions. A primary issue is the rights of Baltic citizens in the UK. With over 65,000 Latvians, 115,000 Lithuanians, and 10,000 Estonians residing in the UK, a large proportion of the Baltic populations could be affected by changes enacted in the British migration policy. This question is particularly urgent because a sharp reduction in migration was a key political pillar of the “Leave” campaign. In response, the government of the United Kingdom released a statement on the status of EU nationals in the UK, highlighting that there has been no change to their rights and status as a result of the referendum.

Is North Korean Threat to Hit the USA for Real?

By Radhakrishna Rao
02 Sep , 2016

The mercurial North Korean dictator, Kim Jong -un, seems to have perfected the fine art of threatening the US with a missile strike every now and then. For quite some time now, North Korea, described as “a rogue state” and “hermit kingdom” has been claiming a series of significant breakthroughs in realizing its objective of developing a long range, nuclear capable missile to hit the shores of the US.

But then strategic analysts are of the view that North Korea is still a long way off from building a missile capable of reaching the US. Clearly and apparently, North Korea would need to master a range of advanced technologies before it would be in a position to deploy a long range missile robust enough to hit mainland USA.

However, North Korea appears to have the proven capability of hitting Japan and South Korea with its Scud and Rodong missiles that have demonstrated their striking punch in a series of flight tests carried out over a period of time. North Korea is known to have an arsenal of around 300 Rodong missiles which has an estimated range of 1300-km.

In early August 2016, North Korea once again outraged the international sentiment by carrying out a missile test. According to the US Strategic Command, North Korea fired two presumed Rodong missiles in one go and one of these had exploded mid-way while the other landed into the Sea of Japan within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Tokyo. Japan’s Defence Ministry was quick to claim that the missile landed inside Japan’s EEZ, the 200 nautical mile offshore area where a nation exercises its sovereign rights for the exploration and exploitation of resources. “It imposes a serious threat to Japan’s security and it is an unforgivable act of violence towards Japan’s security,” said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In response to North Korea flexing its “missile muscle,” Japan’s Defence Ministry has ordered it’s military to be on constant alert, ready to intercept North Korean ballistic missiles. Even so, a move by the UN Security Council to condemn North Korea for its latest missile test was thwarted by China. Incidentally, under a UN Security Council resolution, North Korea is not permitted to carry out missile tests.

1970s HEXAGON spy satellite was ‘better than Google Earth’

Thom Patterson
September 1, 2016

1970s spy satellite ‘better than Google Earth’

(CNN) Sorry to break it to you, but Google Earth ain’t all that.
In a pre-digital era more than 30 years before Google Earth, an ultrasecret US satellite program spied on other countries by taking much higher quality photos of the planet’s surface.

The intelligence community called this program Big Bird and Keyhole-9, but its codename was Hexagon.
“These were much better pictures than Google Earth,” Phil Pressel told CNN’s “Declassified.”
Pressel should know. He was a top engineer at Massachusetts-based Perkin-Elmer, designer and builder of Hexagon’s cameras – which played a huge role in protecting the United States during the Cold War.

“I honestly think that the Hexagon program was responsible for preventing World War III,” Pressel said. Hexagon photos allowed US intelligence analysts to conclusively count numbers of Soviet troops, tanks, aircraft and missiles to make sure Moscow wasn’t violating arms control treaties.

The Hexagon program is part of a legacy of American spies in the sky stretching from the 1950s to today, aimed at finding early warning signs about potential threats to the US.

Former Canadian SIGINT Chief Says Canada Needs Offensive Cyber Weapons

Alex Boutilier
September 1, 2016

Former electronic spy chief urges Ottawa to prepare for ‘cyber war’

OTTAWA—The former chief of Canada’s electronic spies is calling on Ottawa to develop an arsenal of cyber weapons — and give defence and intelligence agencies the green light to attack.

“Cyber war” is still in its infancy, John Adams argued in a July paper, but computer viruses could soon cause as much damage to a country as conventional bombs and bullets.

Canada has traditionally — at least officially — focused cyber efforts on defending against espionage and attacks from both hostile states and hackers.

But Adams, the chief of the Communications Security Establishment between 2005 and 2012, is calling on the federal Liberals to rethink that approach and allow Canada to go on the offensive.

“Some people think that cyber war will sooner or later replace kinetic war. More frequently, cyber war is presented as a new kind of war that is cheaper, cleaner and less risky for an attacker than other forms of armed conflict,” Adams wrote in a paper published by the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
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“In either case, the Canadian Armed Forces have a responsibility not only to protect their own systems but they also need to have the authority to direct offensive action … if that is what it takes to blunt an ongoing catastrophic attack on critical infrastructure.”

CYBERCOM wants adversary to know it’s hacked

Mark Pomerlau
September 1, 2016

CYBERCOM wants adversary to know it’s hacked

As Cyber Command is beginning to reach initial operational capability and entering into both defensive and offensive operations around the globe, America’s cyber warriors need cyber tools to conduct their missions. However, unlike the tools used by members of the intelligence community, which seek to operate without being detected, the Defense Department is interested in “louder” tools. 

First reported by FedScoop, Cyber Command’s Executive Director Shawn Turskey said the command desires tools that can be attributed to DoD. 

“In the intelligence community you never want to be caught, you want be low and slow, you never really want to be attributed. There’s a different paradigm from where you are at in the intelligence community,” Tuskey said at a government cybersecurity workshop hosted by the Department of Homeland Security August 30, according to FedScoop reporter Chris Bing. “But there’s another space over here, where maybe you definitely want to be louder, where attribution is important to you and you actually want the adversary to know.” 

An official at Cyber Command, speaking to C4ISRNET on background, said joint force commanders might want their goals or objectives to be known in order to convey a message. Some cyber teams work directly to support the objectives of joint force commanders by providing options in cyberspace in furtherance of these goals. 

CYBERCOM is currently engaged in the global anti-ISIS coalition to help degrade and ultimately destroy the group by disrupting its command and control as well as ability to communicate. As part of the effort, CYBERCOM Commander Adm. Michael Rogers had stood up a specific task force headed by the commander of Army Cyber Command GenEdward Cardon designed specifically at building tools tailored toward ISIS and their capabilities. 



It is 2025. Protests in the ethnic Russian enclave in Riga, Latvia have NATO on edge. Russian units in the Western Military District are on alert conducting snap exercises involving autonomous ground and air attack systems.

The Russian president makes a speech promising to protect ethnic Russians wherever they are with military forces if necessary. In response, a U.S. Army brigade combat team bolstered by intelligence, air defense, and aviation support elements from U.S. Army Europe deploys. Their mission is to reassure Latvian forces, deter Russian aggression, and if necessary conduct a mobile defense.

The task force processes petabytes of unclassified social media posts. Machine learning software agents isolate images of potential Russian covert elements agitating protests, cross referencing cell phone pictures posted on social media with police traffic cameras, and more sensitive collection platforms. U.S. forces provide these images to the Latvians along with a projection of likely Russian activities over the next 48 hours.

The Latvians distribute the images on a cellular alert network that lets concerned citizens turn their cell phones and other personal devices into a civil defense sensor network. This civil defense network acts as a cloud, helping cyber defense apps secure critical infrastructure and conducting predictive models of where possible Russian cross-border insertions might occur based on historical data, weather, terrain, and news reports.

The technology in this future battlefield is already driving a wide range of commercial applications. From Amazon figuring out what book you want to buy next to Google optimizing the ads you see while searching, we live in a world defined by “big data” and artificial intelligence applications that identify patterns in our consumer habits and daily life. These applications have the potential to change the character of warfare. The first nation that adapts accordingly and integrates artificial intelligence across the force will have a generational advantage on the battlefield.

Profile of In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s Shadowy Venture Capital Firm

Damian Paletta
August 31, 2016

The CIA’s Venture-Capital Firm, Like Its Sponsor, Operates in the Shadows

Forterra Systems Inc., a California startup focused on virtual reality, was in need of money and its products didn’t have much commercial appeal. Then funds came in from a source based far from Silicon Valley: In-Q-Tel Inc., a venture-capital firm in Virginia funded by the Central Intelligence Agency.

One catalyst for the 2007 infusion, according to a former Forterra executive and others familiar with it, was a recommendation by a man who sat on the board of the venture-capital firm—and also on the board of Forterra.

In-Q-Tel pumped in cash, Forterra developed some tools useful to the military, and government contracts started coming in.

Like the agency that founded it, the CIA-funded venture-capital firm operates largely in the shadows. In-Q-Tel officials regard the firm as independent, yet it has extremely close ties to the CIA and runs almost all investment decisions by the spy agency. The firm discloses little about how it picks companies to invest in, never says how much, and sometimes doesn’t reveal the investments at all.

Even less well-known are potential conflicts of interest the arrangement entails, as seen in this Forterra example and others continuing to the present. Nearly half of In-Q-Tel’s trustees have a financial connection of one kind or another with a company In-Q-Tel has funded, a Wall Street Journal examination of its investments found.

In-Q-Tel’s hunt for promising technology has led the firm, on at least 17 occasions, to fund businesses that had a financial link of some sort to an In-Q-Tel trustee. In three instances a trustee sat on the board of a company that had an In-Q-Tel investment, as in the Forterra case, according to the Journal’s examination, which was based on a review of investment records and interviews with venture-capital and In-Q-Tel officials, past and present.

"Yes, It's Possible to Hack the Election"

Author: Richard Clarke, Faculty Affiliate, Project on Technology, Security, and Conflict in the Cyber Age
August 19, 2016

After reports of alleged Russian hacking into Democratic Party computer networks, some commentators have suggested that the Russians could hack the results of the U.S. elections. Other analysts have, well before this year’s campaign, suggested that election results in the U.S. could be electronically manipulated, including by our fellow Americans. So could an American election’s outcome be altered by a malicious actor on a computer keyboard?

I have had three jobs that, together, taught me at least one thing: If it’s a computer, it can be hacked. For Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, I served as the White House senior cybersecurity policy adviser. For President Barack Obama, I served on his five-person post–Edward Snowden investigative group on the National Security Agency, intelligence and technology. And for over a decade I have advised American corporations on cybersecurity.

Those experiences confirm my belief that if sophisticated hackers want to get into any computer or electronic device, even one that is not connected to the internet, they can do so.

The U.S., according to media reports, hacked in to the Iranian nuclear centrifuge control system even though the entire system was air-gapped from the internet. The Russians, according to authoritative accounts, hacked into the Pentagon’s SIPRNet, a secret-level system separate from the internet. North Koreans, computer forensics experts have told me, penetrated SWIFT, the international banking exchange system. Iranians allegedly wiped clean all software on over 30,000 devices in the Aramco oil company. The White House, the State Department and your local fast food joint have all been hacked. Need I go on?

How “omnipotent” hackers tied to NSA hid for 14 years—and were found at last


"Equation Group" ran the most advanced hacking operation ever uncovered. 

CANCUN, Mexico — In 2009, one or more prestigious researchers received a CD by mail that contained pictures and other materials from a recent scientific conference they attended in Houston. The scientists didn't know it then, but the disc also delivered a malicious payload developed by a highly advanced hacking operation that had been active since at least 2001. The CD, it seems, was tampered with on its way through the mail.

It wasn't the first time the operators—dubbed the "Equation Group" by researchers from Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab—had secretly intercepted a package in transit, booby-trapped its contents, and sent it to its intended destination. In 2002 or 2003, Equation Group members did something similar with an Oracle database installation CD in order to infect a different target with malware from the group's extensive library. (Kaspersky settled on the name Equation Group because of members' strong affinity for encryption algorithms, advanced obfuscation methods, and sophisticated techniques.)

Kaspersky researchers have documented 500 infections by Equation Group in at least 42 countries, with Iran, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Syria, and Mali topping the list. Because of a self-destruct mechanism built into the malware, the researchers suspect that this is just a tiny percentage of the total; the actual number of victims likely reaches into the tens of thousands.