11 September 2023

Main Afghanistan-Pakistan border crossing closed after guards exchange fire

The main border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan has been closed after security forces from both countries exchanged fire, officials said.

Local residents on the Pakistani side reported the sound of gunfire by the Torkham crossing on Wednesday and said people around the busy border area near the Khyber Pass had fled once the firing started.

There were no reports of casualties, and it was not immediately known why the border guards from the two sides exchanged fire, said Nasrullah Khan, an official in Torkham, a town in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

He said Pakistani government and military officials were in contact with their Afghan counterparts to defuse tensions.

The Torkham border point is the main point of transit for travellers and goods between Pakistan and landlocked Afghanistan.

The crossing has been closed several times in recent years, including a closure in February that saw thousands of trucks laden with goods stranded on each side of the border for days.

How to beat Russia: Here’s what Ukraine is doing right on the battlefield


Winning — or at least the perception of winning — is changing the narrative of many naysayers in the national security sphere who had previously been saying that Ukraine’s counteroffensive had stalled or even failed.

Similarly, the Biden administration appears to be changing course as well. Notably, a senior State Department official told reporters last week that, “It’s very important that Ukraine win this war. And by ‘win,’ I mean as President Biden said, Russians leave all of Ukraine.”

Just like that, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Kyiv to “assess how the counteroffensive is going” and to announce a new package of “U.S. wartime assistance worth more than $1 billion,” words like “winning” have become fashionable again.

Or have they?

In a change of tone, the administration recently supported Ukraine by stating, “President Biden has been clear that any decisions about a negotiated settlement to the war are going to be up to Ukraine and President Zelensky. We have been clear about the principle of ‘nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine’.”

This is all good, but substantive commitments and actions must back up such words. Otherwise, they risk being hollow, narrowly intended merely to placate critics.

Unfortunately, White House actions up to now have pointed in that direction. The Biden administration has been secretly working behind Zelensky’s back with the Kremlin for a political solution “about Ukraine, without Ukraine.” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley foreshadowed this in November 2022 when he said, “When there’s an opportunity to negotiate, when peace can be achieved, seize it.”

China is honing runway-repair teams


The U.S. Air Force has been open about its hunt for more bases and new missile defenses in the Pacific, which reflects the assumption that the region’s scarce runways would be among the first items targeted in a conflict with China. Less is heard about similar efforts by the People’s Liberation Army, which has the very same problem of how to ensure that its own aircraft have places to fly and fight from.

A new report from BluePath Labs reveals how the PLA has been investing heavily in the ability to get its own airfields back up and running following a strike.

Generally, runway repair starts with explosive ordnance disposal. After an enemy attack, any unexploded bombs or missiles on the airfield could be accidentally triggered by subsequent repair operations, which would produce more casualties and set back attempts to restore flight capability. The crucial work of clearing a field is carried out by specialized engineering technical service groups. In exercises, the PLA says, these teams have been able to find and detonate unexploded ordnance in as little as 23 minutes.

The next step is to fill the craters left by the attack. This is typically done by airfield services companies, who start by marking off the affected area, cutting away the edges with a circular saw, breaking up bigger sections with a pneumatic drill, removing the broken pieces, and filling the hole with concrete. The PLA’s adoption of a new kind of quick-drying concrete in 2013 increased the speed at which craters could be filled, with the fastest time for the procedure sitting at 25 minutes and 3 seconds during a competition..

China Issues Ominous Warning for U.S.


China issued an ominous warning to the United States on Tuesday over its support for Taiwan as Beijing continues to claim it as its own territory.

Chinese state-run news outlet Global Times said in an op-ed piece that Taiwanese troops attended U.S. military exercises in Michigan last month, writing: "The Chinese mainland has never promised to renounce the use of force, and this is the Sword of Damocles hanging over the US government and Taiwan authorities."

"The US keeps arming Taiwan by selling a large amount of weapons and equipment to Taiwan and encouraging Taiwan to 'reject reunification with force,' a move that aims to incite tensions across the Straits and will inevitably exacerbate the tension between China and the US which may lead to a conflict," the op-ed said.

The remarks by the Global Times come amid ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China over Taiwan. China believes that Taiwan is its territory, and the U.S. has an "unofficial relationship" with Taiwan while supporting a One China policy. Last month, the Associated Press reported that the U.S. approved a military transfer worth $80 million to Taiwan.

Violence in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian camp wounds at least 20

SIDON: Clashes in a Palestinian refugee camp in south Lebanon have left 20 people wounded, official news agency NNA reported Friday, weeks after a deadly outbreak of violence rocked Ain Al-Helweh.

The fighting late Thursday in the camp, which is located on the outskirts of the coastal city of Sidon, once again pitted members of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement against Islamist militants.

An AFP correspondent in Sidon reported the sound of intermittent automatic weapon fire and rocket launchers emanating from within the camp on Friday morning.

Dozens of families with children fled on Thursday evening from the camp’s northern end where the clashes were concentrated, and some took shelter in a nearby mosque, the correspondent added.

NNA reported “intensive contacts made between Lebanese and Palestinian leaders” in a bid to restore calm.

Ain Al-Helweh is home to more than 54,000 registered refugees. It was created for Palestinians who were driven out or fled during the 1948 war that coincided with Israel’s creation.

Thousands of Palestinians who sought refuge from Syria’s civil war have also joined the camp in recent years.

In the worst outbreak of violence in years, five days of clashes that began in late July left 13 people dead and dozens wounded in Ain Al-Helweh.

Saudi customs seize multimillion-dollar Captagon haul in Batha port

DUBAI: Saudi authorities seized 183,900 Captagon pills found hidden in a car in Batha port, southern Riyadh, that arrived in the Kingdom on Friday.
The pills were seized from the boot of the car, the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority said in a statement on Friday.

The person who was meant to collect the shipment was arrested in cooperation with the General Directorate of Narcotics Control in the country.

The drug haul had an estimated street value of between $1.8 m and $4.6 m, according to research published in the International Addiction Review-Journal, based on assumptions that users pay in the range of $10 - $25 a pill.
Amphetamines are largely used by young men and teenage boys across the Middle East, and the money raised through the sale of all narcotics is usually find their way into organized crime and terrorism.

The G20 showcases India’s growing power. It could also expose the limits of its foreign policy

Dr Chietigj Bajpaee

India’s G20 presidency is the culmination of a year of milestones. The country has become the fourth to land on the moon, surpassed China as the world’s most populous country and overtaken the UK as the world’s fifth-largest economy. In June, Prime Minister Narendra Modi received a red carpet welcome in Washington, DC.

To a degree, India’s G20 presidency can be regarded as a historic moment, announcing its confirmation as a major global power, an event every bit as significant as China’s 2008 Olympics.

But the summit will also serve to illustrate the many challenges India faces in realizing its commitment to ‘strategic autonomy’ in its foreign policy.

The voice of the Global South

New Delhi has attempted to use the G20 to draw attention to domestic policy priorities where it has made (or is seeking to make) strides.

This year’s G20 can be seen as a ‘green summit’ as India promotes several climate policy initiatives including an International Biofuels Alliance, ‘Mission LiFe’ (which advocates the concept of a circular economy) and green hydrogen standards. India is also calling for reforms to multilateral development banks to facilitate green financing.

New Delhi is seeking to leverage progress in the development of India’s digital welfare state

Similarly, New Delhi is seeking to leverage progress in the development of India’s digital welfare state (through such initiatives as the Aadhar card and United Payments Interface) to create a multilateral funding body at the G20 to facilitate digital public infrastructure (DPI). This comes within the context of broader efforts to create smart, sustainable and resilient urban infrastructure.

Ultimately, these initiatives aim to frame India as the preeminent voice of the Global South.

Further to this aim, New Delhi hosted 125 countries earlier this year as part of its Voice of Global South Summit and it is advocating full G20 membership for the African Union (AU).

Nine guest countries have also been invited to the summit, including emerging economies like Egypt and Nigeria and countries in India’s neighbourhood including Bangladesh and Mauritius.

Coalitions of the Week: BRICS, ASEAN, the G20

Willy Wo-Lap Lam

Supreme leader Xi Jinping’s failure to attend the G20 summit in New Delhi this weekend (September 9-10) — thus nullifying the possibility of a meeting with top Western leaders including American counterpart President Joe Biden — is symptomatic of the isolation that China is facing on the international stage. Instead, Xi is sending Premier Li Qiang, not only to New Delhi but also to a series of meetings between Western and Asian powerhouses, including between the United States, Japan, and the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta, Indonesia. ASEAN members seem eager to seize the opportunity to promote free trade and high-tech cooperation with the United States and its Western allies, agreeing this week to inject more funds into projects under the U.S.—ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (InvestASEAN.org, September 7; The White House, September 5). By contrast, China’s recent business ties with ASEAN nations has been dominated by a continuous exodus of multinational corporations moving production bases from China and into countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia.

Xi’s absence has raised eyebrows, particularly due to the fact that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary has pulled out all the stops when it comes to expanding the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) clout on the global stage, even while ignoring worsening socio-economic conditions at home, such as rising youth unemployment, declining exports and consumer spending, and disappointing new home sales. Deemed a crypto-Maoist by China’s critics, the CCP chief remains convinced that, in the words of both Mao and himself, “the East is rising and the West is declining,” conditions which would allow the PRC to seize the geopolitical high ground given “opportunities that only come once in a century” (Gov.cn, June 23 ; Xinhua, March 23).

Another few BRICS in the wall

One of the Xi leadership’s major acts has been to build up a so-called “axis of non-democratic states” to countervail a United States—led “anti-China” coalition, which includes the EU, NATO, AUKUS (the defense pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the QUAD (a “security dialogue” between the United States, India, Japan, and Australia), as well as long-time American allies in Asia, most notably Japan and South Korea (China Brief, July 5). At a trilateral summit between the leaders of the United States, Japan, and South Korea held in August at Camp David near Washington, D.C., President Biden, President Yoon Suk Yeol, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed to strengthen military cooperation, including the joint development of next-stage submarines and missiles. The trio also vowed to defend the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea (The White House, August 18; Aljazeera, August 27).

The recently held summit of the BRICS group of countries in Johannesburg –— which Xi did attend — has apparently boosted Xi’s goal of forming a non-Western alliance to counter the “eastward move” of NATO and other alleged hostile measures aimed at reining in China. However, only six new members — Saudi Arabia, Iran, United Arab Emirate, Egypt, Argentina and Eritrea –— formally joined the bloc, and not the originally planned 20-odd nations (VOAnews, August 24). At the closing ceremony of the Johannesburg get-together, Xi, leader of the most powerful BRICS member, asked rhetorically, “should we work together to maintain peace and stability, or just sleepwalk into the abyss of a new Cold War?” (CGTN, August 23). The supreme leader posited China as the leader of a “new world order” (Council on Foreign Relations, August 31) consisting of nations committed to “win-win” principles. He also made a pitch for the wider use of the Chinese renminbi as a potential substitute of the United States dollar.

However, a couple of major BRICS economies, notably India and the newly-admitted Saudi Arabia, have maintained close defense relationships with the United States, and are dependent on Washington’s supply of advanced weapons and military technology. While Saudi Arabia seems willing to consider billing a portion of their petroleum sales to China in renminbi (Geopoliticaleconomy, August 10; Al-monitor.com, April 28), the dollar remains very much the currency of choice in oil and gas transactions in the Middle East and worldwide.

India has run afoul of the Xi leadership by — among other things — flagging its close ties with the Biden administration. In an interview with Indian media immediately after the BRICS summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi slammed an unnamed country for setting “debt traps” by extending loans to developing countries to finance infrastructure projects that they cannot afford. At the same time, Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal took another step away from China, stating that New Delhi has given up joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Pact (RCEP), the free trade area dominated by the PRC, because doing so would lead to India suffering from trade imbalances (Economic Times, August 28; India Today, August 26).

America’s moves

China’s relations with several of its important neighbors also soured after the publication last week (Guangming Online, August 28) of a new standard PRC map which calls disputed border areas with India, Russia, Japan, and Taiwan “Chinese territory.” Moreover, it has deemed almost the entire South China Sea as Chinese territory, thus angering Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia — ASEAN countries that are also claimants to the disputed territories. This seems to be the Xi leadership’s reaction to both enhanced military cooperation between India, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines, as well as preliminary defense agreements inked between NATO and ASEAN states including the Philippines and Vietnam (French Radio International, September 2; China Daily, August 28).

Regarding United States-China ties, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo’s trip to Beijing produced no concessions on either side in the areas of tariff reduction or Washington’s decision to restrict American investment in “sensitive sectors” in the PRC. Overall, cumulative American investments in China as well as United States -China trade, have continued to drop in the first half of 2023, thus dealing a big blow to Beijing’s hopes for a post-pandemic recovery. Raimondo even quoted individual American firms as saying that China was “uninvestable” (Reuters, August 29; SCMP, September 7; AsiaFinancial.com, September 4). Coinciding with Raimondo’s supposedly fence-mending visit, Washington announced military sales to Taiwan for the first time under the Foreign Military Financing Mechanism. Given that this program is usually reserved for aid to sovereign states, the arms sale amounted to at least a theoretical recognition by Washington that Taiwan is tantamount to an independent country (VOAnews, September 6).

Xi’s blues

Xi, who has only made two foreign visits since the end of the Covid-19 pandemic in late 2022, has largely stayed away from giving direct instructions on how to revive the Chinese economy, or on how to repair China’s economic relationship with the United States-led Western alliance. In a virtual speech to the Global Trade in Services Summit of the 2023 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) held in Beijing earlier this month, Xi reaffirmed Beijing’s commitment to pushing forward a high level of opening up, saying that “China will open wider in sectors including telecommunications, tourism, law and vocational examinations, and widen the market access in the services sector” (China Daily, September 2). He added that “in developing the services sector and trade in services, China will work with all countries and parties to advance inclusive development through openness, promote connectivity and integration through cooperation, foster drivers for development through innovation, and create a better future through shared services” (Xinhua, September 2).

However, the Xi leadership has failed to announce new favorable policies to attract multinationals, which might include selectively lowering taxes for the China-made products of Western companies or rendering it easier for international companies to remit foreign exchange out of the country. Moreover, the decision by the State Statistical Bureau not to release figures on youth unemployment or the sale of new land seems symptomatic of Beijing’s penchant for favoring a diktat economy over market-oriented transparency. And finally, the expected slow-down in economic growth and the heavy-indebtedness of different levels of governments and state-owned enterprises, the CCP administration lacks the funds to finance intercontinental infrastructure projects associated with the Belt and Road Initiative, which have highly lifted the country’s international profile (Council on Foreign Relations, April 6; Green Finance and Development Center, February 3).


Given this series of diplomatic and economic setbacks, Xi’s absence from the G20 summit this weekend is all the more extraordinary. Beijing is forfeiting the initiative at a critical international meeting at a critical time. One might speculate as to Xi’s reasoning: Perhaps fears of more setbacks due to the CCP’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine or domestic political tremors at home — including a rumored upbraiding by party elders during Xi’s Beidaihe retreat earlier in August — are more substantial than they look from a distance. For now at least, it seems clear that even if Xi is delegating responsibilities, he is not sharing his power; though that is looking increasingly like a sign of weakness.

Why Soros Is Retreating From Europe

Paul Hockenos

The announcement by the Open Society Foundations (OSF), the global grant-making network founded by billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros, to sharply curtail European funding has rattled the continent’s civil society communities. Part of a momentous overhaul, the $25 billion-strong philanthropy that the 93-year-old hedge fund tycoon handed over to his son Alexander Soros this year will phase out many of its long-standing European programs and grant-giving activities. In an Aug. 31 internal letter, the younger Soros explained that the OSF was not withdrawing as such from Europe: “In our new operating model, we will be better positioned to allow the robust civil society sector in many EU countries to move forward, as we free resources and personnel to anticipate emerging threats from authoritarians across the region, and indeed, around the world.”

What’s indisputable is that the changes reflect a larger reorientation that will pare down OSF staff from 1,650 a year ago to fewer than half of that. Although it’s unclear how much of the roughly $209 million allocated to Europe annually—about 14 percent of the group’s total $1.5 billion budget—will be affected, the OSF will still have a presence in Europe in Ukraine and the Balkans. The foundation is now in the process of redirecting operations to the global south. The recalibration bears the distinct signature of Alexander Soros and the mark of a private philanthropy that tried very hard to advance democracy in Europe—and didn’t always succeed.

European NGOs on the OSF drip might be screaming, but the retreat had been in the cards for some time. In contrast to its hand in overthrowing communism and getting Central and Eastern Europe’s fledgling democracies on their feet, the OSF’s record on piercing the armor of authoritarian governments such as those today in Russia, Hungary, and Poland is dismal. In fact, although George Soros vehemently denies it, the OSF’s condoning of the West’s 1990s economic prescription for post-communist Central and Eastern Europe—namely free market neoliberalism as part and parcel of liberal democracy—proved fodder for nationalist populist strongmen like Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who rallied the discontented masses against liberalism as such—personified in none other than Soros and the OSF. To its credit, the OSF seems to have taken this hard-learned lesson to heart and hopes that a new formula with social justice at its core will achieve results in the global south—in as much as a private philanthropy, dictated by the whims of family members, can do so at all.

America Is an Empire in Decline. That Doesn’t Mean It Has to Fall.

John Rapley

America likes to think of itself in garlanded terms. The shining city on a hill. The indispensable nation. The land of the free. There’s something to each sobriquet, to be sure. But there’s another phrase, not always so flattering, that also applies to the United States: global empire.

Unlike the other notions, which originated in the birth struggles of the Republic, this one dates to the final stages of World War II. At the famous Bretton Woods Conference, the United States developed an international trading and financial system that functioned in practice as an imperial economy, disproportionately steering the fruits of global growth to the citizens of the West.

Alongside, America created NATO to provide a security umbrella for its allies and organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to forge common policies. Over the second half of the century, this system attained a degree of world domination no previous empire had ever known.

In the past two decades, however, it has sunk into decline. At the turn of the millennium, the Western world accounted for four-fifths of global economic output. Today, that share is down to three-fifths and falling. While Western countries struggle to restore their dynamism, developing countries now have the world’s fastest-growing economies. Through institutions like BRICS and OPEC and encouraged by China, they are converting their growing economic heft into political power.

From this view, it can seem that the United States is following the course of all empires: doomed to decline and eventual fall. America, it’s true, will never again enjoy the degree of global economic and political domination it exercised in the decades after the war. But it can, with the right choices, look forward to a future in which it remains the world’s pre-eminent nation.

At least three killed in attack blamed on separatist rebels

At least three people were killed in an attack blamed on separatist rebels in Cameroon's southwest on Thursday. Witnesses said armed militants stopped cars, shot at passengers and set vehicles on fire early on Thursday.

Two victims died when their car was set ablaze while a third was shot.

Curious residents gathered around the remains of a charred car in the village of Muea, in the South West region, on Thursday as two men pulled out a body wrapped in a blanket.

Separatists in minority English-speaking parts of Cameroon have been fighting to carve out an independent state called Ambazonia since 2017. They carry out attacks, kidnappings and killings in the North West and South West regions.

The attack took place just days after schools reopened from a long holiday.

Insurgents began fighting the Cameroonian military in 2017 after civilian protests calling for greater representation for the Francophone country's English-speaking minority were violently repressed.

Over half of Sudan's population can't access health services - WHO

More than half of Sudan's population has no access to health services, the World Health Organisation said Wednesday, as fighting in the country has led to the destruction of facilities and forced some to close.

Preventable deaths resulting from a lack of care and treatment were also rising, the head of the WHO said.

“First to Sudan, where the humanitarian situation is continuing to deteriorate. About 65 percent of the population has no access to health services and more than 70 percent of health facilities in conflict areas are not functioning. The implications are horrific. Every day, nine patients with renal dialysis die, and renal dialysis centres in four states have closed due to lack of supplies. In addition to supporting 11 hospitals, WHO is now rolling out 12 mobile health clinics to provide live-saving and essential health services to people with no access,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO).

Tedros also decried attacks on health facilities. He said the agency has documented 56 attacks on health centres.

Since April, Sudan has been in the grip of clashes between the regular army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which have left more than 3,000 civilians dead and thousands injured, according to local health authorities.

America has issues — but it’s not an empire in decline like Rome

Rich Lowry

An op-ed in The New York Times warns, as the headline puts it, “America is an empire in decline” and finds a precedent in imperial Rome.

The piece, written by the co-author of a new book, “Why Empires Fall: Rome, America, and the Future of the West,” shows that the cottage industry in comparisons between the United States and Rome is as robust as ever.

It is an irresistible temptation to superimpose the history of Rome and especially its decline and fall — an enduring subject of fascination — on our own experience and future.

Both conservatives and progressives are prone to their own versions of this narrative, tending to emphasize either moral decline or imperial overstretch respectively.

But the most important thing to know about us and our supposed imperial forebear is that we aren’t Rome and aren’t experiencing any of the most direct, spectacular causes of its fall.

It’s become fashionable among some scholars to argue there was no fall.

There were no barbarian invasions. There was no material decline. Nothing to see here — simply evolutionary change.

It is true that Rome’s fall — a long, messy process — didn’t unfold with the pleasing cinematic simplicity the popular imagination might believe; the extent of the barbarian population transfers have been exaggerated; and the eastern half of the empire lived on for another 1,000 years.

China’s Economic Slowdown Will Not Stop the CCP Anytime Soon

Wilson Y. Wen

Since the demise of Chairman Mao Zedong, the Chinese state has embraced drastic changes in its priorities. The Communist Party’s efforts toward market-oriented economic reform represent a change of the party-state’s priority from political to economic leadership. After the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989, paramount leader Deng Xiaoping sent an unambiguous message to the Chinese public, denying the possibility of political reform while keeping the doors open for economic growth. This is widely considered the political bargain structuring relations between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese people. In other words, the CCP has premised its political legitimacy on its ability to generate economic growth.

However, this understanding of the party-state’s decision to reform misrepresents the CCP’s fundamental objectives. The party’s ruling legitimacy does not depend on China’s economic advancement. Instead, the fundamental aim of the CCP behind the reforms was to ensure its own security. Logically, should economic reform become an obstacle rather than a solution to the CCP’s political monopoly, the CCP will quickly jettison economic liberalization. In some cases, it already has.

Recovering from the economic catastrophe caused by the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping struggled to lead China forward. While Deng is widely credited for China’s economic boom, the idea of market reform did not originate with him. In 1978, eighteen peasants from Xiaogang village in China’s Anhui province signed a secret agreement to privatize communally owned land for household farming. Notably, this reform attempt was bottom-up, not top-down. It was not until after observing the success of this ground-breaking private experiment that the Central Committee of the CCP officially approved the Household Responsibility System (HRS) in 1980 and incorporated it into the 1982 Constitution, which effectively reprivatized rural land ownership.

Examining Deng’s words, it is not difficult to notice his confused idea of his policies. When Deng famously described his policies as akin to “Cross[ing] the river by feeling the stones,” he effectively denied the supposedly scientific doctrine of Marxist-Leninism. Further, even after the unprecedented wave of privatization in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the leading principle for China’s reform is illustrated as “grasping the large, letting go of the small.” Privatization may be allowed but only in areas of lesser importance to the national economy. The dominant sectors of the Chinese economy must remain state-owned.

US Deterrence against China Is Not Working

Dan Patt & Bryan Clark

For more than three decades, the U.S. military’s global preeminence has been the rock on which U.S. strategy and security policy are built. But technology diffusion, growing global challenges, and antiquated force design have eroded the United States’ military edge against China, which could exploit its geographical proximity and advancing capabilities to win a regional war against Taiwan. Without the certainty of continued military dominance that, until now, gave Washington the ability to simply deny and suppress aggression in East Asia, U.S. leaders seeking conventional deterrence will need to devise a different strategy.

Despite the rhetoric in parts of Washington, war with China is not imminent, and an invasion of Taiwan carries many risks for the Chinese Communist Party as it faces mounting economic, demographic, and diplomatic challenges. To make an invasion unattractive for Beijing, the U.S. military may merely need to raise China’s perception that any conflict would be drawn out and exceedingly costly. Instead of optimizing the U.S. military for an invasion that may never come, Washington should therefore mount a long-term campaign that undermines Beijing’s confidence in a range of violent paths to realizing its ambitions in Taiwan and the region. This campaign should involve military and nonmilitary means that seek to steer China toward more responsible and peaceful paths to its foreign-policy goals.

Proponents of an unchanged strategy of deterrence through denial argue the best way to deter Beijing is to make an invasion of Taiwan infeasible by massing sufficient strike capability in the region to convince Chinese President Xi Jinping that an attack would fail. With China now operating the world’s largest navy, army, rocket force, civilian fleet, and industrial base (which builds new ships and missiles at more than twice the U.S. pace), this plan has become simply unrealistic over the long term. Furthermore, some scenarios—such as a Chinese blockade, quarantine, or operation against Taiwan’s smaller islands—may prove impossible to completely deny.

China must act to avoid debt-deflation spiral

Shang-jin Wei

The Chinese economy is underperforming relative to its growth potential. Not only are investment and consumption demand weaker than hoped, but the country is facing the challenge of two Ds: deflation and debt. While consumer-price inflation is close to negative territory, producer-price inflation has already been negative for a year. At the same time, the private and public sectors have accumulated massive debts, owing to higher spending during the pandemic and the broader response to the easy money conditions of previous years.

The two Ds are a toxic combination. By increasing the real (inflation-adjusted) value of existing debt, deflation makes it harder for firms to secure additional financing, thereby raising the prospect of bankruptcies – a trend that is already discernible in China. Moreover, once the combination of debt and deflation becomes entrenched, it can generate a vicious cycle whereby lower demand leads to lower investment, lower output, lower income and, thus, even lower demand.

This dangerous spiral has two implications for policymaking. To prevent deflationary expectations from becoming entrenched, increasing the inflation rate through aggregate demand stimulus becomes an urgent necessity. But relying solely on more public or private borrowing is best avoided in favour of aggressive monetary easing – including the monetization of debt (meaning the central bank purchases and holds government bonds).

To be sure, Chinese authorities have pursued a variety of policies to boost the economy, including reducing mortgage interest rates, rescinding restrictions on real estate firms’ access to funding, and implementing measures aimed at boosting domestic stock prices (with the hope that this will raise consumer spending). But these responses, so far, have not achieved the desired outcome.

Joe Biden's Chances of Pulling Out of 2024 Race


Joe Biden is more than likely to be the Democratic candidate for the 2024 election as the president dismisses suggestions that he could pull out of the race, bookmakers have said.

Biden has frequently hit back at those who say he should not run for president again next year, as numerous polls suggest Democratic voters are concerned about the age of the 80-year-old incumbent, as well as his far from ideal approval ratings.

On Sunday, Franklin Foer, the author of The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future, told NBC News' Meet the Press that it "wouldn't be a total shock" if Biden drops out of the presidential race by the end of the year.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a member of the Kennedy family dynasty, is the only serious Democratic primary challenger but way behind in the polls to Biden. With no other potential candidates such as Vice President Kamala Harris or California Governor Gavin Newsom willing to throw their hat into the ring, the 2024 nomination is sure to be Biden's if he remains in the race as expected.

According to Betfair, Biden is 1/2 odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination, with Newsom—who confirmed in November 2022 that he will not run and is backing Biden to win in 2024—in second place at 17/2.

"Joe Biden remains the clear odds-on favorite at 1/2 to be the Democratic nominee for the 2024 election, despite his biographer claiming it wouldn't be a 'shock' if he pulled out of the race by the end of the year," Betfair spokesman Sam Rosbottom told Newsweek.

Ukraine counteroffensive analysis: West needs to help Kyiv ‘outrange’ Russians, protect own artillery


BELFAST — A leading UK defense think tank has recommended international partners start investing more resources now, especially with thoughtful artillery support, to support Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russia this winter and into 2024, while criticizing them for failing to “address identified requirements with sufficient alacrity” previously.

The recommendation features in a report published on Monday from London’s Royal United Services Institute and looks at a case study of warfighting trends and tactical decisions taken over a two week period during fighting in the villages of Novodarivka and Rivnopil, straddling the borders of Donetsk and the Zaporizhzhia oblast.

Based around the idea of offensive successes depending on “fires dominance,” the report argues that Ukraine requires “properly resourcing ammunition production and spares for a consolidated artillery park” if it is to sustain such dominance. An artillery park is widely considered a large encampment housing field artillery from guns to ammunition and spare parts.

The new analysis calls on international partners to “ensure” the proposed artillery park is developed, while also working to cut down an existing supply of 17 artillery systems, operated by Ukraine, to focus on “maintaining a more limited range of guns at greater scale.”

Should that target not be achieved, the document warns “preconditions” for Kyiv to make progress in 2024 will be undermined.

Biden Is Losing the High-Tech War with China

Arthur Herman

It’s becoming all too clear that the Biden administration doesn’t understand the threat China poses to America and the free world, or how to deal with it.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order on August 9 purporting to ban U.S. companies from investing in certain advanced technologies in China. But at the same time the administration was trying to look tough on Beijing regarding AI and advanced semiconductors, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo was flying to Beijing to stress how “profoundly important” a “stable economic relationship” with China is, tech bans notwithstanding. She’s just the latest in a long line of administration officials sent to kowtow to President Xi Jinping and his cohorts (in Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s case, almost literally kowtowing in body as well as spirit), in hopes that if we look fawning and acquiescent enough Beijing will behave itself on the international stage—at least until the 2024 election.

But perhaps there’s no contradiction here. A closer look reveals that the August 9 executive order, far from getting tough with China and its U.S.-based financial enablers, barely interrupts the U.S.-China high-tech nexus that feeds China’s global ambitions at America’s—and freedom’s—expense.

Of course, everyone, even Biden, understands that China is steadily overtaking us in the development and deployment of technologies that will dominate the future like AI, quantum, 5G telecommunications, and supercomputers.

Inside Elon Musk's Struggle for the Future of AI

Walter Isaacson

At a conference in 2012, Elon Musk met Demis Hassabis, the video-game designer and artificial--intelligence researcher who had co-founded a company named DeepMind that sought to design computers that could learn how to think like humans.

“Elon and I hit it off right away, and I went to visit him at his rocket factory,” Hassabis says. While sitting in the canteen overlooking the assembly lines, Musk explained that his reason for building rockets that could go to Mars was that it might be a way to preserve human consciousness in the event of a world war, asteroid strike, or civilization collapse. Hassabis told him to add another potential threat to the list: artificial intelligence. Machines could become super intelligent and surpass us mere mortals, -perhaps even decide to dispose of us.

Musk paused silently for almost a minute as he processed this possibility. He decided that Hassabis might be right about the danger of AI, and promptly invested $5 million in DeepMind as a way to monitor what it was doing.

A few weeks after this conversation with Hassabis, Musk described DeepMind to Google’s Larry Page. They had known each other for more than a decade, and Musk often stayed at Page’s Palo Alto, Calif., house. The potential dangers of artificial intelligence became a topic that Musk would raise, almost obsessively, during their late-night conversations. Page was dismissive.

Meet the sustainability champions of Visakhapatnam inspiring a greener future


Born out of the need to provide marketing support to organic produce, Mana Manyam Producer Company (MMPC) works in collaboration with 120 organic farmers from the North coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh. Under the leadership of five organic farmers, MMPC opened its first store in November 2022 under its brand Avani Organics at Rythu Bazaar, MVP Colony. From cold pressed oils, pulses, grains, organically-grown vegetables and sustainable products, the store promotes the concept of living close to Nature, while bridging the gap between the customers and organic farmers. Today, MMPC has three more stores in different parts of Visakhapatnam. Usha Raju, one of the directors of MMPC, had been working with farmers across the region for the past 10 years, helping them shift to organic farming and defying the popular belief that chemical fertilisers guarantee better yields.

After a decade of working with the farmers, MMPC started a pilot project with the brand Avani Organics, which was supported by the Andhra Pradesh Agri Marketing Department and Rythu Sadhikara Samstha. “Before every crop season, we discuss our requirement with farmers and get the crop sown. Seeds and organic fertilisers/bio-pesticides are provided by MMPC as per the farmer’s needs. Continuous monitoring of the crop is done by the team, which includes timely feedback and training to farmers to control any kind of damage to the crop,” says Usha. At the time of harvest, crops are collected from the farmers where digital payments are made. Harvested crop is then sent to the processing centre for sorting, grading and packaging. Produce is then distributed to company-owned retail stores from the collection centre. Apart from an app which helps people get the products home-delivered, the company also runs a weekly subscription-based door delivery of fresh vegetables.

Aira Organics and Crafts House

From naturally-dyed clothes, handmade coconut shell cups and cutlery to wooden natural lacquered toys, organic food products and crafts from various art clusters of India, Aira Organics and Crafts House is the newest store in the city of all things sustainable. Located at MVP Colony, Aira is a venture of Sankalpa Art Village. Here, manjista roots, myrobalan nuts, jaggery, fenugreek seeds, rusted nails, turmeric and pomegranate peels turn into natural colouring agents.

Aira also plans to organise workshops on natural dyeing and slow living to help people transition into zero-waste lifestyle. On September 9, it will be hosting its first workshop at the store. “We are presently working with artisan clusters of Odisha that make the paralakhemundi horn toys and bamboo baskets and West Bengal’s clay painting artists. We plan to feature crafts that are unique to the remote clusters of India,” says Jameelya Akula of Aira Organics.

Grow Native

“Living a mindful life entails growing your own food, adopting a healthy and simple lifestyle and working towards better mental health,” says Anish Madeti, founder of Grow Native. He adds: “The logic behind Grow Native is straightforward. We want to bring about awareness on being mindful about consumption.” A postgraduate in Rural Management, Anish worked in the field of micro-finance and livelihoods across the country and went on to pursue courses in agro-ecology and permaculture. Rooted in his belief of promoting the concept of mindful consumption and sustainability, he began his entrepreneurial journey in March this year with Grow Native, a store located in Murli Nagar. From zero waste home care essentials and accessories, coir and palm products from Kerala, grass baskets from Uttar Pradesh, Anantapur’s leather art lamps to bio-enzyme products, reusable sanitary pads, compost bins and native seeds, Grow Native has products that support sustainability. Anish has also been conducting workshops in schools and colleges to spread awareness on waste segregation and mindful consumption.


Stepping into Adrish takes one on a nostalgia trip to an era when simplicity ruled. Rows of glass jars stacked in racks, wooden toys reminiscent of the 80s and 90s, earthen vessels, copper ware and a vibe that promotes a zero-waste lifestyle. Adrish was started by Akshay Agarwal and Gajendra Chowdhary with its first store in Pune in 2018 and has today spread across India with its franchise model. In Visakhapatnam, the first store was launched in April this year at Murli Nagar. “I was passionate about bringing into practice what I always believed in - sustainable living. Cautious buying, mindful consumption and choosing healthy options were always on my mind. The philosophy of Adrish appealed to me and I decided to take up the venture,” says Pramila Deepthi, the franchise owner of the Visakhapatnam store.

Adrish discourages the use of plastics at the primary level. It follows a zero-waste buying experience where products are not stored or sold in plastic. Customers need to bring their own bags or containers to purchase goods; and if one forgets to carry a bag, the store will provide one. The store sources organic products from 8,000 farmers across India, who follow slow process production practices.

What is geospatial intelligence? A geographer explains the powerful melding of maps and data

Darren Ruddell

With record-breaking temperatures across the South, smoke from Canadian wildfires across the North, historic flooding in the Northeast and a powerful hurricane in the Southeast, the summer of 2023 has presented a range of threats to the safety of the majority of Americans. The good news, through all of this: Geospatial intelligence has offered valuable insights to help governments and organizations protect communities.

Geospatial intelligence is the collection and integration of data from a network of technologies, including satellites, mobile sensors, ground-control stations and aerial images. The data is used to produce real-time maps and simulations to help identify when, where and to what extent a threat is likely to emerge. Government officials, individuals or both can use this information to make informed decisions.

Disasters sudden and slow

One long-standing contribution of geospatial intelligence is in emergency preparedness and response. For example, the National Hurricane Center actively monitors the location, formation and trajectory of tropical cyclones. Detailed information on the timing, location and strength of a given hurricane helps officials distribute resources and personnel, as well as issue storm warnings and evacuation orders.

Geospatial intelligence also provides valuable guidance for search-and-rescue and recovery efforts following a disaster. For example, in the immediate aftermath of the February 2023 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria, maps and aerial images quickly identified the extent of damage and the populations affected. In addition, they helped first responders locate access points in the transportation network to rescue survivors, set up aid stations and provide emergency supplies.

CISA plans new 'secure-by-design' guidance


The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is set to release new guidance aimed at bolstering national cybersecurity — including updated best practices for software providers to build secure-by-design products — and a public service awareness campaign to promote cyber preparedness across the country.

CISA Director Jen Easterly said the nation’s cyber defense agency will be launching a public service awareness campaign later this month to help foster a cybersecurity-conscious culture and amplify best practices that everyday technology users and ordinary citizens can employ to safeguard their digital assets. “We hope to really get the nation energized about how we can keep ourselves safe,” Easterly said on Wednesday at the Billington Cybersecurity Summit in Washington, D.C. She added that the awareness campaign will include “simple steps” and actionable measures that users can take to better protect themselves from digital intrusions and emerging cyber threats.

The agency is also expected to release an updated white paper as early as next month that builds off of its initial report on shifting the balance of cybersecurity risks from end users to software providers, Easterly said. The first version of the white paper, published in April, featured software product security principles and approaches to help technology providers build products that are resilient against exploitation techniques and protect users against prevalent and emerging vulnerabilities.

“It’s all about changing the incentives so that technology companies are bearing the burden, not the user,” Easterly said.

Russia Warns 'All-Out War' with US Could Erupt Over Worsening Cyber Clashes


Escalating tensions between the United States and Russia in cyberspace threaten to spark a real-life clash between the nuclear-armed powers, Moscow's top cybersecurity diplomat has told Newsweek.

At a time when Washington has regularly accused Moscow of using cyber tools—referred to in Russia as information and communication technologies (ICTs)—to pursue illicit aims, Artur Lyukmanov, who serves as both director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's International Information Security Department and special representative to President Vladimir Putin on international cooperation on information security, pointed to a "lack of hard evidence" to substantiate such allegations.

Rather, he told Newsweek, "the U.S. builds up offensive ICT-capabilities, conducts 'hunt-forward' operations against Russia" and "employs its clients abroad."

Among those Lyukmanov accused of being involved in such initiatives were the "IT Army of Ukraine" that claims to be a volunteer outfit created at the start of Russia's war in Ukraine more than a year and a half ago, and other NATO nations hosting "cyber laboratories" in Eastern Europe.

Lyukmanov cited the National Cybersecurity Strategy released in March by President Joe Biden's administration, which allowed for U.S. entities to "punish those that engage in disruptive, destructive, or destabilizing malicious cyber activity." The senior Russian official further alleged that U.S. official and corporate entities were "involved in preparations for 'cognitive warfare,'" and warned "such an escalatory path adds higher risks of confrontation."

NSA ‘recently completed’ AI strategic study


The National Security Agency just finished a strategic study on using artificial intelligence and machine learning for its missions, its director said Tuesday.

Without giving much detail, Gen. Paul Nakasone said his agency recently completed a “roadmap for AI/ML,” exploring questions such as how generative AI and machine learning will be used for missions and how it may affect NSA workers.

“We use artificial intelligence primarily within our signals intelligence mission…I would look at it differently for our cybersecurity mission,” and business functions, Nakasone said at the Billington Cybersecurity Summit in Washington, D.C.

Cyber Command, which Nakasone also leads, also has a five-year AI plan, which contemplates how to use the technology “in the realm of cyberspace operations.”

The NSA director spent much of his keynote interview looking back at how cybersecurity threats have changed since he took office in 2018, when the focus was election security.

“We've seen supply chain, we've seen zero days, we've seen ransomware. We've seen a number of different actors that have changed and who provided an inflection point for all of us to say…‘this is a national security issue, we've got to think differently,’” Nakasone said. In short, he said: “Cyber security is national security.”