9 March 2013

No Time for Turf Wars

09 Mar , 2013 

Nothing could have painted a clearer security picture of our neighbourhood than three prominent news items on the same day in one national daily .Osama plotted to nuke US with AQ help, India surrounded by failed states and in Tripura militancy is a cottage industry. If these were not enough food for thought for our security planners one more was added: IAF in dogfight with Army over helicopters. 

Differences within the armed forces, especially in relation to respective roles and missions, should theoretically have been silenced after Kargil. 

The irony is stark. Sitting in a dangerous security environment with the probable mix of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, our armed forces have the luxury to indulge in their own turf battles, our defence ministry humours them and our legislature has no grander horizon than scoring partisan debating points. 

Differences within the armed forces, especially in relation to respective roles and missions, should theoretically have been silenced after Kargil. This has not happened because there is neither continuity in our national security policy making nor any legislative authority directing the framework within which the three services must function. Not surprisingly, one of the most crucial recommendations of the group of ministers, pertaining to appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff, still remains unimplemented due to lack of political will. 

Army aviation is as good a subject as any to understand the dynamics of interservice turf battles. The army’s justification for aerial platforms originated with the need to improve the accuracy of their long-range artillery fire. Hence the need to put artillery officers on elevated platforms. Initially, their officers flying Indian Air Force helicopters achieved this operational need. Soon the desire to own the helicopters gained ground and in the mid-eighties, the army won the battle with the IAF and the Air Observation Post helicopters were transferred to them. 

Having got its own air arm, the army continued encroaching into IAF mission areas of communication, casualty evacuation, tactical reconnaissance, attack and so on, even as modern technology had rendered the old concept of artillery observation obsolete. The Kargil review committee report brought out that the army was carrying out tactical reconnaissance from helicopters with hand-held cameras. The KRC is silent on why the army chose this archaic method instead of asking the IAF, whose legitimate responsibility this was. So while state-of-the-art reconnaissance capability was idling at IAF bases, it was shepherds who alerted the army. This rivalry resulted in a war costing us some five hundred lives. 

The War’s Old-New Theatre

By S.N.M. Abdi 

Belly bomb The CRPF jawan in whose stomach explosives were planted jharkhand: maoist insurgency

Jharkhand overtakes Chhattisgarh as Maoists ratchet up their strikes here.

A State Of Unrest

Of 409 Maoist killings in 2012 (296 civilians, 113 securitymen), Jharkhand accounted for 160
This was way above 107 in Chhattisgarh, 45 in Orissa, 43 in Bihar, 41 in Maharashtra or 13 in AP 

Not just mainline CPI (Maoist) but splinter groups are in overdrive

Proximity to other Maoist-affected states, tribal exploitation, political instability make the state fertile ground for Maoist recruitment and activity. 

No sooner had the Union home ministry identified Jharkhand as the state worst affected by left-wing extremism in 2012 than Maoists gunned down 11 policemen in the Katiya forest of Latehar district. It was almost as if the January 7 massacre of 10 CRPF and one Jharkhand Jaguar jawan was expressly meant to underscore the government’s admission of the sharp ascendancy in the trajectory of Maoist violence in the mineral-rich state. 

The clouds of war—civil war to be precise—indeed hang low over Jhar–khand. One needn’t venture deep into the countryside; the siege within is evident virtually at the doorsteps of urban zones like Ranchi, Dhanbad, Jam­sh­ed­pur, Daltonganj, Chaibasa, Gomoh and Giridih. On a road journey through these areas, Outlook witnessed surreal scenes straight out of a war movie: searchlights revolving menacingly atop fortified CRPF camps; monstrously ugly mine-protected vehicles or MPVs, desig­ned to coolly withstand a 21-kilo (TNT) blast; sniffer dogs straining at the leash; helicopters ready for takeoff at the bark of a command, and boots pounding the ground like there’s no tomorrow. 

Indeed, Jharkhand witnessed more killings by Maoists last year than even Chhattisgarh, whose forested Bastar region is regarded as the epicentre of left-wing extremism in India. Out of 409 Maoist killings in 2012 (296 civilian and 113 security personnel), Jharkhand accounted for as many as 160; ahead of Chhatti­sgarh (107), Orissa (45), Bihar (43), Maharashtra (41) and And­hra Pra­desh (13) by a huge margin. 

It’s our fight as much as Sheikh Hasina’s

Hiranmay Karlekar 

India must ensure that Islamist bodies active in West Bengal and Assam are unable to help the Jamaat and its affiliates in Bangladesh with weapons and money. Democracy there needs to be defended 

The gameplan behind the spate of violence unleashed by the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party is simple: Create civil war-like conditions, get their entrenched supporters within the Army, paramilitary forces and the police side with them, and overthrow the Awami League-led democratic Government; or at least force it to call off the trial of Jamaat leaders charged with crimes like mass murder and rape during the Liberation War of 1971. 

As early as February 4, the day before the International Crimes Tribunal-2 sentenced Jamaat’s Assistant Secretary General Abdul Quader Mollah to life imprisonment for perpetrating crimes against humanity during Bangladesh’s liberation war in 1971, Jamaat’s acting secretary general Rafiqul Islam Khan, had said in a Press release announcing a Bangladesh-wide indefinite hartal protesting against the judgement to be delivered, “Don’t push the country into a civil war by delivering one-sided verdicts against our leaders. If anything happens against Quader Mollah, every house will be on fire.” 

The Jamaat, its students’ organisation, the Islami Chhatra Shibir (Islamist Students’ Camp), and terrorist organisations like Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh and Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh, which are umbilically linked to it, had assiduously infiltrated the defence and paramilitary forces during the tenure of the country’s military dictatorships and the BNP-led Governments. Sheikh Hasina did some cleaning-up job, particularly after the revolt by a section of foot soldiers and non-commissioned officers of the paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles (rechristened as Border Guards Bangladesh) in February 2009. Known supporters of the Jamaat and fundamentalist Islamist parties and terrorist organisations, like Brigadier-General Abdullahil Aman Azmi, arch war criminal Golam Azam’s son, have been dismissed. But not all could be identified and rooted out. The presence of young Jamaat supporters in these formations is said to be sizeable, though no one knows its precise strength. 

The Jamaat is not alone. It is a part of an eight-party alliance whose other constituents are Jomiyat-e Ulama-e-Islam, Khelafat-e-Islami, Faraezi Andolon, Ulama Committee, Khelafat Majlish, Nejami Islami and Islami Oikya Jote. Its seven allies are minuscule entities, the Jamaat itself does not have much of a popular following. It is, however, a tightly organised, cadre-based party with a trained militant arm attuned to violence. It, the Shibir and the spawns of both — terrorist organisations like HUJIB, JMB and the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh — had unleashed a ruthless campaign of murder and intimidation against not only Awami League and its leaders and front organisations but also Bangladesh’s civil society and intelligentsia, during the second coalition Government led by the BNP under Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. 

Indian pivot towards Asia-Pacific

By D. Suba Chandran
 
From Look East to Indo-Pacific

India has been looking towards the east since the 1990s. Now, there is a renewed emphasis on this in India owing to recent developments in Southeast Asia along with growing international interest in the Asia Pacific. In the changing context, how far should India look east? Should it look only towards Southeast Asia, or extend up to East Asia and Australia as well? Does the renewed international interest in this region demand an Indian pivot towards Southeast Asia and East Asia? Should India redefine this region as Indo-Pacific and pursue its interests accordingly?

The US has already taken the lead on the two above crucial aspects—in terms of its return to the Asia-Pacific along with its new strategies—the pivot and rebalancing. More importantly, Washington’s emphasis is on redefining the region starting from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific as Indo-Pacific. From an Indian perspective, it will be imperative to expand the focus from “looking east” to “Indo-Pacific” for the following reasons. First, in terms of international interests, this region is likely to become strategic, especially as the US and the International Security Assitance Force are winding up their operations in Afghanistan. The Indo-Pacific is becoming the next international theatre and is likely to witness a substantial attention, investment and development. Recent happenings already hint this shift, with tensions building in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. North Korea’s nuclear tests and Japan’s likely political direction in the next few years will substantially shape global interests in this region.

Second, in economic terms, given the presence of organisations and structures such as ASEAN, the ARF and the EAS, this region will become the global economic power-house. With the economic crises in the US and the EU, the strength of these organizations and the trade potential will make this region as the driver of the global economic architecture. 

Third, the maritime expanse of this region along with the oceanic trading routes cutting across the Indian Ocean and the Pacific has already made the Indo-Pacific perhaps even more important than the European Union. In the next decade, the sheer volume of trade and movement of goods across these two oceans will also increase the vulnerability of this region. The imperative to protect the sea-lanes across the two oceans and the need to secure maritime traffic will make not only the Malacca Straits but also the entire Indo-Pacific the most important area.

Fourth, the rise of China — peaceful or otherwise — will be felt more acutely in this region, starting from East Asia to South Asia. In fact, the pangs of China’s rise are being already felt both in East Asia and Southeast Asia in two maritime disputes involving Japan (East China Sea), Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan (in the South China Sea). The recent developments within ASEAN, especially its failure to arrive at a code of conduct, and Cambodia’s role in playing spoilsport highlight the growing Chinese influence and Beijing’s ability to manipulate the regional consensus. As the region gets integrated with China more, the ability of Beijing to influence the political outcomes in Southeast Asia will become substantial; Currently, China is building a north-south rail network and a road network linking its Sichuan and Yunnan provinces to Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Singapore. Once these two projects are finalised, along with Mekong which China shares with Southeast Asia, the economies of ASEAN and China will be even more integrated, giving more political space to Beijing to manoeuvre.

Why the World Bank is wrong



March 9, 2013

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler” — Albert Einstein 

The World Bank has been pressing for the removal of restrictions on Floor Space Index (or at least their considerable relaxation) in the inner parts of Mumbai and Bangalore. The thinking that leads to this recommendation is based on a mathematical model. This particular model, unfortunately, is oversimplified and neglects important relevant parameters. If you take these into account, the recommendation could be, quite possibly, more damaging than helpful. 

Assumptions 

Called the monocentric-city model, this assumes the city is inhabited by a number of identical residents, each earning the same income, and who all work in the central business district (CBD). The inhabitants commute from their residences to the CBD on a dense radial road network, paying a certain amount per round-trip mile (including the cost of travel time). An implicit assumption is that commuting is by car, not by public transport that might lead to some preferred travel routes, and not by walking which incurs no explicit travel cost. Further, each resident is assumed to be a renter, paying a certain amount per square foot of housing, and occupying a certain amount of square feet of housing. The price naturally falls with distance from the CBD, and the housing area occupied increases. 

The mathematical formulation then moves through various complexities to the consideration of FSI, and what happens when FSI is restricted (as it is in most cities). The FSI restriction tends to limit population density in the central part of the city; and so causes the city to spread out. 

Studying the condition of the new resident as the city grows, the model suggests that if FSI restrictions in the inner city are removed, this accommodates more people closer to the centre and so their commuting times are reduced. This is claimed to result in a welfare gain for them, which is measured in terms of their reduced commuting costs. So the claim is that lifting FSI restrictions brings about an overall welfare gain. 

The first indication that something is flawed in the argument comes from consideration of where the limit lies if we allow unlimited densification. Every increment in density will result in still more saving for commuters. As the model stands, there is no limit to the saving possible, until commuting cost is reduced to zero. We are obviously missing something. There has to be a constraining parameter that would put a cap, sooner or later, on how small the city can get while being both efficient and attractive. 

World Bank bans L&T for forgery



 March 9, 2013 

L&T Selectra-LX-Diagnostic ultrasound scanner 
Castigates the company for fraudulent practices in winning an aided project in Tamil Nadu 

The World Bank has barred Larsen & Toubro (L&T) from doing any business with it or the projects funded by it for six months, after finding that a senior executive of the conglomerate has indulged in fraud. 

The debarment will continue till September 6, making L&T ineligible for being awarded contracts for any World Bank-funded projects, from receiving any loan proceeds made by the Bank or participating in any Bank-financed project. 

The sanction order, dated March 7, said L&T’s ineligibility would continue across the entire World Bank group and had been imposed on L&T ‘for fraudulent practices’ as per the bank’s procurement guidelines against fraud and corruption. 

During the debarment period, L&T as well as any of the entities controlled directly or indirectly by it cannot be nominated even sub-contractor, consultant, manufacturer, supplier or even service provider to an otherwise eligible firm being awarded a World Bank-financed project. 

The matter pertains to a bid submitted by L&T through the regional business head of its medical equipment and systems unit to a World Bank-financed project in Tamil Nadu. 

In January, 2005, the World Bank Group had entered into a development credit agreement with the Indian Government to provide $110.83 million of International Development Association credit for the Tamil Nadu health systems project. 

It was set up to improve the effectiveness of health systems in the State by increasing access to critical health services for poor, disadvantaged and tribal groups. 

In July, 2008, bidding documents were issued by the Tamil Nadu Medical Service Corporation for a contract to supply 130 ultrasound scanners under the project, following which L&T submitted a bid on September 3, 2008, through the said regional business head. 

Upon technical and financial evaluation, L&T’s bid was found to be the lowest-priced, but a complaint was received later that some of the certificates submitted with the bid might have been forged. 

The overuse of rankings

By  Philip G. Altbach 
March 9, 2013  

The Hindu NOT TOP 10: Many outstanding institutions worldwide do not appear in the rankings because they do not fit into the specific criteria measured. 

Global university ordering is limited in what it measures. The exercise provides only an incomplete perspective on higher education 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently chastised Indian universities for having no institutions in the “top 200” of the global higher education rankings. He sees this poor showing as an indication of the low quality of Indian higher education. Indian authorities also said that only overseas universities in the global “top 500” would be permitted to establish a branch campus or joint-degree programme in India. Other countries use the global rankings for internal purposes. Singapore uses them as a benchmark and as an indicator, where scholarship students may be sent. Russia has bemoaned its poor showing, has provided extra funding for selected universities, and is considering major additional resources for a few — in order to ensure that several will be in the top ranks soon. Kazakhstan is committed to having a university in the top tier and looks to rankings as a guideline. At least one American university president has been offered a salary bonus if his university improves its rank. The list goes on. 
Anatomy and critique 

There are, of course, many rankings. Most are national and some are specialised. The majority are sponsored by magazines and other for-profit organisations. Many, if not most, are worthless, because their methodologies are flawed or there is no methodology at all. Dr. Singh and most of the countries mentioned here refer to the three well-known international rankings. Two of these, the Academic Ranking of World Universities, popularly known as the “Shanghai rankings,” and the World University Rankings of Times Higher Education are methodologically respectable and can be taken seriously. 

But these rankings are quite limited in what they measure and thus provide only an incomplete perspective on higher education and on the universities that are ranked. The Shanghai rankings are quite clear in what is assessed — only research, research impact, and a few variables related to research — such as prizes awarded to professors and numbers of Nobel winners associated with the institution. Times Higher Education measures a wider array of variables. Research and its impact is at the top of the list, but reputation is also included as are several other variables — such as teaching quality and internationalisation. But since there is no real way to measure teaching or internationalisation, weak proxies are used. Reputation is perhaps the most controversial element in most of the national and global rankings. Even asking a selected group of academics and university leaders for their opinions about which universities are best yields questionable results. How much will physicists in Bulgaria or university rectors in Germany know about the quality of universities in India or Russia? It is not surprising, therefore, that only the Indian Institutes of Technology are ranked. They are among the few Indian institutions receiving international attention. In general, the more reputation is used as a key variable, the less accurate a ranking is likely to be. Further, respondents filling out reputational surveys for rankings will judge an institution on its research reputation — teaching excellence, national relevance, or university-university linkages are not part of the knowledge base. 

China and Pakistan: Plain Talk is the Key!

 08 Mar , 2013 

Diplomacy does not imply ignoring the obvious where national security is involved.

When China warned India to cease oil exploration in Vietnamese waters, there were calls that India should raise the issue of Chinese presence in POK as a counter. The latter should not have been contingent upon Chinese objection to our assisting Vietnam in oil exploration in the first place, silence being tantamount to acquiescing. The issue should have been raised long back knowing China is undertaking development projects globally through companies owned or managed by PLA, employing both veteran and serving PLA personnel. Reports of tunnels being dug by Chinese in POK and Pakistani civilians denied entry in such areas puts a question mark on the purpose of such tunnels. 

What is the legality of Pakistan leasing Gilgit-Baltistan to China and for that matter ceding Shaksgam to China in 1963?

The issue is even more serious with Gilgit-Baltistan area reportedly being leased out by Pakistan to China for 50 years. Are these tunnels being dug to house missiles under facade of hydel projects? What is the legality of Pakistan leasing Gilgit-Baltistan to China and for that matter ceding Shaksgam to China in 1963? 

During the 5th India-China Defence and Security Consultation held in Beijing on 14 January 2013, Qi Jianguo, Deputy CGS, PLA stressed on the importance of India-China relations, hoping to establish a strategic partnership with India featuring equality, mutual trust and new-type military relations including long-term stability and friendly cooperation. If China is serious about developing such a relationship with India, what is holding us back in doing some plain talking to ascertain the seriousness or otherwise of Chinese intentions with regard to future India-China relationship? We should have learnt from the 1967 happenings at Nathu La and the 1986 Sumdurong Chu incident that resoluteness pays and is respected. 

The End of an Era: The Battleship Yamato

By James R. Holmes 
March 8, 2013 

There’s a melancholy quality to ships whose passing signals the end of an age. Think about J. M. W. Turner’s painting of The Fighting Temeraire—the pride of the Royal Navy during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars—being towed away to a shipbreaker by a lowly, unglamorous steamer. Or there’s the Titanic—an oceanliner jokingly dubbed “the world’s largest metaphor”—which ran afoul of a North Atlantic iceberg in 1912. The Titanic disaster brought the Victorian epoch to an end on the eve of World War I. 

And then there’s the Yamato, the Imperial Japanese Navy dreadnought that by many measures represented the zenith of battleship design. Few will shed a tear for the Japanese Empire’s downfall. Some might regret the unseemly manner of the Yamato’s destruction, though not the final outcome. Like the majestic Temeraire, the Yamato and her sister battlewagon, the Musashi, met their fate at the hands of lesser craft. Destroyers, or “tin cans,” sank the Musashi at the Battle of the Subuyan Sea, during the Leyte Gulf campaign of 1944,while compelling the Yamato to retire from the only surface engagement of its brief life. Its crew subsequently undertook a suicide mission off Samar. Torpedoes,not punches and counterpunches from heavy-caliber guns, decided these epic encounters. Such a doom surely merits an elegy. 

Certain facets of the Yamato’s career echo in today’s Western Pacific strategic competition. First, Japanese shipwrights managed to construct the Yamato-class behemoths in extraordinary secrecy, hiding their dimensions and technical specifications from prying eyes. Concealment was particularly challenging in the case of the Musashi, which was built in Nagasaki—within view of the American consulate. Similarly, Chinese shipyards have sprung repeated surprises on Western observers, unveiling new-design submarines, destroyers, and other craft only when they were nearing completion. 

Second, Western naval intelligence services did a poor job appraising the superbattleships, in part because analysts simply couldn’t fathom that an Asian people like the Japanese could pull off such a technical feat. (See Torpedo, Long Lance.) They wore blinkers—much as many Western observers denigrated China’s maritime exploits until they became undeniable. Small wonder the PLA Navy has defied expectations. 

Third, the Imperial Japanese Navy wanted the Yamato class to outmatch enemy capital ships in every respect, trusting to quality to offset superior U.S. Navy numbers. Accordingly, designers outfitted the ships with the heaviest main battery afloat, 18.1-inch guns capable of flinging 3,200-lb. shells about 23 nautical miles. (For comparison’s sake, the U.S. Navy’s Iowa class, the summit of American dreadnought-building, boasted 16-inch guns that could loft 1,900- or 2,700-lb. projectiles around 20 nautical miles.) They also encased the engineering plant, ammunition magazines, and other vital areas of the Yamatos in thick armor plate. These were impressive accomplishments by any standard. 

Israel's Dreaded Tipping Point Has Finally Arrived


By S. Daniel Abraham

iMar 8 2013


The country can either be a Jewish democracy or possess all of its historical territory. It can't have both.

isr flag jlem banner.jpg
An Israeli holds up a national flag atop a building in Jerusalem's Old City during a parade marking Jerusalem Day, on May 20, 2012. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)


As President Obama prepares to visit Israel later this month, reports from administration officials indicate that he does not intend to focus on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but rather to discuss regional threats such as Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and the continuing violence in Syria. But Obama should realize that Israel's continued presence in the West Bank is an existential threat to its continuity as a democratic, Jewish state -- and time is not on Israel's side.

The urgency of this issue was illustrated by Sergio DellaPergola, a Hebrew University professor and an expert on Israeli population studies, in a presentation at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington last month. The statistics DellaPergola assembled are clear and their implications are frightening. Right now, the total number of Jews and Arabs living under Israeli rule in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza is just under 12 million people. At the moment, a shade under 50 percent of the population is Jewish. In other words, right now -- not in five or ten years, but right now -- only 50 percent of the people living in the Jewish state and in the areas under its control are Jews. The dreaded tipping point -- which advocates of the two-solution have been warning about for years -- has finally arrived.

Some argue that this ratio is irrelevant, that Israel's current demographic balance should not be a source of concern, since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005. The international community doesn't buy this argument, though, since they still see Gaza as occupied since Israel controls its airspace and sea space.

But taking Gaza out of the equation does not buy Israel much time, anyway. According to DellaPergola, if Israel continues to maintain control of the West Bank alone (without Gaza), as many members of the current government seem to favor, and if current fertility rates among Jews and Arabs continue, then by 2030, Jews will constitute only 54 percent of the population. By May 2048, when the State of Israel turns 100 years old, the population of this area will be approximately 55 percent Arab and 45 percent Jewish.

Where Have China’s Workers Gone?

By Yukon Huang & Clare Lynch
Mar 7, 2013 

China's Disappearing Surplus Labor Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang are taking over China’s leadership at a time when growth has slackened and labor issues have become more complex. 

Reports that businesses such as Foxconn Technology Group are raising wages and struggling to recruit workers in China have intensified debate over just how many surplus workers the country still has. Meanwhile, a boom in college-educated Chinese has raised concerns of an impending threat to U.S. competitiveness. These seemingly disparate concerns about China’s labor force are actually linked by common underlying factors, with critical implications for China’s ability to remain the growth engine of the world. 

China’s large pool of surplus labor has fueled its rapid industrial growth. Now this “demographic dividend” may be almost exhausted, and its economy reaching a Lewis turning point: a shift named after the Nobel prize-winning Arthur Lewis, who was the first to describe how poor economies can develop by transferring surplus labor from agriculture to the more productive industrial sector until the point when surplus labor disappears, wages begin to rise and growth slows. 

Citing periodic labor shortages and unskilled wages that have risen since 2003, prominent Chinese economists suggest that time has come. The International Monetary Fund disagrees and puts the turning point much later -- between 2020 and 2025, based on a model analyzing labor productivity. A third view is that China’s surplus labor is still plentiful, given that about 40 percent of the labor force is still underutilized in the rural sector, mostly in agriculture, which accounts for only 10 percent of gross domestic product. 
Mobility Restrictions 

In China, many market imperfections impede the mobility and use of labor. Thus, actual availability may fall far short of what is potentially available. The hukou residency system that restricts migrant workers from accessing services where they are employed is the most glaring example of this kind of imperfection. Less obvious is the extent to which China’s rural- support policies, including subsidy programs, may be encouraging workers to stay in agriculture longer than they should. 

Surplus workers may not be in agriculture as in the original Lewis model but in smaller towns, underemployed at depressed wages. The result is that China has the highest rural- urban income disparity in the world. 

Why don’t these workers move to more productive jobs in more dynamic settings? In formal terms, it is because their “reservation wage” has increased -- that is, the minimum wage they demand to move is much greater than their current wage, because for a generation that didn’t experience the hardships of the Mao Zedong era, the monetary and emotional costs of relocation have risen. Many workers won’t move to major cities that lack affordable housing. They may also have rights to land that can’t be sold for full market value -- thus, staying in familiar surroundings is now a more attractive proposition. 

Who's Winning the Great Energy Rat Race?

BY ROBIN M. MILLS 
MARCH 8, 2013 

China just passed the United States as the world's leading oil importer. America should be happy to be No. 2. 

DUBAI — It is a shift as momentous as the U.S. eclipse of Britain's Royal Navy or the American economy's surpassing of the British economy in the late 19th century. 

According to preliminary figures reported this week, China has overtaken the United States as the world's largest net oil importer. Nearly 6 million barrels per day flowed into the United States in December -- the lowest figure since February 1992 -- while Chinese imports jumped to 6.12 million barrels per day. The United States had held the top spot since 1972, just before the oil crises and stagflation of the 1970s. 

The exact figure is not so important: Monthly estimates are volatile, Chinese imports peak during the winter, and the United States is still a much bigger gross importer of crude oil (it exports ever larger amounts of refined products). But China will clearly move into a consistent lead during this year, or next. 

Americans may not like to be second in anything, but this news actually affirms the superiority of the U.S. energy model over China's. The United States is consistently employing new technology to produce more energy in ways that are increasingly environmentally friendly. Beijing's growing weight in world oil markets, meanwhile, should not be a matter of pride, but of concern. China's rising dependency on energy imports doesn't make the country stronger -- it makes China more vulnerable to forces beyond the country's control. 

Nevertheless, this is the latest in a series of milestones that illustrate the economic rise of the Middle Kingdom. In 2006, it passed the United States as the world's largest carbon dioxide emitter. In 2010, it became the world's leading energy user. Its ravenous appetite for resources makes it the biggest consumer of coal, iron ore, aluminum, copper, gold, wheat, rice, meat, and many other commodities. In the next few years, China will overtake the United States as the world's largest economy -- if it has not already done so. 

China's growth has been the largest single factor in the record oil prices over the last decade. That has led to a host of geopolitical consequences: the economic boom in the Persian Gulf, the empowering of authoritarian leaders from Russia's Vladimir Putin to Venezuela's late Hugo Chávez, economic stress in developed countries, rising food and fuel prices, and a new push for breakthrough energy technologies such as shale oil and gas, as well as wind and solar power. 

The Edgy Optimist

By Zachary Karabell 
March 7, 2013 

The U.S. can’t afford a Chinese economic collapse 

Is China about to collapse? That question has been front and center in the past weeks as the country completes its leadership transition and after the exposure of its various real estate bubbles during a widely watched 60 Minutes exposé this past weekend

Concerns about soaring property prices throughout China are hardly new, but they have been given added weight by the government itself. Recognizing that a rapid implosion of the property market would disrupt economic growth, the central government recently announced far-reaching measures designed to dent the rampant speculation. Higher down payments, limiting the purchases of investment properties, and a capital gains tax on real estate transactions designed to make flipping properties less lucrative were included. 

These measures, in conjunction with the new government’s announcing more modest growth targets of 7.5 percent a year, sent Chinese equities plunging and led to a slew of commentary in the United States saying China would be the next shoe to drop in the global system. 

Yet there is more here than simple alarm over the viability of China’s economic growth. There is the not-so-veiled undercurrent of rooting against China. It is difficult to find someone who explicitly wants it to collapse, but the tone of much of the discourse suggests bloodlust. Given that China largely escaped the crises that so afflicted the United States and the eurozone, the desire to see it stumble may be understandable. No one really likes a global winner if that winner isn’t you. 

The need to see China fail verges on jingoism. Americans distrust the Chinese model, find that its business practices verge on the immoral and illegal, that its reporting and accounting standards are sub-par at best and that its system is one of crony capitalism run by crony communists. On Wall Street, the presumption usually seems to be that any Chinese company is a ponzi scheme masquerading as a viable business. In various conversations and debates, I have rarely heard China’s economic model mentioned without disdain. Take, as just one example, Gordon Chang in Forbes: “Beijing’s technocrats can postpone a reckoning, but they have not repealed the laws of economics. There will be a crash.” 

Why should American grand strategy care about the Uighurs?

March 8, 2013 

That was the question I posed to Rebiya Kadeer this week, who spoke to Duke and UNC students through the Duke Program in American Grand Strategy (here is a link to an interview she gave while here on campus:). Her answer was simple and persuasive: A China that can abuse Uighurs with impunity is likely to threaten global stability in myriad ways, whereas a China that has learned to respect the rights of Uighurs (and other ethnic groups within the Chinese polity) is likely to be a responsible stakeholder in the international system. 

It was a reasonable answer, backed up by her compelling personal testimony. At one time, she was one of the wealthiest women in China and a rising voice inside the Chinese Communist Party. She used her position of influence to speak up on behalf of the Uighurs, an oppressed minority in western China -- what the Chinese government calls Xingjian province and what the Uighurs call East Turkestan. 

Like many human rights advocates, she paid a terrible price. She was thrown in jail and only released in 2005 after extraordinary pressure from international human rights groups and especially from the Bush administration. To this day, her gratitude to the Bush administration is palpable. She was one of the more remarkable people I met while serving at the White House, and I wanted my Duke students to hear her story first-hand. 

I knew she was persona non grata with the Chinese government, but I was surprised at the extent to which they continue to expend effort to suppress her voice. Her talk attracted an overflow audience, including quite a large number of Chinese students. Some were keen to disrupt the proceedings and shout her down. Ms. Kadeer told me that the Chinese embassy organizes students to harass her visits to college campuses. They are provided with the same tired talking points and gotcha questions, which she answers over and over again but to no avail. 

Q. Why does YouTube have a video of you professing loyalty to the Communist party? A. Because they coerced me into saying that while in prison. 

Q. Why do you complain about the treatment of Uighurs when they enjoy affirmative action benefits on college entrance exams? A. The extra points they are given because they take a test in a foreign language does not compensate for the systematic abuse of their right to self-determination. 

Cyber Command Adapts to Understand Cyber Battlespace

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 7, 2013 – Since the Defense Department officially made cyberspace a new domain of warfare in 2011, experts in the public and private sectors have been working to make that inherently collaborative, adaptable environment a suitable place for military command and control. 

U.S. sailors assigned to Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command man their stations at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Va., Aug. 4, 2010. NCDOC sailors monitor, analyze, detect and respond to unauthorized activity within U.S. Navy information systems and computer networks. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua J. Wahl 
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available. 

In July of that year, the first initiative of the first DOD Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace called for treating cyberspace as an operational domain -- no different from air, land, sea or space -- to organize, train and equip so the department could take full advantage of cyber potential.

Cyberspace is defined as a collection of computer networks that use a variety of wired and wireless connections, a multitude of protocols, and devices ranging from supercomputers to laptops to embedded computer systems designed for specific control functions in larger systems. 

At the 4th Annual Cyber Security Conference held here Feb. 22, Air Force Maj. Gen. Brett T. Williams, director of operations at U.S. Cyber Command, described how Cybercom is using the Internet and other aspects of the cyber environment to execute its mission. 

“The challenge we have is that the Internet was never designed for military command and control, … yet we’ve adapted it to do that,” he said. 

In the process, the general added, officials have tried to define the Cybercom mission more clearly over the last few months. 

As part of DOD, Williams said, part of Cybercom’s mission is to help in defending the homeland, especially against cyberattacks and other activities in cyberspace that could affect national security. 

Sequestration to Cut Contractor Support of Cyber Command

By grecs
March 4, 2013

Contractor security positions could be the first to get cut unless the government allows agencies to meet spending cuts in other ways.

We covered sequestration yesterday and how it couldexpose our “security cracks” that we previously had been able to spackle over. This afternoon we came across another article from NextGov warning of the same. They predict that contractor positions could be the first to fall if the government enforces the mandatory across-the-board 8% spending cuts. Of course the timing couldn’t be worse given the skyrocketing rise in network attacks. And with fewer resources dedicated to defense, enemies could make this problem even worse. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom… The hope is that each agency will be able to come up with the necessary spending cuts by lowering funding to less important programs instead of hitting everything across the board. Still … for those of us that have chosen careers in this field/sector, it’s going to be an anxious road to 2014 and beyond. 

By the end of April, the Pentagon will be devoting less attention and fewer staff to network security under spending cuts set for Friday, according to budget analysts.

Mandatory, across-the-board decreases in funding will spare the salaries of uniformed Cyber Command members, but many of those personnel will be focused on sequester planning rather than operations. Meanwhile, their civilian peers face furloughs. Defense Department officials must reduce every program’s budget by about 8 percent. 

“That workload is going to detract[ed] from the actual mission work because you know jobs are at stake. Incomes are at stake,” said Todd Harrison, senior fellow for defense budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. 

Certain contractors will be let go and civilians will be furloughed for one day a week starting mid-April through the end of September, under the 2011 Budget Control Act that resolved a debt-ceiling crisis. The skeletal programming could continue through 2014 because the $10 billion slashing each year won’t sunset without new legislation. 

Harrison said he would not rule out the possibility of long-term axe wielding. “I would call it a worst case scenario,” he said. The sequester starting on Friday “was put in place as an unthinkable,” but it is now likely, he said. “Now, this 2014 unthinkable [scenario] — we have to start thinking about it.” 

Adversaries looking for weaknesses in U.S. networks are taking note of the sky-is-falling discourse as Pentagon leaders prepare for the worst, some defense experts say.

SEQUESTRATION POSITIONS CYBER COMMAND FOR A FALL

March 1, 2013

By the end of April, the Pentagon will be devoting less attention and fewer staff to network security under spending cuts set for Friday, according to budget analysts. 

Mandatory, across-the-board decreases in funding will spare the salaries of uniformed Cyber Command members, but many of those personnel will be focused on sequester planning rather than operations. Meanwhile, their civilian peers face furloughs. Defense Department officials must reduce every program’s budget by about 8 percent. 

"That workload is going to detract from the actual mission work because you know jobs are at stake. Incomes are at stake," said Todd Harrison, senior fellow for defense budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. 

Certain contractors will be let go and civilians will be furloughed for one day a week starting mid-April through the end of September, under the 2011 Budget Control Act that resolved a debt-ceiling crisis. The skeletal programming could continue through 2014 because the $10 billion slashing each year won’t sunset without new legislation. 

Harrison said he would not rule out the possibility of long-term axe wielding. "I would call it a worst case scenario," he said. The sequester starting on Friday "was put in place as an unthinkable," but it is now likely, he said. "Now, this 2014 unthinkable [scenario] -- we have to start thinking about it." 

Adversaries looking for weaknesses in U.S. networks are taking note of the sky-is-falling discourse as Pentagon leaders prepare for the worst, some defense experts say. 

Jim Lewis, a researcher with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who advises Congress and the Obama administration, said in the fall the notion officials are projecting that the military's guard is down could be a greater threat to national security than the reality of the military’s strength. The bigger risk is "to the foreign perception of U.S. capabilities," he said. "They would decide we are more vulnerable and less competent." 

Gray Matter

BY JOEL BRENNER 
MARCH 8, 2013 

How to fight Chinese cyber attacks without starting a cold war. 

The Chinese People's Liberation Army has been systematically stealing technology worth billions of dollars from countless American companies in many industries. Is this news? 

Not to American intelligence agencies. Not even to anyone else who's been paying attention. But publicly available evidence is new and fascinatingly detailed, as the recent report from the private forensics firm Mandiant showed. The hidden story here is that the private sector can perform first-class intelligence collection and analysis that a few years ago could have been done only by a nation-state. Meanwhile, our own government is keeping mum -- tangled in World War II-era rules about classified information and fearful of disrupting relations with a nation that owns huge amounts of our national debt. 

If we're waiting until China decides to "play fair," we're in for a long wait. China won't play fair with us any more than Western powers played fair with China when we carved it up into concessions in the 19th century and imposed Western law on Chinese territory. This is realpolitik. China's intelligence services will continue to steal Western technology unless the price of that behavior becomes too high. 

We're in a strategic trap that's partly economic and partly in our heads. We tend to think strategic relationships are governed by an on/off toggle switch between peace and war. When things go wrong, this crude dichotomy condemns us to think we have only two choices: Call in the lawyers, or call in an air strike. In fact, international relations are messy and fluid. We sometimes have serious disputes with allies, and we sometimes find common ground with adversaries. Permanent alliances have begun to seem less than permanent. When adversaries get aggressive with one another, there is a wide gray space between war and peace. The Cold War with the Soviet Union took place largely in that gray space, and it was often nasty. 

But we are not in a cold war with China and don't wish to be. During the Cold War, we did not trade with the Soviet bloc, and travel across the Iron Curtain was virtually nil. When the Soviet Union went bankrupt, we cheered. In contrast, U.S.-China trade is vast, travel is free, and China bankrolls our appalling national debt. If China went bankrupt, we'd have a depression, not a celebration. War talk of any kind, even cold war talk, is therefore rash. We are dealing with a very rough competitor -- but not an enemy. 

How China censors 100 million tweets per day

By Caitlin Dewey
March 8, 2013


People use computers at an Internet cafe in central China’s Anhui province. 

A new study by researchers at Rice, Bowdoin and the University of New Mexico sheds unprecedented light on how China censors the 300 million users and 100 million daily messages of its Twitter-like platform, Weibo. 

Previously, we knew what terms censors were most likely to snag and which provinces got impacted most. But the new study pinpoints exactly how long it takes censors to take down a post (generally, 5 to 10 minutes) and makes some compelling guesses for how they do it. The researchers gathered their data from more than 3,500 frequently censored Weibo users over a period of a month. 

They found that censors took down 12 percent of total posts.

Censoring Weibo is, obviously, a profound logistical undertaking — the site sees nearly five times as many posts in the average minute than Twitter did during the State of the Union. The researchers have a few hypothesis for how that happens: 
  • Explicit filtering: a banned keyword triggers an automated system, which stops the message from posting and warns the user he has violated policy. 
  • Implicit filtering: a banned keyword triggers an automated system, which delays the message until a censor can see it and tells the user there’s a server error in the meantime. 
  • Camouflaged posts: a banned keyword triggers an automated system, which keeps the message from displaying publicly but shows the user it has posted. 
  • Backwards repost search: either a human censor or an automated system discovers a problematic posts and deletes all versions of it (re-posts, etc.) across the network. 
  • Backwards keyword search: a censor notices a problematic keyword and deletes a number of its instances across the network. 
  • User monitoring: certain users who are censored frequently are flagged for closer scrutiny. 
  • Account closures: censors shut down problematic accounts entirely. The study counted 300 such closures of 3,500 accounts in a one-month period. 
  • Search filtering: a regularly updated list of terms cannot be searched. 
  • Public timeline filtering: sensitive topics are edited out of the general Weibo “fire hose.” 
Among the keywords that could trigger a deletion? “Support Syrian rebels,” “lying of government” and “Beijing rainstorms,” the study reports. (The full list does not look thematically different from a list of terms used to filter the Chinese Internet overall, obtained by the Post in 2006.) The rainstorms caused widespread destruction and anti-government outrage in July 2012, and China officially supports the Syrian regime. 

Censorship of tweets/microblog posts in China

March 8, 2013 

WAPO article on Rice U. study (richly detailed and seemingly very robust in data capture and analysis on how the Chinese gov deletes micro-blog posts). 

First point article makes is that China's flow of tweets is several times that of Twitter, so we're talking massive amount. It seems gov cuts about 12% of them. 

Here are the envisioned procedures: 

  • Explicit filtering: a banned keyword triggers an automated system, which stops the message from posting and warns the user he has violated policy. 
  • Implicit filtering: a banned keyword triggers an automated system, which delays the message until a censor can see it and tells the user there’s a server error in the meantime. 
  • Camouflaged posts: a banned keyword triggers an automated system, which keeps the message from displaying publicly but shows the user it has posted. 
  • Backwards repost search: either a human censor or an automated system discovers a problematic posts and deletes all versions of it (re-posts, etc.) across the network. 
  • Backwards keyword search: a censor notices a problematic keyword and deletes a number of its instances across the network. 
  • User monitoring: certain users who are censored frequently are flagged for closer scrutiny. 
  • Account closures: censors shut down problematic accounts entirely. The study counted 300 such closures of 3,500 accounts in a one-month period. 
  • Search filtering: a regularly updated list of terms cannot be searched. 
  • Public timeline filtering: sensitive topics are edited out of the general Weibo “fire hose.” 

Surge of hope

By Haroon Habib 
05 Mar 2013


A mass uprising in Dhaka sees the young generation swearing by a democratic society where religion is a private pursuit. 

Ahmed Rajib Haider.The young blogger was found murdered outside his home in Dhaka on February 15. 

WHEN THE CALL WENT OUT IN CYBERSPACE ON FEBRUARY 5 for a protest demonstration in Dhaka’s Shahbagh Square (now lovingly renamed Projonmo Chottor, meaning “new generation square”), no one thought that the outpouring that followed would develop into the most striking mass movement in Bangladesh in recent memory. The call, made by the Blogger and Online Activists Network (BOAN), came hours after the International Crimes Tribunal (Bangladesh), or ICT, found Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah guilty of war crimes and sentenced him to life imprisonment. 

The protesters demanded capital punishment for Abdul Quader and all war criminals charged with atrocities during the 1971 liberation war. Among their other demands is a ban on the Jamaat by March 26 and an investigation into the sources of funding of the Jamaat and into its institutions and business interests. 

The peaceful protests at the sprawling Shahbagh Square, progressively growing in numbers until they culminated in the “Maha Samabesh”, or Grand Meeting, on February 21 (Mother Language Day in Bangladesh), were attended by men and women of all ages, cutting across party lines, and including large numbers of young people born after the 1971 war, all committed to a vision of a democratic Bangladesh where religion is a private pursuit. The coordinators of the agitation as a team are being called “Gana Jagaran Mancha” (Platform for Popular Uprising).