24 June 2015

The Taliban challenge

June 24, 2015

Monday’s attack on the Afghan Parliament building demonstrated the Taliban’s unshaken capability to strike at even the most fortified of complexes in Kabul. This fits into its strategy of staging high-profile assaults aimed at gaining asymmetric superiority in the Afghan war. In the past they had attacked the Presidential Palace, the U.S. and Indian embassies and the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. The Parliament attack coincided with a vote in the House to endorse a new Defence Minister. The Taliban have been on the offensive since most of the foreign troops, some 14,000 of them from 40 countries at the peak of war, withdrew late last year. The Taliban’s actions have often been exposing the vulnerabilities of Afghanistan’s fledgling army. If the Taliban are allowed to return to power, it would be catastrophic for the Afghan people, particularly for millions of its women who were deprived of even basic human rights under its erstwhile regime. Given the tribal politics and lawlessness in Afghanistan’s rural areas, and the Taliban’s geopolitical relevance in the extremely complex South and Central Asian theatre, it will prove difficult for any anti-Taliban strategy to gain immediate traction. If the past 14 years of war in Afghanistan offers any definite lessons to the actors involved, it is that insurgency cannot be defeated only by military means. One of the grave mistakes the American-led troops committed was their excessive emphasis on a military solution, while reconstruction and creation of infrastructure, and building of institutions, were pushed to the back seat.

Kidnap for Ransom and Linkages to Terrorism Finance in India

By V. Balasubramaniyan
23 Jun , 2015

India’s tryst with contemporary terrorism started with the birth of the Khalistani movement in Punjab, which was followed by insurgency in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. On the other hand, Maoist insurgency with a pan-Indian presence and insurgency in India’s north-east has been one of the teething issues seen as an impediment to the peace and tranquillity in these regions. While the Maoists have been in existence since the 1970s, insurgency in the North East, such as the Naga insurgency, is a direct legacy of the British rule. Most of the other insurgent groups, like the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), are at least three decades old and have survived repeated government onslaughts and internecine conflicts.1

The

The ‘why’ factor

Jun 21, 2015

The crux of the NIA findings pointed to a central guiding hand behind the incident, towards elements of China’s People’s Liberation Army that provided training and back up support to the NSCN(K) 

“Through mud and blood to the green fields beyond”
— Motto of the Royal Tank Regiment, British Army

Kidhar India? (India —where are you?)” Are you still bogged down and struggling in the mud and blood? Or, are you slowly pulling yourself out of the quagmire and inching forward towards your destiny?

The single watershed event whose impact overshadowed almost every other issue in the country, including the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Bangladesh, was undoubtedly the ambush of a four-vehicle convoy of 6 Dogra Regiment, in the Chandel district of Manipur, in the close vicinity of the Indo-Myanmar border, which took a toll of 18 soldiers dead and 11 injured. The attack came “out of a clear blue sky” as it were, in an area which had not witnessed tension or conflict over a prolonged period. The resultant national shock and concern was understandable and a babbling cacophony of voices demanded answers — who? But perhaps the more important question would have been — why?

Why had the attack taken place?

Why white papers matter

Written by Shashank Joshi
June 23, 2015

They allow a state to craft its signals carefully. India should take a leaf from China’s book.

One of the perennial problems of international relations is how to assess what an adversary will do next. Do you look at past behaviour, the types of weapons they’re buying, their leaders, or something else? We have a reasonable idea of China’s order of battle — its ships, missiles and satellites. But American satellites can’t tell us what China plans to do with these. So what does one do when a rival simply declares its plans and publishes them on its website — dismiss it as artful misdirection, or accept the threats and assurances at face value?

Where is the LAC?

By Claude Arpi
22 Jun , 2015

Once again, the LAC or Line of Actual Control has recently come in the news.

The latest mention came from Beijing, where China turned down an Indian proposal to exchange maps of the LAC; a move which seemed most reasonable and for-too-long delayed.

It is not the first time the LAC makes the news. Remember the visit of the Chinese President Xi Jinping to India in 2014.

Huang Xilian, the deputy director general of the Asian Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told some Indian journalists: “We tried to clarify some years ago but it encountered some difficulties, which led to even complex situation. …That is why whatever we do, we should make it more conducive to peace and tranquility for making things easier and not to make them complicated.” Huang added: “We have to do many things. We have to seek comprehensive approach to this.”

Where is the growth in Indian manufacturing jobs?

Jun 10 2015

The slow growth of Indian manufacturing is a concern for many observers of the Indian economy, and India’s manufacturers have long performed below their potential. Although the country’s manufacturing exports are growing, its manufacturing sector generates just 16% of India’s GDP, much less than the 55% from services. Since its liberalisation, India has undertaken many trade reforms to increase its global integration, and the country has invested in domestic infrastructure projects to improve its regional connectivity. These trade reforms have impacted many parts of the economy (e.g. Topalova 2010, Goldberg et al. 2010), and they seem to have held special importance for informal firms (e.g. Nataraj 2011, Thomas 2013).

In India, there is a large disconnect between output and employment across the formal and informal sectors (the informal sector comprises establishments with 10 workers or less that use electricity, or 20 workers or less without electricity). The formal sector accounts for over 80% of India’s manufacturing output, while the informal sector accounts for over 80% and 99% of Indian manufacturing employment and establishments, respectively.

Pakistan: Lessons from the India-US Nuclear Deal

During the seventh round of the U.S.-Pakistan Security, Strategic Stability, and Nonproliferation (SSS&NP) working group earlier this month, Pakistan again demanded an India-style civil nuclear agreement under the auspices of the U.S.-Pakistan strategic dialogue. As previously, the idea received a noncommittal response from Washington.

Islamabad has been critical of the India-U.S. civilian nuclear agreement, signed in 2008, under which nuclear sanctions against New Delhi were lifted and India was allowed to have civilian nuclear trade along with its nuclear weapons program. The Indo-U.S. nuclear deal recognized the nuclear status of India, while continuing to exclude Pakistan from the nuclear club. U.S. officials argued that India’s case was unique and Pakistan does not qualify for similar treatment. The questions arise: What were the factors that pushed the United States to work so hard to lift nuclear sanctions, both at the domestic and international levels, against India and what lessons Pakistan should learn to qualify for the same consideration?

How Pakistan created a monster out of Taliban

 22-06-2015

Pakistan's relations with the Taliban regime grew complicated over time. In the second half of the 1990s, Islamabad could pride itself in having achieved a degree of "strategic depth" in Afghanistan, but the other goal the Pakistani government pursued had not been achieved.

By backing the Afghan Islamists starting in the 1970s under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the Pakistanis had hoped to counter Pashtun nationalism. The outcome, however, was very different. The Taliban had developed an Islamic variant of this ideology, drawing as much on the Pashtunwali code as from Sharia law, and, more importantly, Pakistani officials were bitterly disappointed when the Taliban refused to recognise the Durand Line as the international border.

The cost of Pakistan's Afghan policy was not limited to financial support. In addition, there was a considerable loss of customs revenue. In 1950, Kabul and Karachi had signed the Afghan Transit Trade Agreement that aimed to open up Afghanistan by enabling the country to be provisioned through Pakistani ports and cross the "Land of the Pure" without paying customs duties. Predictably, surplus merchandise soon made its way illegally back into Pakistan - where it cost less than from a merchant who had had to pay duty. The black market had little financial impact until the 1990s, at which time it took on huge proportions with the end of a war in which those involved had already regularly taken the Kabul-Peshawar-Karachi route.

Afghanistan-Pakistan: A Temporary Entente

Ashraf Ghani’s overtures to Pakistan are foundering on the latter’s strategic compulsions.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is under immense pressure. His reconciliation attempts are not yielding the desired results. Ghani’s desire to bring peace to his war-torn country cannot be questioned. Before his presidency, Afghanistan’s relations with neighboring Pakistan were persistently rocky. Ghani was sincere in his desire to put the past behind them and open a new chapter in Afghanistan’s embittered relationship with Pakistan. But his method was flawed.

Ignoring critics across the political spectrum, Ghani staked his political future on producing a seismic shift in Afghan policy towards Pakistan. His “pivot” to Pakistan was rooted in the unrealistic hope that Islamabad would cooperate with Kabul in forcing the Taliban to the negotiating table. But his hopes seem to have dashed with the ferocity of the Taliban offensive this summer. Conflict has intensified, with no end in sight. Kabul’s high-security zones have witnessed the worst of the terrorists attacks of late. Increasing instability in northern Afghanistan has also unnerved neighboring Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Like a menacing cloud before a storm, lurking in the background is the Islamic State, awaiting only the right moment to add its own sickening brand of jihadi terror. Both politically and strategically, Ghani cannot afford to be complacent about the potential negative ramifications of Pakistan’s unwillingness or inability to rein in the Taliban.

Danger next door

June 23, 2015 

Parliament attack in Afghanistan points to region’s unresolved crises. India needs its own roadmap to navigate the minefield.
Afghan security forces run at the site of a suicide attack during clashes with Taliban fighters in front of the Parliament, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, June 22, 2015. (AP Photo)

Pakistan: Ferment Against Army Domination of political processes begins sprouting.

By Dr Subhash Kapila
22nd June

The Pakistan Army as a paragon of virtue was a carefully nurtured myth and the first signs of ferment against Pakistan Army dominating political processes exploded last week with former President Zardari’s diatribe against the military establishment and warning it to stay within its constitutional limits.

Pakistan’s civil society has already demonstrated its street-power thrice in the past. First, with the pro-democracy marches in2007 involving all sections of society including women. Second, the million-men march from Lahore to Islamabad on demanding reinstatement of Supreme Court Chief Justice Chaudhary, which also ultimately brought down the military ruler General Musharraf. The low point was in the follow-up on the US raid on Abbottabad Garrison to liquidate Osama bin Laden. Such was the public criticism of the Pakistan Army and its Generals then that a Special Corps Commanders Conference was summoned to let the Government know that the Pakistan Army was not ready to countenance it, or else?

A First: China Sends Troops to US-Mongolia-Led Khaan Quest Exercise

June 23, 2015
Source Link

For the first time, China is sending People’s Liberation Army troops to exercise Khaan Quest.
For the first time ever, China has sent People’s Liberation Army troops to Exercise Khaan Quest, a multinational ground forces peacekeeping drill designed to boost military-to-military interoperability, hosted by Mongolia. The exercise is cosponsored with the United States Pacific Command (PACOM). Khaan Quest was first established in 2003.

China’s participation in Khaan Quest 2015 is notably not being heavily publicized in the Chinese press. Xinhua ran a brief article noting that this was China’s first time sending troops to the exercise, and many other press outlets have been largely silent on the matter. Other major multinational exercises, including the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), have drawn considerably more attention from the Chinese press.

The 2015 US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue: What (and What Not) to Expect

June 23, 2015
Source Link

Four things to expect from this week’s Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

Tonight, officials from China and the United States will gather in Washington, D.C. for a dinner that kicks off the seventh round of the “Strategic and Economic Dialogue,” the highest-level annual meeting between the two sides. Talks proper will unfold June 23 and 24. The S&ED will be led by Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on the U.S. side and by State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Vice Premier Wang Yang on the Chinese side.

So what’s on the agenda for this round of the showcase dialogue platform? Below, four topics to watch that will feature heavily on the agenda, and one thing not to expect.

China's New South China Sea Messaging

China has changed the way it talks about its actions in the South China Sea, signalling a shift in the way it thinks.

The Philippines released photos of China’s construction and land reclamation activities in the South China Sea, on May 15, 2014, a day after Manila accused Beijing of violating the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea by carrying out such construction. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying was asked about the photographs in her regular press conference on May 15. Here’s her response, in full:

China has indisputable sovereignty over Nansha [Spratly] Islands including Chigua Reef [Johnson South Reef] and the contiguous waters. Whatever construction China carries out in the Chigua Reef is completely within China’s sovereignty.

That response did not evolve much over the next ten months. In March 2015, Hua was still defending China’s construction with terse proclamations: “China’s normal construction activities on our own islands and in our own waters are lawful, reasonable and justifiable.”

China Prepares Its 172,000 Civilian Ships for War

Chinese civilian shipbuilders have to ensure that their vessels can be used by the PLAN during times of ‘crisis’.

As my colleague Shannon Tiezzi reported a while back, the Chinese government has approved a plan to ensure that civilian vessels can support military operations of China’s maritime forces in the event of a crisis.

While the recruitment of civilian maritime assets for military purposes is not unusual (e.g., the Queen Elizabeth 2 transported the main British land fighting force to the Falkland Islands during the 1982 Falklands War), the recent announcement is nevertheless a sign of the growing aspirations of Chinese naval planners in developing naval expeditionary warfare capabilities.

China Deals Up Pressure On TPP

June 22, 2015
http://thediplomat.com/2015/06/china-deals-up-pressure-on-tpp/

Beijing’s latest agreements leave the Trans-Pacific Partnership at risk of losing relevance. 

Asia’s “noodle bowl” of bilateral trade deals has become even more entangled, after China’s latest agreements with South Korea and Australia. With Beijing pushing for a broader Asian trade pact, the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks face an increasing battle to remain relevant.

On Wednesday, China followed up its recent pact with its top import supplier, South Korea by inking a free trade agreement (FTA) with Australia, ranked as its sixth-largest import source and a major provider of resources such as iron ore, coal and gold.

Following 10 years of negotiations, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott described the deal’s signing in Canberra as a “momentous day,” saying it would “change our world for the better.”

Who has seen Zhang Dejiang?

June 21, 2015
http://claudearpi.blogspot.in/2015/06/who-has-seen-zhang-dejiang.html

The Indian media is a strange creature. It spends its time and energy on obsessions; every few days, it focuses on a new one while wearing blinkers for everything else. But even when it ignores ‘important’ news, nobody seems too much disturbed, as long as there is a good cricket ingredient and some spicy masala.

Last week, it was the Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj’s ‘chance’ to make the headlines; the Everest could have change place (and it did, moving a few centimeters inside Tibet), nobody was bothered.

Of course, cricket is the national game and it has to prime over all other national and international issues. With the foreign minister linked with a latest cricketgate, other information had no chance to make it on the TV plateaus or on the first page of the ‘national’ press (these days, page 1 often becomes page 3 or 5, thanks to giant advertisements for e-commerce or attractive investments).

Why China is far from ready to meet the U.S. on a global battlefront

By David Axe
June 22, 2015

Two J-10 fighter jets from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force August 1st AerobaticsTeam during a demonstration at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, November 13, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Both of these statements are true:

1) China possesses a rapidly improving military that, in certain local or regional engagements, could match — and even defeat — U.S. forces in battle.

2) In military terms, China is a paper dragon that, despite its apparent strength, is powerless to intervene in world events far from its shores.

Seeing the distinction between these two ideas is the key to understanding China’s strategic aims, its military means and the threat, if any, that the country poses to its neighbors, the United States and the existing world order.

The first time in hot pursuit


India finally attacks rebels across the border in Myanmar, adding a new page to its counter-insurgency strategy, writes Subir Bhaumik 

In an unusual display of controlled aggression, Indian para- commandos crossed the border into Myanmar on June 9 to strike at Naga and Manipuri separatist bases, after losing nearly 30 soldiers in a string of rebel attacks in the last two months. But if the army was just keen to put the rebels on notice about its intentions, the political establishment messed it up by unwarranted braggadocio. While the military spokesperson was cagey about the location of the exact strikes, only claiming that the commandos inflicted 'significant casualties' on the rebels, India's minister of state for information, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, spilled the beans. He made it clear that rebel bases inside Myanmar had been hit in 'surgical strikes' based on precise intelligence and that none other than the prime minister, Narendra Modi, had authorized them.

The national security advisor, Ajit Doval, and the foreign secretary, S. Jaishankar, has tried assuaging Myanmarese sentiments. They met President U Thein Sein and a host of top Myanmar officials to convey Indian gratitude for cooperation in counter-insurgency. But they also tried to persuade the Myanmarese to ensure that anti-India rebel bases in Sagaing are closed down. Only time will tell whether Myanmar will deliver on that request.

How Fragile Is the Peace in Tajikistan?

Will Muhiddin Kabiri, the leader of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), return to the country this week to celebrate the 18th anniversary of the peace treaty that ended the Tajik civil war?

According to Asia-Plus, on Monday, the party’s deputy, Mahmadali Hayit, told a news conference in Dushanbe that while Kabiri plans to return the party advises him to stay away.

“We advise Muhiddin Kabiri not to return to Tajikistan until a real peace is reestablished in the country, until the authorities stop pressure on the IRP members,” Hayit said.

Kabiri left the country shortly after the March parliamentary election results were revealed. The election, like every election the country has held, was judged to be unfair. His party, which has come under increasing pressure by the government, lost its last two seats. Although largely nominal, IRPT’s presence in parliament (two seats out of 63), was to many observers at least a nod to democracy. It was also a visible piece of the peace treaty that ended the devastating Tajik civil war.

Countering Islamic State Exploitation of the Internet

David P. Fidler, Visiting Fellow for Cybersecurity


The use of social media and other Internet-enabled communications by the self-proclaimed Islamic State is pushing the United States and other democracies to react to the abuse of liberal freedoms by illiberal forces. A leading response—fosteringmore online speech against extremism—relies on the "marketplace of ideas" and raises few problems with respecting the right of free expression, but questions about its effectiveness persist. By contrast, content-based measures, such as taking down violent videos and suspending social-media accounts, generate concerns about free speech, as well as skepticism about the contribution such measures make in the fight against the Islamic State. 

The U.S. government and companies can counter the Islamic State's online onslaught through policies anchored in important liberal principles, namely protection of free speech, transparency, and accountability. Such policies include two main steps: 

Tracking the Islamic State — With Words

BY KALEV LEETARU
JUNE 19, 2015

The entire world is talking about ISIS. And we can use big data to find the message amid the clamoring voices.

Each day brings with it new headlines charting the relentless spread of the Islamic State. As of this past February, more than 20,000 foreign volunteers, including 3,400 Westerners, had flown into Islamic State-controlled territory from 90 countries. High-profile attacks inspired by the group on foreign soil, from the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris to those on a Tunisian museum and the Canadian Parliament, to an attempted mass shooting in Texas, combined with its sharp media savvy, have rapidly enhanced the Islamic State’s international visibility as well as its recruiting base.

And while those groups monitoring its geographic spread have produced a proliferation of maps charting the Islamic State’s physical footprint, there have been relatively few attempts to visually chart the broader global discussion around the organization — that is to say, to generate a map that allows us to see the reach and scale of the Islamic State narrative as the media outlets around the world are depicting it so that we might be able to click on any location on Earth and see what has been reported in the media about the Islamic State with respect to that location.

Is a Sino-US War Inevitable?

From time to time in recent years the clouds of war have gathered over the South China Sea, only to disperse as practical realities overtook rhetoric. Now the threat is back again, but in my view a full-fledged war is almost impossible to contemplate since cool heads on both sides will prevail. Nevertheless, many pundits are seemingly convinced that ultimately there must be a fight between the rising power and the incumbent.

Think about this: Two weeks ago at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue military summit, U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter demanded that the Chinese side make “an immediate and lasting halt” to territorial expansion in the Spratly Islands. But if China simply ignores his call and things go on as usual in the disputed waters, what is Uncle Sam supposed to do? The point I would like to make is that the world will and should get used to this new reality based on China’s ever increasing economic and military might. China is getting more assertive, if not aggressive, and in response the U.S. and Japan are becoming increasingly bellicose.

Evolution of the U.S.-ROK Alliance: Abandonment Fears


Throughout the history of the U.S.-ROK alliance, South Korea has faced abandonment fears stemming from the possibility that its great power sponsor would remove its troops from the Korean peninsula and end or weaken the alliance. South Korea’s fear is a reasonable reflection of historical events. In 1950, Kim Il Sung’s decision to invade South Korea depended on his belief that the United States would not come to Seoul’s rescue. Even today, South Korean fears of abandonment persist despite the current strength of the alliance. The U.S. is a global actor with an array of interests that make it difficult to maintain focus on any one relationship, no matter the importance. Since the United States has interests across the globe, it often has to react to unplanned circumstances that distract attention from declared policies and long-term strategies.

These ROK abandonment fears were especially acute during the Nixon and Carter administrations.

America’s Asia Policy: The New Reality

During this week’s Strategic and Economic Dialogue, Washington officials presumably will demonstrate their recognition of a new reality in America’s Asia policy. In the immediate term, regional and global security requires the United States to contain China’s expansionism. Long term, the interests of the Chinese people, as well as regional and global security, can only be served by American support for regime change in China.

The first task, containment of aggression, whether overt or attenuated, is encompassed within international law and norms. The undertaking is mandatory, and it contemplates the possible use of force. The second challenge, openly pursuing change of China’s communist system, is prudential but optional, and lawful as long as it is done by peaceful means.

Containment


The 2015 Global Peace Index shows that the world is becoming increasingly divided with some countries enjoying unprecedented levels of peace and prosperity while others spiral further into violence and conflict.

The Global Peace Index measures the state of peace in 162 countries according to 23 indicators that gauge the absence of violence or the fear of violence. It is produced annually by the Institute for Economics and Peace. 

This year the results show that globally, levels of peace remained stable over the last year, however are still lower than in 2008.

HIGHLIGHTS 

Since last year, 81 countries have become more peaceful, while 78 have deteriorated. 
Many countries in Europe, the world’s most peaceful region, have reached historically high levels of peace. 15 of the 20 most peaceful countries are in Europe

Report: US Needs New Small Nuclear Bombs

JUNE 21, 2015

CSIS’ Clark Murdock argues that only such weapons can deter rogue states from seeking nukes of their own.

The United States should develop new low-yield, tactical nuclear weapons to deter countries from seeking nuclear weapons of their own, a new think-tank report says. It also argues that the U.S. should base more nuclear weapons around the world to better deter attacks.

Marcus Weisgerber is the global business reporter for Defense One, where he writes about the intersection of business and national security. He has been covering defense and national security issues for nearly a decade, previously as Pentagon correspondent for Defense News and chief editor of ...Full Bio

A Competitive Strategies Approach to Defining U.S. Nuclear Strategy and Posture for 2025–2050

JUN 22, 2015 

Project Atom is a forward-looking, “blue-sky” review of U.S. nuclear strategy and posture in a 2025-2050 world in which nuclear weapons are still necessary. The report highlights and addresses the current deficit in national security attention paid to the continued relevance and importance of U.S. nuclear strategy and force posture, provides a new open-source baseline for understanding the nuclear strategies of other countries, and offers a credible, intellectually tested, and nonpartisan range of options for the United States to consider in revising its own nuclear strategy. 



A Bleak Outlook for Democracy in the Maldives

Months after Mohamed Nasheed’s show trial, democracy and the rule of law show no signs of recovery in the Maldives.

Just over three months ago, in a brazen regression of democracy, the former president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, was manhandled and physically dragged to a show-trial at the hands of a stacked court. He was found guilty on charges of terrorism and sentenced to 13 years in prison (the terrorism charge is based on the arrest of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed during Nasheed’s presidency). Nasheed is notable for being the small Indian Ocean island state’s first democratically elected president after over 30 years of autocracy.

Nasheed’s treatment at the hands of the incumbent government, led by President Abdulla Yameen, is a testament to the poor state of the rule of law in the nascent democracy. To make matters worse, other senior opposition leaders, from both the Jumhooree and Adhaalath parties, are on trial on terrorism charges. A crackdown on anti-government protesters in early May further illustrated the disintegration of democracy in the Maldives. (The Diplomat‘s Vishal Arora recalls the events leading to Nasheed’s current fate here.)

Internet anonymity in India encourages trolls – but it’s also necessary


Abusive anonymous trolls might be a major nuisance but, even so, Internet anonymity is crucial for free speech in this age.
In Plato’s Republic, the Greek philosopher writes of the Ring of Gyges, a magical ring that renders the wearer invisible and thus allows him to perform any action without being discovered. In such a situation, asks Plato, why would the wearer still act morally? Conclusion: morality is only a social construct that evaporates once there is no danger of being made responsible by society for your actions.

Why do male suicides outnumber female in every country in the world?


What is it about being male that leads to this? Why are middle-aged men most at risk? And why is it getting worse?

Finally, Drummond had everything he’d ever dreamed of. He’d come a long way since he was a little boy, upset at his failure to get into the grammar school. That had been a great disappointment to his mother, and to his father, who was an engineer at a pharmaceutical company. His dad had never showed much interest in him as a child. He didn’t play with him and when he was naughty, he’d put him over the back of a chair and wallop him. That’s just the way men were in those days. Your father was feared and respected. Dads were dads.

It was difficult, seeing the grammar boys pass by the house in their smart caps, every morning. Drummond had always dreamed of becoming a headteacher in a little school in a perfect village when he grew up, but he was only able to get a place at the technical school learning woodwork and bricklaying. The careers tutor almost laughed when he told him of his dreams to teach. But Drummond was ambitious. He earned a place at college, became president of its student union. He found a teaching job, married his childhood sweetheart, and slowly climbed his way to a headship in a Norfolk village. He had three children and two cars. His mother, at least, was proud.

Chinese Hackers Exploiting Weak or Nonexistent Encryption Protection on US Government Computers

David E. Sanger, Nicole Perlroth and Michael D. Shear 
June 21, 2015 

Attack Gave Chinese Hackers Privileged Access to U.S. Systems 

WASHINGTON — For more than five years, American intelligence agencies followed several groups of Chinese hackers who were systematically draining information from defense contractors, energy firms and electronics makers, their targets shifting to fit Beijing’s latest economic priorities. 

But last summer, officials lost the trail as some of the hackers changed focus again, burrowing deep into United States government computer systems that contain vast troves of personnel data, according to American officials briefed on a federal investigation into the attack and private security experts. 

Undetected for nearly a year, the Chinese intruders executed a sophisticated attack that gave them “administrator privileges” into the computer networks at the Office of Personnel Management, mimicking the credentials of people who run the agency’s systems, two senior administration officials said. The hackers began siphoning out a rush of data after constructing what amounted to an electronic pipeline that led back to China, investigators told Congress last week in classified briefings. 

How ISIS’s ‘Attack America’ Plan Is Working


06.22.15


The terrorist group’s sophisticated social media campaign is reaching its audience in the United States. What it does next has law enforcement worried. 

Fear and concern over ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks on U.S. soil has been turned up a notch in the last couple months, thanks to ISIS’ thriving social media campaign. A State Department report released Friday, officially lists ISIS as the world’s leading terror organization, citing not only the rapid advance and particular brutality of the group, but also their “adroit” use of social media and ability to inspire lone wolf attacks. 

“These attacks may presage a new era in which centralized leadership of a terrorist organization matters less, group identity is more fluid and violent extremist narratives focus on a wider range of alleged grievances and enemies with which lone actors may identify and seek to carry out self-directed attacks,” reads the report. 

The deadly new age war

SAIKAT DATTA 

NEED FOR STRENGTHENING: “Every sector that depends on computer networks has suddenly been left extremely vulnerable.” Picture shows a team competing in the CTF contest at DEFCON, one of the world’s largest annual hacker conventions, in Las Vegas. 

Without a single shot fired or a drop of blood spilled, an entire country can be crippled. That is cyber warfare, and the government must start working right away to combat the new enemy

In late 2006, the U.S Department of Defence detected a major breach in their computer systems leading them to believe that their $337 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme had been compromised. Investigations that started at Pentagon, the department headquarters, revealed that the breach had taken place far away from HQ.

The JSF programme, claimed to be producing one the world’s most advanced combat aircraft, was primarily being developed by the private defence contractor Lockheed Martin, along with many sub-contractors. While the companies were busy meeting deadlines, no one had noticed a deliberate Computer Network Exploitation (CNE) attack that had taken place on their premises.

Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction


Abstract

The oft-repeated claim that Earth’s biota is entering a sixth “mass extinction” depends on clearly demonstrating that current extinction rates are far above the “background” rates prevailing in the five previous mass extinctions. Earlier estimates of extinction rates have been criticized for using assumptions that might overestimate the severity of the extinction crisis. We assess, using extremely conservative assumptions, whether human activities are causing a mass extinction. First, we use a recent estimate of a background rate of 2 mammal extinctions per 10,000 species per 100 years (that is, 2 E/MSY), which is twice as high as widely used previous estimates. We then compare this rate with the current rate of mammal and vertebrate extinctions. The latter is conservatively low because listing a species as extinct requires meeting stringent criteria. Even under our assumptions, which would tend to minimize evidence of an incipient mass extinction, the average rate of vertebrate species loss over the last century is up to 114 times higher than the background rate. Under the 2 E/MSY background rate, the number of species that have gone extinct in the last century would have taken, depending on the vertebrate taxon, between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear. These estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already under way. Averting a dramatic decay of biodiversity and the subsequent loss of ecosystem services is still possible through intensified conservation efforts, but that window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

INTRODUCTION

Broad Patterns in Global Terrorism in 2014

JUN 19, 2015 

The U.S. State Department has just published its annual country reports on terrorism. In the past, most of the resulting commentary has focused on the narratives in the main report. It is the statistical annex, which largely goes unread, however, which does most to provide a picture of the global patterns in terrorism and which does most to warn that we are neither winning nor containing the struggle.

The State Department reports that there were a total of 13,463 terrorist attacks worldwide in 2014, resulting in more than 32,700 deaths and more than 34,700 injuries. In addition, more than 9,400 people were kidnapped or taken hostage . This meant the number of terrorist attacks in 2014 increased 35% and total fatalities increased 81% compared to 2013.

Looking back at previous editions and other data once sees the following patterns:

• The Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia continue to dominate world terrorism. They had a total of roughly 9,600 terrorist incidents in 2013 – the vast majority of which were carried, out by Islamic extremist or Jihadist groups.

THE REAL DAWN OF THE AGE OF CYBER WARFARE

Written by Roman Packa
Jun 22, 2015

World War IV, Cyber War, digital Pearl Harbor or cyber 9/11—people talk about catastrophic scenarios in cyberspace, whereas academics and other experts point out that there is a danger in the overuse of the cyberwar rhetoric. But is the overuse premise still valid? What if recent events in cyberspace make it no longer correct? Should states brace themselves for the age of cyber warfare?

Especially in the media, everything potentially related to cyberspace and state-actor violent behavior is being named cyber war. For example, we can find since the 90´s plenty of books on cyber warfare, cyber war, information war, etc., but no real act of cyber war to justify them. Not long ago, I would agree with the premise that this phenomenon is shifting the focus from real dangers like cybercrime, espionage or critical information infrastructure disruption. But for how long will cyber warfare will still stand for just a future concept of warfare? Bearing these questions in mind, I have identified some clues in the past few months, which can predict the change.

Why the next World War will be a cyberwar first, and a shooting war second

June 22, 2015

Opinion: The US already has lost the first battles, and may not have the national will to defend itself in the inevitable global conflict to come. David Gewirtz looks at the geopolitical implications of cyberwarfare. 

Credit: map.ipviking.comEverything we do revolves around the Internet. Older technologies are finding themselves eclipsed by their Internet-based substitute solutions.