24 March 2018

Seychelles Strategy: Why A Base On Assumption Island Is Crucial For Securing The Indian Ocean Region

New Delhi has recently made a sound move by agreeing to work in tandem with similarly-minded powers to protect the Indian Ocean.The acquisition of its own assets in the Indian Ocean Region is a bonus and will retain some autonomy for India. The small, out-of-mind archipelago of Seychelles has been in the Indian news cycle an inordinate amount. Part of this is due to a prospering Indian public starting to take greater interest in the geopolitics of their region. Another reason is the recent agreement signed between India and Seychelles for the construction of a military base on Assumption Island, one of the 115 islands of the African country. Originally signed in 2015 during a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the country, work could not begin on the strategic asset as the deal was not ratified by the Seychelles parliament during the term of the previous president, James Michel.

China quietly & cleverly finds a new route to S. Doklam, 7 months after India stopped it


New alignment is 5 km away from Indian posts, making it difficult for India to do anything about it. The new road will open up South Doklam to Chinese troops. New Delhi: China has worked through the winter to bypass India’s aggressive blockade at Doklam, making a new road that can give its troops access to the southern part of the plateau – a move that has serious strategic implications for New Delhi. The Doklam crisis was sparked in June last year after Indian troops crossed over to stop the construction of a road that would enable the Chinese military to move vehicles to South Doklam, thus giving it easy access to the Jampheri ridge that overlooks the strategic Siliguri corridor.

Army flags concerns over OFB rifles


Kolkata: Close on the heels of the Modi government’s clearance to procure around 7.40 lakhs assault rifles of 7.62 mm calibre which will replace the 5.56 mm calibre INSAS rifles for the Indian Army, the Army has flagged its serious questions on the quality of the latest weapon being developed by the Kolkata-headquartered state defence manufacturer: Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).  Vowing to not to compromise with the qualitative requirements (QR) for its weapons the Army also pointed out that the new assault rifle failed trials while deliberating that no one can meet its requirement.

B.R. Ambedkar in the time of farmer protests

Niranjan Rajadhyaksha

The challenge of sustainable industrial growth is intimately linked to the situation in rural India, as Ambedkar rightly pointed out a hundred years ago B.R. Ambedkar persuasively argued in his 1918 article that the solution to rural stress is rapid industrialization. This year marks the centenary of a landmark article by B.R. Ambedkar. Its central insight deserves attention at a time when thousands of protesting farmers touched the hearts of Mumbaikars with their quiet dignity during the long march this week.

The U.S. Needs to Talk to the Taliban in Afghanistan

By Borhan Osman

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban appear to have rejected the bold proposal by President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan to invite them for direct peace talks with the government. In an unsigned commentary published last week on their official website, the Taliban said, “The permission of peace and war are with the Americans ….” and claimed that their policy of wanting to “talk to American invaders about peace and stability rather than talking to their slave regime is now widely accepted by the independent Western analysts and other intellectuals.”

Do the Taliban Have any Appetite for Reconciliation with Kabul? | Antonio Giustozzi

Dr. Antonio Giustozzi

Has China Overtaken The U.S. In Terms Of Innovation?

by Ana Maria Santacreu and Heting Zhu

Two measures of innovative activity of a country are: Its research and development (R&D) intensity (that is, the fraction of total output invested in R&D), which reflects the effort of innovation Its number of patent applications, which reflects the output of innovation Larger R&D investment is associated with faster technological progress, higher productivity and faster output growth. One of the outcomes of the R&D process is an increase in the number of patent applications.1 Indeed, there tends to be a positive correlation between the R&D intensity of a country and the number of patent applications in that country.

Xi Jinping tells parliament China must not be complacent

Chinese President Xi Jinping has told the National People's Congress (NPC) that China must not become complacent about its development. Speaking at the closing session of the annual parliament, Mr Xi said China was at a critical stage in its history and only socialism could save it. He also warned against Taiwanese separatism or attempts to split China.  Mr Xi is now set up to be China's president for life, after the NPC removed a two-term limit. The motion was overwhelmingly approved by the roughly 3,000 delegates at the start of the session.

Liu He: China's quiet economist becomes top economic leader

By Sarah Porter

Harvard-educated Liu He has been named one of China's four vice-premiers - in charge of economic policies and financial issues. It's a huge and high-profile job. Known affectionately by some as "Uncle He", it's widely rumoured Liu He has been friends with President Xi Jinping since they were teenagers. Whether that's true or not, his status today as President Xi's top economic adviser is beyond dispute. He has been called the brains behind China's shift in economic policy, which has seen a focus on slower but more sustainable consumption-based growth, rather than the debt-fuelled investment and exports that have driven the country's expansion of the past four decades.

China's stealth wars in the Himalayas

Brahma Chellaney

Operating in the threshold between peace and war, China has pushed its borders far out into international waters in the South China Sea in a way no other power has done elsewhere. Less known is that China is using a similar strategy in the Himalayas to alter facts on the ground -- meter by meter -- without firing a single shot. India is facing increasingly persistent Chinese efforts to intrude into its desolate borderlands. China, however, has not spared even one of the world's smallest countries, Bhutan, which has barely 8,000 men in its security forces. In the disputed Himalayan plateau of Doklam, claimed by both Bhutan and China, the People's Liberation Army has incrementally changed the status quo since last fall.

Trade Wars and Real Wars

The world is rudely awakening to the dangers of President Donald Trump’s tariffs. Markets are correcting. Countries and industries are scrambling for exemptions. Economists now see greater downside than upside to growth projections for the U.S. economy this year. But the hazards could be even greater than anyone wants to admit. As protectionist sentiment rises, so does the risk of war. The link between international commerce and peace has been apparent for so long that it is sometimes taken for granted. As the German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote in his 1795 essay, Perpetual Peace, “The spirit of trade cannot coexist with war, and sooner or later this spirit dominates every people.”

The Armed Conflict in Eastern Ukraine

By Nikolaus von Twickel, Gwendolyn Sasse and Mario Baumann for Center for Security Studies (CSS)

The three articles in this edition of the RAD look at 1) the “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, arguing that though they may be best described as Russian puppet states, Moscow’s denial of formal ties to these entities makes a comprehensive analysis difficult; 2) the attitudes and identities of the Donbass region’s population, including both the Russian and Ukrainian controlled areas; and 3) key factors driving the recurrence of violence in eastern Ukraine and the potential for peacekeeping efforts to address them.

Allies “Entering a New World” in Confronting Russia, U.K. Official Says


WASHINGTON: The No. 2 official in the British Ministry of Defence promised a “robust” response to the alleged Russian assassination attempt on U.K. soil. Mark Lancaster‘s remarks to reporters here Friday echoed a rising drumbeat of British and other allied statements on the seriousness of the Russian threat, including from the top European general in NATO.

The 25 Countries With The Most Billionaires

There are roughly 36 million millionaires in the world. However, the billionaire on the other hand is a much rarer breed. According to Forbes, there are just over 2,000 billionaires in existence, making up just 0.00003% of the global population.

Tsunamis of innovation are shaking the energy industry

David G. Victor

The World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Energy recently released a paper on Transformation of the Global Energy System. One of the Council’s authors, David Victor, also co-chair of the Cross-Brookings Initiative on Energy and Climate, highlights its findings on the global energy system below. Tsunamis of innovation, anxiety, and opportunity are now washing over the world’s energy system. New technologies have transformed the global markets for oil and gas. The United States is on track to become the world’s largest oil producer within a decade, as my Brookings colleague Samantha Gross has analyzed. Meanwhile, countries from Russia to Saudi Arabia—that used to have the problem of finding ways to spend huge amounts of cash earned from oil exports—are now learning to be a lot more frugal. Innovation is making some fuels, like natural gas, significantly more competitive while crushing coal in some markets. Even more profound changes are now appearing in the electric power industry, where traditional firms that operate large power grids see threats from new upstarts that are siphoning away customers and creating totally new types of local power grids.

US says Russian hack did not compromise power grid, plants

By: Matthew Daly

WASHINGTON — A Russian government hacking operation aimed at the U.S. power grid did not compromise operations at any of the nation’s power plants, federal regulators and the industry said Friday. Corporate networks at some of the 99 nuclear power plants licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission were affected by the 2017 hack aimed at the energy grid and other infrastructure, but no safety, security or emergency preparedness functions were impacted, the NRC said in a statement.

Are Cold War Spy-Craft Norms Fading?

by Jonathan Masters

The poisoning of a Russian former double agent, Sergei V. Skripal, and his daughter with a rare nerve agent in England has raised new concerns in NATO capitals about Russia’s willingness to escalate intelligence operations beyond established norms. The British and U.S. governments have blamed Russia for the attack, which follows a series of unexplained deaths of Russians in the United Kingdom in recent years. For longtime CIA veteran Jack Devine, it appears that some of the unwritten conventions of spy-craft with Russia no longer apply. “Russia today seems unconstrained by any norms,” says Devine in a written interview, citing assassination campaigns, meddling in foreign elections, and bombing civilians in Syria.
Are there spy-craft norms?

Here’s how Army soldiers in Europe are doing mobile electronic warfare

By: Mark Pomerleau  

The Russian electronic warfare threat in Europe has caused the U.S. military and its foreign partners to scramble to reevaluate their capabilities and force postures. Some leaders have even asserted the U.S. is “outgunned” when it comes to electronic warfare. Army soldiers in Europe, as a result, require additional capabilities. For the first time, details regarding soldiers needs — such as the ability to be mobile and operate disconnected from a network, which the current capability and program does not include — are coming to light.

Acropolis is DISA’s bastion against today’s threats and future cyber wars

By Patience Wait

There already are battles in cyberspace. The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has got the warriors — and the weapons — to prove it. And just as in kinetic war, it takes constant adaptation, new strategies, tactics and weapons to engage adversaries whose own means and methods are constantly changing. DISA’s Acropolis is the infrastructure upon which the agency runs its platforms and tools – the weapons – to track down and fight off opponents. “This division has been working with Acropolis since it was invented about 15 years ago,” said DISA’s Dr. Jim Travis, chief of the Cyber Situational Awareness/Cyber NetOps Solution Division. “It’s lots and lots of servers that we run defensive cyber solution operations on top of…Acropolis is a stack of things, with specialists at each layer.”

Addressing The Dark Side Of The Crypto World

by Christine Lagarde

Whether Bitcoin’s value goes up or Bitcoin’s value goes down, people around the world are asking the same question: What exactly is the potential of crypto-assets? The technology behind these assets - including blockchain - is an exciting advancement that could help revolutionize fields beyond finance. It could, for example, power financial inclusion by providing new, low-cost payment methods to those who lack bank accounts and in the process empower millions in low-income countries.he possible benefits have even led some central banks to consider the idea of issuing central bank digital currencies.

Trans-Alaska pipeline fights 22 million cyberattacks per day

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s chief information officer said his team fights off about 22 million cyberattacks per day. Bill Rosetti said that at the Anchorage headquarters for the trans-Alaska pipeline, his team is kept busy by mass, automated attacks — often from servers overseas, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported Wednesday.  “It can be 6 or 7 million some days and 45 million the next,” Rosetti said. “I wish I could tell you why it changes that way, but I really don’t know.” Rosetti said that Alyeska has never been breached, but the challenge is growing. The rate of cyberattacks has roughly doubled in the last five years, he said.

Edward Snowden: Facebook Is A Surveillance Company Rebranded As "Social Media"

(Zero Hedge) NSA whistleblower and former CIA employee Edward Snowden slammed Facebook in a Saturday tweet following the suspension of Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) and its political data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, over what Facebook says was improper use of collected data. In a nutshell, in 2015 Cambridge Analytica bought data from a University of Cambridge psychology professor, Dr. Aleksandr Kogan, who had developed an app called “thisisyourdigitallife” that vacuumed up loads of information on users and their contacts. After making Kogan and Cambridge Analytica promise to delete the data the app had gathered, Facebook received reports (from sources they would not identify) which claimed that not all the data had been deleted – which led the social media giant to delete Cambridge Analytica and parent company SCL’s accounts. 

Facebook’s Surveillance Machine

Zeynep Tufekci

In 2014, Cambridge Analytica, a voter-profiling company that would later provide services for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, reached out with a request on Amazon’s “Mechanical Turk” platform, an online marketplace where people around the world contract with others to perform various tasks. Cambridge Analytica was looking for people who were American Facebook users. It offered to pay them to download and use a personality quiz app on Facebook called thisisyourdigitallife.

Why the military needs to take 3-D printer cybersecurity seriously

By: Meredith Rutland Bauer 

Marines with 2nd Maintenance Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group discuss the capabilities of 3-D printing technology with a British Royal Navy Commando during Exercise Bold Alligator 17 at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 26, 2017. (Lance Cpl. Abrey D. Liggins/Marine Corps) The use of 3-D printing in the military is becoming more commonplace, and as a result experts are emphasizing the importance of treating 3-D printers like the hackable machines they are. While a 3-D printer’s capability for experimental on-site manufacturing is far more futuristic than a traditional Wi-Fi enabled printer, the hardware is as vulnerable to cyberattacks as an average laptop or connected printer, said Nikhil Gupta, a New York University associate professor of engineering and materials researcher.

Comparing A 355-Ship Fleet With Smaller Naval Forces

In December 2016, the Navy released a new force structure assessment (FSA) that called for a fleet of 355 ships - substantially larger than the current force of 280 ships. In response to a request from the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces of the House Committee on Armed Services, CBO explored the costs of achieving that goal in a previous report. To expand on that analysis, CBO has estimated the costs of achieving a 355-ship fleet under two alternatives. The agency then compared those scenarios with two other alternatives involving smaller fleets. For all four alternatives, CBO explored shipbuilding and operating costs, the composition and capabilities of the fleet, and effects on the shipbuilding industry.

23 March 2018

Things could turn bad for India's economy in 2018: Credit Suisse

India is one of the most vulnerable Asian economies should another round of "taper tantrum" — a wave of selloffs — occurs, said Santitarn Sathirathai, Credit Suisse's head of emerging Asia economics.
The huge inflows into India's bond and stock markets mean a reversal is also likely to happen when there's a spike in U.S. yields, said Sathirathai.

India has emerged as one of the Asian economies most vulnerable in an environment of rising interest rates in the U.S., according to Credit Suisse.
Higher interest rates stateside could trigger capital outflows from emerging economies as investors search for better yields in the U.S.
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised rates by another 25 basis points, and the Swiss banking giant is expecting three more hikes this year.

India is one country that would lose out in the event of a capital flight, Santitarn Sathirathai, the bank's head of emerging Asia economics, said ahead of the latest Fed rate increase.
"In the last 12, 15 months, India has seen a lot of inflows into the bond market, as well as the equity market. That means that the potential reversal if there's a shock is also quite high," Sathirathai said at the Credit Suisse Asia Investment Conference.
India was one of the Asian economies that were badly hit by a wave of selloffs in 2013 — called the "taper tantrum" — after the Fed suggested it would start tightening monetary conditions.
While much of Asia has since built up buffers to better withstand such capital flights, India's current account balance has continued to deteriorate, noted Sathirathai.
India, the third-largest economy in Asia, last month announced a budget with massive spending that would result in a fiscal deficit of 3.3 percent of GDP — wider than the recommended 3 percent in the country's fiscal consolidation road map.
"Broad-based trade war is not our base case," said Sathirathai. "What's more likely is the taper tantrum in 2013 and when we look at countries with current account deficits, India, Philippines and maybe Indonesialook vulnerable."

Tibet and India’s China Policy

By K.S. Venkatachalam

China’s foreign policy with India has oscillated between a ballistic approach and studied indifference. India’s approach, meanwhile, has recently flipped from a hardline to a conciliatory approach, confusing observers. At the heart of India-China tensions is the dispute over territory in the Aksai Chin area, and Tawang in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as a part of southern Tibet. Both countries have so far held 20 rounds of talks to settle the disputes, but, unfortunately, an acceptable solution has eluded them. To the credit of both sides, they have not allowed the situation to go out of control.

When Nehru meets the Dalai Lama

A circular of the Cabinet Secretary asking Indian ministers and officials not to attend a function for the Dalai Lama in Delhi, has been in the news. While the controversy (and the MEA's kowtowing to China) continues to rage, it is interesting to look at the transcript of a talk between the Dalai Lama and Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister on India.

The encounter took place on April 16, 1961.

KL Mehta, Joint Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs took the notes. A couple of weeks later (May 2), in a debate in the Lok Sabha, the Prime Minister was asked:

Will technology be able to disrupt the legal industry?

Rahul Matthan

We rarely see disruption coming. Most businesses function under the belief that the infrastructure that supports their operations is so difficult to replicate that its very existence is a barrier against competition. Retail stores relied on the friction inherent in developing supply chains to keep them safe from challengers. Travel businesses took comfort in the fact that the effort involved in replicating their large fleets of taxis would keep them ahead of new entrants looking to displace them. Newspapers saw the distribution networks that they had built to get the news to our doorsteps as the moat that no competitors could cross.

The Bajwa Doctrine: Pakistan Army chief pushes back against US pressure in Afghanistan, threats of funding cuts from Donald Trump

Pakistan's generals, particularly General Qamar Javed Bajwa, think their country has done more than enough to secure neighbouring Afghanistan and is not intimidated by the threat of US funding cuts, according to an analysis entitled 'The Bajwa Doctrine', published by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a leading British think-tank. In the document, Pakistan's generals spell out their vision for the future of US-Pakistan military relations under the administration of President Donald Trump.

China Upgrades Diplomacy While the US Pulls Back

By Helena Legarda

China’s diplomacy has emerged as a stronger player from this year’s National People’s Congress (NPC). China comes out of this NPC with at least five high-ranking officials in charge of the country’s foreign policy. The once sidelined Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has received a substantial boost through a budget increase, leadership changes, and rumored structural reforms. And a newly created State International Development Cooperation Agency (国家国际发展合作署) will now be in charge of coordinating China’s growing budget for foreign aid.

Redefining the Belt and Road Initiative

By Andreea Brînză

The narrative of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as spanning over 65 countries and gathering 62 percent of the world population, 31 percent of its GDP, and 40 percent of global land area should once and for all disappear now that China has announced the extension of the BRI to Latin America. Ever since Xi Jinping put forward China’s attempt to recreate the old Silk Road in 2013, observers have considered the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to be a project spanning Asia, Europe, and Africa, encompassing around 65 countries that have signed up for it. The two corridors that form the BRI, the Silk Road Economic Belt (the Belt) and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (the Road), were perceived as two routes that will stretch over Eurasia or the maritime rimland, respectively, to link China with Europe.

Economic Cooperation In Indian Ocean Region And One Belt One Road Initiative: Threat Or Opportunity? – Analysis

By Dr Palitha Kohona*

The Indian Ocean region is experiencing a fondly anticipated luxury. Almost every one of the economies of the region is expanding at a rate that gives hope to the entire region, especially to its poor and marginalised. The promise of prosperity enthusiastically proclaimed at independence from colonial rule, so many decades ago, may at last become a reality. India is powering ahead with an anticipated growth rate of 7.3% and now is ahead of China. Still the South Asian region continues to be confronted by an inexcusably massive burden of poverty, literacy deficits, malnutrition and deprivation. South Asia has the dubious distinction of being home to the largest concentration of the poor in the world. Inadequate policy frameworks, corruption, military rivalries and internal conflicts, among others, drain resources which could be devoted to economic advancement. Some internal conflicts are funded from the outside.

Shooting An Own Goal: China’s Belt And Road Funding Terms Spark Criticism

James M. Dorsey 

Steep commercial terms for China’s investment in infrastructure projects across Eurasia related to its Belt and Road initiative may give it control of key ports and other assets as recipients of Beijing’s largess find themselves trapped in debt. Yet, that comes with a risky price tag: potentially rising anti-Chinese sentiment, questioning of Chinese intentions, and a tarnishing of the image China is seeking to cultivate. Cynically dubbed debt-trap diplomacy, multiple countries along China’s Belt and Road risk financial crisis. The Washington-based Center for Global Development recently warned that 23 of the 68 countries involved were “significantly or highly vulnerable to debt distress.”

The Rise of China-Europe Railways

The Dawn of a New Commercial Era?

For over two millennia, technology and politics have shaped trade across the Eurasian supercontinent. The compass and domesticated camels helped the “silk routes” emerge between 200 and 400 CE, and peaceful interactions between the Han and Hellenic empires allowed overland trade to flourish. A major shift occurred in the late fifteenth century, when the invention of large ocean-going vessels and new navigation methods made maritime trade more competitive. Mercantilism and competition among Europe’s colonial powers helped pull commerce to the coastlines. Since then, commerce between Asia and Europe has traveled primarily by sea.

Fifteen Years Ago, America Destroyed My Country


When I was 12, Saddam Hussein, vice president of Iraq at the time, carried out a huge purge and officially usurped total power. I was living in Baghdad then, and I developed an intuitive, visceral hatred of the dictator early on. That feeling only intensified and matured as I did. In the late 1990s, I wrote my first novel, “I’jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody,” about daily life under Saddam’s authoritarian regime. Furat, the narrator, was a young college student studying English literature at Baghdad University, as I had. He ends up in prison for cracking a joke about the dictator. Furat hallucinates and imagines Saddam’s fall, just as I often did. I hoped I would witness that moment, whether in Iraq or from afar.

Saudi Arabia Has Become a Geopolitical Loose Cannon

Doug Bandow

The de facto ruler of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, known as MbS, has been busy wreaking havoc internationally, punishing political enemies domestically, loosening social controls at home, and burnishing his image abroad. Amid rising opposition to Saudi-generated carnage in Yemen, the Trump administration appears to be abandoning proliferation concerns in seeking to sell nuclear reactors—even as it complains about Iran’s presumed nuclear ambitions.

What Turkey’s campaign in Afrin means for the YPG

Asaad Hanna

When a military operation supported by Turkey was launched against the city of Afrin, it hardly came as a surprise. The city, whose inhabitants are mostly Kurdish, is also a major base of the People's Protection Units (YPG), a military organization which received considerable support from America, as well as from Russia, in the fight against IS. The YPG led the fight against IS in Raqqa and northern Syria, while at the same time attempting to mark out areas for self-rule, to be controlled and run by the organization. Multiple Turkish statements to the press had alluded to such an operation, and in mid-January it began in earnest in cooperation with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) which is based in the area around the Euphrates Shield under Turkish control.

Israel confirms it carried out 2007 airstrike on Syrian nuclear reactor

Oliver Holmes

Intelligence minister says attack is a ‘clear message’ to Iran it won’t allow its enemies to acquire nuclear weapons. Israel’s military has gone public for the first time to confirm a 2007 airstrike on a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor, announcing details of a night-time attack its intelligence minister said provides a clear warning to IranIn a secret operation that has been extensively speculated on for a decade, Israelsaid it sent four F-16 fighters hundreds of miles into Syria on 6 September 2007, to bomb the partially completed al-Kubar facility near Deir ez-Zor.

The problem is Hezbollah

By Ziva Dahl

Current U.S. policy toward Lebanon confirms Voltaire’s observation that “the human brain is a complex organ with the wonderful power of enabling man to find reasons for continuing to believe whatever it is that he wants to believe.” Our Lebanese strategy of providing training and advanced military aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) is based on the fallacy that it will promote stability and prevent Hezbollah from taking over the country. News flash: That takeover has occurred. Lebanon already is Hezbollah country and a wholly-owned Iranian subsidiary. We are fighting yesterday’s war. Paradoxically, America is essentially arming Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy and U.S.-declared terrorist group. We need to re-examine our incoherent foreign policy.

Russia and Critical Infrastructure: We “Should Not Threaten a Nuclear Power”

The quotation in the title comes from the Russian Foreign Ministry, brushing off UK demands for an explanation of why Russia poisoned Sergei Skripal. That the Russians said this is a good sign that they have not entirely forgotten the risks of attacking the United States. Before yielding to panic because Russia has been probing the computer networks of U.S. critical infrastructure, remember that Russia has probed critical infrastructure many times in the last five years. What is different this time is that the United States has been much more forthright in its public identification of Russia as the culprit. Russia has had the capability to destroy critical infrastructure for decades. Russia has been able to launch a nuclear attack that would destroy American infrastructure since the 1960s. In the 1970s, it planted caches of weapons and explosives in the United States to let its agents undertake sabotage operations in the event of war. Now, groups of Russian agents have entered the country for other purposes and could easily undertake an attack.

Is Technology Hurting Productivity?


It is possible that new technologies are not just doing less to boost productivity than past innovations. They may actually have negative side effects that undermine productivity growth, and that reduce our wellbeing in other ways as well. CAMBRIDGE – In recent years, productivity growth in developed economies has been stagnating. The most prominent explanations of this trend involve technology. Technological progress is supposed to increase economies’ productivity and potential growth. So what’s going on? The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

What to Do If You Find a Suspicious Package

The following information was produced and originally published by Threat Lens, Stratfor's unique protective intelligence product. Designed with corporate security leaders in mind, Threat Lens enables industry professionals to anticipate, identify, measure and mitigate emerging threats to people and assets around the world.

How Data Has Real Impact In The Real World: The Case Of Cambridge Analytica

by Rajeev Srinivasan

We are seeing a watershed moment in the history of the use of private data to stealthily subvert the democratic process, and Facebook and its tech friends may face a serious backlash. Whether this will finally persuade lethargic regulators in India, to put in place regulations about data protection, remains to be seen. There has been a lot of concern about how the cavalier use of customer data by various technology platforms can lead to unforeseen consequences, and there have been calls to restrict the ways data is captured, analysed and stored. I have been particularly concerned about the way Indian customer data is flowing to Chinese and American entities, as I mentioned in these pages earlier (Tech giants and data: Is India giving away a treasure trove of data about its citizens?)

DoD and interagency group looking to step up collaboration on space technology

by Sandra Erwin

WASHINGTON — A highly anticipated “state of the defense industrial base” report is due to be completed in April. The study, requested by President Trump in a July executive order, will look at the nation’s manufacturing and supply sources. For the space-focused part of the review, the Pentagon has been working with NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Reconnaissance Office, said Brennan Hogan Grignon, director of industry outreach for the secretary of defense.

The Social-Media Panic


‘Make no mistake: 2016 will never happen again.” Historians are not always reliable predictors of the future, but Niall Ferguson’s analysis of how Silicon Valley and the center-Left would react to the successive and surprise victories of Brexit and Donald Trump is proving correct. Conservatives and populists will not be allowed to use the same tools as Democrats and liberals again, or at least not use them effectively.

The Problem Is Facebook, Not Cambridge Analytica

Leonid Bershidsky

Facebook is being hammered for allowing the data firm Cambridge Analytica to acquire 50 million user profiles in the U.S., which it may or may not have used 1 to help the Trump campaign. But the outrage misses the target: There's nothing Cambridge Analytica could have done that Facebook itself doesn't offer political clients. Here, in a nutshell, is the CA scandal. In 2014, Aleksandr Kogan, an academic of Russian origin at Cambridge University in the U.K., built a Facebook app that paid hundreds of thousands of users to take a psychological test. Apart from their test results, the users also shared the data of their Facebook friends with the app. Kogan sold the resulting database to CA, which Facebook considers a violation of its policies: The app was not allowed to use the data for commercial purposes. Carol Cadwalladr and Emma Graham-Harrison, writing for the U.K. publication Observer, quoted former CA employee Christopher Wylie as saying the firm "broke Facebook" on behalf of Stephen Bannon, the ideologue and manager behind the Trump campaign.

Causes of War: A Theory Analysis

Kyle Amonson

“To expect states of any sort to rest reliably at peace in a condition of anarchy would require the uniform and enduring perfection of all of them” (Waltz, 2001, pg. 9). War and conflict has been as much a constant in human history as humans. As Kenneth Waltz states, “there is no peace in a condition of anarchy,” and there will always be a form of anarchy as long as human nature is a variable in our complex domestic and international systems. Many scholars have analyzed the causes of war on a state-by-state-basis, other writers believe that it is possible to provide a wider, more generalized explanation (Baylis et al, 2017, pg. 239). Additionally, many well-known international relations theorists have applied forms of theoretical framework to understand how and why we create friction in our societies, focusing on a variety of aspects, from international institutions to gender. For neorealist writers such as John Mearsheimer, international politics is not characterized by these constant wars, but nevertheless a relentless security competition, as we will discuss in this essay (Baylis et al, 2017, pg. 242).

Machine Learning is Fun!

Have you heard people talking about machine learning but only have a fuzzy idea of what that means? Are you tired of nodding your way through conversations with co-workers? Let’s change that! This guide is for anyone who is curious about machine learning but has no idea where to start. I imagine there are a lot of people who tried reading the wikipedia article, got frustrated and gave up wishing someone would just give them a high-level explanation. That’s what this is. The goal is be accessible to anyone — which means that there’s a lot of generalizations. But who cares? If this gets anyone more interested in ML, then mission accomplished.

Army, Struggling to Get Technology in Soldiers’ Hands, Tries the Unconventional


WASHINGTON — The platoon of Army Special Operations soldiers was on a routine night patrol in eastern Afghanistan when one of them suddenly opened fire on what looked to the others to be a bush. The bush, it turned out, had been obscuring a militant fighter. He was detectable only to the one platoon member wearing prototype night vision goggles that could detect heat signatures — a happenstance that Army officials say probably saved many lives. That incident took place in 2015. Three years later, soldiers in the field still do not have the new night vision goggles, and that is just one example of a process that can take a decade to get new weapons from the lab to the hands of troops. Worried about that lag, the Army is creating a new and decidedly unconventional department to address it: the Futures Command.

Perhaps We Can Eat Soup with a Knife: Prospect Theory and the Use of Conventional Military Strategies in Counterinsurgency Operations


Combating insurgencies with conventional forces has long been regarded as being, to paraphrase T.E Lawrence’s colorful formulation, comparable to eating soup with a knife (Lawrence, 1922, 53). Indeed, the inutility of force with regards to combating a phenomenon that primarily exists in the minds of a target population has been noted by figures from General Rupert Smith to General David Petraeus, the latter articulating this principle as a central premise upon which he built his population centric theory of counterinsurgency in FM-3-24 (Petraeus, 2006, 60-100) (Smith, 2005, 40). Within the context of this argument, any effort to destroy an insurgent militarily by a policy of attrition or annihilation ignores the insurgents innate capacity to trade space for time, avoiding the strengths of a conventional force and eroding both its domestic will and its control over the target populace (over which the insurgent and counterinsurgent force are fighting) by policies of assassination, intimidation of the counterinsurgency’s local supporters and dispersed attacks on occupying troops. The ability of an insurgency, even one which has held territory for a significant period to revert to what T.X. Hammes dubs phase I of an insurgent strategy (whereby it resorts to asymmetrical warfare) is central to the argument regarding the inutility of an enemy-centric Clausewitzian approach to combating insurgencies (Hammes, 2006, 50).