28 August 2016

Japan’s 2016 Defence White Paper Raises Concern On China – Analysis

AUGUST 24, 2016

The Japanese government issued its annual Defence White Paper on 2 August. Its contents have become the issue of debate in China, who reacted strongly on its contents. The main highlight of the Defence White Paper is that Japan has called North Korea’s nuclear and missile development a “grave and imminent threat” to the region and international security. The report also criticised China’s increasingly assertive military action in the Asia-Pacific region and its defiance to the ruling on 12 July by the international tribunal on the South China Sea. The significance of the observation in the white paper cannot be missed as the Japanese government under Abe Shinzo is pushing for Japan to take on greater military roles abroad.

The key points in the 484-page report focus mainly on three points: North Korea’s nuclear and missile development program, China’s assertive posture and maritime claims as well as air activity, and China’s interference in the East China Sea. First, the report expressed alarm that Pyongyang is suspected to have achieved the capability to miniaturise atomic weapons for warheads, as well as acquired a missile capable of reaching as far as 10,000 km (6,200 miles), and therefore has “become a grave and imminent threat not only to Japan but also to the security in the region and the international society”.


26 August 2016

Like most of the developed world, China initially ignored the environmental consequences of rapid economic growth. Now that it has reached a high GDP level, it is making an extensive effort to clean up the mess

A major challenge that the world faces is in respect of decoupling economic growth from greater use of energy, particularly fossil fuels. Such a move has already taken place in several parts of the world, but given the economic growth taking place in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) nations, the total demand for fossil fuels is likely to go up, if decoupling does not occur.

The Chinese economic situation is going through a period of transition. In retrospect, it is now apparent that China pursued the same path as that of the developed world wherein the environmental consequences of growth were initially ignored, and whatever cleanup is needed takes place at a much later stage when high levels of GDP are attained.

The Chinese economic scene provides several lessons for India, similar to the record of the developed countries, but which, unfortunately, most countries in the developing world, including India, have ignored. The Chinese authorities and people in that country are now intensively focused on improving the environment and setting an example on the global stage, particularly in dealing with climate change. In this, of course, they also anticipate the growth of business opportunities, because global markets for environmentally friendly products and low carbon processes are bound to grow with increased efforts worldwide for tackling climate change.

Germany and Turkey's Quiet Alliance

Aug. 25, 2016

Though Berlin and Ankara's relationship is often contentious, they know they need each other.

Germany and Turkey are highly interdependent. Ankara relies on trade and funding from Germany while Berlin needs Turkey’s cooperation on the refugee crisis. Ongoing diplomatic spats and political clashes between Ankara and Berlin mask the depth of this mutual dependency. Both the German and Turkish leadership have strong incentives to put differences aside, make concessions and continue working together closely.


Over the past few months, it has become common to hear Turkish and German politicians publicly exchange harsh words and accusations. Turkey has recalled its ambassador from Berlin, German members of parliament have called for an investigation into alleged Turkish spying, and leaders from both sides have threatened to renege on previous agreements. And yet the German-Turkish relationship remains strong.

Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export Of Wahhabism – Speech

AUGUST 24, 2016

This book project on Saudi public diplomacy using primarily the kingdom’s financial muscle has had a long gestation. It focuses on the impact of various policies of the kingdom on Muslim communities and nations across the globe.

In doing so, I will concentrate on Saudi government policy and actions as well as those of senior members of the ruling Al Saud family rather than wealthy individuals who may or may not be associated with them. As a result, theological and ideological differences between various expressions of Muslim ultra-conservatism fall beyond the parameters of what I am looking at.

My thinking on this has evolved in the past year despite having covered the Saudi efforts for many years from very different angles and multiple geographies. The evolution of my thinking is reflected in the fact that were I looking today for a title for these remarks, I’d call it Saudi export of ultra-conservatism rather than Wahhabism. The reason is simple: Saudi export and global support for religiously driven groups goes far beyond Wahhabism. It is not simply a product of the Faustian bargain that the Al Sauds made with the Wahhabis. It is central to Saudi Arabia’s efforts to position itself internationally and flex its muscles regionally as well as on the international stage and has been crucial to the Al Sauds’ survival strategy for at least the last four decades.

There is a lot of talk about Saudi funding of Wahhabism, yet in the mushrooming of Islamic ultra-conservatism in the last half century, Wahhabis as a group form a minority in the ultra-conservative Muslim world. The reason for this is fairly straightforward: For the Saudi government, support of puritan, intolerant, non-pluralistic and discriminatory forms of ultra-conservatism – primarily Wahhabism, Salafism in its various stripes, and Deobandism in South Asia and the South Asian Diaspora – is about soft power and countering Iran in what is for the Al Sauds an existential battle, rather than religious proselytization. One other important aspect is that South Asia has been an important contributor to ultra-conservative thinking for more than a century. Another significant element is the fact that while the Saudi campaign focuses predominantly on the Muslim world, it also at times involved ties to other, non-Muslim ultra-conservative faith groups and right-wing political groups.

Can Saudi Arabia Escape the Trap of Endless War in Yemen?

August 25, 2016

It took only two days after the collapse of Yemen peace talks in early August for the Saudi-led coalition to resume its intense bombing of the rebel-held capital, Sanaa. With it resumed the dismal chronicle of destruction, civilian casualties and humanitarian crisis afflicting the Arab world’s poorest country, and no end is in sight.

To what end? What do the Saudis and their coalition partners hope to gain from this latest escalation of an increasingly pointless conflict? They find themselves locked into a war with no realistic military objective and no achievable definition of victory—a war that is costing them billions of dollars that they don’t have in this time of low oil prices, and which by UN estimates is inflicting an average of 113 civilian casualties per day.

If the Saudis are having second thoughts or reevaluating its strategy, there is no sign of it. At an international security conference in Brussels last month, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir delivered a two-thousand-word summary of Saudi foreign and security policy in which he mentioned Yemen only as one of several countries where the kingdom faces “tensions.”

When the Saudis began the bombing campaign more than a year ago, their stated objective was the restoration to power in Sanaa of what they called the “legitimate government” of ousted president Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who had been driven out by the rebel forces, Zaydi Shia known as known as Houthis. The Saudis have also said they seek implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which calls for an end to the fighting and the return of Hadi to authority in the capital, where he would preside over a conference to form a consensus on Yemen’s political future.

Iran's Ahmadinejad Is Betting on a Comeback

August 25, 2016

Does anyone remember Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Until recently, the Islamic radical and former military officer who served as Iran’s sixth president could be considered something of a political footnote.

During his two terms in office (2005–09 and 2009–13), Ahmadinejad’s anti-Western bombast and political brinkmanship helped transform Iran into an international pariah, while his ruinous economic policies exacerbated the country’s mounting fiscal woes. By the end of his tenure, Ahmadinejad was deeply unpopular at home, roundly blamed for a major decline in both domestic prosperity and global standing. He had also fallen out with his one-time protector, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, leaving him all but politically neutered.

Now, however, the firebrand former president appears to be making a comeback. In recent weeks, Ahmadinejad has reemerged on the national scene, touring the Iranian countryside and giving public lectures criticizing the administration of his successor, Hassan Rouhani. He even briefly captured the international spotlight in recent days by penning an open letter to President Obama, calling on him to release some $2 billion in seized assets as a gesture of goodwill.

The results have been notable. A July 2016 survey of Iranian popular opinioncarried out by the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland found that Ahmadinejad now represents the single largest threat to Rouhani’s reelection, and trails the once-popular incumbent by only eight points. Suddenly, the ex-president seems once again to be a real political contender.

Biden's Baltic Bombast

August 25, 2016

In his just-completed trip to the Baltic republics, Vice President Joe Bidenreassured his hosts that the U.S. commitment to their security through NATO was rock solid. And any worries they might have because of comments that Donald Trump had made during the ongoing presidential campaign Biden dismissed as completely unwarranted. “I want to make it absolutely clear to all the people in Baltic states, we have pledged our sacred honor, the United States of America . . . to the NATO treaty and Article Five.”

He then speculated that because Trump had never held elective office, perhaps he did not understand the mutual defense obligation contained in that article. In any case, “the fact that you hear something” contrary to that treaty obligation “from a presidential candidate in the other party, it’s . . . nothing that should be taken seriously.” There was, Biden told his hosts, “continued overwhelming bipartisan commitment in the United States of America in both political parties to maintain our commitment to NATO.”

It is hard to tell which is the more offensive feature of Biden’s comments—the overall tone of smug arrogance or the implicit blasé attitude about the risks his own country incurs to protect the tiny Baltic republics. Both aspects indicate a man who is out of touch with key trends in America’s foreign-policy debate. But then Joe Biden is the official who actually argued that long-time Egyptian tyrant Hosni Mubarak was not a dictator. Being grounded in foreign-policy reality does not appear to be his strong suit.

The Senate's Dereliction of Duty on NATO Expansion

August 25, 2016
Jim Webb, writing in these pages several years ago, castigated the U.S. Congress for its unwillingness to take up its Constitutionally-mandated responsibilities to conduct vigorous oversight of American foreign policy. Future historians are likely to add to his bill of particulars the Senate providing a rubber stamp to the several rounds of enlargement of the North Atlantic alliance, without weighing the costs and obligations of willy-nilly extending U.S. security guarantees.

When the Washington Treaty creating the NATO alliance was presented to the Senate in 1949 for ratification, there was a vigorous debate over its utility. As C. L. Sulzberger chronicled in his contemporaneous reporting for the New York Times, Senate approval of the pact was neither foreordained nor automatic. In the end, many Senators reluctantly cast votes in favor in order to send a clear signal to Josef Stalin that the United States would actively resist Soviet aggression, but the arguments marshalled by Senator Robert Taft nonetheless fell on sympathetic ears in the chamber (and convinced twelve others to join him in voting against the treaty).

Taft had argued that the U.S. should have extended unilateral security guarantees only, rather than sign a treaty of alliance, because “We could judge whether perhaps one of the countries had given cause for the attack. Only Congress could declare a war in pursuance of the doctrine.” Taft enunciated concerns that the new alliance might shift from defensive purposes to a more active encirclement of the Soviet Union, and so provoke the war it sought to prevent. He also raised a more prosaic concern: that of free-riding on the part of allies who might grow dependent on U.S. largesse rather than take more steps to secure their own defense.

Russia Is Surrounding Ukraine, But Where's the West?

By Aaron Korwea

In recent weeks, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been doing what he is best at: war mongering. It began with the Kremlin’s accusation that Ukrainian leaders had “chosen terror over peace,” despite the fact Russia has not been able to produce any credible evidence of the alleged “sabotage plot” in Crimea. Additionally, neither the OSCE’s monitors, witnesses on the ground, nor any independent media have confirmed Russia’s claims of an armed confrontation or bombardment by Ukrainian forces.

Andriy Yanitsky, the Ukrainian watchdog that monitors Russian propaganda, has reported that the photograph of a tent that Russian authorities claimed had been used by the saboteurs was in fact a stock photograph lifted from the Internet. 

Once again, a Russian disinformation campaign appears to be unfolding. As the Crimean journalist Andriy Yanitsky argues, the very idea of sabotage in Crimea is ridiculous. Why would the alleged saboteurs sneak into Crimea, as Moscow claims, when anyone can easily get into the peninsula through either the Kherson checkpoint or Russia itself? 

But the real question is, why is Russia doing this now? Ukrainian intelligence reported that Moscow is actually attempting to cover up a shootout that occurred between the Russian military and the FSB, the security service. This is not entirely implausible, but the ultimate reasons are far more disturbing.

Turkey and Iran’s Problems with Russia as an Ally

By George Friedman
Aug. 25, 2016

In geopolitics, sometimes distance makes the heart grow fonder.

Turkey sent troops into Syria yesterday. This caused Russia to declare its unhappiness with Turkey. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited Turkey yesterday. The atmosphere may not have been loving, but it was cordial, with none of the venom that had been visible since the coup attempt. The Russians have agreed that to halt operations from Iran’s Hamedan air base, but might return at some point. There is some sort of political battle raging in Iran over giving the Russians permission to use Hamedan in the first place. All of these apparently distinct threads tie together into a single, geopolitical story.

Let’s begin with Iran. Iran has kept its independence for centuries, fending off two threats. One was Turkey, in its Ottoman guise. The other was Russia, both the empire and the Soviet phase. As an example, during World War II, Iran remained formally independent, but was occupied in the north by the Soviets and in the south by the British. After the war, the Soviets showed themselves reluctant to leave. It was American pressure on both the Soviets and the British that restored Iranian independence. It wasn’t American goodness. The Americans opposed Soviet expansion and were undermining the British Empire. Iranian and American interests coincided.

Turmoil In The Middle East: Regional Dimensions Beyond Religion – OpEd

AUGUST 25, 2016

Given the current Middle Eastern scenario, one may reasonably hold the argument that the on-going turmoil in the Middle East owes its burden equally to the Machiavellian Anglo-American policies in the region and the harrowing failure of the Muslim governments/leaderships in the Middle East to rationally respond to those challenges.

But are there any dimensions beyond religion?
Nationalism and Turmoil

The region of West Asia (known as the Middle East) and North Africa has been home for tension and conflict since the end of the 19th century. The tensions were accentuated by the division of North Africa between European powers during the period of colonial expansion and the Sykes-Picot Agreement between the British and the French in 1916 during the First World War.

Showing no regard to the demographic distribution of ethnicities, religions, languages and other cultural dimensions, borders of nation-states were drawn and mandatory colonial imperialism was established until the mid of the 20th century.

While the western role in the region was fluctuating between supportive and subversive of dictatorships, stability and security remained constant measures when meddling in the region.

Putin Doubles Down In Syria – Analysis

(FPRI) — A year ago, President Obama opined that Russian intervention in Syria would turn into a quagmire. One year later, however, Russia is expanding and consolidating its positions and goals in Syria. Bashar Assad’s rule looks more secure than ever, buttressed by Russian weapons (including chemical weapons), intelligence, diplomatic support, and money. Moreover far from reducing its military footprint, Russia is expanding it. The Duma is about to ratify agreements essentially giving Russia permanent air bases like Hmeymim air base and Tartus. Thus Moscow, for the first time in over forty years, now has permanent bases in the Middle East, both in Syria and in Cyprus. Moreover, it is an open secret that Moscow would like to obtain a base at Alexandria like the one it had in the 1970s. In August 2016 Moscow revealed that it is now operating out of the Hamadan air base in Iran. However, within days the Iranian government pulled the plug on Russia, criticizing its inconsiderate and ungentlemanly attitude. Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan also noted that Moscow acts like and wants to show that it is a great power.[1] Obviously this episode cries out for explanation but it should not be taken as indicating that Moscow has now descended into a quagmire or, in the Russian phrase, stepped on a rake.

The next frontier for digital technologies in oil and gas

By Harsh Choudhry, Azam Mohammad, Khoon Tee Tan, and Richard Ward
August 2016 

The next frontier for digital technologies in oil and gas

Harnessing new technologies could boost efficiency—a mandate that’s especially important for oil and gas players globally. 

Over the past several years, the global oil and gas industry has had to navigate very choppy waters; after a prolonged run of high and growing rig counts, mega-capital-expenditure projects, and plentiful capital to support investment, oil prices slid precipitously in 2014 and 2015. Within a matter of months, oil companies that had invested heavily based on rosy forecasts were slowing or even halting operations

A recent price rebound has increased optimism slightly, and efforts are under way to contain costs by reducing head count, postponing projects, and cutting spending. Still, in the face of uncertain long-term forecasts, it is time to explore more drastic strategies to boost efficiency. 

In response to recent technological advancements, oil executives should consider digital technologies with the potential to transform operations and create additional profits from existing capacity. Our research finds that the effective use of digital technologies in the oil and gas sector could reduce capital expenditures by up to 20 percent; it could cut operating costs in upstream by 3 to 5 percent and by about half that in downstream. 

Oil and gas companies were pioneers of the first digital age in the 1980s and 1990s. Long before phrases such as big data, advanced analytics, and the Internet of Things became popular, oil executives were making use of 3-D seismic, linear program modeling of refineries, and advanced process control for operations. The use of such technologies unleashed new hydrocarbon resources and delivered operational efficiencies across the value chain. 

Infographic Of The Day: 15 Muscle Building Tips

There are many ways to build muscle. Some of these are eating five to six small meals a day, strengthening your core, not sticking with a workout routine, doing some water sports, and consuming the right nutrients after workouts.

In addition, we should also remember that it’s not just about lifting weights—a common misconception. The truth is, we can build muscle by paddling, navigating monkey bars, flipping tires.

Want more? Here are other muscle building tips from TestX Core:

1. Eat sufficient protein and carbohydrates. If you really want to build muscles effectively, you must complement your training with a protein-rich diet. You can’t expect muscle growth if there’s no protein in your diet. Protein is made up for amino acids. These amino acids play a vital role in building muscles. They are our muscle’s building blocks of our muscles. Without them, it sounds impossible to build muscle.

2. Sleep at least seven hours a night. You are not effective if you lack sleep. That’s a fact. Unfortunately, some compromise their sleep in order to balance work, family, and muscle training. If that’s the case, then they’re wasting their time. Sleep is the only time when our hormones and testosterone are being released. It’s the perfect time to develop and repair our muscles. Please, have an adequate sleep.


AUGUST 25, 2016

Editor’s Note: Welcome to the fifth installment in our new series, “Course Correction,” which features adapted articles from the Cato Institute’s recently released book, Our Foreign Policy Choices: Rethinking America’s Global Role. The articles in this series challenge the existing bipartisan foreign policy consensus and offer a different path.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has managed to gain unprecedented attention for stating in his usual flamboyant fashion something that many respected foreign policy analysts have maintained for years: that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an obsolete security arrangement created in a vastly different era to meet an entirely different security situation. Yet NATO partisans typically act as though the date on the calendar reads 1950 instead of 2016. They see Russia as nearly identical to the Soviet Union at the zenith of its military power and global ideological influence and regard democratic Europe as a helpless protectorate. Today, however, Russia is little more than a regional actor with limited ability to project power. And far from helpless, Europe’s democratic nations have robust economies. As long as they continue to rely on America’s military and its security guarantees, they will not divert financial resources from their preferred domestic welfare priorities to national defense.

A striking feature of analysts who echo former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s contention that the United States is the “indispensable nation” is the bland assumption that America must take primary (and often exclusive) responsibility for the defense of other regions. One popular proposal is to reverse the post–Cold War drawdown of U.S. forces stationed in Europe. Advocates also typically want to pre-position large quantities of sophisticated weaponry in the Baltic republics and along other points on Russia’s western frontier so that the American military can ride to the rescue if Moscow engages in threatening behavior.

The Federal Reserve Isn't Running Out of Bullets

August 25, 2016

The idea seems laughable now, but when the twenty-first century began, the Congressional Budget Office was projecting that the United States would pay off its debt owed to the public by the middle of the present decade. Per the CBO’s January 1999 Economic and Budget Outlook: “The long-term projections indicate that debt held by the public, driven by continued budget surpluses, will fall below zero by 2012.” Today, debt held by the public is more than $14 trillion, so we didn’t quite make it. But while the idea of less (or no) debt seems unambiguously positive from a fiscal perspective, it raises serious, fundamental questions from the viewpoint of monetary policy.

The Federal Reserve’s go-to monetary policy instrument is the buying and selling of government debt to increase or decrease the risk-free rate. And at the start of the new millennium, the Fed was facing a future without it. Concerned about the potential fallout, it commissioned a study to look at possible alternatives. It is unfortunate in some ways that the United States did not sustain the path of its debt paydown, but the alternatives that the Fed came up with back then may provide some insight into how quantitative easing policy may evolve in the future, when central banks’ ability to purchase government debt has been effectively exhausted.

Back then, the Fed’s explorations led to greater use of repurchase agreements—a tool the Fed uses extensively to control reserves as it works to get away from the zero lower bound. Also, the now-infamous agency market (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and similar entities) was beginning to emerge as an ever larger and more important market in mid-1999. For economists searching for the asset class to replace U.S. Treasuries, these agencies and government-sponsored entities were the logical choice.

The Sources of Russian Conduct

August 24, 2016

In February 1946, George Kennan sent back from Moscow the “Long Telegram,” an analysis of the sources of Soviet foreign policy, which came to serve as the intellectual foundation of the containment policy the United States pursued during the Cold War. The telegram landed in the midst of a reassessment of American Soviet policy as the hopes born of the grand alliance against Hitler’s Germany that the allies would continue to cooperate in peacetime crashed against the harsh reality of Soviet suspicion and hostility. As John Gaddis notes in his biography of Kennan, his telegram did not bring about a shift in U.S. policy but it crystallized the thinking of senior administration officials. “It was,” Gaddis writes, “the geopolitical equivalent of a medical X-ray, penetrating beneath alarming symptoms to yield at first clarity, then comprehension, and finally by implication a course of treatment.”

Today, we need a similar analysis, for we find ourselves at a similar juncture. Two years ago, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and destabilization of eastern Ukraine irreversibly dashed all the assumptions that had guided America’s Russia policy since the demise of the Soviet Union a generation ago. No longer is it possible to maintain that Russia is being integrated, albeit slowly and fitfully, into the West and, for that reason, is a suitable partner for addressing global issues. Moreover, Russia itself is no longer interested in integration, if it ever was. Rather, it presents itself as a unique construct, intent on challenging the U.S.-led world order across a broad front, including hard geopolitical matters like Ukraine, as well as the values that animate Western society. This does not mean that from time to time the United States and Russia will not cooperate on discrete issues, only that the cooperation will not be grounded in a sense of shared values and a common vision of a just global order. In these circumstances, there can be no talk of a “strategic alliance with Russian reform” (President Clinton’s phrase), “strategic partnership” (President George W. Bush’s) or “reset” (President Obama’s). The times call for a new relationship, without illusions about what Russia is and where it is headed.

Electronic warfare in the South China Sea

August 24, 2016

‘An information technology-based war at sea is sudden, cruel and short…’ was how the Chinese military characterised a peer-to-peer naval conflict at sea in a public statement at the beginning of the month during PLAN naval exercises. The exercises, occurring in the East China Sea, were designed to increase the PLAN’s ‘assault intensity, precision, stability and speed of troops amid heavy electromagnetic influences’ or in other words, electronic warfare. China and the United States are preparing and force posturing to contest the electromagnetic spectrum in the South China Sea and further north in the East China Sea.

One of the defining characteristics of China’s actions in the South China Sea has been the construction of radar installations across the majority of its artificial features in the region.According to CSIS’s Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative, a variety of radar installations have been constructed on Cuarteron Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Gaven Reef, Hughes Reef, Johnson Reef, Mischief Reef and Subi Reef. The purpose of these installations will vary and some will have dual uses—for instance a few of the radars on Fiery Cross and Subi Reef will be used to facilitate air operations from the runways housed on those features—but together, the facilities will significantly expand the real-time domain awareness and ISR capabilities of the PLA over a large portion of the South China Sea.

Publically, radar facilities appear to be less escalatory than anti-air missile batteries, artillery or even runways in terms of the infrastructure installed on the artificial features. They do somewhat support China’s officiallystated intention of using the features for search and rescue. But the reality is that they’re of enormous use to the PLA and a pressing concern for other nations operating in the region.

NSA Pwned Cisco VPNs for 11 Years

August 22, 2016

The U.S. National Security Agency was apparently able to decrypt any traffic sent using a Cisco PIX device that was built from at least 2002 to 2008. While Cisco stopped supporting PIX devices in 2013, more than 15,000 remain in use and are still vulnerable to related exploits. 

Those findings come via security researchers who continue to pore over the 250 MBEquation Group data dump from Aug. 13, which contains a bevy of firewall attack tools. The tools are designed to compromise devices built by Cisco, Fortinet, Juniper and Topsec (seeEquation Group Stings Firewall Vendors with Zero-Day Flaws). 

Based on security researchers' teardowns of the tools, as well as an NSA malware manualreleased Aug. 19 by the Intercept - via documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden - there is widespread agreement that the tools were built by the NSA. But the identity of the Shadow Brokers remains a mystery. 

Cisco has confirmed that two vulnerabilities exploited via the dumped tools were legitimate and could be exploited by tools named EXTRABACON and EPICBANANA. The former exploited a zero-day flaw, which Cisco has patched, while the latter targeted a flaw that Cisco patched in 2011. Fortinet has also patched an update for a flaw contained in the dump, and Juniper says it's continuing to review the data dump. 

But in recent days, researchers have made a new discovery: An exploit called BENIGNCERTAIN allowed the NSA to decrypt any traffic being handled by Cisco PIX devices - including devices set to function as VPNs - from at least 2002 to 2008, according to security researcher Mustafa Al-Bassam, who has been cataloging "exploits, implants and tools for hacking firewalls" that are contained in the 250 MB Equation Group dump. 

The Smartphone Platform War Is Over

by Felix Richter, Statista.com

While the global smartphone market is as competitive as ever in terms of manufacturers fighting for the consumers' love (and money), the long-raging platform war appears to be over.

According to a recent report by Gartner, Android and iOS now account for 99 percent of global smartphone sales, rendering every other platform irrelevant.

As the chart below illustrates that hasn't always been the case. Back in 2010, Android and iOS devices accounted for less than 40 percent of global smartphone sales. Back then, devices running Nokia's Symbian and BlackBerry accounted for a significant portion of smartphone sales and Microsoft's market share stood at 4.2 percent.

While Symbian is long extinct and BlackBerry has started transitioning to Android devices, Microsoft has not yet given up on Windows 10 Mobile as a platform aimed at professional users. Whether Windows, or any other platform for that matter, stands a chance against the dominance of Android and iOS at this point seems highly doubtful though.

This chart shows a forecast of smartphone operating system market share in 2015 and 2019.

As terror hits closer to home, Germany reconsiders privacy

AUGUST 24, 2016 

Following European terror attacks, German officials have suggested legislation that would force tech companies to decrypt private messages and other measures to increase digital surveillance. 

FRANKFURT — After former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed to the world in 2013 the scope of US surveillance, German postal worker Jochim Selzer felt like he was at the epicenter of a movement to demand privacy in the Digital Age.

As it did for many Germans, Mr. Snowden's leaks rekindled for Mr. Selzer a deep aversion to government surveillance. And as a self-described computer geek, he used his technical knowhow to teach other concerned Germans about online privacy and email encryption techniques at monthly "cryptoparties" that attracted hundreds of people.

But after July's mass murder in Munich and a string of terror attacks have hit closer to home, many Germans are reconsidering their staunch defense of individual privacy rights and now appear more willing to accept government surveillance in the name of security.

Some are even lashing out at Selzer. "Somebody said, 'So, you still want more people to die?' " he said. "It felt as though people were literally accusing me of showing future terrorists how to get weapons."

Air Force Hasn’t Done Homework On A-10 Retirement: GAO

August 24, 2016 

An A-10 “Warthog” firing its infamous 30 mm gun.

WASHINGTON: The Air Force doesn’t know enough about the missions that A-10 pilots fly or how it would replace the aircraft after retirement, a congressional watchdog says, putting yet another nail into the service’s attempts to save money and retire the much-loved Warthog.

Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who has worked closely with Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire to stop the Air Force from retiring the plane, issued this statement:

“The nonpartisan GAO has concluded what we’ve been arguing for years: there is no justification for the Air Force to prematurely retire the A-10 fleet, and doing so could leave the military with a serious capability gap our military needs to confront complex security challenges around the world.”

Sens. John McCain and Kelly Ayotte

27 August 2016

** Italy, Germany and France Meet on an Aircraft Carrier

By George Friedman 
Aug. 24, 2016 

The EU leaders tried to project unity, despite Italy’s economic malaise. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi met yesterday on the Italian aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi. The announced purpose was to discuss European policy after Brexit. The real discussion was about Italy’s economy and the steps needed to revive it after a long period of stagnation, which continued through last quarter. 

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, flanked by German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and French President Francois Hollande (L), gestures as he delivers a speech on Aug. 22, 2016 during a joint press conference held aboard the Garibaldi aircraft carrier on the harbor of the Italian island Ventotene. 

Before getting to the economic discussion, it is interesting that they chose to have the meeting on an Italian aircraft carrier – a more military location than Europeans normally prefer. The choice is even more interesting after a leak to German media suggested that Germany is considering resuming the military draft. The United States, and not only Donald Trump, has been increasingly critical of Europeans’ contribution to NATO. The European Union’s GDP is larger than that of the United States, but their collective contribution to their own defense is a fraction of the United States’. In addition, the limited capabilities of Europe’s militaries make the Europeans dependent on the Americans, so nations with significant security issues must accommodate the U.S., reducing Europe’s coherence.

China Maintains Quiet Pressure on India

By Bhaskar Roy
25 Aug , 2016

China continued to exert quiet but sustained pressures on India on the South China Sea issue. Beijing wants New Delhi to endorse its position on UN the International Tribunal award on the South China Sea under the United Nations Convention on Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS). 

The Philippines took the issue to the Tribunal over China claiming sea area perceived by Manila as its own. The Tribal verdict went against China. Beijing had declaimed to contest the Philippines at the Tribunal on the grounds that the Tribunal had no jurisdiction. China claims nearly 90 percent of the South China Sea on “historical” evidence which non-Chinese experts believe have no grounds to stand on. The sea is claimed variously by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. Taiwan’s claim is similar to that of China. On territorial issues, Taiwan and China are in congruence as both sides envisage an eventual unification. China reserves the right to use force to unify Taiwan, which it claims is a renegade province of China. In Taiwan the opinion is divided though a significant number prefer a status quo. Nevertheless, with the return of the DPP government in Taiwan under President Tsai Ing- Wen Beijing smells some moves towards independence.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is scheduled to visit India this week. The main focus of the visit in the G-20 (20 most powerful economies in the world) summit to be held in Hangzhou, China, in September. China expects the South China Sea issue, especially the Tribunal award may come up. The G-20 does not include countries like Laos, Cambodia and Pakistan, most vocal supporters of China. India will be represented, and Beijing wants New Delhi by its side.

On August 9, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sua Chunying announcing Wang Yi’s visit, said he will “communicate with the Indian side about how to carry forward consensus between the two leaders and enhance mutually beneficial cooperation in different field in a bid to make sure that the relationship will keep growing as planned.

Leakage of Sensitive Data about Scorpene Submarines

By IDR News Network
25 Aug , 2016

Scorpene Submarines – Update on Documents Leak
(25/08/2016) Press Information Bureau 

The Government of India is seized of the reported leak of documents related to the ongoing Indian Scorpene submarine programme as reported in sections of the media. The documents that have been posted on the website by an Australian news agency have been examined and do not pose any security compromise as the vital parameters have been blacked out.

The Indian Navy has taken up the matter with Director General of Armament of the French Government expressing concern over this incident and has requested the French Government to investigate this incident with urgency and share their findings with the Indian side. An internal audit of procedures to rule out any security compromise is also being undertaken. The matter is being taken up with concerned foreign governments through diplomatic channels to verify the authenticity of the reports.

The Government of India, as a matter of abundant precaution, is also examining the impact if the information contained in the documents claimed to be available with the Australian sources is compromised. The detailed assessment of potential impact is being undertaken by a high level committee constituted by the Ministry of Defence and the Indian Navy is taking all necessary steps to mitigate any probable security compromise.

Press Release – Indian Navy (24/08/2016)

Locating India within the Global Non-Proliferation Architecture: Prospects, Challenges and Opportunities

AUG 19 2016 

India has been steadfast in its commitment to non-proliferation: to not engage in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems to other states and non-state actors. Its relationship with international non-proliferation regimes, however, has not been without challenges, including with the export control regimes designed to serve the same objectives. Over the last decade, this relationship has changed dramatically. From once being a target of these mechanisms, India is now becoming an active participant. This improvement has been a result of better understanding between India and the international non-proliferation community on the country's role in the global cause. The global non-proliferation community has come to realise that it stands to gain by having in its fold a responsible power with advanced technologies such as India.

This monograph makes an assessment of the prospects of India's inclusion to the export control regimes. It begins by analysing the technical parameters for membership and whether or not India meets them. This includes an examination of India's domestic export control system — both control list and legal framework. The next chapter delves into the political debates on India's membership to the four export control regimes. This takes into consideration the objections to India's accession that are being raised by some members of these regimes. The monograph closes by laying out a set of recommendations for the Indian government and the member countries of these regimes on both technical and political factors assessed, consideration of which could facilitate India's entry into the export control regimes.

"India Aims To Be The World's Newest International Arbitration Hub"

Author: Ronak D. Desai, Affiliate, India and South Asia Program
August 9, 2016

India is seeking to become the world’s newest hub international arbitration hub by establishing a new arbitral center in Mumbai. The Mumbai Centre for International Arbitration (MCIA), which begins proceedings this month, will be India’s very first arbitration tribunal. Its supporters hope it will help bring the industry’s best practices to the country. The unveiling of the MCIA underscores the significant growth of India-related arbitration cases in recent years. It also highlights the government’s desire to make India an attractive destination for international arbitration and make it a more compelling destination for business by bringing more reliable adjudication to India’s corporate sector.

Arbitration remains the preferred option for multinational firms conducting business in the country, but India is not the preferred venue to arbitrate claims. The majority of arbitrations currently taking place within India occur on an ad hoc basis. This has resulted in a lack of uniform standards and predictability with respect to the cost-effectiveness, efficiency and outcome of many arbitral proceedings.

These issues have generated serious inconsistencies with global best practices regarding arbitration, eroding the international legal community’s trust and confidence in the current Indian system. It has also been, plainly speaking, bad for business. Many of the most prominent arbitration cases, including those involving multinational giants Deutsche Telekom and Vodaphone, have moved outside of India because of the absence of institutionalized capacity and expertise in the country.

Can India become a more popular arbitration venue?

Chinese chequers: Why India needs to think through its policy on Gilgit-Baltistan and POK

Modi can't be faulted for raising the pitch as a tactical device to soften up Islamabad, but India would do well to remember the China factor in the equation.

“Uska hal bhi hoga [That problem too would be solved],” said the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Chief Mohan Bhagwat on Sunday, referring to the so-called Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Aksai Chin, parts of Jammu and Kashmir that are not with India. Whether occupied by Pakistan or China, they had to be brought back, he added.

Parliament had twice passed a unanimous resolution proclaiming that Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, or POK, was an integral part of India and even though it was somewhat complicated, the government would find a way out, Bhagwat said, while speaking at a meeting in Agra whose aim was to encourage Hindu couples to procreate more, in the face of a “demographic imbalance” caused by what the RSS characterised as a disproportionate increase in India’s Muslim population.

Bhagwat was following up on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks on August 12 at an all party meeting on the situation in Kashmir. There was a need for the government to highlight the plight of the people of POK to the world community, Modi had said. Revisiting the theme in his Independence Day address, Modi expressed his appreciation for the positive response he had got for his August 12 remarks from “the people of Balochistan, the people of Gilgit and the people of POK”.

That has been enough to set the proverbial cat among the pigeons.
The demographics