Category Archives: international

Foreign Spying on US Defense Technology Seen Rising

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Foreign countries, especially nations in the Asia-Pacific region, have intensified their efforts to steal sensitive U.S. defense technology, according to a Pentagon report circulated on Wednesday…

In one case, a female spy seduced an American translator to learn his computer password. His unclassified network was later found to be infected by viruses planted by a foreign intelligence service.

The total number of suspicious foreign contacts climbed to 971 during fiscal year 2005, the report said. The number of countries trying to obtain U.S. technology also rose, to 106 from 90 a year earlier.
Article (Reuters) via Yahoo!News

The Law catches up to Private Militaries, Contractors

…But with this change, contractors’ ‘get out of jail free’ card may have been torn to shreds. Previously, contractors would only fall under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, better known as the court martial system, if Congress declared war. This is something that has not happened in over 65 years and out of sorts with the most likely operations in the 21st century. The result is that whenever our military officers came across episodes of suspected contractor crimes in missions like Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, or Afghanistan, they had no tools to resolve them. As long as Congress had not formally declared war, civilians — even those working for the US armed forces, carrying out military missions in a conflict zone — fell outside their jurisdiction.

via RawStory/DefenseTech

Saddam Executed for ‘lesser’ crimes to avoid implicating the US?

What could possibly have been the benefit of hanging Saddam before the lengthy history of his heinous crimes (i.e. the wholesale gassing of Kurds) could have been officially and legally documented? His execution for the murder of 148 Shiites was bound to stoke the flames of sectarian violence in the country, as the hanging appeared to be nothing more than legalized revenge at the hands of the Shiites now in power for past crimes against their brothers. Why then would the “autonomous” government of Iraq rush Saddam off to his death? Was this perhaps due to the fact that the US (and others) could have been implicated during courtroom proceedings for the other, more serious, crimes he was charged with?

Well evidently others have had the same thoughts. Famed columnist for the British paper the Independent, Robert Fisk, not surprisingly, pondered similar questions:
But would the Americans and British dare touch a trial in which we would have not only to describe how Saddam got his filthy gas but why the CIA – in the immediate aftermath of the Iraqi war crimes against Halabja – told US diplomats in the Middle East to claim that the gas used on the Kurds was dropped by the Iranians rather than the Iraqis (Saddam still being at the time our favourite ally rather than our favourite war criminal). Just as we in the West were silent when Saddam massacred 180,000 Kurds during the great ethnic cleansing of 1987 and 1988.

Story via The Independent

Madrid airport bombing derails Spain/ETA peace plan

There have been sporadic outbreaks of street violence in the Basque region since the latest ceasefire, announced in March 2006, which have increased the political pressure on the government.

But this bomb attack at Madrid’s International Airport is a very clear violation of the ground rules set by Spain’s parliament.

Which is why the Spanish government has been emphatic about the state of play with this peace process. The Minister for the Interior, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, says Eta has broken, liquidated and finished off the peace process.

Article via BBC News

Saddam Hussein Executed

Saddam Hussein was hanged before the sun rose in Iraq early Saturday morning, just prior to 6am local time. Convicted in November of crimes against humanity over the killings of 148 Shi’ite villagers from Dujail after a failed assassination bid in 1982, his conviction was upheld by an appeals court which mandated that he be hanged within 30 days.

Many Kurds seem disappointed that Hussein was executed for the Dujail killings, widely viewed as a test case for the larger, and more significant, Anfal genocide trial. That trial, which began in August, was chronicling, often in painful testimonies, the systematic killings of tens of thousands of Kurds with chemical weapons and poison gas. Hussein was scheduled to return to the courtroom Jan. 8. Not surprisingly, there are fears of increased sectarian strife between Sunni’s and Shiites in the wake of the former leader’s execution.

Also executed by hanging were Saddam Hussein’s half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti and Iraq’s former chief judge Awad Hamed al-Bander – both of whom were also sentenced to death at the close of the same trial.

via Washington Post, NYTimes, BBC

With the dollar in trouble, the euro is poised to become the world’s favorite currency

Coming on the heels of announcements by Venezuela and Iran that they may ask buyers to pay for oil in euros rather than US dollars comes news that the value of euro notes in circulation is set exceed the value of circulating dollar notes, according to calculations by the Financial Times.

Yesterday, the United Arab Emirates anounced that it was switching 8% of the nation’s foreign exchange reserves from US dollars to Euros. According to the Bank for Internaional Settlements, the share of foreign-exchange deposits held in dollars by OPEC fell to a two-year low of 65% during the second quarter of 2006.

Perhaps more troubling is the announcement by China in November that it would look to diversify its foreign-exchange reserves, the largest in the word at $1trillion (US), away from the US dollar. China holds a large portion of US debt.

In August, Italy announced it was selling off a large portion of its dollar reserves and instead buying British pounds. Recently, the US dollar hit a 14-year low against the pound sterling. Indonesia is also moving towards the euro and away from the dollar.

maybe it’s time to buy some gold bars…

Euro notes cash in to overtake dollar‘ via Financial Times

Israeli settlement plan angers the US (among others)

The United States has criticised Israel’s decision to approve the construction of a new Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

In a rare rebuke of its close ally, the State Department said such a construction would violate the peace plan known as the roadmap.

Israel said 30 houses for former Gaza Strip settlers will be built in the Jordan Valley.

The 2003 roadmap calls for a complete halt to all settlement activity.

The EU condemned the Israeli settlement plan on Wednesday.

Story via BBC News

Report: Iran oil profits could dry up by 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) — Iran is suffering a staggering decline in revenue from its oil exports, and if the trend continues income could disappear by 2015, a National Academy of Sciences analysis found.

Stern’s analysis, which appears in this week’s edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, supports U.S. and European suspicions that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons in violation of international understandings.  But, Stern says, there could be merit to Iran’s assertion that it needs nuclear power for civilian purposes “as badly as it claims.”

He said oil production is declining and both gas and oil are being sold domestically at highly subsidized rates.

At the same time, Iran is neglecting to reinvest in its oil production.

peak oil?

Story via

Ethiopia enters Somali conflict

Ethiopia today pressed on with its offensive against Somali Islamists and threatened to seize the Somali capital, Mogadishu. At least two Ethiopian jets fired missiles on retreating Islamist forces, prompting the interim Somali government to claim a partial victory.

Ethiopian warplanes attacked the Mogadishu airport on Monday in a major escalation of fighting between the Ethiopian-backed Somali government and the Islamic Courts movement that in recent months has taken over much of the country. Ethiopia has become increasingly concerned over the Islamist challenge to the interim Somali government, especially after the Union of Islamic Courts issued a call for Muslim fighters around the world to join their “jihad” in Somalia.

The Somali conflict is also being increasingly seen as an Eritrea-Ethiopia proxy war, with Eritrea backing the Union of Islamic Courts and Ethiopia backing the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The Ethiopian air strikes raised concerns that the fighting in Somali could expand into a regional conflict. A new report by the NY-based Council on Foreign Relations, published before the Ethiopian strikes, echoes such sentiments and states that the conflict ‘has the potential to spread across borders into Kenya and Djibouti.’

via Washington Post, NYTimes, the Guardian (UK)

Russia Pressuring Neighbors with Gas prices

Russia is continuing to exert pressure over its neighbors with natural gas prices as it tries to bolster its influence and power in the region. After halting all gas supplies to the Ukraine last year, Russia has been accussed by many in the international community as using energy as a political weapon. Russia insists the new prices simply reflect market rates, and that the former Soviet republics cannot continue to expect subsidized prices.

Gazprom, Russia’s state natural gas monopoly, threatened neighboring Belarus on Monday over its refusal to agree to tough conditions on a price increase, saying its supplies could be at risk on Jan. 1. In exchange for a smaller price increase, Gazprom has proposed taking a major stake in Beltransgaz, the Belarusan transport network whose pipelines handle a significant part of Russia’s exports of gas to the rest of Europe.

On Friday, an hour after Gazprom thereatened to cut off supplies entirely, Georgia agreed to pay $235 per 1,000 cubic meters, almost double the current price. Georgia has until then refused to accept the demands, saying it was being punished for political reasons, and had announced that Azerbaijan would be its main gas supplier for 2007. Russia and Georgia have been in a diplomatic row since Georgia arrested four Russians for espionage in September, to which Russia responded with a blockade on the country, among other measures.

Now, Georgia is in the final stages of negotiations with Azerbaijan for a substantial amount of natural gas as it seeks to hedge against Russia by diversifying its energy suppliers. Azerbaijan, which is rich in oil but still imports gas from Russia, has also threatened to stop importing Russian gas as it accused Moscow of ‘Commerical Blackmail.’
via Washington Post, BBC News, Bloomberg

Iran Defiant in face of sanctions – enrichment to continue

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran has maintained its defiance of UN sanctions over its nuclear programme, declaring it was heading towards enriching uranium on an industrial scale and mulling a reduction of cooperation with the UN atomic watchdog.

The UN Security Council on Saturday imposed its first ever sanctions on Iran over its failure to heed calls to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can be used both to make nuclear fuel or a nuclear bomb.

Meanwhile, the Iranian parliament held the first session of debate on a bill that would require the government to reduce its cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog in retaliation for the sanctions move.

Story via Yahoo!News

EU tackles aircraft CO2 emissions

The European Commission has proposed that airlines operating in the EU should pay for any increase in greenhouse gas emissions above current levels.   The proposal involves brining internal EU flights inside the bloc’s emissions trading scheme from 2011, with all other flights following in 2012.  Air travel is a major, and also often overlooked, source of greenhouse gas emissions – in fact, a round trip flight between NY and London releases more global warming emissions than heating an entire home for a year!

Story via BBC News

Mexican troops discover ‘genetically improved’ marijuana hybrid that is pesticide-resistant

LAZARO CARDENAS, Mexico (AP) — Soldiers trying to seize control of one Mexico’s top drug-producing regions found the countryside teeming with a new hybrid marijuana plant that can be cultivated year-round and cannot be killed with pesticides.

The new plants, known as “Colombians,” mature in about two months and can be planted at any time of year, meaning authorities will no longer be able to time raids to coincide with twice-yearly harvests.

The hybrid first appeared in Mexico two years ago but has become the plant of choice for drug traffickers Michoacan, a remote mountainous region that lends to itself to drug production.

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