India-Pakistan-Kashmir: Pakistani press reported no Indian artillery fire across the Line of Control in Kashmir on Monday and Tuesday this week for the first time in weeks. It also reported that cross-border truck traffic has been normal through at least one crossing point on the Line of Control.
Comment: Since the killing of five Indian soldiers on 6 August, Indian artillery shelling and gunfire across the Line of Control have been daily. A lull in shelling could be an important step towards normalizing political contacts, but it is too soon to call this a lull. Thus far Pakistan has not provided an explanation for the ambush on the 6th.
Iraq: A wave of coordinated bombings in mainly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad on 28 August killed 86 people and wounded 263, according to police and medical sources. Bombings also occurred in two other Iraqi cities.
Comment: Surges in bombing attacks are becoming twice weekly occurrences in Baghdad, according to press reports. Those on the 28th appear unusually concentrated and well-coordinated.
Afghanistan: President Karzai’s spokesman said Wednesday that Afghanistan has suspended Bilateral Security Agreement talks with the US and that Afghanistan will not pursue peace talks with the Taliban unless the United States steps out of the negotiations.
The spokesman explained President Karzai took the action because of a contradiction between what the US says and does.
Comment: The Afghan government judges it has been betrayed by the US in agreeing to talks with the Islamic Emirate. Afghanistan said no such entity exists. It was told the Doha office was only for negotiations.
Qatar said the Taliban betrayed their promise to open only a political office of the Taliban. Qatari authorities were persuaded to force the Taliban to take down their flag and their Islamic Emirate plaque. The US said the Afghan government had been kept fully informed.
Pakistan: Pakistan’s National Assembly on Wednesday formally elected Nawaz Sharif as prime minister. Sharif, 63, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, was elected by an overwhelming majority. He received 244 of the 317 votes cast by assembly members. Many parties voted en bloc for Nawaz Sharif to curry favor with the new government.
President Zardari administered the oath of office at President House.
Prime Minister Sharif delivered a brief speech on the floor of the National Assembly after his election. He said, “The chapter of drone attacks on the country’s soil should now be closed. As we respect others’ sovereignty, ours should also be given respect. This campaign must come to an end.”
He also addressed Pakistan’s many problems. In Churchillian fashion, he said he would not make attractive promises to the masses nor talk about any imaginary heaven on earth. He openly sided with the productive forces of the country agriculture, industry and exports, as the keys for economic revival. He said he would tolerate no corruption and nepotism and that the doors of dictatorship had been closed forever.
The only foreign country mentioned was China. The Prime Minister said he would form a study group to work on establishing a rail link to western China from Karachi and the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar via the Khunjerab Pass in the north. He plans to give free port status to the Chinese built and now managed new port of Gwadar in western Pakistan.
China-India: Chinese media reported that India and China have agreed to start a dialogue on Afghanistan. An “in-principle” agreement on official-level dialogue has been reached and dates for the first meeting are being worked out.
Earlier this week, Indian National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon travelled to Moscow for the first three-way dialogue between India, Russia and China on Afghanistan in an effort to build on common security concerns. At present, India has an institutionalized dialogue on Afghanistan only with the US.
Comment: The news commentary noted that China first offered India a wider dialogue on South Asia in general. India declined to hold talks about what it considers its sphere of influence with its primary competitor.
Afghanistan is different because India and China share an interest in preventing the return of the Taliban or another extremist Islamist regime. India was a primary backer of the Northern Alliance tribes that fought the Pashtun Taliban before the US intervention in late 2001.
As for China, Mullah Omar’s Taliban regime allowed terrorism training for Uighur Islamic separatists from Xinjiang, China, and rejected Chinese inducements to terminate it. China is Pakistan’s most important ally, but Pakistan also did nothing to stop the Uighur training by the very Taliban regime that Pakistan supported.
The Cairo Review of Foreign Affairs, February 10, 2013
Speaking to diplomats, businessmen and journalists at the British Foreign Office in November, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia emphasized the need for “norms and principles” in resolving disputes in the South China Sea. Why did President Yudhoyono, who was spending a week in London at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II as the first leader to visit Britain during the year of her Diamond Jubilee, feel that he had to bring up the South China Sea disputes at such a time? After a member of the audience asked what Indonesia, the leading nation in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) could do if China did not share his views, President Yudhoyono recalled what he had said to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at a summit conference in Bali and again to Chinese President Hu Jintao at a meeting in Beijing: without forward movement on a Code of Conduct (CoC) for the South China Sea, the whole region could “easily become a flashpoint.” He added that the two Chinese leaders had concurred with his assessment. President Yudhoyono added, however, that he had become quite concerned after ASEAN foreign ministers failed to reach a CoC agreement at a meeting in Cambodia in July 2012. He did not mention the role played by China in getting the Cambodian government to sabotage the pact. He only said that since then, Indonesia has done its utmost to bring about a consensus among ASEAN nations on the issue. He also did not mention the fact that at an international conference on “Peace and Stability in the South China Sea and the Asia Pacific Region” held in Jakarta in September, most of the participants expressed pessimism as long as China continued to exert military and economic power in area within the U-shape line demarcating its self-declared zone of sovereignty.
China-India; China warned India to stop oil exploration in the South China Sea after the Indian Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Joshi, said he was prepared to send Indian naval ships there to protect its interests.
India’s state oil company, ONGC, is exploring three oil blocks close to the disputed Spratly Islands – known as Nansha Islands in China – in partnership with the Vietnamese government, which claims sovereignty over the collection of 45 tiny islands and atolls, along with China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.
China told Vietnam on 6 December to stop unilateral oil exploration in disputed areas of the South China Sea and to not harass Chinese fishing boats, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
The Swiss Federal Institute (SFI) in Zurich released a study entitled “The Network of Global Corporate Control” that proves a small consortiums of corporations – mainly banks – run the world. A mere 147 corporations which form a “super entity” have control 40% of the world’s wealth; which is the real economy. These mega-corporations are at the center of the global economy. The banks found to be most influential include:
• Barclays • Goldman Sachs • JPMorgan Chase & Co • Vanguard Group • UBS • Deutsche Bank • Bank of New York Melon Corp • Morgan Stanley • Bank of America Corp • Société Générale
However as the connections to the controlling groups are networked throughout the world, they become the catalyst for global financial collapse.
Any country that can marshal 100 million protesters on a single call, or produce 2,000 suicides among debt-ridden farmers distraught by draught, is by definition a “crowd” economy that will not respond well to any repetition of the Industral-Era mistakes of the USA that rigged the system in favor of the few at the expense of the many. Below are multiple headlines, the most critical being – predictably but not dismissively – from the World Socialist Web Site.
India is a demographic power — the most complicated on the planet, with far more diversity (good) and religious or ethnic friction (bad) than any of the other demographic powers (Brazil, China, Indonesia, Russia). Any policy that is inconsistent with the needs of the larger demographic base should be suspect.
India is opening up to investors who bring with them false money – money created by financial fraud against other publics – and false propositions, including the fiction that wealth for the many can be created by any form of top-down favoritism. What India SHOULD be doing is rethinking public governance and true cost economics (especially water), connecting every citizen to the Internet with free hand-held devices (OpenBTS), and providing free education one cell call at a time via a mix of government call centers and the global diaspora. Infinite wealth is achievable by India if it leverages the infinite energy and intelligence of its distributed public — there is not enough money on the planet to “invest” or “buy” growth on the scale that India needs to achieve.
This car runs on the ultimate emissions-free fuel: air.
In 2007, Mumbai, India-based Tata Motors signed a licensing deal with Motor Development International, a French design firm. The idea was to build a car that could run on compressed air. Now Tata says it has tested two cars with the engines. The next step is setting up the manufacturing plants to actually build them.
Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia and Bahrain discussed a political union at a meeting in Riyadh on 13 May. The arrangement under discussion would allow Bahrain to retain its seat at the United Nations, but the two states would merge foreign relations, defense and economic policy, according to press sources. The details have not been released.
Bahrain’s Prime Minister, the Army Chief of Staff and the Foreign Minister – all members of the al-Khalifa royal family — have stated their support for the union.
Comment: The King of Bahrain and the royal family are Sunni Muslims who govern a population of mostly Shiite Muslims. Thus, the news that a union with Saudi Arabia is under discussion has prompted widespread criticism that Saudi Arabia intends to make Bahrain a vassal state so as to keep the Shiites disenfranchised and subjugated.
On the other hand, the limited information in the public domain suggests Bahrain’s administration of internal affairs will not be changed by the union proposal. Bahrain, by itself, is not defensible against an Iranian attack or subversion, but in a union arrangement with Saudi Arabia it would not be alone.
Saudi King Abdallah has warned Iran repeatedly against meddling in Arab affairs. This union is consistent with his policy decision to stop Iranian meddling in Arab countries as well as the spread of Shi’i Islam which the Sunnis consider a heresy.
One advantage of the union would be that it would bypass tricky conditions attached to US foreign military sales. Conditions of the sales include that US military equipment can only be used for defense, cannot be resold without US permission and cannot be used outside the recipient country without US permission. Under a union arrangement, the Saudis would not need to consult the US before sending Saudi forces equipped with US tanks and armored personnel carriers back to Bahrain, unless they chose to.
Phi Beta Iota: It is entirely possible that Saudi Arabia is moving to a whole new level of global diplomacy, information-sharing, military alliances, and economic entanglements (DIME). Qatar is similar to Bahrain in multiple ways. Below is a map of the Sunni – Shi’ite spread. A religious war is brewing, not just Sunni – Shi’ite, but Pentecostals against Islam, Jews against everyone, Catholics in a panic, and so on. We say it again: counter-intelligence generally, and religious counter-intelligence specifically, is the ONE 21st Century aspect of the craft of intelligence that must continue to be secret and that must *explode* in the near-term. Note: within the eight “tribes” or communities, we include religion and labor organizations within the Civil Society tribe. The others are academic, commerce, government at all levels, law enforcement, media, military, and non-government/non-profit.
Global Impacts of Limited Nuclear War on Agriculture, Food Supplies, and Human Nutrition
Ira Helfand, MD International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War Physicians for Social Responsibility
Credits and Acknowledgements The publication of this briefing paper was made possible thanks to the generous financial support of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.
Over the last several years, a number of studies have shown that a limited, regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan would cause significant climate disruption worldwide.
Two studies published this year examine the impact on agricultural output that would result from this climate disruption. In the US, corn production would decline by an average of 10% for an entire decade, with the most severe decline, about 20% in year 5. There would be a similar decline in soybean production, with, again, the most severe loss, about 20%, in year 5.
A second study found a significant decline in Chinese middle season rice production. During the first 4 years, rice production would decline by an average of 21%; over the next 6 years the decline would average 10%.
Drexel University engineers have found a way to improve upon ordinary Portland cement (OPC), the glue that’s bonded much of the world’s construction since the late 1800s. In research recently published in Cement and Concrete Composites the group served up a recipe for cement that is more energy efficient and cost effective to produce than masonry’s most prevalent bonding compound.
Drexel’s “green” variety is a form of alkali-activated cement that utilizes an industrial byproduct, called slag, and a common mineral, limestone, and does not require heating to produce.
According to Dr. Michel W. Barsoum, A.W. Grosvenor professor in Drexel’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, this alternative production method and the ubiquity of the mix ingredients, lessens the cost of materials for Drexel’s cement by about 40 percent versus Portland cement and reduces energy consumption and carbon dioxide production by 97 percent.
“Cement consumption is rapidly rising, especially in newly industrialized countries, and it’s already responsible for 5 percent of human-made carbon dioxide. This is a unique way to limit the environmental consequences of meeting demand,” Dr. Alex Moseson, one of the lead researchers on the project, said.
Workers at the Regency Ceramics factory in India raided the home of their boss, and beat him senseless with lead pipes after a wage dispute turned ugly.
The workers were enraged enough to kill Regency’s president K. C. Chandrashekhar after their union leader, M. Murali Mohan, was killed by baton-wielding riot police on Thursday. The labor violence occurred in Yanam, a small city in Andra Pradesh state on India’s east coast. Police were called to the factory by management to quell a labor dispute. The workers had been calling for higher pay and reinstatement of previously laid off workers since October. Murali was fired a few hours after the police left the factory.
. . . . . .
India’s factory workers are the lowest paid within the big four emerging markets. Per capita income in India is under $4,000 a year, making it the poorest country in the BRICs despite its relatively booming economy.
. . . . . . .
Once news of Murali’s death spread, the factory workers allegedly destroyed 50 company cars, buses and trucks and lit them on fire. They ransacked the factory. Residents joined hands with around 600 workers, while others were enroute to Chandrashekhar’s house.
Phi Beta Iota: A very famous experiment in the 1970’s added one rat at a time to an empty aquarium, and found that at the same point each time, there was a crowding “tipping point” at which the rats would begin eating each other. The world is ready to explode. The resource split between the 1% and the 99% is unsustainable.
Will Germany Kill the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg?
Since the middle of the 19th Century, the central questions in European politics have been been have been the closely connected questions of nationalism and the rise of German power. As my good friend and eminent historian Gabriel Kolko shows in the brilliant essay attached below, the post war solutions of NATO and the European Union, together with the exigencies of the Cold War, put these questions on hold, but their fundamentals remained, sleeping beneath the surface, and today, the conflicting questions of nationalism and German power are again coming to the fore to create ominous problems for Europe and the world.
There can be no question that, until 2007 or so, the European Union — particularly the opening of borders, the free flow of labour and capital, the disappearance of tariffs, and diminution of non-tariff trade restrictions, etc. combined to make life better for the mass of average Europeans. Standards of living rose steeply and social services improved in parallel. This was particularly evident in the poorer EU countries on the southern rim. I saw and experienced this astounding improvement in the quality of life on a very personal level, living on a sailboat in southern Europe since the summer of 2005. I will never forget the comment made to me by an Italian psychologist in Calabria in 2006, which is the heart of the provincial south of Italy, “It is a great time to be a European.” To be sure, he was an educated member of the upper middle class, and not representative of the average Calabrian, but it struck me that this Calabrian saw himself as a European. It was not very long ago, that such a person would only loosely consider himself to be an Italian, not to mention a European.