No one in the Middle East will be studying Ukraineâs violent tragedy with more fascination â and deeper concern â than President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.
Russian president vows no discrimination but says gay people must observe law banning ‘homosexual propaganda’
This makes me sick…
US spending on intelligence has doubled since 9/11, with the National Security Agency and the CIA taking the biggest share, according to the top secret budget leaked by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Details of the $52.6bn request for 2013 by America’s 16 spy agencies were revealed by the Washington Post on Thursday.
The budget shows the US targeting predictable rivals such as Russia and China but also countries regarded as allies, such as Israel. 1 in 25 federal employees is indicated to work in intelligence.
Pakistan, a long-time though troublesome ally, is described as “an intractable target”, while counter-intelligence operations are focused against “priority targets of China, Russia, Iran, Cuba and Israel”.
Huge gaps in knowledge about Iran, China and Russia are acknowledged, with North Korea identified as the most difficult to penetrate, mainly because of its relative lack of internet and other modern communications.
The intelligence agencies, according to the budget, aim to “maintain and support existing collection and exploitation capabilities, infrastructure, and operations” for internet and phone communications. Targeted communications include “fax, telex, modem, email, webmail, instant messaging, VoIP, Virtual Private Network (VPN), mobile and land-line voice, and video teleconferencing.”
The document also reveals an apparent shortage of staff who are proficient in languages spoken in the regions that are the focus of much of the intelligence communities’ work.
While there are almost 3,000 Spanish speakers – unsurprising, perhaps given the large Hispanic population in the US – there are just over 1,100 Arabic speakers, and tiny numbers of Pashto and Urdu speakers. There are 900 Chinese speakers, according to the document."
Passed on more out of historical interest than propagandist agenda… I think this is pretty awesome.
“Preparing for the Final Struggle”
The Long March (October 1934 – October 1935) was an historic journey of 6,000 miles, in which Communist army forces fled their bases in Jiangxi province in south China. Surrounded by the Nationalist army of Chiang Kai-shek, some 80,000 soldiers of the Red Army escaped and headed north. Only 8,000 to 9,000 survived the trek, which ended in the establishment of a new Communistbase in Yan’an. The Long March became the central event in Chinese revolutionary mythology. It became a metaphor for the revolution itself, and was a source of inspiration for Red Guards on their own “new long marches.”
Mao Zedong eulogized the Long March in a poem:
The Long March
The Red Army fears not the trials of the Long March,
Holding light ten thousand crags and torrents.
The Five Ridges wind like gentle ripples
And the majestic Wumeng roll by, globules of clay.
Warm the steep cliffs lapped by the waters of Golden Sand,
Cold the iron chains spanning the Tatu River.
Minshan’s thousand li* of snow joyously crossed,
The three Armies march on, each face glowing.
International lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights advocates are crying foul after a top court ruled to uphold a ban on Pride marches in Moscow for the next 100 years.
As the BBC reports, the ruling came after Russia’s best-known LGBT rights activist, Nikolai Alexeyev, had sought to overturn the city council’s ban on Pride festivities. According to the ruling, the earliest that a Pride march, rally or celebration can take place in May 2112, Pink News notes.
Still, Alexeyev vowed to continue the fight. “We will appeal against the actions taken by the Russian authorities, which have banned gay pride parades in Moscow for the next 100 years, in the European Court of Human Rights in the nearest future,” he was quoted by Interfax as saying. “Thus, we will get the invalidation of the bans not only on past, but also future gay pride parades in the Russian capital.”
UNITED NATIONS - As U.N.-led talks on disarmament resume in Geneva Monday, calls are growing for nuclear-armed nations to cut spending on their stockpiles and instead divert resources to development.
“The amount still being spent on nuclear arms makes no sense, just as continued reliance on the weapons themselves makes no sense,” David Kreiger, president of the U.S.-based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, told IPS.
His remarks alluded to the fact that nine out of 193 U.N. member states continue to increase budgetary allocations for the maintenance and modernization of nuclear weapons, despite promises to reduce their stockpiles.
Last year, the nuclear states spent around 105 billion dollars on their arsenals, according to independent estimates. The share of the United States alone was 61 billion dollars.
According to a recent study by Global Zero, a U.S.-based disarmament advocacy group, in 2011, Russia spent 14.9 billion dollars; China 7.6 billion; France 6.0 billion; and Britain 5.5 billion dollars on nuclear weapons.
For their part, the four de-facto nuclear powers also demonstrated a similar pattern of behavior with increased expenditures on nuclear weapons. India spent 4.9 billion, Pakistan 2.2 billion, Israel 1.9 billion and North Korea 0.7 billion dollars.
This cost calculation by Globe Zero refers only to researching, developing, procuring, testing, operating, maintaining, and upgrading the nuclear arsenal, not many other related activities. Global predicts the expenditures will most likely be the same this year.
That despite the fact that most governments continue to face financial constraints caused by the prolonged economic downturn and seem inclined to introduce further cuts in social services.
Considering that millions of people across the world suffer from hunger, disease and homelessness, Kreiger calls this trend to boost spending on nukes “obscene”.
“Nuclear weapons absorb resources that could be used instead to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” he said.
U.N. experts say they want to raise over 400 billion dollars annually for development. But that amount is becoming increasingly hard to secure because most leading donor nations are not fulfilling their commitments.
According to the U.N., there is a shortfall of 167 billion dollars in Official Development Assistance, which is making it hard for developing countries to achieve all the MDGs by the deadline of 2015. That shortfall can be easily overcome by introducing drastic cuts in the cost of nuclear weapons maintenance and modernization, according to peace activists.
“The nuclear-armed nations are spending around 300 million every day on their nuclear forces,” said Tim Wright of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons in a statement. “Obviously, there is a better way to spend this money than on weapons that threaten us all.”
Currently, the nuclear states are estimated to posses about 19,500 nuclear weapons, according to Critical Will, a non-governmental organization that works with the U.N. closely on matters related to nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.
Despite the new START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) treaty signed in 2010, both the United States and Russia continue to update their existing arsenals. So is the case with Britain, France and China, as well as the four other de-facto nuclear powers.
While the five declared nuclear powers’ spending records are hard to pin down due to lack of transparency in certain areas, researchers say it is much harder to find accurate data with regard to nuclear weapons’ spending in de facto nuclear countries.
In the case of Pakistan, for example, which remains outside the fold of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, there is no public accountability regarding the cost of nuclear weapons. It’s a state secret.
“I don’t know,” replied a Pakistani diplomat recently, in response to a question about the cost of his country’s nuclear program. “Why don’t you talk to the U.S. diplomats and others? Are they telling their people how much money they are spending?”
His answer implied that figures made public by the declared nuclear states are not authentic either. But peace activists from the region counter this argument.
“All nuclear armed states launched their weapons programs without the knowledge of their own people. This secrecy about what goes on inside nuclear programs and how much they cost in public funds is an attempt to escape accountability,” said Zia Mian, who directs a project on peace and security at Princeton University.
“The first victims of the nuclear programs are the people they are supposed to protect,” he told IPS, citing recent data which shows that Pakistan spends one percent of its GNP on health and education.
About half of the country’s population cannot read or write.
Kreiger said the failure of the leaders of the nuclear weapons states “to rid the world of these weapons displays nothing less than cruel indifference to those who suffer, while at the same time assuring that their own citizens remain targets of nuclear weapons.”
The U.N. disarmament conference will conclude on Sept. 14. The 65-member body, which reports to the U.N. General Assembly annually, sets its own agenda and works by consensus.
In the past, the conference has negotiated some major international agreements, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
Wait, isn’t that Iran? LOL, it’s America! Who cares about their people now? LOL
Moscow Protesters Strike Again - This time, in a ring
Earlier today protesters in Moscow hit the streets in a flashmob, protesting for fair elections during the presidential vote next Sunday. The action is called the “White Ring” because protesters held hands to form a many kilometer line, down streets and across a bridge, in the snow. The some-11,000 protesters wore white ribbons, held white umbrellas or scarves, the symbol of the opposition in the protests these past months.
Organizers say this show not be considered a rally - that the White Ring sends a different message:
“This day we gather without banners, slogans and speeches. We will stand and keep silent, shoulder by shoulder, hand by hand,” the announcement reads. “We will create our common White Ring which we will conclude in the central Moscow, around the Kremlin.”
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