China building electromagnetic pulse weapons for use against U.S. carriers

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China’s military is developing electromagnetic pulse weapons that Beijing plans to use against U.S. aircraft carriers in any future conflict over Taiwan, according to an intelligence report made public on Thursday.  Portions of a National Ground Intelligence Center study on the lethal effects of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and high-powered microwave (HPM) weapons revealed that the arms are part of China’s so-called “assassin’s mace” arsenal – weapons that allow a technologically inferior China to defeat U.S. military forces.

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Billboard that says ‘Jesus is Muslim’ upsets some groups

A group plans to protest near a North Side billboard carrying messages about the Islamic faith.  Protesters are specifically opposed to the message “Jesus is Muslim” that some recently saw on the billboard on Cleveland Avenue. The message did not appear on the billboard this afternoon, however.  The messages placed by the Ask a Muslim organization also list the group’s website.

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Crack in the House of Saud

President Obama flew to Saudi Arabia to patch up relations with King Abdullah at the end of last week in his first visit in five years. The alliance had been strained by Saudi anger over US negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programme and Obama’s refusal to go to war in Syria to overthrow Bashar al-Assad last year. For its part, the US is upset by Saudi Arabia covertly supporting al-Qa’ida-type movements in Syria and elsewhere.  The US-Saudi relationship is a peculiar one in that it is between a reactionary theocratic monarchy – it is the only place in the world where women are not allowed to drive – and a republic that claims to be the chief exponent of secular democracy. The linkage is so solid that it was scarcely affected by 9/11, though al-Qa’ida and the hijackers had demonstrably close connections to Saudi Arabia.

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Cops or soldiers?

FROM the way police entered the house—helmeted and masked, guns drawn and shields in front, knocking down the door with a battering ram and rushing inside—you might think they were raiding a den of armed criminals. In fact they were looking for $1,000-worth of clothes and electronics allegedly bought with a stolen credit card. They found none of these things, but arrested two people in the house on unrelated charges.

They narrowly avoided tragedy. On hearing intruders break in, the homeowner’s son, a disabled ex-serviceman, reached for his (legal) gun. Luckily, he heard the police announce themselves and holstered it; otherwise, “they probably would have shot me,” he says. His mother, Sally Prince, says she is now traumatised.

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Ukraine crisis: Russia warns West over Crimea sanctions

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov issued the warning in a telephone call to US Secretary of State John Kerry.  It came hours after Russian and Crimean leaders signed a treaty absorbing the peninsula into the Russian Federation following a disputed referendum.  On Wednesday there were reports an army base in Sevastopol had been stormed.  An Associated Press reporter at the scene said pro-Russian self-defence forces had broken into the building – the headquarters of the Ukrainian navy – and raised the Russian flag.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin told the BBC the treaty signed on Tuesday was already in effect, and Crimea was now part of Russia.  The BBC’s Richard Galpin in Moscow says that although it must be approved by Russia’s constitutional court and ratified by parliament, there is no doubt MPs will give their full backing when they vote on Friday.  On Monday, the US and the EU imposed sanctions on several officials from Russia and Ukraine accused of involvement in Moscow’s actions in the Black Sea peninsula.

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End of Gulf Ban Allows BP to Expand in Familiar, Lucrative Territory

Off Shore Drill

HOUSTON — Even as drilling for new oil in the Gulf of Mexico has made a robust return since the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster in 2010, BP has been in the unusual position of spectator.  But that is likely to change next Wednesday, when the federal government auctions off the rights to new oil drilling sites.

 

The auction in New Orleans will be the first since BP and the Environmental Protection Agency reached a settlement on Thursday that lifts a ban that prevented the company, traditionally one of the most aggressive oil producers in the gulf, from pursuing new leases and other government contracts.  Analysts said both BP and the United States government needed a deal.

 

BP has been a key player in the American energy industry. Along with Royal Dutch Shell, it had led development of oil and gas drilling in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The gulf and onshore shale fields have transformed the United States from a declining oil and gas producer just a few years ago to a fast-growing one that will be able to cut imports and even export oil and gas for years to come.

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U.S. to relinquish government control over Internet

March. 14 (UPI) — The United States will hand over government control of administration of the Internet, bowing to pressures to globalize the management of the networks that connect billions of people around the world in a move meant to ease fears following last year’s revelations of NSA spying.

U.S. officials on Friday announced plans to relinquish its oversight role over the group that manages the Web’s critical infrastructure, said Lawrence Strickling, the head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration at the Commerce Department.  The transition will come in 2015, when Commerce contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers expires next year. But the announcement comes with a major caveat: As part of the transition, an independent, international oversight authority must be established so as to earn the trust of the world, Strickling said.  “We will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an intergovernmental solution,” Strickling said.

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China’s Economic Cold War on the United States

Read the recent report by Congress on China’s Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp. and you could be excused for a sense of déjà vu. It sounds like it came from the U.S.-Soviet era. One passage: “The opportunity exists for … espionage by a foreign nation-state already known to be a major perpetrator of cyber espionage.”  Many are worried that Congress has gone too far. But the truth is it hasn’t gone far enough.  Once the world admitted China to the World Trade Organization in 2001, we welcomed the country into our free-markets. We trusted the global economy would evolve toward free and fair trade. We then set our policies on cruise control, assuming the world would follow the U.S. model.

Instead, China got a hand on the steering wheel: It turned the rules of global business in its favor. We woke up to find a hijacking of our free-market system. China was manipulating its currency, subsidizing its firms, undermining nascent U.S. firms, erecting trade barriers, and stealing intellectual property. China was using its firms as instruments of state capitalism—it even coordinated them to monopolize critical resources such as steel and rare earths.

We are now at odds with China. We are essentially in an economic cold war. The Huawei report—a notable bipartisan effort—documents as much. After hollowing out many manufacturing industries—tires, consumer electronics, auto parts, steel—China has gone after tech-heavy industries like telecommunications.

The report focuses on national-security risks posed by Huawei and ZTE: spying via backdoor software implants, cyber attacks on key networks, and inserting malicious software in security systems. These are serious allegations: Imagine if China used Huawei equipment to shut down American water and electrical systems.

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U.S. moves closer to sanctions against Russia over Ukraine crisis

KIEV, Ukraine, March 3 (UPI) — If Russia continues its military incursion into Ukraine, it will be on the “wrong side of history” and violating international law, President Obama said Monday.

Even with strong cultural and commercial ties between Russia and Ukraine, “what cannot be done is for Russia with impunity to put its soldiers on the ground and violate basic principles that are recognized around the world,” Obama said during a media availability with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. “And I think the strong condemnation that has proceeded from countries around the world indicates the degree to which Russia is on the wrong side of history.”

Russian leaders maintain it is their right and obligation to protect Russian citizens and pro-Russian people in Ukraine where Moscow ally Viktor Yanukovych was ousted as president two weeks ago, fled Kiev and took refuge in Russia. There have been no verifiable reports of violence against Russians in Ukraine.

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Obama warns Moscow of ‘costs’ if Russia intervenes in Ukraine

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia, Feb. 28 (UPI) — U.S. President Barack Obama Friday cautioned Russia “there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”  In a statement issued by the White House, Obama said his administration is in daily communication with Russian officials, “and we’ve made clear that they can be part of an international community’s effort to support the stability and success of a united Ukraine going forward, which is not only in the interest of the people of Ukraine and the international community, but also in Russia’s interest.”  ”However, we are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine,” he said. “Russia has a historic relationship with Ukraine, including cultural and economic ties, and a military facility in Crimea, but any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing, which is not in the interest of Ukraine, Russia, or Europe.”

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1 In 4 Americans Thinks The Sun Goes Around The Earth, Survey Says

A quarter of Americans surveyed could not correctly answer that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around, according to a report out Friday from the National Science Foundation.  The survey of 2,200 people in the United States was conducted by the NSF in 2012 and released on Friday at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.  To the question “Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth,” 26 percent of those surveyed answered incorrectly.  In the same survey, just 39 percent answered correctly (true) that “The universe began with a huge explosion” and only 48 percent said “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”  Just over half understood that antibiotics are not effective against viruses.

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Iran Sends Warships to US Maritime Borders

TEHRAN (FNA)- Senior Iranian Navy commanders announced on Saturday that the country has sent several fleets of warships to the US maritime borders.  ”The Iranian Army’s naval fleets have already started their voyage towards the Atlantic Ocean via the waters near South Africa,” Commander of Iran’s Northern Navy Fleet Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad announced on Saturday.  The admiral, who is also the commander of the Iranian Army’s 4th Naval Zone said, “Iran’s military fleet is approaching the United States’ maritime borders, and this move has a message.”  In September 2012, Iran’s Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari reiterated Iran’s plans for sailing off the US coasts to counter the US presence in its waters in the Persian Gulf.  Sayyari had earlier informed of Tehran’s plans to send its naval forces to the Atlantic to deploy along the US marine borders, and in September 2012 he said that this would happen “in the next few years”.  The plan is part of Iran’s response to Washington’s beefed up naval presence in the Persian Gulf. The US Navy’s 5th fleet is based in Bahrain – across the Persian Gulf from Iran – and the US has conducted two major maritime war games in the last two years.  In September 2011, Sayyari had announced that the country planned to move vessels into the Atlantic Ocean to start a naval buildup “near maritime borders of the United States”.  ”Like the arrogant powers that are present near our maritime borders, we will also have a powerful presence close to the American marine borders,” Sayyari said.  Speaking at a ceremony marking the 31st anniversary of the start of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, Sayyari gave no details of when such a deployment could happen or the number or type of vessels to be used.  Sayyari had first announced in July, 2011 that Iran was going to send “a flotilla into the Atlantic”.  The Iranian navy has been developing its presence in international waters since 2010, regularly launching vessels in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden to protect Iranian ships from Somali pirates operating in the area.

Mississippi Most Religious State, Vermont Least Religious

PRINCETON, NJ — Religiousness across the U.S. in 2013 remained similar to previous years. With 61% of its residents classified as very religious, Mississippi held on to its position as the most religious state, while Vermont, with 22% very religious residents, remained the least religious. The most religious states were in the South, except for Utah, while the least religious states were clustered in New England and the West.

Most Religious States, Based on % Very Religious, 2013Least Religious States, Based on % Very Religious, 2013

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‘We Are Creating Walmarts of Higher Education’

Universities in South Dakota, Nebraska, and other states have cut the number of credits students need to graduate. A proposal in Florida would let online courses forgo the usual higher-education accreditation process. A California legislator introduced a measure that would have substituted online courses for some of the brick-and-mortar kind at public universities.  Some campuses of the University of North Carolina system are mulling getting rid of history, political science, and various others of more than 20 “low productive” programs. The University of Southern Maine may drop physics. And governors in Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin have questioned whether taxpayers should continue subsidizing public universities for teaching the humanities.  Under pressure to turn out more students, more quickly and for less money, and to tie graduates’ skills to workforce needs, higher-education institutions and policy makers have been busy reducing the number of required credits, giving credit for life experience, and cutting some courses, while putting others online.

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US to airlines: Obey China’s defense zone

The U.S. government is asking American airlines to follow China’s rules regarding its newly-declared air defense zone.  On Nov. 23, China declared airspace off the coast of China as the country’s “Air Defense Identification Zone.” The country asked that it be notified when flights are to pass through the airspace.  During a Wednesday press briefing, a State Department spokesperson said U.S. airlines are expected to comply with rules issued by foreign governments.  The U.S. “remain[s] deeply concerned by China’s November 23 declaration” of the airspace, the spokesperson said, but “generally expects that U.S. carriers operating internationally will operate consistent with NOTAMs (Notices to Airmen) issued by foreign countries.”  The fact that the U.S. government expects airlines to comply with the rules “does not indicate U.S. government acceptance of China’s requirements for operating in the newly declared ADIZ,” the spokesperson said.  Shortly after’s China’s declaration of the airspace as an “air defense identification zone,” the U.S. government flew two warplanes over the area without first notifying the Chinese government.  The New York Times compared the U.S. response to that of Japan, which asked its country’s airlines to stop following China’s notification requirements “out of fear that complying with the rules would add legitimacy to Chinese claims to islands that sit below the now contested airspace.”

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U.S. Sends Two B-52 Bombers Into Air Zone Claimed by China

WASHINGTON — Defying China, two long-range American bombers flew through contested airspace over the East China Sea, days after the Chinese announced they were claiming the right to police the sky above a vast area that includes islands at the center of a simmering dispute with Japan.  Pentagon officials said Tuesday that the B-52s were on a routine training mission planned long in advance of the Chinese announcement on Saturday that it was establishing an “air defense identification zone” over the area. But the message was clear.  A senior Pentagon official said that the mission overnight Monday from Guam “was a demonstration of long-established international rights to freedom of navigation and transit through international airspace.” The official said the unilateral Chinese declaration of expanded control “was provocative,” and “only increases the risk of miscalculation in the region.”

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Black mobs plague nightclubs coast to coast

They call them “Let Out Fights:” The black mob violence that is a regular feature of life at nightclubs, coast to coast, especially at closing time. All the time.  Sometimes the fighting is just a few people. Other times as many as 500. Gunfire is common. So is video. Arrests are not.  Some recent examples:  In Portland last weekend, a “riot” and triple shooting left one man dead and two wounded outside of a black nightclub – so dangerous even its own bouncers recently had to call police because they feared for their lives during an  after-hours party.  Local media report that early Saturday morning, hundreds of people were fighting and shooting in the streets of Northeast Portland – a euphemism for the black part of town.   KGW-TV news reported the attacks on police as well. Everything except the black part: “‘Very hostile crowd – people saying things like, you know, ‘shoot the cops,’ and they were trying to secure the scene so they called for a city-wide Code 3 response, which means every available car in the city should respond to that area,’ said Sgt. Pete Simpson with the Portland Police Bureau.”

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Air-Sea Battle 2.0: A Global A2/AD Response

In a recent article here in Flashpoints, William Yale attempts to make the case that Air-Sea Battle is, as the title points out a “dangerous, unaffordable threat.”  Indeed, such an argument has been made before among a vocal crowd here in Washington defense circles.  One of the chief concerns among such anti-ASB voices is the often repeated fear that “long-range strikes deep within the Chinese mainland, are highly escalatory and offer no good way to end a limited war.”  Unfortunately for Yale and others who make similar arguments against ASB, the operational concept has evolved and matured – while their line of attack has not.In order to debate the issue, one must have an idea of what ASB is today, and not what it was or at least was perceived to be in the past.  But first, it’s worth noting that ASB is easily misunderstood.  That’s because much of the analysis and controversy is driven from the first major ASB publication, the 2010 Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments study (which according to at least one source received no input from DOD).  ASB has evolved dramatically since this founding document, as attested to by the Joint Operational Access concept, comments by senior officials as well as public documents from the ASB office itself.

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America threatened with ‘heaviest damage in history’

In a pointed message to Washington, the second in just days, an Iranian general has warned of great destruction being delivered to the United States.  “The Americans’ catch-phrase ‘the military option is on the table’ (over the nuclear issue) is a bluff,” said Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces.  “They are aware of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s capabilities. The slightest military mistake against Iran will make the Americans witness the heaviest damage in their history in their own eyes,” the semi-official Fars News Agency reported Monday.

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John Kerry urges ‘democracy and stability’ on Egypt stop

“History has demonstrated that democracies are more stable, viable and prosperous than any alternative,” he told a news conference.  “With stability comes tourism and investment, and with both come jobs.”  He said the US was committed to working with Egypt’s military-backed rulers.  Mr Kerry’s visit to Cairo was not disclosed by US officials until he landed. It is the first time a US secretary of state has travelled to Egypt on a visit that is unannounced for security reasons.  The BBC’s Kim Ghattas, travelling with Mr Kerry, says it is the kind of precaution that characterises trips by US officials to countries like Afghanistan and Iraq.  This is a sign of US concerns about continued instability in the country, but it is also a reaction to the high level of anti-American feeling in Egypt, our correspondent says.

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