Archive for March, 2015

The AIIB: Why is it important?

The proposed Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is now challenging the US-led World Bank and IMF’s position in regional and global economics. Traditional US allies against the threat of a rising China and trading partners have joined, including  South Korea who is to be named a founding member, and European countries including Russia, Germany, and France have also expressed interest in joining. Strangely enough, China barred its North Korean ally from joining due to its current economic status, shocking the region. Washington’s position on the matter is met with concern over growing Chinese influence, however the IMF has expressed an interest in working with the AIIB. This adds pressure on the US to make a decision.

Currently, its options include joining the AIIB and creating a balancing force against China within, pressure EU countries and other allies including Japan (who is currently on the fence about joining) so that China , or to ignore the AIIB, which is unlikely as rising Chinese hegemony in East Asia is not in US national interests. Otherwise, the US also risks Taiwan, who has expressed interest in joining, becoming closer to China, a current concern of the US as well.

Ex-Jihadist: North Africa Launch Pad for Europe Terror Attacks

A former Western jihadist named Mubin Shaikh has stated that Europe should brace for attacks stemming from Northern Africa, specifically Libya, earlier this week. Shaikh gave up radical Islam after the 9/11 attacks and has since become an informant and undercover counterterrorism operative in Canada.

Shaikh claims that the men responsible for the recent terror attack at the Bardo national museum in Tunis, Tunisia were trained in Libya– which is only “a boat ride away from Italy.” The attack occurred on March 18, when Yassine Laabidi and Hatem Khachnaoui entered the museum, a popular tourist site, and gunned down 23 people. Among the victims were tourists from Italy, France, Poland, Japan, Australia and Colombia. A video of the gunmen entering the museum with their weapons drawn can be viewed in the above hyperlink.

The attack at the Bardo museum was thought to have been masterminded by Khaled Chaieb, also known as Abou Sakhr Lokman, a prominent member of Al-Qaeda affiliate organization Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM). Chaieb was killed on March 28 in a counterterrorist operation in the Gafsa region.

If former jihadist Mubin Shaikh is correct about the spread of terrorism from Northern Africa to Europe, we must be wary. He also warned that homegrown terrorism remains a threat. When asked how to stop this problem, Shaikh warned that wide-net surveillance isn’t acceptable. Instead, he posited, “[…] we’re always playing catch-up. It’s behavioral profiling we’re after.”

Theo

http://www.newsmax.com/Newsmax-Tv/North-Africa-attacks-Europe-Libya/2015/03/27/id/634944/

Turkey Closes Border with Syria

With the expectation of a large scale terrorist attack looming, Turkey has closed all of its 560 mile border with Syria. Syrians that had traveled under passport to Turkey are no longer allowed to enter the country. Turkey has been receiving pressure from Western countries to seal up their borders in order to prevent potential terrorist strikes. Honestly, I’m surprised that these actions were not taken earlier. Turkey has now accepted 2 million refugees, making it the country with the most refugees in the world. The threat of a potential large scale attack seems reasonable, especially after already taking in so many refugees. One must wonder if the massive influx of Syrians is also why Turkey is sealing up their borders.

-Douglas

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/30/world/europe/turkey-moves-to-close-all-gates-at-border-with-syria.html?_r=0

HIV is not Just a Foreign Problem

Indiana is announcing that it is in a public health emergency in one county, stemming from a HIV epidemic. The governor of Indiana declared that Scott County is in fact suffering from an epidemic as there have been 79 confirmed cases of HIV within the county in the last 4 months. This outweighs the average per year rate by leaps and bounds. Granted this is a situation which in most damaging in one county, it is a state emergency because this, like many other diseases and infections can spread rapidly if not contained. Lines on a map mean nothing in this situation.

The declaration requires law enforcement, emergency agencies and health officials to develop a response plan that also includes hospitals and health care providers.

HIV has the ability to take up to three months to reveal itself in a person’s blood system once they become infected.

 

Christian

 

http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/27/health/indiana-hiv-outbreak/index.html

 

U.S. assists with training Ukrainian troops.

As it turns out, United States role in assisting Ukraine in its crisis is gradually becoming more and more active. Recently during the talks between Joe Biden and Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko, a certain number of US military personnel was pledged to Ukraine in order to train local servicemen, who are known for years of notoriously low-quality training, which is, arguably, one of the main reasons why the crisis had escalated to the point that it did. U.S. is not the only country, however, that had done that. United Kingdom had already sent military advisors to Ukraine not long ago, while Canada and Poland are actively discussing such prospects with Ukrainian authorities.

How will that impact the situation? Well, that might be just the thing that the governmental forces were lacking since the beginning of the conflict. Ukrainian military is, after all, armed, though the quality of the equipment could be better. The quality training is what have been completely ascent ever since emergence of Ukraine as a sovereign state, as no one within Ukrainian government had really expected a military confrontation with any of its neighbors. The relationship with Russia and Belarus were rather friendly, and so were the relationships with the neighboring states to the west and south-west, so there was little to no incentive to develop military, and as a result the cuts in defense budged were continuing on a constant basis.- Dmytro

 

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/25/us-ukraine-crisis-poland-soldiers-idUSKBN0LT1KW20150225

http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/19/europe/ukraine-conflict/

http://www.kyivpost.com/content/kyiv-post-plus/us-paratroopers-to-train-900-ukrainian-soldiers-starting-april-20-384796.html

Historical Comparison of Defense Spending

This week, there has been much controversy over ideological comparisons between defense spending now and during WW2. The article below sites the importance of not comparing “apples  to oranges” relating to the budget. With the ever presence of the Budget Control Act, there seems to be a notable “decline” in the real defense budget since 2010. With 2016’s budget debacle, the supposed need to raise the level of arms spending has been compared to historical changes. FDR’s military was seen as bigger and with more man power, but this is not reflective of the times. Yes, defense is still clearly important with all the armed conflicts worldwide, but there is the lack of reflection on intelligence and technological advancement. The effectiveness of those in uniform has increased and the diversity of environments of conflict have as well.

-Nicole

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/comparing-apples-and-oranges-on-defense-spending/2015/03/29/61e72fc8-d3eb-11e4-8b1e-274d670aa9c9_story.html

Sacramento, A Swing Vote To Ban Plastic Bags

Noah Bey

http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/editorials/article16844921.html

In recent news, Californians are stepping up to petition a referenum the plastic company issued in order to stop the ban on plasti in the state. 130 cities and counties have already voted and look to Sacramento to be a huge deciding factor in environmental safety. With the ban on plastic, the landfills that have been an issue for a long time will finally recieve some relief. However, I am naturaly skeptic. What is the real impact on banning plastic? California would either have to go with reuseable bags which have a longer degredation period than normal plastic grocery bags or paper bags which would mean more deforestation to keep up with demand. I’d have liked to find more research and statistics to back this ban than have environmentalists blindly banning plastic bags because of a singular fact that they are bad for the environment. In all reality, banning the plastic bags could be worse for our environment down the road. These are conditions that need to be analyzed to the full extent to make sure that we have a home centuries from now.

France Seeks U.N. Security Council Resolution on Mideast Talks

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/28/world/middleeast/france-security-council-peace-talks-resume.html?_r=0

On Friday, March 27th, France stated that it would press the Security Council to adopt a resolution to initiate talks between Israel and the Palestinians.  This is something that the United States resisted doing last year.  Fabius, the French foreign minister, stated that France would consult with other Council members over a framework for negotiations.  According to Sengupta, New York Times journalist, this action by France will likely put pressure on the White House to act.

I agree with Sengupta’s analysis of this situation.  France is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and if they are able to get other members of the Security Council on board, permanent or not, this will put tremendous pressure on the Obama administration.  Hopefully international pressure will force the United States to hold Israeli accountable and help prevent the construction of additional settlements.

Jenna

Specifics of the Readiness Action Force

Stoltenberg performed at the Brussels forum to reassure the public of NATO’s commitment.  He gave specifics to the new readiness action force which NATO has developed to counter Russia.  This new force is aimed at dealing with a hybrid war like that seen in Ukraine and one which is possible in some of the Baltic states who have large populations of ethnic Russians.  The force aims at increasing intelligence capabilities, developing special operations units, and constructing advanced prior-warning systems for potential air threats.  For dealing with a hybrid war where a civil war promotes annexation, intelligence and special forces will be key to stopping destabilization as covert surgical strikes would be more effective (to destroy important infrastructure or enemy capabilities to leave the weak secessionists unsupported.)  With this Hybrid war policy explained, the readiness action force should be more assuring to the public and NATO members. Edward

NATO exercises in the Black Sea

NATO performed naval exercises on March 20th with its snmg2 naval group consisting of 5 ships.  This action was taken to reassure allies in the region and was a direct response to Russian aggression.  It is good to see a NATO military exercise in response to Russia’s provocative military drills and increased global air presence. These are the types of actions NATO’s allies need to see to ensure them that NATO really takes the alliance seriously.  It also demonstrates to Russia that we may be more willing to act then they perceive.  These kinds of exercises need to be replicated throughout western Europe with land, sea, and air resources. Edward

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