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Showing posts from February 20, 2013

Britain could ramp up scale of security to Syria rebels

Britain could dramatically widen the scale of its security support for the Syrian rebels, William Hague has said despite failing to scrap the EU arms embargo at talks in Brussels.

The European Union gave the green light to Whitehall plans to send “security and civilian-military” trainers to assist Syrian rebels.


The decision followed a battle between William Hague and Baroness Ashton at a meeting of European foreign ministers over a British call to lift current EU sanctions that prevent any form of military support to Syria’s besieged rebels.


Following opposition to lifting the arms embargo, from Germany, Sweden and over 20 other countries, the Foreign Secretary hailed a compromise amending EU sanctions to allow “technical assistance for the protection of civilians” as a breakthrough.


“It is important because it shows that we can change the arms embargo and the worse the situation becomes the more we can change,” he said.


“It allows is to supply a greater range of equipment to protect …

Is Britain's arms trade making a killing?

Few prime ministers have been as tireless in promoting Britain's arms industry as David Cameron. He calls it a key part of the UK's economy, but do the figures really add up? In the town centre of Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, between McDonald's and Carphone Warehouse, there is an unusual statue. Four firm-jawed figures in factory clothes stand back-to-back. One wears a flat cap, one wields a sledgehammer, one has a welder's visor. All of them are in purposeful poses, idealised workers cast in bronze. Around the statue base run the words "labour", "courage" and "progress". Its structure feels like something from the Soviet Union in the 30s.
But the statue is British and only eight years old. Its subject and design, slightly startling in a country that stopped celebrating most factory workers decades ago, is explained by a small plaque. Part of the statue was "donated by BAE Systems Submarines".
Barrow is a defence industry town. I…

Libya's guns, gangs and the liberation of a masculine sickness

In Benghazi or a US suburb, the gun is a devil whispering to masculine hearts. This picture is less about freedom than power.

Are the guns in this photograph weapons or toys? The young men flaunting them look like they could have been playing with plastic guns not so many years ago, but the armoury they display here on the streets of Benghazi in Libya is very real. At a moment when guns are proliferating dangerously from Sandy Hook to South Africa, here is a photograph of what men see in them.



These youths, dressed half militarily, half casually – note the baseball cap, the low jeans – are driving round streets that apart from them, look empty. Well you wouldn't want to risk a stray bullet as these heroes celebrate the second anniversary of the uprising that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi. While the khaki- and camouflage-clad pair in the foreground look more or less like some kind of trained soldier with an official role, the car behind them is manned by equally well-armed kids whose dre…

French nationals kidnapped in northern Cameroon

Seven French nationals have been abducted in Cameroon, French President François Hollande confirmed on Tuesday. FRANCE 24's sister network Radio France International had earlier reported that those kidnapped were taken by armed men on motorbikes. Seven French nationals, including four children, have been abducted in Cameroon, French President François Hollande confirmed on Tuesday. Radio France International (RFI) earlier reported that the kidnapped French nationals were taken by armed men on motorbikes toward the border with Nigeria.
The seven were kidnapped by a Nigeria-based "terrorist group well known to us", Hollande said, in what was likely a reference to Islamist group Boko Haram, although no group has yet claimed responsibility.
The French tourists are thought to have been taken from the town of Dadanga, 6 kilometers (4 miles) from the Nigerian border, after visiting the Waza Park nature reserve.

FRENCH PRESIDENT HOLLANDE FRANCE 24 France will do 'everything …

Tunisia in turmoil after prime minister's resignation

Hamadi Jebali steps aside after failing to appoint new government, and nation's credit rating is downgraded again.

Photograph: Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters


Tunisia's political uncertainty continued on Tuesday after the moderate Islamist prime minister resigned following his failure to appoint a technocrat, caretaker government to end the long-running political crisis.

The political stalemate prompted an international ratings agency to downgrade Tunisia's credit rating, putting further strain on its struggling economy.

Hamadi Jebali, from the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, stepped down after failing to push through his plan for a technocrat, non-political caretaker government to get Tunisia out of its political deadlock. His move to step aside, which some had expected, is the latest twist in Tunisia's drawn-out political wrangling over the cabinet. Tensions deepened this month after the assassination of a leftist opposition figure, Chokri Belaid, shot dead outside his house in…

China 'aiding hacker attacks on west'

Study claims military unit based in Shanghai has stolen vast amounts of data from companies and defence groups
The building in Shanghai that hosts the Chinese military's Unit 61398, which has been accused of involvement in hacking attacks. Photograph: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

The Chinese army has launched hundreds of cyber-attacks against western companies and defence groups from a nondescript office building in Shanghai, according to a report that warns hackers have stolen vast amounts of data from their targets.

Mandiant, a security company that has been investigating attacks against western organisations for over six years, said in a report (PDF) the attacks came from a 12-storey building belonging to the People's Liberation Army (PLA) general staff's department, also known as Unit 61398.

Mandiant said it believed a hacking network named the Comment Crew or the Shanghai Group was based inside the compound, in a rundown residential neighbourhood. Although the report fail…

Hysteria Over Kim’s Nukes

By Eric Margolis

February 19, 2013 - Are we about to be vaporized by North Korea’s nuclear weapons? Given all the hysteria this week over its third underground nuclear test, one would certainly think so.

In reality, we are not about to be nuked by the North’s new boyish leader, Kim Jong-un. But, like many heads of small nations, he really does get a big kick out of making the big boys go crazy.

The late Muammar Qadaffi and Saddam Hussein also used to enjoy this dangerous sport. But unlike young Kim, they didn’t have 4-6 operational nuclear weapons – a lesson not lost on North Korea.

While everyone was fulminating against the wicked North Koreans, there was barely any mention of US-South Korean-Australian war games near North Korea that Pyongyang claimed were training for a US-led invasion. Semi-annual US-led war games almost always cause North Korea to fire missiles and beat the war drums.

What’s clear is that North Korea is making steady progress in developing a smaller nuclear warhead…