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Showing posts from March 13, 2013

Venezuela looks to China for economic boost

China may become the South American state's biggest trading partner, but some economists are sceptical of the benefits.

Caracas, Venezuela - As China’s economic and political footprint grows across Latin America and Africa, worrying some and enriching others, Alvaro Ruiz Sanchez has his eyes on the prize.

President of OrOctrading, a consulting firm, Sanchez - sporting thick cufflinks with the red Chinese flag and a dark blazer - has been teaching Venezuelan companies about doing business with the world’s second-largest economy.

“Usually, manufactured goods from China are coming into Latin America and raw materials are going out,” Sanchez told Al Jazeera. “Venezuela has posted a positive trade balance with China, because of oil exports, but without those we would have a major deficit.”

Trade between Venezuela, holder of the world’s largest oil reserves, and China grew to $18bn in 2011, a 24-fold increase from 2003, reported China Daily, a government-backed newspaper.

Venezuela expo…

US accuses China of cyber security breaches

China, which denies role in hacking of US interests, says it's ready to co-operate on the issue.

Hackers, mainly from China, have recently been targeting US firms to steal confidential data, which is why the US now considers cyber attacks to be its top security threat.

China, which has consistently denied being behind the attacks, says it is ready to co-operate on the issue.

The White House has accused Chinese hackers of attacking the country's interests.

On Wednesday, Barack Obama, the US president, will meet corporate leaders to discuss how they can work together to improve cyber security.

Michelle Obama's personal data hacked

Personal details of celebrities and politicians, including First Lady, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, published online.

Personal financial data of several US celebrities and politicians, including First Lady Michelle Obama, have been posted on the internet by hackers, US authorities have said.

On Tuesday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said that it was investigating a website which used a Russian web address to publish financial and personal information which it claimed to belong to 18 prominent US public figures.

The hackers published social security numbers, telephone numbers, addresses and credit reports of prominent people such as Joe Biden, the vice president and Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state.

Others listed on the page included FBI Director Robert Mueller, Attorney-General Eric Holder, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, and also entertainment celebrities Beyonce, Ashton Kutcher and Jay-Z amongst others.

Three leading personal credit-monitoring agencies…

US Threatens Pakistan with Sanctions over Iran Gas Pipeline Deal

The US has threatened Pakistan with sanctions if it goes ahead with a multi-billion dollar pipeline deal with Iran.

Hours after the official inauguration of the final phase of the Iran-Pakistan natural gas pipeline, the US State Department has said the bilateral project would force Washington to employ the Iran Sanctions Act.

"We have serious concerns if this project actually goes forward that the Iran Sanctions Act would be triggered," said State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland.

The Act allows Washington to impose a ban on any non-American firm if it invests more than $20 million in Iran's oil resources.

Nuland added: "We've been straight up with the Pakistanis about these concerns. And as I said at some length last week, we are also working very closely bilaterally to support alternative projects to provide Pakistan with the energy that it needs."

The inauguration ceremony at the Iran-Pakistan border was attended by the presidents of both countries.


February 2013 Update: US covert actions in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia

CIA drones kill two alleged al Qaeda commanders in two strikes on Pakistan.
US operations drop to zero in Yemen a year after President Saleh was ousted from power.
No operations reported in Somalia.
February 2013 actions
Total CIA strikes in February: 2
Total killed in strikes in February: 9-14, of whom 0-2 were reportedly civilians
All actions 2004 – February 28 2013
Total Obama strikes: 312
Total US strikes since 2004: 364
Total reported killed: 2,534-3,573
Civilians reported killed: 411-884Children reported killed: 168-197
Total reported injured: 1,172-1,463
For the Bureau’s full Pakistan databases click here. Two CIA drone strikes hit Pakistan this month, killing at least nine people. This is a significant drop from January when six strikes reportedly killed 27-54 people.
On February 7 John Brennan, Barack Obama’s nominee for CIA director, went before the Senate Intelligence Committee for his confirmation hearing.
The two Pakistan strikes book-ended the Brennan hearing. The first …

Erased US data shows 1 in 4 missiles in Afghan airstrikes now fired by drone

Drones are now firing nearly a quarter of all air-launched missiles in Afghanistan, just as the US military deletes its drone figures.
The US military has stopped publishing data on drone use in Afghanistan, claiming missions that include drone strikes are ‘the exception’ – just 3% of all drone flights. However, the figures themselves demonstrate the increasingly important role played by drones in airstrikes by the US and its allies in Afghanistan.
The now-deleted figures show unmanned aircraft fired nearly one in four of all missiles used in coalition airstrikes in January – up from just one in 20 in 2011.
Until October 2012, all statistics on drone use were classified. The move to publish data came after months of pressure from the Bureau over accessing drone strike data for ‘conventional’ wars such as Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq.
Excerpt from January 2013 report showing drone data. The Bureau argued that there was a strong public interest in publishing such material. Afcent eventual…

Syria jets bomb Homs

Syrian jets have bombed rebel forces attempting to recapture a keenly contested district of Homs.

Syrian jets have bombed rebel forces attempting to recapture a keenly contested district of Homs, as mortar shells slammed into a Damascus neighbourhood killing at least three people.

The army's retaliation on Monday came as al-Qaeda claimed the killing of 48 Syrian soldiers on Iraqi territory last week.

On the diplomatic front, a top official of Syria's tolerated opposition met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to appeal for key Damascus ally Moscow to relent in its refusal to back calls on President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

In Brussels, European Union foreign ministers emerged from talks with UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on the conflict which is about to enter its third year, divided over whether to arm the rebels or push for a political solution.

Rebels launched a surprise assault on Homs's Baba Amr at dawn on Sunday, hoping to take back the devastated neighbo…

At least 21 people have been killed in Afghanistan, including five NATO soldiers in a helicopter crash and six civilians blasted by a landmine and mortar.

At least 21 people, including seven foreign troops, have been killed in a single day in Afghanistan.

In separate incidents on Monday, five NATO soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash, a landmine and mortar round killed at least six civilians and 10 people died in a shootout at a joint Afghan-US military base.

The melee at the base in Jalrez district of Wardak province occurred when a policeman opened fire at Afghan and US troops.

Naqibullah Haidari, the district governor, said on Tuesday that at least 10 people were killed in the skirmishes.

He said the attacker, Nasir Ahmad, had been working at the district police headquarters for more than a year.

"He stood on top of a police ranger and took control of the PK machine gun attached to the vehicle," Haidari said.

Two US special forces members, three Afghan policemen and three Afghan army commandos were killed.

Haidari said helicopters flying over the base killed two civilians and injured four others.

The district police chief had…

New Chinese President Xi Aims to Paint Africa Red

By Nile Bowie

March 12, 2013 "Information Clearing House" -"RT" - The fact that China's incoming president, Xi Jinping, is set to visit Africa on his first foreign trip is a strong indication of where Sino-African relations are headed. But as Beijing focuses on building African industry, Washington has other plans.

At a recently held meeting of the National People’s Congress in Beijing, China’s leaders unveiled a dramatic long-term plan to integrate some 400 million countryside dwellers into urban environments, by concentrating growth-promoting development in small- and medium-sized cities. In stark contrast to the neglected emphasis on infrastructure development in the United States and Europe, China spends around $500 billion annually on infrastructural projects, with $6.4 trillion set aside for its 10-year mass urbanization scheme, making it the largest rural-to-urban migration project in human history.

China’s leaders have mega-development in focus, and r…

Considering a Departure in North Korea's Strategy

On Jan. 29, I wrote a piece that described North Korea's strategy as a combination of ferocious, weak and crazy. In the weeks since then, three events have exemplified each facet of that strategy. Pyongyang showed its ferocity Feb. 12, when it detonated a nuclear device underground. The country's only significant ally, China, voted against Pyongyang in the U.N. Security Council on March 7, demonstrating North Korea's weakness. Finally, Pyongyang announced it would suspend the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953, implying that that war would resume and that U.S. cities would be turned into "seas of fire." To me, that fulfills the crazy element.

My argument was that the three tenets -- ferocity, weakness and insanity -- form a coherent strategy. North Korea's primary goal is regime preservation. Demonstrating ferocity -- appearing to be close to being nuclear capable -- makes other countries cautious. Weakness, such as being completely isolated from th…