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Showing posts from February 12, 2014

China's trade surplus rises to $32 billion

According to the latest data released, the total trade surplus of China rose to $31.9 billion during the month of January.

The rising trade surplus has helped address concerns that the world's second largest economy might be facing a slowdown. The figure of $31.9 billion is about 14 per cent higher than the previous year and stronger than forecasts for a $23.7 billion surplus. The total imports into the country increased by 10.6 per cent from a year earlier, which is much lower than forecasts, to $207.13 billion.

The growing trade surplus has backed suggestions that China might overtake US as the largest trading nation in the world. China is already the world's largest exporter and analysts expected toe trade to be affected due to the China's biggest annual holiday, the Lunar New year.

China is expected to post its slowest growth in over a decade this year as its GDP will grow slower than earlier. However, the growth will still be much higher than the advanced western economi…

In the Darkness of Dick Cheney - The Smile of Secret Power

By Mark Danner

If you’re a man of principle, compromise is a bit of a dirty word.
-- Dick Cheney, 2013

1. “We Ought to Take It Out”

 - "Tom Dispatch" - In early 2007, as Iraq seemed to be slipping inexorably into chaos and President George W. Bush into inescapable political purgatory, Meir Dagan, the head of the Israeli Mossad, flew to Washington, sat down in a sunlit office of the West Wing of the White House, and spread out on the coffee table before him a series of photographs showing a strange-looking building rising out of the sands in the desert of eastern Syria. Vice President Dick Cheney did not have to be told what it was. “They tried to hide it down a wadi, a gulley,” he recalls to filmmaker R.J. Cutler.

“There’s no population around it anyplace... You can’t say it’s to generate electricity, there’s no power line coming out of it. It’s just out there obviously for production of plutonium.”

The Syrians were secretly building a nuclear plant -- with the help, it appeared, …

The Terrifying Surveillance Case of Brandon Mayfield

With NSA overreach, nobody is safe from confirmation bias

By Matthew Harwood

Portland lawyer Brandon Mayfield speaks at a press conference May 24, 2004 in Portland, Oregon. Mayfield was exonerated of involvement in terrorist activities connected with the train bombings in Spain.Greg Wahl-Stephens/Getty Images

 "Al Jazeera America" - During a live Web chat in late January, National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden explained one of the least discussed dangers of bulk collection. By indiscriminately sweeping up the call records and the international communications of Americans, the government has the ability to engage in retroactive investigation, or mining the historical data of targets for any evidence of suspicious, illegal or simply embarrassing activities. It is a disturbing capability that should make even those fully convinced of their own propriety to think twice before uttering out loud, “What do I have to fear if I have nothing to hide?”

But there’s ano…

The Persistent Threat of Mentally Disturbed Lone Wolves


By Scott Stewart

On the afternoon of Jan. 30, the mother of a Pittsford, New York, man made a terrifying discovery. Her son, 44-year-old Benjamin Smith, had disappeared from the family home armed with a lever-action rifle and left a disturbing note for his mother that said, among other things, "I am going to work for George W. Bush and the Pentagon" and "I have to slay the dragon and then Barbara Bush is mine…"

The U.S. Secret Service was able to use Smith's cell phone to track him, and he was located and arrested early the next morning in midtown Manhattan, some 330 miles from Pittsford. At the time of his arrest, Smith was armed with his rifle and a machete. Barbara Pierce Bush, the daughter of former President George W. Bush mentioned in Smith's letter, works and resides in Manhattan.

In a time when so much attention has turned to the very real threat posed by grassroots jihadists, the Smith case is a reminder that not all lone wolves are ideologi…

Bosnian Protests Create an EU Dilemma

Protesters outside the Bosnia-Herzegovina presidential residence in Sarajevo on Feb. 9. (ELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP/Getty Images)


Protests for early elections and against corruption and bureaucracy continued in Bosnia-Herzegovina for a sixth day on Feb. 10, albeit with smaller participation. These protests stem from the country's dire economic situation, which to a large extent is the result of its political fragility and its complex ethnic profile. Although the protests could calm down in the short term, political instability probably lies ahead given the country's structural problems -- creating a dilemma for the European Union, which considers pacifying the Balkans a priority of its policy of enlargement.


An ethnically fragmented country where political consensus and effective governance are extremely difficult to achieve, Bosnia is the archetypal Balkan country. Its location on the European borderlands made Bosnia ripe for foreign conquest. Centuries of invasions -…

The Iranian Navy: A Symbolic Show of Force in the Atlantic

An Iranian guard in front of the Kharg replenishment ship in Port Sudan in 2012. The Kharg extends the range of Iranian warships by carrying essential supplies, including fuel. (ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images)


Tehran announced Feb. 8 that it had dispatched a frigate and a supply ship to the North Atlantic Ocean, where they will approach U.S. maritime borders. This is not the first time the Iranians have announced their intent to deploy naval vessels close to the United States. Iran made two such declarations in 2011 but never followed through.

However, following the most recent announcement, Iranian Adm. Afshin Rezayee Haddad said the Iranian fleet is actually underway, already approaching the South Atlantic Ocean through waters off the coast of South Africa. The Iranian decision to deploy naval vessels to the North Atlantic is largely symbolic; it does not pose any real military risk. Iran will use the deployment to show the flag in a non-threatening manner, looking to appease…