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Islamic State Beheads Man Accused of Performing ‘Magic’

Ali Waked reports: According to group members, IS police officers beheaded the man in the town of Tasil in the Dara district in southern Syria.

In an accompanying statement, the terrorist organization said that the man was beheaded with a sword and had performed “magic and sorcery.”

In the photos, one member of IS can be seen reading the ruling of the Sharia court, noting the Islamic penalty for the alleged transgressions.

Those who carried out the punishment of beheading, according to IS, were members of the Khaled Bin Waleed militia – a jihadist militia affiliated with IS active in southern Syria in the triangular area between the borders of Syria, Jordan and Israel. Read the rest of this entry »

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Scott McConnell: The Battle for France

The new intellectualism of cultural anxiety

And that’s why France is the epicenter of today’s fearsome battle between Western elites bent on protecting and expanding the well-entrenched policy of mass immigration and those who see this spreading influx as an ultimate threat to the West’s cultural heritage, not to mention its internal tranquility. In France it is a two-front war. One is the political front, where Marine Le Pen’s National Front has moved from the fringes of politics into the mainstream. The other is the intellectual front, where a new breed of writers, thinkers, and historians has emerged to question the national direction and to decry those who have set the country upon its current course.

Americans have always had a special affinity for France. It was critical to the American founding by way of Lafayette’s mission. In the 20th century many artistic and upper-class Americans embraced Paris as the site of and model for their own cultural strivings. France’s 1940 fall to Nazi Germany dealt the first real blow to American isolationism. After the 1945 victory in Europe, U.S. links to Paris, London, and Europe generally rendered postwar Atlanticism more than just a strategy: it was a civilizational commitment that helped define who we were as Americans.

Paris remains beautiful, though crime has been rising for a generation and the city has the trappings of wartime, with heavily armed soldiers visibly guarding sensitive targets—museums, schools, newspapers—against Islamist terror. The approaching elections, where the National Front will surely exceed its past vote totals, mark a tremulous new era.

Indeed, serious people have for some years been contemplating whether France is nearing the precipice of civil war. That’s probably unlikely, at least in the near future, but few would be shocked if the political and communal conflicts exploded into violence not seen in decades. And that has spawned a radically changed intellectual climate. The French intelligentsia and its cultural establishment still lean, in the main, toward the left, as they have since the end of World War II, or indeed since the divisive Dreyfus affair of the Third Republic. But today, France’s most read and most discussed popular writers—novelists and political essayists—are conservatives of one stripe or another. They are not concerned, even slightly, with the issues that animate American “mainstream” think-tank conservatism—lowering taxes, cutting federal programs, or maintaining some kind of global military hegemony. Their focus is France’s national culture and its survival. When they raise, as they do, the subjects embraced by American paleoconservatives and the so-called alt-right, that doesn’t mean the French debate has been taken over by extremists. The authors driving the French conversation are in almost every instance prominent figures whose views would have put them in the Gaullist middle or somewhat left of center at any time in the 1960s or ’70s. But France has changed, and what National Review in the 1990s called “the national question” has been brought to the very heart of the country’s national debate.

At the moment, France’s most important political intellectual on the right is probably Éric Zemmour, a former editorial writer for Le Figaro. A natural polemicist, he is a descendant of working-class Algerian Jews who fled to France in the 1950s. Though he demonstrates serious intellectual breadth, Zemmour’s particular passion is polemical battle. He was fined under French anti-racism laws in 2011 for publicly referring to racial discrepancies in crime rates. No one questioned the accuracy of his statistics, but discussing them in a way that was seen as contravening French anti-defamation law was an absolute no-no. Three years later, he reached a pinnacle of influence with the publication of his 500-page Le Suicide français, a modern national history that sold 400,000 copies within two months and became the top-selling book in France. Weeks later, when attacks by French-born Islamists on the offices of Charlie Hebdoand a kosher supermarket outside Paris stunned the nation (while being greeted with shocking indifference in the predominantly Muslim Paris suburbs), Zemmour’s book was there to explain how France had arrived at that dismal intersection.

The literary technique of Le Suicide français seems made for the internet and social media. The book marches, in short vignettes, from the death of de Gaulle in 1970 through the end of Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency in 2012. Zemmour takes an illustrative event—sometimes no more than a demonstration, a film, or a pop song—and shows how it reflects national decline or actually pushed that decline onward.

[Read the full story here, at The American Conservative]

One central theme is that the young bourgeois nihilists of the May 1968 street revolution prevailed. Not in politics or at least not immediately: de Gaulle’s party remained in power for more than a decade after. But the cultural victory was decisive. De Gaulle as a father figure was overthrown, and so was the traditional idea of the father. As the traditional family weakened, birth rates sank. In short order, France embraced legalized abortion and no-fault divorce; the father, when he didn’t disappear altogether, began to behave like a second mother. Traces of the shift show up in pop music. The singer Michel Delpech gave his blessing to his wife leaving for another man in one popular song:

You can even make a half-brother for Stéphanie
That would be marvelous for her.

Or as the comic Guy Bedos put it, “We separated by mutual agreement, especially hers.”

Such shifts coincided, in symbiotic ways that few understood at the time, with the advent of mass immigration. Zemmour writes, “At the same moment the traditional French family receded, as if to compensate symbolically and demographically, the most traditional type of Maghrebine family, the most archaic, the most patriarchal, is invited to take up its role. To come to its rescue. To fill up the places it has left vacant. To replace it.”

Like the immigration narrative of every advanced Western country, the story is complex. France had welcomed and assimilated immigrants from eastern and southern Europe for a century. In the 1960s, Prime Minister Georges Pompidou, encouraged by an industrial elite seeking cheaper manual labor, recruited to France each year hundreds of thousands of workers from Spain, Portugal, and North Africa. Rural Maghrebine workers were preferred; they were seen as less Frenchified than workers from Algerian towns, more docile. After worker recruitment was stopped during the recession of 1974, family reunification as a humanitarian policy was instigated, and hundreds of thousands of North African women and children joined their husbands in France. Zemmour concludes that this represented a kind of posthumous victory over de Gaulle by the partisans of Algérie Française, the blending of France and Algeria which de Gaulle had rejected—for reasons of sociology and demography as much as for peace. As he told Alain Peyrefitte in 1959, “Those who dream of integration are birdbrains, even the most brilliant of them. Try to mix oil and vinegar. Shake up the bottle. After a while, they separate again. The Arabs are Arabs, the French are French.” In the same interview, de Gaulle said the Algérie Française would result in massive immigration to France, and his town Colombey-les-Deux-Églises would be turned into Colombey-les-Deux-Mosquées. Read the rest of this entry »


Michael Auslin: China Drone Seizure Throws Down Gauntlet to Obama and Trump

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Michael Auslin is the author of The End of the Asian Century: War, Stagnation, and the Risks to the World’s Most Dynamic Region,” which will be published by Yale in January. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

michael-auslin-headshotMichael Auslin writes: In seizing an unmanned, underwater US Navy drone in international waters off the Philippines on Thursday, China has thrown down a North Korean-style gauntlet to both the outgoing Obama Administration and the incoming Trump team.

While media reports are still sketchy, it appears that a Chinese naval vessel was close enough to a US oceanographic survey ship to launch a small boat to grab the scientific drone as the American vessel was preparing to retrieve it. That would mean a ship-to-ship level of intimidation, and not a snatch-and-grab action in isolated waters.

Like in 2009, when the Chinese harassed the USNS Impeccable in the South China Sea, the latest action comes against a similarly unarmed US research vessel. This time, however, the Chinese flagrantly flouted international law, and unlawfully seized US property while possibly endangering the safety of US military personnel on the high seas.

[Order Michael Auslin’s book “The End of the Asian Century: War, Stagnation, and the Risks to the World’s Most Dynamic Region” from Amazon.com]

Such a dramatic upping of the ante is out of character for China, and American officials should understand that Beijing now appears willing to take increasingly risky actions. This latest provocation may well be at least partly in response to President-elect Trump’s recent comments on China, Taiwan and the One-China Policy.

At the same time, the latest challenge comes on the heels of steadily degrading relations between the Obama Administration and China, including news that Beijing is rapidly militarizing its newly built islands located near the Philippines. On these reclaimed shoals, China has emplaced anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems in what can also be a precursor to fielding offensive weapons capabilities.

[Read the full story here, at CNN.com]

In response, senior US military leaders have made forthright statements about America’s national interest in maintaining open and uncontested sea lanes. These comments have put Beijing on notice that Washington will not sit idly by if China appears be upending decades of peaceful development in Asia’s waters. Read the rest of this entry »


OH YES THEY DID: As Expected, China Installs Weapons Systems on Artificial Islands

U.S. Navy leadership and senior officers from the Chinese People's Liberation Army (Navy) meet for lunch aboard the Chinese destroyer Harbin (DDG 112) marking the conclusion of a U.S.-China counter piracy exercise between Harbin and the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87). Mason is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary M. Keen/Released)

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said its findings come despite statements by the Chinese leadership that Beijing has no intention to militarize the islands in the strategic trade route, where territory is claimed by several countries.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) –David Brunnstrom reports: China appears to have installed weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, on all seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, a U.S. think tank reported on Wednesday, citing new satellite imagery.

“It now seems that these structures are an evolution of point-defense fortifications already constructed at China’s smaller facilities on Gaven, Hughes, Johnson, and Cuarteron reefs.”

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said its findings come despite statements by the Chinese leadership that Beijing has no intention to militarize the islands in the strategic trade route, where territory is claimed by several countries.

DigitalGlobe overview imagery from June 3rd, 2016 of the Fiery Cross Reef located in the South China Sea. Fiery Cross is located in the western part of the Spratly Islands group. Photo DigitalGlobe via Getty Images.

“These gun and probable CIWS emplacements show that Beijing is serious about defense of its artificial islands in case of an armed contingency in the South China Sea. Among other things, they would be the last line of defense against cruise missiles launched by the United States or others against these soon-to-be-operational air bases.”

AMTI said it had been tracking construction of hexagonal structures on Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi reefs in the Spratly Islands since June and July. China has already built military length airstrips on these islands.

“This is the first time that we’re confident in saying they are anti-aircraft and CIWS emplacements. We did not know that they had systems this big and this advanced there. This is militarization. The Chinese can argue that it’s only for defensive purposes, but if you are building giant anti-aircraft gun and CIWS emplacements, it means that you are prepping for a future conflict.”

“It now seems that these structures are an evolution of point-defense fortifications already constructed at China’s smaller facilities on Gaven, Hughes, Johnson, and Cuarteron reefs,” it said citing images taken in November and made available to Reuters.

“This model has gone through another evolution at (the) much-larger bases on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs.”

Satellite images of Hughes and Gaven reefs showed what appeared to be anti-aircraft guns and what were likely to be close-in weapons systems (CIWS) to protect against cruise missile strikes, it said.

Images from Fiery Cross Reef showed towers that likely contained targeting radar, it said.

AMTI said covers had been installed on the towers at Fiery Cross, but the size of platforms on these and the covers suggested they concealed defense systems similar to those at the smaller reefs.

“These gun and probable CIWS emplacements show that Beijing is serious about defense of its artificial islands in case of an armed contingency in the South China Sea,” it said. Read the rest of this entry »


Barack ‘Lead From Behind’ Obama Says Goodbye to World Stage After 8 Years 

U.S. President Barack Obama holds a press conference at the conclusion of the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Summit in Lima, Peru November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

LIMA (AFP-Jiji) — U.S. President Barack Obama bid farewell to the world stage Sunday, pondering his legacy and offering advice to his successor at the end of his final foreign tour.

His historic presidency and charisma have made Obama a rock star on the international scene, even at times when the daily grind of politics dimmed the glow around his election as the United States’ first black president in 2008.

Obama spoke to both the American people and the world as he gave his final foreign press conference in Lima. Read the rest of this entry »


BEAST MODE: China Debuts J-20 Stealth Jet in Show of Strength

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ZHUHAI, China (Reuters) –Tim Hepher and Brenda Goh report: China showed its Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter in public for the first time on Tuesday, opening the country’s biggest meeting of aircraft makers and buyers with a show of its military clout.

“It’s a change of tactics for the Chinese to publicly show off weapons that aren’t in full squadron service yet, and demonstrates a lot of confidence in the capability, and also a lot of pride.”

— Sam Roggeveen, a senior fellow at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute

Airshow China, in the southern city of Zhuhai, offers Beijing an opportunity to demonstrate its ambitions in civil aerospace and to underline its growing capability in defense. China is set to overtake the U.S. as the world’s top aviation market in the next decade.

Two J-20 jets, Zhuhai’s headline act, swept over dignitaries, hundreds of spectators and industry executives gathered at the show’s opening ceremony in a flypast that barely exceeded a minute, generating a deafening roar that was met with gasps and applause and set off car alarms in a parking lot.

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“I think we learned very little. We learned it is very loud. But we can’t tell what type of engine it has, or very much about the mobility. Most importantly, we didn’t learn much about its radar cross-section.”

— Greg Waldron, Asia Managing Editor of FlightGlobal

Experts say China has been refining designs for the J-20, first glimpsed by planespotters in 2010, in the hope of narrowing a military technology gap with the United States. President Xi Jinping has pushed to toughen the armed forces as China takes a more assertive stance in Asia, particularly in the South China and East China seas.

“It is clearly a big step forward in Chinese combat capability,” said Bradley Perrett of Aviation Week, a veteran China watcher.

State-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) was also bullish on China’s appetite for new civilian planes, estimating the market would need 6,865 new aircraft worth $930 billion over the next 20 years.

The COMAC forecast – similar to long-term outlooks from well-established rivals Boeing Co and Airbus Group – said China would make up almost a fifth of global demand for close to 40,000 planes over the next two decades. Read the rest of this entry »


Japan Scrambles Jets as China Warplanes Fly Through Okinawa Strait

jet

It was the first time Beijing is known to have sent fighter jets through the area, and comes days after Japan’s defense minister announced plans to step up engagement in the disputed South China Sea.

Jesse Johnson reports: The Air Self-Defense Force scrambled aircraft on Sunday as at least eight Chinese fighters and bombers — and possibly more than 40 — passed through a critical international entryway into the Western Pacific.

They used a legal but politically sensitive passage through Okinawa, apparently to send a message to Tokyo.

“This is a response to what Beijing will allege is a provocation by Japan in joining the U.S. in South China Sea drills despite Beijing warning Tokyo against participating.”

— University of Miami political science professor June Teufel Dreyer

It was the first time Beijing is known to have sent fighter jets through the area, and comes days after Japan’s defense minister announced plans to step up engagement in the disputed South China Sea.

The Chinese aircraft, which also included refueling tankers, flew over the Miyako Strait in Okinawa Prefecture but did not infringe Japanese airspace, the Defense Ministry said in Tokyo.

China said more than 40 aircraft were involved. They flew between Miyako Island near Taiwan and Okinawa’s main island on the way to “regular” patrols and drills in the Western Pacific, the Chinese Defense Ministry said in a statement posted to its website.

japan-air-self-defense-force-jet

People’s Liberation Army Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke said the massive show of force, which included H-6K bombers, Su-30 fighters and tanker aircraft, conducted reconnaissance and early warning exercises, attacks on sea surface targets, and in-flight refueling “to test the air force’s fighting capacity on the high seas.”

Chinese bombers and fighters also conducted what Shen called a “regular patrol” in the East China Sea air defense identification zone (ADIZ) that China unilaterally declared in 2013.

“The regular Western Pacific drills and ADIZ patrols are necessary to safeguard national sovereignty, the country’s security and maintain peaceful development,” Shen said.

[Read the full story here, at The Japan Times]

The air force will continue patrolling the East China Sea ADIZ and conduct training to improve its combat capacity in order to “uphold the legitimate rights and interests of China,” Shen added.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman, told a news conference Monday that although the aircraft never violated Japanese airspace, Tokyo “will continue to devote every effort to vigilance and surveillance and rigorously enforce steps against intrusions into our airspace based on international law and the Self-Defense Forces law.”

In this Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 photo, a crew member of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy monitors on the deck of the China's aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailing on the East China Sea for sea trials. The Liaoning departed for its first-ever sea trials in the South China Sea, a mission likely to draw scrutiny amid Beijing's drive to assert its claims to those waters and their island groups. (AP Photo) CHINA OUT

While it was apparently the first time for Beijing to send fighter jets on the route, its air force first flew other types of jets over the strait in May 2015, China’s Defense Ministry said.

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada angered Beijing with a speech last week, in which she said Tokyo would “increase its engagement in the South China Sea through … Maritime Self-Defense Force joint training cruises with the U.S. Navy.”

There was a fiery reaction in Chinese state media, but experts said she had not broken new ground in Japan’s approach to the South China Sea.

Still, according to University of Miami political science professor June Teufel Dreyer, the Chinese flights were meant to send a message to Japan not to meddle in the South China Sea issue. Read the rest of this entry »


Reason to Avoid Quarreling

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[VIDEO] What does China want in the South China Sea? In 60 Seconds

DigitalGlobe overview imagery from June 3rd, 2016 of the Fiery Cross Reef located in the South China Sea. Fiery Cross is located in the western part of the Spratly Islands group.  Photo DigitalGlobe via Getty Images.

Unlike China’s neighbors, the South China Sea‘s islands are not within China’s exclusive economic zone. So what do they want there? AEI Research Fellow Michael Mazza describes China’s motivations for its claims in the waters near the Philippines and Vietnam.

 


No Respect for POTUS in Asia

china-obama-bump

The president emerged from a smaller staircase in the belly of the aircraft, and many saw it as a deliberate sign of disrespect by the Chinese.

 reports: On President Obama’s final trip to Asia, his impending lame-duck status is showing.

Mr. Obama, who arrived in Laos late Monday night to become the first U.S. president ever to visit the Southeast Asian country, is encountering more than his usual share of friction and confrontation on his 10th trip to the region.

obm-disprespect

It started with his arrival at the airport in China, where Chinese officials failed to provide a portable staircase for Mr. Obama to disembark from the upper door of Air Force One with the typical grandiose visibility befitting a visiting head of state. Instead, the president emerged from a smaller staircase in the belly of the aircraft, and many saw it as a deliberate sign of disrespect by the Chinese.

Republican nominee Donald Trump said he would have refused to meet with Chinese officials if they treated him like they treated Mr. Obama. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: China Has No Historic Rights to South China Sea Resources, Court Says 

The case was brought by the Philippines, arguing that China’s claims don’t comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. While the court says the ruling is binding, it lacks a mechanism for enforcement.

David Tweed reports: China’s assertions to more than 80 percent of the disputed South China Sea have been dealt a blow with an international tribunal ruling it has no historic rights to the resources within a 1940s map detailing its claims.

“There was no evidence that China has historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or their resources,” the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said Tuesday in a statement. “The tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the seas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’.”

“There was no evidence that China has historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or their resources. The tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the seas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’.”

— Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, in a statement on Tuesday

[Read the full story here, at Bloomberg]

The case was brought by the Philippines, arguing that China’s claims don’t comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. While the court says the ruling is binding, it lacks a mechanism for enforcement.

In this Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 photo, a crew member of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy monitors on the deck of the China's aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailing on the East China Sea for sea trials. The Liaoning departed for its first-ever sea trials in the South China Sea, a mission likely to draw scrutiny amid Beijing's drive to assert its claims to those waters and their island groups. (AP Photo) CHINA OUT

China’s assertions are based on a 1947 map showing vague dashes — known as the nine-dash line — looping about 1,120 miles (1,800 kilometers) south of China’s Hainan Island and covering about 1.4 million square miles. It contends its claim is grounded in “historic rights” and reclaimed reefs and islands are its indisputable territory. China boycotted the arbitration process and vowed to ignore the result.

“The result of the arbitration is non-binding as far as China is concerned. The Chinese government has already repeatedly made it clear that it will not accept it, will not attend the arbitration, does not acknowledge it and will not implement the result.”

—  Chinese Admiral Sun Jianguo, in June

The ruling risks inflaming tensions in a waterway that hosts about $5 trillion of trade a year and plays a vital link for global energy shipments. China has stepped up its assertions under President Xi Jinping, straining ties with fellow claimants like the Philippines and Vietnam.

[MORE on China’s territorial disputes]

“The result of the arbitration is non-binding as far as China is concerned,” Chinese Admiral Sun Jianguo said in June. “The Chinese government has already repeatedly made it clear that it will not accept it, will not attend the arbitration, does not acknowledge it and will not implement the result.” Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Glues Down Paving Stones to Prevent Violence During Beijing Official’s Visit 

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Beijing taking no chances in protest-prone Hong Kong.

Emily Rauhala writes: In a sign of the times, officials in Hong Kong are gluing down bricks ahead of a visit by a top Chinese official, a move reportedly aimed at stopping protesters from turning pieces of pavement into projectiles.

The road work is part of a sweeping security mobilization that includes counterterrorism measures, such as road closures and barricades near the city’s central business district. Demonstrators will be relegated to protest zones, drawing complaints that the government is trying to play down dissent.

The man at the center of the storm: Zhang Dejiang, a member of China’s highest political body and the top official responsible for Macau and Hong Kong. Zhang lands in Hong Kong on Tuesday for a three-day trip. He will be the highest-ranking cadre to visit the city since pro-democracy protests in 2014.

Rioters throw bricks at police in Hong Kong in February after local authorities tried to prevent street food sellers from operating. (Kin Cheung/AP)

Rioters throw bricks at police in Hong Kong in February after local authorities tried to prevent street food sellers from operating. (Kin Cheung/AP)

Judging by the security preparations, not everyone is looking forward to his visit.

Anger and frustration over Beijing’s influence in Hong Kong affairs has been on the rise since 2014, when protesters occupied the heart of the city for months calling for free and fair elections.

[Read the full story here, at The Washington Post]

More than a year and a half later, the issues raised by the demonstrators remain unresolved and many worry that Beijing is tightening its grip on the former British colony, threatening rule of law and the free press.

Amid crackdown on a Hong Kong publishing house this winter, Lee Bo, a local bookseller with a British passport, disappeared from a warehouse in the city and surfaced across the border in mainland China under truly unbelievable circumstances. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong At ‘Serious Risk’ Of Cyberattack Amid 7 Million Daily Attempts Worldwide, Cyber Security Experts Warn

Hong Kong is certainly at a “serious risk” of cyberattack, with an average of 7 million hacking attempts daily worldwide, a Hong Kong cyber crime research centre warned authorities, urging them to do more to protect themselves from such an attack.

According to Frank Tong Fuk-kay, CEO of the government-funded Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI), security officials are in a serious need to step up resources and efforts to stop cybercrimes, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported Saturday.

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Tong’s comments came just a week after ASTRI warned authorities that the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and People’s Bank of China were among a long list of central banks that may be the top targets for hacking group Anonymous in May.

“More resources are needed in ensuring cyber security if Hong Kong keeps up its position as the global financial centre,” Tong told the SCMP in an interview Friday. “[Hong Kong] needs to train its own experts. Even some banks have a chief technology officer on director boards, which shows how important cyber security is.”

ASTRI and Hong Kong Police Force have organized a cyber security summit from Monday to Wednesday, which will be attended by cyber experts from Interpol and countries like the United States, Australia, Ireland, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.

During his interview with SCMP, Tong warned that the increase in the use of financial technology on banks, insurance companies, airlines, public transport service provides and hospitals, involve large amounts of personal data, which could be targeted by hackers. Read the rest of this entry »


U.S. Naval Flight Officer Lt. Commander Accused of Giving U.S. Secrets to China

Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. Lin

Sam LaGrone reports: A U.S. naval flight officer with an extensive signals intelligence background was accused by the service of passing secrets to China, USNI News has learned.

Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. Lin, who served on some of the Navy’s most sensitive intelligence gathering aircraft, faces several counts of espionage and other charges outlined during a Friday Article 32 hearing in Norfolk, Va.

Lin, originally a Taiwanese national before his family moved to the U.S., had a career as a signals intelligence specialist on the Navy’s Lockheed Martin EP-3E Aries II reconnaissance aircraft, several sources confirmed to USNI News.

China Policeman

Several sources familiar with the case told USNI News the country to which Lin passed secrets was China, however, few other details are known about the case given much of the evidence is classified.

[Read the full story here, at USNI News]

The redacted charging documents say Lin allegedly transported secret information out of the country without permission and then lied about his whereabouts when he returned to duty. The charging documents allege he successfully committed espionage twice and attempted espionage on three other occasions.

Then-Lt. Edward Lin speaking at 2008 U.S. naturalization ceremony in Hawaii. US Navy Photo

Then-Lt. Edward Lin speaking at a 2008 U.S. naturalization ceremony in Hawaii. US Navy Photo

In addition to the accusations related to transmitting secrets to a foreign power, Lin was also accused of violating military law by patronizing prostitutes and committing adultery. Read the rest of this entry »


Japan Grows an Island to Check China’s Territorial Ambitions 

Robin Harding reports: China’s artificial islands are fuelling a new struggle for control of Asia’s oceans, but while the regional superpower dredges military bases out of the ocean, Japan is growing an island in a bathtub.

The island is called Okinotorishima, or “distant bird island”; a remote, storm-wracked coral atoll in the Philippine Sea, where two small outcrops protrude at high tide. Japan regards the atoll as its southernmost point; China says it is no island, merely a rock.

“Our experiments with planting coral on Okinotorishima are ongoing. We’ve made progress in expanding the area of coral planted, but the death rate of the transplanted coral is high, so we can’t yet say the amount of coral on the island is increasing.”

— Makoto Omori, emeritus professor at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology.

For millennia, as the land beneath it sunk, layers of coral grew on top and kept the atoll’s head above water. But now Okinotorishima is dying. Climate change is raising the sea level and killing the coral. Typhoons bite at what remains.

“The ecotechnology established in Okinotorishima can be applied to all the small atoll islands in the Pacific and Indian Ocean. We have almost 500 atolls in the world, and some island countries such as the Marshalls, Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Maldives are completely formed of atolls.”

— Hajime Kayanne, a professor at the University of Tokyo.

Japan is therefore on a desperate quest to regrow the reef. The results will decide the fate of a strategic redoubt, with legal repercussions in the South China Sea, and could offer hope to other atolls threatened by climate change.

The bathtub, full of baby coral growing on iron plates, sits in a greenhouse at the Deep Seawater Research Institute on the island of Kumejima. Workers explain how they brought coral from Okinotorishima and harvested eggs. They will grow the baby corals in this laboratory for a year then transplant them back to the atoll.

South China Sea map

For the scientists working on the project it is a battle with the ocean. They have successfully cultivated coral from the reef and transplanted it back to the island, but it is not enough. “The next technology . . . is keeping up with the rising sea by coral growth and accumulation of coral gravels and sand,” says Hajime Kayanne, a professor at the University of Tokyo.

[Read the full text here, at FT.com]

“Our experiments with planting coral on Okinotorishima are ongoing,” says Makoto Omori, emeritus professor at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology. “We’ve made progress in expanding the area of coral planted, but the death rate of the transplanted coral is high, so we can’t yet say the amount of coral on the island is increasing.”

No amount of transplantation can revive a reef by itself, says Mr Omori. Rather, the goal is for the transplants to spread across the atoll. Working in such a remote place is challenging because it is hard to monitor the coral.

For the scientists, rescuing Okinotorishima means saving the world’s coral, and the many islands that exist because of it. In the past four decades, 40 per cent of the world’s reefs have died. Read the rest of this entry »


China is Putting Tighter Controls on Online Mapping Services 

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New regulations could make it harder than ever for Google to re-enter the world’s largest market.

David Z. Morris reports: In rules released this week, China’s State Council announced that all digital maps provided in China be stored on servers within its borders. The rules, which also lay out certification standards for digital mapping providers, will go into effect Jan. 1.

“Keeping map servers within China would, in theory, give its government even more control over what its citizens see. But the move is arguably redundant—China has long held mapping services to strict content standards, and blocks those that don’t comply.”

According to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency, the purpose of the new regulations is to “boost development of the geographic information industry” and safeguard “national sovereignty and geographic information security.”

“Google has since made moderate concessions in its representation of Chinese borders on maps accessed from outside of the country, changing the names of disputed regions and depiction of Chinese borders with India and the Philippines”

The rules seem much heavier on tightening control than on boosting development. In addition to the server location requirements, map providers are prohibited both from displaying or even storing any data deemed to be prohibited by the government. Government officials will be able to regularly inspect data for “errors and leaks of information that threaten national sovereignty,” according to Xinhua. Read the rest of this entry »


Sinopec Dips Toes in Disputed South China Sea

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Brian Spegele reports: China wants to ramp up fuel supplies at a contested island outpost in the South China Sea, and it is enlisting one of the nation’s biggest state-owned enterprises to help.

China Petrochemical Corp., commonly known as Sinopec, said Monday it had begun building a fueling station and storage depot at the Chinese settlement of Sansha City in the disputed Paracel Island chain.

A statement by the company on its official microblog account confirmed earlier reports from local authorities that the project intended to ease fuel shortages at Sansha, a settlement with a population of around 1,000 people, making it the largest outpost among the many contested islands of the South China Sea.

Tu hao, go fishing in Sansha, and remember to bring your refueling card,” Sinopec’s statement said, using a popular term for China’s newly minted moneyed class.

[Read the full story here, at China Real Time Report – WSJ]

Sansha City, located on Woody Island, is used to administer China’s claims over nearly the entire South China Sea, and holds the same administrative rank in China as large metropolises with millions of people.

China took de facto control of Woody Island and the Paracels following a naval conflict with South Vietnamese forces in 1974. Vietnam continues to claim the area today. Its Foreign Ministry said it didn’t have any comment on the fuel facilities Monday.

Sinopec, whose main listed unit trades in New York and Hong Kong, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on whether building the facilities would hurt its ability to pursue future business with Vietnam. Read the rest of this entry »


U.S. Patrols to Raise Stakes with Beijing in Disputed South China Sea

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Greg Torode reports: U.S. plans to send warships or military aircraft within 12 nautical miles of China’s artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, possibly within days, could open a tense new front in Sino-U.S. rivalry.

A range of security experts said Washington’s so-called freedom of navigation patrols would have to be regular to be effective, given Chinese ambitions to project power deep into maritime Southeast Asia and beyond.

But China would likely resist attempts to make such U.S. actions routine, some said, raising the political and military stakes. China’s navy could for example try to block or attempt to surround U.S. vessels, they said, risking an escalation.

Given months of debate already in Washington over the first such patrol close to the Chinese outposts since 2012, several regional security experts and former naval officers said the U.S. government might be reluctant to do them often.

U.S. allies such as Japan and Australia are unlikely to follow with their own direct challenges to China, despite their concerns over freedom of navigation along vital trade routes, they added.

“This cannot be a one-off,” said Ian Storey, a South China Sea expert at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

“The U.S. navy will have to conduct these kinds of patrols on a regular basis to reinforce their message.”

The Obama administration has said it would test China’s territorial claims to the area after months of pressure from Congress and the U.S. military. It has not given a timeframe.

“I think we have been very clear – that we intend to do this,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters last Monday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry officials said this month that Beijing would “never allow any country to violate China’s territorial waters and airspace in the Spratly islands in the name of protecting navigation and overflight”.

Under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, 12-nautical mile limits cannot be set around man-made islands built on previously submerged reefs.

Four of the seven reefs China has reclaimed over the last two years were completely submerged at high tide before construction began, legal scholars say.

China claims most of the South China Sea. Other claimants are Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Read the rest of this entry »


China Warns U.S. It ‘Will Not Allow Violations of its Waters’

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China said on Friday it would not stand for violations of its territorial waters in the name of freedom of navigation, as the United States considers sailing warships close to China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea.

“I simply won’t discuss future operations. With regards to whether we are going to sail within 12 miles, or fly within 12 miles, of any of the reclaimed islands that China has built in the South China Sea, I will reserve that for later.”

— Admiral Harry Harris, Commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific

A U.S. defense official told Reuters on Thursday the United States was considering sending ships to waters inside the 12-nautical-mile zones that China claims as territory around islands it has built in the Spratly chain.

Western media reports quoted U.S. officials as saying the action could take place within a matter of days, but awaited a decision by U.S. President Barack Obama.

U.S. Navy exercises last week in the South China Sea (Naval Surface Forces)

U.S. Navy exercises last week in the South China Sea (Naval Surface Forces)

“We will never allow any country to violate China’s territorial waters and airspace in the Spratly Islands, in the name of protecting freedom of navigation and overflight.”

— Hua Chunying, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman

The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Admiral Harry Harris, declined to say on Friday whether the United States would carry out the plan. But he made clear it was an option he had presented to Obama and said the United States must carry out freedom of navigation patrols throughout the Asia-Pacific.

“I simply won’t discuss future operations,” Harris told a Washington seminar. “With regards to whether we are going to sail within 12 miles, or fly within 12 miles, of any of the reclaimed islands that China has built in the South China Sea, I will reserve that for later.”

Earlier on Friday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying warned against any such patrols.

“We will never allow any country to violate China’s territorial waters and airspace in the Spratly Islands, in the name of protecting freedom of navigation and overflight,” she told a regular news briefing. Read the rest of this entry »


Obama Blocks Navy from Sailing Near Disputed Chinese islands 

US President Barack Obama attends a military briefing with US Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham (L) at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

 reports: The Obama administration has restricted the U.S. Pacific Command from sending ships and aircraft within 12 miles of disputed Chinese-built islands in the South China Sea, bolstering Beijing’s illegal claims over the vital seaway, Pentagon leaders revealed to Congress on Thursday.

“The administration has continued to restrict our Navy ships from operating within 12 nautical miles of China’s reclaimed islands,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) said in opening remarks criticizing the failure to guarantee safe passage for international commercial ships in Asia.

In this Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 photo, a crew member of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy monitors on the deck of the China's aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailing on the East China Sea for sea trials. The Liaoning departed for its first-ever sea trials in the South China Sea, a mission likely to draw scrutiny amid Beijing's drive to assert its claims to those waters and their island groups. (AP Photo) CHINA OUT

“This is a dangerous mistake that grants de facto recognition of China’s man-made sovereignty claims,” he said.

The South China Sea is a strategic waterway used to transport $5 trillion annually in goods, including $1.2 trillion in trade to the United States.

David Shear, assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific affairs, sought to play down the restrictions on Navy ship transits close to the islands. According to Shear, a regional freedom of navigation exercise took place in April and the tactic is “one tool in a larger tool box … and we’re in the process of putting together that tool box.”

Shear acknowledged that “we have not recently gone within 12 miles of a reclaimed area,” noting the last time a Navy ship sailed that close to a Chinese-built island was 2012.

Credit: Reuters/US Navy/Seaman Apprentice Carla Ocampo/Handout

The disclosure undermines statements made Wednesday by Defense Secretary Ash Carter who said the United States would not be coerced by China into not operating ships or aircraft in Asia. Carter said the United States “will continue to protect freedom of navigation and overflight.”

Shear insisted that in recent years the U.S. military has challenged “every category of Chinese claim in the South China Sea, as recently as this year.”

[Read the full story here, at Washington Free Beacon]

Blocking China from militarizing the new islands could include a range of options, including freedom of navigation operations, he said.

McCain, however, noted that the U.S. restrictions on close-in island military flights and ship visits were continuing despite the provocative dispatch of five Chinese warships in an unprecedented deployment to waters within 12 miles of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands—at the same time President Obama was concluding a recent visit to the state earlier this month.

A visibly angered McCain told Shear the best way to assert that international waters around the islands do not belong to China would be for American ships to make 12-mile passages by the disputed islands. “And we haven’t done that since 2012. I don’t find that acceptable, Mr. Secretary,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »


With a Few Words, Japan Escalates Its Standoff With China in the South China Sea

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Japan isn’t the only one pushing back against China’s expansion in the region.

Jennifer Peters reports: Japan has put its foot down — at least in writing — over China’s attempts to assert greater control of the South China Sea.

In an outline of a defense white paper due to be released at the end of July, Japan calls China’s efforts to lay claim to the much-disputed Spratly Islands “high handed.” The diplomatically sharp words come in the wake of China’s reclamation efforts of the islands, which have included laying the foundations of a military base on Fiery Cross Reef at the western edge of a part of the South China Sea fittingly named Dangerous Ground.

“The Chinese take kind of a Leninist approach to these things,” Currie said. “They probe with the bayonet until they hit steel, and then they’ll stop. When they start to see that people are serious about pushing back, then they will back off a bit.”

Over the past year and a half, China has built up seven reefs in the region, adding 800 hectares — about three square miles — to islands and putting an airstrip and the beginnings of the base on Fiery Cross Reef. China has claimed that its structures in the South China Sea are for civilian purposes — or at most for a defensive military role — and would benefit other countries. But Japan’s fight with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea has seemingly left them wary of Beijing’s intentions.

A Japanese patrol plane, pictured in 2011, flying over the disputed islands in the East China Sea.

A Japanese patrol plane flying over the disputed islands in the East China Sea. Japan Pool, via Jiji Press

“The US plays a unique role, because it’s not an Asian nation, as a relatively distant and disinterested outsider there. The interest we have is not territorial, it’s not to benefit ourselves in any way other than maintaining this open trade order that we benefit from economically, but not in any of the traditional ways that usually cause war.”

Japan’s decision to act on this wariness so stridently, however, is a recent phenomenon. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been pushing for legislation that would allow Japan to participate in collective self-defense for the first time since World War II.

[Related: China Goes on the Offensive in the South China Sea]

“[This is] a shift that’s been coming,” Kelley Currie, a senior fellow with the Project 2049 Institute, told VICE News. “The language is definitely stronger, and the whole effort around reinterpretation to the self-defense constitution has been a response to the multi-year trend of the Chinese being more aggressive and pushing their military advantage in the region.”

Japan's Self-Defense Force honor guards prepare for a welcoming ceremony of new Defence Minister Gen Nakatani in Tokyo on December 25, 2014. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised December 24 at the start of his new term to revive Japan's economy so he can pursue "powerful diplomacy", but China's state media warned him to be wary about changing the pacifist constitution.  AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI        (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

China’s state media warned Abe to be wary about changing the pacifist constitution. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI 

“China is actually very worried about Japan and how far Japan might go.”

— Michael Auslin, resident scholar and director of Japan Studies for the American Enterprise Institute

Japan isn’t the only one pushing back against China’s expansion in the region. The Philippines is taking China to court over territorial claims to the South China Sea, with top Filipino officials appearing at The Hague to argue their case before a United Nations arbitral tribunal. China has called it a “political provocation.”

[Read the full text here, at VICE News]

“The Chinese take kind of a Leninist approach to these things,” Currie said. “They probe with the bayonet until they hit steel, and then they’ll stop. When they start to see that people are serious about pushing back, then they will back off a bit.”

Other than the United States, Japan is the only nation that can truly challenge China in the region militarily. Read the rest of this entry »


Meet the P-1 Patrol: Japan’s New Surveillance Jet Expands Scope for Patrols

Japan-Defense-WSJ

Tensions have risen in recent weeks over China’s extensive land reclamation activity in the Spratlys. The U.S. hopes Japan will join its maritime air patrols over the disputed waters to check on what it sees as China’s expansionism.

Chiko Tsuneoka reports: Japan’s next-generation surveillance plane, officially unveiled earlier this week, will enable its military to conduct longer reconnaissance missions at a time when Tokyo is paying close attention to China’s growing presence in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

The P-1, manufactured by Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., is crammed full of high-performance sensor equipment and the latest data-processing systems to detect P-1submarines and small vessels.

“Mobility to fly out to distant destination waters swiftly and operate for a long time while remaining in operational areas is necessary.”

The new plane, billed as the world’s first production aircraft to use fly-by-light fiber-optic cable technology, has a cruising speed of 830 kilometers an hour (515 mph), 30% faster than the P-3C patrol plane it will replace, and a range of 8,000 kilometers, an increase of more than 20%.

“Mobility to fly out to distant destination waters swiftly and operate for a long time while remaining in operational areas is necessary” for detecting submarines and other targets, said Cmdr. Jun Masuda of the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s 511 Fight Unit during a presentation of the new jet at the MSDF’s Atsugi Air Base in Kanagawa prefecture, southwest of Tokyo.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

The introduction of the P-1 comes as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration is looking to pass security legislation to expand the scope of Japan’s military activities and bolster U.S.-Japan joint defense operations, partly in response to Beijing’s expanding military footprint in Asia. Read the rest of this entry »


Japan: Thousands Rally in Tokyo Against Abe’s Security Bills

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Thousands of Japanese rallied Sunday in protest at plans by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to bolster the role and scope of the pacifist nation’s military

The protest which surrounded the Diet building was held as the nationalist premier tries to force through parliament a set of controversial bills making the changes.

国会で審議が進められている安全保障関連法案に反対する抗議集会が行われ、主催者発表­で約2万5000人の人が国会周辺を取り囲みました。

The bills are a pet project of Abe, who says Japan can no longer shy away from its responsibility to help safeguard regional stability, and must step out from under the security umbrella provided by the United States.

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The draft legislation would broaden the remit of Japan’s well-equipped and well-trained armed forces.

It would allow them to go into battle to protect allies-so-called “collective defense“-something which is banned by a strict reading of Japan’s pacifist constitution. Read the rest of this entry »


President Obama Should End the Charade of Cooperative US-China Relations

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The President Needs to Respond to the Chinese Government Hack and Start Tightening the Screws

 writes: The news flashing through Washington, that Chinese hackers stole up to 4 million federal employees’ personal information, should elicit more than just a shrug from the Obama administration. The breach is yet more evidence that Beijing sees the US as an adversary and is unworried about any response aggression will elicit from the White House.

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“Drop the useless diplomatic parleys to start, cut off military exchanges after that. And start rounding up your liberal allies and potential partners in Asia for talks on joint naval exercises in the South China Sea and the hosting of a democracy forum that invites Chinese dissidents.”

Whether it’s economic espionage, security challenges, or now hacking US government websites, Beijing is testing, probing, and undermining America in any way that they can.

china-obama-bump

Just a week ago, the Chinese were recorded warning a US Navy surveillance plane away from the reclaimed islands they have been building in the South China Sea. Video footage showed air strips on the islands, while subsequent reports indicated that China had already put some weaponry there.

[Read the full text here, at AEI]

The hack revealed today, which took place last December, is not the first time that Chinese sources have breached US government sites, and they’ve been charged with stealing information on almost every U.S. weapons program. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Opens to Massive $201.2 Million at Foreign Box Office

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The success of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is a testament to the strength of the global market, which now accounts for 70% or more of a major film’s box office gross. Two decades ago, foreign ticket sales usually comprised less than half of a movie’s revenues.

 reports: “Avengers: Age of Ultron” debuted to a massive $201.2 million across 44 territories this weekend.

“The bar was high, but this is a sign of unbelievable momentum in the marketplace. It all goes back to the strength of the brand and the incredible work the Marvel team does in telling stories in such a consistent way and creating these worlds.”

— Dave Hollis, Disney’s distribution chief

Disney and Marvel’s super team adventure was the highest-grossing film in everywhere it opened, and has now rolled out in 55% of the international marketplace, including such major locales as France, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, Korea and Australia.

“We are living in rarefied air with ‘Avengers’ to be even talking about these kind of numbers. A weekend like this is why a lot of people think it could be even bigger than the first one.”

— Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak

Going into the weekend, Disney was projecting a foreign debut of between $160 million to $175 million.

“The bar was high, but this is a sign of unbelievable momentum in the marketplace,” said Dave Hollis, Disney’s distribution chief. “It all goes back to the strength of the brand and the incredible work the Marvel team does in telling stories in such a consistent way and creating these worlds.”

The hotly anticipated superhero sequel opens next week in the U.S., where it is expected to earn north of $200 million and could top the first “Avengers” film’s record-breaking $207.4 million bow. Bringing Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and other costumed heroes together isn’t cheap, and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” carries a $250 million pricetag. Read the rest of this entry »


Pope Francis Blesses Golden Rice

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ASPB NEWS | VOLUME 41, NUMBER 1

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Tyrone Spady, ASPB’s Legislative and Public Affairs Director, writes:

On November 7, 2013, Pope Francis gave his personal blessing to Golden Rice (GR). Why is this significant? Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is responsible for 500,000 cases of irreversible blindness and up to 2 million deaths each year. Particularly susceptible are pregnant women and children. Across the globe, an estimated 19 million pregnant women and 190 million children suffer from the condition. The good news, however, is that dietary supplementation of vitamin A can eliminate VAD. One way that holds particular promise is the administration via GR, which had been engineered to produce large amounts of vitamin A. A 2012 study by Tang et al published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that 100-150 g of cooked GR provided 60% of the Chinese Recommended Intake of vitamin A. Estimates suggest that supplementing GR for 20% of the diet of children and 10% for pregnant women and mothers will be enough to combat the effects of VAD.

Orange

Unfortunately, public misconceptions about genetically modified (GM) organisms have prevented GR from being available to the countries most affected by VAD. One such country is the Philippines, where more than 80% of the population identifies as Roman Catholic and field trials of GR are nearing completion. An official blessing of the church, therefore, could do a great deal to build support, allowing the Philippines to serve as a model for many of its neighbors on the potential health impacts of widespread availability and consumption of the golden grain.

GR_contribution-2

Regrettably, the church did not provide an official endorsement. It turns out that there is quite a distinction between the pope’s personal blessing and an official statement of support from the Vatican. To understand the nature of that distinction, we turned to the person who elicited the blessing, GR coinventor and ASPB member Ingo Potrykus. At the time of the blessing, Ingo, a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, had been attending a meeting at the Vatican on the interaction of nutrition and brain development.

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At the end of the meeting, he was able to meet Pope Francis and took the opportunity to share a packet of GR. In response, the pope offered his personal blessing. (If an official blessing of the Holy See was given, it would come from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.) From Ingo’s perspective, the pope is concerned that genetic modification technology primarily benefits big business and not the poor. Read the rest of this entry »


Egypt Strikes Islamic State Targets in Libya

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Airstrikes follow release of video purportedly showing the beheadings of Egyptian Coptic Christians

Matt Bradley and Tamer El-Ghobashy report: Egypt’s air force struck multiple Islamic State targets near the eastern coastal city of Derna in Libya on Monday morning following the release of a video that purportedly showed the decapitation of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians—a development that threatens to push Libya’s worsening internal conflict beyond the country’s borders.

A spokesman for Egypt’s military said Egyptian aircraft had targeted Islamic State training camps and weapons and ammunitions stores in a bombing raid around dawn. The planes returned to their bases in Egypt safely, the spokesman said in a post on his Facebook page.

“We assure that we will take revenge for Egyptian blood and that taking punishment against criminal killers is our right and duty.”

The announcement was accompanied by video footage that the spokesman said showed Egyptian fighter jets taking off at night in preparation for airstrikes on “ISIS in Libya,” according to text accompanying the video.

“We assure that we will take revenge for Egyptian blood and that taking punishment against criminal killers is our right and duty,” an announcer said in an official Egyptian military video posted on the same Facebook page.

“There will be more coordinated airstrikes in the future with Libya and Egypt operating side by side.”

Omar al Sinki, the minister of the interior in Libya’s Tobruk-based government, said Egypt’s air force had struck 7 targets in Derna early Monday. He added that the strikes had been coordinated with the anti-Islamist forces based in eastern Libya and that General Khalifa Haftar, the nominal leader of those forces, was in Cairo on Monday “coordinating” with Egypt’s armed forces and that the campaign would be sustained.

“There will be more coordinated airstrikes in the future with Libya and Egypt operating side by side,” he said

A spokesman for Egypt’s defense ministry declined to comment on Monday beyond what the military posted on Facebook, although a news conference was planned for later Monday.

Saqer al Joroushi, the commander of Libya’s air force, was quoted by Egyptian state media saying “at least 50” militants had been killed in the airstrikes, in addition to several being arrested. He said Egypt had conducted the strikes “with full respect to the sovereignty of Libya.” He also said Libya wouldn’t allow any ground operations by the Egyptian armed forces.

He separately told the Saudi Arabia-owned Al Arabiya television station that Libya’s own air forces had launched attacks on Islamic State targets in the coastal city of Sirte, a stronghold of those loyal to ousted longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and nearby towns. However, a resident of Sirte said he had seen no evidence of an aerial attack on the city.

In a statement on its Facebook page, Libya Dawn, a more moderate Islamist group that controls the Libyan capital Tripoli, “deplored the violation of sovereignty” and said children had been killed in bombing of Derna. Read the rest of this entry »


The Legend of Zheng Shi: Badass Lady Pirate

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According to legend, the greatest pirate ever to have lived may have been a woman by the name of Zheng Shi

According to legend, the greatest pirate ever to have lived was a woman known by several names, including Zheng Yi Sao, Zheng Shi, Cheng Shih, Madame Ching, and more.

It all started with a fateful meeting with a pirate by the name of Zheng Yi. In the 1800s, he and his crew were busy ravaging the region now known as Guangdong when they happened to capture a brothel girl that caught Zheng Yi’s attention. Although she agreed to marry him, she did so under the condition that he would share his treasure and power with her. He agreed. Through diplomacy and business deals with Zheng Yi’s rivals, his wife Zheng Shi (as she would come to be known, meaning the widow Zheng), managed to help put together a fleet of around 1500 ships, a force to be reckoned with. In addition, she made several strategic offers of protection to villages in exchange for tribute.

Although Zheng Yi died in 1807, Zheng Shi would not fade into the historical background. In fact, upon Zheng Yi’s death, Zheng Shi, was quick to put Zheng Yi’s first mate to work (presumably to stave off doubts that might come from a woman running the show). After taking over, Zheng Shi’s power and influence only continued to grow. Zheng Shi’s navy, The Red Flag Fleet, was said to have over 1800 ships and 60,000 men at it’s height (about 30 times more than all of the different factions of Caribbean pirates put together) (the global dispatch).

Although she achieved great wealth and power, Zheng Shi’s reign over Southern China and the South China Sea was not entirely a reign of terror. There was a strict and somewhat ruthless code of conduct that all of the crew were forced to abide by:

  1. If you disobey an order, you get your head chopped off and body thrown in the ocean.
  2. If you steal anything from the common plunder before it has been divvied up, you get your head chopped off and body thrown in the ocean.
  3. If you rape anyone without permission from the leader of your squadron, you get your head chopped off and your body thrown in the ocean.
  4. If you have consensual sex with anyone while on duty, you get your head chopped off and your body thrown in the ocean and the woman involved would get something heavy strapped to her and also tossed in the ocean.
  5. If you loot a town or ship of anything at all or otherwise harass them when they have paid tribute, you get your head chopped off and your body thrown into the ocean.
  6. If you take shore-leave without permission, you get your head chopped off and body thrown into the ocean.
  7. If you try to leave the organization, you get your head… ha, just kidding, in this case you get your ears chopped off.
  8. Captured ugly women were to be set free unharmed.  Captured pretty women could be divvied up or purchased by members of the Red Flag Fleet.  However, if a pirate was awarded or purchased a pretty woman, he was then considered married to her and was expected to treat her accordingly. If he didn’t, he gets his head cut off and body thrown in the ocean.

Finally, Zheng Shi and her Red Flag Fleet were such a thorn in the Qing emperor’s side that he decided to send the Imperial Navy after her. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] CNN Panel: Daily Beast’s Keli Goff Compares Deporting Jose Antonio Vargas to Sending Blacks Back to Africa

“If you dropped me off in Africa, I couldn’t speak the language, I wouldn’t have any cultural ties to the continent, even though it is the continent of my origin”

—  The Daily Beast’s Keli Goff

National Review OnlineAndrew Johnson has this item: Deporting immigration activist and documentarian Jose Antonio Vargas, who famously revealed he was an illegal immigrant in a New York Times op-ed in 2011 and was arrested trying to leave McAllen, Texas, this morning, would be like sending black Americans back to Africa, according to one CNN guest.

Wright immediately called it a false equivalence because enslaved Africans were forcibly brought to the Americas and did not break the law, but that didn’t stop Goff from continuing to make the case for Vargas.

Read the rest of this entry »


USAF Deploys First Advanced Drones to Japan

Global Hawk Maintenance

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan –  The U.S. Air Force has deployed two of its most advanced long-distance surveillance drones to a base in northern Japan over the past week, enhancing its ability to monitor nuclear activities in North Korea and Chinese naval operations.

AirForce-Drone

The deployment of the two unarmed Global Hawk drones to Japan, a key U.S. ally, is intended to demonstrate Washington’s commitment to security in Asia as part of its rebalancing of forces to the Pacific. But it will likely rankle with China and North Korea, which have been working to improve their own unmanned aircraft fleets.

“The aircraft has proven itself to be one of the most reliable in the Air Force.”

— Lt. Gen. Sam Angelella

Lt. Gen. Sam Angelella, commander of U.S. Forces Japan, said Friday the drones will remain here until October, when the typhoon season on the drones’ home base on the Pacific island of Guam is over. Similar rotations from Guam to Misawa are expected in the future, though Angelella said no firm plans have been made. He refused to comment on the specific missions the drones will carry out but noted that the Global Hawk’s “capabilities are well known.” Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Anti-Gun Senator Leland Yee: ‘The Laws He Was Pushing Pale in Comparison to The Laws He Was Breaking’

NRA News‘ Ginny Simone reports the story the way CNN should have

California State Senator Leland Yee, a leading gun-control activist, was arrested March 26 in an FBI sting and charged with conspiring to traffic in firearms and public corruption. “This is heavy-duty international arms trafficking with organized crime figures,” says Civil Rights Attorney Chuck Michel. “The laws that he was pushing pale in comparison to the laws that he was breaking.”

From Powerlineblog:

The Leland Yee story is one of the most remarkable in years. A California State Senator, Yee has long been a leading spokesman for gun control–it’s all for the children, you know. A popular politician who represents around one-half of San Francisco, Yee was about to run for Secretary of State when he was arrested for gun running. Specifically, he acted as an intermediary to buy shoulder-fired missiles and automatic weapons from a Muslim terrorist group in the Philippines and import them into the U.S. There were other charges, too; the usual bribery, money laundering, and so on.

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[PHOTOS] Going in Heavy: The Leland Yee Scandal Weapons Cache You Want To See

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The wide-ranging criminal complaint against California State Sen. Leland Yee and many others describes a dark world of deceit and intrigue with high-powered weapons at its core.

Sure, CNN is fraudulently insisting the reason they’re ignoring the scandal is because Yee is not a national figure, even taking to Twitter to mock those who suggests otherwise, while declining to cover the story, dismissing it as not newsworthy. Really? A Democrat who’s a gun-control advocate getting caught in a sting, exposed running guns to Muslim militants is terribly inconvenient, isn’t it?

One would think that any story with the words “Shrimp Boy” in the headline would automatically be impossible to resist. It certainly works for us, here at punditfromanotherplanet, hell, just typing Shrimp Boy  is hard to resist.

It’s the guns and ammo we want to see, right? You know you want to see the hardware. Well, today’s your lucky day. Leave it to Popular Mechanics to show us who’s packing what, in the scandal of Leland Yee. A few samples for your viewing. Check out Popular Mechanics to see the rest of their photo series.

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Dragonmaster Chow’s Choice

The FBI accuses 54-year-old Kwok Sheung Chow of leading the Chee Kung Tong (CKT) criminal group. (The bureau tapped the ceremony swearing him in as the Dragonhead of the group.) The criminal complaint paints him as a leader who wants his organization to be seen as legit, but who keeps a direct hand in some of the felonious operations that ensnared other CKT-affiliated players, including State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), a gun control advocate caught on FBI recordings brokering arms deals and accepting money to pass legislation. Chow is the person who introduced Keith Jackson, the senator’s political operative, to the undercover FBI agents. (read more)

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Tavor Assault Rifle

On March 11, 2014, Yee met with political consultant Keith Jackson (more on him soon) and Wilson Lim, who claimed to have a relative in the Philippines military who could steal weapons and was supposedly selling the military gear to Islamic rebels in Mindanao. An FBI undercover employee (UCE 4599) also in attendance asked Lim what kinds of weapons he could get. “Lim told UCE 4599 the Israeli-made Tavor assault rifle was very common in the Philippines,” the affidavit says. “Lim described the Tavor as being the equivalent of the M16 assault rifle.”  Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Gun-Trafficking Senator Update: Leland Yee Appears in Court, Bail Kept at $500,000, Plans to Plead Not Guilty

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SAN FRANCISCO — Suspended State Sen. Leland Yee appeared briefly in federal court in San Francisco Monday and was told that his bail will remain at $500,000 while he awaits a trial on corruption and gun trafficking charges.

“Yee is also accused of a seventh charge of trafficking in firearms without a license, in connection with an alleged proposal to ship guns to a Muslim rebel group in the Philippines. The alleged plan was discussed with an undercover agent who was posing a Mafia member.”

Yee, 65, wearing a dark gray business suit and white shirt, said nothing during the appearance before U.S. Magistrate Nathaniel Cousins.

Taiwanese Animators do their worst, in this YouTube video

Cousins ordered him to return to court on April 8 for either an arraignment on a possible grand jury indictment or, if no indictment is issued, a preliminary hearing on a criminal complaint filed by federal prosecutors last week.

Outside of court, Yee’s attorney, Paul DeMeester, said he expects an indictment and said Yee will plead not guilty.

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