International cooperation

  • Scotland demands U.K. govt. apology over radiation leak at MoD nuke facility

    In 2012 the U.K. Ministry of Defense decided to refuel the nuclear reactor on board Britain’s oldest nuclear submarine, HMS Vanguard, after a test reactor operating at the Naval Reactor Test Establishment at Dounreay, Caithness, in Scotland was found to have a small internal leak of radiation. The test reactor had been shut down after the fault was detected, and both the independent Defense Nuclear Safety Regulator and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) had been informed. It now appears that SEPA did not share the information with the Scottish cabinet, or with Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland. Salmond, in a scathing letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron, has demanded an apology from Camron for “disrespecting” the Scottish Parliament and the people of Scotland and for treating both in an “underhanded” manner by not sharing the information about the radiation leaks.

  • Foreign support for rival sides in civil war makes post-war democracy less likely

    From Ethiopia to Nicaragua, countries that go through civil war are much less likely to become democratic if the winning side gets help from rival nations, a new study finds. The study examined 136 civil wars from 1946 to 2009, 34 of which involved rivals aiding the winning side. Of those thirty-four countries, only one — Algeria — bucked the trend by becoming significantly more democratic over the next decade. The others either remained undemocratic or became substantially more repressive after the civil war.

  • Iran-Russia oil deal threatens nuclear negotiations

    Iran said that in exchange for Iranian oil, Russia could build a second reactor at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant. Russia could also provide Iran with trucks, railroad tracks, mini-refineries, grain, and other goods for Iranian oil. In a deal worth $1.5 billion a month, Iran would export 500,000 barrels of oil per day to Russia. The deal would increase Iran’s oil exports, which have been reduced to about one million barrels a day by American and European sanctions aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program.

  • Researchers tackle rare Earth materials shortage

    The demand for rare Earth materials is growing much faster than production. Rare Earth metals do occur in the earth’s crust, but not in sufficiently high concentrations. This is why only one country — China — has so far been supplying the entire world with these elements. In recent years, however, China has begun to restrict its export of these materials. European research organizations have teamed up to address growing rare Earth materials by examining a more focused approach to recycling scrap.

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  • Cuba to lose its U.S. banking service today

    Today (Monday) Cuba’s bank in the United States, Buffalo-based M&T Bank, will stop accepting Cuba’s deposits. The bank will close Cuba’s accounts on 1 March 2014. One result will be that travel between Cuba and the United States will become more difficult because banking services are necessary for issuing travel visas. Cuba’s diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C., and the Cuban Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York have been unable to find an American bank to handle the country’s U.S.-based accounts.

  • The entertainment industry understands the rare Earth crisis, why doesn’t everybody else?

    U.S. dependence on rare earths imports substantially exceeds our dependence on imported petroleum. In 2011, the United States imported 45 percent of the petroleum we consumed, but we imported 100 percent of the rare earth materials we consumed that same year — and rare earths are far more essential to a wider variety of industries than petroleum is. China controls the production, refining, and processing of over 95 percent of the world’s rare earth elements despite only controlling about half of the world’s rare earth resources. In the 1980s, there were approximately 25,000 American rare earth-related jobs; now we barely have 1,500. The United States must take action now to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of rare earth materials and bring back jobs.

  • Israeli legal expert urges development of ethics code for cyberwarfare

    Col. Sharon Afek, former deputy military advocate general, says that countries would benefit from developing an ethics code to govern cyber warfare operations. He notes that existing law already prohibits cyber operations which would directly lead to loss of life, injury, or property damage, such as causing a train to derail or undermining a dam. “Israel faces a complex and challenging period in which we can expect both a cyber arms race with the participation of state and non-state entities, and a massive battle between East and West over the character of the future legal regime,” he writes. He acknowledges, though, that only a catastrophic event like “Pearl Harbor or Twin Towers attack in cyberspace” would accelerate developments in this area.

  • Most of Libya’s chemical weapons destroyed

    When Libya joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in December 2003, it reported to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that it was operating three chemical-weapons production facilities, and that it had produced a total of twenty-five tons of sulfur mustard gas, 3,563 bombs with warfare agents, and 1,390 tons of precursor materials. Over the next eight years, these chemical weapons stock were systematically destroyed under international supervision. The work was halted between February and November 2011 – the beginning of the rebellion against Qaddafi and his departure from power – and resumed in early 2012. OPCW announced than on 26 January 2014, work on destroying Libya’s mustard gas has been completed. The question is whether the Qaddafi regime was truthful in its 2003 declaration – or whether there are still stocks of chemical agents stashed somewhere in desert caches.

  • "Envy-free” algorithm may help in settling disputes

    Whether it is season tickets to Green Bay Packers’ games or silver place settings, divorce and inheritance have bred protracted disputes over the assignment of belongings. Now, a trio of researchers has found a method for resolving such conflicts in an envy-free way. The envy-free algorithm may be used by negotiators in intractable political or territorial disputes. “The problem of fairly dividing a divisible good, such as cake or land, between two people probably goes back to the dawn of civilization,” write the authors.

  • Report: 60 percent increase in terrorism in “arc of instability” across North Africa, Sahel

    North Africa and the Sahel region have witnessed an alarming increase in terrorist activities – a 60 percent increase in 2013 over the previous year. Extremist formations and their associates, such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram, Ansaru, Ansar Dine, Ansar Al-Sharia, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), al-Mourabitoun, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MLNA), Al-Shabaab, and militant recruits from the Polisario-run refugee camps and other displaced persons have been active in Libya, Algeria, Mali, and Tunisia, but also in countries neighboring on the region, from Kenya and Somalia in the east, through Chad and the Central African Republic, to Niger, Nigeria, and Mauritania in the west.

  • U.S. weapons shipped to moderate Syrian rebels after secret congressional approval

    U.S. and European sources have confirmed that U.S.-manufactured light arm have been flowing to moderate Syrian rebels in the south of Syria, and that Congress has approved funding to continue the shipments for the next few months. The weapons, which are being delivered to the rebels through Jordan, include both light arms and heavier weapons such as anti-tank rockets. The shipments, however, do not include shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.

  • Value of list of state sponsors of terrorism questioned

    The U.S. list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, created in 1979, originally included Libya, Iraq, South Yemen, and Syria. Cuba was added in 1982, Iran in 1984, North Korea in 1988, and Sudan in 1993. The list currently contains four countries — Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria. Experts question the value of the list, since the four countries listed are not the only countries that currently support, engage in, or ignore acts of terrorism, according to news reports from the State Department, and the inclusion of Cuba has more to do with U.S. domestic politics than Cuba’s current policies, as the State Department’s 2012 Country Report on Terrorismconcluded that “There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.”

  • U.S. refuses a bilateral no-spy agreement with Germany

    The United States has refused to enter into a bilateral no-spy agreement with Germany, and has refused to rule out eavesdropping on calls of German political leaders in the immediate future, according to reports in the German press. It now appears that hopes in Germany that the United States would agree to a bilateral non-spying pact — similar to agreements between the United States and Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand — have been dashed.

  • Scotland would face terrorist threats even after independence: U.K. cabinet minister

    One of the arguments the Scottish National Party (SNP) makes for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom is that the risk of al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism against Scotland would diminish if Scotland were no longer associated with U.K. foreign policy. A senior cabinet member dismissed these assertions, pointing out that Islamic extremists have attacked smaller states in Europe, including Nordic countries like Sweden and Denmark, which the SNP regularly suggest as a model for an independent Scotland. James Brokenshire, the U.K. security minister, said that while the risk of terrorism against Scotland would not diminish, Scottish independence would make it harder for Police Scotland to fight serious organized crime.

  • Russia’s most wanted terrorist eyes Olympic Games as target

    The Russian authorities are on high alert following the recent attacks in Volgograd. With the Winter Olympics in Sochi opening on 7 February, there are serious concerns that spectators and athletes will be targets of future attacks. Russia’s most wanted terrorist, Doku Umarov, recently declared that he is prepared to use “maximum force” to prevent the Olympics from occurring.