• France's new approach to preventing French Muslims from going to fight in Syria

    French authorities reported in January 2014 that roughly 700 French residents had traveled to Syria to join in the fight against Syrian forces. The travel of French pro-jihadists to Syria exceeds the number of Europeans who left to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. France will soon adopt preventative measures, currently practiced in Britain, Denmark, and the Netherlands, to stop minority youths from pursuing jihad in Syria. The new approach will encourage local law enforcement, schools, and community leaders to help identify at-risk youths before radicalization begins and advances, then introduce the youths to local prevention centers.

  • House mulls Syria-related sanctions on Iran

    U.S. House legislators are considering new terrorism-related sanctions on Iran, targeting the country’s support for Hezbollah, after ceding to the Obama administration’s request to back off on sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program. The House Foreign Affairs Committee hopes the move will reflect their independence from the White House and also bring more focus to the Syrian crisis.Lawmakers say the bill would reflect the most effective ways to disrupt Iran’s financial support of Hezbollah.

  • Post-Qaddafi Libya needs more international support: study

    The international community’s limited approach to postwar Libya has left the nation struggling and on the brink of civil war, according to a new study from the RAND Corporation. Libya’s most serious problem since 2011 has been a lack of security, which has undermined efforts to build functioning political and administrative institutions, further constricted an already minimal international footprint, and facilitated the expansion of criminal and jihadist groups. The lack of security stems primarily from the failure of the effort to disarm and demobilize rebel militias after the war.

  • Libyan PM escapes country after assembly ousts him over oil tanker fiasco

    Libya’s General National Congress has approved a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and designated the defense minister as acting prime minister. Zeidan left Libya after the vote, in all likelihood for Italy. The no-confidence vote came after a North Korean-flagged tanker named Morning Glory managed to sail away from the port of al Sidra, carrying 234,000 barrels of crude oil from rebel-held oil fields. Last summer, armed militias in east Libya took over most of the country’s oil fields – and also three ports, with partial control of a fourth — bringing oil exports, which had amounted to 1.6 million barrels a day, to a halt. U.S. describes oil sale by the militias as “theft” from the Libyan people.

  • East Europe’s natural gas networks vulnerable during conflicts and crises

    Gas networks in Eastern European countries, such as Ukraine and Belarus, are less resilient than the U.K. gas networks during conflicts and crises, according to new research. The authors suggest that a decentralized approach to managing congestion on gas pipeline networks could be crucial for energy security during geopolitical conflicts or natural disasters, for example.

  • Israel open to offering missile defense coverage to Jordan, Egypt

    With worries about Iran military capabilities growing, a U.S. general on Monday said that Israel should consider extending the coverage area of its missile defense systems so they could cover Jordan and possibly Egypt, and an Israeli official cautiously welcomed the idea. The United States has funded most of the research and development work on Israel’s layered ballistic missile and short-range rocket defense systems, and under the Obama administration, Israel’s deployed missile interceptor systems have been integrated with U.S. global missile tracking and regional missile defense systems.

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  • 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.

  • 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.