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May 26, 2013

Harrison Ford on Conservation

March 21, 2013 by

Harrison Ford, best known for his roles playing Han Solo and Indiana Jones waded in on the need for conservation. In an interview with the BBC’s Laura Trevelyan, Ford, sitting alongside Peter Seligmann of Conservation International explained in very simple terms the urgent need to invest in conservation. Seligmann went on to explain that overfishing led to the rise of Somali pirates as just one example. “It’s a lot cheaper to intervene before it becomes a national security issue,” Ford explained. “Every dollar that we spend on international conservation comes back to us.”

Ford much like Ben Affleck and his campaign to focus attention on Africa’s Congo region and other celebrities are using their star power to highlight problem areas in the world.

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The Best of CPAC 2013

March 19, 2013 by

  • Photo by Eric Draper

    Former Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Former Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Former Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Governor Rick Perry of Texas speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Donald Trump speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Tucker Carlson speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Wayne LaPierre speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Wayne LaPierre speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Wayne LaPierre speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    William Lee Golden performing at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Congressman Steve King of Iowa speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Ben Carson speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Senator Ted Cruz of Texas speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Phyllis Schlafly speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Ann Coulter speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Grover Norquist speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

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Egypt Faces a Potentially Chaotic Summer

March 18, 2013 by

Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Egyptian Defense Minister Abdul Fatah Khalil al-Sisi in Cairo, Egypt, on March 3, 2013

When an important leader of the political opposition hints that a military coup might be preferable to the current chaos, and when a major financial organization proposes an economic program certain to spark a social explosion, something is afoot. Is Egypt being primed for a coup?

It is hard to draw any other conclusion given the demands the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is making on the government of President Mohamed Morsi: regressive taxes, massive cuts in fuel subsidies, and hard-edged austerity measures whose weight will overwhelmingly fall on Egypt’s poor.

“Austerity measures at a time of political instability are simply unfeasible in Egypt,” says Tarek Radwan of the Washington-based Atlantic Council. “He [Morsi] is already facing civil disobedience in the streets, protests on a weekly, if not daily basis, clashes between protestors and security—he does not want to worsen the situation.”

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North Korea’s Provocative Pattern

March 17, 2013 by

The United States will add more ground-based ballistic missile interceptors to its arsenal to guard against increased threats from North Korea and Iran, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced at the Pentagon on March 15, 2013

The United States will add more ground-based ballistic missile interceptors to its arsenal to guard against increased threats from North Korea and Iran, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced at the Pentagon on March 15, 2013

North Korea, the recalcitrant hermit kingdom, has decided yet again that the international community is ignoring it. Pyongyang has voided the 1953 Korean armistice and warned that it will launch a nuclear attack on the United States as U.S.-South Korean military exercises involving 3,000 American and 10,000 South Korean soldiers began earlier this month.

Exactly how Pyongyang plans to launch a nuclear salvo on the United States is still unclear and whether it has the capacity is questionable. Most North Korea watchers remain doubtful that the belligerent nation has the technical means to deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental United States. This does not, however, undermine the seriousness of the threat nor detract from North Korea’s intentions to up the ante.

Already, Pyongyang has severed communications with South Korea and launched a propaganda campaign designed to seek out concessions from the United States while at the same time bolstering the credentials of Kim Jong-Un among North Koreans and the country’s military establishment.

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Petulant Child: North Korea and Chastisement

March 15, 2013 by

Kim Jong-Un arrives on Mu Islet, located in southwest North Korea on the border with South Korea. Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)

Kim Jong-Un arrives on Mu Islet, located in southwest North Korea on the border with South Korea. Image via Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)

It is treated as a petulant child, the infelicitous member of the world community, and devoid of fidelity. Fareed Zakaria in The Washington Post, struggling with his crystal ball gazing, tries to find the tempo the DPRK clicks to. He decides that Karl Marx’s remark about history repeating itself a second time as farce after tragedy requires a third phase: North Korea.

The assumptions, for there are only assumptions, are many. The decisions are not coming from the leader himself, the seemingly child-like steward Kim Jong-Un. No, that would be too much. As with previous ideologies of watching, be it with China, or with the Soviet Union, leaderships can be hostages to factions, to cliques, Mikado-like in their ceremonial impotence. The “experts” are, however, often the last to know.

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New Risks for U.S. Nuclear Power

March 15, 2013 by

President Barack Obama announces the nominations of Dr. Ernest Moniz (far left) as Energy Secretary to replace Steven Chu in the East Room of the White House, March 4, 2013. Lawrence Jackson/White House

In the past month, the White House has conveyed mixed messages about the president’s position on nuclear energy. Once praised at the highest levels as part of a wise “all of the above” energy strategy, commercial nuclear power was omitted from the State of the Union. Meanwhile, the president’s choice for Secretary of Energy, Dr. Ernest Moniz, supports a nuclear renaissance in America.  As the White House refines its message on climate change for this congressional session, it should push nuclear power to the fringes of its energy policy.

Civilian nuclear power in the United States faces a new cluster of dangers unique to the 21st century energy market. These risks to public safety, considered alongside economic costs and waste management issues, render nuclear power an option of last resource for solving the climate crisis.

First, the current U.S. fleet of nuclear plants is more vulnerable than ever before to cyber security threats.  In the past decade, hackers have ritually mocked the U.S government and corporate standards for internet security. In 2011, hackers broke into the security division of EMC, an IT security firm used by the NSA, CIA, the Pentagon, the White House, and the Department of Homeland Security. The security firm called the attack “extremely sophisticated.”

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Iran’s Argo Paranoia

March 15, 2013 by

Oscar winning ‘Argo’ director Ben Affleck (right) with actor Bryan Cranston (left). Warner Bros. Pictures

The film Argo has its problems. First it came under criticism for historical inaccuracies and in particular for not giving enough credit to Canada which director and star, Ben Affleck addressed during interviews and at awards shows. Second, the opening sequence was perhaps a little one sided. But with that said, Argo worked on a number of levels. With news that Iran is considering suing Hollywood over the depiction of Iranians during the period of the hostage crisis, the obvious question is whether Iran needs to realize that Hollywood is in the business of making money and winning awards, which it did with Argo. The overhyped and stylized violence depicted in the film is one way of drawing audiences. How exactly Iran plans on pursuing a lawsuit remains to be seen. Iran’s displeasure over the film follows a long line of perceived slights to the Iranian Republic.

While Tehran is undoubtedly unhappy over the portrayal of Iranians during the 1979 revolution, it wasn’t exactly a bloodless revolution and Argo attempted to show some aspect of the ensuing bloodshed. While the Shah escaped what would have certainly led to his execution, estimates range from several hundred to several thousand killed by the new Islamic government.

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Taiwan: Enhanced Bilateral Ties Spur Chinese Espionage

March 14, 2013 by

2006 photo of former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian riding past one of Taiwan’s E-2K Hawkeye early warning aircraft

Successful Chinese recruitment of high-level Taiwanese military leaders for espionage demonstrates a systemic counterintelligence challenge and an inherent weakness in Taiwan’s state security apparatus. A series of recently publicized examples of intelligence and military penetrations underscore the double edge sword of Taiwan’s desire to enhance bilateral relations with Beijing while protecting its core strategic national security interests.

China’s main espionage target has focused on military technologies, most of which have been exported to Taiwan from the United States. Internal security failures and unsuccessful counterintelligence by the Taiwanese has likely increased tensions between Taipei and Washington, its strategic ally and largest military benefactor.

For the full analysis, please visit LIGNET.com

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Hamid Karzai: Champion of Alienation

March 14, 2013 by

Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul

Although Afghan President Hamid Karzai would like the world to perceive him otherwise, Karzai finds himself in an untenable position. As the U.S. prepares to withdraw the majority of its remaining troops, the country’s security forces remain woefully unprepared to assume responsibility for the country’s security, corruption remains endemic, and many observers admit that Afghanistan is in reality little better off today than it was when Karzai assumed power in 2004. With his leadership slated to end next year, there is little reason to believe that his successor will do any better in meaningfully addressing Afghanistan’s plethora of problems.

Hamid Karzai has never hesitated to challenge the U.S. publically, whether for a domestic or international audience, but the pace at which he is forcefully challenging the U.S. now is unprecedented. Equating the U.S. with the Taliban as forces working to undermine the government really is over the top, particularly given the tremendous resources the U.S. has provided to Karzai’s government over the past decade – and that he owes his position, as well as any progress that has been made to date – to the U.S. It is a little late to be attempting to change his image as “America’s Man”. We find ourselves wondering why he would be trying to do so in the first place. His legacy is clear to all. No pandering to domestic political interests is going to change that.

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New York City Continues to Surprise Me

March 14, 2013 by

New York’s Finest, NYPD Officer

I’ve lived in New York City most of my life and I’ve heard all the stereotypes. If you visit New York City, it can be described as invariably cold, distant, harsh, and uncaring and all too willing to take advantage of the unwary. Further, the general consensus is that the NYPD, said to be New York’s finest, cannot be relied on. As a New Yorker, I can see the truth in some of this, but this past weekend showed me that the stereotype is overhyped.

Flash back to the last time I lost my wallet in Tokyo in 2012. In chic and trendy downtown Tokyo, ironclad public honesty among civilians and police officers is the rule rather than the exception. Even so, I would never have believed that a civilian would turn in a foreigner’s lost property until it happened to me. Nor would I have believed that I would have a brush with the martial underpinnings of the government and emerge unscathed.

Distraught after I discovered I was without my pocketbook and more importantly, my passport, I was directed to the police station, a stately, spotless grey granite edifice that was almost as elegant as the local hotels and restaurants. Although I was a foreign visitor - no make that a “foreign guest” and supposedly to be made welcome in Japan - the cop on duty was no pushover. I was grilled for thirty-five minutes as to my name, origin, time of arrival in Japan, time of estimated departure from Japan, purpose in Japan, and – key question - why I lost my wallet. He gave me the impression that it was a huge hassle – even a personal dilemma - for him. How could I have lost my wallet? Was it not the receptacle of very important information, including my passport? And once again - how could I have done such a foolish thing and how was it I could not explain it? Did I not understand that the police of Tokyo had many more important things to do than to run after foreigners and deal with their foolish ways?

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State-Building in Somalia: For Whose Benefit?

March 13, 2013 by

Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations briefing journalists following a meeting on Sub-Sahara Africa. Rick Bajornas/UN

Resolution 2093 adopted by the UN Security Council on March 6, 2013 endorses a long overdue partnership mission between the Federal Government of Somalia and the international community in the pursuit of peace and state-building. It is somewhat more significant than previous resolutions for a number of reasons. For one, it ends more than two decades of avoidance on the part of the international community in addressing the problem of statelessness of Somalia in comparison to other African failed states.

It reaffirms the commitment of the US government towards stability and peace in Somalia. It merges the conflicting strategies pursued by the individual or group members of the international community for their self-interests while moving supervision of Somalia’s peace-building agenda from the regional level to the global through the United Nations. When one looks closely at the Resolution, it addresses five key issues: the African Union forces in Somalia (AMISOM), the human rights and protection of civilians, the lifting of an arms embargo imposed on Somalia from 1992, the role of the United Nations in Somalia, and the violations of the ban on the charcoal export.

While the Resolution is ambitious in scope and provides concrete endorsement on the part of the international community in stabilizing the country, some of the principal challenges may actually come from the international community itself. The Federal Government must also a take a more active role and hold itself accountable if Somalia is to become successful in state-building.

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Iran: Mounting Evidence that Sanctions Have Failed

March 12, 2013 by

Iranians stand in a subway train headed to northern Tehran, on January 3, 2013

Testimony by senior-level U.S. military commanders before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week painted a bleak picture of the effectiveness of international sanctions at stopping Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. The testimony, and public polling results, also point to the sanctions’ unintended consequences.

Continuing economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation do not appear to be lessening Iran’s drive to become a nuclear weapons power. Ongoing efforts by Western powers to coax Iran into negotiations have also yielded little progress. In fact, Iran continues t0 stall while at the same time agreeing to negotiations in order to forestall any real international action, serving to increase regional tensions and the possibility of military intervention.

To read the full analysis, please visit LIGNET.com

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Consequences of Obama’s ‘Asia Pivot’

March 11, 2013 by

President Barack Obama at the White House

In the kaleidoscopic world of power politics in Asia, the United States’ pivot to that region may yield the unintentional consequences of fostering closer strategic ties between the two Asian giants - China and India – which could result in a strategic alliance ostensibly hostile to Western interests in the region.

Analysts will be quick to point out that the ‘all weather friendship’ between the two countries, has hit a natural ceiling due to the strategic competition between the (re)emerging powers. For example, China is deepening its ties with Pakistan militarily (both countries signed a military cooperation agreement in September 2012), provides nuclear support, and has finally taken over management of the port of Gwadar on Pakistan’s Makran coast. India on the other hand is trying to counter China’s influence in Asia by fostering closer ties with the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), especially in the field of naval cooperation, which adversely affects China’s position in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Both countries’ increasing energy demands also put the two giants on a collision course.

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Understanding Hugo Chávez’s Legacy

March 11, 2013 by

Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez in Fort Tiuna, Venezuela in 2011. Image via government of Venezuela

In early December 2001, I was searching through my files looking for a column topic. At the time I was writing on foreign policy for the San Francisco Examiner, one of the town’s two dailies. A back page clip I had filed and forgotten caught my attention: on Nov. 7 the National Security Agency, the Pentagon, and the U.S. State Department had convened a two-day meeting on U.S. policy vis-à-vis Venezuela. My first thought was, “Uh, oh.”

I knew something about those kinds of meetings. There was one in 1953 just before the CIA and British intelligence engineered the coup in Iran that put the despicable Shah into power. Same thing for the 1963 coup in South Vietnam and the 1973 coup against Salvador Allende in Chile.

Hugo Chávez had reaped the ire of the Bush administration when, during a speech condemning the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, he asked if bombing Afghanistan in retaliation was a good idea? Hugo Chávez called it “fighting terrorism with terrorism,” not a very good choice of words, but, in retrospect, spot on. The invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent Iraqi War have been utterly disastrous for the U.S. and visited widespread terror on the populations of both countries. Upwards of a million Iraqis died as a direct and indirect effect of the war, five million were turned into refugees, and the bloodshed is far from over. Much the same—albeit on a smaller scale—is happening to the Afghans.

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When it is More than a Game: Football Violence in Egypt

March 10, 2013 by

Egyptian riot police stand guard in Cairo Stadium during the first half of a match between Zamalek and Ismaili clubs in Cairo on February 1, 2012. Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images via Foreign Policy

It is frenzied and continuing, but the riots in Egypt have become so regular as to suggest that the Arab Spring never stopped. The country, even post-Mubarak, is seething with insurrection. And the outlets of dissatisfaction, expressed via social media and the more physical aspect of sport, are everywhere.

The violence during the week in Egypt might be termed “football violence”, but the term is deceptive. Protests have taken place in Cairo near Tahrir Square and in Port Said, while demonstrators have attempted to block the Suez Canal. But initial accounts that they were all linked to football have become unreliable. What is certain is that a good portion of it has left a police station in flames, the headquarters of the Egyptian Football Federation in ruins and two people dead, being a response, in turn, to the violence that took place in February 2012 in Port Said stadium.

The trigger came in a Cairo court’s decision to uphold the death sentences of 21 fans accused of sparking riots that left 74 people, mostly Al-Ahly supporters, dead. Two senior policemen – former head of police security General Essam Samak and Brigadier General Mohammed Saaed – were sentenced to 15 years in prison. Saaed’s claim to infamy was his refusal to open the stadium gates as the riots broke. He was the man who stood idle with the keys.

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