Saturday, July 19, 2008
Obama in Kabul on tour of war zone Kabul, July 19, 2008: Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama arrived in Afghanistan on Saturday, the first stop on a campaign-season tour of war zones, a spokesman said. Less than four months before the general election, Obama’s first visit to Afghanistan, with a subsequent stop in Iraq, was rich with political implications, although the Illinois senator flew as part of an official congressional delegation. Rival John McCain has criticised Obama for his lack of time in the region, and the Republican National Committee had a running ticker tallying the more than 900 days since his last visit to Iraq. Spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama arrived in Kabul early on Saturday. “I look forward to seeing what the situation on the ground is,” Obama told a pair of reporters who accompanied him to his departure from Andrews Air Force Base on Thursday. “I want to, obviously, talk to the commanders and get a sense both in Afghanistan and in Baghdad of, you know, what the most, their biggest concerns are, and I want to thank our troops for the heroic work that they’ve been doing,” he said before his flight overseas. Obama advocates ending the US combat role in Iraq by withdrawing troops at the rate of one to two combat brigades a month. But he supports increasing the military commitment to Afghanistan, where the Taliban has been resurgent and Osama bin laden is believed to be hiding. On his trip, Obama intends to meet Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president. He recently chided Karzai and his government, saying it had “not gotten out of the bunker” and helped to organise the country or its political and security institutions. Also on his itinerary is a meeting with Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi leader. On the campaign trail, Obama has said one benefit of withdrawing U.S. troops is that it would pressure al-Maliki to shore up his government as well.
Solana: no clear answer from Iran over nuclear proposal
GENEVA, July 19, 2008 -- Iran has given no clear answer to a package of incentives for suspending its nuclear program, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Saturday. "We didn't get the answer to our questions," Solana said at a press conference after talks with Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in the presence of U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns and senior diplomats from China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany. "We hope very much we get the answer and we hope it will be done in a couple of weeks," he said. The package of incentives, presented last month by the five UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany, suggests that Iran get a temporary reprieve from economic and financial sanctions in exchange for freezing its enrichment activities. Preliminary negotiations over a permanent halt could then begin, although the United States would not join them until after Iran agrees to fully suspend uranium enrichment. But Solana appraised the one-day meeting as "constructive." He said they talked frankly about everything, including common points as well as differences on the nuclear issue. He also expressed belief that the issue should be resolved through cooperation instead of confrontation. Jalili also said the meeting was constructive and it enhanced the understanding of each other's views. According to the nuclear negotiator, Iran has also presented its own package of proposals on solving the nuclear issue, and that package contains "a number of opportunities that should not be lost." Jalili said Iran's package and the six powers' package has many common grounds, and the parties at the meeting had agreed to hold further talks on those common grounds. This is the first time that senior diplomats from all the six world powers join Solana in direct talks with the Iranians on the nuclear issues. "It showed a shared commitment and sincerity from the participants to solve the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomatic negotiations," said Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jieyi, who represented China at the meeting.
Indian soldiers killed in Kashmir blast July 19, 2008 - Srinagar, Kashmir: The soldiers had been returning home when the blast happened, police said. At least nine soldiers have been killed in an explosion triggered by suspected separatist militants, police in Indian-administered Kashmir said. More than 20 others were hurt when a bus carrying the troops was caught in the blast in the Narbal area, close to the provincial capital, Srinagar. Some of the injured are said to be in critical condition. Police said the soldiers were on leave and returning home. No group has said it carried out the attack. The latest incident comes a day after senior officials from India and Pakistan held talks to step up confidence-building measures in the disputed region. Violence in Indian-controlled Kashmir has reduced markedly since a 2003 ceasefire between India and Pakistan. But analysts say that recent firing incidents across the Line of Control and rare allegations of ceasefire breaches underline how fragile the peace is.
Cobra Wheeled Light Armoured Vehicle, Turkey July 19, 2008: The Cobra family of light armoured vehicles is manufactured by Otokar Otobus Karoseri Sanayi in Turkey. The Cobra designs incorporate the mechanical components of the HMMWV vehicle from AM General of the USA. Five Cobra vehicles were delivered to the Turkish Army in 1997. Cobra vehicles are in production and in service with the Turkish Army and three have been delivered to the Maldives. There are reports that it has also been exported to Algeria, Bahrain, Nigeria, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. In 2007, Slovenia placed an order for ten Cobra vehicles, to be delivered by the end of 2008. The Cobra vehicle also provides the chassis for the Aselsan Modular Armoured Reconnaissance / Surveillance Vehicle (MARS-V), in service with the Turkish Armed Forces. "The Cobra family of vehicles have a compact profile and are easily transportable." A Cobra vehicle has been fitted with the Rafael Overhead Weapon Station (OWS), armed with the Rafael Spike anti-tank missile system. AM General and Otokar have revealed a design for a next-generation Cobra, based on AM General's XM1211 ECV II upgrade of the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV). 15 ECV II demonstrators have been ordered by the US Army, which are due to begin trials in early 2008. The new vehicle design has: increased ground clearance; a removable parabolic-shaped blast-deflection plate under the crew compartment; a variable-height semi-active suspension system; improved fragment and Improvised Explosive Device (IED) protection and an uprated 186kW GEP SCCS 400 engine. COBRA DESIGN The Cobra family of vehicles have a compact profile and are transportable by aircraft, helicopter, truck and by rail for rapid deployment. The Cobra has an all-welded steel hull with wide, fully opening side and rear doors, allowing rapid exit of the crew when required. The vehicle also features roof hatches and quick-release three-point locking system. The vehicle has a seating capacity between four and 12 depending on the variant and configuration. An optional amphibious kit consists of double hydraulic thrusters with joystick control and closing louvres. The system allows the vehicle to enter water without preparation. "Cobra's monocoque hull structure has optimised body angles and a low silhouette for increased survivability." A two-piece windscreen and wide side glazing provides good visibility under ballistic protection. The windscreen is fitted with an electrical de-icing system. The hull also has all-round vision blocks. An air conditioning system is fitted as standard. Optional equipment includes electrical self recovery winch, Nuclear, Chemical and Biological (NBC) protection kit, infrared driving lamps, smoke grenade dischargers, Night-Vision Goggle (NVG) compatible glazing, fire suppression system, night-vision periscopes for driver and commander and daytime periscopes for driver and commander. ARMAMENT Various types of weapon stations and turrets incorporating 7.62mm or 12.7mm machine guns, 40mm automatic grenade launcher or cannons up to 30mm calibre can be adapted to the Cobra range of vehicles. Sight systems with night vision capability or thermal imaging are available. SELF-PROTECTION The monocoque hull structure has optimised body angles and a low silhouette for increased survivability. Run-flat tyres are a standard feature, allowing the vehicle to continue its mission with deflated tyres. The hull provides all-round protection against infantry rifles and machine guns and artillery shell splinters. The vehicle provides protection against anti-personnel and anti-tank mines and side explosives. Add-on armour kits can be provided if required. Protection of the crew is enhanced by using collapsible seat bases, four-point seat belts and additional composite flooring. PROPULSION Cobra is powered by a turbo diesel V8 engine which provides 190hp. Power to weight ratio is greater than 30hp/t. The vehicle is 4WD with automatic transmission, which is electronically controlled and a two-speed lockable transfer box for increased mobility. "The Cobra vehicle is powered by a turbo diesel V8 engine which provides 190hp." Cobra is equipped with independent suspension and a central tyre inflation system, which allows the tyres to be adjusted while on the move. All mechanical components of COBRA are from the ECV Variant of AM GENERAL's HMMWV, which eases the logistic support in maintenance and spares inventory for forces already operating HMMWVs. The Cobra vehicle has a maximum speed of 115km/h, acceleration of 0 to 60km/h in 13 seconds and a range of 725km. MISSION VARIANTS The Cobra vehicle forms a common platform, which can be adapted for various roles and mission requirements including: armoured personnel carrier, anti-tank vehicle, reconnaissance vehicle, ground surveillance radar vehicle, forward observation vehicle, armoured ambulance, armoured command post, turreted vehicle for 12.7mm machine gun, 25mm cannon, anti-tank guided missiles such as the TOW missile or surface-to-air missiles.
Unmanned aircraft market to soar July 19, 2008: Farnborough Beyond the loud aerial displays at the Farnborough airshow, one of the fastest-growing business areas in defence is a lot quieter and easier to miss. Unmanned aircraft can assist conventional fighter jets. It is the market for small unmanned flying machines. The US already has 5,000, mainly on patrol in Afghanistan and Iraq. Israel makes and deploys them. And the UK is catching on fast. UAVs are controlled remotely by "pilots", either guided elsewhere on the battlefield or invariably from far-away computer screens in for instance Las Vegas or Arizona. In terms of operation, it is not so different from playing a video game - though military-types thoroughly dislike any such comparisons. What defence specialists at Farnborough all seem to agree on is that the military and business demand for UAVs is about to explode, just like the market for satellites in the 1970s. We have a broad range of programmes, most of which I can't talk about Scott Harris, president of Lockheed Martin. Standing in front of a Farnborough stand bristling with UAV hardware, Jim Albaugh, president of Boeing Defence, says UAVs are nothing less than the future of warfare. "It is all about global situational awareness," he says. "You are able to know where your assets are and where your enemies assets are. All this is driving the need for UAVs." EADS defence chief Stefan Zoller says UAVs allow its air force customers to "leapfrog into another dimension". "When you are flying in congested airspace, manned and unmanned can fly together in swarms," he says. "What can be achieved is beyond what we see today in the market." Chris Ames, director of one of the UAV pioneers, the US company General Atomics, supplies the Predator and larger Reaper UAVs to the US and the UK. "They can stay airborne for over 30 hours at a time, their sensors gaining critical intelligence for surveillance and reconnaissance, he explains, describing the aircrafts capabilities. "This information can be acted on by commanders at higher HQ, and conveyed to others on the ground or in the air, so they know what they face and can do something about it." Scott Harris, president of Lockheed Martin, says one benefit of UAVs is that the information they glean can be fully integrated with everything from data from space to what is happening in the field, to form a complete picture. "UAVs are very interesting and complex," he says. "Everybody is working on them and deploying them. Militarians can't get enough of them. We have a broad range of programmes, most of which I can't talk about." One reason he is not talking about it is that UAVs are increasingly carrying weapons, so developments have to remain secret. Yet it seems their increasing use on the battlefield - and in peacetime for mundane tasks such as traffic patrols - is now fully assured.
Political tensions driving temple row July19, 2008 - Bangkok: Both Thailand and Cambodia retain troops at the hill-top temple. A week after the controversial listing of the ancient Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site, the dispute that has flared up between Thailand and Cambodia is still causing tension. The 11th-Century Hindu temple lies along the border between the two countries, but in 1962 the International Court of Justice judged that it belonged to Cambodia. However the land surrounding the temple is still disputed, and the only practical access is from Thailand. The issue has stirred up nationalist emotions in an already sensitive political climate in both countries. Early on Tuesday three Thai protesters crossed into the temple - which remains closed - and were detained for a short time by Cambodian troops. The Cambodian authorities also say 40 Thai soldiers crossed into their territory briefly, although they are putting this down to confusion over the precise line of the border. For both sides there is more at stake than a temple. Cambodia is preoccupied with a hard-fought general election campaign, in which Prime Minister Hun Sen aims to extend his more than two decades in power. Last week he encouraged thousands of Cambodians to join a rowdy celebration of the temple's new international status in the capital, Phnom Penh. The Unesco World Heritage listing sparked celebrations in Cambodia. In Thailand feelings are running even higher; the government elected last December was already floundering under a combined assault by street demonstrators, unfavourable court verdicts and the parliamentary opposition. Its opponents have accused it of incompetence, and of being led by nominees of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed by a coup in September 2006. Now the government is being attacked for selling out the country over Preah Vihear, because it initially supported Cambodia's bid to list the temple. One of Thailand's top courts judged that decision to be unconstitutional, as it was in effect a treaty which needed parliamentary approval, and it has barred the government from offering any further co-operation with Cambodia. As a result Foreign Minister Noppodol Pattama was forced to resign last week, one of three ministers to lose his job over the past two months. The volatile state of Thai politics is the principal reason the row has blown up. Thai society is still deeply polarised between those who support Mr Thaksin, and want him to stage a political comeback, and those who loathed his leadership style and mistrust the motives of the government, which is led by his party. The fact that before being appointed foreign minister, Mr Noppodol had been Mr Thaksin's chief lawyer made his position particularly vulnerable. His critics accuse him of putting his former client's business interests in Cambodia before the country's interests over the temple, something he has strongly denied. That suspicion harks back to the five-and-a-half years Thaksin Shinawatra was in office. As an immensely wealthy and successful businessman himself, he promoted his can-do ethos around the country, especially in poorer rural areas. He believed in the global marketplace, and in exposing Thais to its risks and opportunities. He pushed hard to privatise state-owned industries and get free trade agreements with as many countries as he could. Inevitably he provoked opposition from those who felt they would lose out, or from those who felt he cared more about making money than about Thailand's traditions and interests. The most vehement opposition to the Preah Vihear World Heritage bid comes from the same groups who objected to many of Mr Thaksin's policies: the traditional, royalist and aristocratic elite and elements of the Bangkok middle class. But there are also genuine historical grievances at play. The international court decision awarding Preah Vihear to Cambodia in 1962 was not unanimous. It rested largely on Thailand's failure to protest against the French-drawn border line in the decades before. At the time it was mapped, a hundred years ago, Thailand had few skilled cartographers of its own. The temple sits on cliffs which form the border between the two countries. The French colonial cartographers were supposed to draw the border along the forested edge of the Dangret Escarpment, but they veered in a few hundred metres to put the temple on the Cambodian side. It is not clear why the Thais did not object then. But it is worth remembering that in 1941 Thailand fought its only war of the 20th Century with French colonial forces over where the border with Cambodia should lie. A huge monument in the centre of Bangkok still commemorates that conflict. At different periods in the past Thai and Khmer empires have vied for dominance in the region; the town next to the famous Khmer ruins at Angkor Wat is Siem Reap, which means "Siam [Thailand] flattened". Khmer-style temples like Preah Vihear still dot much of Thailand's north-east. That historical rivalry still resonates today. Only five years ago the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh was burned down by an angry mob after a Thai actress was wrongly quoted as saying Angkor Wat should belong to Thailand. As it awaited news of the listing of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site, the Cambodian government took the precaution of reinforcing security around the re-built Thai embassy.
Etihad places 55 firm aircraft orders with Airbus Jul 19, 2008: Etihad Airways today announced firm orders for 55 aircraft with manufacturer Airbus at the Farnborough International Airshow in the UK. The list price for the order is approximately US $12 billion. Aircraft deliveries will begin in 2011 and be completed in 2020. The Abu Dhabi-based airline has signed contracts for: • 20 A320 aircraft. The engine type is subject to further discussions• 25 A350 aircraft, powered by Rolls Royce Trent XWB engines• 10 A380 aircraft. The engine type is subject to further discussions There are also options for five A320s, 10 A350s and five A380s together with purchase rights for a further 15 A320s, 15 A350s and five A380s. Etihad Airways' chairman His Highness Dr Sheikh Ahmed bin Saif Al Nahyan and chief executive James Hogan announced the order jointly. James Hogan said: "This is a momentous day for Etihad Airways and Abu Dhabi. It reflects the strength and pace of economic growth in the Emirate and the integral role Etihad will play in Abu Dhabi's future." "That future will see planned investments in infrastructure and projects within the Emirate likely to exceed US $200 billion during the next 10 years, an aggressive tourism push and enormous residential development. We are extremely proud to play a leading role in realising these exciting plans in the years ahead." "The size of our order also mirrors the rising prominence of the Middle East and its increasing emergence as a new focal point of global aviation and a natural air bridge between East and West offering the fastest air links for travellers and freight forwarders." A key selection criterion in the deal has been the environmental performance of the aircraft. Mr Hogan added: "The new generation Airbus aircraft we have ordered are amongst the most fuel efficient and will help maintain Etihad's fleet as one of the youngest and greenest in the sky." Tom Enders, Airbus president and chief executive officer, said: "We are delighted Airbus' partnership with Etihad Airways is growing from strength to strength. By selecting and ordering the A350, Etihad Airways will have aircraft from across the Airbus range. And the repeat order for the A380 demonstrates the confidence Etihad places in this unique product. Etihad Airways' chairman His Highness Dr Sheikh Ahmed bin Saif Al Nahyan said: "The story of Etihad's growth has been a remarkable one. At every stage of our short history we have surprised people with the scale of our ambition ¨C and at every stage we have delivered on that ambition. "This Airbus aircraft order is another major step forward in our journey and will enable us to continue our exciting expansion plans by adding new destinations to our growing global network and fulfil our aspirations of bringing Abu Dhabi to the world." Since its establishment in 2003, Etihad Airways has been recognised as the fastest growing airline in commercial aviation history. It serves 45 global destinations covering Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and North America and this year is on course to carry six million passengers. So far this year, the airline has started new flights to Beijing in China. August will see Chennai (Madras) and Kozhikode (Calicut) in India, and Minsk in Belarus added to the network. Etihad will also launch new services in December to Moscow in Russia and Almaty in Kazakhstan.
Beijing opens 3 new subway lines ahead of Olympics 19 July, 2008: BEIJING, After finishing Olympic venue construction projects either on time or ahead of schedule, Beijing honored its commitment of ensuring smooth traffic by opening three new metro lines on Saturday. An opening ceremony was held at Beitucheng Station, the transfer station of Line 10 and the Olympic Branch Line, on Saturday morning. Journalists and a limited number of residents with intra-day tickets witnessed the scene. The other line opened was the Airport Line. "The opening of three new lines indicates that Beijing is ready to embrace the passenger surge during the Olympic Games," said Liu Xiaoming, head of Beijing's traffic commission. The three lines began carrying passengers from 2 p.m. The new links, built at a total cost of 22.3 billion yuan (3.2 billion U.S. dollars), increased the number of metro lines in the Chinese capital to eight and the total length of track to 200 kilometers from the current 142 km. A commuter walks past a Beijing Subway Map at a subway station in Beijing July 17, 2008. NEW STATIONS AND TRAINS The entrance of Beitucheng Station is in the shape of a Chinese porcelain vase. Walking through the vase and stepping down to the platform, visitors saw two rows of porcelain pillars standing on both sides. Turkish journalist Osman Erol said he was attracted by the theme of Chinese porcelain in the station's decoration. At Olympic Forest Park Station on the Olympic Branch Line, people marveled at the steel grid ceiling over the platform, which resembled the structure of the Bird's Nest on the ground right above the station. Different elements, mostly from Chinese traditional culture, were absorbed by architects to decorate the 30 stations along the new lines. Running on the lines were new trains made from high-strength stainless steel and with four automatic doors on every carriages. There is an emergency door in every carriage. Outside every station on the Olympic Branch Line, there are blue bulletin boards showing the location of nearby bus stations and all major bus routes. FASTER AND SAFER SERVICES Zhou Zhengyu, Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications deputy head, said trains would be running at an average interval of 3.5 minutes on Line 10. The average interval on the Airport Line, which links the downtown areas with Terminal 3, a new terminal building at the Beijing Capital International Airport in the northeastern suburbs, will be 15 minutes. The 28-km trip would take about 20 minutes, he added. Beijing traffic authorities were working on a metro line operation schedule for passengers shuttling between different Olympic venues, according to Zhou. Beginning on Sunday, vehicles with even and odd number plates will have to run on alternate days on Beijing's roads, and an additional 4 million people are expected to resort to the public transport system. The trains used for the new lines can carry 1,424 passengers each, or 344 more than those on other lines, said Zhou. A public hearing early this month by the National Development and Reform Commission decided a reasonable fare for a subway ride to the airport should be around 25 yuan (3.6 U.S. dollars). Beijing subway operators have estimated a daily maximum of 30,000 passenger trips on the Airport Line during the Aug. 8-24 Olympic Games, according to Liu Jian, deputy head of Beijing Mass Transit Railway Operation Corp. Ltd. Metro builders have set aside room in the Dongzhimen Railway Station, the downtown end of the Airport Line, where in the future, passengers will be able to check in for their flights and have their luggage delivered. But no timetable is immediately available as to when the check-in counters will be set up at the downtown metro station. The Olympic Branch Line, running 4.5 kilometers, will carry spectators to the main Games' venues in northern Beijing, and Line No. 10 will run 25 km northwest to southeast in the shape of a right angle. But before and during the Games, the Olympic Branch Line will open exclusively to participants to the Games, including athletes, coaches, journalists and others, and spectators holding tickets for the day, said Zhou. "The passengers all need to receive security checks on the ground before they take the Olympic metro to the Games' facilities," he said. SUPPORTIVE SCHEMES Besides the new metro lines, 34 Olympic bus routes will help carry passengers to all the venues, said the city traffic commission head. Meanwhile, local authorities have marked out special lanes for Olympic vehicles on the second, fourth and fifth ring roads to ensure smooth traffic, he added. He said about 2,000 new buses would be put into use during the Games, which would increase the city's bus transport capacity to about 15 million people per day. Some 66,000 taxies, being maintained properly and ordered to avoid running without passengers, would be able to carry up to 2.45 million people every day. In addition, there would be an one-hour ferry bus service around each of the 23 venues after the conventional routes stoppedoperating at night. "With all the measures and people's support, we are confident of ensuring smooth traffic during the Games." he said.
Singapore Trainer Candidates Get in Line 19 July, 2008: FARNBOROUGH, England - Following the shortlisting of two platforms in Singapore's jet trainer contest, would-be prime contractors now have about six weeks to reveal their teams, one of the contestants said at the Farnborough Airshow. The T-50, built by South Korea's KAI and Lockheed Martin, and the M-346, built by Italy's Aermacchi, are set to battle it out to become Singapore's advanced trainer after the BAE Systems Hawk was rejected this month. "Within about 1½ months, potential primes must declare their teams," said Aermacchi CEO Carmelo Cosentino. "Then Singapore will give the rules for the contest, requiring proposals in response, possibly by October." Ten potential primes who have reportedly previously registered with Singapore are now eligible to propose teams, including the likes of Aermacchi, ST Engineering and Lockheed Martin. Boeing, which has recently teamed with Aermacchi to market the M-346 and could join Aermacchi in a Singapore bid, is not pre-registered as a potential prime. During an airshow press conference, Cosentino said that discussions were underway that could see Singapore's ST Engineering joining Boeing and Aermacchi in a "formidable team." Cosentino said the rules of the contest set to be published by Singapore could resemble private financing initiatives set up elsewhere. "We do not know yet, but that could mean a 20-year deal where we give a price per flight-hour over that period which includes the customer buying the aircraft," he said. Aermacchi brought its first pre-series version of the M-346 to Farnborough, which boasts a weight reduction of 700 kilograms from prototypes, thanks to new landing gear, the different spacing of wing spars and fuselage frames, as well as the greater use of composite and titanium parts. The aircraft made its first official flight July 8. The firm is now awaiting a first contract from the Italian Air Force for 15 aircraft and expects to be able to build 18 to 24 aircraft a year if orders build up. Cosentino said that Boeing might now take a role in the M-346 team shortlisted in a trainer contest in the United Arab Emirates. Twenty-five T-50 aircraft have already been delivered to South Korea, the launch customer, part of a planned order of 72 aircraft. Also, Lockheed Martin officials said at the Farnborough Airshow that a third class of student pilots has now graduated. Lockheed Martin and KAI are now eyeing the possibility of supplying 60 light-attack versions of the aircraft to the Korean Air Force, while in Europe, Poland and Greece are being targeted as potential customers for the trainer.
China puts its latest fighter jet on display Beijing: July 19, 2008 - China’s most advanced multi-role fighter jet Jian-10 has been placed on public display for the first time more than a year and a half after it entered service. The aircraft was shown at a ceremony organised by the China Aviation Industry Corporation I (CAICI) Wednesday, according to Huanqiu website. The single-engine, single-seat fighter aircraft has been developed jointly by the CAICI and Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute (CADI) and entered service in December 2006. The fighter jet with a pair of Pili-12 air-to-air missiles has an upgraded loading capacity, the website said. Images of Jian-10 have featured prominently on many websites, in magazines and newspapers, but few people have been able to see it in real life.
Croatian Navy to Buy Two Finnish Missile Boats 19 July, 2008: ZAGREB, Croatia signed a 10 million euro ($16 million) deal with Finnish company Patria to buy two second-hand guided missile frigates, national radio reported. The purchase of the two 22-year-old Helsinki class ships is part of Croatia's efforts to modernize its fleet in order to bring it into line with NATO standards. As part of the agreement, Patria is to train Croatian sailors, share technology and provide enough spare parts for the next 10 years. In April, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization invited Croatia to join the alliance, along with Albania. Officials hope full accession will happen within a year. Croatia wants to make its army completely professional by 2014 at an estimated cost of about 1.2 billion euros. Under the plans, troop levels would be cut to 16,000 from the current 25,000. By 2010, Croatia will also be required to raise its military budget to 2.0 percent of its gross domestic product from the current 1.7 percent. Croatia last year paid Patria 110 million euros for the purchase of 84 armored vehicles.
Why India might overtake China
July 19, 2008: It has only been a few years since Asia bulls have been touting the arrival of the Chinese Century, citing that nation's enormous potential. Now, get ready for predictions of the India Century. That, in fact, was the title of a recent white paper by the Chicago-based consultancy Keystone-India, founded by a group of top economists from Ernst & Young who believe that India is on track to surpass China in growth. "We believe this is India's moment," declares Keystone Chief Economist William T Wilson. China has a two decade-long track record of 9.5% average annual growth, exports 10 times as much as India, and dwarfs India as a magnet for foreign investment. By contrast, India has achieved an annual growth rate of 7% or higher only seven times in the past two decades. And largely because of its unruly politics and stifling bureaucracy, it wasn't long ago that economists bemoaned the "Hindu growth rate," implying the nation is simply culturally incapable of achieving high growth. Even under Keystone's projections, India wouldn't match China's current hypergrowth rates for at least another 15 years. And even by 2050, China's economy would be bigger measured in US dollars. But longer term, Keystone contends India will be in a stronger position. It projects that China's average annual growth will peak at 8.8 per cent over the next five years, and then gradually trend downward to under 7 per cent in the 2020s and around 4% by the 2040s. India's annual growth is projected to rise to around 7.3 per cent by 2010 and stay over 7 per cent until the mid-2030s, and still be in the 6% range until 2050. Why is Keystone so bullish? Some of the key reasons: Demographics The biggest reason India has more long-term growth potential is simply that its population is younger and is growing more quickly than China's. Currently, China has 300 million more people than India. But because of its very low birth rate, largely due to the one-child policy, China's population is expected to peak at around 1.45 billion by 2030. India's population is expected to increase by 350 million by 2030, more new people than the US, Western Europe, and China combined. India will have 200 million more people than China by midcentury. What's more, China's population is aging rapidly. As a result, the number of working-age Chinese is projected to peak in 2020 and start declining steadily thereafter, while India's workforce will keep growing for at least four more decades. However, India's fertility rate also is declining, meaning future families will have fewer children to support and more to spend on consumption. Development experts call this combination of a growing workforce and declining fertility a 'demographic dividend,' which helped power explosive economic growth in East Asia's Tiger economies from the 1960s through the early 1990s. Capital Efficiency The big driver of China's economic growth has been massive investment, equal to 40% to 45% of gross domestic product a year, an extraordinarily high rate on world standards?and twice the percentage of India's. In 2004, investment in China was equal to half of its $1.5 trillion in GDP. In that context, China's 9.5% growth rate that year shouldn't be too surprising."It is staggering how much investment was needed to power Chinese growth in recent years," Wilson notes. "Any nation investing half of GDP in fixed-capital income looks a lot like pre-crisis Asia." India, however, gets much more bang for the rupee. It has achieved 6% average growth with an investment rate half that of China's, around 22% to 23% a year.
Many signs point to big increases in investment in India, Wilson says. In fact, he estimates investment in India could reach 35% of GDP within a decade, which would enable it to match China's 9% plus growth. One reason is that the savings rate in India rose from 23.5% of GDP in 2001 to 28.1% in 2004. And because of its growing workforce and the decline in family size, India's savings rate should continue to rise to a projected 37% in 20 years.Since investment is highly correlated to domestic savings, that should translate into higher investment and economic growth. Meanwhile, the rapidly aging population of China means that its savings rate also is likely to drop in the future, as it has in most other nations with graying workforces. Second, India thus far has gotten by with minimal foreign investment. Keystone notes that in the past four years alone, China has drawn $200 billion more in foreign investment. However, India is planning to open up many long-protected sectors that have great allure to foreign investors?and that could draw huge inflows of money. They include telecom, where Indian demand now is growing even faster than China's, commercial real estate, and department stores. Although some of the reforms have stalled recently due to domestic political opposition, Wilson believes the government will prevail. "If you look at the institutional changes and the number of industries that have liberalised over the past five years, the pace has been phenomenal,? he says. Wilson predicts India's real estate sector will draw a huge influx of money from foreign hedge funds, and liberalisation of retail will be 'the real big bang' for the economy.
New Entrepreneurs Indian industry so far has been led by many of the big business families and conglomerates that dominated when India was still a quasi-socialist, heavily regulated economy. They generally have done a good job of taking advantage of new opportunities offered by liberalization since the early 1990s. But the more dynamic companies in India are smaller ones that are led by new generations of entrepreneurs who take greater risks or are more connected to the global economy. These new companies also have more creative managers, argues Debashis Ghosh, another Keystone partner who worked at Ernst & Young. Keystone focuses on researching mid-sized Indian companies with $10 million to $100 million in annual sales. "The bigger companies are still led by oldschool types who used to depend on access to government and got huge when there was nobody else in the game. "Because they had scale, foreigners had to deal with them," says Ghosh. "Now, though, the top talent from the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Management are flowing into the mid-sized sector. That is like getting a management team of all Wharton and Massachusetts Institute of Technology grads." As a result, he contends that the Indian companies of the future are more dynamic than those of China, where management tends to be weak.
Higher Productivity India has averaged respectable productivity growth of 2.5% a year over the past two decades. But that can grow sharply, thanks to liberalization of many industries, a literacy rate that has risen from 18% in 1951 to 65% now, and India's rising openness to foreign trade, which has jumped from 15% of GDP in 1991 to 26% now. Manufacturing Surge China dwarfs India as a manufacturing power, especially for export. And it will be a long time before India, with its inadequate infrastructure and components supply base, will be a serious export rival. But in recent years, India's domestic manufacturing industry has been growing strongly. What's more, a number of Indian companies are especially strong in high-end manufacturing, such as auto parts, power generators, and medical equipment, that requires a lot of engineering. In terms of quality and efficiency, several Indian auto parts companies are on par with the US. "If you look at engineering work across the board, in industries from pharmaceuticals to telecom, what India is doing is an order of magnitude beyond what China is doing," says Keystone's Ghosh. Anyone who visits both countries today may find it hard to imagine India overtaking China in economic performance. But when you look at the fundamental drivers?growth in the workforce, fixed investment, and productivity -- over the long run the prospect looks a lot more plausible.
Artillery Gun Module (AGM) Medium Weight Self Propelled Howitzer, Germany
July 19, 2008: Krauss-Maffei Wegmann's Artillery Gun Module (AGM) is an air-transportable, medium-weight, turreted self-propelled howitzer based on the proven technology of the PzH 2000 SP howitzer in service with the German Army. The system is fully autonomous and provides the same performance as the PzH 2000, but with reduced cost, crew levels and weight. "AGM is an air-transportable, medium-weight, turreted self-propelled howitzer." The gun module can be fitted on a tracked or wheeled chassis. The intention is to integrate the gun module into available in-service chassis for the customer country and to set up co-production arrangements with the local in-country chassis producer to provide a cost effective and medium weight indirect fire support platform. The first demonstrator was completed in 2004. The verification phase was finished in early 2007. The artillery gun module development has been based on the 155mm / L52-calibre gun but the system could also be adapted for a lighter gun such as a 105mm gun or 39-calibre 155mm gun. The module can be fitted on a heavy 6x6 or 8x8 chassis, a tracked Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) hull or a main battle tank hull. It is necessary to fit hydraulically operated stabilisers and firing spades to wheeled platforms for the vehicle to withstand the recoil. The AGM installed on an MLRS chassis has a combat weight of 27t. Mounted on a 6x6 truck the combat weight is about 22.5t compared to the PzH 2000 combat weight of about 55t. Under a completely separate programme led by shipbuilders HDW, a naval modular artillery gun, MONARC, is being developed that integrates the gun turret and autoloader from the PzH 2000 into the deck of a naval vessel.
PROOF-OF-PRINCIPLE DEMONSTRATOR The development programme was started in early 2003. A proof-of-principle demonstrator has been built with a 52-calibre gun mounted on an MLRS tracked chassis. Preliminary verification firing trials of the proof-of-principle demonstrator were successfully carried out at the German Army's live firing range at Meppen in August and September 2004. 79 rounds were fired during the trials. Most were Zone 6 firings using Rheinmettall DM72 charge systems with a 52°C charge temperature. The proof-of-principle demonstrator was not built with an autoloader and was manually loaded for the trials. The system successfully fired with the turret in the forward and rear positions and up to 45° in azimuth on either side of these positions. The firing tests were completed at all elevations. Some firings, but not at all elevations, were carried out with the turret at 90° to the forward position and using the most powerful Zone 6 charges. "The AGM can fire against stationary and moving targets at a rate of six to eight rounds a minute." SECOND DEMONSTRATOR Assembly of a fully functioning second demonstrator started in the second quarter of 2005. The demonstrator includes a fully automatic loading system which loads the projectiles and the charges. A new six-cylinder engine and transmission is intended to be installed in the next evolutionary step. GUN MODULE The system is operated by a crew of two. The AGM uses the main gun components from the PzH 2000 – the barrel and elevating mass, the shell loader and flick rammer. The system also has a separate dedicated auxiliary power unit. The turret is of lightweight aluminium armour construction. The 12.5t turret carries 30 projectiles and charges. The autoloader is based on a modified PzH 2000 shell loader and an automatic charge loader. The charge loader will automatically compose the selected charges using any Joint Ballistics Memorandum of Understanding (JBMOU) compliant charge module. The autoloader is powered by a 24V electrical supply. A lifting system is installed at the front of the turret allowing the crew to reload the magazine from outside the vehicle. The ammunition feed has an automatic inductive fuse setting system. The pneumatically operated flick rammer rams the shells into the breech with elevation angle-dependent ramming pressure control. CHASSIS The MLRS chassis is modified with stronger torsion bars and extra shock absorbers. The crew cabin is separated from the firing module. The crew cabin is fitted with a computerised fire control system with the NATO armament ballistic kernel software implemented and linked to the KMW artillery command and control system or to other command and control systems. The system can be loaded and fired manually. The cabin provides protection against small arms rounds, anti-personnel mines, bomblets and nuclear, biological and chemical warfare attack. PERFORMANCE The AGM can fire against stationary and moving targets at a rate of six to eight rounds a minute including Multiple-Round Simultaneous-Impact (MRSI) firing. Using standard rounds the maximum range is 30km; this is increased to more than 40km with base bleed rounds. "The artillery gun module development has been based on the 155mm / L52-calibre gun." The into-action and out-of-action times for the AGM are similar to those of the PzH 2000 – approximately 30 seconds. The system receives target data via a radio link either while it is on the move or in a defilade position. The laying and loading data is computed and the firing command is executed. Immediately after firing the last round, the vehicle leaves the firing position in a shoot-and-scoot manoeuvre to avoid counter battery fire. AIR TRANSPORTABILITY The howitzer on the MLRS chassis is air transportable on an Airbus A400M transporter aircraft. With the gun in the forward position lowered over the cab the barrel overhangs the vehicle by 2.5m. For air transport, the artillery gun module is 10.42m long, 2.97m wide and 3.06m high.
A Comparison of Primate and Dolphin Intelligence as a Metaphor for the Validity of Comparative Studies of Intelligence
A Comparison of Primate and Dolphin Intelligence as a Metaphor for the Validity of Comparative Studies of Intelligence Primates and cetacean have been considered by some to be extremely intelligent creatures, second only to humans. Their exalted status in the animal kingdom has lead to their involvement in many experiments which hope to gain a better understanding of the basis of human intelligence. These experiments coupled with analysis of primate and cetaceans brain structure has lead to many theories as to the development of intelligence as a trait. Although these theories seem to be sound, there is some controversy over the degree to which non-human studies can be used to infer about the structure of human intelligence. By many of the physical methods of comparing intelligence, such as measuring the brain size to body size ratio, cetacean surpass non-human primates and even rival human beings. For example dolphins have a cerebral cortex which is about 40% larger a human being's. Their cortex is also stratified in much the same way as a humans. The frontal lobe of dolphins is also developed to a level comparable to humans. In addition the parietal lobe of dolphins which "makes sense of the senses" is larger than the human parietal and frontal lobes combined. The similarities do not end there, most cetaceans have large and well developed temporal lobes which contain sections equivalent to Broca's and Wernicke's areas in humans . Another major difference between primate and cetacean brains is that the primate brain favors the motor cortex, while "the cetaceans greatly favor the sensory region (and are not very balanced at all between the two)". In the final measure of brain complexity, neural density dolphins also measure up quite favorable to humans. In certain areas of the brain concerned with "emotional control, objectivity, reality orientation, humor, logically consistent abstract thought and higher creativity" dolphins have an higher ratio of neural density. This seems to be correlated with dolphins ability to maintain a healthy emotional state while in captivity; humans in analogous situations often don't fair as well emotionally. Despite the complex structures discovered in the brains of dolphins, primates have been the main focus of intelligence research. One of the main reason for the focus on primates is that they seem to be so similar to humans in many ways, the most important being genetically. Besides basic genetic similarities, or perhaps because them, primates have many advanced brain structures some of which are similar to human brain structures. Most primates have and EQ the around 2.34 while humans have an EQ around 7. This may seem like are large difference, but when you consider that very few species have an EQ above 1, the difference is less profound. In addition to similarities in size and structure "primates devote more of their energy resources to their brains than do most other mammals", which is another important measure of intelligence. Before non-human animals can be seen as intelligent a model must be created which can explain how intelligence would have developed through evolution. These theories must clearly establish how having a larger more sophisticated brain, could increase and organism's chance of survival. Once this question is addressed, then the question of whether the larger brain and the new behaviors it supports represents intelligence can be asked. Two of the hypotheses that deal with these issues are the foraging hypothesis and the social hypothesis. The foraging model has been established mostly through research with non-human primates. The foraging model proposes that primate brains evolved in order to better allow them to remember the locations of sources of food across a wider range. In addition to the pressure to create better maps as to the location of food, some primates especially frugivores, also had to remember when fruits at various places would be ripe and worth. This created another selection pressure towards more sophisticated brains. A third source of evolutionary pressure on primate brains was that primates had to become more efficient at collecting food over a wider range. In order to accomplish this primates had to develop "complex extractive techniques requiring extensive sensorimotor coordination presumably subject to cortical control". These three selection pressure could have shape the evolution of primate brains individually, or more they all worked together to produce the primates we know today. To support this hypothesis scientists have examined the differences between frugivore and foliovore monkeys. Frugivores generally have a much larger home ranges than foliovores and their resources are not as constant as foliovores', therefore according to the gather hypothesis frugivores should have a larger EQ. Research has demonstrated a correlation between the size of a home range and the EQ of the species, which would appear to support the gather hypothesis' prediction about furgivores and foliovores. But a more recent study found no relationship between the percentage of fruit in the diet and the EQ of the species. This study did not take into consideration the importance of fruit in the animals diet, so it still possible that the predicted difference may exist. The second major theory about the evolution of intelligence is the social model. To live in a complex social group an organism must be able to form complex mental maps which represent the social hierarchy of the group. The organism must know where it stands in relation to all other members of its group as well as where other members stand in relations to each other. In order to perform all of the comparisons and remember them, according to the social hypothesis, an organism would need a more complex brain. Besides keeping relationships straight, organisms within a society also form alliance with other member of the group to create a more beneficial situation for themselves. This example of using other members of a groups as tools is another indication of intelligence required to maintain a social group. The social hypothesis seems to be partially supported by dolphins and chimpanzees. Both dolphins and chimps live in complex societies in which there is constant alliance formation especially during mating season . And these two species also seem to posses brain complexity near that of humans, which would follow from the social theory. The problem with the theory is that the complexity of social systems has not be as well examined in other species, so it is difficult to conclude that complex social structure cannot exist without a complex brain. Another problem with the theory is that orangutans and gorilla's which don't have a complex social groups as chimps or dolphins also have high EQ's and complex brain structures. Although both of these evolutionary theories seemed sound, there are some basic theoretical questions that may cast some doubt on their validity. One of these is the question of directional causality. It quite possible that the pressures to find food and form social groups did not select for organisms with larger brains, but instead as creature brains developed the were able to utilize more complex gathering strategies and adept and handling social relationships. It also may be that one new ability is a by-product of the system created for other purposes. For example it may be as the selection of organisms who could be remember the location of the food better changed the complexity of brain structures of the species, the species began to develop the ability to map social hierarchies. This in turn allowed for the formation of more complex societies. These new societies could have added selection pressures of their own or served to maintain the traits selected for by the need to find food. Throughout this paper and much of comparative evolutionary theory, a basic assumption has been made; that the complexity of an animals brain coupled with the presence of certain behaviors if good evidence of an intelligence which can be on some level compared to humans. In fact just the presence of complex brain structures is often used as a clue to look for behavioral indications of intelligence. Despite this common assumption there are many researchers who feel that it is too early to make a statement either way about animal intelligence. This caution is probably best summed up in Morgan's Cannon of interpretation which states: In no case may we interpret an action as the outcome of the exercise of a higher psychical faculty, if it can be interpreted as the outcome of the exercise of one which stands lower in the psychological scale. This statement is extremely relevant to comparative psychology because it calls for great skepticism in attributing intelligence to animals other than humans just because there appears to be no other explanation for an observed behavior or because the proper neurology seems to be present. Another philosophical argument for caution in comparative studies comes from Scott Rifkin. He believes that not enough is known about human and primate brains to assume that similarities in overt behavior have the same neurological base. The reason behind his trepidation at accepting current evolutionary theories on intelligence is that "there is no a priori reason to expect that brain evolution has proceeded regularly without reorganization of structures or redistribution of functions". He goes on to argue that before we can begin to make comparative statements a better understanding of the functioning of others species brains needs to be achieved. Perhaps the most thought provoking question raised in comparative psychology is the question of generalized intelligence. It has been difficult in modern psychology to get researchers to agree on a general human intelligence, to extend that intelligence across species may be to great a theoretical leap. This idea is supported by Scott Rifkin who believes that "to assume a continuum of intelligence across today's species is incompatible with an evolutionary perspective, and this preconception must not be allowed to guide studies of brain evolution". It is an example of human hubris to assume that way in which we display the trait of intelligence is the best and only way to display that trait. This bais may blind us to a better understanding of intelligence as a universal trait. The best way to see intelligence as a universal trait is to view it and evaluate it as a factor within the environment in which it evolved. By using this method, human and non-human intelligence are considered to be inherently different because they evolved to facilitate the survival of an organism with two separate environmental histories. In this light it is impossible to say one is better than the other because it is a question of comparing how well and organism is adapted to its lifestyle not how well it is adaptive on any one scale. For example it is common to say that a dolphin is not as smart as a human because it doesn't use tools, but using this definition of intelligence it would also be valid to say that humans are not as smart as dolphins because they can't examine the internal organs of their other group members using natural ultrasound. There is also the question of co-evolution of different structures to contend with when considering making cross species comparisons. It is possible that different structures in the brain could have evolved different functions in different species. For example if the skeletal structure of a bat wing and the human hand are compared it might be assumed that they have the same function because they have the a similar structure. This would obviously be a big mistake because evolution has shaped each skeletal structure to serve each species with a unique function. Following from this example, just because a species has an underdeveloped brain structure relative to a human it does not necessarily mean that it is less intelligent. It is quite possible that another structure has developed to serve the purpose that the particular structure serves in humans. The arguments for caution that have been presented are extremely important to the field of comparative psychology and should not be easily forgotten. But one the basic tenants of the philosophy of science seem to be in support the notion of non-human intelligence. Occam's razor is a scientific principle which states that all things being equal the simplest solutions is often true. When applied to the evidence of non-human intelligence, the questions becomes whether it is simpler to assume that somehow human beings have transcended their biology and have developed a unique intelligence or that animals with similar anatomy to humans have some intelligence. It would seem illogical to assume that the complex structure of a dolphin brain, which in many ways rivals a human's, evolved only for hunting fish and getting mates and the rest is just useless space. The entire debate over the intelligence in non-humans and the usefulness of comparative psychology is a metaphor for the larger brain-behavior debate. In order for brain complexity to be an acceptable measure of intelligence the brain must be accepted as the source of all behavior. And if the brain cannot be accepted as the seat of behavior then there is no use in comparing species because the one connection that all complex organisms have is that the have a similar brain structure; behavior is way to species specific to be studied without the common thread of the brain. The study of non-human primates and dolphins has lead to many profound questions as to the nature of intelligence. And thought the answers provided to date have been disputed, the questions are not any less worth of being asked. But in order to get beyond the disputes, researchers must be willing to shed there antrocentric view of intelligence and accept that it is an trait which can evolve like any other trait. When this is done it may be finally possible to recognize the remarkable abilities that some many people seem to find in animals as evidence of animal intelligence not lesser human intelligence.