Friday, July 18, 2008

Ballmer the Barbarian!

Ballmer the Barbarian! (Time Magazine) Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, left, and chief executive officer of Microsoft Steve Ballmer. Yahoo? Is that thing still going on? Go ahead and scream. That's the point of a siege, isn't it? The unbearable tedium — mixed with the horror of what might unfold — is precisely what the invading army inflicts. We think of a siege as an active event, of trebuchets pitching 700-lb. boulders and plague-infested goat carcasses into a walled city. But the word is derived from the Latin sedere, which means "to sit." And that's precisely what Microsoft has been doing: sitting on Yahoo. By siege standards, six months is nothing. The Mongol siege of Xiangyang, in southern China and led by Kublai Khan, lasted six years. The Mongols were the sultans of siege. They'd take their time. Surround a city. Build belching, black-smoke bonfires and roast horses for dinner. Pound drums day and night and force their enemies to dream of death. Soon they'd erect a white tent — a signal to surrender now and be spared. Next, they'd pitch a red tent. That meant only the men inside the village would be slaughtered. If the gates still remained closed, up came the black tent — the slaughter of everyone. By this time, the people under siege were sick with fear, starved and cut off from their neighbors. See how it works? Steve Ballmer isn't going to be confused with a patient man like Kublai Khan. Ballmer launched The Siege of Yahoo on February 1 by throwing a brick through Yahoo's window with a shouted demand: Sell now! At $31 a share! Microsoft was pitching the black tent on day one. It's true that Microsoft and Yahoo had, for the past three years, discussed a "friendly" merger. But that was only to negotiate the terms of surrender. Microsoft had already determined that it must stop Google at all costs, and that Yahoo was the key. Microsoft's operating system monopoly was once a mighty platform that made the company and its partners rich as kings. It made Bill Gates even richer. Then the platform shifted to the Web, owned by no one, but benefiting Google and its magic search engine above all others. Search, after all, is a key to advertising, which, so far, is the only way to make money in the media economy of the Net. And so, to thrive in the future, Microsoft decided to conquer Yahoo now. No other takeover would do — not AOL (a dying city with no search) and not Facebook or MySpace (the path to revenue in these growing cities isn't yet clear). But Yahoo resisted Microsoft's tender. So Ballmer went straight for the black tent. Why pretend that anyone would be spared? And now we watch the protracted spectacle of a company under siege, with its daily skirmishes and who's up/who's down scoreboard. Carl Icahn, the perpetual barbarian at the gate, launched a proxy fight. Can he and the shareholders vanquish Yahoo's board, opening the doors to the Microsoft hordes? We'll see August 1. But consider this. Kublai Khan won the battle of Xiangyang, unified China and started the Yuan Dynasty, which lasted for nearly 100 years. How? In the end, the Mongols invented a new weapon, a catapult that was way more accurate, and five times more powerful, than the old model. The six-year siege ended abruptly within days of the new weapon's appearance. The lesson is, you need to be more than a barbarian to build an empire. You need great technology.

Hillary Clinton Rips Bush Abortion Proposal

Hillary Clinton Rips Bush Abortion Proposal July 18, 2008: Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., blasted President Bush for a new proposal Democrats argue would limit women's access to contraception. The draft proposal written by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), which began circulating around Capitol Hill this week, would require hospitals receiving federal funds to hire medical personnel who oppose forms of contraception including birth control pills. But Democratic critics including Clinton warn that the Bush administration changes would have "damaging" consequences on women's ability to access birth control. "The more I learn about these rules by the Bush administration, the more appalled I am and the more determined I am to stop them," Clinton said. "This is a gratuitous, unnecessary insult to the women of the United States of America. These rules pose a dire threat to women's health, to health-care providers, and to uninsured and low-income Americans seeking care. It is a disgrace, but unfortunately it is not a surprise."

China to build 2 steel plants in Indonesia

China to build 2 steel plants in Indonesia JAKARTA, July 18, 2008 -- China Steel Resources Holding Company will build two steel factories with a combined capacity of3 million tons per annum in Indonesia, an official said here on Friday. The construction of the steel plants will be carried out in two stages within a span of five years with the first plant to be built in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan. "In the first stage, the steel plant to be built will have a capacity of 1.5 million tons in Banjarmasin. It will be followed by the construction of another plant with a capacity of 1.5 million tons in the second stage," Achmad Kurniadi of the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) said on the sidelines of an international convention of Chinese businessmen. He said the location of the steel plant that would be built in the second stage had not yet been decided. Achmad hoped that Chinese investors attending the convention would be attracted to make their investment in other sectors such as the manufacturing and transportation sectors. "The Chinese investors have looked at the mining sector in the country and we are waiting for their investments in the transportation sector as well," he added. Running from July 18 to 19, 2008, the convention is being attended by representatives of 93 Chinese companies that have plans to visit Indonesia to explore investment possibilities in the trade, property, manufacturing, finance, energy and mineral sectors. The Chinese companies are engaged in various fields of business or industry, namely 27 companies in the energy and mineral, 20 in the trade , 22 in the property, 22 in the manufacturing and five in the financial sectors.

2008 Farnborough International Show

A Lockhead Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon performs during the 2008 Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) in the southern English town of Farnborough, July 14, 2008. More than 1,500 exhibitors from 39 countries participated in the world's premier aerospace business event during the seven-day fair.

Mi-8 / Mi-17 Hip Multi-Mission Helicopter, Russia

Mi-8 / Mi-17 Hip Multi-Mission Helicopter, Russia July 18, 2008: More than 12,000 Mi-8 (NATO codename Hip) multi-purpose helicopters have been produced, with more than 2,800 exported, and they are operational with over 50 air forces worldwide. The helicopters are manufactured by the Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant JSC in Moscow, the Kazan Helicopter Plant JSC in Kazan and the Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant, and are available in civil and military versions. The military variants include the Mi-8T transport, VIP transport, electronic warfare, reconnaissance, Mi-8TV armed version and the search and rescue Mi-8MPS.

Airbus Announces Orders Worth Over US$ 40 Billion at Farnborough Airshow

Airbus Announces Orders Worth Over US$ 40 Billion at Farnborough Airshow July 18, 2008: Airbus announced transactions covering 256 aircraft, valued at US$ 40.5 billion at the 2008 Farnborough Air Show. These transactions include firm orders for 247 aircraft and nine commitments. This also reflects a strong aerospace market despite the global economic uncertainties. The highlights of the show were two large orders from Middle Eastern carriers. DAE Capital, the aircraft leasing and finance division of Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE) placed a 100 aircraft order valued at $12.6 billion, comprising the purchase of 30 Airbus A350-900 and 70 Airbus A320 aircraft. Meanwhile Etihad announced a 55 aircraft order comprising an additional 10 A380s, 20 A320s, and 25 A350 XWBs. Other firm aircraft order announcements made during the show include the following: Aeroflot for five A321s; Asiana for 30 A350 XWBs; US based lessor, Aviation Capital Group (ACG) for 23 Airbus A320 Family aircraft; Saudia for eight A330-300s; Synergy Aerospace for 10 A350-800s; and Tunisair for 10 A320s, three A330-200s, and three A350-800s. In addition to the new contracts, Airbus received commitments for nine aircraft during the Show. Qatar Airways placed an MOU for four A321s, and Alis of Italy for five A330-200 Freighter aircraft. Furthermore, Netherlands based leasing company AerCap signed a contract to convert 30 of its older passenger fleet of A320/A321s into freighter aircraft (P2F). AerCap thus becomes the launch customer for this freighter conversion programme. Airbus’ success is founded on innovative design, which has given it the world’s most modern aircraft family in every category - from the 100-seat Airbus A318 all the way up to the world’s largest and newest airliner, the double-deck A380. Airbus is also unique in offering airlines a common cockpit in every single passenger aircraft that it produces today, which makes it easier and quicker for pilots to switch between aircraft types during their career – while saving airlines time and money. Airbus is an EADS company.

Farnborough Airshow 2008: UK minister defends 'vital' military exports

Farnborough Airshow 2008: UK minister defends 'vital' military exports 18 July 2008: Lord Digby Jones, Minister of State for the UK's Trade and Investment (UKTI) organisation, which now encompasses defence export activities, has told those who oppose UK defence exports to "get real". Lord Jones said that if the UK stopped sales there would be no impact on worldwide arms orders and UK workers would be put out of jobs. Ostensibly visiting Farnborough International Airshow to launch a UKTI initiative relating to advanced engineering, Lord Jones nevertheless again went out of his way to argue that UK defence manufacturing and UK defence exports in particular is "absolutely vital". "The aerospace industry and defence manufacturing is our number one manufacturing industry," said Lord Jones. "We, at this moment, export more defence equipment around the world than any other nation, including America, and about 400,000 people - and therefore if you include their families about a million people - depend on defence manufacturing in Britain."

More than 650 laptops stolen since 2004: British defence ministry

More than 650 laptops stolen since 2004: British defence ministry July 18, 2008: LONDON — The defence ministry on Friday nearly doubled its earlier tallies of the number of its laptops stolen since 2004. In a House of Commons written reply to a question from an opposition lawmaker, Defence Secretary Des Browne listed figures that showed 658 laptops had been stolen in the past four years, compared to the previous figure of 347 laptops. In addition, the Ministry of Defence revealed that 89 laptops were lost since 2004, along with 121 portable USB memory sticks misplaced or stolen in the same timeframe. Of the memory sticks, 26 of the losses occurred this year, with three of those containing information classed "secret," with a further 19 denoted "restricted." Overall, just 32 of the 747 lost or stolen laptops in the past four years had been recovered. Browne wrote that the updated figures were higher because a recent review had shown "anomalies" in the way the losses were reported, while a spokeswoman for the ministry said all losses of data were "investigated fully." There has been a steady drip of revelations about lost computers in the British media since last November, when the government admitted it had lost confidential records for 25 million Britons who receive child benefit payments. The data, on two discs that were put in the post by mistake, included names, addresses, dates of birth and bank details. The loss prompted outrage from political opponents and civil liberties campaigners. In January, the defence ministry itself stoked fears about potential identity fraud by revealing that a laptop containing details of some 600,000 people interested in joining the armed forces had been stolen from a naval officer. Civil servants have since been banned from taking unencrypted laptops or devices containing sensitive data out of secure premises.

SELEX Galileo And BAE Systems To Provide Thermal Sights For Soldiers

SELEX Galileo And BAE Systems To Provide Thermal Sights For Soldiers Washington DC - July 18, 2008: SELEX Galileo, of Finmeccanica, and BAE Systems have signed a partnering agreement to provide thermal weapon sights manufactured by BAE Systems for the forthcoming surveillance and target acquisition increment of the Future Integrated Soldier Technology (FIST) Programme. FIST is the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) programme which aims to enhance the combat effectiveness of the Infantry in the 21st Century. It will provide a system of complementary, integrated capabilities to the Infantry Section which, when the effects are combined, will provide increased mission effectiveness in dismounted close combat by reducing casualties, raising operational tempo and increasing readiness for further operation. SELEX Galileo and BAE Systems will offer a family of three high performance thermal weapon sights (light, medium, and heavy) as a flexible and cost effective solution to the FIST requirement. Thermal technology is now capable of delivering identification ranges similar to visual and image intensified weapon sights, and allows thermal only sights to be considered as a "best-value" solution to capability needs. This is in addition to the entire suite of integrated surveillance and target acquisition capabilities being developed for the Italian MoD 'Soldato Futuro' Programme and ensures that the UK MoD will have access to affordable international technologies with proven support and technology growth. SELEX Galileo has an excellent understanding of the Dismounted Close Combat domain and recognises the importance of the FIST programme in providing capability to the UK Infantry now and in the future. The company's capability based sensor solutions and acquisition experience allied with knowledge and understanding of the UK operating environment for Armed Forces will result in significant benefits to the UK MoD. "We are delighted that BAE Systems has agreed to work with us on FIST" Doug Baxter, Senior Vice President Land Systems Support and Service Solution at SELEX Galileo says, "this builds on an already successful relationship with other uncooled products and the contribution of BAE Systems' programme management and manufacturing expertise will ideally complement SELEX Galileo existing capability". "The FIST programme will play a vital role for the UK infantry, and we believe our proven experience and expertise in delivering thermal weapon sights to the U.S. Army and Marine Corps will add significant value to the FIST programme throughout its life cycle," said Steve Jamison, vice president and general manager of BAE Systems in Lexington, Massachusetts. "The partnership on FIST reinforces our already significant relationship with SELEX Galileo and is further evidence of our commitment to deliver and protect those who protect us." SELEX Galileo is the brand adopted by Galileo Avionica SpA and SELEX Sensors and Airborne Systems Ltd, Finmeccanica companies, to present a common identity to the market. With the name SELEX Galileo, the two companies represent a leading defence electronics supplier, providing world-class capabilities in surveillance, protection, tracking, targeting, navigation and control, and imaging systems. LYNX - HAND HELD TARGET ACQUISITION SYSTEMMultifunctional Day/Night Hand Held Target Locator which includes an uncooled thermal imager for all weather night observation and detection through dusk or overcast days, two FOV colour TV channel for high definition observation and detection during daylight conditions, an eye safe laser range finder, a digital compass and GPS in a compact lightweight unit for dismounted soldiers and special forces. ASPISASPIS is a multifunctional integrated Rifle-Sight among the lightest available. The ASPIS enhances mission performance being capable of observation and aiming at long and short distance combining night/day video channels for the long distance, and Visible and Invisible Laser Pointers and a Red Dot for the short distance. A wireless transmission of night and day video signals processed by the ASPIS enables the Soldier to observe and fire "around the corner" and records snapshots of the scene in the receiver computer. SCORPIO - GRENADE LAUNCHER FIRE CONTROL SYSTEMLightweight compact Fire Control System for Grenade Launcher tubes that provides fast and accurate aiming and firing (LOS/LOF) capabilities. A ballistic computer reconfigurable by means of uploaded firing tables for selected ammunition (HE frag, HEDP, Smoke, etc) provides better hit probability against standing and moving ground targets. NIMOS - NIGHT MOBILITY SUBSYSTEMModular lightweight Helmet Mounted Display integrated with Low Light Level digital TV for soldier night mobility; moreover the NIMOS can receive and display the ASPIS Rifle Sight IR or TV video channels by Wireless Data Link for "shooting around the corner" capability.

Bell/Agusta BA609 Tiltrotor Makes Its First Appearance At Farnborough

Bell/Agusta BA609 Tiltrotor Makes Its First Appearance At Farnborough Farnborough, UK - Jul 18, 2008: The Bell/Agusta BA609 Tiltrotor is making its first ever appearance at the Farnborough International Air Show. The second prototype, aircraft #002, is showcased by the Bell/Agusta Aerospace Company having flown for the first time in November 2006 at AgustaWestland's Cameri facility in Northern Italy. The BA609 tiltrotor flew to Farnborough from Italy demonstrating excellent performance, unique aircraft flexibility and high reliability while exercising its envelope in both vertical lift and high cruise speed airplane mode. The BA609 Tiltrotor is one of the most significant technological developments in the aeronautical world. This unique aircraft offers green and efficient extraordinary capabilities. The BA609 tiltrotor flight envelope includes an effective combination of helicopter's vertical take-off and landing capability together with the speed, range and comfort of typical turboprop airplanes. The 4-prototypes based programme has so far achieved more than 300 flight hours performed by the first two test aircraft (aircraft #001 in USA, #002 in Italy). Aircraft a/c #003 is being assembled at the AgustaWestland facilities (Italy). The flight test program has validated the BA609 unique flight envelope including altitudes up to 25,000 feet and speeds up to 310 knots, all at the maximum weight. The test program continues to check all the points of the flight envelope as required by both the FAA and EASA. The BA609 is the most suitable, flexible, and versatile aircraft for many Homeland Security operations, surveillance and control of illegal traffic and immigration, search and rescue with the possibility to rescue people at more that 500 KM from the coast. When time, place, or mission sensitivity is essential, the BA609 will provide the most efficient and effective aerial transport means, for short to medium range operations.

China investment in Nigerian oil

China investment in Nigerian oil Beijing, China - Jul 18, 2008: China has committed $1 billion to the creation of a six-lane highway surrounding Nigeria's de facto oil capital, Port Harcourt, the latest indicator of Beijing's intent to become a leader in African oil extraction. The China Harbor Engineering Co. signed a deal this week with the African Finance Corp. for the 75-mile road that AFC officials said in a statement also would help improve other aspects of Port Harcourt's crumbling infrastructure, such as electricity, and would "be a catalyst to the city's economic development." The State Grid Corp. of China is also slated to play a role in improving the city's and the region's electric grid during construction of the road. The agreement this week marks the latest effort by China to further its position in Nigeria's troubled energy sector, which in recent months has slipped from the oil-and-gas-rich Niger Delta. The violence plaguing other foreign energy firms doesn't seem to bother Chinese officials, however, as investment in Nigeria has increased considerably over the last few years, while other nations' firms have downsized operations or pulled out altogether. Nigeria and China already enjoy strong relations in the energy sector. Beijing in 2006 bolstered those ties when it signed a deal for four oil drilling licenses in exchange for a promised $4 billion to be spent on power stations and a railroad for Nigeria. Since then, Africa's largest oil producer and the world's fastest-growing economy have been steadily improving energy relations. According to Nigerian officials, bilateral trade has increased steadily since the beginning of the decade and tops $50 billion per year. China is apparently undaunted by the challenges of oil and gas exploration in Nigeria, where violence directed at foreign oil firms operating in the petroleum-rich Niger Delta is the norm. Despite Nigeria generating an estimated $300 billion in oil revenue since the 1970s, most Nigerians remain in poverty, a condition that has given rise to the violence that has affected production in Nigeria -- for both state and foreign oil firms. Militant groups assert that residents of the Niger Delta should receive a greater portion of the oil wealth reaped by the government and foreign companies. Attacks have taken a heavy toll on production, according to Nigerian energy officials, who contend oil production is down more than 20 percent to less than 2 million barrels per day. Amid the violence, China has been moving steadily to increase its presence in the Nigerian energy market. "The addiction to oil is driving the foreign policy" in China, said Emira Woods, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute of Policy Studies. But China's growing stake in Nigeria has wrought concerns among some that its state-run energy firms will do little to help raise the majority of Nigerians out of abject poverty or diversify the country's economy, 95 percent of which revolves around gas and oil. "We haven't seen any evidence of that happening in other countries where China is present," Woods told United Press International, referring to Beijing's petroleum ties to Sudan and Angola. Meanwhile, in hopes of finding ways to thwart militancy in the Delta, Nigeria has looked to China as a potential arms supplier, a role Beijing has played in several African nations. "Selling arms to African countries helps China cement relationships with African leaders and helps offset the costs of buying oil from them," read a 2006 report by the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations.

French firm cleared over Indian submarine deal, says official

French firm cleared over Indian submarine deal, says official New Delhi - July 18, 2008: Indian detectives have found no evidence to support allegations of bribery surrounding a deal with a French defence firm to buy Scorpene submarines, an official said Thursday. The Delhi High Court had last year ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into claims kickbacks were involved in the 2.4 billion euro deal. But the CBI has asked the court to close the case because it could not find evidence of bribery, a CBI official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "All angles of the case had been examined and we found no evidence of wrongdoing," the CBI official said. In October 2005 India signed contracts worth 2.4 billion euros (3.8 billion dollars) with Armaris, which is owned by France's Thales, and European defence firm MBDA to buy six of the Franco-Spanish submarines. The deal is a technology transfer agreement. The submarines will be assembled in India, but French naval group Direction des Compagnies Navales (DCN) will produce various key parts requiring equipment that is unavailable in Indian shipyards. An Indian pressure group and the main opposition party alleged New Delhi was shielding Indian middlemen who took commissions from French defence giant Thales to clinch the deal. Thales and the French government denied the allegations. Earlier this year, India scrapped a 600-million-dollar deal to buy 197 military helicopters from the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) after allegations of corruption in the bidding process. India banned middlemen in military deals following charges of bribery in a multi-billion-dollar artillery deal in the 1980s with Swedish firm Bofors. That scandal led to the downfall of prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's government in 1989. The slain leader's Congress party, which today heads the government -- is now led by his widow Sonia.

India's Nuclear Submarine

India's Nuclear Submarine Moscow - Jul 18, 2008 The leasing by India of a Russian Project 971 nuclear submarine built in Komsomolsk-on-Amur is the latest hot news. The agreement, whose significance for Russian-Indian cooperation has yet to be assessed, could have a profound impact on the balance of forces in the region. Russia's role in creating the Indian submarine fleet is hard to overestimate -- Soviet/Russian-built vessels have been its core since the 1970s. Of the current 16 Indian submarines on duty, 12 were built in the Soviet Union or Russia, including two 641 Project and 10 877EKM Project submarines -- NATO reporting names Foxtrot and Kilo. The four other submarines are German Project 209 diesel SSs, which India built under license. Combined with a strong surface force and aircraft, this submarine fleet gives India control of the adjacent seas and makes it the strongest naval power in South Asia. But, with broad ocean expanses to cover, the Indian top brass have always wanted a force capable of operating away from home. Its surface component must have large combat ships, such as aircraft carriers, and its submarine fleet must include nuclear-powered vessels. The Indian navy got its first nuclear submarine in January 1988. It was the former Soviet K-43 sub, a Project 670 type ship built in 1967 -- NATO reporting name Charlie. The boat, equipped with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, was leased out to India and renamed the Chakra. It stayed within the force until March 1991. India asked for an extension of the lease, but the United States forced the Soviet leadership to refuse the request. The Chakra had a seminal effect on the Indian navy, producing a generation of senior naval officers, including several admirals. The experience gave India tactical and technical expertise essential for a national nuclear submarine project. Such a project, code-named ATV -- or Advanced Technology Vessel -- and involving Russian engineers, got off the ground 30 years ago. The construction of India's first SSN, sources say, began in the mid-2000s and is expected to be completed by 2010. India reportedly is planning to build between three and six SSNs in the next decade, with a displacement of 5,000 to 6,000 tons each, and fitted out with a combination of missiles and torpedoes. However, even if the Advanced Technology Vessel type craft is fitted out by 2010, it will need between three and four years to gain sea experience. This prompted the Indian leadership to raise the lease issue once again, focusing negotiations on a multi-role SSN, Project 971 Shchuka-B, known in the West as Akula, then under construction in Komsomolsk-on-Amur.

Chinese Navy expanding influence

CHINESE NAVY EXPANDING INFLUENCE Hong Kong - Jul 18, 2008: Due to the rapid expansion of its submarine fleet, China's East Sea Fleet now has a shortage of submarine docks. At the base of the No. 42 Submarine Flotilla in Xiangshan, eight dock bridges have been built. Four of them are used to anchor Kilo 636s, and each can accommodate two Kilos. Type 033 diesel submarines were also noticed earlier at this base, but it is likely they were only there for training purposes. Currently it seems there are only Kilos at this base. The facilities at the whole Xiangshan Base are quite new. At present, the People's Liberation Army navy is armed with eight Kilo 636-Ms and two Kilo 636s, the two basic versions of Kilo submarines. Another key base for the East Sea Fleet's surface battleships is in Shanghai. As is widely known, because of the rapid growth of a merchandise economy, the outside world knows a lot more about the Shanghai Navy Base than other bases of the PLA navy. This base is the home port of mainly Yuting and Yukan class landing ships and several Jianghu III FFGs. Kilos and surface warships also anchor at this base for maintenance servicing. In addition to these naval base upgrades, a lot of resources have been invested in upgrading the Navy Aviation Force bases. As reported earlier, the 10th Regiment of the Navy Aviation Force's No. 4 Division was the first regiment to receive Su-30MK2 fighters. After the regiment was removed to Feidong Airport in Anhui province, new underground aircraft hangars were built, along with 24 link-structured hangars. The 16th Regiment of the Navy Aviation Force's No. 6 Division, stationed at Dachang Airport near Shanghai, was the first naval aviation base to build reinforced aircraft hangars. Initially, eight twin-structured hangars were built and two more were added later, totaling 10 aircraft hangars. These hangars accommodate 20 JH-7 fighter-bombers. Now additional link-structured hangars have been built at the air base. Major construction projects are also under way at the Ningbo Airport, not far from Daxie Island, where the 11th (or 12th) Regiment of the Navy Aviation Force's No. 4 Division is stationed. This airport may very likely receive new-generation fighter aircraft soon. At Ningbo Airport, the priority seems to be fast-reaction capability. Three separate aircraft hangars have been built on each side of the runway to make it easier for the fighters to take off quickly. There are another 17 separate aircraft hangars of the same structure at the airport, for a total of 23 such hangars. Before, mainly J-6 fighters were stationed at the airport, but now those fighters mostly have been retired. Yiwu, another base in Zhejiang, has been confirmed as the home base of the Navy Aviation Force's No. 6 Division, where 24 plus three link-structured aircraft hangars have been built. Deployed at this airport are JH-7s. The Danyang Base of the Navy Aviation Force's No. 1 Division deserves close attention. Western intelligence sources claimed earlier that H-5 bombers were stationed at this airport, but now these bombers all have been replaced by H-6Ms, each of which is armed with four YJ8-3 anti-ship missiles. In a future confrontation, Chinese bombers from this base could launch long-range attacks upon U.S. or Japanese fleets heading south, and surface warships of the Taiwanese navy, in the airspace above the East China Sea. The airport also has undergone revamping, as more than 11 H-6M bombers are now located there. Similar to other air bases, impressive residences have been built for the commanding officers, indicating this division is being given priority attention. An unconfirmed source has claimed the Navy Aviation Force's No. 1 Division had been dismantled and restructured into the No. 5 Independent Regiment. Judging from the fact that there are only 11 H-6M bombers at this airport, the unit stationed at this base is no more than regiment-level.

Nepal ex-prince's family leaves

Nepal ex-prince's family leaves 18 July, 2008: The former Crown Princess of Nepal, Himani Shah, has left for Singapore with her three children, immigration officials said. They boarded a Silk Air flight in the afternoon from Kathmandu's Tribhuvan international airport, officials said. The former Crown Prince of Nepal, Paras Shah, left for Singapore two weeks ago, the first time he had left the country in more than two years. His relatives have denied that he has left Nepal for good. "Himani Shah, wife of former Crown Prince Paras Shah, has left Nepal this afternoon along with her three children Purnika, Kritika and Hridayendra," an immigration official told the BBC. Paras left for Singapore in early July and there has been speculation that he was worried about the safety of the former royal family members in the Himalayan nation. But his relatives say the couple have left the country for their children's education. Paras is looking for a good school for his three young children, whose education is being disrupted by constant strikes and traffic problems in Nepal, a relative had earlier told the BBC.

China loses WTO car parts dispute

China loses WTO car parts dispute 18 July, 2008: China has been told its tariffs on foreign car parts break World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. At least 60% of components used in Chinese cars must be made in China or firms pay higher taxes under Beijing's current system. The international trade body said the practice was protectionist and called on China to change its import caps. The US, Canada and the European Union complained to the trade body that Beijing had broken the WTO's rules. The US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said enforcing trade rules through dialogue or litigation was a critical part of the US trade agenda. "The panel report leaves no doubt that China's discriminatory treatment of US auto parts has no place in the WTO system," she said Analysts said the row over car parts had been a hot issue in the US, because carmaking - already hit by fierce foreign competition and an economic slowdown - is an important American industry. "We will continue our efforts to ensure that US manufacturers and workers in this and other industries enjoy the benefits of open markets and a level playing field," Ms Schwab said. The ruling in Geneva brings the global dispute to an end. In February, the WTO made a preliminary ruling saying foreign-made car parts were in a less favourable position than Chinese-made alternatives.

'Militants die' in Pakistan clash

'Militants die' in Pakistan clash 18 July, 2008: Pakistan's army says it has killed 10 pro-Taleban militants in a military operation near the Afghan border. Five soldiers have been wounded in the drive to clear insurgents from the north-western district of Hangu, spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas said. The operation began after talks to secure the release of some 20 hostages seized by the militants collapsed. Pakistan is under increasing pressure from the US and Nato to crack down on militants based near the Afghan border. There has been tension in the Hangu area since the arrest of several militants some weeks ago. On Saturday the militants killed 15 tribal border police in an ambush in Zargari district. Maj Gen Abbas said troops backed by helicopter gunships had driven militants from the town of Zargari and were now conducting "mopping up" operations. He said many militants had fled to the nearby tribal district of Orakzai. Residents say artillery shelling and attacks by helicopter gunships began on Wednesday. On Thursday, a spokesman of the Orakzai Taleban, Maulvi Haider, told the BBC Urdu service that if the operation was not stopped, they would start beheading the hostages they hold. The Taleban claim to hold more than 50 hostages. The government has confirmed some officials are being held, but has not said how many. The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says it is thought the Taleban seized at least 20 hostages.

EU plans to block aid to Bulgaria

EU plans to block aid to Bulgaria July 18, 2008: Brussels - The European Commission is planning to block almost $1bn in funds for Bulgaria as a penalty for failing to tackle corruption and organised crime. A report seen by the BBC warns that millions' worth of aid could be lost unless the authorities act decisively. Bulgaria's chances of joining the Schengen area are also at risk. The commission's nine-page report, due to be published next week, is possibly the most scathing ever written by the EU executive about a member state. It concludes that Bulgaria "has to make the commitment to cleanse its administration and ensure that the generous support it receives from the EU actually reaches its citizens and is not siphoned off by corrupt officials, operating together with organised crime". Bulgaria and its neighbour Romania are subject to special monitoring because they did not fully comply with EU standards when they joined the bloc. The EU has already frozen hundreds of millions' worth of aid destined for Bulgaria's roads and agriculture. Now it is planning to withdraw the right of two agencies to handle EU funds worth almost $1bn (610 million euros). EU officials welcome recent changes, including the appointment of a respected diplomat, Meglena Plugchieva, as a deputy prime minister in charge of overseeing EU funds. But the report suggests there is little political will elsewhere to clean up things. "Despite the Commission's repeated requests for improvement of the management and control systems, within reasonable deadlines, the Bulgarian authorities... have not fully explained or clarified the situation surrounding the irregularities and have not taken all necessary steps to correct them," it says. The draft report goes on to say, "high level corruption and organised crime exacerbates these problems of general weakness in administrative and judicial capacity... Urgent action is needed because deadlines for contracting some of the funds are approaching after which the funds will be lost to Bulgaria". Almost $400m (250 million euros) could be lost unless things improve by November. Bulgaria, the EU's poorest country, stands to receive $17bn in EU funds until 2011, and this is a serious warning that future funding is in jeopardy. Costly projects to upgrade border controls are also under suspicion of fraud, raising fears about Bulgaria's chances of joining the Schengen border-free area any time soon. Earlier this week, Bulgarian newspapers published leaks of another report by the EU's anti-fraud office into suspected irregularities in the spending of some $50m of farm funding. The document alleges there is a political umbrella protecting corruption, saying there are "powerful forces in the Bulgarian government and/or other state institutions" who are not interested in punishing the corruption. Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev dismissed the allegations. But earlier this year, the powerful interior minister was forced to step down after revelations he had secretly met two alleged crime bosses and some of his officials were leaking confidential information to mafia suspects. With a general election scheduled next year, the European Commission's report will only add to the troubles of Mr Stanishev's beleaguered government. The opposition is preparing to table a motion of no confidence the day after the document is adopted is in Brussels. The European Commission will also raise concerns about the persistent failure to solve any of the 150 mafia killings recorded in Bulgaria since the fall of communism. In a separate report, Romania is also expected to face strong criticism, especially over the parliament's delay of corruption inquiries involving a former prime minister and other top officials, but the European Commission will stop short of sanctions. One EU official said that "Romania was marking time, while Bulgaria had gone backwards". Diplomats say the strong language of the draft report may be watered down by Wednesday, when the 27 European Commissioners, including those from Bulgaria and Romania, are set to adopt it. But the general feeling is that something must be done, and seen to be done, to maintain the credibility of the EU with its taxpayers. Both countries will continue to be watched very closely and officials say the measures planned against Bulgaria should serve as a warning to others, both inside the EU and those hoping to join it.

Morocco’s Air Force Reloads

Morocco’s Air Force Reloads 18-Jul-2008: Morocco’s combat air force currently flies 2 squadrons of old F-5s, and 2 squadrons of only slightly newer Mirage F1s; T-37 light jets serve as key transitional trainers. Their neighbor and rival Algeria flies MiG-23s of similar vintage, but adds far more modern and capable MiG-29s. The Force Aerienne Algerienne also flies SU-24 Fencer and SU-25 Frogfoot strike aircraft, and is set to receive 36 multi-role MiG-29SMTs and 30 multi-role SU-30MKs as part of a multi-billion dollar weapons deal with Russia. Morocco is looking for replacement aircraft that will prevent a complete overmatch, and provide it with a measure of security. Initially, they looked to France. France’s Rafale is part of a set of European 4+ generation fighters that were developed and fielded during the 1990s-early 21st century, with the aim of surpassing both existing offerings among America’s “teen series” fighters, and Russia’s Mig-29 Fulcrum and SU-27/30 Flanker family. “Dogfight at the Casbah: Rafale vs. F-16” discussed the French sales slip-ups that cost Dassault its first export order for the 4+ generation fighter. That outcome is now official. Just to make things worse, the final multi-billion dollar deal involves new-build F-16s, at a price comparable to the rumored figures for the Rafale. Not to mention an accompanying request to replace Morocco’s T-37 trainer fleet. Now, the contracts are beginning – not just fighters, but the weapons to arm them.

Taiwan to Push for More Arms Despite U.S. Freeze

Taiwan to Push for More Arms Despite U.S. Freeze
17 Jul, 2008: TAIPEI - Taiwan said July 17 that it would keep pushing for the procurement of self-defensive weapons from the U.S. despite Washington's recent decision to freeze arms sales to the island. "We'll step up communications with the United States," the island's leading arms supplier, defense ministry spokeswoman Chi Yu-lan said, without elaborating. Another defense ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity said, "the defense ministry certainly is unhappy with the development, especially after [Taiwan's parliament] has set aside budget for the proposed arms sales." Navy Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of the Hawaii-based U.S. Pacific Command, told a forum July 16 in Washington that the freeze on U.S. arms sales to Taiwan was "administration policy." Keating was the first U.S. official to confirm the freeze following reports last month that senior U.S. officials were holding up an $11 billion weapons package and delivery of dozens of F-16 jet fighters for Taiwan, possibly until after President George W. Bush leaves office. Keating said the U.S. decision was made in light of the warming ties between Taiwan and China, as well as Beijing's concerns. "President Ma Ying-jeou has made it clear that Taiwan must go ahead with its arms buildup" as a bargaining chip in rapprochement talks with Beijing, the second defense ministry officer said. Addressing hundreds of military cadets early this month, Ma said, "While Taiwan would never seek a military showdown, we will by no means avoid a war nor be afraid of taking it on" if necessary, amid China's repeated threats to invade Taiwan should it declare formal independence. Ties have begun warming since China-friendly Ma took office in May. He pledged to improve relations with the island's neighbor, starting with the first direct flights in nearly six decades early this month. However, the Taipei-based China Times reported earlier this month that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) had built a new ballistic missile base on China's southeastern coast opposite Taiwan and replaced some missiles deployed with improved versions.

The UK’s FSTA: An Aerial Tanker Program - With a Difference

The UK’s FSTA: An Aerial Tanker Program - With a Difference
July 18, 2008: Back in March 2005, “British AirTanker Deal May Go Private” discussed the deal for a potential public-private partnership to buy, equip, and operate the RAF’s future aerial tanker fleet, and noted the selection of a preferred consortium. The RAF would fly the 14 Airbus A330-MRTT aircraft on operational missions and receive absolute preferential access to the planes, while the contractor handled maintenance, received payment from the RAF on a per-use basis, and operated them as passenger or transport aircraft when the RAF didn’t need them. The deal became politically controversial; though it was based on a practice that has been successful in Britain, it had surface similarities with the USA’s controversial and canceled KC-767 lease deal. Negotiations on the multi-billion pound, 27-year deal, meanwhile, charted new territory for both the government and private industry. Which may help to explain why the final decision to move ahead on a “Private Financing Initiative” basis had yet to be issued, and procurement had yet to begin, over 2 years after a preferred bidder was selected. That hurdle is now clear, and Britain has just issued the world’s largest-ever Defence Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract. This FOCUS Article describes the current British fleet, the aircraft they chose and how the new fleet will compare, the innovative deal structure they’ve chosen, and the project’s key events. The most recent events include a contract for LAIRCM self-protection systems

A Littoral Combat Frigate For Israel

A Littoral Combat Frigate For Israel
July 18, 2008: The 1,227t/ 1,350 ton Sa’ar 5 Eilat Class corvettes were built by Northrop Grumman in the 1990s for about $260 million each. Their two 32-cell launchers for short-range Barak surface-air missiles, Mk15 Phalanx gun option, and IAI Elta EL/M-2218S and EL/M-2221 GM STGR radars give them moderate anti-air capabilities. Bow-mounted and towed sonars, plus 6×324mm torpedo tubes for ATK’s Mark 46 torpedoes, give them moderate anti-submarine capability. Surface warfare is addressed well, with Typhoon remotely-operated 7.62-30mm gun/missile systems to deal with guerrilla craft, Harpoon or Gabriel anti-ship missiles for use against larger ships or land targets, and a 76mm Oto Melara naval gun option that can be installed in place of the Phalanx CIWS system. The Eilat Class’ helicopter hangar can accommodate H-665A Dauphin/Panther, Kaman SH-2F or Sikorsky S-76N helicopters, and the ship is also capable of launching small boats or USVs like RAFAEL’s Protector series in support of Special Forces missions or other tasks. Some have called them a better model for the USA to adopt, as it seeks an affordable Littoral Combat Ship.

New Russian Imperialists Wield Energy Weapon

New Russian Imperialists Wield Energy Weapon 18 July 2008: Russian imperialism is back. From the Baltic to the Black Sea, from Central Asia to Southeastern Europe, President Vladimir Putin is probing weak points, seeking to expand influence and enlarge smaller states' dependency on Russian energy supplies. Nowhere is this more evident and successful than in the Balkans. With NATO and the European Union now including Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria, and the accession of Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania soon plausible, the door for Moscow's assertiveness would seem to be closed. Such complacency, however, is dangerously naïve. In their relations with Ukraine, Georgia and other countries inside the former Soviet Union, interruptions of oil and gas deliveries already have been Moscow's aggressive tools. Farther west, Russia has gained, in the last few months, firm control of Serbia's energy supply, expanded its dominance of direct foreign investment in Montenegro, and, when Putin visited Sofia in January, finalized humiliating accords with Bulgaria that ensures Russia's energy stranglehold on my country. These 2008 Russo-Bulgarian energy deals - the South Stream pipeline allowing Russia to send natural gas directly to Europe via Bulgaria, and a contract to Russia for the building of a new nuclear power plant near the city of Belene on the Danube - come on the heels of an accord, concluded last year among Moscow, Athens and Sofia, for the construction of an oil pipeline from Russia via Bulgaria to Greece. Even before these deals were struck, Russia met 100 percent of Bulgaria's needs for natural gas, crude oil and nuclear fuel, while Lukoil owns the largest oil refinery in Bulgaria and Russian companies have begun to acquire parts of the country's energy distribution network. Such projects have created a single-energy "Bermuda Triangle," which will sink any attempts to achieve energy independence from Russia and undermine alternatives presented by other concepts, including Nabucco, supported by the European Union and the United States. This was not Bulgaria's mistake alone. The EU talks about a single energy policy, but it has done nothing substantive. EU energy markets remain heavily protected by individual member states, all of which seem to have no problem making separate energy deals with Moscow, often at the expense of fellow member-states' interests. Absent EU solidarity, Moscow generates very favorable contracts with Germany, Italy, Hungary and now Bulgaria. Unless the EU formulates a robust and credible energy policy, it is highly unlikely that individual countries will stand up on their own to Moscow's single-minded energy assault and defend elusive European energy objectives. Yet, Bulgarian political leaders must share the blame. The ruling coalition in Sofia, dominated by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), has opened the door to Russia's long-term presence in Bulgaria, while ignoring the Kremlin's appalling record on human rights and democracy, murders of opponents, and exclusion of political and economic competition. Their servile reaction to Putin's visit to Sofia increased Europe's future energy dependence on Russia and leads one to ask whether the BSP first defends the interests of Bulgaria and the EU or those of its ideological allies in the Kremlin. Beyond the Bulgarian case are issues critical to the future of democratic systems. If states had only economic interests, normative considerations would be absent from international relations and a vicious realism would prevail in global affairs. For Central and East Europeans, the appeal of European democracy rested on its commitments to individual freedoms and human rights. EU members undermine their moral authority every time they seem to look the other way for the sake of Russian energy deliveries. Further, weak democracies - and Bulgaria is still such a system - invite long-term challenges to democratic maturation by allowing an economically powerful but politically authoritarian foreign power to establish an important presence in their countries. Already, Russia tries to affect the course of political processes in Bulgaria via manipulations of energy pricing, diplomatic support and other measures to ensure an amiable government in Sofia. Russia is not Europe's friend. It is trying to destabilize conditions by meddling in the Kosovo issue, playing devious games in the Caucasus and rattling sabers regarding America's defensive missile deployments. More ominous, however, is the insidious methodology of energy. As oil and gas prices have soared, and nations have desperately sought to assure supplies and alternative sources, Putin's Russia has returned to old imperial habits, not with armies but pipelines. Bulgaria and the Europe it so fervently sought to join have erred by being too afraid, too pliant and too willing to set principles aside for economic interests. Plamen Youroukov is chairman of the Union of Democratic Forces Sofia, Bulgaria.

Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen

Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen
July 18, 2008: The Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen is a well-established light utility military support vehicle with its origins in the 1970s from a suggestion by the Shah of Iran to Mercedes. The 'G' in the name is short for Geländewagen (or cross-country vehicle / tough terrain vehicle) and was Mercedes's first venture into general four-wheel drives (although Mercedes did make some jeep-like vehicles in WWII). The G-Class vehicle is now regularly used by more than 63 armies worldwide and this includes the German Armed Forces, Canadian Army and also the US Marine Corps.

Iraq still dominates US election

Iraq still dominates US election
July 18, 2008: The United States military formally handed security control of Qadisiya province to the Iraqi armed forces. Qadisiya is the 10th of Iraq's 18 provinces to be returned to Iraqi control in this way. Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, said he hoped that all 18 provinces would be formally under Iraqi control by the end of this year. Also on Wednesday, the US military said a fifth combat brigade - the last of the so-called "surge" troops - would be out of Iraq by the end of the week. Adm Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there could be more troop withdrawals in the autumn. And, on Wednesday, a bomb exploded in Tal Afar. It was a car bomb, apparently, and it killed 15 people and injured 90. Uncertainty One day in a long, long war. And a day on which - like most days in Iraq - events conspire to muddy one's perceptions of what is taking place. This is a country where every descriptive statement is orbited by caveats, like a planet by its moons. This uncertainty surrounding the true direction of events in Iraq is reflected in America's presidential campaign. Rivals Barack Obama and John McCain appear to have sharply divided positions on whether the war in Iraq can be "won", and whether such a victory is relevant to America's broad security interests.
Their positions on Iraq - and their fitness to be a wartime president - are unquestionably central to the voters' views of them. Republican John McCain, speaking on Tuesday, said: "The surge has succeeded. And because of its success, the next president will inherit a situation in Iraq in which America's enemy's on the run and our soldiers are beginning to come home." His strategic goal, he has said, is "an Iraq that can stand on its own as a democratic ally and a responsible force for peace in its neighbourhood". Mr McCain has alluded to an objective of bringing home "most" troops by the year 2013. But he studiously resists discussing the specifics of how the US entanglement in Iraq will be brought to an end, arguing events should determine a future president's decisions. Senator McCain is clear, in his lack of clarity. And many military insiders - and many American voters - sympathise with that approach. "He understands command," said one grizzled veteran to me at a McCain rally. "You don't signal your intentions in war." Extension of Bush? An ABC/Washington Post poll this week found that 72% of respondents believed that Mr McCain would make a good commander-in-chief. But he labours under the perception that his policy is merely an extension of President George W Bush's - and one which leaves America's bloody, costly commitment to Iraq open-ended. On Iraq, specifically, the poll's respondents appeared less confident in Mr McCain; only 47% said they trusted him to manage the war over Senator Obama. Mr Obama, by contrast, has deftly ridden popular disillusion with the Iraq war. The Democrat has presented himself as the candidate who will end a war, he said on Tuesday, in which Americans have "spent a trillion dollars, alienated allies, and neglected emerging threats". Mr Obama's grand plan for Iraq: bring combat brigades out, one or two a month, in close consultation with the generals, all the while assuring Iraqis that the US has no designs on maintaining permanent bases in Iraq. But there is fine print. Leave behind, says Mr Obama, "a residual force to perform specific missions in Iraq: targeting any remnants of al-Qaeda; protecting our service members and diplomats; and training and supporting Iraq's security forces". What does that mean? One could interpret those words to mean that Mr Obama plans to leave in Iraq:
*Special Forces units plus lift and logistics and intelligence sufficient to facilitate a counter-terrorist mission; Force protection, which means combat troops; *Trainers and advisors to be embedded throughout the Iraqi armed forces; and, most intriguingly, "support" for the Iraqi security forces, a catch-all term which could include air cover, fire support, intelligence and surveillance, logistics - a whole host of military tasks which would assist the Iraqis. In short, the senator from Illinois, even as he campaigns on a platform of "ending the war", appears to be leaving himself considerable room for manoeuvre. Inflexible? Some military insiders are sceptical of Mr Obama's "timetable" for withdrawal. Retired Gen Jack Keane - who has advised the military and the Bush administration on tactics in Iraq - told me he thought it was the "wrong strategy". "It's so focused on disengagement," he said. "It would seem to me the strategy should be about a stable government in Iraq. And we're on the cusp of achieving that." Mr Obama is now locked into his unnecessary war/timetable-for-withdrawal platform. But as violence falls and troops come home, events in Iraq appear to be developing somewhat favourably for the US military and the Iraqi government. There is a danger for Mr Obama that his platform will start to look inflexible. Of course, if Mr Obama were to change his position on Iraq, he would be a "flip-flopper". The ABC/Washington post poll found that 48% of respondents believed Mr Obama would make an effective commander-in-chief. But almost the same number - 45% - trusted him to manage the Iraq war better than Mr McCain. Neither candidate has won this argument yet. And a coda from one of the most incisive commentators on American security, the journalist Thomas Powers. In the New York Review of Books, Mr Powers wrote recently that the next president's intentions on Iraq will be overtaken by events. "Things begin to happen," he writes. Bombs, politics, the lack of clarity mean that "the situation on the first day has altered by the tenth". His bleak prediction: "So it goes. At an unmarked moment somewhere between the third and the sixth month a sea change occurs: Bush's war becomes the new president's war, and getting out means failure, means defeat, means rising opposition at home, means no second term. It's not hard to see where this is going."
WHERE THE CANDIDATES STAND Barack Obama Wants to withdraw all combat troops within 16 months Opposes permanent US presence Would retain "a residual force to perform specific missions" John McCain Believes the 'surge' has succeeded Would aim to bring "most" troops home by 2013 In favour of permanent US bases in Iraq

Zimbabwe....The country is going down the HILL!!!!

Zimbabwe's annual inflation is 2.2 million percent
18 Jul, 08: A Zimbabwean policeman stands guard in Harare a few moments President Mugabe arrives to open a "People's shop", where cheap food is sold, on Wednesday. Annual inflation is now 2.2m%.

Pope urges unity against terror

Pope urges unity against terror July 18, 2008: Pope Benedict XVI calls for all religions to unite against terror. Pope Benedict XVI has called for all religions to unite against terrorism and resolve conflicts peacefully. The Pope was speaking after meeting leaders from other religions, including rabbis and Muslim clerics, in Australia for the Catholic World Youth Day. He has not yet made a public apology, as he is expected to, to victims of sexual abuse by priests. After he spoke, there were recreations around the city of the last days of Christ, including his crucifixion. "In a world threatened by sinister and indiscriminate forms of violence, the unified voice of religious people urges nations and communities to resolve conflict through peaceful means and with full regard for human dignity," the Pope told the inter-religious gathering. He also said the Catholic Church was ready to learn from other religions. "The Church eagerly seeks opportunities to listen to the spiritual experience of other religions." Relations with Muslims took a turn for the worse in 2006 when Pope Benedict quoted a 14th-Century Byzantine emperor in remarks that were taken by some Muslims to imply that Islam was a violent religion.
Abuse scandal The Pope earlier met with leaders of other Christian denominations, where he called on them to fight for unity within the Christian faith. "I think you would agree that the ecumenical movement has reached a critical juncture," he said at the meeting in Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral. "We must guard against the temptation to view doctrine as divisive and hence an impediment to the seemingly more pressing and immediate task of improving the world in which we live." He spoke as bishops from the worldwide Anglican communion gathered in England amid splits between liberal and conservative elements over the role of gays and women in the Church. After the two meetings, there was public spectacle as the last days of Christ, including his crucifixion, were re-enacted in the stations of the cross in various locations around Sydney. But there has not been any public apology - as has been expected - for victims of the paedophile sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the church. In Australia there have been 107 convictions against priests for sexual abuse of children and other members of the Church. The Pope received a rapturous welcome from about 200,000 young Catholic pilgrims on Thursday as he arrived in Sydney for the beginning of the six-day youth festival. Addressing tens of thousands of young Catholics, he attacked popular culture and consumerism. The pontiff also warned that natural resources were being squandered and called for greater protection of the environment for future generations. He will stay in Australia until Sunday, when he is to preside over an open-air Mass at Sydney's Randwick Racecourse before hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.

Family celebrates double degrees

Family celebrates double degrees July 18, 2008 - England: A mother and daughter with strong Indian connections have both graduated with the same degree from the same English university. Amrat Bhogal, 43, and Gurpreet, 21, from the English city of Birmingham, each completed a three-year BSc optometry course at Aston University. Mrs Bhogal told the BBC that she was inspired to take the degree in part because of her Indian heritage. She said she inherited her work ethic from her parents in Punjab state. "I am proud that my family came from India, proud to be a woman and proud to be Asian," Mrs Bhogal said after receiving her degree. "Although my parents came to live in England from Punjab in 1947, they instilled in me the discipline to work hard which they themselves had learnt in India." Mrs Bhogal said that she was also inspired to take the degree by her husband, Jaswant, whose mother still lives in the state of Uttar Pradesh. She said that will now work as an optician with her husband at their shop in Birmingham while her daughter has a job with another optician nearby. Her daughter said that during the course she and her mother sat next to each other in lectures and had lunch together. "My mum and I are like sisters, rather than mother and daughter, so I didn't feel uncomfortable about us taking the same course together," Gupreet said. Mrs Bhogal said that she and Gurpreet did not plan to enrol on the same course together at the same time - "it just happened like that". She said her daughter had been a great friend to her throughout the course in the true Indian and Asian tradition of valuing family members. "We've always had a great relationship and, although I gave her the space I thought she needed, the support we gave each other throughout the three years was invaluable."

India to discuss nuclear security

India to discuss nuclear security
18 July, 2008: Indian officials are due to meet members of the world nuclear regulatory body to discuss plans to safeguard India's civilian nuclear facilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) approval of the plan is a key condition for enacting a nuclear deal between India and the US. Left-wing parties in India withdrew support for the governing coalition in protest against the deal. The government says it is needed to meet soaring energy demands. Delhi is under pressure from Washington to sign the accord before the US presidential elections in November. India has to sign a "safeguards agreement" with the IAEA before it can go ahead with the deal. Under the terms of the accord, India would get access to US civilian nuclear technology and fuel. In return, Delhi would open its civilian nuclear facilities to inspection - but its nuclear weapons sites would remain off-limits.
Restrictions If the IAEA signs the agreement, the deal will go to the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, which regulates global civilian nuclear trade, for approval. India's communists oppose a partnership with the US. It must then by okayed by the US Congress before President Bush can sign it into law. Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon will lead a team of officials in Vienna on Friday to brief member countries of the IAEA and Nuclear Suppliers group on the planned safeguards. US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns will also be in Vienna during the weekend for "some consultations at the IAEA relating to the nuclear deal [with India]", according to State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. A special meeting of the 35-nation IAEA board of governors on the safeguards agreement will take place on 1 August. A restricted draft of India's plans for safeguarding nuclear facilities has been already given to IAEA member nations ahead of the meeting. Some critics who have seen the draft have said several points in it appear to restrict international monitoring of India's atomic programme.
The US restricted nuclear co-operation with India - which has not signed the 1972 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) - after it first tested a nuclear weapon in 1974. Critics of the deal fear assistance to India's civil programme could free-up additional radioactive material for bomb-making purposes. Meanwhile, left-wing parties in India have launched a national campaign against the nuclear deal. The governing coalition, which has now been reduced to a minority after its communist allies withdrew support, will seek a vote of confidence on 22 July. If the government loses the vote, India faces early elections and the nuclear deal would probably be scuttled.
NUCLEAR POWER IN INDIA India has 14 reactors in commercial operation and nine under construction Nuclear power supplies about 3% of India's electricity By 2050, nuclear power is expected to provide 25% of the country's electricity India has limited coal and uranium reserves Its huge thorium reserves - about 25% of the world's total - are expected to fuel its nuclear power programme long-term Source: Uranium Information Center

AFGHANISTAN Rediscovering treasures of Bamiyan

When the Buddhas of Bamiyan were carved out of the mountainside, the Roman Empire still held sway. July 18, 2008: They towered over a rich valley in what is now central Afghanistan, where caravans of traders would stop and rest on the Silk Road as they transported goods between east and west. For centuries the two huge statues stood guard over Bamiyan. But in 2001, just months before they were forced from power, the Taleban dynamited what they considered un-Islamic representations of the human form. Today all that remains are the recesses where they stood, and the labyrinth of fragile caves surrounding them. Iconic art Today there isn't even a paved road connecting the valley to Kabul, but yet inside the caves are a reminder of Bamiyan's past wealth and glory and a new claim to fame that could put the province back on the map. Inside those caves the steep, narrow steps are crumbling, there are cracks in the mud tunnels carved into the mountainside, and still visible high in the echoing chambers are pieces of Buddhist iconic art which are now thought to be the oldest oil paintings in the world. Only a few fragments of the ancient paintings remain Japanese, European and American scientists restoring the cave murals dating back to around 650AD, discovered oil was used in the paint. Yoko Taniguchi, one of the Japanese experts working on the caves, told reporters this is the earliest known use of this technique in the history of art. She said it was previously thought the technique originated in Europe during the Renaissance, eight centuries later. But wandering through the Buddhist temples carved out of the rock, there is little left of the murals destroyed in the last 30 years of war after surviving for centuries. A tourist guidebook to Afghanistan written in the 1960s and 70s by Nancy Dupree, a famous traveller who dedicated much of her life to the country, gave an account of the artwork as it was then. Fragments "The rest of the hall is elaborately decorated in a varied palette of burnt sienna, green, lapis lazuli blue, and yellow ochre depicting flowers, trees, stylised floral sprays, cornucopias and figures of kneeling worshipers," she wrote. "A series of Buddhas dressed in sombre-hued maroon robes and framed with aureoles against an azure background walk on lotus pads set among flowers." Most paintings have heads and hands missing There's little evidence of this today apart from a few scraps of colour and detail here and there, but there are isolated caves higher up the mountain, impossible to get to without a rope, where some of the best examples still survive. A combination of the vibration from artillery shells, the Taleban chiselling away the depictions of faces and hands, and looting put paid to most of the paintings. But there are enough fragments left to give a hint of what it must have been like. The views from the caves looking out over the valley are stunning and there is another twist to the story of the Buddhas of Bamiyan. A Buddhist pilgrim wrote around the time the paintings were finished in the mid seventh century of the amazing statues - but he described three. According to his account, the third reclining Buddha was a 1,000 feet long and lay on the valley floor. It would be remarkable if it was buried beneath the river sediment and two teams of archaeologists, one from France another from Japan, are in a race to find it. It sounds like an Indiana Jones film, but there have been many interesting archaeological discoveries in Bamiyan and this beautiful valley may not yet have revealed all its secrets.

Brazil Launches Plan to Buy New Jet Fighters

Brazil Launches Plan to Buy New Jet Fighters
17 July 2008: Brazil's air force has launched the process to buy at least 36 fighter jets as part of a broader plan to modernise after most of its neighbours overhauled their fleets, officials said on Thursday. Brazil wants to buy and build equipment to defend offshore oil assets and a porous Amazon border threatened by armed drug-traffickers and foreign guerrillas. In February, Colombia ordered 24 Kfir bomber jets from Israel, while Venezuela acquired 24 Russian Sukhoi jets and said last month it is considering buying more. Chile bought new Boeing F-16s and Peru decided to upgrade its jets. Upon taking office in January 2003, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva scrapped plans to replace aging Mirage jets, saying he would use the money to feed the poor. Now, the air force wants a multi-role fighter to replace its entire fleet of fighter jets over the next 15 years. That could increase the size of the order to more than 100 aircraft. It chose six manufacturers to participate in the procurement process and last month requested information on their aircraft, the air force press department said. The six selected models are Boeing's F-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II, Dassault's Rafale, Sukhoi's SU-35, Saab's Gripen and Eurofighter's Typhoon. Brazil is seeking a generous technology transfer package, possibly including local assembly, to help develop its own aviation industry and perform maintenance of the aircraft. "Technology transfer is not a problem. Eurofighter has a history of partnership with its clients," said Valerio Bonelli, spokesman for Alenia, a partner in the Eurofighter consortium. Boeing and Lockheed said they also were willing to support local industry development. "The F-35 was designed from the outset to be an exportable product and the program has broken a lot of ground in the technology transfer realm," said John Kent, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin. But the US Government, which would buy the aircraft from Boeing or Lockheed and sell it to the Brazilian Government, has the last word on technology transfer. Brazil has been leading an effort to create a South American Defense Council to help coordinate arms purchases. Though many of its neighbours have recently renewed their fleets, some manufactures still see Latin America's largest economy as possible regional defence hub. "Brazil is an emerging market and a potential export base for us," said Damian Hills, spokesman for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. Brazil is already negotiating a strategic defence alliance with France, including the construction of a nuclear-powered submarine in Brazil.

Pentagon Approves up to $4.2bn in Arms Sales

Pentagon Approves up to $4.2bn in Arms Sales 17 July 2008: The US Defense Department said on Tuesday it had approved sales of aviation fuel, missiles and other weapons valued at $4.2bn to seven US allies, including Israel, Australia, Singapore and Germany. The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees major arms sales, said it notified Congress about seven separate deals in recent days. Lawmakers have 30 days to block the sales, although such action is rare since such arms deals with US partners are carefully vetted before the Pentagon ever announces them. The deals unveiled on Tuesday were: ISRAEL The Pentagon said it was prepared to sell Israel unleaded gasoline, JP-8 aviation jet fuel and diesel fuel valued at up $1.3bn, if all options were exercised. AUSTRALIA The DSCA said it had approved the sale to Australia of the Aegis combat system and associated equipment, including launchers, radars and a fire control system, in a deal valued at up to $700m if all options were exercised. Principal contractors for the deal would be Lockheed Martin Corp, Raytheon Co and Northrop Grumman Corp. SINGAPORE The Pentagon said it was ready to sell Singapore up to $962m in advanced missiles, satellite-guided bombs, night vision goggles and other weapons. The deal includes 72 AIM-120C-5 Advanced Medium Range Air- to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM), 128 AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM, 50 MK-82 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, 71 night vision goggles, 236 AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles and 50 fighter data link terminals. GERMANY If approved, Germany would get up to $250m in continued base serves for German Air Force Tornado aircraft operations at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. The air base is the only location where the German Air Force trains air crews in Tornado aircraft operations and tactics, a cooperative agreement that began in 1989. MOROCCO The DSCA said it had approved the sale of up to $155m in AMRAAM missiles, Sidewinder missiles and various bombs for Morocco. The main contractors would be Lockheed, Raytheon and Boeing Co. FINLAND Finland had also requested the sale of up to 300 AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM missiles and associated services, a deal valued at up to $435m if all options were exercised, according to the Pentagon agency. The prime contractor for that deal would be Raytheon as well, it said. QATAR Finally, the Pentagon said it had approved the sale to Qatar of logistics support and training for two Boeing C-17 transport planes, in a deal valued at up to $400m. Boeing would be the prime contractor.

BAE Seals Seawolf Air Defence Deal

BAE Seals Seawolf Air Defence Deal 17 July 2008: BAE Systems has won a £141m contract by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to maintain the Seawolf air defence system on board the Royal Navy's Type 22 and Type 23 frigates. The Seawolf system is a fully automatic, all weather, naval point defence missile system designed to protect surface ships from airborne attack. The SWISS (Seawolf In Service Support) Contract for Availability (CfA) awarded to the missile systems company MBDA is expected to sustain the capability of the Seawolf system and ensure its readiness and availability until the end of 2017, said BAE. BAE Systems has been providing in service support for the Seawolf radars and command and control systems since 1979.

Land Rover WOLF

A patrol of WOLFs – there is very little protection from roadside attack.

Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank, Germany

Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank, Germany
The Leopard 2 is a main battle tank developed by Krauss-Maffei AG, now Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), of Munchen, Germany. The Leopard 2 is a successor to the successful Leopard 1. "The Leopard 2 is a main battle tank developed as the sucessor to Leopard 1." LEOPARD 2 PROGRAMME The Leopard 1 was first produced in 1963 by Krauss-Maffei for the German Ministry of Defence and more than 6,000 vehicles have been exported to Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey and Australia. The successor to the Leopard 1, the Leopard 2, was first produced in 1979 and is in service with the armies of Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden and Spain, with over 3,200 produced. The Finnish Army is buying 124 and the Polish Army 128 used Leopard 2A4 tanks from Germany. In August 2005, Greece placed an order for 183 used Leopard 2A4 and 150 Leopard 1A5 tanks from German Army reserves. In November 2005, an agreement was signed for the sale of 298 German army Leopard 2A4 tanks to Turkey. Deliveries are planned from 2006 to 2007. In March 2006, Chile signed a contract for the acquisition of 140 Leopard 2A4 tanks from the German Army. The first was delivered in December 2007. The Leopard 2A6 includes a longer L55 gun, an auxiliary engine, improved mine protection and an air-conditioning system. The German Army is upgrading 225 2A5 tanks to 2A6 configuration, the first of which was delivered in March 2001. The Royal Netherlands Army upgraded 180 of its 2A5 tanks to 2A6 configuration, the first of which entered service in February 2003. In March 2003, the Hellenic Army of Greece ordered 170 Leopard 2 HEL (a version of the 2A6EX). 30 are being assembled by KMW, the remainder by ELBO of Greece. The first locally built tank was delivered in October 2006. Spain has ordered 219 Leopard 2E (a version of the 2A6 with greater armour protection), 16 recovery tanks (CREC) and four training vehicles. The first 30 are being built by KMW and the rest are being license-built in Spain by General Dynamics, Santa Barbara Sistemas (GDSBS). The first tank was handed over to the Spanish Army in June 2004 and deliveries should complete in 2008. Another variant is the Leopard 2(S), which has a new command and control system and new passive armour system. 120 Leopard 2(S) have been delivered to the Swedish Army. Deliveries concluded in March 2002. In December 2006, it was announced that Singapore is to buy 66 refurbished Leopard 2A4 tanks from the German Army, plus 30 additional tanks for spares. The tanks will enter service with the Singapore Army in 2008. In April 2007, Canada purchased up to 100 Leopard 2 tanks from the Dutch Army and leased 20 Leopard 2A6M tanks from the German Army. KMW delivered the first of the leased 2A6M tanks, which has been upgraded with improved mine protection and slat armour, in August 2007. The tank was deployed to Afghanistan later in August 2007. The Dutch army retains a fleet of 110 2A6 tanks. In October 2007, Portugal purchased 37 Leopard 2A6 tanks from the Dutch Army, to be delivered 2008–2009.

MINE PROTECTION KMW has developed a mine protection system for the Leopard 2, following a concept definition by an international working group from Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden and Norway, under the lead of the German procurement agency BWB. An order placed in September 2003 involves the modification of 15 Leopard 2A6 tanks for the German Army and ten Leopard 2A5 (Strv 122) for Sweden. The first mine-protected tank was delivered in July 2004. "KMW has developed a mine protection system for the Leopard 2." The kit consists of add-on armour elements including a new plate under the tank floor, new vision systems and restowage arrangements for ammunition. Trials in February 2004 demonstrated that, with the new armour package, Leopard 2 tank crews could survive the detonation of an anti-tank mine under the tank without suffering any injuries. LEOPARD 2 CONSTRUCTION The hull is in three sections: 1) the driving compartment at the front, 2) the fighting section in the centre, and 3) the engine at the rear of the vehicle. The driver's compartment is equipped with three observation periscopes. Space to the left of the driver is provided for ammunition stowage. A camera with a 65° horizontal and vertical field of view positioned at the rear of the vehicle and a television monitor provide a reversing aid for the driver. The turret is located in the centre of the vehicle. There is an improvement programme which provides third-generation composite armour, and the additional reinforcement to the turret frontal and lateral armour with externally mounted add-on armour modules. In the event of weapon penetration through the armour, the spall liner reduces the number of fragments and narrows the fragment cone. The spall liner also provides noise and thermal insulation. The reinforcement provides protection against multiple strike, kinetic energy rounds and shaped charges. FIRE CONTROL The commander's station has an independent periscope, a PERI-R 17 A2 from Rheinmetall Defence Electronics (formerly STN Atlas Elektronik) and Zeiss Optronik GmbH. The PERI-R 17 A2 is a stabilised panoramic periscope sight for day / night observation and target identification, and it provides an all round view with a traverse of 360°. The thermal image from the commander's periscope is displayed on a monitor. The PERI-R17 A2 can also be used for weapon firing as it is slaved into the tank's fire control system. The image from the gunner's thermal sight can also be transmitted to the commander's PERI-R17 periscope so the commander can switch the gunner's video image to the commander's monitor. This enables the commander and the gunner to have access to the same field of view of the combat range. "The Leopard 2A6 includes a longer L55 gun, an auxiliary engine, improved mine protection and an air-conditioning system." The gunner's station is equipped with an Rheinmetall Defence Electronics EMES 15 dual magnification stabilised primary sight. The primary sight has an integrated laser rangefinder and a Zeiss Optronik thermal sight, model WBG-X, which are both linked to the tank's fire control computer. The thermal sight uses standard US Army common modules, with 120 element cadmium mercury telluride, CdHgTe (also known as CMT) infra-red detector array operating in the 8 to 14 micron waveband. The infra-red detector unit is cooled with a Stirling closed-cycle engine. The sight is fitted with a CE628 laser rangefinder from Zeiss Optronik. The laser is a Neodinium Yttrium Aluminium Garnet, (Nd:YAG) solid state laser. The rangefinder can provide up to three range values in four seconds. The range data is transmitted to the fire control computer and is used to calculate the firing algorithms. Also, because the laser rangefinder is integrated into the gunner's primary sight, the gunner can read the digital range measurement directly. The maximum range of the laser rangefinder is less than 10,000m with accuracy to within 20m. The command and fire control procedure known as first echo selection is used for laser rangefinding for anti-helicopter operations. The principal weapon uses electronic firing to reduce reaction times.

LEOPARD 2 MAIN ARMAMENT A new smoothbore gun, the 120mm L55 Gun, has been developed by Rheinmetall Waffe Munition GmbH of Ratingen, Germany to replace the shorter 120mm L44 smoothbore tankgun on the Leopard 2. The extension of the barrel length from calibre length 44 to calibre length 55 results in a greater portion of the available energy in the barrel being converted into projectile velocity increasing the range and armour penetration. The L55 smoothbore gun, equipped with a thermal sleeve, a fume extractor and a muzzle reference system, is compatible with current 120mm ammunition and new high penetration ammunition. As a result of tactical requirements Rheinmetall Waffe Munition GmbH developed the improved kinetic energy ammunition known as LKE 2 DM53. With the DM53 round the L55 gun can fire to a range of 5,000m. The effect of the kinetic energy projectile on an enemy target is achieved by 1) the penetrator length and projectile mass and the impact velocity and 2) the interaction between the projectile and the target. "The Leopard 2 is equipped with a land navigation system from LITEF of Bonn." The penetrator material is heavy tungsten powder in a monoblock structure. The improved kinetic energy ammunition has higher muzzle energy and recoil forces. Especially when using the new DM 53 KE round, the L55 enables an approx. 30% increase in performance compared with conventional systems. For example a muzzle velocity can be achieved in excess of 1,750m/s. NAVIGATION SYSTEMS The Leopard 2 is equipped with a land navigation system from the company LITEF of Bonn, Germany which is a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman (formerly Litton) of USA. The hybrid navigation system consists of a Global Positioning System (GPS) and an inertial navigation system. LEOPARD 2 SUPPORT SYSTEMS A programme has been put in place to replace the H-WNA improved hydraulic system with E-WNA which is an electrical weapon follow-up system. The replacement with the E-WNA provides the following advantages: 1) the turret has no pressurised hydraulic fluid, 2) lower noise level and lower power consumption and heat generation, 3) improved reliability and lower maintenance and service requirements, 4) saving in operating costs and 5) good long term storage properties. The crew compartment is equipped with a fire and explosion detection and suppression system which has been licensed by the company Deugra Ges. fur Brandschutzsysteme of Ratingen, Germany from the UK company Kidde-Graviner of Slough, Berkshire. A fireproof bulkhead separates the fighting compartment from the engine compartment at the rear of the vehicle. MAIN BATTLE TANK ENGINE The engine is the MTU MB 873 diesel engine, providing 1,100kW (1,500shp), with a Renk HSWL 354 gear and break system. An enhanced version of the EuroPowerPack, with a 1,210kW (1,650shp) MTU MT883 engine, has been trialled on the Leopard 2.