Wednesday, 1 April 2015

U.S. and South Korea Stage Massive Landing Drill

via Press TV: Thousands of US and South Korean soldiers have staged a massive joint amphibious landing drill, involving aircraft, naval vessels and armored vehicles, as part of an annual military exercise.

On Monday, 7,600 troops, including 3,500 marines took part in the war games to secure a bridgehead along the South Korean coast of Pohang, some 360 kilometers (223 miles) south of the capital Seoul.

The drill, supervised by US and South Korean military commanders, included 80 aircraft, 30 ships and a large number of armored vehicles and tanks.

The landing exercise is regarded the highlight of a joint war game named Foal Eagle, held annually by the two countries.

The eight-week-long drill was launched on March 2 and is scheduled to end on April 24. Another drill, dubbed Key Resolve, was also launched on the same day, consisting of a largely computer-simulated exercise that focuses on practicing command and control procedures, lasting just over a week.

At the start of the joint war games, North Korea pledged a “merciless” response to the United States and South Korea for their annual joint military exercises.

Australia Set to Sign MoU To Help "Influence Final Shape" of AIIB

via The Australian federal government is poised to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that will enable Australia to participate as a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Trade Minister Andrew Robb said on Monday.

Robb said that it was "imperative" that Australia had a "seat at the table" at the AIIB before the March 31 deadline.

He told ABC Radio on Monday it was time to sign a MoU, a crucial step in enabling Australia to shape the final design of the bank. He said despite some lengthy discussions over governance and transparency issues, most of the finer details had now been agreed upon.

"It's time to get 'inside the tent' and influence the final shape of the governance and other matters," Robb said.

"We have been in close contact and consultation from the outset and have made very good progress with the Chinese in the design and transparency issues."

Robb said that the delay in joining the AIIB would not diminish Australia's relationship and influence with other founding members.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

How To Maintain Your Privacy In The New Australian Age Of Surveillance

from It should be noted that privacy in the Internet age is never an entirely assured matter, whether you’re actually involved in nefarious deeds or simply inclined towards keeping your own private matters actually private. Services which were assumed to have high levels of privacy have been shown to be either buggy or compromised by security agencies of various nations. As always, the golden Internet rule applies, namely that if you don’t want it to be potentially compromised or eavesdropped upon, don’t put it on the Internet in the first place.

Which is fine as a sentiment, but it’s not exactly practical if you want to keep yourself as private as feasible while still having an Internet connection that’s useful to you. Nothing is 100 per cent secure, but here’s some starters to make your online world more private.

Consider encryption, but know its limitations
Encrypting your communications will do nothing to stem metadata collection, and as has been noted elsewhere the metadata around an online interaction may tell another party everything they need to know in any case.

If you’re constantly visiting an online resource for venereal diseases and the IP of those sites is logged along with a lot of phone calls to the local VD clinic, it’s pretty clear that something’s got you itching.

Still, in a general sense it’s worth encrypting your own data to maintain its relative privacy and the security of your information. Lifehacker’s Beginner’s Guide To Encryption can guide you through the basics.

Philippines To Resume Works In Disputed South China Sea

from The Philippines said on Thursday it would resume repair and reconstruction works in the disputed South China Sea after halting activities last year over concerns about the effect on an arbitration complaint filed against China.

Manila had called on all countries last October to stop construction work on small islands and reefs in the South China Sea, virtually all of which is claimed by China.

China itself is undertaking massive reclamation works in the area, while Taiwan, Malaysia and Vietnam have also been making improvements to their facilities.

“We are taking the position that we can proceed with the repair and maintenance,” Foreign minister Albert del Rosario told diplomats, military officers and foreign correspondents on Thursday.

He said the works, including repairs to an airstrip, did not violate an informal code of conduct in the South China Sea because they would not alter the status quo in the disputed area. The 2002 code was signed by China and 10 Southeast Asian states in Phnom Penh.

In 2013, Manila filed an arbitration case at the The Hague questioning Beijing’s “nine-dash-line” claims. Del Rosario said Manila expects a decision in February next year. China has elected not to participate in the case.

China claims almost the entire sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also claim the area, where about $5 trillion of seaborne trade pass every year.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Foreign Minister Says Australia Still "Some Way" From Joining AIIB

from Australia is still "a number of steps" away from joining the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as a founding member, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Wednesday.

The foreign minister said the Australian government is still going through the process of examining "governance issues" surrounding the AIIB, and there is "quite a way to go" before Australia signed up to join the organisation despite the looming March 31 deadline.

Federal cabinet and the National Security Committee have approved the ability for the Australia government to sign a " memorandum of understanding" on the 100 billion U.S. dollar bank but when the government will actually put pen to paper remains unknown.

Bishop said the decision was still under "active" consideration and there are still "a number of steps in the process" to work through.

"I stress that the next step is to sign a memorandum of understanding to be involved in negotiations over the articles of association," Bishop told reporters at an Australian-Chinese business networking event in Canberra on Wednesday.   "There's quite a way to go before a decision would have to be made to be a founding member of the bank."

Bishop said the Australian government had sought answers of Chinese officials in regards to "a number of questions" Australia had regarding "governance issues".

Australian Cash Flows to Islamic State Supporters in Indonesia

from Indonesia’s illegal funds tracking agency has detected money flowing from Australia to local groups supporting Islamic State. 

The amounts total “up to hundreds of thousands of dollars”, according to Agus Santoso, deputy chair of PPTAK, the Financial Transactions Reports and Analysis Centre. 

Agus would not disclose the source or destination of the funds but, according to Indonesian news reports today, said the Indonesian agency was investigating the transactions in cooperation with its Australian counterpart AUSTRAC. 

The information had been passed on to the national police’s counterterrorism unit, Densus 88, for on-the-ground investigation. 

Until February this year, PPTAK had identified flows of funds totalling Rp7 billion ($682,200) within Indonesia to Islamic State supporting groups, according to Koran Tempo newspaper. 

Sources included businesses selling herbal medicines and books. 

The majority of the funding is believed to be used to send Indonesian recruits to Syria, via Turkey, to join Islamic State militias. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

China’s Slowdown, Harbinger of a New Business Model?

By Nile Bowie
New Eastern Outlook:

At the opening of China’s annual parliamentary meeting last week, Premier Li Keqiang laid out Beijing’s policy agenda for the year, speaking frankly about the formidable challenges to growth facing the Chinese economy. Li referred to a myriad of systemic, institutional, and structural problems as  ‘tigers in the road,’ responsible for holding up development.
Beijing subsequently unveiled this year’s GDP target at about 7 per cent, the lowest target in over 15 years. After three decades of rapid expansion, Li has referred the current period of slower, sustained economic growth as the ‘new normal’. Though the revised performance target remains robust by global comparison, the Chinese leadership is now taking measures to offset further downward pressure on the economy.

Deflationary Risks
The slowdown in the world’s second largest economy is driven primarily by high debts (estimated at more than 280 per cent of GDP), an unintended consequence of the central government’s massive credit stimulus following the global financial crisis of 2008 to 2009. Following the crash, investments in property and infrastructure were financed primarily by credit to compensate for lower consumer demand for Chinese exports.

Declining commodity and oil prices, lower international and domestic demand, and falling industrial production have converged, placing an increasingly heavy debt burden on provincial governments and industrial firms. China is currently experiencing a property downturn and low consumer inflation, while three consecutive years of contracting industrial output has spurred on deflationary risks.

China’s central bank has recently announced the reduction of interest rates for the second time in three months, reducing lending and deposit rates by a quarter percentage point. Beijing has been skeptical of monetary easing policies that would further reckless borrowing and increase the debt burden. The Chinese leadership are now easing borrowing costs, albeit very cautiously and by conservative margins.

Interest rate reductions are being made primarily to manage corporate debt levels, easing financing costs with the ultimate aim of preventing the build up of non-performing loans, which could trigger a hard landing for the Chinese economy that would have severe global reverberations. Lower borrowing costs are also intended to aid exporters and home buyers.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Asian Powers Hold Talks After Three-Year Hiatus

from Al Jazeera: The foreign ministers of South Korea, China and Japan have gathered in Seoul for their first meeting in nearly three years.

Saturday's meeting will seek to calm regional tensions rooted in territorial and other diplomatic disputes between the three nations.

Ministers from the three countries will also hold bilateral meetings to discuss whether South Korea and Japan will join a China-led development bank and the potential deployment of a US air defence system to counter North Korea's "missile threat". [emphasis added]

Although they have strong economic ties, the nations' overall relations have long been tainted by unresolved historical issues dating back to Japan's colonisation of the Korean peninsula and occupation of parts of China before and during World War II.

Both China and South Korea have maintained a frosty distance from Japan in recent years, although China-Korean ties have been enjoying an upswing.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

South Australia Set To Expand Police Fingerprinting Powers, Forced Blood Tests

from TOTT News: South Australians who refuse to submit to on-the-spot fingerprint scans will face up to three months behind bars or a $1250 fine, under promised election proposals by Attorney-General and Deputy Premier, John Rau last year.

In an article by the Adelaide Advertiser, it has been revealed that under new legislation set to be released for discussion, police – with ”reasonable cause” – suspecting a individual of committing; about to commit or able to assist with a crime, can be subjected to this new measure.

This would entail a person placing their finger or thumb on a palm-sized sensor pad, and if a result – determined by internal networks – is a ‘hit’, the scanner will display a photograph of the person, a list of current or prior offences and any outstanding warrants.

The proposal, Mr Rau has stated, will see laws loosened to allow officer to act upon “reasonable cause”, however, he has assured the public that their use will not be random and must be conducted under "strict criteria". [emphasis added]

US Propaganda Op in Korea Exposes American TV as Social Engineering Tool

By Tony Cartalucci
Land Destroyer Report:

If American TV is used to brainwash North Koreans, wouldn't that suggest it was used to brainwash Americans too? 

When Wired published its article, "The Plot to Free North Korea with Smuggled Episodes of 'Friends,'" it probably hoped that its impressionable, politically ignorant audience would not pick up on the underlying facts and their implications, and simply see a "cute" anecdote poking fun at the besieged East Asian country while inflating their own sense of unwarranted cultural superiority.

What they missed, of course, is the fact that the program peddled by Wired as the work of "the North Korea Strategy Center and its 46-year-old founder, Kang Chol-hwan," is in fact funded and organized instead by the US State Department.

Indeed, the North Korea Strategy Center is partnered directly with the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the US Department of State, the US State Department's Radio Free Asia propaganda network, and the US State Department's National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a defacto "department of regime change" backed by Wall Street's Fortune 500, solely for the interests of Wall Street's Fortune 500.

Readers of Wired's latest, long-winded spin on US-backed sedition abroad also most likely missed the fact that if TV shows from America are considered a tool for social engineering in North Korea, they are most likely being used as a tool of social engineering in the United States as well. The degradation of American culture, the family, and weakening of local communities, versus the growing centralized dominance of corporate-financier monopolies and their increasingly draconian police and surveillance state is a direct result of this.