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Hundreds of Arrests Set Grim Backdrop for Victory Day Celebrations

The Moscow Times

As Moscow gears up to celebrate its victory in World War II, 67 years ago Wednesday, the shadow of political conflict shrouds the capital as hundreds of arrests cloud Victory Day festivities. 

Police said over 200 arrests were made Tuesday and overnight Wednesday on the eve of the anniversary, including repeat detentions for Left-Front leader Sergei Udaltsov and anti-corruption bloggerAlexei Navalny, who was arrested twice in a single evening, Interfax reported. Socialite Kseniya Sobchack and State Duma Deputy Dmitry Gudkov were also among those arrested during the protests against PresidentVladimir Putin's inauguration, though they were later released.

A group of hundreds of protestors spent most of the day Tuesday on Chistoprudny Bulvar, using large rolls of 
plastic sheeting attached to the trees above the heads of the protesters to cover them from the rain. Several activists were handing out
 free sandwiches and hot tea. Many people brought plastic camping mats to sleep on.

At about 7:30 p.m. teams of OMON riot police armed with batons dashed toward protesters, many of whom did not have time to escape arrest. Dozens were detained, largely without the use of force.

The protesters fled to the Kitai-Gorod metro station
on foot, where riot police and at least a dozen police vans were already
waiting for them. Groups of demonstrators dispersed themselves throughout the city, and arrests continued as police pursued protesters on foot and in cars.

About 10 riot police gave chase to a group of nearly 100 protesters who scattered in the Arbat neighborhood just before midnight. One group of riot police, who hit lamp posts and fences with their batons as they ran, were joined by plainclothes police officers wielding batons as they arrested a group of six protestors in a residential courtyard on Plotnikov Pereulok. A local resident, Ilya Arbatsky, who was walking his dog at the time of the arrests, said that the protestors were all teenagers, with none over the age of 20. 

Many activists were released shortly after being taken into custody, only to rejoin protesters and be arrested again.

At about 9:45 p.m., protest leaders Ilya Ponomaryov and Aleksei Navalny were seen 
in the midst of a crowd of cheerful supporters marching down Tverskaya Ulitsa towards Manezhnaya Ploshad. Sobchak and Navalny were detained outside the ITAR TASS agency building on Bolshaya Nikitskaya, in the rain, at about 10:30 p.m. 

Sobchak called her arrest illegal. “It was an absolutely illegal arrest. We didn’t chant, we didn’t stand with signs. I walked around town with a group of people that didn’t want to separate,” she wrote on Twitter.

Udaltsov was arrested later in the early hours of Wednesday morning near Patriarch’s Ponds. He announced through his lawyer Nikolai Polozov that he will hold a hunger strike. He will remain in custody at least until a court hearing appointed for Thursday.

As another group of about 50 protestors was detained by riot police shortly after 1:00am, the mood was light-hearted, with protestors jostling each other to get on the waiting police vehicles. The driver of one of the city buses filmed the protestors being led on to his bus on his mobile phone. 

“It’s very beautiful what is going on now,” Aleksei Arkhipov, a teacher who was watching the events unfold, told The Moscow Times. “Because when people climb into police vans voluntarily and applaud each other it’s a very civilized answer to brute force.”

After being released, Sobchak and Gudkov later met with about 50 supporters near the Barrikadnaya metro station. Police broke up the meeting and arrested several demonstrators, despite Gudkov’s protests that as a State Duma deputy he could hold meetings with citizens without permission from authorities.

Those arrested included Navalny, who came to attend the meeting immediately after he was released from his detention earlier in the evening. Navalny’s lawyer later said on Twitter that he was being kept in a truck outside the detention center and called for supporters to bring food and water. 

The arrests came as demonstrators continued a second night of round-the-clock mobile protest of Putin’s inauguration Monday. Police said the 200 arrests made Tuesday included repeat arrests of individuals that rejoined protesters after being released. Police said about 300 were arrested Monday. 

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department expressed concern about reports of violence in Moscow during the protests and arrests. “We are troubled by reports of violence in Moscow during the protests on May 6th and by the arrests that have been carried out over the last three days,” State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said, Bloomberg reported.

"We are disturbed by images of police mistreatment of peaceful protesters, both during the protests and after detentions … We want Russia to fulfill its own potential, and that means giving people the chance to freely express themselves," he said. 

Opposition activists called for demonstrators to  converge at Pushkin Square at 11 a.m. Wednesday, where a sanctioned rally was being held by the Communist Party. Opposition organizers clarified on Facebook that they did not want to join the communist rally, but use it as a way to gather legally for a march down Tverskaya Ulitsa toward the Kremlin. Demonstrators arriving at the scene began reporting a heavy police presence via Twitter.

Filed under News Moscow Russia Arrests Protest US State department

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Protesters clash with Moscow police at ‘March of Millions’

Demonstrators have clashed with police at a rally organized by the opposition on Bolotnaya Square after several dozen protesters, including opposition leaders, broke from the crowd to organize a sit-down strike. Scores of demonstrators attempted to join the group and broke the police cordon. Clashes have erupted in several places at Bolotnaya Square. Police have been containing the crowd using only batons. 

Filed under News Russia Protest Moscow

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Russian Troops Coming to U.S. for Terror Drills, DoD Confirms

by  Alex Newman

Russian “Airborne Assault Forces” will be arriving in Colorado this May for joint terror-war exercises with U.S. soldiers, according to U.S. officials and Russian military personnel cited in media reports. The Kremlin’s Defense Ministry and the U.S. Department of Defense both said it would be the first time in history that American and Russian airborne special operations troops would be training together on U.S. soil.

Analysts and commentators across the alternative media expressed alarm about the controversial announcement, likening it to ascene out of the movie Red Dawn or the predictions made by the late radio host Bill Cooper. It was not immediately clear exactly why the Obama administration decided to allow the scheme.

“The Russian soldiers are here as invited guests of the U.S. government; this is part of a formal bilateral exchange program between the U.S. and Russia that seeks to develop transparency and promote defense reform,” Cmdr. Wendy L. Snyder, U.S. Defense Press Officer for policy, told The New American in an e-mail. “This is the first time that American and Russian special operations troops have participated in a bilateral exercise.”

According to Snyder, the exercises — which she said would last about three weeks in all — will serve to train and improve skills related to terror-war fighting. About 20 Russian soldiers will be participating, with most of the training to take place on the Fort Carson, Colorado, Army base and a mountain training area several hours away. 

“Aside from typical military training, the exchange will include discussions on the rule of land warfare, developing appropriate rules of engagement, and employing cultural literacy and competency in the tactical environment,” Snyder explained. “This type of training is routinely conducted by 10th Special Forces Group.”

While U.S. officials remained largely silent on the operation until contacted by the press, the Russian government has been touting the unprecedented terror drills through official announcements and news reports in state-controlled media for over a week. In fact, virtually all of the details about the exercise that emerged publicly early on came from Kremlin sources.   

“According to the exercise scenario, soldiers of the two countries will hold a tactical airborne operation, including reconnaissance of an imaginary terrorists’ camp and a raid,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Aleksandr Kucherenko was quoted as saying in official news reports, also noting that it was the first time such an exercise would be held. “The Russian Airborne Assault Force will contribute a special task group that will exercise with U.S. special service weapons.”

Before the official drills begin on May 24, the Russian government’s forces will reportedly be training to use a wide array of American military equipment at the U.S. Army’s Fort Carson base. Parachuting, operations planning, reconnaissance, assaults, raids, and evacuations will all be on the agenda. The training is expected to last until May 31, though U.S. officials said it would go until early June.  

One of the highlights of the cooperation will be a joint terror assault and raid on a “camp.” The exercise will apparently bring together U.S. and Russian troops from the planning stages to the final evacuation from the scene by helicopter. Russian forces will also be attending a baseball game at some point during their stay, Kremlin sources reported. 

According to a report entitled “The Russians are coming! First joint ‘Top Gun’ drills to be held in US” in the state-funded Russian media outlet RT, the agreement to hold the drills was drafted late last year by the Russian Airborne Command and a U.S. military delegation in Moscow. It was not immediately clear which government proposed the scheme or what the precise goals were, though apparently the Russians were invited to participate by the U.S. government. 

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Filed under News Pentagon Russian military Russia US military USA US Government Kremlin

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How Dare Russia

By: David Swanson

“Self-purification through suffering is easier, I tell you: easier — than that destiny which you are paving for many of them by wholesale acquittals in court.  You are merely planting cynicism in their souls.” –Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The United States Congress is outraged.  Russia, it seems, may have wrongly imprisoned, tortured, and murdered a whistleblower.  In the land of the free, our good representatives are outraged, I tell you.  And not just I.  NPR will tell you.  This calls for action.  There’s a bill in the Senate and a bill in theHouse.  The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act.

Who wouldn’t support the rule of law and accountability?

Well, let me think.

Oh, I know. The United States Congress.

Bush and Cheney are selling books confessing to the crime of war and all that comes with it, including lawless imprisonment and torture.  They have openly confessed in their books and on television, repeatedly, to a form of torture that the current Attorney General of the United States admits is torture.  Bush’s torture program tortured numerous people to death.  And what has Congress wrought?

No impeachments.

No enforcement of subpoenas.

No defunding of operations.

No criminalizing of secrecy.

No protection of whistleblowers.

No mandating of diplomacy, reparations, foreign aid, or commitments to international standards.

In other words, we have no Congress with the right to talk about the Rule of Law or Accountability without being mocked.

But keep hope alive.

Change is on the way.


Up in the sky!

It’s Captain Peace Prize!

Obama launches wars without bothering to lie to Congress or the United Nations, has formalized the powers of lawless imprisonment, rendition, and murder, and places the protection of Bush and Cheney above almost anything else — certainly above the rule of law or accountability.

Obama has badgered Spain, Italy, Germany, and the U.K. to leave the Bush gang in peace, publicly instructed the U.S. Department of Justice not to prosecute, and expanded claims of “State Secrets” beyond anything previously imagined in order to shut down legal accountability.  Italy has convicted CIA agents in absentia, and Obama has not shipped them over to do their time.  Poland is prosecuting its bit players in U.S. crimes.  Former top British official Jack Straw is being hauled into court for his tangential role.  But Obama has chosen a path to success in Washington, or thinks he has, and that path is immunity for anyone with power.

The trouble is that Obama now wants to apply that same standard to Russia, and Congress won’t stand for it.  Obama is opposed to the Hold Russia Accountable Act because he prefers to kiss up to the government of Russia.  It’s a policy that has worked beautifully for him at home.  Why not apply it abroad?

Of course, the United States has no moral standing to speak against imprisonment, torture, or murder.  The United States imprisons more of its people than any other country, keeps hundreds of thousands of them in supermaxes or long-term isolation, tolerates prison rape and violence, openly treats torture as a policy option, facilitates torture in what may be the two countries torturing the greatest number of people today: Iraq and Afghanistan, and kills with capital punishment, special forces, and drones.

The United States has no moral standing to speak against the punishment of whistleblowers, Obama having prosecuted seven of them under the Espionage Act of 1917, fittingly enough for the offense of having made U.S. war-making look bad by revealing facts about it.

But the answer cannot be to support Russian crimes just because there are U.S. crimes.  Congress, revolting as it is to say, is right: the Russian government should be held to a decent rule of law.  And it should be held to it through the language that speaks louder than words: action.  U.S. immunity for torturers is one of the greatest factors in the current spread of acceptability for torture around the world.

Congress should impeach Bush and Obama, enforce its subpoenas, ship convicted CIA criminals to Italy, strengthen the War Powers Act, criminalize war profiteering, ban private mercenaries, ban unconstitutional detentions, ban secret budgets and laws and agencies, ban rendition, and ratify and enforce the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  Congress should also cease encircling Russia with missiles, and end its wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.

Or, short of moving in a useful direction, sad to say, the best thing the United States Congress could do for the rule of law in Russia at the moment would be to shut the hell up.

Filed under Commentary Torture US Government Russia CIA US Military hypocrisy Italy Afghanistan Pakistan

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Cyber War and Peace

By Joseph S. Nye

Two years ago, a piece of faulty computer code infected Iran’s nuclear program and destroyed many of the centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Some observers declared this apparent sabotage to be the harbinger of a new form of warfare, and United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has warned Americans of the danger of a “cyber Pearl Harbor” attack on the US. But what do we really know about cyber conflict?

The cyber domain of computers and related electronic activities is a complex man-made environment, and human adversaries are purposeful and intelligent. Mountains and oceans are hard to move, but portions of cyberspace can be turned on and off by throwing a switch. It is far cheaper and quicker to move electrons across the globe than to move large ships long distances.

The costs of developing those vessels – multiple carrier task forces and submarine fleets – create enormous barriers to entry, enabling US naval dominance. But the barriers to entry in the cyber domain are so low that non-state actors and small states can play a significant role at low cost.

In my book The Future of Power, I argue that the diffusion of power away from governments is one of this century’s great political shifts.  Cyberspace is a perfect example. Large countries like the US, Russia, Britain, France, and China have greater capacity than other states and non-state actors to control the sea, air, or space, but it makes little sense to speak of dominance in cyberspace. If anything, dependence on complex cyber systems for support of military and economic activities creates new vulnerabilities in large states that can be exploited by non-state actors.

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Filed under Commentary Cyberwar Cybersecurity US Russia Britain France China Internet US Military US Government Cyber Pearl Harbor

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Russia Plans to Flatten Georgia if Israel Attacks Iran


Russia is building up forces in the Caucasus region, preparing to protect its interests in case Israel attacks Iran with the help of the United States, the western media said. said the Russian military believes that when the US goes to war with Iran, it may deploy forces in friendly Georgia and warships in the Caspian Sea with the possible help of Azerbaijan. 

Hence, Russia is deploying guided anti-ship missiles on the Caspian shore in preparation, and is forming an offensive spearhead force, heavily armed with modern long-range weapons, it added. 

In the case of an Iranian war, it’s expected that the Russian spearhead will be ordered to strike south to prevent the presumed deployment of US bases in the region, to link up with the troops in Armenia, and take over the South Caucasus energy corridor along which Azeri, Turkmen and, other Caspian natural gas and oil may reach European markets, the website added. 

By one swift military strike Russia may ensure control of all the Caucasus and the Caspian states, for the first time since the Soviet Union dissolved, it said. 

Filed under News Iran Russia Israel Georgia Caspian Sea Azerbaijan United States

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Mali: U.S. Africa Command’s New War?


President Obama’s statement on defense strategy announced a stronger U.S. presence in Asia-Pacific, while keeping Africa under the radar. Yet, recent developments unequivocally suggest that the Black Continent has become the new U.S. playground of imperial military conquest. Mali is the country currently caught in the eye of the storm. In this article, written in February 2012 when the latest so-called “Tuareg rebellion” erupted in northern Mali, Rick Rozoff connects the dots between these events and Mali’s pivotal role in the U.S. strategy for Africa, conjecturing that, after Libya, the stage is possibly being set for another foreign intervention.

The press wires are reporting on intensified fighting in Mali between the nation’s military and ethnic Tuareg rebels of the Azawad National Liberation Movement in the north of the nation.

As the only news agencies with global sweep and the funds and infrastructure to maintain bureaus and correspondents throughout the world are those based in leading member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, BBC News and Deutsche Presse-Agentur – the coverage of ongoing developments in Mali, like those in most every other country, reflects a Western bias and a Western agenda.

Typical headlines on the topic, then, include the following:

Arms and men out of Libya fortify Mali rebellion” -Reuters

President: Tuareg fighters from Libya stoke violence in Mali” - CNN

Colonel Gaddafi armed Tuaregs pound Mali” - The Scotsman

France denounces killings in Mali rebel offensive” -Agence France-Presse

Mali, France Condemn Alleged Tuareg Rebel Atrocities” - Voice of America

To reach Mali from Libya is at least a 500-mile journey through Algeria and/or Niger. As the rebels of course don’t have an air force, don’t have military transport aircraft, the above headlines and the propaganda they synopsize imply that Tuareg fighters marched the entire distance from Libya to their homeland in convoys containing heavy weapons through at least one other nation without being detected or deterred by local authorities. And that, moreover, to launch an offensive three months following the murder of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after his convoy was struck by French bombs and a U.S. Hellfire missile last October. But the implication that Algeria and Niger, especially the first, are complicit in the transit of Tuareg fighters and arms from Libya to Mali is ominous in terms of expanding Western accusations – and actions – in the region.

Armed rebellions are handled differently in Western-dominated world news reporting depending on how the rebels and the governments they oppose are viewed by leading NATO members.

In recent years the latter have provided military and logistical support to armed rebel formations – in most instances engaged in cross-order attacks and with separatist and irredentist agendas – in Kosovo, Macedonia, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Libya and now Syria, and on the intelligence and “diplomatic” fronts in Russia, China, Pakistan, Sudan, Iran, Indonesia, Congo, Myanmar, Laos and Bolivia.

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Filed under News Commentary Africa Africom Mali Kosovo Macedonia Liberia Ivory Coast Libya Syria Russia China Pakistan Sudan Iran Indonesia Congo Myanmar Laos Bolivia NATO Turkey Morocco Colombia Philippines central africa republic Chad Uganda Congo

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US imperialism


Former US Secretary of State and foreign policy pundit Henry Kissinger has claimed in an interview that the US military is now considering plans to occupy seven Gulf states. These states include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman and are home to one of the largest oil reserves in the world. Not only that, he stated that the US has plans to tighten the noose around China and Russia as well. So far as Iran was concerned, he stated that Israel would decimate it by its sheer military strength. From the ashes of the next great war, the US would form the new world order, he warned.

Indeed, as of now the US has more than 700 foreign military bases scattered all over the globe; it has several aircraft carrier fleets cruising the open seas bullying a number of countries. Until a few years ago, its military budget spiked greatly owing to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and stood larger than that of the rest of the world. Indeed, the American foreign policy for the past many decades has largely been influenced by Neocons that is represented on the academic side by Bernard Lewis, Leo Strauss, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfield, former President Bush and others of their kind in American power structure. Though the Democrats are in power, Pentagon and Capitol Hill still remain under the thumb of such ideologues. That the main thrust of the American foreign policy under such influence is aggression against the world and is manifested by the ongoing war in Afghanistan, drone warfare in Pakistan and the threatening presence of troops in predominantly other Muslim states. Iran and Syria seem likely next targets. Likewise, one reason why it intends to squeeze China and Russia is because of their neutral stand towards Iran and resistance to US hegemony. Recently, Washington brazenly backed Israel in its intimidation of the neighbouring Muslim countries particularly in the 2006 war against Lebanon that resulted in a daylight massacre of innocent men, women and children. These are only some of the facts which chime in with Mr Kissinger’s assessment.

Meanwhile, a report in this paper says that the CIA has chalked out a plan to get favourable coverage from Pakistan’s media. Under such times when the US is on a crusade to conquer and decimate a number of Muslim countries and its allies like China, we can ill-afford to let our guard down. The CIA intends to counter the popular anger against the war that will further receive an impetus with recent deaths of nine British soldiers. Up until now the Pakistani media has been bravely exposing the US especially with respect to the excesses committed in the war on terror. It is hoped it would continue to watch national interest and would strongly repel CIA’s propaganda offensive.

Filed under US Imperialism Imperialism World Government China Russia Washington Israel Commentary News Geopolitics

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'Merchant of Death' jailed for 25 years in US

World’s most notorious arms dealer sentenced for plot to sell weapons to Colombian terrorists


Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer dubbed “the Merchant of Death”, was last night sentenced to 25 years in a US federal prison after being convicted of helping a Colombian terror group that was seeking to kill Americans.

The sentence by New York District Judge Shira Scheindlin brings down the final curtain on a sinister story spanning five continents and featuring some of the nastiest conflicts of the past 20 years, from the Middle East to Afghanistan and Africa’s civil wars.

Prosecutors depicted Bout, 45, as an amoral criminal who caused misery around the world. But to the end he protested his innocence, telling the judge the charges were false. “It’s a lie,” he shouted, saying he never intended to kill anyone. “God knows this truth.” Trained in the GRU, the former Soviet military intelligence service, Bout began his career in arms trading around 1990. By the end of the decade, he was a multimillionaire, shipping weapons around the world in 30 aircraft.

By the early 2000s, however, international pressure mounted, as first the United Nations and then the US imposed sanctions against a man that prosecutors called a “transnational criminal” who was “ready, willing and able” to supply arms to terrorists and tyrants. Such was Bout’s notoriety that he inspired the arms dealer played by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 film Lord of War.

In 2007 the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) launched an investigation into Bout, setting up a scheme to lure him into agreeing to sell Russian ground-to-air missiles and other weapons to agents posing as representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), whose operations were largely financed by drug trafficking. The insurgent group has long been classified by the US as a terrorist organisation, and Washington has regularly dispatched special forces and intelligence units to help Colombian police. By committing to sell weapons to the Farc, Bout could thus be charged with conspiring to kill American citizens – charges which under US law can be brought against foreign citizens in foreign countries.

In 2008, DEA agents managed to coax Bout out of Russia to Thailand, where they taped him in a Bangkok hotel room where the deal was settled and he was arrested. Despite intense pressure on the Thai authorities from Moscow, was finally extradited back to the US in 2010.

After his conviction, Bout was held first held in solitary confinement, before being released into the general population at the New York prison where he has been held before sentencing.

All along Bout has maintained he was just a businessman, who fell victim to a vendetta by the American government. Bout’s lawyer, Albert Dayan, accused the US of “outrageous” conduct after his client turned down a first approach to enter into a deal with the Farc. Prosecutors said Bout’s trading made him a threat to the entire world.

Filed under News Russia War USA Merchant of Death Colombia New York Afghanistan Africa DEA FARC Thailand

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Rock pioneer Andrei ‘Svinya’ Panov will be remembered Thursday with an event at Griboyedov club.

By Sergey Chernov

Russia’s pioneering punk rocker Andrei Panov, better known as Svin or Svinya (The Pig or Swine) will be paid tribute to this week with a memorial event at the bunker club Griboyedov.

Timed to be held on the eve of what would have been Panov’s 52nd birthday, the event will include screenings of video footage and a documentary film, a photo exhibition and a concert by bands whose members were either Panov’s peers or performed with him in different lineups of his band, Avtomaticheskiye Udovletvoriteli (Automatic Satisfiers), also known by its acronym in Russian, “AU,” which means something like “halloo!” or “yo!”

Called AU Jamboree 6, the event will be held both in the club’s underground area and in the Griboyedov Hill upstairs room on Thursday, March 22.

“It’s no secret for anybody that Andrei is everybody’s favorite, he was very charming,” said Olga Korol-Borodyuk, Panov’s widow and the event’s promoter.

“With his human qualities, talent and charm, he brought a certain aura or atmosphere that people needed in life badly. He’s the only one who was like that. That’s why when he went, people had a colossal feeling of loss — everybody, even those who were not very close to him. The first spontaneous response was to do something for him, but what can musicians do? They can come and play in his memory.”

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Filed under News Russia Punk Guilty pleasure Andrei ‘Svinya’ Panov Music

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The Age of Authoritarian Democracy

By Sergei Karaganov

The world is currently being shaken by tectonic changes almost too numerous to count: the ongoing economic crisis is accelerating the degradation of international governance and supranational institutions, and both are occurring alongside a massive shift of economic and political power to Asia. Less than a quarter-century after U.S. political scientist and author Francis Fukuyama declared “the end of history,” we seem to have arrived at the dawn of a new age of social and geopolitical upheaval.

Dramatically, the Arab world has been swept by a revolutionary spring, though one that is rapidly becoming a chilly winter. Indeed, for the most part, the new regimes are combining the old authoritarianism with Islamism, resulting in further social stagnation, resentment and instability.

Even more remarkable, however, are the social — and antisocial — grassroots demonstrations that are mushrooming in affluent Western societies. These protests have two major causes.

First, social inequality has grown unabated in the West over the last quarter-century, owing in part to the disappearance of the Soviet Union and, with it, the threat of expansionist communism. The specter of revolution had forced Western elites to use the power of the state to redistribute wealth and nurture the growth of loyal middle classes. But when communism collapsed in its Eurasian heartland, the West’s rich, believing that they had nothing more to fear, pressed to roll back the welfare state, causing inequality to rise rapidly. This was tolerable as long as the overall pie was expanding, but the global financial crisis in 2008 ended that.

Second, over the past 15 years, hundreds of millions of jobs shifted to Asia, which offered inexpensive and often highly skilled labor. The West, euphoric from its victory over communism and its seemingly unstoppable economic growth, failed to implement necessary structural reforms, although Germany and Sweden were rare exceptions. Instead, Western prosperity relied increasingly on debt.

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Filed under Commentary Authoritarian Democracy Russia USA Totalitarianism Iran Israel Geopolitics Protest Activism Asia Economic Crisis

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Developing countries face digital divide: study


The World Economic Forum said Wednesday that the BRICS countries, despite their booming economies, are lagging behind their rivals when it comes to capitalizing on Internet technologies.

The Switzerland-based non-profit group released a report highlighting that the world’s most developed countries dominate the top of a “networked readiness” list while the highest ranking BRICS nation was China in 51st place.

The acronym “BRICS” is used to refer to surging economies in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Although BRICS are fiercely competitive in the global arena, they are hampered by challenges when it comes to adopting information and communications technology (ICT), according to the “Living in a Hyperconnected World” report.

A lack of skilled workers and shortcomings in institutional environments for businesses were cited as factors stifling entrepreneurship and innovation.

The forum’s chief business officer Robert Greenhill said the Internet was causing a shake-up for traditional organizations and “we are beginning to see fundamental transformations in all areas of the economy and society.”

Sweden was ranked highest in networked readiness, followed by Singapore, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Netherlands, and Norway.

The United States was in eighth place, with Canada and Britain rounding out the top 10 list.

The Networked Readiness Index combined data from publicly available sources with feedback from a survey of more than 15,000 executives.

Filed under News BRICS United States Tech Technology Singapore Finland Denmark Switzerland Netherlands Norway Canada Britain China Internet Brazil Russia India South Africa

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Can the Brics create a new world order?

By Simon Tisdall 

Brics summit in New Delhi, March 2012

Today’s one-day annual summit of the so-called Brics countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – has received scant attention in the west. That may be because the grouping has achieved little in concrete terms since its inception in 2009. Critics deride it as a photo-op and talking shop.

But this neglect, or disdain, may also reflect the fact that the Brics, representing almost half the world’s population and about one-fifth of global economic output, pose an unwelcome challenge to the established world order as defined by the US-dominated UN security council, the IMF and the World Bank. The truth of the matter probably lies somewhere in-between. The five national leaders – presidents Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Dmitri Medvedev of Russia, Hu Jintao of China and Jacob Zuma of South Africa and their host in Delhi, India’s prime minister Manmohan Singh – are not noted for iconoclastic radicalism.

Rousseff has been the most outspoken, insisting that developing countries must be protected from the global “tsunami” of cheap money, unleashed by the US and the EU in the wake of the financial crisis, that was rendering their exports less competitive. “We will defend our industry and prevent the methods developed countries use to escape from crisis resulting in the cannibalisation of emerging markets,” she said this month.

Brics boosters project a grandiose vision. India’s commerce secretary, Anand Sharma, said this week the group sought nothing less than “to create a new global architecture”. But commentators interpret such ambitions as essentially anti-American hot air. Pointing to a signal lack of substantive policy agreements, they suggest a desire to counter Washington’s global dominance is the Brics’ sole unifying objective.

"There are calls to establish a permanent secretariat and even a development bank in an effort to bolster the grouping’s political impact,"wrote Walter Ladwig of the Royal United Services Institute. “But this focus on institution-building is misplaced. It is the fundamental incompatibility of the Brics nations, not their lack of organisation, which prevents [them] acting as a meaningful force on the world stage”. Ladwig continued: “Beyond the issues of economic governance, in many key areas the Brics nations are actually in strategic competition. Within Asia, India and Russia are potential obstacles to China’s presumed regional dominance. At the international level, Russia, Brazil and India desire the emergence of a multipolar international system in which they are major actors, with the latter two seeking membership in an expanded UN security council.

"In contrast, China aims for a bipolar world in which it serves as the counterbalance to American power." So far, Beijing has opposed India’s bid for a permanent security council seat.

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Filed under News BRICS New World Order Brazil Russia India China South Africa World Government

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