CIA puts the world at your fingertips

OK, what’s the capital of Comoros, and how many coup attempts has it suffered since gaining independence in 1975? What’s the life expectancy in Burkina Faso, and how many kilometres of roads does it have, both paved and unpaved? What’s the highest point in Hungary, and when does the country next hold elections? If you want facts like these, the CIA World Factbook has an almost inexhaustible supply.Although I’ve picked some random trivia, the World Factbook is a mine of useful information. If you’re visiting a country, it’s handy to have a potted history and basic information about the government, the infrastructure and the standard of living. It also covers things such as ethnicity, religions, local diseases and illicit drugs.

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Old, new Europe clash

At the center of both issues is Germany’s newly assertive nationalism that first found widespread public expression during the summer 2006 World Cup. Divisions over Afghanistan and NATO enlargement reflect an organization fundamentally divided between Old Europe led by Germany and New Europe led by the United States.

Standing behind Germany is Russia in a new pact that has historic precedents and opens up strategic questions for the future of European security. German Chancellor Angela Merkel held two days of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on March 8, two days after NATO’s meeting of NATO ministers of foreign affairs. Germany’s opposition to NATO enlargement to Ukraine and Georgia perceptibly hardened.

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Iran Incites Cold War With U.S. in Lebanon Roiled by Hezbollah

In this contest is the danger that Lebanon may turn into a full-fledged battleground in the ongoing conflict between the U.S. and Iran, which is allied with Syria to derail Lebanon’s fragile democracy.

The possibility of bloodshed within Lebanon’s sensitive patchwork of Sunnis, Shiites and Christians recalls the civil war that savaged Beirut from 1975 to 1990, killing thousands of Lebanese and hundreds of Americans, too.

Syria and Hezbollah “are all Iranian cards in the cold war with the U.S.,” Mouafac Harb, a Beirut-based Lebanese- American political consultant, said in a Washington interview.

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US weapons analyst Gregg Bergersen admits leak to China

US weapons analyst Gregg Bergersen admits leak to China
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom - 3 hours ago
Prosecutors alleged he divulged military secrets to New Orleans businessman Kuo Tai, who turned over the information to a Chinese foreign agent.
Pentagon staffer guilty of handing secrets to China agent AFP
Guilty Plea in China Spy Case The Associated Press
Pentagon analyst admits selling secrets to Chinese agent USA Today
Swissinfo – The Press Association
all 134 news articles »

Syria got North Korean help for nuclear facility

Tokyo has shown keen interest in the disclosure as it suggests Pyongyang was providing nuclear technology to Damascus in violation of an agreement made at six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear issue not to transfer nuclear materials, technology or know-how.

According to the sources, Olmert told Fukuda that the site was a nuclear-related facility that was under construction with know-how and assistance from North Korean technicians dispatched by Pyongyang.

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Report: Olmert admitted Israel struck Syrian nuclear facility
Ynetnews, Israel - 6 hours ago
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has admitted that an Israeli strike in Syria last September targeted a nuclear facility built with North Korea’s help,
US ¡®Called N.Korea¡¯s Bluff Over Syria¡¯ Chosun Ilbo
all 7 news articles »

Risk Analysis Finds Nuclear Deterrence Wanting

From the article, the annualized probability of a Cuban Missile Type Crisis (CMTC) resulting in World War III during the 50 years of the Cold War =

Low Estimate: 2 in 10,000 = .02% = .0002 = [3/50][1/3][.1][.1]

High Estimate: 5 in 1,000 = .5% = .005 = [3/50][1/3][.5][.5]

[annualized probability that an initiating event (such as the Berlin crisis of 1961) would lead to a CMTC (3 chances in the past 50 years, by Hellman's count)] x

[conditional probability that the event becomes a CMTC (one event was the actual Cuban Missile Crisis, so that's 1 in 3)]x

[conditional probability that the CMTC leads to the use of a nuclear weapon]x

[conditional probability that the use of a nuclear weapon leads to full-scale nuclear war]

Probability of a Major Nuclear War = [3/50][1/3][x][y]

x=y=10% to 50% => From Article

Here’s the article:

Leaving aside the former two scenarios, Hellman came up with a sort of equation for Armageddon: the annualized probability of a Cuban Missile Type Crisis (CMTC) resulting in World War III during the 50 years of the Cold War is equal to the annualized probability that an initiating event (such as the Berlin crisis of 1961) would lead to a CMTC (3 chances in the past 50 years, by Hellman’s count), times the conditional probability that the event becomes a CMTC (one event was the actual Cuban Missile Crisis, so that’s 1 in 3), times the conditional probability that the CMTC leads to the use of a nuclear weapon, times the conditional probability that the use of a nuclear weapon leads to full-scale nuclear war.

The stickiest points are the last two probabilities, because they have never happened. Hellman uses statements from participants in the Cuban crisis to come up with a lower bound of 10 percent and an upper one of 50 percent for the chance that nuclear weapons would be used. His estimate of the probability of nuclear weapon use leading to an all-out nuclear war is in the same range, based on statements by both the U.S. president at the time, John F. Kennedy, and his secretary of defense, Robert S. McNamara.

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My Comment:

The assumptions used in his equation have a few issues:

1. The assumptions are from the Cold War era.

2. The assumptions are constant.

3. He doesn’t account for things like the fact that North Korea just threatened to nuke South Korea. Or that in the last ten years Pakistan and India almost waged nuclear war. Or the fact the Israel’s neighbors are planning war right now. Or the fact that China is threatening Taiwan on a regular basis.

If we look back over the last 100 years we can see that the probability of a major war is 2 in 100 or 2% for World War I & II. This seems to imply that Martin E. Hellman’s high estimate of .5% is probably closer to a low estimate.

What about my theory about Israel destroying Syria and bringing retaliation upon America? Can I connect the dots?

Check out this article titled Russia’s Nuclear Threat. Here we learn that Russia’s policy is that it reserves the right to use nuclear weapons preemptively to protect itself and its allies.

Is Syria an ally of Russia? Check out this article: Russia to defend its principal Middle East ally: Moscow takes Syria under its protection.

This article discusses just how close Israel is to a Syrian chemical weapon attack.

“Should nuclear arms be used in response to powerful conventional attacks?”

So we learn that Israel is close to a Syrian chemical attack. Israeli unofficial policy is to respond with nuclear weapons to an unconventional attack. We know that Syria is an ally of Russia, and Russia has threatened pre-emptive nuclear strikes to protect its allies.

The dots seem to be all connected. 

China Flexes Its Muscles on Wall Street Part III: Currency Wars?

The value of the Chinese yuan, or RMB, has been a sore spot in U.S.-China relations in recent years. Faced with a massive $256.3 billion trade deficit with China for 2007 that has increased over three times since 2000 ($83.8 billion) and continues to increase annually, Washington has called on Beijing to revalue its currency based on the presumption that it is set artificially low against the dollar—maybe by as much as 40 percent [1]. Washington has demanded that the Chinese government take bold and concrete steps in raising the RMB’s value; Congress even threatened sanctions on China if it did not comply. China, however, has so far weathered the pressure for any dramatic appreciation of the yuan, citing domestic concerns and arguing that adjustments in the exchange rate will not significantly alter its trade surplus with the United States, nor would it cure America’s economic ills. Meanwhile, Beijing has made slow but gradual upward appreciation of the yuan while spending hundred of billions in dollars buying the United States’ growing debt. In January 2008, China spent $492.6 billion to purchase U.S. government treasury bonds making it the second-largest buyer of U.S. debt second only to Japan. With inflation in China reaching a record 8.7 percent in February 2008, the yuan’s appreciation will likely continue in part to fight domestic inflation, while the ripple effect of the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the United States continues to reverberate throughout the U.S. economy. Coupled with a presidential election campaign, debate over China’s currency policy will undoubtedly heat up in the coming months. Perhaps a look at what the Chinese are writing and reading will offer some insight into what Beijing is thinking.

Fanning the Flames of Currency Wars

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China Flexes Its Muscles on Wall Street Part I

China Flexes Its Muscles on Wall Street Part II

China Flexes Its Muscles on Wall Street Part III

China’s Generation Y Talks “Openly” About Taiwan and Tibetan Independence

In an article published in Taiwan-based newspaper China Times, a staff news reporter in Shanghai asked the views of China’s Generation Y—those born between 1981 and 1995—in China’s bustling metropolis, following Taiwan’s presidential election on March 22, about their views toward Taiwan and Tibet. The interviews revealed some dramatic changes in perceptions held by the younger generation about cross-Strait relations (China Times [Taiwan], March 24).

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The beginning of the end for deliveries of Russian major conventional weapons to China

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, more than 90 per cent of China’s imports of major conventional weapons have been supplied by the Russian Federation. In this period China has become one of Russia’s most valued customers, accounting for 39% of Russian exports of major conventional weapons. However, the SIPRI online Arms Transfers Database, which is updated today (Monday 31 March 2008) with information on deliveries and orders made in 2007, shows a 63% drop in Russian deliveries of major conventional weapons to China – to their lowest levels since 1998 – contributing to a 29% reduction in overall Russian exports for 2007 in comparison with 2006. Further, there are no outstanding Chinese orders with Russia for big-ticket items such as ships or advanced combat aircraft.

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‘Moderate Islam Is a Contradiction’

Right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders wanted to provoke an international scandal with his anti-Islam film “Fitna.” He succeeded. He talks to SPIEGEL about his crusade against Islam. more…