Monday, 11 March 2013

New Russian bomber taking shape

The development of the Russian Perspective Aviation Complex of Long-Range Aviation (PAK DA) which is to replace Tupolev-95MC and Tupolev-22M3 planes, except the latest Tupolev-160, in the 2020s-2030s is being discussed in the press again.
According to some reports, the Russian Air Force have already chosen the shape of the new plane. It is to be a small inconspicuous long-distance subsonic plane. The media report that the development of the new plane is being carried out by the Tupolev Design Bureau. 
Some information published by the media raises experts’ doubts. First of all, many experts do not believe that the Tupolev Design Bureau is capable of independently developing such a large-scale project. In this connection it is believed that one of the participants in the project, if not the chief developer, will be the Sukhoi Design Bureau. It has enough experience in designing heavy planes, though it has never designed long-distance bombers. 
It is believed that the PAK DA project could be based on the results obtained while making the T-50 fifth-generation fighter. 
It is not the ultimate truth either that the speed of the new plane would not exceed the speed of the sound. One should take it into consideration that the prospective bomber is not only to replace the strategic Tupolev-95 but also Tupolev-22M long-distance bombers one of whose tasks is fighting against the enemy’s Navy. In this case supersonic speeds are essential. 
Russia has inherited the USSR’s huge experience in the development and operation of the Air Force long-distance supersonic aircraft and naval missile-carrying supersonic aircraft. A platform for long-distance flights at maximum supersonic speeds could also be useful for reconnaissance and targeting in the Russian Navy. The Navy always stakes on the fire power of rocket launchers and submarines. For these vessels an outside firing pointer is of paramount importance. 

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

After election win, Anastasiades tackles Cyprus bailout

NICOSIA (Reuters) - Cypriot president-elect Nicos Anastasiades, armed with a clear mandate from voters to spare the island from insolvency, said on Monday he was committed to reforms in return for a financial bailout.

The Conservative Anastasiades won decisive backing in a presidential election on Sunday for an aggressive approach to resolving the island's worst financial crisis in four decades.

Less than 24 hours after his resounding victory on Sunday, Anastasiades said he would appoint Michael Sarris, a former World Bank economist who enjoys broad respect at home and abroad, as his finance minister.

Anastasiades has promised a quick deal with foreign lenders and to bring Cyprus closer to Europe, in a shift from the policies of the outgoing Communist government that first sought aid from Russia before turning to the European Union.

"Long-term prospects for Cyprus are excellent as we are committed to carrying out necessary structural reforms. We only need a helping hand now," Anastasiades told Germany's Bild newspaper, according to advance excerpts of an interview to be published in Tuesday's edition.

Berlusconi revives political career in chaotic Italian election

Silvio Berlusconi, the three-time Italian prime minister, billionaire playboy and perpetual criminal defendant who was all but counted out of Italian political life when a debt crisis forced his resignation in 2011, shocked the country Monday by shooting back into a position of influence.

Even by the chaotic standards of Italian politics, the resurgence of Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party, which seems to be in contention to win the most seats in the Italian Senate, along with the astonishingly strong showing of a naysaying protest party led by Beppe
Grillo, a seething ex-comedian opposed to the euro, has cast the Italian government into confusion.

The results have created the remarkable possibility that Italy could find itself next week without a government or a pope.

That instability rippled across the Atlantic. As details of the election became clear through the day, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped more than 200 points, or about 1.5 percent, in a potent reminder of how sensitive markets remain to events in the euro zone. The currency region’s financial crisis has ebbed in recent months, but only on the assumption that political leaders would follow through on promised economic policies — something the Italian results may throw into doubt.

Tunisia arrests suspect in killing that sparked unrest

 A hardline Islamist has been arrested in connection with the killing of a Tunisian opposition politician whose death earlier this month touched off protests across the country, a security source said on Monday.

Tunisia was plunged into political crisis when the secular opposition politician Chokri Belaid was gunned down outside his house on February 6, igniting the biggest street protests since the overthrow of strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali two years ago.

"The police arrested a Salafist suspected of killing Belaid," the source told Reuters without giving more details.

Last year, Salafist groups prevented several concerts and plays from taking place in Tunisian cities, saying they violated Islamic principles. Salafists also ransacked the U.S. Embassy in September, during international protests over an Internet video.

Tunisian radio station Express FM cited a senior security official as saying police had arrested three Salafists, including a police officer, in connection with Belaid's killing.

BBC blocked in China just days after reporting on Chinese hackers

The British Broadcasting Corporation may have discovered a new “red line” for the Chinese government: don’t bring reporters near the Shanghai complex where China’s suspected military hacking team is thought to be located.

The BBC says its “World Service” broadcast is being jammed inside China, preventing people there from hearing the program. The network said in a statement, “The jamming of shortwave transmissions is being timed to cause maximum disruption to BBC World Service English broadcasts in China.”It’s hard to pinpoint the rationale behind the blocking, and not just because the Chinese government does not of course claim responsibility. But we have a pretty good hint in this story from last week, when members of the Chinese military detained some BBC journalists who were trying to film outside the Shanghai complex where China’s elite military hacker team is thought to work. The BBC journalists were held inside the building until they surrendered their footage, which sounds as it were mostly just banal exterior shots.

Sri Lankan forces 'raped' Tamils in custody, study says

Sri Lankan security forces have committed crimes of sexual violence against ethnic Tamils in state custody, a new Human Rights Watch report says.

The study focuses on cases of alleged rape of men, women and minors detained between 2006 and 2012 because of their suspected links to Tamil Tiger rebels.

It documents 75 accounts of alleged sexual abuse and torture, saying most of them are backed by medical evidence.

Sri Lanka's government has dismissed the report as "rubbish" and "lies".

At least 100,000 people died during the 26-year war between government troops and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fighting for a separate homeland. The Tamil Tigers were defeated in 2009.

Both sides were accused of human rights abuses throughout the conflict and particularly in its final stages, when thousands of civilians were trapped in a thin strip of land in the north of Sri Lanka as fighting raged around them.The report comes during a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, which is expected to discuss a resolution critical of Sri Lanka's human rights record and the army's conduct during the last phase of the war.

Philippines Martial Law Victims to Receive Reparations

Philippine President Benigno Aquino signed into law Monday legislation that would recognize and compensate victims of human rights abuses during martial law under former President Ferdinand Marcos.

Lawmakers spent 14 years trying to pass various forms of a proposal that would make the government recognize human rights victims of injustices under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Congressman Walden Bello says it passed this year because many legislators realized the victims were aging, if not dying, and had grown sickly.

“It’s great that we were finally able to muster the forces to get it through both Houses of Congress," Bello said. "Also, I think it’s very significant because the Philippines is one of the few if not the only government that has in fact designated reparations payments for human rights violations that have been admitted by its agencies.”

The new law sets aside $250 million to compensate victims or families of victims, determined by an independent panel, to have been murdered, tortured or suffered other injustices at the hands of law enforcement and the military of the Marcos administration.

Vietnam to Participate in UN Peacekeeping Missions

Vietnam says it will begin participating in United Nations peacekeeping operations early next year, a further sign that it wants to assume a bigger role in international affairs.  Facing rising demand, the U.N. has appealed for countries to send more troops and police officers to help carry out its peacekeeping missions around the world. Vietnam didn't say how large a contribution it is prepared to make. Most of the 115 participating countries currently make only token contributions of less than 40 people.

The state-controlled Tien Phong newspaper on Tuesday quoted Vice Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh as telling visiting U.N. Assistant General Secretary Edmond Mulet that Vietnamese troops would be available from early next year. The report gave few other details.

Vietnam opened its economy to foreign investment in the 1990s and has followed a steady policy of embracing regional and international institutions. But the Communist rulers of the country's 87 million people have shown no sign of relaxing bans on freedom of speech and political activism even as they seek greater global clout.

Drop in Taliban attacks incorrect

The U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan incorrectly reported a decline in Taliban attacks last year, and officials said Tuesday that there was actually no change in the number of attacks on international troops from 2011 to 2012.

The corrected numbers - from the original reports of a 7 percent decline to one of no change - could undercut the narrative promoted by the international coalition and the Obama administration of an insurgency in steep decline.

A coalition spokesman, Jamie Graybeal, attributed the miscounting to clerical errors and said the problem does not change officials' basic assessment of the war.

The 7 percent figure had been included in a report posted on the coalition's website in late January as part of its monthly update on trends in security and violence. It was removed from the website recently without explanation. After The Associated Press asked last week about the missing report, coalition officials said they were correcting the data and would re-publish the report in coming days.

Iran said to deploy aging foreign tankers, avoiding sanctions

Iran is using old tankers, saved from the scrapyard by foreign middlemen, to ship out oil to China in ways that avoid Western sanctions, say officials involved with sanctions who showed Reuters corroborating documents.

The officials, from states involved in imposing sanctions to pressure Iran to curb its nuclear program, said the tankers - worth little more than scrap value - were a new way for Iran to keep its oil exports flowing by exploiting the legal limitations on Western powers' ability to make sanctions stick worldwide.

Officials showed Reuters shipping documents to support their allegation that eight ships, each of which can carry close to a day's worth of Iran's pre-sanctions exports, have loaded Iranian oil at sea. Publicly available tracking and other data are consistent with those documents and allegations.

"The tankers have been used for Iranian crude," one official said. "They are part of Iran's sanctions-busting strategy."