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Monitor The Strategic Trends

Global Government Introduction:


      The move toward a global government received a big boost this summer by the introduction of a proposal for an International Criminal Court. Over U.S. objections, the United Nations Diplomatic Conference voted 120 to 7 in favor of establishing an international criminal court to try individuals accused of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression.









Behold a Black Horse

 Behold a Black




Price R 249.00 




Behold a Black Horse:

 Economic Upheaval and Famine


by Dr. Chuck Missler



The third of the “Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse” brings inflation and famine on an unprecedented scale.
•What is the real cause of inflation?
•What are the real causes of famine?

Most famines are the direct results of government’s deliberate decisions. Germany sank into the most severe hyperinflationary period in recorded history after printing 1.3 trillion marks: that translates to about 4 trillion in today’s dollars. Ironically, that is almost exactly the same amount of money the United States government has printed since 2008. What are the implications for us today?

How can one use Bayes’ Theorem in “reverse probability”? (Can you form a hypothesis based on experience, common sense and whatever data are available; then test the hypothesis not by what has happened before, but by what comes after?)

The theorem has proved its worth, such as in 2012 when it was used to successfully predict the outcome of the U.S. presidential election in all 50 states before the final vote counts were available.

Join Dr. Chuck Missler in the Executive Briefing Room of the River Lodge, New Zealand, as he explores the identity of the third of the Five Horsemen of Revelation.

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching

Available in the following formats


•2 MP3 files

•1 PDF Notes file





President Poroshenko calls for Ukraine to join NATO

‎24 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎01:55:00 AMGo to full article
Kiev, Ukraine (UPI) Sep 22, 2015 - Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko is calling for his government to reverse a decision by the previous government that established a non-alliance policy with NATO.

"No one else but Russia with its aggressive actions convincingly proved the usefulness of the organization, the need for its reinforcement and further expansion. There's no alternative," Interfax quoted Poroshenko as saying at meeting of the country's National Defense and Security Council.

Ukraine has flirted with the idea of joining NATO since relations began in 1994. Politically, this would further open the country to Western influence, distancing itself from its neighbor Russia. The country applied for the NATO Membership Action Plan in 2008, however the plans were shelved by pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych in 2010. Yanukovych was removed from office in February 2014.

Poroshenko says the public is on his side in favor of a NATO membership, claiming 60 percent of Ukrainians prefer a NATO membership.

While Ukraine is still not a member state, the country is in the process of strengthening its ties with the alliance.

NATO officials signed an agreement in Kiev to continue their support for Ukrainian armed forces on Tuesday, part of an effort to assist the country locked in civil war with pro-Russian separatists. The conflict has claimed more than 8,000 lives since fighting began in April 2014.

During NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's two-day visit to Ukraine, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk echoed President Poroshenko's sentiments, saying his government will seek full membership.

The documents signed provide further technical support for Ukraine's military, and designed to bolster the defense industry in the region.

"NATO can rely on Ukraine, and Ukraine can rely on NATO," Stoltenberg said.

Membership with NATO provides a collective system of defense for member states. Currently, 28 countries are full members of the alliance, with an additional 22 countries participating in their Partnership for Peace program, a post-Cold War initiative that aims to establish trust throughout the European continent.



US businesswoman held in China for 'espionage': supporters

‎24 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎01:55:00 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Sept 22, 2015 - A US businesswoman has been held for six months in China over alleged espionage, her supporters said, revealing a case that could complicate Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to the United States, beginning Tuesday.

China's ministry of state security detained Sandy Phan-Gillis in March and she is being investigated on accusations of "spying and stealing state secrets", according to the website savesandy.org, which provides information on her and her case.

Phan-Gillis was held while crossing the border to Macau at the end of a visit to China by a trade delegation from the Texas oil capital Houston, where she is a member of the mayor's International Trade and Development Council, the site said.

The five-member group had visited other Chinese cities including Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen and only Phan-Gillis was detained, it added.

"Sandy is not a spy or a thief," her husband Jeff Gillis said on the website.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei confirmed the investigation at a regular briefing on Tuesday.

"The person you mentioned... is suspected of carrying out activities endangering national security, and is currently being investigated by relevant departments," he said.

"We hope that the outside world will respect China's handling of this case according to law."

It was not clear why the case had not been publicised until Monday, when the first announcements were posted to the site.

But the news came as Xi embarked on a visit to the United States beginning with a stop in Seattle before heading to Washington for talks with President Barack Obama.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that at a variety of government levels "some direct questions have been asked of Chinese officials about her status."

"What's disconcerting to the administration is that many of those questions have gone unanswered," he added.

"Just earlier today, the White House was in touch with the Chinese foreign ministry, to continue to ask these direct questions about her current status, and to insist that all of the rules are followed that govern her access to her attorneys."

- No contact -

The website claimed that "Sandy has now been detained for over six months, and she has not been allowed to see or speak with friends, family, or even her lawyers in that time."

She was formally arrested at the weekend, the website said, but added that no charges had been filed and earlier appeals for her release had received no response.

"Chinese authorities have conceded that they don't have sufficient evidence to file formal charges against Sandy, yet they have not released her," it added.

Phan-Gillis has family origins in southern China but was born in Vietnam, the website says, leaving the country in the late 1970s as part of the exodus of "boat people" who fled Communist rule.

Other foreign citizens have run afoul of China's powerful security officials.

Feng Xue, a Chinese-born US geologist who spent more than seven years in a Chinese prison after being convicted on state secrets charges, was released in April and deported.

Australian national Stern Hu, an executive with the mining giant Rio Tinto, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2010 on bribery and trade secrets charges.

A Canadian Christian couple who ran a coffee shop in the Chinese border city of Dandong, and had aided Christians fleeing North Korea, were detained on espionage charges last year.

China announced that the wife was released on bail in February though her husband had been placed under formal criminal detention.

Phan-Gillis has been visited once a month by officials from the US Consulate in Guangzhou, the website said. Hong, the foreign ministry spokesman, said that US officials had met with her six times.

The website describes Phan-Gillis as in "very poor health" and suffering from ailments including high blood pressure.

"She is currently well and healthy," Hong said, also stressing that her "rights are being respected".


Rio Tinto



Philippines leader pokes fun at Beijing's South China Sea claims, praises Japan

‎24 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎01:55:00 AMGo to full article
Manila (AFP) Sept 22, 2015 - Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Tuesday joked about China's disputed maritime territorial claims and praised Beijing's regional rival Japan for passing new legislation allowing the nation's troops to fight abroad.

Speaking in an interview with ABS-CBN television, Aquino said that China had proposed the joint development of the South China Sea while at the same time claiming almost all of the strategically sensitive waters.

"The joke then was that China was saying 'what is ours is ours, what is yours, we share,'" Aquino said.

He also rejected China's calls for a bilateral dialogue, saying that any talks should involve other countries that claim parts of the area such as Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Aquino praised Japan's passage of controversial legislation that eases restrictions on its military, opening up the possibility that it could fight abroad for the first time since World War II.

He said this would make Japan "a more able partner in various activities like peace-keeping."

"Should they be accorded lesser rights because at one point of time, they were very aggressive?" he added.

The security bills, which the Japanese parliament passed into law on Saturday, drew condemnation from China, which said they were a threat to regional peace, but the Philippines welcomed the move.

Aquino firmed up the strategic partnership between the two countries when he visited Japan in June and the Philippines hosted two naval exercises in quick succession with Japan earlier this year.

The Philippines has been the most vocal opponent of China's claims in the South China Sea, criticising its efforts to turn isolated outcrops in the disputed waters into artificial islands that can host military facilities.

Manila has also filed a case with an international tribunal challenging Beijing's maritime claims.



After warm welcome in Cuba, pope off to somewhat chillier US

‎24 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎01:55:00 AMGo to full article
Santiago De Cuba, Cuba (AFP) Sept 22, 2015 - Pope Francis wrapped up his trip to Cuba Tuesday with a parting call for reconciliation, before leaving the Caribbean island for what could be a slightly chillier reception in the United States.

The pope, who played a key role in brokering the old Cold War foes' recent rapprochement, delivered mass Tuesday in the Cuban city of Santiago, cradle of the communist island's 1959 revolution, calling for a new kind of "revolution."

Speaking at a basilica to Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Cuba's patron saint -- a mixed-race Mary that symbolizes the island's intertwined Spanish and African roots -- he praised Mary as the embodiment of a "revolution of tenderness."

He urged Cubans to follow her example "to build bridges, to break down walls, to sow seeds of reconciliation," in comments that appeared to allude to the nascent reconciliation across the Florida Straits.

Francis then addressed an audience of families, asking for their prayers as he prepares for a synod on the family next month that has unleashed internal conflicts among the Roman Catholic clergy over sensitive issues such as divorce, homosexuality and unmarried couples.

After blessing the southeastern city, Cuba's second-largest, Francis will fly out for his first-ever visit to the United States.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle are to greet him at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington at the start of an itinerary that includes landmark speeches to Congress and the UN General Assembly.

Francis, 78, has received a warm welcome in Cuba, where he is immensely popular for his role in fostering the thaw that saw Washington and Havana restore diplomatic ties in July after more than half a century.

He has had a packed schedule since arriving Saturday afternoon -- three cities, three masses, various blessings and prayer services, countless handshakes with adoring crowds, and meetings with both Fidel and Raul Castro, the brothers who have ruled the Caribbean island since its 1959 revolution.

He has at times looked tired in the tropical heat, but that has done little to dampen the enthusiasm of the fans and faithful who have flocked to see the first Latin American pontiff.

The Argentine pope is broadly popular in the United States, as well -- 70 percent of Americans approve of him, according to one recent poll, compared to 80 percent of Cubans, in a separate poll.

But for some observers, the dominant themes of Francis's papacy -- concern for the poor, his strong stance in favor of action on global warming and his critique of consumerism -- can be read as an indictment of the American way of life.

That was underlined ahead of his trip when Republican Congressman Paul Gosar, who is Catholic, declared he would boycott the pontiff's historic address to Congress to protest his "leftist" views.

The pope will not have won over such conservative critics with his Cuba visit, during which he has discreetly refrained from chastising the communist regime for its crack-downs on dissidents and curbs on civil liberties.

- Tight security -

Francis is expected to be more provocative in the United States when he addresses Congress Thursday and the United Nations Friday.

The Jesuit pope carefully prepared his speeches for Washington and New York all summer long.

His topics will include critiques of the dominance of finance and technology; a condemnation of world powers over the conflicts gripping the planet; appeals to protect and welcome immigrants; and climate change, including a bold appeal for a radical revolution of the energy industry and a slowdown in growth.

His visit will take place under tight security, with US authorities nervous over the complexities of protecting a pope who insists on traveling in an open vehicle to be close to the masses.

The visit poses a particular security headache in New York, where Francis plans to criss-cross Manhattan at a time when 170 world leaders will be in town for the UN General Assembly.

He will preside over an inter-faith ceremony at Ground Zero in the south, visit a Harlem Catholic school in the north and greet the crowds on a procession through Central Park.

He will deliver the final mass of his trip Sunday in Philadelphia at an international festival of Catholic families.



British Labour's anti-war leader faces rebellion on Syria: report

‎24 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎01:55:00 AMGo to full article
London (AFP) Sept 19, 2015 - Senior members of Britain's opposition Labour Party are planning to defy their new pacifist leader and vote with the government to carry out air strikes against Islamic State extremists in Syria, the Sunday Times newspaper reported.

The paper said that half of the party's shadow cabinet would side with Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative government in a House of Commons vote it said could be held next month.

Britain is already taking part in US-led air strikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and the government wants to extend the campaign to Syria but has said it will ask for parliamentary consent.

"There is a majority in the Commons for air strikes in Syria if Cameron has a proper plan for targeting Isis," a shadow cabinet member told the paper, using another acronym for the jihadist group.

"You would get half the shadow cabinet supporting it," the senior Labour official was quoted as saying.

The party's newly-elected radical leftist leader Jeremy Corbyn on Saturday resigned his role as chairman of the Stop the War campaign group that he helped found but restated his anti-war stance.

"In stepping down as chair, I want to make absolutely clear my continuing solidarity with the coalition and its work against wars of intervention," Corbyn said in a statement.

"It is now my job to lead the Labour Party, including in the struggle for peace and international justice, and that is demanding my undivided attention."

Stop the War was originally set up to oppose US-led intervention in Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks and went on to organise Britain's biggest ever rally against the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The group is opposed to air strikes in Syria.

In 2013, Cameron lost a parliamentary vote that would have given the go-ahead for air strikes on Syria in what was seen as a major foreign policy setback, after Labour voted against the measure.

The Sunday Times report comes after a rocky first week in office for the 66-year-old Corbyn since he was elected Labour leader in a shock landslide victory announced on September 12.

He was voted in on a wave of anti-austerity sentiment in the party's grassroots, even though several Labour MPs see him as being too left-wing and unlikely to win a general election.

Corbyn has also said he backs the abolition of the monarchy and his refusal to sing the national anthem "God Save the Queen" in a World War II memorial was condemned by the right-wing press.



Xi to nurture pro-China allies on US trip

‎24 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎01:55:00 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Sept 21, 2015 - Chinese President Xi Jinping makes a high-profile state visit to the White House this week, but he stops first in Washington state on the west coast to shore up support among skittish allies, especially big business.

A 21-gun salute will ring out from the South Lawn of the White House, the staff will break out the new "Kailua blue" state china and, if you believe many analysts, little else will happen when Xi meets President Barack Obama later this week.

"The summit will probably end up with some useful conflict avoidance or reassurance agreements, but no fundamental progress on the core problems on the security side," said Michael Green, a former National Security Council official now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

But before Washington DC, the Chinese leader heads Tuesday to Seattle in Washington state for three days of meetings that may prove equally important for the world's most consequential bilateral relationship.

The Seattle talks will be heavily focused on business, trade and economics. And of course, geopolitics will be at play.

Xi will huddle with leaders from technology and industrial companies like Microsoft and Boeing, as well as the governors of California, Michigan, Iowa, Oregon and Washington.

Both firms have helped temper the anti-Chinese sentiment that runs through US public opinion, with a recent Chicago Council on Global Affairs poll showing 41 percent of Americans view China's military as a critical threat to US interests.

- 'Good-paying jobs' -

Washington state has already received three Chinese presidents: Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.

"We have a long history of cooperation between Washington state and China," Gary Locke, a former Washington state governor and former US ambassador to China, told AFP. "We have the cultural, historical and economic ties."

"We know the value of international trade and we know the value of exports to China and how many thousands of good-paying jobs it supports here in the state of Washington."

When the Republican governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker recently suggested Xi be denied a full state visit -- with its symbolic recognition of China as an equal partner -- he was shot down by his own party.

Terry Branstad, the governor of electoral swing state Iowa, spoke of a personal relationship with Xi that dates back years, saying "I'm proud that he calls me an old friend."

Branstad's amity is more than just personal. Since a Xi visit there three decades ago, China has become a leading purchaser of Iowa soybeans and pork.

- 'Balkanization' -

But China's economic slowdown and apparent tolerance of industrial espionage are calling those alliances into question.

After years of breakneck growth, China's economy is set to expand at a more modest clip, meaning exports from Iowa, Ohio or elsewhere are now in doubt.

At the same time Beijing is aggressively championing its own state-backed companies to compete on the world stage and with Western rivals, who say the deck is stacked against them.

Some are being forced to locate their computer servers and other critical infrastructure inside China, raising the risk that their intellectual property is vulnerable.

"The business community is now more divided, there has been what you might call a Balkanization of the business community in China, into the have and have nots," said Christopher Johnson, a former CIA analyst also now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"The result of that is less unified pressure in the US system on the administration to push smooth and steady relations."

- 'Stonewall issues' -

President Obama recently urged US business to more publicly speak out about Chinese industrial espionage.

"When your companies have a problem in China and you want us to help, you have to let us help," Obama told business leaders ahead of Xi's visit.

"We are not effective with the Chinese unless we are able to present facts and evidence of a problem. Otherwise, they'll just stonewall and slow-walk issues."

The undercutting of pro-Chinese business and regional allies comes just as the 2016 election is set to reignite anti-China rhetoric.

A new national security law would also put US universities, non-government groups and others in the firing line and has rekindled criticism over China's human rights record, an issue long on the back burner.

"There are many Americans whose families have suffered under Xi," New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith told AFP. "Their stories deserve to be front and center during his visit."

"A 'charm offensive' is truly offensive," he said. "It "won't work with the American people, who admire China's history and culture, but not the brutal repression that Xi has unleashed against the Chinese people."

Xi will hope they are not, but rather that he can continue to make the voice of China's friends louder that of the country's critics.



Russia still arming Ukraine rebels despite truce: NATO chief

‎24 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎01:55:00 AMGo to full article
Yavoriv, Ukraine (AFP) Sept 21, 2015 - Russia is still sending weapons to separatist rebels battling the Ukrainian government despite a fresh truce in the war-torn east of the country, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Monday.

"The ceasefire is mainly holding. This is, of course, encouraging because that was not the case before," Stoltenberg said on the first day of his visit to Ukraine.

"But the situation is very fragile," he said at a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at a military base in western Ukraine.

"Russia continues to support the separatists, provide them with weapons, with different kinds of equipment, training, forces."

Kiev and the West insist that Moscow has sent troops and arms across the border to fuel a separatist conflict that has claimed almost 8,000 lives since April 2014, allegations Moscow vehemently denies.

Fighting has dropped to nearly its lowest level since the conflict began after a fresh ceasefire deal was agreed on September 1 following a series of failed truces.

Stoltenberg on Monday started a two-day visit, his first trip to the crisis-hit nation, in a show of support for Ukraine's pro-Western government.

Ex-Soviet Ukraine says it wants to join the US-led security bloc but NATO has been lukewarm on the proposal.

Any move by Ukraine towards NATO membership would stir ire in Moscow, which has accused the organisation of increasingly trying to hem it in following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

NATO has ratcheted up its activities in eastern Europe, rotating troops and equipment in its ex-Communist members to ease fears of Russian expansionism.

The visit of Stoltenberg is "a part of the policy that NATO has been following for a year and a half," a senior Ukrainian security official told AFP.

"They understand very well who is the aggressor and take appropriate measures."

The official said he expects the level of violence will remain low ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin's highly-anticipated speech at the United Nations General Assembly on September 28.

Some observers suspect Putin aims to deflect attention from Ukraine onto the conflict in Syria, where Moscow is pushing for an anti-terrorist coalition.

"The truce will last at least until Putin's trip to the General Assembly," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

- 'Fake elections' -

Stoltenberg insisted that any attempt by separatists to hold their own unilateral local elections in the territories they control would breach a peace plan signed in February in Belarussian capital Minsk.

"They will be fake elections and they will not be recognised by any NATO ally," he told journalists.

He was echoed by NATO member Germany which denounced possible separatist polls as a breach of the Minsk peace deal and urged Russia to distance itself from the idea.

"It would be a serious breach of the Minsk agreements," Steffen Seibert, Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, said referring to local elections planned by two rebel-held provinces on October 18 and November 1.

"And it is regrettable that Russia has not distanced itself from the plans so far."

Russia's foreign ministry last week said it "understands" the decision by the rebels to hold the polls and "sees it as a forced step" after truce violations by Kiev.

Under the agreements, the separatist regions must conduct local elections by the end of the year "in accordance with Ukrainian legislation and the law of Ukraine".

The rebels, however, want to hold local elections under their own terms, which include barring all pro-Ukrainian candidates and holding the polls on days that do not correspond to local elections planned in the rest of Ukraine on October 25.



Pope prepares to take US bow after Cuba stopover

‎24 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎01:55:00 AMGo to full article
Vatican City (AFP) Sept 19, 2015 - Pope Francis headed to Cuba Saturday on the first leg of his most high-profile trip to date, which will also take him to the United States -- highlighting his role in mediating the former Cold War foes' historic thaw.

Landmark speeches to the US Congress and the UN General Assembly await next week on the 78-year-old Argentine's first trip to a global superpower whose policies he has never hesitated to criticise.

But first the leader of the world's 1.3 billion Roman Catholics will become the third pope to touch down in communist Cuba in less than two decades.

Francis, smart in his papal whites and clutching the black leather bag he takes on all his travels, waved a cheerful goodbye before boarding an Alitalia plane and taking off from Rome's Fiumicino airport shortly after 0830 GMT.

He is expected to land at around 2000 GMT in Havana, where hoards of people were already gathering Saturday morning to greet him.

"I never thought I would ever come to Cuba," said Cathy Donn, a 56-year-old American who flew in with a group of 187 Catholics organized by the archdiocese of Miami.

"But I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to come see the pope and see him in a place that I would never be able to see," she told AFP on the eve of Francis's arrival.

The visit has added significance as it comes in the aftermath of the historic US-Cuban rapprochement, which allowed diplomatic relations to be restored thanks to secret contacts that Francis, the first Latin American pope, helped facilitate.

Cuban leader Raul Castro is expected at Jose Marti airport to greet the pope, and Francis is also likely to meet Raul's predecessor and brother Fidel during his three-night stop on the Caribbean island.

Although he rejects as absurd some critics' depictions of him as a veiled Marxist, the pope does share with the Castro brothers a radical critique of global capitalism.

But it does not prevent him from working to coax their one-party regime into greater respect for civil rights and religious freedom.

In a message broadcast on the island ahead of his trip he praised Cubans' spirit in the face of adversity.

"It does me a lot of good and helps me to think of your faith in the Lord, of the spirit with which you confront the difficulties of each day," he said.

- New overture from Washington -

Francis begins his visit with a speech at the airport on arrival, after which he has no public engagements ahead of what is a densely packed schedule for the rest of his stay.

As well as Havana, he is due to visit Holguin and Santiago, birthplace of Castro's revolution, following in the footsteps of his predecessors Benedict XVI and John Paul II, who visited in 2012 and 1998, respectively.

That such a small state has been smothered with papal attention reflects the importance the Vatican attaches to the fate of Cuba's Catholics, who have won greater freedoms as part of a diplomatic process in which the Holy See has also championed the case for an easing of the US embargo on trade and investment ties.

In the run-up to Francis's arrival, the Cuban government announced the release of more than 3,500 prisoners, significantly more than were liberated before previous papal visits.

The United States for its part announced a further loosening of restrictions on business and travel with Cuba.

While he is sure of a warm welcome in Cuba, the outcome of the US leg of Francis's 10th overseas trip looks more uncertain.

For some observers, the dominant themes of Francis's papacy -- concern for the poor, his strong stance in favour of action on global warming and his critique of consumerism -- can be read as an indictment of the American way of life.

That was underlined Friday when Republican Congressman Paul Gosar, a Catholic, declared he would boycott the pontiff's historic address to Congress to protest his "leftist" views.

- Special guest -

And while Francis appears hugely popular with American Catholics, he also arrives amid lingering bitterness over the American Church hierarchy's role in covering up widespread sexual abuse of children by priests.

But he is sure to be treated as a special guest by most Americans, from the prisoners he will meet in Philadelphia to President Barack Obama, who will greet him personally on his arrival Tuesday at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington.

According to Vatican sources, the most important speeches of his trip will see the pope return to familiar themes: the tyranny of global finance and the evils of the throwaway culture, as well as more consensual questions such as human trafficking, unemployment, war and the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities.

While in New York, the pontiff will preside over a multi-faith service at Ground Zero against terrorism and in memory of the victims of the September 2001 attacks on the United States.

Some 1.5 million people are expected for the final mass of the trip, in Philadelphia at an international festival of Catholic families.

Bells to toll for pope's US arrival
Washington (AFP) Sept 19, 2015 - Pope Francis is set to arrive in Cuba on Saturday for a trip that will take him next week to the United States for the first time.

The following are briefs about the pope's upcoming visit to Washington, New York and Philadelphia:

- Bells, bells, bells -

Fifty-six bells will toll when Pope Francis touches down at Andrews Air Force base outside the US capital Tuesday to begin his first-ever US visit.

The bells belong to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Roman Catholic church in North America that also ranks among the 10 biggest in the world.

It's here that the pontiff will lead his first mass -- to canonize Franciscan friar and missionary Junipero Serra -- that is expected to draw some 40,000 people.

The basilica, Byzantine-Romanesque in style and topped by a golden and blue dome, is dedicated to the patroness of the United States, the Virgin Mary.

Francis will celebrate the mass on the basilica's east portico from a specially crafted altar that pays homage to the Vatican's recent encyclical letter to bishops on the environment and global warming, with its use of recycled fiberboard and American-sourced poplar and cherry veneer.

- 'Wall of lament' on US-Mexico border -

In California, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy and other faith leaders will be launching "40 Days of Faithful Action" on Sunday with an interfaith event at the US-Mexico border.

To spotlight the plight of separated immigrant families, they will unveil a so-called Wall of Lament between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico.

Organizers say they are acting on the pope's "message of compassion, respect for human dignity and love all of God's creation."

They have also planned events in support of Francis's trip to a Philadelphia jail.

- Pontiff's Twitter plea -

"I ask you to join me in praying for my trip to Cuba and the United States. I need your prayers," Pope Francis tweeted Friday.

Twitter is the pontiff's preferred social media platform. Boasting nearly 23 million followers, he uses it to reach out to his flock in nine languages.

- Work from home -

US federal government workers have been encouraged to work from home if possible during the pope's visit to Washington.

The Office of Personnel Management has said that while the government will stay open, agencies are "strongly" encouraged to "allow employees to telework to keep the government operating while helping to minimize traffic congestion and support law enforcement efforts during this event."

If possible, employees are encouraged to use vacation time during the September 22-24 visit.



Xi to show rising China's global role in US state visit

‎24 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎01:55:00 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Sept 18, 2015 - President Xi Jinping will demonstrate China's increasing global influence on his first state visit to the US next week for a closely watched summit with Barack Obama, even as concern builds that its giant economy is losing steam.

The United States and China, the world's two biggest economies, also have powerful militaries and their relationship encompasses cooperation and competition on a global scale.

Key topics during the trip signalled by Chinese officials include their trade and business relationship, geopolitics, climate change, terrorism and cybersecurity, among others.

The visit kicks off Tuesday in west coast technology and aviation hub Seattle before Friday's summit in Washington. Xi then heads to New York to mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations.

China sees the trip as a chance to stress its self-perceived status as the only nation able to rival the US in global importance, with Xi telling US business leaders Thursday of a "new model of major country relations".

The Chinese leader added he was ready to have a "profound exchange of views with President Obama on major issues of mutual concern".

Ruan Zongze, vice president of the China Institute of International Studies, a foreign ministry-affiliated think tank, told diplomats at the Lanting forum in Beijing that the nature of the relationship had changed.

"The world is entering a stage of major adjustments and changes," he said. "Under such circumstances China cannot just remain silent like it was before."

Less than three months ago, Beijing was basking in the limelight of having succeeded in signing up dozens of countries, including close US allies Germany and Britain, to its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

But an extended plunge on the Shanghai stock exchange, along with global market jitters over an ongoing growth slowdown and questions over Xi's and other Communist leaders' economic management skills, have dulled some of the lustre.

Despite the recent economic volatility, Carl Baker, director of programmes at the Honolulu-based Pacific Forum CSIS, told AFP: "He still comes with a fairly strong hand vis-a-vis Obama simply because Obama is becoming a lame duck.

"And Xi Jinping is still pretty sure he's going to be around for some time in the future."

- 'Build trust' -

Though craving recognition abroad -- and perhaps even more importantly at home -- as a great power, China is also aware of suspicions over its actions and regularly seeks to issue verbal reassurances.

That was on parade, literally, earlier this month when Beijing displayed a massive amount of military hardware -- including "carrier-killer" anti-ship ballistic missiles -- in the capital to mark 70 years since Japan's World War II defeat.

Presiding over the march, Xi took pains to assert that China does "not seek hegemony".

But it is currently locked in territorial disputes with close US allies Japan and the Philippines, making the region the most likely location for a collision between the interests of Beijing and Washington.

Beijing is building artificial islands in disputed waters in the South China Sea, and foreign minister Wang Yi said at a regional summit last month that the works had stopped -- only for a Washington think-tank to release satellite pictures this week showing it continuing.

Chinese officials see the summit as an opportunity to tone down worries in the US over its global ambitions and increasing military profile, along with accusations that Beijing has been behind major acts of cyber espionage against the US government and companies.

Xi would be looking to "build trust", Wang told this week's Lanting forum, adding the two countries must "dispel strategic misgiving and avoid strategic miscalculation".

Other governments "will be looking for signals on whether the two countries are competing or cooperating, and whether they will live together in peace or get stuck in friction or even confrontation", he added.

But he stressed that Beijing will never give up its claims to the South China Sea islands.

The US-China backdrop is one of enduring rivalry, with Beijing's concerns exacerbated by Obama's foreign policy "pivot" to Asia.

Washington has a decades-long military presence in the region and longstanding formal alliances and close relationships, rankling some Chinese commentators.

China has been playing "a bigger role in international relations", as urged by the US, Ruan said, only to find Washington expressing concern when it did so.

"The crux of the problem lies in the zero-sum mentality in the United States, because a lot of Americans see China as a source of problems as it grows stronger."



China says Japan security law 'threat' to regional peace

‎24 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎01:55:00 AMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 19, 2015 - China accused Japan of threatening regional peace Saturday after Tokyo passed laws clearing Japanese troops to fight abroad for the first time since World War II, saying that its rival should learn "profound lessons from history".

Japan's ruling coalition, led by nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, pushed the laws through in the early hours of Saturday morning after days of tortuous debate that at times descended into physical scuffles in parliament.

For the first time in 70 years, the new laws will give the government the power to send the military into overseas conflicts to defend allies, even if Japan itself is not under attack.

China's defence ministry said Saturday the reforms had "aroused grave concern among its own citizens, Asian neighbouring countries and the international society," state media reported.

A Xinhua editorial added that Japan's new security bills "not only broke Japan's promise to the world after World War II, but also betrayed its own people".

Japan's nationalist premier has argued the laws are necessary to protect against threats from what it views as an increasingly belligerent China and unstable North Korea, but opponents fear the vague wording could see Japan dragged into far-flung foreign wars.

South Korea called on Japan to remember the need for transparency in implementing its new defence policy "while maintaining the spirit of the pacifist constitution," its foreign ministry said in a statement cited by the Yonhap news agency.

North Korea's official KCNA news agency later released a strongly-worded statement from the foreign ministry accusing Japan of being "obsessed with an anachronistic ambition for reinvasion".

"Japan's militarist moves are posing a grave threat to peace and stability in Asia and the rest of the world," the statement added.

It warned the North "will further increase the war deterrence to cope with the dangerous moves for aggression against it".

- 'This is not an end' -

Abe has faced bitter opposition at home over the changes, which have seen his popularity slump, and opposition lawmakers have vowed to do everything in their power to fight them.

"This is not an end," said Renho, a senior lawmaker from the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, who goes by one name.

"Let's make it the beginning of the beginning," she said on Twitter.

Mizuho Fukushima, a senior lawmaker from the opposition Social Democratic Party, told a crowd of more than ten thousand who gathered outside parliament during the debate: "Abe's cabinet criminals... Let's get them out of here."

Speaking after the vote, Abe said the changes were "necessary in order to protect people's lives and peaceful way of life".

"This is designed to prevent wars," he told journalists.

Abe had been unable to muster support to amend the pacifist constitution and instead opted to "re-interpret" the meaning of self-defence in order to push through the new laws, but the move has sparked a groundswell of opposition not seen for decades in Japan.

A hardcore group of some 300 protesters gathered outside parliament on Saturday, calling for the legislation to be abolished and vowing never to stop their fight against Abe.

"Our battle will never end. This is just the beginning," Keisuke Yamamoto, an organiser from one of the citizen groups that have been leading weeks of rallies, told AFP.

"We will resort to every possible measure, including bringing the case to the courts... We can't let this movement fizzle out now."

Behind him, demonstrators carried banners or billboards, which read: "We should not get children killed," and "Don't let them wage a war".

- 'Black stain' -

Legal scholars have argued the legislation violates Japan's pacifist constitution, imposed by the US after World War II, and several groups on Saturday said they were preparing to challenge the new laws.

Susumu Murakoshi, chairman of the 36,000-strong national bar association, on Saturday criticised the government for going against the will of the people and pledged to see the changes abolished.

The laws have "left a black stain on the history of Japan as a constitutional democracy," he said in a statement.

National broadcaster NHK reported that respected constitutional scholar Setsu Kobayashi, from Keio University, is already planning to muster 1,000 lawyers to file a challenge to the legislation in the Tokyo district court.

Legal action aside, the laws will likely take months to come into effect and the supreme court could urge lawmakers to amend them.

Even under the new legislation, Japan's military will still be more restricted than other countries: parliament will have to approve any deployments, based on strict criteria, and force must be kept to a minimum.

Tokyo has said the changes would allow troops to help their American counterparts, but officials have remained tight-lipped on who else it would cover.

It could include the Philippines, or Australia, both of which Japan has forged closer military ties with in recent years, and the new laws were welcomed by the Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

"These reforms will allow Japan to make a greater contribution to international peace and stability," she said in a statement Saturday.


USAFE commander warns of Russia's growing air power

‎16 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎06:51:02 AMGo to full article
National Harbor, Md. (UPI) Sep 15, 2015 - Russian air power is making serious strides, and may soon be able to compete with U.S. and NATO dominance.

Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, spoke to reporters about Russia's progress in air power development at the Air Force Association's annual Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition on Monday.

"The advantage that we had from the air, I can honestly say, is shrinking, not only with respect to the aircraft that they're producing, but the more alarming thing is their ability to create anti-access, area denied areas is a challenge that we're all going to face up to," Gen. Gorenc said.

Improvements in Russia's air power include modernized surface-to-air missile defenses and remotely piloted aircraft. Russia has also shown significant gains in developing defenses against U.S. stealth fighters and bombers, developments Gen. Gorenc calls "alarming."

"I don't think it's controversial to say they've closed the gap in capability," Gen. Gorenc added, "we just need to be cognizant of it."

The Russian military has bolstered these new defenses around the Crimea region of Ukraine, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Gen. Gorenc says the U.S. Air Force needs to develop new training and tactical procedures to maintain the dominance of U.S. air power. The United States has maintained nearly uncontested air supremacy for decades, which provides additional protection for U.S. and allied ground operations, support Gen. Gorenc says the United States desperately needs to maintain.



Japan scrambles jets to intercept 'Russian' plane

‎16 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎06:51:02 AMGo to full article
Hong Kong (AFP) Sept 15, 2015 - Japan scrambled four fighter jets to intercept a foreign aircraft -- believed to have been Russian -- which briefly violated its airspace, the defence ministry was reported as saying Wednesday.

The plane entered Japanese airspace off the coast of the northernmost main island of Hokkaido, the Kyodo and Jiji news agencies said.

The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force scrambled four jets to head off the intruder on Tuesday, Jiji added.

The defence ministry said it believed the plane was Russian after analysing its vapour trail, according to Jiji, adding officials said the aircraft left Japanese airspace quickly.

The plane was in Japanese airspace for about 16 seconds.

If Russian planes were found to have been involved, it would be the first such incident for two years.

Russian military jets have not entered Japanese airspace for more than two years, the defence ministry was quoted as saying, when two Tu-95 Russian strategic bombers were intercepted off Okinoshima Island in south west Japan, Kyodo quoted the defence ministry as saying.

Japan's foreign ministry has lodged a protest with Russia, Jiji said.



Japan promises ships to Vietnam amid South China Sea fears

‎16 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎06:51:02 AMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 15, 2015 - Japan on Tuesday promised Vietnam ships to strengthen its forces in the South China Sea, with the two nations describing large-scale land reclamation there as a threat to peace -- a veiled reference to China.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also pledged some 100 billion yen ($835 million) in infrastructure loans after holding talks with Nguyen Phu Trong, in his first visit to Japan as general secretary of Vietnam's ruling Communist Party.

Both countries are locked in separate maritime territorial disputes with an increasingly assertive China and are strengthening cooperation as a result.

A statement after the talks said the leaders "expressed their serious concerns over recent and ongoing developments in the South China Sea", although they stopped short of referring directly to Beijing.

These "large-scale land reclamation and building of outposts... have increased tensions, eroded trust and confidence, and threatened peace and stability in the region and the world", they said.

China claims the right to almost all of the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Japan and China are locked in conflict over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Abe pledged to give more second-hand vessels to Vietnam but did not specify how many.

Japan's foreign minister last year said his country would give Hanoi six used ships for patrols in the South China Sea.

"Japan decided to give Vietnam additional second-hand vessels at its request," the Japanese premier told a news conference.

"This decision will benefit Vietnam to improve its maritime law enforcement capability."

Trong said he and Abe "shared concerns over the complex situations in the East China Sea and the South China Sea".

Vietnam has been trying to strengthen ties with other nations to counter China's growing assertiveness.

In July Trong was received by US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, where he said they discussed activities in the South China Sea "that are not in accordance with international law".

Vietnam and the Philippines -- the two Southeast Asian nations most vocal in their criticism of China -- this month pledged to sign a "strategic partnership" agreement to bolster defence, political and economic ties.

Japan has been trying to increase its influence in the region, and in July pledged $6.1 billion in financial aid to the "Mekong Five" countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.



U.S. troops begin training Ukraine's active-duty military

‎16 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎06:51:02 AMGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Sep 15, 2015 - U.S. military assistance to Ukraine expands to include training of active-duty troops in addition to the country's recently formed national guard.

A new rotation of troops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade are set to train up to five battalions of Ukrainian soldiers, as the conflict with Russian-backed rebels in Eastern Ukraine continues. The paratroops are no strangers to the region, rotating soldiers into the country for the program known as Fearless Guardian since April. The program's goal is to beef up and reform the Ukrainian military.

Training exercises will focus on marksmanship, small unit tactical planning, and counter drone surveillance. Many of the trainees have seen plenty of action already, returning from front-line battles against eastern Ukrainian separatists.

Western military interests in Ukraine have peaked since the beginning of Ukraine's civil war with pro-Russian rebels, who maintain strongholds in the eastern region of the country. The unrest began shortly after the Russian annexation of Crimea in March 2014, as protests in Donetsk, Luhansk, and other cities formed into an armed insurgency.

Other Western powers have joined the United States in bolstering Ukraine's defensive capabilities. Canada announced in December 2014 it would support training of Ukrainian police and medical personnel in addition to sections of the country's military. Britain plans to train 2,000 members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces by the end of 2015.

Russian leaders have criticized the training programs, saying it simply provokes separatist fighters. However, U.S. military support for the country continues to grow, with additional training initiatives bringing the total security assistance committed to Ukraine since 2014 to $244 million.



Americans await earful from Pope Francis

‎16 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎06:51:02 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Sept 15, 2015 - Americans are eagerly awaiting a visit from Pope Francis but can expect an earful in this land of plenty from the reform-minded pontiff with calls to help migrants and fight poverty and global warming.

The 78-year-old leader of the Roman Catholic church will come to Washington September 22 after a stop in Cuba, and also visit New York and Philadelphia through the 27th.

Francis is known and praised for his focus on compassion for the poor and downtrodden -- and hands-on mingling with them -- and his denunciations of creature comforts and zeal for wealth as contemporary society's main sources of happiness and meaning in life.

And here he comes, to the country synonymous with bustling, go-go capitalism and a drive for material success at all costs.

"Christians should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, so I think he is going to shake up Americans of all sorts," said Father James Martin, a Jesuit who is the editor in chief at America, a Catholic journal.

Francis will address Congress September 24 in a keenly awaited speech, as "there are issues that make it difficult for Americans to understand Francis," said Massimo Faggioli, a Catholic church historian and theology professor at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.

In an encyclical published in June, Francis said global warming was caused by mankind, with greed and consumerism. He said rich countries must bear the responsibility and pay for a solution.

"It is a very powerful accusation against a certain economic system that is the American way," Faggioli said.

Some Americans, especially ones skeptical of global warming, took offense at the appeal.

"I don't go to mass for economic policy or for things in politics," Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush said at the time.

Even among US Catholics, only 29 percent feel that fighting climate change is an essential part of their religious identity, according to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center.

During a visit to poverty-stricken Bolivia in July, the pope said, "Once capital becomes an idol and guides people's decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society."

And in the US these days income inequality -- the gaping canyon between the rich and poor -- has become a scandal.

Martin said the pope's remarks "have been seen as a condemnation and many capitalists in the US cannot hear it."

On migration, one of the top issues in the US presidential race, Francis could clash with Republicans opposed to reforms aimed at granting legal status to people who are in the United States illegally or with ones who "tend to get closer" to Donald Trump, Faggioli said.

Trump, the billionaire leading the field, has said he wants to build a wall along the border with Mexico and said that country sends rapists and other criminals into the United States.

- 'Cultural war' -

But the Catholic church in America, half of whose flock are Latinos, will be in sync with the Pope, who has long been active on the issue of treating migrants more humanely.

But Faggioli said the church has a harder time stomaching recent action by the pope on moral issues.

Specifically, he has ordered a major speeding up -- and cheapening -- of the long and costly procedure for divorced Catholics to obtain an annulment of their failed marriage and thus be able to remarry in the church.

"They think that pope Francis doesn't know what he is doing," the professor said.

"They think he is reversing completely the policies of US Catholic bishops in these last thirty years more or less," Faggioli said.

During that span, he added, the Catholic church was in a cultural war against liberal modernity in the US.

But the pope "doesn't believe in cultural war. He believes in dialogue, in being attractive for the church," Faggioli said.

"Pope Francis is no knee-jerk liberal," Paul Vallely, author of a recent biography of the pope, wrote in the newspaper Politico.

- Surprise in store? -

"He has held the traditional Catholic line on issues like abortion, gay marriage and even contraception, yet he has radically shifted the focus of the Catholic Church away from sexual ethics onto the morality of money," Vallely wrote.

American Catholics want a more flexible approach from the Vatican on artificial contraception, letting divorced Catholics remarry and same sex couples, according to the Pew poll.

They are also comfortable with alternative family arrangements: 66 percent said it is acceptable for a gay or lesbian couple to raise children. This will be a key focus of the Pope's visit to Philadelphia for a forum on the Catholic family.

The pope will be more cautious than he was during visits to Latin America or in Italy, Faggioli predicted.

But he might also surprise people.

"He has potential to be a lot more disturbing than either John Paul II or Benedict XVI because he tends to the unexpected," said Martin.



Dutch boosts defence spending

‎16 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎06:51:02 AMGo to full article
The Hague (AFP) Sept 15, 2015 - The Netherlands on Tuesday boosted its defence spending by 220 million euros ($248.8 million) for 2016 aiming to strengthen its military capacity and step up participation in overseas missions.

Amid the growing migrant crisis, the Dutch government also called for an "integrated" European approach as it set aside an added 539 million euros to fund the arrival of new refugees into the country.

A further 110 million euros will be dedicated to financing registration centres in the refugee camps which have sprung up in countries neighbouring war-torn Syria.

"The refugee stream is growing and will not tolerate a wait-and-see approach," Dutch King Willem-Alexander said at the opening of the country's parliament.

In a speech written by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the king laid out the Liberal-led government's plans for the coming year, calling for an "integrated approach" across Europe to the migrants flooding in from overseas.

"This means sharp choices to stem the influx and a better system of distributing them across EU members states," he said.

In 2016 the Dutch government will increase its annual defence spending by 220 million euros to a total of 7.5 billion euros, with spending rising a further 345 million by 2020.

The money will be spent on improving Dutch military deployment capacity and increased Dutch involvement in international military missions.

Also weighing heavily on Dutch politics is the refugee crisis.

More than 430,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year, with 2,748 dying on the perilous journey in the continent's biggest migrant crisis since World War II.

"It's about international conflict management... fighting human trafficking, a strict but fair asylum procedure, an effective return policy as well as integrating those who cannot go back," the king said.

EU ministers on Monday failed to reach agreement on a quota plan to share the burden of a flood of refugees coming largely out of war-torn Syria and Iraq.

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who is also Eurogroup chairman, officially unveiled the 2015-16 budget including announcing five billion euros in tax breaks for citizens and companies to help create more jobs.

Dutch government policy think tank, the Central Planning Bureau (CPB), has predicted 2.0 percent growth for this year and 2.4 percent growth in 2016 for the EU's fifth-largest economy.

The budget deficit is predicted to be 1.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), well below the EU's 3.0 percent ceiling, Dijsselbloem said.

"It's going better than expected," he told lawmakers.

But Dijsselbloem, referring to the 6.7 percent unemployment rate, added: "It's not going well enough."



Okinawa to revoke approval for controversial US base

‎16 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎06:51:02 AMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 14, 2015 - The governor of Okinawa said Monday he will revoke approval for work on a US air base in southern Japan, in the latest setback to the controversial plan.

The proposal to relocate Futenma air base to the Henoko region, first mooted in 1996, has become the focus of anger among locals, who insist it should be shut and a replacement built elsewhere in Japan or overseas.

Outspoken Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga said his government has began procedures to cancel approval, just two days after work in Henoko resumed following a month-long delay, according to the prefecture.

"We'll do our best by using every possible measure to block the construction of a new base in Henoko as promised during our election campaign," he told a press conference, adding that "defects" had been found in the approval given by his predecessor in 2013.

Work in Henoko, the rural coastal district in central Okinawa chosen for the replacement facility, is only in the initial stages with the government setting up sea floats and a makeshift bridge necessary for landfill work.

The central government will for now continue its work in the district "based on the law while giving consideration to residents' livelihood and the environment," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said during a parliamentary debate.

The move comes after Tokyo resumed work in Henoko Saturday following a month-long suspension as talks continued with local officials opposed to the project, and residents staged a protest.

Both Tokyo and Washington have repeatedly backed the plan, with Abe last month insisting it was "the only solution".

All sides agree that Futenma's current site -- in the middle of a crowded urban area where its aircraft are a nuisance to thousands of locals -- is not appropriate, but the US will not close it until a replacement facility is ready.



Poroshenko asks for 'defensive weapons' against rebels

‎16 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎06:51:02 AMGo to full article
Berlin (AFP) Sept 14, 2015 - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stressed Monday his wish for "defence weapons" from Western allies to help in the conflict against pro-Russian separatists.

Ukraine needed support "not just with words", he said in an interview with Germany's conservative Die Welt daily, mentioning the need for defensive weapons.

"We are not just defending our country, we are defending freedom and democracy," Poroshenko said.

"We are fighting with 20th century weapons against weapons from the 21st century. And Russia's military budget is 30 to 45 times as big as ours."

Kiev and the West accuse Russia of sending regular troops and weapons to aid separatists in the east, where nearly 8,000 people have died in the conflict since April 2014. Moscow has always denied involvement.

Kiev's goal was to build up a working military deterrence, said Poroshenko.

Germany and other countries have rejected weapons shipments, fearing it would escalate the fighting.

In the conflict zone, a total ceasefire was announced starting September 1, and so far appears to be holding.

The foreign ministers of Germany, Russia, Ukraine and France met in Berlin last Saturday to prepare for a summit in Paris on October 2.

Germany's top diplomat, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said the meeting had been "less confrontational" than previous ones and that the warring sides were now "very close" to an agreement on withdrawing heavy weapons from the frontline.



95,000 Russian troops in massive military drill

‎16 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎06:51:02 AMGo to full article
Moscow (AFP) Sept 14, 2015 - Russia on Monday launched its largest military exercises of the year, Centre-2015, involving some 95,000 soldiers including ground troops, navy and airforce units.

The long-announced war games are "the most large-scale drill of 2015," the defence ministry said.

Russia has recently intensified snap checks of its military might, testing its capabilities from the Arctic to the Far East as relations with the West have plunged to a post-Cold War low over the Ukraine crisis.

Centre-2015 takes place at 20 sites across Russia's central military district, which reaches from the Volga River to the Ural mountains and Siberia in the east, while also including far northern Russia.

Troops from member states of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), made up of several ex-Soviet countries, are also involved in the exercise.

The defence ministry said the war games are aimed at testing the readiness of the military of the CSTO countries to "manage coalition groups of troops in containing an international armed conflict."

The troops will simulate "blocking and destroying illegal armed formations during joint special operations," the ministry said.

The drill begins as leaders are to arrive in Tajikistan for a summit of the CSTO that starts Tuesday.

The exercises running to September 20 include 20 naval ships and up to 170 aircraft, the defence ministry said.

President Vladimir Putin will observe the drills during one of the days, Russian daily Izvestia reported last week, without giving details.

The main action will take place in the Urals, in the Siberian Altai region and in the southern Astrakhan region and the Caspian Sea, the commander of troops in Russia's central military district, Vladimir Zarudnitsky told journalists, quoted by Interfax news agency.

In European Russia, 12,000 troops will take part in drills at military ranges in the Urals region close to Kazakhstan involving around 90 tanks as well as 20 artillery and rocket launcher systems.

Kazakh troops will also take part and a military delegation from Nicaragua will act as monitors, Zarudnitsky added.

Poland agrees military cooperation with non-NATO Sweden
Warsaw (AFP) Sept 14, 2015 - NATO member Poland on Monday signed a deal on military cooperation with non-member Sweden amid concerns raised by increased Russian military activity in the Baltic.

"Once a sea of peace, the Baltic has become a sea of danger," Polish Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak told reporters at a joint press conference in Warsaw with Swedish counterpart Peter Hultqvist.

Hultqvist said the increased presence of Russian warships and warplanes in the Baltic Sea had prompted Stockholm to take "two strategic decisions".

One was to boost defence spending by 11 percent over five year, and the other was to reinforce cooperation with NATO as a whole, as well as with its individual members.

Sweden's foreign ministry on Friday summoned Russia's ambassador after Moscow threatened "retaliatory measures" if the Scandinavian country joined NATO.

The increased tensions come on the heels of Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and backing of separatist forces in the country's east.



Qaeda chief urges jihadists to unite, confront West

‎16 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎06:51:02 AMGo to full article
Dubai (AFP) Sept 13, 2015 - Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called for jihadists to close ranks and take the battle to Western cities, especially in the United States, in an Internet audio message posted Sunday.

"I call on all mujahedeen (Islamist fighters) in districts of Iraq and Syria to collaborate and help each other," said Zawahiri, who opposes last year's declaration by the Islamic State group (IS) of a "caliphate" straddling the two Arab states.

Al-Qaeda's chief, who is in hiding, said the decision on the caliphate had been taken "in secret and without consultation".

He singled out five areas of cooperation: ending inter-jihadist clashes, a halt to campaigns calling for rivals to be eliminated, the creation of an independent religious tribunal to resolve differences, a general amnesty and collaboration in treating the wounded, sheltering refugees and stocking food supplies.

Such cooperation had become even more urgent because "the enemy has intensified its crusade against Islam".

To counter the campaign, Zawahiri called for Muslims "to take the war into the West's cities and against their installations, especially in the United States".

He urged jihadists living in Western countries "to identify their targets... and find the means to attack, avoiding spies and moving into action".

Al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate, Al-Nusra Front, allied with other Islamist rebel groups, has been locked in deadly clashes with IS for control of territory in the north and around Damascus.




China's Xi stands tall but challenges mounting: analysts

‎07 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎08:05:56 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Sept 4, 2015 - China's front pages were plastered Friday with images of President Xi Jinping reviewing a giant military parade, but analysts say the show of untrammelled power is undermined by signs of disquiet within Communist ranks and fears the economy is eluding its control.

In less than three years Xi has consolidated authority to a remarkable degree compared with his predecessors, demonstrated when he rode in an open-topped Red Flag limousine past row upon row of soldiers.

"Just symbolically you can see that he is at the apex of his power," said Willy Lam, an expert on Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Xi has become the "big boss" of the Communist Party, Lam added, far outpacing other top leaders such as Premier Li Keqiang, who was relegated to announcing the start of the parade.

Alongside the president on the rostrum stood his predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao in a show of party unity under Xi -- even though some of their close allies have fallen victim to his much-publicised anti-corruption drive.

"At this stage he seems unassailable," Lam said.

Since coming to power in late 2012 as Communist Party general secretary, Xi has pushed what he calls the "Chinese dream", a promise to revitalise the nation so it can assume a world position befitting its status as a great power.

Under him the ruling party has pledged reforms to give the market the "decisive role" in the economy, and his campaign against graft has rocked the 88-million-strong organisation that has ruled the People's Republic since 1949, as well as its armed force, the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

His public image has been burnished by common touch demonstrations such as a visit to a bun shop, as well as the glamour of his wife Peng Liyuan, a popular singer.

Later this month Xi will make a state visit to Washington, affirming what Beijing sees as its equal "great power" status with the United States.

Xi was "full of dignity and did a great job showing off China's qualities", enthused Wang Wei, a spectator at the parade.

- Pressure building -

But the public displays cannot hide the fact that China faces serious problems, especially slowing growth and financial market turmoil.

The deployment of hundreds of billions of dollars on the exchanges, which failed to stop share prices falling, has spurred concern that Xi and other leaders still have interventionist tendencies and could struggle to handle an increasingly sophisticated economy.

State media commentaries last month suggested deep aversions within the Communist Party to Xi's reforms, adding another element of uncertainty.

"The scale of the difficulties and resistance, and the obstinacy, truculence, complexity and weirdness of forces that cannot adapt to, or even oppose the reforms, are probably beyond what could have been imagined," said a commentary on state broadcaster CCTV's website.

Now that Xi had established himself as the "supreme leader", Lam said, questions were being asked on "what is the next step, what is he doing in the area of reform?"

"So the pressure is building," he added.

The People's Daily, the ruling party's official mouthpiece, last month carried a rare denunciation of retired leaders' continued influence, fuelling speculation over how far Xi's anti-graft campaign could go.

Xi's crackdown has nabbed once powerful figures such as ex-security czar Zhou Yongkang, jailed for life in June and who was regarded as an ally of Jiang, as well as former close Hu aide Ling Jihua, expelled from the party in July and handed over to prosecutors.

The fall from grace of figures previously seen as untouchable has sent ripples of disquiet through the party ranks.

- No 'new bold thinking' -

Part of the purpose of the parade to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan's World War II defeat was to reassure the military of its place in Xi's China, said Carl Baker, director of programmes at the Honolulu-based Pacific Forum CSIS.

"He's done the military thing... he's demonstrated the ability to maintain loyalty in the senior ranks through his anti-corruption campaign," he told AFP, and Xi was now "giving some space to the PLA to show they've participated in the rise of China as well".

But Kerry Brown, professor of Chinese politics at the University of Sydney, stressed that Xi has underachieved in many ways.

Crackdowns on civil society, lawyers and journalists had given a "sense that the political dimension of reform is constantly being pushed into the future, even as the imperatives for it (have) grown stronger", he said in an email.

"This leadership is as fixated by stability as its predecessor, and works broadly within the same political parameters. So I don't see any grand new bold thinking, just the same ideas from the past -- economic reform, political and social stability -- dressed up in new language."

Xi's prestige has been hit by the financial turmoil, analysts say, with many of China's 90 million investors losing money in the country's torrid summer on the markets.

Baker told AFP: "Now he's going to have to demonstrate that they can actually survive their own version of a financial crisis."



China must drop 'deceitful rhetoric' on disputed sea: Philippines

‎07 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎08:05:56 AMGo to full article
Manila (AFP) Sept 6, 2015 - Beijing must offer more than hollow promises if it wishes to secure peace in the disputed South China Sea and beyond, a spokesman for the Philippine defence department said Sunday.

The remarks came days after China flaunted its military might with a massive parade to mark the end of World War II, though President Xi Jinping said at the event his country was dedicated to peace and does "not seek hegemony".

"The Chinese leadership should go beyond deceitful rhetoric claiming peaceful efforts before their aggression takes a greater and irreparable toll on the region and beyond," Peter Paul Galvez, the department spokesman said in a statement.

"We call on China's government to show its sincerity by, at the least, stopping all ongoing construction and militarisation activities and to refrain from restricting freedom of flight and navigation," in the flashpoint sea, he said.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea -- a vital maritime route, rich fishing ground and potential source of vast minerals -- despite competing claims from the Philippines as well as Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The Philippines has been the most vocal in criticising China's efforts to enforce its claim by seizing islets and turning isolated outcroppings into artificial islands that can host military facilities.

Galvez added, "the department welcomes the Chinese leadership's recent pronouncement that they are committed to peace. But why the display of offensive weaponry (at the September 3 parade)?"

The Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in the region, has been seeking to improve its defence relations with other countries like the United States and Japan to counterbalance China's forces.

The country has also filed a case with an international tribunal challenging China's maritime claim.



India announces major pensions overhaul for army veterans

‎07 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎08:05:56 AMGo to full article
New Delhi (AFP) Sept 5, 2015 - Three million Indian army veterans won a decades-long battle Saturday to change the way their pensions are calculated, as the government bent to protesters' demands and announced it would overhaul the controversial scheme.

India's armed forces personnel, who typically retire earlier than other public sector workers, have mounted fierce opposition in recent months to the current pension scheme, which is based on their salary when they retire.

They argue this leaves them vulnerable to inflation eroding their livelihoods and say it is unfair that a soldier who retired recently should receive a larger pension than one who left service earlier.

Under the newly agreed 'One Rank, One Pension' (OROP) deal, ex-servicemen will now receive a pension based on 2013 salaries, to be re-fixed every five years -- irrespective of when they retired.

"The main argument for OROP is that the defence personnel retire early and thus are not able to get the benefits of serving till normal retirement age," Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar told a press conference in New Delhi on Saturday.

"Despite the huge fiscal burden, given its commitment to the welfare of ex-servicemen the government has taken the decision to implement OROP."

The scheme will cost between 80 billion rupees and 100 billion rupees (US$1.2 billion - $1.5 billion), he said. Military pensioners will receive arrears dating back to July 2014.

"Now that the issue of OROP is hopefully behind us, I appeal to the veterans to continue to contribute to the vital task of nation building and development," Parrikar said.

Veterans have fought for the OROP scheme for four decades but protests have intensified in recent months, with ongoing rallies in New Delhi and several pensioners going on hunger strike.

Reaction to the government's announcement was mixed, with veterans welcoming the breakthrough in negotiations but also expressing disappointment at certain clauses.

"We welcome the implementation of the scheme," V. K. Gandhi, general secretary of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, told reporters at the protest site in Delhi.

"But this isn't a black and white situation. We want clarification on issues like voluntary retirement," he said. The government said Saturday that army personnel who take voluntary retirement will not be eligible for the new pensions.

Elsewhere, however, the mood was celebratory. In Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan state, retired army men were pictured exchanging sweets and hugging each other.

Introducing OROP was one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's key pledges as he led the Bharatiya Janata Party's successful campaign for last year's general election.

But some observers say the move could open the door for workers in other state-run industries such as railways to demand similar reforms.

India has one of the world's largest armies, with around 1.32 million active personnel and 2.14 million reservists.

Retirement ages vary by rank, ranging from 56 to 62 years of age, according to the Indian Army website.



Tale of two parades as ordinary Chinese barred from display

‎07 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎08:05:56 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Sept 3, 2015 - It was the best of shows, it was the worst of shows: as 12,000 troops and hundreds of tanks and missiles rolled through Tiananmen Square in front of invited guests and foreign leaders, ordinary Beijing residents were barred from watching.

Barricades were set up hundreds of metres from the parade marking 70 years since Japan's World War II defeat, and squads of police and blue-shirted volunteers blocked access to the deserted streets.

Residents whose homes overlooked the route itself were ordered not to go onto their balconies or even open their windows.

Crowds of around a hundred citizens gathered at intersections to try to catch a glimpse of the hardware as it rolled by in the distance, but were disappointed.

"Of course I'm proud, I'm Chinese," translator Zhao Yufeng told AFP. "But I think more people would feel more involved if we could see the soldiers and tanks."

Instead most watched the live broadcast on mobile phones.

"We've been brainwashed from such a young age to hate Japanese, we call them ghosts, so it's easy for the leadership to justify a massive show of force today," said a man in his 20s surnamed Guo.

But as President Xi Jinping began speaking, he cut the live broadcast and pocketed his smartphone. "He's not going to say anything interesting," he said.

- 'Chinese Dream' -

In the square, Xi presided over events, wearing a simple Mao-style suit, as the chairman of the Communist Party's Central Military Commission, a role that makes him China's commander in chief as the PLA is technically the Party's armed force.

Massed ranks of uniformed choirs sang the anthem of the Anti-Japanese Military and Political University, a wartime Communist party training establishment, and other songs of struggle.

A helicopter trailed a giant Chinese flag and serried ranks of disciplined troops goose-stepped through the square, turning to salute Xi on the rostrum, before hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles thundered past, followed by scores of missiles and a flypast.

Select flag-waving Chinese, among them colourfully-dressed members of the country's ethnic minorities, watched from the stands.

"I see that our great motherland is so strong," said Cui Xianglai, an ethnic Korean in traditional costume, adding the event displayed "our national and military prestige".

"We believe that under General Secretary Xi Jinping's leadership our Chinese dream will certainly be realised at an early date," she said, parroting his trademark "Chinese dream" slogan.

"Of course the one I most want to see is Uncle Xi," said Li Xiaofei, a parade staffer who had a small Chinese flag painted on her face.

Finally 70,000 doves and the same number of balloons were released, rising into clear blue skies -- from which birds had been cleared.

- Losing money -

Political controls tightened ahead of the parade, and dozens of activists in cities across China were detained, the Hong Kong-based Rights Defence Network said.

Dissident artist Hua Yong, sentenced in 2012 to a year in a labour camp for commemorating the army crackdown on Tiananmen Square protestors, told AFP that police forced him to leave Beijing on Wednesday.

"They don't want me to stay in Beijing. So they sent two cars, and drove 700 kilometres to force me back to my home town."

Others fled the widespread traffic and work restrictions by choice.

Tokyo's upscale Ginza shopping district was jammed with tourists on Thursday, many of them Chinese, who account for more than one quarter of all foreign visitors to Japan.

"Celebrating the victory against Japan and fascism won't improve ties," said one Chinese woman, who declined to give her name. "Chinese people should try to understand the Japanese."

For some, the measures were an expensive imposition.

Wang Xingyu and his wife have a noodle shop close to the parade route and sleep in a room behind the kitchen. They only go home to visit their families in the mountainous northern province of Shaanxi once a year.

They are open seven days a week, but their hard work has been interrupted by the commemorations, which saw them forced to close for two days.

"We're losing money and no one cares about us," Wang said, visibly flustered. "Maybe if we could open, people would come, eat and they could watch the parade on our television.

"Instead, everyone is just standing around here with nothing to do," he added. "And we can't even see anything!"



China lauds power, proclaims peace at military spectacular

‎07 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎08:05:56 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Sept 3, 2015 - Chinese President Xi Jinping lauded his country as a major power and a force for world peace Thursday as he presided over a spectacular military parade marking the 70th anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War II.

With concerns rife over China's rise, Xi announced that the People's Liberation Army -- the world's largest military -- would be reduced by 300,000 personnel, although the defence ministry said the cuts would mainly fall on outdated units and non-combat staff.

"War is the sword of Damocles that still hangs over mankind," Xi said. "We must learn the lessons of history and dedicate ourselves to peace."

But moments later new missiles dubbed "carrier-killers", which experts say could change the balance of power with the United States, rolled through the square, in an unmistakable show of strength.

The mixed messages drew a rebuke from Japan which said it was "disappointed" by Xi's speech for focusing too much on the past and for its lack of "rapprochement" between the Asian powers, the world's second- and third-largest economies.

With disquiet growing over China's increasing assertiveness in territorial disputes, most Western leaders stayed away from the extravaganza in Tiananmen Square, where Chinese troops crushed democracy protests in 1989.

After a 70-gun salute, thousands of troops marched in formation through the square, with tanks and missiles following, while nearly 200 aircraft performed a flypast in blue skies overhead.

The immaculate, choreographed ranks of soldiers included a detachment from Russia, whose President Vladimir Putin was the highest-profile foreign guest.

China has repeatedly insisted the parade was not aimed at any particular country, including Japan, which it says is insufficiently contrite over wartime atrocities.

"The unyielding Chinese people fought gallantly and finally won total victory against the Japanese militarist aggressors, thus preserving China's 5,000-year-old civilisation and upholding the cause of peace," Xi said.

He described the eight-year conflict, in which historians say 15 to 20 million Chinese died, as "a decisive battle between justice and evil, between light and darkness" and that the victory had "re-established China as a major country in the world".

- 'Game changer' -

Decades of double-digit budget increases have transformed China's military, giving Beijing the confidence to push a programme of artificial island building in the South China Sea and vigorously proclaim its sovereignty over disputed outcrops controlled by Japan.

The equipment on show for the first time at the parade included DF-21D missiles, an anti-ship ballistic missile that could be used in the Pacific to target US aircraft carriers.

"There's no doubt that it will be a game changer" if it performs as claimed, said Jon Grevatt, Asia-Pacific defence analyst at IHS Jane's.

For decades, Washington's carriers have been the core of its ability to project power around the world and a commentator on Chinese television described the weapon as a "trump card".

The parade came as five of China's vessels were spotted in the Bering Sea off Alaska for the first time, according to the Pentagon.

Under Xi, Beijing is moving farther away from former leader Deng Xiaoping's dictum to "hide one's capabilities, bide one's time" and taking harder lines, both externally and against domestic opponents.

Xi's announcement of troop reductions was widely expected and comes after around two million personnel have been cut from the PLA since the 1980s.

On its website China's defence ministry said the military would be "slimmer but more capable, and their composition more scientific".

It was "part of President Xi Jinping's continuing efforts to enhance the efficiency of the military", Grevatt told AFP.

- 'Very nationalistic' -

Putin was given a prominent position next to Xi on the rostrum, as were ranks of former Chinese leaders, including Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.

Shaking hands with Xi were Sudan's Omar al-Bashir -- indicted by the International Criminal Court -- and authoritarian Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, who brought one of his sons.

More mainstream guests included South Korea's Park Geun-Hye, whose country was colonised by Japan, Jacob Zuma of South Africa -- which with China is part of the BRICS groups of major emerging economies -- and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

John Delury, an expert on China at Yonsei University in Seoul, told AFP the limited international guest list was because "it's a very nationalistic and militaristic event".

"Across Asia and certainly in the United States there are all these concerns about the hard power side of China's rise," he said.

Chinese authorities mobilised hundreds of thousands of Beijing citizens and closed roads across much of the city centre, shuttering airports and curtailing pollution-spewing factories and vehicles to ensure blue skies.

The Communist Party uses nationalism as part of its claim to legitimacy, and Xi stressed the role of "the Chinese people" in the war, obscuring the Communist Party's rivalry with the then-governing Nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek, which it later defeated.

Among other wartime allies, he only named the Soviet Union and did not mention the United States, whose atomic bombing of Japan is widely seen as ending the conflict.



China's anti-ship missile and troop cuts highlight shifting power

‎07 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎08:05:56 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Sept 3, 2015 - China's unveiling of "carrier-killer" missiles and cuts in troop numbers on Thursday underlined its shift towards naval strength amid growing Pacific rivalry with the US, analysts said.

More than a dozen anti-ship ballistic missiles capable of travelling at 10 times the speed of sound were shown at a massive military parade in Beijing, with state television calling them a "trump card" in potential conflicts and "one of China's key weapons in asymmetric warfare".

For a fraction of the cost of an aircraft carrier the missile threatens to alter the balance of power in the Pacific.

The land-based DF-21D intermediate-range missile is said to be equipped with onboard terminal guidance systems that give it the unprecedented ability to attack a moving target, such as a carrier group at sea.

For decades, the United States' fleet of aircraft carriers has been a key component of its ability to project power around the world, and Andrew Erickson of the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation has described the DF-21D as a "Frankenweapon" that is "potentially unpredictable and disruptive".

The missile "serve as a deterrent which requires rivals in the region to think twice about deploying aircraft carrier groups against China," James Char, an analyst at Singapore's Nanyang University told AFP.

The technology is untested but it underlines "the growing importance of China's naval forces" as Beijing seeks to project its power more widely in the air and on sea, he added.

Also on show in Beijing were longer-range weapons, prompting one commentator on Chinese state television to exclaim: "Look at this missile! It can hit Hawaii!"

China said in May that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) navy will put a greater emphasis on "open seas protection", rather than "offshore waters defence" alone.

At the same time its air force will shift focus "from territorial air defence to both defence and offence", it said.

Beijing is "very concerned with what its rivals, in particular the US naval forces, might do to it," Char added.

China has been boosting its military budget with double-digit percentage increases for decades, as it takes a more assertive stance in territorial disputes with Asian neighbours in the East and South China Seas.

But the US, which has dominated the Pacific since World War II, has pushed back with a "pivot" to Asia which Barack Obama has said is aimed at maintaining "American leadership" in the region.

Washington spends far more on its military than China, and is treaty-bound to defend Japan and South Korea, while other allies in the region include Taiwan and the Philippines.

"There's no doubt that it will be a game changer" if the DF-21D has its claimed capabilities, Jon Grevatt of IHS Jane's told AFP.

Arthur Ding, a military expert at Taiwan's National Chengchi University, cautioned that the missiles' effective use required advanced co-ordination between satellites and ships, and that the US has "many countermeasures" available.

But he added that it will "somewhat complicate US operations in this region".

- Firepower and mobility -

Immediately before the parade, President and army head Xi Jinping announced that the PLA -- currently the largest standing military in the world with 2.3 million troops -- would cut 300,000 staff.

China's troops would "carry out the noble mission of upholding world peace", he added, and would never "seek hegemony".

It is the latest in a series of giant cuts to the bloated PLA, which Beijing has reduced by around two million troops since the 1980s as it seeks to craft a more efficient fighting force.

The latest decline was "within expectations" and had been under discussion for several years, Taiwan-based analyst Ding said, adding: "Overall firepower and mobility has been much better improved, so the cuts can be done."

China's defence ministry said the cuts would "mainly target troops equipped with outdated armaments, administrative staff and non-combatant personnel" and would make the armed forces "slimmer and more capable".

Grevatt of IHS Janes said they would have a "long-term positive effect" on China's military capabilities.

"The strength of a military these days is not about the numbers of troops," he added.

The military has been one of the targets of Xi's much-publicised anti-corruption drive -- which analysts and diplomats say can be used for internal faction-fighting -- with two of China's most senior generals falling victim to it in the past year.

Corruption - especially bribery for promotions -- is thought to be endemic in China's army, but the parade provided a show of unity and adherence to the chain of command, troops and generals alike turning their eyes to Xi and saluting as they passed.

"The high ranking army officials are nervous because many of them probably were promoted because of bribes," Ding said.

"They have to show their loyalty. Xi has firm control of the military."



Philippines, Vietnam to sign partnership deal by year-end

‎07 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎08:05:56 AMGo to full article
Manila (AFP) Sept 3, 2015 - The Philippines and Vietnam will sign a "strategic partnership" agreement by the end of the year, officials have said, as common neighbour and rival China flexes its military muscle in disputed waters.

Both governments said the agreement would bolster defence, political and economic ties between the two Southeast Asian nations most critical of China's claims over most of the South China Sea.

"As strategic partners, we aim to deliver results... a cooperation at the highest possible level," Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters late Wednesday.

"We will deepen our cooperation in order to solve all the issues concerning the South China Sea in a most peaceful way in accordance with international law," Vietnamese Ambassador to the Philippines Truong Trieu Duong told reporters.

The deal would make Vietnam the Philippines' second "strategic partner" after Japan, with which the Philippines is also bolstering military ties.

Maiden naval drills with Japan were held in quick succession this year and negotiations are underway to transfer Japanese defence equipment, including anti-submarine reconnaissance aircraft and radar technology, to the Philippines.

The Philippines is also bound by a mutual defence treaty with its oldest and most important ally, the United States.

The planned Vietnam deal was announced hours before China paraded large numbers of soldiers, tanks and missiles on Tiananmen Square in Beijing to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War II.

Del Rosario said the Vietnam deal could be signed on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' summit in Manila in November.

Negotiations for the strategic partnership agreement started after Vietnamese Prime Minister Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung's visit to Manila last year.

The Philippines, Vietnam and China have overlapping claims in the South China Sea -- an important waterway for global trade which is also believed to hold vast oil and gas reserves.

Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also have conflicting claims over some or all of these waters.

China recently reinforced its claim by building artificial islands on disputed shoals, raising fears of militarisation in the region.

A United Nations-backed arbitration body is hearing the Philippines' petition to declare China's sea claims as illegal.



China to flex military muscle in WWII parade

‎07 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎08:05:56 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Sept 2, 2015 - A huge military parade rolls through Tiananmen Square on Thursday as Beijing commemorates the 70th anniversary of Japan's WWII defeat, but major Western leaders are staying away from the show of strength.

President Xi Jinping will oversee the spectacle featuring 12,000 Chinese soldiers, 500 pieces of hardware and almost 200 aircraft, which comes as Beijing takes a more assertive diplomatic stance.

Key leaders from Western democracies will be absent, such as US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has drawn Beijing's ire for beefing up his country's security policies.

Xi is China's commander-in-chief as the chairman of the Communist Party's Central Military Commission, since the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is technically the armed force of the Party.

Under him, Beijing is moving farther away from former leader Deng Xiaoping's dictum to "hide one's capabilities, bide one's time" and is becoming more willing to take harder lines, both externally and against domestic opponents.

It is engaged in high-profile maritime disputes with neighbours in the South China Sea, where it is building artificial islands and facilities with military uses, and with Japan over disputed outcrops.

John Delury, an expert on China at Yonsei University in Seoul, told AFP the limited international guest list was because "it's a very nationalistic and militaristic event".

"Across Asia and certainly in the United States there are all these concerns about the hard power side of China's rise," he said.

- Military display -

The PLA has promised that 84 percent of the equipment on display will be seen in public for the first time.

According to state media, carrier-based aircraft, long distance bombers and various missiles will be shown -- possibly including the DF-21D, a long-rumoured ballistic "carrier-killer" that could change the balance of power in the Pacific Ocean.

But Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said those viewing the parade as an aggressive gesture had "a mentality that is not so bright".

"The Chinese troops are troops for peace" she told a regular briefing. "The stronger this kind of force grows, the more guarantees it will be able to provide for world peace."

Almost 1,000 foreign soldiers will also take part, including a Russian detachment, and President Vladimir Putin is by far the most high-profile foreign leader.

Xi went to a similar event in Moscow in May, which was also shunned by major Western leaders over the annexation of Crimea and fighting in eastern Ukraine.

More mainstream guests include South Korea's Park Geun-Hye, whose country was colonised by Japan, Jacob Zuma of South Africa -- which with China is part of the BRICS groups of major emerging economies -- and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius will also attend.

China has held military parades roughly once a decade but previously for the foundation of the People's Republic on October 1.

Thursday's parade comes the day after Japan formally surrendered 70 years ago on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, which Beijing marks as the end of the "Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War", as it officially calls the conflict.



Obama hails ties with Japan on VJ day

‎07 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎08:05:56 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Sept 2, 2015 - US President Barack Obama used the 70th anniversary of the end World War II in the Pacific to honor the US war dead and herald remade ties with Japan Wednesday.

Saluting "the Greatest Generation" of US soldiers who fought -- a group which included Obama's maternal grandfather -- Obama said today's US-Japan partnership was "unimaginable" 70 years ago.

"We remember those who endured unimaginable suffering as prisoners of war, and we honor the ultimate sacrifice of more than 100,000 US service members who laid down their lives in the Pacific theater to defend our nation and advance the cause of freedom," Obama said in a statement.

"We live in freedom because of their brave service."

Amid anger from China and others over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's alleged refusal to sufficiently atone for Imperial Japan's actions during the war, Obama markedly praised his counterpart in Tokyo.

"As Prime Minister Abe and I noted during his visit in April, the relationship between our two countries over the last 70 years stands as a model of the power of reconciliation."

"Seventy years ago this partnership was unimaginable. Today it is a fitting reflection of our shared interests, capabilities, and values, and I am confident that it will continue to deepen in the decades to come."



Communist Party takes star role in China's war parade

‎07 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎08:05:56 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Sept 2, 2015 - The undoubted star of China's giant military parade marking 70 years since Japan's World War II defeat -- and countless television shows on the conflict -- will be the ruling Communist Party, celebrating a victory historians say was largely won by others.

The display will feature 12,000 Chinese troops marching through Tiananmen Square alongside gleaming tanks and missiles, as fighter jets scream overhead.

It will all be overseen by President Xi Jinping -- head of the People's Liberation Army, the ruling party and the government -- in what commentators say is an effort to bend history to bolster the Party's legitimacy.

The parade aims to dramatise "this idea that without the Communist Party, there would be no new China", said Willy Lam, an expert on Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

"Xi Jinping and the Communist Party wants to claim the credit for vanquishing the Japanese, even though there is a big question mark over this claim," he added.

Tokyo launched a full-scale invasion of China in 1937 and, according to Beijing, the eight bitter years of fighting left 35 million civilians and soldiers dead or injured.

In official materials given to journalists ahead of the event, the Communist Party is described as the "leader" of China's resistance, with its guerrillas fighting "the main form of the war against Japan".

But the major battles in China were fought by the forces of the Nationalist government of the time, led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, the Communists' bitter enemy.

Mao Zedong's army went on to defeat him in 1949 after a civil war, leaving Chiang exiled to Taiwan.

Ever since, the role of the Nationalists has been largely played down in the official narrative.

For Beijing pastrymaker TT Chen, the Communist Party's distortion of history is an affront to his family -- two of his uncles held senior positions in the Nationalist regime.

"I don't consider the parade patriotic, I think it's a show of ignorance," he said.

- Savage war crimes -

Japanese forces committed savage war crimes that still fuel national resentment, and are regularly highlighted by the Communist Party.

Dramas about the "Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression", as Beijing officially calls the conflict, are a mainstay on Chinese screens, with broadcasts heightened for the anniversary.

By far the majority depict the Communist struggle, although there are tentative nods to the Nationalists' contribution and authorities have now renovated Chiang's residence in wartime capital Chongqing.

Some senior Communist Party members quietly acknowledge the differing take on history.

Li Nanyang's father Li Rui was a secretary to Mao Zedong, and organised Communist soldiers to fight inside a Kuomintang (Nationalist) regiment, under Chiang's ultimate command, in the late 1930s.

But the unit fled just two days later, and Li returned to the Communists' remote mountain headquarters in northern China, where "he didn't do anything to directly attack the Japanese", she said.

"Looking at my father's account, its clear that the war against Japan wasn't led by the Communist Party," she told AFP.

Rana Mitter, an Oxford University historian of the period, estimates that 15 to 20 million Chinese people died in the conflict.

While joint efforts by the Communists and Nationalists staved off defeat, he said, "the international element of Allied assistance was the factor which really tipped the balance towards victory".

- 'Communist propaganda' -

Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has centralised power and cracked down on critics of the ruling party, and Thursday's spectacle will also act as a "coronation", symbolising his position as party supremo, said Lam at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

"A military parade is a well entrenched political ritual, until a top leader has held the ritual he cannot be an undisputed strongman," Lam added.

For baker TT Chen, the biggest impact will be on his business.

Now 69, he escaped to Taiwan at the age of three with his uncles, who were the core of one of the "four big families" of the Nationalist government.

He returned to Beijing a decade ago to open his bakery, but shops across the capital will close on Thursday, when police will flood the streets -- blocking access to ordinary citizens -- and swathes of the city will be closed to traffic.

"There are so many controls, I will have to close the store," he said.

"China has restored my uncle's old residence, so you can see that the Communist Party has some acknowledgement of the Nationalists. But it's all in the service of Communist propaganda."





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The History of the House of Rothschild

by Andrew Hitchcock



  • Hitchcock also wrote a history for the bankers:



  • One of our listeners added images and photos and turned this Rothschild document

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The Rothschilds have been in control of the world for a very long time, their tentacles reaching into many aspects of our daily lives, as is documented in the following timeline.  However, before you jump to the timeline, please read this invaluable introduction which will tell you who the Rothschilds are as oppose to who they claim to be.

The Rothschilds claim that they are Jewish, when in fact they are Khazars.  They are from a country called Khazaria, which occupied the land locked between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea which is now predominantly occupied by Georgia.  The reason the Rothschilds claim to be Jewish is that the Khazars under the instruction of the King, converted to the Jewish faith in 740 A.D., but of course that did not include converting their Asiatic Mongolian genes to the genes of the Jewish people.

You will find that approximately 90% of people in the world today who call themselves Jews are actually Khazars, or as they like to be known, Ashkenazi Jews.  These people knowingly lie to the world with their claims that the land of Israel is theirs by birthright, when in actual fact their real homeland is over 800 miles away in Georgia.

So, next time you hear an Israeli Prime Minister bleating about the so-called persecution of the Jews, consider this, every Prime Minister of Israel has been an Ashkenazi Jew.  Therefore when all these Prime Ministers have curried favour with the West for their re-establishment of a Jewish homeland, they have knowingly and deliberately lied to you, as they were never from that region, and they well know it, because it is they who call themselves Ashkenazi Jews.

The Book of Revelation, Chapter 2, Verse 9, states the following which would appear to be about these Ashkenazi Jews:

"I know thy works, and tribulation and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan."
The most wealthy bloodline in the world bar none and the leader of the Ashkenazi Jews in the world today is the Rothschild family.  As you will see in the timeline, the Rothschilds have obtained this position through lies, manipulation and murder.  Their bloodline also extends into the Royal Families of Europe, and the following family names:  Astor; Bundy; Collins; duPont; Freeman; Kennedy; Morgan; Oppenheimer; Rockefeller; Sassoon; Schiff; Taft; and Van Duyn.

However, these are not the only bloodlines to worry about.  You are probably aware of the centuries old pratice undertaken by many Ashkenazi Jews whereby they would change their name, in order for them to appear part of the dominant race of the country in which they lived, so as they could obtain influential positions in that country, which they would then exploit to serve their real masters elsewhere.  There is plenty of evidence to prove the Rothschilds continue that deceptive tradition.

Furthermore the Rothschilds are known to sire many children secretly that they can put into positions of power when required.  This started with the very first man who took the name Rothschild, who had a secret sixth son.  Finally, remember the world is a diverse place, I could if I wanted change my name to Rothschild, or any of the names listed above, and that would not make me part of this family anymore than converting to Judaism in 740 A.D. will make these Ashkenazis Jewish.

Please, therefore, do not automatically assume someone you see with the name Rothschild or any of the names listed above are part of the Rothschild criminal network.  Furthermore and most importantly, the majority of Ashkenazi Jews are innocent and not part of this network.  Check the facts out for yourself first, this article is designed to inform people who the enemy is, not single out people of a particular race or people with a particular surname, who may have nothing to do with this Rothschild criminal network.

1743: Mayer Amschel Bauer, an Ashkenazi Jew, is born in Frankfurt, Germany, the son of Moses Amschel Bauer, a money lender and the proprietor of a counting house.


Moses Amschel Bauer places a red sign above the entrance door to his counting house. This sign is a red hexagram (which geometrically and numerically translates into the number 666) which under Rothschild instruction will end up on the Israeli flag some two centuries later.


1753: Gutle Schnaper, an Ashkenazi Jew (future wife of Mayer Amschel Bauer), born to respected merchant, Wolf Salomon Schnaper.

1760: During this decade Mayer Amschel Bauer works for a bank owned by the Oppenheimers' in Hanover, Germany.  He is highly successful and becomes a junior partner. Whilst working at the bank he becomes acquainted with General von Estorff.

Following his father's death, Bauer returns to Frankfurt to take over his father's business. Bauer recognises the significance of the red hexagram and changes his name from Bauer to Rothschild, after the red hexagram or sign signifying 666 hanging over the entrance door ("Rot," is German for, "Red," "Schild," is German for, "Sign").


Now Mayer Amschel Rothschild, he discovers that General von Estorff is now attached to the court of Prince William IX of Hesse-Hanau, one of the richest royal houses in Europe, which gained its' wealth by the hiring out of Hessian soldiers to foreign countries for vast profits (a practice that continues today in the form of exporting, "peacekeeping," troops throughout the world).
















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South Sudan must sustain efforts to protect human rights, says UN official

Conflict in Darfur
Date 2003–2009 /2010


Location Darfur, Sudan
Sudan JEM factions
Bandera Darfur.svg SLM (Minnawi faction)
Sudan LJM
Allegedly supported by:
Sudan Janjaweed
Sudan Sudanese Armed Forces
Sudan Sudanese Police
Foreign Mercenaries
African Union
United Nations
Commanders and leaders
Sudan Khalil Ibrahim
Sudan Ahmed Diraige
Bandera Darfur.svg Minni Minnawi
Sudan Abdul Wahid al Nur
Sudan Omar al-Bashir
Sudan Musa Hilal
Sudan Hamid Dawai
Sudan Ali Kushayb
Sudan Ahmed Haroun
Rodolphe Adada
United Nations
Martin Luther Agwai
NRF/JEM: Unknown N/A 9,065
Casualties and losses
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  • 2,850,000 Displaced (UN estimate)
  • 450,000 Displaced (Sudanese estimate)
unknown 51 peacekeepers killed

















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