March 31, 2013

How far can North Korea's missiles reach?

The regime is understood to have substantial numbers of short- and intermediate-range missiles such as the Nodong, a variant on the Scud missile.

With a range of around 1,000km, the Nodong could in theory strike in South Korea and Japan. However, its poor accuracy makes it an ineffective battlefield weapon and it is unlikely North Korea would be able to pinpoint US military bases in the region, although it could cause serious civilian casualties.

The middle-range Musudan missile is of major concern to Japan as its 4,000km capability would allow the North Korean regime to strike anywhere in Japanese territory. Estimates of the size of North Korea's Musudan arsenal vary widely, with figures ranging from only a dozen to more than 200.

The Taepodong 1 was North Korea's first multi-stage missile, a significant technological development where the weapon depends on different thrusters at different times. However it has proved a poor performer, with limited range and unreliable accuracy.

March 24, 2013

Cyprus offered bailout from Russian energy firm Gazprom...if they sell offshore gas rights

The huge multinational already own vast gas deposits in Siberia, and reportedly want the beleaguered country's Mediterranean Sea rights.

The firm are reportedly looking to acquire the rights as the emergence an independent gas industry in Cyprus would undercut their pricing power.

The news of a private financial package comes as Germany warned the country's banks may never reopen if a bailout is not agreed.

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "It is important that Cyprus gets a sustainable banking sector in the future.

"The current banking sector is not sustainable."

March 22, 2013

Jailed Leader of the Kurds Offers a Truce With Turkey

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — The jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan on Thursday called for a cease-fire and ordered all his fighters off Turkish soil, in a landmark moment for a newly energized effort to end three decades of armed conflict with the Turkish government.

Since its start late last year, the peace effort has transfixed a Turkish public traumatized by a long and bloody conflict that has claimed nearly 40,000 lives and fractured society along ethnic lines. While there have been previous periods of cease-fire between Turkey and Mr. Ocalan’s group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., never before has there been so much support at the highest levels of both the Turkish and Kurdish leadership.
“We reached the point where weapons should go silent and ideas speak,” Mr. Ocalan wrote in a letter read out to jubilant crowds gathered in the Kurdish heartland here in southern Turkey. “A new era starts when politics, instead of guns, comes to the forefront.”
For the Turkish government, seeking peace within its borders is a step toward realizing its ambition to be a regional power broker. For the Kurds, the call for peace carries with it the hope of more rights under a new constitution and the freedom to express a separate identity within a country that for decades denied their existence, forbade them to speak their language and abused their activists.
The declaration by Mr. Ocalan was seen as a critical confidence-building step in the peace process. It brought ecstatic celebration among the huge crowds gathered outside Diyarbakir to celebrate Nowruz, the traditional spring festival. Lawmakers read out statements in both Turkish and Kurdish as waves of yellow, red and green, the traditional Kurdish colors, rippled through the masses.
The deal is far from done, however. Notably, while Mr. Ocalan called for militants to retreat to bases in the mountains of northern Iraq, he did not order them to disarm. And a long process of constitutional reform and negotiations over Kurdish prisoners lies ahead.

March 13, 2013

Cameron says Argentina should respect vote

David Cameron has called on Argentina to respect the wishes of the people of the Falkland Islands to remain British.
The prime minister said the almost unanimous vote in favour of staying a British overseas territory was the "clearest possible result".
He said Argentina should take "careful note" of the referendum, and Britain would always defend the islands.
It follows pressure from Argentina over its claims to the islands, 31 years after the Falklands War with the UK.
Most Argentines regard the islands, which they call Las Malvinas, as Argentine and their recovery is enshrined in the national constitution.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has made clear that her country does not recognise the referendum, insisting it has no legal validity.
However, Mr Cameron said the islanders were entitled to the right of self-determination.

Black smoke on day 2

Black smoke billows from Sistine Chapel chimney, showing that Cardinals at Vatican have yet to agree on new pope.

March 5, 2013

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez dead at 58

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has died, his vice-president has announced.
Mr Chavez had not appeared in public since he returned to Venezuela last month after cancer treatment in Cuba.
An emotional Nicolas Maduro made the announcement on Tuesday evening, flanked by leading Venezuelan political and military leaders.
Earlier, he said the 58-year-old Venezuelan leader had a new, severe respiratory infection and had entered "his most difficult hours".
One of the most visible, vocal and controversial leaders in Latin America, the former army paratrooper won the presidency in 1998 and had most recently won another six-year presidential term in October 2012.