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Monday, November 7, 2016

What's going on in the World Today-161107



U.S. Naval Update Map: Nov. 3, 2016

Why China and the U.S. Need Each Other in Space

Space may be miles above us, but how it is being used — and by whom — is becoming increasingly important here on Earth. As of now, the United States leads the world in space exploration and exploitation, but China is determined to narrow the gap. Beijing has set its sights on becoming a major power in space, and in the next two decades it could surpass veterans in the field such as Russia, perhaps even someday rivaling the United States itself...


Al Shabaab's Record of Resilience

Al Shabaab, the militant Islamist group in Somalia, has taken over more territory over the past few weeks. With African Union and Somali troops stretched thin, the group has been able to steadily add to its holdings. But there is only so much al Shabaab can do to extend its reach. The group may have little choice but to dig in and wait, hoping that Mogadishu's foreign partners lose interest in the conflict before the army becomes strong enough to stand on its own...


How National Security Will Dictate Pakistan's Future


The Pakistani military will continue to heavily influence the government in Islamabad, ensuring that national security remains the country's top priority.

Much-needed reforms will be neglected as a result, preventing Pakistan's economy from realizing its potential.

The international community, fearing the consequences of a nuclear state's collapse, will continue to come to Pakistan's aid.

Meanwhile, the military will stick to its strategy of targeting some jihadist groups and backing others, making Pakistan a target for reprisal attacks.


Protecting Pakistan's security has proved a daunting task for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif since he took office in mid-2013, but the number of challenges on his plate seems to have grown over the past few months. Tensions are again rising between Pakistan and its nuclear-armed neighbor, India. At the same time, Sharif's administration is continuing to feel the fallout from a widely read Oct. 7 expose accusing the military of undermining Islamabad's efforts to combat the country's militancies. As if this were not enough, the government is also working furiously to piece together the events leading to the Oct. 24 attack on a police academy in Quetta that killed at least 60 people…

Islam Under Fire in Kazakhstan


Over the past few months, Kazakhstan has taken steps to quash the practice of Salafism, an ultraconservative strain of Islam, within its borders. The government in Astana, already grappling with a weak economy, persistent protests, militant attacks and a looming presidential succession, fears that the religious sect will further destabilize the country by inciting violence. But if the Kazakh government is not careful, its crackdown on Islam may exacerbate the security problems facing it rather than solve them…


Another Page in the Brexit Saga

The latest development in the ongoing Brexit drama happened on Thursday. A court ruling in London that Parliament must approve before the Brexit can happen raised hopes among those opposing the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union. In making their decision, British judges discounted arguments by lawyers for Prime Minister Theresa May, that she did not need lawmakers' approval to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and begin the negotiation process for withdrawing from Europe. News of the decision lifted the pound sterling to its highest level in three weeks. This reflects the market's belief that the Brexit could be derailed, or at least delayed. However, that optimism may be misguided…

France: Authorities Clear Paris Migrant Camp

Around 600 police moved into a migrant encampment at the Stalingrad metro station in northeast Paris on Nov. 4, clearing out its 3,852 inhabitants and relocating them to public facilities where their asylum requests can be screened, according to a law enforcement representative, Reuters reported. Several hundred women and children will also be moved to two camps under construction on the edge of the city. The closure follows clashes between police and migrants Oct. 31 in the same camp during an identification check. It also comes four days after the closure of a 7,000-person camp in Calais. The Socialist Party government ordered the clearing of both camps, but Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he expects 85 percent of Calais migrants to be approved for asylum.


Brazil: the Object of South American Mistrust

By Diego Solis

Oftentimes when we think about the Southern Cone, we think only of Brazil and Argentina. The mammoth countries have historically competed with each other to control trade and infrastructure in the Rio de la Plata Basin. But Uruguay and Paraguay play an important, if often overlooked, role in that dynamic, acting as a buffer between Argentina and Brazil.

Wanting to better understand the geopolitical realities of Uruguay and Paraguay and how they have affected the countries' citizens, I headed to the capitals of each. I expected that Uruguayans and Paraguayans would be equally wary of Argentina and Brazil — the powerful neighbors that dwarf them on either side. What I found, however, was that when it comes to Argentina, Uruguayans and Paraguayans admit that their rivalry tends to be more about football than about anything else. But when it comes to Brazil, Uruguayans expressed resentment that they were so economically dependent on the country; Paraguayans expressed a profound mistrust of Brazil and a reluctance to forgive past offenses…

Nicaragua's Strongman Stays Strong


The threat of future U.S. sanctions hangs over the Nov. 6 Nicaraguan presidential election. Yet incumbent President Daniel Ortega hopes to capture another five-year term and possibly position his wife and running mate, Rosario Murillo Zambrana, as his successor. Ortega, who will turn 71 five days after the election, enjoys a comfortable margin in opinion polls and a fragmented opposition appears to give him and his Sandinista National Liberation Front a good chance to stay in office...




China: Beijing to Discuss Action Against Defiant Hong Kong Legislators

Until now, the defiant actions of a pair of pro-independence Hong Kong legislators, although irritating to Beijing, had not drawn direct action from the mainland. However, as the city's government confirmed Nov. 3, after the fourth time the newly elected lawmakers altered their prescribed oath of office to pledge allegiance to "the Hong Kong nation," the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress decided to take the unusual step of deliberating a direct intervention in the city's politics…

China: Successful Launch Extends Space Program's Reach

The launch of the Long March 5 rocket system on Nov. 3 from Hainan Island marks a step forward for the Chinese space program. The successful debut of the rocket gives China the payload capacity to effectively match rival programs' heavy-launch vehicles, including Russia's Proton M and the United States' Delta IV Heavy or Atlas V. Besides the prestige its newest launch vehicle adds to China's civil space program, it also increases Beijing's military capabilities...


Iran, Poland: Companies Sign Deal To Cooperate On Sumar Oil Field

Polish state-run oil and natural gas company PGNiG SA signed a memorandum of understanding Nov. 5 with the National Iranian Oil Company for cooperation in Iran's Sumar oil field, Fars News agency reported. The Polish company will carry out studies on the field within six months and share the results with its Iranian counterpart.


Setting Sights on Raqqa, the Other Islamic State Stronghold


The coalition against the Islamic State is beating a path toward the Iraqi city of Mosul, but its attention has already started to turn toward another key city held by the jihadist group: Raqqa, in northern Syria. The United States, hoping to stretch the Islamic State's fighters and resources thin by forcing it to fight for both cities simultaneously, is eager to launch an offensive against the Syrian stronghold as quickly as possible. Having already encountered stiff resistance around Mosul, Washington will seek to capitalize on the momentum against the extremist group to batter its remaining positions in Iraq and Syria. But significant hurdles to the Raqqa operation have arisen before the battle has even begun...




Being Russian in Putin's Russia

From the Russian Empire to the Russian Federation, the world's largest country has always struggled to define itself. Russia sprawls across the top of the Eurasian landmass and encompasses a dizzying array of ethnic groups and petty regional identities. Leaders at the center have each taken their turn in the never-ending quest to overcome these centrifugal forces. President Vladimir Putin is no different. He has searched throughout his nearly 17-year reign for the common thread that will knit together these divisions and muffle dissent against his rule...


The Forces Converging on Raqqa

Hoping to stretch the Islamic State's fighters and resources thin by forcing the group to fight for its Iraqi stronghold, Mosul, and its Syrian stronghold, Raqqa, simultaneously, the United States is eager to launch an offensive on the northern Syrian city as quickly as possible. Having already encountered stiff resistance around Mosul, Washington will seek to capitalize on the momentum against the extremist group to batter its remaining positions in Iraq and Syria. But not all of the United States' coalition allies share its desire to start targeting Raqqa in the next few weeks. For the most part, their dissent stems from the city's composition: Raqqa is predominantly Arab, which means a sizable Arab force would be needed to seize and hold it. Though the Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces include several Arab units, the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) continue to make up an overwhelming share of the group...


Turkey: Crackdown on Kurds Extends to Government

Around midnight Turkish time on Nov. 3, security forces arrested Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, co-leaders of pro-Kurdish opposition party the People's Democracy (HDP). The Turkish authorities also detained nine other HDP members of parliament. All were charged with supporting terroristic propaganda and failing to testify in previous cases investigating the party's links to the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)…

Digging In on Mosul's Outskirts

The advance on Mosul is now 17 days in and Iraqi forces have reached the outskirts of the city. After fierce fighting through the district of Godjali, Iraqi military units entered the eastern edge of Mosul on Nov. 1. For the past day, they have dug in and secured the area, taking control of the city's TV station in the Karama neighborhood. They have also largely cleared nearby al-Kadra, though skirmishes are ongoing with Islamic State holdouts...

Libya: Around 250 Migrants Believed Dead After Shipwrecks

Around 250 migrants are believed to be dead after two ships bound for Italy sunk on the perilous journey from Libya, BBC reported Nov. 3. More than 4,200 migrants have died while trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2016, according to a representative for the International Organization for Migration. Libya has been unstable since the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, and the country has become the main point of departure for refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe through Italy.


OPEC: Oil Output Continues To Rise

According to a new Bloomberg survey, OPEC's oil production rose even further in October, above tentative targets for reduced output. On Sept. 28, member states agreed to an aspirational production decrease to between 32.5 and 33.0 million barrels per day. This was meant as a blueprint for a long-term agreement to be finalized at a Nov. 30 summit in Vienna. The survey, however, estimates that the bloc's October output rose to 34.02 million barrels per day. The increase has not helped the global supply imbalance, and recent figures show that U.S. crude oil stockpiles shot up 14.4 million barrels the week of Oct. 28, the largest increase ever. The October OPEC figures highlight the bloc's challenge in finalizing a deal on cutting production, or implementing that deal if it is struck...

Al Qaeda Quietly Maintains Its Relevance

By Scott Stewart

The impending loss of Mosul will certainly weaken the Islamic State's core, but it is not the only jihadist group that will be affected by the upset. When the Islamic State seized swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and declared the birth of a caliphate, its brash new brand of jihadism stood in stark contrast to al Qaeda's more calculated approach and energized many young jihadists. Though many older Islamist ideologues saw Osama bin Laden's successful efforts to goad the United States into a war as reckless, many of their younger peers came to view al Qaeda as too old, stodgy and timid because of its reluctance to aggressively carve out an Islamic polity. At the height of the Islamic State's success, victory after victory on the battlefield seemed to confirm the group's claims that it held Allah's favor, building its reputation as an inexorable force that planned to establish a utopian Islamic society. Bit by bit, the group's supporters began to believe that they were helping to fulfill an apocalyptic prophecy…

The Slow Drive Toward Automated Vehicles


Advancements in autonomous vehicle technology are inevitable, but outdated regulations and public perception could delay its assimilation into societies.

Fully incorporating autonomous systems will not come easy for the United States because of its sprawling infrastructure and ingrained personal driving culture.

China will have a smoother transition to autonomous vehicles than the United States will because of demographic and social factors.


Autonomous vehicles are no longer the far-off concepts of science fiction. New trials or developments in self-driving vehicles are announced on a regular basis, and the Google car, driving itself as it gathers data, is becoming a familiar sight along the streets of Mountain View, Calif., and Austin, Texas. Self-driving cars will inevitably become more prominent as computing technology matures; how long they take to fully replace human drivers is another matter.

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