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Friday, May 3, 2013

China emerging as new force in drone warfare

BEIJING (AP) — Determined to kill or capture a murderous Mekong River drug lord, China's security forces considered a tactic they'd never tried before: calling a drone strike on his remote hideaway deep in the hills of Myanmar.

The attack didn't happen — the man was later captured and brought to China for trial — but the fact that authorities were considering such an option cast new light on China's unmanned aerial vehicle program, which has been quietly percolating for years and now appears to be moving into overdrive.

Chinese aerospace firms have developed dozens of drones, known also as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. Many have appeared at air shows and military parades, including some that bear an uncanny resemblance to the Predator, Global Hawk and Reaper models used with deadly effect by the U.S. Air Force and CIA. Analysts say that although China still trails the U.S. and Israel, the industry leaders, its technology is maturing rapidly and on the cusp of widespread use for surveillance and combat strikes.

"My sense is that China is moving into large-scale deployments of UAVs," said Ian Easton, co-author of a recent report on Chinese drones for the Project 2049 Institute security think tank.

China's move into large-scale drone deployment displays its military's growing sophistication and could challenge U.S. military dominance in the Asia-Pacific. It also could elevate the threat to neighbors with territorial disputes with Beijing, including Vietnam, Japan, India and the Philippines. China says its drones are capable of carrying bombs and missiles as well as conducting reconnaissance, potentially turning them into offensive weapons in a border conflict.

China's increased use of drones also adds to concerns about the lack of internationally recognized standards for drone attacks. The United States has widely employed drones as a means of eliminating terror suspects in Pakistan and the Arabian Peninsula.

"China is following the precedent set by the U.S. The thinking is that, 'If the U.S. can do it, so can we. They're a big country with security interests and so are we'," said Siemon Wezeman, a senior fellow at the arms transfers program at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden, or SIPRI.

"The justification for an attack would be that Beijing too has a responsibility for the safety of its citizens. There needs to be agreement on what the limits are," he said.

Though China claims its military posture is entirely defensive, its navy and civilian maritime services have engaged in repeated standoffs with ships from other nations in the South China and East China seas. India, meanwhile, says Chinese troops have set up camp almost 20 kilometers (12 miles) into Indian-claimed territory.

It isn't yet known exactly what China's latest drones are capable of, because, like most Chinese equipment, they remain untested in battle.

The military and associated aerospace firms have offered little information, although in an interview last month with the official Xinhua News Agency, Yang Baikui, chief designer at plane maker COSIC, said Chinese drones were closing the gap but still needed to progress in half a dozen major areas, from airframe design to digital linkups.

Executives at COSIC and drone makers ASN, Avic, and the 611 Institute declined to be interviewed by The Associated Press, citing their military links. The Defense Ministry's latest report on the status of the military released in mid-April made no mention of drones, and spokesman Yang Yujun made only the barest acknowledgement of their existence in response to a question.

"Drones are a new high-tech form of weaponry employed and used by many militaries around the world," Yang said. "China's armed forces are developing weaponry and equipment for the purpose of upholding territorial integrity, national security and world peace. It will pose no threat to any country."

Drones are already patrolling China's borders, and a navy drone was deployed to the western province of Sichuan to provide aerial surveillance following last month's deadly earthquake there.

They may also soon be appearing over China's maritime claims, including Japanese-controlled East China Sea islands that China considers its own. That could sharpen tensions in an area where Chinese and Japanese patrol boats already confront each other on a regular basis and Japan frequently scrambles fighters to tail Chinese manned aircraft.

Retired Maj. Gen. Peng Guoqian told state media in January that drones were already being used to photograph and conduct surveillance over the islands, called Diaoyu by China and Senkaku by Japan.

The Pentagon says Chinese drones could boost the effectiveness of long-range radar in monitoring activity and locating targets in the western Pacific far from the Chinese coast. Their missions could include guiding home an anti-ship ballistic missile known in military circles as a "carrier killer," the Pentagon said in its 2012 report on China's military.

Reports about the search for notorious river bandit Naw Kham, wanted for the 2011 murders of 13 Chinese sailors, offer some clues about China's plans for drones.

The head of the Chinese Public Security Ministry's anti-narcotics bureau, Liu Yuejin, was quoted by state media as saying a plan had been floated to target Naw Kham's fortified camp with a drone loaded with 20 kilograms of TNT. The type of drone wasn't mentioned.

The plan was dropped by higher-ups in favor of taking Naw Kham alive, but the revelation served as a statement of Chinese intentions and capabilities.

China began developing drones in the 1960s and is believed to have used them for reconnaissance during its brief 1979 invasion of Vietnam. The program was aided by the adaptation of foreign civilian or dual-use UAVs for military purposes, then took a leap forward with the purchase of Harpy drones from Israel. Later, U.S. opposition to Israeli upgrades on the Harpys spurred China to build its own version.

China's gains are aided by the industry's relatively low costs and short production schedule and boosted by the assembly of the country's homebuilt Beidou navigation satellite system and improved high-speed data links.

China's military is expected to field hundreds, if not thousands, of drones, although the overall size of the fleet is difficult to estimate and the U.S. will ultimately have many more.

Chinese UAVs range from simple propeller-driven models to the high-concept, stealthy Dark Sword, featuring a joined wing and tail assembly similar to the U.S. Avenger.

More than 90 percent of the Chinese drones now in service are variants on the simpler ASN-209surveillance drone seen in navy drills and which are now being produced under license by Egypt.

Others include the Wing Loong, or Pterodactyl, which bears a striking resemblance to the U.S. Reaper and carries a brace of missiles. Chinese media reports and air show staff say it has been exported to countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, possibly the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan, at just a fraction of the Reaper's price tag of $30 million each.

Military officials in the UAE and Uzbekistan declined to comment on the reports.

Another combat drone being offered for export, the CH-4, has space for four missiles and is said to be able to fly continuously for 30 hours.

Even more ambitious is the Xiang Long BZK-005, similar to the U.S. Global Hawk. It has a reported 6,437-kilometer (4,000-mile) range and is roughly the size of a medium-size fighter jet. Deployment may be some time off, however, and a 2011 crash points to rumored problems with the guidance system.

Further developments could see China competing with world's two major drone producers, the United States and Israel, for markets in close ally Pakistan, Myanmar and other developing nations. Customers might even include Russia, which is the world's No. 2 arms exporter but has had little success making UAVs.

There are some indications China may already be exporting know-how to Pakistan, given design similarities between Chinese drones and Pakistan's Shahpar UAV, said Huw Williams, an expert on drones at Jane's Defence Weekly. However, Williams said China will likely struggle to find customers for its larger drones, given limited demand and the large number of countries developing such systems of their own.

"They're very interested in getting into this market," SIPRI's Wezeman said. "Another few years and they will have caught up."

Yahoo News

US Headed For The Coldest Spring On Record

At the two-thirds mark for meteorological spring, 2013 was the second coldest spring on record – slightly warmer than 1975.

Data is from here : Index of /pub/data/ghcn/daily/hcn/

But 1975 had an unusually warm May at 17C. The two warmest months of May were in 1934 and 1896.

Both graphs above show the average of all daily temperatures at all US HCN stations, calculated per year.

The forecast for the first two weeks of May is well below normal, so odds are that the spring of 2013 will be the coldest on record in the US. This is what Fort Collins looked like at 7pm today (May 1.)

Crack government scientists with supercomputers, predicted in January that this spring was going to be super hot!

Real Science

Vatican urging Buddhists to joint commitment to “unmask the threats to human life.”

Vatican City, May 2, 2013 / 07:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican’s top official for interreligious dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, sent a message to all Buddhists urging a joint commitment to “unmask the threats to human life.”

In his annual letter for the feast of Vesakh, Cardinal Tauran highlighted the two faiths’ “noble teachings on the sanctity of human life” but lamented that “evil in different forms contributes to the dehumanization of the person” in society, “by mitigating the sense of humanity in individuals and communities.”

“This tragic situation calls upon us, Buddhists and Christians, to join hands to unmask the threats to human life and to awaken the ethical consciousness of our respective followers to generate a spiritual and moral rebirth of individuals and societies,” he wrote in his May 2 letter.

Vesakh is a major Buddhist holy day that commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha.

According to tradition, the historical Buddha was born, achieved enlightenment and passed away during the full moon of the month of May. This means that Vesakh is a movable feast, which this year falls on May 24 or 25, depending on the country it is celebrated in.

On those days, Buddhists visit local temples to offer the monks food and to hear the teachings of the Buddha, taking special care to meditate and to observe the eight precepts of Buddhism.

This year's message is entitled: “Christians and Buddhists: Loving, Defending, and Promoting Human Life.” The letter is signed by Cardinal Tauran, prefect of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and Father Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, the council’s secretary.

Cardinal Tauran also recalled that Pope Francis believes in the importance of interreligious dialogue.

“Pope Francis, at the very beginning of his ministry, has reaffirmed the necessity of a dialogue of friendship among followers of different religions. He noted that: ‘The Church is … conscious of the responsibility which all of us have for our world, for the whole of creation, which we must love and protect. There is much that we can do to benefit the poor, the needy, and those who suffer, and to favor justice, promote reconciliation, and build peace.’”


Russians Should Not Visit China

MOSCOW, May 3 (RIA Novosti) - Russia’s chief public health official Gennady Onishchenko has recommended the country’s nationals not to visit China where a new strain of bird flu is spreading.

“Now there’s not need to ban [visits to China] but please do not go there if there is such a chance,” Onishchenko said on Echo Moskvy radio.

He said over 130 people are infected with H7N9 avian influenza in China, and 26 of them have died.

Onishchenko said in April that his consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor was considering restrictions on poultry meat imports from China.

RIA Novosti

Florida Gets $1MILLION For Program To Turn In Your Anti-Gov’t Neighbor

Sounds like Cuba to me.....

Florida House and Senate budget leaders have awarded Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw $1 million for a new violence prevention unit aimed at preventing tragedies like those in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., from occurring on his turf.

Bradshaw plans to use the extra $1 million to launch “prevention intervention” units featuring specially trained deputies, mental health professionals and caseworkers. The teams will respond to citizen phone calls to a 24-hour hotline with a knock on the door and a referral to services, if needed.

The goal will be avoiding crime — and making sure law enforcement knows about potential powder kegs before tragedies occur, Bradshaw said. But the earmark, which is a one-time-only funding provision, provoked a debate Monday among mental health advocates and providers about the balance between civil liberties, privacy and protecting the public.

Bradshaw said his proposal is a first-of-its-kind in the nation, and he hopes it will become a model for the rest of the state like his gang prevention and pill-mill units.

“Every single incident, whether it’s Newtown, that movie theater, or the guy who spouts off at work and then goes home and kills his wife and two kids — in every single case, there were people who said they knew ahead of time that there was a problem,” Bradshaw said. “If the neighbor of the mom in Newtown had called somebody, this might have saved 25 kids’ lives.”

Bradshaw is readying a hotline and is planning public service announcements to encourage local citizens to report their neighbors, friends or family members if they fear they could harm themselves or others.

The goal won’t be to arrest troubled people but to get them help before there’s violence, Bradshaw said. As a side benefit, law enforcement will have needed information to keep a close eye on things.

“We want people to call us if the guy down the street says he hates the government, hates the mayor and he’s gonna shoot him,” Bradshaw said. “What does it hurt to have somebody knock on a door and ask, ‘Hey, is everything OK?’ ”

That’s enough for Senate budget chief Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who helped push through the funding last weekend.

He said he met with Bradshaw about the program and “got assurances from the sheriff that this is going to be done in a way that respects people’s autonomy and privacy, and that he makes sure to protect against people making false claims.”

Mental health advocates, however, worry about a potential new source of stigma, and the potential for erosion of the civil rights of people with mental illnesses.

“How are they possibly going to watch everybody who makes a comment like that? It’s subjective,” said Liz Downey, executive director of the Palm Beach County branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “We don’t want to take away people’s civil liberties just because people aren’t behaving the way we think they should be.”

Bradshaw acknowledged the risk that anyone in a messy divorce or in a dispute with a neighbor could abuse the hotline. But, he said, he’s confident that his trained professionals will know how to sort out fact from fiction.

“We know how to sift through frivolous complaints,” he said.

The proposal still needs the blessing of Gov. Rick Scott, who has line-item veto authority.

But if it goes forward, Palm Beach County’s already stretched mental health and substance abuse providers could find themselves even busier. There is no ready source of funds once the $1 million runs its course, as there hasn’t been an increase to community mental health funding in many years.

“Our community agencies throughout the state don’t have the funds to meet the needs they have currently,” said Bob Sharpe, CEO of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health. “It sounds like it could work, but with no new funding we’d have to find it within existing resources.”

If Bradshaw’s teams can keep people out of crisis units and promote early intervention, that has the potential to save money, said Ann Berner, CEO of the Southeast Florida Behavioral Health Network, which manages mental health care payments for the state.

To be successful, however, there will have to be close coordination with the mental health providers, she said. For example, the county already pays for mobile crisis response teams at two nonprofit mental health providers, a service that includes a 24-hour crisis call center. They, too, are trained to de-escalate conflicts and refer troubled people to care. Which ones will respond when there’s a call from a school or a home? That will have to be clarified.

Also, after troubled people are identified by Bradshaw’s teams, then what? Who will pay for their care? The state? Medicaid? The county? The Palm Beach County Public Defender has a good program to ensure qualified people apply for the Social Security and Medicaid benefits they may need, she said. Some high-level conversations have started, but more are needed, Berner added.

“I think that would be an area we really need to collaborate on, and soon,” she said.

The $1 million Bradshaw won represents a third of what he had sought from the Legislature, but it’s a 10-fold bump from what was originally earmarked before House and Senate budget leaders finalized the state’s $74 billion budget over the weekend.

Ron Paul & Jim Rogers: "There's More Chaos To Come"

These are clear warnings signs that a rational person simply cannot ignore.
Bottom line, Nations are going bust. And the worse things get, the more desperate their tactics become. This isn't the first time that the world has been in this position. This time is not different. History shows that there are serious, serious consequences to running unsustainably high debts and deficits. And those consequences have almost invariably involved pillaging people's wealth, savings, livelihoods and liberties... either directly or indirectly.
What's happening right now is playing out in textbook fashion. More taxes, more debt, more printing, more confiscation, less freedom. I’m not talking about the end of the world here, I’m talking about difficult times ahead, and the things that go beyond economics. It’s time to face facts and look at how society will change (and has already changed).
Many people will resist the change and instead cling desperately to the old system - the cycle of debt and consumption that provided jobs, stability, and prosperity. These people will have their lives turned upside down because that system is gone forever. And in case it still weren't obvious, here is three minutes of clarity from Ron Paul and Jim Rogers..."I would expect that there is going to be a lot more chaos still to come." - Ron Paul; “They won’t take our bank accounts…they will take our retirement accounts.” - Jim Rogers

Via Simon Black of Sovereign Man blog,
The world is truly an enormous place... and, despite the dearth of good news and positive trends out there, I still see a lot of amazing opportunities in my travels.

But it's really important to remain grounded about the challenges that face us. As I pen this letter to you, in fact,

- The NSA's Utah data center, which will intercept every phone call, email, and tweet sent across the Internet, is nearing completion.

- The Marketplace Fairness Act, which will create additional sales taxes on US-based Internet transactions, is set to pass the Senate next week.

- The government of Cyprus just passed the final bail-in measures, officially authorizing the direct confiscation of people's savings in that country's banking system.

- The Bank of Japan recently announced its intentions to double down on their already unprecedented money printing operations.

- Not to be outdone, the US Federal Reserve just announced that they will maintain their Quantitative Easing program, which dilutes the existing money supply by more than $1 trillion annually.

- At $16.83 trillion, the US federal debt is at a record high and set to breach $17 trillion early this summer.

- President Obama recently proposed to cap the tax deferral benefit on Individual Retirement Accounts in the Land of the Free

These are clear warnings signs that a rational person simply cannot ignore.

Bottom line, nations are going bust. And the worse things get, the more desperate their tactics become.

This isn't the first time that the world has been in this position. This time is not different.

History shows that there are serious, serious consequences to running unsustainably high debts and deficits. And those consequences have almost invariably involved pillaging people's wealth, savings, livelihoods and liberties... either directly or indirectly.

What's happening right now is playing out in textbook fashion. More taxes, more debt, more printing, more confiscation, less freedom.

I’m not talking about the end of the world here, I’m talking about difficult times ahead, and the things that go beyond economics. It’s time to face facts and look at how society will change (and has already changed).

Many people will resist the change and instead cling desperately to the old system– the cycle of debt and consumption that provided jobs, stability, and prosperity. These people will have their lives turned upside down because that system is gone forever.

And in case it still weren't obvious, I'd like to present Ron Paul and Jim Rogers, speaking together at our event in Chile a few weeks ago, with their own views on the situation.

“They won’t take our bank accounts…they will take our retirement accounts.” - Jim Rogers
"We are going to have a calamity in economics and political crises as economies worldwide are a lot weaker than they tell us." - Ron Paul
"I would expect that there is going to be a lot more chaos still to come." - Ron Paul
"There are so many distortions because we disobeyed economic law - no matter what Bernanke tell's you." - Ron Paul
"Bernanke's whole intellectual career has been dedicated to the study of printing money." - Jim Rogers
"I don't doubt [the confiscation] at all; and they will use force and they'll use intimidation." - Ron Paul
Zero Hedge

Benghazi Cover Up, Obama Care "Train Wreck", Gold & Silver Update, Chinese Troops India & More

Armed Revolution Coming To America?

The day many have predicted would come, has finally arrived: 100% initial margin on gold.

The day many have predicted would come, has finally arrived: 100% initial margin on gold.
For now it is just one Futures Commission Merchant, in this case ex-CBOT traders Crossland LLC (motto: "Where Speed And Service Matter"), but tomorrow it will be another, and another.
In a dramatic flashback to the torrid days of 2011, when the CME and other exchanges desperately tried to scare away the weak hands by raising initial and maintenance margins on paper gold futures ever higher, and when many predicted that eventually the brokers and exchanges would simply do away margin completely in order to make levered trading in paper gold impossible, we have now witnessed the next shot across the bow aimed at all those who dare to oppose the central planners' scheme of forcing everyone out of hard assets, savings, bank deposits and other inert saved capital and into investing in ponzi capital markets, preferably on leverage, or otherwise spend their hard earned cash to buy stuff they don't need and stimulate inflation.
Of course, all this will do is simply shake out even more weak hands, making the residual base of holders that much most stable and not only eliminate the bulk of paper price volatility, but also lead to an even more profound breakage in the link between paper and hard gold.
Below is Crossland's notification to clients that starting tomorrow (we assume), the initial margin on gold and silver, will be 100%. In other words, the utility of a margin account is now null and void when trading PMs.
From: CustomerService <CustomerService@crosslandllc.com>
Subject: Margin Notice - Precious Metals
To: []
Date: Thursday, May 2, 2013, 3:46 PM

Crossland LLC is requiring all customers trading the precious metals, more specifically Gold and Silver, to be margined at 100% of initial for intraday trading.

Current margin for Gold is $7040 and for Silver is $12375

If it is the customers intention to trade the above products, it is recommended that you keep a minimum of $10,000 in your account at all times to trade Gold and a minimum of $15,000 to trade Silver.

Please note:  Crossland LLC always reserves the right to amend margins as we deem necessary.

Thank you

Krissy Metcalf
Customer Service Manager

How long until other brokers and exchanges follow suit? At the rate the onslaught to crush the last remaining "gold bug" is unfolding we expect that what Crossland just did will be a mandatory CFTC regulation in a few short months.
All hard asset resistance must be crushed!
And in other news, the delivery requests to JPM continue, as does the company's somewhat questionable strategy to make it appear it has no eligible deliverable problem by continuing to convert registered gold into commercial. Because while the bank's vault has not received one additional ounce of gold in over a week, just as it got another request for 24,028 oz of gold on Wednesday, the bank continues to "restock" by converting its stock of registered gold into eligible, this time "adding" another 57,860 oz (something HSBC decided to do as well), the fourth day in the past week it has done just this.

We wonder what happens if those holding gold warrants with JPM (i.e., registered stock) decide to inquire as to why over a hundred thousand ounces of their gold has been converted into eligible to satisfy ongoing delivery requests?
Finally we inquired how the CME goes about the entire process of reclassifying eligible gold into registered and vice versa. This is the response we got back:
... the adjustment column does reflect the issuance and cancellation of warrants, but it can be used for other purposes as well. Anything that is not received or withdrawn would be reported in the adjustment column.
Sufficiently vague to provide absolutely no real information on why it is happening or just who is cancelling their warrants, and whether it is voluntary or not. We would expect nothing less from the COMEX system of safe "vaulting."
Zero Hedge