Kremlin Hammers NGO Activists

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 01:42 AM EDT, 22 July 2012

Soviet Flag, Photo by Malcolm MurrayTensions between Washington and the Kremlin have escalated over the past eighteen months largely because Russia has aligned with China to defeat the United Nations Security Council’s efforts to institute punitive sanctions against Syria.

The standoff recalls the stance of the U.S. and USSR during the Cold War era which lasted from 1947-1991. During this period the United States, NATO, and other nations joined together in opposition of communist Soviet Union, its allies and satellite states.

Despite the fact that Russia enacted democratic governance in 1993 its election cycles continue to be plagued with accusations of corruption. Now, with the approval of a new law which labels non-governmental organizations receiving financial support from abroad as “foreign agents,” Russia is poised on the precipice of totalitarianism.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved a law which will tighten controls on civil rights groups funded from abroad, the his press office said on Saturday, a step opponents say is part of a campaign to suppress dissent.

The law, which was cleared by the upper house of parliament earlier in July, will force non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaging in “political activity” to register with the Justice Ministry as “foreign agents” and to file a report to officials every quarter. (Source: Forbes)

Opponents of the law believe that President Putin signed the bill with the full knowledge that its real intent is to silence organizations and individuals critical of his leadership. Though the law broadly applies to all NGOs, it specifically targets NGOs engaging in political activities.

Less than a month prior, President Putin signed another 'undemocratic' bill which prohibits people participating in unauthorized demonstrations, and in the case where these demonstrations were organized by an NGO or other organization, huge fines can be levied.

Many Russian NGOs have stated that they will not comply with new law, and according to reports, the Moscow Helsinki Group leader Lyudmila Alexeyeva said her group will turn down foreign funding in an attempt to work around the law.

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Exclusive ICBM Club Gains Member

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:23 PM EDT, 19 April 2012

India's Agni V Missile Launch, April 2012NEW DEHLI, India – Following close on the heels of North Korea’s failed rocket launch earlier this week, the Indian government successfully launched the Agni-V from India’s east coast. According to other reports, Agni (means "fire" in Hindi and Sanskrit), a fitting term for a missile that is capable of carrying a nuclear payload.

The Agni-V has a range of more than 5,000km (3,100 miles) and it is completely manufactured in India. It is 17.5m tall, solid-fuelled, has three stages and a launch weight of 50 tons. It has cost more than 2.5bn rupees ($480m; £307m) to develop.

The missile was launched from Wheeler Island off the coast of the eastern state of Orissa at 0807 local time (0237GMT) on Thursday, and it took approximately 20 minutes to hit its target somewhere near Indonesia in the Indian Ocean. The launch theoretically proved that India possesses the technology to fire nuclear warheads at Beijing and Shanghai, China.

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated the scientists for the "successful launch" of the missile. He said that the launch “represents another milestone in our quest for our security, preparedness and to explore the frontiers of science.” However, most speculate the real reason for the missile launch was to demonstrate India’s growing prowess in the region.

Although, there has been no direct confrontation between China and India, with populations of approximately 1.3bn and 1.2bn respectively, these two juggernauts are in a tight race to control the economic, political and military destiny of the region. Prior to the launch today, China was the only Asian nation counted as a member of the elite nuclear weapons club.

Other members include Russia, France, the US and UK which already have long-range, Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM), although the nuclear weapons possessed by these nations have much greater range than the Agni-V. Israel is also thought to possess nuclear weapons though this has not been confirmed.

The international community seems to have tacitly accepted India’s nuclear program and its development of ICBMs. India's induction into the elite ICBM club is much less contentious than bids for entree by North Korea or Iran. In fact, the greatest criticism to the news of the Agni-V launch centered on its cost versus the per capita income of its citizenry and how much India spends on education by comparison.

It is a specious argument at best because most nations, particularly those with large, organized militaries, spend a significant portion of their budgets on defense against real, imagined and manufactured enemies.

The threat of use of nuclear weapons to deter first strike is a relic of the Cold War era and an unfortunate legacy of the U.S. and U.S.S.R. nuclear strategic policy. Although we now live in a world order in which rogue nations and groups have greater access to weapons of mass destruction, many nations continue to implement the Cold War paradigm of deterrence through stockpiling of nuclear weaponry.

With regard to India’s Agni-V launch, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, Liu Weimin, said his country was not threatened by the test. "China and India are large developing nations. We are not competitors but partners. We believe that both sides should cherish the hard-won good state of affairs at present, and work hard to uphold friendly strategic co-operation to promote joint development and make positive contributions towards maintaining peace and stability in the region."

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North Korea Halts Nuclear Program For Food

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:33 PM EDT, 29 February 2012

Trident II MissileWASHINGTON, DC - On Wednesday 29 February 2012, the United States and North Korea have reached a nuclear disarmament agreement which hopefully signals a new era of open access to a country that grew increasingly insular under the iron rule of Kim Jong Il.

Under Kim Jong-un's leadership this move seems to signify North Korea's willingness to admit that it is in desperate need of international food aid. This deal, once finalized, will result in the delivery of 240,000 metric tons of food aid.

In the 1990's the country was hit by famine and more than 1 million North Koreans starved to death. Following Kim Jong Ils refusal to participate in nuclear disarmament talks, sanctions against the nation were devastating for the populace but left the ruling elite unscathed.

Stories of 'people eating grass,' were reported and the UN's World Food Programme said in a statement that "North Korea faces its worst food shortage in a decade, with six million people at risk - a consequence of poor economic management of its centrally planned system, a series of bad harvests caused by harsh winters, flooding and exhausted agricultural land, and the regime's unwillingness to spend its dwindling hard currency reserves on buying food for its 24 million people."

In 2009, under his father's leadership, North Korea withdrew from the negotiations and increased its nuclear testing program and refused entry to the country by International Atomic Energy (IAE) Inspectors. As a prerequisite for assistance, the North Korean government must reengage with the 6 nations disarmament talks which were suspended 3 years ago.

The agreement between the US and North Korea will require the immediate suspension of nuclear activities, a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests, and unfettered entry into the country by IAE inspectors so they can verify and monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment and confirm disablement of its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon.

The announcement follows talks in Beijing last week between U.S. and North Korean negotiators, the first since negotiations were suspended after Kim's death in December from a heart attack.'