India sees China as ‘de facto competitor’


Ensign of the Indian Air Force

(China Daily)

BEIJING – Recent bold moves regarding India’s armed forces have political rather than military objectives, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Daily said.

India’s repositioning of its national security strategy has led to the country “starting to treat China as a de facto competitor”, it said in a commentary on Wednesday.

“China has always adhered to the principle of ‘peaceful rise’. But this has been misinterpreted by some countries as a ‘rising threat’,” it said.

The response came a week after the Indian Ministry of Defense announced its biggest expansion package to date, a $13 billion military modernization plan.

Within five years, the project is set to deploy 90,000 more soldiers and raise four new divisions along India’s border with China, the largest such mobilization since the Sino-Indian border clashes of 1962.

The Indian military is also in the final phase of choosing between two fighter jets in what is said to be the world’s largest defense deal. For months, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the French Dassault Rafale aircraft have been competing for an Indian Air Force contract that is now worth more than $20 billion – almost double the original estimate.

These moves followed the Indian government’s decision in October to deploy Brahmos cruise missiles against China, the first time it has taken such a step with offensive tactical missiles.

India is also pushing for its first joint air force and naval exercises with Japan, which Indian Defense Minister A K Antony revealed during his visit to Japan last week.

On Monday, a senior former Indian diplomat said India, as a potential “positive balancer” in East Asia, wants to see a strong Japan in the context of China’s rise.

A strong Japan would play a positive role in maintaining the strategic balance in the region, former Indian ambassador to Japan Hemant Krishan Singh said in New Delhi at a discussion on the US-Japan alliance.

During the same discussion, Sheila A. Smith, a senior fellow with the US-based Council on Foreign Relations, said Japan’s “strategic discomfort” has been growing amid the rise of China in recent years.

The discussion was held just weeks ahead of a proposed trilateral dialogue involving India, US and Japan that experts said was aimed at keeping China in check.

The trilateral dialogue, to be held by the year’s end, will discuss regional issues, the US State Department said last week.

China has not commented on the matter.

“The West’s vigilance and confinement of China’s rise are increasing. One of its means is to take advantage of China’s conflicts and issues with its neighboring countries, and instigate and radicalize issues to exhaust China’s energy, resources and strategic projection,” said Fu Xiaoqiang, an expert on South Asian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

China should “take it easy” when outsiders feel uneasy about its growth and role in regional as well as global affairs, said Feng Yujun, head of Russian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

China should “take it easy” when outsiders feel uneasy about its growth and role in regional as well as global affairs, said Feng Yujun, head of Russian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

China should not only remain alert of actions taken by parties to contain its rise, but also actively adjust its strategy and focus on improving its relations with neighboring countries instead of the big powers, said Jin Yinan, head of the Strategic Research Institute at National Defense University.

India and China are slated to become the world’s largest trading partners by 2030, according to estimates by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India.

But analysts say India’s increasingly assertive approaches, acting as a counterweight to the rise of China, are reshaping the Asian strategic landscape.

“This is largely projected as a response to India’s threat perceptions of China,” wrote M K Bhadrakumar, a former career diplomat who served as India’s ambassador to Turkey and Uzbekistan, in the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Washington, US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns last week hailed India’s “Look East” policy as becoming an “Act East” policy. “India’s rise will reshape the international system,” he said.

Kim R. Holmes, vice-president of the Heritage Foundation and former US assistant secretary of state, said closer India-US ties are the natural result of a rising China.

“I believe that growing strategic challenges presented by a rising China and continuing threats from terrorism in the region will inevitably drive the US and India to cooperate more closely on defense and other key sectors like space, maritime security and nuclear nonproliferation,” he said.

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It’s a Dumb Scandal, But Taxing Christmas Trees Is Also Dumb


Timothy B. Lee, Forbe Contributor

A christmas tree.

My Twitter feed is atwitter today over this post about the Obama administration’s proposal to assess a 15-cent tax on Christmas tree sales. The tax would go to a fund that the Christmas tree industry would use to run advertising promoting Christmas trees. After some negative publicity, the USDA says it’s delaying implementation of the tax.

Obviously, the “war on Christmas” spin some conservatives have been giving this story is ridiculous. As various folks have pointed out, this concept has been under discussion since the Bush administration, it’s supported by most Christmas tree growers, and I doubt President Obama had anything to do with it.

Still, I’ve been disappointed by the number of people on the left who have gone beyond rebutting idiotic partisan spin to actually defend the proposal on its merits. For example, several people have linked to this piece:

According to a statement issued by the group, there are at least 18 programs already in effect for other agricultural commodities under the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996.

“This program was requested by the industry in 2009 and has gone through two industrywide comment periods during which 565 comments were submitted from interested parties,” the National Christmas Tree Association said in a statement, adding that nearly 90 percent of the state and multi-state associations who commented on the program supported it.

“The program is designed to benefit the industry and will be funded by the growers at a rate of 15 cents per tree sold,” the release states. “The program is not expected to have any impact on the final price consumers pay for their Christmas tree.”

But some conservatives aren’t letting the facts get in the way of an awesome headline.

The “18 programs” referred to here are industries like milk, dairy, and eggs where taxes are levied to support generic ad campaigns like the dairy industry’s famous “Got Milk” spots. These campaigns are a waste of money, and I see no reason for the government to be levying the taxes to support them. Such campaigns are particularly unfair to niche producers who seek to differentiate their products from those of larger producers, but are nevertheless forced to pay for ads that promote milk (or beef, eggs, etc) as a generic commodity.

Nothing’s stopping the Christmas tree growers who support these ads from pooling their money and buying as many ads as they like. But why should a majority of growers be able to force the minority to contribute to ads they might not want or even agree with?

It’s also hard to take seriously the claim that these taxes won’t raise consumer prices. The economics here are pretty simple: when you tax a product on a per-item basis, producers usually pass the higher costs on to consumers. This is true whether the tax is formally assessed on consumers (as sales taxes are) or on businesses (like gas and cigarette taxes). Either way, the money ultimately comes out of consumers’ pockets. There’s no reason to think Christmas trees (or milk) are an exception to this general rule.

It’s hard to think of any other context where liberals cite industry support as a justification for an otherwise-indefensible government policy. Obviously, it’s worth pushing back on the idiotic “war on Christmas” spin, but the fact that Republicans are making fools of themselves doesn’t change the fact that Congress really ought to repeal the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996.

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Is Your Computer Infected by DNS Malware? Seven accused in $14 million scam!


Seven accused in $14 million click-hijacking scam

by Elinor Mills

This graphic shows how the DNSChanger malware worked.

This graphic shows how the DNSChanger malware worked.(Credit: FBI)

The U.S. Department of Justice said today that it has uncovered a large, sophisticated Internet scam ring that netted $14 million by infecting millions of computers with malware designed to redirect their Web searches to sites that generated ad revenue.

Six people have been arrested in Estonia and a Russian is being sought on charges of wire fraud and computer intrusion, the FBI said. They are accused of infecting about 4 million computers in more than 100 countries–500,000 in the U.S. alone, including NASA–with malware called DNSChanger. The malware altered the Domain Name Server settings on the computers so they could be automatically redirected to rogue DNS servers and then on to specific Web sites.

In essence, the malware hijacked the computers when certain Web searches were done, redirecting them to sites that would pay them money when people visited or clicked on ads.

“When users of infected computers clicked on the link for the official Web site of iTunes, for example, they were instead taken to a Web site for a business unaffiliated with Apple Inc. that purported to sell Apple software,” an FBI statement said.

In addition, the malware would redirect infected computers searching for Netflix to a business called “BudgetMatch” and searches or the IRS to H&R Block, according to the FBI.

Defendants also allegedly replaced legitimate ads on sites with ads that triggered payments to them. For instance, they are accused of replacing an American Express ad on the Wall Street Journal home page with an ad for “Fashion Girl LA,” and an Internet Explorer 8 ad on Amazon.com with one for an e-mail marketing firm.

Computers became infected with DNSChanger when they visited certain Web sites or downloaded particular software to view videos online. In addition to altering the DNS server settings, the malware also prevented antivirus and operating systems from updating, according to officials.

The defendants allegedly created companies that masqueraded as legitimate advertising publisher networks. The operation began in 2007 and ended in October with the completion of the two-year FBI investigation called “Operation Ghost Click,” the FBI alleges.

The rogue DNS servers used in the operation have been replaced with legitimate servers in the hopes that infected computers will still be able to access the Internet. Owners of infected computers will need to clean the malware off their machines. People can see if their computer is infected by typing in their DNS information on this FBI Web page.

The indictment filed in the U.S. District Court of New York was unsealed today.

 

 

Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service, and the Associated Press.

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The Third Force Politics in Malaysia; Ku Li on survival mode!


The Parliament of Malaysia taken by Mohd Hafiz...Image via Wikipedia

Cometh the ‘third force’

ANALYSIS By JOCELINE TAN
joceline@thestar.com.my

The third force in Malaysian politics is getting more crowded as they vie to be the kingmaker in the event of a hung Parliament but some, like Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, may be eyeing the Prime Minister’s post.

TENGKU Razaleigh Hamzah was all dressed up for what seemed like a normal press conference. For someone who once admitted that he is colour blind, he was a picture of immaculate grooming.

Actually, he could have been mistaken for a prosperous banker or, dare we say, a Prime Minister-in-waiting?

The Kelantan royal politician had called the press conference to announce that Angkatan Amanah Merdeka, the NGO headed by him, was now open for business as it has been officially registered.

Amanah has joined a crowded field of what has become known as the “third force” in Malaysian politics, except that Tengku Razaleigh has still got one foot in Umno.

The third force groups range from small political parties like Parti Cinta Malaysia and kita, headed by millionaire lawyer Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, to civil society groups like the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) headed by Haris Ibrahim. Even Perkasa is a third force group in its own right.

At one level, these groups are signalling there is a niche out there for those who have rejected the old politics of Barisan Nasional but have not completely bought into the so-called new politics of Pakatan Rakyat.

At another level, they are essentially politicians aspiring to be the “king-maker” in the event of a hung Parliament in the next general election.

“Each group comes to the table with a slightly different political message to sell,” said political analyst and UCSI academic Dr Ong Kian Ming.

MCLM, said Dr Ong, comprises pro-Pakatan activists and intellectuals who aim to address the issue of poor quality of candidates in Pakatan, especially from PKR.

KITA, on its part, has emerged as the only Malay-led party that has stood up for equal rights among all Malaysians and is not afraid to say it openly. It has even spoken up for religious conversions.

As Dr Ong noted, some of these groups are looking for a platform and voice, some comprise indivi­duals who are looking for political survival while a few are hoping to cash out at the right time.

“On their own, they cannot knock out the established parties but they can cause a stomachache or headache,” said publisher Datuk A. Kadir Jasin.

Some of the third force groups are having headaches of their own.

For instance, kita, which was launched with a big bang earlier this year is embroiled in an internal feud even before it can really take off.

MCLM caused a stir when it was launched from London with the support of blogger-in-exile Raja Petra Kamarudin.

It has since nominated the well-known human rights lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar and the less-known dentist Dr Nedunchelian Vengu to run in the general election.

The next general election is go­­ing to be fierce and there will be a wild scramble to be candidates.

Pakatan is going to have as big and as ugly a headache as the Barisan in ma­­n­­­­aging people fighting to be candidates.

Amanah, insisted its vice-president Wan Saiful Wan Jan, is strictly a civil society body.

“It is not like MCLM or kita nor is it about election candidates or where they should run. It’s about a group of people who want to make a difference,” he said.

Nevertheless, Tengku Razaleigh’s claim that he needs a new platform to speak because Umno restricts him does not really add up.

It is indeed a selective pro­cess to be ­picked to speak at the Umno general assembly but over and above th­at annual event, no one has been able to stop Tengku Razaleigh from speaking his mind and he has caused ripples with many of his comments.

He has a blog and journalists rush to his Langgak Golf “White House” each time he schedules a press conference.

In fact, he makes news because he is such a famous Umno face, he says things other Umno leaders would not say.

Speaking as the head of yet another NGO would not have the same impact. In the meantime, the perception that he is positioning himself for the Prime Minister post will persist.

Actually, he is more experienced and accomplished than the other aspiring candidates, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Datuk Seri Hadi Awang put together.

According to a Pakatan Rakyat insider, he could have been the catalyst had he come on board Anwar’s Sept 16 scheme in 2008.

He and Anwar met several times in the days leading up to Sept 16 but nothing happened because they simply did not have the numbers and even if they did, they would have ended up fighting each other for the top post.

Tengku Razaleigh has missed the boat one time too many and he is now banking on his final boat.

Ku Li goes on survival mode

COMMENT By BARADAN KUPPUSAMY

Critics say Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah is clutching at straws to remain relevant at a time when national politics has narrowed to a divisive tussle between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat. There is no place for a third force like his newly-formed Angkatan Amanah Merdeka.

FORMER Umno vice-president Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has been vociferous in his criticism of the party and its policies, yet he says there is no room in it for dissent.

As president of the newly-formed Angkatan Amanah Merdeka, a non-governmental organisation that seeks to return to the comforting policies of first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, he hopes to remain relevant.

Ku Li – as he is popularly known – is trying for the political main chance at a time when his role in Umno and the country is fast dwindling.

Amanah is just another platform for him, in a career of many ups and downs for the political main chance that has missed him or, rather, the chances that he has missed.

An aristocrat, he wanted to be premier ever since he challenged Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in the 1987 battle for the Umno presidency. He lost by a handful of votes, the nearest he would ever come.

His ally in that battle, former deputy president Tun Musa Hitam, made his peace and bred that power ambition out of him. But Ku Li is different. He keeps at it.

With Amanah, Ku Li is trying to keep his hopes for the top post alive.

Critics say he is clutching at straws to remain relevant at a time when national politics has narrowed to a divisive tussle between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat.

There is no place for a third force like Amanah, an NGO in a field of many NGOs bidding for a political role.

The Gua Musang MP has taken a critical view of Umno ever since the original party was dissolved in 1988 and he went on to form Parti Semangat 46 that contested against the Barisan in the 1990 general election.

His new party joined forces with PAS, the DAP and the Indian Progressive Front to form the Gagasan Rakyat grouping which failed in its bid to oust the ruling party.

After failing to unseat Dr Mahathir in 1990, Semangat 46 closed shop and by 1995 Ku Li had returned to Umno.

When Dr Mahathir sacked Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in 1998, Ku Li had an opportunity to join forces with the axed deputy prime minister and take over the reformasi movement. But he failed to rise to the occasion, preferring to watch from the sidelines.

Unfortunately for Ku Li, he again missed the main chance when the top job moved to Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi after Dr Mahathir stepped down in 2003.

Ku Li tried to challenge Abdullah for the job but failed to get enough nominations because Umno coalesced around Abdullah and made short work of Ku Li’s attempt.

Throughout the six years of the Abdullah era, Ku Li stayed in Umno.

Anwar was released from prison in 2004 and began mobilising his supporters for the big polls battle in 2008, which netted for the Pakatan five states and 82 seats in Parliament.

In the uncertainties that followed Anwar’s undemocratic grab for power vis-a-vis the Sept 16 fiasco, Ku Li briefly came into the picture as possibly bringing to Anwar several Umno MPs to make up the necessary numbers to form a government.

But the promise never materialised and Anwar was not able to muster enough MPs to make the magic numbers although he did send emissaries in a hilarious chase that went all the way to Taiwan.

After the disaster of 2008 and with Abdullah giving way to Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in April 2009, Ku Li saw his chances for the top job shrinking even further.

Najib began the transformation of the country and, by most counts, is winning the hearts and minds of many Malays and Indian voters although the Chinese voters are still holding out.

The country is firmly on a path of no return to the old ways with the repeal of the ISA, banishment laws and media freedom. Ku Li is left, still in Umno, criticising the reforms as inadequate.

On the other side, Anwar is facing a second sodomy trial and other sex related accusations even as he tries to rally his supporters as he did in 2008.

Pakatan Rakyat is, however, in a survival mode and seeking to keep as much of the 2008 win as it possibly could.

With the national political scenery changed Ku Li finds that he is being squeezed out and so he came up with his Amanah, which is a vehicle to remain in the public eye.

Who knows the political circumstances might change again and Ku Li might just land himself the top job, although the chances of that has long eclipsed.

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