Center for Strategic Communication

ASP: In Case You Missed It…

29 May 2015


Key Reads


US removed Cuba from list of state sponsors of terror
BBC News
The United States has removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. The move eliminates a major obstacle toward restoring diplomatic ties. The change allows Cuba to conduct banking in the United States, among other activities. President Barack Obama announced a historic thaw with Cuba in December, but the US trade embargo against the country remains, and may only be ended by Congress.

China Put Artillery Vehicles on Artificial Island, Pentagon Says
Associated Press
Two large artillery vehicles were detected on one of the artificial islands that China is creating in the South China Sea, U.S. officials said Friday, underscoring ongoing concerns that Beijing may try to use the land reclamation projects for military purposes. The discovery was made at least several weeks ago by the United States, but it’s not clear if the weapons are still there or if they have been moved or hidden out of sight, officials said.


FIFA scandal: ‘God Bless America,’ football fans say
Anythony Zurcher / BBC News
A bold, surprise move by the US on the world stage hasn’t always been a recipe for global applause. By indicting 14 top FIFA officials on corruption charges on Wednesday, however, the US government currently finds itself on the right side of much of the international media.




American Competitiveness & Economic Diplomacy


Emergency partial shutdown, load limits coming to Memorial Bridge
Michael Laris / Washington Post

The National Park Service, at the recommendation of the Federal Highway Administration, will close both curbside lanes and four feet of the adjoining sidewalk across the drawbridge of the Arlington Memorial Bridge prior to Friday morning’s rush hour, officials said Thursday. Officials also will post a 10-ton load limit across the entire length of the bridge, which effectively eliminates most bus traffic. Officials said the lane closures will remain in effect until emergency repairs are complete — likely six to nine months.



U.S. economy contracts in first quarter; dollar hits corporate profits

Lucia Mutikani / Reuters

The U.S. economy contracted in the first quarter as it buckled under the weight of unusually heavy snowfalls, a resurgent dollar and disruptions at West Coast ports, but activity has rebounded modestly. The government on Friday slashed its gross domestic product estimate to show GDP shrinking at a 0.7 percent annual rate instead of the 0.2 percent growth pace it estimated last month.



National Security & Strategy


Defense secretary’s warning to China: U.S. military won’t change operations
Craig Whitelock / Washington Post
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter bluntly warned China Wednesday to stop its buildup of man-made islands in the South China Sea and vowed that the U.S. military would continue to patrol international waters and airspace in the region. Carter’s comments, made at a ceremony in Hawaii to recognize Adm. Harry B. Harris, the new commander of U.S. military forces in the Pacific, further escalated a simmering rhetorical conflict between Washington and Beijing over access to the South China Sea and other Asian waters.


Putin classifies Russian soldiers’ deaths. Is it all about Ukraine?
Fred Weir / Christian Science Monitor
Military reform activists say it has never been easy to pry information out of the Russian Army, even about accidental deaths or suicides of conscripts during peacetime. Disclosing war casualties has always been strictly illegal. But President Vladimir Putin put the brakes on a growing public debate over covert Russian involvement in Ukraine’s civil war by making it illegal to reveal any information about military casualties during “special operations” in peacetime.


US-China tensions rise of Beijing’s ‘Great Wall of Sand’
Jonathan Marcus / BBC
As defense ministers and strategic thinkers from across the Asia-Pacific region gather for the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, China is not just creating facts on the ground, it is creating the very ground itself. In a number of locations in the Spratly Islands, Chinese dredgers are spewing up torrents of sand from the sea bed, turning reefs into new islands. The transformation of Mischief Reef for example, (known to the Chinese as Meiji Reef) in territory also claimed by the Philippines, is a case in point. This is only one of several small outposts the Chinese have been constructing in an effort to press their expansive claims hundreds of miles from China’s own shores.
SE Asia vows to rescue ‘boat people’; Myanmar seizes migrant vessel
Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Kanupriya Kapoor / Reuters
Southeast Asian nations agreed on Friday to intensify search and rescue efforts to help vulnerable “boat people” stranded in the region’s seas, as Myanmar said its navy had seized a vessel off its coast with more than 700 migrants aboard. More than 4,000 migrants have landed in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and Bangladesh since Thailand launched a crackdown on people-smuggling gangs this month. Around 2,000 may still be adrift in boats on the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal, the United Nations said.




Asymmetric Operations


Islamic State militants in Libya ‘seize Sirte airport’

Islamic State militants in Libya say they have seized the airport in the city of Sirte, as the group continues to make advances in the country. The news was announced by the group and by a Libyan militia that withdrew from the coastal city’s airport on Thursday. Most of Sirte, former leader Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown, fell to IS last week.


Islamic State claims blast killing four at Saudi mosque
Maha El Dahan and Sami Aboudi / Reuters
Islamic State claimed responsibility for a bombing that killed four people at a Shi’ite Muslim mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia on Friday, the second attack claimed by the Sunni militant group in a week in the world’s top oil-exporting country. The Interior Ministry said a car exploded outside al-Anoud mosque in Dammam during noon prayers on Friday, while witnesses said a suicide bomber disguised as a woman blew himself up in the mosque’s parking lot when guards stopped him from entering.

Deadly car bombs hit 2 hotels in Baghdad
Authorities in Iraq said Friday that car bombs inside the parking lots of two top hotels had killed at least 15 people in the capital Baghdad, with dozens more wounded. Police officials said a car bomb exploded in the parking lot of Babil Hotel late Thursday. About one minute later, a second car bomb went off inside the parking lot of Cristal Hotel, formerly Sheraton. Initial reports said 10 people were killed and 27 wounded, but the casualty figures rose overnight.





Climate Security


This is Climate Skeptics’ Latest Argument about Melting Polar Ice – and Why It’s Wrong
Chris Mooney / Washington Post
We’ve had two weeks of worrying news about the melting of Antarctica. The Larsen C and especially the remaining Larsen B ice shelves appear vulnerable to collapse, even as the glaciers of the Southern Antarctic Peninsula region have just been shown to be pouring large volumes of water into the ocean. Most people, I think, would find this pretty alarming. However, as I wrote about these Antarctic news stories over the past two weeks, I became aware that those skeptical of human-caused climate change (whether its existence, or its severity) had found a new argument to minimize concerns about polar ice melt. In particular, I came across numerous citations of a much-read article at Forbes by James Taylor, titled “Updated NASA Data: Global warming not causing any polar ice retreat.”





How to Get the Real Estate Market to Properly Value Green Homes
Chris Mooney / Washington Post
From installing rooftop solar panels to putting in new triple pane windows and EnergyStar appliances, people today make all kinds of home upgrades that save energy and lower their utility bills. But when they opt to sell their “green” home, it’s often less than clear how such upgrades are valued in the real estate market by appraisers, lenders, or purchasers — or even how information about a home’s energy characteristics should be conveyed to real estate agents and potential homebuyers.



Nuclear Security


No Breakthrough in Iran Nuclear Weapons Probe, UN Watchdog Says
Michael Shields / Reuters

The U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Friday it had made incremental progress but no breakthrough in its inquiry into whether Iran may have researched an atom bomb, a sobering message that may dim chances for a deal between Tehran and big powers next month.



On Our Flashpoint Blog

ASP Supports Cuba’s Removal from State Sponsors of Terrorism List
American Security Project
This morning, the United States officially removed Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list. This represents a crucial step in moving forward on a establishing a more effective Cuba policy. It was also an appropriate measure, as Cuba’s presence on the list has long been considered questionable, and threatened to dilute the meaning and effectiveness of that list.


Why Burundi’s Election Crisis Matters to the United States and the World
John Bugnacki
Burundi is currently undergoing an electoral crisis whose outcome is vitally important for the United States, African countries, and the world as a whole. This article explains the current crisis, its meaning within the context of American foreign policy, and what the U.S. can do to resolve the conflict.


Bringing Cuba into the Digital Age

Maggie Feldman-Piltch

In a post for DipNote, the State Department’s Official Blog, Ambassador Daniel Sepulvedaoutlined how the US plans to help Cuba usher in the Digital Age.


The Prospects of Reform in Sudan
John Bugnacki
In spite of declarations to pursue reform following South Sudan’s secession from Sudan in 2011, the political landscape in Sudan has remained bleak, with the government of Omar al-Bashir continuing to repress the country’s marginalized populations. In response, there have been increasing levels of armed conflict and protest activity against the regime, and both international and domestic organizations are calling for Bashir to be brought to justice for his crimes against the Sudanese people.




ASP Recently Published


Critical Issues Facing Russia and the Former Soviet Union: Governance and Corruption
American Security Project
When it comes to Russia and the other post-Soviet states, corruption is the subject of constant academic, policy, and popular debate. According to many, persistent corruption is the major factor undermining post-Soviet states from achieving broad-based political, economic, and social development along liberal-democratic lines.

Environmental Threats to Louisiana’s Future: Climate Change
American Security Project
As one of the centers of energy production, transit, and storage, Louisiana is a hub for the whole country. This ensures that any problems in Louisiana are transferred throughout the country by energy price volatility and uncertainty.


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