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America’s Militarized Economy

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Donald Trump’s biggest success, thus far into his Presidency, has been his sale of $400 billion (originally $350 billion) of U.S.-made weapons to the Saudi Arabian Government, which is owned by its royal family, after whom that nation is named. This sale alone is big enough to be called Trump’s “jobs plan” for Americans. It is also the biggest weapons-sale in all of history. It’s 400 billion dollars, not 400 million dollars; it is gigantic, and, by far, unprecedented in world-history.

The weapons that the Sauds and their friends, the 7 monarchies that constitute the United Arab Emirates, are using right now, in order to conquer and subdue Yemen, are almost entirely made in America. That’s terrific business for America. Not only are Americans employed, in strategically important congressional districts (that is, politically important congressional districts), to manufacture this equipment for mass-murdering in foreign lands that never threatened (much less invaded) America, but the countries that purchase this equipment are thereby made dependent upon the services of those American manufacturers, and of the taxpayer-funded U.S. ‘Defense’ Department and its private military contractors such as Lockheed Martin, to maintain this equipment, and to train the local military enforcers, on how to operate these weapons. Consequently, foreign customers of U.S. military firms are buying not only U.S. weapons, but the U.S. Government’s protection — the protection by the U.S. military, of those monarchs. They are buying the label of being an “American ally” so that the U.S. news media can say that this is in defense of American allies (regardless of whether it’s even that). American weapons are way overpriced for what they can do, but they are a bargain for what they can extract out of America’s taxpayers, who fund the U.S. ‘Defense’ Department and thus fund the protection of those monarchs: these kings and other dictators get U.S. taxpayers to fund their protection. It’s an international protection-racket funded by American taxpayers and those rulers, in order to protect those rulers; and the victims aren’t only the people who get slaughtered in countries such as Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Libya, and Syria, and Yemen, and Palestine, but also (though only financially) are the American public, who get fleeced by it — the American public provide the bulk of the real funding for this operation to expand the lands where America’s allies rule, and so to serve both America’s aristocracy and the aristocracies that are America’s allies.

This is how today’s America enforces its ‘democracy’ around the world, so that America can spread this ‘democracy’, at gunpoint, and at bomb-point, like America’s allies, those Kings and Emirs, and the apartheid regime in Israel, are doing, to the people whom they kill and conquer, with help from the taxpayer-funded American military — funded to protect those aristocrats, against their respective publics, and to further enrich America’s own aristocrats, at the expense of America’s own public.

The global ‘aggressor’ has been identified by America’s previous President, Barack Obama, who won office like Trump did, by promising ‘a reset’ in relations with post-communist Russia, and by mocking Obama’s opponent (Mitt Romney) for having called Russia “the number one geopolitical foe” — which America’s aristocracy has historically considered Russia to be, ever since the aristocracy in Russia fled and were killed in 1917, which caused America’s and other aristocracies to fear and hate Russia and Russians, for having ousted its aristocracy, this being an act that aristocrats everywhere are determined to avenge, regardless of ‘ideology’. (Similarly, America and its pro-aristocracy foreign allies, seek to avenge Iran’s 1979 overthrow of the Shah.) As Obama’s own actions during his subsequent Presidency made clear, and as he already had started in 2011 (if not from day one of his Presidency) secretly to implement, he privately agreed with what Romney said on that occasion, but he was intelligent enough (which his opponent obviously was not) to recognize that the American public, at that time, did not agree with it but instead believed that Islamic terrorists and aristocrats such as the Sauds who finance them are that); and Obama took full advantage of his opponent’s blunder there, which helped Obama to win a second term in the White House (after having skillfully hidden from the public during his first term, his intention to weaken Russia by eliminating leaders who were friends or even allies of Russia, such as in Syria, and Ukraine).

This is American ‘democracy’, after all (rule by deceit, lies), and that’s the reason why, when Russia, in 2014, responded to the U.S. coup in Ukraine (a coup under the cover of anti-corruption demonstrations) which coup was taking over this large country next-door to Russia and thus constituted a deadly threat to Russia’s national security, Obama declared Russia to be the world’s top ‘aggressor’. Obama overthrew Ukraine and then damned Russia’s leader Putin for responding to Obama’s aggressive threat against Russia from this coup in neighboring Ukraine. Russia was supposedly the ‘aggressor’ because it allowed the residents of Crimea — which had been part of Russia until the Soviet dictator in 1954 had arbitrarily handed Crimea to Ukraine — to become Russian citizens again, Russians like 90% of them felt they still were, despite Khrushchev’s transfer of them to Ukraine in 1954. The vast majority of Crimeans felt themselves still to be Russians. But Obama and allies of the U.S. Government insisted that the newly installed Government of Ukraine must rule those people; those people must not be permitted to rule (or be ruled) by people they’ve participated in choosing.

Ever since at least 2011, the U.S. Government was planning to overthrow Ukraine’s democratically elected Government; and the plan started being put into action by no later than 1 March 2013 inside America’s Ukrainian Embassy. In preparation for this planned coup (“the most blatant coup in history”), a poll of Crimeans was funded by the International Republican Institute and USAID, in which Gallup scientifically sampled Crimeans during 16-30 May 2013, six months prior to the forced rejection on 20 November 2013 of EU membership by Ukraine’s democratically elected government — that’s six months prior to the Ukrainian Government’s rejection that Obama’s team were intending to use as being the pretext for the anti-Government demonstrations, which would start on Kiev’s Maidan Square the day after this forced rejection, on November 21st. The poll of Crimeans (which was made public on 7 October 2013) found (here are highlights):

p.14:

“If Ukraine was able to enter only one international economic union, which entity should it be with?”

53% “Customs Union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan”

17% “The European Union”

p.15:

“How would you evaluate your attitude to the following entities?”

Russia”:  68% “Warm”;  5% “Cold”

“USA”:  6% “Warm”;  24% “Cold”

p.17:

“In your opinion, what should the status of Crimea be?”

“Autonomy in Ukraine (as today [under Crimea’s 1992 Constitution and as subsequently celebrated by RFE/RL on 20 January 2011] )”:  53%.

“Common oblast of Ukraine [ruled under Ukraine’s 1991 Constitution]”:  2%.

“Crimea should be separated and given to Russia”:  23%.

In other words: prior to the U.S. State Department and CIA operation to steal Ukraine’s government from Ukraine’s citizens — including especially from the residents of the sole autonomously governed region in Ukraine, which was Crimea — 53% of Crimeans wanted continued autonomy, 23% wanted not only a total break away from the Ukrainian Government but their becoming again citizens of Russia, such as had existed until 1954; and only 2% wanted restoration of the situation in 1991 when Crimea was briefly a “common oblast” or regular region within Ukraine, a federal state within Ukraine just like all the other states within Ukraine were. And, obviously, after America’s coup in Ukraine, the percentage who wanted a total break away from Ukraine rose even higher than it had been before.

Consequently, the U.S. demand that the newly imposed Ukrainian regime, which Obama’s coup created, made upon Crimea subsequent to the coup, and which demand both Obama and his successor Trump insist must be imposed upon and obeyed by Crimeans if the anti-Russia sanctions are even possibly to end, is the demand that Crimeans, in that May 2013 poll, even prior to the bloody Obama coup and the takeover of Ukraine by rabidly anti-Crimean Ukrainian nazis, had supported by only 2% (it was demanding reimposition of the brief 1991 Ukrainian relationship, which Crimeans had rejected in 1991), as compared to the 53% of Crimeans who favored continuation of Crimean “autonomy,” and the 23% who favored becoming Russians again.

Furthermore, the May 2013 poll showed that only 17% of Crimeans favored becoming part of the EU, whereas 53% preferred to be part of the “Customs Union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan”; so, clearly, Crimeans, prior to the democratically elected Ukrainian Government’s having declined the EU’s offer, overwhelmingly wanted Ukraine’s democratically elected Government to do precisely what it did — to turn down the EU’s offer.

During the U.S. coup, and immediately after it, until the 16 March 2014 Crimean referendum on what to do about it, Crimeans saw and heard on television and via the other Ukrainian media, reports that could only have terrified them about the new Government’s intentions. Clearly the U.S. regime had no objection to placing nazis in charge, and Crimeans are intensely anti-nazi — not only anti-Nazi during Hitler’s time, but against nazism, the racist-fascist ideology, itself, regardless of which group it’s targeting; but, in their case, it targets Crimeans, and, more broadly, Russians.

A January 2015 poll of Crimeans was financed by the U.S.-allied Canadian Government, and never made public by them but released in early February only on an obscure site of the polling organization and never reported to the public in the Western press, and this poll found (probably to the sponsors’ enormous disappointment) that 93% of respondents did “endorse Russia’s annexation of Crimea” and 4% did not. On 16 March 2015, the U.S. State Department issued a statement: “On this one year anniversary of the sham ‘referendum’ in Crimea, held in clear violation of Ukrainian law and the Ukrainian constitution, the United States reiterates its condemnation of a vote that was not voluntary, transparent, or democratic.” No evidence was provided for any of that assertion, simply the allegation. Four days later, the far more honest Kenneth Rapoza at Forbes headlined “One Year After Russia Annexed Crimea,” and he opened:

The U.S and European Union may want to save Crimeans from themselves. But the Crimeans are happy right where they are. One year after the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula in the Black Sea, poll after poll shows that the locals there — be they Ukrainians, ethnic Russians or Tatars are mostly all in agreement: life with Russia is better than life with Ukraine.

Little has changed over the last 12 months. Despite huge efforts on the part of Kiev, Brussels, Washington and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the bulk of humanity living on the Black Sea peninsula believe the referendum to secede from Ukraine was legit.  At some point, the West will have to recognize Crimea’s right to self rule.

The U.S. and its allies have a different idea than that. They reject Rapoza’s view.

The United States claims to support ‘democracy’. But it demands imposition upon Crimeans of a rabidly anti-Crimean Government. What kind of ‘democracy’ does the United States actually support? Has the U.S. Government answered that question in Crimea — and, in Ukraine — by its actions there? Obama supported this kind of ‘democracy’, and this kind. He wanted this kind of treatment of Crimeans. Trump hasn’t yet made clear whether he does, too; but his official representatives have made clear that they do.

America has a militarized economy. It also currently has the very highest percentage of its people in prison out of all of the world’s 222 countries and so certainly qualifies as a police state (which Americans who are lucky enough to be not amongst the lower socio-economic classes might find to be a shocking thing to assert). On top of that, everyone knows that America’s military spending is by far the highest in the world, but many don’t know that it’s the most corrupt and so the U.S. actually spends around half of the entire world’s military budget and that the U.S. ‘Defense’ Department is even so corrupt that it has been unauditable and thus unaudited for decades, and that many U.S. military programs are counted in other federal departments in order to hide from the public how much is actually being spent each year on the military, which is well over a trillion dollars annually, probably more than half of all federal discretionary (which excludes interest on the debt, some of which pays for prior wars) spending. So, it’s a very militarized economy, indeed.

This is today’s American ‘democracy’. Is it also ‘democracy’ in America’s allied countries? (Obviously, they are more democratic than America regarding just the incarceration-rate; but what about generally?) Almost all of those countries continue to say that America is a democracy (despite the proof that it is not), and that they are likewise. Are they correct in both? Are they allied with a ‘democracy’ against democracy? Or, are they, in fact, phonies as democracies? These are serious questions, and bumper-sticker answers to them won’t suffice anymore — not after invading Iraq in 2003, and Libya in 2011, and Syria right afterward, and Ukraine in 2014, and Yemen today, etc.

Please send this article along to friends, and ask for their thoughts about this. Because, in any actual democracy, everyone should be discussing these issues, under the prevailing circumstances. Taxpayer-funded mass-slaughter is now routine and goes on year after year. After a few decades of this, shouldn’t people start discussing the matter? Why haven’t they been? Isn’t this the time to start? Or is America so much of a dictatorship that it simply won’t happen? We’ll see.

Author’s note: first posted at Unz Review

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

Americas

Who benefits more from the Biden-Putin summit in Geneva?

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With the Putin-Biden summit in Geneva around the corner, the question is who actually benefits more from the meeting in the small Swiss town.

Mainstream media and right-wing foreign policy thinkers alike have argued that a joint press conference would “elevate” President Putin to the level of the American President.

Ivana Strander, the Jeane Kirkpatrick fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC, argued that the upcoming Geneva summit is actually “a gift” to Putin.

In a CNN story, Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak mention that “officials who have been involved in arranging past US meetings with Putin say the Russian side often pushes for a joint press conference, hoping to elevate Putin’s stature by having him appear alongside the American leader”.

Whether as a subconscious bias or an actual reflection of attitudes, prevalent is the idea that coming close to the US President is a privilege that other leaders can only dream about. But who gains more from the upcoming summit?

In fact, it is the American President who is vying for other leaders’ approval and acceptance once again after a humiliating period – not the other way around. American is emerging from Trumpism, which revealed the other, ugly face of America. Trumpism is not gone and the other face of America is still there.

This week, US President Joe Biden is eager to show the world that America is “back”. In meetings with the G7, NATO countries’ top leaders, the NATO Secretary General, the Queen of England, and President Putin in the same week, Biden is asking the world to forget the last four years. And he is not doing this from the position of power or superiority. That’s why assuming that other heads of state, be it Putin or anyone else really, can only gain by coming close to the superiority of the American President is a misplaced and misguided. The US President is asking the international community to take America back – not the other way around.

President Putin doesn’t need the US President’s acceptance – Putin already got that. That happened back in 2018, in Helsinki, when President Trump sided with Putin over the US government’s own intelligence agencies, by rejecting the idea of Russia’s meddling in the US presidential elections. Trump slapped across the face and humiliated the US intelligence community in front of the whole world. Ever since, the US intelligence community has tried to figure out ways to prove Trump wrong and show him otherwise. And they have gone to incredible lengths, only so that they can get their pay pack of a sort, and prove Trump wrong. So, Putin already got what he wanted. He doesn’t need more “elevation”.

What’s also striking is that in Geneva, the UN is absolutely missing from the action. Geneva is the home of numerous UN agencies and international organizations, and not one is actually involved, which speaks volumes to questions of relevance. It is the Swiss government from Bern which is organizing the Summit. The UN is nowhere to be seen which is also indicative of the current Biden priorities.

If Trump was about “America First”, then Biden is about “America is still number one, right?”. But as the United Kingdom learned the hard way recently, it is sometimes best for a declining power to perhaps elegantly realize that the rest of the world no longer wants to dance to its tune, or at least not to its tune only. Discussions about how much Putin gains from coming close to the presence of the US President are misguided. In trying to climb back on the international stage on crotches and covered up in bruises, America is not in a position to look down on other big powers. And as regards who benefits more from the Summit, it seems like one side is there with a clear request asking for something. My understanding is that it is Biden who wants Putin to hand cyber criminals over to him. Putin still hasn’t said what he wants from Biden, in return.

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Trump’s legacy hangs over human rights talk at upcoming Biden-Putin Geneva summit

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biden-syria
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Two days after the NATO Summit in Brussels on Monday, US President Joe Biden will be in Geneva to hold a much anticipated meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders are meeting at the shores of Lake Geneva at a villa in Parc la Grange – a place I know very well and actually called home for a long time. The park itself will be closed to the public for 10 days until Friday.

A big chunk of the lakeside part of the city will be closed off, too. Barb wire and beefed up security measures have already been put in place to secure the historic summit. The otherwise small city will be buzzing with media, delegations and curious onlookers.

I will be there too, keeping the readers of Modern Diplomacy updated with what’s taking place on the ground with photos, videos and regular dispatches from the Biden-Putin meeting.

The two Presidents will first and foremost touch on nuclear security. As an interlude to their meeting, the NATO Summit on Monday will tackle, among other things “Russian aggression”, in the words of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Last week, Stoltenberg said that he “told President Biden that Allies welcome the US decision, together with Russia, to extend the New START Treaty, limiting strategic weapons, and long-range nuclear weapons”. To extend the treaty is an important first step for Stoltenberg. This will be the obvious link between the two summits.

But Biden also has to bring up human rights issues, such as the poisoning and imprisonment of Alexei Navalny and Putin’s support for the jailing of Belarusian activists by Lukashenko. Human rights have to be high on the agenda at the Geneva Summit. And indeed, Biden has confirmed officially that pressing Putin on human rights will be a priority for the American side.

Biden and Putin are not fans of each other, to say the least. Both have made that clear in unusually tough rhetoric in the past. Over the years, Biden has said on numerous occasions that he has told Putin to his face that he doesn’t “have a soul”. Putin’s retort was that the men “understand each other”.

Right at the beginning of his Presidency, earlier this year, Biden also dropped the bomb calling President Putin a “killer” for ordering the assassination of political opponents. The Russian president responded to the “killer” comment on Russian television by saying that “it takes one to know one”. Putin also wished Biden good health, alluding to the US President’s age and mental condition which becomes a subject of criticism from time to time.

Understandably, Putin and Biden are not expected to hold a joint press conference next week. But we weren’t expecting that, anyways.

For me, this Summit has a special meaning. In the context of repression against political opponents and critical media voices, President Biden needs to demonstrate that the US President and the US government are actually different from Putin – if they are any different from Putin.

This week, we were reminded of Trump’s legacy and the damage he left behind. One of Trump’s lasting imprints was revealed: Trump had the Department of Justice put under surveillance Trump’s political opponents. Among them House Democrats, including Congressman Adam Shiff, who was one of the key figures that led Trump’s first impeachment that showed that Trump exerted pressure on Ukrainian authorities to go after Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.

In the context of Trump’s impact, President Biden needs to show that there has to be zero tolerance towards the cover up by the US government of politically motivated attacks against voices critical of the US government. If President Biden wants to demonstrate that the US government is any different from Putin’s Russia, Secretary of State Blinken and FBI director Chris Wray have to go. Biden has to show that he won’t tolerate the cover up of attacks on political critics and the media, and won’t spare those that stand in the way of criminal justice in such instances.

Biden is stuck in the 2000s when it comes to Eastern Europe, as I argued last week but he needs to wake up. President Biden and the US government still haven’t dealt effectively with Trump’s harmful impact on things that the US really likes to toot its horn about, such as human rights and freedom. Whether the upcoming Geneva Summit will shed light on that remains to be seen.

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Will Geneva Be Any Different Than Helsinki?

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Joe Biden
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Any meeting between the leaders of Russia and the U.S. is inevitably an important international event. At some point in history, such summits decided the fate of the entire world, and the world held its collective breath as it followed Kremlin-White House talks on strategic arms or the two sides seeking agreements on urgent regional problems or any political signals coming from the superpower capitals prior to another round of negotiations.

The bipolar era has long been gone, and the Russia-U.S. relations are no longer the principal axis of international politics, although the suspense over bilateral summits remains. As before, the two countries are engaged in “top-down” interaction. Summits give the initial impetus to Moscow and Washington’s cumbersome bureaucratic machines, then diplomats, military personnel and officials start their assiduous work on specific issues, collaboration between the two countries’ private sectors and civil society perks up, the media gradually soften their rhetoric, bilateral projects in culture, education and science are gradually resumed.

Still, there are annoying exceptions to this general rule. In particular, the latest full-fledged Russia–U.S. summit in Helsinki in July 2018 failed to trigger improvements in bilateral relations. On the contrary, Donald Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Finland’s capital aroused massive resentment among the anti-Russian Washington establishment. Ultimately, on returning home, the U.S. President had to offer awkward apologies to his supporters and opponents alike, and relations between the two countries continued to rapidly deteriorate after the summit.

Surely, nobody is willing to see another Helsinki scenario in June 2021, this time in Geneva. Yet, do we have good reason to hope for a different outcome this time? To answer this question, let us compare Donald Trump and Joseph Biden’s approaches to Russia-U.S. summits and to bilateral relations at large.

First of all, in Helsinki, Trump very much wanted the Russian leader to like him. The Republican President avoided publicly criticizing his Russian counterpart and was quite generous with his compliments to him, which inevitably caused not only annoyance but pure outrage in Washington and in Trump’s own Administration. Joe Biden has known Vladimir Putin for many years; he does not set himself the task of getting the Russian leader to like him. As far as one can tell, the two politicians do not have any special liking for each other, with this more than reserved attitude unlikely to change following their meeting in Geneva.

Additionally, in Helsinki, Trump wanted, as was his wont, to score an impressive foreign policy victory of his own. He believed he was quite capable of doing better than Barack Obama with his “reset” and of somehow “hitting it off” with Putin, thereby transforming Russia if not into a U.S. ally, then at least into its strategic partner. Apparently, Biden has no such plans. The new American President clearly sees that Moscow-Washington relations will remain those of rivalry in the near future and will involve direct confrontation in some instances. The Kremlin and the White House have widely diverging ideas about today’s world: about what is legitimate and what is illegitimate, what is fair and what is unfair, where the world is heading and what the impending world order should be like. So, we are not talking about a transition from strategic confrontation to strategic partnership, we are talking about a possible reduction in the risks and costs of this necessarily costly and lengthy confrontation.

Finally, Trump simply had much more time to prepare for the Helsinki summit than Biden has had to prepare for Geneva. Trump travelled to Finland eighteen months after coming to power. Biden is planning to meet with Putin in less than five months since his inauguration. Preparations for the Geneva summit have to be made in haste, so the expectations concerning the impending summit’s outcome are less.

These differences between Biden and Trump suggest that there is no reason to expect a particularly successful summit. Even so, we should not forget the entire spectrum of other special features of the Biden Administration’s current style of foreign policy. They allow us to be cautiously optimistic about the June summit.

First, Donald Trump never put too much store by arms control, since he arrogantly believed the U.S. capable of winning any race with either Moscow or Beijing. So, his presidential tenure saw nearly total destruction of this crucial dimension of the bilateral relations, with all its attendant negative consequences for other aspects of Russia-U.S. interaction and for global strategic stability.

In contrast, Biden remains a staunch supporter of arms control, as he has already confirmed by his decision to prolong the bilateral New START. There are grounds for hoping that Geneva will see the two leaders to at least start discussing a new agenda in this area, including militarization of outer space, cyberspace, hypersonic weapons, prompt global strike potential, lethal autonomous weapons etc. The dialogue on arms control beyond the New START does not promise any quick solutions, as it will be difficult for both parties. Yet, the sooner it starts, the better it is going to be for both countries and for the international community as a whole.

Second, Trump never liked multilateral formats, believing them to be unproductive. Apparently, he sincerely believed that he could single-handedly resolve any burning international problems, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to North Korea’s nuclear missile programme.

Biden does not seem to harbor such illusions. He has repeatedly emphasized the importance of multilateralism, and he clearly understands that collaboration with Russia is necessary on many regional conflicts and crises. Consequently, Geneva talks may see the two leaders engage in a dialogue on Afghanistan, on the Iranian nuclear deal, on North Korea, or even on Syria. It is not at all obvious that Biden will succeed in reaching agreement with Putin immediately on all or any of these issues, but the very possibility of them discussed at the summit should be welcomed.

Third, Trump was not particularly fond of career diplomats and, apparently, attached little value to the diplomatic dimension of foreign policy. The Russia-U.S. “embassy war” had started before Trump—but not only did Trump fail to stop it, he boosted it to an unprecedented scale and urgency.

Sadly, the “embassy war” continues after Trump, too. Yet President Biden, with his tremendous foreign policy experience, understands diplomatic work better and appreciates it. Practical results of the Geneva summit could include a restoration of the diplomatic missions in Washington and Moscow to their full-fledged status and a rebuilding of the networks of consular offices, which have been completely destroyed in recent years. Amid the problems of big politics, consular services may not seem crucial but, for most ordinary Russians and Americans, regaining the opportunity for recourse to rapid and efficient consular services would outweigh many other potential achievements of the Geneva summit.

From our partner RIAC

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