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UN Security Council, Iraq, Battery Technology

Dated: 17 Oct 2014
Posted by Christine Chan
Category: International, Security, Technology
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UN Security Council: Venezuela was elected Thursday to a two-year term on the U.N. Security Council, overcoming long-standing U.S. opposition to its membership on the world body’s premier security panel and setting the stage for a potential clash over issues ranging from Syria to Ukraine.  “This triumph is dedicated to commander Hugo Chávez,” Ramírez added, recalling the former Venezuelan leader’s 2007 quest to resume a campaign for a Security Council seat following Venezuela’s 2006 defeat as a result of American diplomatic maneuvers. The tribute was a sign of Chávez’s enduring role in Venezuelan politics. His daughter, María Gabriela Chávez, a socialite who has never held an actual job, will be acting Caracas’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations.

Iraq: ISIS attacks in predominantly Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, which included the detonation of two car bombs, left dozens of people dead on Thursday. Iraqi authorities imposed a curfew on the besieged city of Ramadi in Anbar province Friday. Officials there say ISIS now controls as much as 80% of the province and is within eight miles of Bagdad. In related news, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has also said that ISIS fighters are being trained to fly captured fighter jets, US intelligence officials did not comment.

Battery Technology: Scientists at Nanyang Technology University (NTU) have developed ultra-fast-charging batteries that can be recharged up to 70 percent in only two minutes.   The new-generation batteries also have a long lifespan of over 20 years, more than 10 times compared to existing lithium-ion batteries.

US Army, OPEC, North Korea

Dated: 13 Oct 2014
Posted by Christine Chan
Category: International, Security
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US Army: The Army is unveiling a new global strategy for reshaping the largest American military force for a world where the U.S. faces many small and indirect threats, rather than just a few large ones.  While the Army has long defined its core mission as winning wars, equal weight will now be given to preventing war, an acknowledgment that the Army will be asked to respond to humanitarian crises, reassure allies and deter aggression in addition to fighting on battlefields.  This new policy will influence the kinds of cuts the Army is likely to make, Army officials and analysts said, and result in fewer investments in new heavy weaponry and more for equipment needed by small infantry units, such as transport helicopters that can move faster and travel further.  The strategy document can be found here.

OPEC: The latest comments from different OPEC sources suggest there is indeed a deep malaise within the cartel that for so long has been key to the path of oil prices. What seems increasingly clear is that OPEC members are in deep disarray over how to respond to the once-in-a-generation supply shock that is the U.S. shale revolution. Rather than looking to cooperate with each other to stem oil’s fall, individual cartel members are instead engaged in a desperate scramble for market share.  Further complicating matters is the fact that the situation is much more desperate for some OPEC members than others. Most of the Gulf monarchies, such as Kuwait and the U.A.E., can afford to see oil prices fall and still balance their budgets; Saudi Arabia, which needs oil prices at around $93 to balance its budget, has years of built-up surpluses to draw on. Countries like Iran and Venezuela, by contrast, need prices at around $140 and $121 respectively to avoid slipping into the red.

North Korea: Chinese and South Korean officials said that despite Kim Jong-un’s absence, there are no indications of difficulties in maintaining his power and control of the country. Meanwhile, South Korean President Park Geun-hye said that South Korea would consider lifting economic sanctions on North Korea if upcoming talks improved relations.