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Middle East, Space Taxis, Pakistan

Dated: 17 Sep 2014
Posted by Christine Chan
Category: International, New Markets, Security, Technology

Middle East: General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee he did not rule out the possibility of sending American combat troops to fight ISIS.  The realities of a prolonged campaign, General Dempsey said, could make such a hands-off approach untenable, particularly if the battle against the militants moves into densely populated cities where airstrikes are less effective and the chances of civilian casualties are much higher.  Additionally, the sectarian divide is causing some issues in building the Arab coalition that will ultimately be responsible for stabilizing their region.  With the Sunni camp being led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE and the Shiite’s being led by Iran and Iraq, the question remains as to whether or not they will be able to put aside their sectarian differences and unite against the existential threat to the region.

Space Taxis: Boeing and SpaceX will partner with NASA to manufacture and operate “space taxis” to transport astronauts to the International Space Station. Officials say the partnership will end U.S. dependence on Russian space transport.  By flying astronauts commercially from the United States, NASA could end Russia’s monopoly on space station crew transport. The agency pays $70 million per person for rides on Russian Soyuz capsules, the only flights available for astronauts since the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle fleet in 2011.  Additionally, the companies retain ownership of their vehicles and can sell rides to customers outside of NASA, including private tourists.

Pakistan: Al Qaeda militants tried to hijack a Pakistan Navy frigate earlier this month and use it to target U.S. Navy vessels.  While the plot was foiled, the raid, in which 10 militants and one petty officer died, raised fears about terrorist infiltration of the nuclear-armed nation’s military forces.  “If they hadn’t been detected, the minimal damage would have been similar to the USS Cole in 2000. However, if they had somehow managed to maneuver the weapons systems, then we are talking about a full scale naval engagement,” said Pakistani security official.

Today In The World

Dated: 26 Nov 2013
Posted by Thomas McIntyre
Category: Autonomy, New Markets, Technology

VMI 2013 General Industry Banner

The Top Line

French Government Spending: While having a young workforce is seen as a tool for boosting industrial output and revitalizing an economy, financing the expansion of the necessary infrastructure to nurture this demographic is a key variable that governments should not overlook.  France, who boasts one of the highest birthrates in the EU, is increasingly struggling to pay for the costs of their baby surge due to deficit ridden budgets.  Indeed, welfare spending (including programs for youth, the unemployed, and elderly) is set to reach 31.7% of GDP, the highest ratio among OECD countries.   With low growth and massive entitlements, expect their central government to do more with less while continuing to spend beyond their means.   

China’s Stealth Drone: The Chinese military conducted a test flight of its Lijian stealth drone, also known as “Sharp Sword”, last Thursday.  Designed by the Shenyang Aircraft Design Institute and built by Hongdu Aviation Industry Group, China now joins the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia in an elite group of countries that are making stealth drones.  Coincidentally, Sharp Sword’s design bears a close resemblance to the design of the X-47B drone currently being developed by Northrop Grumman.

Hydropower: With IEA forecasting that from 2010 to 2035, hydropower generation is expected to expand by two-thirds while maintaining a roughly 15% share of the world’s electricity supply, environmentalists, non-profits, and organizations like the World Bank are now advocating for expansion of this energy source, as sustainable methods can be applied in order to mitigate damage to the local environment.  Indeed, even private equity firms such as Blackstone, best known for corporate takeovers, are moving into the space as evidenced by the firm pursuing dam projects in Uganda, Tanzania and along Rwanda’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.