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AssessmentsMay 13, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
An aerial photo shows villagers sowing highland barley seeds with agricultural machinery in the fields in Lhasa, the capital of China's Tibet Autonomous Region, on April 22, 2020.
COVID-19 Tensions Place Australian Farmers in China's Crosshairs
On May 10, Australian grain producers issued a joint statement warning that China has made a provisional decision to impose anti-dumping and anti-subsidy tariffs on Australian barley imports of up to 80.5 percent, effectively shutting down their exports to China. Sources within the Australian government say the timing of these tariffs is linked to the recent uptick in Chinese tensions over COVID-19, though Prime Minister Scott Morrison has publicly since said he does not believe the two are related. China's economic pressure, however, would have to expand beyond barley and the small group of beef slaughterhouses to compel Australia to reconsider its support of U.S. efforts to counter Beijing's rise. If Beijing threatens more sweeping measures against Australian beef exports, or turns to targeting wool exports, Canberra may be prompted to change its approach. But as things stand, barley producers in Australia have other options.
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On SecurityJan 21, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A police officer wears a bomb suit during a Dec. 6 event hosted by the Hong Kong Police Department's Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau (EOD).
Are Hong Kong Protesters Turning to Bombs?
During a raid Jan. 14 on an apartment in the Mong Kok neighborhood of Hong Kong, police found protest-related material such as masks, protective gear and, most notably, an 8-inch long pipe bomb filled with 40 grams of low explosive powder. During the raid, the bomb disposal team arrested 10 people -- one of whom led police to another property in northern Hong Kong where they found an additional 100 grams of explosive material.  The Jan. 14 seizure, however, was not an isolated case. Indeed, it was at least the seventh incident involving explosive material since anti-government protests began in June 2019. The police's close monitoring of bomb threats will continue to make it difficult for any single individual or group to make a truly sophisticated device. But that won't keep increasingly desperate protesters from pursuing deadlier weapons as they try to turn up the heat on the city's political leaders.
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AssessmentsJan 9, 2020 | 20:51 GMT
This photo shows pieces of a Qaim 1 missile after Iran targeted the Ayn al-Asad Air Base in Iraq on Jan. 8, 2020.
With Its Missile Strikes, Iran Flaunts Its Accuracy
The images paint a picture of precision: The first satellite imagery of the aftermath of the Iranian strike on Ayn al-Asad Air Base in Iraq highlights Iran's improved ability to accurately strike distant targets with its extensive missile arsenal. The pictures, released by imaging company Planet Labs on Jan. 8, show that Iran can chalk up its strike as a success even without inflicting U.S. casualties. What's more, they also show how Iran sought to skirt a delicate line in exacting public retribution while also avoiding an escalation that would lead to outright war.
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Contributor PerspectivesNov 12, 2019 | 10:00 GMT
This Aug. 7, 2018, photo shows a Google office building in Beijing.
Google's AI Work in China Stirs Questions of Allegiance and National Security
China is zealously protective of its national interests and is stealing as much intellectual property as possible from the United States, quickly catching up with decades of incredible innovation and investment in advanced technologies at a fraction of the time and cost. Some of these technologies, such as artificial intelligence, could be game-changers in the balance of world power. What does this ultimately mean for American tech giants like Google that are working cooperatively with Beijing while avoiding military contracts at home, and how should the United States protect its own disruptive innovation and technological advancement from exploitation by the Chinese military through replication and fusion between public and private entities?
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On SecurityOct 8, 2019 | 09:00 GMT
Methamphetamine crystals
The Cartel Connection to the Meth on America's Streets
On its own, it was an impressive haul, but in the wider picture, it was just a drop in the bucket: On Sept. 26 at a checkpoint in Sarita, Texas, U.S. Border Patrol agents seized 64 kilograms (142 pounds) of methamphetamine with a street value of $4.5 million. A methamphetamine seizure of this size is not surprising or unusual, especially in this location, given that cartels in Mexico manufacture the drug at home before smuggling it into the United States. Indeed, 97 percent of the methamphetamine seized by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) occurs along the U.S.-Mexican border, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration's 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment. So what exactly is driving this record-setting production of methamphetamine? For me, two main factors are responsible: economics and cartel dynamics. Ultimately, a combination of high-quality drugs, record-low prices and the massive competition among ever-splintering cartels is flooding the hungry U.S. market
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AssessmentsSep 11, 2019 | 09:00 GMT
Military officials salute each other in a ceremony before Russia and China warships set out for a naval cooperation exercise.
For China and Russia, Common Interests Make for Closer Security Ties
As the saying goes, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." And indeed, that dynamic seems to be the rationale that has brought Russia and China closer together amid their respective standoffs with the United States in recent years. The U.S. trade war with China and Washington's prolonged sanctions campaign against Moscow, for one, have driven greater economic and energy ties between the two countries. Russia and China have also coordinated their diplomatic positions to counterbalance U.S. interests and influence in areas such as Venezuela, Iran and North Korea. As a result, Beijing and Moscow have increasingly found themselves aligned with each other in the growing number of areas where they both stand at odds with Washington -- and increasingly, that includes security issues. But in the long term, Russian-Chinese security ties will ultimately depend on the evolution of each country's relationship with the United States and, thereby, with each other.
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On SecurityJul 16, 2019 | 10:00 GMT
A kit is seen next to the sink of a Walmart bathroom in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Feb. 10, 2019, after a woman was caught trying to shoot either heroin or fentanyl.
The Fentanyl Epidemic Will Spread Far Beyond America's Shores
For many, fentanyl is a uniquely American problem -- one that primarily stems from the over-prescription of opioids to treat pain symptoms. Others may consider it to be a North American issue, as Canada has also been hit hard by the scourge. Indeed, powerful organized crime groups, especially ones in Mexico, have recognized the potential for vast profits in the fentanyl trade in the two countries. But closer inspection reveals a growing ripple in the use of fentanyl (a term I use generically to refer not only to fentanyl itself but also to carfentanyl and other fentanyl-related substances) across the globe. At present, the phenomenon outside the United States and Canada remains tied to sales on the dark web and supplies that arrive by mail, but the same factors that have made fentanyl attractive to Mexican cartels will also make it appealing to other organized crime groups around the world,
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Partner PerspectivesMay 14, 2019 | 05:30 GMT
Workers clear land for cassava planting near the village of K-Dere near Bodo, part of the Niger Delta region in Nigeria.
Agriculture as an Important Factor in Nigeria-China Relations
By Efem Nkam Ubi for Financial Nigeria At the early stages of political independence, many countries in Africa were major exporters of agricultural products. With particular reference to Nigeria, agriculture was the main source of revenue before the discovery of oil in 1956 and two years later when Nigeria became an oil producer. Ever since, Nigeria has witnessed a continuous decline of the agricultural sector. But the importance of the sector is seen in the efforts by different administrations to implement various policies and programs aimed at increasing the productivity of the sector, albeit without much success. Agriculture has also been the favorite sector to drive the economic diversification agenda of various administrations. Many of the initiatives failed for different reasons, including a lack of commitment and corruption. Noting the important role agriculture could play in a nation's growth, the government of President Goodluck Jonathan launched the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), whose aim
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SnapshotsMar 11, 2019 | 21:37 GMT
U.S., North Korea: What to Make of Pyongyang's Satellite Site Activity
The South Korean military said March 11 that it is closely watching North Korean facilities for signs the country may be preparing to conduct a satellite launch. Seoul's announcement follows several rounds of commercial satellite imagery over the past week showing activity at both the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri and at the Sanumdong missile production facility near Pyongyang.
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AssessmentsJan 1, 2019 | 10:30 GMT
Chinese scientist He Jiankui speaks at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong on Nov. 28, 2018.
The Rise of Gene Editing: How Did We Get Here
The scientific community and the world at large are still reeling from the news that a rogue Chinese scientist conducted experiments that ultimately resulted in CRISPR-edited twin girls. The scientist's behavior may have been anomalous, but the use of CRISPR and other gene-editing technologies is something we've been tracking here at Stratfor for a number of years. The potential applications spread across a wide swath of sectors, from agriculture to industry to medicine. Much as we see a tech race on artificial intelligence between China and the United States, we expect a similar one in biotech.
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AssessmentsDec 21, 2018 | 11:00 GMT
30 Years Later: The Impact of the Lockerbie Tragedy
Thirty years ago, pieces of a Boeing 747-121 that was carrying 243 passengers and 16 crew as Pan Am Flight 103 rained down on the village of Lockerbie, turning the picturesque Scottish town into a fiery scene of horror. The jumbo jet had broken apart in midair after a bomb in a suitcase in its hold detonated at 31,000 feet, sending flaming wreckage plummeting onto houses below. It's estimated that only two minutes elapsed between the time the device detonated and the debris slammed into Lockerbie. Everyone on the plane died, as did 11 people on the ground. The intense investigation that followed concluded that the improvised explosive device that brought down Flight 103 on Dec. 21, 1988, had been built and placed aboard the aircraft by Libyan intelligence agents and provided evidence that the attack had been ordered by Libya. Beyond the emotional pain suffered by the friends and families
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AssessmentsNov 2, 2018 | 10:00 GMT
Biotechnology engineer Jenny Pietzsch walks through a demo plant of the French company Global Bioenergies during its inauguration ceremony in Leuna, Germany, on May 11, 2017.
New Gene-Editing Techniques Are Reshaping the Ethics of Biotechnology
Emerging gene-editing technology is raising questions around the world about the ethics of altering the structure of life: DNA. From Europe to the United States to China, cultural and societal influences shape how each country sees this biotechnology and how it should be regulated. These differences hinder international consensus, as well as the enforcement of any restrictions, especially when the long-term implications of a rapidly advancing technology are unclear. Gene-editing techniques, especially CRISPR, have improved immensely in a relatively short time, and CRISPR's ease of use and relatively low cost make its application to agriculture and medicine inevitable. In the end, the debate about its use may be shaped as much by economics as by ethics.
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On SecurityOct 23, 2018 | 05:30 GMT
A Mexican Army expert in protective gear displays crystal meth paste at a clandestine laboratory near la Rumorosa town in Tecate, Baja California state, Mexico on Aug. 28.
How the Globalization of Mexican Business Helped Spread Crime
Recently, I found myself explaining to a client how illicit goods flow into and through Mexico and then onward to the United States, and it occurred to me that there are many logistical similarities between Mexican transnational criminal organizations and the countless manufacturers operating in Mexico. After further consideration, it became clear that many of the factors that make Mexico an attractive destination for foreign businesses also make it attractive for criminal enterprises. It is no mistake that the pieces of real estate that Mexican criminal groups fight over often directly overlap with major logistical and production nodes of the traditional economy. In many ways Mexico's globalized criminal landscape is a mirror of its globalized legitimate economy -- and they have both been growing in power.
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On GeopoliticsAug 2, 2018 | 09:00 GMT
The Chinese and U.S. flags are seen during a promotional event in Beijing on June 30, 2017.
AI and the Return of Great Power Competition
For better or worse, the advancement and diffusion of artificial intelligence technology will come to define this century. Whether that statement should fill your soul with terror or delight remains a matter of intense debate. Techno-idealists and doomsdayers will paint their respective utopian and dystopian visions of machine-kind, making the leap from what we know now as "narrow AI" to "general AI" to surpass human cognition within our lifetime. On the opposite end of the spectrum, yawning skeptics will point to Siri's slow intellect and Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger's human instinct to wave off AI chatter as a heap of hype not worth losing sleep over. The fact is that the development of AI – a catch-all term that encompasses neural networks and machine learning and deep learning technologies – has the potential to fundamentally transform civilian and military life in the coming decades. Regardless of whether you're a businessman pondering
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AssessmentsJun 27, 2018 | 08:00 GMT
An Afghan soldier on patrol in southern Afghanistan, Dec. 11, 2014.
What Lies Beneath the Enduring Stalemate in Afghanistan
Almost 17 years after the start of the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban insurgency rages on with no end in sight. And despite the launch last summer of a new strategy and a considerable ramp-up in air power, the United States appears no closer to breaking the stalemate, in which the central government in Kabul continues to control Afghanistan's urban areas and the Taliban exerts influence over wide swaths of the countryside. Foreign support and the failure of the Afghan state are central to the continued endurance of the Afghan insurgency. Another key element -- often overlooked -- is the Taliban's success in establishing deep ties within Afghanistan's rural social fabric.
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