What’s New October 2013

This page lists changes to this site for October 2013.

See below for other updates and to get notified of changes to the site.

At the start of June 2013, a large number of documents detailing surveillance by intelligence agencies such as the US’s NSA and UK’s GCHQ started to be revealed, based on information supplied by NSA whistle blower, Edward Snowden.

These leaks revealed a massive surveillance program that included interception of email and other Internet communications and phone call tapping. Some of it appears illegal, while other revelations show the US spying on friendly nations during various international summits.

Unsurprisingly, there has been a lot of furor. While some countries are no doubt using this to win some diplomatic points, there has been an increase in tension with the US and other regions around the world.

Much of the US surveillance programs came from the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the US in 2001. Concerns about a crackdown on civil rights in the wake of the so-called war on terror have been expressed for a long time, and these revelations seem to be confirming some of those fears.

Given the widespread collection of information, apparently from central servers of major Internet companies and from other core servers that form part of the Internet backbone, activities of millions (if not billions) of citizens have been caught up in a dragnet style surveillance problem called PRISM, even when the communication has nothing to do with terrorism.

What impacts would such secretive mass surveillance have on democracy?

After a decline following the end of the Cold War, military spending increasd, only slightly falling in 2012

In recent years, global military expenditure has increased again and is now comparable to Cold War levels. Recent data shows global spending at over $1.7 trillion, despite the global economic conditions. It is still approximately 1% increase since 2008 when the financial crisis began, for example.

Not all nations have felt the impacts of the global financial crisis in the same way. Some have grown economically, including many Asian countries, which has allowed some of them to increase their military spending. There are geopolitical interests at stake for various powers, so economic troubles or not, military spending is seen as important to maintain, or at least to minimize possible reductions.

The highest military spender is the US accounting for 39% of the world’s spending, more than the next top 10 countries combined, and more than all its potential enemies, combined. But this represents a slight decline over previous years as other nations, especially China and Russia, increase their spending. At the same time, the US has reduced military spending for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Western Europe’s austerity programs affect their military spending budgets.

This update includes new and updated figures, graphs and charts exploring this further.

Although I have not personally updated this page, it automatically lists the latest news stories from Inter Press Service’s news feed, which I carry, and includes some important and interesting articles that mainstream media often does not go into in as much detail.

I just wanted to mention it here as a reminder if you are looking for more in-depth reporting on this complex issue.

In recent years I’ve had less spare time to work on this site. The last year in particular has been extremely difficult, due to personal circumstances, as the lack of updates show. Yet, somehow the site has continued to grow! As the web site enters its 16th year, it remains a spare time effort, maintained on my own.

I must also apologize for the lack of updates in the last few months. I’ve even found myself almost 3 months behind on emails. I may not be able to reply to every email in a timely manner although I do read all messages I receive and will prioritize on urgent emails. Those requiring complex responses may not always be possible to answer until my personal circumstances change and spare time increases.

Thank you so much for your continued support and please do tell your friends and colleagues about the global issues web site if you find it useful.

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