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North Korea: Update. The special session of the Supreme Peoples' Assembly adjourned on 25 September without passing any significant legislation. The major achievements announced thus far are personnel changes and the extension of mandatory education for children to 12 years, as in most of the world.

Comment: Reliable South Korean media sources reported that a package of agricultural reforms would be approved. That did not happen.

At this juncture, this out of phase session of the Supreme Peoples' Assembly appears to have been a waste of national resources. However, Readers should stay tuned. Nothing in North Korea is ever as it appears at first report.

China: China announced Tuesday that its first aircraft carrier, christened "Liaoning" has entered service. In a brief notice on the Defense Ministry's website, the ministry said the carrier's commissioning significantly boosted the navy's modern combat capabilities along with its ability to co-operate in responding to natural disasters and other non-traditional threats.

"It has important significance in effectively safeguarding national sovereignty, security, and development benefits, and advancing world peace and common development," the statement said.

Writing in Tuesday's China Daily newspaper, retired Rear Admiral Yang Yi said the carrier would be used to master the technology for more advanced carriers and to train in how to operate such a craft in a battle group and with vessels from other nation's navies.

"When China has a more balanced and powerful navy, the regional situation will be more stable as various forces that threaten regional peace will no longer dare to act rashly," Yang wrote.

Comment: The name of the ship refers to Liaoning Province, which is the location of the ship's home port of Dalian. The US Navy's naming convention for battleships was US states. The Chinese have named their first aircraft carrier after a province. Curious symmetry. China plans to build five more carriers.

The carrier still has no air wing and has practiced no combat maneuvers or battle group maneuvers. At this point it contributes nothing to China's naval combat power or any of the other benefits cited by the Defense Ministry.

Retired Admiral Yang's commentary tends to confirm other, independent conclusions that Liaoning will be used as a technology demonstrator and as a training platform.

Yang's additional comments make clear that Chinese leaders and planners intend to use the future carrier fleet to help establish a Pax Sinica in the western Pacific.

Nevertheless, the Chinese are far behind India and the US Navy in developing a carrier-based air wing. The US took over 75 years to perfect carrier-based air warfare. The Indians have had more than half a century of experience with aircraft carriers in the fleet and have fought their carrier task groups in combat against Pakistan.

At this point, the Chinese naval force has a new flag ship, but not a new naval capability. Following the US model for becoming a super power, however, the Chinese appear determined to develop more advanced aircraft carriers as the ultimate symbols of China's future great power stature.

Afghanistan: Reports from Afghanistan indicate US forces have adopted a bunker mentality and are essentially hostages in Kabul and a few other key towns.

The Afghan Taliban on Tuesday dismissed NATO figures that show a decrease in insurgent attacks, saying the statistics reflect troop withdrawals and a 'cowardly' avoidance of contact. NATO's latest official figures show attacks on its forces dropped by five percent in the first eight months of this year, but are still running at about 100 a day.

Comment: Hanging a violence trend on a statistically calculated five percent drop in attacks is risible. Defects in the reporting channels make the margin of error more than five percent, even when the reporting system is working well.

The key data point is 100 attacks per day, admitted by the NATO command. That is a bench mark for measuring an increase in Taliban activity following the departure of US surge forces and the consolidation of residual forces next year.

One hundred attacks per day is a high number of attacks for a tribal- and clan-based society to sustain. Three hundred per day was normal at the height of the Iraq insurgency in 2005 and 2006.

NightWatch suspects it represents a new high in the sustained level of daily attacks, but promises to research this hypothesis in greater depth.

Spain: In Madrid, thousands of protestors enraged by austerity policies, cutbacks and tax hikes clashed with police near Parliament. More than 1,000 riot police blocked off access to the Parliament building in the heart of Madrid, forcing most protesters to crowd nearby avenues and shutting down traffic at the height of the evening rush hour.

Police fired rubber bullets and beat protesters with truncheons, first as protesters were trying to tear down barriers and later to clear the square. The police said at least 22 people had been arrested and at least 32 injured, including four policemen.

Comment: The clashes are a sign that the stress in daily life has become almost unbearable for a portion of the population. They mean that some workers have concluded that no amount of extra labor soon will be sufficient to support a family and make ends meet. That is the flashpoint for public demonstrations in defiance of civil order.

The resumption of clashes in Spain over austerity measures is particularly worrisome because economic integration and cell phone technology facilitate the spread of anti-austerity sentiment and the organization of protest movements in other Euro zone states.

This is the nightmare scenario in which economic hardship transmutes into civil disorder and then political instability. Europe has not experienced much of this all year to day, as yet, somewhat surprisingly in light of the severity of austerity measures ordered in many countries. The period of calm apparently is ending as authorities begin to enforce measures that were ordered earlier.

End of NightWatch ###.

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