China growth to slow to 7% in Q1; Google announces Android for Work; ‘Don’t blame intelligence agencies for jihadism’

1 China growth to slow to 7% in Q1 (Straits Times) China’s economy is expected to slow to an annual 7 per cent in the first quarter of this year, a top Chinese government think-tank said in a research report, a sign policymakers will have to roll out more stimulus to support faltering growth.

The forecast by the State Information Centre underscored the rationale of the move last week by China’s central bank to cut interest rates for the second time in less than four months as it steps up efforts to ward off deflation.

“Our country’s economic growth still faces relatively heavy downward pressure amid structure adjustments,” the think-tank said in its research report. “As such, it will continue searching for a bottom in the first quarter of 2015 and is preliminarily forecast to grow around 7 per cent in the quarter,” it said.

2 Google announces Android for Work (Benny Evangelista in San Francisco Chronicle) Google announced details of Android for Work, the Internet giant’s big push to incorporate its mobile device platform into businesses around the world.

Google’s vision is, as usual, broad and all encompassing: “Every employee out there should have a work-enabled mobile device in their hands and we want to do everything possible to make that happen,” said Rajen Sheth, director of product management for Android at Work. With a billion smart phones already in the world, and a billion more people who don’t have access to smart phones at work, the business opportunity is huge, Sheth said.

But Google has to convince corporate IT managers to choose Android devices over Apple’s rival iPhones and iPads, which have gained in popularity because Apple tightly controls the iOS universe.

So Google is offering a suite of work-related apps that have separate security configurations and can be controlled and customized by company IT managers. That means Android device owners can still have their own personal apps, but also use specific work-related apps that can log into a company’s restricted internal networks.

3 ‘Don’t blame intelligence agencies for jihadism’ (Matthew d’Ancona in The Guardian) There is a paradox that has been evident once again since the naming of “Jihadi John” as Mohammed Emwazi. It is commonplace to argue that the intelligence agencies in UK are powerful to an extent that threatens the fibre of democratic society. Yet good old doublethink enables such a claim to coexist with the charge that the security service was somehow responsible for Emwazi’s actions by its sins of commission (trying to recruit him) and omission (letting him “slip the net” and flee to Syria).

The problem facing any intelligence agency is precisely that the evidence required to mount a prosecution is so often lacking. It follows that a suite of counterterrorist powers must be made available to such agencies by parliament and, quite rightly, subjected to regular review and structures of accountability. But what powers, applied where, and with what degree of severity?

When we speak of suspects “slipping the net”, we imply counterterrorist agencies can intercept every such jihadi on his way to commit violence, every such plot to spill blood at home or abroad. Given the odds, it is frankly remarkable any are stopped at all.

It cannot be stated too often: contemporary jihadis are not like the IRA, or the UDA or Eta. They exploit what the greatest guide to the post-9/11 world, Philip Bobbitt, calls the “unique vulnerabilities of globalised, network market states” and a “connectivity that allows a cascading series of vulnerabilities to be exploited”.

Today’s Islamist militants do not operate within a cellular hierarchy, but more closely resemble local holders of a global franchise. They are self-starters, morphing capriciously from one role to another (the Madrid bombers were essentially book-keepers who became suddenly ambitious). Mohammad Sidique Khan, the presumed leader of the 7/7 plot, had indeed come to MI5’s attention a year earlier, in Operation Crevice. Yet, in 2004, he was still a relatively peripheral figure.

What made Emwazi become what he has become, able to do what he has done? What we call “radicalisation” – the walk from one side of the flaming bridge to the other – often occurs in a very short space of time, for reasons that resist pat psychological speculation: to know the reasons why would be to decode the secrets of the soul. Against such mysteries it is not the power of the state that is truly frightening, but its weakness.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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