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THE STRUGGLE FOR JERUSALEM

 

 

The Rise Of Islam

 

 

THE DECLINE OF THE USA

 

 

GLOBAL RELIGION

 

 

GLOBAL PESTILENCE

 

 

Global Government

 

 

THE RISE OF THE FAR EAST

 

 

THE RISE OF THE EUROPEAN SUPER STATE

 

 

WEAPONS PROLIFERATION

 

 

THE MAGOG INVASION

 

 

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The Magog Invasion

 

 Introduction:

 

The ancient people called Magog are commonly believed to have been the ancestors of the Russian nation. The prophet Ezekiel spoke of an invasion of Israel by Russia, which has not yet been fulfilled. What could cause Russia to come against the tiny nation of Israel -- which has no oil and no real strategic value? This question has puzzled Bible scholars for centuries. However, recent developments in the Middle East have for the first time in history lent credence to this long-awaited prophecy.


[READ THE FULL INTRODUCTION]
 
 
 

Behold a Red Horse

 

 

Price R 249.00

 

 


•What does the Bible say about “wars”?
•How can the classic literature of centuries ago impact todays (and tomorrow’s) tactics and strategies?
•Which technologies are predicted in the Bible? Which ones have yet to be witnessed?
•In what ways have the economies of scale in violence been reversed?
•What is the threat assessment and risk analysis pending today?
•In what ways can a country be regarded as a “one-bomb target”?
•What are the likely implications of trans-humanism in the quests for the “Super-Soldier”?
•How could electromagnetic pulses emerge to become the “Great Equalizer”?
•Where is the safest place to be?
 Dr. Chuck Missler, an honor graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, with an international background including three decade’s experience in the board rooms of the defense industry, reviews the major Biblical references to warfare, the trends in modern weapons technology, and some of the current preparations for war among the major powers.
 

Behold a White Horse

 

 

Price R 249.00

 

 

 

The final world dictator seeking global domination will also be an “Assyrian” who is here characterized by a bow, riding a white horse. It is interesting how many confuse this counterfeit with the rider of the white horse in Revelation 19. In chapter 6, however, this rider is among some very bad company!
 “Behold a White Horse” explores the career of the first of these “Four Horsemen” who seems to have at least 33 titles in the Old Testament and 13 in the New Testament and the common term “AntiChrist” really isn’t one of them. We also explore the only physical description of him in the Scripture!
 • Why is he a “mistaken identity”?
 • How do we know this is NOT the Christ?
 • What is the precedent condition(s) for his appearance?
 • What is the precedent condition for the unsealing of the Seven Sealed Book? What is the Seven Sealed Book?
 • Is his “bow” a pun? How? Why?
 • How can he “go forth to conquer” if he is a “peace maker”?
 • Is the Church on the earth at this time? How do we know?
 • Is He alive today? How do we know?
 • How can he be the “Seed of the Serpent”?
 Join Chuck Missler as he looks at the first of the Five Horsemen.

 

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching

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Pilot radioed in 'Mayday' call before Australian plane crash

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎5 hours agoGo to full article
Pilot radioed in 'Mayday' call before Australian plane crashDALLAS (AP) — A pilot repeatedly yelled out "Mayday" but did not say what the emergency was before his light plane crashed into the roof of an Australian shopping mall, killing himself and four American tourists, an accident investigator said Wednesday.


 

 

Convicted ex-Hong Kong leader jailed 20 months for misconduct

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎5 hours agoGo to full article
Convicted ex-Hong Kong leader jailed 20 months for misconductFormer Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang was sentenced to 20 months in prison on Wednesday after a high-profile corruption trial found him guilty of misconduct during his time at the helm of the city. Tsang, 72, who held the leadership post of chief executive for seven years from 2005, is the most senior city official ever to be convicted in a criminal trial and the highest ranking one to be put behind bars. The six-week trial at the High Court came as residents lose faith in Hong Kong's leaders after a string of corruption cases fuel suspicions over links between public officials and business figures.


 

 

Hillary Clinton Finally Stepped in to Advise President Trump

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎7 hours agoGo to full article
Hillary Clinton Finally Stepped in to Advise President TrumpAfter months of passive tweets, Hillary Clinton finally called on POTUS speak out against anti-Semitic attacks. President Trump employed Breitbart News chairman, Steven Bannon, as chief Whitehouse strategist, leading some to believe he's encouraging anti-Semitic behavior.


 

 

The Latest: Suspect in slaying may have been high on drugs

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎8 hours agoGo to full article
The Latest: Suspect in slaying may have been high on drugsLOS ANGELES (AP) — The Latest on the shooting of two California police officers as they responded to a traffic accident (all times local):


 

Women's life expectancy on track to hit 90 in some nations

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎10 hours agoGo to full article
Women's life expectancy on track to hit 90 in some nationsBy 2030 life expectancy for South Korean women could top nine decades, an average lifespan long thought to be out of reach, researchers said Wednesday. South Korea is not only the first country in the world where women may live past 90 on average, it is also the one on track to log the biggest jump in longevity, they reported in The Lancet medical journal. Other developed countries are not far behind: the longevity of French and Japanese women are more likely than not to stretch past 88 years.


 

 

Bull that led police chase after slaughterhouse escape dies

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎10 hours agoGo to full article
Bull that led police chase after slaughterhouse escape diesNEW YORK (AP) — A plucky bull escaped from a slaughterhouse and led police on a wild chase through the streets on Tuesday only to die on its way to a shelter.


 

 

UPS has a functioning drone delivery concept, and it makes more sense than Amazon’s

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎10 hours agoGo to full article
UPS has a functioning drone delivery concept, and it makes more sense than Amazon’s

Companies like Amazon are going all-in on drone deliveries and have already shown off warehouses that send packages out to customers exclusively via drone. For delivery companies like UPS, the idea of converting operations to rely exclusively on drones  is laughable, but that doesn't mean they won't find a way to utilize the new technology to streamline the delivery process.

This week, UPS tested out a delivery drone concept that doesn't so much do away with its iconic brown box trucks as augment them.

The test was conducted using a specially equipped UPS delivery truck which has a drone compartment built right into its roof. When the driver stops to deliver a package, the drone can be sent out to deliver one to a nearby location as well. UPS used the example of a rural delivery where sending a driver and truck down a long, winding road would be less efficient than sending the drone to deliver the package instead.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xx9_6OyjJrQ

Once the drone has completed its delivery it automatically docks with the truck once again, and long arms grab and situate the device so that it can be recharged for the next stop. The drone is capable of carrying packages as heavy as ten pounds, which is double the five pound weight limit of Amazon's initial drone delivery tests.

Due to current FAA regulations which require drones to remain within visual of its operator — and avoid flying over buildings or people — even UPS's modest drone ambitions have some serious limitations. However, there's hope that those restrictions will be made a bit more workable in the future.


 

 

Trump comments put focus on Sweden's embrace of immigrants

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎10 hours agoGo to full article
Trump comments put focus on Sweden's embrace of immigrantsHELSINKI (AP) — When a riot broke out in a predominantly immigrant Stockholm suburb this week, the biggest surprise for many Swedes was that a police officer found it necessary to fire his gun.


 

 

Dozens of headstones toppled at Jewish cemetery in Missouri

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎11 hours agoGo to full article
Dozens of headstones toppled at Jewish cemetery in MissouriUNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. (AP) — Vandals have damaged or tipped over as many as 200 headstones at a Jewish cemetery in suburban St. Louis, leaving the region's Jewish community shaken and anxious.


 

 

Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos resigns after controversial pedophilia comments

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎11 hours agoGo to full article
Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos resigns after controversial pedophilia commentsOn Feb. 21, 2017, Milo Yiannopoulos announced his resignation as an editor at Breitbart News. The writer and commentator has been facing backlash since a video of him making controversial comments about pedophilia surfaced.


 

 

Man who discussed attack like Dylann Roof's to stay in jail

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎11:40:38 PMGo to full article
Man who discussed attack like Dylann Roof's to stay in jailFLORENCE, S.C. (AP) — Benjamin McDowell will remain in jail for at least a little while after the FBI said the convicted felon wanted to buy a gun to use in a hate crime similar to the South Carolina church shootings two years ago.


 

 

Young Girl Writes Heartbreaking Note to Her Dog's Future Family: 'He Loves Cuddles'

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎9:51:00 PMGo to full article
Young Girl Writes Heartbreaking Note to Her Dog's Future Family: 'He Loves Cuddles'"Rhino is a good dog and he loves cuddles [...] Please tell Rhino that I love and miss him every night," the note reads.


 

 

Iceland's President said he would ban pineapple on pizza if he could

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎7:00:03 PMGo to full article
Iceland's President said he would ban pineapple on pizza if he couldPineapple on pizza: you love it, or you hate it so much you use your power as president of a small country to make it literally illegal. In what's being called a "political bombshell" by Iceland Magazine,  President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson said he would ban pineapple as a topping on pizzas— if he were allowed to pass laws on his own. SEE ALSO: Trump thinks something terrible happened in Sweden, so here come the IKEA and ABBA jokes The incendiary comments were in response to questions from students about where he stood on the concept of pineapple as a topping while visiting a local high school. Word of his controversial opinion quickly spread across the internet, where it began trending on Twitter. With a debate as contentious as this one, everybody had to get a word in. not only does iceland use entirely renewable energy but their president is also a WOKE BAE pic.twitter.com/EkGbjmwHL1 — eva (@myIoveiscooI) February 21, 2017 Emotions flared. you can all stay in Iceland as well so us pineapple on pizza lovers can live in peace and tastiness pic.twitter.com/UOZ3g5shNp — Luke Brooks (@luke_brooks) February 21, 2017 Brands are even taking to Twitter to make their stance on the issue known.  No ban here  pic.twitter.com/vmSJw5F1ew — DiGiorno Pizza (@DiGiornoPizza) February 21, 2017 Long after the last pineapple is thrown into the Icelandic sea, DiGiorno Pizza's Last Stand will be remembered: "No ban here  ." BONUS: Snap's Spectacles


 

 

Trump Condemns Rash of Anti-Semitism After Clinton, Jewish Groups Speak Out

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎6:11:00 PMGo to full article
Trump Condemns Rash of Anti-Semitism After Clinton, Jewish Groups Speak OutThe president had remained silent on the toppled Jewish gravestones in Missouri and dozens of bomb threats to Jewish centers nationwide.


 

 

Philippines: framework of South China Sea pact possible soon

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎3:30:24 PMGo to full article
Philippines: framework of South China Sea pact possible soonBORACAY, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines' top diplomat said Tuesday it remains to be seen whether China will cooperate fully in ongoing efforts to craft a legally binding pact designed to prevent aggressive behavior in the disputed South China Sea.


 

 

Toyota three-wheeling into Geneva

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎3:00:38 PMGo to full article
Toyota three-wheeling into GenevaJapanese automotive giant Toyota has confirmed it's bringing a tiny plug-in electric concept car to this year's Geneva Motor Show. Called the i-TRIL, it gives a glimpse of what Toyota imagines is the future of individual urban mobility. As for range, Toyota is yet to confirm how big the battery pack will be, however it has confirmed that the i-TRIL will have a trick suspension setup that will enable it to lean into corners and around bends just like a motorbike.


 

 

The Great Cheese Scare

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎2:14:09 PMGo to full article
The Great Cheese Scare"We deeply regret any inconvenience or concern this issue has caused,” Sargento Foods Chief Executive Officer Louie Gentine said in a statement.


 

 

Shark kills bodyboarder on Reunion island

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎1:32:47 PMGo to full article
Shark kills bodyboarder on Reunion islandSaint-André (France) (AFP) - A 26-year-old man bodyboarding off of Reunion island was killed by a shark on Tuesday, local officials said, in the latest attack in the waters of the Indian Ocean holiday destination. It was the 20th recorded shark attack on the island since 2011, eight of which have been fatal, despite efforts by local authorities to install nets and warn locals and tourists about the dangers. The man, a former shark spotter from the island once employed by the local surfing association, was pronounced dead after the shark bit through a major artery in his leg off the eastern coast near Saint-Andre.


 

 

Death toll in Philippine bus crash climbs to 15

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎5:48:30 AMGo to full article
Death toll in Philippine bus crash climbs to 15TANAY, Philippines (AP) — The death toll has risen to 15 from a bus crash in the Philippines, officials said Tuesday, and could climb further as many of the nearly 50 others who were hurt in the accident are in serious condition.


 

 

Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin dead at 64

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎4:46:14 AMGo to full article
Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin dead at 64Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, who for years fended off Western criticism and defended Moscow's actions in Ukraine and Syria, has died in New York. Churkin collapsed while at work at the Russian mission to the United Nations Monday morning and was rushed to a Manhattan hospital, apparently suffering from heart problems, diplomatic sources said. In a statement announcing his death, the foreign ministry in Moscow described him as an "outstanding diplomat." There was no information on the cause of death.


 

First-Grade Teacher Suspended Over 'Illegal Aliens' Post: School District

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎3:45:00 AMGo to full article
First-Grade Teacher Suspended Over 'Illegal Aliens' Post: School DistrictThe elementary school teacher advocated reporting undocumented immigrants, according to school district officials, who suspended her.


 

 

NASA Has Made A Huge Discovery About Planets Outside Our Solar System

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:56:07 PMGo to full article
NASA Has Made A Huge Discovery About Planets Outside Our Solar SystemExoplanets are widely believed to be the best hope of finding life elsewhere in the universe. 


 

 

60,000-year-old microbes found in Mexican mine: NASA scientist

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:29:48 PMGo to full article
60,000-year-old microbes found in Mexican mine: NASA scientistNASA scientists have discovered living microorganisms trapped inside crystals for as long as 60,000 years in a mine in Mexico. "This has profound effects on how we try to understand the evolutionary history of microbial life on this planet," she said. The mine is famous for its huge crystals, some as long as 50 feet (15 meters).


 

 

Here’s how badly the Galaxy Note 7 destroyed Samsung’s reputation in the US

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:28:47 PMGo to full article
Here’s how badly the Galaxy Note 7 destroyed Samsung’s reputation in the US

It goes without saying that the spontaneous combustion of Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 was a big deal, but rarely do we get an opportunity to see the impact of tech gaffes on public sentiment quantified. A new Harris Poll ranking the "reputation quotient" of the 100 most recognizable brands in the United States provides just that, and the picture isn't good one for Samsung. In fact, it's pretty dire.

In last year's reputation ratings, Samsung landed in the seventh position out of 100 companies, beaten only by Amazon, Apple, and Google on the tech side of things. Fast forward to today, and Samsung has found itself barely squeezing into the top half of the chart with the number 49 spot on the rankings.

As big of a drop in the charts as it has taken, it's interesting to note that Samsung's actual reputation rating only actually dropped from 80.44 to 75.17. Harris considers a rating of 80+ to be "Excellent," and groups ratings of 75 to 79 into the "Very Good" category. Additionally, both Apple and Google took hits in their ratings as well, though not nearly as drastic — Apple fell from 83.03 to 82.07 and Google dipped from 82.97 to 82.00.

The study is conducted via interviews with US adults, each of which are asked to rate companies that they are familiar with. According to the methodology of the research, each company received a rating from approximately 300 respondents. The timing of the study wasn't particularly favorable to Samsung, having been conducted from late November to mid December of 2016, which was precisely when Samsung was in the midst devising a way to remotely kill off the Note 7s that were still in the hands of owners.


 

 

2017 Mercedes-Maybach S550 4MATIC

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:15:00 PMGo to full article
2017 Mercedes-Maybach S550 4MATICA perfectly restrained chauffeur-mobile.


 

 

Shocker! World’s first self-driving car race ends in a crash

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎9:40:03 PMGo to full article
Shocker! World’s first self-driving car race ends in a crash

The world's first race on a professional track involving self-driving cars ended, not surprisingly, with a crash. As part of the Roborace competition held in Buenos Aires over the weekend, one of the two self-driving Devbot vehicles involved in the race slammed into a wall after miscalculating a particularly sharp turn.

While the Devbot vehicles weren't going all out, they weren't exactly driving at a leisurely pace either. At their best, both cars were driving in excess of 100 MPH, with one reaching a top speed of 115 MPH at one point.

In addition to racing around the track at high speeds, it's worth noting that each car can communicate with the other as to prevent them from crashing into each other. Unfortunately, the racetrack wall proved to be an insurmountable foe.

As for the software malfunction that caused the crash, Roborace's Justin Cooke explained what happened in an interview with the BBC:

One of the cars was trying to perform a manoeuvre, and it went really full-throttle and took the corner quite sharply and caught the edge of the barrier.

It's actually fantastic for us because the more we see these moments the more we are able to learn and understand what was the thinking behind the computer and its data.

Indeed, for as far along as self-driving software and hardware has progressed, it's clear that there's still a lot of work to be done before self-driving cars can replace human drivers completely across all driving environments.

While the DevBot vehicles are designed such that they "can be driven by a human or a computer", the versions used in the race over the weekend did not have any humans inside. Photos of the crash can be seen here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSbSUeKEj00


 

 

Pence tries to reassure European leaders shaken by Trump

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎9:37:29 PMGo to full article
Pence tries to reassure European leaders shaken by TrumpBRUSSELS (AP) — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Monday vowed to stand with the European Union and the NATO military alliance, but was met with some skepticism from leaders shaken by President Donald Trump's more critical comments.


 

 

Greece agrees to bailout reforms compromise

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎9:16:38 PMGo to full article
Greece agrees to bailout reforms compromiseGreece on Monday agreed to discuss new bailout reforms in a bid to break a deadlock with its EU-IMF creditors that has sparked new fears that the country will crash out of the eurozone. Officials will return to Athens shortly for talks aimed at reaching a deal to free up fresh funds, Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said after talks in Brussels. "I'm very happy with that outcome today," Dijsselbloem, the Dutchman who heads the Eurogroup of 19 eurozone finance ministers, told a press conference.


 

 

Iraqi forces battling Islamic State about to reach Mosul airport

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎8:22:35 PMGo to full article
Iraqi forces battling Islamic State about to reach Mosul airportBy Stephen Kalin and Maher Chmaytelli SOUTH OF MOSUL/BAGHDAD, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S.-backed Iraqi forces battling Islamic State fighters have fought their way close to Mosul's airport on the second day of a ground offensive on the jihadists' remaining stronghold in the western side of the city, military statements said on Monday. Federal police and elite interior ministry units known as Rapid Response are leading the charge toward the airport on the southern outskirts of Mosul and plan to turn it into a close support base for the push into western Mosul, commanders have said. The militants are essentially under siege in western Mosul, along with an estimated 750,000 civilians, after they were forced out of the eastern part of the city in the first phase of the campaign that ended last month, after 100 days of fighting.


 

 

Trump's defense chief: 'We're not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil'

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎8:20:12 PMGo to full article
Trump's defense chief: 'We're not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil'By Phil Stewart BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military is "not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil", Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said, distancing himself from remarks by President Donald Trump, as he held talks with Iraqi leaders on Monday. Mattis was the highest-ranking Trump administration official to visit Iraq since Trump irked Iraqis with a temporary ban on travel to the United States and for saying America should have seized Iraq's oil after toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003. Trump told CIA staff in January: "We should have kept the oil.


 

 

This new iPhone 8 feature might end up blowing our minds

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎4:33:11 PMGo to full article
This new iPhone 8 feature might end up blowing our minds

Amid rumors that the iPhone 8 will incorporate advanced facial recognition features, the Hebrew-language website Calcalist (via Times of Israel) is reporting that Apple recently acquired Realface, an up-and-coming Israeli startup with impressive real-time facial recognition software.

Lending credence to rumors that the iPhone 8 may forgo the use of Touch ID in favor of facial recognition, Realface's software is said to be sophisticated enough such that it can reliably be used as a foundation for mobile-based biometric authentication.

As is often the case when Apple acquires a company, Realface's web presence has already been wiped from the web. Still, thanks to the magic of Google, we were able to poke around and dig up some intriguing nuggets of information about the company's promising technology.

Realface boasts that it's AI software rests upon deep learning methods and is so reliable and quick that the end-result is an absolutely seamless user experience.

"Our technology provides our customers and end-users with the highest level of authentication and security available on all platforms," says Realface. "We have proprietary IP in the field of frictionless face recognition and effective learnings from facial features." Incidentally, Realface's technology is also capable of filtering out photos of faces and advanced sculptures designed to trick the software into thinking that a device's camera is honed in on an actual human face.

Further, Realface claims that its software can recognize faces with a 99.67% success rate, an impressive figure that is even higher than the average 97.5% success rate exhibited by humans. To this point, a profile on Realface from last year relays that the company's technology is so advanced that it can even distinguish between identical twins with alarming and impressive accuracy.

Below is a quick and dirty demo of the software in action.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNlkxGmIgW0

What's particularly interesting is that Realface's technology is not only capable of discerning individual faces, but can also analyze specific facial expressions as a means to determine a user's mood. If this sounds somewhat familiar, Apple last year acquired Emotient, a company with similar AI technology of its own.

Now as for what Apple is planning to do with its growing portfolio of AI-based facial recognition software, well, that's the million dollar question. While initial speculation centered on Apple rolling out augmented reality features, perhaps similar to what the beloved MSQRD app does, more recent rumblings suggest that Apple wants to position facial recognition as a means to identify users and securely authorize sensitive transactions. Again, there are even reports that facial recognition might ultimately serve as a replacement for Touch ID.

While this seems far-fetched, Ming Chi-Kuo -- an analyst with the best track record regarding Apple rumors -- seems to think otherwise. In a recently issued research note, Kuo claims that the iPhone 8's rumored edgeless design cannot, for whatever reason, coexist peacefully with Touch ID. Consequently, Kuo relays that Apple wants to eventually replace Touch ID with a facial recognition solution.

When it comes to Apple, the old adage that when there's smoke, there's fire is generally true. That being the case, it stands to reason that facial recognition will be a huge and incredibly exciting component of the iPhone 8 user experience.


 

 

Iraqi Helpers Will Be Exempt From Travel Ban; Mattis

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎4:23:22 PMGo to full article
Iraqi Helpers Will Be Exempt From Travel Ban; MattisPresident Donald Trump is set to issue a new immigration executive order this week.


 

 

2017 Chevy Camaro ZL1 Nails An Official 198 MPH Top Speed

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎4:00:00 PMGo to full article
2017 Chevy Camaro ZL1 Nails An Official 198 MPH Top Speed650-horsepower Chevy Camaro actually tops 200 mph with minor adjustments. Gentlemen, start your engines.  

 

 

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Convicted ex-Hong Kong leader jailed 20 months for misconduct

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎5 hours agoGo to full article
Convicted ex-Hong Kong leader jailed 20 months for misconductFormer Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang was sentenced to 20 months in prison on Wednesday after a high-profile corruption trial found him guilty of misconduct during his time at the helm of the city. Tsang, 72, who held the leadership post of chief executive for seven years from 2005, is the most senior city official ever to be convicted in a criminal trial and the highest ranking one to be put behind bars. The six-week trial at the High Court came as residents lose faith in Hong Kong's leaders after a string of corruption cases fuel suspicions over links between public officials and business figures.


 

 

Hillary Clinton Finally Stepped in to Advise President Trump

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎7 hours agoGo to full article
Hillary Clinton Finally Stepped in to Advise President TrumpAfter months of passive tweets, Hillary Clinton finally called on POTUS speak out against anti-Semitic attacks. President Trump employed Breitbart News chairman, Steven Bannon, as chief Whitehouse strategist, leading some to believe he's encouraging anti-Semitic behavior.


 

Women's life expectancy on track to hit 90 in some nations

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎10 hours agoGo to full article
Women's life expectancy on track to hit 90 in some nationsBy 2030 life expectancy for South Korean women could top nine decades, an average lifespan long thought to be out of reach, researchers said Wednesday. South Korea is not only the first country in the world where women may live past 90 on average, it is also the one on track to log the biggest jump in longevity, they reported in The Lancet medical journal. Other developed countries are not far behind: the longevity of French and Japanese women are more likely than not to stretch past 88 years.


 

 

Dozens of headstones toppled at Jewish cemetery in Missouri

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎11 hours agoGo to full article
Dozens of headstones toppled at Jewish cemetery in MissouriUNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. (AP) — Vandals have damaged or tipped over as many as 200 headstones at a Jewish cemetery in suburban St. Louis, leaving the region's Jewish community shaken and anxious.


 

 

Once Renowned Surgeon Sentenced to Life Behind Bars for Intentionally Maiming Patients

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎11:31:00 PMGo to full article
Once Renowned Surgeon Sentenced to Life Behind Bars for Intentionally Maiming PatientsChristopher Duntsch once billed himself as the best neurosurgeon in all of Dallas.


 

 

EU Privacy Groups Say Windows 10 Still Has Security Problems

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎9:59:51 PMGo to full article
EU Privacy Groups Say Windows 10 Still Has Security ProblemsDespite recent changes made by Microsoft to its Windows 10 operating system, privacy watchdogs in the European Union have warned the OS is still collecting user data without making clear what exactly it's gathering.


 

 

Young Girl Writes Heartbreaking Note to Her Dog's Future Family: 'He Loves Cuddles'

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎9:51:00 PMGo to full article
Young Girl Writes Heartbreaking Note to Her Dog's Future Family: 'He Loves Cuddles'"Rhino is a good dog and he loves cuddles [...] Please tell Rhino that I love and miss him every night," the note reads.


 

 

White House: Mass deportation not the goal of immigration actions

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎9:40:29 PMGo to full article
White House: Mass deportation not the goal of immigration actionsPress secretary Sean Spicer said unauthorized immigrants who "pose a threat to our public safety or have committed a crime will be the first to go."


 

Iceland's President said he would ban pineapple on pizza if he could

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎7:00:03 PMGo to full article
Iceland's President said he would ban pineapple on pizza if he couldPineapple on pizza: you love it, or you hate it so much you use your power as president of a small country to make it literally illegal. In what's being called a "political bombshell" by Iceland Magazine,  President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson said he would ban pineapple as a topping on pizzas— if he were allowed to pass laws on his own. SEE ALSO: Trump thinks something terrible happened in Sweden, so here come the IKEA and ABBA jokes The incendiary comments were in response to questions from students about where he stood on the concept of pineapple as a topping while visiting a local high school. Word of his controversial opinion quickly spread across the internet, where it began trending on Twitter. With a debate as contentious as this one, everybody had to get a word in. not only does iceland use entirely renewable energy but their president is also a WOKE BAE pic.twitter.com/EkGbjmwHL1 — eva (@myIoveiscooI) February 21, 2017 Emotions flared. you can all stay in Iceland as well so us pineapple on pizza lovers can live in peace and tastiness pic.twitter.com/UOZ3g5shNp — Luke Brooks (@luke_brooks) February 21, 2017 Brands are even taking to Twitter to make their stance on the issue known.  No ban here  pic.twitter.com/vmSJw5F1ew — DiGiorno Pizza (@DiGiornoPizza) February 21, 2017 Long after the last pineapple is thrown into the Icelandic sea, DiGiorno Pizza's Last Stand will be remembered: "No ban here  ." BONUS: Snap's Spectacles


 

Zimbabwe's Mugabe praises Trump's 'America First' policy

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎6:02:43 PMGo to full article
Zimbabwe's Mugabe praises Trump's 'America First' policyHARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump's "America First" policy has an admirer in Zimbabwe's longtime president, who says the policy resonates with his own thinking.


 

 

Possible 'Hidden Chamber' in King Tut's Tomb Invites More Secretive Scans

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎5:20:00 PMGo to full article
Possible 'Hidden Chamber' in King Tut's Tomb Invites More Secretive ScansA group of archaeologists has said the tomb of Tutankhamun may hold a hidden chamber containing the tomb of Queen Nefertiti. Now, a physicist plans to lead a team conducting another series of ground-penetrating radar (GPR) scans as a last-ditch effort to find Nefertiti's burial site. In this method, high-frequency radio waves bounce off the ground and off of walls, and the reflected signals can reveal hidden treasures, or empty chambers.This is the third time that this method has been used in Tutankhamun's tomb and it is unclear how the new scans will be different than the others.


 

 

Hillary Clinton Demands President Condemn Jewish Threats

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎4:40:33 PMGo to full article
Hillary Clinton Demands President Condemn Jewish ThreatsThe former secretary of state and presidential candidate said "everyone must speak out" about rising anti-Semitism, starting with President Trump.


 

 

10 Universities Where TAs Teach the Most Classes

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎4:00:00 PMGo to full article
10 Universities Where TAs Teach the Most ClassesThe U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College, The Short List: Grad School and The Short List: Online Programs to find data that matter to you in your college or grad school search. At some research universities, a teaching assistant -- usually a graduate student -- might either serve as the main instructor for an undergraduate course or provide support to the professor.


 

 

Philippines: framework of South China Sea pact possible soon

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎3:30:24 PMGo to full article
Philippines: framework of South China Sea pact possible soonBORACAY, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines' top diplomat said Tuesday it remains to be seen whether China will cooperate fully in ongoing efforts to craft a legally binding pact designed to prevent aggressive behavior in the disputed South China Sea.


 

 

Toyota three-wheeling into Geneva

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎3:00:38 PMGo to full article
Toyota three-wheeling into GenevaJapanese automotive giant Toyota has confirmed it's bringing a tiny plug-in electric concept car to this year's Geneva Motor Show. Called the i-TRIL, it gives a glimpse of what Toyota imagines is the future of individual urban mobility. As for range, Toyota is yet to confirm how big the battery pack will be, however it has confirmed that the i-TRIL will have a trick suspension setup that will enable it to lean into corners and around bends just like a motorbike.


 

 

The Great Cheese Scare

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎2:14:09 PMGo to full article
The Great Cheese Scare"We deeply regret any inconvenience or concern this issue has caused,” Sargento Foods Chief Executive Officer Louie Gentine said in a statement.


 

 

Shark kills bodyboarder on Reunion island

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎1:32:47 PMGo to full article
Shark kills bodyboarder on Reunion islandSaint-André (France) (AFP) - A 26-year-old man bodyboarding off of Reunion island was killed by a shark on Tuesday, local officials said, in the latest attack in the waters of the Indian Ocean holiday destination. It was the 20th recorded shark attack on the island since 2011, eight of which have been fatal, despite efforts by local authorities to install nets and warn locals and tourists about the dangers. The man, a former shark spotter from the island once employed by the local surfing association, was pronounced dead after the shark bit through a major artery in his leg off the eastern coast near Saint-Andre.


 

 

Years of failed efforts to end Syrian conflict

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎12:56:58 PMGo to full article
Years of failed efforts to end Syrian conflictSince the start of Syria's war in 2011, several diplomatic initiatives have stumbled over the future of President Bashar al-Assad. In January 2012, two months after an initial bid to end the violence, leading Arab diplomats adopt a fresh plan that would transfer power from Assad to a coalition cabinet. On June 30, 2012 in Geneva, global powers draw up a plan that would install a transition government, but which does not spell out what would happen to Assad.


 

 

Death toll in Philippine bus crash climbs to 15

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎5:48:30 AMGo to full article
Death toll in Philippine bus crash climbs to 15TANAY, Philippines (AP) — The death toll has risen to 15 from a bus crash in the Philippines, officials said Tuesday, and could climb further as many of the nearly 50 others who were hurt in the accident are in serious condition.


 

 

Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin dead at 64

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎4:46:14 AMGo to full article
Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin dead at 64Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, who for years fended off Western criticism and defended Moscow's actions in Ukraine and Syria, has died in New York. Churkin collapsed while at work at the Russian mission to the United Nations Monday morning and was rushed to a Manhattan hospital, apparently suffering from heart problems, diplomatic sources said. In a statement announcing his death, the foreign ministry in Moscow described him as an "outstanding diplomat." There was no information on the cause of death.


 

Storms, tornadoes damage dozens of homes in San Antonio area

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎2:10:46 AMGo to full article
Storms, tornadoes damage dozens of homes in San Antonio areaSAN ANTONIO (AP) — Severe storms that pushed several tornadoes through parts of Central Texas ripped the roofs from homes and damaged dozens of other houses and apartments in San Antonio and toppled auto-carrier cars of a freight train near Austin, authorities said Monday.


 

 

Cop Helps Girl, 10, With Math Homework After She Messaged Police Department on Facebook

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎11:59:00 PMGo to full article
Cop Helps Girl, 10, With Math Homework After She Messaged Police Department on Facebook"I'm having trouble with my homework. Could you help me?" 10-year-old Lena wrote in a Facebook message to the Marion, Ohio Police Department.


 

 

NASA Has Made A Huge Discovery About Planets Outside Our Solar System

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:56:07 PMGo to full article
NASA Has Made A Huge Discovery About Planets Outside Our Solar SystemExoplanets are widely believed to be the best hope of finding life elsewhere in the universe. 


 

 

French far-right chief calls Assad solution to Syria crisis

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:41:30 PMGo to full article
French far-right chief calls Assad solution to Syria crisisBEIRUT (AP) — French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen tried to raise her international profile and press her pro-Syria, pro-Christian stance with a visit to Lebanon on Monday, holding her first campaign meeting with a head of state.


 

2017 Mercedes-Maybach S550 4MATIC

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:15:00 PMGo to full article
2017 Mercedes-Maybach S550 4MATICA perfectly restrained chauffeur-mobile.


 

 

Shocker! World’s first self-driving car race ends in a crash

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎9:40:03 PMGo to full article
Shocker! World’s first self-driving car race ends in a crash

The world's first race on a professional track involving self-driving cars ended, not surprisingly, with a crash. As part of the Roborace competition held in Buenos Aires over the weekend, one of the two self-driving Devbot vehicles involved in the race slammed into a wall after miscalculating a particularly sharp turn.

While the Devbot vehicles weren't going all out, they weren't exactly driving at a leisurely pace either. At their best, both cars were driving in excess of 100 MPH, with one reaching a top speed of 115 MPH at one point.

In addition to racing around the track at high speeds, it's worth noting that each car can communicate with the other as to prevent them from crashing into each other. Unfortunately, the racetrack wall proved to be an insurmountable foe.

As for the software malfunction that caused the crash, Roborace's Justin Cooke explained what happened in an interview with the BBC:

One of the cars was trying to perform a manoeuvre, and it went really full-throttle and took the corner quite sharply and caught the edge of the barrier.

It's actually fantastic for us because the more we see these moments the more we are able to learn and understand what was the thinking behind the computer and its data.

Indeed, for as far along as self-driving software and hardware has progressed, it's clear that there's still a lot of work to be done before self-driving cars can replace human drivers completely across all driving environments.

While the DevBot vehicles are designed such that they "can be driven by a human or a computer", the versions used in the race over the weekend did not have any humans inside. Photos of the crash can be seen here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSbSUeKEj00


 

 

Pence tries to reassure European leaders shaken by Trump

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎9:37:29 PMGo to full article
Pence tries to reassure European leaders shaken by TrumpBRUSSELS (AP) — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Monday vowed to stand with the European Union and the NATO military alliance, but was met with some skepticism from leaders shaken by President Donald Trump's more critical comments.


 

 

US-led coalition expects to stay in Iraq after Mosul

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎8:59:08 PMGo to full article
US-led coalition expects to stay in Iraq after MosulThe commander of the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group said Monday he expected its forces would be allowed to stay in Iraq after Mosul is recaptured. "I don't anticipate that we will be asked to leave by the government of Iraq immediately after Mosul," Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend said. The US commander was speaking at a press conference in Baghdad wrapping up a brief visit by the new Pentagon chief, Jim Mattis.


 

Duck boats face increasing calls for improvements, bans

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎8:20:07 PMGo to full article
Duck boats face increasing calls for improvements, bansBOSTON (AP) — With their festive, party-like ambiance and ability to travel on land and in water, duck boats have long been tourist attractions for sightseers around the U.S. But a string of deadly accidents has left the industry reeling, forced safety improvements and led some advocates to call for a total ban on the vehicles.


 

 

Nigeria urges AU to intervene over 'SAfrica killings'

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎6:27:41 PMGo to full article
Nigeria urges AU to intervene over 'SAfrica killings'Nigeria on Monday urged the African Union to step in to stop what it said were "xenophobic attacks" on its citizens and other Africans in South Africa. "This is unacceptable to the people and government of Nigeria," a senior presidential aide on foreign affairs, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said in an emailed statement. There was no independent verification of the claimed number of deaths, which may have been the result of wider criminal activities rather than anti-immigrant sentiment.


 

This new iPhone 8 feature might end up blowing our minds

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎4:33:11 PMGo to full article
This new iPhone 8 feature might end up blowing our minds

Amid rumors that the iPhone 8 will incorporate advanced facial recognition features, the Hebrew-language website Calcalist (via Times of Israel) is reporting that Apple recently acquired Realface, an up-and-coming Israeli startup with impressive real-time facial recognition software.

Lending credence to rumors that the iPhone 8 may forgo the use of Touch ID in favor of facial recognition, Realface's software is said to be sophisticated enough such that it can reliably be used as a foundation for mobile-based biometric authentication.

As is often the case when Apple acquires a company, Realface's web presence has already been wiped from the web. Still, thanks to the magic of Google, we were able to poke around and dig up some intriguing nuggets of information about the company's promising technology.

Realface boasts that it's AI software rests upon deep learning methods and is so reliable and quick that the end-result is an absolutely seamless user experience.

"Our technology provides our customers and end-users with the highest level of authentication and security available on all platforms," says Realface. "We have proprietary IP in the field of frictionless face recognition and effective learnings from facial features." Incidentally, Realface's technology is also capable of filtering out photos of faces and advanced sculptures designed to trick the software into thinking that a device's camera is honed in on an actual human face.

Further, Realface claims that its software can recognize faces with a 99.67% success rate, an impressive figure that is even higher than the average 97.5% success rate exhibited by humans. To this point, a profile on Realface from last year relays that the company's technology is so advanced that it can even distinguish between identical twins with alarming and impressive accuracy.

Below is a quick and dirty demo of the software in action.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNlkxGmIgW0

What's particularly interesting is that Realface's technology is not only capable of discerning individual faces, but can also analyze specific facial expressions as a means to determine a user's mood. If this sounds somewhat familiar, Apple last year acquired Emotient, a company with similar AI technology of its own.

Now as for what Apple is planning to do with its growing portfolio of AI-based facial recognition software, well, that's the million dollar question. While initial speculation centered on Apple rolling out augmented reality features, perhaps similar to what the beloved MSQRD app does, more recent rumblings suggest that Apple wants to position facial recognition as a means to identify users and securely authorize sensitive transactions. Again, there are even reports that facial recognition might ultimately serve as a replacement for Touch ID.

While this seems far-fetched, Ming Chi-Kuo -- an analyst with the best track record regarding Apple rumors -- seems to think otherwise. In a recently issued research note, Kuo claims that the iPhone 8's rumored edgeless design cannot, for whatever reason, coexist peacefully with Touch ID. Consequently, Kuo relays that Apple wants to eventually replace Touch ID with a facial recognition solution.

When it comes to Apple, the old adage that when there's smoke, there's fire is generally true. That being the case, it stands to reason that facial recognition will be a huge and incredibly exciting component of the iPhone 8 user experience.


 

 

2017 Chevy Camaro ZL1 Nails An Official 198 MPH Top Speed

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎4:00:00 PMGo to full article
2017 Chevy Camaro ZL1 Nails An Official 198 MPH Top Speed650-horsepower Chevy Camaro actually tops 200 mph with minor adjustments. Gentlemen, start your engines.  


 

 

Elderly woman finds £5 note worth £50,000, donates the money to young people

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎3:05:43 PMGo to full article
Elderly woman finds £5 note worth £50,000, donates the money to young peopleFinding out that the fiver in your wallet is worth thousands of pounds is a dream-come-true for some — but not everyone. A Northern Irish woman who discovered a rare £5 note worth £50,000 ($62,317) has given the note to charity because she says she has no use for the money.  SEE ALSO: Some lucky duck got a £5 note 'worth £50,000' in a Christmas card The note is one of just four ultra-rare notes worth £50,000 in circulation in the UK. The note — which is engraved with a special Jane Austen inscription — is the third one to be snapped up, leaving just one left. The woman who discovered the note contacted the gallery founded by Graham Short — the artist who engraved the notes — stating her wish to donate the note to charity. "£5 note enclosed, I don't need it at my time of life. Please use it to help young people," reads the letter sent to the gallery by the donor, who prefers to remain anonymous.  Image: graham short "The lady who found the note has surprised us all by sending it to the gallery and asking that it be used to help young people," reads a blog post on Short's website.  According to the post, the proceeds from the note will be donated to children's charity Children in Need.   "Currently contacting outlets connected to Children in Need to try and give this to a good cause so we honour the request of the lucky woman who originally discovered the note," the post continues. BONUS: This keychain can take away that annoying jingle your keys make


 

 

 

 

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Convicted ex-Hong Kong leader jailed 20 months for misconduct

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎5 hours agoGo to full article
Convicted ex-Hong Kong leader jailed 20 months for misconductFormer Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang was sentenced to 20 months in prison on Wednesday after a high-profile corruption trial found him guilty of misconduct during his time at the helm of the city. Tsang, 72, who held the leadership post of chief executive for seven years from 2005, is the most senior city official ever to be convicted in a criminal trial and the highest ranking one to be put behind bars. The six-week trial at the High Court came as residents lose faith in Hong Kong's leaders after a string of corruption cases fuel suspicions over links between public officials and business figures.


 

 

Mexico apologizes to indigenous women wrongly jailed for kidnapping

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎6 hours agoGo to full article
Mexico apologizes to indigenous women wrongly jailed for kidnappingMexico's government on Tuesday took the rare step of apologizing to three indigenous women who spent more than three years in prison after being falsely accused by prosecutors of kidnapping seven police officers and carrying cocaine. The head of the attorney general's office, Raul Cervantes, said sorry to the women, who are from a small community in Queretaro, Central Mexico, and asked for their forgiveness, as part of damages ordered by a tribunal. The case of Alberta Alcantara, Jacinta Francisco and Teresa Gonzalez has shone a light on widespread human rights abuses by Mexico's authorities and problems in the justice system.


 

 

Hillary Clinton Finally Stepped in to Advise President Trump

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎7 hours agoGo to full article
Hillary Clinton Finally Stepped in to Advise President TrumpAfter months of passive tweets, Hillary Clinton finally called on POTUS speak out against anti-Semitic attacks. President Trump employed Breitbart News chairman, Steven Bannon, as chief Whitehouse strategist, leading some to believe he's encouraging anti-Semitic behavior.


 

 

Missouri man charged with trying to plan terrorist attack

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎9 hours agoGo to full article
Missouri man charged with trying to plan terrorist attackKANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri native who said he wanted to participate in a terrorist attack that would cause many deaths and injuries is charged with helping plan a Presidents Day attack on buses, trains and a train station in Kansas City, federal officials said Tuesday.


 

 

Women's life expectancy on track to hit 90 in some nations

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎10 hours agoGo to full article
Women's life expectancy on track to hit 90 in some nationsBy 2030 life expectancy for South Korean women could top nine decades, an average lifespan long thought to be out of reach, researchers said Wednesday. South Korea is not only the first country in the world where women may live past 90 on average, it is also the one on track to log the biggest jump in longevity, they reported in The Lancet medical journal. Other developed countries are not far behind: the longevity of French and Japanese women are more likely than not to stretch past 88 years.


 

 

Dozens of headstones toppled at Jewish cemetery in Missouri

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎11 hours agoGo to full article
Dozens of headstones toppled at Jewish cemetery in MissouriUNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. (AP) — Vandals have damaged or tipped over as many as 200 headstones at a Jewish cemetery in suburban St. Louis, leaving the region's Jewish community shaken and anxious.


 

 

Once Renowned Surgeon Sentenced to Life Behind Bars for Intentionally Maiming Patients

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎11:31:00 PMGo to full article
Once Renowned Surgeon Sentenced to Life Behind Bars for Intentionally Maiming PatientsChristopher Duntsch once billed himself as the best neurosurgeon in all of Dallas.


 

 

EU Privacy Groups Say Windows 10 Still Has Security Problems

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎9:59:51 PMGo to full article
EU Privacy Groups Say Windows 10 Still Has Security ProblemsDespite recent changes made by Microsoft to its Windows 10 operating system, privacy watchdogs in the European Union have warned the OS is still collecting user data without making clear what exactly it's gathering.


 

 

Young Girl Writes Heartbreaking Note to Her Dog's Future Family: 'He Loves Cuddles'

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎9:51:00 PMGo to full article
Young Girl Writes Heartbreaking Note to Her Dog's Future Family: 'He Loves Cuddles'"Rhino is a good dog and he loves cuddles [...] Please tell Rhino that I love and miss him every night," the note reads.


 

 

White House: Mass deportation not the goal of immigration actions

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎9:40:29 PMGo to full article
White House: Mass deportation not the goal of immigration actionsPress secretary Sean Spicer said unauthorized immigrants who "pose a threat to our public safety or have committed a crime will be the first to go."


 

 

‘A Serbian Trap’: Freezing conditions in Belgrade are not the biggest problem for refugees in Belgrade

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎7:35:57 PMGo to full article
‘A Serbian Trap’: Freezing conditions in Belgrade are not the biggest problem for refugees in BelgradeA trip along the refugee track within Serbia reveals that the old route through the Balkans is still being used despite strong border control, harsh conditions and frozen temperatures. Despite the existence of camps built by the Serbian state, the migrants are here trying to make their way into European Union countries illegally.


 

 

For over three years, Kim murder suspect lived mystery life in Malaysia

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎7:24:53 PMGo to full article
For over three years, Kim murder suspect lived mystery life in MalaysiaChong Ah Kow said he facilitated Ri's working visa by stating in supporting documents that he was a product development manager in the company's IT department earning 5,500 ringgit ($1,230) per month. "It was just a formality, just documents, I never paid him," Chong, a Malaysian, said in an interview.


 

 

Iceland's President said he would ban pineapple on pizza if he could

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎7:00:03 PMGo to full article
Iceland's President said he would ban pineapple on pizza if he couldPineapple on pizza: you love it, or you hate it so much you use your power as president of a small country to make it literally illegal. In what's being called a "political bombshell" by Iceland Magazine,  President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson said he would ban pineapple as a topping on pizzas— if he were allowed to pass laws on his own. SEE ALSO: Trump thinks something terrible happened in Sweden, so here come the IKEA and ABBA jokes The incendiary comments were in response to questions from students about where he stood on the concept of pineapple as a topping while visiting a local high school. Word of his controversial opinion quickly spread across the internet, where it began trending on Twitter. With a debate as contentious as this one, everybody had to get a word in. not only does iceland use entirely renewable energy but their president is also a WOKE BAE pic.twitter.com/EkGbjmwHL1 — eva (@myIoveiscooI) February 21, 2017 Emotions flared. you can all stay in Iceland as well so us pineapple on pizza lovers can live in peace and tastiness pic.twitter.com/UOZ3g5shNp — Luke Brooks (@luke_brooks) February 21, 2017 Brands are even taking to Twitter to make their stance on the issue known.  No ban here  pic.twitter.com/vmSJw5F1ew — DiGiorno Pizza (@DiGiornoPizza) February 21, 2017 Long after the last pineapple is thrown into the Icelandic sea, DiGiorno Pizza's Last Stand will be remembered: "No ban here  ." BONUS: Snap's Spectacles


 

 

Brazil's race to save drought-hit city

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎6:36:24 PMGo to full article
Brazil's race to save drought-hit cityThe shrunken carcasses of cows lie in scorched fields outside the city of Campina Grande in northeast Brazil, and hungry goats search for food on the cracked-earth floor of the Boqueirao reservoir that serves the desperate town. After five years of drought, farmer Edivaldo Brito says he cannot remember when the Boqueirão reservoir was last full. Brazil’s arid northeast is weathering its worst drought on record and Campina Grande, which has 400,000 residents that depend on the reservoir, is running out of water.


 

 

Zimbabwe's Mugabe praises Trump's 'America First' policy

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎6:02:43 PMGo to full article
Zimbabwe's Mugabe praises Trump's 'America First' policyHARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump's "America First" policy has an admirer in Zimbabwe's longtime president, who says the policy resonates with his own thinking.


 

 

Possible 'Hidden Chamber' in King Tut's Tomb Invites More Secretive Scans

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎5:20:00 PMGo to full article
Possible 'Hidden Chamber' in King Tut's Tomb Invites More Secretive ScansA group of archaeologists has said the tomb of Tutankhamun may hold a hidden chamber containing the tomb of Queen Nefertiti. Now, a physicist plans to lead a team conducting another series of ground-penetrating radar (GPR) scans as a last-ditch effort to find Nefertiti's burial site. In this method, high-frequency radio waves bounce off the ground and off of walls, and the reflected signals can reveal hidden treasures, or empty chambers.This is the third time that this method has been used in Tutankhamun's tomb and it is unclear how the new scans will be different than the others.


 

 

Hillary Clinton Demands President Condemn Jewish Threats

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎4:40:33 PMGo to full article
Hillary Clinton Demands President Condemn Jewish ThreatsThe former secretary of state and presidential candidate said "everyone must speak out" about rising anti-Semitism, starting with President Trump.


 

 

10 Universities Where TAs Teach the Most Classes

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎4:00:00 PMGo to full article
10 Universities Where TAs Teach the Most ClassesThe U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College, The Short List: Grad School and The Short List: Online Programs to find data that matter to you in your college or grad school search. At some research universities, a teaching assistant -- usually a graduate student -- might either serve as the main instructor for an undergraduate course or provide support to the professor.


 

 

Philippines: framework of South China Sea pact possible soon

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎3:30:24 PMGo to full article
Philippines: framework of South China Sea pact possible soonBORACAY, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines' top diplomat said Tuesday it remains to be seen whether China will cooperate fully in ongoing efforts to craft a legally binding pact designed to prevent aggressive behavior in the disputed South China Sea.


 

 

Toyota three-wheeling into Geneva

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎3:00:38 PMGo to full article
Toyota three-wheeling into GenevaJapanese automotive giant Toyota has confirmed it's bringing a tiny plug-in electric concept car to this year's Geneva Motor Show. Called the i-TRIL, it gives a glimpse of what Toyota imagines is the future of individual urban mobility. As for range, Toyota is yet to confirm how big the battery pack will be, however it has confirmed that the i-TRIL will have a trick suspension setup that will enable it to lean into corners and around bends just like a motorbike.


 

 

The Great Cheese Scare

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎2:14:09 PMGo to full article
The Great Cheese Scare"We deeply regret any inconvenience or concern this issue has caused,” Sargento Foods Chief Executive Officer Louie Gentine said in a statement.


 

 

As he turns 93, Mugabe dismisses corruption allegations

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎1:46:16 PMGo to full article
As he turns 93, Mugabe dismisses corruption allegationsBy MacDonald Dzirutwe HARARE (Reuters) - As he celebrated his 93rd birthday on Tuesday, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe brushed aside persistent allegations of corruption against senior officials, saying rumour-mongers were merely targeting "big fish" in his administration. In comments to be aired on state media on Tuesday, the world's oldest leader said he would act if shown evidence - even though graft scandals involving ministers and even members of his own family are regular fare in local newspapers. People have not come out and actually said here is a case against a big fish," Mugabe said in the pre-recorded interview.


 

 

Shark kills bodyboarder on Reunion island

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎1:32:47 PMGo to full article
Shark kills bodyboarder on Reunion islandSaint-André (France) (AFP) - A 26-year-old man bodyboarding off of Reunion island was killed by a shark on Tuesday, local officials said, in the latest attack in the waters of the Indian Ocean holiday destination. It was the 20th recorded shark attack on the island since 2011, eight of which have been fatal, despite efforts by local authorities to install nets and warn locals and tourists about the dangers. The man, a former shark spotter from the island once employed by the local surfing association, was pronounced dead after the shark bit through a major artery in his leg off the eastern coast near Saint-Andre.


 

 

Years of failed efforts to end Syrian conflict

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎12:56:58 PMGo to full article
Years of failed efforts to end Syrian conflictSince the start of Syria's war in 2011, several diplomatic initiatives have stumbled over the future of President Bashar al-Assad. In January 2012, two months after an initial bid to end the violence, leading Arab diplomats adopt a fresh plan that would transfer power from Assad to a coalition cabinet. On June 30, 2012 in Geneva, global powers draw up a plan that would install a transition government, but which does not spell out what would happen to Assad.


 

 

Death toll in Philippine bus crash climbs to 15

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎5:48:30 AMGo to full article
Death toll in Philippine bus crash climbs to 15TANAY, Philippines (AP) — The death toll has risen to 15 from a bus crash in the Philippines, officials said Tuesday, and could climb further as many of the nearly 50 others who were hurt in the accident are in serious condition.


 

 

Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin dead at 64

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎4:46:14 AMGo to full article
Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin dead at 64Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, who for years fended off Western criticism and defended Moscow's actions in Ukraine and Syria, has died in New York. Churkin collapsed while at work at the Russian mission to the United Nations Monday morning and was rushed to a Manhattan hospital, apparently suffering from heart problems, diplomatic sources said. In a statement announcing his death, the foreign ministry in Moscow described him as an "outstanding diplomat." There was no information on the cause of death.


 

 

California police officer fatally shot while investigating car accident

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎4:36:27 AMGo to full article
California police officer fatally shot while investigating car accidentA second officer with the Whittier Police Department and the suspect, a Hispanic man in his 20s, were wounded in the exchange of gunfire, said Lieutenant John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The fallen officer, Keith Boyer, was 53 and survived by two adult sons, California Governor Jerry Brown said in a statement expressing condolences.


 

 

Storms, tornadoes damage dozens of homes in San Antonio area

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎2:10:46 AMGo to full article
Storms, tornadoes damage dozens of homes in San Antonio areaSAN ANTONIO (AP) — Severe storms that pushed several tornadoes through parts of Central Texas ripped the roofs from homes and damaged dozens of other houses and apartments in San Antonio and toppled auto-carrier cars of a freight train near Austin, authorities said Monday.


 

 

Cop Helps Girl, 10, With Math Homework After She Messaged Police Department on Facebook

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎11:59:00 PMGo to full article
Cop Helps Girl, 10, With Math Homework After She Messaged Police Department on Facebook"I'm having trouble with my homework. Could you help me?" 10-year-old Lena wrote in a Facebook message to the Marion, Ohio Police Department.


 

 

NASA Has Made A Huge Discovery About Planets Outside Our Solar System

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:56:07 PMGo to full article
NASA Has Made A Huge Discovery About Planets Outside Our Solar SystemExoplanets are widely believed to be the best hope of finding life elsewhere in the universe. 


 

 

French far-right chief calls Assad solution to Syria crisis

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:41:30 PMGo to full article
French far-right chief calls Assad solution to Syria crisisBEIRUT (AP) — French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen tried to raise her international profile and press her pro-Syria, pro-Christian stance with a visit to Lebanon on Monday, holding her first campaign meeting with a head of state.


 

 

As big of a drop in the charts as it has taken, it's interesting to note that Samsung's actual reputation rating only actually dropped from 80.44 to 75.17. Harris considers a rating of 80+ to be "Excellent," and groups ratings of 75 to 79 into the "Very Good" category. Additionally, both Apple and Google took hits in their ratings as well, though not nearly as drastic — Apple fell from 83.03 to 82.07 and Google dipped from 82.97 to 82.00.

The study is conducted via interviews with US adults, each of which are asked to rate companies that they are familiar with. According to the methodology of the research, each company received a rating from approximately 300 respondents. The timing of the study wasn't particularly favorable to Samsung, having been conducted from late November to mid December of 2016, which was precisely when Samsung was in the midst devising a way to remotely kill off the Note 7s that were still in the hands of owners.


 

 

2017 Mercedes-Maybach S550 4MATIC

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎10:15:00 PMGo to full article
2017 Mercedes-Maybach S550 4MATICA perfectly restrained chauffeur-mobile.


 

 

Shocker! World’s first self-driving car race ends in a crash

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎9:40:03 PMGo to full article
Shocker! World’s first self-driving car race ends in a crash

The world's first race on a professional track involving self-driving cars ended, not surprisingly, with a crash. As part of the Roborace competition held in Buenos Aires over the weekend, one of the two self-driving Devbot vehicles involved in the race slammed into a wall after miscalculating a particularly sharp turn.

While the Devbot vehicles weren't going all out, they weren't exactly driving at a leisurely pace either. At their best, both cars were driving in excess of 100 MPH, with one reaching a top speed of 115 MPH at one point.

In addition to racing around the track at high speeds, it's worth noting that each car can communicate with the other as to prevent them from crashing into each other. Unfortunately, the racetrack wall proved to be an insurmountable foe.

As for the software malfunction that caused the crash, Roborace's Justin Cooke explained what happened in an interview with the BBC:

One of the cars was trying to perform a manoeuvre, and it went really full-throttle and took the corner quite sharply and caught the edge of the barrier.

It's actually fantastic for us because the more we see these moments the more we are able to learn and understand what was the thinking behind the computer and its data.

Indeed, for as far along as self-driving software and hardware has progressed, it's clear that there's still a lot of work to be done before self-driving cars can replace human drivers completely across all driving environments.

While the DevBot vehicles are designed such that they "can be driven by a human or a computer", the versions used in the race over the weekend did not have any humans inside. Photos of the crash can be seen here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSbSUeKEj00


 

 

Pence tries to reassure European leaders shaken by Trump

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎9:37:29 PMGo to full article
Pence tries to reassure European leaders shaken by TrumpBRUSSELS (AP) — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Monday vowed to stand with the European Union and the NATO military alliance, but was met with some skepticism from leaders shaken by President Donald Trump's more critical comments.


 

 

US-led coalition expects to stay in Iraq after Mosul

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎8:59:08 PMGo to full article
US-led coalition expects to stay in Iraq after MosulThe commander of the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group said Monday he expected its forces would be allowed to stay in Iraq after Mosul is recaptured. "I don't anticipate that we will be asked to leave by the government of Iraq immediately after Mosul," Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend said. The US commander was speaking at a press conference in Baghdad wrapping up a brief visit by the new Pentagon chief, Jim Mattis.


 

 

Duck boats face increasing calls for improvements, bans

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎8:20:07 PMGo to full article
Duck boats face increasing calls for improvements, bansBOSTON (AP) — With their festive, party-like ambiance and ability to travel on land and in water, duck boats have long been tourist attractions for sightseers around the U.S. But a string of deadly accidents has left the industry reeling, forced safety improvements and led some advocates to call for a total ban on the vehicles.


 

 

Nigeria urges AU to intervene over 'SAfrica killings'

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎6:27:41 PMGo to full article
Nigeria urges AU to intervene over 'SAfrica killings'Nigeria on Monday urged the African Union to step in to stop what it said were "xenophobic attacks" on its citizens and other Africans in South Africa. "This is unacceptable to the people and government of Nigeria," a senior presidential aide on foreign affairs, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said in an emailed statement. There was no independent verification of the claimed number of deaths, which may have been the result of wider criminal activities rather than anti-immigrant sentiment.


 

This new iPhone 8 feature might end up blowing our minds

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎4:33:11 PMGo to full article
This new iPhone 8 feature might end up blowing our minds

Amid rumors that the iPhone 8 will incorporate advanced facial recognition features, the Hebrew-language website Calcalist (via Times of Israel) is reporting that Apple recently acquired Realface, an up-and-coming Israeli startup with impressive real-time facial recognition software.

Lending credence to rumors that the iPhone 8 may forgo the use of Touch ID in favor of facial recognition, Realface's software is said to be sophisticated enough such that it can reliably be used as a foundation for mobile-based biometric authentication.

As is often the case when Apple acquires a company, Realface's web presence has already been wiped from the web. Still, thanks to the magic of Google, we were able to poke around and dig up some intriguing nuggets of information about the company's promising technology.

Realface boasts that it's AI software rests upon deep learning methods and is so reliable and quick that the end-result is an absolutely seamless user experience.

"Our technology provides our customers and end-users with the highest level of authentication and security available on all platforms," says Realface. "We have proprietary IP in the field of frictionless face recognition and effective learnings from facial features." Incidentally, Realface's technology is also capable of filtering out photos of faces and advanced sculptures designed to trick the software into thinking that a device's camera is honed in on an actual human face.

Further, Realface claims that its software can recognize faces with a 99.67% success rate, an impressive figure that is even higher than the average 97.5% success rate exhibited by humans. To this point, a profile on Realface from last year relays that the company's technology is so advanced that it can even distinguish between identical twins with alarming and impressive accuracy.

Below is a quick and dirty demo of the software in action.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNlkxGmIgW0

What's particularly interesting is that Realface's technology is not only capable of discerning individual faces, but can also analyze specific facial expressions as a means to determine a user's mood. If this sounds somewhat familiar, Apple last year acquired Emotient, a company with similar AI technology of its own.

Now as for what Apple is planning to do with its growing portfolio of AI-based facial recognition software, well, that's the million dollar question. While initial speculation centered on Apple rolling out augmented reality features, perhaps similar to what the beloved MSQRD app does, more recent rumblings suggest that Apple wants to position facial recognition as a means to identify users and securely authorize sensitive transactions. Again, there are even reports that facial recognition might ultimately serve as a replacement for Touch ID.

While this seems far-fetched, Ming Chi-Kuo -- an analyst with the best track record regarding Apple rumors -- seems to think otherwise. In a recently issued research note, Kuo claims that the iPhone 8's rumored edgeless design cannot, for whatever reason, coexist peacefully with Touch ID. Consequently, Kuo relays that Apple wants to eventually replace Touch ID with a facial recognition solution.

When it comes to Apple, the old adage that when there's smoke, there's fire is generally true. That being the case, it stands to reason that facial recognition will be a huge and incredibly exciting component of the iPhone 8 user experience.


 

 

2017 Chevy Camaro ZL1 Nails An Official 198 MPH Top Speed

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎4:00:00 PMGo to full article
2017 Chevy Camaro ZL1 Nails An Official 198 MPH Top Speed650-horsepower Chevy Camaro actually tops 200 mph with minor adjustments. Gentlemen, start your engines.  


 

 

Elderly woman finds £5 note worth £50,000, donates the money to young people

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎3:05:43 PMGo to full article
Elderly woman finds £5 note worth £50,000, donates the money to young peopleFinding out that the fiver in your wallet is worth thousands of pounds is a dream-come-true for some — but not everyone. A Northern Irish woman who discovered a rare £5 note worth £50,000 ($62,317) has given the note to charity because she says she has no use for the money.  SEE ALSO: Some lucky duck got a £5 note 'worth £50,000' in a Christmas card The note is one of just four ultra-rare notes worth £50,000 in circulation in the UK. The note — which is engraved with a special Jane Austen inscription — is the third one to be snapped up, leaving just one left. The woman who discovered the note contacted the gallery founded by Graham Short — the artist who engraved the notes — stating her wish to donate the note to charity. "£5 note enclosed, I don't need it at my time of life. Please use it to help young people," reads the letter sent to the gallery by the donor, who prefers to remain anonymous.  Image: graham short "The lady who found the note has surprised us all by sending it to the gallery and asking that it be used to help young people," reads a blog post on Short's website.  According to the post, the proceeds from the note will be donated to children's charity Children in Need.   "Currently contacting outlets connected to Children in Need to try and give this to a good cause so we honour the request of the lucky woman who originally discovered the note," the post continues. BONUS: This keychain can take away that annoying jingle your keys make


 

Fresh ceasefire appears to hold for now in eastern Ukraine

 
‎Monday, ‎February ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎2:47:08 PMGo to full article
Fresh ceasefire appears to hold for now in eastern UkraineBy Pavel Polityuk AVDIYIVKA, Ukraine (Reuters) - Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists appeared to be respecting a new ceasefire attempt on Monday after international powers called for shelling to stop and for the withdrawal of banned heavy weapons. In recent weeks, the area around the government-held town of Avdiyivka has seen some of the heaviest artillery fire of the past two years, refocusing global attention on a simmering conflict that has strained relations between Russia and the West. Violence has since lessened, but the close proximity of the opposing sides and continued use of heavy weapons prompted the leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine to call on Sunday for renewed efforts to implement the terms of the much-violated Minsk peace agreement of 2015.

 

 

US wants Mosul offensive on IS in April-May

 
‎20 ‎February "‎2015", ‏‎10:00:50 AMGo to full article
Smoke billows after an US air strike near the Mosul dam, Iraq's largest, on the Tigris river, on August 17, 2014The US wants Iraq to launch its offensive to retake the strategic northern city of Mosul from the Islamic State group in April or May, military officials said. Mosul is believed to be held by 1,000-2,000 IS fighters and 20,000-25,000 Iraqi troops are needed to carry out the offensive, an official with US Central Command said on Thursday. US-led coalition aircraft have recently focused air strikes in the area of Mosul and Kurdish forces have made inroads on the ground nearby. Kurdish peshmerga forces have also launched successful offensives against IS-held roads near Mosul, which is in the north of the country.

 

 


 

Nuclear Weapons, Proliferation and Policy Doctrine

 

 
 

US, Japan conduct test of joint missile

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:56:01 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Feb 6, 2017 - The United States and Japan have conducted the first interception of a ballistic missile target using a jointly built system, amid heightened tensions over North Korea's missile program.

The two nations have been working together since 2006 to develop a variant of the Standard Missile-3, a ship-launched missile that operates as part of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System.

Friday's test off Kauai in Hawaii saw the Standard Missile-3 "Block IIA" successfully hit its target in space, the US Missile Defense Agency said.

According to the MDA, America has so far spent about $2.2 billion on the system and Japan about $1 billion.

"We are both deeply concerned about North Korea's capabilities, and we are constantly working to improve our defense capabilities," MDA spokesman Chris Johnson said Monday.

"It makes sense for the US and Japan to share some of that burden."

Mitsubishi and Raytheon both make parts of the missiles, which are assembled in the United States, and which are designed to defeat medium- and intermediate-range missiles.

The test occurred as Pentagon chief Jim Mattis was in East Asia on his first overseas trip as defense secretary.

He said Friday that any nuclear attack by North Korea would trigger an "effective and overwhelming" response, as he sought to reassure Asian allies rattled by President Donald Trump's isolationist rhetoric.

South Korea is working with the United States to install another system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, this year to prevent against any missiles from the North.

 

 

N. Korea fires ballistic missile in challenge to Trump: Seoul

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:56:01 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Feb 12, 2017 - North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Sunday, drawing a strong rebuke from US President Donald Trump who vowed "100 percent" support for key ally Japan at a press conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The missile, the first test since Trump became president, was launched around 7:55 am (2255 GMT Saturday) from Banghyon air base in the western province of North Pyongan, and flew east towards the Sea of Japan (East Sea), the South Korean defence ministry said.

It flew about 500 kilometres (310 miles) before falling into the sea, a ministry spokesman said, adding the exact type of missile had yet to be identified.

"Today's missile launch... is aimed at drawing global attention to the North by boasting its nuclear and missile capabilities", the ministry said in a statement.

"It is also believed that it was an armed provocation to test the response from the new US administration under President Trump," it added.

Trump responded with an assurance to visiting Japanese Prime Minister Abe that Washington was committed to the security of its key Asian ally.

"I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent," Trump said, without elaborating further.

Abe denounced the launch as "absolutely intolerable" while top government spokesman Yoshihide Suge told reporters in Tokyo that it was "clearly a provocation to Japan and the region".

North Korea is barred under UN resolutions from any use of ballistic missile technology but six sets of UN sanctions since Pyongyang's first nuclear test in 2006 have failed to halt its drive for what it insists are defensive weapons.

'Clear provocation'
Last year the country conducted numerous tests and launches in its quest to develop a nuclear weapons system capable of hitting the US mainland.

A South Korean army official quoted by Yonhap news agency ruled out the possibility of a long-range missile test, describing the device as an upgraded version of the North's short-range Rodong missile.

Seoul-based academic Yang Moo-Jin said the latest test was "a celebratory launch" to mark the February 16 birthday of Kim Jong-Il, former ruler and father of North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un.

Pyongyang often celebrates key anniversaries involving current and former leaders with missile launches, Yang, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, told AFP.

South Korea's acting president Hwang Gyo-Ahn vowed a "corresponding punishment" in response to the launch, which came on the heels of a visit to Seoul by new US Defense Secretary James Mattis last week.

Mattis had warned Pyongyang that any nuclear attack would be met with an "effective and overwhelming" response.

In January leader Kim Jong-Un boasted that Pyongyang was in the "final stages" of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in an apparent attempt to pressure the incoming US president. Trump shot back on Twitter, saying "It won't happen."

James Char, senior analyst at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies in Singapore, said the launch was Pyongyang's "way of showing characteristic defiance against... Trump".

Test for Trump
Washington has repeatedly vowed that it will never accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed nation and the latest launch poses a test for Trump, who will need the help of Beijing, Pyongyang's closest ally, to deal with the reclusive state.

Relations between the two superpowers have thawed in recent days after Trump reaffirmed Washington's "One China" policy in what he described as a "very warm" telephone conversation with President Xi Jinping.

The US leader pledged to honour a decades-old position that effectively acknowledges Taiwan is not separate from China -- a policy that Trump had suggested a few weeks ago he might jettison, angering Beijing.

"The recent Trump-Xi phone call would be considered an important platform from which the two powers will move forward," Char said.

Analysts are divided over how close Pyongyang is to realising its full nuclear ambitions, especially as it has never successfully test-fired an ICBM.

But all agree it has made enormous strides in that direction since Kim took over after the death of his father in December 2011.

 

 

U.S. Air Force test-launches Minuteman III missile

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:56:01 AMGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Feb 10, 2017 - U.S. Air Force personnel from bases in Minot, N.D., and Vandenberg, Calif., completed a test launch with an unarmed Minuteman III missile.

The Minuteman is an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, capable of carrying nuclear warheads. U.S. Air Force officials say the operational launch was conducted to verify the missile's capability as a nuclear deterrent.

Prior to the launch, the missile was taken from a silo at Minot AFB and reassembled at Vandenberg. The launch was conducted by Airmen from the 91st Missile Wing.

The ICBM was fitted with a re-entry vehicle, and traveled approximately 2,200 miles to a test range near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

The Minuteman III is operated by the Air Force Global Strike Command as an part of an effort to discourage the use of nuclear weapons against the United States. The Air Force says it has 450 Minuteman III missiles in its arsenal.

The Boeing-built weapon weighs over 79,000 pounds, has an effective range of 5,218 nautical miles, and reaches speeds of approximately 15,000 miles-per-hour.

 

 

Iran's Rouhani says military power 'purely defensive'

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:56:01 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Feb 9, 2017 - President Hassan Rouhani said Thursday Iran's military power was "purely defensive", after tensions with the United States over its missile programme and a nuclear deal soared following Donald Trump's inauguration.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran has showed that it doesn't intend to interfere with the internal affairs of other countries," Rouhani told foreign diplomats in Tehran, according to the ISNA news agency.

"Our military power is purely defensive," he was quoted as saying.

The comments from Rouhani, a moderate expected to run for re-election later this year, come after the war of words between Iran and the US spiked following Tehran's announcement of a ballistic missile test and Trump's controversial travel ban.

"At the current time, we must not allow some to create an unhealthy climate by conjuring illusions," Rouhani said, quoted by ISNA.

The new US president in his first weeks in office issued an executive order banning travel to the US for nationals of seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Iran.

He has criticised the landmark nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers -- including the US -- and warned Iran last week it was "playing with fire" following the Islamic republic's missile test on January 29 and military drills last week.

The White House on Friday raised the stakes in the increasingly tense stand-off by slapping fresh sanctions on Tehran's weapons procurement network.

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday that Trump's behaviour showed "the real face of America", long a leading adversary of Tehran.

Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan on Thursday rubbished a report by US cable channel Fox News the day before that alleged Iran had launched a new ballistic missile, Iran's IRNA news agency reported.

 

 

French MPs clear way for payouts to atomic test victims

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:56:01 AMGo to full article
Paris (AFP) Feb 9, 2017 - More than 50 years after France began conducting dozens of nuclear tests in the South Pacific, the French parliament on Thursday significantly eased the criteria for islanders who suffered health effects to be compensated.

The upper house Senate is expected to follow suit next Tuesday, scrapping barriers to compensation that deemed most claimants to have been at "insignificant risk" of developing a radiation-induced illness.

Around 150,000 civilian and military personnel took part in 210 nuclear tests carried out by France between 1960 and 1996 in the Pacific and the Sahara desert. Thousands of them later developed serious health problems.

Only around 20 of approximately 1,000 people who filed complaints against France have received compensation.

Ahead of Thursday's vote, Tahitian MP Maina Sage said extending compensation to other sufferers would "finally appease somewhat (the) deep trauma" caused by a "state (that) operated with full awareness of the consequences".

The Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls saw 193 nuclear tests over three decades until then-president Jacques Chirac called a halt to the programme in the 1990s.

France long denied its responsibility for the health and environmental impacts out of fear the admission would weaken its nuclear programme during the Cold War.

It was only in 2010 that France passed a law authorising compensation for military veterans and civilians whose cancer could be attributed to the test programme.

During a visit to French Polynesia in February 2016, President Francois Hollande acknowledged the deleterious effects on health and the environment and pledged to revamp the compensation process.

Hollande also said France would provide financial assistance to the oncology department of Tahiti's hospital, in line with demands from local politicians.

Starting this year, France will pay more than 90 million euros ($96 million) a year to boost the facilities.

It was above the Fangataufa atoll that France launched its first H-bomb in August 1968.

French Polynesia, with a population of about 280,000, is one of three French territories in the Pacific.

 

 

Poland wants US or European nuclear umbrella: Kaczynski

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:56:01 AMGo to full article
Warsaw (AFP) Feb 8, 2017 - The powerful head of Poland's ruling party wants his country to be "included" in the US nuclear defence system, according to an interview published Wednesday.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski told the Gazeta Polska daily that Warsaw "should work for the inclusion of Poland in the American nuclear defence system", which "would be the optimal solution".

But Kaczynski also called for Europe to become a "nuclear superpower", in a separate interview published Tuesday by Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily, as Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Warsaw.

Under NATO's Article 5 collective defence agreement, the US nuclear umbrella already protects NATO allies including Poland as well as Japan, South Korea and Australia.

Kaczynski, who is regarded as Poland's most powerful decision-maker despite holding no formal governmental post, did not elaborate how his proposed arrangement would be different from the existing Article 5 security guarantee.

His comments come amid uncertainty in eastern NATO allies like Poland stoked by US President Donald Trump's seemingly pro-Moscow stance coupled with critical pronouncements on NATO.

Trump has called the alliance "obsolete" in terms of fighting terrorism, but of "fundamental importance" to transatlantic security.

Kaczynski told Germany's FAZ he "would welcome" a European nuclear umbrella.

"Europe would become a superpower. One or two nuclear submarines would not be enough," Kaczynski told the FAZ, referring to Britain's ageing fleet of nuclear-armed submarines.

Greatly reduced after the end of the Cold War, the US nuclear arsenal in Europe includes around 200 tactical weapons stationed in Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.

 

 

S. Korean theme park in China halted amid missile tension

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:56:01 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Feb 8, 2017 - A South Korean conglomerate has been forced by Chinese authorities to suspend a multi-billion-dollar theme park project, as tensions grow over the deployment of a US missile defence system.

The plan by Seoul and Washington to install the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in response to threats from North Korea has drawn fire from China, which fears it will undermine its own ballistic capabilities.

Seoul has earmarked a golf course in the southern county of Seongju owned by the Lotte Group, a food, retail and hotel operator that is South Korea's fifth-largest conglomerate, for the THAAD system. It has offered it a plot of military-owned land east of the capital in exchange.

But Lotte has significant business interests in China and has deferred a decision on whether to accept the deal.

Its Chinese projects include a sprawling three-trillion-won ($2.6 billion), 160,000-square-metre complex involving a theme park, shopping malls and a hotel in the northeastern city of Shenyang.

It was forced to stop construction in November after Chinese regulators took issue with some of its safety measures, a group spokeswoman told AFP Wednesday.

The company was not aware of any political motive behind the move, she added.

"Many people talk about potential link with the THAAD deployment over the construction suspension, but we don't know about such things," she said.

Beijing has in recent months slapped a series of measures seen by Seoul as economic retaliation over THAAD, including cancellation of visits by many South Korean celebrities popular in China.

Many South Korean firms have suffered falling sales in China due to tightened customs screening of imports from the country, while Chinese tourist numbers have fallen, according to media reports.

But when US Defense Secretary James Mattis visited Seoul last week he and acting president Hwang Kyo-Ahn vowed to push ahead with the deployment as planned this year.

 

 

North Korea Plans to Continue Satellite Launches Despite UN Objections

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:56:01 AMGo to full article
Tokyo (Sputnik) Feb 08, 2017 - North Korea intends to continue launching satellites, despite UN Security Council sanctions and resolutions. According to the newspaper Rodong Sinmun, the country will continue to launch satellites when and where its leadership determines. On February 7, 2016, North Korea put a satellite into orbit, violating UN Security Council resolutions. The move is considered threatening since the international community believes the North could use its rocket technology to develop ballistic nuclear missiles.

Pyongyang has successfully conducted five nuclear tests, including two in 2016, and has frequently made statements about the advancement of its nuclear program. In January, the North Korean Foreign Ministry announced that the country was ready to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) "anytime and anywhere."

Satellite Data Shows North Korea Tightening Security At Missile Launch Site
North Korea has beefed up security at its Sohae satellite launch station, causing some US analysts to believe that the country is preparing to test ballistic-missile technology currently banned by the United Nations.

An analysis by Joseph Bermudez, a North Korean military affairs expert, published by 38 North, a US-based website monitoring activities in the DPRK, used satellite images to confirm extensions to the station's outer and inner security perimeters.

38 North's summary stated, "While the upgrades are likely tied to the master construction plan, they may also indicate that the launch facility could soon be occupied by NADA and KPA scientists, engineers, technicians and support personnel. Upgraded security may also reflect a growing North Korean concern of intelligence collection by foreign governments using defectors from the area or outside agents to infiltrate and collect information."

Bermudez's report suggested that these extensions began in 2011, and described new guard positions and fences that had been added to areas where before there were only simple patrol paths.

"Today, the outer security perimeter is [about 17 miles] long, encompassing [nearly 11 square miles] and 12 villages," he said, adding, "The inner security perimeter is [about 12 miles] long, encompassing [nearly 6 square miles] and the Sohae launch facility proper."

The UN Security council has decried the DPRK's ballistic missile launches, describing them as "grave violations" of the organization's ban on such activity, and advised member states to pass further sanctions against Pyongyang.

After the DPRK launched a missile from a submarine on August 24, the Japanese Foreign Ministry released a statement criticizing Pyongyang saying, "[The US and Japan] agreed that North Korea's launch of a ballistic missile from a submarine on August 24 is unacceptable, and confirmed their intention to continue to stay in close cooperation on the Issue of North Korea, including at the platform of the UN Security Council."

The European Council tightened sanctions on North Korea in January, after Pyongyang claimed that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. The Council stated, "Considering that the actions of the DPRK constitute a grave threat to international peace and security in the region and beyond, the EU decided to further expand its restrictive measures targeting the DPRK's nuclear, weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes."

Photos show progress at the Punggye-ri underground nuclear test site where the bomb was said to have been detonated.

Sohae, located in the northwestern territory of Tongchang-ri, was the site of a successful long-range rocket launch in February, in which a satellite was put into orbit. This led to a controversial agreement between the US and South Korea to construct the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD), as a preemptive step to protecting the peninsula from North Korean aggression.

Source: Sputnik News

 

 

N. Korea nuclear attack would trigger 'overwhelming response': Mattis

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:56:01 AMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) Feb 3, 2017 -

Any nuclear attack by North Korea would trigger an "effective and overwhelming" response, US Defence Secretary James Mattis said Friday as he sought to reassure Asian allies rattled by President Donald Trump's isolationist rhetoric.

Mattis spoke in the South Korean capital of Seoul on the first overseas tour by a senior Trump administration official as concerns rise about the direction of US policy in the region under the protectionist and fiery leader.

He arrived in Tokyo later in the day for a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and is set to hold talks with Japanese defence minister Tomomi Inada on Saturday.

South Korea has enjoyed US security protection since the 1950-53 Korean War, but on the campaign trail, Trump threatened to withdraw US forces from it and Japan if they do not step up their financial support.

Some 28,500 US troops are based in South Korea to defend it against the nuclear-armed North, and 47,000 in Japan.

Pyongyang was continuing to "engage in threatening rhetoric and behaviour", said Mattis, who first came to the South in 1972 as a 21-year-old lieutenant in the US military.

"Any attack on the United States or our allies will be defeated and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming," Mattis told reporters ahead of a meeting with his South Korean counterpart Han Min-Koo.

He was in Seoul to "underscore America's priority commitment to our bilateral alliance" and make clear the administration's "full commitment" to defending South Korea's democracy," he said.

Han added that the alliance "reaffirms its firm will and strength to remain unwavering against all challenges and adversaries".

North Korea carried out two atomic tests and a series of missile launches last year, and casts a heavy security shadow over the region.

Leader Kim Jong-Un said in his closely-watched New Year speech that Pyongyang was in the "final stages" of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile, prompting Trump to tweet: "It won't happen!"

Ahead of his departure for Japan, Mattis laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Seoul National Cemetery, where he met several hundred supporters and Korean War veterans waving American flags and pictures of Trump.

- 'Top priority' -

On Thursday Mattis and South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn agreed to push through with the deployment of a US missile defence system strongly opposed by China.

The two confirmed that they will go ahead with the installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the South this year as planned.

Beijing fears it will undermine its own ballistic capabilities, weakening its nuclear deterrent. It has repeatedly condemned the move as destabilising regional security, and imposed measures seen as economic retaliation in South Korea.

The dispute makes it harder to convince Beijing -- the North's most important diplomatic protector and main source of aid and trade -- to act against its neighbour, analysts say.

"Deepening tensions between China and the US adds to the North's strategic value in the eyes of China," Lee Ji-Yong, a professor at South Korea's government-financed Institute for Foreign Affairs and Security told AFP.

"It will make more difficult for the US to persuade China to cooperate in pressuring the North to give up its nuclear arsenal."

Mattis' visits to South Korea and Japan, he added, were "a message that the Trump administration is giving top priority to ensuring security on the Korean peninsula against North Korea's nuclear sabre-rattling and the US is a reliable security partner in the region".

Japan's Abe -- who is scheduled to meet Trump next week in Washington -- told lawmakers he intends to press Mattis about "the significance of the Japan-US alliance".

Mattis' tour comes as relations between the US and countries such as Mexico and Australia get off to a rocky start.

The Washington Post reported late Wednesday that Trump ripped into his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull during a call last week, with the US president apparently fuming at a refugee accord he called "dumb" and cutting the conversation short.

Australia is a close US ally, and one of the so-called "Five Eyes" countries with which the US routinely shares sensitive intelligence.

Trump has meanwhile angered Mexicans by ordering the construction of a massive border wall and vowing to make their country pay for it.

 

 

US, S. Korea to 'strengthen' defenses against N. Korea

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:56:01 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Jan 30, 2017 - US President Donald Trump and South Korea's Acting President Hwang Kyo-Ahn vowed Sunday to "strengthen" their joint defense capabilities against the belligerent North, the White House said.

"President Trump reiterated our ironclad commitment to defend the ROK, including through the provision of extended deterrence, using the full range of military capabilities," the White House said in a statement, using an acronym for the South's formal name.

"The two leaders agreed to take steps to strengthen joint defense capabilities to defend against the North Korean threat."

Pentagon chief James Mattis is due to travel to South Korea on Wednesday and Japan on Friday on his first trip as defense secretary.

The trip comes amid worries in the two long-standing American allies about the direction of US policy in their region under President Donald Trump.

During his campaign, Trump threatened to withdraw US forces from the two countries if they did not step up their financial support for their defense.

But the White House insisted that the trip "reflects the close friendship between our two countries and demonstrates the importance of the US-ROK alliance."

Seoul and Washington agreed last year to install the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the South after a string of North Korean nuclear and missile tests -- prompting strong objections from China, which fears it will undermine its own ballistic capabilities.

Earlier this month, Hwang warned that North Korea's nuclear and missile capabilities are accelerating at an "unprecedented" pace, as he called for the "swift" deployment of the anti-missile system.

Within South Korea, voices opposing the THAAD installation have grown louder, with some opposition candidates pledging to scrap the agreement if they win a presidential election due this year.

The plan has also angered Beijing, which has imposed a string of measures seen in the South as economic retaliation, including effectively barring K-pop stars from performing on the mainland and not authorizing South Korean airlines to operate charter flights between the countries.

 

 

Say Hello to China's ICBMs

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎31, ‎2017, ‏‎12:38:37 PMGo to full article
Beijing (Sputnik) Jan 30, 2017 - China's alleged deployment of a DF-41 strategic ballistic missile brigade to Heilongjiang province, bordering Russia, triggered a fascinating spectacle; how to spin - or not to spin - what necessarily represents a milestone in Russia-China's strategic partnership.

The Global Times stressed Hong Kong and Taiwan media interpreted pictures of the DF-41 were taken in Heilongjiang, admitting there was no official confirmation from Beijing while hoping the "strategic edge" would soon be confirmed.

Russian media was way more explicit, with military analyst Konstantin Sivkov stressing that the DF-41, as positioned, would not be able to target Russia's Far East and most of Eastern Siberia; and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noting that "if the reports prove correct, the military build-up in China is not perceived as a threat to our country."

Of course not. The Russia-China strategic partnership, which, as I argued, needs to be broken according to Trump's shadow foreign policy adviser Henry Kissinger's strategy, is a very serious business. If there were indeed a deployment, Russian intelligence would have been fully aware. Peskov's response also pre-empted the notion this might represent a Chinese response to potential US-Russia negotiations over nuclear disarmament.

Still, all of the above did not prevent the Chinese Foreign Ministry to issue an attempt at a non-denial denial, describing the alleged deployment as "speculation and crude guesses".

Go West, young missile
The timing of the alleged deployment, with Team Trump doubling down on anti-Chinese rhetoric on their war of positioning geared to extract further trade concessions, may indeed betray a very graphic Beijing message.

The DF-41, a three-stage solid-propellant missile, with a range of up to 15,000 km and capable of delivering up to 10 MIRVed nuclear warheads, is one of the most sophisticated - and secret - ICBMS on earth.

Virtually everything about it is classified. Positioning in Heilongjiang, near the city of Daqing, close to the Russian border, implies a huge "dead zone" around it. So call it a mix of nuclear deterrence and a "message" to the ultimate target - the West Coast of the United States.

This propels the matter to an even more serious sphere than a possible upcoming crisis in the South China Sea, where the Pentagon, under the pretext of "freedom of navigation", is obsessed in maintaining "access", Trump or no Trump.

If there ever were an attempted American blockade in the South China Sea, it would be easy to take out the Chinese-developed islands/islets/rocks/shoals. But far from easy to grapple with the Chinese response; submarines with "carrier killer" missiles able to take out anything the US Navy may come up with.

Islands/islets/rocks/shoals in the South China Sea have no inherent strategic significance for the US. What their upgrading - the Beltway would say "militarization" - does represent is China's progressive attempt to eventually deny access to the US Navy.

Enter the "messenger" DF-41. The technical reasons why Russia does not see the DF-41 as a threat are simple - and may unveil the rationale behind the alleged deployment.

Beijing has been able to deploy its predecessor, the DF-31 - which is able to target Russia - for more than a decade now. And a simple analysis of distance and trajectory reveals that Heilongjiang province is the optimum location for the DF-41 to target the whole of the continental US.

It's virtually guaranteed that an official Chinese confirmation of the DF-41 deployment will accelerate a nuclear arms race, involving all players from Russia, China and the US to India and Pakistan and even North Korea.

But more than this, it will be yet another lethal blow to the Beltway's master strategy - first deployed by Dr. Zbig "Grand Chessboard" Brzezinski - of trying to prevent the emergence of any peer competitor, or worse, an alliance of peer competitors such as Russia-China.

Just at the start of the Trump era, the new reality could not be more striking. Not long ago, it was "say hello to Russia-China". Now it's "say hello to China's ICBMs."

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

Source: Sputnik News

 

 

Iran warns US not to 'create new tensions' over missiles

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎31, ‎2017, ‏‎12:38:37 PMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Jan 31, 2017 - Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday warned the United States against "creating new tensions" with Tehran over ballistic missile tests.

"We hope that Iran's defence programme is not used by the new US administration... as a pretext to create new tensions," Zarif said in a televised press conference with visiting French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault.

The UN Security Council is due to hold emergency talks called by Washington on Tuesday on Iran's recent test-firing of a medium-range missile, which Tehran has not confirmed.

Zarif said Washington -- under former president Barack Obama -- and Paris had "repeatedly confirmed" that Iran's missiles are not part of a landmark nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers.

Iran says its missiles do not breach United Nations resolutions because they are for defence purposes and not designed to carry nuclear warheads.

"We have always declared that we will never use our weapons against others except in our defence," Zarif said.

Ayrault said France had expressed its concerns over the missile tests.

"France has expressed its concern at Iran's continuation of its ballistic missile tests on several occasions," he said.

He said the continued tests are "contrary to the spirit" of the Security Council resolution which enshrined a landmark July 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, and "hamper the process of restoring the confidence established by the Vienna agreement."

The two top diplomats also criticised Trump's recent executive order banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, among them Iran, from entering the US for 90 days.

Zarif slammed the new administration's "shameful act of denying entry to people holding legal visas for that country which suffers from a poor international status", referring to the United States.

Ayrault had said after arriving in Tehran on Monday night that it would be "common sense" for Trump to scrap the travel ban.

UN Security Council to hold urgent talks on Iran missile test
United Nations, United States (AFP) Jan 31, 2017 - The UN Security Council will hold urgent talks Tuesday on Iran's test-firing of a medium-range missile, diplomats said.

The United States requested the emergency consultations after the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations called for council action.

"In light of Iran's January 29 launch of a medium-range ballistic missile, the United States has requested urgent consultations of the Security Council," the US mission said in a statement.

The talks on Iran will follow a meeting on Syria scheduled for 10:00 am (1500 GMT).

Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon said the missile test violated UN resolutions that bar Iran from launching ballistic missiles that could have a nuclear capability.

"The international community must not bury its head in the sand in the face of this Iranian aggression," said Danon.

"The Security Council members must act immediately in response to these Iranian actions which endanger not only Israel, but the entire Middle East."

It was the first request for council consultations made by the United States since new US Ambassador Nikki Haley took office.

US President Donald Trump has promised to strengthen ties with Israel and has sharply criticized the Iran nuclear deal that led to a lifting of international sanctions against Tehran.

Trump is due to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on February 15.

A Security Council resolution adopted a few days after the 2015 nuclear agreement bars Iran from developing missiles "designed to carry nuclear warheads."

Iran has said its missiles would never carry a nuclear warhead as it has no plans to develop atomic weapons, but military officials have insisted on expanding the country's missile program.

Britain, France and the United States have sought council action over Iranian missiles launches last year, but Russia and China opposed discussion of possible sanctions that they argued would jeopardize the hard-fought nuclear deal.

The deal reached with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States imposed curbs on Iran's nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions.

 

 

Trump, Saudi king back 'rigorously' enforcing Iran nuclear deal

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎31, ‎2017, ‏‎12:38:37 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Jan 30, 2017 - President Donald Trump and Saudi King Salman want to "rigorously" enforce the Iran nuclear deal, the White House said Sunday, despite the US leader's long opposition to the agreement.

The pair, in a phone conversation, also spoke of the need to address Iran's "destabilizing regional activities," fight the spread of "radical Islamic terrorism" and establish safe zones in war-ravaged Syria and Yemen, the White House statement read.

No further details were provided about those plans.

The official Saudi Press Agency early on Monday confirmed that Trump had called Salman.

It made no mention of Iran but said the views of the two leaders "were identical" on issues discussed during the call, including "confronting those who seek to undermine security and stability in the region and interfere in the internal affairs of other states."

Riyadh regularly accuses Tehran of regional interference.

SPA said Trump and Salman also agreed on "formulating the appropriate mechanisms" for countering "terrorism" and extremism.

Trump opposed the nuclear agreement signed by Israel's arch-foe Iran and world powers, including the United States, in 2015 and has said he wants to undo it.

Some of his key nominees have adopted an openly anti-Iran stance, including secretary of state candidate Rex Tillerson, who is seeking a complete revision of the accord.

Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu said last month that there were many ways of "undoing" the Iran nuclear deal and that he would discuss that with Trump.

But before he left office, former president Barack Obama warned against rowing back the pact, emphasizing its "significant and concrete results."

The deal places curbs on Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

Tehran is a major foe of both Washington and Riyadh. The Sunni majority Saudi kingdom is engaged in a power struggle with the Shiite country for dominance in the region.

Salman and Trump invited each other to visit their respective capitals, the Saudi Press Agency said.

"The two leaders agreed to schedule the visits in the coming period", it said.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have a decades-old relationship based on the exchange of American security for Saudi oil.

But ties between Riyadh and Washington became increasingly frayed during the eight-year administration of former president Barack Obama.

Saudi leaders felt Obama was reluctant to get involved in the civil war in Syria and other regional conflicts.

Riyadh's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has said he expects the Trump administration to be more engaged in the Middle East, and the world in general, while "rebuilding" relationships with allies.

Trump and King Salman "agreed on the importance of rigorously enforcing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran and of addressing Iran's destabilizing regional activities," the White House said.

Trump also spoke by telephone with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, committing to "further strengthen cooperation on fighting radical Islamic terrorism," the White House said.

It said the pair also discussed establishing safe zones for refugees displaced by conflict in the region, and the crown prince "agreed to support this initiative."

 

 

Charles Stark Draper Lab tapped for Trident guidance system production

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎31, ‎2017, ‏‎12:38:37 PMGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Jan 27, 2017 - The U.S. Navy has awarded Charles Stark Draper Laboratory with a $53 million contract for Trident D5 MK 6 guidance system production.

Under the contract, the company will perform several services for the submarine-launched ballistic missile including failure verification, testing, repairs, recertification of inertial measurement units electronic assemblies, and electronic modules.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the work will be performed in Minneapolis, Minn.; Clearwater, Fla.; Cambridge, Mass.; and Pittsfield, Mass. The work is expected to be complete by the end of January 2021.

Charles Stark Draper Laboratory received $45.6 million in Fiscal 2017 weapons procurement funds at the time of the contract award in addition to $7.8 million in funds from Britain. The Strategic Systems Programs in Washington, D.C., is listed as the contracting activity.

The Trident II D5 is a submarine-launched ballistic missile developed by Lockheed Martin. The missile was first deployed in 1990 to replace the Polaris, Poseidon, and Trident I C4 programs, and remains in service in the United States and Britain.

 

 

Netanyahu expects Trump to end Iran silence

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎31, ‎2017, ‏‎12:38:37 PMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) Jan 26, 2017 - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday he was hopeful the election of US President Donald Trump would end the world's "deafening silence" on Iranian aggression.

Speaking to dozens of diplomats from around the world ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Netanyahu warned that Iranian officials were pushing for the extermination of Jews.

"The greatest danger we face, of the hatred of the Jewish people and the Jewish state, comes from the east, from Iran," he said.

The country's leaders routinely call "to wipe out every Israeli," he added, but the international community's response is a "deafening silence".

"I believe it will change because I spoke a few days ago to President Trump and he spoke about the Iranian aggression, he spoke about Iran's commitment to destroy Israel, he spoke about the nature of this nuclear agreement and the danger it poses."

Trump opposed the nuclear agreement signed by Israel's arch-foe Iran and world powers, including the United States, in 2015 and has said he wants to undo it.

Netanyahu was also strongly against the agreement, arguing it would not prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and that the lifting of sanctions would allow the country to finance proxy militants in the Middle East.

However, some in Israel's defence establishment have reportedly told Netanyahu he should not push Trump to undo the agreement since Iran was so far in compliance and lifting it could have unpredictable consequences.

Also at Thursday's event, Netanyahu told the diplomats there was growing anti-Semitism in Europe.

"It is true that governments have shown responsibility, on the whole, in taking this up," he said.

"But it is also true that this hatred is bubbling, coming out of the cracks."

He however did not mention the outburst in anti-Semitism linked to Trump supporters in the United States during the billionaire businessman's presidential campaign.

Trump's nominee for US ambassador to Israel David Freidman, a hardline Israel supporter and defender of settlements in the occupied West Bank, did not appear to be in attendance on Thursday.

 

 

Symbolic 'Doomsday Clock' moves closer to midnight

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎31, ‎2017, ‏‎12:38:37 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Jan 26, 2017 - Comments by US President Donald Trump on nuclear weapons and climate change have helped make the world less safe, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists warned Thursday, moving its symbolic "Doomsday Clock" 30 seconds closer to midnight.

The clock -- which serves as a metaphor for how close humanity is to destroying the planet -- was last changed in 2015, from five to three minutes before midnight.

It is now set at two and a half minutes to midnight, amid concerns about "a rise in strident nationalism worldwide, President Donald Trump's comments on nuclear arms and climate issues, a darkening global security landscape that is colored by increasingly sophisticated technology, and a growing disregard for scientific expertise," said a statement by the group of scientists and intellectuals, including 15 Nobel laureates.

Trump has made contradictory statements about climate change, at times calling it a hoax and other times saying he would keep an open mind about it.

On the nuclear issue, Trump said in December that the US must build up its nuclear arsenal.

Responding to a statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that Moscow needs to strengthen its own nuclear force, Trump responded with a tweet: "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."

"The Doomsday Clock is closer to midnight than it has ever been in the lifetime of almost everyone in this room," Lawrence Krauss, chair of the Bulletin's board of sponsors, told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington.

"The last time it was closer was 63 years ago in 1953 after the then Soviet Union exploded its first hydrogen bomb, creating the modern arms race," he added.

"More than that, this is the first time that the words and stated policies of one or two people placed in high positions have so impacted on our perception of the existential threats we believe the world faces," he said, alluding to Trump and Putin.

- Imperiling democracy -

Krauss cited intelligence reports that accuse Russia of interfering with the US presidential campaign to favor Trump's victory as symbolic of the "deeper global threat" posed by cybertechnology.

"The question of whether the fabric of democracy may be imperiled by reducing faith in both the integrity of election and the very information on which an informed public can base their voting becomes suspect," said Krauss, a theoretical physicist at Arizona State University.

He also said the bulletin "is extremely concerned about the willingness of governments -- including the current US administration -- to ignore or discount some science or evidence during their decision-making process."

Last year, the warmest year in modern times due to human-driven climate change, world leaders "actually increased the threat of nuclear war and unchecked climate change through a variety of provocative statements and actions including careless rhetoric about the use of nuclear weapons," said Krauss.

An amid escalating rhetoric on the nuclear front, he called on Russia and the United States, which possess the large majority of the world's nuclear weapons, to focus in the coming year on reducing their arsenals.

"President Trump and President Putin, who claim great respect for each other, can choose to act together as statesmen or act as petulant children risking our future," he said.

"Regardless, these issues are too important to be left in the hands of a few men. We therefore call upon all people to speak out and send a loud message to your leaders that you will not allow them to needlessly threaten your future and the future of your children."

In an opinion piece published in the New York Times, Krauss and another bulletin scientist, David Titley, wrote that Trump was a key factor in their decision.

"Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person," they wrote.

"But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter."

The Doomsday Clock was created in 1947. It has changed 19 times since then, ranging from two minutes to midnight in 1953 to 17 minutes before midnight in 1991.

 

 

Days of N. Korea's Kim are numbered: defector

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎31, ‎2017, ‏‎12:38:37 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Jan 25, 2017 - The North Korean regime is on an inexorable decline towards collapse, with its people increasingly disillusioned but its nuclear ambitions undimmed, a top defector said Wednesday.

"I'm sure and I can say that Kim Jong-Un's days are numbered," said Thae Yong-Ho, who fled his post as North Korea's deputy ambassador to Britain in August.

In his first press conference for foreign correspondents, held under tight security, Thae said he was sure that more of his fellow countrymen would follow suit since North Korea was "on a downward path".

The elite were "turning their backs" on leader Kim Jong-Un, he said, adding: "The traditional structures of North Korean systems are crumbling."

Nuclear-armed North Korea has been ruled by the Kim dynasty since its foundation in 1948. It is subject to United Nations Security Council sanctions over its nuclear and missile programmes and is accused by the West of widespread human rights abuses.

Thae is among the highest-ranking defectors from the North for years. He said he had begun to waver as his diplomatic role granted him access to outside information.

His disillusionment turned to despair after Kim, who inherited power from his late father Kim Jong-Il five years ago, began ruthlessly purging officials, he added.

Kim had his own uncle and one-time political mentor Jang Song-Thaek executed in late 2013 on an array of charges, including treason and corruption.

Kim was installed as chairman of the State Affairs Commission -- a new supreme governing body -- in June, a month after his Workers' Party held its first congress in 36 years in what was widely seen as his coronation.

North Korean diplomats are generally compelled to leave one of their children behind in Pyongyang when they are dispatched abroad, but Thae was able to take both his sons, now aged 19 and 26, to London -- easing his preparations to defect.

"The Kim Jong-Un regime abuses love between parents and children to control North Korean diplomats," he said.

After Thae's defection the North's state media denounced him as "human scum" and accused him of embezzling state funds, raping a minor and spying for South Korea in exchange for money.

Pyongyang carried out two nuclear tests and a series of missile launches in 2016 and Thae said Kim was planning to "complete" its atomic development by the end of this year to take advantage of leadership transitions in South Korea and the United States.

"The only way to resolve the issue of North's nuclear threats is the elimination of Kim Jong-Un's regime," he said.

He called for continued international sanctions on Pyongyang and publicity campaigns to spread external information in the North and encourage its citizens into "popular uprisings".

Some tentative economic reforms have been put into effect in the North, but "those further down the food chain are finding life much tougher", Thae said.

Once "unthinkable" acts of low-level dissent or criticism were becoming more frequent.

 

 

China must expand nuclear arsenal in response to Trump: newspaper

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎31, ‎2017, ‏‎12:38:37 PMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Jan 24, 2017 - China must strengthen its nuclear arsenal to "force the US to respect it" in response to the stance of new US President Donald Trump, a leading newspaper said Tuesday.

The comments in the Global Times, a popular paper known for its inflammatory rhetoric and hawkish views, came just days after President Xi Jinping called for the eventual global elimination of atomic weapons.

In recent days, Chinese social media has carried pictures purporting to show an advanced intercontinental ballistic missile system deployed in the northeast.

The Dongfeng-41 is reportedly a nuclear road-mobile missile thought to have a payload of 10-12 warheads and a range of 14,000 kilometres (8,700 miles), according to the Global Times.

The paper, a subsidiary of the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily, plays to nationalist sentiment and is often believed to channel hardline views within the government.

The Global Times said some media claimed the People's Liberation Army leaked the photos as a warning to Trump.

"They think this is Beijing's response to Trump's provocative remarks on China," it added.

The US president, who took office Friday, has rattled Beijing with tough talk on trade and national security.

On Monday White House spokesman Sean Spicer warned China the US would "defend" American and international interests in the disputed South China Sea, where China has built a series of artificial islands capable of military use.

"If those islands are, in fact, in international waters and not part of China proper, yeah, we'll make sure we defend international interests from being taken over by one country," he said.

Trump's nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said last week China's access to the islands might be blocked -- raising the prospect of a military confrontation.

China lays claim to a vast stretch of the waterway within a so-called "nine dash line," including waters claimed by several of its neighbours.

The Global Times said Trump had called repeatedly for a US nuclear arms build-up.

"Even Washington feels that its naval forces and nuclear strength are lacking, so how can China be content with its current nuclear strength when it is viewed by the US as its biggest potential opponent?" it asked.

The paper said China's nuclear forces "must be so strong that no country would dare launch a military showdown" with it.

"China must procure a level of strategic military strength that will force the US to respect it."

The comments were in marked contrast to Xi's speech at the United Nations days earlier.

"Nuclear weapons should be completely prohibited and destroyed over time to make the world free of nuclear weapons," Xi said.

China has been a nuclear power since 1964.

The PLA has been flexing its muscles since Trump's election, showing off upgraded combat aircraft and new fighters. The country's only aircraft carrier entered the Taiwan Strait this month in a symbolic show of strength.

On Monday the PLA navy announced it had commissioned its fifth "carrier killer" guided-missile destroyer and delivered it to the North Sea Fleet.

The system is believed to be designed to deter the US Navy, which has the world's largest number of carriers.

 

 

UK govt accused of covering up failed nuclear missile test

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎31, ‎2017, ‏‎12:38:37 PMGo to full article
London (AFP) Jan 22, 2017 - The British government was accused on Sunday of covering up a failed test of its nuclear weapons deterrent last year, just weeks before lawmakers voted to renew the system.

Prime Minister Theresa May refused to say whether she knew about the reported malfunction of an unarmed missile when she urged MPs to support updating the Trident nuclear system.

The Sunday Times newspaper, citing a senior naval source, claimed that the Trident II D5 missile failed after being launched from a British submarine off the coast of Florida in June.

The cause of the failure is top secret but the source suggested the missile may have veered off in the wrong direction towards the United States.

"There was a major panic at the highest level of government and the military after the first test of our nuclear deterrent in four years ended in disastrous failure," the source told the paper.

"Ultimately Downing Street decided to cover up the failed test. If the information was made public, they knew how damaging it would be to the credibility of our nuclear deterrent."

The malfunction came just weeks before the House of Commons was asked on July 18 to approve the replacement of the ageing submarines that carry Britain's nuclear arsenal.

May was not prime minister at the time of the test, but she took office shortly before the vote and successfully appealed to lawmakers to approve the 41 billion pounds (47 billion euro, $50.7 billion) project.

In a BBC interview on Sunday, she sidestepped questions about whether she knew about the malfunction when she made her statement to MPs.

"What we were talking about is whether or not we should renew Trident," she said.

"I have absolute faith in our Trident missiles," she continued, adding that tests take place "regularly".

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a longstanding opponent of nuclear weapons, said it was a "pretty catastrophic error" for a missile to go in the wrong direction.

A government spokesman confirmed the Royal Navy conducted a routine test launch of an unarmed missile last June from HMS Vengeance, one of Britain's four nuclear-armed submarines.

It was "part of an operation which is designed to certify the submarine and its crew", he said.

"Vengeance and her crew were successfully tested and certified, allowing Vengeance to return into service. We have absolute confidence in our independent nuclear deterrent," he said.

Britain is one of only three nuclear-armed NATO nations, along with the United States and France.

 

 

UK minister defends 'failed' Trident missile test

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎31, ‎2017, ‏‎12:38:37 PMGo to full article
London (AFP) Jan 23, 2017 - Britain hit back on Monday against reports of a failed test of its nuclear weapons deterrent last year when an unarmed missile reportedly misfired, possibly in the direction of the United States.

"Contrary to reports in the weekend press, HMS Vengeance and her crew were successfully tested," Defence Minister Michael Fallon told lawmakers, responding to the Sunday Times article.

"We do not comment on the detail of submarine operations," Fallon said, adding: "The capability and effectiveness of the UK's independent nuclear deterrent is not in doubt."

The main opposition Labour Party accused the government of a "lack of transparency".

The Scottish National Party, which opposes the nuclear deterrent, said it was "outrageous" that members of parliament had not been informed.

The Sunday Times, citing a senior naval source, claimed that the Trident II D5 missile failed after being launched from a British submarine off the coast of Florida in June.

The source suggested the missile may have veered off in the wrong direction towards the United States instead of the intended target off the west coast of Africa.

The malfunction came just weeks before the House of Commons was asked on July 18 to approve the replacement of the ageing submarines that carry Britain's nuclear arsenal.

Theresa May was not prime minister at the time of the test, but she took office shortly before the vote and successfully appealed to MPs to approve the 41 billion pounds (47 billion euro, $50.7 billion) project.

In a BBC interview on Sunday, she sidestepped questions about whether she knew about the malfunction when she made her statement to MPs.

A Downing Street spokeswoman told reporters on Monday that May had been briefed about the test.

 

 

Russian strategic missile forces to go fully digital by 2020

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:09 AMGo to full article
Moscow (Sputnik) Jan 10, 2017 - Russia's Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) will completely switch to digital data transmission technologies by 2020, the Defense Ministry press service said in a statement.

According to the MoD press service, missile launch centers, down to the division level, as well as the SMF's Communications Center, training facilities and the Peter the Great Military Academy in Moscow and its branch in Serpukhov, are now all equipped with digital telecommunications equipment.

Over the past four years new digital communications systems for SMF divisions have been delivered to command points across the country and satellite communications centers have been modernized along with short and ultra-shortwave up radio stations and service and repair centers.

"If the current pace of modernization is maintained, by 2020 the Russian Strategic Missile Forces will be 100-percent equipped with digital data transmission technologies," the statement said.

As Many as 99% of ICBMs of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces in Combat Readiness
There are some 400 intercontinental ballistic missiles in the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, 99 percent of which are in the state of combat readiness, the commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN) said Thursday.

He also said that Russia's Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN) will do combat patrolling in new regions in 2017, including the European part of the country.

"It is necessary to stress that RVSN will explore new regions of combat patrolling within the framework of exercises in 2017," Col. Gen. Sergey Karakayev told reporters.

"At present, the RVSN group comprises some 400 intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads of various power classes. [ As many as] 99 percent of missile launchers are in the state of combat readiness."

Source: Sputnik News

 

 

US warship fires warning shots at Iranian boats in Strait of Hormuz

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:09 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Jan 9, 2017 - A US warship fired warning shots at the weekend at four Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels that approached it at high speed in the Strait of Hormuz, US defense officials said Monday.

The shots fired by the destroyer USS Mahan on Sunday put an end to the incident, which US officials denounced as "unsafe and unprofessional."

They said the crews of the small Iranian rapid attack boats were manning their weapons as they sped toward the American ship.

"Mahan established radio communications with the IRGCN vessels and issued multiple radio and visual warnings to remain clear," a US defense official said.

The Mahan also fired flares, let off smoke and sounded the ship's siren and whistle, the official said.

"Disregarding the warnings, the IRGCN vessels continued to directly approach Mahan at a high rate of speed," the official said.

"Mahan then fired three warning shots with a crew-served 50-caliber machine gun, and the IRGCN vessels arrested their high-speed approach."

A series of similar incidents took place in 2015 and early 2016 before decreasing significantly, Davis said.

The Pentagon identified 23 incidents in 2015 and 35 in the first half of 2016, the last one in August.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards are a paramilitary force that answers directly to the Islamic republic's supreme leader.

Their boats periodically approach US warships in international waters and the Strait of Hormuz, ignoring US radio messages and giving little indication of their intentions.

The US Navy regularly denounces such incidents.

General Joe Votel, the commander of US forces in the region, has expressed concern about the risk of military escalation triggered by rogue commanders.

In January last year, the Iranians briefly captured the crew of two small US patrol boats that strayed into Iranian waters.

The 10 US sailors were released 24 hours later.

At the time of Sunday's incident, the Mahan was with two other US navy ships, the USNS Walter S. Diehl and the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island.

The incident comes as President Barack Obama is preparing to make way for his successor Donald Trump in less than two weeks.

The Republican president-elect has nominated as his defense secretary retired Marine Corps general James Mattis, a tough-talking former head of Central Command who has not minced words criticizing Iran.

He is set to testify at his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Forces Committee on Thursday.

 

 

N. Korea holds mass rally to push Kim's New Year message

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:09 AMGo to full article
Pyongyang (AFP) Jan 6, 2017 - Thousands of North Koreans have rallied in Pyongyang, chanting communist slogans and vowing support for leader Kim Jong-Un, who in his New Year's message announced plans to test-fire a ballistic missile capable of reaching the US mainland.

Clad in thick winter coats and pumping their fists in the air, those assembled in Kim Il-Sung square chanted "long live comrade Kim Jong-Un" and held banners proclaiming "let us accelerate the victorious advance of socialism!"

Kim marked the New Year with a 30-minute televised speech that largely focused on the country's rise as a nuclear power, announcing that it was in the "final stages" of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile of the kind that could threaten US soil.

"The people should regard Kim Jong-Un's New Year address as a motto of life and struggle," state media KCNA quoted a party official at the rally as saying.

Kim's New Year address drew swift response from US president-elect Donald Trump, who took to Twitter vowing to halt Pyongyang in its tracks.

In 2016, North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and numerous missile launches in its quest to develop a nuclear weapons system capable of hitting the US mainland, prompting Washington to reinforce its antimissile defenses in the region.

But analysts are divided over how close Pyongyang is to realising its full nuclear ambitions, especially since it has never successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Kim also admitted to his "shortcomings" as a leader in his New Year's speech and pledged "devoted efforts" to make North Korea prosperous again.

Thae Yong-Ho, North Korea's former deputy ambassador to Britain who defected to the South in August, has referred to growing public discontent about the leadership, saying ordinary North Koreans have had to learn ways to survive on their own rather than relying on the party.

 

 

North Korea nuclear threat Trump's first challenge

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:09 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Jan 3, 2017 - North Korea's determined quest for a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland is the first major US foreign policy challenge of the Donald Trump era.

And, less than three weeks before he takes office, Trump has already plunged into these most dangerous of waters with a warning to unpredictable dictator Kim Jong-un.

Kim marked the New Year by announcing that North Korea plans to test launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) of the kind he would need to threaten US soil.

The US president-elect responded with one of his trademark Twitter taunts, vowing to halt Pyongyang in its tracks.

"North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the US," he declared. "It won't happen!"

Trump didn't provide any context for his promise but, if Kim continues to plough ahead despite the sanctions already imposed on his regime, the endgame is ominous.

"Has our next commander-in-chief issued, 18 days before his inauguration, a pledge that the US will wage pre-emptive war against the DPRK?" asked Strobe Talbott.

Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution and a former deputy secretary of state, spoke for many worried experts who fear Trump has limited diplomatic options.

US President Barack Obama's outgoing administration has pursued a policy of UN-backed sanctions targeting Kim's regime, and a call for six-party negotiations.

- Inevitable war? -

These talks would see North Korea come to the table with China, the US, South Korea, Japan and Russia to negotiate an end to the stand-off and a nuclear-free peninsula.

But, aside from China, outside states have little leverage over the pariah regime and Beijing opposes any stronger measures that might threaten to destabilize its neighbor.

Trump suggests an ICBM in the hands of an aggressive North Korean despot -- still technically at war with the United States since the 1950-53 war -- would be intolerable.

So, if sanctions don't work, is war inevitable?

Perhaps not yet, but the US military -- which has just under 30,000 troops in South Korea -- has stepped up planning for any eventual operation.

"It is the threat that keeps me awake at night," a senior defense official said. "Primarily because we don't know what the dear leader in North Korea is really after."

The senior official, speaking last month on condition of anonymity said US commanders have been reviewing options for 70 years but that the ICBM threat has focused minds.

Robert Einhorn, who until 2013 was State Department special adviser for non-proliferation and arms control, told AFP that Kim's threat to test an ICBM was not new.

"Whether they can deliver it is another story," he said.

"Many experts believe that the North may be two or three years away from having the ability confidently to deliver a nuclear payload on the continental US."

China does not want North Korea to join the small club of nations that can launch nuclear weapons half-way round the planet, but it doesn't want the regime to collapse either.

If sanctions cause Kim's authoritarian state to fall apart, China could face millions of refugees and see its neighbor Korea reunified as a US military ally.

Some once argued that Kim and his equally isolated predecessors were merely brandishing the nuclear threat to force the United States into direct negotiations.

But experts now see the pursuit of nuclear missiles as a strategic choice to deter South Korean or US aggression.

"I don't think these programs are any longer a bargaining chip. If they ever were," Einhorn said, adding that Trump will have to decide whether to seek direct contact.

- Trump unpredictable -

As with the 2015 Iran deal, any talks would have a multilateral veneer but the key elements would have to be worked out between US and North Korean diplomats.

For Einhorn, Trump will have to decide "whether the strategy will be pressure alone or whether pressure will have to go hand in hand with negotiations."

Are plans being laid for any of this? It's hard to tell from a single president-elect tweet, but absent any new plan, fears of war will continue to build.

"Kim Jong-un is the more dangerous," Einhorn said. "But the more unpredictable, at this stage, may be Donald Trump."

 

 

N. Korea plans nuclear push in 2017: top defector

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:09 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Dec 27, 2016 - North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is planning a "prime time" nuclear weapons push in 2017 to take advantage of leadership transitions in South Korea and the United States, a high-ranking defector said Tuesday.

In his first press conference since fleeing his post as North Korea's deputy ambassador to Britain in August, Thae Yong-Ho said Kim had issued a directive at a rare ruling party congress in May to "complete" nuclear development by the end of next year.

"With South Korea holding presidential elections and the US undergoing an administration transition, the North sees 2017 as the prime time for nuclear development," Thae told local reporters.

"That's based on a calculation that the US and South Korea will not be able to take physical, military measures because they are tied up with domestic politics," he added.

North Korea carried out two nuclear tests in 2016 and numerous missile launches in pursuit of its ultimate goal of a deterrent capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.

Analysts are divided as to how close Pyongyang is to realising that ambition, especially as it has never successfully tested an inter-continental ballistic missile.

But all agree it has made enormous strides in that direction since Kim took over as leader from his father, Kim Jong-Il who died in December 2011.

According to a transcript of his press conference, Thae said Kim would never trade away the North's nuclear arsenal -- no matter how large a financial incentive might be offered.

The North Korean leader's main aim is to open a new dialogue with the US from the position of a confirmed nuclear power, he said.

Washington has repeatedly vowed that it would never accept the North as a nuclear state.

Thae said he was ignorant of how much progress the North had really made with its nuclear weapons programme, saying such information was not given to diplomats.

"Even the foreign minister doesn't know," he added.

Thae was living in London when he escaped to the South with his wife and two sons -- becoming one of the highest-ranking diplomats ever to defect.

The North's state media denounced him as "human scum", and accused him of embezzling state funds, raping a minor and spying for South Korea in exchange for money.

 

 

S. Korea calls Trump's tweet 'clear warning' to North

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:09 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Jan 3, 2017 - South Korea said Tuesday that US president-elect Donald Trump had sent a "clear warning" to North Korea with a tweet dismissing Pyongyang's ballistic missile claims.

"North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the US," Trump tweeted. "It won't happen!"

Trump's tweet came a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un appeared to try to pressure the incoming president by announcing his country is in the "final stages" of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Kim also said his country had significantly bolstered its nuclear arsenal last year.

Washington has repeatedly vowed that it would never accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed nation, but Trump has not previously clearly stated his policy on the isolated Stalinist state.

"President-elect Trump's message is significant since it is his first mention of North Korea's nuclear programme and can be seen as a clear warning," South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Cho June-Hyuck told a briefing.

Cho said the incoming US administration was clearly aware of the "gravity and urgency" of Pyongyang's nuclear threat thanks to South Korea's "active outreach".

US policy on the North would remain largely unchanged, he said.

"They are maintaining an unwavering stance on the need for sanctions on North Korea," Cho said.

Trump also blasted Beijing for not doing enough to help stop North Korea's nuclear programme.

"China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the US in totally one-sided trade, but won't help with North Korea," he tweeted. "Nice!"

Following Trump's remarks, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman again declared that Beijing would "stay committed to denuclearisation" on the peninsula.

"Efforts made by the Chinese side are obvious for all to see. We hope that relevant parties would refrain from words and deeds that will lead to the escalation of tension," Geng Shuang told reporters.

In a New Year's speech on Sunday, Kim did not make a specific reference to the incoming Trump administration. But he called on Washington to make a "resolute decision to withdraw its anachronistic hostile North Korea policy".

Analysts are divided over how close Pyongyang is to realising its full nuclear ambitions, especially as it has never successfully test-fired an ICBM.

However, it carried out two nuclear tests and numerous missile launches last year alone in pursuit of its oft-stated goal -- developing a weapons system capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead.

 

 

Five questions on China-N. Korea relations

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:09 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Jan 3, 2017 - US president-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly called out China for doing too little to help stop North Korea's nuclear programme, and on Monday he took to Twitter again to blast Beijing.

"China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the US in totally one-sided trade, but won't help with North Korea," he tweeted. "Nice!"

His comments come a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un appeared to try to put pressure on Trump by announcing his country is in the "final stages" of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

"North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the US," Trump also tweeted. "It won't happen!"

But what leverage does the incoming American president really have over the hermetic nation? And what could Beijing do to stop it? Here are five questions on the China-North Korea relationship.

- Why is the North obsessed with nuclear weapons?

Pyongyang is still technically at war with the US after the Korean War of 1950-53 ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

The North Korean leadership has built its claim to domestic legitimacy on military might and says a credible nuclear deterrent is critical to the nation's survival, arguing it is under constant threat from an aggressive United States.

Although it has regularly threatened neighbouring South Korea, its main priority is developing an effective strike threat against the US mainland.

- How does China fit in?

China is North Korea's only ally, its main diplomatic protector, and its economic lifeline.

The two countries' Communist parties are linked by ideology, sympathy, and decades of history, with Chinese forces' intervention decisive in saving the North from being overrun during the Korean War.

Beijing sent vast numbers of soldiers to the peninsula, with Western historians estimating 400,000 died, and Chinese sources settling on a figure of about 180,000.

Mao Zedong described the neighbours as being as close as "lips and teeth".

Beijing's nightmare scenario is that if the Pyongyang regime collapses, millions of hungry North Koreans might flood over its border -- and the US-allied South would take over, meaning American troops could be stationed right on the Chinese border.

- Are Beijing-Pyongyang ties weakening?

Beijing regularly says it "firmly opposes" the North's nuclear tests and calls for denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Following Trump's remarks, on Tuesday a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman again declared it would "stay committed to denuclearisation" on the peninsula.

"We hope that relevant parties would refrain from words and deeds that will lead to the escalation of tension," Geng Shuang told reporters.

China sees Kim Jong-un's energetic pursuit of a nuclear programme as a source of instability, and consistently calls for the revival of six-party talks to find a solution.

But it has resisted targeting the country's fragile economy for fear of provoking an implosion.

Even so its patience with Kim is running thin and he has not visited China since taking power -- a possible sign of the Chinese Communist Party rulers' displeasure with the young leader.

- Could Beijing stop Pyongyang?

It is not clear whether China could rein in the North even if it wanted to.

Beijing has ensured that past UN Security Council resolutions on sanctions against Pyongyang have included humanitarian exemptions, and has continued to purchase huge amounts of North Korean coal -- $101 million worth in October alone -- a crucial source of foreign exchange for Pyongyang.

But the latest resolution, passed in December, had no such clause and Beijing announced it would suspend purchases of coal from the North -- for three weeks to December 31.

- What leverage does the US have?

Not much -- it has been unable to influence China's North Korea policy for years.

Washington has long pursued a policy of "strategic patience" -- essentially a refusal to engage in any significant dialogue unless Pyongyang made some tangible commitment to denuclearisation.

And impeachment of South Korea's President Park Geun-Hye -- a hardliner on Pyongyang -- could result in a more pro-engagement leader taking office, undermining Washington's efforts to pressure the North.

Trump has suggested that the US' longstanding One-China policy could be upended if Beijing does not do more to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons programme.

 

 

US condemns Pyongyang missile plan, warns against 'provocative' actions

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:09 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Jan 1, 2017 - The United States on Sunday sharply condemned a North Korean plan to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile and warned Pyongyang against "provocative actions."

The toughly worded US statement called on "all states" to show the North that any unlawful actions would have "consequences."

It was issued by the Pentagon at a sensitive time -- just weeks before President Barack Obama is due to hand power over to his successor, Donald Trump.

The statement came hours after Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, said his country was close to testing such a missile, which would be capable of reaching American shores.

"We are in the final stages of test-launching the intercontinental ballistic missile," Kim said in a televised New Year's speech, pointing to a string of nuclear and missile tests last year.

He said Pyongyang was now a "military power of the East that cannot be touched by even the strongest enemy."

The Pentagon statement noted that "multiple UN Security Council resolutions explicitly prohibit North Korea's launches using ballistic missile technology."

It urged Pyongyang to "refrain from provocative actions and inflammatory rhetoric that threaten international peace and stability."

The statement reaffirmed Washington's "ironclad commitment" to defend its allies, using "the full spectrum of US extended deterrence capabilities."

Pyongyang has never successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), and analysts are divided over how close it is to doing so.

But all agree it has made enormous strides in that direction since Kim took over as leader from his father Kim Jong-Il, who died in December 2011.

 

 

Kim says N. Korea in 'final stages of test launching ICBM'

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:09 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Jan 1, 2017 - North Korea is in the "final stages" of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile, leader Kim Jong-Un said Sunday, adding the country had significantly bolstered its nuclear deterrent in 2016.

"We are in the final stages of test-launching the intercontinental ballistic missile," Kim said in a 30-minute televised New Year's speech, pointing to a string of nuclear and missile tests last year.

Pyongyang had "soared as a nuclear power", he said, adding it was now a "military power of the East that cannot be touched by even the strongest enemy".

The country carried out two nuclear tests and numerous missile launches last year along in pursuit of its oft-stated goal -- developing a weapons system capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead.

"We have seen marvellous feats for bolstering our military power, including the fact that our preparations for test-launching an intercontinental ballistic missile are in the final stages," Kim added.

Analysts are divided over how close Pyongyang is to realising its full nuclear ambitions, especially as it has never successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

But all agree it has made enormous strides in that direction since Kim took over as leader from his father Kim Jong-Il, who died in December 2011.

A senior US defence official said last month that the North has developed the capability to pair a nuclear warhead with a missile and launch it, but has not mastered bringing the weapon back from space and onto a target.

There are growing concerns of fresh provocations by Pyongyang following last month's impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, which has left the country with a caretaker leader -- Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn.

On relations with South Korea, Kim said the North was willing to "hold hands with anyone who wishes to improve North-South ties". But he denounced Seoul for pushing inter-Korean relations to their "worst state".

"We must launch all-out efforts to pulverise actions by anti-unification forces like Park Geun-Hye," he said.

Kim called for an end to the South's annual joint military exercises with the United States -- a perennial thorn in North-South ties.

- Pressure on Trump -

"Unless they stop the war of annual exercises, the DPRK (North Korea) will keep increasing military capabilities for self-defence and preemptive striking capacity with a main emphasis on nuclear force," Kim said.

Kim, wearing black-rimmed glasses and a dark Western suit and tie, delivered his speech from behind a lectern in a wood-panelled room in the ruling Workers' Party Central Committee Office Building in Pyongyang.

No audience was shown although the address was regularly interrupted by what appeared to be canned applause.

Although Kim did not make a specific reference to the incoming Donald Trump administration, he called on Washington to make a "resolute decision to withdraw its anachronistic hostile North Korea policy".

Washington has repeatedly vowed that it would never accept the North as a nuclear state. Trump has never clearly stated his policy on the isolated state.

"North Korea is indirectly pressuring the Trump administration with its possible ICBM launch," said Kim Yong-Hyun, professor of North Korea studies at Seoul-based Dongguk University.

"It is stressing that if the US upholds its policy of pressuring the North, it will conduct an ICBM test in the first half of this year," he said.

Thae Yong-Ho, North Korea's former deputy ambassador to Britain who defected to the South in August, has said Kim was planning a "prime time" nuclear weapons push in 2017 to take advantage of leadership transitions in Washington and Seoul.

 

 

Final U.S. ship transferred to South Korean navy decommissioned

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:09 AMGo to full article
Jinhae, South Korea (UPI) Dec 29, 2016 - The South Korean navy officially decommissioned the vessel Pyeongtaek, the last ship transferred to the branch from the United States.

Pyeongtaek, an Edenton-class search-and-rescue ship, was initially in service with the U.S. Navy designated as USS Beafort. South Korea received the vessel as part of the Security Assistance Program on Aug. 29, 1996.

The ship was withdrawn from service during a ceremony military officials say highlighted a close partnership between the U.S. and South Korea.

"Beaufort had a great legacy, but the biggest legacy is not what the ship did in the U.S Navy but the continued service it provided for the ROK and US alliance," U.S. Naval Forces Korea chief Cmdr. Henry Kim said in a press release. "It is the last former U.S. ship in the ROK fleet, so today's decommissioning is important to our ROK partners and us."

Kim went on to explain how the event marked a turning point for South Korea, noting the country's growing military shipbuilding capability.

"This ceremony marks the end of an era," he continued. "This is the last U.S. ship to have served in the ROK Navy. Now each ROK ship is ROK built. That is an obvious source of pride, and as both navies progress and grow stronger, so will our alliance."

Pyeongtaek served the South Korean Navy for 20 years, and participated in various military and civilian operations including the Taean oil spill recovery in 2008. Following its decommission, the vessel will be transferred to Pyeontaek City.

 

 

 

News About Wars On Planet Earth

 

 
 
 
 

Russia using Iran airspace for Syria raids: official

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:56:50 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Feb 11, 2017 - Russian warplanes are using Iran's airspace to carry out airstrikes in Syria, an Iranian official said Saturday.

"The fact that they (Russian bombers) use Iranian airspace continues because we have total strategic cooperation with Russia," Admiral Ali Shamkhani told the Fars news agency.

Shamkhani is secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and Tehran's coordinator of political, security and military actions with Russia.

"The use of Iranian airspace by Russian aircraft is made subject to a joint decision, taking into account the need... to fight terrorism," he told the IRNA news agency.

He said Russian planes had not recently needed to land in Iran for re-supply.

Russian fighter bombers first used an Iranian military base in August 2016 to attack jihadist positions in Syria.

Iran and Russia are closely cooperating in Syria and provide political, financial and military backing to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Tehran has sent military advisors and "volunteer" fighters to support the Syrian military in its fight against rebel and jihadist groups.

Russia, Turkey differ over botched Syria strike
Moscow (AFP) Feb 10, 2017 - The Kremlin said Friday that Turkey had provided Russian forces with the target location for an air strike in Syria that accidentally killed three Turkish troops, but Ankara gave a different version of events.

"The situation is obvious, unfortunately. Our military while launching strikes on terrorists followed coordinates that were given to us by our Turkish partners," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

Along with the three killed, 11 Turkish soldiers were wounded when Thursday's strike -- which was meant to target jihadists -- hit a building where the troops were deployed, according to the Turkish army.

Peskov said the "causes of the incident are clear. There is no debate."

He said there had been a communications failure, adding: "There should not have been Turkish soldiers within the limits of these coordinates. That's why these strikes took place."

But the Turkish military said communications had been in full operation and that the army had provided its Russian counterpart with the location of its units ahead of the incident.

"The Russian armed forces attache in Ankara was invited to the chief of staff headquarters and provided by hand with the coordinates" of the Turkish units at around 20:11 GMT on Wednesday, the military said in a statement on its website.

The coordinates of the Turkish troops were also shared with personnel at the Hmeimim airbase in Syria, Moscow's main outpost for its bombing campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad, Ankara added.

The Turkish military said it regularly shared information with Russian counterparts on Syria operations as part of an agreement reached by the two countries on January 12 to "prevent units from harming each other".

"Our units hit by the (Russian) plane on February 9 have been located on the same spot for approximately 10 days," the military said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed his condolences in a telephone conversation with Turkish leader Tayyip Recip Erdogan.

The Kremlin said the leaders agreed after the incident to "enhance military coordination in the course of the operation in Syria against the Islamic State fighters and other extremist organisations".

Turkey and Russia back opposing sides in the Syrian conflict, with Moscow supporting the Assad regime but Ankara pushing for the president's ouster.

The two countries had a ferocious falling-out after a Turkish jet shot down a Russian plane on the Syrian border in November 2015, but have since mended ties and begun cooperation over Syria.

They secured a deal to evacuate Syrians from Aleppo after Russia-backed regime forces retook the city, and have joined forces against the Islamic State group around Al-Bab.

 

 

Philippine communist leader seeks renewed peace talks

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:56:50 AMGo to full article
Manila (AFP) Feb 10, 2017 - The leader of the Philippines' communist insurgency has called on President Rodrigo Duterte to revive collapsed peace talks as his rebels launched new attacks.

On Saturday, Duterte angrily scrapped talks with communist insurgents aimed at ending their decades-long conflict after both the government and the rebels called off unilateral ceasefires.

"Even if the armed conflict between the armed forces of the two parties has resumed, peace negotiations can and must continue," Jose Maria Sison, rebel leader and Communist Party of the Philippines founder, said in a statement issued from exile in the Netherlands late Thursday.

Sison, a former university instructor of Duterte, asked him to "encourage and allow back-channelling efforts to clarify misunderstandings and solve immediately the current problem".

On Thursday communist rebels killed a man, kidnapped a policeman and another man, and burned construction equipment in the southern island of Mindanao, a military report said.

They also burned a mining company's trucks in a northern mountain region.

Duterte, a self-described socialist who once boasted of his links to the communist rebels, had jump-started the 30-year-old peace process, initially vowing to end over four decades of fighting.

The president released captured rebel leaders and both sides had called separate ceasefires to pave the way for peace talks overseas.

But Duterte called off the peace talks after communist attacks left four soldiers dead last week.

Duterte has since called for the arrest of the rebel leaders he released as clashes between the 4,000-strong communist New People's Army and government forces have increased.

"There should have been a measure of restraint in his reaction in order to preserve the (government-communist) peace process," Sison said in the statement posted on his Facebook page.

There was no immediate response from the government.

The communist insurgency in the poverty-stricken country began in 1968 and is one of the longest running in the world. It has claimed an estimated 30,000 lives, according to the military.

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Syria rebels, govt invited to talks next week: Kazakhstan

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:56:50 AMGo to full article
Almaty, Kazakhstan (AFP) Feb 11, 2017 - Kazakhstan's foreign ministry announced Saturday that Syrian government officials and armed rebels are being invited to peace talks to be held next week in its capital Astana.

"It is planned to hold the latest high-level meeting within the Astana process on resolving the situation in Syria on February 15 and 16," the ministry said in a statement.

It added that those invited include "the Syrian government" and "representatives of the Syrian armed opposition," as well as UN envoy Staffan de Mistura and US observers.

The talks are being brokered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's allies Russia and Iran and rebel backer Turkey, which are all key players in the conflict.

They follow a meeting in Astana last month that ended without a breakthrough in the nearly six-year conflict, in which more than 310,000 people have died.

Those talks were expected to see the first face-to-face negotiations between the regime and the armed opposition since the conflict erupted in 2011.

The rebels refused to meet directly. However, Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed that the rebels should take part in UN-led peace talks opening in Geneva on February 20.

The next round of Astana talks will discuss observance of the ceasefire and stabilisation measures for specific areas and other "practical steps" ahead of the talks in Geneva, Kazakhstan said.

 

 

Russia air strike 'accidentally' kills 3 Turkish troops in Syria

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:56:50 AMGo to full article
Istanbul (AFP) Feb 9, 2017 - Three Turkish soldiers were "accidentally" killed and 11 wounded on Thursday when a Russian air strike targeting jihadists in Syria hit a building where the troops were deployed, the Turkish army said.

With Moscow and Ankara cooperating ever more closely on Syria, President Vladimir Putin quickly reached out to Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to express condolences and promise better future coordination.

The Russian plane had been seeking to hit targets of Islamic State (IS) jihadists but "by accident three of our heroic soldiers were martyred when a building was bombed where our units were," the Turkish army said in a statement.

It said that of the 11 injured, one was badly wounded.

Putin contacted Erdogan to express his "sadness and condolences," it added.

"Russian officials have said that the incident was an accident," the army said, adding an investigation is being carried out by both sides.

In Moscow, the Kremlin said Putin had offered Erdogan his condolences and that the leaders had "agreed to enhance military coordination" in the fight against IS in Syria.

It said the incident took place in the flashpoint IS-held town of Al-Bab where both countries have been conducting air strikes.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Russian strike took place on Thursday morning due to a "lack of agreement of coordinates during strikes by the Russian air force."

- Fight for Al-Bab -

Both sides appeared keen to move on from the incident, as was the case when an off-duty Turkish policeman shot dead Russia's ambassador to Ankara Andrei Karlov on December 19 in a crime that shocked both countries.

Then, Ankara allowed Russian investigators to work in Turkey and also gave the slain ambassador the honour of a ceremony on the tarmac of Ankara airport before his corpse was airlifted back to Russia.

The Russian defence ministry said Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov and Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar had in a call "agreed on closer coordination of joint actions".

Turkey had on August 24 began an unprecedented campaign inside Syria against IS and Kurdish militia which initially made rapid progress but has become mired in a deadly fight for the IS held town of Al-Bab since December.

The incident came with new CIA chief Mike Pompeo in Ankara for talks with Turkish officials on issues including Syria, on his first foreign visit since the inauguration of US President Donald Trump.

The fight for Al-Bab has been by far the bloodiest yet of Turkey's incursion inside Syria but the authorities have vowed to press on until its capture despite a mounting casualty toll.

Before Thursday's casualties were reported, the Dogan news agency said 66 Turkish soldiers have now been killed in the Syria operation since it began in August, mostly in attacks by IS.

- Revival in ties -

Turkey and Russia have been on sharply opposing sides in the Syria conflict, with Moscow supporting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad but Ankara pushing for his ouster as the key to peace.

Relations reached a dangerous low in November 2015 when Turkish warplanes shot down a Russian fighter jet over the Syrian border.

But a normalisation deal was reached over the summer and the two sides have been working ever more closely over the Syrian conflict.

They secured a deal to evacuate Syrians from Aleppo after the city was retaken by Assad backed by his Russian allies.

The two sides have since backed a process in the Kazakh capital Astana to search for peace to end the almost six-year civil war in Syria.

And Russian jets have on occasion carried out air strikes in Al-Bab in support of the operation.

Separate operations by Turkey and Assad's forces, backed by Moscow, has trapped the jihadists inside Al-Bab which has been besieged since Monday when Syrian forces cut off a road leading into the town.

There has been concerns of the risk of accidental contact in the busy skies above Syria although these have usually surrounded Turkey and Syrian regime forces.

Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Wednesday Turkey had been coordinating with Russia to avoid any risk of contact with the Syrian regime forces.

 

 

Two Palestinians killed in Egypt after rocket fire on Israel: Hamas

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:56:50 AMGo to full article
Gaza City, Palestinian Territories (AFP) Feb 9, 2017 - An Israeli air strike killed two Palestinians on the Egyptian side of the border with Gaza early Thursday following rocket fire from the area into Israel, the territory's Islamist rulers Hamas said.

Israel denied it had carried out any strikes over the border into Egypt's restive Sinai Peninsula in response to the rockets, which caused no casualties.

The spokesman of Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry, Ashraf al-Qudra, named the two men killed as Hossam al-Sufi, 24, and Mohammed al-Aqra, 38.

Their deaths came just hours after a volley of rockets fired from the Sinai targeted the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat, a rare assault from Egypt, which is one of just two Arab states that have signed a peace treaty with Israel.

Three rockets were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome air defence system and a fourth fell short of the town.

The Sinai is a stronghold of jihadists loyal to the Islamic State group who have waged a long-running insurgency against the Egyptian security forces but attacks on Israel are rare.

In the past, a labyrinth of smuggling tunnels linked the Sinai with Gaza. But since the 2013 overthrow of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi after a single year in power, Egyptian authorities have moved to destroy them and have set up a wide no-go zone on the Gaza border.

Qudra said five people were also wounded in what he said was an Israeli strike.

Israeli army chief spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said: "Military officials denied Israel Defence Force involvement in the reported strike."

Under the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, there are restrictions on military deployments on the Sinai border monitored by international peacekeepers.

But since the jihadists launched their deadly insurgency in the wake of Morsi's ouster, Egypt has poured troops and police into the peninsula with the blessing of Israel and Western governments.

Hundreds of Egyptian security personnel have been killed, particularly in the north Sinai near the Gaza border.

There have been periodic attacks into Israel.

In 2011, assailants who came from the Sinai killed eight Israelis in a triple ambush north of Eilat. Pursuing Israeli forces killed seven attackers and five Egyptian police.

In 2013, four jihadists were killed by an Egyptian air strike as they were about to fire a rocket at Israel, according to the Egyptian military.

And in 2014, two patrolling Israeli soldiers were wounded by unidentified men who fired an anti-tank weapon from the Sinai during an attempted drug-smuggling operation, according to the Israeli military.

In 2015, rockets fired from Sinai hit southern Israel without causing casualties. IS claimed responsibility.

 

 

Victim of Colombia's ELN rebels paints his pain

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:56:50 AMGo to full article
Cali, Colombia (AFP) Feb 9, 2017 - Juan Daniel Otoya was 10 years old when ELN guerrillas burst into the church in western Colombia where he was attending mass with his family and kidnapped 180 people.

Today, the leftist guerrillas -- the last active rebel group in Colombia -- are in peace talks with the government to end a 53-year conflict that has claimed 260,000 lives.

Otoya, meanwhile, is a 28-year-old artist who has dedicated himself to painting giant pictures of the violence perpetrated by the ELN, or National Liberation Army.

It is, he says, an important reminder of the country's bloody history as it seeks to achieve lasting peace.

It is also a form of therapy for his own terrifying childhood experience of the war.

"I am traumatized, and I decided I was going to talk about it," he told AFP.

"Victims of the conflict have long remained silent.... For me, capturing all that in a painting has been a way to get it out."

It was an ordinary Sunday in 1999 when Otoya and his family were kidnapped.

As they sat through mass at La Maria Catholic church in the city of Cali, some 20 soldiers rushed inside and said they had to evacuate the building because of a bomb.

But the "soldiers" were actually ELN rebels in disguise.

They seized 180 hostages -- one of the largest kidnappings in the history of a group that has funded itself with ransom payments.

Otoya was released almost immediately since he was so young.

But his parents and brother were held captive for six months, released only after the family paid a ransom.

Otoya lived with an uncle while they were in captivity.

It was then that he turned to painting.

"What I remember most is my mom's face -- a face I can't shake from my memory, a face of anguish at leaving me all alone," he said.

With a realistic yet dreamlike style, Otoya paints giant canvases measuring two by two meters (yards), reproducing news photographs of the La Maria kidnapping.

Painting the "atrocious act," he says, is a way to heal the wounds of "hate and powerlessness."

Achieving peace, he says, will be "a long, hard job."

But, he adds, "Let's hope it's possible."

 

 

Israel police battle ultra-Orthodox draft objectors

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:56:50 AMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) Feb 8, 2017 - Israeli police battled hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews protesting against conscription, arresting nearly 50 people overnight, a police spokesman said on Wednesday.

"There were 48 or 49 arrested across the country," Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.

Police "take zero tolerance toward violent riots" a statement said.

Police said at least three officers were injured by stones thrown by the protesters and a police photograph showed one officer bleeding from the face.

Another policeman was taken to hospital with a dislocated shoulder from scuffles with the rioters.

Police said the biggest incident was in Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighbourhood, where hundreds of rioters blocked thoroughfares, stoned police and set refuse bins ablaze.

There were similar confrontations in the town of Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem; in ultra-Orthodox Bnei Brak, adjacent to Tel Aviv, and in the southern town of Ashdod, Rosenfeld said.

The protests were apparently triggered by the earlier arrest of a young ultra-Orthodox man who refused to report to an army recruiting post to register for his compulsory three-year service.

Many ultra-Orthodox oppose military service for their young men because they believe it exposes them to influences and temptations not found in the insular world of prayer and religious study.

They see the spiritual life as no less an act of service to the Jewish state than serving in the military.

Full-time seminary students can claim exemption or deferral from the draft but they must sign on at the enlistment office in order to qualify.

Some refuse to cooperate with any part of the process as a matter of principle and are then arrested as draft-dodgers.

Military service is obligatory for Jewish Israelis after they turn 18 -- three years for men and two for women.

Ultra-Orthodox women do not serve.

 

 

Colombia opens talks with ELN rebels

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:56:50 AMGo to full article
Sangolqui, Ecuador (AFP) Feb 8, 2017 - Peace negotiators from the Colombian government and the ELN, the country's last active rebel group, got down to business behind closed doors in their first day of talks Wednesday, seeking to end a half-century conflict.

President Juan Manuel Santos's government is trying to reach a deal to bring "complete peace" to Colombia, after sealing a historic accord with the country's largest rebel group, the FARC, in November.

"We're going to negotiate seriously and quickly," the government's chief negotiator, Juan Camilo Restrepo, wrote on Twitter before the talks began.

"We hope the ELN understands that these are times of peace. And that it will have the foresight not to jump off the peace train," he said.

Neither side spoke to journalists as they arrived under police escort Wednesday morning at the Jesuit retreat where the first round of talks is being held outside the Ecuadoran capital Quito.

In an opening ceremony Tuesday, Restrepo said the initial talks would focus on two themes: humanitarian issues and trust-building measures.

He insisted the ELN renounce ransom kidnappings, one of its main funding sources. Failure to do so would make it "very difficult to advance," he warned.

The ELN's chief negotiator, Pablo Beltran, for his part called on the government to "take responsibility" for its actions during the conflict -- saying the rebels were ready to do the same.

The Cold War-era conflict, which has killed more than 260,000 people and left 60,000 missing, is the last major armed conflict in the Americas.

Colombia, South America's third economy and the world's biggest cocaine producer, has been torn since the 1960s by fighting that has drawn in multiple leftist rebel groups, right-wing paramilitaries, drug gangs and the army.

November's landmark peace accord with the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, leaves the ELN, or National Liberation Army, as the last active guerrilla insurgency.

It has an estimated 1,500 fighters.

- World watching -

Colombia has drawn world attention as a rare good news story as it has closed in on peace, first with the FARC and now the ELN.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the European Union and the Organization of American States all sent messages of encouragement.

Guterres welcomed the talks and urged "serious and productive discussions that lead promptly to a reduction of all forms of violence," his spokesman said in a statement.

The EU called on both sides to "intensify their efforts... to reach a full accord."

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro meanwhile called the ELN talks a "new impetus of hope."

The talks come after three years of secret negotiations and an embarrassing false start in October, when the ELN refused to release its most high-profile hostage, the ex-lawmaker Odin Sanchez.

A flurry of behind-the-scenes negotiations followed, leading to Sanchez's release on Thursday in exchange for two ELN prisoners.

In a further goodwill gesture on Monday, the ELN released a soldier captured two weeks earlier.

But experts warn the ELN will be a tougher negotiating partner than the FARC.

And elections in 2018 to decide Santos's successor threaten to complicate matters.

Santos has staked his presidency on the peace process, and won the Nobel Peace Prize in October for his efforts.

But he faces ongoing resistance from conservative opponents who accuse him of granting impunity to rebels guilty of war crimes.

The debate looms large over next year's elections.

Negotiators are unlikely to reach a final deal before Santos leaves office, said Frederic Masse, a political scientist at the Universidad Externado in Bogota.

"The objective, then, will be to advance far enough that there's no turning back for the next government," he said.

 

 

Telling stories of wartime childhood in Bosnian museum

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:56:50 AMGo to full article
Sarajevo (AFP) Feb 8, 2017 - Ballet slippers, tinned food and drawings by a sister killed from shelling are found among the objects in a new Sarajevo museum used to tell stories of life during Bosnia's war through the eyes of children.

An unfinished letter, kept safe by a young Bosnian woman for 20 years, was started by her mother who perished when their apartment was shelled in the Balkan country's 1992-1995 civil war.

To obtain such personal and treasured possessions, "you have to create trust," said Jasenko Halilovic, the 28-year-old founder of the newly opened War Childhood Museum.

During Bosnia's inter-ethnic conflict nearly 3,400 children were killed, including 1,500 in the capital Sarajevo. The city was besieged for 44 months by Belgrade-backed Bosnian Serb forces, who launched shells and sniper fire from the surrounding mountains.

Sarajevo still bears the scars, from the bullet holes in buildings to curved monuments in a city centre square engraved with the names of hundreds of children who lost their lives.

Among them was 17-year-old Aida, hit by artillery shells at the entrance to her family's home. She loved to draw Disney characters, including Minnie Mouse with a tear sliding down her cheek. Her sister Selma donated the sketches to the museum.

- 'Message against war' -

Some of the collection is less tragic but equally poignant. Mela Softic donated the ballet slippers she would dance in as a way to "disconnect from reality".

When she put on the ballet shoes and played some classical music, "I was no longer in war, in Sarajevo, but in a fairy tale," she recalled.

Softic, now 32, believes the museum is "the best place possible" for her cherished mementoes of that time in her life.

The collection consists of around 4,000 objects, accompanied by short texts, and those on display will be rotated so that the exhibition is renewed, said Selma Tanovic, a 36-year-old anthropologist and head of research.

Along with photos and diaries detailing the day-to-day drama, the dozens of exhibits now on display include a hat pierced with shrapnel, a makeshift stove, stuffed animals, a television and a bicycle.

"We do not mean, of course, to minimise the trauma that children have suffered," Tanovic said.

"But we want to emphasise the resistance of children, the way they overcame the cruel conditions of their childhood."

All the stories are meant to convey "a strong message against war," she said.

- Art of survival -

Filip Andronik, who was 11 when war broke out, turned his months sheltering in the basement of his building into an exercise in the art of the survival.

When his family received their first supplies of tinned meat, provided by aid workers, he decided to keep the empty packaging to joke about once the war was over.

"But the war continued, and so did the humanitarian aid," said Andronik, now a comedian and comic book writer.

He collected more than 2,000 pieces of packaging from wartime food and toiletries.

"I handed over my entire collection to the War Childhood Museum."

Halilovic, who has also compiled a book of children's wartime testimonies, wants to make the museum a platform for "dialogue and reconciliation" in Bosnia, which remains deeply divided along ethnic lines of Bosniak Muslims, Croats and Serbs.

- 'Common to all of us' -

The new museum mostly displays belongings of children from Sarajevo, a predominantly Muslim city, but Halilovic also wants to tell the stories of youngsters caught up in different sides of the conflict.

He is now looking for objects from places such as Banja Luka in the north, the capital of Bosnian Serbs, and the southern city of Mostar, divided between ethnic Croats and Muslims.

"I think it's a wonderful idea to tell the stories of children in all the cities... regardless of which side they grew up on," said Emina Omanovic, who donated her red bicycle to the museum.

"It's something common to all of us, the children who grew up during the war."

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Colombia seeks 'complete peace' at ELN talks

 
‎Yesterday, ‎February ‎12, ‎2017, ‏‎5:56:50 AMGo to full article
Quito (AFP) Feb 7, 2017 - Colombia opens peace talks Tuesday with its last active rebel group, the ELN, seeking to replicate its historic accord with the FARC guerrillas and deliver "complete peace" after 53 years of war.

But experts warn the ELN will be a tougher negotiating partner than the FARC, and say no deal is likely before President Juan Manuel Santos -- the man who has staked his presidency on ending the conflict -- leaves office next year.

Santos, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in October, was nevertheless full of optimism heading into the talks.

"This conflict is over," he said Thursday.

"The public phase of negotiations between the Colombian government and the ELN... will enable us to achieve complete peace."

The Cold War-era conflict, which has killed more than 260,000 people and left 60,000 missing, is the last major armed conflict in the Americas.

Colombia, South America's third economy and the world's biggest cocaine producer, has been torn since the 1960s by fighting that has drawn in multiple leftist rebel groups, right-wing paramilitaries, drug gangs and the army.

Last November's landmark peace accord with the oldest and largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), after four years of talks leaves the National Liberation Army (ELN) as the last active guerrilla insurgency.

It has an estimated 1,500 fighters, mostly in the north and west.

- 'More fundamentalist' than FARC -

The talks in the Ecuadoran capital Quito come after three years of secret negotiations and an embarrassing false start last in October, when the ELN refused to release their most high-profile hostage: ex-lawmaker Odin Sanchez.

A flurry of behind-the-scenes negotiations followed, leading to Sanchez's release on Thursday in exchange for two ELN prisoners.

In a further goodwill gesture on Monday, the ELN released a soldier they had captured two weeks earlier.

But there will be more bumps in the road, warned Frederic Masse, an expert on the conflict at the Universidad Externado in Bogota.

"The ELN has more fundamentalist demands than the FARC," he said.

"They want much deeper social change."

A prominent ELN commander warned ahead of the talks that the rebels would not back down on the thorny question of land rights for the rural poor -- one of the main issues in the conflict.

"As long as the necessities that were at the root of this insurgency exist, we will have to keep fighting," Danilo Hernandez, commander of the Resistencia Cimarron guerrilla front, told AFP in an interview.

- Complications: kidnappings, elections -

The talks are due to open at 5:00 pm (2200 GMT) at the Hacienda Cashapamba, a Jesuit retreat some 30 kilometers (20 miles) outside Quito.

The chief negotiators for the government and the ELN, Juan Camilo Restrepo and Pablo Beltran, will officially open the peace process before some 150 guests, plus journalists from around the world.

Negotiators will then get down to business on Wednesday, behind closed doors.

Despite Monday's hostage release, the issue of kidnappings remains a touchy subject.

Unlike the FARC, "the ELN has still not renounced kidnapping," long a source of revenue for both rebel groups, said Kyle Johnson of the International Crisis Group.

"They might kidnap someone else in the future and we'll be back in the same difficulties."

Elections in 2018 to decide Santos's successor also threaten to complicate matters.

The peace process faces ongoing resistance from conservative opponents who accuse Santos of granting impunity to rebels guilty of war crimes.

Santos had to tweak the initial FARC accord after voters narrowly rejected it in a referendum last October -- a major embarrassment for the government.

The slightly revised version was ratified in Congress, where Santos enjoys a majority.

A new poll found Tuesday that Colombians are growing less optimistic on the chances for peace. Polling firm Datexco, which interviewed 900 people nationwide on the prospects for peace, found 51.7 percent were optimistic, down from 67.4 percent in October.

 

 

UN report slams Saudi-led coalition over Yemen targets

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎31, ‎2017, ‏‎12:39:43 PMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) Jan 30, 2017 - A UN investigation of 10 air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has concluded that most of the attacks did not involve legitimate military targets and may amount to war crimes, according to a report obtained by AFP on Monday.

A UN panel of experts also said in the report that Yemen's Huthi rebels had tortured and ill-treated detainees in violations that could also amount to war crimes.

The panel investigated 10 air strikes between March and October last year that killed at least 292 civilians, including at least 100 women and children.

"In 8 of the 10 investigations, the panel found no evidence that the air strikes had targeted legitimate military objectives," said the report sent to the Security Council on Friday.

"For all 10 investigations, the panel considers it almost certain that the coalition did not meet international humanitarian law requirements of proportionality and precautions in attack."

"The panel considers that some of the attacks may amount to war crimes."

The Saudi-led coalition launched its air campaign in Yemen in March 2015 to support Yemen's President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and push back the rebels who seized Sanaa and other parts of the country.

The panel said the violations by the Saudi-led air campaign "are sufficiently widespread to reflect either an ineffective targeting process or a broader policy of attrition against civilian infrastructure."

- Warning to allies -

About 10,000 civilians have died in the war, according to UN officials, who rank the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as among the world's worst.

The bombing campaign "while devastating to Yemeni infrastructure and civilians, has failed to dent the political will of the Huthi-Saleh alliance to continue the conflict," the report said.

The Huthis are allied with forces loyal to Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is on a UN sanctions blacklist.

The panel warned that those supporting the coalition may also face UN sanctions.

Led by Saudi Arabia, the coalition includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates with some support from Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan.

The United States is offering support to logistical and intelligence activities, but the report said officers from Britain, France and Malaysia were also working at the coalition's Riyadh headquarters.

"All coalition states and their allies also have an obligation to take appropriate measure to ensure respect for international humanitarian law by the coalition," said the experts.

Saudi Arabia has rejected accusations of deliberately targeting civilians in Yemen and charges that Iran is arming the Huthis to expand its influence in the region, a claim denied by Tehran.

The experts said they had "not seen sufficient evidence to confirm any direct large-scale supply of arms" from Iran to the Huthis, but that there were "indications" that Iran-made anti-tank guided weapons were supplied to the rebels.

 

 

Air raids kill 10 Syrian civilians near IS-held Al-Bab: monitor

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎31, ‎2017, ‏‎12:39:43 PMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) Jan 28, 2017 - Air strikes killed 10 civilians including seven children in areas near a town held by the Islamic State group in north Syria on Saturday, a monitor said.

The strikes came as regime forces had advanced to within seven kilometres (four miles) of the jihadist group's bastion of Al-Bab, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Observatory said regime airstrikes killed a child in Tadif on Saturday, while Turkish air raids left nine civilians dead including six children in Al-Uraima and Bezaa.

President Bashar al-Assad's fighters have advanced towards Al-Bab from the southwest, seizing three villages since late Friday, the Observatory said.

Turkish forces, meanwhile, have gathered to the north of the town, the Britain-based monitor said.

Al-Bab has come under heavy assault in recent weeks, with Turkish, Russian and Syrian warplanes carrying out strikes in or around the town.

Turkish forces regularly carry out air strikes in support of a ground operation they launched in Syria last August targeting both IS and Kurdish fighters.

Several this month have been joint operations with Russia.

Turkish officials say the utmost is done to avoid causing civilian casualties, and have denied claims that civilians have been killed in previous raids.

The Observatory has also reported that 10 civilians were killed on Friday in Turkish air strikes and shelling in the area.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Friday that the latest round of raids had killed 22 IS "terrorists".

IS is not included in a fragile nationwide ceasefire in force since December 30 that led to peace talks jointly organised by Turkey, Russia and Iran in Kazakhstan this week.

Ankara has backed rebels since the conflict began with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in March 2011.

Moscow and Tehran have supported the government.

The Observatory, which relies on a wide network of sources inside Syria for its information, says it determines whose planes carry out raids according to type, location, flight patterns and munitions used.

France has dropped twice as many bombs on IS as in Libya: airforce chief
On An Airbase In Jordan, Jordan (AFP) Jan 30, 2017 - French warplanes have used twice as much firepower against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq as in the campaign to oust Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, according to Air Force Chief of Staff Andre Lanata.

In an interview with AFP, Lanata said Mirage jets taking off from bases in Jordan and United Arab Emirates had dropped 1,800 bombs since France joined the US-led anti-IS coalition in 2014.

The total figure, including strikes carried out by planes taking off from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, stood at 2,300, he said.

"That's twice as many as in Libya in 2011 and four times more than in the Serval and Barkhane operations (against jihadist groups in the Sahel)", Lanata said during a weekend visit to a base used by French forces in Jordan.

France, which has been targeted by a wave of jihadist attacks, ratcheted up its strikes against IS after the Paris massacre of November 2015 which was claimed by the group.

The coalition is currently focusing its strikes on the Iraqi city of Mosul -- which is being fought over by Iraqi forces and IS -- as well as the jihadists' Syrian stronghold of Raqa.

Lanata said the air campaign -- the bulk of which is being shouldered by the US, with France and Britain playing the main support roles -- was straining resources.

"I'm having a hard time (recruiting and retaining personnel) in a number of positions, from plane mechanics to intelligence officers, image analysts and base defenders."

"We also have historical capacity shortcomings," he said, pointing to aerial refuelling tankers "that are on average 55 years old" as well as a shortage of drones and other surveillance devices.

 

 

New Russia-Turkey air strikes in Syria: army

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎31, ‎2017, ‏‎12:39:43 PMGo to full article
Moscow (AFP) Jan 26, 2017 - Russian and Turkish warplanes carried out new air strikes in Syria Thursday, targeting positions of the Islamic State jihadists in the town of Al-Bab in the Aleppo region, Russia's army said Thursday.

"On January 26, the Russian and Turkish air forces conducted another joint air operation against the Islamic State group in the town of Al-Bab," the army said in a statement.

The operation involved Russia's Su-24M bombers and Su-35S fighter planes along with Turkey's F-16 and F-4 fighter jets, the army statement said.

The Russian planes "destroyed three command and communication centres and several fortified positions," it added.

Moscow and Ankara had already carried out air strikes against IS in Al-Bab on January 18 and 21, after signing an accord earlier this month to coordonate their air campaign against "terrorist targets" in Syria.

In all, 58 IS targets had been destroyed in the joint air raids, the Russian army said.

Syrian rebel backer Turkey and Damascus regime ally Russia, along with Iran, sponsored two days of Syrian peace negotiations this week between the two sides in the Kazakh capital of Astana.

The talks wrapped up on Tuesday without any tangible progress in finding a political solution to the conflict, which has claimed 310,000 lives since it started in 2011.

 

 

HRW urges Lebanon to end military trials of civilians

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎31, ‎2017, ‏‎12:39:43 PMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) Jan 26, 2017 - Lebanon tried hundreds of civilians in military courts last year, including children, Human Rights Watch said Thursday, urging an end to a practice it said undermines fair trial rights.

The rights group said Lebanese civilians can end up in military courts for any interaction with security services or their employees.

The courts are under the defence ministry's jurisdiction and conduct closed sessions, and their judges are often military officers who are not required to have any legal training.

"It has become abundantly clear that civilians cannot get a fair trial in Lebanon's military courts," said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at HRW.

"Military courts have no business trying civilians, and Lebanon should end this troubling practice."

The group said hundreds of civilians were tried before military courts in 2016, but a precise figure was not available.

The Union for Protection of Juveniles in Lebanon said the figure included 355 children.

HRW said it had received reports that defendants were being tortured during military interrogations and forced confessions, including from children, were being used as evidence.

And it said the courts "have used their broad jurisdiction to intimidate or retaliate against individuals for political reasons and to stamp out dissent".

Among those facing trial before military courts are activists arrested in 2015 for protesting government inaction over a waste collection crisis.

Fourteen protesters face up to three years in prison during a trial scheduled for later this month.

HRW urged Lebanon to open military courts up to public observers, and noted that international law prohibits the use of military courts for civilians when ordinary courts are still functioning.

"The least Lebanon can do is ensure that its citizens aren't being sentenced in secret by a specialised court behind closed doors," Fakih said.

 

 

Syria strikes kill 11 fleeing IS town: monitor

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎31, ‎2017, ‏‎12:39:43 PMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) Jan 24, 2017 - At least 11 people, including two children, were killed Tuesday in Syrian government air strikes as they fled a northern town held by the Islamic State group, a monitor said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported 12 civilians and 15 IS fighters were killed in air strikes and shelling in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor.

The monitor said the group of 11 were fleeing the embattled IS-held town of Al-Bab, near the northern border with Turkey, when they were hit in a government air strike.

The dead included at least 10 civilians, among them two children, but the identity of the 11th person killed was unclear.

The strike hit the group as they reached the nearby village of Qasr al-Bureij, also under IS control, the Observatory said.

Al-Bab in the northern province of Aleppo has come under heavy assault in recent weeks, with Turkish, Russian and Syrian warplanes carrying out strikes in or around the town.

IS is also fighting fierce battles in Deir Ezzor city, which the jihadist group has besieged since early 2015.

It already controlled half the city, but has made further advances in recent days, prompting fierce fighting and heavy air strikes by both Syria and its Russian ally.

The Observatory said air strikes by Syrian and Russian warplanes killed 12 civilians and 15 IS fighters, but the toll could rise further.

Deir Ezzor is the capital of the oil-rich province of the same name which borders Iraq.

The fighting has forced the World Food Programme to suspend air drops of aid to besieged civilians in the city, and the UN has warned food supplies could run out within weeks.

More than 310,00 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began with anti-government protests that were met with a regime crackdown.

A truce brokered by Russia and rebel backer Turkey has been in place since December 30, but it excludes IS.

 

 

Firebrand Iraq cleric warns US on Israel embassy move

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎31, ‎2017, ‏‎12:39:43 PMGo to full article
Najaf, Iraq (AFP) Jan 24, 2017 - Moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be a declaration of war on Islam, influential Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said Tuesday.

"Transferring the US embassy to Jerusalem would be a public and more-explicit-than-ever declaration of war against Islam," he said in a statement.

In a break with previous administrations, new US President Donald Trump has pledged to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and relocate the US embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Sadr, a firebrand Shiite cleric whose militia once fought US occupation forces in Iraq, called for the "formation of a special division to liberate Jerusalem were the decision to be implemented."

Sadr said the Cairo-based Arab League as well as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the world's main pan-Islamic body, should take a decisive stand on the issue or dissolve themselves.

The Najaf-based cleric also called "for the immediate closure of the US embassy in Iraq" should Washington go ahead with its promised embassy transfer in Israel.

Sadr supporters protesting against the lack of services and widespread corruption in the Iraqi state stormed the so-called "Green Zone" in Baghdad twice last year.

The protesters entered the parliament buildings and the prime minister's office but did not attempt anything against the US embassy there, which is Washington's largest foreign mission.

The United States works with Iraq on a range of issues, notably with military backing for the Iraqi offensive to retake large parts of the country seized by the Islamic State group.

The final status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest issues in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel considers Jerusalem -- including the eastern Palestinian sector it annexed in 1980 -- as its indivisible capital. The Palestinians want to make east Jerusalem the capital of their future state.

The White House on Sunday appeared to play down suggestions that a move was imminent, with press secretary Sean Spicer saying: "We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject."

 

 

Nearly 70 killed in fresh Yemen fighting

 
‎Tuesday, ‎January ‎31, ‎2017, ‏‎12:39:43 PMGo to full article
Aden (AFP) Jan 22, 2017 - Air strikes and heavy clashes between rebel and pro-government forces in Yemen had killed at least 66 people in 24 hours, medics and security sources said Sunday.

Air raids by a Saudi-led coalition and fighting near the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait killed at least 52 fighters among Shiite Huthi rebels and allied troops loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the sources said.

Fourteen members of pro-government forces were also killed.

The rebels took their dead to a military hospital in Hodeida, a major western port city they control, a medical source told AFP.

The hospital received 14 dead on Saturday and 38 on Sunday, as well as 55 wounded rebels, the source said.

On the pro-government side, 14 soldiers were killed and 22 wounded, according to medics in the southern port city of Aden where President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's government is based.

Coalition warplanes and Apache attack helicopters have been pounding rebels for several days in support of pro-Hadi forces attempting to retake the Red Sea city of Mokha, military sources said.

Pro-Hadi forces launched the vast offensive on January 7 to retake the region overlooking the Bab al-Mandab strait, a key maritime route connecting the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

By Sunday, loyalist forces were within 10 kilometres (six miles) of Mokha, they said, but the offensive has been slowed by mines laid by rebel forces.