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China’s Xi pledges to properly address differences with S.Korea — Xinhua

August 24, 2017 rbksa 0
Thu, 2017-08-24 05:06

BEIJING: China’s President Xi Jinping pledged to make concerted efforts with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in to address differences between the two countries properly, the official Xinhua news agency said on Thursday.
“Xi made the remarks in a congratulatory message sent to Moon on the 25th anniversary of the establishment of China-South Korea diplomatic relations,” Xinhua said.
Development of China-South Korea relations makes a positive contribution to regional peace and development, Xinhua cited Xi as saying. The news agency did not provide further details.
South Korea and the United States agreed to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system in response to the growing missile threat from North Korea.
However, the move has angered China, which says the system’s powerful radar will look deep into its territory and undermine regional security.
China has pressured South Korean businesses through boycotts and bans, such as ending Chinese group tours to South Korea and closing most of South Korean conglomerate Lotte Group’s Lotte Mart retail stores in China.
Moon has also pushed China, North Korea’s most important ally and trading partner, to do more to rein in Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons programs.
North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and dozens of missile tests since the beginning of last year, significantly raising tension on the heavily militarised Korean peninsula and in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions. Two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July resulted in a new round of tougher global sanctions.

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Moon blots the sun out of the sky in historic US eclipse

August 21, 2017 rbksa 0
Wed, 2017-08-23 00:13

WASHINGTON: Americans gazed in wonder through telescopes, cameras and disposable protective glasses Monday as the moon blotted out the sun in the first full-blown solar eclipse to sweep the US from coast to coast in nearly a century.
The temperature dropped and birds quieted down as the line of darkness raced across the continent.
It promised to be the most observed and photographed eclipse in history, with millions staking out prime viewing spots and settling into lawn chairs to watch, especially along the path of totality — the line of shadow created when the sun is completely obscured.
The shadow — a corridor just 60 to 70 miles (96 to 113 km) wide — came ashore in Oregon and then began traveling diagonally across the country to South Carolina, with darkness lasting only around two to three minutes in any one spot.
“The show has just begun, people! What a gorgeous day! Isn’t this great, people?” Jim Todd, a director at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, told a crowd of thousands at an amphitheater in Salem, Oregon, as the moon seemed to take an ever-bigger bite out of the sun and temperature soon dropped noticeably.
A solar eclipse is considered one of the grandest of cosmic spectacles. NASA solar physicist Alex Young said the last time earthlings had a connection like this to the heavens was during man’s first flight to the moon, on Apollo 8 in 1968. The first, famous Earthrise photo came from that mission and, like this eclipse, showed us “we are part of something bigger.”
Hoping to learn more about the sun’s composition and activity, NASA and other scientists watched and analyzed from telescopes on the ground and in orbit, the International Space Station, airplanes and scores of high-altitude balloons beaming back live video.
Citizen scientists also planned to monitor animal and plant behavior as daylight turned into twilight and the temperature dropped. Thousands of people streamed into the Nashville Zoo just to watch the animals’ reaction.
The Earth, moon and sun line up perfectly everyone to three years, briefly turning day into night for a sliver of the planet. But these sights normally are in no man’s land, like the vast Pacific or Earth’s poles. This is the first eclipse of the social media era to pass through such a heavily populated area.
The moon has not thrown this much shade at the US since 1918, during the country’s last coast-to-coast total eclipse. In fact, the US mainland has not seen a total solar eclipse since 1979 — and even then, only five states in the Northwest experienced total darkness.
The next total solar eclipse in the US will be in 2024. The next coast-to-coast one will not be until 2045.

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Millions in US get set for rare total solar eclipse
Trump watches eclipse from White House

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Trump to announce findings of Afghan policy review

August 21, 2017 rbksa 0
Tue, 2017-08-22 03:02

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump is scheduled to deliver televised remarks Monday night in which he will inform the American public about the findings of a US policy review related to Afghanistan.

Several US media outlets are reporting that he will announce the addition of 4,000 military personnel to Afghanistan, which is routinely referred to as America’s “longest war.”

It is as yet unclear whether this addition constitutes a significant departure from the policies of the previous two administrations.

The US led an international military campaign that toppled the Taliban government following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

While the Trump administration has repeatedly said defeating Daesh is its top foreign policy priority, Afghanistan continues to be beset by political divisions, economic challenges and terrorist attacks that have targeted government institutions and US military forces.

Dr. Daniel Green, defense fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Arab News that the majority of the US forces that will reportedly be sent will likely play a supporting “logistical” role to Afghan security forces

Green, a veteran of the US military and the State Department, said he anticipates that Trump might enunciate a new approach to relations with Pakistan, whose “safe havens” have been a major cause of why the war effort in Afghanistan has lasted as long as it has.

He welcomed the administration’s review, saying Trump is “asking all the right questions.”

Thomas Johnson, a scholar on Afghanistan and professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, California, expressed deep skepticism about the impact 4,000 additional US military personnel would have in stabilizing the country.

He cited a host of political, economic and social challenges, many related to a lack of institutional capacity in Afghanistan.

Johnson noted a high rate of “desertions” among Afghan troops, and said the country is in dire “need of a political settlement.”

Trump’s remarks are likely to receive extensive attention in the US and abroad, coming in the aftermath of his controversial remarks related to violent protests that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, last week. The remarks Monday night will be his first that focus on a specific foreign policy matter.

When asked by Arab News if ending the conflict in Afghanistan is central to the Trump administration’s goal of defeating Daesh, Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington said: “Yes this is an important eastern flank in the main fight against Al-Qaeda and ISIS(Daesh).” Thus, it is important that we don’t lose it, he said.

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Trump watches eclipse from White House

August 21, 2017 rbksa 0
Wed, 2017-08-23 02:28

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump squinted and pointed skyward before donning protective glasses to take in the solar eclipse at the White House.
The president was joined by wife Melania, son Barron and top aides Monday afternoon to view the spectacle from the portico overlooking the South Lawn. The White House originally said Trump would watch from the second-floor Truman balcony.
Shortly after walking outside, the president looked up at the sky, squinted and pointed upward.
“Don’t look,” one staffer yelled from the White House lawn.
Trump then donned the protective eyewear. Asked about the view, Trump gave a thumbs up.

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South Asia floods claim more than 750 lives

August 21, 2017 rbksa 0
Tue, 2017-08-22 21:34

NEW DELHI: More than 750 people have died in floods across South Asia, officials said Monday, with monsoon rains also causing the deaths of hundreds of animals, including rhinos and a tiger.
The human toll is steadily rising across India, Nepal and Bangladesh following the latest in a series of deluges since Aug. 10, as the annual monsoon hits the north and east of the region.
Nearly 50 bodies were found overnight in Bihar, in India’s east, taking the number of dead there to 253, a state disaster official told AFP.
In Nepal, 143 people have died and 30 remain missing after flooding that has destroyed close to 80,000 homes.
The heavy rain has also taken a toll on India’s wildlife, with rescue teams pulling stranded animals from raging waters in Kaziranga National Park.
The sanctuary in northeastern Assam state, home to the world’s largest population of rare one-horned rhinos and other endangered species, has been especially hard hit.
“Our teams have recovered 225 dead animals since Aug. 12. Of those, 15 were rhinos,” Kaziranga Director Satyendra Singh told AFP.
“A Bengal tiger also died in a fight with a herd of elephants. He was left injured and later could not walk or swim. It is possible that due to floods, there was a space crunch and it led to a territorial conflict.”
Nearly 200 deer, four elephant calves, four wild boars, two water buffaloes and one porcupine were among the other animals found dead in Kaziranga, which is still 20 percent under water, said Singh.
“The toll could rise further,” he added.
The mighty Brahmaputra River, which runs through Assam, often breaks its banks during the monsoon leaving marooned animals scrambling to higher, dryer ground.
Conservationists worry that poachers, hunting for lucrative rhino horn, will try and capitalize on the exodus of wildlife from the protection of the jungle.
Singh said his teams had already taken precautions, erecting barricades and increasing patrols.
The park, a tourist magnet home to about 2,500 rhinos, was given a huge publicity boost last year when Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate visited during their tour of India. But like other parts of the region, it is prone to flooding during the monsoon.
Across Assam and West Bengal, 122 people have died while 69 people have perished in Uttar Pradesh state.
In the Himalaya region in India’s northwest, landslides caused by heavy rain have claimed 54 lives, the vast majority in one huge avalanche of mud that swept two buses off a mountainside.
Across the border in Bangladesh, 115 people have died and 5.7 million are affected by raging downpours.

Main category: 
Nearly 600 dead in South Asia floods
Death toll in South Asia monsoon flooding rises to 245
41 dead in western India flood
Flooding maroons people in Indian states, eases in Nepal

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South Sudan grounds UN planes in airport row

August 21, 2017 rbksa 0
Tue, 2017-08-22 21:47

NAIROBI: South Sudan has grounded planes belonging to UN peacekeepers in a dispute over control of the airport in the capital Juba, the government said on Monday.
The move threatens to further delay the deployment of the latest 4,000 peacekeepers to be assigned to South Sudan, where civil war broke out in 2013.
“It was because the forces that were brought went to the airport to control the airport, which is not part of their mandate,” President Salva Kiir’s spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said, explaining the decision to stop UN flights.
“They cannot come here to control our airport. It is our airport and if they wanted to cooperate with us, they must refrain from (deploying in) places they are not authorized.”
Government forces are currently in control of the airport. UN officials said later in the day they had resumed the flights after the government started approving them.
“Clearances are now being issued and UNMISS’ normal operations to protect civilians and build durable peace in South Sudan have resumed,” the UN mission (UNMISS) said.
The UN Security Council agreed in August last year to deploy the so-called regional protection force (RPF) of 4,000 extra peacekeepers, mostly from Rwanda and Ethiopia, after renewed fighting broke out between troops loyal to Kiir and those backing former Vice President Riek Machar.
The RPF was to supplement a 12,000-strong UN force already on the ground, but South Sudan has been reluctant to accept it, saying it has reservations over the nationalities of the troops and the armaments they can carry.
A small batch started trickling in three months ago, but diplomats said the latest dispute could bring further delays.

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Turku stabbing suspect may have been radicalized

August 21, 2017 rbksa 0
Mon, 2017-08-21 15:06

HELSINKI: Court documents on Monday identified the suspect in last week’s stabbing spree in a Finnish city as 18-year-old Abderrahman Mechkah, who the country’s intelligence agency said may have been radicalized.
The stabbing is being probed as the country’s first-ever terror attack.
Police have previously described the suspect as an asylum seeker from Morocco.
He targeted women in the attack at a market square in the southwestern port of Turku on Friday. Two people were killed dead and eight were injured.
The motive for the attack is unclear. But the Finnish intelligence agency SUPO said Turku police had received a tip early this year that Mechkah “appeared… to have been radicalized and showed interest in extremist ideologies.”
The tip, which had been forwarded to the SUPO, “contained no information about any threat of an attack.”
Mechkah, whom police shot in the thigh while arresting him minutes after the rampage, is to appear before the Turku court on Tuesday via video link from hospital, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said.
His court appearance had initially been scheduled for Monday.
Police will ask the court to remand him in custody on suspicion of two murders and eight attempted murders “with terrorist intent.”
Investigators said on Sunday that they had interrogated the suspect for the first time, but disclosed no information about the outcome.
Police will also request the detention of four other Moroccan citizens who were arrested in an overnight raid on a Turku apartment building and refugee housing center just hours after the attack.
“They are suspected of participation in the murders and attempted murders committed with a terrorist intent. They deny any involvement in the offenses,” the NBI said.
Police said earlier that the suspect was an asylum seeker who arrived in Finland in early 2016.
The attack occurred just after 4:00 p.m. (1300 GMT) on Friday, with police shooting the knife-wielding suspect minutes later.
The two people who died were both Finnish women, born in 1951 and 1986. Six of the injured were also women, while two men were injured trying to fend off the attacker.
Among the injured were an Italian, a Swede and a Briton.
Finland raised its emergency readiness level after the attack, increasing security at airports and train stations and putting more officers on the streets.
The SUPO said authorities had received over a thousand tips in recent years similar to the one concerning Mechkah.
“Our aim is to investigate all tips, but in order to go through all of them we have to prioritize heavily. Those tips that contain information about a concrete threat must be prioritized,” it said.
In June, the SUPO raised Finland’s terror threat level by a notch, to “elevated” from “low,” the second on a four-tier scale.
It said at the time that it saw an increased risk of an attack committed by Daesh militants, noting that foreign fighters from Finland had “gained significant positions within Daesh in particular and have an extensive network of relations in the organization.”
The agency reiterated on Monday that it was closely watching around 350 individuals — an increase of 80 percent since 2012.
A minute of silence was held across Finland on Sunday in honor of the victims.
Another minute of silence was to be held in Helsinki on Monday, organized by Christian and Muslim associations.

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US Treasury chief defends Trump after criticism by classmates

August 20, 2017 rbksa 0
Sun, 2017-08-20 10:58

WASHINGTON: US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday defended President Donald Trump’s response to bloodshed following a rally of white supremacists and neo-Nazis, rejecting calls from former Yale classmates that he resign from the administration in protest.
A group of 359 people from Mnuchin’s 1985 class at the Ivy League university had signed an open letter posted Friday, saying it was his “moral obligation to resign… because President Trump has declared himself a sympathizer with groups whose values are antithetical to those values we consider fundamental to our sacred honor as Americans, as men and women of Yale, and as decent human beings.”
Mnuchin responded Saturday that he “strongly” condemned those “filled with hate and with the intent to harm others.”
“While I find it hard to believe I should have to defend myself on this, or the President, I feel compelled to let you know that the President in no way, shape or form, believes that neo-Nazi and other hate groups who endorse violence are equivalent to groups that demonstrate in peaceful and lawful ways,” Mnuchin, who is Jewish, said in a statement.
“I don’t believe the accusations against the President are accurate and I believe that having highly talented men and women in our country surrounding the President in his administration should be reassuring to you and all the Americas people.”
“As long as I am Treasury Secretary I will do the best job I can for the American people and provide the best advice I can to the President.”
On August 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia, a 20-year-old suspected Nazi sympathizer plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters, leaving one woman dead and 19 others injured.
At a press conference Tuesday at Trump Tower in New York, the president — flanked by Mnuchin — said “there was blame on both sides” following the rally by white supremacists and neo-Nazis that was met by counter-protesters.
Trump has come under fire from Republicans and Democrats alike, and his remarks spurred several CEOs to resign from White House business advisory panels. In the end Trump dissolved two of them altogether.
On Saturday, 40,000 anti-racism protesters flooded the streets of Boston, dwarfing several dozen supporters of far-right groups that had planned a “free speech” rally.

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Wildfires hit Greenland after record temperatures

August 20, 2017 rbksa 0
Mon, 2017-08-14 18:52

STOCKHOLM: Police in Greenland warned people to stay away from western areas of the island as wildfires scorched swathes of scrubland.
In a statement, the police said it “still discourages all traffic — including hiking and hunting — in two areas around Nassuttooq and Amitsorsuaq.”
“The fires are not expected to end within the next few days,” the statement added.
Some of the blazes have been burning since July 31.
Denmark’s meteorological service BMI said the island registered its hottest-ever temperature of 24.8 degrees (77 Fahrenheit) on August 10.

Latest @NASA_Landsat shows the #Greenland wildfire continues to spread [12 Aug vs 8 Aug @ESA_EO #sentinel2] @jmccarty_geo @ruth_mottram

— Stef Lhermitte (@StefLhermitte) August 14, 2017

Last year was Greenland’s hottest on record.
The Danish territory has lost about 4,000 gigatons of ice since 1995, British researchers said in June, making ice melt on the huge island the biggest single contributor to rising sea levels.

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Indonesia angered after Malaysia shows its flag as Poland’s

August 20, 2017 rbksa 0
The Associated Press
Sun, 2017-08-20 03:00

JAKARTA, Indonesia: Indonesia has accused the Malaysian organizers of the Southeast Asian Games of negligence after the Indonesian flag was printed upside down in a souvenir guidebook.
The mistake, which makes the red-and-white Indonesian flag resemble Poland’s, has caused anger in Indonesia where “shameonyoumalaysia” has become the most popular hashtag on Twitter.
Indonesia’s Olympic Committee chairman Erick Thohir said the mistake “shows negligence” and demanded the guidebook be withdrawn and a new version printed.
“Friendship is the greatest legacy in sports, but a mistake in presenting a national identity is not justified,” he said.
Indonesia appears to have taken particular offense because the guidebook was distributed to VIPs at Saturday’s opening ceremony in Kuala Lumpur for the 29th Southeast Asian Games and only its flag was shown incorrectly.
Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi said the error was “very painful.”
The Malaysian Organizing Committee said its chairman and Malaysia’s sports minister would meet with Nahrawi to apologize.
“We very much regret the mistake,” it said in a statement.
Malaysia and Indonesia are both Muslim majority nations and share a similar language but often trade accusations of stealing the other’s food and culture.
The creation of Malaysia when the British empire was dismantled after World War II was bitterly opposed by Indonesia, itself then a new nation emerging from Dutch colonial rule and a short-lived Japanese occupation.
On Twitter, Indonesians said their flag represents the sacrifices of independence heroes and accused Malaysia of either being stupid or deliberately misprinting it.
“You know, this is maybe the reason why our founding father Soekarno wanted to Kick Your Ass,” said one user.

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