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Iran's new parliament speaker says talks with US 'futile'
Sun, 31 May 2020 03:08:53 -0400

Iran's new parliament speaker says talks with US 'futile'Iran's parliament speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf said any negotiations with the United States would be "futile" as he delivered his first major speech to the conservative-dominated chamber on Sunday. Ghalibaf, a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards' air force, was elected speaker on Thursday after February elections that swung the balance in the legislature towards ultra-conservatives. The newly formed parliament "considers negotiations with and appeasement of America, as the axis of global arrogance, to be futile and harmful," said Ghalibaf.


Mosques reopen in Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem amid virus woes
Sun, 31 May 2020 02:48:28 -0400

Mosques reopen in Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem amid virus woesTens of thousands of mosques across Saudi Arabia reopened Sunday for the first time in more than two months, but worshipers have been ordered to follow strict guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as Islam's holiest site in Mecca remained closed to the public. The Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site for Muslims after Saudi Arabia's Mecca and Medina, also reopened for prayers for the first time since it was closed since mid-March. The mosque was one of Jerusalem’s many holy sites, including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Western Wall, that were restricted to worshipers at the height of Israel’s coronavirus outbreak.


The Latest: Protesters assemble at Phoenix police HQ
Sun, 31 May 2020 02:05:07 -0400

The Latest: Protesters assemble at Phoenix police HQProtesters marched the streets of downtown Phoenix and Tucson Saturday after the cities’ leaders implored them to refrain from violence. On Saturday night, however, Phoenix police had to defend the department’s headquarters. Shortly after 10 p.m., Phoenix police said a large group of protesters downtown had become an unlawful assembly, the Arizona Republic reported.


Massive protests raise fears of new virus outbreaks
Sun, 31 May 2020 01:56:47 -0400

Massive protests raise fears of new virus outbreaksThe mayor of Atlanta, one of dozens of U.S. cities hit by massive protests in recent days, has a message for demonstrators: “If you were out protesting last night, you probably need to go get a COVID test this week.” As emergency orders are lifted and beaches and businesses reopen, add protests to the list of concerns about a possible second wave of coronavirus outbreaks. It's also an issue from Paris to Hong Kong, where anti-government protesters accuse police of using social distancing rules to break up their rallies.


The Hawaii navy base fueling Trump's quest for 'super duper' missiles
Sun, 31 May 2020 01:00:03 -0400

The Hawaii navy base fueling Trump's quest for 'super duper' missilesKauai has one of the Pentagon’s most valued testing sites. It’s an economic driver, but some residents say the military shouldn’t be on the islands at allHawaii’s “garden island”, Kauai, is known for its breathtaking scenery and laid-back vibe, a place of plunging waterfalls and cliffs cloaked in green tropical forests. But beyond its beauty it is one of the Pentagon’s most valued testing and training sites in the Pacific.In Hawaii, where the military is the second-largest economic driver, after tourism, weapons testing and training enjoy widespread support, but some residents view the islands’ highly militarized state as misguided or even illegal.In missile defense circles, Kauai is known for its outsized role in weapons testing at the navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands (PMRF), which its commanding officer, Capt Timothy Young, likens to a sports stadium that provides a venue for customers (weapons manufacturers, government agencies and military branches) to train people or test new technology.That technology includes ballistic missiles, rockets, drones and hypersonic weapons. In March at PMRF, the US navy and army collaborated in the test launch of a common-hypersonic glide body, which the Pentagon described as a major milestone in its goal to enhance its “hypersonic warfighting capabilities in the early- to mid-2020s”. Donald Trump said China and Russia had left the US no choice but to develop hypersonic weapons, which he described as “super duper” missiles. Hypersonic weapons fly faster than five times the speed of sound, making it possible to hit targets thousands of miles away in minutes. The US, Russia and China are all investing heavily in them.Young declined an in-person interview but in an email said: “We test systems and facilitate the fleet’s training that ultimately enable our safety and security.”As the island’s third-largest employer, PMRF also provides jobs that are attractive in a community where the tourism and service sector often pay less and are vulnerable during disruptions like the coronavirus pandemic and associated mandatory 14-day quarantine for all visitors from outside the islands.Young said he appreciated the relationship the base has with multi-generational Hawaiian families. He added that PMRF partnered with local businesses to encourage science, technology, reading and math education. “It’s not only the right thing to do when helping to educate our young people, but it also makes good business sense to develop a local workforce.” Space force comes to HawaiiPMRF will soon be offering even more jobs on the island as Hawaii’s air national guard stands up the 293rd offensive space control squadron using existing infrastructure on the base.The squadron will be one of four units administered by the national guard in California, Colorado, Florida and Hawaii. Tasked with space electronic warfare, the squadron’s primary mission will be “to protect and defend satellite communications systems”, said Ryan Okahara, the Hawaii air national guard brigadier general.Kauai’s mayor, Derek SK Kawakami, welcomes the military presence, saying PMRF sets a good example of how a military base can be embraced by the community through its volunteer efforts, emergency relief contributions, public outreach and openness to civilians.“Whether we have a military here or not, if we’re making enemies out there, we’re a target and so it’s best to have at least a shield of defense to protect our people,” Kawakami said. “Because we have a presence here, it makes us less vulnerable than not having a presence.“Historically, Hawaii has been a strategic location for national and international defense,” the mayor continued. “I understand many people may have mixed feelings about that. For myself, I understand the importance of keeping our nation protected and our state protected.”Critics of Hawaii’s large military presence are less sanguine.Kyle Kajihiro, an instructor with the department of geography and environment at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said: “The technologies involved in these space programs are not only for defense; they can also enhance offensive capabilities. The expansion of these programs in Hawaii would cause countries who may be in the crosshairs of US war plans to perceive us as a threat.“History teaches us what happens when other powerful countries weaponize our islands … If the 2018 false missile alert did anything positive, it forced a conversation about how the massive military presence puts a big target over these islands.”Sparky Rodrigues, a Native Hawaiian activist opposed to the military in Hawaii, called the US military presence, which dates back to the 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, an illegal occupation. The bombing of Pearl Harbor, Rodrigues said, wasn’t an attack on Hawaii but on the US military.“They have basically occupied the space, taken the land, denied access to our resources from long ago, and we are now stuck with them holding the checkbook that supports our families.”That sentiment has caused a rift in the Hawaiian community. “We are being poisoned and fed at the same time,” Rodrigues said. “The military has poisoned our economy, they’ve poisoned our land, they’ve poisoned the air. Every time they do training and missile firing, there’s contamination that goes into the environment … I don’t want Hawaii to be known as the purveyor of death.” Rockets and missilesBase proponents value PMRF as a facility that can accommodate testing and training below the sea, on land, in the sky and in space. In 2018, Japan’s ground self-defense forces achieved a first when they launched Type 12 surface-to-surface missiles and Himars rockets at PMRF during the huge Rim of the Pacific maritime exercises.PMRF also hosts the Kauai test facility, operated by Sandia, one of the department of energy’s national nuclear laboratories. KTF, which has operated on Kauai since 1962, has supported more than 450 launches, including a series of experimental rocket tests in 2019 to test new technologies being considered for future nuclear weapons life-extension programs.Two of PMRF’s most important functions have been for testing Lockheed Martin’s Aegis Ashore and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems.> They have occupied the space, taken the land … and we are now stuck with them holding the checkbook that supports our families> > Sparky RodriguesThaad, which is intended to neutralize short-, medium- and limited intermediate-range ballistic missiles, is deployed in Guam, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel and South Korea.Aegis Ashore, a land adaptation of a ship-based BMD system, was introduced to a US naval base in Romania in 2016 and will deployed at a missile defense facility in Poland where it is years behind schedule and $96m over budget.Japan also plans to deploy Aegis Ashore in two locations by 2025. In 2019 and earlier this year, Japan’s defense minister traveled to PMRF to inspect the system. And while Tokyo and Washington insist Aegis Ashore is meant to defend against North Korea and Iran, both Moscow and Beijing see the system as an offensive threat.Patrick Shanahan, the former acting secretary of defense, may have stoked those fears when he announced US policy would “shift towards greater integration of offensive and defensive capabilities because missile defense necessarily includes missile offense”.PMRF’s expanding role comes at a time of heightened tensions between the US and Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. What’s more, countries around the world are facing the coronavirus pandemic and an economic freefall, with markets plunging, businesses collapsing and the world driven into crisis.The US Congress has already passed nearly $3tn in emergency response packages to the Covid-19 pandemic, as the Trump administration’s 2021 budget sharply increases spending on nuclear weapons, including a new low-yield submarine-launched nuclear weapon and a spending surge on intercontinental ballistic missiles.With the 2019 demise of the INF treaty, the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, growing worries that the US appears poised to abandon the bilateral New Start treaty, which might not be renewed in 2021, and the US Missile Defense Agency seeking new ways to use BMD systems, PMRF’s role appears likely to grow.William Hartung, the director of the arms and security project at the Center for International Policy, worries about the lack of public awareness of dramatic policy shifts or scrutiny of emerging technologies, such as hypersonic weapons, that reduce an already short response time to missile launches, as well as the further weaponization of space.“I think the economic impact of these military facilities all over the country is a big obstacle to changing how we spend our money, what kind of weapons are pursued, what nuclear policy we have, how we approach space,” Hartung said.“Because these places become entrenched, local communities depend on them economically and then there’s less inclination to question the value or the danger of the activities that are going on.”In the face of institutionalized military opacity, Hartung said there was an incentive for the military to avoid openness because “transparency can lead to criticism, criticism can lead to changes in policy, and so if they can stick to generic language and general boilerplate it may serve their interests. But they’re sort of short-term interests, they’re parochial interests.”


Police make nearly 1,400 arrests as protests continue
Sat, 30 May 2020 22:59:06 -0400

Police make nearly 1,400 arrests as protests continuePolice have arrested nearly 1,400 people in 17 U.S. cities since Thursday as protests continue over the death of George Floyd. Floyd died Monday in Minneapolis after a police officer put his knee on Floyd's neck for more than 8 minutes. The officer, Derrick Chauvin, was arrested on Friday and charged with third-degree murder.


Trump says he is postponing G7 summit
Sat, 30 May 2020 22:01:00 -0400

Trump says he is postponing G7 summitThe move comes after German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly declined to participate in an in-person summit in June.


Trump says he is postponing G7 summit
Sat, 30 May 2020 22:01:00 -0400

Trump says he is postponing G7 summitPresident Donald Trump on Saturday announced that the Group of Seven summit of world leaders would be postponed until at least September. Russia was ejected from what was then the G8 in 2014 as punishment for the annexation of Crimea. The announcement comes a day after The Associated Press and other news outlets reported that German Chancellor Angela Merkel would not attend a meeting in-person amid the coronavirus pandemic.


Trump delays G7 until fall
Sat, 30 May 2020 21:24:41 -0400

Trump delays G7 until fallEarlier Saturday, Angela Merkel said she "cannot confirm" she would be attending amid the coronavirus pandemic.


Officials blame differing groups of 'outsiders' for violence
Sat, 30 May 2020 21:17:38 -0400

Officials blame differing groups of 'outsiders' for violenceAs protests over the death of George Floyd grow in cities across the U.S., government officials have been warning of the “outsiders” -- groups of organized rioters they say are flooding into major cities not to call for justice but to cause destruction. Police officers across the country were gearing up Saturday for another night of potentially violent clashes in major cities. The finger pointing on both sides of the political spectrum is likely to deepen the political divide in the U.S., allowing politicians to advance the theory that aligns with their political view and distract from the underlying frustrations that triggered the protests.


Coronavirus in South Africa: Eight lessons for the rest of the continent
Sat, 30 May 2020 20:27:25 -0400

Coronavirus in South Africa: Eight lessons for the rest of the continentWhat South Africa can teach other African countries gearing up for a spike in infections.


President Trump postpones G7 summit one day after Angela Merkel refuses invitation
Sat, 30 May 2020 19:33:05 -0400

President Trump postpones G7 summit one day after Angela Merkel refuses invitationOne day after Angela Merkel politely rebuffed President Trump’s Group of 7 summit June invitation, President Trump has postponed the event, CNN reported late Saturday. The annual summit of the world’s top economic powers had been scheduled for June 10-12 at Camp David but ongoing worldwide coronavirus concerns made it likely there would be a postponement. Most of the seven G7 nations: America, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Japan and Italy have been walloped by the COVID-19 pandemic.


US faith leaders wrestle twin traumas in protests, virus
Sat, 30 May 2020 19:19:28 -0400

US faith leaders wrestle twin traumas in protests, virusAmerican religious leaders across faiths are grappling with the heavy burden of helping to heal two active traumas: rising civil unrest driven by the police killing of George Floyd and the coronavirus pandemic. Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders have raised their voices to condemn racial bias in the justice system while discouraging violence in response to the killing of Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck. At Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, which has provided relief and medical help to demonstrators this week as protests roiled the city, associate pastor Angela T. Khabeb said the shared pain caused by Floyd’s death was exposing the brutal double toll being exacted on people of color.


Squad cars damaged, protesters struck with batons in Chicago
Sat, 30 May 2020 17:57:59 -0400

Squad cars damaged, protesters struck with batons in ChicagoSeveral police cars were damaged, including at least one set on fire, as protests continued Saturday over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes. Officers struck multiple demonstrators with batons amid the protest near the Trump Tower on the city's Near North Side, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a 9 p.m curfew that runs until 6 a.m. Sunday.


Senator Ted Cruz asks DOJ to investigate Twitter over Iran sanctions
Sat, 30 May 2020 17:50:10 -0400

Senator Ted Cruz asks DOJ to investigate Twitter over Iran sanctionsSenator Ted Cruz is asking the Justice Department to investigate Twitter for allegedly violating Iran sanctions by refusing to ban a leader.


`Death By Racism': Part of America's DNA from the start?
Sat, 30 May 2020 16:52:50 -0400

`Death By Racism': Part of America's DNA from the start?How could you not believe that racism kills? You don’t need to see the video of George Floyd, a police officer’s knee on his neck as he struggled for his dying breaths, to know that black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than are white people. You don't need to hear the racial statistics on COVID-19 to know that black people have been affected disproportionately -- the same is true of eight of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States.


United Nations Postpones Climate Summit Until 2021
Sat, 30 May 2020 16:14:00 -0400

United Nations Postpones Climate Summit Until 2021The United Nations announced that it is postponing its annual climate summit due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It will still be hosted in Glasgow, Scotland as planned. The gathering is intended to set goals for governments around the world to deliver on climate-protection targets set under the Paris Agreement to slow global temperature increases.


U.N. Postpones Climate Summit to 2021
Sat, 30 May 2020 16:14:00 -0400

U.N. Postpones Climate Summit to 2021The United Nations announced that it is postponing its annual climate summit due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It will still be hosted in Glasgow, Scotland as planned. The gathering is intended to set goals for governments around the world to deliver on climate-protection targets set under the Paris Agreement to slow global temperature increases.


National Guard called in to quell violence in Los Angeles
Sat, 30 May 2020 15:46:37 -0400

National Guard called in to quell violence in Los AngelesThe Los Angeles mayor said National Guard troops were being sent in to the nation's second-largest city after a fourth day of violent protests Saturday saw demonstrators clash repeatedly with officers, torch police vehicles and pillage businesses. Mayor Eric Garcetti said he asked Gov. Gavin Newsom for 500 to 700 members of the Guard to assist the 10,000 Los Angeles Police Department officers. “The California National Guard is being deployed to Los Angeles overnight to support our local response to maintain peace and safety on the streets of our city," said the mayor, who ordered a rare citywide curfew until Sunday morning.