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UPDATE 5-U.S. drone shot down over Yemen -officials
Wed, 21 Aug 2019 07:53:45 -0400

UPDATE 5-U.S. drone shot down over Yemen -officialsA U.S. military MQ-9 drone was shot down in Yemen's Dhamar governate, southeast of the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa, two U.S. officials told Reuters on Wednesday, the second such incident in recent months. A Houthi military spokesman had earlier said that air defenses had brought down a U.S. drone. This is not the first time a U.S. drone has been shot down in Yemen.


The U.S. buying Greenland: Joke or genius?
Tue, 20 Aug 2019 17:58:04 -0400

The U.S. buying Greenland: Joke or genius?President Trump has floated the idea of making Greenland part of the U.S. by buying the island from Denmark. Is the notion a flight of fancy or would it be a smart acquisition?


Prosecutor: Cannibalism victim was butchered 'like you wouldn't kill a livestock animal'
Wed, 21 Aug 2019 19:58:00 -0400

Prosecutor: Cannibalism victim was butchered 'like you wouldn't kill a livestock animal'Joseph Oberhansley, 38, is accused of killing his estranged girlfriend and eating parts of her brain and organs in 2014.


CNN Pundit’s Bodyguard Charged with Assault after Removing Reporter Covering Her Speech
Tue, 20 Aug 2019 12:59:00 -0400

CNN Pundit’s Bodyguard Charged with Assault after Removing Reporter Covering Her SpeechCNN pundit April Ryan's security guard has been charged with assault after he forcibly removed a local New Jersey reporter from an event at which Ryan was delivering a speech.Charlie Kravotil, editor of New Brunswick Today, claims that Ryan's bodyguard, 30-year-old Joel Morris, approached him during Ryan's speech at The Heldrich Hotel on August 3 and stole his camera after he refused to stop filming.A video of the incident shows Kravotil, who secured press credentials for the event, following Morris into the lobby of the hotel to retrieve his camera. After the local journalist reclaimed his camera, Morris grabbed his arm, placed it behind his back, and shoved him out of the hotel.Morris has been charged with harassment, assault, and theft in connection with the incident.Kravotil says he was invited to the event and was allowed to film for roughly two hours before Ryan took the stage to deliver a speech, at which point Morris stole his camera but allowed other people in the room to continue filming. He called on Ryan to apologize for the incident in a Monday tweet.“She’s been silent about the unacceptable and illegal behavior of her bodyguard, Joel Morris, and we are still waiting for her comment on this unfortunate incident,” Kravotil said in a video posted to Twitter. “Maybe now that there are criminal charges, we might hear something from her. I hope, sincerely, that she does comment and I hope she does condemn this. This is unacceptable. . . . In our country, we have freedom of the press.”Ryan is a vociferous critic of President Trump and routinely disparages him for his rhetorical attacks on the press, even authoring a book on the subject last year entitled Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House.


Woman in video of Prince Andrew at Jeffrey Epstein's house is daughter of ex-Australian prime minister
Tue, 20 Aug 2019 18:56:59 -0400

Woman in video of Prince Andrew at Jeffrey Epstein's house is daughter of ex-Australian prime ministerThe daughter of a former Australian prime minister was drawn into the scandal surrounding the Duke of York as it was claimed that Jeffrey Epstein boasted about his friendship with the royal to his alleged victims. Katherine Keating, 37, was identified as the mystery brunette seen waving goodbye to the Duke as she left Epstein's house in New York in 2010. Meanwhile, three new alleged victims sued Epstein's estate for damages. One of them claimed Epstein "bragged" about his connection to the Duke, and "controlled" a series of powerful people, threatening them on the phone. Hundreds of people connected to Epstein, and his friend Ghislaine Maxwell, through the New York social scene, are now facing questions over why they did not raise the alarm about the paedophile. Ms Keating is the daughter of Paul Keating, the former Australian prime minister who gained notoriety in the UK in 1992 when he put his arm around the Queen. The breach of protocol led to him being dubbed the "Lizard of Oz." His daughter is a former adviser to the New South Wales government and familiar face in New York society. The video footage showed a young blonde woman leaving Epstein's mansion with him. She shivered in the cold, before going back inside. Later, Ms Keating could be seen departing as the Duke peered from behind the front door. A woman believed to be the daughter of the former leader of Australia was seen leaving Jeffrey Epstein's New York house Credit: Mail on Sunday Paul Keating’s secretary said he was “aware" of the situation but would not be commenting. Ms Keating is understood to be staying with her younger sister, Alexandra, in a secluded home in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles. She has spent almost a decade in the US, in November taking up an executive role at Madonna’s record label, Maverick.   In the past she had been photographed with the Duke's daughter Eugenie, and with Miss Maxwell. In 2014 she conducted an interview with Miss Maxwell about ocean conservation for the Huffington Post. There is no suggestion that Ms Keating was involved in any of the crimes committed by Epstein, nor any wrongdoing.   Ms Keating has previously been photographed with Misha Nonoo, the fashion designer believed to have set up Meghan Markle with Prince Harry, at a 2014 New York Fashion week event. She currently lives in an apartment above an art gallery in the fashionable Cheslea district of Manhattan. The Duke of York Credit: AFP A neighbour said he had not seen Miss Keating for several days, adding "she travels a lot, she's not here much". "I don't really know her but she seems a nice person," he said.   Epstein, 66, was found dead in his cell earlier this month while awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing underage girls.  In a string of new legal cases against his estate one woman, who was 17 at the time, claimed he raped her and would brag about his friendships with high-profile figures during her years with him. Priscilla Doe, a pseudonym, was a 20-year-old aspiring dancer when she met Epstein. "Jeffrey Epstein commonly bragged that Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Prince Andrew, and the Sultan of Dubai were among his closest friends," her complaint said. "These circumstances caused Plaintiff to believe that Jeffrey Epstein and his organisation was powerful enough to cause her serious harm if she did not strictly follow his and their demands." She claimed Epstein forced her to give "sexual massages" to some of his friends but did not say who. Epstein took his own life in prison Credit: New York State Sex Offender Register The woman also claimed to have overheard Epstein on the phone. Her impression was that Epstein "controlled very powerful and influential people, and that disobeying him would cause serious repercussions for the disobedient party." Additional claims included that Miss Maxwell taught her how to perform sexual acts for Epstein, that she was forced to have sex with another man while Epstein choked her, that she had sex with Epstein while he was on "work release" from prison, and that he forced her to undergo surgery to remove moles on her body. She claimed Epstein introduced her to the Sultan of Dubai and Woody Allen, neither of whom are accused of any wrongdoing. Another complaint from an alleged victim, under the pseudonym Lisa Doe, who was a 17-year-old aspiring dancer when she met Epstein, said: "In implementing his scheme Jeffrey Epstein made it clear that there were many powerful people behind him. "In fact, some of the most powerful people in the world were his best friends. He not only surrounded himself with these types of people, he also bragged about how he controlled them." Epstein signed a will two days before taking his own life in jail. Death of a financier | Jeffrey Epstein’s final days He left his money in a trust, which could mean a long battle over his fortune as alleged victims seek damages. The estate was valued at more than $577 million (£475 million). On Tuesday night it was alleged that Prince Andrew flew on a ­private jet with Jeffrey Epstein and Virginia Roberts. In court papers, seen by The Sun, pilot David Rodgers, 66, said one trip saw Epstein, Prince Andrew and the then 17-year-old Ms Roberts travel to the US Virgin Islands. She claims Prince Andrew had sex with her when she was a teenager. He has always strenuously denied it. Buckingham Palace has branded the allegations "false and without any foundation", stating: "Any suggestion of impropriety with under-age minors" by the duke was "categorically untrue". Ms Roberts' allegations were later struck from the court record. In releasing the court papers the Federal Appeals Court in New York noted that materials submitted to a court should not be understood as firm findings or "some sort of marker of reliability".


Albania bulldozes restaurant after owner attacks tourists
Wed, 21 Aug 2019 10:17:17 -0400

Albania bulldozes restaurant after owner attacks touristsAlbanian officials on Wednesday razed a beachfront restaurant whose owner was captured on camera attacking a car rented by Spanish tourists, as the country scrambles to clean up its reputation as a burgeoning holiday destination. The incident, filmed by the victims' tour guide from inside their vehicle, took place at the weekend in Porto-Palermo on the Ionian coast in southern Albania, a popular tourist spot. The restaurant owner, 51-year-old Mihal Kokedhima, was arrested and faces trial for "verbally assaulting a group of Spanish tourists for futile reasons", damaging their car and causing minor injuries, police said.


Greece says it won't assist Iranian tanker sought by US
Wed, 21 Aug 2019 08:24:08 -0400

Greece says it won't assist Iranian tanker sought by USGreece said on Wednesday it won't endanger its relations with the United States by aiding an Iranian supertanker sought by the U.S. but released by Gibraltar that's currently in the Mediterranean Sea, believed heading for a Greek port. Deputy Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said Athens is under pressure from U.S. authorities, which claim the Iran-flagged Adrian Darya 1 is tied to a sanctioned organization. The vessel can still enter Greek waters or anchor offshore, in which case Athens will "see" what it will do, Varvitsiotis added.


Boycott the Oven With These Summer Slow Cooker Recipes
Tue, 20 Aug 2019 17:38:00 -0400

Boycott the Oven With These Summer Slow Cooker Recipes


Farmer Behind the U.S.'s Largest Organic Food Fraud Scheme Dies by Suicide
Wed, 21 Aug 2019 09:27:54 -0400

Farmer Behind the U.S.'s Largest Organic Food Fraud Scheme Dies by SuicideA Missouri farmer blamed for running the largest organic food fraud scheme in U.S. history has died by suicide, weeks before he was to report to federal prison to begin serving a 10-year term, a coroner said Tuesday.


Russia, China ask U.N. Security Council to meet Thursday over U.S. missile developments
Wed, 21 Aug 2019 15:20:09 -0400

Russia, China ask U.N. Security Council to meet Thursday over U.S. missile developmentsRussia and China have asked the United Nations Security Council to meet on Thursday over "statements by U.S. officials on their plans to develop and deploy medium-range missiles," according to the request seen by Reuters. Moscow and Beijing want to convene the 15-member council under the agenda item "threats to international peace and security" and have requested that U.N. disarmament affairs chief Izumi Nakamitsu brief the body. The Pentagon said on Monday it had tested a conventionally-configured cruise missile that hit its target after more than 500 km (310 miles) of flight, the first such test since the United States pulled out Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).


Neo-Nazi arrested over threat to exterminate Hispanics said 'I thank God every day Trump is president'
Tue, 20 Aug 2019 13:58:30 -0400

Neo-Nazi arrested over threat to exterminate Hispanics said 'I thank God every day Trump is president'A man arrested by the FBI on suspicion of threatening to kill Hispanic people in Miami allegedly wrote that he thanked God every day that Donald Trump was president.Eric Lin, 35, made a series of threats against the Hispanic community in the Miami area before being arrested in Seattle.


'Storm Area 51' event pushes rural Nevada county to declare emergency
Wed, 21 Aug 2019 09:52:25 -0400

'Storm Area 51' event pushes rural Nevada county to declare emergencyLincoln County commissioner pre-signed an emergency declaration ahead of the "Storm Area 51" raid event that's drawn more than 2 million RSVPs.


Ford's "Mustang-Inspired" Mach E Electric SUV Steps Out in Prototype Form
Wed, 21 Aug 2019 15:30:00 -0400

Ford's "Mustang-Inspired" Mach E Electric SUV Steps Out in Prototype FormSaid to arrive next year, this new battery-powered crossover promises 300 miles of range and a relatively affordable starting price.


China warns UK to stay out of its affairs after arrest of British Consul worker
Wed, 21 Aug 2019 11:31:56 -0400

China warns UK to stay out of its affairs after arrest of British Consul workerChina warned the UK not to meddle in its affairs over Hong Kong on Wednesday after the arrest of a British Consulate official worsened already strained ties between Beijing and London. Simon Cheng, 28, a trade and investment officer at the Hong Kong consulate’s Scottish Development International section, went missing on August 8 on the way back from a business event in the Chinese city of Shenzhen. Britain has said it is “extremely” concerned. News of his disappearance became public on Tuesday, prompting China on Wednesday to confirm that it was holding him on allegations of violating local law, without revealing any further details. Geng Shuang, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said the case was linked to China’s Public Security Administration Punishment Law, a statute pertaining to minor violations. Individuals can be held under administrative detention for as long as 15 days, which would be roughly until Friday. Mr Geng warned the UK to back away from the affairs of its former colony. “The British side has made a lot of erroneous remarks on Hong Kong,” Mr Geng said, urging London “to stop pointing fingers and making accusations.” "He is not a British citizen. He is a Chinese person, so this is entirely a matter of China’s internal affairs," Mr Geng said of Mr Cheng. "As for Britain's comments, we've made stern representations to Britain for the series of comments and actions they've made on Hong Kong," he said.   He also called on Britain to stop interfering in China's internal business. "Britain has made a series of wrong statements on Hong Kong. We again urge them to stop gesticulating and to stop fanning the flames," Mr Geng said. Activists gather outside the British Consulate-General building in Hong Kong  Credit: ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images In a statement issued on Facebook, Mr Cheng’s family said: “We feel very helpless, and are worried sick about Simon. We hope that Simon can return to Hong Kong as soon as possible.” Friends of Mr Cheng, staged a rally outside the British Consulate in central Hong Kong on Wednesday urging Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister and Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister “save” the young man from a Chinese jail. “Save Simon Now! Delay No More!” they chanted. Max Chung, the rally organiser, who knew Mr Cheng from his student days at the London School of Economics, accused the UK of “failing to show due diligence” towards him. “Mr Boris Johnson, the prime minister, it’s now or never!” he said. “We appeal to Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon, we urge you to save Simon. Make this your number one priority now.” Michael Mo, a fellow protester, added: “England expects every man to do his duty and we expect every British politician to honour their word.” The group was briefly admitted indoors to present a petition calling for the UK to express “specific measures” to protect British Nationals in Hong Kong and to issue a travel warning that British and foreign nationals in Hong Kong could be subjected to “enforced disappearance.” Simon Cheng, a staff member of the British Consulate in Hong Kong, was initially reported missing Emerging from the building, Mr Chung said senior officials had assured him that they were working “full throttle” to secure Mr Cheng’s freedom. However, protesters said that Mr Cheng’s predicament confirmed their worst fears about arbitrary detention by China. The Hong Kong protest movement, now in its eleventh week, began over opposition to a planned extradition law that would allow suspects to be sent to trial for the first time in China’s opaque justice system. “Simon’s case is “white terror” to everyone in Hong Kong. Because even if you haven’t voiced out your political views, you may still be considered a target, and can be arrested for no reason,” said Duff Li, a protester in his twenties. Mr Cheng’s disappearance has also revived fears about the safety of diplomatic personnel in China. The diplomatic and expat community has already been put on edge by the December detention of Michael Kovrig, a Hong Kong-based security analyst on leave from Canada’s foreign service, and by the arrest of Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur, who worked between China and North Korea.   China | Read more from The Telegraph Meanwhile, Hong Kong maintained its week long uneasy calm spell on Wednesday night when thousands of protesters gathered at the Yuen Long metro station in the New Territories district on the outskirts of the city to mark one month since a vicious assault on dozens of commuters by triad gangs. Public anger remains high over the incident, in which at least 45 people were attacked by hundreds of alleged gang members wearing white shirts and wielding sticks. The police were accused of responding too late and of being slow to arrest the perpetrators. Protesters crowding the station initially stood in silence, holding one hand over their right eye to symbolise a young female medic who was hit in the face by a police bean bag shot during a demonstration and badly injured But there were tense scenes outside the station as locals hurled angry insults at riot police. “Triad cops! Why didn’t you save us last month? Why are you coming now when nothing is happening?” shouted bystanders. Violence was close to flaring up when protesters pushed police back from the station entrance with fire extinguishers and closed the gates, briefly locking themselves inside. But while the elite Raptors squad lurked on standby, armed with bean bag guns and tear gas, not a shot was fired, and both sides retreated to brace for another weekend of protests as the pro-democracy movement heads into its 12th week.


Here's How Aliens Might See Earth
Wed, 21 Aug 2019 15:31:00 -0400

Here's How Aliens Might See EarthIt looks a bit different from the pale blue dot.


Why Kamala Harris Is Fading in the Democratic Primary
Wed, 21 Aug 2019 06:30:42 -0400

Why Kamala Harris Is Fading in the Democratic PrimaryAnew national CNN poll of the 2020 Democratic primary has some pretty brutal numbers for Kamala Harris. When CNN last polled the presidential race shortly after the first Democratic debate in June, Harris was on Joe Biden’s heels, trailing just 17 percent to 22 percent. But according to the latest survey by CNN, conducted August 15 to 18, Biden has rebounded to 29 percent, while Harris has dropped all the way down to 5 percent, tied for fourth place with South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg.What went wrong for Harris?The second Democratic debate was a clear defeat for the California senator, but it’s now also obvious that her June debate performance was a Pyrrhic victory.At the first debate, Harris staked everything on attacking Joe Biden’s record on busing. It worked for her that night: Biden’s immediate response was hapless, Harris was widely declared the winner, and she got a significant bump in the polls.But Harris’s line of attack raised an obvious and problematic question for her: Would she support reinstating the policies that Biden opposed?Logically, the answer would appear to need to be “yes.”“I support busing. Listen, the schools of America are as segregated, if not more segregated, today than when I was in elementary school,” Harris said on June 30. “Where states fail to do their duty to ensure equality of all people and in particular where states create or pass legislation that created inequality, there’s no question that the federal government has a role and a responsibility to step up.”But there was a problem for Harris: Busing policies were abandoned because they were wildly unpopular, and there’s no reason to think they’ve magically become popular. So Harris equivocated and then backtracked.That attacking Biden on busing would paint the attacker into a corner was predictable. It was in fact predicted. See, for example, the end of this article from March in National Review. (Democratic strategists: Subscribe today!)Going on the offensive and then retreating on busing made Harris seem inauthentic. And the candidate had been dogged by questions of inauthenticity since the start of her campaign because of her waffling on the issue of Medicare for All, the policy at the center of the 2020 Democratic primary.First Harris indicated at a CNN town hall that she supported abolishing private insurance, as Medicare for All proposes. Then Harris said she didn’t support abolishing private insurance: She tried to hide behind the fig leaf that Medicare for All allows “supplemental insurance,” while obscuring the fact that “supplemental coverage” would be legal for only a very small number of treatments not covered by Medicare for All, such as cosmetic surgery. And cosmetic-surgery insurance doesn’t even exist.Harris thought she’d finally figured a way out of the Medicare for All mess in July: She introduced her own plan shortly before the Democratic debates. It tried to split the difference: She promised to transition to a single-payer plan in 10 years (as opposed to Sanders’s four-year deadline). This was meant to reassure progressives that they’ll get there eventually while also reassuring moderates that there will be at least two more presidential elections before the country goes through with anything crazy.Harris’s provision of Medicare Advantage–type plans was also supposed to reassure moderates, but the second debate demonstrated that she still wasn’t ready to respond to the fact that her plan would eventually abolish existing private health plans for everyone, and she has no serious plan for how to pay for single-payer.Then there were Joe Biden’s and Representative Tulsi Gabbard’s devastating attacks on Harris’s record as a prosecutor at the second Democratic debate. “Biden alluded to a crime lab scandal that involved her office and resulted in more than 1,000 drug cases being dismissed. Gabbard claimed Harris ‘blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until she was forced to do so.’ Both of these statements are accurate,” the Sacramento Bee reported after the debate.As Harris’s backtracking on busing made clear, no one is seriously considering resurrecting the deeply unpopular policies of the 1970s. But criminal justice is very much a live issue in Democratic politics, and that’s why the attack on Harris’s record as a prosecutor has had such a greater impact than the attack on Biden’s record on busing. Biden continues to do very well among African-American voters, while Harris continues to struggle.So Harris’s problems go deeper than the fact that she had one good debate followed by one bad debate on matters of style. Both debates revealed she has serious weaknesses on matters of substance. And the hits keep coming on Medicare for All: On Monday, she was savaged by Bernie Sanders after it was reported that Harris told wealthy donors in the Hamptons that she was not “comfortable” with Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All bill, which she co-sponsored and supported until a few weeks ago. There are still five months left until the Iowa caucuses, but the past two months have demonstrated that Harris has deep problems that she can’t paper over with some well-rehearsed, well-delivered lines in subsequent debates.


The northernmost reaches of the Earth are on fire. Here's what this record-breaking hot summer looks like from space.
Wed, 21 Aug 2019 08:24:00 -0400

The northernmost reaches of the Earth are on fire. Here's what this record-breaking hot summer looks like from space.Climate change comes with a higher risk of wildfires. This summer, fires have ravaged the Arctic, and the flames can be seen from space.


Canada accused of unlawfully questioning Huawei's Meng
Wed, 21 Aug 2019 16:30:40 -0400

Canada accused of unlawfully questioning Huawei's MengLawyers for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou alleged in court documents released Wednesday that she was unlawfully detained and questioned by Canadian border agents in Vancouver last year. Border agents detained her under the pretense of an immigration matter and never alerted her to a US warrant for her arrest, questioning her for hours before eventually handing her over to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the lawyers said. "From the outset of the applicant's detention," the RCMP and border agents were acting on behalf of "the FBI for the purpose of obtaining and preserving evidence," Meng's lawyers said.


WIDER IMAGE-"I don't recommend you do this": Thailand's stealthy snake wrangler
Tue, 20 Aug 2019 19:00:33 -0400

WIDER IMAGE-"I don't recommend you do this": Thailand's stealthy snake wranglerIn the dead of night, Thai firefighter Pinyo Pukpinyo stealthily approaches a python coiled around the rafters of a home in Bangkok, and quickly grabs its head with his bare hands. "This job makes me feel like I'm a superhero," he said.


Arms Race Redux! A U.S. Intermediate Range Nuclear Missile Test Shows Russia Was Right to Worry
Wed, 21 Aug 2019 05:46:14 -0400

Arms Race Redux! A U.S. Intermediate Range Nuclear Missile Test Shows Russia Was Right to WorryScott HoweThe U.S. military has test-fired a new kind of nuclear-capable cruise missile. A weapon that, just 16 days earlier, was banned from the American and Russian arsenals under a 1987 treaty.The successful test on Sunday of an intermediate-range, ground-launched Tomahawk cruise missile reintroduces a previously defunct type of atomic weapon, effectively reversing 32 years of successful arms-control. It also appears to confirm Russia’s fears about American intentions as Washington and Moscow backslide into Cold War-style mutual mistrust. A Missile Explosion, a Radiation Spike, and Kremlin Secrecy Bring Back Memories of ChernobylThe Pentagon tried to portray the Sunday launch in California as just a boring trial. “Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform [the Defense Department’s] development of future intermediate-range capabilities,” the military stated. But to Russia, the trial launch was a huge insult. It was what Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear expert with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, called the “arms-control equivalent of a ‘Murica gif,’” a jingoistic internet meme featuring, say, a bald eagle firing a machine gun. And it’s likely to raise further the already elevated risk of nuclear war.The test-firing involved a ground-launched version of the Tomahawk cruise missile, for decades a staple of the Pentagon’s high-tech arsenal. Most Tomahawks are non-nuclear, however. The military dismantled the ground-launched, nuclear models back in 1991 in order to comply with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty that U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev negotiated in the mid-1980s and President Donald Trump finally ditched this month.The INF treaty banned from Europe all nuclear-tipped missile with ranges between 310 and 3,400 miles. The U.S. and Soviet governments considered these small, quick-striking missiles —1,500 on the Soviet side and 400 on the American side in 1987— particularly destabilizing and more likely than larger, farther-flying and slower-reacting rockets to trigger atomic Armageddon.But a few years ago the INF began to fray. In 2011, the Obama administration warned that new, intermediate-range nuclear-armed cruise missiles—under development in Russia since 2008—could violate the terms of the treaty. In mid-2013 the U.S. State Department first raised the issue with the Kremlin. Later the same year, the White House formally announced that Russia was in violation of the accord.U.S. moves helped to accelerate Russian developments. In 2015 the Pentagon began installing so-called “Aegis Ashore” missile defenses in Romania and Poland. The non-nuclear SM-3 missile-interceptors are designed to hit ballistic missiles launched by Iran at the United States.But many Russians believed the United States planned to secretly add nuclear weapons to the European missile-defense sites, all in violation of the INF treaty and as preparation for an atomic sneak-attack on the motherland. Robert Gates, defense secretary under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, had warned about that dangerous perception as far back as 2009.The Russians’ belief wasn’t unfounded. The SM-3 sites in Romania and Poland feature land-based versions of the U.S. Navy’s Mk. 41 vertical-launch system, a kind of generic metal box that can launch almost kind of missile that physically can fit inside it. Navy ships fire non-nuclear Tomahawks from Mk. 41 launchers. It always has been entirely possible for the Pentagon to equip the European sites with nuclear-tipped Tomahawks. And the Russians always have known it. “Although it was never U.S. intent to slip intermediate-range nukes through the back door of Aegis Ashore, the Russians were justifiably concerned,” Bruce Blair, a Princeton University nuclear expert, told The Daily Beast.Russia responded to this apparent threat by developing a new, treaty-busting nuclear system of its own -- the SS-C-8 cruise missile. Moscow deployed the first battery of operational SS-C-8s to its western frontier in 2017, U.S. officials claimed. A little over a year later, the Trump administration announced its intention to withdraw from the INF. “The United States will not remain party to a treaty that is deliberately violated by Russia,” the State Department stated at the time. The Trump administration completed the withdrawal process on Aug. 2. The State Department told The Daily Beast it was not yet prepared to comment further.But from the Russian point of view, it was the United States that first violated INF when, in the final years of President George W. Bush’s administration, it began the process of installing Mk. 41 launchers in Eastern Europe. “The recent Tomahawk test only bolsters their argument,” Blair said of the Russians.It’s unfair solely to blame hawkish Republican presidents for bending INF, backing the Russians into a nuclear-arms corner and then canceling a treaty that both countries seemed determined to undermine. Obama’s administration also embraced Aegis Ashore and its provocative launchers. “Obama had to know, or should have known, that the decision was a violation of the terms of the INF treaty,” Ted Postol, a nuclear expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told The Daily Beast. “Either the president wasn’t informed, or his advisors were either brain-dead or complicit in making a very bad decision.” “It would be interesting to hear what Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton have to say about this matter,” Postol added.In fairness to successive U.S. administrations, Postol said Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland would make poor nuclear-launch sites, as their fixed locations and proximity to Russia make them vulnerable to Russian attack. Spies, Lies, and Radioactivity: Russia’s Nuke Missile Mishap, DecodedBut the potential foolishness of arming the sites with nukes doesn’t necessarily diminish how dangerous they seem from the Russian perspective. Sunday’s missile test adds insult to injury, seemingly making a mockery of years of American claims that it was Russia alone that wanted to roll back decades of successful arms-control.The whole world could pay the price for America’s nuclear negligence and Russia’s acute sensitivity to even the theoretical possibility of U.S. nukes on its European border. Thanks to a decade of missteps and mutual mistrust, quick-striking nukes are back, in a big way. “No matter how one looks at this situation,” Postol said, “it makes no sense and must be considered a strategic blunder that has substantively increased the chances of an accidental nuclear war.” Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



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