Friday, 19 January 2018

Mattis warns of 'growing threats' from Russia, China

 Defence Secretary Jim Mattis today said that America is facing "growing threats" from China and Russia, and warned that the US military's advantages have eroded in recent years.
Mattis's assessment came as he unveiled the Pentagon's vision for the future detailed in a document called the national defence strategy.
"We face growing threats from revisionist powers as different as China and Russia, nations that seek to create a world consistent with their authoritarian models," Mattis said as he unveiled the unclassified section of the document.
"Our military is still strong, yet our competitive edge has eroded in every domain of warfare -- air, land, sea, space and cyberspace -- and is continually eroding," he added.
President Donald Trump and his administration worry that the vast US military force is feeling the effects of years of budget shortfalls and atrophy, and needs a full reboot to restore it to an idealized strength.
Part wish list, part blueprint for the coming years, the Pentagon's national defense strategy seeks to increase the size of the military, improve its readiness and work with allies -- all while operating across multiple theaters including in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
"This strategy establishes my intent to pursue urgent change at significant scale," Mattis wrote in the introduction to the strategy.
"We must use creative approaches, make sustained investment and be disciplined in execution to field a Joint Force fit for our time, one that competes, deters and wins in this increasingly complex security environment."
Elbridge Colby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development, told reporters that Mattis's strategy seeks to deal with the "erosion" of America's military advantage.
"What it is recognizing is that China and Russia in particular have been assiduously working over a number of years to develop their military capabilities to challenge our military advantages," he said.
The new defense strategy follows on from Trump's national security strategy that he released last month which, similarly, highlights the role of China and Russia in the global security environment.
"China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea," Mattis wrote.
"Russia has violated the borders of nearby nations and pursues veto power over the economic, diplomatic and security decisions of its neighbors," he added, while also pointing a finger at Iran and North Korea for their threats to peace.
The two countries reacted furiously to Trump's security strategy, with Beijing accusing Washington of having a "Cold War mentality" while Moscow denounced its "imperialist character."
Trump's security strategy contrasts with the friendly nature of his first state visit to Beijing in November, when he received a lavish welcome and repeatedly praised President Xi Jinping.
One of the biggest criticisms inside the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill is that the US military is suffering from a lack of readiness, where troops and gear are not getting the training or maintenance they need.
Mattis said the United States must be ready to fight a war.
"The surest way to prevent war is to be prepared to win one," he said.
"Doing so requires a competitive approach to force development and a consistent, multiyear investment to restore war fighting readiness and field a lethal force."
Mattis's strategy also calls for greater coordination with allies, who Trump on the campaign trail lambasted for not doing enough to share the burden of defending the post-World War II order.
"We expect European allies to fulfill their commitments to increase defense and modernization spending to bolster the alliance in the face of our shared security concerns," Mattis said, in reference to NATO countries paying more into their defense budgets.
The document makes no mention of climate change, which under former president Barack Obama was recognized as a national security threat. Trump has claimed climate change is a hoax and pulled the US out of the historic climate accords in Paris. 

US weighs designating embassy in Jerusalem as early as 2019

The Trump administration is considering a plan to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem as early as next year, rather than waiting for several years.

The Trump administration is considering a plan to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem as early as next year, rather than waiting for several years.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said previously that planning is underway for a new facility in Jerusalem that will take at least three years.

In the meantime, three US officials say Tillerson may designate an existing US consular building in West Jerusalem as the interim embassy.


The officials say Tillerson hasn't made a decision.

The officials weren't authorised to discuss the situation by name and demanded anonymity.

Two of the officials say Vice President Mike Pence is pushing the State Department to accept the proposal quickly so Pence can announce it while in Israel. Pence departs Friday for the Middle East. 

Deceased Navy vet's mother denied visa, forced to miss her son's funeral

he family of Ngoc Truong, a four-year Navy veteran who recently passed away after a battle with cancer, are dealing with another tragedy. According to them, Truong’s mother was denied a visa to come to the U.S. to attend his funeral.
“He’s already done for this country, but what has this country done for him? What did this country do for him?” Truong’s father said in an interview with WREG.

Truong died Dec. 17 after suddenly being diagnosed with leukemia. Services were held Dec. 26. He was 22 years old.
Written on his headstone is a version of the famous line from President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address: “Don’t ask what your country did for you, but ask what you did for your country”.
Though born in Vietnam, Truong was a U.S. citizen. He grew up in Blytheville, Ark., and after high school enlisted in the Navy, serving aboard the USS John McCain.
After four years in the service he left the Navy in October to go to school in Florida for graphic design. It was then he was suddenly struck with the fatal illness.
Truong’s parents are divorced, and his mother lives in Vietnam. According to his father, who runs a jewelry store in Blytheville, her visa application was denied twice. The episode has left him “fuming mad.”
In a statement emailed to WREG, the State Department did not explain why Truong’s mother was denied a visa.
“Visa records are confidential under U.S. law. We are unable to discuss specific visa cases,” wrote a State Department official.

Texas judge interrupts jury, says God told him defendant is not guilty

A state district judge in Comal County said God told him to intervene in jury deliberations to sway jurors to return a not guilty verdict in the trial of a Buda woman accused of trafficking a teen girl for sex.
Judge Jack Robison apologized to jurors for the interruption, but defended his actions by telling them “when God tells me I gotta do something, I gotta do it,” according to the Herald-Zeitung in New Braunfels.
The jury went against the judge’s wishes, finding Gloria Romero-Perez guilty of continuous trafficking of a person and later sentenced her to 25 years in prison. They found her not guilty of a separate charge of sale or purchase of a child. 
Robison, who also presides in Hays and Caldwell counties, did not respond to a message left with his court coordinator, Steve Thomas, who said the case is still pending. Robison is scheduled to return to the bench in Comal County on Jan. 31.
The Herald-Zeitung reported that Robison recused himself before the trial’s sentencing phase and was replaced by Judge Gary Steele. The defendant’s attorney asked for a mistrial, but was denied.
Robison’s actions could trigger an investigation from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which has disciplined Robison in the past.
In 2011, the commission slapped Robison with a private reprimand for improperly jailing a Caldwell County grandfather who had called him a fool for a ruling Robison made in a child custody case involving the man’s granddaughter.
The reprimand, the commission’s harshest form of rebuke, said Robison “exceeded the scope of his authority and failed to comply with the law” by jailing the man for contempt of court without a hearing or advance notice of the charge.
The act of intervening in a jury’s deliberations is not addressed in the state’s list of judicial canons, which serves as an ethical code for judges. However, it states judges shall “comply with the law and should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”
Eric Vinson, executive director for the commission, said he would not be able to confirm or deny if a complaint had been filed against Robison.

Passenger turned away from two flights after wearing 10 layers of clothing to avoid luggage fee

 A man travelling from Iceland to London was turned away from a British Airways flight after he wore eight pairs of pants and 10 shirts to avoid paying for excess luggage.  
Ryan Carney Williams, who goes by the name Ryan Hawaii, was due to fly from Keflavik airport on Wednesday when he was refused a boarding pass by the airline. 
He was reportedly stopped from boarding his flight back to the UK after he put on all the clothes that wouldn't fit in his checked luggage. 
Taking to his social media page to document the debacle, Mr Hawaii tweeted: “@British_Airways hi being held at Iceland Keflavik airport because I had no baggage put all the clothes on and they still won't let me on. Racial profiling?”
Sadly for Mr Hawaii the ordeal did not end there after he was turned away from a second flight with EasyJet the following day.  
"And AGAIN! Refused from 2 flights in 2 days for no valid reason," he tweeted.
EasyJet explained that the Captain and ground crew were concerned about reports from the previous day and that Mr Hawaii was provided with a full refund. 
British Airways vehemently deny that the incident had anything to do with race. 
A spokeswoman said: “The decision to deny boarding was absolutely not based on race. We do not tolerate threatening or abusive behaviour from any customer, and will always take the appropriate action.” 
Mr Hawaii has now arrived back in the UK after taking a flight with a Norwegian airline.
Talking about the fiasco, he said: “I waited in the queue politely with other passengers and once I made it to the desk I was still refused my boarding pass. 
“Security were called. At this point I started to film. Security tried to slap my phone out my hand. 
“I moved. Continued to film and explain that I was well within my rights. Police were called. I spoke to 2 police officers and explained my story.” 
This is not the first time a passenger has tried to avoid paying luggage charges by wearing excessive amounts of clothing. 
James McElvar, a singer with Scottish five-piece Rewind, lost consciousness flying from London to Glasgow in 2015 after wearing 12 layers of clothing.

California is letting over a million people convicted of weed charges to get clean slate.

Jan. 1 was a big day for California: In addition to legalizing recreational marijuana, the state fully adopted one of the most sweeping criminal justice reforms in recent years.
The new law, Prop 64, not only OK'd possession for people 21 and older but also allows anyone to apply to have their past marijuana-related offenses reduced or expunged completely. And roughly one million Californians are eligible, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
A clean record would allow people to vote, apply for many loans and licenses, and, perhaps most importantly, answer “no” when potential employers ask whether they have a felony in their past. The change particularly affects African-Americans in California, who were five times as likely to get arrested for a marijuana felony than white offenders, and thus disproportionately saddled with the lifelong constraints that come with a criminal record.
"It really kind of affected me," said Rayshon Williams, who's now eligible to get one of his felony convictions reduced. "The whole time, they're not gonna hire you because they see that 'F' on your record."
With the drastic shift in law enforcement, the new challenge for advocates, legal aid providers, and county public defender’s offices is making all those eligible aware of their new rights.a

"I thought, I'm going to get a helicopter no matter what." : Aussie man hires a chopper in frantic search to find Missing son - And Finds Him.

Australian man Tony Lethbridge couldn't sleep. It was early Monday morning and his 17-year-old son Samuel was missing. 
It had been almost 24 hours since anyone had heard from him. 
It was out of character and his family feared the worst. 
Emergency services attempting to free Samuel Lethbridge from his vehicle.
A few hours earlier, after a series of unanswered calls to Samuel's mobile, Tony and his wife, Lee, had left Canberra and driven home to search for their boy. 
"We got back into Newcastle about 1.30am [Monday morning] and went straight to the police station," Lethbridge said. 
Tony Lethbridge, who found his son's crash site by helicopter.
SIMONE DE PEAK/SMH
Tony Lethbridge, who found his son's crash site by helicopter.
"They told us that he might have ran away, he could have done this or he could have done that and we just said, 'It's out of character; it's not him'.
"They put all the things in motion and we waited and waited. They just told us to go home and wait.
But Lethbridge could not wait. "I just couldn't get it out of my head that he'd crashed somewhere," he said.
Samuel had been driving back from the Central Coast around 6.30am on Sunday. He had messaged his girlfriend and arranged to meet her at the family home at Blacksmiths after she finished work around lunchtime. 
He never arrived.
As Lethbridge's mind raced, he recalled an accident from a few years earlier along the same stretch of the Pacific Highway that he believed Samuel would have been driving on. That driver wasn't found for five days.
"And he'd passed away," Lethbridge said. "That was in my head, so I just thought bugger this I'm not going to sit around and wait.
"With the way the bush is there, if a car goes in you're not going to see it. The only way you'll see it is from the air. And that's what we did.
"I thought, I'm going to get a helicopter no matter what. 
"I just rocked in there and said 'Mate, I've got $1000 – I need you to search as much as you can'.
With the cash in his hand, Tony walked into the Lake Macquarie Airport at 9am. On the dot.
Lee Mitchell, of Skyline Aviation Group, said the man looked "anxious and fatigued".
"He asked if he could, no - he said, he 'needed a helicopter bad'," said Mitchell, a helicopter pilot with 18 years' flying experience.
"He told us it was for missing son and said he believed his son had run off the road somewhere."
The company had cancelled training flights for that morning because of high winds whipping the Hunter Region but it immediately agreed to start the search.
As Lethbridge - who struggles with flying - drove off to go and pick up his brother, the flight crew readied the helicopter.
Lethbridge's brother, Michael, took the flight while Lethbridge and his wife waited for news from the family home at Blacksmiths. It didn't take long.
Within 10 minutes, they received news that a car fitting the description of Samuel's vehicle had been spotted just off the Pacific Highway near Crangan Bay.
Immediately, Tony began the frantic drive out to the site. 
The car was buried in deep bushland, and it was unclear from the helicopter if there was anyone inside. 
The chopper put Samuel's uncle on the ground near the former Big Prawn service station. 
As his uncle made the grim approach to the crash site, the pilot hovered above to provide a reference for Lethbridge and emergency services. ​
Fearing what he might find when he arrived, Samuel's uncle began to call his name as he began the 50-metre walk down to the accident site.
There was no response.
But then Michael Lethbridge spotted Samuel moving his head inside the wreck. At that point, he sent a text message to his brother: "He's alive".
"When I got there, I ran down there and it was just jubilation," Tony Lethbridge said. 
"It was unbelievable, to find him there."
Trapped in his vehicle for what was nearing 30 hours, Samuel was dehydrated and suffering serious injuries. A broken thigh bone was protruding three inches through the skin.
"You wouldn't have seen him if it wasn't for the helicopter, because I couldn't see him from the road," Lethbridge said. 
"If the helicopter wasn't hovering above, I would have never had found him."
Tony said it was likely the car was travelling around "80kmh" when it ran off the road and had been totally destroyed. It's believed the car hit a concrete pole – which ripped the driver's side door off – and spun, rolled and luckily, landed on its wheels.
Emergency services arrived on the scene and had to cut the vehicle open to pull Samuel from the wreckage.
Stable and in intensive care on Tuesday afternoon, Samuel had undergone several scans since arriving at John Hunter Hospital.
With a broken arm, dislocated elbow and small fractures "here and there" according to his dad, it's expected his recovery will be a long process. Surgery on Wednesday to his arm and leg should heal the most immediate problems.
Samuel was described by his dad as a "good, tough and very fit kid" who plays for Belmont-Swansea Football Club in a local under-19's soccer competition.
He had only started an electrical apprenticeship on Friday. That will have to be put on hold.
"He spoke to me when I got down to the car," Lethbridge said. "I grabbed him and I said: 'Mate, dad's got you'." 
Samuel's first words to his father were: "I'd love a drink".
"They were the only words he spoke," Lethbridge said.

North Korea to send about 230 cheerleaders to Olympics for its 2 competing athletes.

North Korea has agreed to participate in the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang in the first breakthrough of talks with South Korea that began on Tuesday at the three-storey Peace House, on the South Korean side of the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone (DMZ).
Delegations from North and South Korea have met for the first time in two years after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signaled his intention to discuss participation at the sporting event in his New Year’s address, a message South Korean President Moon Jae-in swiftly welcomed, extending an invitation to face-to-face talks.  
President Moon has long seen the Olympics as a way to re-establish dialogue with Pyongyang after relations cooled during his conservative predecessor’s government and North Korean missile and nuclear tests intensified. 
YONHAP/VIA REUTERS
The South Korean delegation led by unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon came prepared to discuss an agenda going beyond the participation in the games. They proposed the two countries’ athletes march together at the games’ opening and closing ceremony, as well as holding a Red Cross meeting to discuss family reunifications and military talks, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
The North Korean delegation headed by Ri Son Gwon, chairman of North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, has agreed to reopen a military hotline with the South on Wednesday, and also to send a team of athletes, cheerleaders and singers, taekwondo fighters and journalists, according to the South Korean deputy unification minister Chun Hae-sung, who spoke at a press briefing on Tuesday, quoted in Reuters. 
KIM JAE-HWAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
A similar proposal was made for the 2014 Asian Games in the South Korean city of Incheon, when a 273-strong North Korean delegation took part in the games, but Pyongyang blocked the participation of its cheerleading squad, also known as its “army of beauties” in South Korean media, as The Economist reported at the time.
The cheerleading team, exclusively made up of young, attractive women and teenage girls, are extremely popular in the South—last time the North Korean squad participated at a sporting event south of the border, at the 2005 Asian Games in Incheon, it included 16-year-old Ri Sol Ju, who is now married to Kim
A year later, athletes from the two Koreas marched together at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, and again at the Asian Winter Games in Changchun, China, in 2007, the last time this display of unity occurred as relations cooled during the past decade, as the Associated Press noted.
North Korea's participation in the Pyeongchang Olympics will require agreements over a series of logistics issues, such as how to transport the North Korean delegation to the host city, where to accomodate them and who will ultimately cover the bill.
Contradicting some members of his administration, President Donald Trump has expressed support for the inter-Korean talks, telling reporters on Saturday: "If something can happen and something can come out of those talks, that would be a great thing for all of humanity. That would be a great thing for the world."

Asteroid, larger than the tallest structure in world, to skim past Earth next month

The space rock has been dubbed 2002 AJ129 and it's bigger than the half-mile tall Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai.

An asteroid, larger than the tallest building on Earth, Burj Khalifa, is set to skim past the planet early next month, according to space experts.

The space rock has been dubbed 2002 AJ129 and it's bigger than the half-mile tall Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai.

As per reports, the asteroid will pass Earth on February 4, missing our planet by 2.6 million miles.


That's still close enough to classify it as a "near-Earth object" and "potentially hazardous" by US space agency NASA.

If the 1.1km-wide asteroid was to strike us, it would likely send up enough soil and dust to blanket the planet and plunge Earth into darkness.

Asteroids are celestial objects that are smaller than planets, which are irregularly shaped and lack fixed orbits.
In our solar system, most asteroids originate from the asteroid belt, a zone between Mars and Jupiter, where these objects are scattered about.

NASA's small nuclear reactor to power habitat on Mars

This pioneering space fission power system could provide up to 10 kilowatts of electrical power, enough to run two average households, continuously for at least 10 years

 To provide safe and plentiful energy for future robotic and human missions for Mars and beyond, NASA is conducting experiments on Kilopower -- a small nuclear reactor that can generate a reliable power supply.

This pioneering space fission power system could provide up to 10 kilowatts of electrical power -- enough to run two average households -- continuously for at least 10 years, the US space agency said in a statement on Friday.

Four Kilopower units would provide enough power to establish an outpost.


"We want a power source that can handle extreme environments. Kilopower opens up the full surface of Mars, including the northern latitudes where water may reside," said Lee Mason, NASA's Principal Technologist for power and energy storage.

On the Moon, Kilopower could be deployed to help search for resources in permanently shadowed craters, Mason added.

When astronauts someday venture to the Moon, Mars and other destinations, one of the first and most important resources they will need is power.


A reliable and efficient power system will be essential for day-to-day necessities, such as lighting, water and oxygen, and for mission objectives, like running experiments and producing fuel for the long journey home.

Fission power can provide abundant energy anywhere.

On Mars, the Sun's power varies widely throughout the seasons, and periodic dust storms can last for months.


On the Moon, the cold lunar night lingers for 14 days.

The prototype power system was designed and developed by NASA's Glenn Research Center in collaboration with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

NASA Glenn shipped the prototype power system from Cleveland to the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) in late September.


The team at the NNSS recently began tests on the reactor core.

According to Marc Gibson, the Kilopower lead engineer, the team will connect the power system to the core and begin end-to-end checkouts this month.

The experiments should conclude with a full-power test lasting approximately 28 hours in late March, NASA said.

The Vintage Cars On The Streets Of New York City (49 Pics)

These classic cars capture the look and feel of New York City perfectly.