Category Archives: World-News

Norwegian shareholders vote through 10bn kroner rescue plan

The shareholders of Norwegian Air Shuttle have voted overwhelmingly for a rescue package that will see them diluted to just 5 percent of the company’s equity.With their approval, the struggling airline has leapt a crucial hurdle in its battle to stay afloat through the Covid-19 pandemic.  

The rescue plan includes the conversion of around 10 billion Norwegian kroner ($961 million or 880 million euros) of debt held by bondholders and leasing companies into equity. 

It will be followed a capital increase of between 300 and 400 million kroner. Shareholders approval also opens the way for a further tranche of government support, which was conditional on the airline reducing debt through an equity swap. 

According to the Dagens Næringsliv newspaper, more than 95 percent of existing shareholders overwhelming voted for each of the three proposals — the share issue, the bonds-for-equity swap and the leasing-debt-for-equity swap — each of which needed a two-thirds majority to pass. 

The airline’s management were fighting right up to Sunday to win the approval of holders of $275m in bonds for the debt-to-equity swap, after they dramatically voted down the package on Thursday.  

Read the original story – thelocal

Top Iranian general warns Israel that strikes will bring end to ‘Zionist regime’

‘INSANE OPERATIONS WILL SURELY BE (ISRAEL’S) LAST STEPS’

Israel blames Qassem Soleimani and his Revolutionary Guards for bid to launch killer drones into Jewish state from Syria; IAF airstrikes foiled attempt

Time of Israel – A top Iranian general, blamed by Israel for masterminding a preempted bid to launch drone attacks from Syria, warned Israel on Sunday that its strikes against Iran would not be tolerated much longer.

“These insane operations will surely be the last steps of the Zionist regime,” tweeted Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Israeli fighter jets late on Saturday carried out airstrikes in Syria to thwart a planned attack on Israel by operatives from the Revolutionary Guards as well as Shiite militias who had been planning on sending “kamikaze” attack drones into Israel armed with explosives, the army said.

Earlier Sunday Foreign Minister Israel Katz appeared to threaten Soleimani.

“Israel is acting to strike the head of the Iranian snake and uproot its teeth,” Katz said in a Ynet news site interview. “Iran is the head of the snake and Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, is the snake’s teeth.”

Katz said Israel’s airstrikes to thwart the drone attack “conveyed a clear message to Iran and all its supporters that they are not immune from attack, no matter where they are.”

قاسم سلیمانی@ghasemsoleimane

قطعا این عملیاتهای دیوانه‌وار، آخرین دست و ‌پا زدنهای رژیم صهیونیستی خواهد بود.

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The tweet late on Sunday, from an account widely associated with Soleimani, appeared to be his first public reaction and came hours after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened Israel with a reprisal attack after two of its members were killed in the Israeli strike in Syria, and two UAVs crashed in and around the terror group’s Beirut offices in an incident also blamed on the Jewish state.

“From tonight, I tell the Israeli army on the border, be prepared and wait for us,” said the Hezbollah leader in a televised address, taunting that a retaliation could come in “one day, two days, three days…”

Israeli forces in the north have been put on high alert, amid fears of a reprisal attack, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held an emergency meeting with defense officials overnight Saturday-Sunday amid the heightened tensions.

A Hezbollah spokesman said earlier Sunday that an armed Israeli drone exploded outside the organization’s propaganda offices in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, causing damage to the structure. Another Hezbollah spokesman said later that a second drone crashed, causing no damage, and was being studied by the terror group.

The Israel Defense Forces said it does not comment on “foreign reports.”

Several well-connected Israeli commentators, including a former IDF general, said the drones in the Beirut incident appeared to be of Iranian origin.

“What happened last night was very dangerous,” said Nasrallah in an address delivered to supporters via video; the terror chief is in permanent hiding from potential Israeli attack.

He denied that Hezbollah had downed the drones in Beirut. Rather, he said, youths threw rocks at a reconnaissance UAV, which subsequently fell to the ground. A second “suicide” UAV then appeared and attacked a specific site in the area, claimed Nasrallah.

The Hezbollah chief said the UAVs were “a violation of the rules of engagement” that ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War between his terror group and Israel.

“This is the first act of aggression since August 14, 2006…. This is a clear aggression,” he declared.

The leader of the Iran-backed terrorist group also called Israel’s alleged foiling of an Iranian-backed drone attack from Syria on Saturday night a “clear act of aggression,” said two Hezbollah fighters were killed in the attack, and vowed to blow Israeli UAVs out of the sky if they were to ever cross into Lebanese airspace.

“The time — in which Israeli planes come and bombard a place in Lebanon and the usurping entity of Palestine remains secure — has ended,” he declared. “From now on, we will confront the Israeli drones in Lebanon’s skies… and we will take action to bring them down.”

The terror group leader’s speech came a day after the Israeli Air Force bombed a compound in central Syria that the IDF said was used by the pro-Iranian fighters as their base of operations, after they tried to launch attack drones laden with explosives at Israel for a second time.

Nasrallah accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of lying when he said the compound in Syria targeted in the Israeli strike was being used by Iran’s Quds Force for drone attacks on Israel.

“Netanyahu and the enemy’s army announced that an al-Quds Force center was attacked and those attacked were Iranians. He did all that and presented himself as national and brave hero… He is lying to his people. He is selling them nonsense and is going against the facts on the ground,” Nasrallah said.

He claimed that the compound targeted had been merely a “house.”

“It wasn’t a military site. It was a house… The place that was bombarded only had Lebanese youth from Hezbollah. In that place, two martyrs fell,” he explained, identifying the victims as Hassan Yousef Zabeeb and Nasser Ahmad Daher.

Lebanese military intelligence inspects the scene where two drones came down in the vicinity of a Hezbollah media center in the south of the capital Beirut, August 25, 2019. (Anwar Amro/AFP)Hezbollah, a terror group funded by Iran and sworn to Israel’s destruction, last fought a war with the Jewish state in 2006. In recent years, the Iran proxy has shifted its troops into Syria to back its ally, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, in the years-long civil war.

There have been few direct clashes between Israel and Iran in Syria. In May 2018, Israel said Iranian forces fired some 20 rockets at Israel, with most being shot down or failing to reach Israeli territory. In response, Israel carried out extensive airstrikes on Iranian positions in Syria.

While Israel has acknowledged carrying out hundreds of airstrikes inside Syria against weapons transfers to Iran-backed fighters and to keep Iran from gaining a foothold there, it rarely acknowledges individual strikes.

The ambiguity is part of a strategy seen as helping give Tehran and Damascus cover from needing to strike back to save face. Israel has appeared to apply the same strategy in Iraq, where the IDF has been reported to have carried out a number of strikes on Iran-backed militia positions near Baghdad.

Judah Ari Gross and Adam Rasgon contributed to this report. 

Ten killed in attack on village at Kenya-Ethiopia border

Standardmedia – Tenpeople were killed in two separate attacks by bandits in Marsabit County, according to Police Spokesperson Charles Owino.Police also said at least nine others were injured during the raids.Marsabit County Police Commander Steve Oloo said the attacks happened in Forole and Sabareh on the Kenya-Ethiopia border.

In the first incident, raiders stormed a watering point in Forole where herders were sleeping at around 4am and opened fire, killing five people.Among those killed were two minors aged 13 and 15.The raiders, who are suspected to have crossed over from Ethiopia, also made away with an unknown number of livestock from Forole and about 500 cows from Sabareh. A police reinforcement was sent to the areas but the attackers had already crossed into Ethiopia.Locals complained of slow police response, and appealed to the authorities to do something about it.

A team of security officials has contacted Ethiopian police for help to reclaim the animals.

Cultural practices

Such incidents are common at the border. Authorities have been making efforts to address the menace that is being encouraged by cultural practices and drought.Recently in Laikipia County, a police officer was killed in a cattle rustling incident. Gunmen believed to be livestock thieves ambushed a team of officers from the Anti-Stock Theft Unit as they pursued the animals and shot one officer in the head.A major operation was mounted in the area to pursue the gang which had stolen about 100 animals as the criminals headed towards Pokot.Police had not recovered the animals by yesterday.

These are the 9 nuclear-armed countries and the 31 allies they’ve vowed to defend

businessinsider – Russia has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

  • The world currently has 13,865 nuclear weapons. Los Alamos National Laboratory.
  • There are an estimated 13,885 nuclear weapons in the world, either stockpiled or retired.
  • Last year, there were 14,465 weapons, but some 600 were retired or decommissioned in the last 12 months.
  • It shows that total elimination is still a long-term goal, despite international efforts to rid the world of nukes.
  • Scroll down for an overview of the world’s nine nuclear-armed states, the number of weapons they have, and the 31 countries they’ve vowed to protect.

The number of nuclear weapons known to exist around the world today is steadily falling, but the fear that a country could one day unleash the most devastating weapon on Earth still persists.

The total number of nuclear weapons fell from 14,465 in 2018 to about 13,885 this year, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) 2019 yearbook, which was published in June.

It shows that while the international community is working toward the goal of reducing the number of nukes in the world, total elimination is still a long-term reality.

Below is an overview of the world’s nine nuclear-armed states, the number of weapons (stockpiled and retired) they have, and the 31 countries they’ve vowed to protect.

Caitlin Foster contributed to this report.

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Capt. Robby Modad closes the gate at an ICBM launch control facility in the countryside outside Minot, North Dakota. Charlie Riedel/AP

In 2017, the UN introduced the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), the world’s first legally-binding document that seeks to completely eliminate the arsenal.

However, it has yet to come into force.

As of August 2019, 25 have ratified the treaty; another 25 ratifications are needed for it to come into full effect.

Russia has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

Russia has the world's largest nuclear arsenal.Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

The Russian Federation has a total of 6,490 stockpiled and retired nuclear weapons in its arsenal, down from 6,850 last year, according to SIPRI.

Armenia and Belarus — two countries that act as a buffer between Russia and Europe —both rely on Russia’s nuclear “umbrella.”

Armenia joined the TPNW negotiations, but abstained from voting in the meeting that set it up, according to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICANW).

Belarus didn’t participate in those negotiations, and also abstained from voting.

Russia also possesses a nuclear “triad,” meaning it’s able to deploy its nuclear arsenal through land, sea, and air.

Russia also possesses a nuclear Russian servicemen drive Yars RS 24 intercontinental ballistic-missile systems during the Victory Day parade at Red Square in Moscow, Russia, in May 2018. Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

This is done through intercontinental ballistic missiles, sea-launched ballistic missiles, and strategic bombers.

The US is also a known nuclear triad country.

A mysterious, deadly explosion at a missile test site in Nyonoksa, northwest Russia, in August suggested that Russia was building another nuclear-powered cruise missile.

A mysterious, deadly explosion at a missile test site in Nyonoksa, northwest Russia, in August suggested that Russia was building another nuclear-powered cruise missile.This video grab shows the launch of what Russian President Vladimir Putin said was the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, also known as SSC-X-9 Skyfall.

Screenshot/YouTube via Russian Defense Ministry

Five nuclear scientists died in the accidental explosion, which Russian state nuclear agency said happened during a test of a nuclear-powered engine.

What exactly went wrong in the test remains unclear. Russia has repeatedly changed its story about the explosion.

US experts and intelligence officials suspect the explosion occurred during a failed test of the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, a sort of doomsday missile NATO refers to as SSC-X-9 Skyfall.

Russian President Vladimir Putin debuted the missile in 2018, and described it as “invincible.”

Read more: Here’s what’s known about a deadly blast at a Russian military test site — a mysterious incident being compared to Chernobyl

The US has the second-largest nuclear arsenal in the world, with 6,185 weapons. It is the only country to detonate nuclear weapons against an enemy, as it did in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

The US has the second-largest nuclear arsenal in the world, with 6,185 weapons. It is the only country to detonate nuclear weapons against an enemy, as it did in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.Electronics Technician 1st Class Kevin Watson aboard the Virginia-class nuclear submarine USS North Carolina in June 2014. Flickr/US Navy Source: SIPRI

The US has agreed to potentially use its nuclear weapons to protect NATO member states, as well as Japan, Australia and South Korea.

The US has agreed to potentially use its nuclear weapons to protect NATO member states, as well as Japan, Australia and South Korea.Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Because of these agreements, all 29 NATO member states and the three countries who hold bilateral protection agreements with the US, are technically in violation of TPNW.

The US is also the only nation in the world to store nuclear weapons in other countries.

The US is also the only nation in the world to store nuclear weapons in other countries.Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

The US is believed to store some 180 nuclear weapons in other countries, the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor (NWBM) said in its2018 report.

This number has been “significantly reduced since the Cold War,” the report said.

In August, the US pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a landmark arms control accord, after accusing Russia of violating it.

In August, the US pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a landmark arms control accord, after accusing Russia of violating it.Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan sign the INF Treaty in the White House in December 1987. Corbis via Getty Images

The INF Treaty, signed in 1987 by US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, sought to ban short- and medium-range land-based missiles that had the ability to travel across continents.

On August 17, 2019 — 15 days after the US’s withdrawal from the treaty was complete — the US military conducted its first flight test of a ground-launched cruise missile that would have been banned under the treaty.

France has the third-largest nuclear stockpile in the world, with 300 weapons. The NATO state can only deliver its nuclear weapons via aircraft and submarines.

France has the third-largest nuclear stockpile in the world, with 300 weapons. The NATO state can only deliver its nuclear weapons via aircraft and submarines.A French Dassault Rafale flies above the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. Marine nationale

The country’s Dassault Rafale fighter jet can deploy a nuclear weapon with a warhead 20 times the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

If a warhead of that size were to drop over Washington, DC, it would result in some 280,000 casualties, according to Nuclear Secrecy’s calculations.

China, which has 290 nuclear weapons, appears to be moving toward having its own nuclear triad, the Pentagon warned in May 2019.

China, which has 290 nuclear weapons, appears to be moving toward having its own nuclear triad, the Pentagon warned in May 2019.A Chinese flag near a nuclear power plant in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Reuters/Carlos Barria

However, China has long maintained a “no first use” policy, which means it would only use nuclear forces in response to a nuclear strike against it.

Read more: With this new missile, China could join the ranks of the world’s most dangerous nuclear arsenals

Britain has 200 nuclear weapons, and can only launch them from its four Vanguard-class submarines with its Trident missile program.

Britain has 200 nuclear weapons, and can only launch them from its four Vanguard-class submarines with its Trident missile program.HMS Vengeance departs for Davenport, northern England. Vengeance is one of the country’s four Vanguard-class submarines. Andrew Linnett/Ministry of Defense Crown/Getty

The UK is a NATO member state and shares in the umbrella protections of the alliance.

It maintains at least one nuclear-armed submarine on patrol at all times under the Royal Navy’s continuous at sea deterrent, a policy that has been in place since 1959.

The country maintains a policy that it “will not use, or threaten to use” its arsenal against any non-nuclear-weapon-carrying state according to the UN’s 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Source: SIPRI, NWBM, Royal Navy

Pakistan has 150-160 weapons, while its neighbor India has 130-140. Tensions between the country reached a historic height this summer after India canceled the quasi-independence of Kashmir — a region claimed by both countries — and brought it under New Delhi’s control.

Pakistan has 150-160 weapons, while its neighbor India has 130-140. Tensions between the country reached a historic height this summer after India canceled the quasi-independence of Kashmir — a region claimed by both countries — and brought it under New Delhi's control.Pakistan’s Hatf VII (Babur) missile takes off during a test from an undisclosed location in December 2007. Reuters stringer

Attempts to develop intercontinental and submarine-launched nuclear missiles indicate that India may soon possess the nuclear “triad.”

Mainly due to tensions with Pakistan, some experts have questionedwhether India’s “no first-use” position will endure.

Pakistan can deliver its nuclear weapons from the ground and air, and is allegedly developing methods of sea-based delivery tocomplete the nuclear “triad.”

Despite facing sanctions, Pakistan is reportedly expanding its nuclear arsenal faster than any other nation.

Similar to British policy, Pakistan claims it will not use or threaten to use its nuclear arsenal against any “non-nuclear” state, leaving many questions unanswered on the potential use against neighbor India.

Israel has never publicly admitted to possession of nuclear weapons. The international community operates under the assumption that it does.

Israel has never publicly admitted to possession of nuclear weapons. The international community operates under the assumption that it does.View of the Israeli nuclear facility in Negev Dest outside Dimona in August 2000. Jim Hollander/Reuters

SIPRI estimates that it has 80-90 weapons.

The International Panel on Fissile Materials, a consortium of independent nuclear researchers, also estimated that Israel had about 80 warheads as of the end of 2016.

The name of Israel’s nuclear strategy is “amimut,” which is Hebrew for “opacity” or “ambiguity.”

The exact size of North Korea’s arsenal is unclear. SIPRI estimates that it has about 20-30 weapons.

The exact size of North Korea's arsenal is unclear. SIPRI estimates that it has about 20-30 weapons.Kim Jong Un inspects what North Korean state media alleges is a nuclear-missile submarine inside the country in a photo released July 2019. KCNA

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has repeatedly announced a desire to denuclearize the entire Korean peninsula, though what he meant remains unclear and there has been no evidence that he has made any attempt to do so.

Here’s the full list of countries and the number of stockpiled and retired nukes they have. The number of deployed weapons are included in the number of stockpiled weapons.

Here's the full list of countries and the number of stockpiled and retired nukes they have. The number of deployed weapons are included in the number of stockpiled weapons.Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

 

Iraqis renew call for US troops to get out

By NABIH BULOS | Los Angeles Times  Star Strips

 News that Israel was behind airstrikes in Iraq has reinvigorated calls to oust U.S. forces from the country.

A U.S. official confirmed Friday that Israel had struck a base for the Hashd al Shaabi, an umbrella group of Shiite-dominated militias also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, many with deep links to Iran. Two Iranian commanders were reported killed in the attack, which occurred in July.

It was unclear whether Israel was behind three other explosions that have destroyed militias’ weapons depots in Iraq.

The confirmation coincided with an edict from Grand Ayatollah Kazem Haeri, a powerful Iraqi cleric based in Iran who is thought to be a mentor to some of Iraq’s top militia leaders. He blamed both Israel and the U.S. for the attack and proscribed American troops’ presence in Iraq.

“I declare it is forbidden for any American military force or its ilk to remain in Iraq under any pretext: whether for military training and advising, or for counterterrorism,” Haeri said in a statement issued from the Iranian city of Qom.

Haeri’s statement followed similar condemnations from the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Forces, Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi (better known by his nom de guerre, Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis), who accused U.S. forces on Wednesday of conducting reconnaissance on Hashd bases and bringing in Israeli drones for the strikes.

The U.S. official who confirmed the strike said Washington “strongly supports Israel’s right to self-defense,” adding, “the United States condemns the Iranian regime’s provocative actions in Iraq.” The official was not authorized to speak publicly, and spoke on condition of anonymity.

There are roughly 5,000 American troops stationed across Iraq, providing training, assistance and advice to Iraq’s security forces.

During the fight against Islamic State, U.S. troops even cooperated — albeit uneasily — with the Hashd, which was formed as an all-volunteer force in 2014 to counter the extremist threat. It has since become a formal part of Iraq’s armed forces.

Since Islamic State’s defeat in Iraq in 2017, there have been perennial calls for U.S. forces to leave. (Iraqi lawmakers railed against the U.S. presence after President Trump’s unannounced visit to American troops in the country in December.)

Iraq’s national security council, which is headed by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, issued a statement Friday saying that the Hashd had a “prominent role in combating terror,” and that the government had a responsibility to protect it, along with all of Iraq’s military formations.

Earlier this month, Abdul Mahdi had prohibited all military flights, both foreign and Iraqi, from using Iraqi airspace without permission.

Two officials with the Trump administration, speaking to reporters anonymously to discuss internal matters, refused to say whether Israel was behind the explosions, and speculated they could have been accidents due to improper storage and the extreme summer heat. (Explosions in weapons depots are not an uncommon occurrence in Iraq, where temperatures in August regularly top 110 degrees.)

Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson said the U.S. supported Iraqi sovereignty and had “repeatedly spoken out against any potential actions by neighbors that could lead to violence in Iraq.”

“Iraqis have a right to control their own internal security and protect their democracy. In particular, Iran must not use Iraqi territory to threaten other countries in the region,” he said.

Israel has conducted dozens of airstrikes against Iran-affiliated groups in Syria to deny them access to advanced weapons and missiles that could target Israeli cities.

The July attack would be the first example of that campaign extending to Iraq, whose government has long walked a tightrope between Tehran and Washington.

For the last few days, senior American and Israeli officials have exchanged messages aimed at staking out each nation’s position regarding the Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq, which Israel views as a significant threat to its citizens.

Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu hinted at Israel’s involvement, telling journalists who accompanied him on a state visit to Ukraine that “we will act — and are currently acting — against [Iran] wherever it is necessary.”

In a Thursday interview on Israeli television, Netanyahu said: “I don’t give Iran immunity anywhere. Iran is a country, a power, who has declared its desire to annihilate Israel. It is trying to establish bases against us everywhere. In Iran itself, in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen.”

Israel’s military did not claim responsibility for the attack. Yet an expansion of its anti-Iran campaign, said Hisham Hashimi, a Baghdad-based security analyst, could lead to reprisals against U.S. personnel.

“Haeri’s fatwa is a green light for targeting U.S. interests and even American citizens in Iraq,” Hashimi said in a phone interview.

He added that Iraqi and military personnel who work with the U.S., even local staff at the embassy, could find themselves the target of reprisals.

Though the U.S. and Israel have been in lockstep on operations in Syria, it’s likely that a number of U.S. officials “are displeased with Israel’s actions” in Iraq, said Amos Yadlin, the director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, said in an interview.

The U.S. confirmation of the strike, Yadlin said, was a response to “the pace of operations attributed to Israel and the realization that it wasn’t a one-time thing” and concerns that it would be the U.S. that will face reprisals.

Yet Israel shouldn’t expect the same freedom of action it enjoys in Syria, said Assaf Orion, a retired Israeli brigadier general who is also associated with the Institute for National Security Studies, especially since the United States’ sensitivities in Iraq are explained by “how heavily invested it is, its stronger interests, significant stationed troops, and its important relationship with local government.”

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The Amazon Rainforest is burning. Here’s why there are so many fires and what it all means for the planet.

businessinsider –  The world’s largest rainforest is ablaze. On Tuesday, a new fire started every minute in Brazil.

Since August 15, more than 9,500 fires have sparked in Brazil, most of them in the Amazon basin. The blazes can be seen from space, and the smoke even temporarily eclipsed the sun in Sao Paulo on Monday.

So far this year, Brazil has recorded more than 76,000 fires— an annual record, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research.

The vast majority of these fires were deliberately started by people: Farmers and loggers purposefully set fire to the rainforest during the summer months to clear swaths of the Amazon for industrial or agricultural use in the coming year.

An aerial view of a tract of Amazon jungle burning as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers near the city of Novo Progresso,An aerial view of a tract of Amazon jungle burning as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers near the city of Novo Progresso, Brazil, August 23, 2019.Nacho Doce / Reuters

Here’s what’s really going on in the Amazon.

Why is the Amazon burning?

Unlike wildfires in California, or the current blazes in Siberia, the Amazon fires aren’t natural.

About 99% of Amazon fires start from human actions, “either on purpose or by accident,” Alberto Setzer, a senior scientist at Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), told CNN.

As CNN meteorologist Haley Brink explained in the network’s report, “[Farmers] wait for the dry season and they start burning and clearing the areas so that their cattle can graze. That’s what we’re suspecting is going on down there.”

The Amazon’s dry season runs from July to October and peaks in late September, and with it comes this annual burning, called the “queimada.” The rest of year, wetter weather minimizes the risk of fires.

“The important thing to know about the Amazon is that few fires occur there naturally,” Mikaela Weisse, who tracks deforestation and fires for the World Resources Institute, told Vice.

A tract of Amazon jungle burns as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Novo Airao, Amazonas state, Brazil August 21, 2019.A tract of Amazon jungle burns as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Novo Airao, Amazonas state, Brazil August 21, 2019.Bruno Kelly / Reuters

In addition to farmers, illegal loggers and miners sometimes light fires as well, in order to destroy evidence of their activities or drive away indigenous people, Vox reportedAt least 400 indigenous tribes live in the rainforest, and their cultures and livelihoods are intimately linked with the state of the Amazon.

If fires are set every summer, why are this year’s a big deal?

What’s unprecedented this summer is how many individual fires were sparked at the same time. In 2019, Brazil has recorded more fires than in any other year since researchers began keeping track in 2013 — and there are still four months to go.

This surge of fires in Brazil mark an 83% increase from the same time period last year, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research reported. All told, Brazil only had about 40,000 fires in 2018, about half of this year’s current total of 76,000.

These fires also come on the heels of another worrisome milestone for the world’s largest rainforest. The month of July set a new record for the most deforestation ever in the Amazon in a single month,The Guardian reported. The Amazon shrunk by 519 square miles (1,345 square kilometers). That’s more than twice the area of Tokyo.

Data from Brazilian satellites indicated that about three football fields’ worth of Amazonian trees fell every minute last month. The total deforested area in July was up 39% from the same month last year.

Deforestation and fires are linked, since setting blazes is one of the main ways people clear land in the Amazon.

Amazon deforestationAn aerial view of a tract of Amazon jungle recently cleared by loggers and farmers near the city of Novo Progresso, Brazil on September 22, 2013. Nacho Doce/Reuters

Experts and environmentalists say this high deforestation rate can be linked to the policies and rhetoric of Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro has indicated that protecting the Amazon is not one of his top priorities. He supports development projects like a highway and hydroelectric dam in the Amazon.

His administration has cut down on the seizing of illegally harvested timber. In 2018 (under the previous administration), 883,000 cubic feet of illegal timber was seized. As of May 15, Bolsonaro’s government agencies had seized only 1,410 cubic feet, Pacific Standard reported.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks during the launching ceremony of the real estate credit program at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, August 20, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano MachadoBrazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil on August 20, 2019. Adriano Machado/Reuters

What’s more, between January and May, Bolsonaro’s government lowered the number of fines it levied for illegal deforestation and mining (down 34% from the same period in 2018) and decreased its monitoring of illegal activity in the rainforest.

Do the fires have to do with climate change?

Individual events like forest fires, hurricanes, and winter storms can’t be directly linked to climate change; however, climate change does increase the likelihood and frequency of wildfires around the world. Warmer conditions also allow blazes do start to grow bigger than they otherwise might have.

The Amazon’s humidity usually stifles these fires before they get too big, but this year was particularly hot and dry worldwide.

amazonas amazon forest firesSmoke billows during a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest near Humaita, Amazonas State, Brazil on August 17, 2019. Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

Overall, this year is on pace to be the third hottest on record globally, according to Climate Central. Last year was the fourth warmest, behind 2016 (the warmest), 2015, and 2017.

Hotter air sucks away the moisture from trees and soil, while decreased rainfall makes for parched forests that are more prone to burning. In that sense, climate change and uncontrolled rainforest blazes are interconnected.

How will this affect the planet?

As the world’s largest rainforest, the Amazon plays a crucial role in keeping our planet’s carbon-dioxide levels in check. Plants and trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen back into the air in their process of photosynthesis. This is why the Amazon, which covers 2.1 million square miles, is often referred to as the “lungs of the planet”: The forest produces between 6% and 20% of the oxygen in our planet’s atmosphere.

FILE PHOTO: An aerial view of a deforested plot of the Amazon near Porto Velho, Rondonia State, Brazil August 22, 2019. REUTERS/Ueslei MarcelinoAn aerial view of a deforested plot of the Amazon near Porto Velho, Rondonia State, Brazil August 22, 2019. Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

But when trees burn, they release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere, where it contributes to climate change.

Scientists also fear that over time, the Amazon could suffer so much deforestation that a feedback loop could turn it into an African-savanna-type landscape. If another 20% of the Amazon were to disappear — roughly 20% of the Amazon has already been cut down in Brazil in the past 50 years, according to the Intercept— some experts think that could trigger a process called a dieback, in which the rest of the forest dries out and burns.

If that happens, up to 140 billion tons of stored carbon could get released into the atmosphere, which would cause a further uptick in already rising global temperatures.

“The Amazon is incredibly important for our future, for our ability to stave off the worst of climate change,” Christian Poirier, the program director of non-profit organization Amazon Watch, told CNN. “This isn’t hyperbole. We’re looking at untold destruction — not just of the Amazon but for our entire planet.”

China, South Sudan signs cooperation agreement

(Nyamilepedia) – South Sudan and Chinese governments have signed technical cooperation agreements that will see Chinese companies build some 47 drilling boreholes and support water supply projects in the country.

Speaking to the media following the signing of the cooperation deal, the Chinese Ambassador to South Sudan, Hua Ning said the signed cooperation  agreements between the two countries will support millions of the population and enable them to have access to clean water.

“I am very honored to sign two cooperative projects between China and South Sudan, one is bore holes drilling and water supply project. Chinese government is going to help build 47 drilling boreholes of which 32 are normal wells and the rest are hand pumps,” Ning said.

Lack of sanitation and insufficient access to clean drinking water are some of the factors that have killed millions of people across the country.

“We understand that nowadays millions of South Sudanese people still lack access to clean water that’s also the major concern of the Chinese government and the Chinese Embassy here,” he said.

For his part, the Undersecretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mayen Dut Wol, commended the Chinese government for standing in solidarity with the people in the course of the country’s five-year civil war that has forced millions of people to flee their homes.

“What China has done is still up to this moment on the ground and you have been there with us during our crisis since 2013 up to this moment and we want this spirit to continue so that people of South Sudan and China continue to work together,” he said.

Trump Could Win Again

The Atlantic – here are many reasons President Donald Trump might lose reelection in 2020. He is deeply unpopular. Most Americans abhor his bigotry. His administration has been plagued by all manner of scandals. He has failed to live up to his many grandiloquent promises. The country may be sliding into a recession.

Put all of this together, and it’s easy to imagine Democrats riding a big blue wave to the White House next year. But I fear that it is somewhat more likely that Trump will be able to declare victory on November 3, 2020.

Trump’s approval ratings are the most commonly used metric for how likely he is to win reelection. At first sight, they hold a lot of comfort for the president’s opponents. According to FiveThirtyEight’s tracker, for example, more Americans believe he is doing a poor job as president than believe he is doing a good one: About 54 percent disapprove of his performance. Only 42 percent approve of it.

Not only is Trump very unpopular, but his unpopularity is also unlikely to reverse anytime soon. After all, his approval ratings have continually been underwater since the second month of his presidency, and have fluctuated remarkably little since then.

But Trump’s persistent unpopularity is not nearly as big a bar to reelection as many assume. It’s striking, for example, that Trump’s approval ratings are, at this point, very similar to those of two recent presidents who went on to win reelection by resounding margins. While 42 percent approve of Trump’s job performance, just 43 percent approved of both Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan at the same stage in their first terms.

What’s more, Trump actually appears to be more popular today than he was on the day he beat Hillary Clinton. We can get a sense of how his standing with the public has evolved since the 2016 campaign by looking at his personal favorability ratings. An average of 41 percent of Americans now say they have a good impression of him, while an average of 55 percent say they have a bad impression, for a negative balance of 14 percent. In the last polls taken before the 2016 election, an average of 38 percent of Americans saw Trump favorably, and an average of 59 percent unfavorably, for a negative balance of 21 percent.

Since an election is a choice rather than a referendum, it is misleading to focus primarily on an incumbent’s approval ratings. In 2016, Trump was elected despite being deeply unpopular for the simple reason that his opponent was also deeply unpopular. For Trump to lose his bid for reelection in 2020, voters don’t just need to dislike him; they need to dislike somebody else less. Is that likely to be the case?

The obvious way to gauge how Trump fares compared with his competitors is to ask Americans whom they intend to vote for in a direct matchup. As of now, such general-election polls show a mixed picture. Joe Biden handily beats Trump. Bernie Sanders also tends to lead Trump, albeit by a considerably smaller margin. But all the other major candidates, including Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg, tend to run head-to-head with the president: While they narrowly lead Trump in many polls, they trail him in many others.

As Nate Silver has shown, it would be a serious mistake to assume that head-to-head polls taken at this early stage are a reliable guide to the future. After all, polls taken at the end of the year preceding presidential elections have, on average, been about 11 points off the final tally.

It would also, however, be foolish to disregard head-to-head polls completely. As partisanship has deepened over the past decades, early polls have come to be more accurate. In the five elections since the turn of the millennium, they have been off by an average of 6 percent; in the past two elections, they have been off only by an average of 2 percent. While these polls cannot predict the future, they provide an important check on our intuitions.

What we know so far is perfectly compatible with Democrats winning a resounding victory or Trump securing reelection by a comfortable margin. Right now, public opinion gives, at best, a very small advantage in the national vote to Democrats. Since the electoral college is, as in 2016, more likely to favor Trump than his opponent, that is very cold comfort.

A lot can change—in either direction. But there is one final reason to think the president’s chances of reelection are better than meets the eye.

Trump is a known quantity. After three years in which Democrats have—for good reason—attacked him from every possible angle, it is difficult to imagine that they might suddenly succeed in changing how most Americans feel about him. What new angle of attack is supposed to turn against Trump voters who have so far stuck with him?

By contrast, so far Republicans have not had the need or the occasion to concentrate their attacks on any one of the 16 Democrats running for the party’s nomination. Once they do, they are likely to decrease the popularity of whoever ends up emerging as the victor.

This is especially true if the eventual Democratic nominee has come to national prominence only over the past few years—for instance, Kamala Harris or Pete Buttigieg. But the conservative attack machine might also affect opinions about candidates who have been in the public eye for much longer, such as Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders. Remember, when Clinton stepped down as secretary of state, in February 2013, nearly two-thirds of Americans had a favorable view of her. By the fall of 2016, when she was the Democratic Party’s nominee for the presidency, just over one-third of Americans retained a positive view.

Since 1945, nine presidents have sought a second term in office. Of these, six were reelected. Two of the remaining three, George H. W. Bush and Gerald Ford, had succeeded presidents of their own political party, so they were essentially seeking a third or fourth term in office. The only president to lose a bid for reelection after winning power from the opposite party was Jimmy Carter—and he was facing unusually heavy head winds due to a combination of economic crisis at home and national humiliation abroad.

Trump is, of course, an abnormal president. And so it is perfectly possible that he will, in the end, also prove abnormal in a more prosaic way—by losing his bid for reelection.

But what is eminently possible need not be likely.

Machar in Addis Ababa for peace meeting

(Nyamilepedia) – South Sudan’s main armed opposition leader Dr. Riek Machar Teny has arrived in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to participate in a peace review meeting called for by the regional bloc IGAD, the SPLM-IO said Tuesday.

“His Excellency the Chairman and Commander in Chief of the People’s Movement (SPLM/SPLA (IO)) and First Vice-president designate, Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon and his accompanying delegation arrives safely this evening in Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, ahead of the August/21/2019 consultative meeting,” a SPLM-IO statement issued Tuesday partly read.

According to the statement, the main armed opposition leader was accompanied by his deputy, Henry Odwar, the group’s secretary-general Tingo Peter, Machar’s defense chief, Angelina Teny and the group’s representative to the IBC, Peter Marcelo.

Machar and his team are expected to participate in a meeting on Wednesday called for by the IGAD aimed at reviewing the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement he signed with President Salva Kiir last year.

A government delegation led by information minister, Michael Makuei, had left the capital Juba for the peace meeting early in the day on Tuesday.

In September last year, the government and several opposition groups including the SPLM-IO signed a peace deal called the Revitalized Agreement for the Resolution of the conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) to end the war.

The agreement provided for the formation of a power-sharing government in May but the parties could not meet the deadline because all the pre-transitional activities necessary could not be implemented due to funding issues.

The parties had to meet in May in Addis Ababa to extend the pre-transitional period for another six months.

The six-month extension ends in November and as the deadline nears, the IGAD said no progress is being made and on this basis called for a meeting of the parties in Addis Ababa to discuss the way forward.

Ethiopian premier, Ugandan president clashes over Machar detention

August 20th 2019 (Nyamilepedia) – Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali and Uganda President Yoweri Museveni have reportedly clashed on phone over the detention of opposition leader Dr. Riek Machar.

Sources close to both leaders said the unpleasant encounter between the two regional leaders took place on Sunday following the return of the Ethiopian Prime Minister from the Sudanese capital Khartoum where he attended the signing ceremony of power-sharing agreement between the ruling military Junta and protest group, the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC).

One source from the Ethiopian foreign ministry said Abiy Ahmed phoned Museveni on Sunday after Salva Kiir turned down his initiative to meet Machar, a rival turned peace partner, in Khartoum on Sunday.

“After that, he called Museveni and asked what he think if Machar would be set free,” the source said.

“Museveni suggested that Machar remains under detention until the unity government is formed,” the source said.

Source – nyamile