DEVELOPING: U.S. Navy officials say the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is steaming toward the waters off Yemen and will join other American ships prepared to intercept any Iranian vessels carrying weapons to the Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen.
The U.S. Navy has been beefing up its presence in the Gulf of Aden and the southern Arabian Sea amid reports that a convoy of Iranian ships may be headed toward Yemen to arm the Houthis.
The Houthis are battling government-backed fighters in an effort to take control of the country.
There are about nine U.S. ships in the region, including cruisers and destroyers carrying teams that can board and search other vessels. Read the rest of this entry »
In India’s Thar Desert, nomads rely so much on camels for survival that the animals are revered. Livestock owners take great pride in their camels, carving intricate patterns in their fur.
The Yomiuri Shimbun reports: Godzilla is playing a leading role again — this time as a tourist attraction in the Kabukicho district of Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, where the monster is working to resurrect the area’s reputation as a film hub.
“The 12-meter-high Godzilla head is a centerpiece of the building. The sculpture is installed 52 meters above ground level — matching the height of the original monster that appeared in the first film in 1954.”
The 30-story Shinjuku Toho building opened Friday in Kabukicho on the site of the former Shinjuku Koma Stadium theater. Thanks to the installation of a colossal sculpture of Godzilla’s head, the monster himself appears to be hovering over a terrace on the eighth floor. The new building houses a fancy movie theater and a hotel with rooms from which Godzilla can be observed close-up.
Kabukicho shopkeepers, restaurant owners and other business operators expect the new building to help reinvigorate the district as a center for cinema lovers. “We’ll do our best to make Kabukicho a safe, secure place,” said Mototsugu Katagiri, the 66-year-old head of the district’s commerce association, at a dedication ceremony Thursday.
Kabukicho was formerly home to more than a dozen movie theaters, but that number has dwindled as fewer people have been going to the cinema. Shinjuku Milano Theater was shuttered at the end of last year, leaving the district without a single movie house.
The Shinjuku Toho building was constructed on the site of the former Shinjuku Koma Stadium theater, which closed in 2008. The new facility features a hotel and a movie complex.
With 12 screens and 2,347 seats, Toho Cinemas Shinjuku occupies the third to sixth floors. The theater features deluxe seats equipped with marble tray tables and power recliners. Read the rest of this entry »
The rare beans have fans in independent coffee roasters and dealers in the European Union, Russia, Japan, the United States, South Korea and Taiwan
Jamestown (AFP) – Jean Liou reports: Most coffee snobs can only dream of sipping on a brew made from Saint Helena beans. Imported from Yemen in the 18th century, the tiny South Atlantic island’s green-tipped Bourbon Arabica coffee plant produces some of the world’s most expensive — and most delectable — beans.
St Helena coffee’s most famous fan was French emperor Napoleon, who said it was “the only good thing” about living in exile in a rat-infested house on the island for six years until his death in 1821.
“This coffee has a superb fragrant bouquet with no off flavours and pleasant floral fruity hints of citrus and caramel strongly hinting of its Yemeni origins.”
The sheer remoteness of the far-flung British island — stranded between South America and Africa — has preserved the genetic heritage of the coffee planted by the East India Company, the English trading company, almost 300 years ago.
But good luck getting your hands on the beans, which have become scarce after years of neglect.
Coffee groves on the island, which has a varied climate despite being on the equator, were left deserted until some enthusiasts started cultivating the crop again in the 1990s.
That renaissance was short-lived. The main producer went bankrupt, even after putting the beans on sale in London’s exclusive Harrods store.
“Our market is global but the quantities are tiny. For example, the harvest this year is 200 kilos (440 pounds), which does not take us very far.”
— Peter de Bruyne, director of British importer St Helena Trading
Then in 2009, Solomon & Company — a public company known as Solomons on the island — took over and breathed new life into the Bamboo Hedge plantation.
“It had become overgrown and there was die-back on many of the trees,” said Mandy Peters, Solomons’ executive director.
“It’s a hobby, really. It’s very slow and laborious, everything is done by hand.”
— Bill Bolton, who runs a cafe near the port of Jamestown, the capital of the island
“We have been slowly rebuilding the plantation.”
Still, the organic beans are in short supply.
Solomons produces between one and 1.5 tonnes a year, a tiny amount considering world coffee production was about 8.5 million tonnes in 2014. Read the rest of this entry »
Japan’s purchases will help soothe lingering concerns that U.S. bond prices could decline as China slows its buying.
“China is currently the 800-pound gorilla in the U.S. Treasury market. However, it is not the only gorilla in the jungle.”
In reclaiming its status as the largest foreign creditor to America in U.S. official data, Japan is reasserting itself as Beijing holds its Treasury portfolio steady amid a weakening Chinese economy.
“U.S. debt bears higher yields than government bonds offered in other rich nations, thanks to the perception of stronger U.S. growth prospects and to central-bank bond purchases that have driven yields near zero across Europe and in Japan.”
Private investors and official institutions in Japan owned $1.2244 trillion of U.S. government securities at the end of February, compared with $1.2386 trillion at the end of January, according to the latest monthly data released by the Treasury on Wednesday.
China held $1.2237 trillion of Treasury debt at the end of February, compared with $1.2391 trillion a month earlier.
Over the past year, Japan has boosted its holdings by a net $13.6 billion, while China’s holdings dropped by $49.2 billion.
“The single largest holder of U.S. long-term debt is the Federal Reserve, with more than $2 trillion. The amount has surged from $755 billion at the end of 2007, fueled by Fed purchases of long-term securities in response to the financial crisis”.
The Treasury data, released with a two-month lag, don’t capture all of the Treasury-bond holdings China may have parked at middlemen in places such as the U.K. and Belgium. Many analysts and investors believe China has considerable holdings bought through such intermediaries. The Treasury notes on its website that “it is difficult to draw precise conclusions about changes in the foreign holdings of U.S. financial assets by individual countries” from the capital-flow data.
“The shift also reflects changes sweeping China. The world’s most-populous nation has in recent months largely held its Treasury portfolio in place, reflecting a slowdown in the growth of its $3.73 trillion foreign-exchange reserve, the world’s largest, and an effort to shift those reserves toward higher-yielding assets.”
The Japanese purchases have helped drive long-term U.S. bond yields near record lows despite an economic expansion that averaged 2.7% annually over 2013-14. Those low yields have, in turn, helped keep down interest rates for Americans on everything from home loans to credit cards. Read the rest of this entry »
Acquisition of LinX deepens the Apple’s position in Israel
Apple confirmed the acquisition with its standard statement when it has bought a company. “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” said an Apple spokesman.
The companies had been discussing an acquisition price of about $20 million, according to people familiar with the matter.
LinX didn’t respond to requests for comment.
LinX develops and markets miniature cameras for tablets and smartphones. Using an array of sensors that capture multiple images at the same time and proprietary algorithms, LinX says its cameras can gauge depth and create three-dimensional image maps.
Last year, the company said its tiny camera modules allow for better-quality pictures in low light and faster exposure at standard indoor conditions. It said the technology offers single-lens-reflex (SLR) camera image quality without the need for a bulky device. Read the rest of this entry »
Boko Haram has abducted at least 2,000 women and girls since the start of 2014. Many have been forced into sexual slavery or trained to fight, says Amnesty International
Protests continue in the capital Abuja to urge the government to do more to free the more-than-200 girls. Each time a town has been retaken, local newspapers and radio stations ask the government if the girls were found there.
“This is about Chibok but it is also about what’s happening in northeast. It is about Boko Haram. It’s something that people can organize around.”
— Liz Donnelly, a London-based Nigeria analyst with the Chatham House policy institute
In the past two months, Boko Haram has lost much of the territory it had seized. But what may be a more persistent threat remains—that of a hit-and-run organization that instills terror through mass abductions.
Boko Haram has abducted at least 2,000 women and girls since the start of 2014, Amnesty International said in a new report. Many have been forced into sexual slavery or trained to fight, the rights group said.
But the girls seized in the town of Chibok and publicized in the #bringbackourgirls Twitter campaignhave been the ones that caught the world’s attention and galvanized Nigerians.
“This is about Chibok but it is also about what’s happening in northeast. It is about Boko Haram. It’s something that people can organize around,” said Liz Donnelly, a London-based Nigeria analyst with the Chatham House policy institute.
There have been rumors in recent weeks both that the girls have been killed and that they were spotted in Gwoza, but neither has been substantiated.
And there may be more kidnappings to come. Read the rest of this entry »
China Reduces Mainlander Visits to Hong Kong
Isabella Steger writes: Can a tweak to a visa arrangement for mainland Chinese tourists coming to Hong Kong help ease tensions between the two places?
“The change was prompted by a marked increase in public anger in recent months against parallel traders. Protests have broken out in areas of Hong Kong near the border with the mainland, such as Tuen Mun, Sheung Shui and Yuen Long.”
On Monday, Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying confirmed a long-anticipated move by Beijing to address the influx of mainland visitors to Hong Kong in recent years. The move is aimed specifically at those who come from neighboring Shenzhen to Hong Kong to engage in so-called parallel trading, the practice of buying goods ranging from toiletries to food in Hong Kong to resell at a higher price on the mainland.
“Residents of these towns complain that parallel traders drive up the prices of goods and rents, pushing out small businesses serving locals.”
According to the new arrangement, Shenzhen residents applying for an individual visitor visa to Hong Kong will only be allowed to enter the city once a week, rather than multiple times. The change is effective Monday. Residents of these towns complain that parallel traders drive up the prices of goods and rents, pushing out small businesses serving locals.
“Since 2009, Shenzhen permanent residents have been allowed to apply for one-year, multiple entry visas to Hong Kong…”
The change was prompted by a marked increase in public anger in recent months against parallel traders. Protests have broken out in areas of Hong Kong near the border with the mainland, such as Tuen Mun, Sheung Shui and Yuen Long. Read the rest of this entry »
The native animals were the stars of the photo shoot a week before they were gifted to the Singapore Zoo on Monday, to mark the country’s 50th anniversary of independence.
Although it looks glorious for the furry guys, they were actually transported to Singapore in the plane’s cargo hold, like all animals.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A French climber has scaled one of Dubai’s tallest skyscrapers, relying on just chalk and sticky tape on his fingertips to help him up the 75-storey high Cayan Tower in the emirate’s glitzy marina area.
Alain Robert, 52, completed climbing the 1007-foot (307 meter) high structure in just 70 minutes on Sunday. He had no harness and little space for his feet on the ledges of the tower, which twists as it ascends.
Robert, who is often described as “The French Spiderman,” is no stranger to scaling tall buildings. Read the rest of this entry »
The Cheyenne mountain bunker is a half-acre cavern carved into a mountain in the 1960s that was designed to withstand a Soviet nuclear attack.
Washington (AFP) – The US military command that scans North America’s skies for enemy missiles and aircraft plans to move its communications gear to a Cold War-era mountain bunker, officers said.
“My primary concern was…are we going to have the space inside the mountain for everybody who wants to move in there, and I’m not at liberty to discuss who’s moving in there.”
Admiral William Gortney, head of NORAD and Northern Command, said that “because of the very nature of the way that Cheyenne Mountain’s built, it’s EMP-hardened.”
“And so, there’s a lot of movement to put capability into Cheyenne Mountain and to be able to communicate in there,” Gortney told reporters.
“A lot of the back office communications is being moved there.”
“My primary concern was… are we going to have the space inside the mountain for everybody who wants to move in there, and I’m not at liberty to discuss who’s moving in there,” he said.
The Cheyenne mountain bunker is a half-acre cavern carved into a mountain in the 1960s that was designed to withstand a Soviet nuclear attack. From inside the massive complex, airmen were poised to send warnings that could trigger the launch of nuclear missiles.
But in 2006, officials decided to move the headquarters of NORAD and US Northern Command from Cheyenne to Petersen Air Force base in Colorado Springs. The Cheyenne bunker was designated as an alternative command center if needed. Read the rest of this entry »
Mixing shrewd diplomacy with defiance of U.N. resolutions, Iran has turned the negotiation on its head
“In a large country with multiple facilities and ample experience in nuclear concealment, violations will be inherently difficult to detect. Devising theoretical models of inspection is one thing. Enforcing compliance, week after week, despite competing international crises and domestic distractions, is another.”
Debate regarding technical details of the deal has thus far inhibited the soul-searching necessary regarding its deeper implications. For 20 years, three presidents of both major parties proclaimed that an Iranian nuclear weapon was contrary to American and global interests—and that they were prepared to use force to prevent it. Yet negotiations that began 12 years ago as an international effort to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability, albeit short of its full capacity in the first 10 years.
Mixing shrewd diplomacy with open defiance of U.N. resolutions, Iran has gradually turned the negotiation on its head. Iran’s centrifuges have multiplied from about 100 at the beginning of the negotiation to almost 20,000 today. The threat of war now constrains the West more than Iran. While Iran treated the mere fact of its willingness to negotiate as a concession, the West has felt compelled to break every deadlock with a new proposal. In the process, the Iranian program has reached a point officially described as being within two to three months of building a nuclear weapon. Under the proposed agreement, for 10 years Iran will never be further than one year from a nuclear weapon and, after a decade, will be significantly closer.
Inspections and Enforcement
The president deserves respect for the commitment with which he has pursued the objective of reducing nuclear peril, as does Secretary of State John Kerry for the persistence, patience and ingenuity with which he has striven to impose significant constraints on Iran’s nuclear program.
[Also see – Clouds of Grey Fuzz Hang Over Iran Deal]
Progress has been made on shrinking the size of Iran’s enriched stockpile, confining the enrichment of uranium to one facility, and limiting aspects of the enrichment process. Still, the ultimate significance of the framework will depend on its verifiability and enforceability.
“Under the new approach, Iran permanently gives up none of its equipment, facilities or fissile product to achieve the proposed constraints…”
Negotiating the final agreement will be extremely challenging. For one thing, no official text has yet been published. The so-called framework represents a unilateral American interpretation. Some of its clauses have been dismissed by the principal Iranian negotiator as “spin.” A joint EU-Iran statement differs in important respects, especially with regard to the lifting of sanctions and permitted research and development.
“…It only places them under temporary restriction and safeguard—amounting in many cases to a seal at the door of a depot or periodic visits by inspectors to declared sites. The physical magnitude of the effort is daunting.”
Comparable ambiguities apply to the one-year window for a presumed Iranian breakout. Emerging at a relatively late stage in the negotiation, this concept replaced the previous baseline—that Iran might be permitted a technical capacity compatible with a plausible civilian nuclear program. The new approach complicates verification and makes it more political because of the vagueness of the criteria.
“Is the International Atomic Energy Agency technically, and in terms of human resources, up to so complex and vast an assignment?”
Under the new approach, Iran permanently gives up none of its equipment, facilities or fissile product to achieve the proposed constraints. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s not just deceased relatives but also pets to which people are paying tribute during the Qingming Festival in China this year.In southern Beijing, many pet owners held a memorial ceremony for their deceased companions. The pet owners met up at a pet cemetery to lay flowers and share their experiences, recounting the memorable moments they had enjoyed with their furry friends.Most of the tombs in the cemetery have been marked with pictures of the little creatures inside. Some are beautifully decorated by the owners showing their deep love for the deceased creatures.The cemetery has been set up to ensure the safe disposal and burial of dead animals not only to prevent the spread of diseases, but also to allow pet owners to cherish the bonds that they shared with the animals.
The lawsuit charges media outlets with endangering the lives of others by deliberately ignoring security protocols
Paris (AFP) – Six people who hid in a kosher supermarket refrigerator during January’s Islamist attacks in Paris are suing French media for broadcasting their location live during the siege.
Images broadcast from the scene on January 9, when gunman Amedy Coulibaly stormed into the Hyper Cacher Jewish supermarket, killing four and taking others hostage, “lacked the most basic precautions” and endangered those still alive inside, said a lawyer representing the group, Patrick Klugman.
“We realised very quickly that a phrase by one of our journalists… about a hostage in the cold room was inappropriate, and was an error.”
— Herve Beroud, the station’s director of information
Klugman singled out French 24-hour news channel BFMTV, which revealed live on air that the group — including a three-year-old child and a one-month-old baby — was hiding from Coulibaly in the cold room, where they were taken by one of the supermarket’s employees.
“The working methods of media in real time in this type of situation were tantamount to goading someone to commit a crime.”
— The group’s lawyer, Patrick Klugman
“The working methods of media in real time in this type of situation were tantamount to goading someone to commit a crime,” Klugman told AFP Thursday, also roundly criticising coverage by other outlets of security forces movements during the standoff.
The lives of those hiding “could have been at risk if Coulibaly had been aware in real time what BFMTV was broadcasting,” Klugman said, adding that the jihadist was following the coverage of his raid on different channels and had been in contact with BFMTV journalists. Read the rest of this entry »
Kenya’s Garissa University College Attacked by Masked Gunman, CEC Health Reports 30 Casualties Taken to Hospital, 4 ‘Very Serious’Posted: April 2, 2015
Alexander Smith reports: At least two people were killed and 30 others injured after armed attackers stormed a college in Kenya on Thursday, officials said.
The attackers “shot indiscriminately” inside the compound of Garissa University College, prompting an hours-long gun battle with security forces, Kenya’s National Police Service said in a statement.
The attack comes three days after President Barack Obama announced he would visit the East African country in July.
#GarissaAttack According to CEC Health 30 casualties taken to hospital. 4 are very serious. Majority of Casualties have gunshot wounds.
— Kenya Red Cross (@KenyaRedCross) April 2, 2015
The country’s National Disaster Operation Center said two people had been killed in the incident, according to Reuters. The Kenya Red Cross said 30 people had been injured, four of which were “very serious.” Read the rest of this entry »
Local media say that two policemen and a student have been injured and rushed to hospital, and Kenyan defence forces are said to have arrived at the scene.
It is not clear who is responsible for the attack, but Somali al-Shabaab militants have frequently targeted Kenya in the past few years….developing….
…In its written pledge, known to climate negotiators as an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, the U.S. did not offer an exact formula for how it would achieve the remaining reductions. Yet it pointed to an array of steps Obama has taken or is taking to curb emissions. Obama has ordered higher fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, methane limits for energy production, cuts in federal government emissions and unprecedented pollution rules for new and existing power plants.
Many of those steps have drawn the ire of some Democrats and almost all Republicans — not to mention the energy industry. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been urging U.S. states not to comply with Obama’s power plant rules, and argued that the U.S. could never meet Obama’s target even if those rules do survive.
“Considering that two-thirds of the U.S. federal government hasn’t even signed off on the Clean Power Plan and 13 states have already pledged to fight it, our international partners should proceed with caution before entering into a binding, unattainable deal,” McConnell said… Read the rest of this entry »