Originally posted on TIME:
At last, a North Korea rumor proves true: all year, Korea watchers have been buzzing about the rise of Kim Jong Un’s little sister, Kim Yo Jong. She popped up at her father Kim Jong Il’s December 2011 funeral, then reappeared next to her brother on election day in March of this year. (Yes, North Korea has elections, of sorts.) Experts speculated that her presence at a high-profile political event signaled that she was on the rise within the regime but, as with many things in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as it is officially called, the theory was just that — until now.
On Thursday, Nov. 26, in an otherwise humdrum account of Kim Jong Un’s visit to a cartoon studio, state media listed Kim Yo Jong as “vice department director” in the powerful Central Committee of the ruling Worker’s Party. In March, when she was…
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China’s mysterious “Dark Sword” combat drone could become the world’s first supersonic unmanned aviation vehicle, reports the website of the country’s national broadcaster CCTV.
The Dark Sword — known in Chinese as “Anjian” — made quite a stir in 2006 when a conceptual model of the unusually shaped triangular aircraft made its debut at the Zhuhai Airshow in southern China’s Guangdong province.
The model was subsequently exhibited at the Paris Air Show but has disappeared from future airshows, with no official word on the development of the UAV. Some claim the project has already been scrapped due to insufficient funding or other reasons, while others believe the development of the drone is now being kept secret as it is undergoing further research and testing.
Chinese aviation expert Fu Qianshao told CCTV that while he does not know the status of the Dark Sword project, the drone could become the world’s first supersonic UAV if it proves a success. He said he would not be surprised if the project is still ongoing in secret as a lack of transparency is nothing new for the aviation industry and is an approach commonly taken by the Americans.
Fu believes even conceptual models of aircraft can reveal something about a country’s technology and the quality of its research and development, adding that analyzing models at Zhuhai can allow experts to gauge the pulse of China’s aviation industry and pick up data that may be more valuable than what the developers are leaking out to the public. Read the rest of this entry »
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bomber attacked a volleyball tournament in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing at least 45 people, officials said.
Dozens more were wounded when the bomber, who was on foot and mingling with the crowd, detonated his explosives, said Mokhis Afgha, the spokesman for the governor of Paktika province.
“There were too many people gathered in the one place to watch the game. Dozens of others are wounded and we have reports that many of them are in critical condition.”
He said the attack happened during an inter-district volleyball tournament attended by large crowed in Yahyakhail district late Sunday afternoon.
“We need urgent help from the central government because we might need to transfer wounded people to Kabul for treatment.”
“There were too many people gathered in the one place to watch the game. Dozens of others are wounded and we have reports that many of them are in critical condition,” Afghan said. Read the rest of this entry »
Noah Rothman writes:
On December 28, 2013, The New York Times published a thoroughly researched review of the September 11, 2012 attacks on the American diplomatic and CIA facilities in the city of Benghazi. David Kirkpatrick, The Times’ Cairo bureau chief, traveled to Libya and personally conducted a series of interviews with witnesses and even the relatives of suspects in that attack. His exhaustive account of the events on that night was illuminating, but his conclusions about what sparked that deadly attack made the most waves.
Kirkpatrick found that there was “no evidence that al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault.” The Times reporter added that he found more evidence that the attack on a CIA compound and a diplomatic outpost “was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.”
Though he gave credit to The Times for performing this investigation into the Benghazi attack, The Weekly Standard’s Stephen F. Hayes made short work of Kirkpatrick’s conclusions:
There is, in fact, evidence that terrorists linked to al Qaeda had a role in the Benghazi attacks. Indeed, there’s a fair amount of that kind of evidence. As Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence put it on Sunday when asked about the Times report: “The intelligence indicates that al Qaeda was involved, but there were also plenty of people and militias that were unaffiliated with al Qaeda involved.” Schiff who has defended the Obama administration on Benghazi and praised the Times piece as adding “valuable insights,” nonetheless pronounced it incomplete and hinted that signals intelligence contradicted the claims in the piece.…(read more in NYT)
It is a wonder that The Times did not credit Hayes or his Weekly Standard colleague Tom Joscelyn when The Grey Lady issued a report on Friday headlined, “Militants in Benghazi attack tied to a Qaeda affiliate.” Read the rest of this entry »
VIENNA— Adam Kredo reports: The U.S. Senate is warning the Obama administration that it is poised to veto a final nuclear deal with the Iranians and impose harsher sanctions on Tehran, according to a letter sent late Wednesday to President Obama.
Nearly half of the Senate has signed onto a letter promising to reject a “weak and dangerous deal” with Iran as final negotiations in Vienna approach their Nov. 24 deadline.
“Your negotiators appear to have disregarded clear expressions from the Senate emphasizing the need for a multi-decade agreements requiring Iran to fully suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities, to dismantle its illicit nuclear infrastructure, and completely disclose its past work on nuclear weaponization.”
The senators warn that the Obama administration is close to inking a deal that will permit Iran to continue the most controversial aspects of its nuclear program and enable Tehran to build a nuclear weapon in the near future, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon and signed by all 43 Republican senators who backed the Mendendez-Kirk sanctions legislation killed earlier this year by the White House.
“We will continue to seek to impose additional pressure on Iran in the months ahead unless Tehran abandons its nuclear ambitions and pursues a genuinely constructive path in its relations with the world.”
The letter was sent to the White House on the heels of forceful comments Wednesday by Iranian leaders insisting that the United States must bow to the country’s “inalienable nuclear rights.”
The senators lash out at Obama for completely ignoring congressional efforts to provide oversight of the deal. Read the rest of this entry »
The Kunstmuseum Bern is expected to decide as early as Saturday to accept the estate of the late Cornelius Gurlitt.
BERN, Switzerland— MARY M. LANE reports: A small art museum in the Swiss capital is preparing to take possession of more than 1,000 artworks bequeathed to it by the son of one of Hitler’s main art dealers, unshackling Germany from an embarrassing burden that has weighed on it for a year.
Barring any last-minute legal objections, the Kunstmuseum Bern is expected to decide as early as Saturday to accept the estate of the late Cornelius Gurlitt, according to three people familiar with the museum board’s discussions.
‘When something like this falls into your lap of course you’re going to vote to take it.’
—A person at the Kunstmuseum Bern’s board meetings
That could expedite restitution for heirs of Holocaust victims, many of whom have seen their claims that the art was stolen from their families languish since the existence of the trove was publicly revealed a year ago. For some works, restitution could happen within days if the museum accepts the bequest.
Stuart Eizenstat, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ’s special adviser on Holocaust issues, called the prospect “tremendously welcome and wonderful.”
“It was obvious from the start, and a huge source of angst, that accepting the works would fundamentally change the identity of our museum forever.”
The collection includes masterpieces by Claude Monet, Henri Matisse and Pierre Auguste-Renoir and was amassed during and shortly after World War II by Mr. Gurlitt’s father, a museum director turned art dealer for Hitler. Historians and lawyers have already concluded the trove contains several pieces stolen from European Jews by the Nazis.
The German government has been quietly urging the museum to accept the art, according to the people familiar with the discussions. Since the existence of the trove was revealed a year ago, Berlin has been under pressure from Holocaust victims’ families as well as the U.S. and Israeli governments to return all stolen pieces to their original owners.
“One of the prime pieces is an Henri Matisse portrait of a creamy-skinned brunette that a German-government appointed group of experts has already determined is looted.”
Mr. Gurlitt unexpectedly bequeathed his estate to the museum shortly before he died May 6 at 81. According to the will Mr. Gurlitt signed on his deathbed, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, the Kunstmuseum Bern would be required to conduct this research and restitution. Museum director Matthias Frehner has pledged that it would do so if it accepts the bequest.
If the museum were to decline the collection, it would go to Mr. Gurlitt’s distant relatives, who are dispersed in and outside Germany. While his will stipulates that they also return Nazi-looted art, lawyers say there is no way to make sure the multiple heirs conduct such research properly or efficiently outside of going to court, meaning individual cases could drag on for years.
One of the prime pieces is an Henri Matisse portrait of a creamy-skinned brunette that a German-government appointed group of experts has already determined is looted. Read the rest of this entry »
Jihadist Snuff Video Production Crew Claims Another Violent Murder: Islamic State Group Beheads U.S. Aid Worker Peter KassigPosted: November 16, 2014
BEIRUT (AP) — An Islamic State group video released Sunday purports to show extremists beheading a dozen Syrian soldiers and ends with a militant claiming to have killed U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig, the latest slaughter proudly broadcast by the group on the Internet.
“The Islamic State group has beheaded and shot dead hundreds of captives — mainly Syrian and Iraqi soldiers — during its sweep across the two countries, and has celebrated its mass killings in extremely graphic videos.”
The video ends with the militant standing over a severed head he says belongs to Kassig. U.S. officials said they were working to determine the video’s authenticity. Kassig’s family said it was awaiting the outcome of the investigation.
“The group has declared a self-styled Islamic caliphate in the areas under its control, which it governs according to its violent interpretation of Shariah law.”
“We prefer our son is written about and remembered for his important work and the love he shared with friends and family, not in the manner the hostage takers would use to manipulate Americans and further their cause,” the family said in a statement.
The Associated Press could not independently verify the footage, though it appeared on websites used in the past by the Islamic State group, which now controls a third of Syria and Iraq.
The video identifies the militants’ location as Dabiq, a town in northern Syria that the militant group uses as the title of its English-language propaganda magazine and where they believe an apocalyptic battle between Muslims and their enemies will occur. Read the rest of this entry »
Fake Cellphone Towers on Planes Used to Target Criminals, but Also Sift Through Thousands of Other Phones
WASHINGTON—Devlin Barrett reports: The Justice Department is scooping up data from thousands of cellphones through fake communications towers deployed on airplanes, a high-tech hunt for criminal suspects that is snagging a large number of innocent Americans, according to people familiar with the operations.
“The program cuts out phone companies as an intermediary in searching for suspects. Rather than asking a company for cell-tower information to help locate a suspect, which law enforcement has criticized as slow and inaccurate, the government can now get that information itself.”
The U.S. Marshals Service program, which became fully functional around 2007, operates Cessna aircraft from at least five metropolitan-area airports, with a flying range covering most of the U.S. population, according to people familiar with the program.
“Similar devices are used by U.S. military and intelligence officials operating in other countries, including in war zones, where they are sometimes used to locate terrorist suspects, according to people familiar with the work. In the U.S., these people said, the technology has been effective in catching suspected drug dealers and killers. They wouldn’t say which suspects were caught through this method.”
Planes are equipped with devices—some known as “dirtboxes” to law-enforcement officials because of the initials of the Boeing Co. unit that produces them—which mimic cell towers of large telecommunications firms and trick cellphones into reporting their unique registration information. Read the rest of this entry »
On September 1, 2014 the US State Department published a report, in which it was stated that for first time since the collapse of the USSR, Russia reached parity with the US in the field of strategic nuclear weapons. Thus, Washington admitted that Moscow regained the status that the Soviet Union had obtained by mid-70’s of the XX century and then lost.
According to the report from the State Department, Russia has 528 carriers of strategic nuclear weapons that carry 1,643 warheads. The United States has 794 vehicles and 1,652 nuclear warheads.
It just so happens that today, Russia’s strategic nuclear forces (SNF) are even more advanced in comparison with those of the US, as they ensure parity on warheads with a significantly smaller number of carriers of strategic nuclear weapons. This gap between Russia and the United States may only grow in the future, given the fact that Russian defense officials promised to rearm Russia’s SNF with new generation missiles. Read the rest of this entry »
Large Convoys Reported to be Moving Into the Region
BRUSSELS—Naftali Bendavid reports: Russia has sent convoys of tanks, howitzers and other weaponry along with troops into eastern Ukraine in recent days, possibly aiming to consolidate separatist enclaves there in preparation for a long-term standoff, Western observers say.
The new incursions represent a sharp increase in Russia’s presence in the region, posing a significant new challenge to the peace plan signed in early September in Minsk, Belarus.
“This is a severe threat to the cease-fire,” the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. “Any attempt by separatist forces to seize more territory in eastern Ukraine would be another blatant violation of the Minsk agreement.”
The flow “includes Russian artillery, tanks, air defense systems and troops,” he said.
‘We…are again at a point in which we can’t say for sure how this conflict will proceed.’
—German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
In addition, international monitors in the region said that the Russian-backed rebels have been gaining territory, and that the mission’s surveillance drones have been shot at and jammed.
‘While our aim is to try to work to consolidate the cease-fire, it is more on paper.’
—Lamberto Zannier, OSCE secretary-general
Russia’s Defense Ministry denied the allegations of a military presence—troops or weaponry—in Ukraine, calling them, like previous ones, “regular concussions of the Brussels air.”
Since the cease-fire was reached between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists on Sept. 5—under Russian auspices—the two sides have regularly accused each other of violations. Hundreds of deaths of fighters and civilians have been recorded since then. Read the rest of this entry »
November 11th 1918: WW1 armistice
On this day in 1918, Germany signed an armistice agreement with the Allied powers, thus officially ending combat in the First World War. The agreement was signed in a train carriage in France. Fighting ended at 11am, as it was the eleventh hour in the eleventh month on the eleventh day. This marked Allied victory in the war that had raged since 1914 but negotiations continued at the Paris Peace Conference and the war officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919. The Treaty set up a ‘League of Nations’ which was to be a group of countries dedicated to the preservation of global peace. Every year the Commonwealth nations commemorate the fallen soldiers in Remembrance Day, and hold a two minute silence in their honour. Other nations around the world have similar days of remembrance for the around 10 million soldiers who died in the conflict. This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the beginning of this terrible conflict, so this Remembrance Day is a particularly poignant moment to remember the fallen of the First World War.
— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) November 11, 2014
Mary Chastain reports: According to reports, the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) murdered four journalists on November 4 and five on November 6 in Mosul, Iraq. Since the terrorist group drove out journalists when they took over the city in June, the reports cannot be confirmed.
“It is currently very hard to get any reliable information from either Iraq or Syria. This example of contradictory information demonstrates the difficulty or even impossibility for journalists to work.”
A source told Rudaw the jihadist group murdered “brothers Ahmed and Aitar Rafi, Mohandis Yasir, Yasir Alqaisi, and Modhas Adari” in the Sumar district last Thursday. This resident said the Islamic State accused the journalists of being spies. On Tuesday, local residents told Haaretz the militants murdered four journalists. Their bodies were given to medical authorities. Read the rest of this entry »