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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Raqqa: SDF arrests 150 tribesmen refused to join the U.S.-backed alliance


(Zaman Al Wasl)- Syrian Democratic Forces arrested about 150 tribesmen in northeastern Raqqa province as they refused to join the U.S.-backed alliance to fight ISIS, activists said Sunday.

Media activist said SDF fighters have waged a series of raids on the Arab villages of al-Soukariyeh, al-Tyba, Eastern Tel Abyad, al-Antar and al-Ali Bajabla. Most of the abducted tribesmen were members of Jaysh al-Ashaer, or the Tribes Army,  he added.

The SDF was formed in mid-October as an alliance between the powerful Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and rebel groups including Arab and Assyrian militias to fight Islamic State. But few weeks later SDF had engaged in fighting with moderate rebels groups amid reports of unspoken coordination with Syrian regime forces and Russia.

Amnesty International accused last October the Kurdish armed units in northern Syria of razing Arab and Turkmen villages, actions it says amounted to war crimes.

The alleged abuses took place in areas administered by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is affiliated with the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Researchers visited 14 towns and villages controlled by Kurdish forces in Hasakah and Raqqa provinces, where fighters had retaken territory previously held by the Islamic State.

Since it began in 2011, Syria's war has fractured into a complex array of fronts between Kurds, rebels, regime and jihadists, and has killed more than 260,000 people.

Source: Zaman alwsl.
Link: https://en.zamanalwsl.net/news/13967.html.

Hamas, Israel reach agreement on prisoner swap for captured soldier Shalit

JERUSALEM (BNO NEWS) -- Israel and Hamas have reached an agreement which will secure the release of captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, officials at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said on late Tuesday.

Shalit was abducted by Hamas militants on June 25, 2006 and has been held in captivity since. His family has been attempting for years to have contact with him without avail.

Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that officials in the Prime Minister's Office said that "a brief window of opportunity" has been opened that would possibly lead to Gilad Shalit's homecoming. They added: "The window appeared following fears that collapsing Mideast regimes and the rise of extremist forces would make Gilad Shalit's return impossible."

The Israeli cabinet is due to vote on the prisoner exchange agreement, but Netanyahu aides estimate that the deal will be approved by the cabinet. Several ministers who have voiced opposition to freeing terrorists in exchange for Shalit are being pushed to approve the deal.

The Egyptian intelligence has been mediating the previous rounds of talks between the Israeli delegation and Hamas. Speaking with Haaertz, one Egyptian official said: "After 64 months of tough negotiations we were able to complete the deal. It was a very difficult task, which included thousands of hours of negotiations."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the deal that will reportedly free 1,027 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. He said from the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, where he arrived on Tuesday, that he hopes that all Palestinian prisoners would be released from Israeli jails.

According to the deal, Israel will release 450 prisoners next week, including 315 prisoners serving life sentences. Another 577 prisoners, including all 27 female prisoners, will be released two months after concluding the first part of the deal, the Palestine News Network (PNN) reported.

Governments around the world have strongly condemned the continued detention of the IDF soldier and called on Hamas, a group the United States has designated as a terrorist organization, to release him immediately. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the deal, saying that holding Shalit "in captivity has been utterly unjustified from the beginning and yet it has gone on for 5 long years."

He added: "We have always called for his unconditional release. We are pleased that this long overdue development is finally taking place."

However, it remains to be seen whether the agreement will be carried out. Last December, Israel and Hamas apparently also reached a deal for the release of Shalit, but the agreement never came about. Since then, negotiations for his release as part of a prisoner swap between Israel and the Palestinian movement have dragged on.

Since Shalit's capture, the only signs of life have been three letters, an audio tape released a year after he was taken and a brief video broadcast on October 2, 2009.

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Source: Wire Update.
Link: http://wireupdate.com/news/hamas-israel-reach-agreement-on-prisoner-swap-for-captured-soldier-shalit.html.

Jordanian parliament to discuss Israeli gas import deal

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Jordan’s House of Representatives approved a request submitted by 35 MPs on Tuesday to dedicate a public session in parliament to discuss the agreement for the import of Israeli gas from America’s Noble Energy Company. The company operates in the occupied Palestinian territories and the agreement has created a storm in Jordanian political circles.

Although the parliament did not specify a date for the session, according to its own procedural rules the discussion must be held within two weeks of the request being submitted.

The government in Amman announced its intention to sign the Israeli gas agreement for the National Electric Power Company (NEPCO), despite the parliament’s recommendation to scrap the deal. NEPCO has signed a preliminary agreement (letter of intent) to import Israeli natural gas over 30 years with a total value of $15 billion, for which the Zionist state would provide around 45 billion cubic meters from the Leviathan field.

Source: Middle East Monitor.
Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/23829-jordanian-parliament-to-discuss-israeli-gas-import-deal.

Jordan to create 200,000 jobs for Syrian refugees

Monday, 08 February 2016

Jordan will provide approximately 200,000 jobs for Syrian refugees, the country’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Imad Fakhoury said yesterday.

Speaking during a press conference to discuss the outcomes of Syria Conference held in London, UK on Thursday, Fakhoury pointed out that “Turkey has hinted at the possibility of providing one million jobs, while Lebanon will offer 210,000 jobs to Syrians.”

“There are about 143,000 Syrian students who benefit from the education services in the kingdom while 82-92,000 of them remain without education.”

He said donors have expressed their readiness to offer $1 billion to build more classrooms and new schools for Syrian refugees.

Jordan is expected to receive $2.1 billion in the coming three years, he explained, with $1.5 billion being spent on sewage, education, health and infrastructure.

Source: Middle East Monitor.
Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/23784-jordan-to-create-200000-jobs-for-syrian-refugees.

King of Bahrain in Russia for talks with Putin

February 08, 2016

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — President Vladimir Putin has hosted the ruler of Bahrain for talks focused on the Syrian crisis and economic cooperation.

Putin hailed Bahrain as Russia's "important partner in the Gulf and the entire Middle East" at the start of the talks Monday in the Russian president's residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Putin presented Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa with a horse of an ancient Akhal-Teke breed, which has won several international competitions. The king gave the Russian president a sword made of Damascus steel.

Speaking after the talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the two countries agreed to boost economic and military ties. He said both countries spoke in support of Syrian peace settlement.

Seoul: N. Korean leader Kim had his military chief executed

February 11, 2016

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had his military chief executed for corruption and other charges, a South Korean official said Thursday.

If true, the execution of Ri Yong Gil, chief of the North Korean military's general staff, would be the latest in a series of killings, purges and dismissals since Kim took power in late 2011. Details about North Korea's opaque government are notoriously difficult for outsiders to get, even national governments, and South Korean officials have a spotty record of tracking developments in North Korea.

A South Korean official said that Ri's execution was part of Kim's effort to bolster his grip on power. Other charges Ri faced before his execution were abusing his power and forming a clique, the official said.

The official didn't say how the information was obtained and spoke on condition of anonymity because it involves confidential intelligence on North Korea. The government had previously leaked the details to South Korean media.

Ri, an army general who took up the top military job in 2013, had been considered as one of Kim's trusted aides because he frequently accompanied his inspection tours of army units and factories. Speculation about his fate flared after he missed two key national events in North Korea: a meeting of senior ruling Workers' Party officials last week and a rally celebrating the North's rocket test this week.

During the Workers' Party meeting, Kim called for a fight against misuse of authority, abuse of power and "bureaucratism" that he said undermined single-minded unity in North Korea. South Korea's intelligence service said in July that 70 North Korean officials have been executed since Kim's inauguration, a number that far exceeds the bloodshed of his dictator father Kim Jong Il's early rule. Before Ri's reported killing, the most notable executions were the killings of Armed Forces Minister Hyon Yong Chol for disloyalty last year and Kim's powerful uncle Jang Song Thaek for treason in 2013.

Some outside experts have said repeated bloody power shifts in North Korea indicated the young leader is still struggling to establish himself.

Human rights body reviews disputed legal changes in Poland

February 08, 2016

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — An international human rights commission began two days of meetings with Polish officials Monday to determine whether recent legal changes to Poland's Constitutional Tribunal are in line with democratic standards.

The Polish government requested the review by the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the human rights watchdog the Council of Europe, after legislation it put through last year sparked street protests and international criticism.

The Council of Europe is not part of the European Union and the Venice Commission's judgment, expected in March, is not legally binding. Nonetheless, it is expected to influence an ongoing EU investigation into whether Poland's new right-wing government has carried out "systemic" violations of the rule of law.

The EU is concerned about the legal changes to the constitutional court, which make it harder for the court to strike down legislation, as well as a refusal by the country's new leadership to allow three judges onto the court who were chosen legally by the previous centrist government.

The EU is also worried about a new media law that gives the government greater control over state broadcasters. The head of the Venice Commission, Gianni Buquicchio, met Monday morning with President Andrzej Duda. Over the next two days there will be many more meetings involving Polish judicial authorities and other members of the commission, who are experts in constitutional and international law.

Soon after sweeping to power late last year, the Law and Justice party used its majority in parliament to quickly enact legislative changes. That sparked a huge outcry from critics who say the party went too far and violated democratic norms.

The government of Prime Minister Beata Szydlo argues that deep institutional change is necessary if the new leaders are to fulfill promises to voters who support their conservative and national agenda.

French lawmakers approve divisive citizenship bill

February 10, 2016

PARIS (AP) — French lawmakers have approved a divisive bill aimed at making it possible to revoke the citizenship of people convicted on terrorism charges.

The bill, presented by Socialist Prime minister Manuel Valls in the wake of the Paris attacks last year, passed by 317-199 Wednesday in parliament's lower house, the National Assembly. The measure revealed deep division among the ruling Socialists. Many on the left expressed indignation at the move and refused to vote for it. Justice minister Christian Taubira resigned last month in protest. The measure also divides the opposition conservatives.

Valls justified the need for the bill by the terrorist threat. "Because we are at war, we must unite", he told journalists after the vote. "This is a great day for the Republic, for unity, for France and for the fight against terrorism".

The reform, which would alter the Constitution, is still far from being definitively adopted. It also needs to be voted on by the Senate and ultimately would require a three-fifths majority vote from lawmakers of both houses.

The government says the measure would concern a very small number of people but is of high symbolic value. The decision to revoke a person's French citizenship would be made by a judge and would apply to terrorism-related crimes.

Human rights groups had warned that the bill risked discriminating against minorities of immigrant background as the initial text targeted dual nationals only. In response to the criticism, the Socialist government removed the mention of dual nationals and extended the measure to all French citizens. That risks leaving a person stateless, which could be in conflict with France's obligations under international law.

Another measure in the bill would introduce the principle of the state of emergency into the Constitution. It would apply in the event of a terrorist threat or a natural disaster for a 12-day period that could be extended by a vote of the Parliament, as under current law.

France cancels Israeli drone order

Monday, 08 February 2016

The French government has cancelled its order for unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) from the Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit, AlKhaleejonline.com reported on Sunday.

Quoting Israel’s Channel 10 TV, it said that France had “capitulated” to European boycott pressure, “even for military products.” The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement in France apparently collected 8,000 signatures on a petition against the government’s deal with the Israeli company.

The BDS campaign demanded that France should cancel the purchase of the drones because they were used by the Israeli army “to kill civilians” in the Gaza Strip.

Source: Middle East Monitor.
Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/23789-france-cancels-israeli-drone-order.

NATO ministers approve new reinforcements for eastern Europe

February 10, 2016

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO defense ministers on Wednesday approved new multinational reinforcements to beef up defenses of frontline alliance members most at risk from Russia, the alliance's secretary-general announced.

Jens Stoltenberg said the plan adopted by the United States and NATO's 27 other members calls for the use of troops from multiple countries who rotate in and out of eastern European member states rather than being permanently based there.

He said military planners will make recommendations on the number and composition of troops needed this spring. The soldiers "will be multinational to make clear that an attack against one ally is any attack against all allies and that the alliance as a whole will respond," Stoltenberg told a news conference following the first session of the two-day defense ministers' meeting.

Getting firm commitments, or even deciding how many NATO troops should be rotated eastward, may take time, however. Douglas Lute, U.S. ambassador to NATO, said he expected defense ministers to agree on "a framework" but that actual force levels will probably be hammered out only after consultations with NATO's supreme commander in Europe, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove.

One NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make public statements, told The Associated Press one proposal under consideration calls for creation of a brigade-sized force: roughly 3,000 soldiers.

On Feb. 2, the Obama administration announced its own plans to quadruple spending on U.S. troops and training in Europe. U.S. officials say that if Congress approves the $3.4 billion proposal, it would mean year-round presence in Europe of an American brigade engaged in training, mostly in small units sent to the NATO members nearest Russia.

What's more, enough tanks and other hardware would be stockpiled in advance to equip another U.S. armored brigade whose troops could be airlifted to Europe in case of a crisis. Most of that equipment would be stored in Western Europe, rather than in countries closer to Russia.

A senior NATO official, also speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss internal alliance deliberations, said the U.S. now hopes its European NATO partners will commit to new investments for deterrence that correspond to the increased funding and troops, equipment and training moves the Pentagon wants.

At Wednesday's meeting, "many allies" announced how they intend to contribute to NATO's enhanced presence in the east, Stoltenberg said, but declined to give details. He said the overall goal was to reassure skittish allies and deter Moscow without completely alienating the Russians in the process.

"This is about striking many different balances," the NATO chief said. On Monday, Russia's envoy to NATO warned his country will respond to a buildup of alliance forces near Russian borders. In remarks shown on Russian television, Alexander Grushko said the deployment of NATO forces in eastern Europe "can't be left without a military-technical answer."

"Russia won't compromise its security interests," Grushko said. Stoltenberg said he will be meeting Friday with Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, in Munich, Germany, and will stress that NATO harbors no hostile intent toward Moscow.

"I will underline that what NATO does is defensive, it is proportionate and it's fully in line with our international obligations when it comes to our increased presence in the eastern part of the alliance," Stoltenberg said.

Following a request by Turkey, NATO's defense ministers are also reviewing what the U.S.-led political and military alliance might do to help slow the influx of migrants into Europe by sea. NATO already has AWACS surveillance planes, air policing and maritime patrol aircraft and an increased number of warships in the eastern Mediterranean under the reassurance measures agreed for Turkey in December, Stoltenberg noted. But he said more time is needed to evaluate how NATO might contribute to easing the migrant crisis, and added that he hoped to be able to make an announcement Thursday.

"We all understand the concern and we all see the human tragedy," Stoltenberg said. The International Organization for Migration on Tuesday said 409 people have died so far this year trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, and that migrant crossings in the first six weeks of 2016 are running at nearly 10 times the rate of the same period last year. IOM said 76,000 people have reached Europe by sea, nearly 2,000 per day, since Jan. 1.

Germany, the leading Europe destination for the migrants, many of whom are fleeing war or poverty in their Middle Eastern or African homelands, welcomed the discussions at NATO. "It is good that the Turkish government has asked NATO to help for the surveillance of the sea. We are aiming at stopping the business of the smugglers," German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said.

6 founding EU nations commit to the original unity goals

February 09, 2016

BRUSSELS (AP) — The six founding nations of the European Union on Tuesday stressed their commitment to seek an "ever closer union" ahead of next week's summit where Britain is expected to seek a new agreement to help convince a skeptical public to remain part of the EU.

The foreign ministers of host Italy, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg said in a joint statement Tuesday they reconfirm their "strong commitment to Europe and the European project and invite all other member states to join."

Such momentum goes against the terms British Prime Minister David Cameron will be looking for at next week's EU summit, where he will seek to obtain reform commitments to give Britain a more independent say in its affairs and Chancellor of the Exchequor George Osborne said a few months ago that "quite frankly, the British people do not want to be part of an ever closer union."

At the same time Britain has said it does not want to hold others back, creating a momentum that could lead a core of nations to integrate much tighter. "We remain resolved to continue the process of creating an ever closer union among the people of Europe," the joint statement after their meeting in Rome said. "Europe is successful when we overcome narrow self-interest in the spirit of solidarity."

The low-key meeting, said Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, "sought to start a reflection on how to reinforce internal cohesion in the EU." The lack of solidarity has become a central theme as the EU has struggled from crisis to crisis over the past years, from the financial chaos and the near exit of Greece from the Euro, to division over how to deal with the migrant issue to the possible departure of Britain from the bloc.

Each of these issues could still fundamentally damage the EU project and wreak the celebrations next year for the 60th anniversary of the founding Treaty of Rome.

Rights group: Philippine army falsely tags children as rebels

NEW YORK (BNO NEWS) -- A human rights group on Tuesday urged the Philippine government to end the military's harassment of children and their families in conflict areas, a statement said.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the Philippine army has fabricated stories that children taken into custody are rebel "child warriors." It said six cases involving 12 children have been reported since President Benigno Aquino III took office in June 2010.

"The army is concocting stories of rebel child soldiers that are putting children at risk for propaganda purposes," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The government should get the military to stop this despicable practice and investigate the officers involved."

Under Philippine law, the armed forces are required to immediately turn children taken into custody during military operations over to the social welfare agency, the police, or the local government. However, in the three cases HRW investigated, the army paraded the children in front of the media, publicly branding them as rebels.

In the past year, the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, has documented the use of children in armed conflict by the New People's Army and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, as well as by government forces. HRW acknowledged that the Philippine armed forces are involved in military operations against various armed groups, but said that abuses by one party never justify abuses by the other.

The Philippine government did not immediately respond to the allegations.

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Source: Wire Update.
Link: http://wireupdate.com/news/rights-group-philippine-army-falsely-tags-children-as-rebels.html.

Galactic crashes fuel quasars

New Haven CT (SPX)
Jun 22, 2015

When galaxies collide, bright things happen in the universe. Using the Hubble Space Telescope's infrared vision, astronomers have unveiled some of the previously hidden origins of quasars, the brightest objects in the universe. A new study finds that quasars are born when galaxies crash into each other and fuel supermassive, central black holes.

"The Hubble images confirm that the most luminous quasars in the universe result from violent mergers between galaxies, which fuels black hole growth and transforms the host galaxies," said C. Megan Urry, the Israel Munson Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Yale University, and co-author of the study published online June 18 in The Astrophysical Journal.

"These mergers are also the sites of future black hole mergers, which we hope will one day be visible with gravitational wave telescopes," Urry said.

Quasars emit a light as bright as that of one trillion stars. Over the past two decades, researchers have concluded that the energy for quasars comes from supermassive black holes inside the cores of distant galaxies.

But where do the supermassive black holes get their fuel? It had been theorized previously that such energy could come from the merger of two galaxies. The new study confirms it by using Hubble's sensitivity at near-infrared wavelengths of light to see past the intense glow of the quasar, to the host galaxies themselves.

"The Hubble observations are telling us that the peak of quasar activity in the early universe is driven by galaxies colliding and then merging together," said Eilat Glikman of Middlebury College in Vermont, lead author of the study and a former Yale postdoctoral researcher. "We are seeing the quasars in their teenage years, when they are growing quickly and all messed up."

Glikman decided to look for "dust reddened quasars" in several ground-based infrared and radio sky surveys. These quasars are enveloped in dust, dimming their visible light.

Using Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3, Glikman looked at 11 such quasars from the peak of the universe's star-formation era, 12 billion years ago. "The new images capture the dust-clearing transitional phase of the merger-driven black hole scenario," Glikman said. "The Hubble images are both beautiful and descriptive."

Source: Space Daily.
Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Galactic_crashes_fuel_quasars_999.html.

Hot lava flows discovered on Venus

Paris (ESA)
Jun 22, 2015

ESA's Venus Express has found the best evidence yet for active volcanism on Earth's neighbor planet. Seeing the planet's surface is extremely difficult due to its thick atmosphere, but radar observations by previous missions to Venus have revealed it as a world covered in volcanoes and ancient lava flows.

Venus is almost exactly the same size as Earth and has a similar bulk composition, so is likely to have an internal heat source, perhaps due to radioactive heating. This heat has to escape somehow, and one possibility is that it does so in the form of volcanic eruptions.

Some models of planetary evolution suggest that Venus was resurfaced in a cataclysmic flood of lava around half a billion years ago. But whether Venus is active today has remained a hot topic in planetary science. ESA's Venus Express, which completed its eight-year study of the planet last year, conducted a range of observations at different wavelengths to address this important question.

In a study published in 2010, scientists reported that the infrared radiation coming from three volcanic regions was different to that from the surrounding terrain. They interpreted this as coming from relatively fresh lava flows that had not yet experienced significant surface weathering. These flows were found to be less than 2.5 million years old, but the study could not establish whether there is still active volcanism on the planet.

An additional piece of evidence was reported in 2012, showing a sharp rise in the sulfur dioxide content of the upper atmosphere in 2006-2007, followed by a gradual fall over the following five years. Although changes in wind patterns could have caused this, the more intriguing possibility is that episodes of volcanic activity were injecting vast amounts of sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere.

Now, using a near-infrared channel of the spacecraft's Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) to map thermal emission from the surface through a transparent spectral window in the planet's atmosphere, an international team of planetary scientists has spotted localized changes in surface brightness between images taken only a few days apart.

"We have now seen several events where a spot on the surface suddenly gets much hotter, and then cools down again," says Eugene Shalygin from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany, and lead author of the paper reporting the results in Geophysical Research Letters this month.

"These four 'hotspots' are located in what are known from radar imagery to be tectonic rift zones, but this is the first time we have detected that they are hot and changing in temperature from day to day. It is the most tantalizing evidence yet for active volcanism."

The hotspots are found along the Ganiki Chasma rift zone close to the volcanoes Ozza Mons and Maat Mons. Rift zones are results of fracturing of the surface, which is often associated with upwelling of magma below the crust. This process can bring hot material to the surface, where it may be released through fractures as a lava flow.

"These observations are close to the limits of the spacecraft's capabilities and it was extremely difficult to make these detections with Venus' thick clouds impairing the view," says co-author Wojciech Markiewicz. "But the VMC was designed to make these systematic observations of the surface and luckily we clearly see these regions that change in temperature over time, and that are notably higher than the average surface temperature."

Because VMC's view is blurred by the clouds, the areas of increased emission appear spread out over large areas more than 100 km across, but the hot regions on the surface below are probably much smaller. Indeed, for the hotspot known as 'Object A', the team calculate that the feature may only be around 1 square kilometer in size, with a temperature of 830 C, much higher than the global average of 480 C.

The Ganiki Chasma rift zone was already considered to be one of the most recently geologically active regions on the planet, and as the new analysis suggests, it is still active today.

"It looks like we can finally include Venus in the small club of volcanically active Solar System bodies," says Hakan Svedhem, ESA's Venus Express project scientist.

"Our study shows that Venus, our nearest neighbor, is still active and changing in the present day - it is an important step in our quest to understand the different evolutionary histories of Earth and Venus."

Source: Space Daily.
Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Hot_lava_flows_discovered_on_Venus_999.html.

Russia puts off building of AK-T space laboratory

Beijing (XNA)
Oct 12, 2011

Russia has postponed the building of the AK-T space laboratory due to lack of scientific projects the station has been designed for, a Russian space agency official said Friday.

The project would be put off for two or three years, Vitaly Davydov, deputy chief of the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, told a press briefing.

The AK-T space lab has been designed as an autonomous space vehicle capable of docking with the International Space Station (ISS) when necessary, according to local media reports.

Davydov said Russia has also canceled the building of a new carrier rocket Rus-M for lack of funds.

Source: Space Daily.
Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Russia_puts_off_building_of_AK_T_space_laboratory_999.html.

Iran to launch research satellite into space

Tehran (XNA)
Oct 12, 2011

Iran is going to launch domestically- built Navid satellite by Safir satellite launcher by the end of March 2012, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported on Sunday.

Navid (promise) is a research satellite and is currently undergoing pre-launch tests, said the report without further details.

In June, Iran put the Rasad (surveillance) satellite in the orbit to render images to the country.

Iran put a satellite into orbit in 2009 and sent some small animals into space in 2010. It plans to send man into space by 2020.

Source: Space Daily.
Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Iran_to_launch_research_satellite_into_space_999.html.

New View of Vesta Mountain From NASA's Dawn Mission

Pasadena CA (JPL)
Oct 12, 2011

A new image from NASA's Dawn spacecraft shows a mountain three times as high as Mt. Everest, amidst the topography in the south polar region of the giant asteroid Vesta.

The peak of Vesta's south pole mountain, seen in the center of the image, rises about 13 miles (22 kilometers) above the average height of the surrounding terrain.

Another impressive structure is a large scarp, a cliff with a steep slope, on the right side of this image. The scarp bounds part of the south polar depression, and the Dawn team's scientists believe features around its base are probably the result of landslides.

It was created from a shape model of Vesta, and shows an oblique perspective view of the topography of the south polar region.

The image resolution is about 300 meters per pixel, and the vertical scale is 1.5 times that of the horizontal scale.

Dawn entered orbit around Vesta in July. Members of the mission team will discuss what the spacecraft has seen so far during a news conference at the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America in Minneapolis.

Among other things, they'll share their hypotheses on the origins of Vesta's curious craters.

Following a year at Vesta, the spacecraft will depart in July 2012 for Ceres, where it will arrive in 2015.

Dawn's mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Source: Space Daily.
Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/New_View_of_Vesta_Mountain_From_NASA_Dawn_Mission_999.html.

Putin's ex-bodyguard turned governor recalls facing bear

February 09, 2016

MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin's former bodyguard, who recently has been appointed regional governor, said he once confronted a bear outside of Putin's residence.

Alexei Dyumin, 43 told the daily Kommersant in an interview published Tuesday that he was on duty while Putin was asleep at a presidential residence when he saw a bear standing at its glass doors. "We looked each other in the eyes, he stepped back a bit. I opened the door and unloaded the entire cartridge of my pistol under his legs," he said. "I felt pity for the bear."

Dyumin said the animal retreated, and Putin later praised him for sparing the bear. When Putin appointed Dyumin last week as the acting governor of the Tula region south of Moscow, many commentators speculated it's an interim step in his quick ascent. Some even claimed that Putin could be grooming the burly general as his successor, the allegation that appears dubious as the Russian president so far hasn't signaled any intentions to step down after his current term ends in 2018.

While the tight-lipped officer gave few details of his service next to Putin, he shared some yet unknown details about the secretive Russian leader, a figure of immense interest to both his fans and foes.

In another episode Dyumin recalled, Putin was visiting Chechnya soon after rebels' defeat there and boarded a backup helicopter instead of his main one on his way back. Dyumin said he tried to warn Putin that he had chosen the wrong aircraft, but the president ignored him. The helicopter with Putin safely flew back, but the chopper he was supposed to board, which Dyumin and some others took, caught fire and crash-landed immediately after takeoff.

"I thought then what was it," Dyumin said, casting it as an example of Putin's good luck. After serving for many years as Putin's bodyguard, Dyumin in 2014 was given general's rank and named the chief of the military's Special Operations Forces, an elite group of troops that perform sensitive tasks abroad.

"The zone of action for the Special Operations Forces is the entire world," he said. Some Russian media claimed that Dyumin led the operation to whisk former Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to Russia after he was chased from power in February 2014 following massive street protests. Dyumin himself denied the claim as a "myth."

He also refused to comment on media claims that he played a key role in the Russian takeover of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Moscow in March 2014. He said only that he received the Hero of Russia medial, the nation's highest military award, for "performing special tasks" but refused to elaborate.

The following year Dyumin was named the deputy chief of Ground Forces and promoted to deputy defense minister in December. Dyumin, whose father was a military officer, didn't show any political ambitions in his interview, casting himself just as a military man following orders in accepting the new job.

"When I was offered the job, I was a military man, and it was the commander in chief who set the task," he said. "I will work to succeed."

Putin, Erdogan discuss energy relationship

Oct. 11, 2011

MOSCOW, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Russia and Turkey discussed the potential for resuming supplies of Russian gas and put special focus on the South Stream pipeline, the prime minister said.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin spoke by phone with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss resuming natural gas supplies through Turkey.

State-owned Turkish Pipeline Corp. said last week it wasn't renewing its 25-year natural gas deal through the so-called Western pipeline because Gazprom wasn't offering a discount to Ankara.

"The prime ministers emphasized the potential for resuming gas supply through another Turkish company," Putin's office said in a statement.

Ankara said natural gas prices for Turkey are up 39 percent in the past two years. Turkey is one of the key export markets for Russian natural gas.

Ankara aims to position itself as a regional transit hub for natural resources. Both sides placed special focus on the South Stream gas pipeline meant for European consumers, Putin's office added. South Stream would pass through Turkish territory.

Zeynep Dereli, director of the Black Sea Energy and Economic Forum, told Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman during the weekend the Turkish energy sector needed to be privatized.

"Private companies can negotiate better terms," she said.

Source: United Press International (UPI).
Link: http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Industry/2011/10/11/Putin-Erdogan-discuss-energy-relationship/UPI-61101318329693/.

Iran sees 'Spring' in Wall Street protests

Oct. 10, 2011

TEHRAN, Oct. 10 (UPI) -- Iran hinted that the so-called Occupy Wall Street movement gaining steam across the United States is an American version of the Arab Spring.

Anti-Wall Street demonstrators criticizing the lopsided distribution of wealth in the United States have gained momentum in recent weeks. Protesters have demonstrated in more than two dozen cities, including Seattle, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta and Austin, Texas.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast hinted that Americans were experiencing something of an awakening but suggested authorities in the United States were "intolerant" of peaceful demonstrations, he was quoted by the semiofficial Mehr News Agency as saying.

The demonstrations have become political fodder in the United States. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told ABC's "This Week" that she supports the "message to the establishment" that there needs to be fundamental change in the United States.

"People are angry," she said.

Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain, however, told CBS's "Face the Nation" that the protests were a manifestation of "jealousy."

Iranian Brig. Gen. Masoud Jazayeri said the demonstrations were a prelude to the "American Spring," a reference to mass protests and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa.

"The Wall Street protests will spark widespread anti-corruption protests in the United States, which will definitely culminate in the collapse of the Western capitalist system," he was quoted by MNA as saying.

Source: United Press International (UPI).
Link: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2011/10/10/Iran-sees-Spring-in-Wall-Street-protests/UPI-92591318267642/.

Neo Solar Power to Invest in BlueChip Energy's 120 MW Sorrento Solar Farm Project

Lake Mary FL (SPX)
Oct 11, 2011

BlueChip Energy has announced it has signed a letter of intent with Neo Solar Power, a Taiwan-based solar cell manufacturer, for an equity participation in BCE's 120 MW Sorrento Solar Farm project.

As part of the agreement, Neo Solar Power will contribute at least 10 MW of its high efficiency solar cells for an equity stake in the project, which is currently under construction in Lake County, FL. The cells will be converted into solar panels by Advanced Solar Photonics, BCE's manufacturing subsidiary. Neo Solar Power focuses on high-efficiency crystalline silicon solar PV cells. As of the second quarter of 2011, the company had installed capacity of 1.3 GW.

"We are delighted to be working with NSP as a partner. They are one of the largest cell producers in the world, their product is top quality and, most importantly, NSP's executive management understands that to truly thrive in the PV industry, it is necessary to put your product to work in project generating electricity revenue," said Yongshuang Wang, VP of Strategic Development for BCE.

The LOI between BCE and Neo Solar Power is a major milestone in the US solar power industry as it marks the introduction of a new business model for developing solar power projects, without the use of power purchase agreements (PPAs) and financed by manufacturers themselves, rather than financial institutions.

BCE's new solar power development model will be described in more detail in an upcoming series of Executive Briefings to be released by the company over the next few weeks.

The Sorrento Solar Farm is unique among announced solar power projects in the United States in that is:

+ Fully permitted: Rezoning authorization issued by Lake County Zoning Board and the Lake County Board of Commissioners; Environmental Permit issued by Florida Department of Environmental Protection (permit No ERP35-0307272-001-SI);

+ Ideally Located: The project is located on land owned by BCE, gently sloping from north to south (eliminating the need for grading) and adjacent to two substations owned by Progress Energy Florida and SECO; and

+ Federally Licensed: The project has Qualifying Facility status (FERC Docket Number QF11-240-000) and Wholesale Generator status (FERC Docket Number EG11-58-000) certified by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Source: Solar Daily.
Link: http://www.solardaily.com/reports/Neo_Solar_Power_to_Invest_in_BlueChip_Energy_120_MW_Sorrento_Solar_Farm_Project_999.html.