February 2, 2017

Record high fatal radiation levels, hole in reactor detected at crippled Fukushima nuclear facility

Record high radiation levels that’s lethal even after brief exposure have been detected at a damaged reactor at the Fukushima power plant in Japan. Specialists also found a hole, likely caused by melted nuclear fuel.


A hole of no less than one square meter in size has also been discovered beneath the reactor’s pressure vessel, TEPCO said. According to researchers, the apparent opening in the metal grating of one of three reactors that had melted down in 2011, is believed to be have been caused by melted nuclear fuel that fell through the vessel.The iron scaffolding has a melting point of 1500 degrees, TEPCO said, explaining that there is a possibility the fuel debris has fallen onto it and burnt the hole. Such fuel debris have been discovered on equipment at the bottom of the pressure vessel just above the hole, it added.


Iran tested nuclear-capable cruise missile: German newspaper

Iran has tested a cruise missile called “Sumar” that is capable of carrying nuclear weapons in addition to test-firing a medium-range ballistic missile on Sunday, German newspaper Die Welt reported Thursday, citing unspecified intelligence sources.

No comment was immediately available from Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency or from Iranian authorities.

The newspaper said the Sumar cruise missile was built in Iran and traveled around 600 km in its first known successful test. The missile is believed to be capable of carrying nuclear weapons and may have a range of 2,000 to 3,000 km, the paper said, citing intelligence sources.

Cruise missiles are harder to counter than ballistic missiles since they fly at lower altitudes and can evade enemy radar, confounding missile defense missiles and hitting targets deep inside an opponent’s territory.

But the biggest advantage from Iran’s point of view, a security expert told Die Welt, was that cruise missiles are not mentioned in any United Nations resolutions that ban work on ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

International sanctions on Tehran were lifted in January last year under a nuclear deal brokered in 2015 by Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and the United States.

Under the nuclear deal Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for lifting of most sanctions. According to a 2015 U.N. resolution endorsing the deal, Iran is still called upon to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons for up to eight years.

News of Iran’s reported cruise missile test came hours after Washington said it was putting Iran “on notice” for its ballistic missile test and signaled that it could impose new sanctions.



Rockets Fly As Donetsk Returns To Darkest Days Of War

Major fighting around an industrial city in Donetsk has everyone asking if Putin is up to something big, or just testing the resolve of a new Trump administration.


Why is the war in Ukraine suddenly going from frozen conflict to scorcher? Is this Vladimir Putin’s way of testing Donald Trump, not two full weeks into his job as U.S. president, or is it just another provocation designed to keep Kiev weak and insecure after three years of invasion, annexation and occupation?

True, fighting has continued more or less constantly in east Ukraine, the industrial heartland known as the Donbass, ever since the fighting was meant to have stopped as a result of not one but two cease-fire agreements. But this week it escalated in a dramatic fashion, and with clear signs of Kremlin support. Into the fray on the pro-Russian separatists’ side have come heavy-duty armaments such as Grad rockets and the Buk missile system which shot down MH17. (And there’s only one place where the separatists can get this stuff). Also, Ukrainian soldiers are receiving ominous text messages on their cell phones, redolent of the kind of cyber-ops used against them before in the war, the technology and operators of which have been linked to Russian military intelligence hacking of the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s emails.


According to Ukrainian official reports, at least 12 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and 57 wounded since Sunday, along with civilian killed and five wounded. The Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk report at least nine of their fighters and five civilians dead, though it must always be cautioned that the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic has form for exaggerating or even outright fabricating reports of civilian casualties. Nevertheless the fighting is the worst seen in an urban area in well over a year.


Avdiivka is of key economic importance to the Donetsk region, housing the vast Avdiivka coke and Chemical Plant, the biggest coke producer in Ukraine and one of the largest in Europe. The plant forms a key part of the metallurgy industry in the Donbass, the backbone of the region’s economy, providing coke for steel works in Mariupol, another government-held city threatened by Russia-backed forces down on the Azov coast.


Russia to deliver 10 Su-35 fighter jets to China in 2017

Russia to deliver 10 Su-35 fighter jets to China in 2017
The second batch of 10 Russian Sukhoi Su-35 multipurpose fighter jets will be delivered to China this year with a further 10 aircraft in 2018, TASS reported on Thursday, citing its sources.

“The first four planes were supplied late last year and the second batch of 10 jets will be delivered to the customer this year,” said an unnamed source familiar with the matter.

 In November, Deputy Director of the Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation Vladimir Drozhzhov told TASS that Moscow had started deliveries of the fighter jets to China.

The contract for 24 Su-35s was inked in November 2015, making China the first international buyer of the advanced Russian warplane. The three-year deal for the aircraft, ground equipment, and spare engines is valued at $2 billion.

The Su-35 is a long-range ‘4++ generation’ super-maneuverable fighter jet. It is armed with an internal 30mm cannon and has 12 hardpoints with a combined capacity of 8,000 kg, compatible with a wide range of unguided and guided missiles and bombs. Its maximum speed is 2,500 km/h, with a range of 3,400 km, and a combat radius of around 1,600 km.


President Donald Trump ‘slammed Malcolm Turnbull over refugee deal, accused him of trying to “ship the next Boston bombers” to the U.S. then HUNG UP on their hour-long call after just 25 minutes’

  • Donald Trump slammed Malcolm Turnbull over asylum seeker deal
  • President Trump said it was ‘the worst call by far’ he had taken that day 
  • He was said to have accused Australia of trying to ship ‘the next Boston bombers’
  • He took to Twitter on Thursday to slam Obama administration for the ‘dumb deal 
  • The deal relates to resettling 1250 refugees detained on Manus Island and Naura
  • Mr Turnbull refused to comment on the details of the phone conversation 

Donald Trump slammed Malcolm Turnbull over a proposed asylum seeker deal and accused the Australian Prime Minister of looking to ship off the ‘next Boston bombers’ to the United States during their first official telephone conversation.

On Thursday afternoon the newly-elected president took to Twitter to slam the Obama administration for agreeing to take on the refugees in the first place.

‘Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!,’ he wrote.

Senior US officials told the Washington Post that Donald Trump abruptly hung up on Mr Turnbull after just 25 minutes – when the pair were meant to speak for an hour.

But an indignant Mr Turnbull returned serve, telling 2GB’s Ben Fordham: ‘As far as the call is concerned, I’m very disappointed, the report the president hung up is not correct, the call ended courteously.’

A fuming President Trump reportedly told Mr Turnbull that the conversation was ‘the worst call by far’ he had taken that day, after ‘boasting’ about pleasant exchanges with Russian President Vladimir Putin and three other world leaders.

President Trump reportedly ranted about the deal the Obama administration struck with Canberra to take 1250 genuine refugees from Nauru and Manus Island, telling Mr Turnbull: ‘I don’t want these people’.

It was the ‘worst deal ever’, he told the prime minister, complaining he was ‘going to get killed’ politically for following through on the resettlement agreement.

Sky News sources claim President Trump was ‘yelling’ at Mr Turnbull at points during the heated conversation, which took place on Saturday afternoon Washington time, Sunday morning Australian time.


Japan’s Abe to propose major job-creating plan to Trump, reports say

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reportedly plans to propose a sweeping economic cooperation initiative meant to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the U.S. when he meets with President Donald Trump later this month.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reportedly plans to propose a sweeping economic cooperation initiative meant to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the U.S. when he meets with President Donald Trump later this month.

Angling to pre-empt complaints over Japan’s perennial trade surplus with the U.S., Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reportedly plans to propose a sweeping economic cooperation initiative meant to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the U.S. when he meets with President Donald Trump later this month.

Abe and Trump are expected to meet on Feb. 10. Major Japanese newspapers cited a draft of the proposal that calls for cooperation on building high-speed trains in the U.S. northeast, Texas and California. Japan would share technology on artificial intelligence, robotics, small-scale nuclear power plants, space and Internet technology.

The reports Thursday said the proposed public-private initiative would create several hundred thousand jobs, reports said, and involve $450 billion in new investment.


Imam comes clean about Michigan man’s claim that mom died due to travel ban

A Detroit-area woman whose son told television stations that she died because President Donald Trump’s travel ban prevented her from returning to the U.S. for medical care actually died several days before the order was signed, the leader of a mosque said.

Imam Husham Al-Hussainy spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday about comments Mike Hager made to TV stations in Boston and Detroit. Hager said he tried to bring his ill mother back from Iraq on Friday, but that she was not allowed to enter the country because of Trump’s order temporarily barring citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Al-Hussainy told the AP that the woman actually died on Jan. 21 or 22 and that prayers were said for her at the Karbalaa Islamic Educational Center in Dearborn. Al-Hussainy said he learned she died then by members of his mosque and from posts on the family’s Facebook page.


Trump Admin: Iran in Breach of Nuke Deal

Restraint toward Islamic Republic ‘will end’

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn / AP

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn / AP

February 2, 2017 5:00 am

In a vast departure from the Obama White House, the Trump administration went on record Wednesday to accuse Iran of being in violation of the landmark nuclear agreement as a result of its recent test of ballistic missile technology, according to a senior White House official, who said that Iran has officially been put “on notice.”

Retired Gen. Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, accused Iran of breaching international accords governing the nuclear agreement. He lashed out at the Islamic Republic for threatening American military assets in the Persian Gulf region.

Flynn’s remarks represent a break with the previous administration, which worked to hide Iranian transgressions and declined to publicly state that Iran’s behavior violated the nuclear deal.

One senior White House official disclosed to the Washington Free Beacon that “the restraint of recent years” when it comes to Iran “will end.”


FBI defends withholding details of iPhone exploit, cites national security, ‘hostile entities’

– The Washington Times 

Disclosing additional details involving how the FBI unlocked an Apple iPhone at the center of a terrorism probe would be detrimental to national security, attorneys for the bureau argued in court filings Monday.

Nearly a year after the FBI spurred a heated security debate in a bid to access the contents of a password-protected smartphone recovered from the scene of a mass shooting in San Bernardino, attorneys for the government defended its decision to largely withhold information about how it eventually unlocked terrorism suspect Syed Farook’s iPhone.

The FBI ultimately hired an third-party vendor to hack into Farook’s iPhone for an undisclosed sum last year after the government unsuccessfully sued Apple in hopes of compelling the company’s assistance. Several news outlets soon after filed Freedom of Information Act requests in an effort to uncover information about that contract, including the name of the company hired and the amount it was paid.

The Associated Press, Gannett and Vice News subsequently sued the FBI in September after their inquiries were repeatedly rejected.

The FBI conclusively released 100 pages concerning the contract earlier this month, albeit rife with redactions and largely absent information sought by the plaintiffs. In an explanation filed Monday in federal court, the FBI’s attorneys said that the majority of the details were withheld because their disclosure “could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to the national security for several reasons.”


Red Crescent staff injured in ‘hideous’ US coalition strike on Idlib HQ – Turkish IFCR chief

Red Crescent staff injured in ‘hideous’ US coalition strike on Idlib HQ – Turkish IFCR chief
The US coalition has struck the headquarters of the Syrian Red Crescent and injured its staff in Syria’s Idlib, President of Turkish Red Crescent Kerem Kinik said, calling the alleged drone strike a “hideous war crime.”

The strike happened in the early hours of Wednesday at around 3:00 am (01:00 GMT) and destroyed the building’s upper floors and injured people on the ground level. The victims have reportedly been transported to makeshift hospitals in Idlib.

“At least four staff members of the Syrian Red Crescent (SARC) were injured in the airstrikes, one of them is in critical condition,” media activist Abdulqadir Othman told ARA News in Idlib.

“The bombardment also caused a massive destruction of the organization’s offices,” Othman added. The fire that broke out after the strike reportedly further contributed to the destruction of vital medical equipment.

While the attack has not been yet been confirmed by any of the forces operating in Syria, Kinik pinned the blame on the US-led coalition, calling the bombardment a war crime.

“We strongly condemn hideous air attack led by US coalition on #Idlib #RedCrescent HQ. It’s clear #warcrime and #IHL violation,” Kinik tweeted.


Civilians, including children ‘likely’ killed in Yemen raid – US military

The botched military raid in Yemen, which resulted in the death of a US special ops soldier, has also “likely” caused collateral victims among civilians, possibly including children, the US Central Command has admitted.

The US army has admitted collateral damage during Sunday’s strike on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), that involved missiles and helicopter machine guns. Following extensive reports of civilian casualties, on Wednesday, the US Central Command acknowledged that civilians including children were “likely killed.”

“The known possible civilian casualties appear to have been potentially caught up in aerial gunfire that was called in to assist US forces…,” US Central Command said in a statement.

“The team designated by the operational task force has concluded regrettably that civilian non-combatants were likely killed in the midst of a firefight during a raid in Yemen Jan. 29. Casualties may include children.”


China tests new extremely long-range missile that could muscle the US out of the South China Sea

Chinese media on Thursday indicated ongoing work on a new long range air-to-air missile that seems tailor-made to give the US Air Force problems when operating in the Pacific.

As Business Insider has previously covered, tensions between the US and China have been steadily ratcheting up over the last few years, and they have spiked since Donald Trump took office after breaking with decades of tradition and taking a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

Photographs posted on IHS Jane’s and on Chinese media show China’s J-11B and J-16 fighters carrying an as-of-yet unnamed missile that Air force researcher Fu Qianshao told Chinese state-run media has a range of almost 250 miles — much further than current Chinese or even US capabilities.

“The successful development of this potential new missile would be a major breakthrough,” Reuters reports Fu as telling a Chinese state-run newspaper.

According to Fu, the missile would enable the People’s Liberation Army Air Force to “send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are the ‘eyes’ of enemy jets.”

The US’s airborne early warning and control planes (AWACS), basically giant flying radars, are the “eyes” Fu refers to. These planes can detect enemy movements and give targeting data to US fighter jets and bombers. Without them, the US Air Force faces a steep disadvantage.


How Do Israel’s Tech Firms Do Business in Saudi Arabia? Very Quietly

Good deals (and plausible deniability) make good neighbors.


Jonathan Ferziger


Peter Waldman

Over the course of 30 years working in Israeli intelligence, Shmuel Bar immersed himself in the hermeneutics of terrorism. Using techniques of literary analysis more familiar to Koranic scholars and Bible critics, he came to recognize the distinctive language and religious phrases that suicide bombers used in their farewell videos. “Victory is with the patient” appeared frequently in the martyrdom declarations of Hamas recruits. Al-Qaeda adherents favored the call “God, count them, kill them, and don’t leave any of them.”

Bar, a tousle-haired 62-year-old with a wry sensibility, emerged from government service in 2003 amid the proliferation of global terrorism, and in the rising sense of doom he saw a business opportunity. He founded a company called IntuView, a miner of data in the deep, dark web—a sort of Israeli version of Palantir, the Silicon Valley security contractor. Tapping engineering talent in Israel’s startup hub of Herzliya, he adapted his analyst’s ear for language to custom algorithms capable of sifting through unending streams of social media messages for terrorist threats. He sold his services to police, border, and intelligence agencies across Europe and the U.S.


S. Korea, US agree to push missile defence system

South Korea and the United States on Thursday agreed to push through with the deployment of a US missile defence system strongly opposed by China, the prime minister said.

Hwang Kyo-Ahn and US Defence Secretary James Mattis confirmed that the two allies will go ahead with the installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)system in the South this year as planned, the prime minister’s office said.

Mattis arrived Thursday in South Korea on the first leg of a trip that also includes Japan, two key allies rattled by US President Donald Trump’s ascent to power.

their meeting in Seoul on February 2, 2017 ©SONG Kyung-Seok (POOL/AFP)

It is the first overseas tour by a senior official in Trump’s administration as concerns rise about the direction of American policy in the region under the protectionist and fiery leader.




China’s new aircraft carrier to be based near South China Sea, as tensions with Washington rise

Base of warship – tipped to be named the Shandong – will enhance nation’s military capability in disputed waters where Beijing is building up artificial islands


Northrop Grumman bows out of the Air Force’s $16 billion next-generation jet trainer contest

Northrop Grumman said Wednesday it was dropping out of the U.S. Air Force’s T-X trainer jet contest with partner BAE Systems, making it the second team to leave the competition in the past week.

The T-X, a contract valued at more than $16 billion, would replace the aging T-38 Talon pilot training aircraft manufactured by Northrop in the 1960s.

Last week, Raytheon exited the competition after failing to reach terms with Italian defense company Leonardo S.p.a.

“The companies have decided not to submit a proposal for the T-X Trainer program, as it would not be in the best interest of the companies and their shareholders,” Northrop said in a statement.

Northrop said it and BAE still “remain fully committed to performing on current and future U.S. Air Force programs, to deliver critical capabilities to America’s airmen.”

NATO calls on Russia to stop violence in Ukraine

NATO chief says Russia must end the violence as both sides move heavy artillery close to front line.

The death toll from the latest escalation in fighting in Ukraine rose to 19 on February 1 as international alarm rang out [AFP]

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has called on Russia to use its “considerable influence” to end fighting in eastern Ukraine after a renewed surge in violence there.

Moscow-backed rebels and government forces have trade blame for the flare-up in the industrial east that has seen the highest casualty rate since mid-December and cut off power and water to thousands of civilians on both sides of the front line.

The shelling eased on Wednesday, but the January 29 to 31 clashes near the Kiev-held front line town of Avdiyivka brought the festering conflict back into focus amid warnings of a looming humanitarian crisis.

“We call for an immediate return to the ceasefire,” Stoltenberg said in Brussels. “We call on Russia to use its considerable influence over the separatists to bring the violence to an end.”


Turkmenistan’s Navy Shows Off New French Missiles

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