Severe storm batters western Europe; 1 dead, 23 injured

Waves crash against the seafront of Wimereux, northern France, as storm Eleanor hits the northern part of France (AFP)
Updated 03 January 2018
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Severe storm batters western Europe; 1 dead, 23 injured

LONDON: A violent storm packing winds up to 100 mph (160 kph) battered parts of western Europe on Wednesday, derailing trains, toppling trees and halting flights. Authorities said one person was killed and at least 23 others were injured in France and Switzerland.
The high winds played havoc on transport, derailing trains in Switzerland and Germany and leaving hundreds of thousands of homes across France, Switzerland, Britain and Ireland without power.
Officials said one skier was killed in the French Alps after being hit by a falling tree in Morillon in Haute-Savoie.
Several people were injured Wednesday when a train was blown off the tracks near Lenk, a town south of Bern, the Swiss capital, local media reported. In western Germany, a train derailed near Luenen when it crashed into a tree that had fallen onto the tracks, according to the dpa news agency. No injuries were reported.
The storm forced the cancelation of flights at Zurich and Basel airports and toppled a truck on a Swiss highway. Thousands of households at Lake Zurich were left without power, and firefighters were called to help with toppled trees blocking streets and flooding due to heavy rain.
Swiss police say several people were stuck inside a cable car in the skiing resort of Pizol in the Swiss Alps. Ski lifts were also halted at many Swiss resorts.
In England, the storm brought hail and lightning. Overturned vehicles forced officials to close portions of three major highways. Some bridges were also shut down.
Extremely high tides caused the partial collapse of a harbor wall in Cornwall in southwestern England, bringing seawater flooding in.
The country’s main weather forecaster, the Met Office, says gusts reached 100 mph in Cumbria, 280 miles (450 kilometers) northwest of London, early Wednesday.
The storm battered northern France with winds surpassing 90 mph (145 kph) some of the worst gusts to hit the country in years. Many people posted photos of destroyed cars, collapsed scaffolding and uprooted trees on social media.
France’s national electricity provider says the storm left some 200,000 households without electricity, including 30,000 in the Paris region.

In the Paris region, a falling tree hit a car and seriously injured one person, while another resident was seriously hurt falling from a building. In all, the Interior Ministry said 15 people in France were injured, with four in serious condition, following accidents caused by high winds.
Strong winds also caused delays at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, as extra precautions were taken to safely get travelers into aircraft.
In Germany, highways near Duisburg and Juelich in the west were partially blocked because of toppled trees and flooding. The zoos in Munich and Augsburg in Bavaria closed for the day and the railway going up Germany’s tallest mountain, the Zugspitze, was shut down because of the storm.
In neighboring Austria, a ski jumping practice in Innsbruck was canceled due to the strong winds and snow.


CIA: China is waging a ‘quiet kind of cold war’ against US

Updated 21 July 2018
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CIA: China is waging a ‘quiet kind of cold war’ against US

  • Rising US-China tension goes beyond the trade dispute playing out in a tariff tit-for-tat between the two nations
  • The alarm bells come at a time when Washington needs China’s help in ending its nuclear standoff with North Korea

ASPEN, Colorado: China is waging a “quiet kind of cold war” against the United States, using all its resources to try to replace America as the leading power in the world, a top CIA expert on Asia said Friday.
Beijing doesn’t want to go to war, he said, but the current communist government, under President Xi Jingping, is subtly working on multiple fronts to undermine the US in ways that are different than the more well-publicized activities being employed by Russia.
“I would argue ... that what they’re waging against us is fundamentally a cold war — a cold war not like we saw during THE Cold War (between the US and the Soviet Union) but a cold war by definition,” Michael Collins, deputy assistant director of the CIA’s East Asia mission center, said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
Rising US-China tension goes beyond the trade dispute playing out in a tariff tit-for-tat between the two nations.
There is concern over China’s pervasive efforts to steal business secrets and details about high-tech research being conducted in the US The Chinese military is expanding and being modernized and the US, as well as other nations, have complained about China’s construction of military outposts on islands in the South China Sea.
“I would argue that it’s the Crimea of the East,” Collins said, referring to Russia’s brash annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which was condemned throughout the West.
Collins’ comments track warnings about China’s rising influence issued by others who spoke earlier this week at the security conference. The alarm bells come at a time when Washington needs China’s help in ending its nuclear standoff with North Korea.
On Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said China, from a counterintelligence perspective, represents the broadest and most significant threat America faces. He said the FBI has economic espionage investigations in all 50 states that can be traced back to China.
“The volume of it. The pervasiveness of it. The significance of it is something that I think this country cannot underestimate,” Wray said.
National Intelligence Director Dan Coats also warned of rising Chinese aggression. In particular, he said, the US must stand strong against China’s effort to steal business secrets and academic research.
Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said increasing the public’s awareness about the activities of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese students or groups at US universities could be one way to help mitigate potential damage.
“China is not just a footnote to what we’re dealing with with Russia,” Thornton said.
Marcel Lettre, former undersecretary of defense for intelligence, said China has the second-largest defense budget in the world, the largest standing army of ground forces, the third-largest air force and a navy of 300 ships and more than 60 submarines.
“All of this is in the process of being modernized and upgraded,” said Lettre, who sat on a panel with Collins and Thornton.
He said China also is pursuing advances in cyber, artificial intelligence, engineering and technology, counter-space, anti-satellite capabilities and hypersonic glide weapons. Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told a congressional committee earlier this year that China is developing long-range cruise missiles — some capable of reaching supersonic speeds.
“The Pentagon has noted that the Chinese have already pursued a test program that has had 20 times more tests than the US has,” Lettre said.
Franklin Miller, former senior director for defense policy and arms control at the National Security Council, said China’s weapons developments are emphasizing the need to have a dialogue with Beijing.
“We need to try to engage,” Miller said. “My expectations for successful engagement are medium-low, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.”