Russian efforts to create anti-satellite weapons are cause for US concern

Update Russian efforts to create anti-satellite weapons are cause for US concern
This Oct. 26, 2023, photo shows Russian President Vladimir Putin visiting the center of the Rocket and Space Corporation "Energia" in Korolyov outside Moscow. A supposed intelligence report about Moscow wanting to put a nuclear weapon in space has triggered alarm bells in the US. (Sputnik/Pool via REUTERS)
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Updated 15 February 2024
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Russian efforts to create anti-satellite weapons are cause for US concern

Russian efforts to create anti-satellite weapons are cause for US concern
  • Intel on Russian capability sparked an urgent but vague warning Wednesday from the Republican head of the House Intelligence Committee
  • But several leading lawmakers, including Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson, cautioned against being overly alarmed

WASHINGTON: The US has gathered highly sensitive intelligence about Russian anti-satellite weapons that has been shared in recent weeks with the upper echelons of government, according to four people who have been briefed on the intelligence. The people, who were not authorized to comment publicly, said the capability was not yet operational.

The intelligence sparked an urgent but vague warning Wednesday from the Republican head of the House Intelligence Committee, who urged the Biden administration to declassify information about what he called a serious national security threat.
Rep. Mike Turner gave no details about the nature of the threat, and the Biden administration also declined to address it. But several leading lawmakers, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, cautioned against being overly alarmed.
A congressional aide said he understood that the threat relates to a space-deployed Russian anti-satellite weapon. Such a weapon could pose a major danger to US satellites that transmit billions of bytes of data each hour.
The aide, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said it was not yet clear if the Russian weapon has nuclear capability, but said that is the fear.
The threat Turner raised concerns about is not an active capability, according to US officials familiar with the intelligence. One added that intelligence officials consider the threat to be significant, but it should not cause panic.
Turner issued a statement urging the administration to declassify the information so the US and its allies can openly discuss how to respond.
He also sent an email to members of Congress saying his committee had “identified an urgent matter with regard to a destabilizing foreign military capability” that should be known to all congressional policy makers. He encouraged them to come to a SCIF, a secure area, to review the intelligence.
Turner has been a voice for stronger US national security, putting him at odds with some Republican colleagues who favor a more isolationist approach. He has called for the renewal of a key US government surveillance tool while some fellow Republicans and liberal Democrats have raised privacy objections.
And he supports continuing US military aid for Ukraine in its war against Russia at a time that the funding remains uncertain because of opposition in the Republican-led House.
Johnson said he was not at liberty to disclose the classified information. “But we just want to assure everyone steady hands are at the wheel. We’re working on it and there’s no need for alarm,” he told reporters at the Capitol.
Democratic Rep. Jim Himes, the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the classified information is “significant” but “not a cause for panic.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee said it has been tracking the issue.
“We continue to take this matter seriously and are discussing an appropriate response with the administration,” Sen. Mark Warner, the Democratic committee chairman, and Sen. Marco Rubio, the Republican vice chairman, said in a statement. “In the meantime, we must be cautious about potentially disclosing sources and methods that may be key to preserving a range of options for US action.”
The rapidly evolving threat in space was one of the primary reasons that the US Space Force was established in 2019. A lot of that threat has to do with new capabilities that China and Russia have already developed that can interfere with critical satellite-based US communications, such as GPS and the ability to quickly detect missile launches.
In recent years the US has seen both China and Russia pursue new ways to jam satellites, intercept their feeds, blind them, shoot them down and even potentially grab them with a robotic arm to pull them out of their programmed orbits. One of the key missions of the Space Force is to train troops skilled in detecting and defending against those threats.
In its 2020 Defense Space Strategy, the Pentagon said China and Russia presented the greatest strategic threat in space due to their aggressive development of counterspace abilities, and their military doctrine calling for extending conflict to space.
The White House and lawmakers expressed frustration at how Turner raised his concerns. His announcement appeared to catch the Biden administration off-guard.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at the White House that he already had been due to brief Turner and other senior congressional leaders on Thursday. Sullivan did not disclose the topic or provide any other details related to Turner’s statement.
“I’m focused on going to see him, sit with him as well as the other House members of the Gang of Eight, tomorrow,” Sullivan said. “And I’m not in a position to say anything further from this podium at this time.”
He acknowledged it was not standard practice to offer such a briefing.
“I’ll just say that I personally reached out to the Gang of Eight. It is highly unusual, in fact, for the national security adviser to do that,” Sullivan said. He said he had reached out earlier this week.
Johnson said he sent a letter last month to the White House requesting a meeting with the president to discuss “the serious national security issue that is classified.” He said Sullivan’s meeting was in response to his request.
The drama played out with Biden and the Republican-led House at an impasse over a White House request for $60 billion in military aid to help Ukraine’s defense against the Russian invasion entering its third year.

Johnson — who has repeatedly warned he will not address allies’ security until America’s immigration system is shored up — is refusing to bring the Senate-passed bill to the floor for a vote.
“The most urgent national security threat facing the American people right now is the possibility that Congress abandons Ukraine and allows Vladimir Putin’s Russia to win,” said Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

(With AFP)
 


Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video

Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video
Updated 36 min 31 sec ago
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Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video

Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video
  • Labour, if elected, would recognize Palestinian statehood, says Angela Rayner

LONDON: Angela Rayner, the deputy leader of the UK’s Labour Party, has promised that her party will do everything in its power to ease the suffering in Gaza as it bids to regain Muslim voters’ support, a leaked video surfacing on social media has revealed.

The footage was first reported by the political blog Guido Fawkes, which claimed to have obtained the leaked tape from a meeting in Ashton-under-Lyne, Rayner’s constituency.

The MP is seen appealing to voters upset with the party’s stance on Israel’s assault on Gaza, The Telegraph reported.

Rayner — claiming she worked “day and night” to get three British doctors out of Rafah and is now attempting to secure aid for the enclave — said: “I promise you, the Labour Party, including myself, is doing everything we can, because nobody wants to see what’s happening.”

She acknowledged the party’s current inability to halt the fighting, admitting that Labour’s influence would be “limited,” even if it came to power after July’s general election.

Rayner added: “Only last week the Labour Party were supporting the ICC (International Criminal Court). The Conservatives didn’t support the ICC, so with this general election on that issue, we can’t affect anything when we’re not in government.

“And I’ll be honest with you, if Labour gets into government, we are limited. I will be honest. I’m not going to promise you … because (Joe) Biden, who’s the US (president), who has way more influence, has only got limited influence in that.

“And Qatar, Saudi Arabia, all of these people, we are all working to stop what’s happening at the moment; we want to see that. So I promise you, that’s what we want to see.”

Rayner also promised that, if Labour was elected, the party would recognize Palestinian statehood.

She added: “If Labour gets into power, we will recognize Palestine. I will push not only to recognize … there is nothing to recognize at the moment, sadly. It’s decimated.

“We have to rebuild Palestine; we have to rebuild Gaza. That takes more than just recognizing it.”

Gaza has been a divisive issue for Labour since Oct. 7, with reports revealing that Muslim voters have abandoned the party as a result of what they perceive as its politicians enabling the war.

The Telegraph found that Labour’s support had dropped in local elections in areas with large Muslim populations, including Oldham in Greater Manchester, where the party lost control of the council in a surprise defeat.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has expressed his determination to re-establish trust among those who have abandoned his party due to his handling of the Gaza war.

However, when probed on particular commitments, he remained vague.

Rayner said in the video: “I know that people are angry about what’s happening in the Middle East.

“If my resignation as an MP now would bring a ceasefire, I would do it. I would do it if I could effect change.”

However, she said such an eventuality was not “in my gift” due to the “failure of the international community.”

In response to the footage, Nigel Farage, Reform UK’s honorary president, accused Rayner of “begging” for the Muslim vote, The Telegraph reported.


12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains

12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains
Updated 28 May 2024
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12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains

12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains
  • Several highways and key roads were disrupted by landslides, and all schools were shut
  • India’s weather office warned of extremely heavy rains in northeastern states on Tuesday

Guwahati: Torrential rains in the wake of a powerful cyclone caused the collapse of a quarry in India’s Mizoram state killing 12 people, government officials said Tuesday.

“So far 12 bodies have been found, we are looking for more,” deputy commissioner of Aizawl district Nazuk Kumar told AFP.

Rescue efforts in the quarry were being hampered by “heavy rains,” police director general Anil Shukla said, NDTV news network reported.

Mizoram Chief Minister Lalduhoma offered compensation to families of the victims of the “landslide due to Cyclone Remal.”

“I pray for the success of rescue and relief operations and wish a speedy recovery of the injured,” India’s President Droupadi Murmu said on social media.

In Mizoram, several highways and key roads were disrupted by landslides. All schools were shut and government employees asked to work from home.

India’s weather office has issued warnings of extremely heavy rainfall across Mizoram and other northeastern states on Tuesday.

In India’s neighboring Assam state, one person was killed and heavy rains had cut the power supply, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said in a statement.

The cyclone made landfall in low-lying Bangladesh and neighboring India on Sunday evening with fierce gales and crashing waves.

Overall, at least 38 people died in the cyclone or storms in its wake.

In India, eight people died in West Bengal state, officials said Tuesday, updating an earlier toll of six, taking the total killed in the country to at least 21.

In neighboring Bangladesh, which bore the brunt of the cyclone that made landfall on Sunday, at least 17 people died, according to the disaster management office and police.


Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine

Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine
Updated 28 May 2024
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Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine

Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine
  • Radek Sikorski made the comments in an interview published Tuesday in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily
  • “We should not exclude any option. Let Putin be guessing as to what we will do”

WARSAW: Poland’s foreign minister says the NATO nation should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine and should keep Russian President Vladimir Putin in suspense over whether such a decision would ever be made.
Radek Sikorski made the comments in an interview published Tuesday in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily.
“We should not exclude any option. Let Putin be guessing as to what we will do,” Sikorski said when asked whether he would send Polish troops to Ukraine.
Sikorski said he has gone to Ukraine with his family to deliver humanitarian aid.
But a spokesperson for Poland’s Defense Ministry, Janusz Sejmej, told Polish media on Tuesday he had “no knowledge of that” when asked about a report in Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine suggesting Poland might send troops to Ukraine.
The idea of sending foreign soldiers to Ukraine, which is battling Russian military aggression, was floated earlier this year in France, but no country, including Poland, has publicly embraced it.
Poland supports neighboring Ukraine politically and by providing military equipment and humanitarian aid.


Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy

Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy
Updated 28 May 2024
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Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy

Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy
  • The infant girl, her mother and 4-year-old sister were in an unseaworthy boat laden with migrants that had set off from Sfax in Tunisia
  • SOS Humanity workers aboard its “Humanity 1” vessel found many of the migrants exhausted

LAMPEDUSA, Italy: The body of a five-month-old baby was found on Tuesday when some 85 migrants heading for Italy from Tunisia were rescued from distress at sea, according to a Reuters witness.
The infant girl, her mother and 4-year-old sister were in an unseaworthy boat laden with migrants that had set off from Sfax in Tunisia two days earlier bound for Italy, according to charity group SOS Humanity.
SOS Humanity workers aboard its “Humanity 1” vessel found many of the migrants exhausted and suffering from seasickness and fuel burns as they were rescued before dawn on Tuesday, the group said in a statement.
Some 185 migrants rescued in separate operations this week, including the stricken boat overnight, were being taken aboard “Humanity 1” to the port of Livorno in northwest Italy. Another 120 migrants were transferred by coast guard boat to the Italian island of Lampedusa in the southern Mediterranean.
Tunisia is grappling with a migrant crisis and has replaced Libya as the main departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict further south in Africa as well as the Middle East in hopes of a better life in Europe.
Italy has sought to curb migrant arrivals from Africa, making it harder charity ships to operate in the Mediterranean, limiting the number of rescues they can carry out and often forcing them to make huge detours to bring migrants ashore.


Putin says Ukraine should hold presidential election

Putin says Ukraine should hold presidential election
Updated 28 May 2024
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Putin says Ukraine should hold presidential election

Putin says Ukraine should hold presidential election
  • Zelensky has not faced an election despite the expiry of his term

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday Ukraine should hold a presidential election following the expiry of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s five-year term.
Zelensky has not faced an election despite the expiry of his term, something he and Kyiv’s allies deem the right decision in wartime. Putin said the only legitimate authority in Ukraine now was parliament, and that its head should be given power.