Russian Plane Explode And Crash With 92 People Aboard: No Survivors

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Russian plane headed to an air base in Syria with 92 people aboard, including members of a well-known military choir, crashed into the Black Sea on Sunday minutes after taking off from the resort city of Sochi, Russia's Defence Ministry said.
There were no survivors of the crashed Tu-154, which belonged to the Defence Ministry and was taking the Alexandrov Ensemble to a holiday concert at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria's coastal province of Latakia. Crews found at least one body and ships, helicopters and drones were searching the area for more.
  • A total of 84 passengers and eight crew members were on the plane when it disappeared from radars two minutes after taking off in good weather. Emergency crews found fragments about 1.5 kilometres from shore.
Viktor Ozerov, head of the defence affairs committee at the upper house of Russian parliament, said the crash could have been caused by a technical malfunction or a crew error, but he believes it was not terrorism because the plane was operated by the military.
"I totally exclude" the idea of an attack bringing down the plane, he said.

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Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov Shot Dead In Ankara

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Russia's ambassador to Turkey was shot dead in front of a crowd at a posh art gallery in the capital Ankara as the angry gunmen screamed "don't forget Aleppo".
Police later killed the assailant on Monday night, Turkish station NTV reported.
Andrey Karlov, 62, was several minutes into a speech at an embassy-sponsored photo exhibition when a man who stood directly behind him in a dark suit shot the diplomat in the back from close range multiple times.

  • Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova made the announcement of Karlov's death in a live televised statement.
  • The assailant was a 22-year-old off-duty police officer who worked in Turkey's capital, said Ankara's Mayor Melih Gokcek.
  • After the initial shot, the attacker approached Karlov as he lay on the ground and shot him at least one more time at close range, according to an AP photographer at the scene.
  • He also smashed several of the framed photos on exhibition, but later let the stunned guests out of the venue, according to local media.
Several media outlets reported a gunfight later ensued after Karlov was shot.
Local broadcaster NTV television said at least three people were wounded and were taken to the hospital.

Mayor Gokcek told reporters outside the exhibition centre the "heinous" attack was aimed at disrupting newly re-established relations between Turkey and Russia.

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone about Monday's attack.
"On behalf of my country and my people I once again extend my condolences to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the friendly Russian people," said Erdogan.  
Putin promised a response to the assassination. 

Source: Al Jazeera...More...
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Saddam Hussein Should Have Been Left To Run Iraq?

Sunday, December 18, 2016
Both President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump believe the United States never should have invaded Iraq in 2003.
The war in Iraq and its chaotic aftermath in many ways prefigure the present moment in the Middle East; it triggered a sectarian unraveling that now haunts both Iraq and Syria and looms large in the minds of an Obama administration wary of further intervention in the region's conflicts.In a new book coming out this month, John Nixon, a former CIA officer who interrogated Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein after he was captured by coalition forces in December 2003, details his encounter with the toppled despot and the varied discussions that followed.
 Early on, Hussein warned that the occupation of Iraq wouldn't be as much of a "cakewalk" as Washington's neoconservatives assumed at the time.

When I interrogated Saddam, he told me: “You are going to fail. You are going to find that it is not so easy to govern Iraq.” When I told him I was curious why he felt that way, he replied: “You are going to fail in Iraq because you do not know the language, the history, and you do not understand the Arab mind.”
Nixon now reckons Hussein had a point and that a ruthless strongman like him was necessary to "maintain Iraq's multi-ethnic state" and keep both Sunni extremism and the power of Shiite-led Iran, a Hussein foe, at bay.
"Saddam’s leadership style and penchant for brutality were among the many faults of his regime, but he could be ruthlessly decisive when he felt his power base was threatened, and it is far from certain that his regime would have been overthrown by a movement of popular discontent," he wrote. 

"Likewise, it is improbable that a group like ISIS would have been able to enjoy the kind of success under his repressive regime that they have had under the Shia-led Baghdad government." (ISIS is another name for the Islamic State.)
This may all be rather true. Trump himself insists that regime change should no longer be in Washington's interest and has embraced dictatorial leaders such as Egypt's President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi.
"Although I found Saddam to be thoroughly unlikeable, I came away with a grudging respect for how he was able to maintain the Iraqi nation as a whole for as long as he did," wrote Nixon. 
"He told me once, 'Before me, there was only bickering and arguing. I ended all that and made people agree!'"
Many Arab commentators, though, reject the simplicity of the assumptions here — that if not ruled by tyrants, their nations would automatically turn into breeding grounds for militancy. 
That's a logic, after all, that serves the autocrats. Moreover, there's a direct connection between the heavy-handed policies of the region's autocrats and the conditions that spawn extremism and deepen sectarian animosities.
Pluralistic, multi-ethnic societies have been the norm, not the exception, for centuries.

Source: Washington Post, Agency
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Two Girls Blow Themselves Up In Nigeria Market, 17 Seriously Hurt

Monday, December 12, 2016
KANO, Nigeria - Two little girls, approximately seven or eight years old, blew themselves up in a northeastern Nigerian market on Sunday, killing themselves and wounding at least 17 others, witnesses said.
The girls "must have been seven or eight", a local militia member in Maiduguri told AFP.
Emergency services on-site in the town, the epicentre of the Boko Haram jihadist insurgency, said 17 people sustained "relatively serious" injuries. 
The attack was not immediately claimed by Boko Haram but bore all the hallmarks of the jihadists, who have regularly used women and young girls to carry out suicide attacks in their 7 year insurgent campaign in 
the troubled region.

Source: AFP
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Deadly Magnitude 6.5 Earthquake Hits Aceh In Indonesia

Thursday, December 08, 2016
An earthquake off Indonesia's northern Aceh province has killed at least 97 people, say local military officials.
The magnitude 6.5 quake struck just off the north-east coast of Sumatra island, where dozens of buildings have collapsed and many people are feared trapped under rubble.
"So far, 97 people have been killed and the number keeps growing," Aceh military chief Tatang Sulaiman said in a live TV interview.
Hundreds of people have been injured.
There was no tsunami after Wednesday's tremor, which the US Geological Survey said struck just offshore at 05:03 local time (22:03 GMT Tuesday) at a depth of 8km.
  • A spokesman for Indonesia's national disaster agency said more than 200 shops and homes had been destroyed, along with 14 mosques. A hospital and school were also badly damaged.
  • "We estimate the number of casualties will continue to rise as some of the residents are still likely [to be] under the rubble of the buildings. The search and rescue operation is still underway," said Sutopo Nugroho, who also said thousands of rescuers, including soldiers, had been deployed.
  • Maj Gen Tatang Sulaiman said four people had been rescued alive from the rubble and he believed there might be four or five more still buried, though he did not say whether they were alive.
  • "Hopefully we would be able to finish the evacuation from the rubble before sunset," he said.
Said Mulyadi, deputy district chief of Pidie Jaya, the region hit hardest by the quake, told the BBC's Indonesian service earlier in the day that the death toll was likely to rise.
He also told the AFP news agency that several children were among the dead and that local hospitals had been overwhelmed.
Heavy equipment is being used to search for survivors, but Puteh Manaf, head of the local disaster management agency, told the BBC's Mehulika Sitepu that more people were needed to help because some staff were busy helping their own families.
Pidie Jaya is along the north coast of Aceh, and has a population of about 150,000.
It is about 110 km (68 miles) from the provincial capital of Banda Aceh.
The quake shook Banda Aceh and prompted many people across the region to flee their homes. 
Many are said to be reluctant to go back indoors, amid a number of aftershocks.
Musman Aziz, who lives in Meureudu, another affected town, told AP news agency: "It was very bad, the tremors felt even stronger than (the) 2004 earthquake... I was so scared the tsunami was coming."
Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because it lies on the Ring of Fire - the line of frequent quakes and volcanic eruptions that circles virtually the entire Pacific rim.
The island of Sumatra has been hit by several earthquakes this year.

Source: BBC. Agency

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Myanmar Committing ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ of Rohingyas - UN

Monday, December 05, 2016

A human tragedy approaching ethnic cleansing is unfolding in Burma, and the world is chillingly silent.
In recent weeks, hundreds of Muslim Rohingya people have been killed, and more than 30,000 displaced.
Houses have been burned, hundreds of women raped and many others arbitrarily arrested. Access for humanitarian-aid organizations has been almost completely denied. Thousands have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, only to be sent back. Witness all the hallmarks of past tragedies: Bosnia, Darfur, Kosovo, Rwanda.
  • This isn’t the first explosion of violence against the Rohingyas, who are among the world’s most persecuted minorities. For decades these Burma-based Muslims have been subjected to a campaign of grinding dehumanization. In 1982, they were stripped of their citizenship rights and rendered stateless, with restrictions on movement, marriage, education and religious freedom.
  • The Burmese government and military claims that the Rohingyas are in fact illegal Bengali immigrants. But Bangladesh doesn’t recognize them. As some Rohingyas say, “We are trapped between a crocodile and a snake.”
  • Their plight intensified in 2012 when two severe outbreaks of violence resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands and a new apartheid emerged between Rohingya Muslims and their Rakhine Buddhist neighbors. Conditions have since become increasingly dire.
The latest episode was sparked by an Oct. 9 attack on Burmese border-police posts, which killed nine officers. 
While no conclusive findings have been made about the attack, Burma’s military alleges that a group of Rohingyas were the perpetrators.
Even if that were true, the military’s response has been grossly disproportionate.
Rounding up suspects, interrogating them and putting them on trial would be one thing. It’s quite another to reportedly unleash helicopter gunships on civilians, rape women and throw babies into a fire.
According to one Rohingya interviewed by Amnesty International, the military “shot at people who were fleeing. 
They surrounded the village and started going from house to house. They were verbally abusing the people. They were threatening to rape the women.”
Another witness described how her two sons were arbitrarily arrested: “It was early in the morning, the military surrounded our house, while some came in and forced me and my children to go outside. They tied my two sons up. They tied their hands behind their backs, and they were beaten badly. The military kicked them in the chest. I saw it myself. I was crying so loudly. When I cried, they pointed a gun at me. My children were begging the military not to hit them. They were beaten for around 30 minutes before being taken away.” She hasn’t seen them since.
Two people may be able to prevent this crisis from further deteriorating: Burma’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Ms. Suu Kyi is already facing increasing criticism for her failure to act, though she faces severe constraints. She won an electoral mandate last year and runs Burma’s first democratically led government in more than half a century, but the military still holds enormous power. Under Burma’s constitution, the ministries of home affairs, border affairs and defense remain in military hands. Her caution is thus understandable, denying the military any pretext to destabilize her new and fragile government. But the priority must be to save lives and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.
In September, Ms. Suu Kyi invited former U.N. chief Kofi Annan to head a commission and find solutions to the Rohingyas’ plight. But her response to the latest abuses has been disappointing. At the very least, she should lift all restrictions on humanitarian aid so that people can receive emergency assistance. She should allow access for journalists and human-rights monitors, and set up an independent, international inquiry to establish the truth about the current situation. She should call for an end to mass attacks on civilians.
As for Mr. Ban, his visit and negotiations to lift the military regime’s block on international aid after Cyclone Nargis hit Burma in 2008 saved thousands of lives. In his final weeks in office, he should repeat this strategy: Go to Burma and, using his good offices, bring together Ms. Suu Kyi, the military and the Rakhine state authorities and insist on humanitarian access.
John McKissick, head of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on the Bangladesh side of the border, has accused Burma’s government of ethnic cleansing. The U.N.’s special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, has condemned the lockdown on Rakhine State as “unacceptable.” It’s time for action from the very top.
It’s also time for the international community to speak out. If we fail to act, Rohingyas may starve to death if they aren’t killed by bullets first. We could end up as passive observers once again wringing our hands belatedly, saying “never again.”
Let us act now before it’s too late.

Source: The Wall Street Journal
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Colombia Plane Crash: 76 Confirmed Dead, Including Footballers From Brazil's Chapecoense

Tuesday, November 29, 2016
A plane carrying players from a Brazilian football team headed to Colombia for a regional tournament final, has crashed on its way to Medellin's airport, killing at least 76 people.
Police officials said that five passengers had survived, one died in hospital and that the rest of the passengers were killed in the crash.
The entire Chapocoense football team - and an accompanying entourage of staff and journalists - were among 72 passengers and nine crew on board the aircraft.
  • Al Jazeera's Alessandro Rampietti, reporting from Bogota, said the flight crashed in a mountainous region.
  • "There have been heavy rains day in and day out in the last week or so," he said. "That could have played a big role in the crash, but that is still unconfirmed."
  • Medillin's Mayor  Federico Gutierrez said he was on his way to the region where the chartered aircraft was believed to have crashed shortly before midnight local time.
  • "It's a tragedy of huge proportions," he told Blu Radio.
It was not clear what caused the British Aerospace 146 short-haul plane to crash, but, as reported by Rampietti, Colombia had been hit by heavy rains and thunderstorms in recent hours.
Data from the website showed the plane circling before eventually disappearing south of Rio Negro. Medellin's airport confirmed that the aircraft, which made a stop in Bolivia, was transporting the first division Chapecoense team from southern Brazil.
The team was scheduled to play on Wednesday in the first of a two-game Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional of Medellin.

Source: Al Jazeera...More...
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'Apocalyptic Scenes' As Fires Erupt In Haifa, Israel?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The northern coastal city of Haifa has been one of the hardest hit as Israel closes its third day of intense battles against hundreds for fire related incidents, with 60,000 people evacuated, acres burned, and thousands of homes left without power.
Haifa Fire Department Spokesman Uri Chobotaro described "apocalyptic scenes" within the city nestled in the Carmel mountain range that is home to some 270,000.
"We have seen some apocalyptic scenes," he says. "We have seen houses burning down. We have seen trees, we've seen streets with people running out."
"But the way I see things, the most important detail that I can be proud of is that we have no loss of life and this is most important thing," he emphasized.
Haifa is no stranger to the dangers of wildfires. In 2010, the city was hit by another catastrophic fire, which has become known as the Carmel Disaster.
The Carmel disaster was the deadliest fire in Israeli history claiming 44 lives. It started on Mount Carmel, located just south of Haifa, burnt 50 square kilometers (12,000 acres) and destroyed 74 buildings.
Chobotaro said that Haifa learned a lot from 2010 and has been working to better its fire services.
"Since 2010 we managed to increase the amount of fire fighters drastically, we have increased the number of fire trucks- we have new fire trucks, we are building new fire stations and the fire planes help us a lot," he explained.
  • Asked if the Haifa fire department had seen any indications of arson behind the fires, Chobotaro described the speed with which they erupted around the city.
  • "Im working at Haifa fire services in our central station today at approximately 9:00 in the morning and we are doing checks on our equipment," he recalls. "Suddenly out of nowhere we see a lot of smoke and big flames. Somebody lit on fire the field that is next to us—huge flames, it was a matter of seconds."
  • "The flames almost took our fire station and the fire trucks. Five minutes after this another one at the Halissa neighborhood, another five minutes gone and we had another one south of Haifa and ten minutes again after it started in another place," he continued.
  • "It makes no sense."
Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav explained why the fire danger in Haifa is so high.
"This is a very green city," he told i24news. "It is surround by forests and to set fires in the forest is a very easy game and this was executed in very many positions throughout the day."
"For the first time we have had to deal with many points of fire, which becuase of the very strong and extreme wind, has covered a vast area," he added.
As Israeli officials work to discern which fires were arson and which were caused by human negligence or nature, the former Head of Israel's Arson Investigation Unit Shalom Tsaroom explains what type of indicators investigators will be looking for.
 "The chief of the police declared that most of them are arson cases but our mission as fire investigators is to prove it- not only to say it but you have to prove it and find evidence," he told i24news.
"If we found for instance, in a fire, that it was started in a few places at the same time, this is one of the indicators that we are talking about arson."
Asked how the authorities can trace arson based fires back to those started them, Tsaroom says that "it depends on what evidence you can find."
"If you can find for instance a shoe print you can do something with this. If you can find remains of Molotov cocktails or Molotov bottles, in some cases you can develop fingerprints, etc."

Ofer Bloch, CEO Israel electric company, declared a state of emergency because of the fires. At the fires' peak 12,000 people in Haifa were without power, which was shut off intentionally to minimize damage. As of Thursday night, power had been restored to most homes, leaving less than 3,000 people without electricity.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told i24news that at the end of the night, the eight fires burning in and around Haifa were largely under control.

Source: i24News, Agencies
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India Train Accident DeathTtoll Rises To 96

Sunday, November 20, 2016
LUCKNOW: At least 91 passengers, most of whom were sleeping, were killed when an express train derailed in northern India early Sunday, police said.
Rescue workers were searching for survivors believed still trapped inside the badly mangled coaches of the Patna-Indore express after the crash near Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh state.
Police initially put the death toll at 63 but revised the figure later.
  • “The death toll has unfortunately increased and it is 96 now,” Daljit Singh Chawdhary, the additional police director-general, told reporters, adding 150 were injured.
  • All local hospitals have been placed on alert and more than 30 ambulances have been deployed.
  • TV footage showed rescue workers using gas cutters and other equipment to slice through severely mangled coaches strewn with suitcases and other luggage.
  • Witnesses spoke of being woken by a huge bang and being thrown around.
“We woke up to a great thud this morning. It was pitch dark and the noise was deafening,” a passenger told reporters as he waited with his family at the scene.
“I am lucky to be alive and safe. But it was a near-death experience for us.”
Nitika Trivedi, a student who boarded the train with her family from the eastern city of Patna, said images of the bodies of her fellow passengers would long haunt her.
“I had never seen something like this in my life before. I am shaken to the core.”
Railway officials said special trains had been pressed into service for stranded travellers.
“We are also trying to clear the tracks and complete the restoration work as quickly as possible,” Vijay Kumar, a spokesman for north-central railways, told AFP.
National Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu said in a tweet the government would investigate what caused the derailment and announced compensation for the victims.
India’s railway network, one of the world’s largest, is still the main form of long-distance travel in the vast country, but it is poorly funded and deadly accidents occur relatively frequently.
In 2014 an express train ploughed into a stationary freight train, also in Uttar Pradesh, killing 26 people.
And last year 27 people died after two trains derailed in Madhya Pradesh state during heavy rain.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he was “anguished beyond words” by the loss of life in the latest accident.
In 2012 a government report said almost 15,000 people were killed every year on India’s railways, describing the deaths as an annual “massacre”.
Modi’s government has pledged to invest $137 billion over five years to modernise the crumbling railways, making them safer, faster and more efficient.

Source: AFP
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We've Got About 1,000 Years To Find A New Place To Live?

Friday, November 18, 2016

We're all doomed. Unless we can figure out how to get the heck off this planet.

Theoretical scientist and astronomer Stephen Hawking
says humanity won't survive another 1,000 years on Earth because of, you know, the usual suspects -- climate change, nukes, robots.

Hawking, speaking earlier this week at Oxford University Union, says our best chance for survival as a species is to leave the only home we've ever known and establish colonies on other planets.

  • "Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next 1,000 or 10,000 years," Hawking said in the speech, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
  • "By that time we should have spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race."

And the pace of space exploration seems to be ramping up. NASA is busy searching for "goldilocks" -- exoplanets that might be able sustain human life. Meanwhile, Space X CEO Elon Musk has already laid out his plans to colonize Mars within the next century.
Despite all of his gloom and doom, Hawking did end with some positive notes, according to British newspaper The Independent.

"Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, wonder about what makes the universe exist," he said. "Be curious. However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don't just give up."

Source: CNN
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