Positive Chinese reaction to Indian Mars mission could mean closer links

By RT

Beijing’s reaction shows that far from sulking over India’s prowess in space, as many Western voices had insinuated, when the Indian Mars Mission was launched last November, the Chinese government has come up with a magnanimous approach.

The statement by the Chinese foreign office spokesperson Hua Chunying leaves nothing to the imagination for those projecting an Asian space race between China and India.

We congratulate India on the Mars satellite entering orbit successfully. This is the pride of India and the pride of Asia, and is a landmark in the progress of humankind’s exploration of outer space, so we congratulate India on that,” Hua said. She also added that China would be ready to cooperate with other countries for “peaceful development of outer space.

Beijing’s reaction was welcomed by the Indian establishment particularly at a time when the Indian media, the government and the people at large had a different opinion of China over the border incursions in the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir.

The mature reaction from China assumes all the more importance because the talk of an India-China space race is no longer justified.

Such an argument would mean that India was feeling down in the dumps when China launched its first human spaceflight in 2003, something which India has not done yet, as it plans its first manned mission to space within the next couple of years.

China continues to be way ahead of India in space technology. After its first human space flight, China showed its prowess by launching its first Moon mission in 2007. This did not go unnoticed in India.

Officially, both countries have debunked the talk of a space rivalry, though the Western media continues to harp on about it. Presuming a space race is on between India and China, even the most jingoistic Indians would acknowledge that China is outscoring the competition.

After all, Chinese rockets can lift four times more weight than India’s. This is no mean achievement.

Consider the following facts.

There are only ten countries in the world that have successfully launched a satellite into orbit. Six of these are Asian: China, India, Iran, Israel, Japan and North Korea. China’s first manned spacecraft entered orbit in October 2003 making it the first Asian nation to send a human into space.

In January 2007, China became the first Asian power to demonstrate its capability of exploiting military applications of space technology when it sent an anti-satellite missile into orbit to destroy one of its own weather satellites in polar orbit, the aging Feng Yun 1C.

The Chinese accomplishments do not end there. China’s Chang’e 2 explorer became the first object to reach the Sun-Earth Langrangian point in August 2011. On December 13, 2012, Chang’e 2 flew by asteroid 4179 Toutatis successfully, becoming the first probe to orbit the moon, orbit the Lissajous orbit at Sun-Earth Langrangian point and fly by an asteroid at the closest distance of 3.2 km.

The welcoming Chinese reaction to India’s Mars Mission could have been dismissed as bland diplomatic talk, “full of sound and fury signifying nothing” (to borrow a Shakespearean phrase), but for a clever clause inserted by the Chinese foreign office spokesperson.

Hua Chunying, while making this statement, also said that China would be ready to cooperate with other countries for “peaceful development of outer space.

This is a clear signal to all friendly foreign powers to collaborate with China and partake of its immense experience in space exploration. India too has been a spacefaring nation for decades and has many accomplishments to its credit.

Given that the stated objective of both China and India in exploring space is for peaceful purposes, and for the betterment of mankind, an India-China synergy in space will be a win-win situation not only for the two sides but also for the entire human race.

On the flip side, however, the talk of Sino-Indian synergy in space, or any other area, may well prove to be nothing beyond diplomatic courtesies, given the deep-seated mutual distrust between India and China. Will the two Asian giants bury their distrustful past and embrace each other for any meaningful bilateral cooperation in a crucial sector like space where they are viewed more as rivals than allies?

Via:: RT.com

20 percent of American workers have lost their job during the last 5 years

By RT

The report, published last week out of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, found that roughly 30 million Americans — or around 20 percent of the workforce — have lost a job during the last five years.

Additionally, the pollsters found that Americans that unexpectedly end up out of work have a hard time recovering and regularly end up making less money once they’re rehired, if hired at all. A survey of 1,153 Americans taken by the Heldrich Center determined that around half of the laid-off workers who did manage to find work after being laid off were paid less than at their previous position, and a quarter said those new jobs were just temporary.

“Laid-off workers who found another job seldom improved their financial situation,” the report found. “Two-thirds said their new jobs either paid less than their previous one (46%) or paid the same (21%).”

“While the worst effects of the Great Recession are over for most Americans, the brutal realities of diminished living standards endure for the three million American workers who remain jobless years after they were laid off,” Heldrich Center Director Carl Van Horn, a co-author of the study, said in a statement. “These long-term unemployed workers have been left behind to fend for themselves as they struggle to pull their lives back together.”

“While a majority of Americans were affected by the Great Recession, those who had long-term periods of unemployment experienced severe, negative changes in their standard of living,” the actual study concluded. “While job growth has been consistent, it has been insufficient to produce enough full-time jobs for everyone.”

According to the researchers at Rutgers, however, the grim news doesn’t end there: furthermore, the Heldrich Center study revealed that over 70 percent of the Americans surveyed said they have less in savings and income than they did five years earlier, and over 80 percent rated their personal financial situation as either “fair” or “poor.”

“Fifty-five percent of the long-term unemployed say they will need to retire later than planned because of the recession, while 5 percent say the weak economy forced them into early retirement,” the study continued.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics is expected to release its monthly jobs report for September later this week on Friday, and analysts have prematurely told Fox News that they expect to see a significant rebound from August’s numbers.

Via:: RT.com

UN: ISIL Advances Could Displace Thousands More in Syria

By webdesk@voanews.com (Margaret Besheer) The U.N.’s humanitarian chief warned Tuesday that tens of thousands more people could be forced to flee Syria if Islamic State militants continue to make territorial gains.

Valerie Amos told the U.N. Security Council that during the past two weeks, Islamic State fighters have advanced in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, causing more than 160,000 people to flee to Turkey.

She said most of those escaping were women and children who in many instances crossed heavily mined fields to seek safety. Amos warned that the number of refugees and internally displaced could grow significantly if ISIL – as the group also is known – continues unchecked.

“There is a possibility that tens of thousands more people could be forced out of Syria, if ISIL forces continue to gain ground,” she said.

Limited access

Amos made her remarks to the Security Council on the progress of the delivery of humanitarian aid in Syria, where distribution has been severely hampered by the government and armed groups.

She said nearly 11 million Syrians require urgent assistance. In August, the World Food Program and its partners were able to deliver food for about 4 million people.

Two months ago, the Council ordered the delivery of aid across Syria’s borders, with or without the government’s permission. Amos said that has helped humanitarians reach a few hundred-thousand additional people.

But she warned that despite $1 billion in humanitarian pledges for Syria and its neighbors, the U.N. and its partners are facing life-threatening funding gaps.

“Without additional funds, the World Food Program will be forced to end its operations completely within two months,” she said.

“Rations have already been cut in order to continue to reach as many people as possible.”

Power speaks up

Speaking to reporters about the U.S.-led air strikes against ISIL targets in Iraq and Syria, Ambassador Samantha Power said Britain had just conducted its first strikes in Iraq. She added that the United States never asked for permission from the Assad government in Syria to carry out the strikes, but merely informed it of the intention to do so.

“We have concluded, and I think it’s very plain for everyone to see, that the Syrian regime cannot and will not take on ISIL in a manner that would deny this monstrous terrorist movement the safe havens that they have enjoyed in Syria for some time,” she said.

Ambassador Power said that in parallel with the strikes, the U.S. is helping to equip and train Syria’s moderate opposition, who she said has been fighting Islamic State militants at great personal expense and sacrifice.

Via:: Voice of America

Obama and Pentagon at odds over Guantanamo closure

By RT

The president has made no bones about his intentions to close the infamous military prison since before taking the oath of office in 2009. With nearly 150 individuals still detained at the facility, however, a report published by the Associated Press on Tuesday this week raises doubts about whether Obama will actually close the facility before leaving the White House.

In this week’s AP report, journalist Nedra Pickler writes that the Obama administration’s plans to transfer prisoners out of Gitmo and move them to other facilities the world over “has ground to a halt,” and not because of the president. Instead, she argues, the Pentagon is keeping Obama from further freeing detainees, including those long-cleared for release.

Although Pres. Obama said last year that he would work within the US government to move prisoners from Gitmo “to the greatest extent possible,” Pickler writes that the Pentagon’s top officer is largely responsible for holding up the president’s plans.

“The slow pace is the result of the law that gives Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — not the commander in chief — the final authority to transfer any of the 149 terror suspects being held at Guantanamo,” she wrote. “Pentagon officials say they must carefully consider the risks before signing off, given that others have returned to terrorism.

Despite Obama’s plans, Pickler added, Hagel has been adamant about not releasing Gitmo detainees until his office is certain that terror suspects currently in American custody won’t take to a life of extremism after being released.

“My name goes on that document, that’s a big responsibility,” Hagel said earlier this year with regards to releasing detainees. “I’m taking my time. I owe that to the American people, I owe that to the president.”

Aside from the five suspected Taliban members exchanged by the White House earlier this year for longtime captive US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Washington has only released one other Gitmo detainee in 2014 — an Algerian native relocated there in March.

Close Guantanamo, a group that aims to hold the president accountable to his campaign promise of pulling the plug on America’s operations there, acknowledged on its own website recently that releases have indeed “almost ground to a halt,” and could be hindered further if politics continue to play a role.

“We worry that, in the mid-term elections, in a little over a month, it will become more difficult to release prisoners if President Obama loses his majority in the Senate, and we believe that, as a result, the president should do all he can to secure the release of as many prisoners as possible in the coming weeks,” the group warned.

Andy Worthington, an investigative journalist and member of the Close Guantanamo steering committee, added recently that 79 of the 149 individuals still held at the facility have been cleared for release since 2009. Seventeen men have been released under the Obama administration since the president entered the White House in early 2009 and May 2013, Worthington added, but more should be made free.

As RT reported earlier this week, however, even the detainees long-cleared for release — like Syrian national Abu Wa’el Dhiab — are subjected to obstacles that are raising even more questions about the terror suspects’ futures. Attorneys for Dhiab are expected to be in a DC courtroom early next month fighting against the force-feeding policies their client has had to endure while detained at Gitmo, but the government is asking that the hearings be mostly closed to the public — a gesture that some critics say is all too expected from an administration that has for years swept prisoner problems under the rug instead of allowing the public to see what is really happening.

“There is no reason to close the upcoming hearing, other than the government’s intense desire to hide from public scrutiny the evidence we have managed to uncover over the past few months,”co-counsel Jon EIsenberg told POLITICO over the weekend.“This evidence, which consists of videotapes of Mr. Dhiab’s force feedings, his medical records and some key new admissions by military officials, vividly establishes that the force feeding at Guantanamo Bay is the opposite of humane. Its overarching purpose is to cause the hunger strikers a great deal of pain and suffering, in hopes that they are convinced to give up this peaceful protest of their indefinite detention without trial.”

Meanwhile, the US is also about to be left scrambling to find a place for an undisclosed number of prisoners currently being held at a secretive facility in Afghanistan but must be moved when the Pentagon officially wraps up its combat operation there later this year. One possibility could be relocating those individuals to Gitmo, Brigadier General Patrick Reinert, the commanding general of the United States Army Reserve Legal Command, told Reuters this week, but a maneuver would be unlikely, he said, since it runs counter to the administration’s stated objection of closing Gitmo — and would rely on a guarantee that those individuals be treated fairly upon being freed from US custody.

“The president would absolutely like to see more progress in our efforts to close Guantanamo,” Obama counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco told the AP for Tuesday’s article. “He wants it closed. He’s pushing his own team very hard, raising it weekly with me, with Secretary Hagel, with Secretary (of State John) Kerry. He also wants Congress to act to remove the restrictions in place that are making it even harder to move forward.”

Via:: RT.com

Obama and Pentagon at odds over Guantanamo closure

By RT

The president has made no bones about his intentions to close the infamous military prison since before taking the oath of office in 2009. With nearly 150 individuals still detained at the facility, however, a report published by the Associated Press on Tuesday this week raises doubts about whether Obama will actually close the facility before leaving the White House.

In this week’s AP report, journalist Nedra Pickler writes that the Obama administration’s plans to transfer prisoners out of Gitmo and move them to other facilities the world over “has ground to a halt,” and not because of the president. Instead, she argues, the Pentagon is keeping Obama from further freeing detainees, including those long-cleared for release.

Although Pres. Obama said last year that he would work within the US government to move prisoners from Gitmo “to the greatest extent possible,” Pickler writes that the Pentagon’s top officer is largely responsible for holding up the president’s plans.

“The slow pace is the result of the law that gives Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — not the commander in chief — the final authority to transfer any of the 149 terror suspects being held at Guantanamo,” she wrote. “Pentagon officials say they must carefully consider the risks before signing off, given that others have returned to terrorism.

Despite Obama’s plans, Pickler added, Hagel has been adamant about not releasing Gitmo detainees until his office is certain that terror suspects currently in American custody won’t take to a life of extremism after being released.

“My name goes on that document, that’s a big responsibility,” Hagel said earlier this year with regards to releasing detainees. “I’m taking my time. I owe that to the American people, I owe that to the president.”

Aside from the five suspected Taliban members exchanged by the White House earlier this year for longtime captive US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Washington has only released one other Gitmo detainee in 2014 — an Algerian native relocated there in March.

Close Guantanamo, a group that aims to hold the president accountable to his campaign promise of pulling the plug on America’s operations there, acknowledged on its own website recently that releases have indeed “almost ground to a halt,” and could be hindered further if politics continue to play a role.

“We worry that, in the mid-term elections, in a little over a month, it will become more difficult to release prisoners if President Obama loses his majority in the Senate, and we believe that, as a result, the president should do all he can to secure the release of as many prisoners as possible in the coming weeks,” the group warned.

Andy Worthington, an investigative journalist and member of the Close Guantanamo steering committee, added recently that 79 of the 149 individuals still held at the facility have been cleared for release since 2009. Seventeen men have been released under the Obama administration since the president entered the White House in early 2009 and May 2013, Worthington added, but more should be made free.

As RT reported earlier this week, however, even the detainees long-cleared for release — like Syrian national Abu Wa’el Dhiab — are subjected to obstacles that are raising even more questions about the terror suspects’ futures. Attorneys for Dhiab are expected to be in a DC courtroom early next month fighting against the force-feeding policies their client has had to endure while detained at Gitmo, but the government is asking that the hearings be mostly closed to the public — a gesture that some critics say is all too expected from an administration that has for years swept prisoner problems under the rug instead of allowing the public to see what is really happening.

“There is no reason to close the upcoming hearing, other than the government’s intense desire to hide from public scrutiny the evidence we have managed to uncover over the past few months,”co-counsel Jon EIsenberg told POLITICO over the weekend.“This evidence, which consists of videotapes of Mr. Dhiab’s force feedings, his medical records and some key new admissions by military officials, vividly establishes that the force feeding at Guantanamo Bay is the opposite of humane. Its overarching purpose is to cause the hunger strikers a great deal of pain and suffering, in hopes that they are convinced to give up this peaceful protest of their indefinite detention without trial.”

Meanwhile, the US is also about to be left scrambling to find a place for an undisclosed number of prisoners currently being held at a secretive facility in Afghanistan but must be moved when the Pentagon officially wraps up its combat operation there later this year. One possibility could be relocating those individuals to Gitmo, Brigadier General Patrick Reinert, the commanding general of the United States Army Reserve Legal Command, told Reuters this week, but a maneuver would be unlikely, he said, since it runs counter to the administration’s stated objection of closing Gitmo — and would rely on a guarantee that those individuals be treated fairly upon being freed from US custody.

“The president would absolutely like to see more progress in our efforts to close Guantanamo,” Obama counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco told the AP for Tuesday’s article. “He wants it closed. He’s pushing his own team very hard, raising it weekly with me, with Secretary Hagel, with Secretary (of State John) Kerry. He also wants Congress to act to remove the restrictions in place that are making it even harder to move forward.”

Via:: RT.com