We will have a mirror site at http://nunezreport.wordpress.com in case we are censored, Please save the link

Friday, June 14, 2013

Calls grow in China to press Okinawa claim

BEIJING » A group of Chinese scholars, analysts and military officials convened on a recent morning in a spartan schoolroom to draw attention to China's simmering territorial dispute with Japan. Participants spoke in urgent tones. Reporters took notes. A spirit of solidarity reigned.

But the deliberations were not about the barren rocks in the East China Sea that are known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan and that the two nations have been sparring over with competing naval patrols.

Instead, the group that gathered at Renmin University was focused on a far more enticing prize — Japan's southernmost island chain, which includes the strategic linchpin of Okinawa, home to 1.3 million Japanese citizens, not to mention 27,000 U.S. troops.

The Chinese government itself has not asserted a claim to Okinawa or the other isles in the Ryukyu chain. But the seminar last month, which included state researchers and retired officers from the senior ranks of the People's Liberation Army, was the latest act in what seems to be a semiofficial campaign in China to question Japanese rule of the islands.

A magazine affiliated with the Chinese Foreign Ministry published a four-page spread on the issue in March. People's Daily, the Communist Party's official newspaper, weighed in next with an op-ed by two prominent scholars at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Two more pieces appeared in Global Times, another state newspaper.

And a week before the seminar, a hawkish Chinese military official argued publicly that the Japanese did not have sovereignty over the Ryukyu Islands because its inhabitants paid tribute to Chinese emperors hundreds of years before they started doing so to Japan.

"For now, let's not discuss whether they belong to China — they were certainly China's tributary state," the official, Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan, told the state-run China News Service. "I am not saying all former tributary states belong to China, but we can say with certainty that the Ryukyus do not belong to Japan."

Another senior Chinese military official appeared to back off those remarks. The official, Lt. Gen. Qi Jianguo, a deputy chief of staff, assured a conference in Singapore this month that China's position on the islands had not changed.

"Scholars are free to put forward any ideas they want," he said. "It doesn't represent the views of the Chinese government."

But almost all the voices in China pressing the Okinawa issue are affiliated in some way with the government. Many of them, including Luo, are known for spouting nationalistic views that can go beyond the official line — and for being called on to do so when it serves a wider propaganda goal.

In this case, the goal may be to strengthen China's claim on the islands known as the Senkaku and the Diaoyu, more than 250 miles west of Okinawa. Tensions have been running high since September, when the Japanese government bought three of the islands from a private owner. Japan said it did so to prevent them from falling into radical nationalist hands, but the move prompted days of street protests in China.

Analysts say that Beijing may be raising the prospect of a simultaneous dispute over the Okinawa chain to strengthen its negotiating hand and convey to Japanese officials that the Chinese government must contend with nationalist public sentiment, too.

At the Renmin seminar, Zhang Shengjun, deputy dean of the school of political science and international studies at Beijing Normal University, said that questioning the ownership of Okinawa was useful for projecting China as a regional power.

"People think that China's foreign policy has only one face — wanting a harmonious world," Zhang said. But the Okinawa issue, he said, was helpful in showing the "black face" of Chinese foreign policy. In Chinese opera, the black face is a reference to a tough, bold character.

Noboru Yamaguchi, a retired Japanese Army general and now a professor at the National Defense Academy in Tokyo, said the Chinese approach might backfire. It will make the Japanese resist Chinese efforts to get control of the islands known as the Senkaku and the Diaoyu even more, he said, and it will have broader effects.

"I don't think it is wise for the Chinese to do this, because it hurts their reputation in the international community," he said.

Although it may seem far-fetched for China to have any claim over Okinawa, where tens of thousands of Japanese and U.S. troops were killed in World War II and the United States still maintains several military bases, Chinese nationalists have for years pointed out that the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom made tribute payments to imperial China. The United States also briefly considered awarding Okinawa to Chiang Kai-shek, the anti-Communist leader in the Chinese civil war.

Zhang Haipeng, one of the authors of the People's Daily article, said Okinawa was important to China's ambitions of projecting naval power into the Pacific Ocean, noting that the Ryukyu are at the northern edge of a chain of islands that include Taiwan and part of the Philippines, both of which Beijing regards as U.S. allies alongside Japan.

"Our navy wants to push through the island chains and reach the eastern Pacific," Zhang said at the seminar. "As my wife says, if the Ryukyu were independent, this problem would be solved."

By focusing attention on Okinawa, the Chinese are touching on an issue that has sometimes strained relations between the United States and Japan. The local population blames Tokyo for saddling them with noise and crime associated with the U.S. bases.

The Chinese are hoping to exploit this unease, said a Japanese official who declined to be named because of diplomatic sensitivity. But the official warned that local antipathy toward Tokyo, and the emergence of a small independence movement on Okinawa, did not translate into a desire to be part of China.

Like other territorial disputes in Asia, the debate over the Ryukyu centers on competing versions of history. Thomas U. Berger, an associate professor of international relations at Boston University, said Japan conquered the islands in 1609 but allowed them to pay tribute to China starting in 1655. Luo, however, said the islands began paying tribute to China as early as 1372 and were not truly subjugated by Japan until 1872.

Berger said China's strongest case might be based on the Cairo Declaration of 1943, in which the allied powers promised that territory taken by Japan would be returned to China.

"These are territories that historically fell into the Chinese sphere of control until Japan forcibly began its course of aggressive expansionism in the late 19th century," he said. "Since the Cairo Declaration committed the Allies to reversing Japan's history of aggression, Okinawa could be included."

But Berger said the U.S. occupation of Okinawa was considered vital to the United States' ability to keep peace in the region, and three U.S. presidents — Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson — affirmed that Okinawa belonged to Japan before President Richard M. Nixon returned the island to Tokyo's control in 1972.

"Historically the United States was involved at several stages in determining the status of the Ryukyus," Berger said. "Geopolitically, Okinawa is critical to our strategy in East Asia and is the bedrock on which our alliance with Japan is founded."
Star Advertiser

Antarctic ice melting from below, finds study

In what represents the first comprehensive study of all of the frozen continent's ice shelves, researchers have found that basal melt, that is, melting from underneath driven by warm ocean waters, accounted for 55 percent of shelf loss from 2003 to 2008.

This figure is much higher than previously thought. Before this study, it was suspected that much of Antarctica's ice loss was the result of icebergs splitting apart and falling into the sea.

“We find that iceberg calving is not the dominant process of ice removal. In fact, ice shelves mostly melt from the bottom before they even form icebergs,” said the study's lead author, Eric Rignot, in a press release. “This has profound implications for our understanding of interactions between Antarctica and climate change. It basically puts the Southern Ocean up front as the most significant control on the evolution of the polar ice sheet.”

The findings, which appear in the current issue of the journal Science, will help scientists better understand how Antarctic ice loss will contribute to sea level rise. Antarctica holds about 60 percent of the planet's fresh water.

Dr. Rignot, a professor at University of California, Irvine, who also works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, found that fewer than a dozen small ice sheets was responsible for half of the meltwater. Antarctica's largest ice sheets, Ross, Filchner, and Ronne, which make up two-thirds of the continent's shelves, were behind only 15 percent of the melting.

Ice shelves, which are attached to 44 percent of the Antarctic coastline, are formed as ice from the land flows out to the sea and as snow falls on it. Ringot and his team found that the shelves were losing ice much faster than they could replace it.

“Ice shelf melt can be compensated by ice flow from the continent,” Rignot said. “But in a number of places around Antarctica, they are melting too fast, and as a consequence, glaciers and the entire continent are changing.”


Sakurajima volcano (Japan) awakes with a series of powerful explosions

After 10 days of almost no activity, the volcano has woken up violently with 3 powerful explosions last night (at 22:05 and 23:58 UTC, ash plumes to 10-13,000 ft) and this morning at 04:26. The eruption this morning appears to be one of the largest explosions for a long time, producing an ash plume rising to 16-20,000 ft (5-6 km) altitude. An SO2 plume is also visible on satellite data.
Tokyo VAAC issued a warning of an ash plume drifting SE at flight level 200 (20,000 ft altitude), s. graphic.

Volcano Discovery

Death,Destruction,Corruption and Lies

Residents flee as historic Colorado wildfire burns out of control

As flames continue to rage across 15,700 acres north of Colorado Springs, Colo., the Black Forest Wildfire is now the most destructive wildfire in state history, and residents in the region are struggling to cope with the scale of the tragedy.

The bodies of two local residents were found dead in their garage according to the El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa. The victims were found near their car, doors open as they tried to escape. More than 39,000 residents were forced to evacuate during the past few days.

Janna Szalay, a long-time resident of nearby Monument, Colo., spent the past few days torn between watching the smoke, the steady stream of evacuating residents, and comforting her daughter and friends who already lost their homes.

"It's so scary, and sad," Ms. Szaley said. "It's been so dry it's ridiculous, but the main problem is the wind and heat."

Szaley said the flames are moving so quickly through the drought-stricken area that many land owners are taking desperate measures to save their animals. "We know people who had to let their horses run free to get them out in time."

Firefighters are just coming in for the night and the news they bring with them is not expected to be positive. Early this morning, residents learned that the number of homes lost had tripled from the night before. In natural disasters like this one, it is the lack of knowledge that creates the most tension as families desperately wait for news about their homes and property. At last count, 360 homes were lost to the flames and 13,000 additional properties are threatened, and as darkness falls, the fire is only 5 percent contained.

The Black Forest wildfire is one of three major wildfires raging in the Colorado forests and nine burning in New Mexico, all near the border between the two states.

The situation in the Royal Gorge fire area in Colorado is improving, says Mike Smith, a information officer working the Royal Gorge fire. The Royal Gorge fire was 20 percent contained at last report after burning through 3,100 acres. The historic Royal Gorge Bridge is now believed to be safe, although 32 planks were reportedly damaged, though a final inspection is still needed from engineers. Most of the tourist facility buildings surrounding the bridge were lost in the fire.

Mr. Smith says confidence is high with the fire crews who are comfortable with how this fire is behaving.

"There is some extreme fire potential," Smith says, "but we've had high relative humidity and low winds, so the crews made good progress."

Two local highways were closed for several days for the protection of residents who Smith reports were very cooperative.

"Most of the fire activity is on the south and west sections of the fire, away from the highways, so we are focusing on reopening the highways as soon as possible," he adds.

Across the border, New Mexico firefighters continue to struggle with fires in difficult terrain. The greatest concern is for the fires threatening homes, says Larry Helmerick, public information officer for Northern Arizona's Type 2 Incident Management Team.

Because of the Silver City fire in the Gila National Forest, 250 residents in Kingston, N.M. were evacuated Thursday. At last report, the lightning-sparked Silver City fire burned through 18,800 acres of extreme, rugged terrain with zero containment.

"Our No. 1 priority in the forest land is protecting historic cabins and structures, including a watchtower near Hillsboro, N.M., which we have wrapped in aluminum for additional protection," Mr. Helmerick says.

"This is a hundred year fire for this area," he adds, "with high temperatures, dry storms, and extreme drought. We have a lightning storm overhead right now that is causing us all great concern."

The cycle of drought and wildfires is typical for the American Southwest, but most wildfire experts believe the amount of damage caused by these fires could be mitigated. According to Dan Ware, fire prevention and outreach program manager for the New Mexico State Forestry Department, burnout operations that clear dead trees and vegetation help tremendously in reducing the damage from wildfires.

"Many of these areas were unpopulated 100 years ago," Mr. Ware explains. "When a fire started, it burned through the dry vegetation and the forest was able to renew itself."

The situation changed as communities continued to grow. When people started building in these areas, they also extinguished fires as quickly as they started so the forest wasn't able to clean out dead vegetation and renew itself.

These fires are the result of a mix of dry vegetation or fuel, high winds, and intense heat. "Most of the state of New Mexico is in an exceptional drought condition and close to setting a drought record," Ware says. "The worst drought on record was in the 1950s with six years of extreme drought. However, we've now had two of the driest years on record and we are on pace to match and surpass the previous record."

Yahoo News

Mega-Earthquake Forecasted To Hit British Columbia

A historically large earthquake is scheduled to hit the Pacific Coast, according to a new study released this week. British Columbia is reportedly the area most at risk for what researchers are calling a “mega-earthquake,” also known as megathrust earthquake, a tremor that hasn’t hit the region in more than 11,000 years.

According to a study published Wednesday by the School of Environment and Sustainability at Royal Roads University in Victoria B.C., sea floor sediment samples removed off the coast of Vancouver Island confirmed claims that British Columbia is anticipated to experience a high-magnitude quake anytime within the next 700 years. The report, published by CBC News, stated findings that the last 9.0 magnitude mega-earthquake in the region occurred in 1700.

International Business Times

Syria: US mulling implementation of no-fly zone..."We cannot afford to delay any longer"

WASHINGTON -- Evidence is clear that chemical weapons were used against rebel forces in Syria, the White House acknowledged in a call with reporters on Thursday.

Congress and allies were notified by the White House before the announcement.

Deputy National Security Advisor For Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes said that the new assessment has indeed "changed the calculus" of US President Barack Obama.

"This is an issue that we've been following very closely," Rhodes said. "The Assad regime has used chemical weapons-- sarin-- on a small scale multiple times over the past year."

100 to 150 people have died, though they say that data on casualties is incomplete, the White House says.

The US has identified chemical attacks as recently as one on May 23 just outside Damascus.

The administration says a decades-old "red line" has been crossed, and that the "potential response" of the United States would be mulled over the in the coming days.

"We've prepared for many contingencies," Rhodes said, "consistent with our own national interests."

Sources within the administration point to the president's growing interest in a limited no-fly zone based out of Jordan that would protect part of the country for rebel training and refugee assistance.

"There has been an urgency to the situation for two years," Rhodes said, but it's "particularly urgent right now" with an increase in Iranian and Hezbollah involvement in the fight.

Russia was also briefed on the new US intelligence.

The announcement comes weeks after French and British officials similar findings, and as President Obama continued to take meetings throughout the week in the Oval Office on how to turn the tide of the war. Assad has made dramatic gains against opposition forces in recent weeks with the help of thousands of Hezbollah fighters, and is preparing a significant offensive against the rebel stronghold of Aleppo.

In response to the announcement, senators Lindsay Graham and John McCain released a joint statement calling for immediate action.

“We cannot afford to delay any longer," the statement reads. "Assad is on the offensive with every weapon in his arsenal and with the complete support of his foreign allies. We must take more decisive actions now to turn the tide of the conflict in Syria.”

Jerusalem Post

Assad forces used chemical weapons - White House

Here we go again....

Syrian forces under President Bashar al-Assad have used chemical weapons "on a small scale" against the opposition rebels, the White House has said.
A senior aide to President Barack Obama said the US estimated 100-150 people had died in "multiple" attacks.

Ben Rhodes said the US president had decided to provide unspecified "military support" to the opposition.

The White House had previously warned that the US considers the use of such weapons crossing a "red line".

Mr Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to Mr Obama, said the US had no "reliable" evidence the opposition had used chemical weapons.

Earlier, the United Nations said the number of those killed in the Syrian conflict had risen to more than 93,000 people.

"The president has been clear that the use of chemical weapons - or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups - is a red line for the US," Mr Rhodes said.

"Our intelligence community now has a high confidence assessment that chemical weapons have been used on a small scale by the Assad regime in Syria. The president has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has."

Iran and Hezbollah

Mr Rhodes said the president had made the decision to increase assistance, including "military support", to the rebels.

But he declined to detail what would be provided, other than to say it would be "different in scope and scale to what we have provided before".

The White House hopes the increased support will bolster the effectiveness and legitimacy of the both the political and military arms of Syria's rebels, he said.

He said the aid would benefit the Supreme Military Council (SMC) and Syrian Opposition Council, and said the US was comfortable working with SMC chief Gen Salim Idris.

"It's been important to work through them while aiming to isolate some of the more extremist elements of the opposition, such as al-Nusra," he said.

He said the sense of urgency in Washington had been growing Hezbollah and Iran have increased their own involvement in the conflict, Mr Rhodes said.