Monday, July 27, 2015
Eruptions of ash at five volcanoes shrouded the skies over parts of the Indonesian archipelago Wednesday, forcing three airports to close.
Mount Raung on Java island blasted ash and debris up to 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) into the air after rumbling for several weeks, government volcanologist Surono said.
Ash erupted also from Gamalama and Dukono mountains on the Moluccas islands chain, Sinabung volcano on Sumatra island and Mount Karangetang on Siau island, darkening the skies, Surono said.
A total of more than 13,000 people have been evacuated due to the volcanic eruptions since last month, mostly from around the slopes of Sinabung in Tanah Karo District, added Surono, who uses a single name.
Indonesia, a chain of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood-prone plains, is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.
Credit to ABC News
Russia inducted a new-generation spy ship into the Northern Fleet on Sunday during navy day celebrations. The new vessel will be tasked with monitoring U.S. anti-missile defenses on the high seas, a navy spokesman said.
The ship is known as the Yury Ivanov, the lead boat of the Project 18280 intelligence ships designed for the Russian navy. A second vessel of the same class will be launched next year, according to the United Shipbuilding Corporation, news agency RIA Novosti reported last week.
The ship was commissioned into the Russian navy during a large naval parade attended by President Vladimir Putin in Russia’s Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad on Sunday.
Light on armaments, heavy on sensors and advanced electronic equipment, spy ships are purpose-built to loiter and listen to what foreign vessels are up to. The Yury Ivanov will be specifically equipped to track U.S. anti-missile defenses, which are being outfitted on American warships.
Each of Russia’s four major fleets has one or two spy ships in their ranks, but these were built in the 1980s and are ill-equipped to counter the newer U.S. vessels. Each fleet is expected to receive an Ivanov-class ship over the next several years.
U.S. missile defenses have repeatedly caused friction in U.S.-Russia relations. Moscow considers the defenses an existential threat to its nuclear deterrence, which the Defense Ministry sees as its strongest guarantor of national security.
The U.S. is pursuing a sea-based missile defense strategy that will see the number of vessels fitted with Aegis anti-missile defense systems expand from 33 to 48 by the end of the 2020 fiscal year, according to a report issued by the Congressional Research Service last month.
Military planners in Moscow are making sure they can keep tabs on them.
“They are really paranoid about U.S. missile defenses being aimed at Russia, not Iran or North Korea,” said Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg, a Russian naval expert at the Virginia-based CNA think tank. “So they want to observe [those deployments].”
Russian plans to pick holes if the U.S. missile defense shield goes beyond new ships. Moscow is working on several new classes of intercontinental ballistic missiles equipped with multiple nuclear warheads and countermeasures specifically designed to confuse and evade U.S. defenses in the event of a nuclear shooting war.
The Ivanov has been promoted in the Russian media as another tool in Russia’s arsenal aimed at thwarting U.S. missile defenses, but the equipment required to track the U.S. system’s deployment allows the vessel to perform other standard functions of a spy ship.
These tasks include serving as a communications hub for naval fleets, conducting electronic warfare — a high-tech aspect of modern war that focuses on blasting the air with electronic noise to confuse enemy sensors, jam communications and make it harder for the opponent to locate your own forces.
A spy ship also serves to gather intelligence on enemy electronic warfare capabilities, as well as listen to radio and other electronic signals emitted by foreign military forces.
Russia’s navy has been a key focus of Putin’s military modernization efforts, but two decades of decay following the collapse of the Soviet Union have seen its strength deteriorate significantly. No longer a major force on the high seas, the Russian navy has been mostly relegated to coastal defense.
According to Gorenburg, the Ivanov and its sister ship “will be used as intel ships for a variety of missions, they have a long range and deployment time so that can go out and observe U.S. weapons testing or naval exercises, or even monitor communications offshore somewhere.”
The Ivanov isn’t a large ship, displacing over 4,000 tons with a crew of 120 men — similar in size to a frigate-type escort ship.
Credit to The Moscowtimes.com
Large-scale military drills have been launched in Israel with the aim of testing the IDF’s readiness to go into emergency mode. Hundreds of thousands of reserve soldiers are involved in testing the system.
They will all be receiving a telephone call to confirm everything is in working order, according to the General Staff’s plan for the drills, set to last for three days.
Thousands of others will be summoned to bases on short notice, according to the Jerusalem Post. An IDF source told the newspaper that this is “one of the largest telephone call-ups we’ve had in an exercise.”
“We want to ensure that the system is well-oiled and working."
The Air Force, with its bases, and other facilities will also take part in the call-up. Among other activities, base personnel will be carrying out emergency intelligence data analysis for the purpose of conducting airstrikes. The same goes for the Israeli Navy and their infrastructure.
"For the first time, cyber defenses will be a part of a General Staff exercise," the source also said.
Responses to potential attacks from Syria, Lebanon and Gaza are the overarching theme of the drills, the IDF says.
"It is part of our activities linked to working on our readiness,” the source added, saying the Southern Command will practice responding to mock rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.
Other units taking part in the war games include: the Operations Branch, which will practice coordinating emergency maneuvers; the Home Front Command, which will hold rescue drills, and others.
The IDF warns the Monday-Wednesday period will be marked by increased military activity, which will take in public places such as schools. Several cities around the country will be affected, including Tel Aviv and the central locations there.
IDF war drills have been coming under fire – not just from Palestinians, but from Israelis as well. According to Haaretz, frequent activity in regions such as Lachish has led to widespread fires, causing serious ecological damage. This is exacerbated, according to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, by the fact that the army doesn’t take care to fight the fires, nor does it have any firefighting equipment.
The number of fires has been especially high this year in the south-east. Satellite photography was used to assess the damage. The nature authority says around 60 brush and forest fires since April have all been the result of IDF training exercises. Animals and plant life suffer immensely, the body adds.
Credit to RT
Pictures Baz Ratner
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Chinese shares slid more than 8 percent on Monday as an unprecedented government rescue plan to prop up valuations ran out of steam, throwing Beijing's efforts to stave off a deeper crash into doubt.
Major indexes suffered their largest one-day drop since 2007, shattering three weeks of relative calm in China's volatile stock markets since Beijing unleashed a barrage of support measures to arrest a slump that started in mid-June.
"The lesson from China's last equity bubble is that, once sentiment has soured, policy interventions aimed at shoring up prices have only a short-lived effect," wrote Capital Economics analysts in a research note reacting to the slide.
The CSI300 index .CSI300 of the largest listed companies in Shanghai and Shenzhen tumbled 8.6 percent to 3,818.73 points, while the Shanghai Composite Index .SSEC lost 8.5 percent to 3,725.56 points.
China's market gyrations have stoked fears among global investors about the broader health of the world's second biggest economy, hitting prices of growth-sensitive commodities such as copper, which fell on Monday to not far from a 6-year low. [MET/L]
But, while the recent stock market weakness will have caught out many retail investors and companies who jumped in as stocks more than doubled in a year, the low rate of stock ownership by households and a disconnect between valuations and economic fundamentals mean the impact on the economy is likely to be less than in other markets.
Credit to Reuters.com