On January 20, Turkey, with the help of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA), launched Operation Olive Branch, a massive cross-border operation to clear Kurdish militias and remnants of jihadist fighters from Afrin, Syria. For over a month, the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the backbone of which is formed by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), have split their efforts between battling the Turkish incursion and supporting the US agenda in northern Syria.
On Monday, the Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning acknowledged that the Turkish offensive had affected the US-led fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists on the ground, effectively leading to an “operational pause.”
Ground operations against Islamic State in the Euphrates River Valley have been temporarily suspended, Manning told reporters, stressing, however, that US airstrikes in the area are continuing.
“It is an extraordinary situation because you have US proxy army in Syria, i.e. the Kurds, have departed the battlefield that the US has them on to go fight a US ally, a NATO ally Turkey,” Daniel McAdams, the executive director of the Ron Paul Institute, told RT.
“Some fighters operating within the SDF have decided to leave operations in the middle Euphrates river valley to fight elsewhere, possibly in Afrin,” Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway, another Pentagon spokesman, admitted on Monday. “They’re not fighting ISIS anymore, and that basically meant that they’re not taking territory back from ISIS as quickly as they had been in the past.”
The Turkish operation in Afrin has strained relations between the US and its major NATO ally. Ankara considers the Kurdish militias to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been outlawed in Turkey as a terrorist organization. Turkey has long been anxious about the autonomy ambitions of the Kurds, who seized control of vast territories in northern Syria with the help of the Pentagon. Tensions have continued to rise since the US announced the plan to sponsor the creation of a 30,000-strong border security force, half of which would be recruited from Kurdish-led forces.
Despite Ankara’s objections, Washington remains committed to using the SDF to secure their objectives in Syria. “The nature of our mission in Syria has not changed,” Manning said on Monday, reaffirming that SDF remains a “major partner” on the ground in Syria.
The Syrian government has repeatedly condemned the Turkish operation as yet another violation of the country’s sovereignty, following years of “aggression” against the Syrian people by the US-led coalition. Further complicating the situation in the area, pro-Damascus militias were also been deployed to Afrin late last month after an appeal from the Kurds to reinforce locals in their resistance against the Turks.
“What is the US doing in Eastern Syria if it is not fighting ISIS?” McAdams asked, questioning Washington’s stated goals. “Does the US hope that the Syrian government gets further drawn into the fight with the Kurds against Turks? Then the US can swing back around and help its Turkish ally in fighting the Syrian government and Kurds as well?”
According to Ankara, at least 2,795 “terrorists” have been killed as a result of Operation Olive Branch. Turkey aims to create a 30 kilometer (19 mile) “safe zone” in northern Syria’s Afrin province. The operation continues as planned, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag noted on Monday, after Ankara rejected a February 24 United Nations Security Council resolution demanding a full month-long ceasefire across Syria. According to Turkey, the FSA has “liberated” 147 locations including three town centers, 112 villages, 30 strategic mountains and hills and two YPG bases so far.
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Republican Senator Thad Cochran has announced he will resign on April 1, setting up another election in November that could further expose divisions in the Republican Party.
Mr Cochran’s resignation only complicates matters for Republicans in what’s expected to be a dramatic and vicious battle for control of the US Senate and House of Representatives this year.
The 80-year-old is one of the longest-serving senators in US history. He has been dealing with health problems in recent months and was absent for several weeks in the Senate last fall as he recuperated from a urinary tract infection.
“I regret my health has become an ongoing challenge,” Mr Cochran said in a statement. “I intend to fulfill my responsibilities and commitments to the people of Mississippi and the Senate through the completion of the 2018 appropriations cycle, after which I will formally retire from the US Senate.” He is currently chairman of the Appropriations Committee, a powerful panel with jurisdiction over government spending.
In November, Democrats only need a net gain of two seats to win a majority in the 100-member upper chamber. Meanwhile, the party needs a net gain of 24 to retake control of the 435-member House.
Significant losses of seats could further impede President Donald Trump’s agenda, which has already struggled under the slim Republican majority in the Senate.
Mississippi will now have two Senate seats up for grabs, with the special election for Mr Cochran’s seat being held on the same day as the regularly scheduled midterms.
World news in pictures
5 March 2018
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for the opening of the first session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The NPC has over 3,000 delegates and is the world’s largest parliament or legislative assembly though its function is largely as a formal seal of approval for the policies fixed by the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party. The NPC runs alongside the annual plenary meetings of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), together known as ‘Lianghui’ or ‘Two Meetings’.
4 March 2018
Female protestor stands up with the words ‘Berlusconi Sei Scaduto’ written on her body, translating as ‘Berlusconi, you’ve expired’, as Silvio Berlusconi stands during voting of the political and regional elections in Milan, Italy.
3 March 2018
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a rally to support his bid in the upcoming presidential election at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
2 March 2018
A light turns red outside of Germany’s Krupp Mannesmann steel factory. German officials and industry groups warned U.S. President Donald Trump that he risks sparking a trade war with his closest allies if he goes ahead with plans to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.
1 March 2018
People dance during Holi festival celebrations in Kathmandu, Nepal.
28 February 2018
Indian fans watch as the funeral procession of the late Bollywood actress Sridevi Kapoor passes through Mumbai.
27 February 2018
Candles are left in tribute to murdered Slovakian investigative reporter Jan Kuciak, 27, and his fiancee Martina, 27, at Slovak National Uprising Square in Bratislava. A leading Slovak newspaper says organised crime may have been involved in the shooting death that shocked Slovakia. The bodies of Kuciak and Kusnirova were found Sunday evening in their house in the town of Velka Maca, east of the capital.
26 February 2018
Colosseum during a heavy snowfall in Rome, Italy.
25 February 2018
Family members of victims of the sunken South Korean naval ship Cheonan by a North Korean attack hold up defaced portraits of Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee, during a rally against his visit near the Unification bridge in Paju, South Korea. A North Korean high-level delegation led by Kim arrived to attend the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. The signs read: ” Let’s punish Kim Young Chol.”
24 February 2018
Ivanka Trump (C) cheers while sat between former Olympic US bobsledders Shauna Rohbock (L) and Valerie Fleming (R) as the United States beat Sweden in their Men’s Gold Medal Curling match at the Gangneung Curling Centre in Gangneung, South Korea. Ivanka Trump is on a four-day visit to South Korea to attend the closing ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
23 February 2018
David Allen Turpin (C), who along with Louise Anna Turpin is accused of abusing and holding 13 of their children captive, appears in court with attorneys David Macher (L) and Alison Lowe in court in Riverside, California. According to Riverside County Sheriffs, David Allen Turpin and Louise Anna Turpin held 13 malnourished children ranging in age from 2 to 29 captive in their Perris, California home. Deputies were alerted after a 17-year-old daughter escaped by jumping through a window shortly before dawn, carrying a de-activated mobile phone from which she was able to call 911 for help. Responding deputies described conditions in the home as foul-smelling with some kids chained to a bed and suffering injuries as a result. Adult children appeared at first to be minors because of their malnourished state. The Turpins were arrested on charges of torture and child endangerment.
22 February 2018
The Elephanta Island, home to the famous Elephanta Caves, finally gets electricity after a wait of 70 years. Seventy years after Independence, a 7.5-km long undersea cable has finally brought electricity to the world-famous Gharapuri Isle, which houses the UNESCO World Heritage site Elephanta Caves, about 10-km from Mumbai, India.
21 February 2018
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pays his respects at the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar. Trudeau and his family are on a week-long official trip to India.
20 February 2018
Members of the Syrian civil defence evacuate an injured civilian on a stretcher from an area hit by a reported regime air strike in the rebel-held town of Saqba, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus.
19 February 2018
A Thai Navy instructor demonstrates how to catch a snake during a jungle survival exercise as part of the “Cobra Gold 2018” (CG18) joint military exercise with US soldiers, at a military base in Chonburi province, Thailand.
18 February 2018
Children play outside their destroyed school in the Frikeh village, in Idlib, north-western Syria
17 February 2018
A pro-Kurd demonstrator attends a protest demanding the release of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan in Strasbourg, France
16 February 2018
Joe Zevuloni mourns in front of a cross placed in a park to commemorate the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida
15 February 2018
South Africa’s new president Cyril Ramaphosa holds up his right hand as he is sworn into office
14 February 2018
The African National Congress’s (ANC) treasurer general Paul Mashatile (left) and parliamentary chief whip Jackson Mthembu address a media briefing, after an emergency ANC caucus meeting on 14 February in Cape Town. South Africa’s parliament will hold a vote of no-confidence in President Jacob Zuma on 15 February, the ruling ANC party said, signalling its determination to eject him from office after days of stalemate
13 February 2018
North Korean cheerleaders are surrounded by media as they attempt to walk on Gyeongpo beach in Gangneung, South Korea
12 February 2018
Former US President Barack Obama unveils his portrait at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC
9 February 2018
US Vice President Mike Pence and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s sister Kim Yo-Jong attend the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games
8 February 2018
Bangladesh police charge towards activists of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party protesting following a verdict against opposition leader Khaleda Zia in Dhaka. The ex-Prime Minister of Bangladesh was jailed for five years on corruption charges.
7 February 2018
Rescue services search for people in a damaged building in eastern Taiwan after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit Hualien on the night of 6 February, 2018. Media reports said several buildings were damaged and at least four people were killed and some 100 were injured during the quake. Teams are trying to rescue people inside the buildings. Some bridges and roads are damaged and the main road to Hualien is closed. More than 100 earthquakes have hit off Taiwan’s east coast in the past three days. The Seismological Observation Center said they are cuased by the friction between the Philipine Plate and Eurasian Plate.
6 February 2018
Anti-North Korean protesters push against police as a ferry carrying a North Korean art troupe for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games approaches the port of Mukho in Donghae. Around 120 North Korean art performers in matching red coats and fur hats left for the South, its state media said on February 6, the latest in the flurry of cross-border exchanges in the run-up to the Pyeongchang Olympics.
5 February 2018
Philadelphia Eagles’ Nick Foles celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl LII.
4 February 2018
Authorities investigate the scene of a fatal Amtrak train crash in Cayce, South Carolina. At least two were killed and dozens injured.
The State via AP
3 February 2018
Members of security services react as a man in the crowd tries to shake hands with French President Emmanuel Macron, who walks next to Senegalese President Macky Sall in a street of Saint-Louis, Senegal.
2 February 2018
County Sheriffs restrain Randall Margraves, the father of three daughters who were abused by Larry Nassar, after he tried to attack the former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, during victim statements of his sentencing in the Eaton County Circuit Court in Charlotte, Michigan.
1 February 2018
Abu Rabih, 65, walks through the rubble with his eight-year-old grandson Yahya following air strikes by regime forces which hit the building where they live in Arbin, in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus.
Arbin is in the Eastern Ghouta region which has been under government siege since 2013.
31 January 2018
A ‘Supermoon’ shines its blood red colors during a full eclipse above the Big A Sign of Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California. A ‘Supermoon’ commonly is described as a full moon at its closest distance to the earth with the moon appearing larger and brighter than usual.
30 January 2018
A man wears a mask among fellow supporters as Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga (not pictured) takes a symbolic presidential oath of office in Nairobi.
29 January 2018
Tractors are parked outside a meeting of European Union agriculture ministers during a protest by Belgian farmers in Brussels.
28 January 2018
Bruno Mars accepts Record of the Year for ’24K Magic’ with his production team onstage during the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Getty Images for NARAS
27 January 2018
Students with torches gather prior to a march in celebration of the 165th birth anniversary of Cuba’s independence hero Jose Marti, in Havana.
26 January 2018
A firefighter inspects a burnt hospital after a fire in Miryang, South Korea. 37 people were killed in the fire, with the number of casualties likely to rise further.
Kyungnam Shinmun via Getty
25 January 2018
Rescue workers and police officers stand near derailed trains in Pioltello, on the outskirts of Milan.
24 January 2018
Afghan police officers take position during a blast and gun fire in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
23 January 2018
Workers clean the beach of the coastal town of Zouk Mosbeh, north of Beirut, as garbage washed up and piled along the shore after stormy weather.
22 January 2018
A Free Syrian Army soldier takes a selfie as fighters join up with Turkish troops near the Syrian border at Hassa, Hatay province. Turkey shelled Kurdish militia targets in Syria and claimed progress in a cross-border offensive that has stoked concern among its allies and neighbours.
21 January 2018
Palestinians take part in a protest against aid cut, outside the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) office, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
20 January 2018
Oscar Janicki, 6, participates in the Second Annual Women’s March in Philadelphia.
19 January 2018
Russian President Vladimir Putin bathes in an ice-cold water on Epiphany near St. Nilus Stolobensky Monastery on Lake Seliger in Svetlitsa village, Russia. Thousands of Russian Orthodox Church followers will plunge into icy rivers and ponds across the country to mark Epiphany, cleansing themselves with water deemed holy for the day.
Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
18 January 2018
People protest to call for a new DREAM Act to replace DACA in Los Angeles, California.
17 January 2018
Pro-democracy activists Raphael Wong and Joshua Wong arrive at Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre after they were jailed on protest related charges following their sentencing at the High Court in Hong Kong.
16 January 2018
Skyscrapers Oriental Pearl Tower and Jin Mao Tower (L) are seen from the Shanghai World Financial Center on a hazy day in the financial district of Pudong in Shanghai, China.
15 January 2018
Martin Luther King III, US Secretary of the Interior and others wait to place a wreath during an event at the Martin Luther King Memorial on the National Mall.
14 January 2018
A boy stands with women loyal to the Houthi movement during a gathering held to show their support to the movement in Sanaa, Yemen.
13 January 2018
Diego Martin Duplessis of Argentina drives his Honda during the 2018 Peru-Bolivia-Argentina Dakar rally, 40th edition stage seven, La Paz to Uyuni.
But the tough races may come well before November. Hard-right conservative Chris McDaniel, who lost to Mr Cochran in a nasty 2014 primary, announced last week that he would run against incumbent Republican Senator Roger Wicker.
On Monday, Mr MrDaniel did not rule out switching to running for Mr Cochran’s seat.
“I am currently focused on my campaign against Roger Wicker, but all options remain on the table as we determine the best way to ensure that Mississippi elects conservatives to the United States Senate,” Mr McDaniel said.
The conservative firebrand represents possibly one of the last chances for ex-White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon to see the fruit of his efforts to wage war against the Republican establishment.
So far, Mr Bannon has been unsuccessful. In last year’s Alabama Senate special election, Mr Bannon backed Roy Moore, whose campaign was upended after the evangelical voter favourite was accused of sexual misconduct. Mr Moore vehemently denied the allegations.
The conservative state ultimately ended up electing Democrat Doug Jones to the Senate, making him Alabama’s first Democratic US senator in more than 25 years.
MONDAY, March 5, 2018 — A growing number of U.S. kids are ending up in the intensive care unit after overdosing on prescription painkillers or other opioids, a new study finds.
Researchers found that between 2004 and 2015, the number of children and teens admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit for an opioid overdose nearly doubled. That included teenagers who’d abused the drugs, and young children who’d accidentally gotten hold of them.
“These admissions are entirely preventable,” said lead researcher Dr. Jason Kane, of the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital. “These kids shouldn’t be there.”
The findings, reported online March 5 in the journal Pediatrics, offer the latest look at the U.S. opioid epidemic.
An estimated 2.4 million Americans have an opioid use disorder, according to federal estimates. That includes abuse of prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin, as well as illegal drugs like heroin.
But while the focus is usually on adults, children have become “the second wave of victims,” Kane said.
One recent study found that a growing number of children and teenagers are showing up in emergency rooms dependent on opioids. In 2013, roughly 135 kids per day were testing positive for opioid dependence in the nation’s ERs, according to the study.
The new study looked at pediatric intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, which would capture the most serious overdose cases. Some kids landed there in respiratory distress, in need of a ventilator, Kane said. Others needed medications to raise their blood pressure from dangerously low levels.
The findings are based on records from 31 U.S. children’s hospitals. Between 2004 and 2015, there were more than 3,600 children and teenagers admitted to the hospital for an opioid overdose — and 43 percent of them had to be taken the ICU.
In contrast, the study found, only 12 percent of children hospitalized for any reason had to be admitted to the ICU.
Over time, ICU admissions for opioids rose: from 367 kids for the years 2004-2007, to 643 between 2012 and 2015. Most were teenagers, but about one-third were children younger than 6 — who would have accidentally gotten their hands on someone’s medication, Kane said.
Close to 2 percent of children who overdosed ultimately died.
The findings highlight another tragic side of the nation’s opioid epidemic crisis, Kane said: “Almost 2 percent of these kids died of a completely preventable illness.”
The findings also point to a drain on health care resources, he added. “There are only about 4,000 pediatric ICU beds nationwide,” Kane said.
His team found that over time, the cost of care for each child actually dipped — from over $6,200, to over $4,500. “Pediatric ICUs have found a way to care for them at less cost,” Kane said.
But, he added, since the sheer number of kids needing care rose, the overall financial burden increased.
Dr. Sheryl Ryan is chief of adolescent medicine at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
“This epidemic is not limited to adults,” said Ryan, who wrote an editorial published with the study.
What can parents do? Ryan said that when they have legitimate prescriptions for opioids, they need to keep the medication out of the sight and reach of young children.
In one study finding, it turned out that about one-fifth of young children who landed in the ICU had ingested methadone. Methadone can be a drug of abuse, but it’s also legitimately prescribed to treat opioid dependence.
So, Ryan said, it is important for providers who prescribe methadone to talk with patients about safely using the medication at home.
But parents of older kids also need to keep a watchful eye over any prescription opioids, Ryan stressed. For instance, they could use a “lockbox” to store the medication, she said.
And parents should never hang on to any extra painkiller pills — but dispose of them appropriately, Ryan advised. In some communities, she noted, police departments have drug take-back programs where people can take their unused opioid prescriptions.
More generally, Ryan said, it’s vital for parents to look at their own behavior. If your kids see you inebriated after too much alcohol, she noted, that can send a message that substance abuse is acceptable.
Parents should also start talking to their kids about substance abuse early on, Ryan said — around the ages of 8 to 10.
“I think parents often underestimate the power of communicating their values to their kids,” she said. “But it’s so important.”
One of the two people critically ill in a Salisbury hospital after “suspected exposure to an unknown substance” is a Russian man who was exchanged in a high-profile “spy swap” in 2010, the Guardian understands.
Sergei Skripal, 66, was one of four Russians exchanged for 10 deep cover “sleeper” agents planted by Moscow in the US.
Wiltshire police said that a man in his 60s and a woman in her 30s were found unconscious on a bench in the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury on Sunday afternoon.
Temporary assistant chief constable Craig Holden said that the pair were believed to have been known to each other and were in a critical condition. He added: “This has not been declared as a counter-terrorism incident and we would urge people not to speculate.
“However, I must emphasise that we retain an open mind and we will continue to review this position.”
A passerby, Freya Church, saw the pair at the shopping centre. She told the BBC: “On the bench there was a couple – an older guy and a younger girl. She was leant in on him. It looked like she’d passed out. He was doing some strange hand movements, looking up to the sky. I felt anxious, like I should step in but they looked so out of it. They looked like they had been taking something quite strong.”
Zizzi restaurant on Castle Street in the city centre has been closed in connection with the incident “as a precaution” while the investigation continues, police said.
“Public Health England are aware of this and have reiterated that, based on the evidence to date, there is no known risk to the public’s health. However, as a precaution they have advised that if you feel ill contact the NHS on 111 … [or] 999.”
A police van was outside Skripal’s home in Salisbury on Monday night. James Puttock, a neighbour, said that he had lived in the area for more than seven years. He was “very quiet”, he said. “If I see him in the street I say hello. Police have been here since Sunday afternoon. They’re in the house asking questions now.”
Puttock, 47, added: “He [Skripal] said hello if he walked past, and seemed like a nice chap. When he moved in he invited us all over for a housewarming party – I imagine he invited the whole street.
“He had been here for quite a while. People came and went from the house but I didn’t pay much attention.
“He was always walking past, but he did sometimes drive his BMW 3 Series. He never really looked smart, he looked very casual.”
Skripal is a former Russian army colonel who was convicted of passing the identities of Russian agents working undercover in Europe to MI6 in 2006. He arrived in the UK as part of a high-profile spy swap in 2010.
He was sentenced in August 2006 in Russia to 13 years in jail for spying for Britain after being convicted of “high treason in the form of espionage”. Russian prosecutors said he had been paid $100,000 (£72,000) by MI6 for information he had been supplying since the 1990s when he was a serving officer.
He was flown to the UK as part of an exchange that involved the notorious group of deep cover “sleeper” agents planted by Russia in the US, which included Anna Chapman, a diplomat’s daughter, being taken to Moscow.
It had been assumed that Skripal had been given a new identity, home, and pension. However, Land Registry documents show his house was registered in his real name and was bought for £260,000 with no mortgage on 12 August 2011, just over a year after the spy swap.
Igor Sutyagin, who was swapped at the same time as Skripal and is now in the UK, said it was too early to tell whether Skripal was the victim of foul play. “We don’t know. It’s all hypothetical,” he told the Guardian.
But Sutyagin said the Kremlin’s view of defectors was clear. “Vladimir Putin was once asked what type of people populate the world. He said traitors and enemies. I was told once by a Russian diplomat in London that Putin compared me to Judas. That is their attitude.”
Sutyagin said he had chatted with Skripal for several hours when they were flown to Austria in 2010 as part of the spy swap. “He talked about his family. It seemed to me it was his family which was his major joy.” They didn’t keep in touch, Sutyagin said, adding that Skripal’s career profile suggested he had served abroad undercover as an officer with military intelligence.
Litvinenko – a former officer with the FSB spy agency – fell ill in November 2006 after drinking a cup of tea laced with radioactive polonium. He met his killers in a ground-floor bar of the Millennium hotel in Mayfair, central London.
The pair were Andrei Lugovoi – a former KGB officer turned businessman, who is now a deputy in Russia’s state Duma – and Dmitry Kovtun, a childhood friend of Lugovoi’s from a Soviet military family.
Litvinenko’s murder caused international scandal and led to years of estrangement between Moscow and London. Putin denied all involvement and refused to extradite either of the killers from Moscow.
A public inquiry in 2015 and 2016 heard five months of evidence, including secret submissions from UK spy agencies. Its chairman, Sir Robert Owen, concluded that the FSB had murdered Litvinenko, assigning Lugovoi and Kovtun to carry out the mission.
Owen also ruled that Putin had “probably approved” the operation, together with the FSB’s then chief Nikolai Patrushev.
Alex Goldfarb, a friend of Litvinenko who helped him escape Russia in 2000, said the Skripal case was suggestive of a Russian plot.
“What’s interesting now is that this happens just before Russia’s presidential election,” he said. “Putin awarded Lugovoi a state honour and made him a national hero. He apparently sees positive electoral gain from this kind of activity.
Goldfarb added: “Russia is a nationalistic country where state-run propaganda portrays the UK as the enemy and people like Skripal as traitors.”
Some in Russia suggested the Salisbury incident was a British attempt to discredit Putin, who is all but certain to win a new six-year term of office at this month’s ballot.
“The Anglo-Saxons have arranged Litvinenko 2.0 ahead of the elections,” Alexander Kots, a journalist for the pro-Kremlin Komsolskaya Pravda newspaper, wrote on Twitter.
Asked for a comment on the story, a spokesman for the Russian embassy said: “Neither relatives nor legal representatives of the said person, nor the British authorities have addressed the embassy in this regard.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said he wants to “vigorously advance” relations with South Korea, telling a visiting delegation from Seoul he hoped to “write a new history of national reunification”.
Kim made the comments during a two-day trip by the delegation led by Chung Eui-yong, the head of the South’s national security office. The officials are the most senior South Koreans to meet Kim since he came to power in 2011 after the death of his father.
“He … made an exchange of in-depth views on the issues for easing the acute military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and activating the versatile dialogue, contact, cooperation and exchange,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported.
“He repeatedly clarified that it is our consistent and principled stand and his firm will to vigorously advance the north-south relations and write a new history of national reunification by the concerted efforts of our nation to be proud of in the world.”
It was not clear what a “satisfactory agreement” meant and despite a standing invitation for Moon to visit Pyongyang, no date has been set. The two sides have remained in a technical state of war since the end of the 1950-53 Korean war.
The visit follows two months of easing tensions with North Korea and is the first of its kind since Moon’s liberal government was sworn in last year. The officials delivered a letter from Moon and Kim issued orders for “practical steps” to be taken, KCNA said without giving details.
Kim and his wife also personally hosted a dinner for the group at the Workers’ party headquarters, the first time South Korean officials have visited the building, according to Seoul’s presidential office. Kim’s younger sister and close advisor Kim Yo-jong also attended the meal, which lasted more than four hours.
A photo of Kim posing with five members of the South Korean delegation was splashed across the front page of the Rodong Shinmun, the official newspaper of the ruling Workers’ party.
Before leaving for Pyongyang, Chung said he would stress the need to “denuclearise the Korean Peninsula” and said he would encourage direct dialogue between North Korea and the US.
While Pyongyang has repeatedly announced it is ready to talk to US officials, president Donald Trump has so far resisted those overtures. Washington has continued its “maximum pressure” campaign, and on Monday announced a new round of largely symbolic sanctions over the North’s use of chemical weapons.
The US has said any talks must centre on North Korea abandoning its nuclear and missile program, while Pyongyang views the weapons as necessary for its survival.
In a pair of extraordinary interviews on Monday, former Donald Trump aide Sam Nunberg said he would defy a grand jury subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller but also said the president “may have done something” illegal.
Speaking first to the Washington Post and then on MSNBC, Nunberg vowed to defy Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 US election and alleged collusion between Trump aides and Moscow.
Mueller has indicted 13 Russians and four former Trump aides, three of whom have entered plea deals involving co-operation.
Nunberg, however, said he would tear up his subpoena live on Bloomberg TV.
He also told MSNBC host Katy Tur, the author of a bestselling book on the Trump campaign, that he thought the candidate “may have done something” illegal during the election.
He added: “I don’t know that for sure.”
Nunberg, a protégé of veteran political operative Roger Stone, was Trump’s political adviser prior to the start of his White House run.
He was fired in August 2015, over racially charged Facebook posts, after he and Stone lost a internal power struggle with then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
Nunberg was sued by Trump on the eve of the 2016 Republican convention, for allegedly leaking information about Lewandowski’s relationship with close Trump aide and future White House communications director Hope Hicks. However, Nunberg has remained close to many in Trump’s orbit.
Speaking to the Post, Nunberg dared Mueller to act if he refused to appear before a grand jury on Friday.
“Let him arrest me,” he said.
Speaking to MSNBC, Nunberg said: “I think it would be funny if they arrested me.”
Nunberg told Tur he would not co-operate with Mueller, saying: “It’s a witch hunt and I’m not going to cooperate.
“Why do I have to spend 80 hours going over my email? That I’ve had with Steve Bannon and Roger Stone? Why does Bob Mueller need to see my emails when I send Roger and Steve clips and we talk about how much we hate people?”
Nunberg also said that had Trump not won the Republican primary, “he was probably going to endorse Hillary Clinton”.
He also showed the Post a copy of what appeared to be his subpoena, the newspaper reported, which included a list of names of those about whom the special counsel is seeking information. Hicks, former White House strategist Steve Bannon, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, Lewandowski and Stone were among the names listed.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders dismissed Nunberg’s comments.
“I’m not going to weigh into someone who doesn’t work at the White House,” she said. “From our perspective, we’re going to cooperate with the special counsel’s office and the reason we’re so comfortable doing so is there was absolutely no collusion with the Trump campaign.”
Nunberg also asked Tur for advice, saying: “What do you think Mueller is going to do to me?”
Tur responded: “I’m not a lawyer, I don’t know but given the circumstances you might be held in contempt of court.”
In a separate television interview, Nunberg told CNN that Mueller “thinks Trump is the Manchurian Candidate” though the former aide said he disagrees.
“They probably want to know about Miss Universe 2013, if I had to guess,” Nunberg said. “There was nothing there, but they want to hear the testimony. They want to hear what other people said, and perhaps other people told them different things than I heard.”
It was during this visit to Moscow that Trump is said to have discussed potential business opportunities in Russian. Nunberg said he was asked about Trump Tower Moscow, which was under discussion but never built.
Investigators also asked him about the goings on inside Trump Tower in New York, where Trump lived and worked before moving into the White House.
“They asked questions to me in terms of did I hear Russian spoken around Trump Tower? No, Gloria, I never heard Russian spoken around Trump Tower, OK? Now, I understand why they have to ask that, but it was pretty ridiculous to me,” Nunberg said, referring to CNN’s political analyst, Gloria Borger.
In 2016 China admitted it had lost control of Tiangong-1 and would be unable to perform a controlled re-entry.
The statement from Aerospace said there was “a chance that a small amount of debris” from the module will survive re-entry and hit the Earth.
“If this should happen, any surviving debris would fall within a region that is a few hundred kilometres in size,” said Aerospace, a research organisation that advises government and private enterprise on space flight.
Aerospace warned that the space station might be carrying a highly toxic and corrosive substance called hydrazine on board.
The report includes a map showing the module is expected to re-enter somewhere between 43° north and 43° south latitudes. The chances of re-entry are slightly higher in northern China, the Middle East, central Italy, northern Spain and the northern states of the US, New Zealand, Tasmania, parts of South America and southern Africa.
However, Aerospace insisted the chance of debris hitting anyone living in these nations was tiny. “When considering the worst-case location … the probability that a specific person (ie, you) will be struck by Tiangong-1 debris is about one million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot.
“In the history of spaceflight no known person has ever been harmed by reentering space debris. Only one person has ever been recorded as being hit by a piece of space debris and, fortunately, she was not injured.”
Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist from Harvard University and space industry enthusiast, also sounded a note of caution. He said fragments from a similar-sized rocket re-entered the atmosphere and landed in Peru in January. “Every couple of years something like this happens, but Tiangong-1 is big and dense so we need to keep an eye on it,” he told the Guardian.
McDowell said Tiangong-1’s descent had been speeding up in recent months and it was now falling by about 6km a week, compared with 1.5km in October. It was difficult to predict when the module might land because its speed was affected by the constantly changing “weather” in space, he said.
“It is only in the final week or so that we are going to be able to start speaking about it with more confidence,” he said.
“I would guess that a few pieces will survive re-entry. But we will only know where they are going to land after after the fact.”
It was used for both manned and unmanned missions and visited by China’s first female astronaut, Liu Yang, in 2012.
In 1991 the Soviet Union’s 20-tonne Salyut 7 space station crashed to Earth while still docked to another 20-tonne spacecraft called Cosmos 1686. They broke up over Argentina, scattering debris over the town of Capitán Bermúdez.
Nasa’s 77-tonne Skylab space station came hurtling to Earth in an almost completely uncontrolled descent in 1979, with some large pieces landing outside Perth in Western Australia.
Wreckage from the USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier that sank during the second world war, has been found in the Coral Sea by a search team led by the Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
The wreckage was found on Sunday by the team’s research vessel, the R/V Petrel, about 3,000m (two miles) below the surface and more than 500 miles (800km) off the eastern coast of Australia.
The team released pictures and video of the wreckage of the Lexington – one of the first ever US aircraft carriers – and some of the planes that went down with it.
Remarkably preserved aircraft could be seen on the seabed bearing the five-pointed star insignia of the US Army Air Forces on their wings and fuselage.
On one aircraft an emblem of the cartoon character Felix the Cat can be seen along with four miniature Japanese flags presumably depicting “kills”.
The search team also released pictures and video of parts of the ship, including a nameplate and anti-aircraft guns covered in decades of slime.
The Lexington and another carrier, the USS Yorktown, fought against three Japanese aircraft carriers from 4 to 8 May 1942 in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the first ever between carriers.
The badly damaged Lexington, nicknamed “Lady Lex”, was deliberately sunk by another US warship at the conclusion of the battle. More than 200 members of the crew died in the battle but most were rescued by other US vessels before the Lexington was scuttled.
Admiral Harry Harris, who heads up the US military’s Pacific Command (Pacom) – and whose father was one of the sailors evacuated – paid tribute to the successful research effort. “As the son of a survivor of the USS Lexington, I offer my congratulations to Paul Allen and the expedition crew of Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel for locating the ‘Lady Lex’, sunk nearly 76 years ago at the Battle of Coral Sea. We honor the valor and sacrifice of the ‘Lady Lex’s’ Sailors – and all those Americans who fought in World War II – by continuing to secure the freedoms they won for all of us.”
The Lexington was carrying 35 aircraft when it went down. The search team said that 11 planes had been found including Douglas TBD-1 Devastators, Douglas SBD-3 Dauntlesses and Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats.
Search teams led by Allen have discovered the wreckage of a number of historic warships including the USS Indianapolis, a US heavy cruiser that sank in the Philippine Sea in July 1945 after being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine.
On Monday, Lighthizer warned that time was running “very short” for the talks in Mexico City to finalize changes to the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). “We would prefer a three-way tripartite agreement,” he said, but: “If that proves impossible, we are prepared to move on a bilateral basis.”
The Washington envoy held out exemptions from the looming tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent imported aluminum, which are set to be formally announced this week, as an incentive for the two neighboring countries to agree on a new deal.
Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, who represented his government at the talks, tweeted that including Mexico and Canada in the import tax regime was not the way to a “new NAFTA.”
“We should be excluded because the most integrated steel industry in the world is the North American steel industry,” Guajardo told reporters later.
Trump, however, believes that tariffs should only be lifted once a “new and fair NAFTA” agreement is signed. In a series of tweets, Trump also accused Mexico and Canada of harming the US agricultural industry and also accused Mexico of not doing enough to stop narcotrafficking.
We have large trade deficits with Mexico and Canada. NAFTA, which is under renegotiation right now, has been a bad deal for U.S.A. Massive relocation of companies & jobs. Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum will only come off if new & fair NAFTA agreement is signed. Also, Canada must..
…treat our farmers much better. Highly restrictive. Mexico must do much more on stopping drugs from pouring into the U.S. They have not done what needs to be done. Millions of people addicted and dying.
Mexican Foreign Minister Luís Videgaray tweeted back that halting drug trafficking was a “shared responsibility.”
Dealing with drug trafficking is a shared responsibility between Mexico and the U.S. This accepted principle guides our cooperation with U.S. agencies. Only working together and addressing supply and demand we can stop the ilegal flow of drugs, cash and weapons going both ways.
The US President also faced opposition from the Republican party in Congress over the tariffs. “We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan,” AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin). Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) also warned against a “trade war.”
Canada and Mexico are the second and third greatest US trading partners, each accounting for more than $500 billion in trade per year, almost rivaling China and the 28 European Union member states combined. NAFTA, signed by former President Bill Clinton in 1994, has been criticized as a disastrous deal for US manufacturing jobs by the same labor unions that backed his election campaign as well as his wife, Hillary’s.