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Greta Thunberg named Time magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year


Greta Thunberg named Time magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

Greta Thunberg was named Time magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year on Wednesday morning. She is youngest figure to receive the distinction in its 92-year history.

The 16-year-old Swedish climate activist has become an iconic face in the fight to save the planet from climate change. Last year, she began spending her Fridays protesting by herself outside the Swedish parliament, and that effort grew to her leading a host of student-led climate strikes involving millions of people in over 170 countries.

Thunberg sailed from England to New York this fall for a United Nations climate summit instead of flying, emphasizing it’s less harmful to the environment. She then drew worldwide attention for her fiery speech at the U.N., where she accused world leaders of stealing her dreams and childhood with their inaction on climate change.

(MORE: Slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Capital Gazette staff and persecuted reporters are Time’s Person of the Year)

“Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” she asked at the U.N. in September. “The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say — we will never forgive you.”

Thunberg has vowed the marches will continue until world leaders give serious attention to protecting the environment for future generations.

Time also named the World Cup-winning U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team as Athlete of the Year, Lizzo as Entertainer of the Year and Disney CEO Bob Iger as Business Person of the Year.

(MORE: The ‘silence breakers’ of #MeToo movement named Time magazine’s 2017 person of the year)

Known as “Man of the Year” or “Woman of the Year” until 1999, the annual issue of Time magazine profiles a person or group, idea or object, that “most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year, for better or for worse,” former Time Managing Editor Walter Isaacson wrote in the 1998 issue. Though the outlet runs an online poll for People’s Choice, the final decision is made by editors.

The other finalists for the magazine’s annual title this year were President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the whistleblower and the Hong Kong protesters.

(MORE: Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg arrives in New York for UN summit on sailboat)

The top 10 contenders included Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, U.S. Women’s National Team Captain Megan Rapinoe, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City and Trump’s personal lawyer.

Time’s 2018 Person of the Year was “The Guardians” — journalists who have faced persecution, arrest or murder for their reporting — including Jamal Khashoggi, Maria Ressa and the staff of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Maryland.

Time’s first Man of the Year was aviator Charles Lindbergh following his trans-Atlantic flight in 1927.



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At UN Climate Summit, Greta Thunberg Lifts Up Science, Blasts World Leaders


MADRID ― At a high-level event Wednesday at the United Nations climate summit, Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg slammed world leaders for “misleading” the public with insufficient emission-reduction pledges and dove into the growing science that shows governments must act quickly to prevent catastrophic warming. 

Thunberg kicked off her speech at the 25th Conference of the Parties, or COP25, by telling world leaders that she wouldn’t have any personal or emotional headline-grabbing one-liners, like when she told world leaders she wanted them to panic.  

“I will not do that, because then those phrases are all that people focus on,” she said. “They don’t remember the facts, the very reason why I say those things in the first place. We no longer have time to leave out the science.” 

Thunberg highlighted numbers from last year’s sobering report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading United Nations consortium of researchers studying human-caused temperature rise. It found that to have a 67% chance of keeping the global temperature from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels ― the aspirational goal of the Paris climate agreement ― the world can only emit 570 gigatons of carbon dioxide. Studies show we are on track to blow past that carbon budget within a decade, and that meeting the 1.5-degree target requires cutting global emissions 7.6% every year from 2020 to 2030. 

“How do you react to these numbers without feeling at least some level of panic?” Thunberg asked a room full of delegates and others gathered at the summit. “How do you respond to the fact that basically nothing is being done about this without feeling the slightest bit of anger?”

CRISTINA QUICLER via Getty Images

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg gives a speech during a high-level event on climate emergency Wednesday during the U.N. climate change conference in Madrid.

Thunberg noted that 100 companies are responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas emissions, and that since the Paris agreement, global banks have invested $1.9 trillion in fossil fuels. She accused political leaders from rich countries of “misleading” people about the crisis and “finding clever ways around having to take real action,” including outsourcing emissions overseas to poorer countries and refusing to compensate vulnerable nations for climate-related damages.

The U.N. climate talks, she said, “have turned into some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition.” 

She continued:

The biggest danger is not inaction. The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening, when in fact almost nothing is being done, apart from clever accounting and creative PR.

In just three weeks, we will enter a new decade ― a decade that will define our future. Right now we are desperate for any sign of hope. Well I’m telling you there is hope, I’ve seen it. But it does not come for the governments or corporations. It comes from the people. 

Wednesday’s “High-Level Event on Climate Emergency” also included speeches from Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International, and Hilda Flavia Nakabuye, a youth climate activist from Uganda. As the panel discussion came to an end, dozens of young activists from the Fridays for Future movement stormed the stage, where they chanted and staged a sit-in to demand immediate action. 

“We need leadership on climate action, not talks,” an emotional Nakabuye said. “You’ve been negotiating for the last 25 years, even before I was born. Do you want the whole of Africa to first perish before you start acting?”





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John McDonnell’s bashing of Tories massively backfires during BBC interview | UK | News


The Shadow Chancellor accused the Prime Minister of using the London Bridge terrorist attack as “an opportunity”. Asked whether he wished anything had gone differently during the election campaign, he said: “I just wish we have had the Conservatives being honest with us. I just wish we hadn’t been having this gutter politics, fake websites, lies and smears. I just wish also they would have respected the parents of Jack Merritt who was killed on our streets.

“I wish Boris Johnson had not seen that as to quote the father of Jack Merritt, as ‘an opportunity’. I just wish he’d shown sympathy and respect and empathy.

“I just wish Boris Johnson had shown empathy about a child being treated, suffering from pneumonia lying on a hospital floor. That’s the sort of politics the Conservatives now have under Johnson.”

But BBC host Mishal Husain promptly hit back as she pointed out it was Labour’s claims her team had to reality check and question over the course of the election campaign. 

She said: “But on this question of trust there have been plenty of times over this campaign where it is your claims that we’ve had to reality check.

READ MORE: DELUDED! Labour chief in complete denial as GMB’s Reid savages her

“For example, I would point out, that some of the assertions you’ve made have not been ones that have been costed in your manifesto.

“There is a big question mark. The WASPI women for example.

“Even with the figures you came up with later on, we still don’t know how it’s going to be paid for.”

The awkward moment comes after Labour’s health spokesman’s conversation with a “friend” in which he said the situation for his party was “dire” was leaked.

Questioned on BBC Radio 4, Mr McDonnell said his colleague Jonathan Ashworth was “joshing” after he was secretly recorded questioning party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s suitability for office.

“What sort of friend records a telephone conversation like that and then gives it to a conservative disruptive website?

“But that’s the nature of Conservative politics now.

“That’s what Boris Johnson has dragged the Tory Party into.

“I think it’s dishonourable, I think it’s gutter politics. But it says more about Conservative politics than it does about anything Jonathan Ashworth who has behaved completely properly.”



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Out of the hat – VoxEurop (English)


Out of the hat – Muzaffar Yulchiboev

Following the 9 December summit in Paris with President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose countries have been at war since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, have agreed to exchange all respective prisoners by the end of the year, to disengage their soldiers from three new points on the front line by the end of March 2020, and to open new crossing points in eastern Ukraine.

They also recommitted themselves to the implementation of the 2015 Minsk Agreements which have remained a dead letter to date.



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New parent charged in college cheating case, agrees to plead guilty


A California woman was charged and has agreed to plead guilty as part of a sweeping college admissions cheating scheme that has resulted in charges against dozens of parents and others, federal prosecutors said this week.

Karen Littlefair, 57, of Newport Beach, was accused of paying $9,000 to have someone from the company of the scheme’s alleged mastermind, William “Rick” Singer, take online courses so that her son could graduate from Georgetown University, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts said in a statement Monday.

Littlefair will plead guilty at a later date to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, prosecutors said.

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That charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, but prosecutors said they will recommend a sentence of four months in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of $9,500 and restitution.

A lawyer for Littlefair, Kenneth Julian, said his client has “taken the earliest opportunity to take responsibility for her conduct,” The Associated Press reported.

Littlefair is the latest person charged in the scheme. Prosecutors in March announced charges against 50 people as a result of the FBI investigation called Operation Varsity Blues, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. The employee for Singer’s company completed four classes for her son at Georgetown and elsewhere, prosecutors said.

Huffman, a one-time Oscar nominee and the wife of actor William H. Macy, a one-time Oscar nominee and the wife of actor William H. Macy, pleaded guilty to mail fraud and honest services fraud in May for paying $15,000 to Singer to cheat on daughter Sophia Grace Macy’s SAT in 2017. She was sentenced to 14 days in prison and served her sentence and has been released.

Loughlin, known for her role in “Full House,” and her fashion-designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are fighting the charges. They were among those hit with a new bribery charge in October, and they pleaded not guilty in November.

Littlefair’s son graduated from Georgetown in May of 2018 using the credits from the online courses taken by an employee of Singer’s business, prosecutors said.

Georgetown declined to comment about any possible disciplinary action to the AP on Monday but said that the school can revoke degrees in cases of major misconduct.

Singer has pleaded guilty and is cooperating in the government investigation. He wore a wire for the FBI in the case.

In some of the cases, wealthy parents paid to have their children’s scores boosted or tried to get them admitted as fraudulent athletic recruits, or both, officials have said.

Associated Press contributed.



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England boss Gareth Southgate confirms door still open for Jamie Vardy to make Three Lions return



England manager Gareth Southgate has reiterated that ‘the door is open’ for in-form Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy to make an international return.

Vardy stepped back from the national team following the 2018 World Cup in Russia, citing his age and a desire to spend more time with his family.

The Foxes striker never formally retired, and the understanding was that Southgate might recall him should circumstances deem it necessary, for example in an injury crisis.

However, the 32-year-old’s run of scoring in eight successive Premier League games has led to calls for him to be reconsidered ahead of next summer’s European Championships. 

“[His form] is not a surprise to me because physically he’s in great condition,” Southgate told beIN Sports. “He’s a bit like James Milner, not having the international week where you’ve got a couple of extra games, and as you’re getting a bit older you can manage your body differently.

“I’m sure he could do both, but at the time after the World Cup he felt that was the decision he wanted to make. We had a very grown up conversation about it and we’ve always said that the door is open.”

Part of Vardy’s decision in 2018 was based around the fact that captain Harry Kane was clearly established as England’s main centre-forward.

In Vardy’s absence, it is Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham, who sits second to Vardy in the race for the Premier League golden boot, that looks likely to play the role of Kane’s backup at Euro 2020, and Southgate is happy with how things have worked out.

“We think it’s been the right thing to look younger players,” he added. “Tammy Abraham, as an example, is also right up in those goalscoring charts and is going to push for selection for the next few years, I’m sure.

“So we are blessed with good options, but we know what Jamie can do, we know the personality he brings to the group as well, and it’s been great to see him play as well as he has with Leicester.”



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Election: Tactical voting could still put the brakes on populism



The climate crisis ought to be the most important issue when we go to the polls, and we have led our daily coverage on that subject many times, as we pledged to do when the election was called. The NHS has rightly been given intense focus too, and questions of trust, and of the credibility of campaign claims, have come to define the nature of our politics in Britain in 2019.

There are many other important issues – which is why the front page of our Daily Edition today takes a break from the latest action to focus on what we have learnt about policies.

But inevitably our relationship with the European Union is a subject that deserves our urgent attention. Our view is that, now that the people know the terms on which we might leave the EU, they should be given the chance to give their final approval, or not. Our Final Say campaign has attracted the support of a great number of our readers, and 1.3 million signed our petition backing this call.

If Boris Johnson is returned with a majority to the office he has held since July, his Brexit deal will be voted through, and this time next year we will be facing another cliff-edge: the end of the transition period. Will we have a trade deal completed with the EU? Will this be a new “no-deal Brexit” moment? Against this backdrop, how can any government hope to fix all the other issues that arose during this campaign – from the climate to healthcare?

That is why we have tried in this campaign to give our readers as much information as possible about tactical voting: about how best to vote for candidates who might deliver a Final Say referendum. Of course, how you vote is your choice, but we sympathise with the great many who say they will switch allegiances this week in an effort to deny Mr Johnson that majority.

It is fair to say that when the election was called, The Independent saw Brexit in similar terms to the Liberal Democrats. With her switch to revoke, rather than a referendum, Jo Swinson took her party in a different direction.

This change of policy looked like positioning, not principle. She was worried that the Labour Party might move towards a more explicit Remain policy, so she sought to be distinctive. But it was only possible to justify the pledge to revoke Article 50 by claiming the mandate of a majority Lib Dem government, which was never credible. And, while calling a referendum is a democratic step, cancelling Brexit without one is not – in the eyes of many who were attracted to her party. 

Ms Swinson had perhaps inhaled too much of her own propaganda. For a moment she thought the Lib Dems could not only stop Brexit but gain a lot of seats by backing an early election. The latter seems unlikely to materialise, as she now admits.

The Labour Party has also fought a confused campaign. Its leader is as divisive as the prime minister he wishes to replace. At least Labour’s policy on Brexit is to allow voters the Final Say, and Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, deserves credit for bringing a reluctant leadership round. The leftover absurdities are not his fault: for example, that Jeremy Corbyn would send him to negotiate a new Brexit deal against which he, Sir Keir, would campaign in the subsequent referendum.

As for the rest of Labour’s programme, at least it sets out an ambitious vision. Higher taxes to pay for better public services may be necessary, but the scale and speed of Labour’s manifesto agenda is unconvincing. There must be questions about whether there is a sufficient number of top-calibre politicians to oversee a sweeping agenda of nationalisation, and then the delivery of so many crucial services.

But of most concern to a great many voters, Mr Corbyn’s failure to deal rigorously and honestly with prejudice in his party against Jewish people has been a moral disaster. 

Against those must be weighed the failings of the main alternative, which is Boris Johnson. For all the hype about what a great campaigner he is, it turned out that he did not want to be interviewed by Andrew Neil, and could not bring himself to look at a photo of a child lying on a hospital floor, showing all the empathy of his predecessor, Theresa May. As for his policies, his casual attitude towards poverty is disturbing. Indeed, he seems unserious about most things, including sexism and Islamophobia in his party, and in his own past.

His attempt to suspend parliament, unlawfully as it turned out, said nothing good about his view of democracy. His campaign’s attitude towards the truth has been flexible. His manifesto includes an ominous review of “the relationship between the government, parliament and the courts”. He might claim that was a mandate to stop the Supreme Court “interfering” in politics, which would make it easier for the executive to abuse its power.

Independent Minds Events: get involved in the news agenda

It is his careless approach to Brexit that counts most against him, however. On the issue on which he chose to fight this election, he has betrayed the people of Northern Ireland, proposing to divide them from the rest of the United Kingdom, and he cannot guarantee to deliver a trade deal with the EU by the end of next year.  

What, then, is the alternative to this blind Brexit? If sufficient numbers vote tactically, it is still possible that Mr Johnson wins the most seats but fails to secure a majority of MPs. A hung parliament would certainly be unpredictable. Could his government last? Would Mr Corbyn be able to seize his chance?

When the two main parties have become so extreme, a minority government – held in check by the need to seek support – is no bad option. Labour’s economic policies, for instance, could be tempered by the Liberal Democrats, whose manifesto promises both to do more for the poor and to be more fiscally responsible. Would Mr Corbyn end up in No 10? Possibly, but we can be sure that his full economic agenda could not get through parliament.

Of the other parties who might form part of a democratic alliance to legislate for a new referendum, the Scottish National Party voted for this election because they too expected to gain seats, but any party that is in favour of second referendums generally is good enough to serve the national interest after this election, and they too have potential to keep a possible Corbyn government in check. That applies also in Wales, where Plaid Cymru is opposed to Brexit, and in Northern Ireland, where the Social Democratic and Labour Party, Labour’s anti-Brexit sister party, hopes to regain two seats. As for the Green Party, its failure to capitalise on the widespread alarm about climate change has been surprising – even Friends of the Earth declared that Labour had the best policies for the environment in this election. 

Only one party slogan will live long in the memory: “Get Brexit Done” is the most blatant untruth in an election that has changed the game. The Brexit deadline of 31 January would be followed by the end of the transition period, scheduled to be 31 December. The 11 months in between will be dominated by Brexit, and another countdown to another self-inflicted moment of crisis.

Those who do not want to see this happen should cast their vote accordingly, taking into account the tactical situation in their constituency. Should Mr Johnson win his majority, it would be a victory for a misleading slogan, for untruth on Brexit, and for populism.



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World Human Rights Day: Chileans mark day with protests | News


Antofagasta, Chile – The military loaded people onto boats and some were never seen again. It happened 46 years ago, but it is something Carlos Martinez will never forget.

“Everyone saw what was happening,” he told Al Jazeera.

A food vendor in his 60s, Martinez now lives in Antofagasta, in northern Chile. But in 1973, he lived 1,360km (845 miles) south in Valparaiso. General Augusto Pinochet seized power in a military coup that year, and the dictatorship appropriated boats in the Valparaiso harbour to use as detention and torture centre for political prisoners.

“People from all over were tortured,” said Martinez. “Others were weighted and dumped into the sea.”

More: 

Thousands of Chileans were executed, forcibly disappeared, tortured and imprisoned for political reasons during the 17-year dictatorship. Martinez sees echoes of the past in current President Sebastian Pinera.

“He continues the repressive stance of the dictatorship,” he said.

Chile Human Rights

Relatives of people detained and forcibly disappeared during the 1973-1990 dictatorship protest every week for truth and justice [Sandra Cuffe/Al Jazeera] 

Pinochet died at age 91 under house arrest 13 years ago on December 10, International Human Rights Day. The day commemorates the United Nations adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but many Chileans are marking the day this year not with celebrations but with protests.

Demonstrations against structural inequality are in their eighth week in Chile, and crackdowns by security forces continue to draw criticism.

Pinera gave a speech for Human Rights Day, saying “over the past 52 days, we have been made aware of many cases and reports of human rights abuses, and each and every one hurts us.”

Secondary student protests in October sparked nationwide protests for systemic change, and political and economic measures announced by the government have so far failed to quell the movement. Following an initial nine-day state of emergency that entailed military deployment, police have continued to crack down on daily protest actions around the country.

Pinera faces allegations of rights abuses

At least 24 people have been killed during the crisis, including five by military and police forces.

The National Human Rights Institute, an autonomous state body, has documented 192 cases of sexual violence by authorities and 405 cases of torture or other cruel treatment. The institute has also visited 3,449 people hospitalised for injuries, including 352 eye injuries, most of them caused by projectiles fired by police.

In his speech Tuesday, Pinera recognised the hard work in recent weeks by the 10-year-old National Human Rights Institute. It has facilitated greater awareness and increased capacity to identify and if necessary also punish all human rights violations, he said.

“Chile has a beautiful, noble and recognised tradition with regard to the protection of human rights,” said Pinera, pledging commitment to truth, justice, and assistance for victims.

But Pinera himself could face consequences for alleged human rights violations during the continuing crisis. Legislators this week are deliberating constitutional accusations against the president and Andres Chadwick, Minister of the Interior and Security at the outset of the crisis.

Chile human rights

At a march in Antofagasta in northern Chile, a protester carries a sign that reads: ‘Bullets will not silence us. Chile woke up’ [Sandra Cuffe/Al Jazeera] 

The Senate is scheduled to vote on Wednesday on the accusation against Chadwick, after it passed a vote by legislators of the lower house of Chile’s bicameral congress. Chadwick was removed in a cabinet shuffle, but would be barred from holding any public office for five years if the Senate votes against him.

On Thursday, legislators from the lower house will debate and potentially vote on the constitutional accusation against Pinera. In the unlikely event the accusation were to pass both in the Chamber of Deputies and Senate, Pinera would be immediately removed from office and barred from holding any other for five years.

International human rights NGOs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both published reports last month condemning police and military repression of protests. The government strongly repudiated allegations of intentional harm and indiscriminate attacks.

A team from the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights spent three weeks in Chile last month, documenting the situation. Their report is almost set to be released, high commissioner Michelle Bachelet said Monday. Bachelet served two nonconsecutive terms as president of Chile, both times followed by Pinera.

“We are the United Nations. We are not an NGO. It is just about to be presented to the government of Chile so that it can be known by everyone,” she said when confronted about the report by Chileans attending the COP25 climate conference in Madrid.

Chile human rights

A demonstrator holds false eyes during a protest against Chile’s government, in Santiago, Chile [Pablo Sanhueza/Reuters] 

International human rights bodies have left the country, but alleged human rights violations continue. In a presentation to the Senate human rights commission Monday, the National Doctors Association of Chile reported multiple cases of severe burns from unknown chemical agents added by police to water cannon used on protesters.

In spite of the abuses, protests continue. Martinez supports them, and he is far from alone. More than two-thirds of Chileans think protests should continue, according to a recent poll by a trusted marketing and polling company.

“The new generations have woken up,” said Martinez. “The atomic bomb of youth has been exposed.”





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Japanese island of Mageshima could become an unsinkable US aircraft carrier


Japan’s government announced this week that it’s buying Mageshima Island, an uninhabited outcrop 21 miles (34 kilometers) from the southernmost Japanese main island of Kyushu.

The island, most of which is owned by a privately held Tokyo development company, is uninhabited and hosts two intersecting unpaved runways that were abandoned under a previous development project.

The Japanese government said the runways will be paved and used for US Navy and Marine Corps planes to simulate aircraft carrier landings, though it did not give a time frame in which that could be accomplished as the deal still needs to be finalized.

The “purchase of Mageshima Island is extremely important and serves for strengthening deterrence by the Japan-US alliance as well as Japan’s defense capability,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in announcing the deal.

US military officials in Japan said they could not comment on the purchase.

Buying Mageshima has been the subject of talks for years. Tasuton Airport, the company that owns most of the island, finally reached agreement with the government in late November.

The island was identified as a suitable site for use by the US as a permanent base for field carrier landing practice under a 2011 agreement outlining the realignment of US forces in Japan.

Spreading out US forces

The $146 million deal also comes as the US military is hearing calls to increase the number of its strategic bases in East Asia in the face of a growing Chinese missile arsenal.

The majority of US combat air forces in Japan are concentrated in just six bases.

Recent studies, including one from the United States Study Center at the University of Sydney published in August, say with their current resources the US forces would be vulnerable to Chinese missile strikes early in any conflict.

One way to mitigate that is to spread US troops and assets out among more bases.

US military aircraft conduct an "elephant walk" exercise at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa in 2017. Experts fear US forces in Japan are concentrated on too few bases.

“Over time, the diversification of Japanese and American bases (individual or joint) will be a trend,” said Corey Wallace, an Asia security analyst at Freie University in Berlin. “The alliance would be more resilient if bases and hardware were more dispersed.”

The theory goes, the more bases you have, the more missiles an adversary would need to fire to overwhelm its target and gain an advantage in a combat scenario.

Permanent land bases are considered more valuable than aircraft carriers, because they can withstand a great number of munitions. In theory, a carrier can be taken out with a single missile or torpedo.

Battle damage to land bases can also be repaired much more quickly than a complex war machine like an aircraft carrier.

“When you target and sink an aircraft carrier it is irreversible,” said Collin Koh, research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

As for an island? “At the very least it doesn’t sink…. You can take the time and effort to bring it back to operation again,” Koh said.

Kinks in US-Japan defense relations

The new base is also a good sign for US-Japan defense cooperation, which has seen strains in recent years on two fronts: Localities have put pressure on the Japanese government to move US military activity away from population centers; and US President Donald Trump has pushed allies like Japan to take some financial load off US taxpayers.

On the former point, Wallace says Mageshima could eventually see operations from US Marine Corps Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, taking some of the load off current airfields on the main islands and Okinawa.

Just last February, Okinawa residents, in a non-binding referendum, voted overwhelmingly that the US Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station be relocated off the island.

That vote came after incidents of parts falling off US aircraft and landing outside the base, including near schools and numerous flashpoints involving US defense personnel and local residents.

Despite that vote, the Japanese government moved ahead with plans to relocate Futenma operations elsewhere on Okinawa.

Similarly, the government could be expected to push back against any challenges to the Mageshima plan from the nearest island of Tageshima, 8.5 miles (14 kilometers) to its east and from where it is administered.

A US Navy carrier-based E-2D Hawkeye airborne radar plane and four US Marine Corps F-35B Lightning jets fly over the South China Sea.

In the larger international picture, Japan is making the right move to keep its most important ally — the United States — happy, said Koh, the Singapore analyst.

“Trump is asking Japan to pay more. This purchase of the island is a move that is part of the whole plan to demonstrate that Japan is willing to shoulder more burden,” Koh said.

And despite the island’s proximity to Tageshima, no one actually lives on it, allowing “the (Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe government to try to balance between its obligation towards the alliance as well as to its domestic constituents,” he said.

A US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet jet flies past the island of North Iwo Jima in 2016.

As a practice field, Mageshima will also be more convenient for US carrier pilots, many of which now fly out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni on the Japanese main island of Honshu.

The fliers now practice carrier landings — known as “touch and go” landings — on Iwo Jima, also known as Iwo To, almost 850 miles (1,360 kilometers) away. Flying to Mageshima would cut the journey by 600 miles (960 kilometers).

A chance to show new abilities

Down the line, Wallace says Mageshima could provide for some new cooperation between the US and Japanese militaries — specifically involving F-35 stealth fighters.

Japan has announced it will be upgrading its Izumo-class helicopter destroyers to handle US-made F-35B jets, fighters that now fly off American amphibious assault ships, essentially small aircraft carriers. It’s also purchasing dozens of the short-takeoff, vertical landing jets.

Japan to have first aircraft carriers since World War II

“Japan does not have pilots with any experience landing fixed-wing aircraft on carriers. However, this new facility might offer the opportunity over time for Japanese to gain some familiarity with such operations alongside the US — not only to utilize their own carriers, but for cross decking (sharing) with the United States,” Wallace said.

“Having Japanese F-35s on American naval vessels would be quite a signal,” he said.

CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki contributed to this report.



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Trump scolds his FBI director after release of DOJ’s Russia probe report


Michael Horowitz, the DOJ inspector general, found that although there were “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the FBI’s requests for court-ordered surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser, the bureau’s decision to launch the probe was adequately predicated and not influenced by political bias.

While Wray acknowledged and pledged to remedy errors in the FBI’s handling of applications for surveillance warrants, he told ABC News in an interview that he did not think law enforcement unfairly targeted the Trump campaign and said it was “important” that Horowitz found the FBI was justified in opening its investigation.

That assessment diverged markedly with Barr’s reading of the IG report. The attorney general asserted in a statement that Horowitz’s review “now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.”

John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut tasked by Barr with overseeing a separate probe into the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign, also cast doubt on Horowitz’s central judgment.

“Our investigation has included developing information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S.,” Durham said in a statement. “Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.”

The president sought to promote the IG report as a win for the White House, claiming that the 400-page document was “far worse than I would’ve ever thought possible” and detailed an attempted “overthrow” of his administration.

“They got caught red-handed, and I look forward to the Durham report, which is coming out in the not-too-distant future. It’s got its own information, which is this information, plus plus plus,” Trump said.

“And it’s an incredible thing that happened, and we’re lucky we caught them,” he continued. “I think I’m going to put this down as one of our great achievements because what we found and what we saw never, ever should … happen again in our country.”

Trump’s attack on Wray was hardly the first time the president has cast aspersions on senior law enforcement officials. The president has often condemned members of the “deep state” he alleges are embedded within intelligence community, and he repeatedly berated former Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from oversight of the Russia probe.

The president appointed Wray to the FBI’s top job in June 2017 after the dramatic ouster of former director James Comey, which Trump later acknowledged in an interview with NBC News was influenced by the bureau’s ongoing Russia investigation.

After the release of Horowitz’s report on the FBI’s handing of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails in June 2018, Trump tweeted: “Comey will now officially go down as the worst leader, by far, in the history of the FBI. I did a great service to the people in firing him. Good Instincts. Christopher Wray will bring it proudly back!”

The president on Tuesday also railed online against Democratic lawmakers’ fast-moving impeachment inquiry, tweeting ahead of a news conference later in the morning by House committee leaders who are expected to reveal articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

“To Impeach a President who has proven through results, including producing perhaps the strongest economy in our country’s history, to have one of the most successful presidencies ever, and most importantly, who has done NOTHING wrong, is sheer Political Madness! #2020Election,” Trump wrote.





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