US scrambles for response to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions

North Korea’s increasingly sophisticated missile and nuclear tests are leaving the United States and international community scrambling for a plan to stop leader Kim Jong Un’s seeming unrelenting march to becoming a nuclear power.

Friday’s test launch, the second to fly over Japan, clearly proves the U.S. territory of Guam is within North Korea’s striking distance, experts said.

It followed this month’s nuclear test, which U.S. officials have publicly all but confirmed was a hydrogen bomb far more powerful than the atomic bombs it previously tested.

“I‘m assuming it was a hydrogen bomb,” Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told reporters Thursday during Defense Secretary James Mattis’s visit to his base.

“I‘m not a nuclear scientist, so I can’t tell you this is how it worked, this is what the bomb was … But I can tell you the size that we observed and saw tends to me to indicate that it was a hydrogen bomb and I have to figure out what the right response is with our allies as to that kind of event.”

Early Friday morning local time, North Korea launched what U.S. Pacific Command said was an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRMB).

The missile flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido before landing in the Pacific Ocean. The missile is said to have flown about 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 770 kilometers (480 miles).

That trajectory puts Guam, 3,400 kilometers from North Korea, squarely in the rouge state’s range, physicist David Wright wrote in a blog for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“The range of this test was significant since North Korea demonstrated that it could reach Guam with this missile, although the payload the missile was carrying is not known,” wrote Wright, director of the group’s Global Security Program.

Still, the missile is likely unable to destroy Guam’s Anderson Air Force Base as Kim has stated he wants to do, Wright continued.

“This missile very likely has low enough accuracy that it could be difficult for North Korea to use it to destroy this base, even if the missile was carrying a high-yield warhead,” he wrote. “I estimate the inaccuracy of the Hwasong-12 flown to this range to be likely 5 to 10 km, although possibly larger.”

Friday’s test follows North Korea’s Sept. 3 nuclear test, its sixth and most powerful to date.

This week, analysts at prominent North Korea monitor 38 North estimated the yield of the test was 250 kilotons, based on the strength of seismic activity. That’s consistent with Pyongyang’s claim of having tested a hydrogen bomb.

By comparison, the bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 released about 15 kilotons of energy.

Despite the progress, Hyten said North Korea still has work to do before being able to hit the United States with a nuclear weapon.

“They haven’t put everything together yet,” Hyten said. “It’s just a matter of when, not if.”

But the rapid pace of North Korea’s quest for a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICMB) has left officials racing to curb the program.

“We’re out of time,” National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said at the White House press briefing Friday. “We’ve been kicking the can down the road, and we’re out of road.”

This week, the United Nations Security Council passed its strongest sanctions yet against North Korea. The sanctions banned North Korean textile exports and capped its imports of crude oil.

But to get the support of Russia and China, which have veto power in the council, the sanctions were watered down from the Trump administration’s original goal of banning all oil imports and freezing international assets of the North Korean government and its leader, Kim Jong Un.

Whether the latest sanctions have an effect depends on whether Russia and China enforce them. At a House hearing this week, administration officials called out Beijing and Moscow for helping North Korea evade sanctions, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson responded to the missile test by saying Russia and China “must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own.”

Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, said the United States needs to “take the gloves off when it comes to China.” That means sanctioning Chinese banks and could also include stepping up so-called freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea and arming the Taiwanese.

Short of starting a trade war by sanctioning China, retired Col. Richard Klass said he doesn’t think there’s a way to pressure China to support the type of blockade that would have an effect on North Korea.

“He knows we’re not going to launch a conventional attack, and unless we can do a blockade and get the Russians and Chinese to agree to it, I don’t think he’s going to stop doing what he’s doing,” Klass, Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation board member, said of Kim. “This is a conundrum, and if anybody had a solution, it’d be taken up already.”

Kazianis said North Korea’s recent progress means the United States is likely to have to live with Pyongyang as a nuclear power.

“We are probably going to have to live with it,” he said. “What I think we can do is mitigate and shrink how big that program has to be. We can shrink it to 50 ICMBs, rather than 200 ICMBs. I’d rather live with a North Korea with 50 ICMBs than 200. It’s the difference between millions of lives or hundreds of millions.”


Amid Chaos of Storms, U.S. Shows It Has Improved Its Response

ATLANTA — The two massive storms brought death and suffering and damage that will be measured in the billions of dollars. They left millions of residents cowering in their homes to ride out pounding rains, and left evacuees — hundreds of thousands of them — scattered across Texas and the Southeast.

At the same time, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma may have revealed a largely unnoticed truth often buried under the news of unfolding tragedy: The United States appears to be improving in the way it responds to hurricanes, at a time when climate scientists say the threats from such storms, fueled by warming oceans, are growing only more dire. For all the chaos, the death toll from Harvey and Irma remained surprisingly contained: about 85 thus far in Florida and Texas.

“There’s no doubt that we’re doing better,” said Brian Wolshon, a civil engineer professor and evacuation expert at Louisiana State University. “The stuff we’re doing is not rocket science, but it’s having the political will, and the need, to do it.”

Across much of Florida and the region on Tuesday, stressed and exhausted families were assessing damage from Irma, or just beginning the arduous journey home, often grappling with gasoline shortages, sweltering heat, and power and cell service disruptions in addition to downed trees and damaged property. At least 13 people were reported dead in Irma’s wake, although the toll could still rise in the Florida Keys.

The pain was felt where the storm hit hardest, like the Florida Keys, where an estimated 25 percent of homes were destroyed and bleary-eyed residents contemplated a battered landscape of destruction.

And the pain was felt far away as well: in Jacksonville, where there was still major flooding from epic storm surge, heavy rains and rising tides; in Georgia, where at least 1.2 million customers were without power Tuesday; and in Charleston, S.C., where Irma’s effects coincided with high tide, causing some of the worst flooding since Hurricane Hugo, which devastated the area in 1989.

The political will Mr. Wolshon cited has arisen, in large part, from the two defining, and very different, disasters of the century: the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and, four years later, Hurricane Katrina, whose floodwaters put most of New Orleans underwater and left more than 1,800 people dead.

The terrorist attacks in New York and Pennsylvania revolutionized the way American government coordinated disaster response. Katrina stimulated a new and robust conversation about the power of natural disasters, and, more specifically, forced Americans to rethink the growing threats from floodwater.

These issues have become central themes for government in recent years, and Richard Serino, a former deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said he was not surprised that the response to the storms thus far has gone relatively well.

“It’s no accident,” he said. “We’ve been training people for this for the last 16 years.”

These events, and other disasters before and after, have fed into the collective knowledge of how a modern nation should respond to hurricanes, serving as catalysts for improvements in weather forecasting, evacuation policies and hurricane-resistant building practices.

Experts said all of them most likely played a role in keeping the death tolls lower than expected in the last few weeks. The planning and response also benefited from a few lucky turns in the weather, the growing sophistication of personal technology — the iPhone did not exist when Katrina struck — and a public dialed in to the internet and tuned into 24-hour television news.

The deadly problems posed by hurricanes are at once ancient and rather new: Hal Needham, a coastal hazard scientist who runs a private consulting business in Galveston, Tex., notes that it was not until after World War II that populations began to soar in the hurricane-vulnerable states of Texas and Florida. The rise of satellite-based meteorology came only in the 1960s. Before that, hurricanes could still come as a surprise.
Today, lawmakers enjoy better weather forecasts, but now face the problem of what to do with millions of people who may lie in a storm’s path. Mr. Wolshon does not agree with all of the evacuation decisions made in the face of Harvey and Irma, but he said they were made with an evolving and increasingly sophisticated understanding of the challenges.

In Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner and other local officials decided not to call for a mandatory evacuation before the arrival of Harvey, in part because of the nature of the threat to the area. Harvey, by the time it reached Houston, was not expected to bring storm surge or high winds, so much as pounding, extended rains. In this case, it was difficult to know which areas would flood and which would not. So officials decided to encourage people to stay put.

It was a marked difference to the strategy of Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, who announced Thursday to 6.5 million people: “Leave now, don’t wait.”
Dr. Needham said that the move was probably the right one. “When Irma was bearing down on Southeast Florida it did appear several days out that we could potentially see Category 5 winds in the metro Miami area,” he said. “When you have a massive flood event, if you can you just go up, if you’re in a condo or an apartment.”

But in whipping, hurricane-force winds, sheltering in place probably would not have been as safe as hitting the road. Evacuation also made sense given the threat of huge storm surges, experts said.

Miami did not end up experiencing extreme winds, though much of South Florida did take a beating. Lives may have been saved because of the drastic overhaul of South Florida building codes after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. That massive storm damaged or destroyed 125,000 homes in the area, and the new codes have forced developers to build structures that could better withstand hurricane-force winds.

Houston, too, has learned from its tragic past. In July 2001, southeast Texas was hit hard by Tropical Storm Allison, which caused serious flooding. It prompted officials at Houston’s Texas Medical Center, billed as the largest medical complex in the world, to undertake a $50 million upgrade that included installing flood doors and putting generators high enough that they could not be inundated.

Dr. Needham said that these changes probably helped keep the death toll down in Texas. “If the power goes out in a hospital with premature babies and elderly people on ventilators, you can really see an increase in the loss of life,” he said.

Both Texas and Florida probably also benefited from the growth and sophistication of the federal Department of Homeland Security, and the training that even tiny communities have undergone since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The storms also unfolded at a time when government disaster response has grown more sophisticated, an evolutionary process that did not necessarily begin with the Sept. 11 attacks: James Witt, the FEMA director under President Bill Clinton, recalls going to Congress to fund a modern operations center after discovering what passed for one at FEMA headquarters up to that point.

“The operations center was so bad that they had telephone wires hanging out of the ceiling and foldup chairs and tables,” he said.

But the federal disaster-response system grew markedly after 9/11. And while the Homeland Security Department has been criticized as being expensive and bloated, it has also insured a system in which local, state and federal officials are inured to the idea of working and communicating together.

Still, few observers were openly celebrating the government response to the storms in the United States. The damage was too vast, not just in Texas and Florida but also in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The response continues, with the rebuilding likely to last years. And everyone knows that Texas and Florida had some good fortune beyond the scope of human influence: The big winds never hit the major urban areas, and in Florida, capricious Irma did not deliver a storm surge as devastating as some had predicted.
“While thankfully the impact on people injured or killed was low, this is largely a factor of luck,” said Ahmad Wani, chief executive of One Concern, a California-based company that seeks to use new technologies to create “next-generation disaster response” systems.

Mr. Serino said that Harvey had introduced another cutting-edge idea: relying on residents, not just government workers, to make significant contributions to hurricane response. “Now we’ve seen images of neighbors helping neighbors,” he said. “They’re the real emergency medical workers.”

Petition To Declare George Soros A Terrorist Gets Enough Signatures For WH Response


Renegade Editor’s Note: Donald Trump borrowed $160 million from George Soros in 2004 to build a Trump tower in Chicago, and there is some question as to whether or not Trump even had to repay the debt. In 2011 he was questioned by someone at a Tea Party rally about Soros, to which Trump replied:

Oh, forget Soros, leave him alone, he’s got enough problems.”

Then you have Jared Kushner, Trump’s Chabad son-in-law and man in the Middle East, who founded Cadre in 2014, securing $250 from George Soros to get off the ground.

By Dawn Luger

A petition to declare socialist billionaire George Soros a terrorist has garnered enough signatures to get an official response from the White House. The petition, which needed only 100,000 signatures by September 19, had almost 137,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning.

The White petition created by “E.B.” states that Soros assets should be seized by the government as per RICO and NDAA laws.

Whereas George Soros has willfully and on an ongoing basis attempted to destabilize and otherwise commit acts of sedition against the United States and its citizens, has created and funded dozens (and probably hundreds) of discrete organizations whose sole purpose is to apply Alinsky model terrorist tactics to facilitate the collapse of the systems and Constitutional government of the United State, and has developed unhealthy and undue influence over the entire Democrat Party and a large portion of the US Federal government, the DOJ should immediately declare George Soros and all of his organizations and staff members to be domestic terrorists, and have all of his personal an organizational wealth and assets seized under Civil Asset Forfeiture law. – petition

Soros donated millions of dollars to Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign and he’s been known to be the main financier behind violent uprisings of leftist groups in the recent past. And this isn’t the first petition created by citizens asking for Soros to be punished by the government for his continued financial support of the government.

Back in February, people signed a petition demanding an international warrant be issued for the arrest of George Soros for his continued funding of violent civil unrest in the United States.

Soros may be terrorist, but don’t expect the government he pays to make him rich to actually do anything at all about the billionaire.

The White House has not yet responded to this petition and it is unclear if they will do so.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Sheeple.

‘Beautiful’ German soccer fan response praised after prior game saw Nazi chants

German soccer fans at a World Cup qualifier Monday night rejected the behavior of far-right supporters who chanted Nazi slogans at a match last week that garnered widespread criticism from both players and officials.

The ugly scenes from Friday’s draw against Czech Republic in Prague where a group of 200 right-wing German soccer hooligans chanted Nazi-era slogans at players and rival supporters were not repeated in Monday’s game against Norway in Stuttgart. Instead, fans gave a standing ovation to German striker Timo Werner who had been the subject of some of the hateful chants.

“That showed the beautiful side of football,” said head coach Joachim Loew of Monday’s game, who had said Friday’s scenes in Prague “shamed Germany.”

Werner netted twice as Germany routed Norway 6-0 in the 2018 World Cup qualifier, but Loew’s team must wait until next month to confirm their Russia 2018 place.

The world champions have won all eight of their qualifiers so far to top Group C and are unbeaten in their last 17 games, dating back to their defeat against France in the Euro 2016 semi-finals.

Defender Mats Hummels, who scored the winning goal in that game, branded those responsible, “hooligans who have nothing to do with football fans.”

The 200-strong group managed to get hold of tickets in a fan block meant for home supporters from a local ticketing outlet in Prague.

The head of the German soccer association, DFB President Reinhard Grindel, May 2017. (Screencapture: YouTube/RT Deutsch)
Following the game, world soccer’s governing body FIFA said it was considering opening an investigation into the incident, and Reinhard Grindel, the head of the German soccer association (DFB) said he wanted to impose tighter ticketing controls for international matches

On Monday, Grindel said he was pleased to see a very different response from fans.

“It was a really joyful, spirited atmosphere. It was an evening of football [soccer] as you’d wish it,” Grindel said.

Israel urges ‘decisive international response’ to North Korea

Israel’s Foreign Ministry urges a “decisive international response” to North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, which took place yesterday.

“The test constitutes yet another example of North Korea’s aggressive pattern of behavior,” a statement says, adding that “only a decisive international response will prevent other states from behaving in the same way.”

“North Korea must carry out all [UN] Security Council decision on this issue, and refrain from testing or developing weapons of mass destruction or the means to deliver them.”

North Korea’s latest test, which Pyongyang said included the detonation of the country’s first hydrogen bomb, has been roundly condemned by the international community, including the country’s closest ally and trading partner China.

North Korean Nuclear Test Draws U.S. Warning of ‘Massive Military Response’

WASHINGTON — North Korea’s detonation of a sixth nuclear bomb on Sunday prompted the Trump administration to warn that even the threat to use such a weapon against the United States and its allies “will be met with a massive military response.’’

The test — and President Trump’s response — immediately raised new questions about the president’s North Korea strategy and opened a new rift with a major American ally, South Korea, which Mr. Trump criticized for its “talk of appeasement” with the North.

The underground blast was by far North Korea’s most powerful ever. Though it was far from clear that the North had set off a hydrogen bomb, as it claimed, the explosion caused tremors that were felt in South Korea and China. Experts estimated that the blast was four to sixteen times more powerful than any the North had set off before, with far more destructive power than the bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

Yet after a day of meetings in the Situation Room involving Mr. Trump and his advisers, two phone calls between the president and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, and even demands from some liberal Democrats to cut off North Korea’s energy supplies, Mr. Trump’s aides conceded that they faced a familiar conundrum.

While the Pentagon has worked up a series of military options for targeted strikes at North Korea’s nuclear and missile sites, Mr. Trump was told that there is no assurance that the United States could destroy them all in a lightning strike, according to officials with knowledge of the exchange. Cyberstrikes, which President Barack Obama ordered against the North’s missile program, have also been judged ineffective.

Mr. Trump hinted at one extreme option: In a Twitter post just before he met his generals, he said that “the United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.’’

Taken literally, such a policy would be tantamount to demanding a stoppage of any Chinese oil to North Korea, essentially an attempt to freeze out the country this winter and bring whatever industry it has to a halt.

The Chinese would almost certainly balk; they have never been willing to take steps that might lead to the collapse of the North Korean regime, no matter how dangerous its behavior, for fear that South Korean and American troops would occupy the country and move directly to the Chinese border.

Beyond that, the economic disruption of ending all trade with China would be so huge inside the United States that Mr. Trump’s aides declined on Sunday to discuss the implications.

After meeting with Mr. Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis emerged to warn North Korea that “any threat to the United States or its territory, including Guam or our allies, will be met with a massive military response.” But Mr. Mattis, in a terse statement delivered on the White House driveway with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., also offered a word of reassurance to the North’s reclusive leader, Kim Jong-un.

“We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea,” he said. “But as I said, we have many options to do so.”

The statement echoed past comments by the defense secretary as well as a warning issued by President George W. Bush after North Korea’s first atomic test, in 2006. In that statement, Mr. Bush also said North Korea would be held responsible if it ever exported any of its nuclear weaponstechnology to other nations or to terrorists.

Still, Mr. Mattis’s statement left open many questions. His formulation seemed to rule out the kind of “preventive war’’ that the national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, warned last month might be necessary after the North tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in an effort to demonstrate that it could reach Los Angeles and beyond. Instead, Mr. Mattis seemed to be talking about “pre-emptive strikes,” which the United States might order if it determined that an attack seemed imminent.

There was no public discussion of pursuing a diplomatic opening to the North. Mr. Trump and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson raised such a possibility two weeks ago, after a brief lull in North Korea’s testing. That statement turned out to be optimistic at best. The North has shown no interest in engaging with the United States unless the Americans end their military presence in the South.

To the contrary, the North Korean leader has tried to portray his nuclear program as unstoppable and nonnegotiable, posing by a picture of what the North’s official news agency on Sunday called a hydrogen bomb that could be fitted into the nose cone of the ICBMs tested last month. Experts warned that the weapon, while shaped like a hydrogen bomb, could well have been a mock-up or decoy, one of the many steps the North takes to make it appear more powerful than it truly is.

On Monday, South Korea’s army fired short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast in a simulated attack on North Korea’s nuclear test site, its military said in a statement. F-15K fighter jets also joined in the show of force, firing air-to-land missiles, it said.

Only hours earlier, Mr. Trump reacted to the North Korean test by lashing out at South Korea.

“North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success,” he said. “South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”

Mr. Trump appeared to be referring to the offers by South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, to enter into some kind of negotiations with the North that might lead to a renewal of the “Sunshine Policy,” an effort by some of his predecessors to lure the North into disarmament with economic engagement. Those efforts failed.

Mr. Moon said recently that he had obtained a promise from Washington that the United States would never take military action without Seoul’s approval — a commitment the Trump administration has never confirmed.

Mr. Trump’s undisguised swipe at the South for “appeasement” was certain to exacerbate fears that the United States might put it in danger. And it came only a day after Mr. Trump threatened a new rift in relations with suggestions that the United States might withdraw from a trade deal with South Korea — one that was intended to bolster the alliance.

In response to Mr. Trump’s criticism, Mr. Moon’s office said it was working closely with Washington to exert “maximum sanctions and pressure.” But it also reiterated that the allies shared the understanding that the goal of these sanctions and pressure was to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.

“We have experienced an internecine war and can never tolerate another catastrophic war on this land,” Mr. Moon’s office said in a statement. “We will not give up our goal of working together with allies to seek a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

While Washington and Seoul argue over the threat of military force, Mr. Kim seems determined to forge ahead. He has conducted more than 80 missile tests since taking over the country. And four of the six nuclear tests have been on his watch.

This was the biggest, by far. The United States Geological Survey estimatedthat the tremor set off by the blast, detected at 12:36 p.m. at the Punggye-ri underground test site in northwestern North Korea, had a magnitude of 6.3.

Mr. Kim at a military parade in Pyongyang in April. He has made building a nuclear arsenal a top priority. CreditWong Maye-E/Associated Press

The South Korean Defense Ministry’s estimate was much lower, at 5.7, but even that would mean a blast “five to six times” as powerful as the North’s last nuclear test, a year ago, said Lee Mi-sun, a senior analyst at the South Korean Meteorological Administration.

The South’s National Fire Agency, which operates an emergency hotline, said it had received 31 calls about buildings and the ground shaking, the first time that South Koreans had reported tremors after a North Korean nuclear detonation.

The blast was so powerful that the first tremor was followed by a second, weaker one minutes later, which the United States Geological Survey called a “collapse,” probably a cave-in at the North’s underground test site.

Condemnation of the test came from around the world.

China, the North’s main ally and biggest trading partner, expressed “strong condemnation” of the test, according to Xinhua, the state news agency, but suggested no new action. Its leaders feel as stymied as their American counterparts, according to many China experts.

The test’s timing was a major embarrassment for President Xi Jinping of China, who on Sunday was hosting a summit meeting of the so-called BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Peter Hayes, director of the Nautilus Institute, a United States-based research group specializing in North Korea, said the test seemed intended to jolt Mr. Xi and convince him that he needed to persuade the United States to talk to North Korea.

Japan requested an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council, as it did earlier in the week after a missile test over Hokkaido, its northernmost island.

In Europe, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that North Korea “deserves absolute condemnation,” and a joint statement from Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Emmanuel Macron of France said “the most recent provocation from Pyongyang reaches a new dimension.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency said the test amounted to a “complete disregard of the repeated demands of the international community.”

The timing of the test on Sunday was almost certainly no coincidence: It came during the American Labor Day weekend, and the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean government is next Saturday.

In the coming days, the government is expected to organize huge rallies to celebrate the bomb test and Mr. Kim’s leadership.

“Pyongyang has a playbook of strategic provocations, throws off its adversaries through graduated escalation, and seeks maximum political impact by conducting weapons tests on major holidays,” said Lee Sung-yoon, a Korea expert at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

But it also exaggerates its power. After its fourth nuclear test, in January 2016, North Korea claimed to have used a hydrogen bomb. Other countries dismissed the claim for lack of evidence, but experts have said that the North may have tested a “boosted” atomic bomb that used tritium, a common enhancement technique that produces a higher explosive yield.

Analysts noted that the device in the photo that the North released on Sunday — whether real or a mock-up — was shaped like a two-stage thermonuclear device. David Albright, president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, said he doubted the device was real, but he said there was strong evidence that the North had been working on thermonuclear weapons.

“The size of the seismic signal of the recent test suggests a significantly higher explosive yield than the fifth test,” Mr. Albright said. “Getting this high of a yield would likely require thermonuclear material in the device.” But he said he was “skeptical that this design has been miniaturized to fit reliably on a ballistic missile.”

UN head, in Israel, slams Trump for tepid Charlottesville response

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Monday that US President Donald Trump made a clear error of judgement in his response to the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville.

The UN chief, in Israel for a three-day visit, spoke in an interview with Channel 2 news of the importance of Holocaust education in combating anti-Semitism

“One could think that the horror of the Holocaust would be enough for anti-Semitism to be buried,” Guterres said, having visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum earlier in the day. “But no, it is alive and well.”

Guterres said he was “very shocked when I saw a few days ago in Charlottesville people chanting things like ‘blood and soil’ — that is a Nazi statement.”

He was asked what he thought about Trump condemning “both sides” as a response to the August 12 rally, when neo-Nazis marched in broad daylight through the streets waving swastika flags, chanting “Jews will not replace us,” and in which a woman was killed and others injured when a white supremacist drove a car into people marching against the rally.

“I think [Trump] was not sufficiently aware of how tragic this is,” he said. “I think he went into this kind of political thing to please part of his electorate. But this is a matter of fundamental values.”

When asked whether he felt that Israel was treated equally by the UN, Guterres refused to be drawn in, replying that “by the secretary general, and by the secretariat that I run, I believe it is.”

When pressed on the issue, and about the comments of US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who said that the UN has a habit of bullying Israel, Guterres admitted that this was sometimes the case.

“I think that in some situations, this is true,” he said. However, he also accused Israel of overreacting at times, saying that not all criticism was anti-Semitism.

“I think in other situations Israel needs to understand that people might disagree with the policies of its government.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres (l) meets with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the President's residence in Jerusalem, August 28, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The UN head was asked about May’s UNESCO resolution denying Israeli claims to Jerusalem.

“It is very clear to me that Jerusalem is a holy place of three religions and needs to be respected like that,” Guterres said.

When asked whether Jews should have privileges in the capital city, the UN chief said, “Privilege to Jews for their religion, privilege for Muslims for their religion, privilege for Christians for their religion, to me they are all equal.”

Guterres stressed his support for achieving peace in the region through a two-state solution.

“I would like to see this region in peace,” he said. “I would like to see Palestinians and Israelis in peace. My belief, my strong belief, which is in line with resolutions of the United Nations with which I fully agree, is that the only way to do it is with two states.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (r) meets with Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres, at the PM's Office in Jerusalem on August 28, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

However, he refused to apportion blame for the continued failure to reach a peace deal.

“I’m not blaming anybody,” he said. “I am saying that I believe it is necessary to move with a political process leading to the two-state solution.”

While he said that he understood the difficulties Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced in achieving a peace deal, Guterres also said he believed it would be possible if the conditions were right.

“I think that in the life of a statesman there are always moments in which fundamental choices that consist of your legacy for the future, provided you believe in them and provided that the conditions are there for those to be possible, will make you potentially overcome these kinds of limitations,” he said.

However, the UN head said that there was very little he could do to protect Israel from the threat of Iran, Syria and Lebanon.

“There are many things I cannot do and there are things I can do,” he said.

But Guterres did say that he was working to strengthen the United Nations force in southern Lebanon, which Haley and Israeli leaders have accused of turning a blind eye to Hezbollah’s arms build-up.

“One of the things I can do is to try to make sure, to do everything possible, to have UNIFIL, the UN force in southern Lebanon, to fully accomplish its mandate,” he said. “I have already wrote to the Security Council saying that I would like to see conditions to enhance the capacity of UNIFIL according to its mandate, which is to cooperate with the Lebanese army.

“I would like to say that I believe UNIFIL has done a very important job in many aspects. But I have also given instructions for UNIFIL to intensify their actions in a number of ways. We all know the difficulties of acting in these circumstances.”

But at the end of the day, Guterres was asked, can he or the United Nations actually do anything to protect Israel or ensure peace in the region?

Not so much, it seems.

“The UN wants to help Israel live in peace in this part of the world,” he said. “As I said this morning, I have not much leverage or much influence, but whatever I can do to help the parties come to an understanding, I am entirely at their disposal.”

Guterres later met with IDF Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi who told him “Iran and the Shiite axis’s creation of bases in Syria and the strengthening of Hezbollah in Syria are two processes that are likely to cause an unwanted escalation in the northern arena.”

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres (2r) and Israel's ambassador to the UN Danny Danon (2l) meet with the families of Oron Shaul, Avraham Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip on August 28, 2017. (Shlomi Amsalem).

Earlier in the day, Guterres met with the families of the late IDF soldier Oren Shaul, and of Israeli citizens Avraham Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed who are being held hostage by the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip. During their meeting, the families requested the secretary-general’s assistance in the effort to return their sons to Israel.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres (l) meets Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav (Poly) Mordechai on August 28, 2017. (COGAT).

Guterres also met with Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who briefed him on the security situation and explained the difficulties of dealing with Hamas.

“The terror organization Hamas does not hesitate at all and repeatedly exploits the Gazan residents by attempting to take advantage of Israel’s assistance, despite the severe civil hardships in the Strip,” Mordechai said. “Hamas collects an estimated NIS 100 million (some $280,000) per month from Gazan residents, while the price of its internal conflict with the Palestinian Authority falls on the backs of the Strip’s residents first and foremost.”

In apparent critique of Trump, US envoy says Charlottesville response ‘wasn’t fine’


US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Wednesday appeared to critique US President Donald Trump’s response to the racially motivated violence in Charlottesville earlier this month.

Friedman, speaking to a Channel 10 reporter at a Ben Gurion Airport welcome ceremony for a Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft purchased by El Al, said he thought the US president had been “treated very unfairly in the media” and that “people should really give him a chance.”

But asked if he thought Trump’s handling of the aftermath of the white supremacist rally was “fine,” Friedman replied: “I think the reaction wasn’t fine, but, you know, I’d rather talk about Boeing today.”

He added that the sentiments expressed at the far-right rally “do not reflect who he is or what the US administration is.”

השגריר שטראמפ מינה לישראל דיוויד פרידמן אומר ל @NeriaKrausב”הכל כלול” שתגובת הנשיא לאירועים בשרלוטסוויל לא הייתה בסדר. @sivanhakolkalul

On August 11 and 12, a throng of hundreds, many carrying guns, converged on Charlottesville, Virginia, yelling anti-Semitic and racist slurs and carrying Confederate flags and neo-Nazi and KKK signs. Several street fights broke out between the demonstrators and counter-protesters, and a woman was killed and others injured when one of the white supremacist protesters drove a car into people marching against the rally.

People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP)

Trump’s first response was to say “many sides” were at fault, while pointedly declining to even mention the racist hate groups that had organized the rally. Two days later, he called out the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, who played an outsized role in the demonstration, by name.

Days later, however, Trump doubled down on his original assessment allocating equal blame to “both sides” and saying there were “very fine people” among the right-wing protesters.

The US president’s equation of extremist hate groups and left-wing demonstrators drew condemnation from across the American political spectrum, including from many in his own Republican Party, and garnered harsh responses from several prominent Jewish organizations.

Fox CEO James Murdoch criticizes Trump over response to Charlottesville

James Murdoch, chief executive of Fox News’ parent company, became the latest corporate leader to blast President Trump over his response to the recent racially charged attack in Charlottesville, Va.

“[W]hat we watched this last week in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the president of the United States concern all of us as Americans and free people,” Murdoch wrote in an email letter to friends. “These events remind us all why vigilance against hate and bigotry is an eternal obligation — a necessary discipline for the preservation of our way of life and our ideals.”

Murdoch’s letter was noteworthy because of his company’s ownership of the conservative Fox News Channel, which is one of Trump’s favorite news sources. Fox News has been a staunch defender of Trump’s presidency. In addition, Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch’s 86-year-old father and the company’s founder, has become an informal advisor to the president.

“I can’t even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists. Democrats, Republicans, and others must all agree on this, and it compromises nothing for them to do so,” Murdoch wrote.

His missive comes in the wake of several other CEOs quitting Trump’s business councils and publicly admonishing him for not taking a tougher stand against extremism.

Trump was widely criticized for blaming “both sides” in the deadly violence that followed a Friday night march in which some white nationalists chanted anti-Jewish statements. Murdoch said that he and his wife, Kathryn, had made a $1-million donation to the Anti-Defamation League.

Resignations from Trump’s business councils began on Monday and snowballed until Trump said he was disbanding the manufacturing and economic advisory councils Wednesday morning. Many of the executives cited their personal beliefs — and not just business reasons — as the impetus for their action.

Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. and one of corporate America’s leading black executives, was the first to quit on Monday.

“America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal,” Frazier said. “As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”

Management and brand experts said the business leaders were trying to distance themselves and their companies from Trump.

“There’s not enough spin in the world to justify [Trump’s] position on this,” Marlene Towns, a professor at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, told The Times on Wednesday.

“Generally, it’s a bad idea to align your brand with the KKK and white nationalists. You don’t need a PhD in marketing to arrive at that conclusion,” she added.

Murdoch’s position continues a generational change at 21st Century Fox. It was James Murdoch and his older brother, Lachlan Murdoch, who serves as co-chairman of Fox and sister company News Corp., who pressed for the firing of Roger Ailes, the once-powerful founder and architect of Fox News, in July 2016 amid allegations of widespread sexual harassment at the news unit. (Ailes died in May.)

Full text of the letter sent by James Murdoch:


I’m writing to you in a personal capacity, as a concerned citizen and a father. It has not been my habit to widely offer running commentary on current affairs, nor to presume to weigh in on the events of a given day save those that might be of particular or specific concern to 21CF and my colleagues. But what we watched this last week in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the President of the United States concern all of us as Americans and free people.

These events remind us all why vigilance against hate and bigotry is an eternal obligation — a necessary discipline for the preservation of our way of life and our ideals. The presence of hate in our society was appallingly laid bare as we watched swastikas brandished on the streets of Charlottesville and acts of brutal terrorism and violence perpetrated by a racist mob. I can’t even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists. Democrats, Republicans, and others must all agree on this, and it compromises nothing for them to do so.

Diverse storytellers, and stories, can make a difference, and that diversity, around the world, is a crucial strength and an animating force in my business. Often times not everyone agrees with the stories and positions that emerge from this, and that can be difficult. Certainly no company can be perfect. But I’m proud of the powerful art that can emerge, and I’m grateful to all of my colleagues who make this happen.

From the potent and compelling narrative of “12 Years a Slave”, to the streets of Pakistan and the bravery of an extraordinary young woman that we saw in “He Named Me Malala”, to name just a few, we’ve never been afraid to help storytellers and artists say important things – hard things, too. To further demonstrate our commitment, Kathryn and I are donating 1 million dollars to the Anti-Defamation League, and I encourage you to give what you think is right as well. We hardly ever talk about our charitable giving, but in this case I wanted to tell you and encourage you to be generous too.

Many of you are supporters of the Anti-Defamation League already — now is a great time to give more. The ADL is an extraordinary force for vigilance and strength in the face of bigotry — you can learn more here:

My very best to you and with all my gratitude,


Criticism mounts over Netanyahu’s response to US neo-Nazism

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came under mounting pressure Thursday to speak out against US President Donald Trump’s response to the racially charged violence and anti-Semitic outpouring in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Netanyahu’s near-silence on the march staged by anti-Semitic white nationalists — and Trump’s assertion that “both sides” were responsible for the violence — appears to reflect the Israeli leader’s desire to remain in the good graces of the embattled president.

But Netanyahu’s reluctance to speak out on such an important issue has set him apart from the growing ranks of Israeli leaders who have been outspoken in their anger, and risks alienating Jewish American leaders already estranged by certain Israeli policies.

A growing chorus of opposition politicians, commentators and even coalition partners has urged Netanyahu to take a stronger stance, even at the risk of antagonizing the president.

Trump has acknowledged there were some “very bad people” at Saturday’s rally, where a woman was killed when a car slammed into a crowd of counter-protesters. But he also said there were “very fine people” on both sides. The president’s equation of extremist hate groups and left-wing demonstrators brought condemnation from across the American political spectrum.

Though Netanyahu, who views himself as a leader of world Jewry, is ordinarily quick to rail against anti-Semitism, he waited three days to react to the violence in Charlottesville with a relatively tepid statement on Twitter.

“Outraged by expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism. Everyone should oppose this hatred,” he tweeted, avoiding any mention of the president or Charlottesville. No such statement was issued in Hebrew, the state’s official language and the first language of most Israelis.

Netanyahu’s spokesman David Keyes said the prime minister’s statement was “unequivocal,” adding that he didn’t expect any further comment.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara touring Israel's North, August 15, 2017 (Koby Gideon/PMO)

“I think he made his view on the repugnancy of any neo-Nazism abundantly clear,” Keyes said.

After clashing with former US president Barack Obama for eight years, Netanyahu welcomed the election of Trump, and he has worked to cultivate a strong relationship with the White House. Trump was warmly welcomed during a brief visit to Israel in May.

Israeli newspapers devoted front-page coverage to Trump’s comments on Thursday, with top-selling paper Yedioth Ahronoth running a photo of him and the headline “Disgrace.”

Some commentators, however, pointed out that freesheet Israel Hayom, owned by Trump backer Sheldon Adelson, buried the story deep inside the paper.

Sima Kadmon of Yedioth wrote Thursday that after Netanyahu turned Trump “into the greatest friend of Israel in history — how can Netanyahu now issue a condemnation and talk about an anti-Semitic and racist president?”

Immediately after Saturday’s march, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the nationalist Jewish Home party, said the waving of Nazi flags and symbols was not only offensive to American Jews, but also disrespected the memory of American soldiers who died fighting the Nazis during World War II.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett seen at the Knesset on July 26, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“The leaders of the US must condemn and denounce the displays of anti-Semitism seen over the past few days,” Bennett said.

On Wednesday, President Reuven Rivlin sent a letter to Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations expressing shock that “the most vicious symbol of anti-Semitism” was being paraded in American streets. “I know that the great nation of the United States of America and its leaders will know how to face this difficult challenge,” Rivlin said.

On Thursday, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan (Jewish Home) said Israel “must not stammer or hesitate in the face of anti-Semitism,” and leveled a veiled criticism of Netanyahu, saying “apparently some don’t want to enrage Trump.”

Opposition politicians have been more strident and open in their criticism of Trump.

“When it comes to racism, anti-Semitism and Nazism, there aren’t two equal sides — there’s good and there’s bad. Period,” said Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister and current senior Knesset member from the opposition Zionist Union faction. She said Thursday that it seemed Netanyahu’s silence stems from his fear of angering Trump.

Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich, a former opposition leader, came out swinging against Netanyahu for not speaking out against Trump.

“And you, prime minister of the Jewish people in their land, who warns us about the Holocaust every Monday and Thursday, with overdoses of fear and arrogance and weeks of ‘Never Again,’ what about you?” Yachimovich wrote on Facebook.

Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich arrives at the Tel Aviv District Court to try to stop the counting of votes during the Histadrut labor union leadership elections, claiming ballots had been tampered with, May 25, 2017. (Flash90)

Opposition party Yesh Atid’s chairman, Yair Lapid, pointedly said in reference to Trump’s comments that “there aren’t two sides.”

Former prime minister Ehud Barak said, “an Israeli leader should have said within six hours our position as Jews, as Israelis, as brothers of a large community, the American Jewish community, including in Charlottesville, who live under threat.”

Netanyahu’s Facebook and Twitter feeds bore no mention of Charlottesville amid the slew of photos of the prime minister and his wife arm-in-arm on their vacation on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Netanyahu’s son Yair, however, who has a close relationship with his father, caused a public outcry when he appeared to parrot Trump’s sentiments. He wrote a Facebook post Wednesday saying the “neo nazis scums in Virginia” are a dying breed, but left-wing anti-fascist and Black Lives Matter groups, which he said hate Israel “just as much,” are “getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in American universities and public life.”

American Jewish leaders have expressed deep disappointment with Trump. But if Netanyahu continues to remain quiet, that disappointment could quickly spread to him as well. Leaders of liberal Jewish groups, who represent the vast majority of American Jews, are already at odds with the Israeli government over issues such as egalitarian prayer and recognition of religious conversions.

Rabbi Thomas Gutherz, senior rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel of Charlottesville, said he has been too preoccupied with the events in his community to pay attention to the news in Israel. But Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the liberal Union for Reform Judaism, the largest American synagogue movement, said the prime minister “did harm to the cause of Israel and the cause of the Jewish people by having such a delayed reaction.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's son Yair Netanyahu is seen at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on September 17, 2013. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

Jacobs said he was particularly surprised by Netanyahu’s slow response. “Three days went by without a full-throated condemnation. It was quite distressing,” Jacobs said.

“He does not want to alienate Trump,” said Eytan Gilboa, an expert on US-Israeli relations at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University. But in the process, Gilboa said, Netanyahu is pushing American Jews further away.

Gideon Rahat of the Israel Democracy Institute think tank said the Israeli government should be expected to respond to such events as a state founded as a “safe haven” for Jews.

“You know we always have the Holocaust on our minds, so you take this and you see that Jews are attacked somewhere,” Rahat said.

But he said of Netanyahu that “I think that his concerns are his relationship with Trump.”

For Abraham Diskin, an emeritus political science professor at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, Netanyahu has no choice but to be “cautious.”

“You have to choose your fights,” he said.

“You cannot fight on every issue. You cannot clash with someone who is that important to Israel on issues like that.”

Whether Netanyahu could see a wider political backlash at home over the issue is an open question.

For Rahat, denunciation of such anti-Semitism is part of the “consensus” in Israel and opposition figures “can clearly use it against” Netanyahu.

Diskin said, however, that he believed most Israelis would not focus on the issue for long.

“Altogether, I think the vast majority of people will not remember the issue a week from now,” he said.