North Korea surprises with display of new missiles

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

North Korea surprises with display of new missiles

Story highlights

  • Intercontinental ballistic missile-sized canisters among bevy of new missiles
  • Display comes as tensions on the Korean Peninsula have spiked to alarming levels

(CNN) North Korea put its adversaries on notice Saturday, when it showed off a bevy of new missiles and launchers at its annual military parade.

Pyongyang showed off two new intercontinental ballistic missile-sized canisters as well as displaying its submarine-launched ballistic missile and a land-based version of the same for the first time, according to analysts.
If North Korea has ICBMs, it could give it the ability to strike targets in the mainland US and Europe. The shorter range ballistic missiles displayed Saturday, meanwhile, are a threat to countries in the Asian region.
North Korea’s display comes as tensions on the Korean Peninsula have spiked to alarming levels.

 

The US Navy dispatched the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson strike group to the region last weekend, and US President Donald Trump has been tweeting this week that if China can’t rein in North Korea’s nuclear program the US will.
“The Vinson was sent out to make a statement. North Korea responded by showing off the most new missile hardware we’ve ever seen in a parade before,” said Melissa Hanham, senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California.
One of the biggest surprises of Saturday’s military parade in Pyongyang was two mobile canisters that could contain ICBMs larger than anything North Korea has ever produced.
“They both probably design concepts. We’ve never seen them in the wild,” Hanham said.
“We don’t know what — if anything — was inside the canisters since North Korea hasn’t publicly shown off or tested any missile of that size before,” analyst Ankit Panda wrote on The Diplomat.
“We can infer given the size of the canister and the fact that it was paraded on Saturday that Pyongyang wants the world to know that it is actively working toward at least two types of solid-fuel, canisterized ICBMs,” Panda wrote.
The fact that any new ICBM would be in a canister is important because it means those missiles would likely be solid-fueled, analysts said.
Solid-fueled missiles can be deployed faster and hidden better from satellite detection than their liquid-fueled counterparts.
And the large size also means the missiles could have a longer range.

‘A message to the United States’

“It certainly appears to be a message to the United States that they’re capable of threatening the US homeland. That’s certainly their objective,” Adam Mount, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told CNN.
Hanham said other land and submarine-launched ballistic missiles were shown in public for the first time Saturday. The land-based version is known as the KN-15, while Pyongyang’s submarine-launched weapon is known as the KN-11 missile.
She took special note of the launcher the KN-15 was on.
“It uses caterpillar treads which means it can go off road more easily, which mean they can hide them more easily,” Hanham said.
North Korea has under 500 miles of paved roads, Panda wrote, and previous wheeled-launchers could risk damage to the missile operating off those.
Hanham said the tracked launch vehicles were made in North Korea, which means Pyongyang did not have to break sanctions imposed by China to obtain them.
Despite all the displays on Saturday, analysts cautioned against overreaction, noting that North Korea’s missile tests have had a checkered record of success, and adding that a missile in a parade does not necessarily mean it’s operational.

North Korea parades military might and warns US as nuclear test fears persist

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN NEWS)

North Korea parades military might and warns US as nuclear test fears persist

As thousands of soldiers mass at Kim Il-sung square, Pyongyang tells US to end its dangerous ‘military hysteria’

Tanks prepare to parade in Pyongyang on Saturday as part of celebrations marking the birth of founder Kim Il-sung on Saturday.
Tanks prepare to parade in Pyongyang on Saturday as part of celebrations marking the birth of founder Kim Il-sung on Saturday. Photograph: AP

North Korea has begun a vast military parade to celebrate the birth of its founding father, Kim Il-sung, and warned that it was prepared to take the “toughest” action unless the US ended its “military hysteria”, as speculation grows that the regime is preparing to conduct a nuclear test.

On a sunny morning in the capital, Pyongyang, military vehicles and tens of thousands of soldiers filled Kim Il-sung square as a band played rousing military music, the instruments falling silent for oaths of loyalty to the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

Dressed in his trademark black suit and flanked by senior military and Workers’ party officials, Kim applauded and occasionally smiled as he watched the tributes to his grandfather, who was born 105 years ago today.

But the “Day of the Sun” was clouded in uncertainty as the world waited to see if Kim Jong-un, the country’s third-generation ruler, would provoke a potential regional crisis with what would be North Korea’s sixth nuclear test in just over a decade, or a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

As the USS aircraft carrier Carl Vinson and its strike group sailed towards the peninsula in a show of force, North Korea’s official KCNA news agency, citing a spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army, warned of “merciless” retaliation against any US provocation.

Donald Trump’s decision to send an “armada” of warships to waters off the tense peninsula, coupled with recent US strikes in Syria and Afghanistan, were proof that Washington had chosen the path of “open threat and blackmail”, KCNA said.

“Our toughest counteraction against the US and its vassal forces will be taken in such a merciless manner as not to allow the aggressors to survive,” it added.

It said the Trump administration’s “serious military hysteria” has reached a “dangerous phase that can no longer be overlooked”.

It added: “Under the prevailing grave situation, the United States has to come to its senses and make a proper option for the solution of the problem.”

Choe Ryong-hae, a high-ranking party official, earlier told crowds North Korea was ready for war. “We will respond [to a US attack] with an all-out war … and nuclear attacks with nuclear strikes,” Choe said in a speech, according to Yonhap.

As the parade unfolded in Pyongyang, China’s state-run media warned that the US president was mistaken if he believed that piling military pressure on North Korea would resolve the regime’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

The Global Times said Trump’s decision to drop the “mother of all bombs” on Afghanistan was clearly “a new gimmick in US military deterrence” designed to intimidate Kim Jong-un.

“North Korea must have felt the shock wave travelling all the way from Afghanistan,” the Communist party-controlled newspaper said in an editorial.

However, the Global Times, which sometimes reflects government views, said the use of such a “vicious weapon” was in fact likely to make Pyongyang even more determined to upgrade its own arsenal. “[Trump] has demonstrated a certain level of obsession and pride toward US military prowess,” it said, adding, that the US president “may go down in history as the ‘war president’”.

As North Korea’s only ally and biggest trading partner, China has come under unprecedented pressure in recent days to use its influence to persuade Kim not to risk conflict with a nuclear test or ballistic missile launch.

On Friday, China again called for talks to defuse the crisis. “We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,” the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, told reporters in Beijing.

Speaking to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, on Friday night, Wang said steps were needed to prevent “war and chaos” on the Korean peninsula.

US officials have said the policy of “strategic patience” pursued by the Obama administration has ended, after years of diplomatic pressure and international sanctions failed to slow North Korea’s progress towards developing nuclear missiles capable of striking the US mainland – a milestone some experts believe is only years away.

In echoes of the bellicose rhetoric that reverberated around the Korean peninsula during its last major crisis in the spring of 2013, KCNA said North Korea would respond in kind to any perceived US military provocation.

Referring to the country by its official title, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, it warned: “The army and people of the DPRK will as ever courageously counter those who encroach upon the dignity and sovereignty of the DPRK and will always mercilessly ravage all provocative options of the US with Korean-style toughest counteraction.”

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad says news of gas attack ‘100% fabrication’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS)

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad says news of gas attack ‘100% fabrication’

WORLD Updated: Apr 13, 2017 20:51 IST

AFP
AFP
Damascus
Assad on chemical attack

In the interview, Assad asked: “We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhun. Were they dead at all?”(AFP)

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad said a suspected chemical weapons attack was a “fabrication” to justify a US strike on his forces, in an exclusive interview with AFP in Damascus.The embattled leader, whose country has been ravaged by six years of war, said his firepower had not been affected by the attack ordered by US President Donald Trump, but acknowledged further strikes were possible.Assad insisted his forces had turned over all their chemical weapons stocks years ago and would never use the banned arms.

The interview on Wednesday was his first since a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun.

“Definitely, 100 percent for us, it’s fabrication,” he said of the incident.

Read more

“Our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists. They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack,” added Assad, who has been in power for 17 years.

At least 87 people, including 31 children, were killed in the alleged attack, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

But Assad said evidence came only from “a branch of Al-Qaeda,” referring to a former jihadist affiliate that is among the groups that control Idlib province, where Khan Sheikhun is located.

Images of the aftermath, showing victims convulsing and foaming at the mouth, sent shockwaves around the world.

But Assad insisted it was “not clear whether it happened or not, because how can you verify a video? You have a lot of fake videos now.”

“We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhun. Were they dead at all?”

He said Khan Sheikhun had no strategic value and was not currently a battle front.

“This story is not convincing by any means.”

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has begun an investigation into the alleged attack, but Russia on Wednesday blocked a UN Security Council resolution demanding Syria cooperate with the probe.

And Assad said he could “only allow any investigation when it’s impartial, when we make sure that unbiased countries will participate in this delegation in order to make sure that they won’t use it for politicised purposes.”

He insisted several times that his forces had turned over all chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013, under a deal brokered by Russia to avoid threatened US military action.

Read more

“There was no order to make any attack, we don’t have any chemical weapons, we gave up our arsenal a few years ago,” he said.

“Even if we have them, we wouldn’t use them, and we have never used our chemical arsenal in our history.”

The OPCW has blamed Assad’s government for at least two attacks in 2014 and 2015 involving the use of chlorine.

The Khan Sheikhun incident prompted the first direct US military action against Assad’s government since the war began, with 59 cruise missiles hitting the Shayrat airbase three days after the suspected chemical attack.

Assad said more US attacks “could happen anytime, anywhere, not only in Syria.”

But he said his forces had not been diminished by the US strike.

“Our firepower, our ability to attack the terrorists hasn’t been affected by this strike.”

China fears North Korea-US conflict ‘at any moment’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

China fears North Korea-US conflict ‘at any moment’

  • 14 April 2017
  • From the section Asia
The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, 14 April 2017Image copyright AFP
Image caption“All relevant parties should be highly vigilant,” the Chinese foreign minister says

China has warned that “conflict could break out at any moment” as tension over North Korea increases.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said if war occurred there could be no winner.

Mr Wang’s comments come as the US voices increasing concern at North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and deploys a Navy carrier group off the Korean peninsula.

China, North Korea’s only backer, fears conflict could cause the regime to collapse and problems on its border.

Mr Wang said: “One has the feeling that a conflict could break out at any moment.

“I think that all relevant parties should be highly vigilant with regards to this situation.”

“We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage.”

The USS Carl Vinson, 8 April 2017Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption The US carrier group deploying off the Korean peninsula is led by the USS Carl Vinson

Adding to Chinese unease, President Donald Trump said on Thursday that “the problem of North Korea” would be “taken care of”.

“If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.”

The North Korean military responded on Friday by saying it would “mercilessly foil” any US provocation.

“Our toughest counteraction against the U.S. and its vassal forces will be taken in such a merciless manner as not to allow the aggressors to survive,” read a statement from the army, reported in English by North Korea’s official news agency, KCNA.

The US president has recently demonstrated his willingness to resort to military methods. He ordered a cruise missile attack on Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack, and the US military just used a huge bomb against so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan.

Washington is concerned North Korea might develop the ability to launch a nuclear weapon at the US.

Mr Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping have been in contact by phone since their summit last week in Florida, and Reuters quotes US officials as saying tougher economic sanctions against North Korea are also being considered.

Media caption John Sudworth asks people on the Pyongyang subway how they feel about the country’s nuclear tests.

China is concerned any conflict could lead to a huge refugee problem on its border with North Korea. It also fears the collapse of the North Korean regime, which would remove a buffer between China and a country with US military bases, and has thus long been wary of pushing Pyongyang too hard.

But, in a sign of growing frustration with its neighbour, it recently blocked coal imports from the North. And Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reports that the government will suspend direct Air China flights between Beijing and Pyongyang from Monday 17 April.

There is also intense speculation that North Korea could carry out a sixth nuclear bomb test or another missile launch – possibly a long-range missile – on Saturday.

Saturday marks the 105th anniversary of the birth of its first leader, Kim Il-sung.

In an interview with the Associated Press, North Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister Han Song Ryol accused the Trump administration of “becoming more vicious and more aggressive” in its policy towards the North.

An institute linked to the North Korean foreign ministry also warned that “thermo-nuclear war may break out any moment”.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani Has Registered To Run For A Second 4 yr Term

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

ANKARA, Turkey — Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, who helped end the country’s diplomatic and economic isolation with a landmark nuclear deal with major powers, registered on Friday to seek a second four-year term in the May 19 election.

Despite remaining faithful to Iran’s theocratic system, Mr. Rouhani has angered hard-liners with his calls for improved relations with the West, more freedom of expression and an easing of strict Islamic rules.

“Once again, I am here for Iran, for Islam, for freedom and for more stability in this country,” Mr. Rouhani told reporters on Friday as he announced his bid.

Mr. Rouhani’s more conservative critics accuse him of having encouraged moral corruption by advocating social tolerance. Some erstwhile supporters who had hoped for radical social changes under his presidency are also critical, saying he has failed to stand up to Iran’s religious establishment.

The president’s constitutional powers are limited. Ultimate authority rests with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Political analysts said they expected Iranian voters to rally around Mr. Rouhani even though many complain that they have seen few economic benefits from the lifting of sanctions.

“Rouhani is still very popular, and he is in a very strong position,” said one analyst, Saeed Leylaz. “People will vote for him to prevent a hard-liner from winning the election.”

Born into a religious family in 1948, Mr. Rouhani, a Shiite cleric, played an active role in the opposition that overthrew the shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, in 1979. He has held several sensitive jobs in the Islamic republic of Iran, including representing Ayatollah Khamenei for 25 years at the Supreme National Security Council.

Mr. Rouhani is also a member of the Expediency Council and the Assembly of Experts, two influential advisory bodies in Iran’s multitiered power structure. The latter will choose the country’s next supreme leader.

UK Scientists Confirm Idlib Sarin Use, Weapons Experts in Turkey to Investigate

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

UK Scientists Confirm Idlib Sarin Use, Weapons Experts in Turkey to Investigate

The British delegation at the world’s chemical weapons watchdog said on Thursday that samples taken from the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province last week tested positive for the nerve agent sarin.

The toxic gas attack in Idlib’s Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, which killed scores of children, prompted the United States to launch missile strikes on an air base in Shayrat that lies in central Syria’s Homs and widened a rift between Washington and Moscow, a close Syrian ally.

“UK scientists have analyzed samples taken from Khan Sheikhoun. These have tested positive for the nerve agent sarin, or a sarin-like substance,” the delegation said during a special session at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague.

Earlier testing by Turkish authorities had also said the chemical used in the attack was sarin.

A fact finding mission from OPCW was sent to Turkey to gather bio-metric samples and interview survivors, sources told Reuters earlier Thursday.

The OPCW mission will determine whether chemical weapons were used, but is not mandated to assign blame. Its findings, expected in 3-4 weeks, will be passed to a joint United Nations-OPCW investigation tasked with identifying individuals or institutions responsible for using chemical weapons.

Last week’s bombing in the town of Khan Sheikhoun near the Turkish border was the most lethal since a sarin attack on Aug. 21, 2013 killed hundreds in a suburb of the capital, Damascus.

On the battlefield, US-backed forces fighting ISIS launched a new phase of their offensive on Thursday, a statement said, but they have not yet begun to attack the militant group’s stronghold of Raqqa city in an apparent delay in the operation.

The multi-phased campaign by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance made up of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighting groups, was launched in November and aims ultimately to drive the jihadists from Raqqa, their de facto Syrian capital.

Officials in the Kurdish YPG militia, a powerful component of the SDF, said last month that assaults on Raqqa city itself would start in early or mid-April.

But the fourth phase of the campaign aims to clear ISIS pockets from the countryside north of the city, the SDF statement said. It did not say when the assault on Raqqa itself would begin.

“We aim to liberate dozens of villages in the Wadi Jallab area and the northern countryside … and clear the last obstacles in front of us to pave the way for the operation to liberate Raqqa city,” it said.

The SDF have closed in on Raqqa from the north, east and west.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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Egyptian President Sisi Declares 3 Month State Of Emergency Following Church Bombings

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency in Egypt following twin church bombings that killed dozens of people in two cities on Sunday.Sisi announced the “state of emergency for three months” in a defiant speech at the presidential palace after a meeting of the national defence council.

The Islamic State group had claimed responsibility for the church bombings in the Nile Delta cities of Alexandria and Tanta in which at least 44 people were killed.

The attacks followed a Cairo church bombing in December and came weeks ahead of a planned visit by Catholic Pope Francis intended to show support for the country’s Christian minority.

At least 78 people were wounded in Tanta and another 40 wounded in Alexandria, the health ministry said.

Egyptian officials denounced the violence as an attempt to sow divisions in the country, while Francis sent his “deep condolences” to Tawadros.

IS claimed that its “squads” carried out both attacks, in a statement by its self-styled Amaq news agency published on social media accounts.

Images broadcast by private television stations showed bloodstains smearing the whitewashed walls of the church in Tanta next to shredded wooden benches.

“The explosion took place in the front rows, near the altar, during the mass,” General Tarek Atiya, the deputy to Egypt’s interior minister in charge of relations with the media, told AFP.

“I heard the blast and came running. I found people torn up… some people, only half of their bodies remained,” said Nabil Nader, who lives in front of the Tanta church.

The worshippers had been celebrating Palm Sunday, one of the holiest days of the Christian calendar, marking the triumphant entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem.

– String of attacks –

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail also condemned the attack, stressing Egypt’s determination to “eliminate terrorism”.

The Cairo-based Al-Azhar, an influential Sunni Muslim authority, said it aimed to “destabilise security and… the unity of Egyptians”.

Egypt’s Copts have endured successive attacks since Morsi’s ouster in July 2013.

More than 40 churches were attacked nationwide in the two weeks after the deadly dispersal by security forces of two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo on August 14, 2013, Human Rights Watch said.

Amnesty International later said more than 200 Christian-owned properties were attacked and 43 churches seriously damaged, adding that at least four people were killed.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who as then army chief helped remove Morsi, has defended his security forces and accused jihadists of attacking Copts in order to divide the country.

In October 2011, almost 30 people — mostly Coptic Christians — were killed after the army charged at a protest outside the state television building in Cairo to denounce the torching of a church in southern Egypt.

In May that year, clashes between Muslims and Copts left 15 dead in the working-class Cairo neighbourhood of Imbaba where two churches were attacked.

A few months earlier, the unclaimed bombing of a Coptic church killed more than 20 people in Egypt’s second city of Alexandria on New Year’s Day.

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U.S. Government Targets Twitter User That Is Critical President Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

The government is demanding to know who this Trump critic is. Twitter is suing to keep it a secret.

April 6 at 8:37 PM

U.S. government targets critical Twitter user

Twitter filed a federal lawsuit on April 6 to block an order by the U.S. government demanding that it reveal who is behind an account opposed to President Trump’s tough immigration policies. (Reuters)

Update: The U.S. government has withdrawn its request ordering Twitter to identify a Trump critic 

Twitter filed a lawsuit Thursday to block an order from the Department of Homeland Security that seeks to reveal the user of an account who has been critical of the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Tweets from the account — @ALT_uscis — indicate that it is run by someone who is an employee of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services division of Homeland Security.

Free speech advocates said the DHS order appeared to be the first time the government has attempted to use its powers to expose an anonymous critic — a development that, if successful, would have a “grave chilling effect on the speech of that account” as well as other accounts critical of the U.S. government, Twitter said.

DHS is “unlawfully abusing a limited-purpose investigatory tool” to find out who is behind the @ALT_uscis account, according to Twitter’s court filings.

DHS spokeswoman Jenny Burke declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

The case sets up a potential showdown over free speech between Silicon Valley and Washington, which has tussled over whether tech firms can resist government orders seeking the identity or personal information from criminals and suspected terrorists.

Apple, for instance, declined in early 2016 to unlock the phone of the shooter in San Bernardino, Calif., and has refused to build “back doors” that would enable law enforcement to break into smartphones. The move sparked a pitched battle between the company and the FBI, which eventually paid a private expert to unlock the device.

But the Homeland Security case struck free speech advocates as more remarkable because the information request was about the identity of a government critic, rather than public safety.

“Twitter has a pretty strong argument,” said Andrew Crocker, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “It does look and smell like the government is going after a critic. There’s nothing in the summons that CBP [Customs and Border Protection] sent to Twitter that authorizes this request under the power that they have.”

The @ALT_uscis account, which was created in January, has not held back in firing attacks against the Trump administration.

In a Jan. 26 tweet, the @ALT_uscis account tweeted: “Fact: More than 40% of illegal aliens in the US are Visa overstays from other developed countries not sounding like MEXICO #TheResistance.”

The account has also called attention to mismanagement in agency operations. In a March 12 tweet, it said that “USCIS turns down regularly private companies who propose collaboration to streamline the intake process, reducing costs and processing time.”

The account’s description stresses that its views are “Not the views of DHS or USCIS.” As of the time of the court filing, the account had been active for two months and amassed more than 32,000 followers. By 8:15 p.m., that figure had grown to more than 86,000.

In its court filing with the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, Twitter said that DHS officials delivered an administrative summons to the social-networking site on March 14, via a CBP agent, demanding that the company provide records that would “unmask or likely lead to the unmasking” of the person or people behind the account.

Twitter maintains that CBP does not have jurisdiction to demand such information, which includes “names, account login, phone numbers, mailing addresses, and I.P. addresses,” associated with the account.

But its primary objection, the company said, is that allowing the government to unmask Twitter critics violates the Constitution’s First Amendment right to free speech. Twitter has defended its users’ rights to free expression — a position it has held for years, notably during the widespread Arab Spring protests in 2011. That right, the company said, is particularly important when discussing political speech.

“First Amendment interests are at their zenith when, as here, the speech at issue touches on matters of public political life,” the filing said.

Twitter added that it feared the government wants to punish the person or people responsible for the account. The summons, Twitter said, “may reflect the very sort of official retaliation that can result from speech that criticizes government officials and agencies.”

The company also has a lot at stake for its business, which could see a huge hit if anonymous users could suddenly be unmasked by the government. Unlike other social networks, Twitter allows its users to create accounts without publicly revealing their true identity.

This isn’t the first time Twitter has tangled with officials over its users’ personal information.

The company in 2012 appealed an order from the state of New York to reveal the identity of Occupy Wall Street protester Malcolm Harris. It lost that appeal. Twitter sued the Justice Department in 2014 for the right to make federal information requests for user data public. And it has lent its support to other companies’ fights against the government, including Apple’s opposition to the FBI order.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the user in the DHS case, expressed concern that the order is an attempt to curb free speech. “To unmask an anonymous speaker online, the government must have a strong justification,” ACLU attorney Nathan Freed Wessler said in a statement. “But in this case the government has given no reason at all, leading to concerns that it is simply trying to stifle dissent.”

ACLU said it plans to make its own filing in the court on behalf of the user in the next few days.

“It’s about the broader right to speak anonymously on the Internet,” said Esha Bhandari, an ACLU staff attorney.

The @ALT_uscis account is one of many “alternative government” accounts that have popped up since Donald Trump’s election. Accounts apparently run by employees (or former employees) of the National Park Service, the National Weather Service, the Labor Department and other agencies have appeared to question the Trump administration’s policies and fact-check its assertions
on a variety of topics.

The @ALT_uscis account didn’t respond to a tweet asking for comment on the suit, but was tweeting about the case and the account’s new followers.

Staff writer Craig Timberg contributed to this report

 

Russia Tells President Trump To: Put Up Or To Shut Up Concerning Syria And Assad

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME)

Russia to President Trump: Put Up or Shut Up on Syria and Bashar Assad

The Russian government has questioned United States stance on Syrian President Bashar Assad, after President Donald Trump criticized a reported chemical weapons attack in Syria’s Idlib province by government forces.

The attack has killed at least 86 people, including 26 children, CNN reports. Countries including the U.S., the U.K. and Turkey have linked the attack to Assad’s forces. Russia has repeatedly supported the Assad regime, and did so again in the aftermath of the latest deaths, suggesting the deaths had been caused by a Syrian strike hitting a rebel stockpile of chemical weapons.

Trump, whose administration had previously signaled that removing Assad was not a priority, said Wednesday that the attack had caused him to change his mind about the Syrian President. He added that the use of chemical weapons was “heinous” and “crossed a lot of lines”.

But Assad had previously been suspected of using chemical weapons, and Trump did not offer any clarity on what a revised U.S. strategy in dealing with the Syria strongman would look like. So Russia posted the question on Thursday:

“Russia’s approach to Assad is clear,” Maria Zakharova, a Russian ministry spokeswoman, told CNN. “He is the legal president of an independent state. What is the U.S. approach?”

Folks: Please Pray For The People In S.W. Columbia, Northern Ecuador And Northern Peru

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC AND REUTERS NEWS AGENCIES AND GETTY IMAGES)

Colombia landslide: Rescue teams race to reach survivors

Media caption The landslide struck in the early hours of Saturday

Rescuers are digging through mud and debris in the hunt for those missing after devastating mudslides in Colombia left more than 200 dead.

About 1,100 soldiers and police are involved in the relief effort.

Heavy rain flooded the city of Mocoa in the country’s south-west with mud and rocks burying whole neighbourhoods and forcing residents to flee their homes.

An army statement said there were at least 400 injured and 200 still missing in the capital of Putumayo province.

The exact death toll is hard to confirm with the rescue operation is still under way.

Some local media estimate up to 300 people have been killed, while the Colombian Red Cross has a total hovering above 200.

The Red Cross said it was working to help family members contact each other.

Video footage from the city showed residents crying over a list of missing children, along with their ages, pinned to a family welfare centre.

“We have lost a baby, who has gone missing,” one resident told reporters. “A little baby, we can’t find him anywhere.”

Media caption Dimitri O’Donnell: “The biggest hurdle… is trying to get access to Mocoa”

President Juan Manuel Santos declared a state of emergency in the region and flew in to oversee the rescue effort.

“We will do everything possible to help,” he said. “It breaks my heart.”

Lorries and trucks were thrown into the side of buildings by the force of the waterImage copyrightAFP / GETTY IMAGES
Image captionLorries and trucks were thrown into the side of buildings by the force of the water

A senior UN official in Colombia, Martin Santiago, blamed climate change, saying it had caused “tremendous results in terms of intensity, frequency and magnitude of these natural effects” in the region.

Others said deforestation has also played a role. “When the basins are deforested, they break down. It is as if we remove the protection for avoiding landslides,” said Adriana Soto, a Colombian conservationist and former environment minister.

The Colombian Air Force is bringing supplies to the area as the search operation continues.

With no running water in Mocoa, one resident told El Tiempo newspaper that they had been collecting rainwater. Power lines are also out across the area.

Tweet from @JuanManSantos, in Spanish: We guarantee health care in Mocoa. [The air force] moved 19 patients to Neiva, 20 will be evacuated in coming hoursImage copyright [email protected]
Image caption Colombia’s president said he would guarantee assistance to the victims

Photos posted to social media by the air force showed some patients being evacuated by air.

“Our heroes will remain in the tragedy zone until the emergency is over,” the army’s statement said.

Colombia’s director of the National Disaster Risk Management Unit told the AFP news agency that a third of the region’s expected monthly rain fell during one night.

Media caption President Juan Manuel Santos has declared a state of emergency

Although rainfall is abundant in the area, this downpour was unusually heavy and caused rivers to burst their banks.

The overflow then picked up mud and debris, creating a cascade.

Video footage of the aftermath showed currents so strong that abandoned lorries were propelled through the flooded streets.

Soldiers have been deployed to help local familiesImage copyright EPA
Image caption Soldiers have been deployed to help local families

Local resident Mario Usale, 42, told Reuters he was searching for his father-in-law.

“My mother-in-law was also missing, but we found her alive 2km (1.25 miles) away. She has head injuries, but she was conscious,” he said.

Rescuers seek people among the rubble left by mudslides following heavy rains in Mocoa, Putumayo department, southern Colombia on April 1, 2017.Image copyright AFP
Image caption Rescue workers searched among the rubble and fallen trees
A family wait outside their home damaged by mudslides following heavy rains in Mocoa, Putumayo department, southern Colombia on April 1, 2017Image copyright AFP
Image caption The debris totally destroyed many homes and submerged vehicles

Landslides have struck the region several times in recent months.

In November, nine people died in the town of El Tambo, about 140km (90 miles) from Mocoa, during a landslide that followed heavy rain.

A map showing Colombia and the locations of Mocoa, El Tambo, and Medellin - with neighbouring Ecuador and Peru also marked

Less than a month before that, another landslide killed several people near Medellin, almost 500km (300 miles) to the north.

And in neighbouring Peru, more than 90 people have died since the start of the year because of unusually heavy rainfall, which also caused landslides and flash floods.

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