Strong earthquake strikes Indonesia; 2 dead

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Strong earthquake strikes Indonesia; 2 dead

Motorists in Cilacap, Indonesia, are stuck in traffic as they try to reach higher ground amid fears of a tsunami after an earthquake. A tsunami warning was canceled.

(CNN)Two people were killed and seven others were injured when a strong earthquake hit Indonesia late Friday, authorities said.

The 6.5-magnitude quake was centered in Cipatujah, in the western part of Java, the US Geological Survey said, at a depth of 91.9 kilometers (about 57 miles).
Residents felt the quake about 190 miles away (305 kilometers) in the capital of Jakarta, where people briefly evacuated to the ground floor of their high-rises.

Residents gather outside their apartment blocks in Jakarta after the earthquake.

Tremors were also felt in the cities of Bandung, more than 63.5 miles away (102.1 kilometers) and Yogyakarta, more than 211 miles away (339.9 kilometers), authorities said.
A tsunami alert was issued after the quake, which Indonesian authorities recorded at 11:47 p.m. as 6.9 magnitude, according to Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia’s National Disaster Management and Mitigation Agency
close dialog
Tell us where to send you Five Things
Morning briefings of all the news & buzz people will be talking about
Activate Five Things
By subscribing you agree to our
privacy policy.
The two victims were buried in rubble, one in Ciamis, in West Java, and the other in Pekalongan, in Central Java, emergency officials said.
A few hundred homes and buildings were destroyed or damaged, the officials said. Several hospitals were damaged. Seventy patients from Banyumas Hospital were moved to tents and another temporary shelter.

Patients are evacuated outside a hospital in Banyumas overnight after an earthquake.

Fears of a tsunami prompted people to evacuate their homes for higher ground, but there were no reports of tsunamis occurring along the southern coasts of western, central and eastern Java and the city of Yogyakarta.
The alert was lifted at 2:30 a.m., the spokesman said.
Most residents returned to their homes on Saturday and they were advised to seek temporary shelter if their dwellings aren’t safe. Several aftershocks continue to be felt in the areas hit by the quake, emergency officials said.
An earthquake on December 7, 2016, struck Indonesia’s Aceh province in Sumatra and killed at least 100 people.

Eight planets found orbiting distant star, NASA says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN AND NASA)

 

Eight planets found orbiting distant star, NASA says

The galaxy explained

Story highlights

  • For the first time, eight planets have been found orbiting Kepler-90
  • It is tied with our solar system for a star hosting the most known planets

(CNN) For the first time, eight planets have been found orbiting a distant star, Kepler-90, 2,545 light-years from Earth in the Draco constellation, NASA announced Thursday. It is the first star known to support as many planets as are orbiting our own sun, and researchers believe that this is the first of many to come.

Researchers had known that seven planets were orbiting the star. But Google Artificial Intelligence — which enables computers to “learn” — looked at archival data obtained by NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler telescope and uncovered the eighth planet.
With the idea of eventually differentiating among exoplanets, Christopher Shallue, senior software engineer at Google AI in California, and Andrew Vanderburg, astronomer and NASA Sagan postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas, Austin, trained a computer how to differentiate between images of cats and dogs.
They refined their approach to identify exoplanets in Kepler data based on the change in light when a planet passed in front of its star. The neural network learned to identify these by using signals that had been vetted and confirmed in Kepler’s planet catalog. Ninety-six percent of the time, it was accurate.
Since launching in 2009, Kepler has watched more than 150,000 stars in one part of the sky to determine exoplanet candidates, based on the slight dimming of stars as potential planets pass across them. Kepler gathered a dataset of 35,000 possible signals indicating planets. In order to help find weaker signals of potential planets that researchers had missed, the neural network was trained to look for weak signals in star systems that were known to support multiple planets.
close dialog
Tell us where to send you Five Things
Morning briefings of all the news & buzz people will be talking about
Activate Five Things
By subscribing you agree to our
privacy policy.
“Machine learning really shines in situations where there is so much data that humans can’t search it for themselves,” Shallue said.
The new planet has been dubbed Kepler-90i. It’s not a hospitable environment. It’s small, “sizzling” hot and rocky, whirling around its star every 14.4 days. In our solar system, the closest planet to the sun, Mercury, has an orbit of 88 days.
“The Kepler-90 star system is like a mini version of our solar system. You have small planets inside and big planets outside, but everything is scrunched in much closer,” Vanderburg said.
Although Kepler-90 is a sun-like star, the planets are all bunched together in tight orbits around it — the same distance that Earth is from the sun.

“Just as we expected, there are exciting discoveries lurking in our archived Kepler data, waiting for the right tool or technology to unearth them,” said Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s Astrophysics Division in Washington. “This finding shows that our data will be a treasure trove available to innovative researchers for years to come.”
Researchers also announced that they had uncovered a sixth planet in the Kepler-80 system, Kepler-80g, which is similar in size to Earth. It also has an orbit of 14.4 days. The star is cooler and redder than our sun, and all of the planets orbit very tightly around it. Five of the six planets form a resonant chain, in which they are locked in orbit by mutual gravity. The Kepler-80 system is stable, as the previously discovered seven-planet TRAPPIST-1 system has proven to be.
To date, Kepler has observed 2,525 confirmed exoplanets.
“These results demonstrate the enduring value of Kepler’s mission,” said Jessie Dotson, Kepler’s project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. “New ways of looking at the data — such as this early-stage research to apply machine learning algorithms — promises to continue to yield significant advances in our understanding of planetary systems around other stars. I’m sure there are more firsts in the data waiting for people to find them.”
Missions launching in 2018, like the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and the James Webb Space Telescope, will enable further and closer study of planet candidates identified by Kepler.
Compared with Kepler, TESS will use a similar transit method for observing planets when they pass in front of their parent stars. Though Kepler looked at one portion of the sky for stars that were farther away for a longer time, TESS will observe the entire sky and focus on the brightest and closest stars, each for 30 days.
The James Webb Space Telescope is capable of observing large exoplanets and detecting starlight filtered through their atmospheres, which will enable scientists to determine the atmospheric composition and analyze them for gases that can create a biological ecosystem.
The K2 mission, which launched in 2014, is extending Kepler’s legacy to new parts of the sky and new fields of study, adding to NASA’s “arc of discovery.” It has enough fuel to keep identifying candidates until summer 2018. It’s helping bridge the gap between Kepler and TESS as far as identifying targets for the James Webb Space Telescope to observe.
  

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2018 inductees are …

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2018 inductees are …

Story highlights

  • The inductees were announced Wednesday
  • They include a band whose fans have been begging for its recognition

(CNN)Bon Jovi, The Cars, Dire Straits, The Moody Blues, and Nina Simone are the 2018 inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the organization announced Wednesday.

Gospel pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe was chosen to receive the Award for Early Influence.
For The Moody Blues, the honor comes after years of fans harping that the group deserved recognition. The band became eligible for the honor in 1989, and “in 2013, a Rolling Stone reader poll listed the Moody Blues as one of the top 10 bands that need to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” according to the organization.
To be eligible for nomination, an individual artist or band must have released its first commercial recording at least 25 years prior to its induction year. That means the 2018 nominees must have released their first official recording no later than 1992.
To choose the 2018 inductees, an international voting body of more than 900 artists, historians and members of the music industry received ballots, and the top five artists selected comprised a “fans’ ballot” that was tallied along with the other ballots.
close dialog
Tell us where to send you Five Things
Morning briefings of all the news & buzz people will be talking about
Activate Five Things
By subscribing you agree to our
privacy policy.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2018 Inductions ceremony will be held on April 14, in Cleveland.
SiriusXM will carry a radio broadcast of the ceremony, as well as special broadcasts throughout the year devoted to inductees past and present. HBO will broadcast the ceremony, with details to be announced later.

Israel airstrikes, Gaza rockets amid tensions over Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Israel airstrikes, Gaza rockets amid tensions over Jerusalem

Clashes erupt in Jerusalem

Jerusalem (CNN) Two Palestinians were killed Saturday in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, as tensions soared in the region after US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces said Israeli aircraft had targeted what it identified as four facilities belonging to Hamas — the Palestinian Islamist group that controls Gaza — early Saturday in response to rockets fired into southern Israel from Gaza.
The aircraft targeted two weapons manufacturing sites, a weapons warehouse and a military compound, according to an IDF news release.
The two Palestinians killed were a 27-year-old man and a 30-year-old man, Palestinian Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qadra told CNN.
The IDF said Israeli aircraft had also struck a Hamas training compound and ammunition warehouse in Gaza late on Friday.
close dialog
Tell us where to send you Five Things
Morning briefings of all the news & buzz people will be talking about
Activate Five Things
By subscribing you agree to our
privacy policy.
One of the rockets fired from Gaza landed in the Israeli city of Sderot, according to the IDF. There was no mention of casualties.

Palestinians on Saturday look at the damage from an Israeli airstrike in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip.

Two Palestinians were also killed Friday in Gaza in clashes between protesters and Israeli security forces over Trump’s controversial move. Thirty-year-old Mohammad Masry was killed when fired on by Israeli forces and 54-year-old Maher Atallah died of injuries sustained in the clashes earlier that day, al-Qadra said.

A relative of Mohammad Masry, who was killed Friday in clashes with Israeli troops, mourns during his funeral in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Saturday.

Both Palestinians and Israelis claim Jerusalem as their capital.
Sporadic clashes erupted Saturday between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces on a busy shopping street in the eastern part of Jerusalem and in the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Ramallah.
Israeli security forces responded with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets as small groups of protesters threw rocks.
Seven people were arrested during the clashes on Salah el-Din Street in Jerusalem, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported 12 injured after police dispersed the demonstrators there.
Meanwhile, crowds of mourners gathered in Gaza for the funerals of the four men killed there.

Relatives of 30-year-old Mohammad Masry mourn over his body during his funeral in town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday.

An Israeli army statement said what it called violent riots had broken out in about 30 locations across the West Bank and Gaza on Friday. The main disturbances in the West Bank were in Hebron, Al-Arroub, Tulkarm, Ramallah, Qalqilya and Nablus.
More than 300 people were injured across the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem on Friday, 50 of whom needed hospital treatment, the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health said.
At least 49 people were also injured Thursday during protests over Trump’s decision, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.
Trump’s decision Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and commit to moving the US Embassy to the holy city has prompted international condemnation and sparked protests in countries around the globe, from Indonesia and Malaysia to Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt.

US envoy to UN defends Trump move

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley defended Trump’s decision and criticized member countries for their treatment of Israel during an emergency UN Security Council meeting Friday.
She also said the US has credibility with both the Israelis and the Palestinians and that any peace agreement would likely be “signed on the White House lawn.”
“The United States is not predetermining final status issues,” Haley said.
“We remain committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement. We support a two-state solution if agreed to by the parties.”
Several countries voiced their opposition to the US decision before Haley’s comments, including France and Egypt.

Egypt’s Coptic Church won’t meet Pence

Egypt’s Coptic Church on Saturday issued a statement “excusing” itself from receiving US Vice President Mike Pence during an upcoming visit to the region, state-run Al-Ahram reported, citing a church statement.
“In consideration of the decision that the US administration took regarding Jerusalem, which was inappropriately timed and took no consideration of the feeling of millions of Arab people, the Egyptian Orthodox Coptic Church excuses itself from this meeting,” Al-Ahram cited the statement as saying.
A day earlier, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas cast doubt on whether he would receive Pence during his planned visit in mid-December.
Speaking to broadcaster Al Jazeera, spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said: “Jerusalem is more important than Mike Pence — we will not abandon Jerusalem just to receive Mike Pence.”
Speaking Friday in Paris, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “is not something that will happen this year, probably not next year.”
He also said that Trump’s decision did not “indicate any final status for Jerusalem,” adding that the “final status would be left to the parties to negotiate and decide.”
This story has been updated to correct a Palestinian Health Ministry report that originally stated one person was killed in an airstrike Friday. The report was later updated to say that the person died from injuries suffered in clashes, not an airstrike.

Polish ruling party ousts PM

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY IS OF CNN)

 

Polish ruling party ousts PM

Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, right, is being replaced by Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, left.

(CNN)Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydlo resigned late Thursday and will be replaced by the finance minister, according to a statement from the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Shifting challenges at home and abroad necessitated a change to “correct the composition of the government, including its leadership,” the party said in the statement.
As a result, the statement said, Szydlo is set to be replaced by Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, a Polish banker.
Morawiecki was chosen to prepare the Law and Justice Party for a series of upcoming elections at the local and national levels in the next several years, Reuters reported, citing sources.
“Thank you for all your support and messages of thanks,” Szydlo said in a statement on Twitter. “These two years have been an unbelievable time for me. To serve Poland and Poles has been an honor. Thank you.”
close dialog
Tell us where to send you Five Things
Morning briefings of all the news & buzz people will be talking about
Activate Five Things
By subscribing you agree to our
privacy policy.
According to a political analyst quoted in the Reuters report, Szydlo’s ouster could have come about because the Law and Justice Party’s leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, may have felt Szydlo was “too weak and that the government was seeded by internal conflicts and factional struggles.”
“It is obvious that Jaroslaw Kaczynski is the leader of this camp and he is the one who distributes the cards, regardless of who is the prime minister,” the analyst, Henryk Domanski of the Polish Academy of Sciences, said.

Congress Will Vote On Concealed Carry Reciprocity Bill

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

House will vote on concealed carry reciprocity bill

Pres. Trump’s complex relationship with guns

Washington (CNN)The House will vote Wednesday on a bill that would let gun owners with permits to carry concealed weapons travel to other states with their concealed firearms.

The bill is a top priority of the National Rifle Association, and since leaving committee it has been combined with an additional measure that is designed to update the federal background check system after holes were exposed by November’s mass shooting at a church in Texas.
The move to merge the two pieces of legislation makes it a difficult vote for Democrats.
Second Amendment advocates maintain that gun owners should not lose their right to bear arms as they travel across state lines, and current laws that vary in different states could mean that licensed owners might unintentionally violate the law. Under the proposed law, gun owners would be required to abide by the local and state regulations in place for concealed weapons.
The part of the legislation that aims to update background checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, held bipartisan support when it was being considered by the House Judiciary Committee, after more than 20 people were killed at the church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
close dialog
Tell us where to send you Five Things
Morning briefings of all the news & buzz people will be talking about
Activate Five Things
By subscribing you agree to our
privacy policy.
The gunman in that shooting was a former member of the Air Force, and had been imprisoned for domestic abuse. This information hadn’t been relayed by the Air Force to the NICS, which should have prevented him from buying the guns he used in the crime.

Prehistoric Eggs Help Reveal Early Life Of Flying Reptiles

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Elizabeth Martin-Silverstone is a Research Assistant in Palaeontology at the University of Bristol. The opinions expressed here are solely hers.

A hoard of fossilized pterosaur eggs discovered in China is helping scientists gain a rare insight into the extinct flying reptiles.

Newly released research into over 200 eggs and 16 embryos from the pterosaur Hamipterus, including the first computed tomography (CT) scans, eclipses what was previously known about these cousins of the dinosaurs.
In particular, they provide new evidence for the debate about whether pterosaurs could fly as soon as they hatched.
Relatively few pterosaur fossils are preserved because of the animal’s fragile, thin-walled bones. Even more rare are fossils of young hatchlings, eggs and embryos, making it difficult to understand how different species grew.

Illustration of a Pterosaur and Pterosaur eggs by Zhao Chuang.

The first pterosaur embryo was found in China in 2004, but the egg and embryo were flattened, and exactly what type of pterosaur it was was unclear. The first three-dimensionally preserved pterosaur egg came from Argentina from an animal called Pterodaustro, previously known from several specimens and eggs that are mostly crushed.
close dialog
Tell us where to send you Five Things
Morning briefings of all the news & buzz people will be talking about
Activate Five Things
By subscribing you agree to our
privacy policy.
But in 2014, Chinese palaeontologists discovered hundreds of bones and eggs of the pterosaur Hamipterus, which lived in the early Cretaceous period, approximately 120 million years ago. Amazingly, the site where the fossils were found contained eight separate geological layers with bones, four of which also had eggs.
Researchers think this means it was a nesting site that was hit by high-energy storms that transported the pterosaurs and their eggs to a calm lake where they were then turned into fossils.
Palaeontologists have found other sites with lots of pterosaur bones before, suggesting they were social animals. But this is the first find that indicates pterosaurs nested together as well.

Inside the eggs

A team of Chinese and Brazilian palaeontologists led by Xiaolin Wang have now examined these eggs in more detail, using CT scanning and the study of microstructures of the bone to understand how the animal grew.
The CT scans meant the researchers could use X-rays to see inside the eggs and embryos without destroying them, the first time this has been done with pterosaur eggs (although dinosaur eggs have been studied like this before).
Among the 16 embryos, the researchers found an assortment of preserved bones, mainly from the wings and legs. Unlike other pterosaur embryos from China or Argentina, very little material from the skull appeared in the embryos, with only a single lower jaw preserved.
Unfortunately, the embryos are all incomplete and disarticulated, meaning the bones have been jumbled during fossilisation rather than preserved in a nice jointed skeleton.
This means that we don’t have a complete picture of what an embryonic Hamipterus would have looked like. But the researchers were able to make some observations on growth because the large number of fossils with individuals of different sizes meant they could look at different stages of development.
All the long bones from the wings and legs showed signs of ossification, the process of laying down the minerals to form bones, but the ends of wing bones were not fully formed or mineralized. This suggests that the areas for major muscle attachments, and therefore the muscles themselves, weren’t developed in embryos.
The areas for muscle attachment of important flight muscles were either small or nonexistent in the unhatched animals, while the legs appeared to be more complete. The researchers suggest this means that Hamipterus hatchlings were incapable of flight, contradicting the common idea of “flaplings”, that the youngest pterosaurs could fly immediately.

No teeth

Unsurprisingly, the bone of these embryos appears to have grown extremely fast, with large vascular canals (that carry blood vessels through bones) and other bone structures typical of young animals that are laying down bone extremely quickly.
A surprising discovery, or indeed a lack of discovery, was in the teeth. Despite the fact that teeth normally preserve well in fossils, no teeth were found in any of the embryos.
Since at least some other pterosaur embryos possess teeth, this might indicate that the Hamipterus embryos are of an earlier developmental stage, before tooth development. The lack of other skull bones suggests the skull developed later than other bones in the skeleton.
This find adds to recent discoveries of soft Darwinopterus pterosaur eggs and hundreds of Caiuajara pterosaur fossils. Thanks to the hard work of palaeontologists, we are starting to develop a good understanding of the entire life history, from before hatching to death, of these fascinating creatures.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Voyager 1 Spacecraft Thrusters Fired Up For First Time Since 1980

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Voyager 1 spacecraft thrusters fired up for first time since 1980

Story highlights

  • Voyager 1 is in interstellar space and is NASA’s farthest spacecraft
  • Scientists were looking for a new way to reorient Voyager 1

(CNN)It’s a good idea to have a backup plan, especially in interstellar space.

NASA scientists needed to reorient the 40-year-old Voyager 1 — the space agency’s farthest spacecraft — so its antenna would point toward Earth, 13 billion miles away. But the “attitude control thrusters,” the first option to make the spacecraft turn in space, have been wearing out.
So NASA searched for a Plan B, eventually deciding to try using four “trajectory correction maneuver” (TCM) thrusters, located on the back side of Voyager 1. But those thrusters had not been used in 37 years. NASA wasn’t sure they’d work.
Tuesday, engineers fired up the thrusters and waited eagerly to find out whether the plan was successful. They got their answer 19 hours and 35 minutes later, the time it took for the results to reach Earth: The set of four thrusters worked perfectly. The spacecraft turned and the mood at NASA shifted to jubilation.
“The Voyager team got more excited each time with each milestone in the thruster test. The mood was one of relief, joy and incredulity after witnessing these well-rested thrusters pick up the baton as if no time had passed at all,” said Todd Barber, a propulsion engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
close dialog
Tell us where to send you Five Things
Morning briefings of all the news & buzz people will be talking about
Activate Five Things
By subscribing you agree to our
privacy policy.
“With these thrusters that are still functional after 37 years without use, we will be able to extend the life of the Voyager 1 spacecraft by two to three years,” said Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Launched 40 years ago

In 1977, the twin spacecrafts Voyager 1 and 2 were launched, 16 days apart. In September 2013, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft became the first human-made object to leave the solar system, entering interstellar space, the environment between the stars.
Voyager 2 lags behind, but according to NASA, the spacecraft is following the lead of the first Voyager and is on course to enter interstellar space in the coming years. The pair are still exploring the outer solar system and continue to communicate with Earth daily.
The Voyager missions discovered the first active volcanoes beyond Earth, at Jupiter’s moon Io, and hints of a subsurface ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa. They encountered Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, where data showed a thick Earth-like atmosphere; found the icy moon Miranda at Uranus; and spotted icy-cold geysers on Neptune’s moon Triton.
The significance of Voyager is the vast amount of knowledge of outer space it has provided and the interest in further exploration. That interest has resulted in the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the Cassini mission to Saturn, as well as the discovery of three new moons around Saturn using Earth-based instruments.

The future of Voyager

Because of the success in the attempt to test Voyager 1’s TCM thrusters, NASA plans to test the ones on Voyager 2. The need to use them is not as immediate, however, because the primary thrusters of Voyager 2 have not significantly degraded.
It is expected that in the year 40,272, Voyager 1 will come within 1.7 light years of an obscure star in the constellation Ursa Minor (the Little Bear or Little Dipper) and in about 40,000 years, Voyager 2 will come within about 1.7 light years of a star called Ross 248, a small star in the constellation of Andromeda.

Former Conyers aide: ‘Most of us’ have seen him in his underwear

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Former Conyers aide: ‘Most of us’ have seen him in his underwear

  • Weiner defended Conyers’ “surly moments” with staffers

(CNN)A former top communications aide to Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan offered a defense of his former boss amid Tuesday growing allegations of sexual harassment, saying it wasn’t uncommon for staffers to accidentally see the congressman in his underwear.

One former employee, Melanie Sloan, came forward with allegations last week, including one instance where Conyers called her to his office when he was in his underwear.
“I was pretty taken aback to see my boss half-dressed,” she told The Washington Post. “I turned on my heel and I left.”
Bob Weiner, who served as Conyers’ communications director from 1994 to 2000, spoke to reporters and photographers assembled outside the Congressman’s office, disputing Sloan’s allegations.
“Something else that people need to know: his closet is in his office right here. He changes clothes in his office. Most of us have walked in on him accidentally without knocking and have seen him in his underwear. Big deal. That’s where his closet is, he changes his clothes there. So to say that somebody came to a meeting and that’s how it was, that’s an untrue statement. That is the kind of thing that needs to be explored before there’s any acceptance to that kind of an allegation,” Weiner said, later clarifying that all members of Congress have closets in their offices.
close dialog
Tell us where to send you Five Things
Morning briefings of all the news & buzz people will be talking about
Activate Five Things
By subscribing you agree to our
privacy policy.
Weiner also defended Conyers’ “surly moments” with staffers, saying that is commonplace among politicians. “That’s not sexist. That’s just being aggressive as the member of Congress or the Cabinet member or the VIP that you are. It has nothing to do with being anti-women. I got it too.”
The House Ethics Committee announced last week it has opened an investigation into allegations against Conyers after BuzzFeed reported that he settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 after allegedly sexually harassing a staffer. Conyers denied wrongdoing in that case, but acknowledged that there had been a financial settlement to that complaint. Another former staffer, Deanna Maher, told CNN that Conyers made three sexual advances toward her when she worked for him in his district office in Detroit from 1997 to 2005. Through his lawyer, Conyers also denied wrongdoing in that case.
Conyers stepped down from his position as top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee on Sunday.
Weiner said he was going to recommend that Conyers hold a town hall in Detroit on how should men and women act in the workplace: “And let him say, I want to learn, I want to do better, and let him have that kind of a learning experience.”
Weiner, who also helped set up Conyers’ leadership PAC, said the mood in the congressman’s office is “very depressed” and current staffers are hoping he can complete his term amid growing pressure to resign.
“His staff is very depressed and think that people are trying to make the die cast against him, and everybody’s trying to work out statements of what to say that’s the right thing to say and it’s very complicated,” he said. “People are hoping that the die hasn’t been cast too far too soon already, and as I said, the staff is hoping very much that, at a minimum, that he gets the chance to complete his term as a member of Congress. That’s the objective right now of the staff.”

Why the massacre of Muslims in Sinai was too extreme for al Qaeda

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Why the massacre of Muslims in Sinai was too extreme for al Qaeda

(CNN)It is unusual for militant Islamist’s to condemn terror attacks against “non-believers,” but so grotesque was last Friday’s onslaught in Egypt that several extremist groups have threatened revenge against its perpetrators.

While no one has yet claimed the attack, its location and method point to the Islamic State in Northern Sinai (ISNS), a group that has proved both ruthless and resilient in the face of the Egyptian military’s attempts to crush it over the last four years.
More than 300 people were killed — among them nearly 30 children — as they attended prayers at the al Rawdah mosque near the Sinai town of Bir al-Abed. The mosque was associated with the Sufi tradition within Islam, which is regarded as apostasy by ISIS and by some in al Qaeda.

Hundreds killed in Egypt mosque attack

The Islamic State in Northern Sinai is an affiliate of ISIS and the most powerful jihadist group in Egypt — but not the only one. Smaller militant factions closer to al Qaeda quickly distanced themselves from the mosque attack.
Jund al-Islam, which is regarded as pro-al Qaeda, declared that it was “a great sin and transgression to violate the sanctities of Muslims.” It claims to have carried out an attack last month against ISNS, which it regards as “Khawarij” — a term from the 8th century used to describe those who go against Islamic leaders and institutions.
close dialog
Tell us where to send you Five Things
Morning briefings of all the news & buzz people will be talking about
Activate Five Things
By subscribing you agree to our
privacy policy.
Another militant group — Ansar al-Islam — offered condolences to the families of the victims of the massacre and said that God promised torment for anyone who killed a Muslim unjustly. In a statement issued on Saturday, it pledged to take revenge against the “transgressors who spilled the blood of the worshipers in a house of Allah.”
Ansar al-Islam is well-organized and regarded as more aligned with al Qaeda than ISIS. It claimed responsibility for a devastating ambush of Egyptian troops in the western desert last month.
The group is led by Hisham Ashmawy, a former captain in the Egyptian special forces. Ashmawy belonged to the group in Sinai that preceded ISNS — known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis — but he appears to have left when it became an affiliate of ISIS. Counter-terrorism analysts have said the split was both ideological and to do with personal rivalries.
The condemnation of the ISNS attack is evidence of the ever-widening enmity between ISIS affiliates and al Qaeda-inspired groups, and raises the question of whether the latter will begin to confront ISNS militarily as well as ideologically.

True believers

ISIS is doctrinaire about its definition of true Muslims, and has often warned that it would target the Sufi community. “Our focus lies in the war against polytheism and apostasy, and among those Sufism, sorcery and divination,” said a spokesman in ISIS’ online publication al-Naba a year ago. The article even mentioned al Rawdah, yet the mosque appears to have had little protection.
ISIS is not alone among jihadi groups in targeting other Muslim denominations, and especially Sufis. Adherents of Boko Haram in Nigeria also see Sufism as apostasy. In Pakistan, Sufi shrines have come under frequent attack, most recently in February this year, when a suicide bombing claimed by ISIS killed at least 70 people. And when Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda briefly seized the city of Timbuktu in Mali in 2012, they demolished centuries-old Sufi mausoleums and libraries, several of which were UNESCO world heritage sites.

People gather at the site of the mosque attack on Friday.

Unlike ISIS, the core leadership of al Qaeda has not singled out Sufi communities for attack. It has also distanced itself from overtly sectarian campaigns of violence against the Shia, most notably by Abu Musab al Zarqawi during the Iraqi insurgency between 2004 and 2006. Zarqawi’s attacks, such as the attempt to destroy the al Askari mosque in Samarra, drew criticism from al Qaeda’s leaders — even though he was affiliated to al Qaeda at the time.
But the rhetoric of al Qaeda and its affiliates against the Shia has hardened in recent years — especially in Syria and Yemen, amid what some observers call a multidimensional civil war within Islam.

ISNS: Resilient, capable, vicious

ISNS has frequently shown its audacity in Sinai, even sometimes erecting roadblocks around al-Arish, the Mediterranean town at the heart of the violence and some 40 kilometers from al Rawdah.
The group is well-armed and well-trained. On one occasion it used a missile to hit an Egyptian patrol boat off the coast. It has expertise in building IEDs, which have taken a heavy toll on Egyptian security patrols. And in 2015 it claimed to have smuggled a bomb inside a soda can on board a Russian airliner which exploded shortly after leaving Sharm el-Sheikh in southern Sinai.
The nature of Friday’s assault, a complex operation involving both a bomb attack and subsequent ambush of worshipers and ambulances by dozens of fighters, is typical of ISNS. But it is different in one crucial respect: most of the group’s attacks until now have targeted Egyptian security forces in Sinai — whether by IED or assassination.
Not for the first time, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi threatened to crush the militants, saying in a short statement that “the armed forces and police will avenge our martyrs and restore security and stability with the utmost force.”
It is a familiar pledge, but the impunity with which the attackers struck demonstrates the inability of the Egyptian security forces to stamp out ISNS, despite a massive deployment of the army and strikes by F-15 fighter jets.
Omar Ashour, visiting professor at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in Qatar and a longtime observer of the Sinai insurgency, says the mix of guerrilla warfare and urban terror tactics has “undermined both the morale and the capacities of the regular forces, a historically incompetent one with limited success in conventional warfare and counter-insurgency campaigns.”
The government has been able to recruit some tribes against ISNS, but the group has still been able to find recruits among the marginalized Bedouin youth of Sinai, long a neglected backwater of Egypt where the writ of central government means little. It is helped by the fact is that Sinai is huge — almost the size of Texas — and sparsely populated.
Sinai also has a long history of smuggling — of people, drugs and weapons — and counter-terrorism analysts say ISNS has been able to obtain weapons by sea from Libya and elsewhere.

Relatives of the victims of the mosque attack sit outside a hospital Saturday in the eastern port city of Ismailia.

The staying power of ISNS and its growing capabilities also concern Israel. The group has attempted several border incursions, and several ISIS operatives have been detained by Hamas in Gaza, after apparently crossing from the Sinai.
Amos Harel — writing in Haaretz — was critical of the Egyptian military’s response, saying “quicker action is needed, combining precise intelligence and commando forces.”
But Ashour says the Egyptian state’s over-reliance on force in Sinai, coupled with the neglect of the region and a polarized political situation in Egypt as a whole, suggest the government is a long way from bringing peace to the area.