2 Women Lost at Sea for 5 Months Survived Shark Attacks and Storms

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

‘Horrific.’ 2 Women Lost at Sea for 5 Months Survived Shark Attacks and Storms

7:41 AM ET

Two American women and their dogs were rescued this week by the United States Navy, after being adrift in the Pacific Ocean for five months.

Their engine had failed while attempting to sail from Hawaii to Tahiti. The women endured two separate shark attacks, with their boat surrounded at one point by seven sharks slapping their tails against the hull, they told reporters Thursday night on a conference call, in remarks reported by ABC NewsThe Guardian and other news outlets.

“We thought it was lights out, and they were horrific,” one of the mariners, Jennifer Appel, said of the shark attacks after being rescued Wednesday.

They also said they survived two major storms, the first of which lasted for two days, with 25-foot waves and hurricane force winds flooding the boat’s engine leaving the two of them to rely on the boat’s sail alone for the next five months. They had packed enough dried food for a year, but had another close call when Appel fixed their broken water purifier with only a gallon of clean water left on the boat.

Appel, an experienced sailor, was accompanied on the trip by her friend Natasha Fuiava, a sailing novice, and their dogs, Valentine and Zeus. The women, both from Honolulu, Hawaii, were spotted 900 miles south-east of Japan by a Taiwanese fishing vessel, which alerted Guam’s coastguard.

They were rescued by the USS Ashland the following day. “They saved our lives,” Appel said. “The pride and smiles we had when we saw [them] on the horizon was pure relief.”

The Navy said the women had received medical attention and would remain on the USS Ashland until its next port of call.

“The U.S. Navy is postured to assist any distressed mariner of any nationality during any type of situation,” Commander Steven Wasson, the Ashland’s commanding officer, said in a statement.

President’s Of China-Russia Want North Korea To Nuke U.S.

President’s Of China-Russia Want North Korea To Nuke U.S.

 

I am aware that this title is a pretty brash statement yet if I did not believe that it is the truth I would not have used it. When I say that the governments of China and Russia and their current Presidents want the crazy mass murderer in North Korea, Kim Jong Un to nuke the U.S. I am referring to our military bases in the Pacific. It is no secret that the leaders of China and Russia do not want the U.S. military to be in the Pacific Ocean. We have bases in southern Japan, Hawaii and Guam as well as ports of call in South Korea and the Philippines and lets not forget the Naval Base at Long Beach California.

 

As most of you are aware, China under their Dictator President Xi Jinping has decided that all of the ‘South China Sea’ belongs to them. China is making an unprecedented push to take away all of the Sea, Air and Land rights of all of the other Nations in South East Asia. The only other nation with the ability to say no we will not allow this to happen is the U.S.. China is also making major land claims to their southwest, west and northwest. What China is trying to do is to create a situation where they control all chemical and mineral deposits in all of these regions. They also are trying to create a situation where no freight or air travel is allowed in ‘their’ region without their approval. I personally also believe that once China has secured this power that they will then insist on a ‘toll’ system where no freight or air travel is allowed without paying China’s ‘fee’s.’ If you think that what I am saying is a stretch, China’s debt to income ratio is currently at 328%. Economists have told us for years that once a country passes 100% debt to income ratio that the country is in danger of financial collapse.

 

China and Russia’s President Putin would love nothing more than for the U.S. to leave the Pacific. They both complain about the military drills each year that the U.S. and South Korea hold off of the east coast of South Korea yet China and Russia hold their own combined drills off the coast of North Korea. Yesterday in Beijing the Communist Ruling elite gave President Xi Jinping unprecedented authority making it to where if a person says any thing against their President that in doing so you have committed a crime against the Communist Party which in almost all cases will get you life in prison with hard labor or simply hung or shot. The main thing that seems to hold the alliance of Russia with China is Russia’s President Putin’s hate of Democracy and that right now Russia is selling China a lot of Russian oil. Economics and power folks, economics and power.

 

China with the help of billions of dollars from Wal-Mart each year has been spending a huge part of their GDP each year under Xi Jinping on their military buildup. Russia and North Korea have been doing the same thing, minus Wal-Mart’s help. Russia and North Korea have been starving their own people for many years in order to use that money for their leaders personal gains (the Pentagon says that Putin has salted away about $200 billion dollars for himself), I haven’t heard or read any comments on how much wealth Kim Jong Un as stolen from the North Korean people, as he starves them.

 

The Pentagon says that they believe North Korea has about 8-10 Nukes at this present time. We have the ability to shoot down many missiles in all of the regions where we have Pacific military groupings yet reality is that a missile here or there could possibly get through our defenses. Even if we are successful at shooting down every missile in doing so would cause and EMP which will knockout all electronics for many miles around in every direction. My question to our government/military is, if North Korea fires a nuke at a location, lets say Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and we shoot it down thus causing an EMP, if another missile is following 5 or 10 minutes later, will we be able to shoot it down? Will the EMP kill our defense systems leaving us wide open for a second or third missile?

 

President Trump keeps saying that he wants China to do more to pressure North Korea to stop and to dismantle their nuclear program and yes, I do believe that President Xi Jinping could easily do this if it was in his interest to do so, but it is not! If you think that President Xi Jinping or Russia’s President Putin care at all about the people of North Korea you are being delusional. China has made it very clear to the United States government that they will never allow a non-Communist government to be in place in North Korea. They have also made it very clear that if the U.S. or any of our allies do a preemptive strike again North Korea that China will come to their defense. One would think that all parties involved know that if North Korea fires a Nuke at us or our allies that we would then totally destroy North Korea. Yet if this event happened at the same time the U.S. military bases in their area of the globe were destroyed, China’s government as well as Russia’s would be more that willing to except those results.

Trump says ‘appeasement’ will not work after North Korea nuke test

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI DAWN NEWSPAPER)

 

Japan government registers protest with N. Korean embassy in Bejing, calls test “extremely unforgivable”. — File
Japan government registers protest with N. Korean embassy in Bejing, calls test “extremely unforgivable”. — File

US President Donald Trump declared on Sunday that “appeasement with North Korea” will not work, after Pyongyang claimed it had successfully tested a missile-ready hydrogen bomb.

“North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test,” Trump said. “Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States.”

His comments came hours after the US Geological Survey picked up a 6.3 magnitude “explosion” in North Korea, which Pyongyang confirmed was a nuclear test, its sixth.

Earlier, Japan confirmed that North Korea conducted a nuclear test on Sunday, registering a formal protest with Pyongyang after a major explosion at the isolated nation’s main test site.

“The government confirms that North Korea conducted a nuclear test after examining information from the weather agency and other information,” Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono told reporters.

He said the government registered a protest with the North Korean embassy in Beijing prior to the confirmation, calling any test “extremely unforgivable”.

“Today’s nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is an extremely regrettable act,” International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya Amano said in a statement.

“This new test, which follows the two tests last year and is the sixth since 2006, is in complete disregard of the repeated demands of the international community.”

Trump last month threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” if it continued to threaten the United States, but he refrained from direct threats in his latest tweets.

“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!” he said.

Earlier, South Korea’s military had expressed suspicion that North Korea had conducted its sixth nuclear test, after it detected a “strong earthquake.”

The strong tremor was felt hours after Pyongyang claimed that its leader has inspected a hydrogen bomb meant for a new intercontinental ballistic missile.

South Korea’s weather agency and the Joint Chief of Staff said an artificial 5.6 magnitude quake occurred at 12:29 pm local time, in Kilju, northern Hamgyong Province.

The US Geological Survey called the first quake an explosion with a magnitude 6.3.

Shortly after, Yonhap news agency said a second quake was detected with a magnitude 4.6 but South Korea’s weather agency denied another quake occurred.

There was no word from the military in Seoul about the possible second quake.

North Korea conducted its fifth test last year in September. In confirmed, the latest test would mark yet another big step forward in North Korean attempts to obtain a nuclear-armed missile capable of reaching deep into the US mainland.

South Korea’s presidential office said it will hold a National Security Council meeting chaired by President Moon Jae-in.

Islamabad condemns Pyongyang’s actions

Pakistan on Sunday condemned the reported nuclear test by North Korea.

A statement issued by the Foreign Office said, “Pakistan has consistently maintained that DPRK should comply with the UN Security Council resolutions and asked all sides to refrain from provocative actions.

Pakistan urges all sides to display utmost restraint and return towards the path of peaceful negotiated settlement of the issue, it added.

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests last year and has since maintained a torrid pace in weapons tests, including flight-testing developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles and flying a powerful mid-range missile over Japan.

Photos released by the North Korean government on Sunday showed Kim talking with his lieutenants as he observed a silver, peanut-shaped device that was apparently the purported thermonuclear weapon destined for an ICBM.

What appeared to be the nose cone of a missile could also be seen near the alleged bomb in one picture, which could not be independently verified and which was taken without outside journalists present. Another photo showed a diagram on the wall behind Kim of a bomb mounted inside a cone.

Aside from the factuality of the North’s claim, the language in its statement seems a strong signal that Pyongyang will soon conduct its sixth nuclear weapon test, which is crucial if North Korean scientists are to fulfil the national goal of an arsenal of viable nuclear ICBMs that can reach the US mainland.

There’s speculation that such a test could come on or around the Sept. 9 anniversary of North Korea’s national founding, something it did last year.

As part of the North’s weapons work, Kim was said by his propaganda mavens to have made a visit to the Nuclear Weapons Institute and inspected a “homemade” H-bomb with “super explosive power” that “is adjustable from tens (of) kiloton to hundreds (of) kiloton.”

North Korea in July conducted its first ever ICBM tests, part of a stunning jump in progress for the country’s nuclear and missile program since Kim rose to power following his father’s death in late 2011.

The North followed its two tests of Hwasong-14 ICBMs, which, when perfected, could target large parts of the United States, by threatening to launch a salvo of its Hwasong-12 intermediate range missiles toward the US Pacific island territory of Guam in August.

It flew a Hwasong-12 over northern Japan last week, the first such overflight by a missile capable of carrying nukes, in a launch Kim described as a “meaningful prelude” to containing Guam, the home of major US military facilities, and more ballistic missile tests targeting the Pacific.

Vipin Narang, an MIT professor specialising in nuclear strategy, said it’s important to note that North Korea was only showing a mock-up of a two-stage thermonuclear device, or H-bomb.

“We won’t know what they have until they test it, and even then there may be a great deal of uncertainty depending on the yield and seismic signature and any isotopes we can detect after a test,” he said.

To back up its claims to nuclear mastery, such tests are vital. The first of its two atomic tests last year involved what Pyongyang claimed was a sophisticated hydrogen bomb; the second it said was its most powerful atomic detonation ever.

It is almost impossible to independently confirm North Korean statements about its highly secret weapons program. South Korean government officials said the estimated explosive yield of last year’s first test was much smaller than what even a failed hydrogen bomb detonation would produce.

There was speculation that North Korea might have detonated a boosted fission bomb, a weapon considered halfway between an atomic bomb and an H-bomb.

It is clear, however, that each new missile and nuclear test gives the North invaluable information that allows big jumps in capability.

A key question is how far North Korea has gotten in efforts to consistently shrink down nuclear warheads so they can fit on long-range missiles.

“Though we cannot verify the claim, (North Korea) wants us to believe that it can launch a thermonuclear strike now, if it is attacked. Importantly, (North Korea) will also want to test this warhead, probably at a larger yield, to demonstrate this capability,” said Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Centre for American Progress.

North Korea is thought to have a growing arsenal of nuclear bombs and has spent decades trying to perfect a multistage, long-range missile to eventually carry smaller versions of those bombs.

South Korea’s main spy agency has previously asserted that it does not think Pyongyang currently has the ability to develop miniaturised nuclear weapons that can be mounted on long-range ballistic missiles. Some experts, however, think the North may have mastered this technology.

The White House said that President Donald Trump spoke with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan regarding “ongoing efforts to maximize pressure on North Korea.”

The statement did not say whether the conversation came before or after the North’s latest claim.

A long line of US presidents has failed to check North Korea’s persistent pursuit of missiles and nuclear weapons. Six-nation negotiations on dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program in exchange for aid fell apart in early 2009.

The North said in its statement Sunday that its H-bomb “is a multi-functional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack according to strategic goals.”

Kim, according to the statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, claimed that “all components of the H-bomb were homemade … thus enabling the country to produce powerful nuclear weapons as many as it wants.”

In what could be read as a veiled warning of more nuclear tests, Kim underlined the need for scientists to “dynamically conduct the campaign for successfully concluding the final-stage research and development for perfecting the state nuclear force” and “set forth tasks to be fulfilled in the research into nukes.”

The two Koreas have shared the world’s most heavily fortified border since their war in the early 1950s ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

About 28,500 American troops are deployed in South Korea as deterrence against North Korea.

Chinese Paper Says China Should Stay Neutral If North Korea Attacks First

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GLOBAL TIMES OF NORTH KOREA AND CHINA)

 

Chinese paper says China should stay neutral if North Korea attacks first

BEIJING (Reuters) – If North Korea launches an attack that threatens the United States then China should stay neutral, but if the United States attacks first and tries to overthrow North Korea’s government China will stop them, a Chinese state-run newspaper said on Friday.

President Donald Trump ratcheted up his rhetoric toward North Korea and its leader on Thursday, warning Pyongyang against attacking Guam or U.S. allies after it disclosed plans to fire missiles over Japan to land near the U.S. Pacific territory.

China, North Korea’s most important ally and trading partner, has reiterated calls for calm during the current crisis. It has expressed frustration with both Pyongyang’s repeated nuclear and missile tests and with behavior from South Korea and the United States that it sees as escalating tensions.

The widely read state-run Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, wrote in an editorial that Beijing is not able to persuade either Washington or Pyongyang to back down.

“It needs to make clear its stance to all sides and make them understand that when their actions jeopardize China’s interests, China will respond with a firm hand,” said the paper, which does not represent government policy.

“China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral,” it added.

“If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.”

China has long worried that any conflict on the Korean peninsula, or a repeat of the 1950-53 Korean war, could unleash a wave of destabilizing refugees into its northeast, and could end up with a reunified county allied with the United States.

North Korea is a useful buffer state for China between it and U.S. forces based in South Korea, and also across the sea in Japan.

The Global Times said China will “firmly resist any side which wants to change the status quo of the areas where China’s interests are concerned”.

“The Korean Peninsula is where the strategic interests of all sides converge, and no side should try to be the absolute dominator of the region.”

This Is What The U.S. Needs To Make Sure Kim Jong Un Understands

 

 

We all know that there are a lot of tensions and banter going on right now between North Korea’s insane Dictator Kim Jong Un and the massively ignorant American President Donald ‘Fake News’ Trump. They flap their lips like a couple of sixth graders from two different schools acting as if nothing can happen to them because of their crowing. I believe that President Trump is simply a person that wants to win everything he touches, so that he can brag about it, regardless of the cost to other people. Here in the U.S. we at least have some checks and balances built into our political and military system, North Korea does not have any such thing. In North Korea there are no organizations to check the balance of military or political power that Kim Jong Un has garnered unto himself. This idiot, just like his father and grandfather before him think that they are living Gods. This is pure stupidity seeing that dear old Dad and Grandpa are dead and Kim Jong Un and the North Korean people know this.

 

Are you familiar with the term ‘cutting off the head of the snake’? There is one thing that President Trump and our top Diplomats need to make absolutely factual to Kim Jong Un and this is that if he attacks any American lands or the lands of any of our Allies like South Korea, Japan or the people of Guam that he personally will be dead before that day is over. The North Korean military Generals need to be given that same message, if they attack anyone that they personally are dead men walking. We the people of the world are seeing two men (I am using that term very loosely) with massive ego’s who do not know how to shut up, no matter how many millions of people who may die because of their ignorance. People like Kim Jong Un only care about themselves, this is why it is imperative that he understands that if he attacks, he personally will die that same day. I believe that if we cannot get this reality through the thick skull of this lunatic very soon (the one in North Korea) millions of innocent people may end up being murdered.

Kim Jong Un Is Threatening To Strike Guam With His Missiles

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Hong Kong (CNN) US President Donald Trump’s threats of “fire and fury” against North Korea couldn’t come at a worse time for China.

One of North Korea’s closest diplomatic partners, China has long attempted to avoid conflict between Washington and Pyongyang, calling for both sides to make concessions.
In a statement Wednesday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said parties should “avoid remarks and actions that could aggravate conflicts and escalate tensions.”
“China calls on all relevant sides to uphold the broad direction of resolving the North Korean nuclear issue through political means,” the statement said.
Tong Zhao, associate at the Carnegie Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, told CNN the recent tensions come at a time when Beijing is keen to promote stability ahead of the 19th Communist Party National Congress, China’s twice a decade handover of power scheduled for later this year.
“China has other regional crises as well, the border dispute with India, the South China Sea … it’s really bad timing for another real crisis to emerge in North Korea,” Zhao said.
Speaking at the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey Tuesday, the US president said North Korea would face might “like the world has never seen” if it continued to make threats.

Gary Samore: Korea de-nuclearization unrealistic

Gary Samore: Korea de-nuclearization unrealistic 06:07
Within hours of Trump’s statement, North Korea issued a statement warning of a possible strike on areas around the US territory of Guam.
Any armed conflict between the two adversaries would be “the worst case scenario” for China, Zhao added, saying there was no indication yet how Chinese President Xi Jinping would react to any hostilities.

Military action on Korean Peninsula?

In recent months, there have been some hints of preparations by China in case the worst should happen and war breaks out in North Korea.
In July, military and government reports showed the country’s northern border region, which includes the 880 mile (1,415 kilometer) North Korean-Chinese border, was being reinforced with extra Chinese troops.
But Zhao said even China is unsure who it would support in the event of any armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
“There are too many uncertain variables — who initiates it? Who bears more responsibility? How will the war affect the economy? Too much uncertainty and I don’t think China can give a simple answer about how it will respond,” he said.
Part of the problem is the strict silence imposed on Chinese media and academics by Beijing, according to Zhao, making it harder to discern what discussions are taking place behind closed doors.
“China has been very secretive about North Korea so it’s hard to tell, hard to find those signs,” he said.
A potential conflict between North Korea and the United States isn’t the only military threat hanging over China’s head.
An ongoing border dispute between China and India has escalated in recent weeks, with one military officer declaring in July China would preserve its “sovereign territory … at any cost.
“It’s possible that military conflict could break out with India,” Zhao said.

China seeks calm before congress

China is determined to present a stable and powerful image in advance of the 19th Party Congress. Held by the country’s ruling Communist Party every five years, it’s when Beijing unveils the new leadership team for the next half decade.
For months President Xi Jinping has been carefully preparing the ground for the meeting, where he is expected to solidify his power over China’s government.

US rips China after N. Korean missile test

US rips China after N. Korean missile test 02:09
Xi likely to use the event to fill the country’s powerful Politburo and Standing Committee with his allies, making the autumn congress effectively a coronation confirming the president as easily the most powerful man in one of the world’s most powerful countries.
But Zhao said an increasingly erratic North Korea is now threatening to overshadow the Communist Party’s big day.
Beijing has maintained a clear and consistent position on North Korea for months, calling on multiple occasions for Pyongyang to halt its nuclear weapons program in exchange for the US and South Korea holding off on military drills.
Euan Graham, director of the International Security Program at Sydney’s Lowy Institute, says there has been no indication of a change in policy from Beijing.
“(But) the problem is having essentially bet his credibility on a tweet back in January … it is hard for Trump to restore it without escalating to a military solution. That obviously would be the latest worry in Beijing,” he said.
But Graham added despite the difficult position China found itself in, there was one silver lining to the North Korean cloud.
“The sanctions bill which went through the UN recently didn’t target Chinese entities directly … they’ll actually be relieved they’re not being directly targeted by the US as many have feared,” he said.

After Puerto Rico’s Debt Crisis, Worries Shift to Virgin Islands

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Lindbergh Bay beach in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, on Memorial Day weekend.CreditMireya Acierto for The New York Times

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, V.I. — The United States Virgin Islands is best known for its powdery beaches and turquoise bays, a constant draw for the tourists who frequent this tiny American territory.

Yet away from the beaches the mood is ominous, as government officials scramble to stave off the same kind of fiscal collapse that has already engulfed its neighbor Puerto Rico.

The public debts of the Virgin Islands are much smaller than those of Puerto Rico, which effectively declared bankruptcy in May. But so is its population, and therefore its ability to pay. This tropical territory of roughly 100,000 people owes some $6.5 billion to pensioners and creditors.

Now, a combination of factors — insufficient tax revenue, a weak pension system, the loss of a major employer and a new reluctance in the markets to lend the Virgin Islands any more money — has made it almost impossible for the government to meet its obligations. In January, the Virgin Islands found itself unable to borrow and nearly out of funds for basic government operations.

The sudden cash crunch was a warning sign that the financial troubles that brought Puerto Rico to its knees could soon spread. All of America’s far-flung territories, among them American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, appear vulnerable.

“I don’t think you can say it’s a crisis, but they have challenges — high debt, weak economies and unfunded pensions,” said Jim Millstein, whose firm, Millstein & Company, advised Puerto Rico on its economic affairs and debt restructuring until this year and has reviewed the situation in Guam and the Virgin Islands. He called the combination of challenges in the territories “a recipe for trouble in the future.”

Gov. Kenneth Mapp, left, walking in the Memorial Day parade in St. Thomas. CreditMireya Acierto for The New York Times

For decades, these distant clusters of islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific have played critical roles as American listening posts, wartime staging grounds, practice bombing ranges and even re-entry points for astronauts splashing down in the Pacific.

The military presence buoyed their small economies, and a federal tax subsidy made it relatively easy for them to issue bonds. Over the years, they have collectively borrowed billions of dollars to build roads, run schools, treat drinking water and fund hospitals.

Congress has generally relied on the Government Accountability Office to monitor the financial health of the territories, but it did not intervene over the years when the auditors brought back reports of “formidable fiscal challenges” or “serious internal control weaknesses” on the islands. Not, at least, until Puerto Rico went over the edge.

Now the G.A.O. auditors are back, re-examining the debt and repayment ability of each territory, amid concerns that other crushing debt burdens may have escaped notice. An agency spokesman, Fuller O. Griffith, said it would report by the end of the year on “federal options to avert the future indebtedness of territories.” It is not clear what those options will be.

“Washington can’t appropriately manage its relationship with the states, much less the territories,” said Matt Fabian, a partner at Municipal Market Analytics.

Even the states are not immune, despite their legal status as sovereigns. Illinois, stuck in political gridlock, is just days from entering its new fiscal year without a balanced budget, in violation of its own constitution. The ratings agencies warn that Illinois’s bond rating is in peril of being downgraded to junk. Once that happens, as the territories show, hedge funds move in and economic management becomes a series of unpleasant choices.

American Samoa, one of the smallest territories, lost one of the biggest engines of its economy in December when a big tuna cannery closed after being required to pay the federal minimum wage. Moody’s Investors Service then put the territory’s debt under negative outlook, citing its fragile economy.

After a bond sale fell through this year, the Virgin Islands could not buy fuel for its power plants, like this one on St. Thomas. CreditMireya Acierto for The New York Times

In the Northern Mariana Islands, the depleted public pension fund was wreaking such fiscal havoc in 2012 that the territory declared it bankrupt, but the case was thrown out. The government then tried cutting all retirees’ pensions 25 percent, but the retirees have been fighting the cuts, and the fund is nearly exhausted anyway.

Even Guam, which enjoys the economic benefit of several large American military installations, has been having qualms about its debt after Puerto Rico’s default.

“Puerto Rico’s troubles provide a teachable moment for Guam,” said Benjamin Cruz, the speaker of the legislature, who recently helped defeat a proposal to borrow $75 million to pay tax refunds. “Spending borrowed money is too easy.”

But the debt dilemma is now most acute in the Virgin Islands — the three main islands are St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John — where the government has been struggling ever since a giant refinery closed in 2012, wiping out the territory’s biggest nongovernment employer and a mainstay of its tax base.

Its troubles began to snowball last July, when Puerto Rico defaulted on most of its debts.

Last August, Fitch downgraded the Virgin Islands’ debt to junk, citing the territory’s chronic budget deficits and habit of borrowing to plug the holes, like Puerto Rico.

More downgrades followed, and in December, Standard & Poor’s dealt the territory a rare “superdowngrade” — seven notches in one fell swoop — leaving it squarely in the junk-bond realm. That scared away investors and forced it to cancel a planned bond offering in January.

The failed bond deal meant there was not enough cash to pay for basic government operations in February or March. As a stopgap, the territory diverted its workers’ pension contributions.

Coreen Lloyd-Adams and Shenika Freeman, registered nurses, preparing a bed in the labor and delivery unit at the Schneider Regional Medical Center in St. Thomas. When federal money has fallen short, the Virgin Islands has had to borrow to keep its hospitals running. CreditMireya Acierto for The New York Times

The Virgin Islands’ governor, Kenneth E. Mapp, said he had no intention of defaulting on any bonds.

“I didn’t ask anybody for debt relief, so don’t put me in the debt-relief boat,” Mr. Mapp said in an interview at Government House, the ornate seat of the territorial government, perched on a hillside overlooking the lush palms and bougainvillea of the capital, Charlotte Amalie, located on St. Thomas.

Still, Mr. Mapp is contending with many of the same problems that proved too much for Puerto Rico, driving it in May to seek bankruptcylike protection under a new law for insolvent territories, known as Promesa. Puerto Rico is now embroiled in heated negotiations over how to reduce its roughly $123 billion in debts and unfunded pensions.

When Congress drafted the Promesa law last year, it made it possible for the other American territories to seek the same kind of help.

Now, even though the Virgin Islands maintains it has no intention of defaulting on its debts — and has even given creditors new protections — the mere prospect of bankruptcy has spooked the markets, putting borrowed money beyond the territory’s reach and greatly limiting its options.

In something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, by giving territories the option to declare bankruptcy, Congress seems to have made such an outcome more likely.

“That innocuous provision, when sent to the bond market, said, ‘Here’s an escape valve for your debt obligations,’” said Mr. Mapp. “That changed the whole paradigm.”

The territory’s pension system made loans to companies, like the inter-island airline Seaborne, that could not borrow elsewhere. CreditMireya Acierto for The New York Times

The problem is that in Puerto Rico, Promesa is turning out to shred the many legal mechanisms that governmental borrowers use to make their debts secure. These include liens and allowing creditors access to the courts.

“Under Promesa, all the security structures are dissolving,” Mr. Fabian said.

Investors who thought they were secured creditors before now find themselves holding moral obligation pledges, which are not enforceable.

After the Virgin Islands’ bond offer fell through in January, the fuel supplier to its electric authority stopped shipments, saying it had not been paid; the authority was already in court with its previous fuel supplier, which had not been paid either.

Then came the House of Representatives’ plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Mapp saw the federal money that the Virgin Islands relies on for its public hospitals going up in smoke.

Mr. Mapp scrambled. He reactivated a five-year economic plan that had been languishing and pushed higher taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and soft drinks through the legislature. He fought for a permanent electric rate increase. He got $18 million in new federal funds for health care. He struck a deal to tax Airbnb rentals.

He hired collection agents to go after delinquent property and income taxes. He scheduled auctions for delinquent properties. He hired a team to work on the pension system, which is in severe distress, with only about six years’ worth of assets left.

Until recently, the pension system was chasing high returns by investing in high-risk assets, like a $50 million placement in life viaticals — an insurance play that is, in effect, a bet that a selected group of elderly people will die soon. It also made loans to an insolvent inter-island airline, a resort that went bankrupt, and a major franchisee of KFC restaurants. The territory’s inspector general has declared the loans illegal.

The Government Employees Retirement System building in St. Thomas. The pension system does not have enough money to pay the $4.5 billion due to retirees. CreditMireya Acierto for The New York Times

Mr. Mapp said he hoped to start restructuring the pension system in the fall. Already, he said, the government had stopped diverting the workers’ pension contributions, as residents began filing their tax returns and payments in April. The tax payments eased the immediate liquidity crisis.

Recently, he met with the Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, to discuss possible incentives to attract tech business to the Virgin Islands. And he hopes to return to the capital markets.

“The fact that we didn’t complete the sale in January gives the impression that our market access is constrained,” said Valdamier O. Collens, the territorial finance commissioner.

Investors have nothing to worry about, said the governor. For decades, the Virgin Islands has used a lockbox arrangement that makes default all but impossible.

Merchants collect sales taxes and send the money to a trustee for the bondholders. Not a cent goes to the territorial government, including the pension fund, until the bond trustee gets enough to make all scheduled bond payments for the coming year.

“We have no access to the moneys before the bondholders are paid,” Mr. Mapp said. “These moneys are taken out of the pie before the pie is even in the oven. Our debt has never been in jeopardy.”

But in Puerto Rico, such lockbox arrangements have turned out to be one of the thorniest disputes of the bankruptcy proceedings. And Mr. Collens, the finance commissioner, is all too aware that the same dynamic could upend the Virgin Islands, too.

“We know that there has been a contagion effect with Puerto Rico,” Mr. Collens said. “The market saw that by the stroke of a pen, Congress could create a Promesa for the rest of the territories.”

Who Knew: Birds And B-52 Bombers, Don’t Mix Well Together

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘TASK & PURPOSE)

The wreckage of a B-52H Stratofortress bomber after crashing in Guam.

NEWS
How A Flock Of Birds And Mechanical Failure Downed A B-52 Stratofortress Bomber In Guam?

on April 24, 2017

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Nearly one year after a B-52H Stratofortress bomber crashed shortly after takeoff at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, the U.S. Air Force has finally identified the culprit: a flock of goddamn birds.

Well, sort of. An investigation by Air Force Global Strike Command concluded that the crash, which took place during a routine training mission on May 19, 2016, was caused by a mechanical failure during an aborted takeoff, military officials announced Monday. But the initial release by the Accident Investigation Board initially attributed the crash to a “bird sighting,” stating that the pilot had “analyzed visual bird activity and perceived cockpit indications as a loss of symmetric thrust required to safely attain flight.”

Crew members’ accounts of the incident in the full Global Strike Command paint a distinctly more “Miracle on the Hudson” picture. From Air Force Times:

An accident investigation board found that the accident began when the pilot of the B-52 — which was assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing’s 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron — saw birds ahead at wing level as the plane was conducting a “high-speed, heavy-weight” takeoff during a routine training mission. The co-pilot then heard and felt a ” ‘couple of thuds’ that sounded like something hitting the aircraft,” the report said.

The pilot and co-pilot then saw three of the plane’s four engines on the right wing “quickly spooling back” and losing thrust necessary to safely get off the ground. The oil pressure spiked on the wing’s fourth engine — which suggested to the pilot that it was also about to fail — and the plane experienced a “noticeable left-to-right yawing motion,” according to the report.

An aborted takeoff is worrying on its own, but this is where things actually got out of control. According to Air Force Times, the B-52’s drag chute failed to inflate, leaving the aircraft to exceed the upper limit of its brakes and skid off the runway. After coming to a halt 300 feet beyond the runway, the fuselage quickly burst into flames, prompting the crew to bail.

Only one of the seven crew members aboard the B-52H suffered minor injuries, but the resulting fire completely destroyed the $112 million aircraft, one of 102 that entered service starting in May 1961. Boeing produced 744 total B-52s for the Pentagon starting in 1955.

Despite the proximity of the bird sighting and “thuds” reported by the co-pilot, the AFGSC report determined that birds likely didn’t actually strike the B-52. The investigation found “no evidence of any organic material being processed through the engine,” so far that “all of the debris found in the engine consisted of pieces of coral, dirt, and grass that was processed through the engines when they contacted the ground.”

“I don’t think they found any evidence, but the plane was burned up,” Global Strike Command spokeswoman Carla Pampe told ABC News, assuring them that the various mechanical issues surrounding the aircraft’s drag chute and brakes “do not indicate any larger issues among the B-52 fleet.” (Good thing the Pentagon’s fleet of Vietnam-era B-52s is slated for a much-needed modernization plan.)

We look forward to watching Clint Eastwood’s film adaptation of the incident.

NORTH KOREA IS ANGRY AT CHINA FOR INCREASING SANCTIONS

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NORTH KOREAN OFFICIAL NEWS AGENCY ‘YONHAP’)

NORTH  KOREA IS ANGRY AT CHINA FOR INCREASING SANCTIONS

2017/04/22

SEOUL, April 22 (Yonhap) — North Korea has apparently asked China not to step up anti-North sanctions, warning of “catastrophic consequences” in their bilateral relations.

Pyongyang issued the warning through commentary written by a person named Jong Phil on its official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), which was released Saturday.

It’s rare for Pyongyang’s media to level criticism at Beijing, though the KCNA didn’t directly mention China in the commentary titled “Are you good at dancing to the tune of others” and dated Friday.

The commentary instead called the nation at issue “a country around the DPRK,” using North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“Not a single word about the U.S. act of pushing the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a war after introducing hugest-ever strategic assets into the waters off the Korean peninsula is made but such rhetoric as ‘necessary step’ and ‘reaction at decisive level’ is openly heard from a country around the DPRK to intimidate it over its measures for self-defense,” the commentary’s introduction in English read.

“Particularly, the country is talking rubbish that the DPRK has to reconsider the importance of relations with it and that it can help preserve security of the DPRK and offer necessary support and aid for its economic prosperity, claiming the latter will not be able to survive the strict ‘economic sanctions’ by someone.”

Then, the KCNA commentary warned that the neighbor country will certainly face a catastrophe in their bilateral relationship, as long as it continues to apply economic sanctions together with the United States.

“If the country keeps applying economic sanctions on the DPRK while dancing to the tune of someone after misjudging the will of the DPRK, it may be applauded by the enemies of the DPRK, but it should get itself ready to face the catastrophic consequences in the relations with the DPRK,” it said.

North Korea watchers here say the commentary appears to be Pyongyang’s response after Chinese experts and media have recently called for escalating sanctions against the North, including the suspension of oil exports, in case of its sixth nuclear test.

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Recent Developments Surrounding The South China Sea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

BANGKOK — A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves:

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly look at the latest key developments in the South China Sea, home to several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.

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PHILIPPINES DOESN’T WANT TO BE USED FOR U.S. FREEDOM OF NAVIGATION MISSIONS

The Philippines has again thumbed its nose at the U.S., its longtime defense ally, saying it won’t be used as a springboard for U.S. ships and planes conducting operations that challenge China in the South China Sea.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that the Philippines will not allow its territory to be used as a staging ground for U.S. patrols — a possible departure from the current policy that allows U.S. aircraft, ships and submarines access to designated Philippine military bases under a 2014 defense agreement.

Lorenzana said U.S. ships and planes can use Guam or Okinawa in Japan for South China Sea missions. But he said they can still refuel and resupply in the Philippines after conducting such maneuvers, not before.

State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said she could not comment on Lorenzana’s remarks as she hadn’t seen them, but added: “Our adherence to freedom of navigation is well known. You know, we will fly, we will sail anywhere within international waters and we will continue that.”

Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, the commander of the U.S. Army’s I Corps who leads international military exercises in the Pacific, said that the U.S. military was prepared to change next year’s joint exercises with the Philippines to humanitarian and disaster relief training.

“If we change the training, we would probably look at putting a different force and a different capability in the Philippines versus the initial one that had been planned to go there,” he told Voice of America, referring to the initial focus on the Philippines’ territorial defense.

President Rodrigo Duterte has reached out to China to try to smooth over the territorial disputes. He also said he wants to scale back the Philippines’ military engagements with the U.S., including scuttling a plan to carry out joint patrols with the U.S. Navy in the disputed waters, which he said China opposes.

But Manila still continues to rely on Washington. On Friday, the Philippine navy took delivery of a third frigate decommissioned from the U.S. Coast Guard.

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US, CHINA REACT TO VIETNAM’S REPORTED ISLAND DREDGING

The United States has called on Vietnam and other claimants to refrain from reclamation and militarization activities in contested South China Sea waters following reports that Hanoi has carried out dredging on one of the features it occupies in the Spratlys.

State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters that the U.S. is aware of the reports.

“We have consistently warned that reclamation and militarization in contested areas of the South China Sea will risk driving a destabilizing and escalatory trend. We encourage all claimants to take steps to lower tensions and peacefully resolve differences,” she said.

Vietnam’s government has not commented on satellite imagery purportedly showing dredging activities inside a channel on Ladd Reef, about 15 nautical miles (28 kilometers) west of Spratly Island where Hanoi recently began extending a runway and building hangers. It wasn’t clear if the latest activity was meant as repair or construction work.

Ladd Reef, which is submerged at high tide, has a lighthouse, which also serves as quarters for Vietnamese troops.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang urged Vietnam to “respect China’s sovereignty and rights, stop illegal invasion and construction activities, and not to take actions that could complicate the situation.”

He repeated Friday that China has “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea.

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CHINA WARNS BRITAIN AGAINST SOUTH CHINA SEA PATROLS

China has reacted angrily to Britain’s announcement that its four Typhoon fighter jets on a training visit to Japan will patrol the skies over the East and South China sea, where Beijing is embroiled in territorial disputes with neighbors.

The British ambassador in Washington, Kim Darroch, also said last week that his government plans to conduct freedom of navigation operations involving its newest aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, when it becomes operational in 2020. He said that Britain “absolutely shares” the U.S. objective to protect freedom of navigation in what it considers international waters despite China’s claiming virtually the entire South China Sea as its territory.

China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency, in an opinion piece, said Darroch was perhaps trying to impress his Japanese colleague and that his remarks create the impression that London may soon deviate from “a largely aloof attitude” toward the South China Sea issue and start to meddle like the U.S. and Japan.

“Should a British warplane embark on a so-called ‘freedom of navigation’ mission in the South China Sea, it would only serve to further complicate the issue and weigh on thriving China-Britain ties,” Xinhua said.

It says China has never denied any legitimate passage of ships or planes in the area.

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CHINA ADDS SECOND CRUISE IN THE PARACELS

China is adding a second cruise ship to the Paracel Islands, a tropical paradise of pristine beaches and little else.

The new cruise ship called Nanhai Zhi Meng will start its maiden four-day voyage in late December from Sanya, a port on southern Hainan Island, to Yinyu, Quanfu and Yagong islands in the Paracels, which are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

The first cruise was launched in April 2013 and so far has attracted 23,000 Chinese tourists.

The tours only serve islands with no military installations and are only open to Chinese nationals. Unlike the largest island in the Paracels, Woody Island, which is also an administrative center founded in 2012, the coral reefs on the cruise tour have no accommodation or any significant infrastructure.

Prices range from $580 to $1,450 per person.

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Associated Press writer Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, and Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.

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