James Holbrooks – March 30, 2017
Adding fuel to an already highly combustible situation in Southeast Asia, Reuters reported Tuesday that China has “largely completed major construction of military infrastructure on artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea,” and that the Asian superpower “can now deploy combat planes and other military hardware there at any time.”
Citing satellite imagery analyzed by the Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative, part of Washington, D.C.’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, the news agency writes that “work on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs in the Spratly Islands included naval, air, radar and defensive facilities.”
Sticking to the mainstream narrative that China is an aggressor in claiming sovereign rights to the majority of the South China Sea, Pentagon spokesman Commander Gary Ross says the new images confirm what the U.S. military already knows.
“China’s continued construction in the South China Sea is part of a growing body of evidence that they continue to take unilateral actions which are increasing tensions in the region and are counterproductive to the peaceful resolution of disputes,” he told Reuters.
Sputnik News – March 29, 2917
Brussels will do everything to prevent other EU countries from following Britain’s example, political expert and representative of the Russian Council for International Affairs Lyudmila Babynina told Sputnik.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has formally begun the process of withdrawing the UK from the European Union by sending a letter of intent to European Council President Donald Tusk, triggering Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon and paving the way for the biggest political upheaval in the EU’s history.
According to the provisions of the 50th article of the Lisbon Treaty, Britain will have to leave the Union on March 29, 2019, exactly two years after the official start of the withdrawal process.
Despite concerns that other EU countries may follow the suit, Babynina believes that such a scenario is unlikely.
Ali Meyer – March 30, 2017
Federal debt held by the public is set to hit 77 percent of gross domestic product by the end of this year, the highest level seen since shortly after World War II, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s 2017 long-term budget outlook.
Federal debt held by the public, defined as the amount that the federal government borrows from financial markets, has ballooned over the last decade. In 2007, the year the recession began, debt held by the public represented 35 percent of GDP. Just five years later, federal debt held by the public has doubled to 70 percent and is projected to continue rising.
Debt has not seen a surge this large since the increase in federal spending during World War II, when debt exceeded 70 percent of GDP. The budget office projects that growing budget deficits will cause the debt to increase sharply over the next three decades, hitting 150 percent of GDP by 2047.
Associated Press – March 30, 2017
WASHINGTON– Republican legislation letting states deny federal family planning money to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers squeezed narrowly through the Senate Thursday, rescued by an ailing GOP senator who returned to the Capitol after back surgery and a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.
In Congress’ latest clash mixing the politics of abortion, women’s health and states’ rights, Pence cast the decisive vote in a 51-50 roll call. The tally had been tied after two GOP senators, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Maine’s Susan Collins, joined Democrats opposing the measure.
Senate approval sent the legislation to President Donald Trump, who was expected to sign it. The House voted its consent last month.
Strange Sounds – Mar 30, 2017
Green comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak is flying over Earth’s North Pole this week where sky watchers can find it all night long not far from the bowl of the Big Dipper.
At closest approach on April 1st, it will be just 21 million km from Earth.
Like many comets, 41P has a verdant hue because its atmosphere contains diatomic carbon (C2). This substance glows green in the near vacuum of space.
Comet 41P is not only approaching Earth, but also the sun. April 12th is the date of perihelion (minimum distance from the sun). This means we are catching the comet just as solar heating is furiously searing its icy core.
The green atmosphere should be well puffed up by streamers of vaporizing gas. Optimistic estimates of the comet’s brightness place it at magnitude +6, near the lower limit of naked-eye visibility.
This is not a Great Comet, but it should be a good one. The best time to observe the comet is during the dark hours before sunrise when the green fuzzball is high in the northern sky.
Jack Montgomery – March 28, 2017
Security sources have told Sky News that more than four hundred British jihadists who travelled to the Middle East to fight for terror organisations like Islamic State and the al-Nusra Front have returned home, and most have evaded the authorities.
Former Scotland Yard Specialist Firearms Officer and author Tony Long told the broadcaster these fighters could pose serious problems for the British authorities.
“These are combat-hardened soldiers,” he said. “They might not be trained in the way that NATO might train their soldiers but they’ve seen more close quarter conflict and more urban fighting than probably most members of the British Armed Forces and you have to respect that.
“Of course they’re bringing that knowledge back with them to the UK and it’s very, very difficult because of the legal restrictions that are put on the security services and the police to actually monitor all of these people.”
DW – March 29, 2017
Brussels is taking the divorce hard and wants to make sure Britain doesn’t have it easy either. Holding the official letter from British Prime Minister Theresa May aloft on Wednesday, European Council President Donald Tusk was emotional.
“There is no reason to pretend that this is a happy day, neither in Brussels, nor in London,” Tusk told a briefing of reporters shortly after the document was delivered by British Ambassador Sir Tim Farrow. “After all, most Europeans – including almost half of British voters – wish that we would stay together, not drift apart. As for me I will not pretend that I am happy today.”
“It’s the first time that a member state has decided to leave us,” lamented European Parliament President Antonio Tajani. “Although we fully respect the democratic will of the majority of the British people, today is not a good day for Europe.”
Reuters – March 29, 2017
An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.9 struck near Komandorskiye Ostrava in Russia’s far east on Wednesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
The quake struck at a depth of about 33 km (20 miles) just off the coast in the Bering Sea. It was originally recorded with a magnitude of 7.0.
There was no tsunami threat after the quake, according to the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
Penny Starr – March 29, 2017
First Liberty Institute, a national law firm committed to protecting religious liberty, is taking up the case of Air Force Col. Michael Madrid. He has been targeted by his commanding officer for reprimand involving a closed investigation that cleared the colonel of false claims by a court-marshaled soldier that Madrid had made disparaging remarks about his homosexuality.
Two years after the case was closed and Madrid had continued his exemplary military career, including the promotion to colonel, he was placed under a new commander, Maj. Gen. John E. McCoy. McCoy accessed the report and without any new evidence decided that Madrid was guilty and issued a letter of reprimand — crippling, if not ending, his chance for future promotions.
On Wednesday, the institute sent a demand letter to the U.S. Air Force stating that Madrid had been denied due process and that the Letter of Admonishment should be rescinded. If not, the letter said the institute is prepared to take legal action.
Bob Unruh – March 29, 2017
The state of California has belatedly jumped into the effort to protect Planned Parenthood by filing criminal charges against the two investigators who published undercover videos that exposed the abortion provider’s trade in baby body parts.
And the video makers with the Center for Medical Progress have responded by releasing yet another video. In the latest, a former employee of Planned Parenthood explains how she tries to make sure babies are dismembered before removal because of the visual impact of the dead victim.
“It’s not a matter of how I felt about [the unborn infant] coming out intact, but I’ve got to worry about my staff, and you know, people’s feelings about it, coming out looking like a baby,” says DeShawn Taylor, a former medical operator for Planned Parenthood Arizona who now runs her own abortion business.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Tuesday he has filed 15 criminal charges against the pro-life investigators, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, who released the videos through their Center for Medical Progress.