US tests first land-based cruise missile after quitting INF treaty

Robie de Guzman   •   August 21, 2019   •   269

The U.S. Defense Department on Monday announced the test of a medium-range land-based cruise missile for the first time after pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

It was reported that the “conventionally configured” test missile hit the target after flying more than 500 kilometers on Sunday local time in San Nicolas Island, California.

That was the first time the United States carried out a missile test previously prohibited by the INF, marking the resumption of an arms race.

According to the statement, the data collected from this test will be applied for development of future intermediate-range capabilities.

The INF Treaty, signed in 1987 between the former Soviet Union and the United States, had banned land-based missiles with a range of 500 km (310 miles) to 5,500 km (3,410 miles).

The treaty ceased to operate on Aug 2 after the United States and Russia accused each other of violating it.

On the same day, the U.S. Defense Department announced the full development of the ground-based conventional cruise missile previously banned by the arms control treaty. (Reuters)

Walmart to stop selling ammunition for handguns, assault-style weapons

Jeck Deocampo   •   September 4, 2019

 Walmart Inc said on Tuesday (September 3) it would discontinue sales of ammunition for handguns and some assault-style rifles in stores across the United States, in response to the recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

The largest U.S. arms retailer, which has been under pressure to change its policies on gun sales, also said it would discontinue handgun sales in Alaska, the only state where it still sells these guns.

Walmart has already ended sales of assault rifles and raised the minimum age for gun purchases to 21. The latest move will leave it focused on weapons for hunting, including deer rifles, shotguns, and related ammunition.

The company will stop selling all handgun ammunition and some short-barrel rifle ammunition, such as the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber after clearing current stock.

While short-barrel ammunition is commonly used in some hunting rifles for small animals such as prairie dogs, they can also be used in military-style weapons with high-capacity magazines.

The retailer said it took the action following the death of 22 people in a mass shooting in a Walmart store in Texas as well as deadly shootings in Ohio and Saturday’s incident in Midland and Odessa, Texas.

Just last month, the company said it would not change its policy on selling firearms even as it took down signs and playable demos of violent video games.

“As a company, we experienced two horrific events in one week, and we will never be the same,” Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon said in a letter to Walmart’s associates. (REUTERS)

Hong Kong leader says she would ‘quit’ if she could; fears her ability to resolve crisis now ‘very limited’

Robie de Guzman   •   September 3, 2019

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam

Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she has caused “unforgivable havoc” by igniting the political crisis engulfing the city and would quit if she had a choice, according to an audio recording of remarks she made last week to a group of business people.

At the closed-door meeting, Lam told the group that she now has “very limited” room to resolve the crisis because the unrest has become a national security and sovereignty issue for China amid rising tensions with the United States.

“If I have a choice,” she said, speaking in English, “the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology.”

Lam’s dramatic and at times anguished remarks offer the clearest view yet into the thinking of the Chinese leadership as it navigates the unrest in Hong Kong, the biggest political crisis to grip the country since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Hong Kong has been convulsed by sometimes violent protests and mass demonstrations since June, in response to a proposed law by Lam’s administration that would allow people suspected of crimes on the mainland to be extradited to face trial in Chinese courts.

The law has been shelved, but Lam has been unable to end the upheaval. Protesters have expanded their demands to include complete withdrawal of the proposal, a concession her administration has so far refused. Large demonstrations wracked the city again over the weekend.

Lam suggested that Beijing had not yet reached a turning point. She said Beijing had not imposed any deadline for ending the crisis ahead of National Day celebrations scheduled for October 1.

And she said China had “absolutely no plan” to deploy People’s Liberation Army troops on Hong Kong streets.

World leaders have been closely watching whether China will send in the military to quell the protests, as it did a generation ago in the bloody Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing.

Lam noted, however, that she had few options once an issue had been elevated “to a national level,” a reference to the leadership in Beijing, “to a sort of sovereignty and security level, let alone in the midst of this sort of unprecedented tension between the two big economies in the world.”

In such a situation, she added, “the room, the political room for the chief executive who, unfortunately, has to serve two masters by constitution, that is the central people’s government and the people of Hong Kong, that political room for maneuvering is very, very, very limited.”

Three people who attended the meeting confirmed that Lam had made the comments in a talk that lasted about half an hour. A 24-minute recording of her remarks was reviewed by Reuters.

The meeting was one of a number of “closed-door sessions” that Lam said she has been doing “with people from all walks of life” in Hong Kong.

China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, a high-level agency under China’s cabinet, the State Council, did not respond to questions submitted by Reuters. China’s State Council Information Office did not immediately respond to questions from Reuters. (Reuters)

(Production: Hyunyoung Yi)

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Trump warns residents to heed hurricane Dorian evacuation orders

Robie de Guzman   •   September 2, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump warned on Sunday (September 1) that Hurricane Dorian would likely impact the eastern seaboard from Florida to North Carolina.

“It’s one of the largest we’ve ever seen. Its effects will be felt hundreds of miles or more from the eye of the storm and long before it potentially makes landfall,” Trump said during a briefing with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Hurricane Dorian became the strongest storm in modern records to hit the northwestern Bahamas and is expected to pound the islands with up to two days of torrential rain, high waves and damaging winds as parts of Florida evacuated before it took aim at the U.S. mainland.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Dorian made landfall on Elbow Cay in the Abaco Islands as a Category 5 storm on Sunday with maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour (295 km per hour) and gusts of more than 220 mph (354 kph).

“Millions of people from Florida to North Carolina were bracing to see whether Dorian avoids a U.S. landfall and, as predicted, veers north into the Atlantic Ocean after hitting the Bahamas. Even a glancing blow from one of the strongest storms ever to menace Florida could bring torrential rains and damaging winds, and “a Florida landfall is still a distinct possibility,” the Miami-based NHC warned.

FEMA is moving food, water and generators into the southeastern United States, said acting Administrator Peter Gaynor has said. (Reuters)

(Production: Arlene Eiras)

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