Categories
Politics

China to mark 70 years of communism with massive show of force in Beijing

China will celebrate seven decades of communist rule on Tuesday with a display of power through central Beijing, showing off goose-stepping troops, new missiles and floats celebrating the country’s technological prowess.

The event is the country’s most important of the year as China looks to project an image of confidence in the face of mounting challenges, including three months of anti-government protests in the territory of Hong Kong and a bitter trade war with the United States.

President Xi Jinping will oversee a massed military parade, with 15,000 troops marching through part of Tiananmen Square, as jet fighters scream overhead.

Xi, whose military modernisation programme has rattled nerves around the region, will likely descend from a podium on the Gate of Heavenly Peace to inspect the ranks, though exact details have been kept under wraps ahead of time.

Xi remains broadly popular in China for his aggressive campaign against corruption and for propelling what is now the world’s second-biggest economy to the forefront of global politics.

But the Communist Party remains nervous about its grip on power and international standing.

The capital has been locked down for the parade. Police have told residents whose houses look onto the parade route warned not to look out their windows.

There will be a civilian parade too, of students, model workers, ethnic minorities and even a few foreigners, walking alongside or travelling in floats celebrating China’s achievements, officials said last week.

Once the show is over, 70,000 doves will be released to symbolise peace, according to state media.

In the evening, fireworks will light up Beijing.

Xi faces mounting challenges, notably in Hong Kong, where more large-scale protests are expected on Tuesday. Police there have warned of “very serious violent attack.”

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam is in Beijing for the anniversary celebrations.

Another challenge is Chinese-claimed Taiwan, a free-wheeling democracy with little interest in being run by Beijing and which holds presidential elections in January.

There are also restive minorities in Tibet and heavily Muslim Xinjiang, where China has faced international opprobrium for detaining up to one million ethnic Uighurs in what China calls a de-radicalisation scheme.

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World

New York prosecutors agree to put request for Trump tax returns on hold

The office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said it would not seek to enforce the subpoena until Oct. 7, or two business days after a judge rules on Trump’s challenge to the subpoena, whichever comes first.

A spokesman for Vance declined to comment on the agreement. Lawyers for Trump could not immediately be reached.

Vance had subpoenaed the returns and other records from Trump’s longtime accounting firm Mazars USA on Aug. 29 as part of a criminal investigation.

Earlier this month, Trump sued Vance in Manhattan federal court to block the subpoena, arguing that a president was immune from criminal investigation while in office. U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero heard arguments in the case on Wednesday but has yet to rule.

Mazars, also named as a defendant in Trump’s lawsuit, said in a statement it would “respect the legal process and fully comply with its legal obligations.” It said that as a matter of policy, it did not comment on its work for clients.

The scope of Vance’s investigation is not publicly known.

The subpoena on Mazars came four weeks after Vance issued a separate subpoena to the Trump Organization for records of hush-money payments to two women prior to the 2016 presidential election. Adult-film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal have said they had sexual relationships with Trump, which he has denied.

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World

Brexit Turmoil Intensifies as Court Rebukes Boris Johnson

Mr. Johnson, determined to make a break from Europe by the end of next month whatever the cost, had maneuvered to cut out the lawmakers, many of whom opposed his damn-the-torpedoes approach, in the weeks before the deadline to withdraw from the union.

But the British Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the prime minister had overstepped, and effectively declared Parliament back in session. As lawmakers prepared to reconvene on Wednesday, Mr. Johnson, facing calls to resign, said he would cut short a trip to the United Nations and return home.

The ruling was more than just another political blow to a leader who has suffered more than his share of setbacks. It was a seminal legal moment in Britain, where the courts have historically steered clear of political disputes, and vivid evidence of how the anguished debate over Brexit has strained Britain’s most hallowed public institutions.

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Most immediately, the ruling raised questions about the future of Mr. Johnson, who was already reeling after multiple defeats in Parliament, a rebellion in his own Conservative Party, and new questions about his ties to a young businesswoman when he was mayor of London.

Speaking before a meeting with President Trump at the United Nations, Mr. Johnson said he disagreed “profoundly” with the ruling and would forge ahead with his plans to leave the bloc. But he added, “Let’s be absolutely clear, we respect the judiciary in our country, we respect the court.”

Mr. Trump, who has cultivated Mr. Johnson as a like-minded populist, played down the significance of the decision. Noting that he had lost several cases in the United States Supreme Court before gaining some victories, Mr. Trump said, “For him, it’s another day in the office.”

Still, the debate over whether and how to leave the European Union, which voters agreed to do in a June 2016 referendum, proved the undoing of Mr. Johnson’s two predecessors as divided Britons took to the street to protest. Now, he faces an uncertain future as he ventures back into Parliament.

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Wishing the World Could Be More Soft
On Tuesday, at the same time the prime minister was meeting with Mr. Trump, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, told a cheering audience at his party’s conference that Mr. Johnson had “misled the country” and would soon become “the shortest-serving prime minister there’s ever been.”

Mr. Johnson reiterated his call for a general election, but there were no signs he was any closer to winning the necessary two-thirds approval in Parliament to schedule a vote. Parliament seemed likely to lapse back into paralysis as the deadline for Britain’s exit from the European Union — Oct. 31 — draws closer.

Defenders of the prime minister complained that the court ruling would weaken his hand in negotiating an exit deal with Brussels. That contention seemed debatable, given the deep gulf between the two sides, but the court’s decision certainly tarnishes him at home, at a time when his other stumbles have yet to dent his popularity.

Unlike in the United States, there is little precedent in Britain for judicial review of government decisions. That had led political and legal analysts to speculate that the court might decide it had no authority to rule on the prime minister’s actions, or to deliver a limited rebuke.

Instead, the court’s 11 justices cast aside this tradition of restraint and delivered an unsparing denunciation of the government’s actions, and an unequivocal victory for the prime ministers’ opponents.

“The decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification,” said the court’s president, Baroness Brenda Hale, using the British term for suspending the body.

“The prime minister’s advice to Her Majesty was unlawful, void and of no effect,” she said, declaring that Parliament was no longer suspended.

But with so many forces at play, members of Parliament were uncertain how the situation might unfold when the House of Commons went back into session.

The speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, said the chamber would meet Wednesday, nearly three weeks earlier than the date Mr. Johnson had set.

Mr. Bercow, who has been a thorn in the government’s side because of his habit of allowing backbenchers to influence the debate over Brexit, said the justices “have vindicated the right and duty of Parliament to meet at this crucial time to scrutinize the executive and hold ministers to account.”

“As the embodiment of our parliamentary democracy,” he said, “the House of Commons must convene without delay.”

While the lawmakers scrambled to plot strategy for their unexpected parliamentary session, legal analysts pored over the court’s written opinion to determine just how much it changed the landscape of British constitutional law. On first glance, the answer seemed to be: a great deal.

“It’s striking and unprecedented and will send a shock wave through the U.K.’s democratic institutions,” said Raphael Hogarth, an associate at the Institute for Government, a research group.

“There are some aspects of Parliament’s role in holding the executive to account that we previously thought were just established practice, or perhaps convention,” Mr. Hogarth said. “But what the Supreme Court has done today is rolled them into legal doctrine.”

Mr. Johnson’s next move was not clear, and he did not rule out suspending Parliament again. While he professed respect for the courts, he complained that the decision reflected the views of those who opposed Brexit — and, by implication, the will of the British people, who voted narrowly to leave the bloc.

“I think the most important thing is that we get on and deliver Brexit on Oct. 31, and clearly the claimants in this case are determined to try to frustrate that,” Mr. Johnson told reporters.

Experts have warned that a British withdrawal from the bloc without a formal agreement with the European Union could do serious damage to the economy.

Mr. Johnson has absorbed an extraordinary string of legal and political defeats since becoming prime minister in July. He lost a succession of Parliamentary votes, lost his majority in the House of Commons and lost the support of several members of his Conservative Party — including his own brother.

A new threat emerged over the weekend, when The Sunday Times of London reported that when Mr. Johnson was mayor of London, his office directed government grants and coveted spots in trade delegations to an entrepreneur, a young woman, whose apartment it said he often visited during working hours.

The legal challenges to Mr. Johnson’s suspension of Parliament had begun almost immediately.

This month, an English court ruled that the judiciary could not pass judgment on how or why Mr. Johnson had acted. But days later, Scotland’s highest civil court ruled that the suspension was an unlawful effort to stymie debate before the Brexit deadline, which Mr. Johnson has pledged to meet even if London and Brussels do not reach an agreement on the terms of a British withdrawal.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Johnson’s action was unjustified and that his motive did not matter.

The timing of Parliament’s return is doubly bad for Mr. Johnson because the Conservatives are scheduled to hold their annual conference early next week to showcase the party’s policies ahead of a possible general election. Unless the prime minister can assemble an unlikely majority to suspend Parliament again, that set-piece event may now clash with parliamentary proceedings.

Mr. Johnson planned to cut short his New York trip and fly back to London on Tuesday night, after deliberating by phone with his cabinet, government officials said.

The next-to-last speaker at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Mr. Johnson conspicuously avoided talking about the political earthquake at home. Rather, in what seemed like an improvised address, he warned of the consequences of technology created without ethical underpinnings, likening it to the story of Prometheus in Greek mythology, who is punished for his transgressions by an eagle that repeatedly eats his liver.

“And this went on forever — a bit like the experience of Brexit in the U.K., if some of our parliamentarians had their way,” Mr. Johnson joked, in his one reference to Britain’s chaos.

As a practical matter, it was not clear how much the court decision would change the government’s immediate approach to Brexit. In the days before they were dispersed, members of the House of Commons pushed through a law — over the prime minister’s fierce opposition — that would prohibit Mr. Johnson from pursuing a “no-deal Brexit.”

In symbolic terms, though, the court ruling was a stinging rebuke. It raised the question of whether he had misled the queen in asking her to suspend Parliament. And it added to the perception that his government was willing to run roughshod over Britain’s political conventions in its zeal to extract the country from Europe.

Before his meeting with Mr. Trump, an American reporter asked Mr. Johnson if he planned to resign because of his handling of the matter.

“That was a very nasty question,” Mr. Trump interjected.

Mr. Johnson, however, was more understanding.

“I think he was asking a question, to be fair, that a lot of British reporters would have asked,” he said.

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Business

Sensex zooms 1,075 points to reclaim 39,000-mark

The S&P BSE Sensex and NSE Nifty 50 indices skyrocketed for second straight session after the investor sentiment got a boost from corporate tax rate cuts announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday. The Sensex surged as much as 1,426 points to close above 39,000 mark for the first time since July 17 and the Nifty advanced close 11,700 mark. Rally in banking and fast moving consumer goods shares supported the upmove in today’s session. HDFC twins, ICICI Bank, Larsen & Toubro, ITC and Kotak Mahindra Bank were among the top Sensex movers and contributed over 800 points towards upmove in the Sensex.

The Sensex surged 1,075 points or 2.83 per cent to close at 39,090 and Nifty 50 index rose 329 points or 2.92 per cent to end at 11,603. Today’s upmove comes a day after the Sensex and Nifty surged the most in over 10 years on Friday following announcement of corporate tax rate cut.

“A mega bull market is starting now on the back of the reforms of the century for India… I don’t think we will be looking back anytime soon,” AK Prabhakar, head of research at IDBI Capital, told NDTV.

Nine of 11 sector gauges compiled by National Stock Exchange ended higher led by the Nifty Private Bank index’s 5.6 per cent gain. Nifty FMCG, Nifty Financial Services, Nifty Bank, Nifty Auto, NIfty PSU Bank and Nifty Realty indexes also rose between 2 and 5.4 per cent each.

On the other hand, Nifty IT index dropped nearly 3 per cent after Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services came under selling pressure.

Mid- and small-cap shares also witnessed buying interest in today’s session as the Nifty Midcap 100 rose 2.45 per cent and the Nifty Smallcap 100 index climbed 3.14 per cent.

Bharat Petroleum was top gainer in the Nifty 50 basket of shares, the stock rose 14 per cent to close at Rs. 459. Larsen & Toubro, Bajaj Finance, Eicher Motors, Indian Oil, Asian Paints, Adani Ports, Bajaj Finserv, Axis Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank and ITC were also among the gainers up between 7 and 9 per cent each.

On the flipside, Zee Entertainment, Infosys, Power Grid, Tata Motors, Dr Reddy’s Labs, Cipla and NTPC were among the laggards.

The overall market breadth was positive as 1,197 shares closed higher while 622 closed lower on the NSE.

Categories
Politics

‘Howdy, Modi!’ – Thousands, plus Trump, rally in Texas for India’s leader

The event gives Modi, a nationalist facing international criticism over a recent crackdown in disputed Kashmir, a chance to energize his relationship with Indian-Americans who are active political supporters. Trump, meanwhile, will face a largely foreign-born audience that may not prove receptive to his typical strident anti-immigrant messages.

Jubilant supporters dressed in everything from ornate saris to simple dhotis and even a few cowboy hats waved American and Indian flags, chanted “Modi! Modi!” and munched on concession stand snacks that included Indian staples of samosas and naan breads – along with nachos.

“Today we celebrate our community and its importance in Houston and all America,” said Ketan Inamdar, who works in the administration of Houston’s Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner, and painted an American flag on his right cheek and an Indian one on the left.

“Trump is very welcome here today. This event is to build harmony and love,” he said, standing just in front of the dais where Trump and Modi would speak. “Race, religion and political parties don’t matter today.”

Houston is a rare Democratic stronghold in Republican-dominated Texas and serves as the economic anchor of a state that will be critical to Trump’s 2020 re-election bid. Polls show tepid support by Indian-American voters, some 75% of whom voted for his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, in 2016.

But organizers of the “Howdy, Modi!” event that was kicked off with a 90-minute cultural program featuring 400 costumed dancers, say Trump can expect a receptive audience.

“His presence is an indication of his support and endorsement of the strengthening of India’s relations with America,” said Preeti Dawra, a spokeswoman for the Texas India Forum that organized the event. “This event is about strengthening those ties.”

It will not be the first time Modi, who heads the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, has addressed a large crowd in the United States, which is home to about 4 million Indian-Americans including about 300,000 in Houston and nearby Dallas, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data.

Some 19,000 people turned out for a similar event in New York in 2014, and Indian-American volunteers living in U.S. suburbs helped run a telephone blitz of voters in India in the run-up to his May re-election campaign.

Modi’s visit to Houston comes ahead of this week’s U.N. General Assembly in New York and amid a particularly tense time on the subcontinent.

The Indian leader further strained long-simmering relations with Pakistan last month by revoking the partial autonomy enjoyed by Muslim-majority Kashmir, which both nuclear-armed countries claim. Modi’s move has been met by international criticism.

Pakistan has condemned the crackdown and its Prime Minister Imran Khan warned it would drive more of the world’s Muslims into extremism.

Members of India’s religious minority Sikh and Muslim groups are planning noisy gatherings near the stadium to protest Modi’s Kashmir policy.

The U.S.-India relationship on trade and tariffs is rocky, though Trump and Modi appear to have strong personal ties.

But Devesh Kapur, director of Asia Programs at Johns Hopkins University, who has written a book on Indian-Americans, said that while the rally has symbolic value for both leaders, “it’s unlikely by itself to impact thorny trade issues … but it can’t hurt.”

Kapur also forecast little improvement regarding Trump’s standing with Indian-Americans.

“The Trump administration’s hard-line policies on immigration … have hardly endeared (him) to the community,” Kapur said. “Appearing with PM Modi might mildly help but certainly not reverse the community’s overall pro-Democrat leanings.”

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World

The party will decide our Brexit position, says Corbyn

At the start of Labour’s annual conference in the English seaside resort of Brighton, Corbyn was under renewed pressure from party members and even some of his top team to unequivocally back remaining in the EU in any new vote.

But so far the Labour leader, a leftist who is an instinctive critic of the EU, has struck a neutral stance, saying it was more important to hold the party together by embracing its “remainers” and those who want to leave the bloc.

Just weeks before Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to leave the EU “do or die”, Labour, like the governing Conservatives, is deeply divided over Brexit, increasing the uncertainty over Britain’s departure, the country’s biggest trade and foreign policy decision for more than 40 years.

On the eve of a conference when party officials hoped to present Labour as a government in waiting, a new row broke out when an ally of Corbyn tried to oust deputy leader Tom Watson over Brexit. Corbyn stepped in to defuse the stand-off.

He again appealed to his party to understand that while many of them wanted to remain in the EU, there was a “significant minority” that backed leaving, and so both needed to have an option if it came to a second referendum.

Asked whether Labour would campaign to remain in the EU or to leave with a deal, Corbyn told the BBC he would stage a special conference to determine his party’s stance after an election which is widely expected to come before the year-end.

“I am leading the party, I am proud to lead the party, I am proud of the democracy of the party and of course I will go along with whatever decision the party comes to,” Corbyn said.

“We will put both views to the British people and say look this is the best deal we could get, (and) this is the remain and hopefully the reform option.”

But his foreign affairs policy chief, Emily Thornberry, urged Labour to decide now its stance in a new referendum, voicing growing fears that having an unclear position on Brexit might punish Labour at an election.

“It does seem to me that one way in which we will be able to help ourselves is by having a clear line on Brexit so that we can also talk about everything else,” she told a Huffington Post event at conference.

Johnson, a figurehead for the 2016 Leave campaign, has ruled out a second referendum, refusing even to countenance a further delay to Brexit and pledging to take Britain out of the bloc on Oct. 31, with or without a deal.

Corbyn said his priority was making sure a no-deal Brexit would not happen after opposition lawmakers forced through legislation saying the prime minister must ask for a new extension from the EU if no deal is in place by Oct. 19.

Johnson is increasingly boxed in over Brexit. This week he will face a ruling from the Supreme Court over whether he misled the Queen over suspending parliament – possibly raising the spectre of lawmakers returning to work to try to further challenge his plans to leave the EU.

His foreign minister, Dominic Raab, again said the government would respect “whatever the legal ruling is from the Supreme Court, whether it’s tomorrow or later in the week”.

Asked whether the government would consider suspending parliament for a second time – a move some have mooted as a way to force through Brexit on Oct. 31 – Raab said “Let’s wait and see what the first judgement decides and then we’ll understand the lie of the land.”

But even with Johnson on the backfoot, Corbyn has yet to be able to paper over the rifts in his own party.

The row over Watson has prompted suggestions that Corbyn’s supporters feared a possible succession could reduce the left’s control over the party. On Sunday, Corbyn was forced to say he had no plans to step down.

“It’s wishful thinking by some people,” said Corbyn.

“I am taking the party into the general election … to end austerity, to bring forward policies that bring about a better standard of living and better opportunities for people all across this country. I am enjoying doing that.”

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World

Hong Kong police fire tear gas after storming shopping mall

It was the biggest of several clashes across the Chinese-ruled city, most taking place in or near Mass Transit Railway (MTR) stations, now a familiar target of attack.

Hundreds of protesters, young and old, had gathered in the New Town Plaza in the New Territories town of Sha Tin, chanting: “Fight for freedom” and “Liberate Hong Kong.”

Protesters called for a boycott of businesses seen as pro-Beijing and made a paper chain of receipts from those stores, which were then hung across the mall.

Activists rounded on a man believed to have opposed them when they had trampled on the Chinese flag. Shouting, they pushed him into a corner beside the station and cheered as crowds punched and kicked him.

After 20 minutes, he managed to walk away, dazed and bleeding from the forehead. Protesters also smashed video cameras and ticket booths in the station.

Some started to trash fittings at the entrance of the mall. The protesters then spilled outside where they set fire to barricades made of cardboard, broken palm trees and other debris.

Police fired tear gas after coming under attack from bricks dug up from pathways.

Violence has hit parts of the former British colony at different times over the last three months, but life goes on as normal for most people most of the time.

However, pictures of petrol bombs and street clashes broadcast worldwide present a huge embarrassment for Beijing just days ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on Oct. 1.

The Hong Kong government has already called off a big fireworks display to mark the day in case of further clashes. China, which has a People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong, has said it has faith in Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to solve the crisis.

The protesters are angry about what they see as creeping Chinese interference in Hong Kong, which returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula intended to guarantee freedoms that are not enjoyed on the mainland.

China says it is committed to the arrangement and denies meddling. It has accused foreign governments including the United States and Britain of inciting the unrest.

MTR TARGETED
There was also a noisy standoff between protesters and police at the Tsing Yi interchange station, which serves the Airport Express and the MTR.

There were also scuffles at the Kwai Fong MTR, near Tsing Yi. Activists lit a street fire outside Prince Edward MTR station, north of the Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district, where police said they would use tear gas to disperse them.

Police closed Kowloon station, also on the Airport Express route, where about 400 protesters had gathered, shouting abuse and vandalising property.

Protest violence has often targeted the MTR, which is blamed for closing stations at the government’s behest to stop demonstrators gathering.

Protesters are also demanding that the MTR hand over CCTV footage of police beating protesters on a train at Prince Edward station as they cowered on the floor, smartphone footage of which went viral online.

Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters who threw petrol bombs in two new towns on Saturday after pro-China groups pulled down some anti-government graffiti. There were violent clashes elsewhere in the city.

Police condemned the violence and said there had been many serious injuries in clashes between people of “different views”.

Police earlier prevented a protest targeting the airport.

Pro-democracy protesters have targeted the airport before, occupying the arrivals hall, blocking approach roads and setting street fires in the nearby town of Tung Chung.

Categories
Science

What is Area 51 and what goes on there?

The viral Facebook event “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” is due to take place on 20 September – even though the person who came up with the idea says it was a joke.

So, what is Area 51?

What do we know about Area 51?
Area 51 refers to a map location and is the popular name for a United States Air Force base. It is at Groom Lake, a dry lake bed in the Nevada Desert, 85 miles (135km) north of Las Vegas.

What goes on inside is extremely secret. Members of the public are kept away by warning signs, electronic surveillance and armed guards.

It is also illegal to fly over Area 51, although the site is now visible on satellite images. The base has runways up to 12,000ft (2.3 miles/3.7km) long.

The facility is next to two other restricted military areas: the Nevada Test Site, where US nuclear weapons were tested from the 1950s to the 1990s, and the Nevada Test and Training Range.

The entire range covers more than 2.9 million acres of land.

According to the US military, it represents “a flexible, realistic and multidimensional battle-space to conduct testing tactics development, and advanced training”.

Why was it built?
Area 51 was created during the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union as a testing and development facility for aircraft, including the U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance planes.

Although it opened in 1955, its existence was only officially acknowledged by the CIA in August 2013.

Four months after the CIA’s disclosure, President Obama became the first US president to mention Area 51 publicly.

What goes on there today?
Although official information is sparse, it is believed that the US military continues to use Area 51 to develop cutting-edge aircraft. About 1,500 people are believed to work there, many commuting on charter flights from Las Vegas.

Annie Jacobsen, who has written about the history of Area 51, told the BBC that some of the world’s most advanced espionage programmes are at the site.

“Area 51 is a test and training facility. The research began with the U-2 spy plane in the 1950s and has now moved on to drones”, she says.

Are there aliens and flying saucers at Area 51?
The secrecy surrounding Area 51 has helped fuel many conspiracy theories.

Most famous is the claim that the site hosts an alien spacecraft and the bodies of its pilots, after they crashed at Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. The US government says there were no aliens and the crashed craft was a weather balloon.

Others claim to have seen UFOs above or near the site, while some say they have been abducted by aliens, and even experimented on, before being returned to Earth.

And, in 1989, a man named Robert Lazar claimed he had worked on alien technology inside Area 51. He claimed to have seen medical photographs of aliens and that the government used the facility to examine UFOs.

Area 51’s association with aliens may have served as a useful distraction for the intelligence agencies.

“As early as 1950 the CIA developed a UFO office to deal with the sightings of unidentified flying objects over Nevada. When people first saw the U-2 spy plane flying, no one knew what they were seeing,” says Ms Jacobsen.

“The CIA used that disinformation to their benefit by fostering an alien mythology.”

What happens if people ‘storm’ Area 51
Matty Roberts, 20, created a Facebook event proposing that “we can run faster than their bullets. Let’s see them aliens”. Two million people said they were “going”, although a linked festival has since been moved because of fears of a “possible humanitarian disaster”.

Warning signs around Area 51 make it clear that no trespassers will be tolerated.

The USAF warned that Area 51 “is an open training range for the US Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces”.

It added: “The US Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.”

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World

Prince Andrew ‘was an abuser’, says Epstein accuser

An American woman who says she had sex with Prince Andrew as a 17-year-old has told NBC News that she was “trafficked” to the prince.

Virginia Giuffre, formerly Roberts, described him to the US TV network as “an abuser” and “a participant”.

She has previously said she was abused in the bathroom of a London house, where she was pictured with the prince.

The Duke of York has denied having “any form of sexual contact or relationship” with Ms Giuffre.

It was part of a statement issued by Buckingham Palace, on behalf of the prince, which added that the claims were “false and without any foundation”.

Ms Giuffre is one of several women who claim they were abused by financier Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself in prison last month while awaiting trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.

She claims Epstein directed her to have sex with a number of powerful men, including Prince Andrew.

In August, the prince said in two statements that he was “appalled” by reports of Epstein’s crimes, but never saw any of the behaviour that led to his conviction in the “limited time” they spent together.

Now 35, Ms Giuffre is one of six women interviewed by the US TV network’s Dateline programme about alleged abuse by Epstein.

She said she was recruited by Ghislaine Maxwell, a friend of Epstein, one summer when she was working as a locker room attendant at Mar-a-Lago, the Florida resort owned by President Donald Trump.

Ms Maxwell, who is the daughter of disgraced British newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Ms Giuffre told Dateline: “The first time in London, I was so young. Ghislaine woke me up in the morning and said, ‘You’re gonna meet a prince today.’

“I didn’t know at that point that I was going to be trafficked to that prince.”

‘Do for him what you do for Epstein’
She said she was taken to “Club Tramp” where Prince Andrew gave her alcohol, possibly vodka, in the VIP section.

The prince asked her to dance and the three of them – Prince Andrew, Ms Maxwell and the 17-year-old Ms Giuffre – returned to Ms Maxwell’s house.

Ms Giuffre said that Ms Maxwell told her: “He’s coming back to the house and I want you to do for him what you do for Epstein.”

She said the abuse began in the bathroom and moved to the bedroom.

“He wasn’t rude or anything about it, he said ‘thank you’ and some kind of soft sentiments like that and left,” Ms Guiffre said.

“I just couldn’t believe it, that even royalty were involved.”

Ms Giuffre has previously said that she was abused three times by the Duke of York, with one incident allegedly occurring at Epstein’s New York mansion and another at his estate in the Caribbean.

Speaking about Prince Andrew, she said: “He denies that it ever happened and he’s going to keep denying it ever happened, but he knows the truth and I know the truth.”

She rejected suggestions that she was motivated by the possibility of compensation, saying that the statute of limitations prevented her making a legal claim.

‘Disposable’
The Duke of York said he first met Epstein, a wealthy hedge fund manager, in 1999. Ms Maxwell, described by Epstein as his best friend, was photographed several times at social events with the prince.

Epstein and Ms Maxwell were also pictured together on a pheasant shoot on the Queen’s estate in Norfolk.

In 2010, after Epstein had been convicted of sex offences relating to procuring a minor under 18, Prince Andrew was photographed again with the financier in New York’s Central Park. Footage shows him inside Epstein’s mansion at about the same time.

NBC also spoke to a British woman who says she was abused by Epstein, Anouska de Georgiou.

She told the network that the abuse had conditioned her to be “silenced, isolated, secretive and shameful” but coming together with other alleged victims had created a “very special bond” between them.

“Jeffrey thought that we were disposable and he threw us all away. Look who’s still standing,” she said.

Categories
World

US to send troops to Saudi Arabia

The US has announced plans to send forces to Saudi Arabia in the wake of attacks against the country’s oil infrastructure.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters the deployment would be “defensive in nature”. Total troop numbers have not yet been decided.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the attacks against two oil facilities last week.

But the US and Saudi Arabia have both blamed Iran itself.

What are Trump’s options on Iran?
Why would Iran raise the stakes by attacking Saudi Arabia?

Earlier on Friday however, President Trump announced “highest level” sanctions against Iran while signalling he wanted to avoid military conflict.

“I think the strong person approach, and the thing that does show strength, would be showing a little bit of restraint,” he told reporters in the Oval Office.

The fresh sanctions will focus on Iran’s central bank and its sovereign wealth fund, Mr Trump said.

What did the Pentagon say?
Mr Esper made the announcement alongside the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Joseph Dunford Jr on Friday.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates requested assistance, Mr Esper said. The forces will focus on boosting air and missile defences, and the US will “accelerate the delivery of military equipment” to both nations.

Gen Dunford called the deployment “moderate” and said it would not number in the thousands. He gave no further details about the type of forces to be sent.

According to the New York Times, when reporters asked Mr Esper if military strikes on Iran were still being considered, the defence secretary responded: “That’s not where we are right now.”

What happened in Saudi Arabia?
Strikes hit the Abqaiq oil facility and the Khurais oil field in Saudi Arabia a week ago, affecting the global oil supply.

On Wednesday, the kingdom’s defence ministry showed off what it says are the remains of drones and cruises missiles proving Iranian involvement. The country is however still “working to know exactly the launch point”, a spokesman said.

The US also alleges Iran is responsible. Senior officials have told US media outlets they had evidence the attacks originated in the south of Iran.

Iran has repeatedly denied any role in the strikes, with President Hassan Rouhani calling the attacks a reciprocal act by the “Yemeni people”.

“US is in denial if it thinks that Yemeni victims of 4.5 yrs of the worst war crimes wouldn’t do all to strike back,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted.

Who’s using armed drones in the Middle East?
Why Saudi Arabia and Iran are bitter rivals
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had called the strikes “an act of war”.

Mr Zarif warned on Twitter that Iran had no desire for war but “we will not hesitate to defend ourselves”.

What’s the background to all this?
The Houthis have repeatedly launched rockets, missiles and drones at populated areas in Saudi Arabia. They are in conflict with a Saudi-led coalition which backs a president who the rebels had forced to flee when the Yemeni conflict escalated in March 2015.

Iran is the regional rival of Saudi Arabia and an opponent of the US, which pulled out of a treaty aimed at limiting Tehran’s nuclear programme after Mr Trump took power.

US-Iran tensions have risen markedly this year.

The US said Iran was behind attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf in June and July, as well as on another four in May. Tehran rejected the accusations in both cases.