U.S. Air Force F-35s Are Knocking on Russia’s Back Door

The U.S. Air Force has stood up a fighter squadron to operate F-35A Lightning II stealth fighters in Alaska. The re-establishment of the 356th Fighter Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska’s interior puts the radar-evading warplanes within reach of Russian air space.It might not be long before F-35s join Alaska-based F-22s in intercepting Russian bombers and other warplanes that frequently probe American defenses. The single-engine F-35s also quickly could deploy in the event of a major war in the Asia-Pacific region.The 356th Fighter Squadron flew P-51s during World War II and F-100, F-4 and A-7 fighters during the Vietnam War and the Cold War. The squadron deployed A-10 attack planes for the Gulf War in 1991 but fell victim to budget cuts in 1992.The Air Force decided to reestablishing the 356th and another squadron for F-35 operations as well as to expand the flying branch’s presence in Alaska. Squadrons in the state could be among the first to head west in the event of a major conflict with Russia or China.“The 356th FS is reactivating to bring F-35As out to the Pacific theater,” Lt. Col. James Christensen, the squadron’s new commander, said at the unit’s reactivation ceremony in October 2019. “Looking back at the squadron history, the 356th Tactical Fighter Squadron was previously stationed in the Pacific for both the Vietnam conflict, and to defend Korea and Japan out of Kunsan air base and Misawa air base, respectively. We are excited to bring the squadron back to the INDOPACOM theater.”The 356th’s aircraft are on track to arrive in early 2020. The squadron is authorized 24 fighters. The Air Force altogether hopes to acquire around 1,700 F-35s through the 2030s, replacing hundreds of F-16s and A-10s and helping the service to grow its force structure. The Air Force in 2018 announced its goal of adding seven fighter squadrons to the 55 it currently has.Once both of the new F-35 squadrons stand up by 2022, Eielson and nearby Elmendorf Air Force Base will host four squadrons of stealth fighters. Elmendorf’s 3rd Wing flies two squadrons with around 40 F-22 Raptors and has been on the cutting edge of tactics-development for the twin-engine jet.Read the original article. Story continues

Tyson Foods bans growth drug from U.S. hog supply as meat...

1 / 2Tyson Foods bans growth drug from U.S. hog supply as meat firms chase China demandTyson Foods brand frozen chicken wings are pictured in a grocery store freezer in the Manhattan borough of New York CityBy Tom Polansek(Reuters) - Tyson Foods Inc in February will stop buying U.S. hogs raised with a growth drug banned by China, the company said on Thursday, as global meat suppliers seek an edge in boosting sales to Chinese buyers facing a huge pork shortage due to an outbreak of a fatal pig disease.The halt in the use of the drug, ractopamine, reflects a change in strategy for Tyson, company watchers say. The company previously sought to profit by filling holes in U.S. supplies that were left when industry rivals like Smithfield Foods and JBS USA sent American pork to China.Now, Tyson, Smithfield and JBS - the top three U.S. pork processors - are vying for business in China, the world's biggest pork consumer, where an outbreak of African swine fever has devastated the hog herd, pushed pork prices to record highs and sent imports rocketing. Though not harmful to humans, the disease is deadly to pigs, with no vaccine available.But U.S. companies have to cope with a significant handicap compared to suppliers based elsewhere. Beijing has imposed tariffs on imports of U.S. pork due to the long-running trade war between the world's two biggest economies."Of course it's all to pave the way to get ready to start shipping very large amounts of pork to China," said Dennis Smith, a commodity broker for Archer Financial Services in Chicago.Tyson, the biggest U.S. meat producer, is "the last shoe to drop," said Smith, who said he learned of the policy change from a farmer. The company already generates almost $1 billion in pork export sales annually."We believe the move to prohibit ractopamine use will allow Tyson Fresh Meats and the farmers who supply us to compete more effectively for export opportunities in even more countries," Steve Stouffer, president of Tyson Fresh Meats, said in a statement.China's pork imports climbed 76% in September from a year earlier with African swine fever having decimated its domestic hog herd, according to Chinese government data.The disease surfaced more than a year ago in China - the first time it had been detected in Asia - and has since spread to more than 50 countries, according to the World Organization of Animal Health, including those accounting for 75% of global pork production.Story continuesChinese authorities blocked the use of ractopamine in livestock in 2002 over health concerns, and the European Union also prohibits the drug. The United States and other countries say it can be safely used to add lean muscle to pigs.Tyson previously offered a small amount of ractopamine-free pork to export customers by working with farmers who raise hogs without the feed additive. Those programs "no longer adequately meet growing global demand," Tyson said.Tyson's share price was down 1.3 percent at $80.80 in Thursday morning trade.JBS USA, owned by Brazil's JBS SA, said this month it would remove ractopamine from its hog supply chain.Smithfield, owned by China's WH Group, raises pigs on company-owned and contract farms without the drug, but still processes pigs from other farmers who use ractopamine.Elanco Animal Health manufactures a ractopamine feed ingredient under the brand name 'Paylean'.“We’re disappointed in any decision that would take safe, proven technology out of the hands of farmers,” Elanco spokeswoman Keri McGrath said in a statement Thursday.(Reporting by Tom Polansek; Additional reporting by Julie Ingwersen in Chicago; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Chizu Nomiyama)

Putin signals Russia’s return to Africa with summit

1 / 4Russia is hoping to reassert its influence in AfricaRussia is hoping to reassert its influence in Africa (AFP Photo/Alexey NIKOLSKY)Moscow (AFP) - President Vladimir Putin hosts dozens of African leaders next week as Russia seeks to reassert its influence on the continent and beyond.The heads of some 35 African countries are expected for the first Africa-Russia Summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi next Wednesday and Thursday.For Putin, the summit is a chance to revive Soviet-era relationships and build new alliances, bolstering Moscow's global clout in the face of confrontation with the West."Russia has always been present in Africa, this is a very important continent," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said ahead of the summit."Russia has things to offer in terms of mutually beneficial cooperation to African countries."Though never a colonial power in Africa, Moscow was a crucial player on the continent in the Soviet era, backing independence movements and training a generation of African leaders.Remnants of that influence remain, from the Kalashnikov rifle on the flag of Mozambique to the Angolan flag with its hammer-and-sickle-style gear and machete.The leaders of former Soviet client states like Angola and Ethiopia will be at the forum, but so will others from where Moscow's engagement has been traditionally low, like Nigeria and Ghana.Egyptian President and African Union chairman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi -- who Putin has fostered as an ally -- will co-chair.- 'Pivot towards Africa' -"This forum signals Russia's decisive pivot towards Africa," said Yevgeny Korendyasov, an expert at Moscow's Institute for African Studies and former ambassador in Burkina Faso and Mali.Russia's ties with Africa declined with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and in recent years China has emerged as a key foreign power on the continent.But Putin's Kremlin -- emboldened by its growing presence in the Middle East and the success of its military intervention in Syria -- is trying to play catch-up.Russian companies have invested in oil and gas in Egypt and Nigeria, in diamonds in Angola and in metals in Guinea and South Africa.Moscow has also used a combination of arms exports, security expertise and support for local governments to deepen its political and economic presence.Story continues"With varying degrees of success, Moscow is attempting to mobilise its Cold War-era connections and convert its old ideological links into business," said Arnaud Dubien, the head of the Franco-Russian Observatory.- Weapons and mercenaries -The Central African Republic -- whose president Faustin-Archange Touadera will attend the summit -- has been one of the most prominent examples.Moscow has delivered weapons along with contractors to train soldiers in the former French colony.It has flaunted its growing presence in the country, with Russian military contractors patrolling the streets of the capital Bangui and a Russian, Valery Zakharov, serving as security advisor to Touadera.Moscow has struck a series of military agreements with other African countries and thousands of private Russian security contractors -- many of them with experience fighting in eastern Ukraine and Syria -- are reported to be working on the continent.They include mercenaries from the Wagner Group believed to be controlled by Putin ally Evgeny Prigozhin.In Libya, Russian contractors are reported to be fighting on the side of military commander Khalifa Haftar and in Mozambique they helped the government fight jihadists.Russian fighters have also been spotted in Sudan and Madagascar.Still, analysts say it's too soon to be speaking of a major Russian presence across the continent."There is a real difference between the masterfully promoted narrative and the reality," French geopolitical analyst Arnaud Kalika said.In a research paper for the French Institute of International Relations, Kalika said Russia's return to Africa was more modest than Moscow would want the world to believe."Russia needs Africa now more than Africa needs Russia."

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The U.S. Military Has a Lot of Firepower in the Middle...

In response to continued threats from Iran and a request from Riyadh, the Pentagon announced Friday the deployment of additional U.S. forces to Saudi Arabia. Washington is seeking to strengthen U.S. combat power in the Middle East as a means to deter additional Iranian aggression and avoid a wider conflict.The deployment represents the latest U.S. response to the September 14 attacks on Saudi Arabia’s Khurais oil field and Abqaiq oil-processing facility. The attack featured a swarm of cruise missiles and low-flying drones. Abqaiq represents the world’s largest such facility, and the attack temporarily knocked-out nearly 6 percent of global crude oil production.Shortly after the September 14 attacks, the Department of Defense deployed an additional Patriot missile defense battery, four Sentinel radars, and 200 support personnel to Saudi Arabia. Friday’s announcement adds two additional fighter squadrons, two more Patriot batteries, one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, and one air expeditionary wing.Read the original article.

What Did America Offer North Korea at Working-Level Talks? One Report...

Do we finally know what U.S. negotiators offered North Korea at recent working-level talks that broke down in just a few hours? According to several news reports, citing just one anonymous source, we just might have an idea.The offer might look familiar, as it is similar to a reported U.S. offer that had been in the press. According to the Korean outlet Hankyoreh which picked up a report in the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, the deal Washington pitched Pyongyang looked like this:The US offered to temporarily suspend the ban on North Korean exports of coal and textiles as a reward for denuclearization. After the working-level meeting in Stockholm on Oct. 4-5, North Korea declared that the talks had broken down and claimed that the US had shown up “empty-handed.” The US State Department countered by saying it had brought “creative ideas.” The Japanese paper said that these “creative ideas” were the rewards offered during the talks.The Japanese newspaper reported that the US had proposed two conditions for easing sanctions. First, the US asked North Korea to promise that it would hand over all nuclear weapons and materials in its possession and completely dismantle facilities related to nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and ballistic missiles. Second, it asked the North to completely dismantle its Yongbyon nuclear complex and to effectively halt its uranium enrichment activities. The US apparently indicated that, if North Korea agreed to those conditions, the US was willing to not only provisionally lift the embargo on coal and textiles but also allow humanitarian aid to the North and officially declare the end of the Korean War. According to the Yomiuri Shimbun, North Korea retorted that the US’ conditions were excessive and asked for all sanctions to be lifted.The newspaper said that North Korea complained to the US that it hadn’t been rewarded for its suspension of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and nuclear weapon testing. Furthermore, North Korea asked the US to halt its joint military exercises with South Korea, stop deploying cutting-edge weaponry to South Korea, and to refrain from deploying strategic bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula. According to the newspaper, the US responded by voicing its concerns about North Korea’s launch of the Pukguksong-3 missile, apparently launched from a submarine. The launch, US negotiators reportedly said, was entirely unhelpful for dialogue between the two countries.This, of course, raises a lot of questions as there are key details that would have needed to be ironed out. First and most important, would North Korea give up its weapons of mass destruction, missiles, nuclear material and facilities before sanctions relief comes? Knowing how long that process could take--nevermind confirmed--we could be talking about years for Pyongyang to get any benefit if that is the case. Story continuesSecond, how would the deal be implemented? This then opens the floodgates to many more questions. What would inspection teams look like? Who would be part of them? Who would determine if North Korea is following the terms of this deal? Are there snapback provisions if Pyongyang cheats?There is also some strange problems with the deal, or at least the wording of the report. If America demanded the closure of the Yongbyon nuclear facility, wouldn’t that already be covered in the demand to close “completely dismantle facilities related to nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and ballistic missiles.” What facilities does this cover? Production? As you can see, this report leaves us asking more questions than gaining any sort of clarity, as there seem to be parts missing or jumbled in someway.But in the end all of these questions are for nothing. Such a deal, if this was the offer to begin with, would have been a non-starter to North Korea as it essentially asks for something close to denuclearization in exchange for just a few sanctions removed. Good luck with that.Harry J. Kazianis serves as Director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @Grecianformula. Image: Reuters. Read the original article.

Vietnam urges restraint amid maritime tensions with China

HANOI, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Vietnamese President and Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong has called for restraint in the disputed South China Sea amid a tense months-long standoff between Chinese and Vietnamese ships, state media reported on Tuesday.China claims almost all the energy-rich waters but neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.Tension escalated when Beijing dispatched a research ship to conduct an energy survey in waters controlled by Vietnam in July."On the subject of foreign policy, including the East Sea issue, the General Secretary stressed the importance of maintaining a peaceful and stable environment, and resolutely fighting to protect Vietnam's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity," the state-run Voice of Vietnam (VOV) said on its website.The South China Sea is known as the East Sea in Vietnam.Vietnam has good relations with China but should "never compromise" on its sovereignty and territorial integrity, VOV quoted Trong as saying.The Chinese vessel, the Haiyang Dizhi 8, was continuing its survey in Vietnam's exclusive economic zone late on Tuesday, under escort from at least three Chinese ships, according to data from Marine Traffic, a website that tracks vessel movements.Vietnam's foreign ministry has repeatedly accused the vessel and its escorts of violating its sovereignty and has demanded that China remove its ships from the area.On Sunday, Vietnam pulled DreamWorks' animated film "Abominable" from cinemas over a scene featuring a map which shows China's unilaterally declared "nine-dash line" in the South China Sea.The U-shaped line is used on Chinese maps to illustrate its claims, including large swathes of Vietnam's continental shelf, where it has awarded oil concessions.In August, police broke up a brief protest outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi over the survey vessel.Trong has made more public appearances in recent weeks after suffering from an unspecified illness..The 75-year-old has presided over a widespread crackdown on corruption in the Southeast Asian country that has seen several high-ranking ministers and politicians, including one Politburo member, sent to prison on charges ranging from embezzlement to economic mismanagement. (Reporting by Khanh Vu Editing by James Pearson)Story continues

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Atatiana Jefferson, Black Women Fatally Shot By White Police Officer

This is Atatiana Jefferson. She was 28 yrs old, a graduate of Xavier Univ. and lived w/ her nephew. A Fort Worth, TX cop shot and killed her thru her window as she stood peacefully and unarmed in her own home. Black people are subject to deadly force even when they stay home. pic.twitter.com/09dA2nl3v5 — Kristen Clarke (@KristenClarkeJD) October 13, 2019 Atatiana Jefferson Killed By White Police Officer In Her Home The death of a black woman minding her business in her home before being killed by police is causing Botham Jean comparisons. Atatiana Koquice Jefferson, 28, died Saturday after a Forth Worth, Texas officer opened fire on her inside her house.NBC Dallas-Forth Worth reports that a neighbor called the police to report that Jefferson’s door was open. An officer who arrived on the scene peered into Atatiana’s window and spotted her and yelled, “Put your hands up — show me your hands,” before opening fire and shooting her. The young woman was shot once and although aid was rendered she was pronounced dead. The officer who killed Atatiana has yet to be identified but authorities tell NBC he’s on administrative leave pending an investigation. He’s also been confirmed as white. Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price released a statement on the shooting. “Writing a statement like this is tragic and something that should never be necessary. A young woman has lost her life, leaving her family in unbelievable grief. All of Fort Worth must surround Atatiana Jefferson’s family with prayers, love and support,” Price said. Mayor Price has promised a “complete and thorough investigation” to be conducted by Police Chief Ed Kraus, which will then be forwarded to the Tarrant County District Attorney Law Enforcement Incident Team. This is so incredibly tragic and sad. We’re thinking of the family and friends of Atatiana who lost their loved one for absolutely no reason.

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