Trump v Kim: Warmongering rhetoric escalates between the two leaders, as the US President now retorts that North Korea ‘will regret any action it takes on Guam’

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un have been playing a high stakes poker game for some time, using world peace as a bargaining chip.

A few days ago, the US President said that North Korea would be met with ‘fire and fury like the world has even seen’, if the Pyongyang regime threatened US soil.

In response to such inflammatory comments, North Korea retorted that it is planning to launch an attack on the Pacific island of Guam, which is both a popular tourist destination and home to Andersen Air Base. The 36th Wing is housed there, providing mission support duties to a large number of civilian and military aircraft. Crucially, a significant portion of the US’ long-range capability (six B-1B bomber aircraft) are based at Andersen.

Trump, incensed at such low blow, today said that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, will ‘truly regret’ any action it takes against Guam.

Against such warmongering background, China stepped up and said that, should military conflict actually break out, the country will remain neutral if North Korea strikes first. However, if the US and/or South Korea are the ones to start the conflict, China will intervene militarily to defend the current socio-political landscape in the region.

Far from shying away from provocative rhetoric, Trump resorted to Twitter to say “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”

The standoff carries dark and ominous undertones not seen since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, and the escalation of the Cold War after the Able Archer European wargames of 1983.

North Korea is profoundly resentful of the latest raft of sanctions set against the country, over its ongoing testing of missiles, and both it and the US remain locked in a high-risk game of nuclear intentions, after US intelligence sources claimed that North Korea had developed a nuclear warhead small enough to fit into a missile that could theoretically reach US soil.

Still, despite the highly charged rhetoric, there has been no discernible change in the state of readiness of US military assets, so the next steps remain unclear.

The Great Irish Mortgage Rip-off: Interest rates in Ireland far surpass the average across the Euro zone

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If you are lucky (or unlucky, depending on your point of view) to have a mortgage, a large chunk of your monthly income is probably being gobbled up by it, preventing you from living the life you want while funding a bank’s speculation game.

The word mortgage literally means ‘death pledge’, and such device is designed to keep people in hock to a financial institution for the best part of their lives.

Mortgages are big business for these institutions, and in Ireland, they make an extra buck or two by keeping interest rates artificially higher than the average across the Euro zone.

Here, you can expect to pay an average of 3.5% variable rate, whereas in most of Europe, it stands at 1.83%, on average.

Financial gurus here say that the reason for such disparity is the higher funding costs in Ireland, and that the volatility of the Irish market makes lending a much riskier proposition.

Al-Jazeera hits back at Israel’s proposal to block the news channel’s signal in the country

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Al-Jazeera has hit back at Israel’s proposed ban of the broadcaster’s signal in the country.

The news channel, which is owned by the Qatari Government and based in the country’s capital, Doha, has faced similar bans on other Middle East countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Now, Al-Jazeera says that Israel’s position makes mockery of the country’s claim to uphold democratic values, and aligns it instead with the very countries it professes to oppose.

Al-Jazeera’s troubles began soon after the outset of the Gulf Crisis, when several neighbouring countries colluded to ban Qatar from their airspace, and also forbid the importing of any Qatari products.

Last month, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, accused Al-Jazeera of ‘inciting violence’ over its coverage of clashes between Muslim worshippers and Israeli security forces.

US will bolster its military presence in South Korea with the deployment of 16 additional F-16 fighter jets and 200 troops

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The US is set to reinforce its military deployment in South Korea, as it plans to send 16 extra F-16 fighter jets and 200 military personnel to Kunsan Air Base, some 180km south of Seoul.

The four-month long deployment comes in the wake of heightened tensions in the area, prompted by a string of missile tests by North Korea.

South Korea and the US have been conducting joined military exercises in recent days, in a clear show of force to the Pyongyang regime.

The exercises called for two supersonic B-1B Lancer bombers to fly over South Korean airspace.

The Rockwell B-1B is a heavy, long-range bomber, and one of the cornerstones of the US’ strategic bombing fleet, along with the B-2 Spirit and the B-52 Stratofortress.

The aircraft carries the largest payload in the entire US Air Force, and first saw action in 1998.

NASA will test its new planetary defence system on an asteroid zooming close to our planet in October

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NASA will get a chance to test its brand new planetary defence system in October, as 2012 TC4 will fly past Earth at a distance of just 4,200 miles. That is a very close call in astronomical terms indeed, though NASA have confirmed that the space rock will not hit our planet.

2012 TC4 is about 30mts across, and will become the test subject for a new detection and tracking network developed to assess the level of threat posed by rogue asteroids.

The next phase of NASA’s planetary defence system is the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft, which should be ready by 2022.

Anthony Scaramucci booted from the White House after just ten days on the job

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Anthony ‘The Mooch’ Scaramucci is no longer the White House communications director. And having spent less than two weeks on the job, he’s not likely to be missed all that much.

The axe fell on the wealthy former hedge fund impresario earlier today, in a move that shocked many but surprised few. The axeman? The White House’s brand new Chief of Staff, no-nonsense retired Four-Star General John F. Kelly of the USMC.

It had been a relatively quiet two weeks inside the corridors of power at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., by the the current Administration standards at least. The chaos and the uncontrolled dive seemed to have righted themselves, for a while at least. Critical mass appeared to have been averted.

Then, a few short days after launching an expletive-laden tirade against Reince Priebus, The Mooch found himself on the firing line.

Fast-talking Scaramucci entered the White House riding a high horse, wearing aviator glasses with a Top Gun-esque blue tint, and boasting to report directly to his idolized boss, gunning for anyone suspected to have leaked information to the press. He took aim at Reince Priebus, who resigned last Friday ‘to give Scaramucci a clean slate.’

No such luck for Scaramucci, however. The once fawning Mooch was escorted out of the White House today, out of the job he had longed for since the Boss rose to power in the last election.

And Scaramucci is not just out of a job. He is out of a marriage too, as his wife filed for divorce ‘because he had turned into a Trump sycophant.’

Charlie Gard case: Judge will rule on where tragic baby Charlie Gard should spend his last moments of life

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The case of baby Charlie Gard has gripped the public across Europe and elsewhere.

Charlie was born on August 4, 2016, to the parents of Connie Yates and Chris Gard.

Afflicted from birth by a rare genetic condition known as mitochondrial depletion syndrome, Charlie has not had much of a life outside hospital environments in London.

Charlie’s condition causes progressive muscle weakness, and in Charlie’s case, he’s also suffered brain damage, now known to be irreversible.

His parents fought a valiant, but ultimately futile legal battle to have their son treated with an experimental treatment that has reportedly had some success in other cases. Much to the parent’s pain and sorrow however, the window of opportunity to treat Charlie -if there ever was one-, has now passed. The damage to his brain is too great, and cannot be undone. Charlie cannot move or breathe unassisted. His body is being kept alive by machines.

Charlie’s parents are now fighting to be given the chance to take their son home for the last time, and let him pass away there.

A judge will rule tomorrow on the place and manner of Charlie’s passing, after the hospital where the baby is currently being cared for raised concerns about transporting the terminally ill Charlie Gard home, explaining that the ventilator that keeps him alive ‘might not fit through the door.’

Plastic nightmare: Spiralling consumption of plastic bottles threatens to become environmental disaster in the near future

 

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The consumption of plastic bottles has skyrocketed over the last decade. About 480 billion were sold worldwide in 2016. This compares to about 300 billion just ten years before. To put it into perspective, if one were to stack 480 billion bottles, the plastic tower would reach almost half way to the Sun.

Right now, factories produce an average of 20,000 bottles every second of every day. Tonnes of discarded plastic enter the world’s oceans all the time, ultimately entering the food chain through birds and fish.

Plastic bottles have been found in every corner of the oceans, including the Arctic and remote, uninhibited islands. The world’s fatal love affair with plastic is now threatening to become a harmful environmental issue not far into the future, as consumption rates far outstrips recycling.

Experts are warning that plastic pollution will soon become as harmful as climate change, unless drastic measures are taken.

 

War to infinity and beyond: US Army committee votes for the creation of ‘space corps’ army branch

PFC. Vasquez and PFC. Drake, Smartgun Operators attached to 2nd Battalion, Bravo Team of the United States Colonial Marine Corps (USCMC), onboard  the USS Sulaco, from the movie Aliens. Photo credit: Fox.

 

Having almost run out of foes to fight on Earth, the US House Armed Services Committee has set its iron sights on the Solar System.

The committee has voted in favor of the creation of a brand new ‘space corps’ army branch, whose mission would be to conduct exoatmospheric operations.

The proposal, which has bipartisan backing, would require the personal signature of President Donald Trump to become a reality.

If it comes to pass, the so-called ‘Space Corps’ would become the sixth branch of the US Army, and the first US command to be created in seven decades.

The new corps would assume the responsibilities currently carried by the US Air Force in outer space. The Air Force does have a Space Division at present time, but if the new proposals become law, the space branch would become its own entity, featuring a new chain of command.

The ‘space soldiers’ would presumably be tasked with defending US interests around known space, and defend the country from potential alien threats.

B-52 bombers to be deployed to the UK as part of joint NATO exercises

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A number of long-range B-52 bombers will be deployed to the UK to take part in upcoming joint wargames with NATO forces.

The deployment takes place against a backdrop of uncertainty about the future role of US forces in the defence of the continent.

President Donald Trump has alienated many European countries with comments about the perceived obsolescence of NATO, and his views that Germany is not ‘paying enough’ towards defence spending.

Nevertheless, a number of bombers and up to 800 troops will soon arrive in the UK. The upcoming wargames will take place across the Baltic region, right on Russia’s borders, later this month.

The B-52 Stratofortress is one of the US Air Force’s longest serving aircraft.

It first entered active service in 1955, and carried out a large number of bombing operations throughout the Vietnam War, notably during sustained bombardment campaigns as part of operations Rolling Thunder and Arc Light.

The aircraft, which completed its sixtieth operational year in 2015, has seen action as recently as 2016, conducting sorties in Afghanistan.

Having undergone a large number of modifications throughout its long history, the B-52 is likely to remain operational at least until 2045, some 90 years after the aircraft first entered service. This is an unprecedented length of service for any aircraft, civilian or military, in history.