U.S. aircraft carrier joins South Korea drills

North Korea warns the United States of “merciless” attacks if the carrier infringes on its sovereignty or dignity during U.S.-South Korean drills. With the USS Carl Vinson ploughing through seas off South Korea, rival North Korea has warned the United States of “merciless” attacks if the carrier infringes on its sovereignty or dignity during US-South Korean drills. F-18 fighter jets took off from the flight deck of the nuclear-powered carrier in a dramatic display of US firepower amid rising tension with the North, which has alarmed its neighbours with two nuclear tests and a series of missile launches since last year. “While this is a routine deployment for the Carl Vinson strike group, really the centrepiece for us… is this exercise we’re doing with the ROK navy called ‘Foal Eagle’,” Rear Admiral James W. Kilby, commander of the Carrier Strike Group 1, said, referring to South Korea as the Republic of Korea.

North Korea’s secretive missile program

North Korea is believed to have more than 1,000 missiles of varying capabilities, including long-range missiles, which could one day strike the US. Pyongyang’s programme has progressed over the last few decades from tactical artillery rockets in the 1960s and 70s, to short­-range and medium-range ballistic missiles in the 1980s and 90s. Systems capable of even greater ranges are now understood to be under research and development.

Missile ranges

Short range: 1,000km or less

Medium range: 1,000-3,000km

Intermediate range: 3,000-5,500 km

Intercontinental range: Greater than 5,500km

Source: Federation of American Scientists

Short-range missiles

North Korea’s modern missile programme began with Scuds, with its first batch reportedly coming via Egypt in 1976.

By 1984, it was building its own versions called Hwasongs.

It is believed to have a variety of these short-range missiles which could target neighbouring South Korea. Relations between the two Koreas are fraught and they remain, technically, in a state of war. The Hwasong-5 and Hwasong-6, also known as Scud-B and C, have ranges of 300km and 500km respectively, according to the US Center for Nonproliferation Studies. These missiles can deliver conventional warheads, but may also have biological, chemical and nuclear capabilities. Both these missiles have been tested and deployed, and the Hwasong-6 has also been sold to Iran.

Intercontinental ballistic missiles

North Korea is believed to be developing its longest-range missile, a road-mobile weapon which observers have dubbed the KN-08 or Hwasong-13. One of the first signs of this development was in September 2016, when the country tested a new rocket engine which some said could power an intercontinental ballistic missile. The US Pentagon believes North Korea has at least six KN-08s in its possession, which could be capable of reaching much of the United States. North Korea is believed to have also developed an upgraded version called KN-14. Neither missile has been publicly tested before.

Fleeing to Canada from the U.S.

Some cross by foot, others take taxis close to the Canada-U.S. border, crossing into Quebec in an effort to claim asylum. 

Inside the Dakota pipeline protest camp

A few holdouts remain in freezing temperatures at the protest camp near Standing Rock Indian Reservation, as the Army Corps of Engineers grants an easement for the Dakota Access pipeline.

Winter on Fire : Ukraine’s winter war

Fighting between Ukrainian government troops and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 9,600 people in eastern Ukraine since it began in 2014. Both Ukraine and the separatists are party to a truce under which both should cease fire and stop advancing. Russia has been in control of Crimea since it annexed the Crimean peninsula in March 2014 after a hastily called referendum.

Travelers arrive in US to hugs and tears after ban is lifted

Travelers from the seven predominantly Muslim countries targeted by President Donald Trump enjoyed tearful reunions with loved ones in the U.S. on Sunday after a federal judge swept the ban aside. Airlines around the world allowed people to board flights as usual to the United States. One lawyer waiting at New York’s Kennedy Airport said visa and green-card holders from Iraq and Iran were encountering no problems as they arrived. “It’s business as usual,” said Camille Mackler, of the New York Immigration Coalition. Fariba Tajrostami, a 32-year-old painter from Iran, came through the gate at Kennedy with a huge smile and tears in her eyes as her brothers greeted her with joyful hugs. “I’m very happy. I haven’t seen my brothers for nine years,” she said.

Ukraine military, rebels accuse each other of increased attacks

Moscow-backed rebels and government forces trade blame for the flare-up in the industrial east that has caused the highest casualty rate since mid-December and cut off power and water to thousands of civilians on both sides of the front line.

 
 

Violence returns to Ukraine

It may never be known who fired the first shot that has rekindled the conflict in eastern Ukraine. But the focus now must be on stopping the renewed fighting between separatists and Ukrainian troops in Avdiivka from spreading into a wider and more devastating battle. This is a small town that has maybe 22,000 inhabitants who find themselves on the frontline between the Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian army. The greater part of the town is still in government hands. Kiev says that the separatists began the firefight in which at least seven of its soldiers have been killed. The rebels say Ukrainian forces attacked them and they retaliated.
Whatever the truth, in the midst of ferociously cold winter weather the town’s electricity and water supply has been knocked out and, as ever, it is the civilians who are bearing the brunt of the suffering. The government says it is sending 10 tons of food and blankets as emergency aid, but this would hardly seem sufficient to assist an imperiled population.
What is significant is that the Russians did not use their veto to block a UN Security Council statement warning of a dangerous deterioration in Ukraine and calling for an immediate halt to the battle. Moscow may have a problem with the separatists, some of whom have been highly critical of what they see as a lack of support from Russia. Originally, there were high hopes among the rebels that Vladimir Putin would repeat his coup de main in the Crimea and carve out an autonomous region in Russian-speaking Ukraine. That indeed may have been the Kremlin’s original plan. But international sanctions have certainly hurt Russia, even though it has mounted an adroit campaign to circumvent them.

We must not forget to remember the victims of the Quebec mosque attack

 Hate crimes targeting Muslim-Canadians more than doubled between 2012 and 2014 – a period in which such offences as a whole fell across the country. Last year, the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City was the target of an Islamophobic attack. A pig’s head was left on the centre’s doorstep, alongside a note that read, “bon appetit”. Pork is forbidden in Islam. The National Council of Canadian Muslims expressed outrage at Sunday’s attack and called for the country to come together in the face of senseless violence and hatred.
“We are heartened by the overwhelming support from fellow Canadians in this time of deep crisis. We must unite together against divisive forces that seek to harm our communities,” said Ihsaan Gardee, the national council’s executive director in a statement. The NCCM, a national lobby group that tracks anti-Muslim hate crimes, called on police to increase security around mosques and Islamic centres across Canada following the attack.

Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ comes into effect

President Trump’s order temporarily banning refugees arriving in the United States and barring those arriving from seven Muslim-majority countries caused confusion and panic among travelers, with some turned back from U.S.-bound flights