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CRIMSON TAZVINZWA, AIWA! NO!|Attackers on a motorcycle threw a hand grenade at the Russian consulate in Athens early on Friday, causing no injuries and slight damage, police said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the early morning attack on the consulate in the Athens suburb of Chalandri. The area has been cordoned off by police and there has not been any further details from the authorities.
Syria, Russia and Iran condemn US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Golan
CRIMSON TAZVINZWA, AIWA! NO!|REUTERS|Trump’s Twitter announcement, reversing over 50 years of policy, said to catch both American and Israeli officials off-guard.
Syria and its allies Russia and Iran on Friday condemned US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which the Jewish state captured from its northern neighbor in the 1967 Six Day War.
Quoting an unnamed foreign ministry official, Syria’s official SANA news agency slammed the decision as “irresponsible” and a violation of United Nations resolutions concerning the territory’s status.
“Syria strongly condemns the irresponsible declaration of the American president, which again proves the US’s blind tendency in favor of the Zionist entity and its unreserved support for its aggression,” the official said. “The Syrian people remain committed to the liberation of the Golan Heights by all means at its disposal.”
The source added that Trump’s statement won’t change “the fact that the Golan was and will remain Arab and Syrian.”
The comments were Syria’s first reaction to Trump’s surprise Thursday announcement, which has been met with largely muted responses by the international community.
Russia, which has long been a key backer of Syria and is fighting alongside forces loyal to President Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war, condemned Trump’s declaration as a violation of UN decisions.
“Russia, as you know, takes a principled position on the issue of the Syrian Arab Republic’s ownership of the Golan Heights… Our assessment of the unlawful nature of Israel’s decision to extend its sovereignty to the Golan Heights remains unchanged, ” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was quoted as saying by state-sponsored Sputnik News.
“Changing the status of the Golan Heights bypassing the Security Council is in direct violation of UN decisions,” Zakharova added.
Iran, another key ally of the Assad regime, said the move was illegal.
“This illegal and unacceptable recognition does not change the fact that it belongs to Syria,” foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said, according to Reuters.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that the US announcement brought the region to the brink of a fresh crisis.
“We cannot allow the legitimization of the occupation of the Golan Heights,” he said Friday morning in a speech at a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, according to Reuters.
In signature fashion, Trump made the announcement on Twitter, reversing over 50 years of US policy since Israel’s capture of the strategic plateau from Syria.
Trump’s recognition caught officials in Israel and the United States off-guard, according to the McClatchy news agency.
“We all found out by tweet,” an Israeli official was quoted as saying. “We’ve been lobbying for this for a long time, but it was not the product of one phone call. There were hints, but we weren’t given advance notice.”
Another Israeli source told the news agency that Israeli leaders were informed of the decision shortly beforehand, as with Trump’s abrupt announcement in December that he would pull all US forces out of Syria.
According to the report, Trump’s Middle East peace negotiators and the State Department were also surprised by the move, with US officials having expected an announcement when Trump hosts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House next week.
Netanyahu appeared overjoyed while praising the decision in a press conference in Jerusalem Thursday alongside US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who the New York Times noted “looked caught off-guard.”
While the timing of Trump’s decision was unexpected, there were a number of hints at a coming US policy shift, including the State Department’s defining of the Golan Heights as “Israeli-controlled” instead of “Israeli-occupied” for the first time, in a human rights report released last week.
Trump’s tweet was not preceded by a policy review, according to McClatchy, and it was not clear if the US president would follow up the announcement with a more official recognition such as an executive order.
It was also unclear if Israel would respond with a move of its own, as it never formally annexed the Golan Heights despite having extended Israeli law to the territory in 1981, in a move never recognized internationally.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton visits the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, January 6, 2019. (Ziv Sokolov/US Embassy Jerusalem)
Quoting unnamed White House officials, the news agency said Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton was a key force behind the move following his visit to Israel in January, seeing it as a signal the US remained committed to Israel in the wake of Trump’s announcement of the US troop pullout.
US Ambassador David Friedman also reportedly pushed for the recognition on the same grounds.
Israel in recent years has warned that its arch-enemy Iran is trying to establish a military presence in Syria that could threaten the Jewish state, and has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets there linked to Iran.
“It was an ask,” an Israeli official told McClatchy. “Because of the timing — it suddenly became a relevant issue about Iran.”
The record flooding in the Midwest that has now been blamed for four deaths could also have lasting consequences for the region’s many farmers.
Flooding has swamped fields and stockpiles and drowned or harmed livestock in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and other states. In Nebraska alone, the loss of crops and livestock is estimated to total nearly $1 billion, Reuters reported Tuesday.
“The economy in agriculture is not very good right now. It will end some of these folks farming, family legacies, family farms,” Iowa farmer Farmer Jeff Jorgenson told The Associated Press. “There will be farmers that will be dealing with so much of a negative they won’t be able to tolerate it.”
One of those farmers might be Anthony Ruzicka of Verdigre, Nebraska. His family has been farming the same plot for five generations, since the 1800s. But the floods have destroyed their farmhouse, littered their alfalfa and corn fields with chunks of ice and killed at least 15 of their cattle.
“There’s not many farms left like this, and it’s probably over for us too, now,” Ruzicka The New York Times. “Financially, how do you recover from something like this?”
Not only crops were lost. The floods have damaged roads, bridges and railways farmers rely on to move their products to processing plants and shipping centers, Reuters reported. Such a major blow to U.S. farmers is likely to have national consequences.
The floods come at a bad time for farmers for a variety of reasons. Seasonally, the floods have come just as farmers usually start their spring planting and need dry weather in order to get seeds in the ground.
At the same time, farmers in the region are generally suffering. The number of farms that filed for bankruptcy last year rose by 19 percent, the highest level in more than ten years. Further, incomes from farming have fallen by more than 50 percent because of a global glut of grain, Reuters reported. To make matters worse, a trade war with China has meant the country has stopped importing U.S. soybeans. Many farmers had stored last years’ crops of grain and soy in hopes of better prices, and now some of those stores have been destroyed.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” Winslow, Nebraska farmer Tom Geisler, who lost two storage bins full of corn, told Reuters. “We had been depending on the income from our livestock, but now all of our feed is gone, so that is going to be even more difficult. We haven’t been making any money from our grain farming because of trade issues and low prices.”
Human lives weren’t the only ones impacted by the floods. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters that the governors of Nebraska and Iowa had told him that up to one million calves may have been killed, Reuters reported in another article. Hog farms in Iowa were also flooded, according to The Associated Press.
Pets have also been caught up in the flooding. Rescue Lieutenant Jami Mitchell of Waterloo Fire/Rescue told Reuters that the number of animals rescued from homes in Waterloo, Nebraska included 87 dogs, eight cats, one rabbit, two birds, two hamsters and 26 horses.
But even animals who survived may have health problems because of the ordeal.
“Standing in the cold water and being cold certainly isn’t good for the health of the animal,” Nebraska Cattlemen spokeswoman Talia Goes told Reuters.
On 10 March 2019, the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft which operated the flight crashed six minutes after takeoff, near the town of Bishoftu, killing all 157 people aboard. It is also the deadliest aircraft accident to occur in Ethiopia, surpassing the crash of an Ethiopian Air Force Antonov An-26 in 1982, which killed 73.
On October 29 last year, a Boeing 737 MAX airplane operated by Lion Air crashed shortly after takeoff in Indonesia, killing 189 passengers and crew. In the days after the incident, Dominic Gates, an aerospace reporter at The Seattle Times, learned from a source that Boeing, which has a huge presence around Seattle, was preparing to warn airlines of a possible instrument failure that could tip 737 MAXs into dangerous dives. Gates continued to report on potential problems with the model. What he found out was extraordinary. Managers at the Federal Aviation Administration let Boeing safety-test features of the 737 MAX itself. And current and former Boeing engineers familiar with the checks told Gates they had major flaws.
On March 6, Gates sent requests for comment to Boeing and the FAA outlining his findings about a flawed safety assessment. Boeing said it would work on providing answers. Then, on March 10, another 737 MAX, this time operated by Ethiopian Airlines, crashed six minutes after lifting off from Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. Boeing quickly found itself at the center of a global media storm. Countries around the world grounded the planes; last Wednesday, the US, belatedly followed suit. Around the same time, Gates finished writing his piece about the flawed safety check—but Boeing and the FAA had still not commented, and the links between the Lion Air and Ethiopian crashes remained murky. On Thursday, Gates and three colleagues learned about, then reported, a potential similarity between the incidents based on evidence found at the Ethiopian crash site and relayed by an expert. On Friday, Gates finalized the safety-test story he’d been working on since last year, and it was published on Sunday.
Like many local news reporters in the US, Gates—a former math teacher who is now in his 16th year with The Seattle Times—works a beat dedicated to a dominant local company or industry. “To survive as a regional paper, The Seattle Times has to offer readers news it cannot get elsewhere,” Gates tells me in an email. “Since this is the home of Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks, it strives to own coverage of those mega corporations. Coverage of Boeing has historically been huge for The Seattle Times.”
There’s no shortage of national coverage of those companies—Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, and others have broken important stories on the Boeing beat. But Gates feels his local base offers him a distinct advantage. “I have sources aerospace reporters elsewhere can only dream about,” he says. “Not just inside Boeing but also its suppliers and its unions. And the FAA office responsible for certifying Boeing planes. And our readers include a very large, knowledgeable aerospace base.”
In a dire economic climate for local news, specialized beats and the reporters on them, are, logically, under threat. Reporters like Gates are reminders that America’s local newspapers can be crucial repositories of public-interest journalism. When they falter, national titles are sometimes able to pick up the slack. But we shouldn’t rely on that. The logical endpoint of America’s local-news crisis isn’t just less reporting on local courthouses and councils—it’s less scrutiny for major companies and arms of the federal government, too.
Below, more on local news:
Gitmo: In early February, The Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg, the only US reporter covering Guantanamo Bay on a full-time basis, was one of 450 employees to be offered a buyout by McClatchy, the Herald’s owner. Rosenberg, whose position at the Herald was being supported by the Pulitzer Center, subsequently left the paper for The New York Times.
Et tu, Facebook: A Facebook service aiming to serve local news to users has been hamstrung by a lack of available local news, the company said on Monday. Facebook found that 40 percent of Americans live in areas where the service cannot be supported; it pledged to share its data with academics researching the “news desert” phenomenon. As many observers were quick to point out, the local news crisis has been greatly exacerbated by Facebook’s ad monopoly and content policies.
Alt-alt-weeklies: Local alt-weeklies have been hit particularly hard by the dire local-news climate: last month, for example, the Seattle Weekly, for whom Gates used to write, announced it was going out of print. For CJR, Allison Braden looks at “alt-alt-weeklies”—publications that have grown from the ashes of shuttered alt-weeklies.
Ethiopian Airlines Had a Max 8 Simulator, but Pilot on Doomed Flight Didn’t Receive Training