Taiwan’s Tsai Expresses Thanks over Approval of F-16V Sale

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen thanked the United States on Tuesdsay for approving the sale of 66 advanced F-16V fighter jets and urged rival China to respect Taiwan’s right to defend itself.
President Donald Trump announced approval of the $8 billion deal on Sunday. The sale is expected to further inflame U.S. relations with China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory to be annexed by force if necessary.

Tsai on Tuesday also applauded previous arm sales already announced by Trump’s administration, saying those reaffirmed the United States’ “long-standing commitment to helping maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

Trump’s announcement begins a period of consultation with Congress, and a formal announcement of the sale could be made as early as next month unless lawmakers object. The State Department, which would ultimately authorize the sale, declined to comment, but members of Congress from both parties welcomed the proposal.

China fiercely opposes all arms sales to Taiwan but has specifically objected to advanced fighter jets such as the F-16V, whose Active Electronically Scanned Array, or AESA, radar is compatible with the F-35 stealth fighters operated by the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines. The U.S. is also installing upgraded electronics, including AESA radars, on Taiwan’s existing fleet of 144 older F-16s.
While the U.S. cut formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979 in order to recognize Beijing, U.S. law requires Washington to ensure Taiwan has the means to defend itself.

Since 2008, U.S. administrations have notified Congress of more than $24 billion in foreign military sales to Taiwan, including in the past two months the sale of 108 M1A2 Abrams tanks and 250 Stinger missiles, valued at $2.2 billion. The Trump administration alone has notified Congress of $4.4 billion in arms sales to Taiwan.

Tsai has rejected Chinese pressure to unite Taiwan and China under a “one-country, two-systems” framework and soon after her 2016 inauguration, Beijing cut contacts with her government over her refusal to endorse its claim that Taiwan is part of China.
Beijing has sought to increase Taiwan’s international isolation by reducing its diplomatic allies to just 17 and stepped up military intimidation, including by holding military exercises across the Taiwan Strait and circling the island with bombers and fighters in what are officially termed training missions.

On Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing had “made solemn complaints” to the U.S. over the planned F-16V sale. Geng called on Washington to “fully recognize the serious dangers of the arms sale to Taiwan” and cancel it immediately or bear the consequences.

 “China will take necessary measures to safeguard its own interests according to the development of the situation,” Geng said.

Lufthansa Boss Sees Only ‘Dozen’ Long-Haul Airlines in Future

Only a dozen airlines will eventually share the aviation market for major international routes, predicts Lufthansa’s CEO, while a possible future economic crisis could “accelerate” a consolidation in air travel.

“The sector is evolving towards a dozen companies operating worldwide” on major international routes, in addition to smaller national or regional airlines, Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr told reporters late Monday.

Without naming them, Spohr forecast there would be “three in the United States, three in China, three in the Gulf and three in Europe”.

The Lufthansa chief executive warned that any future economic crisis could hit European airlines particularly hard, but predicted a downturn could “accelerate” mergers and acquisitions.

“If there is one positive aspect to the flattening of the global economy, and certainly also the worsening figures for all airlines — unfortunately also for us — it is that the consolidation process will tend to accelerate,” Spohr added.

The recent bankruptcies of German low-cost airlines Air Berlin and Germania have enabled Lufthansa to buy back flight routes and aircraft.

The airline industry is “much more cyclical” and at the mercy of economic developments than others, Spohr said, with the sector suffering from international trade tensions.

Lufthansa wants to “and will play an active role” in any future consolidation in the sector, said the airline boss, whose company’s net profit dropped by 70 percent in the second quarter.

Spohr said Lufthansa faced strong competition from low-cost airlines in a “unique price war”, however “we will not be driven out of our domestic market” by low-cost companies like Ryanair, because the German airline “has the financial strength to resist” competition.


Unmanned Indian Probe Enters Lunar Orbit

An unmanned Indian space probe successfully entered lunar orbit Tuesday, passing a crucial step towards a historic milestone for the country’s fledgling space program.

The arrival of the $141 million Chandrayaan-2 probe comes nearly a month after it was launched into space aboard India’s powerful Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark Three rocket.  The probe will orbit the moon for two weeks before its Vikram lander — named after Vikram Sarabhai, the scientist regarded as the “father” of India’s space program — will undock from the mothership and land on the moon’s South Pole.  It will then release a small rover dubbed Pragyan that will roam for 14 days, mapping the moon’s surface, conducting experiments to search for signs of water and assessing its topography and geology.

If the planned September 7 landing is successful, India will join the United States, Russia and China as the only nations to achieve a soft landing of a spacecraft on the moon.  It will also become the first nation to attempt a controlled landing on the moon’s South Pole.

Although India was a relative latecomer to the space race, it has developed a reputation for conducting its space explorations at a fraction of the cost spent by countries like the United States.  It first placed an unmanned spacecraft in lunar orbit in 2008, which helped confirm the presence of water on the lunar surface.   

Among other goalposts India has set in the coming years is to put a space station in orbit, an astronaut in space by 2022, a robotic mission to Mars and a mission to explore the sun.



Leader of Pakistan-Held Kashmir Welcomes Trump Initiative

The president of Pakistani-administered Kashmir has welcomed efforts by U.S. President Donald Trump to lower tensions between Pakistan and India over the disputed Himalayan region and warned of a humanitarian crisis and food shortages in the Indian-held portion.

Sardar Masood Khan made the comments at a news conference Tuesday after Trump contacted the leaders of Pakistan and India to discuss Kashmir.

According to a White House spokesman, Trump “reaffirmed the need to avoid escalation of the situation, and urged restraint on both sides.”

Muslim-majority Kashmir is divided between Pakistan and India and claimed by both. Tensions have increased since Aug. 5, when New Delhi imposed tight security restrictions and downgraded the autonomy of the portion it administers.

Silence at Russian Nuclear-Monitoring Stations Fuel Fears Over Extent Of Deadly Blast

Days after a mysterious explosion at a Russian naval test site caused radiation detectors to briefly spike, several monitoring stations have gone silent, raising fears Moscow is hiding the extent of the blast that killed five people.

Officials at the Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) say that four of the five nuclear monitoring stations in Russia have mysteriously stopped transmitting data.

Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the CTBTO, said on Twitter that two station operators said they were experiencing “technical problems.”

“Experts continue to reach out to our collaborators in Russia to resume station operations as expediently as possible,” an unnamed senior CTBTO official added in an interview with CNN on August 19.

FILE – A billboard, reading “The State Central Navy Testing Range,” stands near Nyonoksa, Russia, Oct. 7, 2018.

The August 8 explosion near Nyonoksa, the village where a military testing site is located on the White Sea, sent intelligence analysts from Washington to Brussels to Oslo scrambling to figure out what happened.

In the days after the mishap, civilian and military authorities gave conflicting information as to what exactly occurred, how many casualties there were, and where the recorded spike in radiation came from and whether it was dangerous.

Monitoring stations in the nearby shipbuilding port of Severodvinsk recorded the brief spike in radiation levels in the hours after the explosion, but Russian officials have emphasized that there was no danger to public health.

Monitors in Norway, hundreds of kilometers to the northwest, detected a small increase in airborne radioactive iodine in the days that followed, but they have not linked it to the Nyonoksa explosion.

Several analysts have suggested that the item involved in the explosion may have been a nuclear-powered cruise missile dubbed the Burevestnik in Russian, which President Vladimir Putin boasted was under development last year.

French President Emmanuel Macron, right, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin after their meeting at the fort of Bregancon in Bormes-les-Mimosas, southern France, Aug. 19, 2019.

Speaking at an August 19 meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, Putin said there was no risk of increased radiation levels because of the incident, adding that all of those injured and killed in the blast would receive state awards.

U.S. President Donald Trump has added to the speculation by posting a Tweet stating outright it was the Burevestnik, known by NATO analysts under the name Skyfall.

Other analysts said it might not be a nuclear-propelled, super-fast cruise missile, but a “radioisotope thermoelectric generator” used to generate power for a missile and its components.

Census Figures Show Economic Gap Narrows with Citizenship

New figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show that citizenship appears to narrow the economic gap between the foreign-born and native-born in the United States.

The 2018 figures released Monday offer a view of immigrants’ education, wealth, and the jobs they work in. They also look at differences between naturalized immigrants and those who aren’t citizens.
Their release come as the U.S. is engaged in one of the fiercest debates in decades about the role of immigration.
Stopping the flow of immigrants into the U.S. has been a priority of the Trump administration, which has proposed denying green cards to immigrants who use Medicaid and fought to put a citizenship question on the decennial Census questionnaire.
Monday’s figures show naturalized immigrants had a slightly smaller median income than the native-born.


US Scraps West Bank Conference over Palestinian Protests

The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday was forced to postpone a conference it organized in the West Bank city of Ramallah after Palestinian officials and factions called for a boycott and threatened to organize protests.  
The Palestinians cut all ties with the U.S. after it recognized disputed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017, and view the Trump administration as unfairly biased following a series of actions seen as hostile to their aspirations for an independent state.

The embassy had organized a conference this week to bring together alumni of U.S. educational and cultural programs, including dozens of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who received permission from Israel to attend. The territory has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power there in 2007.

The Palestinian leadership viewed the conference as an attempt to circumvent its boycott of the U.S. administration.

“We are aware of recent statements regarding a planned event for alumni of U.S. educational and cultural programs,” the U.S. Embassy said. “In order to avoid the Palestinian participants being put in a difficult situation, we have decided to postpone the event for now.”
It said this and other events “are designed to create opportunities for exchange and dialogue between Americans and Palestinians at the grassroots level.”

“This event in particular is intended to give alumni of all ages and backgrounds from Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza an opportunity to network with each other and to engage in leadership and capacity building activities,” it said.

Israel captured east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Mideast war, territories the Palestinians want for their future state. The Trump administration is at work on a long-awaited peace plan, but has not endorsed a two-state solution to the conflict. The Palestinians have already dismissed the plan, saying it is certain to be slanted toward Israel.
Representatives of several Palestinian factions held a press conference Monday at the hotel where the meeting was to have taken place.

Spokesman Isam Baker told The Associated Press that the Palestine Liberation Organization, an umbrella group, had reached out to the hotel management and the invitees asking them to boycott the meeting.

“Most of the invitees and the hotel administration agreed with us that the invitation has political implications and it is not innocent,” he said.
“The U.S. administration, which has cut off all aid to our people, shut down our office in Washington and placed huge pressure on our leadership to accept a pro-Israel political plan will not do any good for our people” he said. “Therefore, we are boycotting any activities it organizes.”

The U.S. cut more than $200 million in development aid to the Palestinians last year, gutting several long-running programs .

A statement released Sunday by the “national and Islamic forces of the Ramallah governorate” said they were determined to thwart the conference, calling it an attempt to “break the will of the Palestinian people.” It said they planned to organize a “mass popular event to prevent this activity by all available means,” calling for a sit-in and marches.

The youth wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party also called for a boycott. It vowed to “exercise all forms of legal and popular pressure to express rejection of this conference being held on occupied Palestinian land.” It also called for an “apology” from the hotel.

Trump Calls on Federal Reserve to Cut Interest Rates

President Donald Trump is calling on the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates by at least a full percentage point “over a fairly short period of time,” saying such a move would make the U.S. economy even better and would also “greatly and quickly” enhance the global economy.

…..The Fed Rate, over a fairly short period of time, should be reduced by at least 100 basis points, with perhaps some quantitative easing as well. If that happened, our Economy would be even better, and the World Economy would be greatly and quickly enhanced-good for everyone!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2019

In two tweets Monday, Trump kept up his pressure on the Fed and its chairman Jerome Powell, saying the U.S. economy was strong “despite the horrendous lack of vision by Jay Powell and the Fed.”
He says Democrats were trying to “will” the economy to deteriorate ahead of the 2020 election.
Trump administration officials in recent days have sought to calm worries about a potential U.S. recession that were heightened by last week’s steep stock-market decline.



Ugandan Coach Scouts for Major League Baseball Talent in Africa

George Wilson Mukhobe has worked as a baseball coach in Uganda for the last decade, and for the last three years as a Major League Baseball scout in Africa.

He says there is impressive talent in Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda.

But Mukhobe says few sports shops sell baseball equipment and there is a lack of facilities and support.

“Baseball faces a big challenge.  Because, since people have little knowledge about baseball and is damn expensive game, they say, maybe next time,” he told VOA. “They run for quick sports like soccer, athletics and volleyball, you know, basketball.  But with baseball, it’s really tough, even the coaches themselves need to have enough knowledge, to convince the kid that yes, you know the game, so that he can teach them.”

Need donations

Uganda’s baseball players are heavily dependent on donations from the U.S. and Japan, where Americans introduced the sport.   

Uganda’s National Council of Sports says baseball is not among their priorities.

“One of the things that lack currently, that you could think that they could do much better, baseball and as government, is to give the team the chance to compete,” said  Ismael Kigongo Dhakaba, the council’s spokesperson. “Today, they only compete largely against Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.  So, maybe if they were many more countries competing, they would raise a kind of awareness.”

Despite the limitations, baseball has come a long way in Uganda.

Historic run

In 2012, Uganda became the first African country to play in the Little League Baseball World Series in Pennsylvania.  

America’s favorite pastime is attracting Ugandan converts such as 21-year-old Arago David, who plays for Uganda’s national team and is an assistant coach.

“First day I came, they told, we have the gloves, this a bat, baseball.  I said, I’ll try it and see.  When I trained for a month, they called me and said, you know what?  We are taking you to the national team, under 12.  I said okay,” he told VOA.

In May, Uganda’s national team came in second, after the host, at the Olympics pre-qualifier in South Africa.


The success of Ugandan baseball is inspiring more players.

15-year-old Wenene Specioza became a fan after watching boys play and decided she too could play baseball.

“I know what I want.  The coach loves me.  And I got interest in my first base, because I play first base.  It’s so interesting if you get to know it, really,” Wenene said.

While Ugandan baseball looks for more support, its young players will depend on coaches like Mukhobe to take them out to the ball game.