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Israel meetings row: Indian-origin UK minister resigns

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London, Nov 9: Amid flak over unauthorised meetings with Israeli officials, Indian-origin International Development Secretary of UK Priti Patel stepped down on Wednesday late night, media reports said.

Patel resigned after being summoned back from a trip to Uganda and Ethiopia by Downing Street after it emerged that she failed to be candid with Prime Minister Theresa May about 14 unofficial meetings with Israeli ministers, business people and a senior lobbyist, the Guardian reported.

Earlier on Wednesday evening, Patel met May for just six minutes.

In her resignation letter, Patel admitted that her actions “fell below the high standards that are expected of a secretary of state”.

“While my actions were meant with the best of intentions, my actions also fell below the standards of transparency and openness that I have promoted and advocated.

“I offer a fulsome apology to you and to the government for what has happened and offer my resignation.”

Responding to this, May said Patel’s decision was the correct one. She argued in a letter to Patel that the UK and Israel were close allies and should work closely together.

“But that must be done formally, and through official channels. That is why, when we met on Monday, I was glad to accept your apology and welcomed your clarification about your trip to Israel over the summer.

“Now that further details have come to light, it is right that you have decided to resign and adhere to the high standards of transparency and openness that you have advocated,” May wrote in the letter.

She added that Patel should “take pride” in what had been achieved during her time in office.

Patel had apologised to May on Monday after news about the unauthorised meetings in August with Israeli politicians including prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yuval Rotem, a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official, came to light, reports the BBC.

But it later emerged she had two further meetings in September without the presence of any government officials.

A replacement for Patel is anticipated to be announced on Thursday.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told the BBC: “Priti Patel has been a very good colleague and friend for a long time and a first class secretary of state for international development.

“It’s been a real pleasure working with her and I’m sure she has a great future ahead of her.”

Patel’s resignation from the cabinet is the second in seven days, after Michael Fallon stepped down as Defence Secretary on November 1 amid allegations about his behaviour.

Patel was appointed as Conservative MP for Witham in May 2010. She has served several prominent posts such as Treasury Minister (July 2014 to May 2015), Employment Minister (May 2015 to July 2016) and was elevated as the International Development Secretary in July last year.

Wefornews Bureau 

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Pentagon to establish ‘Space Command’

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Hack the Pentagon

Washington, Dec 18: While the Space Force would need congressional approval but US President Donald Trump issued an order on Tuesday directing the establishment of a “Space Command.”

Vice President Pence announced on Tuesday that the White House had directed the Pentagon to form a Space Command, a significant step toward the administration’s ultimate goal of establishing a department known as the Space Force that would become the first new branch of the Armed Services since the Air Force was created in 1947.

Trump said the new command will be created as a “unified combatant command” that will oversee all US military activities in space, according to his memo to Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.

The president has asked Mattis to recommend officers for the command’s leadership, the one-page memo said.

It added that a comprehensive list of authorities and responsibilities for the Space Command will be included in the next update to the Unified Command Plan.

Trump has been pushing to establish a Space Force by 2020, an idea that has been questioned by Pentagon officials and military experts worried about adding cost and bureaucracy.

 

Pence was speaking at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where he was to watch the launch of a SpaceX rocket with a military cargo.

 

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US pullout from INF Treaty may ruin arms control system: Putin

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Moscow, Dec 18 Russia will have to take additional measures to boost its security if the US withdraws from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.

US withdrawal from the INF Treaty may ruin the entire arms control system, said the Russian President.

“Such a step will have the most negative consequences, and will noticeably weaken regional and global security,” Putin said while speaking at an extended meeting of the Russian Defence Ministry board, Xinhua news agency reported.

“In fact, in the long term, the talk is about the degradation and even collapse of the entire arms control architecture and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” he added.

For a long time, the US has been using unsubstantiated accusations that Russia had violated its obligations under the treaty as a pretext to withdraw from it unilaterally, thus violating the treaty itself, Putin said.

He agreed that the INF Treaty did not involve other countries which have medium and shorter range missiles.

“But what prevents us from starting negotiations on their accession to the current agreement, or starting to discuss the parameters of a new treaty?” Putin said.

The treaty, in modern conditions, plays the role of a stabilising factor, which allows maintaining a certain level of predictability and restraint in the military sphere, he said.

He recalled that the INF Treaty signed in 1987 involved the elimination of medium-range and shorter-range (500-5,000 km) ground-based missiles. At the time, the USSR had no other missiles, while the US had sea-based and air-launched missiles.

Russia, since the signing of the treaty, has developed sea-based and air-launched missiles, which was the cause for Washington’s concern, Putin said.

According to Putin, it will not be difficult for Russia, if necessary, to create appropriate land-based systems as a response to the US withdrawal from the INF.

However, Russia is always open to any proposals and initiatives that lead to the strengthening of universal security including the prevention of a new arms race in the interests not only of Russia, but of the US and the whole world, Putin said.

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Saturn rings may vanish in 100 million years: NASA

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Washington, Dec 18: Saturn is losing its iconic rings at the maximum rate estimated from Voyager 1 and 2 observations made decades ago, confirms new NASA research that estimates that the rings have less than 100 million years to live.

Saturn’s rings are mostly chunks of water ice ranging in size from microscopic dust grains to boulders several yards (metres) across.

The rings are being pulled into Saturn by gravity as a dusty rain of ice particles under the influence of Saturn’s magnetic field.

“We estimate that this ‘ring rain’ drains an amount of water products that could fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool from Saturn’s rings in half an hour,” said lead author of the study James O’Donoghue of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“From this alone, the entire ring system will be gone in 300 million years, but add to this the Cassini-spacecraft measured ring-material detected falling into Saturn’s equator, and the rings have less than 100 million years to live. This is relatively short, compared to Saturn’s age of over four billion years,” O’Donoghue said.

Scientists have long wondered if Saturn was formed with the rings or if the planet acquired them later in life.

The new research favours the latter scenario, indicating that they are unlikely to be older than 100 million years.

“We are lucky to be around to see Saturn’s ring system, which appears to be in the middle of its lifetime. However, if rings are temporary, perhaps we just missed out on seeing giant ring systems of Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, which have only thin ringlets today,” O’Donoghue added.

Various theories have been proposed for the ring’s origin. If the planet got them later in life, the rings could have formed when small, icy moons in orbit around Saturn collided, perhaps because their orbits were perturbed by a gravitational tug from a passing asteroid or comet.

The first hints that ring rain existed came from Voyager observations of seemingly unrelated phenomena: peculiar variations in Saturn’s electrically charged upper atmosphere (ionosphere), density variations in Saturn’s rings, and a trio of narrow dark bands encircling the planet at northern mid-latitudes.

These dark bands appeared in images of Saturn’s hazy upper atmosphere (stratosphere) made by NASA’s Voyager 2 mission in 1981.

The new study revealed glowing bands in Saturn’s northern and southern hemispheres where the magnetic field lines that intersect the ring plane enter the planet.

They analysed the light to determine the amount of rain from the ring and its effects on Saturn’s ionosphere.

They found that the amount of rain matches remarkably well with the astonishingly high values derived more than three decades earlier.

IANS

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