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End Time News – Updated 4 May - 5 stories
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earthquake headlines             6.0 quakes            7.0 quakes            quakes in diverse places          quake map

Nepal earthquake: Drone footage shows devastation

Aerial footage filmed by a drone has been released showing the devastation caused near the epicentre of the earthquake in Nepal.

The video was filmed in the Sindhupalchok district, 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Kathmandu.

More than 7,000 people have died in the earthquake, which measured 7.8 on the Richter scale.

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Wars and Rumors of Wars

China, Russia military spending surges
by Kenneth Chamberlain

While U.S. military spending from 2007 to 2014 remained largely flat, military spending among the world's top 15 military spenders skyrocketed, according to data released Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The U.S. spent about $610 billion on its military in 2014, making up nearly 43 percent of the funds spent by the top 15 spending nations. Trailing in a distant second was China, which spent an estimated $216 billion (15.1 percent), followed by Russia, which spent an estimated $84.5 billion (5.9 percent) and Saudi Arabia, which spent $80.8 billion (5.7 percent), according to the data.

Altogether, military spending by the top 15 countries in 2014 came to about $1.4 trillion, representing about 80 percent of worldwide military spending.

But U.S. military spending fell slightly between 2005 and 2014, by 0.4 percent, a product of tight fiscal constraints. Spending by some Western European countries and Japan also fell.

Meanwhile, spending by China, which has increasingly sought to assert its dominance in Asia, surged 167 percent. The estimated $216 billion it spent in 2014 accounted for just under one half of all military spending by Asian and Pacific countries, according to SIPRI.

Military spending by the UAE and Saudi Arabia skyrocketed by 135 percent and 112 percent, respectively, a reflection in part of the worsening security situation, said SIPRI's Sam Perlo-Freeman in a statement. The two countries also represented 9 percent of all arms exports from 2010 to 2014, SIPRI reported in March.

With its backing of rebels in eastern Ukraine and other initiatives to bolster its international standing, Russia's spending rose by 97 percent. But like some Middle Eastern countries, Russia's military budget has been hit by a fall in oil prices, with a 5 percent cut planned from what was originally slated for 2015. SIPRI notes, however, that even with that cut, Russia's 2015 military budget represents "a significant increase on spending in 2014" compared with past years.


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Wars and Rumors of Wars

On the brink of regional war
by Dr. Reuven Berko

America's willingness to turn a blind eye to Iran's regional antics allows Tehran to tighten its grip on the Middle East • As Iran gets a step closer to developing a nuclear weapon, Israel still hopes Washington will come to its senses.

The Middle East is currently experiencing a precarious, absurd situation, courtesy of the United States.

The framework nuclear agreement reached between the West and Iran last week has all but ensured the international community's blessing to Tehran's nuclearization, and the Middle East is struggling to come to grips with the unthinkable: While Iran continues to oil the wheels of the war across the region and faces the pan-Arab coalition's Operation Storm of Resolve in Yemen, Tehran's officials have informed the world that they have been able to bend the West to their will and remain adamant in their desire to destroy Israel.

Given U.S. President Barack Obama's appeasement policies, it seems Iran can afford this brazen attitude. Tehran rejoices, while the Arab regimes around it crumble. After all, it has survived the turmoil.

Luckily for the Arab nations, which are currently under Iranian attack in Yemen, some in Washington have recently come to their senses, prompting the end of the cold shoulder shown to Egypt since President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi took power, and resuming U.S. military aid to Egypt.

Cairo has been struggling to stabilize its economy and social situation, and the change in U.S. policy has allowed the Egyptian president to become the clearest and most decisive voice in the Arab coalition, pledging to protect the security of the Persian Gulf states as he does Egypt's. He even outdid Pakistan, which pledged its support to Saudi Arabia vis-a-vis Iran.

The Iranian crisis in the Persian Gulf is a complex one. Tehran's regional antics might have be amusing if not for the fact they are drenched in the blood of thousands of innocent people across the Middle East: Iran's al-Hashd al-Shaabi militia, which includes Revolutionary Guard troops, is clobbering the Islamic State group in Iraq with indirect military assistance from the U.S., while Iranian troops, with the help of Iraqi Shiite militias, butcher the country's Sunnis.

The long arm of Tehran is felt in Syria as well. Syrian President Bashar Assad, a protégé of the ayatollahs' regime, continues to slaughter civilians and rebel forces alike. Since Obama's failure to live up to his pledge to strike Syria if Assad used chemical weapons, the Syrian ruler has used chlorine gas on his opponents, and his use of unconventional weapons has only increased.

This situation, which is taking place as the Americans' eyes remain widely shut, is reminiscent of the administration's pledge in the 1990s, that North Korea -- the resident nuclear evil of the day -- will be disarmed. What is Israel to make of the fact that this promise failed to hold water, and of the policy precedents, past and present, it now faces?

The Russian angle

Another player in the regional theater is Russia, which is lending the Iran-Syria axis military aid. Preserving the Assad regime is a Russian interest, as Moscow seeks to protect its access to its naval facility in Tartus. Russia is also trying to weigh in on the crisis in Yemen, where all of a sudden Moscow has demanded timed cease-fires and the establishment of "humanitarian corridors."

The Russians are eyeing the strategic strait Bab-el-Mandeb, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, and are therefore encouraging the Iranian-backed Houthi insurgency.

Both the Yemeni government and the commander of the Arab coalition have accused Russia of using its humanitarian aid shipments to the area to smuggle arms to the Houthis, and Moscow's fingerprints are evident in the region, be it through its offers to arm Iran with advanced anti-aircraft missile batteries, or its offers to various Arab nations to help them develop "peaceful" nuclear programs.

Russian President Vladimir Putin seems adamant to export the Cold War to the Middle East as part of his vision to recapture Russia's superpower status, and his desire to exact revenge on the U.S. over its positions on the Ukraine and Crimea crises.

The Arab coalition is aware of the Russian interests, and the Saudis have already announced that if Putin tries to stop Operation Storm of Resolve through a U.N. Security Council resolution and the U.S. refrains from vetoing it, the coalition would still forge on with its mission, backed by Pakistan and Turkey.

Unless the balance of power shifts, Yemen stands to be the first nation where the Iranian expansion efforts will be curtailed by the Sunni Arab states. Nevertheless, to achieve this objective, the Saudis and their allies will have to put boots on the ground.

Meanwhile, in Syria, the Russian-Iranian alliance is serving the Assad regime, assisted by Hamas loyalists the Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis group, which operates mostly in the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp. Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis operatives, however, have found themselves between a rock and a hard place, as the near-empty camp is bombarded by the Syrian air force on the one hand, and overrun by Islamic state gunmen on the other.

A district in south Damascus, Yarmouk is close to the Syrian capital's seat of power, on which the regime is quickly losing its hold. Assad's waning control of the country's border crossings, some of which have fallen to the rebels, is stifling Syria, thus further undermining the regime.

The support lent by Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis to Assad indicates that the Syrian regime and Hamas have not actually divorced, and the rekindled romance includes Iranian support to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, including weapons, assistance in rehabilitating Gaza's grid of terror tunnels, and sponsoring terrorist attacks.

Hamas and Hezbollah's mutual dreams of Israel's annihilation fuel, in turn, the Iranian ayatollahs' murderous fantasies; and all of this is taking place during the short interludes when the Iranians are not laughing at the Americans' expense, given the ridiculous agreement reached in Lausanne.

Tangible threats

It is against the backdrop of this regional chaos that the U.S. has decided that now would be the best time to demand that Israel allow the inception of a terrorist state in Judea and Samaria, on top of the one that already exists in the Gaza Strip -- a bizarre American initiative, to say the least.

With friends like these, who needs enemies? It seems some in the American administration believe -- perhaps out of spite -- that the destructive model of Hamas rule in Gaza, which seeks to undermine both Israel and Egypt from Sinai, is successful enough to warrant replicating in Judea and Samaria, where it will threaten Israel and Jordan.

The threat from the south is alive and well, it seems, as it the threat from the north, via Hezbollah. Under orders from Iran, the Shiite terrorist group's operatives continue to fight and get killed in Syria, while Hezbollah -- encouraged by Iran's ability to "bend" the U.S. to its will, increases its arsenal of long-range missiles, and readies for conflict with Israel.

Prior to increasing its operations in the region through its Hamas and Hezbollah proxies, Iran is concentrating its efforts on Yemen. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani are seeing their momentum stemmed by the Arab coalition, and are using the Sultanate of Oman to threaten the Saudis. The coalition does not intimidate Iran, as the Islamic republic knows the Arab allies would never dare attack on its soil.

Meanwhile, emboldened by the impending lifting of the sanctions, the Iranians prepare to restock their arsenals, and when they finally do obtain a nuclear weapon, they would be able to subdue the Arabian Peninsula states and reorganize their military bearings. This will allow Iran, in the future, to demonstrate the earnest of its threats against its enemies -- in the Gulf by boasting its nuclear ability, as well as by training its missiles on Israel, from Iran as well as from Lebanon.

Iranian confidence

Sheikh Mafouz Walad al-Walid, the retired Sunni mufti of al-Qaida, blames Iran for all that ails the Middle East. Despite the existential battle between Shiite Iran and the Sunni states over hegemony in the Middle East, al-Qaida still tries to undermine its brethren and bolster its position by staging attacks that claim dozens of lives.

It is exactly this atmosphere that makes Walid's authentic analysis of the situation one that affords us a rare glimpse into the radical Sunni frame of mind. In a series of Al-Jazeera interviews, the mufti explained that the conflicts in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen can be traced back solely to Iran's megalomania.

The Arab nations lack a shared vision of the future, Walid said, and therefore they cannot band together and effectively counter the Iranian aggressions. The Arab nations have forsaken the Palestinians, and Tehran has taken advantage of the situation, stepping in and enlisting the Palestinians to its cause, he added, and now Iran has the Chinese and the Russian doing its bidding as well, manipulating them by offering them attractive, massive business opportunities.

The mufti further claimed that all the U.S. cares about is its own interests and those of their Israeli ally, and asserted that in the new regional reality, Tehran is simply waiting for Washington's green light to storm Bahrain, seeing how it has already overrun Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa.

The Shiite Iran views the Middle East from a "Persian" perspective of religious, national, and racial superiority, which seeks to disguise its patronizing attitude toward the Arabs and even toward the other, "inferior" Shiite ethnic groups, Walid said.

The eloquent cleric advised the Arab states to take a leaf out of Iran's own books if they are to deal with it effectively: First, use moderate force and diplomacy, then use brute force to realize your achievements. That is the language of the Middle East, he said, and it is the only way to get results -- an interesting lesson for Obama, who only seeks to appease his enemies.

The Iranians are not running rampant in the region in vain, but rather to realize a carefully crafted takeover of the Middle East, one they will continue to pursue unless they are stopped in their tracks, Walid concluded.


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Disease outbreak threatens Nepal's earthquake survivors

Medical workers try to prevent spread of disease in quake's aftermath, with clean water and toilets in short supply.

Survivors of Nepal's major earthquake are facing the threat of a disease outbreak due to a severe shortage of clean water and toilets.

Al Jazeera's Subina Shrestha, reporting from the village of Dukuchap in Lalitpur area, said on Friday that locals were suffering from diarrhoea, stomach cramps and other diseases that could turn into epidemics if the cause of the problem was not stopped in time.

"The water is thick and smelly, but we have to drink it," Kalpana Tamang, a Dukuchap village resident, told Al Jazeera.

Dr Kishore Rana, a major general in the Nepalese army, said that in a number of villages the health centres and hospitals have been ruined and the areas depended on mobile medical teams - often foreigners.

"Our plan is for other medical teams that can come here and stay here for a longer duration - three to six months," he said.

"We'll be sending these teams to the areas were health posts and hospitals have been destroyed."

Shrestha reported that "even at the best of times, the health system in Nepal has been rather poor".

"For this village of Dukchap, the only health post is half an hour further up and the only thing they have is paracetamol."

Essential medicines
The World Health Organization (WHO) said that a quick assessment of Nepal's worst-hit districts has found some hospitals damaged or destroyed, but most were coping well with no extra staff or beds required.

According to the WHO, there was a need for essential medicines, equipment and materials.

The organisation said it was focused on preventing the possible spread of diarrhoeal diseases among at least 2.8 million displaced people, especially those living in 16 makeshift camps in the capital, Kathmandu.

The death toll from Saturday's earthquake has reached more than 6,200 people. Almost 14,000 have been injured and thousands are still missing.

Many of the monuments and temples in Kathmandu Valley, which was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, for seven distinct locations, were destroyed in the earthquake.

Search and rescue teams continue their operation, clearing debris from crushed buildings and the centuries-old temples as well as getting aid to remote locations.The government has announced it will give every family, which has had a member killed in the earthquake, about $1,000 in compensation.

Source: Jazeera and agencies


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Water shortage looms in Zambia

The Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) has warned that Zambia will be forced to ration water because of the poor rainfall pattern experienced this season.

DMMU national coordinator Patrick Kangwa called on relevant stakeholders to take appropriate measures in anticipation of crop failure due to poor rainfall pattern.

The country has experienced an unpredictable rainfall pattern with more than 14 days of a dry spell reported in Western, Southern and Eastern provinces which has resulted into wilting of crops.
“Water for power generation, irrigation, domestic and other uses will significantly reduce in the coming months and this will call for enhanced water and electricity rationing throughout the country,” Mr Kangwa said.

The Government expected the yields to be much lower than the previous years because of the prolonged dry spells.The dry spell over the affected areas of the country has led to wilting and crop failure, raising production uncertainty.

“The crop damage is reported to be irreversible as the rainy season for agriculture purposes comes to an end. The Government is fully aware of the prevailing situation and is putting in place some measures in the short to medium term while awaiting the results from the in-depth assessment that is currently in progress,” he added.

The rainfall forecast in September last year had indicated that most parts of the country were expecting normal rainfall during October to December with isolated areas likely to get normal to below normal rainfall.The forecast further indicated that normal to above normal rainfall was likely to be received during between January and March 2015.

However, the country experienced mixed rainfall performance with an early onset confined to Northern, Luapula, some parts Western and Western Provinces.The rest of the country experienced a late onset with much of the rains received during the last 10 days of December 2014.

Mr Kangwa said while crops looked fined in February, the situation in the southern half of the country deteriorated due to the prolonged dry spell.

He however, assured that despite the situation being desperate, the Government would do everything possible to mitigate the impacts of the poor performance of the rainy season.


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