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Nepal earthquake: Drone footage
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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."
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
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
The death toll from Saturday's earthquake has reached more than
6,200 people. Almost 14,000 have been injured and thousands are
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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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
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
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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