22 October 2018


US Navy mulls sending ships through Taiwan Strait amid high tensions with China

KONFRONTASI-The United States Navy is assessing the launch of a sensitive new operation sending warships through the Taiwan Strait amid heightened tensions with China.

Officials told Reuters on Saturday that US military forces were mulling the idea of sending warships through the Taiwan Strait to guarantee free passage through the key waterway.

The source noted that the move could ratchet up already high tensions with China over trade and relations with self-governing Taiwan.

Indians protest after train accident kills dozens

KONFRONTASI-Angry relatives staged a protest on Saturday on the tracks where a speeding train ran into crowds celebrating a Hindu festival, killing around 60 people in northern India.

The Jalandhar-Amritsar express hit scores of revellers who had gathered on the railway tracks on the outskirts of Amritsar city in Punjab state on Friday to watch a firework display.

Many of the victims were dismembered or mutilated beyond recognition and police said it would take several days to complete the identification of the dead.

How Real-Time Virus Sequencing Can Help Stop Epidemics?

KONFRONTASI -   Lassa fever is a deadly virus that’s typically transmitted to humans from rodents. Every year, thousands of cases are reported in West Africa, and thousands of people die from the disease.

Trump reluctant to abandon Riyadh over missing journalist, wants evidence

KONFRONTASI- U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he did not want to abandon close ally Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of a Saudi journalist and government critic, and he needed to see evidence to prove Turkish claims he was killed by Saudi agents.

Trump said he was waiting for a full report on what had happened to Jamal Khashoggi from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whom he sent to Saudi Arabia and Turkey to meet with officials over the disappearance.

Turkish officials have said they believe Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who was critical of the authoritarian kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and his body removed. The Saudis have denied the allegations.

Turkish sources have told Reuters the authorities have an audio recording indicating Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate. He has not been seen since entering the building.

Turkey’s pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper on Wednesday published what it said were details from audio recordings that purported to document Khashoggi’s torture and interrogation.

Khashoggi was killed within minutes and his torturers severed his fingers during the interrogation, the newspaper said. His killers later beheaded and dismembered him, it said.

Turkey has not shared with the U.S. government or European allies graphic audio or video evidence, seven U.S. and European security officials told Reuters. The United States and allies have collected some intelligence through their own sources and methods, which partly confirms news reports based on leaks of audio recordings, four of the sources said.

A New York Times report cited a senior Turkish official confirming the details published by Yeni Safak. Two Turkish government officials contacted by Reuters declined to confirm the report.

Trump, who has forged closer ties with Saudi Arabia and the 33-year-old crown prince, said the United States has asked Turkey for any audio or video evidence.

Asked in a Fox Business Network interview if Washington could abandon Riyadh, Trump said: “I do not want to do that.”

Trump reiterated his hopes that Saudi leaders were not involved in his disappearance of Khashoggi, a U.S. resident.

“We have asked for it, if it exists ... I’m not sure yet that it exists, probably does, possibly does,” he later told reporters when asked about audio or video evidence.

U.S. media outlets have reported that Riyadh, despite its earlier denials of involvement, will acknowledge he was killed in a botched interrogation. Trump has speculated without providing evidence that “rogue killers” could be responsible.

How the crown prince emerges from the crisis is a test of how the West will deal with Saudi Arabia in the future.

Trump has appeared unwilling to distance himself too much from the Saudis, citing Riyadh’s role in countering Iranian influence in the region - and tens of billions of dollars in potential arms deals.

Other Western nations, although expressing concern about the incident, face a similar delicate situation in their dealings with the world’s top oil exporter.

Indonesia’s President Suddenly Looks Vulnerable

Wall Street Journal  - A slowdown in economic growth leads to a competitive 2019 election.

By Rizal Ramli
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US military masks killing of innocent civilians: analyst

KONFRONTASI-The US military “masks” the killing of innocent civilians by American forces as legitimate operations against militants ,says an American political analyst.

“The United States central command is positioning itself for a long military endless bombing strike, drone strike, military actions against … groups which are allegedly destabilizing governments,” said Scott Bennett, a former US military psychological warfare officer.

Nicaragua police arrests anti-government protesters

KONFRONTASI-Nicaraguan police have arrested at least 26 people after breaking up a group of demonstrators gathering for an anti-government protest on Sunday.

Police wielded clubs and hurled stun grenades at the crowd in a shopping centre car park in the capital, Managua.

Men and women, some of them elderly, were beaten by police before being dragged down the street and loaded into police vehicles.

Deadly flash floods hit southern France

KONFRONTASI-At least 13 people are known to have died on Sunday night as flash floods swept through villages around the southern French city of Carcassonne, according to the interior ministry's rescue service.

In the village of Villegailhenc, the river Trapel swelled to such an extent that it swept away at least one road bridge.

French emergency service personnel were out in area rescuing people from the floods. 

Congolese migrants flood home, Angola denies claims of brutal crackdown

KONFRONTASI- Congolese migrants and officials said dozens of people were killed this month in neighboring Angola in a crackdown on artisanal diamond mining, an accusation Angolan security forces strongly denied.

Angola, the world’s fifth largest diamond producer, has launched an operation in recent weeks to clear tens of thousands of people involved in digging for precious stones in the northeast of the country in order to attract more private investment.

Many of them are from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and hundreds of thousands of people have poured over the border into the Kasai region, border guards there told Reuters.

In interviews with Reuters, more than 20 Congolese migrants who crossed the border between October 4-12 described violence, looting and forced displacement by Angolan security forces as well as a local tribe called the Tshokwe.

The worse of the violence, they said, occurred in the town of Lucapa, located some 100 km south of the border with DRC in the heart of the diamond-rich Lunda Norte province.

Angolan security forces stormed the town, according to 15 witnesses, killing dozens of people, burning down homes, looting property and forcing people to leave. Some of those people were legally residing in Angola, the witnesses added.

“There was a lot of violence in Lucapa. The military was shooting at us while Tshowke were killing people with machetes. They jointly killed more than a dozen people,” said Victor Tshambapoko, 28, who worked as a diamond digger in the region.

Reuters could not independently verify the accusations.

Angolan Police Commissioner Antonio Bernardo, spokesman for the operation, denied there had been rights abuses by security forces, and said the only fatality he knew of was in a traffic accident.

“We have no record of any burning of homes, much less reprisals and or assaults on anyone,” he told Reuters.

“Angola and its government appeals to the common sense of the international community to realize that there is no underlying xenophobia, but only the legitimate normalizing of the socio-economic life of the country and national security.”

Amadhou Kabaseke Taty, Kasai’s provincial director of the Congolese border agency (DGM) told Reuters that he believed there had been “serious violations of human rights” during the Angolan operation.

“I am worried about the situation,” he said. “Congolese people have been expelled in degrading conditions. They have been molested, beaten and killed, especially in Lucapa, by the Angolan military police.”

Turkish court frees US pastor Andrew Brunson

KONFRONTASI-A Turkish court ordered the release of an American pastor held for the past two years in Turkey in a case that sparked a crisis in relations with the United States.

Andrew Burnson was convicted of terror-related charges and sentenced to three years, one month and 15 days in jail on Friday.

But he was freed, taking into account the time already served and good conduct during the trial. The court also lifted his house arrest and overseas travel ban, paving the way for his return to the US.