Taiwan Raises Concerns about Situation ‘Getting Out of Hand’ with China Drills

 Taiwanese soldiers salute during a drill in Hsinchu County, northern Taiwan, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. (AP)
Taiwanese soldiers salute during a drill in Hsinchu County, northern Taiwan, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. (AP)
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Taiwan Raises Concerns about Situation ‘Getting Out of Hand’ with China Drills

 Taiwanese soldiers salute during a drill in Hsinchu County, northern Taiwan, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. (AP)
Taiwanese soldiers salute during a drill in Hsinchu County, northern Taiwan, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. (AP)

The increased frequency of China's military activities around Taiwan recently has raised the risk of events "getting out of hand" and sparking an accidental clash, the island's defense minister said on Saturday.

Taiwan has said that the past two weeks has seen dozens of fighters, drones, bombers and other aircraft, as well as warships and the Chinese carrier the Shandong, operating nearby.

China, which views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, has in recent years carried out many such drills around the island, seeking to assert its sovereignty claims and pressure Taipei.

Asked by reporters on the sidelines of parliament whether there was a risk of an accidental incident sparking a broader conflict given the frequency of the Chinese activities, Taiwan Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said: "This is something we are very worried about".

Warships from China's southern and eastern theater commands have been operating together off Taiwan's east coast, he added.

"The risks of activities involving aircraft, ships, and weapons will increase, and both sides must pay attention," Chiu said.

China has not commented about the drills around Taiwan, and its defense ministry has not responded to requests for comment.

Chiu said that when the Shandong was out at sea, which Taiwan first reported on Sept. 11, it was operating as the "opposing force" in the drills. Ministry spokesman Sun Li-fang added that China's Eastern Theatre Command forces were the "attacking force", simulating a battle scenario.

Taiwan's traditional military planning for a potential conflict has been to use its mountainous east coast, especially the two major air bases there, as a place to regroup and preserve its forces given it does not directly face China unlike the island's west coast.

But China has increasingly been flexing its muscles off Taiwan's east coast, and generally displaying its ability to operate much further away from China's own coastline.

China normally performs large-scale exercises from July to September, Taiwan's defense ministry has said.

On Saturday the ministry said China had largely dialed back its drills, reporting that over the previous 24-hour period it had only spotted two Chinese aircraft operating in its air defense zone.

Taiwan has frequently said that it would remain calm and not escalate the situation, but that it won't allow "repeated provocations" from China, whose forces have so far not entered Taiwan's territorial seas or airspace.



Russia Brings New Charges against Jailed Kremlin Foe Navalny

Jailed Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny is seen on a screen via a video link from his penal colony during court hearings over the extremism criminal case against him at the Russia's Supreme Court in Moscow on June 22, 2023. (AFP)
Jailed Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny is seen on a screen via a video link from his penal colony during court hearings over the extremism criminal case against him at the Russia's Supreme Court in Moscow on June 22, 2023. (AFP)
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Russia Brings New Charges against Jailed Kremlin Foe Navalny

Jailed Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny is seen on a screen via a video link from his penal colony during court hearings over the extremism criminal case against him at the Russia's Supreme Court in Moscow on June 22, 2023. (AFP)
Jailed Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny is seen on a screen via a video link from his penal colony during court hearings over the extremism criminal case against him at the Russia's Supreme Court in Moscow on June 22, 2023. (AFP)

Imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been handed new charges by Russian prosecutors.

The 47-year-old is already serving more than 30 years in prison after being found guilty of crimes including extremism — charges that his supporters characterize as politically motivated. In comments passed to his associates, Navalny said he had been charged under article 214 of Russia’s penal code, which covers crimes of vandalism.

“I don’t even know whether to describe my latest news as sad, funny or absurd,” he wrote in comments on social media Friday via his team. “I have no idea what Article 214 is, and there’s nowhere to look. You’ll know before I do.”

He said that the charges were part of the Kremlin’s desire to “initiate a new criminal case against me every three months.”

“Never before has a convict in solitary confinement for more than a year had such a rich social and political life,” he joked.

Navalny is one of President Vladimir Putin’s most ardent opponents, best known for campaigning against official corruption and organizing major anti-Kremlin protests. The former lawyer was arrested in 2021, after he returned to Moscow from Germany where he had recuperated from nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin.

He has since been handed three prison terms and has faced months in solitary confinement after being accused of various minor infractions.

Several Navalny associates have also faced extremism-related charges after the politician’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption and a network of regional offices were outlawed as extremist groups in 2021, a move that exposed virtually anyone affiliated with them to prosecution.

Most recently, a court in the Siberian city of Tomsk jailed Ksenia Fadeyeva, who used to run Navalny’s office in Tomsk, prior to her trial on extremism charges.

Fadeyeva was initially placed under house arrest in October before later being remanded in pre-trial detention. If found guilty, she faces up to 12 years in prison.


Türkiye's Erdogan: Chance for Peace in Gaza Conflict Lost for Now

Palestinians stand next to a crater following an Israeli airstrike on the main road between Rafah and Khan Yunis on the southern Gaza Strip, on December 2, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (AFP)
Palestinians stand next to a crater following an Israeli airstrike on the main road between Rafah and Khan Yunis on the southern Gaza Strip, on December 2, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (AFP)
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Türkiye's Erdogan: Chance for Peace in Gaza Conflict Lost for Now

Palestinians stand next to a crater following an Israeli airstrike on the main road between Rafah and Khan Yunis on the southern Gaza Strip, on December 2, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (AFP)
Palestinians stand next to a crater following an Israeli airstrike on the main road between Rafah and Khan Yunis on the southern Gaza Strip, on December 2, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (AFP)

Türkiye's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the chance for peace in Gaza after the humanitarian pause was lost for now due to Israel's uncompromising approach, broadcaster NTV reported on Saturday.

"We have always emphasized that we are in favor of a permanent ceasefire rather than a humanitarian break...There was an opportunity for peace here, and unfortunately, we have lost this opportunity for now due to Israel's uncompromising approach," Erdogan was quoted as saying by NTV and other Turkish media.

The truce that started on Nov. 24 had been extended twice. But after seven days during which women, children and foreign hostages were freed as well as a number of Palestinian prisoners, mediators failed to find a formula to release more.

Since then, Israeli air strikes and artillery bombardments have hit southern Gaza, extending the nearly two-month-old war in which thousands of people died.

Speaking to reporters on his way back from the United Arab Emirates, Erdogan also said that he is not losing hope for a lasting peace in the conflict adding that Hamas cannot be excluded from its potential solution, according to NTV.

"We need to focus on the two-state solution...The exclusion of Hamas or destruction of Hamas is not a realistic scenario," Erdogan said during the interview, adding that he will not define Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Separately, sources told Reuters that Israel has informed several Arab states that it wants to carve out a buffer zone on the Palestinian side of Gaza's border to prevent future attacks as part of proposals for the enclave after war ends.

Erdogan also said a contact group formed by the OIC and Arab League would visit the United States to discuss possible resolution of conflict in Gaza after meeting with authorities in London, Paris, Barcelona and the United Nations.


Ukraine's Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant Suffered Power Outage

A Ukrainian serviceman loads a shell into a Partyzan small multiple rocket launch system before firing toward Russian troops at a position near a front line, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine November 7, 2023. REUTERS/Stringer
A Ukrainian serviceman loads a shell into a Partyzan small multiple rocket launch system before firing toward Russian troops at a position near a front line, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine November 7, 2023. REUTERS/Stringer
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Ukraine's Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant Suffered Power Outage

A Ukrainian serviceman loads a shell into a Partyzan small multiple rocket launch system before firing toward Russian troops at a position near a front line, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine November 7, 2023. REUTERS/Stringer
A Ukrainian serviceman loads a shell into a Partyzan small multiple rocket launch system before firing toward Russian troops at a position near a front line, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine November 7, 2023. REUTERS/Stringer

Ukraine's Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant lost its power supply after the last remaining line to it from Ukrainian-controlled territory was disrupted, but it has since been repaired, the energy ministry said on Saturday.
The plant was occupied by Russia in March 2022 and is no longer generating power, but needs a supply of electricity to cool one of its four reactors which is in a state of 'hot conservation' - meaning it has not fully been shut down, Reuters reported.
According to a statement published by Ukraine's energy ministry on Telegram, one power line to the plant was disrupted late on Friday, while the last, 750 kW, line was broken at 2:31 a.m. (0031 GMT) on Saturday.
"This is the eighth blackout which occurred at the (Zaporizhzhia plant) and could have led to nuclear catastrophe," the statement said.
The ministry said that after losing grid connection the plant turned on 20 backup generators to supply its own electricity needs.
It said that at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT) Ukrainian specialists repaired the 750 kW line which was now bringing power to the plant once more.


Russia’s Lavrov Declares at Security Talks That His Country’s Goals in Ukraine Are Unchanged

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds a press conference on the sidelines of a two-day conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Skopje on December 1, 2023. (AFP)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds a press conference on the sidelines of a two-day conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Skopje on December 1, 2023. (AFP)
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Russia’s Lavrov Declares at Security Talks That His Country’s Goals in Ukraine Are Unchanged

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds a press conference on the sidelines of a two-day conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Skopje on December 1, 2023. (AFP)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds a press conference on the sidelines of a two-day conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Skopje on December 1, 2023. (AFP)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov delivered a blunt message to Western leaders Friday and declared at an international security conference that his government was not prepared to “review its goals” in Ukraine.

“We aren’t seeing any signals from Kyiv or its masters about their readiness to seek any kind of political settlement,” Lavrov told reporters while attending an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe conference in North Macedonia.

“We see no reason to review our goals,” he said.

North Macedonia, which joined NATO in 2020, waived a flight ban on Russian officials so Lavrov could attend the two-day meeting of the OSCE's Ministerial Council, prompting the top diplomats of Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to skip the event in protest.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a brief stop in North Macedonia’s capital, Skopje, before Lavrov arrived.

Participants at the meeting accused Moscow of undermining the OSCE with its war in Ukraine. The Vienna, Austria-based organization, originally created to ease Cold War tensions, includes 57 member countries from North America, Europe and the former Soviet Union.

“It is Russia that is waging an unprovoked and unlawful war against Ukraine, and it is Russia that is obstructing the OSCE agenda,” Ambassador Katrina Kaktina, Latvia’s representative to the organization, said Friday.

“Russia is continuing violations of human rights: deliberate killings of civilians, including children, forced deportations, tactics of torture and sexual violence. Those are war crimes being committed by Russia in Ukraine,” she charged.

Lavrov held several bilateral meetings while in Skopje, including talks with the foreign ministers of meeting host North Macedonia, Armenia and Hungary, which has maintained close ties with Moscow despite European Union sanctions on Russia.

He later accused diplomats from other Western countries of showing cowardice by refusing to meet with him.

“They probably want to emphasize their intention to isolate Russia but I think they just chickened out,” Lavrov said during a Friday news conference that lasted over an hour.

“They’re afraid of any honest conversation,” he said. “It’s cowardice, simple cowardice.”

At the close of the OSCE meeting, North Macedonia said it had overcome Russian objections that had threatened to stall the organization's activities.

Participants voted to pass the OSCE's rotating presidency from North Macedonia to Malta, sidestepping objections from Moscow which had blocked an earlier bid by Estonia. Malta will assume the presidency on Jan. 1.

“Let me break the news that the OSCE is saved. We have saved the organization and its functionality,” North Macedonia’s foreign minister, Bujar Osmani, said.

OSCE Secretary-General Helga Schmid also had her term extended for nine months, along with two other senior executives at the organization. A third executive was newly appointed, also for a nine-month term.


Pentagon Forges New High-Tech Agreement with Australia, UK Aimed at Countering China

(From L) Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps hold a press conference during the AUKUS Defense Ministerial Meeting in Mountain View, California, on December 1, 2023. (AFP)
(From L) Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps hold a press conference during the AUKUS Defense Ministerial Meeting in Mountain View, California, on December 1, 2023. (AFP)
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Pentagon Forges New High-Tech Agreement with Australia, UK Aimed at Countering China

(From L) Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps hold a press conference during the AUKUS Defense Ministerial Meeting in Mountain View, California, on December 1, 2023. (AFP)
(From L) Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps hold a press conference during the AUKUS Defense Ministerial Meeting in Mountain View, California, on December 1, 2023. (AFP)

From underwater drones to electronic warfare, the US is expanding its high-tech military cooperation with Australia and the United Kingdom as part of a broader effort to counter China’s rapidly growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with defense chiefs from Australia and the United Kingdom at the US military’s defense technology hub in Silicon Valley on Friday to forge a new agreement to increase technology cooperation and information sharing. The goal, according to a joint statement, is to be able to better address global security challenges, ensure each can defend against rapidly evolving threats and to "contribute to stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond."

Austin met with Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles and Grant Shapps, the British secretary of state for defense, at the Defense Innovation Unit headquarters.

Speaking at a news conference after the meeting, Austin said the effort will, for example, rapidly accelerate the sophistication of the drone systems, and prove that "we are stronger together."

The new technology agreement is the next step in a widening military cooperation with Australia that was first announced in 2021. The three nations have laid out plans for the so-called AUKUS partnership to help equip Australia with a fleet of eight nuclear-powered submarines. AUKUS is an acronym for Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Under the deal, Australia will buy three Virginia-class submarines from the United States and build five of a new AUKUS-class submarine in cooperation with Britain. The subs, powered by US nuclear technology, would not carry nuclear weapons and would be built in Adelaide, Australia, with the first one finished around 2040.

Marles said there has been an enormous amount of progress in the submarine program. He added that as an island nation, Australia has a need for improved maritime drones and precision strike capabilities.

And Shapps said that with China "undermining the freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific, we’ve never had a greater need for more innovation." He said open navigation of the seas, including in the Pacific and the South China Sea, is critical.

According to officials, Australian Navy officers have already started to go through nuclear power training at US military schools.

Earlier this year the US announced it would expand its military industrial base by helping Australia manufacture guided missiles and rockets for both countries within two years. Under that agreement, they would cooperate on Australia’s production of Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems by 2025.

The enhanced cooperation between the nations has been driven by growing concerns about China’s burgeoning defense spending and rapidly expanding military presence in the region. Last year Beijing signed a security pact with Solomon Islands and raised the prospect of a Chinese naval base being established there.

The US has increased its troop presence, military exercises and other activities in the region. US relations with China have been strained in recent years, over trade, US support for self-governing Taiwan, Beijing’s military buildup on a series of manmade islands, and a number of aggressive aircraft and ship encounters.

The new agreement also sets up a series of military exercises involving the use of undersea and surface maritime drones and improves the ability of the three countries to share intelligence and data collected by their sonobuoys. The buoys are used to detect submarines and other objects in the water.

It also calls for plans to expand the use of artificial intelligence, including on P-8A surveillance aircraft, to more quickly process data from the buoys in order to improve anti-submarine warfare. And it says the three countries will establish new radar sites to beef up their ability to detect and track objects in deep space.

High-tech demonstrations were set up across a large parking area at DIU and inside the headquarters, allowing Austin to take a few minutes before the start of the meeting to see a number of projects being developed, including a virtual training device that will help Ukrainian pilots learn to fly F-16 fighter jets and swarming drones being developed for warfighters.

The projects aren’t tied to the Australian agreement, but reflect the ongoing effort by the three nations to improve technology — an area where China often has the lead.

As Austin walked through the exhibits, he was able to watch a swarm of five drones lift off from the pavement and hover over the onlookers — all controlled by a single worker with a small handheld module. The short-range reconnaissance drones — called the Skydio X2D — are already in use in combat, but the swarming technology and ability to control them all from a single device is still in development, said Skydio CEO Adam Bry.

Inside the DIU offices, Air Force Maj. Alex Horn demonstrated a new portable pilot-training module that will allow instructors in the United States to remotely coach trainees overseas using a virtual reality headset. Four of the so-called "Immersive Training Devices" will be delivered to Morris Air National Guard Base in Arizona next month and will be used to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s.

Horn said the devices, which are cheaper than other systems, will help accelerate the training for Ukrainian pilots who are used to flying Soviet aircraft and need schooling on F-16 basics before moving to cockpit training.


Protester Critically Injured after Setting Self on Fire outside Israeli Consulate in Atlanta

 Emergency personnel work the scene after a protester set themself on fire outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Emergency personnel work the scene after a protester set themself on fire outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
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Protester Critically Injured after Setting Self on Fire outside Israeli Consulate in Atlanta

 Emergency personnel work the scene after a protester set themself on fire outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Emergency personnel work the scene after a protester set themself on fire outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

A protester was in critical condition Friday after setting themself on fire outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, authorities said. A security guard who tried to intervene was also injured.

A Palestinian flag found at the scene was part of the protest, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said at a news conference.

He added that investigators did not believe there was any connection to terrorism and none of the consular staff was ever in danger.

"We do not see any threat here," he said. "We believe it was an act of extreme political protest that occurred."

Authorities did not release the protester's name, age or gender. The person set up outside the building in the city's midtown neighborhood on Friday afternoon and used gasoline as an accelerant, Atlanta Fire Chief Roderick Smith said.

The protester was in critical condition, with burn injuries to the body. A security guard that tried to stop the person was burned on his wrist and leg, Smith said.

Schierbaum said police are aware of heightened tensions in the Jewish and Muslim community and have stepped up patrols at certain locations, including the consulate.

Demonstrations have been widespread and tensions in the US have escalated as the death toll rises in the Israel-Hamas war.

A weeklong ceasefire that brought the exchanges of dozens of hostages held by Hamas for scores of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel gave way Friday morning to resumed fighting between Israel and Hamas.


EU: Pace of Executions in Iran is Appalling

Iranian security personnel preparing ropes for the gallows. (IRNA Agency)
Iranian security personnel preparing ropes for the gallows. (IRNA Agency)
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EU: Pace of Executions in Iran is Appalling

Iranian security personnel preparing ropes for the gallows. (IRNA Agency)
Iranian security personnel preparing ropes for the gallows. (IRNA Agency)

The European Union (EU) on Friday described the current pace of executions in Iran as “appalling”, reiterating its firm and principled opposition to the use of capital punishment at all times and in all circumstances.
“There are credible reports that a minor, Hamidreza Azari, and a protester, Milad Zohrevand, were executed in Iran on November 24 and 23 respectively,” the Arab World Press quoted the EU statement.
“The current pace of executions in Iran, at least 600 since January, is appalling,” added the statement.
“The European Union reiterates its firm and principled opposition to the use of capital punishment at all times and in all circumstances. The death penalty is a cruel and inhumane punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent to crime and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity.”
Iranian authorities executed a Kurdish man jailed for almost 14 years in a case linked to a Muslim cleric's killing in 2008, rights groups said, decrying unjust proceedings, according to Iran International.
Ayoub Karimi, 33, was arrested in 2019 on the capital charge of "corruption on earth" in a case involving six other Kurdish men who also received the death penalty.
Amnesty International had issued warnings in recent days, highlighting the imminent danger of Karimi's execution and urging authorities to cancel the sentence.
Karimi was hanged along with six other men, who had received sentences in unrelated cases, in Ghezel Hesar prison in the Tehran suburb of Karaj, the Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) group said.
Director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said: “The execution of Ayoub Karimi, based on coerced confessions and without a fair trial, like the execution of other political prisoners, is a crime.”
The execution was confirmed by the US-based Human Rights Activists News Agency and France-based Kurdistan Human Rights Network.
Amnesty International said in a statement at the time that the trial was "grossly unfair," pointing to forced confessions under torture.
The remaining five defendants are still incarcerated and face the imminent threat of execution, according to human rights watchdogs.
The rate of executions in Iran has been rising sharply, particularly in the wake of widespread protests that swept across the country last year following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody for an alleged head-scarf violation.
This month it has executed Milad Zohrevand, a man in his 20s in a case related to the protests, as well as 17-year-old youth Hamidreza Azari on murder charges as well as dozens of others.


House Expels New York Rep. George Santos. It's Just the Sixth Expulsion in the Chamber's History

Rep. George Santos (R-NY) is surrounded by journalists as he leaves the US Capitol after his fellow members of Congress voted to expel him from the House of Representatives on December 01, 2023 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP
Rep. George Santos (R-NY) is surrounded by journalists as he leaves the US Capitol after his fellow members of Congress voted to expel him from the House of Representatives on December 01, 2023 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP
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House Expels New York Rep. George Santos. It's Just the Sixth Expulsion in the Chamber's History

Rep. George Santos (R-NY) is surrounded by journalists as he leaves the US Capitol after his fellow members of Congress voted to expel him from the House of Representatives on December 01, 2023 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP
Rep. George Santos (R-NY) is surrounded by journalists as he leaves the US Capitol after his fellow members of Congress voted to expel him from the House of Representatives on December 01, 2023 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

The House voted on Friday to expel Republican Rep. George Santos of New York after a blistering ethics report on his conduct heightened lawmakers' concerns about the scandal-plagued freshman. Santos became just the sixth member in the chamber's history to be ousted by colleagues, and the third since the Civil War.
The vote to expel was 311-114, easily clearing the two-thirds majority required. House Republican leaders opposed removing Santos, whose departure leaves them with a razor-thin majority, but in the end 105 GOP lawmakers sided with nearly all Democrats to expel him, Reuters said.
The expulsion marked the final congressional chapter in a spectacular fall from grace for Santos. Celebrated as an up-and-comer after he flipped a district from Democrats last year, Santos' life story began to unravel before he was even sworn into office. Reports emerged that he had lied about having Jewish ancestry, a career at top Wall Street firms and a college degree, among other things.
Then, in May, Santos was indicted by federal prosecutors on multiple charges, turning his presence in the House into a growing distraction and embarrassment to the party.
Santos joins a short list of lawmakers expelled from the House, and for reasons uniquely his own. Of the previous expulsions in the House, three were for siding with the Confederacy during the Civil War. The remaining two occurred after the lawmakers were convicted of crimes in federal court, the most recent in 2002.
Seeking to remain in office, Santos had appealed to colleagues to let the court process play out. He warned of the precedent they would set by expelling a member not yet convicted of a crime.
“This will haunt them in the future,” Santos told lawmakers on Thursday evening as they debated his removal.
As it became clear Friday that he would be expelled, Santos appeared resigned to his fate. He placed his overcoat over his shoulders and shook hands with conservative members who voted against his expulsion. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., who voted against expelling Santos, was solemn as he announced the result of the vote and declared the New York seat vacant.
Outside the Capitol, trailed by a crush of reporters and cameras, he quickly ducked inside a vehicle and left.
Santos' fellow Republicans from New York were front and center in the effort to boot him. Among them were fellow freshmen who serve in key swing districts and had helped the GOP take the House majority. They sought to generate as much political distance as they could from Santos, whose lies about his past made him a pariah in the House before he even took the oath of office.
Rep. Anthony D'Esposito, whose district is next to Santos', led the debate for expulsion and argued that voters would welcome lawmakers holding themselves to a high standard. Another New York Republican, Rep. Nick Langworthy, said Santos had only himself to blame.
“Every precedent under the sun has been broken by George Santos,” Langworthy said. “Has there ever been anyone here that’s made up a whole life?”
Santos had survived two previous expulsion attempts, but a scathing House Ethics Committee report released the week before the Thanksgiving holiday appeared to turn colleagues decisively against him.
After eight months of work, Ethics Committee investigators said they had found “overwhelming evidence” that Santos had broken the law and exploited his public position for his own profit.
“It’s a solemn day," said the chairman of the ethics panel, Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss. "I mean no one wants to have to remove a member from Congress. But the allegations against him, the evidence was overwhelming.”
Rep. Susan Wild, the top Democrat on the Ethics Committee, reminded members that the decision approving the investigators’ findings was unanimous.
“Mr. Santos is not a victim," Wild said. "He is a perpetrator of a massive fraud on his constituents and the American people.”
Santos' troubles are far from over, as he faces trial next year in New York. Federal prosecutors in a 23-count indictment have accused him of duping donors, stealing from his campaign and lying to Congress.
The indictment alleges specifically that Santos stole the identities of campaign donors and then used their credit cards to make tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges. He then wired some of the money to his personal bank account and used the rest to pad his campaign coffers, prosecutors say. Santos has pleaded not guilty,
Santos’ expulsion narrows the GOP’s majority to 221-213 and Democrats will have a good opportunity to fill the vacancy. Shortly after the vote, Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said she’s prepared to call a special election for the seat, likely in mid-to-late February under a timeframe set by state law.
“When you look at his lack of ethics and the fact that, you know, he has not served the people of our state, particularly New York 3 where he resides, it’s been an abysmal run for him,” Hochul said Friday.
The special election will kick off a hotly contested year of congressional races in New York as Democrats look to flip a handful of seats in the state and retake control of the House. The field of candidates for Santos’ seat is already crowded and includes former US Rep. Tom Suozzi, a Democrat who represented the district before an unsuccessful run for governor last year.
Now that he has been removed from office, Santos' congressional office will remain operational under the management of the Clerk of the House. No additional staff can be hired, but the current staff can stay on and perform constituent casework. They will be unable to undertake any legislative activity, such as the drafting of bills.
Santos, for his part, hasn't lost all the privileges afforded to former members. He will still be permitted to walk onto the House floor and fraternize with members.
According to House rules, any former lawmaker can maintain their floor privileges unless they are a lobbyist, foreign agent, have a direct interest in the bill being considered at the time, or have been convicted of a crime in relation to their election or service.


South Korea Confirms First Spy Satellite in Orbit

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket minutes before the launch of the Korea 425 Mission. SPACEX/AFP
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket minutes before the launch of the Korea 425 Mission. SPACEX/AFP
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South Korea Confirms First Spy Satellite in Orbit

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket minutes before the launch of the Korea 425 Mission. SPACEX/AFP
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket minutes before the launch of the Korea 425 Mission. SPACEX/AFP

South Korea confirmed Saturday its first military spy satellite had reached orbit after a successful SpaceX rocket launch and that communication was established with ground control.
Seoul's reconnaissance satellite, carried by one of Elon Musk's SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets, intensifies a space race on the Korean peninsula after the North launched its own first military eye in the sky last week.
South Korea's defense ministry said Saturday its satellite reached orbit soon after the "KOREA"-emblazoned SpaceX rocket lifted off from the Vandenberg US Space Force Base in California at 10:19 am local time (1819 GMT) Friday.
"The satellite was launched 0319 Seoul time and was successfully separated from the projectile 11 minutes later and put into a targeted orbital trajectory," the ministry said in a statement.
"We have confirmed its communications with the ground command."
Reaching orbit means that South Korea now has its first domestically built spy satellite to monitor nuclear-armed North Korea.
Seoul plans to launch four additional spy satellites by the end of 2025 to bolster its reconnaissance capacity over the North.
Set to orbit between 400 and 600 kilometers (250 to 370 miles) above Earth, the South's satellite is capable of detecting an object as small as 30 centimeters (11.8 inches), according to the Yonhap news agency.
"Considering resolution and its capacity for Earth observation... our satellite technology ranks in the top five globally," a defense ministry official said, as quoted by Yonhap.
The launch comes less than two weeks after Pyongyang successfully put its own spy satellite into orbit.
"Until now, South Korea has relied heavily on US-run spy satellites" when it comes to monitoring the North, Choi Gi-il, professor of military studies at Sangji University, told AFP.
While the South has "succeeded in the launch of a military communications satellite, it has taken much longer for a reconnaissance satellite due to higher technological hurdles", he said.
Following the North's successful launch of its spy satellite, Choi said, "the South Korean government needs to demonstrate it can also pull this off".
'Destroy' US spy satellites
The nuclear-armed North's launch drew international condemnation which the North Korean leader's powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, called "absurd", declaring that her country would never relinquish its space program.
North Korea is barred by successive rounds of UN resolutions from tests using ballistic technology, and analysts say there is significant technological overlap between space launch capabilities and the development of ballistic missiles.
On Saturday, Pyongyang threatened to "destroy" US spy satellites if Washington "tries to violate the legitimate territory" of North Korea, referring to its satellite program.
If the United States attempts to breach its space rights "by weaponizing the latest technologies illegally and unjustly", said a spokesperson of the North's defense ministry in a statement carried by state-run KCNA, "the DPRK will consider taking responsive action measures for self-defense to undermine or destroy the viability of the US spy satellites".
Experts have said putting a working reconnaissance satellite into orbit would improve North Korea's intelligence-gathering capabilities, particularly over South Korea, and provide crucial data in any military conflict.
Since last week's launch, the North has claimed its new satellite has already provided images of major US and South Korean military sites.
It has not yet disclosed any of the satellite imagery it claims to possess.
The North's launch of "Malligyong-1" was Pyongyang's third attempt at putting such a satellite in orbit, after two failures in May and August.
Seoul has said the North received technical help from Moscow, in return for supplying weapons for use in Russia's war with Ukraine.


NATO Chief Tells Türkiye’s Erdogan That ‘The Time Has Come’ to Let Sweden Join the Alliance

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks to The Associated Press at the COP28 UN Climate Summit, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP)
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks to The Associated Press at the COP28 UN Climate Summit, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP)
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NATO Chief Tells Türkiye’s Erdogan That ‘The Time Has Come’ to Let Sweden Join the Alliance

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks to The Associated Press at the COP28 UN Climate Summit, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP)
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks to The Associated Press at the COP28 UN Climate Summit, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says he has told Türkiye’s president that “the time has come” to let Sweden become a member of the military alliance.

Türkiye and Hungary are the only NATO countries that have not yet formally approved Sweden’s accession bid.

Stoltenberg told The Associated Press that he urged Türkiye to finalize the process as he met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday on the sidelines of the COP28 climate summit in Dubai.

“I met with President Erdogan this morning and I reiterated my message that the time has come to finalize the accession process for Sweden,” he said.

Türkiye has delayed ratification for more than a year, accusing Sweden of not taking Türkiye’s security concerns seriously enough, including its fight against Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara considers to be security threats.

An apparent breakthrough happened at a NATO summit in July when Erdogan said he would submit accession documents to Parliament, but a debate on the matter in the foreign affairs committee was adjourned last month without a decision.

Stoltenberg couldn’t say when he expected the ratification process to be completed.

“I’m not able to give an exact date, but I welcome the fact that just a few weeks ago President Erdogan submitted the papers for ratification to the Turkish Parliament,” the NATO leader said. “My message in the meeting today was, of course, that now the time has come to ensure that the Parliament finalizes its deliberations and concludes the ratification of Sweden as a formal NATO member.”

Sweden and neighboring Finland decided to drop their long-standing policy of non-alignment and apply for NATO membership following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year. Finland joined NATO in April. New members must be approved by all existing members of the alliance.