Briefing :- 31/8/17

Here is CurrentHow’s Briefing™ for the 31st of August, 2017 :-

1. Launch of India’s first privately-built satellite unsuccessful :-

ISRO has said the launch of the IRNSS-1H satellite from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh has been unsuccessful.

“Satellite got separated internally but it is enclosed within heat shield,” ISRO chief AS Kiran Kumar said.

The satellite was being transported by ISRO’s workhorse, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

The IRNSS-1H was privately built.

It was built by a consortium led by Alpha Design Technologies, a Bengaluru-based defence equipment supplier.

The building process, over eight months, was supervised by ISRO.

2. U.S. Bombers carry out drill over Korean peninsula after latest North Korea missile launch :-

South Korean and Japanese jets joined exercises with two supersonic US B-1B bombers above and near the Korean peninsula on Thursday, two days after North Korea fired a missile over Japan, sharply raising tension.

The drills, involving four U.S. stealth F-35B jets as well as South Korean and Japanese fighter jets, came at the end of annual joint US-South Korea military exercises focused mainly on computer simulations.

“North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland, and their destabilizing actions will be met accordingly,” said General Terrence J O’Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, who made an unscheduled visit to Japan.

“This complex mission clearly demonstrates our solidarity with our allies and underscores the broadening cooperation to defend against this common regional threat. Our forward deployed force will be the first to the fight, ready to deliver a lethal response at a moment’s notice if our nation calls.”

North Korea has made no secret of its intention to develop the knowhow to launch a nuclear-tipped missile at the United States and has recently threatened the US Pacific territory of Guam. It denounced the US exercises in traditionally robust fashion.

“The US imperialists and the south Korean puppet forces do not hide their bellicose nature, claiming that the exercises are to “counter” the DPRK’s ballistic rocket launches and nuclear weapons development,” the North’s KCNA news agency said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

“But the wild military acts of the enemies are nothing but the rash act of those taken aback by the intermediate-to-long range strategic ballistic rocket launching drill conducted by the army of the DPRK as the first military operation in the Pacific.”

US President Donald Trump has warned North Korea it would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States and that the US military was “locked and loaded” in case of any provocation.

Trump on Wednesday declared “talking is not the answer” to resolving the long-standing impasse.

“The US has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years,” Trump, who last week said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was “starting to respect” the United States, wrote on Twitter.

“Talking is not the answer!”

However, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, when asked by reporters just hours later if the United States had run out of diplomatic solutions with North Korea, replied: “No.”

“We are never out of diplomatic solutions,” Mattis said before a meeting with his South Korean counterpart at the Pentagon. “We continue to work together, and the minister and I share a responsibility to provide for the protection of our nations, our populations and our interests.”

Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera spoke to Mattis by telephone and agreed to keep putting pressure on North Korea in a “visible” form, Japan’s defence ministry said. Japanese Prime Shinzo Abe said he and visiting British Prime Minister Theresa May agreed to urge China, North Korea’s lone major ally, to do more to rein in the North.

They also discussed the possibility of adopting a new UN Security Council resolution over North Korea, a British government source said.

The 15-member Security Council on Tuesday condemned the firing of an intermediate range ballistic missile over Japan as “outrageous” and demanded that North Korea halt its weapons programme, but the U.S.-drafted statement did not threaten new sanctions.

Japan was pushing the United States to propose new UN Security Council sanctions, which diplomats said could target North Korea’s labourers working abroad, oil supply and textile exports.

Diplomats expected resistance from Russia and fellow veto-wielding power China, particularly given new measures were only recently imposed after North Korea staged two long-range missile launches in July.

A US ban on travel to North Korea comes into effect on Friday, curbing one of its few remaining supplies of foreign currency.

China again urged restraint from all parties.

Defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang told a monthly briefing that China would never allow war or chaos on the Korean peninsula, its doorstep, and military means were not an option.

“China strongly demands all sides to exercise restraint and remain calm and not do anything to worsen tensions,” Ren said, adding that Chinese forces were maintaining a normal state of alert along the North Korean border.

3. Trump’s condition for $255 million aid to Pakistan: Crack down on terror outfits :-

The Trump-led US administration has notified the US Congress that it was giving $255 million to Pakistan in military assistance on the condition that it can access the money only if it takes action against terror groups, The New York Times said in a report.

The money will be put into the equivalent of an escrow account, the report added.

Pakistan’s access to the money has been made conditional based on its action against terror outfits.

The development comes a week after Trump put Pakistan on notice saying that “we can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations”.

Pakistan has been a traditional US ally in its war against terrorism.

Pakistan has taken serious note of the statements emanating from Washington. In a rare move, Islamabad suspended bilateral talks with Washington and its National Assembly condemned President Trump for his “hostile and threatening” statements.

4. Tropical storm Harvey devastates Louisiana, at least 25 dead :-

Tropical storm Harvey which made landfall on Wednesday near Texas-Louisiana border on Wednesday moved across to southeastern Texas into Louisiana leading to large scale devastation leaving several thousand people homeless.

The storm has already led to the death of 25 people within hours of making landfall with the death toll set to climb further. Several people are still reported to be missing.

The US National Hurricane Center warned that “catastrophic and life threatening flooding will continue in and around Houston, Beaumont/Port Arthur, eastward into southwest Louisiana for the rest of the week.”

Harvey first reached Texas on Friday as category four hurricane and was downgraded to a tropical storm but it made another landfall in Louisiana’s Cameron town on Wednesday taking the nation by surprise.

Forecasters have predicted another five to 10 inches of rain in the region, with the downpour finally expected to stop on Thursday.

Damage has been estimated at $10 billion, making it one of the costliest US natural disasters, twelve years after Hurricane Katrina left deep scars in Louisiana. Harvey made landfall west of Cameron, Louisiana yesterday and weakened into a tropical depression on Wednesday night but it created a firestorm of death and devastation in its wake.

The resulting floods due to the storm hit America’s largest oil refinery in Port Arthur disrupting the nation’s US energy infrastructure leading to a spike in gasoline prices.

Derrick Freeman, mayor of Port Arthur said: “Our whole city is underwater right now.”

“To those Americans who have lost loved ones, all of America is grieving with you, and our hearts are joined with yours forever,” President Donald Trump said in a speech.

In Houston, a night-time curfew was imposed in order to organise search operations with several believed to have gone missing in the floods.

5. Two explosions reported at flood-hit Texas chemical plant :-

Two explosions were reported at a flooded chemical plant in Texas town Crosby at 0700 GMT , emergency officials reported on Thursday.

The remaining workers at the Arkema SA chemical plant – where the explosions occurred – were evacuated by the company on Tuesday. Crosby lies about 25 miles northeast of Houston.

Operators had warned that the plant was at risk of exploding due to a “critical issue” triggered by monster storm Harvey’s torrential rains.

As a precautionary measure, the Harris County had already ordered the evacuation of residents within a 1.5-mile (2.4-km) radius of the plant.

“At approximately 2 am CDT (0700 GMT), we were notified by the Harris County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) of two explosions and black smoke coming from the Arkema Inc plant in Crosby, Texas,” the company statement said.

Spokeswoman Janet Smith had warned late Wednesday that the plant “is poised to explode, after power loss left it without refrigeration for organic peroxides, which become volatile as temperatures rise.”

The facility had been evacuated following a dangerous loss of on-site refrigeration.

“Unprecedented flooding overwhelmed our primary power and two sources of emergency backup power,” the company said in its statement.

“Organic peroxides are extremely flammable and, as agreed with public officials, the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out,” Arkema said.

“We want local residents to be aware that product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains. Please do not return to the area within the evacuation zone until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe to do so.”

Former Hurricane Harvey now downgraded into Tropical Depression Harvey weakened as it moved inland over Louisiana today, leaving behind record flooding that drove tens of thousands from their homes in Texas.

The storm has killed at least 35 people since coming ashore last Friday near Rockport in Texas.

The death toll was rising as bodies were found in receding waters.

The largest oil refinery in Port Arthur was shut in the flooding, again hitting US energy infrastructure that has sent gasoline prices climbing and disrupted global fuel supplies.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott warned on Wednesday that floodwaters would linger for up to a week and said the area affected was larger than that hit by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,800 people in New Orleans, and 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, which killed 132 around New York and New Jersey.

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