By Megha Rajagopalan BAIMAJING, China (Reuters) - The fishing fleet based in this tiny port town on Hainan island is getting everything from military training and subsidies to even fuel and ice as China creates an increasingly sophisticated fishing militia to sail into the disputed South China Sea. The training and support includes exercises at sea and requests to fishermen to gather information on foreign vessels, provincial government officials, regional diplomats and fishing company executives said in recent interviews. "The maritime militia is expanding because of the country's need for it, and because of the desire of the fishermen to engage in national service, protecting our country's interests," said an advisor to the Hainan government who did not want to be named. But the fishing militia also raises the risk of conflict with foreign navies in the strategic waterway through which $5 trillion of trade passes each year, diplomats and naval experts say. The United States has been conducting sea and air patrols near artificial islands China is building in the disputed Spratlys archipelago, including by two B-52 strategic bombers in November. Washington said in February it would increase the "freedom of navigation" sail-bys around the disputed sea. BASIC MILITARY TRAINING The city-level branches of the People's Armed Forces Department provide basic military training to fishermen, said the Hainan government advisor. The branches are overseen by both the military and local Communist Party authorities in charge of militia operations nationwide. The training encompasses search and rescue operations, contending with disasters at sea, and "safeguarding Chinese sovereignty", said the advisor who focuses on the South China Sea. The training, which includes exercises at sea, takes place between May and August and the government pays fishermen for participating, he said. Government subsidies encourage fishermen to use heavier vessels with steel - as opposed to wooden - hulls. The government has also provided Global Positioning Satellite equipment for at least 50,000 vessels, enabling them to contact the Chinese Coast Guard in maritime emergencies, including encounters with foreign ships, industry executives said. Several Hainan fishermen and diplomats told Reuters some vessels have small arms. When "a particular mission in safeguarding sovereignty", comes up government authorities will coordinate with the fishing militia, the advisor said, asking them to gather information on the activities of foreign vessels at sea. ROW WITH INDONESIA That coordination was evident in March, when Indonesia attempted to detain a Chinese fishing vessel for fishing near its Natuna Islands in the South China Sea. A Chinese coast guard vessel quickly intervened to prevent the Indonesian Navy from towing away the fishing boat, setting off a diplomatic row. Beijing does not claim the Natunas but said the boats were in "traditional Chinese fishing grounds". China claims almost all of the South China Sea. The Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei also have conflicting claims over the islets and atolls that constitute the Spratly Archipelago and its rich fishing grounds. State-controlled fishing companies dominate the fleets that go regularly to the Spratlys and are recipients of much of the militia training and subsidies, industry sources said. China has by far the world's biggest fish industry, but depleted fishery resources close to China's shores have made fishing in disputed waters an economic necessity, fishermen and industry executives say. State-owned Hainan South China Sea Modern Fishery Group Company says on its website it is "both military and commercial, both soldiers and civilians". One of its aims, the company says, is to let the "Chinese flag fly" over the Spratlys. "Defending sovereignty is primarily the government's concern," said Ye Ning, the company's general manager, in an interview at his office in Haikou. "But of course, regular folks being able to fish in their own countries' waters should be the norm. That goes for us too." The company provides fishermen who sail to the Spratlys with fuel, water, and ice, and then purchases fish from them when they returned, according to a written introduction to the company's work executives provided to Reuters. 'LOT MORE RISKY' "It's gotten a lot more risky to do this with all kinds of foreign boats out there," said Huang Jing, a local fisherman in the sleepy port town of Baimajing, where a line of massive steel-hulled fishing trawlers stretches as far as the eye can see. "But China is strong now," he said. "I trust the government to protect us." Chen Rishen, chairman of Hainan Jianghai Group Co. Ltd, says his private but state subsidized company dispatches large fleets of steel-hulled trawlers weighing hundreds of tonnes to fish near the Spratly Islands. They usually go for months at a time, primarily for commercial reasons, he said. "If some foreign fishing boats infringe on our territory and try to prevent us from fishing there ... Then we're put in the role of safeguarding sovereignty," he said in an interview in Haikou, the provincial capital of Hainan. China does not use its fishing fleet to help establish sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: “This kind of situation does not exist.” China had taken measures to ensure the fishing fleets conduct business legally, he told a ministry press briefing last month. RULES OF ENGAGEMENT Chen said his fishermen stop at Woody Island in the Paracel islands, where China recently installed surface-to-air missiles, to refuel and communicate with Chinese Coast Guard vessels. They look forward to using similar facilities China is developing in the Spratly Islands, he said. China has been pouring sand from the seabed onto seven reefs to create artificial islands in the Spratlys. So far, it has built one airstrip with two more under construction on them, with re-fuelling and storage facilities. "This all points to the need for establishing agreed protocols for ensuring clear and effective communications between civilian and maritime law enforcement vessels of different countries operating in the area," said Michael Vatikiotis, Asia Director of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, which is helping claimant states design such confidence building measures. A regional agreement on communications and procedures when rival navies meet at sea applies only to naval ships and other military vessels, he said. (Additional reporting by Greg Torode in HONG KONG. Editing by Bill Tarrant)
- Yahoo News
If it takes a miracle for Trump to stay in office, evangelicals like Michele Bachmann are fine with that
As the inevitability of President Trump’s loss became apparent even to his acolyte Kellyanne Conway in recent days, his supporters increasingly pinned their hopes for a second term on a last-ditch appeal, not to the Supreme Court, but to the one power that can outvote it: God.
- Yahoo News
George Floyd’s death and the white response had placed an emphatic point on how twin scourges of economic disenfranchisement and racial segregation had manifested, with the pandemic as a backdrop. My role was victim and teacher all at once, and it enraged me.
- Associated Press
The European Union’s aviation safety agency has extended a ban imposed on Pakistan's state-run airline this year barring it from flying to Europe after a plane crash that killed 97 people in the port city of Karachi, a spokesman said Friday. At the time — and while the probe into the May 22 Airbus A320 crash was still underway — authorities acknowledged that nearly a third of Pakistani pilots, 260 out of 860, had cheated on their pilot’s exams. Pakistan International Airlines subsequently grounded 150 of its pilots while a probe by the country’s Civil Aviation Authority into the other pilots is still ongoing.
Russia protested on Friday after Latvia charged several journalists from the Rossiya Segodnya news agency with violating European Union sanctions. The journalists were charged because of their association with Dmitry Kiselyov, who heads Rossiya Segodnya, said Sputnik Latvia, a subsidiary of Rossiya Segodnya. The Kremlin media mogul was sanctioned by the EU for his role in Russia's seizure of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
- Christian Science Monitor
Both countries must address feelings of humiliation over past actions. A window of opportunity opens next year to do just that.
- Associated Press
A cargo ship traveling past Yemen in the Gulf of Aden came under attack in unclear circumstances, maritime authorities said Saturday. The Gulf of Aden is a crucial route for global trade and has seen attacks attributed to Yemen’s Houthi rebels as its civil war rages on. The ship ended up off the small port city of Nishtun in Yemen's far east after coming under attack early Saturday morning, according to an alert from the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organization that is overseen by Britain's Royal Navy.
U.S. lawmakers unveiled the final version of a massive annual defense policy bill on Thursday that defies President Donald Trump's plans to withdraw troops from Germany and keep the names of Confederate generals on military bases, setting the stage for a veto fight in the last weeks before he leaves office. The $740 billion, 4500-page National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, is the result of months of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives. Among other things, the bill expresses support for the continued presence of U.S. forces in Germany and limits the ability of the Department of Defense to reduce the number of active-duty service members there below 34,500 without an assessment of its impact.
- The Telegraph
Brexit trade talks reached stalemate on Friday night after the EU was accused of making a "ridiculous" demand for 10 years of unfettered access to Britain's fishing waters as the price of a deal. Boris Johnson paused talks for a "stock take" of whether an agreement can still be salvaged. A senior Government source said: "Their new offer was frankly laughable. They know we can't possibly accept it. It's ridiculous. If they think we will just cave in, they have made a massive miscalculation." Mr Johnson will speak to Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, on Saturday in an attempt to break the deadlock. He could also make a personal plea to Emmanuel Macron, the French president, blamed for "destabilising" the talks by making unreasonable demands on fishing and state aid. Mr Macron is under pressure from other EU member states to give ground, with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, on Friday urging "compromise" from both sides to get the deal over the line.
- Associated Press
Iran's death toll from the global pandemic has risen above 50,000, state television said Saturday, as the country grapples with the worst outbreak in the Middle East. A two-week partial lockdown in the capital of Tehran and other major cities helped slow, but not stop the rising wave of deaths from the coronavirus over the past few weeks. President Hassan Rouhani warned Saturday that the lockdown could be extended to more cities or reimposed on the capital, if people do not abide by health measures.
President Donald Trump has ordered nearly all American troops to withdraw from Somalia, U.S. officials said on Friday, part of a global pullback by the Republican president before he leaves office next month that will also see him drawdown forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. The United States has about 700 troops in Somalia focused on helping local forces defeat the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgency. The mission has received little attention in the United States, but has been considered a cornerstone of the Pentagon's global efforts to combat al Qaeda.
- The Telegraph
Labour will be 'putting two fingers up' to voters if it fails to back Brexit deal, Sir Keir Starmer warned
Labour will be putting "two fingers up to voters" if it refuses to back a Brexit trade deal, Sir Keir Starmer has been warned, as a prominent Remainer MP said they would vote for it. Amid splits at the top of the party on whether to withhold support for an agreement, shadow business minister Lucy Powell suggested Labour would struggle to win back voters in “Red Wall” seats if it attempted to abstain. Arguing that a “skinny deal” could be “built on” in future, Ms Powell added that it was better than no deal - which she said would be a “catastrophe” - and was therefore “quite hard for us to oppose”. Echoing her concerns, Chris Bryant MP, a staunch Europhile, revealed he intended to back the deal and urged his colleagues to do the same. Writing for The Telegraph, the former foreign minister said that even if Boris Johnson failed to strike the “comprehensive deal we were promised” the alternative of no trade deal would be “even worse.” While Sir Keir has hinted he intends to back a deal, Anneliese Dodds, the shadow chancellor, is said to be one of several shadow cabinet ministers who believe Labour should abstain to avoid being blamed for any economic fallout. Other sceptics include shadow trade secretary Emily Thornberry and shadow justice secretary David Lammy, both prominent remainers, as well as shadow Scotland secretary Ian Murray. On Friday evening Lord Kinnock, the former Labour leader, also waded into the row, telling peers that backing the deal would be politically "lethal" for the party. "We must abstain and explain that this is the rational course when faced with a damaging ‘yes’ and a disastrous ‘no’,” he wrote in a private Whatsapp group. However, Ms Powell, who helped lead a review into last year’s crushing election defeat, argued that it was better to be “strong” than refusing to take a position either way. “It’s not just about Brexit, although Brexit was a big symbolic expression of Labour losing touch with its traditional voter base,” she told Huffington Post. “And we can’t keep putting two fingers up to people if we want them to vote for us again and support us and be part of the agenda that we want for the future.” According to Labour insiders, Lisa Nandy, the shadow foreign secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, and Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, are also in favour of a deal. Mr Bryant, the MP for Rhondda in Wales, warned that a no deal exit would lead to tariffs on Welsh lamb that would make the meat unaffordable in the EU, where half is sold at present. He also voiced alarm about the security implications of leaving without a deal, adding: “If the Prime Minister does what I expect him to do, namely negotiate some kind of minimalist trade deal with the EU at the very last minute – I expect I will vote for it and I would encourage all my Labour colleagues to do the same.” enior Labour source told The Telegraph a final position was likely to be hammered out over the next few days, adding that the party would need to have come to “collective decision” either before or soon after any deal is struck. Allies of Sir Keir allies have also been frustrated by leaks suggesting the shadow cabinet is divided and are determined to prevent a repeat of the public rows that plagued Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. They believe they are an attempt by advocates of an abstention to bounce Sir Keir into sitting on the fence. While they insist no position has been reached, they have warned that there will be no room for dissent on the frontbench once a decision has been taken. However, a number of shadow cabinet figures believe that proponents of a deal have become too preoccupied on the Red Wall rather than focussing on the issues that will define the next four years. One source told The Telegraph that some in the party appeared to be trying to “refight the last election” rather than thinking of the “bigger picture.”
- FOX News Videos
Republican addresses concerns about election integrity in the Peach State on 'Hannity'
New market-friendly agricultural laws are unfair and exploitative, protesting farmers say.
- Associated Press
The snapshots tell the story of a big man with a big, beaming grin. The McIlvain family passes around the pictures, laughing over their son Charlie's antics captured through the years: Charlie as a youngster camping with a backpack bigger than him, Charlie cheesing for the camera on Christmas with bows stuck to his newly balding head, Charlie in a kilt on his wedding day with lovestruck eyes. Charles McIlvain died on Sept. 2, 2019, at 44.
Violence in Afghanistan is "unacceptably high" as delayed peace negotiations get underway, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday, adding that Washington has asked the warring parties to "stand back and indeed stand down." Pompeo's comments, made in a virtual address to the IISS Manama Dialogue, an annual security conference, came two days after Kabul-backed and Taliban negotiators reached a deal in Doha to proceed with talks on a political settlement to decades of strife. Pompeo noted that he met with the negotiating teams during a Nov. 21 visit to Doha and he said he told both sides that the strife must be reduced.
- The Week
After six months spent pushing for a more-than $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is fine with something smaller.Earlier this week, a team of bipartisan lawmakers unveiled a $908 billion coronavirus relief. It's smaller than the $1.5 trillion deal the House's bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus drew up in September, and yet this time around, President-elect Joe Biden's win and forthcoming coronavirus vaccines have Pelosi ready to accept it.Pelosi went on to explain that she had held out for a bigger bill with longer-lasting provisions before she knew who would be the next president — essentially, she thought she wouldn't get a second chance at a stimulus package if President Trump was re-elected. But with "a president who recognizes that we need to depend on science to stop the virus" and that "America's families need to have money in their pockets," Pelosi said she was confident she could work out many more smaller relief provisions in the future.> "A new president and a vaccine" -- Pelosi on why there's momentum for coronavirus relief legislation now when there wasn't before the election pic.twitter.com/6PLwrmE305> > — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 4, 2020What hasn't changed is that millions of Americans are still out of work, likely in more dire straits than they were a few months ago as unemployment benefits begin to expire and bills continue to pile up.Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) still hasn't said he'll back the bipartisan relief bill, but a growing number of Senate Republicans have said they're willing to support it.More stories from theweek.com 5 absurdly funny cartoons about Trump's desperate fraud claims 5 scathingly funny cartoons about the NFL's COVID problem Abolishing the Electoral College is closer than you think
It is the first bill of its kind taken up by either chamber of Congress but faces an uncertain future.
- The Telegraph
Caving to Brussels on fish and level playing field risks leaving UK a 'permanent client state', Boris Johnson warned
Caving to Brussels on fish and the level playing field to secure a post-Brexit trade deal risks turning Britain into a permanent “client state”, senior Conservative MPs have warned Boris Johnson. With the UK on the cusp of reaching an agreement with the European Union, a group of “die-hard” backbenches have urged the Prime Minister not break his promises to Leave voters in last year’s election. It comes amid fears that Mr Johnson could be forced to grant a flurry of last-minute concessions after intensive lobbying from French president Emmanual Macron to secure more preferable terms on fishing, state subsidies and non-regression clauses. Under British plans designed to placate the French, Mr Johnson has reportedly agreed to defer repatriating up to half of the fishing quotas for several years. However, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, told The Daily Telegraph that fishing was a “totemic issue”, adding that the UK needed to start with control over “100 per cent”. “We have to be treated like Norway is treated,” he added. “We’re not looking for an increase, we are looking for control. From there we negotiate with other countries what access they get. It’s as simple as that.” Meanwhile, there is growing concern that the so-called level playing field – a common set of rules and standards designed to ensure Britain does not give advantages to its business which undermine the EU - will prevent Britain from diverging in the future. The two sides are still believed to be at odds over the policing of the arrangement, particularly over how it will be policed and how to future-proof the agreement to ensure fair competition over time. The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has also called for further concessions from the UK on state aid, with Mr Macron determined to prevent subsidies being used to undercut French businesses. Last night Theresa Villiers, the former environment secretary, warned that the UK was now at the point of “maximum danger”, adding that “regulatory autonomy is a core part of delivering Brexit.” “This is the main means by which the EU could potentially tie us into their laws and their court. I see this as the main threat to getting Brexit done,” she added. “There are level playing field agreements in the Canada deal and arbitration mechanisms that are acceptable. But on the other end of the spectrum we are locked in as a client state.” However, several MPs said any potential backlash was likely to be limited to several dozen hardliners, meaning Mr Johnson is unlikely to face any major challenge in pushing the trade deal through Parliament. “It’s very much the ones that caused Theresa May a lot of trouble,” said one. “There’s an element of this which is that nothing will be good enough for them except no deal. As long as it looks reasonable I think most people will wear it.” Dr Liam Fox, the former trade secretary and prominent Brexiteer, added: “We have to be realistic and if we want to get the best for the majority of the British economy we will have to make some compromises. Trade agreements are not a series of ultimata, they are a negotiation.”
Iran plans to install hundreds more advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges at an underground plant in breach of its deal with major powers, a U.N. nuclear watchdog report showed on Friday, a move that will raise pressure on U.S. President-elect Joe Biden. The confidential International Atomic Energy Agency report obtained by Reuters said Iran plans to install three more cascades, or clusters, of advanced IR-2m centrifuges in the underground plant at Natanz, which was apparently built to withstand aerial bombardment.
- Associated Press
President Donald Trump fruitlessly pressed Georgia's governor on Saturday to call a special legislative session aimed at subverting the presidential election results in that state as Trump’s fixation with his defeat overshadowed his party's campaign to save its majority in the Senate. Trump and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp spoke by phone hours before Trump was to appear at a rally in Valdosta, Georgia, where Republicans hoped the president would dedicate his energy to imploring their supporters to vote in two runoff elections Jan. 5. Hours before the event, Trump asked Kemp in the phone call to order the legislative session; the governor refused, according to a senior government official in Georgia with knowledge of the call who was not authorized to discuss the private conversation and spoke on the condition of anonymity.