NEWS OF THE FORCE: Saturday, March 23, 2013 - Page 1

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Mar 23, 2013, 12:45:28 PM3/23/13
  Saturday, March 23, 2013

FAA to close 149 air traffic control towers
    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has made it official and released a final list of all the air traffic control towers that will be shut at small airports across the country beginning April 7.
    The number may seem like a lot, but it's 40 fewer than originally planned. "Unfortunately we are faced with a series of difficult choices that we have to make to reach the required cuts under sequestration," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.
    The affected airports won't be shut down, but pilots will have to coordinate take-offs and landings over a shared radio frequency. That may sound a little odd, but the Associated Press says that "all pilots are trained to fly using those procedures." Still, many in the aviation sector have said that taking away a layer of security will increase risks.
    When the initial list was released, communities launched big lobbying campaigns to keep their towers. The FAA has to cut $637 million from its budget until the end of the fiscal year, on Sept. 30, due to the across-the-board spending cuts that went into effect on March 1.
    See the full list of affected airports here.
Female sailor found dead aboard U.S. Navy vessel
USS Essex (LHD-2)    
    A 19-year-old female sailor, assigned to USS Essex (LHD 2), was found with a gunshot wound aboard the ship on Thursday and later died from her injuries, Navy officials have confirmed.
    According to Navy Media Operations Officer Rick Chernitzer, the ship’s medical personnel responded to the scene and found the wounded sailor. She was transported to the UC-San Diego Trauma Center and was pronounced dead a short time later. Chernitzer said the sailor’s identification is being withheld until her family is notified of her death. He said a formal investigation is now underway aboard the amphibious assault ship, which is currently at its homeport in San Diego.
    Initially, it was unclear if the sailor’s wounds were self-inflicted or if any suspects were involved in the shooting. Yesterday, officials said preliminary investigation suggests the sailor died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
B-52s get new sniper pods
By Staff Sgt. Jason McCasland, 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Against a blue sky with white clouds, a B-52F releases bombs over Vietnam.    
    The 2nd Bomb Wing, at Barksdale AFB, La., made its first live run with a new addition to the aging bomber.
    With constant upgrades bringing the more than 60-year-old bomber into the 21st century, the addition of the sniper pod gives the B-52H Strato-fortress better integration with ground forces and laser-guided bombs for precision strike capability.
    "This flight was the first time that the 2nd BW has used the sniper pod with live ordinance like the LGB," said Capt. Ryan Allen, a 20th Bomb Squadron radar navigation instructor. "This pod gives a faster response time to our targets. What would normally take me 30 to 40 button presses in five minutes, now only takes me a few seconds to actually target and drop munitions."
    This new capability also allows the air crew to coordinate with ground forces in a new way that is beneficial to their safety and planning. "With the pod we can integrate with the guys on the ground and let them see what we see. This way we are on the same page," Allen said. "It also gives us a greater visibility range over that of the previous one."
    With technology constantly moving forward, this new pod gives its own set of challenges to the B-52. "The way the pod can interact with our avionics system is state of the art," Allen said. "Most of the systems had to be radically improved to give us total interaction between the new and old."
    With constant improvements on the aging plane, the 2nd Bomb Wing continues its mission of providing global deterrence - anywhere and anytime.
Marine Corps Reserve officer nominated for post at USAFRICOM
    Lt. Gen. Steven Hummer, commander of the Marine Forces Reserve and Marine Forces North, whose national headquarters are in Algiers, La., has been nominated for a post with the U.S. Africa Command, the Germany-based command that oversees military operations in Africa.
U.S. Navy bids farewell to three frigates
By Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden, USN
Southern Seas  USS Carr (FFG 52) return to home port  USS KLAKRING VISITS GREECE
USS Underwood (FFG 36)       USS Carr (FFG 52)        USS Klakring (FFG 42)
    As a Navy tradition, we celebrate a ship’s achievements and history with decommissioning or inactivation ceremonies. Today, we reflect on three Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates that concluded service to the nation this month: USS Underwood (FFG 36), USS Carr (FFG 52), and USS Klakring (FFG 42), which decommissioned yesterday in Mayport, Fla.
    This class of ships honors Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, who was named the "Hero of Lake Erie" during the War of 1812. The Navy originally built 51 of these guided missile warships, replacing the Knox-class frigates of the 1960s and various classes of destroyers that were in service during World War II. Designed to provide local area protection to battle groups, underway replenishment groups, amphibious forces, and military and merchant shipping from submarines, their mission evolved over time to include enhanced-maritime interdiction operations, mine warfare, and counter-narcotics operations both as a member of battle groups and as independent deployers.
    After more than 30 years of active service, USS Underwood (FFG 36) was decommissioned on March 8, in Mayport, Fla. She was commissioned on Jan. 29, 1983, as the 29th ship in the class. Her namesake, Capt. Gordon Waite Underwood, received the Navy Cross for his achievements while in command of USS Spadefish (SS 411) during World War II. Following her maiden deployment to the 6th Fleet's area of responsibility, Underwood received tasking in January 1986 to spearhead search and rescue efforts after the tragic space shuttle Challenger disaster over the Atlantic Ocean. A truly “Just Friend and Brave Enemy,” she deployed in support of operations Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom in the Arabian Gulf. Following the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Underwood participated in Operation Unified Response humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.
    USS Carr (FFG 52), the 42nd ship in the class, was commissioned on July 27, 1985, at Todd Pacific Shipyards, in Seattle, Wash., and was decommissioned on March 13, in Norfolk, Va. Named for Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Paul Henry Carr, the ship honors the gunners mate’s display of outstanding skill and courage while serving aboard USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE 413) during the battle off Samar, in World War II. GM3 Carr was posthumously awarded the Silver Star. During the 1980s, Carr deployed as a convoy commander and a tanker escort in the Arabian Gulf as well as a law enforcement and counter-narcotics platform in the Caribbean Sea. She aided USS Bonefish (SS 582) after the conventionally-powered submarine suffered a fire in 1988, resulting in the rescue of nearly 90 submariners. As a key asset in maritime intercept operations, Carr’s deployments during the 1990s and 2000s included missions in the Arabian Gulf, and the Caribbean and Mediterranean seas. The ship deployed 13 times during her 27 years of service.
    USS Klakring (FFG 42) honors Rear Adm. Thomas Klakring, submarine commander of USS Guardfish (SS 217) during World War II. His daring service earned him three Navy Crosses and a posthumous promotion. The 33rd in its class, Klakring was commissioned on Aug. 20, 1983, in Bath, Maine. Her initial mid-1980s deployments were to the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean, as well as to the Arabian Gulf where she participated in escort operations of Kuwaiti-owned oil tankers during Operation Earnest Will. In 1993, she participated in Operation Support Democracy off Haiti’s coast, countering drug operations. In 2002, she participated in UNITAS and, during recent years, she conducted several counter-narcotics deployments to the U.S. Southern Command.
    Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates have performed brilliantly for more than 30 years. A force in numbers, they protected vital shipping against foreign aggression and forcefully contributed in our strategic shift to the Arabian Gulf. However, we built these ships with a different threat in mind than exists today and the cost to upgrade the ships’ combat systems to pace the current threat became prohibitive.
    Today, we are building ships that are modular, adaptable and flexible, allowing us to quickly and affordably upgrade our fighting batteries without taking the ship off line for years at a time.
    We salute these three frigates as they have superbly served our nation and Navy. Fair winds and following seas, and thank you for your honored and highly dedicated service.
ACE eliminates need for in-person veterans disability exams
VA Seal and Newspaper    
    The Department of Veterans Affairs recently launched a new initiative called Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE), which helps expedite claims by eliminating steps in the disability claims process.
    And, did you know that if you have been recently placed on the Temporary Disability Retirement List (TDRL), your Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI), coverage will end 120 days after the date you were placed on the TDRL?

    Cousin Jim's Thought for the Day:  Some people should just calm down and take a deep breath...and hold it for twenty minutes!

The CAP: Circling the drain
By Ray Hayden, CAP Insights
    Senator John McCain made a pretty fevered pitch for cutting wasteful spending in the defense budget. Republicans are rather well known for their support of the military, so cuts in the Department of Defense seem out of step.
    What McCain was pushing for was what he refers to as wasteful spending, and he was doing it so that rather than wasting the funds on non-military expenses, the real military could have those dollars. The Civil Air Patrol was right in the sights of the senator.
    We predicted that the amendment would fail because the Senate has more Democrats than Republicans, and that is what happened, McCain would have required 60 votes to have his amendment included, and he just did not have that.
    The problem for the Civil Air Patrol is real. McCain put out a strong argument on the increased budget for the Civil Air Patrol, what he failed to do is prove that the Civil Air Patrol is a waste of spending. All he needed to do was to demand that the other side prove the value of the Civil Air Patrol - which they can not do. The GAO report clearly demonstrates that the Civil Air Patrol is less than useless and that no one else wants anything to do with the CAP due to the lack of assets available to those agencies, and specifically, the lack of qualified personnel.
    Then we enter into the Catch-22 of the problem. In order to train and qualify members, you need more than what would otherwise be required, because volunteers are not going to always be available when and where you want - or need - them. This mind numbing waste of taxpayer dollars keeps more money away from the real military, and does nothing to solve the problem of having qualified personnel where and when you might need them for these other agencies.
    On top of all that - the Civil Air Patrol cannot justify its own expense.
    Face the hard facts - in Florida, a sink hole opened up under a house and it "ate" a resident who lived in the house. They know where the body is and they do not plan to go and get it. Odd, but it would seem that - as part of correcting the sink hole - they would have to dig up part of that hole to fix the primary problem that created the hole in the first place, yet, they announced that the man has found his final resting place. A state knows where a body is, and they won't go and get it.
    For the Civil Air Patrol, look at all of the searches conducted in the last three years and discover who really found the body, site, aircraft or what have you - almost every time, it was not the Civil Air Patrol, yet many thousands of taxpayer dollars had been pissed away on the fruitless search. For Sandy and the Gulf operation, any monkey with a camera could have snapped off digital pictures. A lot of aircraft had been flying around already - why was the Civil Air Patrol needed at all - for either scenario?
    This is the waste of taxpayer dollars that Senator McCain is discussing, and yet, the tax and spend Democrats in the Senate just pushed it along without even a vote on the subject.
    We have not had a budget (let alone a balanced one) for years. Could you operate like that for very long? Here is the hint, no. When they do not have a balanced budget, they are continuing to borrow more money, but people do not realize that even a balanced budget fails to be a debt free nation, it just means that they are spending everything that they brought in. Hopefully they include repayment of debt in that picture! Even when Clinton had a budget surplus, that just meant that they did not spend all that they ha, but rather than applying the "extra" (it is not extra!) money to pay off the debt, they just pissed it all away - both parties! Again, how long would you survive - financially - like that?
    Cutting $15 million from the Civil Air Patrol does not last long in the terms of other expenditures, but that is "broke thinking" - the reality is that the Civil Air Patrol is robbing almost $40 million from the American taxpayer each year - and that is still "broke thinking!"
    Now consider that if you did not have the Civil Air Patrol stealing our tax dollars, you would not need the CAP-USAF either! How much more taxpayer money could be returned to the U.S. Treasury?
    The McCain amendment only dealt with $15 million, the real savings was far more than that...far more.
    (NOTF Ed. note: The CAP is the official, uniformed, volunteer civilian Auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. According to numerous sources, Cindy (Mrs. John) McCain was once an officer in the Arizona Wing of the CAP, but was given the dreaded "2B" [for some unknown reason] and drummed out of the corps.)
NOAA predicts mixed bag of drought, flooding and warm weather for spring
NOAA logo.svg    
    NOAA issued its three-month U.S. Spring Outlook yesterday, stating that odds favor above-average temperatures across much of the continental United States, including drought-stricken areas of Texas, the Southwest and the Great Plains.
News from the National Guard
National Guard Logo.svg    
    The Melbourne-based 715th Military Police Company, of the Florida Army National Guard, is preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. A send-off ceremony to honor these soldiers was held this morning at the National Guard Armory in Melbourne.
    The Air National Guard Band of the South - "Sound Barrier" - is set to visit Conyers, Ga.
    Several Capital Region air crew members of the New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing returned to Schenectady County Airport, on Thursday, after a long trip back from Antarctica.
    A North Dakota Air National Guard security forces unit at Minot Air Force Base will not be impacted by any changes to the future missions of the 119th Wing, in Fargo, said Capt. Dan Murphy, a North Dakota National Guard public affairs officer.
    The Air National Guard's Center for Training and Education is leveraging live high-definition, high-bitrate video to develop airmen with the high quality associated with an in-residence experience - but at a fraction of the cost.
    Currently the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center, or TEC, is in full swing delivering a blended learning NCO Academy course to 115 airmen at 11 installations across the nation. Blended learning consists of facilitated distance learning, followed by a short period of in-resident learning to complete the course. The class is broadcast live from TEC which is in its 18th year of providing blended learning NCOA via its "Warrior Network" satellite broadcast system. The center will celebrate 45 years of professional military education on its campus this year. For this course, six of the field sites are using a new two-way, high definition, high-bitrate video-to-video tele-training extension to its Warrior Network.
While these students still get live video instruction, video tele-training technology allows students to see and hear their instructors, and vice versa, over a dedicated Internet protocol line. The new method is simply a test for this course. So far, it's proving to be a vast improvement over the tried-and-true one-way satellite method where students can see and hear their instructors, but the instructors can only hear students when they have questions, said officials. "The sites are seen in a grid-like display, say like on the old TV game show 'Hollywood Squares,' and instructors and the sites queue up larger during interaction," said Tech. Sgt. Matt Schwartz, the production manager who works evenings here to handle the broadcasts. Instructors said video tele-training allows them to see classrooms in detail, including facial reactions and attentiveness among pupils. "This helps us help them to understand their instruction better," said Senior Master Sgt. Andrew Traugot, the center's director of education, satellite EPME. Instructors teach from a broadcast desk at the TEC's Media Engagement Division, calling up information and explaining lessons. Traugot added that the students and instructors alike are from across the total Air Force. Compared to the traditional six-week NCOA course held here, the 13-week blended learning class reduces on-campus attendance to two weeks. To center officials, it's a clear alternative to traveling for fully in-resident schools. "For a student to attend our NCOA course completely in-resident, it costs the government just over $7,000," Traugot said. "Whereas with the blended learning course, it only costs $4,800. The great thing is that they still get in-residence credit." Officials said that's popular with National Guard members because it helps them attend training from their hometowns, with reduced time away from their families, employers and missions.
    Ninety members of the Montana Army National Guard's 260th Engineer Company have returned to a joyous homecoming at Billings Logan Airport after almost a year in Afghanistan.
    Fourteen of the New York Army National Guard's most accomplished soldiers and sergeants will compete for the Best Warrior title during a two-day event at the Division of Military and Naval Affairs Headquarters, in Latham, N.Y., today and tomorrow.
    Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke, III, assumed the duties and responsibilities of director of the Air National Guard in a ceremony at JB Andrews, Md., yesterday, at the Air National Guard Readiness Center there. Clarke took over as director from Lt. Gen. Harry "Bud" Wyatt, who retired. A command pilot with more than 4,000 hours, including more than 100 combat hours, in the A-10 Thunderbolt II and F-16 Fighting Falcon, Clarke assumed his current position after serving as commander of the 1st Air Force and the Continental U.S. North America Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
"The opportunity to watch Clarke at the 1st Air Force was tremendous for me to learn his great capabilities," said Army Gen. Frank Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, during the ceremony. And because of his background, Clarke was uniquely positioned and had the right skill set to take on the duties of director, Grass said. "An Alabama Air Guardsman who served as the assistant adjutant general for air, an A-10 and F-16 pilot who commanded a squadron, wing and expeditionary wing, all of that prepared him for this job and to represent everyone in this building and all those in the Air National Guard across the map in the 54 states, territories and the District of Columbia," Grass said. And Clarke has been busy as he settles into his new role. "There's a lot to learn," Clarke said. "But, I've hit the ground running and am drinking from the fire hose. I have already been on the hill seven times and testified twice." However, he said his new role is a humbling one. "This is quite an honor and I am humbled at the opportunity to serve (those in the Air Guard)," Clarke said. And, as Clarke takes the reins as director, he said he sees tremendous opportunities despite recent budget cutbacks. "I've arrived in a time of budget turmoil and uncertainty, but I view this as a time of opportunity as well," he said, adding that his focus and commitment is clear. "My commitment to the airmen and the adjutants general is clear," he said. "We will do everything within our authority to ensure our airmen have clear policies, equipment, training and resources to accomplish assigned missions. We remain community based, team oriented and experienced." 
Clarke is ready to face those challenges, Grass said. "He has stepped up to the challenge," Grass said. "And I can tell you I've already watched him as he's taken on that challenge."
    Oops! The National Guard mistakenly sent out furlough notices to Guard members in 22 states, despite the Pentagon's decision on Thursday to delay the notification of unpaid time off for two more weeks.
General expects U.S. Marine Corps to shrink further
   The U.S. Marine Corps, which already has shed thousands of service members because of post-war downsizing and budget tightening, is preparing to cut even more under mandated reductions known as the sequester, the Commandant of the Marine Corps has said.
Stennis Strike Group concludes support to OEF 
    The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSCSG) concluded its support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), yesterday after providing nearly four months of air and tactical support to Allied troops on the ground in Afghanistan.
    The final mission, carried out by pilots from embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, launched off the flight deck of the strike group's flagship, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).
    "We leave with our heads held high," said Capt. Dell Bull, commander of CVW-9. "We have not missed a single mission and we hit every target we aimed for on the first pass - every time. The response we get back from the joint tactical air controllers on the ground has been tremendous. It's the work of all of us, the air wing, the strike group and the ship, that made that possible."
    The JCSCSG last supported OEF during its deployment in early 2012. The strike group returned to the area four months ahead of schedule in order to maintain the required forward carrier presence in the U.S. 5th Fleet's area of responsibility (AOR).
    While supporting OEF from the Arabian Sea, Stennis and CVW-9 flew approximately 1,200 sorties amounting to more than 7,400 flight hours.
"We had an EA-6B Prowler mission a few weeks ago where the troops we were defending reported that, had we not been there, they would not be alive today," said Bull.
    The Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group and embarked CVW-7 is relieving the JCSCSG as the carrier presence in the region. "CVW-7 starts flying tomorrow right on our heels," said Bull. "They will carry the torch and that gives us all a good feeling about heading home."
    The JCSCSG, consisting of Stennis, CVW-9, Destroyer Squadron 21 and the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG-53), is forward-deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet's area of responsibility, promoting maritime security operations, theatre security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom.
Legislation to further integrate chiropractic services introduced in Congress
    The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) has announced that its work with key congressional supporters has resulted in several important pieces of pro-chiropractic legislation being introduced in the 113th U.S. Congress. These bills, if enacted into law, would increase patient access to the services provided by chiropractic physicians.
    The first legislative initiative, the "Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act," was introduced in the Senate (as S. 422) by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). Its House companion bill, HR 921, was introduced by Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), a ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. The bills would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to have a chiropractic physician on staff at all major medical facilities by 2016.
    The second ACA supported bill is HR 741, the "Chiropractic Health Parity for Military Beneficiaries Act," introduced by Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa). This legislation would extend chiropractic services to military retirees, dependents, and survivors as part of TRICARE. HR 741 defines "chiropractic services" as diagnosis (including X-ray tests), evaluation and management, and therapeutic services for the treatment of neuromusculoskeletal health conditions. The legislation specifically notes that chiropractic services may only be provided by a chiropractor.
    Another recently introduced bill - the "Chiropractic Membership in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Act of 2013" (HR 171), introduced by Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) - would benefit the public and the chiropractic profession by requiring the inclusion of DCs in the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps. The USPHS is an elite team of more than 6,000 well-trained, highly qualified public health professionals dedicated to delivering the nation's public health promotion and disease prevention programs and advancing public health science.
    The final ACA supported bill is HR 702, the "Access to Frontline Health Care Act," which would establish a new program to help chiropractors and other select health care providers repay their student loans if, in exchange, they establish and maintain practices in medically under-served areas. The ACA has worked closely with Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), the sponsor of the bill, to ensure that chiropractic physicians are specified as qualifying for the program.
    "Those who have made sacrifices for our country - especially veterans, active duty military, and their family members - deserve access to the best health care available, which includes chiropractic services," said ACA President Dr. Keith Overland, DC. "I am urging every chiropractic physician, chiropractic student and chiropractic supporter to contact their congressional representatives and urge them to co-sponsor these bills and to help military families in need."
Kurdish rebels declare formal cease-fire with Turkey    The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group declared a "formal and clear cease-fire" with Turkey today after the rebels' jailed leader ordered an end to the decades-long armed campaign for autonomy. "Since March 21 and from now on, we as a movement, as the PKK, officially and clearly declare a cease-fire," Murat Karayilan, the PKK's field commander, said in a video address posted on Firat News, a web site with links to the militants.
France says 'with certainty' al-Qaida's Abou Zeid killed in Mali
Logo of the French Army (Armee de Terre).svg    
    France said today it could confirm "with certainty" that Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, one of al-Qaida's most feared commanders in Africa, had been killed in Mali in February as part of a French-led military offensive. The death of Abou Zeid, accused of earning al-Qaida millions of dollars through the kidnappings of dozens of Western hostages, marks a serious blow to al-Qaida in the region and to Islamist rebels driven out of northern Mali's towns by the French-led campaign.
    Meanwhile, fears of ethnic reprisals by government troops in Mali have driven thousands of Arabs and Tuaregs in the country's north to abandon their homes and flee to Mauritania, undermining efforts to reunite their war-torn homeland. At least 20,000 civilians have trekked westward across the dunes to the crowded Mbera refugee camp since mid-January when government forces re-entered northern Mali on the coattails of a French ground and air campaign that swept Islamist rebels from the region.
Berlusconi's tax fraud trial adjourned to April 20    An Italian court agreed today to Silvio Berlusconi's request to adjourn his appeal of a tax fraud conviction for one month, as Italy's politicians seek to end a political crisis and form a government. The former prime minister was re-elected to Parliament in an inconclusive vote last month, and Italy's president has asked his center-left rival, Pier Luigi Bersani, to see if he can form a government.
Northern Ireland cops defuse bomb near G8 venue
    Northern Irish police defused a bomb in a car today close to where G8 leaders will meet at a summit in June, and said that the device was likely to have been intended for a police station nearby. Army bomb disposal experts defused the device after a security operation that lasted almost 36 hours in the County Fermanagh town of Enniskillen. The Group of Eight leaders meet just outside the town in three months' time.
Three killed in assassination attempt on Yemeni rebel negotiator
    Gunmen shot dead three people in a failed attempt to assassinate a Houthi rebel leader today after he left Yemen's "national dialogue" talks aimed at ending political turmoil in the country, sources at the talks said. Abdo Abu Ras, the Houthis' representative at the negotiations, was returning by car to his hotel in the capital city of Sanaa when gunmen opened fire, killing three of his companions, the sources said. Impoverished Yemen faces two rebellions and a separatist movement.
Second rebel column moves on capital of CAR
    A rebel column advanced on the capital of Central African Republic from the northwest today, attacking the town of Bossembele and opening a second front for government forces already battling insurgents northeast of Bangui. A spokesman for the Seleka rebel coalition, which accuses President Francois Bozize of breaking a January peace agreement to integrate its fighters into the army, said its forces had seized control of Bossembele, 100 miles northwest of Bangui.
Troops impose uneasy calm on violence-torn Myanmar city
Basic Combat Training School    
    Hundreds of troops kept an uneasy calm in central Myanmar today after martial law was imposed to quell three days of bloody unrest between Buddhists and Muslims that is testing the country's nascent democracy. The official death toll in the worst-affected town of Meikhtila stands at 11 dead, although local estimates put it as much as four times higher. Burned corpses still lay uncollected by the roads today, said reporters in the city 336 miles north of the commercial capital city of Yangon.
In Moscow, new Chinese leader warns against 'meddling'
By Lisa Levine, News of the Force Tel Aviv
A white flag with horizontal blue bands close to the top and bottom, and a blue star of David in the middle.    
    Chinese President Xi Jinping warned against foreign interference in the affairs of other nations during a speech in Moscow today, sending a signal to the West and echoing a message often repeated by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Permanent U.N. Security Council members with veto power, Russia and China have frequently teamed up diplomatically to blunt the influence of the United States and its NATO allies and have blocked three draft resolutions on Syria.
    Followers of the religion of Bashar al-Assad who oppose the Syrian president met in Cairo, Egypt, today to support a democratic alternative to his rule, seeking to untangle his fate from their own. In the first meeting of its kind by Alawites who support the revolt, delegates aimed to draft a declaration supporting a united Syria and to invite other opposition groups to cooperate on preventing sectarian bloodletting if Assad falls.
    Rebels seized an air defense base near Syria's strategic southern international highway today, activists said, a gain that could bolster opposition fighters trying to secure supply routes to the capital city of Damascus. Syria's southern provinces bordering Jordan and Israel have become an increasingly significant battleground as the embattled capital comes into play, with President al-Assad's forces and his loyalist militias hitting back hard to prevent rebel advances.
    France and Britain failed to persuade the European Union to back their call to lift an arms embargo on Syrian rebels yesterday despite warning that President al-Assad could resort to using chemical weapons. Paris and London want to exempt Assad's opponents from an E.U. arms embargo, a step they believe would raise pressure on Assad to negotiate after two years of a civil war that has claimed 70,000 lives.
    Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced his government's resignation yesterday after a Cabinet dispute with the Shiite group Hizbollah over preparations for a parliamentary election and extending the term of a senior security official. Mikati's announcement after a dead-locked ministerial meeting plunged Lebanon, already struggling to cope with a spillover of bloodshed and refugees from neighboring Syria, into fresh uncertainty three months before the planned election.
    Several thousand opponents of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood clashed with supporters of the Islamist group near its headquarters in Cairo yesterday, and at least 40 people were wounded, authorities said. Columns of riot police fired tear gas as the rival groups tussled in the streets around the Brotherhood's headquarters. Protesters hurled Molotov cocktails and stones, a witness said. Earlier in the day, Brotherhood supporters who arrived in the vicinity on buses were showered with stones from the protesters, and threw the stones back.
    Israel apologized to Turkey yesterday for killing nine Turkish citizens in a 2010 naval raid on a Gaza Strip-bound flotilla, and the two feuding U.S. allies agreed to normalize relations in a surprise breakthrough announced by U.S. President Barack Obama. The rapprochement could help regional coordination to contain spillover from the Syrian civil war and ease Israel's diplomatic isolation in the Middle East as it faces challenges posed by Iran's nuclear program. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said yesterday all of Turkey's fundamental demands had been met with an apology from Israel over the killing of nine Turkish citizens in a 2010 naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla. In a telephone call with his Turkish counterpart earlier yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu apologized for the killings and said Israel would pay compensation to the families of victims aboard the flotilla.
    And U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman before flying to Israel for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later today as he seeks ways to revive long-stalled peace talks. Kerry's back-to-back meetings will follow up on President Obama's visits to Israel and the Palestinian Territories this week in which he called for fresh diplomatic efforts, but offered no new peace proposals of his own.
Tornado kills 20 in Bangladesh
    A tornado swept through nearly two dozen villages southeast of the Bangladeshi capital, killing at least 20 people, tearing roofs off houses and uprooting trees and power pylons, officials said. The death toll could rise sharply as more than 300 people were injured when the twister struck the Brahmanbaria district, more than 60 miles southeast of Dhaka, yesterday evening. More than 500 dwellings suffered damage. Rescue teams were dispatched to the area, but uprooted trees and wrecked vehicles closed large stretches of highway and rail lines.
Congolese warlord arrives at war crimes court's jail    A Congolese warlord known as "The Terminator" who is accused of murder, rape and other atrocities, arrived at the International Criminal Court (ICC)'s jail in the Netherlands early today, the court said. Bosco Ntaganda, who walked off the street and gave himself up at the U.S. Embassy in Kigali in a surprise move on Monday, was flown in a private jet from the Rwandan capital to The Hague after being handed over to the court's custody.
Congo foils plot to assassinate the president    The Democratic Republic of Congo's government said yesterday it had thwarted a plot involving a Belgian member of Parliament that aimed to assassinate President Joseph Kabila and overthrow his government. Two suspects - a Belgian doctor of Congolese origin named Jean-Pierre Kanku Mukendi, and Isidore Madimba Mongombe, a former policeman - were arrested last month in the capital city of Kinshasa, Interior Minister Richard Muyej told journalists. Muyej said the two men, who were in possession of a small quantity of weapons at the time of their arrest, confessed to the plot.
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