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China probe Space Landing
Chinese space probe historic moon landing
3 January 2019, 8:38 AM

A Chinese space probe successfully touched down on the far side of the moon on Thursday, state media said, hailing it as an historic first landing on a mission seen as an important step for China’s space programme.

Chinese state television said the Change 4 lunar probe, launched in December, made the “soft landing” at 0226 GMT and transmitted the first ever “close range” image of the dark side of the moon.

The moon is tidally locked to Earth, rotating at the same rate that it orbits our planet, so the far side or the “dark-side” is never visible from Earth.

Previous spacecraft have seen the far side of the moon but none has landed on it.

The landing “lifted the mysterious veil” from the far side of the moon and “opened a new chapter in human lunarexploration”, the broadcaster says.

Kim Jong Un
North Korean leader vows to take new path against US
3 January 2019, 8:09 AM

In his New Year address on Tuesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned he might take a “new path” if Washington maintains sanctions amid his country’s push for economic development. Experts say it may be too late to change the trajectory of negotiations.

Kim did not specify what the new approach might be. His warning may sound similar to the bellicose rhetoric that Pyongyang often deployed before last year’s summit but he cannot jeopardise the hard won thaw and has few options beyond appealing directly to United States (US) President Donald Trump, experts say.

State media have in recent weeks accused the State Department of risking returning to “exchanges of fire” of the past by ramping up sanctions, while crediting Trump for his efforts to continue talks. As both sides struggle to find a breakthrough in stalled talks, the speech shows Kim shifting the focus from calls for complete dismantlement of its nuclear arsenal and hinting at including countries other than the United States.

Kim vowed to work towards denuclearisation at a summit with Trump in Singapore in June but since then there has been little progress, with a high-level meeting between the two sides cancelled abruptly in November. Pyongyang has demanded Washington lift sanctions and declare a formal end to the 1950 to 1953 Korean War in response to the dismantlement of its Punggye-ri nuclear testing site and a key missile engine facility.

Despite goodwill responses from Washington, such as a halt of some major military exercises with South Korea, US officials have said North Korea’s initial steps were not confirmed and could be easily reversed.

US Vice President Mike Pence said North Korea would not be forced to provide a list of nuclear weapons, locations and a US nuclear envoy offered to facilitate humanitarian aid. Kim’s speech on Tuesday called for a “complete end” to all joint exercises and slammed the sanctions campaign. His message was “we have done what we said we would at Singapore, but the United States has done very little in return,'” says Vipin Narang, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

North Korea’s state media has stepped up criticism of the United States, warning of a return to the era of confrontation if sanctions and pressure continued. That indicates Pyongyang’s frustration rather than the “new path” Kim suggested, experts say.

“One thing is clear, Kim is not going to return to any sort of posture where the US or its allies would consider a military attack and that means no missile or nuclear tests for the foreseeable future,” says Harry Kazianis of the Washington-based Centre for the National Interest. Instead, “new path” may refer to focusing on concessions that don’t involve broad denuclearisation in favour of action for action commitments.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry said on Wednesday it could not speculate on what the alternative path might be but Kim showed his “clear resolve” to abandon the weapons programme and improve US ties by mentioning “complete denuclearisation” himself for the first time.

Kim Joon-hyung, a professor at Handong Global University said one possible scenario was the North’s dismantling of the Yong-byon nuclear complex, as offered at an inter-Korean summit in September in Pyongyang and acknowledging some facilities in return for eased sanctions, such as a partial restart of inter-Korean economic projects.

Virat Kohli
First session of 4th test between Australia and India
3 January 2019, 7:24 AM

India lost an early wicket but reached the lunch break on 69 runs for one wicket as they looked to build a big first innings tally on the first day of the fourth and final test against Australia on Thursday. Opener Mayank Agarwal was 42 not out at the break with Cheteshwar Pujara having contributed 16 runs to their partnership of 59 after a cloudy but hot morning at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

The tourists hold a 2-1 lead after victories in Adelaide and Melbourne and just need to avoid defeat over the next five days to secure a first series victory in Australia. India have never lost in the 21 tests when Virat Kohli has won the toss and the skipper gave his team the best possible start to the day by winning a 22nd before choosing to bat.

Australia’s bowlers needed to respond on a wicket boasting a tinge of green and Josh Hazlewood did just that with the third ball of the second over. Opener KL Rahul, dropped after India’s defeat in Perth but recalled for the absent Rohit Sharma, played a defensive shot to a ball that kept straight and it took a nick off the top of his bat to give Shaun Marsh a simple catch in the slips. That brought Pujara, India’s top batsman in this series, out to join Agarwal in the middle and the pair saw out the next hour reasonably comfortably before the Australian pacemen changed tack and started to bowl a bit shorter with more hostility.

Left-armer Mitchell Starc particularly targeted Agarwal and the young opener needed treatment on his elbow and then a new helmet after blows from the ball. Pat Cummins thought he had Pujara caught behind in the hour before lunch but when Australia captain Tim Paine called for a review, the technology revealed the ball had caught the batmen’s trouser leg not his bat. Pujara also took a blow to the helmet when he failed to duck a Hazlewood delivery and Agarwal survived an umpire’s review of a stumping appeal just before lunch. Australia made two changes to their team after the heavy defeat in Melbourne with opener Aaron Finch and all-rounder Mitchell Marsh dropped.

Usman Khawaja will open in Finch’s place with South African-born Marnus Labuschagne taking his place at number three. Peter Handscomb will slot into the middle order in place of Marsh. India also reshuffled their batting order to accommodate Rahul and left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav came in as the second slow bowler in place of injured quick Ishant Sharma, who has a rib problem.

Traffic arrests
Large number of arrests around Durban during festive season
3 January 2019, 6:21 AM

More than 560 people, who were driving under the influence of alcohol, have been arrested at roadblocks in the Durban metro over the festive season. It is a significant reduction compare to the close to 6000 people arrested for the same offence in 2017.

The motorists appeared in court and some paid their bail. Durban Metro Police spokesperson, Parboo Sewpersad says they have noticed an increase in the number of people being arrested at roadblocks.

“What we have noticed is a trend for these drivers that they are trying to swop over drivers just before the road block, both drivers were arrested. Both the person who tried to swop and the original driver are being arrested,” says Sewpersad.

Meanwhile, the Durban Metro Police have issued 26 000 notices for the contravention of by-laws and traffic offences over the festive period. This includes taxi drivers who were arrested for overloading their vehicles.

Sewpersad says overloaded taxis are a big problem.

“Yesterday there was an incident in the Chatsworth area where 38 people were in a taxi that was supposed to be carrying 14 people and several taxis in the Chatsworth area were charged for overloading after a roadblock that was conducted in the Chatsworth area.”

al Shabaab
Somalia Kicks out UN official after decades of turmoil
2 January 2019, 12:35 PM

Somalia has kicked out the country’s top United Nations official in a decision likely to harm relations with foreign powers backing government attempts to restore stability after decades of turmoil.

The government accused Nicholas Haysom Special Representative of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, of interfering with internal affairs.

Haysom raised questions in a December 30 letter about the involvement of UN supported Somali security forces in the arrest of a former militant of the Islamist al Shabaab group who was blocked from running in a recent regional election.

Haysom “is not required and cannot work in this country. He openly breached the appropriate conduct of the UN office in Somalia,” said the statement late on Tuesday, which effectively makes the South African persona non grata.

There was no immediate comment from the UN mission which also supports an African Union peacekeeping force fighting al Shabaab.

Haysom’s letter to the interior security minister expressed concern over the government’s handling of the arrest of former Shabaab leader Mukhtar Robow and subsequent unrest last month.

At least 15 civilians were killed and around 300 people detained, most of them children, when protests erupted after Robow’s arrest in the southern city of Baidoa, according to the UN letter.

The government said Robow was arrested on suspicion that he had brought militants and weapons back to Baidoa, the capital of South West region where he tried to contest for president in last month’s election.

His arrest sparked clashes between militiamen loyal to Robow and Somali forces. Ethiopian security forces that are part of an African Union peacekeeping force were also involved.

Al Shabaab has sought for over a decade to topple the central government and implement its strict version of Islamic law. It was driven out of the capital in 2011 but maintains a foothold in some regions including South West.

Robow renounced violence and recognised federal authority in 2017.

In the letter, Haysom asked the minister to explain the legal basis for Robow’s arrest. He also asked what action had been taken to investigate the deaths during the demonstrations in Baidoa following the arrest.

The UN letter also contained an annexed letter from the European Union, Germany and Britain announcing the suspension of their support to the police in South West state due to their conduct during last month’s election.

Haysom also detailed the UN support to the Somali police force and the South West regional police which includes the payment of stipends to the police.

The United Nations is a major backer of Somalia, a country that has lacked strong central government since 1991. The government’s decision over Haysom could intensify a confrontation between Mogadishu and the semi-autonomous regions.

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