China is building aircraft carrier
China says it’s building a new homegrown aircraft carrier as it seeks to expand its military clout. Beijing already has one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which it bought from Ukraine in 1998, spent years refurbishing and put into service in 2012.
The new carrier was “independently designed in China” and is being constructed in the northeastern port of Dalian, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said Thursday. The U.S. military and independent analysts have long believed that China has been working on its own aircraft carrier project while using the Liaoning for training purposes.
“China … continues to pursue an indigenous aircraft carrier program and could build multiple aircraft carriers over the next 15 years,” the Pentagon said in its annual assessment of the Chinese military earlier this year. CNN
In California, the kindergarten students most likely to be exempt from mandatory vaccinations based on their parent’s personal beliefs are white and wealthy, according to a recent study. The percentage of kindergartners with state-issued personal belief exemptions doubled from 2007 to 2013, from 1.54% to 3.06%. That’s about 17,000 children, out of more than half a million, opting out.
Vaccine exemption percentages were higher in mostly white, high-income neighborhoods such as Orange County, Santa Barbara and parts of the Bay Area. According to a 2011 study in Public Health Reports, when parents refuse vaccines it’s usually due to concerns about children receiving too many shots or developing side effects, including autism.
This despite an exhaustive review last year of 20,000 scientific titles and 67 papers that concluded childhood vaccines are safe, and a complete retraction of the study that spawned the fear that vaccines cause autism.
Tony Yang, a health policy professor at George Mason University and author of the study, didn’t investigate why wealthier, white families in the state are more likely to reject vaccines. One reason may be that some parents are trying to protect their children’s immunity from diseases by insisting on specialized diets and natural living practices instead of vaccines, according to a different study. CNN
Security around the world on New Year eve
Security has been tightened in cities around the world because of possible terror threats as they prepare for public celebrations marking the start of the New Year.
Sydney, Australia, will be one of the first cities to mark the start of 2016, with its biggest fireworks display ever — seven tons of fireworks at a cost of $5.1 million for the 12-minute show.
But Jakarta, Indonesia, is on high alert this year, after police uncovered plans for an alleged terror attack on the Indonesian capital during the festivities.
Brussels’ mayor has canceled the Belgian capital’s annual New Year’s Eve celebration because of a terror threat.
Paris has tightened security, but said it will proceed with its New Year’s Eve celebration.
And on Wednesday, Turkish authorities detained two suspected Islamic State members believed to be planning suicide attacks on New Year’s celebrations in the country’s capital.
Meanwhile, thousands of police officers, some armed with long guns, radiation detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs, will be guarding the massive New Year’s celebration in New York City’s Times Square. More than 1 million people are expected to crowd into Times Square Thursday night to welcome in 2016. New York police chief James Waters said he is very confident that “New Year’s Eve in New York City will be the safest place in the world.” VOA
A South African king who is a nephew of the late Nelson Mandela has begun a 12-year prison sentence for kidnapping, assault and arson. King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo reported to prison after his legal attempts to overturn his conviction failed. The case against King Dalindyebo was related to a dispute he had with some of his subjects about two decades ago.
King Dalindyebo was accused of kidnapping a woman and her six children, setting their home on fire and beating up four youths, one of whom died, because one of their relatives had failed to present himself before the king’s traditional court. He handed himself to prison authorities in the eastern city of Mthatha in compliance with a court order after a judge refused to extend his bail on Wednesday, the justice ministry said in a statement.
He comes from the Thembu clan, to which Mr Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, belonged. He is the first monarch to be jailed in South Africa since minority rule ended in 1994. King Dalindyebo, 51, ascended to the throne in 1989, and has about 700,000 subjects. South Africa has 10 officially recognised monarchs representing different ethnic groups and clans. They play a largely ceremonial role, and attend to minor disputes within their communities. BBC
White House preparing nuclear deal sanctions against Iran
On Wednesday, the Obama administration provided Congress with a draft of new sanctions it intends to levy against five Iranians and several businesses and individuals outside Iran as punishment for Iran’s ballistic missile tests in October and November.
The sanctions, prepared amid rising tensions between Iran and the U.S., are the first to be issued by the U.S. since it and five other nations signed a deal with Iran to defang Tehran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. The United Nations has banned Iran from developing and testing ballistic missiles, which experts say are useful only for delivering nuclear warheads; Iran insists its ballistic missiles are only for defensive purposes. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times via The Week
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