South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team conducts multiple hoist rescues during flood

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (SC-HART) rescued about 26 stranded residents throughout flood-affected areas during unprecedented levels of rainfall in South Carolina, Oct. 4, 2015, after deploying from McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Eastover, South Carolina. SC-HART is a collaborative effort between aviation units of the South Carolina Army […]

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Russia’s Air Campaign No Different From Assad’s | Small Journal News

ISTANBUL—For more than a year, Syrian insurgents and civilians in rebellious areas in the war-torn country have been enduring a reign of terror from the skies with President Bashar al-Assad’s aircraft dropping cheaply produced improvised “barrel bombs” on them. Now they’re coming under attack from Russian bombers firing so-called “dumb missiles” designed to maximize casualties. […]

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Afghans Called for Airstrike at Hospital | Small Journal News

U.S. Army General John Campbell told reporters at the Pentagon in Washington that he was correcting an earlier statement about the Saturday incident that the U.S. aerial bombardment was intended to defend American forces under fire.

The half-hour long bombing attacks hit a hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders, an international charity that was treating people injured in the past few days as Afghan forces battled the Taliban for control of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. Twelve hospital staff and 10 patients were killed, including three children.

After hearing Campbell’s statement, the medical group, known by its French acronym MSF, said, “The reality is the U.S. dropped those bombs.  The U.S. hit a huge hospital full of wounded patients and MSF staff.  There can be no justification for this horrible attack.”

Afghan officials say 10 to 15 fighters were hiding in the hospital and on its grounds.  But MSF said in an earlier statement that “not a single member of our staff” reported any fighting inside the MSF hospital compound prior to the U.S.

Campbell said U.S. investigators have determined that “Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. forces.”

He said that “an airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat and several civilians were accidentally struck.”

Campbell declined to offer more details, saying the investigation into the incident is continuing.

He told VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb that he should have a preliminary report in the next couple of days.

Full investigation

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has pledged a full and transparent probe.

The Kunduz bombing triggered a firestorm of criticism from aid groups.

MSF said Sunday it has removed its doctors and workers from the Kunduz facility.

Carter, speaking Sunday to reporters en route to Spain, cautioned the situation in Kunduz is “confused and complicated,” while vowing that “we will get the facts.” He also said he has ordered U.S. forces to provide any medical aid needed in the area.

Carter spoke as MSF demanded an independent international probe of the bombing.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, in a statement sent to VOA, denied the presence of its fighters in the hospital at the time of the airstrike.

Obama: ‘Deepest condolences’

U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday offered his “deepest condolences to the medical professionals and other civilians killed and injured in the tragic incident.”

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also expressed his “deep sorrow” over the killing and wounding of civilians, in a statement issued in Kabul.

The International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan strongly condemned the attack, saying that from its perspective “targeting of any medical facility or personnel working in health care is unacceptable regardless of the circumstances.”

UN response

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called the airstrike “inexcusable.”

Zeid said, “International and Afghan military planners have an obligation to respect and protect civilians at all times, and medical facilities and personnel are the object of a special protection.”

He said, “If established as deliberate in a court of law, an airstrike on a hospital may amount to a war crime.”

Taliban forces overran Kunduz a week ago, with Afghan President Ghani announcing days later that government fighters, with the support of U.S. airstrikes, had retaken the city.

Late last week, authorities in Afghanistan said at least 60 people had been killed and 466 wounded in the battle between government troops and the Taliban for control of Kunduz.

Source: Afghans Called for Airstrike at Hospital | Small Journal News

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South Sudan Rebels Condemn Creation of 28 New States | Small Journal News

South Sudan rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar say President Salva Kiir’s decision to establish 28 new states is a violation of the recently signed peace agreement and indicates he is not committed to the peace process. A statement issued over the weekend and signed by Machar called on the regional group Intergovernmental […]

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Obama Addresses Chile Oceans Conference | Small Journal News

At a major international conference on the world’s marine ecosystem, U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday announced, via video message, the creation of two new marine sanctuaries in the states of Maryland and Wisconsin.

Other countries also were expected to announce similar moves at the two-day Our Ocean 2015 conference in Valparaiso, Chile. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is attending the summit, which opened Monday.

“The United States is taking serious steps to curb our carbon pollution and protect our waters,” Obama said in the video message, citing his “special love for the ocean” from growing up in Hawaii and Indonesia.

The country is developing the first new marine sanctuaries in more than a decade, both of historical and ecological importance. One is in the tidal waters of Maryland, part of the Chesapeake Bay system rich in marine life; the other is in Lake Michigan, one of the five Great Lakes, the world’s largest freshwater system.

Obama’s video also announced a plan designed to bring a halt to the world’s illegal and unregulated fishing trade. It involves “new partnerships to empower developing fishing nations to fight illegal in their own waters,” the president said.

For instance, a new U.S. task force traces seafood catches from their source to a U.S. entry point, to ensure sustainability and legality. A new partnership with Palau is testing remote surveillace technology. And the mFish partnership provides mobile devices and apps to small-scale fishing operators in Indonesia so they can obtain weather reports and market information; the program is being broadened to other developing nations.

Maryland’s newly designated Mallows Bay sanctuary is the first in the Chesapeake Bay, the country’s largest estuary. It also contains the country’s “largest and most diverse collection of historic shipwrecks,” according to nomination papers, with 200 recorded there, including some dating from the late 1700s.

Wisconsin’s National Marine Sanctuary stretches along 96 kilometers of shoreline just north of the state’s largest city, Milwaukee.

“We’re really focused on the [34 reported] shipwrecks,” said John Broihahn, state archeologist, though he also pointed out that “Wisconsin and other Great Lakes states and Canada are working hard to re-establish lake trout fisheries” and confront invasive species.

Several countries and foundations are set to pledge funds and propose initiatives to fight pollution, overfishing and the acidification of the ocean by carbon emissions.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz also will speak at the conference.

Source: Obama Addresses Chile Oceans Conference | Small Journal News

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