US defense chief hospitalized due to medical complications

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was hospitalized earlier this week due to complications from a medical procedure at a time when Washington is facing a growing crisis in the Middle East. (File/AFP)
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Updated 06 January 2024
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US defense chief hospitalized due to medical complications

  • Austin was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on the evening of January 1
  • Defense Department had not previously disclosed Austin’s hospitalization, with Friday’s announcement prompting criticism from Pentagon Press Association.

WASHINGTON: US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was hospitalized earlier this week due to complications from a medical procedure, the Pentagon said Friday, at a time when Washington is facing a growing crisis in the Middle East.
Austin was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on the evening of January 1 “for complications following a recent elective medical procedure,” Pentagon Press Secretary Major General Pat Ryder said in a statement, without providing details on the complications or the duration of the hospital stay.
“He is recovering well and is expecting to resume his full duties today,” Ryder said.
The Defense Department had not previously disclosed that Austin was hospitalized, with Friday’s announcement prompting criticism from the Pentagon Press Association.
In a letter to the Pentagon press secretary expressing “significant concerns,” the press association said withholding the announcement for days until “late on a Friday evening is an outrage.”
“The public has a right to know when US Cabinet members are hospitalized, under anesthesia or when duties are delegated as a result of any medical procedure,” said the letter from the association, made up of journalists that cover the Pentagon.
The secretary’s hospitalization comes with tensions soaring in the Middle East as a result of the Israel-Hamas war, with Iran-backed forces in Yemen striking shipping lanes while others in Iraq and Syria are attacking US troops with rockets and drones.
On Thursday, the United States carried out a strike that killed an Iran-backed commander in Baghdad whom the military accused of involvement in attacks on American forces, infuriating the Iraqi government.
“At all times, the deputy secretary of defense (Kathleen Hicks) was prepared to act for and exercise the powers of the secretary, if required,” Ryder said.
A Defense Department spokesperson later told AFP that the deputy secretary “is automatically authorized to perform the duties of the secretary if he is unable to perform them,” and that “she did make some routine decisions on his behalf this week.”
Austin was aware of the Baghdad strike, the spokesperson said, adding that the secretary and US President Joe Biden had previously authorized the action.


Indian soldiers kill two suspected militants in Kashmir

Updated 6 sec ago
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Indian soldiers kill two suspected militants in Kashmir

  • Kashmir has seen a string of battles between insurgents and Indian security forces in the past two months
  • Five Indian security personnel were killed on Monday during a firefight with gunmen in Doda forest
SRINAGAR, India: Two suspected militants were killed in a firefight with soldiers in Indian-administered Kashmir, the defense ministry said Friday, following a spate of attacks in the disputed territory.
The two men were killed on Thursday while trying to cross the de facto frontier that divides the Himalayan region between Pakistan and India.
Troops saw the pair crossing over from the Pakistani side through thick foliage, a defense spokesman said in a statement.
“The infiltrating terrorists were challenged, following which they opened fire leading to an intense firefight,” he said.
Kashmir, particularly its southern Hindu-majority region Jammu, has seen a string of battles between insurgents and Indian security forces in the past two months.
Five Indian security personnel were killed on Monday during a firefight with gunmen in Doda forest.
Last month, nine Indian Hindu pilgrims were killed and dozens more wounded when a gunman opened fire on a bus carrying them from a shrine in Reasi district.
Muslim-majority Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence from British rule in 1947, and each side claims it in full.
Rebel groups have waged an insurgency since 1989, demanding independence or merger with Pakistan, in fighting that has killed tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and rebels.
New Delhi and Islamabad accuse each other of stoking militancy and espionage to undermine each other, and the nuclear-armed rivals have fought multiple conflicts for control of the region.

Major jets grounded over IT outage, affecting thousands of passengers

Updated 2 min 16 sec ago
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Major jets grounded over IT outage, affecting thousands of passengers

  • ‘Large-scale technical outage’ caused by an issue with a ‘third-party software platform’
  • Airport operator Aena also reported a computer systems ‘incident’ at all Spanish airports

WASHINGTON: Major US air carriers including Delta, United and American Airlines grounded all flights early on Friday over a communication issue, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

“All... flights regardless of destination” were grounded due to the “communication issues,” the FAA said in a notice to airlines.

Three Indian airlines announced disruptions to their booking systems on Friday, matching widespread technical problems reported by flight operators around the world.

“Our systems are currently impacted by a Microsoft outage,” budget carrier IndiGo said in a post on social media platform X, with airlines Akasa Air and SpiceJet also reporting technical issues.

Passengers at Britain’s Edinburgh Airport were unable to use automated boarding pass scanners on Friday, and monitors at security displayed a message saying “server offline”, a Reuters witness reported.

Edinburgh Airport was checking boarding passes manually, the witness said.

A health booking system used by doctors in England was also offline, medical officials said on X on Friday.

Spanish airport operator Aena on Friday also reported a computer systems “incident” at all Spanish airports which may cause flight delays.

“We are working to solve it as soon as possible. Meanwhile, operations are continuing with manual systems,” the airport operator said in a post on X platform.

In Berlin, airport authorities have halted all flights until 10 a.m. (0800 GMT) due to a technical fault, a spokesperson said.

Earlier on Friday, airport operator BER said in a post on social media platform X that check-ins were delayed due to the error.

The spokesperson did not give details about the nature of the problem, which comes amid reports of technical outages affecting some companies around the globe.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, one of Europe’s busiest hubs, is being affected by a global cyber outage, a spokesperson said on Friday.

“The outage has an impact on flights flying from and to Schiphol,” he said, adding that it was not yet clear how many flights were affected.

A large-scale outage wrought havoc on IT systems across Australia on Friday, with the country’s national broadcaster, its largest international airport, and a major telecommunications company reporting issues.

Australia’s National Cyber Security Coordinator said the “large-scale technical outage” was caused by an issue with a “third-party software platform.”

National broadcaster ABC said its systems had been crippled by a “major” glitch.

Photos posted online showed large queues forming at Sydney Airport, which said some airline operations and terminal services had been affected.

Some self-checkout terminals at one of the country’s largest supermarket chains displayed error messages.

Telecommunications firm Telstra also said some of its systems had been disrupted.

Major companies report outage

Microsoft users worldwide, including banks and airlines, reported widespread outages on Friday, hours after the technology company said it was gradually fixing an issue affecting access to Microsoft 365 apps and services.

The cause, exact nature and scale of the outage was unclear. Microsoft appeared to suggest in its X posts that the situation was improving but escalating outages were still being reported around the world hours later.

The website DownDectector, which tracks user-reported Internet outages, recorded growing outages in services at Visa, ADT security and Amazon, and airlines including American Airlines and Delta.

Microsoft 365 posted on X that the company was “working on rerouting the impacted traffic to alternate systems to alleviate impact in a more expedient fashion” and that they were “observing a positive trend in service availability.”

The company did not respond to a request for comment. It did not explain the cause of the outage further.

Australian outages reported on the site included the banks NAB, Commonwealth and Bendigo, and the airlines Virgin Australia and Qantas, as well as Internet and phone providers such as Telstra.

News outlets in Australia — including the ABC and Sky News — were unable to broadcast on their TV and radio channels, and reported sudden shutdowns of Windows-based computers.

An X user posted a screenshot of an alert from the company Crowdstrike that said the company was aware of “reports of crashes on Windows hosts” related to its Falcon Sensor platform. The alert was posted on a password-protected Crowdstrike site and could not be verified. Crowdstrike did not respond to a request for comment.


Oil tankers on fire off Singapore, crew members rescued

Updated 19 July 2024
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Oil tankers on fire off Singapore, crew members rescued

  • Singapore is Asia’s biggest oil trading hub and the world’s largest bunkering port

SINGAPORE: Two large oil tankers were on fire in waters near Singapore, the authorities said on Friday, raising concerns about the environment as well as the impact on operations at the world’s biggest refueling port.
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said it was alerted to a fire on Friday at 6:15 a.m. (2215 GMT) onboard both a Singapore-flagged tanker, Hafnia Nile, and a Sao Tome and Principe-flagged tanker, Ceres I.
A helicopter had evacuated two crew members to Singapore General Hospital, it said, without elaborating.
In a statement on social media, Singapore Navy said the frigate RSS Supreme had rescued the crews from the vessels and was providing medical assistance. It did not immediately give details.
The vessels were about 55km (34 miles) northeast of the Singaporean island of Pedra Branca on the eastern approach to the Singapore Straits. Photographs released by the Navy showed thick black smoke billowing from one tanker.
The cause of the fires was not immediately clear.
The 74,000 deadweight-tons capacity Panamax tanker Hafnia Nile (IMO 9766217) was carrying about 300,000 barrels of naphtha, according to ship-tracking data from Kpler and LSEG.
It was not immediately clear what fuel Ceres I (IMO 9229439) was carrying. The tanker is a very-large-crude-carrier (VLCC) of 300,000 deadweight-tons capacity and was last marked as carrying Iranian crude between March to April, ship-tracking data showed.
Singapore is Asia’s biggest oil trading hub and the world’s largest bunkering port and surrounding waters are vital trade waterways between Asia and Europe and the Middle East.


US-bound Air India plane makes emergency landing in Russia

Updated 19 July 2024
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US-bound Air India plane makes emergency landing in Russia

  • The Boeing 777 aircraft, carrying 225 passengers and 19 flight crew, made a precautionary landing safely in the Russian region of Siberia at the Krasnoyarsk International Airport

NEW DELHI: An Air India airplane flying from Delhi to San Francisco made an emergency landing in Russia after the crew detected a potential issue in the cargo hold area, the airline said on Friday, its second such incident on the route in just over a year.
Many carriers, including US and European Union airlines, avoid Russian airspace following the war in Ukraine, but Air India uses that route, giving it a flying time and cost advantage on US-bound flights.
The Boeing 777 aircraft, carrying 225 passengers and 19 flight crew, made a precautionary landing safely in the Russian region of Siberia at the Krasnoyarsk International Airport, the airline said in a statement.
It added Air India was “concerned about the passengers and staff and are making every effort possible to operate the ferry flight as soon as possible.”
The airport said the flight’s crew had been moved to hotels, and passengers were in the international departure area, which angered some of those stranded, according to social media posts.
Mayank Gupta, whose mother was on the flight, wrote on X he was “sad and angry” that her medicines and luggage remained on the airplane.
A passenger said on X that people were struggling to get food and water, posting a photo showing some passengers sleeping on the floor inside the airport area.
In another statement on Friday, Air India said representatives from the Indian consulate in Moscow traveled to Krasnoyarsk overnight and “are working with Russian authorities to allow passengers to move to hotels, which have been on standby throughout the night.”
The airport said the plane landed due to an activated smoke detector. Regulatory clearances have been obtained for a relief flight that will depart Mumbai at 11 a.m. India time (0530 GMT) on Friday and ferry the guests out of the airport, Air India said.
Shortly after the incident, Russia’s civil aviation agency, Rosaviatsiya, said the aircraft had taxied to a parking spot after landing and there had been no signs of a fire or smoke onboard.
Boeing and a spokesperson for the US State Department deferred to Air India for comment on the incident.
Russia banned many foreign carriers from its airspace in retaliation for Western sanctions over the Ukraine war, and many countries and airlines also banned their planes from crossing over all or part of Russia.
The bans have redrawn air routes and upset business models for some airlines that now need to fly around the world’s largest country. United Airlines canceled many of its non-stop US-India flights due to the issue.
In June 2023, an Air India Boeing plane on the same route was stranded for a day after reporting a technical issue. Passengers on that flight, including US citizens, were housed in makeshift accommodation at Russia’s remote Magadan airport.
Air India sent an aircraft a day later to pick up the stranded passengers.


Donald Trump vows to end wars, restore US power if elected again

Updated 54 min 58 sec ago
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Donald Trump vows to end wars, restore US power if elected again

  • The former president sought to paint a dire picture of the world under his successor Joe Biden

MILWAUKEE: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump promised Thursday to bring an end to raging international crises and restore American prestige on the world stage, saying he could “stop wars with a telephone call.”
The former president sought to paint a dire picture of the world under his successor Joe Biden, telling the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee that the planet is “teetering on the edge of World War III.”
“We will restore peace, stability and harmony all throughout the world,” Trump said, without giving any detail on how he might do that.
“Under our leadership the United States will be respected again. No nation will question our power, no enemy will doubt our might, our borders will be totally secure.”

 


Trump placed the blame for conflicts around the world squarely on Biden — even those with roots stretching back far before the Democrat took office.
“There is an international crisis the likes of which the world has seldom been part of... war is now raging in Europe, in the Middle East, a growing specter of conflict hangs over Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines and all of Asia,” he said.
He vowed to change all that if he is elected to a second term in the White House.
“I will end every single international crisis that the current administration has created, including the horrible war with Russia and Ukraine,” Trump said. But “to achieve this future, we must first rescue our nation from failed and even incompetent leadership.”
He also said he wanted Americans held abroad to be released — or else.
“The entire world, I tell you this: we want our hostages back and they better be back before I assume office or you will be paying a very big price,” said Trump — again failing to give any specifics.
He pledged to build a version of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system for the United States, ignoring the fact that the system is designed for short-range threats and would be ill-suited to defending against intercontinental missiles that are the main danger to the country.
And he suggested that Kim Jong Un — the reclusive North Korean dictator whom he met in person during his presidency, and whose country possesses a nuclear arsenal — longed to see him back in the White House.
“I get along with him, he’d like to see me back too. I think he misses me, if you want to know,” Trump said.