Iran falters with US forces closing in….

An F/A-18 Super Hornet launching from the flight deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier, this month in the Northern Arabian Sea. “Anytime a carrier moves close to shore, and especially into confined waters, the danger to the ship goes up significantly,” said James G. Stavridis, a retired admiral and former supreme allied commander for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

An F/A-18 Super Hornet launching from the flight deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier, this month in the Northern Arabian Sea. “Anytime a carrier moves close to shore, and especially into confined waters, the danger to the ship goes up significantly,” said James G. Stavridis, a retired admiral and former supreme allied commander for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

ABOARD THE U.S.S. ABRAHAM LINCOLN, in the North Arabian Sea — Out here, deterring Iran means avoiding Iran.

The 5,600 men and women aboard this nuclear-powered aircraft carrier do not venture near Iranian waters, despite a warning from President Trump’s national security adviser that the warship is in the Middle East “to send a clear and unmistakable message” to Iran to steer clear of American interests in the region.

Sailors aboard the Abraham Lincoln maintaining helicopters in the carrier’s enormous hangar deck.
Sailors aboard the Abraham Lincoln maintaining helicopters in the carrier’s enormous hangar deck.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

Instead, it is the Abraham Lincoln that has steered clear of Iran. In the past four months, the ship has entered neither the Persian Gulf nor the Strait of Hormuz, the crucial oil-tanker highways it is supposed to protect.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We recognize that tensions are high, and we don’t want to go to war,” said Capt. William Reed, a fighter pilot who commands the ship’s air wing. “We don’t want to escalate things with Iran.”

Ordnance handlers moving air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions to F/A-18s on the flight deck of the Abraham Lincoln.
Ordnance handlers moving air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions to F/A-18s on the flight deck of the Abraham Lincoln.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

In short, the Navy has carried out the order of its commander in chief to counter Iran in the Middle East, but in the least provocative way. Just where to station the Lincoln — one of the country’s 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers — is a decision made by the Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which has its headquarters in Bahrain. The fear is that sending an aircraft carrier through the narrow Strait of Hormuz, right when Mr. Trump has turned up the heat on Tehran, could provoke exactly the kind of conflict the Pentagon wants to avoid.

“Anytime a carrier moves close to shore, and especially into confined waters, the danger to the ship goes up significantly,” said James G. Stavridis, a retired admiral and former supreme allied commander for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “It becomes vulnerable to diesel submarines, shore-launched cruise missiles and swarming tactics by small boats armed with missiles” — all parts of the Iranian arsenal of weaponry and tactical maneuvers.

Editors’ Picks

‘I Would Like to Apologize to the Woman Driving a Subaru’Amid the Kale and Corn, Fears of White Supremacy at the Farmers’ MarketIn an All-Gender Cabin, Summer Campers ‘Don’t Have to Hide’

Sailors on the flight deck of the Abraham Lincoln.
Sailors on the flight deck of the Abraham Lincoln.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

So the Lincoln remains in the North Arabian Sea, and at times more than 600 nautical miles from the Strait of Hormuz. Often, the Lincoln is off the coast of Oman, not far from Muscat. The men who populate Iran’s southern beaches need not worry about seeing the Lincoln on the horizon.

ADVERTISEMENT

Trolling the North Arabian Sea, with its huge waves and fierce undertow, fighter pilots on a recent Saturday battled wind gusts to catch the wire as they landed on the pitching carrier. Unlike the far calmer Persian Gulf, the North Arabian Sea at this time of the year is ferocious. The ship has been dealing with a succession of monsoons.

Navy pilots and ground crews preparing to launch aircraft from the Abraham Lincoln.
Navy pilots and ground crews preparing to launch aircraft from the Abraham Lincoln.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

Navy officials say there is nothing that they can do in the Strait of Hormuz or the Persian Gulf that they cannot do from the North Arabian Sea.

“We can reach Iran from here easily,” said Rear Adm. Michael E. Boyle, the commander of the carrier strike group, in an interview on the bridge of the Lincoln. Five levels below, F/A-18s were catapulting off the flight deck and headed toward Iran, but they would make sure to stay away from the 12-mile border that encompasses Iranian airspace, Navy officials said. To get to the Persian Gulf, the warplanes fly above Oman and other gulf allies, not over Iran.

Maintaining aircraft in the hangar deck.
Maintaining aircraft in the hangar deck.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

Admiral Boyle said the planes can strike Iran as easily from the North Arabian Sea as they can from the Persian Gulf, but he flagged a crucial difference: “They can reach us when we’re there. When we’re here, they can’t.”

ADVERTISEMENT

When tensions are lower, American aircraft carriers are regularly deployed to the Persian Gulf. The John C. Stennis was there in March and the Nimitz was there for a prolonged deployment during the summer of 2017, when fighter pilots used the ship to strike Iraq and Syria in the fight against the Islamic State. The Theodore Roosevelt was in the Persian Gulf fighting ISIS during the summer of 2015, when Navy fighters bombarded targets in Ramadi, Iraq, and elsewhere.

An F/A-18 Super Hornet catapulting from the flight deck.
An F/A-18 Super Hornet catapulting from the flight deck.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

During each of those deployments, the carriers routinely tangled with Iranian fast boats. Both sides constantly watched each other. American naval ships openly roamed the waters along Iran’s 1,100 mile-long southern coastline, their radars trained on the Iranian shore and on Iranian ships leaving their harbors. Iranian fighter jets patrolled the skies, keeping an eye on American combat planes taking off from the Roosevelt every time an Iranian jet came close to the ship.

But these are not normal times. Mr. Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, including his withdrawal from an agreement meant to rein in Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and the imposition of crippling sanctions, has sharply increased tensions between the two adversaries. The Navy has sent smaller warships through the Strait of Hormuz and into the Persian Gulf, but Navy officials say privately that an aircraft carrier could prove too tantalizing a target for Iran to resist.

Sign Up for On Politics With Lisa Lerer

A spotlight on the people reshaping our politics. A conversation with voters across the country. And a guiding hand through the endless news cycle, telling you what you really need to know.SIGN UP

The planes from the Abraham Lincoln can strike Iran as easily from the North Arabian Sea as they can from the Persian Gulf, Navy leaders say.
The planes from the Abraham Lincoln can strike Iran as easily from the North Arabian Sea as they can from the Persian Gulf, Navy leaders say.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

“I wouldn’t say we are sitting ducks, because we have offensive capability,” Admiral Boyle said. “But as you get further out into the North Arabian Sea, they just can’t see us.”

Still, there have been tense moments. On the night that Mr. Trump ordered a strike against Iran for its downing of an unmanned American drone — but then abruptly called it off — the pilots, sailors and Marines on the Abraham Lincoln got ready for action.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I stayed on shift that night,” said Captain Reed, the fighter pilot. “You’re preparing for the offensive, but also have to be ready to play defense.” He likened it to being in “the eye of the tiger.”

The ship was prepared to launch strikes on Iranian targets on the ground. Enlisted sailors and officers had rehearsed and drilled countless times, but suddenly this was the real thing.

“You could feel the stress in the younger sailors,” Captain Reed said.

In the carrier’s command center, Admiral Boyle and the ship’s officers were waiting, too.

“All the systems were on, all the lights were green, we were waiting for the order,” he recalled. “And the order didn’t come.”

The president had changed his mind. It was early morning in the North Arabian Sea when the Lincoln got the call from headquarters in Bahrain to stand down.

“Relief? Yeah,” Admiral Boyle said. “Whatever caused us not to have to push the button, we’re happy.”A version of this article appears in print on Aug. 24, 2019, Section A, Page 9 of the New York edition with the headline: A U.S. Warship Threatens Iran, While Giving It a Wide Berth in Gulf Waters.

Advertisements

Prince Andrew and Buckingham Palace stonewalling media

Prince Andrew denies knowledge of criminal behaviour by former friend Jeffrey Epstein

Britain’s Prince Andrew has commented on his relationship with accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who was found hanged in prison in Manhattan last weekend.

Read more: Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein dead from suicide in Manhattan prison

The Duke of York had been criticised for his former friendship with Epstein, who killed himself while waiting to stand trial, charged with one count of sex trafficking conspiracy and one count of sex trafficking. He faced up to 45 years in prison if found guilty.

Following a brief statement from Buckingham Palace, Prince Andrew made his first comments on the matter in a statement on Saturday, saying he wanted to “clarify the facts” around his “former association or friendship” with the US financier.

He went on to say that it was a “mistake and an error” to see Epstein when he left prison in 2010.

“At no stage during the limited time I spent with him did I see, witness or suspect any behaviour of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction,” he added.

“I have tremendous sympathy for all those affected by his actions and behaviour,” the Duke of York said. “His suicide has left many unanswered questions and I acknowledge and sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure.”

The British royal said he met Epstein in 1999 and saw him “infrequently” and “probably no more than only once or twice a year”, but had stayed in a number of his residences.

Epstein, who was arrested on July 6, pleaded not guilty to the federal charges of sex trafficking, which involved dozens of underage girls as young as 14.

He was already a registered sex offender after pleading guilty in 2008 to Florida state charges of unlawfully paying a teenage girl for sex.

French authorities announced on Friday they were conducting a preliminary probe to uncover whether any sexual assault offences linked to the case against Epstein were committed on the country’s soil or on French nationals.

The French NGO “Innocence en danger” called on the country’s authorities to launch an investigation on July 12, citing Epstein’s arrest upon his return “from a weeks-long trip in France.”

“He owns a property in Paris, which he visits regularly,” the NGO said in an open letter, adding: “it is legitimate to wonder if there are any minor victims” in the country.

Prior to his conviction, he had counted the rich and powerful, with US President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton among his associates.

Bolsonaro mobilises Brazilian army to combat Amazon fires

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has signed off on deploying THE ARMY to fight fires in the Amazon rainforest, the governor of the Amazon state of Roraima has said.

Soldiers were to be deployed in nature reserves, as well as on indigenous lands, and in border areas ravaged by the blazes.

It came amid growing criticism for Bolsonaro and his administration from the international community.

The move appeared to be a climbdown from the president, who has remained defiant concerning the fires, despite Brazil’s national institute for space research (INPE) reporting nearly 2,500 of new fires in 48 hours on Wednesday and Thursday.

Some countries threatened to target the Brazilian economy if it did not take action to stop the blazes.

Both France and Ireland said they would not ratify the EU-Mercosur trade deal, and Finland’s finance minister called on the EU to consider banning Brazilian beef imports.

French President Emmanuel Macron accused Bolsonaro of lying about his stance on climate change.

The Brazilian leader said forest fires “exist in the whole world” and “cannot serve as a pretext for possible international sanctions,” during a televised address on Friday.

Macron and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for the wildfires to be discussed at the G7 summit, which kicked off on Saturday.

Read more: ‘Our house is burning’: Macron urges G7 leaders to discuss Amazon fire

“Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produce 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days! #ActForTheAmazon,” Macron tweeted on Thursday, a few days before the start of the G7 summit in Biarritz.

Johnson reiterated the French leader’s sentiments: “The prime minister is deeply concerned by the increase in fires in the Amazon rainforest and the impact of the tragic loss of these precious habitats,” said a spokeswoman.

A NASA scientist called Bolsonaro out on his stance on Friday, using satellite images to back up his position.

Doug Morton also spoke out for the INPE, the federal agency monitoring deforestation and wildfires, whose director was forced to step down in early August after standing up to the president’s accusations that deforestation data had been altered to damage the reputation of his administration.

Read more: Scientists mythbust Bolsonaro claims on Amazon fires with satellite images

Around 60% of the Amazon rainforest is located in Brazil — its degradation could have severe consequences for global climate and rainfall.

Some social media who have called for action concerning the blazes have labelled the Amazon “the lungs of the planet”

Texas man licks ice cream, puts it back on grocery shelf

A Texas man is really regretting the choice he made to record himself licking the ice cream at a grocery store and putting the tub back.

Walmart surveillance video captured 24-year-old D’Adrien Anderson recording the act as a joke at their Port Arthur, Texas, store.

“Happy national soft ice cream day lmao #viral,” he captioned thevideo on his Facebook page, where he is known as “Dapper Don.”

The video did go viral, with over 136,000 views.

But “Dapper Don” is regretting the video after law enforcement charged him with class A criminal mischief and booked him at the Jefferson County Correctional Facility Thursday.

While these incidents are considered harmless jokes by the perpetrators, they can do enormous damage to the image of the product and the store.

“We take it very, very seriously. I know the district attorney takes it very seriously,” said Detective Mike Hebert with the Port Arthur Police Department.

“So hopefully in the next 24 hours,” he added, “we’ll have all our evidence gathered, and we’ll walk it over to the district attorney’s office.”

Walmart released a statement about the incident:

If food is tampered with, or a customer wants to leave the impression that they left behind adulterated product, we will move quickly with law enforcement to identify, apprehend and prosecute those who think this is a joke-it is not.

The video showed that Anderson ended up buying that exact tub of ice cream, according to the store. He says that he’s lost his job over the viral video. 

If he’s convicted, Anderson faces up to a year in jail and as much as a $1,000 fine.

Russia Today’s (error) puts Japan on the map, where New Zealand should be

very informative……… (heads will roll)

Russian news channel RT has apologised for apparently accidentally labelling New Zealand as “Japan”, and Papua New Guinea as “South Korea” in an embarrassing southern hemisphere mix-up.

The mistake came in a segment produced by their US bureau about potential new missile bases in “Japan, South Korea and Australia”. But in a large, erroneous graphic only Australia was correctly labelled.

It is the latest in a long line of incidents involving New Zealand and geographic mistakes. The country is left off maps so frequently it prompted the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, to star in a special light-hearted campaign in protest, back in 2018.Advertisement

A spokesperson for RT confirmed to New Zealand news site Newshub that the mistake was genuine.

“Our American early morning news team suffered a little geography mishap,” a spokesperson said. “We … have corrected ours as soon as it was spotted, and have given our team a new map of the southern hemisphere to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

The segment, aired on 15 August, has since been corrected in the online version and remains available on YouTube on RT America’s channel. The caption makes clear that “this video includes a corrected map”.

very intelligent colleague you got there RT

NASA astronaut accused of hacking ex-spouse’s bank account from space

In a highly unexpected example of what it’s now possible to do in space, a NASA astronaut has been accused of breaking into her ex-spouse’s bank accounts while she was on board the International Space Station.

The bizarre accusation was made against decorated NASA astronaut Anne McClain, who is embroiled in a bitter divorce battle with her former partner Summer Worden.

Worden’s suspicions were raised when she noticed that her bank account was accessed without her permission from a NASA-affiliated computer network. After doing some further digging, the former Air Force intelligence officer accused McClain of breaking into her bank accounts while she was on board the ISS. 

Wikimedia Commons

Worden told Houston news outlet KPRC that USAA Bank gave evidence to her attorneys that McClain had accessed her accounts. “I was shocked and appalled at the audacity by her to think that she could get away with that, and I was very disheartened that I couldn’t keep anything private,” she said.

Worden filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and a family member also filed a complaint with NASA’s internal Office of Inspector General. The complaint accused McClain of identity theft and improper access to Worden’s private financial records, the New York Times is reporting. A lawyer for McClain told the newspaper that the astronaut was merely tending the couple’s still-connected finances. 

The drama unfolded as McClain was set to conduct the first all-female spacewalk in history, alongside colleague Christina Koch. That spacewalk was reassigned, in a move that garnered a lot of criticism, with astronaut Nick Hague replacing McClain. NASA said at the time that the decision was McClain’s choice as there were not enough space suits in McClain and Koch’s sizes. 

Anne McClain remains an active astronaut and NASA said it does not comment on personal or personnel matters.

The divorce case is set to be finalized in October.

The man who tried to unite India’s fragmented economy has died

New Delhi -The man who implemented India’s biggest economic reforms of the 21st century has died.

Arun Jaitley, who served as India’s finance minister for five years until May 2019, passed away on Saturday in New Delhi. He was 66.Jaitley took charge as India’s top economic official in 2014, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s victory in an election where he promised to boost growth and create millions of jobs.A lawyer who was once jailed for taking part in student protests, the veteran politician found himself at the center of a firestorm as he implemented Modi’s shock decision to ban 86% of India’s cash in November 2016.

The abrupt move sent shockwaves through India’s $2 trillion economy. Gross domestic product growth slumped from 7% to 6% in the six months after the ban as several sectors of the economy ground to a halt. Jaitley repeatedly defended the move as essential to cracking down on tax evasion and promoting digital payments, calling it a “watershed moment” that Indians would look back on with pride even as businesses continued to struggle a year later.

“Whether or not history will remember that Mr. Jaitley was trying to pick up the pieces rather than having caused the event itself, is difficult to say,” Pronab Sen, country manager for India at the International Growth Centre and India’s former chief statistician, told CNN Business.Another landmark reform came in July 2017, when India implemented an overhaul of its tax system. A new goods and services tax replaced a complicated web of national and state-level duties, creating a single market in India for the first time since the vast country became independent in 1947.

Jaitley took charge of India's economy in 2014.

Jaitley took charge of India’s economy in 2014.”The old India was economically fragmented. The new India will create one tax, one market and for one nation,” Jaitley said when the reform was passed by parliament.The tax was widely hailed as a game-changer for India’s economy. The International Monetary Fund said it could eventually add nearly two percentage points to India’s growth. But many businesses struggled to adapt and said the new system was too complicated. The government has made several changes in the last two years in an effort to further simplify it.”The crowning glory of course was getting the [goods and services tax] done, I think that will be his real legacy,” Sen said.Jaitley’s deteriorating health — he had a kidney transplant in May 2018 — forced him to opt out of Modi’s second government a year later, shortly after the Indian leader won re-election by a landslide.”I would in future, for some time, like to keep away from any responsibility,” Jaitley said in a letter to Modi. “This will enable me to concentrate on my treatment and health.”READ MORE ON INDIA

Jaitley was a longtime member of Modi’s right wing Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP. He was elected president of the University of Delhi in 1974, representing the party’s youth wing. He was jailed the following year for protesting the state of emergency imposed by then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and spent 19 months behind bars.

He served as India’s law minister and minister of shipping in a previous BJP government in the early 2000s, and also briefly oversaw defense and corporate affairs during Modi’s first term.”I have lost a valued friend, whom I have had the honor of knowing for decades,” Modi tweeted on Saturday. “His insight on issues and nuanced understanding of matters had very few parallels.”

hiding memories

To overcome the barricades With walls far too high to climb upon To see the place beyond If I go blind I will be found Why should something divide you from me? Out of equilibrium All the different ways have ended far too soon Every dream is locked in my head When I try to get out of bed To drown the next day without you Hiding memories on the run No mistake becomes undone Hiding memories from the sun Could I erase it just to stun Trapped simplicity To long for bliss and hope and harmony But contradiction smiles at me I choose to turn my head away To face the unavoidable end To overcome the days My last attempt to disregard gravity The view is mostly blurred But the perspective doesn’t hurt I can’t express how much I miss you