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In first under Trump, U.S. warship sails near China-claimed man-made island in South China Sea

The U.S. Navy has sailed within 12 nautical miles of one of China s man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea the first so-called freedom of navigation patrol under the administration of President Donald Trump a report said Thursday. The operation, which involved the USS Dewey, a guided-missile destroyer, was conducted Wednesday around Mischief Reef in the Spratly chain of the strategic waterway, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing anonymous U.S. officials. Freedom of navigation patrols (FONOPS) represent a challenge to excessive maritime claims, according to the U.S. Defense Department. The significance of 12 nautical miles marker derives from the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which generally grants coastal states jurisdiction over a 12-nautical mile territorial sea emanating from a coast.

In a statement to The Japan Times, the Pentagon refused to confirm or deny the report. However, photos posted to an official social media account of the USS Dewey appeared to show the vessel transiting the South China Sea.

We are continuing regular FONOPS, as we have routinely done in the past and will continue to do in the future, Defense Department spokesman Cmdr. Gary Ross said. Summaries of these operations will be released publicly in the annual FONOPS report, and not sooner. The most recent annual FONOPS report was published in February.

Ross said U.S. forces operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea, adding that these operations are conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allow. The move is likely to anger China, which despite a pledge to the contrary, has continued to militarize the waters as it seeks to reinforce effective control of much of the waterway, through which $5 trillion in trade passes each year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims. China has built seven man-made islets in the hotly contested Spratlys, with three boasting military-grade airfields including Mischief Reef despite a 2015 vow by Chinese President Xi Jinping not to further militarize them. Beijing has called the moves purely defensive.

Ross, however, said any operation was not focused on a single nation.

FONOPS are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements, Ross said. In FY 2016, we conducted FONOPS challenging excessive maritime claims of 22 coastal states, including allies and partners. A think tank reported in late March that major construction at three of China s large man-made islands in the Spratly s had wrapped up, allowing Beijing to deploy fighter jets and mobile missile launchers to the area at any time. The building of military and dual-use infrastructure on the so-called Big 3 islands in the contested Spratly chain Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross reefs had reached the final stages, with the naval, air, radar and defensive facilities largely complete, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI).

All three islands boast hangers that can accommodate 24 fighter jets and four larger planes, including surveillance, transport, refueling or bomber aircraft. Hardened shelters with retractable roofs for mobile missile launchers have also been built on the three.

China has also constructed significant radar and sensor arrays on all three islands, positioning them close to point defense structures to provide protection against air or missile strikes.

Bates College addresses racial uproar after black student handcuffed at dance

Bates College has hired two private investigators to look into student complaints that security personnel improperly handcuffed a black male student in front of his peers at a dance this month.

The officers, who work for the college, have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the probe, according to a note from President Clayton Spencer to the Bates community.

Angry students protested at a recent Boston kickoff event for a $300 million fundraising effort and wrote a blistering newspaper opinion column[1] for The Bates Student declaring their Bates+Who? bid to force the school to take action.

Spencer wrote two notes last week that tried to express sympathy for concerned students and explain what the college is doing in response.

The event occurred during a Saturday night campus party May 13 hosted by the Women of Color student group. The incident involved a student, staff who serve as event support assistants and security officers, according to Spencer s note to students in the aftermath.

The student protest coalition said that a black male student was forcibly grabbed by a Bates security officer, violently taken to the ground, placed in a headlock and ultimately handcuffed in front of his peers.

It said the incident was one of many examples of injustice against students of color on campus over the years and demanded immediate action.

We believe the excessive force used and incompetence exhibited during the incident was so egregious as to warrant the immediate firing of both security officers involved,” the group declared. “They detained in handcuffs a nonviolent Bates student and turned a Village common room into a public prison cell.

The college is waiting for the results of the investigation before deciding what, if any, action to take in response.

From the very beginning, there have been conflicting accounts of what happened at the dance in question and what motivated the actions of the various individuals involved, Spencer wrote six days after the dance[2].

Because of the varying accounts, on the Monday following the event the college engaged two independent investigators with experience in higher education and civil rights to interview participants so that we can develop a clearer understanding of what happened and why, she said.

The investigators have apparently been talking to eyewitnesses to try to figure out what happened before students depart this week for a summer break.

In Spencer s first note[3], she said the investigators are expected to provide a thorough and independent assessment of what happened, and make recommendations for appropriate action.

In her more detailed letter to the Bates community, Spencer said that whatever the investigation finds about the events on that Saturday night which resulted in a black male student handcuffed in front of his peers the experience was deeply distressing for all involved, and it has become a source of serious concern and pain for our community.

She said the incident has caused students to raise issues of race and climate on our campus that are pre-existing and long-term, and focused in particular on matters relating to security and campus safety.

Spencer thanked students for making their voices heard and for pressing their cause through a peaceful protest and distribution of information at the Bates+You fundraising event May 16. She said they showed courage in traveling to Boston to make their views known.

College administrators are apparently talking with concerned students to try to come up with a concrete action plan to address their concerns.

Spencer said the incident at the dance and subsequent protests are distressing to me personally because they underscore the gap that exists between our earnest intentions to create an inclusive community that supports all students for full participation and success and the lived experience of many of our students, especially our students of color.

In conversations with me, students of color have vividly described the pain and frustration that accumulate from experiences large and small that make them feel marginalized, underestimated or undersupported as members of the Bates community, she said.

Most liberal arts colleges struggle with these issues, but at Bates, this struggle goes to the essence of our identity, Spencer said.

Though the college has had many initiatives and programs to address the problem over the years, Spencer said the events of recent days make plain we still have a very long way to go, not least because Bates is part of a larger social context.

But we also have an opportunity for leadership because of the thoughtfulness and commitment of our students and many others in the Bates community,” she said. “We will continue to work hard on these issues.

The Bates+Who? Group suggested the college can learn from its radical past as an institution that has admitted black students since its origin in 1855 and founded on the idea that anybody regardless of race, class, or gender deserved an equal opportunity to receive an education.

We call on Bates students, staff, faculty, alumni, administration and security to rekindle the flame of our radical egalitarian ethos as the college charts its future course through its Bates+You capital campaign, the group said in its statement.

References

  1. ^ a blistering newspaper opinion column (www.thebatesstudent.com)
  2. ^ wrote six days after the dance (www.bates.edu)
  3. ^ first note (www.bates.edu)

U.K. deploys 1000 soldiers to protect key sites

MANCHESTER, England British security forces arrested three more suspects today in connection with the Manchester concert bombing and sent hundreds of soldiers to secure key sites across the country, including Buckingham Palace and the British Parliament at Westminster. Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the bomber, identified as British-born Libyan Salman Abedi, likely did not act alone when he killed 22 people and wounded dozens at an Ariana Grande concert Monday night in Manchester. She said he had been known to security forces up to a point. Many at the concert were young girls and teens enthralled by Grande s pop power. The youngest victim of the bombing named so far was just 8 years old.

Officials are examining Abedi s trips to Libya and possibly Syria as they piece together his allegiances and try to foil any new potential threats. The government said nearly 1,000 soldiers were deployed today instead of police in high-profile sites in London and other locations. Police said three men were arrested today in south Manchester, where a day earlier a 23-year-old man was also arrested and a number of homes were searched. Britain raised its threat level for terrorism to critical after an emergency government meeting late Tuesday amid concerns that the 22-year-old Abedi may have accomplices who are planning another attack.

The changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace was canceled today so police officers can be re-deployed, Britain s defense ministry said. The traditional ceremony is a major tourist attraction in London. The Palace of Westminster, which houses the British Parliament in London, was also closed today to all those without passes, and tours and events there were canceled until further notice. Armed police were also seen on patrol outside St. Paul s Cathedral in London, another popular tourist spot. The Chelsea soccer team announced it would cancel Sunday s victory parade in London that was to have celebrated the team s Premier League title win this season.

We are sure our fans will understand this decision, the team said, adding that the parade would have diverted police from the bombing investigation.

Suicide bomber Abedi was born in Britain to a Libyan family, grew up in Manchester s southern suburbs and once attended Salford University there. Police on Tuesday raided his house, using a controlled explosion to blast down the door. Neighbors recalled him as a tall, thin young man who often wore traditional Islamic dress and did not talk much. Manchester police arrested a man early today at a house just a 10-minute walk from Abedi s home.

Omar Alfa Khuri, who lives across the street, said he was awakened at 2:30 a.m. by a loud noise and saw police take away the father of the family that lives there in handcuffs. He said the man is named Adel and is in his 40s, with a wife and several children.

There was a policeman, armed policeman, shouting at my neighbor … and I realized there is something wrong here, he said. They arrested the father, and I think the rest of the family kind of disappeared. He said he immediately suspected the arrest might be linked to the bombing since somebody told me they were Libyans, or I read it somewhere. He said he knew the man from the neighborhood and the mosque but in the last 15 years, I haven t seen him in trouble at all. I haven t seen police come to his house.

Police also raided and searched a property elsewhere in Manchester where Abedi s brother Ismail is thought to have lived. British Prime Minister Theresa May chaired a meeting today of her emergency security cabinet group to talk about intelligence reports on Abedi and concerns that he might have had outside support. Officials are probing how often Abedi had traveled to Libya, which has seen an eruption of armed Islamist groups since dictator Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown and killed in 2011.

France s interior minister said Abedi is believed to have traveled to Syria and had proven links with the Islamic State group. British officials, however, have not commented on whether Abedi had links to IS or other extremist groups. Rudd said Britain s increased official threat level will remain at critical as the investigation proceeds and won t be lowered until security services are convinced there is no active plot in place. She also complained about U.S. officials leaking sensitive information about Abedi to the press. Rudd said Britain s operational security could be harmed by the leaks, taking the element of surprise away from security services and police.

I have been very clear with our friends that that should not happen again, she said.

In addition to those killed in the concert attack, Manchester officials raised to 119 the number of people who sought medical treatment after the attack. Sixty-four people are still hospitalized, Jon Rouse of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership said today. Officials say 20 of them are being treated for critical injuries. Many of them had serious wounds that will require very long term care and support in terms of their recovery, Rouse said.

Officials said all those hospitalized had been identified.

As soldiers replaced armed police at Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street and Parliament, London Police Commander Jane Connors said the goal is to make our city as hostile an environment as possible for terrorists to plan and operate.

Katz reported from London. Sylvia Hui in London, Rob Harris in Manchester and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.

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