Hope fades for missing climbers
Ko Aung Myint Myat and Ko Wai Yan Min Thu were last heard from shortly after ascending Myanmar’s highest mountain, 5881-metre Hkakobo Razi in Kachin State, on August 31.
Htoo Foundation, the philanthropic arm of U Tay Za’s Htoo Group, has been spearheading the search for the pair, sending two helicopters to remote Putao. The army has also provided one helicopter but bad weather has hampered the search.
Htoo Group spokesperson U Myo Tun told The Myanmar Times in Putao that there is little chance the pair could have survived more than two weeks in freezing conditions.
“There is little hope left that we can find them alive,” he said. “We are shifting from a rescue operation to a search and recovery operation because … we are now looking for their bodies.
“[Recovering their bodies] is very important for their families.”
Captain Som Kiat, one of two Thai helicopter pilots hired by Htoo to help find the men, said conditions had made the search difficult.
He said he had been mostly moving food and fuel up to forward bases set up in Panangdeng and Tahundam villages to supply rescue teams.
“It is necessary to have good weather conditions to move the supplies by helicopter and we have had to wait a long time for good weather,” he said.
According to the military’s Northern Region Command, ground crews are searching at an altitude above 4800m, or 16,000 feet. Another Htoo Group spokesperson, U Soe Than Win, said the company had also hired a pilot from Nepal and mountaineers from the United States to assist the search.
U Na Ma Johnsein – a Myanmar citizen of Tibetan ethnicity who, with Japanese climber Takashi Ozaki, became the first to climb Hkakabo Razi in 1996 – is also among those helping with the search on the ground.
U Soe Than Win said the mountaineers were carrying a global positioning system device that they could use to alert designated recipients if they encountered trouble.
However, it has not been used since they reached the peak on August 31, he said.
“They used it once when they were at the top of the mountain and they used it once while they were climbing the mountain before they reached the top. But contact was cut after they reached the top,” he said. – Translation by Thiri Min Htun
Brain may 'compensate' for Alzheimer's damage
The human brain may be able to compensate for some of the early changes seen in Alzheimer's disease, research in Nature Neuroscience shows.
The study suggests some people recruit extra nerve power to help maintain their ability to think.
Scientists hope the findings could shed light on why only some people with early signs of the condition go on to develop severe memory decline.
But experts warn much more research is needed to understand these processes.
Continue reading the main story
I think it is very possible that people who spend a lifetime involved in cognitively stimulating activity have brains that are better able to adapt to potential damage”
Dr William Jagust University of California
The study, led by researchers at the University of California, involved 71 adults with no signs of mental decline.
Brain scans showed 16 of the older subjects had amyloid deposits - tangles of protein that are considered a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.
All participants were asked to memorise a series of pictures in detail while scanners were used to track their brain activity.
They were then asked to recall the gist and later the detail of all the pictures they had seen.
Both groups performed equally well but those with tangles of amyloid in their brains showed more brain activity when remembering the images in detail.
Scientists say this suggests their brains have an ability to adapt to and compensate for any early damage caused by the protein.
Dr Laura Phipps, at the charity Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "This small study suggests that our brains may have ways of resisting early damage from these Alzheimer's proteins but more research is needed to know how to interpret these results.
She added: "Longer term studies are needed to confirm whether the extra brain activity seen in this research is a sign of the brain compensating for early damage, and if so, how long the brain might be able to fight this damage."
Scientists say they need to understand why some people with an accumulation of this protein are better at using different parts of their brain than others.
Dr William Jagust, a researcher on the study, said: "I think it is very possible that people who spend a lifetime involved in cognitively stimulating activity have brains that are better able to adapt to potential damage."
Invictus Games: Queen 'deeply moved'
The Queen has told competitors in the inaugural Invictus Games she has been "deeply moved by your courage, determination and talent".
In a statement read by Games organiser Prince Harry at the closing ceremony, she said they had "overcome great adversity just to take part".
Wounded servicemen and women from 13 countries have taken part in the Games, which officially finish on Sunday.
On Friday, the prince took part in an exhibition game of wheelchair rugby.
"Prince Philip and I send our heartfelt congratulations to the organisers and supporters of this competition and most importantly to you men and women of the armed forces who have overcome great adversity just to take part in these Games," the Queen said.
"As I have followed the competition over the past four days, I have been deeply moved by your courage, determination and talent.
"All of you have used the power of sport to enhance your own recovery and to raise wider awareness of the enormous challenges faced by wounded veterans."
Performers at the opening ceremony Some 6,500 spectators watched Wednesday's opening ceremony at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Road cycling at the Games Road cycling is one of the sports featured in the Games
Prince Harry chats with Sgt Israel Del Toro, of the US team Prince Harry based the event on the Warrior Games in the US
The Queen said the success of the Games "can be measured not by medals won but by the renewed sense of purpose and confidence in your abilities that you have gained".
She added: "I send my warmest good wishes and congratulations to you all."
The Games have featured more than 400 competitors in track and field events and disciplines including cycling and indoor rowing.
Teams have travelled from the US, Afghanistan, New Zealand and across Europe to take part in events at the Olympic Park and Lee Valley Athletics Centre in London.
Wednesday's opening ceremony at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was watched by 6,500 spectators including the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke and Cambridge.
Defense Minister: Western Weapons on Way to Ukraine
Ukraine's Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey said Sunday weapons are on the way to Ukraine from Western countries - which he would not name - to help the country in its fight against Russian-backed rebels.
The claim came as sporadic fighting continued in eastern Ukraine, despite of a nine-day-old cease-fire.
Heletey said the shipments were agreed to in secret at the NATO summit 10 days ago. He said the new weapons will help Ukraine defend itself against potential Russian missile attacks from across the border.
The minister indicated the shipments include a missile-defense system capable of stopping any rockets launched toward Ukraine in what he called “a matter of seconds.”
Ukraine has accused Russia of launching artillery shells across the border, and of sending troops to support the rebels. Russia denies the charges.
The Ukrainian defense minister’s comment came amid reports of some continuing fighting Sunday in the east, after an intense exchange of fire on Saturday at the airport outside the key rebel stronghold of Donetsk.
Ukrainian government forces control the airport.
Each side has accused the other of numerous violations of the cease-fire, which is supposed to pave the way for negotiations.
Ukraine, Russia and rebel representatives signed the accord on September 5, including a 12-point peace plan. But there are huge differences on what the outcome of the talks should be.
Ukraine wants its sovereignty restored and promises more regional autonomy in the east. Russia and the rebels want the area to be independent, or at least fully autonomous and able to establish strong links with Moscow.
Analysts say Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to be able to destabilize Ukraine any time he decides it is becoming too politically close to Western Europe.
But both sides have reasons to go to the negotiating table.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he wants to stop the bloodshed, and analysts say he has realized Putin will not allow the separatists to lose on the battlefield.
Russian exile and military expert Igor Sutyagin, now at London’s Royal United Services Institute, said Putin wants to avoid further Western economic sanctions, which are already hurting the Russian economy.
“It was necessary to fix the situation, to force, and Putin openly said that, to force Kyiv to sit at the table and negotiate with the separatists,” he said.
In spite of the violations, the cease-fire in eastern Ukraine has significantly reduced the violence and casualties, and could provide a chance for the leaders to find a way out of the crisis.
British PM Vows Response to IS Militants after Beheading of Briton
Family of Beheaded US Journalist Starts Fund for Hostages
Islamic State Tests Turkey-Iraqi Kurd Tie
Obama: US Fights IS With Allies
Kerry: Some Nations Offer Ground Troops in Fight Against IS
Last updated on: September 14, 2014 11:09 AM
In an emotional statement at 10 Downing Street, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain will hunt down those responsible for the death of British aid worker David Haines.
Speaking after an emergency committee meeting of top military and political officials, Cameron paid tribute to the 44-year-old father of two, who was held hostage and killed by Islamic State militants.
"David Haines was a British hero. The fact that an aid worker was taken, held and brutally murdered at the hands of ISIL sums up what this organization stands for,” Cameron said.
'They are monsters'
Cameron said the Islamic State group is a fanatical organization that is planning attacks across Europe. He said it claims to act in the name of Islam, but he stressed that Islamic State militants "are not Muslims, they are monsters."
Alice Gross search: iPhone appeal in missing girl case
A missing iPhone belonging to missing schoolgirl Alice Gross could hold key information that might help to find her, police have said.
Alice, 14, from Hanwell, west London, was last seen two weeks ago.
She sent her father a text just after 15:00 BST on 28 August from the phone, which was switched on until 17:00.
Her rucksack was found near a towpath beside the River Brent between Hanwell Bridge and the Grand Union Canal on 2 September, but the phone was not there.
Image of Alice's bag Alice Gross's rucksack was found beside the Grand Union Canal towpath
The white iPhone 4S has a distinctive cracked case the girl had colourfully decorated herself.
The Brentside High School pupil left the family home at 13:00 on 28 August. She had not had an argument with her family, who were trying to overcome her anorexia problems together, police said.
CCTV footage shows her walking alone along the towpath of the canal that afternoon.
Scotland Yard has released an interactive map of the route she took.
She was recorded by CCTV cameras at 14:23 near the Holiday Inn at Brentford Lock, heading towards Kew, and again at the same location walking towards Hanwell at 15:45.
At 16:23 she was caught on camera near Trumpers Way Canal Bridge.
Her purple rucksack was found on Thursday near the River Brent.
Det Ch Insp Andy Chalmers said: "We know that Alice's bag was first found the day after she was last seen by two builders, who we have spoken to, who put it back down in the same spot on the towpath.
Interactive map Scotland Yard has released an interactive map of the route she took
Post box Lampposts and postboxes have been decorated with yellow ribbons to raise awareness about the missing teenager
"I need to know if anyone found Alice's bag before the builders and was anything taken from it, or if anyone has her iPhone.
"Did you find or see a white iPhone 4s with a cracked rear case, that Alice had decorated with marker pen? If you did, do you still have it?"
Police divers are continuing to search the canal where Alice was last seen, with 32 detectives and 170 officers working on the case.
Two men, aged 25 and 51, who were arrested on suspicion of murder were later released without charge.
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Obama to Expand Offensive Against Islamic State Group
President Barack Obama proposed a substantially expanded American military campaign against Islamic State militants, vowing a “relentless effort” to wipe out the terrorists “wherever they exist,” he told the nation Wednesday night. (Click here for full text of President Obama's speech)
Obama laid out the new strategy in a televised White House speech as the U.S. and its allies face the growing threat of rising Islamist extremism in Iraq, Syria and other parts of the volatile Middle East and North Africa region.
Obama's plan includes training and arming Iraqi security forces as well as vetted Syrian opposition fighters in order to help both groups battle fighters from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
But Obama emphasized that the fight against Islamic State militants will be different from recent U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground.”
“This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years,” Obama said.
The president also discussed the possibility of expanding American airstrikes against militant strongholds across the Iraqi border into Syria and indicated that allies in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere are ready to join the U.S.-led counter-terrorism campaign.
“With a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” Obama said.
“Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.”
As part of that effort, the U.S. also will send an additional 475 service members to Iraq in a non-combat role to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the president said.
The American-led coalition will mount a strategy to stem the flow of foreign fighters to the Islamic State, and ramp up humanitarian assistance to those displaced by militants.
Earlier Wednesday, the White House announced it would provide $25 million in immediate military assistance to the new Iraqi government as part of its efforts to combat the Sunni extremist group, which controls substantial swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq.
According to sources, Saudi Arabia has pledged its full commitment to that effort, and U.S. troops will train Syrian opposition fighters on Saudi soil.
The effort is dependent on the U.S. Congress approving $500 million to train and arm the rebels.
The Saudi decision emerged after Obama spoke by phone earlier in the day with Saudi King Abdullah, who has pushed the American government to do more resolve the Syrian conflict.
Secretary of State John Kerry, now visiting Baghdad, will meet with leaders across the region in the coming days.
FILE - House Speaker John Boehner (R- Ohio)FILE - House Speaker John Boehner (R- Ohio)
Republican House Speaker John Boehner issued a statement after the president's speech Wednesday saying Obama has finally begun making the case that "destroying this terrorist threat requires decisive action." But Boehner also said a "speech is not the same thing as a strategy," and that there are still questions about the president's intentions.
Republican Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said it remains to be seen whether the administration, "after much delay and denial, develops and executes the sustained commitment needed" to destroy the Islamic State.
Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee told VOA she would have preferred Obama be more definitive in identifying which nations would take part in the coalition.
Democratic Representative Eliot Engel of New York also spoke to VOA, saying that he strongly supports Obama's plan while adding that it is "only the opening salvo."
But Alaska Democratic Senator Mark Begich, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said he would not give the president "a blank check to begin another land war in Iraq." Begich -- one of many Democratic senators facing a tough re-election contest in November -- said Congress must approve any military campaign beyond the current airstrikes against IS.
Public opinion polls this week show a majority of Americans support action against the militants.
Meanwhile, Senate Democratic leaders prepared legislation that would authorize the U.S. military to arm and train pro-Western Syrian rebels in the fight against Islamic State militants, according to Senate Democratic aides.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated he supports providing President Obama the authority to strengthen regional forces in the fight against IS.
“It's clear to me that we need to train and equip Syrian rebels and other groups in the Middle East that need some help,'' Reid said Wednesday.
House Republicans abruptly called off a vote scheduled for Thursday on a short-term spending bill in order to consider a last-minute White House request that training language be included. They will discuss the issue in an emergency meeting Thursday morning.
The White House request asks for “authority to train and equip appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian armed opposition to help defend the Syrian people from attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the Syrian regime” as well as stabilize areas in Syria under rebel control.
Pro-Western Syrian rebels have been fighting both Islamic State extremists and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Obama has told key government officials that he believes he already has the power to order an increased military offensive without congressional approval. But he told four top lawmakers at a White House meeting earlier this week he would welcome a favorable legislative vote to show the country was united in fighting the militants.
Support for the president’s plan appeared to be growing and lawmakers could vote on the measure in the coming days.
In the hours before the president's remarks, the Treasury Department said Obama's strategy would include stepped-up efforts to undermine the Islamic State group's finances.
David Cohen, Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, wrote in a blog post that the U.S. would be working with other countries, especially Gulf states, to cut off the group's external funding networks and its access to the global financial system.
Obama convened members of his national security team Wednesday, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as senior intelligence officials, the White House said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, Sept. 10, 2014.U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, Sept. 10, 2014.
In Baghdad, Secretary of State John Kerry said he was encouraged by new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's naming of a new inclusive government and Iraq's help in fighting the Islamic State.
Kerry met with Abadi at the start of a week-long trip in the region. He is seeking new support for the campaign against militants he described as "the manifestation of evil."
The top U.S. diplomat said nearly 40 countries are already contributing military and humanitarian aid in the fight against the insurgents and to help people trapped by their advance across northwestern Iraq and eastern Syria.
France said Wednesday it would join airstrikes in Iraq if needed. Germany's government announced it was sending assault rifles, ammunition, anti-tank weapons and armored vehicles to Kurdish forces in Iraq, breaking with Berlin's policy of refusing to send arms into conflict zones.
Some material for this report came from Reuters and The Associated Press.
WATCH: President Obama's Speech to the Nation on ISIL Threat
Myanmar’s Opposition Parties Welcome Cancelation of By-Elections
RANGOON— Opposition political parties in Burma have welcomed the decision by the Union Election Commission (UEC) to cancel by-elections previously planned for later this year.
UEC chairman Tin Aye told a meeting of political parties in Rangoon on Sunday that the UEC will not hold polls to fill the 35 parliamentary seats currently sitting empty.
According to the New Light of Myanmar, Tin Aye explained that holding by-elections less than a year ahead of the highly anticipated national elections was unnecessary and would be burdensome for both the political parties and the election body itself, with important constitutional and electoral reforms currently in progress.
Nyan Win, spokesman for the National League for Democracy (NLD), told The Irrawaddy that the party welcomed the decision.
“We accept the cancelation. We were hurrying to prepare to participate in the by-elections. Now we have more time to prepare for the 2015 general elections,” he said.
Nyan Win said the decision was the UEC’s to make, but noted that the commission should not have repeatedly announced contradictory decisions.
“[The decision] is under the UEC’s authority,” he said. “About the by-elections, they said earlier that they wouldn’t hold them, then they said they would, and now again they said they won’t. It shouldn’t be like that although they have the authority to do so by law.”
Khin Maung Swe, chairman of the National Democratic Force (NDF), said that since only 35 seats would have been up for grabs, the results would not have been enough to alter events in Naypyidaw, where the Union Solidarity and Development Party holds a majority.
“Small parties are not rich enough to be able to afford to run in both the by-elections and the general elections next year, which are very close,” he said.
Khin Maung Swe said the NDF had been planning to compete for 20 seats at the by-elections, which would cost the party 300,000 kyat (about US$300) to register and more than 3 million kyat (about $3,000) to campaign for each constituency.
“The small parties are happy with [the cancelation] because if they didn’t compete for at least three places in the by-elections, their parties’ registration would have been withdrawn,” he said, referring to a rule in Burma’s election laws.
Phaw Lar Kam Phang, general secretary from Unity and Democracy Party, said that the party—based in Kachin State, where four constituencies are currently without representation—had decided not to enter the by-elections anyway due to time and budgetary constraints.
“It is a weakness of UEC because they told us again and again that they will hold the by-elections and now they cancel it when it is close to taking place,” he said.
“The representatives who won in the by-elections would have had only a little time before the next election. And so it would have been difficult for them to work in parliament.”