Category: News

The Phoenix: ‘Lighter-than-air’ aircraft ‘rises like a balloon’ in the first test flight

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An innovative aircraft that turns into a “lighter-than-air” balloon to propel itself forward has been flown for the first time.

The Phoenix is designed to repeatedly switch between being lighter and heavier than air to generate thrust and allow it to stay in the skies indefinitely.

Officially known as an “ultra-long endurance autonomous aircraft,” it was developed by scientists in Scotland and flown over a distance of 120 metres during its first test flight in March.

The Phoenix is similar in design to a blimp. (U. of the Highlands and Islands)

The blimp-like aircraft, which is 15 metres long and has a wingspan of 10.5 metres, has been designed for businesses and scientific use, and its creators hope it will revolutionise the telecommunications industry.

“The Phoenix spends half its time as a heavier-than-air aeroplane, the other as a lighter-than-air balloon,” explains Andrew Rae, professor of engineering at the University of the Highlands and Islands Perth College, who was involved in the project.

“The repeated transition between these states provides the sole source of propulsion.

“This system allows the Phoenix to be completely self-sufficient.

“Vehicles based on this technology could be used as pseudo satellites and would provide a much cheaper option for telecommunication activities.”

The team behind the aircraft also believe it could be used to provide Wi-Fi coverage to remote areas.

The vehicle’s fuselage contains helium, allowing it to ascend, as well as an airbag that inhales and compresses air, enabling it to descend.

It also features solar cells on its wings and tail, which charge the battery that powers its valves and pumps.

Gas-filled dirigible-style aircraft have been making a return to the skies in recent years.

The Airlander 10, a massive helium-filled airship claimed as the world’s biggest aircraft is hoping to make its commercial debut in the next few years.


Kim warns of a return to tension, blames US ‘bad faith’


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told Russian President Vladimir Putin peace and security on the Korean peninsula depended on the United States, warning that a state of hostility could easily return, North Korean media said on Friday.

Kim’s remarks, at talks with Putin in Vladivostok on Thursday, will likely add to pressure on the United States to be more flexible on a North Korean demand for an easing of international sanctions.

A second summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Vietnam in February collapsed with no progress on a US demand that the North give up its nuclear programme and a North Korean demand for an easing of sanctions.

The North Korean leader has said he would wait until the end of the year for the United States to be more flexible.

“The situation on the Korean peninsula and the region is now at a standstill and has reached a critical point where it may return to its original state as the US took a unilateral attitude in bad faith at the recent second DPRK-US summit talks,” North Korea’s KCNA reported Kim as saying.

Kim looks on after attending a wreath-laying ceremony at a Navy memorial in Vladivostok, Russia, on Friday. Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters


The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is North Korea’s official name.

“The DPRK will gird itself for every possible situation.” KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

The US State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

William Hagerty, the US ambassador to Japan, told a Washington think-tank that Kim’s contact with Russia and China was part of an effort to seek relief from international sanctions.

“The fact you see Kim Jong Un meeting with Vladimir Putin underscores the fact that the sanctions are working and the sanctions are putting extreme economic pressure on the North Korean regime,” Hagerty said.

“What we see is an outreach to try to find a way to deal with it. There is a much simpler way to deal with it and that is to denuclearise,” he said.

He said it was important the international community enforced UN sanctions against North Korea that were imposed because of its nuclear and missile programmes.


On Friday, Kim joined officials to lay a wreath at a Navy memorial at Vladivostok bay.

The first face-to-face talks between Putin and Kim held on an island off the Russian Pacific city, did not appear to yield any major breakthrough.

The two discussed ways to promote strategic communication and tactical collaboration in the course of ensuring peace and security on the Korean peninsula and beyond, KCNA said.

Putin said he thought a deal on North Korea’s nuclear programme was possible and the way to achieve it was to move forward step by step to build trust.

But any US security guarantees to North Korea might need to be supported by other nations involved in previous six-way talks on the issue, Putin said.

Russia was for years a participant in six-party talks aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear programme. The talks, which included the two Koreas, the United States, China, and Japan, have not been held since 2009.

“They only need guarantees about their security. That’s it. All of us together need to think about this,” Putin told reporters after talks with Kim, referring to North Korea.

Such guarantees would have to be international, legally binding, and vouch for North Korea’s sovereignty, Putin said.

Russia and North Korea agreed to increase cooperation in various areas and Kim invited Putin to visit North Korea, and he accepted, KCNA said. No date was announced.

“North Korea seems to be trying to expand its negotiating position with the US,” said South Korea’s ambassador to the United States, Cho Yoon-Je, according to the Yonhap news agency.

“The US continues to send a message to North Korea through channels at every level that it is open to dialogue … The expectation seems to be that the North may respond once the Chairman Kim Jong Un’s diplomatic schedule is completed.”

Iranian Ayatollah Defies U.S. Sanctions: ‘We Will Export Our Oil as Much as We Need’


U.S.’s efforts to boycott the sale of Iran’s oil won’t get them anywhere. We will export our oil as much as we need and we intend. They should know that their hostile measure won’t be left without a response. Iranian nation does not sit idle in the face of animosities.

U.S.’s efforts to boycott the sale of Iran’s oil won’t get them anywhere. We will export our oil as much as we need and we intend. They should know that their hostile measure won’t be left without a response. Iranian nation does not sit idle in the face of animosities.

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They wishfully think they have blocked Iran oil sales, but our vigorous nation and vigilant officials, if they work hard, will open many blockades. The less we rely on such form of oil sales, the more will be appreciative and this will be better for us.

Enemies have repeatedly, in vain, taken action against our great nation, revolution & IR who voice support for justice across world. In economic issues, they say they want to bring Iranian nation to its knees; but they must know Iranians won’t give in. 

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Iran’s state-run Press TV notes that Khamenei made those remarks while speaking to a large group of domestic workers on Wednesday. He reportedly downplayed the U.S. decision to end the exemptions from oil sanctions during his speech.

Acknowledging that the U.S. sanctions “have caused problems” in Iran, Khamenei called for “collective efforts to reduce domestic dependence on oil,” Press TV points out.

He went on to argue that Iran could benefit from the sanctions if they are dealt with “correctly and logically.”

“Sanctions lead to reliance on domestic power, capacity, and initiatives,” he said.

His comments came days after the White House announced the end to the waivers on Monday, urging Iranian oil consumers to stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions.

When U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal last year, he restored restrictions on Tehran’s oil industry as part of a wave of sanctions.

In November 2018, his administration granted waivers to the Islamic Republic’s eight biggest buyers of crude: China, India, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Greece, Taiwan, and Turkey.

Most of the waiver beneficiaries have already reduced their purchases of Iranian oil, including three – Greece, Italy, and Taiwan – that brought their imports down to zero.

Citing analysts from the Eurasia Group, CNBC notes that China and India, which heavily rely on Iranian oil, will “likely remain defiant” despite the threat of U.S. sanctions.

The analysts did predict that both countries will likely reduce their Iranian oil consumption, but not down to zero as demanded by the Trump administration.

China is considered Iran’s top crude oil customer.

In response to the restrictions on Iran’s oil industry, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared in December 2018 that Iran would ensure that “no oil” is exported from the Persian Gulf region, according to the regime-aligned Fars News Agency.

Rouhani explicitly threatened to blockade the Persian Gulf if the United States moved to suspend the waivers and tries to prevent Tehran from exporting its crude oil, stressing that Washington will not be able to do so.

It is unclear whether the Islamic Republic still maintains that position.

In November 2018, the Iranian president reportedly argued the waivers are a testament to America’s incapability to stop Iran’s crude oil sales.

On Wednesday, Ayatollah Khamenei repeated those assertions, indicating that the U.S. has “recurrently failed in their attempts to bring the Iranian nation to its knees,” Press TV reports.

“They (enemies) imagine they’ve blocked [our] way, but our vigorous nation and vigilant authorities will overcome the dead-ends if they put their efforts into this,” he reportedly added.

Iranian leaders have repeatedly said the United States will not be able to stop the Islamic Republic from selling oil.

EU slams Russia for ‘another attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty’


The European Union condemned Vladimir Putin’s decision to fast-track Russian citizenship for people living in parts of eastern Ukraine.

“The signature by President Putin of a decree entitling, inter alia, people who permanently reside in certain areas of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions to apply for Russian citizenship in a simplified manner, is another attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty by Russia,” a spokesperson for the EU’s External Action Service said in a statement Thursday.

“The timing of such a decision immediately after Ukraine’s Presidential election, which demonstrated Ukraine’s strong attachment to democracy and the rule of law, shows Russia’s intention to further destabilize Ukraine and to exacerbate the conflict,” the spokesperson said, adding that “we expect Russia to refrain from actions that are against the Minsk agreements [an international agreement setting up a process for halting the war in eastern Ukraine] and impede the full reintegration of the non-Government controlled areas into Ukraine.”

The EU’s public condemnation comes a day after Washington also raised concerns about the decree.

“Russia, through this highly provocative action, is intensifying its assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” a State Department spokesperson said.

The Russian government maintains that the new decree is designed to help people on humanitarian grounds.

“With a view to protecting human and citizens’ rights and freedoms, and guided by the universally recognised principles and norms of international law … the President ordered that permanent residents from certain districts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions be entitled to a fast-track procedure when applying for the Russian Federation citizenship,” the Kremlin wrote in a statement.

Kim and Putin discuss denuclearization in the first summit


VLADIVOSTOK, Russia — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a historic one-on-one meeting Thursday on an island just off Russia’s far eastern city of Vladivostok.

The summit took place at Far Eastern Federal University where flags of both countries decorated the main halls. Talks centered on denuclearization and sanctions, with the two leaders agreeing to work more closely on those issues.

At the start of the summit, Putin told Kim that he believes Kim’s visit will help the two countries come to an understanding over how to reach a settlement on the Korean Peninsula and develop bilateral ties. Kim said the meeting with Putin will help the two leaders assess issues on the Korean Peninsula and coordinate their positions.

For Kim, the summit was a chance to gain support from Putin over Pyongyang’s deadlocked nuclear negotiations with the U.S. Kim wants Putin’s support in loosening sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program and appears to be betting a closer relationship with the Russian president will give him additional leverage with Washington.

On the other hand, for Putin, the summit offered a chance to highlight Moscow’s importance as a player in the discussions over North Korea and its future.

The summit began with a one-on-one discussion about the process of denuclearization, followed by a second session on broader negotiations involving top officials from both sides.

After his meeting with Putin, Kim said the two had a “very meaningful one-on-one exchange of opinions on issues of mutual interest and current issues.”

The North Korean leader also said that he wanted “to discuss issues of strategic stability and joint management of the situation in the future, and to develop our traditional relations to meet the demands of a new century.”

Kim’s visit to Russia is the first by a North Korean leader since his father, Kim Jong Il, traveled to the country in 2011. On Wednesday, Kim told Russian state television he hoped for successful discussions with Putin.

The North Korean leader’s recent talks with U.S. President Donald Trump in Vietnam may be weighing on Kim’s mind. In February, Kim visited Hanoi for his second summit with Trump. But despite the high degree of attention it received, the talks aimed at “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula ended without an agreement. They became snagged after Pyongyang insisted on immediate and full relief from the punishing economic sanctions.

North Korea and the U.S. remain at an impasse over the issue, with Washington demanding Pyongyang abandon its nuclear program first, while the North seeks economic assistance and a peace deal in exchange for giving up its weapons.

Since the collapse of Kim’s summit with Trump, North Korea has made threats and moves to restore a missile launch site that it previously said had been dismantled. It also conducted a test on a new tactical guided missile.

Nikkei staff writer Jada Nagumo in Tokyo contributed to this report.

Putin, Kim discusses how to break North Korean nuclear standoff


Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said on Thursday they had good talks about their joint efforts to resolve a standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, amid stalled negotiations with the United States.

Speaking at the start of the discussions at a university on the Russky Island across a bridge from Vladivostok, Putin voiced confidence that Kim’s visit will “help better understand what should be done to settle the situation on the Korean Peninsula, what we can do together, what Russia can do to support the positive processes going on now.”

Kim’s first trip to Russia comes about two months after his second summit with President Donald Trump failed because of disputes over US-led sanctions on the North.

“We welcome your efforts to develop an inter-Korean dialogue and normalize North Korea’s relations with the United States,” Putin told Kim.

Following their one-on-one meeting at the start of broader talks involving officials from both sides, Putin and Kim said they had a good discussion.

“We discussed the situation on the Korean Peninsula and exchanged opinions about what should be done to improve the situation and how to do it,” Putin said.

TRT World‘  Lucy Taylor explains the significance of the summit.

‘Very meaningful exchange’

Kim noted that they had a “very meaningful exchange.”

“The reason we visited Russia this time is to meet and share opinions with your Excellency, President Putin, and also share views on the Korean Peninsula and regional political situation, which has garnered the urgent attention of the world, and also hold deep discussions on strategic ways to pursue stability in the regional political situation and on the matters of jointly managing the situation,” Kim said.

In February, Trump-Kim talks ended without any agreement because of disputes over US-led sanctions. There have since been no publicly known high-level contacts between the US and North Korea, although both sides say they are still open to a third summit.

Kim wants the US to ease the sanctions to reciprocate for some partial disarmament steps he took last year. But the US maintains the sanctions will stay in place until North Korea makes more significant denuclearisation moves.

North Korea has increasingly expressed frustration at the deadlocked negotiations. Last week, it tested a new weapon and demanded that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be removed from the nuclear talks.

Kim arrived in Vladivostok on Wednesday aboard an armored train, telling Russian state television that he was hoping that his first visit to Russia would be “successful and useful.”

He evoked his father’s “great love for Russia” and said that he intends to strengthen ties between the two countries. The late Kim Jong-il made three trips to Russia, last time in 2011.

Like the US, Russia has strongly opposed Pyongyang’s nuclear bid. Putin has welcomed Trump’s meetings with Kim but urged the US to do more to assuage Pyongyang’s security concerns.

Ahead of the talks, Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov said that Russia will seek to “consolidate the positive trends” stemming from Trump-Kim meetings. He noted that the Kremlin would try to help “create preconditions and a favorable atmosphere for reaching solid agreements on the problem of the Korean Peninsula.”

‘Mission impossible’

Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said that Putin will likely encourage Kim to continue constructive talks with the US, reflecting Russia’s own worry about the North nuclear and missile programmes.

“Russia can’t be expected to side with North Korea and, let’s say, support the North Koreans all the way in the Security Council where Russia is a veto-wielding member and where all sanctions imposed on North Korea require Russia’s approval,” he said.

Trenin emphasized that Moscow is skeptical that the North could be persuaded to fully abandon its nuclear weapons, considering it a “mission impossible.”

“North Korea will not give up the only guarantee of the survival of the North Korean state and its regime,” Trenin said.

Russia would also like to gain broader access to North Korea’s mineral resources, including rare metals. Pyongyang, for its part, covets Russia’s electricity supplies and investment to modernize its dilapidated Soviet-built industrial plants, railways, and other infrastructure.

Vladivostok, a city of more than half a million on the Sea of Japan, faced gridlock on its roads as traffic was blocked in the city center due to Kim’s visit. The authorities have temporarily closed the waters around Russky Island to all maritime traffic.

A $9.4 Billion Bid to Buy Walmart’s U.K. Unit Is Officially Dead


J Sainsbury Plc dropped its 7.3 billion-pound ($9.4 billion) bid to buy WalmartInc.’s Asda unit after U.K. antitrust authorities formally blocked the merger of grocery stores.

The companies quickly raised the white flag after the Competition and Markets Authority said that the combination, even with the substantial divestiture of stores, would mean higher prices and less choice for shoppers. The regulator had rejected Sainsbury’s offer to roll out 1 billion pounds in price cuts and sell as many as 150 stores.

“The CMA’s conclusion that we would increase prices post-merger ignores the dynamic and highly competitive nature of the U.K. grocery market,” Sainsbury Chief Executive Officer Mike Coupe said in a statement. “The CMA is today effectively taking 1 billion pounds out of customers’ pockets.”

The CMA decision is a significant blow to Coupe, who has staked his career on driving forward a deal he said would be “transformational.” Sainsbury lacks the buying power of market leader Tesco Plc and is operating in a highly competitive industry that’s been overhauled by discounters Aldi and Lidl and online food operations.

In its final report Thursday, the regulator held off making major changes to its preliminary findings even after the grocers accused officials of making errors in their analysis and said they were duped about a rival’s intentions.

The CMA did tweak its analysis slightly to show the combination would hurt competition in 537 local areas, down from its prior calculation of 629 problematic neighborhoods.

“We have concluded that there is no effective way of addressing our concerns, other than to block the merger,” Stuart McIntosh, who oversaw the investigation, said in a statement.

Coupe has previously said that combining with Asda would not only help Sainsbury meet looming challenges but would also deliver cost benefits for consumers. The decision to call the deal off leaves him facing a steep challenge to convince the market that its standalone strategy can succeed.

Asda Resources

Walmart promised to continue to invest in its unit after the decision.

“While we’re disappointed by the CMA’s final report and conclusions, our focus now is continuing to position Asda as a strong U.K. retailer,” Judith McKenna, CEO of Walmart International, said in a statement. “Walmart will ensure Asda has the resources it needs to achieve that.”

In its meetings with the CMA, Sainsbury lawyers argued the regulator made basic errors in their analysis of Asda’s store network and were duped about its rival Marks & Spencer Group Plc’s plans to enter the online grocery market, following its deal with Ocado Group Plc.

But lawyers said the sheer size of the deal meant that it would always face significant regulatory hurdles.

“It was always a challenging transaction, it required a leap of faith from the regulator that the market had already kicked in a new direction,” said Stephen Smith, a partner at Bristows LLP in London.

Sainsbury’s market share has fallen 0.6% in the last 12 months, causing it to lose its place as Britain’s second-largest supermarket to Asda last month. As of September, Sainsbury’s had spent 17 million pounds on legal and banking fees, according to its half-year results. Nearly 2 billion pounds has been wiped off its market value since the merger was announced last year.