Belarus reburies over 1,200 Jews unearthed in Nazi-era mass grave

People attend a ceremony to rebury the remains of Jews killed by Nazis in a local ghetto during World War Two, which were recently found at a construction site in a residential area, in the city of Brest, Belarus May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

BREST, Belarus (Reuters) – Belarus on Wednesday buried more than 1,200 Jewish Holocaust victims whose remains were unearthed this year after builders stumbled across a Nazi-era mass grave beneath a construction site in a residential area.

Soldiers were called into the city center of Brest on Belarus’ western border with Poland where they exhumed the bones of 1,214 people killed during the Nazi occupation at the site of what served as a Jewish ghetto from 1941-42.

Their remains were buried on Wednesday in 120 blue caskets embossed with the star of David that were laid side-by-side and two-deep in a giant grave in a city cemetery to the north of Brest at a ceremony led by a local Jewish rabbi.

The funeral ceremony, which also featured a gun salute by Belarusian soldiers, was attended by around 300 people including Israel’s ambassador in Belarus and Jewish community members.

Attendees, some of whom closed their eyes in prayer, took turns to toss earth onto the caskets before the pit was filled in.

“The soul goes up to heaven through this process, so it was very important for the Jewish community that it was all done with Jewish custom,” said Israel’s ambassador in Belarus, Alon Shoham.

Nazi Germany occupied Belarus, then part of the Soviet Union, during World War Two. Tens of thousands of its Jews were killed by the Nazis. Brest was part of Poland before the war.

The mass grave was uncovered by chance in January as builders were laying the foundations for an elite housing development, prompting an operation to exhume their remains.

Some of the skulls they found bore bullet holes, suggesting victims had been executed by a shot to the back of the head. Soldiers also found personal effects such as leather shoes that had not rotted.

“I have mixed feelings,” Jewish community member Regina Simonenko said after the funeral. She said she had been shaken by the sheer horror of the events, but that it was important that they had been remembered.

“If we don’t remember, then things like this can happen again.”

(Reporting by Reuters TV; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Gareth Jones)

London City Airport shut after WW2 bomb found in Thames

Police officers stand by a cordon at the entrance to London City Airport, in London, Britain February 12, 2018

By Alistair Smout

LONDON (Reuters) – All flights to and from London’s City Airport were canceled on Monday after an unexploded World War Two bomb weighing half a tonne was found buried in silt in the River Thames.

Police said they expected the bomb at George V Dock in east London would be removed by early Tuesday, having set up a 200-metre exclusion zone after the ordnance was found during work at the airport on Sunday.

The Metropolitan Police said properties within the exclusion zone had been evacuated and a number of roads were cordoned off.

“The timing of removal is dependant on the tides, however, at this stage we estimate that the removal of the device from location will be completed by tomorrow morning,” police said in a statement, adding the shell was lying in a bed of dense silt.

London City Airport is the city’s fifth biggest and is popular with business travelers. It is London’s most central international airport and is close to major financial districts in the City of London and Canary Wharf.

The docklands area of London’s East End was a trading hub in the 1940s and was heavily bombed by German planes in World War Two. The airport was opened in 1987 as part of the broader regeneration of the area.

The airport told passengers not to travel there on Monday. Regional airline CityJet said its flights from the airport had been rescheduled to land and take off from London Southend airport, while Italy’s Alitalia [CAITLA.UL] said it would operate flights from London Stansted airport.

British Airways said it was trying to minimize disruption for passengers and said in a statement: “We are rebooking customers due to travel today onto alternative flights or offering refunds for those who no longer wish to travel.”

(Reporting by Alistair Smout in London and Abinaya Vijayaraghavan in Bengaluru; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Japan faces greatest danger since World War due to North Korea

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends Universal Health Coverage Forum 2017 in Tokyo, Japan December 14, 2017.

TOKYO (Reuters) – The security situation facing Japan is the most perilous since World War Two because of North Korea’s “unacceptable” provocations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday and he vowed to bolster defenses to protect the Japanese people.

Tension in the region has been rising, particularly since North Korea conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test in September, and then in November, said it had successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach all of the U.S. mainland.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that the security environment surrounding Japan is at its severest since World War Two. I will protect the people’s lives and peaceful living in any situation,” Abe told a New Year news conference.

Abe said Japan would take new steps to strengthen its defense posture but he did not go to specifics.

The government approved a record military budget last month, with defense outlays due to rise for a sixth year, increasing by 1.3 percent to 5.19 trillion yen ($46 billion), with the biggest item 137 billion yen in reinforcing defenses against North Korean ballistic missiles.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said this week the United States was hearing reports that North Korea might be preparing to fire another missile, and she warned it not to.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that North Korea is trampling the strong desire of Japan and the rest of the international community for peaceful resolutions and continuing with its provocative behavior,” Abe said.

Abe has said he wants to amend Japan’s pacifist constitution with the aim of loosening constraints on the military, although the public is divided over changes to the charter imposed after Japan’s World War Two defeat.

War-renouncing Article 9 of the constitution, if read literally, bans the existence of standing armed forces, but has long been interpreted to allow a military for exclusively defensive purposes.

Abe said he wanted more debate on the issue.

“I would like this to be a year in which public debate over a constitutional revision will be deepened further,” he said.

Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition retained its two-thirds “super majority” in parliament’s lower house in an Oct. 22 election, re-energizing his push to revise the constitution.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim, Robert Birsel)

Huge WW2 bomb to be defused close to German gold reserves

FILE PHOTO: The skyline of Frankfurt, Germany, May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Frankfurt’s city center, an area including police headquarters, two hospitals, transport systems and Germany’s central bank storing $70 billion in gold reserves will be evacuated on Sunday to allow the defusing of a 1.8 ton World War Two bomb.

A spokesman for the German Bundesbank said, however, “the usual security arrangements” would remain in place while experts worked to disarm the bomb, dropped by the British air force and uncovered during excavation of a building site.

The Bundesbank headquarters, less than 600 meters from the location of the bomb, stores 1,710 tonnes of gold underground, around half the country’s reserves.

“We have never defused a bomb of this size,” bomb disposal expert Rene Bennert told Reuters, adding that it had been damaged on impact when it was dropped between 1943 and 1945.

Airspace for 1.5 kilometers around the bomb site will also be closed.

Frankfurt city officials said more than 60,000 residents would be evacuated for at least 12 hours. The evacuation area would also include 20 retirement homes, the Opera house and the diplomatic quarter.

Bomb disposal experts will make use of a “Rocket Wrench” to try and unscrew the fuses attached to the HC 4,000 bomb. If that fails, a water jet will be used to cut the fuses away from the bomb, Bennert told Reuters.

The most dangerous part of the exercise will be applying the wrench, Bennert said.

Roads and transport systems, including the underground, will be closed during the work and for at least two hours after the bomb is defused, to allow patients to be transported back to hospitals without traffic.

It is not unusual for unexploded bombs from World War Two air raids to be found in German cities, but rarely are they so large and in such a sensitive position.

(Reporting by Edward Taylor and Frank Siebelt; editing by Ralph Boulton)

Trump calls Nazi Holocaust ‘history’s darkest hour’

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania lay a wreath during a ceremony commemorating the six million Jews killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust, in the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump paid tribute at Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial on Tuesday to the six million Jews killed in the Nazi Holocaust, calling it an indescribable act of evil.

Holding hands, the president and First Lady Melania Trump walked solemnly to lay a wreath together upon the ashes of Holocaust victims, buried at the site’s Hall of Remembrance.

“Words can never describe the bottomless depths of that evil, or the scope of the anguish and destruction. It was history’s darkest hour,” Trump said in a short speech after the memorial ceremony.

“It was the most savage crime against God and his children,” said Trump, who is visiting Israel and the Palestinian Territories on the second leg of his first foreign trip since taking office in January.

Trump’s administration has drawn anger over past omissions and utterances regarding the Holocaust.

In January, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a Trump administration statement failed to mention Jews, the overwhelming majority of those who were killed in the Holocaust.

In April, White House spokesman Sean Spicer triggered an uproar when he said Hitler did not sink to the level of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by using chemical weapons on his own people. Spicer also used the term “Holocaust centers”, in an apparent reference to the Nazi death camps.

Spicer later apologized after his comments sparked an uproar on social media and elsewhere for overlooking the fact that millions of Jews perished in Nazi gas chambers.

The Anti-Defamation League said in April that anti-Semitic incidents, from bomb threats and cemetery desecrations to assaults and bullying, have surged in the United States since the election of Trump, and a “heightened political atmosphere” played a role in the rise.

Trump had been criticized for waiting until late February to deliver his first public condemnation of anti-Semitic incidents, previously speaking more generally about his hope of making the nation less “divided.”

He later called such incidents “horrible … and a very sad reminder” of the work needed to root out hate, prejudice and evil.

Trump was due to travel to Rome later on Tuesday, where he will continue a nine-day trip that began in Saudi Arabia.

(Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mark Trevelyan)

Highland Venezuelan town blitzed by looting and protests

Manuel Fernandes, a local businessman, embraces a neighbour outside of his bread and cake shop after looters broke in, following days of protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in the city of Los Teques, near Caracas, Venezuela, May 19, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Andrew Cawthorne

LOS TEQUES, Venezuela (Reuters) – Like many Portuguese immigrants to Venezuela after World War Two, Manuel Fernandes spent a lifetime building a small business: his bread and cake shop in a highland town.

It took just one night for it to fall apart.

The first he knew of the destruction of his beloved “Bread Mansion” store on a main avenue of Los Teques was when looters triggered the alarm, resulting in a warning call to his cellphone at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

Fernandes was stuck at home due to barricades and protests that have become common in seven weeks of anti-government unrest in Venezuela. So he was forced to watch the disaster unfold via live security camera images.

“There were hundreds of people. They smashed the glass counters, the fridges. They took everything – ham, cheese, milk, cornflakes, equipment,” the 65-year-old said, as workmen secured the shop on Friday with thick metal plates.

“I’ve dedicated everything to this. My family depends on it,” said the distraught businessman, on a street where most neighboring stores were also ransacked in a frenzy of looting in Los Teques this week.

Unrest and protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government since early April have caused at least 46 deaths plus hundreds of injuries and arrests.

They have also sparked widespread nighttime looting.

When a mob smashed its way into a bakery in El Valle, a working class neighborhood of Caracas, last month, 11 people died, eight of them electrocuted and three shot.

This week, Maduro’s government sent 2,000 troops to western Tachira state, where scores of businesses have been emptied.

In Los Teques, an hour’s drive into hills outside Caracas, locals spoke of up to half a dozen more deaths in looting and clashes this week between security forces and young protesters from a self-styled ‘Resistance’ movement.

There has been no official confirmation of those deaths.

Reuters journalists visiting the town on Friday had to negotiate permission from masked youths manning roadblocks and turning back traffic at the main entrances.

Mostly students, the young men said they had put academic work on hold and were determined to stay in the street until Maduro allowed a general election, the main demand of Venezuela’s opposition in the current political crisis.

‘NOTHING TO LOSE’

“We are from humble families. We have nothing to lose. I don’t even have enough for a bus fare or food. That tyrant Maduro has wrecked everything,” said Alfredo, 28, who stopped studying to man barricades and says he runs a unit of 23 “resistance” members.

Armed with homemade shields, stones and Molotov cocktails, the youths build barricades with branches, furniture and bags of trash, scrawling slogans like ‘No Surrender’ on nearby walls.

They turn back traffic and wait for the inevitable arrival of security forces. Some have scars and wounds from intense clashes this week.

Oil has been spread on the ground to deter armored vehicles used by the National Guard. Barbed wire is also used.

On Friday morning, one man walked up to the barricade with a woman in a wheelchair, and was granted special permission to pass. Some women, trying to visit relatives jailed in a nearby prison, also managed to talk their way through.

Mid-morning, some neighbors delivered arepas, a cornmeal flatbread that is Venezuela’s staple food, to the youths, offering them words of encouragement and thanks.

“You see, they all support us,” said Micky, covering his face with a red bandana at a barricade. “We are not coup-mongers like Maduro says. All we want is a general election.”

The 54-year-old president narrowly won election in 2013 to replace the late Hugo Chavez who died from cancer.

But without his predecessor’s charisma, popular touch and unprecedented oil revenues, Maduro has seen his popularity plunge as the economy nosedived, helping the opposition win majority support in the OPEC nation of 30 million people.

He accuses foes of an “armed insurrection,” with the support of the United States, and blames “fascist” protesters for all the deaths and destruction in Venezuela since April.

In Los Teques, however, youths at the barricades hotly deny any involvement in looting, pointing the finger instead at local pro-government neighborhood groups known as ‘colectivos.’

The unrest is exacerbating an already appalling economic crisis in Venezuela. There is widespread scarcity of food and medicines, inflation is making people poorer and hungrier, and standing for hours in shopping lines has become a norm for many.

“I’m closing. So the same people who did this to me now won’t have anywhere to buy their food,” said Fernandes, running his hands through his hair and surveying the once-bustling commercial street of now boarded-up shop fronts.

“Why are we all hurting and fighting each other?”

(Editing by Girish Gupta, Toni Reinhold)

Russia showcases Arctic hardware in Red Square military parade

Moscow - Russia - 09/05/2017 - Russian servicemen march during the parade marking the World War II anniversary in Moscow. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia rolled out air defense systems built to operate in sub-zero Arctic conditions on Tuesday as it showcased its military might at a parade on Moscow’s Red Square.

The parade, an annual event commemorating the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, took place under gray skies as President Vladimir Putin looked on from a platform alongside Soviet war veterans.

The Kremlin has been flexing its military muscle in the hydrocarbon-rich Arctic region, as it vies for dominance with rivals Canada, the United States and Norway.

“Lessons of the past war remind us to be vigilant, and the Armed Forces of Russia are capable of repelling any potential aggression,” Putin told the parade.

“But for an effective battle with terrorism, extremism, neo-Nazism and other threats the whole international community needs to be consolidated. … We are open for such cooperation.”

An aerial show by Russia’s air force, including warplanes that have flown missions to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army, was canceled because of low visibility.

Smaller parades were held in cities across Russia, in Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, which Russia annexed three years ago, as well as at Russia’s Hmeimim air base in Syria.

Moldovan President Igor Dodon was the only foreign dignitary to attend the Moscow parade. In prior years, leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping had attended.

Tuesday’s parade was the first time Russia had showcased its Tor-M and Pantsir SA air defense systems, painted in the white and black colors of the country’s Arctic forces.

Also on display were columns of troops, tanks and Russia’s Yars intercontinental ballistic missile system.

Putin said: “The Russian soldier today, as in all times, showing courage and heroism, is ready for any feat, for any sacrifice for the sake of his motherland and people.”

(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov, Alexander Winning and Denis Dyomkin; editing by Ralph Boulton)

World War Two Rosies celebrated on U.S. day of recognition

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) laughs with, (L-R) Marian Wynn, Agnes Moore, Marian Sousa and Phyllis Gould, women who worked during World War II, at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., March 31, 2014. Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo/DOD/Handout via REUTERS

By Lisa Fernandez

RICHMOND, Calif. (Reuters) – They welded pipes. They drew blueprints. And, of course, they fastened munitions and machine parts together with rivets.

Now, seven decades after World War Two ended, a surviving handful of the women who marched into factories and shipyards, redefining workplace gender roles to help keep America’s military assembly lines running, were honored on Tuesday in the country’s first official National Rosie the Riveter Day.

Eleven Rosies, all in their 90s, were feted with speeches and a U.S. Senate resolution at the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park, which opened in 2000 just north of San Francisco in Richmond, California.

“Without these amazing ladies, we wouldn’t have won the war,” Kelli English, a park interpreter told a news conference on Tuesday.

The women wore red, polka-dotted blouses and were treated to the planting of a rose bush at the park’s museum in their honor.

“Well it’s about time,” honoree Marian Sousa, 91, said in an interview ahead of the ceremony. “It shows that women are not only capable now, but they were capable then.”

Sousa, a resident of El Sobrante, California, worked as a “draftsman” creating blueprints for warships at the Kaiser Shipyard during the 1940s.

Her sister, Phyllis Gould, 95, and fellow Rosie worker Anna “Mae” Krier, 91, of Levittown, Pennsylvania, led the campaign pushing for a national day of recognition for the last few years.

“This is big,” Gould said in an interview on Monday.

Gould, who worked as a Navy-certified welder at the Kaiser-Richmond shipyards during the war, said it irks her that her slice of history is often overlooked.

Krier flew to Washington for a separate but related event attended by Senator Bob Casey, of Pennsylvania, a chief sponsor of the Rosie resolution, and other members of Congress.

Facing a labor shortage as many able-bodied males joined the U.S. Armed Forces between 1940 and 1945, America’s industrial arsenal turned to women to help fill jobs previously reserved strictly for men to produce ships, planes, munitions and other war supplies.

The share of U.S. jobs occupied by women grew from 27 percent to 37 percent during the war years, with nearly one in four married women working outside the home by 1945, according to the National Park Service.

It is unclear how many Rosies are still living today.

The Senate resolution pays tribute to 16 million women it says worked or volunteered for the U.S. war effort, including many who toiled for the American Red Cross, hospitals, rationing boards and other non-factory settings.

The phenomenon was captured in the iconic “We Can Do It!” posters from the era, picturing a determined-looking woman in blue factory togs, her hair swept back in a red scarf, rolling up a sleeve to show off her biceps.

Marian Wynn, 91, a former welder now living in Fairfield, California, agreed the honor was long overdue.

“I think we deserve it,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler and Andrew Hay)

‘Digital Geneva Convention’ needed to deter nation-state hacking: Microsoft president

microsoft president brad smith

By Dustin Volz

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Microsoft President Brad Smith on Tuesday pressed the world’s governments to form an international body to protect civilians from state-sponsored hacking, saying recent high-profile attacks showed a need for global norms to police government activity in cyberspace.

Countries need to develop and abide by global rules for cyber attacks similar to those established for armed conflict at the 1949 Geneva Convention that followed World War Two, Smith said. Technology companies, he added, need to preserve trust and stability online by pledging neutrality in cyber conflict.

“We need a Digital Geneva Convention that will commit governments to implement the norms needed to protect civilians on the internet in times of peace,” Smith said in a blog post.

Smith outlined his proposal during keynote remarks at this week’s RSA cybersecurity conference in San Francisco, following a 2016 U.S. presidential election marred by the hacking and disclosure of Democratic Party emails that U.S. intelligence agencies concluded were carried out by Russia in order to help Republican Donald Trump win.

Cyber attacks have increasingly been used in recent years by governments to achieve foreign policy or national security objectives, sometimes in direct support of traditional battlefield operations. Despite a rise in attacks on governments, infrastructure and political institutions, few international agreements currently exist governing acceptable use of nation-state cyber attacks.

The United States and China signed a bilateral pledge in 2015 to refrain from hacking companies in order to steal intellectual property. A similar deal was forged months later among the Group of 20 nations.

Smith said President Donald Trump has an opportunity to build on those agreements by sitting down with Russian President Vladimir Putin to “hammer out a future agreement to ban the nation-state hacking of all the civilian aspects of our economic and political infrastructures.”

A Digital Geneva Convention would benefit from the creation of an independent organization to investigate and publicly disclose evidence that attributes nation-state attacks to specific countries, Smith said in his blog post.

Smith likened such an organization, which would include technical experts from governments and the private sector, to the International Atomic Energy Agency, a watchdog based at the United Nations that works to deter the use of nuclear weapons.

Smith also said the technology sector needed to work collectively and neutrally to protect internet users around the world from cyber attacks, including a pledge not to aid governments in offensive activity and the adoption of a coordinated disclosure process for software and hardware vulnerabilities.

(Reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Dan Grebler)

China says United States should ‘brush up on’ South China Sea history

Chinese vessels in South China Sea

BEIJING (Reuters) – The United States needs to brush up on its history about the South China Sea, as World War Two-related agreements mandated that all Chinese territories taken by Japan had to be returned to China, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in Australia.

China has been upset by previous comments from the new U.S. administration about the disputed waterway.

In his Senate confirmation hearing, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said China should not be allowed access to islands it has built there. The White House also vowed to defend “international territories” in the strategic waterway.

However, last week U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis suggested that diplomacy should be the priority in the South China Sea.

In comments carried on the foreign ministry’s website late on Tuesday, Wang said he had a “suggestion” for this American friends. “Brush up on the history of World War Two,” Wang was quoted as saying during a visit to Canberra, Australia.

The 1943 Cairo Declaration and 1945 Potsdam Declaration clearly state that Japan had to return to China all Chinese territory taken by Japan, Wang said.

“This includes the Nansha Islands,” he added, using China’s name for the Spratly Islands.

“In 1946, the then-Chinese government with help from the United States openly and in accordance with the law took back the Nansha Islands and reefs that Japan had occupied, and resumed exercising sovereignty,” Wang said.

“Afterwards, certain countries around China used illegal methods to occupy some of the Nansha islands and reefs, and it’s this that created the so-called South China Sea dispute.”

China is committed to having talks with the parties directly involved, and in accordance with historical facts and international law to peacefully resolve the issue, and that position will not change, Wang said.

Countries outside the region should support the efforts of China and others in the region to maintain the peace and stability of the South China Sea, and not do the opposite, he added.

China sets great store on Mattis’ comments stressing diplomatic efforts in the South China Sea, as this is not only the position set by China and Southeast Asia but also the “correct choice” for countries outside the region, Wang said.

China claims most of the South China Sea, while Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei claim parts of the waters that command strategic sea lanes and have rich fishing grounds along with oil and gas deposits.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)