News Briefs – February 15, 2017


Report cites increased Chinese, Russian military activity

An annual report on military power throughout the world cites Chinese and Russian activity as rising threats to Western powers.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies report, released Tuesday, said analysts have noted “real and important” increases in Chinese military activity in the air, at sea, and in missile forces.
It said Chinese weapons systems are becoming more sophisticated and advanced.
The report says a resurgent Russia has placed “the exercise of military power and even the importance of nuclear weapons” at a centerpiece of its power, provoking the need for a strong NATO response.
It also says Britain has fallen below the 2 percent defense spending target set for NATO countries, a charge rejected by British officials and some other analysts. AP

Hearing set in suit over ‘colored’ and ‘white’ war monument

A judge will hear arguments about a lawsuit that seeks belated integration for a World War I memorial that separates the soldiers’ names by race.
Lawyers for the state of South Carolina argue that the lawsuit should be thrown out.
On the other side is a Greenwood group that wanted to change plaques on the World War I monument that list the dead under separate “colored” and “white” sections. They were stopped by the Heritage Act.
The act requires a two-thirds vote from the state Legislature to change any historical monument from any era of history. It was passed in 2000 when lawmakers feared a backlash against monuments and street names honoring Confederates. AP

Trump’s comments put Bergdahl case on uncertain ground

President Donald Trump’s fiery criticism of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has put the desertion case against the soldier on uncertain ground as a judge considers whether he can still get a fair trial for walking off his post in Afghanistan in 2009.
The judge, Army Col. Jeffery Nance, called video of Trump repeatedly calling Bergdahl a traitor during campaign speeches “disturbing” during a pre-trial hearing Monday. He also asked prosecutors pointed questions about whether Trump’s criticism has already created a public perception that Bergdahl won’t be treated fairly.
Bergdahl’s lawyers argue the comments violate their client’s due-process rights and that the charges against him should be dismissed. The judge didn’t immediately rule on the defense request, and a written decision was expected later.
Prosecutors counter that Trump’s comments were campaign rhetoric. AP

Pentagon calls NKorean weapons ‘clear, grave threat’ to US

The Pentagon says North Korea’s latest missile launch affirms that the country’s weapons programs pose a “clear, grave threat” to U.S. security.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, told reporters Feb. 13 that the U.S. tracked the flight of the missile that was launched on Saturday evening, U.S. time, and assessed that it traveled about 500 kilometers, or about 310 miles, before landing in the Sea of Japan.
Davis said the missile appeared to be a land variant of a submarine-launched ballistic missile known outside of Korea as the KN-11. He said the mobile launcher from which the missile was fired had not previously been seen in public.
Davis said the missile appeared to be powered by solid fuel, which represents a technological advancement from liquid-fuel missiles. AP

Documents show safety issues led to major fine for Boeing

Newly released documents show that Boeing paid $12 million in late 2015 to settle Federal Aviation Administration investigations into safety issues.
The Seattle Times reports that though it was revealed in 2015 that Boeing paid the settlement, documents the newspaper obtained this month reveal the investigations came after a pattern of ignored procedures created quality issues on the production lines of Boeing and its suppliers.
The FAA found that Boeing repeatedly failed to follow protocols designed to guard against production errors that put safety at risk. Some paperwork was falsified in that it was signed off as completed and checked when they were not. Other work was done without authorization.
Boeing officials say they are committed to quality and safety. They say none of the issues found in the investigation involved the immediate safety of flights. AP

Boeing workers, Machinists rally ahead of unionization vote

Two days before South Carolina Boeing employees vote on whether to join a union, workers and union members are holding a rally in support of collective bargaining rights in the state where union membership is the lowest in the country.
Boeing workers and members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers are holding a rally Monday at the Crowne Plaza Charleston Airport Hotel in North Charleston. Organizers are expected to speak, as are members of the community who support the effort.
The rally is happening a mile from Boeing’s North Charleston operation, where nearly 3,000 workers vote Wednesday on whether to form a union and be represented by the Machinists.
Boeing employs a total of about 8,000 workers in North Charleston, where it makes the 787 Dreamliner. Engineers at the 100,000-square-foot center work on everything from electromagnetics and advanced aircraft production to chemical technology. Their work is used not only for the company’s commercial airliners but in defense and aerospace applications.
The Machinists petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for a vote nearly two years ago but called it off after organizers said they’d been threatened during home visits to plant employees. The union has had members in the Charleston area before, winning the right to represent workers at Vought Aircraft Industries in 2007, a plant that Boeing later bought.
Less than two years later, plant workers voted against union representation.
The global aviation company came to South Carolina in part because the state has a minuscule union presence. For decades, state politicians and business leaders have preached that unions hurt the workforce, not help it.
South Carolina is a right to work state, meaning workers can’t be compelled to join unions, even if the organizations represent them. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state’s union membership — 1.6 percent — is the lowest in the country. AP