January 6th, 2011
CNN) -- Images believed to be of China's next generation of military air power have been buzzing around the internet, but Pentagon officials are insisting it does not mean China has matched American air capabilities.
The new Chinese stealth fighter jet, known as the J-20, isn't supposed to be operational until at least 2017, but a Chinese air force commander told Chinese TV in 2009 that flight testing would begin much sooner. Stealth jets, such as the United States' F-22, are designed to evade detection by radar and anti-aircraft defenses.
Now unknown sources have posted photos of what appears to be the plane on an airfield runway in southwestern China.
"We are aware of their plans to develop this fifth-generation fighter," Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said Wednesday. "The photos that were released recently are presumably of some taxi testing."
At a Thursday briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei declined to comment on reports on China testing the jet.
"China insists on a path of peaceful development," he said. "We have adopted a national defense policy that is defensive in nature and do not threaten any other countries. China has been an important force in maintaining regional and global peace."
The emergence of the photos comes as Defense Secretary Robert Gates heads to China this weekend to discuss the military relationship between the U.S. and China. And later this month, President Hu Jintao will go to Washington for a summit with President Barack Obama.
One China watcher says Beijing's failure to censor the grainy images on the web proves the photos are of the new jet and the country wants them to circulate.
"The Chinese military and the police could have swept the area around the airfield very easily, but what they've done is they've controlled this. They've allowed Chinese to only take photos with cell phones, meaning that the photos that we have are low-resolution, do not give us a great deal of detail about the aircraft and they're put on the web with a low-resolution format," said China military scholar and author Richard Fisher. "The response within China has been overwhelmingly positive and has spurred national pride to an enormous degree."
The Pentagon is taking a low-key approach to the surge in publicity about the Chinese fighter, saying their existing top-of-the-line warplane has engine problems and that their next plane is years away. But Fisher says that timeline could be sped up if the Chinese buy an engine from Russia as opposed to developing it themselves.
"It's something that is in some form of development, as a fifth-generation fighter. As I noted, the Chinese are still having difficulties with their fourth-generation fighter," Lapan said in an off-camera question session with journalists in his office.
And he said that while the new jet was not mentioned in the Pentagon report on China that was sent to Congress in August as an annual update for China's defense capabilities, the Defense Department has talked about it.
"We as a department have publicly spoken about it in the past. It is not as if we have not acknowledged that they are pursuing a fifth-generation fighter," Lapan said. "So we are aware of it. But it is not of concern that they are working on a fifth-generation fighter."
Fisher, however, says it should be a concern, citing the Chinese jet's potential ability to overtake that of America's F-22 in thrust and "supercruise" speed, which is the ability to fly supersonically without using fuel-guzzling afterburners.
"We can't say precisely what the capabilities are, but we have a good idea. Right now, we should be reviving production of the F-22 and not just reviving production, we should be developing an advance version of the F-22," said Fisher. "And sadly, even though it is a troubled program, already the F-35 needs another rework. It needs to be made competitive with this fighter."
The F-22 was scaled back in production in 2009. The production of the F-35, which is being developed and tested, could be slowed under Gates' budget-cutting initiative.
In 2009, Gates said that no nation comes close to the United States' air power, and he anticipated the Chinese having only "a handful" of fighters that challenge the U.S. advanced fleets by 2025. But Fisher cautions that this Chinese jet could cause a change in the balance of power in the Pacific.
"Since World War II, the American military has never gone into battle without the assurance of air superiority. China is a rising power, and it is determined to challenge the American position globally," said Fisher. "This fighter will allow them to do that on a military level... and from my perspective, that's simply unacceptable."
CNN's Steven Jiang in Beijing contributed to this report.
January 6th, 2011
Yahoo's "The Lookout"
The American dream of home ownership didn't exactly exit the last decade on a high note, with the mortgage sector on still-shaky ground, the housing market stagnating and foreclosures at historic highs. So it was gratuitously devastating for Andre Hall of Pittsburgh -- who was in the process of reclaiming a foreclosed property, no less -- to return from the holidays to discover that the city had accidentally demolished his property.
"My dream is done now," Hall told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review after the foreclosed home he bought in November was accidentally flattened. "Someone needs to man up and take responsibility for this."
Hall told the paper that upon his return he was shocked to find heavy machinery parked on the site of his former home when he returned on Monday to continue rehabbing it.
"I don't come for a week over the holiday, and as soon as I come back, I see a backhoe on top of the house," he said. "Why did they demolish the house? They could see I had put in new windows and had slabs of drywall."
John Jennings, who heads up Pittsburgh's Bureau of Building Inspection, claims that his department called off the demolition of the house on November 3 pending its sale. With the transfer of the property, the city also gave Hall six months to make repairs to the home. Nevertheless "a couple of things went awry," Jennings explained, with the contractor the city hired to do the job. The workers on the crew tore down Hall's house "in error" when they were only supposed to demolish the house next door to his -- a structure that the city had also condemned last year.
Experiences like Hall's are distressingly common. There's the homeowner in Carrollton, Georgia, who saw the house built by his father flattened by careless city contractors who'd been following a faulty GPS locator. There was the woman in Denton, Texas, who was working in her garden as a demolition crew, mistaking her lot for a condemned property across the street, gouged an enormous hole into her front yard, which promptly claimed her porch, and rendered the remainder of the house structurally unstable. And there's the Jackson, Miss., woman whose home was flattened after pranksters took a sign erected to condemn an adjacent vacant lot and placed it in front of her home.
Hall, for his part, reports that after he'd tirelessly worked to fix the house up, he was preparing to move into the 1631-square-foot house within three weeks -- together with his girlfriend and her five children. For now, they will continue to live in Hall's one-bedroom apartment in the Pittsburgh suburb of East Liberty. The city solicitor's office is reportedly investigating what happened.
(Photo of lot where Hall's home used to be: AP/Keith Srakocic)
Other popular stories on Yahoo!
• Olympic gold medalist to compete on 'Biggest Loser'
• Enormous tuna sells for record price
• Is Obama first president to wear sandals in public?
January 5th, 2011
January 5th, 2011
Elizabeth Edwards left everything to her children and made not a single mention of her philandering husband John in the will she signed just days before her death.
Edwards lost her six-year battle with breast cancer on Dec. 7 and, in a last will and testament dated Dec. 1, made clear that her three children - and, by omission, not John Edwards - were to be the beneficiaries of her estate.
The former vice presidential candidate and North Carolina senator’s name appears nowhere in the will.
“All of my furniture, furnishings, household goods, jewelry, china, silverware and personal effects and any automobiles owned by me at the time of my death I give and bequeath to my children,” Edwards said in a copy of the document.
Edwards also stipulated that if she was the only surviving parent of her minor children Emma Claire and Jack at her time of death, she wanted 28-year-old Cate to be their guardian.
Elizabeth and John Edwards separated in early 2010 after he admitted to fathering a child in an extramarital affair with Rielle Hunter.
Though some reports suggested that the two became closer during Elizabeth Edwards’ final days, John was noticeably silent at Edwards’ funeral.
See a slideshow of Elizabeth Edwards photos here.
January 5th, 2011
Mr. Boehner received 241 votes, all Republicans, to capture the gavel and become third in the line of presidential succession, following only the vice president.
Mrs. Pelosi, meanwhile, received 173 votes, but watched as 19 Democrats from her caucus either opted for another candidate or merely voted "present."
It was the most defections from a party caucus's candidate in at least the last two decades, and underscored the simmering tensions among House Democrats who suffered staggering losses in last year's midterm elections.
Republicans gained more than five dozen seats, and will control the House 242-193 in the 112th Congress. In a show of just how much Republicans' numbers have grown, they spilled across the aisle into the traditional Democratic seats on the chamber's East side.
As she handed the gavel to Mr. Boehner — a traditional signal of unity by the two party leaders — Mrs. Pelosi thanked her colleagues for giving her four years in that spot as the first woman speaker in the country's history.
"Recognizing our roles under the Constitution, united in our love of country, we now engage in a strong symbol of American democracy: the peaceful and respectful exchange of power," she said. "I will now pass on this gavel — and the sacred trust that goes with it — to the new speaker."
"Our aim will be to give government back to the people," he said. "We will dispense with the conventional wisdom that bigger bills are always better; that fast legislating is good legislating; that allowing additional amendments and open debate makes the legislative process 'less efficient' than our forefathers intended."
In a roll call that was at times solemn and at times light-hearted, all House members present announced by name their choice for speaker.
In the vote, 11 Democrats voted for North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler, who ran against Mrs. Pelosi in the Democratic caucus's internal vote last year. Mr. Shuler has become the face of conservative Democratic opposition to Mrs. Pelosi.
A House Democratic aide said the vote was only symbolic, and said the Democratic caucus has taken steps to broaden its appeal to members from the conservative wing of the party.
The aide also said, though, that voting against Mrs. Pelosi could be seen as a vote against party unity by key interest groups such as labor unions and minority advocates.
Another two Democrats voted for Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat and a civil rights hero, while several members received a single vote, including Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking House Democrat. Mr. Hoyer, who was sitting next to Mrs. Pelosi at the time of the vote, seemed surprised by the support and looked around to see who had cast it.
When it came time for Rep. Steve Cohen, Tennessee Democrat, to vote, he said "Pelosi, proudly." But the clerk apparently couldn't hear him and asked for his vote again, and he spelled it out for her: "Pelosi! P-E-L-O-S-I," he said.
© Copyright 2011 The Washington Times, LLC