Operation Bernhard – an exercise by Nazi Germany to forge British and American bank notes

The office of the Nazi Party Security Service (SD) was responsible for, among other things, falsifying passports and documents. Within the setting of Operation Bernhard, the SD forged pound notes in great numbers, funding Nazi Germany with ₤600 million in high-quality counterfeit currency (worth approx. $6 billion 2009).

The leader of the operation was Bernhard Krüger – a member of the NSDAP, SS Major (Sturmbannführer) during World War II, and leader of the Department VI F 4a, part of the SD-foreign branch in the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA). 

After the war, Major Krüger was detained by the British for two years, then turned over to the French for a year forging documents for them. He was released in 1948 without any charges being pressed, and returned to Germany. In the 1950s, he went before a denazification court, where inmates under his charge at Sachsenhausen provided statements that resulted in his acquittal. He eventually worked for the company that had produced the special paper for the Operation Bernhard forgeries. He died in 1989.

This counterfeiting operation was named after Krüger, who led the operation from a segregated factory built at Sachsenhausen concentration camp, manned by 142 Jewish inmates.

The pound counterfeiting operation ended in 1944. However Krüger succeeded in establishing a new operation to forge American dollar notes. In May 1945 his team of prisoners were transferred to Ebensee concentration camp in Austria where they were liberated.

The unit successfully duplicated the rag paper used by the British, produced near-identical engraving blocks and deduced the algorithm used to create the alpha-numeric serial code on each note.

”This is not to be a forgery or counterfeiting in the usual sense, but authorised facsimile production. The notes must be such a perfect copy of the original that even the most experienced bank-note experts cannot tell the difference.”

To break the coded arrangement of the alphanumeric serial designation, the team worked with banking experts, examining records of currency from the previous 20 years in order to replicate the correct order. No records were kept by previously so-called forgery Operation Andreas and the method of how the Germans identified the correct sequences is not known; the paper historian Peter Bower states that it is possible that techniques adapted from those used in cryptanalysis were used to break the sequences.

Much of the output of the unit was dumped into the Toplitz and Grundlsee lakes at the end of the war, but enough went into general circulation that the Bank of England stopped releasing new notes and issued a new design after the war (until 1981).

A £5 note (White fiver) forged by the Jewish Sachsenhausen concentration camp prisoners

Estimates of the number and value of notes printed during Operation Bernhard vary from a total of £132,610,945 (of which £10,368,445 were sent to the RHSA central office), up to £300 million (of which £125 million were usable notes).

Lake Toplitz has been the site of several large-scale searches. In 1958 an expedition located several cases of the counterfeit money from Operation Bernhard and a book that detailed the Bank of England’s numbering system. Following the death of a diver in the lake in 1963—his two companions on the lake included “a former Nazi secret agent and … a German business man mentioned in connection with counterfeit gold coins”—the Austrian government undertook a month-long search of the lake, during which they recovered more boxes of notes.

In 2000 the submersible that was used to search the wreck of RMS Titanic was used to survey the lake floor, and several boxes of notes were recovered, witnessed by Adolf Burger, a former prisoner involved in the counterfeiting operation.

On seeing the quality of the notes, one bank official described them as “the most dangerous ever seen”; the watermark was the most reliable source for detecting the forgeries. Counterfeit notes worth £15–20 million were in general circulation at the end of the war. With such a volume in general circulation, in April 1943 the Bank of England stopped releasing all notes of £10 and above. In February 1957 a new £5 banknote was issued; the blue note was printed on both sides and “relied on subtle colour changes and detailed machine engraving” for security. Other denominations were also reintroduced: the £10 in February 1964, the £20 in July 1970 and the £50 note in March 1981.

In late 1944 the prisoners had counterfeited the reverse of the dollar, and the obverse by January 1945. Twenty samples of the $100 note were produced—without the serial number, whose algorithm was still being examined—and shown to Himmler and banking experts. The standard of engraving and printing was considered excellent, although the paper used was technically inferior to the genuine notes.

Counterfeit notes worth £15–20 million were in general circulation at the end of the war. With such a volume in general circulation, in April 1943 the Bank of England stopped releasing all notes of £10 and above. In February 1957 a new £5 banknote was issued; the blue note was printed on both sides and “relied on subtle colour changes and detailed machine engraving” for security. Other denominations were also reintroduced: the £10 in February 1964, the £20 in July 1970 and the £50 note in March 1981.

The Tilhas Tizig Gesheften, a small group formed from the British Army’s Jewish Brigade, obtained a supply of counterfeit pounds from Jaacov Levy, one of Schwend’s money-laundering agents. The forged notes were used to buy equipment and to bring displaced persons to Palestine, in defiance of the British blockade of the territory.

Header: The US $100 note (obverse of the 1934 series pictured) was considered more difficult to counterfeit because of the complex artwork involved.

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In Amsterdam, the world’s priciest menorah gets a new life

For the Amsterdam Jewish Historical Museum, Hanukkah this year entailed the stressful chore of assembling the world’s most expensive menorah.

Last week, the Rintel Menorah, a 266-year-old menorah valued at over a half-million dollars, was put back on display at Amsterdam’s Jewish Historical Museum following the restoration of its wooden base, which was lost during the Holocaust. Built in 1753, the menorah is a relic from the golden age of a community that was nearly annihilated by the Nazis.

The restoration entailed the installation of a 3-foot wooden base created by the Judaica designer Piet Cohen. Before that, the Rintel stood on a rectangular marble slab that did little to complement the menorah’s intricate design, which includes eight bells and more than 150 delicate reliefs resembling flowers, leaves and thorns.

The massive base had also complicated the annual transport of the menorah from the museum to the Rabbi Aron Schuster Synagogue, where the community would use it to light Hanukkah candles. Moving the menorah, a ritual that began in 1955 and was discontinued only in 2010, required a driver, three movers and a curator, who would dismantle the Rintel and pack its five parts into wooden boxes. The menorah would then stay at the synagogue, where it was somewhat vulnerable to theft, for a little over a week before the procedure would be repeated in reverse.

In 2016, the Rintel was appraised at $563,000. The price tag easily topped the list of the world’s most expensive Hanukkah menorahs that Israel’s Beit Hatfutsot Museum of the Jewish People had compiled shortly before.

The runners up were also Dutch: Twin menorahs, both much smaller and less ornate than the Rintel. One of the twins fetched $441,000 at an auction in 2016. The other is owned by the Dutch royal family and is on permanent loan to the Jewish museum.

The other menorahs have their charms, but the lighting of the Rintel “was a statement that said, ‘We’re still here,’” Ruben Vis, the chairman of the Organization of Jewish Communities in the Netherlands, or NIK, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The menorah was commissioned by philanthropist Sara Rintel from Pieter Robol II, a master silversmith, and donated it to the Great Synagogue of Amsterdam. Prior to that, Amsterdam’s Ashkenazi Jews had none of the flashy artifacts characteristic of the city’s older and more prosperous Portuguese communities, Vis noted.

“It was an attempt to match the Portuguese community’s splendor, and it marked a certain peak moment in Dutch Jewry’s history,” he said.

The Great Synagogue is among dozens of Jewish houses of worship in the Netherlands that did not survive World War II. Closed down in 1943 by the Germans, its furniture and marble were looted. Nearly all of its members were among the 75 percent of Dutch Jews killed by the Nazis, the highest death rate of any Nazi-occupied country in Western Europe. Some 40,000 Jews live in the Netherlands today, down from a prewar population of 140,000. The hall of the former synagogue is now part of the Jewish Historical Museum.

Who exactly hid the Rintel during the war is unknown, but the disappearance of the wooden base suggests it may have been kept flat and concealed inside a piece of furniture.

The menorah is considered such a powerful symbol of Dutch Jewry that, in 1898, a replica was made for the Dritt Synagogue, another Ashkenazi house of worship that did not survive the war. The replica also survived the war and had for years been used for lighting candles at an annual Hanukkah concert at the Concert Gebouw, Amsterdam’s best-known concert hall.

In 2015, facing growing assimilation and rising security expenses, the Jewish Community of Amsterdam informed the Dutch government that it intended to auction off the original Rintel.

The community needed the government’s authorization for the sale because the Rintel was listed as a cultural heritage asset. But instead of approving the sale, the government, together with the Jewish Cultural Quarter and the Jewish Historical Museum, arranged to purchase the menorah and offer it on permanent loan to the museum.

According to Emile Schrijver, the director general of the Jewish Cultural Quarter, the umbrella group for five Jewish institutions located in the heart of what was once Amsterdam’s most heavily Jewish neighborhood, the Dutch government provided half of the $563,000. Another $125,000 came from the Rembrandt Association, a Dutch organization that helps raise money for the preservation of significant artworks. The rest came from various other donors. The sale was completed in 2016.

The scheme ensured the Rintel remained in the Netherlands, but the change in ownership also meant its permanent retirement. With its changed status from a ritual item used by a living Jewish community into the prized possession of a major museum — with all the preservation-related restrictions that come with it — the menorah could no longer be used for the annual Hanukkah candle lighting.

Vis said his community has come to terms with the Rintel’s retirement.

“Objects have a certain lifespan – something we understand all too well in our current society, with its throw-away culture,” he said. “The Rintel has just reached its usability limit. And it became something else: A work of art. A jewel.”

Header: The Rintel Menorah on display at the Jewish Historical Museum of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. (Courtesy of the Jewish Cultural Quarter/JCK via JTA)

Image: In 2018 a festive Chanukah concert took place at the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam – for the first time a public Jewish concert in the Great Hall of the Concertgebouw since the Second World War.

On the fourth night of Chanukah, the large hall was completely sold-out. There wasn’t one available seat to be found. A Chanukia was placed on center stage – the great “Rintel Menorah” – which symbolically stood as a sign of solidarity, with society and the world.

Avangard changes everything: What Russia’s hypersonic warhead deployment means for the global arms race

Moscow’s deployment of ‘Avangard’ hypersonic warheads means the US missile defense installations in Europe are now obsolete – and that Washington would have to spend a lot of money it doesn’t have in order to catch up.

Avangard is capable of reaching Mach 27 without losing control or disintegrating under heat and pressure. This means that the weapon can outmaneuver any defenses on its approach phase, rendering it “absolutely invulnerable to any air or missile defense system,” in the words of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us,” is how General John Hyten, then head of the US Strategic Command, put it to the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2018, shortly after Putin confirmed the existence of Avangard and several other weapons.

In a major show of confidence, Moscow even showed off the Avangard to US inspectors last month, as part of an effort to improve transparency in observing the last remaining treaty limiting nuclear weapons. Russia has offered to extend the New Start treaty beyond February 2021, but Washington has yet to respond, one way or another.

Russia is the only nation that currently fields hypersonic missiles, both the Avangard and its shorter-range, airplane-launched cousin the Kinzhal. According to Putin, Russian military scientists are also working on developing defenses against such weapons – if there are any.

Earlier this week, Putin made a point of saying that Russia is now ahead of other countries when it comes to a major weapons technology, contrasting it with the Soviet Union always being a step behind during the Cold War.

Instead, now it is the US that is scrambling to catch up. A contract to develop a glide body capable of Mach 5 – was just awarded earlier this year, with the expected launch date of sometime in 2023.

Avangard’s existence also puts more urgency into developing space-based interceptors that could theoretically target missiles during the boost phase, before the hypersonic warheads can be unleashed. This may be the mission of the newly established ‘Space Force.’

It was also the stuff of Pentagon fantasies in the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan launched the ‘Star Wars’ initiative. While it did not amount to much in reality, it is conventional wisdom in the US that it drove the Soviet Union into a costly arms race that ultimately led to bankruptcy and the collapse of Communism.

While Russian scholars dispute this, Moscow appears to have just put it up to a test. Hypersonic weapons may now compel Washington to act just like it says the Soviets did, and pour vast resources into the military that are needed elsewhere, while the national debt stands at $23 trillion and counting. One more reason to be serious about making peace with the world, rather than seeking to dominate it.

Russia is more conscious about its military spending, which is far lower than in the US – in both absolute and purchase power parity terms – yet a lot more of it goes on procurement of new weapons systems.

Moscow now has at least a 10-15 year window of guaranteed nuclear deterrence, political scientists Sergey Karaganov and Dmitry Suslov argued recently in the journal Russia in Global Affairs. In other words, global thermonuclear war just got much less likely, for a while at least. That’s good news for the season, no matter how you slice it.

Just to remember: ‘We owe nothing’: Poland brings up reparations from Berlin but says ‘NO’ to Jewish restitution

“The Polish position is firm and clear: we don’t owe anything to anybody,” the government’s spokesperson stressed during an interview.

The comments were a rebuttal to groups like the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) who call for Warsaw to compensate Jewish families whose property was seized and looted during WWII.

In February, the group’s chair of operations, Gideon Taylor, blasted Poland as “the only country in the European Union” that does not have “comprehensive” restitution laws. The Polish government strongly opposes this, insisting that the issue had been settled and resolved long time ago.

Polish nationalists marched in Warsaw a few months ago in protest against a 2018 American law that tasks the US State Department with monitoring how foreign nations deal with compensating Holocaust survivors and their descendants.

The Nazi attack on Poland on September 1, 1939 marked the beginning of WWII, and the country was the first one to fall victim to the Third Reich. Israel, however, has repeatedly accused the Poles of collaborating with the Nazis in committing the Holocaust, while Warsaw maintains that’s not true. It has ultimately criminalized allegations of Poland’s role in the Holocaust, outlawing the use of terms such as “Polish death camps.”

Header: Nazi troops inspect residents in the Warsaw Ghetto. September 1939. © DPA / Global Look Press

‘We will not be lectured’: Russia stands by Putin calling pro-Hitler Polish WWII envoy ‘bastard & anti-Semitic pig’

Poland summoned the Russian ambassador in Warsaw to explain President Vladimir Putin’s remarks about the anti-Semitism of the 1930s Polish ambassador to Germany. Moscow is refusing to budge from historical truth.

In a speech on Tuesday, Putin described Jozef Lipski, the Polish ambassador to Berlin (1934-39), as “a bastard and anti-Semitic pig.” He based this on Lipski’s own words from 1938, when the envoy told Hitler the Poles would “erect him a beautiful monument in Warsaw” if he carried out the plan to expel European Jews to Africa.

Warsaw responded on Friday by summoning Russian Ambassador Sergey Andreyev to the Foreign Ministry. After having a “harsh but diplomatic” discussion with the head of the Eastern Department, Andreyev said he stood by the president’s statements as Russia’s official position.

“We will not allow anyone to lecture us.”

“We have something to say ourselves, on the topic of politics of history,” Andreyev told reporters after the meeting.

Putin had brought up Lipski in the context of Poland’s push for WWII revisionism, including the removal of monuments to Soviet soldiers who died in its liberation from Nazi Germany, and a resolution Warsaw pushed in the European Parliament in September, which claimed that the 1939 non-aggression pact between Moscow and Berlin had “paved the way for the outbreak of the Second World War.”

Modern Polish historical narrative argues that the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement was a conspiracy against Warsaw, and that there is no difference between the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 and the Soviet troops coming in from the east 16 days later.

Russia has rejected this as a falsification of history, often pointing out that neither the government in Warsaw at the time, nor its British and French allies – who had earlier declared war on Germany in support of their security guarantees to Poland – saw fit to declare war on the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union was the last country in Europe to sign a non-aggression pact with Berlin – Lipski had negotiated Poland’s in 1934 – and only after the UK and France had partitioned Czechoslovakia at the 1938 Munich conference to appease Hitler, over Moscow’s objections.

Lipski played a key role in interwar Poland’s pro-German and anti-Soviet foreign policy. After the war, he moved to the US and represented the de-recognized ‘Polish Government in Exile’ until his death in 1958. His anti-Semitic remark quoted by Putin is public knowledge in the West.

Header: Adolf Hitler in conversation with Polish ambassador Jozef Lipski, January 1, 1935 (Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung) ©  Getty Images/Heinrich Hoffmann

Was Mark Twain right about the power of the Jewish people?

A number of years ago, a quote from Mark Twain went viral – as we would say today. Not sure if that term was used back then, but Jewish organizations were printing the quote up in large quantities and distributing it all over.

Skeptics would question the sincerity of his statement. It appears to be only grudgingly stated, but that might make it even more powerful.

Here’s what he said about the Jews, in September 1897:

“If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one quarter of one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk.

His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine and abstruse learning are also very out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world in all ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself and be excused for it. The Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Persians rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greeks and Romans followed and made a vast noise, and they were gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, and have vanished.

The Jew saw them all, survived them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmaties, of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert but aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jews; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”

Whatever you feel about Mark Twain’s quote, here’s what we should be thinking this 3-Kugel Shabbat.
We, the Jewish People, faced spiritual annihilation at the hands of the Greeks a long time ago.What’s worse, is that many of our fellow Jews were willing to go along with the planned Hellenization of the Jewish People – with smiles on their faces.

But guess what. This Shabbat and all the others before it and after it – we are proudly observing that specail day that the Greeks banned us from keeping under pain of death. They aren’t here any more. We are.

And we celebrate Rosh Chodesh – that’s aspect of our nationhood that the Greeks attempted to snuff out. They aren’t here. We are and we proudly hold our calendar high, with all of its holidays.
And this Shabbat Rosh Chodesh is Chanuka – of course, which we joyously celebrate and thank HKB”H that the Greeks are not here anymore. But we still are.

Is everything perfect? Not yet. But with G-d’s help and our continued efforts, we’ll get closer and closer.
To the People of Israel, the Torah of Israel, and the Land of Israel – Forever!

Original: by Phil Chernofsky, Arutz Sheva, Israel National News

LNA (Haftar) captures strategic highway, says its troops are 4km away from Tripoli’s city center

The Libyan National Army (LNA) advanced on December 27 towards the country’s capital, Tripoli, capturing a strategic highway and several areas from forces loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA).

In an official statement, the LNA’s media center announced that army units had captured the Tripoli airport highway, the fuel tanks, al-Furusiyah bridge and al-Naqliyah camp.

Later, sources affiliated with the LNA said that the former Libyan military staff headquarters was also captured from pro-GNA forces.

Maj. Gen. Khaled al-Mahjoub, Director of the Guidance Department of the LNA, told al-Arabiya that army units are now only 4 km away from Tripoli’s city center. The commander also claimed that many pro-GNA fighters were killed during the clashes on the Tripoli airport highway.

GNA forces denied any advance by the LNA, claiming that their troops had recaptured the Tripoli airport highway. However, no evidence backing these claims was presented.

The LNA’s new ground push towards Tripoli came amid reports of a near Turkish military intervention in Libya. Many sources said that Ankara is planning to deploy ground and naval forces, as well as some of its Syrian proxies, in Libya to support the GNA.

Turkey to deploy its Syrian proxies in Libya’s Tripoli – Report

The official, who was not named, told the outlet that the Syrian militants who will be deployed in Libya will be from ethnic Turkmen groups which have been fighting for Turkey in the northern part of Syria for years now.

“The Libyan government had initially resisted the idea of such a deployment but eventually accepted it as Haftar’s forces [the LNA] began to advance on Tripoli,” Bloomberg quoted the official as saying.

Bloomberg’s report was confirmed by the Middle East Eye, which said that Ankara had already reached out to several allied Syrian rebel groups about the deployment.

A Syrian opposition source told the Middle East Eye that Turkish-backed Faylaq al-Sham will be leading the Turkish proxy force which will be deployed in Libya. The force will also include fighters from the Sultan Murad Division and the Suqour al-Sham Brigades.

“Tripoli-based forces previously sent weapons and ammunition to help Syrian rebels in 2011. They even sent some commanders to help them … Faylaq al-Sham returned the favor by sending officials to advise Tripoli-based forces in 2014 against Benghazi forces,” one of the Syrian sources told the outlet.

The groups, which were named by the Syrian sources, are all members of the so-called Syrian National Army (SNA) that was formed in 2017 with direct support from Turkey.

A day earlier, Reuters reported that the GNA had formally requested “air, ground and sea” military support from Turkey, to fight against the LNA, which is attacking the country’s capital, Tripoli.

Russia says it is first nation with operational new hypersonic nuclear weapons

A new intercontinental weapon that can fly 27 times the speed of sound became operational Friday, Russia’s defense minister reported to President Vladimir Putin, bolstering the country’s nuclear strike capability.

Putin has described the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle as a technological breakthrough comparable to the 1957 Soviet launch of the first satellite. The new Russian weapon and a similar system being developed by China have troubled the United States, which has pondered defense strategies.

The Avangard is launched atop an intercontinental ballistic missile, but unlike a regular missile warhead that follows a predictable path after separation it can make sharp maneuvers in the atmosphere en route to target, making it much harder to intercept.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed Putin that the first missile unit equipped with the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle entered combat duty.

“I congratulate you on this landmark event for the military and the entire nation,” Shoigu said later during a conference call with top military leaders.

The Strategic Missile Forces chief, Gen. Sergei Karakayev, said during the call that the Avangard was put on duty with a unit in the Orenburg region in the southern Ural Mountains.

Putin unveiled the Avangard among other prospective weapons systems in his state-of-the-nation address in March 2018, noting that its ability to make sharp maneuvers on its way to a target will render missile defense useless.

“It heads to target like a meteorite, like a fireball,” he said at the time.

The Russian leader noted that Avangard is designed using new composite materials to withstand temperatures of up to 2,000 Celsius (3,632 Fahrenheit) resulting from a flight through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds.

The military said the Avangard is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound. It carries a nuclear weapon of up to 2 megatons.

Putin has said Russia had to develop the Avangard and other prospective weapons systems because of US efforts to develop a missile defense system that he claimed could erode Russia’s nuclear deterrent. Moscow has scoffed at US claims that its missile shield isn’t intended to counter Russia’s massive missile arsenals.

Earlier this week, Putin emphasized that Russia is the only country armed with hypersonic weapons. He noted that for the first time Russia is leading the world in developing an entire new class of weapons, unlike in the past when it was catching up with the US.

In December 2018, the Avangard was launched from the Dombarovskiy missile base in the southern Urals and successfully hit a practice target on the Kura shooting range on Kamchatka, 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles) away.

Russian media reports indicated that the Avangard will first be mounted on Soviet-built RS-18B intercontinental ballistic missiles, code-named SS-19 by NATO. It is expected to be fitted to the prospective Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile after it becomes operational.

The Defense Ministry said last month it demonstrated the Avangard to a team of US inspectors as part of transparency measures under the New Start nuclear arms treaty with the US.

The Russian military previously had commissioned another hypersonic weapon of a smaller range.

The Kinzhal (Dagger), which is carried by MiG-31 fighter jets, entered service with the Russian air force last year. Putin has said the missile flies 10 times faster than the speed of sound, has a range of more than 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) and can carry a nuclear or a conventional warhead. The military said it is capable of hitting both land targets and navy ships.

China has tested its own hypersonic glide vehicle, believed to be capable of traveling at least five times the speed of sound. It displayed the weapon called Dong Feng 17, or DF-17, at a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese state.

US officials have talked about putting a layer of sensors in space to more quickly detect enemy missiles, particularly the hypersonic weapons. The administration also plans to study the idea of basing interceptors in space, so the US can strike incoming enemy missiles during the first minutes of flight when the booster engines are still burning.

The Pentagon also has been working on the development of hypersonic weapons in recent years, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in August that he believes “it’s probably a matter of a couple of years” before the US has one. He has called it a priority as the military works to develop new long-range fire capabilities.

Header: In this video grab file photo provided by RU-RTR Russian television via AP television on Thursday, March 1, 2018, a computer simulation shows the Avangard hypersonic vehicle being released from booster rockets. (RU-RTR Russian Television via AP, File)

Avangard, Russia’s advanced hypersonic glider, enters military service

The advanced Russian nuclear hypersonic glider entered combat service on Friday with the first regiment of Avangard-armed missiles now operational, the defense minister reported.
SS-19 “Stiletto” it’s the first carriers of a hypersonic glider, the newest “Avangard” system, reports TASS citing a source in the Russian Defense Industry

Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, who reported the development to President Putin on Friday, said Avangard deployment was “a signatory event for the country and the armed forces.”

The Russian military armed legacy silo-based UR-100N ICBMs, also known as the Stiletto, with the cutting-edge warheads meant to penetrate heavy anti-ballistic missile defenses.

The glider is one of several weapons systems meant to boost Russian nuclear deterrence, which were announced by President Vladimir Putin last year. The build-up is meant to counter Washington’s development of ABM technologies, which Russia sees as a national threat.

The Russian president believes Russia’s nuclear forces need to be strong enough to dissuade any temptation that US military strategists may have to deliver a pre-emptive strike against Russia during a possible crisis. The missile regiment is reportedly deployed in the Orenburg region.

Header: 15A35 – RS-18B – SS-19 mod.2 Stiletto ICBM in 15Ya54 transport launching container at Park Patriot

Houthis’ precision-guided rocket strikes Saudi military camp

“Dozens [of personnel] of the Saudi military, including officers, were killed or injured,” Brig. Gen. Sari, a spokesman for the Yemeni group, said.

The Badr-1P, which was revealed on October 27, is an INS\GPS guided version of the Badr-1 solid fuel artillery rocket. Experts believe that the Badr-1 family is derived from the Iranian-made Fajir-5 rocket.

The Saudi-led coalition has not commented on the rocket strike, so far. The coalition rarely acknowledges a successfully attack on its troops.

Yemen’s al-Masirah TV said that the rocket attack was a response to a recent Saudi airstrike on a local market in the Houthis’ stronghold, Saada. The airstrike, which took place on December 24, killed 17 civilians including 12 Ethiopian refugees.

Note: On 28 October 2018, a guided version called the Badr-1P with a range of 150 kilometres (93 mi) and an accuracy of 3 metres (10 ft) was announced.

Why let Christmas stop the fight? French pension strikers march into fourth week of protests

French workers objecting to President Macron’s pension reforms are marching in Paris again. The strike that disrupted Christmas travel plans and cost hundreds of millions has now reached its fourth week.

Thousands of people flooded the streets of Paris on Thursday in their latest march against the proposed reform that seeks to merge the current 42 pension schemes into one. The proposal was rejected by unions and workers in many professions as it strips early retirement options for doing physically demanding or hazardous jobs.

With railway workers joining in the general strike, France was semi-paralyzed on Christmas Eve. Many trains were canceled and just two of 16 Paris metro lines remain operational. Other means of transportation couldn’t make up for the shortfall.

The protesters and the government last week failed to reach a compromise or at least a holiday truce. Talks are scheduled to resume on January 7, which means the New Year period will be just as difficult for many, including holiday goers.

The strike is meant to repeat the success of 1995, when a series of protests culminating in three weeks of rail disruption just before Christmas forced the government of Jacques Chirac to cancel a planned retirement reform.

An estimated 400 million euros was lost from the current turmoil by the rail operator SNCF alone over the first 21 days of the strike. Other businesses reported suffering a heavy toll from the loss of Christmas boom.

Netanyahu wins primaries

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday defeated MK Gideon Sa’ar in the primaries for the leadership of the Likud and will continue to lead the party in the elections to the 23rd Knesset.

A final tally of the votes found that Netanyahu won 72.5% of the votes, compared to 27.5% for Sa’ar.

The voter turnout in the primaries was 49.15%.

After the final results were published, Sa’ar called Netanyahu and congratulated him on his victory in the primaries.

Earthquake strikes near Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck near Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant early Friday morning (local time), the US Geological Survey said, according to Reuters.

The quake was moderate, which can cause considerable damage, and was centered 33 miles (53 km) east of Bushehr.

The quake, which struck at about 5:23 a.m. local time (0153 GMT) was relatively shallow, only 23.8 miles (38 km) deep, which would have amplified the shaking.

So far there is no word on whether the nuclear plant was damaged.

ICC prosecutor Bensouda

“Islam, as you know, is a religion of peace, and it gives you this inner strength, this inner ability and a sense of justice. Together with my experience, this will help a lot.” – Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

Bensouda was born in 1961 as Fatou Nyang into a polygamous family in The Gambia’s capital, Banjul.

“She served as a legal adviser for one of the most ruthless dictators in the world.” – her “stained past” as a senior official in the government of former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh.

‘From The Gambia to The Hague: Meet Israel’s new public enemy number one’ – Times of Israel