Mauna Lao Lava Inches Toward Highway 

Lava from Mauna Lao, the world’s largest active volcano, is inching its way toward the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, a key transportation artery on Hawaii’s Big Island.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said in its latest update that the lava flow has “slowed down significantly over the past couple of days, as expected.”

The observatory said, “Advance rates may be highly variable over the coming days and weeks due to the way lava is emplaced on flat ground. On flat ground, lava flows spread out and inflate. … There are many variables at play and both the direction and timing of flow advance are expected to change over periods of hours to days, making it difficult to estimate when or if the flow will impact Daniel K. Inouye Highway.”

Генштаб ЗСУ: українські військові збили російський вертоліт і шість безпілотників

«Авіація Сил оборони протягом поточної доби завдала 17 ударів по районах зосередження особового складу, озброєння та військової техніки і 3 удари по позиціях зенітно-ракетних комплексів противника»

White House Says Biden Not Intending to Talk to Putin

The White House said U.S. President Joe Biden has “no intentions” at present of holding negotiations with President Vladimir Putin about ending the war in Ukraine, a day after Biden appeared to make a conditional offer to talk to his Russian counterpart.

“We’re just not at a point now where talks seem to be a fruitful avenue to approach right now,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Friday.

At a news conference Thursday with French President Emmanuel Macron, Biden said, “I’m prepared to speak with Mr. Putin if in fact there is an interest in him deciding he’s looking for a way to end the war. He hasn’t done that yet.”

Biden’s comments appeared to be a cautious diplomatic overture from the White House.

When asked about those comments Friday, Kirby noted that Biden said Putin has yet to show any interest in talking.

“Putin has shown absolutely no inclination to be interested in dialogue of any kind. In fact, quite the contrary,” Kirby said.

“The president wasn’t at all indicating that now is the time for talks. In fact, he has been consistent that only (Ukrainian) President Zelenskyy can determine if and when there’s going to be a negotiated settlement and what the circumstances around that settlement would look like,” Kirby said.

The Kremlin said Friday that Putin is ready for negotiations with the West — provided the West recognizes Russia’s “new territories” taken from Ukraine.

In a statement, the Kremlin said the West must accept Putin’s proclamation that the southern region of Kherson and three other partly occupied regions of Ukraine now belong to Russia, before any talks can take place. Russia’s invasion has been condemned as illegal by most countries.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “The president of the Russian Federation has always been, is and remains open to negotiations in order to ensure our interests.”

Also Friday, Putin spoke on the phone with Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Scholz is quoted as telling Putin “there must be a diplomatic solution as quickly as possible, which includes a withdrawal of Russian troops.”

For his part, Putin accused “Western states, including Germany,” of making it possible for Kyiv to refuse to negotiate with Russia.

“Attention was drawn to the destructive line of Western states, including Germany, which are pumping the Kyiv regime with weapons and training the Ukrainian military,” the Kremlin said.

In a written statement, Scholz’s spokesperson said, “the chancellor condemned in particular the Russian airstrikes against civilian infrastructure in Ukraine and stressed Germany’s determination to support Ukraine ensuring its defense capability against Russian aggression.”

Speculation about negotiations to end the war has increased as Moscow’s military advances in Ukraine have stalled and in some cases been turned back. Russia’s missile strikes against Ukraine’s power infrastructure have left millions of Ukrainians without power, heat and water as winter sets in.

President Biden has not spoken with Putin since Russia invaded Ukraine. Last March, Biden called Putin “a war criminal.”

On Thursday, France announced its support for creating a special tribunal to try those accused of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Russia’s foreign ministry said Friday it was “outraged” by France’s position.

“We demand that French diplomats, who are so attentive to human rights issues, not divide people into ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ ‘ours’ and ‘not ours,'” the foreign ministry said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that the EU would try to set up a specialized court, backed by the United Nations, to investigate and prosecute possible war crimes committed by Russia during its invasion.

Russia has denied targeting civilians and other war crimes.

U.N.-appointed investigators are examining whether Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, leaving millions without heating as temperatures plummet, amount to war crimes, a member of the inspection team said Friday.

Fierce fighting continued Friday in Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where Ukraine’s military said it fought off wave after wave of Russian attacks.

Kyiv said Russian troops attacked Ukrainian positions in 14 settlements, while carrying out 30 airstrikes and 35 multiple-rocket attacks on civilian areas.

The battlefield reports could not be independently verified.

The British Defense Ministry’s intelligence update Friday on Ukraine said, “Russia’s withdrawal from the west bank of the Dnipro River last month has provided the Ukrainian Armed Forces with opportunities to strike additional Russian logistics nodes and lines of communication.”

“This threat has highly likely prompted Russian logisticians to relocate supply nodes, including rail transfer points, further south and east,” according to the report posted on Twitter. “Russian logistics units will need to conduct extra labor-intensive loading and unloading from rail to road transport. Road moves will subsequently still be vulnerable to Ukrainian artillery as they move on to supply Russian forward defensive positions.”

The ministry said, “Russia’s shortage of munitions [exacerbated by these logistics challenges] is likely one of the main factors currently limiting Russia’s potential to restart effective, large scale offensive ground operations.”

Some information in this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

US Forces Monitor Mideast Skies at Qatar Base Amid World Cup

As World Cup fans throng stadiums across Qatar, about 8,000 American troops stationed just nearby watch over the airspace of the tumultuous Middle East from a major base run by this energy-rich nation.

Built on a flat stretch of desert about 20 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of Qatari capital Doha, Al-Udeid Air Base once was considered so sensitive that American military officers identified it as only being somewhere “in southwest Asia.”

Today, the sprawling hub is Qatar’s strategic gem, showcasing the Gulf Arab emirate’s tight security partnership with the United States, which now considers Doha a major non-NATO ally.

At the height of U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, more than 10,000 troops called the base and other sites in Qatar home. That number has dropped by a fifth since the Biden administration began drawing down some forces from the Mideast in preparation for the so-called Great Powers competitions looming with China and Russia.

But the Qataris have continued to pour money into the base — more than $8 billion since 2003. On a visit Friday, Associated Press journalists saw a new barracks and dining hall as airmen discussed other improvements on the way. And airmen said the creation of a new task force focused on drones and other off-the-shelf battlefield technology at Al-Udeid shows that Washington is there to stay, despite fears to the contrary.

“There is a tremendous commitment from the U.S. Air Force to this region,” U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Erin Brilla told the AP. “We are staying as an enduring capability.”

Al-Udeid’s birth and growth mirrors the “forever wars” that followed the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington by al-Qaida. As Saudi Arabia asked American forces to leave the kingdom, Qatar offered Al-Udeid, built at an estimated initial cost of $1 billion.

Al-Udeid soon became the forward headquarters of the U.S. military’s Central Command. Its Combined Air Operations Center oversees combat missions, surveillance flights and drones across the Mideast, North Africa and Asia.

While the “forever wars” wound down, conflicts still rage across the region. As tensions with Iran run high, the U.S. and its allies are looking for ways to counter the low-cost drones employed in the region by Tehran and its militia allies, like Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The Air Force’s new Task Force 99, newly stationed al Al-Udeid, is focused on countering them — or imposing the same “dilemmas” on militias that they do on the U.S. when they force allies to fire a “$1 million missile versus a $1,000 drone,” Brilla said.

That’s a real-world example. The Saudi military has fended off most of the Houthis’ barrages with its American-made Patriot surface-to-air missile system, typically firing two missiles at an incoming target. That has become expensive and inefficient, as each Patriot missile costs more than $3 million and the kingdom’s supply has run low.

Task Force 99 follows a similar force in the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which dispatches drones into Mideast waters. Like the Navy, the Air Force wants to focus on widely available off-the-shelf technology it could share with allied nations and not fret about losing, as opposed to the $32 million MQ-9 Reaper drones that have flown out of Al-Udeid in the past.

For Qatar, hosting the base provides protection in a fractured region, allowing it to defy its neighbors. Just two years ago, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain mounted a boycott on Qatar, severing trade and travel links. Iran, which shares a huge natural gas field with Qatar, sits just across the waters of the Persian Gulf.

As the shared hub for the Qatari Emiri Air Force, the U.K. Royal Air Force and Central Command, the base boasts parking lots of C-17 transporters and the long runways to accommodate the heaviest bombers taking off in the desert heat that can reach 50 C (122 F) in the summer. It can feel like a self-contained bubble, albeit one with a Burger King, a Pizza Hut and a gym.

Even so, World Cup fever is seeping onto the base — a rare dose of the outside world for the U.S. troops typically more engaged in faraway wars than Qatar’s diversions. Signs in Arabic promote the World Cup. American troops said they often drive out to the eight stadiums in and around Doha to root for the United States national team when they get the time, with one service member even earning a reputation as a World Cup fanatic after attending seven matches.

“I am through and through very excited to see us compete and put their heart and souls on the field, just like our airmen here putting their hearts and souls into the mission,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Kayshel Trudell, who saw the U.S. beat Iran 1-0 earlier this week at the stadium, where members of the Air Force Band crooned acoustic covers.

She also said she’d be decked out in red, white and blue, cheering on the U.S. at its match against the Netherlands on Saturday — the country’s chance to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002.

Al-Udeid’s FOX Sports Bar, the base’s main watering hole, broadcasts the tournament, allowing troops passionate about soccer to follow the matches. FIFA has granted permission to the Defense Department’s American Forces Network to air the matches.

“It’s an exciting time to be here in Qatar with the World Cup right down the road,” Brilla said, adding that “just about every TV” in the command center shows the matches. She paused, apparently reflecting on the many screens tracking the sky. “Not the ones monitoring the air picture, but the others.”

Fighting Words: Founding Fathers Irked England by Inventing American English

Thomas Jefferson, America’s third president, coined the words “electioneering” and “indecipherable.” John Adams (No. 2) came up with “caucus.” James Madison (No. 4) was the first to use “squatter” when referring to someone who occupies a property or territory they don’t own.

As they set out to build a new nation, America’s Founding Fathers were determined to give the fledgling republic its own identity and culture by making up new words that were unique to the American experience.

“It was thought by many of the early presidents — Jefferson, Adams, [George] Washington and others — that they were doing something important,” says Paul Dickson, author of “Words from the White House: Words and Phrases Coined or Popularized by America’s Presidents.” “It was this belief that we were separating ourselves from the British.”

The practice of making up new words outraged British purists, some of whom viewed Americans as people without a language who stole England’s mother tongue.

“Some of the first words that the British really went crazy over were the words ‘congressional’ and ‘presidential.’ They said they were barbarous,” Dickson says. “But those were words we needed. George Washington, one of the words he created — and again, this helped frame who we were — he talked about his ‘administration.’ That word never existed in terms of a noun to describe the body of people that ruled with you in your Cabinet.”

In some cases, the presidents didn’t come up with the words and phrases. Some were created by speechwriters, aides and other acquaintances and then popularized by the president. For example, John Jay, Washington’s secretary for foreign affairs, is said to have coined “Americanize.”

A key nonpresidential figure who helped codify these new Americanisms was Noah Webster, who published his first dictionary in 1806. Webster fought in the Revolutionary War, which secured America’s independence from England. While wandering through a New York military camp filled with war veterans, he saw the need for a unique American language.

“He was hearing voices of Indigenous people. He was hearing Irish brogues. He was hearing all sorts of different kinds of language and different kinds of speaking, and heavily accented,” Dickson says. “And he realized that this country is going to be a big mix of different people, different interests, and it needed a new language. It needed something called the ‘American language,’ which is a term he created. … Noah Webster actually said that creating a new language was an act of defiance.”

While future presidents also coined new words, Dickson says the founders were particularly prolific. Jefferson alone is credited for coming up with more than 100 words, including “belittle,” “pedicure,” “monotonously” and “ottoman” [footstool]. Fittingly, he also invented the verb “neologize,” which is the practice of coining new words or expressions.

Instead of saying “within doors,” Washington created the word “indoors.” The first president also came up with “average” and “New Yorker.”

Adams borrowed from the classic Spanish novel, “Don Quixote” to create the adjective “quixotic” [unrealistic schemes]. The first recorded uses of “hustle” [to move rapidly] and “lengthy” [long, protracted] came from Adams’ journal entries.

Although the earliest American leaders started the practice, neologizing eventually became something of a presidential tradition.

“There were certain presidents that have a knack for this, and some of it was conscious. Some of it was sort-of semi-conscious,” Dickson says. “It became, it was, sort of, the American way.”

Despite inventing numerous memorable words and phrases, America’s early leaders fell short of coining a term to describe themselves — the extraordinary group of men who founded the United States and created the framework for its government. That didn’t happen until a century later.

In the 1920s, President Warren Harding dubbed them the “Founding Fathers” and in doing so, created one of the most memorable and iconic Americanisms of them all.

US Designates Iran, China as Countries of Concern Over Religious Freedom

The United States on Friday designated China, Iran and Russia, among others, as countries of particular concern under the Religious Freedom Act over severe violations, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

In a statement, Blinken said those designated as countries of particular concern, which also include North Korea and Myanmar, engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.

Algeria, the Central African Republic, Comoros and Vietnam were placed on the watch list.

Several groups, including the Kremlin-aligned Wagner Group, a private paramilitary organization that is active in Syria, Africa and Ukraine, also were designated as entities of particular concern. The Wagner Group was designated over its activities in the Central African Republic, Blinken said.

“Around the world, governments and non-state actors harass, threaten, jail, and even kill individuals on account of their beliefs,” Blinken said in the statement. “The United States will not stand by in the face of these abuses.”

He added that Washington would welcome the opportunity to meet with all governments to outline concrete steps for removal from the lists.

Washington has increased pressure on Iran over the brutal crackdown on protesters. Women have waved and burned headscarves, which are mandatory under Iran’s conservative dress codes, during the demonstrations that mark one of the boldest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.

The United Nations says more than 300 people have been killed so far and 14,000 arrested in protests that began after the September 16 death in custody of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini after she was detained for “inappropriate attire.”

U.N. experts also have called on majority Shiite Muslim Iran to stop persecution and harassment of religious minorities and to end the use of religion to curtail the exercise of fundamental rights.

The Baha’i community is among the most severely persecuted religious minorities in Iran, with a marked increase in arrests and targeting this year, part of what U.N. experts called a broader policy of targeting dissenting beliefs or religious practices, including Christian converts and atheists.

The United States has expressed grave concerns about human rights in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, which is home to 10 million Uyghurs.

Rights groups and Western governments have long accused Beijing of abuses against the mainly Muslim ethnic minority, including forced labor in internment camps.

The United States has accused China of genocide. Beijing vigorously denies any abuses.

The other countries designated as countries of particular concern were Cuba, Eritrea, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

The U.S. Religious Freedom Act of 1998 requires the president, who assigns the function to the secretary of state, to designate as countries of particular concern states that are deemed to violate religious freedom on a systematic and ongoing basis.

The act gives Blinken a range of policy responses, including sanctions or waivers, but they are not automatic.