China tests hypersonic aircraft that can carry nukes, evade missile defense systems, officials say

As trade tensions between the U.S. and China continue to escalate, Chinese officials announced Friday the country tested its first hypersonic flight vehicle capable of carrying nuclear weapons — and allegedly able to penetrate any missile defense system.

The China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics, run by state-owned space contractor China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, said it conducted a successful first flight test of the Xingkong-2, otherwise known as Starry Sky-2, state-tabloid Global Times reported.

The flight vehicle was launched at a target range in Northwest China with a multi-stage rocket before being released in the air, making "large-angle turning maneuvers," and achieving a top speed of Mach 6, or 4,563 mph, the academy said.

Starry Sky-2, a hypersonic flight vehicle, was tested in Northwest China on Friday.(China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics)

The aircraft then landed in a designated landing zone, where it provided researchers with "effective" test data.

“The test…has laid a solid technological foundation for engineering applications of the waverider design,” officials said in a statement to the South China Morning Post.

AIR FORCE, DARPA PLAN NEW HYPERSONIC VEHICLE

The Starry Sky 2, a waverider, is a hypersonic flight vehicle that uses shockwaves generated by its own flight in the air to glide at a high speed, and features a wedge-shaped fuselage.

The vehicle uses shockwaves generated by its own flight in the air to glide at a high speed.(China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics)

Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert, told The Global Times the test was a "breakthrough," and added the waverider can carry both conventional and nuclear weapons.

"The test showed that China is advancing shoulder-to-shoulder with the US and Russia," Song told the news outlet.

Song added that since the waverider flies so fast, it challenges current anti-missile defense systems designed to protect against slower cruise and ballistic missiles.

The waverider can travel so fast, it challenges current anti-missile systems.( China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics)

The test on Friday was the first time China publicly disclosed the development of the waverider. The U.S. and Russia have been researching and testing waveriders since 2010.

AIR-BREATHING ENGINE IN BOEING’S X-51A WAVERIDER MAY PAVE THE WAY TO MACH 20 PLANES

China has been developing the aircraft for three years.( China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics)

Chinese officials said the design of the Starry Sky 2 took three years to develop, according to China Daily.

Besides military use, an unnamed official told the Global Times the technology may be adapted to a civilian role, including in industrial transport.

Italian bridge collapses in Genoa, killing at least 20, officials say

Nearly two dozen people — including a child — were killed when a raised highway in Genoa crumbled during a sudden and violent storm, sending several vehicles plunging to the ground where rescuers desperately searched for survivors.

Italy’s civil protection agency Angelo Borrelli said in a news conference that 20 people were killed and 13 others were injured when a650-foot section of the Morandi bridge collapsed over an industrial zone just after 12 p.m. local time. The bridge is part of the A10 highway that connects Italy to France.

Italian transport official Edoardo Rixi initially said 22 people were killed and eight were injured. Local reports, however, indicated the death toll could rise a rescue efforts continue.

The victims appear to all have been in vehicles when the structure crumbled beneath them, causing them to plunge nearly 300 feet to the ground, according to Borrelli. The concrete pieces also crushed two warehouses below, but officials believe no one was inside because the buildings were closed for summer holiday.

A view of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. A large section of the bridge collapsed over an industrial area in the Italian city of Genova during a sudden and violent storm, leaving vehicles crushed in rubble below. (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)

Several vehicles were involved in the bridge collapse.(AP)

About 20 vehicles were involved, firefighter AmaliaTedeschitoldRAIstate TV.

The transport minister, Danilo Toninelli, earlier said the collapse was likely "an enormous tragedy."

"We are following minute by minute the situation of the bridge collapse in Genoa," Interior Minister Matteo Salvini wrote on Twitter.

Tedeschi said two people were pulled from the rubble alive as rescuers searched the scene for survivors.

Rescues work among the debris of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. Italian authorities say that about 10 vehicles were involved when the raised highway collapsed during a sudden and violent storm in the northern port city of Genoa, while private broadcaster Sky TG24 said the collapsed section was about 200-meter long (650 feet). (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)

Rescues work among the debris of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa.(AP)

The exact cause of the collapse was unclear, though a witness said he saw lightning strike the structure, which fell apart soon after.

"It was just after 11:30 a.m. when we saw the lighting bolt hit the bridge and we saw the bridge go down," witness Pietro M. told ANSA.

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Vehicles were crushed under the rubble after the bridge in Genoa collapsed.(Italian state police)

Authorities earlier said they suspected there was a structural weakness.

Images posted by state police and witnesses showed a huge section of the bridge missing and crushed trucks and cars. Parts of the structure also landed on the rooftops of nearby buildings. Video captured the sound of a man screaming: "Oh, God, oh, God!"

Firefighters said they are concerned about gas lines in the area.

The bridge was inaugurated in 1967 and is about 0.6 miles long. It’s an interchange between the northern regions of Lombardy and Piedmont and the beaches of Liguria.

The collapse also occurred on the eve of Ferragosto, a major Italian holiday. Authorities said traffic on the bridge was expected to be higher than usual because many people travel to beaches or mountains during the holiday.

Two years before the deadly collapse, an engineer said the bridge was bound for disaster. Antonio Brencich, who is also a professor at the University of Genoa, said in July 2016 that there were problems with the structure, Ingegneri.info reported.

Italian professor warned of potential disaster 2 years before Genoa bridge collapse

A raised highway in the Italian city of Genoa crumbled to the ground Tuesday due to possible structural weaknesses exposed during a violent storm — and a professor may have predicted the disaster two years ago.

At least 20 people were killed and more than 10 others injured when the Morandi Bridge collapsed just after 12 p.m. Tuesday. Several vehicles were crushed amid the rubble as rescuers rushed to the scene to find survivors. About a 650-foot section of the bridge was obliterated.

The bridge, part of the A10 Highway that connects Italy and France, was inaugurated in 1967 and praised during its construction as the solution to a maddening traffic problem. Designed by engineer Riccardo Morandi, the bridge was a little longer than half-a-mile and nearly 300 feet high.

But the structure was constantly being repaired — despite being labeled a “masterpiece of engineering.” Antonio Brencich, an engineering professor at the University of Genoa, said in July 2016 the bridge must be replaced or rebuilt.

“The Morandi bridge is referred to as a masterpiece of engineering, in reality it is a bankruptcy,” Brencich said in an interview with primocanale.it. “There will be a time when maintenance costs will exceed those of reconstruction, and then we will have to proceed with the replacement.”

A view of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. A large section of the bridge collapsed over an industrial area in the Italian city of Genova during a sudden and violent storm, leaving vehicles crushed in rubble below. (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)

A view of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa.(AP)

ITALIAN BRIDGE COLLAPSES IN GENOA, KILLING AT LEAST 22, OFFICIAL SAYS

The raised highway had already went through significant maintenance in the 1980s and 1990s. Work to rebuild concrete structures and make the structure safer was being done before Tuesday’s disaster, Italy’s motorway operator Autostrade said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The works and state of the viaduct were under constant monitoring and supervision,” the statement said, according to Reuters.“The causes of the collapse will be thoroughly investigated as soon it is be safe to access the site.”

Rescues work among the debris of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. Italian authorities say that about 10 vehicles were involved when the raised highway collapsed during a sudden and violent storm in the northern port city of Genoa, while private broadcaster Sky TG24 said the collapsed section was about 200-meter long (650 feet). (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)

Rescuers work among the debris of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa.(AP)

Italian officials have already spent 80 percent of the money used for the bridge’s construction on the maintenance.

Brencich said there have been bridges that have stood for 100 years without any maintenance, proving the Morandi bridge is an “engineering failure.”

The raised highway is an interchange between the northern regions of Lombardy and Piedmont and the beaches of Liguria, where many people travel to during the holiday.

At least 26 dead in Italian bridge collapse, shining spotlight on aging infrastructure

More than two dozen people were killed and several others injured when an aging bridge in Genoa, Italy plummeted to the ground Tuesday, dragging down several vehicles driving across it, officials said.

Questions remain about what caused the devastating collapse of the Morandi Bridge, although some early speculation pointed to structural weakness.

An investigation into the deadly incident is underway, prosecutors said.

The bridge collapse was described by Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte as “an immense tragedy” that is “inconceivable in a modern system like ours, a modern country.”

While official death toll numbers varied throughout the day, officials in the Liguria region said Tuesday night that 26 people had died and 15 were injured. Two more bodies had been found amongst the debris, while one of the injured had died during surgery, officials said.

This photo released by the Italian firefighters, cars are seen among the rubble of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. A large section of the bridge collapsed over an industrial area in the Italian city of Genova during a sudden and violent storm, leaving vehicles crushed in rubble below. (Vigili Del Fuoco via AP)

In this photo released by the Italian firefighters, cars are seen among the rubble of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy on Tuesday.(Vigili Del Fuoco via AP)

The current maintenance required on the highway bridge, which was built 51 years ago, was up to date, Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said, citing the company who oversees the crumbled section. However, the bidding process for a substantial safety project for the bridge, worth $22.7 million, was set to begin soon, he said.

“There has not been sufficient maintenance and checks, and safety work for many bridges and viaducts and bridges in Italy constructed — almost all — during the 1960s,” he said.

ITALIAN PROFESSOR WARNED OF POTENTIAL DISASTER 2 YEARS BEFORE GENOA BRIDGE COLLAPSE

At least 30 cars and three heavy vehicles were on the portion of the bridge when it crumbled, Civil Protection authorities said. Several hundred responders were scouring the debris in an attempt to find survivors.

“Operations are ongoing to extract people imprisoned below parts of the bridge and twisted metal,” the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, Angelo Borrelli, said.

A view of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. A large section of the bridge collapsed over an industrial area in the Italian city of Genova during a sudden and violent storm, leaving vehicles crushed in rubble below. (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)

At least 30 cars and three heavy vehicles were on the portion of the bridge when it crumbled, Civil Protection authorities said.(Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)

One unidentified man, who had been standing beneath the bridge at the time, was thrown more than 30 feet and into a wall when it collapsed. He told The Associated Press it was “a miracle” that he was able to walk away with only injuries.

The bridge was inaugurated in 1967 and is about 0.6 miles long. It’s an interchange between the northern regions of Lombardy and Piedmont and the beaches of Liguria.

The collapse also occurred on the eve of Ferragosto, a major Italian holiday. Authorities said traffic on the bridge was expected to be higher than usual because many people travel to beaches or mountains during the holiday.

Burma’s Karen refugees face dwindling aid, struggle with depression and suicides

MAE LA, Thailand – More than 100,000 mostly ethnic Karen refugees from Burma – many Christians among them – are crammed into nine camps set out in isolated, misty hills of jungle terrain inside the border of Thailand.

The camps, which have been here for generations, are now rife with depression, substance abuse, and suicide – a taboo topic in Karen culture. Loved ones often refuse to discuss suicides, out of fear it will afflict another family member.

Yet the hushed-away problem figures only to worsen as camp conditions deteriorate, and donations from an international community that hears much more these days about persecuted Muslims in another Burmese minority group, the Rohingya, begin to dry up.

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A church for the Burmese Karen Christians on the grounds of the world’s largest refugee camp, Mae La in Thailand.(Fox News/Hollie McKay )

“There is an increased pressure on people as a result of the reductions (in aid),” said Hayso Thako, an education coordinator for the camps. “For the older people, they have been here so long they have lost hope of a better life. And for the young people who take their lives, there is no hope that they can see.”

Three years after their joint suicide, the legacy of two such youth still haunts the Karen.

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Two teenage Karen refugees take their own lives, signaling an uptick of suicides amid the bleak situation.(Provided to Fox News)

In March, 2015, Kyawsay and his girlfriend, Nawehkohloh, were teenagers in love. Members of the long-persecuted Burmese Karen minority, they were both born in the Mae La Oon refugee camp along the Burma-Thailand border. They knew nothing – and had never seen so much as a glimpse – of the world outside.

Ensnared by family conflicts, a lack of opportunity and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, the young lovers hung themselves side-by-side in a school classroom inside the camp grounds one afternoon.

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Options are limited for the Karen people, many of who have spent their entire lives confined to the camp grounds.(Fox News/Hollie McKay)

The tragic double-suicide rocked the refugee community. But it would not be first – nor the last – incidence of a refugee taking their life in what has become a growing problem.

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Depression among the refugee population is especially high among pregnant and post-partum mothers.(Fox News/Hollie McKay)

According to official data provided to Fox News, since 2015 some 60 refugees between the ages of 12 and 72 have committed suicide. Another 23 have attempted it.

It’s not hard to understand why.

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Frequent flash flooding during monsoon season is known to destroy what little livelihoods the Karen Burmese have in the refugee camps.(Fox News/Hollie McKay)

Established nearly 35 years ago, a faded “temporary” sign still adorns the entrance of the Mae La camp, the largest of the nine camps, and “home” to almost 40,000 Karen. Thousands of children were born and raised in the camps, then went on to have children of their own.

That’s produced multiple generations who have not been allowed to set foot beyond the barbed-wire barricades, as per Thai government regulations.

Visitors are also typically not permitted to enter the deeply secluded grounds. The refugees are considered stateless, and without a country to call their own, are generally forbidden from gaining Thai citizenship. They are also unable or unwilling to register as Burmese citizens, or obtain documentation from abroad.

That leaves the refugees with few options, though some do their best to pass the time.

Despite losing limbs and their eyesight to landmines, a group of Christian men being cared for in a small cement shelter have learned to weave and bead – making delicate hearts and crosses, keychains and jewels, which they sell for a few pennies to passers-by.“

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Honest (left) with other leaders of the Mae La camp lament the sharp reductions in funding that have occurred in recent years.(Fox News/Hollie McKay)

Jesus is our hope, our life,” the men sing in their native tongue, having formed their own gospel choir to pass the dark days and nights.

The camps frequently experience devastating flash floods in the wet season, which have claimed the lives of dozens of refugees – and obliterated fragile homes built with bamboo and banana leaves.

Worse, in recent years Karen refugees have seen their already limited monthly rations of rice, yellow split peas, fortified flour and fish paste fall by almost half.That figure is expected to drop even further in the coming months – worsening the already acute rate of malnutrition in the camp, according to the Mae La camp’s top official, who goes only by the first name of Honest.

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Mary’s children were born into the refugee camp and she fears they will never see the outside world.(Fox News/Hollie McKay)

He lamented that the drop in donor funding has have also meant Karens working in the camp – including teachers – have been reduced to taking a skeletal salary, with even that expected to dissipate come November. By next year, the higher education programs will have been cut from the budget too.

“Most have no opportunity to even make a small income for their family, they aren’t allowed to go outside to work,” continued Honest. “The international community likely thinks the situation in Burma is changing, that it is becoming peaceful and the Karen people can go home. But we cannot. There is still a lot of armed conflict, it is not safe. And even if the Burmese government says they are negotiating for our return, it is the Army in charge. At any time, the violence can start all over again.”

YEMEN’S CHILD SOLDIERS FACE LONG ROAD AFTER SEXUAL, PHYSICAL ABUSE

International donors have steadily bowed out in recent years, following Burmese government claims that it has achieved peace with the Karen. The aid money and attention was siphoned off by other international crises and, more recently, to the plight of the mostly Muslim Rohingya.

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Victims of landmines rely on their faith, and sing the gospel, to pass the day.(Fox News/Hollie McKay)

But despite the signing of a peace agreement in 2015 between the government and armed Karen groups, critics contend the apparent accord is superficial, and tensions below the surface are still boiling.

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Despite have lost limbs and their eyesight, Karen refugees make jewels and trinkets in the hopes of earning some spare change.(Fox News/Hollie McKay)

For many, the notion of going home is fraught with even more fear and pain.

Mary, a 44-year-old widowed mother of two boys – aged seven and 11 – fled the intense fighting in Burma after the Army set fire to her village just over 11 years ago. Her mother died along the road to the Thai border, and since that day Mary has shut off all memory of life before being rendered a refugee.

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Pastor Rev. Robert Htwa hopes they will soon be able to implement more wide-reaching psychological assistance for the Karen refugees.(Fox News/Hollie McKay)

ACTIVISTS MARK 30 YEARS AFTER BURMA UPRISING

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Inside the Mae La refugee camp.(Fox News/Hollie McKay)

“I’m afraid to go back. I cannot go back,” she explained. “We lost everything – there is no work, no land for us anymore. I do not remember anything from there anymore. I had to lose everything when I left.”

In addition to property, food, job and security concerns should they return to Burma, Karen refugees are also concerned about the inherent threat of landmines, unexploded ordnance and other remnants of war.

An International Rescue Committee (IRC)’s hospital – the only one on the expansive grounds – is filled to overflowing with patients. There is a shortage of trained medical staff, which is grapplles with outbreaks of dengue fever – spread by mosquito bites – which has already affected more than 100 children.

With immediate medical needs a top priority, the notion of adequate psychological assistance is a far away pipe dream.

Rev. Robert Htwa, one of the original camp founders and missionaries tending to the Karen, said some camps offer basic rehabilitation and counseling. But he stressed the funding cuts have meant only a small portion of those in need are able to receive even the most rudimentary help.

Depression, which is said to afflict around half the adults in the camp system, has brought with it drug addiction, and higher numbers of children are at risk of malnutrition and neglect.

Pregnant and post-partum women, too, are said to be among the highest portion of the refugee population suffering from depression and mental illness.

For now, life lingers in a forsaken limbo and the sense of sorrow is palpable.

“We don’t know what will happen,” Rev. Htwa added. “There is nowhere to go.”

US, Afghan forces battle Taliban in Ghazni

Although the Taliban overran a base in northern Afghanistan, and Afghan forces were battling insurgents for a fifth day in the eastern city of Ghazni on Tuesday, the U.S. military reported that the city “remains under Afghan government control.”

“What we observed as these Afghan-led operations drove a large portion of Taliban from the city over the last day or so, was the retreating Taliban attacking the more vulnerable surrounding districts, which Afghan forces are reinforcing,” Lt. Col. Martin L. O’Donnell, a U.S. Forces-Afghanistan spokesman, told Fox News. “That said, some Taliban forces remain in the city. These insurgent forces do not pose a threat to the city’s collapse.”

The U.S. and NATO formally concluded their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, but since have come to the aid of Afghan forces as they struggle to combat the resurgent Taliban.

“They never went away,” Marine veteran and author C.J. Chivers said about the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan on “The Story with Martha MacCallum.” He noted the war had “unrealistic goals.” He said the Afghan security forces weren’t up to standing alone: “The way we trained them often was too hasty, the equipment wasn’t enough and you don’t make a military in a few years” to fight the Taliban.

Surge catches U.S. troops off guard as President Trump authorizes $5 billion to train and equip Afghan forces; Pulitzer Prize-winning author C.J. Chivers reflects on the 17-year conflict on 'The Story.'

The Taliban besieged the base, which housed about 140 Afghan troops, for three days before the attack late Monday, said the local provincial council chief, Mohammad Tahir Rahmani.

Rahmani said the base fell to the Taliban after soldiers ran out of ammo, food and water. He said 43 troops were killed and wounded in the attack but did not give a breakdown.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack, saying 57 Afghan soldiers had surrendered to the Taliban while 17 others were captured. He said eight military Humvees were seized.

The attack on Ghazni came as a shock,The Washington Post reported, because the Taliban used massive force, which included non-Afghan Islamist fighters, and the assault showed signs of long-term planning.

“The Taliban who have hidden themselves amongst the Afghan populace do pose a threat to the civilian population, who were terrorized and harassed,” O’Donnell said.

The fighting has brought civilian life to a standstill, with most residents sheltering indoors.

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The U.S. military reports, “Ghazni City remains under Afghan government control.” The U.S. and NATO formally concluded their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, but have since come to the aid of Afghan forces as they struggle to combat the resurgent Taliban.

The Red Cross said roughly 20 percent of the city’s population depends on the municipal water system, which has been down since the start of the fighting. It said it had organized an effort to truck in water, serving 18,000 people.

“The Taliban, who falsely and repeatedly claim that they do not target civilians, have executed innocents, destroyed homes, burned a market and created the conditions for a potential humanitarian crisis with this attack,” O’Donnell said. “Clearly the Taliban have paid no heed to the calls of the Afghan people for them to reconcile and join the peace process.”

In Ghazni, meanwhile, Afghan forces battled the Taliban on the outskirts five days after the insurgents launched a massive attack on it. Hundreds of people have fled the fighting in the city, which has so far killed about 100 members of the Afghan security forces and at least 20 civilians.

Nasart Rahimi, a deputy spokesman at the Interior Ministry, said security forces were combing Ghazni on Tuesday, searching for any remaining Taliban fighters. Military helicopters were supporting the ground operations, said Abdul Karim Arghandiwal, a military media officer in southeastern Afghanistan.

On Friday, the insurgents overwhelmed defenses and pushed deep into the city, which is just 75 miles from the capital, Kabul. The United States has carried out airstrikes, and sent military advisers to aid Afghan forces in the city of 270,000 people.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the Taliban’s use of civilian homes as fighting positions is forcing Afghan government forces to move slowly in expelling the insurgents from Ghazni.

Mattis told reporters Tuesday during a visit to Brazil and Argentina that the attacks reveal nothing new about Taliban capabilities. He said those attacks show the Taliban forces remain focused on fighting among civilians.

Parents of missing journalist Austin Tice tell Fox News they’re ‘confident’ he’s still alive

The parents of freelance journalist Austin Tice told Fox News Wednesday night that they have “confidence” that their son is still alive, six years after he vanished under frightening circumstances in Syria.

Tice, who would now be 37 years old, disappeared in 2012 after stopping at a checkpoint in Syria while on his way into Lebanon. Five weeks after his disappearance, a video surfaced showing Tice blindfolded and being held by armed men. That was the last time Tice was seen alive.

Marc and Debra Tice told Fox News’ Martha MacCallum they have “confidence” that their son is still alive and waiting to come home.

“We know he’s waiting for us to do whatever it takes to get him home free, we just can’t wait for that day,” Marc saidon “The Story.”

He also said that those involved with bringing Tice home also have that same “confidence” that he’s still alive.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Tuesday at a briefing that U.S. investigators “believe him to be alive.”

Nauert continued, “We remain deeply concerned about his well-being and we’re actively working to bring Austin Tice home.”

While the identities of his apparent kidnappers remain murky, investigators fear they may have links to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime, as The Washington Post noted.

Tice’s parents also praised the current administration’s efforts to find their son.

“We really do admire this administration’s commitment to bringing Americans home, they certainly got a good track record so far and we really look forward to the day where we see Austin be another one of their wins,” Debra said.

“We have a high level of confidence” in the current administration, Marc added.

Missing journalist's family speaks out for the first time

Further information regarding Tice’s whereabouts and the identity of his captures has remained intentionally unknown. The FBI recently offered a $1 million ewward for information leading directly to his “safe location, recovery and return.”

Syria has proven to be an especially dangerous country for reporters. Of the 54 journalists believed to be held hostage around the world, 29 are in Syria, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Michelle Bachelet, socialist ex-president of Chile, is tapped for UN human rights post

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has nominated socialist ex-President Michelle Bachelet of Chile to be the next human rights chief, the U.N. said Wednesday.

Spokesman Farhan Haq said that Guterres has informed the General Assembly of the nomination for high commissioner of human rights.

Bachelet served as president of Chile twice, from 2006-10 and from 2014-18. Between those terms, she was executive director of the U.N body for gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The pick came after High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein chose not to seek another term in office. Zeid was known for his fiery rhetoric, particularly against President Trump, who he once compared to the Islamic State.

The U.S. has been pushing back against what it sees as anti-Israel and anti-U.S. bias at the U.N. Last month, the U.S. announced its withdrawal from the Human Rights Council — with Ambassador Nikki Haley deriding it as a “cesspool of political bias.” While the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) and the HRC are separate bodies, they work together in promoting the U.N.’s agenda on human rights.

Haley reacted to the nomination by saying that it was incumbent on Bachelet to "avoid the failures of the past."

"The UN has failed to adequately address major human rights crises in Iran, North Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and elsewhere, or stop its chronic, disproportionate obsession with Israel," she said in a statement. "It is up to Ms. Bachelet to speak out against these failures rather than accept the status quo. We hope that she does. The United States will."

SENIOR U.N. OFFICIAL BLASTED FOR FLOATING ISRAEL’S SUSPENSION FROM WORLD BODY

Bachelet ended her first term as president with high approval ratings and a strong economy. But her second term was marred byallegationsof corruption and a sluggish economy — sending her approval ratings plummeting.

AWall Street Journalop-ed this year described her as leaving behind “a legacy of economic malaise.”

Former Obama-era U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power reacted to initial reports of Bachelet’s pick with approval, calling her a “strong choice” and noting that she and her family were persecuted under dictator Augusto Pinochet.

“In addition to being a successful two-term president and experienced w/in @UN, Bachelet has a lifelong commitment to the cause of human rights. Her father was tortured under Pinochet & died in custody. She and her mom were also arrested and beaten,” she said. “She’s a fighter.”

But U.N. Watch, an independent monitoring group based in Switzerland, expressed “serious concerns” about what it called her “spotty” record on supporting human rights in countries such as Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

"There’s no question that the former Chilean president is a highly educated and intelligent politician, who also brings important negotiating skills," said Executive Director Hillel Neuer in a statement. "But she has a controversial record when it comes to her support for the human rights abusing governments who rule Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, and we need to know how she plans to address these urgent situations before her nomination is voted upon."

U.N. Watch cited a controversial visit by Bachelet to Cuba this year, where she met Raul Castro without also meeting any members of the opposition.

The organization also said that she praised deceased Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez for “his most profound love for his people and the challenges of our region to eradicate poverty and generate a better life for everyone and his profound love for Latin America.”

Bachelet’s nomination will now go to the U.N. General Assembly for approval.

Gunmen attack Afghan intelligence compound in Kabul, report says

An undetermined number of gunmen on Thursday stormed the country’s intelligence service compound in Kabul, a witness at the scene told the Associated Press. The attack comes one day after a suicide bombing killed 34 in a Shiite area in the city. No one has claimed responsibility for either attack. This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Russia’s nuclear arsenal: All bark and no bite?

Amid fears of a new cold war, an examination of Russia’s nuclear arsenal by Fox News shows that there may be no need to worry about a devastating attack on the U.S.

Nuclear warfare experts say that Russia’s arsenal of nukes is strictly for defense, and that while Moscow has a "first strike" option, it isn’t likely to use it. In fact, a pre-emptive strike would not be very effective, according to military experts.

"Because we have this nuclear triad, the U.S. relies more on naval components, and for Russia, it’s mostly land-based," Omar Lamrani, a senior military expert with Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence platform, tells Fox News. He adds that the naval part of the nuclear triad — the triad is a military force structure consisting of nuclear weapons launched from land, naval submarines and strategic aircraft — is at an advantage over Russia due to its weak military.

“Because they have a weaker navy, they tend to use a more defensive strategy,” Lamrani says. “It gives them the ability to compensate for those primary military weaknesses.”

The Russian military operates on a fraction of the sum that supports U.S. forces, spending $69.2 billion annually compared with a much larger American war chest of $554.2 billion. While there are, numerically, more Russian land forces than U.S. troops, Russia’s air and naval forces are considerably less robust, making its overall military structure much weaker.

Many of Russia’s nuclear warheads can only be deployed from land-based systems.(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation Strategic Missile Forces)

Lamrani also suggests that Russia wants New START – Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty — to stay in effect and keep a level playing field with the U.S. as it gives Moscow a seat at the table of global diplomacy. The treaty between the U.S. and Russia has been extended about three times since it was ratified back in 2010 as a revision of the previous pact. Under New START, the number of strategic nuclear warheads are to be reduced by half; the treaty also limits the number of deployed strategic warheads to 1,500.

If the treaty were lifted, Russia would not be able to build up its arsenal and would be placed at a severe disadvantage, the military analyst says.

“If there are no limits on nuclear weapons, Russia would not be able to compete with the U.S.,” Lamrani says. “New START gives them a bargaining position.”

Other nuclear experts say that if there were an escalation between the U.S. and Russia, it could still be a tough-to-contain situation.

“There are no winners. That’s the widely agreed-upon conclusion,” Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, tells Fox News, “If things begin to escalate and escalate out of control, we very quickly get into significant exchanges of nuclear weapons. We’re talking about many hundreds of nukes fired back and forth.”

“So you could try to put X’s on the maps and see how quickly that becomes an overwhelming amount of destruction, and of course collateral damage with radioactive fallout.”

Kristensen also says that a comparison of today’s arsenals with those of the Cold War is a poor one. "When we hear governments talking about the size of their stockpiles, they often compare them to the Cold War,” he says. “U.S. government officials will say ‘[Our stockpile is] less than 4,000 today; we haven’t had that little since the Eisenhower years.’”

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation Strategic Missile Forces)

“And of course the point is just that, yes, there are fewer than there were during the Cold War, but the weapons we have today are immensely more effective than those in the Eisenhower years. It’s a very poor comparison because you could do a lot more with what you have today.”

The nuclear scientist points out that a half-dozen other countries — France, China, the United Kingdom, Israel, Pakistan and India—building up their nukes collectively over the last half of the 20th century raised the number of nukes globally. While the Cold War nuclear players have decreased, other countries like North Korea are increasing the size of their forces. Kristensen adds that he believes the biggest nuclear threat is more than likely a regional scenario like India and Pakistan, or the Korean Peninsula. Such a conflict would likely draw larger nuclear powers in.

"So now you can imagine a scenario where the U.S. doesn’t get involved through their own nuclear conflict, but through a regional scenario where it would then have to commit nuclear forces," Kristensen said. And if the U.S. gets involved, he adds, you can expect that "someone like China or Russia might come along to defend the other side.”

With New START set to expire in 2021, Kristensen says that the most contentious issue is likely to be whether it will be extended for another five years. Failure to do so, he adds, could turn this debate a contentious global issue.

“I think if New START is allowed to expire, it would mean for the first time since the ‘70s we would have no limits, no constraints on U.S. and Russian strategic forces,” He says. “That’s a much more serious issue because of the enormous capacity of these strategic forces, and also they’re much more directly threatening to both countries. INF [Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty] weapons don’t directly threaten the U.S. and Russia because of the range issue. They threaten regions and allies.”