A Filipino fisherman in front of the USS Green Bay during a landing exercise on a beach in Zambales province on April 21, 2015, as part of annual Philippine-US joint maneuvers some 137 miles east of the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. 
Credit: TED ALJIBE

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NEED TO KNOW

It’s no secret that China despises the pesky US drones and spy planes circling above the South China Sea, seen by Beijing as the nation’s aquatic backyard. But now the People’s Republic of China can do more than tell American pilots to buzz off. It can more easily blow them right out of the sky.

Sometime last week, according to officials from the US and Taiwan, China appears to have placed surface-to-air missiles right in the middle of the planet’s most contested waters. The have a range of roughly 125 miles, GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Patrick Winn reports.

The missiles are parked on Woody Island, a crumb of land in a chain of islands claimed by both Vietnam and Taiwan but effectively dominated by China. China is quickly transforming the island into a beacon of power that exerts supremacy over practically the entire sea — a zone contested by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and others. 

The US, forever seeking to thwart China’s dominance, has stepped in as the de facto navy for these lesser powers that are hopelessly outgunned by China. American warships and spy planes have been repeatedly deployed near remote islands claimed by China — all acts that have steadily enraged Beijing. Those US drones and surveillance jets are now squarely within China's sights.

Outright conflict between China and the US — two great powers with tightly intertwined economies — is still highly unlikely. But with Chinese missiles aimed at the skies above the South China Sea, the US may have to think harder about conducting surveillance flights that infuriate the Chinese.

WANT TO KNOW

Four American journalists were released from police custody in Bahrain on Tuesday after being held by authorities, apparently for reporting on anti-government protests. That's good. But meanwhile, local journalists remain stuck in prisons there.

Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Fleet, has a habit of detaining foreign journalists as they try to report on unrest in the country, though most are usually released or deported relatively quickly. The same is not true for Bahraini journalists, many of whom have spent years in jail for reporting critically on the government, GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Richard Hall reports.

"Today, the tiny island of Bahrain has become one of the leading jailers of journalists in the world per capita," said Jason Stern, a senior researcher for the Middle East and North Africa with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). 

"The American journalists now get to go home, thanks much in part to a tremendous international outcry. But for the Bahraini journalists who remain behind bars, who will speak out for them? These journalists face a myriad of charges like participating in illegal protests, attacking security forces, or attempting to overthrow the government. But the real crime they have committed is journalism. "

There are currently seven journalists imprisoned in Bahrain, according to CPJ.

STRANGE BUT TRUE

If the truth was out there, these guys couldn't find it.

It's time to bid farewell to Argentina's Commission for the Study of Aerospace Phenomena (CEFAE), a real-life "X-Files" unit launched in 2011 by Argentina's controversial former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Its marching orders: Investigate reports of UFOs on national territory. 

The CEFAE has just filed its final — and only — report on the 10 UFO investigations it carried out during its nearly five years of activity.

If that sounds like an unimpressive investigative record, GlobalPost correspondent Simeon Tegel warns, don't get your hopes up for the findings.

The meager 12-page report found that nine of the 10 UFO sightings reported were in fact a soccer ball, a helicopter, a bird, the red lights on top of an antenna, the planet Jupiter, the moon, a star, an airplane and, in one case, a combination of a satellite, a Russian part of NASA’s International Space Station and a star. In the 10th case, the report noted: “Unfortunately, it has not been resolved due to the witness not providing any photo or video to accompany their report.”

As they say, good enough for government work.

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