britain,-france-send-ships-to-jersey-island

Britain, France send ships to Jersey Island

Britain and France sent navy and coastal patrol ships to waters near the Channel island of Jersey yesterday as tensions spiralled between the two neighbours over post-Brexit fishing rights. 

The posturing by the historic rivals was sparked by a protest by 50-70 French fishing boats, which gathered outside Jersey’s main port yesterday morning, raising fears of a blockade.

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That prompted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to send two royal navy gunboats to the area, with France following suit with two of its own coast patrol vessels.

“We won’t be intimidated by these manoeuvres,” French Europe Minister Clement Beaune told AFP.

The latest flare-up has been caused by a dispute over fishing rights and licensing following Britain’s departure from the European Union.

At dawn, French trawlers could be seen massed in front of the Saint Helier port on Jersey, a self-governing territory that is dependent on Britain for defence.

Jersey lies just off France’s northern coast and its rich fishing waters were previously open to French boats.

In the run up to the protest, French fishermen had been loudly complaining about new licensing requirements announced by Jersey authorities.

The escalating tensions landed on the front pages of most British newspapers.

“Boris sends gunboats into Jersey,” read a Daily Mail headline, while The Daily Telegraph said Johnson had sent the navy to the island to “face the French”.   

blinken-urges-russia-to-stop-being-‘reckless’

Blinken urges Russia to stop being ‘reckless’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken yesterday called on Russia to cease “reckless and aggressive actions” against Ukraine, saying that Moscow has kept “significant forces” near the border. 

“We stand strongly with you… and we look to Russia to cease reckless and aggressive actions,” Blinken told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev.

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Blinken’s one-day visit comes after Russia last month amassed 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders, the biggest mobilisation since Moscow seized the majority-Russian peninsula of Crimea in 2014 and war broke out in eastern Ukraine.

But Russia quickly announced a pullback after the latest buildup, leading some experts to believe President Vladimir Putin was testing the will of Biden while seeking to intensify pressure on Ukraine.

Despite Russia’s troop drawdown, Zelensky during the press briefing with Blinken said his country remains under Russian military threat.

“We’re aware that Russia has withdrawn some forces from the border with Ukraine, but we also see that significant forces remain there,” Blinken said.

“We’ll continue to strengthen our security partnership and in-flux collaboration with you to make sure Ukraine can defend itself against aggression,” he added.

impose-un-arms-embargo-on-myanmar

Impose UN arms embargo on Myanmar

More than 200 civil society groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, called on the UN Security Council on Wednesday to impose an arms embargo on Myanmar to help protect civilians peacefully protesting a military coup. 

Since the military seized power on Feb. 1 and ousted an elected government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar has seen daily protests and a surge of violence with security forces killing hundreds of civilians.

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“Imposing a global arms embargo on Myanmar is the minimum necessary step the Security Council should take in response to the military’s escalating violence,” the civil society groups from around the world said in a joint statement.

However, diplomats say such a move by the 15-member Security Council is unlikely because China and Russia.

“We are not in favor of imposing sanctions and we do take it as the last resort in tackling conflicts,” China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun said on Monday when asked whether Beijing would support stronger UN Security Council action on Myanmar.

Since the coup the Council has held several closed briefings on the situation and issued statements expressing concern and condemning violence against protesters.

“The time for statements has passed. The Security Council should take its consensus on Myanmar to a new level and agree on immediate and substantive action,” the civil society groups said. “Myanmar’s people cannot afford to wait any longer for the Security Council to take action.”   

spacex-finally-lands-starship-rocket

SpaceX finally lands Starship rocket

SpaceX managed to land its prototype Starship rocket at its Texas base without blowing it up on Wednesday, the first time it has succeeded in doing so in five attempts. 

The test flight represents a major win for the hard-charging company, which eventually wants to carry crew inside Starship for missions to Mars.

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“Starship landing nominal!” tweeted founder Elon Musk triumphantly, after the last four tries ended in big explosions.

“Nominal” means normal in the context of spaceflight.

The execution wasn’t quite perfect, with a small fire engulfing the base of the 50 meter- (160 feet-) high rocket, dubbed SN15, shortly after landing.

SpaceX webcaster John Insprucker explained this was “not unusual with the methane fuel we’re using,” adding engineers were still working out design issues.

The flames were quickly put out with water cannons, footage showed.

Earlier, the rocket took off at around 5:25 pm local time (2225 GMT) from the Starbase in Boca Chica in southern Texas, reached an altitude of 10 kilometers (6 miles) and performed a series of maneuvers, including a horizontal descent called a “belly flop.”

SpaceX was facing added pressure to succeed with Wednesday’s flight after NASA last month announced a version of Starship will be used as a lunar lander when the space agency returns humans to the Moon.

But the $2.9 billion contract is currently suspended after two rival companies, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Dynetics, lodged a protest.

Nevertheless, if the award is eventually confirmed, it will transform Starship from Musk’s pet project to a major tax payer-funded venture, with all the scrutiny that entails.

The first two flight tests of Starship, SN8 and SN9, both crash landed and exploded when they launched in December and February, respectively.

The next, SN10, successfully landed then blew up a few minutes later on March 3.    

india’s-neighbours-close-borders-over-virus-scare

India’s neighbours close borders over virus scare

Sri Lanka yesterday became the latest of India’s neighbours to seal its borders with the South Asian giant as it battles a record coronavirus surge. 

Bangladesh and Nepal have also banned flights and sought to close their borders with India, where a huge rise in numbers in the past three weeks has taken deaths past 230,000 and cases over 21 million.

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All three countries are fighting their own pandemic surges, which Red Cross leaders have described as a “human catastrophe”.

The Sri Lankan government banned flight passengers from India entering, as the country reported its highest daily toll of 14 deaths and 1,939 infections in 24 hours.

Sri Lanka’s navy said it had stepped up patrols to keep away Indian trawlers, adding that on Tuesday it stopped 11 such vessels which had crossed the narrow strip of sea dividing the two neighbours.

Bangladesh halted all international flights on April 14 because of its own surge and shut its border with India on April 26.

It has reported 11,755 Covid-19 deaths and 767,338 cases, but experts say the real figures are higher in all South Asian countries.

Bangladesh has had 10 million vaccine doses from India, but the supply has been halted and the government is now negotiating to get Chinese jabs.

Nepal suspended international flights a week ago, until May 14. Border crossings are only allowing starnded Nepalis to return home.

Many hospitals, specially bordering India, in Nepal are overflowing with Covid-19 patients, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan are all experiencing record Covid-19 death rates, it added.

Even the luxury tourist destination of the Maldives has tightened restrictions for Indian visitors, insisting on negative test results on entry.

India is the largest tourist market for Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Sri Lanka has reported 117,529 infections with 734 deaths since the start of the pandemic. The Maldives has reported 32,665 cases with 74 deaths.   

taliban-capture-key-afghan-dam-as-fighting-escalates

Taliban capture key Afghan dam as fighting escalates

The Taliban have captured Afghanistan’s second-biggest dam after months of fierce fighting in their former bastion of Kandahar, the insurgents and officials said yesterday. 

Dahla Dam, which provides irrigation to farmers via a network of canals as well as drinking water for the provincial capital, was now under Taliban control, local officials told AFP.

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“We have seized the Dahla Dam in Arghandab,” Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP. Haji Gulbuddin, governor of an adjacent district, confirmed the dam “is now in the control of the Taliban.

The dam’s capture comes after clashes erupted in neighbouring Helmand province this week, just days after the US military formally began withdrawing its remaining troops from Afghanistan.

Dahla was built by the United States nearly 70 years ago to provide water for irrigating land in about seven districts of Kandahar.

In neighbouring Helmand, thousands of people have fled their homes in the face of a massive Taliban offensive against government forces.

US warplanes have been providing air support for the Afghan forces despite the drawdown of foreign troops.

Meanwhile, a high-profile Afghan television journalist was shot dead in southern Kandahar city yesterday, officials said, a day after the Taliban warned against “biased reporting” by the media.

Nemat Rawan was until last month a popular talk show host with the country’s leading broadcaster Tolo News, before joining the ministry of finance as a communications specialist.

There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, but the Taliban have been blamed for a wave of assassinations targeting journalists in recent months.

On Wednesday, a Taliban spokesman warned that media workers who carry out “biased reporting” would be “held responsible”.

Members of Afghanistan’s educated class — including journalists, activists and judges — have for months been the target of bombings and shootings, forcing many to go into hiding or leave the country.

At least 11 Afghan journalists were killed in 2020, with four more reportedly murdered this year, according to a recent toll from Amnesty International.

The United States was supposed to have pulled all forces out by May 1 under a deal struck with the Taliban last year, but Washington pushed back the date to September 11 — a move that angered the insurgents.

former-maldives-president-mohamed-nasheed-hurt-in-blast-outside-home:-local-media

Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed hurt in blast outside home: Local media

File photo of police and Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) personnel cordoning off an area suspecting an explosive inside the engine compartment of a parked broken car in Male, Maldives. (AP)



Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed was injured in a blast outside his home today, local media reported.

Images from state TV channel PSM showed security services securing the scene of the incident in the capital Male. A foreign tourist was also injured, the channel reported.

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A spokesman for Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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rio-de-janeiro-shootout-leaves-record-25-people-dead,-police-say

Rio de Janeiro shootout leaves record 25 people dead, police say

At least 25 people, including at least one police officer, were killed in Rio de Janeiro today in a shootout during a police raid targeting drug traffickers in the city’s Jacarezinho neighborhood, according to civil police.

It was the highest-ever death toll from a police raid in the state, which has for decades suffered from drug-related violence.

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“This is the highest number of deaths in a police operation in Rio, surpassing 19 in Complexo do Alemão in 2007,” said Chief of Police Ronaldo Oliveira.

“Only in that one we didn’t lose anyone. Now, a police officer has died, which is a great loss for us,” he said.

Two passengers on a metro train were also wounded in the crossfire in the northern Rio neighborhood, according to the fire brigade, which said they were not seriously hurt.

Jacarezinho is a poor neighborhood with few public services, known as a favela.

Aerial TV footage showed suspects fleeing police by jumping between rooftops in search of an escape route, while policemen were forced to disembark from armored vehicles to pass several barricades erected in the streets.

According to police, helicopters located the gang’s headquarters in Jacarezinho and at least 10 suspects were arrested. Police sources said gang leaders were likely among the dead.

germany-rejects-us-proposal-to-waive-patents-on-covid-19-vaccines

Germany rejects US proposal to waive patents on Covid-19 vaccines

Germany today rejected a US proposal to waive patent protection for Covid-19 vaccines, saying the greatest constraints on production were not intellectual property but increasing capacity and ensuring quality.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday voiced support for a waiver in a sharp reversal of the U.S. position, and his top trade negotiator, Katherine Tai, swiftly backed negotiations at the World Trade Organization.

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The German government stood behind the goal of a worldwide supply of COVID-19 vaccines, a government spokeswoman said, adding however that the main factors in vaccine production are capacity and quality standards, and not patents.

“The protection of intellectual property is a source of innovation and must remain so in the future,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.

She said Germany supported the COVAX initiative, with the aim of ensuring that as many people in the world as possible have access to vaccines, adding that discussions were continuing at the WTO.

The WTO said in April that of 700 million vaccines administered around the world, only 0.2% had been in low-income countries. A recent surge of infections in India, the world’s second most populous country, has underlined the point.

The European Union is willing to discuss a proposal to waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday, as drugmakers fought their ground. 

us-space-command-tracks-chinese-rocket-for-uncontrolled-re-entry-from-orbit

US Space Command tracks Chinese rocket for uncontrolled re-entry from orbit

Remnants of a large Chinese rocket launched last week are expected to plunge back through the atmosphere this weekend in an uncontrolled re-entry being tracked by US Space Command, the US military said on Wednesday.

The Long March 5B rocket blasted off from China’s Hainan island on April 29 carrying the Tianhe module, which contains what will become living quarters for three crew on a permanent Chinese space station. The Tianhe launch was the first of 11 missions needed to complete the station.

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The rocket’s exact point of descent into Earth’s atmosphere as it falls back from space “cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its reentry,” which is projected to occur around May 8, Space Command said in a statement posted online.

Harvard-based astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell said potentially dangerous debris will likely escape incineration after streaking through the atmosphere at hypersonic speed but in all likelihood would fall into the sea, given that 70% of the world is covered by ocean.

There is a chance that pieces of the rocket could come down over land, perhaps in a populated area, as in May 2020, when pieces from another Chinese Long March 5B rocket rained down on the Ivory Coast, damaging several buildings, though no injuries were reported, McDowell told Reuters.

The 18th Space Control Squadron at Vandenberg Air Force Base, about 160 miles (257 km) northwest of Los Angeles, is tracking the spent rocket, plotting updates on its location as it descends, the US Space Command said.

The squadron tracks more than 27,000 man-made objects in space, most of them in low orbit, it said.

The Global Times, a Chinese tabloid published by the official People’s Daily, characterized reports that the rocket is “out of control” and could cause damage as “Western hype.” The situation is “not worth panicking about,” it said, citing industry insiders.

“Most of the debris will burn up during re-entry … leaving only a very small portion that may fall to the ground, which will potentially land on areas away from human activities or in the ocean,” Wang Yanan, chief editor of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

McDowell, a member of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said the rocket’s main stage core, believed to weigh about 21 tons, would likely break into a shower of debris equivalent to that of a small plane crash and come down in a narrow trail stretching about 100 miles.

Based on its current orbit, the debris trail is likely to fall somewhere as far north as New York, Madrid or Beijing and as far south as southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand, or anywhere in between, McDowell said.

McDowell said most countries have sought to design spacecraft in such a way as to avoid large, uncontrolled re-entries, since large chunks of the NASA space station Skylab fell from orbit in July 1979 and landed in Australia.

“It makes the Chinese rocket designers look lazy that they didn’t address this,” he said, calling the situation “negligent.”