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Syria and Refugee Crisis to Dominate the upcoming UN Meetings in New York

The second UN meeting will be hosted by President Barack Obama on Tuesday

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United Nations headquarters in New York, seen from the East River. Source- Wikimedia commons
  • The meetings at New York will be on various important humanitarian issues but the war in Syria and the refugee crisis which has overwhelmed neighboring countries and Europe will dominate the meeting
  • U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Sheba Crocker hopes that the summit will result in significant new, sustained commitments to U.N. humanitarian appeals, expanded refugee resettlement programs or alternative legal pathways for admission
  • This will be the last General Assembly meeting for Ban Ki-moon as the Secretary-General of the United Nations. His decade-long tenure ends on December 31, 2016

The war in Syria and the refugee crisis it has created are expected to dominate the agenda at the annual U.N. meetings with world leaders in New York next week.

Leaders want to limit the spillover from the Syrian war. Mainly, the human exodus to overwhelmed neighboring countries and Europe. They will discuss the issue at two summits focusing on refugees. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon will host the first meeting on Monday.

“More countries must resettle more people who have been forced from their homes. More countries must recognize the benefits of migration. And everyone, everywhere, must stand up against the animosity that so many refugees, migrants, and minority communities face,” said Ban.

President Barack Obama will host the second summit on Tuesday. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Sheba Crocker expects action on humanitarian issues.

“We expect that the summit will result in significant new, sustained commitments to U.N. humanitarian appeals, expanded refugee resettlement programs or alternative legal pathways for admission,” said Crocker.

Syrian refugees board a Jordanian army vehicle at the Rakban refugee camp. Source-VOA
Syrian refugees board a Jordanian army vehicle at the Rakban refugee camp.
Source-VOA

But there is skepticism from some, such as Richard Gowan of Columbia University, that either summit will do much to improve the situation of the nearly 5 million Syrians who have fled their homeland.

“The only way you solve the Syrian crisis is a political deal. I’m sure there will be some talk about that at the General Assembly, but Vladimir Putin is not coming to New York, and if Putin is not here, you cannot have serious talks about Syria,” said Gowan.

The United States and Russia agreed to a deal earlier this month for a cease-fire and on getting aid into Syria. The two countries also plan to cooperate on targeting terrorists, including the so-called Islamic State. Whether that deal is working or failing will likely shape discussions in New York.

The U.N. Security Council will hold a high-level session Wednesday, intended to put the spotlight on Syria, but expectations for results are low.

“The reality is decisions about Syria are made in Washington, Moscow, and Iran — not in the Security Council chamber,” said Gowan.

The rest of the week will be dominated by leaders’ speeches in the General Assembly.

Some big names like Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Angela Merkel will be absent. It will be President Obama’s final time as U.S. president at the international gathering, and his speech will likely lay out his multilateralism legacy.

It will also be Ban Ki-moon’s final General Assembly as U.N. chief. His decade-long tenure ends on December 31.(VOA)

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An Out-of-control Chinese Space Station is Falling Towards The Earth! Should we be Worrying About Tiangong-1?

Scientists speculate that parts of Tiangong-1, weighing as much as 100kg may crash on the Earth’s surface.

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Tiangong-1
Tiangong-1 was used for multiple manned and un-manned space missions before authorities lost control of the Chinese space station (representative image) Wikimedia

China, October 16, 2017: An out of control Chinese space station, weighing 8.5 tonnes, is falling towards the Earth and will crash land on the surface within a few months, experts say.

The Chinese space laboratory, Tiangong-1, or the ‘Heavenly Palace’ was launched in 2011, symbolic of the hopes of the Chinese ambitions in space. It was also believed to be a stepping stone to establish China as a global ‘space’ superpower.

Tiangong-1 was used for multiple space missions, some of which even included astronauts – the space station was also visited by the first female astronaut from China, Liu Yang, in 2012.

Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell has now revealed that the space station is descending quickly to the earth and will crash on the planet’s surface ‘soon’.

The ‘Out of Control’ Tiangong-1

Scientists had long speculated the strange behavior of Tiangong-1. Finally, in 2016, officials at China’s CNSA space agency had confirmed that they had lost complete manned control of Tiangong-1 and that the space station would now be descending towards the Earth.

According to The Guardian, McDowell was quoted as saying “(we) expect it will come down a few months from now – late 2017 or early 2018.” 

Where Will Tiangong-1 Crash?

At the moment, is practically impossible for scientists and engineers to confirm about the precise landing site as the capsule is completely beyond human control.

Researchers believe the descent is now going to be guided and influenced by the wind.

The industry enthusiast Jonathan McDowell had previously told The Guardian that even a slight change in the atmospheric conditions could push the landing site “from one continent to the next.”

Does The Crash-Landing of Tiangong-1 Pose A Threat To Life?

Tiangong-1 is expected to hit the Earth’s surface is late 2017 or early 2018.

Scientists are also examining the possibility of the debris from the craft causing casualties upon landing. While most of the craft is expected to burn up in the atmosphere, parts weighing as much as 100kg can be expected to crash on the Earth’s surface.

ALSO READ China launched its 1st unmanned Cargo Spacecraft on a mission to dock with the country’s space station

The possibility of the debris from Tiangong-1 falling in populated regions cannot be precisely calculated, however authorities believe that is likely to not happen.

In May this year, China had additionally informed the United Nations “Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space” that the descent of the space craft will be closely monitored and the United Nations will be duly informed when it takes it final plunge.

Tiangong-1 will not be the first to descend from the space with parts of the debris falling on the Earth. Previously,

  • 1979: NASA’s gigantic Skylab space station, weighing 77-tonne uncontrollably shot down to the Earth with large chunks of the craft landing near Perth in Western Australia.
  • 1991: Soviet Union’s Salyut 7 space station, weighing 20-tonne had crashed to the Earth while it was still docked to another spacecraft called Cosmos 1686 and had broken up over Argentina, throwing debris all over the town Capitán Bermúdez.

Tiangong-1 had been launched on 29 September, 2011, as a long-term mission, with an aim to establish a Chinese outpost in space. However, the out of control Chinese space station is now expected to crash land on the Earth ‘soon’.

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Deadly Blast Jostles Somalia , President Declares Three Days of National Mourning

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but similar attacks have been carried out by the Islamic extremist group al Shabab

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A Somali soldier helps a civilian who was wounded in a blast in the capital of Mogadishu, Somalia. VOA

Somalia, October 15, 2017 : Somalia’s president has declared three days of national mourning following a deadly truck bombing Saturday in the capital, Mogadishu, which left many people dead and dozens injured, including a VOA reporter.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo said the country “will observe three days of mourning for innocent victims and flags will be flown at half-mast.”

Farmaajo also called on citizens to unite against terror, saying it is “time to unite and pray together. Terror won’t win.”

Blast
Somalis gather and search for survivors by destroyed buildings at the scene of a blast in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia. VOA

Earlier Saturday, the blast occurred near Zobe, a busy intersection in Somalia’s capital, killing more than 50 people, health officials and witnesses said.

Dead, injured

Mahad Salad Adan, a Somali lawmaker who sustained a slight wound from the blast, told VOA that more than 100 people, most of them civilians, were killed in the explosion. He said more 200 others were wounded as Mogadishu hospitals struggled to treat the wounded.

Abdulkaidr Mohamed Abdulle, a VOA Somali correspondent in Mogadishu, was among the injured. His wife, Samira Abdirahman Sheikh Adam, confirmed to VOA that he had sustained injuries to his neck, head and right hand.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but similar attacks have been carried out by the Islamic extremist group al Shabab. The group, which is linked to al-Qaida, is trying to overthrow the government in an effort to establish strict Islamic rule.

The United States and the United Nations strongly condemned Saturday’s blast and offered condolence to the lives lost and those wounded in the attack.

Buildings leveled

Buildings around the area were leveled by the explosion from a truck bomb, and dozens of destroyed cars littered the streets.

Blast
Mogadishu on the map. VOA

Health officials said Saturday’s bombing was the largest blast in recent memory in Mogadishu. They also called for residents to donate blood to help with the wounded.

“For 10 years, I have been in the emergency service. … I cannot tell the exact death toll, but together I can say we have transported hundreds of people on our 10 ambulances,” said Dr. Abdulkadir Abdirahman Adem, director of the Amin ambulance service. “And economically, I think this is the worst (bombing) ever in Mogadishu in a single day.”

Government soldiers had cordoned off the area, and officials said the death toll is expected to rise as rescue workers find bodies in the rubble.

ALSO READ Terror Strikes Somalia: Five killed in Twin Car Bomb Blast in Mogadishu

Most of the victims were civilians. The exact target of the blast remains unclear, though there are several hotels frequented by government officials and members of various diaspora communities.

“This is a disaster. We ask all Somalis to reach us, to help us in the search of dead bodies under the debris. We appeal to the doctors, to those who have digging machines,” Mogadishu Mayor Tabid Abdi Mohamed said on government radio.

Al-Shabab

Saturday’s blast came hours after al-Shabab militants regained control of Barire, a strategic Somalian town in a farming area along the Shabelle river, 45 kilometers from Mogadishu.

The explosion also comes two days after Somalia’s defense minister and military chief, who were leading the fight against Islamist militants, both resigned from the government, citing personal reasons.

Some analysts believe militants tend to carry out such attacks when there are security lapses.

“The resignation of the country’s defense and military chiefs gave the militants a gab [opening] to carry out such disastrous attack,” said Mogadishu University’s Dr. Abdul Kadir Liban Isse. (VOA)

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Trump Toughens Iran Strategy, Decertifies Tehran’s Compliance With Accord

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President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump announces a new Iran policy from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House. voa

Saying Iran is not living up to the spirit of a two-year-old nuclear agreement it signed with Western powers, President Donald Trump Friday unveiled a tough new strategy toward Tehran, including additional sanctions aimed at blocking the regime’s path to develop nuclear weapons.

“Today, I am announcing our strategy along with several major steps we are taking to confront the Iranian regime’s hostile actions and to ensure that Iran never — and I mean never — acquires a nuclear weapon,” Trump said in a nationally televised address at the White House.

He stopped short of pulling the United States out of the 2015 deal involving Iran, the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany and the European Union. But he said he would no longer certify Iran’s compliance with its terms, effectively giving Congress 60 days to consider whether further action is necessary.

“We cannot and will not make this certification,” Trump said. “We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout.”

Global reaction

European powers France, Britain and Germany together issued a statement following Trump’s address, saying preservation of the JCPOA with Iran is “in our joint national interest.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Friday said his country sees the JCPOA as non-negotiable, and would remain committed to it as long at it serves the national interests.

In a nationally televised address, Rouhani charged that Trump’s comments were full of “insults and fake accusations” against Iran.

“The Iranian nation has not and will never bow to any foreign pressure. … Iran and the deal are stronger than ever. … Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps will continue its fight against regional terrorists,” Rouhani said.

Obama administration officials involved in crafting the agreement say any attempt to tinker with it is fraught with numerous pitfalls, and will require close coordination with allies and lawmakers.

“This action is completely unnecessary and arbitrary,” said Ben Rhodes, who served as deputy national security adviser to former President Barack Obama. “The question at play in certification is whether or not Iran is complying with terms of the nuclear deal, and as you know, the Trump administration itself has twice certified that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal.”

Gary Samore, who held senior positions on arms control and non-proliferation in the Obama and Clinton administrations, described Trump’s move as “mostly political theater.”

“President Trump gets to denounce the Iran agreement, which he’s heavily criticized, but at the same time, the U.S. will continue to comply with the agreement by waiving sanctions. So for now, it really doesn’t change anything,” Samore told VOA.

“President Trump found it embarrassing and irritating to have to certify this ‘bad deal’ every 90 days, and he made it clear to his advisers that he wasn’t’ going to do that anymore,” Samore added. “And they’ve come up with a way for him to stop performing this task but not destroy the agreement.”(VOA)