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Both Sides in 6-Year Syrian Conflict Committed War Crimes: UN Report

U.N. investigators said the U.S.-led coalition did not carry out any air attacks over Aleppo in the second half of 2016

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This still image taken from drone footage, posted online by the communications arm of Ahrar al-Sham militant group, purports to show a blast on the ground, apparently the result of an airstrike, in a Syrian-government controlled neighborhood of Aleppo, S, VOA
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UN, March 2, 2017: Opposing sides in the fight for control of Aleppo committed war crimes, according to a new United Nations report.

The U.N.’s latest report on the six-year conflict said the Syrian government’s aerial bombing and strafing of a humanitarian convoy that killed 14 aid workers and halted relief operations were among the war crimes that were committed.

Syrian and Russian forces executed indiscriminate “daily air strikes” using cluster munitions on the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo between July and the and the fall of the city in late December, the report said. Hundreds of people were killed and hospitals destroyed, amounting to the war crime of indiscriminate attacks.

Map, VOA

Was Russia involved?

U.N. investigators could not determine if both Syrian and Russian forces were involved in the Aleppo attacks because they jointly controlled their air space over the area “throughout the period under review.”

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“[They] use predominately the same aircraft and weapons, thus rendering attribution impossible in many cases,” according to the report, which did not attribute any war crimes to Russia.

The report, which was released Wednesday, said Syrian helicopters employed a banned weapon, toxic chlorine bombs, on Aleppo “throughout 2016,” causing hundreds of causalities.

More than 5,000 pro-government forces surrounded eastern Aleppo in an attempt to “surrender or starve” opposition forces, the report said.

This photo made from the footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official website on Feb. 4, 2017, claims to show a Russian sapper looking for mines in a street in Aleppo, Syria. VOA

Civilian deaths

Opposition groups killed and injured dozens of people when they shelled government-controlled western Aleppo, the report said. The groups also stopped civilians from leaving eastern Aleppo and used them as “human shields,” and attacked a Kurdish residential district, both of which are war crimes.

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U.N. investigators said the U.S.-led coalition did not carry out any air attacks over Aleppo in the second half of 2016.

The report was issued as Syrian peace talks continue in Geneva. The findings are based on 291 interviews with victims and witnesses, as well as forensic evidence and satellite imagery. (VOA)

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Scientists: China’s Ban Causes Plastic To Pile Up, Nations Must Reduce Usage

The study was published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances

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Scientists: China's Ban Causes Plastic To Pile Up, Nations Must Reduce Usage
Scientists: China's Ban Causes Plastic To Pile Up, Nations Must Reduce Usage, Pixabay

China’s decision to stop accepting plastic waste from other countries is causing plastic to pile up around the globe, and wealthy countries must find a way to slow the accumulation of one of the most ubiquitous materials on the planet, a group of scientists said.

The scientists sought to quantify the impact of the Chinese import ban on the worldwide trade in plastic waste, and found that other nations might need to find a home for more than 122 million tons (110 million metric tons) of plastic by 2030. The ban went into effect Dec. 31, 2017, and the stockpiling trend figures to worsen, the scientists said.

Wealthy countries such as the United States, Japan and Germany have long sent their plastic recyclables to China, and the country doesn’t want to be the world’s dumping ground for plastic anymore. The study found China has taken more than 116 million tons (105 million metric tons) of the material since 1992, the equivalent of the weight of more than 300 Empire State Buildings.

The change is forcing countries to rethink how they deal with plastic waste. They need to be more selective about what they choose to recycle, and more fastidious about reusing plastics, said Amy Brooks, first author on the study and a doctoral student in engineering at the University of Georgia. In the meantime, Brooks said, more plastic waste is likely to get incinerated or sent to landfills.

“This is a wake-up call. Historically, we’ve been depending on China to take in this recycled waste and now they are saying no,” she said. “That waste has to be managed, and we have to manage it properly.”

plastic cups
plastic cups, Pixabay

The study was published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances. Using United Nations data, it found that China has dwarfed all other plastics importers, accounting for about 45 percent of the world’s plastic waste since 1992. The ban is part of a larger crackdown on foreign garbage, which is viewed as a threat to health and environment.

Some countries that have seen an increase in plastic waste imports since China’s ban — such as Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia — are already looking to enforce bans of their own because they are quickly becoming overburdened, Brooks said.

The study illustrates that plastic, which has a wide array of uses and formulations, is more difficult to recycle than other materials, such as glass and aluminum, said Sherri Mason, who was not involved in the study and is the chair of the geology and environmental sciences department at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

Many consumers attempt to recycle plastic products that can’t ultimately be recycled, Mason said. One solution could be to simplify the variety of plastics used to make products, she said.
“We have to confront this material and our use of it, because so much of it is single use disposable plastic and this is a material that doesn’t go away,” Mason said. “It doesn’t return to the planet the way other materials do.”

The plastics import ban has attracted the attention of the U.S. recycling industry. The National Recycling Coalition said in a statement in mid-May that it must “fundamentally shift how we speak to the public” and “how we collect and process” recyclables.

Also read: A Secret Ingredient Of Your Favorite Sushi: Microplastic

“We need to look at new uses for these materials,” said Marjorie Griek, the coalition’s executive director. “And how do you get manufacturers to design a product that is more easily recyclable.” (VOA)