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India calls for laws to ensure open access to space for all nations

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United Nations: As a space-faring nation, India has called for strengthening international laws to protect open access for all countries to space.

“India supports strengthening the international legal regime to protect and preserve access to space for all and to prevent without exception the weaponisation of outer space,” DB Venkatesh Varma, India’s permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament, told a General Assembly Committee on disarmament issues.

“As a major space-faring nation, India has vital developmental and security interest in space,” he said.

Stressing India’s interest in ensuring that international treaties do not monopolize the power of a few nations, he said, “discussions on a draft International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities should be inclusive, covering all space-faring nations to ensure a product of universal acceptance adopted by consensus and through a process anchored in the UN.”

In a broad-ranging speech laying out India’s position on disarmament issues, Varma reiterated the crux of India’s nuclear policy, “as a responsible nuclear power, India’s nuclear doctrine continues to stress a policy of credible minimum deterrence with a posture of no-first-use and a non-use against non-nuclear states. We remain committed to maintaining a unilateral and voluntary moratorium on nuclear explosive testing.”

He said that increasing the restraints on use of nuclear weapons is “not only an essential first step, it is also necessary in the current complex international environment”.

Varma said that complete elimination of nuclear weapons can be achieved through “a step by step process” that is global and non-discriminatory. “All states possessing nuclear weapons can make a contribution by engaging in a meaningful dialogue to build trust and confidence by reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in international affairs and security doctrine,” he said.

US Assistant Secretary for Arms Control Frank Rose said that a “full-spectrum” pragmatic approach was necessary to reach the goal of a nuclear weapon-free world, to which Washington was committed.

He criticized proposals for outright ban on nuclear weapons, which could not succeed because they failed to recognize the need to develop the necessary verification capabilities and build the security conditions. Instead, he said, it risked creating a very unstable security environment where miscalculations could escalate crises and even lead to the possible use of a nuclear weapon.

Rose said that nuclear deterrence and disarmament were complementary because both aimed at preventing the use of nuclear weapons. Deterrence sought to constrain threats as countries worked to reduce nuclear weapons and shore-up efforts to prevent further proliferation, he added.

Varma raised the threat of terrorists getting access to weapons of mass destruction and said the international community should continue to exercise utmost vigilance.

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) were examples of “global non-discriminatory treaties for the complete elimination” of the weapons of mass destruction of those types, he said.

“India has completed its obligations on stockpile destruction under the CWC,” he said, adding timely destruction by other state parties of the remaining stockpiles is critical for upholding the convention’s credibility and integrity.

Varma noted India’s contribution to the efforts by the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles.

On the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which India has not signed, Varma said New Delhi was continuing to review it “from the perspective of our defense, security and foreign policy interests”.

India’s main concern over the ATT centers on what New Delhi considers its weakness in dealing with terrorists and non-state actors, and unilateral powers it could confer on arms exporters.

Speaking at last week’s committee session, Wang Qun, the director-general of China’s Arms Control Department, brought up cyber-security, the next frontier in international confrontations, and suggested adoption of an international code of conduct on cyberspace that calls for peaceful resolution of disputes in this area and it was used for only peace and security activities.

Stretching it a step further, he said the code should also ensure that nations should not interfere in the internal affairs of others.

If there were no international rules governing cyberspace or outer space, the world “incurred risks of the law of the jungle”, Wang said.

(Arul Louis,IANS)

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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 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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Annual Global Hunger Index : Global Hunger Levels Rise for the first time in ten years ; Africa tops the list

The index is based on levels of hunger in the general population, and rates of wasting, stunting and deaths among children under 5 years old.

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A mother holds onto her emaciated infant at an emergency feeding clinic in Maradi, Niger. (VOA)

Rome, October 12, 2017 : Global hunger has fallen more than a quarter since 2000, but conflict and climate shocks are beginning to reverse these gains, an annual global hunger index said.

Nearly half of the 119 countries surveyed had “serious,” “alarming” or “extremely alarming” hunger levels between 2012 and 2016, with war-torn Central African Republic worst affected, followed by Chad, Sierra Leone, Madagascar and Zambia.

“Conflict- and climate-related shocks are at the heart of this problem,” said Dominic MacSorley, chief executive of Concern, which compiled the report along with the International Food Policy Research Institute and Welthungerhilfe.

About half of the populations in the hungriest countries were short of food, it said.

South Sudan and Somalia, which are at risk of renewed famine, were among 13 countries excluded from the index because of lack of data.

The United Nations said last month that global hunger levels had risen for the first time in more than a decade, now affecting 11 percent of the world’s population, or 815 million people.

Famine struck parts of South Sudan earlier this year, the U.N. said, and there is a high risk that it could return there, as well as develop in other countries hit by conflict: northeast Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen.

Yemen came sixth in the index as its hunger crisis has spiked since 2015, when civil war erupted and the data cover the period 2012 to 2016.

ALSO READ Global Hunger on Rise Again: UN Food Agencies

Although most of Nigeria is relatively food secure, the eight-year Islamist Boko Haram insurgency has left millions in the northeast at risk of starvation.

“We must build the resilience of communities on the ground, but we must also bolster public and political solidarity internationally,” MacSorley said in a statement.

The survey found that 14 countries — including Senegal, Azerbaijan, Peru, Panama, Brazil and China — had made significant improvements since 2000.

The index is based on levels of hunger in the general population, and rates of wasting, stunting and deaths among children under 5 years old.

Women, girls and ethnic minorities are most at risk of hunger, which causes nearly half of deaths in under 5s, it said.

“The world needs to act as one community with the shared goal of ensuring not a single child goes to bed hungry each night and no one is left behind,” MacSorley said. (VOA)