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Iraq: Prominent female activist killed by unknown gunmen in Basra | News

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A female activist has been killed in the southern Iraqi city of Basra by unidentified gunmen who opened fire on the car she was in.

Reham Yacoub, a doctor and activist in the local protest movement since 2018, was shot by an assault rifle-brandishing gunman on the back of a motorcycle on Wednesday. Three women in the car at the time were wounded, with died one later.

Known for organising women’s marches, Yacoub had previously received threats against her life when she participated in training courses supervised by the US consulate in Basra in 2017 and 2018.

Yacoub’s killing marks the third incident this week in which gunmen targeted anti-government political activists after one was killed and a separate attack saw assailants open fire on a car carrying at least two others.

Translation: Activist Reham Yacoub has joined the caravan of martyrs

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor condemned Yacoub’s murder.

“The continuing policy of impunity in Iraq encouraged the escalation of systematic assassinations outside the law, the most recent of which was the assassination of the prominent protest activist Reham Yacoub on Wednesday,” the Geneva-based monitor said in a statement.

Iraq has witnessed a series of assassinations and forced disappearances of journalists and political activists, as well as the killing of hundreds of protesters since October 2019, the start of demonstrations in against corruption, political and security deterioration, and the economic crisis.

The most recent wave of violence began when activist Tahseen Osama was killed inside the headquarters of a local internet company last Friday, following the escalating protest movement in the province and demands for basic services.

Translation: Who’s next? Reham Yacoub, an activist and doctor has been murdered in cold blood in Basra, joining the list of Iraq’s young martyrs who are being killed by the worst of God’s creation.

Osama’s killing prompted the return of street demonstrations for three days, during which security forces opened live fire on protesters, who threw rocks and petrol bombs at the governor’s house and blocked several main roads.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi subsequently sacked the Basra police and national security chiefs on Monday and ordered an investigation into the violence.

On the same day, two activists – Ludia Raymond and Abbas Subhi – were attacked by gunmen in Basra, which resulted in severe injuries.

Last month, unknown gunmen assassinated a well-known security analyst, Hisham al-Hashemi, in the centre of the capital Baghdad following a press interview in which he criticised the behaviour of one of the armed factions in Iraq.

The Euro-Med Monitor said one main factor in the recent extrajudicial killings of activists and media professionals is the local authorities’ neglect of conducting serious investigations to find the perpetrators and taking adequate measures to ensure accountability and justice.

“The perpetrators’ awareness of their impunity in assassination crimes will only lead them to commit more of them in the future, which requires the Iraqi authorities to take serious and practical action to not tolerate this kind of crimes against individuals,” it said.





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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IAE issues ‘dire warning’ as CO2 emissions set to soar in 2021 | Climate News

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The IAE predicts that carbon dioxide emissions could rise to 33 billion tonnes in 2021 – the second largest rise in emissions ever.

Global carbon emissions are set to jump by five percent marking the largest single increase in more than a decade as the economic rebound from the coronavirus pandemic is “anything but sustainable” for the climate.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) published on Tuesday its annual Global Energy Review predicting that carbon dioxide emissions would rise to 33 billion tonnes this year, up 1.5 billion tonnes from 2020 levels.

“This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the COVID crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said.

Birol called the Leaders Summit on Climate to be hosted by US President Joe Biden on Thursday and Friday a critical moment for nations to pledge immediate actions before the UN Climate Change Conference set for November in Glasgow.

“Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022,” said Birol.

In early March, the IEA’s chief stressed that the level of carbon emissions in December was higher than the same month the previous year as economies started reopening following coronavirus lockdowns, a figure that the IEA’s chief said was a “stark warning” to leaders around the world.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged countries on Monday to back up their commitments to fight climate change with “concrete immediate action”, including making as their “absolute priority” that no more coal power plants will be built.

Last year, when power use dropped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, energy-related CO2 emissions fell by 5.8 percent to 31.5 billion tonnes, after peaking in 2019 at 33.4 billion tonnes.

The IEA’s annual review analysed the latest national data from around the world, economic growth trends and new energy projects that are set to come into action.

Global energy demand is set to increase by 4.6 percent in 2021, led by developing economies, pushing it above 2019 levels, the report said.

Demand for all fossil fuels is on course to grow in 2021, with both coal and gas set to rise above 2019 levels.

The expected rise in coal use dwarves that of renewables by almost 60 percent, despite accelerating demand for solar, wind and hydro power. More than 80 percent of the projected growth in coal demand in 2021 is set to come from Asia, led by China.

Coal use in the US and the European Union is also on course to increase but will remain well below pre-crisis levels, the IEA said.

The IEA expects both solar and wind to post their largest annual rises ever, at around 17 percent.

It expects renewables will provide 30 percent of electricity generation worldwide in 2021, their biggest share ever and up from less than 27 percent in 2019.

China is expected to account for almost half of that increase.

While demand for oil is rebounding strongly, the IEA expects it to stay below the pre-pandemic level as the aviation sector struggles to recover owing to a slow and patchy vaccine rollout.





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Victims of Syrian gov’t chemical attacks file case in Sweden | Bashar al-Assad News

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Four NGOs have filed a criminal complaint against members of the Syrian government for deadly attacks in 2013 and 2017.

Four NGOs have announced they have filed a criminal complaint in Sweden against members of the Syrian government, including President Bashar al-Assad, over chemical weapons attacks in 2013 and 2017.

In the complaint filed with Swedish police, the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), Civil Rights Defenders, Syrian Archive (SA), and the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) accuse Syrian officials of chemical attacks using sarin gas, in Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib probvince in 2017 and Ghouta near the capital Damascus in 2013.

“By filing the complaint, we want to support the victims’ struggle for truth and justice,” Hadi al-Khatib, founder and director of Syrian Archive, said in a statement.

“We hope that a Swedish investigation into these crimes will eventually result in trials and convictions of those who ordered and carried out these attacks. Sweden can and should contribute to putting an end to the current state of impunity in Syria,” he added.

Allegations of war crimes can be investigated by Swedish police regardless of where they were committed.

The Syrian government denies ever using chemical weapons against its own civilians in the course of conflict with rebel forces.

The conflict, which began in 2011, has largely subsided with Assad having regained control of most key territory with Russian and Iranian military support.

According to the complaint, the Syrian government used chemical weapons in attacks on the opposition-held towns of Ghouta in 2013 and Khan Sheikhoun in 2017. Hundreds of civilians, including children, were killed.

“In the ten years since the first assaults on pro-democracy protesters in Syria, the government has used chemical weapons more than 300 times to terrorise the civilian population,” said Steve Kostas, a lawyer at the Justice Initiative.

“Swedish authorities can join their counterparts in France and Germany to jointly investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria and demonstrate that there will be no impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes,” he said in a statement.

Syria has rejected the allegations

A United Nations-commissioned investigation to identify those behind chemical attacks in Syria concluded in 2017 that Syrian government forces had used chlorine and sarin gas.

The first trial of suspected members of Assad’s security services for crimes against humanity, including torture and sexual assault, began in a German court in April 2020.

Meanwhile, the world’s chemical weapons watchdog will decide this week whether to impose unprecedented sanctions on Syria for its alleged use of toxic arms and failure to declare its arsenal.

Member states of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will weigh a French proposal to suspend Syria’s “rights and privileges” at the body, including its ability to vote.

Damascus is accused of failing to answer key questions after an OPCW probe last year found Syria attacked a rebel-held village with the nerve agent sarin and the toxic chemical chlorine in 2017.

Syria has rejected all the allegations and said the attacks were staged.

Damascus and its ally Moscow have accused Western powers of using the OPCW for a “politicised” campaign against them.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Project Force: Silent killers – 21st century submarines | Technology News

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New designs, new technologies and new weapons are shaping the submarines of the future, which are being manufactured right now, in response to global demand for more potent and flexible designs.

Old Cold War fleets are being replaced and conventional subs – smaller but still useful – that can remain underwater for weeks are being built.

Non-nuclear submarines use combustion engines that need oxygen to work. These are fine on the surface but, submerged, they must rely on battery power to operate. Depending on the battery type, submarines cannot submerge for long and need to resurface to recharge their batteries, putting them in a vulnerable position and open to detection by the enemy.

Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) is a technology which solves that problem and allows a submarine to remain submerged and relatively safe for extended periods – weeks instead of days.

First invented in Sweden in the 1990s, AIP is now used in most non-nuclear submarines by 20 navies.

A U-31 submarine goes for its first check-up run at Kiel Bay, northern Germany, in April 2003 [Heribert Proepper/AP Photo]

Only a few countries can afford to run nuclear-powered submarines. Extremely expensive to produce, the reactors of these submarines allow them to stay submerged almost indefinitely.

They can desalinate water for the crew to drink and produce oxygen from seawater for the crew to breathe. Their range is virtually unlimited, allowing them to travel anywhere in the world’s oceans, loaded with their apocalyptic cargo of nuclear missiles. They remain hidden, a guarantee that if an enemy were to strike the home country in a surprise attack, the sub would be able to deliver a retaliatory blow, a nuclear second strike.

With that in mind, attack subs also prowl the oceans, acting as a line of defence. Fast and sleek, they are designed to sink other subs, especially high-value enemy missile submarines. This endless, deadly game of cat and mouse is played out daily under the surface of the world’s oceans as each side hones the skills needed to destroy the other in the event of war.

The non-nuclear U-31 submarine is seen during a first check-up on the Kiel Bay, northern Germany in April 2003 [Heribert Proepper/AP Photo]

Submarines have unique features that make them deadly, the chief one being their stealth. Able to travel undetected underwater, they can strike without warning, the most powerful among them containing missile arsenals that could single-handedly destroy a continent.

The quieter a sub, the stealthier it is. Sound is everything under the sea and billions have been invested into acoustic properties that will muffle a submarine’s engine, as well as in better hull designs which allow water to flow more quietly over the sub’s surface. These hulls are made of materials designed to absorb sonar waves – a sonic version of underwater radar – rather than reflect them back, making them more readily detectable.

Such technological advances allow subs to remain undetected but constant developments in anti-submarine technology are keeping pace – with new, improved ways to detect submarines, making them vulnerable to destruction.

The Komsomolsk-on-Amur, a Project 877 Paltus diesel-electric submarine, takes part in a naval parade marking Russian Navy Day in Vladivostok, Russia on July 26, 2018 [Yuri SmityukTASS via Getty Images]

I can hear you

It is getting harder and harder to hide under the ocean. Underwater sensors can now pick up a submarine’s acoustic trail with greater ease. These sensors can be released from helicopters or planes over an area where a sub is suspected of lurking. The sensors pick up the sub’s sound profile and send the information back to the waiting aircraft. Torpedoes are then dropped into the sea with the intention of homing in on the submarine – now stripped of the one thing keeping it safe – and destroying it.

Anti-submarine warfare is as old as submarines themselves, with designers continually inventing new ways to destroy these potent weapons. Sensors are not just dropped from aircraft; surface ships are also equipped with ever more powerful and sensitive sonar suites that can pick the minute sounds that subs, despite their best efforts, end up making. Some countries have strung whole chains of sensors together across likely approach ways.

The atomic submarine USS George Washington, loaded with 16 Polaris missiles, sets sail from Charleston Harbor on its maiden voyage somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean near Charleston, South Carolina, in the US on November 15, 1960. It was the world’s first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine [Rudolph Faircloth/AP Photo]

During the Cold War, for instance, the United States installed one called SOSUS, or Sound Surveillance System, across what is known as the GIUK gap; the area of the Atlantic Ocean between Greenland, Iceland and the United Kingdom. This was and still is the likely approach route for Russian submarines heading from their bases in the Kola Peninsula near Murmansk into the North Atlantic. This impressive system, covering hundreds of kilometres, was able to detect even the best Soviet submarines at the time, providing the US with vital information about their location and direction of travel. The SOSUS nets were extremely effective during the Cold War at picking up submarines moving in and out of the Atlantic.

Russia still uses this route. Last year, it sent 10 submarines through this gap which, while 1,500km wide, is still considered a choke point for naval vessels. In one of the biggest Russian deployments since the end of the Cold War, the exercise was designed to test whether they could be detected by NATO. The resulting detection by Western navies showed Russia that they were still vulnerable to potential destruction.

An aerial view of the K-549 Knyaz Vladimir Borei-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine at the Sevmash shipbuilding enterprise, a subsidiary of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, in the city of Severodvinsk, Russia [Sergei Bobylev/TASS via Getty Images]

Russia has spent billions upgrading its antiquated fleet with new designs that make already quiet submarines even quieter. The new Borei-class subs are faster, more manoeuvrable, with their new pump jet propulsor systems which have replaced traditional propellers, making them even quieter. There are now better missiles which carry multiple warheads, with greater ranges, allowing the subs to hit targets thousands of kilometres away. The Russian Navy plans to build 12 of them, with half going to the Northern Fleet and the other half to the Pacific.

The developments do not stop there. A new class of Russian submarine, the Khabarovsk, will be fitted to carry the giant superfast autonomous nuclear torpedo, Poseidon, in effect an underwater nuclear-powered drone, capable of speeds of up to 180km/h (112mph) and armed with a huge, multi-megaton nuclear warhead. The torpedo’s range is virtually unlimited and is designed to destroy ports, coastal cities and large fleet concentrations.

The Poseidon nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed unmanned underwater vehicle during the final stage of testing  [TASSTASS via Getty Images]

Future plans

Russia is not the only country upgrading its submarines. France, the UK and the US are all developing and building the next class of missile and attack sub. They can dive deeper to avoid detection and advances in engine design mean they are even quieter and therefore stealthier than previous generations. Many of these designs have already been fielded, while others are near completion.

China and India are also working on their own improved nuclear sub designs in an effort to dominate their own seas and keep up with regional competitors. There can be setbacks. India’s first nuclear-powered missile sub, the INS Arihant, was damaged when a hatch was left open, allowing water to partially flood the sub. The design has since been finalised and a second missile sub, or SSBN, INS Arighat is undergoing trials.

It is not all about nuclear propulsion. Improvements in Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) now allow non-nuclear submarines some of the advantages of their nuclear cousins.

Able to stay submerged for weeks at a time, these cheaper submarines give middle-ranking naval powers an affordable way to enhance their naval firepower, while also using their stealthy abilities to gather intelligence and land special forces teams ashore, their mission flexibility giving their commanders more options.

A Marlin-350 unmanned remotely operated underwater vehicle during an anti-sabotage military drill held by a special unit of the Russian Northern Fleet [Lev Fedoseyev/TASS via Getty Images]

Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs), are also starting to make their presence felt. These robot subs can gather intelligence, lay mines and sweep the seas around them for enemy vessels. The US navy is planning a whole range of them, such as Boeing’s Orca, with other navies following suit. Able to operate autonomously, they can stay at sea for months at a time, sending valuable data back to their headquarters while remaining hidden. At least that is the idea. No country has publicly claimed a robotic submersible that was found a few years ago by a Chinese fishing vessel in the South China Sea. It was capable of satellite communications and recording images, and was suspected by the Chinese authorities of being used to spy on Chinese naval activity in the area.

China itself is developing its own fleet of unmanned AI-controlled submarines that, once completed, will be capable of a wide variety of missions. Without having to worry about keeping a human crew safe, these robot subs can be smaller, stay at sea almost indefinitely and operate at greater depths as they can be built differently to withstand the incredible pressures of the very deep sea.

Even minor nuclear power North Korea is researching how to turn small, yet quiet diesel-electric subs into missile carriers for its fledgeling nuclear weapons arsenal. Pyongyang is keen to develop its own invulnerable second strike retaliatory capability, ensuring the survival of the country.

This September 2019 photo made available by the US Coast Guard, shows crew members of the cutter Valiant as they board a self-propelled semi-submersible in international waters. The US Coast Guard says a cutter seized a ‘narco’ submarine carrying cocaine worth a street value of more than $165m while patrolling in the eastern Pacific Ocean [US Coast Guard via AP)

Narco-subs

The advantages of staying undetected are not lost on crime syndicates and a new class of drug-smuggling submarine, or “narco-sub”, is being discovered by the Peruvian and Colombian authorities.

Often built on the banks of remote jungle rivers in South America, narco-subs have increased in size and sophistication allowing larger and larger payloads of drugs to be smuggled undetected.

Initially towed underwater by a surface vessel, they now have their own propulsion systems and can travel further and further, smuggling tonnes of drugs at a time up the coast and also, on occasion, rendezvous with merchant vessels far out to sea, transferring their cargo away from prying eyes. These are not true submarines in the sense that they can dive deep underwater as they stay just below the surface, avoiding the attention of coastguard vessels and naval patrols.

Soldiers stand on a seized submarine in the jungle region of La Loma in Ecuador on July 3, 2010. DEA officials said that the diesel electric-powered submarine was constructed in a remote jungle and captured near a tributary close to the Ecuador-Colombia border and is capable of transporting tonnes of cocaine. Ecuadorean authorities seized the sub before it could make its maiden voyage [AP Photo]

For submarines generally, the future is looking increasingly automated. Submarines will be able to do more with smaller crews or, in many cases, no crews at all.

As detection technology develops, so, too, will the stealthy abilities of subs as opposing navies try to outwit each other. These silent killers are able to watch and report on enemy activity and, in some cases, destroy their targets without anyone detecting their presence.

With enhanced weapons like hypersonic missiles being developed, submarines are growing deadlier with each new generation. While major powers are sticking with nuclear propulsion, other countries are investing in cheaper, yet capable alternatives.

New advances in fuel cells mean that these new, non-nuclear subs can stay underwater for weeks if not months. Developments in sensor technology and design allow them to run with far smaller crews while still increasing the range of missions they can undertake. In short, subs are here to stay and underwater warfare is about to enter a new and important phase.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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