Europe Africa Middle East

Ukraine: Cries of Russian War Crimes grow as attacks commence in Odessa. 

Sexual violence and indiscriminate killings mark the retreat from Kyiv by Russian soliders, pushed back by the Ukrainian army. A mounting body of evidence of genocide and war crimes by the invading Russian military include multiple dead bodies, mass graves and women and girls telling police and media outlets of the horrendous atrocities they have been subjected to. Bucha Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk estimated that over 300 residents have been killed with some buried alongside Russian soldiers.

Man looks at destroyed building in Kyiv

Russian attacks move to Odessa

In the Chernihiv region, Russian forces have been cleared from villages, leaving destruction in their wake, though some still remain.  Odessa, Ukraine’s main port in the southwest has been under attack from missiles for the first time, as well as the southern port city of Mykolaiv.

International leaders respond to Bucha massacre

Calls for war crime charges against Putin are getting louder.  Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Russian forces “butchers, rapists and looters" who committed genocide.  The visiting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez confirmed that he had seen signs of genocide in Bucha.

 “Putin’s unjustified aggression has brought war back to the gates of the European Union,” he told an economic forum in Madrid.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an independent investigation.  Current German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that further sanctions would be agreed on by Western Allies and that Putin would “ feel the consequences” of their actions,

Zelensky previously slammed the ex-German chancellor Angela Merkel for conducting business with Russia even while their President Vladimir Putin invaded and took over the Crimean peninsula in 2014.

On Tuesday, 5th April, a meeting of NATO foreign ministers and other allies such as Australia, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Finland and Sweden will decide on a coordinated response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  

Australian Bushmasters on their way to Ukraine

President Zelensky addressed the Australian Parliament directly on 31st March, putting in a request for armoured troop carriers. Four Australian Defence Force locally made Bushmaster vehicles have been quickly repainted and modified to be flown to Ukraine in an RAAF C-17 Globemaster.  The department of defence is also considering whether vehicles used by the Dutch army could also be sent to Ukraine.  

Australian troop carrier.jpg

Mar 30th 2022

Poland to ban Russian coal imports

Draft legislation has been adopted by the Polish cabinet to allow a ban on the import of Russian coal.  The legislation hinges on EU approval as sanctions generally have to be agreed to by the whole trading bloc. 

Meanwhile,continues an attack on a government building in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, has killed at least 12 people, and the Ukrainian army continues to defend their country at the same level despite Russian's declaration of pulling back from Kyiv. 

Ukrainian soldier.jpg

Omon special police refuse to fight in Ukraine, sue for wrongful dismissal 

A Russian riot police unit has refused to enter Ukraine to join the Russian invasion and has now sued their bosses over wrongful dismissal. 

“These people didn’t want to kill or be killed,” said their lawyer, Mikhail Benyash. 

“Also, the Omon has a different function. They don’t know how to shoot ground-to-air gun systems. They don’t drive tanks. What can they do against a regular army with a baton and a shield?”  The police unit was expected to deploy into Ukraine without passports and with only their helmets and batons.  Other units that followed orders were ambushed and killed by Ukrainian forces.  Benyash said he had received around 200 requests for assistance from across Russia. 

Omon Riot police.jpg

Mar 28th, 2022

South Africa's Operation Dudula leader behind bars before Monday's court case.

Nhlanhla "Lux" Dlamini, leader of the social activist group Operation Dudala, has been arrested and detained at Johannesburg Central Police station.  The group believes the arrest is a conspiracy and that the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a self-described 'radical and militant economic emancipation movement'  pressured the police to perform the arrest.  They have questioned why Dlamini is being held at Johannesburg Central when the case was registered at Dobsonville.  Dudula Secretary-General, Zandile Dabula said the arrest was a surprise to all of them.  Dlamini was snatched after an interview on Kaya FM radio on Thursday. 

The case was laid by Soweto resident Mr. Ramerafe who says his property was damaged by the group. Charges of theft and assault charges against Dlamini have been laid. 

The group are campaigning over illegal immigration and employment for South African citizens over migrants. 

Mar 27th 2022

'Safe' city of Lviv in Ukraine hit by Russian rockets

Russian rockets hit a fuel depot in the western city of Lviv, where many Ukrainians have traveled to as a safe haven from the war raging in the east.  Five people were wounded.  Though no residential buildings were damaged, significant destruction was caused to infrastructure.  On Sunday, Russia claimed responsibility for the bombing.  Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told reporters that long-range precision weapons were used to destroy the fuel base.  He added that similar weapons had been used to destroy a warehouse full of anti-aircraft missiles housed at Plesetskoye, a village 30 kilometers southwest of Kyiv.”

The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, continues to request a no-fly zone from NATO.   

Ukrainian Refugees in Lviv.jpg

Ukrainian refugees on Lviv railway station waiting for a train to escape to Europe

Mar 24th, 2022

Putin to accept rubles only for European gas payment 

Russian gas.jpg

In a counter move to sanctions against Russia, Russian President, Vladimir Putin has announced that he will only accept Rubles in payment for natural gas exports.  He asserts that certain countries have imposed 'illegitimate' freezes on Russian assets and in response he has declared that he will continue to honour trade agreements, however payment must be made in the Russian currency.  This move will force Western countries engaged in sanctions to purchase Russian currency, increasing its value.  The rouble briefly rose to a three week high after the announcement.  Gas prices in Europe have jumped 30% on Wednesday.

European leaders have dismissed the demands, stating that they have contracts that specify payment in Euros. 

Europe relies on Russia for 40% of its total gas consumption and unlike the US and UK, EU states have not sanctioned the Russian energy sector.  They do, however, plan to lower dependency on Russian gas by 60% this year. 

Mar 6th, 2022

Russian invasion of Ukraine escalates while sanctions begin to bite

sanctions.jpg

Russian advance into Ukraine continues unrelentingly, with troops advancing on a third nuclear power plant after taking control of two of the four plants operating in the country.

Russian troops have also taken control of Kerhson in the south and have encircled four other cities, with Ukranian forces offering fierce resistance. Heavy shelling in Mariupol, incluidng during a cease fire to allow citizens to leave, are intended to damage the country's economy by cutting it off from the Black Sea and Sea of Azoz.

Financial sanctions are having a major impact in Russia, with citizens doing all they can to withdraw money and turn roubles into assets that will retain value as the currency tanks. Sanctions have prevented Russian central banks from access to sixty percent of its foreign currency reserves.

Russian companies are desperately trying to open Chinese bank accounts to park their funds. Yet to come, is businesses demanding payment for supply chains that the government may demand be paid in roubles, which could break the econonmy.

These actsmay weaken the war effort, but is not expected to stop the war.

Michael Bernstam of the Financial Times says that the West may offer to unfreeze assets as a bribe to Russia to retreat from Ukraine.

South African coal exporter suffers losses due to transport bottlenecks

South Africa's rain network, Transnet, is inflicting major economic damage and constraints on companies, including coal supplier Exxaro. Exxaro lost almost six billion Rand in lost export sales thanks to bottlenecks on Transnet rail lines. The mining industry and other major industries have been suffering from the unreliabilty of the company that is control of supply chain infrastructure including the railway network, cargo trains and boats.

transet sa.jpg

HPV Vaccine could reduce smear tests to one test a lifetime

The vacccine against cervical cancer caused by human papillomaviruses has been so effective that the current regime of testing every five years could be further reduced.

There has been a 90% reduction in cervical cancer in people who have been vaccinated, a programme rolled out to boys and girls aged between 11 and 13.

Director of the clinical trials unit at King's College London, Professor Sasieni said that based on his modelling women could be screened at 30, 45 and 55 years.

A new vaccine which offers protection against even more types of the HPV could reduce screening to even one per lifetime.

hpv vaccine.jpg

Feb 23rd 2022

Russia invades Ukraine

In a long awaited announcement, Russian president Vladimir Putin said that Russia will conduct military operations in eastern Ukraine. Against his advice to other countries not to intefere, the US, Europe and allies threatened to increase sanctions if military action occurred.

Russian invaders.jpg

Feb 23rd 2022

South African 'Operation Dudula' protests against illegal migrant workers

Consumer demand stimulated by federal pandemic measures has handed US states massive sales tax revenue which many are returning in tax cuts to residents.

Idaho received a second round of tax cuts with a six million dollar slash in January this year. Maryland also plans to remove all income tax on residents over sixty five. In Missisippi, the governor proposes to eliminate income tax.

Oil and gas prices leap as Putin sends Russian soldiers into Ukraine

The German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has blocked the opening of the Nord 2 pipeline, as gas leaped up ten percent and oil rose one per cent yesterday.

The pipeline is full of gas and ready to go, and until recently was considered irrelevant to Putins machinations on the Ukraine border as a 'commercial decision'. Germany relies heavily on Russian gas piped in, as it does not have a terminal to take in supplies of LPG from ships.

The US and its allies have announced sanctions on Russia, limiting financial market access to the two Russian state banks and well connected wealthy Russian citizens. Harsher penalties are still on the table.

New opposition party in Zimbabwe draws crowds

The first political rally of Zimbabwean opposition leader, lawyer and pastor Nelson Chamisa, has drawn thousands of new supporters at a rally on Sunday. The Citizens Coalition for Change will put forward candidates for the March 26th council and parliamentary vacant seat election.

Problems plague Zimbabwean politics including beatings, detentions and harrassement of oppositon parties by the ruling party security forces.

Feb 22nd 2022

Working from home gives US states a windfall

Consumer demand stimulated by federal pandemic measures has handed US states massive sales tax revenue which many are returning in tax cuts to residents.

Idaho received a second round of tax cuts with a six million dollar slash in January this year. Maryland also plans to remove all income tax on residents over sixty five. In Missisippi, the governor proposes to eliminate income tax.

us money.jpg

Feb 21st 2022

Texas leading the way in renewable energy 21st Feb 2022

Hydrogen planes the 'ultimate solution' says Airbus CEO

h plane.jpg

The American Clean Power Association reports that Texas has installed over seven thousand megawatts of renewable energy projects including wind and solar, beating all US states including California. Renewable energy storage reached 20,000 megawatts in projects with California at 14,000. The push comes from the attraction of low cost energy. 90% of Texan energy is still sourced from fossil fuels however.

Chief executive officer of Airbus, Guillaume Faury, predicts a challenging time ahead for aviation if the industry is not able to decarbonise in an appropriate timeframe. He said that a great deal of engineering, research and capital committment will all be required to bring forth hydrogen powered air travel, which he believes is the best solution to eliminating green house emissions caused by flying.

In the meantime, the industry is focussing on increasing fuel efficiency, with certified capacity of 50% sustainable fuel with an aim to achieve 100% by the end of the decade.

Cultural Treasures inching their way back to African nations

bronzes.jpg

Precious artifacts have been returned to their countries of origin after more than a century.

In Nigeria, the UK ceremoniously returned two Benin bronzes, wrongfully taken by British troops 125 years ago, to the Oba of Benin Kingdom on February 19th This follows the return of twenty six cultural treasures by Paris, that were looted by French troops.

French art historians estimate that around 90% of Africa’s cultural heritage is held in foreign museums including New Zealand, the US and Japan. 70,000 African artifacts are held in the Musée du quai Branly–Jacques Chirac in Paris, alone.

 

“It’s a big international issue now,” said director general of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments Abba Isa Tijani. “Anywhere we come across these objects, whether in private collections or in public institutions, we are going to lay claim (…) that we are sure of."

The British Museum remains a strong hold out for refusing to return objects, spuriously arguing that countries of origin do not have adequate facilities to house their own cultural treasures.

Rationalization that the museums offer a wider audience the chance to see the objects and learn about different cultures ignores the fact that the owners of the objects are unable to view them themselves, as well as the potential for loan agreements to exhibit on occasion.

Ayisha Osori, director of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) is co-leading an initiative to retrieve stolen artifacts to their origins.

“Museums were definitely devices that helped to shape colonialism and stories of conquests and the legitimising of the conquests,” she says. She added that a lot of violence accompanied the extracton of treasures from the Benin kingdom in Nigeria, the Dahomey kingdom in Benin [Republic] and the Ashanti kingdom in Ghana.

It takes until 60 before your brain slows down.

A wide ranging study published in Nature Human Behaviour journal has found that response speeds in simple decision making slow down in early to middle adulthood due to a range of processes, rather than mental decline. Decision caution was a major factor in slower decision making up to the age of 60. Having more information to consider before making decisions was also a factor. Slower mental age was observed in participants over 60.

Queen Elizabeth II has Covid-19

qerex.jpg

Buckingham Palace has reported that England's reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has tested positive for Covid-19 and is experiencing mild symptoms. The triple vaccinated 95 year old is continuing with light duties at her home at Windsor Castle.

Emission levels to determine
new pipelines in US 18th Feb 2022

U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has introduced an interim policy that will take greenhouse gas emissions into consideration before approvals are given for any new natural gas pipelines to be built.

FERC Commissioner Allison Clements said, "FERC will consider all factors bearing on the public interest, including the impact of natgas projects on the environment, landowners, and environmental justice communities."

It is the first time the policy has been updated since 1999

Oil Refinery

Vaccines help treat and prevent Long Covid

A study review by the UK Health and Security Agency has concluded that Covid-19 vaccine can reduce symptoms of Long Covid in patients, as well as greatly reducing the likelihood of getting post-Covid symptoms in those already vaccinated. Fifteen UK and international studies were included in the review. Data suggests that those who received two doses of Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna were half as likely to get post-Covid symptoms particularly for over 60’s. Those that received a vaccination after being infected reported shorter duration of post-Covid symptoms.

Asian man getting vaccinated

Families from Sandy Hook win case against Remington

Nine families who took Remington Arms to court over the killing of children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the US in December 2021, have won their case and received a payout of $73 million.

The ongoing effort to hold the gunmaker to account had to work around legal protection from civil litigationn for gun makers and dealers . Remington also filed two bankruptcy claims during the period.

The gun used in the crime was an AR-15 originally made for combat. Marketing of the gun since 2007 used product placement in first person shooter games and championed it as an effective killing machine. This formed the basis of the families' law suit, which proved to be successful.

Six billion new tweeters added, for $5 billion.

Twitter continues to grow steadily, with another six billion new users, mainly from outside the US. This may sound great, but as most of the companies revenue comes from within America, flat user growth there is concerning apparently, as $1.57 billion in revenue with ad revenue $1.4 billion just isn't enough for anyone.

Abritrary growth targets that weren't reached, do not impinge on the fact that Facebook and Pinterest are losing users daily. Tik Tok also shows signs of growth. The reality of social media is that there is always a new app waiting for you just around the corner.

Homosapiens and Neanderthals co-existed in Europe earlier than thought

A tooth from a Homosapien has been found in a cave in France sandwiched between layers of Nenaderthal remains. The tools and other archeological remains imply that humans were present in Europe around 10,000 years earlier than thought. The theory that the arrival of Homosapiens meant the end of the Neanderthal has also been challenged, as the two species appeared to have lived side by side. DNA testing has shown that the two species mated, leaving traces of Neanderthal gentic makeup in our systems

Neanderthal.jpg