Massive bleaching of Great Barrier Reef

Unprecedented coral bleaching in consecutive years caused by rising water temperatures has damaged two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, aerial surveys have shown. If normal conditions return, the corals can recover, but it can take decades, and if the stress continues the corals can die

Dear Pope Francis: Don’t go to Egypt now

Rania al-Malky writes: ‘As I understand, Your Holiness plans to visit Egypt on 28-29 April. While as an Egyptian Muslim citizen, I would be honoured by your visit to my country, I beseech you to reconsider this trip.

My reasoning is clear and simple: apart from the palpable physical danger of being in Egypt at this volatile moment (note that Coptic Pope Tawadros was the target of Sunday’s Alexandria bombing as he was inside St Mark’s Cathedral when it happened), such a trip could only serve to legitimise a murderous administration that is complicit in the killing of tens of Christians and hundreds of Muslims.

Your Holiness is best advised not to associate with ruthless dictators like Sisi who will be the only one to gain from your visit at the expense of thousands of unjustly incarcerated Egyptians with no recourse to a fair trial and often with false charges levelled against them.’

Read full article here

Egypt: ‘war on terror’ keeps bringing on more and more terror

Twenty-six people have been killed and more than 70 others were injured during a bomb explosion inside the Church of Mar Girgis (St. George) in Tanta. The device was placed under the first row of pews inside the church. Meanwhile a second explosion occurred outside the Saint Mark’s Church in Alexandria, where Coptic Pope Tawadros II was leading a Palm Sunday service.

DEASH/ISIS has supposedly claimed the attacks, but a rush to judgment on mere claims is unwise, given that terror attacks on churches in Egypt have in the past been linked with government figures seeking to garner additional support from the West.

Putting aside the widespread killing and torture of Egypt’s Muslim population, we should not forget that in October 2011, 27 Coptic protesters were crushed to death by Egyptian armoured personnel carriers guarding the state television building (Maspero). To this day, not a single army officer has been held accountable for that atrocity (as for any other).

The timing of the two recent Church attacks, immediately after Trump’s raid on Syria, appear to signal a deep anxiety on the part of the Egyptian junta to keep the US on side in its ‘war on terror’. The fact that Trump called Assad’s bluff is significant in the eyes of the Egyptian junta leader, because Sisi and Assad support each other and follow each other’s bloody progress closely.

Nevertheless, Sisi was unable to criticise his masters in Washington and Tel Aviv over the ill-treatment of his brother-in-arms in Damascus… in fact, no official statement was made at all – as if nothing had happened.

 

You lost your chance Russia to do the right thing: Trump teaches Assad a lesson… finally

While Russia continues to spin yarns about Assad’s atrocity in the town of Khan Sheikhun, the US has carried out a justified missile attack against Ash Sha’irat air base in Syria 38km southeast of Homs. The Pentagon said 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired at 04:40 Syrian time (01:40 GMT) from destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean. In a televised address, Trump said the base was the launch point for the chemical attack.

Russia also now puts itself in an awkward position as Rex Tillerson criticises Russia’s role in enabling Assad. According to a 2013 deal between Russia and the Obama administration, Assad was supposed to have eliminated his chemical weapons stockpile, while Russia was supposed to act as guarantor. So as Tillerson points out ‘Russia has failed in its responsibility to deliver on that commitment from 2013. Either Russia has been complicit or Russia has been simply incompetent…’

Its time Russia came down hard on Assad

Assad killed over eighty-nine people, including 33 children and 18 women and maimed many others in the most horrible way in a gas attack. The Russian excuse that the Syrian air force mistakenly bombed a rebel chemical stockpile is not credible. This was an air launched chlorine gas attack in which Sarin gas was also present. Sarin is a deadly nerve agent which Assad has used before.

Hamish de Bretton Gordon, director of Doctors Under Fire and former commanding officer of the UK Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Regiment, said “I think this [claim] is pretty fanciful…Axiomatically, if you blow up Sarin, you destroy it”.

Come on Russia, Assad shouldn’t have been breaking the ceasefire anyway. Come down on him before Trump does, or you will lose Turkey. The Astana process involving you, Turkey and Iran is worth saving isn’t it?

Russian presence helps in the recapture of Libyan oil ports

Unsurprisingly, since Russia sent its special forces to the Eastern Libyan desert, the troops led by Khalifa Haftar and representing the interests of the House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk, which defies the mandate of the UN-backed government in Tripoli, announced the recapture yesterday 14th March, of the two key oil installations Ras Lanuf and Es Sidr, recently overrun by the Tripoli-backed Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB).

It is happening in Japan first: obliteration of the coral reefs due to global warming

70% of coral in Okinawa’s Sekiseishoko area in the Sekiseishoko area, the largest coral reef in Japan, is dead, survey shows.

A ministry official said Tuesday the result showed accelerated coral bleaching was taking place — due chiefly to rising ocean temperatures. The survey was conducted at 35 points in Sekiseishoko, located between Ishigaki and Iriomote islands in Okinawa Prefecture, last November and December.

Russia is picking up all the scattered chess pieces in Middle East

In true capitalist fashion Russia is multiplying the numbers of private contractors being used across the Middle East. Giving backing to ex-CIA asset renegade general Khalifa Hiftar in Libya is just one of the many loose ends left by the Obama administration Putin looks to tie up. Also backing junta leader Sisi in Egypt, and PYD Kurdish leader Salih Muslim in Northeastern for instance allows these US creations the latitude to look gift horses in the mouth, making US foreign policy in the Middle East much harder and less predictable, while reinforcing the dominance Russia has gained from its bases in Syria.

The news coming in from Libya is that the Benghazi Defense Brigade (BDB) took over the oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sidr with their refineries from Hiftar’s forces in a stealth attack this last weekend on 5th March. Apparently, they have handed the ports over to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). The balance of power in Libya will now shift in the GNA’s favour away from the House of Representatives (HoR) ensconced in Tobruk (which had hired Hiftar to do its heavy lifting), and this will strengthen the position of beleaguered UN-approved prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj. After these events, Russia now appears to see the need to back its contractors in Libya by sending in élite special forces.