Damage to the Great Barrier Reef

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The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest reef system stretching along the East coast of Australia from the northern tip down to the town of Bundaberg., composed of roughly 2,900 individual reefs and 940 islands and cays that stretch for 2,300 kilometres (1,616 mi) and cover an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres (133,000 sq mi). The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland in northeast Australia. A large part of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
According to the 2014 report of the Australian Government’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), climate change is the most significant environmental threat to the Great Barrier Reef, while the other major environmental pressures are listed as decreased water quality from land-based runoff, impacts from coastal development and some persistent impacts from fishing activities. The reef is also threatened by storms, coral bleaching and ocean acidification. The 2014 report also shows that, while numerous marine life species have recovered after previous declines, the strength of the dugong population is continuing to decline. Terry Hughes, Federation Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, wrote in a 14 August 2014 Conversation piece that harmful government policies and ongoing conflicts of interest over mining royalties are risks of an equivalent magnitude.
The GBRMPA consider climate change, poor water quality, coastal development, and some impacts from fishing to be the area’s major threats, but reef scientists Jon Day, Bob Pressey, Jon Brodie and Hughes stated that the “cumulative effects of many combined impacts” is the real issue. In a Conversation Article, Mathieu Mongin, a biogeochemical modeller at CSIRO and colleagues mapped parts of the Great Barrier Reef that are most exposed to ocean acidification. This map of pH on the Great Barrier Reef presents the exposure to ocean acidification on each of the 3,581 reefs, providing managers with the information they need to tailor management to individual reefs. The Great Barrier Reef is not a singular reef nor a physical barrier that prevents exchange between reefs; it is a mixture of thousands of productive reefs and shallow areas lying on a continental shelf with complex oceanic circulation.
The Australian and Queensland Governments committed to act in partnership in 2007 to protect the reef, and water quality monitoring programmes were implemented. However, the World Wildlife Fund criticised the slow progress of the governments, raising a concern that as many as 700 reefs continued to be at risk from sediment runoff. The Australian government then outlined further action after the WHC called for the completion of a strategic assessment of the Reef area in 2011. The Committee also urged the government to use the assessment data to develop a long-term plan for protecting the “Outstanding Universal Value” of the reef, which is the basis for its World Heritage listing. Again, criticisms emerged from the expert community—due to vague quantitative targets, the absence of clear, specific strategies, and no mention of the implications of climate change—but the significant efforts of both state and federal governments addressed key recommendations from the World Heritage Committee.
A 2012 UNESCO report, published by the World Heritage Committee (WHC), then criticised the government’s management of the Great Barrier Reef, warning that the area could be downgraded to a world heritage site “in danger” unless major changes were implemented. The report expressed “extreme concern” at the rapid rate of coastal development, highlighting the construction of liquefied natural gas plants at Gladstone and Curtis Island, and recommended that thorough assessments are made before any new developments that could affect the reef are approved. UNESCO specifically recommended no new port development in Abbot Point, Gladstone, Hay Point, Mackay, and Townsville.
On the second day of the 2013 round of the biennial training exercise ‘Talisman Saber’, in which 28,000 US and Australian military personnel conduct joint activities over a three-week period,four unarmed bombs were dropped into the Great Barrier Reef by two US AV-8B Harrier jets that were unable to land with the weight of the weapons. To minimize potential harm to the reef, the four bombs, weighing a total 1.8 metric tons (4,000 pounds), were dropped into more than 50 meters (164 ft) of water away from the reef’s coral structures. The bomb drop was originally planned to occur at the Townshend Island bombing range, but after controllers reported that the area was not clear of hazards, the emergency jettison occurred. Australian senator Larissa Waters responded to the news by asking, “Have we gone completely mad? Is this how we look after our World Heritage area now? Letting a foreign power drop bombs on it?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rise of right-wing extremism in Europe

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Europe is facing a rising tide of right-wing extrem­ism. Extremist parties — whether called right-wing or far-right or ultra-nationalists — are in government in Finland, Austria, Slovakia, Hun­gary and Poland. So far, those groups are in gov­ernment just as coalition partners but indicators are that Europe is experiencing a distinct move to the right amid rising rhetoric against migration and the idea of open bor­ders. This is something that could become a threat to European unity, particularly given Britain’s decision to leave the European Union fol­lowing a referendum in which the main issue was migration. In light of what is the worst ref­ugee crisis since the end of World War II, a number of EU govern­ments have taken stances that seem to go against the stated objec­tives and values of the union, par­ticularly in terms of human rights and freedom of movement. The European Parliament has seen the rise of right-wing extremist parties, with 23% of the members of the body belonging to far-right-wing parties.

Courtesy : The Arab Weekly

 

 

 

 

 

Iraqi forces edge further into Mosul

Iraqi forces said they had seized ground inside Mosul’s Old City, a district expected to see some of the fiercest clashes in the battle for the militant stronghold. An operation began on February 19 to retake Mosul’s west, the last major Islamic State group urban bastion in the country, which includes the Old City. Iraqi forces have since retaken several neighbourhoods despite bad weather that has hampered air support.
But as they close in on the ancient central district they face particular difficulties. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are believed to be trapped under IS rule in the warren of densely populated, narrow streets which restrict the use of large armoured vehicles. Federal police commander Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat said yesterday that Iraqi forces backed by artillery and drones had advanced in the district. “Federal police and Rapid Response units imposed their complete control over the Al-Basha Mosque…and the Bab al-Saray market in the Old City,” he said. The two sites lie on the edge of the district in the heart of Mosul, next to the Tigris river that slices the city in two.
Further west, forces from the elite Counter-Terrorism Service have pushed into the Al-Rissala and Nablus quarters, senior commander Staff Lieutenant General Abdulghani al-Assadi said. “The situation is good,” he said. The fall of Mosul, Iraq’s second city, would be a major setback for IS following months of losses in Iraq and neighbouring Syria. Mosul has huge symbolic significance for the group: it was from the Old City’s Al-Nouri mosque that its secretive chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of his “caliphate” in July 2014. Iraqi forces backed by an international US-led coalition launched a vast, long-awaited operation in October to oust the militants from Mosul, completing their recapture of the east in January.

U.S. aircraft carrier joins South Korea drills

North Korea warns the United States of “merciless” attacks if the carrier infringes on its sovereignty or dignity during U.S.-South Korean drills. With the USS Carl Vinson ploughing through seas off South Korea, rival North Korea has warned the United States of “merciless” attacks if the carrier infringes on its sovereignty or dignity during US-South Korean drills. F-18 fighter jets took off from the flight deck of the nuclear-powered carrier in a dramatic display of US firepower amid rising tension with the North, which has alarmed its neighbours with two nuclear tests and a series of missile launches since last year. “While this is a routine deployment for the Carl Vinson strike group, really the centrepiece for us… is this exercise we’re doing with the ROK navy called ‘Foal Eagle’,” Rear Admiral James W. Kilby, commander of the Carrier Strike Group 1, said, referring to South Korea as the Republic of Korea.

Turkey’s president : ‘Nazism is alive in the West’

Turkey said it does nott want the Netherlands ambassador to return “for some time” as relations quickly deteriorated between the NATO allies after the Dutch government barred Turkey’s foreign minister from flying to the country. In response to the Netherlands’ withdrawing landing permission, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Dutch government of acting like “fascists” and “Nazi remnants”. Turkish authorities blocked the Dutch embassy and consulate as the dispute between the two countries over Turkey’s political campaigning in Europe intensified. Turkey also closed off the residences of the Dutch ambassador, charge d’affaires, and consul general.

The sniper wars of Mosul

As an outnumbered and outgunned Islamic State mounts a fierce defence of their last stronghold in Iraq, snipers have been one of their most effective weapons. At times they can pin down advancing Iraqi forces for days.

South Korean president Park Geun-hye impeached

Ousted South Korean leader Park Geun-hye has now left the presidential palace, two days after judges upheld parliament’s decision to impeach her. Ms Park arrived at her home in southern Seoul amid waving supporters. She has been impeached over her role in a corruption scandal involving close friend, Choi Soon-sil. Ms Park said in a statement: “Although it will take time, I believe the truth will certainly come out.” She also apologised to her supporters for “failing to fulfil my duty as president”. Ms Park has now lost her immunity and could face criminal proceedings over accusations she allowed Ms Choi to extort money from companies in return for political favours.
Park Geun-hye was ferried to her private residence in Seoul in a black limousine, chased by a posse of journalists on motorbikes. When she arrived, she waved to cheering supporters, smiling broadly, and shook hands with political allies. She may yet face prosecution and a trial in an ordinary criminal court. Her demise has split the country, with her increasingly vocal supporters saying she is a victim of a political decision. Her demeanour outside her new residence was upbeat and full of smiles. It was not the demeanour of a disgraced, regretful politician.

 

 

 

 

 

Drought-hit Somalia : People are dying. The world must act

The UN chief has urged international support to alleviate Somalia’s worsening hunger crisis during an emergency visit to the country. Antonio Guterres issued the appeal on Tuesday after witnessing the suffering of malnourished Somalis and cholera victims during his first field trip since becoming the UN chief. He said the hunger crisis requires a massive response as six million people, or almost half of the population of the Horn of Africa country, need assistance. “Every single person we have seen is a personal story of tremendous suffering. There is no way to describe it,” Guterres said after seeing skeletal men, women and children in a cholera ward in Baidoa, 243km northwest of the capital, Mogadishu.

 

The long road to Raqqa

The Raqqa offensive (codenamed Operation Wrath of Euphrates), is an ongoing military operation launched by the Syrian Democratic Forces against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Raqqa Governorate, with the goal of isolating and eventually capturing the Islamic State’s capital city, Raqqa. Another one of the main goals is to capture the Tabqa Dam and the nearby city of Al-Thawrah. The offensive has also been dubbed the Battle to End All Battles in the War on ISIL. The offensive is concurrent with the Turkish anti-ISIL Battle of al-Bab, the Battle of Mosul in Iraq, the Battle of Sirte (2016) in Libya, the Palmyra offensive (December 2016) launched by ISIL, and a reignition of fighting in Deir ez-Zor’s siege.

Civilians caught in Mosul crossfire

Thousands of Mosul residents flee the raging battle, often under fire from Islamic State militants, as Iraqi forces fight to retake the city.