Posts Tagged ‘Russia’
Two amphibious assault ships bought for the Russian Navy from France in a 1.2 billion euro deal will not be able to operate in temperatures below seven degrees centigrade, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin admitted…in critical comments about the contract.
“It’s very odd that ships for offloading a landing force, floating in our latitudes won’t work in temperatures below seven degrees,” said Rogozin, who has special responsibilities for the defense industry, in a meeting of the Academy of Military Science…”Maybe they thought we’re going to undertake special operations in Africa but I doubt that’s going to happen,” he added.
Russia signed the 1.2 billion euro deal in June 2011 for two of the Mistral ships, which will carry helicopters to support landings by marines. The first of the ships is due for delivery in 2014…
The first Mistral is due to be deployed in Russia’s Pacific Fleet, based in the port of Vladivostok, which is ice-free all year round but still experiences months of severe winter cold. The second is due to be deployed with the Northern Fleet, which also has ice-free bases, due to the Gulf Stream, but also experience very cold temperatures for several months a year.
I love beancounters who only think about the price of a deal – ignoring completely all other qualities which determine real value.
Like, how’s the quality of roads in your neck of the prairie? Most municipalities in the Anglophone world have been reducing the specification of road construction so any fly-by-night cousin of some state politician can afford to put in a low bid. And we get crap roads that start to disintegrate within three years.
Sounds like the same genes carry over into ship-building in France.
Comet McNaught above Chile in 2007
At the moment it is a faint object, visible only in sophisticated telescopes as a point of light moving slowly against the background stars. It doesn’t seem much – a frozen chunk of rock and ice – one of many moving in the depths of space. But this one is being tracked with eager anticipation by astronomers from around the world, and in a year everyone could know its name.
Comet Ison could draw millions out into the dark to witness what could be the brightest comet seen in many generations – brighter even than the full Moon.
It was found as a blur on an electronic image of the night sky taken through a telescope at the Kislovodsk Observatory in Russia as part of a project to survey the sky looking for comets and asteroids – chunks of rock and ice that litter space…
When the images were obtained Vitali Nevski loaded them into a computer program designed to detect asteroids and comets moving between images. He noticed a rather bright object with unusually slow movement, which he thought could only mean it was situated way beyond the orbit of Jupiter. But he couldn’t tell if the object was a comet, so Artyom Novichonok booked time on a larger telescope to take another look. Less than a day later the new images revealed that Nevski and Novichonok had discovered a comet, which was named Comet Ison. A database search showed it has been seen in images taken by other telescopes earlier that year and in late 2011. These observations allowed its orbit to be calculated, and when astronomers did that they let out a collective “wow.”
Comet Ison has taken millions of years to reach us travelling from the so-called Oort cloud – a reservoir of trillions and trillions of chunks of rock and ice, leftovers from the birth of the planets…Comet Ison is making its first, and perhaps only visit to us. Its life has been cold, frozen hard and unchanging, but it is moving closer to the Sun, and getting warmer…
By the end of summer it will become visible in small telescopes and binoculars. By October it will pass close to Mars and things will begin to stir. The surface will shift as the ice responds to the thermal shock, cracks will appear in the crust, tiny puffs of gas will rise from it as it is warmed. The comet’s tail is forming…
By late November it will be visible to the unaided eye just after dark in the same direction as the setting Sun. Its tail could stretch like a searchlight into the sky above the horizon. Then it will swing rapidly around the Sun, passing within two million miles of it, far closer than any planet ever does, to emerge visible in the evening sky heading northward towards the pole star. It could be an “unaided eye” object for months. When it is close in its approach to the Sun it could become intensely brilliant but at that stage it would be difficult and dangerous to see without special instrumentation as it would be only a degree from the sun.
BTW, Ison might not be the only comet in the sky next year. A comet, called 2014 L4 (PanSTARRS), was discovered last year and and should be visible in March and April. Could be an interesting year for sky sightings.
U.S. pork and beef exports to Russia could come to a halt on Saturday following Moscow’s requirement that the meat be tested and certified free of the feed additive ractopamine…
The move could jeopardize the more than $500 million a year in exports of U.S. beef and pork to Russia…
The United States asked Russia, the sixth-largest market for U.S. beef and pork, to suspend the requirement even as it warned domestic meat companies that Moscow might reject their pork shipments that contained ractopamine and stop buying pork from processing plants that produced pork with the drug.
Ractopamine is used as a feed additive to make meat leaner, but countries such as China have banned its use despite scientific evidence that it is safe…
The U.S. Meat Export Federation told its members by email that since the U.S. Department of Agriculture had no testing and certification program in place for ractopamine, the Russian requirement could effectively halt U.S. pork and beef exports to the country by Saturday…
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, in a note posted on its website on Friday afternoon, said: “Exporters are cautioned that Russia may reject U.S. pork shipments and delist producing establishments if ractopamine residues are detected in exported product.”
FSIS also said at the moment it was not requiring meat companies for documentation attesting their pork was free of ractopamine before issuing its export certification.
Are there requirements for measuring ractopamine sold for consumption to Americans, eh?
Analysts said the Russian move was linked to the Senate’s passage of the trade bill and blah, blah, blah…
Tyson Foods…a leading U.S. meat company, and agriculture powerhouse Cargill…declined to comment on how a halt in exports would impact them, but both noted the U.S. and Russian governments were in discussions.
Yes, there are 100 countries including the European Union rejecting pork with ractopamine residues. Mother Jones wrote a delightful article in February when Taiwan rejected US shipments – entitled “US Pushes the World to Import Our Dodgy Meat” – and if you’d like some delightful midnight snack reading matter, try this report from the USDA describing the symptoms of some pigs tested with the stuff.
It was time for this UTAir Antonov An-24 in Bodaybo, Russia to takeoff. The runway is a pile of mud. The tail keeps sliding to the right. But the pilot doesn’t care. Like General Winter, General Mud is his friend. So he’s getting airborne, one way or another.
And here’s the view from inside the plane. The first half of the video is taxiing out for the take-off.
Denmark will dispatch a scientific expedition to the Arctic Ocean at the end of the month to gather data before it submits a formal claim to a vast tract north of Greenland that includes the North Pole.
Such a claim would be made under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), setting up a possible clash of interests with fellow Arctic coastal states Russia and Canada that are making their own claims.
“We need the data that we plan to acquire on this cruise,” said Christian Marcussen, the expedition’s chief scientist from the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. “But … we are quite confident that we will be able to make a submission.”
Denmark admits it is interested in staking a claim to a part of the planet believed to be rich in untapped oil and gas, but rules out a unilateral “land grab” or being drawn into confrontation over competing claims.
“I reject the confrontation scenarios that have been presented in the media and academic circles,” Klaus Holm, Denmark’s Arctic ambassador, said.
“If there is any area where every party has an interest in cooperating, it is the Arctic. The challenge is so huge and the areas are so vast…”
Denmark has identified five potential claim areas off the Faroe Islands and Greenland – both parts of the Kingdom of Denmark…
The other area Denmark has identified – likely to be the most sensitive part of any future claim – is roughly 150,000 square kilometers extending north from Greenland and including the North Pole.
For that claim to be credible, much depends on whether the expedition is able to gather data to prove that the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater formation spanning 1,800 kilometers across the pole, is an extension of Greenland’s land mass.
RTFA for conflicting claims by Russia and Canada. The conflict – so far – involves words, history, law and treaties. No one is being stupid enough – yet – to involve threats.
Most were rescued by helicopter – some by rubber boats
More than 600 anglers stranded on an ice floe in the Russian far east have been rescued. The operation to airlift them off the ice involved 48 people, two helicopters and 11 ships, the emergencies ministry said.
The 675 fishing enthusiasts were carried out to sea when the floe, off the island of Sakhalin, broke free…The ice floe had drifted 500m away from the coast before running aground again.
One of the rescued anglers, Vladimir Vasilenko, said he had ventured on to the ice floe knowing that windy conditions might pose a risk.
“The wind was blowing from the shore, and it was clear that something might happen, but people were still going out, so we did too,” he said.
“It was the excitement, of course. We also heard on the radio that it would be the last chance for fishing on the ice. And so we rushed out to go fishing.”
Well, duh! Better luck next time.
Sample from the Koryak Mountains
Examples of a crystal previously thought to be impossible in nature may have come from space…
Quasicrystals have an unusual structure – in between those of crystals and glasses. Until two years ago, quasicrystals had only been created in the lab – then geologists found them in rocks from Russia’s Koryak mountains. In PNAS journal, a team says the chemistry of the Russian crystals suggests they arrived in meteorites.
Quasicrystals were first described in the 1980s by Israeli researcher Daniel Schechtman, who was awarded last year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery.
Schechtman’s ideas were initially treated with doubt or scorn by some of his peers, who thought the structures were “impossible”.
Quasicrystals break some of the rules of symmetry that apply to conventional crystalline structures. They also exhibit different physical and electrical properties.
In 2009, Luca Bindi, from the University of Florence, Italy, and his colleagues reported finding quasicrystals in mineral samples from the Koryak mountains in Russia’s far east.
The mineral – an alloy of aluminium, copper, and iron – showed that quasicrystals could form and remain stable under natural conditions. But the natural process that created the structures remained an open question. Now, Dr Bindi, Paul Steinhardt from Princeton University and others claim that tests point to an extra-terrestrial origin for the Russian minerals.
They used the technique of mass spectrometry to measure different forms – or isotopes – of the element oxygen contained in parts of the rock sample. The pattern of oxygen isotopes was unlike any known minerals that originated on Earth. It was instead closer to that sometimes found in a type of meteorite known as a carbonaceous chondrite.
The samples also contained a type of silica which only forms at very high pressures. This suggests it either formed in the Earth’s mantle, or was formed in a high-velocity impact, such as that which occurs when a meteorite hits the Earth’s surface.
Uh, OK. Paul Steinhardt – one of the researchers in the PNAS report – had to remark over the fact that discovery in the lab was difficult enough for folks to say forming naturally was impossible. So, of course, nutty Mother Nature made it happen in outer space.
Reuters pictures used by permission
Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party faces an array of Communists, nationalists and liberals in a parliamentary election on Sunday, but one of its ardent opponents is a more peculiar political animal: a cartoon pig named Nakh-Nakh.
Pushed to the margins since Putin came to power 12 years ago, some of the prime minister’s fiercest foes are urging Russians to reject the political system he has put in place by spoiling their ballots in Sunday’s State Duma vote.
“This is not an election in the European sense of the word, because no party that presents a challenge, or has not been agreed with the Kremlin, has been allowed to run,” said satirist Viktor Shenderovich, a co-founder of the Nakh-Nakh movement.
“The question is what people who understand this is a farce should do.”
Their answer: Nakh-Nakh, a bespectacled pig with an orange scarf, a blue beret and a double-entendre of a name that to Russians evokes both the Three Little Pigs and an obscenity which, put more politely, means ‘Go away!’…
In a series of animated clips posted on the Internet, the pink-cheeked pig casts his vote, angrily marking the box for each party with an X and adding a big black X across the entire ballot before slipping it through the slot…
The message: It’s the same no matter how you slice it…
Nearly three million voters did so in the 2003 election to the Duma, Russia’s lower parliament house. The “against all” option received 4.7 percent of the votes, more than 19 of the 23 parties on the ballot.
The Duma then passed legislation striking the “against all” option from ballots, part of a series of electoral reforms enacted during Putin’s 2000-2008 presidency that critics said were meant to silence dissent and strengthen his grip on power.
The Kremlin-controlled parliament also raised the threshold needed to win State Duma seats to 7 percent and threw up other barriers to potential challengers.
All of the restrictions added in Russia have been practiced in the United States – most are still in force.
Primaries are restricted to the options agreed upon by those in command of the party. Independent voters are refused the right to vote in most primaries. Enormous restrictions are placed upon anyone wishing to run for office independent of either of the TweedleDeeDum parties. There are exceptions. They are few. The number diminishes from year to year, decade to decade.
Our Supreme Court continues to makes decisions backing only one concept of free elections. Whoever has the most money has the best chances.
There have been primaries where “None of the Above” is an option. Go ahead and try to get that choice in your own state. Like redistricting, like seeking majority rule in Congress, like any request for increased democracy and participation in governance of the United States – the decisions are made by those least interested in more democracy – the politicians in office.
The dangerous task of removing cluster bombs dropped by Israel on Lebanon
A U.S.-led push to regulate, rather than ban, cluster munitions failed Friday after 50 countries objected, following humanitarian campaigners’ claims that anything less than a outright ban would be an unprecedented reversal of human rights law.
While the United States, China and Russia want rules about the manufacture and use of cluster bombs, activists say such regulations would legitimize the munitions, backtracking from the Oslo Convention, an international treaty that seeks a worldwide ban.
“Against all odds it looks like we’re going to have success this evening,” Steve Goose, head of the arms division at Human Rights Watch, told a press conference in Geneva. “How often do you see the U.S., Russia, China, India, Israel and Belarus push for something, and they don’t get it? That has happened largely because of one powerful alliance driving the Oslo partnership.”
Cluster bombs, dropped by air or fired by artillery, scatter hundreds of bomblets across a wide area and can kill and maim civilians long after conflicts end…
Those lining up against the U.S. plan included the International Committee of the Red Cross and the top U.N. officials for human rights, emergency relief and development.
The U.N. agency chiefs said cluster bombs were a particular threat to children, who were attracted by their unusual, toy-like shapes and colors. They said they were extremely concerned at plans to do anything less than ban them…
Activists said the opposition to the U.S. proposal was led by Norway, Mexico and Austria, while 12 signatories to the 2008 Oslo Convention, including Japan, France and Germany, said they were in favor of regulation of cluster bombs under the CCW.
China and Russia, which like the United States are major producers of cluster munitions, were strongly supportive of the U.S. measure.
No surprises in any aspect of the politics on display here. Whether the question is one of allowing torture – or carrying on with the manufacture, deployment and distribution of anti-personnel weapons generally used by the most reactionary regimes on Earth – the United States has supported continuing use.
Questions of use and abuse of weapons using phosphorus, napalm – questions regarding carpet bombing, land mines and cluster bombs – and most recently the revival of torture as acceptable, the United States has lagged the rest of civilization. Whichever domestic decisions have been made by American voters, foreign policy enforced by military means and guided by allegiance to Pentagon protocols and Congressional fiat has relied on death and destruction applied with equal weight to military and civilian targets.
We accepted all the premises from the Axis we fought against in World War 2. And invented new rationales, more lies for the Cold War and beyond.