Posts Tagged ‘Russia’
The 16-year-old Chemical Weapons Convention has been in the spotlight since Syria decided to join in an apparent bid to avoid US-led military intervention over the government’s alleged use of chemical weapons. But here are some lesser known facts about the origins of the treaty, whom it covers, what it covers – and who has complied with its obligations…
Between April 1997, when the convention came into force, and July 2013, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – which polices the convention – conducted more than 5,000 inspections in 86 out of the 189 countries that are party to the convention. But the OPCW can’t do much to enforce compliance, outside recommending measures to states or referring matters to the UN General Assembly or Security Council.
Seven state parties have declared chemical weapons stockpiles totalling over 70,000 tonnes, and so far some 80% of this has been destroyed…But only three countries – Albania, India and a third party widely believed to be South Korea – have destroyed all their stockpiles.
The countries with the biggest declared stockpiles, the United States and Russia, failed to meet deadlines for their total destruction in April 2007 and April 2012. The deadlines have now been extended once again…
The US currently has a stockpile of some 3,000 tonnes of chemical agents – three times the amount Western powers say Syria possesses.
There are some contentious exclusions from the CWC, such as white phosphorus – which if used as smoke (to camouflage movement) is not considered a chemical weapon despite its potential toxic effects. Napalm and dynamite are excluded because their primary destructive effects are considered to be incendiary and not chemical.
The CWC’s remit also does not include biological weapons – weaponisable bio-agents such as bacteria, viruses or fungi – which is covered by the Biological Weapons Convention.
Because of foot-dragging by the US and the Soviet Union, it took a couple decades for the proposed treaty to make it to reality in 1997. All the breast-beating we still hear from our elected officials about the plastic halo they think we deserve for starting to destroy our chemical weapons, we remain responsible for most of the nuclear arsenal remaining in the world, a significant chunk of land mines.
Los Alamos National Labs avoided most of the effects of the sequester stupidity because they – and the nuclear welfare program at Pantex in Amarillo, Texas – are busy upgrading the triggers on our nuclear stockpile of death and destruction.
Thanks to I Acknowledge Class Warfare Exists
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.