International Space Station thrown out of control by misfire of Russian module — NASA

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This photo released by the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos on July 29, 2021, shows the Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module "Nauka" (Science) docking to the ISS. (AFP)
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This photo released by the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos on July 29, 2021, shows the Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module "Nauka" (Science) docking to the ISS. (AFP)
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Updated 30 July 2021
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International Space Station thrown out of control by misfire of Russian module — NASA

LOS ANGELES/MOSCOW: The International Space Station (ISS) was thrown briefly out of control on Thursday when jet thrusters of a newly arrived Russian research module inadvertently fired a few hours after it was docked to the orbiting outpost, NASA officials said.
The seven crew members aboard — two Russian cosmonauts, three NASA astronauts, a Japanese astronaut and a European space agency astronaut from France — were never in any immediate danger, according to NASA and Russian state-owned news agency RIA.
But the malfunction prompted NASA to postpone until at least Aug. 3 its planned launch of Boeing's new CST-100 Starliner capsule on an uncrewed test flight to the space station. The Starliner had been set to blast off atop an Atlas V rocket on Friday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Thursday's mishap began about three hours after the multipurpose Nauka module had latched onto the space station. The module's jets inexplicably restarted, causing the entire station to pitch out of its normal flight position some 250 miles above the Earth, US space agency officials said.
The "loss of attitudinal control" lasted for a little more than 45 minutes, until flight teams on the ground managed to restore the space station's orientation by activating thrusters on another module of the orbiting platform, according to Joel Montalbano, manager of NASA's space station program.
In its broadcast coverage of the incident, RIA cited NASA specialists at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, as describing the struggle to regain control of the space station as a "tug of war" between the two modules.
At the height of the incident, the station was pitching out of alignment at the rate of about a half a degree per second, Montalbano said hours later in a NASA conference call with reporters.
The Nauka engines were ultimately switched off, the space station was stabilized and its orientation was restored to where it had begun, NASA said.
Communication with the crew was lost briefly twice during the disruption, but "there was no immediate danger at any time to the crew," Montalbano said.
A drift in the space station's normal orientation was first detected by automatic sensors on the ground, and "the crew really didn't feel any movement," he said.
What caused the malfunction of the thrusters on the Nauka module, delivered by the Russian space agency Roscosmos, has yet to be determined, NASA officials said.
Montalbano said there was no immediate sign of any damage to the space station. The flight correction maneuvers used up more propellant reserves than desired, "but nothing I would worry about," he said.
After its launch last week from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome, the module experienced a series of glitches that raised concern about whether the docking procedure would go smoothly.
Roscosmos attributed Thursday's post-docking issue to Nauka's engines having to work with residual fuel in the craft, TASS news agency reported.
"The process of transferring the Nauka module from flight mode to 'docked with ISS' mode is underway. Work is being carried out on the remaining fuel in the module," Roscosmos was cited by TASS as saying.
The Nauka module is designed to serve as a research lab, storage unit and airlock that will upgrade Russia's capabilities aboard the ISS.
A live broadcast showed the module, named after the Russian word for "science," docking with the space station a few minutes later than scheduled.
"According to telemetry data and reports from the ISS crew, the onboard systems of the station and the Nauka module are operating normally," Roscosmos said in a statement.
"There is contact!!!" Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, wrote on Twitter moments after the docking. 


Zelensky to meet with Biden, Republicans as war funding dries up

Updated 19 sec ago
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Zelensky to meet with Biden, Republicans as war funding dries up

  • Republican senators last week blocked $106 billion in emergency aid primarily for Ukraine and Israel after conservatives balked at the exclusion of immigration reforms they had demanded as part of the package

WASHINGTON: Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky will travel to Washington Tuesday to meet President Joe Biden and plead his case before Republicans balking at sending more money for his fight against Russia, amid warnings aid will run out in weeks.
In a flurry of diplomatic activity after the White House announced Zelensky’s visit, an aide for Mike Johnson said the new Republican speaker for the House of Representatives — who has been trying to tie Ukraine aid to funding for US border security — will also meet with the Ukrainian leader Tuesday.
And a Senate official said Democratic majority leader Chuck Schumer and Republican leader Mitch McConnell likewise invited Zelensky to speak at an all-Senators meeting Tuesday morning — one week after several Republicans angrily walked out of a classified Ukraine briefing that he had been due to address via video.
Biden and Zelensky “will discuss Ukraine’s urgent needs” as it fights off a Russian invasion, and “the vital importance of the United States’ continued support at this critical moment,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
The Ukrainian presidency said the meeting will focus on key issues such as “joint projects on the production of weapons and air defense systems, as well as the coordination of efforts between our countries in the coming year.”
Republican senators last week blocked $106 billion in emergency aid primarily for Ukraine and Israel after conservatives balked at the exclusion of immigration reforms they had demanded as part of the package.
It was a setback for Biden, who had urged lawmakers to approve the funds, warning that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not stop with victory in Ukraine and could even attack a NATO nation.

Shalanda Young, head of the White House Office of Management and Budget reiterated that fear on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, warning that “our national security is also influenced” by Ukraine’s fate.
“What happens if Putin marches through Ukraine, what’s next? NATO countries, our sons and daughters, are at risk of being a part of a larger conflict,” she said.
But Republicans remained skeptical, with Senator JD Vance, a close ally of former US president Donald Trump, dismissing the idea of Putin putting NATO countries in the region at risk “preposterous.”
He told CNN on Sunday that he opposes a “blank check” for Ukraine.
“You need to articulate what the ambition is. What is $61 billion going to accomplish that $100 billion hasn’t?” Vance said.
“What’s in America’s best interest is to accept Ukraine is going to have to cede some territory to the Russians and we need to bring the war to a close.”
The funding row underscores signs that Western support for Ukraine is fraying just as Kyiv’s counteroffensive falters and Putin’s forces push for new gains.
Ukraine’s offensive has employed billions of dollars’ worth of Western weapons — but the front lines have barely shifted in more than a year and Russian attacks along the front have intensified.
The White House said Biden’s meeting will come at a vital moment, “as Russia ramps up its missile and drone strikes against Ukraine.”
At the start of December, Putin signed a decree to boost Russian forces by 15 percent, increasing the army by some 170,000 people.
Moscow has recently given signs about a possible peace deal, although one involving a shrunken, neutral Ukraine that would be impossible to swallow for Zelensky.
The US State Department announced a stopgap $175 million tranche of new aid for Ukraine on Wednesday, including prized HIMARS rockets, shells, missiles and ammunition.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted on Sunday that “Ukraine has done an extraordinary job” defending itself.
“The choice is very clear,” he said on ABC. “If we do this and help Ukraine sustain the achievements that it’s made, help ensure that Russia continues to suffer a strategic failure in in Ukraine. That’s one route to go.
“The other route to go is to do something that the only people who are rooting for it are in Moscow, and maybe in Tehran and Beijing, which is not to provide this assistance,” he said.
 

 


Populist legacy will weigh on Poland’s next government

Updated 10 December 2023
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Populist legacy will weigh on Poland’s next government

  • A coalition of pro-EU parties headed up by former European Council President Donald Tusk won a majority in parliamentary elections against the right-wing populist Law and Justice party

WARSAW: Expectations for Poland’s pro-EU government which is due to take power next week are sky-high but current ruling nationalists will still be a powerful and influential opposition, analysts say.

A coalition of pro-EU parties headed up by former European Council President Donald Tusk won a majority in parliamentary elections on Oct. 15 against the right-wing populist Law and Justice party, also known as PiS.

Tusk, who is also a former prime minister, will have his work cut out after eight years of PiS in power.

“There won’t be any miracles” as the new government faces daily battles with PiS which “will continue to fight,” Jaroslaw Kuisz, a political analyst, said.

“It will be like going through mud” and quick change is unlikely as PiS leaves “a judicial minefield,” he said.

PiS will be the biggest single party in the new parliament with 194 out of 460 seats in the lower house and has shown it intends to be a combative opposition.

The party also has allies in the presidency, the central bank and the supreme court, as well as several important judicial and financial state institutions.

It also dominates state media organizations, which have become a government mouthpiece during its rule.

Analysts speak of a “spider’s web” woven by PiS by putting allies in influential roles with mandates that will last long into the new government’s tenure.

President Andrzej Duda is due to step down ahead of a presidential election in 2025 but he could use blocking tactics between now and then, vetoing legislation brought to him by the pro-EU majority in parliament.

The head of state gave an insight into his intentions by initially nominating the PiS Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to form a new government even though it was clear the party had no majority from the outset. He effectively gave PiS two more months in power.

Tusk has reacted angrily, saying on Friday that PiS has spent its last few weeks in power “wreaking havoc, destroying the Polish state.”

Kuisz said the party has used the time “to reinforce itself institutionally and financially.”

PiS has named two former ministers to head up important state financial institutions and new prosecutors.

The president has also approved 150 new judges nominated by a body that was criticized by the EU as being too much under the influence of PiS.

Controversial judicial reforms introduced by PiS have pushed Brussels to freeze billions of euros in funding destined for Warsaw which Tusk wants to unblock.


Lavrov: No justification for collective punishment of Palestinian people

Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. (AP)
Updated 10 December 2023
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Lavrov: No justification for collective punishment of Palestinian people

MOSCOW: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Sunday said it was not acceptable for Israel to use the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 as justification for the collective punishment of the Palestinian people and called for international monitoring on the ground in Gaza.
Israeli tanks battled their way to the center of Khan Younis on Sunday in a major new push into the heart of the central city in the southern Gaza Strip.
President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly blamed the war between Israel and Hamas on the failure of years of US diplomacy in the Middle East, while aiming to position Russia as an important player with ties to all the
major actors in the region.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday voiced Israel’s “dissatisfaction” to President Putin over Russia’s vote in favor of a UN Security Council resolution calling for a Gaza ceasefire.
“The prime minister expressed his dissatisfaction with the positions expressed against Israel by Russian representatives at the UN and in other forums” when he spoke with Putin on Sunday, Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.
“Any country that had been struck with a criminal terrorist assault such as Israel experienced would have reacted with no less force than Israel is using,” he told Putin.
The US vetoed Friday’s Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza war.
Netanyahu’s office said on Sunday Israel helped Cyprus foil an Iranian-ordered attack against Israelis and Jews on the island, claiming that such plots were on the rise since the Gaza
war erupted.
Netanyahu’s office said in the statement on behalf of the Mossad intelligence service that Israel was “troubled” by what it saw as Iranian use of Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus “both for terrorism objectives and as an operational and transit area.”
Earlier on Sunday, a Greek Cypriot newspaper in Cyprus’s government-controlled south reported authorities had detained two Iranians for questioning over suspected planning of attacks on Israeli citizens living in Cyprus.
The two individuals were believed to be in the early stages of gathering intelligence on potential Israeli targets, the Kathimerini Cyprus newspaper said without citing sources. Those individuals had crossed from the north, it said.
Barely a 40-minute flight from Israel, both sides of Cyprus are a popular holiday and investment destination for thousands of Israelis.

 


Indonesia vows to assist Rohingya refugees humanely amid surge of arrivals

Rohingya refugees gather and rest at a beach in Pidie district in Indonesia’s Aceh province on Dec. 10, 2023. (AFP)
Updated 10 December 2023
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Indonesia vows to assist Rohingya refugees humanely amid surge of arrivals

  • Over 1,200 Rohingya refugees have arrived in Aceh since mid-November
  • Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees

JAKARTA: Indonesia will continue to handle the influx of Rohingya refugees humanely, the National Refugee Task Force said on Sunday, after the latest batch of people from the minority group arrived in the westernmost province of Aceh amid a pushback from local residents. 

Two boats carrying more than 300 Rohingya refugees docked at different beaches in Aceh Besar and Pidie districts in the early hours of Sunday. Most are women and children who left their refugee camps in Bangladesh last month and had been adrift for weeks in the Andaman Sea. 

More than 1,200 Rohingya refugees have arrived in Aceh since mid-November and were met with some opposition from local authorities and residents, who threatened to push them back to sea. 

The safety of the Rohingya is a priority for the government, Indonesia’s National Refugee Task Force said. 

“We will continue to handle the Rohingya refugees humanely, even when many local residents are rejecting them,” Eros Shidqy Putra, a member of the task force, told Arab News. 

“Our main priority is their safety. For Aceh residents, we are also trying to raise awareness about the refugee situation.” 

The mostly Muslim Rohingya have faced decades of suffering in Myanmar and are described as the “world’s most persecuted minority” by the UN. 

In 2017, more than 730,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh following a brutal crackdown by the Myanmar military that the UN said amounted to genocide. For the last six years, the refugees lived in squalid and overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar where humanitarian aid has dwindled, facing rising insecurity and uncertainty. 

Over 3,500 Rohingya attempted deadly sea crossings in 2022, more than 340 of whom died or went missing, highlighting the “growing sense of desperation” among them in both Myanmar and Bangladesh, the UN said earlier this year. 

The Indonesian government suspected human trafficking behind the recent escalation in boat arrivals, President Joko Widodo said on Friday, as he promised to work with international organizations to address the issue. 

Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, but has a history of taking in refugees on humanitarian grounds when they arrive on the country’s shores.

This year’s arrivals prompted a backlash on social media and some pushback from people in Aceh, but the rejection of Rohingya refugees has been around since 2018, according to Geutanyoe, an Aceh-based humanitarian organization which has worked with Rohingya refugees for over a decade. 

Geutanyoe director Al-Fadhel said the opposition in Aceh has mostly been protests against the official handling of refugees in the province, which does not have permanently designated shelters to host them. 

“In Aceh, the handling of refugees has always been on an emergency basis,” Fadhel told Arab News in a phone interview. “So the rejection has mostly been a form of protest on the silence of the local government, and the absence of a good mechanism to handle the arrival of refugees in Aceh.”

There was no opposition during programs organized by Geutanyoe, which saw participation of the local community and the Rohingya, he said, adding that the handling of the refugee situation in Aceh must prioritize protection for both local residents and the Rohingya.

“The refugee situation is a humanitarian issue that we must address, to which we must give our assistance. But there are also legal aspects that we must uphold, because in their arrivals there must be people who are involved in smuggling, and this needs to be sorted.”


Bangladesh opposition party holds protest as it boycotts Jan. 7 national election amid violence 

Updated 10 December 2023
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Bangladesh opposition party holds protest as it boycotts Jan. 7 national election amid violence 

  • Reports say many independent candidates belong to ruling Awami League, who were encouraged to contest polls to make them look competitive 
  • The events have drawn concern from observers at home and abroad over the health of democracy in Bangladesh, despite its economic success 

DHAKA: Hundreds of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party supporters protested Sunday to mark International Human Rights Day, as the country gears up for a general election on Jan. 7 that the opposition says should be held under a non-partisan, caretaker government. 

The party, led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, is boycotting the election, leaving voters in the South Asian nation of 166 million with little choice but to re-elect Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League for a fourth consecutive term. 

At Sunday’s protest in front of the National Press Club in downtown Dhaka, opposition activists said they do not think a fair and free election can take place under Hasina’s watch. The gathering took place weeks after a massive opposition rally on Oct. 28 turned violent. 

The party’s decision to boycott the polls comes amid a monthslong crackdown that has reportedly seen hundreds of opposition politicians jailed and critics silenced, an allegation authorities have denied. 

Demonstrators on Sunday carried banners that read “Human chain of family members of the victims of murder and enforced disappearances” and “We want the unconditional release of all prisoners.” 

After the Oct. 28 rally, authorities arrested thousands of party leaders and activists including Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir. Many others have gone into hiding, and hundreds have been convicted by courts on charges of violence or subversive acts that the opposition says are politically motivated. 

New York-based Human Rights Watch in a report last month put the number of arrested opposition activists at 10,000 since Oct. 28 and said that at least 16 people including two police officers died during the period of violence. 

Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, joint secretary general of Zia’s party, told a video conference from hiding that the government has arrested or punished political leaders and activists under fictitious charges to ensure a lopsided election result. 

He urged the people to boycott “the stage-managed election” that he said would deepen the country’s political crisis and push it toward danger. 

“The upcoming one-sided election is not just a renewal of Sheikh Hasina’s power, but a license to destroy Bangladesh,” he said. 

While critics have slammed the election as a farce, the government has rejected allegations of a crackdown on the opposition and says the polls will be democratically held and inclusive. 

“Our stand is very clear. Those who are involved in acts of sabotage or arson attacks, those who attacked police and killed them, are being dealt with on specific charges. We clearly reject the claim that there has been any crackdown against the opposition party,” Mohammad A. Arafat, a ruling party lawmaker and member of the International Affairs Committee, told The Associated Press. 

“It has no relation with the election. It’s a constitutional mandate to hold the election on time. It’s a matter of their choice to join the polls. But they are resorting to violence in the name of protests, rather than joining the race,” he said. 

The election will be the country’s 12th after it gained independence from Pakistan in 1971. 

In the 2008 election, the main challenger BNP and its allies won more than 40 percent of the vote, but lost to Awami League, which got an absolute majority. Subsequent elections took place in 2014 — which Zia’s party boycotted — and again in 2018 under Hasina’s administration, but the opposition rejected the results, saying the election was rigged. Hasina rejected the allegations. 

This time again, while candidates from 29 out of 44 registered political parties have filed nominations, no one from Zia’s party is contesting the polls. After a review, the country’s Election Commission accepted 1,985 nominations and rejected 731 for a total of 300 constituencies. 

Media reports say many independent candidates belong to the ruling Awami League party, which has encouraged them to contest the election to make it look competitive. 

The events have drawn concern from observers at home and abroad over the health of democracy in Bangladesh, even as it transforms into an economic success story under Hasina. 

Hasina’s administration has faced pressure from Western democracies, especially from the United States, while the United Nations and the European Union have also pressed for a free, fair and inclusive election. 

“Specifically, we have emphasized that it is important to have free and fair elections that all stakeholders have the ability to participate peacefully. The holding of free and fair elections is the responsibility of everyone — all political parties, voters, the government, the security forces, and the media,” a US State Department spokesperson said in an email to The Associated Press. 

Analyst Iftekhar Zaman, the head of the anti-corruption group Transparency International Bangladesh, said the election may be held on time but it will be “non-inclusive” and “morally void.” 

During the last election in 2018, Joydeb Sana, a private security guard working at a five-story apartment building in the capital, Dhaka, traveled to his ancestral village in southwestern Bangladesh to cast his vote. 

But on election day, he found that someone else had already cast his vote. 

“I don’t know who did it. In the end my candidate won the election and Sheikh Hasina became the prime minister. I was happy for that, but I could not vote for my candidate, and that was upsetting,” Sana told the AP. 

He hopes he can cast his own vote this time. 

“It’s my right to vote for my preferred candidate. Last time I was deprived of that,” he said.