Monday, September 30, 2013

Syria's Breakthrough in the UN

The compromises reached are reflected in the “fait accompli” text presented to the wider Council membership in consultations last night. Although the draft resolution slated for adoption tonight only references Chapter VII of the UN Charter in its second to last operative paragraph, it includes an Article 39 determination that the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic constitutes a threat to international peace and security. (Chapter VII is usually invoked following an Article 39 determination by the Security Council that there has been a “threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression.” An explicit reference to Article 39 or to the nature of the determination is not essential, however, for the Council to use its Chapter VII powers.) This, together with the explicit reference to Article 25 where one would usually find a reference to “acting under Chapter VII” following the Article 39 determination, makes for an interesting compromise.

Moreover, although Article 25 commits member states to “agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council”, the draft resolution uses the more robust “obligated to accept and carry out the decisions.” In addition, the draft includes several paragraphs of binding provisions (seven of the 21 operative paragraphs begin with “decides” rather than the weaker “urges” or “notes”.)

The draft text also has the Council deciding to impose measures under Chapter VII in “the event of non-compliance with this resolution, including unauthorized transfer of chemical weapons, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in the Syrian Arab Republic”. Once again, this is an interesting compromise, as it does not use the more airtight procedural language found in some previous Council resolutions on non-proliferation (1718 and 1874 on DPRK and 1737, 1747, 1803 and 1929 on Iran) stating that “further decisions will be required should such additional measures be necessary.” However, it does not contain a clear trigger mechanism or a specific date for compliance, although it is likely that the OPCW decision will include deadlines that need to be followed. What's in Blue
This site monitors the decisions made at the UN Security Council. It provides far more details than the average summary you got in mainstream publications.  

The reason behind Westgate mall collapse

The final stand of Islamist fighters who laid siege to Kenya's Westgate mall ended when Kenyan soldiers fired an anti-tank shell that sparked a fierce fire, soldiers who fought in the battle told AFP. Daily Nation
Bazooka, there's nothing it can't solve.

They still have no idea how many attackers were there, how many survived and how many got away.

Australia's Northern Teritorry

Boston Big Picture

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Nairobi Clusterfuck

There are still missing information about the fate of the hostages, the reason behind the collapse of a third of the shopping mall, the fate of the captured terrorists, etc. Kenyan government has been unwilling or unable to answer some pretty obvious questions
The terrorists believed to have been left behind also remain unaccounted for — days after the siege ended. This brings to question the exact number of those involved in the deadly assault.

On Monday, as the military launched what was described as the “final assault” to take back the mall, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku said there were between 10 and 15 terrorists inside holding at least 30 hostages. More than 1,000 people were said to have been evacuated.

Later, Mr Lenku announced that five terrorists were killed after the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) took over the building on Tuesday. However, he remained tight-lipped on the whereabouts of the bodies and the identity of the terrorists. Also unclear is the fate of the remaining terrorists, who should be at least 10 based on the figures provided.

“Five suspected terrorists were killed during the operation and the ongoing forensic investigations will ascertain their identities. When complete, these investigations will answer the questions being raised about their nationalities and gender,” said Mr Lenku.

The government is also yet to release details of a suspected terrorist, who reportedly died in hospital from bullet wounds last Saturday, a few hours after the attack began. Daily Nation

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sudan's Spring

Thousands of people have rallied in and around Sudan's capital, Khartoum, in a fifth day of protests against the government's decision to cut back fuel subsidies.

In Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman, a group of at least 2,000 protesters defied a heavy security presence, including army trucks parked on the street, to march after weekly Muslim prayers. VOANews
You can't really predict what would bring about change to a country. Omar al-Bashir, the current President of Sudan, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes of Darfur.

He is still in power despite of all of these charges.

There is a real chance that he will be brought down his people on an issue of fuel subsidies. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pakistan's newest Island

Experts say the island was formed by the massive movement of the earth during the 7.7-magnitude quake that hit Pakistan’s Baluchistan province on Tuesday, killing at least 285 people. The Globe and Mail

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Empty flights from Venezuela

Flights are booked solid months in advance, not from a new interest in exotic destinations but because locals are profiting from a play on the nation's tightly controlled currency market. 
After a decade of currency controls set up by late socialist leader Hugo Chavez in 2003, the disparity between the official and black-market rates for the local bolivar currency is higher than ever. Greenbacks now sell on the illegal market at about seven times the government price of 6.3 to the dollar. 
There are strict limits on the availability of dollars at the 6.3 rate, but Venezuelans are cashing in on a special currency provision for travelers. With a valid airline ticket, Venezuelans may exchange up to $3,000 at the government rate. 
Some are not even flying, leaving many planes half empty.
The profit is realized from an arbitrage process known locally as "el raspao," or "the scrape." 
Credit cards are used abroad to get a cash advance -- rather than buying merchandise. The dollars are then carried back into Venezuela and sold on the black market for some seven times the original exchange rate. Reuters

Monday, September 23, 2013

Amazing UNAIDS report

UNAIDS reports a 52% reduction in new HIV infections among children and a combined 33% reduction among adults and children since 2001 UNAIDS

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A pair of photo journalists just happen to be in the site of Nairobi attack

I was at a framing shop in an adjacent mall picking up some photographs that had been given to me as gifts by photojournalists who attended my wedding. I was very close. I didn’t have all of my equipment, just had a small camera that I always have with me in case something happens. 
I ran over to the mall and I was able to photograph until my wife [Nichole Sobecki], who is also a photojournalist and was at our house, was able to collect my Kevlar helmet and professional cameras before she came to cover the news herself. NY Times
A Pulitzer Prize winner New York Times photographer was just in location - along with his wife (both are accomplished war photographers). This is why the photographs are amazing.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Terror attack in Nairobi

Two squads of gunmen stormed into a popular Nairobi mall, killing at least 39 people. Witnesses said commandos had cornered several of the assailants, who were holding hostages at gunpoint. A Somali militant group is suspected. NY Times
BBC has a gallery of pictures

Temperature chart for the last 11,000 years



Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Great Pope Francis

“But I am always wary of decisions made hastily. I am always wary of the first decision, that is, the first thing that comes to my mind if I have to make a decision. This is usually the wrong thing. I have to wait and assess, looking deep into myself, taking the necessary time. The wisdom of discernment redeems the necessary ambiguity of life and helps us find the most appropriate means, which do not always coincide with what looks great and strong. America Magazine

He is a remarkable Pope. This 12,000 words interview is worth reading in its entirety.  
“I see the holiness,” the pope continues, “in the patience of the people of God: a woman who is raising children, a man who works to bring home the bread, the sick, the elderly priests who have so many wounds but have a smile on their faces because they served the Lord, the sisters who work hard and live a hidden sanctity. This is for me the common sanctity. I often associate sanctity with patience: not only patience as hypomoné [the New Testament Greek word], taking charge of the events and circumstances of life, but also as a constancy in going forward, day by day. This is the sanctity of the militant church also mentioned by St. Ignatius. This was the sanctity of my parents: my dad, my mom, my grandmother Rosa who loved ​​me so much. In my breviary I have the last will of my grandmother Rosa, and I read it often. For me it is like a prayer. She is a saint who has suffered so much, also spiritually, and yet always went forward with courage.
I am not a Catholic but I am really glad that this Pope takes the Church away from the small morality issue (gay issues, abortion, contraception, etc) to the big morality issues (poverty, social justice, etc).

Australia's new PM is a climate change denier

The Abbott Government has abolished the Climate Commission, pushing ahead with its plan to scrap government bodies associated with Labor's carbon pricing scheme and climate change policy. ABC

Death of a Police General

An Egyptian Police General was shot death today in a security operation in Kerdasa, south of Cairo.
  Daily News Egypt

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Enduring Syrian War

My awesome friend Bridget, a journalist based in Beirut, produced this short about surviving Syrian's Civil
This is not me هاد مو أنا : Enduring Syria’s War from Bridgette Auger on Vimeo.

Bali is awesome like this

Hundreds of Bali-bound members of the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) found themselves stuck in Banyuwangi, East Java, on Saturday as female police officers — backed by nearly a 1,000 members of the National Police’s Mobile Brigade (Brimob) — blockaded the entrance to the port.

The Islamist group planned to take a ferry to Bali to protest the Hindu-majority island’s hosting of the controversial Miss World beauty pageant. The organization claimed the pageant, which was moved to Bali amid protests, ran counter to conservative Muslim values.

The decision to move the Miss World pageant from Bogor to Bali was seen as the latest sign of hard-line groups growing influence in Indonesia. The FPI held protests across Java on Sept. 7 to urge the government to cancel the event outright. The Jakarta Globe

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A large water aquifer found in Kenya

  • The aquifer is approximately 100 km (62 miles) by 66 km (41 miles).

  • It has a surface area of 4,164 km2. 

  • It contains an estimated 200 billion cubic metres of fresh water. 

  • Lotikipi alone holds 900% more than Kenya's current water reserves.

This is a great news for Kenya and the surrounding East African countries where water scarcity is a dire problem (if managed properly)

Obama's Syria Victory Speech

Without firing a single shot, he managed to activate Russia to own the Syrian Chemical Weapon problem.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

No Civil War in Egypt

There were so many news reports speculating about the looming Civil War in Egypt after the June 30 Revolution/Coup detat. Well I am glad to report that all those fears have not materialized.

The situation in Cairo has stabilized, to much to everyone's surprises. Unlike what one might assume, protests are still going on and many of them go without any serious incidents.

What the Egyptian Army trying to prevent is large scale sit in in the mode of Rabaa but protests are going on like usual.

The rate of arrests of Muslim Brotherhood figures have slowed down which can be attributed to the fact that there aren't many of them left to be arrested. Many trials to follow in the coming months (legit or not).

The curfew was lifted 10 days ago to 11 PM and the whole emergency status to be lifted soon. 

Adoption rehoming

Todd and Melissa Puchalla struggled for more than two years to raise Quita, the troubled teenager they'd adopted from Liberia. When they decided to give her up, they found new parents to take her in less than two days – by posting an ad on the Internet.

Nicole and Calvin Eason, an Illinois couple in their 30s, saw the ad and a picture of the smiling 16-year-old. They were eager to take Quita, even though the ad warned that she had been diagnosed with severe health and behavioral problems. In emails, Nicole Eason assured Melissa Puchalla that she could handle the girl. Reuters Investigates

 They are reporting about "online child market" that exists in the United States. This is horrifying. 

Monday, September 09, 2013

Instagram propaganda

To soften the image of your dictatorial government, put your good looking wife on Instagram

Check out

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Artic Sea Ice extent for August 2013

It's not as bad as last year's record low level You can track the sea ice extent at the North Pole at website

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Tokyo will host Olympics 2020

The celebrations just got out of hand.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

The first bombs of Cairo

Ahmed Kamel

The bomb was targeted to Egypt's Interior Minister who was responsible behind the Islamists crackdown. He survived the attack.

More pictures here

This video was taken just moments after the attack. You could see the Minister was yet to be evacuated from his car. See the video in full screen.

Another turn in Syria

According to experts in Western governments, the most compelling piece of evidence is that the regime is the only power in the region that has the required stocks of poison gas along with the necessary rocket launchers. They say that nothing indicates that the rebels have managed to capture one of the Syrian government's chemical weapons depots. The experts also note that the insurgents would hardly be capable of mixing the diverse chemical components and deploying the weapons correctly.

What's more, shortly before the chemical gas attack the rebels were reportedly massing their forces into larger units for an offensive on Damascus. Sources say that groups of fighters had already infiltrated the capital and the Syrian army was preparing to defend the city. In this situation, everything seems to suggest that the troubled Syrian regime resorted to chemical weapons. Syria reportedly has up to 1,000 metric tons of chemical agents. They were originally intended as a deterrent, and as a last resort in a war with Israel or other external enemies. The chemical warheads were to be delivered to their targets by large Scud missiles, which are crude weapons ill suited for pinpoint strikes.

Recently, Syrian chemical weapons experts appear to have been working on alternatives. Just last September, SPIEGEL reported on the testing of new delivery systems for chemical warheads: According to mutually independent sources, in late August last year, five or six empty shells designed for chemical agents were fired at a desert testing ground called Diraiham. Spiegel

The US senate offers an improved bill on Syria

Here is the key passage (Statement of Policy)
CHANGING OF MOMENTUM ON BATTLEFIELD It is the policy of the United States to change the momentum on the battlefield in Syria so as to create favorable conditions for a negotiated settlement that ends the conflict and leads to a democratic government in Syria 
DEGRADATION OF ABILITY OF REGIME TO USE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION A comprehensive United States strategy in Syria should aim, as part of a coordinated international effort, to degrade the capabilities of the Assad regime to use weapons of mass destruction while upgrading the lethal and non-lethal military capabilities of vetted elements of Syrian opposition forces, including the Free Syrian Army

It seems to me that the playbook for this statement of policy is Operation Deliberate Force, a NATO bombing campaign to bring everybody on a peace agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It is interesting to note the last sentence on the second paragraph "upgrading the lethal and non-lethal military capabilities of vetted elements of Syrian opposition forces, including the Free Syrian Army"
. Until right now I have always assumed that Free Syrian Army represents the collective secular opposition combatants in Syria but this passage indicates that there are other players that the US approved of.

You can read the whole bill here

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Military is not allowed to use tear gas by Chemical Weapon Convention

This reddit discussion contains a lot of informative and thoughtful discussion on why chemical weapons are banned from usage in time of war.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The SCAR project

  The Scar Project Its tagline is "breast cancer is not a pink ribbon".

Sunday, September 01, 2013

50 Members of Egyptian constitution comittee

They are tasked to amend the 2012 constitution

It's a good sign that they are diverse. People from the unions, scientist, journalist, farmers, church, Islamic scholars, special needs, human rights, artist, etc are represented in the committee.

One of the member is Sir Magdi Yacoub - yeah a Sir - awarded for his contribution to Cardiology(establishing "Ross Procedure"). He is also honored in 2012 by American College of Cardiology as part of Legends of Cardiovascular Medicine Lecture series.

It's a great start.