‘Stronger Than Ever’: India Set for Fresh Moon Launch Attempt

India will make a second attempt Monday to send a landmark spacecraft to the Moon after an apparent fuel leak forced last week’s launch to be aborted.

The South Asian nation is bidding to become just the fourth nation — after Russia, the United States and China — to land a spacecraft on the Moon.

The mission comes 50 years after Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the moon, an occasion celebrated by space enthusiasts globally on Saturday.

The fresh launch attempt for Chandrayaan-2 — Moon Chariot 2 in some Indian languages including Sanskrit and Hindi — has been scheduled for 2:43 pm (0913 GMT) on Monday, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.

“Chandrayaan 2 is ready to take a billion dreams to the Moon – now stronger than ever before!” it said on Thursday.

The first launch attempt was scrubbed just under an hour before the scheduled lift-off because of what authorities described as a “technical snag.” Local media, citing ISRO officials, said that issue was a fuel leak.

The agency tweeted Saturday that a rehearsal for the launch was completed successfully.

Chandrayaan-2 will be launched atop a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) MkIII, India’s most powerful rocket.

Experts said setbacks were to be expected in such missions given their complexity, and that it was more prudent to delay the launch instead of taking risks that may jeopardise the project.

“In such an ambitious and prestigious mission like Chandrayaan, one cannot take a chance even if a small flaw is detected,” Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, head of space policy at the New Delhi think tank the Observer Research Foundation, told AFP.

Former NASA scientist Kumar Krishen said India’s space agency should be praised for taking on ambitious projects like Chandrayaan-2.

“We should keep in mind that space exploration is risky as many systems have failed in the past and many lives lost,” he told AFP.

National pride

Aside from propelling India into rarefied company among spacefaring nations, Chandrayaan-2 also stands out because of its low cost.

About $140 million has been spent on preparations for the mission, a much smaller price tag compared with similar missions by other countries — whose costs often run into billions of dollars.

Chandrayaan-2, and India’s space program as a whole, are a source of national pride in India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has outlined an ambitious plan to launch a crewed space mission by 2022, and India hopes to seek out commercial satellite and orbiting deals.

The new mission comes almost 11 years after the launch of India’s first lunar mission — Chandrayaan-1 — which orbited the Moon and searched for water.

The rocket carrying Chandrayaan-2 will launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, an island off the coast of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

The spacecraft will carry an orbiter, lander and a rover, which has been almost entirely designed and made in India.

The orbiter is planned to circle the Moon for about one year, imaging the surface and studying the atmosphere.

The lander, named Vikram, will head to the surface near the lunar South Pole carrying the rover. Once it touches down, the rover will carry out experiments while being controlled remotely by ISRO scientists.

It is expected to work for one lunar day, the equivalent of 14 Earth days, and will look for signs of water and “a fossil record of the early solar system”.

 

 

 

Hosting

more

Recycled Water Part of Perth’s Plan to Beat Climate Change in Australia

As drought-hit towns across New South Wales and Queensland edge closer to completely running out of water, federal and state governments in Australia are trying to come up with ways to guarantee supplies into the future. But on the other side of the continent, the city of Perth is leagues ahead in its water efficiency following a long-term decline in rainfall. Part of its survival plan relies on recycled water from toilets, a move that many consumers elsewhere still consider to be unpalatable.

Since 2017, residents in the Western Australian city of Perth have been drinking water recycled from sewage. It is filtered using a process called reverse osmosis, which is similar to forcing water through a giant sponge. It is then disinfected with ultra-violet light at a treatment plant, pumped into natural aquifers, and extracted.

Perth is a city of two million people, and Clare Lugar from Western Australia’s Water Corporation said it has had to get used to climatic changes.

“We know from the mid-70s onwards Perth’s rainfall has been declining by about 20 percent, and that has had a huge impact on our water sources that are dependent on the climate.”

Lugar said convincing residents of the benefits of drinking recycled sewage did take time.

“So, it is only a small percentage of the water that comes into the plant is actually from our toilets. But getting over that perception, that kind of image you might be drinking the water that you flushing down the toilet – that was probably one of our big challenges initially,” said Lugar.

Two desalination plants supply about half of Perth’s water. Aquifers are also crucial, but recycling produces only two percent of the total. But that figure is soon expected to rise.

Ian Wright, an expert in environmental science at Western Sydney University, believes other parts of Australia should embrace recycling.

“In Sydney that is probably 150 liters per day per person of waste water that is completely wasted, and, yes, we have the availability of desalination on the coast, but Canberra does not have desalination and then the poor drought-stricken towns like Tamworth and Dubbo, and Broken Hill, they could really, really use that now,” he said.

Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent. Water is precious, and, in many places, scarce. More than 95 percent of New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, is officially in drought, and the next three months are forecast to be drier than average.

 

Hosting

more

UK Treasury Chief Vows to Quit if Boris Johnson Becomes PM

British Treasury chief Philip Hammond said Sunday that he will quit if _ as widely expected — Boris Johnson becomes prime minister this week on a promise to leave the European Union with or without a divorce deal.
 
Hammond said Johnson’s vow to press for a no-deal Brexit if he can’t secure a new agreement with the EU is “not something that I could ever sign up to.”
 
Hammond was almost certain to be removed from office by the new leader in any case. He has angered Brexit-backers, who now dominate the governing Conservative Party, with his warnings about the economic pain that leaving the EU could cause.
 
Hammond told the BBC that if Johnson wins, “I’m not going to be sacked because I’m going to resign before we get to that point.”
 
Johnson is the strong favorite to win a two-person runoff to lead the Conservative Party and the country. The winner is being announced Tuesday, with the victor taking over from Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday.
 
Britain is due to leave the EU on Oct. 31 but Parliament has repeatedly rejected the divorce deal struck between May and the bloc. Both Johnson and his rival Jeremy Hunt, the current foreign secretary, say they will leave the EU without an agreement if the EU won’t renegotiate.
 
Most economists say quitting the 28-nation bloc without a deal would cause Britain economic turmoil. The U.K.’s official economic watchdog has forecast that a no-deal Brexit would trigger a recession, with the pound plummeting in value, borrowing soaring by 30 billion pounds ($37 billion) and the economy shrinking 2% in a year.
 
But Johnson, who helped lead the “leave” campaign in Britain’s 2016 EU membership referendum, says a no-deal Brexit will be “vanishingly inexpensive” if the country prepares properly.
 
The EU insists it won’t reopen the 585-page divorce deal it struck with May.
 
Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said Sunday that the bloc is “simply not going to move away from the Withdrawal Agreement.”
 
“If the approach of the new British prime minister is that they’re going to tear up the Withdrawal Agreement, then I think we’re in trouble,” he told the BBC. “We’re all in trouble, quite frankly, because it’s a little bit like saying: ‘Either give me what I want or I’m going to burn the house down for everybody.'”
 
Hammond is the third U.K. minister within a week to quit or say they will resign in order to try to prevent a cliff-edge Brexit. Britain looks set for a fall showdown between the new Conservative government and British lawmakers determined to thwart a no-deal exit.
 
“I am confident that Parliament does have a way of preventing a no-deal exit on October 31 without parliamentary consent and I intend to work with others to ensure parliament uses its power to make sure that the new government can’t do that,” Hammond said.
 

Hosting

more

Trump Says Swedish PM Assured Him of Fair Treatment for US Rapper

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday that Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven had assured him American citizen and rapper A$AP Rocky would be treated fairly. 
 
Trump said he assured Lofven that Rocky was not a flight risk and personally vouched for his bail. 
 
Swedish prosecutors on Friday extended Rocky’s detention by six days amid their investigation into a street fight in Stockholm. 

Hosting

more

Pakistan Holds Historic Vote in Former ‘Epicenter’ of Terror

Pakistan organized its first ever provincial elections Saturday in a northwestern region along the mountainous border with Afghanistan that until a few years ago was condemned as the “epicenter” of international terrorism.

Pakistani officials said the elections in the seven districts of what were formerly known as the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) are central to steps the government has taken to supplement regional and global efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan and counter violent extremism.

Pakistani election officials said some 2.8 million registered voters were to choose from 285 candidates for 16 seats in the legislative assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.

The contestants, including two women, represented major mainstream political parties. The election was held under tight security and no incidents of violence were reported.

The historic vote came on a day when Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan left for the United States for his first meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House on Monday, where the two leaders will discuss counterterrorism measures among a range of other issues.

A landmark constitutional amendment pushed through the parliament last year paved the ground for the tribal territory to be merged in the adjoining KP province to bring it into the national mainstream.

Until last year, the lawless border regions of FATA were federally administered through a set of British colonial laws that were not applicable to the rest of Pakistan, and residents could vote only in the national assembly, lower house of the parliament.

A Pakistani tribesman cast his vote during an election for provincial seats in Jamrud, a town of Khyber district, Pakistan, Saturday, July 20, 2019.

FATA anti-terror campaign

Civilian and military leaders in Pakistan hailed Saturday’s democratic process as testimony that years-long security operations have rid most of the ex-FATA of militant groups, including al-Qaida and fighters loyal to the Taliban waging a deadly insurgency against U.S.-led intentional forces on the Afghan side of the porous border.

Islamabad has been for years accused by American and Afghan officials of harboring training camps and sanctuaries for the Taliban. Pakistani officials have consistently denied those charges.

The anti-terrorism Pakistan army offensives, backed by airpower, over the years had displaced several million residents of FATA, although officials say 95% of them have since been rehabilitated.

A government document shared with VOA claimed the operations killed more than 15,000 militants and captured another 5,000. The remnants have fled and taken refuge in “ungoverned” border regions of Afghanistan, it added.

It was not possible to ascertain the veracity of the data through independent sources because conflict zones in FATA had remained inaccessible for journalists and aid workers during military operations.

In recent months, however, the military has organized media trips to showcase infrastructure development, particularly in North Waziristan, which Pakistani officials say was the final battleground in their bid to clear FATA of terror.

North Waziristan, Pakistan

The retaliatory terrorist attacks and suicide bombings in FATA districts and elsewhere in the country also killed thousands of Pakistanis, including about 8,000 military personnel, according to Pakistani officials.

The violence, which stemmed from Pakistan’s participation in the U.S. “war on terror,” also has inflicted direct and indirect losses to the national economy totaling more than $200 billion, according to government estimates.

Foreign critics also had been referring to FATA as the “most dangerous place”on the globe, and the U.S. repeatedly called for Pakistan to dismantle the terrorism infrastructure.

“This most dangerous spot on the map may well be the source of another 9/11 type of attack on the Western world or its surrogates in the region,” concluded the Center for Strategic and International Studies in a 2009 study on FATA..

Border security and reconstruction 

The Pakistani army is currently building a robust fence and new posts along most of the 2,600-kilometer Afghan border to deter militant infiltration in either direction. The massive border management project is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

“With fencing of Pak-Afghan border, cross border movement of terrorists, drugs and smugglers has reduced to almost 5% of what was happening before,” according to a Pakistani government document shared with VOA.

The ensuing reconstruction effort has established roads, bridges and telecommunication networks, schools, health facilities and markets.

The key infrastructure was previously almost non-existent in many FATA districts. Pakistani officials cited a lack a government authority in the region for decades, saying it long served as a “transit zone for Jihadi groups where they had established a de-facto government.”

The military lately, however, has faced allegations of abuses from a newly emerged group in FATA, known as Pakistan Tahafuz Movement or PTM. But both army and government officials deny the charges, alleging that some of the PTM leaders are being supported by Afghan and Indian spy agencies in their bid to undermine Pakistan’s counterterrorism gains.  

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s nearly one-year-old government takes credit for arranging an ongoing peace dialogue between the U.S. and the Taliban aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan.

During recent trips to FATA districts, Khan has announced new projects and allocated substantial funds for the development of the regions, hoping they will become a commercial and transit trade hub between Pakistan and Afghanistan if peace eventually returns to the neighboring country.

 

 

Hosting

more

Saudi Coalition Says it Destroyed Houthi Ballistic Missiles Around Yemeni Capital

Saudi-coalition spokesman Col. Turki al Maliki says that coalition fighter jets took out at least five Houthi air defense sites around the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, early Saturday. Amateur video showed a number of explosions rocking Sanaa, overnight. 

Amateur video broadcast by Arab media showed a series of explosions around the Yemeni capital Sana’a, early Saturday, followed by loud percussive explosions.

Saudi-owned media, quoting coalition spokesman Turki al Maliki, indicated that at least five Houthi air defense sites were bombed by Saudi warplanes. Maliki claimed that a number of Houthi ballistic missiles were destroyed in the air attacks.

The Saudi-owned Asharqalawsat newspaper quoted Maliki as saying the “operation [overnight] targeted the Houthis air defense capabilities, as well as their ability to launch aggressive attacks.” Maliki went on to say the coalition raids “conformed with international human rights law.”
Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, tells VOA that he doesn’t think the Saudi air raids are going to have much effect on the ongoing war or the Houthis military capabilities:

“This is not the first time the Saudis announced launching attacks on missile sites in Yemen,” he said. “It happened in the past and it’s highly unlikely that such attacks are going to have any tangible effects on the Houthi war effort.”

Khashan stressed that most of the Houthis’ attacks on Saudi territory in recent weeks have been launched “using drones, rather than by firing ballistic missiles.”

In this image taken from video, people carry a child's body after pulling it out from rubble following Saudi-led coalition airstrikes that killed dozens, including four children, officials said, in the residential center of the capital, Sanaa, Yemen,...
Airstrike Kills, Injures Dozens of Civilians in Yemeni Capital

U.N. agencies are expressing anger and sadness at the deaths and injuries of dozens of civilians, including children, hit by airstrikes on the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, Thursday night.

This is just the latest tragedy to hit Yemen, which has been at war for more than four years.The U.N. human rights office reports nearly 7,000 civilians have been killed and 10,800 wounded as of November 2018.

Most of the deaths and injuries are due to aerial bombardments by the Saudi-led coalition, it reports.

The Houthis military spokesman, Gen. Yahya Saree, claimed Saturday that his group had launched a retaliatory drone attack Saturday, which “destroyed several radar [sites] and other military equipment at the King Khaled airbase in southern Saudi Arabia.” Saudi-owned al Arabiya TV countered that the drone was shot down near Abha and “hit no targets.”

The Saudi air attacks on Houthi missile sites come one day after unknown drones struck a Shi’ite militia camp that allegedly contained Iranian ballistic missiles in the north of Iraq. Some Iraqi analysts accused Saudi Arabia of the attack, but it was not immediately clear who was responsible. A number of Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces and Lebanese Hezbollah advisers allegedly were killed or wounded in the raid.

Hosting

more

Mexican Drug Lord ‘El Chapo’ Jailed at ‘Supermax’ Prison in Colorado

Joaquin Guzman, the convicted Mexican drug lord known as “El Chapo,” has been transferred to a “Supermax” prison in Colorado from which no one has ever escaped, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons said in a statement Friday.

Guzman was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years on Wednesday in a federal court in Brooklyn after a jury convicted him of drug trafficking and engaging in multiple murder conspiracies as a top leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of Mexico’s largest, most violent drug trafficking organizations.

Before he was finally captured in 2016, Guzman twice escaped maximum-security prisons in Mexico.

“We can confirm that Joaquin Guzman is in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons at United States Penitentiary (USP) Administrative Maximum (ADX) Florence, located in Florence, Colorado,” the U.S. Bureau of Prisons said in its statement.

The Bureau of Prisons declined to comment further.

FILE – This Oct. 15, 2015 file photo shows a guard tower looming over a federal prison complex which houses a Supermax facility outside Florence, Colorado.

Guzman was whisked away early Friday from a secret location in New York, on his way to the Supermax prison in Florence, his attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, told the Denver Post.

The prison is about 115 miles (185 km) south of Denver and opened in 1994. It has about 375 inmates.

Guzman joins a long list of notorious criminals there. They include “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, Terry Nichols from the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, “Shoe Bomber” Richard Reid, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Ramzi Yousef from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York.

The Colorado Supermax prison is nicknamed “Alcatraz of the Rockies” after the San Francisco prison whose inmates included the gangsters Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly, as well as Robert Franklin Stroud, known as the Birdman of Alcatraz.

Like other prisoners, Guzman will likely be confined for around 23 hours a day to a solitary cell that has a narrow window about 42 inches (107 cm) high and angled upward so only the sky is visible.

He will be able to watch TV in his cell, and will have access to religious services and educational programs.

Special restrictions are used to ensure that inmates cannot exert influence or make threats beyond prison walls. Prisoners cannot move around without being escorted. Head counts are done at least six times a day.

Hosting

more