Global Review – 12th August

UN warns of ‘grave’ crisis amid violence near nuclear plant

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog warned an emergency Security Council meeting on Thursday of the “grave” crisis unfolding at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, as Moscow and Kyiv traded accusations of new shelling near the facility. “This is a serious hour, a grave hour,” Rafael Grossi, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the Security Council, adding that the IAEA must urgently be allowed to conduct a mission to Zaporizhzhia. Moscow and Kyiv on Thursday accused each other of new shelling near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, a dangerous escalation five months into the war. In New York, Security Council members all supported calls for an urgent IAEA mission to Ukraine – but there was no consensus over who was to blame for the attacks and who should be responsible for facilitating the mission. Bonnie Jenkins, the US State Department’s undersecretary for arms control and international security, said the visit “cannot wait any longer” but added that only a full withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine would keep the nuclear plant safe.But Russia’s UN ambassador Vasily Nebenzya put the blame for the attacks around Zaporizhzhia squarely on Ukrainian forces. Earlier Thursday Washington also backed calls to establish a demilitarized zone around the plant.

UN slams ‘unconscionable’ killing of Palestinian children

The UN rights chief voiced alarm Thursday at the number of Palestinian children killed and wounded this month and demanded those responsible be brought to account. Last week saw three days of intense conflict between Israel and Islamic Jihad militants in the densely populated Palestinian enclave of Gaza. “Inflicting hurt on any child during the course of conflict is deeply disturbing,” Michelle Bachelet, the UH high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement. “The killing and maiming of so many children this year is unconscionable.” The Israeli air and artillery strikes targeted positions of the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad group.

FBI was looking for documents on nuclear weapons

The Washington Post reports that in its blitz at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, the FBI was looking for top secret documents related to nuclear weapons. Quoting sources, the influential newspaper said the unusual search highlighted the deep concerns within the US government about the type of information in possession of the former president in Mar-a-Lago and the danger that they could end up in the wrong hands. Nuclear weapons documents are particularly sensitive and their dissemination is usually limited to a small number of people. Publicising details on American weapons could grant adversaries advantages. “If it were true” that these were nuclear weapons documents, “they would be confidential material at the highest levels,” said David Laufman, the former head of the intelligence section of the US Department of Justice.

Garland ‘personally approved’ FBI search

Meanwhile, US Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday he had “personally approved” the dramatic raid on Donald Trump’s Florida estate and, in a highly unusual move, was requesting the warrant justifying the search be made public. The country’s top prosecutor did not reveal the reason for the unprecedented search of the home of a former US president, and condemned “unfounded attacks” on the FBI and the Justice Department that followed it. “I personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant,” Garland told reporters in his first public statement since Monday’s raid. “The department does not take such a decision lightly.” While noting that “ethical obligations” prevented him detailing the basis of the raid, Garland said he had asked a Florida judge to unseal the warrant because Trump had publicly confirmed the search and there is “substantial public interest in this matter”. Trump, who has a copy of the search warrant but has – so far – declined to reveal its contents, has until today to contest the request that it be unsealed.

Gunman killed after trying to breach Ohio FBI office

An armed man who tried to breach the FBI’s Cincinnati office was shot and killed by police after he fled the scene, leading to an hour-long standoff Thursday, the Ohio Highway State Patrol said. The man, who has not been identified, was shot after he raised a gun toward police, said Lt. Nathan Dennis, a patrol spokesperson. Officials said the man was wearing body armour and was chased onto a highway, then had abandoned his car on nearby country roads bordered by woods and farm fields, about 72 kilometers northeast of Cincinnati. The confrontation came as officials warned of an increase in threats against federal agents in the days following a search of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

Wildfires rage as another heatwave bakes western Europe

European nations sent firefighting teams to help France tackle a “monster” wildfire on Thursday, while forest blazes also raged in Spain and Portugal and the head of the European Space Agency urged immediate action to combat climate change. More than 1,000 firefighters, backed by water-bombing planes, battled for a third day a fire that has forced thousands from their homes and scorched thousands of hectares of forest in France’s southwestern Gironde region. “It’s an ogre, a monster,” said Gregory Allione from the French firefighters body FNSPF said. President Emmanuel Macron added via Twitter that Germany, Greece, Poland, Romania and Austria are also providing help. “Our partners are coming to France’s aid against the fires. Thank you to them. European solidarity is at work!’

Heatwaves, floods and crumbling glaciers in recent weeks have heightened concerns over climate change and the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather across the globe. The head of the European Space Agency, Josef Aschbacher, said rising land temperatures and shrinking rivers as measured from space left no doubt about the toll on agriculture and other industries from climate change. ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite series has measured “extreme” land surface temperatures of more than 45OC in Britain, 50OC in France and 60 OC in Spain in recent weeks.

Arctic warming four times faster than rest of Earth

The Arctic has warmed nearly four times faster than the rest of the planet over the last 40 years, according to research published Thursday that suggests climate models are underestimating the rate of polar heating. The United Nations’ climate science panel said in a special report in 2019 that the Arctic was warming “by more than double the global average” due to a process known as Arctic amplification. This occurs when sea ice and snow, which naturally reflect the Sun’s heat, melt into sea water, which absorbs it instead. A team of researchers based in Norway and Finland analysed four sets of temperature data gathered by satellite studies since 1979 – the year when satellite data became available – over the entire Arctic circle. They found that on average the data showed the Arctic had warmed 0.75 OC  per decade, nearly four times quicker than the rest of the planet.

South Korea pardons Samsung boss ‘to help the economy’

The heir and de facto leader of Samsung group received a presidential pardon Friday, the latest example of South Korea’s long tradition of freeing business leaders convicted of corruption on economic grounds. Billionaire Lee Jae-yong, who was convicted of bribery and embezzlement in January last year, will be “reinstated” to give him a chance to “contribute to overcoming the economic crisis” of the country, Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon said. Lee – the 278th-richest person in the world, according to Forbes, with a net worth of $7.9 billion – was released on parole in August 2021, after serving 18 months in jail, just over half of his original sentence. Friday’s pardon will allow him to fully return to work by lifting a post-prison employment restriction that had been set for five years.

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