Runway safety concerns in focus as Japan probes crash

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Wednesday, 3rd January 2024

Runway safety concerns in focus as Japan probes Tokyo crash

Japanese investigators are investigating the collision of two aircraft at Tokyo’s Haneda airport, weeks after the global airline industry heard fresh warnings about runway safety. All 379 people aboard a Japan Airlines Airbus A350 escaped after a collision with a De Havilland Dash-8 Coast Guard turboprop that killed five of six crew members on the smaller aircraft.

The crash is the first significant accident involving the Airbus A350, Europe’s premier twin-engined long-haul jet, in service since 2015. The Strait Times said the Japan Safety Transport Board would lead the probe,, with participation from agencies in France, where the airplane was built, and Britain, where its two Rolls-Royce engines were manufactured. Experts have cautioned it is too early to pinpoint a cause and stressed most accidents are caused by a cocktail of factors. But investigators are widely expected to explore what instructions were given by controllers to the two aircraft, alongside a detailed examination of plane and airport systems.

A ministry official told reporters in Japan on Tuesday that the A350 was attempting to land normally when it collided with the Coast Guard plane, also known as a Bombardier Dash-8. The coastguard plane was transporting humanitarian aid to areas which were hit by Monday’s earthquake.

Japan quake toll rises to 62

Japanese rescuers scrambled to search for survivors today as authorities warned of landslides and heavy rain after the powerful earthquake that killed at least 55 people and severely injured another 300, of whom 20 seriously. The 7.5 magnitude quake rattled the Ishikawa prefecture on the main island of Honshu and triggered tsunami waves more than a metre high, sparked a major fire, and tore apart roads. The Noto Peninsula of the prefecture was most severely hit, with several hundred buildings ravaged by fire and houses flattened. More than 31,800 people were in shelters. Rescuers battled aftershocks and poor weather to comb through rubble.

Photo: AP

Donations to UN plummet in 2023

The United Nations received just under 40 per cent of the donations it needed to deal with numerous major humanitarian crises in 2023, a global figure significantly less than in any other year since 2016, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said. Germany was the biggest European donor, after the United States, which donated $9.5 billion, almost 44 per cent of the total amount. Germany was just ahead of the European Commission, with both accounting for 9.5 per cent of the total donated funds while the United Kingdom followed with 3.4 per cent.

The list of donations includes money for various humanitarian aid programmes coordinated by the OCHA, each of which provided funding for several UN organisations and partner organisations. In total, UN organisations had requested $56.7 billion through OCHA to help alleviate crises around the world. However, only 38.3 per cent of this had been collected by the end of the year. The need for donations has increased significantly over the years. The estimated amount for 2023 was almost three times as high as in 2016.

Photo: OCHA/Viviane Rakotoarivony

Trump appeals Maine’s decision to remove him from ballot

Former US President Donald Trump has asked a Maine court to overturn the Secretary of State’s decision to remove him from the 2024 primary ballot there because of his role in the 6th January 2021, US Capitol insurrection. Trump argued on Tuesday that the Maine Secretary of State, Shenna Bellows, was a “biased decision maker” who didn’t have the legal authority to hear the challenge seeking to disqualify him from office.

Bellows, a Democrat, announced her decision last week, saying that she had a legal obligation to remove Trump from the ballot under a Civil War-era provision of the Constitution that prohibits those who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office. Last  night, on NPR, Bellows denied politics played role in decision to kick Trump off ballot, saying she only upheld US Constitution by kicking former President Trump off the ballot.

Bellows paused her decision, which only applies to Maine, so that Trump could appeal it in court before the presidential primary election there on 5th March. Trump is facing similar 14th Amendment challenges to his candidacy in other states, including Colorado where the state Supreme Court ordered Trump removed from the primary ballot there – a decision the former president plans to appeal to the US Supreme Court. Any ruling from the US Supreme Court would be the final say on whether Trump is eligible to appear on the primary ballot in Colorado, Maine, and other states where his eligibility is being challenged.

Photo: AP/John Minchillo, File

500 Russian missiles and drones in 5 days – Zelensky

Russia has launched over 500 missiles and drones over Ukraine in the last five days, President Zelensky wrote last night on X. “In a few days, from December 29 to today (yesterday, ed.), Russia has used around 300 missiles and over 200 ‘Shahed’ drones against Ukraine,” reads the message. “Before Ukraine, no country in the world had ever successfully repelled such attacks combined with the use of drones and missiles, including air-launched ballistic missiles. Only today (yesterday, ed.) 10 Kinzhals were shot down,” Zelensky underlined, referring to Russian hypersonic missiles.

Meanwhile, Russia said it had accidentally bombed a village in its southern Voronezh region near Ukraine on Tuesday but stressed there were no casualties. The accident occurred the same day as Russia hit Ukraine with a large-scale missile attack. It is not the first such incident during Moscow’s almost two-year-long Ukraine offensive.

Photo: EPA-EFE/OLEG PETRASYUK

Putin under pressure to attack British military – Newsweek

Russia is being encouraged by some of its own to target the British military for helping Ukraine carry out a successful attack in the Black Sea last week, according to a Newsweek report. Dozens of Russian servicemembers were declared missing or wounded after the 370-foot Ropucha-class Novocherkassk large landing ship was hit on 26th December in Crimea by Ukrainian cruise missiles. Moscow admitted damage to the ship, which carried a crew of up to 87 service members.

The missiles used by Ukraine were reportedly provided by the UK Ministry of Defence, which also aided Kyiv with satellite reconnaissance and target guidance. It has led to some, including Russian political scientist Yuri Baranchik, to encourage Moscow to attack the British warship HMS Diamond. “This latest destruction of Putin’s navy demonstrates that those who believe there’s a stalemate in the Ukraine war are wrong,” UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said following the attack, according to Sky News. “They haven’t noticed that, over the past four months, 20 per cent of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has been destroyed.”

Photo: ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Macron urges Israel to avoid escalation, “particularly in Lebanon”

French President Emmanuel Macron has called on Israel to avoid escalation, “particularly in Lebanon”, following a strike attributed to Israel that killed Saleh al-Arouri, Hamas’s deputy leader, in Beirut. Macron, who spoke by telephone with the Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz, told him that “it is essential to avoid any escalatory attitude, particularly in Lebanon” and that France would continue to pass on these messages to all players directly or indirectly involved in the area, according to the French presidency.

Photo: AP/Bilal Hussein

Iran condemns assassination of Hamas deputy chief in Lebanon

Iran strongly condemned the attack that killed Arouri and urged the UN Security Council to take “immediate, effective response”. Hamas confirmed that Arouri and two commanders of its military wing, the Qassam Brigades, were killed in the drone attack on a Hamas office in Beirut’s southern neighbourhood, which left at least six people dead.

Hamas’s deputy leader, Saleh al-Arouri. Photo: Reuters

Netanyahu-Gallant consultations after Arouri’s killing

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant engaged in consultations at the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv, following the killing of Hamas number two Saleh al-Arouri, postponing a War Cabinet meeting by two hours. Meanwhile, Channel 12 reports Netanyahu is weighing appointing veteran Likud lawmakers to fill a series of vacancies in diplomatic posts abroad. The TV station said the move is part of an effort by the premier to keep potential rivals from within the party at bay as he continues to dwindle in the polls since Hamas’s 7th October onslaught.

Hamas responds to ceasefire proposal

Reuters reports that, shortly before Arouri’s killing, Hamas’ paramount leader Ismail Haniyeh, who is also based outside Gaza, said the movement had delivered its response to an Egyptian-Qatari ceasefire proposal. He reiterated that Hamas’ conditions entailed “a complete cessation” of Israel’s offensive in exchange for further releases of hostages.

Israel believes 129 hostages remain in Gaza after some were released during a brief truce in late November and others were killed during air strikes and rescue or escape attempts. Israel has vowed to keep fighting until it has wiped out Hamas but it is unclear what it plans to do with the enclave should it succeed, and where that leaves the prospect of an independent Palestinian state.

Gaza residents said Israeli warplanes and tanks stepped up bombardments of eastern and northern districts of Khan Younis, where tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians have sought refuge after being forced to flee their homes elsewhere. A United Nations worker who visited a hospital there on Tuesday said a 5-day-old baby and four other people were killed in a strike that hit the hospital. In the northern Gaza Strip, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said, Israel has destroyed 12 Hamas regiments and only a few thousand militants remained out of 15,000-18,000 who had been based in the area. Others had fled to the south, he said.

Photo: AP

142 UNRWA employees killed in Gaza since start of hostilities

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) has announced that, as of 1st January, 142 of its employees have been killed since the start of hostilities in Gaza. The agency also estimates that there are 1.9 million internally-displaced people in the Strip, or more than 85 per cent of the population. As of 30th December, nearly 1.4 million internally-displaced persons were sheltering in 155 UNRWA facilities in all five governorates of the Gaza Strip, including 160,000 in the north and Gaza City. Some 400,000 people are located near these facilities and receive assistance from the agency. In total, 1.79 million internally displaced people receive assistance from UNRWA.

Photo: Getty

BRICS expands with five new members

The BRICS group of countries has expanded to include Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The announcement coincided with Russia assuming the BRICS chairmanship on 1st January. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the inclusion of the five nations as full members of BRICS – a group consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – reflects the growing influence of the association, now comprising 10 countries.

Sun emits strongest flare since 2017

The sun emitted its strongest solar flare since 2017, peaking at 4.55pm EST (10pm Malta time), on 31st December 2023. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of energy. Flares and solar eruptions can impact radio communications, electric power grids, navigation signals, and pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts. This flare was classified as an X5.0 flare.  X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength.

Photo: NASA/SFC/SDO

Matteo Renzi the richest parliamentarian in Italy

With a taxable income of €3,187,769, Italia Viva leader Matteo Renzi stands among the richest parliamentarians in Italy’s Chamber and Senate, according to the 2023 tax returns of Italian parliamentarians. Prime Minister and political leader of Fratelli d’Italia, Giorgia Meloni, has a taxable income of €284,798, and Democratic Party secretary Elly Schlein of €94,725. The deputy prime minister and leader of the League, Matteo Salvini, stands at €95,384.

Ivory Coast expects CAN to be “great celebration of African brotherhood”

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara has called for general mobilisation to make the 34th edition of the African Cup of Nations (CAN) tournament, which his country is hosting starting 13th January, a “great celebration of youth, Ivorian hospitality, and of African fraternity”.  The Ivorian Head of State said: “This event also represents an opportunity to give new impetus to the development of the tourist and cultural industries and several sectors of our economy”. Côte d’Ivoire is hosting the CAN finals for the second time, after 1984. Winners of the CAN in 1992 and 2015, the Elephants of Côte d’Ivoire are dreaming of a third star.

Photo: Issouf SANOGO / AFP

Main photo: JIJI PRESS/AFP

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