The Daily Visionary: Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Photo Credit: iNews

Photo Credit: iNews

Ukraine imposes martial law after Russia allegedly seizes three of their ships


One day after Russia allegedly fired at three Ukrainian naval vessels near Russia-occupied Crimea, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko made a motion to impose martial law, which was supported by a vote in Ukraine's parliament. "We consider it as an act of aggression against our state and a very serious threat," President Petro Poroshenko said Monday, "Unfortunately, there are no 'red lines' for the Russian Federation." President Poroshenko demanded Russia immediately release the sailors and ship seized, then signed a decree to introduce martial law across the country, which will include partial mobilization and strengthening of the country's air defense, saying, “The introduction of martial law does not involve measures related to limiting the rights and freedoms of citizens or the introduction of censorship”.


Three Ukrainian ships and crews were seized by Russian coast guard ships after the Russian vessel rammed a Ukrainian tugboat transporting artillery boats from Odessa on the Black Bea to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov, via the Kerch Strait. The Kerch Strait is Ukraine’s only access between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, which is spanned by a twenty-kilometer bridge completed by Russia this year.


The two countries have been locked in a stalemate since Russia militarily annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine in 2014. The capture of the three Ukrainian vessels comes after months of incidents in the Sea of Azov that has involved inspections and seizures of ships. Despite a 2003 treaty designating the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters, Russia has continued to assert greater control over the passage since its annexation of Crimea.


Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Ukraine violated international law and provoked Russia by sending its navy vessels through the Kerch Strait without permission, a claim Ukraine's Ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.) Volodymyr Yelchenko called an "outright lie". The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement, “It’s obvious that this painstakingly thought-through and planned provocation was aimed at igniting another source of tension in the region in order to create a pretext to ramp up sanctions against Russia,” and  “We’d like to warn the Ukrainian side that the policy of provoking a conflict with Russia in the area of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, which has been pursued by Kiev in coordination with the United States and the European Union, is fraught with serious consequences.”


The European Union and NATO called for restraint from both sides. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expressed the military alliance’s “full support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, including its full navigational rights in its territorial waters under international law.


NASA predicts a long cold space winter due to decreased solar activity


NASA said sunspot activity on the surface of our galaxy’s sun has diminished so much that record low temperatures could soon hit space. The result is cooler space weather which does not affect the Earth's climate. Martin Mlynczak at NASA’s Langley Research Center clarified that there was no relationship between temperatures in space and that on Earth, saying "There is no relationship between the natural cycle of cooling and warming in the thermosphere and the weather/climate at Earth’s surface.


We see a cooling trend,” said Mr. Mlynczak, “High above Earth’s surface, near the edge of space, our atmosphere is losing heat energy … If current trends continue, it could soon set a Space Age record for cold.” He went on to describe how solar minimum can enhance the effects of space weather, disrupt communications and navigation, and even cause space junk to "hang around".


Mr. Mlynczak and his colleagues recently introduced the "Thermosphere Climate Index" (TCI), which measures how much heat nitric oxide (NO) molecules are dumping into space. The results come from the SABER instrument onboard NASA’s TIMED satellite, that monitor infrared emissions from carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitric oxide (NO). By measuring the infrared glow of these molecules, SABER can assess the thermal state of gas at the very top of the atmosphere, a layer researchers call “the thermosphere”. When the thermosphere cools, it shrinks, making the radius of the Earth's atmosphere smaller. This means it can delay the natural decay of space junk, resulting in a more cluttered environment around Earth.


Mr. Mlynczak said, “SABER is currently measuring 33 billion Watts of infrared power from NO. That’s 10 times smaller than we see during more active phases of the solar cycle,” and “The thermosphere always cools off during Solar Minimum. It’s one of the most important ways the solar cycle affects our planet.”


Mexicans approve the President-elect's proposals in referendum


President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who takes office on December 1, put forth ten projects that were all approved in a referendum vote Monday, Critics questioned the referendum results, with voter turnout at approximately one for every ninety registered voters. A total of 946,000 people participated in the weekend referendum, which was the second that has been held since President-elect Lopez Obrador was elected in a landslide.


"Look at what the petition-signers don't know, I say it with all respect and I recognize the majority are very smart people, but as amazing it sounds, they need to make contact with the people in the countryside," President-elect Lopez Obrador wrote of his critics, including environmentalists who question his most controversial plan, a train to connect main tourist attractions across the Yucatan Peninsula, from Merida to resorts including Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum before it continues through sparsely populated areas such as Bacalar, Calakmul, and Palenque. Experts say the northern leg of the route makes economic sense, however the southern part does not as it runs through a jungle.


A native of the southern state of Tabasco, President-elect Lopez Obrador has vowed to champion projects in the country's often poor and underdeveloped southeast. The referendum also approved plans to construct an oil refinery, build a rail link between the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico, raise supplementary payments for the elderly, implement a massive reforestation program, and offer free internet and better health care. Each ballot measure, including those concerning youth scholarships and work-training programs, received between 90 and 95 percent approval. In particular, President-elect Lopez Obrador is irritated by the fact that Mexico imports much of its refined gasoline from the United States (U.S.) because its own refineries aren't up to the task.


Investigation is launched into 'monstrous' claims a Chinese scientist genetically edited humans


In a YouTube video posted Monday, He Jiankui of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China said his goal was to give the babies a natural ability to resist HIV when he altered embryos for seven couples during fertility treatment, which had led to the birth of twins earlier this month. The Chinese university has launched an investigation into He’s claims, saying that He has been on unpaid leave since February and warned the research was a “serious violation of academic ethics and norms.” A joint statement from a group of 100 scientists in China criticized the project, calling it “a great blow” to the country’s reputation.


He posted five videos altogether Monday, saying he used the gene editing technology known as Crispr to rewrite the DNA of twin girls and claimed the experiment had "worked safely as intended" and that the girls were "as healthy as any other babies.” In the videos, the scientist defended his work, saying in one, "I understand my work will be controversial, but I believe families need this technology. And I’m willing to take the criticism for them." Despite providing no evidence or documentation to back up the claims, He said he plans to share data about the trial at a scientific forum this week in Hong Kong and promised his results would be submitted for peer review and published.


Feng Zhang, one of the inventors of gene editing technology Crisp called for a global moratorium, saying he was “deeply concerned” by the lack of transparency. The issue of genetic editing is deeply controversial, and though scientists in Britain and the United States (U.S.) have experimented with genetic editing in human embryos, but it is currently illegal to implant them. Last September, scientists at Sun Yat-sen University, China used an adapted version of gene-editing to correct a disease-causing mutation in human embryos, but they were destroyed after a few weeks of fertilisation.


Director of Human Genetics Alert Dr. David King said, “If these claims are true, the world has changed – it’s a day that I and many others have dreaded. But it underscores the need for an immediate global ban on the cloning and genetic engineering of human beings.


Professor Julian Salulescu, an expert in medical ethics from Oxford University said that in most other countries he would be facing jail. “If true, this experiment is monstrous,” he said. “These healthy babies are being used as genetic guinea pigs. This is genetic Russian Roulette. It exposes healthy normal children to risks of gene editing for no real necessary benefit and contravenes decades on ethical consensus and guidelines on the protection of human participants in research. In many other places in the world, this would be illegal punishable by imprisonment.”


General Motors announces the closing of eight manufacturing plants globally


General Motors has announced its intention to close eight manufacturing facilities and cut 15 percent of its workforce next year as part of its global restructuring and an effort to free up USD $6 billion per year in cash by 2020. Five of the factories are located in North America, including Oshawa, Canada, Detroit and Warren in Michigan, Warren, Ohio, a site near Baltimore in Maryland, plus one in South Korea, and two additional undisclosed international locations.


GM’s rationale follows rising costs, including from new tariffs on materials such as steel, and slower car sales as buyers in North America have turned away from smaller cars to bigger vehicles such as SUVs and trucks, which now make up nearly 70 percent of total car purchases in the United States (U.S.), and investment in electric and autonomous vehicles, which are expected to drive future industry growth.


Ohio’s Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown called the decision "corporate greed at its worst" while the state’s Republican Senator Rob Portman said he was "deeply frustrated". U.S. President Trump said he thought pressure on GM would lead it to direct new work to the plants, at least in Ohio. Labour unions in Canada and the U.S. also said they would press the company to allocate more work to the factories, instead of closing them.


During the 2009 global financial crisis, the Canadian federal government offered automakers a CAD $10.8 billion bailout in loans, share purchases, and subsidies. Some of that money was paid back, however the net loss is between CAD $4 billion to $5 billion, including a CAD $1 billion loan write-off. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he expressed his "deep disappointment" in the closure of the Oshawa GM plant, which is sixty-five years old and currently employs 2,522 works, compared to nearly 23,000 thirty-five years ago. The plant accounts for 6 percent of total vehicle production in Canada, according to Scotiabank economist Juan Manuel Herrera, who publishes the bank's monthly Global Auto Report, and said production in Oshawa was set to decline next year by 40 percent from current levels because the vehicle models made there aren't big sellers.