Right now, on board the International Space Station (ISS), there are four American astronauts, two Russians and one German. They are living 400 kilometers above the Earth, but could become the most unexpected collateral victims of the war in Ukraine.
“If the US blocks cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled exit of its orbit or from crashing onto the US or Europe?” asked Dimitri Rogozin, director of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.
The United States and Russia have been cooperating for nearly 25 years on this advanced space station, along with European, Canadian and Japanese input. Yesterday, US President Joe Biden announced a new series of sanctions against Russia, which, among other things, target their “aerospace industry, including the space program.”
The Russian response, from the head of Roscosmos – a journalist, philosopher, expert in war theory, former ambassador to NATO and ex-vicepresident of the country – was incendiary. “There is also the option that a 500-ton structure could fall on India and China. Does [Biden] want to threaten them with that scenario?” he wrote on Twitter.
Байден заявил, что новые санкции коснутся российской космической программы. Ок. Остается выяснить детали:
1. Вы хотите перекрыть нам доступ к радиационностойкой микроэлектронике космического назначения? Так вы это уже сделали вполне официально в 2014 году.
— РОГОЗИН (@Rogozin) February 24, 2022
The tensions between Russia, the US and the EU could have significant consequences for space exploration. In 2014, after the Russian invasion of the Crimean peninsula, NASA sent a directive to its employees to suspend contact with Russian counterparts. The agency banned travel to Russia for all of its employees. Rogozin was punished with a ban on entry to the US – the EU did the same, and paralyzed all its accounts in the bloc’s member states.
After Rogozin’s statements, NASA has stated that cooperation with Russia on the ISS will remain intact. Despite the new economic sanctions, “civil cooperation in space between Russia and the US will continue,” a NASA spokesperson told CNN. The agency “continues to work with its international partners, including Roscosmos, on the operation of the ISS,” it added.
Until now, the US and Russia had left the space station outside of political combat and economic sanctions. The clearest precedent was the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014. Despite the US sanctions, the ISS continued to operate with normality. The US astronauts continued to fly on Russian Soyuz craft and the ISS operations were not affected.
In November 2021, Russia blew up one if its satellites by firing a missile at it. The remains of the object, which are as dangerous as shrapnel, seriously threatened the ISS crew. The US made an official complaint to Russia about this maneuver, but relations did not break down.
But the ISS has an uncertain future. Last year, Russia warned that if the US did not lift its sanctions – in particular on electronic components for spaceships and satellites that are hindering the progress of Russian missions – its commitment for collaboration with ISS will not be renewed in 2025. The US wants to continue with the project until at least 2030 and likely beyond that date.
The war in Ukraine could have serious effects on the US, Russian and European space programs. Until a few years ago, the US could only send astronauts to space on board Russian Soyuz spacecraft. But since 2020, the country has had an alternative: the private Space X ships, from the company owned by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. That said, the US is still sporadically using Russian craft. Francisco Rubio, a US helicopter pilot and astronaut, is planning to arrive on the ISS on board a Soyuz. Russia is also planning to use the private Space X to send cosmonauts to the space station, according to The Verge.
Europe also depends on Russian technology in space. The European Space Agency regularly uses Soyuz rockets to send unmanned missions to space, as was the case with the Cheops space telescope in 2019. In April, there are plans for a Soyuz to send two Galileo satellites into orbit – the navigation system developed by the European Union. The ESA and Roscosmos are also working on Exomars, a robotic exploration mission on Mars. The program has cost $1.46 billion (€1.3 billion), and the plan is to send the robot to look for life on the red planet between August and October 2022.
Twenty victims of pedophilia denounce the Society of Jesus of Bolivia for covering up rapes | International
A pedophilia scandal is cornering the Society of Jesus in Bolivia. Half a year after the publication of the diary of the late Spanish Jesuit priest Alfonso Pedrajas, in which he admitted to having abused dozens of Bolivian children while his superiors looked the other way — and which triggered a series of accusations against a dozen priests in the Latin American country — a group of victims on Tuesday brought legal action against the Roman Catholic organization for covering up the abuse, for protecting pedophile clerics and for silencing the victims.
The plaintiffs, former students at several Jesuit-run schools who suffered sexual assaults between 1972 and 1995, had already independently brought complaints against their attackers months ago. Now, they have filed a class action suit against the current provincial of the religious order in Bolivia, Bernardo Mercado, “as the highest authority” of the institution. The plaintiffs are accusing the Society of Jesus of being the author “by omission” of the crimes of rape of minors, since for years officials were aware of the sexual abuse that was going on and did nothing to stop it. This is the first class action complaint by victims against the order in Bolivia.
Although the Bolivian penal code indicates that pedophilia crimes expire four years after the victim has reached the age of majority, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, José Luis Gareca, argues that the cases of pedophilia committed by the Jesuits and their cover-up are “crimes against humanity,” which have no statute of limitations as per the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court of the United Nations. “Article 7 of this statute establishes that crimes against humanity must have been committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack and must be directed against a civilian population, as happened in the case of the plaintiffs,” says Gareca.
The complaint, filed in the Cochabamba Prosecutor’s Office, is based on the investigation that this newspaper carried out on the diary that Pedrajas, known among his students as “Pica,” wrote between 1964 and 2006. In its pages he wrote repentantly about the sexual assaults he had committed against at least 85 children and how several senior officials of his order looked the other way when he told them what he had done. He also explained that they protected him when several victims reported the abuses they suffered.
Some of these former provincials (the highest position of the Jesuit order in Bolivia) are Ramón Alaix and Marcos Recolons, both Spaniards who, like Pedrajas, traveled to Bolivia as missionaries. Recolons, in addition to being a close friend of Pedrajas, as noted in his diary, held a high position in the Vatican between 2004 and 2008. In total there were seven superiors and a dozen other clerics who, according to the memoirs of Pedrajas, covered up the crimes.
The original story about Pedrajas was followed by other reports of new victims who accused other Spanish Jesuits of pedophilia at several schools, but mainly at the Juan XXIII school of Cochabamba, where Pedrajas was the principal for two decades and where more of his victims have surfaced. But there were other schools in Oruro, Santa Cruz and Sucre. In some of these cases, those affected said that they told various officials and superiors of the order about what was going on, but that, far from being listened to, they were threatened and punished. The accused Jesuits are Antonio Gausset (a deceased Spaniard), Luis Tó (a deceased Spaniard who in 1992 was transferred to Bolivia after a conviction for abusing a girl in Barcelona), Alejandro Mestre (a deceased Spaniard who became archbishop of La Paz and president of the Bolivian Episcopal Conference), Jorge Vila (a deceased Spaniard and founder of the humanitarian association DNI), Lucho Roma (a deceased Spaniard), Carlos Villamil (a deceased Bolivian and deputy principal at Juan XXIII), Francisco Pifarré (who also served as principal at Juan XXIII) and Francesc Peris (a Spaniard who taught at Juan XXIII in 1983, also accused of abusing girls in Barcelona until 2005). The Jesuit order, both in Bolivia and in Spain, never reported the cases to the authorities when these were first brought to their attention.
The group of victims recalls in the complaint that the Society of Jesus itself has acknowledged in several statements published in recent months that it knew about these abuses and that it did nothing about it. “We recognize that, in the past, some actions in this regard have not corresponded to the dimension of the crime perpetrated. For this reason we must ask for forgiveness. But it would be useless to recognize it if we do not act now to meet the circumstances,” says one of these statements. The first action by Jesuit leaders was to provisionally remove eight priests who held the position of provincial: five who held the position during the years in which Pedrajas committed the abuses, and another three who did so after his death. The Society of Jesus states that there is an ongoing internal investigation into all such cases of abuse.
For the plaintiffs, says their lawyer, the silence imposed by the order and the impunity with which the pedophiles acted “has given rise to an institutional conduct of criminal permissiveness” in which hundreds of children fell “into the clutches of sexual predators and pedophiles who took it upon themselves to write diaries, take photos and film their victims.” They also emphasize that civil justice “can in no way be replaced by the canonical law” that to date the Church uses to internally manage many of these cases, and where the aggressors typically purge “‘their errors’ via confessions and transfers to new locations to evade criminal sanctions.”
Several investigations underway
The tsunami caused by the publication of the Pica case forced the Bolivian Episcopal Conference to launch a general investigation of past cases of pedophilia. The Bolivian president, Luis Arce, wrote to Pope Francis requesting from the Vatican all the files on cases of pedophilia committed by clerics in Bolivian territory. This request is still waiting to be fulfilled. In May, Arce also presented a bill in the Bolivian Legislative Assembly to eliminate the statute of limitations on pedophilia crimes and to create a truth commission to investigate all past cases. This initiative is still undergoing parliamentary processing. Meanwhile, the Bolivian Senate has created another investigative committee exclusively focused on cases of pedophilia by members of the cloth in that country.
The Bolivian Prosecutor’s Office is still investigating both the attacks committed by Pedrajas and those reported in recent months. Prosecutors already have a copy of the diary and internal documentation of the Society of Jesus that was found after the police searched several offices of the order in La Paz, where its headquarters and some of its offices are located.
EL PAÍS launched an investigation into pedophilia in the Spanish Church in 2018 and has an updated database with all known cases. If you know of any case that has not seen the light, you can write to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. If it is a case in Latin America, the address is: email@example.com.
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Assessing The Potential of The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) Against China’s Belt And Road Initiative (BRI)
(THE VOICE OF EU) – In a recent address, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the newly unveiled India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) as a transformative force poised to shape global trade for centuries. While the IMEC undoubtedly presents a significant development, it’s vital to scrutinize its potential impact compared to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The IMEC was jointly announced by US President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G20 summit in Delhi. Designed to fortify transportation and communication networks between Europe and Asia via rail and shipping routes, the project not only holds regional promise but also reflects a strategic move by the US in its geopolitical interests, particularly concerning China.
However, the IMEC faces a formidable contender in the form of China’s BRI, which celebrated its tenth anniversary this year.
Despite facing some headwinds, including a slowdown in lending due to China’s economic deceleration and concerns raised by nations like Italy, Sri Lanka, and Zambia regarding debt sustainability, the BRI remains a monumental global undertaking.
With investments surpassing a staggering $1 trillion and over 150 partner countries, the BRI has transformed from a regional initiative to a near-global endeavor.
Comparatively, the IMEC may not immediately match the scale or ambition of the BRI. While the US, Japan, and the G7 nations have introduced similar initiatives like the Global Gateway and Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, none have achieved the expansive reach or influence of the BRI.
The emergence of these projects over the past five years, however, demonstrates the BRI’s pivotal role as a catalyst for global economic growth.
Viewing the IMEC solely through the lens of opposition to the BRI may not provide a comprehensive understanding of its potential.
Instead, the IMEC contributes to a broader trend of transactional partnerships, where countries engage with multiple collaborators simultaneously, underscoring the complex and interconnected nature of global trade relations.
Yet, realizing the IMEC’s aspirations demands meticulous planning and execution. A comprehensive action plan is expected within the next 60 days, outlining key governmental agencies responsible for investments, allocated capital, and implementation timelines.
Establishing a streamlined customs and trade infrastructure is equally critical to facilitate seamless transit, a challenge highlighted by the Trans-Eurasian railway’s 30-country passage through Kazakhstan.
Navigating geopolitical complexities between partner countries, particularly the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, poses another potential hurdle.
Ensuring these nations maintain a unified strategic vision amid differing priorities and interests requires careful diplomatic coordination.
Furthermore, the IMEC will compete directly with the Suez Canal, a well-established and cost-effective maritime route.
While the IMEC may enhance relations with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, it could potentially strain ties with Egypt, prompting critical assessments of the project’s economic viability.
Beyond trade and economics, the IMEC ambitiously aims to incorporate diverse sectors, from electricity grids to cybersecurity.
This multi-dimensional approach aligns with discussions held in security forums like the Quad and, if realized, could significantly contribute to a safer, more sustainable global landscape.
As we contemplate the potential of the IMEC, it is with hope that the lofty ambitions outlined in New Delhi will culminate in a tangible and positive transformation for the world.
Safe Mobility Initiative Faces Challenges In Delivering On Its Promises For Latin American Migrants
In June, the United States introduced the Movibilidad Segura, or Safe Mobility, program, a new immigration initiative aimed at expanding legal routes for refugees and migrants from South and Central America.
The program’s objective is to reduce irregular migration and strengthen transportation and communication links between the Americas. While the intentions behind Safe Mobility are commendable, its execution has faced several challenges, leaving thousands of applicants in limbo.
For many hopeful migrants like Eliezer Briceño, a 40-year-old Venezuelan residing in Ciudad Bolívar, Colombia, the application process has proven to be a complex and tedious endeavor.
Briceño’s experience highlights the technological barriers that applicants face, emphasizing the need for reliable internet access and suitable devices for successful registration.
Unfortunately, these prerequisites pose significant challenges for those without adequate resources.
The overwhelming response to the program has led to the temporary closure of the website in Colombia, further complicating the application process. With quotas quickly filled during the limited application periods, the backlog of hopeful migrants has grown, exacerbating the frustration and uncertainty surrounding Safe Mobility.
Of the nearly 29,000 applicants from Colombia, less than 1% have progressed through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) as of August 28. This statistic underscores the significant delays and challenges faced by applicants. Eliezer Briceño, like many others, anxiously awaits news about his application status, armed only with a receipt indicating a forthcoming call.
Safe Mobility, while a response to the migration crisis in Latin America, is one of several initiatives addressing the challenges faced by millions of displaced individuals.
Its collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) demonstrates a multi-lateral effort to find solutions to the region’s complex humanitarian, political, and economic issues.
However, the program’s operational secrecy, with undisclosed office locations, underscores the challenges faced by its administrators.
The need to protect both applicants and program staff from potential overcrowding and disruptions mirrors the situation in Tapachula, Mexico, where large groups of migrants have sought assistance, albeit without violent incidents.
The interview process for Safe Mobility applicants introduces another layer of complexity, marked by confidentiality agreements.
While applicants are required to sign agreements consenting to share personal data with program partners, the imposition of non-disclosure clauses appears unusual and unprecedented.
The UNHCR argues that confidentiality is crucial for the protection of individuals in need of international refuge.
The uncertainty persists even after interviews, as those rejected receive prompt notifications while others remain in a state of perpetual waiting. The apparent randomness of selections and the lack of clear communication only heighten the frustrations of applicants.
As Safe Mobility nears the midpoint of its announced six-month pilot period, questions about its effectiveness and future persist.
While the initiative addresses a critical need, its slow start and operational challenges highlight the complexity of addressing the migration crisis in the Americas.
Cooperation from multiple nations, alongside initiatives like Safe Mobility, will be essential in finding lasting solutions to this pressing global issue.
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