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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Italy Takes Would-Be Maltese Asylum Seekers

Italy agreed to succor 102 African migrants aboard the oil tanker Salamis today, allowing the migrants to disembark at the port of Syracuse. The vessel was originally supposed to dock in Malta but had been denied entrance to Maltese waters on Sunday, after it came to light that the tanker had rescued the migrants from a boat 24 miles off the coast of Libya. Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had resisted a request from the European Commission to admit the migrants on humanitarian grounds. Every year, thousands of migrants make their way from Africa to Europe, but many are waylaid on the tiny island of Malta.

Last month, European Council president Herman van Rompuy sparred with Muscat over immigration issues; the Maltese PM suggested his island felt “a sense of abandonment”, while van Rompuy pointed out Malta was receiving €80 million more in migration funds from the new European Union budget. Still, van Rompuy conceded that Malta received by far the highest number of per capita asylum seekers. Muscat in turn called for shared European responsibility, “Europe as a whole must take ownership of the situation because we cannot do it alone.”

Just last night, 86 migrants were rescued by the Maltese navy. And earlier this week, at least 100 migrants came ashore on Malta in a rubber dinghy. But successive Maltese administrations have made significant efforts to turn away migrants before they can reach Maltese territory, citing the island’s small size (only 121 square miles), massive population (Malta is the seventh most densely populated country in the world), and the fact that most migrants are hoping to land on the European mainland. Muscat dismissed suggestions that Malta’s actions constitute a breach of international law or decorum, saying, “Call us harsh, call us heartless, but we are not pushovers.”

Japanese Government Intercedes at Fukushima

After it became clear that roughly 300 tons of radioactive water has been leaking out of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant each day, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe has ordered his government to assist in the containment and clean up. Two and a half years after the reactor suffered a meltdown due to the effects of an earthquake and tsunami, the plant’s operator Tepco, has yet to effect a meaningful cleanup effort. Stressing the fallout’s effects on Japan, Minister Abe said, “instead of leaving everything to Tepco, we need to create a firm national strategy.” To that end his government has opted to go forward with an ambitious project to freeze the ground around the power plant, in oder to prevent the creep of irradiated water with the local groundwater. Similar technology is used in subway construction, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the ozymandian scale—a nearly mile long perimeter around the four damaged reactors will be frozen by drilling shafts into the ground and pumping coolant through them—is “unprecedented in the world.”

While specialists from Tepco and the Japanese government have suggested the toxic outflow should have minimal impact on the environment, earlier this year fish near Hitachi, more than 60 miles away from Fukushima, were found to be ‘highly contaminated’ with cesium.

Israeli PM Accuses Iranian President of Duplicity

In light of newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s request for renewed U.S.-Iran negotiations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to remind Israel’s erstwhile ally that he believes Iran is continuing to develop nuclear weapons. Speaking at the site of a proposed military installation in the Negev desert, Netanyahu said, Rouhani “tells us no threats will help. But the truth is that the only thing in the last 20 years that has helped stop Iran’s nuclear program were pressures and the explicit threats of military action.” Just yesterday, a senior official took to the radio to suggest that Israel could launch an assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities, with or without the support of the United States.

In yesterday’s speech, Rouhani presciently addressed such concerns: “We are ready to engage in serious and substantial talks without wasting time,” but noted that he yearned for a diplomatic partner that is “serious about talks and abandons the language of pressure and threat.”

Yemen Foils Al-Qaeda Plot

Yemeni security officials claim they have disrupted a multi-phase al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula plot which included taking control of the Mina al-Dhaba oil terminal, among other energy infrastructure sites, and executing all foreign nationals there. Today also saw a massive increase in security forces deployed throughout the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, as well as at least one drone strike near the city of Attaq.

This AQAP operation appears to be unrelated to a supposed plot that saw the U.S. and U.K. close a number of embassies and consulates in Yemen and around the world.

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