Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane downed over eastern Ukraine with 298 dead 

Yesterday flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed about 40 km (25 miles) away from the border with Russia near the region of Donetsk, an area that is a stronghold of pro-Russian seperatists who are fighting Ukrainian government forces and have brought down two military aircraft in the recent months. 

There is the presumption Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 was downed by a ground-to-air missile fired by pro-Russian separatists from rebel-held territory near the border with Russia. There were no survivors.

Leaders of the rebels’ self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic denied any involvement while Kiev and Moscow immediately blamed each other for the disaster.

World leaders now demand an international investigation into the shooting down of flight MH17. The facts need to be established by an international, UN-led investigation.

More than half of the dead passengers, 189 people, were Dutch, 29 were Malaysian, 27 Australian, 12 Indonesian, 9 British, 4 German, 4 Belgian, 3 Filipino, 1 Canadian,  1 New Zealnd and 4 as yet unidentified. All 15 crew were Malaysian.

Which countries are the worst carbon polluters in history?
The World Resources Institute recently updated its compendium of historical carbon dioxide emissions for each country in the world over the years. Previously the collection reached only to 1990, but now it goes all the way back to 1850. 
The world’s top 15 carbon dioxide emitters (in thousands of CO2 tonnes): 
China 9,860,000
United States 5,190,000
India 1,970,000
Russia 1,770,000
Japan 1,320,000
Germany 810,000
South Korea 640,000
Canada 560,000
United Kingdom 490,000
Mexico 490,000
Indonesia 490,000
Saudi Arabia 460,000
Brazil 460,000
Australia 430,000
Iran 410,000

This story of climate change map perhaps best shows how we got to where we are today.
You as well might to have a look at this stunning CO2 emissions, birth rate & death rate simulation!

Which countries are the worst carbon polluters in history?

The World Resources Institute recently updated its compendium of historical carbon dioxide emissions for each country in the world over the years. Previously the collection reached only to 1990, but now it goes all the way back to 1850. 

The world’s top 15 carbon dioxide emitters (in thousands of CO2 tonnes): 
  1. China 9,860,000
  2. United States 5,190,000
  3. India 1,970,000
  4. Russia 1,770,000
  5. Japan 1,320,000
  6. Germany 810,000
  7. South Korea 640,000
  8. Canada 560,000
  9. United Kingdom 490,000
  10. Mexico 490,000
  11. Indonesia 490,000
  12. Saudi Arabia 460,000
  13. Brazil 460,000
  14. Australia 430,000
  15. Iran 410,000

This story of climate change map perhaps best shows how we got to where we are today.

You as well might to have a look at this stunning CO2 emissions, birth rate & death rate simulation!

Tomorrow I’ll start my trip around Europe. When I’ll be back I’ll promise to publish my travel photography and catch up with the most important topics.

Enjoy the summer and see you soon!

Middle East Conflict intesifies as the smoldering conflict between Israelis and Palestinians breaks up again

Funeral of abducted Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khudair brings clashes in Jerusalem, who is believed being killed in revenge over the deaths of three abducted Jewish teens.

The crisis began when three Israeli teens were kidnapped in the occupied West Bank on June 12 and the discovery of their dead bodies on Monday prompted an outpouring of national grief in Israel. Hamas has neither confirmed nor denied involvement in the West Bank kidnappings.

Tensions spiked after the Palestinian Abu Khudair was kidnapped on Wednesday in his Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem and his body was found hours later in a forest on the edge of the city, what many Palestinians regarded as revenge and what caused violent outbursts.

Stun grenades, rubber bullets are used in highly charged struggles between Israelis and Palestinians. Calling for a new “Intifada” thousands of furious Palestinians chanted demands for a new uprising against Israel.

But the risks of retaliation are high – for both sides.

A new major operation very likely could upend already difficult relations between Israel and Palestine. More powerful Israeli attacks in Gaza could also draw longer-range Palestinian rocket fire capable of reaching Israel’s heartland and its capital Tel Aviv.

After the Arab Spring, with Syria being caught in the middle of a civil war, Iraq becoming uncontrollable, Iran waiting and saying it will not abandon its nuclear program - and as if the Middle East needed any more of oil poured onto its ongoing conflict - now the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians are fueled again, after hope for a slight relaxation had been in sight.

The Middle East is sitting on a powder keg with its fuse about to be lit again.

BREAKING NEWS: Large number of pro-Russian separatists fled the city of Slaviansk following sustained fire from Ukrainian forces

After the collapse of Ukraine’s ceasefire shattered hopes for a quick end of the tensions in Eastern Ukraine and fighting continued over the last days, now new hopes are on the rise, that fast progress can be made.

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko ordered the army to raise the national flag over the separatist east Ukrainian stronghold of Slaviansk, after reports emerged that government forces were able to enter the city.

The head of the armed forces general staff declared that separatist fighters came under mortar fire as they tried to break through Ukrainian government forces’ lines and after that fled the city for Krematorsk.

The city of Slaviansk, which was seized by rebels in April this year, had become the separatists’ strongest redoubt in the eastern region of the country.

Syria’s unending war

At least 160,000 people have been killed in Syria’s three-year-old conflict that began as peaceful demonstrations against President Bashar al-Assad and escalated into civil war.

UN Human Rights investigators sated in a recent report that radical Islamist insurgents are kidnapping, torturing and killing civilians as the Middle East appears on the brink of wider sectarian war engulfing Iraq and Syria.

"We predicted a long time ago the dangers of spillover both ways, which is now becoming a regional spillover," said an international law expert "We are possibly on the cusp of a regional war and that is something we’re very concerned about." - Vitit Muntarbhorn, international law expert

We have inherited a definition of security from the last century, a century dominated by two world wars and a cold war, that is almost entirely military in focus. When the term national security comes up in Washington, people automatically think of expanded military budgets and more-advanced weapon systems. But armed aggression is no longer the principal threat to our future. The overriding threats in this century are climate change, population growth, spreading water shortages, rising food prices, and politically failing states.
Lester Brown, The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity

Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia sign trade agreement with EU

Today Ukraine signed an association agreement that contains free-trade deal and political cooperation with the European Union. Georgia and Moldova signed similar deals, holding out the prospect of deep economic integration and EU membership.

"Over the last months, Ukraine paid the highest possible price to make her European dreams come true," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told EU leaders a t a signing ceremony in Brussels.

The former pro-Moscow Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich turned his back on signing the EU association agreement last year in favor of closer ties with Russia, prompting months of protests and demonstrations that forced him to his fleeing the country, Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and the current tensions with pro-Russian separatists in parts of Eastern Ukraine.

The assignment with the EU immediate drew threats that “grave consequences would follow” from Russia.

Now there is the question: How might Russia react?

Ukraine - Moscow has signaled it will impose trade barriers on Kyiv over its free trade pact with the EU. Ukraine sends 20 percent of its exports to Russia (worth $15 billion per year) so this might harm Ukraine’s economy, but just until it switches to further trade integration with the EU. In fact it all depends on the current political tensions over Eastern Ukraine. The solution of the crisis could be decisive.

Moldova - Russia hasn’t mentioned any specific retaliatory measures against Moldova, but there had been threats, too. Around 12 percent of Moldova’s exports go to Russia (mostly Moldovan wine, a part of the exports are banned already). Another pressure point is Moldova’s dependence on Russian gas supplies and fears that Moscow could move to annex Transdniester region or make trouble in the autonomous Moldovan region of Gagauzia.

Georgia – Currently Tbilisi is less economically vulnerable to Moscow, because it receives gas supplies from Azerbaijan (Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, which passes through Georgia). The country also turned its trade away from Russia after the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, that caused a turn away from Moscow. But Russia could use the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Tbilisi wants back and does not want to see annexed by Moscow, as a pressure point or even a retaliation measure.

Glorifying the Crimea annexiation with a candy bar

A Russian chocolate company in Novosibirsk released a new candy bar called “The Crimea” with the slogan, “Just try to grab it!” An promotion advertisement of the product shared with the press officials shows a super-hero wearing the colors of the Russian flag, standing before a map of Crimea, with the following tagline: 

"Even in times when the country is making difficult decisions, we never stop smiling. That’s because we are Russians!"

The chocolate expires after up to ten months, what caused jokes among bloggers that the Russian occupation of Crimea won’t last a year…

ISIL gaining ground - Sunni militants attack Iraq’s largest air base, U.S. military experts arrive

Sunni militants extend a two-week advance that had been led by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) but also includes also other Sunni groups angered by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s rule. Today the militants attacked Iraq’s largest air base and seized control of several small oilfields.

Meanwhile U.S. military experts arrived to coordinate on operations center to help the Iraqi security forces counteract Sunni insurgency.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the international community call the Iraqi officials to create an more “inclusive” government. During a surprise visit this week he urged leaders of the autonomous Kurdish region to stand with Baghdad against the rush of the militants.

The fighting in northern Iraq threatens to split up the country as well as there is the threat that Baghdad’s grip on the Western frontier with Syria and Jordan might also be challenged.

For ISIL the capturing of this frontier is a step toward the achieving of their goal to build a caliphate across swathes of Iraq and Syria.

Fragile ceasefire

The seven-day ceasefire came under pressure almost as soon at it began this Friday, with the Ukrainian government accusing the pro-Russian separatists of attacking its military bases by the Russian border. The fighting flares over and over again between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists and continues.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin tries to force Kiev to talks with the rebels. Meanwhile the pro-Russian separatists agreed to honour Ukraine truce.  But both sides reported a further straining of this unilateral ceasefire while at several places fighting goes on. In comments published on the Kremlin website, Putin repeated his support for the ceasefire as well as for the peace plan, but only in general terms.

This half-hearted support could mean that he either has no interest in a concrete peace plan and pursues his own goals, or that he has already lost control of rebels and the situation.

While Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko prepares for meetings with the European Union in the coming week, which will include the signing of an association agreement (including inter alia a free trade agreement), US President Barack Obama and Russia’s Vladimir Putin traded demands Monday on the situation in order to normalize the situation in eastern Ukraine, with Obama urging Putin to stop supporting the separatists and Putin demanding that Ukraine has to hold direct talks with the rebels.

Today Vladimir Putin asked the Duma to cancel and revoke a resolution that gave Russia the right to intervene in Ukraine.

It seems quite clear that Putin aims to keep up the pressure on the Ukrainian government with the main goal of preventing Ukraine from joining NATO and the European Union. For sure he knows, that he can’t push it too far, because this would mean more crippling sanctions from the West, that might cause a slowdown in the Russian.

But the current ceasefire is fragile - intelligence information prove that tanks are being readied at the border in southwestern Russia to be sent into Eastern Ukraine and lots of armoured personnel have already might have crossed the border.