Tag Archives: blames

Iran blames Israel for sabotage at Natanz site as U.S. begins talks to re-enter nuclear deal

Iran blamed Israel on Monday for a sabotage attack on its underground Natanz nuclear facility that damaged its centrifuges, an assault that imperils ongoing talks over its tattered nuclear deal and brings a shadow war between the two countries into the light.

Israel has not claimed responsibility for the attack. It rarely does for operations carried out by its secret military units or its Mossad intelligence agency. However, Israeli media widely reported that the country had orchestrated a devastating cyberattack that caused a blackout at the nuclear facility. Meanwhile, a former Iranian official said the attack set off a fire.

The attack further strains relations between the United States, which under President Joe Biden is now negotiating in Vienna to re-enter the nuclear accord, and Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to stop the deal at all costs. Netanyahu met Monday with U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, whose arrival in Israel coincided with the first word of the attack.

At a news conference at Israel’s Nevatim air base Monday, where he viewed Israeli air and missile defence systems and its F-35 combat aircraft, Austin declined to say whether the Natanz attack could impede the Biden administration’s efforts to re-engage with Iran in its nuclear program.

“Those efforts will continue,” Austin said. The previous American administration under Donald Trump had pulled out of the nuclear deal with world powers, leading Iran to begin abandoning its limits.

‘We will take revenge’

Details remained scarce about what happened early Sunday at the facility. The event was initially described only as a blackout in the electrical grid feeding its above-ground workshops and underground enrichment halls — but later Iranian officials began referring to it as an attack.

A former chief of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard said the attack had also set off a fire at the site and called for improvements in security. In a tweet, Gen. Mohsen Rezaei said that the second attack at Natanz in a year signalled “the seriousness of the infiltration phenomenon.” Rezaei did not say where he got his information.

This photo released Nov. 5, 2019, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran shows centrifuge machines in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran/The Associated Press)

“The answer for Natanz is to take revenge against Israel,” Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said. “Israel will receive its answer through its own path.” He did not elaborate.

Khatibzadeh acknowledged that IR-1 centrifuges, the first-generation workhorse of Iran’s uranium enrichment, had been damaged in the attack, but did not elaborate. State television has yet to show images from the facility. However, the facility seemed to be in such disarray that, following the attack, a prominent nuclear spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi walking above ground at the site fell seven metres through an open ventilation shaft covered by aluminum debris, breaking both his legs and hurting his head.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned Natanz would be reconstructed with more advanced machines. That would allow Iran to more quickly enrich uranium, complicating the nuclear talks.

“The Zionists wanted to take revenge against the Iranian people for their success on the path of lifting sanctions,” Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted Zarif as saying. “But we do not allow (it), and we will take revenge for this action against the Zionists.”

Previous target of sabotage

Officials launched an effort Monday to provide emergency power to Natanz, said Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s civilian nuclear program. He said enrichment had not stopped there, without elaborating.

The IAEA, the United Nations body that monitors Tehran’s atomic program, earlier said it was aware of media reports about the blackout at Natanz and had spoken with Iranian officials about it. The agency did not elaborate.

Natanz has been targeted by sabotage in the past. The Stuxnet computer virus, discovered in 2010 and widely believed to be a joint U.S.-Israeli creation, once disrupted and destroyed Iranian centrifuges there during an earlier period of Western fears about Tehran’s program.

This photo released July 2, 2020, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, shows a building after it was damaged by a fire at the Natanz facility. Authorities later described the mysterious explosion as sabotage. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran/The Associated Press)

In July, Natanz suffered a mysterious explosion at its advanced centrifuge assembly plant that authorities later described as sabotage. Iran now is rebuilding that facility deep inside a nearby mountain. Iran also blamed Israel for that, as well as the November killing of a scientist who began the country’s military nuclear program decades earlier.

Israel also has launched a series of airstrikes in neighbouring Syria targeting Iranian forces and their equipment. Israel also is suspected in an attack last week on an Iranian cargo ship that is said to serve as a floating base for Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard forces off the coast of Yemen.

Multiple Israeli media outlets reported Sunday that an Israeli cyberattack caused the blackout, but it remains unclear what actually happened there. Public broadcaster Kan said the Mossad was behind the attack. Channel 12 TV cited “experts” as estimating the attack shut down entire sections of the facility.

While the reports offered no sourcing for their information, Israeli media maintains a close relationship with the country’s military and intelligence agencies.

“It’s hard for me to believe it’s a coincidence,” Yoel Guzansky, a senior fellow at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies, said of the blackout. “If it’s not a coincidence, and that’s a big if, someone is trying to send a message that ‘we can limit Iran’s advance and we have red lines.'”

It also sends a message that Iran’s most sensitive nuclear site is penetrable, he said.

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Musk Blames Starship SN11 Failure on Methane Fuel Leak

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We’ve been treated to a series of spectacular rocket tests lately, courtesy of SpaceX and the Starship development process. Of course, most of these rockets are exploding, but that only makes the tests more dramatic for outside observers. The most recent Starship rocket blew up in mid-air while beginning its landing burn. Now, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has announced a cause: a leaky pipe. We’ve all been there. 

The Starship SN11 prototype took off from the company’s Boca Chica launch facility on March 30th, heading for a high-altitude test and soft landing. After reaching 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) high, it flipped and prepared for descent. The live video feed, to which we’ve become accustomed in SpaceX launches, froze as one of the engines fired. Minutes later, debris from the Starship booster rained down on the landing zone. As Musk quipped at the time, “At least the crater is in the right place.”

The company has been examining telemetry data and the wreckage to find out what happened, and Musk now blames a leak from the fuel system. Apparently, a small amount of methane escaped and started a fire on engine 2. The rocket had three total engines, and it would have been able to reach the ground with two. However, the fire fried some avionics hardware, causing a “hard start” in the engine’s methane turbopump. A hard start means there’s too much fuel in the combustion chamber, and therefore the pressure is too high, and the engine goes boom. 

Musk says this flaw has been corrected by SpaceX engineers, and future versions of the Starship booster will be “fixed 6 ways from Sunday.” So, if anything destroys SN12 or later, it’ll be something else. 

SpaceX is unusual among aerospace companies in that it puts its development on display for everyone to see. That’s worked out well when the company has advanced so quickly. A few years ago, landing the Falcon 9 for reuse seemed like a crazy fantasy, but the technology to do that exists now. Getting the Starship to do the same thing could take a bit longer than Elon Musk would like everyone to believe, but SpaceX isn’t giving up. 

In addition to working to perfect the Starship, the company has also started work on Super Heavy, the first stage with 28 Raptor engines that will help the Starship break free of Earth’s gravity. Currently, SpaceX plans to use the Starship to fly Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa around the moon and back in 2023. It’s got some work to do before that can happen.

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Joe Biden blames Trump for violence on Capitol Hill as he picks Merrick Garland for attorney general

U.S. president-elect Joe Biden on Thursday denounced the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol as “domestic terrorists” and blamed President Donald Trump for the violence that has shaken the nation’s capital and beyond.

The actions of Trump supporters who breached the security of Congress on Wednesday, said Biden, was “not dissent, was not disorder, was not protest. It was chaos.”

In solemn tones, Biden said the steps Trump has taken to subvert the nation’s democratic institutions throughout his presidency led directly to the mayhem in Washington.

Those who massed on Capitol Hill intending to disrupt a joint session of Congress that was certifying Biden’s election victory over Trump “weren’t protesters. Don’t dare call them protesters. They were a riotous mob — insurrectionists, domestic terrorists. It’s that basic,” Biden said.

“In the past four years, we’ve had a president who’s made his contempt for our democracy, our constitution, the rule of law clear in everything he has done,” Biden said. “He unleashed an all-out assault on our institutions of our democracy from the outset. And yesterday was the culmination of that unrelenting attack.”

WATCH | Biden lays the blame for Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol on Donald Trump:

U.S. president-elect Joe Biden planted the blame for Wednesday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol squarely on President Donald Trump, accusing him of “trying to use a mob to silence the voices of nearly 160 million Americans.” 5:32

The mob of hundreds of Trump backers broke into the Capitol and roamed the halls looking for lawmakers, who were forced to halt their deliberations and evacuate to safety. The violent protesters were egged on by Trump himself, who has falsely contended that he lost the election due to voter fraud.

Trump’s claims have been repeatedly dismissed in the courts, including the Supreme Court, and by state election officials from both parties, and even some in his own administration. 

Merrick Garland for attorney general

Biden made his remarks as he introduced Merrick Garland as his pick for attorney general on Thursday along with three others he has selected for senior Justice Department positions to “restore the independence” of the Justice Department and faith in the rule of law.

Garland is the former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit. If confirmed by the Senate, which is likely, he would take over as the nation’s top law enforcement official at a critical moment for the country and the agency.

He would inherit immediate challenges related to civil rights, an ongoing criminal tax investigation into Biden’s son Hunter and calls from many Democrats to pursue criminal inquiries into Trump after he leaves office.

Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in 2016 after being nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Barack Obama. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Beyond the specific issues, he will be tasked with repairing the American people’s broad distrust in the U.S. Justice Department, among other institutions of democracy undermined by Trump’s turbulent presidency.

Biden vowed that Garland’s loyalty would rest not with the president, but with the law and Constitution.

“You don’t work for me,” Biden charged as he introduced Garland.

Black Lives Matter treated very differently, says Biden

Biden used the event to also address what he said was blatant inequality in dealing with the mob on Capitol Hill Wednesday. 

“No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs who stormed the Capitol.”

WATCH | Biden calls out the inequality over how the rioters were treated Wednesday:

U.S. president-elect Joe Biden says it is clear that had the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol been members of Black Lives Matter, they would have been treated very differently by security forces. 1:35

Garland would inherit a Justice Department that has endured a tumultuous four years and abundant criticism from Democrats over what they see as the overpoliticization of law enforcement. The department is expected to dramatically change course under new leadership, including through a different approach to civil rights issues and national policing policies, especially after months of mass protests over the deaths of Black Americans at the hand of law enforcement.

Black and Latino advocates had wanted a Black attorney general or someone with a background in civil rights causes and criminal justice reform. Groups including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund had championed Garland’s Supreme Court nomination, but the extent of support from minority groups for the attorney general job was not immediately clear.

Other justice posts announced

Biden introduced three others for senior Justice Department leadership posts, including Obama administration homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general and former Justice Department civil rights chief Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general, the No. 3 official. He also named an assistant attorney general for civil rights, Kristen Clarke, now the president of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an advocacy group.

Though Garland is a white man, the selection of Gupta and Clarke, two women with significant experience in civil rights, appeared designed to blunt any concerns and served as a signal that progressive causes would be prioritized in the new administration.

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Azerbaijan says at least 10 killed in latest rocket attack, blames Armenia

Rescuers raced against time early on Saturday to find survivors of a fresh missile attack in Azerbaijan’s second largest city of Ganja, which the country says killed at least 10 people and wounded 40 others.

Azerbaijan accused Armenia of the attack that destroyed residential homes, in the latest sign that a Russian-brokered ceasefire, agreed to last Saturday to allow the sides to swap detainees and the bodies of those killed, had all but broken down.

More than 10 people were killed and 40 others were wounded, Azerbaijan’s presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev said in a tweet.

Armenian and Azeri forces fought new clashes on Friday, defying hopes of ending nearly three weeks of fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

The worst outbreak of violence in the South Caucasus since Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over the enclave in the 1990s, the fighting risks creating a humanitarian disaster, especially if it draws in Russia and Turkey.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.

Armenia and Azerbaijan has been accusing each other of launching new attacks in and around Nagorno-Karabakh.

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Iran blames missile strike that downed Ukrainian airliner on bad communication, poor alignment

Iranian investigators are blaming a misaligned missile battery and miscommunication between soldiers and their commanders for the Revolutionary Guard shooting down a Ukrainian jetliner in January, killing 176 people — including 55 Canadians.

A report released late Saturday by Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization comes months after the Jan. 8 crash near Tehran. Authorities had initially denied responsibility, only changing course days later after Western nations presented extensive evidence that Iran had shot down the plane.

The report may signal a new phase in the investigation into the crash, as the aircraft’s black box flight recorder is due to be sent to Paris, where international investigators will finally be able to examine it.

The strike happened the same night Iran launched a ballistic missile attack targeting U.S. soldiers in Iraq, its response to the American drone strike that killed Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3.

Scheduled air traffic allowed to resume

At the time, Iranian troops were bracing for a U.S. counterstrike and appear to have mistaken the plane for a missile. The civil aviation report does not acknowledge that, only saying a change in the “alertness level of Iran’s air defence” allowed previously scheduled air traffic to resume.

The report detailed a series of moments where the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 could have been avoided.

The report said the surface-to-air missile battery that targeted the Boeing 737-800 had been relocated and was not properly reoriented.

Rescue workers search the scene where the plane crashed just southwest of Tehran. (Ebrahim Noroozi/The Associated Press)

Those manning the missile battery could not communicate with their command centre, they misidentified the civilian flight as a threat and opened fire twice without getting approval from ranking officials, the report said.

“If each had not arisen, the aircraft would not have been targeted,” it said.

Western intelligence officials and analysts believe Iran shot down the aircraft with a Russian-made Tor system, known to NATO as the SA-15. In 2007, Iran took the delivery of 29 Tor M1 units from Russia under a contract worth an estimated $ 700 million US. The system is mounted on a tracked vehicle and carries a radar and a pack of eight missiles.

The report did not say why the Guard moved the air defence system, though that area near the airport is believed to be home to both regular military and bases of the paramilitary Guard.

The report notes that the Ukrainian flight had done nothing out of the ordinary up until the missile launch, with its transponder and other data being broadcast.

“At the time of firing the first missile, the aircraft was flying at a normal altitude and trajectory,” the report said.

Blame placed entirely on crew of missile battery

The plane had just taken off from Imam Khomeini International Airport when the first missile exploded, possibly damaging its radio equipment, the report said. The second missile likely directly struck the aircraft, as videos that night show the plane exploding into a ball of fire before crashing into a playground and farmland on the outskirts of Tehran.

The report put the blame entirely on the crew of the missile battery. Already, six people believed to be involved in the incident have been arrested, judiciary spokesperson Gholamhossein Esmaili reportedly said in June. He said at the time three had been released on bail while the other three remained held.

In recent months, Iran has repeatedly delayed releasing the aircraft’s so-called black box, which includes data and communications from the cockpit leading up to the downing. The U.S., under international regulations, has a right to be part of the investigation, as the plane involved was a Boeing.

Iran is to send the black box to France on July 20, where Ukrainian and French experts are expected to examine it, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency recently reported. Iranian officials did not have the equipment on hand to read data from the box.

The plane, en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, 55 Canadians — including many Iranians with dual citizenship — and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials. The route was popular with those travelling onward to Canada.

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Developer Blames VR Headset for Degraded Eyesight

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Danny Bittman is a software developer who specializes in VR projects, with more than an estimated 10,000 hours logged in headsets over the past few years. He’s also convinced that virtual reality headsets are to blame for unusual vision problems he’s having.

There have been rumors that 3D or virtual reality headsets could be bad for your eyesight ever since these technologies began to go mainstream a decade ago. Developers and the gaming public are generally aware that satisfactory VR gaming requires much faster frame rates than traditional PC or console gaming, and that you need to rest your eyes periodically when playing in VR. Bittman’s experience suggests a need to carefully revisit our ideas of what’s healthy and what isn’t.

Bittman has been diagnosed with a vergence accommodation problem known as convergence excess. The vergence accommodation problem is a real issue in VR, and it’s part of why people can’t wear VR headsets for all that long. In real life, when you try to focus on something in the distance, you point your eyeballs at it and your lenses change shape accordingly to bring it into focus. In the real world, your eyeballs and lenses work with each other, and this happens flawlessly. In VR, there’s a significant difference between your focal depth and your viewing distance, as shown in the image below:

Image by Hoffman Et Al, Journal of Vision, 2000, via Wired

Bittman has made a number of disparate posts on the subject — I can’t link a single Twitter thread, but here’s one example:

According to Bittman, he played up to six hours of VR a day, though he also took breaks every 30 minutes. Sheer playing time, however, is not the only problem here. Bittman also refers to gaming at low frame rates in VR, and the fact that devs are willing to deal with this as part of the cost of getting a game up and running. He’s concerned that his own willingness to tolerate low frame rates and janky, stuttering playback contributed directly to his eyesight problems today.

I would echo Bittman’s tone about taking your eye health very seriously, regardless of whether you use VR or not. Rates of myopia (nearsightedness) in children have skyrocketed over the past few decades. Your eye health can change as you get older, and “older,” in this case, doesn’t have to mean “old.” Taking screen breaks and making certain to focus your eyes on targets closer than 2-3 feet away is important. A lot of adults get this kind of practice daily from commuting, but there’s a fair number of people now working from home. If you’ve noticed your eye strain ticking up, it might be a good idea to step out the front door and look down the road for a few minutes each day.

Bittman intends to continue working in VR, which he loves, but plans to be far more mindful of his environment and the frame rates he tests when developing a title. His case may be unusual, but the idea of taking frequent VR breaks and exercising one’s eyes is solid advice regardless.

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Dyson Dumps Its EV Project After Spending $3.2B, Blames Commercial Viability

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Dyson, a British company best known for its business in hand dryers and vacuums, has announced that it will terminate its EV project. According to the company, it had developed a ‘fantastic car,’ but saw no path to commercial viability for the vehicle. Its efforts to find a buyer have been unsuccessful according to a letter published on the company website.

Dyson claims to have invested £2.5 billion pounds, or roughly $ 3.2B, into building an electric car since launching the project in 2015. Company founder James Dyson didn’t even reveal the existence of the project until 2017 after it had been running for two years with an estimated 400 engineers. In 2018, the company talked about its plan to come to market with a series of vehicles, beginning with what would essentially be a test vehicle to construct a supply chain and route to market. The plan seems to have been similar to Tesla’s, which came to market with the Roadster and then expanded into the Model S, Model Y, and Model 3.

From patents Dyson filed. Image credit: Charlie Box, Dyson.

Patent drawings surfaced earlier this year, shedding light on at least one of Dyson’s designs. The car had unusual proportions, with large, narrow wheels and high ground clearance. It was intended for the Asian market. Dyson actually announced that it intended to move its headquarters to Singapore in order to be closer to its customer base; it’s not clear if that plan has changed at all now that the vehicle is canceled. Dyson was supposed to handle design, manufacturing, and distribution of the car.

While the company has not given any additional details on why it canceled its vehicle, launching any new vehicle requires a great deal of investment into R&D. Launching a new car when you lack a supply chain or sales network is even harder. A ~$ 3.2B investment is an enormous amount of money to pile into a vehicle, but it may not have been enough money to pay for the R&D on the car and establish the networks that Dyson needed to build in order to achieve its goals.

Dyson’s statement emphasizes that the firm intends to expand its solid-state battery manufacturing and efforts to develop computer vision, machine learning, AI, and other types of sensor systems. The company isn’t wrong to foresee a challenging situation in the EV market. Multiple established vehicle manufacturers, including VW and GM, have announced major efforts to commercialize BEVs. The EV market as a whole has seen a sharp sales decline in the past few months.


Part of the reason EV sales are down in comparison with 2018 is that EV sales shot up substantially in the back half of last year. Tesla accounts for a huge percentage of total EV sales on a monthly basis and Tesla’s tax rebate dropped by 50 percent at the end of 2018. While sales figures for Q3 2019 are sharply lower than a year earlier, there’s also the fact that car sales have fallen off a cliff across the entire US market. Bloomberg described September car sales for Toyota and Honda as “disastrous.” Toyota sales fell by 16.5 percent, while Honda sales fell by 14.1 percent. US vehicle sales have slumped in 2019 and the UK/EU situation is uncertain due to Brexit. Dyson’s previous decision to build a factory in Singapore also raised eyebrows; average salaries in Singapore are quite high, making it difficult for a newcomer to compete on price against more established companies.

If Dyson had developed significant improvements to EV components, we may still see the fruits of that labor in licensing deals with other companies, but the vehicle push is over. Car companies remain one of the most difficult markets to break into, even for an already-successful firm.

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Iraq blames ‘malicious’ hands as death toll from unrest tops 100

Twelve anti-government demonstrators were killed Sunday in ongoing protests in Iraq’s capital of Baghdad, the latest fatalities in six days of clashes that have left more than 100 dead and thousands wounded.

The Iraqi government has scrambled to contain the popular anger that has racked Baghdad and a number of southern cities since Tuesday. Security forces responded with a crackdown on the spontaneous rallies of demonstrators demanding jobs, better services and an end to endemic corruption in the oil-rich country.

In the first official statement from the government accounting for the violence, Interior Ministry spokesperson Saad Maan said Sunday that 104 people had been killed in the six days of unrest, including eight members of the security forces, and more than 6,000 wounded. He said an investigation was underway to determine who was behind the most deadly day of violence in Baghdad on Friday.

The unrest is the most serious challenge facing Iraq two years after the victory against Islamic State militants. The chaos also comes at a critical time for the government, which has been caught in the middle of increasing U.S.-Iran tensions in the region. Iraq is allied with both countries and hosts thousands of U.S. troops, as well as powerful paramilitary forces allied with Iran.

Iraq’s most senior Shia spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has urged the protesters and the security forces to end the violence while the country’s prime minister has called on the protesters to go home. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi also pledged to meet with the protesters wherever they are and without any armed forces, to hear their demands.

Demonstrators gather during an anti-government protest in Baghdad, Iraq on Saturday. (Wissm al-Okili/Reuters)

Abdul Mahdi defended the security forces, saying they were carrying out their duties and would only use force in extreme cases of self-defence.

“We can’t accept the continuation of the situation like this,” Abdul Mahdi told his cabinet late Saturday in televised remarks. “We hear of snipers, firebombs, burning a policeman, a citizen.”

Speaking on Sunday, Maan said protesters have burned 51 public buildings and eight political party headquarters. He claimed security forces didn’t confront the protesters, adding that “malicious hands” were behind targeting protesters and security members alike.

That contradicted accounts from demonstrators and journalists at the scene who have said they witnessed security forces firing on demonstrators. Some protesters said snipers also took part in breaking up the protests. Maan said most of those killed Friday were hit in the head and heart.

Officials had said earlier there were attempts at “sedition” from snipers who targeted security and protesters alike. They didn’t elaborate.

Late Saturday, the prime minister announced a number of measures designed to appease the protesters, including paying out unemployment benefits and providing subsidized housing and land for low-income groups.

‘Peaceful, peaceful’

Still, demonstrators took to the streets again Sunday — although in smaller numbers. Hundreds gathered on side streets near Sadr City, a Baghdad suburb, four kilometres from Tahrir Square, which has been the destination of the weeklong rallies, although authorities have prevented protesters from reaching it.

A medical official in a local hospital and a security official said 12 protesters were killed and more than 50 others wounded as they repeatedly tried to break through a security cordon to head to the city centre. The officials, who did not provide details, spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

Security forces have beefed up their presence in central Baghdad, deploying as far as Sadr City to seal off Tahrir Square.

Army troops blocked a main road Sunday to prevent the protesters from advancing, then fired on them to push them back. After about an hour, there was more intense gunfire, with soldiers firing over the heads of protesters as they tried to advance.

Ducking in reaction to the fire, some protesters piled over one another trying to hide behind the wall of a nearby water fountain. One protester carrying a drum chanted “peaceful, peaceful,” as others joined in. As the gunfire continued, protesters set tires on fire.

Anti-government protesters set fires and close a street during a demonstration in Baghdad on Sunday. (Khalid Mohammed/The Associated Press)

Some demonstrators arrived in rickshaws, which have been used to carry the wounded from the bloody clashes.

The UN envoy for Iraq appealed for an end to the violence and called for holding to account those responsible. “This must stop. I call on all parties to pause and reflect,” Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert tweeted Saturday night.

Meanwhile, Abdul Mahdi pledged to meet with the demonstrators to hear their demands.

“I am ready to go wherever our brotherly protesters are and meet them or send them envoys to other locations without any armed forces,” he said late Saturday. “I will go and meet them without weapons and sit with them for hours to listen to their demands.”

He also decreed that those killed in the protests, whether demonstrators or security forces, would be considered “martyrs” eligible for state benefits.

Earlier on Sunday, Baghdad’s streets had been mostly quiet and traffic thin as an eerie calm prevailed. Students made it to schools and government employees returned to work. But burnt tires and debris littered thoroughfares while security remained heavily deployed in many neighbourhoods.

Atheer Assem, a pizza restaurant owner, said he was able to shop Sunday for ingredients for his baked goods. But he said his clients have stopped coming to his shop because of the violence, even though it is in a neighbourhood that has not witnessed any protests.

“The protests are making people afraid to go out,” he said, estimating his sales have dropped by 70 per cent.

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Energy prices spike after Saudi oil attack, U.S. blames Iran

An attack on Saudi Arabia that shut five per cent of global crude output caused the biggest surge in oil prices in nearly three decades, after U.S. officials blamed Iran and President Donald Trump said Washington was “locked and loaded” to retaliate.

The Iran-aligned Houthi movement that controls Yemen’s capital claimed responsibility for the attack, which damaged the world’s biggest crude oil processing plant. Iran denied blame and said it was ready for “full-fledged war.”

Two sources briefed on the operations of state oil company Saudi Aramco said it might take months for Saudi oil production to return to normal. Earlier estimates had suggested it could take weeks.

Brent crude futures settled at $ 69.02 US a barrel, up $ 8.80, or 14.6 per cent, its largest one-day gain since at least 1988. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, rose Monday by $ 8.05 US, or 14.7 per cent to $ 62.90 US per barrel. It was WTI’s largest one-day percentage gain since December 2008.

The attacks have possibly curtailed as much as one million barrels per day of Aramco’s refining capacity, Energy Aspects said, although this could not be confirmed and it was not clear to which Saudi Aramco refineries it was referring.

Prices eased after Trump announced that he would release U.S. emergency supplies, and producers around the world said there were enough stocks stored up to make up for the shortfall.

“There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!” Trump said on Twitter on Sunday.

The facility is some 330 kilometres northeast of the Saudi capital of Riyadh. (CBC)

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry pinned the blame squarely on Iran for “an attack on the global economy and the global energy market.

“The United States wholeheartedly condemns Iran’s attack on Saudi Arabia and we call on other nations to do the same,” he said in a speech to an annual meeting in Vienna of the United Nations nuclear watchdog IAEA.

Perry said he was confident the oil market “is resilient and will respond positively.”

While Iran has denied blame for the attacks, its Yemeni allies have promised more strikes to come. Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said the group carried out Saturday’s pre-dawn attack with drones, including some powered by jet engines.

“We assure the Saudi regime that our long arm can reach any place we choose and at the time of our choosing,” Sarea tweeted. “We warn companies and foreigners against being near the plants that we struck because they are still in our sights and could be hit at any moment.”

U.S. officials say they believe the attacks came from the opposite direction, possibly from Iran itself rather than Yemen, and may have involved cruise missiles. Wherever the attacks were launched, however, they believe Iran is to blame.

“There’s no doubt that Iran is responsible for this. No matter how you slice it, there’s no escaping it. There’s no other candidate,” a U.S. official said on Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Saudi Arabia also pointed the finger at Iran, saying in a statement that initial investigations have indicated that the weapons used in the attack were Iranian, without offering further details.

“The kingdom condemns this egregious crime, which threatens international peace and security, and affirms that the primary target of this attack is global energy supplies,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said Monday.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have been enemies for decades and are fighting a number of proxy wars, including in Yemen where Saudi forces have been fighting against the Houthis for four years.Tension in the oil-producing Gulf region has dramatically escalated this year after Trump imposed severe U.S. sanctions on Iran aimed at halting its oil exports altogether.

For months, Iranian officials have issued veiled threats, saying if Tehran is blocked from exporting oil, other countries will not be able to do so either. However, Iran has denied any role in specific attacks, including bombings of tankers in the Gulf and previous strikes claimed by the Houthis.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi called the U.S. accusations of Iranian involvement in Saturday’s attacks “unacceptable and entirely baseless.”

Saturday satellite image from Planet Labs Inc. shows thick black smoke rising from the Abqaiq facility. (Planet Labs Inc via AP)

Russia and China both said it was wrong to jump to hasty conclusions about who was responsible for the attack. Britain also stopped short of ascribing blame but described the assault as a “wanton violation of international law.”

Washington has imposed its “maximum pressure” strategy on Iran since last year when Trump pulled out of an international deal that gave Tehran access to world trade in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

U.S. allies in Europe oppose Trump’s strategy, arguing it provides no clear mechanism to defuse tensions, creating a risk the foes could stumble into war.

Trump has said his goal is to force Iran to negotiate a tougher agreement and has left open the possibility of talks with President Hassan Rouhani at an upcoming UN meeting. Iran says there can be no talks until Washington lifts sanctions. Rouhani would not meet Trump, its Foreign Ministry said on Monday. 

The giant Saudi plant that was struck cleans crude oil of impurities, a necessary step before it can be exported and fed into refineries. The attack cut Saudi output by 5.7 million barrels a day, or around half.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest oil exporter and has a unique role in the market as the only country with enough spare capacity to increase or decrease its output by millions of barrels per day, keeping the market stable.

Big countries such as the United States and China have reserves designed to handle even a major outage over the short term. But a long outage would make markets subject to swings that could potentially destabilize the global economy.

International response

Martin Griffiths, the UN envoy for Yemen, is appealing for an urgent move toward peace in the war-ravaged country, saying the latest attack on key Saudi Arabian oil facilities “has consequences well beyond the region” and risks dragging Yemen “into a regional conflagration” at a minimum.

Griffiths told the UN Security Council on Monday that the attack and military escalation “makes the chances of a regional conflict that much higher,” and with Yemen linked in some way “this is frankly terrifying.”

He said “it isn’t entirely clear” who was behind Saturday’s attack, but said it’s “bad enough” that Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are fighting the Saudi-led coalition supporting the government, claimed responsibility.

China’s Foreign Ministry also expressed concerns, saying authorities have noted reports the U.S. blamed Iran for the strikes.

Hua Chunying, spokesperson at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said “given the absence of a conclusive investigation and result, I think it is irresponsible to determine who should assume responsibility for it.”

Hua also on Monday reiterated China’s position opposing “any expansion and intensification of conflicts.”

Raveesh Kumar, India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, expressed India’s resolve to “oppose terrorism in all its forms and manifestations” in a short statement Monday.

Saudi Arabia is India’s second-largest oil supplier after Iraq. India’s dependence on Saudi oil has been growing as it stops buying Iranian oil because of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Russia and an OPEC source said on Monday there was no need for an extraordinary meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, a group known as OPEC+ that has orchestrated a supply-curbing deal.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told reporters there was enough oil in commercial stockpiles to cover the shortfall.

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N.S. family blames hospital staff for 'hastened' death

The last morning Tracy Gilbert saw her father alive, she walked into his room at the palliative care unit in Truro, N.S., and noticed he was struggling.

He was pulling at the sheets and moving his arms, she says, and it was obvious something was wrong.

At first, Gilbert thought her father was itchy. But two hours later, she realized it was much more severe — the bedside oxygen machine her family had become used to hearing had gone silent.

"There is no way that anybody can look at us and tell us that they didn't know he needed oxygen to live," said Gilbert.

Donnie Taylor's plan was to die at home, looking out at the lake. He ended up in the palliative care unit at the Colchester East Hants Health Centre one month before he died. (Submitted)

Donnie Taylor's family alleges he went 13 hours without oxygen after he was returned to his hospital room following a family gathering down the hall.

The 69-year-old man died the next day — Aug. 23, 2017.

Taylor had a long battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) believed to be caused by asbestos exposure on the job. In his final months, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

But Taylor's family claims the lack of oxygen "hastened" his death.

Hospital staff doesn't agree. However, changes were made on the palliative care unit following Taylor's death. 

"Instead of celebrating a birthday we were at a funeral home for his 70th birthday," said Kelly Knox, Taylor's daughter.

Donnie Taylor is remembered by his family as a loving great-grandfather. Despite his illness, he spent as much time with them as possible. (Submitted )

Health records obtained by CBC News confirm Taylor was prescribed five litres per minute of oxygen, but was only getting 10 per cent of that on the morning of his death. When the family notified a nurse about their discovery, the nurse immediately turned Taylor's oxygen level back up to five litres.

Pushing for answers

Seventeen months later, the Taylor family continues to push for answers. They recently filed a complaint with the College of Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia, hoping it will lead to disciplinary measures.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) conducted its own quality review following Taylor's death that resulted in several policy changes at Colchester East Hants Health Centre. The Department of Health also completed two investigations after the family filed a complaint.

The family has had several meetings with hospital officials, including at least one with senior management. The health authority has apologized to the family in writing and in person for their loss.

"It tells me that somebody said, 'Uh oh, something wrong here. We need to check this out,'" said Taylor's widow, Sandra. 

"And, in the hospital's mind, they knew they were in trouble."

Donnie Taylor died a few days before his 70th birthday. He suffered a long battle with COPD and lung cancer, following exposure to asbestos on the job. (Submitted)

As a result of the quality review, staff at Truro's palliative care unit was ordered to "review documentation practices related to checking oxygen administration levels throughout each shift" and "provide intentional education regarding the role of oxygen on the Palliative Care Unit." 

Staff were also trained on "development of communication skills."

Hospital response

The health authority will not comment on the case. Because it was a "serious reportable event" that led to a quality review, the health authority said all details are confidential.

Dr. Dave Henderson, senior medical director of integrated palliative care at the health authority, said a lot of work is happening behind the scenes to improve palliative care in Truro and across the province.

He said more than 1,200 health professionals have received additional training through a program called Learning Essential Approaches to Palliative Care (LEAP) in the last few years.

"Often still in nursing schools and medical schools, we don't get as much training as we would like in palliative care," said Henderson. "So we're working on that both provincially and nationally but also for those people that are out working already."

Dr. Dave Henderson, senior medical director of integrated palliative care at the Nova Scotia Health Authority, says more training is needed for health care staff. (Robert Short/CBC)

In the last year, the health authority's northern zone, which covers Colchester, Pictou County and Cumberland, received funding for three part-time palliative care social work positions. A full-time social worker has also been hired to focus on bereavement, grief and wellness counselling for the region.

One of those social workers has been working closely with the Taylor family.

Dying plan

Sandra Taylor said her husband knew he was dying and he had spent months preparing with palliative care staff for a comfortable death.

"He thought, you know, eventually, 'I would just sleep longer, and one time I just won't wake up.' And it should have been that way. That was the whole plan," she said.

Instead, his loved ones believe he spent his last day in pain.

Taylor's hospital charts indicate he was not in distress the night before his death. Rather, that he had apnea and appeared "congested." Sandra Taylor was called by staff around 6 a.m.

A review conducted by the Department of Health determined the family's claims of neglect were unfounded. Although on the question of how the drastically reduced oxygen levels ultimately affected Taylor's death, the report is inconclusive.

Donnie Taylor had an early birthday celebration in the palliative care unit with his family. His loved ones say he was no longer verbal but he was aware of his surroundings. (Submitted)

In her report, compliance officer Adele Griffith said: "It was reported by palliative care staff that it cannot be definitively determined that the affected patient did not suffer any discomfort because of the incorrect oxygen flow being administered; however, there is also no evidence to the contrary from staff."

It was also not confirmed in Griffin's findings that Taylor required continuous oxygen 24 hours a day.

Birthday party

The family strongly believes Donnie Taylor did require continuous oxygen.

They allege it was never turned back on following an early birthday party for Taylor the day before he died. Taylor was wheeled down the hall to a party room on portable oxygen, where his wife and daughters say he wasn't verbal but was aware of his surroundings.

Once the party was over, the family left around 8 p.m. Sandra Taylor said when she was walking out the door, nurses were moving him back to his room. 

"When he didn't get the oxygen turned on [on] the wall, when that happened that may have been a chaotic error, maybe, you know, it's possible things like that can happen," she said.

But Taylor said she got angry when no one owned up to the alleged mistake.

"He didn't have oxygen and somebody didn't give it to him. And in this case they were special palliative care nurses and doctors."

Knox believes the "culture of acceptability" within the palliative care unit needs to change.

"It's because you're dealing with somebody who isn't going to remember anyway. You know, they're pretty much really not going to know, right? And that is not acceptable," she said.

"Why would you say that about a man who spent his whole life caring about people and their rights. To have that happen to you and to your family … it's just wrong."

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