Posts Tagged ‘power’

Quick Facts on Storms, Summer Heat in Eastern US – ABC News

July 2nd, 2012 Comments off

ABC News

Quick Facts on Storms, Summer Heat in Eastern US
ABC News
Millions are staring down the prospect of several more days without electricity in the middle of a heat wave after severe storms over the weekend. Food is beginning to spoil, and many people have to charge modern conveniences like cellphones in their
Power outages for millions in mid-Atlantic could last days as sweltering heat Washington Post
Oppressive heat hits battered eastern USUSA TODAY
Mid-Atlantic power outage could last daysNewsday
Sacramento Bee
all 3,056 news articles »

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On AP’s piece on US democracy promotion funding in Egypt

June 4th, 2012 Comments off

US democracy aid went to favored groups in Egypt:

Interviews and documents obtained by The Associated Press show that the workers’ protest and the broader government crackdown with the raids helped expose what U.S. officials do not want to admit publicly: The U.S. government spent tens of millions of dollars financing and training liberal groups in Egypt, the backbone of the Egyptian uprising. This was done to build opposition to Islamic and pro-military parties in power, all in the name of developing democracy and all while U.S. diplomats were assuring Egyptian leaders that Washington was not taking sides.

“We were picking sides,” said a senior U.S. official involved in discussions with Egyptian leaders after last year’s revolution swept President Hosni Mubarak from power after three decades. The official requested anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters.

Since the December raids, U.S. officials have scrambled to repair their once close relationship with Egypt. But the damage wasn’t done overnight or as a result of the raids.

Documents and interviews with U.S. and Egyptian officials show:

— U.S. diplomats knew as far back as March 2008 that Egyptian leaders might close democracy programs and arrest workers, and last year some even discussed the possibility of a stern Egyptian response to dumping $65 million into democracy training after the Arab Spring uprisings, a sharp increase from past spending.

— Democracy training programs with strong ties to the U.S. political parties received the biggest share, $31.8 million, and spent it with few strings attached. IRI refused to work with members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, an Islamic group that holds more seats in the elected parliament than any other party in the country. IRI’s Democratic counterpart, the National Democratic Institute, offered training and support to Brotherhood members.

— Nearly six years before the Egyptian government filed charges against the U.S. democracy workers, its leaders severely restricted the American democracy programs after a controversy over public comments by IRI’s director.

A few reactions:

? Can we please defund IRI? And fire Sam Lahood?

? AP here is overstating the 2008 threat to close these programs by Egypt. In 2008, the US Embassy in Cairo moved to repair the relationship with the Egyptians and actually accepted Egyptian veto power over some of the money spent. After the revolution it moved back to the 2002-2008 position which was not to give the Egyptian government a veto.

? This particular bit has to be illegal under US law and should be subject to a Freedom of Information request:

Despite a U.S. commitment to make public the details of its democracy aid program in Egypt, USAID has refused to identify all the groups that received money and the grant amounts. The official said the agency disclosed the list to Egyptian leaders, but will not release information publicly about grant recipients that don’t want to be identified. That has surprised some State Department officials.

“All I remember is, there were weekly meetings this time last year about how this all had to be posted publicly,” said a senior State Department official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about sensitive diplomatic matters. More than a year after citizens rallied in Tahrir Square for new leadership, the U.S.-Egypt relationship remains fragile.

? The article quotes Frank Wisner — whom I consider too close to the Egyptian military. Wisner is a lobbyist for the US defense industry and was the Obama administration’s conduit to the military during the 2011 uprising. He’s hardly an impartial man.

? The article perpetuates the myth that it’s all about Fayza Aboul Naga — the real question is, who egged her on and backed her and coordinated the campaign of anti-Americanism in the Egyptian state media? US officials focus on Fayza because the real target — the military and the intelligence services — they don’t want to confront. (She’s a handy scapegoat for Congress, too.)

Overall this uncovers one important element — contrary to its mission and its statements IRI was engaged in biased political activity, and in doing so has damaged any similar efforts by other organizations. In the overall take of the story, however, apart from the over-funding of IRI and NDI, the article gives the impression of US conspiracy against SCAF and the MB. This is hardly true, since the US has collaborated closely with the military and engaged vigorously with the MB. The money and efforts spent trying to support the “liberal” parties is minimal and not very effective.

There is no conspiracy to empower liberals in Egypt, there is only a focus on retaining core interest — military cooperation, Israel — no matter who is in power. Beyond that, democracy promotion through things like party training does very little except make US politicians who fund it feel good and give officials a talking point. I don’t know whether the US can encourage more democracy in Egypt, but it can certainly encourage less autocracy — by stopping the military aid to the country.

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Israel, Electric Cars, and Existential Threats

May 22nd, 2012 Comments off

Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi has launched an Israeli electric car, and also arranged for four recharging stations. Israel is a perfect place for this experiment, since it is a relatively small and compact country, so the present lack of range of most electric cars (70-150 miles) may not be an issue for a lot of Israelis. The commuters between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, e.g., could use it, especially if it was easy to charge the car while one is at work. If the recharging stations could be solar or receive their power from solar or wind electricity plants, this development could be significant. (Portugal is another good candidate for this sort of arrangement).

Agassi stresses that as long as petroleum reigns, Israel will remain hostage to oil producers hostile to his country. (The natural gas fields in the Mediterranean extend into neighbors’ territory and are more a war waiting to happen than salvation, not to mention that natural gas puts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere). Thus, a move to wind and solar would help make Israel energy-independent and make it more secure.

In this light, the Likud government’s hope of getting 10% of its electricity from renewables by 2020 is laughably unambitious. Why isn’t Alon Tal’s Green Party more popular? Why do Israelis put up with an energy policy so beholden to petroleum producers such as Iran and Saudi Arabia?

Meanwhile, Arava Power is investing $200 million in 8 medium-sized solar power generating fields, in conjunction with Siemens, the German energy firm that owns 40% of Arava, and which is a major player in renewable energy.

Israel is a natural for solar power generation, with expanses of sunny desert and a large pool of engineers, scientists and inventors who are creating innovative solar technology such as reflector dishes

The China Bank is offering to fund such projects (China is another big solar player, and may be seeking access to Israeli solar technological breakthroughs).

Some of Israel’s Mediterranean coast is sufficiently low-lying, including the city of Tel Aviv, that the rising ocean levels that will be caused by global warming will submerge them over time. In past eras, an increase of 1 degree celsius translated into 10 to 20 meters increase in sea level. Even if we can hold our present increase to 3 degrees celsius through a crash global green energy program, that would be an increase of as much as 60 meters or 180 feet. Tel Aviv will certainly end up under water if humanity goes on spewing carbon dioxide into the air at this rate–not in this century, but over time. A majority of Israeli Jews live in and around Tel Aviv. Climate change is the real existential threat, not bluster from Iran.

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"Their division of the spoils gradually contaminated the entire polity, & ultimately led to civil war"

February 29th, 2012 Comments off
“…  judging by the SNC’s performance, there is cause for concern if it were to play a key role in such a transition. Its leading members, hindered by personal rivalries, unable to formulate clear political positions for fear of implosion and seemingly consumed with having a spot in the limelight, may fall back on sectarian apportionment as the only consensual criterion for power sharing. Syrians on the street have made clear that they see the SNC’s legitimacy as based on their ability to lobby for diplomatic pressure and see their mandate as stretching no further, but the outside world’s quest for a ready-made “alternative,” and the prevailing assumption that pluralist societies in the Middle East are condemned to such evolution, could prove to be Syria’s undoing. A political process including the SNC, but built primarily around locally led organizations, along with technocrats and businessmen, would have more legitimacy and a greater chance of success.

Finally, as increasingly desperate protesters call for help, there is a danger that the outside world will make matters worse as it plays at being savior. Calls for aid are somewhat worse than a pact with the devil: They entail pacts with many devils that do not agree on much. The Gulf monarchies, Iraq, Turkey, Russia, the US, Iran and others all see geostrategic stakes in the fate of the Asad regime. The greater their involvement, the less Syrians will remain in control of their destiny. Crying out for foreign intervention of any kind, to bring this emergency to an end at any cost, is more than understandable coming from ordinary citizens subjected to extreme forms of regime violence. Exiled opposition figures who pose as national leaders have no excuse for behaving likewise, when what is needed is a cool-headed, careful calibration of what type of outside “help” would do the minimum of harm.
Close to home, another Middle Eastern experience — Iraq — serves as an example on all three fronts. A political process excluding even a relatively small minority within Iraqi society led to a collective disaster. A group of returning exiles, without a social base but enjoying international support as the only visible, pre-existing “alternative,” quickly took over the transition and agreed only on splitting up power among themselves on the basis of a communal calculus. Their division of the spoils gradually contaminated the entire polity, and ultimately led to civil war. And the US, presiding over this tragedy, succeeded only in turning Iraq into a parody of itself, a country that now fits every sectarian and troubled stereotype the occupying power initially saw in it.
All told, on a domestic level Syria has entered a struggle to bring its post-colonial era to a close. It is not simply about toppling a “regime” but about uprooting a “system” — the Arabic word nizam conveniently evoking both notions…”

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Links 14-16 February 2012

February 16th, 2012 Comments off

A bunch of different things.

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"When America attacked Syria!"

February 15th, 2012 Comments off
 ‘Marines Barracks, BIA, October 23, 1983’
“In September 1982, President Ronald Reagan authorized the deployment of up to 1,800 Marines to Lebanon as part of a Multinational Force (MNF) “with the mission of enabling the Lebanese Government to resume full sovereignty …” In the aftermath of the full-scale Israeli invasion months earlier in 1982, which sought to drive out the PLO and install a friendly regime in power, Lebanon had become a war zone. The Lebanese military and various militias were receiving weapons, military training, operational guidance, and money from a number of countries, including Israel, Syria, the Soviet Union, Iran, and the United States.

Recognizing the futility of deploying several hundred soldiers with a poorly-defined mission to positively impact the degenerating situation, the Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously opposed sending the Marines to Lebanon to serve with the MNF. … 

While the United States was supposed to have been a neutral entity in Lebanon as part of the MNF, by summer 1983 it had openly sided with the pro-Israeli Lebanese government. To support the Lebanese military, the U.S.S. New Jersey was authorized to shell the Druze militia and Syrian military forces in the mountains surrounding Beirut. As Colin Powell later described the response: “When the shells started falling on the Shiites, they assumed the American ‘referee’ had taken sides against them. And since they could not reach the battleship, they found a more vulnerable target: the exposed Marines at the airport.”

The October 23, 1983, suicide truck bombing of the Marine barracks at the Beirut International Airport would kill 241 U.S. military personnel; simultaneously, another suicide bomber killed fifty-eight French servicemen of the MNF several kilometers away. (Two weeks later, yet another truck bomb exploded in the Israeli military headquarters in Tyre, killing sixty.) …. 
The Reagan administration grappled with the appropriate response against the Syrian and Iranian governments. As a “two-fer” military option, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy Richard Armitage recalled, “we wanted to put a cruise missile into the window of the Iranian ambassador in Damascus,” although this approach was ultimately rejected.
Another idea—never pursued, but worth highlighting given the demand of many political leaders for Syrian president Hafez al-Assad to be removed from power—was developed in a NSC paper entitled, “The Destabilization of Syria.” According to David Wills’s unmatched history of the era, The First War on Terrorism: Counter-Terrorism Policy during the Reagan Administration:

“When Assad challenges Israel and the Marines in Lebanon, he knows that if Israel attacks him it cannot occupy all of Syria. Assad feels he can always retreat to the North and set up a smaller state and with stronger Alawite control. However, if Turkey is brought into the calculations of Rifaat [Assad] (the real power in Syria) and Hafez, their calculations will be totally different and would be impossible to add up without losing their power. If Syria is attacked by Turkey from the north the Alawite stronghold will be gone at the start and Assad and his supporters will have to fall back on an ocean of hateful Sunni moslems (sic) in the south where they will be eaten like lost sheep. Therefore the pressure on Syria should come from Turkey and not from the Marines and or Israel.”

The Reagan administration ultimately decided to attack the support infrastructure of the groups responsible for the Beirut bombing at the Sheik Abdullah barracks in Baalbek, Lebanon, where several hundred of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah members were based.  On November 14, 1983, President Reagan approved a joint U.S.-French air raid against the barracks to be carried out two days later. What happened next is hotly disputed by Reagan administration officials, although almost all accounts concur that Secretary of Defense Weinberger refused to give the authorization order to the U.S. commander of the Sixth Fleet permitting the U.S. aircraft to leave their flight decks. The French—who did not know that the United States had abandoned them until their planes were airborne—proceeded with the airstrike. Briefed on what had happened, Reagan responded: “That’s terrible. We should have blown the daylights out of them. I just don’t understand.”
Despite the miscommunication—or direct insubordination—the United States eventually did bomb Syrian military assets in Lebanon, although it had nothing to do with the loss of the 241 American service members….. …..  bombers were ordered to strike three sites east of Beirut, which included an ammunition depot, air-defense radars, anti-aircraft guns, and SAMs. (A Reagan administration official claimed that the airstrikes would somehow “also encourage Lebanese forces to defend their own territory.” They didn’t.) Without offering any evidence, a Pentagon spokesperson reported that airstrikes had hit fourteen of the twenty intended targets and that “whatever was in each of the areas received significant damage.”
Despite official statements, however, the first direct combat in Lebanon between the United States and Syria was both a military and political disaster. Two of the U.S. planes were shot down either by anti-aircraft rounds and/or approximately forty SAMs; one pilot was killed, another was captured by Syrian forces, ….  Furthermore, although the Pentagon claimed that the airstrikes were ”very successful and achieved our objective, which was to prevent, through a measured response, repetition of the attacks on our reconnaissance aircraft,” that never came to pass. Syrian forces continued to target the U.S. reconnaissance flights…. 
A criticism of proponents of military force in Syria, Iran, or elsewhere, is that they rarely take into account recent history and how it can be instructive for likely outcomes today. Or worse, advocates often rely on myths or mischaracterizations about earlier applications of force, particularly in their supposedly successful outcomes. Despite approximately $600 billion in defense and intelligence spending, kinetic force not only fails to achieve its intended military or political objectives, but it often makes things worse. If history can provide any guidance, it is that it is impossible to foresee the unintended consequences and lasting impact of military force.”

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Former Algerian Army Chief During Troubles is Dead

February 14th, 2012 Comments off

The man who was at one time the real military power in Algeria during the Troubles of the 1990s, General Mohammed Lamari, has died at age 73, reportedly of a heart attack. (Link is in French. An English bio here.)

Lamari was Commander of Ground Forces in 1992 when the Army forced President Chadli Bendjedid from office, sparking the long fight between Islamist movements and the state that wracked Algeria throughout the 1990s. The following year,2003, he became Armed Forces Chief of Staff. He had earlier formed a special counterterrorist unit and became known as a hardliner opposed to negotiation or compromise. He was considered close to President Liamine Zeroual.

In 2004, a few months after Abdelaziz Bouteflika assumed the Presidency, Lamari “retired,” “for health reasons,” though most have seen it as Bouteflika’s effort to weaken the Army’s power.

Lamari had begun his military career as a cavalryman in the French Army, only joining the independence struggle in 1961, the year before independence.

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US and Israel ‘in unison’ on Iran

February 6th, 2012 Comments off

The US is working closely with Israel to use diplomacy to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, President Barack Obama says.
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For Israel: "Global Economic Confusion"

January 14th, 2012 Comments off
“… opinions within the Japanese government regarding the latest U.S. sanction are divided.

In the past, Japan gradually reduced the percentage of crude oil imports in accordance with the U.S. government’s hard-line stance against iran. Japan also withdrew from a project to develop an Azadegan oil field in southwestern Iran in autumn 2010, even though the project was seen as a symbol of “Hinomaru oil wells”–Japanese-developed oil fields overseas.
Should Japan further reduce crude oil imports from Iran, one of the world’s largest oil producers, it may become difficult to reestablish ties in the future.
If Japan increases imports from another oil-producing country, it also runs the risk that country may try to take advantage of the situation and demand higher prices.
However, the Japanese government had no choice other than to take concerted steps with Washington.
The European Union’s 27 member nations basically agreed to ban crude oil imports from Iran. South Korea is also expected to follow suit.
“As Europe and many other countries have shown they will cooperate with the United States, we don’t want to isolate Japan [in the international community],” a senior Japanese government official said.
But Japan will surely have to increase crude oil imports given that many of its nuclear power reactors are now idle.
One estimate shows that the crude oil used for thermal power plants in fiscal 2012 will be triple the amount in fiscal 2010.
A government source said the U.S. government had sent a behind-the-scenes signal that Washington “would not demand a total ban on imports” from iran. Ahead of the finance ministers’ meeting Thursday, the two sides agreed to make a compromise to reduce crude oil imports in an “organized manner.”
Observers warned that a shutout of Iranian crude oil may result in global economic confusion. …”

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civilian victims of NATO bombings in Libya

December 22nd, 2011 Comments off
 NATO’s seven-month air campaign in Libya, hailed by the alliance and many Libyans for blunting a lethal crackdown by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and helping to push him from power, came with an unrecognized toll: scores of civilian casualties the alliance has long refused to acknowledge or investigate.

By NATO’s telling during the war, and in statements since sorties ended on Oct. 31, the alliance-led operation was nearly flawless — a model air war that used high technology, meticulous planning and restraint to protect civilians from Colonel Qaddafi’s troops, which was the alliance’s mandate.
“We have carried out this operation very carefully, without confirmed civilian casualties,” the secretary general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said in November.
But an on-the-ground examination by The New York Times of airstrike sites across Libya — including interviews with survivors, doctors and witnesses, and the collection of munitions remnants, medical reports, death certificates and photographs — found credible accounts of dozens of civilians killed by NATO in many distinct attacks. The victims, including at least 29 women or children, often had been asleep in homes when the ordnance hit.
In all, at least 40 civilians, and perhaps more than 70, were killed by NATO at these sites, available evidence suggests. While that total is not high compared with other conflicts in which Western powers have relied heavily on air power, and less than the exaggerated accounts circulated by the Qaddafi government, it is also not a complete accounting. Survivors and doctors working for the anti-Qaddafi interim authorities point to dozens more civilians wounded in these and other strikes, and they referred reporters to other sites where civilian casualties were suspected.”

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