Everything Else - Global News Tracker
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14-11-2017, 09:41 AM (This post was last modified: 14-11-2017 09:48 AM by Kaneda.)
RE: Everything Else - Global News Tracker
America's 'Renaissance' to Gains From Renewables: Global Energy Trends
By STANLEY REED - NOVEMBER 13, 2017
The New York Times - Energy & Environment


LONDON — From the rise of renewable power to the transformation of the United States into a heavyweight producer of oil and gas, the global energy market, normally slow to evolve, is going through major upheaval.

That is the assessment of Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, the organization based in Paris that is publishing its annual World Energy Outlook on Tuesday.

The report does not make for easy bedtime reading: It is 763 pages long and stuffed with data-laden charts and tables.

Still, the document tries to project current trends as far out as 2040, and sees an industry at the nexus of various powerful trends.

The United States, for instance, has shifted from being an energy-dependent importer to a new role as one of the world’s biggest producers of oil and gas, the report says. But concerns about greenhouse-gas emissions have clouded the future of fossil fuels. That has encouraged the development of alternatives like solar and wind power, which increasingly compete with traditional energy sources.

Here are some of the most important themes to be found in the report.


‘Energy Renaissance’
Energy production in the United States will continue to shake up the global oil and natural gas markets, and benefit the country’s economy.

By the 2030s, largely because of production from shale-rock formations, the United States is expected to produce more than 30 million barrels of oil and gas a day, the report says. That is 50 percent more than any other country has ever produced in a single year.

That is a sharp shift from the country’s position just a decade ago, when it was a major importer of oil.

The shale industry has gone through a “trial by fire” in recent years, the report says, referring to a sharp falloff in the price of oil from more than $100 a barrel to as low as around $30 a barrel. It is now above $60 a barrel.

That has transformed the shale sector, and it is “leaner and hungrier” than it was before the price crash, the report says. As a result, it is better able to quickly react to any sign of higher prices. That is crucial, as the OPEC oil cartel tries to manage its production levels to bolster prices.


The Coming Gas Shake-Up
Changes in how gas is transported and traded are having a major effect, on the energy industry and the environment.

As the United States increases its gas production — it is now on track to surpass traditional giants like Qatar and Russia and become the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, or L.N.G. — it is also exporting what the report calls a disruptive “mind-set about how gas markets should operate.”

Gas has historically been sold through long-term contracts pegged to oil prices. That has particularly been the case in Asia, the key market for L.N.G., which is expected to eventually dominate the international gas trade.

But as the United States becomes a bigger force in gas markets, it is also helping to break down the existing system. Over time, the report forecasts that gas will be traded more widely and freely, potentially pushing down prices and making it more attractive to developing countries like India and China.

Greater use of gas could bring major environmental benefits. When burned, it produces less of the carbon emissions associated with climate change than coal, and lower levels of other pollutants. Mr. Birol said, for instance, said that the decision by power plants in United States to switch from burning coal to gas was largely responsible for holding global emissions roughly steady in recent years (although they appear poised to rise this year).

There is still work to be done, the report says. The gas industry needs to address emissions of methane that undermine that type of fuel’s environmental claims. “Natural gas is a viable exit ramp off of fossil fuels only if it cleans up its methane pollution, which now seriously undercuts its claimed climate advantages,” said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, an American environmental group.


Gains for Renewables
One factor that may hamper the growth of gas: rapidly falling costs of renewable sources of energy like wind and solar installations.

The average cost of electricity generated over the life of a solar power plant declined by a stunning 70 percent from 2010 to 2016, according to the agency’s report. Wind costs declined by 25 percent in that period.

The report forecasts that these technologies will only become less expensive over the next 25 years, squeezing fossil fuels, which are widely used to generate electric power.

Already, power from new wind installations in India and China is cheaper than new gas-fired power plants. A similar situation is developing with solar power, the report says.

Still, fossil fuels will not vanish anytime soon. It is much more difficult to reduce the use of coal, gas and oil in sectors like transportation and industry than it is in power generation, and the share of fossil fuels used to meet overall energy demand will be 75 percent in 2040, compared with 81 percent last year, according to the agency’s main scenario.

And, the report adds, greenhouse gas levels still appear to be climbing above the threshold required to meet international goals like those established in the 2015 Paris climate accords.


China’s Outsize Role
Because of China’s scale as a consumer of energy, the choices that the country makes will be felt globally, the report says.

China could overtake the United States as the world’s largest consumer of oil as soon as 2030. Of all the new solar and wind power installations to be added through 2040, a third could be in China. In that period, the country could also end up with 320 million electric vehicles, more than a third of the global total.

“China’s choices,” the report says, “will play a huge role in determining global trends, and could spark a faster clean energy transition.”
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14-11-2017, 10:11 AM (This post was last modified: 14-11-2017 10:18 AM by Kaneda.)
RE: Everything Else - Global News Tracker
Brexit And The Work-To-Rule Of The Managerial Class
By Mandos, in The Ian Welsh Blog
2017 NOVEMBER 13

I mostly concur with Yves Smith’s assessment of the on-going cruel tragicomedy that is Brexit. However, she points out a Twitter thread that has been making the rounds, and it is interesting. It concurs with everything I have read about grassroots Brexitism:

Alan Finlayson
@Alan Finlayson
Been conversing (on and offline) with grassroots Brexitists again. Really struck by their intense lack of interest in the details of how to make it happen – verging on hostility to it, as if the search for practical steps to make it work is a trap (1/9)
12:13 PM - Nov 9, 2017


However, Prof. Finlayson analyzes this in terms of Utopianism, which is not entirely wrong:

Alan Finlayson
@Alan Finlayson
I think that’s one more piece of evidence for the fact that Brexitism is a species of Utopian ideology, for which the belief in its happening is more important than its actually happening (2/9)
12:14 PM - Nov 9, 2017


And while it’s not entirely wrong, I think it’s incomplete. I’ve written before about the Brexit phenomenon here before (and pretty much everything I said there, not to toot my own horn too much, has been borne out), and one of the factors here is the role of the managerial/technocratic class. I interpret the hostility towards the details that Brexiters seem to exhibit (“don’t talk down Brexit!!!”) partly in terms of something else. What grassroots Brexiters want is to make the managerial class, the people with the technical skills in government administration, to implement something (whatever it is) that the managerial class visibly doesn’t like and doesn’t agree with, and to do it enthusiastically as a duty to the Brexit-voting public. In any discussion, people arguing for the Remain side are therefore seen as proxies or stand-ins for that class, even if they themselves aren’t necessarily responsible for the implementation. Therefore, the Remainer demand for detail is seen as shirking, a threatened refusal to accept the legitimacy of the Brexit vote, because it is the Remainers’/managerial class’ job to come up with the details for whatever policy course is chosen especially via referendum.

The problem is that the managerial classes/technocrats in question do not believe that they can deliver a good Brexit and do not want to, and even if they go to work every day to produce the policy and administration required to do it, they are only going to do it on a work-to-rule basis. Work-to-rule is an effective labour disruption strategy—and the managerial classes are expected to do labour on someone else’s behalf in this instance, obviously—because it turns out that a lot of jobs really require the worker not only to be there and do the work in the job description, but to give an additional surplus of energy and attention for the enterprise to produce a good outcome.

Now in all probability, in particular due to the conditions under which Brexit has been unleashed, it is impossible to deliver a “good” Brexit even with the most enthusiastic of technocratic staff. But that is not the real demand—rather, the demand is that the technocratic class visibly demonstrate that it shares the identity markers and self-image of certain large sectors of British society, instead of appearing wholly alienated. However, if the technocrats genuinely don’t believe that there can be a good Brexit, that puts everyone in an impossible position: for them to impertinently ask the pro-Brexit public about what Brexiters really expected is to signal that they are shirking their duty to come up with those ideas and that they really aren’t “of the people” (keeping in mind that enthusiastic pro-Remain positions also represent a wide grassroots in British society!), but the reality of the situation is that there simply are no good ways to go about doing this, under the schedule of Article 50 and particularly under the political dysfunction of the British Tories and pro-Brexit vested interests.
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14-11-2017, 09:35 PM
RE: Everything Else - Global News Tracker
Venezuela defaults on its £45billion debt after missing interest payments, sparking fears investors could seize the country's oil as payment
By Gareth Davies For Mailonline
22:06 14 Nov 2017, updated 22:12 14 Nov 2017


Venezuela has defaulted on its £45billion debt after missing interest payments sparking fears investors could seize the country's oil as payment.

Caracas faced the first of what could be a cascade of defaults on its enormous foreign debt Tuesday as financial experts Standard and Poor's declared the crisis-torn South American country in 'selective default'.

S&P's move came after Vice President Tareck El Aissami met with creditors in the Venezuelan capital Monday, but offered no way out of the impasse.

With no obvious means of paying the money back, attention has turned to the country's state oil company.

President Nicolas Maduro has formed a commission to restructure Venezuela's sovereign debt and that of state oil company PDVSA.

But participants in a first meeting in Caracas on Monday said officials had come up with no concrete proposals for restructuring the debt.

Geronimo Mansutti from the Rendivalores brokerage said: 'They didn't give any concrete details on their plans, on what they hope to get.'

About 70 percent of Venezuelan bondholders are North American, according to government figures.

S&P said there was 'a one-in-two chance that Venezuela could default again within the next three months.'

'We would very likely consider any Venezuelan restructuring to be a distressed debt exchange and equivalent to default given the highly constrained external liquidity,' it said.

Vice-president El Aissami blamed US sanctions for delays to Venezuela's debt repayments.

Restrictions include a ban on US entities buying any new Venezuela debt issues - usually a required step in any restructuring.

The US has designated vice president El Aissami himself a drug kingpin with whom US entities are barred from dealing.

In the meantime, China said its massive financing of Venezuela was 'proceeding normally', and Russia was expected to sign an agreement as early as Wednesday to restructure £2billion of Caracas's debt, according to sources in Moscow familiar with the matter.

Beijing and Moscow have emerged as Venezuela's most reliable sources of funding, with China owed £21billion and Russia £6billion.
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14-11-2017, 09:36 PM (This post was last modified: 14-11-2017 10:14 PM by Kaneda.)
RE: Everything Else - Global News Tracker
Zimbabwe: military takes control of state broadcaster in capital Harare, urges calm
Military spokesman says President Robert Mugabe and his family were ‘safe and sound and their security is guaranteed’

The Guardian -Jason Burke, Africa correspondent
Tuesday 14 November 2017 21.59 EST


QUOTE:
"The military in Zimbabwe appears to have taken control of the country’s airwaves amid high tension in the capital and reports of explosions and gunfire.

After securing control of the state broadcaster, a military spokesman made a televised announcement early on Wednesday saying President Robert Mugabe and his family were “safe and sound and their security is guaranteed”.

He said the army was targeting “criminals around” Mugabe, who were “committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in order to bring them to justice”.

Insisting this was not a military takeover, he said “as soon as they are done situation will come to normalcy”.

“We urge you to remain calm and limit unnecessary movement. However, we encourage those who are employed and those with essential business in the city to continue their normal activities as usual,” he said.

The spokesman said the army had acted because the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation had not aired a statement from the military on Monday and “the situation in our country has moved to another level”.

The announcement came after witnesses in Harare reported a number of loud explosions and saw armed forces assaulting passers-by in the early hours of the morning.

Prolonged gunfire erupted near Mugabe’s private residence in the suburb of Borrowdale early on Wednesday, a witness told Agence France-Presse.

Soldiers were also seen loading ammunition near a group of four military vehicles. The explosions could be heard near the University of Zimbabwe campus, Reuters reported.

During the drama, the US embassy in the capital tweeted out a message citing “ongoing uncertainty.” A statement later posted by the embassy told US citizens in Zimbabwe to “shelter in place until further notice”.

The British government said that due to the “uncertain political situation” British nationals should remain at home.

Reuters said its reporter in the capital had encountered aggressive soldiers telling passing cars to keep moving through the darkness.

“Don’t try anything funny. Just go,” one said on Harare Drive.

Two hours later, soldiers overran the headquarters of the ZBC, Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster and a principal Mugabe mouthpiece, and ordered staff to leave. Several ZBC workers were manhandled, two members of staff and a human rights activist told Reuers.

Despite the troops stationed at locations across Harare, there was no word from the military as to the fate of President Robert Mugabe.

The extraordinary events happened hours after Zimbabwe’s government accused the head of the armed forces of “treasonable conduct” ratcheting up tension in the southern African nation."
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14-11-2017, 10:33 PM
Everything Else - Global News Tracker
American Jewish Committee decries hateful demonstrators on Poland’s Independence Day

Men and women wearing face-masks chanted, "Pure Poland, white Poland" and "Clean blood, lucid mind," as well as "Sieg Heil" and "Ku Klux Klan."


AJC is urging the Polish government to speak out clearly against rising hatred inspired by the country’s far right. The call to action comes after a large demonstration filled with neo-Nazi and white supremacist rhetoric that took place in Warsaw on Saturday, the country’s Independence Day.

The first revolt is against the supreme tyranny of theology, of the phantom of God. As long as we have a master in heaven, we will be slaves on earth.

Mikhail Bakunin.
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14-11-2017, 10:34 PM
RE: Everything Else - Global News Tracker
Australians decisively support same-sex marriage
Australians have overwhelmingly voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage in a historic poll.

BBC News - Australia


"The non-binding postal vote showed 61.6% of people favour allowing same-sex couples to wed, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said.
Jubilant supporters have been celebrating in public spaces, waving rainbow flags and singing and dancing.
The issue only went to a voluntary postal vote after a long and bitter debate about changing the law.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his government would now aim to pass legislation in parliament by Christmas.
"[Australians] have spoken in their millions and they have voted overwhelmingly yes for marriage equality," Mr Turnbull said after the result was announced.
"They voted yes for fairness, yes for commitment, yes for love."
The result on Wednesday brings an end to what was at times a heated campaign. The vote itself had been criticised by same-sex marriage supporters, many of whom said it was unnecessary when parliament could debate the issue directly.


How did the vote unfold?
The survey was voluntary, unlike Australia's compulsory elections.
More than 12.7 million people - about 79.5% of eligible voters - took part in the eight-week poll, which asked one question: "Should the marriage law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?"
The Yes campaign argued that it was a debate about equality. The No campaign put the focus on the definition of family, raising concerns about how issues like gender will be taught in schools.


What were the results?
Australia's chief statistician David Kalisch said about 7.8 million people voted in support of same-sex marriage, with approximately 4.9 million against it.
He said participation was higher than 70% in 146 of Australia's 150 electorates. All but 17 electorates supported changing the law.

"This is outstanding for a voluntary survey and well above other voluntary surveys conducted around the world," Mr Kalisch said.
"It shows how important this issue is to many Australians."


New battle begins
Hywel Griffith, BBC News Sydney correspondent
After months of divisive debate, Australia now has a result to confirm what most people here already knew - that a majority of Australians support same-sex marriage.
The campaign turned ugly at times, with graffiti on walls and shouting matches at public meetings.
But now both sides have to move on. For the Yes campaign that means pressing the government to stick to its pledge of passing the law.
For the No campaign, it means lobbying over the wording of that legislation, and arguing for legal protection for those who continue to oppose gay marriage.
While today will see parties in the streets and rainbow flags flying high, both sides know their battle is far from over."
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14-11-2017, 11:03 PM
RE: Everything Else - Global News Tracker
Turkey has completed its purchase of Russia's advanced missile system, and relations with NATO are still tense

Christopher Woody - Business Insider
  • Turkey says it has finalized a deal to buy Russia's advanced S-400 missile-defense system.
  • Ankara also says it wants to work with NATO countries on defense projects.
  • NATO leaders appear to be sending warnings to Turkey over the purchase and potential deployment of the weapon system.


Throughout the summer and fall, Turkey moved ahead with plans to buy Russia's advanced S-400 anti-missile defense system.

The purchase concerned NATO members and underscored the contentious relationship between Ankara and the West, but Turkey said this week that it had been completed.

"It is finished. The S-400 missiles have been bought. The rest is just details now," Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli said this weekend.

As a NATO member, Turkey would typically buy weapons interoperable with the defense alliance's weapons systems, but Ankara sought out new options after several NATO countries declined to renew their deployments of Patriot missile-defense systems in Turkey, leaving only a handful there.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he pursued the S-400 because the West denied him a comparable system. He has also expressed frustration with the EU over its response to the attempted coup against him in summer 2016 and accused the bloc of "messing us about" on issues like visas and Syria migrants.

Ankara's plans to buy the missile system were "a clear sign that Turkey is disappointed in the US and Europe," an analyst at a Moscow-based think tank said this summer. In September, a Turkish state-media agency published a graphic appearing to tout the S-400's ability to shoot down US aircraft.

NATO officials, for their part, have warned Turkey about the consequences of purchasing the S-400. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said numerous times that the system would not be interoperable with NATO weapons systems.

But Canikli also said this weekend that Turkey was making arrangements with Eurosam, a French-Italian consortium developing anti-aircraft defense systems.

"We are also making preliminary agreements with the EUROSAM consortium to have this technology to develop, produce and use our own sources for air-defense systems," Canikli said. He signed a letter of intent to work with Eurosam on defense projects several days before.

Ahmet Berat Conkar, the head of Turkey's delegation to NATO's parliamentary assembly, said the day after Canikli's comments that the S-400 purchase was not a political message but a decision based on technical and financial concerns that wouldn't hinder cooperation with NATO partners. He alsoAnkara's plans to buy the missile system were "a clear sign that Turkey is disappointed in the US and Europe," an analyst at a Moscow-based think tank said this summer. In September, a Turkish state-media agency published a graphic appearing to tout the S-400's ability to shoot down US aircraft.

NATO officials, for their part, have warned Turkey about the consequences of purchasing the S-400. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said numerous times that the system would not be interoperable with NATO weapons systems.

But Canikli also said this weekend that Turkey was making arrangements with Eurosam, a French-Italian consortium developing anti-aircraft defense systems.

"We are also making preliminary agreements with the EUROSAM consortium to have this technology to develop, produce and use our own sources for air-defense systems," Canikli said. He signed a letter of intent to work with Eurosam on defense projects several days before.

Ahmet Berat Conkar, the head of Turkey's delegation to NATO's parliamentary assembly, said the day after Canikli's comments that the S-400 purchase was not a political message but a decision based on technical and financial concerns that wouldn't hinder cooperation with NATO partners. He also pointed to the Eurosam agreement as a sign of Turkey's continued intention to work with NATO allies.

NATO officials, however, appear to still be wary of the deal and the looming introduction of a Russian weapons system into the military of one of their partner forces.

At the end of October, Czech Gen. Petr Pavel, who heads NATO's Military Committee, indicated Turkey could be on its own to face restrictions on participation in NATO air defenses if it went ahead with the S-400.

"But the same way that nations are sovereign in making their decision, they are also sovereign in facing the consequences of that decision," Pavel said.

Putting the S-400 on Turkish territory would create "challenges for allied assets potentially deployed onto the territory of that country," Pavel continued without elaborating, though he may have been referring to the F-35 stealth fighter.

Mattis reiterated on Monday that the Turkish S-400 system would not work with NATO weapons and that Ankara would responsible for that.

"Clearly, it will not be interoperable with NATO," he told reporters. "So they're going to have to consider that if they go forward."

When asked about Turkish claims there was no alternative to the S-400 offered by the West, Mattis said only, "That's a sovereign decision for Turkey."
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14-11-2017, 11:12 PM (This post was last modified: 14-11-2017 11:40 PM by Kaneda.)
RE: Everything Else - Global News Tracker
After Doomed Whitefish Deal, Puerto Rico Asks Congress for $94 Billion
By FRANCES ROBLES - NOVEMBER 14, 2017
The New York Times - U.S.

SAN JUAN, P.R. — The governor of Puerto Rico and the chief executive of its beleaguered electric company faced hours of questioning on Tuesday in Congress, where skeptical legislators questioned whether to give the island an enormous aid package on the heels of a botched high-priced contract to fix its power grid.

Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló came to Senate and House committees with a huge ask: $94.4 billion to help Puerto Rico “build back better” after Hurricane Maria destroyed or damaged 472,000 homes and knocked out the island’s electricity. He also said that Puerto Rico should have more authority over its own fiscal affairs, and that he had “zero role” in awarding a highly criticized $300 million deal to a small Montana firm to help restore power.

“If we get more resources to rebuild, people will come back to rebuild stronger,” the governor said, alluding to the thousands of Puerto Ricans who have already left for Florida.

In a report submitted to Congress, Mr. Rosselló requested $15 billion for health care, without specifying what medical facilities needed to be fixed. He said the island needed another $8.4 billion for schools, without noting what damages the schools had incurred. The power grid, he said, needs $17.7 billion.

“I’m looking at this — 90 billion, 100 billion — a colony on Mars is the same amount,” said Representative Jody Hice, Republican of Georgia, said at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing.

Representative Garret Graves, Republican of Louisiana, asked why Congress should pay so much for Puerto Rico, when Puerto Ricans are exempt from most federal income taxes.

Legislators also wanted answers about Whitefish Energy Holdings, the firm that got a contract with steep markups that several members of Congress described as “price gouging.” The Federal Emergency Management Agency distanced itself from the contract and the government was forced to cancel it after a public outcry.

Ricardo L. Ramos, the chief executive of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, known as Prepa, told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that he had hired Whitefish instead of enlisting the help of other utilities under mutual aid agreements because he did not have enough supplies for even his own crews.

“We had no fuel, no phone, no internet. No nothing,” Mr. Ramos said. “How could I bring more people into that situation?”

Whitefish was a contained unit with its own satellite phones and tents, he said.

However, in emails released Monday between Prepa and Whitefish, it was clear that the Montana company had also struggled with housing and logistics, and that Prepa was able to accommodate them.

In an email exchange between the chief executive of Whitefish, Andy Techmanski, and Prepa, Whitefish requested hotel rooms for his workers, and the utility provided 60 rooms for them. Whitefish had trouble bringing in materials, and needed help from both the Jacksonville Electric Authority and Prepa with logistical problems that were preventing the company from getting the work done.

“We have 60 rooms at Verdanza hotel reserved to accommodate your first wave,” wrote Ramón Caldas Pagán, a senior manager at Prepa, in an email response to Mr. Techmanski. “We need to know what are your needs to transport your equipment as soon as possible.”

At the hearings, Mr. Ramos suggested that the procurement office and legal department at Prepa were to blame, and insisted that there had been no corruption. “I don’t know of anyone being offered a kickback,” he said.

The records were released by the House committee, which is seeking to strengthen the authority of the fiscal oversight board that manages Puerto Rico’s finances.

The documents showed that Puerto Rico’s electric company disregarded its own lawyers’ advice when it signed the contract. The agreement offered so few protections that it allowed some workers to bill for “nearly every waking hour” they were on the island, according to the House panel investigating the deal.

A review by The New York Times showed the company was paying some subcontractors about one-seventh what it billed Prepa. The contract called for linemen to work 16-hour days and seven-day weeks at $319 an hour — 17 times the average wage of the Puerto Rican workers. But Mr. Ramos said that five other bidders had offered similar rates.

Prepa’s lawyers had recommendations on everything from how the contract could be terminated to how the rates should be set. But the guidance was not followed — and the final provisions agreed to were tilted in the Whitefish’s favor, the records show. Even Prepa’s own risk management officer had balked, because he was never offered the opportunity to evaluate the terms, nor did the office receive proof of insurance.

“We are conscious of the urgency of the work to be done,” Sammy Rodríguez Ortega, a Prepa executive, wrote in an Oct. 19 email to Prepa’s finance director and staff lawyer. “However, there are high risks associated with the scope of this work.”

The emails show that a lawyer for FEMA in Puerto Rico had also expressed concerns.

A spokesman for Whitefish, Ken Luce, said the company would cooperate with Congress.

“Whitefish Energy continues to make progress on our assigned work to restore electrical transmission infrastructure on Puerto Rico and our team of more than 500 workers remains fully committed to this mission,” Mr. Luce said in a statement.

The Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing power restoration efforts in Puerto Rico, but Mr. Rosselló said the agency was slow to ramp up its work. Nearly eight weeks after Hurricane Maria trampled the island and tore up everything from transmissions towers to power poles and miles of lines, the grid is generating just 49 percent of its capacity.

Kenneth Mapp, the governor of the United States Virgin Islands, also testified and offered a bleak view of conditions there, urging Congress to change the way it allocates medical and storm relief funds to the territories.

Only 30 percent of residents have electricity after Hurricanes Irma and Maria pounded the islands, where nine schools and two hospitals were destroyed. Families are living in their cars and getting soaked in homes with no rooftops or walls, he said.

“With each rainfall, families are being harmed,” Mr. Mapp said.
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14-11-2017, 11:24 PM
RE: Everything Else - Global News Tracker
(14-11-2017 10:33 PM)Szuchow Wrote:   American Jewish Committee decries hateful demonstrators on Poland’s Independence Day

Men and women wearing face-masks chanted, "Pure Poland, white Poland" and "Clean blood, lucid mind," as well as "Sieg Heil" and "Ku Klux Klan."


AJC is urging the Polish government to speak out clearly against rising hatred inspired by the country’s far right. The call to action comes after a large demonstration filled with neo-Nazi and white supremacist rhetoric that took place in Warsaw on Saturday, the country’s Independence Day.

Szuchow, if you don't mind me asking, have you been seeing the makings of a growing White Nationalist subculture in your neck of the woods these last few years? I haven't heard to much hubbub in the U.S. but admittedly I don't get out much.
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14-11-2017, 11:53 PM
RE: Everything Else - Global News Tracker
Tillerson confronts human rights nightmare in Myanmar
Amid charges of ethnic cleansing and genocide, the secretary of state faces pressure to show the Trump administration takes human rights seriously.
By NAHAL TOOSI 11/14/2017 05:13 AM EST Updated 11/14/2017 10:24 AM EST
POLITICO


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit Myanmar on Wednesday amid growing pleas for the Trump administration — which has been harshly criticized for downplaying human rights issues — to more forcefully intervene in what some observers call an anti-Muslim genocide there.

U.S. lawmakers and activists are urging Tillerson to sanction Myanmar's military if it doesn’t stop what a top United Nations official has called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing" against the Rohingya Muslim minority. The vicious crackdown on the Rohingya includes the killing of small children, seemingly systematic rape of women, and the razing of villages, and has sparked an exodus of more than 600,000 Rohingya to neighboring Bangladesh since late August.

President Donald Trump has not spoken in public about the crisis, despite hopes that he might address it during his two-week tour through Asia. But activists and officials said Tillerson’s visit to Myanmar, also known as Burma, sends a crucial signal that the U.S. is taking the situation seriously.

Some believe the visit offers the administration a chance to rebut perceptions that it is anti-Muslim and anti-refugee. It is also an opportunity for Tillerson to win favor with a diplomatic community that has judged him harshly, including for suggesting that he places a low priority on human rights.

“We hope and believe that Tillerson will convey a very tough message to the Burmese military because the violence is still going on,” a senior Bangladeshi government official told POLITICO. “U.S. pressure, U.S. words and U.S. actions, of course, are taken seriously in Burma.”

Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation in the House and Senate that would reimpose U.S. sanctions on Myanmar unless its government stops persecuting the Rohingya. President Barack Obama lifted many U.S. sanctions after establishing ties to the long-isolated country in 2012.

Myanmar is a majority Buddhist country where the Rohingya, who are mainly Muslim, have long faced discrimination and bouts of repression. The latest crackdown began after a deadly attack on Myanmar security forces by suspected Rohingya rebels, but activists say the reprisal is wildly disproportionate. The campaign is the most intense persecution the Rohingya have faced since Myanmar began transitioning to democracy in 2010 after decades of military rule.

Obama hailed the democratic transition and became the first U.S. president to visit the country, where he met with its most famous pro-democracy activist, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi is now Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader, but she has little power over the military and has downplayed the Rohingya crisis. On Tuesday, ahead of a session with Tillerson on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in the Philippines, Suu Kyi said nothing when asked by a reporter if she believed the Rohingya were citizens of Myanmar.

After a slow initial response, the Trump administration has recently taken steps to express its displeasure to Myanmar. It has declared that the U.S. will not offer assistance to culpable military units and rescinded invitations for senior Burmese security officials to U.S.-sponsored events. It also has pledged millions in humanitarian aid, much of which will go to Bangladesh, the poor, densely populated country dealing with an influx of Rohingya refugees.

While a top U.N. official has said the atrocities are a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” the State Department is still mulling whether to use that label or the more legally weighty “genocide.” But Tillerson has publicly warned Myanmar to stop the violence or face consequences.

"We really hold the military leadership accountable for what's happening," Tillerson said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in mid-October. "What's most important to us is that the world can't just stand idly by and be witness to the atrocities that are being reported in that area."

Despite Trump’s personal silence on the issue, his administration’s actions have heartened some observers who worried that, given Trump’s relative quiet on human rights issues and his public hostility toward refugees and Muslims, his administration would ignore the Rohingya crisis.

“This is a moment of opportunity, because they have nothing to lose at this point,” said Sarah Margon, a top official with Human Rights Watch.

The House and Senate legislation imposes sanctions and travel restrictions on senior Burmese military officials and prohibits certain military cooperation with the Burmese military until the U.S. can verify the violence is over.

At least one senator, Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland, has described what’s happening as a genocide. “They’re trying to destroy the population,” Cardin said in an October hearing. “People are arguing intent. What else are they doing this for? Other than the purity of their country and their lack of tolerance for a minority population.”

Nearly 60 human rights and civil society groups wrote a letter to Tillerson and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin earlier this month urging the administration to “immediately and robustly impose targeted economic sanctions” against Burmese military officials implicated in the conflict.

Some lawmakers are wary of bringing too much pressure on Myanmar’s government, over which the military still holds tremendous sway. They include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a long-time supporter of Suu Kyi who worries that strong U.S. pressure may undermine the civilian leadership and derail the country’s transition to democracy. Some U.S. officials also worry about pushing Myanmar into the arms of China — countering one of Obama’s key rationales for restoring relations with the country.

Human rights activists are urging Tillerson to insist that Myanmar give U.N. investigators and aid groups access to the conflict zone, which lies in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. They also say Tillerson must lean on Myanmar to allow the dislocated Rohingya refugees to return home and live in peace.

Although aid organizations have obtained information from refugees in Bangladesh and turned to satellite technology to get a sense of the chaos in Myanmar, there’s little that can substitute for on-the-ground information at the scene of the crimes, said Joanne Lin, a top official with Amnesty International USA.

After all, she noted, “we still don't know what the death count is.”
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