Juan Cole – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Tue, 25 Jan 2022 06:31:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.5 Climate Emergency Parable: Mammoth Iceberg that broke free from Antarctica Dumps 168 billion tons of Water in South Atlantic https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/emergency-antarctica-atlantic.html https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/emergency-antarctica-atlantic.html#respond Tue, 25 Jan 2022 06:29:29 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=202620 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Anne Braakmann-Folgmann et al. in an article for Remote Sensing of the Environment observed by satellite the now-disintegrated Iceberg A68A over its 3.5-year life since it hived off the Larsen-C Ice Shelf in Antarctica in 2017, and found that it dumped 168 billion tons of fresh water into the ocean near the South Atlantic island of South Georgia (near the Falkland Islands off Argentina).

Professor Braakmann-Folgmann, at the University of Leeds, told its news service, “This is a huge amount of melt water, and the next thing we want to learn is whether it had a positive or negative impact on the ecosystem around South Georgia.”

This was not an ordinary iceberg — it was gargantuan, at 2,000 square miles, 1.5 times the size of Rhode Island, as George Dvorsky notes at Gizmodo.

This map accompanying the journal article shows the iceberg’s course before it melted entirely away last spring.

The Larsen C ice shelf holds back enormous glaciers and if it breaks up, rapid and catastrophic sea rise would follow. It has lost area during the past few decades of satellite observation, according to the BBC, but scientists are hoping that it is stable enough to survive man-made global heating if we stop putting so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by 2050. The fate of the ice shelf, though, is a mystery, and it is an alarming sign that the oceans are heating up much faster than anyone had expected.


Larsen Ice Shelf in Antarctic, Feb., 2000 h/t NASA

Larsen C itself benefits from lying in the cold Weddell Sea and so far has been shielded from the hotter waters flowing around other Antarctic formations, such as the unstable Thwaites glacier.

Scientists have recently found that the deepest layers of the southwest Atlantic between Argentina and Antarctica exhibit a long term heating trend at all sites measured. Thus, the Scotia Sea is much warmer than the Weddell Sea that abuts the Larsen ice shelf, and it is when Iceberg A68A entered the former that it started really melting fast. If we go on boiling the earth by driving gasoline cars and burning coal, however, the Weddell Sea will heat up, too, and that will spell curtains for Larsen C.

It is murky whether Iceberg A68A is just part of a normal birthing of icebergs by an ice shelf or if it is a dangerous sign that Larsen is becoming more unstable. In 2017, when it calved, scientists were really worried that it might destabilize the Larsen C ice shelf. It is certainly the case that A68A melted much more rapidly in the past few years than a similar iceberg would have done a century ago, because of the heating waters of the South Atlantic.

There is no doubt that if we do keep putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at our current rate, we will melt the Larsen ice shelf, and will thereby unleash a string of mega-glaciers.

What that would look like is shown by Iceberg A68A, which floated north to the South Sandwich islands, disintegrating and shedding water along the way, but making the big dump off the island of South Georgia, which doesn’t have a permanent population. Calving icebergs affects the stability of their ice shelf, Braakmann-Folgmann and her colleagues note. They add, “The response of icebergs to the warmer climates they drift through can also inform predictions on how the Antarctic ice shelves will react to climate change.”

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Europe is dependent on Russian Gas during Ukraine Crisis because it didn’t Ramp up Renewables Faster https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/dependent-russian-renewables.html https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/dependent-russian-renewables.html#respond Mon, 24 Jan 2022 06:46:04 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=202594 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The growing conflict between the United States and the Russian Federation over the Ukraine has taken an increasingly dark turn, with press reports that US embassy personnel and dependents are being pulled out of Kiev and that President Biden is considering sending US troops to Ukraine’s neighbors.

The conflict has an energy dimension, since Europe depends on Russia for about 35 percent of its natural gas. Natural gas prices have quadrupled this winter, making it expensive for people to heat their homes already. If Russia boycotts Europe over the Ukraine, it will create a massive energy crisis on the continent and make it difficult for US allies to be completely supportive of the Biden line that Russia must cease meddling in Ukraine affairs or trying to detach pieces of it. The admiral who headed the German navy just had to resign because his remarks became public, that Russia doesn’t want bits of the Ukraine, it just wants the respect owed a great power. Observers worried that a lot of Germans high in the government might think that way and decline to back Washington’s hard line.

I was watching Farid Zakaria’s GPS 360 on Sunday, and his guest, the distinguished journalist and historian Ann Applebaum asserted that Angela Merkel had made a major error in closing down Germany’s nuclear plants. Her point was that in the absence of nuclear power, Germany became more dependent on Russian natural gas for heating and electricity.

I respectfully disagree with Applebaum’s assertion. Nuclear only provided 11.9% of Germany’s power production as of 2021. In contrast, 40.1% of its power comes from renewables. Natural gas is only at 15.3%. Clean Energy Wire provides this nice chart:

It seems obvious to me that Chancellor Merkel’s mistake was not at all in closing the nuclear plants. Those plants were aged and had to be closed for safety reasons. Merkel correctly took the lesson from Japan’s Fukushima catastrophe in 2011 that this technology is simply not human-friendly or reliable. New plants could have been built, but nuclear plants are extremely expensive and take a very long time to build, and their electricity costs 15.5 cents a kilowatt hour. They produce toxic radioactive waste that will remain radioactive for a very long time and for which no good storage options exist. And they sometimes blow up or come near melting down.

If what you wanted was energy independence for Europe on the off chance that Russia’s gas might become a chess piece in geopolitics, which is actually an odd thing to want, since Europe never had it for the entire Cold War, then Merkel’s error is obviously that she did not do what Scotland did, and go for 100 percent renewable power by 2020. That would be a harsh and unjustified criticism, since Merkel did more than any other leader in the G7 to push for green energy and to address the climate emergency. But even Merkel herself, as she looked back on her career last September, recognized that the pace of installation of renewables would have to be vastly accelerated to avoid a climate disaster. The unprecedented flooding last summer helped her come to this conclusion.

She did not go bigger into renewables in part because she ran up against the coal industry and workers. Coal is still 28 percent of Germany’s power production and there have been lots of equivalents of Joe Manchin on the German political scene jumping up and down and screaming about the unfairness of disadvantaging German coal. It is mined in the country and directly employs 25,000 people, which is like 75,000 in US terms.

As it is, Germany has made strides in getting off coal. Coal provided half of power production in 2000, and is now down to about a little over a quarter. And Germany has done more to put in renewables, with its “Energiewende” or Energy Switch, than any other large industrialized nation. The new Social Democratic government, which is in coalition with the Greens, plans to put enormous amounts of new renewables in every year until 2030, projecting that by that date, 80 percent of Germany’s power will come from renewables.

In contrast, the US only gets about 20 percent of its electricity from renewables and has slacked off majorly in this area compared to Germany and China, because of the influence of Big Oil and initially of Big Coal. The only reason that the US itself is not more dependent on imported natural gas (as it was only a decade ago, bringing a lot in from Canada) is that its energy industries have gone in for hydraulic fracturing in a big way. This is an earth-killing technology, not only highly polluting in itself but also a source of massive methane leaks, and the natural gas itself, though better than coal, is also a greenhouse gas that is cooking the planet.

So Germany is dependent for some of its natural gas on Russia not because it closed down old, dangerous nuclear plants but because it did not build out its renewables even faster than it did. Also, even though Germany’s dependence on Russian gas may be an annoyance to Washington in January of 2021, it actually would have been better if all coal had been replaced by natural gas by now, since it has half the carbon dioxide emissions as coal.

And despite what K Street and the Pentagon think, saving the planet is more important than Washington’s sphere of influence politics with Russia.

Washington has been trying to find a substitute for Russian natural gas in shipped Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) from other countries. I wrote to an email list I’m on, however:

    Whatever the solution might be to a Russia gas interruption to Europe, I don’t think it is LNG in the short term.

    The US government met with gas majors recently and they said the market is tight & they can’t replace Russia in Europe

    Qatar is increasing production substantially. But it will take a while, and 10- year deals are already signed with China via Shell. Shifting things around is not easy given long term contracts

    The US LNG export capacity will increase this year but that expectation is already baked into the market. It cannot come close to replacing Russian supply this year

    As for Germany, if things got dire they would just turn back on the coal plants and take the reputational hit. The nuclear closure was domestic green politics for SPD coalition gov’t purposes and not done with an eye to grand strategy.

    If the crisis can wait four years, big increases in wind and solar power will replace most NatGas.

    The IEA site reports that, “The agency says that between 2020 and 2026, renewables will grow by another 60 percent to over 4,800 gigawatts, which is roughly the size of the capacity of all fossil fuel and nuclear [electricity] power plants combined. Over the next five years, renewables will capture 95 percent of the growth in the electricity sector.”

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Biden Still Determined to pass the Blockbuster Green Energy Package in BBB; Here’s how He can Do it https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/determined-blockbuster-package.html https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/determined-blockbuster-package.html#respond Sun, 23 Jan 2022 06:56:24 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=202578 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – I argued last December that since Sen. Joe Manchin’s opposition had tanked the enormous Build Back Better act, President Biden should hive off the green energy portions and try to get them passed on a bipartisan basis.

Carol Davenport and Lisa Friedman writing in the New York Times report that both Biden and some prominent Democrats in Congress agree.

They quote Biden from his recent press conference, where he said,

    “Yes, I’m confident we can get pieces — big chunks of the Build Back Better law signed into law . . .

    Yes. Well, it’s clear to me that — that we’re going to have to probably break it up. I think that we can get — and I’ve been talking to a number of my colleagues on the Hill — I think it’s clear that we would be able to get support for the — for the 500-plus billion dollars for energy and the environmental issues that are there — number one.”

Davenport and Friedman quote some congressional Democrats like Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) concur.

Despite the positive noises he has been making on energy, I don’t think we can trust coal baron Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to do the right thing on CleanTech. Manchin has been saying that he can get behind the clean energy portion of the bill; that is because he has already taken out some of the things he doesn’t like (and which would be good for the economy). I suggested that Biden might be able to attract some Republican support for elements of green energy. Some of the same GOP senators who supported the Infrastructure Act might go along with green energy projects, especially if federal backing brought money into their state. States that return Republican senators are often the most solar-rich in the country, and not all of them are irrational about this potential the way the Florida GOP is.

MSNBC: “‘Give Manchin The Pen’: Markey, Khanna On How To Get Climate In Build Back Better”

Jules Scully at PVTech writes,

    “The House version of the bill, passed on 19 November, extends and expands the investment tax credit (ITC), allows solar projects to opt for the production tax credit (PTC) and creates a standalone energy storage ITC.

    If that version is enacted, Wood Mackenzie forecasts that it would result in a 31% increase in US solar deployment by 2026, representing an additional 43.5 GWdc [direct current gigawatts] of capacity.”

The US has about 100 gigawatts of solar now, and this one measure would increase it half again as much. There are also market forces and state and local governmental measures impelling more solar, so this would be on top of everything else.

In addition, as I wrote last December

    Build Back Better, for instance, “includes tax credits that can cut the cost of installing rooftop solar panels by about 30 percent” according to NDRC. Likewise, “The bill includes, for instance, incentives to help strengthen the domestic supply chain for wind and solar power in disadvantaged communities.”

    Renewable Energy World adds that the version passed by the House included “the production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit (ITC) to their full values, and taxpayers are eligible for direct pay instead of tax equity offsets. The bill will further incentive production that takes place in the U.S.” They note that there was also ” a new ITC for standalone energy storage.” In other words, we could put solar panels on every house and enable owners to afford a Tesla Powerwall or other storage capablity.

    Some forms of solar power, especially community solar, have picked up substantial Republican support in states like Michigan and Wisconsin. Great, let’s do it nationally.

Wind power is another form of green energy that many Republican senators can get behind, since wind is important to several of the red states. Oklahoma, Iowa, and Kansas, all have big wind industries, as do even Indiana and North Dakato. A carefully crafted bill supporting wind could well attract their support.

I observed that America has to get this done:

    “Promoting green energy is the number one priority that outweighs every other consideration. The poor will be made poorer by runaway global heating. Women will be hurt by it. Workers will suffer. Cities, the Democratic strongholds, are in dire danger from it. There is a sense in which much of the good that Democrats hope to do will be undone if they don’t radically reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Reducing them at home will give the United States more credibility in pressing other industrial societies to do so. Even more importantly, government investment in renewables and batteries will accelerate their already steep cost decrease and competitiveness with fossil fuels.”
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In War Crime, Saudi, UAE Airstrikes on Yemen kill over 100 in Migrant Detention Center, in War that has left 377,000 Dead https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/airstrikes-migrant-detention.html https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/airstrikes-migrant-detention.html#respond Sat, 22 Jan 2022 06:29:14 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=202555 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The Saudis and the United Arab Emirates launched an air campaign of 45 air strikes on Yemen on Friday. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, one of the strikes hit a migrant detention facility in Sa’adeh in north Yemen, killing over 100 detainees there. In addition, there were large numbers of wounded, and the Red Cross mobilized ambulances to get them to two area hospitals. The Houthis are saying there were 233 casualties if you count the wounded.

This aerial bombing was a war crime by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, since detainees are civilians and are not supposed to be targeted according to the laws of war, and belligerents are supposed to exercise special care in not striking at them. The two Gulf oil monarchies either deliberately hit a civilian detention center or they were reckless, but are culpable either way. The facility was used to detain undocumented migrants attempting to make their way through Yemen to Saudi Arabia for work, and included women and minors.

The regional director of the ICRC for the Near and Middle East, Fabrizio Carboni, said, “It is essential that we protect the lives of people in armed conflict. The human toll that we witness in Yemen is unacceptable.” He added, “Civilians living in densely populated areas have been exposed to increased attacks, causing death and injury and deepening the psychological trauma among the affected communities after seven years of war.”

Carboni is being diplomatic in not naming names, but what he is saying is that the Saudi and Emirati Air Forces have been bombing densely populated urban areas indiscriminately and with increasing disregard for human life. For this reason, the Saudi government attempted to deny that the prison was hit at all. But the Red Cross is more credible here.

The Houthis also have blood on their hands, having subjected towns to artillery and rocket fire in Marib, harming civilians, and last fall they rocketed a prison in Sana’a, the capital, killing some prisoners. Since they are poorly armed and do not have fighter jets, they cannot commit the kind of carnage that the Saudis and the UAE can.

Al-Jazeera Arabic says the Saudi and Emirati air strikes knocked out Yemen’s internet. It also reports civilian deaths from an air strike on the port of Hudeida, including, according to Save the Children, three children.

Joe Biden campaigned on getting the US out of the Yemen War, on denying the Saudis the weaponry to continue to prosecute it, and on ending the fighting. He followed through on the first pledge, since the U.S. no longer provides mid-flight refueling to Saudi jets bombing Yemen, nor does it provide strategic targeting advice. Biden, however, agreed in principle to a $650 million arms deal with Riyadh to sell them air-to-air missiles that are categorized as “defensive.” While the missiles may be intended to protect the Saudis from Houthi drone strikes, I think the deal is bad optics if Biden really wants to pressure them to cease their air war on Yemen. As for ending the war, Biden has sent a special envoy to attempt to get negotiations going, but with little success.

The Houthis took responsibility for a set of drone or rocket attacks on oil facilities in Abu Dhabi, one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates, on Monday, which killed three workers. The Helpers of God militia said that they were taking revenge for heavy UAE bombardment of their positions in recent days. The UAE has been heavily bombing Houthi positions since 2015, and for a while had a significant contingent of troops in Yemen fighting alongside southern separatist forces.

Monday’s attack was the first time the UAE felt any blowback from its heavy involvement in the Yemen War. Friday’s massive air campaign came in response to the bombing of Abu Dhabi.

The Emirates government has demanded that the Biden administration restore the terrorist designation to the Houthis that was imposed by Trump. Biden lifted it because when a government is designated a terrorist entity by the US, it makes it impossible for aid organizations to help people there lest they be charged with material support for terrorism. A horrible famine is stalking Yemen, and if Biden does slap back on the terrorism designation, millions could die as a result. Asked about this issue on Thursday, Biden said it was under consideration.

It shouldn’t be!

The Houthis have been attempting to take Shabwa and Marib provinces to the east of Sanaa. Marib has petroleum resources that would allow their government to survive in the long term. The Saudis and the UAE have intervened from the air to stop the Houthi advance, which provoked the current round of tit-for-tat bombings.

The United Nations Development Program has found that 377,000 Yemenis have died as a result of the Saudi-led war that began in 2015, though 60% were not direct victims of military action:

    “By comparing the current reality in Yemen to a scenario where no conflict ever occurred, we can provide an estimate of the total death count – the number of deaths caused both directly and indirectly from the conflict. By doing so, we found that by the end of 2021, Yemen’s conflict will lead to 377,000 deaths – nearly 60 per cent of which are indirect and caused by issues associated with conflict like lack of access to food, water, and healthcare.”

The report adds,

    “These deaths are overwhelmingly made up of young children who are especially vulnerable to under and malnutrition. In 2021, a Yemeni child under the age of five dies every nine minutes because of the conflict.”

This is a significant increase in the death rate over the last such report, in 2019.

The Helpers of God or Houthis, who hail from the Zaydi Shiite branch of Islam, control North Yemen and some points east to Marib province. The Houthi militia seized the capital, Sanaa in 2014. The Saudis launched their air war on the Helpers of God mini-state in 2015 but despite seven years of bombing, have not been able to dislodge it.

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Biden’s First Year vs. Trump’s First Year: Are you Friggin’ Kidding me with this “Failed Presidency” Idiocy? https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/friggin-kidding-presidency.html https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/friggin-kidding-presidency.html#respond Fri, 21 Jan 2022 06:47:27 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=202539 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Republican outlets like Politico and Fox and the Wall Street Journal (the latter two echo chambers for reactionary Australian billionaire Rupert Murdoch) have been asking whether Biden’s is a failed presidency. The stupid gives me vertigo. After the lunacy Trump put the country through, even if Biden had had fewer successes than he did, he’d have been a roaring success just by not replicating the previous four years of dysfunction. But Biden has had some very major legislative and economic achievements that cast the Trump presidency in an even worse and more garish light. The journalistic establishment seems to have a fatal case of amnesia when it comes to Trump and seems to fix Biden with an unforgiving gimlet eye. If we compared Trump’s catastrophic last year with Biden’s very good first year, the contrast would be even clearer, but let’s compare the first years of both presidents.

Top achievements of Donald Trump in his first year:

1. Repeatedly tried to ban Muslims from certain countries from entering the United States. Kept being struck down by the courts or pressured to exempt certain countries by his cabinet. He succeeded on the third try, having dropped Iraq and Chad. Most people from most Muslim countries continued to be able to come freely to the US, so his Muslim ban ended up being symbolic. He did split families and impose a lot of pain and inconvenience on the Muslim Americans that were affected.

2. Visited Saudi Arabia, which he put in charge of counter-terrorism efforts, while he gullibly swallowed Saudi lies about Qatar, which the Saudis blockaded and the government of which they tried to overthrow. Qatar is a key American ally that provides the US Air Force with al-Udaid air field, hosting over 10,000 US service personnel, from which most US sorties against terrorist groups like ISIL were flown. Trump is gradually convinced by Secretary of Defense James Mattis to reverse himself on demonizing Qatar. Far from combating terrorism, as Trump confidently predicted, members of the Saudi elite went on to murder and dismember a Washington Post columnist in their Istanbul consulate.

3. In Trump’s first year, the economy added 1.8 million jobs. This would later be overshadowed when his mismanagement (and sometimes entire denial) of the pandemic cost the economy 22 million jobs, so that he finished out his term as the only president in modern history who lost jobs.

4. Appears to have threatened to nuke North Korea, saying of its missile tests “they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

5. Announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. Later does so. Promotes the burning of coal. Says wind turbines cause cancer. Says the climate emergency is Chinese disinformation. Sets back climate action for nearly half a decade that humanity did not have.

6. Called the Nazis who marched in Charlottesville against pulling down statues of Confederate slavers, chanting “Jews will not replace us,” “very fine people.” For some time appointed crackpot conspiracy theorist Steve Bannon, who spoke of admiring Benito Mussolini, as White House chief strategist. Mussolini’s army killed several hundred thousand Allied troops who were fighting for democracy.

7. Trump passed a mammoth $1.9 trillion tax break for the super-wealthy that mainly benefited large corporations.

8. Trump blocked Puerto Rico from receiving aid after Hurrican Maria, apparently on the grounds that its residents are Hispanic.

9. The chair of Trump’s election campaign, Paul Manafort, is indicted on charges of conspiring against the United States, lying to the FBI, laundering tens of millions of dollars, and not having registered as a foreign agent for the old, pro-Russian government of Ukraine. Once Ukraine got an independent government not under Vladimir Putin’s thumb, under Manafart the Republican Party removed a plank of its platform pledging to support Ukraine against Russia.

10. Claims to be a very “stable genius.”

After all that, nobody in the corporate media was saying Trump had a failed presidency. They went on being sure he’d be elected right until November, 2020.

Now, all Biden would have to do to be a million times better than Trump would be to just avoid doing the things Trump did in his first year.

In addition to not having done any of these things, Biden in his first year presided over an almost different country:

1. 6.4 million jobs were added, more than in any one year in the 21st century, and more than the first three years combined under Trump.

2. Unemployment plummeted from 6.2 percent in Trump’s last month in office to 3.9 percent, the largest single-year decrease in American history.

3. The number of Americans filing unemployment claims fell to the lowest level since 1969. The number of people filing fell from 18 million to 2 million, an unprecedented decrease.

4. Child poverty was cut in half. Hunger was reduced by a third.

5. Rejoined Paris Climate Accord. Used executive orders to open up hundreds of acres of offshore ares to wind turbines that will generate clean electricity to power millions of homes. Put money in Infrastructure Act (which passed) for green projects like recharging terminals and promotion of electrification of transportation

6. Unlike Trump, who talked big about redoing American infrastructure, Biden backed and passed a law actually to do it. Roads, bridges, rail, municipal facilities will all benefit and it will kickstart the economy.

7. Biden rescinded the Muslim ban, appointed the first Muslim federal judge in history, and has just announced his backing of the first female Muslim federal judge in history.

8. Biden brought in military vaccinators and gave states needed resources, vaccinating 200 million Americans. He thereby saved 1.5 million people from dying who would have otherwise kicked the bucket. Trump had discouraged mask-wearing and social distancing, said that the coronavirus would disappear on its own by April 2020, and advised people to drink bleach (don’t do that). The omicron spike could well be over by early February, and by spring-summer the country could be getting back to normal. If so, that is on Biden.

9. Americans will finally get rid of lead in their water pipes under Biden. Lead causes permanent brain damage and there is no safe dose. It is a scandal that Biden is the first president to take this major public health crisis, as seen in Flint, Michigan, seriously.

10. Biden’s stimulus act got money into the pockets of millions of hard-pressed Americans. He added 5 million people to the ranks of the medically insured. Well-being increased for many at the bottom of society.

There isn’t any comparison here. Trump was an erratic high-functioning sociopath and the worst president in history, who left the country broke, beset by polarization, ravaged by disease, and incredibly corrupt, to the point where the democratic transition of power was endangered by a Trump-orchestrated fascist mob. Biden has been a transformative president.

That people are even asking these questions makes me think that those inside the Beltway have lost their freaking minds.

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Violating Geneva Convention, Israel Expels Salhiyeh Family and Demolishes their Home in Palestinian E. Jerusalem https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/convention-demolishes-palestinian.html Thu, 20 Jan 2022 06:17:42 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=202517 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The Israeli newspaper Arab 48 reports that early on Thursday morning, Israeli security forces brought bulldozers to demolish the house in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Occupied East Jerusalem of the Salhiyeh family, having expelled the thirteen family members who owned it into the street on a freezing, rainy winter night.

The family said that a huge force of Occupation security police attacked their home and arrested family members found in the building after beating them.

The police fired flash bombs, then arrested all the members of the Salhiyeh family along with 25 other persons in the structure. Some of the family members were injured, but Arab 48 alleges that the security forces forbade ambulances to enter the area to treat them. When rescue workers did arrive to minister to the family members, they were expelled by force from the vicinity of the building while it was being emptied and then destroyed. Masses of security forces took up positions at the gates to the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and forbade entry into it during the expulsion and demolition operation.

If the Salhiyeh family is eventually released from jail, they will be homeless and on the street this winter.

Apologists for Israel’s actions say that the expulsion was legal, but everything the Apartheid regime in South Africa did to indigenous Blacks had also been legal. The action was not in fact legal, however, in international as opposed to racist Israeli law. (See below).

Israeli forces had attempted to expel the family from their home on Monday, but were forestalled when family members threatened to set themselves on fire.

The land on which the Salhiyeh family home stood was confiscated by the all-Jewish Jerusalem municipal government for “public purposes” and the Israeli courts backed the move three years ago.

East Jerusalem is recognized in international law and by the United Nations Security Council as occupied territory, and the 4th Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute forbid occupying authorities from expelling civilian residents. Israel has illegally annexed largely Palestinian East Jerusalem, however, defying international humanitarian law. This law can only be enforced through international sanctions, but the United States government consistently exercises its veto to prevent Israel from being sanctioned by the Security Council, and so Israeli authorities continue to act with impunity.

The Biden administration is reported to have remonstrated with the government of Naftali Bennett about planned expulsions of Palestinian families from their homes, but Bennett demonstrated on Thursday exactly how little respect he has for Biden or the United States, from which he receives $4 billion a year in direct payments from our tax dollars.

Several hundred Palestinians in East Jerusalem face expulsion at the hands of the Occupation government.

I have pointed out that

    “Israel militarily occupied East Jerusalem and the Palestinian West Bank in 1967, after scheming to take it over for many years. It then illegally annexed East Jerusalem and part of the West Bank to its district of Jerusalem. In international law, occupation authorities may not annex occupied territory and may not flood their own citizens into occupied land. The 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of occupied populations was enacted in hopes of preventing a repeat of episodes such as Germany’s occupation of Poland, during which it transferred Germans to that country and expelled many Poles, in hopes of Germanizing it.”

I also wrote last November,,

    The Israeli newspaper Arab 48 reports that Palestinian East Jerusalem families facing expulsion from their homes by Israeli squatters in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood have rejected the proposal of the Israeli Supreme Court to let them remain in their homes for some years, but without equity or recognition of their ownership of the property, so that they have to pay rent to Israeli squatters. They said in a statement, “We have unanimously rejected the settlement proposed by the Supreme Court of the Occupation, which would have made us akin to ‘protected renters’ from the settler organization Nahlat Shimon, and which would have paved the way gradually to the usurpation of our right to our land.”

    The Supreme Court gave the Palestinians until this month to accept the proposed settlement.

    Sheikh Jarrah is a neighborhood in East Jerusalem that has been inhabited by Palestinian Muslims since the 1200s. It grew up around the tomb of Husam al-Din al-Jarrahi, a personal physician to the great Muslim general Saladin (Salahuddin al-Ayyubi), who took Jerusalem back from the Christian Crusaders. He built a mosque and a Sufi center (Zawiya) there, and when he died his tomb became a place that people visited because of his reputation for piety.

    East Jerusalem, like the rest of the Palestinian West Bank, fell to the Jordanian army in the 1948 war, and Jordan ran this part of Palestine as custodian until the fate of the Palestinian people could be decided.

    In 1948, Zionist militias conducted a deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing against Palestinians in what became Israel, forcibly expelling some 720,000 of them, many to the West Bank. The Jordanian government built homes for these refugees in Sheikh Jarrah, to which the families have deeds of ownership or acknowledged customary rights. When Israel seized the Palestinian territories in 1967 by aggressive military conquest, the Israel authorities began taking the stand that Palestinians have no right to their land and it can be stolen from them at will.

    Militant Israeli squatters have targeted Sheikh Jarrah families for expulsion, laying claim to their land on the basis of 19th century claims and rejecting the legitimacy of the Jordanian housing project ex post facto. The squatter claims went to the Israeli Supreme Court, which tried to kick the can down the road by putting off deciding the fate of the Palestinian property owners for 15 years but essentially declaring that they were renters, not owners of the property and there on Israeli sufferance.

    The neighborhood families said in their communique that “this rejection comes on the basis of our faith in the justice of our cause and our right to our homes and our homeland despite the entire absence of any tangible guarantees to reinforce our presence as Palestinians in Occupied Jerusalem on the part of any party or institution.”

    In April, Jordan provided documentary proof that the Sheikh Jarrah families own their homes.

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160 mn. Fell into Poverty during Pandemic as 10 Wealthiest Men doubled Wealth to $1.5 Trillion (Oxfam) https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/pandemic-wealthiest-trillion.html Wed, 19 Jan 2022 06:09:09 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=202502 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The charitable organization Oxfam reports this week that 160 million people fell into poverty during the past two years of pandemic, while the richest 10 men in the world doubled their wealth from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion. The authors of the report argued that this is not simply a matter of wealth inequality, but that the extreme wealth of the few is actually killing the poor. The United Nations defines poverty as living on less than about $2 a day and suffering from “hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion, as well as the lack of participation in decision-making.”

Here are some of Oxfam’s findings by the numbers:

1. The world’s top 10 wealthiest men own more than the poorest 3.1 billion persons.

2. The investment portfolios of the globe’s 2,755 billionaires grew more during the pandemic than they had during the previous 14 years — and those 14 years hadn’t been too shabby for them either.

3. They say that if you add up all the wealth held by all the women and girls in Latin America + the Caribbean and Africa, some 1 billion people, it comes to less than the wealth holdings of the richest 252 men.

4. Each day, they write, inequality is a contributing factor in the deaths of at least 21,300 people, or four deaths every second that might not occur if wealth were more equally distributed.

5. If they had the same life expectancy as whites, 3.4 million more African-Americans would be alive today. The disparity has worsened since the advent of Sars-CoV-2.

6. The richest 20 billionaires are responsible for 8,000 times more carbon dioxide emissions than the poorest billion people on earth.

7. Every 26 hours since the novel coronavirus arose, a new billionaire has been minted.

8. Of the 17 million estimated COVID-19 deaths globally, the biggest death toll since World War II, the poor have borne the brunt of the disease. During the second, delta variant wave of the coronavirus, people of Bangladeshi heritage in England died at a rate 5 times higher than English whites.

9. International Monetary Fund-backed austerity measures for 73 countries have exacerbated inequality. Women had been an average of 99 years behind, but are now as much as 135 years behind on gender parity.

10. The authors say, “This is the biggest annual increase in billionaire wealth since records began. It is taking place on every continent. It is enabled by skyrocketing stock market prices,28 a boom in unregulated entities, a surge in monopoly power,30 and privatization,31 alongside the erosion of individual corporate tax rates and regulations,32 and workers’ rights and wages — all aided by the weaponization of racism.” Just as alarming, they say, is the way in which the greed of the pharmaceutical billionaires has created a vaccine Apartheid, with citizens of the wealthier countries much more likely to be vaccinated. The horrible thing is that this means new variants can incubate in the poor global South, potentially prolonging the pandemic and its severe economic impact.

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Juan Cole’s New Book “Peace Movements in Islam” – Interview by Jadaliya https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/movements-interview-jadaliya.html Wed, 19 Jan 2022 05:06:03 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=202494 Via: Texts out Now: Jadaliya

(Excerpt from the Jadaliya Interview – go to original site for full text.):

Jadaliyya (J): What made you edit this book?

Juan Cole (JC): I began this project in 2015 because of the avalanche of writing in the United States and Europe about the ISIL terrorist group in Iraq and Syria and the constant implication, or even assertion, that such cult-like groups were somehow an expression of an Islamic “essence” that is naturally violent and barbarous. Of course, this assertion was shared by the ISIL terrorists themselves, though their extremism was so thoroughly rejected by other Muslims in the region that the latter largely crushed it—with some US, European, and Russian help. I did not deny that violent movements had arisen within Muslim societies, but I believed that there was an over-emphasis on them after 9/11, to the extent that our historiography and social science were unbalanced in dangerous ways. I was aware of many peaceful movements in Islamic history and wanted to bring together specialists to write about them in a systematic way. My colleague Samer Ali and I succeeded in gaining funding from the International Institute at the University of Michigan for two conferences, from which the bulk of the chapters are drawn.


Juan Cole (ed.), Peace Movements in Islam: History, Religion, and Politics [Click here]
(I. B. Tauris, 2021).

J: What particular topics, issues, and literatures does the book address?

JC: South African anti-Apartheid activist Rashied Omar wrote for the book about the way in which Muslim peace work intersects with the ideas of Johan Galtung about positive and negative peace. I contributed a chapter on peace verses in the Qur’an itself. Asma Afsaruddin wrote about peaceful struggle as a principle in early Islam. My colleague Alexander Knysh wrote about Sufi principles of internal peace and what it meant for their action in the world. Rudolph Ware told us about the Murid Sufi order in French colonial Senegal, led by Ahmadu Bamba, which argued that the conditions for jihad as understood in medieval times no longer obtained in the modern world. We have two papers on the Muslim modernist, Rashid Rida, one of which by Elizabeth Thompson argues that after World War I Rida foresaw the Middle Eastern Muslims joining a new peaceful world order of liberal nation states but he along with many other Muslim were pushed toward a more fundamentalist view by the betrayals of Versailles, which allowed Britain and France to colonize the Middle East. The other, by Mohammad Khalil, shows that Rida believed, like many Muslim thinkers, in a form of universal salvation available also to non-Muslims. James Rowell explored the thought of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, who was in the same circle as Mahatma Gandhi and who argued for Muslim nonviolent noncooperation, based on the Qur’an, against British colonialism. Sherman Jackson told the remarkable story of how, in the early twenty-first century, Egypt’s al-Gama`a al-Islamiyyah repented of their former violence and issued a set of works reinterpreting Islam in a peaceful way. Zilka Šiljak wrote about Muslim Bosnian women’s peace groups after the war. Grace Yukich talked about peaceful forms of Muslim-American activism during the Trump era.

J: How does this book connect to and/or depart from your previous work?

JC: This book is in some ways a complement to my 2018 monograph, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires (Bold Type Books). There, I was concerned with reconsidering the Qur’an and the life of the Prophet in the context of late antiquity and with arguing that the Abbasid-era conception of both as warlike distorted the picture that can be recovered from the Qur’an itself. I see both peace and just war in the Qur’an, where other biographers have seen only militancy. Both recent works are a departure from my writing in 2000-2017 on al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Khomeinism in journal articles, journalism, and in my books, Sacred Space and Holy War and Engaging the Muslim World. Again, the point is not to essentialize Islam or Muslim movements one way or another, but to gain a contextual understanding of their whole range.

J: Who do you hope will read this book, and what sort of impact would you like it to have?

JC: The book is written accessibly and is intended for a general audience, but it has the scholarly apparatus and rigor that will make it interesting to academics, particularly those in the humanities and social sciences, as well. It would be a great classroom text for undergraduates and is almost unique for that purpose.

Read the rest at Jadaliya

Excerpt from the book (from Chapter 2: The Qu’ran on doing Good to Enemies, pp. 32-35)

In chapters that fall in Theodor Nöldeke’s third Meccan period (618-22?), this general principle is presented in a more elaborate manner. After a stock scene in which the pagans are consigned to hellfire and angels bestow blessings on the believers in paradise, Distinguished 41:33-35 observes, “Whose discourse is more beautiful than one who calls others to God and performs good works and proclaims, ‘I am among those who have acquiesced in the monotheist tradition (min al-muslimin)’? The good deed (al-hasana) and the evil deed (al-sayyi’a) are not equal. Repel (idfa`) the latter with what is better (ahsan] and behold, it will be as though the one, with whom you have a mutual enmity (`adawa), is a devoted patron (wali hamim). Yet to none is this granted save the patient (alladhina sabaru), and to none is it granted save the supremely fortunate (dhu hazzin azim).” This remarkable verse goes beyond counseling gracious withdrawal from and forgiveness of foes to urging doing good toward them and returning their evil deeds with good ones, which over time has the prospect of winning them over and making them patrons rather than enemies. The elative ahsan wielded in that cause may here be a superlative even though it is indefinite, so that the phrase means “that which is best” or “the greatest good” because it is elliptical, leaving out the rest of the sentence. That is, it is implied that the action is better . . . “than any other deed” (just as “Allahu Akbar” implies that God is most great, i.e. that he is greater than everything else, not merely that he is “greater”). Doing “the best” by evildoers is implicitly contrasted not only with “the evil deed” (al-sayyi’a) but also with the mere “good deed” (al-hasana). It is by performing this implicitly superlative deed that is “better” (than any other) for evildoers that one can transform them from inveterate enemies into patrons and supporters. This accomplishment, however, depends on the believer having a vast store of forbearance and being extremely fortunate. It is marked as no ordinary spiritual achievement, to do the supreme good for those who have done evil to you. Tabari gave a saying he had ultimately from Ibn `Abbas in interpretation of the verse, “Repel the latter with what is better:” He said, “God commanded the believers to meet anger with patience and an even temper (hilm), and to meet mistreatment with forgiveness. If they do this, he safeguards them from Satan, and their enemies will yield to them, as though a devoted patron.” Others, Tabari said, interpret it to mean, “Push back with peace (al-salam) against the abuse of someone who mistreats you.” The verse only mentions acting in an exemplary way, but Tabari gives many quotes from exegetes who concur that it is the proffer of peace that is being spoken of when “the better” or “best” is commanded.

This quranic assertion that doing good to hostile others can over time have a transformative effect on them addresses one critique of the Christian form of this principle, which is that “love your enemies” is one-sided rather than dialogical.

Read the rest at Jadaliya

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Scotland alone to nearly Double all the Offshore Wind in the World with new ScotWind Facilities https://www.juancole.com/2022/01/scotland-offshore-facilities.html Tue, 18 Jan 2022 06:32:47 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=202483 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – James Murray at BusinessGreen reports that 17 new massive offshore wind projects have been authorized off Scotland that collectively would generate 25 gigawatts of power. Note that the total offshore wind capacity as of 2020 in the whole world was only 35 gigawatts, so this one set of “ScotWind” projects will almost double the global total. Some 75 percent of offshore wind-driven electricity is presently generated by the UK, China and Germany.

England itself has many gigawatts of offshore wind capacity in the pipeline, and just one of the planned projects will generate five percent of the country’s electricity needs.

Britain has a goal of 40 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030. The Scottish facilities would generate almost as much as the entire current Biden plan for U.S. offshore wind by 2030, which is 30 gigawatts. The difference is that Scottish, and UK companies more generally, are old hands at this technology, whereas the US is backward and starting almost from scratch.

Although a lot of the talk about getting into renewables by the big oil companies is just greenwashing, I am glad to see that BP is finally doing something practical by investing in one of the ScotWind projects. It doesn’t make up for all the damage they did with anti-climate science propaganda and dirty tricks, but it does demonstrate that even the worst of the worst are now being forced by the market and public opinion to begin going green. In other words, Big Carbon knows it is doomed if it doesn’t get into renewables. It is an epochal implicit admission.

bp: “bp and EnBW successful in ScotWind offshore wind bid”

Offshore wind and especially floating turbines offer some special and very attractive characteristics:

1. Offshore winds are steadier, thus reducing intermittency and increasing reliability.

2. Offshore winds are faster, which matters a lot for power generation. Turbines spun by 15 mile an hour winds generate twice as much power as those spun by 12 mile an hour winds.

3. Floating wind turbines can be placed even over deep waters where fixed towers are not practical, and can be placed far enough off the coast so that they are not visible, thus avoiding popular opposition or any impact on tourism.

4. Acteon’s site observes, “Contrary to fixed turbines which require heavy lift vessels to install the foundations, transport and assemble the parts on-site, and erect the turbine, floating turbine platforms are assembled in port and towed to site with the help of tugs and anchor handling vessels, which can bring about significant cost savings.”

5. A lot of the demand for power is from cities along the coasts, which can thus be served conveniently by offshore wind.

Scotland already gets virtually all of its electricity from renewable sources and is perhaps the first industrialized country to reach that milestone. Electricity is only part of energy use, however, and Scotland has a long way to go to reach net carbon zero. It must electrify both transportation and heating/ air-conditioning, as well as making its agriculture and construction industry green.

In the meantime, much of the 25 gigs would be exported to populous England, which has been suffering from high natural gas prices. It is expected that by 2025 the levelized cost per kilowatt hour of wind will be half that of a natural gas plant, according to Simon Evans at Carbonbrief. Thus, even pricier offshore wind is becoming competitive. It is now 22 cents a kilowatt hour but is expected to fall in price significantly over the next decade. Onshore wind is more like 8.5 cents a kilowatt hour.

Crown Estate Scotland, formed in 2016, oversees properties belonging to the monarchy that are neither purely private nor purely public, and apparently the offshore sites of these wind farms are considered to fall under its purview. Its commissioners chose the 17 projects, which will realize £700 million (near $1 billion) in immediate payments, which will be turned over to the Scottish government. In addition, the companies whose bids were accepted will invest billions in the Scottish economy.

The projects are a mix of fixed wind towers anchored in the sea bed and floating wind turbines.

Murray quotes Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as saying,

    “ScotWind puts Scotland at the forefront of the global development of offshore wind, represents a massive step forward in our transition to net zero, and will help deliver the supply chain investments and high quality jobs that will make the climate transition a fair one. It allows us to make huge progress in decarbonising our energy supply – vital if we are to reduce Scotland’s emissions – while securing investment in the Scottish supply chain of at least £1bn for every gigawatt of power. This will be transformational. And because Scotland’s workers are superbly placed with transferable skills to capitalise on the transition to new energy sources, we have every reason to be optimistic about the number of jobs that can be created.”

Scotland is demonstrating that an industrial country can go green on a timeline that could keep the earth below 3.6 degrees F. extra heating, and can do so economically. It is a great day for Scotland, but it kind of makes you feel bad for the lumbering, primitive, oil-stained United States, which is eating other countries’ dust in this crucial industry.

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