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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

U.N. peacekeepers preparing for possible Congo political ...

U.N. peacekeepers preparing for possible Congo political violence

Opponents of President Joseph Kabila accuse him of trying to cling to power
By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, July 5 (Reuters) - Political uncertainty over Democratic Republic of Congo's next presidential election could spiral into a severe crisis and United Nations peacekeepers are developing contingency plans for widespread violence, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned.
In a report to the U.N. Security Council released on Tuesday, Ban said that under those plans peacekeepers in Congo might need to ask for help from other U.N. missions.
"I am concerned that in the absence of a credible and meaningful political dialogue among Congolese stakeholders, tensions could degenerate into a severe crisis, with a high risk of relapse into violence and instability," Ban said.
The Congolese government has said it is unlikely it will be able to hold elections in November for logistical reasons but opponents of President Joseph Kabila accuse him of trying to cling to power. The government has denied the claim.
Kabila, who has been in power since 2001, is barred by the constitution from standing for a third term. But a Kabila ally has raised the prospect of a referendum to allow him to run.
Dozens of Kabila's critics have been arrested since last year as part of what the United Nations and rights groups say is an escalating crackdown on political dissent ahead of a presidential election.
"I urge the government of Democratic Republic of Congo to respect freedom of expression, assembly and information as fundamental rights that are essential to the conduct of free and fair elections," Ban said.
Dozens died in street protests in January 2015 against a revision to the election code that could have pushed the election back by years.
"(The U.N. peacekeeping mission) MONUSCO is developing contingency plans in the event of widespread violence in the context of the electoral process," Ban said.
The U.N. Security Council is due to be briefed on the U.N. peacekeeping mission on Thursday.
The overthrow of longtime Congolese ruler Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997 fuelled years of conflict in the mineral-rich east that sucked in more than half a dozen countries and killed millions of people. U.N. peacekeepers have been deployed in Congo since 2000.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

SABC cannot limit viewers’ freedom by judging what can be seen, Mthembu says

SABC cannot limit viewers' freedom by judging what can be seen, Mthembu says

THE SABC cannot decide what people can or cannot watch as this is in contravention of the Constitution, the ANC's communications subcommittee head Jackson Mthembu said on Tuesday.
He said people, led by the ANC, fought for media freedom and freedom of expression and that any policy changes made by the SABC that in anyway limited those freedoms could never be sanctioned by the governing party.
Mthembu was adamant that the party did not condone the decision taken not to show footage of violent protests, despite its spokesman Zizi Kodwa at the time welcoming the decision taken by the SABC.
"The decision of the SABC to desist from showing images of the destruction of property has not been consulted with or condoned by the ANC," he said.
"This is worrying as it amounts to a change in policy position of the governing party — without any engagement on its merits and reasoning."
Mthembu said such policy changes did not go through any public consultation.
The ANC has made an about-turn on its stance with regards to what was happening at the public broadcaster.
The public broadcaster has not been immune from political interference for over a decade — and governance has suffered as a result.
However, Mthembu on Tuesday said the SABC did not answer to the ANC and did not "connive" with anyone at the public broadcaster.
He said to date there had been no evidence of this.
No one at senior level at the SABC came from the party's deployment committee, Mthembu said.
The ANC was of the view that the "crisis engulfing" the SABC was a consequence of a lack of leadership.
Mthembu questioned the expertise of those who were at the highest managerial level at the public broadcaster.
This was something that needed to be addressed, he said.
The ANC will be meeting Communications Minister Faith Muthambi and has called for an inquiry into allegations that "tarnished the image of the ANC" with respect to current developments at the SABC.

Seventh SABC reporter Lukhanyo Calata charged for breaking rules

Seventh SABC reporter Lukhanyo Calata charged for breaking rules

LUKHANYO Calata became the seventh SABC journalist to be charged by the public broadcaster for contravening its rules in a space of less than two weeks.
Calata‚ the son of struggle activist Fort Calata, who was killed by apartheid police in 1985‚ was charged on Monday following a letter he wrote last week questioning the direction the SABC was taking.
"The decisions taken recently by the SABC cannot be described in any other way but them being a curbing of media freedom. A freedom to report ethically‚ truthfully and without bias‚" his letter read.
Calata's letter followed the resignation of acting SABC CEO Jimi Matthews last Monday who said the "corrosive atmosphere" at the SABC had affected his moral judgment negatively.
Matthews resigned after three senior reporters were suspended on June 24.
Economics editor Thandeka Gqubule‚ executive editor at Radio Sonder Grense Foeta Krige‚ and senior journalist Suna Venter were suspended last week after defying SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng's orders not to cover an anticensorship protest outside the SABC headquarters in Auckland Park.
Last week‚ SAFM current affairs executive producer Krivani Pillay‚ executive producer of Special Assignment Busisiwe Ntuli and senior investigative reporter Jacques Steenkamp were charged with liaising with the media.
The three wrote a letter to Motsoeneng registering their displeasure over recent developments at the SABC.
TMG Digital

Hlaudi Motsoeneng bars entry to the SABC by civil society group | Media | BDlive

Hlaudi Motsoeneng bars entry to the SABC by civil society group

TRADE union‚ civil society and media representatives who were scheduled to meet SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng on Monday at noon were refused admission to the SABC building.
The group‚ led by unionist Zwelinzima Vavi‚ was told that Motsoeneng had cancelled the meeting and announced that he was proceeding with disciplinary action against six journalists.
The group met Motsoeneng on Friday during a picket by unions‚ activists and journalists outside the public broadcaster's offices in Johannesburg, against censorship and the suspension of journalists.

Vavi said the group had demanded that the disciplinary proceedings against six journalists‚ three of whom are suspended‚ be dropped with immediate effect and that those who were suspended be immediately reinstated.
Vavi said on Friday Motsoeneng claimed he did not know of the charges that the employees were facing.
Motsoeneng had promised the group he would meet his managers to find out about the charges.
"We felt we needed to give him the benefit of the doubt‚" Vavi said on Friday.
TMG Digital

South African farms violence against farmers Increases

South African farms become more dangerous as uncertainty grows

FARM attacks are on the rise, according to the latest statistics from farmers' group TAU SA.
In the first six months of this year, there were 186 attacks and 39 murders on farms throughout the country — up sharply from 131 farm attacks and 27 murders in the first six months of 2015.
Gauteng was hit the hardest‚ with 14 murders in the first half of 2016 — which was also by far the sharpest increase from a year earlier, at 10.
Only the Eastern Cape has not yet recorded a farm murder this year‚ TAU SA's midyear figures show. The province had three farm murders last year.
How other provinces fared:
• KwaZulu-Natal — seven, up from five last year
• Mpumalanga — five, up from two last year
• North West — four, up from two last year
• Limpopo — two, down from five last year
• Free State — three, down from four last year
• Western Cape three, up from one last year
• Northern Cape — unchanged at one
Henry Geldenhuys‚ TAU SA's deputy president and chairman of the organisation's safety committee‚ estimated that by the end of 2016 the figures for the year will have doubled. Attacks were usually rife over the Christmas period‚ he said.
TAU SA's figures were collected meticulously, he said. "Every attack has a name‚ date and farm name."
Over the past 26 years‚ the organisation has recorded a total of 1,824 farm murder victims: 1,170 farmers‚ 491 immediate family members‚ 141 workers and 22 visitors.
Johan Burger of the Institute for Security Studies said the climate of violence in SA was intensifying, against the backdrop of political and economic uncertainty.
Social inequality was a factor, he said. "The have-nots are becoming more‚ which leads to the rebellion of those who are excluded."
He commended the police‚ however‚ for the public commitment to tackle rural crime under the leadership of acting national commissioner Lt-Gen Khomotso Phahlane.
TMG Digital

Rain and snowfall bring some relief to drought-hit Western Cape

Rain and snowfall bring some relief to drought-hit Western Cape

THE Western Cape has received more relief from the drought, with dam levels increasing to an average of 42.2% in the past two weeks.
At the same time last year, levels were on average 62.5%.The Western Cape, which gets most of its rainfall in winter, has experienced a cold and wet spell in recent weeks, at a time when the rest of SA is suffering the effects of the worst drought since 1992.
Western Cape Environmental Affairs MEC Anton Bredell said on Tuesday the province is not out of the woods yet.
"We are very happy about the rain, but we still have some way to go for dams to reach more comfortable levels. We are also glad about the snowfall we have seen in the province. The snow plays an important role in supplying the system with water once it starts melting," said Bredell.
The South African Weather Service is forecasting more rain for the Western Cape over the coming month, with good rainfall expected for Cape Town over the next two weeks.
Earlier this year, the Western Cape Disaster Management Centre recommended that water restrictions be implemented across the province over winter until dam levels had risen to acceptable levels.

Zimbabwean civil servants set to strike

Zimbabwean civil servants set to strike

ZIMBABWEAN civil servants are ready to embark on a strike despite a government assurance that their salaries will be paid by the state that faced "desperate" economic constraints.
Acting Minister of Public Service‚ Labour and Social Welfare Supa Mandiwanzira was quoted in the Herald newspaper on Tuesday as saying: "The situation is because of the desperate situation that the government is facing."
He said that government was committed to paying employees and that its doors were open to engage with civil servants.
There were clashes at the Beitbridge border post late last week over controversial new legislation that restricts the importation of goods into the country from SA.
The Apex Council‚ an umbrella body for government employee unions‚ told the Herald that workers would stay away from work for three days‚ starting on Tuesday.
Civil servants have not received their salaries for June and were‚ instead‚ given a $100 advance payment by government, which has promised to pay the balance.
Zimbabwe Teachers' Association president Richard Gundane said: "The strike is a clear statement to the government that workers' salaries should never be delayed.... Most of the workers got less than $20 or nothing at all from the $100 because of loans."
The government proposed staggered pay dates‚ for teachers on July 7‚ followed by health workers and pensioners on July 19.
Read the story in the Herald here.
TMG Digital

Amid drought, mystery disease kills Zimbabwe’s baobabs | African News | BDlive

Amid drought, mystery disease kills Zimbabwe's baobabs

CHIMANIMANI — A black baobab tree stands forlornly on the side of a highway in Chimanimani district, in the east of Zimbabwe. The tree is one of many in this region afflicted by a mysterious disease, which turns the baobabs black before they lose their branches and die.
The giant trees, which dwarf their more common acacia and mopani neighbours in this dry part of the country, have long been revered as a way to survive drought. Families cook and eat the leaves as a vegetable. The fruits can been eaten raw or cooked into porridge. Baobab seeds substitute for coffee. And the bark fibre can be woven into mats.
"Porridge made from baobab fruits has saved many people from dying in times of drought," villager Dorcus Chiadzwa told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
But environmentalists fear a disease that is now attacking baobabs — particularly those that have had part of their bark harvested — could wipe out entire baobab populations and leave people battling drought with fewer survival options.
"Initially the disease attacked damaged trees, but it's spreading to other trees. And the disease is spreading very fast," warned Lawrence Nyagwande, who heads Environment Africa, a non-governmental organisation in Zimbabwe's Manicaland province.
He said there was little research available on what is causing the disease — suspected to be caused by one or more fungus species — or how to stop it from spreading.
Food shortages
With Zimbabwe struggling with a devastating El Nino-induced drought, which has decimated more than half of the country's food crops, many people in drought-hit areas of the east are now depending on baobabs for survival.
According to government officials, at least 4.5-million people are food insecure in Zimbabwe as a result of the drought.
The country is seeking up to $1.6bn in aid to feed those unable to grow crops.
"Many people are harvesting the fruits to sell. These fruits are bringing much-needed income for villagers," Chiadzwa said. The fibre from the baobab trees is also used to make mats, which are now in demand from tourists travelling the Mutare-Masvingo highway. Along that route, women and children selling baobab fruits and mats are a common feature of the landscape.
But villagers say the disease that is turning baobabs black has afflicted many trees in the dryer parts of Chimanimani, Chipinge, Buhera and Mutare districts. They fear it could wipe out the entire baobab tree population there.
"The disease is now widespread in these areas," said Malvern Mudiwa, one villager. "But I don't know what is causing the disease. The trees are turning black before they finally die".
Chiadzwa said the villagers were worried that their source of livelihood might be wiped out. "The affected trees are no longer producing fruits. The tree branches fall before the tree finally dies," she said.
Too much stress?
Experts suspect that the fungus which may be attacking the trees takes hold after a tree is damaged by having bark removed.
Extended drought may also be stressing the trees, reducing their ability to withstand the fungus or recover from bark harvesting.
"Normally it takes six months or more for trees to recover after the barks have been removed for mats," said Clive Kapfumvuti, another villager. "And during this recovery time trees are susceptible to the disease".
Kapfumvuti said many people in drought-hit areas like Nyanyadzi in Chimanimani district were earning up to $6 a day selling baobab fruits. "Money from baobab fruits has helped to sustain many people here," he said.
Because the trees have no national commercial value, little research has been done on how to save the baobab trees, experts say.
A senior official with the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe, Paul Mupira, told during journalists at a May press briefing in Mutare that baobab trees were dying in large numbers.
He said there was also a lack of young trees growing to replace those dying, in part because people were collecting baobab seeds for food.
"Animals are eating the young plants," he said. "People eat the small plants too as vegetables." Nyagwande, of Environment Africa, said villagers in the affected areas were being encouraged to plant more baobab trees to reverse the decline. "Unless something is done as matter of urgency, baobabs face extinction," he predicted.

Senator McCain's Syria Strategy: A Dog Chasing a Car

Did you ever see a hyperactive dog chasing every car that passes and wonder if the dog had ever thought about what would happen if it actually caught the car?

Did you see the end of the movie "The Perfect Storm" when the seasoned captain doesn't bother to escape the ships' bridge as it sinks and the young sailor struggles to freedom and then pops to the surface and the camera takes a long shot of him bobbing alone among huge waves in the middle of the largest storm ever in the North Atlantic? He is alive but doomed. He had not thought it through.

Both of those scenarios describe Senator McCain and Company's push for troops on the ground in Syria.

The McCain Strategy's objective has never been defined:

Is it to only fight Daesh?
Does it have the authorization to engage Assad forces as well as Daesh?
Is it to first engage Assad and then engage Daesh?
Is it to first engage Daesh and then Assad?

To talk wildly about boots on the ground without these issues defined is reckless.

It is important to keep asking questions. Senators Graham and McCain both describe a coalition force of NATO allies and "Middle East coalition partners."

The first step is to examine the NATO coalition partners.   The United Kingdom is in full austerity mode with a government in disarray.  Tony Blair resigned in disgrace for following the United States into war. David Cameron, who was friendly to the USA, just exited stage left. They are completely occupied with Brexit. The United Kingdom has a significant Muslim population that voted out any MP that voted for the Iraq War.  There is zero chance that the new government would devote one quid to another ill-fated American adventure.

Germany has a history of saying no. It will not happen. It depends on Russian natural gas for 30 percent of winter heating.  It will not happen. Germany backing the coalition would risk its leadership   position in the European Union.

France might, but it has a significant military presence in West Africa and the Sahel. It only has a total combat force of around 200,000, and so a deployment to Syria would leave them exposed in Africa and other regions. As in Libya they might lend aircraft and airpower but this is not really an area that the United States lacks. Remember Senators McCain and Graham are looking for boots on the ground.

Poland et al might but like in Iraq it will be meaningless in terms of troop strength.

This brings up the suggestion of Middle East Coalition Forces.

Saudi Arabia

My only response is are you Flipping Crazy? Iran's General Soleimani of the Al Quds force, the greatest military leader since Salahuddin,  last week threatened to wipe Saudi Arabia and Bahrain off the map. Saudi Arabia is widely unpopular in the region for the way they prosecuted their war in Yemen with human rights abuses piling up each day.  The presence of Saudi Arabia troops would give Iran and Hezbollah a reason to attack, and it would give Iran justification to militarily enter the war directly.

I think it escapes the Senators, who should know better, that Iran has access to Syria on the ground through Iraq. This means the possibility of a full armor war and as well as missiles.  It also means the complete and final destabilization of Iraq and the occupation of Iraq by Iran.

I think the Senators forget that it is a toss up whether the Saudi's hate Daesh or the United States more.  Lets not forget that the last time the United States had any military presence in Saudi Arabia it was bluntly asked to leave.  The presence of US Army on Saudi soil is a defilement of the two most holiest sites in Islam and further delegitimatizes  the ruling government.


The United States already has a military base in Qatar and that is all they are going to get.  The new Emir has backed away from his father's disasterous  support of Syrian opposition.  List this as don't hold your breath.


If Iran threatens, the Senators need to remember that Iran sits in the UAE's backyard. List this as don't hold your breath.


The United States already has a presence but based on interviews during  my trip to Jordan and the constant threat of protests and demonstrations in Jordan I would say maybe but that is a big maybe.


My only response, once again, is are you crazy?  First, the presence of Turkish troops brings up shades of ancient history.  Second, it would draw the Kurds off sides and give them an excuse to open a Turkish front through a deal with Iran for control of their area if they fought Turkey. Third, do you think that Turkey can be trusted to withdraw. Fourth, it would also guarantee the entrance of Iran into the war.


Israel is pinned down in the West Bank as an brutal Occupation Force. It is pinned down containing Gaza. It is pinned down on the Lebanon border containing Hezbollah.  It has a growing Ultra-Orthodox population that refuses national military service. A mass mobilization would cripple its economy, and finally, the entrance of Israel would be answering Iran's prayers.


Maybe.  Egypt might want to shore up the Sinai. Maybe not.  Honestly, largely, except for the Sinai troops, the Egyptian military has more practice gunning down protesters than fighting a war.  It is too much of a gamble for General el-Sisi. If he loses, it spells the end of his hold on power by relatively peaceful means.

Two Vital Questions Must Be Answered

What would Russia do?
What would Iran do?

Senator McCain once again is reckless without answer these questions. Once again the senator is acting like Iran would ignore the presence of United States troops in Syria, and the presence of its arch enemy, Saudi Arabia, effectively on its border.  It is absurd to think that Iran would give up its route to support Hezbollah through Syria.  The presence of Iranian troops in Syria is more to support access to  Hezbollah than support Assad.

Finally, the loss of Syria retards its final goal which is the liberation of Jerusalem.  Its also retards it long term goal of replacing the House of Saud as the guardian of Mecca and Medina, therefore, Iran would effectively, with Jordan, control the three most holiest sites in Islam.  This would close the loop on Shia's claim to legitimate power.

Does Senator McCain actually believe that Russia would turn its back on Syria and Iran? Russia has a  naval base in Syria.  There are so many variables that Senators McCain and Graham have overlooked in their rush to war that it can only be seen as the same reckless spirit that dragged the United States into Iraq.

Getting Rid of Daesh

There are two key issues to consider with Daesh in Syria.  First, there is no evidence that Daesh is directing attacks in the United States, at this time.  The United States attacks are from alienated Americans--San Bernardino--yes he was an American--Orlando attacker born in America that makes him an American.   The Fort Hood green-on-green shooting was another alienated American. Daesh is just an at-hand focus of the alienation not the cause of the alienation. (More explanation of the cause of terrorism in America)

Since there is no evidence that Daesh directed the attacks in the United States and it is highly possible  that Daesh can continue their propaganda war from anywhere, in terms of the Islamic State Terrorism, is there a reason to risk full scale war and destabilization in the Levant?  Daesh, by all accounts, is being slowly and systematically removed from the region. This is impossible to deny. Second, Assad is gaining strength every day and his removable would be very difficult with Iranian and Russian support.

Unless the above questions are answered to the satisfaction of the American people, the second and finally point reveals the proposal by Senators McCain and Graham to be loose reckless talk that it is.  I respect the military service of both Senator McCain and Graham but this only makes the final point more puzzling.

The reason why the coalition in the Iraq invasion worked because the United States lead the coalition on the ground in terms of troop strength, tactics, and the coalition partners played an auxiliary role with the exception of the United Kingdom, who the United States trains with, has shared language and shared tactics.  Both Senators promise that the United States would not play a major combat role and if this is true then who? Turkey? Saudi Arabia? Egypt?  Three different armies, two different languages, three different communications equipment, three different tactics.

Finally, in the fantasy of Senators McCain and Graham, there is no discussion how long it would take to  equip, establish a battle plan, train, coordinate communications gear, establish command procedures, deploy, prepare for the attack, and then attack. Even if you could put three or four disparate militaries together, find a common language, get them to agree on a command structure, even though some of the armies have taken part in military exercises together, it would be a world record if that took less than three months.

In other words, at the rate Daesh is loosing ground today, it seems highly unlikely that the risks involved with the McCain/Graham proposal would remove Daesh any faster.

Considering the Commander-in-Chief along with the military leaders advise against this tactic and  it could only be done with the vote of Congress if President Obama agreed not to veto.  Considering that this Congress is the least productive in history, this places Senator McCain and Graham exactly in the political pundit arena that is beneath two distinguished United States Senators.

William Church
Managing Director
Centre for Infrastructural Warfare Studies

Drier Weather hurt Nebraska Grain Production

Drier Weather Affects Grainfill

We have been blessed and cursed with rain this spring. For some, rain replenished the soil profile and got the crop off to a good start. For others, it meant planting delays, slow emergence, replanting and nitrogen losses.
In drier areas, wheat matured early and we anticipate both corn and soybeans will develop and mature more quickly this season. The latter is especially likely if tales of the coming La Nina hold true.
The weather pattern has been interesting with an early spring that turned wet and is now turning dry. In March, DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson spoke on the weather at the Illinois Soybean Summit in Rockford. I clearly remember his comments that spring would come early and be warm; it would then turn cool and wet in late April and stay that way through May, causing delays in planting; rain would normalize in June, and then as we head into July and August, it would turn warmer and drier as La Nina arrived. He said corn would make it through pollination due to soil reserves, but soybeans would get hurt by the dry weather in August.
So far, Anderson's predictions have come true. If that continues, what will drier weather do to corn and soybean yields?
Warm June weather, with frequent rainfall and a full soil profile, allowed corn to grow rapidly, and many fields are rushing toward tasseling. That could be bad if things turn hot and dry soon. Corn is most vulnerable to heat and drought at pollination. Seed companies have done an excellent job the last two decades creating hybrids that are better able to handle stress at pollination. I tend to agree with Anderson's spring prediction that corn will make it through pollination just fine due to good genetics, the rapid rate of development, full soil profile accompanied by deeper rooting and chances of July storms.
Immediately after pollination, the seed develops, and normally this occurs during August. Drier weather can hurt corn yield by affecting seed set or fill.
Corn needs to set seed and retain those seeds to build yield. Bob Nielsen, Purdue corn agronomist, wrote in an Extension publication: "Drought stress may delay silk emergence until pollen shed is nearly or completely finished. During periods of high temperatures, low relative humidities and inadequate soil moisture levels, exposed silks may also desiccate and become non-receptive to pollen germination."
Embryonic seeds also can abort under weather stress. Nielsen said aborted kernels are distinguished from unfertilized ovules in that aborted kernels had actually begun development. Aborted kernels will be shrunken, mostly white, often with the yellow embryo visible; compared to normal plump, yellow kernels.
Stress during grainfill (dough and dent stages) results in smaller and lighter kernels since the plant is not producing enough sugar to fill the kernels out. The downside of the plant trying to feed the kernels during a drought is that they pull more sugars out of the stalk, compromising its integrity and opening the door to early onset stalk rots.
Tactics that prevent or remediate stress or promote a healthy, stay-green plant during a drought can alleviate some of the symptoms. This is one reason why foliar fungicides are applied to maintain leaf health, stalk integrity and grainfill.
Nielsen's full article on the impact of stress on pollination and grainfill can be seen athttps://www.agry.purdue.edu/….
If Anderson's prediction is correct, soybeans stand to get hurt the most this summer. A warm and dry August with no showers means fewer pods and smaller seed with lower yield.
During the 2012 drought, a few rain showers after mid-August actually produced an average yield in fields where the rain fell. Soybean plants seem to know intuitively how many pods they can support based on weather and available resources and will adjust accordingly. The 2012 drought reminds us of two valuable traits in soybeans that can help it survive a dry period.
First: When a drought hits, bean plants will retrench themselves and hang in there, stalling growth to save moisture and guarantee survival and seed set. They will adjust their pod number accordingly but maintain a certain pod number.
Second: When the rains return or a shower "happens," the plants bounce back and surviving pods will fill out nearly completely so yields can be near normal.
Soybeans' ability to survive and compensate by the ability to stall growth, long flowering period and pod number adjustment mechanism means that if it showers during August, bean yield will benefit. That yield may be below average, but a good yield can still happen.

Mary Robinson says Ethiopia in drought as events like Brexit distract world

Mary Robinson says Ethiopia in drought as events like Brexit distract world

UN special envoy for El Nino and climate change Mary Robinson meeting Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros A Ghebreyesus during her visit to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

United Nations envoy Mary Robinson has accused the international community of being distracted and preoccupied by events like Brexit as millions of Ethiopians suffer the worst drought in half a century.

The former president of Ireland hit out after being briefed on the devastating impacts of the El Nino weather pattern and climate change which has seen rains and harvests fail over the last year.

UN special envoy for El Nino and climate change Mary Robinson meeting Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros A Ghebreyesus (centre) and Irish ambassador to Ethiopia Aidan O'Hara during her visit to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

More than 10 million Ethiopians do not have enough food or are at risk of malnutrition amid concerns it could spiral into the worst food emergency in the region since the mid-1980s.
"I hope that the special envoys can make this problem more visible at a time when there are preoccupations about migrants in Europe, with Brexit, and conflict situations - there are a lot of distracting issues," Ms Robinson said.
"I think there are a lot of problems of distraction."
Ms Robinson said: "I don't think that this real impact of El Nino aggravated by climate change has received the attention that it should have from the international community, not only early enough but substantive enough."
Unicef said three million children have dropped out of school in Ethiopia because of the drought and failed harvests.
Ms Robinson, UN envoy for climate change and El Nino, is witnessing the devastation first-hand on a three-day trip with development agencies Trocaire, Concern and Goal.
The crisis is expected to be compounded later this year when the La Nina cooling weather pattern brings flash floods to the region.
Ms Robinson met Ethiopian foreign minister Tedros A Ghebreyesus in Addis Ababa as the country seeks 580 million euro in aid to ease the crisis.
The minister said the donor response was initially slow.
"The problem is real and we have to do everything to address it before it is too late," he said.
It is estimated that it takes 88 Ethiopians to emit as much carbon dioxide as one Irish person.
Mr Ghebreyesus said: "We are the victims of climate change.
"Although the whole world knows that, we have not contributed to the damage of our climate, nothing... we are the victims. We are the victims of it but we want to be part of the solution."
Ms Robinson is urging governments to use the current crisis to create a blueprint to combat subsequent El Nino events and the impact of climate change.
The Ethiopian government is carrying out a new assessment of the latest harvests and how many millions of people require food aid.
The trip is Mrs Robinson's first visit to Africa since being appointed to her role two months ago by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.
She will also use it to brief the UN in New York on July 19 along with her colleague Macharia Kamau who has visited Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste.
The UN estimates that 3.4 billion euro (£2.85 billion) is needed to combat the impacts of the current El Nino crisis which is being compounded by climate change across Africa, Asia and in South and Central America.
Only 1.2 billion euro (£1 billion) has been pledged.

Venezuela ending electricity rationing as dam 'recovered' - UPI.com

Venezuela ending electricity rationing as dam 'recovered'

CARACAS, Venezuela, July 5 (UPI) -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday said nationwide electricity rationing has ended as the drought-stricken Guri hydroelectric dam has "recovered."
Maduro in late April began a 40-day program to ration electricity to four hours a day in 10 of Venezuela's 23 states. On Monday, Maduro said the Guri dam "recovered and we're in a position where we can resume normal service."
Venezuela was "six days away from a collapse ... we were facing having to turn off almost the entire country" before the rationing, Maduro said.
Venezuela depends on hydroelectric power for about 60 percent of energy needs but an ongoing drought critically deteriorated the hydroelectric infrastructure output.
Critics of Maduro's government say government inefficiency, lack of maintenance and lack of investment have exacerbated the problem. Maduro's administration has blamed a the "El Niño" weather pattern and alleged collusion between the United States and Venezuelan business leaders for making things worse.
Maduro previously called on large electricity consumers, such as malls and manufacturing companies, to generate about 20 percent of their own electricity.
The Guri hydroelectric plant in Venezuela's Bolívar state, which supplies the country with 63 percent of its hydroelectric power, in April was less than 10 feet from dipping to a critically low water level.

Mandela family angered by South Africa election ad - BBC News

Mandela family angered by South Africa election ad

Nelson Mandela's voice is heard as the woman in the polling booth decides which party to vote for

The Mandela family has reacted angrily after the former South African leader's voice was used in an election advert for the country's main opposition.
In the ad, posted on YouTube, a young woman is in a polling booth considering voting for the governing ANC.
As Nelson Mandela's voice is heard calling for justice, peace, work and bread, she then decides to vote for the Democratic Alliance (DA) instead.
Chief Mandla Mandela accused the DA of abusing his grandfather's name.
"The DA is doing it to benefit a party which Mandela was not a member of," he told the ANN7 news network.
In other comments, Mandla Mandela, who is himself a member of parliament for the African National Congress (ANC), said the DA was seeking to "preserve white privilege" and demanded the ad be withdrawn.
The DA has defended using the voice of the former president, who was a long-standing ANC member, saying "this great man stood for a non-racial South Africa".
"The DA is the only party able to take South Africa to the non-racial future it needs. To say that Mandela does not belong to all South Africans is atrocious," said spokesperson Refiloe Nt'sekhe.

The woman in the election ad then votes for the opposition DA

The DA has based its electoral campaign around promises to fight corruption and improve the country's economic prospects.
But it has faced criticism in the South African media in recent weeks over racist remarks made by its members.
South Africans will vote next month in what are expected to be closely contested municipal elections.

Death Valley Hit 134F Extreme Weather

On Jul 5, 2016, at 8:42 AM, WTC <wtchurch@me.com> wrote:

What Is The Hottest Place On Earth And Did It Just Break A Record?

What is the hottest place on Earth?  On July 10, 1913, observers in Death Valley, California (Furnace Creek, [36°27'N, 116°51'W, elevation: -54.6m (-179ft)]) measured a temperature of 134°F and declared it the hottest temperature ever recorded. On September 13, 1922, a weather station in Libya recorded a temperature of 136.4°F (58.0°C). The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) recognized this observation as the hottest air temperature on Earth for some time.

This photo from March 2016 shows the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley, Calif.  (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
So which is considered the hottest place? To answer this question I went to the World Weather / Climate Extremes Archive of the WMO accessed through a portal at Arizona State University. The website summarizes the report in the following way,
Previous record of 58C recorded at El Azizia Libya was reviewed (2010-2012) by a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Commission of Climatology (CCl) special international panel of meteorological experts conducted an in-depth investigation of the long-held world-record temperature extreme of 58ºC (136.4 ºF). ….The investigating committee identified 5 major concerns with the 1922 El Azizia temperature extreme record, specifically (a) problematical instrumentation, (b) a likely inexperienced observer, (c) an observation site which was not representative of the desert surroundings, (d) poor matching of the extreme to other nearby locations and (e) poor matching to subsequent temperatures recorded at the site.
The panel committee concluded that the observation at El Azizia is likely in error by about 7 degrees Celsius. The full description of the findings can be found in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
After this review it is clear that the hottest air temperature recorded on Earth is the Death Valley location. And Death Valley just set a new heat record. A U.S. National Park Service press release notes,
Last month (June 2016) was the hottest June on record in Death Valley National Park, with a sweltering average temperature of 101.9 °F. June 2016′s temperatures exceeded average June temperatures by about 6 °F. Death Valley's average temperature in June 2016 was 101.9 °F, which greatly exceeded the average of 95.5 °F recorded over the past 105 years………Superintendent Mike Reynolds said, "We're not even in the hottest part of the summer yet. Who knows what July and August will bring."
If you think those numbers are brutal consider this perspective. The press release goes on to say,
Death Valley reaches a daily high of at least 90 °F on an average of 190 days—about half the year. Death Valley's daily high is at least 100 °F an average of 140 days annually, at least 110 °F an average of 89 days per year, above 120 °F an average of 18 days per year, and at least 125 °F an average of 3 days per year. So far this summer, Death Valley has already reached 120 °F on eight days.
Why does Death Valley get so hot? Though not a coastal location, Death Valley is below sea level and the Sierra Nevada mountain range blocks moisture from the Pacific Ocean. The narrowness of valley prevents air circulation. The valley has very little vegetation to provide any absorption of the sun's energy or to provide evapotranspirational cooling, and there is also a desert nearby.
Speaking of deserts, have you ever noticed where most of the world's major deserts are located? They are near 30 degrees latitude (North and South). The imbalance of heating between the tropics and the polar regions creates a general circulation pattern that describes many aspects of our weather and climate patterns. Because our atmosphere is a fluid on a rotating planet with an axial tilt, some interesting things happen. One of those interesting things is that the air sinks near roughly 30 degrees (i.e., sinking branch of the Hadley Cell). This sinking air is very dry and not conducive to cloud formation. Additionally, when air sinks, it warms through a process called adiabatic compression.
The general circulation of the Earth with sinking near 30 degrees latitude. Source: NASA
Before I end, let me throw a slight curve ball at you. Some scientists argue that "hottest place" on Earth should be framed in terms of land temperature not air temperature. NASA scientists studying land skin temperature (LST) have identified the "hottest" place on Earth to be the Lut Desert in Iran. Scientists use instruments aboard satellites to detect the amount of infrared (IR) energy emitted from the land (think thermal infrared gun on your favorite cop show). Years of analysis have revealed that parts of Iran and Australia are particularly hot from an LST perspective.
With 2016 on pace to shatter the previous "warmest year on record (2015)," I suspect I may be writing articles like this for some time to come unfortunately as the combination of natural variability, El Ninos, and climate warming conspire.
Seven years of satellite temperature data show that the Lut Desert in Iran is the hottest spot on Earth. The Lut Desert was hottest during 5 of the 7 years, and had the highest temperature overall: 70.7°C (159.3°F) in 2005. (NASA maps by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using MODIS data from Mildrexler et al., 2011. Image and caption from NASA Earth Observatory website.
Dr. Marshall Shepherd, Dir., Atmospheric Sciences Program/GA Athletic Assoc. Distinguished Professor (Univ of Georgia), Host, Weather Channel's Sunday Talk Show, Weather (Wx) Geeks, 2013 AMS President

: Seven Climate Records Set So Far in 2016 | Climate Central

On Jul 5, 2016, at 8:32 AM, WTC <wtchurch@me.com> wrote:

Seven Climate Records Set So Far in 2016

By Adam Vaughan, The Guardian
The Arctic had its warmest winter on record in 2015-16. Arctic sea ice is melting at a rate that by September could see it beat the record low set in 2012. The maximum extent of sea ice in winter was at a record low, and the extent in May was the lowest for that month ever, by more than 500,000 sq km.
Credit: The Guardian
Since October, every month has been the hottest on record. Every month this year has been the hottest on record globally for that month. May, data published by NASA revealed, was no exception. NASA's dataset, one of three main global surface temperature records, shows February recorded the highest anomaly against long term average temperatures.
Credit: The Guardian
India has been record hot. India recorded its hottest day ever on May 19. The mercury in Phalodi, in the desert state of Rajasthan, rose to 124°F (51°C), as a nationwide drought that has affected more than 300 million people marched on, leaving armed guards at dams, and reservoirs well below their usual levels.
Credit: The Guardian
Alaska, along with the rest of the Arctic, has experienced record-breaking heat. Spring was the warmest on record in the state, with an average temperature of 32°F (0°C), and the average year-to-date temperature has been 5.5°C above the long term average.
Carbon dioxide levels are forecast to pass 400ppm. Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have been breaking records every year for decades, but the size of the margin by which the record is forecast to break the annual record in 2016 is striking and itself a record. The increase for 2016 is expected to be 3.1 parts per million, up from an annual average of 2.1.
Australia recorded its warmest autumn on record in 2016. Australia, no stranger to record-breaking heat, just clocked up its hottest autumn yet. Average temperatures were 1.86°C above the average, beating the previous record of 1.64°C above average, set in 2005.
Credit: The Guardian
2016 has seen mass bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef, a natural wonder and world heritage site, experienced its worst ever coral bleaching event, as a blob of warm water made its way around the world. An aerial study found that just 7 percent of the reef escaped bleaching, which can lead to the coral permanently dying.
Credit: The Guardian
Reprinted with permission from The Guardian

Zimbabwe police clash with rioting minibus drivers - BBC News

Zimbabwe police clash with rioting minibus drivers

Police clash with protestors in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare

Police in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, have used tear gas and water cannons to break up a protest by minibus drivers.
The unrest began when drivers erected barricades in a protest against harassment and roadblocks by police demanding bribes.
When security forced stepped in, some local residents joined the protesters and threw stones at police.
Some demonstrators are reported to have been beaten up. Thirty people have been arrested.
Zimbabwe has become increasing volatile in recent weeks with frequent protests against economic hardship and alleged government corruption.
Police say they have reduced the number of roadblocks following complaints.
The economy has struggled since a government programme seized most white-owned farms in 2000, causing exports to tumble.
Robert Mugabe, 92, has been in power since independence in 1980.
Critics accuse him of using violence and rigging during recent elections - allegations he denies.
Official statistics say most citizens live on just one dollar a day.

Police removed road blocks
Police were outnumbered by the protestors
Zimbabwe is facing increasing economic instability
Stranded commuters walk to work                 

RClimate Change is Tipping Scales Toward More Wildfires

On Jul 5, 2016, at 8:31 AM, Promenade Press <promenadeebooks@gmail.com> wrote:

Climate Change is Tipping Scales Toward More Wildfires

By Climate Central
The 2016 wildfire season has barely begun and dozens of large wildfires have already raged through Western states, with hundreds of thousands of acres burned. This comes on the heels of a 2015 wildfire season that was the worst on record in the U.S., with more than 10 million acres burned.
These are not just random events. Climate change is producing conditions ripe for wildfires, tipping the scales in favor of the dramatic increases in large wildfires we have seen across the West since the 1970s. Snowpack is melting earlier as winter and spring temperatures rise, and in most states an increasing percentage of winter precipitation is falling as rain, meaning there is often less snowpack to begin with. Summer temperatures are rising, particularly in Southwestern states, where the number of extremely hot days is steadily increasing, creating more days where forests and grasslands are dried out and ready to burn.
In 2015, far below-average snowpack in California and the Pacific Northwest created exceptionally dry conditions across the West, and the region experienced fires of a size rarely seen. Washington's Okanogan Complex fire was the largest group of fires on record for the state. And multiple years of searing drought in California contributed to several fires that were among the state's top 10 most destructive fires on record.
A Climate Central analysis of 45 years of U.S. Forest Service records from the western U.S. show that the number of large fires on Forest Service land is increasing dramatically. The area burned by these fires is also growing at an alarming rate.
  • Across the Western U.S., the average annual number of large fires (larger than 1,000 acres) burning each year has more than tripled between the 1970s and the 2010s.
  • The area burned by these fires has shown an even larger increase: in an average year, more than six times as many acres across the West were burned in the 2010s than in the 1970s.
  • The fire season is 105 days longer than it was in the 1970, and is approaching the point where the notion of a fire season will be made obsolete by the reality of year-round wildfires across the West.
The situation in some individual states is more extreme:
  • The average number of large fires burning each year on Forest Service land has increased at least 10-fold in the Northern Rocky Mountain states of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.
  • In the Pacific Northwest, there are now five times as many large fires burning in a typical year in Washington as there were in the 1970s; in Oregon there are nearly seven times as many.
And the conditions are likely to get worse in the next several decades. Climate Central's States at Risk project analyzed historical climate data and downscaled climate projections from 29 different global climate models. We found that in most western states, the climate conditions that can stoke summer wildfires are projected to increase substantially in the relatively short period between now and 2050. Arizona is expected to see more than a month of additional high-risk fire days by 2050.
This analysis relies on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI), a measure of the dryness of the top 8 inches of the forest floor, which serves as a proxy for the dryness of forest fuels. KBDI is one of a number of indicators of wildfire potential, but is commonly used by the U.S. Forest Service (along with other tools) to predict fire danger. The scale runs from 0 to 800.
Our analysis found that the number of days with KBDI above 600 (a level at which the potential for wildfire is high) would increase significantly between now and 2050 in 10 of the western states if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated. Across these 10 states, the total number of days with KBDI above 600 is projected to increase 46 percent between 2000 and 2050.
Although many factors influence the ignition and spread of wildfires, our KBDI projections suggest that the conditions suitable for more and larger fires will increase in the near- to midterm. This finding is consistent with other research on wildfire potential and burning.