Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 10th, 2015

Petition: Don’t Let the Senate Pass Discriminatory Visa Waiver Bill

The Visa Waiver reform bill just PASSED the House by a 407-19 vote.

As we warned yesterday, this bill threatens to restrict the ability of Iranian Americans from traveling to Europe – as well as Americans who have travelled to Iran.

Moreover, it will bar people in Europe from traveling to the U.S. without a visa if they are Iranian dual nationals or have visited Iran since 2011.

Politico reported this morning that, indeed, the European Union has warned lawmakers that these restrictions may be imposed on Americans if the bill passes.

This is bad, but the fight is not over: we can stop this bill in the Senate.

These provisions impacting Iranian Americans were added in backroom negotiations at the last minute without hearings or accountability.

While we only had 24 hours to mobilize opposition in the House, we have a head start to block these provisions in the Senate.

Take a moment to contact your Senators and urge them to keep these discriminatory provisions out of the bill.

The Senate has already introduced two bills to reform the visa waiver program.

One, from Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) does not target Iranian nationals.

The other, just introduced by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), does target Iranian nationals.

We need to make sure that your Senators hear from you so that they do not pass language that targets the Iranian-American community.

NIAC Action is in contact with Senate offices, the White House and embassies to work to stop this dangerous legislation.

We are fighting an uphill battle, but there is still time to win this.

Note: There got to be a preamble to the law explaining the rationale behind this Bill. Why just after the Nuclear deal? Is that a punishing Bill for what’s currently happening in Syria and Iraq?  We want to know.

More Information:


The Farmers Market

Souk el Tayeb is an open air, weekly farmers market held every Saturday in downtown Beirut at the Beirut Souks, Trablos Street from 9am to 2pm.

Created in 2004, it was the first farmers market to open in Lebanon and is now a forum to share food, traditions and hospitality in a way that has helped bring together fractured communities.

Souk el Tayeb promotes unity around a common respect for food, land, and agricultural traditions. It aims to preserve food traditions and the culture of small farming in Lebanon, to protect the interests of the small farmers and producers and to enable them to compete with industrial and globalized food trade.

Ryta Sili's photo.
Ryta Sili's photo.

The farmers market was created as a private initiative by Kamal Mouzawak with the intent of creating a “souk” with the same vibrant energies of traditional “souks” but featuring the products of small farmers who bring to the market their knowledge – preserving centuries old Lebanese food traditions for future generations to enjoy.

The literal translation of Souk el Tayeb means “the good market (The tasty market)” – both good in taste and character.

By connecting consumers and producers, Souk el Tayeb promotes the consumption of local food, thereby giving livelihoods to small-scale farmers and enhance food knowledge and culture throughout Lebanon.

Souk el Tayeb’s weekly farmers market hosts around a 100 small producers from all over Lebanon who offer fresh, local, seasonal food products and organic produce, ranging from fruits and vegetables, “mouneh” (what can last for winter season), dairy products, ready- to- eat food and sweets alongside traditional, handmade crafts.

The market is divided into several sections:
Organic Section which includes certified organic products. The organic section covers over a third of the Souk Tayeb market.

Mixed Section
which includes both certified organic and conventional products.
Conventional Section which includes products that are naturally grown.

Handmade Crafts Section
boasting pottery, traditional soaps, kids books, straw baskets, etc.

Kids Section
used for different educational and entertainment activities for kids: storytelling, seed planting, arts and crafts, etc.

Information Stand
where information about the market and other Souk el Tayeb events can be found.


Small nations, renewable giants

‘What we’ve learned is that renewables is just a financial business

Uruguay gets 94.5% of its electricity from renewables. In addition to old hydropower plants, a hefty investment in wind, biomass and solar in recent years has raised the share of these sources in the total energy mix to 55%, compared with a global average of 12%, and about 20% in Europe.

Costa Rica went a record 94 consecutive days earlier this year without using fossil fuel for electricity, thanks to a mix of about 78% hydropower, 12% geothermal and 10% wind. The government has set a target of 100% renewable energy by 2021. But transport remains dirty.

Iceland has the advantage of being a nation of volcanoes, which has allowed it to tap geothermal sources of 85% of its heating and – with the assistance of hydropower – 100% of its electricity. This has made it the world’s largest green energy producer per capita.

Paraguay has one huge hydropower dam at Itaipu, which supplies 90% of the country’s electricity.

Lesotho gets 100% of its electricity from a cascade of dams that have enough spare capacity to export power to South Africa.

Bhutan’s abundant hydropower resources generate a surplus of electricity that accounts for more than 40% of the country’s export earnings. But over-reliance on one source can be a problem. In the dry season, it has to import power from India.

As the world gathers in Paris for the daunting task of switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy, one small country on the other side of the Atlantic is making that transition look childishly simple and affordable.

In less than 10 years, Uruguay has slashed its carbon footprint without government subsidies or higher consumer costs, according to the national director of energy, Ramón Méndez .

In fact, he says that now that renewables provide 94.5% of the country’s electricity, prices are lower than in the past relative to inflation. There are also fewer power cuts because a diverse energy mix means greater resilience to droughts.

It was a very different story just 15 years ago.

Back at the turn of the century oil accounted for 27% of Uruguay’s imports and a new pipeline was just about to begin supplying gas from Argentina.

Now the biggest item on import balance sheet is wind turbines, which fill the country’s ports on their way to installation.

Biomass and solar power have also been ramped up. Adding to existing hydropower, this means that renewables now account for 55% of the country’s overall energy mix (including transport fuel) compared with a global average share of 12%.

Despite its relatively small population of just 3.4 million, Uruguay has earned a remarkable amount of global kudos in recent years.

1. It enacted groundbreaking marijuana legalisation,

2.  pioneered stringent tobacco control, and

3. introduced some of the most liberal policies in Latin America on abortion and same-sex marriage.

Now, it is being recognised for progress on decarbonising its economy. It has been praised by the World Bank and the Economic commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the WWF last year named Uruguay among its “Green Energy Leaders”, proclaiming: “The country is defining global trends in renewable energy investment.”

Cementing that reputation, Méndez – who also heads climate policy – has gone to this week’s UN talks with one of the world’s most ambitious national pledges: an 88% cut in carbon emissions by 2017 compared with the average for 2009-13.

There are no technological miracles involved, nuclear power is entirely absent from the mix, and no new hydroelectric power has been added for more than two decades.

Instead, he says, the key to success is rather dull but encouragingly replicable: clear decision-making, a supportive regulatory environment and a strong partnership between the public and private sector.

As a result, energy investment – mostly for renewables, but also liquid gas – in Uruguay over the past five years has surged to $7bn, or 15% of the country’s annual GDP.

That is 5 times the average in Latin America and three times the global share recommended by climate economist Nicholas Stern.

“What we’ve learned is that renewables is just a financial business,” Méndez says. “The construction and maintenance costs are low, so as long as you give investors a secure environment, it is a very attractive.”

The effects are apparent on Route 5 from Montevideo to the north.

In less than 200 miles, you pass three agro-industrial plants running on biofuel and three windfarms . The biggest of them is the 115MW Peralta plant built and run by the German company, Enercon.

Its huge turbines – each 108 metres tall – tower over grasslands full of cattle and rhea birds .

Along with reliable wind – at an average of about 8mph – the main attraction for foreign investors like Enercon is a fixed price for 20 years that is guaranteed by the state utility.

Because maintenance costs are low (just 10 staff) and stable, this guarantees a profit.

As a result, foreign firms are lining up to secure windfarm contracts. The competition is pushing down bids, cutting electricity generating costs by more than 30% over the past three years.

Christian Schaefer, supervising technician at Enercon said his company was hoping to expand and another German company Nordex is already building an even bigger plant further north along route five.

Trucks carrying turbines, towers and blades are now a common sight on the country’s roads.

Compared to most other small countries with high proportions of renewables, the mix is diverse.

While Paraguay, Bhutan and Lesotho rely almost solely on hydro and Iceland on geothermal, Uruguay has a spread that makes it more resilient to changes in the climate.

Wind-farms such as Peralta now feed into hydro power plants so that dams can maintain their reservoirs longer after rainy seasons.

According to Méndez, this has reduced vulnerability to drought by 70% – no small benefit considering a dry year used to cost the country nearly 2% of GDP.

This is not the only benefit for the economy. “For three years we haven’t imported a single kilowatt hour,” Méndez says. “We used to be reliant on electricity imports from Argentina, but now we export to them. Last summer, we sold a third of our power generation to them.”

There is still a lot to do. The transport sector still depends on oil (which accounts for 45% of the total energy mix). But industry – mostly agricultural processing – is now powered predominantly by biomass cogeneration plants.

Méndez attributed Uruguay’s success to three key factors:

1. credibility (a stable democracy that has never defaulted on its debts so it is attractive for long-term investments);

2. helpful natural conditions (good wind, decent solar radiation and lots of biomass from agriculture); and

3. strong public companies (which are a reliable partner for private firms and can work with the state to create an attractive operating environment).

While not every country in the world can replicate this model, he said Uruguay had proved that renewables can reduce generation costs, can meet well over 90% of electricity demand without the back-up of coal or nuclear power plants, and the public and private sectors can work together effectively in this field.






December 2015

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