Adonis Diaries

Archive for September 22nd, 2016

Weapons Makers hold Lavish fests for Pentagon Official

Here’s what passes for funny in a room packed full of weapons-industry executives and lobbyists: When Vice Adm. Joseph Rixey — the man in charge of the Pentagon agency that administers foreign arms sales — said “I know you don’t go after human rights violators for potential customers.

and posted this Sep. 19 2016

The line produced chuckles in the room.

Rixey was the guest of honor at a reception Wednesday hosted by the Senate Aerospace Caucus, a group of more than a dozen senators who “work to ensure a strong, secure, and competitive American aerospace sector,” according to their mission statement online. The event in a sumptuous Senate reception room was cohosted by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), the lobbying group for weapons contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon.

Rixey is the director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the Pentagon agency charged with overseeing the Pentagon’s relations with the militaries of U.S. allies.

As such, DSCA plays a key role in many foreign military sales to other countries, often acting as an intermediary and looking for a producer in the United States.

In other words, when foreign countries want to buy U.S. weapons, the DSCA finds them — either in U.S. stockpiles, but more often by signing lucrative contracts with defense contractors.

According to Rixey, over the past year, the DSCA has approved upwards of $47 billion in such contracts, for weapons transfers to countries like Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.…

The AIA chair, Lockheed Martin CEO Marilyn Hewson, showered Rixey with praise. “As director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, Adm. Rixey performs a crucial role in this effort. Thank you admiral for all that you do, to help, and thank you for being here tonight, but for all that you do in helping us to sell our products and to partner with countries around the world,” she said.

AIA President David Melcher also had warm words. “Joe Rixey’s done tabletops with industry and with his own team, he’s done the right things to try and move this thing along, and I couldn’t be more pleased to introduce somebody who really is trying to make a difference and make government work,” he said.

In his own remarks, Rixey lauded the relationship between the DSCA and industry. “We at DSCA are thankful that we have the support of our counterparts within the United States government and with defense industries as we look to find areas we can continue to collaborate, improve efficiencies, and overall effectiveness,” he said.

Rixey was joined by caucus co-chairs Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., who praised the industry for its role in overseas weapons sales on both foreign policy and economic grounds. As they spoke alongside representatives from the weapons industry, guests were treated to an open bar, and an assortment of food that included artisan cheeses, chocolate covered strawberries, and macarons.

The aerospace industry helps keep the world safe and stable by strengthening our relationships with our allies and building our partners’ capabilities,” Murray told the arrayed lobbyists. “I want to thank all of you again for being here tonight and your interest in what I consider to be one of — if not the most — important industries in my home state of Washington, and America.” Boeing is the largest private employer in Washington state.

Moran asked AIA for its help in passing appropriations bills.

“If you can help us advocate both here in the Senate and with our colleagues in the House, beg us, insist, hold the proverbial gun to our head to make certain that we do appropriations bills when we return in December,” he said.

Officials from the group thanked the senators for their support. Murray has long been an advocate for robust spending on aerospace industry priorities, as has Moran.

“On behalf of the entire industry we thank you very much for your support,” Hewson told Moran and Murray.

The 2007 Honest Leadership and Open Government Act was meant to stop lobbyists from treating lawmakers and government officials to fancy dinners, or lavish parties.

But the law had many loopholes — including a notorious “toothpick rule” allowing them to serve as much finger food as guests can eat.

Top photo: The CEO of Lockheed Martin and others mingle at a Capitol Hill event with the DSCA chief on Sept. 14.

Lebanon’s Waste Management Policies Still Stink:

Back to initial phase?

And getting worse this time around?

The foul odors of waste profiteering, corruption, and the illegal grab of public funds are back in the public eye. Not that they ever disappeared, really.

One year after the onset of Lebanon’s waste crisis, the ruling junta is still trying to push unsustainable and overly expensive waste management plans, which only benefit the ruling political parties and their cronies.

The situation can be summarized by the following:

Lebanon produces an estimated 5,000 tons of municipal solid waste each day.

Until last year, one company, Sukleen (Averda), managed waste collection and treatment comprising about 50% of this total, specifically in the areas of Greater Beirut, Mount Lebanon, and Kesruwan, covering about 400 municipalities.

Sukleen, which has been operating since 1994 under a contract with the Council of Development and Reconstruction (CDR), has seen its contract renewed without an open tender by the Council of Ministers (in which most ruling parties are represented).

This has occurred three times, and each time the collection and processing fees have increased, all paid using transfers from the Independent Municipal Fund.

The operation started with 800 tons per day in 1994, and grew to 2,600 tons per day in 2015, all dumped with minimal sorting and recycling in the Naameh landfill, which had already reached its absorptive capacity ten years ago.

Sukleen’s revenues were estimated at more than $170 million per year (about $150/ton), one of the highest rates in the world. Many suspected that a sizeable chunk of these revenues were channeled through kickbacks to political leaders to ensure “smooth operations”.

With the closing of Naameh by protesters in early 2015, the government made a series of so-called waste management decisions, all coordinated by the CDR in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities and Ministry of Environment.

At the beginning of 2015, the government decided to divide the country into six regions (and therefore Sukleen’s “region” into three), and invited bids for waste management in each region.

In April 2015, bidding was closed for the new plan, and unsurprisingly no bids were received for Beirut and Mount Lebanon. Only one bid per region was received for the North, Bekaa, and South.

Following massive protests in the summer of 2015, the government cancelled the bids and decided in November 2015 to export waste, again through plans managed by the CDR.

The overly expensive and disastrous scheme faced opposition from a range of activists, especially when details about corruption and falsification of documents emerged by the retained company, Shinook. By early 2016, the export plan was dropped.

In March 2016, the Chehayeb Plan (named after Minister Akram Chehayeb) was approved by the Council of Ministers.

Briefly, the 4-year plan re-opened the call for bidding through the CDR for companies to manage waste in “Sukleen regions”, yet it also entailed the construction of two coastal landfills in Bourj Hammoud (northern Beirut suburb) and Costa Brava (southern Beirut suburb, near the capital’s airport).

The municipalities surrounding the new landfills received sizeable monetary incentives: $40 million each (municipalities of Bourj Hammoud, Jdeideh-Bouchrieh, Bourj al-Barajneh, and Choueifat), $50 million for the three regions for developmental projects over four years, and the right for these municipalities to exploit the coastal landfilled areas.

The regions of Aley and Chouf were excluded from the initial plan since no landfill was secured there (and trash has been piling up ever since in these regions).

The CDR immediately began launching calls for tenders for all components of this new plan. The Bourj Hammoud landfill contract was awarded in June 2016 for $77 million and Costa Brava in July 2016 to the Jihad Al Arab company for $60 million (Jihad Al Arab was allowed to present a lower bid even after his first one was dismissed).

On 2 September 2016, a bid by Jihad Al Arab was also retained by the CDR for the sorting and treatment of waste in all “Sukleen regions”, at a cost of $81 million over four years. The collection and waste transport contract will remain with Sukleen until the bidding process is formally launched.

All in all, one year after the first street protests succeeded in countering the government’s corrupt plans, we now have a “Chehayeb Plan” that costs $528 million over four years, not counting the money wasted on short fixes in Naameh in 2016 (almost $10 million), and other funds spent on “consultants”.

A simple calculation shows that the cost per ton of this corrupt plan is well over $130 million per year, which is about $170 per ton if one includes the collection and transport costs.

This is $20 per ton more than what Lebanon used to pay for Sukleen. Additionally, one must consider the cost of environmental degradation to the coastline due to new landfills and the health and safety risks they create (most importantly on flights through the airport), among other factors.

The corrupt ruling class, by reverting back to a costly centralized waste management plan through the CDR, has continued its rent redistribution practices to secure allegiances among their cronies.

What Sukleen was suspected of practicing under the table is now overtly implemented through the “Chehayeb Plan”, with hefty “compensation payments” and real estate gains for municipalities (and to the political parties controlling them).

Similar to what happened in the electricity, water, and other essential sectors, the ruling class continues to divide up the “cake”, while citizens and the next generations pay the highest price.

In light of widespread corruption and the lack of transparency, the role of oversight bodies (such as the largely absent Court of Accounts) and the parliament has not been capitalized on in order to address the citizenry’s interests.

It is particularly odd, and some would argue worrying, that MPs have not called for a session to question the government on how the trash crisis managed to reach this stage. For their part, political parties have also failed their constituents, as they have continually refused to work toward a solution which is both sustainable for the country as a whole and in the best interests of the people they represent.

The only solution to counter these schemes is the decentralization of waste management, where every municipality implements sorting at the source, and commits to waste reduction, recycling, and treatment of organic waste into compost.

This yields the lowest environmental and financial costs, and reduces the size of the “cake”. In parallel, the institutions of this ruling cartel should be at least bypassed, if not completely dismantled. A matter of particular importance is reforming the CDR to ensure there is an accountable procurement system in place.

Also, as part of the solution, Lebanon must take additional steps in conjunction with institutional decentralization by embracing a strong role for oversight agencies and the parliament.

Without these measures, the crisis will threaten to drag on, and in the event a “solution” is found without necessary oversight, the powers that be have demonstrated their preferred course of action will not be sustainable, apart from ensuring state money lands in the hands of Lebanon’s corrupt elite.

Tonnie Ch shared The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies.

Natural sleep cycle altered?

In today’s world, balancing school, work, kids and more, most of us can only hope for the recommended eight hours of sleep.

Examining the science behind our body’s internal clock, Jessa Gamble reveals the surprising and substantial program of rest we should be observing.

Jessa Gamble. Writer. writes about sleep and time, showing how our internal body clock struggles against our always-on global culture. Full bio

Filmed Jul. 2010

Let’s start with day and night. Life evolved under conditions of light and darkness, light and then darkness.

And so plants and animals developed their own internal clocks so that they would be ready for these changes in light. These are chemical clocks, and they’re found in every known being that has two or more cells and in some that only have one cell.

0:34 I’ll give you an example — if you take a horseshoe crab off the beach, and you fly it all the way across the continent, and you drop it into a sloped cage, it will scramble up the floor of the cage as the tide is rising on its home shores, and it’ll skitter down again right as the water is receding thousands of miles away.

It’ll do this for weeks, until it kind of gradually loses the plot. And it’s incredible to watch, but there’s nothing psychic or paranormal going on; it’s simply that these crabs have internal cycles that correspond, usually, with what’s going on around it.

we have this ability as well. And in humans, we call it the “body clock.” You can see this most clearly when you take away someone’s watch and you shut them into a bunker, deep underground, for a couple of months. (Laughter)

People actually volunteer for this, and they usually come out kind of raving about their productive time in the hole. So, no matter how atypical these subjects would have to be, they all show the same thing. They get up just a little bit later every day — say 15 minutes or so — and they kind of drift all the way around the clock like this over the course of the weeks.

in this way we know that they are working on their own internal clocks, rather than somehow sensing the day outside.

 we have a body clock, and it turns out that it’s incredibly important in our lives.

It’s a huge driver for culture and I think that it’s the most underrated force on our behavior. We evolved as a species near the equator, and so we’re very well-equipped to deal with 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness.

But of course, we’ve spread to every corner of the globe and in Arctic Canada, where I live, we have perpetual daylight in summer and 24 hours of darkness in winter. So the culture, the northern aboriginal culture, traditionally has been highly seasonal.

In winter, there’s a lot of sleeping going on; you enjoy your family life inside. And in summer, it’s almost manic hunting and working activity very long hours, very active.

what would our natural rhythm look like? What would our sleeping patterns be in the sort of ideal sense?

 it turns out that when people are living without any sort of artificial light at all, they sleep twice every night. They go to bed around 8:00 p.m. until midnight and then again, they sleep from about 2:00 a.m. until sunrise.

And in-between, they have a couple of hours of sort of meditative quiet in bed.

And during this time, there’s a surge of prolactin, the likes of which a modern day never sees. The people in these studies report feeling so awake during the daytime, that they realize they’re experiencing true wakefulness for the first time in their lives. (And they procreate in the in-between hours)

3:25 So, cut to the modern day. We’re living in a culture of jet lag, global travel, 24-hour business, shift work.

And you know, our modern ways of doing things have their advantages, but I believe we should understand the costs.




September 2016

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