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Thursday, April 30

Big reason China raced a search and rescue team to Nepal: Chinese workers trapped at hydropower dam

 Circle of Blue reports April 30:  Nepal Earthquake Damages Hydropower Dam:  Workers rescued from dam under construction by a Chinese company near the quake’s epicenter.

By Keith Schneider
Circle of Blue

China is mounting an arduous mission today to rescue 250 workers trapped at a hydropower station under construction near the epicenter of the earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25, according to Xinhua, the China Central Government news agency.

The condition of two more existing hydropower stations is not known, said Nepal authorities.Hydroworld, an industry trade magazine, reported that the 144-megawatt Kaligandaki hydroelectric power station and 22.1-megawatt Chilime hydropower plant “may have been affected according to news reports from the area.” The two facilities have not been visited by inspectors.

Kaligandaki, Nepal’s largest hydropower plant, is about 300 kilometers (187 miles) west of Kathmandu near Mirmi in Syangja District. Chilime is in the district of Rasuwa, which is 133 kilometers (83 miles) north of Kathmandu.

The China Three Gorges Company said on its website that the huge earthquake, which registered 7.9 on the Richter scale, caused serious damage to the 111-megawatt Rasuwagadhi Hydropower station, which it started to build two years ago 67 kilometers (41 miles) west of the quake’s epicenter. The company reported that two workers were killed in the quake and several were seriously injured. On April 28, a child and 24 other people were airlifted by helicopter to nearby Jilung County in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, according to the quake relief headquarters in Jilung.

All roads to the dam are cut off, the company said in a statement, and food supplies are running low.
[...]

I'm going to break off there because I'm just not in the mood today to read about Indian and Chinese plans to use Nepal's hydropower 'capacity' but I'll pass along this zinger from the report:

"Nepal can free India of its darkness with its electricity,” said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Clearly highest-ranking Indian and Chinese officials have confused Nepal with South Africa.

The irony is that unlike their leaders, Indians who neighbor Nepal's treacherous mountain terrain have their heads screwed on straight.  To return to Schneider for another zinger:
Concerns about earthquakes, floods, and huge landslides also prompted a powerful opposition movement in Arunachal Pradesh, a Himalayan state in neighboring India, that halted construction of the 2,000-megawatt Lower Subansiri dam in 2010.
Go read the entire report, if you're in the mood for a really sick cartoon.

********   

Hashing Out the New Age


American social scientist David Ronfeldt, whose TIMN laid out the road map



Belgian Michel Bauwens, P2P Philosopher Extraordinaire
Peer-to-peer (P2P) is a decentralized communications model in which each party has the same capabilities and either party can initiate a communication session.  




American Paul Glover, for more than a quarter century showing people how their communities can solve their own problems




Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the job in earlier days
When nobody in the palace had any idea how rural Thailand actually worked he embarked on his own field research.  The result was  Sufficiency Philosophy, laying out how villagers can be fully independent. 
  


American physicist and independent communities visionary
Neil Gershenfeld in a Fab Lab


d


American engineer Tom Waite, inventor of Argonaut portable water purifier and CEO Argonaut Water ; Ethiopia's Prince Emmias Sahle-Selassi, intellectual powerhouse behind Water Initiative for Africa, with Argonaut Villager water purifier, which sets rural communities free of dependence on state-run water treatment schemes that don't deliver.


How Argonaut Villager Works







American Katherine Lucey, teaching rural Ugandan women they don't need to wait on the state to cleanly and safely light their homes


Note the number of Americans featured. So when people say American influence is waning in the world, they're actually talking about the waning of a social model that no longer works. There are plenty of Americans, many more than on this list, who're hashing out an influential new model. 

What could the new model be called? Too soon for a name, but it'll be something like Enlightened Self-Sufficiency.

The outline of the new model has already taken shape. The task now is creating action paths within the model that can be readily communicated.

It's a myth that most people are sheep-like. It's just that most people aren't able to work out for themselves a new way of doing things when the routine one isn't working for them any longer.

But when you consider that much of the do-it-yourself approach is actually dependent on transmitted lore, the flaw in the 'sheeple' argument becomes evident. In many things we have to be shown how it's done before we can do it ourselves.

All this is very far from the political paradigm that has dominated for two centuries. But to attempt to bring change within that paradigm is like trying to get a horse and buggy to travel 100 mph.

The problem isn't the need for a political revolution, which is unnecessary and even counterproductive. The problem is whether the new model will be fully operational by the time humanity needs it most.

********

Split Second

 New York Times 4/26:
"In the seconds before the earthquake struck, Mr. Lama said, it felt as if it suddenly became very windy outside. Birds flew away in a frenzy. He grabbed his 2-year-old son and ran from the building as bricks fell on his head. On Sunday, among the dusty piles of debris that were once his home, were a pair of socks, pages of a book and a padlock."
But he and his son, alive.

I'm remembering what I wrote in 2011 in a post titled, The sciences of heaven and earth, the 'still small voice in the night,' and earthquake prediction.  The reasoning informing Jim Berkland's prediction about an earthquake was very iffy and turned out to be a dud, but --
I'd say this is the time for Americans and Canadians living along the Ring of Fire to pay special attention to the behavior of their pets and neighborhood wildlife and to focus more inward, on the "still small voice" than on the passing show. ... 
Mr Lama knew how to listen. Gave him a split-second advantage.

*********

Wednesday, April 29

Exodus

Megalopolis freaks and their political cadres ignored the countrysides and now water shortages, disease, overcrowding, and natural disasters are starting to tally the price

Nepalese police push back residents who began protesting after waiting for hours in line to board buses from Kathmandu. Photograph: Prakash Nathema/AFP/Getty Images via the Guardian

If this story sounds familiar, I wrote recently that many Sao Paulo residents have fled awful conditions in the megacity as water shortages there worsened this year. This is just the beginning of flights from many badly overcrowded cities that are unable to provide even basic services for all but the well off.  
The exodus trend back to the countrysides is getting a boost in the aftermath of the quake in Nepal, which finds the government there overwhelmed by the disaster, only worsening conditions in Kathmandu, another of those villages that grew topsy-turvey into a city -- in this case, more than a million people with foreign tourist influxes of more than 300,000 during the season.
By the way Nepal's water situation even before the earthquake was a disaster in itself. 
From the Guardian, April 29 (full report includes an update on the allover disaster response in Nepal).

Kathmandu daily exodus may reach 300,000 as residents flee chaos

More than 100,000 have already left the badly damaged capital of Nepal, heading for distant regions to escape the threat of aftershocks, lawlessness and disease
[...]
Queues up to half a mile long formed in the capital Kathmandu on Wednesday, as people who have had to survive on little or no food and water seized the opportunity to receive badly needed essentials.
As a Save the Children convoy passed through the city on its way to villages near the magnitude-7.8 earthquake’s epicentre, it became clear that thousands of residents simply have nowhere to go, their homes having been flattened by violent seismic movement late on Saturday morning.
[...]
There were chaotic scenes at the city’s main bus station, where riot police intervened as hundreds fought for the few available seats to get back to distant villages to be with their families or check on property. To a man, woman and child, they looked haggard, tired and worried. [...]

From CBS News, April 29:

Nepal quake sparks exodus of fear, frustration
[...]
CBS News correspondent Seth Doane reports that in the capital of Kathmandu, frustration is mounting fast over the response to the disaster, and people are trying to get out of the badly damaged city.

Thousands are fleeing to villages or family homes outside the valley in which Kathmandu sits, some to check on their loved ones, others hoping life outside the ancient capital will be better.

On the streets of Kathmandu, Doane found mounting frustration -- people protesting what they consider government inaction -- and police in riot gear for the first time since the quake.

Hundreds of people lined up in dismal weather to try to get out of the capital. The government is offering free bus tickets to remote villages, but the buses are overflowing and tickets are scarce.

Smita Rai, 16, said she felt lucky to get one.

"I am leaving this, Kathmandu, because we cannot stay now here because of various diseases," she told Doane. She wants to go back to her family home.

Nearby, at a camp for those displaced by the disaster, Doane found more people on the move. They came to avoid the aftershocks, but now they're leaving, also out of fear of spreading illness.

Doctor Roshan Kumar was tending to the ill. He said he's hearing more and more of those fears, and he says they're not entirely misplaced, "because some communicable disease are due to the overcrowding."

He told CBS News the first disaster was the earthquake, but he worries a second one could be coming in the form of a public health crisis.
[END REPORT]
See also: Wall Street Journal, April 29, Aftermath of Nepal Earthquake Widens the Country’s Political Divisions: Maoists criticize prime minister for moving too slowly, being ‘insensitive’
********  


One foot in the god realm



This isn't the essay I meant to write -- I was going to dash off something about the latest news on the onrushing war between Russia and the United States -- but I wanted to take a few moments to gather my wits, and sometimes the best way is to exhort others to do the same.


This astounding era in communications has given ordinary mortals a panoramic view of human events that is godlike in some respects, but without a god's ability to intervene at will to change the course of events.

Yet it's easy to become so accustomed to the power of our technologies we forget that human nature, for all its experience, can't keep up and neither can our emotions.


At those times it's necessary to take a careful step backward, to inflict King Bhumibol Adulyadej on you once again.


Yet it takes tremendous self-discipline to make the step onto the back foot, as the whole of Greek myth seems designed to instruct. Puffed up with the power of their seeming omniscience and omnipotence, working themselves into towers of outrage at perceived injustices, gods make rookie mistakes that even a human five-year old wouldn't commit.


And so a god falls to earth. Then the old man hobbles up and cackles, 'Fall off the horsie, get back on, sonny.'


It's incredibly hard in the heat of events to match our compassion with dispassion, to recall that the panorama no matter how visible to our eyes is only a fraction of what we can see.  This, however, is the challenge for the far-seeing among us in the present era.

How to master the challenge? I'm going to try to take tips from King Bhumibol, a one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind. Watch where your feet take you.  Step back when you're going too fast. 




The mother in the first photograph is holding an inexpensive off-the-grid solar powered lantern she purchased from a Ugandan Solar Sister female entrepreneur working from the old Avon Cosmetics sales and distribution model, which provides women in rural Uganda with a "business in a bag."  

Solar Sisters is the brainchild of an American named Katherine Lucey who was an energy sector investment banker and project finance specialist for 20 years before deciding she wanted to help Ugandans learn to use clean energy.   

Yet the project was almost derailed by well-meaning Westerners, as Lucey explained:
"People hear about the need for clean energy and then they say, 'That's great, I'll buy a million lights [for free distribution to Ugandans] because I hear Katherine talking about how it's needed. But that severely disrupts the baby markets that are developing. My entrepreneurs can't compete with free."
Careful steps foward.  Step back when the road ahead is clearly fraught with pitfalls. By such simple measures we gain the distant horizon.   



*******


Tuesday, April 28

Good review on how to help crisis victims in far-off lands UPDATED 4:15 AM EDT 4/29

UPDATE
This CNN report is from yesterday but it lays out the major factors making aid distribution hard in the country. Also has a chart showing which foreign countries have aid workers in Nepal. Interestingly the chart shows that Taiwan has 20 workers in the country.  Yet the chart doesn't include India, which of course has workers in the country.   So I dunno.  Anyhow, the overview of the main obstacles is good.
 ********

1. From NPR:

What You Need To Know Before Donating To Earthquake Relief For Nepal
by Diane Cole
April 28, 2015 5:46 PM ET

Great review of all the basics and helpful links for individuals who want to do charitable giving to help foreigners (and fellow citizens) in crisis. Cole leads off by citing an expert on the top point:  if you're going to give, do it fast in a disaster situation, because it's the early days and weeks where financial assistance is the big lifesaver.  

Yet the need for speed puts tremendous pressure on the giver to assure the donation is going to the right people and being disbursed fast.  And in a country like Nepal, giving to established humanitarian aid networks in the country is key -- networks that have or can quickly muster the ability to deal with a flood of donations.  With both issues, the NPR report is helpful. 

But I'll add that internet tech types can donate their time to helping smaller humanitarian aid organizations with good networks gear up fast for a big influx of donations and queries.    
    
2. Beware "Voluntourism."  From Slate:

Don’t Go to Nepal to Help. Stay Home and Send Money Instead!
If you hop on the next flight to Kathmandu, you will cause more problems than you solve.
By Jessica Alexander
April 27, 2015

Tough, even cynical advice from an expert who knows the ropes of humanitarian aid, which she mentions has been described as "the world’s most unregulated industry."

But her aim in the writing is to save amateurs from rookie mistakes that only make matters worse for the victims of a disaster and the professionals on the ground rendering help. 

3.  For those looking for pointers on which charities to investigate -- here's TIME's list with links for 6 charities working in Nepal; these in addition to the list that the magazine published on Monday.     

********

Almost

I'm giving this update to Cold-blooded Earthquake Politics ...  it's own post; this for readers who wondered why I addressed my plea to Nepal's President rather than the Prime Minister.  Plus it provides news on the government's latest position on search and rescue teams.

UPDATE 3  - 7:30 PM EDT (see end of post for first two)
Nepal's Prime Minister, Sushil Koirala, was out of the country when the earthquake struck and from this 4/25 NDTV report, India's PM Modi couldn't make contact with him on the day of the quake, so Modi offered condolences to the country's President, Ram Baran Yadav. It was unclear to me from subsequent reports when Koirala returned to Nepal, but it looked as if Yadav, at least in early hours of the crisis, was in the hotseat when it came to decisions about which foreign search and rescue teams to admit to the country. 

The issue may or may not be water under the bridge at this point.  There is a big 'fog of war' element about the entire crisis, which is understandable, of course, given conditions in the country.  But from this Reuters report today, updated at 7:00 PM EDT, and from a few statements sprinkled in other reports today, it almost seems as if there's confusion or a disagreement behind the scenes about the issue of the foreign S and R teams. Reuters writes:
Prime Minister Sushil Koirala told Reuters the death toll could reach 10,000, as information on damage from far-flung villages and towns has yet to come in.
 "The government is doing all it can for rescue and relief on a war footing," Koirala said. "It is a challenge and a very difficult hour for Nepal."
Then --
Nepal told aid agencies it did not need more foreign rescue teams to help search for survivors, because its government and military could cope, the national head of the United Nations Development Programme told Reuters.
"Nepal told" is diplospeak, which I myself had to fall back on in the original post because it wasn't clear who was in charge at the time.  

Other passages in the Reuters report discuss the amount of time that's passed since the quake, with one foreign aid worker noting that by day 5 the chance of finding buried survivors is zero. More or less true, although many people buried in rubble have survived longer if they're lodged in an air pocket and have access to water. But with ongoing severe aftershocks, mudslides burying at least one village, etc., there still seems a need for S and R teams. 

More to the point, search teams aren't only needed for those buried alive.  An earlier Reuters report (see first update, below) discusses Nepalis, angry at no help in sight (and still in shock from the quake), digging with their bare hands through rubble to find bodies of relatives.  Many bodies are still missing, and if Koirala's estimate of the dead is near the mark there will be a need in the coming days for as many foreign search teams as the country's international airport can accept.     

As I mentioned in the original post, I also think it would have been a very good move to bring in the Taiwanese S and R team at the early stage because their network of Buddhist contacts in Nepal would have been a force multiplier. 

But it's too late now for the early stage, and at this point parsing the meaning of official utterances is a waste of time and almost cruel in the context of the crisis. Almost. 

********

What American descendants of African slaves need to know to set them free

From Sven Beckert's summary of his magnum opus, Empire of Cotton: A Global History, for The Atlantic, December 12, 2014:
Considering these fears, it was the more remarkable that 4 million slaves in the United States—among them the world’s most important cotton growers—gained their freedom during or immediately after the war. 
Encouraged by their perception of their masters’ weakness in the face of a national government bent on subduing the rebels, slaves embarked upon an agrarian insurrection. By deserting plantations, withdrawing their labor power, giving intelligence to federal troops, and eventually taking up arms as Union soldiers, American slaves pressed to make a sectional war into a war of emancipation. And they succeeded. 
Never before and never thereafter did cotton growers revolt with similar success, their strength fortuitously amplified by a deep and irreconcilable split within the nation’s elite. 
Many white Americans have a very odd attitude toward American descendants of African slaves. They unconsciously treat them as if they suffer from a severe permanent physical handicap.

This has entrenched the idea among these blacks that their chief identity is that of the victim. The way Antebellum and Civil War history are taught in the United States supports the idea and moreover the idea that African slaves were by and large helpless victims rescued by white Northerners.

With just a few words, Sven Beckert dispels the entire myth.

Yet the myth made it easy for generations of Democratic Party operatives to persuade millions of American blacks that their only route to getting ahead was to play their natural state of victimhood to the hilt. But they never told them the price for traveling the route.

So here we are today.


Same as where we were yesterday, and the day before and before. And nothing's going to move off the dime until all American schoolchildren are taught the truth, which is that slaves of African descent in the southern states were as much responsible for their emancipation as Union troops and Abraham Lincoln. 

American descendants of African slaves who don't know the history are living under a kind of spell. It's the spell that has to be broken before they can really be free.
**********


Baltimore Riots: I smell a rat

"BALTIMORE (WJZ) – Governor Larry Hogan has declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to address the growing violence and unrest in Baltimore City. “I have not made this decision lightly. The National Guard represents a last resort in order to restore order,” Hogan said during a news conference Monday night."

The Guard arrived in Baltimore shortly after midnight.

I'll assume readers outside Maryland and the Greater Washington DC area don't know anything about Maryland politics and so can't imagine how ticked off the Democratic Party machine is that Larry Hogan is the governor. These quotes from a Washington Post report dated November 5, 2014, are a fast way to get a feel for the situation:

Republican businessman Larry Hogan pulled off a stunning upset in heavily Democratic Maryland on Tuesday, winning the governor's race against Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown by relentlessly promising to roll back tax increases and chart a new direction for the state.
Shortly after midnight, Brown conceded a race that he lost despite the strong support of the state’s Democratic establishment and visits to Maryland in the closing weeks of the campaign by President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Hogan’s victory — a repudiation of the eight-year tenure of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) — means that Annapolis will return to divided government for the first time since 2006. It remains to be seen how much Hogan and his running mate, Lt. Gov.-elect Boyd Rutherford, will be able to accomplish with a Democratic-controlled legislature. Their victory sent a strong message that Marylanders had grown weary of the tax increases enacted under O’Malley ...
[...]
Brown, the son of a Jamaican father and a Swiss mother, was attempting to become the first African American governor of Maryland and only the third elected anywhere in the nation. ...
The White House sent these members of the administration to Freddie Gray's funeral, in a move that given the high tension surrounding Gray's death and his funeral yesterday was bound to pour fuel on the flames.
The White House sent Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, chair of the Obama administration's My Brother's Keeper Task Force; Heather Foster, an adviser in the White House Office of Public Engagement; and Elias Alcantara from the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.
See also Days of Protest Days After Freddie Gray's Death; Baltimore Sun, April 25

********

Baltimore Riots: Congratulations to President Obama for making a Republican the next President

It's not just the Baltimore riots; that city is only the latest in the USA to see rioting that is so obviously anti-white, charges of police brutality are just a peg on which to hang the real spirit of the riots. And the presence of white agitators among the black mobs only underscores the racialist nature of the political agenda that draws those agitators.

In an effort to save the DNC's skin Obama will inflict another of his Teachable Moments on the American populace. And CNN and other of his media sycophants will try to shift all the blame for Baltimore onto Al Sharpton and other black demagogues.  But Obama has done everything to encourage race-baiters and he's done it well.

All the race baiting in the world can't cover up the fact that many moons ago black American leaders, in league with white Democratic Party bosses, made a horrifically bad strategic mistake. Not for themselves, of course. They cleaned up, although they were the only ones who did among their target audience.  They sold American blacks on the idea that before they could climb the economic ladder, first they had to gain political power in the USA.

In 2012 Jason Riley, at the time a member of the Wall Street Editorial Board -- and a black American, I might add -- put paid to the myth.  So this is a good time to pull the editorial from the WSJ archive and feature it here, in full.  I hope the DNC chokes on it.

But before turning over the floor to Riley I have one criticism of his editorial. I was going to write him at the time of its publication to alert him that he missed a group of black Americans, perhaps because the history of the Nation of Islam has been so greatly distorted and he would be too young to have personally observed the group at the time I did.

I don't know how it was with the Chicago branch of the sect but I saw with my own eyes what NOI members in New York City were like in the early 1970s.  I'm sorry to offend the Christian crusaders among my readers but those Muslims were Norman Rockwell's America in blackface.  They embodied the small town values that are the backbone of this country

But they took one listen to the New York Democratic Party bosses and reminded each other, 'Never believe a word the white man tells you and especially never believe what a Yankee says.'

So instead of buying into the rap that politics was the route, they looked at how the Jewish immigrants did it. Then they taught themselves the rudiments of business and started small businesses.  I can still remember Shabazz bean pies; they were delicious.

There were a lot of business failures; it was a steep learning curve for people who'd come from farms.  But they kept at it and again, did what the Jews did; they pooled their money and supported each other. They also refused welfare.

 In that way they pulled themselves up out of grinding poverty.

Moreover, you couldn't find better neighbors, no matter what your color. They kept to themselves but they were unfailingly polite. And there was no such thing as a NOI teen on drugs, getting pregnant out of wedlock, or commiting a crime. Or failing in school.

That also meant the NOI children were saved from the drug plague that swept New York City. It was downright Biblical.

But the DNC doesn't like to talk about that history.  Neither does the RNC, by the way. When it came to dealing with the Black Problem, Republican politicians preferred to get along and go along with the Democratic machine in New York. And of course neither party liked Muslims in those days.
     
For Blacks, the Pyrrhic Victory of the Obama Era
Minorities do better to focus on economic gains, not political success.
By JASON L. RILEY
November 4, 2012 - 6:43 p.m. EST
The Wall Street Journal

There has been much dispute in recent weeks about the accuracy of the presidential polls, but you don't need a political scientist to tell you that Barack Obama can count on strong black support come Nov. 6.

Four years ago, 95% of black voters went for Mr. Obama, and he is likely to win something approaching that percentage in his re-election bid, notwithstanding economic data showing that blacks have lost ground on his watch.

When the president assumed office, unemployment was 12.7% for blacks and 7.1% for whites. Today it is 14.3% for blacks and 7% for whites, which means that the black-white employment gap has not merely persisted under Mr. Obama but widened.

No matter. The president's approval rating among African-Americans is pushing 90%, and a Washington Post/ABC News tracking poll last week found that 97% of blacks plan to double down on him in this election. Racial pride surely plays some part in these attitudes, as does traditional black support of Democratic presidential candidates over the past four decades.

But another factor is the abiding belief among civil-rights leaders that political activity is essential for black upward mobility.

Long after the passage of landmark civil-rights legislation, black leaders have continued to focus on integrating political institutions to redress social and economic problems. Demands for black access to the ballot have morphed into demands for "safe" black seats in Congress and "proportionate" representation among elected officials. Mr. Obama's victory in 2008 was the ultimate realization of this thinking.

The Rev. C.T. Vivian, a close associate of Martin Luther King Jr., told Obama biographer David Remnick that King was a "prophet," and the "politician of our age, who comes along to follow that prophet, is Barack Obama. Martin laid the moral and spiritual base for the political reality to follow."

But the historical reality for other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. is that political success has not been necessary for economic advancement. Germans were a third of the population in colonial Pennsylvania yet studiously avoided public office. Only after Germans had risen economically did they begin to distinguish themselves in politics. The impoverished Eastern European Jews who began arriving here in large numbers in the 1880s made little impact politically until well after they had established themselves economically.

Conversely, the Irish enjoyed tremendous political success in the latter part of the 19th century, yet they experienced a slower rise from poverty than Germans, Jews, Italians and other groups. "The Irish were fiercely loyal to each other," notes economist Thomas Sowell, who has spent decades tracing the history of racial and ethnic populations.

"This had little effect on the average Irish-American, who began to reach economic prosperity in the 20th century at about the same time when the Irish political machines began to decline."

Today, Asian-Americans are the nation's best-educated and highest-earning racial group. According to a Pew study released earlier this year, 49% of Asians age 25 and older hold bachelor's degrees, compared with 31% of whites and 18% of blacks. The median household income for Asians is $66,000, which is $12,000 more than white households and double that of black households.

As with other groups, political clout has not been a precondition of Asian socioeconomic advancement.

There are a handful of prominent Asian-American politicians today, including Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Nikki Haley of South Carolina, but Asians have tended to avoid politics compared with other groups. Between 1990 and 2000, for example, the number of elected officials grew by 23% for blacks but only by 4% for Asians. In 2008, Asians were significantly less likely than both blacks and whites to have voted.

The election of Barack Obama four years ago gave blacks bragging rights, but bragging rights can't close the black-white achievement gap in education or increase black labor-force participation or reduce black incarceration rates. A civil-rights leadership that encourages blacks to look to politicians to solve these problems is doing a disservice to the people they claim to represent.

Asians, for their part, can point to an out-of-wedlock birthrate of just 16%, the lowest of any major group and a significant factor in Asian success. The black illegitimacy rate last year was 72%. Might it be that having a black man in the Oval Office is less important for black advancement than having one in the home?

The political scientists tell us that Mr. Obama will almost certainly need every black vote he can muster on Election Day. Less certain is whether blacks need him.

[END OP-ED]
********

Cold-blooded Earthquake Politics: Nepal's regime rejects help from Taiwan's excellent search and rescue team (UPDATED 4X)

UPDATE 4 - 4:25 AM EDT 4/29
This CNN report is from yesterday but it lays out the major factors making aid distribution hard in the country. Also has a chart showing which foreign countries have aid workers in Nepal. Interestingly the chart shows that Taiwan has 20 workers in the country. Yet the chart doesn't include India, which of course has workers in the country. So I dunno. 
UPDATE 3  - 7:30 PM EDT (see end of post for first two)
Nepal's Prime Minister, Sushil Koirala, was out of the country when the earthquake struck and from this 4/25 NDTV report, India's PM Modi couldn't make contact with him on the day of the quake, so Modi offered condolences to the country's President, Ram Baran Yadav. It was unclear to me from subsequent reports when Koirala returned to Nepal, but it looked as if Yadav, at least in early hours of the crisis, was in the hotseat when it came to decisions about which foreign search and rescue teams to admit to the country. 

The issue may or may not be water under the bridge at this point.  There is a big 'fog of war' element about the entire crisis, which is understandable, of course, given conditions in the country.  But from this Reuters report today, updated at 7:00 PM EDT, and from a few statements sprinkled in other reports today, it almost seems as if there's confusion or a disagreement behind the scenes about the issue of the foreign S and R teams. Reuters writes:
Prime Minister Sushil Koirala told Reuters the death toll could reach 10,000, as information on damage from far-flung villages and towns has yet to come in.
 "The government is doing all it can for rescue and relief on a war footing," Koirala said. "It is a challenge and a very difficult hour for Nepal."
Then --
Nepal told aid agencies it did not need more foreign rescue teams to help search for survivors, because its government and military could cope, the national head of the United Nations Development Programme told Reuters.
"Nepal told" is diplospeak, which I myself had to fall back on in the original post because it wasn't clear who was in charge at the time.  

Other passages in the Reuters report discuss the amount of time that's passed since the quake, with one foreign aid worker noting that by day 5 the chance of finding buried survivors is zero. More or less true, although many people buried in rubble have survived longer if they're lodged in an air pocket and have access to water. But with ongoing severe aftershocks, mudslides burying at least one village, etc., there still seems a need for S and R teams. 

More to the point, search teams aren't only needed for those buried alive.  An earlier Reuters report (see first update, below) discusses Nepalis, angry at no help in sight (and still in shock from the quake), digging with their bare hands through rubble to find bodies of relatives.  Many bodies are still missing, and if Koirala's estimate of the dead is near the mark there will be a need in the coming days for as many foreign search teams as the country's international airport can accept.     

As I mentioned in the original post, I also think it would have been a very good move to bring in the Taiwanese S and R team at the early stage because their network of Buddhist contacts in Nepal would have been a force multiplier. 

But it's too late now for the early stage, and at this point parsing the meaning of official utterances is a waste of time and almost cruel in the context of the crisis. Almost. 

Now to the original post:
***************************

Have a heart, President Yadav

The excuse Nepal's government gave was that it was prioritizing assistance it accepted according to a country's nearness to Nepal, ostensibly to avoid a chaotic situation on the ground. The excuse doesn't hold water because the regime accepted a search and rescue team from Japan, which is 1,500 kilometers farther from Nepal than Taiwan.

Australia's Sky News report on the incident mentions that Nepal doesn't recognize Taiwan, "considered by China as part of its territory awaiting to be reunited since their split in 1949 at the end of a civil war."

That too doesn't hold water -- not in this kind of situation and especially in this particular situation.   The Taiwanese have something the Chinese don't have in Nepal:  an extensive network of Buddhist contacts.  And many Taiwanese Buddhists are well heeled.

That makes a big difference in getting fast help to many Nepali victims of the earthquake -- especially those outside Kathmandu proper.  That's because the G2G way of disbursing funds, even with disaster aid, is ponderous.

That I suspect that is why Beijing would want to discourage Taiwan from providing on-the-ground earthquake assistance in Nepal -- and hang the fate of the earthquake survivors.

The Australian report also mentions that Taiwan's foreign minister has downplayed speculation in Taiwan that the Nepali regime's decision is political.  It's understandable that Taipei doesn't want to start a skirmish with Beijing over this, and one that would give a lot of trouble to Nepal's President Ram Baran Yadav at the time he least needs it.

Okay. but that doesn't prevent others from speaking out. Under ordinary conditions I prefer to wait for people to have the chance to mourn their dead before starting a firefight. But in this case, making a big noise right now might prompt President Yadav to get his own priorities in order.  He needs to realize that the whole world is watching his every decision.

Granted, that's a first for him, but he needs to give a little less attention to what Beijing thinks, and a little more attention to what everyone else thinks -- and to the fact that the financial aid he's going to get from everyone else will dwarf China's aid.

And as Gordon Chang mentioned when he reported on the incident to John Batchelor's audience Monday night (podcast, 32 minute mark), this incident is going to fester and grow in the coming months, once the immediate crisis in Kathmandu settles down.  It's going to make Yadav look cold-blooded.

A little more can be gleaned on the incident from a Channel News Asia report, which picked up on a Reuters/CNA report on the incident. (See how many legs this story is already growing): (Nepal turns down Taiwan's offer of quake assistance (April  27):

TAIPEI: Nepal has turned down Taiwan’s offer to help in search and rescue efforts following a 7.8-magnitude earthquake, Taiwanese Vice Foreign Minister Andrew Kao confirmed on Monday (Apr 27).

Mr Kao said Taiwan will still send an advanced team to Nepal to assess the need for medical assistance, which the island will provide if needed.

Several government and charity groups in Taiwan have already joined forces to organise rescue missions to Nepal. Public fundraising campaigns are also underway for the Himalayan nation.

So far, the island has pledged about US$300,000 in aid.

Following an official message of condolence by President Ma Ying-jeou, a 20-member rescue team with tracking dogs is ready to fly to Kathmandu.

The Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation has tapped on its global network to set up a relief centre in Nepal to distribute supplies and join in the rescue effort, while Taiwan’s Red Cross has started a fundraising drive to collect US$1 million for Nepal’s post-disaster reconstruction.

According to the foreign ministry, 167 Taiwanese are currently in Nepal. Among them, 26 are still missing. [Latest from AFP: reportedly 21 are now unaccounted for] However, there were no immediate reports of Taiwanese casualties. Officials said they would do their best to locate those still missing.

Following Saturday's earthquake that killed more than 3,200 people, thousands of residents remain huddled in tents and sought scarce food and medical supplies, as overwhelmed authorities struggle to care for the wounded and homeless.

With so many people sleeping in the open with no power or water and downpours forecast, fears of major food and water shortages are mounting.

- Reuters/CNA/xq/al
[END REPORT]

UPDATES

1:30 AM:  Speaking of ponderously slow disbursements from governments: Reuters April 28 12:40 AM EDT:  Angry Nepalis dig in rubble themselves as quake toll passes 4,000
Hundreds of Nepalis, angered and frustrated by the government's slow response, were digging through rubble themselves on Tuesday to find remains of their loved ones after a devastating earthquake three days ago killed more than 4,000 people. 
International aid has finally begun arriving in the Himalayan nation of 28 million people but disbursement is slow. ...]

7:45 AM:  My goodness; who knew how many close neighbors Nepal turned out to have?

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Monday, April 27

Real Power Talks About Keeping U.S. Dollar Peg -- for now

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region chief executive Leung Chun-ying 
US dollar peg to remain, says HK chief executive
By: M SHANMUGAM
Monday, 27 April 2015
The Star (Malaysia)

KUALA LUMPUR: The policy to keep the Hong Kong dollar pegged against the US dollar will remain although the Asian currencies have come under increasing pressure due to the volatility in the dollar.

Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying said that the policy of pegging the Hong Kong dollar to the US dollar has been operating well and he was not going to change it.

“Yes we had to sell Hong Kong dollars (in recent weeks) to maintain the peg but the amount deployed is quite small relative to the inflows. We have the capacity to handle it (the inflows of funds),” he told a group of reporters yesterday.

The Hong Kong dollar has been pegged to the US dollar when capital started to flow out prior to the handover of the special administrative region by the United Kingdom back to China in July 1997. In 2005 the policy makers committed to limit the currency’s decline to HK$7.85 per dollar and appreciation at HK7.75 per dollar.

According to reports last week, in the months of April the Hong Kong Monetary Authority intervened into the market to maintain the peg amidst rising demand for the Hong Kong dollar. The amount spent to buy up the US dollar in the month of April to maintain the peg was estimated at US$6.8bil.

Since the start of the year, at least two countries have dismantled their currency peg. In January this year, Switzerland did away with the Swiss francs being pegged to the euro. This came about due to the European Central Bank (ECB) undertaking a quantitative easing programme that caused the euro to go on a depreciating trend.

This sent a huge amount of capital into the more stable franc, something that forced the government to lift the peg.

As for the Hong Kong dollar, the demand picked up largely due to two reasons. Investors sought the Hong Kong dollar to take up positions in undervalued China mainland stocks that are traded on the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect. The other reason is the appreciating yuan against the US dollar.

The yuan has appreciated against the US dollar on expectations of a recovery in China’s economy next year. Another reason is currency investors are now resigned to the fact that the Federal Reserve will only raise interest rates in the United States much [later] in the year instead of the earlier prediction that it would happen in the first half.

This has caused the inflows of funds back into Asia, especially markets that are relatively undervalued such as China.

Leung expected the uncertainty towards the US dollar to continue for a few more months and that a decision to increase rates would not be an easy one.

“The uncertainty will hang around for a few months because the recovery in the US economy is patchy,” he said.

Leung’s bigger concern was the occurrences of single incidences in Europe such as sovereigns not meeting their obligations.

“The impact can be big … it could have a knock-on effect because the world financial markets are all joined up,” said Leung.

The biggest concern in Europe is that Greece is running out of money and has debt obligations to meet. It has to pay the International Monetary Fund in May and the ECB in July.

The situation is in a deadlock now as members of the European Union want to see more reforms from Greece before they release financial aid of 7.2 billion euros.

On the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect getting off to a slow start:  Leung said that volumes had started to pick up due to investors seeing a gap in valuations in stocks with exposure to mainland China.

The Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, launched on Nov 17, 2014, allows investors including foreigners with accounts in Hong Kong brokerages to purchase certain classes of shares listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange through local brokers. Conversely, investors in mainland China can purchase shares listed on the Hong Kong Exchange through their local brokers.

Initially, volume was low in the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect. However it has picked up significantly over the past one month making the Hong Kong Stock Exchange as one of the best performing in the region.

Leung said that they hoped to get the Shenzen-Hong Kong Stock Connect up and running in the second half of this year.

“This is all part of the efforts to make Hong Kong the global financial centre for China,” he said.

Investors wary of investing in mainland China have always looked to Hong Kong as the best alternative because it has the characteristics of the Western world with a huge gateway to China. Hong Kong practices an open financial system, a set of laws that is similar to the British system, has a large pool of English-speaking population and a deep talent pool especially in the area of finance.

“There are 7,600 companies overseas that has based their headquarters for China in Hong Kong. Among them are 16 from Malaysia. The big four accounting firms have their China office based in Hong Kong,” said Leung.

Apart from the language and the depth of talent, Hong Kong’s infrastructure is far better than that found in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzen. Telecommunication systems are far superior while connectivity to the mainland is not a problem.

“There are numerous flights daily to various parts of mainland China. By land it is only 45 minutes to the boundary,” he said.

[END REPORT]
         
********

Split Second

 New York Times 4/26:
"In the seconds before the earthquake struck, Mr. Lama said, it felt as if it suddenly became very windy outside. Birds flew away in a frenzy. He grabbed his 2-year-old son and ran from the building as bricks fell on his head. On Sunday, among the dusty piles of debris that were once his home, were a pair of socks, pages of a book and a padlock."
But he and his son, alive.

I'm remembering what I wrote in 2011 in a post titled, The sciences of heaven and earth, the 'still small voice in the night,' and earthquake prediction.  The reasoning informing Jim Berkland's prediction about an earthquake was very iffy and turned out to be a dud, but --
I'd say this is the time for Americans and Canadians living along the Ring of Fire to pay special attention to the behavior of their pets and neighborhood wildlife and to focus more inward, on the "still small voice" than on the passing show. ... 
Mr Lama knew how to listen. Gave him a split-second advantage.

*********

Sunday, April 26

A Tree Grows in Sumatra: beyond the Shoot Yourself in the Foot model of global trade

INTRODUCTION

April 11, 2014, Financial Times:  
Yet in spite of Singapore’s progress towards self-sufficiency in water, it remains dependent on Malaysia. A reminder of that dependency came only last month when reports surfaced in the Malaysian media that Kuala Lumpur might be considering charging its neighbour more for the water it supplies. That prompted Singapore’s foreign minister to remind the Singapore parliament that “neither party can unilaterally change any of the terms of the 1962 water agreement”.

*********************


Patch of peat forest habitat isolated in a landscape cleared for an industrial plantation in Indonesia's Riau Province on the island of Sumatra. Photo: Rhett A. Butler, Founder, Monga Bay

Note that the following report is from 2014.  And while the reporter is very thorough about informing Bloomberg readers on the eimportance of industrial palm agriculture for Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia economies, for now I'm skipping those several paragraphs to highlight only certain parts in her extensive report.  I'm also highlighting certain passages in the following two reports:
     
“February is the driest month for Singapore. What’s not normal is the length of the dry spell.”

Drought Threatens S.E. Asia Food Price Gains Amid Haze
by Jasmine Ng in Singapore
February 28, 2014
Bloomberg Business

The drought parching Singapore and swaths of Malaysia and Indonesia threatens to raise food prices, slow economic growth and disrupt water supply in the region, home to the world’s oldest tropical rain forests.

Areas around Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, started water rationing this month. Neighboring Singapore, which had a record 27 days without rain from Jan. 13, is preparing for the dry spell to persist into the first half of March. In Indonesia’s Riau province, officials declared a state of emergency as forest fires blanketed the region in haze.
[...]
Southeast Asia is under the influence of the Northeast Monsoon, which brings dry and stable air from the South China Sea and lessens the likelihood of rainfall, said Winston Chow, an assistant professor of geography at the National University of Singapore.

“February is the driest month for Singapore,” Chow said. “What’s not normal is the length of the dry spell.”

The countries join Australia, Brazil, Kosovo and parts of Thailand and the U.S. as among those battling drought.[...]

[Pundita aside: Kosovo had a drought last year?  Isn't Kosovo in Europe? I must read Bloomberg Business more often] 

In Malaysia, the government is preparing funding to help Selangor state nationalize water assets in the region surrounding the capital. Water rationing began in parts of Selangor this week after the drought drained reservoirs, and will extend to 431,617 households, the Star reported on its website, citing Malaysia’s water services commission.

“The supply of raw water in Selangor state is in a critical condition,” Khalid Ibrahim, the chief minister of Selangor state, said in a faxed statement on Feb. 24. “The water levels at a few dams have been shrinking to reach an alarming stage.”

Malaysia supplies water to Singapore, which consumes about 480 million U.S. gallons a day. The nation gets about 60 percent of its water from the Malaysian state of Johor and draws on local reservoirs and streams, its national water agency said.

Recycling Wastewater

Singapore plans to triple its wastewater recycling and increase desalination capacity almost tenfold to meet as much as 80 percent of water demand in 2060, according to the agency’s report. The push to develop the industry has drawn businesses including General Electric Co. and Siemens AG to invest, and created local water companies such as Hyflux Ltd.

Khon Kaen has growing water shortages as supplies drop in dams and rivers, with the most recent rainfall in the Thai province in December, the National News Bureau said. Farmers in the area have been urged by the Royal Irrigation Department to help by stopping any off-season rice growing, according to NNT.

Water Bombing

In Riau, the second-biggest province on Sumatra, an emergency was declared through March 12 because of smoke from fires, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman at Indonesia’s disaster management agency. Extinguishing the fires will require water bombing, according to local officials.

Satellite images showed 11 fire hot spots in Riau on Feb. 24 compared with as many as 243 on Feb. 11, according to Indonesia’s Forestry Ministry.

“It’s very likely that the lack of rain so far does promote conditions in which these hot spots can form,” said Chow at National University of Singapore.

Disputes over haze flare up regularly between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. The latest was in June, when smog in Singapore reached a record because of Indonesian forest fires.

While the drought is blamed for forest fires in Riau province, other parts of the country are grappling with floods.
[...]
[END REPORT]

Rhett Butler at Monga Bay and the scientists he cited last year would have a problem on more than one count with the unequivocal statement that the drought caused forest fires in Riau:


Light haze over a drained and deforested peat forest in Riau, Sumatra in February 2014
Photo by Rhett A. Butler

Indonesia's forests so damaged they burn whether or not there's drought
Rhett A. Butler
mongabay.com
August 21, 2014

Air pollution caused by fires set for land-clearing on Sumatra has become a regularly occurrence in Southeast Asia, spurring hand-wringing in Singapore and Malaysia over health effects and worries among environmentalists over the climate impacts. While these fires are often termed "forest fires", the reality is much of the area that burns each year has already been deforested and today mostly consists of grass, scrub, and remnants of what was once forest. But the impacts are nonetheless very substantial, finds a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The research, led by David Gaveau of the Center for International Forestry Research in Indonesia, assessed greenhouse gas emissions from fires that burned for a week in June 2013. While the fires were short-lived and almost entirely (82 percent) concentrated on already deforested lands representing less than 2 percent of Indonesia's land mass they released 172 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, or up to 10 percent of the country's annual greenhouse gas emissions. The reason for the large emissions was 84 percent of the burning occurred on peatlands, which store massive amounts of carbon in their soils.

Worryingly, the study notes that the fires occurred in a wetter-than-average year, suggesting that severe forest degradation in Sumatra due to years of clearing and peat drainage for industrial plantation development has set the stage for problem to worsen.

[Graph - Daily time series of fire hotspots from 01 Apr to 15 Aug  2013]

"Our results demonstrate that the Indonesian fires of 2013 behind the record air pollution episode in Singapore were triggered by a seasonal two month dry spell in an otherwise rainy year. These fires were short-lived and confined to recently deforested peatlands in a localized area in Central Sumatra (in Riau Province), reflecting ongoing conversion to oil palm plantations" the authors write. "The area affected was much smaller than the 9.7–11.7 million ha that burned in 1997. However, the emissions of GHG and smoke during this brief localized event (one week and 1.6% of Indonesia’s land) were disproportionately large because of the peat.

[Graph - Vegetation cover of the burned areas]

"Our observations show that extreme air pollution episodes in Southeast Asia are no longer restricted to drought years," they continue. "We expect major haze events to be increasingly frequent because of ongoing deforestation of Indonesian peatlands."
The issue isn't limited to Sumatra — vast areas of what was dense rainforest and peatlands in Indonesian Borneo are also now degraded scrub and burn regularly.

Indonesia has experienced rapid destruction and degradation of its forests in recent decades, even surpassing the Amazon in terms of annual forest loss, according to a separate study published in Nature Climate Change.

[Now we arrive at a group of graphics in the report. Take particular note of Graphic D]


CAPTION: The three-million ha study area in Riau province, Sumatra. (a), Fire hotspots. MODIS daily hotspots distribution for June 2013 (yellow dots) overlaid on a post-fire LANDSAT OLI imagery (12 August 2013) displayed in false colors (RGB: 6-5-4). 

(b), Burned areas. An estimated 163,336 ha burned in the study area: red (non-forest), green (forest), orange (Acacia plantation) and cyan (cloud). Peatlands are shown in darkest shade of grey; superimposed are the seven locations of the UAV transects. The bottom inset is a UAV snapshot over peatlands deforested 3 years prior to the June 2013 fire, where dead carbonized tree trunks and an excavator preparing land for oil palm are clearly visible. 

(c), Pre-fire Deforestation. Loss of species-rich Dipterocarp forest from 1990 until May 2013. Light brown: non forest in 1990. Orange: deforested between 1990-2008. Purple: deforested between 2008 and May 2013. The study area lost 1.72 million ha (78%) of forest between 1990 and May 2013 (including 1 million ha on peat).

(d), Pre-fire land-ownership map. Industrial oil palm and Acacia plantations developed by companies in concessions are shown in yellow, and in khaki, respectively. Concessions (for both oil palm and Acacia) occupied by communities are shown in black. Lands outside concessions are in white. Forest cover (unoccupied land) one month before fire is shown in dark green. Maps created using ArcMap v10.0 geospatial processing program. The data used to generate the maps presented in this figure are made available online at http://www.cifor.org/map/fire/

Image and caption courtesy of the [study] authors. 

CITATION: David Gaveau et al. Major atmospheric emissions from peat fires in Southeast Asia during non-drought years: evidence from the 2013 Sumatran fires. SCIENTIFIC REPORTS | 4 : 6112 | DOI: 10.1038/srep06112 
[END MONGA BAY REPORT]

Now it's time to bring in a few of the passages from Jasmine Ng's report for Bloomberg I'd skipped earlier:
Palm oil, the world’s most-used edible oil, is heading for the biggest monthly advance since October. Southeast Asia’s dry weather is spurring speculation of lower output growth, according to Michael Coleman, a hedge-fund manager.
Malaysia and Indonesia account for 86 percent of palm output, according to the U.S.
Agriculture Department. Futures may advance to 3,000 ringgit ($915) a metric ton within four months, the highest price since 2012, said Coleman, who helps to manage the $143 million Merchant Commodity Fund from Singapore. The price settled at 2,779 ringgit yesterday.
Investors are also betting that an El Nino weather pattern will return in 2014, potentially cutting palm output, Coleman said. El Nino affects weather worldwide and can parch Indonesia and Malaysia.
Dry weather may limit Indonesia’s increase in palm production in the first half, Martua Sitorus, the executive deputy chairman at Wilmar International Ltd., said Feb. 21. The Singapore-based company is the largest palm oil processor.
I'll concede that it is not given to our race to see around corners.  So at the time palm oil became a big-ticket global trade commodity, nobody had heard of flying rivers except maybe some Brazilian scientists nobody listened to.  The fancy GRACE satellite system, now giving back readings on how much groundwater the world has left, was still far off as were fancy satellite systems that now peer into the world's forests to see how much of them are left.

It was all about carbon emissions back then.  If a palm producing country and palm oil processors managed to at least partly mollify the carbon emissions swap crowd, they could go on doing business as usual.

Then, just within the past two years data from the fancy satellites, computer programs, math, and, uh, geospatial engineering began to converge. People in governments and boardrooms at global corporations like PepsiCo sat up straight and asked, 'Now what was that Brazilian rattling on about with these flying rivers?'

It was a little late in the day to be asking such questions.

So we find an ngo called Sum of Us getting up an online petition to pressure PepsiCo to "Commit to buying responsible, rainforest-healthy palm oil."

And there's Rhett Butler hanging out of a prop plane, snapping photographs of what's left of the rainforests in palm oil country.

For more on Indonesia's peat fires, which can race quickly underground then burst to the surface, see Lim Chia Ying's April 20 report for The Star (Malaysia), So long as peatlands are cleared for agriculture, there will be haze.  From the report:
Despite laws and policies in Indonesia limiting the opening of peatlands, the prevalent culture of patronage and decentralisation see companies getting logging concessions.
“The Indonesian law states that any peatland exceeding 3m in depth should be protected, and no concessions should be issued for areas where more than 30% is made up of peat with a thickness of at least 3m. Yet, the law hasn’t had much of an effect, as many firms have so-called ‘functional directors’ appointed to perform ‘extra-economic’ functions.
These individuals are usually retired bureaucrats who act as intermediaries with the state and perform advisory and brokerage functions on behalf of the company, and are able to secure choice parcels of land,” says [Dr Helena] Varkkey who has studied Indonesia’s peatland politics and its complexities.
Also, the location of peatlands far from cities deters effective monitoring by enforcement authorities.
This despite the fact that the pollutants from the haze are particularly deadly (see report for details) and affect populations in Brunei and Thailand in addition to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Yet while Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesian squabble over toxic peat smog they cooperate in an industrial agricultural export model that can only be described as "Shoot Yourself in the Head."

See also Water Crisis in Malaysia as Drought Dries Up Reservoirs; February 20, 2014; The Herald (Zimbabwe).  

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