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Should the UK Have an Opinion on Catalonia?

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from Letter to Britain

As long as the UK remains a fully paid-up member of the 28-member European Union it seems fair that the government should have a position on Catalonia’s recent move toward greater autonomy. Which in recent weeks, has grown beyond simple autonomy within the Spanish federal government architecture to seeking full independence, but the attempt has since been knocked down by the Spanish authorities.

Had the UK passed the Brexit threshold by now, it would be difficult indeed for the British government to have any public opinion at all as it then becomes a very different thing. It’s fair comment to opine on the internal politics of a fellow EU member state, but it is quite another for a non-member to criticize the goings-on in a foreign country.

For that reason, it’s well within Theresa May’s purview as the Prime Minister of a paid-up member of the European Union to comment on issues Catalonia.

Nigel Farage MEP certainly didn’t hold back from informing his viewers about his opinions on the Catalonian situation and it’s difficult to find flaws in his argument. See video here.

Certainly, it was a tragedy that 900 mainly peaceful protesters were injured and/or arrested by Spanish federal police, although many of those charges against protesters may be dropped in exchange for the much more serious charges against the police being dropped.

Look for this to happen on a case-by-case basis. Many of the police are reputed to have used excessive force against the (most probably annoying, but otherwise peaceful) protesters.

Until such times as Britain is no longer an EU member state, the UK and its citizens have every right to comment on the unfortunate Catalonian situation, but after Brexit I hope the UK government feels constrained about commenting, as it will then be a comment on the internal affairs of a political bloc (the EU) a sovereign nation within the EU (Spain) and a state within that nation (Catalonia)


“What Goes Around, Comes Around”

This has been true since the universe began and were the British government to attempt to unduly affect the outcome (either way) in Catalonia, eventually it could work against the United Kingdom and conceivably against the Commonwealth as there are rumours from time to time about disaffection among jurisdictions in either entity.

Therefore, it’s best for the UK government to comment in good form only and avoid trying to make political hay against the EU bloc simply because some in the UK may have other frustrations with them.

Hey, they’re frustrated too. It isn’t a one-way street. Let’s just get the Brexit done and not unduly antagonize the EU Parliament or its individual member states in the meantime, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because that works better for the UK in the long run.


Related Graphic:
Catalonia referendum 2017

The Lancet: 9 Million Premature Deaths from Pollution

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from JBSNews.com

A startling report from The Lancet says that over 9 million people die annually from pollution. It further suggests that with more study this initial number may, in fact, be much higher. The Lancet researchers also say it costs the global economy over $5 trillion annually.

Click the graphic to enlarge it within your browser window.

The Lancet report: Pollution and Health Infographic
The Lancet Infographic

To read the report, download it as a PDF file, or to find other relevant information about the report, please click here.


Quotes

“Air Pollution Kills 9 Million, Costs $5 Trillion Per Year”EcoWatch

“The world’s ‘Number One killer’ a new study says, causing more premature deaths than war, terrorism, natural disasters, cigarettes and disease.” Voice of America

“In 2015, nearly one in six deaths, an estimated nine million worldwide, was related to pollution in some form — air, water, soil, chemical or occupational pollution, according to a new report published Thursday in The Lancet.” CNN

“Landmark study finds toxic air, water, soils and workplaces kill at least 9m people and cost trillions of dollars every year. The deaths attributed to pollution are triple those from Aids, malaria and tuberculosis combined.”The Guardian

Genon K. Jensen, the executive director of the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), welcomed the report and said it “shows we have the necessary data to address this problem and more importantly, that we can win”.Euractive

“My colleagues and I knew that pollution killed a lot of people. But we certainly did not have any idea of the total magnitude.” Philip Landrigan, dean of global health at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and co-chair of the commission — National Post

“Pollution is linked to about 9 million deaths each year — three times as many deaths as AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined — according to a new large report published in The Lancet. It says pollution played a role in one in six of all deaths across the globe in 2015.”CBS News

Google Will Hit 100% Renewable Energy by Year-end

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from JBSNews.com

Google will hit 100% renewable energy milestone in 2017

The Google plex in Mountain View, CA
The Googleplex in Mountain View, California.

It was back in 2007 when Google first announced their intention to pursue a 100% renewable energy program, and since then the firm has driven with steely-eyed determination towards its clean energy targets.

It’s especially gratifying to understand this when you consider Google’s global operations use as much electricity as the entire city of San Francisco. Some 2.6 GigaWatts of electrical demand are required by Google Inc. worldwide — all of it produced by wind and solar.

Google also has plenty of experimental renewable energy projects on the go, including a promising ocean wave energy programme that is light-years ahead of similar projects — and their version of this hopeful technology seems to be an economically viable method of collecting clean energy from the ocean — which it does without harming the local sea life. Which makes ocean wave energy much more valuable than tidal energy which mounts huge propellers on the seafloor.

The company continues to dramatically increase the level of energy efficiency in it’s office buildings and data centres concomitant with it’s decade-long drive towards 100% renewable energy.

Google Environmental Report 2017 - renewable energy by the numbers
Google Environmental Report 2017 – renewable energy by the numbers. Click image to enlarge.

Not only has it pioneered the way that corporations incorporate renewable energy into their operations, it has changed the entire utility industry model with novel Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) terms.

Alphabet (Google’s parent company) has helped millions of energy consumers to become aware of their personal carbon footprint and lower their energy bills by 18% on average via the Nest Thermostat which has saved more than (as of December 31, 2016) some 10 billion kWh combined — enough energy to power all of San Francisco for more than 21 months.

Google has recently created Earth Outreach, a realtime planetary dashboard to predict and analyze solutions for farmers, to help us understand geological events as they occur, to enhance political borders and study biological boundaries from space, and so much more. This amazing resource hasn’t begun to reach it’s full potential.

Like email a generation ago, which people thought of as a simple form of text communication to be used by academics and speechwriters — yet look at what has happened to email since the first message was sent via the ‘information superhighway’. Kinda takes you back in time, doesn’t it? Anyway, Earth Outreach will follow a similar growth curve to the explosive growth of email, and in a few years Google Moon Outreach and Google Mars Outreach will become the biggest thing in the world since, well, email.

Whatever you’re doing right now isn’t as important as reading Google’s brilliant and viewer-friendly report, click here to read some truly inspiring news.

Bombardier vs. Boeing: Tariff Row or Opportunity?

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from LetterToBritain.com

An increasingly protectionist United States has suddenly announced a 219% tariff on Bombardier passenger aircraft.

Bombardier Aerospace, headquartered in Montreal, Canada, also employs some 4000 people in Northern Ireland who produce a significant percentage of the components used in the C-Series passenger jets (CS 100 and CS 300) that have recently entered production.

Switzerland has already taken delivery of some of their C-Series jets, with others to be delivered in the coming months. Airlines from Germany, Finland and other European nations have indicated huge interest in these modern and fuel-efficient airliners, and China has told the company they will take as many planes as Bombardier can produce.

Bombardier C100 passenger aircraft
Bombardier C100 passenger aircraft. Image courtesy of BombardierAerospace.

There isn’t a better commercial aircraft in the 100-150 seat market in the world today.

And if that sounds like advertising copy, it’s because the aircraft the C-Series competes against were originally designed in the 1970’s (Boeing 737) and 1990’s (Airbus) and early 2000’s (Embraer) and although those aircraft lines have received numerous upgrades over the decades, from an engineering point-of-view nothing beats starting with a clean sheet.

This allows designers a free hand to use the latest composite materials, fully digital electronics instead of digital-over-analog, and 100% CAD/CAM design and manufacturing instead of only part of the process being CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing) all of which means there are no engineering compromises.

When you have the best plane on the market in that particular segment, one that boasts the quietest takeoffs and landings (significantly quieter) and the best fuel mileage, and the lowest maintenance cost per mile — high tariffs in one country means you simply sell the same number of aircraft per year — but you sell them to different countries.


China can’t get enough commuter aircraft from all sources it seems, and its own fledgling passenger aircraft manufacturer is geared towards truly excellent jumbo jet airliners. The country needs almost 7000 new aircraft over the next 20-years.

Boeing Forecasts Demand in China for 6,810 Airplanes, Valued at $1 Trillion (Boeing)

Good news for Bombardier! China becomes the world's first $1 Trillion aircraft market.

All good news for Bombardier there! The company should easily score 1/3 of all single aisle passenger jet sales in China over the next 20-years. And if they can’t, the entire executive staff of Bombardier should be exiled to Antarctica for life. Yes folks, opportunities like this don’t come along once-per-decade, nor even once-per-century.

Just in case you’re counting along at home; If Bombardier receives 1/3 of all single passenger jet sales in China over the next 20-years, it would need to deliver 6-jets per day to China.

(That’s China alone! India, the Middle East, Indonesia, and other nations all have rapidly growing markets for world-class single aisle passenger jets featuring low noise and exceptional fuel efficiency)

The future couldn’t be brighter for Bombardier and its clients. A missed deal with the United States might in retrospect turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to the company. Instead of thinking ‘regional’ — it’s now time to think ‘global’ — thanks to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Trade war, schmwade war! In the 21st-century, the name of the game isn’t getting into fights with your competitors, it’s about out-succeeding them.

Remember your pilot’s etiquette now; Always dip your wings ever-so-slightly (in respectful salute) every time you pass your competition! 😉


Related Articles:

  • U.S. Department of Commerce Issues Affirmative Preliminary Countervailing Duty Determination on Imports of 100- to 150-Seat Large Civil Aircraft From Canada (Commerce.Gov)
  • Britain’s Theresa May issues warning to Boeing over Bombardier trade dispute (The Globe and Mail)
  • UK government threatens retaliation against Boeing in Bombardier tariff row (The Guardian)
  • Boeing Super Hornet jet purchase likely to become 1st casualty in possible trade war (CBC)
  • Bombardier flying high after handing over first C-Series jet to SWISS (Financial Post)
  • On the book of Bombardier vs. Boeing, skip to Chapter 19 (The Globe and Mail)
  • May Says Boeing Undermining Ties With U.K. Over Bombardier (Bloomberg)
  • Bombardier Nears $1.25 Billion C Series Deal With Air Baltic (Bloomberg)
  • Bombardier C-Series Marketing Brochure (BombardierAerospace)
  • U.S. imposing 220% duty on Bombardier C-Series planes (CBC)
  • How Canada’s fight with Boeing began in Washington (CTV)
  • Bombardier BDRBF:US OTC (Bloomberg)

The Rohingya Refugee Crisis: Bangladesh Seeks Solutions

by John Brian ShannonReposted from JohnBrianShannon.com

Due to high levels of harassment, intimidation and conflict deaths in Myanmar (also called Burma) that is openly carried out by hostile Buddhists and (purportedly) by Burmese government troops, some 400,000 Rohingya muslims have fled in recent days to neighbouring Bangladesh.

The refugees are arriving tired, afraid, hungry and disoriented as they flee their burning villages. Sixty per cent of those fleeing, are women and children.

It’s not that Burma hasn’t any Muslims. On the contrary, 4.3 per cent of the country are Muslim (about 2.6 million in total) while 88 per cent (46 million) are Buddhist and 6 per cent are Christian.

What’s different for the Muslims in Burma is that due to arcane Burmese law, they aren’t allowed to own real estate (land or buildings) because they aren’t recognized as citizens due to the fact they can’t prove their ancestors lived there prior to 1823. The Rohingya are… human beings without a country.

In recent years over 100,000 have fled to nearby countries to work or to ask for refugee status. Most of them didn’t qualify for Burmese citizenship in the first place — and therefore arrived in a totally new country with no birth certificate, passport, other reliable identification, or even a family address. Intolerable, doesn’t begin to describe it.

Which is why hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have landed across the border in Bangladesh since August 25th. Up to 2.3 million more may arrive in the coming months if all Burmese muslims flee the country. If the present situation is any indication, it looks like all of them will leave Burma.


Why Not Just Go Back?

Burmese Rohingyas have nothing to return to, only burned out villages and increasingly hostile citizens. And once having crossed over into Bangladesh, they can’t cross back into the country in which they were born because they have no legal identification to show to Burmese border guards other than a long-distance telephone calling card (if they’re lucky) and no family address that is recognized by the Burmese authorities.

Myanmar laying landmines on Bangladesh border (so that Rohingyas can’t return) (Al Jazeera)


Following Burma's fleeing Rohingya
Since the late 1970’s: Following Burma’s fleeing Rohingya. Image courtesy of Al Jazeera

Bangladesh: The Promised Land for the Rohingya

For decades, the Rohingya have been leaving Burma for Bangladesh and other southeast Asian nations, seeking employment and a chance at a new life.

In those places, if they can find employment they can eventually apply for citizenship and become an actual citizen, with an actual street address, and be a person with an actual job and a real life. If you’re a factory owner that hires a Rohingya, you know they are highly motivated to succeed and that they will be the least problematic of all your workers.

However, even a successful economy like Bangladesh can’t accept millions of refugees in a matter of weeks. The country is doing relatively well for a developing nation and continues to improve its infrastructure and the lives of its citizens every year.

Bangladesh is ranked surprisingly highly by development agencies, and is often referred to ‘one of the next-11’ countries after the G20 countries.

An interesting note about Bangladesh is that they are the largest contributor in the world to UN peacekeeping missions — providing tough, fully trained troops for many UN operations. (The UN pays the wages of the Bangladesh soldiers under its command and supplies many of the tanks and APC’s that Bangla soldiers use while on UN missions, which is standard practice for the United Nations)


What Will it Take to Help the Rohingya?

  1. Plenty of international aid money
  2. Acceptance by Bangladesh citizens

In the southern region of Bangladesh, 409,000 Rohingya are being held in camps stretching along the border with Burma. While 60 per cent of the refugees are women and children, Bangladeshis worry about young Rohingya males who may have been exposed to extremist thought and could conceivably at least, act against Bangladesh citizens in the future. So far, nothing like that has been reported.

However, keeping hundreds of thousands of refugees in miserable and makeshift camps in hot and humid weather isn’t going to help anyone’s mood.

Even if the Rohingyas arrived there never having imagined a terrorist thought in their life, a year of living under those conditions won’t help to keep violent acts out of the minds of young men, who, like young men everywhere, are prone to acting on a perceived problem without properly thinking it through.

Rohingya refugees: ‘No words’ to describe Bangladesh camps, Red Cross says (abc.au)

Rohingya refugee camp, Bangladesh - August 2017. Image courtesy of Australian Broadcast Corporation
Rohingya refugee camp, Bangladesh – August 2017. Image courtesy of Australian Broadcast Corporation

If Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina can convince UN donors to generously fund the effort, her country has a very good chance of accommodating the sudden flood of refugees; Assisting them to find jobs, homes, and helping to build the strong sort of communities that are an asset to any country — but if it doesn’t happen in this manner, that region of Bangladesh is on the same path as the extremely hurtful (to all sides) Israeli/Palestinian conflict was at its very beginning. Nobody wants that.

Or do they? We’ll see what the response is when the UN General Assembly meets this week in New York.


What Jobs Can the Rohingya Do?

If Bangladesh elects to help the Rohingya fleeing persecution in Burma, the best way forward is to employ them as farm labourers in the southern part of the country. Many of these people have lived in rustic conditions and it will take some time before they will be getting jobs as CEO’s, airline pilots, or automobile designers. But that’s not to say they can’t make a valuable contribution to the Bangladesh economy — they can!

Starting the Rohningyas working in the fields will allow them to acclimatize to the new country and cement their place as valuable workers in Bangla society.

The most important thing for the Bangladeshi authorities to remember after taking care of food, shelter and medicine for the new refugees is to provide a sense of community.

Just dumping these people on a hunk of land and feeding them every day isn’t going to solve anything other than saving their lives, but the eventual result will be a social crisis on the scale of what we’re witnessing in the Philippines today.


What Kind of Housing for Working Rohingya Families?

Refugees that want to work should have access to temporary living quarters. You simply can’t get any sleep in a refugee camp (you know this if you’ve ever visited one!) and therefore, you won’t keep your job very long. Therefore, it’s important to relocate Rohingya workers to suitable accommodations for workers and their families until they can save up enough to purchase their own dwelling.

There are thousands of used portable offices and portable crew quarters in the world available at any time. Not only that, but the UN could purchase thousands of new ATCO-type portable trailers to house Rohingya workers and ship them to southern Bangladesh.

In that way, those Rohingyas that are able and willing to work, will have appropriate accommodation. The benefit of these portable buildings is that they are prewired for electricity, and stoves and heat are provided by natural gas tanks located on the exterior of the unit.

One point to remember about this kind of living quarters is that they can be lifted via crane and placed on top of solid stilts — this is important in Bangladesh as many areas of the country are prone to flooding. Many typical Bangla homes are placed on stilts to prevent flooding during the monsoon season.

Portable ATCO trailers could house Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh
Portable ATCO trailers could house Rohingya farm workers in Bangladesh. ATCO Ltd.

It seems Shaikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh sincerely wants to assist the Rohingya refugees and that’s admirable.

However, it’s going to take a few billion dollars just to meet the needs of these desperate people until the end of the year. After that, rather than allowing the miserable conditions of the refugee camps to become the fuel for conflict, the Rohingya must be proactively urged to find local work on the many farms in the region. It’s really the only option in this case.

Getting refugees employed is almost as important as sheltering and feeding them as they stream across the Bangladesh border.


Related Articles:

  • Aung San Suu Kyi invites international help for Rakhine crisis
    (Frontier Myanmar)
  • Bangladesh restricts Rohingya refugees, starts immunization
    (National Post)
  • Rohingya Muslims are being wiped off Myanmar’s map
    (National Post)