Saturday, July 29, 2023

Iraq loses power

Alyssa J. Rubin has a major piece on Iraq at THE NEW YORK TIMES (photos by Bryan Denton).  Here's the opening:

The word itself, Mesopotamia, means the land between rivers. It is where the wheel was invented, irrigation flourished and the earliest known system of writing emerged. The rivers here, some scholars say, fed the fabled Hanging Gardens of Babylon and converged at the place described in the Bible as the Garden of Eden.

Now, so little water remains in some villages near the Euphrates River that families are dismantling their homes, brick by brick, piling them into pickup trucks — window frames, doors and all — and driving away.

“You would not believe it if I say it now, but this was a watery place,” said Sheikh Adnan al Sahlani, a science teacher here in southern Iraq near Naseriyah, a few miles from the Old Testament city of Ur, which the Bible describes as the hometown of the Prophet Abraham.

These days, “nowhere has water,” he said. Everyone who is left is “suffering a slow death.”

You don’t have to go back to biblical times to find a more verdant Iraq. Well into the 20th century, the southern city of Basra was known as the “Venice of the East” for its canals, plied by gondola-like boats that threaded through residential neighborhoods.

Indeed, for much of its history, the Fertile Crescent — often defined as including swaths of modern-day Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iran, the West Bank and Gaza — did not lack for water, inspiring centuries of artists and writers who depicted the region as a lush ancient land. Spring floods were common, and rice, one of the most water-intensive crops in the world, was grown for more than 2,000 years.

But now nearly 40 percent of Iraq, an area roughly the size of Florida, has been overtaken by blowing desert sands that claim tens of thousands of acres of arable land every year.

Climate change and desertification are to blame, scientists say. So are weak governance and the continued reliance on wasteful irrigation techniques that date back millenniums to Sumerian times.

Climate change is destroying Iraq right now.  And where is con artist and cult leader Moqtada al-Sadr?  Doing nothing of course.  Sadr City, bearing his name, remains a slum. All these years, he's not lifted a finger to make life better in Sadr City.  It's among the worst hit during the raining seasons because the infrastructure is so poor that there's standing water throughout after any heavy rain.

He loves to fauxtest but he won't protest.  And that's why a rainy season means electrocutions in Sadr City over and over.  

He does nothing to help the Iraqi people. 

Abdulrahman Zeyad (AP) reports:

Power was cut off in large swaths of southern and central Iraq for much of Saturday during scorching summer heat and observances of the Shiite holy day of Ashoura after a fire broke out at a power station in the southern city of Basra.

The fire at the Al-Bkir substation in Basra resulted in the separation of transmission lines linking the southern and central regions, leading to a complete shutdown of the electrical system in the area, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity said in a statement. It said the fire was accidental.

The power outage came as the electrical system faces other challenges, including fuel shortages and surging demands for electricity during a major heat wave. On Saturday, temperatures reached 47 degrees Celsius (116.6 degrees Farenheit).

116 degrees and no power?  Their elected leaders have failed them and the self-appointed ones like cult leader Moqtada have as well.

DW notes:

A fire broke out at the Al-Bkir substation in Basra and resulted in the separation of transmission lines linking southern and central regions, leading to a complete shutdown of the electrical system in the area, Iraq's Ministry of Electricity said in a statement. It said the fire was accidental. 

"The power grid experienced a total shutdown on Saturday at 12:40 p.m. (0940 GMT/UTC) due to a fire that affected a transmission substation in Basra province," the ministry said. 

Ministry spokesman Ahmed Moussa told the AFP news agency that at some point the incident affected main supply to "all of Iraq." 

"Speedy repairs are under way ... to gradually restart the power plants and transmission lines," the ministry said. 


A leader has failed to emerge in Iraq, one who would fight for the people.

We'll wind down with this from Kevin Rector (LOS ANGELES TIMES):

Forty-five years ago, Sue Englander went door knocking in San Francisco to tell anyone who would listen that she was a proud bisexual woman who supported LGBTQ+ rights.

Other queer activists were fanning out across California to do the same as part of a 1978 campaign to defeat a ballot measure that would have made it illegal for gay men and lesbians — and possibly their allies — to teach in the state’s public schools.

The activists saw the measure as an attack on LGBTQ+ teachers and queer people’s 1st Amendment right to free speech, so they used that same right to share their stories and shift public sentiment against the measure — which voters ultimately rejected.

“We were able to overcome, and stop in its tracks really, this attempt to silence not just teachers but the expression of support for LGBTQ rights,” said Englander, now a 71-year-old history lecturer at San Francisco State University.

It’s a lesson that came back to Englander, she said, after the U.S. Supreme Court used the law in a very different way — ruling that a Colorado wedding website designer with religious objections to same-sex nuptials had a 1st Amendment right to refuse service to queer couples.

The high court’s June 30 ruling in 303 Creative vs. Elenis was a clear blow to the LGBTQ+ rights movement, raising questions for queer people and other minorities about where they might be next denied service. But it was also a reminder to keep fighting, Englander said — that the battle over queer rights is far from over, and every defeat can be challenged.

“The Supreme Court does not necessarily have the last say,” said Englander, still defiant. “Don’t give up the ship.” 

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Congressman Robert Garcia Passes Amendment Improving Air Travel Safety


Congressman Robert Garcia Passes Amendment Improving Air Travel Safety

July 20, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Robert Garcia (CA-42) yesterday passed an amendment to expand preservation requirements for “black-box” cockpit voice recorders. This piece of legislation passed as part of a group of amendments into the bipartisan Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) five-year reauthorization bill. This is the Congressman’s first amendment to pass the House.
“As Mayor of Long Beach, I had a front row seat to the massive undertaking that it is to run and operate a successful airport. From beginning to end I was involved in the changes that resulted in the Long Beach airport being one of the best regional airports in all of California, and along with that came an intimate knowledge of the importance of safety measures,” said Congressman Garcia. “My amendment expands the circumstances under which cockpit voice recordings must be kept. By having critical pieces of evidence preserved, future investigations will be even more reliable. This amendment is a clear step towards a safer future for all travelers.” 
Rep. Garcia’s amendment expands the circumstances for data preservation to include where crew would reasonably believe an aircraft lined up on an incorrect runway or incorrect taxiway, the aircraft landing at the wrong airport, the aircraft significantly overpassed the destination airport, or the crew have been alerted of a possible pilot deviation. This reflects several problematic real-world incidents where data would have been helpful for NTSB investigations – such as a 2017 near-miss as San Francisco Airport (SFO) when an Air Canada A320 flight incorrectly lined up to land on a taxiway, rather than the runway, and came within 59 feet of striking four fully loaded passenger planes.
While large commercial aircrafts and some smaller commercial, corporate, and private aircrafts are required by the FAA to be equipped with a cockpit voice recorder (CVR) – one of the two "black boxes" that record information about a flight – under current law in the U.S. the recorders only have to capture the last two hours - the FAA bill expands this to 25 hours. 
As Mayor of Long Beach, Garcia had oversight of the Long Beach Airport, which is a municipal department.


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In Draft Defense Appropriations Bill, Senator Murray Leads Efforts to Boost Support for Servicemembers and Their Families

            July 28, 2023

In Draft Defense Appropriations Bill, Senator Murray Leads Efforts to Boost Support for Servicemembers and Their Families

Senator Murray: “If we are serious about supporting our servicemembers and military families—whether at Fairchild or JBLM— then these are the kinds of investments we can’t afford to shortchange.”

ICYMI: Chair Murray’s Opening Remarks at Full Committee Markup

 ICYMI: Senate Appropriations Committee Overwhelmingly Approves Defense Funding Bill, 27-1

Washington, D.C. — On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee, led by Chair Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), voted to advance the Defense funding bill for Fiscal Year 2024 that Senator Murray led the committee in drafting. The legislation funds the Department of Defense and includes important investments to strengthen our deterrent capabilities and global readiness, improve readiness among the services and the National Guard and Reserve, invest in modernization across the U.S. military, and more.

The legislation supports servicemembers and their families with new resources to improve military housing, double enrollment in full-day universal pre-K, ensure survivors of sexual assault can seek justice, and more. The bill also provides a 5.2 percent pay raise for servicemembers and important funding boosts for suicide prevention efforts. The Committee voted overwhelmingly, 27-1 to advance the legislation, where it now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

Having a strong military means more than just investments in weapons, equipment, or facilities,” said Senator Murray. “When it comes to defending our country, our most valuable asset has ALWAYS been the brave and talented women and men who are willing to put their lives on the line to keep our country safe.

“This bill boosts pay for our servicemembers and does so much to support military families in Washington state—from mental health care and suicide prevention, to housing and child care,”
continued Senator Murray. “If we are serious about supporting our servicemembers and military families—whether at Fairchild or JBLM— then these are the kinds of investments we can’t afford to shortchange.”

Notably, the legislation includes: 

  • A 5.2 percent pay increase for servicemembers. 
  • $94 million for full-day universal pre-K for approximately 4,000 four-year-olds of family members at Department of Defense Education Activity schools, a longtime priority led by Senator Murray.
  • $33 million to support programs for child care workers so they can maintain their employment at child development centers on military installations. Installations around Washington state and the country are struggling with providing sufficient child care, and facilities are facing serious staffing issues—Senator Murray has consistently led the charge to fight for child care funds in the Defense spending bill.
  • $20 million for renovation and repairs of Child Development Centers, like the child development center at Fairchild Air Force Base.
  • $47 million for the Sexual Assault Special Victims’ Counsel program to help survivors of sexual assault. Special Victims’ Counsels assist survivors with navigating the military legal system and advocate on behalf of survivors’ interests. 
  • $59.2 million for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office to help reduce sexual assault in the military. 
  • $18.3 million to implement the recommendations of the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee and reduce suicide in the military.
  • A boost in funding to combat substance use disorders throughout the military by investing in programs to help prevent and treat substance use disorder.
  • An additional $2.1 billion to upgrade military facilities in poor condition across the country.

Murray also secured funding in the legislation for key projects that are important to Washington state, including $110 million for the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for seismically mitigating the dry docks at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, and a $72.1 million increase in environmental mitigation funding for PFAS with remediation funding for the Navy, Air Force, and Base Operations Support.

More information on the bill is available HERE


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The Landback Movement: Rematriating Indigenous Territories


Bioneers Pulse – updates from the Bioneers Community


“Colonialism severs people’s relationship to land, so that a few can amass wealth and power. Landback is about healing by restoring those spiritual, emotional, mental and economic relationships. We’re trying to flip the tides of colonialism. Everywhere you can help people reconnect with land, you're doing something incredibly powerful, especially if you are an Indigenous person connecting with your homeland. Those relationships are magic.” - PennElys Droz, PhD

Indigenous leadership on many of the core issues facing our planet today has never been stronger. On so many key fronts, from climate action to land preservation/restoration to biodiversity, Indigenous nations around the world are on the frontlines, not just resisting but actually winning many key struggles against a very serious backdrop, life threatening in many cases globally. 

In this week’s newsletter, we hear from Jade Begay, of the NDN Collective, as she explores just how influential Indigenous leadership has become in today’s world, and then we dive into an extensive look at #Landback with three women at the very cutting edge of this incredibly powerful movement.

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