Historic 24-Hour Run For Gay Rights Around The World

EL PAÍS (Spain), AFP (France), THE LOCAL (Sweden), TORONTO STAR (Canada), MAIL AND GUARDIAN (South Africa)


Gay rights has had a great run the past 24 hours.

In the U.S. elections Tuesday, Maryland and Maine voted yes to gay marriage in referendums, with final results still pending on a similar measure in Washington state. These are historic victories for gay rights activists, the first time popular votes made same-sex marriage legal after the right was ushered into law by court rulings in Massachusetts, Iowa and Connecticut, and by legislatures in Vermont, New York and New Hampshire, reports the Toronto Star.

More good news for gay rights followed on Wednesday when Spain’s highest court confirmed the legality of the gay marriage law passed by the Spanish legislature in 2005, reports El País. The law also legalized adoption for gay couples. Since 2005, more than 22,000 gay marriages have been celebrated in Spain. The legality of the law was contested by the Partido Popular, but 11 of the 12 judges voted to uphold the law, said El País. The twelfth abstained.

Also Wednesday, the French government's cabinet proposed a law legalizing gay marriage in France, according to Agence France Presse. The law faces “virulent opposition from the right and from churches,” says Le Point, while French gay and lesbian associations say it does not go far enough.

Among nations where gay marriage is legal are the Netherlands (2001), Belgium (2003), Canada (2005), Spain (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2008), Sweden (2009), Portugal (2010), Iceland (2010), Argentina (2010), and Denmark (2012). Amsterdam claims to be the first city in the world where gay marriage was celebrated, reports French financial newspaper Les Echos.

(On their wedding day in Toronto - M.M)

Still, the trend toward more rights for same-sex couples is not universal, as even being openly homosexual is a criminal act in many countries. Nigeria voted in 2011 to criminalize gay marriage, with 10-year prison sentences for even taking part in such a marriage. “Such elements in society should be killed,” said one senator during debates on the bill, according to South African newspaper Mail and Guardian.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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