December 30, 2014
AIRASIA BODIES, DEBRIS FOUND
The Indonesian navy has located debris from the AirAsia plane that disappeared early Sunday, retrieving more than 40 bodies from the Java Sea, AFP reports. The news came as a shock to the families of the 162 passengers, who reportedly “began crying hysterically and fainting” after Indonesian television showed graphic footage of the bodies floating in the sea.
RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER CONVICTED
Alexei Navalny, one of Russia’s most prominent opposition leaders, has been found guilty of embezzlement and given a three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence in a case he has repeatedly called politically motivated. His younger brother Oleg will be jailed, a sentence he described as a “disgrace.” “This is to punish me even more,” AFP quoted Navalny as saying.
INTRODUCING “ON THIS DAY”
Find out what Tiger Woods, the Soviet Union and Saddam Hussein have in common in our new daily video feature On This Day, your 57-second shot of history.
WILL PETROBRAS DEFAULT?
Brazil’s state-owned oil company Petrobras could be declared in technical default on part of its foreign debt as early as today. Its fate is in the hands of New York-based bondholders, who may decide to force the oil giant it to speed up its assessment of losses in an ongoing corruption scandal, Reuters reports. The leading investor, Aurelius Capital, had a similar role in a group that refused a debt restructuring deal with Argentina, eventually forcing the country to default. The corruption scandal is rocking the company and threatening politicians in the country’s leading parties, including President Dilma Rousseff, who was the company’s chairwoman until she took office in 2010.
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
THOUSANDS FLEE MALAYSIA FLOODS
Almost 250,000 people have fled their homes in Malaysia amid the worst floods in a decade, which have killed 36 people there and in neighboring Thailand, Reuters reports. The Malaysian government has been criticized for what has been perceived as a slow response to the floods, the failure to declare a state of emergency, and what an opposition member described as its "complete lack of urgency.”
As Die Welt’s Sandra Keil reports, travel for Iranians is hard, which is why the young have found that hosting foreigners via a service called Couchsurfing is a good way to explore the world vicariously. “Iran remains a difficult destination, a country with an extremely bad reputation because of its morality police and other watchdogs, not to mention its arbitrary justice system, its nuclear ambitions, its liberally applied death penalty and hostility toward Israel,” the journalist writes. “Anybody who travels there should be absolutely clear that in so doing they are supporting the regime of the mullahs. But Couchsurfing nevertheless offers rich opportunities for discovering Iran and the daily life of Iranians. And it's obviously an inexpensive way to travel. But those choosing this travel strategy should be prepared to improvise at all times.”
Read the full article, Couchsurfing In Tehran, How Foreign Crashers Let Iranians Escape.
ARAB NATIONS ENDORSE PALESTINIAN UN DRAFT
Arab UN delegations have endorsed a draft UN Security Council resolution from Palestine proposing to forge a peace deal with Israel within a year and to end occupation by 2017. AP obtained a copy of the draft and reports that it calls for an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. It’s unclear when a vote would take place, although the Palestinian UN ambassador said he was hoping it would be scheduled for today or tomorrow. U.S. officials have already said they wouldn’t support the draft resolution.
EBOLA REACHES SCOTLAND
A woman who recently returned to Glasgow, Scotland, from Sierra Leone, where was a health worker, has been diagnosed with the Ebola virus and is currently in isolation, The Scotsman reports. This is the first reported case in the UK. A second patient is being tested but is considered to be “low risk.”
“Argentina's president "adopts' godson "to prevent him becoming a werewolf"” might just be the best headline of 2014. Of course, The Guardian had to fact-check it and spoil the fun for everyone by calling it bogus.
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.
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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