Geopolitics

Kiev Withdraws Troops, Possible Plane Debris, Obese Baby

Mourners carry the body of a Palestinian teen killed by Israeli troops Wednesday.
Mourners carry the body of a Palestinian teen killed by Israeli troops Wednesday.

UKRAINE TO WITHDRAW TROOPS IN CRIMEA
The Ukrainian government announced plans to withdraw its troops from Crimea and relocate 25,000 service personnel and their families. This comes after pro-Russian self-defense groups and Russian troops forced them to leave more military bases yesterday, The Washington Post reports. The announcement seems to contradict a Parliament resolution adopted this morning, which says that “Ukraine will never cease to fight for the liberation of Crimea.”

According to The Moscow Times, Crimean authorities released a Ukrainian officer who had been detained after a naval base was stormed yesterday following a request from Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu.

Kiev now fears that Moscow will attack the pro-Russian eastern and southern regions of the country. According to its UN ambassador Yurii Klymenko, “There are indications that Russia is on its way to unleash a full-blown military intervention in Ukraine’s east and south.” Russia’s representative challenged his statement.

This comes after President Barack Obama ruled out a U.S. "military excursion" in Ukraine. “Obviously, we do not need to trigger an actual war with Russia,” he said. “The Ukrainians don't want that. Nobody would want that.”

EU leaders are gathered in Brussels for a two-day summit, where they are expected to discuss a third wave of sanctions against Russia. According to AP, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU would expand its list of people who were hit by visa bans and whose assets were frozen. She also said the G8 “no longer exists” due to the current “political climate.” The Daily Telegraph reports, however, that EU leaders are divided over the scale of sanctions, with British PM David Cameron said to favor more “far-reaching” measures.

In a New York Times piece, Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny (currently under house arrest in connection with a criminal case) says the West should freeze the financial assets and seize the properties of oligarchs in Putin’s inner circle. Yesterday, a Russian television network accused him of taking bribes and of having links with the CIA. Read more from AFP.

POSSIBLE DEBRIS OF MISSING PLANE FOUND
Australian authorities have released satellite images of what could be the wreckage of missing flight MH370, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. The images, which were taken Sunday, show two objects in the middle of the Indian Ocean, about 1,500 miles southwest of Australia. At today’s press conference, Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said this was a “credible lead,” although he remained cautious. Read more from Channel News Asia.

TALIBAN TARGET AFGHANISTAN POLICE
At least 10 police officers were killed in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad after seven Taliban fighters raided their station with guns and explosives, The Washington Post reports. The assault lasted four hours, ending with the death of all the assailants. One civilian was also killed during the fight, which left 14 other people injured, according to a local official. Earlier this month, the Taliban had pledged to disrupt the presidential election, scheduled for April 5.

U.S. BOYCOTTS UN DRONE TALKS — REPORT
Washington boycotted talks over its drone program at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday, Foreign Policy reveals. According to the report, Pakistan drafted a resolution “that would trigger greater scrutiny of whether U.S. drone strikes violate international human rights law.” In January, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimated that over 2,400 people, including 273 civilians, had been killed in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

PALESTINIAN TEEN KILLED IN WEST BANK
A Palestinian teenager was killed Wednesday by Israeli troops near the Palestinian village of al-Ramadin when he and three of his friends tried to cross the separation fence between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

OPPOSITION MAYOR DETAINED IN VENEZUELA
San Cristobal Mayor Daniel Ceballos, in western Venezuela, was arrested last night by the country’s Intelligence Service following a court order. Ceballos, a vocal opponent to the government, is accused of encouraging violence with far-right groups and conspiracy, state-backed newspaper Correo Del Orinoco reports. This came after a 23-year-old police officer was shot dead during protests in the state of Tachira.

EU REACHES BANKING UNION DEAL
EU member states have agreed on the final component of a banking union project that will create a new regulatory system to shutter failing banks. Read more from Financial Times.

BY THE NUMBERS
A Colombian baby who weighs 44 pounds at just eight months old has been “rescued” by a charity so he can undergo life-saving treatment in Bogota. His mother had called the organization for help, saying she fed her son every time he cried.

VERBATIM
“I have turned down the ambassador job because my dog is very hairy and the hot climate of Brasilia could harm its health,” Colombian Vice President Angelino Garzon said, explaining his decision to decline a job as ambassador to Brazil.

FAREWELL
One of India’s best known novelists and journalists, Khushwant Singh, has died at 99.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
As Le Monde"s Sylvie Kauffmann writes, Russia’s annexation of Crimea is disrupting the international order of the post-Cold War. “In fact, it has already led to reversals of several trends, and foretells key realignments. The most obvious one is the return of the United States in Europe. Concerned about ‘pivoting’ towards Asia, discouraged by the failures of the Bush era in the Middle East, the Americans have let the Europeans handle the security of their continent, and even beyond, on the other side of the Mediterranean, by ‘leading from behind.’ With the Ukrainian crisis, they are returning to the front line.” Read the full story, The Annexation Of Crimea Opens A New World Order.

MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD

MAGNETIC STORM
Scientists have found that our planet avoided a huge magnetic bullet from the sun in 2012 by just nine days. When the Earth was last hit by such a magnetic storm, in 1859, the telegraphic system in the U.S. and in Europe— the dominant mode of communication at the time—was badly affected. Scientists believe that the cost of damages by such an event today would reach $2.6 trillion. Read more from Science Daily.

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Green

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

Xinhua/ZUMA

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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