Nats double down on commitment to coal, Joyce rants against wind and solar | RenewEconomy

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If there were any questions over the National Party’s commitment to the coal sector after the loss of Matt Canavan from the resources portfolio, they were quickly answered by new deputy leader David Littleproud who reasserted his party’s commitment to a new coal generator in Queensland on his first day in the job.

In an interview with ABC’s RN Breakfast program on Wednesday, Littleproud trotted out the three consistent assertions of the coal lobby; that you can reduce emissions using more coal, that more coal generation is necessary to lower electricity prices and that baseload power is a necessary feature of the future energy system.

Each of these three assertions have been repeatedly debunked, but it confirms that it’s business as usual in a Morrison cabinet that will continue to face internal divisions over a need to act on climate change and the fossil fuel advocates within its ranks.

It is understood that Queensland Nationals MP Keith Pitt is the front runner to take over Canavan’s former positions as the minister for resources and Northern Australia when new ministerial appointments are announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday.

Pitt himself has been an outspoken advocate for a new coal-fired power station in Queensland, so while Canavan – who liked to describe himself as “Mr Coal” – has exited the federal cabinet, the pressure to push forward with the Collinsville project is likely to continue.

Pitt has also been a strong supporter of a nuclear industry in Australia, and will have the backing of failed Nationals leadership candidate Barnaby Joyce, who again argued for nuclear power to be considered as part of Australia’s efforts to reduce emissions as part of a bizarre Facebook rant against renewable energy.

“We have to recognise that the public acceptance of wind towers on the hill in front of their veranda is gone, and the public dissonance on that issue is as strong as any other environmental subject,” Joyce said.

“If zero emissions are the goal then surely nuclear energy should be supported, but it is not. If wind towers are a moral good and environmentally inoffensive, why can’t we have them just off the beach at Bondi so we can feel good about ourselves while going for a surf? It would cause a riot.”

“Do you want a 3,000ha solar farm next door to you? Lots of glass and aluminium neatly in rows pointing at the sun. I am not sure others will want to buy that view off you when you go to sell your house.”

The coal industry might have lost its most enthusiastic advocate from the federal cabinet, but the Nationals were quick to show that it won’t lead to any changes on the party’s energy and climate change policies.

In his interview, Littleproud, who is also tipped to take on the now vacant agriculture portfolio, told the ABC that investments in new coal generators would help lower emissions and lower electricity prices.

“You need to make sure that you create an environment in the marketplace with a mix of renewables and coal-fired power stations, and if you can improve the emissions of coal fired power stations, you should make that investment if it means that we hit our targets and we reduce energy prices,” Littleproud claimed.

It has been well established for some time that the cheapest source of new electricity generation capacity are renewable sources like wind and solar.

A recent update to the CSIRO’s GenCost assessment of the costs of different generation technologies re-confirmed that new wind and solar are, by far, the cheapest sources of electricity generation. Even when additional storage is accounted for, prices of firmed renewables are competitive with fossil fuel generators when the costs of carbon emissions are considered.

Renewables are already helping to drive down electricity prices.

This week, the ACT, which has recently achieved its 100 per cent renewable electricity target, is also set to see an almost 7 per cent fall in its electricity prices this year, as the territory’s investments in wind and solar projects have helped deliver lower electricity prices for Canberra households, ensuring they continue to pay some of Australia’s lowest electricity prices.

But this also didn’t stop Littleproud asserting that it is possible to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions while still embracing coal.

“You can invest in clean coal technology in and reduce emissions,” Littleproud said.

“I’m not disputing the science, what I’m saying is I’m not gifted academically to have that science background myself.” – @D_LittleproudMP when asked about his recent statement that he didn’t know if climate change was man made. #abc730 @leighsales #auspol pic.twitter.com/sFh44eNP2a

— abc730 (@abc730) February 4, 2020

Again, there are fundamental limits to how much emissions from coal-fired power stations can be improved. Even with a complete transition to the Coalition’s favoured high-efficiency low-emissions (HELE) coal power station technologies, the most generous estimates put the amount of emissions reductions at 20 per cent.

In his review of the National Electricity Market, chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel compared the emissions intensity of different generation technologies, showing that the HELE coal-fired power stations promoted by the Nationals will still produce 0.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent for each megawatt-hour of electricity produced, and is only slightly below the NEM’s current average emissions intensity.

When the science, and the international commitments made under the Paris Agreement, are calling for governments to achieve zero net emissions by 2050, a 20 per cent cut in coal power station emissions is going to be grossly insufficient.

It’s a position that leaves the Nationals at odds with science, but also the business community which is undergoing an accelerating exit from the coal industry. This includes BlackRock, which manages USD$7 trillion (A$10.15 trillion) in investments, which announced in January that it was divesting its portfolios from thermal coal companies.

Littleproud argued for the need for “baseload” power, suggesting that coal-fired power stations are necessary, as Australia currently lacks sufficient levels of battery storage.

“We’ve still got to have baseload, the thing is that we don’t have battery storage to the capacity that we need to be able to keep the lights on,” Littleproud said.

With the emergence of new energy management technologies, a growing market for energy storage that is outpacing growth in coal generation in Australia, demand response platforms and the falling prices of renewables, the concept of baseload is quickly becoming outdated.

With system planners recognising the crucial role that a ‘flexible’ energy system will have into the future, pushing new inflexible baseload power stations, like a new coal generator, into the energy system will only be counterproductive.

Chair of the Energy Security Board, which has been tasked with redesigning Australia’s energy market in response to the widescale transformation underway in the energy sector, labelled Australia’s existing “baseload” generators as “dinosaurs”, singling out coal-fired generators Bayswater and Liddell saying that their inflexibility made them poorly suited to a future energy system.

There has been a surge of installations of large-scale battery storage systems, and new investments continue to be made in deploying storage projects, while coal-fired generators are readying to exit the market.

The renewed push from the Nationals for a new coal generator appears to have been bolstered by the findings of a $10 million feasibility study into a potential new coal-fired power station in Collinsville. The feasibility study was funded as part of the government’s Underwriting New Generation Investments initiative and has yet to be released publicly.

“Collinsville, there’s a there’s now a report that’s come back to say that that business case should advance and then obviously, that will be backed by the economics of it,” Littleproud told ABC’s RN Breakfast.

The saga of the Collinsville power station has been a source of tension within the Coalition party room. Outgoing resources minister Matt Canavan had been desperate to get the project off the ground, and confronted prime minister Scott Morrison when he thought progress on the proposal was progressing too slowly.

Those tensions continue to play out in the party room, with a fiery confrontation occurring during the first coalition party room meeting of the year, and after a summer dominated by bushfires and calls for stronger climate action.

Several Nationals members shouted down calls from moderate Liberal MPs, who called for the Morrison government to demonstrate that it was taking climate change seriously.

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Death, Diarrhea and Late Night Sackings: The Inside Story of an Unfolding Staff Nightmare at UBA and Dangote

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Last November, thousands of Lagosians including hundreds of UBA Bank employees attended what was billed as the ‘party of the year’ at the Lekki Special Events Centre on Admiralty Way.

The UBA RedTV Rave had everyone from Wizkid to Olamide to Jidenna to Burna Boy thrilling the festive crowd as UBA chairman Tony Elumelu and CEO Kennedy Uzoka mingled with the artists and guests.

On the surface, this was the best of times, as a bank that was clearly in rude health celebrated a successful year with thousands of employees, friends and family. The bank had also recently concluded a recruitment exercise that would add nearly 4,000 new employees to its staff strength, so the year ahead looked to be a promising one for most employees present. 

Unknown to them, while senior executives danced with Wizkid in the VIP area, one of the most brutal staff layoffs in Nigerian banking history was just around the corner. They partied well into the night and then showed up for work the following week as usual. A week went by. Two weeks. Four weeks. Then right at the start of the new year – a shocker.

Closed at 5.30PM, Terminated at 10.30PM

Ifunanya (name has been changed) was asked to wait behind at work on Friday January 3. As a 12-year UBA veteran including a long stint in her role as a Branch Operations Manager at a branch in Ojodu, Lagos, this was not an unusual request to receive. She was even used to working weekends so that the ATMs could remain functional and she could troubleshoot other onsite customer-facing issues. This time however, was different. 

Along with other staff members at the branch, she was asked to wait for a board meeting. By 10.30PM, the assembled staff were informed that their services were no longer required. They were then told verbally to write out their resignation letters on the spot and leave voluntarily or be forced out. At this point, her security pass was taken, and along with the other affected staff, her profile was unceremoniously deactivated from the bank’s internal system. She was reminded to drop her work ID on the way out, and thus ended a 12-year association with the bank.

When a relative of hers reached out to tell the story, he was keen to make the point that she was not an agency employee, but a full UBA employee on a monthly salary of N153,000. He could not understand why the bank would treat her that way. I heard similar stories from two other sources who insisted that they were coerced into resigning after being told that their services were no longer required right at the start of the new year.

Shocking and callous as these stories may have sounded, one of the first things you are taught in any professional journalism program is to always balance the story. So I sought an alternate account of what transpired, with the goal of putting the picture together to tell a complete story. There were conflicting accounts of the events of January 3 flying around, with some accounts describing a recruitment and promotion exercise without mentioning any firings, while others reported a purported “restructuring” at UBA, which is a well-known euphemism for “mass sack.”

I managed to establish contact with a current senior employee at UBA who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorised to speak about such matters. This was his account of what happened at UBA bank at the start of this year:

“Usually when anyone joins UBA with a Bachelor’s degree, they are put on a GT1 level (N80,000). After one year, they are promoted to GT2 (N100,000), then after another year ET1 (N140,000) which is where a lot of people get stuck on. If you are lucky, you get to ET2 (N165,000). So what UBA did was to meld those 4 levels into one (ET) so any one who was on GT1 and GT2 gets automatically promoted to ET2. Those that were on ET1 and ET2 got promoted to SET (Senior Executive Trainee). 

So it was a promotion of sorts, but honestly it was long overdue because compared to other banks, N80,000 for entry level staff is quite low. About the layoffs: I only know 4 people personally who got affected. The people affected were on manager grades and worked at the head office, they all reportedly got 6 months arrears.”

According to this source, he was not personally aware of the fate of any branch staff or what he termed ‘OND staff.’ He did however say that in his opinion, the bank handled the situation poorly and that Nigeria does need stronger labour laws to protect young graduates fresh out of school from exploitation for cheap labor at the hands of corporates like UBA. He also mentioned that he knows current UBA staff have not had a salary increase in ten years – a remarkable situation for workers in a country whose currency has declined 195 percent over the same period.

As it later emerged, more than 2,000 staff were affected by the shocking late-night cull at UBA. It also became increasingly clear that the firings had nothing to do with a harsh operating environment or decreased profitability. The bank which had brought together Nigeria’s most expensive music stars to perform at its end of year shindig was anything but struggling – it actually hired more people than if fired. What the sackings did though, was clear out a number of people in roles that the bank considered obsolete, particularly within branch operations.

It can definitely be argued that such restructuring is inevitable in the face of rapidly changing technology, which is hardly a terrible thing. What is also true however, is that the bank that paid huge sums of money to bring Burna Boy and Jidenna to an annual vanity event that adds nothing to its bottom line could also afford to retrain its redundant staff to fit into new roles –  instead of just sacking them and instantly bringing in thousands of readymade replacements.

Yet again, the actions of a Nigerian corporate made the point that Nigerian labour law, in addition to be being poorly enforced is also woefully inadequate and unfit for purpose. If after 12 years of useful service to a bank, Ifunanya could be dumped out onto the street without even a few hours of notice – and no regulatory action was forthcoming – then clearly, Nigerian employees working for Nigerian companies have a problem on their hands.

As much as the UBA situation made that point, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to unearth about another Nigerian corporate behemoth.

Diarrhea in India, Death in Ibeju-Lekki: The Unbelievable Story of Dangote Refinery

While senior executives at UBA House were going over the finer points of their plan to log 2,000 employees out of their work systems and force them to resign on the spot, a different level of labour exploitation was entering its fourth year about 73KM east of the Marina. There, at the site of the Dangote Refinery at the Free Trade Zone in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos, the refinery was taking delivery of the world’s largest crude oil refining tower.

While this was predictably being celebrated across local and foreign media as the start of a glorious new chapter in Nigeria’s industrial history, I was speaking to a whistleblower with close and detailed knowledge of the project. What he had to say about the refinery project, the Indian project managers, the company’s internal culture and its much-publicised trainee program left me absolutely floored. Naturally I reached out to Dangote Group for a comment, but at press time I have received no response or acknowledgment.

My source, whom I shall call “Mukhtar” worked in and around the refinery project between 2016 and 2018, and what I found most distressing amidst everything he said was the revelation that deaths due to onsite accidents are not just known to happen at the refinery site, but are effectively covered up by Dangote. This he said, is because the people who die are mostly site labourers who are hired through staffing agencies instead of directly. When they die, it becomes the staffing company’s problem and the Dangote brand distances itself from it – even though the site owner is legally responsible for all safety-related incidents onsite.

Something else that struck me was that he implied that – contrary to all its public posturing – the company actually has no intention of using Nigerian engineers to run the refinery anytime soon. The trainee program that sent dozens of Engineering graduates for a one-year training program in India? “Strictly PR,” he said.

Accidents
The first batch of Dangote Refinery trainees head off to India in March 2016

For full effect, I have decided to reproduce the full and unredacted transcript of our conversation instead of using quotes and reported speech. Here is the conversation below:

ME: When we started this conversation, you mentioned that Dangote Refinery is exempt from Nigerian labour laws. What were you referencing?

Mukhtar: Because the refinery is in the FTZ, it is not subject to certain laws like local content laws. As such, even mundane jobs are given to non-Nigerian companies. Even the refinery’s fence wall was handled by a Chinese company. This didn’t stop long stretches of the fence from collapsing sometime in 2017. The FTZ affects Labour laws too. The company is not really under any obligation to employ Nigerians. They do so mostly for PR. All key decision makers are Indians (say 98%).

ME: There have been several horror stories about Indian-run businesses in Nigeria. Was this one of them?

Mukhtar: Yes, the Indians are quite racist. Some even demand to be referred to as “master”. To be fair, when this is reported, the HR unit makes a show of cautioning them. But I dont think anyone has ever been dismissed for it or seriously punished. Most of workers who meet their death on site are labourers. So their names might be known to many staff. I’ll see what I can get. It happens. It’s kept under wraps but it happens.

ME: Now you mentioned onsite deaths earlier. I want to know all about this. Why haven’t we heard anything about this?

Mukhtar: The refinery site is not really the best place to work. Mortality rate on site is quite high. People falling from heights or getting crushed by heavy vehicles/machines is quite common. These numbers are not reported because most staff are contract staff (or outsourced) so the company gets to wash its hands off such cases. But safety on site is the ultimate responsibility of the owner of the project. The construction site has a board that is supposed to display the safety statistics but it is never displays the truth. According to that board, there has never been a fatality on site. But in reality, I think 2018 had about 5 fatalities between January and March. If I were to guess, I’d say there have been over 25 fatalities since construction started in 2016/17.

ME: Now you said earlier that the trainee program was a washout and a disappointment. Fill me in on that.

Mukhtar: I was one of the first batch of engineers sent to India for training in 2016. In my opinion, the whole scheme was either poorly thought out or the company was somehow compelled to do it, and did so for PR. Our salaries were being paid into our accounts in Nigeria, so we were using our debit cards to access our Nigerian accounts for expenses over there) Around July 2016 when the naira went from around 160 per dollar to nearly double that number, our spending power was effectively halved.

ME: I also remember that there was a forex shortage crisis in 2016 and Nigerian bank cards stopped working outside the country.

Mukhtar: So when the banks eventually stopped all cards from functioning abroad, we were stranded. The company resorted to selling us dollars or rupees at the black market rate.They deducted the money from our salaries. We had accommodation (two adults per room) and feeding (Indian food which many of us did not like). Some of had to buy intercontinental dishes regularly, because Indian food is really not nice if you’re not into many smelly spices. It was crazy. Meanwhile we were told categorically that we would have Nigerian food and Nigerian cooks. It was a blatant lie by the Indian HR director.

Also, no arrangement was made for our medical care. Those who fell ill had to treat themselves from their pockets. During the currency crisis, those who fell ill had to rely on the rest of us to put together our spare change to pay for their treatment. The company promised to refund medical expenses, but this shouldn’t have been the situation in the first place.

ME: Tell me about the training program. What was the course content and the experience like? Was it what you were expecting?

Mukhtar: The training itself was a mess too. We were supposed to be trained to operate the refinery (at the time, it was said that it will be completed by mid 2017), but we were sent to a design company. These (designing a refinery and operating it) are two very, very different things. The trainers did not want us there in the first place. It was not a part of their initial contract with Dangote. Plus, they didn’t know what to teach us because designers are not operators. They were confused, several times, they asked us what we wanted to learn. But we could not know what we wanted to learn cos we knew nothing about the entire business. In the end, they reluctantly settled for teaching us design (skills we were/are unlikely to use cos the refinery was already 90% designed). 

ME: If you say that the refinery was “already 90% designed,” and you were learning design in India, that sounds like your presence was superfluous. Was the company really serious about sending you to learn skills to run a refinery?

Mukhtar: Indians will run the refinery. It will take many many many years before that refinery will be populated by just Nigerians. It was strictly PR. Anyways, the training with that design company was suddenly terminated on December 31st. Apparently, Dangote had not paid them a dime for all the months were were being taught design. They didn’t want to send us back to Nigeria so they moved us to the Dangote office in India. The office housed the Indian engineers (around 150 – 200 in number) who were supervising the design work being done by the design company. Now, it is interesting that these guys were working and earning as expatriates within their own country.

But realising that the “training” was a blunder, the company sent back some engineers to train in an actual refinery. So what was supposed to be a 1 year training became 2 years.

ME: Since returning to Nigeria, is there anything else you have noticed about the project that worries or disturbs you?

Mukhtar: Yes. So we have only the refinery at the FTZ, but the company gets to import things meant for other branches of the company duty-free. As a matter of fact, with the Dangote jetty in place and a customs office right there, the company no longer needs to clear stuff at Apapa. Dangote empire effectively has its own customs and port, because we cannot assume that the custom officers stationed at Dangote’s jetty/FTZ are extremely meticulous in checking what comes in and goes out. Personally, I find this disturbing. No non-military entity should be able to import stuff that easily into any country. This is bigger than just skipping custom duty payment.

–Ends–

Between bank staff being fired at 10.30PM and refinery site labourers being killed by workplace accidents without accountability, the sheer grimness of the picture facing Nigerian workers comes into stark relief. It is afterall, an employer’s market, with several thousand qualified people jostling for every job opening, which creates the possibility and incentive to treat staff like battery animals.

Whether the Labour Ministry is willing or able to do anything about such blatant labour exploitation is anybody’s guess. Nigeria’s government is increasingly weak and unable to impose its will on the country even territorially. In the event that the government did take interest, there is a valid fear that it would go to the other extreme and adopt a lazy anti-business Hugo Chavez approach, as it so often does. The real solution if there is to be one, must come from Nigerian labour having a stronger bargaining position through an improved economy. Anything else as it stands, is little more than a sticking plaster.

As Mukhtar mentioned, even inside the ridiculous situation of being financially stranded in a foreign country at the behest of an irresponsible and insincere Nigerian corporate, the vast majority of the group chose to suffer in silence. They did so because spending a year abroad learning useless information, suffering deprivation and experiencing diarrhea after being forced to eat unfamiliar food was still preferable to whatever alternative was at home.

Ultimately, that is the biggest problem facing Nigerian labour. 

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NASA Confirms First All-Women Spacewalk After Canceling Previous Attempt

Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will become the first to partake in history’s only all-women spacewalk aboard the International Space Station (ISS) on October 21.

The originally planned first all-female spacewalk was canceled last March, when NASA announced it only had one suitably fitting spacesuit for the two women aboard the International Space Station. Instead, both women took part in two separate co-ed spacewalks.

The spacesuit that will be worn during the spacewalk is the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), a specially designed “personal spaceship” of a suit that keeps the astronauts safe in the high-pressure vacuum of space. The spacesuit contains breathing and temperature controls, communication systems, battery power, and offers protection from radiation and space debris. One part of the suit, the hard upper torso (HUT), created the hiccup in the last all-female spacewalk attempt. Both women best fit a medium-sized HUT, but the ISS only had one available.  

“Due to a number of factors, ranging from safety to fit and performance, a crewmember may decide in orbit that their size preferences have changed. This is not uncommon, as astronauts’ bodies change on orbit and ground-based training can be different than performing spacewalks in the microgravity environment outside the space station,” wrote NASA in a statement. They added that “when that occurs, the teams on the ground determine what course of action will best accommodate both the astronauts’ preferences and the demands of the space station’s schedule.”

The spacewalk is one of the most dangerous tasks that an astronaut will take part in during their time aboard the ISS. Each typically lasts around 6.5 hours while the astronaut remains tethered to their spacecraft to keep from floating away. Just like in the movies, astronauts wear small backpack-sized units complete with jet thrusters operated by a joystick to help them move around safely. 

The October 21 event is one of 10 spacewalks outside of the ISS that are scheduled to occur over the next few weeks, the first five of which are meant to replace outdated nickel-hydrogen batteries on the space station’s truss and the following five to repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS). The AMS has been attached to the ISS since May 2011 and is used to detect dark matter.  

The next nine spacewalks will be live-streamed on NASA television

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This asylum seeker was shot in the head. Ice jailed him and gave him ibuprofen

Rolando, an indigenous man who survived a shooting and torture in Guatemala, was suffering blinding headaches when he arrived in the US

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Some days, Rolando would bleed out of his eyes, ears and nose. Other days, hed lie on the floor, dizzy or barely conscious.

But every time the jailed Guatemalan asylum seeker sought help from a doctor, staff at his US immigration detention center offered the same treatment: ibuprofen.

The 27-year-old migrant survived a gunshot wound to the head in Guatemala and was suffering from excruciating headaches and possible brain hemorrhaging when he presented himself at the San Ysidro port of entry earlier this year. US authorities responded by isolating him in solitary confinement and jailing him for months at the Otay Mesa detention center in San Diego, giving him sporadic access to medical staff and medicine, his records show.

I feared I was going to die, Rolando, who asked not to use his full name due tothreats against his life, told the Guardian. I thought in this country, there is really good medical care but I wasnt getting any treatment.

Rolando made it out of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) detention alive, but his battle isnt over. Hes still fighting to get asylum, based on the physical torture and persecution he fled as an indigenous Guatemalan. Every step of his journey has collided with the Trump administrations aggressive attacks and expanding restrictions on migrants and refugees.

Now, the White House is moving to block Central Americans like Rolando from presenting their cases at the border, a move that experts agree will have devastating and fatal consequences.

I came to the United States because Id like to at least make it to 30, Rolando said.

An orphan who escaped death: I dont have anyone left

When he met the Guardian on a recent morning, Rolando carried the charger for his ankle monitor, which asylum seekers awaiting hearings are frequently forced to wear. Hes often worried about it running out of battery.

Seated inside the small legal services office of Al Otro Lado, above a pizza shopin San Diego, Rolando looked down and wove a bracelet with his hands as he talked, a practice he developed inside detention to pass the time and distract from his health problems. His native Mayan language is Qeqchi, but he talks to his attorney in Spanish, which he was forced to speak in jail.

Rolando was born into chaos in 1992 in the Petn region of northern Guatemala. His father had been a member of the armed forces but resigned and became a supporter of the pro-indigenous movement. He was killed as a result, just after Rolandos birth, and his mother died soon after from the trauma, he said.

He was an orphan at age one: My brothers and sisters couldnt take care of me and they gave me to neighbors.

Rolando became homeless and later a frequent target of violence by the people who he believes killed his father. Police tortured him when he sought help. According to his asylum application, that included placing nails in his hand and foot and burning his arms with hot knives.

In 2016, while at a soccer game, assailants shot Rolando in the head and left him with a written death threat that referenced his fathers murder. He survived, was forced into hiding and was unable to get medical attention. He said he had to remove the bullet himself. Police later refused to help and assaulted him, according to his file.

I dont have anyone left, he said, adding that fleeing to the US was his only option: Giving me an opportunity to be here is giving me an opportunity to stay alive.

He escaped to Mexico and joined a caravan last year, eventually making it to Tijuana. Then the waiting began.

As part of a vast crackdown on migration, the border patrol under Trump has instituted a policy known as metering, which limits the number of people who can apply for asylum each day. In Tijuana, this has led to a waitlist that has more than 10,000 people, with a few dozen allowed to cross daily, creating a wait time of roughly six to nine months, lawyers estimate.

Trumps Remain in Mexico policy has also resulted in nearly 50,000 migrants from Central America being returned to Mexico while their cases move forward. That has translated to overcrowded shelters, tent encampments and a struggle to access medical and legal services.

It also leaves migrants like Rolando vulnerable to the same violence they were escaping in their home countries. Rolando said he was beaten in Tijuana, suffering injuries to both his arms and forcing him to wear a cast.

In February, he was finally able to enter the US through the San Ysidro port of entry. In his initial processing, authorities took his injured arms and placed him in handcuffs.

In detention, in agony and without treatment

Once he was in custody, Rolandos health problems worsened. More than 150 pages of Ices medical records paint a picture of repeated health crises and his persistent struggle to get help.

Rolando regularly was bleeding from his eyes, ears and nose the cause of which was unclear to doctors but might have been related to his gunshot wound. Rolando said he was bleeding soon after he was taken into custody and that as a result, he was placed in isolation: They said, We dont know whats wrong with you.

Its unclear how many days he spent in solitary, but he said he had difficulty getting any treatment while isolated, and that he would spend all day in a small cell with no window to the outside. Staff would pass him meals through a small slat.

I didnt even know what was night and what was day, he recalled. I was sick already, but I was starting to get worse Nobody was coming to see me.

Once in the general population of Otay Mesa, Rolando continued to suffer periodic bleeding, and at times his head pain was so severe, he would lose consciousness, or he would lie on the ground so that he would not injure himself if he passed out.

Rolando
Rolando made bracelets and sold them to other detainees so he could buy instant soup, he recalled. Photograph: John Francis Peters/The Guardian

Rolando would frequently sign up for sick call to visit medical staff, but he said the appointments did little to help. Records show that on one visit, a nurse told him to drink more water and wash hair/head thoroughly.

Eating the facilitys meats also started to make him sick, but he often struggled to get alternative food options, even though the medical staff said he needed to change his diet. Sometimes he made bracelets and sold them to other detainees so he could buy instant soup, he recalled.

The records show that the main form of treatment Rolando received was prescriptions for ibuprofen in increasingly high doses as his pain worsened. Sometimes, he said, he ran out of ibuprofen and had difficulty getting a refill. He also received an ointment for his eyes.

Anne Rios, his attorney with Al Otro Lado, said she was stunned when she was finally able to get a copy of his medical records: It seems unbelievable, almost too absurd to be true, but its not only documented, its the governments own records.

By August, Ice had twice refused to release him while his asylum case was pending even after dozens of medical visits, including multiple to the emergency room. One ER doctor had written that he was a serious patient that presents with significant complexity of risk, adding that he might have some kind of brain hemorrhage.

He had no criminal history or immigration violations.

Rolando grew increasingly desperate. At one point, he considered giving up and deporting himself back to Guatemala a certain death, Rios said, recalling him telling her on one visit: Im gonna die here or in Guatemala, so I would at least rather go to my home country I just cant take it any more.

After a third request by Rolandos attorneys, an Ice officer ruled that he could be released but only if he paid a $5,000 bond.

For many, $5,000 might as well be $5m, said Rios. They come here with nothing, no resources, no family members, absolutely no way to pay for that.

Rolando was only able to get out when Al Otro Lado found a way to cover the amount through its bond fund.

Ice declined to comment on Rolandos case, citing his privacy. A spokeswoman said: everyone in our custody receives timely access to medical services and treatment, including a full health assessment with two weeks of custody, daily sick calls and 24-hour emergency care. A dietician ensures detainees unique health (included allergies), dietary, and religious needs are met for each meal, and all food must be visually appealing, palatable, and taste good.

A final plea: I followed the rules and I am telling the truth

Rolando struggles to understand why the US has treated him like a criminal: I followed all the rules and I asked for admission.

Trump, however, is working to make the asylum process much more restrictive than what Rolando has experienced. His administration passed a policy in July banning migrants from seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border if they came from another country, saying they must first seek protections elsewhere.

The supreme court ruled last month that Trumps ban could go into effect while legal challenges continued.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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The climate crisis explained in 10 charts

From the rise and rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to possible solutions

Alps

The problem rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere

The level of CO2 has been rising since the industrial revolution and is now at its highest for about 4 million years. The rate of the rise is even more striking the fastest for 66m years with scientists saying we are in uncharted territory.

c02

The causes fossil fuel burning

Billions of tonnes of CO2 are sent into the atmosphere every year from coal, oil and gas burning. There is no sign of these emissions starting to fall rapidly, as is needed.

carbon

The causes forest destruction

The felling of forests for timber, cattle, soy and palm oil is a big contributor to carbon emissions. It is also a major cause of the annihilation of wildlife on Earth.

deforestation

The consequences global temperature rise

The planets average temperature started to climb steadily two centuries ago, but has rocketed since the second world war as consumption and population has risen. Global heating means there is more energy in the atmosphere, making extreme weather events more frequent and more intense.

temp

The consequences ice melting in Greenland

Greenland has lost almost 4 trillion tonnes of ice since 2002. Mountain ranges from the Himalayas to the Andes to the Alps are also losing ice rapidly as glaciers shrink. A third of the Himalayan and Hindu Kush ice is already doomed.

greenland

The consequences rising sea levels

Sea levels are inexorably rising as ice on land melts and hotter oceans expand. Sea levels are slow to respond to global heating, so even if the temperature rise is restricted to 2C, one in five people in the world will eventually see their cities submerged, from New York to London to Shanghai.

sea levels

The consequences shrinking Arctic sea ice

As heating melts the sea ice, the darker water revealed absorbs more of the suns heat, causing more heating one example of the vicious circles in the climate system. Scientists think the changes in the Arctic may be responsible for worsened heatwaves and floods in Eurasia and North America.

arctic

The upside (I) wind and solar energy is soaring

Huge cost drops have seen renewable energy become the cheapest energy in many places and the rollout is projected to continue. Analysts also expect coal use to fall. But much government action is still required to reach the scale needed, and solve difficult problems such as aviation and farming.

wind and solar

The upside (II) electric vehicles

The global fleet of electric cars and vans is still small compared with those running on fossil fuels. But sales are growing very fast. Electric cars are cheaper to run, suggesting they will become mainstream.

electric cars

The upside (III) battery costs

Renewable energy is intermittent, depending on when the sun shines or wind blows. So storage is vital and the cost of batteries is plummeting. But other technologies, such as generating hydrogen, will also be needed.

battery costs
  • This article was amended on 20 September 2019 to correct an error in the figure given for the rate of Greenlands ice loss. The correct amount is 4 trillion tonnes of ice lost since 2002.

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Samsungs New Galaxy Note Now Comes in Two Different Sizes

When Samsung first introduced the Galaxy Note smartphone back in 2011, it stood out because of two key features: a stylus pen and a screen so large that the phone was dubbed a “phablet.” Somewhere between a phone and a tablet, the Note was derided at the time for being comically huge.

Smash cut to present day, and millions of people have grown comfortable with phone displays larger than 5.5 inches. The Galaxy Note, despite its ever-increasing size, no longer seems to stand out. And the growth of smartphones, in general, is slowing.

Samsung’s response to the industry’s stagnation: How about two Galaxy Notes? How about three?

Earlier today, the company revealed its new Galaxy Note10 smartphone. It’s the second flagship phone launch of the year for Samsung, which typically releases a new Galaxy S phone in February and its Galaxy Note phone in late summer. This year, the Galaxy Note10 is both larger and smaller: One version of the phone has a plus-size 6.8-inch display, while the other has a 6.3-inch screen—and is almost the exact same size as the Galaxy S10 from earlier this year. Both Galaxy Notes work with a stylus pen, called the S Pen, and both phones are supposed to be vehicles for what Samsung considers to be its latest innovations in mobile.

They’re expensive, as flagship smartphones are these days: The Galaxy Note10 starts at $950, while the larger Galaxy Note10+ starts at $1,100. That means the Galaxy S10 smartphone is slightly less expensive—ranging from $900 to $1,000—but not by much. (The iPhone XS also has a base price of $1,000.) Both new Notes will be available starting August 23.

Later this month, the Galaxy Note10 will also be available as a 5G phone through Verizon Wireless, but neither Samsung nor Verizon have released pricing details for this faster version of the phone.

Samsung’s second flagship phone announcement this year also comes just as analysts are forecasting a decline in smartphone sales in 2019. According to research firm Gartner, worldwide sales will experience a 2.5 percent decline from last year, with Japan, Western Europe, and North America showing the greatest slumps.

“To me, Samsung’s approach is all about segmentation,” says Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “The smartphone industry has slowed down in terms of growth, and the best way to keep revenues high and give people what they want is to segment out different versions of the same product, the way the auto industry has done.”

Big Time

Samsung positions its Galaxy Note line as ultra-premium phones, with ultra-loyal customers who come back year after year. It’s the phone for creative professionals, hyper-productive multitaskers, and gamers, according to Samsung. All external signs point to the new Galaxy Note10 fitting that description, though I haven’t had the chance to review the phones yet.

Last year’s Galaxy Note 9 had a 6.4-inch display; the Note10+ now has a 6.8-inch display, while the Note10 has a 6.3-inch screen. The latter has about the same body size as the Galaxy S10, but with slightly more screen. This is partly due to its new bezel-less design and its tiny, hole-punch camera on the front of the phone.

The corners of the Galaxy Note phones are still hard angles, unlike the soft, rounded edges of the Galaxy S line. Samsung says it has also redesigned the Galaxy Note10 phones with “symmetry” in mind, so that they feel more balanced when you hold them, even if the actual weight difference from last year’s Note9 to this year’s Note10 is mere grams.

The new phones have aluminum chassis, with glass backs (Corning’s Gorilla Glass 6). Because Samsung likes to follow trends and also get a little weird, the new phone colors are explicitly iridescent, building on the prismatic color tones introduced with the Galaxy S10. There’s Aura Glow—a silverish, iridescent finish so reflective that you can check your teeth for food by just looking at the back of the phone. There’s also Aura Black, Aura Blue, and Aura White, which is creamier than the Prism White on the S10.

The new Galaxy Note10 phones charge via a USB-C port, which also serves as an audio port. Yup: No 3.5mm headphone jack on the Galaxy Note10. Wireless charging is also an option with these Qi-compatible phones, but if you opt to charge by plugging in, Samsung is promising super fast charging—you can achieve a full day’s worth of battery life after charging the Galaxy Note10 for just 30 minutes, the company claims.

The screen on the Galaxy Note10 is what you might expect from a Samsung display. There are incredibly minor differences between this high-resolution display and the one on the Galaxy S10, but, it’s still what Samsung calls “Dynamic AMOLED,” with support for the HDR10+ display standard and a reduction in potentially harmful blue light. The Galaxy Note 10 also has an in-display fingerprint sensor, something we’ve seen on previous high-end smartphones.

The front-facing camera, as previously mentioned, is a tiny lens and a 10-megapixel sensor placed inside a hole punched into the top-center of the display. The kind of rear camera you’ll get depends on whether you go with the Galaxy Note10+ or the regular Galaxy Note10. The former has a quadruple-lens camera on the back of the phone, with an extra depth lens, while the latter includes three lenses. Samsung is boasting ultra-wide image capture, an improved night mode, and even the ability to shoot super slow-mo video. And an extra microphone added to this year’s phone helps support directional audio capture, while software reduces background noise.

The new phones ship with Google’sAndroid 9 Pie OS, and are running on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 mobile chip, a 7-nanometer, 64-bit octa-core processor. This chip can also be integrated with a Qualcomm X50 5G modem, making that upgrade to a 5G version of the Galaxy Note10+ possible—whenever 5G networks are fully operational, of course.

Play Pen

Given the size of the “regular” Galaxy Note10, it’s natural to wonder what exactly sets this phone apart from other Samsung handsets. And the most obvious answer is the stylus pen. The S Pen is getting an upgrade again. Last year, the Pen became a Bluetooth-equipped remote control: You could open your camera app, position the phone, and use the S Pen in your hand as a wireless shutter button, tricking your colleagues into accidentally taking selfies as they peered at your new phone (not that I did that). This year, the S Pen is getting gesture control, thanks to a new accelerometer and gyroscope inside the stylus.

Samsung calls these “Air” actions, but you can essentially control your phone’s screen, and certain apps running on it, by holding down the side button on the S Pen and swiping it through the air. During a brief demo, I was able to change music playlists and manipulate the phone’s native camera app just by swiping the Pen in the air. I could draw a circle in the air to digitally zoom in while using the camera, and reverse circle to zoom out.

This isn’t entirely limited the Galaxy Note10; it also works on Samsung’s new Tab S6 tablet. But Samsung—like Google—seems to believe there’s a lot of potential for gesture control, and plans to allow game developers to take advantage of the stylus actions too.

There are other new things you can do with the S Pen too, like edit videos with it (which sounds terribly onerous) or convert your hand-written notes to text and export it directly to Microsoft Word. For people who rarely use the S Pen, Samsung is attempting to differentiate the Galaxy Note10 by shipping it with more base storage and RAM, including an advanced vapor chamber cooling system, and optimizing the software in certain ways.

In the Spotlight

Samsung is coming off the heels of an embarrassing foldable phone launch, the thing that was supposed to further solidify the Korean electronics company as the bearer of whiz-bang innovation in an increasingly boring mobile market. And, of course, it was just a few Notes ago that Samsung ended up in a literal firestorm of quality assurance issues around lithium ion batteries. So at this particular moment in time, with this particular phone line, Samsung still has something to prove.

Samsung insists it’s moving the needle again with the Galaxy Note10, that it’s pushing boundaries, and that Note10 customers will be able to “do things with this device that they can’t do anywhere else,” as Suzanne De Silva, Samsung’s head of mobile product strategy and marketing, said in a briefing with WIRED a week before the phone’s unveiling. Certain elements of this are true, although in many ways the biggest leaps with this phone—the support for 5G, the gesture controls, even new built-in AR applications—are still a long way from being embraced by the masses.


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Africa’s favorite smartphone maker wants in on China’s hot new tech market

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Hong Kong (CNN Business)Chinese budget smartphone maker Transsion is already dominating Africa with its Tecno brand. Now it’s ready to raise its profile even more by joining China’s splashy new market for tech stocks.

An IPOcould push Transsion’s valuation above $4 billion. It would also take the company public on a market that got off to a stunningly positive start this week.
Analysts say it’s an early win for the Star Market, whichwants local investors to support Chinese tech companies, rather than lose those businesses to markets in Hong Kong or the United States.
    “China wants a rejuvenation of the nation through technology and innovation,” said Mark Huang, an analyst at Bright Smart Securities. “That’s why they launched the board.”
    He added that Star Market “surely hopes there could be a snowball effect” — but that it’s not yet certain whether bigger tech companies will jump on the bandwagon.
    “After all, the board is still in baby size and some rules are still at a trial stage,” Huang said.
    Transsion’s office in Shenzhen did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN Business.
    Transsion, which was founded by Chinese entrepreneur Zhu Zhaojiang in 2006, wants to raise at least 30 billion yuan ($436 million) to build smartphonefactoriesand research and development centers in Chongqing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, according to its prospectus.
    It plans to issue at least 80 million shares, though it hasn’t set exact terms yet. That would give the company a valuation of at least 30 billion yuan ($4.4 billion).
    tech
    Transsion —which also makes, Itel and Infinix phones — doesn’t do business in China, despite being based there. In Africa, it describes itself as an African company.
    Itcontrols nearly half of the African market, according to IDC figures — putting it way ahead of rivals Samsung, Huawei and Apple (AAPL). Transsion also has nearly a 7% share of India’s market, making it the fourth-largest cellphone vendor there.
    In 2018, it sold 124 million cell phones worldwide, generating 22.65 billion yuan ($3.3 billion) in revenue.
    Public documents also spell out why Transsion says it has done so well in Africa. The company said in its prospectus that it has features that “highly suit our target market” — including phones that use nighttime photography settings that are designed for darker skin tones.
    Transsion Tecno: Africa's top smartphone brand could IPO on China's Star Market - CNN
    Transsion’s technology also includes heat protection for electronics and cellphones that have a large battery capacity. In Nigeria, South Africa and Ethiopia, for example, the government frequently shuts off electricity to conserve power, leaving people unable to charge their phones for hours. 
    Price is another advantage. Transsion sells phones without smart features foras little as $9. It sold nearly 60 million Itel phones at that price last year. It also sold more than 30 million Tecno phones at about $11 each.
    The company’s smartphones are more expensive, but still cheaper than its rivals. In 2018, Transsion sold 34 million phones for between $45 and $91.
    news
    There are challenges, though. The company admittedin its prospectus that other smartphone vendors, including India’s Lyf,are also sellinglow-priced devices.
    Rivals like Huawei, Xiaomi and Samsung are also pushing harder into Africa and India.
    Huawei, for example, has launched an e-commerce platform in South Africa through which it sells phones and other products. And Xiaomi has partnered with African e-commerce website Jumia to sell phones.
      “We face risks of losing our customers and market shares if we can’t maintain innovation … and increase investments in technological research and development, brand management, marketing, after-sale service and supply-chain management,” Transsion wrote in its prospectus.
      The company is responding to competition by pushing into new territories, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia and Vietnam. It also started sellingdigital accessories and home appliances. And it is relying more on mobile internet services as a source of revenue.

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      Nissan and EVgo to add 200 fast chargers as more electric vehicles hit US roads

      Nissan and EVgo said Tuesday they will install another 200 DC fast chargers in the United States to support the growing number of consumers who are buying electric vehicles, including the new Nissan Leaf e+ that came to market earlier this year.

      The 100 kilowatt DC fast-charging stations will have both CHAdeMO and CCS connectors, making them accessible to more EV drivers. The inclusion of both charger connectors is logical; it’s also notable for Nissan, once the primary advocates for CHAdeMO chargers.

      The announcement builds off of the companies’ six-year partnership, which included building out a corridor of EV chargers along Interstate 95 on the East Coast, as well as between Monterey, Calif., and Lake Tahoe.

      Nissan says it has installed more than 2,000 quick-charge connectors across the country since 2010.

      Plans to add another 200 fast chargers follows the launch of the 2019 Nissan Leaf e+. The Nissan Leaf e+, which came to the U.S. and Canada this spring, has a range of 226 miles and fast-charging capability.

      This new version of the Leaf all-electric hatchback has 40% more range than other versions thanks to a 62 kilowatt-hour battery pack. That 226-mile range puts the Leaf e+ just under the Chevy Bolt EV, which has a 238-mile range, the Kia Niro EV with 239 miles and the Tesla Model 3 standard range plus with 240 miles.

      “Given the tremendous driver response to the 2019 long-range all-electric LEAF, Nissan and EVgo will accelerate fast charging by committing to a multi-year charger construction program that will continue to expand fast-charging options for EV drivers across the country,” Aditya Jairaj, director, EV Sales and Marketing, Nissan North America said in a statement.

      The companies also plan to partner on a marketing campaign to sell consumers on the benefits of EVs, and for Nissan, hopefully persuade more to buy its Nissan Leaf Plus. Nissan’s July sales figures were down compared to the same month last year, a slump that has affected the Leaf, as well.

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