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Trump’s Legal Woes Mount

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Associated Press: “Blatant rejection by federal judges appointed by him. Widespread allegations of fraud by the New York Attorney General. It’s been a week of mounting legal troubles for Donald Trump that has exposed the challenges that mount when the former president operates without the protections offered by the White House.”

“The bravery that has served him well in the political arena is less practical in a legal area dominated by verifiable evidence, where judges this week have taken a lopsided look at his claims and where a fraud investigation is taking root than Trump ever has.” President was erupted in a 222-page state lawsuit full of allegations.”

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Michigan Election Worker Arrested For Two Felonies

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Out of Reuters It is impossible to discern the sanity or political ideology of the campaign worker, though he must strongly favor one side over the other or there would be no real motivation to do what he did:

A poll worker in a western Michigan city has been charged with two felonies after he allegedly plugged a flash drive into a computer containing sensitive voter registration data during an August election, local officials said Wednesday.

During the Aug. 2 primary, a poll worker was seen inserting a USB stick into the computer used to administer elections in a ward in Gaines Township, Kent County, according to ward secretary Lisa Posthumus Lyons.

Chris Becker, the county’s attorney, said he accused poll worker James Donald Holkeboer of forging ballot papers and using a computer to commit a crime. If convicted, he faces up to nine years in prison.

The District Returning Officer made her feelings clear on the matter:

There is a strong suspicion, or at least a strong inclination to believe, that this must have been a MAGA man doing the same work we’ve heard being done in Arizona. But one should resist placing too much trust in such suspicions. Elections have become such a battleground that anyone who supports anyone else could justify “fighting” the other side.

The investigation will likely “discover” the man’s political history. At this point we can assess what it all means. For now, the fact that the man was easy to catch should strengthen our belief that real workers still believe in free and fair elections.

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New HIMARS are not headed to Ukraine, not imminently, and that’s okay

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HIMARS in action, much to the delight of #NAFO

This was announced by the Pentagon a new $1.1 billion aid package for Ukraine yesterday this included “18 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and associated munitions”. While the news initially caused a lot of excitement, it didn’t take long for people to notice the fine print.Unlike the Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA), which continues to use the DoD to ship DoD-held equipment to Ukraine at an historic rate, USAI is [Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative ] is an agency under which the United States procures capabilities from industry,” the Pentagon said in its press release. “This announcement marks the start of a procurement process to provide additional priority capabilities to Ukraine in the medium and long term.”

In other words, the US has given Ukraine money to go shopping, but such shipments of arms arrive whenever manufacturers can get that equipment to them. Items like Humvees are likely to be plentiful and should arrive quickly. HIMARS, not so much, and could last up to two years.

But that’s not the problem that many make of it. Ukraine’s bottleneck is the same as always – ammunition. The US and its allies simply don’t have enough HIMARS missiles to satisfy Ukraine’s insatiable hunger for more.

As of January 2021, 50,000 GMLRS rockets, or around 8,333 pods, have been manufactured. The production rate last year was 9,000 rockets or 1,500 capsules. The United States used many of these capsules in Afghanistan and Iraq, and many went to allies using MLRS or HIMARS systems. So the total number available was significantly less than the number produced.

Ukraine has 16 HIMARS and 10 M270 MLRS launchers. For mathematical reasons, let’s assume that Ukraine had 10,000 GMLRS pods (which is more than were made). Divide that by Ukraine’s 26 GMLRS-compatible systems, and that would be just 384 pods per unit. If each launch vehicle fired 10 capsules per day – much less than its daily capacity – Ukraine would exhaust the stockpile in 38 days. The actual number of available GMLRS missile pods in Ukraine is more likely in the hundreds. Adding more HIMARS launchers does not magically multiply the available ammo.

My estimate of “hundreds” has some support. Military expert Thomas Theiner on Twitter rummaged through Department of Defense reports Insight into what was sent to Ukraine.

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Ukraine received its first four HIMARS in June, which were doubled in July. So in the second month of operation it looks like they got 180 pods for their eight launchers. So for this whole month any HIMAR launcher was fair 22 Pods. Now those 1,080 missiles have helped shut down the Antonovsky Bridge, provided spectacular HIMARS clock images and halted Russia’s advance in Donbass. So that’s not to say 1,080 GMLRS rockets weren’t enough, just that eight launchers could handle them more than easily.

Ukraine now has 26 launchers, so chances are the number of GMLRS pods has increased. But we’re not talking about massive numbers. Other allies probably interfered. Germany sent its own ammunition, including MLRS missiles sow the anti-tank mines over a large area. There have been rumors that Ukraine has been given old-school unguided missiles to use against prepared Russian defenses, but we have seen no visible evidence of this, and that would mean using cluster mines, which international treaties prohibit.

Also keep in mind that each six-rocket pod costs $750,000. Ukraine had to budget for equipment received under the Presidential Withdrawal Authority. The money is limited. So it had to balance its desire for GMLRS missiles with its need for regular 155mm artillery shells, body armour, night vision goggles, spare parts, rifle ammo, grenades, javelins, stingers, trucks, Hummers and all the practically infinite much-needed items to order to defend himself.

Meanwhile, the Department of Defense has placed strict limits on how low its ammunition stockpiles can be amid Chinese belligerence over Taiwan and the ever-present North Korean threat.

The good news is that the Pentagon is investing heavily in rapidly expanding production of GMLRS missiles and HIMRS launchers.

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Well, it’s bad news considering how that money could be used for peaceful efforts, but it’s good news for Ukraine’s longer-term survival efforts.

“We have received nearly $400 million to replenish HIMARS and GMLRS in DOD inventories,” said William LaPlante, Secretary of Defense for Procurement and Maintenance, during a visit to the Arkansas factory that makes these systems. “In addition, we are planning nearly $200 million to expand and accelerate production, and expect to receive orders this fall and early next year.” Business at this facility will boom for years to come as countries queue to buy the high-performing, proven system. Poland alone has ordered 500 HIMARS, imagine what this ammunition order will look like! (It seems there is also a demand for a much cheaper unguided version, like the ones used during my time at MLRS).

The problem is that expanding a factory line takes time—time to set up the facilities, install the robotic and machining equipment, and hire and train staff to operate and manage the increased capacity (in times of low unemployment). Until then, the current monthly production rate of 125 capsules will have little impact on demand in Ukraine.

All of this means that Ukraine has no use for additional HIMARS, and their public statements confirm this. HIMARS are fun and effective and Twitter loves them and #NAFO makes the cutest memes, but the ammo just isn’t there to take full advantage of the launchers Ukraine already has. That’s why they demand tanks, armored personnel carriers and F-16s instead.

And really, it’s time to make it happen. At least This is now more realistic:

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These were announced a few months ago, but both Ukraine and the US subsequently decided that these $23 million drones were too vulnerable to Russian air defenses to make the investment worthwhile. There also appeared to be concerns that Russia might get its hands on the technology. These are not the Taliban or ISIS they would fly against.

But the new Ukrainian air defenses have hit the underperforming Russian Air Force hard over the past week, and the HARM anti-radar missile has decimated Russian air defenses to the point that it can now:

Those Gray Eagles suddenly make a lot more sense.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he expected good news from the front soon. Telegram is full of Ukrainian sources barely holding back and claiming the same thing but under strict shutdown. So while not much has officially moving around Lyman, things are definitely happening.

The Ukrainian advance east of Kupjansk is exciting. Russia spent several days pushing Ukraine back to the western side of the Oskil River split the city in half. Thankfully, Russia’s efforts were in vain as Ukraine is now expanding that beachhead.

Meanwhile, pro-Russian sources yesterday focused on an alleged Russian counterattack in Kherson and claimed they had broken up the Ukrainian advance in the region. Ukraine claimed otherwise, and they are not liars like the Russians. Regardless, Ukraine’s initial push in Kherson helped conceal their spectacularly successful push in Kharkiv, but it was a serious effort in its own right. However, why should Ukraine step up these efforts when it has had such incredible success in what Mark Sumner called the “tri-oblast” (Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk)?

Had the Russian defenses at Kherson collapsed instead, reinforcements would flock there instead. Ukraine does not have the resources to launch two all-out attacks at once, nor should it. Remember, I spent the first two months of the war blaming Russia for trying to fight a multifront war. Therefore, for now, Ukraine appears content to supply only HIMARS to Russian forces and bridges in the region, forcing them to resupply via inefficient barges and helicopters. Winter could take better care of those Russian lines than anything Ukraine can muster right now.


Thursday 29 September 2022 19:54:31 +00:00

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Kos

The biggest pro-Russian military blogger Rybar warns of the imminent collapse of their defenses at Lyman.

He claims the Ukrainians are attacking from all sides. I hope that’s not true. Surrounding them might be enough to force the garrison’s surrender. If it’s true that 3-5 Russian BTGs are in town, that would be a lot of new equipment for the Ukrainian army (several dozen tanks and possibly over 100 armored personnel carriers, as well as artillery and support vehicles).

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China’s heat waves show its climate adaptation plans have a way to go

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China just finished one of its most disastrous summers on record, with record-breaking heat, drought, and wildfires leading to water shortages even into the fall. More than 900 million people — or about 64 percent of China’s population — faced brutal heat waves alone, highlighting how much further the nation has to go to protect itself against worsening climate-related disasters.

As weather historian Maximiliano Herrera told New Scientist magazine last month while the heat waves were ongoing, “There is nothing in world climatic history which is even minimally comparable to what is happening in China.” In at least 17 provinces, more than 240 cities saw temperatures exceeding 104 degrees Fahrenheit. (Normally, a metropolis like Chongqing, at the center of this heat wave in southwestern China, only sees temperatures as high as 92°F.) China’s largest river and freshwater lake mostly dried up, reaching record-low water levels due to drought, all while wildfires raged. As in the United States, while some places baked, others flooded.

All this is taking place as China, the world’s largest current emitter of greenhouse gases, has positioned itself as a leader on mitigating climate change. With President Xi Jinping committing to net zero carbon emissions by 2060, China is already investing heavily into clean energy domestically and plans to stop financing coal-fired power plants abroad.

However, while China has increasingly focused on carbon mitigation efforts over the last decade, the country is just beginning to seriously tackle the equally difficult question of adapting to the effects of climate change. China’s complex geography and large landmass spanning various types of climate zones have always made it vulnerable to extreme weather events like droughts and floods. Due to the worsening factor of climate change, Beijing will need to step up its game to future-proof the country. As the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports emphasize, both mitigation and adaptation work is key to reducing vulnerability to climate change — and China still has a long road ahead of it.

“The climate story is a China story”

As Jeremy Wallace, a professor at Cornell University focusing on the effects of Chinese politics on climate and cities, told me, “The climate story is a China story.” China’s rapid industrialization and recent rise to becoming the second largest global economy was mostly fueled by coal. As a result, China was responsible for 27 percent of global greenhouse emissions by 2019, the most in the world and greater than every country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and European Union combined. That carbon-heavy energy load helped drive prosperity and historic poverty reduction, but there was a steep environmental cost for China, too, including major air and water pollution, desertification, ecological devastation, and the rise of extreme weather events.

Anglers fish along the Huangpu River across from a coal-fired power station in Shanghai, China, on September 28, 2021.
Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

Mounting concern and political pressure, mostly internal and to a lesser extent international, forced Beijing to act. Over the last two decades, the Chinese government passed domestic climate legislation, and made commitments to the international community, most notably when it signed the 2015 Paris agreement.

Scott Moore, director of China programs and strategic initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, told me that the Chinese government acknowledged opportunity and risk, with the latter especially playing a big role in climate policymaking. “​Of the world’s large economies, China is probably the single most exposed to climate risk,” he said.

The first factor is that many major cities, like Shanghai or Tianjin, are located in low-lying coastal or river valley areas that are vulnerable to flooding. Second, glacier melt from China’s portion of the Tibetan plateau is increasing floods downstream. And finally, China’s highly urbanized landscape, and the concentration of population and infrastructure that comes with that, makes China more vulnerable to disasters like floods.

There’s self-interest, too. The Chinese government also saw a huge opportunity in investing in the global clean energy market, which today is worth trillions of dollars. “China is the world’s largest investor, developer, deployer, and manufacturer of clean energy across the board,” said Michael Davidson, professor of global policy and engineering at the University of California San Diego. China invested $380 billion in renewable energy in 2021 alone, accounting for almost half of new renewable energy capacity worldwide. Because of entrepreneurship and large government subsidies, the country has built out an enormous domestic network of wind and solar plants, and become the global leader on electric vehicles.

Beachgoers walk near wind turbines along the coast of Pingtan in southern China’s Fujian province on August 6.
Ng Han Guan/AP

These changes are reflected in the very air that people living in China breathe, with the air quality in cities like Beijing markedly improving over the past decade. “It’s hard to say that they’re lagging” on tackling climate change, Davidson told me, and indeed, a recent report by Carbon Brief found China’s carbon emissions have seen their longest decline in a decade.

On the adaptation side, despite the severity of the current floods, far fewer people are dying today from floods in China than they used to. Floods are a historic problem in China, but because the Chinese government invested in flood control over the past two decades, the risk of death isn’t as high as it used to be, Moore told me, when the worst floods could kill people in the millions. The flood adaptation measures included the construction of large dams and reservoirs, but also the improvement of early warning systems and emergency management strategies such as evacuation.

The dam projects came with sizable environmental and human costs, ironically, including the destruction of wetlands that may have otherwise absorbed floodwater. Floods in recent years have also called the effectiveness of megaprojects like the Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydroelectric project ever created, into question. The central government recently acknowledged the unintended side effects in its climate adaptation strategy, finally passing a wetlands protection law last year to not only conserve but restore wetlands. China is also increasingly embracing nature-based solutions like “sponge cities,” retrofitting and designing cities to better absorb floodwaters, which could help reduce the severity of future floods.

Beyond its carbon mitigation efforts, the Chinese government also released an updated climate adaptation plan in June to better prepare the country by 2035. Its aims include improving early warning systems for extreme weather, shoring up food security, and boosting conservation efforts both inland and along the coast. Notably, the plan is a follow-up to a 2013 adaptation plan that heralded China’s “war on pollution” and led to China decreasing as much air pollution in seven years as the US did in three decades. This new plan will hopefully be similarly ambitious, because it aims to have a nationwide climate impact and risk assessment system by 2035. This would ensure major infrastructure projects consider potential environmental consequences, like the aforementioned dams used to control flooding and generate hydropower.

China has a plan to adapt, but is it enough?

Still, for whatever progress China has made toward mitigating climate change, its adaptation strategies may not be enough to meet the current moment. The consequences of climate change are coming faster than most governments, policymakers, and even scientists anticipated. “The reality we’re facing now is that the carbon emissions that are already in the atmosphere are baked in for a period of time,” said Jonas Nahm, professor of energy, resources, and environment at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. “Things are going to get worse before they get better, even if we do everything to meet the Paris agreement models.”

Firefighters deliver water to residents due to a shortage amid a heat wave, in Loudi, China, on August 24.
STR/AFP via Getty Images

The realities of the baked-in effects of climate change were in full view in Sichuan, the southwestern province at the center of this summer’s heat wave and drought. Hydropower systems there faced a serious electricity shortfall due to reservoirs and rivers drying up. “For all of this sort of anticipation, and planning, China’s also scrambling to try to figure out how to respond to this in the same way that the Europeans are with all these rivers running dry,” Nahm told me.

While hydropower makes up 16 percent of China’s total power production (almost equal to its other renewable energy sources combined), it’s more than 80 percent of Sichuan’s power production, and in fact, it usually has so much excess hydropower that it delivers a third of what it produces to the rest of the country. However, drought affected Sichuan’s hydropower generation, and because it couldn’t curb its power sharing with other provinces, rolling blackouts had to be implemented to prevent the grid from being overwhelmed by demand. Even as the drought eases, there are worries that Sichuan and other parts of China will face power shortages in the winter.

“You’ve seen over the last several years that some of the existing infrastructure just isn’t prepared,” said Nahm. A key example of this is the South-North Water Transfer Project, the largest water diversion project in history, and perhaps even the most expensive infrastructure ever built, period. Built over the past two decades, the project aimed to bring water from water-abundant southern China to water-scarce northern China, which, despite containing around half the country’s population, only has about 20 percent of the country’s total water supply.

The Hongze Station, part of the South-North Water Transfer Project in Huai’an, Jiangsu province, in January.
Wan Zheng/Costfoto/Future Publishing via Getty Images

But at best, the South-North Water Transfer Project has served as a Band-Aid to buy the government more time, and has done little to solve the issue of water scarcity. More damning, it has actually worsened the issue of water pollution. As Jennifer Turner, director of the Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum, told me, water pollution doesn’t make the headlines like air pollution, but is probably China’s biggest environmental problem. And the water pollution problem is so bad that it actually exacerbates China’s water scarcity problem. The resources that went into this megaproject could have gone to less flashy solutions like better collection of rainwater and water recycling. Ultimately, Turner said, the Chinese government has to address both the short and long term if it wants to fix its water problems.

China’s infrastructure issues go beyond just its water projects, however. Wallace, the Cornell professor, said China may also need to fundamentally rethink how it builds urban areas. As in the US, Chinese cities have a tendency toward sprawl that is more polluting and carbon-intensive. “Once you build the city,” Wallace said, “it’s really hard to go back, right?” There is some research to suggest that sprawling cities have to deal with more extreme heat events than do more compactly designed cities.

In the meantime, UC San Diego’s Davidson told me, there are still things China could do to protect provinces like Sichuan from extreme weather in the future. For one, the central government could ensure that it has a more unified power system that can better respond to energy shocks, such as a spike in demand for air conditioning when it’s boiling hot.

Another is better urban design: More efficient air conditioning, better insulation, planning, and cooling centers can help Chinese cities better cope when there’s a heat wave. China could also improve monitoring systems for extreme weather, support the agriculture sector, reevaluate current infrastructure projects, and bolster reforestation and flood control efforts to not only control flooding but also prepare for future drought scenarios.

With the advent of its new 2035 climate adaptation plan, which will implement a road map to bolster China’s risk assessment and its “climate-sensitive sectors,” it appears the Chinese government is looking to implement many of these policies. But this will require upending what Nahm described to me as the economic and engineering approach that China has largely taken to its infrastructure up to this point, green or otherwise. Rather than building dams or water diversion systems, China will have to double down on nature-based solutions.

Workers plant new trees on a mountain in China’s Hebei province, on April 27, 2020.
Costfoto/Future Publishing via Getty Images

At an environmental conference in Beijing, Ge Le, director of the climate change and energy program at the Nature Conservancy in China, pointed to recent reforestation efforts in China and trying to integrate more greenery into cities, like the aforementioned sponge cities, as positive examples for China to expand on. She also brought up the oyster reef restoration projects in Alabama, which aim to strike a balance between ecological restoration, climate adaptation (as reefs function as seawalls), and commercial benefit for the communities that harvest oysters.

To some observers, China’s catastrophic summer may appear to be an indictment of Beijing not having done enough to meet the current climatic moment. But the truth is that China has done a lot to mitigate the effects of climate change, as well as adapt to its effects. And while the Chinese government could certainly do more, the unveiling of the 2035 adaptation plan makes it clear that there is a lot more to come. The problem facing Beijing, then, is the same faced by Washington, Brussels, and elsewhere: Climate change is already here, and things are going to get worse before they get better. China, like the rest of the world, is going to have to buckle in and work harder than ever.

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