Monday, October 10, 2011

You've stolen our weather! Iran's president blames the West for his country's water shortages

Iran's leader suspects the West of tampering with the country's weather patterns [GALLO/GETTY]
Love or loathe him, you cannot keep Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad out of the news. His pronouncement that the country’s current lack of water is part of a plot by Western countries has caused much amusement in some quarters.
There is no doubt that Iran is suffering from a lack of water. Three quarters of the country is drought-affected and duststorms are a frequent occurrence.  Critics of Ahmadinejad’s government claim that the shortage of drinking water is the result of mismanagement of water distribution system and some two-thirds of available water is lost through wastage.
The President, however, is pointing a finger at the West. To be fair, this is a message he was issuing as early as May this year. So could there be an element of truth in his claims?
Although Mr Ahmadinejad is the son of a blacksmith, he was, until his appointment as Major of Tehran, a lecturer at the city’s University of Science and Technology, holding a PhD in traffic and transport. So he does have enough of a background in science to make his comments worthy of consideration.
Weather modification does have a long history. As early as 1947 the U.S. military was attempting to divert the course of hurricanes by seeding clouds with silver iodide. At the same time, the British were attempting to keep runways at military airfields clear by the use of long lines of burners, with the view to clearing any thick fog which had formed.
As recently as 2009, Chinese meteorologists claimed to have brought about Beijing’s earliest snowfall in a decade after seeding clouds with silver iodide in an attempt to end the ongoing drought. The resultant disruption to road and rail transport suggests that snow was probably not the objective of the experiment – a good soaking of rain was what they were really hoping for.
The problem with weather modification is whether it can be proved that the weather was indeed modified or whether it had occurred naturally.
It is likely that Mr Ahmadinejad was specifically referring to the use of electromagnetic waves to control weather. Quoted at the opening of a dam in the central province of Arak, he told reporters, “According to reports about climate, whose authenticity has been verified, the European countries have used certain equipment to discharge clouds and prevent rain-bearing clouds from reaching regional countries such as Iran.”
The ‘certain equipment’ to which he refers is probably that known as ‘atmospheric resonance technology’. This technology has a history stretching back to the work of Nikola Tesla in the late nineteen century. Tesla carried out experiments involving electromagnetic flux and the earth’s gravitational field.
Reports of experiments to use this technology for the modification of weather patterns can be traced back to the early 1990s and HAARP - High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program – an ionispheric research programme. In addition to the intended target of improved radio communications and surveillance, it has been postulated that such a programme could be used to alter weather patterns – an idea which has appealed to military strategists for many decades. But evidence that such schemes have been put into place is limited.
More recently, some relatively small-scale commercial operations have claimed to have ‘lassoed’ passing weather systems using methods based on electromagnetism to deliver rain to fee-paying customers.
For those concerned, like Mr Ahmadinejad, then a word of caution is required: such technology is much loved by internet conspiracy theorists. Similarly, an internet engine search for ‘chemtrails’ will lead the gullible to the belief that our every thought is being controlled by chemicals released from high-flying aircraft – although by whom is never made clear.
The uncertainty of weather does not sit well with our desire for ordered and controlled lives. Attempts to control our weather are likely to increase and there is every chance that they will meet with greater success in the future. But for the time-being, explanations for water shortages are more likely to be of a more mundane nature – such as leaky pipes, Mr Ahmadinejad.

Temperatures in the capitals of the world

Doha Qatar
Today's High: 35 C
Winds: From the West
12 kph
Tonight's Low: 26 C
33 C
12 kph
26 C
34 C
13 kph
27 C
34 C
11 kph
27 C

Belgium spearheads Dexia bailout Brussels buys bank's retail arm and joins forces with France and Luxembourg to provide $121bn in funding guarantees.

Dexia will receive an additional $121bn (€90bn) in funding guarantees for up to 10 years [EPA]
Belgium, France and Luxembourg are to bail out the embattled bank Dexia, following concerns it could go bankrupt.
Belgium said on Monday it would buy the bank's Belgian subsidiary for €4bn ($5.4bn) and would provide the bulk of guarantees for the parent group's leftover assets.
The plan came after French and German leaders agreed that Europe's crisis-hit banks need to be recapitalised.
Dexia is the first large European bank to need a state bailout since the financial crisis of 2008, after it came under intense funding pressure due to its exposure to highly indebted eurozone states like Greece, Italy and Spain.
Yves Leterme, Belgium's caretaker prime minister, said Dexia's nationalisation was in the interest of its customers.
"Dexia's clients can be sure and certain that their money is in full security at Dexia Belgium," said Leterme.
On top of the nationalisation programme, the governments of Belgium, France and Luxembourg together will provide an additional $121bn (€90bn) in funding guarantees for the bank for up to 10 years.
Dexia would be left with $121bn in assets, some of which are described as "toxic" and would be covered by state-backed guarantees: 60.5 per cent from Belgium, 36.5 per cent from France and 3 per cent from Luxembourg.
The announcement followed marathon negotiations between the three governments and the bank's management.
The Belgian and French governments were concerned that putting up more money for bank bailouts would threaten their credit rating and drive up interest rates on their bonds.
Moody's Investors Service had placed Belgium's Aa1 rating on review for a possible downgrade, due in part to the expected expense of guaranteeing that Dexia's depositors will lose no money.
The French government, too, was under acute pressure to save Dexia as the bank is one of the country's largest lenders to towns and cities.
Dexia's retail operation has 6,000 staff and deposits totalling $107bn for four million customers.

'Occupy' protests continue in Washington Protesters attempt to enter DC museum to oppose drone strikes by US military, while thousands march again in New York.

"Occupy DC" protesters comprise various groups and have split up to protest and meet later in the square [Reuters]
Protesters have scuffled with security guards at a Washington museum and marched through New York City in the latest popular demonstrations in the US inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Al Jazeera's Monica Villamizar, reporting from Washington, said Saturday's protests were organised to oppose the use of drones by the US military.
"Protesters walked to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and tried to go in with a banner against the use of drones," our correspondent said.
Hundreds of people and groups, including anti-war activists, joined the Occupy DC protests in opposition to the use of unmanned aircraft by the US military, she said. The protest coincided with the 10th anniversary of the start of the Afghanistan war, where drones have frequently been used.
A museum spokesperson said one person was arrested as up to 200 protesters attempted to enter the museum, blocked by six guards.
"There was a lot of shoving going on," Isabel Lara said, adding that one of the guards was surrounded and used pepper spray before the demonstrators were moved outside.
The shoving match broke out in the entrance after guards told the protesters they could not enter with signs, Lara said. She said she was not aware of any injuries.
Elsewhere in the US, protests were ongoing.
'Occupying' America
Several thousand Occupy Wall Street protesters marched to New York City's Washington Square Park for a meeting which they described as a "general assembly", on Saturday.
In depth coverage of US financial crisis protests
Demonstrators peacefully marched from Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, the group's unofficial headquarters dubbed "Liberty Plaza" by the group, where protesters have been camping for more than three weeks. They met to discuss expanding their protest to other sites.
Lucas Vasquez, a student leading the march, said protesters were looking at setting up camp in Washington Square and Battery Parks.
In Alabama, meanwhile, Kristin Thompson, a 22-year-old teacher and one of hundreds of protesters in
the town of Mobile said, "We're tired of other people controlling, or thinking they control, our lives and our livelihoods."
In Santa Fe, New Mexico, about 250 protesters lined the streets outside a Bank of America branch, waving signs at passing vehicles.
"We are all in this together," said Ramona Beene, 45, who owns a cake company. She said her two college-age children were "spending thousands of dollars and won't have jobs after they graduate".
The Occupy Wall Street movement started in New York on September 17, spreading to over cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, California; Chicago, Illinois; Austin and Houston, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; and Washington DC.
Dozens of protesters were arrested in New York on Wednesday when thousands marched on Wall Street in their biggest show of support yet.
The same day, 25 people who were part of the Seattle, Washington's 'Occupy' protest were arrested and police confiscated demonstrators' tents and other belongings.
Seven hundred people were also arrested in New York the previous Saturday after spilling onto the roadway while crossing the Brooklyn Bridge.
Protesters say they are speaking out against corporate greed and the gap between the rich and poor. They say they have no leaders and are making decisions by consensus.

Ruling party wins chaotic Sri Lankan polls President's UPFA claims victory in 22 out of 23 local councils in contest marred by shootout that left three dead.

Rajapaksa has boosted his popularity and tightened his grip on power since the army defeated the Tamil Tigers [AFP]
The Sri Lankan president's party has won 22 out of 23 local councils in elections, according to results released on Sunday.
Victory for Mahinda Rajapaksa's United People's Freedom Alliance came as police investigated a gun battle in which three people were killed a day earlier.
Two factions within the national ruling alliance clashed shortly before polling closed, leaving a presidential aide and two of his bodyguards dead. More than a dozen people were seriously wounded.
Police said at least two officers were among those critically hurt in the shoot-out in the Kolonnawa electorate within the district of Colombo, the capital.
Official poll results showed that the UPFA swept the polls, but lost the most prestigious Colombo Municipal Council.
The fractured opposition faced a rout elsewhere, with Rajapaksa's party gaining large majorities in provincial towns.
At the site of the shootout, a curfew was lifted on Sunday, but police commandos and soldiers remained on the street to maintain law and order, a police spokesman said.
Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra, a 55-year-old presidential adviser, died of gunshot wounds along with two of his bodyguards when a rival faction within the ruling alliance opened fire minutes before polling ended.
Duminda Silva, a legislator considered Premachandra's rival, was also wounded in the confrontation and was in intensive care on Sunday after surgery to remove two bullets from his brain, hospital sources said.
The shooting has seriously embarrassed the government, which has yet to comment on the violence.
The elections, in which 1.5 million people were eligible to vote, were seen as a mid-term test for Rajapaksa, who won a second term for himself and his party in elections last year.
Rajapaksa has boosted his popularity and tightened his grip on power since government forces ended the country's decades-long civil war by defeating Tamil separatists in 2009.
The UN accused security forces of serious human rights abuses in the final days of the conflict.
Voters elected 420 members from among 6,488 candidates in the latest round of local elections.
Councils are responsible for maintaining utilities, but have no legislative powers. But political parties consider it important to secure the local bodies as a stepping stone towards national elections which are next due in 2016.

Pires wins African governance prize Former president of Cape Verde recognised for his "democratic credentials" and leadership of African nation.

Pires is the first winner of the award since 2008, due to lack of suitable candidates [EPA]
The former president of Cape Verde has been awarded a prestigious $5m prize recognising excellence in African leadership.

Pires, who led the former Portuguese colony off Africa's northwest coast for a decade until August, is the first winner of the award, funded by the Mo Ibrahim foundation, since 2008 because no suitable candidate could be found in recent years.
"Throughout his long career, president Pires has been dedicated to the service of his people, including those in the diaspora, while retaining his humility and personal integrity"
- Salim Ahmed Salim,
prize committee chairman

Organisers of the award, established in 2006 by Sudanese telecoms giant Mo Ibrahim to improve the quality of African governments, also praised Pires for his decision this year not to run for office again after the expiry of his second term.
Salim Ahmed Salim, the chair of the prize committee, told an audience in London, "President Pires's democratic credentials were further enhanced when he announced he was stepping down at the end of his second term."
Dismissing outright suggestions that the constitution could be altered to allow him to stand again, he said, "This is a simple matter of faithfulness to the documents that guide a state of law."
"Throughout his long career, president Pires has been dedicated to the service of his people, including those in the diaspora, while retaining his humility and personal integrity."
The Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership carries a $5m prize paid over 10 years and $200,000 annually for life from then on.
Launched in 2006, the last winner of the prize was Festus Mogae, the former president of Botswana, in 2008.

Weather hampers NZ oil spill operation Crews race to extract oil from a leaking ship stranded on a reef off New Zealand, ahead of worsening weather conditions.

Only 10 metric tonnes of oil has been extracted from the MV Rena as bad weather halted further attempts [EPA]
Small amounts of oil from a container ship stuck on a reef off the coast of New Zealand has begun washing up at a popular recreational beach.
After beginning an operation on Sunday to extract up to 1,700 metric tonnes of oil from the stricken ship, marine crews halted pumping work on Monday due to worsening weather.
"The weather is expected to deteriorate in the coming days, so we are working around the clock to remove the oil"
- Maritime New Zealand agency
They managed to removed just 10 metric tonnes of oil before work was called off ahead of forecast gale-force winds and swells.
Maritime New Zealand (MNZ), the agency responsible for shipping in the region, said the work was called off in order to keep crews safe.
The operation is expected to last at least two more days once it resumes.
"The weather is expected to deteriorate in the coming days, so we are working around the clock to remove the oil," the agency said in a statement.
Salvage experts and naval architects are on board to monitor the ship, and sensors should indicate if the ship is in danger of breaking apart, the agency said.
"The top priority is to first remove the oil, then lighten the vessel by removing the containers, and finally, move the ship off the reef," said the statement.
The MV Rena has already leaked 20 to 30 tonnes of oil since it struck a reef in the Bay of Plenty on Wednesday.
The Liberia-flagged "Rena" struck the Astrolabe Reef about 22 kms from Tauranga Harbour on Sunday, and has been foundering there since.
The 236-metre ship has been leaking fuel, leading to fears it could cause an environmental disaster if it falls apart.
A New Zealand navy vessel, the Endeavour, will be used as a command platform for the operation, with 200 people working on the operation.
'Disastrous' timing
John Key, New Zealand's prime minister, who flew over the scene in a helicopter on Sunday, said two inquiries to determine why the ship had collided with the Astrolabe Reef were already under way.
"People know about the reef, and for it to plough into it for no particular reason - at night, in calm waters - tells you something terrible has gone wrong and we need to understand why," he told Radio New Zealand.
"This is a ship that's ploughed into a well documented reef in calm waters in the middle of the night at 17 knots. So, somebody needs to tell us why that's happened," Key said.
Rescue efforts to help wildlife affected by the spill has taken place [EPA]
In a statement, the owners of the ship, Greece based Costamare, said they were "co-operating fully with local authorities" and were making every effort to "control and minimize the environmental consequences of this
The company did not offer any explanation for the grounding.
The animal welfare group Forest and Bird said the timing of the accident, in the middle of the breeding season for birds, was "disastrous".
Greenpeace said it could also affect whales and dolphins calving in the area, as well as other species.
The Rena was built in 1990 and was carrying 1,351 containers of goods when it ran aground, according to the owners.
In addition to the oil, authorities are also concerned about some potentially dangerous goods aboard, including four containers of ferrosilicon.
New Zealand authorities said they would make it a priority to remove those goods as part of their operation

Polish PM wins second term Ruling party led by Donald Tusk registers impressive win in Sunday's vote, securing 206 parliamentary seats.

Donald Tusk's Civic Platform becomes the first Polish party to win two consecutive terms since 1989 [Reuters]
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk's centrist party has won a second consecutive term following parliamentary elections held on Sunday.
A count of 99.2 percent of all districts shows that Tusk's pro-marke Civic Platform won 39.2 per cent of the vote, against 30 per cent for its conservative challenger, the Law and Justice Party.
Civic Platform becomes the first Polish party to win two consecutive terms since communism's fall in 1989.
Tusk, 54, appears to have been rewarded for presiding over four years of strong economic growth, as Poland has been the only EU member state to avoid recession, and this year its economy is forecast to grow by about 4 per cent, the highest rate among the EU's seven largest economies.
The electoral commission said Civic Platform's 39 per cent would turn into 206 seats in the 460 member lower chamber, with its junior partner, the People's Party, winning 8.6 per cent of the vote, or 30 seats.
Both parties would hold a five-vote majority in the lower house of parliament if they continue their partnership.
Coalition talks
Tusk said he would work on forming a coalition and that his party will continue to favour a coalition with the Polish People's Party.
The leader of the Law and Justice Party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski admitted defeat after his party won 157 seats.
Jaroslaw had served as prime minister from 2005 to 2007, with his twin brother, Lech, as president. Lech Kaczynski died in a plane crash with 95 others in April 2010.

Tribesmen shoot down Yemeni warplane

Ali Abdullah Saleh's return to Yemen has infuriated many who thought they had seen the last of him [EPA]

Opposition tribesmen have shot down a fighter jet outside the capital Sanaa and captured its pilot as tens of thousands of Yemenis continue to protest against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's return from Saudi Arabia.

A military official said the aircraft, a Russian-made Sukhoi fighter, had been shot down on Wednesday while conducting a routine mission.

A tribal source told the Reuters news agency that fighters shot down the plane using anti-aircraft weapons and detained the pilot when he jumped from the wreckage in the mountainous area of Naham.

The tribesmen are believed to be allied to leading dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar and are battling Saleh's elite Republican Guard for control of the area.

Some tribes have aligned with protesters seeking to oust Saleh, who unexpectedly returned to Yemenlast week from Saudi Arabia during a wave of violence in the capital that left more than 100 people dead.

Saleh's return has infuriated many Yemenis who thought they had seen the last of him when an attempt on his life in June forced him to fly to neighbouring Saudi Arabia for medical treatment, but he defied the odds on Friday by landing in Sanaa.
Ally turned foe
Saleh is now opposed by former allies such as Mohsen and the influential al-Ahmar family that heads his own Hashed tribal federation.
Before his return, protesters trying to expand their camp in Sanaa were caught up in a battle between Saleh's forces and soldiers loyal to Mohsen.

For more on Yemen, visit our Spotlight page

At least 100 people, mainly protesters, were killed.

While violence has dipped since Saleh came back, tensions are still high and many fear the lull will eventually give way to an even bloodier confrontation, if not all-out civil war.
Organisers were trying on Tuesday to build up the numbers of demonstrators by planning less risky routes through the capital after the violence that had kept some off the streets.

Saudi Arabia and the US supported Saleh in the past to contain an active al-Qaeda wing that has taken root in Yemen, but growing lawlessness is fanning fears of a civil war that could shake one of the world's top oil-producing regions.

Gulf nations seeking to broker a power transition have expressed concern over Saleh's repeated failure to sign agreed deals.

Libyan fighters push deeper into Sirte NTC forces say they are preparing to fight street by street in the face of stubborn resistance from Gaddafi loyalists.

Libyan fighters have made major progress into Sirte, the home city of toppled leader Muammar Gaddafi.
National Transitional Council (NTC) forces said on Sunday they had managed to take control of Al Giza district, where a large number of pro-Gaddafi forces were based, as well as the city's university, and Ibn Sina hospital.
Some 15 Gaddafi loyalists were captured from the hospital, a witness told the Reuters news agency.
Despite stiff resistance from Gaddafi loyalists, NTC fighters also captured the Ouagadougou conference centre, which is believed to have housed the command centre of Gaddafi's forces and was protected by a large number of snipers.
Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley, reporting from Sirte, said: "They have taken the Ouagadougou conference centre, the university, and the hospital. But there has been intense fighting for a third day.
"The NTC fighters now say they have something like 70 per cent of Sirte under their control. But the remaining 30 per cent poses a problem, because it is going to entail street fighting.
"Gaddafi's fighters, who are said to number about 2,000, are putting up a tough resistance. We are in a situation where NATO can't help. They are up close and personal, fighting street by street."
The NTC fighters also launched a major offensive on Bani Walid, another town southeast of the capital Tripoli still controlled by Gaddafi forces.
According to an Al Jazeera correspondent near the desert town, NTC forces have reached the first mosque on the outskirts of Bani Walid.
Abdullah Khansheel of the Bani Walid military council said NTC fighters were also in control of the airport, approximately 75km from the city centre.
'Liberation in days'
Mustafa Abdul Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council, said both Sirte and Bani Walid would be liberated within days.
"I will reassure all Libyans that the liberation will be done in the coming few days. The city of Bani Walid is
under siege from five directions," Jalil told reporters.
"As for Sirte, after the heavy fighting yesterday and the day before, the fighters reached the city centre and
they are combing the residential neighbourhoods where there are some snipers. I think and I hope with the help of God the liberation of these two towns will be completed by the end of this week," he added.

The fight to seize control of the Ouagadougou centre proved particularly tough with Gaddafi loyalists entrenched in concrete bunkers.
"It has been hit for days by tank guns and rockets, but it hasn't budged. Its paint has hardly been scratched," one NTC fighter said.
Abdel-Basit Haroun, an NTC field commander, said 32 people had been killed in Sirte since anti-Gaddafi fighters began the "final push" operation on Friday. Hundreds more were reported wounded.
It is unclear how many civilians are still inside the city. Thousands of residents have fled since the standoff began three weeks ago.
International organisations allowed into the embattled town last week to visit the hospitals said conditions were "dire", with patients sitting in corridors of buildings that got shelled.

Egypt army seeks probe into Cairo clashes Military council asks government to form fact- finding team to investigate Sunday's clashes that left 26 people dead.

Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] has called for a speedy investigation into Sunday night's deadly clashes in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, that left at least 26 dead and more than 300 injured, mostly Coptic Christians.
The SCAF "tasked the government with quickly forming a fact finding committee to determine what happened and take legal measures against all those proven to have been involved, either directly or by incitement," state television reported.
At an emergency meeting held on Monday, the military council also reiterated that it "continues to bear national responsibility to protect the people after the January 25 revolution... until it hands power to an elected civilian authority".
It blamed the clashes on "efforts by some to destroy the pillars of the state and sow chaos" and said it would "take the necessary measures to restore the security situation".
Sunday's clashes were the worst violence since the country’s revolution in February that toppled long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak.
The violence erupted after Coptic Christians, protesting against the destruction of a church in the southern province of Aswan, came under attack.
On Monday, several hundred angry Christians pelted police with rocks outside a Cairo hospital, despite calls from Essam Sharaf, Egypt's interim prime minister, for calm.
"Instead of advancing to build a modern state of democratic principles, we are back searching for security and stability, worrying that there are hidden hands, both domestic and foreign, seeking to obstruct the will of Egyptians in establishing a democracy," Sharaf said on state television.
Dozens of people have been detained in connection with Sunday's violence, with MENA, the country's official news agency, saying that "instigators of chaos" had been arrested.
Egypt's Coptic church has called for three days of mourning, asking followers to fast and pray for peace in the country.
Some blamed the deaths on execessive use of force by the Egyptian army.
Hossam Bahgat, from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told Al Jazeera that Sunday night's clashes were unprecedented.
"There is nothing like what we saw yesterday, because it was the army," he said. "For the first time [the Christians] are not being attacked by Muslim extremists or police security forces, but by the army. We don't understand why the army resorted to such measures."
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"There needs to be an independent investigation into the attacks, and it should not be carried out by the army."
Christians, who make up about 10 per cent of Egypt's roughly 80 million people, took to the streets after blaming Muslim radicals for partially demolishing a church in Aswan province last week.
They also demanded the sacking of the province's governor for failing to protect the building.
Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh, reporting from Cairo, said "utter chaos" prevailed in the centre of the capital.
Rageh said: "It was supposed to be a peaceful protest, demanding that Coptic rights should be fulfilled. But it soon escalated into violence, with people on balconies pelting the demonstrators with stones, clearly disagreeing with the cause of the Coptic demonstrators."
The Copts say they were marching peacefully when thugs attacked them, drawing in the military police who used what activists described as unnecessary force.