Get Adobe Flash player

Daily Archives: October 5, 2008

China denounces proposed US arms sales to Taiwan

Image   China yesterday denounced proposed US arms sales to Taiwan worth 6.5 billion dollars, according to state media, hours after Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou had thanked Washington.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said the Chinese government and people firmly opposed the move, which seriously damaged China’s interests and Sino-US relations, Xinhua news agency said. The Pentagon notified Congress Friday of 6.5 billion dollars in possible arms sales to Taiwan that would include advanced interceptor missiles, Apache attack helicopters and submarine-launched missiles. The Defence Security and Cooperation Agency said the proposed sales were aimed at improving Taiwan’s defences and would not alter the basic military balance in the region. It would end a year-long lull in US arms sales to Taipei, which has enjoyed improved relations with China since President Ma was elected earlier this year on a platform of easing tensions with the mainland. “All foreign military sales are discussed and approved (based on) long established inter agency procedure, and we only recently finished that procedure with regard to these notifications for Taiwan,” a State Department official said. Taiwanese President Ma yesterday thanked Washington for the planned deal with the island, while reiterating his pledge to improve ties with rival China. “President Ma Ying-jeou would like to thank the US government…. He is committed to upholding national sovereignty and security while promoting cross-strait peaceful developments,” said presidential spokesman Wang Yu-chi. “This also shows that Taiwan and the US have entered an era of mutual trust and the discord in the past eight years is over,” Wang said. The proposed sales would involve 330 Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missiles worth up to 3.1 billion dollars and 30 AH- 64D Apache Longbow helicopters worth 2.5 billion dollars. Taiwan has asked to buy 31 UGM-84L submarine launched Harpoon anti-ship missiles valued at up to 200 million dollars. It also requested 182 Javelin guided missiles
with 20 Javelin command launch units worth 47 million dollars. “The proposed sale will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance and economic
progress in the region,” the DSCA said. Congress has 30 days to raise objections to the proposed sales which are likely to face criticism from China. The announcements followed a visit to the United States this week by Taiwanese defence minister Chen Chao-min, the first of its kind since 2002.

Solar water heaters growing in power-hungry Burkina Faso

by Romaric Ollo Hien*

A solar panel lies on the roof of Pierre Guissou's home in Burkina Faso, feeding power to his water heater and allowing his family to take precious hot showers in a country where most homes lack electricity.
The 42-year-old electrician is among a growing number of residents in this west African country turning to the sun to heat their water, helping them save money on utility bills and the environment along the way.
"Everyone washes with hot water at home, which was reserved for the children before," said Guissou, who lives in the capital Ouagadougou.
"It saves money, protects the environment and there's no more anxiety about electricity bills at the end of the month," he said.
With the country's electricity grid reaching only 12 percent of all households, the sun provides a powerful alternative source of energy.
But solar power remains scarce here like elsewhere in most of sub-Sahara Africa. While the sun-bathed continent has a huge potential for producing solar power, it accounts for a tiny percentage of the world's solar energy output.
Price is often a deterrent. Solar-powered water heaters cost 600 to 1,520 euros (860 to 2,190 dollars) in Burkina Faso, a country of 15.2 million residents where the minimum guaranteed income is a mere 46 euros (65 dollars) a month.
But headway — at least on the micro level — is being made slowly but surely thanks to a tenacious Swiss non-government organisation, the Albert Schweitzer Ecological Centre (CEAS) which arrived here in 1973 after a severe drought.
"Most of the NGOs that came here at the time resorted to reforestation and soil restoration," said Charles Didace Konseibo, a Burkinabe CEAS manager.
"Cutting fresh wood to make firewood or charcoal is very common here. There was a need for a solar alternative for those using wood to keep new trees from being destroyed years later," he said.
So in 1982, CEAS set up a facility in Ouagadougou to train residents in solar energy equipment. Since then, local workers have passed on their knowledge to other Burkinabes.
Saidou Porgo, the craftsman who delivered Guissou's 200-litre (44 gallons) water heater in 2002, owes his expertise to a three-week CEAS training course.

'Our only wealth here is the sun'

"Our only wealth here is the sun," said Porgo, a welder. "We have plenty of it and it never dies. It's in our interest to promote this source of energy, since life has become more expensive."
The centre taught him to build water heaters, dryers and pumps, among other things. Porgo said he sold about 50 dryers and water heaters, earning him about 22 million CFA francs (33,500 euros, 47,000 dollars) in 10 years.
And his clients are "less cranky" when bills come around at the end of the month thanks to the solar technology.
Boniface Willy, another CEAS trainee, has done even better. Since his course in 1993, he has sold hundreds of solar water heaters to hotels, health centers and private homes.
"My sales grew 30 percent since I began building this equipment," he said.
Willy and Porgo now provide free training to other craftsmen interested in the technologies promoted by CEAS, whose Burkina office also trains in Benin, Mali and Niger and which has opened branches in Madagascar and Senegal.
CEAS's technology department creates and builds equipment using simple technology that helps preserve the environment, Konseibo said.
"We then transfer the knowledge to local craftsmen for them to reproduce the equipment, allowing them to make money," he said.