The goal is to speed the transition to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydroelectric power by facilitating the transfer of energy from countries where there is a surplus to countries that need it.
In August, utility companies in Malaysia and Indonesia signed a memorandum of understanding to study 18 potential locations where cross-border transmission lines could be set up.
The deal, which comes in addition to power-trading deals among Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, was signed on the sidelines of the 41st ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting held in conjunction with a regional energy business forum on August 24 in Bali, Indonesia.
Beni Suryadi, manager of power, fossil fuel, alternative energy and storage at the ASEAN Centre for Energy in Jakarta, Indonesia, said lines between countries are economically and technically feasible, and are supported by regional governments. Renewable energy “has become a crucial need for every country,” he said.
Energy demand in the region grew by more than 80% between 2000 and 2019 and is expected to triple by 2050 from the 2020 level, according to a 2023 ASEAN-EU Business Council report.
The report stressed the urgency of transitioning to renewable energy, saying “increasingly severe weather, rising sea levels, and widespread tropical diseases all accompany climate change, to name a few scourges. There are estimates that climate change and its effects will wipe out 11% of ASEAN’s GDP by 2100.”
Dato’ Indera Ir. Baharin, president and CEO of Malaysia’s national utility company, called an interconnected ASEAN power grid “a critical step in the region’s energy transition.”
“A robust regional interconnection will allow for a wider reallocation of renewable energy resources that will help decarbonise the ASEAN power system,” Baharin said in August. “It will help us to ensure the region’s energy security … and transition to a cleaner, more sustainable future.”
Darmawan Prasodjo, president director of Indonesia’s state-owned utilities company, said, “We are about to enter a critical phase of transition energy that offers tremendous challenge but also magnificent opportunities.”
“But,” he said, “we have to navigate the complexities of designing and building interconnected grids. Complexities of alignment of policy. Complexities of technical challenge. Complexities of commercial feasibilities. Complexities of large capital investment.”
Peerapat Vithayarichareon, DNV principal consultant for energy systems in the Asia Pacific region, told The Jakarta Post that the expansion of clean energy in the region is being undermined by inadequate policy support and limited access to capital.
“Speaking from the technical perspective, there are concerns related to the potential impact of the cross-border power grid on the power systems within the countries,” he said.
“Countries cannot just shift from coal-fired generation to renewable energy,” he continued. “We need to prepare the system to accommodate the increasing share of wind and solar power generation, for example.”
Ryan Wong and Lee Poh Onn, of ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute, a think-tank headquartered in Singapore, wrote in February 2022 that there are doubts whether Southeast Asian governments recognize the benefits of harmonizing their energy grids and selling surplus energy.
“Southeast Asian countries are in general insular in their policy thinking. Therefore, it takes strong political will for them to look beyond national borders and immediate needs,” they wrote.
Diverse energy options
Driving the energy-sharing idea is the fact that the ASEAN members — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — have diverse sources of renewable energy.
Indonesia and the Philippines, for example, have substantial geothermal capacity. Laos and Malaysia have hydropower capacity. Vietnam has wind and solar capacity, and there is significant solar energy capacity in Thailand and Malaysia.
Laos has built more than 50 dams in the past 15 years, branding itself as the “battery of Southeast Asia.” It already benefits from sales of power to Thailand, Vietnam and China.
A tiny nation with a population of 7.4 million, Laos has surplus power even after those sales. Singapore, a city-state of 6 million people, imports all its clean energy.
The ASEAN Interconnectivity Masterplan Study III, which began in 2019, first identified the 18 potential cross-border lines with an estimated capacity of up to 33 GW of electricity interconnections.
The Indonesia-Malaysia utility interconnection signed in Bali is an important step in enhancing the ASEAN power grid, but it isn’t the first power-sharing agreement.
In 2017, Laos transmitted 100 megawatts of hydroelectric power to Malaysia through Thailand’s grid, which was later increased to 300 megawatts.
Now, Singapore has joined the agreement in the Laos-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Program. And Indonesia is developing a $5 billion plan to send power from solar energy to Singapore via undersea cables from facilities in Batam.
According to a September report by the Boston Consulting Group, developing the more ambitious ASEAN-wide grid will require regional funding mechanisms and fair financial settlements.
The participating nations must also agree on technical standards for inter-grid connections and ensure that the power transmission is reliable.
Tata Mustasya, energy and climate manager at Greenpeace Indonesia, said the ASEAN countries need to speed up their own energy transition and create smart grids at the national level before setting up ambitious targets to boost the use of renewable energy regionwide.
“Southeast Asian countries cannot achieve their zero-emission target without consistent and sufficient incentives for the clean and renewable energy and disincentives for fossil fuels,” he told VOA Indonesian.
Striking Hollywood actors and studios will continue their negotiations on Friday, the SAG-AFTRA actors union said on Wednesday.
Negotiators for the SAG-AFTRA actors’ union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) will work internally over the weekend and resume talks on Monday Oct. 9, the union said.
This year is on track to become the hottest year on record, with the global mean temperature to date this year 0.52 degrees Celsius higher than average, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service said on Thursday.
The global temperature for January-September is also 1.4C higher than the preindustrial average (from the years 1850 to 1900), the institute added, as climate change pushes global temperatures to new records and short-term weather patterns also drive temperature movements.
Last month was the warmest September on record globally, with 0.93C above the average temperature for the same month in 1991-2020, and the global temperature of the month was the most atypical warm month of any year in the ERA5 dataset, which dates back to 1940.
Scientists have said climate change combined with the emergence this year of the El Nino weather pattern, which warms the surface waters in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean, have fueled recent record-breaking temperatures.
“The unprecedented temperatures for the time of year observed in September – following a record summer – have broken records by an extraordinary amount. This extreme month has pushed 2023 into the dubious honour of first place – on track to be the warmest year and around 1.4C above preindustrial average temperatures”, Samantha Burgess, Deputy Director of Copernicus, said in a statement.
“Two months out from COP28, the sense of urgency for ambitious climate action has never been more critical,” she said referring to the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
Last year was not a record, though the world was 1.2C warmer than pre-industrial times. The previous record belonged to 2016 and 2020 when temperatures were an average of 1.25 degrees C higher.
The average sea surface temperature for September over 60°S–60°N reached 20.92C, which is the highest on record for September and the second highest across all months, behind August 2023, Copernicus said.
The body’s analysis is based on billions of measurements from satellites, ships, aircraft and weather stations.
Antarctic sea ice extent remained at a record low level for the time of year, while the Arctic Sea ice extent is 18% below average.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The stunning removal of Kevin McCarthy as speaker has left the House adrift as Republicans struggle to bring order to their fractured majority and begin the difficult and potentially prolonged process of uniting around a new leader.
The House convened briefly Wednesday and then went into recess, with North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry, the caretaker speaker pro tempore, serving in the job with very little power for the foreseeable future. Other Republicans left Washington, awaiting the next steps.
The House will try to elect a speaker as soon as next week. The timing is nowhere near certain as Republicans line up for their chance at the gavel amid the bitter divisions that sparked the chaos.
The House majority leader, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., is in line for the post, but he faced an immediate challenge from Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the Judiciary Committee chairman and a favorite of conservatives, who quickly announced his own candidacy. Others are expected to emerge.
McCarthy, who has yet to weigh in on who should be his successor, said Wednesday that he’s good friends with both men.
He added that “both would do great in the job.”
Many doubt that anyone can get the 218 votes needed to become speaker. Voting for McCarthy in January took 15 excruciating rounds even though he was the consensus choice of the GOP conference.
House Republicans plan to meet next Tuesday evening at the Capitol for a first round of internal party voting.
“I think the circus stuff needs to happen behind closed doors,” said Rep. Garret Graves, R-La.
It is shaping up to be wide-open battle just as Congress faces a new deadline to fund the government by mid-November. Work on that legislation in the House is on hold due to the vacancy in the speaker’s office, creating the potential for extended paralysis.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called it a “dangerous situation.”
At the White House, President Joe Biden said the American people still expected the government to get its work done in a timely fashion. McCarthy was ousted because he worked with Democrats to keep the government open and avoid a shutdown, and the Democratic president said, “We need to stop seeing each other as enemies.”
Electing a new speaker risks inflaming the divisions that have plagued House Republicans all year, particularly if lawmakers make new demands before pledging support.
Scalise has long been viewed as a potential speaker-in-waiting and is revered as a survivor after he was shot in the hip at a congressional baseball team practice in 2017. But Scalise is also being treated for a form of blood cancer, forcing him away from the Capitol at times.
In a letter to colleagues asking for their support, Scalise acknowledged the challenges ahead for him and Republicans, but said he has overcome adversity before.
“This next chapter won’t be easy, but I know what it takes to fight and I am prepared for the battles that lie ahead,” he wrote.
Jordan made his own pitch by emphasizing his oversight work and aspirations. He echoed Scalise’s call for unity during “divided times.”
“The problems we face are challenging, but they are not insurmountable,” he said.
Jordan and Scalise are expected to be joined in the race by at least one other Republican: Oklahoma Rep. Kevin Hern, chair of the Republican Study Committee, the largest GOP caucus in the House.
All three men, as well as Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota, spoke at a luncheon of the Texas congressional delegation, which represents the largest bloc of GOP members in the House.
“I think you have to have a different set of skill sets, you know, I spent 35 years in business working at some of the largest corporations in the world,” Hern said as he left the meeting. “Strife is something that’s common when you have people working together and finding common solutions for it takes experience.”
But some Republicans, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, say lawmakers should look outside the Capitol for their next speaker, as the Constitution allows, and draft former President Donald Trump.
Trump told reporters at a New York courthouse Wednesday that he will “do whatever it is to help” Republicans in the speakership race, but that he is focused “totally” on his presidential campaign.
“If I can help them during the process, I would do it. But we have some great people in the Republican Party that could do a great job as speaker,” he said.
The more immediate challenge for Republicans is moving past the extraordinary strife that has plagued their conference in recent weeks. The raw feelings were apparent at a closed-door meeting Tuesday evening where members unloaded their anger at the eight Republicans who joined with Democrats to depose McCarthy.
Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., pointed at the lawmakers who voted against McCarthy and said, “I’ve never been part of a worse team,” according to a Republican in the room who was granted anonymity to discuss the private session.
Associated Press writer Chris Megerian and video journalist Mike Pesoli contributed to this report.
Ukrainian forces made some headway in their drive southward as part of a gruelling counteroffensive to recapture areas seized by Russia in its 19-month-old invasion of its neighbour, military officials said.
Ukrainian officials also said Kyiv’s forces were resisting Russian attempts to reverse gains on the eastern front made by Kyiv since it launched the counteroffensive in June.
Russia’s Defence Ministry reported a measure of success by its troops on the eastern front. Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield reports.
Ukraine’s southern group of forces outlined advances as Kyiv presses on with a drive towards the Sea of Azov to split Russian-occupied territory in the south and east.
“We have had partial success to the west of Robotyne,” a spokesperson for the southern group, Oleksandr Shtupun, told national television, noting that Ukrainian troops are “continuing to reinforce the positions they hold”.
“In certain areas, we are advancing from 100 to 600 metres.”
The drive southward has been slower than lightning gains a year ago in the northeast. But Ukrainian troops have captured a string of villages and officials say they are readying themselves around Robotyne and other villages for new advances.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces, in its evening report, said its forces had repelled Russian attacks near Robotyne and nearby Verbove.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy dismisses criticism that the counteroffensive is not producing expected results and rejects any notion that it is hampered by strategic errors.
The General Staff report also said Russian forces had been unsuccessful in attempts to recapture ground near Andriivka – a village in the east recaptured by Ukrainian forces last month.
Ukraine’s campaign in the east has focused on taking villages to facilitate the recapture of the devastated city of Bakhmut, seized by Russian forces in May after months of battles.
Russia’s defence ministry said Moscow’s forces had struck Ukrainian positions close to Andriivka and a nearby village.
It also said it had downed 31 drones launched by Kyiv overnight over three southern Russian regions, but reported no casualties or damage.
A Ukrainian security source earlier said Kyiv’s forces had carried out a drone attack on the western Russian region of Belgorod and hit an S-400 air defence complex and its radar.
The most recent report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) shows hundreds of people die each year attempting to get to the United States through the dangerous deserts.
Their data shows 1,457 migrant deaths and disappearances recorded throughout the Americas in 2022, with 686 deaths and disappearances in the region of the U.S.-Mexico border alone.
“Ultimately, what is needed is for countries to act on the data to ensure safe, regular migration routes are accessible,” Michele Klein Solomon, IOM’s regional director for Central and North America and the Caribbean, said in a statement.
Last year the deadliest
The U.N. agency says 2022 was the deadliest year worldwide on record since IOM’s Missing Migrants Project started in 2014.
Nearly half of the deaths on the U.S.-Mexico border happened at the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, according to IOM, adding that the actual figure is likely higher due to missing data from local officials at U.S. states that share a border with Mexico and the Mexican search and rescue agency.
U.S. Border Patrol has recorded more than 8,000 migrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border since 1998. Immigrant advocates say that is likely an undercount.
VOA reached out to U.S. immigration authorities for the most up-to-date migrant deaths, and though they did not share fiscal year 2023 numbers, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson said via email that “preventing loss of life is core to CBP’s mission and our personnel endeavor to rescue those in distress.” In fiscal year 2022, there were 7,113 rescue incidents with 22,076 migrants being rescued.
“The terrain along the border is extreme. … People who made the dangerous journey into this territory have died of dehydration, starvation, and heat stroke despite CBP’s best efforts to locate them,” the spokesperson said. “No one should believe smugglers or others claiming the borders are open. The borders are not open.”
Fatalities double in fiscal 2023
Local reports show that in the region that covers New Mexico and parts of Texas, migrant deaths have doubled in fiscal year 2023, reaching 148 deaths due to record heat temperatures, compared with 71 in fiscal 2022.
A September analysis by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights organization, shows that from October 2022 to August 2023, U.S. Border Patrol found the remains of 640 migrants — a 24% decrease from the same period in 2022.
“This could be due to a somewhat smaller migrant population — Border Patrol’s 2023 apprehensions were down 9 percent through July compared with 2022 — and stepped-up search and rescue efforts. On the other hand, this year’s record-breaking heat, especially in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts, may have killed more people than we yet know,” per WOLA.
Brooks County, Texas, also experiences high numbers of migrant deaths.
Migrants who cross without authorization into the United States and are not identified or taken into custody often use the brushy mesquite region as a corridor to their next destination.
Temperatures often rise to 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit) and above. Landmarks are few, and it’s easy for migrants to get lost and walk in circles. Since 2009, Brooks County has recovered the bodies of 943 migrants.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request by VOA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that in fiscal year 2022, border officials found the remains of 858 migrants along the southern border of the U.S. In 2021, that number was 657. In 2020, 255. And in 2019, they found 295.
A 2022 Government Accountability Office report found that “CBP has not collected and recorded, or reported to Congress, complete data on migrant deaths,” making the reported numbers an underestimate.
In popular iconography, Jesus Christ or Jesus of Nazareth is depicted as a white male with long hair and a beard wearing flowing white robes. In a bizarre move indicative of a corrupt mind, Donald Trump released a courtroom pastel sketch of himself seated next to such a man. The artist wished to convey the idea that Jesus is somehow magically seated next to Trump and is, in some sense, “with” Trump.
The idea is strange on so many levels I hardly know where to begin. Jesus is a traditional symbol of peace, forbearance and forgiveness. Trump is a man of violence, hate and vengeance. A pastel of Trump seated next to Attila the Hun or Adolf Hitler would be far more congruent and make far more sense. But Trump seated with Christ is a measure of the extent to which Donald Trump’s followers have become a cult.
But not even Jesus can help Trump now. The judge presiding over Donald Trump’s civil fraud case issued a limited gag order after the court-identified rapist and four times indicted ex-president made “disparaging” remarks about a court clerk. Trump has attacked Judge Arthur Engoron’s court clerk in a post for the first and last time.
Tuesday, on his failing, second-rate social media site, “Truth” Social, Trump posted a picture of principal clerk Allison Greenfield with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at a campaign event. In the post, Trump referred to Ms Greenfield as “Schumer’s girlfriend” and said that the case against him should be dismissed.
After a short break, Judge Arthur F. Engoron did not mention anyone by name but referenced the social media incident saying that “a defendant” had “posted to a social media account a disparaging, untrue and personally identifying post about a member of my staff.”
The judge went on to say that “Personal attacks on members of my court staff are unacceptable, inappropriate and I will not tolerate them under any circumstances. Failure to abide by this order will result in serious sanctions.” Judge Engoron further said that his statement should be considered a gag order forbidding any posts, emails or public remarks about members of his staff.
No sooner had Judge Engoron issued the limited gag order, than Donald Trump deleted the offending post faster than Kevin McCarthy was removed as Speaker of the House. The post was just that inappropriate and just that offensive.
The first step, albeit a small one, has finally been taken. A judge has finally done the unthinkable. He’s issued a gag order against Trump and, lo and behold, the world did not crumble into a million pieces or burst into flames. Judge Engoron has at last been the first to take a courageous step, much the same way Alvin Bragg took the first courageous step by indicting Trump.
Now it’s time for some sweeping gag orders to force this toxic orange cretin to shut up. Now it’s time for some judge somewhere to take Judge Engoron’s limited gag order and raise it to a full, generic gag order. Trump needs to understand that the next time he opens his stupid mouth and starts snarling insults, threats, disparagements and promises of executions against witnesses and officers of the court, he is going to go to jail. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement on the need to support Armenia and reevaluate military assistance and security cooperation with Azerbaijan.
“Following nearly a year of a horrific blockade, President Aliyev finally used military power to exert control over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, effectively erasing its Armenian population and rich history. As the world continues to grapple with Azerbaijan’s coordinated, intentional campaign of ethnic cleansing, we must both prioritize support for the Armenians who have been expelled as well as holding Azerbaijan accountable.
“As we look forward we must take steps to ensure that Azerbaijan does not advance militarily in pursuit for further territorial gains, including forcefully condemning inflammatory rhetoric. The United States should halt security assistance to Azerbaijan until it has stopped this brutal campaign. The United States and the international community must also reaffirm our commitment to documenting war crimes and atrocities, as well as continue to support efforts to repatriate prisoners of war, many of whom Azerbaijan continues to detain.
“Finally, we must stand in solidarity with the Armenian people, particularly as Azerbaijan and Turkey eye the potential Zangezur corridor. We should increase humanitarian support for those ethnic Armenians who have left Nagorno-Karabakh. The U.S. should also continue to support democratic reforms that Armenia’s leadership has taken in recent years, including efforts to promote transparency, good governance, and economic cooperation with the United States and Western Europe more broadly.”
US to transfer seized Iranian weapons to Ukraine; dozens of Ukrainian drones attack Russian regions
Volodymyr Zelenskiy is working to provide Ukraine with more air defence systems as winter approaches. Last winter, Russian forces deliberately targeted Ukraine’s infrastructure, knocking out power and gas at a time when heating was necessary. More air defence systems could work in preventing that from happening again.
US President Joe Biden admitted Wednesday he was worried that political turmoil in Washington could threaten US aid to Ukraine, urging Republicans to stop their infighting and back “critically important” assistance for Kyiv. Biden added that he would soon be giving a major speech on the need to support Ukraine‘s fight against the Russian invasion after the chaos in Washington alarmed US allies.
Britain has accused Russia of plotting to sabotage civilian tankers loaded with Ukrainian grain by planting sea mines on the approaches to the country’s Black Sea ports. Based on what it said was declassified intelligence, the UK said Russia did not want to directly attack merchant ships using Ukraine’s newly created humanitarian corridor with missiles, but instead try to destroy them covertly.
Ukraine’s navy said on Wednesday that 12 more vessels were ready to enter a Black Sea shipping corridor on their way towards Ukrainian ports, and that 10 other vessels were ready to depart from the country’s ports. Navy spokesperson Dmytro Pletenchuk made his remarks as Ukraine tries to defy a de facto Russian blockade on Ukrainian exports via the Black Sea after Moscow pulled out of a deal in July that had allowed Kyiv to safely export grain.
The US will transfer thousands of seized Iranian weapons and rounds of ammunition to Ukraine. While this move should alleviate some of the critical shortages facing the Ukraine, it’s unclear what legal authorities the US will use to facilitate the weapons’ transfer – currently, seized weapons must be destroyed or stored, according to the UN.
Award-winning Ukrainian freelance journalist Victoria Roshchyna, has not been heard from since 3 August. She had been reporting from a Russia-occupied territory of Ukraine, the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) said today. Roshchyna had been reporting from the frontlines of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine since the war began in February 2022, and was previously captured by Russian forces in March 2022 and held for 10 days in Berdyansk.
The British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, urged western allies to continue supporting and arming Ukraine so it can “finish the job” against Russia. His comments come as US aid to Ukraine remains uncertain after the ousting of Kevin McCarthy as House speaker. Before yesterday’s vote, McCarthy had avoided government shutdown by pushing to pass a US government funding bill that excluded support for Kyiv, leaving Joe Biden to rely on the Republican speaker for a separate deal. Yesterday, Adm Rob Bauer, Nato’s most senior military official, warned that western military powers are running out of ammunition to give to Ukraine. “The bottom of the barrel is now visible,” Bauer said.
Dozens of Ukrainian drones attacked three Russian regions on Tuesday night, according to the Russian ministry of defence, which claimed to have shot down 31 unmanned aircraft. However, there are reports now that a drone struck a Russian air defence system in the Belgorod oblast.
Russian former state TV journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, who burst into a news broadcast with a placard that read “Stop the war” and “They’re lying to you”, has been sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in jail in absentia on Wednesday. Ovsyannikova was found guilty of “spreading knowingly false information about the Russian armed forces”, according to a statement posted by the court on Telegram. Ovsyannikova, 45, fled Russia with her daughter for an unspecified European country a year ago after escaping from house arrest, according to her lawyer, saying she had no case to answer.
Ukraine increased its road shipments of agricultural goods in September, according to Spike Brokers, a commercial agent broker on the grain and oil market of Ukraine. In September, 514,000 metric tons of agricultural goods were exported by lorries, while in August, 506,000 tons were exported. The increase is still down from the year before, which saw 639,000 tons in September 2022.