TIME energy

Germans Happily Pay More for Renewable Energy. But Would Others?

Germany solar power
Germany has become a world leader in solar power Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Germany has embraced subsidies for renewable energy, but not every country is willing to bear the economic burden

This article originally appeared on OilPrice

While Germany is breaking world records for the amount of sustainable energy it uses every year, German energy customers are breaking European records for the amount they pay in monthly bills. Surprisingly, they don’t seem to mind.

In the first half of 2014, Germany drew 28 percent of its power generation from renewable energy sources. Wind and solar capacity were hugely boosted, now combining to generate 45 terawatt hours (TWh), or 17 percent of national demand, with another 11 percent coming from biomass and hydropower plants.

This proves that Germany’s controversial Energiewendepolicy is on target to meet highly ambitious goals by 2050 — as much as a 95 percent reduction in greenhouse gases, 60 percent of power generation from renewables, and a 50 percent increase in energy efficiency over 2010.

All well and good, but the economics of renewable energy don’t usually allow for such a smooth transition. As part of the Energiewende, the costs of associated subsidies have been passed on to German customers, who pay the highest power bills in Europe.

Fifty-two percent of the power bill for retail businesses in July 2014 is now made up of taxes and fees. The average bill for a household has reached 85 euros a month, 18 euros of which is the renewable energy levy. The reaction to such fees should have been furious.

It hasn’t been. A 2013 survey revealed that 84 percent of Germans would be happy to pay even more if the country could find a way to go 100 percent renewable.

So how can this model of high targets, high fees and high public support find traction in other countries? The answer is, with difficulty.

Germany’s national engagement toward renewable energy came after a period of prolonged public education, opening up to locally owned wind and solar infrastructure, and investment support. To be sure, other major countries are finding success in the renewable sphere, but not in quite the same way.

While renewable installations in the U.S. may account for 24 percent of the world’s total, they only accounted for 13 percent of the country’s power generation. This compares to Germany, which has more than 12 percent of global installed renewable capacity, but takes 28 percent of its power from it. Spain, China and Brazil trail behind, with 7.8 percent, 7.5 percent and 5 percent of global capacity respectively.

Brazil’s model has similarities to Germany’s, with the government carrying out public auctions for contracts and putting out favorable investment terms for foreign companies looking to set up renewable energy projects. Spain was doing well as wind became its largest source of power generation in April 2013, but economic woes have seen Madrid begin to double back on its commitments.

Political gridlock in Washington, D.C. means renewable energy in the U.S. has been boosted by state and private efforts. Arizona now has the biggest solar power plant in the world, while California has the largest geothermal plant in the country.

In Mexico, the country’s solar potential and the improving cost-effectiveness of PV technology has seen projects like the 30MW Aura Solar I crop up. But the national electricity regulator, CFE, has been slammed for taking up to six months to connect residential PV installations to the grid.

Perhaps the most ambitious plans come from China, which is busy working to transform its reputation from an energy pariah to a respected renewable leader. However, these are being mandated at a central level, with little to no attention being paid to the opinions of the Chinese public.

And there’s the rub. The German public is a willing participant in the government’s efforts, happy to face higher bills in exchange for a cleaner and more energy-efficient future, paying an average of 90 euros a month in 2013. It is true that Germans’ power bills are the highest in Europe, but the trade-off is known, increases are announced and negotiated months in advance, and surprises are few.

In the UK, which was proud of having among the lowest electricity rates in the EU, the government has been hard-pressed to explain to customers just why Scottish Power, Southern Electric, and British Gas have all raised prices, while the Labour Party has promised a 20-month price freeze if it wins 2015 elections.

The UK has left its coal and nuclear infrastructure to stagnate, reversed Blair-era commitments to renewable sources and opened vast swathes of the country to fracking exploration.

Ask them, and Germans might tell you that a pricey electricity bill might actually save everyone from a few headaches down the line.

Read more from OilPrice

Fracking Fluids May Be More Toxic Than Previously Thought

As Radioactive Water Accumulates, TEPCO Eyes Pacific Ocean As Dumping Ground

New Study Says U.S. Underestimated Keystone XL Emissions

TIME diplomacy

Reports: Germany Recorded Hillary Clinton Conversation

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) to launch a community campaign to encourage parents to talk, sing and read to their young children in Oakland, Calif on July 23, 2014.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) to launch a community campaign to encourage parents to talk, sing and read to their young children in Oakland, Calif on July 23, 2014. AP

The revelation is a potential embarrassment to Angela Merkel, who has decried American spying

German intelligence agents intercepted and recorded Hillary Clinton in conversation as she traveled aboard a United States government plane while she was Secretary of State to Barack Obama, three German media outlets reported Friday. Agents intercepted the conversation “by accident,” according to reports citing unnamed government sources by broadcasters NDR and WDR, along with the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

The revelation was among the more than 200 documents that a German spy, identified only as “Markus R.”, allegedly passed to the CIA.

The news, which comes as relations between the U.S. and Germany have soured over allegations that the U.S. spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has the potential to embarrass the German government. As recently as last month, Merkel condemned alleged U.S. spying on Germany, stating, “I would see this as a clear contradiction to what I understand as trusting cooperation of intelligence services as well as of partners.”

U.S. officials, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and White House Chief of Staff of Denis McDonough, have allegedly confronted their German counterparts on the recording.

The specific time and location of the recording remain unclear.

[NDR]

TIME cities

Mystery of Who Placed White Flags on the Brooklyn Bridge Solved

ODD Brooklyn Bridge Mystery Flags
A white flag flies atop the west tower of the Brooklyn Bridge, in New York City, on July 22, 2014 Richard Drew—AP

The culprits appear to have been German artists who are mystified by the reaction the act got in the U.S.

Two Berlin-based artists have taken credit — and provided evidence to back up their claim — for swapping out two giant American flags over the Brooklyn Bridge earlier this summer and replacing them with all-white versions.

After the flags suddenly appeared over the bridge on July 22, numerous people rushed to claim credit for the stunt. But German artists Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermke have produced videos and pictures apparently taken from the Brooklyn Bridge that indicate they were, in fact, the culprits, the New York Times reports.

Many in New York City saw the flag stunt as a security breach, and embarrassed authorities rushed to launch an investigation. But Leinkauf and Wermke say they were shocked that the flags were perceived that way. Their actions weren’t supposed to be provocative, they said, but merely intended to celebrate “the beauty of public space.” They pulled off the caper on the anniversary of the 1869 death of John Roebling, the German engineer who built the bridge.

“We saw the bridge, which was designed by a German, trained in Berlin, who came to America because it was the place to fulfill his dreams, as the most beautiful expression of a great public space,” Leinkauf said. “That beauty was what we were trying to capture.”

The pair said that between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. on July 22 they carried the homemade white flags in backpacks while climbing the cables to the top of the bridge, where they replaced the American flags with the all-white versions. They did not see security cameras. They ceremonially folded the American flags, they said, and promise to return them.

[NYT]

TIME Opinion

Dear Johns: Actually, You Should Be Ashamed to Buy Sex

The Anti-Social Network Comedy Performances
Comedian Jim Norton performs during The Anti-Social Network comedy show at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas on July 3, 2011 Ethan Miller—Getty Images

Jim Norton isn't entitled to sex, but women are entitled to human dignity

After a nationwide crackdown on men who buy sex in the 8th National Day of Johns Arrests earlier this week, comedian Jim Norton wrote an essay asserting his right to pay prostitutes for sex, called “In Defense of Johns.”

Don’t get me wrong, Norton is a funny guy. And I’m all for comedians pushing our social limits in stand-up, because that’s what comedy is all about. But why can’t a famous comic like him find someone who wants to have sex with him for his good looks and sparkling personality?

Norton’s essay wasn’t a joke — it was an actual argument defending the right to pay for sex. “But really, perhaps the most shameful thing I can admit is this: I’m not really ashamed,” he wrote. “And neither should any of these other (unmarried) johns who have been arrested.”

Actually, Jim, you should be ashamed to pay for sex. And so should all the other men who purchase women and girls, many of whom have been trafficked, enslaved and repeatedly raped. No amount of rationalization can get around the basic principle of market economics: if people like you didn’t buy girls, they wouldn’t be sold, and if they couldn’t be sold, they wouldn’t be trafficked and abused.

(Of course, there are also women who buy sex, and plenty of men and boys who are trafficking victims, but let’s focus on the male-client/female-sex-worker argument that Norton is going with.)

There was one part of Norton’s essay that I did find funny. It was the part where he said all the girls he buys are oh-so lucky to be with him. “I suppose you could say I am the consummate john,” he wrote. “I’m loyal, I’m dedicated and I will always come back.” He’s different from all those other nasty, mean clients, because he’s a really nice guy! “I never pick them up to be abusive,” he said. “I always feel extraordinarily loving and close to them.” Hahahahahaha, Jim Norton. Good one!

Did you ever consider, Jim, whether these girls felt “extraordinarily loving and close” to you? I’m guessing their feelings were a bit more complicated. They might have slept with you only because they would get beaten if they didn’t make a certain amount of money that night. And if you thought they enjoyed it, they were probably faking, because that’s exactly what you pay them to do. Sure, some woman do choose this line of work, and sex-workers unions argue that prostitution can be a freely made choice, but that’s not the case for the vast majority: U.S. State Department estimates that 80% of the 600,000 to 800,000 people trafficked across international borders every year are trafficked for sex.

And while we don’t know what the prostitutes thought of Norton, we do know what some sex workers say about their clients. One former prostitute named Kira put it this way: “You guys think we really liked having sex with you, but we would lie to you just to get your money … I hated you when I was out there,” she told men who had been busted for buying sex, according to PBS.

Men like Norton think that their entitlement to sex trumps a woman’s entitlement to dignity and safety. Many of the women they buy are among the most vulnerable human beings on the planet, no matter how wide they smile when a john rolls down his window or plunks down his credit card. According to a report cited by the U.S. State Department, 89% of people who work in prostitution worldwide want to escape. At least 65% of people who work in prostitution were sexually abused as children, and over 60% are raped on the job, according to a 2004 study by Melissa Farley, an activist and psychologist who studies the effect of prostitution on women. And according to Polaris, a Washington, D.C.–based antitrafficking group, over 40% of people trafficked for sex are under 18. Norton says he’s spent the “equivalent of a Harvard Law School education” on sex, which is precisely what keeps trafficking victims in the sex trade.

Norton claims that legalizing prostitution would help solve these problems, but what he really means is that it would be easier for him to buy sex without his pesky conscience getting in the way of his peskier penis. Because even though there are valid arguments for the legalization of prostitution, I’m finding it hard to believe that Norton really has the best interests of sex workers in mind.

Because despite the theories, there’s very little evidence that legalizing prostitution makes life better for sex workers. Even though prostitution is legal in Nevada, over 80% of the sex workers Farley interviewed told her they wanted to escape sex work. And five years after prostitution was legalized in Germany 2002, the Family Ministry found “no solid proof to date” that the legalization had reduced crime and abuse, and had “not brought about any measurable actual improvement in the social coverage of prostitutes,” according to the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel. Proponents say that legal prostitution can be regulated to ensure the safety of the sex workers, but German snack bars have more regulations than brothels do.

The Netherlands has also been held up as an example of what happens when prostitution is legalized, but the results are mixed. The mayor of Amsterdam said in 2003 that legalizing prostitution had failed to keep sex workers safe, since “it appeared impossible to create a safe and controllable zone for women that was not open to abuse by organized crime.”

Most arguments for legalization presume that tons of women would choose sex work if it were safe and legal, but that’s convenient wishful thinking for johns who want to let themselves off the hook. “In the real world, Julia Roberts’ character from Pretty Woman does not exist,” said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who organizes the National Day of Johns Arrests and advocates for harsher punishment for sex buyers. “Every time a john purchases sex, he is catalyzing a violent and oppressive industry.”

“The autonomous prostitute we envisioned when the prostitution law was enacted in 2001, who negotiates on equal terms with her client and can support herself with her income, is the exception,” German politician Thekla Walker said at a political convention. Instead, the law allows sex workers “merely the freedom to allow themselves to be exploited,” according to Der Spiegel.

Some argue that making prostitution legal could make sex workers safer, because they could call the police if a client was getting violent. But criminalizing the johns would do the same thing: prostitutes would know they won’t face jail time for calling for help, and the violent jerk would be cuffed.

That’s why targeting the johns is the best way to keep vulnerable women safe. Since Sweden introduced a measure in 1999 to target clients instead of sex workers, the population of prostitutes has been reduced by two-thirds, from 2,500 in 1998 to just 1,000 in 2013. France recently did the same, imposing fines for men who pay for sex. And even New York City prosecutors are increasingly focused on targeting buyers and pimps instead of sex workers. Because women and children will be sold as long as there are men to buy them, and when the demand for paid sex outstrips the supply of willing prostitutes, traffickers are ready to step in.

Prostitutes have been shamed and marginalized for thousands of years, but men who buy sex are considered so normal that they’re given the most ordinary name of all: john, a name shared by no less than five U.S. Presidents. Imagine the name whore was as common as john, and you’ll see how ridiculous this is — think about “Whore Quincy Adams” as our sixth President. Let’s hope we see the day when the men who choose to buy sex are shamed as much as the women who are often forced sell it. They’re the ones that should be ashamed of themselves.

TIME Photos

Feel Good Friday: 9 Fun Photos to Start Your Weekend

From cliff climbers to underwater elephants, here's a handful of photos to get your weekend started right

MONEY Travel

4 Ways to Visit Europe for 33% Off

True, the Continent is expensive, but choose an unexpected location, time it right, and you’ll be surprised by just how much you can save. Here are four great alternative choices that offer all the amazing attractions of the most popular destinations -- for a whole lot less.

  • Budapest (Instead of Prague)

    201408_TRV_01
    A sunrise illuminates the Danube River and Chain Bridge, which connects Budapest's East and West sections. Douglas Pearson—Getty Images

    How Much You Can Save: 25%

    Why Here: Like Central European capitals Prague and Vienna, Buda­pest is known for its glittering ­riverfront, coffee culture, and ­classical-music scene. “Still, it’s one of the more affordable large cities on the Continent,” says Roger Wade, founder of Priceof­Travel .com. Food and wine are about 75% cheaper in Budapest than in Vienna, and the Hungarian city offers amazing deals on lodging; the average room rate in Buda­pest is $104, vs. Prague’s $138, according to hotel comparison site ­Trivago.com. The city is also evolving at a startling pace, says Ellison Poe of Poe Travel: “Even last year’s guidebooks are as stale as week-old angel food cake.”

    See and Do: Start with a tour of the old city, which is divided by the Danube River. For a bargain option, Wade recommends the “Original” walk from TripToBudapest Free Walking Tours. This three-hour stroll passes sites such as the Danube Promenade, lined with iconic 19th-century buildings, and the neoclassical St. Stephen’s Basilica. Want a more in-depth take? Context Travel is known for its scholar-led tours; topics range from Budapest’s 19th- and 20th-century golden years to a look at the city’s current politics ($50).

    Head back to St. Stephen’s for $21 Thursday concerts, or get dolled up for an opera at the Hungarian State Opera House. With good matinee seats as low as $20, prices are a fraction of those in Vienna, says Poe. Later walk along Falk Miksa, Buda­pest’s antiques street, to window-shop for paintings, glassworks, jewelry, and more, says Daniel Göczo˝, a guide with JoAn VIP Travel.

    Eat and Drink: Sample authentic Hungarian dishes, such as layered potatoes or duck breast, for $12 at Café Kör, says Attila Dankovics, concierge at the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest. Or try the Great Market Hall for traditional street foods such as lángos, flatbreads topped with sour cream and cheese, or kürto˝skalács pastries.

    Dankovics also suggests enjoying a $3 glass of wine at one of the city’s “ruin bars,” which are housed in buildings abandoned during the communist years.

    Stay: In Budapest, as in many European cities, you’ll miss out on great bargains if you dismiss anyplace with “hostel” in the name. The Maverick Hostel, housed in a renovated mansion, has private rooms for just $37 a person (unless other­wise stated, all rates in this story are for October). Or for an affordable indulgence, book the Lánchíd 19 Design Hotel, where some rooms overlook the iconic Chain Bridge (from $110).

  • Lisbon (Instead of Rome)

    201408_TRV_02
    A street car pauses in front of Lisbon's Triumphal Arch. Sylvain Sonnet

    How Much You Can Save: 38%

    Why here Like classic ­European capitals such as Rome and Madrid? Then you’ll love Lisbon. The city can go toe to toe with the big names on food and wine, architecture, and museums, but at a fraction of the cost. A three-course meal runs $42 (vs. $61 in Madrid), according to cost-of-living index Numbeo.com, and at $120 a night, average hotel rates are 38% lower than Rome’s, says research firm STR.

    See and Do: Take a peek into the city’s history at the Museu Nacional do Azulejo ($7), housed in a former convent. The museum has a stunning collection of azulejos, the hand-painted tiles that cover buildings throughout Lisbon. For something a bit more modern, there’s the industrial-­looking Museu da Eletricidade (entry is free). Fashion lovers should hit the Museu do Design e da Moda (MUDE), another free option, this one stocked with more than 1,200-plus haute couture masterpieces.

    Want an ensemble you can take home? Explore the shops in Príncipe Real. Lisbon-based blogger José Cabral of oalfaiatelisboeta .com recommends Espaço B for smart designs by European designers. Many stores offer a VAT refund, which you’ll redeem at the airport, for savings of up to 23%.

    Take a break from the bustle at the 18th-century, rococo-style National Palace of Queluz, 20 minutes outside the city. Admission is $10 if you arrive at 3:30 or later. Be sure to see “the fountain-dotted gardens,” says Your-Lisbon-Guide .com founder Mary H. Goudie.

    Eat and Drink: The cuisine at Mini Bar is reminiscent of the food at Spain’s late El Bulli, which was known as one of the world’s most experimental restaurants, says Joel Zack of Heritage Tours Private Travel. But while El Bulli’s tasting menu was about $320, the six-course prix fixe at Mini Bar is a more palatable $53.

    Prefer something traditional? Try Cantinho do Bem Estar ($32) in Bairro Alto, known for generous portions of codfish and black pork, says Anja Mutic, Everthe­Nomad.com travel writer. For a nightcap head downtown to 1930s-era bar Ginginha do Carmo for a $2 ginginha, a traditional sour cherry liqueur.

    Stay: In the riverfront area of Cais do Sodre, seek out the hip LX Boutique Hotel ($135), says Mutic. Request a room with views of the Tagus River. Or try the simple rooms at the nearby Lisb’on ­Hostel. Rates drop slightly after Oct. 15; book a private room for $90, including breakfast.

  • Dalmatian Coast (Instead of the Amalfi Coast)

    201408_TRV_03
    Sun worshipers lounge on a beach outside Dubrovnik's city walls. LifeStyle—Alamy

    How Much You Can Save: 19%

    Why Here: Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast cities of Split (to the north) and Dubrovnik (to the south) have a lot in common with the Amalfi Coast of Italy. There’s the stunning scenery, sea-to-table cuisine, olive oils, and, of course, fantastic wines. Yet Croatia, while pricier than it once was, is still the more affordable. Last year the average hotel rate in Amalfi was $315, vs. Dubrovnik’s $254, according to Hotels.com.

    See and Do: Pick up the Split Card (complimentary if you’re staying three days) at the tourism bureau for local discounts and free access to museums. Split is a great city to explore on foot. Start by wandering the café- and market-packed streets of Diocletian’s Palace, built in the early fourth century. Next explore the Riva promenade, which is flanked by stately palms and yacht-dotted waters. For a dose of nature, visit Marjan, a reserve just a 20-minute walk from the city center.

    In Dubrovnik soak in the view from the top of Mount Srdj. You could take an $18 cable car, but consider hiking the 40 or so minutes to the lookout point, says Croatian private city guide Anada Pehar. Warm day? Take a dip in the Adriatic at Banje Beach, just outside the old town. The UNESCO-protected Lokrum Island (ferry: $12), with its beautiful grounds and free-roaming peacocks, is a good alternative if it’s not quite swimming weather.

    Later, stroll the 1.24-mile wall that circles the old city ($18). You’ll see St. Savior Church, where bullet holes from the 1991 siege of Dubrovnik are still visible, and the Friars Minor Pharmacy, one of Europe’s oldest.

    Eat and Drink: Make an excursion to Mali Ston, 50 minutes north of Dubrovnik by car. There, take the $27 Bota ˆSare tour, a boat ride through a family-owned oyster bay, which includes wine, grappa, and oyster tastings. Back in Dubrovnik, snag a table at Bota Oyster & Sushi Bar in the old city (dinner: $16) for sushi made with local fish, says Pehar. In Split you’ll find hearty homestyle Dalmatian cuisine—grilled calamari and stuffed peppers—at the charming Villa Spiza (dinner: $20).

    Stay: Croatia’s low-season rates don’t kick in until November, when you’ll find deals like 36% off at Dubrovnik’s stunning five-star Hotel Dubrovnik Palace (­regularly $296).

    Similarly, rates at Split’s centrally located Hotel Luxe drop from $224 to $95 in November. Going earlier? Look to Tripping.com— an aggregator for sites such as FlipKey.com and HomeAway.com—to find convenient apartment rentals for as little as $60 a night.

  • Berlin (Instead of London)

    201408_TRV_05
    Berliners hang out at Gürlitzer Park. Weller—Anzenberger/Redux

    How Much You Can Save: 50%

    Why Here: Germany’s largest city is also its capital of cool. Packed with contemporary art, indie music, and innovative restaurants and lounges, the vibe is reminiscent of London at its most swinging. The prices, though, couldn’t be more different: The average Berlin hotel room is about half the cost of those in England’s capital, according to Trivago.com. Plus, while the euro is no bargain for Americans, it beats the pound.

    See and Do: Skip the touristy sightseeing buses, which charge more than $23 a head, and board public Bus 100 ($3.50). You’ll get the same great view of sites such as the stately Reichstag and the neoclassical Brandenburg Gate.

    Spring for a $33 three-day Museum Pass. With access to 50 institutions like the Jewish Museum Berlin ($12), housed in Daniel Libes­kind’s striking steel-and-glass building, and architectural gem Bauhaus-Archiv ($8), you’ll make up the cost in as little as two visits.

    Berlin’s gallery scene (there are over 400) is not to be missed. Start in the Scheunen­viertel neighborhood or the historic Jewish quarter, says Andrea Schulte-Peevers, author of Lonely Planet Berlin. “Stop in Kicken Berlin for its avant-garde photography from the 1920s.” The neighborhood is also known for its street art, so keep your eyes peeled as you walk.

    Eat and Drink: At Der Hahn ist tot!, which focuses on rural German and French cuisines, you’ll find a $26 four-course menu that changes weekly, says lifestyle guide Henrik Tidefjaerd of berlinagen­ten.com. Check out Markthalle Neun, a mix of food trucks and stalls that sell curry wurst, homemade pasta, and German wines on Thursday evenings.

    Berlin’s nightlife is legendary, but you don’t have to stay out until 5 a.m. to enjoy it. Chef Kolja Kleeberg of Michelin-starred Restaurant Vau suggests cocktails like the Rum Traders Rum Sour at Le Croco Bleu (drinks: $12). The rooftop Monkey Bar at the 25hours Hotel is great for sips with a view (drinks from $5). Order a Hugo, made with sparkling wine, mint, and elderflower.

    Stay: “Hotels are a bargain in Berlin, with rates at top properties priced close to $100 a night,” says Bob Diener, co-founder of Getaroom .com. Doubles start at $130 at the stylish and centrally located Circus Hotel. For an even better price, try the Motel One. Branches of this hotel are located throughout the city, and start at $94 per night.

    Read More:
    Tips for International Travelers

TIME Afghanistan

U.S. General Officer Killed in ‘Insider Attack’ in Afghanistan

Afghan National Army soldiers keep watch at the gate of a British-run military training academy Camp Qargha, in Kabul on August 5, 2014.
Afghan National Army soldiers keep watch at the gate of a British-run military training academy Camp Qargha, in Kabul on August 5, 2014. Omar Sobhani—Reuters

The Pentagon confirmed on Tuesday that a U.S. general was killed,

Updated 5:17 p.m. ET August 5

A man in an Afghan army uniform opened fire Tuesday on American-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, injuring up to 14 troops and killing a United States general officer, the Pentagon said.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said at a news conference hours after the incident that the officer, Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, was “one of if not the highest ranking deaths” in the war in Afghanistan. Greene was re-assigned in January from a position in Washington, D.C., to take on the role of deputy commanding general in Afghanistan.

Multiple news outlets reported through the day that a U.S. Army major general was killed in the attack in Kabul, with the New York Times saying the officer was the highest-ranking member of the U.S. military to die in hostilities in Afghanistan.

Kirby said there were up to 15 casualties, including members of the Afghan National Security Forces. He said the shooter was suspected to be a member of the ANSF.

The NATO-led forces confirmed earlier that the attack occurred at the Marshal Fahim National Defense University in Kabul, and not Camp Qargha as the German military said in its statement earlier Tuesday.

A spokesman for Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry, Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, said a “terrorist in an army uniform” opened fire on local and international troops, according to the Associated Press.Azimi said the shooter was killed. The German military, which said the assault was launched “probably by internal attackers,” said a German brigadier general was among the injured.

So-called “insider attacks” in Afghanistan have dropped sharply since 2012, when such attacks killed 53 coalition troops, according to the AP. Last year, 16 people were killed by such attacks.

The Taliban, which often take credit for such attacks, did not immediately comment to a New York Times reporter.

[NYT]

TIME

What Historians Get Wrong About World War I

On the eve of the Great War's centennial, many still get a great deal wrong about the conflict's outbreak: the world did not blunder into mass bloodletting by accident

World War I broke out precisely 100 years ago, in early August 1914. Late the previous June, a terrorist loosely associated with Serbian Intelligence had assassinated the heir to the Austrian throne in Sarajevo. Not everyone grasped the event’s potential significance. The local American consul did not think it worth reporting by telegram. Yet scarcely five weeks later, Europe’s major powers embarked upon what became the most destructive war in history. Some 10 million soldiers and 7 million civilians perished. By 1914, Europe and its offshoots produced three-quarters of global manufacturing output. Four years later, that prosperity and the optimism it engendered around the world had disappeared.

Is it plausible that such a tragedy could develop from inadvertence or, as a current best-seller in Germany contends, that the Europeans “sleepwalked” their way into war? History suggests that few nations risk a life-or-death collision unless their leaders believe that the national interest commands it.

The spark in 1914 ignited among the atavistic blood feuds of the Balkans. Still, the animosities of client nationalities do not always escalate to wider confrontation. As the Ottoman Empire declined over the 19th century, the emerging rival Balkan states fought to extend their frontiers. Two local wars took place in 1912-13 and were temporarily resolved through intervention by the British foreign secretary. The Austro-Hungarian decision-makers correctly understood that Serbian ambitions to unite all South Slavs under their control posed an enduring menace, but they divided on how to respond. Some wanted not only to eliminate the Serbian threat through war, but also to expand into other contiguous areas. Others opposed measures that might bring more Slavs within the borders of the empire.

The German government broke the deadlock in Vienna. Not only did it issue a “blank check”; it insisted that Austria’s credibility depended upon its willingness to fight. Berlin’s aggressive stance transformed a regional quarrel into a general war. Repudiating Bismarck’s cautious diplomacy, the elites of Kaiser Wilhelm’s generation thought that their Reich deserved a place in the sun on a par with Britain and America. Given the country’s explosive economic growth, they felt entitled to dominate the Continent. Opinion leaders embraced the Social Darwinist view that the “races” stood in conflict. If they failed to engage in the struggle, supposedly they would decline.

The Germans also believed in the supremacy of military to civilian authorities. Once the army decided, the politicos would have to follow. The generals had worked up the Schlieffen Plan for a two-front war. That plan required invading neutral Belgium and defeating France before Russia could mobilize. The army pressed for action: five years hence the Russians might have built a railroad system that made execution of the Schlieffen Plan impossible.

The documents indicate that Reich Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg as well as his military seized this opportunity to provoke a Continental war. They hoped that Britain would stay out, but were prepared to roll the dice. Other powers had foreign-policy aspirations too, but historians’ investigations have not turned up evidence that any of them wanted a general war. Once hostilities began, Bethmann-Hollweg stood ready with a shopping list of war aims that would consolidate German supremacy over Western and Eastern Europe alike. Although the German wartime leadership never embraced Hitler’s racial outlook, its specific territorial goals looked disconcertingly like a dress rehearsal for World War II. What’s more, the German “way of war” involved ignoring the strictures of international law, which made their initial assaults seem worse.

Reacting against the imputation of war guilt, the German Foreign Office carried out a sophisticated campaign in the 1920s to misrepresent the war’s origins. Many Americans were taken in. They came to believe that their participation had lacked a purpose. The view took hold that World War I had resulted from misunderstandings, disembodied forces such as militarism, imperialism, and nationalism, or from alliance politics unmediated by international organization.

Those interpretations made little sense then, and they make even less sense today. Disembodied forces do not cause war in the absence of human agency. Nor do the working of alliances. The practical alternative to a balance of power is an imbalance of power. And while political scientists feared during the early Cold War that a nuclear conflagration might erupt owing to miscalculation, the balance of power helped keep the peace.

Half a century ago, the German scholar Fritz Fischer got access to hidden archives under Soviet control and laid out his country’s 1914 war aims in detail. Crucially, Fischer explained why a compromise peace of the sort proposed by President Woodrow Wilson before America’s entry into the conflict remained illusory. German rulers retained their original annexationist appetites throughout. That interpretation persuaded most historians until recently.

In the spate of books now appearing on the centennial of the war, however, a fresh cohort of historians has curiously reverted to the theory that nations on each side blundered into mass bloodletting accidently. They do so largely by ignoring Fischer’s findings. Perhaps, as Voltaire remarked, history is only a pack of lies that the living play on the dead. And yet in this case the Western Allies had good reason to defend themselves. Most international quarrels can be resolved through prudent accommodation; only in rare circumstances does a compelling reason for battle emerge. To comprehend why this particular conflict figured as a necessary war, where the stakes seemed sufficiently high for a whole generation to endure four miserable years in the trenches, it is essential to get the story right.

Stephen A. Schuker is professor of history at the University of Virginia. He is the author, among other works, of The End of French Predominance in Europe andAmerican ‘Reparations’ to Germany, 1919-33.

TIME Germany

Germany Now Produces 28.5% of Energy from Renewables

Wind Turbines
Wind turbines stand on June 17, 2014 near Wernitz, Germany. Sean Gallup—Getty Images

The country’s Energiewende energy transition has crossed another milestone

Germany set a new record on green energy in the first half of 2014, by producing 28.5% of its energy entirely from renewable sources, according to a report released Tuesday by the energy trade association BDEW.

The industrial powerhouse of Europe, Germany is undergoing a massive shift in the way it produces energy as it attempts to become a country powered almost entirely by solar, wind, hydro and biomass energy sources. In the first half of 2014, wind generation in Germany increased 21.4% while solar grew by 27.3%.

The state-subsidized transition to renewables, known as Energiewende, has not been without high costs. Energy prices are among the highest in Europe and greenhouse gas emissions have actually increased in the near term as Germany’s post-Fukushima drawdown of nuclear power has led to an increase in the use of coal to make up for lost production.

TIME Foreign Policy

White House: EU, US to Impose New Russia Sanctions

(WASHINGTON) — The United States and European Union plan to impose new sanctions against Russia this week, including penalties targeting key sectors of the Russian economy, the White House said Monday.

The show of Western solidarity comes as the U.S. accuses Russia of ramping up its troop presence on its border with Ukraine and shipping more heavy weaponry to pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukrainian cities.

President Barack Obama and the leaders of Britain, Germany, France and Italy discussed the crisis during a rare joint video teleconference on Monday. The discussion follows days of bilateral talks on how to implement tougher sanctions after the downing of a passenger jet in eastern Ukraine, an attack the U.S. says was carried out by the separatists.

The U.S. and European sanctions are likely to target Russia’s energy, arms and financial sectors. The EU is also weighing the prospect of levying penalties on individuals close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who appears to only be deepening Russia’s role in destabilizing Ukraine.

“It’s precisely because we’ve not yet seen a strategic turn from Putin that we believe it’s absolutely essential to take additional measures, and that’s what the Europeans and the United States intend to do this week,” said Tony Blinken, Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

Europe, which has a stronger trade relationship with Russia than the U.S., has lagged behind Washington with its earlier sanctions package, in part out of concern from leaders that the penalties could have a negative impact on their own economies. But a spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said following Monday’s call that the West agreed that the EU should move a “strong package of sectoral sanctions as swiftly as possible.”

French President Francois Hollande said in a statement that the Western leaders “regretted Russia has not effectively pressured separatists to bring them to negotiate nor taken expected concrete measures to assure control of the Russian-Ukrainian border.”

The U.S. penalties are expected to be imposed after Europe finalizes its next moves. Neither set of penalties is expected to fully cut off Russian economic sectors from the West, an options U.S. officials have said they’re holding in reserve in case Russia launches a full-on military incursion in Ukraine or takes a similarly provocative step.

As the West presses ahead with new sanctions, U.S. officials say Russia is getting more directly involved in the clash between separatists and the Ukrainian government. Blinken said Russia appeared to be using the international attention focused on the downed Malaysia Airlines plane as “cover and distraction” while it moves more heavy weaponry over its border and into Ukraine.

“We’ve seen a significant re-buildup of Russian forces along the border, potentially positioning Russia for a so-called humanitarian or peace-keeping intervention in Ukraine,” Blinken said. “So there’s urgency to arresting this.”

Nearly 300 people were killed when the Malaysian plane was shot down by a missile on July 17. The West blames the separatists for the missile attack and Russia for supplying the rebels with equipment that can take down a plane.

Other leaders participating in Monday’s call were German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The White House said the leaders also discussed the stalled efforts to achieve a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the need for Iraq to form a more inclusive government and the uptick in security threats in Libya.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 45,918 other followers