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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 1st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


1 For 7 Billion campaign launched to reform the selection process for the next UN Secretary-General


The selection of the new Secretary-General in 2016 will be one of the most important decisions the General Assembly will make in the next ten years. The new Secretary-General will have to address a world confronted with increasingly dangerous civil wars, humanitarian and environmental disasters, terrorism, regressive development, economic and financial turmoil, and inequality. The need for global leadership and international cooperation is greater than ever. It is crucial that the best and most highly qualified candidate is selected to become UN Secretary-General.

In the last twenty years, many international organizations, including the UN, have made major improvements and reforms in procedural mechanisms to enhance the transparency and accountability of high-level appointments. It is imperative that the selection process for the next UN Secretary-General is changed to meet the higher standards that the UN General Assembly, UN experts and civil society have persistently called for. A more open and inclusive selection process engaging all UN Member States will also help to revitalize the UN and enhance its global authority.

A group of civil society organizations strongly committed to upholding the UN Charter and its values has agreed on a set of principles and made proposals that form the basis for urgent and credible reform. The proposals are realistic and do not require an amendment of the UN Charter. Many of them have already been endorsed by a majority of UN Member States. The “1 For 7 Billion” Campaign was launched in November 2014 and has continued to garner attention from member states and global leaders. In February, The Elders published an op-ed in the New York Times on “Four Ideas for a Stronger UN, including a more open selection process for the Secretary-General. In a General Assembly debate on 3 March 2015, many states also expressed support for the idea to find a better way to select the next UN leader.

Learn more at the 1 For 7 Billion Campaign website  www.UNelections.org

————

UN High Representative on Disarmament Affairs, Angela Kane, Leaving UN in Political Shuffle (via PassBlue)
11 March 2015

On 24 March, Angela Kane, current UN High Representative on Disarmament Affairs, announced her resignation. There was no official reason given for her departure, but prior to the announcement, reports had been circulating that Kane was being moved from her position to accommodate an aide to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Mr. Kim Won-soo, who will be out of a job when Ban’s second term ends in 2016. In an official statement released on 24 March, Ban announced that Mr. Kim will in fact be succeeding Ms. Kane in the post.

Read more from PassBlue.

———–

New Under-Secretary-General Appointed to Head the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
10 March 2015

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced on 9 March that Stephen O’Brien (UK) will succeed Ms. Valerie Amos as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

It is informally understood that the position, like certain other senior UN posts, is an entitlement of the permanent five members of the Security Council. In the case of OCHA, the UK’s prime minister would identify one of its nationals for appointment by the UN Secretary-General.

Read more from UNelections.org

Read the official UN press release here.

———

Elections:

UN General Assembly decides to hold earlier elections for ECOSOC and the Security Council starting in 2016
18 September 2014

With the adoption of Resolution 68/307 (A/RES/68/307) the General Assembly has decided to hold elections for the Economic and Social Council and Security Council six months before the new states will take up their positions. Historically the elections have been held in October each year, giving the newly-elected states only 2 months before they begin their terms which many have felt is too short a time to fully prepare.

The resolution states that the elections are to be held “about six months before the elected members assume their responsibilities,” and it is expected that the voting will take place around June, beginning at the 70th session of the GA (2016).

———————-


UPCOMING DATES:

27 April 2015: Thematic debate in the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the General Assembly on the role and appointment of the Secretary-General and other executive heads

15 September 2015: 70th session of the UN General Assembly

—————————————

  Permalink | | Email This Article Email This Article
Posted in Archives, Real World's News, Reporting From the UN Headquarters in New York

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 30th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Arctic – North Pole camps planned for Russian paratroopers, scientists.

Trude Pettersen, Barents Observer
March 27, 2015

There will be two Russian North Pole bases of operation this summer — one a set of floating camps to be used by scientists, and the other a site for Russian soldiers to train on ice.
 www.adn.com/article/20150327/nort…

—————————————————————–


Arctic – Kremlin supports Lukoil’s Arctic ambitions

Trude Pettersen, Barents Observer.
March 30, 2015

Putin’s government, dissatisfied with the pace of work performed by state-owned Rosneft and Gazprom, is considering changing policy to open up the Arctic shelf to private companies. If that happens, Lukoil — Russia’s top private oil producer — would benefit.
 www.adn.com/article/20150330/krem…

——————————————————————-

Arctic Committee forms to tackle Arctic waterways safety.

Carey RestinoThe Arctic Sounder
March 28, 2015

The Arctic Waterways Safety Committee, formed to develop the best practices for managing Arctic waterways, held its first formal meeting this month in Juneau, electing officers and meeting with the governor and Alaska’s state committee on the Arctic.
 www.adn.com/article/20150328/comm…

=====================================================================

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 30th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Ultra-Orthodox woman fights for representation in Knesset.
by Ben Caspit, AL-MONITOR Israel Pulse, March 29, 2015


The name of the most courageous woman in Israel is Ruth Colian. This petite mother of four, age 34, is conducting a courageous but doomed battle from within the ultra-Orthodox community in which she lives against the Orthodox rabbinical establishment. I have been following her with wonder and admiration for several years. Colian has sworn to bring to light the plight of hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Jewish women, and to free them from lives of enslavement, abuse and anonymit
y.

Ruth Colian managed to gather the needed resources to establish an ultra-Orthodox women’s party that ran for a seat in the Knesset on March 17, but the ultra-Orthodox establishment keeps setting up obstacles.

She has created a political party of ultra-Orthodox women — the first in the history of the State of Israel — that ran for a seat in the Knesset on March 17. For many years, she has exhausted the legal system and other institutions with petitions, demonstrations and locally organized rebellions: for instance, in the municipal elections in the town of Petah Tikva, in the elections for the student council of a college and in struggles against various religious institutions. She does it all virtually alone, with her own two hands, fighting tooth and nail. She encounters defeat after defeat, gets up, dusts herself off and moves on. She knows that her victory will be measured by the clock of history. At some point, maybe in a year, or 10 or 50, an ultra-kosher Orthodox woman will get her very own seat in Israel’s Knesset, the legislative body of the State of Israel. When that happens, that woman will know that her path to the Knesset was prepared by Colian.

Intensive coverage has been accorded by Western media to women living under radical Islamic rule: Saudi women not allowed to drive a car, women disenfranchised of the right to vote, to express and realize themselves and women devoid of personal freedoms. The media devotes very little space to the condition of Jewish women in the ultra-Orthodox world. There are several large ultra-Orthodox communities in the United States, and in Israel a huge ultra-Orthodox community flourishes, with about 1 million members, about half of them women.

Ultra-Orthodox women are generally forced to bear on their own the burden of providing for the family (the men often devote their lives to holy studies). They raise a large number of children (an estimated average of six to seven per family), slave away around the clock to maintain jobs and the home, bear and raise children, clean, cook and so on, while hidden by their community inside their homes. These women are virtually not seen in public. They vote in Knesset elections but as far as their community is concerned they are not allowed to run in them (none of Israel’s three ultra-Orthodox parties — Shas, Yahadut HaTorah and the new party of Eli Yishai, Beyachad — have female lawmakers). They are not involved in political activity and do not take part in festivals and joyous occasions, unless they are discreetly hidden. Even at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, they are discriminated against: Their access to the area is from a narrow side entrance. They are banned from mixing with men in public. They are forced to cover their hair, sometimes their face, and wear modest clothing; the more radical among them force the women to shave their heads and to wear a scarf or a wig instead.

Colian is one of the first to dare come out against these phenomena in public, trying to breach the walls of the women’s ghetto. She tried to run in the elections for the student council at the college where she studied law and in the municipal elections in the town where she lives, Petah Tikva. She conducts bitter struggles in all sorts of areas and each time finds herself facing the entire ultra-Orthodox rabbinical establishment. They try to kick her young children out of the ultra-Orthodox institutions where they go to school, curb her activities, designate her a rebel, a heathen, a traitor. She was supposed to have broken down and given up a long time ago, but she hasn’t.

When the Knesset elections moved up to March 17, she decided to turn the tables on the establishment and established a movement called “Bizchutan, ultra-Orthodox women foster change.” She somehow managed to raise the required funds and put together a list of Knesset candidates. Together with three other ultra-Orthodox women she worked on getting through to ultra-Orthodox women and convincing them to pick her party as their representative when they find themselves behind the curtain at their polling station. Elections in Israel are conducted by secret ballot, and in principle, this could have been possible. But Colian, without funding or rich backers, had been unable to even film campaign commercials for television and social media (which all other parties produced). When she tried to place advertisements in the ultra-Orthodox press, she was turned down on the spot.

Two weeks before the elections, Colian had been holding discreet negotiations with Yesh Atid, the centrist party of Yair Lapid, one of the strongest liberal voices in Israel. The idea had been to sign a surplus vote-sharing agreement between the two parties. Such a move would position Colian at the top of the media agenda and provide her with the needed publicity. Lapid, who had yet to sign a surplus vote-sharing agreement with any party, gave the idea serious consideration. There is no electoral value of such an agreement with a party that will not reach the electoral threshold, but signing it would generate great ethical and moral value for Lapid, one of whose flagship issues has been the fight against the ultra-Orthodox establishment and the effort to impose a military draft on ultra-Orthodox men and to encourage them to go out into the workplace, instead of studying all day.

In the end, Lapid opted for investing his energies in an attempt to reach a surplus vote-sharing agreement with Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Camp. Simple politics trumped morality. Colian, in despair, considered a street demonstration with her party’s other candidates in the town of Beit Shemesh, with its particularly radical ultra-Orthodox community. “We want to stand on the sidewalk on which women are not permitted to walk, across from the synagogue, and see what happens,” she told Al-Monitor the week before the elections. “I know this could result in a big melee, but someone has to do this at some point.”

Beit Shemesh has often made the headlines in recent years after ultra-Orthodox radicals attacked women — cursing them, spitting at them and insulting them after they walked on sidewalks that had been designated off-limits. These are exactly the kinds of phenomena that Colian is fighting.

Following the elections, she sounded defiant. “I’m not naive. I know that the minute the elections are over, Yair Lapid and all the other politicians won’t give us the time of day, us ultra-Orthodox women. They will need the ultra-Orthodox parties in the government coalition and will forget our existence. But we are here. We are hundreds of thousands of women fed up with being a disciplined pool of voters. Women who want to realize dreams, who are sick of looking on from the sidelines, discarded in corners and used for the sake of procreation, cooking and cleaning. Every such woman is a whole universe. Among us are very talented women, who could be effective in public office. It’s about time that someone represent this large group in the legislature. Someone closely familiar with our distress. One day it will happen,” she said.

In the run-up to the elections, Colian’s party scored its first isolated victory when the Lod District Court complied with the party’s demand to require the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Yated Ne’eman to print a fully paid election advertisement in its name. The newspaper quickly appealed to the Supreme Court, which decided to overturn the decision until more exhaustive deliberations on the issue could be held. The women did not give up. Meanwhile, they received the unexpected support of reserve Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, former head of the National Security Council, who publicly declared his support for the party. Eiland even donated money toward their improvised election campaign.

But on the day of the election, they were less successful. The Bizchutan list (Hebrew for “in their merit”) garnered 1,977 votes. To meet the electoral threshold and earn four seats in the Knesset, more than 120,000 votes are required. But Colian and her friends are far from despair and will continue on the path they have set for themselves. The number of votes they received coincidentally represents an important historic year (1977) in the annals of Israel — it was the year of the first “great political turnabout” of the state. That was when the Likud Party rose to power and replaced the Labor Party, which had ruled Israel for the first 30 years of its existence. Someday, the turnabout of ultra-Orthodox women will also take place. The first baby step in that direction has already been taken. Now the journey begins.

Ben Caspit is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse. He is also a senior columnist and political analyst for Israeli newspapers, and has a daily radio show and regular TV shows on politics and Israel.

More from Israel Pulse:
Netanyahu looks for way out of rightist coalitio- Mazal Mualem
Netanyahu’s coalition headache – Mazal Mualem
Israel takes Hezbollah threats seriously – Ben Caspit
Israel Arabs will look to Bibi’s actions, not words – Shlomi Eldar
Israeli Zionist Camp lost the periphery towns – Mazal Mualem

Read more: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/original…

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 11th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

An Oil money backed so called think tank is at it again. Again we hear that using oil in order to make gasoline is a better idea then trying to use less oil crud and make better gasoline. This is the story of ethanol additive to gasoline after the government ruled the elimination of lead compounds that were used by the refiners in the formulation of gasoline.

We know this issue well and do not consider this blatant attack funded by the big funders of the repeat creation in think-tank forgeries that their only purpose is to keep us dependent of oil – their own investment of choice. DISGUSTING.

=======================================

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor
End the Ethanol Rip-Off

By ROBERT BRYCEMARCH of the Manhattan Institute – a Right Wing Think Tank that pays visits to the Koch Brothers.
This dated March 10, 2015 His text:

WITH the collapse in global oil prices, members of Congress are once again pushing to raise the federal gasoline tax, with the proceeds going to new roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects. While some in Congress might be averse to a tax increase of any kind, they might find it more palatable if it came packaged with a tax cut.

Fortunately, there is a perfect option, a hidden levy that has benefited a small group of farmers and manufacturers in a handful of states: the corn ethanol tax.

The tax is hidden because, on paper, it appears as a clean-energy mandate. Federal law currently requires fuel retailers to blend about 13 billion gallons of corn ethanol per year into the gasoline they sell to the public, making the gas more expensive. This year, that mandate, known as the Renewable Fuel Standard, will impose about $10 billion in additional fuel costs on motorists.

Congress created the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2005 with several goals in mind: energy security, rural economic development and environmental protection. But the indirect environmental costs involved, including growing, harvesting and processing corn into fuel, are significant. Ethanol diverts corn from the food supply, driving up food costs; it promotes inefficient and harmful land-use strategies; and it can damage small engines. But a more fundamental problem is its high cost when compared with conventional gasoline. And that higher cost is directly related to its lower energy density.

Ethanol contains about 76,000 B.T.U.s per gallon. Gasoline contains about 114,000 B.T.U.s per gallon. Therefore, to get the same amount of energy contained in a gallon of gasoline, a motorist must buy about 1.5 gallons of ethanol.

THIS STATEMENT IS PLAIN FRAUD – THIS BECAUSE THE CAR DOES NOT LOOK AT BTUs BUT AT HOW MANY MILES PER GALLON IT CAN COVER.
HERE THE HIGHER OCTANE VALUE OF THE ETHANOL ALLOWS FOR INCREASE IN MILES AS TESTIMONIES BEFORE CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS AND US COMPTROLLER OFFICE ALREADY MADE IT CLEAR AROUND 1978 THAT IT IS SO. PERSONALLY, I TOLD A HEARING BEFORE CONGRESSMAN OTTINGER IN RESPONSE TO A PROFESSOR EMERITUS FROM MIT WHO WAS FLOATING HIS CREDENTIALS – THAT IF HE WANTS TO FRY AN EGG ON TOP OF THE MOTOR VEHICLE ENGINE – BTUs ARE GOOD THERMODYNAMIC FIGURES – BUT IF HE WANTS HOW THIS WORKS IN CREATING MECHANICAL ENERGY – MEASURE THIS IN MILES PER GALLON. OBVIOUSLY – AFTER SEVERAL WEEKS FROM THE PUBLICATION OF THOSE HEARINGS – A US DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY OIL FRIEND HAD THESE COMMENTS TAKEN OUT OF THE RECORDED MEETING. I WILL SAY NO MORE HERE BUT ONLY THAT IF YOU MAKE THE HIGH OCTANE COMPONENT OF THE GASOLINE FROM PETROLEUM CRUDE ONLY – IT TAKES MORE CRUDE THEN IF YOU ALLOW FOR A LOW OCTANE GASOLINE AND THEN HIKE ITS VALUE WITH ETHANOL AFTER ALL – THERE WAS A REASON WHY THE REFINERS FOUGHT TO KEEP THE LEAD IN THEIR FORMULATION..


{The article follows mentioning a}
 Fueleconomy.gov, a site run by the federal government, advises that vehicles running on the most common form of ethanol-blended fuel, E10 (which contains 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline), will typically get “3 percent to 4 percent fewer miles per gallon” than they would if they were running on pure gasoline. That mileage penalty — in essence, a tax — must be paid at the pump through the purchase of additional fuel.

And that takes us to the cost issue. Since 1982, officials in Nebraska (which is the second-largest ethanol producer, behind Iowa) have been monitoring monthly and annual wholesale, or “rack,” prices for ethanol and gasoline at fuel depots in Omaha. In December 2014, the rack price of a gallon of ethanol was $2.40, while a gallon of unleaded gasoline was $1.73. But recall that we need 1.5 gallons of ethanol to match the energy contained in a gallon of gasoline. That means you would need to pay about $3.60 to get the same amount of energy as from a gallon of gasoline, making ethanol about twice as expensive.

That’s not unusual. Since 1982, the price of an energy-equivalent amount of ethanol has, on average, been about 2.4 times the price of gasoline. Furthermore, for eight full years between 1986 and 1998, ethanol cost at least three times more than an energy-equivalent amount of gasoline. In fact, since 1982, ethanol has always been more expensive than gasoline.

The same energy-equivalent prices allow us to estimate the annual cost of the ethanol tax. Between 2007 and 2014, about 92.5 billion gallons of ethanol were mixed into domestic gasoline supplies. Over that eight-year period, the energy-equivalent cost of ethanol averaged about 90 cents per gallon more than gasoline.

Motorists thus incurred about $83 billion — roughly $10 billion annually — in additional fuel costs over and above what they would have paid for gasoline alone.

The United States now has about 212 million licensed drivers. That means that the ethanol tax is soaking the average driver for an additional $47 per year in excess fuel costs.

In the last session of Congress, 169 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, urging her to reduce the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline supplies because the mandates could cause “economic and environmental harm.” Nothing came of it.

The push to end the ethanol tax has continued with the new Congress. Three senators — Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, along with two Republicans, Patrick J. Toomey from Pennsylvania and Jeff Flake from Arizona — have introduced legislation to repeal the ethanol mandate. Their bill is supported by three dozen groups, ranging from industry groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the National Marine Manufacturers Association to environmental organizations like the Clean Air Task Force and Friends of the Earth.

Similar moves are afoot in the House, where Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, and three co-sponsors — Steve Womack, a Republican from Arkansas, and two Democrats, Peter Welch of Vermont and Jim Costa of California — are pushing a similar bill. In a statement, Mr. Goodlatte implored his colleagues “to stop this boondoggle.”

Given the high cost of the ethanol tax, the word “boondoggle” seems too polite. Let’s call it what it is: a rip-off.

———————

Robert Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of a new report from the institute, “The Hidden Corn-Ethanol Tax.”

A version of this op-ed appears in print on March 10, 2015, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: End the Ethanol Rip-Off.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We got interested in the above as we saw last night a UN in Vienna showing of the documentary – “THE SUPREME PRICE” – that was inspired by the actions of Dr. Hufsat Abiola – Costello the daughter of Moshood Abiola and Kudirat Abiola – Olayinki Adeyemi. Both of Hufsat’s parents were executed by military takeover of oil rich but poor Nigeria. Actually – her father was the democratic elected President but never allowed to take over his office, and her mother became an activist and was murdered as she posed a threat to the generals. All this before there was a Boko Haram. As all the riches was in the Niger delta oil fields of the South – it is the endemic poverty of the Muslim Northern region that eventually led to the present upheavals.
As Nigeria approaches new contested elections March 28, 2015 – all of the above will again be front page news with the danger being that the elections will be followed by riots.
=======================================================

Africa
Neighbors of Nigeria Take On Boko Haram

By ADAM NOSSITER MARCH 9, 2015 – The New York Times

DAKAR, Senegal — Troops from Chad and Niger launched an offensive against Boko Haram militants in neighboring Nigeria, military officials from both countries said Monday, two days after the Islamist terrorist group killed scores in bombings in northeastern Nigeria.

A military official in the Niger border city of Diffa confirmed Monday that two columns of military vehicles carrying soldiers from Niger and Chad had moved into Boko Haram’s stronghold in Nigeria’s Borno State on Sunday, consolidating control over two frontier towns, Damasak and Malam Fatori.

Chad had previously reported that its forces had pushed Boko Haram out of the two towns in mid-February. But Monday was Niger’s turn to do so. Chad’s military spokesman hung up the phone when questioned about the discrepancy, though the spokesman, Col. Azem Bermandoa Agouna, did say that forces from the two neighboring countries were “in coalition” in the regional fight against Boko Haram.
Continue reading the main story
Related Coverage

African Training Exercise Turns Urgent as Threats GrowMARCH 7, 2015
Boko Haram Generates Uncertainty With Pledge of Allegiance to Islamic StateMARCH 7, 2015
In Newly Sophisticated Boko Haram Videos, Hints of Islamic State Ties FEB. 20, 2015

“The armed forces have launched themselves into the fight to recover the town,” Colonel Azem said Monday from Ndjamena, the Chadian capital, referring to Damasak, a Boko Haram staging post for attacks.
Continue reading the main story
Interactive Graphic: Groups Document Swath of Destruction Left by Boko Haram

Control of the border towns has changed hands several times, and the situation in other remote towns in territory controlled by Boko Haram remains ambiguous. The Nigerian Army, which up until last month had conceded swaths of territory to the Islamist insurgents, is sensitive over the military assistance provided by its smaller neighbors.
Continue reading the main story Video
Play Video|3:51
Boko Haram Kidnapping Tactics, Explained
Boko Haram Kidnapping Tactics, Explained

In Nigeria, more than 200 schoolgirls have been held captive since last April. Some background information on the Islamist group that has been trying to topple the country’s government for years.
Video by Natalia V. Osipova on Publish Date May 9, 2014. Photo by Sunday Alamba/Associated Press.

With a national election scheduled for March 28 and a pledge by military officials to stamp out Boko Haram before the vote, activity by Nigerian forces has intensified, as have efforts by the country’s neighbors, who are worried about the effects of the insurgency on their economies. Boko Haram has increased cross-border raids into Cameroon, Chad and Niger in recent months.

Facing direct engagement from government forces, Boko Haram has reverted to old tactics, bombing so-called soft targets in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri. Fifty to 100 people were killed in four bombings over the weekend at two crowded markets in the city.

The attacks were grimly familiar, with women concealing explosives under their hijabs. In one attack on Saturday at Maiduguri’s Monday Market, vigilantes forced a woman whom they suspected of carrying a bomb to the ground, only to be blown up as she detonated it. Nigerian reporters at another attack on Saturday at the Baga Fish Market noted that a number of the victims were children.

Issa Ousseini contributed reporting from Niamey, Niger, and a correspondent for The New York Times from Maiduguri, Nigeria.

A version of this article appears in print on March 10, 2015, on page A6 of the New York edition with the headline: Neighbors of Nigeria Take On Boko Haram

===============================

With elections scheduled for 15 sub-Saharan countries this year, an Africa Check factsheet looks to the polls for leadership in five volatile states.

In addition to presidential polls held in Zambia in January and Lesotho in February, voters are to cast their ballots in Burkina Faso, Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Mauritius, Sudan, Tanzania and Togo.

South Sudan’s first election since it gained independence in 2011, originally scheduled for June, has been pushed back to 2017 as a result of violence.

Three of the countries heading for elections – Nigeria, Sudan and CAR – were among the bloodiest countries in Africa in 2014. They accounted for almost 50% of the continent’s around 39 000 conflict deaths, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project. It is possible that elections, if they go ahead as planned, may fuel further violence.

In what concerns Nigeria – we found – according to the following quote from The Guardian – ELECTIONS WILL BE HELD MARCH 28, 2015:

“Challenges have beset the election: Jonathan standing for office for a second term has exacerbated perennial north-south tensions and the Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) has faced logistical challenges in dispensing voter cards to registered voters and to the roughly one million displaced by Boko Haram attacks.

Security concerns in the northeast of the country have affected polling. In early February, Inec pushed the election back to March 28 owing to the threat posed by Boko Haram, a move criticised by Buhari’s All Progressives Congress. Regional forces have recently made some inroads on the group; they have reclaimed several towns and are planning a major ground and air assault.

Jonathan’s waning popularity as a result of corruption scandals, high unemployment and his lacklustre handling of the Boko Haram crisis would seem to bode well for Buhari, who has extended his support in the south. But with most of his support situated in the north, any cancellation of polling or lack of voter turnout because of Boko Haram threats may affect his chances and call the credibility of the election into question.

===============================

The New York based Council on Foreign Affairs has a longer look at the upcoming elections in Nigeria:


Nigeria’s 2015 Presidential Election

Author: John Campbell, Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies
Nigeria’s 2015 Presidential Election – john-campbell-cpm-update-nigerias-2015-presidential-election

Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press – Release Date February 2015


The success or failure of democracy, rule of law, and ethnic and religious reconciliation in Nigeria is a bellwether for the entire continent. With a population of more than 177 million evenly divided between Muslims and Christians, Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and most populous country. A 2010 Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Contingency Planning Memorandum, “Electoral Violence in Nigeria,” considered the potential for widespread violence associated with Nigeria’s 2011 elections and the limited policy options available to the United States to forestall it. This assessment remains relevant today.

The 2015 elections again may precipitate violence that could destabilize Nigeria, and Washington has even less leverage in Abuja than it did in 2011.

The upcoming elections are a rematch of the 2011 elections between the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan (a southern Christian) and Muhammadu Buhari (a northern Muslim and a former military chief). Tension between Washington and Abuja is higher than in 2011, largely over how to respond to the radical Islamist insurgent group, Boko Haram, which is steadily gaining strength in northeast Nigeria. According to CFR’s Nigeria Security Tracker, Boko Haram has been responsible for nearly eleven thousand deaths since May 2011.

Nigerian domestic instability has also increased as a result of the recent global collapse of oil prices, which are hitting the government and political classes hard. Oil constitutes more than 70 percent of Nigeria’s revenue and provides more than 90 percent of its foreign exchange. Since October 2014, the national currency, the naira, has depreciated from 155 to the U.S. dollar to 191.

New Concerns:

Since Nigeria’s independence in 1960, political power has alternated between the predominantly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south, an informal strategy to forestall the country’s polarization. Jonathan assumed the presidency when President Umaru Yar’Adua, a northern Muslim, died in 2010. Jonathan gave private assurances that he would finish Yar’Adua’s term and wait until 2015 to run for president because it was still “the north’s turn.” But Jonathan ran for reelection in 2011, thereby violating the system of power alternation. Following the announcement of Jonathan’s victory, the north made accusations of election rigging. Rioting broke out across the north, resulting in the greatest bloodshed since the 1967–70 civil war.
Geographic Distribution of Votes in 2011 Presidential Election


Geographic Distribution of Votes in 2011 Presidential Election:

The 2015 elections are likely to be more violent. A new opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has nominated Buhari as its presidential candidate. The APC is stronger than its predecessors and reflects a splintering of the political classes. The government’s inability to defeat Boko Haram, the economic hardships brought on by falling oil prices, and a growing public perception that the Jonathan administration is weak have fueled support for the APC. Though the APC’s voter base is in the north, it enjoys support all over the country, unlike the opposition in 2011.

However, any incumbent Nigerian president has significant advantages: he is at the center of extensive patronage networks; he has access to the government’s oil revenue; and he and his party largely control the election machinery and ballot-counting infrastructure. It is uncertain whether any provisions will be made for voters in the three northern states placed under a state of emergency because of Boko Haram, as well as the estimated one million people displaced by the insurgency. These displaced voters would likely support Buhari and the APC; their exclusion would benefit Jonathan and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Thus despite the strength of the opposition, Jonathan remains the likely—but not certain—winner.
Policy Implications

An unstable Nigeria with internally displaced and refugee populations and a government unable to quell Boko Haram could potentially destabilize neighboring states and compromise U.S. interests in Africa. Yet, the United States has little leverage over Nigerian politics, which is driven by domestic factors, and even less leverage over the Nigerian security services. Nigeria will be disappointed that the United States has not offered greater assistance to counter Boko Haram, and Washington will be frustrated by Abuja’s failure to address human rights abuses by the security service.


Recommendations:

A November 2014 Council Special Report “U.S. Policy to Counter Nigeria’s Boko Haram” recommends long-term steps the United States should take to encourage a Nigerian response to terrorism that advances democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights. In the short term, vocal U.S. support for democracy and human rights both during and after the elections could help discourage violence at the polls and after the results are announced. Secretary of State John Kerry, in a preelection visit to Nigeria, has already underscored the importance of free, fair, and credible elections to the bilateral relationship.

In the aftermath, Washington should avoid commenting prematurely on the quality of the elections. Observers from the National Democratic Institute and the International Republic Institute are likely to issue preliminary assessments immediately after the polls close. So, too, will observers from the European Union, the Commonwealth, and the African Union. There will be media pressure for early, official comment. But, following a close election and the violence likely to follow, the timing and content of official U.S. statements should take into account the views of the vibrant Nigerian human rights community, which will likely be the most accurate.
Washington should forcefully and immediately denounce episodes of violence, including those committed by the security services. But official statements should avoid assessing blame without evidence, and they should take into account the weak ability of party leaders to control crowd behavior.
Washington should facilitate and support humanitarian assistance. The north is already in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, with the prospect of famine looming. If the postelection period is violent, there may be need for international humanitarian assistance in many other parts of the country. The Obama administration should plan for a leadership role in coordinating an international humanitarian relief effort, including a close study of lessons learned from the Africa Military Command’s successful intervention in Liberia’s Ebola crisis.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Argument
America Is Losing the War in Syria

Moderate rebel groups are suffering. The Islamic State and Nusra are gaining ground. And Washington’s piecemeal efforts are worthless. Here’s a grand plan worth paying for.

By Robert S. Ford
Foreign Policy Magazine, March 9, 2015

The current U.S. strategy in Syria isn’t working. Despite the coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State, the group still has strategic depth in Syria to back its campaign in Iraq. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, meanwhile, isn’t fighting the Islamic State — it’s locked in combat with the moderate opposition. Despite Washington’s hope for a national political transition away from Assad, there is no sign of a cease-fire, much less a comprehensive political deal.

More than ever, Americans — and Syrians — need to ask themselves what has gone wrong and what can be fixed. U.S. strategy needs to center on taking back ground from the Islamic State and driving a wedge between Assad’s small ruling circle and his increasingly wobbly support base so that a new government can be established to rally more Syrians against the jihadis. Reinforcing Syria’s moderate rebels is still the key component in achieving these goals, but we — and they — have to get the strategy and tactics right.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration should undertake a major diplomatic and assistance effort, or it should walk away from Syria.


U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration should undertake a major diplomatic and assistance effort, or it should walk away from Syria. Merely continuing to inject small amounts of aid and men in the fight won’t sustainably contain the jihadis or be sufficient to reach the political negotiation the administration keeps hoping for.

The quiet end to the Syrian armed opposition’s Hazm Movement, with which the Americans had worked in northern Syria, was the latest signpost of the current failed policy. With aid coming too little and too late, the movement was easily knocked aside by al Qaeda-linked extremists who gained new territory and border crossings. It is far from the only moderate rebel group to suffer large setbacks in recent months: Others are simultaneously under attack from Assad regime forces (which are strongly reinforced by Iranian and Hezbollah troops), jihadis from the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, and the Islamic State.

Meanwhile, the Americans didn’t ramp up aid to the secular moderates when they needed it most. Instead, assistance to moderate Syrian fighters has been small and erratic, and the rebel fighters have been badly divided by foreign states parceling out desperately needed aid among multiple groups. This has created a vicious cycle, forcing the moderate rebels to compete against each other and to sometimes cooperate with al-Nusra Front. That in turn has aggravated foreign states and scared off any regime elements that might want to negotiate a deal, thus extending the war of attrition to the benefit of the Islamic State.

Rather than boosting the capacity of existing moderate fighting groups, the U.S. administration has decided to build an entirely new force. As currently envisioned, this plan will be too little, too late. The fighting units will be much smaller than Islamic State forces operating in Syria. In addition, the plan will further split the moderate armed opposition and will do nothing to counter the Islamic State’s biggest recruitment tool — the Assad regime’s brutality.

Moreover, Assad will likely make good on his recent threat in a Foreign Affairs interview to attack the U.S.-trained Syrian rebel force. This is nothing new: Assad’s ground and air forces have consistently targeted moderate armed groups fighting the Islamic State in northern and eastern Syria over the past two years.

If the administration wants these beleaguered fighters to be successful, it will face the question of expanding the U.S. air mission in Syria. Protecting these small units from Assad air force attacks, even in eastern Syria, would require some kind of no-fly zone, a step the administration has long resisted. If the Obama administration goes through with such a step, it ought also to negotiate a package deal with the Syrian opposition and regional allies to get all sides on the same page on a strategy for degrading the Islamic State and achieving a negotiated Syrian political deal.

The larger package deal is vital. Simply increasing material aid to the moderate fighters in northern and southern Syria, even by huge amounts, won’t be enough. The key is settling on a revised strategy that establishes a unified command structure for the non-jihadi opposition.

This unified structure must be the sole conduit for external funding, arming, and training. It must include the main non-jihadi rebel groups and must be led by a Syrian who enjoys wide support from Syrians fighting on the ground and from foreign states. Those who refuse to follow orders from the unified command must be cut off from any assistance. This is the only way to end the fragmentation that has long plagued the moderate armed opposition and to ensure it will support any eventual negotiation.

Syrian fighters, especially Sunni Arabs, are best placed to confront Sunni Arab extremists in their country and limit the spread of the extremists’ appeal. This means that Islamist opposition groups that are conservative, but do not insist on imposing an Islamic state by force, likely will be part of the solution.

The United States and Turkey need to find common ground under the revised strategy. Turkey must finally shut off smuggling paths across its borders for the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front, which have been hugely beneficial to these jihadi groups.

Ankara has been trying to exploit extremists to fight both the Assad regime and the PYD, the terrorist PKK-affiliate operating in Syria. A U.S. strategy that provides greater support for moderate forces fighting Assad and the jihadis, and which also ends U.S. actions that foster Kurdish separatism in Syria, could convince Turkey to abandon this path.  SustainabiliTank.info editor takes exception from this last proposition that originates with the author iof this paper!}

While U.S. military aid to the Syrian Kurdish fighters from the PYD helped to combat the Islamic State around the northern city of Kobani, it also fosters the PYD’s separatist ambitions. The PYD has already unilaterally announced an autonomous zone in northern Syria, which has spurred fearful Arab tribes in the area either to back Assad or the Islamic State. The U.S. emphasis on using Syrian Kurds against the Islamic State won’t end the jihadi threat — it will only aggravate it, and the broader Syrian conflict. The Syrian Kurds’ demand for decentralization may be the only way to reassemble a shattered Syria one day, but for now, the Americans and their allies must tell the PYD that autonomous zones only belong as part of longer-term political negotiations involving all Syrians.

Hugely boosted U.S. aid to the Syrian opposition should come with strings attached — a lot of them. In return for increased support, the Syrian opposition writ large must agree on these six conditions:

1) That armed groups receiving assistance from the newly created central command will obey its orders only.

2) That the armed opposition will stop atrocities against civilian communities that have backed the Assad regime and that the armed opposition command will accept responsibility for actions of its constituent groups.

3) That the armed opposition will sever all ties with al-Nusra Front.

4) That the armed opposition’s leadership must constantly reiterate that it is not seeking to destroy Christian, Alawite, or other minority communities and is prepared to negotiate local security arrangements, including with Syrian Arab Army elements, to protect all Syrians.

5) That it will negotiate a national political deal to end the conflict without Assad’s departure as a pre-condition.

6) That any political coalition purporting to lead the opposition must have genuine representation from minorities and top-level businessmen in Syria — communities that have, broadly speaking, supported Assad’s government — and that representation will not come mainly from long-term expatriates.

Implementing these steps would help create a moderate rebel force able to confront the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front, and also pave the way for a real national political negotiation. If U.S. regional partners and the Syrian opposition won’t accept the strategy and the tactics to make it work, or if the Obama administration won’t expand its level of assistance and the air mission, then Washington needs to drop the goal of significantly degrading the Islamic State in Syria over the next several years.

It would be better for American credibility to walk away than try more halfhearted measures in Syria.

It would be better for American credibility to walk away than try more halfhearted measures in Syria.

After two years of experience, we should realize that limited actions aren’t enough to address the major threats emanating from Syria. Our foreign partners want U.S. vision and leadership to contain extremists and launch a successful negotiation for a Syrian unity government, which is the only sustainable fix to the extremist threat. Let’s give it to them.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Argument
The Kremlin Pulls on Georgia

It’s time for the West to stop taking Tbilisi for granted.

By Michael Cecire
Foreign Policy Magazine, March 9, 2015

As Russian forces consolidate their gains in Ukraine over the flat protests of Western leaders, the specter of Russian revanchism is keeping much of Eastern Europe on edge. But lumbering tanks and legions of insta-separatists aren’t the only concern. Ukraine isn’t Russia’s only target.

Perhaps most alarming are the warning signs going off in Georgia, a steadfast Euro-Atlantic partner where a pro-Western political consensus has long been a foreign-policy calling card. A long-standing opponent of Russian military adventurism, Georgia sought escape velocity from Russian regional dominance by courting membership in Euro-Atlantic structures and earned a reputation as an enthusiastic and credible Western partner. But

Western quiescence in the face of Russian territorial aggression is starting to have an effect.

Western quiescence in the face of Russian territorial aggression is starting to have an effect. After decades of acrimony in which Georgians have watched Russian proxies occupy 20 percent of their territory and ethnically cleanse some 300,000 of their compatriots, certain groups are starting to ask if maintaining close ties to the West is worth all the loss. Increasingly, Georgians are beginning to think that it isn’t.

The groups spearheading Russian influence operations in Georgia fly beneath the international radar under the cloak of local-language media and the oft-repeated surety of pro-Western sentiment. But they can be seen protesting in Tbilisi streets, preaching in Georgian churches, and holding improbably well-funded campaign rallies ahead of elections. The evidence shows that Russian influence in Georgia is growing stronger. (In the photo, a Stalin impersonator poses at a memorial service for the Soviet dictator in his Georgian hometown of Gori.)

But at Washington roundtables and in private conversations, Western officials and experts tend to downplay the possibility of Russian-exported propaganda taking root in Georgia. The root of this complacency is tied to regular polling from the U.S.-funded International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) that has consistently showed public support for Euro-Atlantic integration at between 60 and 70 percent. Successive governments have relied on this popular approval to justify their Western-facing foreign-policy agendas.

So support for Euro-Atlantic integration is broad. But is it deep? Those who have spent time with ordinary Georgians say the reality, as is often the case, is far more complex.

There, in a scene in the popular Georgian soap opera Chemi Tsolis Dakalebi (My Wife’s Best Friends), revelers at a wedding reception are interrupted by an announcement that Georgia has just been awarded a long-coveted “MAP” (membership action plan), a prelude to NATO membership. The announcement shocks the crowd into a stunned silence, which then gives way to raucous cheers. One character, while clapping and celebrating along with the others, turns to another partygoer and asks: “What’s a MAP?”

While the scene colorfully illuminates NATO’s outsized social, and even civilizational, pull among Georgians, it also suggests a harsher truth: that Georgian society’s Western moorings may be more emotive than well-informed. The headline numbers from public opinion polls don’t tell the whole story. Look deeper into the data, and the picture is much more worrisome.

According to an NDI poll last August, integration with the West was at best a tertiary issue for Georgians. Instead, “kitchen table” issues dominated respondents’ concerns, with worries about jobs (63 percent) and poverty (32 percent) eclipsing other issues. NATO and EU integration came in far behind at 10th and 17th, respectively. And of 21 issues polled, Georgians picked NATO and EU membership as the top issues the government spent too much time discussing.

But most concerning, buried deep in the survey results, were signs of growing support for joining the Eurasian Union, a Moscow-led EU “alternative.” A full 20 percent favored the idea of Georgian membership. This percentage has risen steadily from 11 percent in late 2013 to 16 percent in mid-2014. Who are these Georgians who would surrender their country’s sovereignty to the same power that keeps a steely grip on Georgian territory and carves other neighboring states with impunity?

Part of the answer can be found in a budding segment of the nongovernmental sector, consisting of innocuously named pro-Russian groups like the “Eurasian Institute,” “Eurasian Choice,” and “The Earth Is Our Home.” Many of these organizations pop in and out of existence as needed — the “Peace Committee of Georgia” one week, something else the next — but they are often tied to the same group of pro-Russian ideologues and policy entrepreneurs who make regular pilgrimages to Moscow and, according to Georgian officials in the ruling party and the opposition, almost certainly receive Kremlin funding. Their common message isn’t high-church Russian apologia or Soviet nostalgia, but rather “Eurasianism” and “Orthodox civilization” — Kremlin shorthand for Putinism. Appeals to Georgian social conservatism, economic vulnerability, and lingering anger over past government abuses are winning converts within a population increasingly impatient with Georgia’s unrequited love affair with the West.

In mid-2014, Eurasianist groups made headlines for their raucous opposition to an anti-discrimination bill making its way through the Georgian parliament. Their opposition centered on language in the bill banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which opponents claimed was tantamount to promoting non-heterosexual lifestyles. But they didn’t come to the protests alone — accompanying the pro-Russian activists were unmistakably garbed clerics from the Georgian Orthodox Church.

The church, too, was nonplussed over the anti-discrimination bill and called for language protecting sexual minorities to be ejected. One of the oldest existing Christian churches in the world, the Georgian Orthodox Church is both a touchstone for Georgian nationalism and reliably polls as the most trusted institution in the country. But the church’s common cause with the Eurasianists was not limited to tactical alliances over anti-gay rhetoric. Although nominally in favor of Georgian membership in the European Union, influential factions within the Orthodox hierarchy openly stoke religious nationalism and express admiration for Russia.

Today, church representatives are increasingly seen as a vanguard for reactionary activity. In mid-2013, clergy members were on the front lines of a horrifying anti-gay pogrom in central Tbilisi. Church officials have justified protests against and attacks on Georgian Muslims. And church leaders have called the West “worse than Russia,” sometimes describing the 2008 Russian invasion as a kind of heavenly intervention against Western integration. Such language is echoed by Georgia’s Eurasianist NGOs.

The growing profile of pro-Russian organizations and the sharpening anti-Western stance of the church is converging with a third leg in an emerging pro-Russian triad: the revitalization of anti-Western political parties.

Since the 2012 change in power, pro-Russian politicians have risen from the darkest margins of Georgian political life into an increasingly viable political force.

Since the 2012 change in power, pro-Russian politicians have risen from the darkest margins of Georgian political life into an increasingly viable political force.

Onetime pro-Western advocate turned pro-Russian political agitator Nino Burjanadze has fashioned a political coalition aimed squarely at breaking Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic consensus. In presidential and local elections in 2013 and 2014, respectively, Burjanadze managed to get about 10 percent of the vote, armed with Eurasianist rhetoric and fueled by massive influxes of what was likely Russian money. And the rapidly growing Alliance of Patriots — a populist party with anti-Western leanings, which recently held a major rally in Tbilisi — won almost 5 percent in June 2014. If these numbers hold, parliamentary elections in 2016 could very well yield a very differently oriented Georgian government. A 15 percent result would be more than enough to send pro-Russian deputies into parliament in force, shattering cross-partisan foreign-policy unity and potentially playing kingmakers in coalition talks.

Irakli Alasania, Georgia’s former defense minister, has Russia on his mind. “There are very active pro-Russia groups and thousands of protesters who are against Western integration,” he told me recently, referring to the Alliance of Patriots rally. He expressed worry that the current government is downplaying a growing Russian threat. With his own Free Democrats now part of the parliamentary opposition, the ruling Georgian Dream coalition’s ranks of solidly pro-Western parties has noticeably thinned, and the leverage of socially conservative, protectionist factions within the coalition has increased.

But this is probably only the beginning. If trends hold, Georgia’s foreign-policy consensus — long taken for granted in the West — could begin to unravel in earnest. Although Georgian Dream, to its credit, has managed to skate the knife’s edge between geopolitical pragmatism and Euro-Atlantic enthusiasm, it is increasingly losing popularity among once-hopeful voters. As things stand, parliament in 2016 looks like it will be very different from today’s parliament. The pro-Western opposition United National Movement will likely see its 51 seats slashed by half or more. In its place is likely to be a collection of openly anti-Western deputies from Burjanadze’s coalition and the Alliance of Patriots. If it stays together, Georgian Dream may well remain the largest parliamentary bloc, but the introduction of large anti-Western groupings into parliament could compel it to dilute, or even abandon, its pro-Western policies out of political necessity.

This trajectory ought to be a cause for deep concern. Even a Georgia that tried to split its orientation between the West and Moscow would likely sink into the quicksand of Russian dominance, as have each of the other paragons of this strategy — Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Kazakhstan. This result would mean the consolidation of Russian geostrategic supremacy over the Caucasus and, with it, a complete Russian monopoly over trans-Eurasian energy and trade flows.

There are ways the West could throw a much-needed lifeline to Georgian liberals.

There are ways the West could throw a much-needed lifeline to Georgian liberals. While the association agreement with the European Union signed last June is surely a welcome symbol, and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area has great future potential, the real prize for most ordinary Georgians is the prospect of visa-free travel to the EU. If this is introduced this year, as widely hoped, this could be a real boon for Western credibility. And if not outright NATO membership, other strong gestures, such as U.S. major non-NATO ally status, would be a relatively painless upgrade that would enshrine what is essentially the status quo while recognizing Georgia’s long-outsized dedication and contributions to the Euro-Atlantic space.

What is clear is that the days of taking Georgia’s pro-Western consensus for granted are quickly coming to a close. Russian influence is resurgent across its periphery, from Eastern Europe to the Caucasus to Central Asia, and Georgia remains a long-coveted prize. It may have taken successive military interventions, information warfare, and influence operations, but Moscow looks to be turning a corner in its bid to regain Georgia — both by hook and by crook.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The following article expresses the realism we wrote about earlier – that the Palestinian issue will find a solution only if the Israeli Arabs will pick it up as part of the only democracy in the Middle East – the State of Israel. So, activism of the Israeli Arabs is a good thing for everyone as long as it is done as part of the Israeli democracy. Seemingly, the Arab citizens of Israel have found a true leader in Ayman Odeh of Haifa who understands how political democracy can help the cause of all Israeli citizens including its Arabs, and by doing so will help also the Arabs outside borders of Israel.

To be successful in bettering their own positions, the Arabs of Israel will now fight for the common interest on the side of all other citizens of Israel – these interests are SOCIAL JUSTICE AND PEACE. By playing their cards within the system they could be part of the new government or at least be recognized as the in-land political loyal opposition.

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Opinion
Israeli Election: What Do Israeli Arabs Want?
By Marc Schulman, Newsweek, 3/6/15

Ayman Odeh, leader of the joint Arab ticket, talks about equality, peace and a lasting settlement. Ayman Odeh’s Campaign

Until this election cycle there were four Arab parties represented in the Israeli parliament. They were very different, ranging from: the Chadash party, (originally the Israeli Communist party), which has always included Jews and Arabs; Balad-Ta’al, two highly nationalistic, but secular parties; and the Islamic party, whose platform is reflected in its name.

Previous attempts to unite these parties into a single list failed, due to the large ideological differences between the groups. However, the last Knesset passed a law, sponsored by the party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, that raised the threshold of votes a party is required to receive before it can be admitted to the Knesset.

Many believe that Lieberman’s unstated goal to was to push the Arab parties out of the Knesset. Indeed, in a debate held before this interview, Lieberman turned to the Odeh and said, “You are here for now.”

At the time of writing, polls show the United Arab List receiving 12 places in the upcoming Knesset, although many believe that that number will grow to as many as 15 seats as the existence of the United List will result in an increase in Arab Israeli participation in this election. For the Center-Left to win this election it is clear that the joint Arab slate will be key—minimally in blocking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability to build a coalition.

I met the leader of Hadash who heads the joint Arab effort, Ayman Odeh, toward the end of long day. The fatigue was visible on his face, as well as on the faces of his weary campaign staff. With just two weeks to go until the election, there was no time to lose for this 40-year-old, who was born and grew up in Haifa, has a law degree and is married with two children.

Odeh has the personality of a natural politician. He immediately put me at ease. In a Clintonian manner, he knew how to make me feel that (at least for the moment) I was the center of his world. The mission he accepted—i.e. holding together his diverse coalition and becoming a significant player on the larger Israeli political scene, will be a challenge. Here is a condensed transcript of our conversation that took place in Hebrew:

Tell me a little about your background and why you got into national politics?

Odeh: I was a member of the Haifa City Council when I was 23 years old, which made me the youngest city councilman in Israel. When I began my political career, I identified with Malcolm X. After two or three years, I evolved—and not to a small degree—because of my service on the council in the city of Haifa, which is the most liberal multicultural yet homogenous city in Israel.

As a result of that experience I was transformed from being someone who believed that either the Jews or the Arabs could survive here, to someone who thought that Arabs and Jews must work together. I began to feel that I now must follow in the footsteps of Martin Luther King, who believed in working together.

So I began to look for the good in all the residents. I understood that what is generally good for people in distress is good for the Arab population; that democracy is good for the whole country, including the Arab population. I learned that social justice benefits the whole population, including the Arab citizens.

This attitude shift helped me connect to all sorts of groups. Four years ago, I sat for a whole month on Rothschild Boulevard (the place where the Israeli social protest movement began). I believe I was the only Arab to do so. I was the one who helped develop the slogan “The people demand social justice.” At the first demonstration, people were initially chanting all sorts of slogans. But in Egypt the people had already been demonstrating, shouting “The people want.…” so I borrowed the phrase “the people want” and added “social justice.”

My ideological transformation was part of my political maturation, choosing to become part of the greater whole. This does not mean that now I ignore the specific needs of the Arabs in Israel. On the contrary, as part of the greater whole, I can better address the needs of the Arab community.

Now, in every party meeting of our Joint List I say, yes, we will address the needs of Arab Israelis, but not only the needs of Arab Israelis. We will have 15 seats in the upcoming Knesset. We will raise our hands in support for the handicapped, for the pensioners, for all of the weaker sectors.

Do you think the four parties you represent who came together will be able to work together—minimally for the medium term, not to mention for the long-term?

Odeh: When our four parties began to work together we discovered that our positions are actually very close to each other. Together we developed both long-range and more immediate plans. The long-term plans talk about peace, based on the U.N. Resolutions: equal rights for everyone in the country; social justice for everyone; and equality between people in the State of Israel. As to our short-term achievable goals, I am developing a plan, which the other groups support. I have a ten-year plan to close the socioeconomic gaps between Jews and Arabs.

We have many disagreements on the nationalist level. I, Ayman, will not give up on any of my national rights. I will continue to speak about them. However, there are some things that we do not need to fight over—for example, equal civil rights, employment in general, employment of women, elimination of violence, recognition of the recognized Bedouin villages in the South and bus service to the underserved Arab towns. I put forth 90 new civil programs, and I have expert opinions from economists who agree that within two years the country would directly benefit from my plan.

When I speak about our national rights, people respond by saying, “How scary.” But it is not scary. It would be good for both of us. I tell you, I want two nations here by choice. I want two cultures here. That is good for me. It adds something important for me. We are all richer because there are two nations and two cultures here. Let’s focus on the positive things that unite us and not what separates us.

There was a recent Ha’aretz Newspaper poll showing that 70 percent of the Arab population in the country are more interested in matters of economics and daily life than questions about the Palestinian issue. How do you respond to those findings?

I will not run away from the nationalistic issue. Our society, our joint society will never be a moral society as long as we occupy another people, not only from a moral and democratic point of view but also economically. Instead of wasting money in the occupied territories, money should be spent here in Israel for the good of all of us—for education, for health and for social programs. However, all of what I just said here is secondary to the fact that the Palestinian people have a right, just like all people in the world, to have their own state.

What do you respond to Israelis who say, “Yes, we agree with you theoretically, but if you look at the state of the Arab world at the moment, this is not the time to make drastic any changes?”

Odeh: Let’s look at the reality of the world around Israel. Israel made peace with Egypt, the largest Arab State. There are militant Islamists there, but there is also law. There are agreements and also defense arrangements there. So, was it better to make an agreement with Egypt or not?

Now let’s look at Jordan, the country with which we have the longest border. Jordan is home to members of the Muslim Brotherhood. In Jordan, there are Salafim, and there are even some members of ISIS.

However, there is a monarchy that runs an independent government. In Jordan there is law and there is security cooperation. Where there is law, and where there is government, there is security. Therefore, I believe it is better for there to be clear borders and independence.

The Palestinian Arabs accept the framework that they will get a state on 22 percent of the land that they dreamed of. I believe that you cannot push them any further to the wall. There is an historic opportunity. Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization] is a pragmatic person, a peace loving person, in everyone’s opinion—other than the opinion of the Israeli government.

While Abu Mazen [Abbas] might have the image of someone who wants peace, doesn’t he have the image of being a weak leader?

Odeh: Abu Mazen has proved he can control the West Bank. There have been very, very difficult events for the Palestinian people, and despite these outbreaks and the ongoing occupation Abu Mazen has shown he can maintain order—even though in reality, that is not his job. If he successfully brings accomplishment to his people, his position will be strengthened. He is weak because he does not succeed. It is the Israeli government who prefer him weak.

Why do you think during the last few years there has been such a rise in racist actions against Arabs in Israel?

Odeh: I will explain something that might sound backwards. I believe that since the Bar-Ilan speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the right wing has understood that there is no choice (i.e. there will have to be a Palestinian State.) This realization by the right wing has fueled racism towards the Arab citizens of Israel. MK [Member of the Knesset] Avigdor Lieberman speaks every Monday and Thursday against the Arab citizens of Israel. Yet even Lieberman, when he repeats his slogan “Um-El -Fahem [an Arab Israeli town] to Palestine,” is implicitly recognizing that there will be a Palestinian State.

In 2006, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that the main danger to Israel was not the Arabs in the territories but, rather, the Arabs inside Israel. In some ways I think he is correct. The Arab population does not want to turn inward and be isolated, it could throw all of its weight into the political process.

The Arab population should not sit on the side and wait until 50 percent of the Israeli population is convinced about some of our views. We can be satisfied if we are able to convince 30 percent of the Jewish population. Then together with our 20 percent we will be at least 50 percent. This is the reason the right wing attacks us.

All we have to do is become determined to get involved in the political game and the right wing will be in big trouble.

I have to ask the question that everyone asks—If you are asked by [chairman of the Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition] Yitzhak Herzog to join the government, will you?

Odeh: The most important thing is that the Netanyahu government, which has been so bad for all parts of the Israeli population, must come to an end. However, at the same time, we are not in Herzog’s pocket. If and when we get to that junction [where Herzog approaches us], then we will decide.

Assuming you have approximately 15 seats—which is (more or less) the number people expect you to have—what do you think you can accomplish?

Odeh: If Yitzhak Herzog is the one picked to form the government, he should have the courage to rely on us. His party (actually it was the Labor party, under the leadership of Yitzhak Rabin) had good experiences when they relied on us as a blocking guard. We want the next government to be one that seeks peace and equality. We plan to bring our population what they deserve.

If there is one large coalition government compromising Labor and Likud, we will be the head of the opposition. Then, for the first time in history, the head of the opposition will receive foreign visitors. I will bring up the issues facing the Arab population to those who visit.

The head of the opposition speaks after the Prime Minister in the Knesset and receives government briefings. All of this will happen for the first time in history—That will be a good position for us to be in.

———————————–

Historian Marc Schulman is the editor of historycentral.com. An archive of his recent daily reports from Tel-Aviv can be found here. A longer version of this interview can be found at historycentral.
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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 8th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The “Hindenburg Trap”: Dump Oil, Coal & Gas Stocks if You Want to Retire
.

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment – posted by Reader Supported News

08 March 2015
 readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…

hat is the actual value of the oil, gas and coal fields owned by big energy corporations, which gives them their stock price and allows them to be counted as assets for borrowing purposes?

The real value of those hydrocarbon resources is zero.

Or actually it is much less than zero, since there are likely to be a lot of liability lawsuits and insurance claims for severe environmental and property damage. Coal, oil and gas are now where the cigarette companies were in 1990, on the verge of getting hit with massive penalties. Big Coal and Big Oil are dead men walking.

The only thing that stops the entire world economy, including that of the United States, from collapsing is that investors continue to pretend that what I just said is not true. Because of this pretense, some people will go on making a lot of money with hydrocarbon investments in the short and perhaps even the medium term. Much investment and assignment of value is a matter of confidence.

But the confidence is misplaced. If you are still fairly young and you or your pension fund bought a lot of petroleum or gas or coal stocks in hopes of retiring on them, think again. You will lose your shirt.

Worse, because so many loans and other investments are anchored by the supposed value of coal, oil and gas, the world is walking an economic tightrope and the gentlest of breezes could knock it off into a crisis that would make 2008-2009 look like a minor hiccup.

In particular, if a sizable ice shelf breaks off in the Antarctic, you could see a sudden sea level rise that would panic the public and possibly lead some countries to outlaw things like coal and gas.

The Bank of England is doing a big study of this problem, which economists call that of “stranded assets.” That is a fancy phrase for when you invest in something that suddenly loses its value.

For instance, say you invested in Blockbuster Video Entertainment, Inc., when people used to rent DVD’s of movies from brick and mortar stores. In 2006 it seemed a good stock to buy– it had 9000 stores and 60,000 employees (almost as many as there are coal miners). And then streaming video came along. Stranded asset. Blockbuster went bankrupt in 2010 and survives only as a streaming service of Dish satellite television, which bought it and was gradually forced to liquidate all the stores.

The same thing will happen to coal, oil and natural gas, for two big, inexorable reasons. First, burning hydrocarbons is fatal to the health of our planet– in terms of the energy it releases, it is like setting off atomic bombs constantly. After a while that would take a toll. Second, other far less destructive ways of generating electricity are every day becoming cheaper and more efficient, especially wind and solar.

That coal as an industry is a bad investment should be obvious. The Obama Environmental Protection Agency has decided finally to start actually enforcing the Clean Air and Water Act, and has also claimed the right to regulate states’ carbon dioxide emissions (in which it has been upheld by the Supreme Court). Most coal plants will likely close over the next five years. Can you say, Blockbuster Video? I’d dump those coal stocks, like yesterday, or call my pension fund and make them drop them.

Of course, there was already a social conscience argument against investing in coal, which is dirty– burning it emits mercury (a nerve poison) and other dangerous pollutants and makes people sick. It also causes acid rain. And it is a major emitter of carbon dioxide, the deadliest poison of all. It is a horrible thing.

Let’s consider what has happened in Iowa just since 2005.

In 2005, wind generated 4% of Iowa’s electricity. Coal was responsible for a whopping 79%, about 4/5s.

In 2013, wind generated 28% of Iowa’s electricity. Coal had fallen to only 59%.

Given those trend lines, in such a short period of time, does coal look like a good investment to you? Or does wind? Especially since we know what the EPA is planning for coal.

Coal isn’t just competing with wind. The conservative Deutsche Bank has just concluded that in 14 states of the US, solar power is now as inexpensive as that from coal and natural gas. Right now. That is, it would be crazy to build a new coal plant today when you could generate electricity just as cheaply with solar.

And get this: by 2016– next year! — Deutsche Bank concludes that solar will be competitive with coal and natural gas in all but three or four states. And that is not an argument based on subsidies for solar. It will be as inexpensive as coal-generated electricity just purely on a market basis (in fact, it will be even cheaper, since there are massive government subsidies for coal, gas and oil).

Critics say that the wind dies down sometimes and the sun doesn’t shine on half the earth at night. This problem is referred to as that of “intermittency.” But it isn’t an insoluble problem. For one thing, the wind often blows more at night, so turbines can take up the slack from solar plants. For another, there are now molten salt solar installations that go on generating electricity for six hours after sunset. As batteries improve in efficiency and fall in price (both things are happening already, big time), the problem of intermittency will fade into insignificance, likely within a decade.

Another drag is that the electricity grid in many states needs to be redone. Wires need to be laid from the Thumb in Michigan where the wind is to the Detroit metropolitan area where most of the electricity is used. But it really is a relatively minor expense, and since the fuel for wind turbines is free, it would pay for itself fairly quickly. That is just a matter of having a state government that is on the ball and sees where the future profits are to be made. Cheap wind- and solar- generated electricity will allow factories to save money on energy and make their products more inexpensively, allowing them to compete on the world market. A solar facility is helping power the Volkswagon plant in Chattanooga. They’re not paying for coal or gas to produce that portion of their power, because the sunlight is free, and that will make their cars more competitive in price. Some buyers may throw their business to Volkswagen because they are greener. All factory owners will quickly move in this direction over the next few years.

So there isn’t any doubt about it. Buying stocks in coal, gas and oil companies is like buying stocks in zeppelins. They are outmoded and prone to crashing and burning, a Hindenburg waiting to happen. (Zeppelins were good investments once, too; they carried tens of thousands of people across the Atlantic and the top of the Empire State Building was designed to anchor them; but they became a stranded asset.)

It is therefore absolutely amazing that institutions of higher education like Harvard often refuse to divest from oil, gas and coal companies. The science and the economics are clear as day– burning hydrocarbons is disastrous for a city like Boston over time, and holding stranded assets is a one way ticket to bankruptcy court. I couldn’t tell you whether this decision is made out of short-sightedness or out of ethical and moral corruption (universities live nowadays on donors’ donations and don’t want to anger generous alumni who make their living purveying coal, gas and oil).

But those hydrocarbon stocks, and loans made on the basis of those worthless assets, are endangering the economic health of us all. Buying and holding them is the equivalent of refusing to vaccinate your children against measles. It is an individual decision that imperils the rest of the public. You and I may not be able to do much about the Koch brothers’ hold on state legislatures, or about the mysterious insidiousness of the Harvard regents. But most of us have some say in what stocks are in our pension funds or 401ks. There shouldn’t be any coal, gas or oil securities in there. Unless you like the idea of working backbreaking minimum wage jobs into your 80s.

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ONE OPPOSING COMMENT:

0 # brycenuc 2015-03-08 18:03
Juan Cole needs a course in basic science. It is no accident that Germany and Denmark who have the highest percentage of renewable electricity generation also have the highest electricity prices in the world. When the taxpayers and rate payers tire of paying for the exorbitant government subsidy required to keep them running, “renewable” energy will become the stranded asset. Where did Germany turn, when it realized it had to have a more reliable source of electricity? IT TURNED TO COAL. Germany’s conversion to more “renewable” energy has caused its carbon emissions to increase.

Incidentally, the huge volume of emissions shown in the photograph accompanying Cole’s message is not from gas, oil, or coal; it is from steam.

————————————————-

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 8th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The 21st Century Has Been Terrible for Working Americans.

By Jim Tankersley, The Washington Post

07 March 2015

TO SEE THIS ARTICLE WITH ALL THE PERTINENT GRAPHS – PLEASE GO TO THE ORIGINAL AT:
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Posted in Archives, Reporting from Washington DC

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 8th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

After Netanyahu Speech, Congress Is Officially High School

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

07 March 15
 readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…

ears ago, when I was just starting in this business, I had the privilege to meet a well-known muckraker and columnist. I asked him the secret of his success.

“Two things,” he said. “One: when you’re hammered after a night out, drink an entire liter of water before you go to bed. An entire liter, do you understand? Otherwise the whole next work day is shot.”

“An entire liter,” I said. “Got it.”

“Second, never write about Israel. It just pisses people off. No matter what you say, you lose half your Rolodex.”

I frowned. How he could ignore such an important topic? Didn’t he care?

“Son,” he said, “we’re prostitutes. We don’t enjoy the sex.”

Mainly by accident, I sort of ended up following that advice, but I did watch the Benjamin Netanyahu speech and its aftermath this week. A few thoughts on one of the more unseemly scenes Congress has cooked up in a while:

First of all, the applause from members of the House and Senate was so over the top, it recalled the famous passage in the Gulag Archipelago about the apparatchik approach to a Stalin speech: “Never be the first one to stop clapping.”

Watching it, you’d almost have thought the members were experiencing a similar terror of being caught looking unenthusiastic. I say almost because in reality, it’s a silly thought, in a democracy: nobody’s getting taken out back and shot for showing boredom.

But then, no kidding at all, a gif apparently showing Rand Paul clapping with insufficient fervor rocketed around social media.

It got enough attention that the Washington Post wrote about it and Paul himself had to issue a statement on Fox and Friends denying he wasn’t clapping really, really hard. “I gave the Prime Minister 50 standing ovations. I co-sponsored bringing him here,” Paul pleaded. Is the Internet age beautiful or what?

But the telescreens weren’t just watching the Republicans. Cameras also captured Nancy Pelosi looking somewhat south of enraptured during the speech.

Those photos only circulated more after she said she was “near tears” because she was saddened by Netanyahu’s speech, which she termed an “insult to the intelligence of the United States.”

This in turn led to more social media avalanching and a cartoonish response from South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who told a donor at a fund-raiser: “Did you see Nancy Pelosi on the floor? Complete disgust. . .If you can get through all the surgeries, there’s disgust!”

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the U.S. Senate! If Kathy Griffin ever bombs out on Fashion Police, Graham will have a job waiting for him.

After Bloomberg traitorously reported on Graham’s locker-room joke about Pelosi’s face, a storm of criticism from Democrat members raged and the Senator was forced to walk his comments back (“I made a poor attempt at humor,” he said, in what is looking like the go-to lawyer-drafted apology line of our times).

All of this preening and adolescent defiance, all these bitchy homeroom-style barbs and insults: has the U.S. government ever seemed more like high school?

Indiana Republican Jackie Walorski apparently thinks school’s still in. This is her reacting after Netanyahu’s speech, according to Slate:

“Wooh, baby! That was awesome!”

Around the world, not everyone was so enthused. Several Israeli diplomats took to Twitter to voice their concerns over Netanyahu’s appearance. (Everybody tweeted about this speech. There were more Iranian officials on Twitter Tuesday than there were sportswriters at the Super Bowl).

Yigal Caspi, Israel’s ambassador to Switzerland, retweeted a line from an Israeli journalist: “Is it no longer possible to suffice in scaring us here in Hebrew? [Netanyahu] has to fly all the way to the US Congress and tell them in English how dangerous Iran’s nuclear program is?”

Caspi and two other diplomats got the ax for their social media responses to the speech. Meanwhile, British journalist Jeremy Bowen got caught in the Twitter Punji-trap when he made a comment about Elie Wiesel, the author and Holocaust survivor who sat in the Speaker’s box with Netanyahu’s wife, Sara.

A safe joke to make about Wiesel’s presence probably would have been something along the lines of, “I guess that book Elie was planning on co-writing with Barack Obama is on hold.” The BBC’s Bowen went in a different direction, bluntly declaring that Netanyahu was “playing the Holocaust card” by bringing the Nobel laureate and camp survivor.

Instantly accused of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, Bowen and the BBC insisted that he was just using “journalistic shorthand,” and that the wording was appropriate because Netanyahu was raising the “specter of another Holocaust.” As of this writing, Twitter warriors are still feasting on Bowen’s head and should have him skeletonized by nightfall.

Nobody came out of this week looking good. Regardless of where you stood on a possible nuclear deal with Iran, the whole episode this week made the American government look like what some in the Iranian press apparently called it: a clown show.

Once upon a time, the opposition party pursuing a second line of foreign policy for domestic political purposes was considered unseemly.

Think candidate Dick Nixon submarining the 1968 Vietnam Peace talks behind LBJ’s back, or the fabled October Surprise conspiracy theory. This was something one did in secret, preferably in trench coats instead of ties, with no press at all present, unless you count Sy Hersh’s future sources.

But this was like the October Surprise as a pay-per-view MMA event. That this sleazy scheme was cooked up mainly for the political gain of both the hosts and the speaker (who faces an election in two weeks) was obvious in about a hundred different ways, beginning with the fact that the speech was apparently timed so that Israeli audiences could watch it over dinner.

But the gambit only sort of worked for Netanyahu, whose Likud Party has experienced only a modest bounce since the speech, if it got one at all. American news outlets humorously had different takes on the same polls showing Likud gaining one or two seats (HuffPo: “Netanyahu’s Popularity Rises After Speech to U.S. Congress: Polls”; Washington Post: “Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress Fails to Jolt Electoral Needle At Home”).

Similarly, if the move had any benefit to the Republicans in congress, it was hard to perceive. Nobody in the media drew a link between Bibi’s speech and the Republicans’ surrender on the Homeland Security funding bill, but on some level there must have been one.

You can’t invite a foreign leader into the House Gallery to accuse a sitting president of being soft on terrorism in an event covered by 10 million journalists, and then turn around the same week and defund the president’s Homeland Security department over some loony immigration objective.

Even worse, the decision to try to conduct their own foreign policy in the shadow of the White House went over so badly with American voters, it actually gave Barack Obama a 5-point sympathy bump in his approval rating.

Put it all together, and the Republicans’ big roll-out this week had to be the most self-defeating political pincer move since the Judean Peoples’ Front sent their Crack Suicide Squad to the rescue in Life of Brian.

This was a week that made everyone look bad: congress, the media, Netanyahu, the Tweeting Supreme Leader in Iran, everyone. Obama only came out looking OK because he mostly stayed off camera and kept his mouth shut.

Mostly, however, it was just a depressing, circus-like demonstration of how schizoid and dysfunctional Washington politics have become. The logical next step after a caper like this is the opening of Republican and Democratic embassies abroad. Let’s hope it’s a long time before anyone tries this again.

————————————

SOME OF THE COMMENTS:

+15 # Activista 2015-03-07 20:58
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Posted in Archives, Israel, Reporting from Washington DC

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 7th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Peace and reunification in Korea: in our life time
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Christine Ahn 6 March 2015, the 50.50 blog of UK based openDemocracy

International women peacemakers are planning a peace walk across the De-Militarized Zone to bring global attention to the unresolved Korean War and amplify women’s leadership to help reunify the country.

The year 2013 marked the sixtieth anniversary of the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War. The temporary ceasefire has never been replaced with a peace treaty, and the 2 mile-wide and 155 mile-long demilitarized zone (DMZ) continues to divide the Korean peninsula with recurring tensions that serve as a sobering reminder of the possibility of renewed war.

Traversing the seemingly impermeable border, five New Zealanders crossed the DMZ in August 2013. They rode their motorbikes from Mt. Paekdu on the northern border with China all the way down the peninsula to Mt. Halla on the southernmost island of Jeju. This inspired me to begin imagining a women’s peace walk across the DMZ by international women peacemakers – many from countries that fought in the Korean War – to bring global attention to the unresolved Korean War and amplify women’s leadership to help reunify the country. After talking to one of the organizers of the August 2013 crossing, I decided to sequentially follow their blueprint and reached out first to the North Korean government

A year ago, I went on this peacebuilding mission to Pyongyang to discuss an international women’s peace walk across the two-mile wide De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas. To my relief, Pyongyang responded very favourably towards our proposal, but with a stern caveat: only if the conditions were favourable.

Today, despite New Year calls for engagement by both Korean leaders, tensions remain very high. And this month, the United States and South Korea are conducting a two-month long period of military exercises called Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, which the North Korean Rodong Sinmun believes are “aimed to occupy the DPRK through pre-emptive strikes.”

The conditions are not favourable, but we are still planning the women’s peace walk across the DMZ this May. We have formed an organization called Women De-Militarize the Zone, and thirty women from more than a dozen countries have signed dup to walk for peace and the reunification of Korea. They range from Nobel peace laureates to artists, academics, humanitarian aid workers, and faith leaders.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the division of Korea by the United States and the former Soviet Union. For nearly seven decades, Koreans on both sides of the DMZ have long awaited a peace treaty to formally resolve the 1950-53 Korean War that only ended with a ceasefire agreement. Instead, 70 million Koreans across the peninsula, from the northern border of China down to the southern-most Jeju Island, have endured political repression and an endless arms race.

In 1945, after Japan’s defeat in WWII, the United States landed in Korea, which had been under brutal Japanese colonization for 35 years. Without the consent of Koreans, who were awaiting its liberation and sovereignty after an entire generation under Japanese occupation, the two Cold War powers – Washington and Moscow – divided the peninsula along the 38th parallel. It was supposed to be a temporary division, but instead the creation of two separate states precipitated the 1950-53 Korean War.

Despite the massive loss of human life and destruction, the Korean War has come to be known as the “forgotten war.” More bombs were dropped on Korea from 1950 to 1953 than on all of Asia and the Pacific islands during World War II, and President Truman came seriously close to deploying an atomic bomb. One year into the Korean War, US Major General Emmett O’Donnell Jr. testified before the Senate, “I would say that the entire, almost the entire Korean Peninsula is just a terrible mess. Everything is destroyed. There is nothing standing worthy of the name . . . There [are] no more targets in Korea.” According to University of Chicago historian Bruce Cumings, during the Korean War, U.S. airstrikes led to the destruction of 18 of 22 major North Korean cities. Cumings cites Hungarian journalist Tibor Meray, who recalled, “I saw destruction and horrible things committed by American forces… Everything which moved in North Korea is a military target, peasants in the field often were machine gunned by pilots, who, this was my impression, amused themselves to shoot targets which moved.”

In 1953, after nearly 4 million people were killed, mostly Korean civilians, North Korea, China and the United States, representing the United Nations Command, signed the armistice agreement with a promise within three months to sign a peace treaty. Over 60 years later, we are still waiting for a peace treaty to end war.

What has ensued instead for the past six decades is an endless arms race between North and South Korea. Whether we like it or not, the fact that the Korean War ended with a temporary cease-fire rather than a permanent peace treaty gives both Korean governments justification to invest heavily in the country’s militarization. According to the Ploughshares Fund World Nuclear Stockpile Report, North Korea possesses less than 10 nuclear weapons of the 16,300 worldwide that are predominantly held by Russia and the United States. North Korea invests approximately $8.7 billion — significantly higher than the $570 million Pyongyang claims — or one-third of its GDP in the military, according to the South Korean government-run Korea Institute of Defense Analyses. In 2013, to great surprise, Pyongyang acknowledged how the un-ended war has forced it “to divert large human and material resources to bolstering up the armed forces though they should have been directed to the economic development and improvement of people’s living standards.”

But it’s not just North Korea. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) 2014 Yearbook, South Korea was the world’s 10th highest military spender, with its expenditures reaching $34 billion for the year. World Bank data shows that in 2012, 13.6 percent of the central government’s expenditures in South Korea went towards defence spending. According to a North Korea expert at Seoul National University, Suh Bohyuk, in 2011, South Korea became the world’s number-two weapons importer. In September 2014, South Korea spent $7 billion for 40 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets. “The reason that we are building up our military is to counter North Korea’s attacks and provocations,” said a South Korean military official. According to political science professor Yang Seung-ham of Yonsei University, “The Park administration is rapidly purchasing many advanced weaponry for military security, which does not help in easing inter-Korea tensions.” Conservative hawks in Washington are also pushing South Korea’s militarization. According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, although Washington withdrew 11 types of nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991, hawks in U.S. Congress are now advocating for the return of U.S. nukes.

North Korea’s heavy military spending isn’t just to defend against South Korea, but against the world’s most powerful military in the world: the United States, which has since it landed on Korean soil in 1945 maintained thousands of soldiers and bases throughout the southern half of the peninsula. Washington regularly conducts military exercises with Seoul, simulating the invasion of North Korea. In January, in order to promote dialogue on the Korean peninsula, Pyongyang offered a moratorium on nuclear testing in exchange for the United States to postpone war game exercises with South Korea. The olive branch came a day after the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Years Day speech in which he offered to meet President Park if “the mood was right” and that the two Koreas should promote reconciliation on the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule. North Korea’s gesture to lessen tensions was rebuffed by Washington, which recently passed another round of sanctions against North Korea for its alleged hacking of the corporation, Sony.

In 2012, Washington spent $682 billion on its military, or 39 percent of the world’s total spending. While the Pentagon uses China’s military spending, which has grown annually in the double digits, to justify Washington’s Asia-Pacific Pivot, the unresolved Korean War gives regional powers such as the United States, China, and Japan justification to further militarize, including expanding missile defence systems and building new military bases, as they continually lack funds for social welfare, such as education or childcare. Last year, at a March 25 Senate Defense Committee hearing on the 2015 budget, the commander of the U.S. Forces in Korea (USFK), General Curtis Scaparrotti, argued that while the 28,500 U.S. troops based in South Korea were “fully resourced,” he was concerned about the readiness of “follow-on” forces needed if fighting erupted. According to investigative journalist Tim Shorrock, during heightened tensions with Pyongyang in 2013, Washington deployed a new THAAD portable defense system to Guam and that plans are underway for a massive expansion of the U.S. missile defense system in Alaska and along the west coast as a “precautionary” measure against a possible North Korean missile strike.

Since military intervention is not an option, the Obama administration has used sanctions to pressure North Korea to de-nuclearize. Instead, North Korea has since conducted three nuclear tests, calling sanctions “an act of war”. That is because sanctions have had deleterious effects on the day-to-day lives of ordinary North Korean people. “In almost any case when there are sanctions against an entire people, the people suffer the most and the leaders suffer least,” said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on his last visit to North Korea.

International sanctions have made it extremely difficult for North Koreans to access basic necessities, such as food, seeds, medicine and technology. Felix Abt, a Swiss entrepreneur who has conducted business in North Korea for over a decade says that it is “the most heavily sanctioned nation in the world, and no other people have had to deal with the massive quarantines that Western and Asian powers have enclosed around its economy.”

A less obvious legacy of the Korean War is how governments use the state of war to justify repression in the name of preserving national security. Whether in Pyongyang, Seoul or Washington, the threat of war or terrorism is used to justify government repression and overreach, such as warrantless surveillance, imprisonment and torture in the name of preserving national security.

While repression in North Korea is widely known, less known is how the South Korean government uses the antiquated 1948-enacted National Security Law (NSL) to prosecute political dissidents, particularly those sympathetic towards or seeking to engage North Korea. In South Korea, the Constitutional Court recently abolished the Unified Progressive Party, a liberal opposition party, on charges of being pro-North. Amnesty International says that this case “has seriously damaged the human rights improvement of South Korean society which has struggled and fought for freedom of thoughts and conscience and freedom of expression.” And in January, the South Korean government used the NSL to deport and ban for five years Shin Eun-mi, a 54-year old Korean-American housewife who had written about her travels to North Korea, including describing North Koreans as warm-hearted and urging Korean reunification.

There is wide consensus that replacing the temporary armistice agreement with a permanent peace treaty would go a long way towards de-escalating tensions that have long plagued Korea and the region. In a 2011 paper, the U.S. Army War College warns that the only way to avert a catastrophic confrontation is to “reach agreement on ending the armistice from the Korean War” and “giv[e] a formal security guarantee to North Korea tied to nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” U.S. Ambassadors to Korea since the 1980s have argued for engagement and a formalized peace process. James Laney, U.S. Ambassador to South Korea in the Clinton administration prescribed, “to remove all unnecessary obstacles to progress, is the establishment of a peace treaty to replace the truce that has been in place since 1953. One of the things that have bedeviled all talks until now is the unresolved status of the Korean War…. Absent such a peace treaty, every dispute presents afresh the question of the other side’s legitimacy.”

Perhaps most tragic about Korea’s division is the two-mile wide De-Militarized Zone that separates millions of Korean families. In April 2014, South Korean President Park said in her Dresden speech on Korean reunification that in 2013, “some 3,800 people who have yearned a lifetime just to be able to hold their sons’ and daughters’ hands — just to know whether they’re alive – passed away with their unfulfilled dreams.”

To end the state of war and help reunite families, international women peacemakers have come together to form Women De-Militarize the Zone, an organization dedicated to promoting the peaceful reunification of Korea through women’s leadership. From Northern Ireland to Liberia, we have seen how women’s participation in peace negotiations makes peace attainable, and that peace itself is inextricably linked with the advancement of women. We will work towards seeing the passage of a peace treaty to defuse dangerous tensions in Northeast Asia and de-militarizing our world. We must act now to give hope to Koreans that peace and reunification is tenable in their lifetimes and to the thousands of Korean elders that they will be able to embrace their loved ones across the DMZ before they pass away.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 3rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Energy union attacked for continued reliance on gas supplies.
Written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli on 2 March 2015 in News, The Parliament Magazine.

One of team Juncker’s flagship policy strategies, plans for the implementation of an energy union were finally unveiled last week. In its official communication, the commission explains, “our vision is of an energy union where member states see that they depend on each other to deliver secure energy to their citizens, based on true solidarity and trust”.

“Our vision is of an integrated continent-wide energy system where energy flows freely across borders, based on competition and the best possible use of resources, and with effective regulation of energy markets at EU level where necessary”, the document adds.

More importantly, one of the central aims of the energy union is to promote more effective EU-wide climate change policy and “secure, sustainable, competitive and affordable energy”. This is especially significant ahead of the UN Paris climate summit that will take place next December.

Late last year, the commission set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030, and increasing energy efficiency and renewables by at least 27 per cent.

Yet the energy efficiency target is not binding at national or EU level, and the renewables target is only binding at EU level. It is unclear how this will play into the new energy union plans, but the commission seems to have ignored any criticisms, referring to these targets in its communication as “ambitious”.

Moreover, “producing oil and gas from unconventional sources in Europe such as shale gas is an option, provided that issues of public acceptance and environmental impact are adequately addressed”.

The commission’s apparent commitment to “public acceptance” is interesting, as it was previously reported that during the course of the transatlantic trade and investment partnership negotiations, the EU planned to make provisions to import US gas and oil acquired through fracking.

“When the conditions are right, the EU will consider reframing the energy relationship with Russia”

There are also plans to “explore the full potential of liquefied natural gas, including as a back-up in crisis situations when insufficient gas is coming into Europe through the existing pipeline system”.

The commission also stresses, “to reach our goal, we have to move away from an economy driven by fossil fuels”.

Additionally, the energy union is meant to serve as a political tool, with the Brussels executive hoping to diversify its gas and energy suppliers in order to reduce Russian president Vladimir Putin’s negotiating power in times of conflict.

According to the document, “when the conditions are right, the EU will consider reframing the energy relationship with Russia”. Unfortunately, team Juncker fails to specify what the “right” conditions are, nor what “reframing” the relationship would actually consist of.

The communication warns, “to ensure the diversification in gas supplies, work on the southern gas corridor must be intensified to enable central Asian countries to export their gas to Europe. In northern Europe, the establishment of liquid gas hubs with multiple suppliers is greatly enhancing supply security. This example should be followed in central and eastern Europe, and in the Mediterranean area, where a Mediterranean gas hub is in the making”.

This may seem like an ideal solution considering the situation in Ukraine seems unlikely to reach a peaceful conclusion any time soon. But the countries the commission plans to work with are hardly dream allies.

These include Azerbaijan, which human rights watch has condemned for its “poor record on freedom of expression” and “arrests and intimidation of opposition political activists” and Turkmenistan, which the organization called “one of the world’s most repressive countries”.

Unsurprisingly, last week’s announcement was met with a lukewarm response on the part of environmental organizations, with Juncker’s team accused of contradicting itself.

Greenpeace EU energy policy adviser Tara Connolly said, “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing with this plan. The commission says the EU should move away from fossil fuels but it also wants to chase after new gas supplies and doesn’t rule out coal”.

Brook Riley, climate justice and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe added, “we keep hearing repetitions of gas, gas, gas. But at the same time Europe has promised to cut emissions by up to 95 per cent by 2050 – it is saying one thing and doing another”.

And Roland Joebstl, European environmental bureau policy officer on energy and climate change, commented, “tackling climate change and the issue of energy security means that the 2030 targets and related policies must be revised upwards instead of spending political capital on looking for more fossil fuel suppliers”.

But not everyone was as critical of the energy union proposals, with representatives from the climate action network saying, “the commission’s move today will kick off a wave of pledges from countries over the course of the year – all of which will add up to the first collective signal that the world is moving out of fossil fuels and embracing the renewable energy era”.

MEPs were equally divided over the announcements.

Brussels’ energy union strategy is due to be discussed at this week’s council meeting.
 www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/art…

About the author: Julie Levy-Abegnoli is a journalist and editorial assistant for the Parliament Magazine

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Challenges ahead for EU energy union implementation, warn MEPs
Written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli on 2 March 2015 in News. The Parliament Magazine.

The European parliament has cautiously welcomed commission vice-president Maroš Šef?ovi?’s energy union plans.

MEPs were quick to react after the commission outlined plans for an energy union last week.

Martin Schulz, president of the parliament, was broadly supportive, saying, “the energy union is needed to reinforce the EU’s stance ahead of the December Paris climate conference”, adding that “current events highlight the urgency for the EU to increase energy security”.


Jerzy Buzek, chair of parliament’s industry, research and energy committee, commented, “an internal energy market with an excellent level of interconnection and without isolated ‘energy islands’ will enable us to help each other, guaranteeing energy supply to all regions”.

The former parliament president noted that “stable, sustainable, affordable and competitive energy is a challenge which no EU member state is capable of meeting by itself”.

He also stressed that “developments in relations with Russia might have been an impulse for us to shift up a gear in our energy considerations, but altering the EU’s relations with Russia or any other party is not one of the energy union’s goals”.

Representatives from the S&D group also appeared quite happy with the commission’s energy union plans. The Socialists’ spokesperson on climate and environment, Matthias Groote, said, “the paper on the energy union represents a first step towards a sustainable, decarbonised economy in Europe”.

Dan Nica, the group’s spokesperson on energy, praised them as “a good balance between the geostrategic need to reduce our energy dependency on expensive imports and the fair demand from families and industries to reduce the price of energy”.


Meanwhile, the Liberals were especially vocal on the proposal’s foreign policy aspects. ALDE group president Guy Verhofstadt highlighted that “an ambitious energy union will not only create jobs, growth and tackle climate change, it will also hit Putin where it hurts most”.

He added, “Europe can no longer afford its addiction to imported fossil fuels from Russia and the Middle East. Our dependence on external energy resources has affected our ability to conduct an independent foreign policy. It is time for a European energy union with teeth”.

And the group’s environment, public health and food safety committee coordinator Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy warned, “the true test of the energy union will be overcoming the current fragmentation of energy policy into 28 different systems and reaping the full benefits of a common European approach”.

Morgen Helveg Petersen, a vice-chair of parliament’s industry, research and energy committee, underlined that “investors will only put their money in the many projects of the energy union if the associated regulatory framework is put in place, environmental legislation is predictable and competition policy is sound. The biggest barrier is regulatory uncertainty – we need to fix that”.

Yet not everyone was impressed with the energy union plans. Marek Gróbarczyk, ECR group spokesperson on energy, called on council president Donald Tusk to “stick to the promises that he made – to build a real, coherent energy union including ‘gas solidarity’, rehabilitation of coal and substantial diversification”.

In his view, “these proposals are disappointing because I fear they offer a virtual energy union that is not adequate to meet our growing challenges”.

“If the EU wants to get serious about energy security, it should be prioritising energy efficiency as the first line of defence” – Claude Turmes

Over on the left, MEPs were equally cynical.

Greens/EFA energy spokesperson Claude Turmes criticised the commission’s proposals as “a missed opportunity for outlining a path to a real energy transition in Europe. The overarching focus is on finding new supply routes for gas and reviving nuclear power, rather than trying to wean us off our damaging dependence on unreliable energy exporters. If the EU wants to get serious about energy security, it should be prioritising energy efficiency as the first line of defence”.

Greens/EFA vice-chair Bas Eickhout pointed out that the proposed strategy “will not create the energy system we need to stop climate warming greenhouse gases and limit the increase in global temperatures to below two degrees, which is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change”.

GUE/NGL group member Josu Juaristi was also wary of the commission’s announcements, explaining that, “in some member states investment in renewables is almost disappearing. Very little account is taken of citizens or local government. What happens is that the big energy companies’ control over our citizens is strengthened.

“We need to avoid a situation where the EU just leaves its ideas for renewable energy on paper – as we see happening at the moment”, he concluded.

The energy union is due to be discussed at this week’s council summit.
 www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/art…

About the author: Julie Levy-Abegnoli is a journalist and editorial assistant for the Parliament Magazine.

—————————————————————————————–

Something else relevant to this topic - SustainabiliTank.info feels important to include here – is the upcoming acquisition of a Russian energy concern – LI Energy – headed by oligarch Mikhail Fridman – of the German RWE Dea company and all its global oil and gas production assets for a neat 5 billion Euro.

The Germans seem to think it is OK but the British are of a different opinion because RWE Dea owns a large North Sea production area which in case of further sanctions against Russia because of Mr. Putin’s involvement in the Ukraine, might cause a stoppage of production from those wells and leading to loss in employment and danger to the environment. Passing the ownership of Energy assets of Europe to Russian hands in light of the EU Energy plans of decreasing dependence on the Russians – might just be the wrong signal to the seriousness of an EU Energy Policy plan in general and the position German business takes on the larger European interests.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 28th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Naomi Klein: ‘The Economic System We Have Created Also Created Global Warming.”

Klaus Brinkbaumer, Der Spiegel, writes: “Can we still stop global warming?” – “Only if we radically change our capitalist system” – argues author Naomi Klein.

By Klaus Brinkbaumer, Der Spiegel

28 February 2015

PIEGEL: Ms. Klein, why aren’t people able to stop climate change?

Klein: Bad luck. Bad timing. Many unfortunate coincidences.

SPIEGEL: The wrong catastrophe at the wrong moment?

Klein: The worst possible moment. The connection between greenhouse gases and global warming has been a mainstream political issue for humanity since 1988. It was precisely the time that the Berlin Wall fell and Francis Fukuyama declared the “End of History,” the victory of Western capitalism. Canada and the US signed the first free-trade agreement, which became the prototype for the rest of the world.

SPIEGEL: So you’re saying that a new era of consumption and energy use began precisely at the moment when sustainability and restraint would have been more appropriate?

Klein: Exactly. And it was at precisely this moment that we were also being told that there was no longer any such thing as social responsibility and collective action, that we should leave everything to the market. We privatized our railways and the energy grid, the WTO and the IMF locked in an unregulated capitalism. Unfortunately, this led to an explosion in emissions.

SPIEGEL: You’re an activist, and you’ve blamed capitalism for all kinds of things over the years. Now you’re blaming it for climate change too?

Klein: That’s no reason for irony. The numbers tell the story. During the 1990s, emissions went up by 1 percent per year. Starting in 2000, they started to go up by an average of 3.4 percent. The American Dream was exported globally and consumer goods that we thought of as essential to meet our needs expanded rapidly. We started seeing ourselves exclusively as consumers. When shopping as a way of life is exported to every corner of the globe, that requires energy. A lot of energy.

SPIEGEL: Let’s go back to our first question: Why have people been unable to stop this development?

Klein: We have systematically given away the tools. Regulations of any kind are now scorned. Governments no longer create tough rules that limit oil companies and other corporations. This crisis fell into our laps in a disastrous way at the worst possible moment. Now we’re out of time. Where we are right now is a do-or-die moment. If we don’t act as a species, our future is in peril. We need to cut emissions radically.

SPIEGEL: Let’s go back to another question: Are you not misappropriating the issue of climate change for use in your critique of capitalism?

Klein: No. The economic system that we have created has also created global warming. I didn’t make this up. The system is broken, income inequality is too great and the lack of restraint on the part of the energy companies is disastrous.

SPIEGEL: Your son Toma is two-and-a-half years old. What kind of world will he be living in when he graduates from high school in 2030?

Klein: That is what is being decided right now. I see signs that it could be a radically different world from the one we have today — and that change could either be quite positive or extremely negative. In any case, it’s already certain that it will at least in part be a worse world. We’re going to experience global warming and far more natural disasters, that much is certain. But we still have time to prevent truly catastrophic warming. We also have time to change our economic system so that it does not become more brutal and merciless as it deals with climate change.

SPIEGEL: What can be done to improve the situation?

Klein: We have to make some decisions now about what values are important to us and how we really want to live. And of course it makes a difference if temperatures only rise by 2 degrees or if they rise by 4 or 5 degrees or more. It’s still possible for us humans to make the right decisions.

SPIEGEL: Twenty-six years have passed since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was founded in 1988. We have known at least since then that CO2 emissions from the burning of oil and coal is responsible for climate change. Yet little has been done to address the problem. Haven’t we already failed?

Klein: I view the situation differently given the enormous price we will have to pay. As long as we have the slightest chance of success or to minimize the damage, we have to continue to fight.

SPIEGEL: Several years ago, the international community set a target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Do you still consider that to be achievable?

Klein: Well, it’s still a physical possibility. We would have to immediately reduce global emissions by 6 percent a year. The wealthier countries would have to carry a greater burden, meaning the United States and Europe would have to be cutting emissions by around 8 to 10 percent a year. Immediately. It’s not impossible. It is just profoundly politically unrealistic under our current system.

SPIEGEL: You are saying our societies aren’t capable of doing so?

Klein: Yes. We need a dramatic change both in policy and ideology, because there is a fundamental difference between what the scientists are telling us we need to do and our current political reality. We can’t change the physical reality, so we must change the political reality.

SPIEGEL: Is a society focused on economic growth at all capable of fighting climate change successfully?

Klein: No. An economic model based on indiscriminate growth inevitably leads to greater consumption and to greater CO2 emissions. There can and must be growth in the future in many low carbon parts of the economy: in green technologies, in public transportation, in all the care-giving professions, in the arts and of course in education. Right now, the core of our gross domestic product is comprised of just consumption, imports and exports. We need to make cuts there. Anything else would be self-deception.

SPIEGEL: The International Monetary Fund makes the opposite claim. It says that economic growth and climate protection are not mutually exclusive.

Klein: They’re not looking at the same numbers as I am. The first problem is that at all these climate conferences, everyone acts as if we will arrive at our goal through self-commitments and voluntary obligations. No one tells the oil companies that, in the end, they are really going to have to give up. The second problem is that these oil companies are going to fight like hell to protect what they don’t want to lose.

SPIEGEL: You seriously want to eliminate the free market in order to save the climate?

Klein: I am not talking about eliminating markets, but we need much more strategy, steering and planning and a very different balance. The system in which we live is overly obsessed with growth — it’s one that sees all growth as good. But there are kinds of growth that are clearly not good. It’s clear to me that my position is in direct conflict with neo-liberalism. Is it true that in Germany, although you have accelerated the shift to renewables, coal consumption is actually increasing?

SPIEGEL: That was true from 2009 to 2013.

Klein: To me that is an expression of this reluctance to decide on what is necessary. Germany is not going to meet its emissions targets in the coming years either.

SPIEGEL: Is the Obama presidency the worst thing that could have happened to the climate?

Klein: In a way. Not because Obama is worse than a Republican. He’s not. But because these eight years were the biggest wasted opportunity of our lives. The right factors came together in a truly historic convergence: awareness, urgency, the mood, his political majority, the failure of the Big Three US automakers and even the possibility of addressing the failed unregulated financial world and climate change at the same time. But when he came to office, he didn’t have the courage to do it. We will not win this battle unless we are willing to talk about why Obama viewed the fact that he had control over the banks and auto companies as more of a burden than as an opportunity. He was a prisoner of the system. He didn’t want to change it.

SPIEGEL: The US and China finally agreed on an initial climate deal in 2014.

Klein: Which is, of course, a good thing. But anything in the deal that could become painful won’t come into effect until Obama is out of office. Still, what has changed is that Obama said: “Our citizens are marching. We can’t ignore that.” The mass movements are important; they are having an impact. But to push our leaders to where they need to go, they need to grow even stronger.

SPIEGEL: What should their goal be?

Klein: Over the past 20 years, the extreme right, the complete freedom of oil companies and the freedom of the super wealthy 1 percent of society have become the political standard. We need to shift America’s political center from the right fringe back to where it belongs, the real center.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Klein, that’s nonsense, because it’s illusory. You’re thinking far too broadly. If you want to first eliminate capitalism before coming up with a plan to save the climate, you know yourself that this won’t happen.

Klein: Look, if you want to get depressed, there are plenty of reasons to do so. But you’re still wrong, because the fact is that focusing on supposedly achievable incremental changes light carbon trading and changing light bulbs has failed miserably. Part of that is because in most countries, the environmental movement remained elite, technocratic and supposedly politically neutral for two-and-a-half decades. We are seeing the result of this today: It has taken us in the wrong direction. Emissions are rising and climate change is here. Second, in the US, all the major legal and social transformations of the last 150 years were a consequence of mass social movements, be they for women, against slavery or for civil rights. We need this strength again, and quickly, because the cause of climate change is the political and economic system itself. The approach that you have is too technocratic and small.

SPIEGEL: If you attempt to solve a specific problem by overturning the entire societal order, you won’t solve it. That’s a utopian fantasy.

Klein: Not if societal order is the root of the problem. Viewed from another perspective, we’re literally swimming in examples of small solutions: There are green technologies, local laws, bilateral treaties and CO2 taxation. Why don’t we have all that at a global level?

SPIEGEL: You’re saying that all the small steps — green technologies and CO2 taxation and the eco-behavior of individuals — are meaningless?

Klein: No. We should all do what we can, of course. But we can’t delude ourselves that it’s enough. What I’m saying is that the small steps will remain too small if they don’t become a mass movement. We need an economic and political transformation, one based on stronger communities, sustainable jobs, greater regulation and a departure from this obsession with growth. That’s the good news. We have a real opportunity to solve many problems at once.

SPIEGEL: You don’t appear to be counting on the collective reason of politicians and entrepreneurs.

Klein: Because the system can’t think. The system rewards short-term gain, meaning quick profits. Take Michael Bloomberg, for example …

SPIEGEL: … the businessman and former New York City mayor …

Klein: … who understood the depths of the climate crisis as a politician. As a businessman, however, he chooses to invest in a fund that specializes in oil and gas assets. If a person like Bloomberg cannot resist the temptation, then you can assume that the system’s self-preservation capacity isn’t that great.

SPIEGEL: A particularly unsettling chapter in your book is about Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin Group.

Klein: Yes. I wouldn’t have expected it.

SPIEGEL: Branson has sought to portray himself as a man who wants to save the climate. It all started after an encounter with Al Gore.

Klein: And in 2006, he pledged at an event hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative that he would invest $3 billion in research into green technologies. At the time, I thought it was truly a sensational contribution. I didn’t think, oh, you cynical bastard.

SPIEGEL: But Branson was really just staging it and only a fraction of that money was ever spent.

Klein: He may well have been sincere at the time, but yes, only a fraction was spent.

SPIEGEL: Since 2006, Branson has added 160 new airplanes to his numerous airlines and increased his emissions by 40 percent.

Klein: Yes.

SPIEGEL: What is there to learn from this story?

Klein: That we need to question the symbolism and gestures made by Hollywood stars and the super rich. We cannot confuse them with a scientifically sound plan to reduce emissions.

SPIEGEL: In America and Australia, a lot of money is spent on efforts to deny climate change. Why?

Klein: It’s different from Europe. It’s an anger that is similar to that held by those who oppose abortion and gun control. It’s not only that they are protecting a way of life they don’t want to change. It’s that they understand that climate change challenges their core anti-government, free-market belief system. So they have to deny it to protect their very identity. That’s why there’s this intensity gap: Liberals want to take a little bit of action on climate protection. But at the same time, these liberals also have a number of other issues that are higher on their agenda. But we have to understand that the hardcore conservative climate change deniers will do everything in their power to prevent action.

SPIEGEL: With pseudo-scientific studies and disinformation?

Klein: With all of that, of course.

SPIEGEL: Does that explain why you are connecting all of these issues — the environment, equity, public health and labor issues — that are popular on the left? Is it out of purely strategic considerations?

Klein: The issues are connected, and we also need to connect them in the debate. There is only one way that you can win a battle against a small group of people who stand to lose a lot: You need to start a mass movement that includes all the people who have a lot to gain. The deniers can only be defeated if you are just as passionate as them, but also when you are superior in numbers. Because the truth is that they really are very few.

SPIEGEL: Why don’t you believe that technology has the potential to save us?

Klein: There has been tremendous progress in the storage of renewable energies, for instance, and in solar efficiency. But climate change? I, in any case, don’t have enough faith to say, “We’ll come up with some invention at some point, so let’s just drop all other efforts.” That would be insane.


SPIEGEL: People like Bill Gates view things differently.

Klein: And I find their technology fetish naïve. In recent years, we’ve witnessed some really big failures where some of the smartest guys in the room screwed up on a massive scale, be it with the derivatives that triggered the financial crisis or the oil catastrophe off the coast of New Orleans. Mostly, we as people break things and we don’t know how to fix them afterwards. Right now, it’s our planet that we’re breaking.

SPIEGEL: Listening to you, one might get the impression that the climate crisis is a gender issue.

Klein: Why would you say that?

SPIEGEL: Bill Gates says we need to keep moving forward and come up with new inventions to get the problem, and ultimately our complicated Earth, under control. You on the other hand are saying: Stop, no, we have to adapt ourselves to this planet and become softer. The US oil companies are run by men. And you, as a critical woman, are described as hysterical. It’s not an absurd thought, is it?

Klein: No. The entire industrialization was about power or whether it would be man or nature that would dominate Earth. It is difficult for some men to admit that we don’t have everything under control; that we have amassed all this CO2 over the centuries and that Earth is now telling us: Well, you’re just a guest in my house.

SPIEGEL: A guest of Mother Earth?

Klein: That’s too cheesy. But you’re still right. The oil industry is a male-dominated world, a lot like high finance. It’s very macho. The American and Australian idea of “discovering” an endless country and that endless resources can be extracted is a narrative of domination, one that traditionally casts nature as a weak, prone woman. And the idea of being in a relationship of interdependence with the rest of the natural world was seen as weak. That’s why it is doubly difficult for alpha men to concede that they have been wrong.

SPIEGEL: There’s one issue in the book that you seem to steer clear of. Although you revile the companies, you never say that your readers, who are customers of these companies, are also culpable. You also remain silent about the price that individual readers will have to pay for climate protection.

Klein: Oh, I think that most people would be happy to pay for it. They know that climate protection requires reasonable behavior: less driving, less flying and less consumption. They would be happy to use renewable energies if they were offered them.

SPIEGEL: But the idea isn’t big enough, right?

Klein: (laughs) Exactly. The green movement spent decades educating people that they should compost their garbage, that they should recycle and that they should ride their bikes. But look at what has happened to the climate during these decades.

SPIEGEL: Is the lifestyle you lead climate-friendly?

Klein: Not enough. I bike, I use transit, I try to give speeches by Skype, I share a hybrid car and I cut my flying to about one-tenth of what it was before I started this project. My sin is taking taxis, and since the book came out, I’ve been flying too much. But I also don’t think that only people who are perfectly green and live CO2-free should be allowed to talk about this issue. If that were the case, then nobody would be able to say anything at all.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Klein, we thank you for this interview.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


EINLADUNG ZUM 2. HIETZINGER ENERGIEBERATUNGSTAG

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Vortrag ARGE Erneuerbare Energien, Hr. Andreas Reiter, “Erneuerbare Energien in Wien – Chancen und Mo?glichkeiten”

Vortrag BAUPHYSIK SPERL, Fr. Dipl.-Ing. Alexandra Sperl, „Energieausweis – Fluch oder Segen?“
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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Tauscht Europa jetzt seine Juden gegen Muslime aus?


Die neue Judenhetze in Europa richtet sich gegen unsere zentralen Werte, gegen aufgeklärtes Denken und Liberalität.

Kurt Kotrschal

“Die Presse”, Print-Ausgabe, 24.02.2015

Ein Prediger in Saudiarabien verkündet, dass die Erde stillstehe. Bei uns werden massenweise Bücher verschenkt, die per manipulativer Vermischung von Islam und Wissenschaft im Stil des Kreationismus nachweisen wollen, dass Charles Darwin falschlag. So etwa „Der Evolutionsschwindel“ des türkischen Schriftstellers Adnan Oktar.
Schrullig, könnte man da einfach nur meinen. Jetzt das „Presse“-ePaper inklusive iPad Air 2 sichern!

Aber der Islamische Staat tötet im Namen seines Islam massenhaft „Ungläubige“, und besagter Autor leugnet nicht nur die Evolution, sondern auch den Holocaust. Munter verbreitet er bekannte jüdisch-freimaurerische Weltverschwörungstheorien gegen den Islam. Und natürlich inszenierte der US-Geheimdienst CIA 9/11 selbst, um einen Anlassfall für einen Kreuzzug des Westens gegen den Islam zu haben. Leider werden solche lächerlichen Ideen weltweit von vielen Muslimen geglaubt – auch in Europa.

Der Kern jeder modernen liberal-aufgeklärten und demokratischen Staatlichkeit ist die Trennung von Glauben und Wissen, von Religion und Staat. Dies ist aber dem Islam systemfremd. Mittlerweile ist er zwar Teil Europas, viele Muslime sind aber noch immer nicht angekommen, weil sie die europäischen Grundprinzipien weder verstehen noch akzeptieren wollen. Mit ein wenig Integration ist es nicht getan, zumal 70 Prozent der heimischen Imame diese ablehnen und torpedieren. Um wirklich anzukommen, muss der Islam sich letztlich selbst aufklären.

Europaweit glaubt eine seltsame Allianz zwischen einem islamischen und einem rechtsradikalen Bodensatz an die jüdische Weltverschwörung. Dass die Hetze gegen Juden da wieder in Schwung kommt, braucht uns daher nicht zu wundern.

Der Exodus aus Frankreich ist nur die Spitze des Eisbergs. Antisemitische Beschimpfungen und Schmierereien sind in Europa längst wieder „Normalität“, auch in Österreich. Die Schwelle zur physischen Gewalt sinkt beständig. Satte europäische Bürger schauen irritiert(?) weg – so wie damals, als Juden in Wien per Zahnbürste die Straßen putzen durften. Und ach so humanistische Linke skandieren auf ihren Demos gegen Israel antisemitische Parolen, schweigen aber zum neuen Megaskandal.

Angesichts der langen Geschichte der Pogrome wäre jede Begründung für den Schutz jüdischer Mitbürger eine zu viel. Dennoch: Juden waren und sind maßgebliche Träger der europäischen Kultur, der Wissenschaften und Künste. Beim Islam muss man sehr weit zurückgehen, um Ähnliches behaupten zu können.

Wien etwa verlor mit der Vertreibung und Vernichtung der Juden das kulturelle und wirtschaftliche Rückgrat, die Universität ihr großartiges wissenschaftliches Profil, wohl eine der nachhaltigsten Verwüstungen durch die Nazi-Herrschaft. Das mag nach Semitophilie klingen, ist aber im Kontrast zum mangelnden kulturell-wissenschaftlichen Beitrag des Islam zur europäischen Bürgergesellschaft schlicht eine Tatsachenfeststellung.

Die neue Hetze gegen die Juden in Europa richtet sich gegen unsere zentralen Werte, gegen aufgeklärtes Denken und Liberalität. Sie ist ein alarmierendes Symptom für ein Europa auf Talfahrt.Ob wir alle Charlie sein wollen, bleibe dahingestellt, angesichts der Skepsis gegenüber dem Ausleben von Meinungsfreiheit mittels Beleidigung. Aber es ist hoch an der Zeit, dass wir endlich alle Juden sind. Je sui Juif. Ganz ohne Wenn und Aber.

Kurt Kotrschal ist Zoologe an der Uni Wien und Leiter der Konrad-Lorenz-Forschungsstelle in Grünau.

E-Mails an:  debatte at diepresse.com
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Kurt Kotrschal is an Austrian intellectual, professor at the Vienna University – product of the State of Salzburg where he studied with an Erwin-Schrödinger fellowship and followed up with a year at the University of Colorado in Denver – his topic was the evolution of fish and the development of nervous systems.

We found in our e-mails that Kurt Kotrschal participated in 2012 in a discussion we attended – a Karl-Renner-Institut backed event.

ERÖFFNUNG DER LESEFESTWOCHE

Montag, 19. November 2012, 20.00 Uhr

Ort
Österreichische Postsparkasse, Großer Kassensaal
Georg Coch-Platz 2, 1010 Wien

Begrüßung
GERALD SCHANTIN, Präsident des Hauptverbands des Österreichischen Buchhandels
CLAUDIA SCHMIED, Bundesministerin für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur
SYBILLE STRAUBINGER, Gemeinderätin der Stadt Wien

Podiumsdiskussion zu Richard Sennett: “ZUSAMMENARBEIT. Was unsere Gesellschaft zusammenhält.”
ALFRED GUSENBAUER, Bundeskanzler a.D., Professor am IGLP in Harvard
KURT KOTRSCHAL, Biologe und Verhaltensforscher
KONRAD PAUL LIESSMANN, Philosoph
ANTONELLA MEI-POCHTLER, Senior Partner & Managing Director, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG)

Moderation: CORINNA MILBORN

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

February 17, 2015

Tesla’s Disruptive New Plan to Power Your Home
by Dr. Kent Moors

From a surprising source – Dr. Kent Moors’ Oil & Energy Investor’s site we picked up the following:

February 17, 2015 – but we picked this up only February 25th because Google deemed the posting a “Promotion rather then “Primar
 oilandenergyinvestor.com/2015/02/…

TESLA’s DISRUPTIVE NEW PLAN TO POWER YOUR HOME.
by Dr. Kent Moors

Dear Oil & Energy Investor,

Two eye-opening announcements prove that renewable energy is no longer at the mercy of the price of oil.


Both involve solar power, which I find increasingly attractive in today’s markets.

The first is a major test of a joint project between Tesla Motors Inc. (NasdaqGS: TSLA) and SolarCity Corp. (NasdaqGS: SCTY) involving 500 California homes.

Sources have told me they expect this test to be the final “proof of concept,” followed by wider applications in both residential and commercial uses.

The lynchpin between the two is a family connection.

Tesla’s CEO is Elon Musk, one of the most innovative entrepreneurs of our time, while his cousin Lyndon Rive is the CEO of SolarCity. Musk is also SolarCity’s biggest shareholder.

Now the two are coming together in hopes of solving the industry’s biggest roadblock…

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This was followed by:

Solar Power Comes of Age

Tesla, of course, needs very little introduction. The California-based company has a very visible position in cutting-edge electric cars.

SolarCity, on the other hand, is the market leader in residential solar power installations. In the third quarter of 2014, SolarCity led the pack in this portion of the business by grabbing 39% of the market. Meanwhile, SolarCity’s next-closest competitor came in at 16%.

The two market leaders are now combining some of their operations in a very serious attempt to bring solar power into more consumer areas. In short, SolarCity is working with Tesla to make rooftop panels that are fitted with Tesla batteries.

Now a major test is underway in California that may usher in a new age of residential solar battery use.

The California test will utilize a solar battery with the ability to power a home for two days in the event of a blackout. In everyday use, the unit is expected to allow homeowners to store solar-generated power for use during high-cost periods, giving them the flexibility to use the conventional grid for cheaper, off-peak electricity.

Storing generated power for use at other times – in short, perfecting a new line of cost-effective batteries – has been the industry’s single biggest hurdle.

So the California residential test may well usher in a whole new ballgame. Considering the batteries from the Tesla-SolarCity venture (involving more than the California test) utilize a new generation of silicon batteries, rather than relying on rare earth metals or lithium, is also a plus. This type of approach is already well advanced, and is based on considerable familiarity and history.

It also doesn’t hurt that Tesla is building the biggest battery factory on the planet right now. Dubbed the “Gigafactory,” the plant is expected to have a dramatic effect on the energy storage market, helping to bring battery costs down by as much as half by 2020.

So while the initial price of these installations may come in high, as with any generation-changing new technology, the cost will eventually come down. What’s more, there may be some credits and other inducements provided by the companies to stimulate usage.

This development, combined with the recent decisions by Apple Inc. (NasdaqGS: AAPL) to power its new Pentagon-like headquarters via solar and Google Inc. (NasdaqGS: GOOG) opting for wind power for its San Francisco Bay Area base, show that renewables are now moving into all aspects of electricity end use here in the States.

and the SECOND BIG NEWS OF THE INTRODUCTORY PIECE:

India Breaks Ground on the World’s Largest Solar Plant

The second major development for renewables is unfolding halfway around the world.

India has announced a major push to provide 15% of its electricity needs from renewables with an initial push into solar power, which is unfolding right now. It’s the first high-profile effort to provide concrete plans for a major Asian advance into solar power distribution.

The Times of India reported yesterday that the construction of the world’s largest solar power plant has begun in the central Indian Rewa district, within the state of Madhya Pradesh. The plant, a joint venture between state-run PSU Urja Vikas Nigam and the Solar Energy Corp. of India, will provide 750 megawatt of electricity. Once online, the plant will be 36% bigger than the largest plant currently in operation.

The current world leader is the 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, which just opened in California’s Mojave Desert. Situated on 3,800 acres near Joshua Tree National Park, the plant produces enough energy to power 160,000 homes.

But the Indian push into solar power hardly ends there. The government has plans for two dozen solar farms strategically placed throughout the country.

In all, the State Bank of India has committed resources for the development of 15 gigawatt of solar power by 2020. The objective is to provide a full 15% of the nation’s energy needs from renewable sources within five years.

To be sure, there are some doubts that New Delhi can pull this off. For one thing, the price tag is very debatable. For another, the national electricity distribution grid is in a sorry state, and would require significant, pricey, and (at the moment) an unspecified amount of investment to be able to shoulder the anticipated new power load.

Still, with the Chinese committed to a similar 15 gigawatt goal from solar by 2020, Germany’s decision to end its reliance on nuclear power, and the continued growth pattern in the U.S., one conclusion is already abundantly clear.

The future of solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and other renewables is longer dependent on the price of crude.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

A Pesticide Banned, or Not, Underscores Trans-Atlantic Trade Sensitivities
By DANNY HAKIM, The New York Times, February 24, 2015

Diverging regulatory approaches to atrazine, a herbicide made by a Swiss company but not used in Europe, shows the hurdles in trade negotiations.

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Our website is sensitive to this issue because we know what happened when a US business moved to Canada and from there under US-Canada agreements tried to force the State of California to allow Tetra-Ethyl Lead in the gasoline used in US transportation – against the law in California – and Washington did nothing in what amounted to an extortion of $450 million from the Californian treasury in order to get that menace out of their hairs.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

A daring plan to rebuild Syria — no matter who wins the war.

By Thanassis Cambanis, a Boston Globe Correspondent – February 21, 2015

Thanassis Cambanis, a fellow at The Century Foundation, is the author of the forthcoming “Once Upon a Revolution: An Egyptian Story.” He is an Ideas – columnist and blogs – at thanassiscambanis.com.

He writes from Beirut: With the battle still ongoing, a huge team of Syrian planners plots the restoration of Aleppo and beyond.

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Then … The first year of Syria’s uprising, 2011, largely spared Aleppo, the country’s economic engine, largest city, and home of its most prized heritage sites. Fighting engulfed Aleppo in 2012 and has never let up since, making the city a symbol of the civil war’s grinding destruction. Rebels captured the eastern side of the city while the government held the west. The regime dropped conventional munitions and then barrel bombs on the rebels, who fought back with rockets and mortars. In 2012, the historical Ottoman covered souk was destroyed. In 2013, shelling destroyed the storied minaret of the 11th-century Ummayid Mosque. Apartment blocks were reduced to rubble. More than 3 million residents fled, out of a prewar population of 5 million. Today, residents say the city is virtually uninhabitable; most who remain have nowhere else to go.

In terms of sheer devastation, Syria today is worse off than Germany at the end of World War II. Bashar Assad’s regime and the original nationalist opposition are locked in combat with each other, and also with a third axis, the powerful jihadist current led by the Islamic State. And yet, even as the fighting continues – a movement is brewing among planners, activists and bureaucrats — some still in Aleppo, others in Damascus, Turkey, and Lebanon — to prepare, right now, for the reconstruction effort that will come whenever peace finally arrives.

In downtown Beirut – a day’s drive from the worst of the war zone – a team of Syrians is undertaking an experiment without precedent. In a glass tower belonging to the United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, a project called the National Agenda for the Future of Syria has brought together teams of engineers, architects, water experts, conservationists, and development experts to grapple with seemingly impossible technical problems. How many years will it take to remove the unexploded bombs and rubble and then restore basic water, sewerage, and power? How many tons of cement and liters of water will be needed to replace destroyed infrastructure? How many cranes? Where could the 3 million displaced Aleppans be temporarily housed during the years or decades it might take to restore their city? And beneath all these technical questions they face a deeper one, as old as urban warfare itself: How do you bring a destroyed city back to life?

Critics dismiss the ongoing planning effort as a premature boondoggle, keeping technocrats busy creating blueprints that will have to be revised when fighting finally ebbs. But Thierry Grandin, a consultant for the World Monuments Fund who has worked and lived in Aleppo since the 1980s and is currently involved in reconstruction planning, disagrees. “It is good to do the planning now, because on day one we will be ready,” Grandin says. “It might come in a year, it might come in 20, but eventually there will be a day one. Our job is to prepare.”

The team planning the country’s future is a diverse one. Some are employed by the government of Syria, others by the rebels’ rival provisional government. Still others work for the UN, private construction companies, or nongovernmental organizations involved in conservation, like the World Monuments Fund. The Future of Syria project aims to serve as a clearinghouse, and to create a master menu of postwar planning options. As the group’s members outline a path toward renewal, they’re considering everything from corruption and constitutional reform to power grids, antiquities, and health care systems.

Across Syria, more than one-third of the population is displaced.

The task they have before them beggars comprehension. Across Syria, more than one-third of the population is displaced. Aleppo is in tatters, its center completely destroyed. The population exodus has claimed most of the city’s craftsmen, medical personnel, academics, and industrialists.

A modern country has been unmade during four years of conflict, and nowhere is the toll more apparent than in once-alluring Aleppo. But after horrifying conflict, countless places have found a way to return to functionality. What’s new in Syria is the attempt to come up with a neutral plan while the conflict is still in train. And Aleppo, the country’s historic urban jewel, will be the central test.

‘It is good to do the planning now, because on day one we will be ready. It might come in a year, it might come in 20, but eventually there will be a day one. Our job is to prepare.’ — Thierry Grandin, consultant for the World Monuments Fund.

Quote Icon.

To find a similar example of planning during wartime before the outcome was known, you have to go back to World War II. Allied forces spent years preparing for the physical, economic, and political reconstruction of Germany and Japan even before they could be sure who would win. Today, Americans tend mostly to recall the symbolic reconstruction after the war: the Nuremberg trials and the Marshall Plan, a colossal foreign aid program.

But undergirding those triumphs was the vast logistical operation of erecting new cities. It took decades to clear the moonscapes of rubble and to rebuild, in famous targets like Dresden and Hiroshima but in countless other places as well, from Coventry to Nanking. Some places never recovered their vitality.

Since then, a litany of divided and devastated cities has been left by other conflicts. Even those that eventually regained a sense of normalcy, like Beirut, Sarajevo, or Grozny, generally survived rather than thrived. Only a few countries — East Timor, Angola, Rwanda—offer what Syrian planners call “glimmers of hope,” as places that suffered terrible man-made disasters and then bounced back.

Of course, Syrian planners cannot help but pay attention to the model closest to home: Beirut, a city almost synonymous with civil war and flawed reconstruction. The planners and technocrats in the UN ESCWA tower overlook a gleamingly restored but vacant downtown from behind a veritable moat of blast barriers and sealed roads. Shell-pocked abandoned buildings stand as evidence of the tangled ownership disputes that have held back reconstruction a full quarter-century after the Lebanese civil war.

“We don’t want to end up like Beirut,” one of the Syrian planners says, referring to the physical problems but also to a postwar process in which militia leaders turned to corrupt reconstruction ventures as a new source of funds and power. He spoke anonymously; the Future of Syria team, which is led by a former Syrian deputy prime minister named Abdallah Al Dardari, doesn’t give on-the-record briefings. Since their top priority is to maintain buy-in from Syrians on all sides, they try to avoid naming names so as not to dissuade people they hope will use their plans when the war ends.

Syria’s national recovery will depend in large part on whether its industrial powerhouse – Aleppo – can bounce back. Until 2011, Aleppo had been celebrated for millenniums for its beauty and commerce. The citadel overlooking the center is a world heritage site. The old city and its covered market were vibrant, functioning exemplars of Islamic and Ottoman architecture, surrounded by the wide leafy avenues of the modern city. Aleppan traders plied their wares in Turkey, Iraq, the Levant, and all the way south to the Arabian peninsula. The city’s workshops, famed above all for their fine textiles, export millions of dollars’ worth of goods every week even now, and the economy has expanded to include modern industry as well.

Today, however, the city’s water and power supply are under the control of the Islamic State. Entire neighborhoods have collapsed under regime bombing and shelling: government buildings, hospitals, landmark hotels, schools, prisons. Aleppo is split between a regime side with vestiges of basic services, and a mostly depopulated rebel-controlled zone, into which the Islamic State and the Al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front have made inroads over the last year. A river of rubble marks the no-man’s land separating the two sides. The only way to cross is to leave the city, follow a wide arc, and reenter from the far side.

For now, said an architect who works for the rebel government in Aleppo under the pseudonym Tamer el Halaby, today’s business is simply survival, like digging 20 makeshift wells that fulfill minimal water needs. (He prefers not to have his real name published for fear that the government might target relatives on the other side of Aleppo.) Parts of the old city won’t be inhabitable for years, he told me by Skype, because the ground has literally shifted as a result of bombing and shelling.

“It will take a long time and cost a lot of money for this city to work again,” he said.

Close to a thousand Syrians have consulted on the Future of Syria project, which comprises at least two ambitious initiatives rolled into one. The first and more obvious is creating realistic options to fix the country after the war—in some cases literal plans for building infrastructure systems and positioning construction equipment, in other cases guidelines for shaping governance.

At the Future of Syria, hospital administrators, civil engineers, and traffic coordinators each work on their given fields. They’re familiar with global “best practices,” but also with how things work in Syria, so they’re not going to propose pie-in-the-sky ideas. These planners also understand that who wins the construction contracts will depend on who wins the war. If some version of the current regime remains in charge, it will probably direct massive contracts toward patrons in Russia, China, or Iran. The opposition, by contrast, would lean toward firms from the West, Turkey, and the Gulf.

“Who will have the influence in Syria after the conflict? That will dictate who is involved in redevelopment. It all depends on who ends up being in political control,” says Richard J. Cook, a longtime UN official who supervised postconflict construction in Palestinian refugee camps and now works for one of the Middle East’s largest construction conglomerates, Dar Al-Handasah Consultants (Shair and Partners). Along with other companies, Dar Al-Handasah has offered its lessons learned from Lebanon’s reconstruction process to Syrian planners, and plans to compete to work in postwar Syria.

That leads to the second, more subtle, innovation of the Future of Syria project. For its plans to matter, they need to be politically viable no matter who is governing. So the planners have worked hard to persuade experts from all factions to contribute to the 57 different sectoral studies, hoping to come up with feasible rebuilding options that would be considered by a future Syrian authority of any stripe. Today, nearly 200 experts work full time for the project.

At the current level of destruction, the project planners estimate the reconstruction will cost at least $100 billion. Regardless of how it’s financed—loans, foreign aid, bonds—that’s a financial bonanza for whoever controls the reconstruction process. Some would-be peacemakers have suggested that reconstruction plans could even be used as enticements. If opposition militants and regime constituents think they’ll make more money rebuilding than fighting, they might have a Machiavellian incentive to make peace.

Underlying the details—mapping destroyed blocks, surveying the condition of the citadel, studying sewers—are bigger philosophical questions. How can a destroyed city be rebuilt, when the combination of people, economy, and buildings can never be reconstituted? Can you use reconstruction to undo the human damage of sectarianism and conflict? Recently a panel of architects and heritage experts from Sweden, Bosnia, Syria, and Lebanon convened in Beirut to discuss lessons for Syria’s reconstruction—one of the many distinct initiatives parallel to the Future of Syria project.

“You should never rebuild the way it was,” said Arna Mackic, an architect from Mostar. That Bosnian city was divided during the 1990s civil war into Muslim and Catholic sides, destroying the city center and the famous Stari Most bridge over the Neretva River. “The war changes us. You should show that in rebuilding.”

In the case of Mostar, the UN agency UNESCO reconstructed the bridge and built a restored central zone where Muslims and Catholics were supposed to create a harmonious new postwar culture. Instead, Mackik says, the sectarian communities keep to their own enclaves. Bereft of any common symbols, the city took a poll to figure out what kind of statue to erect in the city center. All the local figures were too polarizing. In the end they settled on a gold-colored statue of the martial arts star Bruce Lee.

“It belongs to no one,” Mackic says. “What does Bruce Lee mean to me?”

Despite such pitfalls, one area of potential for the planning process—and eventually for the reconstruction of Aleppo — is that it could offer the city’s people a form of participatory democracy that has so far eluded the Syrian regime and sadly, the opposition as well. People consulted about the shape of their reconstituted neighborhoods or roads will have been offered a slice of citizenship alien to most top-down Syrian leadership.

“You are being democratic without the consequences of all the hullabaloo of formal democratization,” says one of the Syrian planners who has contributed to the Future of Syria project and spoke on condition of anonymity.

What is certain is that putting Syria back together again is likely to be as least as expensive as imploding it. A great deal of money has been invested in Syria’s destruction— by the regime, the local parties to the conflict, and many foreign powers. A great deal of money will be made in the aftermath, in a reconstruction project that stands to dwarf anything seen since after World War II.

How that recovery is designed will help determine whether Syria returns to business as usual, sowing the seeds for a reprise of the same conflict—or whether reconstruction allows the kind of lasting change that the resolution of war itself might not.

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We posted this out of admiration for people that seem to want to try to forget the terrible reality by drowning it in a lake of hope for which they have no good reason.

The reality is that Syria was never a Nation State in the Western sense – but its creation was only a sliver of the larger Levant region of the Ottoman Empire. The carving up of that region into would-be States of Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Iraq, was not done along National, Ethnic, Religious, or Language line – but rather according to future colonial administrative lines – and eventually the inhomogeneity of so called States had to find the cracks that broke up all these foreign pots. Lebanon had its explosion earlier and as Mr. Cambanis writes – Beirut could not be restored to its old true form. Syria is not like Germany that was in many sense united and then clearly defeated by a major power that led allies on which it imposed the notion that only by rebuilding but deNazifying it – peace can eventually be achieved in Europe. Having been split temporarily into two States Germany eventually reunified to become a power again. There is nothing of the kind in Syria where for years despots from a minority ruled over the very mixed majority. Now this majority has split along many lines and one future outcome will have to be a separate State for the Kurds that eventually will brake the French-British imposed borders, that did not respect the more logical Ottoman division of the region, and have been invalidated now.

Aleppo will eventually find its place in one of the resulting outcome states – separate from Damascus – perhaps indeed be the Capital of that State; it will be built again out of its ashes, but it will not be rebuilt in the sense of its becoming a direct continuation of a has-been that is no-more. Who knows – a connection of Aleppo to what is now Lebanon is not a farfetched idea.
Whatever the future holds – to get there the present inhuman behavior by the three of four armies that are akin to those NAZIs of old Germany, will have to be eliminated first, and it is quite clear that what will be left behind will be a culturally very impoverished region with much lower diversity as it was in the colonial days.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Strategy: How 16 Of The Oldest Companies On Earth Have Been Making Money For Centuries

Drake Baer

Aug. 1, 2014

Most companies live between 40 and 50 years.

So there must be something about the businesses that have persisted for 300, 500, or 1,300 years.

When we dove into the data on the world’s oldest companies, a few themes became clear — like that people have wanted to eat food, get drunk, learn things, and maybe kill each other once in a while for a really long time.

Here’s a list of companies with timelines that dwarf that of the U.S. itself, because startups have lots to learn from their elders.

Read more: www.businessinsider.com/oldest-co…

Some of the examples quoted:

705 — Nisiyama Onsen Keiunkan in Yamanashi, Japan
Pinterest

The hot spring hotel has been in operation since 705, making it the oldest running hotel in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

The inn has been run by the same family for 52 generations, according to Japan Page, the English-language expat site. The secret to its success is a sense of inter-generational pride, the report says:

… There are even some staff whose families have held the same post for generations, passing it from parent to child to grandchild. All the same, the staff are committed and courteous, earning wages for themselves and their families. They put their all into offering a spirit of service that stems from a shared desire to protect the inn. This unflagging commitment and hospitality is drawing attention from the hotel industries worldwide.

In management-speak, we call that alignment. Generations of it.

Read more: www.businessinsider.com/oldest-co…

This restaurant inside St. Peter’s Abbey in Salzburg, Austria, may be the oldest continuously running restaurant in Europe, and perhaps the world.

Its reputation precedes it. The classy dining spot was written about by Alcuin, a follower of the world-conquering emperor Charlemagne back in 803. According to Atlas Obscura, “the restaurant has also been host to countless dignitaries over its 1,200-year history, including cardinals, kings, and in more modern times Bill Clinton and Clint Eastwood.”

900 — Sean’s Bar in Athlone, Ireland
flickr/patrick_dockens

Sean’s Bar is one of the oldest bars in Ireland and also in Europe. Fun fact: Excavations have revealed mugs and coins from centuries of carousing.

The secret of its success? Location, location, location From the bar’s site:

… Sean’s Bar is located in the very heart of Ireland, on the banks of the beautiful River Shannon at its intersection with the Esker Riada – the ancient route carved by glaciers that allowed travelers safe passage across the bog for thousands of years. You can find us just next to Athlone Castle, a 12th century Norman Castle whose residents may have frequented the pub!

1040 — Weihenstephan Brewery in Freising, Germany
flickr/rogeriotomazjr

Beer has been made at the Weihenstephan Abbey in Bavaria for nearly a thousand years, making it the oldest brewery in the world. Its secret is obvious: The brewery makes incredibly delicious beer — the original brew has an absurd 98% rating on BeerAdvocate, the site for beer nerds.

The taste? A mixture of bananas, bubblegum, and magic.

1270 — Frapin in Segonzac, France
Jim Budd/flickr

Some of the finest cognac in the world — and one of the oldest distilleries still around — is found in the southwest of France, where the Frapin family has been using the same vineyards since it opened.

The result is the highest quality spirit.

“Unlike many of its fellow producers, Frapin does not turn to outside growers for grapes and is able to apply the most exacting standards of quality control at every level of production, starting on the vines,” remarks Palm Bay International Spirits. “Frapin cognacs are, as a result, the epitome of excellence.”

1498 — The Shore Porters Society in Aberdeen, Scotland
Wikimedia

If you’ve needed anything moved in the past 500 years in Aberdeen, Scotland, you could reach out to the Shore Porters Society. They’ve hauled people’s junk around the world since the time Columbus was making trips to America.

Guardian columnist Paul May professed his love for the Shore Porters in 2004:

The company was about 100 years too late to make it into Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, but The Shore Porter’s Tale has a ring to it. …

What I love most about the Shore Porters Society is that they haven’t made any attempt to update their brand since they dropped Middle Scots. They’re not suddenly going to call themselves “Porta” or lose the simple block lettering. They’re just going to keep on trucking for the next 500-odd years.

So if you ever go off to find the New World, talk to the Shore Porters.

1526 — Beretta in Gardone, Italy
flickr/74006048@N00

If you have been shot by a gun in the past half-millennium or so, there’s a good chance it came from the barrel of a Beretta. The arms company got its start when the Arsenal of Venice needed 185 barrels for the arquebus, a gentlemanly ol’ hand cannon.

A few factors have been in the world’s oldest gun manufacturer’s favor: Its hometown is nestled among iron-rich mountains, and the company has been family-run all 400+ years.

1534 — Cambridge University Press in Cambridge, England
Richie/Wikimedia Commons

The CUP is the world’s oldest publishing house, working out of the ridiculously prestigious university that bears its name. None other than Henry the VIII gave the press permission to print “all manner of books.”

A few of the Press’s greatest hits:

“Principia Mathematica” by Sir Isaac Newtown
“Lycidas” by John Milton
“Radio-activity” by Ernest Rutherford
“Language and Mind” by Noam Chomsky

Producing widely read and cited books seems to be a sound strategy.

1570 — Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, England
spirit of america / Shutterstock.com

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry has been making the world’s finest bells for a while now.

“Whitechapel Bell Foundry’s long history spans the reigns of 27 English monarchs,” the company says, “and among the royal visitors to the foundry were King George V and Queen Mary who came to witness the casting of two bells for Westminster Abbey.”

Of course, the city of Philadelphia may have a few complaints around durability, as the Foundry made the Liberty Bell, which famously cracked when rang.

1608 — Bushmills in County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Daniel Goodman / Business Insider

Bushmills lays claim to being the oldest whiskey distillery on the planet. King James I — he with the Bible who bears his name — gave a certain Sir Thomas Philip the ability to distill whiskey in the April 20, 1608, according to the company.

The company has remained relevant all the while, with James Joyce giving a nod to Bushmills in epic “Ulysses”:

He never forgot himself when I was there sending me out of the room on some blind excuse paying his compliments to Bushmills whisky talking of course but hed do the same to the next woman that came along I suppose he died of galloping drink ages ago.

1623 — Zildjian in Istanbul, Turkey
flickr/branmovic

One of America’s oldest companies started in the Ottoman Empire: Zildjian, the world’s leader in cymbals, was founded by Avedis Zildjian in Istanbul before his family brought the percussionist company to the States.

And it’s got star power. Some of the best drummers in history have crashed Zildjian cymbals, including Ringo Star of the Beatles, Neil Pert of Rush, and Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones.

Plus, the company has become a part of American identity: The U.S. government granted the manufacturer permission to buy copper during the resource-starved period of World War II.

1637 — Gekkeikan sake in Kyoto, Japan
flickr/kattebelletje

Holding about 25% of the U.S. sake market, Gekkeikan is one of the most famous sake producers on earth.

The 370-year-old secret is the neighborhood of Kyoto that Gekkeikan lives in, called Fushimi. The Kyoto Project explains:

Fushimi is an ideal place for sake brewing because of its natural environment. Appropriate temperatures and good-quality water are required to brew sake. In Fushimi, both of these important factors exist.

The city of Kyoto is set in a basin, surrounded by mountains on the north, east, and west. These mountains keep Kyoto very chilly in wintertime. A cool temperature of around 5? is important to mature sake in a brewery. So cold winter temperatures created by Kyoto’s natural basin is why sakebrewing became so deeply rooted here.

To learn (and taste) firsthand, visit the Gekkeikan Sake Museum the next time you’re in Kyoto.

1638 — Shirley Plantation in Charles City, Virginia
flickr/madmiked

America’s oldest family-owned business is the Shirley Plantation on the James River in Virginia. According to the Plantation’s self-described history, it has “survived Indian uprisings, Bacon’s Rebellion, the American Revolution, the American Civil War, and the Great Depression.”

The family moved here only six years after the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown, and the 11 generations that have operated the plantation seem to maintain the work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit of America’s first settlers.
1653 — Royal Delft earthenware in Delft, the Netherlands
1653 — Royal Delft earthenware in Delft, the Netherlands
bertknot/flickr

The fanciest pottery on the planet comes from a single earthenware factory in the fairytale town of Delft, Holland. The style is so intertwined with the city that you call it Delftware, and the only company with a seal approval from the Dutch Royal Family is Royal Delft.

The elegant blue-and-white vases, pots, and bowls are a part of Dutch identity.

CEO Henk Schouten told CNN that commitment is at the core of the company’s long-running success.

“We just want to produce high level products,” Schouten said, “because there are many other factories who produce the mass products … that kind of product you can buy it very cheap in all kinds of shops. When you see a product here hand-painted then I think three quarters of the price is craftsmanship and only a quarter of the price is the cost price of all kinds of material.”

1706 — Twinings Tea in London, England
1706 — Twinings Tea in London, England
flickr/danielygo

Imagining Britain without Twinings Tea is like imaging America without Cheetos: absent of its innermost consumer experience.

Founder Thomas Twining made bank on his intermingling with British cultural identity. According to reports, his Gunpowder Green Tea was selling for the equivalent of $260 per 100 grams back in the 18th century.

Twinings has longevity in more than one way: The company has been located at the same London address since it opened in 1706, and it has the oldest corporate logo still in use.

“Twinings’ logo is a simple, classy, and timeless serif font,” writes design blogger Tina Mailhot-Roberge. “Although it is not particularly dynamic, it matches its industry, product, and communicates its historical background with success.”
1744 — Sotheby’s in London, England
1744 — Sotheby’s in London, England
Lisa Maree Williams/Getty

English bookseller Samuel Baker changed the world when he held an auction of books in 1744. That was the beginning of Sotheby’s, a name now synonymous with high-brow spending.

A key to Sotheby’s success is its ability to stay ahead of the trends in where the wealthy wanted to spend: coins, high-brow art, and real estate, among a few.

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