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

Environment
EU Dropped Pesticide Laws Due to U.S. Pressure over TTIP, Documents Reveal
U.S. trade officials pushed EU to shelve action on endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility to facilitate TTIP free trade deal.

By Arthur Neslen / The Guardian
May 25, 2015

EU moves to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility were shelved following pressure from U.S. trade officials over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal, newly released documents show.

Draft EU criteria could have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). But these were dumped amid fears of a trade backlash stoked by an aggressive U.S. lobby push, access to information documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe show.

On the morning of July 2, 2013, a high-level delegation from the U.S. Mission to Europe and the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited EU trade officials to insist that the bloc drop its planned criteria for identifying EDCs in favor of a new impact study. By the end of the day, the EU had done so.

Minutes of the meeting show commission officials pleading that “although they want the TTIP to be successful, they would not like to be seen as lowering the EU standards”.

The TTIP is a trade deal being agreed by the EU and U.S. to remove barriers to commerce and promote free trade.

Responding to the EU officials, AmCham representatives “complained about the uselessness of creating categories and thus, lists” of prohibited substances, the minutes show.

The U.S. trade representatives insisted that a risk-based approach be taken to regulation, and “emphasized the need for an impact assessment” instead.

Later that day, the secretary-general of the commission, Catherine Day, sent a letter to the environment department’s director Karl Falkenberg, telling him to stand down the draft criteria.

“We suggest that as other DGs [directorate-generals] have done, you consider making a joint single impact assessment to cover all the proposals,” Day wrote. “We do not think it is necessary to prepare a commission recommendation on the criteria to identify endocrine disrupting substances.”

The result was that legislation planned for 2014 was kicked back until at least 2016, despite estimated health costs of €150bn ($165bn) per year in Europe from endocrine-related illnesses such as IQ loss, obesity and cryptorchidism — a condition affecting the genitals of baby boys.

A month before the meeting, AmCham had warned the EU of “wide-reaching implications” if the draft criteria were approved. The trade body wanted an EU impact study to set looser thresholds for acceptable exposure to endocrines, based on a substance’s potency.

“We are worried to see that this decision, which is the source of many scientific debates, might be taken on political grounds, without first assessing what its impacts will be on the European market,” the chair of AmCham’s environment committee wrote in a letter to the commission.

These could be “dramatic” the letter said.

In a high-level internal note sent to the health commissioner, Tonio Borg, shortly afterwards, his departmental director-general warned that the EU’s endocrines policy “will have substantial impacts for the economy, agriculture and trade”.

The heavily redacted letter, sent a week before the EU’s plans were scrapped continued: “The US, Canada, and Brazil [have] already voiced concerns on the criteria which might lead to important repercussions on trade.”

The series of events was described as “incredible” by the the Green MEP Bas Eickhout. “These documents offer convincing evidence that TTIP not only presents a danger for the future lowering of European standards, but that this is happening as we speak,” he told the Guardian.

Earlier this year, 64 MEP’s submitted questions to the commission about the delay to EDC classifications, following revelations by the Guardian about the scale of industry lobbying in the run up to their abandonment. Sweden, the European Parliament and European Council have brought court proceedings against the commission for the legislative logjam.

Just weeks before the regulations were dropped there had been a barrage of lobbying from big European firms such as Dupont, Bayer and BASF over EDCs. The chemical industry association Cefic warned that the endocrines issue “could become an issue that impairs the forthcoming EU-US trade negotiations”.

The German chemicals giant BASF also complained that bans on pesticide substances “will restrict the free trade with agricultural products on the global level”.

Around this time, the commission’s more industry-friendly agriculture department weighed into the internal EU debate after being “informed by representatives of the US chemical industry” about it.

A common theme in the lobby missives was the need to set thresholds for safe exposure to endocrines, even though a growing body of scientific results suggests that linear threshold models – in which higher doses create greater effects – do not apply to endocrine disruptors.

“The human endocrine system is regulated by hormones and the hormone receptors are sensitive to low doses,” said Hans Muilerman, PAN Europe’s chemicals coordinator. “In animal toxicity studies, effects are seen from low doses [of endocrines] that disappear with higher ones. But in the regulatory arena, lower doses are not tested for.”

A commission spokesperson insisted that health and environmental concerns would be fully addressed, despite pressure from industry or trade groups.

“The ongoing EU impact assessment procedure is not linked in any way to the TTIP negotiations,” the official said. “The EU will proceed to the adoption of definitive criteria to identify endocrine disruptors, independently from the further course of our TTIP negotiations with the US.”

An EU-TTIP position paper on chemicals published last May, cited endocrine disruptors as as one of the “new and emerging scientific issues” which the EU and the US could consider for “enhanced regulatory cooperations” in a future TTIP deal.

“However, given the fact that a possible future TTIP Agreement will most likely not enter into force before the adoption of definitive EU criteria to identify endocrine disruptors, it is clear that the EU’s ongoing impact assessment and adoption of definitive criteria will not be dealt with in the TTIP negotiations,” the spokesperson said.

Arthur Neslen is the Europe environment correspondent at the Guardian. He has previously worked for the BBC, the Economist, Al Jazeera, and EurActiv, where his journalism won environmental awards.

###

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

From The Middle East Forum: Research on the Islamic State

by Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi
various publications
April 1-May 15, 2015
 www.meforum.org/5257/research-isi…

Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, a research fellow at Middle East Forum’s Jihad Intel project, is one of world’s leading experts on the Islamic State (IS) group terrorizing Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS. The overwhelming majority of his writings and translations are too detailed or esoteric for distribution to a general audience, so instead MEF compiles periodic updates providing links and summaries for those who wish to follow the groundbreaking work of this prolific researcher.

Articles and Blog Posts

Is ISIS Islamic? (April 3)
Jihadology: Jawad al-Tamimi argues that IS documents and publications show respect for the four traditional schools of Sunni jurisprudence and that many of its actions, however heinous, “can find a place within the vastness of Islamic tradition.”


Translations

Jamaat Ansar al-Islam: Eulogy to Abu Ahmad of Mosul (April 15)

Translation and Analysis of a statement from the Sunni jihadist group Jamaat Ansar al-Islam, which was based primarily in Iraq until its disintegration in the wake of last year’s IS advance across the north of the country, with elements of its Syria chapter continuing to operate in a limited capacity. The statement eulogizes Abu Ahmad of Mosul, a leader of the group’s Iraq branch reportedly killed by IS.

Muqawama Suriya Statement: Loss of Jisr al-Shughur (April 26)

Translation and analysis of a statement by Muqawama Suriya, a pro-Assad militia led by Turkish-born Alawite Ali Kayali. The statement illustrates “growing war weariness among pro-Assad circles” in the wake of recent losses in Idlib province, notes Jawad al-Tamimi, while its emphasis on “popular” and “national” forces “implicitly acknowledges some of the increasing resentment in regime circles that the war effort is too dependent on foreign irregular forces.”

Interview with the leader of Harakat al-Nujaba (April 28)

Translation and analysis of an interview with Akram al-Ka’abi, the leader of Harakat Hizballah al-Nujaba (The Movement of the Party of God of the Outstanding), or HHN, an Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia militia that emerged in 2013, operating both in Iraq and in Syria via multiple front groups. The interview sheds light on several aspects of HHN, notably its open identification with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and ties with the Lebanese Shia Hezbollah movement.

“We have the Swords”- IS nasheed (May 2)

Translation of a musical chant (nasheed), produced by IS’s Ajnad Media Foundation. One of the “darker” nasheeds, according to Jawad al-Tamimi, with lyrics such as “we sever off heads by the strike of the sword.”

###

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

from:  Democrats.com is the oldest online community of progressive activists, with over 2 million
supporters. We fight for jobs, justice, healthcare, education, the environment, and peace.
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Dear PINCAS,

On Memorial Day, we honor all the brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we hold dear. One of our precious freedoms is enshrined in the 4th Amendment, which requires the government to get a specific warrant before searching our “persons, houses, papers, and effects.” The NSA has been violating the 4th Amendment since George W. Bush let them collect the phone calls, texts, and emails of nearly every American.

A federal court recently ruled that the NSA’s program for spying on nearly all domestic phone calls is illegal.1

But the USA ‘FREEDOM’ Act that the House recently passed would reauthorize the PATRIOT Act and risk creating a new legal authority for some of the very same surveillance practices that the court ruled are illegal.

Please join over 122,000 CREDO activists who already signed the petition against reauthorizing Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act via the USA FREEDOM Act.

Thanks for all you do!

Bob Fertik

————————

Tell Congress: Don’t reauthorize the PATRIOT Act

Tell Congress:
“Oppose the USA FREEDOM Act, which would reauthorize the worst sections of the PATRIOT Act, fail to end mass surveillance, legalize currently illegal surveillance activities, and grant immunity to corporations that collaborate to violate privacy rights.”

Dear Friend,

It’s been almost two years since Edward Snowden brought public attention to the breathtaking scope of President Obama’s indiscriminate spying on American citizens. And now there are identical bills in the House and the Senate that could effectively reauthorize the PATRIOT Act without fixing the worst constitutional abuses by the NSA.1

We can’t let Congress effectively reauthorize the PATRIOT Act for an additional 4 years, legalize currently illegal surveillance activities, and grant immunity to corporations that collaborate to violate privacy rights.

But that’s exactly what the deceptively-named USA FREEDOM Act would do. That’s why groups like CREDO, PCCC and Demand Progress are joining with whistleblowers like William Binney, Kirk Wiebe and Thomas Drake to oppose reauthorization of PATRIOT Act Section 215 via the USA Freedom Act. 2

Tell Congress: Oppose the USA FREEDOM Act, which would reauthorize the PATRIOT Act. Click here to sign the petition.

If Congress does nothing, dangerous sections of the PATRIOT Act will expire, including Section 215, which has been exploited by the government to conduct unconstitutional warrantless mass surveillance on Americans’ accused of no crimes.

Under incredible public pressure, the White House and surveillance agencies have telegraphed acquiescence to minimal reforms in exchange for extension of Section 215. These minimal reforms are a trojan horse, and the legislation proposed would eviscerate numerous court challenges to lawless surveillance and provide for legal immunization and compensation of companies that provide the government with customers’ private information, even where that company knows it is unlawful.

Civil liberties advocates have tried to make the bill better but it appears to be beyond fixing. The House Judiciary committee failed to pass amendments to fix the bill. And it will almost certainly get worse in the Senate.

The USA FREEDOM Act as written has significant potential to make the current status quo for unconstitutional surveillance worse, not better. This is unacceptable. The modest changes within this bill fail to truly reform mass surveillance, of Americans and others, conducted under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 and Executive Order 12333.

Like they have repeatedly in the past, the NSA and other intelligence agencies will do everything in their power to evade the modest restrictions in the USA FREEDOM Act and torture the English language to find justifications for ever more-expansive surveillance. That’s exactly what the NSA did with Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to justify its telephone records dragnet.

And because Congressional leadership and the House and Senate Intelligence committees are totally unable or unwilling to provide meaningful oversight of our spy agencies, we won’t even find out about the NSA’s new schemes until another whistleblower surfaces in 10 or 20 years.

At best, even if faithfully implemented, the current bill will erect limited barriers to only one of three known legal justifications for the unconstitutional, dragnet surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers. Given intelligence agencies’ eagerness to subvert any attempts by Congress to rein in massive surveillance programs by changing the legal authorities under which they operate, the modest, proposed changes are no reform at all.

Tell Congress: Oppose the USA FREEDOM Act, which would reauthorize the PATRIOT Act. Click here to sign the petition.

CREDO supports Reps. Mark Pocan and Thomas Massie and their Surveillance State Repeal Act. A true reform bill it would fully repeal the PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendments Act, and Executive Order 12333 — all of which are used to justify mass surveillance against Americans — and create important protections for whistleblowers.

And even if that important bill were passed, more would need to be done to create real accountability for the NSA, the FBI, the CIA and other secret intelligence agencies that routinely violate our civil liberties.

If Congress can’t pass the Surveillance State Repeal Act, it should simply allow the worst parts of the PATRIOT Act to expire. Passing the USA FREEDOM Act would fail to stop mass surveillance and would send America’s secret intelligence agencies a clear message that they will never face accountability for breaking the law to spy on Americans. What’s more it would allow pro-surveillance members of Congress to blunt momentum for further reform by claiming that they’d fixed the problem, even though the bill only moderately restricts one of several laws abused by the government to spy on Americans.

We have to act quickly. With the PATRIOT Act provisions set to expire on June 1, this fight will move very quickly. Please take action today. Click the link below to sign the petition:
 act.credoaction.com/sign/usa_free…

Thank you for taking action.

Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets

———
1. David Kravets, ” The good, bad, and the ugly of pending congressional surveillance bills,” Ars Technica, April 29, 2015.
2. Steven Nelson, “NSA Whistleblowers Oppose Freedom Act, Endorse Long-Shot Bill,” U.S. News & World Report, April 27, 2015

###

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

Shavuot & Pentacost: Jewish and Christian versions of revelation plus Arthur Waskow on Memorial Day – as posted by Tikkun Magazine.

To read online the articles below on Shavuot, (the Jewish celebration of the first fruits and also of the giving of Torah), and on Christian spiritual responses to Pentecost, please go to www.tikkun.org/nextgen/shavuot-re…

 magazine at tikkun.org

For a take by a Catholic source on the link between Shavuot and the Christian meaning of Pentecost, both of which are taking place this weekend, please go to:http://www.cruxnow.com/faith/2015/05/22/the-gifts-of-pentecost-and-shavuot


Shavuot wisdom from Arthur Waskow: Ten Notes on Celebrating Shavuot.


Dear friends, Shavuot, the “Festival of Weeks,” comes this year from Saturday night May 23 through Monday evening May 25.
Its name refers to the “super-week” of seven weeks after Passover plus one day (7 x 7 + 1= 50), when the 50th day becomes the holy day of late spring.


Here are ten steps into understanding Shavuot (and its Christian offshoot, Pentecost):

1. The Torah describes a festival that celebrates the fulfillment of the spring wheat harvest by offering at the Temple two loaves of leavened bread and the First Fruits of the farmers’ work and the land’s abundance. This ancient understanding invites us to renew our connection with the Earth as a sacred connection with YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh, the Interbreath of life that connects all life upon this planet.

2. The text of Torah never gives any precise date for the Revelation of Torah on Mount Sinai. The early Rabbis, bereft of the Land and strongly desiring that all future generations be able to experience the Torah in much the same way Passover made it possible for all future generations to experience the Exodus, interpreted Torah timing to make the biblical Festival of First Fruits into a festival of Torah.

Some Rabbinic interpretations of the Torah text then defined Revelation in radically open ways. Some suggested that the only expression that actually came forth at Sinai was the first letter of the Ten Utterances: an ALEPH. But the ALEPH is a “silent” letter, just an opening of the throat. So in that understanding, the deepest Truth was simply that the Universe opened its throat, wanting to speak.

3. In another view, the whole Revelation was the first word:ANOKHI, the Hebrew for an elevated, surpassingly awesome meaning of “I.” (The ordinary Hebrew word for “I,” like the Latin “ego,” is “Ani.”) This ANOKHI arises not only from the Mountain, from the universe, but also from each one of us, each human, each frog, each galaxy, each quark.

4. In the treasury of so-called “Gnostic” ancient texts written in the Semitic language Coptic and found in our own generation hidden at Nag Hammadi in Egypt, one was labeled The Thunder: Perfect Mind.

Most of its 60-some verses begin with the same “ANOKHI, I” and they are almost all celebrations of a female, feminine, and paradoxically all-inclusive understanding of God:

I [Anokhi] am the first and the last

I am what everyone can hear and no one can say

I am the name of the sound and the sound of the name

I am she who is honored and she who is mocked

I am the whore and the holy woman

I am the wife and the virgin

I am the mother and the daughter

I am the limbs of my mother

I am the sterile woman and she has many children

I am she whose wedding is extravagant and I didn’t have a husband

I am the midwife and she who hasn’t given birth

I believe this text, like that in our officially accepted Torah, is an attempt to describe the Holy ONE Who became audible and visible in a transcendent moment at “Sinai.” Its title evokes The Thunder that Torah says was seen, not only heard, at Sinai. For the full text and the story of its recovery, see [ theshalomcenter.org/sites/all/mo... /url.php?u=10464&qid=5267360 ]

5. In one of the Ten Utterances that come from Sinai, the Holy Voice insists that we not “take My Name in emptiness.” I do not think that means never to say “Oh My God!” etc. I think it means to keep fully in mind that the Name YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh is a Breath; that we should always be aware that every breath we take is the Name of God; and that the Breathing of our Mother Earth is the Name of God. “Do not breathe empty-minded, empty-hearted!” says the Voice.

Make a Shavuot practice of following your breath as it enters your body, is carried by your blood to every limb and organ, then leaves as you breathe out the CO2 to enter a tree, a field of grass — and there to be transmuted into oxygen and breathed out, for us to breathe in. As you breathe, let your breath carry these words: “We breathe in what the trees breathe out, the trees breathe in what we breathe out.”

6. Another of the Ten Utterances tells us, “Do not carve out false gods and worship them!”

I do not think this means only that we must not carve out and worship physical statues of stone or wood or metal.

I think it means, “Do not carve the One Flow into pieces and worship these mere pieces of Truth. Do not make gods of race or of nation, gods of wealth and of power, gods of greed and addiction. For these ‘gods’ may seem to have ears but hear not, hands but touch not, noses but breathe not. These idols are dead, and those who make them and worship them will bring death on themselves.”

7. Traditionally, the Haftarah (prophetic passage) that is read on the festival of Shavuot is Ezekiel’s mystical vision of the Chariot. Jerome Rothenberg and Harris Lenowitz, in A Big Jewish Book, their amazing collection of the poetic, mystical, and subversive or superversive passages of Jewish wisdom over the past 3,000 years, make their own poetic translation of this passage.

For a way of reading it intended to lift the reader closer to Ezekiel’s own ecstatic state, first see

and then theshalomcenter.org/sites/all/mo... ]

8. The early rabbis also decided that on Shavuot, we should also read the Scroll of Ruth. It celebrates the earthiness of the Torah’s understanding of Shavuot, and especially the Torah’s commitment to social justice in sharing the abundance of the Earth. Ruth, a penniless woman from a pariah community, is treated with love, generosity, and justice.

Read the book, imagining Ruth as a penniless woman from Guatemala trying to enter the USA across the Rio Grande. How would she be treated today? How does the Bible demand she be treated?

9. According to Christian tradition, there was a Shavuot on which Jews who were followers of the radical Rabbi Jesus — who had been tortured to death because he organized spiritually rooted opposition to the oppressive Roman Empire and its local puppet government — gathered to celebrate the Revelation of Torah.

They experienced being touched by the Ruach HaKodesh – the Holy Breathing Spirit. As if that Breath had spoken to them in every human language (as only Breath can do, since only Breathing encompasses all tongues), they found themselves able to speak in the 70 tongues of humanity.

In Christian tradition, this moment became known as Pentecost, from the Greek word for “Fiftieth Day.” From this moment they went forth to bring their vision to all peoples – sometimes by speaking words of conscience and sometimes by conquest, torture, and death.. From this moment stems all the spiritual triumphs and spiritual disasters of the Christian Church.

How do we make sure that the Holy BREATH is about speaking, not killing or torturing or conquering?

Christians have no monopoly on oppression, torture, or killing. Some Muslims, some Jews, some Buddhists (see Burma and Sri Lanka) have turned to tyranny, out of fear or privilege or fury. For a Jewish perspective on how the festival of Sinai and Torah might look upon the festival of Israeli independence, Yom HaAtzma’ut, see my essay at

10. Go back to experience again two lines from “The Thunder: Perfect Mind,” as what the “I” of Sinai spoke to us all:

I am what everyone can hear and no one can say

I am the name of the sound and the sound of the name

These lines bring us back to the “Anokhi YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh,” the first words of Torah heard at Sinai.

For if the YHWH is a Breathing, It would indeed be what everyone can hear and no one can say.

Its letters, if we try to pronounce them, would indeed be the name of the sound and the sound of the name. A Breath.

The Voice at Sinai tells us: The Interbreathing of all tongues, all life, is what frees us from the Tight and Narrow Place (in Hebrew, Mitzrayyim — the name for Egypt).

If we hear Her in the all-night Torah-learning that the mystics bequeathed us for Shavuot, could we learn to think, to feel, to commune, to be silent in a different way?

Could we hear the Shavuot of Harvest and the Shavuot of Sinai as One:

“I am the earthy food that goes into your mouth, and I am the airy words that come forth from your mouth.”

Could The Thunder teach us that Earth and Torah are one, The One?

Could we hear the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Breath that interbreathes all tongues, all languages, all life-forms, reminding us to Hush’sh’sh’sh, to Sh’sh’sh’sh’ma – to Listen to the still “silent” Voice and cease from our oppressions of each other?

May the Shabbat and Shavuot that come at this week’s ending and next week’s beginning help us achieve these deepening of Spirit in the body!

Shalom, salaam, peace, Earth!
Arthur Waskow

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From pro-American to pro-Russian? Nikola Gruevski as a political chameleon.
Vassilis Petsinis, 22 May 2015, openDemocracy, London

A former staunch ally of the US-led War on Terror, Macedonia PM Nikola Gruevski has gradually turned his country away from the west towards Russia – all the while keeping his neoconservative ideology intact.

Following the unrest in Kumanovo and the massive anti-government protests, FYR Macedonia has captivated the interest of the international press. The most recent mobilization has been the peak of a wave of discontent that commenced with the countrywide student protests some weeks ago. In the domestic front, opposition circles have issued a series of charges against the government led by the conservative VMRO-DPMNE such as: promotion of nepotism, unwillingness to combat corruption, illegitimate surveillance of political opponents and, on top of all, growing authoritarianism.

Meanwhile, political analysts have detected a certain rift in the relations between Skopje and the West which has resulted in the Macedonian government’s more decisive reorientation towards Moscow.

Russia has pledged its political support to Nikola Gruevski’s and the two sides have extended their cooperation in energy issues and other areas of economic concern. Without neglecting the crucial impact of shifting geopolitics, this brief piece mostly concentrates on VMRO-DPMNE’s, predominantly, neoconservative agenda under the leadership of Nikola Gruevski. It also sets in a comparative context how this neoconservative platform has remained intact despite the gradual readjustment of the state’s foreign policy from Euro-Atlantic institutions towards Moscow’s orbit of influence.

From one neocon to another:

In 2003, Nikola Gruevski succeeded Ljub?o Georgievski in the party’s leadership. An ambitious young politician back then, Gruevski’s main ambition was to centralize decision-making within VMRO-DPMNE and modernize the party’s structures.

The latter objective was achieved via the recruitment of a younger pool of cadres. Following a widespread trend all over Southeast Europe (e.g. Albania’s Edi Rama and Serbia’s Vuk Jeremi?), the party’s central committee and later the Cabinet of Ministers consisted of young, aspiring and, often, Western-educated individuals (e.g. the Foreign Minister between 2006 and 2011, Antonio Milošoski). Moreover, Gruevski maintained the central aspects of Georgievski’s strategy of rapprochement vis-à-vis the ethnic Albanian community.

Despite this, Gruevski’s term in office has been marked by the emphatic endorsement of Neo-Macedonism to the detriment of the modernist narratives over the Macedonian ethno-genesis in the nineteenth century. The adoption of Neo-Macedonism became further institutionalized through the endorsement of grandiose architectural projects, largely inspired by classical antiquity, which commenced in 2010.

On the domestic front, the Socialists/SDSM and other opposition circles accused the government of investing a disproportional percentage of the state’s budget on these projects. In foreign policy, the emphasis on Neo-Macedonism further complicated relations with the southern neighbour, Greece.

Since the early days of Nikola Gruevski’s term in office, the ‘new’ VMRO-DPMNE drew inspiration from the rather influential trend of neoconservatism among policymaking circles in the US. As it was the case with various other statesmen in Central and Southeast Europe (e.g. Romania’s Traian B?sescu), Nikola Gruevski underlined his firm commitment to Euro-Atlantic institutions and opted for the rapid liberalization of the economy along post-Keynesian lines.

Meanwhile, Gruevski constantly stressed his deep faith in God and highlighted the significance of Eastern Orthodoxy and its system of moral values as a fundamental pillar of the state’s identity. In the field of foreign policy, Nikola Gruevski soon emerged as a staunch supporter of George W. Bush’s policy-doctrine on the Middle East. Throughout the 2000s, FYR Macedonia had dispatched military personnel to Afghanistan and Iraq under the auspices of the US-led ‘Coalition of the Willing’.

The NATO summit in Bucharest (April 2-4, 2008) was a landmark. As a gesture of gratitude to its small Balkan ally, the US delegation elaborated possible ways to include FYR Macedonia in the NATO enlargement round irrespective of the state’s dispute with Greece. However, the Greek PM, Kostas Karamanlis, vetoed this proposal on the basis that any outstanding issues with the northern neighbour must be previously resolved in order for Greece to grant its assent.

The Greek veto was met with discontent in Washington and infuriated Skopje. Especially in the light of Karamanlis’ opening to Russia, Skopje-based policymakers and think-tanks did not simply charge Athens with ‘parochial and introverted nationalism’. They went a step further and accused Greece of acting as a ‘Trojan horse’ in Moscow’s service with the aim to destabilize NATO and sabotage its enlargement in Southeast Europe.

The pendulum shifts: Fluctuating geopolitics and disillusionment with the West

Barack Obama, who succeeded G.W. Bush to the US Presidency in 2009, watered down various aspects of his predecessor’s ‘hawkish’ foreign policy. Instead, the new administration in the White House opted for a doctrine of appeasement in regards to their regional competitors (e.g. Russia and Iran).

Meanwhile, the simultaneous advent of the economic crisis made European policymakers more introverted and reluctant to the prospects of the EU’s wider enlargement. With specific regard to FYR Macedonia, European policymakers and political analysts soon stroke a critical stance towards Nikola Gruevski and his apparatus. The main areas of concern were symptoms of nepotism and authoritarianism as well as accusations over the relentless propagation of ‘ethno-kitsch’.

This shifting landscape in global and regional politics had direct ramifications on the government circles in Skopje. Several commentators have argued that delaying the state’s accession to Euro-Atlantic institutions runs detrimental to FYR Macedonia’s stateness and it is largely to account for Skopje’s disillusionment with the West. From a more ‘ideological’ angle, though, the change of guard in the White House and the subsequent adoption of a new US foreign policy doctrine are not to be overlooked either.

In other words, Nikola Gruevski’s government has lost much of the patronage that it enjoyed during George W. Bush’s tenure in office. Moreover, we are currently experiencing the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world order. The last few years have witnessed the consolidation of semi-authoritarian models of governance among emerging regional actors (e.g. Recep Tayyip Erdo?an in Turkey and Vladimir Putin in Russia). The latter development has encouraged the, if only subtle, admiration of certain statesmen throughout Central and Southeast Europe towards the above-mentioned models.

For instance, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán recently coined the concept of illiberal democracy. According to the Hungarian PM, ‘it is not an imperative that contemporary democracy must be structured along the ideological frame of Liberalism…there can be numerous other models of democracy in Europe, nowadays’. Moreover, Viktor Orbán has also positioned Hungary’s foreign policy more solidly within Russia’s orbit of influence.

In particular, both FIDESZ and VMRO-DPMNE converge along a common axis. Both are post-Communist parties that commenced their engagement in politics as, anti-establishment, umbrella-initiatives that hosted a wide range of conservative as well as liberal standpoints. However, in the long run, local adaptations of neoconservatism evolved into the dominant intra-party trend.

Nikola Gruevski and/or Viktor Orbán are not merely unhappy with the outlook(s) of Euro-Atlantic institutions on their respective states or the way(s) that their rule has been portrayed in the Western press. They have also isolated specific elements in Vladimir Putin’s leadership which they deem rather akin to their brand(s) of neoconservatism. These are, namely, Russia’s leader-centred and strong government, the promotion of national and Christian values, and the safeguarding of ‘naturally ascribed’ gender-roles.

Especially in the light of a multipolar international system, one might contend that the neoconservative, ideological, core in parties such as VMRO-DPMNE and/or FIDESZ has remained intact despite the, apparent, foreign policy readjustment towards Moscow.
What next? Skopje amidst political polarization and fears of ethnic radicalization

In addition to the decline of popular confidence, the government in Skopje may also have to face the challenge of resurgent ethnic radicalization. During the last couple of weeks, a militant group, allegedly consisting of ethnic Albanians, became active in the northern town of Kumanovo. The apparent resurgence of militant Albanian ethno-nationalism triggered a series of conspiracy theories.

Pro-government circles have hinted at the involvement of ‘foreign decision-making centres’ who are not particularly content with the bilateral cooperation between Russia and FYR Macedonia. In the other end of the spectrum, opposition circles have suspected the government of engineering the Kumanovo troubles in an attempt to play the card of ‘national unity’ as a last resort. A third assumption that has not been examined to an adequate extent is the possibility of a peculiar, yet amorphous, blend between Albanian ethno-nationalism and elements of Islamic fundamentalism along the lines of the ‘Chechen precedent’.

Russia, on its part, has been quick to point the finger for both the Kumanovo incidents and the anti-government mobilization at the West. The US and the EU have been accused of orchestrating one more ‘Maidan-style’ coup with the aim to destabilize the government and obstruct cooperation with Russia in energy issues.

Russia Today and other pro-Kremlin media outlets dedicated considerable time to the coverage of pro-government demonstrations where Russian flags also featured among the crowd. Quite a few Western political analysts have expressed the wishful thinking that Nikola Gruevski may be forced to resign under popular pressure and be replaced by a coalition government with a Euro-Atlantic orientation.

Setting regional geopolitics aside, Nikola Gruevski’s opening to Russia reveals an additional pathology of Post-communist politics. Even back at the time when parties such as VMRO-DPMNE and FIDESZ had adjusted their foreign policy more firmly towards the West, their political activity and decision-making had been shaped by local adaptations of the neoconservative narrative. Within the context of their political development, such parties replaced their admiration for certain aspects of American neoconservatism with the endorsement of selected elements found in Vladimir Putin’s semi-authoritarianism while their (neoconservative) ideological core remained intact.

Apart from nominally right-wing parties, centre-left statesmen in the region have also detected, albeit more subtly, some ‘positive’ aspects in Vladimir Putin’s pattern of governance (e.g. the Bulgarian Socialist Party/BSP and Slovakia’s SMER). Therefore, in order to grasp such chameleonic mutations more adequately, one should also pay close attention to political culture among post-Communist parties in Central and Southeast Europe and its evolution.

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Dr Vassilis Petsinis is a Visiting Researcher at the Herder Institute (Marburg, Germany). His main areas of specialization are European Politics and Ethnopolitics with a regional focus on Central and Southeast Europe. His academia.edu profile can be found here.

WE SUGGEST TO THINK ALSO THROUGH THE ELECTION RESULTS IN THE UK WHEN READING ABOVE ARTICLE – THIS SO THAT THE MAKINGS OF A EUROPEAN UNION ARE CONSIDERED WHEN LOOKING AT CENTRIPETAL MOVEMENTS LIKE THOSE APPEARING IN CENTRAL AND SOUTH EASTERN EUROPE.
ALSO, PLEASE DP NOT FORGET THE GREECE/MACEDONIA NAME DISPUTE AND EUROPE’S INCAPABILITY TO TELL THE GREEKS OFF IN THIS MATTER. WHAT A SHAME!

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Macedonia

Related Articles: The deep roots of Macedonia’s current turmoil – and the way forward – Heather Grabbe -the same source.


The deep roots of Macedonia’s current turmoil – and the way forward.

Heather Grabbe 13 May 2015, openDemocracy, London

The country must avoid just replacing the driver in the seat of a captured state machinery – by increasing inclusion and pluralism in governance. This will be impossible without EU and NATO assistance.

For nearly two decades, Macedonia has been a pressure cooker of public anger at corruption, deteriorating governance and chronic unemployment. Now the valve has blown. This year, union-organised strikes were followed by student protests against flawed education reforms. Then the opposition party released recordings of conversations that exposed government wire-tapping of more than 20,000 citizens. Quickly dubbed “bombs”, these recordings were released over the last three months by the main opposition party leader at press conferences. On them appear the voices of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, senior officials, journalists, judges and security officials conspiring in electoral and judicial fraud, and organising systemic corruption. On the latest, released on 4 May, the prime minister discusses with interior ministry officials a cover-up of the murder in June 2011 by one of his bodyguards of 21-year old Martin Neshkovski, a student who supported the ruling party.

These revelations have led to a new wave of protests, led by grassroots networks of civil society rather than the opposition party. The young activists have become more radical in their demands under sustained attacks by riot police and government infiltrators, who provoked the protestors for five nights in a row. Last Friday, they pledged to come back to demand the resignation of the prime minister. Then the population awoke on Saturday morning to news of what the government called a “terrorist attack” in an ethnically mixed neighbourhood in Kumanovo, a town near the Serbia/Kosovo border. The results were the deaths of police officers and arrests of alleged terrorists. The government-controlled media called for unquestioning support for the government, and labelled as a traitor anyone who disputed the official interpretation of events. What is going on? Is this a security crisis or a consolidation of power by the ruling party in the face of mounting opposition?

High stakes – but for security or politics?

The shootings in Kumanovo have woken up the rest of the world because they are reminiscent of the security crisis fifteen years ago, when ethnic Albanians took to the hills with their guns to demand rights, representation and jobs. The country narrowly escaped a full-blown civil war thanks to the Ohrid Agreement, which gave the Albanians greater political and economic inclusion, including quotas for public-sector jobs and parliamentary seats.

It was NATO and the EU that took responsibility for Macedonia’s security in 2001, with Javier Solana, as EU High Representative for Foreign Policy at the time, and George Robertson, then NATO Secretary-General, as the main negotiators at Ohrid. But the current crisis is not primarily driven by ethnic tensions. The security framing by the government obscures a much deeper crisis in the body politic, and a looming one for the economy.

After 24 years of independence, Macedonia’s model is crumbling. The ruling party has held onto power by controlling the state and media, and borrowing on international markets to keep the economy going. This has undermined the country’s fragile democracy – despite the promises made at Ohrid, which are still not fully implemented – and failed to build rule of law and a sustainable economy. Prime Minister Gruevski won power nearly a decade ago on promises of clean government and economic development. But he then perfected the system of clientelism and state capture begun by Branko Crvenkovski, his predecessor as opposition leader and prime minister, and later president. Gruevski has used snap elections twice to keep his party in power, and his leadership has become increasingly coercive. The wiretap recordings have confirmed that his VMRO-DPMNE party has captured all vital areas of the economy and established complete control over media, even imprisoning critical journalists. Macedonia’s ranking has fallen from 36 to 136 in the freedom of media index produced by Reporters Without Borders.

The government dispensed with parliamentary debate at the end of 2013. Faced with a short deadline to approve the next loan to pay pensions before the Christmas and New Year holidays, they forcibly expelled the opposition and media from the parliament during a debate over the state budget rather than find an agreement.

The public is scared. More than half of Macedonians believe they cannot freely express their opinions. A staggering 81 percent believe that fear of consequences for them and their families prevent them and others from speaking out. Their political fears are heightened by their economic vulnerability.

The chronic economic malaise underlying acute political crisis.

The Macedonian economy appears to be financially stable. The government nurtures an image of business promoter and responsible borrower. Until recently, it was the region’s poster child for the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. European banks were happy to earn good returns on Macedonian state bonds. Macedonia’s average GDP growth of 3% in the last three years is the highest in the region, completing this picture of prosperity.

But the economy is not sustainable. The government has used debt financing to invest in grandiose infrastructure projects, including the flagship “Skopje 2014” project, which erected statues and faux-classical buildings in the capital at a cost of over 600 million euro. Between 2008 and 2014, Macedonia’s public debt quadrupled, rising from 23% of GDP in 2008 to around 46% in 2014. Debt is projected to reach the 60% ceiling prescribed by the international financial institutions by 2019. The state budget increased by a third over the same period (from roughly 2 to 3 billion euro). Inflows of foreign direct investment averaged only 2.8% of GDP per year between 2009 and 2014, low even by regional standards.

Life for citizens has become more precarious. Around a third of the workforce is unemployed, the second highest rate in Europe after Kosovo. Without the heavy borrowing, the fragile economy could not sustain more than 300,000 pensioners, who rely on the state budget for half of their needs. Nor could it afford to pay the huge number of state employees. The last official number was 140,000 in 2008, and latest estimates range from 200,000 to 255,000. The total number of people employed in Macedonia is 700,000 – meaning that the state employs nearly a third of the workforce. No wonder people are leaving to seek better prospects abroad. A census has been postponed by the government, but Gallup estimates that more than 300,000 people have left the country. According to Deutsche Welle, most of the 120,000 Macedonians who acquired Bulgarian passports have already emigrated to the EU or elsewhere. Macedonia seems to have more registered voters (at 1,780,128) than residents.

VMRO-DPMNE has kept its hold on power in this unhappy state by resorting to strident nationalism and intimidation of its opponents, increasing the divisions in a multi-ethnic country. Ethnic Macedonians are understandably aggrieved by the lack of a solution to the dispute with Greece over the country’s name, which already blocked entry to NATO – and Gruevski has adroitly used the issue to rally nationalism in support of the government. Meanwhile, the ethnic Albanian political parties have been co-opted by their share in the spoils of mis-governance, even though their people remain even more alienated and poorer than the rest of the population.

The divisions are deepening right across society. Three-quarters of ethnic Albanians still firmly believe in EU and NATO accession as the way to a better future, but by now over 62 percent of other Macedonians think badly of joining the EU. Three-quarters of the ruling party’s supporters see the name dispute with Greece as the key reason for Macedonia’s now bleak EU accession prospects; but only 20% of opposition supporters agree. The biggest divide is between rich and poor, especially along party lines. The poor are undoubtedly getting poorer: resources available to the poorest fifth of citizens fell by 38% between 2008 and 2012. But business profits have grown by almost two and a half times since the year 2000. Nearly 80% of all Macedonians believe it is unfair that employment in state institutions and general prosperity is based on political party membership.
The way forward: a unity government with EU and NATO support

Macedonia is once again becoming a security threat on the EU’s borders. But this time it’s different: a non-partisan civic movement has taken to the streets for the first time to change the country. There is a real opportunity to use this energy to build democracy and a market economy in this multi-ethnic state.

No party is doing well in Macedonia: the secret recordings have lost the government all credibility, but the public has little faith in the leaders of the opposition and ethnic Albanian parties either. The immediate solution lies in collective action first by all those who have created the problem.

Now that three of the prime minister’s key allies have tendered their resignations, Macedonia should turn again to the solution that averted the civil war in 2001: a unity government composed of the four main parties. To foster the necessary compromises and offer a fresh start. it would not include the current prime minister, public prosecutor or speaker of the parliament – but opposition parties must be involved in open and credible oversight of the intelligence agencies, and take responsibility for the discredited interior ministry.

The most promising scenario is a government of national unity that lasts for 12-18 months, to prepare the country for free and fair elections, and create an independent commission to investigate all the events since the opposition was violently ejected from the parliament in 2013. And it should agree on a common negotiating platform on the name dispute with Greece. Macedonia’s newly reinvigorated civil society should also contribute to the work of the parliamentary commissions and monitor the new government’s progress in restoring the accountability of public institutions. The country must avoid just replacing the driver in the seat of the captured state machinery, by increasing inclusion and pluralism in governance.

As so often in the Balkans, such a scenario will be impossible without EU and NATO assistance. The default position among EU foreign ministers is to expect sovereign countries to sort out their own political problems through democratic institutions. But after a decade of unconsolidated democracy and state capture, Macedonia does not possess those institutions. Therefore, other levers of influence are needed. NATO could offer a tangible incentive to all parties by offering a possibility to re-open membership talks. EU accession negotiations are far off because so much time has been lost on necessary reforms, but the enlargement process is vital to offer hope, especially to the ethnic Albanians, and guidance to reformers who are seeking to take back captured parts of the state. The support of EU institutions, member-states and banks is vital for the country’s macroeconomic stability. Neighbouring governments could also exert more pressure, as their own security is at stake. Bulgarian Prime Minister Borisov was the first to request Gruevski to step down.

The EU can no longer afford to indulge a model of governance in Macedonia that has been far more aggressive in its authoritarian zeal than nearby Montenegro or Turkey. The European People’s Party has a particular responsibility to get involved, having accepted and protected VMRO-DPMNE as a sister party for all these years. Now it must act to uphold the standards of democracy on which it was founded, by putting pressure on VMRO-DPMNE to relinquish its grip on power and join a unity government. The time to move is now, as the costs of inaction will continue to rise.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 22nd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Politics // The New York Times

Obama Set to Strengthen Federal Role in Clean Water Regulation.

By CORAL DAVENPORT, MAY 22, 2015

The Obama administration is expected in the coming days to announce a major clean water regulation that would restore the federal government’s authority to limit pollution in the nation’s rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands.

Environmentalists have praised the new rule, calling it an important step that would lead to significantly cleaner natural bodies of water and healthier drinking water.

But it has attracted fierce opposition from several business interests, including farmers, property developers, fertilizer and pesticide makers, oil and gas producers and a national association of golf course owners. Opponents contend that the rule would stifle economic growth and intrude on property owners’ rights.

Republicans in Congress point to the rule as another example of what they call executive overreach by the Obama administration. Already, they are advancing legislation on Capitol Hill meant to block or delay the rule.

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Related Coverage

Gina McCarthy, above, the E.P.A. administrator, who is expected to release the final version of a new rule intended to protect the nation’s drinking water this week.

Critics Hear E.P.A.’s Voice in ‘Public Comments’ MAY 18, 2015

As head of Washington’s water department, George Hawkins, is on the scene every time a major sewer or water line breaks.
Toxic Waters: Saving U.S. Water and Sewer Systems Would Be CostlyMARCH 14, 2010

Toxic Waters: Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, at a Cost in SufferingSEPT. 12, 2009

The mouth of Avondale Creek in Alabama, into which a pipe maker dumped oil, lead and zinc. A court ruling made the waterway exempt from the Clean Water Act.

Toxic Waters: Rulings Restrict Clean Water Act, Hampering E.P.A.FEB. 28, 2010

The water system in Ramsey, N.J., has illegal concentrations of arsenic and the solvent tetrachloroethylene, both linked to cancer.

Millions in U.S. Drink Contaminated Water, Records Show, DEC. 7, 2009
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The announcement of the rule could come as soon as Friday. If not, it is likely to happen next week, people with knowledge of the plans said.

Photo – Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, says a new clean water rule is intended “to protect critical streams and wetlands that are currently vulnerable to pollution and destruction.”

The water rule is part of a broader push by President Obama to use his executive authority to build a major environmental legacy, without requiring new legislation from the Republican-controlled Congress.

This summer, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release a final set of rules intended to combat climate change, by limiting greenhouse gas pollution from power plants. Mr. Obama is also expected to announce in the coming year that he will put vast swaths of public land off limits to energy exploration and other development.

“Water is the lifeblood of healthy people and healthy economies,” Gina McCarthy, the E.P.A.’s administrator, wrote in an April blog post promoting the water rule. “We have a duty to protect it. That’s why E.P.A. and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are finalizing a Clean Water Rule later this spring to protect critical streams and wetlands that are currently vulnerable to pollution and destruction.”

But even as E.P.A. staff worked this month to finish the rule, the House passed a bill to block it. The Senate is moving forward with a bill that would require the agency to fundamentally revamp the rule.

“Under this outrageously broad new rule, Washington bureaucrats would now have a say in how farmers, and ranchers, and families use their own property,” said Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming and the chief author of the Senate bill.

“It would allow the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate private property just based on things like whether it’s used by animals or birds, or even insects,” he said.

“This rule,” he added, “is not designed to protect the traditional waters of the United States. It is designed to expand the power of Washington bureaucrats.”

The E.P.A. and the Army Corps of Engineers jointly proposed the rule, known as Waters of the U.S., last March. The agency has held more than 400 meetings about it with outside groups and read more than one million public comments as it wrote the final language.

The rule is being issued under the 1972 Clean Water Act, which gave the federal government broad authority to limit pollution in major water bodies, like Chesapeake Bay, the Mississippi River and Puget Sound, as well as streams and wetlands that drain into larger waters.

But two Supreme Court decisions related to clean water protection, in 2001 and in 2006, created legal confusion about whether the federal government had the authority to regulate the smaller streams and headwaters, and about other water sources such as wetlands.

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BUT E.P.A. officials are not completely satisfied by the projected draft of this new Obama directives!

E.P.A. officials say the new rule will clarify that authority, allowing the government to once again limit pollution in those smaller bodies of water — although it does not restore the full scope of regulatory authority granted by the 1972 law.

The E.P.A. also contends that the new rule will not give it the authority to regulate additional waters that had not been covered under the 1972 law. People familiar with the rule say it will apply to about 60 percent of the nation’s waters.

“Until now, major bodies of water were protected under the law,” said Elizabeth Ouzts, a spokeswoman for Environment America, an advocacy group. “But they can’t be fully protected unless the streams that flow into them are also protected.”

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The rule will also limit pollution in groundwater and other sources of drinking water. Polluted groundwater is now chemically treated before being used as drinking water.

“We could spend a lot of money to massively treat the water that we drink, but it makes a lot more sense to protect the source,” Ms. Ouzts said.

A coalition of industry groups, led by the American Farm Bureau Federation, has waged an aggressive campaign calling on the E.P.A. to withdraw or revamp the rule.

Farmers fear that the rule could impose major new costs and burdens, requiring them to pay fees for environmental assessments and to obtain permits just to till the soil near gullies, ditches or dry streambeds where water flows only when it rains. A permit is required for any activity, like farming or construction, that creates a discharge into a body of water covered under the Clean Water Act or affects the health of it, like filling in a wetland or blocking a stream.

“It’s going to cause a nightmare for farmers,” said Don Parrish, the senior director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“Our members own the majority of the landscape that’s going to be impacted by this,” he said. “It’s going to make their land, the most valuable thing they possess, less valuable. It could reduce the value of some farmland by as much as 40 percent. If you want to build a home, if you want to grow food, if you want a job to go with that clean water, you have to ask E.P.A. for it.”

The lobbying fight over the rule has also generated a public-relations battle over social media.

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The Deck is not a plain playing field:

In its protest of the rule, the American Farm Bureau Federation started a social media campaign, using the Twitter hashtag #DitchTheRule, to urge farmers and others to push the E.P.A. to abandon or revamp the rule. The E.P.A., in response, created a campaign with the hashtag #DitchTheMyth, urging people to speak out in favor of the rule. But some legal experts contend that campaign might have tested the limits of federal lobbying laws, which prohibit a government agency from engaging in grass-roots lobbying for proposed policies or legislation.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 22nd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Obama has lost Paul Krugman: Administration’s selling of new trade pact “a snow job.”

There has been no good faith effort to address reasonable concerns from well-intentioned critics
Review by Scott Eric Kaufman, Salon Web-magazine.
 www.salon.com/2015/05/22/obama_ha…

Kaufman writes: In Friday’s column, the New York Times’ Paul Krugman argued that although he generally approves of the forthrightness with which the Obama administration has dealt with economic issues, when it comes to international trade and investment, the president deserves a failing grade.

Especially, he wrote, on the subject of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the quasi-secret deal that the administration has teamed up with Republican Congressman Paul Ryan (W) to push through the House.

“[the] selling of the 12-nation Pacific Rim pact has the feel of a snow job,” he argued. “Officials have evaded the main concerns about the content of a potential deal; they’ve belittled and dismissed the critics; and they’ve made blithe assurances that turn out not to be true.”

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 krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/05…

ALSO: Paul Krugman – New York Times Blog Trade and Trust.

May 17, 2015

I’m getting increasingly unhappy with the way the Obama administration is handling the dispute over TPP. I understand the case for the deal, and while I still lean negative I’m not one of those who believes that it would be an utter disaster.

But the administration — and the president himself — don’t help their position by being dismissive of the complaints and lecturing the critics (Elizabeth Warren in particular) about how they just have no idea what they’re talking about. That would not be a smart strategy even if the administration had its facts completely straight — and it doesn’t. Instead, assurances about what is and isn’t in the deal keep turning out to be untrue. We were assured that the dispute settlement procedure couldn’t be used to force changes in domestic laws; actually, it apparently could. We were told that TPP couldn’t be used to undermine financial reform; again, it appears that it could.

How important are these concerns? It’s hard to judge. But the administration is in effect saying trust us, then repeatedly bobbling questions about the deal in a way that undermines that very trust.

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We have a particular problem here – this with no less then the Great New York Times.

The problem is that in the paper’s greed to make money they hide the important views of Paul Krugman by asking the internet readers to pay subscription money. We know this is a subject for long discussions – but what if a great economist is indeed trying to save the country and the World and a Board that owns a large chunk of media sources just gets in his way?

What if I tell you that the opinion page of that paper, years ago, seemed to be sold to the Mobil Oil Corporation that regularly had a quarter page advertisement that left no interest space for the paper’s business-folks when it came to non-petroleum fuels?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 20th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Russian civil society deemed ‘undesirable’

Tanya Lokshina 20 May 2015, the openDemocracy website, London

Tanya Lokshina is Russia program director at Human Rights Watch, based in Moscow.

A new Russian bill on ‘undesirable organisations’ has been endorsed today which will allow the government to ban foreign NGOs. But are they the real targets?
 www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/…

Today, Russia’s upper house of parliament endorsed a bill on ‘undesirable organisations,’ passed by the lower house just a day earlier, on May 19. The bill will let the government ban the activities of foreign or international nongovernmental groups deemed to undermine ‘state security,’ ‘national defense,’ or the ‘constitutional order.’ There is little doubt that this new piece of repressive legislation will be now swiftly signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.
The real targets

Meanwhile, my phone is ringing off the hook: ‘So, this new law the State Duma has just adopted, is it about you? Do you think they want to use this to close down the Human Rights Watch bureau in Moscow?’ Well, to be sure, the bill has the potential to severely damage our work in Russia. The ‘undesirables’ bill is a cause of grave concern for all international rights groups operating in the country.

‘Do you think they want to use this to close down the Human Rights Watch bureau in Moscow?’

Nevertheless, I am genuinely convinced that it’s not about us. The intended targets of this new legislation on foreign and international organisations are actually Russian activists and Russian groups. The bill is aimed at cutting them off from their international partners, further isolating them, and squeezing the very life out of Russian civil society.

Just think about it. Why would the government need new legislation to close down Russia-based offices of foreign groups when the Justice Ministry can do this in one swift move simply by de-registering any organisation, no strings attached? And if Russia wants to stop representatives of foreign groups from entering the country, the authorities can simply blacklist them with no explanation whatsoever.

The bill on ‘undesirables’ not only allows the authorities to ban specific organisations’ activities on Russian territory – it also provides for sanctions against Russian citizens and Russian groups for ‘involvement’ in the activities of ‘undesirable’ organisations.

The bill does not specify what ‘involvement’ might include. So anything goes. Distributing — including by posting online — the statements, reports, or other materials of an ‘undesirable,’ participating in international events jointly with ‘undesirable’ organisations, or even simply communicating with staffers of ‘undesirable’ organisations could be all interpreted by the authorities as ‘involvement’ in their activities and result in punishment of the Russian groups and individuals. Sanctions include hefty administrative fines for the first two offenses, and more than two offenses in one year can result in criminal prosecution and up to six years in prison.

Selective implementation

The bill appears to be designed for selective implementation. The definition of ‘state security’ under Russian law is vague. The prosecutor general’s office can designate an organisation as ‘undesirable’ without judicial review based solely on materials from law enforcement and security services. The Justice Ministry is designated as the keeper of the ‘undesirables.’

There is no requirement for the authorities to give a potential ‘undesirable’ any notice – an organisation may only discover its ‘undesirability’ after it has been already included on the list. Once the law enters into force, any foreign non-governmental group that criticises the Russian authorities, conducts independent activity, and supports civil society in Russia will be under threat of being pegged ‘undesirable.’

The bill appears to be designed for selective implementation.

An ‘undesirable’ organisation must terminate its presence in Russia and stop participating in any projects on Russian territory. Moreover, it won’t be able to reach out to the public through Russian media or websites – all its information will effectively be banned. And any Russian friends, partners or sympathizers of these organisations should know better than to go near them.
Spreading the trend

These new harsh restrictions follow in the footsteps of the ‘foreign agents’ law passed in July 2012, which has been used to demonise in the eyes of the public close to 60 local non-governmental organisations, including the country’s leading human rights groups, as anti-Russian saboteurs. Several of these organisations chose to shut down rather than bear the ‘foreign agent’ stigma.

The new bill on ‘undesirables’ is indubitably part of the Kremlin’s trend of repression against independent voices but takes it even further. While supposedly focused on preventing foreign and international groups from undermining national security, it is evidently meant to deliver another hard blow to Russian groups and activists. Once the authorities have free rein to bar Russians from ‘involvement’ with their ‘undesirable’ foreign counterparts, the authorities can leave critics of the government in an airless limbo and eventually suffocate them.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 20th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

70 Years Since The Founding of the United Nations – Is there finally in 2015 TIME FOR GLOBAL ACTION FOR PEOPLE AND PLANET?

based on e-mail from: Lotta Tahtinen
Date: Wed, May 20, 2015
 sustainabledevelopment.un.org/po…

that includes:

In Focus

Food for thought paper on a possible Technology Facilitation Mechanism
Revised Proposal for themes for Interactive Dialogues during the Post-2015 United Nations Summit (revision 3)

Prepared for — Post-2015 intergovernmental negotiations | 18 – 22 May 2015

Draft Programme
Discussion Paper on Follow-up and Review of the Post-2015 Development Agenda
Preliminary Impressions on Follow-up and review by the co-facilitators
Preliminary Programme of Side Events (Post-2015, Follow-up and review)
More information

The CIVICUS organization headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, is helping continue the UN unending debates that seem now
intended to pass that 2015 deadline and just roll on theses debates so that no real action is showing up on the horizon.

Why in God’s name – or Nature’s name – these debate clubs do not finally say the obvious – WHAT IS NEEDED IS AN EFFORT FOR SUSTAINABILITY – that is Social, Economic and Environmental SUSTAINABILITY for Planet Earth and its People. As simple as that !!!

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 20th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Mittwoch, 29. April 2015, 12:00 Uhr

12:00
The Earth System and climate debate ( link … )

Event political / legal and environmental / energy

Event as part of the “International Club”. Speaker: Prof. Dr. Dr. hc Reinhard F. Hüttl, Scientific Executive Chairman of the GFZ German Research Centre (GFZ).

Organizer: Austrian Society for Foreign Policy and the United Nations (ÖGAVN)
Location: Hofburg / Stallburg
Reitschulgasse 2/2. OG
1010 Wien

Referent:

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Reinhard F. HÜTTL

Vorstandsvorsitzender des Deutschen Geoforschungszentrums (GFZ)

zum Thema (in deutscher Sprache ohne Übersetzung):

“Das System Erde und die Klimadebatte”

Veranstaltungsort:

Hofburg/Stallburg

A-1010 Wien, Reitschulgasse 2/2. OG

Reinhard Hüttl, Scientific Director, German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), presented a conceptual framework that incorporates three core functions of all soils, production, habitat and regulation. Noting the challenge of building on this understanding to develop adequate legislation for soil rehabilitation and protection, he underscored the role of the Global Soil Partnership and Global Soil Week in raising awareness and achieving scale at the implementation level.

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Apr 14, 2015 – Vortragsankündigung: Das System Erde und die Klimadebatte Prof. Dr. Dr. Reinhard Hüttl, Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ, Potsdam.
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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 19th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


IPCC Expert Meeting: Climate research community looks into future scenarios.
IPCC Press Release

GENEVA, May 18 – Climate experts will meet in Laxenburg near Vienna, Austria, on 18-20 May 2015 at an Expert Meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to discuss and further develop new socioeconomic scenarios as shared tools for climate research.

Experts from the climate change research community will meet with representatives of the IPCC at the meeting hosted by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria.

“We use scenarios much like testing probes to explore future societal developments and their consequences for climate and the environment,” said Keywan Riahi, who leads IIASA’s energy program and is convening the Expert Meeting. He is also a lead author of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) on the mitigation of climate change. “The scenarios that were assessed by the IPCC have proven vital for the AR5. This expert meeting will have a detailed look at a new generation of scenarios and framework that the climate change research community has adopted to facilitate the integrated analysis of future climate impacts, vulnerabilities, adaptation, and mitigation,” said Riahi.

Scenarios, as used in research with integrated assessment models, are stories about potential ways that the future might develop. They feature specific quantitative elements and details about how sectors such as the economy, climate, and the energy sector interact. By looking at scenarios, researchers look for insights into the paths and circumstances that might lead to specific objectives.

“The scenarios from the research community form the backbone of our analysis of potential climate change impacts as well as mitigation and adaptation solutions,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, Chief Economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, which deals with the mitigation of climate change. The IPCC facilitated the development of the new scenarios in AR5 and assessed their results in the report, but the process is coordinated by the research community.

The Expert Meeting is being convened to continue the dialogue with the research community, to take stock of the achievements of the process during the AR5 cycle, to share available information across scientific disciplines, and to discuss the role of scenarios in future IPCC products.

With the meeting the IPCC intends to bring together scientific groups with diverse expertise and backgrounds to share experiences and expectations related to the scenario community’s activities and to facilitate further development of common scenarios in climate change research. This will allow a more integrated assessment of mitigation, adaptation, and climate change impacts across the entirety of IPCC work in the future.

The development of the new socioeconomic scenarios, called ‘Shared Socioeconomic Pathways’ (SSPs) complements the Representative Concentration Pathways already used in AR5; these are previously developed trajectories for future levels of greenhouse gases that are being explored in experiments by the climate modeling community.

The SSPs enable researchers to conduct related studies across a broad range of topics. Just before the IPCC meeting a new generation of SSP scenarios has been made publicly available for review by the community (see below). The research communities will continue to investigate the implications of various socioeconomic developments on the local, regional, or global scale for the impacts of climate change and the costs, risks, and benefits of a range of possible policies.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the world body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly, to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.

It released the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) in four stages over 2013 and 2014, finishing with the AR5 Synthesis Report in November 2014.

The IPCC organizes Expert Meetings and Workshops to facilitate discussions of topics relevant to the assessment process and to receive early input from the scientific community. In order to enhance coordination across the Working Groups in the preparation of the IPCC Assessment and Special Reports, topics of a cross-cutting nature are of particular interest. Proposals for Expert Meetings and Workshops are approved by the IPCC Plenary. The nomination process for the two kinds of events differs, as governments nominate experts for Workshops, while for Expert Meetings, attendees are nominated by the Working Group Co-Chairs.

———————————————-
Database for the SSPs:
 secure.iiasa.ac.at/web-apps/ene/…

Scenario database of the IPCC AR5:
 secure.iiasa.ac.at/web-apps/ene/…

———————————————-

About IIASA The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is an international scientific institute that conducts research into the critical issues of global environmental, economic, technological, and social change that we face in the twenty-first century. Our findings provide valuable options to policy makers to shape the future of our changing world. IIASA is independent and funded by scientific institutions in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, and Europe. www.iiasa.ac.at

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 15th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

On the Occasion of the Second Annual United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum,

The Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) invites you to:

Expert Session: “The Arab World’s Transition to Sustainable Energy Pathway: A Look from Inside”

19 May 2015, 2:40 – 3:55 pm
Sheraton Times Square Hotel, New York (Room C)

In the last few years, Arab countries have taken a number of initiatives to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency investments. The session aims to present these key developments and highlight ‘hot’ energy markets in the region. In particular, the session will focus on private sector investment opportunities, highlight developments in energy subsidy reforms and present newly launched renewable energy and energy efficiency supporting policies. The presentation will be based on the recently released 2015 edition of the Arab Future Energy Index (AFEX) developed by the Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE) with support of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Arab Climate Resilience Initiative. AFEX 2015 assesses the sustainable energy investment climate in 17 countries of the Arab region and is a key analytical benchmarking tool for gauging progress on national energy goals. As the region embarks on the implementation of the expected post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), AFEX provides a practical analytical tool that is expected to play a critical role tracking progress of the expected future SDG on energy.


On the Occasion of the Second Annual United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum,


The Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) invites you to:

Expert Session: “The Arab World’s Transition to Sustainable Energy Pathway: A Look from Inside”

19 May 2015, 2:40 – 3:55 pm
Sheraton Times Square Hotel, New York (Room C)

Agenda: 19 May 2015, 2:40 – 3:55 pm

2:40 pm: Opening remarks by Dr. Tareq Emtairah, RCREEE Executive Director and Mr. Adel Abdellatif, Senior Strategic Advisor, Regional Bureau for Arab States, UNDP, on addressing the sustainable energy challenges in the Arab region.

2:50 pm: Presentation of AFEX 2015 key progress highlights on sustainable energy development in the Arab region by Ms. Nurzat Myrsalieva RCREEE Lead

3:10 pm: Expert views and panel discussions, moderated by Dr. Tareq Emtairah:

Panelists:

• Palestine: H.E. Dr. Omar Kittaneh, Minister of the Palestine Energy Authority

• UAE: Mr. Dane McQueen, UAE Advisor on Sustainable Energy Opportunities in the Arab Region

• The World Bank: Mr. Alejandro Moreno, Energy specialist, Energy and Extractives Global Practice

3:30 pm: Audience Q&A session

3:55 pm: Concluding remarks

For more information, please visit: www.rcreee.org and se4allforum.org/forum-agenda, or contact  rcreee.org

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

UAE: Mr. Dane McQueen, UAE Advisor on Sustainable Energy Opportunities in the Arab Region

• The World Bank: Mr. Alejandro Moreno, Energy specialist, Energy and Extractives Global Practice

3:30 pm:

Audience Q&A session

3:55 pm:

Concluding remarks

For more information, please visit: www.rcreee.org and se4allforum.org/forum-agenda, or contact  ana.rovzar at rcreee.org

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany; Biovision Foundation in Zurich, Switzerland; and Millennium Institute in Washington DC, USA organize, a few days before the May session of the Post?2015 Intergovernmental negotiations on follow?up and review, titled “Follow?up and Review Mechanisms for Natural Resource Management and Governance to Achieve the SDGs.”

They will address some key issues associated with this topic. The event’s main focus is on the management and governance of natural resources, but the options presented could be further developed and applied to other thematic and cross-cutting areas.
It examines options on how to address the conflicting uses and the need for protection of natural resources across and among different goals and targets.

“A High?Level Event on Follow?Up and Review Mechanisms for Natural Resource Management and Governance to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

12 – 13 May 2015

at the Millennium Broadway Hotel New York, 145 West 44th Street, New York.

This High?Level Event aims at providing a platform for UN Member States, UN organizations, ministries, non-governmental organisations, academia, civil society, and the private sector – to discuss options for follow?up and review mechanisms connecting national, regional and global levels.

It is an invitation only event – and for more information, please visit the event’s website:  globalsoilweek.org/thematic-areas…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

John Oliver on this Sunday night’s edition of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” which has fast become must-see TV, the British host said: “This week has shone a serious light on the disparities in Baltimore between the community and the police force—disparities that were highlighted when six officers were arrested on charges in Gray’s death, and were then released on bail,” he said.

He threw to a news clip announcing that the six officers charged in Gray’s death had bail amounts ranging from $250,000-300,000.

“That sounds like a fair amount for such serious charges, but juxtapose that with the bail set for people involved in the protests, like this 18-year-old who helped smash in the windows of several cars, including a police car. How much was his bail?” asked Oliver.

The young man in question is Allan Bullock, who allegedly was captured on film bashing in the windows of an unmarked police car with a traffic cone. And his bail was set at $500,000—more than for any of the officers charged with Gray’s death.

“Five hundred thousand dollars for breaking car windows!” he said. “To put that in context, even Robert Durst had his bail set at just $300,000 after definitely not killing that guy in Galveston, Texas. That amount of money makes absolutely no sense! That kid’s crimes were misdemeanors, he turned himself in—in fact, the only explanation for his bail being set that high is that, just like Geraldo Rivera and that guy from CNN, judges in Baltimore can’t look at black people without seeing millionaire Russell Simmons.”

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

The Rise and Fall of a Modern ‘Devshirme’ in Erdogan’s Turkey

by Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute
April 30, 2015
 www.meforum.org/5210/turkey-moder…

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Originally published under the title, “How Non-Muslims “Survive” in Turkey.”

Prominent non-Muslims in Turkey, then and now. Left: an Ottoman Janissary officer. Right: the Armenian Christian intellectual Etyen Mahcupyan, who retired as advisor to Turkey’s prime minister after saying “what happened to Armenians in 1915″ was “genocide.”

Last October, Etyen Mahcupyan, a leading Turkish Armenian intellectual, “liberal” writer and columnist, was appointed as “chief advisor” to Turkey’s Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. At first glance, this was good news in a country where Islamists privately adhere to the old Ottoman millet system, in which non-Muslims were treated as second-class (if not third-class) citizens.

In reality, Mahcupyan was a reincarnation of the Ottoman “devshirme” system, in which the Ottoman state machinery produced several non-Muslim converts who enjoyed a place in the higher echelons of the palace bureaucracy, and the finer things of life, because their pragmatism earned them excellent relations with the ruling Muslim elite.

In a December interview with Turkey’s leading daily, Hurriyet, Mahcupyan said, “Whatever has been a [political] asset for Turkey’s Armenian community (they number around 60,000) is an asset for the Jewish community too. But… there is Israel… As long as the psychology of the Israel issue continues to influence politics in Turkey and relations between the two countries do not normalize…” The line, which Mahcupyan shyly did not finish, probably would have gone on like this: “Turkey’s Jews will keep on paying the price.”

Mahcupyan admitted that if Turkey’s Jews felt alienated, it was the government’s responsibility to do something about that.

What more? “I have lived through this personally for the past 60 years,” he explained. “Among Turkey’s non-Muslim minorities, including Jews and Armenians, there is an opinion about humiliating Muslims.” As Mahcupyan’s statement is not true, it therefore just seems a way to justify Islamists’ intimidation of Jews.

Next, Mahcupyan argued, “Both Jews and Armenians are better-educated [than Muslim Turks] and more open to the West. And this brings in a feeling of superiority complex.” In this view, daily attacks on Turkey’s Jews and other non-Muslims happen because Jews and Armenians humiliate Muslims — they are better-educated than Muslims and hence their superiority complex. The charge is, at best, silly.

As in Ottoman times, just one unpleasant utterance can suffice to end a devshirme’s career in government service.

Only a few months later, Mahcupyan would learn how wrong he was about the Islamist supremacists in Ankara and their inherent intolerance to liberal thinking.

Mahcupyan recently commented on Pope Francis’s remarks on April 12, in which the Pope described 1915 as “the first genocide of the 20th century,” and said that the Vatican had “thrown off a 100-year-old psychological burden.”

If, Mahcupyan said, accepting that what happened in Bosnia and Africa were genocides, “it is impossible not to call what happened to Armenians in 1915 genocide, too.”

It was probably the first time in Turkish history that a senior government official recognized the Armenian genocide. Once again, at first glance, that was good news in a country where outright denial has been the persistent official policy. But it seems Turkey was not quite as liberal as Mahcupyan had thought.

Immediately after his remarks became public, EU Minister Volkan Bozkir expressed unease, saying that “Mahcupyan’s description was not appropriate for his title of adviser.” But that was not the only price Mahcupyan would have to pay.

A few days after his remarks on genocide, Mahcupyan “retired” as chief adviser to Prime Minister Davutoglu — after only about six months in the job.

Officially, Mahcupyan had retired in March after turning 65, the mandatory retirement age for civil servants. But it was an open secret in Ankara that his departure came simply because Turkey’s Islamists were not quite the liberals he had claimed they were.

The “Mahcupyan affair” has a message to Turkey’s dwindling non-Muslim minorities: Just like an Ottoman devshirme, a non-Muslim can rise and become a darling of today’s neo-Ottoman Turks. He can win hearts and minds in important offices in Ankara — and a bright career. But to maintain his fortunes he must remain loyal to the official Islamist line, both in deed and rhetoric. Just one unpleasant utterance would suffice to end a devshirme’s career in government service.

That is the kind of collective psychology into which Turkey’s ruling Islamists force non-Muslims: either become a collaborator, or…

There is another Turkish Armenian columnist who looks more seasoned than Mahcupyan in his devshirme career. Markar Esayan, a writer for a fiercely pro-government daily, recently said in reference to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s 2014 statement about the Armenian victims of 1915: “[Erdogan's] message of condolences illustrates how we have achieved the Ottoman spirit in line with this century and its democratic practice. Furthermore, the practices in the last 13 years [of the Justice and Development Party's rule] have positively influenced our [Armenian] community and non-Muslims.”

Apparently Esayan is happy with Turkey’s neo-Ottomans and their Islamist rule, including their rigid policies of genocide-denial, which he claims have done good to Turkey’s Armenians and other non-Muslim citizens. Etyen Mahcupyan may have been punished, but Markar Esayan is being rewarded for his loyalty: he has been selected to run for parliament on the ticket of Prime Minister Davutoglu’s party!

———————————————-
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a columnist for the Turkish daily Hürriyet and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Related Topics: Turkey and Turks | Burak Bekdil

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


Bernie Sanders is running for president

.
By Dan Merica, CNN

April 30, 2015

Washington (CNN)Bernie Sanders is in.

The independent Vermont senator told the Associated Press in a story published Wednesday that he plans to run for the Democrats’ 2016 presidential nomination. The news was confirmed by multiple Sanders aides.

“I am running for president,” he told The Associated Press.

“People should not underestimate me,” Sanders told the AP. “I’ve run outside of the two-party system, defeating Democrats and Republicans, taking on big-money candidates and, you know, I think the message that has resonated in Vermont is a message that can resonate all over this country.”

Who is Bernie Sanders?

Sanders caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate but is an unlikely candidate for the Democratic nomination, primarily because he has never been a registered member of the party and calls himself a “democratic socialist.”

Yet many of his views fit with the Democratic left, a constituency in which Sanders has found a small yet devout following.

Sanders and his top advisers hope that group of voters will propel his dark horse candidacy. Though Hillary Clinton is the dominant frontrunner, many in the progressive left of the party think she’s too moderate and are clamoring for a different candidate to support.

Sanders will outline his presidential plans further on Thursday when he holds a press conference in Washington. Sanders’ campaign advisers said that while their candidate has announced his plans to run, he won’t hold his first campaign rally until May. That event is expected to be in Vermont.
Here comes Bernie Sanders

The Democratic presidential nominee that doesn’t have to be a registered Democrat.

Sanders is an outspoken critic of Wall Street banks and the outsized influence of money in politics and is a supporter of universal health care. He regularly talks about the need to rebuild the middle class and raise taxes on America’s highest earners.

“At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we need a progressive tax system in this country which is based on ability to pay,” Sanders said last month in Washington. “It is not acceptable that a number of major profitable corporations have paid zero in federal income taxes in recent years, and that millionaire hedge fund managers often enjoy an effective tax rate which is lower than the truck drivers or nurses.”

In interviews before his campaign announcement, Sanders said trade, income inequality and health care would be key tenants of his run. But despite having vocal liberal supporters on these issues, Sanders is a dark horse candidate and has acknowledged that his run will be uphill. A CNN/ORC poll in March found that Sanders has the support of only 3% of Democratic voters.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Sanders moved to Vermont after graduating from the University of Chicago. His first successful run for office came in 1981 when he was elected Burlington’s mayor by a mere 10 votes. He was elected as Vermont’s at-large member of Congress in 1990 and jumped to the Senate in 2007. Sanders is the longest-serving independent in congressional history.

Sanders does not have the personality of a typical politician. He is sometimes gruff and blunt, dispensing with social niceties and usually getting right to the point. He has come to be known as much for his fly-away hair as his passionate speeches in the Senate — and has bluntly lamented the way political journalism in the United States focuses on personality.

Sen. Sanders talks trade deals – Sanders watches as the Left looks to Warren

“I think this is not about personality,” Sanders told CNN earlier this year, raising his Vermonter-by-way-of-New York voice.
“I am not a singer, I am not a dancer, I am not an entertainer.”

He also starts with a small campaign infrastructure, largely the remnants of his past Senate runs, and is primarily being advised by Tad Devine, a Democratic political consultant who worked on the presidential campaign for Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. At an event this month in New Hampshire where Sanders leaned heavily into a presidential bid, the signs outside the house party touted his 2012 Senate re-election bid.

From the outset of his campaign, it appears money will be Sander’s biggest issue. The senator has regularly conceded in the last month that he would not be able to raise near the money Clinton will bring in.

“To run a credible campaign in this day and age, you do need a whole lot of money,” Sanders said. “Whether the magic number is $200 million, it is $150 million, it is a lot of money, but even with that, you would be enormously outspent by the Koch Brother candidates and the other candidates who will likely spend, in the final analysis, over $1 billion, if not two.”

Despite being a champion for many on the left, Sanders has been somewhat left out in the cold by big liberal organizations like MoveOn.org and Democracy for America, who have spent the last few months unsuccessfully urging Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to run for president.

“Obviously one would hope one would have as much support as possible from all walks of life,” Sanders said on Tuesday when asked why he thinks those groups aren’t rallying around him. “I am a great fan of Elizabeth and as for what people do and why they don’t do it, I am not going to speculate.”

Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action, even mentioned Warren in touting Sanders’ jump into the race.

“MoveOn members welcome Sen. Bernie Sanders to the presidential race,” said Galland. “The Democratic Party is made stronger by each additional voice who enters the race and commits to being a strong advocate for everyday, hardworking Americans and not just the wealthy few. That’s why we and our allies continue to call on Sen. Elizabeth Warren to also bring her tireless advocacy for middle-class and working Americans to the race. Our country will be stronger if she runs.”

Sanders enters a race that has so far been dominated by Clinton, the former secretary of state and Democrats’ prohibitive favorite for the nomination. For most of 2015, Sanders has been reticent to attack Clinton, but he recently has issued statements calling on her to change her policy positions.

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

Election 2016
Bernie Sanders’ Campaign Issues Truly Extraordinary Campaign Plank.
The Vermont independent wants Americans to own the businesses they work at by creating worker co-ops.

By Zaid Jilani / AlterNet
May 1, 2015

After his presidential announcement this week, many wondered how Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would distinguish himself from the other candidates running in the Democratic primary.

With his newly-published issues page, he offers some clues.

Among the 12 platform planks that he published there are several traditional ideas such as rebuilding American infrastructure and guaranteeing health care to all. But the very last platform offers a genuinely fresh idea: boosting America’s worker co-ops.

The Sanders campaign writes:

We need to develop new economic models to increase job creation and productivity. Instead of giving huge tax breaks to corporations which ship our jobs to China and other low-wage countries, we need to provide assistance to workers who want to purchase their own businesses by establishing worker-owned cooperatives. Study after study shows that when workers have an ownership stake in the businesses they work for, productivity goes up, absenteeism goes down and employees are much more satisfied with their jobs.

In the United States, co-ops are often associated with small businesses such as coffee shops or groceries. But with the right regulatory incentives and support, worker-owned businesses can be much larger. Take the Mondragon corporation of Spain, for example. Today it has over 70,000 employees and brings in annual revenues of over $12 billion Euros. Within the various units of the corporation, workers decide on the direction of production for the company as well as what to do with the profits. While CEO-to-worker pay ratios in the United States have reached over 300-to-1, in Mondragon the cooperative model ensures that in most of its operations, “the ratio of compensation between top executives and the lowest-paid members is between three to one and six to one.”

Today, there are 11,000 worker-owned companies in America, and there are up to 120 million Americans who are involved in some form of co-op if you include credit unions in the tally. By endorsing their expansion, Sanders is proving that his differences with his opponents are not just in style but in substance – providing an alternative to the top-down corporations that run our economy.

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

The THIRD ANNUAL ARCTIC CIRCLE ASSEMBLY
OCTOBER 16 – 18, 2015
REYKJAVÍK, ICELAND

PRESIDENT OF FRANCE – WILL ATTEND THE ASSEMBLY and Deliver an Opening Speech linked to the Climate Negotiations at COP 21.

At a meeting at the Élysée Palace in Paris on April 17th, the President of France, François Hollande, accepted an invitation from President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson to deliver an opening speech at the October Assembly. The attendance by President Hollande is linked to the upcoming climate negotiations COP21 in Paris in December and the relevance of the Arctic to those negotiations.

PRESIDENT XI JINPING – And Offered to host a special CHINA SESSION at the Assembly.

President of China XI Jinping has in a recent letter to President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson endorsed China’s participation in the Arctic Circle Assembly and declared his decision that China will host a special Plenary Session at the October Assembly in Reykjavík.


CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL – suggested a special plenary GERMANY and the ARCTIC SESSION at the Assembly.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has in a recent letter to President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson announced her support for the Arctic Circle and its importance as a venue to present the involvement of Germany in the future of the Arctic. Consequently, the program of the October Assembly in Reykjavík will include a special Plenary Session on Germany and the Arctic.

More Assembly news in the coming weeks.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 29th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Mitigation and Adaptation in the UNFCCC Debates

An analysis of the UNFCCC’s discussions provided by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin

for graphs please see the original - weadapt.org/knowledge-base/adapt…

Introduction

Climate Change Adaptation appears to occupy the center of the climate negotiations. There are claims in the literature on climate diplomacy about an ‘adaptation turn’ in the last years of the negotiation. We challenge those and find adaptation to have been present and highly visible from the very beginning, particularly the specific question of adaptation finance.

In the larger debate on climate change, the notion of ‘adaptation’ is often opposed (or at least contrasted) to that of ‘mitigation’. Such a contrast is not without reason. The two notions refer to vastly different ways to deal with global warming.

‘Mitigation’ refers to the efforts to lessen the impacts of climate change by acting on its causes and therefore reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG).

‘Adaptation’, on the contrary, refers to the efforts to prepare our societies to cope with the effects of climate change.

Though the two approaches are not mutually exclusive (there is no contradiction between striving to avoid the dangers and prepare to deal with those that cannot be avoided), they have often been opposed by the actors in the climate change debate. In this narrative we explore the status of mitigation and adaptation in the UNFCCC debate.

This article is part of the Climaps project by EMAPS. If you want to learn more about the project, please read more in this article.


The rise of adaptation related issues

Looking at figure 1 of the text, the difference between mitigation and adaptation is evident. Terms related to the efforts to mitigate climate change organize 7 of the 12 clusters of the networks, grouped in three main semantic arenas, widely scattered across the graph (‘emission reduction’; ‘carbon sinks’; ‘energies, technology transfer and clean development projects’).

Compared to the mitigation clusters, adaptation clusters are fewer and more compact. The 3 clusters dedicated to adaptation (‘environmental and social impacts’, ‘vulnerability and adaptation’ activity and adaptive ‘funding and equity’) are tightly grouped at the centre of the map. This shows the difference in status of adaptation in the UNFCCC negotiations.

Where mitigation is the primary objective of the conference, and thus formulated in numerous ways, adaptation, impacts and vulnerability seem more limited in their articulation, but also more commonly connected to other issues (which accounts for their centrality in the map). The figure also reflects the different types of contextualisation of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Figure 1: from Climaps.eu.The ‘place’ of adaptation. Network of terms co-occurring in the same paragraphs of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, Volume 12. Node position is determined by a force vector algorithm (Jacomy et al., forthcoming) bringing together terms directly or indirectly linked, and keeping away terms with fewer co-occurrences. Node size is proportional to their frequency in the corpus. Node color follows the clusters identified by the clustering algorithm. Click to see main Issue map.

Looking at Figure 2, one will immediately notice that there is (with the exception of COP6 in the Hague) a general increase of the overall number of appearances of issues until COP16 in Cancún. This reflects the increase of the total number of participants during the COPs.

Adaptation and mitigation issues are both visible in the UNFCCC negotiations. However mitigation has been from the very beginning a top priority on the negotiations’ agenda. In the first phase of the negotiations little attention was dedicated to the actions of developing countries to cope with the impacts of climate change. Except that the most vulnerable members succeeded in putting the issue of financing adaptation activities on the agenda from the first COP (see also figure 4).

Adaptation, however, assumed greater importance in the second phase of the negotiations. With all parties facing difficulties in achieving their mitigation objectives, debates on what shall be done regarding vulnerability, climate change impacts and adaptation, as well as how to finance these actions became more relevant.

Figure 2: from Climpas.eu. Stream graph of the absolute and relative visibility of issues during UNFCCC negotiations, 1995-2013. The size of each flow is proportional to the number of paragraphs in which two terms defining the issue are present. Flows are sorted according to the number of occurrences: for each COP, the highest flow corresponds to the most visible issue while the lowest corresponds to the least visible. Click to see Issue map.

The diagram (Figure 3) shows a remarkable stability. Most countries maintain their relative rank throughout the 19 COPs. The 10 most active countries are represented by a rather stable, small group, which includes the United States, China, Europe, Australia, and Japan. The three leaders of the negotiations – China, the United States, and Europe – are ubiquitous. There are several exceptions. First, the Philippines and Bolivia, two countries from the southern hemisphere, have taken on very active roles, perhaps disproportionate with their size.

Figure 3: from Climaps.eu. Stream graph of the absolute and relative visibility of the countries of the UNFCCC negotiations, 1995-2013. The size of each country flow is proportional to the number of paragraphs in which the name of the country appears. Flows are sorted according to the number of occurrences: for each COP, the highest flow corresponds to the most visible issue while the lowest corresponds to the least visible. Click to see main Issue map.
Key messages

- Reading the two maps (Figures 1 and 2) together, it is possible to remark that (as expected) mitigation plays a preeminent role in climate diplomacy. Mitigation constitutes the bulk of UNFCCC’s discussions.

- Adaptation appears to occupy the center of the climate negotiations and has been present and highly visible from the very beginning (especially with the topic of adaptation funding). These findings challenge some of the claims in the literature about climate diplomacy about an ‘adaptation turn’ in the past few years of the negotiation.

- What has always been present and visible in the negotiations is not the entire discussion about adaptation, but the specific question of adaptation finance.

- No clear pattern exists to support the hypothesis that certain states or groups of states may be particularly active on adaptation related issues.

The maps were produced by analyzing the reports on the UNFCCC’s discussions provided by Volume 12 of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB).

More about this project:

Climate Adaptation in Bangladesh – A case study on tracking adaptation funding.
A closer look at the practices of vulnerability assessment and the priorities of adaptation funding.

Published:
28th April 2015

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 29th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

I got my information today, April 29th, from statements by IIASA Director General and CEO, Professor Pavel Kabat, who participated at the Rome event Tue Apr 28, 2015, and from the Reuters reporting of today by Philip Pullela.

In effect the idea of a Papal Encyclical on Climate Change was breached already April 8th when Yale University hosted a panel discussion on how Pope Francis’s upcoming encyclical on the environment could transform the global climate debate for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

This rare Papal Encyclical on the environment in is expected to declare climate action a moral imperative for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. The encyclical — or “papal letter” — will be the first in the church’s history that addresses environmental issues specifically.

The Policy points are:

The Vatican and U.N. team up on climate change against sceptics.

* Pope writes keenly awaited encyclical on the environment

* U.N. leader and pope discuss effects of climate change

* Sceptics say view one-side, deny climate change man-made

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon discussed this Tuesday climate change with the pope before opening a one-day conference of scientists and religious leaders called “The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development”.

The pope, is due to make a major address on sustainable development at the United Nations in September, has said he believes man is primarily responsible for climate change and is writing an encyclical on the environment. The encyclical will be released in June.

Ban Ki-moon, opened the Rome conference of some 60 scientists, several of whom met at IIASA in Austria, the following day – April 29th. In Rome Participated religious leaders and diplomats besides the scientists. The Vatican event hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, urged industrialised countries to invest in clean energy and reduce their carbon footprints.

“Mitigating climate change and adapting to its effects are necessary to eradicate extreme poverty, reduce inequality and secure equitable, sustainable economic development,” said Ban Ki-moon.

The gathering’s joint declaration said “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive control is a moral imperative for all of humanity”.

Ban said he and the pope discussed Francis’ keenly awaited encyclical, which will be addressed to all of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and is expected to address the issue of man’s responsibility for climate change.

The pope has said he hopes the document will influence the U.N. conference on climate change in Paris this year.


“It (the encyclical) will convey to the world that protecting our environment is an urgent moral imperative and a sacred duty for all people of faith and people of conscience,” Ban said.


Jeffrey Sachs, Colombia University professor and director of the U.N. Sustainable Solutions Network, told reporters in Rome that companies that invest in fossil fuels stand to lose money.


“Everybody needs to understand that policies are going to change to make it unprofitable if you wreck the planet,” he said. “Those companies that continue exploring and developing fossil fuel resources for which there is no safe use are going to pay a very heavy cost for that”


The Heartland Institute, a Chicago think tank that says climate change is not human-induced, sent a delegation to Rome to contest the premise of the conference.

Heartland member Christopher Monckton of Britain, told reporters that the pope “should listen to both sides of the scientific argument … not only people of one, narrow, poisonous political and scientific viewpoint”. (Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Heartland did not talk about who funds it and how US Oil Industry tycoons besides its beer brewery, are the sugar daddies of its operations. Also, we do not know if former Czech President Vaclav Klaus, their ally, was present as part of their team at the Vatican. We met him at previous activities of Heartland. {this is a SustainabiliTank comment}


The Pope’s encyclical represents one of the most important documents on the moral implications of the damage we are doing to our planet at an extremely significant moment,” said Mary Evelyn Tucker, a senior lecturer research scholar at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and the Yale Divinity School. “It will have profound implications in terms of environmental justice for the poor and those whose lives will be disrupted by this ecological crisis.”
We add to this that the suffering was imposed on us by the International Oil Industry and their political serves.

The panelists at Yale included:

Science: Peter Crane, Dean, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES)
Ethics: Margaret Farley, Yale Divinity School (YDS), Emeritus
Religion: Mary Evelyn Tucker, Forum on Religion & Ecology, F&ES, YDS
Conservation: Dekila Chungyalpa, World Wildlife Fund
Law: Douglas Kysar, Yale Law School

Concluding Remarks: Gregory Sterling, Dean of the Yale Divinity School.

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

from:  kurtbayer.wordpress.com/2015/04/…

Kurt Bayer’s Commentary
April 28, 2015 · —

Form Beats Substance: Media as the Dismal Estate!

The international media rejoice in the fact that Greek Prime Minister Tsipras has removed finance minister Varoufakis from his role as the main negotiator with the EU authorities about the completion of the second bail-out program, which should release another 7.2 bill € to the Greek government.

During the past two months, much more attention was given to Varoufakis’ outfits, his mode of transport, his style, his eccentricities than to the substance of the Greek negotiating position. Admittedly, Varoufakis’ personal style must have been infuriating to his ECOFIN colleagues whom he lectured on how wrong their anti-crisis economic policy was.

True, his interventions were longer on generalities than on detail, because in order to argue that Eurozone policy had failed, detailed program assessments were not necessary: the fact that Eurozone output is still below its pre-crisis Peak (-24% for Greece), unemployment more than one third higher (25% for Greece), the combined debt Ratio 15 percentage points higher (now nearly 180% for Greece) should – in a rational discussion atmosphere – suffice to make a point. However, Varoufakis massively misjudged the Eurozone ministers’ readiness to engage in a constructive, very principled dialogue about the direction of Eurozone economic policy with a tiny Eurozone Country which had massively underperformed for decades, and needed help. While such a discussion would be more than called for, Varoufakis’ presumption that the dismal Greek case was the moment and opportunity to do this, was wrong: his ministerial colleagues would not have this, period!

What is truly disappointing to the outside observer is the fact that both traditional and electronic media talked more about the “pop-economist”, about his motorcycle, his upturned collar, the shouting matches and his enervating style than about substance.


Repeated reports that the Greeks did not produce any program changes, notwithstanding the fact that a few weeks ago Greece produced a 26-page paper describing their program, that Greece refused to engage in “structural reforms” and do “their homework”, dominated media reports. And this is not only true of superficial tabloids, but also of the Financial Times, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, The Guardian, BBC, CNN, ORF, ZDF – and so on.

Not one of the mainstream papers or media reported on the conflicts in substance between the new Greek government and the Eurozone Ministers.

Rather, the gist of the stories was “that the Greeks refused to deliver”. Very little mentioning of the fact that the disfunctionalities of the Greek economy and society were not the responsibility of the new government, but rather that of the previous government parties – which the populace had removed from government in the last election.

No mentioning that the new government is serious about tax collection, broadening the tax base, fighting corruption – in contrast to the previous governments when they had been under the watch of the infamous “Troika”.

No mentioning of the fact that the new government program puts first emphasis on (admittedly under-defined) growth strategies, instead of crippling the economy even further.

It seems that the European Mainstream media are so enthralled with the morals-based disciplinary arguments of the Eurozone Finance Ministers and heads of State (“old Agreements must be honored no matter what”) that they forget that democratic elections are the backbone of Europe, that the miserysation of large swaths of Greek population warrants rethinking of the strategy, that support from the Greek population for the anyhow very difficult recovery of the Greek economy, is crucial for the viability of an agreed program, and for the survival of the Eurozone. What is needed is to bring the Greek government to its feet.

To get the new Greek government thrown out, in order to bring the old Mainstream parties back, cannot be the consideration for driving finance ministers’ negotiations with the difficult Greeks, or can it?

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By same author – Related:

An Open Letter to the Eurogroup Meeting on Feb. 11, 2015

The Greek Crisis as a Lesson for the Eurozone – In “Crisis Response”

Laokoon and the Serpents – In “Crisis Response”

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