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Posted on on October 16th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

Monsanto Goes on Trial for Ecocide

By MercoPress
posted also by Readers Supported News
15 October 16

his symbolic trial, which will be live streamed from Oct. 15, 8:30 a.m. GMT+2 on the tribunal website, will follow guidelines of the United Nations’ international court of justice and will have no legal standing. Rather, its purpose is to gather legal counsel from the judges as well as legal grounds for future litigation.

”The aim of the tribunal is to give a legal opinion on the environmental and health damage caused by the multinational Monsanto,“ the tribunal organizers state on their website. ”This will add to the international debate to include the crime of Ecocide into international criminal law. It will also give people all over the world a well documented legal file to be used in lawsuits against Monsanto and similar chemical companies.”

Monsanto, which is inching closer to a US$ 66bn takeover from German pharmaceuticals giant Bayer, has faced a never-ending slew of health and environmental controversies over its products since, well, the beginning of the twenty first century.

Monsanto’s historical line-up of products includes banned and highly toxic chemicals such as 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (a dioxin-containing component of the defoliant Agent Orange); PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyl); and Lasso, a herbicide banned in Europe. Glyphosate, the controversial main ingredient in Monsanto’s best-selling weed-killer RoundUp, is the most widely used pesticide in the world. Monsanto is also the world’s largest genetically modified (GMO) seed maker, giving them a major hand over the world food supply

The trial, which will proceed on the same weekend as World Food Day, is organized by Organic Consumers Association, International Foundation for Organic Agriculture (IFOAM) Organics International, Navdanya, Regeneration International, Millions Against Monsanto as well as dozens of global food, farming and environmental justice groups.

Monsanto Corporate Engagement office has stated that “in growing our food, farmers face some tough challenges as the world’s population continues to grow. To address these ever increasing challenges collaboratively and advance our commitment to human rights, we welcome a genuine constructive conversation with diverse ideas and perspectives about food and agriculture production.

”This mock trial is not a real dialogue but a stunt staged by the International Foundation for Organic Agriculture (IFOAM), Organic Consumers Association and others who are fundamentally opposed to modern agriculture innovation, where anti-agriculture technology and anti-Monsanto critics play organizers, judge and jury, and where the outcome is pre-determined. Here is a link to our Open Letter regarding this mock trial.


+1 # guomashi 2016-10-15 14:01
Where is the link to the Open Letter regarding the mock trial?

.. not that I would read it or anyone would believe it.

May Monsanto rot in hell.
They are now going around to all the farms they can and testing the produce to see if any of it got cross-pollinate d with their patented life-forms.
Then they sue.


Posted on on September 29th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

FELIX DODDS writes on his blog: Bokova out? Georgieva in for next UN Secretary General.

He Writes – The rumors that have been circulating for the last month have now proven to be true. The Bulgarian government has withdrawn support from Irina Bokova as their candidate for UN Secretary General and replaced her with Kristalina Georgieva, the European commissioner for budget and human resources.

There is some evidence that the right of center parties in European capitals have been behind this with some articles appearing in the last few weeks against Bokova. The Guardian reported on the 26th:
“one of her (Kristalina’s) staff members was hacked and emails purporting to be from one of her top aides were sent out to the rest of her office, instructing them to attack Bokova”
There is no question that Kristalina has the cv and record to be a very good UN Secretary General. She is a strong supporter of sustainable development issues she will pick up the SDGs and climate agendas with ease. She is dynamic and very personable and was very active around last week’s UN General Assembly High Level session. Clearly preparing for what was expected to be an announcement this week. There was lobbying by the Russians to support Bokova to strop Kristalina entering the process. The Bulgarian government had indicated that Bokova had to be in the top three for them to continue their support. She came 6th out of 9 in the 5th straw poll.

It is unclear if Bukova will drop out now.

A clear positive outcome from Kristalina entering the Secretary General process is that you can expect that she will appear in the top three in the next Secretary General poll on 5th of October. This does mean that a woman from the Eastern bloc will be in clear contention.

Dodds says: I’ve argued from the beginning that a woman from the Eastern bloc should be elected on the basis of regional rotation and should be a woman.

So some of the problems for the UK and Germany with Bokova were she was seen to be too pro-Russian or at least you could argue more neutral.

This brings us to the potentially problems with Kristalina’s candidature she is clearly a pro EU candidate and from a right of center political background affiliated to the European Peoples Party at the European level. With the present tension in the Security Council between Russia and the US, UK and France over Syria her candidature may be negatively impacted.
Finally a question that I have is why would Russia not veto her as she would ultimately be sen as a WEOG candidate when there are less obviously pro EU candidates left in the face from other Eastern bloc countries. The reality of introducing Kristalina as a candidate, and taking Bokova out if that is what is going to happen, could mean we end up with an Eastern European man.

Cant wait until the next straw poll on the 5th of October when the P5 will have colored voting cards (red will now signify a veto and that candidate will be out) .

Posted Yesterday, September 28, 2016, by Felix Dodds

The ten non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly (with end of term date):
Angola (2016), Egypt (2017), Japan (2017), Malaysia (2016), New Zealand (2016), Senegal (2017), Spain (2016), Ukraine (2017), Uruguay (2017). These and the Permanent Members – the 5 Veto Powers – will be voting for the UNSG – a total of 15 votes that are meaningful only if there is no veto. The first such vote will be attempted October 5th 2016.

REVIEWING ABOVE AND EXPECTING THAT RUSSIA WILL VETO FRONT RUNNER Antonio Gutierez of Portugal who has 12 positives out of 15 possible votes with two negatives and one undecided – but it is common knowledge that one of the negatives is a Russian killer veto. The other negative may have been the less important Angola vote – a former Portuguese colony. That same logic seems to work also against the second favorite of the West – Kristalina Georgieva whose name did not appear in the five straw polls that were taken so far – but as a favorite of the West she might as well expect a Russian Veto.

OK – so we are left with: Vuk Jeremic of Serbia (6 negatives), Miroslav Lajcak of Slovakia (7 negatives), Danilo Turk of slovenia (7 negatives), Srgjan Kerim of Macedonia (9 negatives). The five VETO POWERS are China, France, Russia, The UK, The US. Whom would an EU Member State want to Veto from among those four candidates? We do not think that China has any interest in this and we trust the US would Veto only a candidate that seems to be too close to Russia – this specially these days of clear dissention and Russian expansion into the Middle East.

It seems tat a Serb has no appeal to the West for ethnic wars’ reasons – so we believe that the person ahead has less chance and we believe that the Slovak, Slovenian and Macedonian male delegates have the real inner path.


Posted on on September 21st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

Canada will impose nationwide carbon price.

Date: 20-September, 2016
Author: Ethan Lou

Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada.

Canada will impose a carbon price on provinces that do not adequately regulate emissions by themselves, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said on Sunday without giving details on how the Liberal government will do so.

Speaking on the CTV broadcaster’s “Question Period,” a national politics talk show, McKenna said the new emissions regime will be in place sometime in October, before a federal-provincial meeting on the matter.

She only said the government will have a “backstop” for provinces that do not comply, but did not address questions on penalties for defiance.

Canada’s 10 provinces, which enjoy significant jurisdiction over the environment, have been wary of Ottawa’s intentions and have said they should be allowed to cut carbon emissions their own way.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau persuaded the provinces in March to accept a compromise deal that acknowledged the concept of putting a price on carbon emissions, but agreed the specific details, which would take into account provinces’ individual circumstances, could be worked out later.

Canada’s four largest provinces, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, currently have either a tax on carbon or a cap-and-trade emissions-limiting system.

But Brad Wall, the right-leaning premier of the western energy-producing province of Saskatchewan, has long been resistant to federal emissions-limiting plans.

McKenna said provinces such as Saskatchewan can design a system in which emissions revenues go back to companies through tax cuts, which would dampen the impact of the extra cost brought by the carbon price.

McKenna added the government requires some uniformity in emissions reductions, but provinces can have different regulation methods.

When contacted, McKenna’s ministry, Environment and Climate Change Canada, repeated the “backstop” that she mentioned, but did not provide more details.

On Sunday’s program, McKenna did not address questions on whether the government will update its emission targets, which were set by the former Conservative government

The previous government had pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, a target that official figures show is out of reach in the absence of radical measures.

McKenna had called the prices “a floor, not a ceiling,” but said on Sunday only that the government will meet the previous targets “at least.”

A ministry spokeswoman said that as far back as the last summer, the Liberal platform stated the party would move away from the setting of the arbitrary emissions targets she says has been done in the past.


We post above with recalcitrant US State Governments in mind. Can the Obama Administration’s EPA think of something similar?


Posted on on September 15th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (…

Towards a New Economy: Investors forging a road less traveled.

We live in an economic world that most would call capitalism: a word we all use, but definitions vary. Generally starting with “An economic ‘system’ …”. The definitions go on to define aspects of the ownership of capital. What is left out is the question: “What are the goals of a capitalist system?” As the goals of a capitalist economy have changed, so have the investor strategies that fuel markets. Currently, the system has tended toward ‘maximizing shareholder profit’ rather than on creating companies that have long term value for shareholders through:

Transparent and accountable governance,
A stable employee base that makes enough money to purchase the output of the economy,
Policies that strengthen local communities, and a
Means of production that produces goods at the least cost to the environment.
Investors, who do use these metrics as a basis for their decisions, use terms such as ‘mission investing’ ,’ triple bottom line’, ‘ESG’ and ‘impact’ investing. However, such terms can miss the point because they imply that investors are searching for social good, not for metrics that provide returns above market rate. Yet as far back as 2009, Sarah Stranahan, speaking at a Sustainable Investing conference in New York, spoke about the Needmor Foundation, which has used a mission investing strategy.

Sarah Stranahan: “Why are we trying to prove that we [mission investors] are as good as the dominant markets? The dominant markets have failed dismally. Needmor did 4.5% better [than a comparable foundation without a mission strategy]. So what? We still lost 25% of our endowment. We failed in our fiduciary duty and disappointed our grantees and our staff because we had faith in the dominant markets.”

As foundations and funds were reassessing their strategic goals in 2009, Dave Chen in San Francisco was working on a plan to implement. Please continue by going to the link!


Posted on on September 15th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

Asia Society’s Executive Vice President Tom Nagorski invited the working press of New York City – that is the people reporting about activities in New York – rather then only those accredited only to the UN enclave – to tell us about the ASIA GAME CHANGERS AWARDS – perennial recognition of remarkable pioneering leaders and institutions that mostly work in a bottoms-up mode and manage to achieve things that major institution were not able to achieve. Having said this – let me also note that usually a very well established person – someone that has achieved the status of Malala Yousafai or Jack Ma are also recognized – this as they are now targets to demonstrate what an ASIAN can achieve.

The well wetted former contestants that were proposed by peers or establishment, vetted by the Asia Society, presented to the UN, are then honored at an Awards Dinner at the UN – bringing honor to the UN that the UN never deserved. Do not fret – that is how the World Works – luckily there are good people available sometimes where you expect it the least.

This year’s Underwriters of the Asia Society project are Citibank, United Airlines and Pepsico and the Awards Dinner and Celebration will be held at the UN on October 27, 2016 – at the tail-end of this year’s UN General Assembly.

This year’s list of ASIA GAME CHANGERS is headed by the iconic figure of Architect I.M. Pei (US/China) who is celebrated for Lifetime Achievements.

The other awardees in alphabetic order are:

- Muzoon Almellehan of Syria – for bringing education and hope to young girls, amid the trauma of war. She just turned 18 and had started her activities among the refugees in Jordan where her family fled from the Syrian little town – Dura.
She lives now in Newcastle, England where she can continue her own education.

– Marita Cheng of Australia – For engineering a betterv world, and ensuring that more of the engineers are women.
She is an Entrepreneur. She is 30 years old and created an app that helps women. She might br presented as someone who has achieved the kind of status Ms. Almellehan was fighting for.

– Soo-man Lee of South Korea – For turning her Nation’s pop culture into a global phenomenon.
She is the founder and producer of S.M. brand entertainment and “K-pop.”

– Sanduk Ruit of Nepal – an Eye-Surgeon – who brought the gift of sight, and productive life, by making available cataract removal to those in need. He did this for 100,000 people in Nepal and started programs in other countries including North Korea. He institutes this with mobilized centers going to the people.

– Ahmad Sarmast (afghanistan/Australia) – For restoring music and empowering children – in a war-ravaged nation.

– Dureen Shahnaz of Bangladesh – For “social-impact” investing that has changed the game for millions.
Founder of the Impact Investment Exchange Asia. She teaches the reinvestment of the return from investment in order to lead to growth.

– Karim Wasfi of Iraq – for using music to heal, in the aftermath of terror.
He is a renown cellist, conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra.

At the diner there will be a chance to listen also to a 13 year old kid from Bali who is already a good piano player and Game Changer in the making.



Posted on on September 14th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

Zarif is Right but his advice is old hat to us – Stop the Contrived Dependence on Oil – the only way that Unties the US from its Slavery to Saudi Arabia.

Zarif talks of WAVE – “World Against Violent Extremism” – and wants this to become a UN sponsored policy with the understanding that it is the Saudi Petrodollars that led to the destruction of Syria and that Wahhabi Sunni Extremism has not led only to attacks on Christians, Jews, and Shia, but also on the destruction of more normal Sunni communities that thrived in Syria and all ver the World. His pinpointing the Saudis and their enslavement to Wahhabism comes naturally to an Iranian who is part of a mainly Shia Nation that also an oil exporter – but nevertheless – his analysis is correct.

The posting of the Zarif column by The New York Times comes at a time President Obama has announced that he will VETO the bill in case Congress votes to allow Court cases against Saudi Arabia as having been in part responsible for the 9/11 attacks and the like of sane people jumping to their death because of crimes committed by Saudi citizens proven to have been aided by their government.

Please note – this is a rare occasion we have no understanding for a President Obama held position. In effect he seems to side with the GW Bush position when he released the Bin Laden family and sent them home from an airport that was closed to American citizens.

The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR to The New York Times

Mohammad Javad Zarif: Let Us Rid the World of Wahhabism

By MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF – September 13, 2016
Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

From Tehran: Public relations firms with no qualms about taking tainted petrodollars are experiencing a bonanza. Their latest project has been to persuade us that the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, is no more. As a Nusra spokesman told CNN, the rebranded rebel group, supposedly separated from its parent terrorist organization, has become “moderate.”

Thus is fanaticism from the Dark Ages sold as a bright vision for the 21st century. The problem for the P.R. firms’ wealthy, often Saudi, clients, who have lavishly funded Nusra, is that the evidence of their ruinous policies can’t be photoshopped out of existence. If anyone had any doubt, the recent video images of other “moderates” beheading a 12-year-old boy were a horrifying reality check.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, militant Wahhabism has undergone a series of face-lifts, but underneath, the ideology remains the same — whether it’s the Taliban, the various incarnations of Al Qaeda or the so-called Islamic State, which is neither Islamic nor a state. But the millions of people faced with the Nusra Front’s tyranny are not buying the fiction of this disaffiliation. Past experience of such attempts at whitewashing points to the real aim: to enable the covert flow of petrodollars to extremist groups in Syria to become overt, and even to lure Western governments into supporting these “moderates.” The fact that Nusra still dominates the rebel alliance in Aleppo flouts the public relations message.

Saudi Arabia’s effort to persuade its Western patrons to back its shortsighted tactics is based on the false premise that plunging the Arab world into further chaos will somehow damage Iran. The fanciful notions that regional instability will help to “contain” Iran, and that supposed rivalries between Sunni and Shiite Muslims are fueling conflicts, are contradicted by the reality that the worst bloodshed in the region is caused by Wahhabists fighting fellow Arabs and murdering fellow Sunnis.

While these extremists, with the backing of their wealthy sponsors, have targeted Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Shiites and other “heretics,” it is their fellow Sunni Arabs who have been most beleaguered by this exported doctrine of hate. Indeed, it is not the supposed ancient sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites but the contest between Wahhabism and mainstream Islam that will have the most profound consequences for the region and beyond.

While the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq set in motion the fighting we see today, the key driver of violence has been this extremist ideology promoted by Saudi Arabia — even if it was invisible to Western eyes until the tragedy of 9/11.

The princes in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, have been desperate to revive the regional status quo of the days of Saddam Hussein’s rule in Iraq, when a surrogate repressive despot, eliciting wealth and material support from fellow Arabs and a gullible West, countered the so-called Iranian threat. There is only one problem: Mr. Hussein is long dead, and the clock cannot be turned back.

The sooner Saudi Arabia’s rulers come to terms with this, the better for all. The new realities in our region can accommodate even Riyadh, should the Saudis choose to change their ways.

What would change mean? Over the past three decades, Riyadh has spent tens of billions of dollars exporting Wahhabism through thousands of mosques and madrasas across the world. From Asia to Africa, from Europe to the Americas, this theological perversion has wrought havoc. As one former extremist in Kosovo told The Times, “The Saudis completely changed Islam here with their money.”

Though it has attracted only a minute proportion of Muslims, Wahhabism has been devastating in its impact. Virtually every terrorist group abusing the name of Islam — from Al Qaeda and its offshoots in Syria to Boko Haram in Nigeria — has been inspired by this death cult.

So far, the Saudis have succeeded in inducing their allies to go along with their folly, whether in Syria or Yemen, by playing the “Iran card.” That will surely change, as the realization grows that Riyadh’s persistent sponsorship of extremism repudiates its claim to be a force for stability.

The world cannot afford to sit by and witness Wahhabists targeting not only Christians, Jews and Shiites but also Sunnis. With a large section of the Middle East in turmoil, there is a grave danger that the few remaining pockets of stability will be undermined by this clash of Wahhabism and mainstream Sunni Islam.

There needs to be coordinated action at the United Nations to cut off the funding for ideologies of hate and extremism, and a willingness from the international community to investigate the channels that supply the cash and the arms. In 2013, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, proposed an initiative called World Against Violent Extremism, or WAVE. The United Nations should build on that framework to foster greater dialogue between religions and sects to counter this dangerous medieval fanaticism.

The attacks in Nice, Paris and Brussels should convince the West that the toxic threat of Wahhabism cannot be ignored. After a year of almost weekly tragic news, the international community needs to do more than express outrage, sorrow and condolences; concrete action against extremism is needed.

Though much of the violence committed in the name of Islam can be traced to Wahhabism, I by no means suggest that Saudi Arabia cannot be part of the solution. Quite the reverse: We invite Saudi rulers to put aside the rhetoric of blame and fear, and join hands with the rest of the community of nations to eliminate the scourge of terrorism and violence that threatens us all.

Mohammad Javad Zarif is the foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran.


Posted on on September 14th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

2016 CKB Outreach Event Live from Golden, CO: “Knowledge Brokering in Support of Post-Paris Climate Action.”

Learn about the role Climate Knowledge Brokers can play in turning commitments under the Paris Agreement into action and find out how your organisation can contribute to and/or benefit from their work.

16:00-18:00 (US Mountain Time), September 20th, 2016 – NREL, Golden, CO

Register here to join us on the livestream:…

Check the time zone for your time:

Organized by the Climate Knowledge Brokers Group jointly with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) and the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP).

Knowledge Brokering for Post-Paris Climate Action

The world is slowly waking up to the fact that climate change is already affecting people everywhere and in all sectors, and that in a not too distant future, it will affect almost all of us. Last year’s Paris Agreement was a big step forward towards global recognition of the magnitude of the challenges surrounding climate change mitigation and adaptation. Though the ambitious commitments made in the agreement were justly celebrated as a victory for anyone concerned about climate change, the hard work of turning those commitments into action has only just begun.

The Climate Knowledge Brokers Group, a community of practice consisting of more than 150 individuals and organisations involved in climate knowledge brokering work, believes that reliable, readily accessible information on climate change is key in making decisive action possible. Too often, policy makers and others dealing with climate change are having to base their decisions on unreliable or incomplete climate information, or without taking climate change into account at all. This can be because they are unaware of the importance of considering climate change in decision making, because no relevant information exists for their particular sector or location, or because so much information exists that they do not have the time to find what they need. The Climate Knowledge Brokers Group aims to address those problems to achieve its vision of a world where all people can make good climate-sensitive decisions based on the best available climate change knowledge and information.


16:00 Welcome and Introduction to the Climate Knowledge Brokers Group
16:15 Pitches by Climate Knowledge Brokers
16:30 Panel Discussion: Climate Knowledge Brokering in support of Climate Action after Paris.

Bill Becker – Executive Director, Presidential Climate Action Project
Chuck Kutscher – Director, Center for Buildings and Thermal Systems, NREL
Bob Noun – Adjunct Professor, University of Denver
Josh Agenbroad – Manager, Transportation and Industry Practices, Rocky Mountain Institute
Chair: Geoff Barnard, CDKN and Chair of the CKB Steering Group


If you ave any questions about the event or the CKB group, feel free to contact the CKB Coordination Hub by replying to this e-mail or contacting  info at



Posted on on September 14th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

It is known that the world produces enough food for everyone but why do 800 million in the world still go to bed hungry?

GODAN has the answer to end this suffering – opening data on agriculture and nutrition – which will also stimulate global GDP by $6 trillion

What does the climate mean for food security?

In December 2015, 195 countries agreed to the Paris Agreement –the agreement that nations around the world would be committed to keeping the average global temperature increase at well below 2 ºC and at no more than 1.5 ºC from 2020 onwards. As of August 2016, 180 countries have signed the agreement – but average global temperatures have already reached 1.3 ºC. Coupled with the occurrence of the El-Nino, it is undeniable that the climate is having a huge impact on our planet, as more countries are affected by record breaking and unusual weather. But what impact is this weather having on our food supplies? And if there is more to come, what can we do about it?

To see the impact that climate has on food one only has to look at the spate of droughts that multiple parts of the world have been experiencing in the last decade. Ethiopia experienced its worst drought in decades earlier this year, causing crop failure and the loss of livestock. This was followed by heavy rains that further aggravated the agricultural disruption.

Ethiopia has made great strides since the famine of the 1980s. It has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and thanks to working with the information and expertise of international aid organisations was able to build a food security system which, despite the desperate situation of the drought, has allowed the country to stay out of famine. Given that 43% of the country’s economy[1] relies on agriculture and it forms the livelihood of much of the country’s rural population, food security for Ethiopia has meant more than food reserves.

The government, with the help of aid groups, have made a sustained effort to support farmers over the last decade, which has included launching open data for agriculture and socio-economic wellbeing in early 2015. This open data included detailed agricultural practices, information on health and data on food consumption and security. Ethiopia’s recent drought has been devastating –but the government’s attempt to mitigate its effects through years of investment in food security and making agricultural data available has allowed the country to escape the worst.

Meanwhile, a long drought over the past six years in California has caused water shortages, cost farmers billions of dollars with serious concerns over food security. Within California, residents have felt the impact of reducing water consumptions, and given that the state alone accounts ¼ of the USA’s fruit and vegetable produce[2], the implications of continued drought are concerning.

California has the benefit of being a state within the richest and most powerful country on Earth. The citizens of California have had access to public information giving them guidance on how best to cope throughout. The US Department of Agriculture has been monitoring the progress of the drought and its effect on everything from Californian farms to food prices, the results of which is open data that is publically available to all who need it. Although thousands of farmers[3] have lost their livelihood, and the drought continues, the data and information made available by the US government has been invaluable in keeping the farmers of California informed of the drought’s progress and in allowing them to maintain food security through substitution and diversification of their produce.

The impacts of both droughts are having a drastic effect on the availability of food. As the climate continues to become more extreme, the issue of food security will become more urgent. But as Ethiopia and California have shown, open data on agriculture, weather trends and more can help farmers and governments alike prepare and adapt to some of the worst conditions for agriculture imaginable. That’s why it is so important to make vital agricultural data available for all who could use it.

GODAN (Global Open Data on Agriculture and Nutrition) aims to do just that. In New York City on September 15-16, the GODAN Summit 2016 is taking place, lobbying world leaders to open up their agricultural and nutrition data. Government ministers from Kenya and the UK will be in attendance, alongside open data activists, scientists and other leading figures, all of whom will be discussing the benefits of making relevant data available to everyone. There will also be a hackathon that will see the brightest and most disruptive young minds doing their bit to come up with innovative new open data solutions.

But GODAN needs your support. We have launched a petition in association with Global Citizen. Once complete, the petition will be presented to the world’s leaders at the United Nations General Assembly, calling on them to make agricultural and nutrition data open. Help secure food security for the world by signing the petition today:

Key Questions:

· Why are governments hiding this data that could end world hunger?

· How can data truly better agriculture and farming in 3rd world countries?

· There is enough food in the world so why are 800 million people hungry?

· Technology really is saving the world, but how?

· How will open data affect health issues globally?

· What does this mean for the agriculture industry?


Posted on on September 8th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

September 7, 2016

Matt Lauer’s Pathetic Interview of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Is the Scariest Thing I’ve Seen in This Campaign
By Jonathan Chait

A frightening case study in journalistic failure.

I had not taken seriously the possibility that Donald Trump could win the presidency until I saw Matt Lauer host an hour-long interview with the two major-party candidates. Lauer’s performance was not merely a failure, it was horrifying and shocking. The shock, for me, was the realization that most Americans inhabit a very different news environment than professional journalists. I not only consume a lot of news, since it’s my job, I also tend to focus on elite print-news sources. Most voters, and all the more so undecided voters, subsist on a news diet supplied by the likes of Matt Lauer. And the reality transmitted to them from Lauer matches the reality of the polls, which is a world in which Clinton and Trump are equivalently flawed.

Lauer focused a third of his questioning time on Clinton’s private email server. Her decision to follow Colin Powell’s advice is a legitimate blot on her record. But Lauer did not move the ball forward on the question in any meaningful way:

The word judgment has been used a lot around you, Secretary Clinton, over the last year and a half. And in particular concerning your use of your personal email and server to communicate while you were secretary of state. You have said it’s a mistake.

“You said you made not the best choice.”

“You were communicating on highly sensitive topics. Why wasn’t it more than a mistake? Why wasn’t it disqualifying, if you want to be commander-in-chief?”

Lauer followed up with four more email-related questions. The impression an uninformed or even moderately informed viewer would receive from this interview is that the email issue represents a sinister crime, perhaps completely disqualifying from office, rather than an unjustifiable but routine act of government non-transparency.

The email exchange would not by itself be so alarming except when viewed in juxtaposition with Lauer’s hapless interview of Trump. Trump began the interview by boldly insisting, “I was totally against the war in Iraq. You can look at Esquire magazine from 2004. You can look at before that.” This is a lie. Trump has been quoted supporting the invasion beforehand and even afterward. Nobody has produced any evidence of Trump contradicting his support for the war before it started. His line to Lauer was transparently ridiculous – how could a 2004 interview supply evidence of having opposed a war that began in 2003? But Lauer did not try even a single follow-up.

Trump Lies About Iraq War Opposition, Lauer Moves to Next Question

Trump Offers Peace Through Strength – and Craziness

Trump went on to make a series of wild and dangerous statements. He praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strong, effective, and popular leader. Lauer did press him on this point, and when he did, Trump offered the astonishing rebuttal, saying President Obama had done equivalently brutish things. Lauer did not press Trump on his claim that the president of the United States behaves in a fundamentally similar way to a dictator who imprisons and kills political critics and journalists. Trump likewise reiterated his belief that “to the victor go the spoils” is the proper basis for American foreign policy, specifically with regard to his long-standing lament that the United States failed to steal Iraq’s oil after the 2003 invasion.

Lauer’s attempt to press Trump was the completely ineffectual technique of asking repeatedly if he is ready to serve as commander-in-chief. Lauer probably believes the answer is no, but nothing about this question would drive home Trump’s extraordinary lack of knowledge. Instead it allowed him to performatively demonstrate his confident, alpha-male reality-show character as a prospective chief executive.

Both of these beliefs stun and appall foreign-policy experts in both parties, as readers of the Washington Post or the New York Times know. But the average undecided voter isn’t reading those newspapers. The average undecided voter is getting snippets of news from television personalities like Lauer, who are failing to convey the fact that the election pits a normal politician with normal political failings against an ignorant, bigoted, pathologically dishonest authoritarian.


Posted on on September 4th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

Analyst: Israel Must Take Advantage of Chance to Become Key Stop on New International Chinese Trade Route

The Algemeiner, SEPTEMBER 4, 2016


He is Washington, D.C.-based senior correspondent for The Algemeiner. He previously worked in Tel Aviv, Israel as a journalist and served in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. Barney holds a BA degree in Government and History from the University of Virginia. He can be reached at  bbreenportnoy at

Israel has a chance to become an important stop on a new international trade route being established by China, according to an analysis published by a global news magazine on Thursday.

The article coincides with the G20 meeting in Hangzhou, China

“Israel has become a strategic focal point for China, and if it fails to leverage this, it will miss a unique opportunity to not only upgrade and diversify its economy, but to position itself as a critical outpost on China’s New Silk Road,” Roi Feder wrote in the Diplomatic Courier. “If Israel seizes the current window of opportunity, while being sensitive to America’s regional interests, it may become a critical trading route between East and West.”

The “New Silk Road” Feder referred to is the goal of China’s “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) initiative. As it seeks to expand its economic reach throughout Asia and Europe, China is set to invest in infrastructure projects in dozens of countries.

According to Feder, the OBOR is part of Chinese President’s Xi Jinping’s “doctrine to reinstate China’s 7th Century golden age, when the Silk Road was a critical international commercial route.”

To realize this vision, China is strengthening its relations with Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel.

“The growth in collaboration between China and Israel over the past few years is predominately due to Israel’s status as a Start-Up Nation which can supply China’s technological needs and help it to upgrade many of its industries,” Feder wrote. “Israel is a center of excellence in managing terror threats, an issue that Beijing decision-makers view with concern as they try to mitigate the rise of Islamist groups in China’s Western provinces.”

However, for China, Feder wrote, Israel’s true “potential lies in becoming an overland bridge connecting China’s trade routes from the Far East through Africa up to the Middle East and on to Europe. Even if it does not proclaim it publicly, China sees Israel as a strategic outpost in its regional interests; a small dot on the map, but one which is vital for ensuring an alternative for the trade and energy routes of the world’s second largest superpower.”

China has already been involved in a number of infrastructure projects in Israel in recent years — including the Carmel Tunnels and two private port projects in Ashdod and Haifa — but, Feder wrote, the “jewel in the crown” for the Chinese would be a “land bridge — a connection [between] the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea via rail which would provide a safe alternative route to the Suez Canal, and a dependable commercial center for China’s trading needs. Such a development will turn Israel into an essential part of the global trading ecosystem while boosting its economy.”

Feder concluded, “Israel must recognize the significance of OBOR and the enormous economic and diplomatic opportunities. If leveraged cautiously and with full consideration of America’s interests in the region, Israel…could become a small yet strategically critical outpost on China’s New Silk Road.”

As reported by The Algemeiner, Israel and China announced in May they would open talks on a bilateral free trade agreement.

In 2012, Israel and China signed an agreement to build a rail line that will link Israel’s Mediterranean ports in Ashdod and Haifa with its Red Sea port in Eilat.

Hangzhou is the capital city of Zhejiang Province on China’s southeastern coast. As the Province’s economic, cultural, technological and educational center, the city also plays a central role in the Yangtze River Delta. With a permanent population of 8.9 million as of the end of 2014, the Municipality is spread over an area of 16,596 square kilometers with the city proper accounting for 4,876 square kilometers.



Posted on on September 4th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

The New York Times Top News September 24, 2016

Highway 80, the only road to Tybee Island, Ga., in June. High tides are forcing the road to close several times a year.
Flooding of Coast, Caused by Global Warming, Has Already Begun
Scientists’ warnings that the rise of the sea would eventually imperil the United States’ coastline are no longer theoretical.

President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China formally committed to the Paris climate agreement on Saturday.
Rare Harmony as China and U.S. Commit to Climate Deal
President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China formally committed to the Paris climate agreement at a time of increasingly discordant relations between their nations.


Posted on on August 28th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (



This article tells us what we at SustainabiliTank knew for years – the oil money was used by the Saudi Royal family to export Wahhabism to the Islamic world. This Wahhabi indoctrination gave birth to the culture of terrorism that surfaced at the 9/11 attack against humanity. The US government – that is all US governments – to be exact – starting with President Franklyn Delano Roosevelt who in his 1945 meetings at Yalta and on the ship in Suez – traded away the future of the West for the barrels of oil of the Middle East


THE NEW YORK TIMES – Front-page August 25,2016

Saudis and Extremism:
‘Both the Arsonists
and the Firefighters’

Critics see Saudi Arabia’s export of a rigid strain of Islam as contributing to
terrorism, but the kingdom’s influence depends greatly on local conditions.

By SCOTT SHANE August 25, 2016

WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump do not agree on much, but Saudi Arabia may be an exception. She has deplored Saudi Arabia’s support for “radical schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path towards extremism.” He has called the Saudis “the world’s biggest funders of terrorism.”

The first American diplomat to serve as envoy to Muslim communities around the world visited 80 countries and concluded that the Saudi influence was destroying tolerant Islamic traditions. “If the Saudis do not cease what they are doing,”
the official, Farah Pandith, wrote last year, “there must be diplomatic, cultural and economic consequences.”

“If the Saudis do not
cease what they are
doing, there must be
diplomatic, cultural and
economic consequences.”

“If there was going to be
an Islamic reformation in
the 20th century, the
Saudis probably prevented
it by pumping out literalism.”

And hardly a week passes without a television pundit or a newspaper columnist blaming Saudi Arabia for jihadist violence.

On HBO, Bill Maher calls Saudi teachings “medieval,” adding an epithet. In The Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria writes that the Saudis have “created a monster in the world of Islam.”

The idea has become a commonplace: that Saudi Arabia’s export of the rigid, bigoted, patriarchal, fundamentalist strain of Islam known as Wahhabism has fueled global extremism and contributed to terrorism. As the Islamic State projects its menacing calls for violence into the West, directing or inspiring terrorist attacks in country after country, an old debate over Saudi influence on Islam has taken on new relevance.

What Is Wahhabism?

The Islam taught in and by Saudi Arabia is often called Wahhabism, after the 18th-century cleric who founded it. A literalist, ultraconservative form of Sunni Islam, its adherents often denigrate other Islamic sects as well as Christians and Jews.

Is the world today a more divided, dangerous and violent place because of the cumulative effect of five decades of oil-financed proselytizing from the historical heart of the Muslim world? Or is Saudi Arabia, which has often supported Western-friendly autocrats over Islamists, merely a convenient scapegoat for extremism and terrorism with many complex causes — the United States’s own actions among them?

Those questions are deeply contentious, partly because of the contradictory impulses of the Saudi state.

In the realm of extremist Islam, the Saudis are “both the arsonists and the firefighters,” said William McCants, a Brookings Institution scholar. “They promote a very toxic form of Islam that draws sharp lines between a small number of true believers and everyone else, Muslim and non-Muslim,” he said, providing ideological fodder for violent jihadists.

Yet at the same time, “they’re our partners in counterterrorism,” said Mr. McCants, one of three dozen academics, government officials and experts on Islam from multiple countries interviewed for this article.

Conflicting Goals

Saudi leaders seek good relations with the West and see jihadist violence as a menace that could endanger their rule, especially now that the Islamic State is staging attacks in the kingdom — 25 in the last eight months, by the government’s count. But they are also driven by their rivalry with Iran, and they depend for legitimacy on a clerical establishment dedicated to a reactionary set of beliefs. Those conflicting goals can play out in a bafflingly inconsistent manner.

Thomas Hegghammer, a Norwegian terrorism expert who has advised the United States government, said the most important effect of Saudi proselytizing might have been to slow the evolution of Islam, blocking its natural accommodation to a diverse and globalized world. “If there was going to be an Islamic reformation in the 20th century, the Saudis probably prevented it by pumping out literalism,” he said.

The reach of the Saudis has been stunning, touching nearly every country with a Muslim population, from the Gothenburg Mosque in Sweden to the King Faisal Mosque in Chad, from the King Fahad Mosque in Los Angeles to the Seoul Central Mosque in South Korea. Support has come from the Saudi government; the royal family; Saudi charities; and Saudi-sponsored organizations including the World Muslim League, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and the International Islamic Relief Organization, providing the hardware of impressive edifices and the software of preaching and teaching.

There is a broad consensus that the Saudi ideological juggernaut has disrupted local Islamic traditions in dozens of countries — the result of lavish spending on religious outreach for half a century, estimated in the tens of billions of dollars. The result has been amplified by guest workers, many from South Asia, who spend years in Saudi Arabia and bring Saudi ways home with them. In many countries, Wahhabist preaching has encouraged a harshly judgmental religion, contributing to majority support in some polls in Egypt, Pakistan and other countries for stoning for adultery and execution for anyone trying to leave Islam.

But exactly how Saudi influence plays out seems to depend greatly on local conditions. In parts of Africa and Southeast Asia, for instance, Saudi teachings have shifted the religious culture in a markedly conservative direction, most visibly in the decision of more women to cover their hair or of men to grow beards. Among Muslim immigrant communities in Europe, the Saudi influence seems to be just one factor driving radicalization, and not the most significant. In divided countries like Pakistan and Nigeria, the flood of Saudi money, and the ideology it promotes, have exacerbated divisions over religion that regularly prove lethal.

For minorities in many countries, the exclusionary Saudi version of Sunni Islam, with its denigration of Jews and Christians, as well as of Muslims of Shiite, Sufi and other traditions, may have made some people vulnerable to the lure of Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other violent jihadist groups. “There’s only so much dehumanizing of the other that you can be exposed to — and exposed to as the word of God — without becoming susceptible to recruitment,” said David Andrew Weinberg, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington who tracks Saudi influence.

Exhibit A may be Saudi Arabia itself, which produced not only Osama bin Laden, but also 15 of the 19 hijackers of Sept. 11, 2001; sent more suicide bombers than any other country to Iraq after the 2003 invasion; and has supplied more foreign fighters to the Islamic State, 2,500, than any country other than Tunisia.

Mehmet Gormez, the senior Islamic cleric in Turkey, said that while he was meeting with Saudi clerics in Riyadh in January, the Saudi authorities had executed 47 people in a single day on terrorism charges, 45 of them Saudi citizens. “I said: ‘These people studied Islam for 10 or 15 years in your country. Is there a problem with the educational system?’ ” Mr. Gormez said in an interview. He argued that Wahhabi teaching was undermining the pluralism, tolerance and openness to science and learning that had long characterized Islam. “Sadly,” he said, the changes have taken place “in almost all of the Islamic world.”

In a huge embarrassment to the Saudi authorities, the Islamic State adopted official Saudi textbooks for its schools until the extremist group could publish its own books in 2015. Out of 12 works by Muslim scholars republished by the Islamic State, seven are by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the 18th-century founder of the Saudi school of Islam, said Jacob Olidort, a scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. A former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Sheikh Adil al-Kalbani declared with regret in a television interview in January that the Islamic State leaders “draw their ideas from what is written in our own books, our own principles.”

Small details of Saudi practice can cause outsize trouble. For at least two decades, the kingdom has distributed an English translation of the Quran that in the first surah, or chapter, adds parenthetical references to Jews and Christians in addressing Allah: “those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).” Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University and the editor in chief of the new Study Quran, an annotated English version, said the additions were “a complete heresy, with no basis in Islamic tradition.”

Accordingly, many American officials who have worked to counter extremism and terrorism have formed a dark view of the Saudi effect — even if, given the sensitivity of the relationship, they are often loath to discuss it publicly. The United States’ reliance on Saudi counterterrorism cooperation in recent years — for instance, the Saudi tip that foiled a 2010 Qaeda plot to blow up two American cargo planes — has often taken precedence over concerns about radical influence. And generous Saudi funding for professorships and research centers at American universities, including the most elite institutions, has deterred criticism and discouraged research on the effects of Wahhabi proselytizing, according to Mr. McCants — who is working on a book about the Saudi impact on global Islam — and other scholars.

One American former official who has begun to speak out is Ms. Pandith, the State Department’s first special representative to Muslim communities worldwide. From 2009 to 2014, she visited Muslims in 80 countries and concluded that Saudi influence was pernicious and universal. “In each place I visited, the Wahhabi influence was an insidious presence,” she wrote in The New York Times last year. She said the United States should “disrupt the training of extremist imams,” “reject free Saudi textbooks and translations that are filled with hate,” and “prevent the Saudis from demolishing local Muslim religious and cultural sites that are evidence of the diversity of Islam.”

Yet some scholars on Islam and extremism, including experts on radicalization in many countries, push back against the notion that Saudi Arabia bears predominant responsibility for the current wave of extremism and jihadist violence. They point to multiple sources for the rise and spread of Islamist terrorism, including repressive secular governments in the Middle East, local injustices and divisions, the hijacking of the internet for terrorist propaganda, and American interventions in the Muslim world from the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan to the invasion of Iraq. The 20th-century ideologues most influential with modern jihadists, like Sayyid Qutb of Egypt and Abul Ala Maududi of Pakistan, reached their extreme, anti-Western views without much Saudi input. Al Qaeda and the Islamic State despise Saudi rulers, whom they consider the worst of hypocrites.

“Americans like to have someone to blame — a person, a political party or country,” said Robert S. Ford, a former United States ambassador to Syria and Algeria. “But it’s a lot more complicated than that. I’d be careful about blaming the Saudis.”

While Saudi religious influence may be disruptive, he and others say, its effect is not monolithic. A major tenet of official Saudi Islamic teaching is obedience to rulers — hardly a precept that encourages terrorism intended to break nations. Many Saudi and Saudi-trained clerics are quietist, characterized by a devotion to scripture and prayer and a shunning of politics, let alone political violence.

And especially since 2003, when Qaeda attacks in the kingdom awoke the monarchy to the danger it faced from militancy, Saudi Arabia has acted more aggressively to curtail preachers who call for violence, cut off terrorist financing and cooperate with Western intelligence to foil terrorist plots. From 2004 to 2012, 3,500 imams were fired for refusing to renounce extremist views, and another 20,000 went through retraining, according to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs — though the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom expressed skepticism that the training was really “instilling tolerance.”

An American scholar with long experience in Saudi Arabia — who spoke on condition of anonymity to preserve his ability to travel to the kingdom for research — said he believed that Saudi influence had often been exaggerated in American political discourse. But he compared it to climate change. Just as a one-degree increase in temperature can ultimately result in drastic effects around the globe, with glaciers melting and species dying off, so Saudi teaching is playing out in many countries in ways that are hard to predict and difficult to trace but often profound, the scholar said.

Saudi proselytizing can result in a “recalibrating of the religious center of gravity” for young people, the scholar said, which makes it “easier for them to swallow or make sense of the ISIS religious narrative when it does arrive. It doesn’t seem quite as foreign as it might have, had that Saudi religious influence not been there.”

Centuries-Old Dilemma

Why does Saudi Arabia find it so difficult to let go of an ideology that much of the world finds repugnant? The key to the Saudi dilemma dates back nearly three centuries to the origin of the alliance that still undergirds the Saudi state. In 1744, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, a reformist cleric, sought the protection of Muhammad bin Saud, a powerful tribal leader in the harsh desert of the Arabian Peninsula. The alliance was mutually beneficial: Wahhab received military protection for his movement, which sought to return Muslims to what he believed were the values of the early years of Islam in the seventh century, when the Prophet Muhammad was alive. (His beliefs were a variant of Salafism, the conservative school of Islam that teaches that the salaf, or pious ancestors, had the correct ways and beliefs and should be emulated.) In return, the Saud family earned the endorsement of an Islamic cleric — a puritanical enforcer known for insisting on the death by stoning of a woman for adultery.

Wahhab’s particular version of Islam was the first of two historical accidents that would define Saudi religious influence centuries later. What came to be known as Wahhabism was “a tribal, desert Islam,” said Akbar Ahmed, the chairman of Islamic studies at American University in Washington. It was shaped by the austere environment — xenophobic, fiercely opposed to shrines and tombs, disapproving of art and music, and hugely different from the cosmopolitan Islam of diverse trading cities like Baghdad and Cairo.

The second historical accident came in 1938, when American prospectors discovered the largest oil reserves on earth in Saudi Arabia. Oil revenue generated by the Arabian-American Oil Company, or Aramco, created fabulous wealth. But it also froze in place a rigid social and economic system and gave the conservative religious establishment an extravagant budget for the export of its severe strain of Islam.

“One day you find oil, and the world is coming to you,” Professor Ahmed said. “God has given you the ability to take your version of Islam to the world.”

In 1964, when King Faisal ascended the throne, he embraced the obligation of spreading Islam. A modernizer in many respects, with close ties to the West, he nonetheless could not overhaul the Wahhabi doctrine that became the face of Saudi generosity in many countries. Over the next four decades, in non-Muslim-majority countries alone, Saudi Arabia would build 1,359 mosques, 210 Islamic centers, 202 colleges and 2,000 schools. Saudi money helped finance 16 American mosques; four in Canada; and others in London, Madrid, Brussels and Geneva, according to a report in an official Saudi weekly, Ain al-Yaqeen. The total spending, including supplying or training imams and teachers, was “many billions” of Saudi riyals (at a rate of about four to a dollar), the report said.

Saudi religious teaching had particular force because it came from the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, the land of Islam’s two holiest places, Mecca and Medina. When Saudi imams arrived in Muslim countries in Asia or Africa, or in Muslim communities in Europe or the Americas, wearing traditional Arabian robes, speaking the language of the Quran — and carrying a generous checkbook — they had automatic credibility.

As the 20th century progressed and people of different nationalities and faiths mixed routinely, the puritanical, exclusionary nature of Wahhab’s teachings would become more and more dysfunctional. But the Saudi government would find it extraordinarily difficult to shed or soften its ideology, especially after the landmark year of 1979.

In Tehran that year, the Iranian revolution brought to power a radical Shiite government, symbolically challenging Saudi Arabia, the leader of Sunnism, for leadership of global Islam. The declaration of an Islamic Republic escalated the competition between the two major branches of Islam, spurring the Saudis to redouble their efforts to counter Iran and spread Wahhabism around the world.

Then, in a stunning strike, a band of 500 Saudi extremists seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca for two weeks, publicly calling Saudi rulers puppets of the West and traitors to true Islam. The rebels were defeated, but leading clerics agreed to back the government only after assurances of support for a crackdown on immodest ways in the kingdom and a more aggressive export of Wahhabism abroad.

Finally, at year’s end, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and seized power to prop up a Communist government. It soon faced an insurgent movement of mujahedeen, or holy warriors battling for Islam, which drew fighters from around the world for a decade-long battle to expel the occupiers.

Throughout the 1980s, Saudi Arabia and the United States worked together to finance the mujahedeen in this great Afghan war, which would revive the notion of noble armed jihad for Muslims worldwide. President Ronald Reagan famously welcomed to the Oval Office a delegation of bearded “Afghan freedom fighters” whose social and theological views were hardly distinguishable from those later embraced by the Taliban.

Saudi Arabia and the United States worked together to support the mujahedeen, the Afghan fighters whose representatives met President Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office in 1983, in their fight against the Soviet occupation.

In fact, the United States spent $50 million from 1986 to 1992 on what was called a “jihad literacy” project — printing books for Afghan children and adults to encourage violence against non-Muslim “infidels” like Soviet troops. A first-grade language textbook for Pashto speakers, for example, according to a study by Dana Burde, an associate professor at New York University, used “Mujahid,” or fighter of jihad, as the illustration: “My brother is a Mujahid. Afghan Muslims are Mujahedeen. I do jihad together with them. Doing jihad against infidels is our duty.”

Pressure After 9/11

One day in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, Robert W. Jordan, the United States ambassador to Saudi Arabia, was driving in the kingdom with the longtime Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan. The prince pointed to a mosque and said, “I just fired the imam there.” The man’s preaching had been too militant, he said.

Mr. Jordan, a Texas lawyer, said that after the Qaeda attacks, he had stepped up pressure on the Saudi government over its spread of extremism. “I told them: ‘What you teach in your schools and preach in your mosques now is not an internal matter. It affects our national security,’” he said.

After years of encouraging and financing a harsh Islam in support of the anti-Soviet jihad, the United States had reversed course — gradually during the 1990s and then dramatically after the Sept. 11 attacks. But in pressuring Saudi Arabia, American officials would tread lightly, acutely aware of American dependence on Saudi oil and intelligence cooperation. Saudi reform would move at an excruciatingly slow pace.

Document: State Dept. Study on Saudi Textbooks
Twelve years after Sept. 11, after years of quiet American complaints about Saudi teachings, a State Department contractor, the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, completed a study of official Saudi textbooks. It reported some progress in cutting back on bigoted and violent content but found that plenty of objectionable material remained. Officials never released the 2013 study, for fear of angering the Saudis. The New York Times obtained it under the Freedom of Information Act.

Seventh graders were being taught that “fighting the infidels to elevate the words of Allah” was among the deeds Allah loved the most, the report found, among dozens of passages it found troubling. Tenth graders learned that Muslims who abandoned Islam should be jailed for three days and, if they did not change their minds, “killed for walking away from their true religion.” Fourth graders read that non-Muslims had been “shown the truth but abandoned it, like the Jews,” or had replaced truth with “ignorance and delusion, like the Christians.”

Some of the books, prepared and distributed by the government, propagated views that were hostile to science, modernity and women’s rights, not to say downright quirky — advocating, for instance, execution for sorcerers and warning against the dangers of the Rotary Club and the Lions Club. (The groups’ intent, said a 10th-grade textbook, “is to achieve the goals of the Zionist movement.”)

The textbooks, or other Saudi teaching materials with similar content, had been distributed in scores of countries, the study found. Textbook reform has continued since the 2013 study, and Saudi officials say they are trying to replace older books distributed overseas.

Excerpts from Saudi textbooks with critical comments from a 2013 study, commissioned by the State Department, that was never released for fear of angering the Saudis. The New York Times obtained the study under the Freedom of Information Act.
But as the study noted, the schoolbooks were only a modest part of the Saudis’ lavishly funded global export of Wahhabism. In many places, the study said, the largess includes “a Saudi-funded school with a Wahhabist faculty (educated in a Saudi-funded Wahhabist University), attached to a mosque with a Wahhabist imam, and ultimately controlled by an international Wahhabist educational body.”

This ideological steamroller has landed in diverse places where Muslims of different sects had spent centuries learning to accommodate one another. Sayyed Shah, a Pakistani journalist working on a doctorate in the United States, described the devastating effect on his town, not far from the Afghan border, of the arrival some years ago of a young Pakistani preacher trained in a Saudi-funded seminary.

Village residents had long held a mélange of Muslim beliefs, he said. “We were Sunni, but our culture, our traditions were a mixture of Shia and Barelvi and Deobandi,” Mr. Shah said, referring to Muslim sects. His family would visit the large Barelvi shrine, and watch their Shiite neighbors as they lashed themselves in a public religious ritual. “We wouldn’t do that ourselves, but we’d hand out sweets and water,” he said.

The new preacher, he said, denounced the Barelvi and Shiite beliefs as false and heretical, dividing the community and setting off years of bitter argument. By 2010, Mr. Shah said, “everything had changed.” Women who had used shawls to cover their hair and face began wearing full burqas. Militants began attacking kiosks where merchants sold secular music CDs. Twice, terrorists used explosives to try to destroy the village’s locally famous shrine.

“One day you find oil,
and the world is coming
to you. God has given you
the ability to take your
version of Islam to the world.”
Now, Mr. Shah said, families are divided; his cousin, he said, “just wants Saudi religion.” He said an entire generation had been “indoctrinated” with a rigid, unforgiving creed.

“It’s so difficult these days,” he said. “Initially we were on a single path. We just had economic problems, but we were culturally sound.”

He added, “But now it’s very difficult, because some people want Saudi culture to be our culture, and others are opposing that.”

C. Christine Fair, a specialist on Pakistan at Georgetown University, said Mr. Shah’s account was credible. But like many scholars describing the Saudi impact on religion, she said that militancy in Pakistan also had local causes. While Saudi money and teaching have unquestionably been “accelerants,” Pakistan’s sectarian troubles and jihadist violence have deep roots dating to the country’s origins in the partition of India in 1947.

“The idea that without the Saudis Pakistan would be Switzerland is ridiculous,” she said.

Elusive Saudi Links

That is the disputed question, of course: how the world would be different without decades of Saudi-funded shaping of Islam. Though there is a widespread belief that Saudi influence has contributed to the growth of terrorism, it is rare to find a direct case of cause and effect. For example, in Brussels, the Grand Mosque was built with Saudi money and staffed with Saudi imams. In 2012, according to Saudi diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, one Saudi preacher was removed after Belgian complaints that he was a “true Salafi” who did not accept other schools of Islam. And Brussels’ immigrant neighborhoods, notably Molenbeek, have long been the home of storefront mosques teaching hard-line Salafi views.

After the terrorist attacks in Paris in November and in Brussels in March were tied to an Islamic State cell in Belgium, the Saudi history was the subject of several news media reports. Yet it was difficult to find any direct link between the bombers and the Saudi legacy in the Belgian capital.

Several suspects had petty criminal backgrounds; their knowledge of Islam was described by friends as superficial; they did not appear to be regulars at any mosque. Though the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the blasts, resentment of the treatment of North African immigrant families in Belgium and exposure to Islamic State propaganda, in person or via the internet and social media, appeared to be the major factors motivating the attacks.

If there was a Saudi connection, it was highly indirect, perhaps playing out over a generation or longer. Hind Fraihi, a Moroccan-Belgian journalist who went underground in the Brussels immigrant neighborhood of Molenbeek in 2005 and wrote a book about it, met Saudi-trained imams and found lots of extremist literature written in Saudi Arabia that encouraged “polarization, the sentiment of us against them, the glorification of jihad.”

The recent attackers, Ms. Fraihi said, were motivated by “lots of factors — economic frustration, racism, a generation that feels it has no future.” But Saudi teaching, she said, “is part of the cocktail.”

Without the Saudi presence over the decades, might a more progressive and accommodating Islam, reflecting immigrants’ Moroccan roots, have taken hold in Brussels? Would young Muslims raised in Belgium have been less susceptible to the stark, violent call of the Islamic State? Conceivably, but the case is impossible to prove.

Or consider an utterly different cultural milieu — the world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia. The Saudis have sent money for mosque-building, books and teachers for decades, said Sidney Jones, the director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta.

“Over time,” said Ms. Jones, who has visited or lived in Indonesia since the 1970s, the Saudi influence “has contributed to a more conservative, more intolerant atmosphere.” (President Obama, who lived in Indonesia as a boy, has remarked on the same phenomenon.) She said she believed money from private Saudi donors and foundations was behind campaigns in Indonesia against Shiite and Ahmadi Islam, considered heretical by Wahhabi teaching. Some well-known Indonesian religious vigilantes are Saudi-educated, she said.

But when Ms. Jones studied the approximately 1,000 people arrested in Indonesia on terrorism charges since 2002, she found only a few — “literally four or five” — with ties to Wahhabi or Salafi institutions. When it comes to violence, she concluded, the Saudi connection is “mostly a red herring.”

In fact, she said, there is a gulf between Indonesian jihadists and Indonesian Salafis who look to Saudi or Yemeni scholars for guidance. The jihadists accuse the Salafis of failing to act on their convictions; the Salafis scorn the jihadists as extremists.

Whatever the global effects of decades of Saudi proselytizing, it is under greater scrutiny than ever, from outside and inside the kingdom. Saudi leaders’ ideological reform efforts, encompassing textbooks and preaching, amount to a tacit recognition that its religious exports have sometimes backfired. And the kingdom has stepped up an aggressive public relations campaign in the West, hiring American publicists to counter critical news media reports and fashion a reformist image for Saudi leaders.

But neither the publicists nor their clients can renounce the strain of Islam on which the Saudi state was built, and old habits sometimes prove difficult to suppress. A prominent cleric, Saad bin Nasser al-Shethri, had been stripped of a leadership position by the previous king, Abdullah, for condemning coeducation. King Salman restored Mr. Shethri to the job last year, not long after the cleric had joined the chorus of official voices criticizing the Islamic State. But Mr. Shethri’s reasoning for denouncing the Islamic State suggested the difficulty of change. The group was, he said, “more infidel than Jews and Christians.”


Photo: The Seoul Central Mosque in South Korea, one of hundreds of mosques around the world built using Saudi donations. Credit Choi Won-Suk/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Photo: The King Fahad Mosque in Los Angeles. Credit Patrick T. Fallon for The New York Times

Photo: The United States spent millions printing textbooks for Afghan children and adults that encouraged violence against non-Muslim “infidels” like Soviet troops, as in this excerpt from a book for Pashto-speaking first graders. Credit From Dana Burde, Schools for Conflict or for Peace in Afghanistan

Photo: The Iranian revolution in early 1979 brought to power a radical Shiite government, symbolically challenging Saudi Arabia, the leader of Sunnism, for leadership of global Islam. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Photo: A wounded man at the airport in Brussels after an attack by jihadists in March. There appears to be no direct link between the bombers and the Saudi legacy in the Belgian capital. Credit Ketevan Kardava/Associated Press

Photo: During his reign from 1964 to 1975, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, pictured here in May 1968, embraced the duty of spreading Islam around the world. Credit Raymond Depardon/Magnum Photos

Photo: Members of the Saudi security services inspecting the site of a car bomb attack in May 2015 targeting Shiite Saudis attending Friday Prayer at a mosque in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. Credit European Pressphoto Agency

Photo: Saudi oil fields developed by Aramco, the Arabian-American Oil Company, as seen in this 1951 photograph, provided generous funding for the export of the Saudi version of Islam. Credit Associated Press


Secrets of the Kingdom

A Saudi Morals Enforcer Called for a More Liberal Islam. Then the Death Threats Began.JUL. 11, 2016

A Saudi Imam, 2 Hijackers and Lingering 9/11 Mystery JUNE 18, 2016

How Kosovo Was Turned Into Fertile Ground for ISIS MAY 22, 2016

ISIS Turns Saudis Against the Kingdom, and Families Against Their Own APRIL 1, 2016

Quiet Support for Saudis Entangles U.S. in Yemen MARCH 14, 2016

U.S. Relies Heavily on Saudi Money to Support Syrian Rebels JAN. 24, 2016


Follow Scott Shane on Twitter @ScottShaneNYT.

Hala Droubi contributed reporting from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

A version of this article appears in print on August 26, 2016, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: ‘Both Arsonists and Firefighters’. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe


‘We Live in a Society Where the Word “Liberal” Is Considered an Insult’ JULY 13, 2016

Cross-Border Fire From Yemen Kills 7 in Saudi Arabia AUG. 17, 2016
Saudi King Shakes Up Government as Economic Plan Moves Forward MAY 7, 2016

Saudi Prince Shares Plan to Cut Oil Dependency and Energize the Economy APRIL 25, 2016



Posted on on August 26th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

Those interested in how a near 0 economy could be achieved using existing technology may find this chapter, available at…

Integrating Vehicles and the Electricity Grid to Store and Use Renewable Energy by David Hodas :

The world could be powered by renewable energy: more energy from the sun hits the earth in one hour than all of the energy consumed on our planet in an entire year.

In Delivering Energy Policy in the EU and US: A Multi-Disciplinary Reader, (Heffron and Little, eds.) (Edinburgh University Press, 2016)

Widener University Delaware Law School Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 16-13


The world could be powered by renewable energy: more energy from the sun hits the earth in one hour than all of the energy consumed on our planet in an entire year.

Achieving a low-carbon economy is less technology dependent than it is dependent on new, well-designed energy law that broadly shifts private incentives towards efficient use of renewable energy using of “game-changing” technology such as Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) motor vehicles that could shift the world to a low-carbon economy.

V2G vehicles integrate separate energy conversion systems: the electricity grid and light vehicle transportation fleet by storing electricity from the grid when it is not needed and returning it to the grid when it is needed.

The total U.S. light vehicle fleet power capacity is about 39 times the power generation capacity of the U.S. electrical generation system.

The grid could use power stored in idle V2G batteries whenever needed, yet each vehicle would be tapped only within the constraints of its drivers’ specific schedule and driving needs. 20,000,000 V2G cars (just 10% of the U.S. fleet) with an average peak power rating of only 50 Kw, would have the combined power capacity equivalent to the entire U.S. Electric grid. This fleet would be the backup system for a fully renewable (e.g., solar and wind) energy generation system.

The benefits of a V2G system could be enormous: dramatic reductions in CO2 emissions and the adverse health effects of air pollution from burning fossil fuels and a more robust electric grid. A renewable energy V2G system could replace fossil fuels in many regions of the world.

David R. Hodas
Distinguished Professor of Law
Widener University
Delaware Law School

4601 Concord Pike
Wilmington DE 19803-0474

302 477 2186 (tel)
302 477 2257 (fax)
 drhodas at…


Posted on on August 25th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

Prove Tuncay Babali Broke the Law or Free Him
News from the Middle East Forum of Philadelphia.
August 25, 2016…

PHILADELPHIA – Aug. 25, 2016 – Turkish ambassador Tuncay Babali, a Middle East Quarterly contributor, has been arrested for alleged participation in the July 15, 2016, failed coup attempt in Turkey.

He is one of Ankara’s most accomplished young diplomats, having served, among other government positions, as director of the department of human resources of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, counselor to the Turkish embassies in Washington, D.C., and London, and ambassador to Canada (2012-14).

Babali, who holds an MA degree from the University of London and a PhD from the University of Houston, has established himself as an authority in the fields of energy economics and geopolitics as well as Eurasian security. In 2009-10, he was a fellow at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. His article, “Turkey at the Energy Crossroads,” appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of the Middle East Quarterly, pp. 25-33.

Eleven days after the failed coup, Babali was sacked from his position – alongside fellow ambassador Gürcan Bal?k, chief advisor to former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and scores of lower-level diplomats – as part of the government’s massive purge of civil servants allegedly linked to the Fethullah Gülen movement. On August 18-19, Babali and Balik were jailed, together with former ambassador to Costa Rica Ali Findik, as the government embarked on an unprecedented purge of hundreds of foreign office diplomats.

The Middle East Forum is deeply concerned by the recent arrests of Babali and tens of thousands of other Turks and believes that the current purge goes far beyond a reasonable and legitimate response to the abortive coup while casting serious doubt on Turkey’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law. It, therefore, urges the Government of Turkey to provide incontrovertible evidence in public of Amb. Babali’s criminal activity or to free him immediately.

For immediate release
Contact: Gregg Roman, Director
Middle East Forum
 Roman at
215-546-5406, ext. 104

This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication.


Posted on on August 24th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

From: “United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service”
Date: August 22, 2016 at 7:09:29 PM EDT

Subject: [MARKETING] Solutions Summit at UNHQ: Call for Submissions – Apply by 28 August!
Reply-To:  join at


The second annual Solutions Summit is a catalytic gathering that will take place at UN Headquarters in New York on the evening of 21 September 2016 during UN General Assembly week.

The purpose of the Solutions Summit is two-fold: 1) to lift up exceptional innovators — technologists, engineers, scientists, and others — who are developing solutions that address one or more of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and 2) to catalyze a grassroots effort, where communities scout and convene resources around solution-makers.

The first Solutions Summit in 2015 immediately followed the conclusion of the UN Sustainable Development Summit at which the SDGs were adopted by all 193 UN Member States. It showed that people already have extraordinary solutions in progress to our most complex challenges.

For 2016, the Solutions Summit will highlight projects that advance the objectives of one or more of the following upcoming global Summits and Conferences:

> UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants – UNHQ NY – September 2016
> UN Habitat III Conference – Ecuador – October 2016
> UN Climate Change Conference – Morocco – November 2016
> Open Government Partnership Global Summit – France – December 2017
> UN Oceans Conference – Fiji – June 2017


During the Solutions Summit, a group of selected global innovators will be invited to give a ‘lightning talk’ outlining their breakthrough efforts to a juxtaposed audience of senior policymakers who have the means to pave solid regulatory foundations, investors who care deeply about long-term change and impact, and industry leaders who are able to deploy quickly and at scale. The gathering will serve as a catalyst to convene resources and talent around solution-makers.


Solutions Summit is led by the UN Foundation, the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) and the Global Innovation Exchange, in collaboration with the SDG Philanthropy Platform, the Global Entrepreneurship Council, and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, with an open invitation for governments and other partners to join. UN-NGLS is coordinating the open and transparent application and selection process to curate solutions to be featured during the Solutions Summit.



Sunday, 28 August 2016


Help us surface extraordinary individuals and teams developing solutions that address the SDGs.
Please share and encourage people to apply!


Posted on on August 22nd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (


English Village Becomes Climate Leader by Quietly Cleaning Up Its Own Patch


ASHTON HAYES, England — This small village of about 1,000 people looks like any other nestled in the countryside.

But Ashton Hayes is different in an important way when it comes to one of the world’s most pressing issues: climate change.

Hundreds of residents have banded together to cut greenhouse emissions — they use clotheslines instead of dryers, take fewer flights, install solar panels and glaze windows to better insulate their homes.

The effort, reaching its 10th anniversary this year, has led to a 24 percent cut in emissions, according to surveys by a professor of environmental sustainability who lives here.

But what makes Ashton Hayes unusual is its approach — the residents have done it themselves, without prodding from government. About 200 towns, cities and counties around the world — including Notteroy, Norway; Upper Saddle River, N.J.; and Changhua County, Taiwan — have reached out to learn how the villagers here did it.

As climate science has become more accepted, and the effects of a warming planet are becoming increasingly clear, Ashton Hayes is a case study for the next phase of battling climate change: getting people to change their habits.

“We just think everyone should try to clean up their patch,” said Rosemary Dossett, a resident of the village. “And rather than going out and shouting about it, we just do it.”

One of their secrets, it seems, is that the people of Ashton Hayes feel in charge, rather than following government policies. When the member of Parliament who represents the village showed up at their first public meeting in January 2006, he was told he could not make any speeches.

“We said, ‘This is not about you tonight, this is about us, and you can listen to what we’ve got to say for a change,’” said Kate Harrison, a resident and early member of the group.

No politician has been allowed to address the group since. The village has kept the effort separate from party politics, which residents thought would only divide them along ideological lines.

The project was started by Garry Charnock, a former journalist who trained as a hydrologist and has lived in the village for about 30 years. He got the idea a little more than a decade ago after attending a lecture about climate change at the Hay Festival, an annual literary gathering in Wales. He decided to try to get Ashton Hayes to become, as he put it, “Britain’s first carbon-neutral village.”

“But even if we don’t,” he recalls thinking at the time, “let’s try to have a little fun.”

Sometimes, efforts to reduce greenhouse gases involve guilt-tripping or doomsday scenarios that make people feel as if the problem is too overwhelming to tackle.

In Ashton Hayes — about 25 miles southeast of Liverpool, with a 19th-century Anglican church and a community-owned shop that doubles as a post office — the villagers have lightened the mood.

They hold public wine-and-cheese meetings in the biggest houses in town, “so everyone can have a look around,” and see how the wealthier people live, said Mr. Charnock, the executive director of RSK, an environmental consulting company. “We don’t ever finger-wag in Ashton Hayes.”

About 650 people — more than half of the village’s residents — showed up to the first meeting, Mr. Charnock said. Some in the village were less keen, but little by little, they began to participate.

Some have gone further. When they were looking to build their energy-efficient home and heard about Ashton Hayes’s carbon-neutral project, Ms. Dossett and her husband, Ian, thought it might be the perfect village for them.

They moved from nearby South Warrington and found two old farm cottages, which they converted into a two-story brick house, and installed huge triple-glazed windows, photovoltaic cells on the roof, a geothermal heat pump that heats the home and its water, and an underground cistern to hold rainwater for toilets and the garden.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to think we live in a mud hut,” Ms. Dossett said, sitting on a couch in her warm, well-lit living room.

The Dossetts also have a vegetable garden, grow grapes for wine, brew beer and keep two cows, which mow the lawn and may also eventually become food in a few years. They pay about 500 pounds (about $650) a year for electricity and heating.

The success of the carbon-neutral project seems to have inspired other community efforts in Ashton Hayes. The residents, for example, have built a new playing field with a solar-powered pavilion, which is the home of a community cafe three days a week. They have also put photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of the primary school.

Other towns and cities around the world hope to copy Ashton Hayes. Their representatives have contacted the project’s leaders, asking for help in setting up similar initiatives, according to the diary the Ashton Hayes group keeps about the project, chronicling almost everything they have done over the past 10 years.

Eden Mills, a small community in Ontario, Canada, is one of them. Charles Simon traveled to Ashton Hayes in 2007 to learn how to translate their approach to his town, adopting the apolitical, voluntary, fun method.

“Some of the changes are so easy,” Mr. Simon said. “Just put on a sweater instead of turning on the heat.”

Eden Mills has cut emissions by about 14 percent, Mr. Simon said, and has plans to do more. Residents have been working with experts from the nearby University of Guelph, planting trees in the village forest to help absorb the carbon dioxide the town emits, Mr. Simon said.

Janet Gullvaag, a councilwoman in Notteroy, Norway, an island municipality of about 21,000 people, reached out to Ashton Hayes about nine years ago after her political party decided to include reducing carbon dioxide emissions in its platform.

“I think that the idea that Ashton Hayes had — to make caring for the environment fun, without pointing fingers — was quite revolutionary,” Ms. Gullvaag said.

Though her community’s approach is decidedly more political, Ms. Gullvaag said that adopting Ashton Hayes’s mantra of fun had paid dividends: She has seen changes in her community, she said, as people buy more electric cars and bicycles, and convert their home heating from oil to more environmentally friendly sources.

“Whatever you’re trying to do, if you can create enthusiasm and spread knowledge, normally, people will react in a positive way,” she added.

Though deep cuts across the globe are still required to make broader progress, actions to reduce emissions, even by small towns, are a step in the right direction, say experts who study community action on climate change.

“The community-building element of all this has been as important as the environmental impact so far,” said Sarah Darby, a researcher at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute.

She added that Ashton Hayes was in a good position to take on these kinds of projects — it is a small village of well-off and well-educated people, so simply taking fewer flights each year can have a big effect.

Residents were able to cut emissions by about 20 percent in the first year alone, according to surveys used to calculate carbon footprints that were developed by Roy Alexander, a local professor, and his students.

Some have had even more significant reductions: Households that participated in surveys in both the first and 10th years shrank their energy use by about 40 percent.

Mr. Charnock said he thought the village could get the cuts in its 2006 carbon footprint to 80 percent in the next few years with the help of grant money to buy and install solar panels on the local school and other buildings.

The next thing they have to do, he said, is to get the county government to be as committed to cutting emissions as Ashton Hayes is.

“There’s so much apathy,” Mr. Charnock said. “We need to squeeze that layer of apathy jelly and get it out.”

A version of this article appears in print on August 22, 2016, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: An English Village Leads a Climate Revolution.


Posted on on August 1st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Opinion Pages of The New York Times | An OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

How the ‘Stupid Party’ Created Donald Trump

By MAX BOOT, JULY 31, 2016

It’s hard to know exactly when the Republican Party assumed the mantle of the “stupid party.”

Stupidity is not an accusation that could be hurled against such prominent early Republicans as Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Elihu Root and Charles Evans Hughes. But by the 1950s, it had become an established shibboleth that the “eggheads” were for Adlai Stevenson and the “boobs” for Dwight D. Eisenhower — a view endorsed by Richard Hofstadter’s 1963 book “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life,” which contrasted Stevenson, “a politician of uncommon mind and style, whose appeal to intellectuals overshadowed anything in recent history,” with Eisenhower — “conventional in mind, relatively inarticulate.” The John F. Kennedy presidency, with its glittering court of Camelot, cemented the impression that it was the Democrats who represented the thinking men and women of America.

Rather than run away from the anti-intellectual label, Republicans embraced it for their own political purposes. In his “time for choosing” speech, Ronald Reagan said that the issue in the 1964 election was “whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant Capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.” Richard M. Nixon appealed to the “silent majority” and the “hard hats,” while his vice president, Spiro T. Agnew, issued slashing attacks on an “effete core of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.”

William F. Buckley Jr. famously said, “I should sooner live in a society governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the 2,000 faculty members of Harvard University.” More recently, George W. Bush joked at a Yale commencement: “To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say, well done. And to the C students I say, you, too, can be president of the United States.”

Many Democrats took all this at face value and congratulated themselves for being smarter than the benighted Republicans. Here’s the thing, though: The Republican embrace of anti-intellectualism was, to a large extent, a put-on. At least until now.

Eisenhower may have played the part of an amiable duffer, but he may have been the best prepared president we have ever had — a five-star general with an unparalleled knowledge of national security affairs. When he resorted to gobbledygook in public, it was in order to preserve his political room to maneuver. Reagan may have come across as a dumb thespian, but he spent decades honing his views on public policy and writing his own speeches. Nixon may have burned with resentment of “Harvard men,” but he turned over foreign policy and domestic policy to two Harvard professors, Henry A. Kissinger and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, while his own knowledge of foreign affairs was second only to Ike’s.

There is no evidence that Republican leaders have been demonstrably dumber than their Democratic counterparts. During the Reagan years, the G.O.P. briefly became known as the “party of ideas,” because it harvested so effectively the intellectual labor of conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation and publications like The Wall Street Journal editorial page and Commentary. Scholarly policy makers like George P. Shultz, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick and Bill Bennett held prominent posts in the Reagan administration, a tradition that continued into the George W. Bush administration — amply stocked with the likes of Paul D. Wolfowitz, John J. Dilulio Jr. and Condoleezza Rice.

In recent years, however, the Republicans’ relationship to the realm of ideas has become more and more attenuated as talk-radio hosts and television personalities have taken over the role of defining the conservative movement that once belonged to thinkers like Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz and George F. Will. The Tea Party represented a populist revolt against what its activists saw as out-of-touch Republican elites in Washington.

There are still some thoughtful Republican leaders exemplified by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who devised an impressive new budget plan for his party. But the primary vibe from the G.O.P. has become one of indiscriminate, unthinking, all-consuming anger.

The trend has now culminated in the nomination of Donald J. Trump, a presidential candidate who truly is the know-nothing his Republican predecessors only pretended to be.

Mr. Trump doesn’t know the difference between the Quds Force and the Kurds. He can’t identify the nuclear triad, the American strategic nuclear arsenal’s delivery system. He had never heard of Brexit until a few weeks before the vote. He thinks the Constitution has 12 Articles rather than seven. He uses the vocabulary of a fifth grader. Most damning of all, he traffics in off-the-wall conspiracy theories by insinuating that President Obama was born in Kenya and that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination. It is hardly surprising to read Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter for Mr. Trump’s best seller “The Art of the Deal,” say, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.”

Mr. Trump even appears proud of his lack of learning. He told The Washington Post that he reached decisions “with very little knowledge,” but on the strength of his “common sense” and his “business ability.” Reading long documents is a waste of time because of his rapid ability to get to the gist of an issue, he said: “I’m a very efficient guy.” What little Mr. Trump does know seems to come from television: Asked where he got military advice, he replied, “I watch the shows.”

Mr. Trump promotes a nativist, isolationist, anti-trade agenda that is supported by few if any serious scholars. He called for tariff increases that experts warn will cost millions of jobs and plunge the country into a recession. He claimed that Mexican immigrants were “bringing crime” even though research consistently shows that immigrants have a lower crime rate than the native-born. He promised that Mexico would pay for a border wall, even though no regional expert thinks that will ever happen.

Mr. Trump also proposed barring Muslims from entering the country despite terrorism researchers, myself included, warning that his plan would likely backfire, feeding the Islamic State’s narrative that the war on terrorism is really a war on Islam. He has since revised that proposal and would now bar visitors from countries that have a “proven history of terrorism” — overlooking that pretty much every country, including every major American ally, has a history of terrorism.

Recently, he declared that he would not necessarily come to the aid of the Baltic republics if they were attacked by Russia, apparently not knowing or caring that Article 5 of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty obliges the United States to defend any NATO member under attack. Last week, Mr. Trump even invited Russia’s intelligence agencies to hack the emails of a former secretary of state — something impossible to imagine any previous presidential nominee doing. It is genuinely terrifying that someone who advances such offensive and ridiculous proposals could win the nomination of a party once led by Teddy Roosevelt, who wrote more books than Mr. Trump has probably read. It’s one thing to appeal to voters by pretending to be an average guy. It’s another to be an average guy who doesn’t know the first thing about governing or public policy.

The Trump acolytes claim it doesn’t matter; he can hire experts to advise him. But experts always disagree with one another and it is the president alone who must make the most difficult decisions in the world. That’s not something he can do since he lacks the most basic grounding in the issues and is prey to fundamental misconceptions.

In a way, the joke’s on the Republican Party: After decades of masquerading as the “stupid party,” that’s what it has become. But if an unapologetic ignoramus wins the presidency, the consequences will be no laughing matter.

Even if we can avoid the calamity of a Trump presidency, however, the G.O.P. still has a lot of soul-searching to do. Mr. Trump is as much a symptom as a cause of the party’s anti-intellectual drift. The party needs to rethink its growing anti-intellectual bias and its reflexive aversion to elites. Catering to populist anger with extremist proposals that are certain to fail is not a viable strategy for political success.

Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was a foreign policy adviser to the presidential campaigns of John McCain, Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.


Posted on on August 1st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

Kurt Vonnegut’s 1988 Letter to the Future More Relevant Today Than Ever Before
By Kick Kennedy, EcoWatch
31 July 16

n 1988, my then Hyannis Port neighbor the late Kurt Vonnegut wrote a prescient letter to the Earth’s planetary citizens of 2088 for Volkswagen’s TIME magazine ad campaign. His seven points of advice are perhaps more relevant today than at any time in human history. We should keep this advice in mind this election year and adopt Vonnegut’s recommendations while we still can.

Here’s his letter:

Ladies & Gentlemen of A.D. 2088:

It has been suggested that you might welcome words of wisdom from the past, and that several of us in the twentieth century should send you some. Do you know this advice from Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: ‘This above all: to thine own self be true’? Or what about these instructions from St. John the Divine: ‘Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment has come’? The best advice from my own era for you or for just about anybody anytime, I guess, is a prayer first used by alcoholics who hoped to never take a drink again: ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.’

Our century hasn’t been as free with words of wisdom as some others, I think, because we were the first to get reliable information about the human situation: how many of us there were, how much food we could raise or gather, how fast we were reproducing, what made us sick, what made us die, how much damage we were doing to the air and water and topsoil on which most life forms depended, how violent and heartless nature can be, and on and on. Who could wax wise with so much bad news pouring in?

For me, the most paralyzing news was that Nature was no conservationist. It needed no help from us in taking the planet apart and putting it back together some different way, not necessarily improving it from the viewpoint of living things. It set fire to forests with lightning bolts. It paved vast tracts of arable land with lava, which could no more support life than big-city parking lots. It had in the past sent glaciers down from the North Pole to grind up major portions of Asia, Europe, and North America. Nor was there any reason to think that it wouldn’t do that again someday. At this very moment it is turning African farms to deserts, and can be expected to heave up tidal waves or shower down white-hot boulders from outer space at any time. It has not only exterminated exquisitely evolved species in a twinkling, but drained oceans and drowned continents as well. If people think Nature is their friend, then they sure don’t need an enemy.

Yes, and as you people a hundred years from now must know full well, and as your grandchildren will know even better: Nature is ruthless when it comes to matching the quantity of life in any given place at any given time to the quantity of nourishment available. So what have you and Nature done about overpopulation? Back here in 1988, we were seeing ourselves as a new sort of glacier, warm-blooded and clever, unstoppable, about to gobble up everything and then make love—and then double in size again.

On second thought, I am not sure I could bear to hear what you and Nature may have done about too many people for too small a food supply.

And here is a crazy idea I would like to try on you: Is it possible that we aimed rockets with hydrogen bomb warheads at each other, all set to go, in order to take our minds off the deeper problem—how cruelly Nature can be expected to treat us, Nature being Nature, in the by-and-by?

Now that we can discuss the mess we are in with some precision, I hope you have stopped choosing abysmally ignorant optimists for positions of leadership. They were useful only so long as nobody had a clue as to what was really going on—during the past seven million years or so. In my time they have been catastrophic as heads of sophisticated institutions with real work to do.

The sort of leaders we need now are not those who promise ultimate victory over Nature through perseverance in living as we do right now, but those with the courage and intelligence to present to the world what appears to be Nature’s stern but reasonable surrender terms:

Reduce and stabilize your population.

Stop poisoning the air, the water, and the topsoil.

Stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems.

Teach your kids, and yourselves, too, while you’re at it, how to inhabit a small planet without helping to kill it.

Stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars.

Stop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship. That is really mean, and stupid.

And so on. Or else.

Am I too pessimistic about life a hundred years from now? Maybe I have spent too much time with scientists and not enough time with speechwriters for politicians. For all I know, even bag ladies and bag gentlemen will have their own personal helicopters or rocket belts in A.D. 2088. Nobody will have to leave home to go to work or school, or even stop watching television. Everybody will sit around all day punching the keys of computer terminals connected to everything there is, and sip orange drink through straws like the astronauts.

Kurt Vonnegut


Posted on on July 31st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

Leonardo DiCaprio: ‘Vote for Leaders Who Understand the Science and Urgency of Climate Change’
By Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch
30 July 16

For environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio, it is very clear why you can not stay home this Nov. 8.
Following 14 consecutive months of record-high temperatures, the United Nations declared last week that 2016 is officially going to be the hottest year ever.

The alarming report prompted the Oscar-winning actor to send out this tweet encouraging his followers to flex their civic duty: Follow Leonardo DiCaprio ? @LeoDiCaprio

Another reminder of why it’s so important to get out there and vote this year.…
7:03 PM – 28 Jul 2016 (2,077 2,077 Retweets 6,159 6,159 likes)

He further dove into this important political topic on his Instagram page.

“It’s time to vote for leaders in every community who understand the science and urgency of climate change,” the post states. “Take a stand and vote.”

The post included a photo of the Riau Rainforest in Indonesia being cleared for a palm oil operations, which is a major driver of deforestation that releases greenhouse gases and leads to biodiversity loss.

It’s time to vote for leaders in every community who understand the science and urgency of climate change. Take a stand and vote. #Regram #RG @everydayclimatechange: everydayclimatechange photo by John Novis @johnnovis for @everydayclimatechange Forest Clearance in Riau Rainforest clearance and burning in the RAPP concession (Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper) in Giam Siak Kecil area to clear land for plantation establishment. The rapid conversion of forests and peatlands for oil palm and pulp plantations, and logging, is a major driver of deforestation in Indonesia. The carbon released by these activities make Indonesia the third largest greenhouse gas emitter on the planet contributing to climate change, biodiversity loss and the loss of livelihoods of forest-dependent peoples.

While he hasn’t explicitly said so, DiCaprio has virtually endorsed Hillary Clinton, who’s now officially the Democratic presidential nominee. The Hollywood A-lister has donated at least $2,700 to her campaign and he has also supported past presidential campaigns for John Kerry and Barack Obama.

“I believe in science. I believe that climatechange is real…” – said HillaryClinton — The time is now. Vote.
6:01 PM – 29 Jul 2016 (2,857 2,857 Retweets 9,983 9,983 likes)

DiCaprio also had glowing words to say about Clinton’s Democratic presidential rival, Bernie Sanders, especially for his environmental bonafides.

“Look, not to get political, but listening to Bernie Sanders at that first presidential debate was pretty inspiring—to hear what he said about the environment,” DiCaprio told Wired in December. “Who knows which candidate is going to become our next president, but we need to create a dialogue about it. I mean, when they asked each of the candidates what the most important issue facing our planet is, Bernie Sanders simply said climate change. To me that’s inspiring.”

Meanwhile, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump believes that global warming is a hoax. A vote for Trump would essentially be a vote for dirty energy, continued dismissal of science and, as Stephen Hawking noted, a more dangerous world. If elected president, Trump would be the only world leader who does not acknowledge the dangers and science of climate change.

Last night, accepting her nomination for president, Clinton said she is “proud” of the Paris climate agreement and pledged to hold every country accountable to their commitments to climate action, including the U.S. One of her best lines, which was met with loud cheers and applause, was a clear poke at Trump and other climate deniers: “I believe in science.”

DiCaprio is a longtime environmental champion. His eponymous foundation recently held its third annual fundraising gala in St. Tropez, France, setting a new fundraising record of $45 million that will go towards preserving Earth and its inhabitants.

“While we are the first generation that has the technology, the scientific knowledge and the global will to build a truly sustainable economic future for all of humanity—we are the last generation that has a chance to stop climate change before it is too late,” DiCaprio said in a speech at the gala.
DiCaprio celebrated Thursday on Instagram a major victory of one of his foundation’s partners, the Wildlife Direct and Elephant Crisis Fund in Kenya.

Last week, Feisal Mohamed Ali—a notorious illegal ivory kingpin—was sentenced 20 years in jail and fined 20 million shillings ($200,000) by a Kenyan court.


Posted on on July 5th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

To stop crippling air pollution, Iranians do car-free Tuesdays
By Karin Kloosterman (KarinKloosterman@greenprophet)

Karin Kloosterman interests intersect in the worlds of the environment, technology, activism and Middle East politics. Blogging for some of the most influential media outlets in the “green” world, such as TreeHugger, and The Huffington Post, Karin founded Green Prophet to share the enormous potential of new clean technologies, and environmental awareness emanating from the Middle East region. For tips, advertising and editorial inquiries Karin can be reached at

July 4, 2016

Cities in Iran are some of the most polluted in the world. It’s estimated that 27 people a day die in Tehran from the low quality of air.

Mohammad Bakhtiari, 25, from Arak decided he couldn’t take it anymore, and started car-free Tuesdays –- a day when he’s encouraging Iranians to find alternative ways to get around. He told local media, “With air pollution getting worse, I did not like to sit back doing nothing. I thought everybody is responsible for this problem. And I was thinking of a way to involve more people to help with it.”

So he proposed that people go car free on Tuesdays. Residents in Tripoli, Lebanon tried it once a long time ago, but it didn’t stick.

Mohammad wanted the idea to stick. He went with posters and flyers and explained to locals in Arak until the Department of Environment gave its stamp of approval. It’s catching on in all Iranian cities but there are no reports on how many people are actually doing it.

Tuesday was the day picked because it is in the middle of Iranian week when traffic congestion is high and air pollution is at its worst.

The World Bank estimates losses inflicted on Iran’s economy as a result of deaths caused by air pollution at $640 million, which is equal to 5.1 trillion rials or 0.57 percent of GDP. Diseases resulting from air pollution are inflicting losses estimated at $260 million per year or 2.1 trillion rials or 0.23 percent of the GDP on Iran’s economy.

Leaving cars at home can reduce air pollution: The campaign that started this spring is expected to run for 600 weeks. The idea is to get people to use bikes and more public transport.

Mohammad said: “Sixty percent of the people who know there is such a campaign have supported it. Our first step is to tell people that there is such a movement. The second step is to tell them why they should support it.

“The third step is to have incentives for those who join the campaign.

“And the fourth step is to push the government to carry out its responsibilities at a more rapid pace.”

He is now pushing the government for safe bike routes, and more people to start using electric motorbikes. As well as an overhaul of public transport.

Cities in Russia and India, have made a similar pledge to be car free on Tuesdays.

Read more on sustainable Iran:
Iran Looks to Create Biofuel
Iran Inaugurates Its First Solar CSP Plant
Celebrate Spring and Iranian New Year

View other posts by Karin Kloosterman ?