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

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

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

By Klaus Brinkbaumer, Der Spiegel

28 February 2015

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

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

SPIEGEL: The wrong catastrophe at the wrong moment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPIEGEL: What can be done to improve the situation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPIEGEL: That was true from 2009 to 2013.

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

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

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

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

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

SPIEGEL: What should their goal be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Klein: Yes.

SPIEGEL: What is there to learn from this story?

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

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

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

SPIEGEL: With pseudo-scientific studies and disinformation?

Klein: With all of that, of course.

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

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

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

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


SPIEGEL: People like Bill Gates view things differently.

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

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

Klein: Why would you say that?

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

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

SPIEGEL: A guest of Mother Earth?

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

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

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

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

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

SPIEGEL: Is the lifestyle you lead climate-friendly?

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

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

###

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


EINLADUNG ZUM 2. HIETZINGER ENERGIEBERATUNGSTAG

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


Tauscht Europa jetzt seine Juden gegen Muslime aus?


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

Kurt Kotrschal

“Die Presse”, Print-Ausgabe, 24.02.2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

E-Mails an:  debatte at diepresse.com
———————————–

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

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

ERÖFFNUNG DER LESEFESTWOCHE

Montag, 19. November 2012, 20.00 Uhr

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

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

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

Moderation: CORINNA MILBORN

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

February 17, 2015

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

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

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

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

Dear Oil & Energy Investor,

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


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

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

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

The lynchpin between the two is a family connection.

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

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

———————————

This was followed by:

Solar Power Comes of Age

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and the SECOND BIG NEWS OF THE INTRODUCTORY PIECE:

India Breaks Ground on the World’s Largest Solar Plant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quote Icon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drake Baer

Aug. 1, 2014

Most companies live between 40 and 50 years.

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

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

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

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

Some of the examples quoted:

705 — Nisiyama Onsen Keiunkan in Yamanashi, Japan
Pinterest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1040 — Weihenstephan Brewery in Freising, Germany
flickr/rogeriotomazjr

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

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

1270 — Frapin in Segonzac, France
Jim Budd/flickr

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

The result is the highest quality spirit.

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

1498 — The Shore Porters Society in Aberdeen, Scotland
Wikimedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few of the Press’s greatest hits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1623 — Zildjian in Istanbul, Turkey
flickr/branmovic

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

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

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

1637 — Gekkeikan sake in Kyoto, Japan
flickr/kattebelletje

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As received from Lady Rabbi Judith Hauptman of the Ohel Ayalah community on New York City.

subject: Purim of levity or gravity?

Dear Ohel Ayalah community,

P U R I M P A R T Y for 20s/30s
Join us on Tues Mar 3, the night before Purim, at P E O P L E Lounge, 163 Allen St., 6:30 to 8:30 pm. First drink FREE for filling out a one-page survey. Special guest: Sarah Rosen, author of Kosher Porn, will sign and sell copies of her hilarious new “graphic” book. Want to know what kosher porn is? Show up and find out. The book costs $14, cash or check only. Directions: Take the F train to Second Ave, get out at the front of the train, and walk south on Allen St. for 2 mins.

P U R I M, in a serious vein: The Scroll of Esther (the Megillah) will be read in synagogues on Wed night, March 4. One suggested (fun) venue is: JTS, 3080 Broadway, at 122 St. Time: 7 pm.

Purim is the one Jewish holiday of pure levity. The message of the Megillah, however, is both light-hearted and serious. In today’s world, we are still dealing with some who would like Jews to disappear. To keep you looking at the bright side of Purim, seeing the Megillah partly as a domestic farce, I am copying below comments by Adele Berlin, the highly regarded Bible scholar (also a friend of mine!), author of the JPS commentary on the Scroll of Esther.


After Vashti refuses to show her beauty to the visiting dignitaries, the courtiers say to the king, “For the queen’s behavior will make all wives scorn their husbands, as they reflect that King Ahasuerus himself ordered Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come (Esther 1:17, JPS translation [slightly emended]).”


Berlin writes: The advisors are not worried that Vashti’s examples will provoke other Persian subjects to disobey the king; they are afraid that all the Persian women will scorn their husbands. . . . The advisors are trying to ward off a sexual strike by Persian women (a theme found in Greek literature of the Persian period, in Aristophanes’ comedy Lysistrata). They are as concerned about themselves as they are about the king (p13).

The danger that Memucan (one of the advisors) sees in Vashti’s refusal is preposterous. How will it provoke a rebellion by all the wives in the empire against their husbands? The burlesque of the great Persian empire, drowning in luxury, wine, courtiers, and incompetent management, reaches one of its high points here, with a touch of male sexual anxiety added for good measure (p17).

So read the rest of the Megillah in a communal setting on Wed night, Mar 4, or by yourself. Laugh but also cry. Here is a link to an online version of Megillat Esther: www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt3301….. You will need to click to get from one chapter to the next.

Please note: Passover is around the corner. Will be sending more information in a few weeks. Seder reservations open on Sunday, March 15. First night seder for all Ages, Fri April 3; Second night seder for 20s/30s, Saturday night, April 4.

Questions or comments? Write to me at  Judith at ohelayalah.org.

Happy Purim,
Judith Hauptman

Rabbi and Founder, Ohel Ayalah

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Posted in Archives, Austria, Canada, Denmark, European Union, France, Iran, Israel, New York, Reporting from Washington DC

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 21st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (N.B.K.)
Kunstgalerien und Museen
Address: Chausseestr. 128, 10115 Berlin, Germany
Phone:+49 30 2807020
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Posted in Archives, Art Performance reviews, Austria, European Union, Germany, Reporting from Washington DC

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 21st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Israel offers to mediate talks between Ukraine, Russia.

by Maxim A. Suchkov – posted February 1, 2015 – Al-Monitor.

Maxim A. Suchkov, a former Fulbright visiting fellow at Georgetown University (2010–11), is currently a fellow at the Institute for Strategic Studies at the North Caucasian city of Pyatigorsk, Russia, and a contributor to the Carnegie Moscow Center’s Eurasia Outlook. On Twitter: @Max_A_Suchkov

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

Summary? – Print Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman believes his country is uniquely positioned to negotiate with Russia and Ukraine.

On Jan. 26, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman visited Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. While the encounter took place during the 70th anniversary observance of the Soviet liberation of Auschwitz, the two diplomats took the opportunity to check up on their busy bilateral agenda. They touched primarily on six main issues — the overall situation in the Middle East, Russia’s role in the region, the course of the “5+1” negotiations on Iranian nuclear program, Lebanon, the situation in Syria, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the eve of his meeting with the Russian foreign minister, in an interview with the Russian media agency RIA Novosti, Liberman said Israel would be prepared, if necessary, to mediate peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.

The statement drew mixed reactions from both Israel and Russia, but the very intent, if it is at all serious, could be interesting to think about.

Over the more than yearlong conflict in Ukraine, Israel turned out to be neutral when it comes to Russia’s actions in its neighboring country. Israel’s diplomats were not present during the vote on the US-supported UN resolution condemning Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which made it look as if Israel were avoiding showing its stance on the issue. Although Tel Aviv explained that the vote coincided with a strike of Israel’s foreign affairs workers, few believed this explanation. Later, Israel refused to join the US-led sanctions regime against Russia. In both instances, the Obama administration, which cannot boast good relations with the Netanyahu government, took it as a sign of ingratitude toward Israel’s prime strategic ally at a time when America needed it most.

Essentially, while certainly not an act of support for Russian policies, it also was a sign of no opposition. At the initial stages of the war in Ukraine, in early 2014, the Israeli foreign minister, speaking on a TV program, said that “everybody understands that the situation [in Ukraine] is about standing up for the interests of each party [Russia and the US] in accordance with their own foreign policy courses.” That was a message that Israelis see the situation as a conflict of interests, not a conflict of principles. At the same interview, he declined any meddling with this conflict as a mediator between Russia and the US over Ukraine, saying Israel had enough to worry about with its own challenges.

The Israelis insisted, however, that neutrality didn’t mean inaction. A year hence, Tel Aviv wants to raise its political profile as a peacemaker, not between the Kremlin and the White House, but between Moscow and Kiev.

Indeed, as surprising as it may sound, Israel is uniquely positioned to mediate the conflict and ease the “Ukraine-Russia fatigue” that dominates the European security agenda. In this regard, Israel has three principal advantages. First, it clearly enjoys equally good relations with both Russia and Ukraine — a political luxury few nations can boast in today’s much-polarized context. Certainly, Russian-Israeli relations are far from being ideal, with the majority of the discrepancies lying in different priorities in the Middle East rooted in their own vision of national interests and historic political trajectories. At the same time, the Israeli leadership believes good relations with Russia are a “perceived necessity.”

Second, Israel possesses a key foreign policy resource — the large Jewish diaspora both in Russia and Ukraine. The number of Jews in the two countries is hard to estimate. Due to a well-known history of oppression, many had to flee, while others decline to identify themselves. Current estimates vary: in Russia from 190,000 to 228,000 to 380,000. That represents approximately 0.14% of Russia’s population and 1.7% of the global Jewish population, making Russia the country with the seventh-largest Jewish population. In Ukraine, the Jewish population was historically greater. At present, the figures range from 67,000 to 80,000 (0.16% national share and 0.6% global share). Other accounts say the Jewish population is as high as 300,000.

Most important, many Jewish figures occupy top positions in politics and business and have had significant influence on the two spheres. Therefore, Tel Aviv has a direct interest in their security and peaceful settlement of the crisis. Several influential Israeli public figures and politicians, including some from the Knesset, are actively raising awareness against more frequent instances of anti-Semitism in Ukraine.

Finally, the number of Israelis of Ukrainian and Russian descent in Israel itself is high. Many Israeli natives of the post-Soviet states occupying top political leadership positions have contributed to shaping a balanced stance on the conflict. While opinions on the crisis in Ukraine within this group are split, their expertise and action helped the State of Israel shape a policy that remained firm to outside pressure, including that of the US.

Liberman, a native of the Republic of Moldova, said, “It is precisely because we are from these countries that we can understand both parties. … If someone told me some time ago that Russia and Ukraine would become enemies, I would have told them to see a doctor.” Therefore, for a large group of Israeli policymakers, the crisis in Ukraine has a clear-cut personal connection. Yet at the same time, being foreign statesmen, they take a neutral position that potentially makes them “natural mediators.”

This is the benchmark data. In the end, however, the proposal represents the intent of only a fragment of the Israeli political spectrum and society — those coming from the post-Soviet space — and finds opposition from other Israeli groups.

In truth, taking the mediator’s burden in the conflict that already involves — in one form or another — a dozen actors carries high risks for Israel’s reputation and would engender an enormous, perhaps impossible, responsibility; in other words, it is a thorny path that may bear little fruit. At the same time, when no negotiation format seems to be working, Israel offers a straw that Russia and Ukraine could consider grabbing. Israel’s image as a middleman in a conflict may be something not many are accustomed to, and it does have some legitimate limitations. But what it can do is offer an important channel of communication.

———————-

Bennett, Liberman battle for defense portfolio
Ben Caspit

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 21st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Al-Monitor named 2014 Free Media Pioneer Award winner – IPI honours Middle East news site’s ‘unrivalled reporting and analysis’

from the International Press Institute (Vienna, Austria, based) – Saturday, 21 February 2015.

Al-Monitor, with its website based in Washington DC - www.al-monitor.com/pulse/ – has PULSE columns for: Egypt Gulf Iran Iraq Israel Lebanon Palestine Syria Turkey Congress Russia / MidEast Week in Review

A screenshot of the Al Monitor website featuring a video marking the news organisation’s first anniversary. Established on Feb. 13, 2012, the site provides reporting and analysis by prominent journalists and experts from the Middle East and draws from more than two dozen media partners.

VIENNA, Feb 26, 2014 – Opens external link in new window Al-Monitor, an edgy news and commentary site launched in the aftermath of the Arab Spring that brands itself as “the pulse of the Middle East”, is the recipient of this year’s International Press Institute (IPI) Opens external link in new windowFree Media Pioneer Award, IPI announced today.

The award is given annually to a media or press freedom organisation that distinguishes itself in the fight for free and independent news. The awards’ nominators said that Al-Monitor stands out as a model for independent coverage of the region through its news, features, analysis and commentary at a time of political upheaval.

“Al-Monitor’s unrivalled reporting and analysis exemplify the invaluable role that innovative and vigorously independent media can play in times of change and upheaval,” IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said. “Al-Monitor’s editors and contributors produce a must-read daily overview of a complex region in a coherent, introspective and independent way. Its team includes some of the best minds and analysts from around the world who cut through the daily chaff and give readers an insightful summary of what is happening.”

Al-Monitor is scheduled to receive the award at the Opens external link in new windowIPI World Congress, which takes place April 12 to 15 in Cape Town, South Africa. Also in Cape Town, IPI will present its World Press Freedom Hero award to Iranian journalist Opens external link in new windowMashallah Shamsolvaezin, the former editor of the banned Iranian newspapers Kayhan, Jame’eh, Neshat, and Asr-e Azadegan. He was jailed numerous times for his criticism of government policies.

Upon learning of the award, Jamal Daniel, chairman and chief executive of Al-Monitor, said: “We are honoured to receive the IPI Free Media Pioneer Award, which is testimony to Al-Monitor’s ethos and mission, to uncover trends that are shaping the Middle East, from the best writers and analysts in the region.”

With civil war engulfing Syria, turmoil in Egypt and political upheaval across the Middle East, Al-Monitor stands out as a one-stop source for diverse news and viewpoints. Recent features include a report on female journalists in the front lines of regional conflicts and an article highlighting the arrest of an Egyptian filmmaker, who – like numerous journalists in Egypt – was detained for spreading “false news”.

Al-Monitor, established on Feb. 13, 2012, provides reporting and analysis by prominent journalists and experts from the Middle East, with a special focus section – or “pulse” – on Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Turkey. The website also draws on more than two dozen media partners in 13 countries and is based in Washington, D.C.

The 2014 Free Media Pioneer award marks a departure from past winners by honouring a regional news organisation.

“We believe this is where Al-Monitor stands out, providing an important bridge of information to a region where many of the individual nations face major press freedom challenges,” Bethel McKenzie said. “Its ability to draw on many voices from the region is unmatched in the Middle East.”

Recent recipients of the Free Media Pioneer Award, established by IPI in 1996, were Malaysia’s Radio Free Sarawak (2013), 35 Multimedia Magazine in Belarus (2012), Tunisia’s Radio Kalima (2011), Radio Okapi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (2010) and Novaya Gazeta in Russia (2009).

For the past three years, the award has been sponsored by the Argentinean media company Infobae Group.

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

World Environment News from Reuters

India offers farmers soil tests to boost yields

Date: 20-Feb-15
Author: Ratnajyoti Dutta

India will provide soil testing for farmers to target the correct use of fertilizers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday, to push up yields and cut back on costly misuse.

The service will be available to around 60 percent of its 235 million farmers, Modi said on a visit to the desert state of Rajasthan, stressing the importance of soil health to lift India’s poor farm productivity. Agriculture employs more than half of India’s 1.25 billion people but accounts for only 14 percent of its $2.3 trillion economy.

The finance minister was likely to allocate $32 million for the project in this fiscal year’s budget on Feb. 28, a senor official said.

Smart cards can be issued to 140 million farmers in three years after testing soil for productivity, mineral mix, water capacity and salinity, and can be presented to government fertilizer suppliers.

Sudhir Panwar, president of a farmers’ lobby group, said the card will cut misuse of subsidized fertilizer. This could also help the government trim its fertilizer bill of around $10 billion.

Modi said a farmer with a holding of 1.2 hectares could save 50,000 rupees ($805) per year, if the right amount of nutrients were applied.

Reuters reported last year that Modi, who popularized the program in the state of Gujarat that he ran, was likely to roll it out across the country.

Gujarat’s farm output grew at an annual average of 6 percent over the past three years – about a percentage point higher than the national figure.


Modi has urged agriculture scientists and farmers to usher in India’s second green revolution after the first one in the 1960s that saw India more than treble its annual wheat output in just 15 years
.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 19th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Divers stumble across Israel’s biggest ever discovery of gold coins

By Jethro Mullen, CNN February 18, 2015
 www.cnn.com/2015/02/18/middleeast…

Nearly 2,000 gold coins were discovered in the ancient harbor of Caesarea, Israel.
Story highlights

Nearly 2,000 gold coins had sat at the bottom of the sea for around 1,000 years
Divers exploring the ancient harbor of Caesarea came across the treasure
Most of the coins are from the Fatimid Caliphate that once ruled parts of the region;

(CNN)The divers initially thought the gleaming object they noticed on the seafloor off the Israeli coast was a toy coin from a game.

But they quickly realized they had stumbled across something a whole lot more valuable in the ancient Mediterranean harbor of Caesarea.

Their chance discovery a few weeks ago led to a trove of nearly 2,000 gold coins that had languished at the bottom of the sea for about 1,000 years, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Tuesday.

It’s the biggest hoard of gold coins ever discovered in Israel — and it could lead to further archaeological finds.

“There is probably a shipwreck there of an official treasury boat which was on its way to the central government in Egypt with taxes that had been collected,” said Kobi Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the antiquities authority.

He offered other theories about the origin of the treasure.

Perhaps the coins were meant to pay the salaries of a military garrison in Caesarea, Sharvit speculated, or came from a merchant ship that sank while traveling from port to port along the Mediterranean coast.

Marine archaeologists are planning to carry out salvage work at the site to find out more.

Coins from Shiite caliphate.

The coins themselves come in several different denominations and are very well preserved, the antiquities authority said. The oldest of them is a quarter dinar minted in Palermo, Sicily, in the second half of the ninth century.

Most of the pieces, though, are from the Fatimid Caliphate, the Shiite Muslim empire that ruled large parts of North Africa and the Middle East around the turn of the first millennium.

Sharvit said he believed the coins, of various dimensions and weights, had been uncovered by winter storms.

He thanked the people who found the treasure — members of a local diving club — for quickly reporting their discovery rather than trying to keep the coins for themselves.

“These divers are model citizens,” he said. “They discovered the gold and have a heart of gold that loves the country and its history.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 19th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Prophet’s grandson Hussein honoured on grounds of Israeli hospital.

A photo shows 50 Shi’ite Muslim pilgrims from India pray at a shrine located on the grounds of Barzilai Medical Center in the coastal town of Ashkelon February 8, 2015. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
 www.channelnewsasia.com/news/worl…

ASHKELON, Israel: About 50 Shi’ite Muslim pilgrims settle down to chant and prostrate themselves in worship near an ancient tomb.

Not an unusual scene in the Middle East, but this shrine is located on the grounds of an Israeli hospital known mainly for treating the casualties of conflict in the nearby Gaza Strip.

The Barzilai Medical Centre in the coastal town of Ashkelon is home to a tomb where, in the view of some Shi’ite Muslims, the head of Hussein ibn Ali, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, lay interred for centuries following his death in battle.

“We pray, first of all, to respect the head of Hussein because he was martyred,” the worshippers’ leader, Sheikh Moiz Tarmal, told Reuters. “And we believe that if we pray here, God will listen to you.”

The slaying of Hussein in the seventh century Battle of Karbala fuelled the split between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims that has recently erupted with renewed ferocity in conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

Many Shi’ites believe all of Hussein’s body was buried near where he died at Karbala in present-day Iraq. Others hold that his head was hidden by Sunnis in Ashkelon in the 10th century before later being spirited away to its final resting place in Egypt for safety as Crusaders invaded the Holy Land.

Among the latter are the Dawoodi Bohra, a Shi’ite sect with around a million adherents worldwide. Its members come annually on pilgrimage to the ornate marble enclosure marking the tomb on a grassy hillock within the Barzilai campus.

Moshe Hananel, an Israeli scholar who helps arrange the Barzilai visits, said some of the Shi’ite pilgrims who flock to the hospital come from countries that do not recognise Israel.

“Their entry is approved in advance,” he said, declining to name specific countries due to the political sensitivities.

Militant wings of both Sunni and Shi’ite Islam see a common foe in Israel. Shi’ite Iran backs Hamas, the Sunni Muslim faction that runs the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

“This is one of the absurdities of the Middle East. Here we have a sacred place for the Muslims, for the Shia Muslims, and on the other hand 12 km (7 miles) south of here we have other Muslims that shoot rockets at us,” said the hospital’s deputy director, Dr. Ron Lobel.

During last year’s Gaza war, Israel’s Iron Dome air defence system intercepted two Hamas rockets over Barzilai, he said.

Tarmal saw divine intervention in the hospital being spared.

“We believe it is a holy place,” he said. “Many rockets do come into Ashkelon, but that place has always been safe at the end, so we believe it is spiritual.”

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Gareth Jones – Reuters.)

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 19th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue of Vienna is lodged in what was the private villa of the Bunderskanzler of Austria who was the pragmatic – conscious-based father of the new Austria – who, while holding different and ascending post WWII positions – managed the establishment of the Second Austrian Republic and its becoming a neutral State in the Soviet and the West stand-off.

In 1955, the Austrian State Treaty re-established Austria as a sovereign state, ending the Soviet, French, British, and US occupation zones. In the same year, the Austrian Parliament formulated the Declaration of Neutrality which declared that the Second Austrian Republic would become permanently neutral. Bruno Kreisky (22 January 1911 – 29 July 1990) was Kanzler 1970 till 1983, but in 1951, when he returned to Vienna, Federal President Theodor Körner (1951-1957) appointed him Assistant Chief of Staff and political adviser – then in 1953 he was appointed Undersecretary in the Foreign Affairs Department of the Austrian Chancellery. In this position he took part in negotiating the 1955 Austrian State Treaty, which ended the four-power occupation of Austria and restored Austria’s independence by declaring neutrality. It is said that he was the brain behind this very important political maneuvering which showed his strength of purpose.

While Austrian Chancellor, Mr. Kreisky tried to build his country’s position as the neutral go between the two blocs – East and West – during the Cold War. He also took special interest in the Middle East – and this brings us to the topic we tackle in this posting.

Upon the prodding of Israeli maverick Uri Avnery, Mr. Kreisky became instrumental in what was said – an effort to make Yassir Arafat, the head of the PLO – the Palestinian Liberation Movement – “Salon Clean” which meant – honorably acceptable in the capitals of the West.

The idea here was that if there was to be peace in the Middle East it will come through negotiations between the two local warring sides – so the Palestinians must be helped to build a world-recognized leadership. We know how this led to the principle of a TWO-STATES solution, and we know today that it seems – honesty and pragmatism – tell us that possibility was lost because the Oslo agreements were not followed to fruition. Instead a closely intermingled situation came about and with every day that passes the return to the Oslo road becomes more difficult.

The Kreisky Forum that was formed by Chancellor Vranitzky one year after Bruno Kreisky’s death – with Karl Kahane – an industrialist and Kreisky friend – and Kreisky’s son Peter – on board and the Karl Kahane Family Foundation, with the City of Vienna, the Austrian Government, and the Austrian National Bank, as main funders, is led by a Board of Directors chaired now by Rudolf Scholten, former Federal Minister of Education, Science and the Arts, Member of the Board of Oesterreichische Kontrollbank AG. The former Austrian Ambassador to the US, Mrs. Eva Novotny is Secretary and Ms. Patricia Kahane Deputy Secretary.

The Executive power is as always in the hands of the Secretary General which is since 2005 Gertraud Auer Borea d’Olmo. The devoted personal secretary to Mr. Bruno Kreisky, Margit Schmidt, currently Treasurer of the Keisky Foundation, was Secretary General of the Kreisky Forum from 1991 – 2004.

And to the point – Gertaud Auer is all set to continue the legacy left by Bruno Kreisky – the legacy of a free thinker/pragmatist who is ready to take on the potentialities of the moment in order to reach out to long-term goals. As an aside, I feel compelled to mention that I found that on the basis of an interview here in Vienna, a Greek paper knew to say that Gertraud Auer of the Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue said that the new Greek head of Government – Mr. Alexis Tsipras – whom she knows as she had him over to Vienna to speak at the Forum – has the potential to be the Bruno Kreisky of Greece.

In the matter of our topic here – the Middle East – looking through the list of advisers to the Kreisky Forum Board I found – Galia Golan, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and Rashid Khalidi, University of Chicago, Head of the Center for International Studies – both very capable people that could help Ms. Auer in trying to be ahead of the pack of Middle East thinkers.
And that is our subject today.

Ms. Auer initiated a two year study to Rethink the Middle East built around a Two-States Solution of the Kreisky days.
She managed to get a terrific team together and eventually get also Mr. Hannes Swoboda, a retired High Ranking Austrian Member of the European Parliament (1996-2014) – Head of the Social Democrat faction of the Parliament – to be accurate – the S&D Group of Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats of the European Parliament.

Eventually the group found in Mr. Bashir Bashir, an Israeli Arab intellectual researcher and lecturer at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the editor for its project and the resulted product, recently released, is titled: “RETHINKING THE POLITICS OF ISRAEL/PALESTINE: Partition and its Alternatives.”

The result does not just move from a Two-States Solution to a One-State Solution – but in effect to a Human Rights for All Solution that does not start from numbering States – the solution is within what may look like a one State – but besides the equal rights for all frame, it does allow for Multi-Nationalism and diversity rights for all people and communities as well.
In effect – this is the recognition of the intertwined existence within the territory of Israel and the area originally intended for a Palestinian State linked to Israel by a joint economy. Mr. Avraham Burg, a member of Ms. Auer’s team – former speaker of the Knesset – the Israeli Parliament – put it very clearly when he said this week in Vienna that he does not give up his Zionism ideals of having the Jews live on the land of their forefathers in a situation that allows full equality for all its inhabitants – as it was the ideal of the founding fathers of the State – he believes that being a moral Jew is what Judaism demands – so he wants to see change in order to fulfill that calling without the need to oppress another people. Mr. Burg’s background is amazing in itself, as he grew up in a home where his father – Mr. Joseph Burg – was the head of National Religious Jewry and then – in Palestine – a partner of Ben Gurion’s Socialists in the creation of the State of Israel.

Mr. Swoboda said that as eventually the European Union will have to evolve to become a one state with a diversified Multi-National reality, this could become the working example that the new Israel/Palestine or Palestine/Israel will emulate.

I attended several book-presentation events for this Kreisky Forum study these last two weeks, at the Kreisky Forum, and at the Diplomatic Academy. Then I was informed that the show moved to Brussels where the book was presented to many members of the European Parliament and Civil Society – and yesterday – back here in Vienna – at the local venue of the European Union.
At all events the rooms were full and very interesting discussions followed. There were hardly any one-sided opponents.

The Event in Vienna, February 16th 2015, at the House of the European Union Representation in Vienna, included a Roundtable Debate – “TOWARDS A EUROPEAN PEACE INITIATIVE” – chaired and moderated by Ms. Auer with some of the main members of her team on board, and also new faces. Those of the book were besides Mr. Avraham Burg and editor Bashir Bashir, also Ms. Inbal Arnon, associate professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Mr. Noam Sheizaf, a Tel Aviv based journalist who also runs a critical website - 972mag.com The new face is Mr. Muhammed Jabali, a young Israeli Arab from Taybeh who coordinates Art/Activist projects, occasional DJ, Adjunct lecturer at Bezalel Art School in Jerusalem, content editor at batuta.com (an Arabic language travel website), occasional project editor like when Coordinator of TheJaffaProject – an Aoutobiography of a City, by the Ayam association or when explaining that the Arab gay people of Israel did not participate in Pride Day because they did not want the foreign participants to think that being liberal when it comes to the issue of homosexuality there is also acceptance of human rights to the Arab minority.

Mr. Muhammad Jabali’s topic at the panel was: “From containment of imbalanced ethnic politics to co-resistance against it.”
In his presentation he stressed that 93% of the land in Israel is under State control and it serves projects only for 80% of its citizens. Also, when you legitimize a democratic policy Palestinians should be able to marry those from outside the borders and bring them to Israel – like the Jewish citizens are allowed to do.

I enlarged here on Jabali’s participation because I had an extensive chat with him after the meeting and explained to him that personally I believe that Israel itself, in its present structure, with its 20% Arab population – the Israeli Arabs with voting rights and for a long time already with 10 to 12 elected Members of the Knesset, could be the first example of this ONE-STATE FOR ALL SOLUTION. I believe that it is in the hands of the Israeli-Palestinians to make their presence felt in Parliament – not as thorns in the thighs of the Jewish citizens – but as full rights citizens demanding their place within the constraints of existing laws. That this is possible was shown last year when the 12 members of Parliament from the three Arab lists helped elect Reuven Rivlin as President of Israel against the will of Prime Minister Netanyahu who favored someone else. Why it took 50 years for the Arab Members of the Knesset to exercise their voting rights in this most positive way is beyond my understanding. In effect – the Arab vote could help build a government and get to be Ministers as well – really they are the only ones to blame for not having done this – and the answer that the Arabs outside Israel would never have forgiven them the effort to doing something for themselves first – does not hold water in my way of thinking, and I am sure not in Mr. Swoboda’s hopes to see change and the start towards a real target of peace. Israel will have new elections on March 17, 2015 and the Arabs expect to win 15 seats out of the total of 120 seats. Why not ask for the Ministry of housing in exchange for helping the challenger gather the needed 61 members required minimum? That is what we call rEVOlution – the evolution that is a quiet revolution; the achievement of the Kreisky Forum Study goals in an orderly democratic way.

Just a few further notions from the February 16th event:

From the introduction by Mr. Gerald Klug, the current Federal Minister of Defense and Sport (lucky Austria that can have the possibility to combine with impunity these two posts) said that we should talk not just on territory but also on “When and Why.”

Mr. Hannes Swoboda asked – “Is it for Israel and Palestine?” and answered “It is for the people of the region.” The issue before thee World and specifically before Europe is thus not merely the continuation of past efforts but a step forward with forward looking concepts.

Editor Bashir Bashir stressed that the exercise is not just wishful thinking but that the facts on the ground call for a new paradigm – one that switches from National Rights to Human Rights. This calls for rethinking Jewish Nationalism and Palestinian Activism. He stressed that he takes his Israeli citizenship very seriously and he is a product of the Palestinian Naqba.
Both seemingly being the pillars of his position. The solution being for Palestinian Nationalism becoming part of a bi-National State with Equal Rights.

So, it seems that the Kreisky Forum effort, as managed by Gertraud Auer Borea, can indeed move from being an ideal – to practical reality – if the Israeli Arabs move to do what is indeed in their best interest – and achievable – because despite the many shades of black and grey – Israel is still the only area in the Middle East that has a minimum of democracy, and the only Arab State that can claim some democracy in its structure is the very remote Tunisia. All the rest of the Arab World has imploded or is on a path of implosion witnessing acts of inhumanity – not just political disagreements. Let me repeat therefore that word I brought forward earlier – rEVOlution – this is not a misspelling – but a conscious effort to create a new path and my hope that the Kreisky Forum could adopt this word. This new paradigm presented by the Kreisky Forum to the European Parliament has in it the potential of saving the Arab World from itself – by starting first with Israel saving itself from itself.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 17th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Robert Reich | How Trade Deals Boost the Top 1% and Bust the Rest.

Economist, professor, author and political commentator Robert Reich writes: “Suppose that by enacting a particular law we’d increase the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. But almost all that growth would go to the richest 1 percent.”

please see: readerssupported news.org

Then he has also another posting today where he says directly that this is about the Trans Pacific Partnership.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 16th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From: Adriana Troxler  adriana.troxler at oikos-international.o…

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

Joe Biden: “America is Back”

By Scott Galindez, Reader Supported News

14 February 2015

It was billed as an official Office of the Vice President event, not a campaign event. The vice president was greeted at the airport by the Republican governor Terry Branstad. The Dallas Republican Party sent out a press release thanking Joe Biden for coming to Iowa and pointing out how long it has been since Hillary Clinton has visited the Hawkeye State. Umm, she has a 40-point lead, so why would she start campaigning a year before the caucus?

Drake University students and other Iowans started lining up at 7 a.m. for a chance to see the man who is a heartbeat away from being president of the United States. They braved frigid temperatures for hours before being allowed into the Sheslow Auditorium on the campus of Drake University, the site of past presidential election debates. Over 800 people packed the auditorium.

This was the Democrats’ first 2015 salvo into the 2016 presidential election. Joe Biden came to Iowa to frame the economic debate, to serve notice that the administration’s policies have put America on the right path and the Republicans’ threats to change course would send the country in the wrong direction. From health care to jobs and financial reform, the VP claimed success:

In 2009, when the president and I were sworn into office, the middle class was in dire straits. On the day we were sworn in, we had already lost 800,000 jobs, just that month. Over the next few months we continued to lose 700,000 jobs a month. People were losing their homes. If they didn’t lose their homes, they lost the equity in their homes, they lost what is the only real source of wealth for middle class families, that equity … The truth of the matter is pensions, life savings, dreams of hard working Americans were wiped out by the Great Recession … but thanks to the great determination of your parents and many Americans, we have gone from a genuine crisis to a recovery and to the prefaces of a resurgence, re-establishing the middle class’s place in America. Just last November we added over 400,000 jobs; nearly a million jobs the last three months.

“America is back,” proclaimed Biden. “America is leading the world again.” The vice president went on to argue that Democrats should run on the Obama/Biden record.

“It wasn’t that long ago that many in my own party were saying our plan didn’t work and distanced themselves from our policies. I think that would be a terrible mistake. In my view, those seeking to the lead the nation should seek to protect and defend, and yes, run on what we have done, own what we have done, and be judged on what we have done. Some say that would be a third term for the president. I think it would be sticking to what works,” said Biden.

The vice president said that North America is now the epicenter of energy production in the world and will be energy-independent by 2020 or possibly 2018. Biden said that the United States alone has more oil and gas rigs pumping than the rest of the world combined. When I first heard him say that, I wondered if that could be true. It is – the United States has 55% of the world’s oil and gas rigs. According to oilprice.com, “Global drilling for oil and gas is dominated by North America, in particular the USA. In January 1995 there were 737 oil and gas rigs drilling in the USA, 42% of the world total. By October 2011 this figure had grown to 2010 rigs, 55% of the world total.” Drill baby drill? We have been drilling more than the rest of the world combined for a long time already. Market Watch reports that North America will become a net energy exporter by 2020.


Of course, the bad news is we are destroying the environment to get there. Fracking is what is producing the increase in oil production. But Biden also trumpeted the administration’s gains in renewable energy. He said that our use of renewable energy has doubled in the last six years, and that we have tripled electricity production from wind, solar, and geothermal
.

The gains in energy production have lowered our costs to the point where companies are now “in-sourcing.” Natural gas prices in the United States are three times cheaper than in Europe, five times cheaper than in Asia. Biden said the result is that companies are coming home. The global management firm A.T. Kearney did its annual survey of the world’s leading industrialists and they said, by the largest margin ever, the United States is the best market to invest in.

We all know things are going well for the wealthy again. But it is at the expense of the environment, and wages for the middle class and poor are not on the rise.

But Joe Biden has a point: clearly the country is better off than it was six years ago. The last two Democrats to hold the White House left the country better off economically than their predecessors. The Republicans are running on foreign policy and “speeding up” economic growth. That theme itself acknowledges that the economy is growing. While they blame the administration for ISIS, it was the Bush administration that broke Iraq.


The problem I see with the Democrats’ running on the Obama/Biden record is that the “recovery” is not being felt by many Americans. Unemployment is down, but the new jobs are not as good as the old jobs. Many Americans are still not ready to say things are better off for them than they were six years ago. But that is changing.

Biden acknowledged that more has to be done for the middle class and the poor. He said we have the greatest concentration of wealth in the United States since the twenties. Biden said productivity is up, yet wages have not risen for a decade. He said that in the past if your company grew and made a profit, everyone shared the wealth – not just the shareholders.

He also defended the bailout of the banks and the auto industry, and the efficacy of the stimulus package. He reminded the crowd that the banks paid back every penny with interest and that 92% of economists believe the stimulus prevented a much worse economic crisis.

Biden spoke for 90 minutes and stuck mostly to the economy, but he did slip in his foreign policy experience and touted his role in the administration for getting things done. He compared himself to Little Mikey in the Life cereal commercials. He mentioned that President Obama had put “Sheriff Joe” in charge of the TARP money.


While it wasn’t billed as a campaign speech, Biden was clearly testing the waters. He told reporters that he will decide by the end of the summer if he will run for president.

For the question and answer portion of the event, Biden left the stage and walked back and forth … He took only three questions, but gave very long, wide-ranging answers. When he was asked about immigration reform, we learned that Biden has met almost every world leader, clearly a hint that he is prepared to be president. He became most animated when talking about how it makes no sense to send people back to a country they were not even raised in. He pointed out that five-year-olds couldn’t prevent their parents from bringing them across the border. He also said that one of things that make America work is immigration.

When asked what needs to be done to get more people to vote, Biden answered that we have to get the money out of politics. He told the crowd that he supports public financing of campaigns. He also pointed out that 92 senators voted for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, including Strom Thurmond, and that the Supreme Court was wrong to strike down some of its key provisions. He blasted Republicans for passing restrictions on voter access.

All in all, I was left with the impression that the former senator from Delaware still wants to be the president of the United States.

Biden closed with his rephrasing of a famous quote from Plato: “One problem with good people not getting involved in politics is they end up being governed by people worse than themselves.”

One student in the crowd, Mark Reiter, was impressed with Biden’s “intentional candor” and asked the vice president if he would be back for the caucus. He said Biden flashed him a big smile and said “maybe.”

Scott Galindez co-founded Truthout and will be reporting on the presidential election from Iowa throughout 2015.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

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Some of the Comments:

+16 # ericlipps 2015-02-14 18:13
If “America is back” and on the road to energy independence only because we’re ripping up more of our own land to extract and use more fossil fuels, there’ll be a price to pay down the road–maybe not that far down the road.

+10 # jdd 2015-02-14 18:44
Wait till the effects of the Saudi’s $47/barrel oil ripple through not only the fracking industry, but the trillions of debt built upon it.

+3 # Emmanuel Goldstein 2015-02-14 19:33
“One problem with good people not getting involved in politics is they end up being governed by people worse than themselves.”

That’s for sure. And We the People are experiencing it full on from both parties. With both parties being in the pockets of Corporate America and the military-industrial-media complex, what is a conscientious citizen to do? We desperately need to restore democracy to this country, using whatever means necessary. Otherwise the game’s up.

0 # wantrealdemocracy 2015-02-14 20:00
What can we do? We must stop voting for either a Republican or a Democrat. As Emmanuel says, “Both parties are in the pockets of corporate American and the Military Industrial Complex” and what is ever worse–they are in the pockets of the banking ‘industry’.

We don’t need a third party. We need to get rid of political parties. With the tecnology we have today we can have direct democracy. Our elected official should be mandated to vote as the constituents tell them to—and not vote as directed by their political party or their major donors. The political parties and the donors and that money with strings attached is the reason we are in the mess we are now. Some ‘recovery’. Yeah. We got more jobs but they are part time and pay minimum wage. Time to throw the corrupt out of office and get new people that will vote to end the wars, tax the rich, take care of the people and protect the environment.

0 # wantrealdemocracy 2015-02-14 20:08
We gotta save ourselves!! We have to get together with other working class people and find a good candidate to represent us in Congress. Never mind those with political experience—we know they are corrupt!!! They know the present system and will just give us more of the same. We need new blood and new ideas and we better get out and talk to people to get the peaceful revolution up and going. We are the majority, we can win!!! only 40% of the registered voters vote. That is a lot of people to get involved in changing our rotten government.

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

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ARCTIC – IS IT POSSIBLE?

Author : Kapil Narula
10 Feb 2015
 www.maritimeindia.org/CommentryVi…

The Arctic is a unique region which plays a very important role in the earth’s ecosystem. It regulates the earth’s climate, influences the ocean currents, has rich biodiversity and is home to a substantial indigenous population. Therefore, sustainability should be a prerequisite condition for development in the Arctic.

‘Sustainability’ is the ability of a system to continue a desired behaviour indefinitely. An example of such a sustainable system is tropical rain forests in which the inherent processes continue in a cyclic manner to support life. On the other hand, ‘development’ is the process of growth. When these two words are conjoined it implies ‘continuous growth’. Hence the word ‘Sustainable Development’ is actually an oxymoron because any kind of growth cannot be indefinite.


While ‘Sustainable Development’ is rightly understood as a multi-dimensional concept, having economic, environmental and social dimensions, an extended definition also includes inter and intra-generational equity as well as inter-species equity, as its fundamental principles. However, people often misunderstand it as simultaneous and continued growth in all three dimensions. This understanding is flawed as these dimensions have competing goals and therefore there has to be a trade-off between these goals. As an example, any kind of economic growth has negative environmental externalities and there may be accompanying social impacts which may lead to collapse of societies. Therefore sustainable development needs to be perceived in a way that explicitly conveys the core idea that the growth of the economy and the society is constrained by environmental limits.


If ‘Sustainable Development’ of the Arctic region is viewed from the above perspective, one is forced to define environmental limits prior to looking at economic opportunities in the region. Further, the impact of development in the region on culture, societies and the traditional way of living of the indigenous people should also be minimal. Hence it is important that any activities which are undertaken in the Arctic region should be carefully examined for the foreseeable impacts which they might have on the region as well as on the ecosystem of the earth.

Let us consider two major issues which are threatening the sustainability of the Arctic region: ‘resources’ and ‘routes’. The scramble between Arctic nations to control both these and the intent of extra regional powers to share the trickledown benefits, have resulted in countries engaging in active geopolitics on the Arctic. While some countries like India are keenly interested in science in order to increase their understanding of climate change, other countries such as South Korea are looking at the economic benefits which they can reap as fallout of increased shipping in the region.

Let’s talk about resources first. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the region contains 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 15 per cent of its oil. These valuable energy resources have been fossilised over millions of years. From the viewpoint of sustainability, the ‘strong sustainability’ condition defines that the ‘economic capital’ (produced capital such as infrastructure, knowledge etc.), and ‘natural capital’ (environmental assets such as fossil fuels, biodiversity and other ecosystem structures) are complimentary, but not interchangeable. This implies that natural capital needs to be preserved sufficiently, as it has to be passed to the next generation and cannot be replaced with economic capital. Hence the amount of fossil fuels and minerals which can be extracted from the Arctic region should be limited to the regeneration rates of these resources. Obviously, this would mean that only miniscule amounts of resources can be extracted and therefore the strong sustainability condition is difficult to meet, in the case of energy and mineral resources. An alternate interpretation for resources can be as follows: the non-renewable resources which are extracted should be replaced by an equivalent amount of substitutes for that resource. This interpretation can however serve as a prerequisite condition for resource extraction, if the Arctic has to be developed sustainably.

The strong sustainability condition is often diluted to a ‘weak sustainability’ condition which allows unconditional substitution between economic and natural capital. This implies that natural resources may be used as long as economic capital is increased. Proponents of this approach claim that the energy which is extracted now, can be used to increase economic capital, so that the total amount of capital for the next generation remains unchanged. However, most often this weak sustainability condition is also violated and the extracted resources are consumed by the existing generation without a thought for the future generations.

On the issue of new shipping routes, the strong sustainability condition in the Arctic region would be met as long as the rates of waste generation from shipping and related activities do not exceed the assimilative capacity of the Arctic eco-system. This condition therefore requires that while the shipping routes may be used, there should be stringent environmental regulations controlling the operation of shipping in the region. Notwithstanding the strict enforcement of rules, the environmental risks remains high due the uncertain nature of floating ice, harsh climatic condition, risk of human or technical failure and the fragile nature of the environment. An oil spill either from offshore drilling or accidents at sea, marine pollution due to leaks and untreated waste disposal at sea are other challenges, which will have an impact on the marine environment in the region. However, as long as the environmental impact on the ecosystem is within the acceptable limits, shipping in the region could be classified as sustainable. But the question is “Do we have enough know-how on the Arctic ecosystem to even attempt defining such limits?” Further, what is the guarantee that there would be no accidents such as those involving the drilling ships, ‘Noble Discoverer’ and the ‘Kulluk’, operated by Shell off the Alaskan coast in 2013 which led to suspension of further drilling in the region. The answers to these questions are not easy and hence prior to allowing navigation of ships through the ice floes infested waters, one must carefully examine the environmental risks which the region is exposed to, if unrestricted shipping is allowed.

It can, therefore, be concluded that there are many challenges to sustainable development of the Arctic region. However, such a possibility exists, provided stringent rules and regulations are followed for shipping and a limited amount of resource extraction is permitted in the region. How would this development unfold, is a question which none can predict, but one can only hope that the Arctic Council adopts some guidelines which imposes certain limits and restriction on shipping and resource exploration activities in the Arctic region.

**************************************************

(*The author is a Research Fellow at the National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi. The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Indian Navy or National Maritime Foundation. He can be reached at  kapilnarula at yahoo.com)

Kapil Narula
Cdr (Indian Navy)
Research Fellow
National Maritime Foundation
Airport Road, NH-8
New Delhi- 110 010
Ph:+91-11-26156520 Extn: 112(O)

AND

PhD Research Scholar
Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research
Goregaon (East), Mumbai

ARTICLE WRITTEN “towards the run up to the Indian National Maritime Foundation Annual Conference.”
The National Maritime Foundation is dedicated to “Nurture India’s Maritime Interests.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From: Campaign for America’s Future.

About the Trans-Pacific Partnership – TPP – a Trade Agreement written by business and Government bureaucrats.


They’re at it again – Unelected bureaucrats are meeting behind closed doors making decisions that could cost tens of thousands of good jobs.

It’s called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We don’t know what’s in it, but we know who wrote it: corporate lobbyists and representatives of countries that include repressive regimes with no concern for labor or environmental standards.

We should have learned our lesson by now. Bad trade agreements create a race to the bottom which benefits only the multinationals. It lets them export jobs, undermine environmental standards and restrict internet freedom?.

Now they want ?”?fast-track?” ? rules on a secretly negotiated treaty. Fast track means Congress skips the amendment process and skips to vote all before they even know what is in the treaty.


The corporate lobbyists don’t want the public to have the chance to see what’s in this deal — and they don’t want Congress to change what they are trying to foist on America.
As Sen. Elizabeth Warren said, “they have to be secret because if the American people knew what was going on, they would be opposed.”

American jobs and strong environmental protections are too important to rush through another bad trade agreement.

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We suggest Europeans look at this US exercise before they enter into a similar agreement with the US – in the TTIP.
These agreements make it easier to do business – but the European citizens, like their US counterparts, are also entitled to find out how such agreements are specifically built in order to bypass Congress or Parliaments – and such planning will inevitably lead to interference with real interests of real people. Corporations cannot be viewed as people – whatever the lawyers may have concocted for us to the contrary.

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