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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 16th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Washington Post – Opinions

Did we really elect Donald Trump?

By Kathleen Parker – Opinion writer – January 13 at 7:45 PM

Republicans can argue until their last breath that Trump objectors are sore losers, but isn’t more at stake than “mere politics”? This phrase has been rendered quaint by such serious issues as Russian hackers apparently trying to tilt the election toward Donald Trump; the FBI’s possibly politically motivated practices; Trump’s initial resistance to the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community; Trump’s refusal to release tax records, which might mollify concerns about his relationship with Russia.

These aren’t partisan issues, or shouldn’t be, as evidenced by the Justice Department inspector general’s decision to investigate how FBI Director James B. Comey handled the probe of Hillary Clinton’s email and private server. The focus will be on Comey’s statement in July that Clinton and her colleagues were “extremely careless” with classified information but that he wasn’t recommending criminal charges — as well as his announcement to Congress just a week and a half before Election Day that, because of new information, he was reopening the investigation.

This fresh look pertained to new emails found on the laptop of Carlos Danger, a.k.a. Anthony Weiner (but, really, why the name change?), estranged husband of top Clinton adviser Huma Abedin. The emails subsequently were found to be inconsequential, but if there were any fence-sitters left at that point, at least many of them probably toppled into Trump’s camp, from sheer exhaustion if not outright disgust.

Let me help you: Eleven days to go and the man who had said there’s nothing to see here suddenly says, Hey, there might be something after all! And no one’s supposed to think this affected the election?

How could it not have? Anecdotally, I can report at least a dozen friends who say, “That was it for me.” But polling, too, suggests a consequential voter shift in the final days of the campaign.

FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver’s polling/analysis group, reported that Clinton had an 81 percent chance of winning in mid-October. About a week after Comey’s announcement, that number dropped to 65 percent. This rapid shift didn’t occur because people suddenly recognized that Trump is a brilliant foreign policy strategist. It’s true that undecided people often return to their party at the last minute, but this may not account for Clinton’s sudden drop.

While it’s impossible to prove that Comey had any impact, there’s enough reason for dissatisfied Americans to continue to protest the results — even on Inauguration Day. For certain, Comey acted against bureau policy never to interfere politically or discuss investigations so close to an election. If there’s any justification, Comey may have felt that the information would be leaked anyway.

Adding suspicion to skepticism, the hacking and release of Democratic National Committee emails also may have affected election results, though, again, it’s impossible to know how much, since, as far as I’m aware, we can’t read people’s minds (yet). Thus, we’re left to draw inferences from suppositions from what little else we know.

We do know that our intelligence community concluded that Russia hacked the DNC, and Trump finally accepted this last week. To concede that Russia was behind the hacking (rather than a 400-pound person sitting on a bed somewhere, as Trump at one point theorized) was, presumably, to admit that Russia helped him win. Well, didn’t it? Didn’t Trump loudly call upon Russia to hack Clinton’s emails?

For the undecided (or the unpersuadable), let’s pose a hypothetical: What if Clinton had publicly asked Russia to hack Trump’s records and release his tax returns — and Russia did? And what if the FBI announced less than two weeks before Election Day that it was going to investigate fraudulent practices at Trump University? Let’s say that Trump’s number dipped dramatically and he lost.

Do you reckon Republicans would be a tad upset?

The inspector general’s investigation into Comey’s conduct, as well as Congress’s investigation into Russia’s apparent interference in the election, are urgent, overdue and probably useless. Mostly, Comey is guilty of poor judgment. And Russia is being Russia — a fact best quickly absorbed by the soon-to-be president.

Yes, democracy needs saving and the republic’s foundation is showing wear. But isn’t the crucial question the very one that can’t be answered: Did we really elect Donald Trump to be president of the United States?

We may never know precisely who sowed the wind, but to be sure, we’re all going to reap the whirlwind.

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Read more from Kathleen Parker’s archive, follow her on Twitter or find her on Facebook.

Read more here:

The Post’s View: Stop trying to hush up the truth about election hacking

Adam Schiff and Jane Harman: Russia attacked our democracy. That demands intense review by Congress.

John Podesta: Something is deeply broken at the FBI

Eric Chenoweth: Americans keep looking away from the election’s most alarming story

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

Washington (CNN) January 14, 2017 Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis says he doesn’t see President-elect Donald Trump as a “legitimate” commander in chief following Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“I don’t see this President-elect as a legitimate president,” Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, told NBC News’ Chuck Todd in a clip released Friday. “I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”
Lewis is an elder statesman in the party, especially among older black voters who know him from his time leading the “Bloody Sunday” march protesting segregation in Alabama in 1965. Lewis was eventually elected to Congress in 1986.
Lewis also said he planned to skip Trump’s inauguration next week, which he said would be the first ceremony he would not attend since coming to Washington.

Other Congressmen Joined the John Lewis protest. So far we have the names of:

Raul Grijalva of Arizona,

Nydia Velasquez, Jose Serrano, Yvette Clarke of New York

Luis Gutierrez of Illinois

Katherine Clark of Massachusetts

William Lacy of Missouri

John Conyers of Michigan

Kurt Schrader, Earl Blumenauer of Oregon

Mark Takano, Mark DeSaulnier, Jared Huffman of California


UPDATED Monday January 16, 2017

Further 12 Representatives – all Democrats – announced they will skip the inauguration.

They are:

Jerry Nadler, Adriano Espaillat of New York

Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey

Marcia Fudge of Ohio

Mark Pocan of Wisconsin

Pramila Jayapal of Washington

Ted Lieu, Judy Chu, Joe Lofgren, Maxine Waters, Lucille Raybal-Allard, Karen Bass of California.

Our count as of today is thus 28 “refusniks”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 14th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Who’s the Illegitimate President Now, Mr. Birtherism?

Trump spent five years trying to delegitimize Obama. Now he’s taking office under a cloud of suspicion, and only has himself to blame.

BY BRIAN BEUTLER, The New Republic
Friday, January 13, 2017


It is ironic that Donald Trump owes his success in Republican politics, and thus ultimately his presidency, to birtherism given the extent to which he failed to bring birtherism mainstream.

Trump Is Exactly the Monster We Feared, and Republicans Are Enabling Him

He assumed leadership of the birther movement in March 2011 when he first expressed public doubts about whether President Barack Obama was born in the U.S. The next month, Obama put an end to the farce by producing his Hawaiian birth certificate at a White House press conference, and days later humiliated Trump during the White House Correspondents Dinner. But Trump kept expressing doubts about Obama’s country of origin until late in the 2016 presidential campaign, when he shamelessly attempted to blame the entire crusade on Hillary Clinton. Eventually he had the last laugh.

Birtherism was a huge plot line of his presidency, one generally pushed by elements of the conservative fringe. Though these conspiracy theorists were egged on by Republicans, birtherism never became a mainstream Republican rallying cry because it is racist and fabricated. But the propulsive force behind birtherism, if not the theory itself, was a widely shared right-wing desire to void Obama’s presidency. Racism led elements of the far right to adopt birtherism specifically, but their quest was for any revelation that could prevent Obama from running the country. Only a few criteria govern who can become president; one of them is that the president must be a natural-born citizen; birtherism thus emerges from circular reasoning and wishful thinking. It is a tool that allows political nemeses to trump all politics, which is why white candidates like John McCain and Ted Cruz have also found themselves at the center of less obviously racist birther inquests.

But if it’s ironic that Trump rose to the pinnacle of global power on the strength of a failed campaign to delegitimize Obama, it’s also fitting that his own presidency will begin under a mix of suspicions and legitimacy questions that are very real and that Trump brought upon himself.

Nobody who’s reasonable questions Trump’s eligibility for the presidency, but questions surrounding his entitlement to keep the job are widespread, and not just on the left-wing fringe. Birtherism may have been Trump’s accidental springboard to the presidency, but the next four years are set to express themselves as a continuous fight over the legitimacy of his presidency in ways that will make birtherism seem like a footnote.

The fact that Trump’s weak lock on the presidency isn’t more widely discussed is attributable almost entirely to Republicans in Congress who, for now and for the foreseeable future, have resolved to foreclose inquiries into Trump’s conduct that may yield impeachable offenses.

Democrats can’t force investigations, and they can’t issue subpoenas, so they can’t isolate the source of all the smoke. But it’s everywhere.

Consider the following:

It is very likely that the FBI is investigating links between Trump’s campaign aides and Russian actors who allegedly conducted a sabotage campaign against the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton, and into whether Russian officials have the capacity to blackmail Trump.
His designated CIA director, Mike Pompeo, not only vouchsafed the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia embarked on its disruption campaign with the goal of helping Trump, but promised the senators considering his nomination “to pursue foreign intelligence with vigor no matter where the facts lead.”

Trump has forced the director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, Jr., to take the unprecedented step of upbraiding the president-elect for freezing out ethics officers, and for making financial decisions that leave him highly conflicted between his business and the public interest. Shaub called Trump’s decision to hand executive control over his business to his sons “wholly inadequate” and urged him to fully divest from the Trump organization.
Ethics experts, and others on the left and right, have observed that Trump is very likely to become in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution almost immediately after taking the oath of office. Trump will set off a silent constitutional crisis in hour zero, leaving everyone wondering when it will become impossible to ignore.
All of these issues will dog Trump endlessly, if only because Trump rejects even the slightest affronts to his ego and bottom line. He could liquidate his assets and he could support a full inquiry into the Russian government’s actions and contacts over the course of the election. But he never will.

These decisions, and the pall they cast over his administration-in-waiting, likely explain why he will enter the White House with the lowest favorability rating of any incoming president in modern history, and why he’ll likely have a harder time capitalizing on good political and economic fortunes than presidents normally do. His antic campaign to bully manufacturers into keeping jobs in the U.S. was widely heralded as a public-relations coup, and yet, “voters disapprove 51 – 37 percent of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as president-elect.”

There are glimmers of hope in this state of affairs for Trump foes—dim flashes of accountability in the few institutions (the media, the intelligence community) that haven’t completely submitted to Trumpism, and a source of enduring opposition to Trump’s gross behavior and the GOP’s unpopular policy agenda.

But there are dangers, too. Being unpopular and under a cloud of suspicion makes Trump more prone to lash out. He baselessly dismissed the record size of his popular vote deficit as an artifact of millions of people voting illegally. When he’s in power, that scapegoating tendency could easily turn into a crackdown on voting that will dwarf Obama-era voter suppression. Before becoming their first customer, Trump compared the intelligence community to Nazi Germany. He likewise refers to news outlets who write stories about intelligence findings as “fake news.”

As of this writing, Trump has not responded to the fact that the Justice Department’s Inspector General will be investigating whether the FBI took illegal or unethical steps to help Trump win the presidency at Clinton’s expense. But if he is true to form, he will politicize that inquiry, too. His popularity may never rise above water, but he can still leave plenty of institutional damage in his wake. And, of course, he could start a war.

—————————————-
Brian Beutler is a senior editor at The New Republic. He hosts Primary Concerns, a podcast about politics.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 14th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Is the answer with Jared Kushner – the Jewish orthodox First Son-in-Law?

DOES THE ANTI-NEPOTISM STATUTE PRECLUDE TRUMP FROM APPOINTING KUSHNER?
BYALAN DERSHOWITZ 12 JANUARY 2017 08:37
Whether one likes or dislikes a duly elected president, surely our chief executive should have the power to surround himself with anyone he believes, rightly or wrongly, can render sound advice.

Above tidbits add up now to the Ronen Bergman (a trusted journalist in Israel) information that US intelligence operatives in Israel do not trust the incoming administration in Washington with true intelligence for the fear that it will leak to the Russians and from there to Israel’s enemies in the region.

This obviously collides with the Netanyahu trust in Trump because of the long hatred he nourished in his personal relations with Obama. Netanyahu will now find himself in a situation that he ends up between a rock and a hard place. Can he continue in his position?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 14th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Breaking News
YNET: U.S. Intel Officials Tell Israel Not To Share Info With Trump Administration.

Haaretz – January 14, 2017

(Haaretz) — Israeli intelligence officials are concerned that the exposure of classified information to their American counterparts under a Trump administration could lead to their being leaked to Russia and onward to Iran, investigative journalist Ronen Bergman reported by Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot on Thursday.

The intelligence concerns, which have been discussed in closed forums recently, are based on suspicions of unreported ties between President-elect Donald Trump, or his associates, and the government of Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

As Russian intelligence is associated with intelligence officials in Tehran, highly classified information, such as Israel’s clandestine methods of operation and intelligence sources, could potentially reach Iran. Such information has been shared with the United States in the past.

American intelligence officials expressed despair at the election of Trump during a recent meeting with their Israeli counterparts, Bergman reported. They said that they believed that Putin had “leverages of pressure” over Trump, though they did not elaborate. The American media reported on Wednesday that Russia has embarrassing intelligence about the president-elect.

According to Bergman, the American intelligence officials implied that Israel should “be careful” when transferring intelligence information to the White House and the National Security Council (NSC) following Trump’s inauguration – at least until it is clear that Trump does not have inappropriate connections with Russia.

Cooperation between the Israeli and U.S. intelligence communities has intensified over the past two decades, with most of the joint operations directed, according to reports, against Iran. Hezbollah and Hamas were also intelligence targets. An official agreement in 2008 for comprehensive cooperation, including the exposure of sources and methods of action, reportedly led to impressive results, including the disruption of the Iranian nuclear program.

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Terrorism Still Iran’s Most Feared Trump Card.
Marc Perelman May 5, 2006

President Barack Obama put an end to offensive activity against Iran in 2013, at the start of secret talks between the U.S, and Iran over a nuclear agreement. However, the exposure of Israeli intelligence to the U.S. continued.

American officials are convinced that whistleblower Edward Snowden handed over intelligence to Moscow – in return for which he received political asylum – and that some of it was handed over to Tehran, in the context of Putin’s policy of increasing Iranian dependence on Moscow.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 14th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Trump’s Suppression of Climate Science Echoes Restrictions Under Stalin.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

By John de Graaf, Truthout | News Analysis

If early developments are any indication, science will not fare well in the Trump administration. In addition to calling for reduced funding of scientific research for proclaimed budgetary reasons and asking for the names of all energy department scientists who have attended climate change conferences, Trump has appointed Scott Pruitt, a climate-change denier, to lead the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), while choosing another denier, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to lead the US Department of Energy. Trump himself has labeled global warming a hoax created by the Chinese to damage the US economy, despite climate change being almost universally acknowledged by scientists.

Trump’s actions reflect his intention to make more room for the expanded exploitation of fossil fuels, the leading sources of climate-warming greenhouse gases, and to scuttle international agreements that would reduce fossil fuel use in favor of solar, wind and geothermal alternatives. In this endeavor, he can count on widespread support from fellow Republicans.

One recent study found that 182 members of the current House and Senate, virtually all of them Republicans, deny the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Together, these members represent about 60 percent of all Americans. Most of them received campaign funding support from the fossil fuel industry.

Sen. James Inhofe, the most visible of the group and chair of the powerful Senate Environment Committee, calls climate change “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” In an absurd attempt to prove his point that the Earth is not warming, he brought a snowball into the US Senate after a winter snowstorm. Recently reelected Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson echoed Inhofe’s remarks: “I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change…. It’s not proven by any stretch of the imagination.” His views run counter to almost universal acceptance of anthropogenic climate change by atmospheric scientists.

Several of their counterparts from the House Science and Environment Committees are equally blunt. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, calls global warming “a total fraud.” Rep. Joe Barton of Texas challenges climate change from the standpoint of fundamentalist Christianity. “I would point out if you’re a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change,” Barton says. “And that certainly wasn’t because mankind overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy.”

As many as half of the GOP congressional delegation supports a literal Biblical interpretation of Genesis, denying Darwin’s theory of evolution, another universally accepted concept among scientists. In some states, such as Texas, textbooks give as much or greater credence to creationism.

Meanwhile, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has described global warming as the doctrine of a modern secular church (academic science), arguing that he, a skeptic, is a modern-day Galileo. During the Republican presidential primary, Cruz told a crowd of supporters that “it used to be accepted scientific wisdom that the earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier.” Not surprisingly, Cruz was not challenged by his audience, which seemed unaware that Cruz had his history as wrong as his science.

In the early 1600s, when Galileo was considered a heretic by the Catholic Church, everyone knew the Earth was round; Columbus had sailed around it more than a century earlier. What Galileo challenged was the idea that the sun revolved around the Earth, still a popular belief in his day. Here also, it was not science, but ideology — in this case, a Biblical literalism — that stood against the truth.

The current GOP dismissal of accepted science, either for reasons of religious belief or a desire to “drill baby, drill,” must be challenged. To allow ideology to trump peer-reviewed research would mean repeating one of the most troubling episodes in the history of science. It happened in the Soviet Union.


The Greatest Geneticist

Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov, a Russian, was perhaps the greatest geneticist of the 20th century and the most famous scientist who ever lived that you’ve never heard of. In 1993, while making a film called Genetic Time Bomb, about the loss of genetic diversity in world agriculture, my colleague Vivia Boe and I created a short segment about Vavilov’s amazing but tragic story:
Vavilov was a Mendelian. Decades earlier, the Austrian monk Gregor Mendel proved that characteristics or “traits” in plants and animals were hereditary and passed genetically from generation to generation. In the early years of the Soviet Union, Vavilov was the world’s greatest crop explorer. He understood that Soviet crop-breeding programs would be greatly enhanced by collecting seeds from around the world that might possibly contain important genetic resistance to pests and disease, or other important qualities such as heat or cold or drought resistance. He traveled on five continents, including North America, while he was free to travel.

Nikolai Vavilov, the greatest plant geneticist of his time, was imprisoned by Stalin.

Nikolai Vavilov, the greatest plant geneticist of his time, was imprisoned by Stalin.

Vavilov’s work was universally acclaimed, especially his groundbreaking 1926 volume, Studies on the Origin of Cultivated Plants, in which he developed his theory that all modern food crops, no matter how widely they are now grown, were initially cultivated in eight “centers of origin.”

For example, the center of origin for wheat was the Middle East; for corn, Mexico; for potatoes, the Peruvian Andes; and for rice, Southeast Asia. If you wanted to find the greatest variety of species for a crop, Vavilov argued, you should look to its center of origin, because that was the place where the crop had coexisted for the longest time with its enemies and developed its defenses, and where humans had cultivated the most diversity for that crop — Peru, for instance, had hundreds, perhaps thousands of potato varieties.

Though modified by more recent research, Vavilov’s theory of centers of origin was immensely valuable to crop scientists as they looked for varieties containing characteristics that might be useful to breeding programs. In the face of terrible travel hardships, Vavilov himself collected more than 100,000 different types of seeds and took them back to Leningrad (as St. Petersburg was then called), where he established a seed bank to preserve them and grow them out. The crop-breeding work carried out at the institute that now bears Vavilov’s name has made important contributions toward feeding a growing world population.

Researching Vavilov’s story took Vivia and me first to the UK, where we met Jack Hawkes, a legendary British crop scientist who, as a young man in the 1930s, had met Vavilov. “He was a larger-than-life character,” Hawkes told us, adding with a characteristic dry British wit that, “He treated me, a lowly graduate student, as if I was an esteemed colleague of many years’ standing, which, of course, impressed me immensely. His ideas of centers of origin were immensely influential.”

From the UK, we flew on to St. Petersburg to visit the seed bank Vavilov created, and meet elderly scientists who had worked with him. The seed bank and today’s Vavilov Institute can be found in an aging building on St. Isaac’s Square. The walls are adorned with photos of the handsome Vavilov and his world travels. His office has been kept just as he left it in 1940.


Martyr for Science

By the early 1930s, Vavilov had become the world’s most famous geneticist. At a Cornell University genetics conference in 1932, he was the most acclaimed participant. Dozens of foreign visitors made the trip to Leningrad to meet him and learn about his work in seed collecting and crop breeding. But for all his international fame, Vavilov ran into trouble at home. Trofim Lysenko, a Soviet biologist, rejected what he considered the slow pace of conventional crop breeding. His view was that crops could be improved by such manipulation as soaking wheat seeds in cold water to enable them to adapt to colder weather. He had some early limited success with these ideas, even winning praise for his work from Vavilov himself. But Lysenko went further, arguing that these adaptations would then be genetically transferred to succeeding generations. For Vavilov, such ideas were not credible, and he began to criticize Lysenko’s claims.

Trofim Lysenko’s anti-scientific theories won favor from Stalin because Lysenko promised agricultural miracles. (Credit: Public Domain)
Trofim Lysenko’s anti-scientific theories won favor from Stalin because Lysenko promised agricultural miracles. (Credit: Public Domain)
The dispute between Lysenko and Vavilov had a long historical precedent. Scientific genetics as proposed by Mendel was widely accepted. In this view, evolution favored organisms with special traits — for example, giraffes got taller over time because the taller giraffes survived when leaves in trees grew scarce on lower branches and passed on their genes. But there was an earlier view, proposed by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, a French biologist. Lamarck argued that characteristics could be acquired — giraffes grew taller, he claimed, because they stretched to reach higher leaves. They could then pass on the greater length of their necks to their progeny.

Vavilov, the Mendelian, ran afoul of Russian dictator Joseph Stalin — in suggesting that Lysenko’s Lamarckian ideas were nonsense. Stalin liked Lysenko’s promises of rapid agricultural improvement and Lysenko’s proletarian background. He had come from peasant stock, while Vavilov was the son of a middle-class businessman. “Lysenko was a charlatan,” one of Vavilov’s biographers, Semyon Resnick, told Vivia and me. “He stood for fictions. But fictions that were beloved by Stalin because Lysenko promised him miracles in agriculture.”

Stalin began to restrict Vavilov’s travel and he cracked down on the research conducted by Vavilov and his vibrant team of scientists in Leningrad. “Every day, we came to work and we learned that someone had been arrested,” one of them told us in 1993. Half a century after the events had occurred, he cried visibly as he described the events. Finally, in August 1940 Vavilov himself was arrested while collecting seeds in the Ukraine. Resnick told us that Vavilov was interviewed and tortured for 1,700 hours after having been found guilty as an “enemy of the state” in a show trial. Eventually, in January 1943 Vavilov, a man whose contributions toward feeding the world were among the greatest ever, died in a small grim cell in one of Stalin’s prisons — ironically, of malnutrition.


Heroic Scientists

There is a remarkable postscript to Vavilov’s tragic story. In St. Petersburg, the scientists at the Vavilov Institute told us his fight for scientific integrity had inspired heroic, selfless behavior from many of his colleagues.

In June 1941 while Vavilov was in prison, the German Army invaded the Soviet Union and soon after, surrounded Leningrad, allowing very little food to reach the beleaguered city. Nina Kamchatkina, a college professor, told us what happened then, when she was a little girl. “German planes came over and bombed us,” she said. “In one case, they blew up a sugar factory, scattering the sugar, which melted into the dirt. But we had no food, so we ate the dirt.” In time, the food ration in Leningrad was reduced to four ounces of bread a day. People began to starve to death. The winter of 1941-42 was one of the coldest in the city’s history, with temperatures plunging to 40 degrees below zero. Hungry and freezing, 600,000 residents of the city perished in a few months.

St. Petersburg’s public television station provided Vivia and me with archival footage of that horrible winter. It cut at my heart: women sobbing over the bodies of family members, sleds carrying shrouded bodies through the icy streets, people staggering through the snow, tiny bits of bread being sliced, planes, bombs, people digging through the hard-frozen Neva River to obtain a little drinking water. Through a strange twist of fate, Vavilov’s institute was spared from German bombing because it stood across the street from the opulent Astoria Hotel, where Hitler hoped to hold his victory celebration when Leningrad fell to the Germans. It never did, but the heroic defense of Leningrad lasted 900 days and took the lives of a million civilians, a million Soviet soldiers and half a million Germans.

In the atmosphere of hunger and death that existed during the siege, starving people knew that Vavilov’s institute contained mountains of seeds that could be cooked and eaten. The scientists who worked there knew it as well. They had to defend Vavilov’s collection against attacks by both humans and rats. And of course, they were also desperately hungry and tempted by the seeds. “You have to imagine this situation,” explained Resnick. “War, Germans, a million people dying in the streets in Leningrad. These scientists, they too were starving. But they knew, these seeds, they were priceless.”

They knew what it had taken for Vavilov to obtain the seeds and how important they might eventually prove to be in feeding people the world over. Their idealism prevailed. One by one, scientists perished, surrounded by mountains of seeds, saving the collections that could have saved them. At least nine of them died at their desks: directors of the rice collection, the potato collection and others, men and women, young and old. Many more came close to perishing before the German siege finally ended. Years later, some of the seeds they saved were used in the United States to breed resistance to a disease that threatened American wheat.


The Ideological Suppression of Science

Just as Stalin embraced Lysenko’s pseudo-science for its utility within his authoritarian political plan for the rapid expansion of centralized agricultural production, Trump has embraced the pseudo-science of climate denial for its utility within his own authoritarian plan for unfettered, free-market-based industrial production. Both men stand within a long history of leaders espousing widely varying ideologies who have tried to suppress scientific findings when they ran counter to political or economic or religious dogma.

In our own time, it has been the far right that has ignored scientific findings. The Christian Right holds up an unscientific Biblical literalism about a 6,000-year-old Earth where humans shared space with dinosaurs, while the Economic Right has suppressed and ignored the overwhelming scientific consensus about human-caused climate change because doing something about the problem might cost money and threaten the profits of fossil fuel corporations. When dogma trumps science, we are all the losers. As I write these words, the dangers are even more evident. We now have a president-elect who is dismissive of science and appears willing to suppress it if necessary to carry out his pro-fossil-fuel agenda.

The Russians, at least, learned an important lesson from the “Vavilov affair.” It took many years, and Vavilov’s “rehabilitation” did not begin until 1955, when Stalin was already dead. Still, Lysenko, who in later years denied his role in Vavilov’s persecution, carried the day politically until he was denounced in the Soviet Academy of Sciences by the famous physicist Andrei Sakharov in 1967. Lysenko, the Stalinist ideologue, was interestingly more like the religious right than the economic rightists in our country whose position on climate change is shaped by the largesse of the fossil fuel industry. Lysenko was never interested in money, only power and Stalinist ideology. He lived simply but used his power to destroy others. In the end, it was all in vain. He died scorned and hated in his country in 1976.

I hope the Vavilov story will be shared widely, lest history repeat itself, this time in a tragedy of climate change that threatens all generations to come.

———————–

JOHN DE GRAAF

John de Graaf is the executive director of Take Back Your Time and coauthor of What’s the Economy for Anyway? and the best-seller Affluenza. He has produced more than a dozen national PBS documentaries and can be reached at  jodg at comcast.net.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 14th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Kochs Launch Campaign to Convince Black People That Dirty Fuel Is Good for Them
By Katie Herzog, Grist, and then on RSN
07 January 2017

The Kochs launch campaign to convince black people that dirty fuel is good for them.

Fueling U.S. Forward, a public relations operation funded by the Koch brothers, is trying to spread the message that black people benefit the most from cheap fossil fuels, according to a story in The New York Times. Clean energy, they say, is a threat.

Last month, the group sponsored a toy drive and gospel concert in Richmond, Virginia. The event included a panel discussion on how the holidays were only possible thanks to oil and gas.

What went unsaid, of course, was that people of color are far more likely to be harmed by the fossil fuel industry than helped. They’re more at risk from climate change and pollution and more likely to suffer health problems tied to burning fossil fuels.

Asthma is more common among black people than white people, partially because they’re more likely to live near coal-fired power plants and other fossil-fuel infrastructure. That’s not exactly because they want those plants in their neighborhoods; it’s because they have less power to fight them.

This is far from the first attempt to turn people of color against renewable energy and, as Fueling U.S. Forward has made clear, it won’t be the last.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 14th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

written – January 12, 20176:00 AM ET

POLITICS

FACT CHECK: Trump Lawyer’s Claim And Comparison To Rockefeller Is A Head Scratcher.

by RON ELVING, as per NPR January 14, 2017

Among the unusual elements of President-elect Donald Trump’s Wednesday news conference was a 15-minute interlude in which an attorney took the podium and described Trump’s plan to address potential conflicts of interest between his businesses and the responsibilities of his office.

The attorney, Sheri Dillon, outlined an arrangement by which Trump would turn over “total control” of his worldwide business interests to his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, with whom he would not communicate about the family business.

Dillon said real divestiture — selling the business or committing its assets to a blind trust — would be forcing him “to destroy his business.” She said the president-elect “should not be expected to destroy the company he built.”


Dillon went on to say that Trump’s empire “is massive, not dissimilar to the fortunes of Nelson Rockefeller when he became vice president, but at that time no one was so concerned.”
[Emphasis added.]

It may have been the first time anyone has compared Trump’s wealth to that of the Rockefellers, but that was not ultimately the point. It was the last eight words of her remark of that moment that raised eyebrows, because Rockefeller’s wealth at the time was very much a concern to quite a number of people.

Dillon might not be expected to have any personal recollection of the Rockefeller confirmation process more than 40 years ago, but the record is widely available.

Rockefeller was picked to be the new vice president in September 1974, just weeks after President Gerald R. Ford was sworn in to succeed President Richard Nixon, who had resigned. Rockefeller, known as “Rocky,” had been elected the Republican governor of New York four times and had run for president three times.

He was also a grandson of the legendary John D. Rockefeller, founder of the Standard Oil Co, and founder of perhaps the largest and certainly the most famous family fortune in America.

The mid-1970s was a time of hypersensitivity to money issues in national politics, an era when ethics and campaign-finance reform were front and center in Washington — partly because of the Watergate scandals that had driven Nixon from office.

Rockefeller’s nomination was, in fact, the subject of extensive hearings that fall, not only in the Senate but in the House of Representatives as well. (The provisions of the 25th Amendment governing the presidential succession required a confirmation vote in both chambers of Congress.) Many conservatives saw Rockefeller as a liberal, especially on social issues, and did not fancy him a heartbeat from the presidency. Many Democrats saw his great wealth as a source of inevitable conflicts of interest.

His confirmation was far from assured, especially after it was revealed he had used $2 million in personal or family funds to make gifts to senior aides, including Henry Kissinger (who had moved on to serve both Nixon and Ford in the White House and as secretary of state), as well as to finance the publication of a biography critical of a Democrat who had opposed his re-election as governor.

Additional controversy arose over deductions he took on his federal income tax return, leading to an eventual settlement with the IRS for more than $900,000.

But Rockefeller disclosed his various assets and trust funds and placed all his assets in a blind trust — the kind of steps Trump has not been willing to take. And in a lame-duck session after that fall’s election, Rockefeller was confirmed by both the House and Senate.

Nelson Rockefeller served as Ford’s vice president but was not made part of the ticket when Ford sought a full term in his own right in 1976. Buffeted by opposition within the Republican Party, Ford dumped Rockefeller for Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas. The Ford-Dole ticket lost in 1976. Rockefeller retired from politics and died of a heart attack in 1979 at the age of 70.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 14th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Trump team asked which EU state is next to exit

By NIKOLAJ NIELSEN

EUOBSERVER, BRUSSELS, 13. JAN, 17:40

Donald Trump’s transitional team phoned officials at the EU institutions asking which member state will follow the UK in leaving the EU.
“There was one question that was asked, basically, what is the next country to leave, which kind of suggests that the place is about to fall apart,” Anthony L. Gardner, the outgoing US ambassador to the EU, told reporters in Brussels on Friday (13 January).

In a candid last farewell interview with reporters ahead of his departure on 20 January, the diplomat described the Trump call as a “misperception” of the Union’s future, disseminated by former Ukip leader Nigel Farage.
Farage, a British MEP who has long campaigned for the demise of the European Union, has had privileged access to the US president-elect.

He now wants to meet with Gardner but the outgoing ambassador, a self-described defender of the EU, remains ambivalent.

“I got a letter from Nigel Farage, which is rather interesting. He knows I’m leaving and he knows my views are the absolute polar opposite of everything he has said.”

Gardner said Farage had referred to him in the letter as “your excellency” a half dozen times.

“I take huge exceptions to some things he’s done and I will tell him,” said Gardner.

The American ambassador said he would soon be “unshackled” from the “bureaucratic restrictions of the job” and aims to speak out in defence of the US and EU relations.

The two men have never met.

But the mood at the US embassy appears wary ahead of Gardner’s future replacement. Speculation is rife on who will take on the job.

Staff working at the mission, non-career diplomats, have all been unceremoniously told to vacate the premises by 20 January.

Gardner described the Trump demand as a “breach of precedent” because missions are usually allowed to take weeks or even months to clear out. He was given notice on 23 December.

Some have struggled to find new housing after receiving notice of their imminent departure via a telegram.

“I didn’t particularly want to stay any more than necessary because my views are not the views of those coming in. But for some, it has had a real human impact,” he said.

He also warned against his future replacement of becoming the “cheerleader” for Brexit and noted that access to Europe’s single market was strategically vital to both US and EU business interests.

He said any move by Trump or his team to support the break up of the Union would be “shear folly”.

“It’s lunacy and I would think it would be a widely shared view.”

He also advised Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel to warn the incoming US embassy replacement team in Brussels against “splitting the EU, one member state to another.”

He said Germany, along with the EU institutions, are now shouldering the “weight of history” to defend democracy, human rights, and “values that guided a transatlantic partnership for decades.”

In terms of policy work, Gardner said his biggest regret was not being able to finalise the TTIP, the US and EU free trade agreement.

But he noted significant improvements have been made on policies dealing with data and that trust, broadly lost following the US snooping revelations of Europeans, has improved between the two sides.

“It’s been great, it’s been great. Best job,” he said.

——————————————————-

The Austrian DIE PRESSE reports today from a speech by Chancellor Merkel where she called for a closer Defense and Security cooperation between the EU States. This because the transatlantic alliance has NO “ETERNITY-WARRANTY” (“keine Ewigkeitsgarantie”).

Mrs. Merkel called also on the EU States to take on more “international responsibility”
which we interpret as a flat statement that the US leadership can not be taken for granted
under a Trump presidency. This is something that seems crystal clear when listening to the incoming president and that unprofessional entourage he has.

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 13th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Washington Post – Politics

Trump’s Cabinet nominees keep contradicting him

By Karen Tumulty January 13 at 7:25 AM

Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees, in their first round of confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill, have one after another contradicted the president-elect on key issues, promising to trim back or disregard some of the signature promises on which he campaigned.

A fresh set of examples came Thursday, the third day of hearings.

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, Trump’s nominee to be defense secretary, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the United States must honor the “imperfect ­arms-control agreement” with Iran that Trump has vowed to dismantle because “when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.”

He also took a more adversarial stance than Trump has toward Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and cited Moscow as one of the nation’s top threats.

“I’ve never found a better guide for the way ahead than studying the histories. Since [the 1945 meeting of world powers at] Yalta, we have a long list of times we’ve tried to engage positively with Russia. We have a relatively short list of successes in that regard,” Mattis said. “I think right now, the most important thing is that we recognize the reality of what we deal with [in] Mr. Putin and we recognize that he is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance.”

At a witness table in another Senate hearing room, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), whom Trump picked to head the CIA, assured the Intelligence Committee that he would “absolutely not” use brutal interrogation tactics on terrorism suspects in contravention of the law, even if ordered to do so by a president who campaigned on a promise to reinstate the use of such measures.

Trump indicated in a tweet Friday morning that he is unconcerned about the contradictions. “All of my Cabinet nominee are looking good and doing a great job,” Trump wrote. “I want them to be themselves and express their own thoughts, not mine!”

The discordant notes that Cabinet nominees have struck as they have been questioned by senators suggest that a reality check may lie ahead for Trump.

It may be that the grandiosity and disregard for convention that got Trump elected were inevitably bound for a collision with the practical and legal limitations of governing.

“His rhetoric was so far outside the boundaries — in some instances of reality, and in some instances, of the laws of the nation, and in other issues, outside the boundaries of pass-fail issues for some of these nominees,” said Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, who as an aide to President George W. Bush oversaw the confirmation process for the Supreme Court nominations of Samuel A. Alito Jr. and John G. Roberts Jr.

The American system of government places “extraordinary constraints” on even a president’s power, Schmidt said. “You’re seeing the reality-show aspects of campaigning bending to the reality of governance.”

But others say that Trump is such a singular figure, whose fervent supporters are convinced that he can topple the established order in Washington, that it is impossible to predict how things will play out once he has been inaugurated.

“We are in such uncharted territory with this guy,” said Elaine Kamarck, director of the Brookings Institution’s Center for Effective Public Management. “The interesting thing will be, does Trump pay attention to what his government does?”

The comments by Mattis and Pompeo on Thursday continued a pattern set in the first two days of hearings.

On Tuesday, retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, nominated to head the Department of Homeland Security, played down the significance of Trump’s promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, saying that “a physical barrier in and of itself will not do the job.”

And Kelly, too, disavowed torture, saying, “I don’t think we should ever come close to crossing a line that is beyond what we as Americans would expect to follow in terms of interrogation techniques.”

In 2009, President Obama signed an executive order that bars the CIA from using interrogation methods beyond those permitted by the U.S. Army Field Manual. That excludes such measures as waterboarding. In 2015, that policy was written into law.

Trump, on the other hand, argued during his campaign that “torture works.” He vowed to resume it “immediately” and to come up with “much worse.”

On Wednesday, secretary of state-designate Rex Tillerson contradicted the president-elect’s repeated suggestions that climate change is a hoax and said it is important for this country to “maintain its seat at the table on the conversations around how to address the threats of climate change, which do require a global response.”

[Tillerson doesn’t deny climate change – but dodges questions about Exxon’s role in sowing doubt]

As a candidate, Trump had said he would withdraw the United States from a 2015 international accord to reduce ­greenhouse gas emissions, although he has since softened that stance and said he is keeping “an open mind to it.”

That Trump’s nominees would air their disagreements with the president-elect at their confirmation hearings is “extraordinarily unusual,” Kamarck said. “The first thing a president and a transition team does is make sure the president and his Cabinet are on the same page.”

But it may be that they have not yet even discussed their differences.

Among the startling turns in the confirmation hearings has been the revelation by some of Trump’s nominees that they have not had detailed conversations with the president-elect about critical issues that will fall within their portfolios.

Tillerson, for example, told the Foreign Relations Committee that he and Trump had discussed foreign policy “in a broad construct and in terms of the principles that are going to guide that.”

“I would have thought that Russia would be at the very top of that, considering all the actions that have taken place,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said. “Did that not happen?”

“That has not occurred yet, Senator,” Tillerson replied.

Kelly made a similar comment when he was asked about the fate of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who have applied for protection from deportation under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive action. In his campaign, Trump vowed to “immediately terminate” the program.

“The entire development of immigration policy is ongoing right now in terms of the upcoming administration. I have not been involved in those discussions,” said Kelly, who is slated to head a sprawling department that includes U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

One question is whether his appointees will persuade Trump to moderate some of the strident positions that he took during his presidential campaign.

He has already indicated that they have influenced his thinking in some areas.

During an interview with the New York Times shortly after his election, for instance, Trump said that Mattis had made the case that “a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers” were more effective in getting information from terrorism suspects than waterboarding and similarly controversial techniques.

“I was very impressed by that answer,” Trump said.

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Another unknown, however, is how the Cabinet nominees’ views will mesh with those of senior members of Trump’s White House staff, who do not undergo confirmation by the Senate.

Tillerson, for example, said under questioning by the Foreign Relations Committee that supporting human rights globally is “without question” in the long-term national security interests of the United States.

But at a forum a day earlier at the United States Institute of Peace, K.T. McFarland, who will be Trump’s deputy national security adviser, contended that Trump will take foreign policy in a less-idealistic direction.

“The mistake that we make is that we constantly tell other countries how they should think,” McFarland said. “What I’m hoping is that we can start seeing things through their eyes.”

—————-

Read more:

As a general, Mattis urged action against Iran. As a defense secretary, he may be a voice of caution.

Placing Russia first among threats, Defense nominee warns of Kremlin attempts to ‘break’ NATO

Tillerson calls U.S. intelligence findings on Russian interference in election ‘troubling’

—————-

ON THE OTHER HAND: Articles are suggesting that the real power at Trump’s Washington House will be in te hands of his daughter Ivanka Trump and the First Son-In-Law Jared Kushner who seem to be ready to deal with the need for reason in policy making. the forecast is that they will be the real politicians behind the father with a large ego and a thin skin given to burst any moment.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 13th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

IIASA Policy Brief #15 – January 2017

Resource efficiency of future EU demand for bioenergy.

 www.iiasa.ac.at/web/home/resource…

EU bioenergy demand is set to rise sharply. We examine the impacts on land use,
greenhouse gas emissions, and biodiversity, both inside and outside the region.

Summary
? Increasing demand for bioenergy in the EU means that there is a pressing need to
understand the impacts this might have on land use, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,
and biodiversity, both regionally and globally.
? In this brief we examine the results of modeled policy scenarios to explore how
these factors are affected.
? All other factors being equal, a scenario where the EU target of an 80% reduction
in GHG emissions by 2050 is met leads to a rise in: wood pellet imports, the amount
of wood harvested from EU forests, and in the area of land used for short rotation
coppicing (fast-growing tree plantations).
? There are clear synergies between conserving biodiversity; protecting unused forests
and avoiding the conversion of natural land; and reducing global GHG emissions from
the land-use sector.
? Restricting the use of land that has high biodiversity value, or high carbon stocks,
means global emissions savings from the land-use sector.
? The results also highlight the importance of examining the global implications of
EU policy. When biodiversity and carbon storage are protected, for instance, EU
land-use emissions increase, although they fall on a global scale. As well as rising
EU emissions, more EU-grown wood that is of sufficient quality to use for other
wooden products is used directly for bioenergy.
? Capping the amount of high-quality wood that can be used directly for bioenergy,
in addition to biodiversity or carbon storage protection, results in even greater
global emissions savings.

Introduction
In the EU, the use of bioenergy (see box: What is bioenergy?) is on
the rise. This is due to an increased focus on renewable energy,
intended to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increase
energy security. However, the impact of increased bioenergy
use on land use, GHG emissions, and biodiversity is not fully
understood. Nor do we know how a surge in demand for bioenergy
might impact related industries using the same feedstock such as
wood pulp producers, sawmills, or particle board producers. The
aim of the Resource efficiency impacts of future EU bioenergy
demand report, and its follow-up report, is therefore to examine
the consequences of pursuing different bioenergy policy pathways
from 2010-2050 by building a series of possible future scenarios,
using the IIASA Global Biosphere Management Model (GLOBIOM)
and Global Forest Model (G4M). © tchara | stock.adobe.com

The differences in GHG emissions between the basic emissions reduction scenario and the
LAND scenario (which restricts use of areas with high biodiversity and carbon storage)
and the CAP scenario (which also includes restrictions on use of high-quality roundwood).
What is bioenergy?

Although there are various types, in this brief we focus on
bioenergy generated by burning biomass, in this case, plant
matter. Many different types of woody biomass can be used
for bioenergy. Firewood is widely used for domestic heating,
for instance. Larger-scale bioenergy production might use
wood pellets, which are dense, compressed pellets. In the
EU these are mostly made from industrial by-products such as
wood chips, sawdust, or shavings. In this brief we also discuss
the likely increasing use of roundwood, defined here as logs
that are of sufficient quality to be used for wooden products
such as plywood or planks, but are used for energy production
instead. Another source of fuel for bioenergy that may become
increasingly important is short rotation coppices—intensively
harvested, fast-growing tree plantations grown on agricultural
land. Increasing demand for these feedstocks can have
important impacts on land use, GHG emissions, and biodiversity.
Furthermore, globalized trade means that demand in the EU can
affect the rest of the world and vice versa, as has already been
seen, for example, with increased EU imports of wood pellets
from the USA.

Possible futures

The Baseline Scenario depicts the target of a 20% reduction of
emissions in the EU28 by 2020, and runs to 2050, providing a point
of comparison for other policy directions.
In this scenario, increased demand for bioenergy will lead to a
considerable increase in EU production of woody biomass by 2030
(as much as 10% more than in 2010). Industrial by-products, such as
sawdust and wood chips, will become increasingly in demand, and
more land will be used for short rotation coppices (see box: What
is bioenergy?). In addition, harvesting in EU forests intensifies, and
roundwood imports increase. From 2030 to 2050, the EU domestic
production of biomass stabilizes.
EU reliance on imported biomass also increases—in particular wood
pellet imports will rise by 90% by 2030 compared to 2010. Since
estimates suggest that outside the EU a large share of wood pellets
are made from roundwood—and therefore require direct forest
harvesting—these imports may have important consequences for
biodiversity loss and land use change outside the EU.
The EU Emission Reduction Scenario (now updated in the
report: Follow-up study on impacts on resource efficiency of future
EU demand for bioenergy) examines the additional policy target
of decreasing GHG emissions by 80% by 2050 in the EU.
As the demand for bioenergy in this scenario rises sharply to meet
GHG emissions reduction targets, there is an increasing need for
all forms of feedstock. The reliance on imported pellets increases
seven-fold from 10 million cubic meters in 2010 to 70 million in
2050, with possibly serious implications for global biodiversity
loss. Short rotation coppices are also expanded to cope with the
stark rise in demand. Large quantities of EU-grown roundwood,
which could otherwise have been used to produce wooden goods,
are also burnt for energy.
These demands also affect land use in the EU, and along with
the increase in coppice plantations there is a rise in forest area
of almost 14 million hectares by 2050 compared to 2010. The
land converted to forest and coppice plantations is generally
natural land, such as abandoned cropland or unused grassland.

As demand for wood as a material and a source of energy grows,
forests become more intensively harvested in the EU, with the
amount of wood harvested reaching a level 12% higher in 2050 than
in 2010. Such intense use of forests is likely to have serious impacts
on European wildlife, hastening biodiversity decline in the region.

Importing wood, exporting pressure

The reliance on imports in the emissions reduction scenario raises
the difficult question of whether the EU will simply export the
problems of land use and biodiversity decline elsewhere. The
Increased EU Biomass Import Scenario investigates what would
happen if this was taken to the extreme, by decreasing the trade
costs in the model. As expected, EU imports of roundwood and
wood pellets are significantly higher than in both the baseline and
the emissions reductions scenarios. While this takes the pressure
off EU forests, as harvests do not increase as fast as they otherwise
would, it exports biodiversity and land-use issues to the rest of the
world. GHG emissions from the land-use sector in the EU fall, but
global land-use emissions are similar to the baseline scenario.
However, it is likely that other countries will also see an increase
for bioenergy demand as they attempt to switch away from fossil
fuels. In a world where countries outside the EU are using their
own biomass resources, rather than exporting them, net EU
imports of wood pellets are 25% lower than without this effect.
In addition, EU roundwood imports decrease by more than 20% in
2050. This requires the EU to substantially increase the amount of
biomass it produces through domestic short rotation coppicing.

Sustainability for the future

One of the major concerns over bioenergy is the amount of land
needed to provide the fuel, and whether this will encroach onto
natural land that is important for biodiversity or carbon storage.
To investigate this issue, researchers used the LAND Scenario,
which restricts biomass harvests in areas with high biodiversity
value, high carbon stocks, or both (HBVCS areas). Under this
restriction, collection of biomass from HBVCS areas in the EU
was limited and the conversion of HBVCS areas was forbidden
all around the world. Because these restrictions were applied
regardless of whether the use of resources was for bioenergy or
not, they had far-reaching effects beyond bioenergy policy.
The restrictions lead to a global reduction in the availability of wood.
EU pellet imports fall, and the use of domestic biomass resources
rises; the amount of EU roundwood combusted directly for bioenergy
is 23% higher in 2050 than in the emissions reduction scenario. This
scenario leads to a net global emissions saving in the land-use sector
of 10 megatonnes of CO2 (Mt CO2) in 2050, compared to the emissions
reductions scenario.

It is important to bear in mind that the goal of climate mitigation is to
reduce emissions worldwide, not just from the EU. This is highlighted
by this scenario, which shows that while global emissions fall,
emissions from the land-use sector in the EU increase compared to the
emissions reduction scenario (about 4 Mt CO2 higher in 2050). This is
because without protections for biodiversity and carbon storage, the
EU imports large quantities of wood for bioenergy, simply transferring
emissions to other regions.

Another major concern over bioenergy relates to the efficient use
of biomass; burning roundwood that is of high enough quality to
be used for wooden products is a wasted opportunity. After all, if
a tree is used to make a table, at the end of its useful life the table
itself can be burnt and used to produce energy, increasing resource
efficiency. To examine what would happen if a cap was placed on
the amount of roundwood that could be used directly and indirectly
for energy after 2020, a CAP scenario was built.
As a result of the cap, the amount of wood pellets imported into
the EU falls, since a large share of pellets from outside the EU are
made from high-quality roundwood. The resulting gap in fuel for
bioenergy in the EU is filled through use of industrial by-products,
such as sawdust or shavings. The demand for these by-products
increases their market value, meaning that sawmills become more
profitable and their numbers rise. There is also an effect on the
pulp and board industries, which shift towards use of roundwood
as the price of by-products rises.

This roundwood CAP scenario is more effective for climate mitigation
than the LAND Scenario, leading to net global emissions saving
in the land-use sector of around 15 Mt CO2 in 2050 compared
to the emissions reduction scenario; this is, however, more than
compensated by decreased emissions in the rest of the world.

IIASA Policy Briefs present the latest research for policymakers from
IIASA—an international, interdisciplinary research institute with
National Member Organizations (NMOs) in 24 countries in Africa, the
Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. The views expressed herein are
those of the researchers and not necessarily those of IIASA or its NMOs.
This brief is based on the work by forest scientists, economists, and
policy analysts at IIASA, Öko-Institut e.V., Institute for European
Environmental Policy, European Forest Institute, and Indufor Oy. The
consortium was led by Nicklas Forsell, research scholar at the IIASA
Ecosystems Services and Management Program. The research received
funding from the European Commission within the contract ENV.F.1/
ETU/2013/0033 and ENV.F.1./ETU/2015/Ares(2015)5117224.
More IIASA publications are available at www.iiasa.ac.at/Publications


Further information

This modeling work stemmed from the EU Reference Scenario
2013, which details the EU energy, transport and GHG emissions
trends to 2050. The assumptions for energy demand for the
Reference Scenario 2013 are estimated using the PRIMES EU-wide
Energy Model. The work described in this policy brief was published
in two waves, the first was published in the Study on impacts on
resource efficiency of future EU demand for bioenergy (ReceBio)
[pure.iiasa.ac.at/14006], and the second in the Follow-up study on
impacts on resource efficiency of future EU demand for bioenergy
(ReceBio follow-up) [pure.iiasa.ac.at/14180].

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 12th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Washington Post – Global Opinions

Beware the dark art of Russian blackmail

By Christian Caryl January 11 at 5:05 PM

In 1999, Russia’s prosecutor general — the rough equivalent of a U.S. attorney general — vowed to investigate corruption allegations involving the family of then-President Boris Yeltsin. Then a funny thing happened. Russian TV began showing grainy video footage of the prosecutor, Yuri Skuratov, cavorting in the nude with two young women. Some observers expressed skepticism that the man in the video was actually Skuratov. But any doubts were put to rest by the head of Russia’s internal security service, who declared that his agency’s experts had confirmed the prosecutor’s identity. The man who made the statement was Vladimir Putin, and his words sealed Skuratov’s political fate. The corruption probe faded away, and a few months later a grateful Yeltsin appointed Putin to the office of prime minister, and later as his own successor.

[Russia says it does not gather dirt on others, but history of ‘kompromat’ says otherwise]

Blackmail exists everywhere, of course. But nowhere else has it become such a prominent part of political life as in post-Soviet Russia. In the wild 1990s, the gray men of the old KGB sold their talents to the highest bidders, and plenty were willing to bid: newly minted millionaires, would-be politicians, mobsters. Countless private security services competed to see who could produce the dirtiest dirt, and journalists — another feature of a strange new world of turbulent freedom — were happy to publish what they dug up.

Putin learned well. As president he soon cracked down on both the freelance spies and the journalists, but he never forgot his early lessons about the uses of kompromat, from the Russian for “compromising material.” Discrediting an enemy, he realized, can be far more effective than throwing them in jail, so the culture of kompromat has continued to thrive under his rule — though it’s now primarily deployed in the services of the Russian state.

A liberal political rival wants to be president? Have the evening news show an interview with members of a gay club singing his praises (a great way to discredit him in the eyes of a homophobic public). A billionaire oligarch challenges your power? Dig into his seamy financial dealings and share them with muckrakers. An elderly dissident criticizes you from the safety of British exile? Have your hackers covertly plant child pornography on his computer and notify the relevant authorities. As these examples show, kompromat is best viewed as a form of information warfare, sometimes true, sometimes not. More often it’s an artful mixture — all the better to intimidate and confuse.

Donald Trump actually seems to know all this quite well. During his extraordinary news conference Wednesday, he claimed to be well aware of the particular risks of operating in Putin territory. “I was in Russia, years ago, with the Miss Universe contest, which did very well,” he said. “Moscow, the Moscow area. Did very, very well. And I told many people, ‘Be careful. Because you don’t wanna see yourself on television. Cameras all over the place.’” He hastened to add, though, that he doesn’t really see Russia as exceptional in that respect.

If he knows the place so well, though, he must realize that, when it comes to the business of blackmail and intimidation, Russia is indeed in a class of its own. Only Moscow has transformed the principle of kompromat into a major component of its foreign policy. Europeans both East and West witness daily how the Kremlin deploys information against the people and institutions it wants to destroy or control. In places such as Sweden and the Czech Republic, Moscow operates dozens of websites purveying conspiracy theories and falsified news, all aimed at discrediting its myriad enemies. The Russian hand has made itself felt in the outcomes of last year’s British vote to leave the E.U. and a Dutch referendum on relations with Ukraine. No other country has been doing anything like this on a comparable scale.

Meanwhile, for more than a decade now, Russian hackers have been staging attacks on infrastructure and websites in European countries that are at odds with the Kremlin. The recipe in each case may differ, but the objective is always the same: to weaken Western institutions, such as NATO and the E.U., that are capable of offering a united front against Russian designs. This strategy should tell you everything you need to know about Putin’s plans and the nature of the system that he runs.

When the news of alleged Russian hacks on computers of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign team broke last year, it fit surprisingly neatly into the same pattern. In some cases the hackers stole and revealed true information that cast Clinton and her supporters in the most unflattering possible light. Meanwhile, though, Moscow’s news outlets also made a point of spreading patently false stories about her and her campaign that were gleefully picked up and repeated by Trump and other members of his team.

Did Trump not know what he was doing? Did he think those reports were true?

I doubt it. I think he understood the provenance of these stories perfectly well — just as I think he always understood that Moscow was behind the Clinton hacks, notwithstanding his many disclaimers. Wednesday in his news conference, he was finally compelled to admit it: “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia.”

It’s good to see him come around. But if this is indeed what Trump believes, why does he continue to preach the need for a friendlier relationship with Russia? Is a government that operates the way that Putin’s does — spreading lies in the shadows — really the one that you want as an ally? One can’t help but wonder.

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Christian Caryl is an editor with The Post’s Global Opinions section. Follow @ccaryl

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 12th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From Trump’s first Press Conference: PEOTUS thinks the Presidency is a part-time job that entitles him to continue to manage the Trump Organization and the Trump Company. If he distances himself somewhat from his business interests this is just to decrease the perception that it looks bad. But what about the question of being beholden to Putin’s installed Washington Red House?

On the very simple level, as Salon published WSJ’s look at business aspects of the conundrum
of Trumps clear conflicts of interests – yesterday’s “First Press Conference” showed clearly that the most serious trigger of danger is his dependence on Putin’s good will. Yes, Trump is ready to acknowledge that Putin was responsible for the hacking of his opponent’s secrets, while being rude on camera in not allowing the CNN reporter to ask the pinpointing question – “Did you have contacts with Russians during the election period?”

The worst thing will turn out not the hacking of the Hillary Clinton and her staff’s e-mail accounts – but in effect the much juicier Trump e-mail accounts. It seems that Putin knew well, unsurprisingly, exactly what he was doing when getting very meager news from the Clinton and John Podesta’s mail, while mining the wast global business Trump information.
We suggest that while helping Trump be elected, Putin was stashing away the info to perform a future extortion game of a President Trump and his eventual ruling partners – which he obviously did not have their names – but clearly knew that they will come from the circle of Trump’s business partners – the future oligarchs of America.

Trying to get the large picture of the USA as projected by the unfolding events we start with a recollection of the way US Democracy is framed. We find there four Estates in this Democracy – The three supposedly independent institutions of the Presidency (the White House), The Legislative (the Congress) and the Judiciary (the Supreme Court). Then we have the Fourth Estate – The Media. Albeit, we are not naive to see the three independent institutions as truly independent – we know that all three are dependent on the same large business and Corporate interests. That is why the Media is so important. The role of the media is to insure that the three institutions stay honest. Not an easy task if the media is not allowed to operate freely – If those that own it fall also under the domination of those same large interests. We saw it during the elections how FOX, led by a Trump friendly billionaire was nothing more then an echo-chamber of Trump. This will not change meaningfully now after Trump won, but some of the others are still ready to do your job, but are now in danger of being thrown out from those very infrequent press conferences, that Trump has in mind. This may be the last blow to US democracy and in Trump’s treatment of the CNN correspondent last night is the beacon of the Trump intentions. Trump at minimum – promises to turn the historic White House into Washington’s Red House with Putin holding the reins of the Trump coffin carriage.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 12th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Is Trump Close to $2 Billion in Debt?
The president-elect has declared $315 million of debt, but the actual amount may be five times higher.
“The problem with any of this debt is if something goes wrong, and if there is a situation where the president is suddenly personally beholden or vulnerable to threats from the lenders,” said Trevor Potter, a former legal adviser to George H. W. Bush and John McCain, to The Wall Street Journal.

Lawrence Noble, a former lawyer to the Federal Election Commission, echoed these sentiments. “The appearance of potential conflicts is dangerous and seriously exists in this situation.”

Concerns about Trump’s numerous conflicts of interest have dogged the president-elect since his election on Nov. 8. Despite having businesses and debts spread throughout the world due to his business empire, Trump has only taken minimal steps to address these concerns.

There are even reports that he has used his political power to bring profit to businesses like his hotel in Washington DC.

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Matthew Rozsa’s editorials have been published on Salon, the Good Men Project, Mic, MSNBC and other publications. To read more of his work, visit matthewrozsa.com.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 10th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Center For American Progress Action Fund

DEMOCRACY AND GOVERNMENT

Rex Tillerson Represents All That is Wrong with Trump’s Incoming Administration

By Danielle Root Posted on January 10, 2017

Rex Tillerson Represents All That is Wrong with Trump’s Incoming Administration

In the weeks leading up to the U.S. presidential election, President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign touted a common theme: the need to “drain the swamp” and rid Washington of wealthy elites and pay-to-play politics.1 Trump’s campaign lambasted Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her husband President Bill Clinton for their wealth and supposed status as Washington insiders. In contrast, Trump presented himself as a man of the people, the “blue-collar billionaire,” who shared ordinary American’s frustration with the country’s ever-increasing wealth inequality.2 Furthermore, Trump sought to establish himself as the candidate who would pursue strong-armed tactics against foreign threats.3

So imagine the surprise when, less than one month after being elected to the highest office in the land, Trump began to assemble a cabinet filled with individuals who, together, are worth more than one-third of all U.S. households combined.4 Trump’s cabinet, if confirmed, will make up the richest administration in modern U.S. history.5 Furthermore, several members of Trump’s inner circle, including Trump’s pick for National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, and his transition team advisor, Paul Manafort, have close ties with Russia, whose government waged a covert attack on our electoral system in order to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.6 The Russian hacking has been called “an act of war” and the “political equivalent of 9/11.”7

No cabinet nominee better embodies all that is wrong with the incoming administration than Trump’s choice for U.S. secretary of state, former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson.8 To protect America’s interests in the world, Congress should deny Tillerson’s confirmation as secretary of state.

His excessive wealth represents the hypocrisy of Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp”
Tillerson’s net worth is estimated to be upwards of $150 million dollars.9 Last year alone, he pocketed $24.3 million—that is more than 400 times the median U.S. household income.10 At the same time, he has amassed more than 2.6 million shares in ExxonMobil stock worth just less than $245 million.11

As a result, Tillerson was able to donate more than $76,000 to candidates, outside groups and super political action committees, or super PACs, in the 2016 elections, and more than $480,000 in total to politicians and advocacy groups since 1992.12 Under Tillerson’s leadership, Exxon Mobil donated more than $2 million to political campaigns and groups in the 2016 election cycle, and spent more than $8.8 million lobbying the federal government last year.13 Exxon and Exxon Mobil have given more than $19 million to candidates, super PACs, and outside groups since 1990.14 Among those who have benefitted from Tillerson and Exxon Mobil’s giving are Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), John Barrasso (R-WY), and Cory Gardner (R-CO), all of whom sit on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee responsible for confirming his appointment.15 Exxon Mobil has donated nearly $29,000 to Rubio, more than $20,000 to Barrasso, and an excess of $25,000 to Gardner over the course of these politicians’ respective careers.16
It is no secret that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision has changed the rules of political campaigns and ushered in political contributions in amounts never before seen.17 In politics today, money often wins elections; those who pay the piper call the tune.18 Given this new reality, how can committee members who received campaign donations from Exxon Mobil objectively evaluate the company’s former CEO on his fitness for the office of secretary of state? In order to ensure that America’s interests are protected, it is of utmost importance that Tillerson’s nomination receive the highest form of scrutiny.
His unusually close ties to Russia raise serious questions over how U.S. interests will be represented abroad

Like Trump himself, Tillerson has demonstrated an unusually close relationship with Russia and its leader, President Vladimir Putin. Their relationship spans almost 20 years and has proven extremely lucrative for both men.19 During his many trips to Russia, Tillerson has orchestrated billion-dollar deals between Exxon Mobil and Rosneft, the Russian government-owned oil giant.20 In 2013, Putin presented Tillerson with Russia’s “order of friendship award,” one of the highest honors the Russian government can bestow upon a foreigner.21 In December, Putin praised Trump’s decision to nominate Tillerson as secretary of state, citing Tillerson’s longtime dealings with the country.22 Putin is more than just Tillerson’s business ally: Tillerson and Putin have been described as “personal friends.”23 Indeed, Tillerson “has had more interactive time with Vladimir Putin than probably any other American with the exception of Henry Kissinger.”24

It is perhaps not surprising then that Tillerson has been a vocal critic of the Russian sanctions that President Barack Obama imposed in the aftermath of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of Eastern Ukraine in 2014. To date, Russia’s invasion of Eastern Ukraine is estimated to have claimed the lives of more than 9,000 people.25 Tillerson claims, for example, that the sanctions cause “broad collateral damage,” which for him, means lost profits.26 Exxon Mobil is estimated to have lost close to $1 billion on account of the sanctions. If they were lifted under the Trump administration, the value of Exxon Mobil stock would increase dramatically.27

In January 2017, Tillerson promised to divest his personal funds from Exxon Mobil. He announced that, if confirmed, he would receive an advanced payout of his more than 2 million company shares, paid to an independent trust barred from investing in the company.28 Tillerson has also promised to sell an additional 611,000 shares he already owns, worth more than $54 million.29 Still, Tillerson’s receipt of a $180 million retirement package from Exxon Mobil—just weeks before his confirmation hearing—raises serious questions over whether, as secretary of state, Tillerson would put the country first over the interests of the company to which he not only owes his immense personal wealth, but also his entire career.30

Tillerson’s lack of civil service or foreign policy experience make him unfit to serve as America’s top diplomat

In the past, Trump has cited Tillerson’s years of business dealings with foreign governments in making the case that he is uniquely qualified to fill the position of U.S. secretary of state.31 But experience in foreign business dealings does not a diplomat make. Being secretary of state is more than just negotiating with foreign governments. The nation’s top diplomat also “delivers and defines the aid, the resources that the United States provides in that country, whether it’s support for local human rights groups or democracy organizers or whether it’s through USAID, new technologies to help free speech and free organizing in authoritarian countries.”32 Tillerson has no experience in this area; rather, he has never pursued anything other than the bottom line. A civil servant must be focused on pursing the best policies for the American public, not profit yielding. Of course, there are instances where the policy that is the most profitable or economical, also proves to be the most beneficial to the public interest. At other times, however, they are in direct opposition.
The New York and Massachusetts attorney generals, for example, are currently investigating Tillerson’s company, Exxon Mobil, over allegations that it intentionally downplayed the risks of climate change to the public and lied to its investors about how the company could be affected by these risks.33 Exxon Mobil is alleged to have advanced climate-denying research to benefit the oil industry for many years—thereby putting the company’s bottom line ahead of the public good. The backlash against Exxon Mobil’s alleged efforts has been compared to past campaigns against tobacco companies that, for decades, downplayed the risks of smoking.34 Tillerson has called the charges “pretty unfounded, without any substance at all.”35

Those knowledgeable in foreign relations matters remain doubtful that Tillerson can break away from his business-centered mentality to pursue diplomatic solutions that are in the best interest of the American people. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for example, has voiced “concerns” over Tillerson’s nomination, due to Tillerson’s business interests and ties to Russia.36

The only way to ensure that Tillerson’s background receives the proper level of scrutiny is for members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—including those who have received political funds from either Tillerson or his company—to step up, do their jobs, and ask the tough questions. They must require Tillerson to describe in great detail his ties to Russia, and provide clear assurances that his past business dealings with foreign nations will not cloud his judgement in making the difficult choices as secretary of state.
Moreover, they must demand that he lay out the particulars that qualify him to serve as America’s top diplomat. To these ends, members of Congress should push back against claims that Tillerson’s experience in closing deals with foreign companies and governments prepares him to act as secretary of state. To be sure, his years of private business dealings do not qualify him to act as a public servant on the world stage. Rather, as journalist Steve Coll said in an interview, Tillerson’s career as an Exxon Mobil executive has primed him to make “decisions on the basis of what’s best for … shareholders not what’s best for the United States.”37

Conclusion
There is too much at stake for this country to have a secretary of state who is unfit to serve. The recent terrorist attack in Berlin, continued humanitarian crisis in Syria, and revived tensions related to the West Bank settlements, emphasize that foreign diplomacy and strategy will remain a sizable challenge in the years to come. The U.S. secretary of state should be someone with extensive foreign policy experience, not a multimillionaire former oil executive who is likely to place the interests of his business allies, including Russia, over those of the American people.

Danielle Root is the Voting Rights Manager at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Endnotes
Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsy, and Daniel Lippman, “Will ‘drain the swamp’ be Trump’s first broken promise?” Politico, December 23, 2016, available at www.politico.com/story/2016/12/tr…. ?

Jill Colvin, “Donald Trump a ‘blue-collar billionaire’ with a lot of money,” U.S. News & World Report, July 18, 2016, available at www.usnews.com/news/politics/arti…. ?

Tim Lister, “Is bombing the s*** out of ISIS a strategy?” CNN, November 15, 2016, available at www.cnn.com/2016/11/15/middleeast…. ?

Lucy Pasha-Robinson, “Donald Trump’s Cabinet are richer than a third of US households combined,” The Independent, December 16, 2016, available at www.independent.co.uk/news/world/…. ?

Jim Tankersley and Ana Swanson, “Donald Trump is assembling the richest administration in modern American history,” The Washington Post, November 30, 2016, available at www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk…. ?

AM Joy, “Trump Advisors with Russian Ties,” MSNBC, December 11, 2016, available at www.msnbc.com/am-joy/watch/trump-…; Olivia Nuzzi and Asawin Suebsaeng, “Paul Manafort is Back and Advising Donald Trump on Cabinet Picks,” The Daily Beast, November 30, 2016, available at www.thedailybeast.com/articles/20…. ?

Dan Bloom, “Senator John McCain brands Russia’s US election ‘hack’ ‘an act of war,’” Mirror, December 30, 2016, available at www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/…. Politico Staff, “Morell calls Russia’s meddling in U.S. elections ‘political equivalent of 9/11,’” Politico, December 12, 2016, available at www.politico.com/story/2016/12/mi…. ?

Steven Mufson, “Trump picks ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state,” The Washington Post, December 13, 2016, available at www.washingtonpost.com/world/nat…. ?

The Today Show, “Rex Tillerson could face rocky confirmation due to ties with Russia,” December 13, 2016, available at www.today.com/video/rex-tillerson…. ?

Based on 2015 median household income of $56,516. Tami Luhby, “The middle class gets a big raise … finally!” CNN Money, September 13, 2016, available at money.cnn.com/2016/09/13/news/eco…. Equilar, “The New York Times 200 Highest Paid CEOs,” available at www.equilar.com/reports/38-2-new-… (last accessed January 2017). ?

Stephen Gandel, “3 Things That Could Happen to Rex Tillerson’s $245 Million Exxon Windfall,” Fortune, December 14, 2016, available at fortune.com/2016/12/14/rex-tiller…. ?

Open Secrets, “Trump Administration: Appointee Giving,” available at www.opensecrets.org/trump/appoin… (last accessed January 2017). ?

Open Secrets, “Exxon Mobil: Profile for 2016 Election Cycle,” available at www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary… (last accessed December 2016); Open Secrets, “Exxon Mobil: Client Profile: Summary, 2016,” available at www.opensecrets.org/lobby/client… (last accessed January 2017). ?

Ibid. ?

United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, “Committee Members,” available at www.foreign.senate.gov/about/comm… (last accessed December 2016). ?

Open Secrets, “Exxon Mobil: Among Federal Candidates, 2016 Cycle,” available at www.opensecrets.org/orgs/recips…. (last accessed January 2017). ?

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010). ?

Domenico Montanaro, Rachel Wellford, and Simone Pathe, “Money is pretty good predictor of who will win elections,” PBS Newshour, November 11, 2014, available at www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/mone…. Bob Biersack, “The Big Spender Always Wins?,” Open Secrets, available at www.opensecrets.org/news/2012/01… (last accessed January 2017). See also, Fredreka Schouten, “How Trump won by spending half as much money as Clinton,” USA Today, November 10, 2016, available at www.usatoday.com/story/news/polit…. ?
Sonam Sheth, “A timeline of Rex Tillerson’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Business Insider, December 14, 2016, available at www.businessinsider.in/A-timeline…. ?
In 2011 for example, Exxon and Rosneft signed a lucrative oil deal worth $3.2 million. In exchange for granting Exxon permission to develop offshore oil fields in the Russian Arctic, Rosneft received stakes in a number of Exxon’s US-based projects. Ibid. ?

Matt Egan, Julia Horowitz, and Chris Isidore, “Behind the deep ties between Exxon’s Rex Tillerson and Russia,” CNN Money, December 11, 2016, available at money.cnn.com/2016/12/11/investin…; Rebecca Shabad, “Why Russia honored Trump’s secretary of state pick,” CBS News, December 13, 2016, available at www.cbsnews.com/news/what-did-rus…. ?

Alec Luhn, “Russia praises possible Trump pick Rex Tillerson’s ‘highly professional manner,’” The Guardian, December 12, 2016, available at www.theguardian.com/world/2016/d…. ?

CNN Newsroom, “Transcripts: Trump to Pick ExxonMobil CEO as Secretary of State; Battle for Aleppo; VOA Board to Be Replaced by President-Appointed CEO; Deadly Crackdown in the Philippines. Aired 12-1a ET,” CNN, December 13, 2016, available at www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1612/13/c…. ?

CBS News, “Who is Rex Tillerson, Exxon chief and Donald Trump’s top secretary of state candidate?,” December 10, 2016, available at www.cbsnews.com/news/who-is-rex-t…. ?

Nick Cumming-Bruce, “Death Toll in Ukraine Conflict Hits 9,160, U.N. Says,” The New York Times, March 3, 2016, available at www.nytimes.com/2016/03/04/world/…. ?

Henry C. Jackson, Josh Dawsey, and Eliana Johnson, “ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson emerging as frontrunner for secretary of state,” Politico, December 9, 2016, available at www.politico.com/blogs/donald-tru…. ?

Matt Egan, “Exxon would win if Tillerson works to lift Russian sanctions,” CNN Money, December 13, 2016, available at money.cnn.com/2016/12/13/investin…. ?

Bernard Condon and David Koenig, “Tillerson Leaving Exxon with $180 Million Retirement Package,” ABC News, January 4, 2017, available at abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory…; Jethro Mullen, “Rex Tillerson to put Exxon nest egg in a trust over conflict of interest concerns,” CNN Money, January 4, 2017, available at money.cnn.com/2017/01/04/investin…. ?

Ibid. ?

Condon and Koenig, “Tillerson Leaving Exxon with $180 Million Retirement Package.” Tillerson has worked for Exxon his entire career. Fresh Air, “How Running ExxonMobil Did (And Didn’t) Prepare Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State,” NPR, December 20, 2016, available at www.npr.org/2016/12/20/506286977/…. ?

Peter Nicholas and Carol E. Lee, “Donald Trump Chooses Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State,” The Wall Street Journal, December 13, 2016, available at www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump…. ?

Fresh Air, “How Running ExxonMobil Did (And Didn’t) Prepare Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State.” ?

Justin Gillis and Clifford Krauss, “Exxon Mobil Investigated for Possible Climate Change Lies by New York Attorney General,” The New York Times, November 5, 2015, available at www.nytimes.com/2015/11/06/scienc…. Attorney General Maura Healey, “AGO’s Exxon Investigation,” available at www.mass.gov/ago/bureaus/eeb/the-… (last accessed January 2017); Kiah Collier and Jim Malewitz, “Everything you need to know about Exxon Mobil climate change probes,” The Texas Tribune, December 11, 2016, available at www.texastribune.org/2016/12/11/…. ?

Ibid. ?
Paul Barrett and Matthew Philips, “Can ExxonMobil Be Found Liable for Misleading the Public on Climate Change?” Bloomberg Businessweek, September 7, 2016, available at www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/…. ?

Mark Hensch, “McCain raises ‘concerns’ on Tillerson’s Russia links,” The Hill, December 29, 2016, available at thehill.com/homenews/senate/31207…. ?

Fresh Air, “How Running ExxonMobil Did (And Didn’t) Prepare Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State.” ?

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see also:

ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
How Exxon Won the 2016 Election
By Jenny Rowland, Myriam Alexander-Kearns, Erin Auel, Matt Lee-Ashley, and Howard Marano Posted on January 10, 2017, 12:01 am The Center for American Progress.

16 Election By Jenny Rowland, Myriam Alexander-Kearns, Erin Auel, Matt Lee-Ashley, and Howard Marano Posted on January 10, 2017, 12:01 am

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 10th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Obama: Clean energy trend ‘irreversible’

BY TIMOTHY CAMA – 01/09/17 01:07 PM EST – THE HILL

 thehill.com/policy/energy-environ…


President Obama laid out his case Monday for why the worldwide movement toward clean energy is “irreversible” and can withstand any policy changes.

The opinion piece in the academic journal Science, complete with references end notes, serves in part as a celebration of Obama’s legacy on clean energy and climate change, and a call to action for future policymakers, including President-elect Donald Trump.

“The United States is showing that GHG [greenhouse gas] mitigation need not conflict with economic growth. Rather, it can boost efficiency, productivity, and innovation,” he wrote.

But the piece is also a reassurance to environmentalists and others that the business community also wants to fight climate change, and will continue to do so after he leaves office in less than two weeks.

“Businesses are coming to the conclusion that reducing emissions is not just good for the environment — it can also boost bottom lines, cut costs for consumers, and deliver returns for shareholders,” Obama wrote.

“Despite the policy uncertainty that we face, I remain convinced that no country is better suited to confront the climate challenge and reap the economic benefits of a low-carbon future than the United States.”

The Science piece comes amid growing pessimism among Democrats and environmentalists regarding Trump’s environmental policy.

Trump said on the campaign trail that he plans to quickly start undoing Obama’s climate change legacy, which was largely built on executive actions.

The president-elect has pledged to unleash an energy revolution, centered on fossil fuels like oil and coal.

Nonetheless, Obama prodded Trump in the piece, saying that “the latest science and economics provide a helpful guide for what the future may bring” in terms of energy policy.

This is not the first time Obama has been published in an academic journal. He wrote a piece on criminal justice last week in the Harvard Law Review, and in July, he wrote on healthcare reform in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the first time a sitting president wrote for an academic journal.

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CLIMATE ENVOY HEADS TO HEWLETT FOUNDATION: Jonathan Pershing, Obama’s special envoy for climate change, is heading to the nonprofit world.


The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation announced Monday that Pershing will start next week as director of its environmental program.

“The past few years have brought tremendous gains in the global effort to mitigate climate change, and Jonathan has been a critical part of that,” Larry Kramer, the foundation’s president, said in a statement.

“That’s hardly surprising, as few people working on this all-important problem have his unique combination of experience, expertise, and vision. We are both delighted and fortunate that, in joining the Hewlett Foundation, Jonathan can continue his efforts, now by enhancing the role of civil society and philanthropy in protecting our planet and its inhabitants from the potentially devastating effects of global warming.”

Pershing took over last year as climate envoy and led the United States’ efforts in starting to implement the Paris agreement.

He has previously worked at the Department of Energy and the World Resources Institute, among other positions.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 7th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Democrats Shouldn’t Squander Their One Advantage.
By Bill McKibben, The Boston Globe
07 January 17

he Democrats were given one great gift last year. Even as they lost state legislatures and control of the Senate, even as they surrendered governors’ mansions and somehow turned over the White House to a moral midget, one thing broke their way. And if they squander it now, as their establishment leadership seems inclined to do, then shame on them.

That one great gift was the cascade of young voters that poured out in support of Bernie Sanders. Early in the primary campaign, I introduced the Vermont senator to a crowd of nearly 30,000 people in a big-city convention hall. They were almost all millennials, and they were roaring — any fear I had about the supposed apathy of youth vanished that night. That scene repeated itself across America. By the time primary season was over, Sanders hadn’t just swamped Clinton among young voters — he’d gotten 35 percent more young voters than Clinton and Trump combined. Nothing like that has happened in my political lifetime.

It demonstrates that an honest, bold message, paired with a leader who passes the authenticity test, can move young people into political action. And that should thrill Democrats. Broken as the party is at the moment, demographics means that, indeed, young people are the future. And cynical as they are about politics, they are not lost to the party.

Which is why it was exciting to watch Keith Ellison’s candidacy for party leader take off this fall. Not only did he work closely with Sanders (who remains America’s most popular politician) but he’s cut of the same cloth. Not literally — he’s short, black, and Muslim, instead of tall, white (and white-haired), and Jewish. But he speaks the same language and with the same urgency — he understands the depth of the problems faced by young and working people.

I got to watch him up close during the marathon hearings and negotiations over the Democratic platform last spring. Some of the participants in that process were, to put it politely, veterans of Democratic politics, repeating bromides that had perhaps worked once but no longer do. (Having watched that process, I was not surprised by the lackluster presidential campaign.) Ellison — a sitting member of Congress — was polite, respectful, and attentive. But he was also firm and urgent. He wasn’t going through the motions.

Which is, I think, why the most ingrained parts of the party establishment are now trying to break his momentum. They’ve put forward Thomas Perez, a perfectly good man but from the ruling wing, not the organizing wing, of the party (he’s never been elected to anything above a county council). And, sadly, they’re playing dirty, or at least cynical, digging up “controversies” like ancient parking tickets from Ellison’s past, or a newspaper column he wrote in college defending the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakahn. Voters in his congressional district have thoroughly rejected such nonsense, and so should the DNC members, but the same party machinery that clearly disliked the Sanders challenge (remember those e-mails showing senior officials debating whether it would be more effective to smear him as a Jew or an atheist?) is now trying to derail Ellison.

These insiders view the Democratic party as a club or an institution, not as an organizing platform. And we’re not in an age when institutions are particularly useful — we’re in an era when institutions, without an infusion of new blood and ideas, simply fade away. I know this in part because I’m a Methodist, once perhaps America’s most vital Christian denomination. But over time its energy bled away — despite plenty of vibrant local congregations, and despite sporadic attempts at top-down rejuvenation, it has steadily ebbed. The average age of a Methodist is now 57.

One way to imagine the Sanders campaign, then, is as a series of revival meetings, conducted in every corner of the country. There was nothing shallow about them — Sanders’ unique form of charisma stemmed from his slightly grumpy seriousness. And so the support he received demonstrated a fervent desire to participate, especially among young Americans. They were serious about change.

That energy won’t disappear — it’s already powering the new civil rights movement and the fight for climate justice. But it will disappear from the Democratic Party if the party doesn’t seize the opportunity that Ellison offers. It won’t be the fault of the Russians or the FBI. And it may not come again.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 6th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Foreign Policy EDITORS’ PICKS – Sponsored Daily by The German Embassy in Washington.

Friday, January 6

Welcome to Editors’ Picks, FP’s round-up of the day’s best articles.
Today, we look at Japan’s free trade efforts, Namibia’s lawsuit against Germany’s colonial legacy, and Ghana’s smooth election.

1. KEYS TO THE CASTLE: Donald Trump has access to the most invasive surveillance state in history. Will he use it to impose absolute power? James Bamford writes … Read more by going to foreignpolicy.com/2017/01/06/don…

Similarly you can find the links to the other items as well.

2. SPY WARS: Donald Trump still refuses to believe Moscow tipped the scales, despite growing evidence of a multi-faceted campaign, FP’s Elias Groll reports … Read more

3. FREE TRADE SAMURAI: Tokyo is ready to pick up the banner of the Trans-Pacific Partnership abandoned by Donald Trump – if China lets it, William Sposato writes … Read more

4. GERMANY’S AFRICAN SHAME: A new lawsuit brings Germany’s forgotten genocide in Namibia back into the spotlight, FP’s Robbie Gramer writes … Read more

5. SMOOTH MOVES: Ghana silenced the haters and losers by holding free, fair elections and transitioning power peacefully, FP’s Emily Tamkin writes … Read more

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Sponsored Content – “SHAPING AN INTERCONNECTED WORLD”: That is the motto of Germany’s G20 Presidency in 2017. The stability of the global economy will be a top issue. The highlight of the Presidency will be the leaders’ summit on July 7 and 8 in Hamburg.
Will the US have a Secretary of State to participate in the run up to the German G20?

Foreign Policy Magazine
 editorspicks at foreignpolicy.com

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 6th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT: Rex Tillerson’s Big Oil Ties Endanger the Climate and National Security.

By Cathleen Kelly Posted on January 6, 2017, 9:51 am

The direct link between climate change threats and the duties of the secretary of state is strong. As droughts, floods, heat waves, and other symptoms of a warming world increase both in number and intensity—throughout the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the Arctic, Europe, and the United States—the next U.S. secretary of state will face urgent pressure to curb climate change and manage the effects of a warming planet that can no longer be avoided. Failure to do so will damage the global economy and destabilize an already wobbly security landscape, with potentially dire consequences for U.S. national security interests.

The next U.S. secretary of state must, as Secretary John Kerry has, protect U.S. foreign policy and security interests and demonstrate a track record of personal and diplomatic credibility. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for the job, former* ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, does not meet those qualifications.

Foreign policy experts and environmentalists alike have expressed concern that Tillerson, with his Big Oil ties and history of deceiving the American people, is unfit for the job. Tillerson has a web of business ties to Russia and a documented friendship with its president, Vladimir Putin—an aggressive authoritarian ruler who, according to U.S. intelligence officials, orchestrated hacking and propaganda to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election and is widely regarded as a threat to global stability. Although Tillerson announced plans to divest from ExxonMobil, which he is legally required to do if he is confirmed as secretary of state, he has worked for the company for more than 40 years. In other words, he has seen the world through a Big Oil—and ExxonMobil—lens for the bulk of his career, while earning an annual salary that reached $24.3 million in 2016 and amassing current and future company shares that together total roughly $240 million. Tillerson’s long-standing and highly profitable relationship with ExxonMobil leaves little doubt that his allegiance to the oil giant will remain strong. These ties also raise the specter that Tillerson will end U.S. sanctions against Russia to advance ExxonMobil’s $500 billion business venture in Russia’s Arctic, which is already melting rapidly due to climate change.

For these reasons, the U.S. Senate must reject Tillerson as secretary of state.
Corporate ties and lies.

While rising through the ranks of Exxon and ExxonMobil, Tillerson for decades led the oil giant in funding outside groups to deceive policymakers and the American people about the real health and security risks and costs of climate change. This $33 million misinformation campaign was designed to create a veil of uncertainty around well-established science so that Tillerson’s company could avoid carbon pollution limits and enhance its profits at the expense of clean air, public health, and U.S. national security.

In 2012, Tillerson acknowledged that carbon pollution is “going to have a warming impact,” but contrary to Exxon’s own research, he equivocated, “How large it is is very hard for anyone to predict.” Ample evidence makes clear that climate change is, in fact, already having widespread and unprecedented effects, with serious repercussions for public health, the economy, water supplies, food security, and coastal communities. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concludes, “Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes” across the planet, “increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”

At a 2013 corporate shareholder meeting, Tillerson said, “If you examine the temperature record of the last decade, it really hadn’t changed.” In fact, the opposite was true. By then, scientifically credible data from NASA clearly showed a “Sustained Long-Term Climate Warming Trend.” Soon thereafter, NASA reported that 2005 to 2015 was the warmest decade on record.
In November 2016, Tillerson reversed his previous stance on climate change denial during a speech in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: “At ExxonMobil, we share the view that the risks of climate change are serious and warrant thoughtful action. Addressing these risks requires broad-based, practical solutions around the world.” But this admission came too late: Tillerson had already shown that he was willing to ignore scientific fact to further line his overflowing pockets.

The urgent need to implement—not undermine—the Paris Agreement
Experts agree that in order to prevent a cascade of unmanageable climate change effects, governments and companies around the world have just a handful of years left to transition away from fossil fuels to build a low-carbon global economy. Despite the pressing need to curb carbon pollution, Donald Trump continues to waffle on his public stance on climate change and has not yet revoked his campaign promise to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. Trump’s most worrisome statement on the topic is, in fact, the cabal of climate change deniers he has nominated to his cabinet.

To allow any hope for a future in which climate change effects lessen, not worsen, the next secretary of state must emphatically reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the Paris deal. Tillerson’s record of deception and his fossil fuel industry ties raise the risk that, as the top U.S. diplomat, he would slow the Paris Agreement’s implementation, a move that would also damage the credibility of the United States as a diplomatic partner. Tillerson’s oil industry ties and history of distorting the facts on climate change to enhance corporate profits at the expense of clean air and a healthy climate raises serious questions about whether he would, as secretary of state, direct U.S. foreign policy to advance Big Oil interests ahead of the interests of the American people.

To manage climate-driven security threats, the United States must recognize them
According to national intelligence experts, a growing number of conflict regions around the globe share a common thread: Their economic, political, and social instability is exacerbated by climate change. For example, Syria’s ongoing civil war, which has spawned one of the most severe refugee crises in recent history, started in part due to the impacts of climate change, according to the nonpartisan Center for Climate and Security.
In 2014, the U.S. defense strategy defined climate change as a “threat multiplier,” and an August 2016 National Intelligence Council, or NIC, report concludes that climate change effects will pose “significant national security challenges for the United States over the next two decades.” The NIC report illustrates numerous examples of how more frequent and severe extreme weather events are driving food and water shortages, exacerbating poverty, and escalating conflict in areas including India, Pakistan, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen. A secretary of state who is not even fully convinced of the validity of climate change risks will be ill equipped to recognize and respond to such crises as they emerge.
In September 2016, President Barack Obama issued a presidential memorandum calling on federal agencies to take coordinated and significant steps to reduce climate change risks to U.S. national security. The next secretary of state will need to work quickly to implement that memorandum, and there is little indication that Tillerson is primed to do that.

Rex Tillerson’s oil industry ties and record of raising doubts about the dangers of a warming world make it unlikely that he will take the urgent action needed to fulfill U.S. commitments under the Paris Agreement and manage the escalating risks of climate change. If his past record is prologue, he is likely to prioritize protecting Big Oil interests ahead of the interests of the American people—at the cost of U.S. national security, the health and safety of people around the globe, and the prosperity of future generations.
Cathleen Kelly is a Senior Fellow with the Energy and Environment team at the Center for American Progress.

The author would like to thank Howard Marano, Emily Haynes, and Katherine Downs for their contributions to this column.

Correction, January 6, 2017: This column has been updated to accurately state Rex Tillerson’s position as the former CEO of ExxonMobil.

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Former Exxon chief to face questions on Russia, climate in his Confirmation Hearings.

By Timothy Cama, The Hill, January 6, 2017.

Rex Tillerson, the former head of Exxon Mobil Corp., is due to face tough questioning from senators at his confirmation hearing to be the next secretary of State.

The hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to start Wednesday and could extend to Thursday, although the panel, headed by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), has not formally set the hearing date in stone.

Tillerson is an unusual State nominee. He has never served in the government before, although as head of the country’s largest oil and gas company for more than a decade, he has extensive experience working with foreign nations on business deals.

He is likely to face the toughest questioning over his ties to Russia and his perceived closeness with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Many Democrats, and some Republicans like Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsay Graham (S.C.), have been openly skeptical about Tillerson due to his Russia ties.

But Democrats are also likely to probe Tillerson’s and Exxon’s history on climate change.

For decades, the company sought to sow doubt about whether climate change is real and whether using fossil fuels cause it, despite reports that Exxon knew that as early as the 1970s.

Under Tillerson, Exxon shifted its stance on climate change, accepting the global consensus that humans are contributing to global warming. And the company endorsed the Paris climate deal that President-elect Trump and Republicans have blasted.

Despite those questions about Russia and climate, Corker said Friday that he believes Tillerson will sail along.

“I predict that he’s going to be overwhelmingly supported,” Corker said at a Christian Science Monitor event. “I predict that people are going to see what a distinguished this person is. I think they’re going to see how substantial this person is.”

Tillerson is part of the first wave of Trump’s nominees to get a Senate hearing; five other hearings are due to take place Wednesday as well.

The chairmen of the committees responsible for considering Environmental Protection Agency nominee Scott Pruitt, Energy Department nominee Rick Perry and Interior Department nominee Ryan Zinke have not yet announced hearing dates. But those nominees could get their hearings soon, and they could be within days of Tillerson’s.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 6th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


SHOCKING OF THE UN-INITIATED? NOW IT IS OFFICIAL – PUTIN PERSONALLY WAS INVOLVED IN CREATING US ELECTION RESULTS. WAS THERE FURTHER COLLUSION WITH THE US RIGHT – IN THE PERSON OF THE HEAD OF THE FBI WHO CHOSE THE TIME WHEN THE PUTIN INTERFERENCE WOULD BEAR MOST FRUIT?

The US intelligence community concluded in a declassified report released Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an “influence campaign” aimed at hurting Hillary Clinton and helping Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

The report was the first official, full and public accounting by the US intelligence community of its assessment of Russian hacking activities during the 2016 campaign.

“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the report said.

The campaign — which consisted of hacking Democratic groups and individuals, including Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and releasing that information via third-party websites, including WikiLeaks — amounted to what the intelligence report called “a significant escalation” in longtime Russian efforts to undermine “the US-led liberal democratic order.”

Trump earlier Friday downplayed Russia’s role in the election after what he called a “constructive meeting” with top US intelligence officials.

Trump tried to defuse controversy over his criticism of the intelligence community and said he will appoint a team within 90 days to figure out ways to stop foreign hacking.

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National Security: Declassified report says Putin ‘ordered’ effort to undermine faith in U.S. election and help Trump.

By Greg Miller, The Washington Post, January 6 at 4:49 PM


Russia carried out a comprehensive cybercampaign to upend the U.S. presidential election, an operation that was ordered by Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and “aspired to help” elect Donald Trump by discrediting his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in a report released Friday.

The report depicts Russian interference as unprecedented in scale, saying that Moscow’s assault represented “a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort” beyond previous election-related espionage.


The campaign was ordered by Putin himself and initially sought primarily to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, “denigrate Secretary Clinton” and harm her electoral prospects. But as the campaign proceeded, Russia “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump” and repeatedly sought to elevate him by “discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”


The document represents an extraordinarily direct and detailed account of a long-standing U.S. adversary’s multi-pronged intervention in a fundamental pillar of American democracy.

Trump emerged from a briefing on the report by the nation’s top intelligence officials Friday seeming to acknowledge for the first time at least the possibility that Russia was behind election-related hacks. But he offered no indication that he was prepared to accept U.S. spy agencies’ conclusion that Moscow sought to help him win.

Report on Russian hacking released after Trump briefing Play Video3:04
U.S. intelligence agencies released a declassified version of their report on Russian intervention in the 2016 U.S. election on Jan. 6, just hours after President-elect Donald Trump was briefed by American officials. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)
Instead, Trump said in a statement issued just minutes after the high-level meeting ended that whatever hacking had occurred, “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”

Trump’s statement seemed designed to create the impression that this was the view of the intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and CIA Director John Brennan, who had met with him.

But weighing whether Russia’s intervention altered the outcome of the 2016 race was beyond the scope of the review that the nation’s spy agencies completed this week. And Clapper testified in a Senate hearing Thursday that U.S. intelligence services “have no way of gauging the impact .?.?. it had on the choices the electorate made. There’s no way for us to gauge that.”

Trump’s statement came after his first face-to-face encounter with the leaders of intelligence agencies whose work he has repeatedly disparaged. Others who took part in the meeting included FBI Director James B. Comey and National Security Agency chief Adm. Mike Rogers.

All four of the spy chiefs have endorsed a classified report that was briefed to Trump and circulated in Washington this week that concludes that Russia used a combination of aggressive hacking, propaganda and “fake news” to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential race.

Trump appeared to acknowledge that hacking of Democratic and Republican computer networks had occurred, but was apparently not prepared to accept the consensus view of U.S. spy services that Russia sought to help him win.

“I had a constructive meeting and conversation with the leaders of the intelligence community,” Trump said. He acknowledged that “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber-infrastructure of our government institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee.”

U.S. intelligence captured Russian officials’ communications celebrating Trump’s victory.
(a Video 2:42 minutes presented}

The Post’s Adam Entous reports that U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted electronic communications, known as “signals intelligence,” in which top Russian officials celebrated the outcome of the U.S. election. (Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)

The session was seen as an early indicator of whether Trump could reach some sort of accord with U.S. intelligence agencies or is determined to extend his increasingly bitter feud with America’s spies and analysts into his first term.

In an interview with the New York Times before Friday’s briefing, Trump said the focus on Russian hacking “is a political witch hunt.”

In Thursday’s testimony, Clapper appeared to take aim at Trump and the stream of social-media insults he has targeted at the intelligence community over the Russia issue.

“There is an important distinction here between healthy skepticism, which policymakers, to include policymaker number one, should always have for intelligence,” Clapper said. “But I think there is a difference between skepticism and disparagement.”

The meeting, which was requested by Trump, comes on the heels of a series of revelations about Russia’s role and motivations in last year’s campaign.

The Post reported in December that the CIA and other agencies had concluded that Russia sought not only to disrupt the election and sow doubt about the legitimacy of American democratic institutions but also to help Trump win.

U.S. intelligence agencies based that determination on an array of interlocking intelligence pieces, including the identification of known “actors” with ties to Russian intelligence services who helped deliver troves of stolen Democratic email files to the WikiLeaks website.

U.S. spy agencies also monitored communications in Moscow after the election that showed that senior officials in the Russian government, including those believed to have had knowledge of the hacking campaign, celebrated Trump’s win and congratulated one another on the outcome.

Trump has rejected intelligence agencies’ unanimous conclusions about Russia, saying it could just as easily have been China or “some guy” in New Jersey.

Trump has seemed to court conflict with U.S. intelligence agencies on several fronts. During his campaign, he vowed to order the CIA to return to the use of waterboarding and other brutal interrogation measures widely condemned as torture. Since his surprise victory, Trump has skipped the majority of the daily intelligence briefings made available to him, saying that he has no need for sessions that he finds repetitive.

But the president-elect softened his message on Thursday, saying on Twitter that he is a “big fan” of intelligence, although, as has been his practice, he set off the word “intelligence” in quotes.

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The United States’ most senior intelligence officials briefed Trump on Russian hacking during the election campaign just hours after the President-elect doubled down on his dismissal of the threat as an artificial and politically driven controversy, calling it a “witch hunt.”

Trump also tried to defuse controversy over his criticism of the intelligence community and continued refusal to accept Moscow’s actions, calling the Friday meeting “constructive” and offering praise for the senior intel officials. He said he will appoint a team within 90 days to figure out ways to stop foreign hacking.

Trump’s meeting with the intel officials took around 90 minutes at Trump Tower. A Trump spokeswoman said the officials who gave the briefing were Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director James Comey.


Officials: Hackers aggressively targeting US 02:26

A senior TRUMP transition official described the meeting between Trump and intelligence community officials as “cordial,” not contentious. Trump asked questions and made clear his admiration for intelligence community employees, the official added.

Based on the presentation Friday, which included new information, the TRUMP official insisted that it’s the transition’s view that the hacking was intended to harm Hillary Clinton more than to help Trump. This official pointed to what they were told at the meeting, that the cyberactivity began in late 2015 and early 2016, before it was clear Trump would be the nominee. So, the official asked, how could the hacking be a pro-Trump operation if it began so early on. “This was more an effort to discredit her than anything else,” the Trump official said.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 6th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Future of US relationship with UN in doubt.

By Stewart Patrick, December 28, 2016
An Op-Ed at CNN

The CNN Editor’s note: Stewart Patrick is the senior fellow and director of the program on International Institutions and Global Governance. The views expressed in this commentary are his. (that is not CNN pronouncement)

(CNN) Among the many foreign policy uncertainties created by Donald Trump’s election, there is one prediction we can take to the bank: The United Nations is going to get hammered.
An unapologetic nationalist is bound for the White House, Republicans are in control of both houses of Congress—and the world body is in their crosshairs.

Last week’s Security Council vote to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank — a resolution on which the Obama administration controversially abstained — has enraged GOP legislators. The President-elect has also lashed out, tweeting, “The United Nations has such great potential. But right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. Sad!” Secretary of State John Kerry tried today to defend US diplomacy at the UN, but Republicans on Capitol Hill are determined to pass legislation condemning the Council.

The US-UN relationship is fraught in the best of times — during the George W. Bush administration when the US imposed a unilateral vision globally, or during the 1990s, when Sen. Jesse Helms bedeviled the United Nations and created a financial crisis at the institution by withholding US dues. Conservative critics, both in and outside government, regularly scapegoat the UN for the failures of its member states. And because it lacks a domestic constituency, it is an irresistible target for nationalist demagogues.

After eight years of the most multilaterally-inclined US administration in history, the United Nations is in for a shock. Donald Trump is the new sheriff in town.

Where President Obama proclaimed himself a “citizen of the world,” Trump is channeling a populist base deeply skeptical of international organizations, where paranoid fantasies about UN “black helicopters” as a threat to American sovereignty run deep.

The international organization is certainly flawed and often exasperating — but it is the best vehicle the United States has for advancing its agenda in the world and sharing the burden with others.

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