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Posted on on January 13th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Today’s New York Times, Science pages,  writes about an AIR POLLUTION INDEX (API) FIGURE FOR BEIJING HAVING REACHED 755. This is well beyond rational existence. The TV programs show Beijing engulfed in white smoke and no trace of the sun. This reminded me of an article I wrote in October 1997 after a visit to Malaysia and referenced in our PROMPTBOOK – An October 1997 article in the International Diplomatic Observer distributed at the UN (20 – this is the reference in he Promptbook), discussed the fact that about 20 new large hotels were being built in Kuala Lumpur while the Air Pollution Index was often above 200 (which in the New York Times is defined as very unhealthy) – the author predicted that these investments would turn sour as there would be no tourism under these conditions. The author’s observations were proven right with the collapse of the Kuala Lumpur stock market just six weeks later.” reference (20) Pincas Jawetz, “White Nights at Noon in South East Asia,” The International Diplomatic Observer at the UN in New York, October 1997, p.11

My argument was at the time that the World Bank gave out loans to build hotels in Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere in Malaysia, but air pollution is killing tourism, and thus those investments went sour causing economic crash. I refused to accept that the pollution was a result of fires from burning trees in Indonesia and I argued that it was pollution created in Malaysia proper. You cannot shoulder the blame on “outsiders.”

New York had at the time usually an API of 35-80 and when it reached 100 we complained. Now the API in New York is mostly bellow 30.
100-200 is considered unhealthy; 201-300 – Very Unhealthy  – and our scale ends at 500 with the 300-500 range termed hazardous. Martin Khor wrote in the Star of September 29, 1997 like a prophecy –  “How should we categorize an 850 API – Very Hazardous, Post Hazardous, Extreme Danger? Malaysia’s figures at the time were just 300, but Beijing is now pushing 800!


Alexander F. Yuan/Associated Press

Fashionably masked women on Saturday outside an amusement park in Beijing. The World Health Organization has standards that judge an air-quality score above 500 to be more than 20 times the level of particulate matter in the air deemed safe.

On Scale of 0 to 500, Beijing’s Air Quality Tops ‘Crazy Bad’ at 755


Published in the New York Times on-line: January 12, 2013

BEIJING — One Friday more than two years ago, an air-quality monitoring device atop the United States Embassy in Beijing recorded data so horrifying that someone in the embassy called the level of pollution “Crazy Bad” in an infamous Twitter post. That day the Air Quality Index, which uses standards set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, had crept above 500, which was supposed to be the top of the scale.

So what phrase is appropriate to describe Saturday’s jaw-dropping reading of 755 at 8 p.m., when all of Beijing looked like an airport smokers’ lounge? Though an embassy spokesman said he did not immediately have comparative data, Beijing residents who follow the Twitter feed said the Saturday numbers appeared to be the highest recorded since the embassy began its monitoring system in 2008.

The embassy’s @BeijingAir Twitter feed said the level of toxicity in the air was “Beyond Index,” the terminology for levels above 500; the “Crazy Bad” label was used just once, in November 2010, before it was quickly deleted by the embassy from the Twitter feed. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, levels between 301 and 500 are “Hazardous,” meaning people should avoid all outdoor activity. The World Health Organization has standards that judge a score above 500 to be more than 20 times the level of particulate matter in the air deemed safe.

In online conversations, Beijing residents tried to make sense of the latest readings.

“This is a historic record for Beijing,” Zhao Jing, a prominent Internet commentator who uses the pen name Michael Anti, wrote on Twitter. “I’ve closed the doors and windows; the air purifiers are all running automatically at full power.”

Other Beijing residents online described the air as “postapocalyptic,” “terrifying” and “beyond belief.”

The municipal government reported levels as high as 500 on Saturday evening from some monitoring stations. The Chinese system does not report numbers beyond 500. Nevertheless, readings in central Beijing throughout the day were at the extreme end of what is considered hazardous according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency standards. (By comparison, the air quality index in New York City, using the same standard, was 19 at 6 a.m. on Saturday.)

Pollution levels in Beijing had been creeping up for days, and readings were regularly surging above 300 by midweek. The interior of the gleaming Terminal 3 of the Beijing Capital International Airport was filled with a thick haze on Thursday. The next day, people working in office towers in downtown Beijing found it impossible to make out skyscrapers just a few blocks away. Some city residents scoured stores in search of masks and air filters.

Still, there was little warning that the United States Embassy reading would jump above 700 on Saturday. Some people speculated that the monitoring system, which measures fine particles called PM 2.5 because they are 2.5 microns in diameter or smaller, might have malfunctioned once it got beyond 500.

But Nolan Barkhouse, an embassy spokesman, said the monitor was operating correctly.

It was unclear exactly what was responsible for the rise in levels of particulate matter, beyond the factors that regularly sully the air here. Factories operating in neighboring Hebei Province ring this city of more than 20 million. The number of cars on Beijing’s streets has been multiplying at an astounding rate. And Beijing sits on a plain flanked by hills and escarpments that can trap pollution on days with little wind. Meanwhile, one person hiking at the Great Wall in the hills at Mutianyu, north of Beijing, took photographs of crisp blue skies there.

Xinhua, the state news agency, reported on Dec. 31 that Beijing’s air quality had improved for 14 years straight, and the level of major pollutants had decreased. A municipal government spokesman told Xinhua that the annual average concentration of PM 10, or particles 10 microns in diameter or smaller, had dropped by 4 percent in 2012, compared with one year earlier.

Chinese officials prefer to publicly release air pollution measurements that give only levels of PM 10, although foreign health and environmental experts say PM 2.5 can be deadlier and more important to track.

There has been a growing outcry among Chinese for municipal governments to release fuller air quality data, in part because of the United States Embassy Twitter feed. As a result, Beijing began announcing PM 2.5 numbers last January. Major Chinese cities have had the equipment to track those levels, but had refused for a long time to release the data.

The existence of the embassy’s machine and the @BeijingAir Twitter feed have been a diplomatic sore point for Chinese officials. In July 2009, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official, Wang Shu’ai, told American diplomats to halt the Twitter feed, saying that the data “is not only confusing but also insulting,” according to a State Department cable obtained by WikiLeaks. Mr. Wang said the embassy’s data could lead to “social consequences.”

A version of this article appeared in print on January 13, 2013, on page A16 of the New York edition with the headline: On Scale of 0 to 500, Beijing’s Air Quality Tops ‘Crazy Bad’ at 755.


Posted on on December 21st, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

NEW – Rabbi Schneier’s weekly column in the Huffington Post.

The Making of Modern-Day Miracles: Hanukkah With the Chief Rabbi, Imams and Barack Obama.


Hanukkah, the eight day holiday which the Jewish people just observed, is first and foremost, about miracles. Hanukkah commemorates both the miracle of the victory of the Jewish people led by Judah Maccabee in their uprising against their Greek oppressors in 165 B.C.E. and the miracle that the menorah in the reconsecrated Temple in Jerusalem burned for eight days, even though there was only enough oil to light it for one day.

To be sure, miracles have always played a major role in Jewish history; indeed, the very survival of the Jews as a people, despite nearly 2,000 years of exile and persecution, is the greatest miracle of all. Yet, in the Talmud, our sages remind us that one must not rely on miracles. Yes, miracles can happen, but one has to work terribly hard for them.

There is an enormous human component that goes into the making of a miracle.

Over the past six years, I have been privileged to take part in a modern-day miracle: the establishment of a global movement of Muslims and Jews committed to communication, reconciliation and cooperation. Two weeks ago, as I wrote in my last column, I was one of several rabbis invited to take part in the opening of the King Abdullah International Center for Interfaith Dialogue in Vienna, an institution created by the King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, to strengthen dialogue between world religions — very much including Islam and Judaism. On Dec. 10, the second day of Hanukkah, together with my friend and esteemed colleague, Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens, the largest mosque in New York City, I organized a festive Hanukkah meal at the SOLO kosher restaurant in midtown Manhattan featuring the Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger and eight prominent New York area imams and Muslim leaders.

As I noted in my remarks at the luncheon, such an event would have been unthinkable a few years ago; and many people might assume, should have been all but impossible in the wake of the exchange of missile fire between Israel and Gaza last month. However, thanks to the ongoing step-by-step work in which I have been engaged with Imam Shamsi Ali and other visionary Muslim and Jewish leaders around the world; arranging hundreds of mosque-synagogue exchanges every November during our annual International Muslim-Jewish Weekend of Twinning and bringing together European, North American and Latin American Muslim and Jewish leaders to stand together against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, we have managed to build a framework that allows us to celebrate each others’ holidays together, and to work productively in concert with each other, even at a time of conflict in the Middle East.

That willingness to build ties of cooperation and understanding very much includes Chief Rabbi Metzger, who has made it a point to reach out to imams and Muslim leaders, both within Israel and the Palestinian territories and around the world. Pointing out that through the greater part of the past 1,300 years, Jews and Muslims lived and worked closely together, the Chief Rabbi invoked the miracle of the long burning menorah of Hanukkah to appeal to the New York imams to join with him and like-minded Jews in “spreading the light of Jewish-Muslim understanding.” Responding on behalf of his fellow imams, Shamsi Ali emphasized that “the Middle East conflict is not a Jewish-Muslim conflict but a human one and we have a shared human responsibility to intervene. We don’t have the luxury to become discouraged and give up on the situation; rather we must remain optimistic and keep building our network of contacts.”

Presiding over this historic gathering, the first time a chief rabbi of Israel has sat down together with American Muslim leaders, I reflected that its very occurrence showed about how far Muslims and Jews have come together in six short years and the great opportunity we now have to work together for the betterment of both communities — including helping to bring peace to the Middle East. Indeed, thanks to the efforts in which we have been engaged, there is greater reason for optimism about Muslim-Jewish relations than has existed in a long time.

Several days later, on the evening of Dec. 13, I was privileged to participate in the menorah lighting ceremony at the White House. Listening to President Obama’s eloquent words at that event, I reflected that he is a man of conviction and principle whom I deeply admire.

Yet, as someone who has been in the vanguard of strengthening black-Jewish relations in America for a quarter of a century, being in Barack Obama’s presence at a Hanukkah celebration at the White House also evoked another miracle that continues to amaze and inspire me: the first-ever African-American President of the United States.

Like the remarkable progress we have achieved in Muslim-Jewish relations, the triumph of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the election of President Obama 40 years later, are also examples of miracles that good people worked terribly hard to make happen. The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other milestones of that movement would never have occurred without the tireless efforts of Americans of diverse backgrounds who came together in support of the struggle of African-Americans for freedom and equality. In fact, as I have noted in my book “Shared Dreams: Martin Luther King and the Jewish Community,” there was no segment of American society which provided as much and as consistent support to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as did the Jewish community.

Among the modern day Maccabees who sacrificed their lives were Jewish civil rights activists Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who together with their African-American co-worker James Chaney, were brutally murdered in the swamps of Mississippi.

Other brave Jews who joined that struggle included Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched alongside Dr. King from Selma to Montgomery, and countless other rabbis who were arrested and beaten during the Freedom Rides of 1961.

As I stood in the White House and witnessed the first African-American President light the Hanukkah menorah, I felt that the President’s solidarity with the Jewish community that evening was so very fitting given the seeds of the black-Jewish alliance that were planted in the Civil Rights struggle of half a century ago.

As I left the White House that evening, I reflected on the miraculous accomplishments of the Civil Rights movement, confident that we can achieve the miracle of Muslim-Jewish reconciliation as well. Both of these movements remind us of the enormous human effort that goes into the making of a miracle.

Rabbi Marc Schneier is President of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and Vice President of the World Jewish Congress. Schneier is co-authoring a book on Muslim-Jewish relations entitled Sons of Abraham, with Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center, New York City’s largest mosque, to be published by Beacon Press in the Fall of 2013.

Click Here to read Rabbi Schneier’s new column in the Huffington Post


But lest we are accused of not considering all evidence, I must bring up also the OpenDemocracy column we read today:…

Turkey, the end of Islamism with a human face.

Kerem Oktem 20 December 2012

Turkey’s AKP government has over a decade promised a new model of governance: progressive and reformist, Islamist and democratic. But a series of developments, including the expanding power of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, is now exposing the party and its policies to ever-deeper scrutiny, says Kerem Oktem.

For eight decades after the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the dominant ideology and political model was one of authoritarian secularism. In November 2002, the election victory of the Justice & Development Party (AKP) brought with it a double promise: to accommodate growing demands for inclusion (from both Turkey’s majority Muslim population and the country’s subordinated ethno-religious minorities), and to marry Turkey’s mainstream Islamist tradition and conservative political right with a programme of modernisation geared towards accession to the European Union.

The prospect of historic change struck a chord far beyond Turkey, especially among liberals in Europe and the United States but also across the middle east. The culture wars unleashed by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida and George W Bush’s administration had both polarised world opinion and created longing for a new reconciliation between “Islam” and “democracy” (or more accurately, between Islamism and popular sovereignty). Many read in the Turkish result a sign of hope.

The AKP’s ambition could hardly be exaggerated: to reconcile conservative religious values and modern politics in a way that resembled the achievement of Christian Democrat parties in late-19th century Europe when they carried Catholic voters and Christian values into democratic politics. The party, after several false starts and legal sanctions from a still confident and intimidatory state, had built a broad coalition of old Islamists, moderate nationalists and new liberals. It seemed a strong foundation for a change-making project inspired by the notion of “Islamism with a human face”.

The AKP’s election breakthrough of November 2002 was the prelude to an exciting decade-long political roller-coaster ride where impressive economic growth, progressive legal reforms, empowerment of civil society and modernisation of infrastructure was counterbalanced by growing nationalism and chauvinism, spreading machismo and untamed neo-liberal restructuring. Amid many setbacks and frustrations, the ride more often than not seemed to lean towards the former. Now, however, Turkey’s politics appear to have come full circle. The country’s Kurds are even more antagonised than during the highpoint of the Kurdish war of the 1990; the non-orthodox Alevi community (which numbers at least 10 million) feels more disenfranchised even than under Kemalist dictatorship; and virtually all societal groups that diverge from the AKP’s notion of the “Islamic middle-class family” experience a sense of exclusion as a result of state attitudes.

It is a good time to take stock, and re-evaluate the actors and dynamics which have reshaped Turkey over these ten years. In particular, to ask: why has the human face of Islamism appears to have gone missing; why has the country’s political realm experienced a puzzling a loss of decency; what do these developments mean for the people of Turkey and the country’s overlapping neighbourhoods; and what are the available alternatives?

A discredited legacy

Turkey shares with other middle-east regimes a tradition of secular authoritarianism whose combination of rigorously controlled institutions, populist nationalism and repressive security systems enabled it to remain in power for decades. Turkey differed from countries such as Egypt, Syria or Tunisia not in the underpinnings of power, but in its state legacy and geostrategic environment. The Republic of Turkey, which had its foundations in the Ottoman empire’s modernisation of the late 19th century, was able to avoid the colonial domination that was to shape the experience of modern Arab statehood. Moreover, at the onset of the cold war, Turkey’s political elites were able to secure a place for the country in the western security alliance, thanks above all to its geographical proximity to western Europe and its status as a frontline state vis-à-vis the former Soviet Union.

Throughout the second half of the 20th century, this place facilitated the maintenance in Turkey of a semi-democratic hybrid regime which kept a balance between some socio-economic and ethno-religious groups while repressing and/or denying the existence of others (especially the Kurds, a middle-eastern nation with a long history of local statehood and a distinct literary tradition). The reality of the Armenian genocide, on which the relative religious homogeneity of modern Turkey as a Muslim majority state was built, was also denied.

At heart, Turkey over these decades was a deeply unjust society marked by profound ideological and ethno-religious divisions, which came to the fore particularly in the years of near civil war (as in the 1970s) and was then controlled by the extreme security state established after the coup d’etat of September 1980. By the early 2000s, however, the version of modernity projected by the Kemalist regime  – so-called after the state’s founder, Kemal Atatürk – was looking anachronistic, reminiscent as it was of the leader-worship, mass events and orchestrated nationalist fervour of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany; while political and social developments in Turkey had massively undermined its claim to represent the country.

The Islamist movement, partly supported by the generals of the 1980 coup as a prophylactic against socialist infiltration, had matured significantly. The leading cadres within Turkey’s Milli Görü? (National View) movement, the mainstream Islamist tradition from whom the AKP’s leading cadres hail, had come to embrace non-statist, globalised economic thinking and to accept the need to work within the parameters of the secular state. Islamic networks such as Fethullah Gülen’s HIzmet, which combined conservative social values with successful educational enterprises and trust-based business networks, facilitated the emergence of internationally successful industrial establishments in medium-sized towns and cities in the Anatolian heartlands. These flourishing “Anatolian tigers” in central Turkey – led by a new “Islamic bourgeoisie” whose hard work and focused business ambition even attracted the sobriquet “Islamic Calvinists” – created what Cihan Tugal calls a “passive revolution” which integrated Islamists into capitalism and municipal politics, thereby keeping radicalisation at bay.

The Kemalist model was also exposed by the dirty war against the Kurdish guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdish civilian population, which by the 2000s had left more than 30,000 dead and up to 2 million Kurds internally displaced. The loss of legitimacy was shared: among a series of weak coalition governments, among the “deep state” that effectively co-opted them, and among the Kemalist modernisation project as a whole.

Thus, by the time the AKP came to power in 2002, Turkey was over-ready for a change – and change it did. In a relatively short period, and at breakneck speed, the government embarked on an ambitious programme of legal and institutional reform. The prospect of accession negotiations with the European Union unleashed a frenzy of liberal initiatives: the enacting of a progressive civil code, the opening to scrutiny of the repressive institutions of the post-1980 era (including the Higher Education Council, devised to keep unruly universities under control, and the National Security Council, which did the same for the country’s politics).

All vestiges of the ancien regime were open to consideration. The media brimmed with public debates about hitherto unspeakable taboos: from the repression of the Kurds and the marginalisation of Alevis to the denial of the many crimes against humanity which the Turkish nationalist modernisers committed in the dying days of the Ottoman empire and the early ones of the Turkish republic. This liberal moment was framed by high levels of economic growth and a tripling of GDP per capita, which allowed the government to reorganise public services and infrastructure. Significant portions of the public gained unprecedented access to healthcare, with visible results on public health (particularly in underprivileged areas like the Kurdish provinces). This aspect of neo-liberal adjustment came with better services and a more courteous public administration.

A new balance

True, even at the time, there were signs of an undercurrent of religious chauvinism, and an element of Islamist “revenge” for the reprisals inflicted upon them throughout the republic (and particularly after the “mini-coup” of 1997). From 2005, the country witnessed an almost inexplicable nationalist backlash in which prominent liberal public intellectuals such as Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak were publicly assaulted and subject to a barrage of court cases. These campaigns of psychological warfare against Turkey’s faint but vital liberal voice were supplemented by targeted violence whose victims included the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink (murdered in January 2007) and several Christian priests and missionaries.

The operations of the deep state, a remnant of Nato’s “stay behind” forces that went viral during the Kurdish war, had been supported (unknowingly or cynically) by parts of the secular establishment and the Republican People’s Party (CHP). The latter’s efforts extended at times into a form of brinkmanship aimed at deposing the AKP government, preventing the AKP foreign minister Abdullah Gül from competing for the presidency, or even (via the constitutional court) attempting to shut down the governing party. All of these manoeuvres failed; though they did succeed in polarising the political space and galvanising support for the AKP government, which could rightfully accuse the Kemalist establishment of undemocratic conduct. They also opened the door to a direct popular election of the president.

There were other worrying signs. An amended anti-terror law in 2006 significantly expanded the definition of terrorism to make the expression of ideas that happen to be shared by terrorist organisations a punishable offence. At a stroke, demands for education in the Kurdish language or for regional autonomy became a security matter. In tactics reminiscent of Israel’s tactics in the occupied Palestinian territories, Turkish security officers abused demonstrating children in Diyarbakir and other Kurdish cities and imprisoned them for minor offences like hurling stones or carrying placards with the insignia of the PKK. The legal attacks against pro-Kurdish parties and politicians – established tools of governance since their emergence in the 1990s – continued. In the late 2000s, a legal battle was unleashed upon the whole domain of Kurdish politics, with hundreds (and soon thousands) of Kurdish politicians, activists and employees of municipalities run by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) taken into detention, sometimes under humiliating circumstances.

A successful referendum initiative in September 2010 then broke the hegemony of Kemalist judges in the high courts and made possible the prosecution of the hitherto protected leaders of the 1980 coup. This fuelled the zeal of prosecutors close to the government in their undeclared war on the old establishment, which involved bringing charges against former and serving chiefs of the general staff and leading figures in the media and politics for alleged involvement in a series of (averted) coup attempts. Turkey’s history of military interventions made the accusations not unreasonable, and they helped the government to scare the military into full cooperation. Yet if the court cases against the BDP were aimed at marginalising the AKP’s main rival in the Kurdish provinces, those against the military and secularist figures were directed against the Kemalist establishment as such, not necessarily at any actual acts individuals might have engaged in. The ever-growing number of those detained, and the mounting incidents of half-baked evidence, secret witnesses, and (in line with Turkish judicial tradition) fantastic indictments, gradually eroded the legitimacy of the prosecutorial assault.

But prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an and his government had been able – at least until the 2010 elections – to counterbalance such highhanded moves with more benign ones in other policy domains. TV and radio broadcasts in Kurdish were legalised, and Kurdish education gradually phased in. This led to multiple contradictions: as the first university degree programmes for Kurdish teachers began, for example, detained Kurdish politicians were charged for insisting on defending themselves in their mother tongue. This doesn’t diminish the importance of the fact that Kurdish, denied its very existence throughout the entire history of the republic, is now a recognised subject in state schools and universities.

The court proceedings cannot be defined as anything but “exceptional justice”. There is little doubt, though, that the Kemalist establishment (including the CHP) had been deeply implicated in dodgy dealings with the deep state to overthrow or at least weaken the ruling AKP. Turkey’s visibility in its neighbourhood, and its seemingly successful foreign-policy activism, also helped to convince a global audience that the AKP government was still engaging in a struggle to defend the popular will against the machinations of the authoritarian Kemalist establishment and the deep state.

An authoritarian shift

So, what changed after the 2010 elections, which returned the AKP to government for a third time and with almost half of the popular vote? Many secularists argue there was no such change: rather, that the cadres of this Islamist party had artfully manipulated the public in Turkey, the European Union and pretty much everybody in the world in order to subvert the military and then rule supreme. They now had the strength to fulfil their “real” motive, to create a sort of theocracy. Some liberals, and even more reflective Islamist actors, would make a different case, based on Lord Acton’s dictum that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Indeed, ten years in government is a long time.

Both explanations have a grain of truth, though the proponents of the first might recall that the secular establishment has played a major role in cornering the AKP elites and socialising them into the very exceptional use of force which the government and its supporters in the judiciary and bureaucracy is now engaged in. The flipside of the secularist explanation hence suggests that the Kemalist state has managed to shape the Islamists in its own image, turning them into the same kind of authoritarian modernisers and social engineers; the difference being that the core reference-points are now Islam, Ottomanism and neo-liberalism rather than Turkish ethno-nationalism. In the government’s defence, its apologists proclaim that Erdo?an wants to attract the nationalist vote with hawkish policies in order to ensure his election as president, insinuating that he might become more moderate when that is achieved.

Geostrategy has also helped. Turkey happens to share borders with states that are vilified by the western security establishment. In the past, it was the Soviet Union; then Iran, followed by Iraq, and lately Syria. The United States needs Turkey as an ally in its middle-eastern policy, no matter what shape this policy may eventually take. It is not a good time to criticise Turkey – and thanks to geostrategy, the time never seems to be just right. The rebranding of Turkey as an economic powerhouse and model of Muslim democracy, professionally and aggressively conducted globally by civil-society organisations and pro-business Islamic networks, also remains potent. Turkey is still able to depict itself, albeit in a far less convincing way than before, as a model for the democratic transitions in the Arab world.

A political faultine

If the AKP government is now in more or less full control of the Turkish state, unconstrained by foreign-policy pressures, and able to benefit from a relatively well-performing economy, what exactly is it doing? The answer is that it is concentrating extreme power in the hands of the prime minister, and conducting remorseless policies without a modicum of balance. There are thousands of Kurdish activists and hundreds of university students in jail, who are by any definition political prisoners; they are joined by critical journalists who are often held on terrorism charges. The judiciary is cracking down on pretty much any individual who dares to question the legitimacy of “Islamism with a human face” and of Turkey’s neo-liberal restructuring. Critical academics such as Bü?ra Ersanl? and P?nar Selek have been imprisoned or face charges. Some campuses, like that of the Aegean University in Izmir and now that of the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, are subjected to a state of emergency, where police snatch away protesting students and intimidate intervening faculty members.

The balancing-act between neo-liberal adjustment and redistribution was one of the great success stories of earlier AKP governments. Now that the economy is slowing, redistribution has become harder and industrial action more pronounced. Turkish Airlines is a showcase for intelligent management, brand consolidation and growth thanks to high levels of productivity. Yet working conditions are harsh, and when a few hundred employees staged a short strike earlier in 2012, all of them were dismissed (via SMS) after an angry intervention by Erdo?an. Istanbul’s skyline is slowly being destroyed by what will soon be called the Turkish property bubble; the prime minister himself, usually not responsible for urban planning, is pushing through plans for the largest mosque in Turkey on a hilltop overlooking Istanbul, and for an ill-advised plan to “beautify” the city’s heart around Taksim Square. All of these projects have been finalised behind closed doors, with no regard to public consultation.

Erdo?an’s is a sad story, especially in relation to the promise he represented as a child of poor immigrants to Istanbul who rose to the top echelons of power via the municipality of greater Istanbul, along the way defying the Kemalist establishment and enduring a jail term. Now, he has become a choleric figure who lectures the world about all and sundry; plays down the Armenian genocide (while accusing China of the same crime against the Uyghur people and maintaining cordial relations with Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, whose regime is accused of genocide in Darfur); lambasts Israel (rightly) for its brutal occupation regime, while failing to apologise for the killing of thirty-four Kurdish civilians in an airstrike near the village of Roboski; tells Turkish women how many children to have (three) and threatens to rescind relatively liberal abortion laws.

That socially conservative politics would eventually close in on the female body and, as Deniz Kandiyoti suggests, attempt a “masculinist restoration”, is probably not so surprising. That Erdo?an now even seeks to have a popular TV series on Suleiman the Magnificent banned, because it depicts the Ottoman Sultan as a man concerned more with his harem than with conquest, however, is. Could Erdo?an be approaching the threshold to ludicrousness?

A contested hegemony

The hegemonic aspect of Turkey’s new governing system is a case of the phenomenon different from Egypt’s, where Andrea Teti and colleagues view Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as non-hegemonic actors that consequently face widespread protests that contest their power-base. The foundations of post-Kemalist hegemony run deeper, as they have been built gradually and in a more deliberate manner. In ten years, the AKP and sympathetic Islamic networks have succeeded in educating a new generation of administrators, judges and foreign-policy experts in private schools and new universities, who approximate in mindset and persuasion to what Erdo?an calls a “pious youth”. The part of the population which has benefited from the AKP’s economic growth and redistribution policies is incomparably larger than in Egypt; and Turkey is much richer now than it was in 2002-03.

The infinitely self-confident Erdo?an is not without possible challenge, however – though not from the main opposition party, which is failing to unite its two main factions into a progressive social-democrat coalition (the division is between a nationalist and anti-Kurdish Kemalist establishment, and a more liberal left-wing faction with a strong Alevi component). The challenge, rather, comes from two other sources. The first could emerge from within the Islamist movement and the Islamic networks, which have played a key role in mobilising their constituencies for the AKP in the preceding elections. Many people here regard “decency” as not (or not exclusively) a matter of piety and modest dress. Some wonder whether their longstanding struggle really was for a Turkey with more mosques, shopping-malls and high-speed trains, ruled by an autocratic dictator who gasps for even more power than he already holds. The extent to which they will be able to revoke the implicit agreement between Islamists not to compromise a fellow brother, and to find a voice in the AKP (or beyond) will be decisive for the future of Turkey’s politics and of Erdo?an himself.

The second challenge may come from Turkey’s current president, the much less divisive Abdullah Gül, who enjoys considerably more approval for a second term in office than Erdo?an does in his bid for the presidency. The two are now in open conflict over a wide range of policy issues. This struggle will unfold over the next year.

In the meantime, Turkey veers ever closer to an abyss of multiple crises on different geographical scales: in its neighbourhood, in Syria, in its own Kurdish regions, in its higher-education system, its courtrooms, and in its inner cities. If there is anything like “path dependence”, the possibility of Erdo?an returning to the politics of decency, with which he initially captured the hearts and minds of the electorate in Turkey, can be precluded. For now, Turkey’s experiment of “Islamism with a human face” seems to have come to a tentative end.

That this is happening at the same time as the Muslim Brotherhood’s grip on Egypt seems to be slipping, and unrest is mounting in Tunisia, might offer some hints about the future of this ideology. Olivier Roy’s repeated insistence that Islamism is nearing its end might still be unfounded. The Turkish experience, however, suggests that its neo-liberal, pro-American version cannot provide credible or sustainable answers to the needs of complex modern societies, and certainly not to the demands for social justice and inclusive governance.


Similar difficulties exist in Israel and they will not be resolved by the January 2013 elections.

The up-shot is thus that lot of hard work is needed to make the needed miracles of civil co-existence happen.


Posted on on December 12th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (


Secretary General Meets Ruler of Sharjah and Praises Halal Food Exhibition and Conference

His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of the Emirate of Sharjah, received on 10 December 2012, the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu.

The OIC Secretary General praised Sharjah for hosting the International Halal Food Middle East Expo and Conference on 10 – 12 December 2012, stressing the significance of this occasion for enhancing economic and trade cooperation between the OIC Member States, which would boost intra-OIC trade.

The two sides discussed ways and means to develop cooperation between the OIC and the United Arab Emirates as well as the situation in the Islamic world.

Message of the OIC Secretary General on the Occasion of the Human Rights Day (10 December 2012)

The world has witnessed, in recent years, the rise of protest waves of all scales and forms against violations of the full enjoyment by thousands of citizens of their civil and political economic, cultural and social rights. Extreme poverty continues to plunge millions of people into abject misery. The right to adequate housing, drinking water and sanitation, education, health services, and decent jobs are still beyond the reach of one billion people around the globe who live on less than one dollar a day, despite MDGs recommendations aimed at reducing poverty by half by 2015.

Freedoms of expression, thought and religion, freedom of association, assembly and peaceful protest are violated in many countries which are still learning Democracy. The right to vote and the freedom to militate within a political party and vote for a candidate of their choice are not yet guaranteed to all citizens. Women, ethnic and religious minorities, internally displaced people, refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants continue to pay a high price in the countries of origin and destination and are often victims of serious human rights violations.

These crowds assembled spontaneously and massively multiplied in countries where citizens have felt themselves marginalized in the management of and participation in the public life and the daily affairs of their country, although that impacts directly on their daily lives.

These gatherings which brought together both the young and the old, men and women, the unemployed and students -among others- were carrying messages of rebellion and despair from a large segment of our societies. The feeling conveyed is not much of uncertainty about a bright future, but rather that of weariness of the maneuvers of the regimes in place that have monopolized public life and deprived many citizens of hope.

The slogan chosen for the Human Rights Day this year: “My voice counts” is a message to political leaders to encourage them to adopt a more inclusive and consensual approach in the conduct of public affairs. All segments of society, taken as a whole and without any discrimination, should be involved in the national debate on public policy options aimed at promoting universally-recognized human rights: the right of everyone to benefit fully and with no restriction from public resources and from the benefits to which they are entitled as citizens.

People’s effective participation in public life and in the management of the daily affairs of society at the political, economic, social and cultural levels remains the cornerstone of any quest for peaceful coexistence between the citizens of the same country, in a climate of harmony, complementarity and respect for diversity.

The OIC, through its Secretary General, has never ceased in the past years to promote the language of dialogue and consensus in the management of public affairs. Member countries’ strategies of political, economic, social and cultural development cannot be achieved without greater involvement of all the forces of the nation. This implies that the inalienable rights and freedoms of their citizens, acknowledged universally and subscribed to at the national level, should be the major foundation which guides any just and inclusive action towards the Islamic Ummah.

It is necessary today to guarantee to our people an environment that is both healthy and open to the free expression of expectations, fears and legitimate hopes within a pluralistic and democratic nation; a requirement whose legitimacy is recognized and defended by the international community.

OIC Participates in 4th UTSAM Symposium on Combating International Terrorism and Trans-border Criminality

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) took part in the 4th edition of the Symposium on International Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) held by the International Terrorism and Transnational Crime Research Center (UTSAM) over 7-9 December 2012 in Antalya, Republic of Turkey.

This year’s edition of the Symposium stood out by the wide diversity of expert participants representing academia, law-enforcement agencies, international and regional organizations as well as NGOs. The working papers and debates during the three-day event focused heavily on the evolving nexus between terrorism networks and cross-border criminality, particularly in fragile and failed States.

The OIC emphasized the need for reinforcing the international legal arsenal within a multi-pronged approach that should address the roots causes of the phenomena of terrorism and extremism. It also highlighted the endeavors deployed by H.E. the Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu,  to hold a high-level international conference under the auspices of the United Nations in a bid to develop a joint action by the international community against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and to articulate a consensual definition of terrorism.

Among the prominent issues explored during the Symposium was the imperative of tackling the corruptive power of transnational criminal networks by dismantling their infrastructures and pre-empting any alliance between transnational criminality and terrorist activities.


OP-ED: Egypt, Arab Sunni Politics, and the U.S.: A Problematic Road Ahead

By Emile Nakhleh Reprint |   | Print | Send by email

WASHINGTON, Dec 5 2012 (IPS) – The bad news about Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s expanding constitutional powers is the threat of another dictatorship in Egypt. The good news is that normal politics is returning to Egypt after decades of brutal authoritarian regimes.

Recent mass demonstrations in support of and opposition to Morsi’s new draft constitution and the political tug of war between Morsi and the judiciary, especially the Judges Club, signify a healthy sign of democratic politics, which the Egyptian people had fought for before and since Tahrir Square.

Egyptians are openly debating the meaning and implications of each of the 234 articles in the new constitution, ranging from setting a two- to four-year presidential term to freedom of worship and social justice.

Opponents of the document correctly claim that it is excessively religious, especially with the role assigned to al-Azhar Islamic University, and is barely inclusive. Rights of women and minorities are not clearly spelled out although followers of other Abrahamic religions have the right to select their own religious leaders and conduct their personal status matters according to their religious dictates.

These raucous and often turbulent constitutional debates and the verbal scuffles between the judiciary and the executive branch seem to signal the advent of rational politics and the promise of pragmatic political compromises. The upcoming popular referendum on the document will tell whether the Egyptian people support or oppose the draft document.

Egypt has not witnessed or enjoyed this type of political jockeying at the popular level since before the middle of the last century. Even if the draft constitution is adopted, Morsi can serve a maximum of two terms – again, something Egyptians have not known for generations.

The United States should not get involved in this debate and should allow the Egyptian people to sort out their political differences. Privately, Washington should point out to Morsi that tolerance, inclusion, and minority and women rights should be the hallmark of governance in the new Egypt.

Constitutional tensions in Egypt, however, should be viewed in the broader context of the emerging Arab Sunni order in the region.

This new regional Sunni alignment is led by Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, and tacitly supported by Turkey. It is perceived in the region and globally as a front to isolate Iran and diminish its regional influence, bring down the Assad regime or speed up Assad’s fall, and help break up the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah “Axis of Resistance.”

This Sunni architecture could also pull Hamas away from the Iran-Syria camp and move it closer to the Sunni fold. The recent military confrontation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza had the unintended consequence of strengthening Hamas’ regional posture and cementing relations between it and Sunni Arab leaders, ranging from Qatar to Tunisia.

Although Washington has quietly endorsed the new regional Sunni politics, U.S. policymakers and intelligence and policy analysts should consider the possibility that in the long run, the new order could also spell trouble for Arab democratic transitions and for the West.

The short-term gains, while critical for the region, are already happening. Iran is becoming more isolated and its relations with Arab states and non-state actors are fraying.

Assad is on his way out, and within months if not weeks, Syria will be begin to experience the convulsions of a new post-Assad political order. The forceful Western warnings, including by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to Assad about the possible use of chemical and biological weapons could be the prelude of Western military intervention in Syria to remove Assad. It’s time he should be removed.

The Hezbollah alliance with Iran and Syria is already breaking up. Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah have lost much of their legitimacy as a symbol of resistance or “muqawama”. Nasrallah’s vocal and consistent support of Assad is viewed in the region as naked realpolitik, which has undercut his standing as a regional leader.

In the long run, the emerging Sunni order could undermine the gains of the Arab Spring and threaten the transition to democracy in post-authoritarian Arab countries. More importantly, the new order could embolden Sunni regimes in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and elsewhere in their continued repression of their Shia communities and other ethnic and religious minorities.

While the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Qatar are pushing for Assad’s removal, they are not necessarily wedded to democratic principles or to granting their citizens, especially in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, equal rights. Nor are they enamoured by the principles of “freedom and human dignity” highlighted in the Egyptian draft constitution.

Unless the emerging Arab Sunni order commits itself to the principles for which millions of Arab youth fought two years ago, and unless it goes beyond just containing Iran and toppling Assad, it will remain problematic and fraught with uncertainty.

*Emile Nakhleh is former director of the Political Islam Strategic Analysis Programme at CIA and author of “A necessary Engagement: Reinventing America’s Relations with the Muslim World”.

post thumbnail Islamist Vigilantes Begin to Police Egypt – Published by IPS on December 6th, 2012
Written by: Cam McGrath

CAIRO, Dec 6 2012 (IPS) – As Egyptians debate how deeply Sharia should influence the new constitution, and in the face of clashes that left five dead on Wednesday, some extremists have taken to the streets to enforce their own interpretation of “God’s law”. In recent months, these self-appointed guardians of public probity have accosted Muslims and minority Christians they accuse of violating the provisions of Islamic law.

Ishaq Ibrahim, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), says reports of incidents began after the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak. Witnesses have reported seeing “bearded zealots” threaten women they deem dressed immodestly, break up parties playing “un-Islamic” music, vandalise shops selling alcohol, and in one case, chop off the ear of a man accused of abetting immorality.

Ibrahim says evidence is circumstantial, as only a few of the perpetrators have been caught, but the attacks appear to be the work of ultraconservative Salafi Muslims.[related_articles]

Salafis follow a puritanical school of Islam, aspiring to emulate the lifestyle of Prophet Muhammad and his companions, and putting conspicuous emphasis on beards and veils. Salafi political parties won nearly a quarter of the seats in the now dissolved lower house of parliament and have vigorously demanded Sharia as the sole source of legislation in Egypt.

While homegrown Salafi groups once carried out a bloody insurgency aimed at carving out an Islamic caliphate, their leaders have since renounced violence and pledged peaceful dialogue. Prominent Salafis, however, have threatened violence against “idols and blasphemers” – one recently vowing to “cut off the tongue” of anyone who insults Sharia or Islam.

Or cut off their hair perhaps?

Mirette Michail was standing with her sister in downtown Cairo when six women wearing niqab (the full Islamic veil) attacked her, beating her and attempting to set her hair on fire – presumably as punishment for not veiling. The women disappeared into the crowd when two male passersby intervened, she reported.

It was the third tonsorial assault in less than a month. Earlier, two women in niqab cut the hair of a Christian woman riding the subway and pushed her off the train, breaking her arm. A 13-year-old Christian girl also had her hair cut by a fully veiled woman while on the subway.

Such incidents are unusual in Cairo. The capital still retains its relatively cosmopolitan atmosphere, with young couples holding hands in public, tourists piling off buses in shorts and t-shirts, and many upscale establishments serving alcohol.

But in provincial cities and rural areas, long governed by a culture of conservative Islam, activists have reported an alarming increase in cases of moral vigilantism. Extremists appear to be organising small groups to patrol neighbourhoods and enforce their own interpretation of Sharia – by brute force if necessary.

Amal Abdel Hadi, head of the Cairo-based New Women Foundation, says the absence of an effective police force since last year’s uprising and the expectation that Egypt’s new constitution will mandate stronger application of Islamic law has given these groups a sense of legitimacy.

“When you have in your constitution that the state should ‘safeguard ethics and public morality’, it’s a green light for these groups to operate,” Abdel Hadi told IPS. “You’re constitutionalising the role of the community in defending traditions using vague and rhetorical phrasing that allows for extreme interpretations.”

Last January, a shadowy group claiming affiliation to the Salafi Calling announced on Facebook that it had established the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, an Islamic morality police modeled on Saudi Arabia’s mutaween.

In Saudi Arabia, mutaween agents and volunteers patrol the streets, enforcing strict separation of the sexes, conservative dress codes, observance of Muslim prayers, and other behaviour they consider mandated by Sharia. Until 2007, these government-sanctioned enforcers of Islamic law carried rattan canes to mete out corporal punishment.

While there is no proof that the Egyptian group ever transformed its online presence into a physical force, its unveiling coincided with a series of incidents in the northern delta provinces. The Arabic press reported that groups of bearded men armed with rattan canes raided shops, threatening to flog shop owners caught selling “indecent” clothing, barbers found shaving men’s beards, or any merchant displaying Christian religious books or icons.

The attacks culminated in the murder of Ahmed Hussein Eid, a university student stabbed to death during a run-in with some roving enforcers last June. According to police reports, three Salafi men approached Eid and his fiancee as they were out walking in Suez’s port district. The men castigated the couple for standing too close, and when Eid rebuked them, one of the men pulled out a knife and fatally stabbed him.

Al-Azhar, the highest authority in Sunni Islam, has issued statements condemning reports of individual efforts to enforce Sharia. As has the ruling Muslim Brotherhood.

But Salafi leaders have been equivocal, denying any affiliation to moral vigilante groups while defending the concept – provided it is through “peaceful intervention”.

“The idea of having such a committee is legitimate and in accordance with the Quran,” Islamist lawyer Montasser El-Zayat told one local media outlet. “Such a committee should promote virtue with virtue, and prevent vice with virtue as well. And, of course, it would be better if (it were) run by the government and not by an independent group.”

Police, criticised for mothballing reports of vigilante incidents, responded to a public outcry following the fatal stabbing in Suez. The three Salafi assailants were apprehended and each sentenced to 15 years in prison.

EIPR’s Ibrahim says moral vigilantes have kept a low profile since the sentencing. But this may simply be the calm before the storm.

“Islamists (control the political agenda) so it’s not in their interest to create problems for the time being,” he says. “They want to focus on the constitution first, then comes the application of Sharia.”


Posted on on November 19th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

President Obama’s First Stop in Asia Is in Thailand
The first nation on the itinerary for President Obama’s Asia trip is Thailand — America’s oldest friend on the continent, with diplomatic ties stretching back nearly 180 years.

President Obama arrives in Rangoon and becomes the first sitting president ever to visit Burma.

Today’s Schedule
All times are Eastern Standard Time (EST).

12:35 AM: The President meets with Aung San Suu Kyi, Chairman and General Secretary of the National League of Democracy

1:05 AM: The President and Aung San Suu Kyi deliver remarks

1:35 AM: The President meets and greets with United States Embassy personnel

2:45 AM: The President delivers remarks at the University of Yangon

3:50 AM: The President departs Rangoon, Burma en route Phnom Penh, Cambodia

5:40 AM: The President arrives Phnom Penh, Cambodia

5:45 AM: The President is welcomed by Prime Minister Han Sen of Cambodia

6:05 AM: The President meets with Prime Minister Han Sen of Cambodia

6:35 AM: The President is welcomed to the US-ASEAN leaders meeting

6:40 AM: The President attends the ASEAN-U.S. leaders meeting

8:30 AM: The President arrives at Diamond Island Convention Center and is welcomed to the East Asia Summit Dinner

8:35 AM: The President participates in the East Asia Summit Dinner

1:00 PM: Dr. Jill Biden joins Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus at the Pentagon to announce the naming of the Navy’s newest submarine

2:30 PM: The First Lady hosts the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards

5:00 PM: The Vice President and Dr. Biden host their annual Early Thanksgiving Dinner for Wounded Warriors and their families

9:00 PM: The President participates in the Trans-Pacific Partnership meeting

10:45 PM: The President meets with Prime Minister Noda of Japan on the margins of the East Asia Summit

11:45 PM: The President meets with Premier Wen Jiabao of China on the margins of the East Asia Summit


Posted on on October 24th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Irith Jawetz reported from Vienna about Day 1 of the Conference – October 24rd, 2012 which happens to be the days after the last face-to-face Debate of the 2012 US Presidential contest. The inevitable just happened and American Economist Thomas Schelling depicted the present situation in the US as a country with two main parties competing – one which believes in Climate Change but does not do enough about it, and one which does not deal with Climate Change {and past experience is that it has a soft spot in their heart for those that claim that it is better not to listen to real scientists.}

Opening Session:

Welcome Statement by Pavel Kabat, Director/CEO IIASA, thanking President Heinz Fischer for his support, and mentioning that UNSG Ban Ki-moon was not going to be here  but is sending a video message which we saw later on further giving a short history of IIASA.
Karl Heinz Töchterle, Federal Minister for Science & Research of Austria, acknowledged, among other things, the great achievements of IIASA.
IIASA was established 40 years ago to promote East West collaboration during the Cold War, and it has work ed towards International cooperation until today,  He said challenges cannot be answered on a national level, and that is why an Institution like IIASA is so important.
Then came a video message from the General Secretary Ban Ki-moon who thanked the Austrian Government and IIASA for hosting this conference and said IIASA is very well respected at the UN.
Federal President Heinz Fischer was next and gave the opening address. He said he was happy to be present at the Conference. Delegates from all over the world have come to Vienna and, although he knows that the conference will take up most of their time, he hopes very much that they will also have some time to enjoy the Cultural and Social advantages of this City. He asked the delegates to take some time off and enjoy this very hospitable city.
He also made notice of the establishment of IIASA during the Cold War, and mentioned the Helsinky Conference in 1975  where Chancellor Kreisky, President Johnson, and Prime Minister Kossigyn, agreed on scientific cooperation.

IIASA was established in 1972 in Laxenburg,  and the son in law of Mr. Kossigyn was its first President of IIASA. Thus it had very good contacts to Moscow and the West from its beginnings. It is a very important institution working to find solutions leading to human well being. He wished everybody a successful conference.
The First High Level Session dealt with Science Support for Global Transitions.  You have to look at the speakers further on. The basic consensus was that there need to be more cooperation between scientists and Governments and scientists and policy makers.

Thomas Schelling, Nobel Prize winner in Economics, made an interesting remark stating that in the United States there are two parties, one which believes in Climate Change but does not do enough about it and one which does not deal with Climate Change.
We have to convince governments to listen to scientists and work together with them.

Climate Change has been a study by itself.

Second High Level Morning Session  – Policy Support for Global Transitions: dealt, among other topics, with educating young people about Climate Change and the importance of Science in education.
Session 2:      Drivers of Global Change – People, Institutions and Technology: A System Prospective –

Thomas Schelling stressed the importance of the English language in Science and the importance of girl’s education, Yolanda  Kakabadse, President WWF International, talked about the importance of Civil Society and the necessity to take theory into action and the necessity to think out of the box and build bridges between Science & organizations that will do the work.   Again – science alone is not enough.

the next session was about food and water and was more technical with lots of charts. Jacqueline  McGlade showed a short film on destroying nature and the conclusion was that in 2030 we will need two planets. She gave a more emotional presentation and mentioned three things we need to do:

Re-Use;    Re-Cycle;   Re-think.

More people need to get involved and participate in science and help the scientists by telling them what is happening in their world.
David Grey also said that science without policy is just science. This was the consensus through the day.
The last session was The Multiple Co-benefits of a Cleaner, More Equitable World – Energy and Climate Change. This was also to scientific and specific.
Keywan Riahi mentioned a study – GEA (Global Ebergy Assessment) and quoted from it.
Zbigniew Klimant talked about co-benefits of neat-term climate change mitigation and you can find some of his findings on

Australia joins IIASA

IIASA  announced concurrent with the first day of the meeting that Australia will become its newest member – the 20th – country.

Australia’s largest national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), will serve as Australia’s National Member Organization (NMO), joining a group of 19 other national science organizations that fund IIASA and help guide the Institute’s research priorities.

In welcoming the announcement, CSIRO Chief Executive Dr. Megan Clark said that there were very significant synergies to be realized by bringing together IIASA and CSIRO’s internationally regarded systems science, especially in the areas of water, energy, climate and food. “I am confident that our membership of IIASA will provide a very positive platform to further strengthen Australia’s global connections in these critical areas for humanity,” Clark said.


The full program of presentations and discussions of October 24th was:

Welcome Statement by Pavel Kabat, Director/CEO, IIASA
Opening Addresses:

Karlheinz Töchterle, Federal Minister for Science and Research of Austria

Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General (video message)

Heinz Fischer, Federal President of the Republic of Austria


Nisha Pillai, Former BBC News Anchor

HIGH-LEVEL SESSION: Science Support for Global Transitions

Gusti Muhammad Hatta, Minister of Research and Technology, Republic of Indonesia

Nina Fedoroff, Chair, AAAS Board of Directors; Distinguished Professor, Biosciences, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia; and Evan Pugh Professor, Penn State University

Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General, World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

Yuan-Tseh Lee, Nobel Prize Recipient (Chemistry) and President, International Council for Science (ICSU)

Carlo Rubbia, Nobel Prize Recipient (Physics) and Scientific Director, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) e.V.

Thomas Schelling, Nobel Prize Recipient (Economics) and Distinguished Professor, University of Maryland


Nisha Pillai, Former BBC News Anchor

HIGH-LEVEL SESSION: Policy Support for Global Transitions

Johannes Kyrle, Secretary General, Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs of Austria

Kandeh K. Yumkella, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Sustainable Energy for All; Director General, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); and Chairman, UN-Energy

William Colglazier, Science and Technology Adviser to the US Secretary of State

Sergey Glaziev, Presidential Counselor, The Administration of the President of the Russian Federation

Andrew Johnson, Group Executive, Environment, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and IIASA Council Member

Eun-Kyung Park, Ambassador for Water Resources, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Republic of Korea

Björn Stigson, Chairman, Stigson & Partners AB and Former President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)


Nisha Pillai, Former BBC News Anchor

Coffee break and Press Conference
Today’s world is undergoing fast-paced, unprecedented global transformations. These changes include new levels of globalization and market integration, fundamental shifts in economic and global power from west to east and north to south, environmental challenges from location-specific to global scales, and unpredictable social conflict. This session will focus on characterizing and better understanding these changes and their main drivers. It will explore possible futures for the world we live in and also how people, institutions, and technology might combine to determine the dynamics and the direction of change.
Session 1: Global Transformations—Understanding the World We Live in and its Possible Futures

Transformative changes are more than just marginal deviations from “business as usual”. They include phases of radical change and sometimes turbulence, interlaced with phases of development and decline as we move toward new configurations. Moreover systems are not changing in isolation, but are interfering with each other resulting in ever more complex patterns. For population dynamics in natural systems or human societies such patterns can be described just as in technological systems, e.g., of the substitution of one technology for another. Sometimes dynamics of land-cover change as well as revolutions in political systems follow such behavior.

The industrial revolution catapulted humanity to unprecedented but uneven levels of affluence and amplified the reach of human activities to such an extent that it was proposed to name the present geologic epoch the “Anthropocene”, to highlight the enormous, unintended impact that our actions have inflicted at a global and geologically significant level. Examples include modifications of the global nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, biodiversity loss, amplified greenhouse gas concentrations, stratospheric ozone depletion, ocean acidification, overexploitation of global freshwater, changes in land use (deforestation, desertification, soil loss etc.), atmospheric aerosol loading, and chemical pollution.


Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director, European Environment Agency (EEA)

Framing Presentations:

Jeffrey Sachs, Director, The Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (video message)

The New Millennium Goals – After Rio+20: What Next

Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Deputy Director/Deputy CEO, IIASA and Professor, Vienna University of Technology

Global Transformations Toward Sustainable Futures

Panel Presentations:

Katherine Richardson, Professor, Biological Oceanography and Leader, Sustainability Science Centre, University of Copenhagen

Sustainability Transformations

Björn Stigson, Chairman, Stigson & Partners AB and Former President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

Business for Sustainable Development

Berrien Moore III, Dean, College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences; Director, National Weather Center; and Vice President, Weather and Climate Programs, University of Oklahoma

Earth Systems Boundaries


Jessica Jewell, Research Assistant, Energy (ENE) Program, IIASA


Günter Liebel, Director General, Head of Department General Environmental Policy, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management of Austria

Statement on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management of Austria

Lunch and Poster session
Sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management of Austria and IIASA
(Breakout Activities: Posters, research tools, publications, and much more will be on display throughout the conference.)
Session 2: Drivers of Global Change—People, Institutions, and Technology: A Systems Perspective

While demographic, economic, and technological developments are generally recognized as basic drivers of transformative change, the interactions of their dynamics present a major challenge and an area from which significant new insights are possible. How, for example, does education affect demographic processes or economic development? What differences do distributional and spatial income variations make to the behavior of the coupled social-environmental systems? What is the appropriate scale to study each of those phenomena? What will it mean to add another three billion, predominantly urban, healthier, and longer-lived people to the global middle class? What technologies, norms and institutions are effective in propagating sustainable production and consumption? What are the new challenges in modeling drivers and scenarios to depict alternative development pathways?


Dirk Messner, Director, German Development Institute (DIE)

Framing Presentations:

Wolfgang Lutz, Leader, World Population (POP) Program, IIASA, Founding Director of the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital, and Director of the Vienna Institute of Demography (VID)

Human Resources for Sustainable Development: Population, Education and Health

Charlie Wilson, Research Scholar, Transitions to New Technologies (TNT) Program, IIASA and Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia

Technology: The Art of the Science of the Possible

Panel Presentations:

Thomas Schelling, Nobel Prize Recipient (Economics) and Distinguished Professor, University of Maryland

Economics of Global Change

Yolanda Kakabadse, President, WWF International

The Importance of Civil Society

Adil Najam, Vice Chancellor, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and IIASA Council Member

Governance and Institutions

Justin Yifu Lin, Professor and Honorary Dean, National School of Development, Peking University and Former Senior Vice President, Development Economics, and Chief Economist, World Bank (video message)

The Quest for Prosperity: How Developing Economies Can Take Off


Simon de Stercke, Research Assistant, Transitions to New Technologies (TNT) Program, IIASA

Coffee Break
This session will focus on the power of systems analysis to provide integrated, science-based solutions to major global challenges. It will explore these challenges from the perspective of IIASA’s three major research areas: Energy and Climate Change; Food and Water; and Poverty and Equity. This requires in depth understanding and analyses of interactions, both within and between these areas. Moreover, the spatial and temporal dynamics of each challenge needs to be considered to anticipate synergistic effects and unintended consequences to optimize interventions.
Session 3: Respecting Nature’s Boundaries for a Fair and Secure World – Food and Water

Human exploitation of land, marine, and freshwater resources has resulted in land and vegetation degradation over vast areas, overuse of marine resources, depletion of aquifers, and the unsustainable restructuring of natural landscapes. These trends are escalating under climate change. This panel will consider how new technologies, investment strategies, policies, and institutional innovations can ensure not only sufficient food and water resources for the planet, but that those resources are developed to allow environmental sustainability objectives to be met and that everyone, especially those living in poverty, receive their share.


Carlos Nobre, National Secretary, Secretariat of Policies and Programs in Research and Development, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Brazil and IIASA Council Member

Framing Presentation:

Sabine Fuss, Research Scholar, Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM) Program, IIASA

Food Security in an Uncertain World

Ulf Dieckmann, Leader, Evolution and Ecology (EEP) Program, IIASA

Future Oceans: Meeting the Challenges of Securing Aquatic Food Resources

Panel Presentations:

Joseph Alcamo, Chief Scientist, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

The Global Water Quality Challenge

Nina Fedoroff, Chair, AAAS Board of Directors; Distinguished Professor, Biosciences, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia; and Evan Pugh Professor, Penn State University

Where Will the Food Come from in a Hotter, More Crowded World?

Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director, European Environment Agency (EEA)

Food and Sustainable Environment

David Grey, Visiting Professor, School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford University and Honorary Visiting Professor, Exeter University

The Challenges of Transboundary Water Management in a Changing World


Hugo Valin, Research Scholar, Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM) Program, IIASA

Session 4: The Multiple Co-benefits of a Cleaner, More Equitable World – Energy and Climate Change

Lack of access to modern energy services imposes enormous health costs and impedes economic development, while the use of fossil fuels by modern, industrialized societies threatens to irreversibly alter the Earth’s climate. Transformation to a low-carbon energy system is critical, as global energy production, currently generated largely by fossil fuels, will increase significantly if the nearly three billion people currently living without modern energy are to gain access. This panel will focus on reframing the climate change debate, using a transformation of the energy system as the catalyst for green growth, sustainable development and resource efficient economies. IIASA will contribute by outlining a framework to achieve a decarbonized, more climate sensitive and socially equitable world.


John Schellnhuber, Director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Chair, German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU)

Framing Presentations:

Keywan Riahi, Leader, Energy (ENE) Program, IIASA

The Next Global Energy Transformations: Costs and Multiple Benefits

Zbigniew Klimont, Research Scholar, Mitigation Of Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases (MAG) Program, IIASA

Co-benefits of Near-Term Climate Change Mitigation

Panel Presentations:

Carlo Rubbia, Nobel Prize Recipient (Physics) and Scientific Director, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) e.V.

New Energy Infrastructures

William Nordhaus, Sterling Professor of Economics, Yale University

Climate Change Policy: The Central Role of Carbon Prices

Kenji Yamaji, Director-General, Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE) and Professor Emeritus, University of Tokyo

Energy Transformations in Japan


Jens Borken-Kleefeld, Research Scholar, Mitigation of Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases (MAG) Program, IIASA


The night before Day 1 – that is the Tuesday the 23rd Gala Evening – included the lecture and the “knighting” of Dr. Norman Neureiter of the US who was awarded the AUSTRIAN CROSS OF HONOUR FOR SCIENCE AND ART 1st Class on behalf of the Federal President of the Republic of Austria.

Day 0 / 1900 Pre conference Gala Dinner at the Hofburg Festsaal

Day 0 / 1900 Pre conference Gala Dinner at the Hofburg Festsaal


Posted on on October 24th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Sheldon Adelson: Casino magnate, mega-donor is a man of many motives.

JASON REED/REUTERS – Chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands casino Sheldon Adelson (C), a donor to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, speaks with other attendees at the end of the first presidential debate Oct. 3 in Denver.

By , Published: October 23, 2012, The Washington Post

When casino magnate Sheldon Adelson switched his support from Newt Gingrich to Mitt Romney during the spring primaries, the billionaire and the candidate were eager to shed their skepticism of each other. If Adelson was going to give a political campaign more money than anyone ever had, he wanted to be certain Romney would join him in steadfast support of Israel. And Romney, according to friends of both, sought assurance that Adelson wouldn’t embarrass him.

Since then, Adelson has joined Romney during the candidate’s visit to Israel this summer, attended presidential debates and gotten together with Romney so often that their wives have become friends, according to confidants of the two men.

Although Adelson, 79, has said he will give $100 million to help Romney and quash President Obama’s “socialist-style” approach to the economy, he remains skeptical, believing that politicians don’t deliver on promises and can’t be trusted.

“Many people who give very significant donations to political campaigns come to me afterwards very frustrated that they don’t get what they wanted once the person is elected,” says Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, which Adelson has supported for years. “Sheldon doesn’t expect people to change. He’s very realistic about politics.”

Adelson — whose gambling operations span the globe from Las Vegas to casinos open or planned in Macau, Singapore and Spain — tells friends he finds the way U.S. elections are funded to be abhorrent, putting too much power in the hands of a wealthy few. So as one of those wealthy few, why would he pour more money into a campaign than 65 average Americans will earn in their combined lifetimes?

Adelson would not agree to an interview unless he could screen all questions in advance, a condition The Washington Post declined to meet. But more than 20 friends, critics, colleagues and beneficiaries portray a man with several motives for his massive donations to political, religious and medical causes.

He’s a scrappy fighter who defends what is his, a self-made man who held more than 50 jobs before striking gold with his Venetian casino on the Vegas Strip, and he has developed a powerful aversion to taxes and unions. He is the 12th-richest person in the nation, according to Forbes magazine, with a fortune valued at $21 billion. ­Under Obama, Adelson has achieved a larger increase in his wealth than anyone else in the country. In the past two decades, he has also undergone a political conversion, from a Massachusetts Democrat who considered Republicans to be the establishment that resisted newcomers like him, to a Nevada Republican who believes that his former party coddles the idle and has fallen captive to identity politics.

Adelson is driven by the idea of Israel as a muscular riposte to the Holocaust. Based on his experience as a Jewish kid who would get insulted and roughed up in a tough Boston neighborhood, Adelson believes Jewish Americans should back an Israel that puts security first and resists compromise with Arabs who do not accept its existence.

“Israel is at the core of everything he does,” says Fred Zeidman, a friend of Adelson, fellow Romney backer and former chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Adelson is something of a paradox. Jewish friends and foes alike call him a “shtarker” — a Yiddish term for a tough guy — yet his pattern of giving supports both his own business interests and more selfless pursuits, such as the more than $100 million he has given to Birthright Israel, a program that sends young American Jews on all-expenses-paid trips to the Jewish state.

His political giving backs his belief in an elbows-out capitalism in which entrepreneurs fight for profits and markets with the least possible regulation, but the vast sums he has given to medical science ask researchers to shelve their competitive instincts for the social good.

Whatever field he toils in, Adelson is “in­cred­ibly stick-to-it-ive,” says Michael Leven, president of Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. “He stands up for what he believes in. That’s why lawsuits happen.”

Adelson has been involved in legal conflicts with business competitors, unions, even his children — in one 10-year period, he was involved in more than 150 suits in Clark County alone, which includes Las Vegas.

In a suit in which his sons alleged that Adelson defrauded them by pressing them to sell stock for less than its fair value, a Massachusetts judge wrote in 2001 that Adelson was “a harsh, demanding, unfeeling, successful businessman” who was “perhaps lacking paternal kindness and, indeed, cordiality generally.” But the judge ruled for Adelson, saying he had neither misled nor cheated his children.

He does not shy from spending on himself and his wife, Miriam, an Israeli physician who focuses on treating drug addicts. He flies in his own Boeing 747, is driven in a Maybach and has expansive homes in Malibu and Las Vegas. He moves around with burly bodyguards who defend him against enemies, and against those asking undesirable questions.

Childhood friend Irwin Chafetz says that when he worked with him, he sometimes backed away from confronting Adelson, who even friends describe as bullheaded and aggressive. “A lot of times, people don’t want to aggravate him, so they just stand aside and let him do what he’s going to do,” Chafetz says. “In the end, all of us who have enjoyed financial success because of him say we are where we are because he is the way he is.”

Yet Adelson knows how he can come off. Leven tells of meeting in Las Vegas with officials from Vietnam about a possible business location there. “Sheldon didn’t like the location, so he had me meet with them because I would be more tactful,” Leven says. “He would tell them, ‘Your location stinks,’ whereas I talked to them and, next thing you know, I’m going on a helicopter ride to the site next time I’m in Vietnam.”

But Adelson also makes his jets available to employees who need medical care. He bails out childhood friends who have fallen on hard times. Every year, he flies dozens of battle-torn veterans on an all-expenses-paid trip to Vegas.

Adelson has no business degree — indeed, no degree of any kind. He knew little about computers or casinos before entering the fields that would make him rich. He says his success stems from his determination “to challenge and change the status quo.” Critics say his overriding goal is to solidify control of markets in which he does business.

Friends and foes say Adelson gets what he wants by relentlessly protecting his turf, spending liberally on his product and making himself valuable to those who can help him succeed.

“He’s been a fighter all his life,” Leven says. “He’s physically short in stature and he never graduated from college, so he has to be more tenacious. It’s an effort to get ahead.”

Childhood in Boston

As World War II raged across the ocean, in a neighborhood of south Boston that was home to more Jews than any American city outside New York, kids like Sheldon Adelson learned that being a Jew in America both put a target on their backs and gave them a blessed refuge.

Like other Jewish teens in Dorchester, young Sheldon was occasionally beaten up by Irish kids full of anti-Semitic vinegar. Yet he knew that millions of other Jews faced vastly worse enemies in Europe.

Other Jewish boys found refuge in street games such as stickball and halfball, but Sheldon was never interested in sports, friends say. “He was interested in making money,” Chafetz says. Before he got to high school, Adelson bought the right to sell newspapers on a busy street corner.

Adelson sold windshield cleaners, stocked vending machines and, then, as a young man, scored on a travel agency he launched with old buddies. The profits allowed him to move to a more upscale area, into a house that boasted its own bowling alley.

These days, Adelson calls the place he came from “the slums,” and he has donated more than $50 million to support Jewish schools in the Las Vegas and Boston areas. Add his gifts to Birthright and $50 million given to Israel’s Yad Vashem (making the Adelsons that Holocaust museum’s largest donor), and Adelson’s support for Jewish causes vastly outstrips his political donations.

Adelson’s passion for Israel does not stem from religious devotion; he is not a regular at synagogue, does not speak much Hebrew, and is neither kosher nor Sabbath-observant, says Klein, who is both.

When Adelson first visited the Holy Land, he wore his father’s shoes as he stepped off the plane so something of his father’s would be the first to touch the ground.

Like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he visits regularly, Adelson believes the Jewish state’s neighbors have proved unwilling to accept its existence.

To promote his view, Adelson five years ago launched a free tabloid, Israel Today, that has become the No. 1 newspaper in Israel and a loyal booster of Netanyahu, leading critics to charge that a foreign investor is having undue influence on domestic affairs.

Adelson’s attachment to Israel dates back decades, so few friends were surprised when, after his divorce, “he asked friends to fix him up only with Israelis,” Klein recalls. Adelson was introduced to Miriam Ochsorn, now 66. They married in 1991.

Adelson’s passion for Israel did not develop into Republican activism until the past two decades.

Well into adulthood, he was a Democrat, making large donations to the party until 1996. The next year, he switched to the GOP.

“As Jews in Boston, no one voted Republican, because the Republicans were the establishment,” Leven says. “But Sheldon saw the Democrats becoming less passionate about Israel.”

Friends say two shifts in Adelson’s thinking led to his party switch. On Israel, “he saw the left as more compromising, and Sheldon is not a great compromiser,” Chafetz says.

And Adelson’s opposition to unions alienated him from Democrats.

“What makes him anti-union is not the money,” Chafetz says. “It’s the union rules. He changed philosophically. He doesn’t want to be told he has to have four people do the job if two people can do it. Sheldon is all about accomplishment. It rules his life.”

Union fight in Nevada

When Adelson took on Nevada’s largest union, the Culinary Workers Union, labor groups portrayed him as a bully intent on making money on the backs of workers.

The result was a battle royal. Starting in the 1990s, Adelson and the union fought for years over whether the union could demonstrate on sidewalks outside his hotel. (The workers won.)

Adelson’s $1.5 billion Venetian remains the only major casino on the Strip that is not unionized.

The culinary union rejects Adelson’s claim that he provides his 6,300 workers with better pay and benefits than they would get under union contracts.

“He’s refused to speak to us,” says D. Taylor, secretary-treasurer of the union local. “This is not at all about money — it’s about power. Look, there are a lot of people who grew up poor. That’s not an excuse. The workers know they are at the mercy of the boss. This is someone who will come after you.”

Adelson says that when he believes he has been wronged, he will take action. “If people do something he considers underhanded,” Chafetz says, “he’s not going to let them get away with it.”

Adelson sued the Las Vegas convention authority over its expansion plans. He fought his sons for seven years. And this summer, he sued the National Jewish Democratic Council for $60 million after it posted an article saying he “personally approved of prostitution in his Macau casinos.”

The lawsuit came a week after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee apologized to Adelson for making the same allegation on its site. The original statement came from a lawsuit in which one of his former executives, Steve Jacobs, alleges that the billionaire condoned prostitution at his Macau casino, which Adelson vehemently denies.

Jacobs’s allegations are now the basis of investigations by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission into whether Adelson’s company violated federal law banning bribery in foreign countries, according to federal sources, who said the probe is not expected to be completed before the November elections.

Adelson has been known to cut off those who disagree with his worldview. In 2007, when the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which Adelson had supported financially, decided to support increased aid to the Palestinian Authority, Adelson halted his gifts to AIPAC.

But Adelson has remained supportive of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum despite his view, according to three friends, that it is run by liberals and its programming leans left.

Aiding medical research:

In 2004, Adelson developed a neurological problem that made it difficult for him to walk. He went from specialist to specialist. There was no clear diagnosis, no certain treatment.

He approached Bruce Dobkin, a neurologist at UCLA. After learning about the cumbersome ways in which medical research is funded and conducted, Adelson decided to launch an experiment. He set up a fund and asked Dobkin to recruit researchers who would collaborate to get results faster. The approach was a far cry from Adelson’s individualistic style in politics and business.

“In the political arena, he doesn’t want to pay any more taxes than he has to, and he hates unions, and he wants to make sure Israel survives,” Dobkin says. “He has no illusions that politicians will solve problems. He doesn’t ask them to be collaborative.”

But on social issues, Dobkin says, “the Adelsons are much more empathetic and liberal, in a sense, than people think.”

Part of that softer side stems from Adelson’s anguish over his two sons from his first marriage, both of whom struggled with drugs. Mitchell died of an overdose in 2005; Gary says he does not want to talk about his father, because they are rekindling ties after years of friction.

Adelson announced that he would spend “billions” on medical research. But it was not clear that the collaboration model would work. At a meeting with Adelson, a researcher from Harvard said he loved the idea but asked, “Who’s going to get credit?”

“I thought that was the death knell,” Dobkin recalls, “but then Sheldon perks up and says: ‘How many papers did Jonas Salk write?  Do you want to be remembered as the guy who wrote 200 or 300 papers or the guy who actually found a treatment that helps people?’?”

The Harvard guy signed up. In the first years, Adelson researchers published hundreds of articles and shared results openly. Then came the financial collapse of 2008, drying up funding.

Leven says his boss remains committed to research. He acknowledges that the Adelson who plays political hardball may look very different from the philanthropist who preaches the gospel of collective research. But in the end, it’s all about getting what you want.

“In business, he doesn’t need cooperation from [casino magnate] Steve Wynn or MGM,” Leven says. “But in medicine, he found he could get a better result with a cooperative approach. He’s just being pragmatic. Sheldon is not a complex person. What you see is what you get.”


Posted on on October 10th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

From ReadersSupportedNews: combat veteran of two tours in Vietnam with twenty-two years of service as a Republican member of the U.S. House and Senate, I endorse President Barack Obama for a second term as our Commander-in-Chief.”

Pressler was born in Humboldt, South Dakota. He was raised on his family’s farm. He is a graduate of the University of South Dakota, Oxford University (attending St. Edmund Hall as a Rhodes Scholar), the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and Harvard Law School. He became a lawyer, and then served in the Vietnam War in the United States Army from 1966 until 1968.

After serving for several years in the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer he was elected as a REpublican to the House of Representatives from 1975 to 1979. He was a Republican Senator from South Dakota from 1979 to 1997. Pressler held such notable positions as the Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Science and Transportation Committee, Foreign Relations Committee and European and Asian Subcommittees. He briefly sought the Republican Presidential Nomination in 1980.

Pressler authored and won overwhelming congressional and presidential approval of a sweeping reform of telecommunications legislations through the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Pressler negotiated the compromises that gained the support of diverse industry groups in telecom, broadcasting, and cable TV, as well as of the Bill Clinton White House, state utility commissions, and public morality advocates. Ironically, though the law was touted as a ‘rare legislative achievement in terms of bipartisan reform’, it led to Pressler’s defeat in his re-election bid for a fourth Senate term, losing to Tim Johnson, a Democrat, in 1996. Johnson argued that instead of promoting the economy of his home state of South Dakota, Pressler was promoting out-of-state business and high-tech industries and was in turn supported by them. Pressler was the only incumbent Republican senator to lose reelection that year.

Senator Pressler has remained active in the political arena. In 2000, he was a member of Republican Presidential Candidate George W. Bush’s Information Technology Steering Committee, and also served on the Bush Presidential Transition Team in 2001.

In 1998, Mr. Pressler toyed with the idea to run as a Republican for Mayor of Washington DC on basis of school vouchers to improve the city’s schools. Could eventually a former Conservative Republican, originally from a rural area in South Dakota, help revive the missing honest part of the  party – the former Liberal Republican wing?

Since, Pressler taught Telecommunications and Internet Policy at Baruch College, City University of New York. and was awarded a Senior Fulbright lectureship at the University of Bologna Italy for spring semester 2009. He has been a frequent visitor to Vietnam and was a lecturer at Dalat University Business School. Additionally, he currently serves on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Education Center Advisory Council. He has worked on helping normalize the relations with Vietnam.

Former Senator Larry Pressler, Republican of South Dakota. (photo: Jim Luce)
Former Senator Larry Pressler, Republican of South Dakota. (photo: Jim Luce)

Why I, a Former GOP Senator, Will Vote for Obama

By Larry Pressler, Reader Supported News

09 October 12

s a combat veteran of two tours in Vietnam with twenty-two years of service as a Republican member of the U.S. House and Senate, I endorse President Barack Obama for a second term as our Commander-in-Chief. Candidates publicly praise our service members, veterans and their families, but President Obama supports them in word and deed, anywhere and every time.

As a Vietnam vet, one of the reasons I support President Obama is because he has consistently shown he understands that our commitment to our servicemen and women may begin when they put on their uniform, but that it must never end.

This decision is not easy for any lifelong Republican. In 2008 I voted for Barack Obama, the first time I ever voted for a Democrat, because the Republican Party was drifting toward a dangerous path that put extreme party ideology above national interest. Mitt Romney heads a party remaining on that dangerous path, proving the emptiness of their praise as they abandon our service members, veterans and military families along the way.

What really set me off was Romney’s reference to 47% of Americans to be written off – including any veteran collecting disability like myself, as a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) veteran.

Behind closed doors with his donors, Romney made clear he’d write off half of America – including service members and veterans – because, as he said “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility for their lives.” But there’s no greater personal responsibility than to wear your country’s uniform and defend the rights we all enjoy as Americans. We don’t sow division between “us” versus “them.” The Commander-in-Chief sets the bar for all to follow and fight for the entire country. Mitt Romney fails that test. As a veteran I feel written off.

Just as revealing is what Romney actually says publicly. As a former Foreign Service Officer, I find it offensive that Romney, Congressman Paul Ryan and their Republican Party are politicizing the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other brave Americans who lost their lives in Libya. Being Commander-in-Chief requires a resolve and steadiness that’s immune to politics and fear mongering. Mitt Romney fails that test.

And along with high-profile Republican surrogates, Romney and Ryan are pandering to election-year politics rather than focusing on pending cuts to military spending. Strategy should drive our military priorities, not party purity.

We are a nation at war – the longest war in our nation’s history – and we must remember the sacrifice that so many have given for the protection of our country and our values. That’s why it’s so surprising that Republican nominee Mitt Romney has given five speeches on foreign policy – and will be giving another one today – and has yet to outline any plan to end the war in Afghanistan or bring our troops home. That’s unacceptable for anyone running to be Commander-in-Chief.

President Obama ended one war, is ending another and meeting our national security needs with support of our military leaders. He’s laid out a clear plan that would reduce the deficit and prevent the mandatory military spending cuts that no one wants. But today’s Republican Party, including Ryan who voted for the deal that would trigger the cuts, is willing to bring our country’s defenses to the fiscal cliff – just so a multimillionaire doesn’t have to pay a single extra penny in taxes. And the real lack of leadership? Failing to own up to your role in racking up a record debt from two unpaid wars and two massive unpaid for tax cuts. Mitt Romney leads the party that fails this leadership test.

And as former member of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and Chairman of the then Commerce Committee, I came to know the federal budget in detail. I’m disappointed that just as our troops are returning home after a decade of war, Romney and Ryan might gut by up to 20 percent investments in the Department of Veterans Affairs – and even suggest privatizing the veterans’ health care. Again, they would short change our national security and the education, health care and employment benefits our veterans have earned and deserve just to cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans.

Let’s be clear, Romney and Ryan would be disastrous for America’s service members, veterans and military families. Public praise rings hollow when you fail to mention an ongoing war in accepting your party’s nomination to be president, or veterans in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a so-called jobs plan or in a budget that should be a blue print of our nation’s values.

Meanwhile President Obama recognizes our sacred trust with those who serve starts when they take their oath and never ends. He’s enacted tax credits to spur businesses to hire unemployed veterans and wounded warriors. He implemented and improved the post-9/11 GI Bill, the largest investment in veterans education since the original GI Bill over sixty years ago. He’s proposing a Veterans Jobs Corps that would put returning service members to work as police officers, firefighters and first responders. As part of his achievable plan to keep moving our country forward, the President would use half the savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to help pay down our debt and invest in nation building here at home, putting Americans back to work – including our veterans – fixing our roadways and runways, bridges and schools.

And something that hits close to home, President Obama also secured the largest increase in VA investments in decades so our veterans get the care and benefits they earned, like treatment for PTSD and traumatic brain injury. As someone with service-related PTSD, I meet with younger veterans weekly to help them through the treatment and transition to a productive civilian life. It makes a difference for them knowing their President has their back.

That’s the difference in this election. In word and deed anywhere and every time, President Obama never forgets that standing by those who serve is the heart, soul and core value of this country. As a life-long Republican, I stand by him as he stands by all of us, putting national allegiance ahead of party affiliation. I endorse President Obama for reelection in 2012.



-5 # Barkingcarpet 2012-10-09 20:02

Perhaps the best thing that could happen to America, short of awakening now and choosing to create and leave a livable planet, would be for Mittens to be elected, women’s rights be gutted, and Nature be further assaulted for $ profits.

Perhaps than Folks would wake up and put an end to the nonsense and our corrupt system of profiteering, endless wars, obfuscation of real facts or actual fairness/justice? The Legitimate Rape of our banking and agricultural systems is leaving us environmentally and economically bankrupt. Nuclear power and weapons are causing much misery and illness.

Perhaps if it gets bad enough, people will change?

The time is NOW to choose love, and to demand change for a sane future. The alternative is a race to the bottom and allowing thugs to govern.

+15 # George Kennedy 2012-10-09 20:23

Senator Pressley, Thank you for your service both in and out of uniform. Thank you for your integrity and the courage to express conviction without partisanship and blind ideological fealty.
+13 # doneasley 2012-10-09 21:07

Senator Pressler is right. The CHICKENHAWKS talk a good game while sending other people’s children off to war, but the proof is in the pudding: When veteran benefits are on the line, they QUIETLY vote against them every damn time. And what does Mitt Romney know about military duty? How to avoid it, that’s what! Even the grsndson’s of the Queen of England have to perform some military duty, but Mitt’s sons? Oh, they’ve probably watched “The Longest Day”, “Pearl Harbor”, or “Midway” on TV. But that’s as close as they’ll get to any military action – true chips off the old block.
+6 # Douglas Jack 2012-10-09 21:07

Thank you Larry for this call for government & leadership responsibility. However we must go further when our NATO governments are through CIA, CSIS & other supposed ‘intelligence’ agencies; pushing arms, munitions & assassination budgets to dissidents in order to destabilize the governments of 80 countries worldwide. NATO governments do not deliberate publicly or formally declare war anymore & all wars fought in the past 60 years have been illegal wars of aggression against foreign shores. Worse is the media-military-industrial-complex making a killing off of war & death as our NATO nation’s # 1 business. Wars are for fearful, inarticulate cowards afraid to stand up with their perceived opponents in equal-time recorded, published & distributed dialogues for the court of public opinion & a world of resource to respond to. ‘Dialectics’ (‘both-sided’) rights to ‘debate’ (French ‘de’ = ‘undo’ + ‘bate’ = ‘the fight’) are denied by cowards as are human rights to safety & security wherever we live. The cowards are not only ‘chicken-hawk’ politicians, but as well citizen-consumers who finance these wars & the universal soldiers who fight them.  
+12 # KrazyFromPolitics 2012-10-09 21:22

A former Republican congressman and senator voting for Obama for the second time. I long for the days when party opposites barked at each other, but essentially got down to the business of governing, however imperfect. I wonder what the probability of this story making it into the mainstream corporate news is.
+9 # tahoevalleylines 2012-10-09 21:53

It is apparent even by casual observation Mr. Romney is a living breathing example of the “Peter Principle”. Comments about adding unsolicited large capital ships/submarines seem to be for show rather than result of any sort of study or rational strategy.

If Romney is thinking about going toe-to-toe for resource hegemony with China, another gaping hole then must be his lack of knowledge about needed domestic infrastructure and transport policy innovations allowing for less call on imported resources…

Instead of Naval Tonnage, why does Romney not verbalize water resource engineering to recharge aquifers as described in the massive NAWAPA projects?

Facing Peak Oil and upward oil price trajectory, transport shortcomings in the United States stem from overzealous removal of railway connections and branch feeder lines. These rail closures were hurriedly effected as the US Freeway system came into service through the Nixon and Reagan administrations , Alaskan oil helping justify the process of railway line extinction.

Please Mssrs. Obama & Romney, be sure to include generic railway savvy people in your circle as you formulate ways and means of assuring ability to step back from Muslim oil and being hostage to the World oil market price/supply squeeze.

+10 # ghostperson 2012-10-09 22:07

I simply do not understand how Romney has the audacity to speak to war issues and propose actions that will adversely affect those who fight for their country when he preferred to a vacation in France while his peers were being killed in Viet Nam–a war he protested for.

Romney was on a religious mission? Is that what one calls draft dodging if one’s cult is big enough? What was 5-deferrment Cheney’s excuse?

We are in a perpetual state of war because neocon’s, too good to fight to their country, see lowering taxes while bleeding off money for wars in order to run up huge budget deficits as a way to to downsize a government they hate.

We always have money to throw at greedy wastrels and for foreign wars but never enought to spend on those who pay the freight and those maimed in the service of their country. It is difficult to accept that half the population is swayed by policies that have ruined us and will continue to do so while vulture capitalists destroy education, offshore jobs, conceal tax returns, hide profits in the Cayman Islands and let our vaunted infrastructure crumble.

Since when did economic treason and tyranny become the American way simply because greedy swine wrap themselves in a flag they are too good to fight for?

+6 # JSRaleigh 2012-10-10 04:10


Since when did economic treason and tyranny become the American way simply because greedy swine wrap themselves in a flag they are too good to fight for?

Seems to have started around 1981, but really got rolling in 2001.

+8 # Jorge 2012-10-09 22:21

Mr. Pressler, thank you for expressing your thoughts about the veterans and these endless wars. Romney is unfit to be Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. (perhaps the Cayman Islands instead).
Now we need you to make these same statements all over the Corporate-Controlled Media and show up at campaigns for Progressives (have some real impact, do something).
+10 # Majikman 2012-10-09 22:37

Now there’s a relic from the past… a Republican with integrity.
+10 # MindDoc 2012-10-09 23:09

Hard to disagree with the Senator! Well stated and brave:


Let’s be clear, Romney and Ryan would be disastrous for America’s service members, veterans and military families.

…Not to mention the non-military, non-millionaire citizenry who would also be edged into non-existence via the promised cuts, de-funding, and deregulation central to the Ryan-Romeny-Rove-Rand (4R) party , should it win the auction and acquire the U.S.

We could wake up with Mitt the Flip ‘severely’ in charge, playing President – learning RL on the job. (Repealing Obama Care on Day 1?) Maybe he’d remind England that they don’t know how to organize an Olympics, hold a press conference from a “clean coal” mine, praise farmers & Monsanto corn and then call his friend Netanyahu to say the deal is on: “I like firing at people”. Back to Poland to remind Lech Walesa that unions are the root of all evil, then home to Caymans to feed the dog and rotate the cars & cash. Then a UN appearance to explain things.

Can we interrupt this nightmare and throw some cold water on the face of those who have not paid attention long enough to notice the nonstop lies & self-contradictions of the Mittster? Hypocrite-in-chief. Positions by etch-a-sketch, uninformed by any notions of public service to THE PEOPLE. He knows the profit$ of war- but will cut support for veterans. “Severely”

+9 # X Dane 2012-10-10 00:02

How refreshing to see a republican, who values another person for his integrity and caring…..and not for the party he belongs to.
What totally disgusted me about Bush, was how he always used the military as a backdrop, when he was making speeches to the nation, and while mouthing that he appreciated their service…he was cutting funding, for their care when they returned from war damaged in body and soul.

When they could no longer serve, they were dispensable, and an inconvenience.

Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden are working hard to help Military families. Obama is doing much to improve their conditions. Frankly I think he would like to end the Afghan nightmare now, but you KNOW that the republicans would scream bloody murder, if he did.

I hate war, but IF you wage war, you MUST care for the men and women you send to fight it

+4 # seeuingoa 2012-10-10 00:34

OK, Mister Pressler.

There is no difference between the two
candidates as regards

Kill list/drones
Tar Sand pipeline
Indefinite detention
Arctic drilling
violation of 1st Amendment
licking the asses of big corporations

Make this election an election about
moral and ethical issues and vote
Jill Stein/Green Party and look
your grandchildren in the eyes.

+9 # Ralph Averill 2012-10-10 01:50

Good job, Congressman/Senator/Soldier. One hopes John Boehner and Mitch McConnell read copies of this statement.
+6 # cordleycoit 2012-10-10 02:03

Romney commitied suppku with me blaming me for the failure of the banking system. Not the Russian Mafia that sank the Bank of New York not the stupid greed is good push by the press barons who were bankrupting their industry. I the individual is guilty of allowing the contradiction of capitalism to occur. This while Bain was dabbling in laundering billions for the cartels an on going trait.

Why instead of running for the highest office in the land is Romney not running from the Justice Department? I will say he and his accomplices have certainly not returned the money they stole.Our vets watched as Romney’s party lied and have killed off thousands of Americans so Iraq can have a civil war and the Afghan can kill off as many as they can creep up on.Senator help end the war.

+7 # corallady 2012-10-10 02:50

With more clear-thinking Republicans like Larry Pressler, who puts the country above an ideology that can only hurt the country, the Republicans might be able to get back to being a respectable party instead of a group of increasingly right-wing extremists acting like petulant schoolchildren who only want their way regardless of how it would hurt the rest of us. It’s time for them to say “To hell with Grover Norquist and his oath never to raise taxes; our oath is to the Constitution and our duty is to ‘form a more perfect union’ and ‘promote the general welfare.'” We need some adults in Congress who will look with clear eyes at both sides of the equation that will bring us out of the mess created by Bush and Company–it will take spending control but also more revenue. Both sides have to give. Compromise is not a dirty word; it is the way things get done in the political world. President Obama has accomplished an incredible amount while being blocked constantly by the ideologues of the Right; we are moving in the correct direction; think what we could do with some cooperation and a genuine desire to “promote the general welfare” of all of us.
+8 # colpow 2012-10-10 02:52

Yesssss!!!! Well said, Senator Pressler.
+6 # Gamagaeru 2012-10-10 03:00

Well said! Obama understands and is aiming to help the people. Romney is not bad, but his world is the top 10%.
+8 # HooverBush 2012-10-10 03:19

I’ll be dog-gone!!!

There really is ONE intelligent Republican!!!!

+8 # dick 2012-10-10 03:28

Courageous. Honorable. Truly patriotic. Thank you so very much.
+6 # JSRaleigh 2012-10-10 04:09

What really angers me the most about the whole “47%” controversy is how quickly Democrats accepted the lie that those who receive government pensions, Veterans benefits or Social Security don’t pay taxes. Instead of confronting the liar and challenging the lie, they just started making excuses.


Posted on on August 14th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

from: Julia Petrova, Media Relations Coordinator, The Speed Traders

Lifelong Passion for Dance Revealed in The Star’s Up Close & Personal with Edgar Perez.

Course Director, The Speed Traders Workshop 2012, Reveals Passion for Dance in”Up Close & Personal with Edgar Perez” with The Star, Malaysia’s largest newspaper.

August 13, 2012, New York, NY – “The combined forces of speed and technology are turning the stock market into a different animal from the days of our fathers and mothers with small retail players being the casualties of the sweeping changes, particularly in the West. This is the dark side of technology which cannot be ignored but which must be managed by regulators.”

That’s how journalist Thean Lee Cheng starts her profile of Edgar Perez, author of The Speed Traders, An Insider’s Look at the New High-Frequency Trading Phenomenon That is Transforming the Investing World (published in English by McGraw-Hill Inc., 2011, and Mandarin by China Financial Publishing House, 2012) for The Star, Malaysia’s largest newspaper in terms of circulation. The profile is available online at

Perez revealed a passion for salsa and hustle dancing. While salsa needs to no further introduction, hustle dancing might; it refers to the unique partner dance done in ballrooms and nightclubs to disco music, and it is also commonly referred as ‘New York Hustle’ or ‘Latin Hustle’. In fact, Perez has been known to frequent some of the most popular disco parties in New York City; a video of Perez dancing to the hustle has been uploaded to his Facebook page,

Cheng went onto inquiring about Perez’s thoughts on speed trading. “High-frequency trading is computer executed trading. Humans are slow by comparison, when identifying the different markets and location and products. It is a field for technology, which is fluid, fast and is able to complete a deal in milliseconds. Let us assume you are interested to sell 500 IBM shares. You are only interested to get your cash immediately. However, selling IBM is not a unique event. Its stock is a component of exchange-traded funds, and is a component of Standard & Poor’s indexes. There are also derivatives which rely on IBM stocks. If I sell IBM, there will be pressure on price, which affects the options and derivatives markets. All these changes take time to compute. Computer can detect the impact of the sale and is able to calculate the next price of the derivatives and options compared with the current price. This happens even before the price is adjusted.”

“It is computers that accelerate the change, be it good or bad. Computers are rationale but people are emotional. Out of emotions, humans may sell a big order, but it is computers that accelerate the decline, says Perez. The impact of this is tremendous on regulators. They are struggling to regulate the market and facing a huge challenge in this new and changing financial system, says Perez. This was clearly seen in the flash crash of May 2010 when the US stock market lost nearly 1,000 points in 20 minutes before it recovered. There were no circuit breakers then. It took the regulators nearly five months to analyze the data and generate a solution, he recalls.”

Perez’s first book, The Speed Traders. “a clear and informative read that can be useful to both seasoned industry professionals and those who are only exploring the financial industry”, has confirmed him as the preeminent global expert in the specialized area of high-frequency trading. Perez has led The Speed Traders Workshop 2012, How High Frequency Traders Leverage Profitable Strategies to Find Alpha in Equities, Options, Futures and, (Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Warsaw, Kiev, New York, Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai, Jakarta, London, Mexico City, Moscow, Ho Chi Minh, New York, Dubai and Chicago), and Perez was Adjunct Professor at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, where he taught Algorithmic Trading and High-Frequency Finance. He contributes regularly to China’s International Finance News.

Perez has been interviewed on CNBC Cash FlowCNBC Squawk BoxBNN Business DayCCTV China,Bankier.plTheStreet.comLeaderonomicsGPW Media, Channel NewsAsia Business Tonight and Cents & Sensibilities. In addition, Perez has been featured on CaixinFutures DailyXinhuaCBN NewswireChinese Financial Newsifeng.comInternational Finance Newshexun.comFinance.QQ.comFinance.Sina.comThe Korea TimesThe Korea HeraldThe StarBMF 89.9iMoney Hong KongCNBCBloomberg Hedge Fund Brief,The Wall Street JournalThe New York TimesDallas Morning NewsValor EconômicoFIXGlobal Trading,TODAY OnlineOriental Daily News and Business Times.

Perez has been engaged to present to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (Washington DC), CFA SingaporeHong Kong Securities InstituteCourant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University,University of International Business and Economics (Beijing), Hult International Business School (Shanghai) andPace University (New York), among other public and private institutions. In addition, Perez has spoken at a number of global conferences, including Harvard Business School‘s Venture Capital & Private Equity Conference(Boston), High-Frequency Trading Leaders Forum (New York, Chicago), MIT Sloan Investment Management Conference (Cambridge), Institutional Investor‘s Global Growth Markets Forum (London), Technical Analysis Society (Singapore), TradeTech Asia (Singapore), FIXGlobal Face2Face (Seoul) and Private Equity Convention Russia, CIS & Eurasia (London).

Perez was a vice president at Citigroup, a senior consultant at IBM, and a strategy consultant at McKinsey & New York City. Perez has an undergraduate degree from Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería, Lima, Peru (1994), a Master of Administration from Universidad ESAN, Lima, Peru (1997) and a Master of Business Administration from Columbia Business School, New York, with a dual major in Finance and Management (2002). He belongs to the Beta Gamma Sigma honor society. Perez resides in the New York City area.

Finally, Perez revealed the names of three people he admires: Mother Theresa, Henry Kravis (who also attended his alma mater, Columbia Business School), and Bill Gates. While these outstanding individuals are not in the high-frequency trading world, no doubt they have provided Perez an inspiration as he embarks on the path to be recognized as “author, global entrepreneur and consultant, go-getter”.


Posted on on July 24th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Aviation emissions, after a phase of confrontation, are back on the negotiating table with Washington calling a meeting, scheduled for the end of July 2012. The policy shift will directly affect climate negotiations at the meeting to be held in Qatar this Decmber.


US: 1012 14th Street, NW, Suite 1500, Washington DC 20005, (202) 349-2884
UK: Argus House, 175 St John Street, London EC1V4LW, (+44) 20 7780 4200
Singapore: 22 Malacca Street #10-02 Royal Brothers Building Singapore 048980, (+65) 6533 3638

A main Industry-Policy Conference is  announced for:

Carbon Forum North America

1 – 2 October 2012

in Washington.

the Conference Call says: At a time when both the U.S. Executive and Legislative branches are preparing to launch their strategic post-election vision and California is set to establish a functional North American market through the Western Climate Initiative and an innovative climate finance is gaining significance; a new round of rejuvenated international climate talks are quickly approaching; emerging carbon markets are coming to prominence; and new regulatory developments are expected the CFNA will bring critical greenhouse gas issues to the forefront in this Washington, DC meeting of 1-2 October 2012.

Committed support from leaders in the field will once again make Carbon Forum North America a must-attend event – if information and the potential lobbying in the post-election period is your field of action.

capitol mums CFNA will be this year’s best opportunity to network with the North American and global carbon markets, browse exhibits showcasing the work of leading companies, and learn what you need to know about this rapidly evolving policy area.

Argus media readers  can register now to attend at a 15% discount using the


Posted on on June 11th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space – the UN COPUOS – of OOSA The Office of Outer Soase Affairs.…

The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space was set up by the General Assembly in 1959 ( resolution 1472 (XIV)) to review the scope of international cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space, to devise programmes in this field to be undertaken under United Nations auspices, to encourage continued research and the dissemination of information on outer space matters, and to study legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space.

Number of Member States in the Committee: 71

The Committee has two standing Subcommittees of the whole:

The Committee and its two Subcommittees meet annually to consider questions put before them by the General Assembly, reports submitted to them and issues raised by the Member States. The Committee and the Subcommittees, working on the basis of consensus, make recommendations to the General Assembly. Detailed information on the work of the Committee and the Subcommittees are contained in their annual reports.

The fifty-fifth session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space will be held from 6-15 June 2012 at the United Nation Office at Vienna, Vienna International Center, Vienna, Austria.

Further resources on the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space:


We are partial to this office because of my co-chairing at the UN Conference  on the Outer Space that was held in Vienna -UNISPACE-II of 1982 – a special NGO Session on BIOMASS AND OUTER SPACE – that had two parts. The morning dealt with experiments with biological material – the like of algae being grown in Soviet Satellites, and then the  after-noon dealt with Remote Sensing for inventory Taking of Biomass on Earth – this latter being a precursor of measurements on forestry and climate change effects – to mention just two widely used means of measurement from Space in areas with importance to the Rio+20 upcoming meeting.

UNISPACE I was in 1968 and the idea of having an Outer Space office at the UN goes back to 1959 – following the launching of the first Sputnick in 1957.

As remarked by Professor U.R.Rao of the Department of Space, Bangalore, India:

Recognising the immense potential of space technology for socioeconomic development, the United Nations established the Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN-COPUOS) in 1959 for promoting greater international collaboration among all nations in the development and application of space technology.
The UN-COPUOS, organized the first UNISPACE Conference in Vienna in 1968, which succeeded in bringing an awareness of the vast potential of space benefits to all the Member States.
Significant successes achieved in the seventies in the application of space technology, particularly in communication, weather monitoring and management of natural resources, clearly established the urgent need to promote greater use of space technology in all Member Nations through international cooperation, paving the way for the organization of UNISPACE-II in Vienna in 1982.
Following the recommendations of UNISPACE-II, the United Nations programme on space applications was considerably strengthened and expanded, resulting in increased opportunity for developing countries to participate in educational and training activities in space science and technology and to develop their indigeneous capabilities in the use of space technology applications.

In this regard, our attention turned to this meeting when we accidentally found out that China provided last Friday a weather satellite to the UN office.


This Year’s meetings of the Committee on the Peacefull Uses of Outer Space extend June 6-15, 2012, and include several highlights.

– As such – this year NASA – the USGS ellebrate 40 years since the 1972 establishment of LANDSAT global surveillance system or – four decades of Earth Observation. This prompted a very interesting exhibit in the rotunda of the Vienna UN Center. This alone deserves a further posting by us.

– The Friday hand-over by China of a Beidoo satellite to be used for navigation purpose i.e. help in bringing a ship into a harbor and making safer its docking as well.

– in light of this year’s Rio Conference the in the opening  of the UNIS/OS/418 Press release we find:

“Among topics discussed will be space and climate change, space and water, use of space technology in the UN system, in particular how to strengthen the relevance of space science and technology and their applications in meeting the outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).”

I went back to the UN on Monday, June 11th, got to meet Ms. Romana Kofler of UNOOSA and from the agenda she gave me realized that I hit the right day as among the 17 items in this year’s list of topics, items 12 and 13 were scheduled to start on Monday. These are SPACE AND WATER and SPACE AND CLIMATE CHANGE. The way this works is that innitial presentations are made and then in following days further countries can speak to the issue.

As it happened, the Russian Republic opened the topic of Space and Water, then Indonesia moved on mentioning the 2005-2015 “Water for Life” decade and its connection to Climate Change with the strong statement that we need water not only for drinking but for energy, in climate change issues etc. It is systems like Landsat that provide most needed information. The sharing of data is important and he suggested the continuation of the “Space and Water” topic in future years meetings of  COPUOS.

Saudi Arabia added on the multi-National aspect of  the “Water for Life” decade and called for more satellites to be used in the better management of water resources – something of high interest in desert and semi-desert counties like his. He wanted the UN Spider to get and distribute the data. He also pointed out the invitation for nominations to the 2014 6th yearly Award of the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water.

On topic #13 Space and Climate Change – opened Japan by pointing out climate Change is a cross-borders issue involving deeveloped and developing countries. Concerning contributions by earth Observation Satellites Japan has played a role in observation of Green-House Gasses, on Water etc. He spoke of the G-20 Agriculture Ministers meeting in France and a follow up meeting in Tokyo with an eye to Rio+20. Measuring GHG from Space was agreed upon in the Kyoto Protocol, he said. The GOSAT and GAICHI are monitoring forest biomass. Japan will cooperate with organizations like UNESCO. In 2013 they will have another satellite to exchange information with NASA. The state of growth of grain is a target of agriculture data to review future food supply. He ended by saying no matter how small this committee can make big contribution to the issues that Rio+20 is dealing.

Italy continued on Energy and sustainable dynamics issues. I guess he wanted to accentuate topics beyond development.

Indonesia pointed out that adaptation to climate change by people depends on information from outer space. Indonesia depends on information from the Asia-Pacific region on issues like forest fires.

Switzerland talked about a data base they house at the University of Bern. It has al the information from the satellites since 1964 and supplemented this with data they got from other sources, like hospitals he said, for before that time. As such – they have data for a 100 years.

These presentations were followed upon with two technical presentations: one by Germany talking of Safe Navigation and defining distances for terms like Accuracy vs. Precision in Applicable, Tolerable and non-Tolerable areas and relating this to systms like GPS (since 1963) in the US and Glonass (since 1996) in Russia. All this as outcome from Global Positioning.

Then Marianna G. Shepherd spoke for the Scientific Committee on Solar Terrestrial Physics that was established by the International Council for Science (ICSU) and its implications for the World Meteorologic Organization and looking to Rio.


Posted on on June 7th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (


Date/Time: Thursday 21 June 2012, 15:00 – 16:30

Location: Rio Centro Convention Centre – Room T-5, Rio Centro


Globally, governments subsidize fossil fuels to the tune of over $600 billion per year.

These subsidies directly contribute to over-consumption of fossil fuels and higher emissions of local and global pollutants.

They are also socially regressive, generally benefitting wealthier consumers more than the poor.

Yet reforming fossil-fuel subsidies is challenging. If introduced too quickly, and without sufficient public support, it can have serious political repercussions.

Moreover, there are often concerns about negative effects on the competitiveness of domestic energy-intensive industries.

This session, organised by the International Institute for Sustainable Development’s Global Subsidies Initiative and the Government of Switzerland, aims to foster an open and constructive discussion among all stakeholders on the political barriers to fossil-fuel subsidy reform and how they can be overcome.


  • ·         Moderator: Mark Halle, Director, International Institute for Sustainable Development


  • ·        Keynote speaker: Hon. Martin Lindegaard, Minister for Climate, Energy and Building, Denmark
  • ·         Mr. Majid Al-Suwaidi, Deputy Director of Energy and Climate Change, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, United Arab Emirates
  • ·         Mr. Hans-Peter Egler, Head of Trade Promotion, State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, Switzerland
  • ·         Mr. Fabby Tumiwa, Institute for Essential Services Reform, Indonesia
  • ·         Ms. Kerryn Lang, Global Subsidies Initiative, IISD


Posted on on May 28th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

South China Sea: Maritime Lanes and Territorial Claims.

An area known by three different names — South China Sea, East Sea and West Philippine Sea — the waters surrounding the Spratly and Paracel Islands are some of the most contested in the world owing largely to the energy reserves believed to lie beneath them.

China, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and Brunei all have claims to this area.

While China has called the area a “core interest” of sovereignty, U.S. Secretary of State Clinton also explained that, “The United States has a national interest in freedom of navigation open access to Asia’s maritime domain.”

Competing claims over territory and energy have become a source of international tension and threaten peaceful passage through this waterway.

For the parties involved, there is little alternative but to arrive at a negotiate settlement, yet therein lies the challenge — China prefers bilateral negotiations while the other economies of Southeast Asia prefer multilateral discussions through ASEAN.

Will resolution be found and how will this conflict unfold in light of the U.S. “strategic pivot” to the region?

Please join:

Patrick Cronin, Senior Advisor and Senior Director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS),

Huang Jing, Professor and Director of Center on Asia and Globalization (CAG) at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP), and

Hung Nguyen, Associate Professor of Government and International Politics at the George Mason University Center for Southeast Asian Studies, for a discussion on the tense territorial disputes and maritime conflicts in the South China Sea.

The program will be moderated by Amanda Drury, co-anchor of CNBC’s Street Signs.

4 June 2012
6:30pm – 9:00pm

725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street), New York, NY

This program is sponsored by HBO.

Can’t make it to this program? Tune into at 6:30 pm ET for a free live video webcast. Online viewers are encouraged to submit questions during the webcast.


Posted on on May 23rd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

There is no sugar versus ethanol competition in Brazil – the production of ethanol from sugar cane reduces the amount of sugar available in order to support the price of sugar. Brazil clearly does not want to see a drop in price in the global sugar market.

Those that talk about a food vs. fuel competition in Brazilian sugar agriculture that increases the price of sugar, must thus  be part of the global oil interests that hate ethanol participation in what they think is their oil-tank.

But Bloomberg knows to tell us that Brazil had harvesting delays in its sugar cane industry this year. This may lead that country to lose its Chinese market share to Thailand.

Chinese sugar imports should climb by 1 million tons this year, with Thai sugar making up the majority of it. “Brazilian producers are having to discount their sugar to be competitive,” one financial analyst told the newswire.

So, we may see here a timing problem in  harvesting sugar cane, and Brazil is ready to look at increasing its production of ETHANOL by enlisting technologies developed in Italy that can use the cellulosic material left in the Sugar Cane Bagasse.    This is called “SECOND GENERATION ETHANOL.”

Lots of doctorates were awarded in the US, and lots of basic chemistry studies performed, but US agriculture seemingly had very little interest in seeking true results from cellulosic materials digestion and fermentation to ethanol.

The Financial Times writes now that Brazil is ready to push the commercialization of such a technology in cooperation with second-generation ethanol on a commercial scale.

“Brazil’s full commercialization of cellulosic ethanol promises to double the productivity of the country’s sugar cane ethanol producers,” says the blog. This without impacting sugar production and create a reserve of ethanol for its fuel market.

Why does US agriculture not hire the Italians as well? The answer must be in the US agriculture big corporations that insist in making their ethanol from corn in order to insure higher costs to global  corn consumers. Here will come no change unless the corn equivalent of Thailand’s sugar comes into play.


Posted on on May 16th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Vienna is no Backwater and no UN Backwater anymore – I arrived from New York on May 8-th, and immediately – that is starting Wednesday the 9-th – I already started to run to meetings and presentations/discussions with  top-global thinkers who presented the latest ideas about the true state of the planet. Actually I must confess that more and better value I encountered in this first week in Vienna then I experienced in New York City. I would suggest that it is possibly a result from being less of an interests driven pressure cooker, people tend to speak up more, and discussions evolve with less impediments that one experiences in New York.

From running to so many activities, I found that I do not report on them and this is a pity –
I will thus do a very skimpy review now and hope to do some more justice in the future.

Take for instance the global economy and much of what impacted the negotiations in New York, around the UN, on the run up to RIO+2o.

On Wednesday I started by participating in a meeting at the Austrian Association for the UN, with Professor Ian Goldin, who was Vice President of the World Bank (2003-2006) and prior to that the Bank’s Director of Development Policy (2001-2003) representing the bank at the UN. He left The Washington position to become the first head of The James Martin 21st Century School at Oxford University. From him, in the discussion, we heard that the problem that caused our economic crises comes from the simple truth that all top economists have studied from the same book Economics 101 – and were unable to see that the World was behaving differently. He honestly confessed that he also did not see the crisis coming – but he made it clear that he looks now at ideas of fundamental change. I will not enlarge here as I do have a draft article were I will try to pick up my notes. I will only say that he was born in South Africa to Jewish refugees from Vienna, and by now is a World citizen with experiences all over.

The following day it was someone with a very different background – coming from the Philippines he is also by now a World citizen with Experiences all over but seemingly his real base is still in the south. Professor Walden Bello was educated at Princeton with a doctorate in Sociology, and taught at Berkeley and Binghampton. Then he became executive director of  the Institute for Food and Development Policy (Food First) in OaklandCalifornia and founding director of Focus on the Global South, a policy research institute based in Bangkok.

In 2003, Bello was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, whose website describes him as “one of the leading critics of the current model of economic globalization – combining the roles of intellectual and activist.” But then he also entered politics in order to work against President Ferdinand Marcos. He is now also a member of the Philippine Parliament.

Bello spoke at a panel organized by the Vienna Institute for Development Cooperation VJDC in the compound of the Diplomatic Academy. He stated that Consumption should no longer be considered the key to economic stability and added that this is the reason that the US continues to be a renegade. Space must be reserved for development of the developing counties.

Talking about the financial crises he blamed the Thatcher-Reagan liberation of the Financial Sector and the export of its problems by the US. On the other hand he looks at China being led by technocrats and the immense increase in China’s production capacity.

Asked about the Bhutan idea of well being and happiness, he thought that Bhutan is very much behind in development so it cannot be a model – but he accepted the notion that there is the need for different ways of measuring development then the GDP. He even volunteered that some of what is called growth is in effect negative growth.

Bello clearly, even as acknowledged spokesman for the South, he does not see development as the south copying the North. He is posed to look for novel ways and in this he speaks of accommodation to replace conflict. A question  he entered only reluctantly was the issue  of national economies that do not have a National Currency, like Greece, while the US and others have the luxury of printing their currency. Then what is if more interesting, China and Brazil, having excess reserves of global currency printed by others, have also their own National Currency used mainly inside the country, while using the excess of US dollars or Euro, in financial dealings outside their own countries. This insulates them from outside intervention like in the case of Greece that has no  independent internal currency. To this he said that by now China and Brazil have started to use their own currencies also for international trade. Clearly – this is something that ought to be looked at more seriously by the EU.

“To this series of talks I would include the Wednesday May 16-th presentation of the Master thesis by Ms. Elisabeth Schmid on THE GOOD LIFE – BUT WHICH?” – “Das Gute Leben – Aber Welches?” that looked at the Pacha Mama Andean American-Indian indigenous concept of not harm nature more then what is absolutely necessary and which allowed me to try to negotiate these concepts in relation to the Himalayan Budhist concept of Happiness.

Following the initial days that centered on above economic aspects, followed a meeting at the Amerika Haus of the American Embassy in Vienna, dealing with energy policy of the State of California, and energy policy of the US in general – the place of renewable energy in the future of the United States and the World and what can and cannot be expected from RIO+20 a meeting that he considered as if it were a direct follow up to the series of meetings on climate change. The speaker was Professor Gerald W. Braun, the associate Director of the University of California at Davis Energy Institute.

The America House  meeting was on Wednesday night, but then on the three week-end days – Friday to Sunday, May 11-13, there was the Green World Forum on the side of the Imperial Hofburg Palace, that included exhibits and a series of talks  and Dr. Braun was the speaker for the Friday Energy Session – his topic was THE END OF THE OIL AGE – THE GREEN ENERGY REVOLUTION. Then the last event I am touching about is the EUROSOLAR monthly Stammtisch that dealt with solar programs in Bavaria. While the first group of talks in this section dealt with what we really need and how we satisfy these needs as a community. this last evening was pure alternate sources. Obviously – both lines present progress in their own ways.

Monday,  Tuesday, and Wednesday I picked seeing Sustainable Development inspired movies. To be more accurate – films that tell us – go for sustainability or else we have no future. These events were the first for me to tackle on this website. Please look at the two postings we have on the films.

As said – there was so much more going on – but I could not take it all in.


Posted on on April 8th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Let us start first with a Thomas Friedman article-conclusion first!

If you ask “what are the real threats to our security today,” said Lester Brown of The Earth Policy Institute, “at the top of the list would be climate change, population growth, water shortages, rising food prices and the number of failing states in the world.

As that list grows, how many failed states before we have a failing global civilization, and everything begins to unravel?”

Hopefully, we won’t go there. But, then –

we should all remember that quote attributed to Leon Trotsky: “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”   —- Well, you may not be interested in climate change, but climate change is interested in you.

Folks, this is not a hoax. We and the Arabs need to figure out — and fast — more ways to partner to mitigate the environmental threats where we can and to build greater resiliency against those where we can’t. Twenty years from now, this could be all that we’re talking about.

Please go to the link for a very interesting article that tells us that the Arab Spring did happen in part because of the lack of attention to climate change on the part of government officials that were racking it all in to themselves – those official rapists of their countries.

Thomas Friedman is not the only one asking why Arab Spring now, and why the Arab World has not produced any democracies like other Islamic Countries – non-Arabs – actually did. Why is there no Arab State like Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, or Bangladesh? This last version of the Question was posed by Fareed Zakaria on today’s CNN/GPS show.

Seemingly – all Arab States that are within the huge North-Africa Middle-East area of the Arab conquests in the 12th and 13th Centuries have no real Civil Society. In all these States the economy is run by the people of the ruling Monarchy or by those close to the Government.
The people as such were kept low by an alliance of the rulers with the heads of the religion and the goal of this alliance was to fight another religious group – and here comes in the military that is completely loyal to the ruling power that is also the economy’s leader. This kind of socio-economic system did neither allow for the development of a meaningful Civil Society, nor a really forward looking Middle Class.

To above obervation by Fareed Zakaria we see the add-on by Thomas Friedman:  “The Arab awakening was driven not only by political and economic stresses, but, less visibly, by environmental, population and climate stresses as well. If we focus only on the former and not the latter, we will never be able to help stabilize these societies.”

Thomas Friedman tells us of draught in Syria and North Africa and how this draught pushed the societal lid and was part of the reason for this present day upheaval.

And a Warning – 12 of the world’s 15 most water-scarce countries — Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Israel and Palestine — are in the Middle East, and after three decades of explosive population growth these countries are “set to dramatically worsen their predicament.

Then think also about the observatio – “Alot more mouths to feed with less water than ever. As Lester Brown, the president of the Earth Policy Institute and author of “World on the Edge,” notes, 20 years ago, using oil-drilling technology, the Saudis tapped into an aquifer far below the desert to produce irrigated wheat, making themselves self-sufficient. But now almost all that water is gone, and Saudi wheat production is, too. So the Saudis are investing in farm land in Ethiopia and Sudan, but that means they will draw more Nile water for irrigation away from Egypt, whose agriculture-rich Nile Delta is already vulnerable to any sea level rise and saltwater intrusion.

The Link to Thomas Friedman:

by Thomas Fuchs

The Other Arab Spring.

By , Published in The New York Times  April 7, 2012 as an OP-ED Column.

ISN’T it interesting that the Arab awakening began in Tunisia with a fruit vendor who was harassed by police for not having a permit to sell food — just at the moment when world food prices hit record highs? And that it began in Syria with farmers in the southern village of Dara’a, who were demanding the right to buy and sell land near the border, without having to get permission from corrupt security officials? And that it was spurred on in Yemen — the first country in the world expected to run out of water — by a list of grievances against an incompetent government, among the biggest of which was that top officials were digging water wells in their own backyards at a time when the government was supposed to be preventing such water wildcatting? As Abdelsalam Razzaz, the minister of water in Yemen’s new government, told Reuters last week: “The officials themselves have traditionally been the most aggressive well diggers. Nearly every minister had a well dug in his house.”


Posted on on February 10th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

U.S. religious leaders seek to bridge gap between Jews and Muslims

HAARETZ, February 9, 2012

Imam Muhammad Shamsi felt hurt and insulted. Considered among the leading Muslim figures in the New York metropolitan area, Shamsi doesn’t mince words or try to hold back his rage when reacting to a recent pronouncement of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein who quoted a passage of the Koran, “Just as a Muslim is to worship Allah, behind him is a Jew and he should be killed.”

Imam Ali serves as the spiritual leader of the Manhattan Islamic Center which includes the largest mosque in the area and among the biggest in the United States. He has gone on the record as saying, “The Jerusalem Mufti has lost his right to represent Islam.”

Seated beside Imam Ali as he says this is Marc Schneier, a prominent orthodox rabbi who is President of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and Vice President of the World Jewish Congress. “Literal interpretations of both text and law are the same tools that drive the notions of the primitive extremists within the Haredi community in Israel,” Rabbi Schneier says as Imam Ali nods in agreement.

The rabbi and the Imam might be described by some as the ultimate odd couple, but the friendship and mutual admiration that exists between the two is the result of a common cause, one that deeply unites the two, which is to bring together Jews and Muslims and to create a language of cooperation between the groups. And most importantly, as they both said, to build and advance “principles and guidelines for mutual trust” between the faiths. {We were present in New York at the initial meetings between the two and their effort to help the understanding of each other’s positions seemed genuine, and are confident that their effort and bringing the two communities –  Jews and Muslims –  in the US and elsewhere are genuine.}

With the background of the various revolutions sweeping the Arab world and intensifying extremism within radical elements of Islam, the rabbi and the imam sound and look like some modern reincarnation of Don Quixote. But in their minds the trends that are sweeping the Arab world and the Middle East only strengthen their belief in the importance of their work.

“Today, perhaps more than ever more, it’s essential that religious leaders from our two communities advance messages of tolerance and moderation,” Rabbi Schneier said.

“To the outsider this looks complex but when you’re deeply involved in this effort, you realize that this goal is certainly attainable,” Imam Ali said, adding: “Politicians in the Middle East can work to advance peace agreements, but it’s the religious leaders who can really build true and lasting trust.”

Imam Ali and Rabbi Schneier are currently co-authoring a book, most of which has already been completed, entitled “Can We Learn to Trust Each Other.”

The book explores various relevant issues of faith in both the Bible and the Koran, with a declared objective “to argue that the accepted text-based arguments that describe gaps between our communities are largely a result of misguided and sometimes even hostile interpretations.”

Both Shamsi and Schneier have been involved with initiating and organizing a series of events in mosques and synagogues in recent years designed to bring Muslims and Jews together, events in Europe.

They said that numerous fruitful relationships have been built between rabbis and imams and communal leaders in both the Jewish and Muslim sectors.

Next month in Washington, DC, The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding is organizing a major Muslim-Jewish conference for religious leaders from seven Latin American countries.

Both clerics deserve much credit for making Muslim-Jewish dialogue in the United States into a popular and accepted trend.

“At the beginning of our work, many of my Muslim colleagues warned me against visiting synagogues and that I would be greeted by hostile responses from the Jewish side,” Imam Ali says. “Today, I repeatedly get requests from Muslim leaders wanting to be included in these visits.”

“Rabbis and community leaders say that when they meet with Imams they come out of the meeting more encouraged and optimistic than from similar interactions with other minority leaders,” Rabbi Schneier says.

The 45-year old Imam Ali was born in Indonesia and spent many years in Saudi Arabia where he underwent his religious training- an aspect of his bio that many fellow Muslims view as a badge of honor.

Rabbi Schneier, 53, was born into a well-known rabbinic family. His public advocacy efforts began several decades ago when he established The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which works to strengthen ties between the Jewish and Black communities in the US.

“The challenges facing the American Jewish community today is to recognize that we have the potential to act as a leading force in advancing positive relationships with modern Islam.”

Shamsi estimated that in the New York area alone, there are between 600,000 and 800,000 Muslims with about 250 mosques led by about 50 trained imams. He stressed his opposition to demonstrations against the New York Police Department, the likes of which took place recently in protest to alleged NYPD practices in immigrant communities.

“I am a strong advocate for dialogue and cooperation with the relevant authorities, he added,” noting that the overwhelming majority of young Muslims in the New York area are busy working and making a living for their families and have little or no connection to the events and conflicts in the Middle East.

Imam Ali pointed to communities like Brooklyn and Queens where large numbers of Muslims live right next to Jewish communities without any conflict as an indication that there exists a high quality of life and cooperation and dialogue exists and thrives.


Posted on on January 17th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

As part of CAI-Asia’s mission (Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities)  to promote better air quality and livable cities, it conducted an annual review of main events relevant to air quality/climate change and transport in Asia. The review, which started on 2008 and initially focused on sustainable transport, has now evolved to include air quality and climate events. It is an opportunity to look back and understand where Asia focused in the past year and foresee emerging trends in Asia in the coming years.
The main highlights for 2011 are:
  • Increasing public demand for improved air quality monitoring and reporting
  • Transition from science to policy action regarding black carbon and short-lived climate forcers (SLCF)
  • Increased awareness on green freight and logistics
  • Successes on clean fuels and vehicles, particularly in Vietnam and Sri Lanka
  • Improved understanding of walkability issues
  • Asian cities trying a mix of transport demand management measures to address congestion, pollution
Read the e-book version here:
You can also download the document here:

from Kaye Patdu, Air Quality Researcher with –

Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities Center (CAI-Asia)
Unit 3505 Robinsons Equitable Tower, ADB Avenue, Pasig City 1605 PHILIPPINES

Tel +632 395 2843 l Fax +632 395 l SkypeID kaye.patdu


Posted on on January 14th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

U.S. Restores Full Ties to Myanmar After Rapid Reforms.

From material by  STEVEN LEE MYERS and SETH MYDANS

The action is a diplomatic reward for recent political reforms by Myanmar’s civilian government, including the release of top activists on Friday.

QUOTATION OF THE DAY –  “This is a momentous day for the diverse people of Burma. And we will continue to support them and their efforts and to encourage their government to take bold steps.”
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, on the move to normalize diplomatic relations between the United States and Myanmar following sweeping political reforms.

Freeing the prisoners, which President Obama praised as a “substantial step forward for democratic reform,” was one of the most significant gestures yet by Myanmar’s new civilian government to address international concerns about the country’s repressive history, which led to decades of diplomatic and economic isolation.

The releases — described in official reports as an amnesty — occurred around the country and included political activists, journalists, leaders of ethnic minority groups and relatives of the dictator who led the coup in 1962, Gen. Ne Win.

Among 651 prisoners given amnesty on Friday were leaders of the brutally repressed student protests in 1988; a former prime minister, Khin Nyunt, ousted in an internal purge in 2004; and monks and others involved in antigovernment protests in 2007 that were known as the “saffron revolution.” A senior State Department official in Washington described Myanmar’s move on Friday as the largest single release of political prisoners in Asia’s history.

by some accounts Mr. Thein Sein’s government has now released as many as half of 1,000 to 2,000 in custody.

The administration’s reciprocal announcement is the latest in a series of cautious moves that have significantly eased tensions between the United States and Myanmar, also known as Burma. The diplomatic engagement — which one senior administration official said would have seemed unthinkable a year ago — now appears to be accelerating, though he and other officials stopped short of calling it irreversible.

A renewed relationship between the two countries has the potential to remake American diplomacy in Asia, where the Obama administration says it hopes to refocus its foreign policy at a time when China’s influence is expanding. The closer ties could enhance trade and help integrate Myanmar into regional alliances sympathetic to the West.

Since taking office last March, the country’s president, U Thein Sein, has overseen a raft of changes that appear to indicate a new willingness to end military rule for the first time since a coup in 1962.

He has sought to reform the economy, allow political competition and end the country’s economic and diplomatic dependence on China, its huge neighbor to the north. In a move that presages a far broader shift in policies, his government halted work in September on a $3.6 billion dam under construction on the Irrawaddy River by a Chinese state company.

The United States never fully severed relations with Myanmar, as it did over the years with Iran, Cuba and North Korea, but it downgraded relations and withdrew its ambassador after elections in 1990. Those elections were won by the party of the main opposition leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, though never recognized by the military government, which instead cracked down and put her under house arrest. Subsequent administrations have since toughened sanctions on most trade with Myanmar.

The Obama administration is not yet considering lifting sanctions, but Mrs. Clinton announced that it would soon nominate an ambassador and invite Myanmar to send one to Washington. She pledged other actions in response to continued reforms, though she did not spell them out.

Mrs. Clinton, who met with Mr. Thein Sein in the country’s newly built capital,Naypyidaw, pressed him to follow through with the nascent reforms, which he appears to be doing. Since her visit, the government scheduled special elections on April 1 to fill 48 vacant parliamentary seats. For the first time since 1990, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and her party will be allowed to seek elected office.

The thaw with Myanmar is in some ways a belated success of the Obama administration’s early policy to engage with the United States’ enemies. The effort has failed with Syria, Iran and North Korea, and for at least for the first two years, Myanmar was no different. That has left many administration officials — and members of Congress — wary of moving too quickly.

Myanmar, isolated for so long, is suddenly a diplomatic destination of choice. The British foreign secretary, William Hague, visited last week. France announced that its foreign minister, Alain Juppé, would travel there this weekend.

The Senate’s Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, departed for Myanmar on Friday, soon to be followed by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. Mr. McConnell, who annually sponsors legislation sanctioning Myanmar, said in a statement that Mr. Thein Sein’s government needed to do more to ensure free elections and disclose its military ties with North Korea.

The New York Times
January 14, 2012


Posted on on December 11th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

As picked up from Malaysia’s “The Star” – Nothing yet at UNFCCC sites – Sunday, December 11, 2011

Instant View – U.N. climate talks reach modest deal.

(Reuters) – Negotiators at U.N. climate talks in Durban, South Africa, reached a deal that for the first time would bring all major emitters into international efforts to limit global warming, but which environmentalists said did not go far enough.

Following is reaction from key players and observers.

United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres speaks with Brazil’s Minister of Environment Izabella Teixeira (L) and chief climate envoy Luiz alberto Figueiredo during a plenary session at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP17) in Durban December 10, 2011. The conference has gone an extra day in an attempt to iron out an agreement on climate change policies. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

Following is reaction from key players and observers:

CHRISTIANA FIGUERES, UNFCCC EXECUTIVE SECRETARY – “I salute the countries who made this agreement. They have all laid aside some cherished objectives of their own to meet a common purpose, a long-term solution to climate change.”

CHRIS HUHNE, UK ENERGY AND CLIMATE SECRETARY –  “This is a great success for European diplomacy. We’ve managed to bring the major emitters like the U.S., India and China into a roadmap which will secure an overarching global deal.”

JENNIFER MORGAN, DIRECTOR AT WORLD RESOURCES INSTITUTE – “Countries pushed ahead with the implementation of the Cancun Agreements. Most notably, they agreed to make the Green Climate Fund operational, and set up a work plan to mobilize significant climate funds from both private and public sources. Currently, however, the funding level is insufficient to meet the commitments.”

CONNIE HEDEGAARD, EU CLIMATE COMMISSIONER – “We think that we had the right strategy, we think that it worked. The big thing is that now all big economies, all parties have to commit in the future in a legal way and that’s what we came here for.”

TOSI MPANU-MPANU, HEAD OF AFRICA GROUP – “It’s a middle ground, we meet mid-way. Of course we are not completely happy about the outcome, it lacks balance, but we believe it is starting to go into the right direction.”

SAMANTHA SMITH, ENERGY AND CLIMATE INITIATIVE LEADER AT WWF – “Unfortunately, governments here have spent the last two crucial final days of negotiations focused on only a handful of specific words in the negotiating texts, instead of spending their political capital on committing to more and real action to address climate change. The bottom line is that governments got practically nothing done here and that’s unacceptable.”

KUMI NAIDOO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL – Right now the global climate regime amounts to nothing more than a voluntary deal that’s put off for a decade. This could take us over the two degree threshold where we pass from danger to potential catastrophe

UNITED STATES CLIMATE ENVOY TODD STERN – “In the end, it ended up quite well. The (Durban platform) is the piece that was the matching piece with the Kyoto Protocol. We got the kind of symmetry that we had been focused on since the beginning of the Obama administration. This had all the elements that we were looking for.”

BRAZIL AMBASSADOR LUIZ ALBERTO FIGUEIREDO –“I am relieved we have what we came here to get. We have a robust outcome, an excellent text about a new phase in the international fight against climate change. It clearly points to action.”

SELWIN HART, CHIEF NEGOTIATOR ON FINANCE FOR SMALL ISLAND STATES – “I would have wanted to get more, but at least we have something to work with. All is not lost yet.”

ALDEN MEYER, UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS – “There is some hard bargaining ahead to get a treaty by 2015. It will be particularly tough for the U.S., which isn’t doing its fair share of emissions cuts and scaling up finance. The politics on that aren’t very promising given two members of the Republican party are in complete denial.”

JENNIFER HAVERKAMP, ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND – “The challenge is that we begin the talks from the lowest common denominator of every party’s aspirations. For this effort to be successful, countries need to be ambitious in their commitments and to refuse to use these negotiations as just another stalling tool.”


Posted on on November 19th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

The papers wrote today, November 18th, on the small Asian Scene but missed the much bigger significance. After years of playing big power economic politics on the side of China and a mumbling and stumbling EU – the US did a reset, as per the following and most recent, news.

“BALI, Indonesia — Hours before Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Myanmar’s most prominent democracy campaigner, announced her return to formal politics on Friday, President Obama disclosed that he was sending Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on a visit there next month, the first by a secretary of state in more than 50 years.

The twin events underscored the remarkable and sudden pace of change in Myanmar, which has stunned observers inside and outside the country, analysts said.”

Actually what happened these last three weeks is that Obama’s Administration is distancing itself from the troubles of the EU and in an effort to decrease its dependence on China financing, the US has moved to use the Asian-Pacific region minus China, but in  in alliance with Australia, to forge a new FREE MARKET from an enlarged NAFTA (Canada, Mexico, Columbia) to embrace some of the countries of the old APEC. This market is 1.6 times larger then the EU and will have a military base in Darwin, Australia, so China takes notice of a massive new US interest in Asia.

This is just a small reaction to the news and we intend to return to this new and intriguing situation that is clearly intended as well to show the American people that this Administration is still capable of doing great novel things. We say BRAVO.

Europe will take advantage of this RESET by trying to increase its activities in the Arab World – i.e. Austria readies a new mission to Qatar where it will open December 11-12, 2011 a new Embassy in Doha with a visit by Austria’s Federal President Dr. Heinz Fischer who travels at the head of a business delegation as it was done these weeks as well by Austrian interests going to Iraq, Libya and Turkmenistan. Please note that the new Embassy in Doha is being opened while Austria is busy saving money by closing up to 30 Consulates and Embassies elsewhere i.e. in Chicago!


We posted the above on November 18th, then on November 19th we found on the CNN/GPS the following, and we realize that our AMERICA IN A NEW ASIA RESET editorial note was our correct reading of the news. Again – we expect to enlarge on this very soon.

Listen Up! What the world thinks of ‘America’s Pacific Century.’

Editor’s Note: Every week, the Global Public Square brings you some must-read editorials from around the world addressed to America and Americans. The series is called Listen up, America!

President Obama is focused on East Asia and the Pacific this week. After attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Hawaii last weekend, Obama traveled to Australia where, on Thursday, he addressed the parliament. His message: “In the Asia Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all in.”

Later that day, President Obama traveled to the city of Darwin along the northern coast, where the U.S. announced it will station 2,500 Marines. The summit and travel, which also include a stop in Indonesia, are seen as the U.S. shifting attention to the Pacific – and to a rising China – as troops withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan. Here are some of the international responses to what Secretary of State Clinton recently dubbed “America’s Pacific Century.”

Australia – “Despite the rising economic, diplomatic and military reach of China, U.S. supremacy is the bedrock of security in the region,” says an editorial in the Sydney-based Australian.

“[The United States] underwrites the security of South Korea and Japan, it quells the tensions across the Taiwan Straits, it keeps the seaways open, bolsters the counter-terrorism operations of countries such as Indonesia, and even, in a less direct fashion, has added ballast to Australia’s life-saving interventions in East Timor and the Solomon Islands. And when natural disasters, such as the Boxing Day tsunami strike, the region looks automatically to Washington, not Beijing, for assistance.”

Indonesia – NIMBY, or “not in my backyard,” says an editorial in the Jakarta Postof stationing U.S. troops in northern Australia.

“The presence of the U.S. base just south of Indonesia is simply too close for comfort. … there are many fruitful and less threatening ways of increasing U.S. engagement other than building a greater military presence.”

China – “Is there any country in the region that wants the United States to be its leader?” asks Wei Jianhua in China’s state-run Xinhua news. The provided answer: “No.”

“It’s hard to envision what kind of ‘leadership’ the United States aspires to have in the region. What the region really needs – right now – is a strong and reliable partner that can help the region stave off the current financial crisis and seek balanced and sustained growth.”

Japan – “Tokyo and Washington are concerned about how to respond to Beijing,” says an editorial in the Tokyo-based Yomiuri Shimbun.

“China has been rapidly enhancing its influence and becoming more assertive, increasing frictions with other countries in the South China Sea. To lead China in the direction of complying with international rules and working together with its neighbors in the medium and long term, Japan and the United States must closely cooperate with South Korea, Australia and Southeast Asian countries.”

Saudi Arabia — “Really?” asks an editorial in the Jeddah-based Arab News of President Obama saying the Pacific is the top priority.

“The Asia Pacific region is more important than the Middle East with all its crises? More important than solving the Palestinian-Israeli issue? More important than famine and political instability in the Horn of Africa and the dangers of it becoming a hub of international terrorism? More important than the nuclear ambitions that the U.S. is convinced Iran harbors?”

Australia –Sydney Morning Herald editorial says stationing U.S. Marines in Australia is “a significant turn in the direction of Australia’s foreign policy.” While Australia “had been negotiating a potentially tricky course part-way between” the U.S. and China, the “helm has now been turned decisively to one side.”

“Australia would have had much to gain from keeping to its middle course between two great powers. Having taken sides early, though, we have taken a risk. We will find out in coming years how much was at stake in that premature decision.”

China— “Americans should realize that neither side would win in a trade war and must prevent the Obama administration from taking any rash decision,” writes Deng Yuwen in the China Daily.  President Obama, the U.S. Congress and Republican Presidential candidates have in recent weeks sought to pressure China over its currency policy, claiming the yuan is undervalued.

“Many of the goods China exports to the U.S. are inexpensive daily necessities and favored by Americans because of their low prices. Therefore, if the yuan’s value increases by 30 percent, the majority of Americans’ cost of living could go up by a similar percentage.”

Posted by:  

Early in his term, President Obama was too deferential to China. On his Asia trip last week, he sent a clear message that this country is not ceding anything in the Pacific. That is good news.

New York Times EDITORIAL Published November 19th, printed in the November 20, 2011, paper.

President Obama in Asia.

Like President George W. Bush, Mr. Obama’s preference is to engage Beijing in international organizations and agreements in hopes that will encourage China’s leaders to behave more responsibly. It is a sound long-range strategy. But China has made clear that without serious and sustained push-back, it will use its economic and military clout to bully and intimidate its neighbors.

The most brazen example is its broad claim to energy reserves in the South China Sea that are also claimed by five other countries. On Friday, Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, said at an Asian summit meeting that “outside forces” had no right to get involved in the dispute.

On his trip, Mr. Obama insisted he would “seek more opportunities for cooperation with Beijing.” But he also made clear that his patience has limits, at one point saying that China has now “grown up” and should act responsibly in its trade and currency practices.

In Australia, he announced an agreement to deploy 2,500 Marines plus naval ships and aircraft to a base in Darwin starting next year. That is not a huge number, but it is a pointed symbol of America’s interest.

At the same time, we were concerned by Mr. Obama’s declaration to Australia’s Parliament that budget reductions “will not — I repeat, will not — come at the expense of the Asia-Pacific.” Allies, of course, need to hear that. But any new mission in Asia cannot become another excuse for Pentagon planners to avoid making needed cuts.

On his trip, the president also rightly championed the benefits of freer trade — a position made more credible after Congress finally passed the trade deal with South Korea. His push to negotiate a trade deal with eight other Pacific Rim countries is important. He must keep reminding Beijing that it is welcome to join if it makes the necessary economic reforms.

What the United States should not do is overreach. Beijing already suspects that the real American goal is to “contain” its power. Washington must be transparent about its dealings and consult and include China when possible. American and Chinese political leaders have a regular dialogue. The Pentagon needs to do more to cultivate relationships with its resistant counterparts.

Dealing with a rising China requires a deft hand and a willingness to push back when Beijing oversteps. Being there is a big part of it.