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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 26th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

ipsterraviva.net/UN/currentNew.aspx?new=7644


Encroaching Forest, Oil Palm Plantations Alarm Villagers in Malaysia.

by Anil Netto for IPS

PENANG, Malaysia, May 23 (IPS) – An increasing number of natives in
Sarawak state in north Borneo are alarmed at encroaching forest and
oil palm plantations, which are taking over their native customary
land and destroying their traditional lifestyles and biodiversity.

In Long Berawan, a village in the north of the state, a community of a
thousand Berawan and Tering indigenous people who live in longhouses
is worried about plans by a reforestation and plantation group to take
over 80,000 hectares of native land. And there are other villages and
communities similarly affected. “The land is being given to the big
companies to do the plantations in our area,” says Dennis Along, a
villager who comes from a traditional farming family. “In future, it
will be very hard for the longhouse people to do farming. There is no
free land for us to do farming anymore, because the company is taking
over the land.”

The villagers here used to cultivate paddy, plant rubber trees and
grow a variety of local fruit trees – as part of a shifting
cultivation tradition that goes back hundreds of years. “We move to a
new area every year because we want to make the ground more fertile,”
explains Along. “When we move our rice fields, we plant fruit trees –
rambutan, durian, langsat, jackfruit – to help replenish the soil.”
Their land is also home to wildlife such as wild boar, monkeys, deer
and all kinds of local fish varieties.

Now, they are going to lose all that as a company has taken over their
land for plantation, laments Along, referring to Pusaka KTS, a joint
venture between timber-based conglomerate KTS Group of Companies and
the Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation.

Similar large forest plantation projects are slated for the Kakus and
Belaga regions.

The loss of biodiversity when land is cleared for plantations is
alarming. “When a huge area is cleared for plantations, all the plants
will be cleared, because they are clearing up the land,” explains
Raymond Abin, coordinator of the Sarawak Conservation Action Network,
which consists of environmental and indigenous rights groups in
Sarawak.

“After that, they will do the excavating work in order for them to
plant the oil palm. This will invariably lead to serious soil erosion
that would flow into the streams and rivers and kill a lot of fish.”

In addition, foreign workers hired by the plantation firms are often
concerned about their own survival and extract as much fish from the
rivers as they can. “There will be little wildlife once the forest is
gone and replaced by tree or oil palm plantation,”
says Abin.

The immediate impact on surrounding communities is water pollution and
flash floods.

In Sarawak, forest plantations are mainly of fast maturing tree
species such as acacia mangium and rubberwood (timber latex clones).
Acacia mangium is a highly invasive species regarded as a threat to
natural forests and the natural environment.

Whatever the condition of the existing forest, planting fast-growing
acacia involves prior clear-felling and removal of stumps, resulting
in a denuded landscape ready for replanting. It is also a sterile
monocrop that allows little to grow beneath it. Acacia plantations
thus cannot support the rainforests’ original faunal diversity.

The ‘Global Biodiversity Outlook 3’ report released by the Secretariat
of the Convention on Biological Diversity – an international treaty
adopted in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 – earlier this month noted that
the 2010 biodiversity target agreed to by the world’s governments in
2002 has not been met at the global level.

“The loss of biodiversity is an issue of profound concern for its own
sake. Biodiversity also underpins the functioning of ecosystems, which
provide a wide range of services to human societies. Its continued
loss, therefore, has major implications for current and future human
well-being,” the report said.

According to the website of the Malaysian Timber Industry Board, the
Plantation Industries Ministry aims to develop 375,000 hectares of
forest plantation for timber at an annual planting rate of 25,000
hectares per year for the next 15 years.

This is part of an aggressive programme that includes providing soft
loans to companies for the development of such plantations “to reduce
pressure on native forest as a source for raw materials and to ensure
its continuous availability for the domestic timber industry.” Sarawak
also plans to double its oil palm coverage to one million hectares by
this year.

The loss of biodiversity in tree plantations in Sarawak is significant
in the global equation, says political economist Andrew Aeria. “But
don’t expect Sarawak politicians to be bothered by all this. All they
are interested in is the profit margin of their crony companies and
their family-linked companies involved in tree plantation projects.”

The federal government, with the collaboration of the Sarawak
government, is in the process of finalising a mechanism on how to
solve the issue of native customary rights land in the state,
Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok
was quoted as saying Thursday by the Bernama national news agency.

Meanwhile, the villagers in Long Berawan are still engaged in farming
using their traditional practices – but for how much longer?

“When the plantations come – and they are starting work now…”
Along’s voice trails off. “Now they are doing work in the jungle, and
after the jungle, the native customary land, and after that, the whole
place, and definitely our farms will go.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 17th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The different levels of demeaning a woman in the Islamic world:

Burqa is a most complete body-cover – the covering of the eyes may or may not be also required.

Hijab is a legal term in Islamic law – “curtain” or “cover” that covers everything except face and hands in public.

Niqab is just a veil – least offensive.

Khimar is a headscarf or veil as mentioned in the Quran. This is the way women should cover themselves as per the Quran.

———————-

ADC (The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee) Congratulates Rima Fakih as Miss USA 2010

Washington, DC | May 17, 2010 | www.adc.org | The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) extends its wholehearted congratulations to Ms. Rima Fakih of Dearborn, Michigan, who was crowned Miss USA 2010 on May 16th at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
——
You can read more about Ms. Rima Fakih, who is of Lebanese descent, by visiting the links to the following articles:
——
Last night, Rima competed against 50 other contestants, representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Rima will go on to compete for the title of Miss Universe this summer.  She will spend the next year traveling the globe to promote the Miss Universe organization.
——
ADC President, Ms. Sara Najjar-Wilson, stated that, “we are very proud of Rima Fakih.  She is a very intelligent as well as a very beautiful young woman.  We are elated by her success, and are confident that she will honor all Americans in representing the United States in the Miss Universe Pageant.”
——
Rima, who is 24-years old, is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn, earning a degree in Economics and Business Management.  She began competing in beauty pageants while in college, as a way to earn scholarship money.  After her reign, Rima aspires to attend law school.
——
ADC wishes Rima much success and happiness as Miss USA, and extends to her continued best wishes in all her future endeavors. (so does our website – www.SustainabiliTank.info)
——————————
Contact: media@adc.org
202-244-2990
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), is non-profit and non-sectarian and is the largest Arab-American civil rights organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980 by former Senator James Abourezk to protect the civil rights of people of Arab descent in the United States, and to promote the cultural heritage of Arabs.
——-
ADC has 38 chapters nationwide, including chapters in every major city in the country, and members in all 50 states.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 4th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)



A new New York Times blog, GREEN – green.blogs.nytimes.com/ – with sections on Science; Business; Politics & Policy;  Living. — Updated: 4:35 pm

12 Experts to Review U.N. Climate Panel’s Work

By JOHN M. BRODER, May 3, 2010.

Green: Science

Harold T. Shapiro, a former president of Princeton University and the University of Michigan, will lead a 12-member panel that will review the practices of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has been criticized for errors.

Dr. Shapiro, an economist, will lead a group that was assembled by the InterAcademy Council, an organization of the world’s leading scientific academies, at the request of the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. It will look into the management and review policies of the I.P.C.C. that led to errors in the panel’s most recent report, including a faulty estimate of the rate of melting of the Himalayan glaciers and several smaller mistakes.

Harold T. ShapiroThe New York Times Harold T. Shapiro

“We approach this review with an open mind,” Dr. Shapiro said in a statement. “I’m confident we have the experts on this committee necessary to supply the U.N. with a stronger process for providing policymakers the best assessment of climate change possible.”

The I.P.C.C. has been faulted for failing to consider alternate views of climate science, sloppy citation of sources and for reliance on some research that was not properly peer-reviewed. The panel will make recommendations on how to avoid such problems and how to identify and quickly correct errors in future reports.

The United Nations panel draws on hundreds of scientists to produce periodic reports that are supposed to be the definitive assessment of current climate science. The panel does not make policy recommendations, but its work is used by policymakers around the world in deciding what action to take to combat global warming. Its most recent report was published in 2007; the next is due in 2014.

Scientists and officials say that the panel’s findings that the earth is warming and that human activity is almost certainly a cause remain indisputable. But critics have used the errors to raise doubts about the credibility of the entire 3,000-page study.

The I.P.C.C.’s chairman, Rajendra K. Pachauri of India, has been accused of conflicts of interest involving a research organization he heads. He has vigorously disputed the allegations, citing an independent audit of his finances.

The academic review board’s task is to look at the group’s research and management practices, not the soundness of its science. But it is authorized to make recommendations on virtually all aspects of the I.P.C.C.’s work.

The InterAcademy Council is expected to deliver its report by Aug. 30.

The review panel members were nominated by science and engineering academies around the world and include experts from the United States, Brazil, China, the Netherlands, Japan, India, England, Germany and Malaysia.

The vice chairman of the committee will be Roseanne Diab, executive officer of the Academy of Science of South Africa and a professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 11th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Ihsanoglu calls for direct relations between the OIC General Secretariat and OIC Funds

The Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu expressed his satisfaction over the OIC Funds’ oriented action, which has made a tangible impact, and hoped for direct relations between the Funds and the OIC General Secretariat at the level of the Islamic Conference Humanitarian Affairs Department (ICHAD) and other related departments.

Ihsanoglu, in his statement at the 3rd meeting of the OIC Funds in Doha, Qatar, on 9 March 2010, urged the Funds to work under the supervision of the OIC General Secretariat’s Finance and Administration Department using the new “financial system under which the Funds will operate in line with the OIC Financial rules and regulations, hence, rendering more transparency to their operations, which will also benefit the Funds.”

Taking into consideration the various constraints the Funds may have faced, he assured them of mobilizing all OIC resources to launch a “strong campaign to secure more financial resources for the Funds’ activities.”

The Secretary General concluded his statement by thanking His Highness Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Thani, Chairman of the Council of Funds, and the various donors, especially the State of Qatar for the tremendous efforts and dedication to convene the meeting.

OIC Chief commends the results of the Third Conference of Humanitarian Organizations
OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu stated that the positive results of the Third Conference of Humanitarian Organizations held in Doha, Qatar, on 8 March 2010, will have a clear effect on the promotion of cooperative relations between the OIC and humanitarian organizations in the OIC Member States. This will help elaborate clear policies to address disasters and development issues in the Islamic world.

Ihsanoglu made this statement at the closing session of the two-day Conference attended by over seventy relief organizations from around the Islamic world.

The Secretary General emphasized that these results testify to the importance of the resolution adopted by the Third Extraordinary Islamic Summit Conference held in Makkah Al-Mukarramah at the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, which called for the promotion of cooperation and coordination relations between the General Secretariat and NGOs as a central development partner.

Ihsanoglu added that over forty OIC Member States suffer today from different disasters and conflicts, especially with the aggravation of climate change and its various negative implications. He maintained that these phenomena led to the defragmentation of societies and to the deterioration of relief services and development infrastructures in many parts of the Islamic world.

The Secretary General called for a new approach to address development and humanitarian assistance issues based on the coordination of efforts among governments, NGOs and the private sector. He highlighted the fact that supporting this tripartite process is a necessity at this critical stage in order to build peace and accelerate the development movement in our countries.

The Secretary General concluded his address stating that work in this field will be carried out in close coordination and cooperation with all international organizations and institutions working in the field of humanitarian development, in particular UN institutions which are doing an important work in the Islamic world.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 26th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Jews, Muslims can defeat common enemies.

by Rabbi Marc Schneier and Imam Shamsi Ali
January 25, 2010

 newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfai…

American Jews and Muslims can defeat a common enemy by working together. That common enemy is prejudice – and if one needed statistical evidence for it, stark proof was revealed this week.

A Gallup poll found that 43 percent of Americans admit to at least “a little” prejudice against Muslims, and that such self-reported feelings are strongly linked to the respondent’s views on Jews. Remarkably, those who say they feel “a great deal” of prejudice toward Jews are about 32 times more likely to report feeling a “great deal” of prejudice toward Muslims, according to the polling company.

Such numbers should serve as a call to action for both the Jewish and Muslim communities: We must work together as individuals on the grass-roots level to promote tolerance and reduce anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Barriers start to crumble when rabbis, imams and the members of their houses of worship take the time to learn about each other — and then show the rest of the country that they share a common value system.

Of course, Jews and Muslims don’t agree on everything, but there are many more areas of agreement. Gallup also noted this week that compared with other religious groups in the United States, Muslim Americans and Jewish Americans are most similar in terms of political ideology, education and political party identification, according to previous research. And a poll of Israelis earlier this month found a plurality of voters in Israel would oppose a ban on the construction of minarets on mosques built in Israel. The poll was taken after Swiss voters approved a resolution banning the construction of minarets late last year.

Jews and Muslims can use such common interests to forge and strengthen relationships and build an agenda that works for the betterment of a society as a whole. Sharing common roots as children of Abraham, Jews and Muslims can talk about their similarities in theology, as well as the times during history when their two peoples co-existed successfully. And they can forge bonds by talking about their similar interests in such issues as saving the environment, fighting poverty and reforming the U.S. immigration system.

For example, last November, Jews and Muslims in Buffalo turned those views into action. Doctors and dentists worked together to provide joint health screenings for people without health insurance in their community, and the success of that program has encouraged other mosques and synagogues to put similar programs together. Such a project not only builds relationships among Jews and Muslims, but also shows those who may still harbor some bias toward the two faiths that our similarities override our differences.

That project arose out of the second annual Weekend of Twinning of Mosques and Synagogues, which brought together more than 100 synagogues and 100 mosques who held similar programs to the one in Buffalo in communities across the United States, Canada and Europe.

Coming just days after the horror of extremist violence at Fort Hood, the Weekend of Twinning was heartening evidence that most Muslims are moderates, and that majorities in both the Muslim and Jewish communities seek better relations. As a member of the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring, Md. told the Washington Jewish Week newspaper, the Fort Hood tragedy actually made it easier to attract his fellow mosquegoers, because “it made people more willing to come out and say, ‘We need to meet each other.'”

But we can’t let such traumatic events guide our actions. Jews and Muslims must be consistently engaged in such projects – whether it is programs that educate each other on their respective religious practices or partnering to provide help for the most disadvantaged among us.

That’s the best way to form the trust and friendships necessary to help Jews and Muslims fight anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. As Gallup has shown, hatred of Jews and Muslims is linked, and therefore Jews and Muslims must be linked in our responsibility to fight it.

Imam Mohammad Shamsi Ali is the spiritual leader of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York. Rabbi Marc Schneier is the founding rabbi of The New York Synagogue and president of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 13th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Published: Wednesday January 13, 2010, The Star online.

Sarawak govt says coal is ‘renewable’ energy.
By STEPHEN THEN

 stephenthen at thestar.com.my

MIRI: The Borneo Resources Institute has strongly critised the move by the Sarawak government to classify the exploitation and mining of 1.156 billion tonnes of coal reserves as part of its “renewable energy” projects.

The institute, a Sarawak-based environmental watchdog group with global links, wants the ministries involved in environmental management at state and national levels to explain to the Malaysian public how the mining of coal could be categorised as “renewable.”

Institute executive director Mark Bujang said the state government had already included the mining of coal as part of the multibillion-ringgit projects to be carried out under the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) initiatives.

“We object to the move to categorise such an environmentally-hostile project as a renewable energy project because it is very misleading. Coal is a mineral that is exhaustible. It cannot be regenerated.

“The mining of coal is one of the most environmentally-damaging and polluting projects on Earth. The burning of coal in power-generating plants produces huge volume of green-house gas and have caused tremendous climatic changes all over the world.

“The extraction of coal from the ground and from underground mines have caused irrepairable environmental damages. These woes have been seen all over the world, especially in coal-producing countries.

“How is it possible then for Sarawak to classify coal-mining and the use of coal for power-generation as one of the projects approved under the renewable energy corridor?” he told The Star on Wednesday.

On Monday, Sarawak secured a US$11bil (RM38.5bil) investment from China to carry out three hydro-dam construction projects and other energy-intensive projects in the SCORE region spanning a 340km belt between Mukah district in central Sarawak and Similajau district in Bintulu Division in northern Sarawak.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak and Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud witnessed the inking of the deal between 1Malaysia Development Bhd and China State Grid Corporation in Kuala Lumpur.

Taib, upon his return to Sarawak, elaborated that the China consortium will handle the building of three hydro-electric dams and also look into the possibility of mining 400 million tonnes of coal deposits in Merit Pila in Kapit Division in central Sarawak.

This move to mine the 400 million tonnes of coal in Kapit is just the tip of the iceberg, claimed Bujang.

“Sarawak has more than a billion tonnes of coal and already, there are numerous mining projects being carried out, especially in the Mukah-Balingain region, which is part of the SCORE territory.

“In fact, a coal plant in Mukah has already been constructed and it is almost about to be completed. This (RM903mil) plant will use the coal as raw materials to produce electricity.

“This development is very worrying indeed because we (the institute) have never heard of any Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study being done or any Social Impact Assessment (SIA) survey being carried out for that project, yet that Mukah coal plant is about to be completed,” he said.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 1st, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

From Martin Khor, Executive Director, the Intergovernmental body of the g-77 – the South Centre  <south@southcentre.org>  – the proposal that the group wants to see a rededication to the Kyoto Protocol as main ingredient of a Copenhagen outcome.

We believe that without some form of commitment from the member States of that group, there will be no operative decision in Copenhagen, and we post the mailing we got to make sure that the delineations of stands of what is considered extreme are available to the negotiators that must find the point in-between. No – Kyoto can not continue as is – this because it produced no results whatsoever.

tpl0_top_header2

Geneva, 30 November 2009

Dear Pincas Jawetz,

The Copenhagen climate conference will face many challenges and even a possible crisis.   Will it deliver what the world expects?

This issue of South Bulletin gives you the background to one of the most important issues – the attempt by developing countries to “save the Kyoto Protocol.”

The fate of Kyoto became probably the biggest issues in the last two UNFCCC sessions before Copenhagen – held at Bangkok (October) and Barcelona (November).

These articles present the highlights of the two sessions, focusing on the developing countries’ positions on why the Kyoto Protocol must be saved from the attempts to discard it and replace it with an “inferior” agreement.

We hope you benefit from this issue and send us any comments you may have. You can write to us  atsouth at southcentre.org .

Geneva, 30 November 2009

The Copenhagen climate conference will face many challenges and even a possible crisis.   Will it deliver what the world expects?

This issue of South Bulletin gives you the background to one of the most important issues – the attempt by developing countries to “save the Kyoto Protocol.”

The fate of Kyoto became probably the biggest issues in the last two UNFCCC sessions before Copenhagen – held at Bangkok (October) and Barcelona (November).

These articles present the highlights of the two sessions, focusing on the developing countries’ positions on why the Kyoto Protocol must be saved from the attempts to discard it and replace it with an “inferior” agreement.

We hope you benefit from this issue and send us any comments you may have. You can write to us at  south at southcentre.org .

Read the whole issue and individual articles at:

 www.southcentre.org/index.php?opt…

Articles in this Issue:

www.southcentre.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1118&Itemid=1


Articles in this Issue:

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 28th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Our title sounds crazy – we know it – but so were Lula’s embrace,  and the Cuban, Venezuelan, and Malaysian votes at the IAEA. When world leaders tell us that enhancing nuclear will have to be part of the energy mix of the future, they just allow for these phenomena.
IRAN DEFENDS SEIZING NOBEL LAUREATE’S ASSETS
27 November 2009, From The SanFranciscoSentinel.com
BY NAZILA FATHI
The New York Times

Iran on Friday denounced charges by the Norwegian government that it had illegally confiscated a Nobel Peace Prize winner’s medal and frozen her bank account, the IRNA news agency reported. Iran called the action an interference into its internal affairs and said the winner, Shirin Ebadi, owed money to the government in taxes.

“We are surprised that Norwegian officials can make such hasty and biased comments and disregard the laws and regulations of other countries,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, was quoted as saying, adding that Ms. Ebadi, a human rights lawyer, had refused to pay taxes on her prize.

nobel-nov-27
Nobel Laureate Dr. Shirin Ebadi

Mr. Mehmanparast denied that Ms. Ebadi’s medal, which she won in 2003, had been confiscated, but his comments indicated that her assets had been frozen.

“We do not understand how Norwegian officials are trying to justify people’s negligence to pay tax,” he said.

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry said Thursday that Iran had confiscated Ms. Ebadi’s Nobel medal and her diploma from a bank box and confiscated her account. It summoned Iran’s chargé d’affaires to protest the confiscation and expressed “grave concern” about the treatment of Ms. Ebadi’s husband, Javad Tavassolian, who it said had been arrested and severely beaten in Tehran.

Iran has demanded about $400,000 in taxes on Ms. Ebadi’s prize money, which amounted to $1.3 million. Ms. Ebadi has said that under Iranian law, there are no taxes on such prizes.

The measure appears to be an effort by the government to pressure Ms. Ebadi, 62, who is an outspoken critic of the government and human rights violations.

She left Iran shortly before the disputed June 12 election won by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which set off the largest protests in the country since the 1979 revolution.

Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, a lawyer in Tehran and a founding member of Ms. Ebadi’s human rights group, said Ms. Ebadi’s prize money was used to help prisoners of conscience and their families, according to Agence France-Presse.

“The account has been blocked by the officials and they do not allow withdrawals,” Mr. Dadkhah said. “This is illegal as blocking and confiscation should be the decision of a court where evidence is presented for such an act. It is politicized.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 12th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Close to the departure of President Obama on his all-important trip to Asia with stops in Tokyo November 12th, Singapore November 13-15, Shanghai November 15th, Beijing November 16-18, and Seoul November 18-19, the Japan Society has planned co-incidentally the event we are reporting about here.

Japan is the only original OECD member in Asia, as such Japan clearly feels justifiably it is a US prime partner in Asia. It also was clearly instrumental in nailing down the 1987 Kyoto Protocol to The Framework Convention on Climate Change, and hopes that this material will continue to be the base for future climate negotiations. That was the basis for having co-organized and hosted  the following meeting – November 10th.

————-

Copenhagen & Beyond: A Multilateral Debate about Climate Change Policy.
Green Japan Series
Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at the Japan Society, New York.

The positions and participation of Japan, China and the United States in any successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol will help determine its success or failure. In a Tuesday November 10, 2009 panel, at the Japan Society, New York, Masayoshi Arai, Director, JETRO New York, Special Advisor, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI); The Honorable Zhenmin Liu, Ambassador Extraordinary and Deputy Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations; Elliot Diringer, Vice President, International Strategies, Pew Center on Global Climate Change; and Takao Shibata, chair of the working group that drafted the Kyoto Protocol, debated the direction of international climate change policy.

It was Moderated by Jim Efstathiou, Correspondent, Bloomberg News, and co-organized by the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs

————–

Takao Shibata, who is now a Chancellor Lecturer at the University of Kansas and Japan Consul General in Kansas City,mentioed that Japan is ready to commit to a 2020 reduction of 25% in emissions provided that there is FAIR and EFFECTIVE agreement with a VIGUROUS COMPLIANCE agreement as part of it. He stressed that the problem with Kyoto was that there was no compliance paragraph in the Protocol. All it said was that we postpone decision.

The OBJECTIVE must be: THE STABILIZATION OF CO2 CONCENTRATION IN THE ATMOSPHERE rather then fighting over figures of temperature increase or concentrations in parts per milion numbers. We have already a Framework he said – the Copenhagen process should be about STABILIZATION. Later he added that we must at least agree to a 2050 position.

Mr. Masayoshi Arai, who is in New York since June 2009, with The Japaese External Trade Organization (JETRO), after having held 16 positions within Japan Government, includingthe Prime Minister’s task force that created the Japan Consumer Protection Agency, and with The Fair Trade Commission and Agency for Natural Resouces and Energy and its Research Institute, Supervised manufacturing industries in their CO2 emissions reduction, and has also an MBA from Wharton, probably because of his present government trade position, was rather careful in what he said. He said that we ned something “meaningful”  for global warming  and left the Japanese point of view to Professor Shibata.

————-

Eliot Diringer whose organization, the Washington based Pew Center, is a link between Environmentalism, industry and government made it clear that what is lacking is a legal architecture in place to deal with the problems created by climate change to which now Professor Shibata answered on the spot that the history is such that already in Berlin, later in Kyoto, the US was against a legal concept – that is a clear 15 year old problem. In Kyoto, the US Vice President came to seal the Protocol in full knowledge that it is unratifiable in Washington. Shibata does not want a repeat of this with a US that is in no position to ratify an agreement.

Diringer came back with the suggestion that he can see that Developing countries will accept self prescribed domestic reductions and will request an agreement that makes this possible for them to do so. That means a new FRAMEWORK that is more flexible then the original.

—————

Ambassador Zhenmin Liu, Deputy Permanent Representative of China to the UN in New York since 2006, in charge of China’s participation on the Second Committee at the UN, with prior experience at the UN in Geneva and as Director-General of the Treaty and Law Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been involved in Climate Change negotiations for China. He was actually the only member of the panel entitled to express a national negotiating position, and he did indeed come through.

Ambassador Liu said that he cannot have now a document to replace Kyoto – this lines him up with what might be a Japanese interest, but clearly is no answer to the problems that were pointed out at why Kyoto was a failure.

But then he also said that you need a GLOBAL CAP for the GHG emissions that must then take into account, when talking about individual nations, their level of industrialization.

A certain raport evolved between him and Washingtonian Diringer.

It was agreed that there is the need for Technology Innovation, Technology Cooperation, and Technology Transfer.

Diringer said that China is very well positioning itself for the green technology economy. People in the US start to understand that the US will lose the competition for future technology and there must be a start for support in US Congress for energy action right now.

These exchanges gave me an opening to ask mty question about what goes on right now – the days that President Obama plans for his trip to Asia with a long stopover in China.

I started my question to ambassador Liu by saying that on the internet there is a lot of talk about a G-2 US-China agreement needed to jump start the Copenhagen negotiations, and I saw visually the Ambassador cringe.  to this idea of a G-2. I continued by asking that what can we expect as an outcome from the meetings in Beijing if there is anything he could tell us as we believe that some concluding material was negotiated prior to the deision for this trip considering tha this is in effect the second meeting between the leaders?

I was honored with a long answer that included several main points.

The first point is that the US has accepted Kyoto and I guess China does not want to renegotiate Kyoto.

Then, China has 20% of the world population the US only 5%, but China has only a fraction of the GDP per capita then the US, so there is no G-2 situation here. That must have been the reason for the cringing – China does not want to lose its place as leader of the underdeveloped nations.

Secondly – this is not a US – China negotiation but a negotiation for all groups.

Thirdly, there is place for clean energy cooperation, bilateral programs and projects – to jointly use clean technology.

——-

Professor Shibata added that we talk of the atmosphere where there are no national boundaries. We talk of sovereign areas only on the surface of the earth – and we must realize that the effects turn up in the air and we have no national control of the air.

Further, he said that in the west when something bad happens, the first thing we do is we sue the polluter – ask him to pay. He continued saying “I would encourage everyone to think about that.”

Mr. Diringer added that the CDM was introduced to harness market forces to get reduction of CO2 emissions at lowes cost.

——-

To summarize – it was nice for Japan to try to host a US-China debate before moves that will inevitably have to bring the US and China closer together. To follow up – let us look at President Obama’s itinerary to get further in depth to what a reorientation of the US towards Asia could mean.

Japan, South Korea, and China are trying to form an East Asia Trilateral grouping with a Free Trade Agreement among the three countries. Obviously, this will open the Chinese market to Japan and Korea and there is no way for the US, with its own effective NAFTA agreement with Canada and Mexico. Japan wants thus perhaps more then just be a pivot in US – Chiba negotiations, it rather has also to make sure that it can hold on to its own agreements with both main countries. President Obama has thus quite a few non-climate topics to talk about in his Yokyo and Seoul stops.

The second big stop is in Singapore where he will meet the 21 members of APEC: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong (part of China), Indonesia, Japan,  Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, The Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Thailand, The United States, and Viet Nam. This will be the reintroduction of the US to the Pacific region in general – an area that the locals contend was totally neglected by the US in the eight years of the Bush administration. A main point in this meeting will be to help redirect the participating economies from export to the US to supply to their local populations – this so that they help both areas – their own and the US economy as well.

Will they also consult on whom to back for the job of UN Secretary-General in 2010? That is about the time to start this sort of negotiations, and Singapore seems to be the right place to look for the best viable candidate.

Eventually, the Third leg of the trip – the stops  in China – will have to be the clear main target of the trip – as said here by Ambassador Liu, the business deals in clean energy that can underpin both economies  (US and China) so they become an example for cooperation on climate change that presents direct benefits to economies looking for sustainable growth, that is a match to the needs of the people and the climate as well –  this is what we call Sustainable Development that is mutual – for the newly industrializing nation and for the phasing out of the old polluting industries of the past.

——————

for information from President Obama’s Asian trip we recommend:

www.ft.com/obamainasia 

www.ft.com/rachmanblog

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 10th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

COUNTRIES DISCUSS POSSIBLE UN-BACKED INTERGOVERNMENTAL BODY TO TACKLE BIODIVERSITY.

The possibility of establishing a United Nations-supported scientific intergovernmental body to address biodiversity loss and protect ecosystems is being discussed at a global conference which kicked off in Putraya,Malaysia, today.

Representatives from governments worldwide are in Putrajaya, near the capital Kuala Lumpur, for three days to discuss creating a body similar to the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was set up in 1988 by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The IPCC has validated the science of climate change and has impelled an international response to global warming, UNEP notes in a press release.   A similar impetus may help to reverse the decline of the Earth’s natural assets and spur political action.

The proposed Intergovernmental Platform or Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)   – could trigger debate, encourage the formation of appropriate policies and elevate the issue in the global consciousness.

“Global GDP has more than doubled in the past quarter century. In contrast, 60 per cent of the world’s ecosystems have been degraded or are being used in an unsustainable manner,” said Achim Steiner, UNEP’s Executive Director.

Treaties including the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on Migratory Species have tried to address these challenges, but have not been able to match the pace of degradation and decline.

“There is clearly a mismatch between the reality in terms of the science and the economics and the actual global international response, which is plainly failing to make a sustained and transformational difference,” Mr. Steiner said.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 5th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

IOM Press Briefing Notes
Friday 5 September 2008

INDONESIA – Religious Teachers Carry Ramadan Message of Community Policing to Aceh – IOM is working with the Ar-Raniry State Islamic Institute and the Aceh Provincial Police (Polda NAD) through the Holy month of Ramadhan to promote community policing in the Indonesia’s northernmost province through the use of Islamic cultural values unique to the area.

The 15-day Safari Kemitraan Ramadhan (Ramadhan Partnership Road show), which kicks off today, is funded by the European Commission and the Royal Netherlands Embassy, and aims to inform villagers about the value of community policing using religious messages.

IOM is providing logistical support, transport and printed materials for the team of religious teachers from the Institute and police officers implementing the scheme.

“Communities in Aceh will benefit from all the positive values embodied in community policing. The roadshow will help to endorse the program and will be an effective tool to build partnerships with Acehnese across the province,” says Dr. Abdul Rani, Msi, a professor of Ar-Raniry.

Located at the northernmost tip of the island of Sumatra, Aceh is also known colloquially as Mecca’s Veranda. For hundreds of years it served as the final port of call for pilgrims making the long sea voyage from Indonesia, the most populous Moslem nation on earth, to Mecca. It is the most devout area in Indonesia, and proud of its Islamic heritage.

Aceh Senior Police Commissioner Setyanto says he supports the use of a culturally sensitive approach to informing a public that is deeply suspicious of the police. Aceh was the scene of a violent, decades-long separatist conflict that drew to a close in 2005, with the signing of a peace agreement between rebels and the central government.

{As it happens, Aceh is also home of large oil fields with international oil companies having had involvement here. Aceh once was sponsored from the outside in its attempt of becoming independent from Indonesia – thus the announcement and the backing are quite interesting.}

IOM is in the midst of a two year programme to training more than 7,200 of the roughly 9,200 police officers in Aceh in community policing and human rights. The trainings aim to reduce conflict and underpin a return to peace and security in the province.

For further information, please contact Jihan Labetubun at IOM Jakarta. Tel. +62 8111907028. Email:  jlabetubun at iom.int

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 9th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

D8 summit calls for halt to biofuels.
By John Aglionby in Kuala Lumpur for The Financial Times,   July 8 2008.

The world should halt the development of biofuel crops on arable land and instead boost agricultural production to solve the global food crisis and prevent “disaster”, the Malaysian and Indonesian leaders warned on Tuesday at the opening of a developing countries summit.

Abdullah Badawi, the Malaysian prime minister, said the use of arable land for biofuels “should be stopped because such action will deepen the global food scarcity and further drive up food prices”. “We must not allow the zeal for energy security to come into direct conflict with the basic need for food production,” he told the Developing Eight summit in Kuala Lumpur.


The D8 comprises Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey. All are prominent members of the Organisaton of the Islamic Conference.



Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesian president, blamed “some developed countries” for exacerbating the food crisis by allowing biofuel development on arable land.

“The idea is to reduce greenhouse gases and to wean themselves away from dependence on fossil fuels,” he said in his speech. “It is not a good idea: it has only worsened the global food crisis.”

The leaders’ statements join a growing consensus that biofuel production has contributed more to soaring food prices than was thought to be the case until a few months ago.

On Monday Britain hinted it might reassess its biofuel targets after a review by a former Environment Agency chief indicated that while there is probably enough land to meet agricultural needs until 2020, biofuels had contributed to rising food prices. The World Bank has expressed similar sentiments to the British report.

Mr Yudhoyono predicted there would be “no quick fix” to the crisis.

“But we must act on it at once and in concert,” he said. “To delay concerted action on this great challenge of our time is to court disaster.”

The president is now en route to Japan to meet with the G8 leaders on Wednesday. Indonesian officials said he would urge the G8 members to “share the burden” endured by developing countries in the face of soaring oil and food prices.

Both Mr Badawi and Mr Yudhoyono stressed the need to find ways to boost agricultural production. Neither, however, mentioned whether they would halt, let alone reverse, their planned expansions of oil palm plantations.

Indonesia and Malaysia are, respectively, the world’s largest and second largest producers of palm oil, which is becoming increasingly popular as a biofuel.

Much of the development, particularly in Indonesia, has come at the expense of vast swathes of rainforest, which is widely considered to exacerbate climate change.

Mr Badawi also took aim at the oil futures market, suggesting the international community “examine how [it] might be organised to assist in stabilising [oil] prices.”

He said the summit should send a united message on how to confront the oil and food price crises. Analysts believe the D8 will struggle to reach consensus on what to do about high oil prices because it comprises both significant oil producers and consumers.

The summit is also expected to approve a roadmap to strengthen cooperation between D8 members, particularly on intra-member trade. The aim is to boost this from the current figure of $60bn to $517.5bn within a decade.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 20th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

World Economic Forum: “Dire Situations Call for Bold Measures.”

The World Economic Forum on East Asia wrapped up this week with Ahn Ho-Young, South Korea’s Deput   Minister for Trade, saying it was dominated by “the three F’s”: food, fuel and finance.

A forum survey of the 55 business leaders who attended the two-day meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, showed that an overwhelming 81% voted for “addressing growing global concern over environmental challenges such as climate change and water” as the top issue facing Asia.

Also of concern were “preventing political and economic instability linked to rising food and energy prices” and “managing the social, environmental and infrastructural implications of rapid urbanization.”
The survey also revealed that the price of rice had more than tripled in Thailand since January. During the same time, diesel prices have risen over 26% in Vietnam.
Water is another issue rising to the fore, with Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman of the Board, Nestle, Switzerland, repeating his dire warning: “We will be running out of water long before we run out of oil.”

He lamented that more of the world’s GDP was not being allocated to water: “One out of every five children is dying every 20 seconds because we haven’t been able to solve the problem of clean water today.”


Mr. Ho-Young (South Korea)   urged Asia to do three things: “First, it is important for Asian countries to maintain their open market policies which will enable us to maintain the momentum of economic growth,” he said. Second, he urged Asian countries to pay more attention to the economic and social impacts imposed by the global economic uncertainties. Third, “Asian countries should and must play a more active role in solving global issues,” he said (Xinhua).

In his opening remarks, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah bin Ahmad Badawi referred to fundamental questions, primary assumptions, and revered assumptions, that had to be reviewed and re-evaluated. “Unless we are prepared to address these questions sincerely and take necessary remedial measures,” he said, “our economies and the livelihood of hundreds of millions of people will continue to be vulnerable. Dire situations call for bold measures” (The Toronto Star).

East Asia (generally consisting of Japan, North and South Korea, China, Taiwan, with Vietnam and Singapore) has come to the realization that it is now in a position to react positively, with the best interests of the region in mind, to the world’s economic challenges.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 11th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Testing times for Malaysia.

By J. PRAKASH, For the The Japan Times.
SINGAPORE — The man who once gave lectures to the West and its leaders is back again regaling his captive Malaysian audience with his trademark rhetoric.

Those who have crossed swords with former Malaysian Premier Mahathir Mohammad and are familiar with his unconventional combative style can attest that those confrontations, as unpleasant as they may have been, also had the unintended consequence of canonizing the man within his nation.


No better understanding of Mahathir and his methods is better enunciated than the insights he gives in a critique he wrote for TIME magazine in 1999 where he extolled the virtues of unorthodoxy.

As interesting and refreshing as the article was, its defense of his globally unpopular decision to impose capital controls to staunch the flow of funds out of Malaysia at the height of the Asian financial crisis in 1998 revealed within its subtext a man unafraid to defy conventions and willing to chart independent courses, even at the expense of being sneered at.

If truth has to first endure ridicule before it is opposed just so that it can become self-evident, Mahathir has clearly passed all of those three hurdles. {writes Prakash} Just like in 1970 when he wrote “The Malay Dilemma,” which documented the backwardness of the Malays over their habit of diluting their gene pool by intra-kinship marriages, a persona of unorthodoxy has always characterized the one-time Malay nationalist turned politician who exhibits an unusual display of courage in the face of adversity. {now mind you – Mahattir is Dr. Mahattir who studied medecine in Scottland, but economics is something else.}

For someone who thrives doing the very kind of things politicians seldom commit for fear of being labeled politically incorrect, his recent resignation from the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) — the political party he headed for 22 years as president — is turning out to be a tipping point in Malaysian politics.

In urging the rest of the party faithful to break ranks and resign en masse, the move is calculated not only to force the ouster of the government but also to block the return from the political wilderness of another political foe, former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. Anwar, who was jailed in 1999 for corruption, is now perceived to be gunning for justice over his imprisonment, which he called a conspiracy at the highest levels of government.

Or, it could also be, as some have alleged, yet another “Mahathir way” of trying to deflect attention from a Royal Commission convoked to probe his involvement in a judge-fixing scandal during his stewardship of the country more than 20 years ago.

With most of Malaysia and Singapore, and to a lesser degree Indonesia, transfixed on what is rapidly turning into a political soap opera, there is no musing that all love is conceivably lost between the former premier, his anointed successor and the former deputy premier.

At the heart of Mahathir’s grievance is a suspicion of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi’s plans to erase Mahathir’s reputation by scrapping many of his economic projects. Should such an episode come to pass, Mahathir would almost certainly be left without a legacy.

The triumvirate and Caesarean-like court intrigues have no doubt seized imaginations.

Though it has not happened yet, the breakdown in party hierarchy spawned by the elder statesman’s resignation and his success at getting some party hacks to heed his call have nevertheless reverberated with eerie echoes of the 1969 Sino-Malay race riots that were triggered a similar election debacle and left scores of people dead in the streets.

“You know the UMNO is in trouble when its party members start abandoning ship,” a political scientist who chose to remain anonymous told Asia Times Online.

Acknowledging that he did not keep his promises in an election postmortem has also made Abdullah politically weaker. And those broken promises have included a failure to combat corruption, crime, rising racial tension and cronyism; a failure that the country’s unified political opposition capitalized on to such tantalizing effect in the March 8 general elections.

The ruling Barisan Nasional, an omnibus grouping that lumps together the nation’s ethnic Chinese and Indians under their respective political banners, not only lost 5 out of 13 states but was returned to office with the slenderest of parliamentary majorities at only 51 percent. For Abdullah such an outcome was a sobering moment because he and his team secured an unprecedented 90 percent of the popular vote in the previous election held in 2004.

Yet nothing could have been worse than in the non-consultative manner in which Abdullah raised fuel prices last week.
A 40-percent hike in oil-producing Malaysia was perceived as “too high” and “too soon.” The widespread street protests that gathered storm in the wake of the increases have every possibility of playing into the hands of the regime’s political opponents. They will almost certainly weaken Abdullah’s position.

Between the political brinkmanship of Mahathir, the chicanery of Anwar and the naivete of Abdullah, all eyes will likely turn to the UMNO party caucus in December when party hacks decide the political fate of Abdullah as their party president and leader.

As developments unfold with breakneck speed, the self-effacing emergence of Anwar and the Pakatan Rakyat Party’s sterling success in securing 82 seats in the 140 seat Assembly in the March elections has no doubt left the country’s chattering classes abuzz.

In 2005, Anwar told Singapore’s TODAY paper of a 5-year time frame to becoming Malaysia’s next prime minister. And true to form and design, he has assiduously been seeking defections from elected backbenchers to trigger an eventual collapse of the newly-elected government. A collapse that results in calls for fresh elections would be just what Anwar needs. Because he is immensely popular, and he knows it, he can handily translate the disaffection in his country into votes and assume the premiership he is seeking much sooner than the 5-year time frame.

With no one who can match him in charisma, oratory and perhaps in chicanery, there appears to be nothing that can stop Anwar, at least for now.

These are indeed testing times for Malaysia. As the country heads for headier days; political sclerosis of a kind never before seen before will feature prominently as Malaysia turns another page in its history.

J. Prakash is a freelance journalist in Singapore. He can be reached at  prakruby at hotmail.com

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 24th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

malaysia001.jpg

malaysia002.gif

Melaka’s modern history began in 1403 with the arrival of Parameswara, an exiled Hindu Prince from the Kingdom of Sri Vijaya on Sumatra Island.
He embraced Islam under the title Raja Iskandar and started the Sultanate of Melaka that evolved into a vibrant maritime trading center.

The Portuguese, led by Alfonso d’Albuquerque conquered Melaka in 1511 and held it for 130 years until it was taken over by the Dutch in 1641 who ruled
for 154 years until 1824 when it was taken over by the British.   Malaysia’s independence in was 1957. The Japanese ruled during the 1942 – 1945 years.

In addition to the obvious Portuguese, Dutch, and British influences, actually the main influence was that of the Chinese and Indians who ran the economy of Melaka.

Here we will deal with the so called “Straits Chinese” or “Pernakan.”   They are the “Baba-Nyonyas.” There are no Babas and Nyonyas, though a myth is being created
that made outsiders believe that the babas are the males and the nyonyas the females, while others think it the other way. In short – we were surprised to find that even
part of the publicity for the UN Delegates’ Dining Room special two weeks, included this inaccuracy.

malaysia003.gif

malaysia004.jpg

The straits of Melaka, between the Malay Peninsula and the long Sumatra Island is one of the busiest sea lanes through which today pass oil tankers, but even now, the straights are infested by pirates.
The Melaka city was thus an important fort in the colonial days, and still an important commercial center run in major part by the Nyonyas of today. Part of the Nyonyas and the Indians left Malaysia at a
time the Mahatir government took highly Malay ethnic nationalistic stand and tried to displace the Chinese and Indians from their positions. A Pernakan community exists now in New York and some
from that community came to eat at the UN. Three ladies sat at a neighboring table.

As the event was basically a really high caliber culinary event, I enjoyed immensely Chef Ismail Muhammad, who is something of a celebrity chef in Kuala Lumpur, run me through the ethnic background
of the food. I am thus happy to report that I ate spicy Malay meet, Portuguese inspired fish and Indian inspired curry-chicken, also a Chinese excellent vegetarian dish. There were terrific noodle dishes
and a desert   table that had sweets and not-so sweet works of art.

Now, what did I celebrate there personally – this is simple. I was in Melaka twice, in two separate visits to Malaysia. The fist time it was in 1987 when I went to investigate the smoke that was supposed
to have been caused by the Indonesian fires on Borneo island. I went then to see by myself the situation in Melaka and was convinced, that though highly polluted from the motor vehicular transportation,
Melaka suffered much less then Kuala Lumpur – this because the winds from the sea were able to dissipate some of the pollution – so I knew that the haze was not of Sumatra origin. In effect, probably,
Sumatra was getting Malaysian pollution and not the other way around.

malaysia005.gif

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 12th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The Face of a Prophet. Corrected twice by the NYT)

By LOUISE STORY, Published: April 11, 2008.

George Soros will not go quietly. George Soros wants to make a lasting contribution to economic understanding.

Robert Soros, right, never shared the enthusiasm of his father George, for following the markets. Robert is one of five Soros children

At the age of 77, Mr. Soros, one the world’s most successful investors and richest men, leapt out of retirement last summer to safeguard his fortune and legacy. Alarmed by the unfolding crisis in the financial markets, he once again began trading for his giant hedge fund — and won big while so many others lost.

Mr. Soros has always been a controversial figure. But he is becoming more so with a new, dire forecast for the world economy. Last week he rushed out a book, his 10th, warning that the financial pain has only just begun. { There is no book out yet but the electronic version is available and www.SustainabiliTank.info wrote about this as reseived from George Soros see under April 4, 2008 www.sustainabilitank.info/2008/04…}

(this just shows that non conventional media gets the news out – sometimes – well ahead of the need-your-agreement-first old style media}
“I consider this the biggest financial crisis of my lifetime,” Mr. Soros said during an interview Monday in his office overlooking Central Park. A “superbubble” that has been swelling for a quarter of a century is finally bursting, he said.

{and above we had already from his first “coming out” this year –         www.sustainabilitank.info/2008/01….

Soros, whose daring, controversial trades came to symbolize global capitalism in the 1990s, is now busy promoting his book, “The New Paradigm for Financial Markets,” which goes on sale mid-May. An electronic version is already available online.

And yet this is not the first time that Mr. Soros has prophesied doom. In 1998, he published a book predicting a global economic collapse that never came.

Mr. Soros thinks that this time he is right. Now in his eighth decade, he yearns to be remembered not only as a great trader but also as a great thinker. The market theory he has promoted for two decades and espoused most of his life — something he calls “reflexivity” — is still dismissed by many economists. The idea is that people’s biases and actions can affect the direction of the underlying economy, undermining the conventional theory that markets tend toward some sort of equilibrium.

Mr. Soros said all aspects of his life — finance, philanthropy, even politics — are driven by reflexivity, which has to do with the feedback loop between people’s understanding of reality and their own actions. Society as a whole could learn from his theory, he said. “To make a contribution to our understanding of reality would be my greatest accomplishment,” he said.

Mr. Soros has been worrying about the fragile state of the markets for years. But last summer, at a luncheon at his home in Southampton with 20 prominent financiers, he struck an unusually bearish note.

“The mood of the group was generally gloomy, but George said we were going into a serious recession,” said Byron Wien, the chief investment strategist of Pequot Capital, a hedge fund.

Mr. Soros was one of only two people there who predicted the American economy was headed for a recession, he said.

Shortly after that luncheon Mr. Soros began meeting with hedge fund managers like John Paulson, who was early to predict a crisis in the housing market. He interrogated his portfolio managers and external hedge funds that manage his fund’s money, and he took on new positions to hedge where they might have gone wrong. His last-minute strategies contributed to a 32 percent return — or roughly $4 billion for the year.

The more Mr. Soros learned about the crisis, the more certain he became that he should rebroadcast his theories. In the book, Mr. Soros, a fierce critic of the Bush administration, faults regulators for allowing the buildup of the housing and mortgage bubbles. He envisions a time, not so distant, when the dollar is no longer the world’s main currency and people will have a harder time borrowing money.

Mr. Soros hopes his theories will finally win the respect he craves. But, ever the trader, he hedges his bets. “I may well be proven wrong,” he said. “I would say that I’m the boy who cried wolf three times.”

Many of the people Mr. Soros wants to influence may view him with skepticism, in part because of how he made his fortune. In 1992, his fund famously bet against the British pound and helped force the British government to devalue the currency. Five years later, he bet — correctly — that Thailand would be forced to devalue its currency, the baht. The resulting bitterness toward him among Thais was such that Mr. Soros canceled a trip to the country in 2001, fearing for his safety.

Asked if it bothers him that people accuse him of causing economic pain, his blue eyes dart around the room. “Yes, it does, actually yes,” he said.

Asked if those people are right to blame him, he says, “Well no, not entirely.”

No single investor can move a currency, he said. “Markets move currencies, so what happened with the British pound would have happened whether I was born or not, so therefore I take no responsibility.”

Mr. Soros, came of age in Nazi-occupied Hungary and has for decades longed to write a masterpiece that might put him among thinkers like Hegel or Keynes, said Michael T. Kaufman, who wrote a book about Mr. Soros. “He spent years writing papers and letters to people, but everyone ignored him,” Mr. Kaufman said.

But when Mr. Soros became rich, people began listening. He also started giving large sums to charities, and in Eastern Europe, as the Soviet Union crumbled, he distributed copy machines to encourage free speech in his native Hungary. So generous was Mr. Soros with his money that “Sorosovat” became a new verb in Russian, loosely meaning to apply for a grant.

He continues to be one of the top givers to charities around the world, and has given more than $5 billion away through his foundations.

Yet even Mr. Soros acknowledges that many economists still slight his theories.

“I am known as a hedge fund manager and I am known as a philanthropist, and it’s very hard for, say, academics to accept that a hedge fund manager may actually have something to say about economics,” Mr. Soros said. “So that has been difficult for me to overcome.”

But Joseph E. Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia who won the Nobel for economics in 2001, said Mr. Soros might still meet success. “With a slightly different vocabulary these ideas, I think, are going to become more and more part of the center,” said Mr. Stiglitz, a longtime friend of Mr. Soros.

Mr. Soros’s firm, Soros Fund Management, has been through several turbulent years. Stanley Druckenmiller, his longtime No. 2, left in 2000, in part because he was tired of the constant media attention Mr. Soros attracted. (Mr. Soros credits Mr. Druckenmiller for the winning gamble on the British pound, saying he added the encouragement to bet more money on the trade.)

Several outside investors also left, and Mr. Soros overhauled the company as more of a wealth management tool for his own family and related charities. Mr. Soros said in 2000 that he no longer desired returns like the 30.5 percent his fund returned on average, after management fees, from 1969 to 2000.



In 2004, Mr. Soros tapped his oldest son, Robert, to become the chief investment officer, despite Robert’s reluctance.

At that time, Mr. Soros, was busy trying to turn public opinion against President Bush. He donated $27 million to anti-Bush organizations and traveled the country speaking out against the president. This time around, he is less involved. He endorsed Senator Barack Obama but kept his distance from the campaign trail.

Robert Soros, 44, who once claimed his father based his trades not on grand theories like reflexivity but rather on his back pain, never shared his father’s enthusiasm for the markets. “When you’re a billionaire’s son, you’re less hungry than when you’re a Hungarian immigrant,” one former Soros Fund Management executive said.
Even so, the Soros fund performed well under the younger Soros, and as recently as last June, it was up 10 percent for the year, according to a letter to investors. At the end of July, Robert stepped down from his head investment role, just before his father returned to trading. Robert and his brother Jonathan remain deputy co-chairmen, under their father, the chairman of the fund.

This week, Mr. Wien illustrated the knack of Mr. Soros for timing with an old story. In 1995, Mr. Soros asked Mr. Wien why he bothered going to work every day. Why not go to work only on days when there is something to do?

“I said, ‘George, one of the differences between you and me is you know when those days are, and I don’t,'” Mr. Wien said.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 5th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Sunday, April 6, 2008, The Japan Times Online: G8, emerging donors start development talks in Tokyo.
By KAHO SHIMIZU, Staff writer.


Ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized countries dealing with development issues kicked off a discussion Saturday in Tokyo to seek cooperation from emerging donors such as China, India and Brazil at a time when conventional donor countries are struggling to boost their aid.

The two-day conference opened a day after the 22-nation Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said the total amount of official development assistance provided by the member countries in 2007 fell 8.4 percent in real terms to $103.7 billion.

Japan, the world’s most generous donor before 2000, slipped to fifth last year among the 22 donors as the country saw its ODA spending drop by 30 percent from 2006 amid tightening spending limits.

This has sent shock waves through the Foreign Ministry as the government seeks to take a leadership role in African development ahead of the fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development in May in Yokohama and the G8 summit in July in Hokkaido, which also plans to highlight Africa as a key agenda item.

“This will be a crucial year for the world’s development assistance activities,” Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said in his opening speech at the Tokyo meeting, referring to the upcoming TICAD IV and the G8 summit.

“I would like to address the challenges (of poverty reduction and climate change) and show that the G8 countries are committed to strengthening their aid efforts.”

Komura said he is determined to reverse Japan’s dropoff in overseas aid.

The two-day meeting is the first of the several G8 ministerial gatherings in the leadup to the July summit, which will be attended by the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the U.S.

Senior officials from Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, South Korea and South Africa were also invited to this weekend’s meeting.

During Saturday’s session, the participants agreed on the importance of cooperation and dialogue between advanced economies and the emerging donors, according to a Foreign Ministry official.

They also shared the view that industrialized nations and the new donors should respect diversity and improve the outcome of the development projects by complementing the efforts of one another, the official said.



Japan has hoped to use the gathering to urge the emerging donors to be more transparent in their aid policies. Some Western nations have criticized China for giving massive financial aid to resource-rich African nations and other developing countries without taking into account the recipients’ poor governance or records of human rights abuses.


Global economic uncertainty has alarmed some observers that the industrialized nations may tighten their purse strings despite pledges at the 2005 G8 summit and other occasions to increase aid by a combined $50 billion by 2010 from the 2004 level.

The observers argue it is better to seek cooperation with the emerging donors rather than criticize them.

“We have to listen to China. Let’s look to the future what we can do together,” OECD DAC Chairman Eckhard Deutscher said on Friday.

Foreign Ministry officials said Japan wants to have the new donors share their own development experiences with countries, especially in Africa, that remain poor.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 15th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Subject: Imam Shamsi Ali, Rabbi Marc Schneier, Attorney Joel Cohen Could Teach A Thing Or Two Dr. Ban Ki-moon, UNSG, Right Here In Manhattan, So He Be Able To Navigate The Ship of The UN In Troubled Islamic Waters. The First Named Three Have Already Started On A Voyage Of Discovery.

Local Muslims must help cops target terror.

wrote IMAM SHAMSI ALI
on Wednesday, August 22, 2007, in The New York Daily News.  www.nydailynews.com

Be Our Guest
An NYPD report issued last week shined a spotlight on the growing threat of homegrown radicalism. As a member of the city’s Muslim community, I must say: By describing the problem clearly, the report is an important contribution to our understanding of the terrorist threat.
Indeed, I am honored the report cited an article of mine, published in the Daily News last year, as evidence that the city’s Islamic community sees a real danger in its midst. My commentary singled out a local radical group, the Islamic Thinkers Society, and warned against other poisonous elements.
In the wake of the NYPD report, people throughout the city’s Muslim community must now ensure an ongoing, aggressive effort to root out radicals in the five boroughs.
New Yorkers should understand: Some of this is already underway. Many prominent Muslim leaders are fully aware of a fringe element whose sentiments stem primarily from a misinterpretation of religious teachings as well as from international political tensions.
To counteract these influences, we have taken progressive, positive steps – working closely with youth to educate and advise against the dangers of radical ideas. We understand that if we consider confronting this hatred a job for the police alone, they – and we – will fail. It is neighbors, clerics, family members and friends who see dangerous patterns as they emerge. We are the ones clued into potential problems before they might turn deadly.
Regrettably, some in the Muslim community have had a one-sided reaction to the NYPD report. One prominent organization issued a statement saying the “sweeping generalizations and mixing of unrelated elements may serve to cast a pall of suspicion over the entire American Muslim community.”
While I agree with some of those words, it is critically important that we in the Muslim community acknowledge the undeniable scourge of homegrown radicalism even as we criticize others for making generalizations.
Yes, it is true: At times the NYPD report paints the Muslim community with too broad a brush. It fails to take note of the many changes that have taken place within our community over the years. I believe radicals are much more marginalized today than they were, for instance, 12 months ago.
And the report broadly identifies Muslim student associations, mosques, bookstores and other locations as possible hotbeds of radicalism. Such generalizations are not helpful. Finally, while the report correctly identifies “salafis” – members of a narrow strain of Islam – as the source of many radical views, it incorrectly identifies two prominent Muslims, Sayyid Qutb and Abul A’la Maududi, as salafis.
But on the central question, let there be no doubt: The Police Department has it right. Radicals who seek to incite hatred have been and remain a danger to New York.
Last September in these pages, I wrote: “There are local preachers who distort our faith to foment hatred of America. There are people who, rather than encouraging young people to build better lives for themselves, irresponsibly egg them on toward an angry and narrow view of the future. I see this danger every day.”
We must communicate clearly that such views have never and will never be accepted by mainstream Muslims. And the police must have more trust in – and a more nuanced understanding of – us. Only when we work hand in hand can we eradicate this very real threat.
Ali is deputy imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York and director of the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens.

Now Imam Shamsi Ali has replaced retired Imam Omar Abu Namous as Main guide to the Islamic Cultural Center of New York, the big Mosque at the corner of East (6 Street and 3rd Avenue in Manhattan.


We re-publish above today, because we had the good sense to go today to The New York Synagogue on East 58 Street, Manhattan, to witness the three people of our title in “THE DIALOGUE CONTINUES…”

What dialogue? Why do they say continues?
The short answer can be found by reading our posting of January 15, 2007. That is when this particular history started. Please see:

 www.sustainabilitank.info/2007/01…


Now to the longer answer – Today was Saturday “Zachor” so first let us say a few words about this particular Saturday which in Judaism is the Saturday of Shabbat Zachor. This is the Saturday where the Torah Portion that is read is about the first bad experience the Jewish Nation had after it was formed by the act of liberation described in the “coming out of Egypt” experience. We read about the columns of Jews marching through the desert towards their promised land – at that stage a peaceful march after the crossing of the sea experience. Now it is the people of Amalek that decide to attack them – and this is the first time the budding Nation has to fight – and God wants them to fight and eradicate the Amalek – but Moses hesitates to complete that order. When he holds his hands up – the Israelites win, but when he lowers his hands – the fighting does not go on well. Eventually his hands are propped up by two stones and the fighting ends with some of the Amalek escaping.

God decrees then “Zachor the Amalek” – that is remember the Amalek – which some interpreted as kill the Amalek whenever you see them, but 12th century greatest philosopher Maimonides said – not so fast – the idea is not to kill the Amalek, but to learn from that experience to judge Amalek-type treachery. That is – you are responsible “to protect” whenever someone behaves in treacherous ways like Amalek did. Only then you are entitled to kill in your self defense. That is the humanism of Moses that won out in the end – and that is the way all religions that regard the old testament as their basic book of belief understand above story today.

How nice it were if the UN and all its Member States would indeed behave according to the Maimonides explanation of “Zachor” – governments would indeed cary out their “responsibility to protect” their own citizens, as by the way, under the leadership of the previous UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, the UN actually got around finally to put this on its books – something that would obligate , for example, Sudan to protect its citizens in Darfur. On the other hand, Maimonides shuddered, like Moses must have shuddered, from the idea of genocide, and it would have been genocide indeed if all Amalek would have been eradicated. What we know today is that we are entitled to eradicate the Hitlers or the Bin Ladens of this world – in effect we are ordered by God to do so – the God that Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe in.

Now we know what is special in the date today – and by the way this special day was explained by Rabbi Schneier – and we immediately understood when reading later the NY Daily News article by Imam Shamsi Ali, that he also is in complete agreement with the the Maimonides interpretation of the Biblical text.

So, with both representatives of what some think are feuding religions agreeing on that all important text, so what is the problem? Surely, with the news that reach us daily from the Middle East it seems that – some over there – believe in the simplistic explanation that says someone becomes your enemy by birth – and that is the ground on which grows the insanity of suicide bombers. If you realize that there is an insanity in that behavior – why then allow such behavior in your own neighborhood right here in America – for example?


Brighter folks understand better, and when they happen to be living as minorities in countries of western civilization they wake up and realize that only by joining with their so-called enemies-by-birth in order to fight for greater common interest – the fight against “islamophobia” and “antisemitism” – that is when both sides could in effect be the winners in their own life.

The New York history started rolling a year ago when Rabbi Marc Schneier and attorney Joel Cohen (the latter belonging to the same law firm that years ago, because of efforts by Dr. Rita Hauser, brought about discussions between the State of Israel and the PLO) decided to reach out to Imam Omar Abu Namous of the Manhattan great Mosque. Rabbi Marc Schneier is President of the Foundation For Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) and he made it his business to find the common ground by starting on the voyage – saying – look – let us leave out the problems of the Middle East and let us first see if we can bridge the problems Jews and Muslims have right here. Our previous article describes what happened a year ago, and how people like Martin Luther King III, Russell Simmons and Steven Spielberg, and perhaps even the Ambassador of Qatar to the UN, were ready to lend a shoulder – and thus the voyage was started.

Now 24 moderate Muslim leaders from the UK wrote a press release where they said – signed with their names and titles – that what goes on in the Middle East is a misinterpretation of Islam. Islam does not allow for acts of suicide in the name of the religion. For me personally above statement is also sort of a vindication. After the infamy of 9/11 before the end of 2001, at a meeting of the Board of the Center for UN Reform Education (CURE) – I asked if anyone has heard of an Islamic cleric to say that the suicide bombers do not go to paradise, but rather, they go to hell? The majority at CURE, even though I just wrote for them the “Promptbook on Sustainable Development” that was distributed before the 2002 Johannesburg Summit to all UN Member States’ Governments – in New York and directly to their capitals, were appalled. Their instinctive feeling was that for polite discourse one must fudge over such issues, and they really knew nothing about the place of Wahhabism in all of this – even though they agreed with me that US dependence on Middle East oil is part of the problem.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) invited Rabbi Marc Schneier to their March 9, 2008 dinner and to speak about above “Muslim Call for Peace: Dialogue and Understanding Between Muslims and Jews.” And Imam Shamsi is being invited these days to various Jewish institutions to speak – so the dialogue started just a year ago is finally catching on – perhaps even faster then the originators dared to hope – and obviously – the Middle East is not kept out of this dialogue anymore.

Now, to March 15, 2008, at The New York Synagogue, “The Dialogue Continues….:” Imam Shamsi, who was born in Indonesia, and studied at Madrases there – religion, Koran, Arabic language – made it clear that the Islamic Madrasa is like the Jewish Midrash – a place of religious studies. The problem is what comes in because of daily experiences. The fact that Indonesia and Malaysia are away from the Palestinian experience brings about a much more moderate approach to the Middle East problems. Afghanistan and Pakistan have their own set of problems and their extremists are busy with those problems. The Majority of world Muslims live in that part of Asia. Strangely, Shiia Islam did not come up in the discussion – I realized this only now when writing about it – so the discussion was really only about the Sunnis that populate the immediate area of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and whenever extreme movements were mentioned it was only the Hamas. The Hezbolah was not mentioned – hardly anything about Iran.

Talking about the extremism of the Middle East, when asked about the Wahhabi influence – he said that there is a religious Wahhabism as a stream of extremist Islam, but there is also a political Wahhabism that is Saudi Arabia. Because he comes from a different background he, though Muslim, finds his disagreements with that extremism and he was attacked for not being on the extreme. The article we used as an introduction shows this, and “googling” we found articles directed against him – so Imam Shamsi is a brave man. He is ready to say that political Islam has highjacked religious Islam. The great majority of Muslims, though they are religious Muslims obligated to help other Muslims, will not agree to the radical methods applied in the Middle East that were instituted and supported by the Arab governments. To the direct question if he accepts the right of existence of a Jewish State in the Middle East – he unequivocally answered YES. He wants to see two separate states in the region – a Jewish State and a Palestinian State.

I tried my question in which I intended to enhance the cooperation between Jews and Muslims by getting the two groups, that try now to find common ground, to go even to higher ground – a common interest in – as ordered by the Bible – man is to be just the guardian of the earth so he can transmit life on earth to his children. That means a common interest in enviromentalism that today means also a reduction of CO2 emissions and less reliance on oil. The side effect of this being also a decrease in funds that are being misused by the likes of the political Wahhabists when they support the Wahhabi religious expansion.

I did not get an answer to my question, but intend to ask for the speakers’ comments to this posting.

Now to why I wrote that listening to the debate, the UN Secretary-General could have charged himself with arguments when faced with what he may think a phalanx of Arab Leaders bombarding him with common anti-Israeli rhetoric.
Further, letting them contribute to his UN staff appointees that dance to music provided by home-government – he gets the Middle East to twist and color everything the UN does. First start with the realization that the League of Arab States, all run by Sunni Arabs may have a large numerical presence at the UN, but they are in a minority when one looks at the Islamic global population. (OK, we know that the Shiia majority in Bahrain is now trying to raise their head – but the ruling house is still Sunni and by design, In Iraq the upper hand was Sunni. In Lebanon Islam is basically led by Sunni though the Iran supported Shiia will try to to act more like Sunni then even the Saudis, when it comes to Israeli problems.) The non-Arabs and the Shiia led by Iran, are actually better gauge for the future of Islam – but you would not know this at the UN. A majority of the Muslims, even in the States of the Arab League, will want to live a normal life of personal fulfilment if they were only given the chance.

From Imam Shamsi, and Rabbi Schneier’s discussion – it turned out that much of the Israeli-Palestinian problem is indeed an intra-Arab problem. This is indeed something so serious, that by not seeing it one ends up in complete disequilibrium when trying to view the region. In Dakar, the UNSG ended up becoming a prop to feuding Arab governments. By not putting a finger on the pulse of suffering Arabs, but by only talking to their governments, the real suffering of the people is not known to the UN – it is nevertheless possible for the Muslims right here in New York, to enlighten the UNSG – these meetings between Muslims and Jews in New York, and the statements that start to come out from the UK, are witness that there is no Islamic monolith to be frightened by. These activities are much more promissing then the Discussions about Civilizations that were orchestrated by the UN with the participation of the Islamic Government’s official delegations and the King of Spain.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 15th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Malaysia’s opposition emerges reborn.

By TION KWA, Saturday, March 15, 2008, The Asia Times.

SINGAPORE — In Malaysia’s recent elections, opposition parties managed their strongest showing since the country gained its independence from Britain in 1957, cutting the ruling coalition’s parliamentary majority to below two-thirds.

Where the country’s newly invigorated democracy goes from here rests with one man, Anwar Ibrahim, the deputy prime minister sacked by former Premier Mahathir Mohamad and later jailed.

Anwar can finally make the opposition a credible check on the National Front ruling coalition, but knows that he will never become prime minister this way. No one, after all, expects the opposition to win enough seats to form a government in the conceivable future. He can allow himself to be wooed back by his former party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the National Front’s leading member.

UMNO is widely believed to have held talks with Anwar before. Now, more than ever, it needs Anwar to re-establish its credibility. And, to become prime minister, Anwar needs UMNO.

Arguably, being inside UMNO and the government would allow Anwar to better institute the reforms he has so ardently advocated. But, before all that, Anwar needs to get himself elected to Parliament again.

Because of his prison term, Anwar was not able to run in the latest election. Instead, he acted as the de facto leader of a loose alliance among the three leading opposition forces — the Democratic Action Party (DAP), the Justice Party, and the Islamist PAS. Political restrictions on Anwar, however, end next month, and a member of Parliament from his Justice Party — probably his wife — is expected to step aside to allow him to run in a by-election.

If Anwar were to marry his leadership and charisma to the opposition’s newfound heft in the federal legislature — 82 MPs, compared with 20 in the last Parliament — serious policy alternatives to the government’s might be expected. Until now, the opposition has chiefly acted as an irritant, and voters viewed debates as entertainment, rather than as exchanges that informed policy.

For the same reason, policy platforms have never been important for the opposition in elections. Many who voted for the DAP on March 8, for example, are unlikely to have known or cared about what the party stood for.

Traditionally, people voted for the DAP or the Justice Party to show their displeasure with the National Front. Indeed, if ideas were important, a leftist party like the DAP would have found it difficult to cooperate with the PAS. But cooperate they did.

All this changes now that the National Front no longer has a two-thirds majority — which had allowed it to amend the constitution 40 times in 50 years. Parliament now will have to pay attention to any serious policy that the opposition proposes. But serious opposition will require serious leadership.

Strong leadership also is needed to protect the interests of the five states in which the opposition has now won control for the first time. Because the federal government disburses fiscal allocations to Malaysia’s 13 states, the government will be tempted to squeeze opposition-held states. Thus they will need strong advocacy at the federal level to ensure they receive their fair due.

What makes the National Front’s loss particularly dramatic has been its defeat in the state legislatures of Kelantan, Penang, Selangor, Perak and Kedah — large states with important industrial bases.

Urban and middle-class voters such as those in Penang — a predominantly Chinese state with strong opposition sentiment — had always voted to keep the state legislature under the National Front in order to ensure continued funding, while sending opposition candidates to Parliament to “pester” the National Front there.

This calculation has been abandoned, reflecting deep dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi’s administration and impatience for change.

Malaysia is now at a crossroads. For five decades, its democracy has not been premised on a daily test of ideas — whether between political parties or through grassroots engagement — that is then confirmed at the ballot box. There is still a newfound opportunity to improve governance, but only Anwar has the experience to provide that direction, because no one else in the opposition has worked in government at such a senior level as he has.

That said, it is likely that the UMNO, in its hour of crisis, will try to recruit Anwar. Arguably, the best legacy Anwar might eventually leave Malaysia would not be what he can achieve for the UMNO and the National Front, but what role he might play in entrenching a contest of ideas into Malaysian politics — a project he has shown himself keen to promote.

Tion Kwa is a fellow at the Asia Society.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 8th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

High debt levels can limit a sovereign government’s capacity to provide social services necessary for the well-being of its citizens, and divert resources and energy from the pursuit of long-term development strategies. this clearly worried the Carnegie Council for Ethics In International Affairs (CCEIA), New York City. They were instrumental in organizing a team to deal with the problem, and to bring it together in a volume that was published recently by Blackwell publishing under the title: “Dealing Fairly With Developing Country Debt.”
Edited by: Christian Barry, Barry Herman and Lydia Tomitova.

www.blackwellpublishing.com/book.asp?ref=978140518034

“In this book, philosophers, theologians, lawyers and economists examine questions related to how to deal fairly with the over-indebted governments of developing countries.”

March 6, 2008, The Carnegie Council had three of the book’s authors participate at a discussion with Devin T. Stewart, the Director of the Carnegie Global Policy Innovations CCEIA program. We will now address ourselves to that discussion, and we attach further information about the book, and some of its principal authors further down.

At the discussion participated Barry Herman, Jonathan Shafter and Lydia Tomitova. But before my going into what they said, let me already here mention that these days US Congress holds hearings on the exorbitant pay levels US bankers awarded themselves, and even better, right today, the Financial Times had an editorial: “Curbing the excess of bankers’ pay,” that was based on an Institute of International Finance meeting in Rio de Janeiro, right these days, that seems that even the bankers themselves have now second thoughts on performance in their profession. We also attach this article to our posting. All this to show that the subject is indeed the size of an elephant – and even though one attempts to study it, there might be a danger that all that large study may still be dealing just with one single foot of this elephant. My point is that we may indeed study as much as we want the debtor side, but if we do not address also the same amount of attention to the lender, we have ultimately come up with all the warts on the left hind leg of the elephant only.

Now, Barry Herman, with his almost 30 years experience at the UN has seen how in cases like Nigeria, Yugoslavia, developed countries preferred to discuss on debt at the IMF, but the developing countries were always interested to go rather to the UN. Those days there was the recession during the end of the Carter Administration – the beginning of the Reagan Administration, and interest rates were going up. Debtors were not able to repay neither principle nor interest. At the UN they hoped they could somehow talk themselves out of that situation – at the IMF they would have to restructure the debt. While loans are done in syndicate, it is possible for someone to organize the structure of the debt. Bonds is something else – here it is rather individual and the bonds are issued under different laws of the different countries – this without a central guiding hand. OK, the IMF can even turn the debt into bonds and you end up not seeing that the money ain’t there. In other cases, the loan was given to a country so they buy the products of the lender country’s industry. If there is any doubt that the payment will ever be received, there is also a benevolent export bank that provides the guarantees that turn the tax payers of the lender country into the ultimate suckers of that deal. (Caution here – these are our words, not Barry Herman’s words. He just told us about the IMF meeting at a sumptuous dinner in Paris and settling the problem right there.) The IMF will lend you when no-one else does – so in 1996 the poorest countries lined up at the IMF to write off the debt. But there is no agreement on how much has to be written off to leave the country in a sustainable position. The NGOs define now sustainable so that the country can still attain the MDGs. Will they?

Lydia Tomitova addressed the relationship between a sovereign debtor and the lender banker. It is up to the creditors to forgive and forget, but there are also Sovereign Lenders that are complex individuals.

Jonathan Shafter looked at private investment partnerships and “Odious Debt.” This is debt by an illegitimate government – like Sadam’s Iraq – how can this become the obligation of the people of Iraq? Like a good lawyer that is ready to argue any case – the “Straight Face Standard” is the lowest standard – here the lawyer knows he talks nonsense but has to do it without bursting into laughter. Clearly – from right to left – from CATO to Stiglitz (Prof. Joseph Stiglitz) there is an agreement to end the odious debt – but the problem – the debt has already incurred, the debt is a legitimate responsibility of the unlucky successor. The question indeed is why do we not make a policy regime that is forward looking rather then backward looking? (Bravo, that starts to look like we got a hint that there is a whole elephant in front of us!) That is a matter of regulatory design. Can we make something that will not affect legitimate global capital flows?

The International Law Argument: Odious debt is already today invalid. Russian scholars always said so. But if they do not clear the debt they will not be able to borrow in the future. There must be some legal differentiation between legal governments and those that do not have legal standing. Now that is not as clear cut as we would it to be – How do you explain the 2000 US Presidential elections – that were settle by a majority of one in the US Supreme court – to the members of the Turkish military, or the present Iranian government – who try to understand the concept of democracy?

The UN is not the forum to look into this.

Now Devin Stewart opened the meeting for questions to the panel and I said that I want to be a modern devil’s advocate in straight face. My question, based on what has been made obvious in the last month, is that the lender was pushing the money to the borrower like a drugs pusher. The lenders were dishing out money without thinking if there will be ever a return of these funds, and this is not just now with the housing mortgages’ scandal. It was just like this when the bankers were awash with the so called Petro-dollars and worked overtime at recycling those funds – that was one reason many countries ended up with unsustainable debt – restructuring and financial poisoning. Why not take the lender to task – it is in many cases that the lender did harm to the debtor by giving that easy money – look what happened to Brazil and Argentina.

On the other hand, in the case of Malaysia, no-one bothered noticing the high level of air pollution that could easily predict that there cannot be tourism that will make use of these huge hotels that were being built like crazy. So some private banks took serious losses, the economy collapsed, but useless buildings were standing intact – and that was a country where money was not stolen – just wasted.

 

After that comment, we heard some more about failed states that are also security problems, the Islamic banks that do not allow interest and are missing from the book. The NGO involvement at the Birmingham conferences and their talking of responsibility. from there to the 2002 Monterey Conference on Financing for Development and further calls to wipe out the debt. These things are like threads weaving in and out from the full picture. Just please read also the attached article from the Financial Times. The Lender Is Indeed the Guilty Party – this because those in charge of lending in the bank get compensated for the volume of their business, and not for its success. Nobody has yet mentioned the need to restructure their bonuses by having them help in some way pay for the losses they forced upon their stockholders, the debtors, the tax payers, or the economy at large. Those are other parts of the body of the whole elephant.
THE BOOK: Features articles from scholars and activists with backgrounds in philosophy, religion, law and economics.
Authors both contribute to our understanding of the principles that are relevant in determining how to deal more fairly with highly indebted developing countries, and the kinds of institutional reforms that these principles would demand under present circumstances.

Several chapters develop highly original proposals for reshaping the relationships between sovereign debtors and their creditors, while others provide richly detailed accounts of the role of religious and other influential groups in making the issue of excessive sovereign indebtedness an international cause.

Part I: The Matter of Fairness in Developing Country Debt: Excessive Indebtedness as an Ethical Problem

The Editors 1

The Players and the Game of Sovereign Debt – Barry Herman 9
Part II: Identifying Responsiblity for Sovereign Debt: Fairness in Sovereign Debt – Christian Barry and Lydia Tomitova 41

International Debt: The Constructive Implications of Some Moral Mathematics – Sanjay G. Reddy 81
Should they Honor the promises of Their Parents’ Leaders? – Axel Gosseries 99
Risks of Lending and Liability of Lenders – Kunibert Raffer 127
National Responsibility and the Just Distribution of Debt Relief -Alexander W. Cappelen, Rune Jansen Hagen, Bertil Tungodden 151
Part III: Perspectives from Theology

Judeo-Christian Tradition on Debt: Political, Not Just Ethical – Ton Veercamp 167

Making the Case for Jubilee: The Catholic Church and the Poor-Country Debt Movement – Elizabeth A. Donnelly 189

Argentina, the Church, and the Debt – Thomas J. Trebat 135-60
Part IV: International Policy Reforms

Achieving Democracy – Thomas Pogge 249
The Due Diligence Model: A New Approach to the Problem of Odious Debts – Jonathan Shafter 275
Reviving Troubled Economics – Jack Boorman 297
The Constructive Role of Private Creditors – Arturo C. Porzecanski 307
Resolving International Debt Crises Fairly – Ann Pettifor 321

Contributors 331

Index 335

About some of the authors:
Herman: After almost 30 years in the United Nations Secretariat dealing with sovereign debt and other financial issues in development, including in relation to the 2002 Monterrey Summit on Financing for Development, Barry Herman is now a visiting senior fellow at The New School’s new international affairs program.

Barry: Christian Barry is currently Lecturer in philosophy and Research Fellow at the Center for Applied Philosophy and Pubic Ethics at Australian National University. He holds a PhD in philosophy from Columbia University, where he was a Fellow at the Center for Law and Philosophy. Prior to joining the ANU, Barry was Editor of Ethics & International Affairs and served as a consultant and contributing author to three of the United Nations Human Development Reports.

Tomitova: Lydia Tomitova is currently pursuing a J.D. at Brooklyn Law School. Previously, she was Associate Editor of Ethics & International Affairs and Program Associate for Global Social Justice at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.

Publication Dates: USA – Jan 2008; Australia – Mar 2008,

360 pages, 20 illustrations.

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