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The China 5X8 in the news: the 88888 Beijing Olympics to start on August 8, 2008 8:08

China's Image: China Phalanx, China Central, China Federation - China's Choice.


 
China:

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 We were not that clever by ourselves – but recognized the depth of the Title “SHIMON THE LAST” a title used by Ernst Trost for a column in March 30th Sunday issue of The Vienna Kronen Zeitung.

The idea here is that the 91  year young Shimon Peres is the last active politician of the generation of the Founders of the State of Israel.

Born Szymon Perski (2 August 1923) in Wiszniew, Poland (now Vishnyeva, Belarus), the grand-son of a Rabbi he adored, he got an orthodox upbringing. He came to Palestine in   1934.

At 15, he started at Ben Shemen agricultural school and lived on Kibbutz Geva for several years.   Peres was one of the founders of Kibbutz Alumot.   In 1941 he was elected Secretary of Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed, a Labor Zionist youth movement, and in 1944 returned to Alumot, where he worked as a dairy farmer, shepherd and kibbutz secretary.

All of Peres’ relatives who remained in Wiszniew in 1941 were murdered in the the Holocaust, many of them (including his beloved grand-fatherRabbi Meltzer) burned alive in the town’s synagogue.

In 1947, Peres joined the Haganah, the predecessor of the Israel Defense Forces. David Ben-Gurion made him responsible for personnel and arms purchases.

He held several diplomatic and military positions during and directly after Israel’s War of Independence.

His first high-level government position was as Deputy Director-General of Defense in 1952, and Director-General from 1953 until  1959.

During his career, he has represented five political parties in the Knesset: Mapai, Rafi, the Alignment, Labor and Kadima, and has led Alignment and Labor. Peres won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize together with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat for the peace talks that he participated in as Israeli Foreign Minister, producing the Oslo Accords.

Shimon’s last political position was the two terms of Israel Presidency – a position from which he will retire in July 2014.

His official State visit With the President of Austria was his farewell trip to Europe. He expects still to visit China as well.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Ukraine: the view from China.

by: Nicu Popescu, senior analyst at the EU Institute for Security Studies in Paris, where he deals with the EU’s eastern neighbourhood and Russia-
now he extended it to China and the Asian States Former members pf the Soviet Union. China being the mirror Image to the EU with similar interests regarding the States that emerged from under the Russian leadership of the USSR.

Posted by EUobserver March 22, 2014.

With every new major international crisis – be it the Arab Spring, the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, recurrent emergencies in Africa, or the current Ukrainian-Russian tensions – it does not take long for diplomats and observers to start wondering ‘what does China think’. It is increasingly frequent during such crises for China to be put in the spotlight and expected to have a position on events and regions on which, until recently, Chinese opinions were barely worth a footnote. This is also true for the Crimean crisis. A few days into the crisis, the Russian foreign ministry announced that the Chinese and Russians shared “broadly coinciding points of view” on the situation.

Looking at China for comfort is driven by many factors. The rise of Chinese power is just one. In international public opinion China is often seen as a sort of ‘swing’ power, capable of tipping the political balance between entrenched political warriors whose preferences are already well known. On a crisis like the one in Crimea – which elicits completely different narratives from Russia, on the one hand, and the EU and US on the other – the Chinese are seen by some as a potentially less subjective or biased source of opinions. In this sense, China can offer surprises. After the 2008 Russia-Georgian war the Chinese maintained public politeness towards Russia but, in private, were clearly against the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia – thereby helping Central Asian countries resist alleged Russian pressures to recognise the independence of those entities.

Hence the rush by Russia to claim Chinese support for its actions in Ukraine – as an effort to claim greater legitimacy for its military invasion of a post-Soviet state. However, the claim that China is on Russia’s side is spurious.

China and the EU

The Chinese approach to the situation in Ukraine is driven by competing pressures. Its overall approach to the post-Soviet space is quite similar – or rather parallel – to that of the European Union as it is based on two equally important pillars: an evident desire to have good relations with Russia and a strong interest in not seeing the resurgence of a Russian empire and in supporting the independence of post-Soviet states. The difference here is that, for the EU, the Eastern Partnership states are of primary importance while, for China, the Central Asian countries are. In this respect, Brussels’ and Beijing’s interests and views regarding the post-Soviet states are both close and complementary. China would also like to see Central Asia become a higher priority for the EU – and it has been in principle favourable to the EU’s Association with countries like Ukraine.

Even their toolboxes are not dissimilar in that they mainly rely on political dialogue and economic integration. The EU offered Russia and other post-Soviet states trade integration. Russia has de facto, though not formally, rejected the offer which has been on the table for over a decade. China made a similar offer: it proposed the creation of a Free Trade Area within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, but Russia has refused that too. And now China is suggesting the creation of a ‘Silk Road Beltway’ through Central Asia as a vehicle for economic integration.

In both cases, Russia refused to go along with EU and Chinese initiatives, preferring to launch its Customs Union. The problem is that the Russian-led Customs Union would complicate the existing trade relations between the EU, China and the post-Soviet countries. This is not irrelevant since the EU is the biggest trading partner for Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan – while China is the biggest trading partner for Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

As is the case for the EU approach to Russia, it is not uncommon for China’s binary objectives (having good relations with Russia and supporting the independence of post-Soviet states) to clash each and every time Russia tries to assert its influence through economic, political or even military coercion. The Chinese think the crisis in Ukraine as a “headache” . It creates new problems in their relations with Russia since they cannot say either yes or no to their request for diplomatic support.

China and Ukraine

The Chinese strongly disapprove the Russian military intervention in Ukraine at several levels. Russia is an opportunistic supporter of the principle of state sovereignty: it resists military or political interventions in Kosovo, Iraq, or Syria, but practices such interventions in Georgia and Ukraine, while piling up pressure on other post-Soviet states. China is more consistent in its respect of sovereignty as it does not support or practice open military interventions, though it can still be tough with its neighbours.

The easy recourse by Russia to military means of power projection is also worrying for the Chinese with regard to Central Asia. It is not unimaginable that a country like Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan face a messy succession when their current ageing leaders have left the political stage. The question from a Chinese perspective is then: if such an intervention can take place in Ukraine, why should it not happen in Kazakhstan, too, provided there is a pretext for that?

There also are a number of Ukraine-specific reasons for China to be less than enchanted with Russia’s military behaviour. To begin with, China has just engaged in a 10 billion USD project to build a deep-water port in Crimea, the function of which would be to redistribute cargo flows from the East to Europe. Any uncertainty in Crimea thus affects this project, especially in the event of a de facto secession.

China also had a general preference for Ukraine to have closer links with the EU. The Chinese are inclined to think that Ukraine was moving closer to the EU, even under Yanukovich. They believe that the main debate within Ukraine was on how fast – and Yanukovich was in favour of a slower path. Yet, the direction towards the EU was still clear for the Chinese. In fact, a Ukraine embedded in a free trade area with the EU and with an improved business climate could offer extra advantages to Chinese business, especially if the new ‘silk road’ project takes shape. Ukraine would then give China a direct inland access to the European market.

On the other hand, while the strategic objectives of China overlap significantly with those of the EU, Beijing strongly rejected the tactics of the Ukrainian revolution. On that, China’s view is much closer to Russia’s: the overthrow of an autocratic regime by popular protesters is not something to its liking. And Yanukovich’s attempts to supress the Kiev revolt Tiananmen-style were also unlikely to provoke Chinese ire. Just like Russia, China hoped the 21 February agreement between the opposition and the President, giving him a lease of political life until December, would hold. Suspicion of US meddling is another factor bringing Russian and Chinese tactical views of the situation closer to one another.

In sum, sympathy with the European strategic interests in the post-Soviet space coupled with sympathy with the Russian assessment of the tactics of the revolution. None of these instincts is likely to be expressed in public. The China-Russia relationship is hidden under a much thicker layer of smiles, politeness and hypocrisy than the Russia-EU relationship – which often slides into impolite and ‘frank’ exchanges.

Chinese president Xi Jinping, over the phone with American president Obama, has “urged for a political and diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian crisis” says XinHua news agency. However, Chinese interests in Eastern Europe remain too small for Beijing to take an open and vocal stance – at least for now, and as long as Russia’s aggressive actions do not reach into Central Asia.

Nicu Popescu and Camille Brugier, EUISS Alert, March 2014.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 21st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

Photo

Peter T. Grauer, chairman of Bloomberg L.P., said being in China “occupies a lot of our thinking.” Credit Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

 

HONG KONG — The chairman of Bloomberg L.P. said in a speech here on Thursday that the company should have reconsidered articles that deviated from its core of coverage of business news, because they jeopardized the huge sales potential for its products in the Chinese market.

The comments by the chairman, Peter T. Grauer, represented the starkest acknowledgment yet by a senior Bloomberg executive that the ambitions of the news division should be assessed in the context of the business operation, which provides the bulk of the company’s revenue. They also signaled which of those considerations might get priority.

Acknowledging the vast size of the Chinese economy, the world’s second-biggest after that of the United States, Mr. Grauer, said, “We have to be there.”

“We have about 50 journalists in the market, primarily writing stories about the local business and economic environment,” Mr. Grauer said in response to questions after a speech at the Asia Society. “You’re all aware that every once in a while we wander a little bit away from that and write stories that we probably may have kind of rethought — should have rethought.”

Photo

In Hong Kong’s financial district a screen shows the Bloomberg Channel. Bloomberg relies on sales of its terminals world for about 82 percent of its revenue. Credit Tyrone Siu/Reuters

 

Bloomberg, the financial data and news company, relies on sales of its terminals, which are ubiquitous on bankers’ desks around the world, for about 82 percent of its $8.5 billion in revenue. But sales of those terminals in China declined after the company published an article in June 2012 on the family wealth of Xi Jinping, at that time the incoming Communist Party chief. After its publication, officials ordered state enterprises not to subscribe to the service. Mr. Grauer did not specifically mention the article about Mr. Xi or any other articles.

Mr. Grauer’s comments on Bloomberg’s journalistic priorities in China reflect what some Bloomberg employees say is a re-emphasis on financial news, and skepticism from the business side about whether investigative journalism is worth the potential problems it could create for terminal sales.

A Bloomberg spokesman in New York said the company would have no comment on Mr. Grauer’s remarks.

A day earlier, Justin B. Smith, the chief executive of the Bloomberg Media Group, outlined an ambitious growth strategy for the news unit that would require expansion and increased investment. In a memorandum posted on the website Medium, he wrote: “Bloomberg Media is setting out to build a leading digitally led, multiplatform media company for global business. We want to become the indispensable source of information for the world’s most influential people.”

Bloomberg, controlled by the billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg, who returned to the company at the beginning of this year after 12 years as mayor of New York City, employs about 125 people in mainland China across its businesses, which also include providing data about the country’s currency and bond futures markets.

“Being in China is very much a part of our long-term strategy and will continue to be so going forward,” Mr. Grauer said. “It occupies a lot of our thinking — Dan Doctoroff, our C.E.O.; me; Mike; and other members of our senior team.    After the article about the Xi family’s wealth was published, Chinese officials also blocked Bloomberg’s website on Chinese servers, and the company has been unable to get residency visas for new journalists. Other news organizations have come under similar pressure. The websites of The New York Times, including a new Chinese-language edition, were blocked when it published an article in October 2012 on the family wealth of Wen Jiabao, then the prime minister. Like Bloomberg, The Times has not received residency visas for new journalists.

In November, several news outlets, including The New York Times, published reports quoting unidentified Bloomberg employees saying that top editors at the company, led by Matthew Winkler, editor in chief of Bloomberg News, did not publish an investigative article because of fears the company would be expelled from China. Mr. Winkler denied that the article had been killed.

A reporter who was the co-writer of the unpublished investigative article — and who had been a lead reporter on the Xi family wealth article in 2012 — left Bloomberg News shortly after reports of the controversy were published in November. He joined The New York Times in January.

Some current and former Bloomberg journalists, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they had hoped the controversy surrounding Bloomberg’s China reporting would prompt the company to reaffirm its support for investigative efforts. Mr. Grauer’s comments were met with dismay, particularly because he is regarded as close to Mr. Bloomberg and would be unlikely to voice views that were not broadly accepted at the top of the company.

In his comments on Thursday, Mr. Grauer did not provide figures for the size of Bloomberg’s business in China. One former executive said in November that the company had about 2,000 to 2,500 terminals in mainland China, out of 300,000 terminals worldwide.

Mr. Grauer said the company was investing aggressively in fast-growing emerging markets, including China and dozens of other countries. Such nations account for about 12 percent of people who use Bloomberg terminals, but 30 percent of its sales in the year to date, he said.

“Our approach is pretty much to tune out all the news about weaknesses in the emerging markets,” Mr. Grauer said. “We’re investing full speed ahead.”

In recent weeks, Mr. Bloomberg has taken up residence on the fifth floor of his company’s New York headquarters, which primarily houses the television operation of Bloomberg News. The glass of a small conference room has been frosted since he arrived, and he uses it to take Spanish lessons, an employee said. His influence within the editorial unit has also increased since he left city hall, said people with knowledge of the operation, who insisted on anonymity in discussing internal operations.

Bloomberg has moved swiftly to put behind it a scandal in which its journalists were found to have used data from the terminals, like contact information, to help report stories. Reporters have been instructed in meetings, employees said, to avoid the use of proprietary information and to identify themselves clearly as from the news division. The aim, said one person present, has clearly been to assure terminal customers that their information is safe.

 

Neil Gough reported from Hong Kong and Ravi Somaiya reported from New York.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Professor Timmons Roberts and I would like to share with you our new policy paper published by Brookings Institution on Chinese-Latin American relations in a carbon constrained world.

The paper can be downloaded here: www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2014/03/carbon-partnership-china-latin-america-edwards-roberts

 

Best wishes,
Guy Edwards
Below we include the executive summary: 
China’s rapidly increasing investment, trade and loans in Latin America may be entrenching high-carbon development pathways in the region, a trend scarcely mentioned in policy circles. High-carbon activities include the extraction of fossil fuels and other natural resources, expansion of large-scale agriculture and the energy-intensive stages of processing natural resources into intermediate goods. 

 

This paper addresses three examples, including Chinese investments in Venezuela’s oil sector and a Costa Rican oil refinery, and Chinese investment in and purchases of Brazilian soybeans. We pose the question of whether there is a tie between China’s role in opening up vast resources in Latin America and the way those nations make national climate policy and how they behave at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations. 

 

China and Latin America have a critical role to play to ensure progress is made before the 2015 deadline, since they together account for approximately 40 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Several Latin American nations are world leaders in having reached high levels of human development while emitting very low levels of greenhouse gases. Several have publicly committed to ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. Staying on or moving to low-carbon pathways is critical for these countries, but substantial Chinese investments in natural resources and commodities—when combined with those of other nations and firms—run the risk of taking the region in an unsustainable direction.

 

Chinese investments and imports of Latin American commodities may be strengthening the relative power of political and commercial domestic constituencies and of “dirty” ministries (e.g. ministries of mining, agriculture or energy) vis-à-vis environmental and climate change ministries and departments. These “cleaner” ministries are traditionally weak and marginalized actors in the region. China may thus be inadvertently undermining Latin American countries’ attempts to promote climate change policies by reinforcing and strengthening actors within those countries and governments that do not prioritize climate change and who have often seen environmental efforts as an impediment to economic growth.

 

China has stated that it is interested in cooperating with Latin America on combating climate change, but official bilateral or multilateral exchanges on the issue outside of the UNFCCC negotiations have been limited. Both China and Latin America could benefit substantially by refocusing on opportunities for low-carbon growth such as renewable energy. China’s growing influence in global renewable energy markets presents excellent opportunities to invest in clean energy in Latin America.

 

China and Latin American countries could launch a climate change initiative through the newly created China-CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) Forum, focused on financing the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, forestry, energy and transport, as well as sharing technology and strategies for adapting to climate impacts. Chinese-Latin American relations should also mainstream environmental protection and low-carbon sustainable growth into their partnership, to avoid pushing countries in the region towards high-carbon pathways.


Research FellowCenter for Environmental Studies
Co-Director of the Climate and Development Lab

Brown University
Box 1943
135 Angell Street
Providence, RI 02912

climatedevlab.org/
www.intercambioclimatico.com/en/author/guy/

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 25th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

china and the world discuss the environment

The new capitalist manifesto.

by

John Elkington

From Rio+20 to the birthday of Silent Spring, this year’s sustainability milestones mark decades of effort, writes John Elkington. Now the agenda is shifting its focus to the large-scale remodelling of capitalism. 
Some people raised their eyebrows when, in a 2009 study called “The Phoenix Economy”, we concluded that the world was not in a simple recession, nor even in a double-dip variant, but instead that it had entered one of those periodic, fundamental restructurings of the global economy that take decades to work through.  The drivers this time around, we argued, include the obsolescence of an increasingly global economic model that has served us fairly well since World War II, coupled with an accelerating shift of at least some parts of the global economy to Asia, and particularly to China.
But we also spotlighted a growing interest in what some call “sustainable capitalism” – an appetite for change that is so far very poorly represented in the UN-led climate conferences in places like Copenhagen and Durban.
For an idea of what this might mean in practice, it will be well worth taking a look at the “Manifesto for Sustainable Capitalism”, due for launch shortly by Generation Investment Management—and which has already been spotlighted in The Wall Street Journal by Generation’s founders, former US vice-president Al Gore and former Goldman Sachs investment banker David Blood.
Unfortunately, as we noted in 2009, history suggests that a prolonged downturn is needed if we genuinely want to burn out the old economic mindsets, business models and technologies, and open up the space for new ones better adapted to the conditions of the twenty-first century. Now, as we enter 2012, it is worth taking stock and considering whether there is much evidence, either way, of progress towards the Phoenix Economy. “We are once again facing one of those rare turning points in history when dangerous challenges and limitless opportunities cry out for clear, long-term thinking,”
Blood and Gore argue in their Wall Street Journal article. “The disruptive threats now facing the planet are extraordinary: climate change, water scarcity, poverty, disease, growing income inequality, urbanisation, massive economic volatility and more. Businesses cannot be asked to do the job of governments, but companies and investors will ultimately mobilize most of the capital needed to overcome the unprecedented challenges we now face.”
But what do they suggest business leaders – what we might call the Global C-Suite – do next?
They recommend “five key actions for immediate adoption by companies, investors and others to accelerate the current incremental pace of change to one that matches the urgency of the situation.”
First, they encourage CEOs and other senior business leaders to identify and account for the growing risk from “stranded assets”. These are risks “whose value would dramatically change, either positively or negatively, when large externalities are taken into account – for example, by attributing a reasonable price to carbon or water. So long as their true value is ignored, stranded assets have the potential to trigger significant reductions in the long-term value of not just particular companies but entire sectors.” We have been here before, they note. The true value of subprime mortgages was recognised very late in the day and mortgage-backed assets had to be repriced in short order. 
Second, they call for mandatory integrated reporting, something that is now being pushed by the International Integrated Reporting Committee. “Despite an increase in the volume and frequency of information made available by companies,” they say, “access to more data for public equity investors has not necessarily translated into more comprehensive insight into companies. Integrated reporting addresses this problem by encouraging companies to integrate both their financial and ESG [environmental, social and governance] performance into one report that includes only the most salient or material metrics.”
Third, they call for an end to the practice of issuing quarterly earnings guidance. “The quarterly calendar frequently incentivises executives to manage for the short-term,” they conclude. “It also encourages some investors to overemphasise the significance of these measures at the expense of longer-term, more meaningful measures of sustainable value creation. Ending this practice in favor of companies’ issuing guidance only as they deem appropriate (if at all) would encourage a longer-term view of the business.” Fourth, and a strongly linked point, they see a critical step to be the better alignment of senior executive compensation structures with long-term sustainable performance. “Most existing compensation schemes,” they warn, “emphasise short-term actions and fail to hold asset managers and corporate executives accountable for the ramifications of their decisions over the long-term. Instead, financial rewards should be paid out over the period during which these results are realised and compensation should be linked to fundamental drivers of long-term value, employing rolling, multiyear milestones for performance evaluation.” And, fifth, there is a growing need to incentivise and reward long-term investing with “loyalty-driven securities”. The logic here is that “the dominance of short-termism in the market fosters general market instability and undermines the efforts of executives seeking long-term value creation. The common argument that more liquidity is always better for markets is based on long-discredited elements of the now-obsolete ‘standard model’ of economics, including the illusion of perfect information and the assumption that markets tend toward equilibrium.” To counter such short-termism “companies could issue securities that offer investors financial rewards for holding onto shares for a certain number of years.” An immensely turbulent 2011 is being followed by a year marked by an extraordinary number of sustainability milestones. Most obviously, we have the UN’s Rio+20 Earth Summit. Then there will be the twenty-fifth anniversaries of the Brundtland Commission report, Our Common Future, and of SustainAbility, the company I co-founded in 1987. But there’s more. Many will celebrate the fortieth anniversary of 1972’s The Limits to Growth study which first laid out the “Peak Resources” agenda, and the fiftieth of 1962’s Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s book that sparked the Environmental Revolution.

Some will find it strange that businesses like Generation Investment Management are now signalling the next round of the sustainability agenda, but as the focus shifts to the large-scale remodelling of capitalism for the new century, this feels like the logical trajectory for the next 20, 25, 40 or 50 years.

——————————————-

John Elkington is executive chairman at Volans and non-executive director at SustainAbility. He blogs at www.johnelkington.com and tweets at @volansjohn.
www.chinadialogue.net/article/4732-The-new-capitalist-manifestoHomepage image by Ihuiz 
==============================================

We found above posting while looking up for the original Al Gore and David Blood article in the Wall Street Journal that was sent to us by a new friend we met at a Brazilian American Chamber of Commerce Panel on “2014 Brazil Economic and Political Outlook.” On that meeting we will report later – but for now we will just follow up on a clip our new friend sent us.

 

That original Gore and Blood article had several WSJ versions – starting November 5, 2008 – and the most recent one was:

A Manifesto for Sustainable Capitalism

How businesses can embrace environmental, social and governance metrics.

December 14, 2011

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, when the United States was preparing its visionary plan for nurturing democratic capitalism abroad, Gen. Omar Bradley said, “It is time to steer by the stars, and not by the lights of each passing ship.” Today, more than 60 years later, that means abandoning short-term economic thinking for “sustainable capitalism.”

We are once again facing one of those rare turning points in history when dangerous challenges and limitless opportunities cry out for clear, long-term thinking. The disruptive threats now facing the planet are extraordinary: climate change, water scarcity, poverty, disease, growing income inequality, urbanization, massive economic volatility and more. Businesses cannot be asked to do the job of governments, but companies and investors will ultimately mobilize most of the capital needed to overcome the unprecedented challenges we now face.

Before the crisis and since, we and others have called for a more responsible form of capitalism, what we call sustainable capitalism: a framework that seeks to maximize long-term economic value by reforming markets to address real needs while integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics throughout the decision-making process.

Such sustainable capitalism applies to the entire investment value chain—from entrepreneurial ventures to large public companies, seed-capital providers to institutional investors, employees to CEOs, activists to policy makers. It transcends borders, industries, asset classes and stakeholders.

Those who advocate sustainable capitalism are often challenged to spell out why sustainability adds value. Yet the question that should be asked instead is: “Why does an absence of sustainability not damage companies, investors and society at large?” From BP to Lehman Brothers, there is a long list of examples proving that it does.

CorbisMoreover, companies and investors that integrate sustainability into their business practices are finding that it enhances profitability over the longer term. Experience and research show that embracing sustainable capitalism yields four kinds of important benefits for companies:

• Developing sustainable products and services can increase a company’s profits, enhance its brand, and improve its competitive positioning, as the market increasingly rewards this behavior.

• Sustainable capitalism can also help companies save money by reducing waste and increasing energy efficiency in the supply chain, and by improving human-capital practices so that retention rates rise and the costs of training new employees decline.

• Third, focusing on ESG metrics allows companies to achieve higher compliance standards and better manage risk since they have a more holistic understanding of the material issues affecting their business.

• Researchers (including Rob Bauer and Daniel Hann of Maastricht University, and Beiting Cheng, Ioannis Ioannou and George Serafeim of Harvard) have found that sustainable businesses realize financial benefits such as lower cost of debt and lower capital constraints.

Sustainable capitalism is also important for investors. Mr. Serafeim and his colleague Robert G. Eccles have shown that sustainable companies outperform their unsustainable peers in the long term. Therefore, investors who identify companies that embed sustainability into their strategies can earn substantial returns, while experiencing low volatility.

Because ESG metrics directly affect companies’ long-term value, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, foundations and the like—investors with long-term liabilities—should include these metrics as an essential aspect of valuation and investment strategy. Sustainable capitalism requires investors to be good investors, to fully understand the companies they invest in and to believe in their long-term value and potential.

We recommend five key actions for immediate adoption by companies, investors and others to accelerate the current incremental pace of change to one that matches the urgency of the situation:

• Identify and incorporate risk from stranded assets. “Stranded assets” are those whose value would dramatically change, either positively or negatively, when large externalities are taken into account—for example, by attributing a reasonable price to carbon or water. So long as their true value is ignored, stranded assets have the potential to trigger significant reductions in the long-term value of not just particular companies but entire sectors.

That’s exactly what occurred when the true value of subprime mortgages was belatedly recognized and mortgage-backed assets were suddenly repriced. Until there are policies requiring the establishment of a fair price on widely understood externalities, academics and financial professionals should strive to quantify the impact of stranded assets and analyze the subsequent implications for investment opportunities.

• Mandate integrated reporting. Despite an increase in the volume and frequency of information made available by companies, access to more data for public equity investors has not necessarily translated into more comprehensive insight into companies. Integrated reporting addresses this problem by encouraging companies to integrate both their financial and ESG performance into one report that includes only the most salient or material metrics.

This enables companies and investors to make better resource-allocation decisions by seeing how ESG performance contributes to sustainable, long-term value creation. While voluntary integrated reporting is gaining momentum, it must be mandated by appropriate agencies such as stock exchanges and securities regulators in order to ensure swift and broad adoption.

• End the default practice of issuing quarterly earnings guidance. The quarterly calendar frequently incentivizes executives to manage for the short-term. It also encourages some investors to overemphasize the significance of these measures at the expense of longer-term, more meaningful measures of sustainable value creation. Ending this practice in favor of companies’ issuing guidance only as they deem appropriate (if at all) would encourage a longer-term view of the business.

• Align compensation structures with long-term sustainable performance. Most existing compensation schemes emphasize short-term actions and fail to hold asset managers and corporate executives accountable for the ramifications of their decisions over the long-term. Instead, financial rewards should be paid out over the period during which these results are realized and compensation should be linked to fundamental drivers of long-term value, employing rolling multi-year milestones for performance evaluation.

• Incentivize long-term investing with loyalty-driven securities. The dominance of short-termism in the market fosters general market instability and undermines the efforts of executives seeking long-term value creation. The common argument that more liquidity is always better for markets is based on long-discredited elements of the now-obsolete “standard model” of economics, including the illusion of perfect information and the assumption that markets tend toward equilibrium.

To push against this short-termism, companies could issue securities that offer investors financial rewards for holding onto shares for a certain number of years. This would attract long-term investors with patient capital and would facilitate both long-term value creation in companies and stability in financial markets.

Ben Franklin famously said, “You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.” Today we have an opportunity to steer by the stars and once again rebuild for the long-term. Sustainable capitalism will create opportunities and rewards, but it will also mean challenging the pernicious orthodoxy of short-termism. As we face an inflection point in the global economy and the global environment, the imperative for change has never been greater.

Mr. Gore, chairman of Generation Investment Management, is a former vice president of the United States. Mr. Blood is managing partner of Generation Investment Management.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From:  Policy & Corporate Programs The Korea Society
950 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10022
policy@koreasociety.org
212-759-7525

 David Lee, CEO of Shakr Media spoke at The Korea Society  on Korea and Startups.

David Lee is the founder & CEO of Shakr Media, the Seoul & SF-based startup that makes great video accessible to everyone. David has built an international development team in Seoul, while raising $2.75M in venture capital from both Korean & U.S. investors including NHN Investment and 500 Startups.
Under David’s leadership, Shakr has appeared as a presenter at Techcrunch Disrupt’s Startup Battlefield in Beijing, and has earned top honors at beLAUNCH 2013 in Seoul and beGLOBAL 2013 in Palo Alto.

Attention to South Korea becoming the next Global Hub for Tech Startups comes from Alan McGlade of Forbes Magazine:“American business has long led the way in high tech density or the proportion of businesses that engage in activities such as Internet software and services, hardware and semiconductors. The US is fertile ground for tech start-ups with access to capital and a culture that celebrates risk taking. Other countries have made their mark on the world stage, competing to be prominent tech and innovation hubs. Israel has been lauded as a start-up nation with several hundred companies getting funded by venture capital each year. A number of these companies are now being acquired by the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google. Finland and Sweden have attracted notice by bringing us Angry Birds and Spotify among others. But a new start-up powerhouse is on the horizon – South Korea.”

Bloomberg News recently published the Bloomberg Global Innovation Index and ranked South Korea first among all nations by comparing a group of indicators such as research & development capability, productivity, tech density and patent activity. South Korea’s ranking is not a surprise. In recent decades, South Korea has transformed into an economic heavyweight, having systematically applied substantial resources to research and development. As a result, South Korea has become the world leader in patent activity, and information and communication technology. The country has the highest broadband penetration in the world at 97 percent and is a leader in broadband speed with an average peak connection of close to 50 megabits per second.
Increasingly young technologists are fueling a fledgling start-up scene that is led by mobile game developers and social media innovators. This is complemented by entrepreneurs returning from overseas with an eye on conquering the globe.  These entrepreneurs are coming back with a sense of how to take on the US market, a greater willingness to assume risk, and an interest in building things that aren’t just made for Korea.  This has attracted the notice of American technology companies. Google has taken an active role in nurturing South Korean companies, introducing their favorites in the US to help them build a global profile. A company called Sparklabs was formed a little over a year ago with offices in Seoul and San Francisco to incubate Korean start-ups.
It is logical for South Korea to follow this path. The country is smaller than the state of New York, is not rich in oil or other natural resources, and has limited agriculture and manufacturing capacity. Korean’s must promote technology and innovation to be competitive as a nation since it is not enough to just contend on cost or scale. While the South Korean Chaebols, or large family-controlled corporate groups, focus on exporting and manufacturing, there is a clear recognition that South Korea needs to have a more diverse economy. Thus, the tides are shifting towards supporting smaller businesses and promoting entrepreneurship.
Many of the fundamentals are already in place. Just as Samsung transformed the consumer electronics business, Korean start-ups are poised to have an explosive impact on digital media and services.
To me the most interesting thing I heard from Mr. David Lee was his description of the recent evolution of the Korean psyche – it is really based on the fact that the country developed so much in the last 20 years and the fact that the young people have taken ownership of this success. He said that “they feel they own the story and are proud of it” and that this is the secret of their success. This success is here – in he Palo Alto and New York City High Tech region and in the fact that many of these young people go now back to Korea and are ready to be creative at home.
Sounded interesting – and led me to decide the following day to go and have lunch – under the New York Restaurant Week plan – at the newest high-quality Korean Restaurant in town – the Kristabelli (near Fifth Avenue  at 8 W. 36th Street). As expected – the place filled up with young Koreans.
The lower cost these two weeks was seemingly what brought in this clientele. They came not just because it was an eatery – but seemingly to enjoy their time there. It is al these little dishes and close attention to the food that stretched out my lunch for nearly two hours. The three course meal ($25)
Gujeolplan (an Emperor’s Assortment of nine different thinly sliced sauteed vegetables and beef served with blini stile small crepes, a rib eye cut small barbeque with lots of additives and some blini in a vinaigrette  liquid, and a terrific ice cream bread pudding for desert – and  paired with three containers of Korean wines ($15) – a rice wine infused with sweet potato vodka, a black raspberry wine and a plum flower wine. Quite interesting when one thinks that 20 years ago Korean immigrants  in New York were known only as vegetable marketeers and for finger-nail cosmetic stores.
Thinking of our website and the fact that from start I had Korea as one of the promising Nations on my homepage – I feel totally justified. Further, obviously, helped by the US originally, now I think that further advancement by Korea calls for a more independent policy by South Korea.
It is obvious that all powers – China, Japan, India, the US, Russia – have no interest in the reunification of Korea – but the Koreans themselves ought to keep Germany in mind and learn from the German experience that through re-unification they have a chance to grow. This is simply a question of an internal market that makes them independent of the vagaries of a global market. Forget any kind of revenge – just work hard to supply the unending needs of a backward North Korea like Germany did for East Germany. This will then bring Korea into the front line of the emerged powers and the real competitor with China in its region.
Further – looking up the maps – North Korea borders Manchuria of China – the Jilin and Liaoning Provinces and there is an Autonomous Prefecture for Koreans at the border – Yanbian – in the Jilin Province. The kind of place that might someday lead to conflict. Also, the islands in the Yellow Sea (Korea Bay and Bohai Sea) were divided amicably between North Korea and China in 1962 as per the ethnicity of the inhabitants. This again may eventually be disputed.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Actually – the title of the speech at the lunch organized yesterday by the Brazilian, Colombian, Ecuadorean Peruvian and Venezuelan – American Associations or Chambers of Commerce “- with Dr. Ocampo – was: “IS THE COMMODITY BOOM IN LATIN AMERICA ENDING?

The speaker who is now professor at Columbia University is very well known to us since his having been Finance Minister in Colombia, an official at the World Bank and the UN and member of many studies and panels – in effect searching our own website one finds many references to him.

Traditionally, Latin America is an exporter of Natural Resources we call Commodities because we used to say they are fungible – if the producer wants to increase price we will go to someone else who makes the same product – so exchanges just dealt with the bulk in many cases even not specializing – that is except for just a few items like sugar, coffee, cocoa, but forget wood, minerals, oil, coal – these were just means of getting the resources of the South to an industrialized North at fire-sale prices.  In the exporting countries  a few in the government circle got rich – and the many got meager salaries provided they played the game. Country economies were measured in GDP terms without any attention to who gets that income and why.

We know that the World economy had a slow down – but commodity purists say that 2004 – 2007 was the best time for commodity exports in the last three decades. Now they look at the possibility  that World Growth Prospects are slowing by much and this is not just in the movement of goods.

In effect Dr. Ocampo enlarged the subject also to Migrant flows and Remittances, and access to International Financial markets – that were best since the second half of the 1970s.

What has happened since 2011 is that growth has slowed by 30% despite a strong business cycle – not any different then in the US itself I must add – and this must be an eye opener to all those young unemployed that prepared themselves for a life on the boom. Dr. Ocampo found within the commodity business boom also a South-North regional pattern that will harm poverty reduction efforts – and he reaches the conclusion that due to the weakening of the World Trade, the space for orthodox export-led policies may be over, he said. On the other hand, a pure inwards-looking strategy would work only for very few countries – perhaps Brazil – he said.

So, he advises an aggressive export diversification strategy;
A reorientation towards Asia – that means China – but this works only with diversification;
A sponsored expansion of the domestic markets.

When it came to the Q&A – a question that seemed to me out of place was about entrepreneurs and small business. This is indeed very important for the social structure of the country, and for the economy at large – but does not touch the Commodity issue because that issue was always in BIG Hands.

I tendered a different question which I predicated by saying that I am trying to deconstruct the concept of Commodities – a concept that in my eyes never had standing in the economy.

I mentioned that some of the commodities are non-renewable and when exhausted leave only problems behind and an impoverished Nation. Within this group there are technology induced changes – like the foreseeable demise of the Copper market and a new demand for Lithium .

But then there are Commodities based on Renewable Resources that do not harm the future of the State. But even here there are effects from the outside – this like the demise of Leopard Skins or Ivory and Rhinoceros Tusks from lists of Commodities.

So, my actual question is if time has not arrived to look at each exported good separately rather then bunching them into the term of Commodities where the exporters of bananas once thought they could build up a power equal to that of OPEC.
After the talk  – I found that quite a few people were ready to give a second thought to these comments.o
I took then the 50 Street Crosstown bus to get to the UN where a group that claims solidarity with the Palestinians was hosting Mr. Emad  Burnat from the village of Bil’in – a farmer and self-styled cameraman whose documentary “5 Broken Camera”  is being promoted by activist Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore.

Emad Burnat started filming in 2005 daily life in his village, and clearly had the talent to bring out the abnormal life under a foreign occupation  – that is if you consider living in the Colorado State of the Columbine shootings as normal, or life in any village in an Arab State normal.

I knew what to expect, but wanted to see how the UN sells the commodity of “Hate Israel” – because really – the hand clapping had nothing to do with trying to alleviate suffering of the Palestinians, but rather I saw there various people – some claiming Jewishness for unclear reason – and heaping it on Israel. There were so called Press or Media people that have never written a word about climate change,  and there was an Arab who lived in Brazil and loves to speak Portuguese and Spanish for his outreach.

I asked Mr. Burnat if he spoke ever with Uri Avnery – the Israeli maverick who was the one to bring to the public’s eye the problems the villagers of Bil’in were having, and who tried to help?  After all the film-maker’s statement was that it is his intent to help the villagers and himself? I said that talking with people like Avnery can help him on the ground – and what can the people in this room at the UN actually do on the ground?

As I did not get an answer to my very direct public question – just a few grunts and something that a TV reporter meant as an insult – “Zionist” I spoke to Emad after the presentation in private and then I heard from him that it is not about the village but larger, about Palestine. OK – so be it – the commodity at sale here is simple hatred – nothing else, but the problem is real and involves real people – and this is not his issue. I also said to him that in Israel people do not want to revisit the Holocaust and I would expect from him to not like the killing of the Syrian Arabs by Arabs – it does not make sense to score points over dead bodies.

I must also note that the UN DPI that posts a list of UN activities for the information of the media – had the “5 Broken Cameras” information, but then never has other topics of general interest – like the presentation today by Ms. Angela Kane – The UN Representative for Disarmament Affairs who spoke on her experiences as head of the UN spearhead on the issue of Chemical Weapons in Syria. She was very diplomatic and made sure she says only things she can prove. The Syrian Ambassador could not have had reason to doubt her impartiality.  She did her work out of her Vienna based headquarters and gave support to the UN Security Council – in case the UN wants to come up with decisions – but the question is will they?  For journalists the question is what is actually going on – and this presentation could have helped them – but the UN Department of Public Information keeps the Information commodity very close to the Arab side – whatever that might be the case.

OK, I am sure that I might have over extended the use of the term Commodities – but I do believe that there is indeed much more to this word if we try an ounce of real Aqua Vita. Individual Nations are suffering when the value of commodities is in decline – our job ought to be to explain why this happens – and the suffering – not of Governments but of their subjects.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 17th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from:  english@other-news.info
date:  Mon, Feb 17, 2014

[]

Syrian rebels or international terrorists?
 
Vijay Prashad* – The Hindu
*Vijay Prashad is the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.
 
With Bashar Assad arguing that this is a war against terrorism, and the rebels arguing that this is a war against authoritarianism, no agreement can come of the peace talks on Syria.
Geneva 2’s mood mirrored the sound of mortar and despair on the ground in Syria. Not much of substance came of the former, as the U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi tiredly indicated that diplomacy continued despite the lack of a breakthrough. He hoped that the United States and the Russians would pressure their clients to remain at the table, from where, for three weeks, little of value has emerged. No agreement can come of these peace talks for at least two reasons. First, the government of Bashar Assad and the rebel coalition do not agree on the interpretation of the conflict. Mr. Assad argues that this is a war against terrorism (Al-Qaeda), while the rebels argue that this is a war against authoritarianism (the Assad government). Second, the rebels themselves are deeply fractured, with the Islamists in Syria who are doing the brunt of the fighting indisposed to any peace talks.
 
Mr. Brahimi hoped that humanitarian relief would be the glue to hold the two sides together. Residents in the old city of Homs and in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Yarmouk in Damascus have been under siege for two years. It was hoped that safe passage could be provided for food and medicine, but this was not accomplished. U.N. and Islamic Red Cross workers bravely avoided snipers and shells to transport food and medicines to the Syrians; children among them stared at fresh fruit, unsure of what to do with it. Absent momentum from Geneva, the options for a regional solution are back on the table.
 
Role for India, China?
 
In 2012, Egypt convened the Syria Contact Group that comprised Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — unlikely partners. Pressure from the U.S. and Russia at that time closed down the Group. Today, the regional partners seek an exit from their exaggerated postures over Syria, but there is no diplomatic space for them to act. It falls to powers that are untainted by the war, perhaps China and India, to call for a meeting — a Beijing or New Delhi summit — to craft a serious agenda to pressure all sides to a ceasefire and a credible political process.
 
The war is now fought less on the ground and more over its interpretation. Expectations of a hasty collapse of the government withdraw as the Syrian Army takes Jarajir, along the Lebanon border. Islamists groups continue to fight against each other in the north, weakening their firepower as the Syrian army watches from the sidelines. The emboldened Syrian government has now stepped up its rhetoric about this war being essentially one against terrorists with affiliation to al-Qaeda. Ears that once rejected this narrative in the West and Turkey are now increasingly sympathetic to it. As the Islamists suffocate the rebellion, it becomes hard to champion them against the government. Focus has moved away from the prisons and barrel bombs of the government to the executions and social policies of the Islamists.
 
A year ago, the West and Turkey would have scoffed at talk of terrorism as the fantasy of the Assad government. The West and the Gulf Arabs had opened their coffers to the rebels, knowing full well that they were incubating the growth of the Islamist factions at the expense of the secular opposition. Turkey’s government of Recep Tayyip Erdog?an micromanaged the opposition, provided bases in Turkey and allowed well-armed fighters to slip across the border into Syria. By early 2012, it had become a common sight to see well-armed Islamist fighters in the streets of Antakya and in the refugee camps in Hatay Province. The seeds of what was to come — the entry of al-Qaeda into Syria — was set by an opportunistic and poorly conceived policy by Erdog?an’s government. It did not help that his otherwise well-spoken and highly-regarded Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutog?lu began to refer to Syria’s Alawites (Mr. Assad’s community) as Nusayri, a derogatory sectarian term. Turkey joined U.S., Europe and Gulf Arab calls for Mr. Assad’s departure well before the numbers of those dead climbed above the thousands. Nervousness about the spread of al-Qaeda to Syria has made the rebels’ patrons edge closer to the Damascus narrative. The U.S. government wishes to arm the Iraqi government with Hellfire missiles and drones to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq’s Anbar Province. Britain has said that any fighter who comes back from Syria will be arrested (last week, a Sussex man — Abu Suleiman al-Britani — conducted a suicide operation in Aleppo). The Saudi Royal Court decreed that any Saudi found to have waged jihad abroad could spend up to 20 years in prison.
 
General Mansour al-Turki of the Saudi Interior Ministry said: “We are trying to stop everyone who wants to go to Syria, but we can’t stop leaks.” The Turkish Armed Forces fired on an ISIS convoy on January 28 inside Syria, and told the government in a report prepared jointly with the Turkish National Intelligence agency that al-Qaeda had made credible threats on Turkey.
Mr. Erdog?an hastened to Tehran to meet the new Iranian leadership — their public comments were on trade, but their private meetings were all on Syria and the need to combat the rise of terrorism. What Mr. Assad had warned about in 2012 came to pass — for whatever reason — and led to a loss of confidence among the rebels’ patrons for their future. Even al-Qaeda’s putative leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has sought to distance himself from ISIS. These signs indicate that on Syria, the “terrorism narrative” has come to dominate over the “authoritarian regime narrative.”
 
Islamic Front:
 
The fractious Syrian opposition that came to Geneva does not represent the main columns of rebel fighters on the ground. These are mainly Islamists — with the al-Qaeda wing represented by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, and the rest represented by the Islamic Front. They have no appetite for negotiation. Mr. Abu Omar of the Islamic Front said that Syria’s future would be created “here on the ground of heroism, and signed with blood on the frontlines, not in hollow conferences attended by those who don’t even represent themselves.” A U.S. intelligence official told me that when the U.S. went into Afghanistan in 2001, “We smashed the mercury and watched it spread out slowly in the area.” Al-Qaeda was not demolished in Kandahar and Tora Bora. Its hardened cadre slipped across to Pakistan and then onwards to their homelands. There they regrouped, reviving the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, al-Qaeda in Yemen, Ansar al-Sharia, Ansar Dine, and ISIS. The latter slipped into Syria from an Iraq broken by the U.S. occupation and the sectarian governance of the current government. There they worked with Jabhat al-Nusra and fought alongside other Islamist currents such as Ahrar ash-Sham. It was inevitable that these battle-tested Islamists would overrun the peaceful protesters and the defectors from the Syrian Army — the Free Syrian Army (FSA) — who scattered to the wind in 2012.
 
The FSA troops either joined up with the Islamists, continued to fight in small detachments, or linger precariously as twice defectors who are now homeless. The barbarism of the ISIS pushed other Islamists — with Gulf Arab support — to form the Islamic Front. The hope was that this group would run ISIS back to Iraq and remove the stigma of “al-Qaeda” from the Syrian rebellion. The problem is that one of the constituents of the Islamic Front — Jabhat al-Nusra, arguably the most effective of its fighting forces — sees itself as the Syrian franchise of al-Qaeda and has largely abjured the fight against ISIS. Another problem is that the in-fighting on the ground seems to have tapered off — one of the Islamist groups, Suqour al-Sham signed a truce with ISIS and pledged to work together.
 
By early 2014, these groups found their supply lines cut off.  Iraq’s attack on ISIS began to seal the porous border that runs through the Great Syrian Desert.  Jordan had already tried to close its border since early 2013, having arrested over a hundred fighters who have tried to cross into Syria.  Lebanon’s border has become almost inaccessible for the rebels as the Syrian Army takes the roadway that runs along the boundary line.  Last year, Turkey closed the Azaz crossing once it was taken over by the radical Islamists.
 
On January 20, the rebels attacked the Turkish post at Cilvegözü-Bab al-Hawa, killing 16.  This is what spurred the Turkish Army to attack the ISIS convoy a week later.
 
As the Islamists saw their supply lines closed off, the U.S. announced that it would restart its aid to the rebel fighters.  On February 5, the Syrian Coalition chief Ahmad Jabra told Future TV that his rebels would get “advanced weapons” — likely from the U.S.  The FSA announced the formation of the Southern Front – with assistance from the West — to revive the dormant fight in Syria’s south-west.  All this took place during Geneva 2, signalling confusion in U.S. policy.       Does Washington still want to overthrow the Syrian government?  Would it live with an Islamist government on Israel’s borders?  Or, perhaps, the U.S. is eager for a stalemate, as pointed out by former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel, “The rebels lack the organization and weapons to defeat Assad.  The regime lacks the loyal manpower to suppress the rebellion.  Both sides’ external allies are ready to supply enough money and arms to fuel the stalemate for the foreseeable future.”  This is a cruel strategy.
It offers no hope of peace for the Syrian people.
 
Road ahead for Syria group:
 
A senior military official in West Asia told me that one of the most overlooked aspects of West Asia and North Africa is that the military leaderships of each country maintain close contacts with each other. During Turkey’s war against the Kurdish rebellion in its eastern provinces, the military coordinated their operations with the Syrian armed forces. These links have been maintained. When it became clear that Mr. Erdog?an’s exaggerated hopes for Syria failed, and with the growth of the Islamists on Turkey’s borders and the Kurds in Syria having declared their independence, the Turkish military exerted its views. The Iraqi armed forces had already begun their operations against ISIS. Additionally, Egypt’s new Field Marshal Sisi overthrew the government of Mohamed Morsi when the latter encouraged jihadis to go to Syria. This was anathema to the Egyptian military who acted for this and other reasons to depose Mr. Morsi. The military view of the political situation leans naturally toward the terrorism narrative.
 
It appears now that the regional states are no longer agreed that their primary mission is the removal of Mr. Assad.This view — shared by the militaries — is evident in the political leadership in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.With Egypt, these three states would be the core of a rejuvenated Syria Contact Group.

The 2012 group also had Saudi Arabia, which might be enjoined to come back to the table if they see that their outside allies — notably the U.S. — are averse to a policy that would mean Jabhat al-Nusra in power in Damascus.

Without Saudi Arabia, and perhaps even Qatar, the Syria Contact Group would be less effective.

 
If the Syria Contact Group is to re-emerge, it would need to be incubated by pressure from China and India, two countries that are sympathetic to multipolar regionalism.
 
Thus far, neither China nor India has taken an active role in the Syrian conflict, content to work within the United Nations and to make statements as part of the BRICS group.
But the failure of the U.S. and Russia and the paralysis of the U.N. alongside the continued brutality in Syria require an alternative path to be opened up.
Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have indicated willingness for a dialogue — China and India need to offer them the table.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 15th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from the Office of the Spokesperson
US Department of State
Washington, DC

February 15, 2014

 

In light of the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change and its worsening impacts, and the related issue of air pollution from burning fossil fuels, the United States and China recognize the urgent need for action to meet these twin challenges. Both sides reaffirm their commitment to contribute significantly to successful 2015 global efforts to meet this challenge.

Accordingly, China and the United States will work together, within the vehicle of the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group (CCWG) launched last year, to collaborate through enhanced policy dialogue, including the sharing of information regarding their respective post-2020 plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Regarding practical cooperative actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants, the two sides have reached agreement on the implementation plans on the five initiatives launched under the CCWG, including Emission Reductions from Heavy Duty and Other Vehicles, Smart Grids, Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage, Collecting and Managing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data, and Energy Efficiency in Buildings and Industry, and commit to devote significant effort and resources to secure concrete results by the Sixth U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in 2014.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 15th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Green Prophet Headlines – BrightSource’s Ivanpah, the world’s largest solar thermal project, is live

Link to Green Prophet

BrightSource’s Ivanpah, the world’s largest solar thermal project, is live

Posted: 14 Feb 2014

BrightSource, Ivanpah, California, Mojave Desert, US Solar Projects, clean tech, concentrating solar energy, ISEGS, world's largest solar thermal plant, PG&E, NRG Solar, Google, Southern California Edison, renewable energy,

It has been a long, controversial and expensive road for BrightSource Energy, but their 392 megawatt concentrating solar plant is now finally delivering renewable energy to the California grid and it is the largest plant of its kind in the world.

Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System (ISEGS), which is comprised of 350,000 garage door-sized mirrors that reflect sunlight onto boilers atop 40 foot towers, is jointly owned by NRG Solar, Google and BrightSource Energy
a company that started out at Luz International in Israel.

BrightSource, Ivanpah, California, Mojave Desert, US Solar Projects, clean tech, concentrating solar energy, ISEGS, world's largest solar thermal plant, PG&E, NRG Solar, Google, Southern California Edison, renewable energy,

In addition to offsetting roughly 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year, the massive solar facility located roughly 50 miles northwest of Needles, California, will deliver solar power to roughly 140,000 homes via California utility companies PG&E and Southern California Edison.

Despite this enormous boost for solar energy, BrightSource Energy has taken a lot of heat from environmentalists and social activists for their five square mile solar project in the Mojave desert.

BrightSource, Ivanpah, California, Mojave Desert, US Solar Projects, clean tech, concentrating solar energy, ISEGS, world's largest solar thermal plant, PG&E, NRG Solar, Google, Southern California Edison, renewable energy,

It took months to resolve the issue of relocating desert tortoises that call the desert home, to make way for thousands of concentrating mirrors, and Native Americans complained that the project destroys sites that are sacred to them.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the towers, which reach temperatures of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, have scorched an astonishing number of birds.

The paper also notes that the energy produced at Ivanpah will cost four times as much as natural gas and boasts a smaller generation capacity to land ratio than conventional plants. In other words, CSP projects like ISEGS require more land than fossil fuel plants.

BrightSource, Ivanpah, California, Mojave Desert, US Solar Projects, clean tech, concentrating solar energy, ISEGS, world's largest solar thermal plant, PG&E, NRG Solar, Google, Southern California Edison, renewable energy,

Despite these downsides, the $2.2 billion plant will produce one third of all solar thermal energy in the United States, and potentially pave the way for similar projects to take flight as well.

:: WSJ

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 30th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

 

Snowden Docs: U.S. Spied on Negotiators At 2009 Climate Summit.

Posted:   |  Updated: 01/30/2014

{WE ARE HONORED – FOLKS IN WASHINGTON THOUGHT THAT THE COPENHAGEN 2009 MEETING OF THE UNFCCC – the COP 15 – THE LAST ONE WE ATTENDED – WAS ACTUALLY OF IMPORTANCE. Now we believe that the 2015 meeting in Paris will also be important.}

WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency monitored the communications of other governments ahead of and during the 2009 United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark, according to the latest document from whistleblower Edward Snowden.

 

The document, with portions marked “top secret,” indicates that the NSA was monitoring the communications of other countries ahead of the conference, and intended to continue doing so throughout the meeting. Posted on an internal NSA website on Dec. 7, 2009, the first day of the Copenhagen summit, it states that “analysts here at NSA, as well as our Second Party partners, will continue to provide policymakers with unique, timely, and valuable insights into key countries’ preparations and goals for the conference, as well as the deliberations within countries on climate change policies and negotiation strategies.”

 

“Second Party partners” refers to the intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, with which the U.S. has an intelligence-sharing relationship.

“While the outcome of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference remains uncertain, signals intelligence will undoubtedly play a significant role in keeping our negotiators as well informed as possible throughout the 2-week event,” the document says.

 

The Huffington Post published the documents Wednesday night in coordination with the Danish daily newspaper Information, which worked with American journalist Laura Poitras.

 

The December 2009 meeting in Copenhagen was the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which brings together 195 countries to negotiate measures to address rising greenhouse gas emissions and their impact. The Copenhagen summit was the first big climate meeting after the election of President Barack Obama, and was widely expected to yield a significant breakthrough. Other major developed nations were already part of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which set emissions limits, while the United States — the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases when the protocol went into effect in 2004 — had famously declined to join. The two-week meeting was supposed to produce a successor agreement that would include the U.S., as well as China, India and other countries with rapidly increasing emissions.

 

The document indicates that the NSA planned to gather information as the leaders and negotiating teams of other countries held private discussions throughout the Copenhagen meeting. “Leaders and negotiating teams from around the world will undoubtedly be engaging in intense last-minute policy formulating; at the same time, they will be holding sidebar discussions with their counterparts — details of which are of great interest to our policymakers,” the document states. The information likely would be used to brief U.S. officials, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama, among others, according to the document.

 

The document does not detail how the agency planned to continue gathering information during the summit, other than noting that it would be capturing signals intelligence such as calls and emails. Previous disclosures have indicated that the NSA has the ability to monitor the mobile phones of heads of state. Other documents that Snowden has released indicate that the U.K.’s intelligence service tapped into delegates’ email and telephone communications at the 2009 G-20 meetings in London. Other previous Snowden disclosures documented the surveillance of the G-8 and G-20 summits in Canada in 2010, and the U.N. climate change conference in Bali in 2007.

The document also refers to some intelligence gathered ahead of the meeting, including a report that “detailed China’s efforts to coordinate its position with India and ensure that the two leaders of the developing world are working towards the same outcome.” It refers to another report that “provided advance details of the Danish proposal and their efforts to launch a ‘rescue plan’ to save COP-15.”

 

The Danish proposal was a draft agreement that the country’s negotiators had drawn up in the months ahead of the summit in consultation with a small number key of countries. The text was leaked to The Guardian early in the conference, causing some disarray as countries that were not consulted balked that it promoted the interests of developed nations and undermined principles laid out in previous climate negotiations. As Information reports, Danish officials wanted to keep U.S. negotiators from seeing the text in the weeks ahead of the conference, worried that it may dim their ambitions in the negotiations for proposed cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.

 

The Danes did share the text with the U.S. and other key nations ahead of the meeting. But the NSA document noting this as “advance details” indicates that the U.S. may have already intercepted it. The paragraph referring to the Danish text is marked “SI” in the Snowden document — which most likely means “signals intelligence,” indicating that it came from electronic information intercepted by the NSA, rather than being provided to the U.S. negotiators.

 

That could be why U.S. negotiators took the positions they did going into the conference, a Danish official told Information. “They simply sat back, just as we had feared they would if they knew about our document,” the official said. “They made no constructive statements. Obviously, if they had known about our plans since the fall of 2009, it was in their interest to simply wait for our draft proposal to be brought to the table at the summit.”

 

Members of the Danish delegation indicated in interviews with Information that they thought the American and Chinese negotiators seemed “peculiarly well-informed” about discussions that had taken place behind closed doors. “Particularly the Americans,” said one official. “I was often completely taken aback by what they knew.”

 

Despite high hopes for an agreement at Copenhagen, the negotiations started slowly and there were few signs of progress. Obama and heads of state from more than 100 nations arrived late in the second week in hopes of achieving a breakthrough, but the final day wore on without an outcome. There were few promising signals until late Friday night, when Obama made a surprise announcement that he — along with leaders from China, India, Brazil and South Africa — had come up with the “Copenhagen Accord.”

 

The three-page document set a goal of keeping the average rise in global temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius, but allowed countries to write their own plans for cutting emissions — leaving out any legally binding targets or even a path to a formal treaty. Obama called the accord “an unprecedented breakthrough” in a press conference, then took off for home on Air Force One. But other countries balked, pointing out that the accord was merely a political agreement, drafted outside the U.N. process and of uncertain influence for future negotiations.

 

The climate summits since then have advanced at a glacial pace; a legally binding treaty isn’t currently expected until 2015. And the U.S. Congress, despite assurances made in Copenhagen, never passed new laws cutting planet-warming emissions. (The Environmental Protection Agency is, however, moving forward with regulations on emissions from power plants, but a new law to addressing the issue had been widely considered as preferable.)

 

The revelation that the NSA was surveilling the communications of leaders during the Copenhagen talks is unlikely to help build the trust of negotiators from other nations in the future.

 

“It can’t help in the sense that if people think you’re trying to get an unfair advantage or manipulate the process, they’re not going to have much trust in you,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists and a seasoned veteran of the U.N. climate negotiations. Meyer said he worried that the disclosure might cause the parties to “start becoming more cautious, more secretive, and less forthcoming” in the negotiations. “That’s not a good dynamic in a process where you’re trying to encourage collaboration, compromise, and working together, as opposed to trying to get a comparative advantage,” he said.

 

Obama has defended the NSA’s work as important in fighting terrorism at home and abroad. But the latest Snowden document indicates that the agency plays a broader role in protecting U.S. interests internationally.

 

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden declined to comment directly on the Snowden document in an email to the Huffington Post, but did say that “the U.S. Government has made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations.” She noted that Obama’s Jan. 17 speech on the NSA “laid out a series of concrete and substantial reforms the Administration will adopt or seek to codify with Congress” regarding surveillance.

 

“In particular, he issued a new Presidential Directive that lays out new principles that govern how we conduct signals intelligence collection, and strengthen how we provide executive branch oversight of our signals intelligence activities,” Hayden said. “It will ensure that we take into account our security requirements, but also our alliances; our trade and investment relationships, including the concerns of our companies; and our commitment to privacy and basic liberties. And we will review decisions about intelligence priorities and sensitive targets on an annual basis, so that our actions are regularly scrutinized by the President’s senior national security team.”

 

Read the full document here.

IT READS:

(U) UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen — Will the Developed and Developing
World Agree on Climate Change?

FROM:
Deputy SINIO for Economics and Global Issues (S17)
Run Date: 12/07/2009
(U) Delegates from around the world will convene in Copenhagen from 7 to 18 December for the
UN Climate Change Conference (COP-15). The event is intended to be the culmination of two
years of negotiations by the international community to reach consensus on legally binding
commitments to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would enter into force in 2012, when
the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change expires. Over 90 world leaders, including
the U.S. President, are expected to participate. In Copenhagen, these leaders will attempt to reach
an agreement that both launches immediate action and ensures long-term commitments. However,
it remains to be seen if an agreement will be reached or whether negotiations will break down
entirely. Success or failure will have far-reaching effects in the areas of foreign policy,
environmental issues, and energy security.
(U) Reaching a global climate-change agreement will not be easy for the delegates. The greatest
challenge to the talks remains the North-South divide. The leaders from the North — i.e., developed
countries — see climate change as a problem with irreversible consequences that cannot be solved
without the full participation of developing countries, especially emerging market economies. The
leaders from the South — or developing countries, led by China and India — see the climate change
problem as not of their making and believe they are being asked to fix it in ways which will hamper
their ability to raise their standards of living.
(U) These divisions are deep, with both sides showing few signs of compromise. During the
opening session of preliminary negotiations in Barcelona last month, the 50-member Africa Group,
in a show of unity, walked out, announcing that they would boycott the Kyoto Protocol talks until
developed countries got serious about their climate change commitments. They ended their boycott
of the talks after winning promises for more in-depth talks on how much developed countries need
to reduce GHG emissions.
(U) To move the process forward, it will be necessary to bridge this divide. There are efforts
underway to do this, including the Franco-Brazilian common position, which aims to reduce GHG
emissions globally by at least 50 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. In a mid-November statement
to the press, Presidents Sarkozy and Lula emphasized that they hoped to demonstrate that two
countries with different national and regional situations can successfully adopt a joint position on
climate change. Meanwhile, the Danes, as host of the event, are tirelessly engaging world leaders to
garner support for their draft political agreement – which was created when it became clear that the
process had run out of time to reach agreement on a legally binding treaty. Supporters of this
approach hope the political agreement will subsequently be transformed into a legally binding
climate treaty sometime next year.
(TS//SI//REL) Analysts here at NSA, as well as our Second Party partners, will continue to provide
policymakers with unique, timely, and valuable insights into key countries’ preparations and goals
for the conference, as well as deliberations within countries on climate change policies and
negotiating strategies. A late November report detailed China’s efforts to coordinate its position
with India and ensure that the two leaders of the developing world are working towards the same
outcome. Another report provided advance details of the Danish proposal and their efforts to launch
a “rescue plan” to save COP-15.

ITS//SI//REL) Given such large participation (with all 192 UN member states invited to attend),
leaders and negotiating teams from around the world will undoubtedly be engaging in intense last-minute
policy formulating; at the same time, they will be holding frequent sidebar discussions with
their counterparts — details of which are of great interest to our policymakers.

While the outcome of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference remains uncertain, signals intelligence will

undoubtedly play a significant role in keeping our negotiators as well informed as possible
thouout the 2-week event.

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 30th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

China smog fears spur call for ban on New Year fireworks.

Date: 30-Jan-14
Country: CHINA
Author: Ben Blanchard of Reuthers

China smog fears spur call for ban on New Year fireworks Photo: China Daily
People ride along a bridge on a smoggy day in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, January 18, 2014.
Photo: China Daily

Warnings of heavy smog over central and eastern China this week have prompted the country’s weather forecaster to call for a ban on the fireworks traditionally let off at Lunar New Year, state media said on Wednesday.

Chinese New Year, which begins on Friday, is marked by riotous displays of fireworks thought to bring good luck, but which turn cities into a semblance of war zones and blacken the skies with thick smoke for hours on end.

With smog expected to start blanketing central and eastern China from Thursday, Chen Zhenlin, spokesman for the China Meteorological Administration, said local governments should ban fireworks completely, the official China Daily said.

“Firecrackers and fireworks can release large amounts of toxic gas and particles such as sulfur dioxide, which will cause severe air pollution,” Chen was quoted as saying.

Authorities, including those in Beijing, have asked people to set off fewer fireworks this year to help improve air quality, though in the capital at least there have been no moves to close down the temporary stalls that sell the fireworks.

Sales of fireworks have been flat so far in Beijing, the China Daily said, as people heed the calls for clearer skies.

“We have reduced the number of fireworks in the city by roughly 13 percent this year and we are not confident all our fireworks in stock will be sold,” Wu Liyu, head of the Beijing Fireworks Co, told the paper.

Air quality in cities increasingly worries China’s stability-obsessed leaders, anxious to damp potential unrest as more affluent citizens turn against a growth-at-all-costs economic model that has poisoned much of the country’s air, water and soil.

Large parts of eastern China, including the prosperous and cosmopolitan commercial capital of Shanghai, have suffered thick palls of smog this winter, though Beijing has had fewer problems this year.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 26th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

Kumi Naidoo | Don’t Bet on Coal and Oil Growth
Kumi Naidoo, Reader Supported News
Naidoo writes: “A mind-boggling sum of about $800 for each person on the planet is invested into fossil fuel companies through the global capital markets alone. … The amount of money invested into the 200 biggest fossil fuel companies through financial markets is estimated at 5.5 trillion dollars. This should be an impressive amount of money for anyone reading this.”
READ MORE

 

How the Coal Industry Impoverishes West Virginia
Omar Ghabra, The Nation
Ghabra writes: “There’s a joke circulating among Syrians who fled the brutal conflict devastating their country to the quiet mountains of West Virginia: ‘We escaped the lethal chemicals in Syria only for them to follow us here.’ Of course, what’s happening in West Virginia right now is no laughing matter.”
READ MORE

———-

By Kumi Naidoo, Reader Supported News

 

25 January 14

 

mind-boggling sum of about $800 for each person on the planet is invested into fossil fuel companies through the global capital markets alone. That’s roughly 10 percent of the total capital invested in listed companies. The amount of money invested into the 200 biggest fossil fuel companies through financial markets is estimated at 5.5 trillion dollars. This should be an impressive amount of money for anyone reading this.

 

By keeping their money in coal and oil companies, investors are betting a vast amount of wealth, including the pensions and savings of millions of people, on high future demand for dirty fuels. The investment has enabled fossil fuel companies to massively raise their spending on expanding extractable reserves, with oil and gas companies alone (state-owned ones included) spending the combined GDP of Netherlands and Belgium a year, in belief that there will be demand for ever more dirty fuel.

 

This assumption is being challenged by recent developments, which is good news for climate but bad news for anyone who thought investing in fossil fuel industries was a safe bet. Frantic growth in coal consumption seems to be coming to an end much sooner than predicted just a few years ago, with China’s aggressive clean air policies, rapidly dropping coal consumption in the U.S. and upcoming closures of many coal plants in Europe. At the same time the oil industry is also facing slowing demand growth and the financial and share performance of oil majors is disappointing for shareholders.

 

Nevertheless, even faced with weakening demand prospects, outdated investment patterns are driving fossil fuel companies to waste trillions of dollars in developing reserves and infrastructure that will be stranded as the world moves beyond 20th century energy.

 

A good example is coal export developments. The large recent investment in coal export capacity in all key exporter countries was based on the assumption of unlimited growth of Chinese demand. When public outrage over air pollution reached a new level in 2012-2013, the Chinese leadership moved swiftly to mandate absolute reductions in coal consumption, and banned new coal-fired power plants in key economic regions. A growing chorus of financial analysts is now projecting a peak in Chinese coal demand in the near future, which seemed unimaginable just a couple of years ago. This new reality has already reduced market capitalization of export focused coal companies. Even in China itself, investment in coal-fired power plants has now outpaced demand growth, leading to drops in capacity utilization.

 

Another example of potentially stranded assets is found in Europe, where large utilities ignored the writing on the wall about EU moves to price carbon and boost renewable energy. Betting on old business models and the fossil-fuel generation, they built a massive 80 gigawatts of new fossil power generation capacity in the last 10 years, much of which is already generating losses and now risk becoming stranded assets.

 

Arctic oil drilling is possibly the ultimate example of fossil companies’ unfounded confidence in high future demand. Any significant production and revenue is unlikely until 2030, and in the meanwhile Arctic drilling faces high and uncertain costs, extremely demanding and risky operations, as well as the prospect of heavy regulation and liabilities when (not if) the first major blowout happens in the region. No wonder the International Energy Agency is skeptical about Arctic oil, assuming hardly any production in the next 20 years. Regardless, Shell has already burnt $5 billion of shareholders’ money on their Arctic gamble.

 

Those investing in coal and oil have perhaps felt secure seeing the global climate negotiations proceed at a disappointing pace. However, the initial carbon crunch is being delivered by increasingly market-driven renewable energy development, and by national level clean energy and energy efficiency policies — such as renewable energy support schemes and emission regulation in Europe, or clean air policies in the U.S. and in China. Global coal demand, and possibly even oil demand, could peak even before a strong climate treaty is agreed.

 

Investors often underestimate their exposure to fossil fuels, particularly indirect exposure through e.g. passively managed pension funds and sovereign debt of strongly fossil fuel dependent states. Assessing exposure, requiring fossil energy companies to disclose and reduce carbon risks, and reducing investments in sunset energy technologies will lead to profitable investment in a world that moves to cleaner and smarter energy systems.

 

Improving competitiveness of renewable energy, growing opposition to destructive fossil fuel projects, concerns on water shortage and the imperative of cutting global CO2 emissions all point in the same direction: Governments, companies and investors should all be planning for a world with declining fossil fuel consumption — not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it makes economic sense. It is the direction the world will be moving to — faster than many yet anticipate.

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

Following our original posting, we watched today the Fareed Zakaria show at CNN/GPS and reporting from Davos – from the World Economy dialogues, he pointed out that 85 people own as much wealth as the lowest 3.5 billion people of the World.

Then he also mentioned that the 5 members of the family that owns Walmart own a disproportionate part of the wealth of the US – to be exact – just as much as 42% of all Americans.

He also said that there were no problem if everybody would improve their economic standing and the few at the top just grow more – but the reality is that the Middle class is receding and the explanation is that we moved from the human based Manufacturing Age to a machine based Manufacturing Age that does not need humans in the production line. This is endemic and this spiral is bound to drive us further down.
Now a big company like Apple employs only 50,000 Americans – so he has a true argument.

Because he mentioned Walmart this triggered my Sustainable Development thinking as I know that the Walmart company is in partnership with Mr. Jigar Shah in order to decrease their expenditure on electricity by allowing him the use of the roofs covering their stores to produce with photovoltaics the electricity they need. In effect they just did what the US government ought to campaign for. If they are so smart they indeed deserve being so rich – and they put the rest of us to shame because we do not have the initiative to improve our lives by ourselves.

In the context of this posting – why do we not rebel against those in Washington that insist the government sends dollars overseas to buy oil when there is no compelling reason to continue this man-made dependency on unneeded resources? Just think what array of industries could spring up from alliances like that of Jigar and Walmart? The whole Davos exercise ought to be reorganized – the apple of the economy is rotten not because of high-tech apples but because of the intentional subsidization of the old low-tech industries and the move to a globalized market that does not allow for globalized sustainability. You can bet safely that the Koch Brothers will push the US deeper in the hole of retardiness – this because it benefits their old ways of making money.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 23rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

From the Federation of World Peace and Love
on the Eve of the Eastern New Year.
Subject: Invitation to Promote “An Era of Conscience”Jan. 20, 2014

Dear Mr. Pincas Jawetz,

We wish that 2014 will be filled with endless blessings, good health and safety.

A kind heart and good intentions generate the positive energies necessary to safeguard the world’s sustainable future. A good start is the key to great success. At the beginning of the New Year, you are cordially invited to speak good words, do good deeds, make conscience-inspired wishes and take part in the movement of “An Era of Conscience”. It is expected that the movement will spread messages of goodness and promote good deeds to benefit people around the world.

In this time of turbulence and uneasiness, unusual phenomenon frequently impacts our environment. It is difficult to tell true from false, good from bad and right from wrong. People’s hearts are surrounded by anxiety and uncertainty. We would like to evoke positive energies to stabilize the world through the movement of creating “An Era of Conscience.” Through collective efforts, the inner calling for kindness and goodness will be awakened and we will reconstruct a world with harmony and stability to enjoy the peace dividend of the era of conscience. Positive influences will forge connections between individuals, families, societies and nations to encompass the planet. In 2014, our efforts can restore inner peace and respect for human rights to make conscience prevail.

A good word of conscience and a practical action from you will bring hope and light to the earth. The adoption of conscience-driven values will help create a peaceful new world. You are cordially invited to share your wish or a practical experience with us about “An Era of Conscience” through words (Send to FOWPAL mail box:info@fowpal.org), a 3-minute video or audio recording, or other presentable means such as comics or paintings. (video and audio files can be uploaded at FOWPAL website: www.fowpal.org, in “An Era of Conscience”).

Your participation in this movement is highly appreciated. We will start the movement of “An Era of Conscience” globally on February 16, 2014. Your thoughts will be shared with people from different nations through videos, media and the internet so that the world will be inspired by your visions and actions. The promotion and dissemination of this movement around the globe will quickly spread.

Your participation will surely encourage more people to follow suit. We also would like to invite you to promote this movement in your country. It is anticipated that the consolidated positive energies will shape a world of peace and happiness.

We look forward to your reply and wish you and your family a year of peace and health.

Yours sincerely

Dr. Hong, Tao-Tze
President of Federation of World Peace and Love
President of Tai Ji Men Qigong Academy
Honorary Vice-President and member of Advisory Board of AWC,
NGO in Consultative Status with ECOSOC and Associated with the UN DPI

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 18th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Transcript of President Obama’s Jan. 17 speech on NSA reforms.

Published: January 17, 2014

President Obama delivered the following remarks on changes to National Security Agency programs Jan. 17 at the Justice Department in Washington. Transcript courtesy of Federal News Service.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you so much, please have a seat.

At the dawn of our Republic, a small, secret surveillance committee, born out of the Sons of Liberty, was established in Boston. And the group’s members included Paul Revere. At night, they would patrol the streets, reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America’s early patriots.

Throughout American history, intelligence has helped secure our country and our freedoms.

In the Civil War, Union balloons’ reconnaissance tracked the size of Confederate armies by counting the number of campfires. In World War II, codebreakers gave us insights into Japanese war plans. And when Patton marched across Europe, intercepted communications helped save the lives of his troops.

After the war, the rise of Iron Curtain and nuclear weapons only increased the need for sustained intelligence gathering. And so in the early days of the Cold War, President Truman created the National Security Agency, or NSA, to give us insights into the Soviet Bloc and provide our leaders with information they needed to confront aggression and avert catastrophe.

Throughout this evolution, we benefited from both our Constitution and our traditions of limited government.

U.S. intelligence agencies were anchored in a system of checks and balances, with oversight from elected leaders and protections for ordinary citizens.

Meanwhile, totalitarian states like East Germany offered a cautionary tale of what could happen when vast unchecked surveillance turned citizens into informers and persecuted people for what they said in the privacy of their own homes.

In fact, even the United States proved not to be immune to the abuse of surveillance. In the 1960s government spied on civil rights leaders and critics of the Vietnam War. And probably in response to these revelations, additional laws were established in the 1970s to ensure that our intelligence capabilities could not be misused against our citizens. In the long twilight struggle against communism, we had been reminded that the very liberties that we sought to preserve could not be sacrificed at the altar of national security.

Now, if the fall of the Soviet Union left America without a competing superpower, emerging threats from terrorist groups and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction place new and, in some ways, more complicated demands on our intelligence agencies.

Globalization and the Internet made these threats more acute as technology erased borders and empowered individuals to project great violence as well as great good.

Moreover, these new threats raised new legal and new policy questions, for while few doubted the legitimacy of spying on hostile states, our framework of laws was not fully adapted to prevent terrorist attacks by individuals acting on their own or acting in small ideological — ideologically driven groups on behalf of a foreign power.

The horror of September 11th brought all these issues to the fore.

Across the political spectrum, Americans recognized that we had to adapt to a world in which a bomb could be built in a basement and our electric grid could be shut down by operators an ocean away. We were shaken by the signs we had missed leading up to the attacks, how the hijackers had made phone calls to known extremists and traveled to suspicious places. So we demanded that our intelligence community improve its capabilities and that law enforcement change practices to focus more on preventing attacks before they happen than prosecuting terrorists after an attack.

It is hard to overstate the transformation America’s intelligence community had to go through after 9/11. Our agencies suddenly needed to do far more than the traditional mission of monitoring hostile powers and gathering information for policymakers.

Instead, they were now asked to identify and target plotters is some of the most remote parts of the world and to anticipate the actions of networks that, by their very nature, could not be easily penetrated by spies or informants. And it is a testimony to the hard work and dedication of the men and women of our intelligence community that over the past decade we’ve made enormous strides in fulfilling this mission.

Today, new capabilities allow intelligence agencies to track who a terrorist is in contact with and follow the trail of his travel or his funding. New laws allow information to be collected and shared more quickly and effectively between federal agencies and state and local law enforcement. Relationships with foreign intelligence services have expanded and our capacity to repel cyber attacks have been strengthened. And taken together, these efforts have prevented multiple attacks and saved innocent lives — not just here in the United States, but around the globe.

And yet, in our rush to respond to a very real and novel set of threats, the risk of government overreach, the possibility that we lose some of our core liberties in pursuit of security also became more pronounced. We saw in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 our government engage in enhanced interrogation techniques that contradicted our values. As a senator, I was critical of several practices, such as warrantless wiretaps. And all too often new authorities were instituted without adequate public debate.

Through a combination of action by the courts, increased congressional oversight and adjustments by the previous administration, some of the worst excesses that emerged after 9/11 were curbed by the time I took office. But a variety of factors have continued to complicate America’s efforts to both defend our nation and uphold our civil liberties.

        First, the same technological advances that allow U.S. intelligence agencies to pinpoint an al-Qaida (sale ?) in Yemen or an email between two terrorists in the Sahel also mean that many routine communications around the world are within our reach. And at a time when more and more of our lives are digital, that prospect is disquieting for all of us.

       Second, the combination of increased digital information and powerful supercomputers offers intelligence agencies the possibility of sifting through massive amounts of bulk data to identify patterns or pursue leads that may thwart impending threats. It’s a powerful tool. But the government collection and storage of such bulk data also creates a potential for abuse.

      Third, the legal safeguards that restrict surveillance against U.S. persons without a warrant do not apply to foreign persons overseas. This is not unique to America; few, if any, spy agencies around the world constrain their activities beyond their own borders. And the whole point of intelligence is to obtain information that is not publicly available.

But America’s capabilities are unique, and the power of new technologies means that there are fewer and fewer technical constraints on what we can do.

That places a special obligation on us to ask tough questions about what we should do.

And finally, intelligence agencies cannot function without secrecy, which makes their work less subject to public debate. Yet there is an inevitable bias, not only within the intelligence community but among all of us who are responsible for national security, to collect more information about the world, not less. So in the absence of institutional requirements for regular debate and oversight that is public as well as private or classified, the danger of government overreach becomes more acute. And this is particularly true when surveillance technology and our reliance on digital information is evolving much faster than our laws.

For all these reasons, I maintained a healthy skepticism toward our surveillance programs after I became president.
I ordered that our programs be reviewed by my national security team and our lawyers. And in some cases, I ordered changes in how we did business. We increased oversight and auditing, including new structures aimed at compliance. Improved rules were proposed by the government and approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. And we’ve sought to keep Congress continually updated on these activities.

What I did not do is stop these programs wholesale, not only because I felt that they made us more secure, but also because nothing in that initial review and nothing that I have learned since indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens.

To the contrary, in an extraordinarily difficult job, one in which actions are second-guessed, success is unreported and failure can be catastrophic, the men and women of the intelligence community, including the NSA, consistently follow protocols designed to protect the privacy of ordinary people. They’re not abusing authorities in order to listen to your private phone calls or read your emails.

When mistakes are made — which is inevitable in any large and complicated human enterprise, they correct those mistakes, laboring in obscurity, often unable to discuss their work even with family and friends — the men and women at the NSA know that if another 9/11 or massive cyber attack occurs, they will be asked by Congress and the media why they failed to connect the dots. What sustains those who work at NSA and our other intelligence agencies through all these pressures is the knowledge that their professionalism and dedication play a central role in the defense of our nation.

Now, to say that our intelligence community follows the law and is staffed by patriots is not to suggest that I or others in my administration felt complacent about the potential impact of these programs. Those of us who hold office in America have a responsibility to our Constitution. And while I was confident in the integrity of those who lead our intelligence community, it was clear to me in observing our intelligence operations on a regular basis that changes in our technological capabilities were raising new questions about the privacy safeguards currently in place.

Moreover, after an extended review in the use of drones in the fight against terrorist networks, I believe a fresh examination of our surveillance programs was a necessary next step in our effort to get off the open-ended war footing that we’ve maintained since 9/11.

And for these reasons, I indicated in a speech at the National Defense University last May that we needed a more robust public discussion about the balance between security and liberty. Of course, what I did not know at the time is that within weeks of my speech an avalanche of unauthorized disclosures would spark controversies at home and abroad that have continued to this day.

Given the fact of an open investigation, I’m not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden’s actions or his motivations. I will say that our nation’s defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets. If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy. Moreover, the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out has often shed more heat than light, while revealing methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we might not fully understand for years to come.

Regardless of how we got here though, the task before us now is greater than simply repairing the damage done to our operations or preventing more disclosures from taking place in the future.

Instead we have to make some important decisions about how to protect ourselves and sustain our leadership in the world while upholding the civil liberties and privacy protections our ideals and our Constitution require. We need to do so not only because it is right but because the challenges posed by threats like terrorism and proliferation and cyberattacks are not going away any time soon. They are going to continue to be a major problem. And for our intelligence community to be effective over the long haul, we must maintain the trust of the America people and people around the world.

This effort will not be completed overnight, and given the pace of technological change, we shouldn’t expect this to be the last time America has this debate.

But I want the American people to know that the work has begun. Over the last six months I created an outside review group on intelligence and communications technologies to make recommendations for reform. I consulted with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created by Congress. I’ve listened to foreign partners, privacy advocates and industry leaders. My administration has spent countless hours considering how to approach intelligence in this era of diffuse threats and technological revolution.

So before outlining specific changes that I’ve ordered, let me make a few broad observations that have emerged from this process.

           First, everyone who has looked at these problems, including skeptics of existing programs, recognizes that we have real enemies and threats and that intelligence serves a vital role in confronting them.

We cannot prevent terrorist attacks or cyberthreats without some capability to penetrate digital communications, whether it’s to unravel a terrorist plot, to intercept malware that targets a stock exchange, to make sure air traffic control systems are not compromised or to ensure that hackers do not empty your bank accounts. We are expected to protect the American people; that requires us to have capabilities in this field.

Moreover, we cannot unilaterally disarm our intelligence agencies. There is a reason why BlackBerrys and iPhones are not allowed in the White House Situation Room. We know that the intelligence services of other countries, including some who feigned surprise over the Snowden disclosures, are constantly probing our government and private sector networks and accelerating programs to listen to our conversations and intercept our emails and compromise our systems. We know that. Meanwhile, a number of countries, including some who have loudly criticized the NSA, privately acknowledge that America has special responsibilities as the world’s only superpower, that our intelligence capabilities are critical to meeting these responsibilities and that they themselves have relied on the information we obtained to protect their own people.

              Second, just as our civil libertarians recognized the need for robust intelligence capabilities, those with responsibilities for our national security readily acknowledge the potential for abuse as intelligence capabilities advance and more and more private information is digitized. After all, the folks at NSA and other intelligence agencies are our neighbors. They’re our friends and family.

They’ve got electronic bank and medical records like everybody else. They have kids on Facebook and Instagram. And they know, more than most of us, the vulnerabilities to privacy that exist in a world where transactions are recorded and email and text and messages are stored and even our movements can increasingly be tracked through the GPS on our phones.

           Third, there was a recognition by all who participated in these reviews that the challenges to our privacy do not come from government alone. Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze our data and use it for commercial purposes. That’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smartphone periodically.

But all of us understand that the standards for government surveillance must be higher. Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say: Trust us. We won’t abuse the data we collect. For history has too many examples when that trust has been breached. Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power. It depends on the law to constrain those in power.

I make these observations to underscore that the basic values of most Americans when it comes to questions of surveillance and privacy converge a lot more than the crude characterizations that have emerged over the last several months. Those who are troubled by our existing programs not interested in repeating the tragedy of 9/11. And those who defend these programs are not dismissive of civil liberties. The challenge is getting the details right. And that is not simple.

In fact, during the course of our review, I’ve often reminded myself I would not be where I am today were it not for the courage of dissidents like Dr. King who were spied upon by their own government. And as president, a president who looks at intelligence every morning, I also can’t help but be reminded that America must be vigilant in the face of threats.

Now, fortunately, by focusing on facts and specifics rather than speculating and hypotheticals, this review process has given me, and hopefully the American people, some clear direction for change. And today I can announce a series of concrete and substantial reforms that my administration intends to adopt administratively or will seek to codify with Congress.

              First, I have approved a new presidential directive for our signals intelligence activities both at home and abroad. This guidance will strengthen executive branch oversight of our intelligence activities. It will ensure that we take into account our security requirements, but also our alliances, our trade and investment relationships, including the concerns of American companies, and our commitment to privacy and basic liberties. And we will review decisions about intelligence priorities and sensitive targets on an annual basis so that our actions are regularly scrutinized by my senior national security team.

            Second, we will reform programs and procedures in place to provide greater transparency to our surveillance activities and fortify the safeguards that protect the privacy of U.S. persons. Since we began this review, including information being released today, we’ve declassified over 40 opinions and orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which provides judicial review of some of our most sensitive intelligence activities, including the Section 702 program targeting foreign individuals overseas and the Section 215 telephone metadata program.

And going forward, I’m directing the director of national intelligence, in consultation with the attorney general, to annually review for the purposes of declassification any future opinions of the court with broad privacy implications and to report to me and to Congress on these efforts.

To ensure that the court hears a broader range of privacy perspectives, I’m also calling on Congress to authorize the establishment of a panel of advocates from outside government to provide an independent voice in significant cases before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

               Third, we will provide additional protections for activities conducted under Section 702, which allows the government to intercept the communications of foreign targets overseas who have information that’s important for our national security. Specifically, I’m asking the attorney general and DNI to institute reforms that place additional restrictions on government’s ability to retain, search and use in criminal cases communications between Americans and foreign citizens incidentally collected under Section 702.

            Fourth, in investigating threats, the FBI also relies on what’s called national security letters, which can require companies to provide specific and limited information to the government without disclosing the orders to the subject of the investigation.

Now, these are cases in which it’s important that the subject of the investigation, such as a possible terrorist or spy, isn’t tipped off. But we can and should be more transparent in how government uses this authority.

I’ve therefore directed the attorney general to amend how we use national security letters so that this secrecy will not be indefinite, so that it will terminate within a fixed time unless the government demonstrates a real need for further secrecy. We will also enable communications providers to make public more information than ever before about the orders that they have received to provide data to the government.

This brings me to the program that has generated the most controversy these past few months, the bulk collection of telephone records under Section 215. Let me repeat what I said when this story first broke. This program does not involve the content of phone calls or the names of people making calls. Instead, it provide a record of phone numbers and the times and length of calls, metadata that can be queried if and when we have a reasonable suspicion that a particular number is linked to a terrorist organization.

Why is this necessary? The program grew out of a desire to address a gap identified after 9/11. One of the 9/11 hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar, made a phone call from San Diego to a known al- Qaida safehouse in Yemen.

NSA saw that call, but it could not see that the call was coming from an individual already in the United States. The telephone metadata program under Section 215 was designed to map the communications of terrorists so we could see who they may be in contact with as quickly as possible.

And this capability could also prove valuable in a crisis. For example, if a bomb goes off in one of our cities and law enforcement is racing to determine whether a network is poised to conduct additional attacks, time is of the essence. Being able to quickly review phone connections to assess whether a network exists is critical to that effort.

In sum, the program does not involve the NSA examining the phone records of ordinary Americans. Rather, it consolidates these records into a database that the government can query if it has a specific lead, a consolidation of phone records that the companies already retain for business purposes. The review group turned up no indication that this database has been intentionally abused, and I believe it is important that the capability that this program is designed to meet is preserved.

Having said that, I believe critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives and open the door to more intrusive bulk collection programs in the future. They’re also right to point out that although the telephone bulk collection program was subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and has been reauthorized repeatedly by Congress, it has never been subject to vigorous public debate.

For all these reasons,  I believe we need a new approach. I am therefore ordering a transition that will end the Section 215 bulk metadata program as it currently exists and establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata.

This will not be simple. The review group recommended that our current approach be replaced by one in which the providers or a third party retain the bulk records, with government accessing information as needed. Both of these options pose difficult problems. Relying solely on the records of multiple providers, for example, could require companies to alter their procedures in ways that raise new privacy concerns. On the other hand, any third party maintaining a single consolidated database would be carrying out what’s essentially a government function, but with more expense, more legal ambiguity, potentially less accountability, all of which would have a doubtful impact on increasing public confidence that their privacy is being protected.

During the review process, some suggested that we may also be able to preserve the capabilities we need through a combination of existing authorities, better information sharing and recent technological advances, but more work needs to be done to determine exactly how this system might work.

Because of the challenges involved, I’ve ordered that the transition away from the existing program will proceed in two steps.

               Effective immediately, we will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization, instead of the current three, and I have directed the attorney general to work with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court so that during this transition period, the database can be queried only after a judicial finding or in the case of a true emergency.

             Next, step two: I have instructed the intelligence community and the attorney general to use this transition period to develop options for a new approach that can match the capabilities and fill the gaps that the Section 215 program was designed to address, without the government holding this metadata itself. They will report back to me with options for alternative approaches before the program comes up for reauthorization on March 28th. And during this period, I will consult with the relevant committees in Congress to seek their views and then seek congressional authorization for the new program, as needed.

Now, the reforms I’m proposing today should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe. And I recognize that there are additional issues that require further debate. For example, some who participated in our review, as well as some members of Congress, would like to see more sweeping reforms to the use of national security letters, so we have to go to a judge each time before issuing these requests.

Here, I have concerns that we should not set a standard for terrorism investigations that is higher than those involved in investigating an ordinary crime.

But I agree that greater oversight on the use of these letters may be appropriate. And I’m prepared to work with Congress on this issue.

There are also those who would like to see different changes to the FISA court than the ones I’ve proposed. On all these issues, I’m open to working with Congress to ensure that we build a broad consensus for how to move forward. And I’m confident that we can shape an approach that meets our security needs while upholding the civil liberties of every American.

Let me now turn to the separate set of concerns that have been raised overseas and focus on America’s approach to intelligence collection abroad. As I’ve indicated, the United States has unique responsibilities when it comes to intelligence collection. Our capabilities help protect not only our nation but our friends and our allies as well.

But our efforts will only be effective if ordinary citizens in other countries have confidence that the United States respects their privacy too. And the leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to know what they think about an issue I’ll pick up the phone and call them rather than turning to surveillance.

In other words, just as balance security and privacy at home, our global leadership demands that we balance our security requirements against our need to maintain the trust and cooperation among people and leaders around the world. For that reason, the new presidential directive that I’ve issued today will clearly prescribe what we do and do not do when it comes to our overseas surveillance.

To begin with, the directive makes clear that the United States only uses signals intelligence for legitimate national security purposes and not for the purpose of indiscriminately reviewing the emails or phone calls of ordinary folks.

I’ve also made it clear that the United States does not collect intelligence to suppress criticism or dissent, nor do we collect intelligence to disadvantage people on the basis of their ethnicity or race or gender or sexual orientation or religious beliefs. We do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to U.S. companies or U.S. commercial sectors.

And in terms of our bulk collection of signals intelligence, U.S. intelligence agencies will only use such data to meet specific security requirements: counterintelligence; counterterrorism; counterproliferation; cybersecurity; force protection for our troops and our allies; and combating transnational crime, including sanctions evasion.

In this directive, I have taken the unprecedented step of extending certain protections that we have for the American people to people overseas. I’ve directed the DNI, in consultation with the attorney general, to develop these safeguards, which will limit the duration that we can hold personal information while also restricting the use of this information. The bottom line is that people around the world, regardless of their nationality, should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security and that we take their privacy concerns into account in our policies and procedures.

This applies to foreign leaders as well. Given the understandable attention that this issue has received, I’ve made clear to the intelligence community that unless there is a compelling national security purpose, we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies.

And I’ve instructed my national security team, as well as the intelligence community, to work with foreign counterparts to deepen our coordination and cooperation in ways that rebuild trust going forward.

Now let me be clear. Our intelligence agencies will continue to gather information about the intentions of governments, as opposed to ordinary citizens, around the world in the same way that the intelligence services of every other nation does. We will not apologize simply because our services may be more effective. But heads of state and government with whom we work closely and on whose cooperation we depend should feel confident that we are treating them as real partners, and the changes I’ve ordered do just that.

                 Finally, to make sure that we follow through on all these reforms, I’m making some important changes to how our government is organized. The State Department will designate a senior officer to coordinate our diplomacy on issues related to technology and signals intelligence. We will appoint a senior official at the White House to implement the new privacy safeguards that I’ve announced today. I will devote the resources to centralize and improve the process we use to handle foreign requests for legal assistance, keeping our high standards for privacy while helping foreign partners fight crime and terrorism.

I’ve also asked my counselor, John Podesta, to lead a comprehensive review of big data and privacy. And this group will consist of government officials who, along with the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, will reach out to privacy experts, technologists and business leaders and look how the challenges inherent in big data are being confronted by both the public and private sectors, whether we can forge international norms on how to manage this data and how we can continue to promote the free flow of information in ways that are consistent with both privacy and security, for ultimately, what’s at stake in this debate goes far beyond a few months of headlines or passing tensions in our foreign policy.

When you cut through the noise, what’s really at stake is how we remain true to who we are in a world that is remaking itself at dizzying speed. Whether it’s the ability of individuals to communicate ideas, to access information that would have once filled every great library in every country in the world, or to forge bonds with people on the other side of the globe, technology is remaking what is possible for individuals and for institutions and for the international order. So while the reforms that I’ve announced will point us in a new direction, I am mindful that more work will be needed in the future. On thing I’m certain of, this debate will make us stronger. And I also know that in this time of change, the United States of America will have to lead.

It may seem sometimes that America is being held to a different standard. And I’ll admit the readiness of some to assume the worst motives by our government can be frustrating.

No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillance programs or Russia to take privacy concerns of citizens in other places into account.

But let’s remember, we are held to a different standard precisely because we have been at the forefront of defending personal privacy and human dignity. As the nation that developed the Internet, the world expects us to ensure that the digital revolution works as a tool for individual empowerment, not government control. Having faced down the dangers of totalitarianism and fascism and communism, the world expects us to stand up for the principle that every person has the right to think and write and form relationships freely, because individual freedom is the wellspring of human progress.

Those values make us who we are. And because of the strength of our own democracy, we should not shy away from high expectations. For more than two centuries, our Constitution has weathered every type of change because we’ve been willing to defend it and because we’ve been willing to question the actions that have been taken in its defense. Today is no different. I believe we can meet high expectations. Together, let us chart a way forward that secures the life of our nation while preserving the liberties that make our nation worth fighting for.

Thank you. God bless you. May God bless the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you.

 Video

President Obama criticized Edward Snowden's method of revealing classified information about the NSA's intelligence gathering during a speech Friday.

President Obama criticized Edward Snowden’s method of revealing classified information about the NSA’s intelligence gathering during a speech Friday.

Read more:

‘We must maintain the trust of the American people’

‘We must maintain the trust of the American people’

President ends eavesdropping on friendly foreign governments, changes system of data collection.

Five big takeaways from the speech

Five big takeaways from the speech

Here the major changes in U.S. policy on conducting surveillance both at home and abroad that Obama is proposing.

Obama acknowledges limits in changing intelligence policy

Obama acknowledges limits in changing intelligence policy

Candidate Obama criticized Bush-era policies, but President Obama faces responsibility, concerns about legacy.

Everything you need to know about Obama’s phone surveillance reforms

Everything you need to know about Obama’s phone surveillance reforms

Three changes that were bigger than anyone expected — and what’s still left unsaid.n. 17.

 

Comments

summakor
1/17/2014 10:35 PM GMT+0100
Ok, as a critic of the NSA domestic metadata program: this will do for now. Excellent speech. But speeches, and even presidential directives, are not laws or Supreme Court opinions. The domestic surveillance is too serious a matter to leave to the whims of this or the next president. So yeah, work with Congress to find a formal solution. In the meantime, Congress should simultaneously go ahead and end the current program (doesn’t have to be immediate) and the Court should decide whether it’s even constitutional.
Anthony Poland
1/17/2014 8:58 PM GMT+0100
Summary: Basically, the U.S. is involved in creating terrorism and counter-terrorism technologies, many of which have eventually become adopted by industry. A LOT of these technologies are being used today on YOU, and anyone can purchase them just by owning a business. It seems to me (and a lot of other people), that this is too much of big brother, and it seems like a good time to get out while there is still time.
zhuubaajie
1/17/2014 8:51 PM GMT+0100
So what did Mr. O just demanded of the world? “Trust us”?It’d be hilarious if it is not so sad.

Responding to the clamor over sensational disclosures about the National Security Agency’s spying practices, Mr. Obama said he would restrict the ability of intelligence agencies to gain access to phone records, and would ultimately move that data out of the hands of the government.

But in a speech at the Justice Department that seemed more calculated to reassure audiences at home and abroad than to force radical change, Mr. Obama defended the need for the broad surveillance net assembled by the N.S.A. And he turned to Congress and the intelligence agencies themselves to work out the details of any changes.

“America’s capabilities are unique,” Mr. Obama said. “And the power of new technologies means that there are fewer and fewer technical constraints on what we can do. That places a special obligation on us to ask tough questions about what we should do.”

Noting his own record of opposition to intrusive surveillance and the “cautionary tale” of unchecked state spying in countries like the former East Germany, Mr. Obama said the disclosures raised genuine issues of the balance between liberty and security.

The president gave Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. 60 days to come back with recommendations; the government, for the time being, will continue to collect the data until Congress decides where ultimately it should be held.

Civil-liberties groups and lawmakers who have been critical of the N.S.A.’s practices appeared divided over whether Mr. Obama’s proposal on bulk phone records should be greeted with applause or wariness.

Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon, Tom Udall of New Mexico and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico — three Democrats on the Intelligence Committee who have been outspoken critics of government surveillance — jointly called Mr. Obama’s embrace of that goal “a major milestone,” although they said they would continue to push for other overhauls Mr. Obama did not endorse.

But Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, was more skeptical, noting that Mr. Obama had warned of hurdles with moving the data into private hands. “The bulk collection and retention of data in government warehouses, government facilities, seems to still be an open question,” he said.

While nothing in federal statutes explicitly gives the court the authority to grant requests to obtain the data, the Justice Department decided that it would most likely consent to doing so, in part because for a period several years ago, the court signed off on each query, officials said.

Two strong defenders of the N.S.A., the leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Representative Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan, and Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, focused on that change as a potential problem.

“If instituted, that approval process must be made faster in the future than it was in the past — when it took up to nine days to gain court approval for a single search,” they said in a joint statement.

Mr. Obama also said he was taking the “unprecedented step” of extending privacy safeguards to non-Americans, including requiring that data collected abroad be deleted after a certain period and limiting its use to specific security requirements, like counterterrorism and cybersecurity.

“The bottom line,” he said, “is that people around the world — regardless of their nationality — should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security.”

Google, which briefly considered moving all of its computer servers out of the United States last year after learning how they had been penetrated by the National Security Agency, was looking for a public assurance from President Obama that the government would no longer secretly suck data from the company’s corner of the Internet cloud.

Microsoft was listening to see if Mr. Obama would adopt a recommendation from his advisers that the government stop routinely stockpiling flaws in its Windows operating system, then using them to penetrate some foreign computer systems and, in rare cases, launch cyberattacks.

Intel and computer security companies were eager to hear Mr. Obama embrace a commitment that the United States would never knowingly move to weaken encryption systems.

They got none of that.

Perhaps the most striking element of Mr. Obama’s speech on Friday was what it omitted: While he bolstered some protections for citizens who fear the N.S.A. is downloading their every dial, tweet and text message, he did nothing, at least yet, to loosen the agency’s grip on the world’s digital pipelines.

White House officials said that Mr. Obama was committed to studying the complaints by American industry that the revelations were costing them billions of dollars in business overseas, by giving everyone from the Germans to the Brazilians to the Chinese an excuse to avoid American hardware and cloud services.

“The most interesting part of this speech was not how the president weighed individual privacy against the N.S.A.,” said Fred H. Cate, the director of the Center of Applied Cybersecurity Research at Indiana University, “but that he said little about what to do about the agency’s practice of vacuuming up everything it can get its hands on.”

Then – In fact, he did more than that: Mr. Obama reminded the country that it was not only the government that was monitoring users of the web, it was also companies like Apple, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo that had complained so loudly, as members of an industry group called Reform Government Surveillance.

“Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze our data, and use it for commercial purposes,” Professor Cate said. “That’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smartphone periodically.”

Translation: Corporate America wants to be able to mine Americans’ data, but fears business will be hurt when the government uses it for intelligence purposes.

In fact, behind the speech lies a struggle Mr. Obama nodded at but never addressed head on. It pits corporations that view themselves as the core of America’s soft power around the world — the country’s economic driver and the guardians of its innovative edge — against an intelligence community 100,000 strong that regards its ability to peer into any corner of the digital world, and manipulate it if necessary, as crucial to the country’s security.

But as Mr. Obama himself acknowledged, the United States has a credibility problem that will take years to address. The discovery that it had monitored the cellphone of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, or that it has now found a way to tap into computers around the world that are completely disconnected from the Internet — using covert radio waves — only fuels the argument that American products cannot be trusted.

That argument, heard these days from Berlin to Mexico City, may only be an excuse for protectionism. But it is an excuse that often works.

“When your products are considered to not only be flawed but intentionally flawed in the support of intelligence missions, don’t expect people to buy them,” said Dan Kaminsky, a security researcher and chief scientist at White Ops, an antifraud company whose clients include many of the nation’s biggest data users,

Mr. Obama will have to address those issues at some point. Every time he meets Silicon Valley executives, many of whom enthusiastically campaigned for him, they remind him of their complaints. But at the Justice Department on Friday, he reminded them that the battle for cyberspace runs in all directions.

“We cannot unilaterally disarm our intelligence agencies,” he said at one point in the speech. “There is a reason why BlackBerrys and iPhones are not allowed in the White House Situation Room. We know that the intelligence services of other countries — including some who feign surprise over the Snowden disclosures — are constantly probing our government and private sector networks, and accelerating programs to listen to our conversations, and intercept our emails and compromise our systems.”

BUT THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL is titled:

The President on Mass Surveillance

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Restoring trust in government agencies requires more than a few good restrictions on collecting personal data.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 3rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Secretary of State John Kerry arrived outside Tel Aviv on Thursday.
His work on the Middle East has drawn more attention than his environmental efforts.

Kerry Quietly Makes Priority of Climate Pact.

 

RELATED:   Kerry Calls Typhoon a Warning of Climate Change (December 19, 2013)

 

WASHINGTON — As a young naval officer in Vietnam, John Kerry commanded a Swift boat up the dangerous rivers of the Mekong Delta. But when he returned there last month as secretary of state for the first time since 1969, he spoke not of past firefights but of climate change.

“Decades ago, on these very waters, I was one of many who witnessed the difficult period in our shared history,”

Mr. Kerry told students gathered on the banks of the Cai Nuoc River. He drew a connection from the Mekong Delta’s troubled past to its imperiled future. “This is one of the two or three most potentially impacted areas in the world with respect to the effects of climate change,” he said.

In his first year as secretary of state, Mr. Kerry joined with the Russians to push Syria to turn over its chemical weapons, persuaded the Israelis and Palestinians to resume direct peace talks, and played the closing role in the interim nuclear agreement with Iran.

But while the public’s attention has been on his diplomacy in the Middle East, behind the scenes at the State Department Mr. Kerry has initiated a systematic, top-down push to create an agencywide focus on global warming.

His goal is to become the lead broker of a global climate treaty in 2015 that will commit the United States and other nations to historic reductions in fossil fuel pollution.

Whether the secretary of state can have that kind of influence remains an open question, and Mr. Kerry, despite two decades of attention to climate policy, has few concrete accomplishments on the issue. The climate bills he sponsored as a senator failed. At the United Nations climate summit meeting in Copenhagen in 2009, Mr. Kerry, then a senator from Massachusetts, labored behind the scenes to help President Obama broker a treaty that yielded pledges from countries to cut their emissions but failed to produce legally binding commitments.

“He’s had a lot of passion, but I don’t think you can conclude he’s had any success,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who has worked on climate legislation with Mr. Kerry in the past.

Yet climate experts point to one significant, recent accomplishment. As a result of mid-level talks Mr. Kerry set up to pave the way for a 2015 deal, the United States and China agreed in September to jointly phase down production of hydrofluorocarbons, greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air-conditioners.

“He’s pushing to get climate to be the thing that drives the U.S. relationship with China,” said Timothy E. Wirth, a former Democratic senator from Colorado who now works on climate change issues with the United Nations Foundation.

For decades, the world has been skeptical of American efforts to push a climate change treaty, given the lack of action in Congress. But Mr. Obama has given Mr. Kerry’s efforts some help. In September, the Environmental Protection Agency began issuing regulations forcing cuts in carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

The rules, which can be enacted without Congress, have effectively frozen construction of new coal-fired plants and could eventually shutter existing ones. Republicans criticize the rules as a “war on coal,” but abroad they are viewed as a sign that the United States is now serious about acting on global warming.

“It has not gone unnoticed that this administration is now much more engaged on climate change,” said Jake Schmidt, the international climate policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Every international negotiator understands it.” When Mr. Kerry took office, Mr. Schmidt said, “the dynamic changed quite a bit.”

Shortly after Mr. Kerry was sworn in last February, he issued a directive that all meetings between senior American diplomats and top foreign officials include a discussion of climate change. He put top climate policy specialists on his State Department personal staff. And he is pursuing smaller climate deals in forums like the Group of 20, the countries that make up the world’s largest economies.

“He’s approaching this creatively,” said Heather Zichal, who recently stepped down as Mr. Obama’s top climate adviser and worked for Mr. Kerry from 2002 to 2008. “He’s thinking strategically about using other forums.”

But Mr. Kerry’s ambitious agenda faces enormous obstacles.

Not only must he handle difficult negotiations with China — the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases — for the 2015 treaty, but the pact must be ratified by a Senate that has a long record of rejecting climate change legislation. “In all candor, I don’t care where he is, nothing is going to happen in the Senate for a long time,” Mr. McCain said.

The effort is complicated by the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline, which, if approved by the State Department and Mr. Obama, would bring carbon-heavy tar sands oil from the Canadian province of Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast — and infuriate environmentalists. Approval of the pipeline could blacken Mr. Kerry’s green credentials and hurt his ability to get a broader climate deal.

Mr. Kerry is nonetheless forging ahead. “One of the reasons the president was attracted to Kerry was that we were going to make climate change a legacy issue in the second term,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser.

Former Vice President Al Gore, who won a Nobel Prize for his efforts to fight climate change, praised Mr. Kerry’s longtime focus on global warming. “He has continued to prioritize the issue even in the face of strong political resistance,” Mr. Gore wrote in an email. Mr. Kerry, he said, “has the rare opportunity to advance international negotiations at a critical time.”

In the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. Kerry worked closely with Mr. Gore, then a senator from Tennessee, on climate change policy on Capitol Hill. In 1992, Mr. Kerry attended the first United Nations climate change summit meeting, in Rio de Janeiro, where he kindled a connection with Teresa Heinz, who attended with a delegation representing the elder President George Bush.

Married three years later, the couple went on to write a 2007 book together, “This Moment on Earth: Today’s New Environmentalists and Their Vision for the Future.” By that time Mr. Kerry had run for president and lost, and then was one of the founders of a think tank, the American Security Project, that defined climate change as a national security threat.

After Mr. Obama was elected president in 2008, Mr. Kerry and his wife began holding salons in their Georgetown home focused on climate policy, with guests like John P. Holdren, the new president’s science adviser. By 2009, Mr. Kerry had joined Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, to push an ambitious climate change bill.

At the Copenhagen climate summit meeting in December 2009, Mr. Obama promised the world that the Senate would soon pass that bill — but a few months later, Mr. Kerry’s legislation fell apart. Since then prospects for global warming legislation on Capitol Hill have been poor.

Now, Mr. Kerry hopes to use his position as secretary of state to achieve a legacy on global warming that has long eluded him.

“There’s a lot of scar tissue from the U.S. saying it will do stuff” on climate change and not following through, said Mr. Schmidt of the Natural Resources Defense Council. But he said Mr. Kerry’s push abroad and Mr. Obama’s actions at home were changing expectations among other nations.

“They’re still waiting to see what we’re going to do,” Mr. Schmidt said, “but the skepticism is much thinner than it was a few months back.”

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

Avnery – January 4, 2014 on Kerry’s honest misconceptions that do not allow progress on the Israeli-Palestinian Devide.

Uri Avnery,

January 4, 2014

 

                Neutral – in whose favor?

 

A FORMER Israeli army Chief of Staff, a man of limited intelligence, was told that a certain individual was an atheist. “Yes,” he asked, “but a Jewish atheist or a Christian atheist?”

Lenin, in his Swiss exile, once inquired about the party affiliation of a newly elected member of the Duma. “Oh, he is just a fool!” his assistant asserted. Lenin answered impatiently: “A fool in favor of whom?”

 I am tempted to pose a similar question about people touted to be neutral in our conflict: “Neutral in favor of whom?”

 

THE QUESTION came to my mind when I saw an Israeli documentary about the US intermediaries who have tried over the last 40 years or so to broker peace between the Palestinians and us.

For some reason, most of them were Jews.

I am sure that all of them were loyal American citizens, who would have been sincerely offended by any suggestion that they served a foreign country, such as Israel. They honestly felt themselves to be neutral in our conflict.

Bur were they neutral? Are they? Can they be?

My answer is: No, they couldn’t.

Not because they were dishonest. Not because they consciously served one side. Certainly not. Perish the thought!

But for a much deeper reason. They were brought up on the narrative of one side. From childhood on, they have internalized the history and the terminology of one side (ours). They couldn’t even imagine that the other side has a different narrative, with a different terminology.

This does not prevent them from being neutral. Neutral for one side.

By the way, in this respect there is no great difference between American Jews and other Americans. They have generally been brought up on the same history and ideology, based on the Hebrew Bible.

 

LET US take the latest example. John Kerry is carrying with him a draft plan for the solution of the conflict.

 It was prepared meticulously by a staff of experts. And what a staff! One hundred and sixty dedicated individuals!

 I won’t ask how many of them are fellow Jews. The very question smacks of anti-Semitism. Jewish Americans are like any other Americans. Loyal to their country. Neutral in our conflict.

 Neutral for whom?

 Well, let’s look at the plan. Among many other provisions, it foresees the stationing of Israeli troops in the Palestinian Jordan valley. A temporary measure. Only for ten years. After that, Israel will decide whether its security needs have been met. If the answer is negative, the troops will remain for as long as necessary – by Israeli judgment.

 For neutral Americans, this sounds quite reasonable. There will be a free and sovereign Palestinian state. The Jordan valley will be part of this state.

If the Palestinians achieve their long-longed-for independence, why should they care about such a bagatelle? If they are not considering military action against Israel, why would they mind?

 Logical if you are an Israeli. Or an American. Not if you are a Palestinian.

 Because for a Palestinian, the Jordan valley constitutes 20% of their putative state, which altogether consists of 22% of the territory they consider their historical homeland. And because they believe, based on experience, that there is very little chance that Israelis will ever willingly withdraw from a piece of land if they can help it. And because the continued military control of the valley would allow the Israelis to cut the State of Palestine off from any contact with the Arab world, indeed from the world at large. 

 And, well, there is such a thing as national pride and sovereignty.

 Imagine Mexican – or even Canadian – troops stationed on 20% of the territory of the USA. Or French troops in control of 20% of Germany. Or Russian troops in 20% of Poland.  Or Serbian troops in Kosovo?

 Impossible, you say. So why do American experts take it for granted that Palestinians are different? That they wouldn’t mind?

 Because they have a certain conception of Israelis and Palestinians.

 

 THE SAME lack of understanding of the other side is, of course, prevalent in the relations between the two sides themselves.

 On the last day of anno 2013, Israel had to release 26 Palestinian prisoners, who had been held since before the 1993 Oslo Accord. This was part of the preliminary agreement achieved by John Kerry for starting the current negotiations.

 Every time this happens, there is an outcry in Israel and rejoicing in Palestine. Nothing exemplifies the mental gap between the two peoples more clearly than these contrasting reactions.

 For Israelis, these prisoners are vile murderers, despicable terrorists with “blood on their hands”. For Palestinians, they are national heroes, soldiers of the sacred Palestinian cause, who have sacrificed more than 20 years of their young lives for the freedom of their people. 

 For days, all Israeli networks have reported several times a day on demonstrations of bereaved Israeli mothers, clutching in their hands large photos of their sons and daughters, crying out in anguish against the release of their murderers. And immediately after, scenes in Ramallah and Nablus of the mothers of the prisoners, clutching the portraits of their loved ones, dancing and singing in anticipation of their arrival.

 Many Israelis were cringing at this sight. But the editors and anchormen would be astonished if they were told that they were inciting the people against the prisoner release, and – indirectly – against the peace negotiations. Why? How? Just honest reporting!

 This revulsion at the other side’s rejoicing seems to be an ancient reaction. The Bible tells us that after King Saul was killed in the war against the Philistines, King David lamented: “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon (both Philistine towns) ; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.” (II Samuel. 1:20)

 Binyamin Netanyahu went further. He made a speech denouncing the Palestinian leadership. How could they organize these demonstrations of joy? What does that say about the sincerity of Mahmoud Abbas? How could they rejoice at the sight of these abominable murderers, who had slaughtered innocent Jews? Doesn’t this prove that they are not serious about seeking peace, that they are all unreformed terrorists at heart, out for Jewish blood? So we cannot give up any security measures for a long, long time.

 The prisoners themselves, when interviewed by Israeli TV immediately after their release, argued in excellent Hebrew (learned in prison) that the main thing was to achieve peace. When asked, one of them said: “Is there a single Israeli, from Netanyahu down, who hasn’t killed Arabs?”

 

 THIS GAP of perceptions is, to my mind, the largest obstacle to peace.

 This week Netanyahu gave us another beautiful example. He spoke about the continued incitement against Israel in Palestinian schoolbooks. This item of right-wing Israeli propaganda pops up every time the other tired arguments are let out to grass.

 How can there be peace, Netanyahu exclaimed, if Palestinian children learn in their classes that Haifa and Nazareth are part of Palestine? This means that they are educated to destroy Israel!

 This is so impertinent, that one can only gasp. I don’t think that there exists a single Hebrew schoolbook that does not mention the fact that Jericho and Hebron are part of Eretz Israel. To change this one would have to abolish the Bible.

 Haifa and Hebron, Jericho and Nazareth are all part of the same country, called Palestine in Arabic and Eretz Israel in Hebrew. They are all deeply rooted in the consciousness of both peoples. A compromise between them does not mean that they give up their historical memories, but that they agree to partition the country into two political entities.

 Netanyahu and his ilk cannot imagine this, and therefore they are unable to make peace. On the Palestinian side there are certainly many people who also find this impossible, or too painful.

 I wonder if Irish schoolbooks have obliterated 400 years of English domination or abomination. I doubt it. I also wonder how English schoolbooks treat this chapter of their history.

 In any case, if an independent (neutral?) commission of experts were to examine all the schoolbooks in Israel and Palestine, they would find very little difference between them. Of Israel’s four main school systems (national, national-religious, western-orthodox and eastern-orthodox), at least the three religious ones are so nationalist-racist that a Palestinian competitor would be hard-pressed to trump them. None of them says anything about the existence of a Palestinian people, not to mention any rights on the country they may possess. God forbid (literally)!

 

 TO BE more than a mere fragile armistice, peace needs reconciliation. See: Mandela.

 Reconciliation is impossible if either side is totally oblivious to the narrative of the other, their history, beliefs, perceptions, myths.

 John Kerry does not need 160 or 1600 experts, neutral or otherwise. He needs one good psychologist. Or maybe two.

 One can easily understand the feelings of a mother whose son was killed by a Palestinian militant. If one tries, one can also understand the feelings of a mother whose son was ordered by his leaders to attack Israelis and who returns from prison after 30 years.

 Only if the American intermediaries, neutral or otherwise, understand both can they contribute to furthering peace.

——————————————————————————————–

The State of Two States

Week of December 29, 2013

from: Israel Policy Forum (IPF) hpolak@ipforum.org

Photo of the week: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrives at Ben Gurion International Airport Jan. 2, 2014. (Photo by Reuters)


Just after ringing in the new year, US Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Israel on Thursday for meetings with President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu with the intention to discuss a potential framework agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Prior to Kerry’s arrival, Israel released 26 Palestinian prisoners in the third phase of the prisoner release, a precondition for ongoing peace talks. It was also announced this week that British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will make separate official visits to Israel next month in a show of support for the continuation of negotiations.


“There is no connection between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Tunisia. Its resolution is not the solution for stabilizing the Middle East… If the alternatives [of not reaching an agreement] are a European boycott or rockets out of Nablus and Ramallah on Ben-Gurion Airport, I’d prefer a European boycott.” – Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, speaking at the Calcalist conference (Tuesday, 12/31/13)

“This needs to be said clearly: the conflict is the Israeli economy’s glass ceiling.” – Justice Minister Tzipi Livni explaining that the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict has serious implications for the Israeli economy at the Calcalist conference (Tuesday, 12/31/13)

“But Mr. Netanyahu is dead wrong in not understanding that the road to dealing with Tehran goes through Ramallah, and that time is running out not only for halting Iran’s nuclear weapons program but also for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, he fails to comprehend that maintaining the status quo on the Palestinian question poses a major obstacle to progress on the Iranian issue.” – Former Shin Bet Chief Ami Ayalon emphasizing the importance of the negotiations for overall regional stability (Wednesday, 1/1/14)

“I think that it was made unequivocally clear that when there is a prisoner release, the construction in Judea and Samaria will continue.” – Minister for Intelligence, International Relations and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz referring to the juxtaposition of the prisoner release and the settlement construction announcement in an interview with Yoman (Wednesday, 1/1/14)

“We are sending a clear message to Israel and the Americans: The Jordan Valley belongs to the Palestinians.” – Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah opposing the symbolic Israeli ministerial vote to annex the Jordan Valley in Maariv (Wednesday, 1/1/14)

“There are two vital components for security [in the Jordan Valley]. One is an IDF presence, the second is the presence of settlements.” – Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin supporting a continuous Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley in an interview with Yoman (Thursday, 1/2/14)

“Now, I want to emphasize that the discussion of an agreed framework has emerged from the ideas that both parties have put on the table. My role is not to impose American ideas on either side but to facilitate the parties’ own efforts. An agreed framework would clarify and bridge the gaps between the parties so that they can move towards a final peace treaty that would resolve all of those core issues.” – Secretary of State John Kerry speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem (Thursday, 1/2/14)

“The potential beauty of this framework is that it would lay the groundwork for the fundamental concessions each side would make without plunging into the details, where many devils lurk…The problem with this is that it still requires bold and courageous decisions from two men who have built their political lives on caution and procrastination…Abbas and Netanyahu have every reason to avoid any genuinely substantive deal, even on a ‘framework.’” – Jackson Diehl examining Secretary Kerry’s framework agreement in the Washington Post (Thursday, 1/2/14)

“’We feel very strongly that the peace process is very important sooner or later, and we support the legitimate peace process,’ McCain said. But he expressed concern about whether some aspects of the agreement are ‘truly enforceable and viable options’ that would not put Israel in jeopardy.” – US Senator John McCain commenting on Secretary Kerry’s proposal for a framework agreement during his visit to Jerusalem (Friday, 1/3/14)

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 2nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Haifa mayor to advise China’s fastest-growing city.

Shenzhen gets approval from Beijing to let Yona Yahav consult the port city on higher education and high-tech development

January 1, 2014.

 

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav (file photo: Shay Levy/Flash 90)

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav (file photo: Shay Levy/Flash 90)

 

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav will serve as a senior adviser to the mayor of the Chinese coastal metropolis of Shenzhen, after counterpart Xu Qin received approval for the appointment from Beijing.

Shenzhen, a coastal city of over 10.5 million adjacent to Hong Kong, sprang from a small fishing village in the late 1970s into one of China’s largest ports and one of the country’s high-tech and manufacturing powerhouses.

According to a report in the Hebrew daily Maariv on Wednesday, Yahav will serve as a consultant on developing Shenzhen through higher education and science based on Haifa’s model. The city’s website says that the long-term development goal for Shenzhen is to “be a pilot zone for a national comprehensive reform program,” “a national economic hub,” and a model city for China.

Yahav has served as mayor of Haifa, home of the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, since 2003. In 2012, Haifa and Shenzhen became sister cities.

His appointment to the task was “a great honor,” Haifa city hall said in a statement, considering Shenzhen sought “the mayor of a city of 300,000 residents to serve as an adviser to 17 million [sic] residents.”

“It’s an expression of great appreciation by the Chinese government, which we admire,” it said.

Rony Geven, a China analyst based in Tel Aviv, said that while the appointment may not necessarily be significant in terms of Yahav’s involvement in decision-making in Shenzhen, it is indicative of China’s appreciation for Israeli achievements in science and technology.

The announcement of Shenzhen-Haifa cooperation came amid strengthening economic and diplomatic ties between Jerusalem and Beijing. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Israel last month and said the two economies “are highly complementary, and the mutually beneficial cooperation between us enjoys a very bright future.”

Although bilateral trade was expected to be only around $8 billion in 2013 — up from $6.7 billion in 2010 — according to Foreign Ministry statistics Israel offers industrial giant China innovative advances in high-tech, agriculture, medicine and water.

“China has massive industrial and global reach. Israel has expertise in every area of high technology,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference with Wang. “And I think the combination could be very very beneficial to China and of course to Israel.”

Netanyahu paid a state visit to China in 2013

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 2nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 www.travelandtourworld.com/news/a…

China, as expected emerged as the leader of the global outbound tourism source market in 2013. Both in terms of the number of travels and the amount of money spent on international traveling; China outperformed every other country of the planet.
As per the recent study by Forbes, the Chinese outbound traveling have gone through a profound change in the recent years. Forbes outlined nine vital developments in the trend of Chinese outbound tourism in 2013.

——————————————————

EGYPT HOPES FOR INCREASED TOURISM FROM INDIA

Indian tourists will now be able to get visa on arrival in Egypt as part of Egypt Tourism Ministry’s “One Million India Tourists’ initiative. According to reports, Hesham Zaazou, Egyptian Minister for Tourism signed an MoU with Indian tour operators recently in order to promote tourism in Egypt.

 

There’s also good news for Indian tourists willing to travel to Egypt. Egypt’s national carrier, Egypt Air will be launching direct flights from New Delhi to Cairo. Tour operators who are a part of this initiative include Thomas Cook, Cox & Kings, Akbar Travels and Mercury Travels.

 

 

“We are aware that there are security concerns about visiting Egypt. But we would like the world to know that our troubles are our own. The tourist has never been a target,” Zaazou told journalists.

 

 

The main goal of this initiative is to bring one million Indian tourists to Egypt in the next three years.

 

 

 

 

1. Quantitative growth continued in 2013: Almost 72 million Chinese travelled worldwide in the first nine months of 2013. The figures probably reached to 95 million till the end of the year. Travel spending by Chinese tourists crossed the 120 billion US$ mark way ahead of Germans or Americans.

 

 

 

2. Pollution has been a constant problem for China, but 2013 made air pollution an unbearable for travelers. Pollution played a vital role in pushing the domestic travelers to out of their country; thus augmenting the outbound traveling trend of China.

 

 

3. Overcrowding comes in as another push factor for Chinese travelers moving out of their country.

 

 

4. The Chinese government policy changed dramatically in 2013, with the new leadership for the first time explicitly supporting Chinese outbound tourism in front of international audiences. The new tourism law, which came into effect on October 1st, further changed the rules of the game by trying to end the worst practices of subsidising below-cost package tour offers with income from forced shopping and poor quality services.

 

 

5. The international tourist industry have complimented the trend of Chinese outbound travelling by allowing Visa-on-arrival. Most of the African and South-east Asian countries have issued a simpler visa policy for the Chinese tourists.

6. Traditional package tours became decisively unfashionable in 2013, with self-organised trips or customised tours organised by tour operators gained ground.

 

 

7. The exotic destinations have publicised and gained a lot of popularity among the Chinese travellers. For instance, 90% of the travellers to Nepal are supposed to be Chinese. This trend is witnessed not only by countries less in the limelight of Chinese travel but also by smaller cities within popular destination countries.

8. If outbound travel can be seen as an investment in personal self-esteem and social capital within the peer group, Chinese investors take the term more and more literally. Solid numbers are hard to come by, but buying they do. 2013 certainly witnessed the highest ever level of Chinese outbound investment into real estate, including tourism infrastructure.

 

9. China centric offers have reaped high dividends for many major players who had a good watch of the travel market for a long while. International hotel groups, cruise ship companies, credit card issuers and other companies which are traditionally not directly involved in providing tourism services all started to take the Chinese market seriously.

 

 
Quite evidently, the Chinese outbound traveling is seemingly becoming the most lucrative market for the global travel and tourism industry. In 2014, the prospects are better as far as the reports and tourism figures suggest.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 1st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Chinese recycling tycoon says he wants to buy New York Times.

BEIJING Tue Dec 31, 2013 12:12pm

(Reuters) – An eccentric Chinese recycling magnate said on Tuesday he was preparing to open negotiations to buy the New York Times Co.

Chen Guangbiao, a well-known philanthropist, is something of a celebrity in China. During a particularly murky bout of pollution in January, the ebullient and tireless self-promoter handed out free cans of “fresh air.

But Chen says he is perfectly serious in his bid to buy the Times, something that he said he had been contemplating for more than two years. He said he expected to discuss the matter on January 5, when he is due to meet a “leading shareholder” in New York.

“There’s nothing that can’t be bought for the right price,” Chen said.

As one of the most prestigious newspapers in the world, the Times is an occasional target among the wealthy — some with unsteady aims.

Donald Trump, the real estate magnate who sells Trump-branded bottled spring water, was trying to figure out a way to buy the Times earlier this year, according to a report in New York magazine, which said that details of Trump’s plans were “scant.”

It is unlikely that the Times, which has long been controlled by the Ochs-Sulzberger family, would sell to Chen.

A spokeswoman for the Times said the company did not comment on rumors.

The company’s chairman, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., said recently that the Times was not for sale.

Chen believes the Times is worth $1 billion, but said he would be willing to negotiate. The Times current market value is $2.4 billion.

“If we act in sincerity and good faith, I believe the Times chairman will change his way of thinking,” he said.

Chen said if he was unable to buy the New York Times, he would settle for becoming a controlling stakeholder, and failing that, would simply buy a stake.

The New York Times Co, which once was a sprawling media outfit with TV stations, U.S. regional newspapers and ownership stakes in sports ventures like the Boston Red Sox baseball team and the Liverpool football club, is now down to its namesake newspaper.

Shares of the New York Times were down 1 percent at $15.93 at midday on Tuesday, after earlier hitting a 5-1/2-year high of $16.14.

IDEALS

The Ochs-Sulzberger family has owned the Times for more than 100 years and controls the company through a trust of Class B shares with special voting rights.

“It’s not true that everything is for sale,” said Ken Doctor, an analyst with Outsell Research. “That is the reason why the New York Times has a two-class share system.”

Hurun’s Rich List of China’s super-wealthy put Chen’s wealth at about $740 million in 2012. Chen said he would not hesitate to sell off most of his assets if it enabled him to buy the Times.

But Chen said that because his funds were limited, he had persuaded an unnamed Hong Kong tycoon to put in $600 million while he would pay the rest. {from the internet we learned, without getting he name of this second tycoon, that he is an American Jew who speaks fluent Chinese - SustainabiliTank.info – which could have strange further connotations these days.}

Chen said his aim was not to push any political agenda, but rather his personal ideals of “peace on earth, protecting the environment and philanthropy.”

He attracted attention in August 2012 when he bought a half-page advertisement in the Times stating that an island chain at the center of a dispute with Japan had belonged to China since antiquity.

“After that, I realized that the Times’ influence all over the world is incredibly vast,” he said. “Every government and embassy, all around the world, pays attention to The New York Times.”

The Times earned the ire of the Chinese government in 2012 with a report about the wealth of former Premier Wen Jiabao. The Times website has been blocked there since then.

Chen said it was natural for the government to block the site because the report on Wen “contained biased and negative things that were not verified.”

“If I acquire the Times, the paper will only report the truth and must verify all information,” Chen said, adding that he would like every Chinese household to subscribe to the paper.

If his offer failed, Chen said he would extend offers to CNN, the Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal.

“As long as they have some influence, I’m still willing to consider buying lesser media outlets,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; Editing by Robert Birsel and Leslie Adler)

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 1st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Knesset goes green.

 

Israeli parliament to be solar secure by end of the year.

By  January” title=”http://israel21c.org/?p=53974\”>January” target=”_blank”>http://israel21c.org/?p=53974″>January 1,2014 – from www.Israel21c.org

 

Knesset by Shutterstock

The Israeli parliament building’s roof has long been touted as a perfect place to build a 1MW solar array. And today, the idea for the Knesset to produce its own solar energy went into effect.

Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein officially launched the “Green Knesset” project – a multi-year project that will convert the Knesset into a legislature guided by the concept of sustainability.

The first two years of the venture will consist of 12 smaller projects focusing on energy and water. Among other things, this phase will include the construction of a 4,500 square meter solar field for the production of electricity from renewable energy; replacing hundreds of bulbs with LED bulbs; replacing the air-conditioning systems with an energy center; automatically shutting down all of the computers at the end of the workday; measuring the amount of water used for irrigation in the Knesset and adopting a more economical water consumption model; the desalination of water from the Knesset’s air-conditioning systems and using this water for irrigation and other purposes

Knesset says the projects will return the $2 million investment within five years. The money saved will go to a “green fund” – and be used for additional sustainable initiatives.
Photo by SeanPavonePhoto / Shutterstock.com

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