links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic
SustainabiliTank

 
 
Follow us on Twitter


 
Macao:

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 24th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Childhood in Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Union fight in Nevada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aiding medical research:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 10th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

CHINA DAILY – ASIA PACIFIC has sections on Asia Pacific, Mainland China, HK/Macao, and Taiwan – quite balanced news and tacitly reminding the US that there are global issues that are unfettered by the US elections. Simply said – the US Administration must be engaged all the time and cannot afford the luxury of taking time out while electing the President of Ohio and Florida.

Some articles today are:

Washington does not accept Japan’s claims to Diaoyu Islands

By Zhao Shengnan
October 9, 2012 – 9:00am www.chinadailyapac.com

A US Congressional report said Washington has never recognized Japan’s sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands and takes no position over the territorial row between Japan and China.

The report, published on Sept 25 by the Congressional Research Service, said the US recognizes only Japan’s administrative power over the Diaoyu Islands after the Okinawa Reversion Treaty was signed in 1971.

China-Japan relations hit the lowest point in years after Tokyo’s so-called purchase of the Diaoyu Islands on Sept 10, a move sparking wide protest across China. The islands have been Chinese territory for centuries.

During Senate deliberations on whether to consent to the ratification of the treaty, the US State Department asserted that the US took a neutral position with regard to the competing claims of Japan and China, despite the US’ return of the islands to Japanese administration.

“Department officials asserted that reversion of administrative rights to Japan did not prejudice any claims to the islands,” said the report from the Congress’ think tank, the public-policy research arm of the US Congress.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei on Monday said he noted the US’ neutral position on the Diaoyu Islands in the report and added he hopes the US will “walk the talk”.

Analysts said the report, which reflects the Obama administration’s stance over the territorial row between its ally and China, is an effort to ease the escalating tension but can hardly change the US’ Japan-tilt policy.

However, according to the report, the Diaoyu Islands fall under the scope of the 1960 US-Japan Security Treaty since 1972, which stipulates that the US is bound to protect “the territories under the administration of Japan”.

Under the treaty, the US guarantees Japan’s security in return for the right to station US troops – about 50,000 – in dozens of bases throughout the Japanese archipelago.

Washington has been ambiguous on the Diaoyu Islands issue as it supports Tokyo with the US-Japan Security Treaty, but has warned Tokyo not to break the “red line” of China or cause large-scale conflicts, said Feng Wei, an expert on Japanese studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Both Japan and the US have made some compromises in front of China’s all-round countermeasures over the issue, and “Washington is especially worried that the China-Japan territorial dispute could threaten US and Japan’s economy as well as the Asia-Pacific stability amid its strategic pivot to the region”, he said.

On Friday, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba delivered a written statement to Taiwan saying that the Japanese government hopes to resume talks on fishing in the waters in the East China Sea.

But at the same time, two US aircraft carrier strike groups have been deployed since mid-September to the Western Pacific in an apparent attempt to keep the activities of the Chinese military in check and as a response to China’s launch of its first aircraft carrier at the end of September, Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun said on Oct 6.

Hong told a regular news conference that Chinese marine surveillance ships and fishery patrol ships will continue their official duties in waters near the Diaoyu Islands, which are under China’s jurisdiction.

Fishery authorities said on Saturday that five fishery patrol ships were in the area during the National Day holiday from Sept 30 through Sunday to continue their patrol missions. Four Chinese marine surveillance ships also arrived in the waters on Oct 2.

“Safeguarding China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests is the Chinese military’s sacred duty,” Hong said.

He also once again urged Tokyo to correct its mistakes and return to negotiations to resolve the dispute, as well as to strictly comply with the one-China policy and properly handle relevant issues.

In sensitive situations like this, favoring one party helps little in de-escalating a potentially violent conflict, Mike Honda, a Japanese-American and US representative for California, said on his blog earlier this month.

“If this conflict becomes violent on the East China Sea, we will see shipping thwarted, more factories closed, costs of imports climb and other foreign policy decisions affected,” he said.

zhaoshengnan@chinadaily.com.cn

——————–

China boosts economic diplomacy

By Li Xiaokun , Zhao Shengnan
October 10, 2012 – 9:07am www.chinadailyapac.com

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday established the Department of International Economic Affairs to serve economic diplomacy, which is increasingly important in China’s diplomatic blueprint.

The move shows that Beijing has recognized its increasing power in the economic field and is moving forward to make better use of it, Chinese experts said.

A rapidly growing number of international business disputes intertwined with political factors forced the Foreign Ministry to set up the new body to protect national economic security, they added.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily briefing on Tuesday that the new body will assume responsibility for international economic affairs including preparation for, and follow-up actions resulting from, Chinese leaders’ attendance at significant events such as the G20 and APEC summits, and meetings of BRICS countries.

The department is set to work with other Chinese government organs to make arrangements for the country to cooperate in economic and development fields within the United Nations and other international and regional cooperation frameworks, Hong said.

It will also focus on research work on issues such as global economic governance, international economic and financial situation and regional economic cooperation, he added.

Zhang Jun, former Chinese ambassador to the Netherlands, was appointed as the first chief of the newly established department.

Zhang, 52, returned from the Netherlands in July. He previously served as deputy director-general of the ministry’s international department from 2002 to 2004.

Economic topics closely related to politics are increasingly dominating major international forums like the G20, said Zhu Caihua, vice-dean of the School of International Economy under the China Foreign Affairs University.

That is why China needs a specialized organ to study relevant strategies, she said.

“China’s soaring economic strength enables it to provide due assistance to developing countries and the European Union hit by the debt crisis. These moves also give China more say and flexibility in foreign relations,” she said.

Hong said China is willing to strengthen financial cooperation with Europe, when commenting on the inaugural board meeting of the European Stability Mechanism in Luxembourg on Monday.

Earlier this year, Premier Wen Jiabao said China was considering how to get “more deeply involved” in resolving Europe’s debt crisis through the mechanism and European Financial Stability Facility.

Another case where the new department can play an important role is the recent spontaneous boycott by Chinese of Japanese products to protest Tokyo’s so-called purchase of Diaoyu Islands in September.

The Chinese government did not instigate these boycotts, and called for rational patriotism after Japanese-owned businesses were looted and damaged in some Chinese cities.

The new department will also help handle economic disputes with political backgrounds, which cannot be solved solely by the Ministry of Commerce, Zhu said.

On Sept 6, the EU launched an anti-dumping investigation of Chinese solar panels, involving more than $20 billion in Chinese exports, the largest so far. The move constitutes a test of the EU’s commitment to free trade.

In the run-up to the US presidential election in November, both US President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney frequently blamed China for domestic economic woes.

The latest case is a report by the US House Intelligence Committee accusing two Chinese technology firms – Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp – of posing a national security threat to the US.

A spokesman for Huawei on Monday refuted the allegation, saying “the report is little more than an exercise in China-bashing and misguided protectionism”.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said at the inaugural ceremony on Tuesday that the new department will help safeguard China’s national development interests and economic security, and contribute to world economic growth.

State Councilor Dai Bingguo, who is in charge of foreign policies, has required the Foreign Ministry to “deeply understand the reality and long-term significance of intensifying economic diplomacy under the new situation”.

Still, experts warned when handling business disputes China should be prudent with economic sanctions, a double-edged sword with an adverse effect.

The Foreign Ministry has expanded its organization based on the development of China’s foreign relations, said Dong Manyuan, deputy director of the China Institute of International Studies.

The ministry set up the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs in 2009 and increased its news conferences from twice to five times a week in 2011.

Contact the writers at lixiaokun@chinadaily.com.cn and  zhaoshengnan at chinadaily.com.cn

———————————–

Firms help create jobs in US

By Chen Weihua (in the Mainland China section of China Daily Asia Pacific)
October 9, 2012 – 8:56am www.chinadailyapac.com

1 of 1
People line up to meet the Los Angeles Lakers star Robery Horry (right) at the Haier stand at 2012 International CES, a consumer electronics trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Chinese appliance maker has hired 350 people in its South Carolina plant. (Provided to China Daily)

Direct investment deals add 27,000 to payrolls in the country since 2000

Although US politicians often raise fears about Chinese investment stealing US jobs and posing threats to national security, analysts paint a very different picture.

The latest report released by New York-based Rhodium Group shows that the 600 Chinese direct investment transactions made between 2000 and 2012 support 27,000 jobs in the United States today, compared with 10,000 jobs five years ago.

The companies in the study are all US subsidiaries with Chinese majority ownership. They do not include those in which Chinese hold a minority interest – which account for $8 billion, or 40 percent of Chinese investment in the US during the 12 years – or indirect job creation related to the construction of factories or at suppliers. For example, Tianjin Pipe Corp’s new steel plant in Texas is estimated to employ up to 2,000 construction workers.

The study on the employment impact of Chinese FDI in the US also finds that more than $3.5 billion worth of greenfield investment, or investment in new facilities, since 2000 has created 8,000 US jobs.

Major job creators include auto parts maker Wanxiang, which employs 6,000 Americans, mostly in Illinois; appliance maker Haier hiring 350 in South Carolina; telecom equipment firm Huawei with 1,500 in California, Texas and New Jersey; and Sany, which runs a facility in Georgia employing more than 130 people.

Admitting that the impact on US jobs of mergers and acquisitions is less clear, the study finds that the 170 transactions in which Chinese investors have majority control of US firms were “overwhelmingly positive”.

“We see no evidence of asset-stripping behavior and find that most Chinese parent firms have maintained or added staff after acquiring companies in the US,” wrote Thilo Hanemann, research director of Rhodium Group, and Adam Lysenko, research analyst at Rhodium.

Compared with previous owners, Chinese investors were able to inject capital to maintain expenditure in times of crisis, bring better access to the fast-growing Chinese market and create synergies with existing operations in China that increased the value of US assets.

Even the few acquisitions that have resulted in job losses have not been subject to asset stripping by Chinese companies, but rather structural adjustment and reorganization of value chains to react to changes in costs or demand, according to the report.

Although the 27,000 jobs associated with Chinese investment now make up less than 1 percent of the 6 million jobs created by US-based foreign affiliates, the report emphasized that the potential is huge, given that Chinese FDI is expected to increase dramatically in the coming decade.

It projects that if the US can attract between $150 billion of Chinese global outbound investment by 2020, there will be 300,000 Americans on the payroll of Chinese US affiliates. Rhodium expects total Chinese outbound investment to hit $1 trillion by 2020.

The report, however, noted that such a result is not guaranteed. Chinese companies will only continue to invest in the US if the US manages to sustain its attractiveness to foreign investors by fixing its structural problems.

“If fear mongering and populism gain the upper hand, Chinese firms may choose more hospitable investment destinations in Europe or Asia to expand their overseas business and generate jobs there,” the report said.

The report also called for improved corporate governance and transparency on the part of Chinese investors and less Chinese government involvement in overseas investment decisions.

Both Hanemann and Dan Rosen, a partner at Rhodium Group, do not believe that US President Barack Obama’s recent executive order requiring Ralls Corp, owned by executives of China’s Sany Group, to abandon a wind farm project near a military base in Oregon and divest all related assets is politically motivated or signals a more restrictive US policy toward Chinese investment.

But Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, described Obama’s decision as sending the wrong message.

Saying Obama was the first president in 22 years to issue a formal order blocking foreign investment into the US on national security grounds, Alden said the decision will unfortunately be seen as yet another signal – this time from the highest possible level – that the US does not really want Chinese investment.

“And for an economy still struggling to create jobs, that’s the wrong signal to send,” Alden said.

He said the Obama administration had handled the case “abysmally”.

“If the location of the wind farm did indeed pose real security concerns, the US government should have worked quietly with the company to help it find a reasonable way to divest,” he said. “By forcing a presidential action, it becomes a big, public slapdown to another Chinese company. That is not in the economic interest of the US that needs all the foreign investment it can get.”

Joel Backaler, director of the Frontier Strategy Group in Washington, said that Obama’s motivation may have been to help his presidential campaign. “Cracking down on China” is a spotlight issue for both Democratic and Republican parties.

“If future investment decisions by Chinese companies meet similar resistance, though, the end result of such decisions will hinder, not help the US economic recovery,” Backaler wrote in the Bloomberg Businessweek magazine.

chenweihua@chinadaily.com.cn

———————————-

Betting on a diversified economy in Macao.

By Li Tao
October 10, 2012 – 10:20am www.chinadailyapac.com

1 of 1

Despite being crowned the gaming capital of the world, the Macao Special Administrative Region is striving to become a more diversified economy as its gambling business has weighed way too much on the region’s overall growth.

It is a city where almost all the local residents are more or less implicated to its one and only compellingly dominated business: gambling. As the only place that has a legalized gaming sector throughout the Chinese territory till today, the importance of buoyant gaming economy to Macao remains phenomenal.

A 20-year-old Macao resident, who does not want to identify himself, told China Daily that although he didn’t even study at a university, after working only two years as a dealer in one of the most prestigious casinos in the city, he is now able to earn almost 17,000 patacas ($2,130) a month.

This compares with the median monthly wage of 10,000 patacas reported in a Macao government employment survey for the third quarter of 2011 — a historic high record in the city, which also outstripped the median HK$13,000 ($1,677) earned by its neighboring Hong Kong people.

“To many of us who are content with the status quo, working in a casino is almost a guaranteed life-time job,” the dealer said, adding that the casinos in Macao these days generally have to put in a great deal of effort to recruit new employees as the number of applicants are so huge due to the low entrance threshold.

Other data also demonstrated the city’s extreme over reliance on gambling revenue these days. By the end of 2011, over 50,000 local residents of Macao’s 345,000 working population were working in the gaming and related sector, such as hotel and restaurants inside the casinos.

At the same time, the booming gaming industry accounts for over 60 percent of the city’s gross domestic product (GDP) today, and which even pays nearly 90 percent of the total taxes that the local government collects every year, according to news reports.

Concerns over the monotonous money-making pattern never stop reverberating in Macao since the city’s casino operators have seen explosive gains from the visitors particularly from the mainland. Some skeptics even pictured a bleak outlook for Macao, claiming that the whole economy will fall out once dice players no longer favor the city any more.

Doubts are also supported by sharp contracting gambling revenue results starting this year, after the city’s casino operators reported poorer results, a direct contrast to the enormous profits growth of some 40 percent over the past few years.

Gaming revenue in the world’s biggest gambling hub this July rose only a tepid 1.5 percent to 24.6 billion patacas compared with the 24.2 billion patacas a year earlier, according to Macao’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, representing the slowest pace since June 2009 when the city was impacted by the previous financial tsunami.

Global rating agency Fitch in July revised its Macao gaming revenue growth forecast to 10 to 12 percent for this year from the previous 15 percent. It cited reasons including a “more cautious view with respect to the near-term impact of the slowdown on the mainland”.

“Buying Macao’s casino stocks is like gambling these days,” said Alvin Chung, a Hong Kong-based associate director of Prudential Brokerage. “Growth of new arrivals to Macao have subsided notably, but casino operators have not even planned to halt their expansion plans, giving rise to greater opportunities for over capacity within the market, “ Chung added.

Casino operators, apparently, view it in a different way. Las Vegas Sands Corp, the world’s largest gambling group, launched its Sands Cotai Central integrated resort in Macao’s Cotai Strip this April. The project’s construction was once suspended in 2008 due to financial stress, according to the company.

US billionaire Sheldon Adelson, chairman of the group, is still convinced that its Chinese arm Sands China Ltd has yet to fully benefit from the wealth spurs among the middle-class on the mainland.

“We wouldn’t be expanding if there is no future here,” Adelson said in Macao on September 20 during the launch ceremony of its third hotel project within the resort.

“(Currently) about 13 percent of the US population visit Las Vegas each year. If it is the same story for the Chinese, the numbers will reach nearly 200 million here.”

Adelson’s bullish plan also accompanies the fact that unlike other traditional casinos which primarily feature gambling, the newly launched integrated resorts in Macao today, including Sands Cotai Central, are basically giant complexes congregated with shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, as well as some gaming places — which are not even conspicuous in the resort.

Ricardo Siu, an associate professor of business economics at the University of Macau, told China Daily that the casino operators are also determined to seek ways to diversify their business combinations in Macao as they’ve also realized that solely having gaming attractions for the visitors alone are unlikely to be sustainable if there are no other profitable channels to explore.

The move is also in line with the Central Government’s blueprint, which dates back to the year 2006, when a goal to diversify Macao’s gambling-dependent economy was set in its 11th Five-Year Plan. In the latest 12th Five-Year Plan starting 2011, the Central Government further positioned the city as a global center of tourism and leisure.

“It is not even an option. It is a must-do,” said Siu. “Since the Macao government liberalized the gambling industry in 2002, concerns over the sector has never ceased as the city relies too much on the gaming sector. Meanwhile, people also worry that the single pillared economy will be doomed once favorable policies from the Central Government fade out.”

The crux in diversifying the Macao’s economy is to boost growth of non-gaming revenues, Siu said that this was the philosophy, but in reality, it is really something easy to say but hard to achieve, particularly over the short period.

Even integrated resorts like Sands Cotai Central, which enlists over 200 shops, high-end restaurants, theaters as well as three branded hotels that provide nearly 6,000 rooms, is still unable to highlight the importance of non-gaming revenues at the moment, according to Edward Tracy, chief executive of Sands China

Without disclosing any solid data, Tracy said the non-gaming gains only take up about 12 percent of the company’s total revenue in the resort, remaining a relatively small part due to the extremely huge income from gambling.

Gambling revenue reached 268 billion patacas in Macao last year, almost six times the Las Vegas Strip’s $6.07 billion, according to data from gambling authorities of the two sides.

Estimating that Macao’s non-gaming revenue will continue to play a minor part even in the next decade, Siu said he supported the idea of stimulating developments in other areas of the economy that have failed to keep up with the gaming sector.

“Macao should be transformed from a casino gaming place to a more family and business travel destination, meaning the city should not be concerned with filling up the casinos with visitors, but also a place where everyone could come to and relax with their families over the weekends,” said Siu.

According to government reports, 16.16 million visitors from Chinese mainland visited Macao in 2011, accounting for 58 percent of the city’s total visitor arrivals.

Davis Fong, director of the Institute for the Study of Commercial Gaming at the University of Macau believes people shouldn’t make such a fuss on Macao’s over reliance on gaming as each city needs a clear identification of its own positioning, and for Macao which is labeled as a gaming capital of the world has proven to be a success.

It is an era in which metropolitan areas compete with one another, rather than just single economies. While neighboring Hong Kong is positioned as a global financial center and the Pearl River Delta (PRD) is famous for its manufacturing bases, Macao which is themed to attract tourists all over the world, has also fully played out its own advantages, according to Fong.

“On the other hand, the inflow of people to any part of the metropolitan area is tipped to benefit the overall economy particularly after transportation facilities connecting the region are fully put into use,” Fong said.

After a bridge being built across the Pearl River estuary to link Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macao is completed in 2016, transportation convenience between the three cities will become greatly enhanced.

“It means the inflow of visitors to Macao will be further lifted, with more travelers from Hong Kong and the mainland who may initially only prepare to spend some time in Macao,” added Fong.

litao@chinadailyhk.com

—————————————–

and in the Taiwan section of the paper:

A senior member of Taiwan’s opposition party Frank Hsieh left Beijing on Monday after concluding a high-profile visit to the mainland, which experts expect to prompt more non-…


The mainland and Taiwan signed two agreements on Thursday — on investment protection and promotion, and customs cooperation.

——————————————
and under ASIAN LEADERS:

An Australian Man of Energy Who Heads the  Australia-China Business Council.

By Karl Wilson
September 28, 2012 –  www.chinadailyapac.com

As a young boy growing up in Western Australia, a job in the resources sector was as far away from Frank Tudor’s mind as possible.

“I thought I was destined for life in the academic world, probably teaching science or mathematics,” says the CEO and managing director of Western Australia’s regional and remote electricity provider Horizon Power.

Tudor, who is also national president of the Australia China Business Council, joined the West Australian government-owned Horizon six years ago after a successful career with Woodside, Australia’s biggest oil and gas producer.

Working for BP and Woodside saw the family moving quite a bit in his early working life.

Tudor says he was interested in renewable energy and the impact it was going to have on the industry within Western Australia.

The resources-rich state, especially in iron ore that is feeding China’s enormous economic growth, occupies roughly a third of the entire continent of Australia and is home to less than two million people.

“Horizon was a good starting point; it operated in some interesting parts of the state across the complete supply chain through generation to retail.

“There were a lot of natural energy sources, such as wind and solar, and there was an opportunity to see what difference that could make (to) the state’s energy.”

Tudor went in as the general manager at Horizon. Then he was appointed CEO in April 2011. He was given the mandate to shape the strategy and work closely with the board.

“I also wanted to stay with my family in Western Australia,” he adds.

Tudor says family is important to him. “I like to keep a good balance between the two,” he says.

Speaking from his home in Perth, Tudor says his time with BP and Woodside opened many doors in China and enabled him to build relationships that are still in place.

“It never occurred to me when I was studying mechanical engineering at Curtin (University) that I would end up working in the oil and gas industry,” he says.

“It was a friend of the family (who) asked me if I would like some vocational work at BP’s Kwinana oil refinery just south of Perth. I said yes and towards the end of my studies, a full-time position came up at the refinery and I took it.

“It wasn’t planned …”

Kwinana is the largest refinery in Australia with a capacity of 137,000 barrels of crude oil a day. It is the only refinery in Western Australia.

“Within a couple of years I was in London with BP where I stayed for 10 years, then to Perth, then to Melbourne and back to Perth,” Tudor says. “All up I was with BP for just over 20 years before moving to Woodside.”

He says his experience with BP helped to widen his horizons and gave him an understanding of the emerging economic power that China has become.

The early 1990s saw him in Papua New Guinea for BP, developing gas interests for the growing Chinese energy market.

“The global financial crisis, however, hit much of that on the head,” he says. “But China was still expanding, still growing.”

In early 2000 he moved to Woodside, which had already developed strong ties with China through its massive North West Shelf oil and gas project off the northern coast of Western Australia.

Vast quantities of natural gas and condensate were discovered beneath the sea bed on the North West continental shelf in the 1970s.

The discovery marked the birth of Australia’s largest oil and gas resource development.

Since then more than A$27 billion ($28 billion) has been invested in facilities which today include offshore production platforms and sub-sea infrastructure, onshore processing and storage facilities at the Karratha gas plant.

They also include loading facilities, jetties, associated infrastructure and liquefied natural gas (LNG) ships.

Between 2003 and 2005 Tudor headed up Woodside’s business development operations in China and “up the foundation for the PetroChina gas deal on Browse which has since lapsed”, he says.

It was a 2007 agreement between PetroChina and Woodside for the potential sale of two million to three million tons of LNG per year from the Browse LNG development facility off the north-west coast of Western Australia.

“That was about the time I started to get involved with the Australia China Business Council,” he says. “For me it seemed like a pretty good fit.

“On the one hand you had China with an insatiable appetite for resources to drive its industrial base, and on the other, Australia, rich in the resources China wanted.”

Tudor sees the role of the council as a bridge builder between Australia and China and a hub for the “many ideas driving debate and highlighting opportunities associated with the Sino-Australian relationship”.

Some of the current debate in Australia over China’s investments in it, he says, is “frankly, ill informed”.

“We need to change those perceptions,” he says. “Australians need to understand just how important China is, not only for the country but to individual households.”

As a country, Australia is unique among industrialized nations as a net exporter of commodities and a net importer of manufactured goods.

“We have valuable commodities and increasingly manufactured goods and services that China needs to fuel its massive industrialization and urbanization,” he says. “At the same time we import manufactured goods and to a lesser extent services that China can supply at much lower prices than we could produce them.

“Australian households have a strong appetite for variety and value in consumer goods which China supplies, such as clothing, computers, telecoms equipment, toys, games, sporting goods, furniture and chemicals.”

He says that in 2010-11 the average value of trade with China per household in Australia was worth A$13,470 – a 93 percent increase since 2006-2007.

“These are the sort of messages we need to get across … not the ill-informed political rhetoric of some,” he says. “Education is the key.”

And Tudor knows what he is talking about when it comes to education. He has degrees from Perth’s Curtin University, London School of Economics, and the Australian Graduate School of Management at the University of New South Wales.

In 2008 he completed an eight-week advanced management program at Harvard Business School.

“I remember meeting a man when I first started at BP who inspired me a great deal,” he recalls.

“His name was Marcel Dell and he had emigrated from Europe. He came here with nothing but a desire to do well. He went to night school and later went on to university and a senior position with BP at Kwinana.

“I also think he may have been instrumental in my going to London with BP. He showed me what can be achieved if you work hard for it and the value of education.

“I see this all the time in China.”

Tudor says Australia lacks a coherent strategy towards China and he hopes that the government’s long awaited white paper on Australia in the Asian century will be a good start.

“Industry, academia, states and the federal government need to work much more closely to create such a strategy, and become much more tactful in the way we engage.

“Despite what we read in some sections of the media in Australia, China is playing an active role in Australia, moving from simple off-taking to investment in onshore infrastructure and greenfield developments right across the Australian economy.”

Tudor says with China’s middle class growing there are numerous opportunities for Australian companies to invest.

“You are starting to see that in education, legal and financial services. The opportunities are there, we just need to go out and do it,” he says. “Getting in the door is half the battle.”

Bio
FRANK TUDOR
CEO and managing director, Horizon Power

CAREER MILESTONES

2006-present: Joins Horizon Power as general manager and becomes its CEO in 2011

2009-present: Chairman of the board and national president of the Australia China Business Council

1980-2006: Holds a number of senior positions at BP and Woodside

EDUCATION

First class degrees in engineering, economics and business administration

QUICK TAKES

Role model:

I guess if I were to choose someone it would be a guy I got to know at the Kwinana refinery by the name of Marcel Dell. Marcel was an emigrant from Europe who started off as a boiler maker, put himself through night school, then went on to university where he got first class honours in mechanical engineering.

He went on to build an impressive career at BP. Yes, if I were to choose someone it would be him. He sort of epitomized what Australia is all about.

Walking the tightrope between work and family:

Switched from alcohol to coffee. Jokes aside, family is very important to me. I think it is important to understand that. I try not to let work interfere in that balance.

How do you relax?

I like to windsurf. There is plenty of water although we do have some large fish … fish with very sharp teeth (sharks).

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 8th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Striking again, Saudi hacker says ‘I want to hurt Israel’

Talkative and boastful, Saudi hacker tells Israel Hayom in an email exchange that he has leaked 11,000 additional credit card numbers to the Internet.
“I have a million credit card numbers and access to tons of Israeli websites, including government servers and military contractors.”

Hezi Sternlicht, Ilan Gattegno, Zeev Klein
Isracard Headquarters this week.
Credit card companies are at the mercy of each and every website, says executive.
|

When Israeli credit cards were first leaked by a Saudi hacker on Monday, some experts said the initial number of cards affected — some 15,000 — would not be the final tally. On Thursday, it turned out the pessimists were right.

On Thursday afternoon Saudi hacker OxOmar leaked an additional file with the details of 11,000 new cards. Out of this list, Israel’s three credit card companies identified 6,048 active Israeli cards, and immediately blocked them. Most of these belonged to Isracard customers. Because some people have more than one card, the Bank of Israel found that as of Thursday night 17,530 Israeli citizens had been affected by the continuous credit card leak. 

Except this time the Saudi hacker did not stop at leaking mere names and credit card numbers. He also exposed the Israeli identification numbers and addresses of many Israelis whose credit card numbers he exposed. In addition, tens of thousands of Israelis’ email addresses were made public.

“My goal is to hurt Israel — politically, economically and culturally,” the hacker wrote on Thursday in an email exchange with Israel Hayom. “I can’t tell you the names of the sites I’ve hacked into but I have access to tons of Israeli servers including government servers and military contractors.” The talkative Saudi hacker reportedly held email conversations with a range of Israeli media outlets.  In an email exchange with Israel Army Radio, OxOmar said he was “waiting for the Mossad” to catch up to him, and that people in Saudi Arabia were praying for his success.

The hacker conveyed the same message in an earlier announcement he posted on the Internet.

“If needed, maybe in next time I start sharing all data I have downloaded from Israeli military contractor companies and let the world have their all documents,” he wrote [sic]. “I’m thinking to start doing it from an Israeli company which creates jammers and eavesdropping devices.”

The hacker expressed anger over the fact that the “fake Jewish and Zionist lobby media” had minimized his accomplishment, saying only 14,000 cards had been exposed. “This made me a little unhappy,” he wrote. “So I’ve started thinking of sending all Israeli credit cards I own which reaches 1M data. I’ll do it soon!”

Israel Hayom asked him when he plans to post the new information. “Soon, in a couple of weeks,” he wrote. “Up till this point, I’ve posted tons of credit card numbers. It’s not 14,000. It’s more than 100,000. Israel must admit this it or I will continue to leak more and more.”

The hacker told Israel Hayom he works alone, out of Saudi Arabia. He apparently told other media outlets that he is 19 years old.

Earlier, in his Internet post, the hacker wrote, “Zionist lobby media, pay attention to what I sent to internet,” followed by “Saudi Arabia for ever! Saudi Arabia rules, long life King Abdullah!”

The real danger: identity theft

The Bank of Israel and credit card companies are taking the threats very seriously. The BOI and the companies have said they are taking all necessary steps to prevent damage to cardholders, despite the fact that almost all the cards in question have already been blocked.

Aside from violations to people’s privacy, the leak creates a real danger of identity theft as well as potential forging of Israeli credit cards, identification cards, drivers’ licenses and passports. All three of Israel’s credit card companies have blocked telephone and Internet transactions on all of the exposed cards. Now some fear the Saudi hacker may reveal what those Israelis spent their money on.

The Bank of Israel is looking into the Saudi hacker’s claims and is working with credit card companies to investigate the serious security lapse that led to the leak. Initial investigations reveal a profile for those Israelis affected by the most recent Saudi leak. Almost all of them went abroad in the past year and spent time in luxury hotels, mainly in Europe (Germany, Italy, Serbia, Hungary, France, Holland and Great Britain). Almost all of them gave their credit card numbers, names and ID or passport numbers to the hotels for security purposes. Some of the Israelis affected made purchases abroad over the phone or Internet.

Nevertheless, the focal point of suspicion is that the hacker obtained the personal details by hacking Israeli retail and coupon websites.

The affair broke on Monday when surfers on the sports website one.co.il were referred to another site where 400,000 names appeared, along with the details of tens of thousands of credit cards. The investigation, which the Justice Ministry is also involved in, has not negated the possibility that Israelis were involved in planting the information on one.co.il.

It is possible that YAHBAL (Israel Police unit for international crime) could get involved in the investigation, since the criminal activity took place abroad.

All three of Israel’s credit card companies said that anyone adversely affected by the leak will be compensated. The CEO of Isracard announced that of the 11,000 new credit card numbers exposed by the Saudi hacker Thursday, about 5,200 belong to its customers. Visa CAL said about 800 of their customers had been affected, while Leumicard said it had only identified 48 of the numbers as theirs.

Visa CAL CEO Israel David on Thursday called on the government to intervene and increase regulation and oversight of Israeli websites. “Without regulation that sets strict standards and oversees websites, the personal information of millions of citizens is at risk,” he said.

David said there is no enforcement of website security measures in Israel and that credit card companies are at the mercy of each and every site and the level of protection it chooses to implement.

Meanwhile, Israeli experts are trying to understand who the Saudi hacker is and how it might be possible to apprehend him. “If he knows how to hide himself well, then the chances of finding him are miniscule,” said Shai Blitzblau, managing director of Maglan Information Defense Technologies Ltd. “He visits the hacker site from changing locations and conceals his identity well,” said Blitzblau, “On the other hand, his boastfulness is uncharacteristic of hackers.”

According to Blitzbau, there are signs that more than one hacker is involved. “When you look at the source of his Twitter registration you see that he borrowed his identity from someone else.” Still, he said, finding the hacker is not a lost cause. “It would require international cooperation from police and security forces, but there are even ways to apprehend someone in Saudi Arabia if that’s where he really is.”

Among the victims: famous people

Among those whose credit card details were leaked Thursday was novelist Orly Castel-Bloom. Israel Hayom read the information from the file to the acclaimed author by phone and she confirmed that this had indeed been her credit card number until two weeks ago. Her home address, cell phone number and home phone number were also leaked.

“Yes, that was my credit card number,” she said. “I’m surprised. Still, the card hasn’t been active for two weeks. I’ve actually done a lot of Internet shopping recently. I moved house and bought a refrigerator and dishwasher online. I don’t think I’ll buy things on the Internet anymore.”

In addition, the man who led last spring’s cottage cheese protest, Itzik Elrov, also had his personal information leaked. “Yes, I do tend to shop on the Internet,” he told Israel Hayom on Thursday. “This is the kind of thing you think will never happen to you. I hope they find a way to enforce the law and clean up this mess. But to tell you the truth, I am more concerned with the price gouging that food companies engage in knowingly than with an anonymous Saudi hacker.”

Earlier this week, on Monday, Labor party Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich also had her personal information compromised by the Saudi hacker.

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

A comment from someone called LAURA said: This Saudi hacker says he wanted to hurt Israel. A pathetic attempt at that. So what else is new?

He is representative of the pathological obsession on the part of the arab-muslim world to destroy Israel rather than focusing on bettering their own miserable lives.

Saudi Arabia is a backward, barbaric, seventh century fiefdom which executes women for adultery and practicing witchcraft, chops off heads and limbs as punishments and outlaws the practice of religions other than Islam. All of their wealth derives from oil which westerners discovered and extracted. Saudi Arabia’s only other export is global terrorism. The country produces nothing in the realms of industry, science and technology or agriculture.

On the other hand Israel is a miniscule strip of land with no natural resources. The Jews took a barren dessert and created a productive and successful nation which has emerged as a world leader in science, technology and medicine.I

Not only does the existence of the Jewish state stand in defiance of Islamic imperialism, but Israel’s success is a stark reminder of the present backwardness of Muslim-Arab civilization.

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

A second comment from CuriousAmerican says:

“From the whole story at the site

Now some fear the Saudi hacker may reveal what those Israelis spent their money on.

I guess the trips to Vegas may come out.

This story makes no sense. Hackers know how easy it is to be traced. They would not brag about it to anyone.”

And we add that this is strange indeed as it speaks of Los Vegas to a paper “Israel Hayom” owned by Mr. Sheldon Adelson who also owns the VENETIAN Hotel and Casino of Las Vegas and Macao as we wrote about because of his largess to Republican candidate Newt Gingrich. Also strange things happen when one opens the CuriousAmerican link of the letter writer.

In short – seemingly this whole story has serious political implications and we wish indeed the Saudis had the courage and decency to speak up in their own defence.

The Coincidence – we posted:  Permalink | | Email This Article Email This Article
Posted in Archives, China, Hong Kong, Israel, Macao, Nevada, Reporting from Washington DC, Saudi Arabia

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 8th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

As Primary Looms in N.H., Donor Gives $5 Million Lift to Gingrich.

MANCHESTER, N.H. — As candidates spent the weekend trying to catch up to Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, with the primary just two days away, a longtime supporter of Newt Gingrich donated $5 million to a “super PAC” backing his presidential bid, providing a major boost to Mr. Gingrich’s ailing campaign.

The donation by Sheldon Adelson was reported Saturday night by The Washington Post. He has long been a generous patron of Mr. Gingrich’s political career. The super PAC, Winning Our Future, was formed last month by Becky Burkett, who served until earlier last year as chief development officer for American Solutions, a political action committee that Mr. Gingrich founded. The cash infusion from Mr. Adelson instantly catapults Winning Our Future into the top ranks of candidate super PACs, groups that can raise unlimited amounts of money from donors and spend it all on advertisements and other efforts to back a specific candidate, so long as they do not coordinate with the campaign.

Ms. Burkett declined to comment on the donation on Saturday.

{Sheldon Gary Adelson (born August 6, 1933 – born and grew up in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts) is an American casino and hotel magnate. Adelson is Chairman andChief Executive Officer of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., the parent company of Venetian Macao Limited which operates The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino and the Sands Expo and Convention Center. Adelson vastly increased his net worth upon the initial public offering of Las Vegas Sands in December 2004. He is currently the 8th wealthiest American[2] and 16th wealthiest person in the world,[3] with a net worth of $21.5 billion.

Originally a Democrat, Adelson became a Republican as his wealth increased. “Why is it fair that I should be paying a higher percentage of taxes than anyone else?” he once asked. He began making major contributions to the Republican National Committee following clashes with labour unions at his Las Vegas properties.[5]

Adelson divorced his first wife Sandra in 1988 and met his current wife Miriam Ochsorn, an Israeli physician, on a blind date the following year. They were married in 1991.

The original source of Adelson’s wealth and current investments was the computer trade show COMDEX, which he and his partners developed for the computer industry; the first show was in 1979. It was the premier computer trade show through much of the 1980s and 1990s.[4]

In 1988, Adelson and his partners purchased the Sands Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, the former hangout of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, in order to bring Las Vegas to a new phase of business through the exhibition industry. The following year, Adelson and his partners constructed the Sands Expo and Convention Center, then the only privately owned and operated convention center in the United States.

In 1991, while honeymooning in Venice with his second wife, Miriam, Adelson said he found the inspiration for a mega-resort hotel. He razed (by implosion) the Sands and spent $1.5 billion to construct the The Venetian, a Venice-themed resort hotel and casino. The luxurious, all-suite Venetian revolutionized the Las Vegas hotel industry, and has been honored with architectural and other awards naming it as one the finest hotels in the world. In 2003, The Venetian added the 1,013-suite Venezia tower – giving The Venetian 4,049 suites, 18 leading-chef restaurants, a shopping mall with canals, gondolas and singing gondoliers.

In 1995, Adelson and his partners sold the Interface Group Show Division, including the COMDEX shows, to SoftBank Corporation of Japan for $862 million; Adelson’s share was over $500 million.[4]

Adelson spearheaded a major project to bring the Sands name to the Macao SARChina, the Chinese gambling city that was a Portuguese colony until December 1999. The one million-square-foot Sands Macau became the People’s Republic of China‘s first Las Vegas-style casino when it opened in May 2004. Adelson made back his initial 265 million dollar investment in one year and, because he owns 69% of the stock, he increased his wealth when he took the stock public in December 2004. Since the opening of the Sands Macao Adelson’s personal wealth has multiplied more than fourteen times.[5]

In May 2006, Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands was awarded a hotly contested license to construct a casino resort in Singapore’s Marina Bay. The new casino,Marina Bay Sands, opened in 2010 at a rumored cost of US$5.4 billion.

In August 2007, Adelson opened the $2.4 billion Venetian Macao Resort Hotel on Cotai and announced that he planned to create a massive, concentrated resort area he called the Cotai Strip, after its Las Vegas counterpart. Adelson said that he planned to open more hotels under brands such as Four SeasonsSheratonand St. Regis. His Las Vegas Sands plans to invest $12 billion and build 20,000 hotel rooms on the Cotai Strip by 2010.[7]

In September 2007, Adelson announced that the Sands would open its second hotel, the Sands Macao Hotel in Macau in October of that year.[8]

In 2007, Adelson made an unsuccessful bid to purchase the Israeli newspaper Maariv. When this failed, he proceeded with parallel plans to publish a free daily newspaper to compete with Israeli, a newspaper he had co-founded in 2006 but had left.[9] The first edition of the new newspaper, Israel HaYom, was published on July 30, 2007.

According to Target Group Index(TGI) survey published in July 2011, Israel Hayom, which in contrast to all other Israeli newspapers is distributed for free, surpassed all other newspapers, including Yedioth Ahronoth and became number one daily newspaper (for weekdays) four years after its inception.[10] This survey states that Israel Hayom has 39.3% weekdays readership exposure , Yedioth Ahronoth 37% , Maariv 12.1% and Haaretz 5.8%. But Yedioth Ahronoth’s weekend edition is still leading with 44.3% readership exposure compared to 31% of Israel Hayom weekend edition, 14.9% of Maariv and 6.8% of Haaretz. This trend was already observed by TGI survey in July 2010.[11]

Adelson and his wife contributed $250,000 each (thus the total contribution from the couple was $500,000) to the second inauguration of President George W. Bush.

In 2010, Adelson donated $1,000,000 to Newt Gingrich‘s organization, American Solutions for Winning the Future.[19]

In 2011, Adelson is expected to donate an additional $20,000,000 to pro-Gingrich organizations in an effort to bolster Gingrich’s bid for the U.S. Presidency.[20]

Along with his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, Sheldon Adelson was presented with the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars of the Smithsonian Institution on March 25, 2008.[31]}

——-

Restore Our Future, a super PAC backing Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and run by his former aides, spent millions of dollars in Iowa on advertisements attacking Mr. Gingrich. The withering barrage was widely credited with torpedoing Mr. Gingrich’s standing in the state and opening the door for Mr. Romney to narrowly win last Tuesday’s caucuses.

The group is already running ads in Florida and South Carolina attacking Mr. Gingrich, and had spent roughly $3.7 million by the beginning of last week.

Rick Santorum, who has emerged as the leading rival to Mr. Romney, began the weekend looking past Tuesday’s primary to the 11-day battle in South Carolina that will follow.

——–

Mr. Santorum, a former United States senator from Pennsylvania, picked up support from an important social conservative on Saturday, and his campaign completed the purchase of time for television commercials that will run in South Carolina from Tuesday through Jan. 17, according to Republicans who have been tracking the television market. He planned to head south to Greenville, S.C., as soon as Sunday morning’s debate was over.

“We feel great about South Carolina,” Mr. Santorum said.

The new commercials would be the Santorum campaign’s largest commitment yet in South Carolina, which will hold its primary on Jan. 21. Mr. Santorum was already getting support from his “super PAC,” the Red, White and Blue Fund. It began running a 30-second commercial titled “Pride” on Saturday, which emphasizes what his advisers believe is his best appeal to South Carolina voters who remain wary of supporting Mr. Romney: his deeply conservative record.

“He’s the principled conservative,” the announcer says. Then, taking an implicit shot at Mr. Romney, who has been attacked for reversing some of the more liberal positions he advocated as the governor of Massachusetts, the announcer adds, “Rick Santorum, the conservative we can trust.”

Mr. Santorum was set to receive the support of Gary Bauer, the chairman of the conservative group Campaign for Working Families, who said he planned to endorse Mr. Santorum officially when he arrives in South Carolina. Mr. Bauer, who declared in an interview last week that he would not take part in a concerted effort “to try and stop Mitt Romney,” said he had concluded that Mr. Santorum’s middle-class background made him a stronger general election candidate against President Obama.

“It’s going to be a particularly bitter, nasty general election. That’s what the White House is signaling with the class warfare rhetoric,” Mr. Bauer said in an interview on Saturday. “In an election like that, you want the base of your party to be on fire for the candidate.”

With just three days left before voting in the New Hampshire primary, Mr. Santorum made his closing argument the one that candidates have been leveling against Mr. Romney for months — that Mr. Romney is not conservative enough to be the party’s standard-bearer.

Standing on the bench of a picnic table here on a balmy afternoon outside a small delicatessen, Mr. Santorum used his sharpest language yet, saying that Mr. Romney was the candidate of the “establishment” and would only perpetuate “the status quo.”

“The leader in this race fashions himself as, ‘I’m a C.E.O., I’m a good manager,’ ” Mr. Santorum said in a near shout as he spoke without a microphone. But, he said, the country did not need a manager. “It needs someone with a bold vision to transform Washington to limit government, not to manage the problems that are in that city,” he said.

————

Mr. Gingrich and Ron Paul both echoed Mr. Santorum’s attack against Mr. Romney.

Mr. Gingrich released a flier called “Not Romney!” that hammers the message that “Romney is not a conservative” and “Romney is not electable.” Mr. Paul has said that Mr. Romney “won’t stand firm” for conservative principles.

Mr. Romney continued to largely ignore his rivals. Campaigning at a rally in Derry on Saturday morning, Mr. Romney hammered away at President Obama’s leadership.

“What frightens me today is we have a president I don’t think who understands the nature of America, the power of opportunity and freedom,” Mr. Romney said. “He said he was going to bring big things to America. Well, he did, but they came with great big price tags and they didn’t work out so well. Big things, bad things, expensive things.”

Polls show that Mr. Romney leads the field by a wide margin in New Hampshire. But he and his allies spent the day trying to lower expectations, even as they sought to keep his supporters motivated.

“Let me tell you: don’t get too confident with those poll numbers. I’ve watched polls come and go,” Mr. Romney said at a breakfast rally on Saturday. “Things change very quickly. It’s very fluid. I need to make sure you guys get your friends to go out and vote, and you vote as well.”

Also on Saturday, five former United States ambassadors to the Vatican endorsed Mr. Romney, choosing a Mormon over two Roman Catholic rivals in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

In a statement showcased by Mr. Romney’s campaign, the ambassadors said they “are united in our wholehearted support for the candidacy of Mitt Romney for the presidency of the United States because of his commitment to and support of the values that we feel are critical in a national leader.”

———–

Jon M. Huntsman Jr., a former governor of Utah, continued to campaign across New Hampshire. At stops on Saturday morning, he beseeched voters to be serious about their choice.

“The pundits come into New Hampshire, as they are now, and say, ‘Here’s how it’s going to happen folks,’ ” Mr. Huntsman said at a town-hall-style meeting in North Haverhill, where about 100 people turned out. “Then the people of New Hampshire step in and it’s a different reality. You always, always upend conventional wisdom, and I think you’re going to do it again.”

Mr. Paul had said he planned to support his party’s eventual nominee, even though most of the other Republican candidates, he believed, would hew close to the status quo.

“I will support the Republican nominee, because I think they will be better” than President Obama, he said. “But I think it will be marginally better.”

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who is not competing in New Hampshire but will appear in the debates here, planned to go to South Carolina on Sunday for a last effort to save his candidacy.

———————–

Reporting was contributed by Katharine Q. Seelye from Amherst, N.H.; Trip Gabriel and Richard A. Oppel Jr. from Concord, N.H.; Abby Goodnough from North Haverhill, N.H.; and Jeff Zeleny from Manchester.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 17th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Revolt Begins Like Others, but Its End Is Less Certain.

By , in Print The New York Times: December 17, 2011 – published on the web December 16, 2011.
The New York Times, A developer planned to buy 134 acres of land in Wukan.

WUKAN, China — Each day begins with a morning rally in the banner-bedecked square, where village leaders address a packed crowd about their seizure of the village and plans for its future. Friday’s session was followed by a daylong mock funeral for a fallen comrade, whose body lies somewhere outside the village in government custody.

It has been nearly a week since the 13,000 residents of this seacoast village, a warren of cramped alleys and courtyard homes, became so angry that their deeply resented officials — and even the police — fled rather than face them. Now, there is a striking vacuum of authority, and the villagers are not entirely sure what to make of their fleeting freedom.

“We will defend our farmland to the death!” a handmade banner proclaims, referring to a possible land deal they fear will strip them of almost all their farmland. “Is it a crime,” another muses, “to ask for the return of our land and for democracy and transparency?”

How long they will last is another matter. As the days pass, the cordons of police officers surrounding the village grow larger. Armored trucks and troop carriers have been reported nearby. On local television, a 24-hour channel denounces the villagers as “a handful of people” dedicated to sabotaging public order, with the names of protesters flashing on a blue screen, warning that they will be prosecuted. Many here fear this will all end badly. “The SWAT teams and the police here are acting like they’re crime organizations, not police forces,” said Chen Dequan, a 50-year-old farmer and fisherman. “The entire village is worried.”

The dispute that emptied Wukan of its government officials is, on its face, like hundreds — if not thousands — of others that inspire protests here each year: villagers who believe their land was taken illegally take to the streets when their concerns are ignored.

But the suspicious death of a well-liked villager, who was selected to negotiate on the citizens’ behalf, appears to have turned this long-simmering grievance into a last-straw standoff with the authorities.

The land deal inspiring the protests involved one of China’s largest property developers, a Hong-Kong listed company called Country Garden that prides itself on fast-paced construction in mostly suburban areas. Yang Huiyuan, described by analysts as the company’s chairwoman, is often listed as one of the richest women in China.

The company has faced controversy before. Xinhua, China’s official news agency, said this year that it had bought Anhui Province land to build a golf course in a deal that smacked of “the typical collusion of real estate business and local government.” The agency’s signed commentary said more than 10 government officials had been punished after that transaction and other cases of illegal purchases and use of land there.

Here in Wukan, many residents believed that the national government had not yet intervened to resolve matters simply because it had been misled by nefarious local officials to believe that all was well.

So far, however, it seems from inside this locked-down village that government leaders at all levels are flummoxed at their blue-moon, if temporary, loss of control.

Lin Zuluan, 67, a retired businessman who is now the village’s de facto leader, said that officials had approached him to negotiate an end to the protest, but that talks had gone nowhere, in part because the officials would not meet villagers’ demands to return all their land.

“I do have concerns” over the lack of progress, he said. “But I do believe this country is ruled by law, so I do believe the central government will do whatever it has to do to help us.”

In the meantime, life here goes on in an aura of unreality as much as uncertainty, a mixture of grief and optimism and somewhat willful ignorance of the hints of trouble at every police roadblock and on every news broadcast.

Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Relatives carried a picture of Xue Jinbo, who died in police custody after villagers chose him to negotiate a solution to a land deal in Wukan, China.

.Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Inside the village, citizens hail foreign journalists as visiting saviors, bombarding them with endless cigarettes, bowls of rice-and-seafood porridge and free rides on the backs of scooters. The villagers bristle at the government’s suggestion that they are being financed by unnamed foreigners, but are convinced that only reporting outside the state-run press will bring word of their plight to leaders in Beijing.

Corruption accusations against Country Garden, the developer, go back for years. In 2007, the Southern Weekly newspaper alleged irregularities in a hotel construction contract awarded to the company by a district government in Zhangjiajie, in Hunan Province. The paper suggested that the government heavily discounted the project’s land cost because most of Country Garden’s payment was secretly diverted to a company in which two Country Garden officials had invested.

In a faxed statement Friday, Country Garden said both the other projects in Anhui and Hunan were wholly aboveboard. The firm said the Anhui deal was free of corruption and the Zhangjiajie contract was awarded through open, transparent bidding. Officials have contended that the money supposedly diverted was in fact spent for legitimate public purposes related to the project.

In Wukan, two people familiar with the Country Garden proposal said the company planned to buy at least 134 acres of land for villa homes and shopping centers here. About half of that land is controlled by Fengtian Livestock, a pig-raising firm that holds a 50-year lease issued by the government; the rest is apparently in villagers’ hands.

Chen Wenqing, the livestock firm’s owner, said Country Garden was negotiating directly with the local authorities last spring when the deal fell through over a difference on price. Country Garden said it had intended to build a project but has signed no agreements.

But Mr. Lin, the retired businessman, said villagers became angry in September when they saw construction work at the pig-farm site. Officials of Lufeng city, a district that controls Wukan, ordered the building stopped, he said, and asked villagers to select a committee of locals to settle the controversy.

Negotiations to return the land to villagers produced little, however. On Dec. 9, unidentified men abducted one of the negotiators, a 42-year-old leather worker named Xue Jinbo, and four other men from a local restaurant.

The other four soon turned up in nearby jails, accused of inciting villagers to subvert the government. Mr. Xue was seen only on the night of Dec. 11, when local government officials summoned relatives to view his body at a mortuary.

They said that he had died of a heart attack in a hospital and that medical records of his care would be provided.

But family members say officials confiscated their mobile telephones before allowing them into the funeral home, apparently to prevent them from taking photographs. Mr. Xue’s nose was caked with blood, his body was black with bruises and his left thumb was broken, apparently pulled backward to the breaking point, one of them, a nephew named Xue Ruiqiang, said on Friday in an interview.

Word of Mr. Xue’s death brought the villagers into the streets and sent members of the village committee that was involved in the land negotiations fleeing.

=====————–======

Shi Da contributed research from Wukan, and Mia Li from Beijing. Sharon LaFraniere and Jonathan Ansfield contributed reporting from Beijing.


Mr. Xue’s 21-year-old daughter, Xue Jianwan, said before the service that her father “was a straightforward man who always stood up for people.”

“Mom said that if he hadn’t been such a straightforward person, he probably wouldn’t have ended up like this,” she added.

———————————–

BEIJING — Officials announced new rules on Friday aimed at controlling the way Chinese Internet users post messages on social networking sites that have posed challenges to the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda machinery.

www.nytimes.com/2011/12/17/world/asia/beijing-imposes-new-rules-on-social-networking-sites.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha26

Beijing Imposes New Rules on Social Networking Sites.

By , Published – The New York Times: December 16, 2011

For many users, the most striking of the new rules requires people using the sites, called microblogs, or weibo in Chinese, to register with their real names and biographical information. They will still be able to post under aliases, according to a report by Xinhua, the state news agency.

Some analysts say the real-name registration could dampen some of the freewheeling conversations that take place online, and that sometimes result in a large number of users criticizing officials and government policy.

The rule on real-name registration had been expected for several months now by industry watchers, and Internet companies in China had already experimented in 2009 with some forms of this. It was the ninth of 17 new microblog regulations issued on Friday by Beijing government officials, who have been charged by central authorities with reining in the way microblogs are used.

The regulations also include a licensing requirement for companies that want to host microblogs and prohibitions on content, including posts aimed at “spreading rumors, disturbing social order or undermining social stability.” But officials have long put pressure on microblog companies to self-censor, and the lists of limits on content are more an articulation of the boundaries already in place.

The regulation announced by the Beijing officials applies only to companies based in the capital, where several of the largest microblog platforms, including Sina and Sohu, are located.

One large rival, Tencent, is based in Shenzhen, a special economic zone in the south, and an editor there said Friday that the authorities had yet to issue any new regulations that would affect the company. But analysts expect that that city and others across China will soon put in place rules similar to the ones announced by Beijing.

“It’s just a further sign of the way things are going,” said Bill Bishop, an analyst and businessman based in Beijing who writes about the Internet industry on a blog, Digicha. Some Internet users, he added, may now ask themselves, “ ‘Why bother to say something? You never know.’ ”

There were many comments of outrage on Friday from those posting on microblogs. “Society is going backwards,” wrote one user by the name of Cheng Yang. “Where is China’s path?”

Many prominent commentators and writers with influence over public opinion already post under their real names. For example, Pan Shiyi, a wealthy real estate developer who posts regularly, has more than seven million followers. He recently used his platform to advocate stricter air pollution reports from the Beijing government.

“In fact, serious weibo users have already opted to use their real names out of their own interests,” said another editor at Tencent who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of talking about government policy.

Internet companies hosting microblogs have been told to comply with the new rules within three months. Sina and Tencent have more than 200 million registered users each; it is unclear how the companies will go about ensuring that each user has registered with real data.

But Mr. Bishop said the technology was already in place and had been used by one large Internet company, Baidu, when it ran its own version of a microblog, which no longer exists. The registration information that users enter online can be matched up against a police database, he said.

Leaders here have long discussed how to better control the Chinese Internet, which has about 485 million users, the most of any country. Most vexing for officials has been the speed with which information can spread on microblogs. This year, several episodes highlighted the reach of microblogs, including posts that ignited mass anger over both the Wenzhou high-speed train crash and the hit-and-run death of a 2-year-old toddler, Yueyue.

China has for years blocked Twitter and Facebook, and officials here carefully monitored the rebellions this year in the Middle East to see how they were organized and what role social networking sites played.

But Chinese officials also see the microblogs as useful. The sites allow people to vent anger, and officials can track posts to see the direction of public opinion. More and more officials are also being encouraged to use microblogs for propaganda and to mold discussions. Talk within the party about controlling the Internet accelerated after a policy meeting of the party’s Central Committee in October that focused on culture and ideology.

In the announcement Friday, Beijing officials said microblogs should “actively spread the core values of the socialist system, disseminate socialist advanced culture and build a socialist harmonious society.”

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

NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED COLUMNIST

Will China Break?

By , Published: December 18, 2011

Am I describing Japan at the end of the 1980s? Or am I describing America in 2007? I could be. But right now I’m talking about China, which is emerging as another danger spot in a world economy that really, really doesn’t need this right now.

I’ve been reluctant to weigh in on the Chinese situation, in part because it’s so hard to know what’s really happening. All economic statistics are best seen as a peculiarly boring form of science fiction, but China’s numbers are more fictional than most. I’d turn to real China experts for guidance, but no two experts seem to be telling the same story.

Still, even the official data are troubling — and recent news is sufficiently dramatic to ring alarm bells.

The most striking thing about the Chinese economy over the past decade was the way household consumption, although rising, lagged behind overall growth. At this point consumer spending is only about 35 percent of G.D.P., about half the level in the United States.

So who’s buying the goods and services China produces? Part of the answer is, well, we are: as the consumer share of the economy declined, China increasingly relied on trade surpluses to keep manufacturing afloat. But the bigger story from China’s point of view is investment spending, which has soared to almost half of G.D.P.

The obvious question is, with consumer demand relatively weak, what motivated all that investment? And the answer, to an important extent, is that it depended on an ever-inflating real estate bubble. Real estate investment has roughly doubled as a share of G.D.P. since 2000, accounting directly for more than half of the overall rise in investment. And surely much of the rest of the increase was from firms expanding to sell to the burgeoning construction industry.

Do we actually know that real estate was a bubble? It exhibited all the signs: not just rising prices, but also the kind of speculative fever all too familiar from our own experiences just a few years back — think coastal Florida.

And there was another parallel with U.S. experience: as credit boomed, much of it came not from banks but from an unsupervised, unprotected shadow banking system. There were huge differences in detail: shadow banking American style tended to involve prestigious Wall Street firms and complex financial instruments, while the Chinese version tends to run through underground banks and even pawnshops. Yet the consequences were similar: in China as in America a few years ago, the financial system may be much more vulnerable than data on conventional banking reveal.

Now the bubble is visibly bursting. How much damage will it do to the Chinese economy — and the world?

Some commentators say not to worry, that China has strong, smart leaders who will do whatever is necessary to cope with a downturn. Implied though not often stated is the thought that China can do what it takes because it doesn’t have to worry about democratic niceties.

To me, however, these sound like famous last words. After all, I remember very well getting similar assurances about Japan in the 1980s, where the brilliant bureaucrats at the Ministry of Finance supposedly had everything under control. And later, there were assurances that America would never, ever, repeat the mistakes that led to Japan’s lost decade — when we are, in reality, doing even worse than Japan did.

For what it’s worth, statements about economic policy from Chinese officials don’t strike me as being especially clear-headed. In particular, the way China has been lashing out at foreigners — among other things, imposing a punitive tariff on imports of U.S.-made autos that will do nothing to help its economy but will help poison trade relations — does not sound like a mature government that knows what it’s doing.

And anecdotal evidence suggests that while China’s government may not be constrained by rule of law, it is constrained by pervasive corruption, which means that what actually happens at the local level may bear little resemblance to what is ordered in Beijing.

I hope that I’m being needlessly alarmist here. But it’s impossible not to be worried: China’s story just sounds too much like the crack-ups we’ve already seen elsewhere. And a world economy already suffering from the mess in Europe really, really doesn’t need a new epicenter of crisis.

——————
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on December 19, 2011, on page A29 of the New York edition with the headline: Will China Break?.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 9th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

These are only excerpts from Franny’s mail:

Morning,
I have no doubt that, like me, you are closely following every moment of the current UN climate negotiations in Durban and are fully on top of exactly which politician is currently screwing up future generations’ chances of living on a habitable planet. But just on the off-chance that the whole thing has passed you by, my Dad’s gang, OneClimate, are out there in South Africa producing a daily webstream of interviews and analysis live from the talks – or follow the ever-inspiring 350.org, who always know what’s happening where.
Linking from climate catastrophe to conspicuous consumption… Not got started on your Christmas presents yet? You could do worse than buy your friends&family a Spanner Films boxset (Age of Stupid, McLibel and Drowned Out DVDs) – order before 12th December to definitely receive for Xmas – or a chunk of a school’s solar panel via 10:10’s Solar Schools (complete with cute gift wrapping and a message on the website for your presentee). If you’re too skint to buy pressies, 10:10 have got a big pile of copies of a great new book,  “The Rough Guide To Community Energy”, which they’re giving away for free (because the distribution has been sponsored, not cos its rubbish) – to get a copy or two, just send in a stamped addressed envelope, details here.
Speaking of Solar Schools, one of the nine schools taking part in our pilot – E. P. Collier Primary in Reading – is only 645 pounds off reaching their £10,000 total. If they can somehow raise the last 645 today and tomorrow they will be able to hit the Government’s Feed-In-Tariff deadline, and so get loads more cash to spend on books and equipment for their pupils as their panels generate clean electricity over the next 25 years. Please pitch in (ha) with some cash if you can.
Speaking of getting solar panels up in time for the FIT deadline, my boyfriend and I very proudly sent off our certificate yesterday – see pic of our panels going up on Tuesday – and heard back this morning that everything is in order and we have been accepted onto the FIT scheme. Hurray. I think we must have set some kind of record, as we only moved into our new house two weeks ago. (“Hello, yes we’re looking for someone to install solar panels for a reasonable price in the next few weeks during the most frenetic time the solar industry has ever had – and in terrible weather – on a house we haven’t even exchanged on. Hello, hello?”)
In other Stupid and 10:10 news, the Welsh Government has only gone and beaten its 10:10 commitment and cut a splendid 11% of its emissions, a town in Perthshire is the first (that we know of at least) entire town to cut its entire carbon by 10%, our term “crowd-funding” looks as though its heading into the Oxford dictionary and “The Age of Stupid” is being used more and more as a standalone phrase without any reference to the film (eg in last week’s Herald Sun in Australia where a right wing journo rants on about global warming not existing. Ha ha – I wonder if he knows where the phrase comes from…)
We ran our SWOTS film course a couple of weeks ago – see pics and feedback below – and were genuinely shocked at the outcome: we re-inspired ourselves to make another film! After spending two days teaching 34 charming SWOTS everything we know about filmmaking and distribution – going through all the highs and lows of the 15 years we spent making McLibel, Drowned Out and Age of Stupid – we realised what a brilliantly exciting, charmed, fulfilling and, most importantly, effective old time we had.
(I do have a bit of an idea for a new project actually, which I’d love some help with if you have a minute.
Here’s a question: what one change in society would you most like to see happen? eg banning advertising, introducing a minimum wage, closing all factory farms or outlawing tax havens. Please email me.
Anyway, the SWOTS course was such a triumph that we’ve decided to go against what we said before about not doing it again for another two years and instead do it next month. So your luck is in if you wanted to come last time but couldn’t make it. We’ve set the date for the 14th and 15th January 2012, most likely in the 10:10 office in Camden again. I’m sure we could rustle up a lovely Christmas card thingy if anyone felt like buying a place on the course for somebody’s Xmas present (email us on swots@spannerfilms.net) and we’ll have the website up and running in the next few days, so you’ll be able to book a place direct from: www.spannerfilms.net/swots
Good people doing good things:
– Stupid’s Lizzie and other London-based green Kiwis are celebrating after the New Zealand Green party had their best ever showing in their general election last weekend. They won almost 11% of the vote which means there will be thirteen Green MPS in their new parliament. After running the London campaign over the last few months, Lizzie’s crew are eagerly awaiting the final counting of more than 20,000 overseas votes which might mean one more Green MP in the house.
– Remember our pre-Stupid climate film Baked Alaska? Even back in 2001, the sea ice around the Alaskan villagers we visited had melted by 40%, which had completed upended the villagers’ traditional way of life. Some of those Alaskan villages have now launched a legal bid to hold fossil fuel companies liable for the damage caused to their homes and livelihoods. Bloody good luck to them.
Bye Fred, see you soon!

And finally, the wonderful Fred Mulder, who introduced us to many of you, is stepping down as Chair of The Funding Network: “Our final event of 2011 is taking place on 8th December and is set to be an important and special occasion. Fred still intends to remain an active member of  TFN but this event is the perfect time to reflect on his successful 10 years at the helm. We will also be officially welcoming Michael Maynard who is taking over the reins and Jon Snow, our inaugural Patron. All the details about the event, and information about the five great projects pitching, are on our website.”
Without Fred, neither The Age of Stupid nor 10:10 would exist. As one of the original 13 “crowd-funders” he kicked off the film’s funding drive in December 2004 – and he personally corralled many of the 350 people who went on to become his fellow funders over the next five years. He connected us to the Hollywood screenwriter (“I’m his art dealer”) who wrote Pete’s dialogue in the film, he donated Arsenal tickets and a Picasso print for us to raise additional cash, he stored hundreds of our back-up tapes in his attic and he and his partner Fenella dressed Lizzie and me in their best finery so we could look like proper media types when we interviewed a top exec from Shell. They also allowed 20 journalists to take over every room of their house to film TV interviews with Pete Postlethwaite for our “press junket” (think of the scene in Notting Hill where Hugh Grant gets to meet Julia Roberts by pretending to be a journo from Horse and Hound). When Lizzie was between homes, they put her up in their guest bedroom for six months. …. And when the film’s Global Premiere in New York was on the brink of collapse, Fred saved the day with a major cash loan – meaning a million people in 63 countries were able to watch the film and listen to the speakers that night. Most of all, Fred continued to believe in us – or said he did, which was just as good – through the dark and lonely years when it looked as though we were making a turkey. Fred, we salute you, we adore you, we thank you and we look forward to many more joint adventures in the heady world of social change filmmaking.
Merry Christmas,
Franny

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 7th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Frank Lavin is now Chairman, Public Affairs, Asia Pacific, at Edelman – the largest PR company in the Asia-Pacific region. He previously was Under Secretary for International Trade at the US Department of Commerce and Ambassador to Singapore. In those capacities he was responsible for Trade agreements with China, India, Singapore – among his other imprint on US Asian commerce policy. Now he lives in Hong Kong.

When the US was in a position that there might not have been a US pavilion at this year’s –  six months long – May 1 to Oct 31, 2010 – World Fair in Shanghai, he volunteered to organize one with the help of business companies, and the friendly assistance of Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Now he can look and say – we did it! It took him a mere one year to put up a respectable “Great Hall of the American People” pavilion.

This fair will have three times as many visitors as the New York World Fair and will be the largest ever in every respect – in size – number of countries exhibiting – 189, number of heads of State visiting 100. There are 240 pavilions that include 57 that are not by governments – such as IOs, NGOs, and businesses. 40 million visitors have already seen it by August 14th. It is expected that 60 million Chinese and 10 million foreigners, will have seen the Fair by the time it closes.

I found it extremely interesting that the Fair includes pavilions for Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao – very nice and non-controversial –  and the Chinese go and see them. Also interesting that in their statistics these lands are counted as foreign. I wonder how are displayed the Chinese provinces and how the competition between them is handled? Is a decentralized vuew of China allowed in the Chinese huge and very beautiful red and white Chinese pavilion?

The main item in the US pavilion is a film that shows a girl that sees through her window the need to plant a tree in order to beautify the neighborhood. This is a subtle way to tell the visitors – mainly Chinese – that with initiative and cooperation, one can change the world for the better. It is not a government, but the individual human spirit that does it. You learn that you are responsible for the environment and your actions count. The overall theme of this year’s Fair is “Better City , Better Life, so there is nothing revolutionary in the US story here except this interpretation that it calls for an individual response to environmental needs.

It is hoped that this will be appreciated by the average person in the region – the fact that the US did not come to toot its horn by showing off achievements of the past – the US makes rather attempts at cooperation with the Chinese in many areas of common interest. That reminded me of the G2 approach that President Obama initiated ahead of going to Copenhagen – now we see that it could also be a people’s action if people are ready to do what is right for their communities. Maybe we should recommend that Americans also go to see this US pavilion in Shanghai.

Asked what else he could have done for the pavilion, Frank Lavin said that besides the content for the 30 minutes he planed for there are several minutes of waiting time in line that could have been used. For the people in lines outside – there is entertainment that changes – visiting bands – so on. Several people in the Asia Society audience have already been to see the pavilion, quite a few more said that they are scheduled to go. Michael Roberts, Executive Director, New York Public Programs at Asia Society chaired the event.

————————————————————–

THE UPDATE:

Above we posted on August 27, 2010, but now we got the posting that was done by The Asia Society and a bit of the actual tape – so we include these in the UPDATE.

The Shanghai Expo:
Inside ‘The World’s Largest Event.’

Frank Lavin explains how the US Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo emphasizes what Americans and Chinese have in common. (1 min., 48 sec.)

Frank Lavin explains how the US Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo emphasizes what Americans and Chinese have in common. (1 min., 48 sec.)

NEW YORK, August 26, 2010 – “The Shanghai Expo, at an annualized rate about 150 million people a year, would be something like eight or nine times what the number one theme park in the world does, which is Disney World,” said ambassador Frank Lavin, Chairman of the USA Pavilion’s Steering Committee, referring to the number of people who will visit the 2010 Expo. “In fact, it is not just the largest World’s Fair in history, but this is the largest event in human history.”

Speaking at Asia Society’s New York Headquarters, the former US Ambassador to Singapore was sharing his insider’s perspective on the Shanghai Expo, the latest incarnation of the World’s Fair that runs from May 1 to October 31, 2010.

Lavin helped organize this year’s United States Pavilion. He explained that since the average Expo attendee spends only 30 minutes in each pavilion, early decisions were made not to treat the American exhibit as a “college seminar course in US history,” but to present a “show, don’t tell” narrative of American society and culture.

By exposing millions of Chinese to unfamiliar countries and cultures, Lavin said the Expo is an important opportunity to educate the country’s citizens about the rest of the world. Although 47 million Chinese will travel abroad this year, more than 50 percent will only visit the semi-autonomous enclaves of Hong Kong and Macao. With over 90 percent of the 70 million fairgoers Chinese, the Expo is accessible to a much larger population of Chinese citizens who want to experience foreign cultures.

Asked about how the United States pavilion’s message will help its public diplomacy with China, he responded, “Of course there are many issues where the United States and China have different points of view.”  But at the American Pavilion, “The average Chinese fairgoer is going to see that he or she has a lot in common with the same American in a similar position.” He concluded that the media tends to only focus our few disagreements, rather than our many points of commonality.

Although the 2010 Expo will be the most attended event in human history, American attendance is quite low. Lavin noted, however, that this isn’t because Americans aren’t interested in foreign cultures; rather, “When an American goes to visit China, he is not going to go to the Expo. He is going to go to the Great Wall, Summer Palace, Forbidden City, and see the sights of Beijing and Shanghai.”

Reported by Zachary Raske

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

China seeks to reduce Internet users’ anonymity.

By ANITA CHANG

 

The Associated Press
Tuesday, July 13, 2010.
BEIJING — A leading Chinese Internet regulator has vowed to reduce anonymity in China’s portion of cyberspace, calling for new rules to require people to use their real names when buying a mobile phone or going online, according to a human rights group.
 

 

In an address to the national legislature in April, Wang Chen, director of the State Council Information Office, called for perfecting the extensive system of censorship the government uses to manage the fast-evolving Internet, according to a text of the speech obtained by New York-based Human Rights in China.
 

 

China’s regime has a complicated relationship with the freewheeling Internet, reflected in its recent standoff with Google over censorship of search results. China this week confirmed it had renewed Google’s license to operate, after it agreed to stop automatically rerouting users to its Hong Kong site, which is not subject to China’s online censorship.

The Internet is China’s most open and lively forum for discussion, despite already pervasive censorship, but stricter controls could constrain users. The country’s online population has surged past 400 million, making it the world’s largest.

Chen’s comments were reported only briefly when they were made in April. Human Rights in China said the government quickly removed a full transcript posted on the legislature’s website. But the group said it found an unexpurgated text and the discrepancies show that Beijing is wary that its push for tighter information control might prove unpopular. 

Wang said holes that needed to be plugged included ways people could post comments or access information anonymously, according to the transcript published this week in the group’s magazine China Rights Forum.

“We will make the Internet real name system a reality as soon as possible, implement a nationwide cell phone real name system, and gradually apply the real name registration system to online interactive processes,” the journal quoted Wang as saying.

As part of that Internet “real name system,” forum moderators would have to use their real names as would users of online bulletin boards, and anonymous comments on news stories would be removed, Wang is quoted as saying.

The State Council Information Office did not immediately respond to a faxed request asking whether certain sections of Wang’s address to the legislature were altered in the official transcript.

Wang’s comments are in line with recent government statements that indicate a growing uneasiness toward the multitude of opinions found online. A Beijing-backed think tank this month accused the U.S. and other Western governments of using social-networking sites such as Facebook to spur political unrest and called for stepped-up scrutiny.

China has blocked sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, although technologically savvy users can easily jump the so-called “Great Firewall” with proxy servers or other alternatives. Websites about human rights and dissidents are also routinely banned.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 11th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dalai Lama voices support for Uighurs

By Jamil Anderlini and Kathrin Hille in Beijing
Published: March 10 2010, newsessentials.blogspot.com/…/dalailama-voices-support-for-uighurs.html

The Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader, expressed solidarity and support for Muslim Uighurs on Wednesday, raising the spectre for Beijing of closer co-ordination between opponents of Chinese rule and minority groups in territories that have seen ethnic rioting in the past two years.

His comments came in a blistering attack on the ruling Communist party’s policies in his homeland that was timed to mark the anniversary of a Tibetan revolt against Chinese rule in 2008 and the 51st anniversary of the uprising that led to the Dalai Lama’s flight to India.“Let us also remember the people of East Turkestan [China’s Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region] who have experienced great difficulties and increased oppression, and the Chinese intellectuals campaigning for greater freedom who have received severe sentences. I would like to express my solidarity and stand firmly with them,” the Dalai Lama said in his statement.

There has been little co-ordination or communication between Tibetan and Uighur groups. The 2008 uprising in Tibet was separate from the bloody ethnic riots that broke out in Xinjiang last year.

Beijing’s response to the unrest has been heavy-handed, with a massive influx of troops into both regions and “patriotic re-education” campaigns.

The World Uighur Congress, an exile organisation, welcomed the Dalai Lama’s remarks and appealed to Beijing to respect the political will of the Tibetan and Uighur people.

“We both face the threat of suppression of our religion, cultural extinction and large-scale Chinese migration into our homelands,” it said.

A Chinese foreign ministry official referred questions to the United Front Department saying that any issues related to Tibet and the Dalai Lama were a domestic affair and not the foreign ministry’s responsibility. The United Front Department could not be reached for comment.

Posted by World Watch.

————

Had China accepted the reality that it needs to allow more self-government to its ethnic and politically different component  regions – there would be no problem with the reintegration of Taiwan as part of a confederation of friendly states and cities.     We say this all the time on this website and we think it would be in China’s interest.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 27th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

U.S.-China Spat Escalates Over Internet Freedom.

WASHINGTON, Jan 26 (IPS) – The stern warning given to China by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemning internet censorship and responding to allegations that Chinese hackers had accessed Google email addresses has received a pointed response from the Chinese government, raising questions over what the next move will be for Google, the United States, and U.S. firms that do business in China.

On Thursday, Clinton laid out the national security threat posed by cyber attacks and warned that attacks would not go unnoticed and would bring a response. “States, terrorist and those who would act as their proxies must know that the United States will protect our networks,” said Clinton. “Those who disrupt the free flow of information in our society or any other pose a threat to our economy, our government and our civil society,” she continued.

The Chinese response to Clinton’s remarks took sharply differing tones depending on which audience Beijing was addressing. On the foreign ministry website, the government responded on Friday with measured language, saying, “The U.S. attacks China’s internet policy, indicating that China has been restricting internet freedom. We resolutely oppose such remarks and practices that contravene facts and undermine China-U.S. relations,” and, “We urge the U.S. to respect facts and stop attacking China under the excuse of the so-called freedom of internet.”

But in state-controlled news outlets, primarily published for a domestic readership, the war of words was much more harshly framed. “Accusation that the Chinese government participated in cyber attacks, either in an explicit or inexplicit way, is groundless and aims to denigrate China. We are firmly opposed to that,” a spokesman of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology told Xinhua News Agency on Sunday.

The state-controlled newspaper, The Global Times, wrote, “China’s real stake in the ‘free flow of information’ is evident in its refusal to be victimised by information imperialism.” “With the Chinese-language media, there are two important themes to keep in mind. First, [the controversy over Google] is really not that big a deal. The Chinese Google saga is really more interesting to people in Washington than most average folks in Beijing or elsewhere,” Christina Larson, an expert on Chinese civil society and a Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation, told IPS. “The second thing is that it’s portrayed [in the Chinese media] as really this sense that foreign companies don’t really have the right to come in and dictate their terms to China,” Larson continued.

The war of words between Beijing and Washington was set off on Jan. 12 when Google announced its intention to cease the censorship of its search engine results in China and disclosed that a number of Google email accounts used by human rights advocates, diplomats and journalists had been breached by Chinese hackers. The accusations were followed by other rumours and allegations that Chinese hackers had stolen proprietary Google source code, and that cyber attacks and corporate espionage originating from China were becoming increasingly big concerns for the U.S. government and U.S. companies doing business in China.

The mixture of accusations coming from Google, and Clinton’s calls for a Chinese investigation into the allegations, have left a somewhat confusing message about what Google seeks from Beijing in the upcoming discussions over its refusal to continue censoring search results.

—————–

We actually sympathize with the idea that Media should not be monopolized by Big Business, but when private people in China, and even international Google,  tell us that the Chinese do not get full free flow of internet information we know China is not talking truth. We are also worried about China inpact on dissemination of information by multinational organizations like the UN where they insist on having a superviser appointment to be given to one of their nationals.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 10th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Tackling Tibet and Taiwan – Differently:   writes Antoaneta Bezlova for IPS from Beijing, November 9, 2008.

BEIJING, Nov 9 (IPS) – Chinese negotiators have, this week, discussed Tibet’s quest for genuine autonomy with the Dalai Lama’s representatives and also pushed forward the agenda to establish economic rapprochement with Taipei.

Beijing has been seeking reunification with Taiwan for as long as Tibet has pursued a promised right to self-determination. Tellingly, the two negotiations got very different treatments in the state-sanctioned Chinese press.

The Taiwan talks, which sought to build foundations for closer engagement over the Taiwan Strait, were covered extensively in the mainland media. Negotiators signed several agreements bringing the former arch-rivals — that fought a civil war in the 1940s — closer together by establishing direct air, postal and shipping links.

“China has been waiting for this moment for 60 years,” said the 21st Century Business Herald, terming the visit of China’s chief Taiwan negotiator Chen Yunlin to the island “a milestone”. “The future of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait as one entity is bright,” it added. By contrast, talks with representatives of the Tibetan government-in exile went by unmentioned by any major media but the state news agency Xinhua.

When it did report on the visit of the Dalai Lama envoys and their dialogue with Chinese officials, the agency struck a harsh note, saying the Tibetan spiritual leader should “face reality”.

“It is impossible for Tibet to become independent, semi-independent, or independent in a disguised form,” the report said, citing remarks by Du Qinglin, head of a government department in charge of the negotiations. “The Dalai Lama should respect history, face reality, comply with the times and correct his political stance fundamentally.”

Du held the talks in Beijing with Lodi Gyari and Kelsan Gyalsten, two envoys of the Tibetan-government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India. They were taken to visit a model minority area in the Muslim-populated Ningxia Autonomous Region.

But, despite the longer than usual time for discussions, no breakthrough was made, giving rise to even more doubts about the success of the Dalai Lama’s “middle path” doctrine of pursuing autonomy.

Tibet and Taiwan are both grappling to find solutions to decades-long standoffs.

Taiwan has been ruled separately from China since 1949. The Nationalist troops of Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island after losing the civil war against the communists on the Chinese mainland. Beijing continues to see the island as a breakaway province and has warned that it would use force to prevent Taiwan from declaring formal independence.

For Beijing, the latest talks are a breakthrough because they included a visit to Taiwan of Chen Yunlin, chairman of China’s semi-official Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, whose goal is to reunify the island and the mainland. Chen is the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit Taiwan in a half century.

He also met with Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou. Ma assumed power five months ago, promising a new era of peace and economic normalisation with China, after years of tense relations under his predecessor Chen Shui-bian. Beijing, which hopes that an economic thaw across the Taiwan Strait would facilitate future reunification, has welcomed his administration.

The latest talks however, were dogged by rowdy protesters and faced vocal opposition from supporters of the Democratic Progressive Party, which favors independence.

Polls conducted by the Mainland Affairs Council, which oversees Taiwan’s China policy, found that 30 percent of the interviews considered Ma Ying-jeou’s opening up to China too fast in early October, compared with 19 percent who felt that way in March.

Beijing had once proposed the “one country, two systems” formula, practised in the administration of Hong Kong as a possible model for Taiwan. The doctrine allows Chinese sovereignty to be applied to a territory, with foreign affairs and defence issues handled by the central government while domestic matters are left to a local administration.

The same model, though, is being denied to Tibet. Du Qinglin ruled out a Hong Kong-style solution to the Tibetan question, saying China would not allow Tibet the wide degree of autonomy it has granted territories such as Hong Kong and the former Portuguese colony of Macau.

“It is a fundamental political system of China… It does not allow the promotion of ethnic separatism under the banner of ‘genuine ethnic self-governance’,” Du said. “We will never allow someone to hold a banner of ‘real autonomy’ and damage the national unity,” he added.

For the Tibetans, the stand-off over their right to self-determination has continued ever since the 15th Dalai Lama fled his homeland in 1951 for India and set up a government-in-exile in Dharamsala.

For more than 50 years the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has toured world capitals, trying to promote the Tibetan cause and seeking negotiations with Beijing. He has championed a “middle path” policy, which advocates genuine Tibetan autonomy as opposed to political independence.

But China has repeatedly accused him of leading a campaign to split off the Himalayan region from the rest of the country. The two sides have held seven rounds of talks before the current one with little progress to show for it.

Relations soured this year when peaceful demonstrations against Chinese rule in Lhasa, in March, turned violent, leading to scores of casualties on both sides.

Beijing blamed the Dalai Lama and his followers for the riots. As the current talks were about to begin in the Chinese capital, the authorities announced they had sentenced 55 people for their involvement in March’s anti-government protests.

Adding to the gloomy prospects for the dialogue, the Dalai Lama has voiced his frustration with the lack of progress in negotiations, saying Tibet was “now dying” under China’s iron-fist rule.

“My trust in the Chinese government is now thinner, thinner, thinner,” he told reporters during his visit to Japan this week. “I have to accept failure”.

The future of his “middle path” policy will be the focus of a special meeting, in Dharamsala, on Nov. 17, of around 300 delegates representing the worldwide exiled Tibetan community.

Younger and more radical forces among the community have increasingly been calling for a tougher stance against Beijing.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 22nd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From:  media at avaaz.org
Subject: Release: global Olympic handshake to reach Beijing
Date: August 22, 2008

The August 23, 2008 – PRESS RELEASE – Will Appear In the International Herald Tribune and China’s Ming Pao, on the Day of The Beijing Olympics’ Closing. It Willl Say – Love China / Love Tibet / Love Burma / Love Darfur – and Will Promote Human Rights For China – a Hanshake to the World.

175,000 STRONG GLOBAL HANDSHAKE TO LAND IN BEIJING AHEAD OF OLYMPIC CLOSING CEREMONY see avaaz.org

A virtual global handshake will land in Beijing tomorrow ahead of the Olympic Closing Ceremony.

Since the beginning of the Olympics, Avaaz.org has taken actions worldwide to promote a dual message of friendship with China and the need for renewed dialogue and action on human rights post Olympics. Aside from the handshake website, they have launched a sister website in China www.onevoicechina.org, and have run an ad campaign which has made a splash in London, New York, Hong Kong, San Francisco and Sydney using print media, adwalkers, and mobile billboards to carry the message Love China / Love Tibet / Love Burma / Love Darfur. You can see images of these ads at avaaz.org

To culminate the campaign, this weekend, Avaaz.org has taken out an advertisement in Saturday’s International Herald Tribune and China’s Ming Pao to deliver the handshake to the world.

“Some in China have slandered human rights activism as violent and anti-Chinese. Our handshake campaign is an attempt to reach out to Chinese people and show that our call is for peaceful and respectful dialogue”, said Avaaz Executive Director Ricken Patel.

However, Avaaz is concerned that the end of the Olympics may herald an era of further oppression.

“People around the world are concerned that the Olympics are coming to a close without any changes in Chinese policy on Tibet, Burma or Darfur — will things get better or worse?” said Patel.

***

The global handshake petition reads:

“With this handshake, we reach out to one another as citizens round the world in the Olympic spirit of friendship and excellence, committing to hold all our governments to a higher standard of peace, justice and respect for human dignity wherever they fall short – be it in Tibet, Iraq, Burma or beyond. Dialogue is the best way forward, for China, and the world.”
For more information, see www.avaaz.org

***

AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW

Ricken Patel, Executive Director,  ricken at avaaz.org, +1 646 229 5416
Brett Solomon, Campaign Director,  brett at avaaz.org, +61 407 419 320

***
ABOUT AVAAZ:

Avaaz is a global web movement with over 3.3 million members worldwide, working to ensure that the views and values of people everywhere inform global decision-making. Avaaz means “voice” in many languages.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 18th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From:      mweldon at civic-exchange.org

Hong Kong-based public policy think tank Civic Exchange has released a new report –
Green Harbours: Hong Kong and Shenzhen – Reducing Marine & Port-Related Emissions

This report, which was based on extensive consultation with stakeholders from both government and the private sector, highlights the fact that many private sector port operators and ship-owners have already taken voluntary measures to improve environmental performance, and are willing to do more. However, there is a need for the Government to create a level playing field for all, so that slow implementers do not reap competitive advantage from non-action. The report also outlines case studies of best practice from European and US ports and proposes a framework for the Governments of Hong Kong and Shenzhen to take the lead in setting strategies for emissions reductions.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the Civic Exchange website:
 www.civic-exchange.org/eng/upload…

A copy of the presentation can also be found on the website at :
 www.civic-exchange.org/eng/upload…

Related reports

Marine Emission Reduction Options for Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta Region
 www.civic-exchange.org/eng/upload…

A Price too High: Health Impacts of Air Pollution in South China
 www.civic-exchange.org/eng/upload…

Lessons for Hong Kong: Air Quality Management in London and Los Angeles
 www.civic-exchange.org/eng/upload…

Apologies for cross posting

Civic Exchange is a non-profit public policy think tank based in Hong Kong that helps to improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis. If you would like or further information on Civic Exchange’s ongoing and planned research programmes, please do not hesitate to contact our new Environmental Programme Manger Mike Kilburn ( mkilburn at civic-exchange.org) or visit our website at www.civic-exchange.org.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 11th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

A Price Too High:       Health Impacts of Air Pollution in Southern China.

Hong Kong-based think tank Civic Exchange, the Department of Community Medicine, School of Public Health of Hong Kong University; the Department of Community and Family Medicine, School of Public Health of Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Institute for the Environment of the University of Hong Kong for Science & Technology   are pleased to announce the release a groundbreaking study today entitled A Price Too High – Health Impacts of Air Pollution in southern China.

Using 2006 air quality data, the number of premature deaths estimated at 10,000 in Hong Kong, Macao and the Pearl River Delta can be avoided. At current levels, the pollution is also   responsible for 440,000 annual hospital bed-days, and 11 million annual outpatient visits throughout the region. These are very large numbers exacting a heavy cost on the citizens in the region.

The research also shows there has not been sufficient local and regional air pollution and public health research to track the effectiveness of policies, and assist the authorities to formulate the best policies to reduce pollution. In the past 25 years only 147 such reports have been conducted for all of mainland China, with only 37 of those concerned with southern China.

With the East Asian and Asian Games coming to Hong Kong and Guangzhou in 2009 and 2010 respectively, the report outlines clear opportunities for positive collaboration to reduce emissions and improve public health.

Full report and presentation are available on Civic Exchange website:
Full Report: www.civic-exchange.org/eng/upload…
Presentation: www.civic-exchange.org/eng/upload…

Full literature review and supplementary report:
 www.civic-exchange.org/eng/upload…
 www.civic-exchange.org/eng/upload…

Civic Exchange is a non-profit public policy think tank based in Hong Kong that helps to improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis. For more information about Civic Exchange, please visit www.civic-exchange.org  

Michele Weldon
Environmental Programme Manager
Civic Exchange
Room 701, Hoseinee House, 69 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong
tel                         2893 0213
email                  mweldon at civic-exchange.org
website         www.civic-exchange.org

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 18th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

PROACTIVE CLIMATE CHANGE POLICY ON BUILDINGS NEEDED IN HONG KONG AND MACAU

Civic Exchange and the Architects Association of Macau (AAM) are pleased to inform you of their first joint report on buildings and climate change, titled ‘Green’ House or Greenhouse? – Climate Change & The Building Stock of Hong Kong & Macau and funded by ADM Capital Foundation.   The report argues that reducing emissions from buildings should be a priority since they are both major contributors to and very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Other key messages include:

·                 Good buildings are vital to quality of life;
·                 Energy efficiency is crucial from many perspectives;
·                 Maximising energy efficiency gains need the right regulatory and incentive framework that must also include an integrated energy policy;
·                 Government must lead to create the right framework to mitigate and adapt to climate change; and
·                 Integrating urban planning and design is also critical to improve quality of life and energy efficiency, as well as reduce the risk associated with climate change.

The report can be downloaded from the Civic Exchange website www.civic-exchange.org/eng/upload…

To coincide with the release, on Friday 25th April 2008, Civic Exchange and the AAM will host a lively workshop on the challenges and opportunities for creating a low carbon built environment in Hong Kong. For further details and registration please go the Civic Exchange website at www.civic-exchange.org/eng/event_…

Civic Exchange is a non-profit public policy think tank based in Hong Kong that helps to improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis. For more information about Civic Exchange, please visit www.civic-exchange.org

AAM is an association of public and private sector architects based in Macau and undertakes a variety of activities related to architecture in Macau. For more information please visit www.macaoarchitects.com

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 8th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Contrasting responses to crackdowns in Tibet and Burma.

By BRAHMA CHELLANEY, April 9, 2008, The Japan Times online.

NEW DELHI — There are striking similarities between Tibet and Burma — both are strategically located, endowed with rich natural resources, suffering under long-standing repressive rule, resisting hard power with soft power and facing an influx of Han settlers. Yet the international response to the brutal crackdown on monk-led protests in Tibet and Burma has been a study in contrast.

When the Burmese crackdown on peaceful protesters in Yangon last September left at least 31 people dead — according to a U.N. special rapporteur’s report — it ignited international indignation and a new round of U.S.-led sanctions. More than six months later, the tepid international response to an ongoing harsh crackdown in Tibet by the Burmese junta’s closest ally, China, raises the question whether that country has accumulated such power as to escape even censure over actions that are far more repressive and extensive than what Burma witnessed.

Despite growing international appeals to Beijing to respect Tibetans’ human rights and cultural identity, and to begin dialogue with the Dalai Lama, there has been no call for any penal action, however mild, against China. Even the leverage provided by the 2008 Beijing Olympics is not being seized upon to help end the repression in the Tibetan region.

When the Burmese generals cracked down on monks and their prodemocracy supporters, the outside world watched vivid images of brutality, thanks to citizen reporters using the Internet. But China employs tens of thousands of cyberpolice to censor Web sites, patrol cybercafes, monitor text and video messages from cellular phones, and hunt down Internet activists. As a result, the outside world has yet to see a single haunting image of the Chinese use of brute force against Tibetans. The only images released by Beijing are those that seek to show Tibetans in bad light, as engaged in arson and other attacks.



The continuing arbitrary arrests of Tibetans through house-to-house searches are a cause of serious concern, given the high incidence of mock trials followed by quick executions in China. That country still executes more people every year than all other nations combined, despite its adoption of new rules requiring a review of death sentences.

The important parallels between Tibet and Burma begin with the fact that Burma’s majority citizens — the ethnic Burmans — are of Tibetan stock. It was China’s 1950 invasion of Tibet that opened a new Han entrance to Burma.

But now the Han demographic invasion of the Tibetan plateau is spilling over into Burma, with Chinese presence conspicuous in Mandalay city and the areas to the northeast.

Today, the resistance against repressive rule in both Tibet and Burma is led by iconic Nobel laureates, one living in exile and the other under house detention. In fact, the Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi received the Nobel peace prize in quick succession for the same reason: For leading a non-violent struggle.

Each is a symbol of soft power, building such moral authority as to command wide international respect and influence.

Yet another parallel is that heavy repression has failed to break the resistance to autocratic rule in both Tibet and Burma. If anything, growing authoritarianism has begun to backfire, as the popular monk-led revolts in Tibet and Burma have highlighted.



Vantage location and rich natural resources underscore the importance of Tibet and Burma. The Tibetan plateau makes up one-fourth of China’s landmass. Annexation has given China control over Tibet’s immense water resources and mineral wealth, including boron, chromite, copper, iron ore, lead, lithium, uranium and zinc. Most of Asia’s major rivers originate in the Tibetan plateau, with their waters a lifeline to 47 percent of the global population living in South and Southeast Asia and China. Through its control over Asia’s main source of freshwater and its building of huge dams upstream, China holds out a latent threat to fashion water into a political weapon.

Energy-rich Burma is a land bridge between the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. China, however, has succeeded in strategically penetrating Burma, which it values as an entryway to the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean. Beijing is now busy completing the Irrawaddy Corridor through Burma involving road, river, rail, port and energy-transport links.

The key difference between Tibet and Burma is that the repression in the former is by an occupying power. Months after the 1949 communist takeover in Beijing, China’s People’s Liberation Army entered what was effectively a sovereign nation in full control of its own affairs.

At the root of the present Tibet crisis is China’s failure to grant the autonomy it promised when it imposed on Tibetans a “17-Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet” in 1951. Instead of agreeing to autonomy, Beijing has actually done the opposite: It has pursued Machiavellian policies by breaking up Tibet as it existed before the invasion, and by seeking to reduce Tibetans to a minority in their own homeland through the state-supported relocation of millions of Han Chinese.

It has gerrymandered Tibet by making Amdo (the present Dalai Lama’s birthplace) Qinghai province and merging eastern Kham into the Han provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu. More recently, Chongqing province was carved out of Sichuan.

The traditional Tibetan region is a distinct cultural and economic entity. But with large, heavily Tibetan areas having been severed from Tibet, what is left is just the 1965 creation — the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), the central plateau comprising U-Tsang and western Kham, or roughly half of the Tibetan plateau. Yet China has changed even the demographic composition of TAR, where there were hardly any Han settlers before the Chinese annexation.

TAR, home to barely 40 percent of the 6.5 million Tibetans in China, was the last “autonomous region” created by the Chinese communists, the others being Inner Mongolia (1947), Xinjiang (1955), Guangxi Zhuang (1958) and Ningxia (1958). In addition, China has 30 “autonomous prefectures,” 120 “autonomous counties” and 1,256 “autonomous townships.”

All of the so-called autonomous areas are in minority homelands, which historically were ruled from Beijing only when China itself had been conquered by foreigners — first by the Mongols, and then the Manchu. Today, these areas are autonomous only in name, with that tag designed to package a fiction to the ethnic minorities. Apart from not enforcing its one-child norm in these sparsely populated but vast regions (which make up three-fifths of China’s landmass), Beijing grants them no meaningful autonomy. In Tibet, what the ravages of the Cultural Revolution left incomplete, forced “political education” since has sought to accomplish.



China grants local autonomy just to two areas, both Han — Hong Kong and Macau. In the talks it has held with the Dalai Lama’s envoys since 2002, Beijing has flatly refused to consider the idea of making Tibet a Special Administrative Region like Hong Kong and Macau. It has also rebuffed the idea of restoring Tibet, under continued Chinese rule, to the shape and size it existed in 1950.

Instead it has sought to malign the Dalai Lama for seeking “Greater Tibet” and pressed a maximalist historical position. Not content with the Dalai Lama’s 1987 concession in publicly forsaking Tibetan independence, Beijing insists that he also affirm that Tibet was always part of China. But as the Dalai Lama said in a recent interview, “Even if I make that statement, many people would just laugh. And my statement will not change past history.”

Contrary to China’s claim that its present national political structure is unalterable to accommodate Tibetan aspirations, the fact is that its constitutional arrangements have continued to change, as underscored by the creation of 47 new supposedly “autonomous” municipalities or counties in minority homelands just between 1984 and 1994, according to the work of Harvard scholar Lobsang Sangay.

Until the latest uprising, Beijing believed its weapon of repression was working well and thus saw no need to bring Tibetans together under one administrative unit, as they demand, or to grant Tibet a status equivalent to Hong Kong and Macau. President Hu Jintao, who regards Tibet as his core political base from the time he was the party boss there, has ruled out any compromise that would allow the Dalai Lama to return home from his long exile in India.

Following the uprising, Hu’s line on Tibet is likely to further harden, unless effective international pressure is brought to bear.

The contrasting international response to the repression in Tibet and Burma brings out an inconvenient truth: The principle that engagement is better than punitive action to help change state behavior is applied only to powerful autocratic countries, while sanctions are a favored tool to try and tame the weak. Sanctions against China are also precluded by the fact that the West has a huge commercial stake in that country. But Burma, where its interests are trifling, is a soft target.

So, while an impoverished Burma reels under widening sanctions, a booming China openly mocks the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Even the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre of countless hundreds of students did not trigger lasting international trade sanctions against Beijing.

No one today is suggesting trade sanctions. But given that Beijing secured the right to host the 2008 Olympics on the promise to improve its human-rights record, the free world has a duty to demand that it end its repression in Tibet or face an international boycott, if not of the Games, at least of the opening ceremony, to which world leaders have been invited. By making the success of this summer’s Olympics a prestige issue, China has handed the world valuable leverage that today is begging to be exercised.

This rare opportunity must not be frittered away.

Brahma Chellaney, a professor of strategic studies at the privately funded Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, is a regular contributor to The Japan Times.

 search.japantimes.co.jp/mail/eo20…

###