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

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


 
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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 17th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

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

[]

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

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

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

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

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 15th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

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

February 15, 2014

 

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

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

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

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 15th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

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

Link to Green Prophet

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

Posted: 14 Feb 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:: WSJ

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 30th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

 

 

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

Posted:   |  Updated: 01/30/2014

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Read the full document here.

IT READS:

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

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

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

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

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

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 30th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 26th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

 

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

 

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

———-

By Kumi Naidoo, Reader Supported News

 

25 January 14

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 23rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

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

Dear Mr. Pincas Jawetz,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours sincerely

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

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 18th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

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

Published: January 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Video

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

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

Read more:

‘We must maintain the trust of the American people’

‘We must maintain the trust of the American people’

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

Five big takeaways from the speech

Five big takeaways from the speech

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

Obama acknowledges limits in changing intelligence policy

Obama acknowledges limits in changing intelligence policy

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

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

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

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

 

Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They got none of that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUT THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL is titled:

The President on Mass Surveillance

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

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

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 3rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

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

Kerry Quietly Makes Priority of Climate Pact.

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uri Avnery,

January 4, 2014

 

                Neutral – in whose favor?

 

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

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

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

 

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

For some reason, most of them were Jews.

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

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

My answer is: No, they couldn’t.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 Neutral for whom?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Because they have a certain conception of Israelis and Palestinians.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

——————————————————————————————–

The State of Two States

Week of December 29, 2013

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 2nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

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

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

January 1, 2014.

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Netanyahu paid a state visit to China in 2013

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 2nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

nbsp;www.travelandtourworld.com/news/a…

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

——————————————————

EGYPT HOPES FOR INCREASED TOURISM FROM INDIA

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 1st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

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

BEIJING Tue Dec 31, 2013 12:12pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IDEALS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 1st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

Knesset goes green.

 

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

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

 

Knesset by Shutterstock

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

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

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

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

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Solar window is ‘green’ game-changer
Israeli breakthrough could double energy from wave power

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 20th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 


China to expand presence in Antarctica with new research bases

China to expand presence in Antarctica with new research bases

Date: 20-Dec-13
Country: CHINA
Author: Ben Blanchard
China will expand its presence in Antarctica by building a fourth research base and finding a site for a fifth, a state-run newspaper said on Thursday, as the country steps up its increasingly far-flung scientific efforts.
Photo: NASA/Handout via Reuters


Putin calls Russia response to Greenpeace Arctic protest a lesson

Putin calls Russia response to Greenpeace Arctic protest a lesson

Date: 20-Dec-13
Country: RUSSIA
Author: Alexei Anishchuk
President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday Russia’s response to a Greenpeace protest over Arctic oil drilling should serve as a lesson and Moscow would toughen steps to guard against interference in its development of the region.
Photo: Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 1st, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

Militarisation warning for Antarctica as China and Iran show increasing interest.

posted October 21, 2013

 

A Russian ice breaker in the previously pristine waters of Antarctica.A Russian ice breaker makes its way to Antarctica. Photo: Dan Smith

Australian academics have pointed to dangers that Antarctic bases are for the first time being militarised, despite the continent officially being called a land of peace and science.

Satellite systems at polar bases could be used to control offensive weapons, according to a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and little could be done to prevent it due to the loose nature of the Antarctic Treaty rules.

The report highlights a Chinese base inland in the Australian Antarctic Territory for its satellite intelligence gathering potential and also flags Iran’s recent interest in establishing a polar presence.

Abuses of the treaty’s strict controls on any use of military personnel are said to have already occurred with many countries not reporting their use in Antarctica, while Australia is neglecting to use defence assets there.

The report, “Cold Calculations”, released on Monday, warns that the increasing militarisation is occurring just as Australia’s Antarctic efforts face crippling budget restrictions.

“We run our Antarctic program on the smell of an oily rag,” said Australian Strategic Policy Institute deputy director Anthony Bergin. “For 2013–14, its overall budget is $169 million, an 8 per cent cut from 2012–13.”

The latest Defence White Paper said there was no credible risk to Australia’s national interests in the Antarctic that might require substantial military responses over the next few decades.

“But in the decades to come, military conflict between the major powers could well have an Antarctic dimension, given the possible role of Antarctic bases in surveillance and satellite monitoring,” Dr Bergin said.

“We’re not using our military resources to support our Antarctic program, even though many other nations use theirs. It’s part of the verification regime that they should report the use of military personnel, but many don’t.”

The central rule of the Antarctic Treaty for guaranteeing peaceful use of the continent is a agreement that any nation can inspect another’s operations.

However, the co-author of Cold Calculations, Sam Bateman of the University of Wollongong, questioned whether this inspection regime was up to assessing whether research was being conducted for non-peaceful purposes.

Professor Bateman said it was likely that Antarctic bases were being used increasingly for military research involving space and satellites.

“We could be moving towards the increased weaponisation of Antarctica through the use of Antarctic bases to control offensive weapons systems,” he said. “That possibility is worrying.”

The clear, interference-free skies of Antarctica make them suitable for space observation, and Professor Bateman pointed to China’s third Antarctic station, Kunlun, at one of the highest and coldest points on the continent.

“It’s ideally suited for sending, receiving or intercepting signals from satellites,” Professor Bateman said.

He said both China and India had active government programs and were seeking to increase the number of their bases – yet neither currently reported the use of military personnel and it may be time for the treaty to tighten reporting requirements.

“This might include, for example, widening reporting of introductions of military personnel into Antarctica to recognise the possible employment of private security contractors and other civilian personnel in activities of an essentially military nature.”

Iran’s foray into Antarctica as a maritime power was recently confirmed though the government’s semi-official Fars News Agency, which reported Rear Admiral Khadem Biqam as saying its first phase would involve co-operation with another nation.

At the same time, Australian Strategic Policy Institute executive director Peter Jennings raised doubt about the Australian Defence Force’s ability to sustain a maritime presence during a full Antarctic summer season.

“Our currently very limited capacity to operate in the far south is looking embarrassingly poor and not in keeping with the claim that this is part of the ADF’s primary operational environment.”

The strategic report comes as the Abbott government prepares to embark on developing a 20-year strategic plan, in a project to be led by the Antarctic Co-operative Research Centre’s executive director, Tony Press.

Dr Press said the relentless erosion of core budget capacity ran the risk of recreating a “Sir Humphrey Appleby hospital” in Antarctica: three research stations and a marine science capability – but no means to fund and support real scientific activity.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 29th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 23rd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

 

Urbanites Flee China’s Smog for Blue Skies.

DALI, China — A typical morning for Lin Liya, a native of Shanghai transplanted to this ancient town in southwest China, goes like this: See her 3-year-old son off to school near the mountains; go for a half-hour run on the shores of Erhai Lake; and browse the local market for fresh vegetables and meat.

 

 


Lin Liya, 34, a native of Shanghai who moved two years ago to Dali, in Yunnan Province, now runs every day along Erhai Lake.

Song Yan, 31, held a meeting of a book club in the cafe bookstore, Song’s Nest, she opened in Dali in the spring.

She finished her run one morning beneath cloudless blue skies and sat down with a visitor from Beijing in the lakeside boutique hotel started by her and her husband.

“I think luxury is sunshine, good air and good water,” she said. “But in the big city, you can’t get those things.”

More than two years ago, Ms. Lin, 34, and her husband gave up comfortable careers in the booming southern city of Guangzhou — she at a Norwegian risk management company, he at an advertising firm that he had founded — to join the growing number of urbanites who have decamped to rural China. One resident here calls them “environmental refugees” or “environmental immigrants.”

At a time when hundreds of millions of Chinese, many poor farmers, are leaving their country homesteads to find work and tap into the energy of China’s dynamic cities, a small number of urban dwellers have decided to make a reverse migration. Their change in lifestyle speaks volumes about anxieties over pollution, traffic, living costs, property values and the general stress found in China’s biggest coastal metropolises.

Take air quality: Levels of fine particulate matter in some Chinese cities reach 40 times the recommended exposure limit set by the World Health Organization. This month, an official Chinese news report said an 8-year-old girl near Shanghai was hospitalized with lung cancer, the youngest such victim in China. Her doctor blamed air pollution.

The urban refugees come from all walks of life — businesspeople and artists, teachers and chefs — though there is no reliable estimate of their numbers. They have staked out greener lives in small enclaves, from central Anhui Province to remote Tibet. Many are Chinese bobos, or bourgeois bohemians, and they say that besides escaping pollution and filth, they want to be unshackled from the material drives of the cities — what Ms. Lin derided as a focus on “what you’re wearing, where you’re eating, comparing yourself with others.”

The town of Dali in Yunnan Province, nestled between a wall of 13,000-foot mountains and one of China’s largest freshwater lakes, is a popular destination. Increasingly, the indigenous ethnic Bai people of the area are leasing their village homes to ethnic Han, the dominant group in China, who turn up with suitcases and backpacks. They come with one-way tickets from places like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, all of which have roaring economies but also populations of 15 million people or more.

On Internet forums, the new arrivals to Dali discuss how to rent a house, where to shop, how to make a living and what schools are best for their children. Their presence is everywhere in the cobblestone streets of the old town. They run cafes, hotels and bookstores, and the younger ones sit on the streets selling trinkets from blankets.

Some become farmers here, and some spend their days home schooling their children. Their presence has transformed Dali and surrounding villages into a cross between Provence and Haight-Ashbury.

One magnet is the village of Shuanglang, which became a draw after the famous Yunnan natives Yang Liping, a dancer, and Zhao Qing, an artist, built homes there. As at other lakeside villages, the immigrants, some with immense wealth, live near fishermen and farmers.

“All kinds of people come here with different dreams,” said Ye Yongqing, 55, an ethnic Bai artist from the region who has lived mostly in cities, including London, but bought a home here five years ago. “Some people imagine this place as Greece or Italy or Bali.”

“Dali is one of the few places in China that still has a close tie to the earth,” he added, sitting in front of a table of squashes in his garden courtyard. “A lot of villages in China have become empty shells. Dali is a survivor of this phenomenon.”

Ms. Lin said she first fell in love with Dali when she came as a backpacker in 2006. She returned twice before moving here. In 2010, on the third visit, she and her husband, whom she had met trekking in Yunnan, looked for land to lease to build a hotel on Erhai Lake. It has not all been easy going, Ms. Lin said, citing negotiations and misunderstandings with local officials, villagers and employees.

“We just wanted to switch to a different life,” said Ms. Lin, who had lived in Shanghai as well as Guangzhou. “My friends in Shanghai are struggling there — not only in their work, but also just to live. The prices are too high, even higher than in Europe. They become crazy, go mad.”

Ms. Lin moved here less than two years after giving birth to a son. “It’s good for the baby because it’s like my mother’s childhood,” she said. “My mother’s childhood in Shanghai — the air was still clean, you could see blue skies, there was clean water.”

That is a common refrain among parents here. One afternoon, four mothers, all urban refugees, sat outside a bookstore cafe, Song’s Nest, practicing English with one another. “The one thing we all have in common is we moved here to raise our children in a good environment,” one woman said.

The bookshop’s owner, Song Yan, moved here this year and translates books by an Indian philosopher popular with Chinese spiritual seekers. One night, she and another translator and urban refugee, Zheng Yuantao, 33, talked over dinner about their moves.

“I’ve never felt so free in my life,” Mr. Zheng said. “I grew up as a city boy, and I never realized how much I like living close to nature.”

From the nearby lakeside village of Caicun, Huang Xiaoling, a photographer, flies back to Beijing to shoot portraits and events for clients. She had once lived in a courtyard home in the Chinese capital, but fled in September with her 3-year-old son and husband, an American who works remotely as a technology director for a New York publishing company.

“I’m still productive even though I don’t go into an office,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s the weather and the environment, or just me feeling that, ‘Oh, I got out of the cave that I wanted to escape.’ ”

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 12th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

Philippines Negotiator Ties Massive Typhoon to Global Warming

 

By 350.org

 

12 November 2013

 

 

 

iplomats, negotiators and civil society representatives from around the world held their breath this afternoon at the United Nations Climate Talks in Warsaw, Poland, this afternoon as Yeb Sano, the lead negotiator for the Philippines, began to address the opening of the conference.

 

More than 10,000 people are feared dead in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, which slammed into the Philippines this weekend, causing apocalyptic devastation across a number of islands.

 

While scientists are careful not to connect any single weather event to climate change, it’s clear that global warming is loading the dice for devastating events like Typhoon Haiyan. Rising seas, warmer waters and a warmer and wetter atmosphere, all contribute to supercharge storms like Haiyan and Hurricane Sandy. Scientists have warned that extreme weather events will only increase in intensity and frequency if climate change is left unchecked.

 

Addressing the UN Climate Talks on behalf of the Philippines, Sano didn’t hesitate to connect Typhoon Haiyan to climate change and the fossil fuel industry’s role in fueling the crisis.

 

He began by thanking the global community, and especially young people, for the support and solidarity that they have shown the people of the Philippines.

 

“I thank the youth present here and the billions of young people around the world who stand steadfast behind my delegation and who are watching us shape their future,” said Sano. “I thank civil society, both who are working on the ground as we race against time in the hardest hit areas, and those who are here in Warsaw prodding us to have a sense of urgency and ambition.

 

“We are deeply moved by this manifestation of human solidarity,” Sano continued. “This outpouring of support proves to us that as a human race, we can unite; that as a species, we care.”

 

Sano spoke of the terrifying devastation that Typhoon Haiyan has wrecked upon the Philippines, before connecting the dots directly to the climate crisis.

 

“To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of you armchair,” he said. “I dare you to go to the islands of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean and the islands of the Indian ocean and see the impacts of rising sea levels; to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and the Andes to see communities confronting glacial floods, to the Arctic where communities grapple with the fast dwindling polar ice caps, to the large deltas of the Mekong, the Ganges, the Amazon and the Nile where lives and livelihoods are drowned, to the hills of Central America that confronts similar monstrous hurricanes, to the vast savannas of Africa where climate change has likewise become a matter of life and death as food and water becomes scarce.”

 

“Not to forget the massive hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard of North America,” Sano continued. “And if that is not enough, you may want to pay a visit to the Philippines right now. What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness.”

 

Sano said that he identified with the young people and activists around the world who are standing up to the fossil fuel industry, protesting in the streets and committing civil disobedience. He shared their frustration and appreciated their courageous action. The same sort of leadership was necessary here in Warsaw, he said.

 

“We can take drastic action now to ensure that we prevent a future where super typhoons are a way of life,” said Sano. “Because we refuse, as a nation, to accept a future where super typhoons like Haiyan become a fact of life. We refuse to accept that running away from storms, evacuating our families, suffering the devastation and misery, having to count our dead, become a way of life. We simply refuse to.”

 

Sano then went off the prepared script of his remarks that were released to the media to announce that he would be commencing a voluntary fast.

 

“In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home and with my brother who has not had food for the last three days, in all due respect Mr. President, and I mean no disrespect for your kind hospitality, I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate. This means I will voluntarily refrain from eating food during this COP until a meaningful outcome is in sight.”

 

Meaningful action, he explained would involve real commitments around climate finance.

 

“We call on this COP to pursue work until the most meaningful outcome is in sight,” Sano said further. “Until concrete pledges have been made to ensure mobilization of resources for the Green Climate Fund. Until the promise of the establishment of a loss and damage mechanism has been fulfilled; until there is assurance on finance for adaptation; until concrete pathways for reaching the committed 100 billion dollars have been made; until we see real ambition on stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations. We must put the money where our mouths are.”

 

“Let Poland, let Warsaw, be remembered as the place where we truly cared to stop this madness,” Sano concluded. “Can humanity rise to this occasion? Mr. President, I still believe we can.”

 

At the end of his speech, the entire room here at the negotiations rose to their feet in a standing ovation. As the applause continued for minute after minute, a chant started up up in the back of the room, “We stand with you! We stand with you!”

 

The Philippines, and Yeb Sano have become a voice for the billions of people around the world who are already feeling the impacts of climate change.and are worried about their and their children’s future. Let’s hope that not only the public, but our politicians, can find the courage to stand with him and all of those pushing for action here at the talks in Warsaw.

 

Comments  

 

+4 # Fishmonkey11 2013-11-12 07:36

I Stand With You!

 

 

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 11th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

So, still hanging on to the Copenhagen COP15 of 2009 as last meeting that had substance – that is when newly elected President Obama went to Beijing and brought to the meeting the first signs that China is joining the World that tries to be serious about Climate Change – our website  expects that finally at Paris, in 2015, there will be something new to report. We intend to be there!

The upcoming two weeks will see all usual traveling itinerants gather upon Warsaw.
We will not go but recommend    unfccc.int/2860.php  as the information link for these two weeks – November 11-23, 2013.

Thanks to Mairi Dupar of the UK we learn the following – “Climate finance negotiations at COP19 in Warsaw”  to be  matter of substance:

 This new Guide provides negotiators with a synopsis of the key climate finance discussions undertaken during 2013 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The Guide aims to inform negotiators and stakeholders who are interested in the different climate finance agenda items and deliverables at the 19th Conference of Parties (COP19) to be held in Warsaw. It assesses possible outcomes in Warsaw that can prepare the way – together with decisions at COP20 in 2014 – for the new global agreement on climate change, which will be agreed at the COP in Paris in 2015.

—————-

 So, after the UN as a whole is compelled to enter the post 2015 stage, whatever becomes available at the UN in 2015 becomes norm that is basis for new UNFCCC agreements and it would be ridiculous to expect anything before that. This is why we will introduce in 2015 in our website the new category COP21 of the UNFCCC to follow on our present COP15 category. Sorry – but this is realism. We expect that by that time SE4All will be fully functional and have taken over the goals that once were part of the Commission for Sustainable Development that was eradicated and declared non-functioning at the RIO + 20 ei2 meeting.

For the presently Stakeholders rolling material Download the Guide to climate finance negotiations at COP19 in Warsaw by Alpha Oumar Kaloga and Linde Grießhaber (Germanwatch) with supportfrom David Eckstein (Germanwatch) and Alix Mazounie (RAC-France).

 

—————

Before COP20 in Peru, there will be a pre-COP activity with the ALBA ministers in Venezuela – so South America will be fully integrated in the preparations that lead to 2015.

The 20th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC is expected to take place in December 2014 in Peru. Venezuela has offered to host a pre-COP ministerial meeting,

dates: 3-14 December 2014   –   location: Peru  

contact: UNFCCC Secretariat   phone: +49-228 815-1000   fax: +49-228-815-1999   e-mail: secretariat@unfccc.int   www: www.unfccc.int  

read more: climate-l.iisd.org/events/unfccc-cop-20/

—————

UNFCCC COP 21

The 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC is expected to take place in December 2015, in Paris, France.

dates: 2-13 December 2015   –   location: Paris, Ile-De-France, France [tentative]  

contact: UNFCCC Secretariat   phone: +49-228 815-1000   fax: +49-228-815-1999   e-mail: secretariat@unfccc.int   www: www.unfccc.int

read more: climate-l.iisd.org/events/unfccc-cop-21/

—-

See also, please –

 

Climate Change: The Road to Paris 2015

In November the next UN Conference of Parties on climate change (COP19) will meet in Warsaw. There is an enormous amount of work to do in Poland and subsequently if we are going to get a global, legally binding agreement on carbon emissions that we committed to achieve at COP21 in Paris in 2015.

Climate Change
In particular we need to set the political parameters around which a deal can be built.

The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, published in September, reinforced the need for a more urgent and effective response to climate change. The 2015 deal remains the most effective way of putting us back on track to limit the global temperature rise to 2 degrees or less.

I was delighted to see the OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría showing leadership on this issue with a major climate change speech last week at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change in London. My old boss Lord Stern chaired the event in which the Secretary-General denounced the lack of progress towards achieving climate security.

The framing of the speech was essentially that we have a much clearer understanding of climate risk than before, yet have done far too little to tackle it, and – unlike the financial sector – do not have a bailout option. The Secretary-General said policies need to be significantly more ambitious (e.g. on achieving a carbon price), coherent (with wider economic policies and goals) and consistent (with government providing better long-term policy certainty).

I was pleased to hear him pledge to make carbon pricing and other environmental policies key elements of the OECD Economic Surveys that assess countries’ comparative economic performance, and promise that the OECD would be closely monitoring countries’ performance in these areas up to 2015 and beyond. Those are significant steps.

The IEA put out complementary analysis in its ‘Redrawing the Energy Map’ in June, including accelerating the phasing-out of subsidies to fossil-fuel consumption, and better systems of protection against energy poverty which do not entrench a reliance on emissions-intensive consumption. And for many years the IEA World Energy Outlook’s Alternative Policy Scenarios have shown we are off-track from achieving sustainable energy policies.

It seems to me that the OECD and IEA’s strong environmental policy messages are even more powerful coming as they do from primarily economic and energy organisations. It helps to reinforce the message that action on climate can be good for the economy and good for energy security.

Both institutions know that, like national governments, they must continue do more to strengthen their message and get their own house in order. The OECD must align its economic, environmental and social policy advice to be consistent and mutually reinforcing. We should be able to move away from talking about ‘green’ policy to simply ‘good’ policy.

I know the IEA is also working hard to ensure it tackles energy and climate security as two sides of the same coin.

After all, following the Secretary-General’s speech in London, Lord Stern, author of the seminal Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, reiterated that we had no choice but to act on all these fronts. And that a focus on innovative solutions could usher in decades of prosperity: “this is a growth story, not a costs story”.

For its part, the UK will continue to meet its own ambitious and legally-binding emissions targets and carbon budgets, reform the energy sector to achieve energy and climate security, and play a leading role in an ambitious EU programme of economic and environmental transformation.

Meanwhile we will continue to be vocal supporters of the OECD and IEA on these issues as they work together to present the most compelling analysis and pragmatic policy solutions to governments. There is very little time ahead of the big 2015 meeting in Paris.

(Warsaw, 11 November 2013) – The UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw
began today with calls for governments to harness the strong groundswell of
action on climate change across all levels of government, business and
society and make real progress here towards a successful, global climate
change agreement in 2015.

The  President of the Conference of the Parties (COP 19/CMP 9), is
H. E. Mr. Marcin Korolec, Poland’s Environment Minister. He said in his
opening address that climate change is a global problem that must be turned
further into a global opportunity.
“It’s a problem if we can’t coordinate our actions. It becomes opportunity
where we can act together. One country or even a group cannot make a
difference. But acting together, united as we are here, we can do it.”

In her opening speech at the Warsaw National Stadium, the venue of COP 19,
Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on
Climate Change, called on delegates to “win the Warsaw opportunity” in
order to safeguard present and future generations.

“We must stay focused, exert maximum effort for the full time and produce a
positive result, because what happens in this stadium is not a game. There
are not two sides, but the whole of humanity. There are no winners and
losers, we all either win or lose in the future we make for ourselves.”

Ms. Figueres pointed to the sobering realities of climate change and the
rise in extreme events that climate science has long predicted, including
the devastating Typhoon Haiyan that just hit the Philippines, one of the
most powerful typhoons ever to make landfall.

Ms. Figueres highlighted the key areas in which COP 19 can make progress:

“We must clarify finance that enables the entire world to move towards
low-carbon development. We must launch the construction of a mechanism that
helps vulnerable populations to respond to the unanticipated effects of
climate change. We must deliver an effective path to pre-2020 ambition, and
develop further clarity for elements of the new agreement that will shape
the post-2020 global climate, economic and development agendas”.

In addition, the meeting in Warsaw will focus on decisions that will make
fully operational the new institutional support under the UNFCCC for
developing nations in finance, adaptation and technology. These are the
Green Climate Fund, the Technology Mechanism and the Adaptation Committee,
all agreed in Cancun in 2010.

Ms. Figueres stressed the fact that the meeting in Warsaw is taking place
against the background of growing awareness that climate change is real and
accelerating, and the growing willingness of people, businesses and
governments to take climate action, at all levels of society and policy.

“There is a groundswell of climate action. Not only for environmental
reasons, but also for security, energy, economic and governance reasons.
Political will and public support favour action now.       A new universal
climate agreement is within our reach. Agencies, development banks,
investors and subnational governments are on board. The science from the
IPCC is clear. Parties can lead the momentum for change and move together
towards success in 2015.

 

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 6th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

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