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Russia in Asia:


Posted on on November 12th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

A certain raport evolved between him and Washingtonian Diringer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


Posted on on October 28th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (


This from: UNITED NATIONS NEWS SERVICE, 28 October 2009.


A one-time train link between Kyoto and Copenhagen opens up next week – a United Nations-sponsored one-month, 9,000-kilometre journey symbolically joining the site of the last global warming pact with what is hoped to be the birthplace of the next major, and stricter, treaty to combat climate change. 

Launched by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Union of Railways (UIC) and the global conservation organization WWF, the Train to Copenhagen – in fact a carriage – will roll across the globe through the vast wilds of Russian Siberia and into Europe as part of the UN Seal the Deal! campaign to galvanize political will and public support for reaching a comprehensive global climate agreement in December. 

Train operators from around the world will participate in the Train to Copenhagen, raising awareness of the impact of the transport sector, which already accounts for over one fifth of global CO2 greenhouse emissions. These emissions are projected to double within only 40 years and railways are crucial in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and developing sustainable transport systems. 

“We are on the road to nowhere if existing policies and economic models prevail with their over-emphasis on private cars and on shifting shipments of goods to the roads,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said. “The Train to Copenhagen project is a showcase of sustainable transport solutions that will be part and parcel of a resource-efficient, low-carbon Green Economy of the 21st Century. 

“By Sealing the Deal on an ambitious climate agreement in Copenhagen, governments will get into gear to propel the world to a low-carbon future so that societies may also finally embark on a journey to more sustainable transport.” 

During the journey, environmental experts and climate change campaigners will send eye-witness accounts of global warming signs under way. Siberia is a global climate change hotspot, where thawing permafrost and melting peat bogs could slowly release billions of tons of methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over coming years. 

The Train will roll out of Kyoto station on 5 November – leaving behind the Japanese city where the Kyoto Protocol that sets binding greenhouse gas reduction targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European Union (EU) was adopted on 11 December 1997 – and make its way by ferry to Daejeon, Republic of Korea (ROK). 

There it will board another ferry for Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East for that vast transcontinental journey to drum up support for a new compact with much stronger cuts to replace the Protocol on the expiration of the first commitment period at the end of 2012. 

Rumbling across Siberia, it will be hauled along the famous Trans-Siberian Railway and go by ferry across Lake Baikal, the most voluminous freshwater lake in the world, and stop in Moscow, the Polish city of Poznan and then Berlin before arriving on 5 December in Brussels, where it will join the Climate Express, which will be powered by 100 per cent renewable energy. 

This Express will take on board more than 400 climate change negotiators, campaigners and other high-profile personalities going to Copenhagen, for a 12-hour on-track conference focusing on how to solve the challenges posed by the transport sector with regard to global warming.  

On arrival, the Climate Express will remain at Copenhagen Central Station throughout the two-week conference, serving as a mobile exhibition open to the public about low-carbon transport solutions.  

“It is clear that business as usual is not an option if we want to reverse current trends and prevent catastrophic climate change,” UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer said. “If we can really integrate the costs of pollution into the price of transportation, rail will be a big winner.” 


* * * 


Although much work remains to be done ahead of December’s climate change conference in Copenhagen, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said he is optimistic that world leaders will reach an ambitious agreement in the Danish capital. 

Provided that four key benchmarks are decided upon, the gathering will be a success, Mr. Ban told reporters today during his monthly press conference. 

Those four criteria, he said, are: emissions reductions targets by developed countries and enhanced mitigation actions by developing nations; adaptation measures; the provision of financing and technology for poorer nations; and the creation of an equitable global governance structure. 

“We are not lowering expectations” ahead of the Copenhagen meeting, the Secretary-General stressed, noting that he has been working closely with Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who is holding discussions with governments on the substance and form of an agreement that could emerge from the summit. 

“There is a long way to go still,” he said, with only five weeks to go before that meeting. 

Post-Copenhagen, Mr. Ban emphasized to reporters that countries must endeavour to ensure that any agreements reached during the technical negotiations in Denmark can be built upon to become legally binding. 

Negotiators are set to meet next week in Barcelona, Spain, for the last round of negotiations before the two-week Copenhagen gathering kicks off on 7 December. 

In an opinion article published earlier this week in the New York Times, Mr. Ban wrote that despite the gridlock at the last round of climate negotiations held in Bangkok, Thailand, in early October, “the elements of a deal are on the table.” 

All that is needed to put them in place is political will, he said. “We need to step back from narrow national interest and engage in frank and constructive discussion in a spirit of global common cause.” 

The leadership of the United States in this endeavour, the Secretary-General said, is vital, noting that he is encouraged by last week’s bipartisan initiative in the US Senate. 

“We cannot afford another period where the United States stands on the sidelines,” he emphasized, adding that an “indecisive or insufficiently engaged” US will result in unnecessary and unaffordable delays in tackling global warming. 


Posted on on October 18th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

We had the following as a posting on our future events button. Now we update after the events.


Posted on October 12, 2009:

Dr. Perkins, a student of leadership, to speak October 15th at the Explorers Club annual Dinner.

Dr. Dennis Perkins is Keynote Speaker at the Explorers’ Club,
Lowell Thomas Annual Awards Dinner,
October 15th, 2009 Cipriani Wall Street, NY, NY

Dr. Perkins is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, served as a Marine infantry officer in Vietnam and subsequently received an MBA from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Perkins has spent his lifetime evaluating and analyzing leadership and teamwork of successful and doomed expeditions, first as a front line military leader and subsequently in the field and as faculty at our nation’s top universities. Dr. Perkins’ passion to experience and understand risk has taken him to disparate places including Antarctica, where he retraced the footsteps of famed explorer, Ernest Shackleton; and to Australia, where he sailed the Midnight Rambler, winning the challenging Sydney to Hobart Race, a 628 nautical mile race — often called “the Everest” of offshore racing – using a Volvo 60 racing boat.

Dr. Perkins has written extensively on leadership and organizational effectiveness all in the context of risk assessment and optimization.


I was intrigued by the interest in risk as described in the Explorers Club info material. Indeed, now I can report that both events did indeed stand in the shadow of the RISK idea – but please mind – this was not in the sense of getting involved in adventures for the sake of adventure, but rather the cold assessment of risk, and the intelligent process of learning how to get out from under dangerous conditions. You get to risks at the edge and might look at the brink – said one speaker.

The speakers were all old style explorers and by nature of this concept – risk takers. Those that were honored at the dinner were obviously members of the older generation, but at the Saturday “Mountain Stories” event we saw also younger people – so there is still a future for those that want to allow for risk taking. Now the problem is to find places to explore – but I learned that there is no shortage of such possibilities. Climbing new peaks in areas that were less accessible in the past is just one possibility, but going back to mountain peaks that have been explored many times in the past, but using new equipment, it is possible to open up new roots and even get a minor peak called by your name.

Going in the foots of Shackleton in the Antarctica, Dr. Perkins said that the good news was that we have been there before and we know how to do it.

Perkins speaks of “Balanced optimism grounded in reality – you damn well got to be optimistic to go on such a trip.” You must be wiling to take the big risk – not the unnecessary risk.”

What the explorer must do is to look calmly at the situation and step up to the risk worth taking. The challenge is to find innovative solutions to problems under least favorable conditions.

Dr. Perkins, when he speaks, he peppers his mental pictures with ideas from the world of business and policy – such as: “The IMF says global recovery has begun – but does not say when things will get better – so may be we cannot predict the future.”

We know we will have bad days, but we must be ready to take the worthwhile risk, and ended by saying “Thank you very much – go for the edge.”

Yvon Choinard, a Patagonian man, climed mountains on every continent. Long time ago, he looked for the true source of the Nile at Mt. Stanley in Uganda. He said that he never goes on an adventure trip – it just happens when you take small risks on the way.

Richard Wilson, told about racing a boat for 120 days and 28,000 miles, from Port la Foret, Brittany. 

Eventually someone defined the topic of risk as – “Risk is to take new exploration and the unknown, and this without knowing about success.”


The Saturday event was set up to honor further six outstanding explorers and mountain climbers. I was there for three of the six.

The last presenter was Jennifer Loew-Anker – born in Montana to the outdoors from birth – she sounded like a proof that genetics, or call it upbringing – have something to do with it. When you ride a horse at two years of age, and horse-riding is in effect more dangerous then mountain climbing … you get my point.

Jennifer is an artist with wildlife her major topic. She presented to us her book “Forget Me Not” about her first husband – her childhood friend from Montana – Alex Lowe, who died in 1999, in an avalanche on the Himalayan mountain Shishapangma. Alex was considered one of the greatest modern climbers. Jennifer showed us a movie about their lives – she herself also a great climber. After 18 years of marriage, she was left with three children. Eventually, two years later she remarried another climber who worked with Alex.

Jennifer told us about climbing done in the Pinar del Rio region of Cuba, and of philanthropic work she does now with the Alex foundation. They built a climbing wall in Mongolia and established a school for sherpas when they realized that the sherpas actually never learned to take care for themselves, and the number of casualties among the sherpas is so much higher then among the foreign climbers.

The other two – actually three speakers – were the pair Freddie Wilkenson & Janet Bergman, and Kevin Mahoney. All of them from the Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, Mountain Climber community.  All of them connected to the Dartmouth Club and to “Mountain Hardware,” and from their base they work as guides and climbers all over the world.

Kevin Mahoney sees his job as a “mitigator of risk – so people discover their own worth.” He defined himself as a winter person – he climbs ice. He said that skying has many more accidents then ice climbing.

Freddie Wilkinson and Janet Bergman are young people from Kevin Mahoney’s group. They gave us a run down on today’s ice climbing – mentioning that 95% of climbing is done in a handful of peaks in the Himalayas. They described themselves as a great team as Freddie looks for opportunities and Janet for barriers – this when trying to identify new targets for climbing or new ways of climbing in areas that have been covered earlier.


Now I come to the real reason why I looked at these two fascinating programs at the Explorers Club – this because of an obsession I developed at the UN when I realized that the New York based Explorers Club is an NGO affiliated to the UN, but not part of the environmental NGOs active at the UN. I realized at the time that the Club was dominated by people that would rather shoot an elephant and turn it over to a taxidermist so it be a trophy for them. Could they find the last dinosaur, they would have stuffed him also. That might have been right for the days of President Theodore Roosevelt, but I thought that today you ought  not love the outdoors in order to kill them. Also climate change is a rather important issue and I saw tremendous potential here to get the Explorers involved. Eventually I approached a young new President of the Club, we met but nothing happened.

Now, at the Saturday event I spoke with some of those that were honored at the event. These were young people and clearly not of the riffle kind, but still did not find a feel for activism present on our kind of issues. Nevertheless, I found hope for change.

When I asked Kevin Mahoney if he found signs of climate change in Nepal, he started to tell me about the farmer who complained that he has to go higher uphill with the sheep he owns, because there is no grass for them as there is a lack of water. So he goes up higher to areas that used to be covered snow! This clearly gave me the opening to talk a little about the melting glaciers, and I found real interest among the young climbers. So there may be hope that someday the Explorers might indeed become Environmentalists as well – provided by that time there will still be left some  environment to explore. Just think of the snow caps of Kenya and Tanzania and my statement above might not sound absurd at all. 

Is this a different meaning for RISK?


Posted on on June 19th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Prologue:

The Dear Leader Kim Jong Il   and The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei seem to present to the world their proud contention of being indeed The Axis of Evil that was originally suggested by former President G.W. Bush. (Bush had there also Saddam Hussein, and John Bolton was claiming also the rights of Fidel Castro, Muammar al-Gaddafi, and Bashar al-Assad. Since then Saddam Hussein is gone and his country is normalizing slowly, and the Bolton three are at various stages of trying to undo their fame.) What is clear is that a country is not evil – only its leader can be evil. He can nevertheless influence his people and the country as a whole can become then dangerously evil. That is what happened to Germany and Austria under Adolf Hitler   – The FUERER or THE LEADER –   and that might happen now to North Korea under Kim Jong Il, while there is hope that this is not the case of Iran where the young people may show that they did not absorb the indoctrination that is being dished out in those mosques.

Enter a new US President – Barack Hussein Obama – and he declares that we do not play anymore the game of blame. There is no evil we should not attempt to talk with, and that was completely fine with us. He indeed tried to address the real problems of the world but Jong Il and Ali Khamenei seem to insist that they cannot be by-passed – they want to be recognized as holdovers   entitled   to the crown of evil.

Enter a fly to the White House, in full view of world TV, and forces President Obama to take a resolute immediate reaction – the fly gets squished!


The Drama:

The students and younger generation, also the internet enlightened women of Iran, they see the obvious – the elections in which they participated in a symbolic vote for Mr. Moussavi, where highhandedly high-jacked by President Ahmadi-Nejad. They chose to go to the street to protest the fact that their symbolic vote was not counted.

They know that Moussavi was also agreed upon by The Supreme Leader, but they liked the contender’s wife who stood by him during the campaign. This was progress, and they were ripe to submit to slow progress – as long as there will be change. Surely, they would prefer faster change, but change in a positive direction was change nevertheless, and they blessed on it.

The Supreme Leader’s support of Ahmadi-Nejad’s holding onto power – honesty or not – has now the potential of turning the obvious into real rebellion – and this is a clear Iran problem. What should Washington do?

Obama is right – stay the course and stay out. the Supreme Leader with old Nazi style information training, will blame the US if it does or if it does not – but the Iranian people – at least a great part of them – will recognize the present US non-involvement and thus the Leader’s lies. It will strengthen their hand in their conviction that time has come for real change and indeed for a new Iranian revolution – this time without the US having caused it!

The same goes for the UK – stay out because in the past you did enough mischief in that part of the world and non-involvement now is the best way to stage the local people’s own involvement according to their own real interests.

 How does a sigle fly show the way to a wondering US President?

The story actually starts with Rene Descartes lying in bed, sometime in 1628, and watching flies. He was trying to track the flies’ position and he realized that he could describe a fly’s position by inventing coordinate geometry – that was the start of the Cartesian coordinate system and a philosophy with “Rules of the Direction of Mind,” that watching what the church did to Galileo in 1633, was eventually published only in 1701 (Descartes lived 1596 – 1650).

Seemingly, a descendant of that 1628 Cartesian fly entered the White House this week to lead President Obama in his search of what to do with Leaders of Evil.


Some in Washington, like Senator John McCain, are trying to trip President Obama, this while the world is learning of the broken bones of precious team members – Robert Gates, Sonia Sotomayor and Hillary Clinton. Senator McCain would like the US to intervene in Iran and see more killing and direct harm to the US. That is his right of having no responsibility for his positions. We think he also did not contemplate in depth the Cartesian fly’s self-sacrifice. Others thought that Dick Cheney might like see the US in trouble in order to vindicate his own failed policies.

Today’s newspapers are full of stories about US fortifying Hawaii Defenses Against North Korean arms and missile threats. Now that is another yet to be cooked case of raw thinking.

More solid thinking suggests that if change in Iran does occur, there is chance that also it will impact on the nuclear issue, but if repression does not allow for change, there is a chance that the outside world changes and more powers are ready to hold Iran on a shorter leash.


The Epilogue:

Obama – The President of the United States – learned from the fly incident that when a nasty intruder gets close to you – you just squish him. The facts are that he did not get up from his seat to chase out the intruding fly.

North Korea, has no velvet, orange, or green revolution – its youth has been brainwashed and all what they know is to march in lockstep. This is a very sorry situation and in Gilbert & Sullivan language – “they never shall be missed.” On the other hand – in Iran there is a new generation of talented people that might yet bring about change – that is in their own country – or as said if this did not work out – in our countries.

North Korea is a candidate for immediate squishing – Iran is not – but with a caveat!

So, when the first North Korean ship does not stop for inspection as ordered by the UN Security Council, give it short warning and SINK IT. Be ready to take on any other mischief from the Dear Leader and follow him to the end – this is the squishing part. They shall not be missed.

Iran, will watch what goes on with North Korea and learn. The larger lesson is that squishing does happen. The wise is expected to learn from this. The pinpointed study is that people that follow blindly a “Dear Leader” get punished eventually.


Posted on on June 6th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

A soccer game in Pyongyang, North Korea, between Iran and North Korea, way hold hostage Ahmedi-Nejad in the sense that a loss in that game may strengthen his opponent in the Presidential elections – Mir-Hossein Moussavi. This, writes The Financial Times, because of the heavy handedness of the Iranian government on its own soccer players.

So, while Presidents Obama and Sarkozy, on the D-day Press conference discuss Iran and South Korea nukes, those two soccer teams play out their dreams of going next year to the South Africa World Cup games.

Normalcy may indeed be an interesting bad dream, the best we can hope for is to find out from the news how such events evolve.…


But also from the same journalist in the very recent days – as per…

Praise from Muslims tempered by caution
When Barack Obama strode on to the podium at Cairo University to deliver his address to the Muslim world yesterday, Saudis
Jun 05 2009, By Abeer Allam in Riyadh, Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran and,Tobias Buck in Jerusalem, Financial Times

Soccer result could affect Iranian election
Football fans the world over love to tell anyone who will listen that their sport is “not just a game” – it means so much
Jun 05 2009, By Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran, site

Caution tempers Muslim praise
When Barack Obama strode on to the podium at Cairo University to deliver his address to the Muslim world yesterday, Saudis
Jun 05 2009, By Abeer Allam in Riyadh, Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran and,Tobias Buck in Jerusalem, Financial Times

Iran tells Obama ‘beautiful’ speeches not enough
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Barack Obama shortly before the US president was due to address the
Jun 04 2009, By Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran, site

Iranian president in TV spat with rival
Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, Iran’s president, last night went on the offensive, attacking Mir-Hossein Moussavi, his main
Jun 04 2009, By Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran, Financial Times

Sarkozy in Iran nuclear talks
…week before Iran’s presidential election, is a surprise because Mr Sarkozy’s officials had said no fresh moves with Tehran should be made until after polling on June 12.Ben Hall, Paris and Najmeh Bozorgmehr, Tehran, Full story: Jun 03 2009, By Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Ben Hall, Financial Times

Sarkozy in Iran nuclear talks
President Nicolas Sarkozy will on Wednesday meet Iran’s foreign minister in Paris in a move aimed at paving the way to a
Jun 03 2009, By Ben Hall in Paris and Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran, site


Posted on on November 8th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Melting ice in the Arctic, but the lure of resources is just too strong. Europe’s Arctic adventure – The new cold rush for resources.

EUOBSERVER / TROMSO – PART ONE – There’s this grizzled old guy in the hospital with worsening lung cancer. The doctors can’t tell him whether it’s fatal yet, but each new test shows a rapidly deteriorating condition.

He’s been a heavy smoker all his life, although he’s trying to quit, but one day, while he’s wandering the corridors, he comes across a long-abandoned storeroom and it’s rammed to the gills with cigarettes, cigars, roll-your-own tobacco of every brand and region. There are Cuban cigars, Moroccan apple-flavoured nargileh tobacco, Swedish snus and jars of aromatic pipe shag. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of tobacco left over from the days when hospital cafeterias still sold cigarettes, and the nurses and security staff are nowhere to be seen.

The man briefly thinks that he should just forget he ever opened the storeroom door and get back to the business of quitting, but he’s dazzled by the hoard and instead stuffs as much of it into his pyjamas as he can to take back to his bed and puffs his nicotine-addled brains out.

There’s no tobacco hoard in a cupboard somewhere in the Arctic, but there is however a quarter of the world’s remaining undiscovered oil and gas now within reach as a result of the far north rapidly melting.

Like the old man in the hospital, the European Union and countries on the shores of the Arctic sea have said to themselves: “There may be a chance that we can slow down and reverse global warming, so we really should give up our addiction to fossil fuels. But how can we turn our backs – and our wallets – on such a bonanza, even if it’s full of the very stuff that caused the problem in the first place?”

Or is such an environmentalist caricature unfair to the people of the northern regions, for the most part long shut out from the industrial development and the wealth of the more southerly parts of Europe, Canada, Russia and the United States?

Many of those living in the Arctic are aboriginal people, who have historically borne the double burden of underdevelopment in their regions and racial prejudice. And until recently very little has been available to anyone up north apart from far-from-bountiful farming and the occasional mine that inevitably closes down.

Can we really say “No” to improving the standard of living in the north through development, especially if it can be done sustainably?

With recent months in particular seeing both a cascade of truly alarming news on how fast the Arctic is changing and pronouncements from the European Union and other circumpolar powers on plans for exploitation of newly accessible resources, the EUobserver decided to visit Europe’s patch of the Arctic, the northernmost tip of mainland Norway – still outside the EU, but very much Brussels’ advance guard up in the high north – to find out the reality behind the headlines about the coming “scramble for the Arctic”, and look at all sides in the debate over the Arctic’s future.


Methane burps:

The situation at the top of the world has taken a sharp turn for the worse just in the last few weeks.

On 6 September, leading European and American ice specialists at the US National Ice Center reported that for the first time, a ring of navigable waters around the Arctic ice cap opened up the fabled Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic archipelago – the maritime Holy Grail of a faster trade route from Europe to Asia sought for centuries by explorers – and the Northern Sea Route, also known as the Northeast Passage, over Eurasia, at the same time.

Then, in late September, Swedish and Russian scientists found the first evidence that millions of tonnes of methane – a gas that is 20 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide – is bubbling up from beneath the Siberian Arctic seabed.

The amount of methane stored beneath the Arctic is greater than the world’s remaining global stores of coal and it is now rising up from the bottom of the ocean through “methane chimney” discovered by scientists aboard the research ship Jacob Smirnitskyi.

Days later, British scientists aboard the James Clark Ross found hundreds of plumes of methane burping up from the Arctic seabed to the west of the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard midway between mainland Norway and the North Pole.

NASA’s top climate scientist, James Hansen, says that the release of methane clathrates from permafrost regions and beneath the seabed will unleash powerful feedback forces that could produce runaway climate change that cannot be controlled – the so-called methane time bomb – a prediction of radical environmental transformation far worse than the worst-case scenarios theorised by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Then on Tuesday (28 October), the European Space Agency reported that Arctic sea ice was thinning at a record rate, with the thickness of sea ice in large parts of the Arctic having declined by as much as 19 percent last winter compared to the previous five winters.


Last days of the ‘ice bear:’

“The Arctic is warming at two times the rate of the rest of the world,” says Nalan Koc, a senior scientist with the polar climate programme at the Norwegian Polar Institute, in Tromso, explaining why all of this is happening.

Tromso, in the far north of Norway and home to the world’s northernmost university, at the same time is preparing itself for the economic bonanza that the melting will bring.

Nalan Koc, however, is not as excited as other Tromso inhabitants. In a Power Point presentation of this Arctic apocalypse, she starkly lists the myriad ways in which the environment is fundamentally altering. “Amplified by positive feedback, the Arctic is seeing increased precipitation, declining snow cover, rising river flows, thawing permafrost, melting glaciers, retreating summer sea ice, rising sea levels, and ocean salinity changes making the water less saline.”

The talk, despite its subject, is deceptively banal. Where are the four horsemen? A moon turned blood-red? Instead, the end of days is being announced not by skeletonous biblical heralds but in bullet points and embedded videos that take three minutes to load.

The permafrost is melting under tundra that previously was stable, she explains, buckling roads and highways as the ground beneath them gives way.

In the marine environment, sea temperatures are rising and the ice cover is melting. Ice-dependent species such as the polar bear, which the Norwegians more accurately call “isbjorn” or “ice bear,” as well as the walrus and the ringed seal all face an uncertain future. Some scientists believe the polar bear will be extinct by mid-century.

“When you’ve been around up here for as long as I have, you begin to see it with your own eyes from year to year,” she says. “You can feel it in your bones.”

Last year saw a record low extent of Arctic sea ice cover – 4.3 million square kilometres – more than 40 percent below averages in the 1980s and more than 20 percent below the previous record low in 2005. “But more important than the extent is the volume of the ice. Most of the older thicker ice is not surviving from one summer to the next. As of 2007, most of the ice was three or four-year-old ice. As of 2008, most ice is just one year old.”

The massive ice loss and thinning is forcing scientists to quickly ratchet lower even their worst expectations – the 2007 melting came some 30 years ahead of model predictions.

In 2004, it was predicted that the ice would have melted sufficiently to allow commercial traffic in the Arctic Ocean by 2090. In 2007, it was predicted that commercial traffic would be able to cross by 2040. As of 2008, the predictions are for some time in the next five years, with the first start-up possibly in 2009. Models now predict an ice-free Arctic Ocean in the summer some time between 2013 and 2040.

The last time the Arctic Ocean was ice-free in the summer was over a million years ago.

Her colleague, Kit Kovacs, the Biodiversity Research Programme leader at the institute says: “The changes are happening so rapidly that scientists are having trouble processing it all. From initial tests to publishing papers takes at a minimum months or a couple of years, but change is happening much faster than that.

“The biodiversity loss is just as profound as if there were a loss of the Amazon rainforest within the space of five years.”


Oil and gas bonanza:

What looks like the end for the polar bear, however, looks like Christmas for resource companies and European energy security concerns.

Johan Petter Barlindhaug, the chair of North Energy, a northern-Norway-based oil-and-gas start-up currently exploring energy sources on the Norwegian continental shelf, says the melting Arctic could offer northern peoples, who have historically lived in a very much underdeveloped region, a chance to have similar standards of living as those who live in the cities and towns further south.

“Climate change poses lots of threats, but it also opens up a range of possibilities,” he says.

Oil companies like North Energy and Norwegian energy giant Statoil Hydro believe the Arctic holds as much as 25 percent of the worlds undiscovered oil and gas deposits – as much as the combined reserves of Canada and Saudi Arabia.

Russia’s Gazprom already has approximately 34 trillion cubic metres (113 trillion cubic feet) of gas under development in the Barents Sea and Moscow is claiming territory in the Arctic that contains an estimated 586 billion barrels of oil.

Mineral resources may also abound, particularly coal, iron, lead, copper, nickel, zinc and sulphides, as well as precious minerals such as gold and diamonds. Recent diamond discoveries in the Canadian Arctic have made the country, which previously didn’t produce any of the stones, the third biggest exporter of diamonds in the world.

On maps that place the North Pole at the centre of the world, instead of the equator, Mr Barlindhaug shows how a melting Arctic also opens up three different shortcuts for shipping goods between Europe and Asia – routes that will save shipping firms, exporters and importers, and the world’s navies and smugglers – billions of euros.

The shipping industry is hoping for a 20 percent saving, he enthuses, with still greater savings for the megaships that cannot fit through the Suez or Panama canals and have to sail round the tips of Africa or South America.

Although Mr Barlindhaug believes that the third shortcut – straight across the pole – offers the most potential.

“The Northwest and Northeast Passages aren’t as important as building ports on Iceland and in Norway and Russia,” he says. “This is because the Canadians view the Northwest Passage as domestic, and there’s something of the same with the Northeast Passage, which is within Russian borders.

“In any case, international waters closer to the North Pole provide routes that are much shorter. But it’s also a matter of speed and cost. Between the Canadian or Russian islands, you can’t pick up much speed while you’re navigating through them. It’s too narrow.

“But at 20-25 knots across the pole, then you’re really saving some money. It would take just five days to cross from the Bering Sea to the Barent Sea. It doesn’t need to be completely ice free.”

He then moves on to the expanded fishing opportunities and potential for discoveries of new medicines derived from invertebrates living in extreme polar environments that round out the economic bounty becoming available as the climate warms up.

Some 10 percent of global white fish stocks swim through the waters of the Barents Sea, the Bering Sea, and near Iceland, offering catches worth billions of euros.

Nonetheless, “bio-prospecting” for new medicines is by far the greater catch, believes Mr Barlindhaug: “These invertebrates are chemical factories that will produce the next generation of medicines. They’re far more important than the fish that is up there.”

In a visit to brand-spanking new labs at the University of Tromso, Jeanette Andersen, of Mabcent-SFI, a public-private bio-prospecting outfit launched last year with €20.5 million (180m NOK) in funding, explains the potential for new treatments and cures coming from molluscs that poison passing fish or colourless mini-starfish that love the cold.

“The marine environment in the high Arctic is unparalleled with respect to combination of temperature and light regimes,” she says. “This implies evolution of organisms with unique physiological and biochemical adaptations.”

She says that the potential is enormous, from antibiotics, chemotherapy, and painkillers to anti-bacterials, anti-oxidents, anti-inflammatory medicines, but Mabcent also hopes to discover creatures that have cosmetic and industrial applications, and even better food and drink preservation.

“But all high-profit,” she enthuses, describing how her biologist and chemist colleagues dive off into the depths of the Arctic Ocean like a team of submariner Indiana Joneses, before they race back to the university to freeze the hundreds of different specimens. They then grind them into a pulp that is investigated by viking boffins at stupidly expensive machines who identify the wild new molecules produced by the exotic biochemistry of these nigh-on alien creatures.

“Living in environments that range from 1.8 to 8 degrees celsius, these organisms are adapted to cold temperatures. As you warm up the metabolism, you speed up the effectiveness of enzymes, so the thinking is that enzymes existing at these temperatures will work faster in warm humans.”

However, some of the different industries opening up as Arctic waters open up pose a threat to others.

Pooh-poohing the idea that oil and gas exploration threatens the environment, North Energy’s Mr Barlindhaug reckons it’s a massive expansion of unsustainable fishing practices and illegal fishing that pose the greatest threat, particularly to bio-prospecting.

“Bottom trawling is much more damaging than oil and gas exploration, as the you find oil all over the rocks and sand on the sea bed. These creatures are used to it – there’s nothing to worry about from oil and gas exploration.

“Bioprospectors should be more scared about increased fishing activity. That’ll damage these organisms much more,” he insists.

Jeanette back at Mabcent is not so sure: “We need to be worried about oil and gas exploration. What Mr Barlindhaug said is too easy an answer to the question of oil spills. Some organisms will adapt, yes, but others are very vulnerable.”

In the second part of the EUobserver’s look at the politics and business of the melting Arctic, appearing on Monday, we look at Kirkenes, a small harbour town sometimes called ‘Little Murmansk’ for its 10 percent Russian population, and how it is set to be transformed by the oil and gas bonanza opening up as the ice disappears.


Posted on on November 7th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Friday, Nov. 7, 2008

Japan asked to join new Arctic shipping regime.

By KEISUKE OKADA, Staff writer, The Japan Times online.
Japan should join hands with the United States and other Arctic states in ongoing multilateral efforts to create a new shipping regime in the Arctic Ocean, a U.S. official said Thursday in Tokyo.

International cooperation is vital to ensure that shipping in the Arctic is “safe, secure and reliable,” according to Mead Treadwell, chairman of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, an advisory body to the president and Congress.

As a result of receding sea ice, caused by global warming, the Arctic is expected to open up for global shipping in the future. This will present strategic options for Japan’s industry in light of shorter shipping routes from Japan to Europe via the Arctic Ocean, Treadwell said at a media conference in Tokyo.

The eight-nation Arctic Council, established in 1996 as a high-level intergovernmental forum to promote cooperation among Arctic states, is currently working on an Arctic marine shipping assessment, due to be completed in 2009, according to Treadwell.

The council’s member states are the U.S., Russia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway.

Trans-Arctic sea routes could be as important to global shipping as the Panama and Suez canals in the near future.

Aware of the strategic importance, China and South Korea have already joined the Arctic Council as observers and Treadwell recommended that Japan do likewise.

Aside from its potential for shipping, the Arctic is surfacing as a new battleground for energy resources. In August 2007, Russia stunned the world by planting its national flag in a titanium capsule on the seabed beneath the North Pole, causing other Arctic states — the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway — to scramble for a share of a potential new oil bonanza.


Posted on on October 31st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (


Asia-EU Summit to Address ‘Financial Tsunami.’

Analysis by Antoaneta Bezlova, IPS, October 23, 2008

BEIJING, Oct 22 (IPS) – Cast in the role of global saviour in the unfolding financial turmoil, China is playing host to a meeting of Asian and European leaders in Beijing this week that is expected to castigate the Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism and press for a reshaped global economic order.

“Can Asia be global economy’s best hope,” asked an editorial in the Economic Observer last week. Noting that Asia hardly played any role during the global economic recovery after the Great Depression of 1929, the paper suggested that the continent’s established and emerging economies constituted the world’s best chance for recovery after the “financial tsunami”.

“And even if the Wall Street demise does not instantly signify the triumph of Mahathir’s Asian model, it is the beginning of a much-needed readjustment of economic power in the world,” it concluded.

More than 40 leaders will converge in the Chinese capital for the 7th Asian European Meeting (ASEM) summit from Oct. 24 to 25 to discuss the global financial crisis and a plan for joint action.

Aside from the 27 EU countries, 10 ASEAN countries, the European Commission, China, Japan and South Korea, the summit will be attended by three other Asian countries — India, Pakistan and Mongolia. The talks will be co-chaired by France, which holds the European Union’s presidency, and China.


“China maintains that the international community should strengthen cooperation and jointly handle the current financial crisis on the basis of equal consultation,” foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing on Tuesday. But he warned that “developing countries’ interests and concerns should be fully respected and safeguarded.”

China — a major emerging economy which sits on 1.8 trillion US dollars worth of foreign exchange reserves — has been looked upon as an important player to lead the way out of the global financial meltdown.

U.S. Treasury Department officials and politicians have all called on Beijing to show a pro-active attitude and join efforts with the Western world to fight the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Qin Gang said Beijing had adopted a “responsible and constructive attitude” in dealing with the crisis. But few details have emerged over the role China is expected to play. Latest economic figures show that the country’s economy is also vulnerable to the effects of the global economic slowdown.

The National Statistics Bureau said on Monday the economy expanded by just nine percent in the third quarter, the slowest rate in five years. By comparison, the economy grew 10.6 percent in the first quarter and 10.1 in the second quarter of 2008. The slowdown was blamed on plummeting demand for Chinese goods as consumers in the U.S. and Europe cut back on spending.

In recent weeks Beijing has grown more critical over the lack of financial surveillance in developed economies, which it blames for the spiralling crisis. The deputy governor of China’s central bank, Yi Gang, who took part in the emergency G20 meeting in Washington earlier this month, chastised the International Monetary Fund for allowing too much leverage in the system and failing to exert control of big Western financial institutions.

He told the media that “weak financial-policy discipline resulted in excess global liquidity and disorderly capital flows”. The line has been echoed in a numerous articles and columns in the Chinese media attempting to dissect the reasons for the downfall of Wall Street powerhouses. Some have sung an “eulogy to U.S. capitalism” while others have proclaimed the end of the “era of Washington consensus”.

But there has been less certainty about what would replace the current order of international capitalism. “The demise of Wall Street Anglo-Saxon model doesn’t signify the victory of China’s financial modus operandi,” said a commentary in the 21st Century Economic Herald.

“Even as we criticise Wall Street’s excesses, we should be aware that China’s model of financial operation is not necessarily the answer,” it said. “True, Chinese banks are stable and they don’t pursue excessive profits blindly. But they are far from free from red tape and administrative interference.”

According to Qin Gang the ASEM summit offers the “perfect platform” for leaders to discuss ways of dealing with the crisis.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has proposed a global system of financial supervision that would empower international bodies including the International Monetary fund to monitor global markets and act as early warning systems. French President Nicolas Sarkozy — one of the summit’s coordinators — has pledged to use the meeting as a platform to persuade Asian nations to take part in a plan for the rebuilding of international capitalism.

“What has happened is an act of treason against the values of capitalism; it is not a result of the market economy,” said Sarkozy during a speech Tuesday at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

“The most simple solution” for the global summits would be to bring the G8 (group of eight) largest industrialised nations together with the five biggest emerging economies, led by China and India, he told European politicians.

Chinese analysts anticipate that the summit may produce an agreement for the establishment of a joint trust fund between Asia and Europe, similar to the one launched during the second ASEM summit in London in 1998, to combat the Asian financial crisis.


The update comes October 31, 2008 to the original posting of October 25, 2008 and it deals specifically with the place of Mongolia in all of the above. This because of a breakfast meeting at the Asia Society in New York today, October 31, 2008 – the traditional Halloween day, and I will mention after a few further lines why I say this.

The meeting today had the title – Mongolia Rising: The Incredible and Continuing Story of Mongolia’s Emergence as a Free Market Democracy.

At the breakfast meeting spoke the US Ambassador to Mongolia, Mr. Mark C. Minton, and in the audience sat also Ambassador Ms. Enkhtsetseg Ochir, the Permanent Representative of Mongolia to the UN. Jamie F. Metzl, the Exec. VP of Asia Society chaired.

Strangely, when I looked up the website of the Asia Society, I found that on October 31, 2005   The Asia Society   Washington DC Center had a meeting on Mongolia. Here the strange coincidence of the Halloween date repeating itself exactly three years later and my possibility to compare the progress of relations between the US and Mongolia in the last three years – to the date.

The information from 2005 –…

Strangely, already at that first meeting there was a reference to Halloween, but that was a very serious meeting – “US-Mongolia Relations: History and Future Prospects.” That meeting, according to the pdf had a large cast of Ambassadors participating, including Tony Lake, and it was arranged before President Bush trip to Mongolia – the first Summit of a US President with a Mongolian President. Since then there was a return visit – a Summit of the presidents in the Washington DC White House in 2007.

Mr. Mark Minton, a career member of the US Foreign Service got to UlaanBataar in December 2006 after having served in Korea and Japan, so he was in Mongolia for the last two years of the US- Mongolia rapprochement.

So why Mongolia? It is a country, the size of Alaska, of 3 million people, and 45% live now in the capital area urban environment. Culturally they are close to Tibet and are of the same religious belief as the Tibetan Buddhism, thus I would assume also close culturally to Bhutan, but they were a nomadic people.

In the 20th century that brushed with Soviets, Chinese and Japanese occupation and are fiercely intent on preserving their freedom. Being geographically wedged in between China and Russia, they want that “third neighbor” that geography did not give them. So thy go the long distance and want the US as their third neighbor. To reach the US they developed their democracy so they can interact with countries beyond their two immediate neighbors. They reorganized their army as a peace making army and they participate in UN peace missions like Sierra Leone, and with the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. in exchange the US established an AID program involved in preventive health care and in construction workers education as the transformation from the nomadic lifestyle created needs for new skills in the housing sector; further the US Peace Corps are active in Mongolia – it is actually the largest per capita Peace Corps location. But obviously the US does not have Mongolia to itself, the Japanese foreign aid is the largest in Mongolia and the EU, Australia, and Canada are also active.

Democratization made large progress – there is transparency, a judiciary, there are elections and they have a market economy and the leaders are involved in diplomacy. They are visited often by the Dalai Lama and the university is in exchange with the University of Alaska.

Obviously, the US is interested in Mongolia’s mineral resources – so is China. Peabody Coal and Rio Tinto International are active in Mongolia. Hilton International opened this year. Mongolia is becoming a middle income country. It is landlocked but is starting to take advantage from its location by becoming a country of transit between China and Russia.

In the democracy department there was a blemish recently when after the summer elections there were riots. The Ambassador explained those as inexperience because they have an army but not good police service. The fact was that the army, that was trained for peace work, did not know how to act when called in after the opposition protests about the elections. The authorities panicked and the army was inefficient.

An adviser to Nature Conservancy criticised the ambassador as he said nothing about the environmental problems and the mining industry. Further there are issues resulting from foreigners buying up grazing land for meet production and farming.

The nuclear issue came up as Mongolia wants to be part of the six Party talks on North Korea programs. Further, what was not mentioned is that Mongolia declared its nuclear-weapon-free status. In effect I have in front of me UN General Assembly document A/c.1/63/L.28 where Kazakhstan, Morocco, and Mongolia brought up together Mongolia’s rejection of nuclear weapons. Also, in recognition of their specific situation, Japan let Mongolia host one of the six-Party talks commissions.

Japan is also looking into the problem with desert dust from Mongolia reaching Japan.

From all this material, what is China doing when insisting in bringing in Mongolia to the meeting they hosted between the 27 EU countries and the four major Asian economies, when besides Japan, India and Korea, they also invited Pakistan and Mongolia? We understood Pakistan as sort of balance to India, but now we also figure that bringing in Mongolia has more to do with trying to redirect this country towards Europe and weakening a runaway relationship with the US directly, or via Japan.

The bottom line is that because of size and economic potential, Mongolia is a country with much higher importance then it might be assumed from the mere 3 million people. China night then want to keep it in its own orbit and to guard it from   “third neighbors'” exaggerated footholds.


Posted on on October 25th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

[EUobserver Comment] No easy answers to the status of Ossetia, Abkhazia and others – 24.10.2008.

The collapse last week (on the first day!) of EU backed peace talks between
Georgia and Russia to resolve the crisis in the breakaway regions of South
Ossetia and Abkhazia, with the sides unable to enter the same room, serves
merely to illustrate that there are no easy answers to the question of the
status of Ossetia, Abkhazia, and indeed many other territories in the
world, writes MEP Richard Corbett.

Strained relations between Russians, EU monitors in Georgia – 24.10.2008.

Russia is not informing the EU mission of their deployment of troops, nor
is it allowing observers to enter Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Hansjorg
Haber, the head of EU’s civilian monitoring mission to Georgia (EUMM) has

 Romania opens door to Gazprom pipeline – 24.10.2008.

Romania is open to investing in the Gazprom pipeline South Stream, not just
the EU Nabucco project, designed to reduce energy dependency on Russia,
Romanian minister of economy Varujan Vosganian said on Thursday as general
elections loom.


Posted on on October 13th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

 The following is in some sense a continuation of the US-India nuclear deal, and we ask if it is not the prelude to a US-Iran deal? This, because of what seems, according to the Japanese, an approach that takes the other side on its word – good for nuclear industry interests, but totally devote answers to the enrichment/proliferation issues – as these are left outside the scope of the agreement. Above would thus seem ideal for the Iranians, who could thus send feelers now to ask for similar agreements. Can these agreements avoid the dreaded Asian nuclear arms race? Is this a legacy the Bush Administration wants   to be remembered for?


North Korea cuts deal to exit blacklist: Enrichment now not factor; Japan to snub food aid.
Kyodo News, Friday, Oct. 10, 2008.

The United States has told Japan it will remove North Korea from its list of terrorism-sponsoring nations by the end of the month because Washington has reached a certain degree of understanding with Pyongyang about verifying the North’s nuclear programs, Tokyo sources said Thursday.

Japan has demanded that the U.S. keep North Korea on the list until the hermit state makes progress on reinvestigating the fate of the Japanese nationals it abducted in the 1970s and ’80s.

According to the sources, the top nuclear negotiators from the U.S. and North Korea have broadly agreed on verification of the plutonium program declared by North Korea while setting aside scrutiny of its uranium enrichment program and nuclear proliferation activities as conditions for removing Pyongyang from the list.

The deal was struck during a meeting Oct. 1 in Pyongyang between Christopher Hill, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and Kim Kye Gwan, his North Korean counterpart.

The U.S. also told Japan it plans to continue providing food aid to North Korea, a humanitarian assistance program it started in June, and asked Japan to consider joining the program, the sources said, adding Japan plans to reject the U.S. request for food assistance because it hasn’t seen any progress on the abduction issue.

The U.S. plans have already been reported to Prime Minister Taro Aso, the sources said.

It is also believed that Sung Kim, the U.S. special envoy for the six-party talks on denuclearizing North Korea, presented the plans during a meeting Wednesday in Tokyo with Akitaka Saiki, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, the sources said.

The Japanese government will accept the U.S. plan to take North Korea off the terror-sponsor list on condition that Pyongyang carry out the deal with Washington.

Kyodo News, Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008

North Korea sanctions extended again: Ban on imports, port calls to last six more months due to inaction on nuclear, abduction issues.

Japan on Friday extended its ban on port calls by North Korean-registered vessels and all imports of goods from the country for another six months, citing the lack of progress in denuclearization and its failure to come clean on its past abductions of Japanese nationals.

In addition to these two sanctions, which were to expire next Monday, Japan also continues to maintain other measures, including barring entry to all North Korean nationals, except for those who are residents of Japan, and prohibiting the export of luxury goods to North Korea.

Approved by the Cabinet on Friday morning, it is the fourth six-month extension since the sanctions were imposed on Oct. 14, 2006, following North Korea’s nuclear test and earlier ballistic missile tests over the Sea of Japan the same year.

“After considering comprehensively the current circumstances concerning North Korea, including the six-party talks, U.N. Security Council resolutions and the moves of the international community, and given that the abduction issue has yet to be resolved, we decided to extend these measures,” Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone told a news conference.

Nakasone said the extension was made because North Korea has yet to agree to the specifics of a verification regime under the six-party denuclearization framework, yet to begin the agreed-on reinvestigations of its abductions and is moving toward reactivating a nuclear facility after suspending the disablement process.

But he added that Japan has no immediate plans to further expand the sanctions’ scope.

North Korea had agreed to launch a committee by autumn to reinvestigate the abductions and Japan had promised to lift its sanctions on chartered flights and entry of North Korean nationals in return once the probes began.

However, following the abrupt Sept. 1 resignation announcement by then Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, North Korea told Japan the panel will not be set up until Pyongyang confirms the policy of the new Japanese administration.

Since the launch of Prime Minister Taro Aso’s new government last month, Japan has continued to urge North Korean authorities on multiple occasions through diplomatic channels in Beijing to move ahead swiftly with the reinvestigations, a Foreign Ministry official said.

Aso, who was foreign minister in 2006 when Japan began the sanctions, pledged last week to relatives of the missing abductees that he will make an all-out effort to resolve the abduction issue and noted it is “a fight against time.”

Japan imposed unilateral sanctions after North Korea fired ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan in July 2006, banning the entry of the North Korean cargo-passenger ferry Mangyongbong-92 into Japanese ports and barring North Korean officials, ship crews and chartered flights from entering Japan.

It also took measures in September that year to practically freeze remittances to the North in line with a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the missile launches.

After North Korea conducted a nuclear test in October 2006, Japan expanded the scope of the sanctions to include banning entry for all North Korea-registered ships.

Kyodo News, Monday, Oct. 13, 2008

Aso downplays removal of N. Korea from U.S. blacklist.

The U.S. move to strike North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism won’t prevent finding a resolution to Pyongyang’s abductions of Japanese nationals, Prime Minister Taro Aso said Sunday.

“We will be able to hold sufficient discussions on the abductions in the process of negotiations to come. It does not mean a loss of leverage,” Aso told reporters in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture.

He showed some acceptance of the U.S. move, saying, “I understand that they took the step considering it would be better to do something about (the nuclear issue) than not doing anything.” The decision is “one way” to move the nuclear disablement forward, he added.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura, also the minister in charge of the abduction issue, said: “Japan has no reluctance to cooperate in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. At the same time, we have a strong feeling that the abduction issue should not be left out. We will take up the issue without fail in the six-party talks.”

Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone issued a statement saying Japan will continue to work closely with the U.S. and others to seek progress in resolving the abduction issue.

“Japan will do its utmost, in close cooperation with the United States and other countries concerned, to push forward Japan-North Korea relations, including the abduction issue, alongside the nuclear issue,” the statement said.

Nakasone noted in the statement that President George W. Bush expressed to Aso in a phone call prior to the announcement his understanding of the strong concerns among the Japanese public and his sympathy with the families of the missing abductees.

Nakasone also expressed hope of cooperating with other members of the six-party talks to adopt an agreement on the specifics of a protocol for verifying North Korea’s nuclear programs and facilities based on a deal reached between Washington and Pyongyang.

“Japan believes that in order to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, which is the goal of the six-party talks, it is extremely important to build a concrete framework for effective verification,” Nakasone said.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa said in Washington on Saturday that the U.S. decision was “extremely regrettable.”

“I believe abductions amount to terrorist acts,” Nakagawa said. He was in Washington to take part in Group of Seven meetings on the global financial crisis.

Nakagawa, who headed a nonpartisan parliamentarians’ group to seek a resolution to the abductions, met with Bush prior to the delisting announcement. He said he referred to Shigeru and Sakie Yokota, the parents of abductee Megumi Yokota, who North Korea says is dead.

Sakie Yokota, 72, met Bush in 2006 at the White House in seeking U.S. help on the abduction issue.

“I talked with the Yokotas over the phone a while ago and they were very shocked” by the U.S. decision, Nakagawa told reporters.


Posted on on August 27th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (




Posted on on August 12th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

People Fight to Save World’s Deepest Lake.

By MIKE ECKEL, AP, August 10, 2008


BOLSHIYE KOTY, Russia (Aug. 10) – The world’s oldest, deepest and biggest freshwater lake is growing warmer, dirtier and more crowded.
Lyubov Izmestieva is charting these insidious changes. Marina Rikhvanova is fighting them. And the fate of one of the world’s rarest ecosystems, a turquoise jewel set in the vast Siberian taiga, hangs in the balance.
‘A Kind of Red Line for Humanity’

Misha Japaridze, AP

The world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake is under siege. Lake Baikal, a massive body of water in the vast Siberian taiga that’s home to one of the most diverse ecosystems, faces threats ranging from pollution to climate change.

For centuries Lake Baikal has inspired wonder and, more recently, impassioned defenders. With more fresh water than the Great Lakes combined, and home to 1,500 species of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world, Baikal has been called Sacred Sea, Pearl of Siberia, Galapagos of Russia.

But these pristine waters, a mile deep in some places, are threatened by polluting factories, a uranium enrichment facility, timber harvesting, and, increasingly, Earth’s warming climate. The struggle has turned nasty, with Rikhvanova, an environmental activist, claiming the authorities even dragooned her own son into a violent attack on her group.
Tourists, most of them newly prosperous Russians, are flocking to the lake, filling the beaches, building vacation dachas and changing the lake’s ecology. Resorts are opening. There are more fishermen, hunters and boaters.
The lake’s significance goes far beyond Russia’s borders; its size and fragility, say environmentalists, makes it a sort of test case for such bodies of fresh water around the world.
“Baikal is the greatest lake in the world. It is a limitless reserve and source for water that all of humanity can drink without any sort of purification,” says Izmestieva, a third-generation biologist. “This is a priceless gift for everyone, whether you live in Bolshiye Koty or Florida … or Kansas.”

Shimmering, crystalline waters lap at the hull of the boat named for Izmestieva’s scientist grandfather, Mikhail Kozhov, as her colleagues sort plastic jugs and glass bottles and prepare for the day’s work.

Lyudmila Ryabenka lowers a plate-sized disc into the rolling waves to measure transparency and quality. Then she winches a cone-shaped net deep into the lake to pull up phytoplankton — tiny plants that are an essential food source for many fish and shellfish. Later, she and another biologist use a glass cylinder to measure water temperature and collect animal plankton samples.

On the return to the ramshackle village of Bolshiye Koty, Ryabenka says the sampling is sometimes tedious. When the boat pitches or the Siberian winter winds howl, it’s even harder. “We say that only romantics do this sort of work.”
But every week to 10 days, four seasons a year, for more than 60 years, Izmestiva’s family and their colleagues has kept at it.

Izmestiva, 56, the gruff-spoken director of Irkutsk State University’s Scientific Research Institute of Biology, is the third generation in her family to do this work. Starting in 1945, her grandfather sailed out onto Baikal’s waters — or trudged out on its ice — to take samples. When he died, Izmestieva’s mother continued the work until her death in 2000. Izmestiva then took over.

Taking the samples became a family ritual, she says. “There’s a kind of work that just has to be done whether you like it or not. … And it’s just worked out that we’re the ones who have to do it.”
The result has been a remarkable trove of data published in the U.S. journal Global Change Biology in an extraordinary paper that concluded Baikal is warming and its food web changing. That echoes other evidence of climate change, including thinning lake ice, arriving later and leaving earlier.

Izmestieva and her colleagues supplement small academic salaries (around $200 a month) consulting for private companies. They store samples in old champagne and vodka bottles. Their work space is the porch of a tired-looking shore-side cabin in Bolshiye Koty.

Now, the university rector wants to rent out the institute’s cabins to tourists. That, Izmestieva says, would likely deprive the scientists of a base from which to monitor the lake’s changing nature.
“No one will do this if we don’t,” she says.
Some 20 to 30 million years ago, scientists believe, a rift in the Earth’s crust created Baikal’s 400-mile-long, sickle-shaped basin.
Today the lake near the Mongolian border, 2,600 miles east of Moscow, contains one-fifth of the world’s fresh water, enough to provide Earth’s 7 billion people with six cups of water a day for the next 6,000 years.
It’s a sprawling outdoor laboratory of biological diversity comparable to the rich fauna of the Galapagos Islands. Geologists come to study the formation of the Asian continent. Biologists probe such mysteries as how a lake 1,000 miles inland became home to the world’s only true species of freshwater seals.

Last month two small, manned submarines reached the bottom of the lake with scientists on board to take soil and water samples. The 5,223-foot dive fell just short of setting a world record.

Baikal inspired the Soviet Union’s environmental movement in the 1960s, after Izmestieva’s grandfather and other scientists spoke out against Nikita Khrushchev’s plans to build a pulp and paper factory on its shores.
Today Marina Rikhvanova, who helped found the nonprofit group Baikal Ecological Wave, is still fighting to close the mill, which has created a dead zone miles wide in the lake and may be contaminating the seals.

A few years back her group led protests against a 2,700-mile oil pipeline, part of which would run along the lake’s northern shores. The group’s books were audited by authorities, its computers seized and its phones tapped — retaliation, she says, for fighting the pipeline.

In 2006, then President Vladimir Putin ordered the pipeline rerouted, a rare victory for Russian environmentalists that earned Rikhvanova international accolades. This year she won a prestigious, $150,000 award from the U.S.-based Goldman Foundation.

The 47-year-old former scientist says the victory demonstrates Baikal’s potency as a symbol.

The lake “is an indicator of whether modern man can curb his appetite and preserve what nature has created,” she says, surrounded by shelves of maps, nature guides and scientific papers. “It’s a kind of red line for humanity.”
Now she’s taking on Kremlin plans to build a uranium enrichment facility 60 miles west of the lake, which would produce nuclear fuel. Officials say the project would bring thousands of jobs to this poor region. Environmentalists say it’s a grave mistake that would threaten a natural wonder with radiation.

A year ago Rikhvanova helped organize a tent camp protest not far from the site of the proposed facility. Skinhead nationalists attacked the camp and beat the protesters, one fatally.
Rikhvanova’s son, Pavel, was among the intruders, although he denies hurting anyone. She alleges that authorities set up her son in an effort to embarrass her organization. Prosecutors officials refused to comment. Pavel remains in custody.

Despite her personal pain, she says, she is not about to give up. Baikal is too important. “When you see results from your work, you want to continue,” she says. “You have to persevere.”


OTHER World Natural Record-Holders in AP’s posting:

John McConnico, AP

World’s Tallest Mountain: Mount Everest, 29,028 feet above sea level
Location: Himalayan Range, between Tibet and China
Fun Fact: Mount Everest rises a few centimeters each year due to tectonic plate shifts.

Leslie Mazoch, AP

World’s Highest Waterfalls: Angel Falls, 3,230 feet high
Location: Venezuela
Fun Fact: The falls are 15 times taller than Niagara Falls.

Pierre Verdy, AFP / Getty Images

World’s Largest Non-Polar Desert: The Sahara, 3.5 million square miles
Location: Northern Africa
Fun Fact: The Marathon des Sables (“Sand Marathon”), a 6-day endurance race, covers 151 miles of the Sahara desert.

Pilar Olivares, Reuters / Corbis

World’s Deepest Canyon: Cotahuasi Canyon, over two miles deep
Location: Peru
Fun Fact: The Cotahuasi Canyon is over twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.

Alexander Zemlianichenko, AP

World’s Lowest Land Elevation: The Dead Sea Depression, over a quarter-mile below sea level
Location: Between Israel and Jordan
Fun Fact: The Dead Sea is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean, making almost all life in the water impossible.


Posted on on August 5th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Author Solzhenitsyn, who exposed gulag horrors, dies at 89.

MOSCOW, Russia (AP) — Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Prize-winning Russian author whose books chronicled the horrors of dictator Josef Stalin’s slave labor camps, has died of heart failure, his son said Monday. He was 89. Stepan Solzhenitsyn told The Associated Press his father died late Sunday in Moscow, but declined further comment.

Through unflinching accounts of the eight years he spent in the Soviet gulag, Solzhenitsyn’s novels and non-fiction works exposed the secret history of the vast prison system that enslaved millions. The accounts riveted his countrymen and earned him years of bitter exile, but international renown.

And they inspired millions, perhaps, with the knowledge that one person’s courage and integrity could, in the end, defeat the totalitarian machinery of an empire.

Beginning with the 1962 short novel “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” Solzhenitsyn devoted himself to describing what he called the human “meat grinder” that had caught him along with millions of other Soviet citizens: capricious arrests, often for trifling and seemingly absurd reasons, followed by sentences to slave labor camps where cold, starvation and punishing work crushed inmates physically and spiritually.

His “Gulag Archipelago” trilogy of the 1970s shocked readers by describing the savagery of the Soviet state under the dictator Josef Stalin. It helped erase lingering sympathy for the Soviet Union among many leftist intellectuals, especially in Europe. See photos from Solzhenitsyn’s life »

But his account of that secret system of prison camps was also inspiring in its description of how one person — Solzhenitsyn himself — survived, physically and spiritually, in a penal system of soul-crushing hardship and injustice.

The West offered him shelter and accolades. But Solzhenitsyn’s refusal to bend despite enormous pressure, perhaps, also gave him the courage to criticize Western culture for what he considered its weakness and decadence.

After a triumphant return from exile in the U.S. in 1994 that included a 56-day train trip across Russia to become reacquainted with his native land, Solzhenitsyn later expressed annoyance and disappointment that most Russians hadn’t read his books.

During the 1990s, his stalwart nationalist views, his devout Orthodoxy, his disdain for capitalism and disgust with the tycoons who bought Russian industries and resources cheaply following the Soviet collapse, were unfashionable. He faded from public view.

But under Vladimir Putin’s 2000-2008 presidency, Solzhenitsyn’s vision of Russia as a bastion of Orthodox Christianity, as a place with a unique culture and destiny, gained renewed prominence.

Putin now argues, as Solzhenitsyn did in a speech at Harvard University in 1978, that Russia has a separate civilization from the West, one that can’t be reconciled either to Communism or western-style liberal democracy, but requires a system adapted to its history and traditions.

“Any ancient deeply rooted autonomous culture, especially if it is spread on a wide part of the earth’s surface, constitutes an autonomous world, full of riddles and surprises to Western thinking,” Solzhenitsyn said in the Harvard speech. “For 1,000 years Russia has belonged to such a category.”


Born December 11, 1918, in Kislovodsk, Solzhenitsyn served as a front-line artillery captain in World War II, where, in the closing weeks of the war, he was arrested for writing what he called “certain disrespectful remarks” about Stalin in a letter to a friend, referring to him as “the man with the mustache.” He served seven years in a labor camp in the barren steppe of Kazakhstan and three more years in internal exile in Central Asia.

That’s where he began to write, memorizing much of his work so it wouldn’t be lost if it were seized. His theme was the suffering and injustice of life in Stalin’s gulag — a Soviet abbreviation for the slave labor camp system, which Solzhenitsyn made part of the lexicon.

He continued writing while working as a mathematics teacher in the provincial Russian city of Ryazan.

The first fruit of this labor was “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” the story of a carpenter struggling to survive in a Soviet labor camp, where he had been sent, like Solzhenitsyn, after service in the war.

The book was published in 1962 by order of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who was eager to discredit the abuses of Stalin, his predecessor, and created a sensation in a country where unpleasant truths were spoken in whispers, if at all.

Abroad, the book — which went through numerous revisions — was lauded not only for its bravery, but for its spare, unpretentious language.

After Khrushchev was ousted in 1964, Solzhenitsyn began facing KGB harassment, publication of his works was blocked and he was expelled from the Soviet Writers Union. But he was undeterred.


“A great writer is, so to speak, a secret government in his country,” he wrote in “The First Circle,” his next novel, a book about inmates in one of Stalin’s “special camps” for scientists who were deemed politically unreliable but whose skills were essential.

Solzhenitsyn, a graduate from the Department of Physics and Mathematics at Rostov University, was sent to one of these camps in 1946, soon after his arrest.


The novel “Cancer Ward”, which appeared in 1967, was another fictional work based on Solzhenitsyn’s life. In this case, the subject was his cancer treatment in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, then part of Soviet Central Asia, during his years of internal exile from March 1953, the month of Stalin’s death, until June 1956.

In the book, cancer became a metaphor for the fatal sickness of the Soviet system. “A man sprouts a tumor and dies — how then can a country live that has sprouted camps and exile?”

He attacked the complicity of millions of Russians in the horrors of Stalin’s reign.

“Suddenly all the professors and engineers turned out to be saboteurs — and they believed it? … Or all of Lenin’s old guard were vile renegades — and they believed it? Suddenly all their friends and acquaintances were enemies of the people — and they believed it?”

The Stalinist era, he wrote, quoting from a poem by Alexander Pushkin, forced Soviet citizens to choose one of three roles: tyrant, traitor, prisoner.


He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970, an unusual move for the Swedish Academy, which generally makes awards late in an author’s life after decades of work. The academy cited “the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature.”

Soviet authorities barred the author from traveling to Stockholm to receive the award and official attacks were intensified in 1973 when the first book in the non-fiction “Gulag” trilogy appeared in Paris.

“During all the years until 1961,” Solzhenitsyn wrote in an autobiography written for the Nobel Foundation, “not only was I convinced that I should never see a single line of mine in print in my lifetime, but, also, I scarcely dared allow any of my close acquaintances to read anything I had written because I feared that this would become known.”

The following year, he was arrested on a treason charge and expelled the next day to West Germany in handcuffs. His expulsion inspired worldwide condemnation of the regime of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.

Solzhenitsyn then made his homeland in America, settling in 1976 in the tiny town of Cavendish, Vermont, with his wife and sons.

Living at a secluded hillside compound he rarely left, he called his 18 years there the most productive of his life. There he worked on what he considered to be his life’s work, a multivolume saga of Russian history titled “The Red Wheel.”


Although free from repression, Solzhenitsyn longed for his native land. Neither was he enchanted by Western democracy, with its emphasis on individual freedom.

To the dismay of his supporters, in his Harvard speech he rejected the West’s faith in “Western pluralistic democracy” as the model for all other nations. It was a mistake, he warned, for Western societies to regard the failure of the rest of the world to adopt the democratic model as a product of “wicked governments or by heavy crises or by their own barbarity or incomprehension.”

Some critics saw “The Red Wheel” books as tedious and hectoring, rather than as sweeping and lit by moral fire.

“Exile from his great theme, Stalinism and the gulag, had exposed his major weaknesses,” D.M. Thomas wrote in a 1998 biography, theorizing that the intensity of the earlier works was “a projection of his own repressed violence.”


Then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev restored Solzhenitsyn’s citizenship in 1990 and the treason charge was finally dropped in 1991, less than a month after a failed Soviet coup. Following an emotional homecoming that started in the Russian Far East on May 27, 1994, and became a whistle-stop tour across the country, Solzhenitsyn settled in a tree-shaded, red brick home overlooking the Moscow River just west of the capital.

While avoiding a partisan political role, Solzhenitsyn vowed to speak “the whole truth about Russia, until they shut my mouth like before.”

He was contemptuous of President Boris Yeltsin, blaming Yeltsin for the collapse of Russia’s economy, his dependence on bailouts by the International Monetary Fund, his inability to stop the expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders, his tolerance of the rising influence of a handful of Russian billionaires — who were nicknamed “oligarchs” by an American diplomat.

Yeltsin’s reign, Solzhenitsyn said, marked one of three “times of troubles” in Russian history — which included the 17th century crises that led to the rise of the Romanovs and the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. When Yeltsin awarded Solzhenitsyn Russia’s highest honor, the Order of St. Andrew, the writer refused to accept it. When Yeltsin left office in 2000, Solzhenitsyn wanted him prosecuted.


The author’s last book, 2001’s “Two Hundred Years Together,” addressed the complex emotions of Russian-Jewish relations. Some criticized the book for alleged anti-Semitic passages. But the author denied the charge, saying he “understood the subtlety, sensitivity and kindheartedness of the Jewish character.”


Yeltsin’s successor Putin at first had a rocky relationship with Solzhenitsyn, who criticized the Russian president in 2002 for not doing more to crack down on Russia’s oligarchs. Putin was also a veteran of the Soviet-era KGB, the agency that, more than any other, represented the Soviet legacy of repression.

But the two men, so different, gradually developed a rapport. By steps, Putin adopted Solzhenitsyn’s criticisms of the West, perhaps out of a recognition that Russia really is a different civilization, perhaps because the author offered justification for the Kremlin’s determination to muzzle critics, to reassert control over Russia’s natural resources and to concentrate political power.

Like Putin, Solzhenitsyn argued that Russia was following its own path to its own form of democratic society. In a June 2005 interview with state television, he said Russia had lost 15 years following the collapse of the Soviet Union by moving too quickly in the rush to build a more liberal society.

“We need to be better, so we need to go more slowly,” he said


Following the death of Naguib Mahfouz in 2006, Solzhenitsyn became the oldest living Nobel laureate in literature. He is survived by his wife, Natalya, who acted as his spokesman, and his three sons, including Stepan, Ignat, a pianist and conductor, and Yermolai. All live in the United States.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn is pictured at his home in 2007 with former Russian President Vladimir Putin.


Mary Dejevsky: Farewell to the keeper of Russia’s conscience – All that Solzhenitsyn wrote rang true. It was suffused with personal experience of bitter conflicts.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Related Articles in The Independent…

A champion of freedom and justice: Putin leads the tributes to Solzhenitsyn
Alexander Solzhenitsyn: His final interview
Yelena Tregubova: The principles of the Gulag are still with us
89 years in the life of Alexander Solzhenitsyn
An excerpt from Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s “One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich”
Alexander Solzhenitsyn: Dissident writer whose accounts of life in the gulag exposed the moral infamy of Soviet Communism

Moscow; the afternoon of Monday, 18 December, 1989, and the grey day was already fading to dusk. The temperature had fallen to more than 20 degrees below; flakes from the intermittent snow squalls dusted hats and gloves; the powder underfoot had long packed into ice.

Yet still they queued: thousands upon thousands of dark-clad Russians, heads bowed, exchanging the merest snatches of conversation. An out-of-towner – who else would have posed such a question at that place and on that day – approached and asked, as a new-arrival habitually asked of any long queue in those days, “What are they selling up there?” To which the answer, borne on the perishing wind from somewhere further up the line, was this: “Conscience, that’s what they are selling. Fragments of our conscience.”

This was the day they buried the nuclear physicist, Nobel laureate and Soviet dissident, Andrei Sakharov; I had just arrived in Moscow as a reporter, and the Soviet Union still had two years of its faltering existence to run.

The times now could not be more different: the height of summer, rather than the bitter depths of winter; the colourful chaos of plenty, rather than the grey and white of deprivation; a society that has burst open, compared with one that was still essentially closed. But the announcement of the death of Alexander Solzhenitsyn conveyed me instantly back, as it doubtless conveyed many Russians old enough to remember, to that winter’s day when the country re-discovered its national conscience and brought the end of Soviet power that much closer.

Solzhenitsyn was then living in Vermont – where he spent most of his enforced exile – and resisting the still-secret entreaties of the Kremlin to return. Mikhail Gorbachev’s loosening of Soviet constraints through the late 1980s brought many former dissidents, including Sakharov, in from the cold. But Solzhenitsyn was an infinitely tougher nut to crack.

His eventual return to Russia in 1994, after 20 years of enforced exile, was intensively negotiated and planned. A progress across the country, east to west, his homeward journey was hailed – as he surely knew it would be – as proof that Russia had finally recovered its soul.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s life mirrored in an uncanny way the fate of his fellow-countrymen and of Russia itself. Born in 1918, he was destined always to be as old as the Bolshevik revolution. Decorated for bravery as a young officer in the Second World War, he was denounced almost immediately for criticising Stalin. At which point his long peregrinations through the Soviet system of prison camps – chronicled in his later work, The Gulag Archipelago – began.

In common with many of the more original writers and artists of his generation, he had to wait until his forties, and the later stages of the cultural “thaw” initiated by Khrushchev, to have his first work published. Even then, it was a brave editor – Alexander Tvardovsky at Novy Mir – who ventured to print the novella that made his name, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. An account, in minute detail, of the daily drudgery of a Gulag prisoner, the work was lionised – for political as much as literary reasons – by a Western world in the grip of the Cold War.

With Khrushchev’s tenure, and the “thaw”, summarily ended two years later in 1964, Solzhenitsyn’s major novels were all published abroad and smuggled back to Russia. There, devotees spent many hours copying them out in minute script, word by word, page by page, for distribution through the burgeoning – and risky – network of Samizdat. The Nobel Prize for Literature followed, along with internal exile in the provincial city of Ryazan. In 1974, the year in which the first volume of his magnum opus on the prison camps appeared, he was summarily expelled from Russia to Switzerland.

Solzhenitsyn is not one of those dissenters of whom it can be said that Western exile made him. His reputation in the then Soviet Union was built on his courage in tackling quintessentially Russian subjects that many knew about, either personally or second-hand, but few were prepared to address in print. All he wrote rang true; it was suffused with personal experience of the bitter conflicts that intellectual life demanded in those years, and his utter – some would say, pigheaded – refusal to compromise. As an artist, he addressed universal dilemmas, but he remained a very Russian writer-hero.

While some Soviet-era dissidents courted Western attention as strengthening their cause and, perhaps, keeping them alive, for Solzhenitsyn such considerations always seemed immaterial. His was an internal Russian world that did not go much beyond the book-lined walls of his study.

In Vermont he rarely strayed beyond the bounds of his walled estate, where he and his family lived almost in the manner of Russian intellectuals before the Revolution. As his polemics against Western secularism showed in later years, he never ceased to tend the flame of his brand of Russian-ness – espousing the priorities of Orthodoxy, autocracy and national identity by which Tsarist Russia defined itself.

And in a Russia where cynicism about Soviet life and its increasingly discredited values was mounting, Solzhenitsyn provided something constant, an alternative standard to which many felt they should aspire, but knew they could never meet. When Gorbachev – another child, incidentally, of the Khrushchev “thaw” – unleashed the cacophony of “glasnost”, and the Soviet Union collapsed under its weight, there was Solzhenitsyn: still as stern, as uncompromising and, in his patriarchal way, as enduring a guardian of the Russian soul.

Solzhenitsyn was among those cultural luminaries – Rostropovich was another – who, by what they were rather than what they did, helped Russia re-emerge as a state from the ruins of the Soviet Union. His work, now freely available in every Russian bookshop, fostered not only a sense of continuity, but a sense of conscience. It supplied many of the less edifying chapters edited out of the country’s fractured past.

Had Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia even a year before he did, he might have been accompanied across his native land by hundreds of thousands, flocking to him for some sort of absolution. The quieter reception he was accorded in 1994 reflected a country settling into its new life and starting to reconcile itself – albeit fitfully – to its chequered past. Today’s Russia is also more sceptical of the very 19th-century brand of Russian exceptionalism that distinguished his thinking. To this extent, Solzhenitsyn had outlived his age.

When he died, on his estate outside Moscow, Solzhenitsyn was culturally back on his country’s margins.

Then again, for a writer whose place in history is guaranteed as the keeper of Russia’s conscience through the grimmest of times, the margins are probably where he would most like to be.

 m.dejevsky at


Posted on on August 3rd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Sunday, Aug. 3, 2008

Fukuda vows action on oil, terror: Anticlimactic Cabinet reshuffle casts doubt on prime minister’s ability to tackle tough issues

Staff writer Japan Times online.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda vowed to tackle pressing issues like surging oil prices and participation in the “war on terrorism” as his new Cabinet was officially launched at an attestation ceremony at the Imperial Palace on Saturday.

New crew: Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and his new Cabinet head for a photo session after holding their first Cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence on Saturday.

“I will give everything I’ve got in building a government that puts itself in the people’s shoes, a foundation in which people can live without worry, and an economic society in which the people can feel affluence,” Fukuda said in a statement. “And at the same time I will do my best to contribute to the peace and stability of the world and resolve the global environmental issues.”

On diplomacy, Fukuda stressed the importance of a strong Japanese-U.S. alliance but also vowed to create an open relationship to work “together” with Asia-Pacific countries.

“As a nation that actively cooperates to realize peace, I will cooperate with the international society in the ‘war on terrorism,’ ” Fukuda’s statement said, adding that he will also devote himself to resolving the North Korea’s nuclear, missile and abduction issues.


The key issue for the upcoming extraordinary Diet session is whether Fukuda and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party will forcefully extend the Maritime Self Defense Force’s activities in the Indian Ocean to refuel multinational naval ships engaged in counterterrorism operations.

The special antiterrorism law that enables the MSDF activities will expire in January.

The LDP’s coalition partner, New Komeito, is backed by Japan’s largest lay Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai. As an advocate of peace, it has been expressing increasing reluctance to help the LDP force the extension through the Diet.

“As a ‘peace-cooperating nation,’ I will promote international cooperation like peacekeeping operations, antiterrorism measures and rehabilitation aid,” Fukuda told a news conference Friday evening after the reshuffle. The comments were interpreted as an intention to extend the refueling activities.


On domestic issues, Fukuda especially expressed concern over the recent surge in prices and the aging society due to a low birth rate.

“To solve the two issues, we need to continue economic growth for more employment and an increase in income,” Fukuda said.

On Friday evening, Fukuda reshuffled his Cabinet for the first time since he was appointed prime minister in a bid to boost the stagnant support rate of his Cabinet. Most of his previous Cabinet ministers were selected by Fukuda’s nationalistic predecessor Shinzo Abe, who quit abruptly last September.

Despite calls from within the LDP to have Fukuda choose his own ministers, Fukuda continued on for 10 months mostly with Abe’s handpicked ministers.

But critics say that despite strong expectations, Fukuda’s picks were not that exciting and that is doubtful the new Cabinet lineup will give Fukuda the public support he needs to proceed.

Four ministers were retained, including Machimura and Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura. Three of the previous LDP executive members including former Secretary General Bunmei Ibuki were given ministerial posts.


Sunday, Aug. 3, 2008

Sub developed radioactive leak in Sasebo: U.S.
Tainted water not dangerous but delay in report angers city officials.

Compiled from Kyodo, Staff report

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Navy submarine began leaking water with trace amounts of radioactivity during a port call in late March in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, U.S. Navy officials said Friday. – Leaving a trail: The Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Houston UNITED STATES NAVY.

The leak was found on the USS Houston, a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine, after it went to Hawaii for routine maintenance last month, the officials said, confirming a CNN television report earlier.

The officials said the amount of radiation leaked into the water was very low, but the Navy alerted the Japanese government on Friday (Japan time) because the submarine had docked in Sasebo during its travels around the Pacific.

The incident comes at a time when the Navy is trying to smooth over a problem with a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, which is due to replace the aging, conventionally powered Kitty Hawk this summer as the sole U.S. carrier based in Japan.

In Tokyo, the Foreign Ministry said Saturday it was notified by the Navy that the radiation has “no effects on the environment and human bodies,” with a senior Japanese official saying it is “not a level that should be deemed problematic.”

The ministry, however, came under fire for not disclosing the information sooner after the U.S. government notified it about the leak Friday afternoon in Japan.

The ministry did not communicate it to the concerned local governments because “we judged there was no need to immediately report it since it would not have any impact on humans,” an official said.

The ministry reported the finding on Saturday morning to Sasebo and to Okinawa Prefecture, where U.S. warships make frequent port calls, after the CNN report. But it also said the notifications had nothing to do with the media report.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said about the delay that it is “not good that a media report came earlier.”

“I believe the Foreign Ministry should report a matter of this kind immediately to the prime minister’s office and make it public when it is notified by the U.S. government, because it concerns ‘radioactivity,”‘ Machimura said.

Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura told a news conference that a delay in reporting is “inadmissible.”

Komura said that he became aware of the incident through reports on CNN Saturday morning and immediately ordered appropriate measures to be taken.

“I watched the report on CNN and contacted the ministry” for details, Komura said, expressing regret over the delay of communication.

“Exchange of information should have taken place earlier,” Komura told reporters.


Sasebo and Okinawa were notified of the leak only after orders from the minister were made.


The Houston crisscrossed the western Pacific from March to June, spending a week in Sasebo in late March and stopping over at its home base in Guam and Hawaii from May to June.

The total amount leaked while it docked in Sasebo, Guam and Hawaii is estimated at less than half a microcurie and has no adverse effects on the environment and crew, the Navy officials said. One microcurie is one millionth of a curie.


The problem was discovered July 24 after the sub underwent a regular maintenance check in Hawaii, the officials said, adding that the water had not been in direct contact with the nuclear reactor and that a crew member who was exposed to the water proved to be unaffected.

The Navy reported the case to health authorities in Hawaii on July 25, meaning that a report to the Japanese government came a week later.

The latest development came after a large-scale fire broke out on the George Washington while en route to Japan in May. The fire was traced to crew members smoking near improperly stored flammable materials.

While there was no damage or threat to the nuclear reactor, the ship was diverted to San Diego for repairs. It is now expected to arrive in Yokosuka, Japan at the end of September.

The Navy this week fired the captain and his deputy, saying an investigation into the fire led to a lack of confidence in the leadership of both men.


Posted on on July 27th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

 We feel the more countries get involved, the less possibility for a single country grab of the resources will be possible. According to the UN approved “The Law Of The Sea” – those resources belong to all humanity and are extraterritorial to country sovereignty. Multiplicity of contenders may thus pose the needed opposition to one country grab onto these resources, and avoidance of rules of the jungle.

BEIJING, Reuters, July 28, 2008 – China plans to install its first long-term deep-sea subsurface mooring system in the Arctic Ocean, to monitor long-term marine changes, the Xinhua news agency said on Sunday.

The system will collect data on the temperature, salinity and speed of currents at various depths around 75 degrees north in the Chukchi Sea, where Atlantic and Pacific currents converge above the Bering Strait. That will allow studies of the impact on China’s climate of changes in the Arctic, Xinhua said.
A trap will catch marine life for scientific research, it said, citing Chen Hong Xia, a member of the 122-member expedition team aboard the Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, an ice-breaker which set off from Shanghai this month.

The mooring system will be retrieved in 2009.

China is increasing scientific research at both poles at a time when global warming and high resources prices are raising international interest in Arctic and Antarctic territories.

It deployed a 40-day mooring system in the Bering Sea in 2003, and is building a new station at Dome A, the highest point of Antarctica, to study ice cores.

A Russian submersible planted a flag on the seabed of the North Pole last August, setting off a race among northern nations to increase their presence in the polar regions.


Posted on on July 22nd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

The 10-member ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. They are joined by Japan, China and South Korea in the ASEAN Plus Three talks. This is the 13 member Asian cover.

The East Asia Summit involves these 13 plus Australia, New Zealand and India.

Then comes the ARF – Asean Regional Forum –   that includes these 16 and Canada, North Korea, Russia, the U.S., the EU and others – so here we get the whole Eurasian world with the addition of the US and Canada, and with the exclusion of Africa, Latin America and the Small Island States.

The ASEAN Regional Forum will meet in Singapore on this Thursday – on Thursday – July 24, 2008.

The series of meetings hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is held annually in the summer to prepare for the leaders’ Summit later in the year that will focus mainly on food and security, disaster management, economic conditions and climate change issues, Japanese Foreign Ministry officials said in Tokyo.

The ARF now will place specific emphasis on security issues, particularly disaster relief, counterterrorism, maritime security, and nonproliferation and disarmament, according to the officials.

The whole onion reminds us of what went on under the cover of the runnup to the Hokkaido G8 meetings earlier this month. This time, the Summit will include only the 13 States that amount to the 11 Asian States including India and the auxiliaries from Australia – New Zealand. This Summit will leave out the TransAtlantic party goers.


Posted on on July 10th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Breakthrough on N. Korea nukes unlikely during Bush administration.
Further breakthroughs with North Korea on the issue of nuclear disarmament will most likely have to wait until the next U.S. president’s administration. Not only are incentives or deterrents increasingly unlikely options for U.S. President George W. Bush, who has six months left in office, but it is doubtful that North Korea will want to negotiate any long-term understanding on the eve of a new presidency. Los Angeles Times   (7/10)…

David Ignatius: Iran’s answer is “maybe.”
Iran’s mixed messages on nuclear disarmament signal the central animating debate in Iranian politics: pragmatic and hard-line camps divide Tehran while compromise has won popular support. The Washington Post (7/10)…

 U.S., India nuclear deal faces time crunch, uncertainty.
India believes it has the political support necessary to move ahead with U.S. President George W. Bush’s proposed nuclear deal, but the need to gain approval from international organizations makes it unlikely U.S. legislators will take up the issue before the end of the legislative calendar — and Bush’s presidency. It is unclear how committed either of Bush’s potential replacements would be to closing the deal. Google/Associated Press (7/10)…


Posted on on July 5th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Saturday, July 5, 2008 about the G8 SUMMIT 2008

Space monster attack to upstage worldly woes at G8?

SAPPORO (Kyodo) –   A science-fiction movie targeting the Group of Eight summit next week in Toyako, Hokkaido, will debut in the prefecture’s theaters Saturday, allowing a beast from outer space to wreak havoc on world leaders.

Cinematic relief: Girara, a monstrous beast from outer space, wreaks havoc on Sapporo in a scene distributed from the movie “Girara no Gyakushu” (“Girara Strikes Back”), which debuts Saturday ahead of the G-8 summit in Hokkaido.
The movie, “Girara no Gyakushu” (“Girara Strikes Back”), is a remake of the 1967 movie “Girara” but with a contemporary parody touch. In the plot, Girara attacks Sapporo while the G8 leaders meet in Toyako. The summit then changes its agenda to contemplate steps to stop Girara, according to the movie’s official Web site.

The movie also includes a scene where the Japanese prime minister, Sanzo Ibe, takes sick leave from the summit after suffering from a bowel problem. Then the G8 chair is taken over by Ibe’s predecessor, Junzaburo Oizumi.

Another scene involves an attempt by a “dictatorial state in the north” to fire a Potedong-55 nuclear missile at the monster.

Director Minoru Kawasaki said he initially conceived the attack taking place in Tokyo but later chose Toyako after it became the G8 venue.

Following the early release in Hokkaido, the movie will show nationwide starting from July 26.


Posted on on June 27th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Bush steps back from Axis of Evil to reward North Korea.
By Leonard Doyle in Washington for The Independent of London.
Friday, 27 June 2008

AP shows a photo of Missiles occupy pride of place during a massive military parade in Pyongyang to mark the 75th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army.

Related Article – Rupert Cornwell: A triumph of realism and pragmatism over neo-conservatism.

In the twilight of his troubled presidency, George Bush has brought the isolated state of North Korea in from the cold with a promise to remove the country he once truculently described as part of the “Axis of Evil” from a terror blacklist, opening the way for eventual diplomatic relations.

It was an abrupt reversal for Mr Bush, who once said he “loathed” North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-il, whom he described as a “pygmy”. Gone was the President’s earlier fighting talk of forcing Pyongyang to the negotiating table. Instead, he confirmed he would remove it from America’s list of states that sponsor terrorism, and lift sanctions. North Korea was added to the list in 1987 after it destroyed a South Korean airliner, killing all 115 aboard.

The deal calls for Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear weapons programme in return for food aid and other assistance desperately needed by the impoverished country. And in a sign of its good faith, to be carried live on television, it will today demolish the cooling tower of the already disabled Yongbyon nuclear reactor, 60 miles from the capital, Pyongyang. Diplomats and TV networks from the US, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia will witness the largely symbolic act.

“This can be a moment of opportunity for North Korea,” said President Bush, “If it continues to make the right choices it can repair its relationship with the international community.”

Yesterday’s breakthrough marks a setback for the President’s hard-line Republican allies, notably Vice-President Dick Cheney. It follows months of infighting in Washington aimed at sabotaging the diplomatic breakthrough and represents a new realism about the limits of the President’s power as he prepares to leave the international stage.

His announcement followed North Korea’s long-delayed declaration of the details of its secret nuclear programme, its ambassador to Beijing, Choe Jin Su, handing the 60-page declaration to Wu Dawei, China’s lead negotiator in the six-nation talks. Great importance was being attached to information about plutonium from the North Korean plant at Yongbyon. The regime is believed to have made enough plutonium for six bombs.

“I do think it’s important to note that if we can verifiably determine the amount of plutonium that has been made; we then have an upper hand in understanding what may have happened in terms of weaponisation,” the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice said, in Kyoto, Japan, for a meeting of the G8.

Officials said the North Korean document fell far short of the complete accounting of its nuclear activities and nuclear proliferation efforts around the world that Washington first demanded. Stephen J Hadley, the US national security adviser, expressed confidence that North Korea would fill in gaps in its declaration on alleged uranium enrichment and nuclear proliferation.

Mr Bush said the US would respond to North Korea, “action for action”, and lift trade restrictions. In 45 days, it would end its listing of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, addressing a key North Korean demand. “Today we have taken a step toward a nuclear-free Korean peninsula,” he said. Lifting sanctions on North Korea under the Trading with the Enemy Act, (which dates from the First World War) will leave Cuba as the only nation subject to those sanctions.

But Mr Bush also warned that if North Korea failed to continue down the disarmament path it would face “consequences”. “We remain deeply concerned about North Korea’s human rights abuses, uranium enrichment activities, nuclear testing and proliferation, ballistic missile programmes and the threat it continues to pose to South Korea and its neighbours,” he said.

North Korea is following the lead of Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya two years ago when that country was also removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism after being forced to reveal its nuclear ambitions.

The breakthrough became possible only when China – host of the six-nation talks on the North’s nuclear programme – suddenly took a hard line towards its former client after North Korea exploded its first nuclear device in October 2006.

Axis of Evil So Far:


Accused by Bush administration of hiding stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and long-range ballistic missiles. Also accused of clandestine nuclear weapons programme despite UN sanctions. Second Gulf War in 2003 overthrew Saddam Hussein and installed US-led occupation; 150,000 US troops still in Iraq. No weapons of mass destruction were found.


North Korea boasted that it had nuclear weapons after breaking out of non-proliferation treaty in 2003. Bush administration also accuses Pyongyang of having a secret uranium enrichment programme, and of spreading nuclear technology to Pakistan and Syria. Negotiations in six-party talks, involving North Korea, its neighbours and the US, produced disarmament deal. North Korea agreed in October last year to fully account for its nuclear programme in return for aid and economic benefits.


Accused by Bush administration of working on nuclear weapons under cover of a civil energy programme, which Iran denies. UN sanctions have failed to halt Iran’s uranium enrichment. Diplomacy involving three EU states plus US, China and Russia trying to bring Iran back to negotiating table. But Israel threatens unilateral air strikes and US says all options are open.


Rupert Cornwell: A triumph of realism and pragmatism over neo-conservatism.
Friday, 27 June 2008, The Independent.

If the declaration by North Korea is indeed a breakthrough in more than a decade of US efforts to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons, it has been achieved by two things George Bush once derided – patience and multilateral diplomacy.

Barely six years ago, North Korea was famously lumped with Iran and Iraq into Mr Bush’s “axis of evil”, while the then Secretary of State Colin Powell had been publicly rapped across the knuckles by the President for daring to suggest Washington would continue the Clinton policy of engagement with the reclusive communist regime.

Now the White House is hailing the declaration – albeit six months late and apparently lacking details on at least two key issues – as a success sufficient to warrant removing North Korea from the US terrorism blacklist. So what happened?

First, it is triumph of realism and pragmatism, embodied by General Powell’s successor Condoleezza Rice and Washington’s chief Korea negotiator Christopher Hill, over the neo-conservative ideology that held sway in Mr Bush’s first term. The lesson has been learnt the hard way – after the war in Iraq, whose unintended consequences have been a big increase in the influence of Iran, and a huge blow to American’s reputation. At the same time, Washington’s long indifference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict only made matters worse in the region’s other festering crisis. Second, like all presidents approaching the end of their second term, Mr Bush is a lame duck, concerned above all else with his “legacy”. In the Middle East, he has nothing to boast about. But with this apparent step towards a resolution of the stand-off with North Korea, he may claim to be a peace-maker who has made the world a slightly safer place. But he has had to pay a price.

Mr Bush insists, rightly, that the declaration is the “beginning, not the end, of the process”. But he has had little choice but to take what he is being given by a country that has broken a host of nuclear undertakings in the past – and may be doing so again.

The account handed over by North Korea to China apparently does not address charges Pyongyang is secretly running a parallel uranium enrichment programme. Nor does it deal with the suspected nuclear installation Syria was building, allegedly with the North’s assistance, until the Israeli air strikes last September.


Posted on on June 25th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Cooperative Spirit Emerges at Whaling Commission Meeting.

SANTIAGO, Chile, June 24, 2008 (ENS) – With whaling nations and their allies on one side and pro-conservation nations on the other, annual meetings of the International Whaling Commission have been increasingly gridlocked and acrimonious. But today at the 60th annual IWC meeting in Santiago there was a breakthrough. The 81 member governments agreed on a new way of dealing with the issues that separate them. After intensive discussions among officials during the last week, including a closed door commissioners’ meeting on Sunday all nations seem prepared to make the new approach work.

First, the IWC has agreed to change the rules of engagement under which meetings operate, in the hope of developing an atmosphere more conducive to change.

The establishment of a small working group, which is the second development, will allow substantive issues that have persisted in dividing the Commission to be addressed. The group will attempt to resolve 33 significant issues.

“This a major step forward – for the first time in 20 years we have agreed to a concrete process to talk about the substantive issues that divide us,” said New Zealand Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick in Santiago.

The crux of the problem is that commercial whaling has been prohibited throughout the world’s oceans for the last 20 years, but in reality it has continued under the guise of scientific whaling by Japan.

“Members of the Commission have always known what these issues are, but until now have never agreed to sit down together and try to find a way out of the impasse,” Chadwick said.

“My meeting yesterday with Peter Garrett, the Australian Minister for the Environment, reconfirmed both countries’ determination to find a way to end scientific whaling,” said Chadwick. “New Zealand and Australia share very similar views on whale conservation and we will continue to work closely at the IWC to ensure a constructive meeting that maximizes the protection of whales.”
The IWC meeting is chaired by Dr. William Hogarth, formerly head of the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, who now chairs the IWC.

The meeting opened Monday with speeches of welcome by Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs Alejandro Foxley and Chilean Minister for the Environment Ana Lya Uriarte.

Outside the meeting, Uriarte and more than a thousand Chileans formed a human whale sculpture, calling for the protection of whales.

Today, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and ministers from Chile, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Costa Rica gathered at Quintay on the coast, to witness the declaration of the new marine sanctuary in the Gulf of Corcovado. Establishing this new sanctuary demonstrates Chile’s commitment to marine protection.

The IWC Scientific Committee reported on the status of Antarctic minke whales, North Pacific common minke whales, Southern Hemisphere humpback whales, Southern Hemisphere blue whales and small populations of bowhead, right and gray whales.

There was positive evidence of increases in abundance for humpback, blue and right whales in the Southern Hemisphere, although they remain at reduced levels compared to their pre-whaling numbers.

Special attention was paid to the status of the endangered western North Pacific gray whale, whose feeding grounds coincide with oil and gas operations off Sakhalin Island, Russian Federation. The population numbers only about 120 animals and although there is evidence that it has been increasing at perhaps three percent per year over the last decade, any additional deaths, for example in fishing gear as has recently occurred, put the survival of the population in doubt, the Scientific Committee said.

The commission agreed to work together to try to mitigate human threats to this endangered population and there was praise for Japanese efforts to reduce bycatches in its waters.

Ship strikes and entanglements are a threat to the endangered western North Atlantic right whale population which numbers around 300. The commission agrees again that mortality due to human causes should be reduced to zero as soon as possible.

A new report submitted to the IWC Scientific Committee by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, IFAW, appears to confirm warnings from international researchers and conservationists that Japan is underreporting the number of whales it kills each year.

“The government of Japan is unable to regulate the sale of whale meat in the country,” said Naoko Funahashi, director of IFAW Japan and co-author of the report. “DNA testing proves more fin whales are being sold in Japan than the government admits having killed.”

The research team, led by Dr. Scott Baker of Oregon State University, analyzed DNA from 99 whale meat products purchased in Japanese markets since 2006 and identified six baleen whale species – humpback, fin, sei, Bryde’s, North Pacific minke, and Antarctic minke.

In the case of the fin whales, the study used methods similar to human forensic genetics to identify products from a total of 15 individuals for sale in 2006 and 2007.

But Japan reported a total of 13 fin whales killed under its scientific whaling program over the same period. Official records of whales entangled and killed in fishing nets do not seem to account for the additional fin whale meat in the market.

Although the government of Japan claims to have DNA records for each whale killed, it refuses to share the information, said Funahashi.

After considering the new report from the market surveys, the Scientific Committee again urged Japan to provide such data to help detect any illegal, unreported or unregulated catches.

Three reports presented to the IWC Scientific Committee by conservationists Monday offer evidence that overfishing, not whales, is responsible for declining fish stocks around the world.

The Humane Society International, WWF and the Lenfest Ocean Program offered reports debunking the science behind the “whales-eat-fish” claims emanating from whaling nations Japan, Norway and Iceland. The argument has been used to bolster support for whaling, particularly from developing nations.

“Who’s eating all the fish? The food security rationale for culling cetaceans,” the report co-authored by Dr. Daniel Pauly, director of the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre for the Humane Society International contrasts “the widely different impacts of fisheries and marine mammals.”

Fisheries target larger fish where available and marine mammals consume mainly smaller fish and tiny crustaceans such as krill, the report points out.

“Making whales into scapegoats serves only to benefit wealthy whaling nations while harming developing nations by distracting any debate on the real causes of the declines of their fisheries,” Pauly said.

“Dr. Pauly’s findings should refute, once and for all, the misconception that whales are eating all the fish and need to be killed to protect the world’s fisheries,” said Patricia Forkan, president of the Humane Society International.

Also presented to the IWC Scientific Committee was an analysis of the interaction between whales and commercial fisheries in northwest Africa. The model, funded by the Lenfest Ocean Program, shows no real competition between local or foreign fisheries and great whales.

The third report is a review of the scientific literature originating from Japan and Norway – the two countries most strongly promoting the idea that whales pose problems for fisheries. Funded by WWF, the study found flaws in much of the science and concluded that “where good data are available, there is no evidence to support the contention that marine mammal predation presents an ecological issue for fisheries.”

Dr. Susan Lieberman of WWF said, “These three reports provide yet more conclusive evidence that whales are not responsible for the degraded state of the world’s fisheries. It is now time for governments to focus on the real reason for fisheries decline – unsustainable fishing operations.”