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Posted on on February 17th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (

date:  Mon, Feb 17, 2014


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

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

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

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



Posted on on February 14th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


Goa Carnival expects to attract more than 250,000 visitors this year.

GOA was a Potuguese Colony that was ceded to India. The people are mainly christian and still carry Portuguese culture.

Published on : Friday, February 14, 2014

Goa Carnival           West India Goa’s state annual Goa Carnival is expected to attract more than 250,000 visitors this year, Press Trsut of India (PTI) reported.

The non-stop festival will be held from March 1 to 5 in the main cities of the coastal state beginning with a float parade in state capital Panaji.

“Tourists are expected to arrive in droves to witness colourful parades scheduled in various cities,” said State Tourism Department director Nikhil Desai.

          “Occupancy in several hotels across the state is high. People have booked their tickets to participate in the festival,” Nikhil said.

           A float parade organised by the Tourism Department will be led by     King Momo, a ceremonial figure who proclaims the decree of eating, drinking and merry making during the carnival.

          The Goa Carnival is celebrated throughout Goa and ends days before the season of Lent that precedes Easter.







Actually – the climax comes on Carnival Tuesday with “el Coso”, a spectacular parade which will amaze everyone who sees it. The next day the Burial of the Sardine marks the end of the festivities: the spirit of Carnival, symbolised by the sardine, is carried through the streets on a funeral bier, and is then set on fire and consumed by the flames to the despair of the entourage of inconsolable and “grief-stricken” widows, widowers and mourners. The final ending, however, is really the celebration of the “Piñata Chica” at the weekend, with shows, dances and parades. If you are planning to come to the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival you should make your arrangements well in advance. This already popular destination, with its year-round attraction of sun and beautiful beaches, is in even greater demand at this time.


Practical information:

Date:   From Feb 28, 2014 to Mar 9, 2014
Place:  Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Tenerife. Canary Islands)
YEAR   DATES PARADE Santa Cruz FUNERAL of the Sardine PARADE Puerto de la Cruz
2012 12/02-26/02 21/02 22/02 25/02
2013 03/02-17/02 12/02 13/02 16/02
2014 23/02-09/03 04/03 05/03 08/03
2015 08/02-22/02 17/02 18/02 21/02
2016 31/01-14/02 09/02 10/02 13/02


Posted on on February 11th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


Tips to find a comfortable bed in Brazil during the World Cup 2014


Published Tuesday, February 11, 2014 by Travel and Tour World.





Football fans have another reason to be anxious about their coming to Brazil, since accommodation prices have indeed soared.

But there are still ways to find a comfortable and reliable bed, especially if you count on the knowledge and experience of major local tour operators, such as Passion Brazil. Follow some tips that the director Mariana Rosa gave on planning your trip to find an easier road for a great stay in Brazil!



12 host cities in Brazil are selected to host qualifying rounds for 32 teams from different countries, which will vie for that coveted spot in the finals, held in the worldwide famous Maracanã. Due to the large distances, make sure to guarantee internal flights and accommodation first, and then move on to tours and restaurants issues.



Let go of the near-to-the-beach convenience and consider hotels in alternative neighborhoods, such as Flamengo or Santa Teresa in Rio de Janeiro. Alternative housing such as apartment rentals and guesthouses are an option as well, but be careful with who you book from. Passion Brazil has negotiated some beautiful reliable options, ranging from 1 to 5 bedrooms.



Also consider close by cities that can be reached within a couple of hours by car, such as Búzios or Niterói for games in Rio de Janeiro. Other options are: Praia do Forte for games held in Salvador and Ouro Preto for Belo Horizonte games.

It is easier to get available and still affordable rooms in those neighbor cities. Besides, those cities are beautiful tourist spots, worth the visit.



But if you do want to get the most of the experience, a nice hotel in Copacabana or Ipanema are still the best choices. In the trickiest of all cities, Rio de Janeiro, Passion Brazil has confirmed rooms in two of the nicest 4* hotels in Rio, Ipanema Plaza and Best Western Plus Sol Ipanema. Ipanema Plaza is a really nice hotel, displaying a rooftop with beautiful view and swimming pool. Sol Ipanema has a superb beachfront location, close to many bars and restaurants. Bright contemporary décor, nice service and rooftop pool.


Brazil is one of the most passionate country for football in the world and Brazilians are looking forward to hosting this amazing show. Their happiness and joyful attitude are sure to brighten the party. At the end, the experience is sure to make up for all the hassle the previous planning requires.


Posted on on January 24th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (

At this time, when the World watches how the President of Brazil shows full indignation in the news for the fact that her private phone was hacked by US pseudo-Security  services for BUSINESS reasons – and the same was done to the phone of the German President, but she does not complain about it in public, here comes an important German paper and provides us the explanation about this difference.

What Die Welt writes amounts to an ode to the United States for having given Germany its present Democracy.
It even goes so far as saying that Elvis Presley was the real German Revolutionary.

We are sure that Germany does, like Brazil, work hard at building a Cyber-wall with technology intended to keep out foreign snoopers including the US – but the Germans just do not talk about it out of respect for a very shady past and the reality that the US helped them free themselves of themselves.

In the case of Brazil there are no thanks to any favorable past as every Brazilians will tell you that it was the US Intelligence services that held them down for many years, and it was the United States that backed the Brazilian home grown dictators and helped depose any signs of democratization.

Brazil is sort of in the position of Iran – only that they are much nicer about it – but nevertheless have no reason to hold back their indignation at discovering that it was snooping related to their oil industry – the Petrobras company – that propelled the US activity – not any different to what the US did in its relations to Iran – albeit explanations mentioning Cold War reasons just do not hold the water in either case.

We post here the German original article that provides the background for the German side of this difference in attitude.

Links der Woche
Papst Franziskus hat in seinem Apostolischen Schreiben ein Programm seines Pontifikats entfaltet, in dem er für Freude und Begeisterung für das Evangelium Jesu Christi wirbt. Vor allem seine Kritik an den Auswüchsen eines schrankenlosen Marktes hat in Deutschland Aufsehen erregt und eine Debatte über eine dem Menschen dienliche Wirtschaftsordnung ausgelöst. Das vorliegende Papier der Konrad Adenauer Stiftung gibt zunächst den Inhalt des Schreibens in groben Zügen wieder, um danach die drei wichtigsten Fragen – Kapitalismuskritik, Kulturkritik und Kirchenkritik – im Spiegel der deutschen Presse zu erörtern. Mehr dazu unter Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.Seit dem NSA-Skandal droht uns Amerika fremd zu werden. Dabei vergessen wir, was wir Europäer den Vereinigten Staaten verdanken. Weil wir im Geiste alle Amerikaner sind, haben wir es besser. Mehr dazu unter Die Welt.Der Philosoph John Stuart Mill meinte, der Kapitalismus kann glücklich machen. Damit das funktioniert, forderte er Bildung, Gleichberechtigung und Erbschaftssteuern. Mehr dazu unter
Politische Akademie der ÖVP
Tivoliga­ss­e 7­3
11­20 Wien
Telefon: +4­3-1-8­14­20

Meinung 15.01.14 – OPINION IN DIE WELT – re-posted by the Political Academy of the Austrian People’s Party – OEVP.



Deutschlands Freiheit kommt aus Amerika


Seit dem NSA-Skandal droht uns Amerika fremd zu werden. Dabei vergessen wir, was wir Deutsche den Vereinigten Staaten verdanken. Weil wir im Geiste alle Amerikaner sind, haben wir es besser. Von Richard Herzinger


Foto: dpa Freundschaftliche Geste: Angela Merkel und Barack Obama beim Besuch des US-Präsidenten 2013 in Berlin

Seit dem NSA-Skandal droht uns Amerika fremd zu werden. Dabei vergessen wir, was wir Deutsche den Vereinigten Staaten verdanken. Weil wir im Geiste alle Amerikaner sind, haben wir es besser. Von Richard Herzinger

Eines der erregendsten Filmdokumente des vergangenen Jahrhunderts kursiert derzeit auf relativ verborgenen TV-Dokumentationskanälen wie ZDF info. Wann und wo immer es wiederholt wird – ich kann meine Augen nicht davon lassen. Und wenn das Amerika-Bashing, im Zusammenhang mit der NSA-Affäre oder bei irgendeinem anderen Anlass, in der deutschen Öffentlichkeit wieder einmal hoch schlägt, wünschte ich mir, diese Aufnahmen würden in regelmäßigen Abständen im Hauptprogramm der größten deutschen Fernsehsender ausgestrahlt.

Unter dem Titel “Als der Krieg nach Deutschland kam” zeigt die mehrteilige Dokumentation eine Auswahl aus hunderten Stunden Filmmaterial, das Kameraleute der US-Armee – darunter später berühmte Regisseure wie Samuel Fuller und Russ Meyer – von deren Vormarsch in Deutschland im Frühjahr 1945 gedreht haben. Man kann virtuell dabei sein, wie die GIs sich mühsam und gefahrvoll von Dorf zu Dorf, von Stadt zu Stadt vorarbeiten, um auf deutschem Boden die verbliebenen Bastionen der NS-Herrschaft zu zerschlagen.

Und man kann nachvollziehen, dass auch dieser letzte Akt des Krieges alles andere als ein Selbstläufer oder gar ein Spaziergang war, sondern den abgekämpften US-Truppen das Letzte an konzentrierter Kampfbereitschaft abforderte. In ihrer planen Nüchternheit, frei von jeglicher Heroisierung, führen diese Schwarz-Weiß-Aufnahmen vor Augen, was wir nachgeborenen Deutschen den Amerikanern zu verdanken haben.

Dank euch, ihr tapferen GIs

Ich jedenfalls empfinde das so, mehr denn je. Das wird mir spätestens klar, wenn ich die Originalbilder von der Eroberung meiner Geburtsstadt Frankfurt am Main sehe, die als Resultat der NS-Barbarei einer Trümmerwüste glich. Mir kommen diese Bilder vor wie ein unabtrennbarer Teil meiner ganz persönlichen Vorgeschichte.

Weil US-Soldaten sich unter Einsatz ihres Leben Straßenzug für Straßenzug durch mir wohl bekannte Frankfurter Schauplätze vorkämpften, konnte ich zehn Jahre später in dieser Stadt in Freiheit geboren werden. Einer Stadt, die dank der Anwesenheit der US-Armee sowie amerikanischen Finanzkapitals und Big Business’ rasch zum Turbo der Verwestlichung der Bundesrepublik aufstieg.

So konnte ich in einem Land aufwachsen, in dem unter amerikanischer Anleitung Demokratie und Rechtsstaat durchgesetzt wurden, das durch den Schutz der USA davor bewahrt wurde, dem kommunistischen Totalitarismus in die Hände zu fallen, und das 1990 seine Einheit niemals so reibungslos gewonnen hätte, wäre ihm nicht das Vertrauen und die vorbehaltlose Unterstützung der Vereinigten Staaten zu Teil geworden.

Elvis war der wahre deutsche Revolutionär!

Ich wurde hineingeboren in ein Land, in dem die sich entwickelnde Zivilität im Wesentlichen gleichbedeutend war mit der Amerikanisierung der Gesellschaft. Rock’n'Roll, Hollywood-Kino, legere Kleidung, ungezwungene Umgangsformen, fast alles, was das Leben in Deutschland lebenswerter machte, war dem kulturellen US-Import geschuldet.

Der Transfer klappte so gut, weil nur die amerikanische Massenkultur wirklich universell ist. Gut, auch die feine englische Art und das französische Savoir-vivre mag manchem Nachkriegsdeutschen aufgeholfen haben, doch nur die amerikanische Lebensart war so leicht und voraussetzungslos von jedermann adaptierbar.

Elvis Presley, der 1958 als Soldat in das Provinznest Bad Nauheim kam und mit “Muss i denn zum Städtele hinaus” demonstrierte, wie man auch einem biederen deutschem Volkslied eine Prise Sex einhauchen kann – dieser Elvis, und kein neomarxistischer und spätleninistischer Doktrinär der 68er-Bewegung, war der wahre Anstifter zur Auflehnung der jungen Generation gegen den Muff des deutschen obrigkeitsstaatlichen Autoritarismus.

Raubt uns Amerika die Freiheit?

Doch nicht nur die Trivialkultur, auch der große Einfluss amerikanischer Kunst, ernster Musik und Literatur trug wesentlich dazu bei, Deutschland in kürzester Zeit in die demokratische Moderne zu katapultieren. Und dieser Zustrom kulturellen und zivilisatorischen Know-hows hat ja bis heute nicht aufgehört. Kaum ein Musikstil, kaum ein Unterhaltungsformat, kaum eine technische Innovation, die sich hierzulande durchsetzt, die nicht aus Amerika käme. Selbst die Formen der Protestkultur, vom Sit-In bis Occupy, wurden und werden von dort übernommen.

Aber Dankbarkeit gegenüber den USA? Ist das nicht nur ein sentimentales Gefühl nostalgischer Transatlantiker, die sich unbelehrbar an der Vorstellung eines unvergänglichen deutsch-amerikanischen Freundschaftsbandes festklammern? Glaubt man publikumswirksamen Kommentatoren wie Jakob Augstein, dann sind Leute, die das tun, bestenfalls naive Vorgestrige, die von kitschigen Reminiszenzen blind gemacht würden für die vermeintliche Wahrheit, dass die USA längst zu einer feindseligen Macht geworden seien, die uns qua Totalüberwachung die Freiheit rauben wollten.

Augstein ärgert sich deshalb darüber, dass Angela Merkel und Joachim Gauck die russische Autokratie kritisieren, statt die Amerikaner als die “viel größere Bedrohung unserer Lebensweise” zu begreifen. Sie seien aber dazu nicht in der Lage, weil sie aus dem Osten stammen und daher ein “Russen-Trauma” hätten, an dem sie sich abarbeiteten, statt sich “auch mal um unsere Rechte zu kümmern” – die, versteht sich, von den bösen Amerikanern mit Füßen getreten würden.

Die Autokraten sitzen immer noch in Osten

Augstein ist nur ein besonders krasses, leider aber bei weitem nicht das einzige Beispiel dafür, wie weit es mit der Verwirrung der politisch-moralischen Maßstäbe hierzulande bereits gekommen ist. Im Gegensatz zu deutschen Intellektuellen, die unter dem amerikanischen Schutzschirm unbegrenzte Meinungsfreiheit praktizieren und sie ohne Risiko zur USA-Kritik einsetzen konnten, mussten Merkel und Gauck erleben, was Unfreiheit tatsächlich bedeutet.

Womöglich kennen sie daher viel besser den grundlegenden Unterschied zwischen einer Demokratie, in der geheimdienstliche Aktivitäten bisweilen auszuufern drohen, und einem Staat wie dem heutigen Russland, in dem die Geheimdienste an der Macht sind und der von ihnen mit rechtloser Willkür beherrscht wird. Und sie ahnen vielleicht deshalb viel besser, was wir verlieren würden, kündigten wir den USA tatsächlich die Freundschaft – oder würden vielmehr umgekehrt von ihnen tatsächlich nicht mehr als Freunde betrachtet.

Was Wladimir Putin kürzlich mit der Ukraine veranstaltet hat, sollte als Illustration ausreichen. Dass wir keinen Erpressungen und Nötigungen einer autoritären Macht ausgesetzt sind, verdanken wir in letzter Instanz dem engen Bündnis mit den Vereinigten Staaten. Ohne dieses wären wir, auch nicht im Verbund mit der EU, auch heute nicht stark genug, um um uns in einer Welt rüder Machtpolitik und globalen Terrors zu behaupten.

Ein moralisches Idyll sind die USA nie gewesen

Dankbarkeit mag keine Kategorie knallharter Interessenpolitik sein, im zivilisatorischen Band zwischen Nationen und ihren Bürger spielt sie jedoch sehr wohl eine entscheidende Rolle. Umso beängstigender ist die Vorstellung, dass die Erinnerung daran, was die Deutschen den USA zu verdanken haben, im Zeichen einer neuen deutschen Selbstzufriedenheit verloren gehen oder für wertlos befunden werden könnte – in der hybriden Annahme, den großen Bruder jenseits des Atlantik nicht mehr zu brauchen. Angesichts der weltpolitischen Rückzugstendenzen der USA müsste man sich aber doch eher sorgen, dass sie an uns wie an Europa insgesamt ganz das Interesse verlieren könnten.

Dabei sind die USA nun wahrlich nie das Gelobte Land oder der fleckenlose Träger des moralisch Guten schlechthin gewesen. Das Sündenregister der US-Außenpolitik ist lang. Im Vergleich zu dem, was die westliche Führungsmacht einst in Korea und Vietnam, aber auch Lateinamerika, angerichtet hat, erscheinen ihre heutigen machtpolitischen Methoden geradezu harmlos. Es ist daher heuchlerisch, wenn Amerikakritiker anführen, gerade jetzt überschritten die USA, etwa wegen des Drohnenkriegs, rote Linien von Recht und Moral, die es uns nicht mehr erlaubten, ihnen die Treue zu halten.

Seine Amerika-Kritik ist dem Deutschen heilig

Und absichtsvoll naiv ist es, zu suggerieren, die US-Geheimdienste hätten früher niemals deutsche Politiker abgehört. Überhaupt war das deutsch-amerikanische Verhältnis nie frei von zum Teil handfesten Konflikten. Irak war nicht das erste und letzte Mal, dass die Deutschen den USA die Gefolgschaft verweigerten, nur das Getöse darum war nie so groß, zum Schaden gereicht hat es der in der weltpolitischen Nische florierenden Bundesrepublik nie. Mag es Völker geben, die unter der US-Dominanz zu leiden hatten. Die Deutschen, die stets von ihr profitiert haben, gehören nicht dazu.

Dankbarkeit bedeutet bestimmt nicht, dass man sich deshalb etwa erwiesene Verstöße der NSA gegen deutsches Recht gefallen lassen müsste. Etwas Differenzierungsbereitschaft wäre freilich angebracht. Wie man die Privatsphäre im Zeitalter der totalen Internet-Kommunikation vor Geheimdienst-Ausspähung schützt und gleichwohl gegen den Terrorismus gewappnet bleibt, ist ein gemeinsames ungelöstes Problem aller westlichen Gesellschaften.

Stutzig wird man, wenn die Überwachungspraxis der NSA in der deutschen Öffentlichkeit zum Generalangriff auf Demokratie und Freiheit hochgespielt wird, die systematische Spionagetätigkeit Russlands und Chinas jedoch keinerlei Empörung hervorruft. Der Spaß hört aber ganz auf, wenn suggeriert wird, die USA, der politische und kulturelle Stifter und Garant unserer Freiheit, seien gar keine Demokratie mehr und sie führten irgendetwas Sinisteres gegen uns im Schilde. Etwa, deutschen Kolumnisten ihr Liebstes zu verbieten: die Amerika-Kritik.




Posted on on January 19th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (

  • Obama: ‘No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillance programmes’ (Photo:


Obama promises not to spy on EU leaders


18.01.14  – THE EUobserver – by Andrew Rettman




BRUSSELSUS President Barack Obama has said he will not spy on EU leaders or conduct economic espionage, but will continue snooping on ordinary US and EU citizens.

He made the pledge in a TV speech on Friday (17 January) in reaction to the Edward Snowden leaks.

“I’ve made clear to the intelligence community that unless there is a compelling national security purpose, we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies,” he said.

“We do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to US companies or US commercial sectors,” he added.

He justified the mass-scale collection of information on ordinary US or foreign nationals’ telephone calls, however.

“Why is this necessary? The programme grew out of a desire to address a gap identified after 9/11 … [It] was designed to map the communications of terrorists so we can see who they may be in contact with as quickly as possible,” he noted.

He promised to create a data privacy tsar to implement new safeguards.

The measures, enshrined in an executive order, centre round the future storage of intercepted phone data by an independent agency, which can only be accessed “after a judicial finding or in the case of a true emergency.”

Obama also ordered one of his spy chiefs, James Clapper, to draft better protection for US citizens whose internet data is caught in the NSA’s overseas operations.

He did not give non-US citizens any right of redress in US courts, however.

He also made no reference to the NSA’s most controversial exploits.

He said nothing on its introduction of bugs into commercial encryption software, on burglarising undersea cables, on hacking internet and phone companies, or bugging EU officials.

He also defended America’s right to spy in general.

He said: “The whole point of intelligence is to obtain information that is not publicly available.”

Counter-terrorism aside, he added: “Our intelligence agencies will continue to gather information about the intentions of governments … around the world in the same way that the intelligence services of every other nation does. We will not apologise simply because our services may be more effective.”

He noted that some foreign leaders “feigned surprise” on the Snowden leaks, while others “privately acknowledge” they need the NSA to protect their own countries.

He also claimed the US handling of the Snowden affair shows its respect for democratic values.

“No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillance programmes or Russia to take privacy concerns of citizens in other places into account,” the US President noted.

For its part, the European Commission welcomed Obama’s words in a communique published shortly after he finished speaking.

“President Obama’s remarks and action show that the legitimate concerns expressed by the EU have been listened to by our US partner,” it said.

It promised to push for more, however.

It said it will seek “an improvement of the Safe Harbour scheme,” an EU-US pact on data handling by US firms.

It will also seek “the swift conclusion of an umbrella agreement on data protection in the area of law enforcement that will guarantee enforceable rights for EU citizens, including judicial redress.”

The European Parliament, which held an inquiry into the NSA affair, was more sceptical.

British centre-left deputy Claude Moraes, its NSA rapporteur, said Obama’s reaction is “substantial” but “weighted towards … a concerned US audience.”

He added that “lack of clarity” on the new safeguards mean “his comments may not have been enough to restore confidence.”

German Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht, who also took part in the NSA inquiry, was more critical.

He told EUobserver: “My impression is he [Obama] is making a change in rhetorical terms, not in substance.”

Albrecht said almost all NSA programmes, including Prism, which intercepts data held by internet firms like Google and Microsoft, “will be the same as before, there are no changes.”

He also said people should pay attention to the small print in Obama’s language.

He noted that the ban on spying on friendly “heads of state and government” leaves the US free to spy on lower-rank officials, such as foreign ministers.

He also noted that Obama included numerous “security carve-outs.”

For instance, the NSA can still bug German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone if “there is a compelling national security purpose.”

“European leaders will have to decide if they want to follow him, and lose the trust of their citizens in their ability to safeguard their basic rights,” Albrecht said.


Posted on on January 18th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


Obama’s NSA ‘Reforms’ Inadequate, Cosmetic Gestures

By Glenn Greenwald, Guardian UK

18 January 14


Obama is draping the banner of change over the NSA status quo. Bulk surveillance that caused such outrage will remain in place

n response to political scandal and public outrage, official Washington repeatedly uses the same well-worn tactic. It is the one that has been hauled out over decades in response to many of America’s most significant political scandals. Predictably, it is the same one that shaped President Obama’s much-heralded Friday speech to announce his proposals for “reforming” the National Security Agency in the wake of seven months of intense worldwide controversy.

The crux of this tactic is that US political leaders pretend to vail 18 January 14 and even channel public anger by acknowledging that there are “serious questions that have been raised”. They vow changes to fix the system and ensure these problems never happen again. And they then set out, with their actions, to do exactly the opposite: to make the system prettier and more politically palatable with empty, cosmetic “reforms” so as to placate public anger while leaving the system fundamentally unchanged, even more immune than before to serious challenge.

This scam has been so frequently used that it is now easily recognizable. In the mid-1970s, the Senate uncovered surveillance abuses that had been ongoing for decades, generating widespread public fury. In response, the US Congress enacted a new law (Fisa) which featured two primary “safeguards”: a requirement of judicial review for any domestic surveillance, and newly created committees to ensure legal compliance by the intelligence community.

But the new court was designed to ensure that all of the government’s requests were approved: it met in secret, only the government’s lawyers could attend, it was staffed with the most pro-government judges, and it was even housed in the executive branch. As planned, the court over the next 30 years virtually never said no to the government.

Identically, the most devoted and slavish loyalists of the National Security State were repeatedly installed as the committee’s heads, currently in the form of NSA cheerleaders Democrat Dianne Feinstein in the Senate and Republican Mike Rogers in the House. As the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza put it in a December 2013 article on the joke of Congressional oversight, the committees “more often treat … senior intelligence officials like matinee idols”.

As a result, the committees, ostensibly intended to serve an overseer function, have far more often acted as the NSA’s in-house PR firm. The heralded mid-1970s reforms did more to make Americans believe there was reform than actually providing any, thus shielding it from real reforms.

The same thing happened after the New York Times, in 2005, revealed that the NSA under Bush had been eavesdropping on Americans for years without the warrants required by criminal law. The US political class loudly claimed that they would resolve the problems that led to that scandal. Instead, they did the opposite: in 2008, a bipartisan Congress, with the support of then-Senator Barack Obama, enacted targeta new Fisa law that legalized the bulk of the once-illegal Bush program, including allowing warrantless eavesdropping on hundreds of millions of foreign nationals and large numbers of Americans as well.

This was also the same tactic used in the wake of the 2008 financial crises. Politicians dutifully read from the script that blamed unregulated Wall Street excesses and angrily vowed to rein them in. They then enacted legislation that left the bankers almost entirely unscathed, and which made the “too-big-to-fail” problem that spawned the crises worse than ever.

And now we have the spectacle of President Obama reciting paeans to the values of individual privacy and the pressing need for NSA safeguards. “Individual freedom is the wellspring of human progress,” he gushed with an impressively straight face. “One thing I’m certain of, this debate will make us stronger,” he pronounced, while still seeking to imprison for decades the whistleblower who enabled that debate. The bottom line, he said, is this: “I believe we need a new approach.”

But those pretty rhetorical flourishes were accompanied by a series of plainly cosmetic “reforms”. By design, those proposals will do little more than maintain rigidly in place the very bulk surveillance systems that have sparked such controversy and anger.

To be sure, there were several proposals from Obama that are positive steps. A public advocate in the Fisa court, a loosening of “gag orders” for national security letters, removing metadata control from the NSA, stricter standards for accessing metadata, and narrower authorizations for spying on friendly foreign leaders (but not, of course, their populations) can all have some marginal benefits. But even there, Obama’s speech was so bereft of specifics – what will the new standards bewho will now control Americans’ metadata– that they are more like slogans than serious proposals.

Ultimately, the radical essence of the NSA – a system of suspicion-less spying aimed at hundreds of millions of people in the US and around the world – will fully endure even if all of Obama’s proposals are adopted. That’s because Obama never hid the real purpose of this process. It is, he and his officials repeatedly acknowledged, “to restore public confidence” in the NSA. In other words, the goal isn’t to truly reform the agency; it is deceive people into believing it has been so that they no longer fear it or are angry about it.

As the ACLU’s executive director Anthony Romero said after the speech:

The president should end – not mend – the government’s collection and retention of all law-abiding Americans’ data. When the government collects and stores every American’s phone call data, it is engaging in a textbook example of an ‘unreasonable search’ that violates the constitution.

That, in general, has long been Obama’s primary role in our political system and his premiere, defining value to the permanent power factions that run Washington. He prettifies the ugly; he drapes the banner of change over systematic status quo perpetuation; he makes Americans feel better about policies they find repellent without the need to change any of them in meaningful ways. He’s not an agent of change but the soothing branding packaging for it.

As is always the case, those who want genuine changes should not look to politicians, and certainly not to Barack Obama, to wait for it to be gifted. Obama was forced to give this speech by rising public pressure, increasingly scared US tech giants, and surprisingly strong resistance from the international community to the out-of-control American surveillance state.

Today’s speech should be seen as the first step, not the last, on the road to restoring privacy. The causes that drove Obama to give this speech need to be, and will be, stoked and nurtured further until it becomes clear to official Washington that, this time around, cosmetic gestures are plainly inadequate.



Posted on on January 18th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (

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

Published: January 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Read more:

‘We must maintain the trust of the American people’

‘We must maintain the trust of the American people’

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

Five big takeaways from the speech

Five big takeaways from the speech

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

Obama acknowledges limits in changing intelligence policy

Obama acknowledges limits in changing intelligence policy

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They got none of that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The President on Mass Surveillance


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


Posted on on January 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (



Cyber Risks When Doing Business in Brazil, the US, and Around the World
“The expectation is that the government, in three different spheres, academia and civil society can map the social demands; discuss, present and improve policies and public services involving technology; and expand forms of citizen participation in monitoring decisions of public administration. It all comes with the promotion of the use of free software, a strategic resource for knowledge generation and savings for the public purse.” (Marcos Mazoni, President of Serpro)

Recent important developments in the cyber space environment have prompted a comprehensive discussion on “Cyber Risks When Doing Business in Brazil, the US, and Around the World.” This half-day program is designed to help organizations developing practical solutions to cyber investigations, digital forensics, threat management, legal challenges, and asset protection with doing business in cyber space, whether in the US, Brazil, or around the world. We invite data privacy, compliance, and cyber professionals to attend this program, which will include presentations, peer-to-peer exchanges, and panel discussions. More details on this program, including confirmed topics and additional speakers, will follow.
Ty Francis
Vice President and Associate Publisher
Corporate Board Member Magazine
Confirmed Speakers Include:
Nelson Murilo de Oliveira Rufino
IT Security Advisor, Banco do Brasil
Brian Fox
Cyber Security Specialist
Marcos Mazoni
SERPRO- Brazilian Federal Data Processing Service
Kellie Meiman
Managing Partner
McLarty Associates
Carolina Paschoal
Assistant General Counsel
DIRECTV Latin America
Neal Pollard
Director, Forensic Technology Solutions

Irina Simmons
Chief Risk Officer
Lisa J. Sotto
Hunton & Williams LLP

Thursday, January 23, 2014

8:00 AM – 8:30 AM:  Registration, Breakfast & Networking
8:30 AM – 12:00 PM: Presentations and Q&A

PwC Auditorium
300 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10017
To  Register:
Please click here to register online or download the registration form.

NEW SPEAKERS JOINED! Cyber Risks When Doing Business in Brazil, the US, and Around the World, Jan. 23rd



Posted on on January 4th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (



Op-Ed Columnist at the New York Times.

Brazil Is Abuzz About Snowden

Published: January 3, 2014   –  7 Comments


RIO DE JANEIRO — When I visited China in June, my trip happened to coincide with the discovery that Edward Snowden was hiding out in Hong Kong. By then, Snowden’s revelations about the voracious data-collection operation by the National Security Agency was front-page news all over the world. Snowden hadn’t yet been charged for the leak of tens of thousands of pages of classified N.S.A. documents, but it was clear that it was coming. So it was only natural to ask — as many journalists did — would Hong Kong give Snowden asylum if he requested it?

Now I’m in Brazil, where I’ve spent the last few weeks, and wouldn’t you know it? A question very much in the air here is whether Brazil would grant Snowden asylum once his temporary stay in Russia comes to an end. In recent weeks, Snowden had twice expressed publicly his desire to gain asylum to Brazil, once in an open letter published in a newspaper in São Paulo — in which he said he would cooperate with Brazilian authorities investigating the N.S.A. once he was safely inside the country — and then, somewhat more cautiously, in a television interview.

With the possible exception of Germany, there isn’t another nation as publicly irate over the eavesdropping on its citizens and its government as Brazil. Upon learning that the N.S.A. had spied on her personal communications, Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, canceled a state visit. Then, during a speech to the United Nations, she excoriated the United States, even as President Obama stood in the wings.

Along with Germany, Brazil has rekindled a long-stalled effort to create a new structure for Internet governance, one that would be less dependent on American companies and American networks. Virgílio Fernandes Almeida, a government official who is chairman of the country’s Internet Steering Committee, told me that there is no question that the Snowden revelations helped jump-start the effort.

Indeed, two weeks ago, a $4 billion contract for a fighter jet, in which Boeing was said to be the front-runner, went to a unit of Saab instead. Although Saab was the lowest-cost bidder, “The N.S.A. problem ruined it for the Americans,” a Brazilian government source told Reuters.

“Brazil was one of the most targeted countries,” said Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who is based here and is closest to Snowden. “It was more than even Russia or China.”

What is also true is that Greenwald, who has published dozens of stories in The Guardian based on the documents Snowden supplied, did his best to stoke Brazil’s rage. After every print revelation — O Globo, a large Brazilian daily, was his vehicle of choice — he would appear on a popular show similar to “60 Minutes” to talk up his latest bombshell. “Snowden became almost a household name after that,” said Maurício Santoro, a Rio-based human rights advocate for Amnesty International.

And then Greenwald found the document about the surveillance on Dilma’s phone calls, text messages and emails, and all hell broke loose. “It wasn’t a supertechnical document,” Greenwald told me. “It was written for an idiot. It was like, ‘Great news. We have had great success eavesdropping on Dilma.’ 

Perhaps just as infuriating to the Brazilian elites was the discovery that the N.S.A., along with Britain’s secret spy agency, GCHQ, had apparently succeeded in penetrating the private computer network of Petrobas, a giant state-owned oil company and a source of national pride.

“Why did they have to do this to us?” asked Santoro, posing the question many Brazilians still want answered. “Of course we have our disagreements with the U.S., but we are not enemies. What has also been maddening has been the lack of a clear explanation from the Obama administration,” he added.

Yet for all that, Santoro doesn’t think that Brazil will give Snowden asylum. So far, the government has been coy, saying that because Snowden has not applied for asylum through the proper channels, there is nothing to talk about. The way it was explained to me, though, Brazil prefers to use what it likes to call “soft power” on the world stage — global consensus building, that sort of thing. Helping to create an Internet governance system fits nicely in that model. Giving Snowden asylum does not.

Meanwhile, the American government shows no signs of softening its stance of trying Snowden for espionage if it gets its hands on him. It’s worth remembering that another important whistle-blower, Daniel Ellsberg, was eventually put on trial for leaking the Pentagon Papers. The case was thrown out of court largely because of government misconduct, starting with the break-in of the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist.

At least as it concerns the N.S.A., government misconduct is now official policy. We know that thanks to Snowden.
He needs a place to live. Why not you, Brazil?


Posted on on January 1st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


Knesset goes green.


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

By  January” title=”\”>January” target=”_blank”>″>January 1,2014 – from


Knesset by Shutterstock

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

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

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

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

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Posted on on December 19th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


Brazil Snubs Boeing in Fighter Jet Deal


Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The aircraft maker Saab’s Gripen F. The company agreed to share more technology for Brazil’s Gripen NG jets with contractors.



SÃO PAULO, Brazil — In a disappointment for Boeing, Brazilian defense officials said on Wednesday that they had picked the aircraft maker Saab for a $4.5 billion contract to build 36 fighter jets over the next 10 years.

The Brazilian defense minister, Celso Amorim, told reporters at a news conference in Brasilia that Saab was selected over Boeing because it had agreed to share more technology with contractors and because many parts for the new jet, the Gripen NG, would be made in Brazil.

The decision “took into account performance, the effective transfer of technology and costs, not only of acquisition, but also of maintenance,” Mr. Amorim said in a statement. He was accompanied by Gen. Juniti Saito, the Brazilian air force’s chief of staff. “The decision was based on these three factors.”

The announcement comes at a time of heightened tension between the United States and Brazil. In September, the Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, canceled a state visit to the United States after revelations that the National Security Agency was spying on foreign heads of state, including her.

In a speech at the United Nations that month, Ms. Rousseff gave a blistering attack on the United States for its “illegal interception of information and data.”

In a response to the outcry over the spying, a panel of advisers for President Obama on Wednesday recommended limiting the wide-ranging collection of personal data and restricting operations to spy on foreign leaders.

When asked at the news conference if the spying had anything to do with the decision to award the contract to Saab, Mr. Amorim did not answer directly, instead repeating reasons of cost and technology sharing.

Analysts said Brazil had many financial and practical reasons to award the contract to Saab.

Richard L. Aboulafia, an aviation analyst at Teal Group in Fairfax, Va., said that while Brazil’s disenchantment over the N.S.A.’s spying could have played a role in the decision, costs were probably a bigger factor.

“You’re talking about a military service that doesn’t need a heavyweight front-line fighter and has suffered a budget squeeze and hasn’t been able to fly the planes that it owns,” he said.

He added that a basic version of the Saab jet might cost about $45 million, compared with $55 million for Boeing’s basic F/A-18 Super Hornet.

And the Gripen’s fuel costs would be half of that for the Boeing plane. Both jets use the same engine, but the Super Hornet has two engines and the Gripen one.

A study by the military publisher IHS Jane’s said that the Gripen costs about $4,700 an hour to fly — the lowest among modern fighter jets — compared with the $11,000 for the Super Hornet.

Boeing said that the decision was “disappointing” and that it would talk to the Brazilian air force to better understand it. The company, based in Chicago, said it would still look for chances to expand its partnerships in Brazil.

The loss was also difficult for Boeing because there are only a few fighter competitions going on around the world and the United States Navy plans to stop buying the F/A-18’s.

While most countries that want high-tech fighters are buying Lockheed Martin’s more advanced F-35, many other countries cannot afford even top older models like the F/A-18. So far, Australia is Boeing’s only export customer for the jet.

By contrast, Saab’s more workaday Gripen models are flown by several other countries.

Brazil originally began its quest for new fighters to replace its aging Mirages more than a decade ago. Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, wanted to buy Dassault’s Rafale fighter jets in 2009 instead of the F/A-18.

But a change in administration in Brazil, and the country’s deteriorating financial condition, helped alter the equation. A Brazilian news report on Saturday said that Dassault had already been eliminated from the competition even though the French president, François Hollande, backed the jet on a visit to Brazil last week.

Terms of the deal must still be negotiated over the next year, but delivery of the first batch of Gripen NG jets is expected in 2018.

Also on Wednesday, Boeing announced the promotion of Dennis A. Muilenburg, the head of its military business, to vice chairman, president and chief operating officer of the company.

Analysts said that move made Mr. Muilenburg, 49, the heir apparent to Boeing’s chief executive, W. James McNerney Jr., who is 64.

Ray Conner, the chief executive of Boeing’s commercial airplane division, was also named a Boeing vice chairman while keeping his current responsibilities. Christopher M. Chadwick, 53, will succeed Mr. Muilenburg as chief executive of Boeing’s military unit.

Dan Horch reported from São Paulo, Brazil, and Christopher Drew from New York.




Posted on on December 15th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


Yes – a most important outside reason for going to the Memorial for Mandela in Johannesburg was to make a public display out of the US effort to do right to its Southern Subcontinent starting with its largest democracy – Brazil.

Then, as I doubt it was mere coincidence, Obama also shook the hand of Brother Raul Castro. Fareed Zakaria observed these public happenings on his CNN/Global Public Square today.

Both events could have real consequences if followed up by the Administration. It was insane to tape Dilma Rousseff’s phone – now she is Prime Minister of Brazil but once was a Member of a National  Communist Party – like every dissent person was in those days  – including Nelson Mandela. But those days are gone – all what is left is a National reluctance to submit to US CIA-enhanced Capitalism that fights democracies world-wide.

The Castro’s are a different matter. What has been is passe – but what is now is a possible opening to Cuba with an honest effort to brig the Island-State to the fold of democracies, and as shown on TV in Johannesburg Raul is hoping for Dilma’s help. The US is closer by so it could actually be a tripartite cause that proves to Dilma that the US President is not just an occasional kisser.

And further – you convince Dilma and Angela Merkel of Germany as well, that a post-Bush era is started in Washington by giving full AMNESTY to Mr. Snowden who was the first to give them evidence that the bosses in Washington do not trust them – something that is not done among friends. And if it is done so these are clearly not regarded as  friends and Raul gets vindicated if he might insist on making his island into a future Chinese base – just an idea.

We just found that another swallow showed up in Washington – or was this a trained pigeon-carrier? We continue by re-posting it and hope it was not just a trial balloon to be shot down by right-wing Republicans with old-time Sugar-planting and cigar smoking Cubans of Miami friends.


NSA Official Offers Amnesty Deal to Edward Snowden

By Agence France-Presse, 15 December 2013

National Security Agency official said in an interview released Friday that he would be open to cutting an amnesty deal with intelligence leaker Edward Snowden if he agreed to stop divulging secret documents.

Related Stories

Rick Ledgett, who heads the NSA’s task force investigating the damage from the Snowden leaks, told CBS television’s “60 Minutes” program that some but not all of his colleagues share his view.

“My personal view is, yes, it’s worth having a conversation about” a possible deal, said Ledgett, according to excerpts of the interview due to air Sunday.

But Snowden would have to provide firm assurances that the remaining documents would be secured.

“My bar for those assurances would be very high… more than just an assertion on his part,” said Ledgett.

Snowden, a former intelligence contractor for the NSA, has been charged with espionage by US authorities for divulging reams of secret files.

He has secured asylum in Russia and insisted he spilled secrets to spark public debate and expose the NSA’s far-reaching surveillance.

But NSA chief General Keith Alexander rejects the idea of any amnesty for Snowden.

“This is analogous to a hostage-taker taking 50 people hostage, shooting 10 and then say ‘You give me full amnesty and I’ll let the other 40 go,’” Alexander told “60 Minutes.”

Alexander said an amnesty deal would set a dangerous precedent for any future leakers.

The four-star general, who is due to retire next year, also said he offered his resignation after the leak but that it was not accepted by President Barack Obama’s administration.

Snowden reportedly stole 1.7 million classified documents and Ledgett said he “wouldn’t dispute” that figure.

About 58,000 of the documents taken by Snowden have been passed to news media outlets, according to the editor of Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

The CBS report also said an NSA analyst had discovered malware designed in China that could “destroy” infected computers.

NSA Information Assurance Director Debora Plunkett said the weapon was called the “Bios Plot,” after the key component in computers that performs basic steps such as turning on the operating system.

The malware was supposed to be disguised as an update for software, and after the user clicked on it, a virus would turn their computer into “a brick,” Plunkett said.

If launched, “Think about the impact of that across the entire globe,” she said. “It could literally take down the US economy.”

The NSA spoke with computer manufacturers to preempt the possible effect of the malware.


Posted on on December 8th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (



December 8, 2013


Purchase TicketsHERE





The warm and rhythmic music of Brazil will help us “bring home the sun” in our upcoming 34th annual Winter SolsticeSeries, December 19, 20 and 21, at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Renowned singer/composer Ivan Lins will be joining us, for the first time, along with singer and guitarist Renato Braz, and a Brazilian chorus.


The 25 dancers and drummers of the Forces of Nature Dance Theatre will premiere a new work based on an Ivan Lins composition, and our favorite gospel singer, Theresa Thomason, will perform with both Ivan and Renato, as well as the Consort. We will dedicate the entire Winter Solstice event to our long-time Brazilian brother, guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves, who passed away in late September (see below).


Guest artist Lins is one of Brazil’s most beloved musical superstars, and its best-known living songwriter. He has recorded more than 35 albums and won multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. His songs have been recorded by many notable international artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, Sarah Vaughan, Michael Bublé, George Benson, Take 6, and Dave Grusin.




Once again, we are pleased to offer you our free Winter Solstice Collection album. It’s become a tradition for us, that each year just before our Winter Solstice Celebration, we put together the collection, and invite you to download it for free. Our intent is both to give a sampling of our musical lineup for this year’s show, and also simply to share the music.


This year’s collection is 10 tracks, more than 40 minutes, with an emphasis on Brazilian songs by Ivan Lins and Renato Braz, as well as pieces by the Paul Winter Consort and Theresa Thomason. All these performers, along with the dancers and drummers of the Forces of Nature Dance Theatre will join us at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Dec. 19-21.


We hope you’ll enjoy the collection, and please share it with others: listen & download.


Included Tracks:
1. Velho Sermão – Ivan Lins
2. Peasant Revels – Paul Winter Consort
3. Last Train – Renato Braz
4. Icarus – Paul Winter Consort
5. Bandeira do Divino – Ivan Lins
6. The Rain is Over and Gone – Theresa Thomason
7. Lua Soberama – Renato Braz
8. Fantasia – Paul Winter Consort
9. Silent Night – Renato Braz & the Paul Winter Consort
10. Common Ground – Paul Winter Consort




Oscar Castro-Neves and I met in June of 1962, when my Sextet played in Rio de Janeiro during our six-month State Department tour of Latin America. We crossed paths again that October when Oscar came to New York to be musical director for the first-ever Bossa Nova concert in the US, at Carnegie Hall. After Oscar came to live in Los Angeles in the late ’60s, as musical director for Sergio Mendes’ band, Brazil 66, we reconnected and he helped me produce the Consort’s second album, Something in the Wind, in 1969, and then came on tour with us.


In the spring of 1977, I went to LA to spend some days with Oscar at his home, exploring ideas for a new album. I had a new vision for the Consort’s music, embracing vocals for the first time, as well as the voices of wolf, whale and eagle, as a symbolic trilogy of the greater life family, representing the land, the sea and the air.


I had invited an array of musicians from diverse genres to come to my farm during the summer months to collaborate in creating this new album. I wanted to feature Oscar’s rhythmic realm in the new music, and Oscar played me many recordings from a broad spectrum of traditional and contemporary Brazilian music. One song ignited my soul: “Velho Sermão,” by Ivan Lins, based on a rhythm from the Northeast of Brazil, where the African influence was most prominent. This song had exactly the bright energy and spirit I wanted for the album, and I began wondering if we might create English lyrics for it. That summer, with new musicians gathered at the farm, we began playing “Velho Sermão” instrumentally, to get it into our bodies, and see what lyrics might emerge, that might put forth the message of our music-making summer “village.” By the end of the summer we had the words, and the title: “Common Ground.” This became the title song for the album, and has been part of the Consort’s repertoire since. So Ivan Lins has been a spiritual member of our community for these many years, but in all my trips to Brazil, and all his to the US, we’ve never crossed paths.


Over the decades since then, Oscar was my co-dreamer, and co-producer on many albums, including Missa Gaia/Earth Mass, Concert for the Earth, Canyon, Earthbeat, and Brazilian Days. He was part of the Consort in our performances at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1991; with the Boston Pops in 2000; and at the Cathedral for our “Carnival for the Rainforest” and numerous Solstice celebrations. We shared the dream of weaving the world together through music.


In early September this year I got word that Oscar was seriously ill, and I flew to Los Angeles to see him. He was bedridden, and had great difficulty talking, but I got to play for him a recording of my reunited Sextet with African singer Abdoulaye Diabate, from last year’s Winter Solstice Celebration, and he smiled broadly and punched both thumbs up in the air, and then whispered to me: “It is a revisit to that sacred ground we cherish.” Six days later, Oscar passed away.


He was, and is, a true treasure of the world, and beloved by all who knew him.


Oscar had also brought Renato Braz into the Consort’s life in 2005. I had heard one track on a “Rough Guide to Brazilian Music” compilation, that had a beautiful clear high beguiling voice, by a singer whose name I didn’t know. I wanted to learn more about him, and asked various friends if they’d ever heard of Renato Braz, and no-one had. In Rio that spring I asked my long-time friend Carlos Lyra, and he also didn’t know of Renato. When I came home I decided I would ask Oscar, Brazil’s greatest ambassador to the world, and he began calling around for me. Two days later Oscar called me and said: “I found him. He’s from Sao Paulo, which is why our Rio community didn’t know him. I had a wonderful talk with him, and I think he’s going to be one of our dearest friends.” And his prediction absolutely came true.


So once again, Oscar is bringing us all together, as we salute him in this year’s Solstice Celebration.




Posted on on December 3rd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


High Growth Renewables: Brazil – a Cleantech investments Invitation: Breakfast Briefing – Brazil, 10 December 2013 – in London.

This event costs £30 (excluding VAT) to attend. A number of free delegate spaces are available for investors or project developers with a particular interest in wind or solar energy in Bahia – and also for certain other categories, including press, non profit organisations and academia. To be considered for one of these places please email:


Brazil has strong credentials in terms of sustainable energy. It was a pioneer in biofuels and has a world leading ethanol industry – and the majority of its electricity is generated from hydro power. Now the Brazilian wind and solar energy markets are also taking off rapidly, in response to growing demand for energy – and helped by favourable government policies offering long term contracts to developers. Dedicated auctions over recent years, have helped wind power prices decline and for wind to become established in Brazil. Solar looks set to follow a similar trajectory: although no solar projects were successful in the recent (November 2013) energy auctions, dedicated solar auctions are likely next year.

High Growth Renewables: Brazil is part of a series of Cleantech Investor events which kicked off earlier this year with High Growth Renewables: India. The event is also affiliated to the Brazil Wind Energy Conference and Brazil Solar Energy Conference series of events which take place in Brazil.

High Growth Renewables: Brazil, sponsored by K&L Gates takes place over a morning, in London, close to St Pauls. The event will focus on the key Brazilian States operating in the renewables sector and will include representatives from both the Government of the State of Bahia and from companies active in Bahia, one of the states most well endowed with renewable energy resources in the country. There will also be speakers representing other industries such as ethanol and a discussion on the opportunities for UK and European companies to do business in Brazil.

  • Hear from the Government of Bahia at High Growth Renewables: Brazil on the outcome of the November auctions and potential for future auctions for wind and solar energy.
  • Bahia State representatives will also present the new wind map which indicates a significant increase in wind energy potential in the state over previous estimates.
  • An update on the Brazilian ethanol market
  • Experiences from UK and European companies operating in the Brazilian market – in sectors including wind turbine manufacturing (Gamesa of Spain), wind and solar project development (ENEL of Italy) and biofuels (Whitefox Technologies of the UK).
  • In addition, Cleantech Investor will launch a new ‘Infocus’ publication: Bahia: Rolling Out Renewable Energy

The agenda for the event will be as follows:

8.00 am – Registration and Breakfast

8.40 am – Speaker Panel

Introduction – Renewable Energy / Bioenergy in Brazil
Ethanol (/biofuel) industry – challenges and opportunities
Renewable energy – adding wind and solar to the mix
Case Study: the State of Bahia and Wind Energy

- Renewable Energy Project development in Bahia
- The manufacturing hub in Salvador / Camacari

 Panel Discussion: Doing business in Brazil / Bahia
 Launch of Cleantech Investor’s Bahia publication

11.30 am – Close

Speakers will include:

Marc J. Veilleux – Partner, K&L Gates

Marc was behind the launch of the K&L Gates Brazilian office in 2011. K&L Gates LLP comprises more than 2,000 lawyers who practice in 48 offices located on five continents.

Paulo Roberto Britto Guimarães – SCIM (Energy Department) State of Bahia

Bahia is one of the largest states in Brazil and has some of the largest resources of wind energy. It is located in the north east of Brazil, which is experiencing econoimc growth at ‘Chinese growth rates’ and it is planning major infrastructure investment. Paulo will provide details of Bahia’s recently published wind map and will discus the opportunities for companies in the wind power manufacturing cluster which has emerged in the State. In addition to renewable energy resources, the state has important petrochemical and automotive manufacturing industries and has some of the best resources of shale gas in Brazil.

Gamesa (speaker to be confirmed)

Spanish company Gamesa, which is a leading wind turbine manufacturer, has established a manufacturing base closer to Salvador, the capital of Bahia. Gamesa will speak on the opportunities for companies in the wind power supply chain in Bahia and Brazil generally.

Enrique de las Morenas – General Manager, Brazil: ENEL Green Power

Enrique will speak about renewable energy project development in Brazil, where ENEL is an important operator in the wind and solar sectors.

Gillian Harrison, CEO – Whitefox Technologies

Whitefox Technologies, a UK company, provides services to Brazilian ethanol companies. Gillian will speak about her experiences of doing business in Brazil – and will provide an overview of the Brazilian ethanol market.

Anne McIvor – CEO, Cleantech Investor

Anne will provide a summary of ‘Cleantech Infocus: Bahia – Rolling out Renewable Energy’, which will be launched at the event.

Who should attend?

  • Institutional, private equity and venture capital investors with a focus on the Brazil market and an interest in energy
  • Corporate advisors and consultants working in cleantech and renewable energy
  • Renewable energy project developers or equipment suppliers interested in the Brazilian market
  • Government and not for profit organisations with an interest in Brazil- and specifically renewable energy in Brazil.


Posted on on December 2nd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

16th International Biotechnology Symposium & Exhibition


14.09.2014 – 19.09.2014


Fortaleza, Ceará, BR

More information:







  • Biofuels
  • Forestry Products
  • Green Chemistry
  • Nanotechnology
  • Green Cosmetics
  • Biorefineries
  • Green Energy

Dr. Aaron Ciechanover from the Technion in Israel (Nobel Prize in 2005) was invited to be a Plenary Speaker.



Posted on on November 30th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Is the Pope Getting the Catholics Ready for an Economic Revolution? (Maybe He Read Marx)


Photo Credit: -  A specter is haunting the Vatican.


November 27, 2013
by Lynn Stuart Parramore, AlterNet

In 1992, the Catholic Church officially apologized for persecuting 17th-century astronomer Galileo, who dared to assert that the Earth revolved around the sun. In 2008, the Vatican even considered putting up a statue of him.

Could a certain 19th-century atheist philosopher be next?

It is true that in 2009, a Vatican newspaper article put a positive spin on one Karl Marx. The author, German historian Georg Sans, praised Marx for his criticism of the alienation and injustice faced by working people in a world where the privileged few own the capital. Sans suggested that Marx’s view was relevant today: “We have to ask ourselves, with Marx, whether the forms of alienation of which he spoke have their origin in the capitalist system….” Indeed.


Pope Benedict XVI certainly sang a different tune, denouncing Marxism as one of the great scourges of the modern age (of course we must always distinguish the “ism” from the man). But Francis is a pope of a different feather. His recent comments on capitalism suggest that he is a man who understands something about economics — specifically the link between unbridled capitalism and inequality.

In an 84-page document released Tuesday, Pope Francis launched a tirade against a brutally unjust economic system that Marx himself would have cheered:


“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills….As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”


Whoa! Where did that come from? To understand the answer, you need to know something about liberation theology, a movement that originated in Pope Francis’s home region of Latin America. Liberation theology, a Catholic phenomenon centered on actively fighting economic and social oppression, is the fascinating place where Karl Marx and the Catholic Church meet.


Though Marx was certainly an atheist, Catholics who support liberation theology understand that his attitude toward religion was nuanced. He saw it as a coin with two sides: a conservative force that could block positive changes as well as a reservoir of energy that could resist and challenge injustice. In the United States, religious movements such as the Social Gospel movement, seen today in the Reverend William Barber’s Moral Monday crusade against right-wing oppression of the poor in North Carolina, express the protest potential of Christianity.


Gustavo Gutiérrez, a Peruvian Catholic priest who grew up in abject poverty, used Marx’s ideas about ideology, class and capitalism to develop a perspective on how Christianity could be used to help the poor while they were on here on Earth rather than simply offer them solace in heaven. As Latin America saw the rise of military dictatorships in the 1960s and ‘70s, Gutiérrez called on Catholics to love their neighbor and to transform society for the better. Followers of the new liberation theology insisted on active engagement in social and economic change. They talked about alternative structures and creative, usually non-violent ways to free the poor from all forms of abuse.


The official Church hierarchy has had a tense relationship with liberation theology, but some Francis watchers detect that a new chapter in that history is opening. In early September, the new Pope had a private meeting with Gutiérrez. Reacting to the event, the Vatican newspaper published an essay arguing that with a Latin American pope guiding the Church, liberation theology could no longer “remain in the shadows to which it has been relegated for some years, at least in Europe.”

The Catholic world has now snapped to attention as the faithful pore over the Pope Francis’s recent communication, which calls upon politicians to guarantee “dignified work, education and healthcare” and blasts the “idolatry of money.” The flock is on notice:  Francis will be talking a great deal about economic inequality and defending the poor. Unfortunately, his opposition to women as priests indicates that he is not yet ready to embrace equal treatment for women, something that would greatly enhance progress on both of those issues, but Francis did take a step forward in saying that women should have more influence in the Church.


While the Vatican has become a cesspool for some of the most shady financiers and corrupt bankers on the planet (see: “ God’s Racket”), Pope Francis has made clear his abhorrence of greed, eschewing the Apostolic Palace for a modest guest house and recently suspending a bishop who blew $41 million on renovations and improvements to his residence, including a $20,000 bathtub.


Catholics, particularly in the United States and Europe, are not sure what to make of all this solidarity with the poor and anti-capitalist rhetoric. For a long time now, many have considered Marx and his critique of capitalism over and done with. But others have watched deregulation, globalization and redistribution toward the rich unleash a particularly nasty and aggressive form of capitalism that seems increasingly at odds with Christian values. Instead of becoming more fair and moderate, capitalism has become more brutal and extreme. Marx, who predicted that capitalism would engender massive inequalities, is looking rather prescient just about now.


Pope Francis may prove himself open to considering Marx’s ideas in order to think about a more human-centered economic system. The American press is already buzzing nervously with the idea: “It would make for some pretty amazing headlines if Pope Francis turned out to be a Marxist,” wrote Helen Horn of the Atlantic, before quickly concluding that, no, “happily for church leaders,” such a thing couldn’t be true.


Maybe not. What is true is that, like his fascinating predecessor, Pope Leo XIII (who presided from 1848-1903), Francis has specifically denounced the complete rule of the market over human beings — the cornerstone of the kind of neoclassical economic theory embraced by Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan and much of the American political establishment. He wrote:


“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacra­lized workings of the prevailing economic system.”


That’s a pretty good start. We’ll take it. 

Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet senior editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of ‘Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture.’ She received her Ph.d in English and Cultural Theory from NYU, where she has taught essay writing and semiotics. She is the Director of AlterNet’s New Economic Dialogue Project.




Op-Ed Columnist


The Pope and the Right




“NOW it’s your turn to be part of the loyal opposition,” a fellow Catholic journalist said to me earlier this year, as Pope Francis’s agenda was beginning to take shape.


Readers’ Comments — Read All Comments (130) »



The friend was a political liberal and lifelong Democrat, accustomed to being on the wrong side of his church’s teaching on issues like abortion, bioethics and same-sex marriage.

Now, he cheerfully suggested, right-leaning Catholics like me would get a taste of the same experience, from a pope who seemed intent on skirting the culture war and stressing the church’s mission to the poor instead.


After Francis’s latest headline-making exhortation, which roves across the entire life of the church but includes a sharp critique of consumer capitalism and financial laissez-faire, politically conservative Catholics have reached for several explanations for why my friend is wrong, and why they aren’t the new “cafeteria Catholics.”

First, they have pointed out that there’s nothing truly novel here, apart from a lazy media narrative that pits Good Pope Francis against his bad reactionary predecessors. (Many of the new pope’s comments track with what Benedict XVI said in his own economic encyclical, and with past papal criticisms of commercial capitalism’s discontents.)

Second, they have sought to depoliticize the pope’s comments, recasting them as a general brief against avarice and consumerism rather than a call for specific government interventions.

And finally, they have insisted on the difference between church teaching on faith and morals, and papal pronouncements on economic issues, noting that there’s nothing that obliges Catholics to believe the pontiff is infallible on questions of public policy.

All three responses have their merits, but they still seem insufficient to the Francis era’s challenge to Catholics on the limited-government, free-market right.

It’s true that there is far more continuity between Francis and Benedict than media accounts suggest. But the new pope clearly intends to foreground the church’s social teaching in new ways, and probably seeks roughly the press coverage he’s getting.

It’s also true that Francis’s framework is pastoral rather than political. But his plain language tilts leftward in ways that no serious reader can deny.

Finally, it’s true that there is no Catholic position on, say, the correct marginal tax rate, and that Catholics are not obliged to heed the pope when he suggests that global inequality is increasing when the statistical evidence suggests otherwise.

But the church’s social teaching is no less an official teaching for allowing room for disagreement on its policy implications. And for Catholics who pride themselves on fidelity to Rome, the burden is on them — on us — to explain why a worldview that inspires left-leaning papal rhetoric also allows for right-of-center conclusions.

That explanation rests, I think, on three ideas. First, that when it comes to lifting the poor out of poverty, global capitalism, faults and all, has a better track record by far than any other system or approach.

Second, that Catholic social teaching, properly understood, emphasizes both solidarity and subsidiarity — that is, a small-c conservative preference for local efforts over national ones, voluntarism over bureaucracy.

Third, that on recent evidence, the most expansive welfare states can crowd out what Christianity considers the most basic human goods — by lowering birthrates, discouraging private charity and restricting the church’s freedom to minister in subtle but increasingly consequential ways.

This Catholic case for limited government, however, is not a case for the Ayn Randian temptation inherent to a capitalism-friendly politics. There is no Catholic warrant for valorizing entrepreneurs at the expense of ordinary workers, or for dismissing all regulation as unnecessary and all redistribution as immoral.

And this is where Francis’s vision should matter to American Catholics who usually cast ballots for Republican politicians. The pope’s words shouldn’t inspire them to convert en masse to liberalism, or to worry that the throne of Peter has been seized by a Marxist anti-pope. But they should encourage a much greater integration of Catholic and conservative ideas than we’ve seen since “compassionate conservatism” collapsed, and inspire Catholics to ask more — often much more — of the Republican Party, on a range of policy issues.

Here my journalist friend’s “loyal opposition” line oversimplified the options for Catholic political engagement. His Catholic liberalism didn’t go into eclipse because it failed to let the Vatican dictate every jot and tittle of its social agenda. Rather, it lost influence because it failed to articulate any kind of clear Catholic difference, within the bigger liberal tent, on issues like abortion, sex and marriage.

Now the challenge for conservative Catholics is to do somewhat better in our turn, and to spend the Francis era not in opposition but seeking integration — meaning an economic vision that remains conservative, but in the details reminds the world that our Catholic faith comes first.



Posted on on November 18th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Journalist says:
Thank you for discussing this. Anybody that has been to New Haven can tell Woolsey Hall is open to whoever wish to get inside. I asked for information to the policeman and followed him when I was told to. I did not say I was a journalist, but did not hide my personal information. I gave him my passport, my address, my phone number. And I told him I was looking for Mr. Joaquim Barbosa and would wait for him outside the building. But I could not leave, because the policeman hold my passport and informed me I would be arrested. Video footage from the place can prove that what I am saying is true. My newspaper asked it to Yale Law School, but have not received a reply. 9/28/13 7:09pm


The University says:

A Brazilian reporter trying to interview Brazil’s Supreme Court President, Joaquim Barbosa, was arrested for trespassing after she allegedly entered a Yale Law School building on Thursday.

O Estado de S Paulo correspondent Claudia Trevisan claims the University was trying to keep quiet Barbosa’s participation in the 2013 Global Constitutionalism Seminar (one of the University’s “signature international programs“), and denied her request to attend, saying it was held in a private building.

Trevisan says she told Yale Law School communications director Janet Conroy that she would go anyway and wait for Barbosa on the sidewalk.

According to Trevisan, she eventually entered Woolsey Hall, a Yale concert hall, where tourists, students, and pedestrians were walking around, to find out if she was in the right place. She asked a Yale police officer if the seminar was in that building, and he apparently recognized her as a journalist and began questioning her. She says the officer also took her passport, detained her for an hour inside a police car, then handed her over to New Haven Police, where she was held in a cell for more than three hours.   Trevisan was reportedly able to report her arrest over the phone to a diplomat at the Brazilian embassy.

A second reporter for Folha de São Paulo, also there to talk to Barbosa, was apparently better received — a policeman escorted him outside of the building and warned him if he tried to enter again he would be arrested.

A spokesperson for Yale gave a statement to the Guardian, saying that Trevisan was dishonest with police.

“She came onto Yale property, entered the law school without permission, and proceeded to enter another building where the attendees of the seminar were meeting. When asked why she was in the building, she stated that she was looking for a friend she was supposed to meet. She was arrested for trespassing. The police followed normal procedures and Ms Trevisan was not mistreated in any way.

No one answered at the Yale Police Department communications line, but according to the Yale PD website, there was an arrest for trespassing outside Woolsey at 6:44 p.m. Trevisan says she arrived at Yale at 3:30 p.m.

Yale says that because the seminar was a private event closed to the public and the media, Trevisan was not permitted on Yale property. This raises an interesting question since Trevisan claims that the building was open to the general public — and that she was singled out as a journalist merely for entering to ask a cop if she was in the right place. Legally, she was probably fine on the sidewalk, while the building would probably be classified as a “limited public forum”. If other tourists and non-members of the seminar were permitted to ask the cop inside for help or directions, arresting Trevisan for engaging in the same behavior while being a journalist could be illegal.

Either way, the argument will probably never be heard — Yale says it does not intend to pursue the trespassing charges.

Wise Guys Say:

Their statement is irrelevant. If those buildings offered general unrestricted access to the general public, they’d have a hard time justifying just escorting her out, let alone arresting her. She doesn’t need special permission simply because she happens to be a reporter. 9/28/13 9:55pm

If you are in a place you aren’t supposed to be don’t   the authorities to ask. Ask someone that looks like a student not the cops.

Since she had previously contacted them to ask for credentials, I think it’s quite likely (especially if they had give so far as to let cops know who she was) that she was in fact not welcome. She probably would have been better off never having asked ahead of time.   9/28/13 8:12pm

Having said that, arresting, handcuffing and jailing a journalist under these circumstances is a ridiculous abuse of power. On the other hand, her stealth reporting skills need some honing.   9/28/13 8:45pm

If you *bought anything* in the State of São Paulo you´ve paid a sales tax, and 10% of this sales taxes goes directly to the State Universities, including the Universidade de São Paulo.

You – and everyone else – had the right to walk there.

Universidade de São Paulo is a public university, where there is no tuition fees and where even the food is subsidized by the taxpayer. 9/28/13 9:07pm

I was just at Yale recently and they didn’t bar me from entering this exact same space. 9/30/13 1:37am

If it helps, Woolsey Hall is part of a complex. The central building, which is what you enter from the street, houses the War Memorial. It has doors on both sides, and is commonly used as a thoroughfare between Bienecke Plaza (part of the Yale campus) and the public streets that lead to other parts of Yale’s campus.

Joaquim Barbosa, the Brazilian Supreme Court Justice, faces problems in his own country, and he did not wanted to talk with reporters. From what
I read in Portuguese and from what understand of US Law and American universities, Yale would not have requested the arrest of the journalists had Barbosa not request it.  (I hope that´s not some kind of exchange program for SC justices or something like that). 9/29/13 1:10am

Considering that The Guardian covered this story – this is saucy indeed and may fit the general view that US justice has dreated for itself overseas.


Posted on on November 16th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

I had recently the chance to speak with an advanced Brazilian and realized how important to Brazil the following article is!


Mismatch: why are human rights NGOs in emerging powers not emerging?

Nader ImageThere is a perverse see-saw effect in place within the BRICS countries. In Brazil, as the government grows in prominence and companies become more global and voracious, human rights NGOs face a sustainability crisis and find their budgets shrinking. Are these two developments connected?       PortuguêsEspañol 

Middle-income BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries are becoming more politically prominent, appearing on the covers of magazines and newspapers in the developed world, and being taken more seriously by the big investment banks.

This increasing clout is also reflected in international human rights arenas. In the marble corridors of the U.N. Human Rights Council, I often hear that it is now necessary to “have Brazil on board” to pass this or that resolution.

It would be healthy to expect that human rights NGOs in the BRICS are also gaining in strength. Surprisingly, this is not so. The mismatch between strong economic growth and fragile local human rights organizations is now very apparent in Brazil.

Historically dependent on both public and international funding, many Brazilian organizations now find themselves in a “funding vacuum,” an unanticipated victim of their country’s remarkable economic success. 

Consumers before citizens

Brazil has democratic institutions, reasonable economic growth and social policies that have enabled millions to rise above the poverty line and to begin consuming goods and services. Despite all this, citizens do not have access to basic human rights. Long-standing violations, such as the systematic torture of prisoners and displacement of indigenous groups to make way for hydroelectric dam construction, continue apace.

Anti-Belo Monte graffiti in Altamira, Brazil. Karen Hoffmann/Demotix. All rights Reserved.

A recent newspaper headline reported that people living in northeastern Brazil, the country’s poorest region, are buying washing machines even though they do not have running water, a basic human right and a state responsibility.

Alas, the consumer has come before the citizen, and Brazilian human rights organizations are at a critical juncture: They must continue their national struggle while at the same time consider internationalizing. This involves building closer relations with organizations from other countries, monitoring and influencing the foreign policy of the Brazilian state, and tracking the activities of Brazilian companies overseas. Most important, perhaps, Brazilian human rights NGOs must continue to help channel social demands into progressive advocacy and policies.  

But this is possible only with sustainable and predictable funding.

The funding crisis triad

Three factors contribute to the financial erosion of human-rights organizations in Brazil: dwindling international funds, inequitable public funds, and scant private funds.

Historically, human rights organizations in Brazil depended on international funding, particularly from bilateral cooperation agencies and development organizations linked to churches and political parties in the Northern Hemisphere. In the 1980s and ‘90s, experts claimed that some 80 percent of Brazilian human rights NGO budgets came from international funding – even if there is no reliable data to support this number.

Over the past decade, however, international assistance to Brazilian rights groups has suffered. After the global financial crisis of 2008 and Brazil’s graduation to middle-income status, at least 10 agencies withdrew their financial support, reformulated their priorities, or drastically reduced their allocations.

Other organizations began to focus on specific issues – especially the environment and agriculture – and concentrated their grants among a small group of organizations, or opted for partnerships with “more efficient” government organizations.

Today, experts estimate that between 40 percent and 50 percent of Brazilian human rights NGOs’ budgets come from international funding. Again, this number is debatable, but the downward trend is clear. Some agencies and foundations continue investing in Brazilian human rights groups, including the OAK Foundation, Sigrid Rausing Trust, the Canadian International Development Research Center, and the Open Society Foundations. Some also are investing in strengthening the ability of civil society in Southern countries to act internationally. Such, for example, is the aim of the Ford Foundation’s “Strengthen Human Rights Worldwide” initiative. Still, less international funds are available today for human rights work in Brazil.

Public funds in Brazil are also not a sustainable funding source. Today, less than 5 percent of the funds transferred by the Brazilian government to civil society are allocated to human-rights organizations. The rest goes to organizations that do social work or fill gaps in health, education, and the like. In addition, organizations that receive public funding are subject to extremely bureaucratic processes, and find it hard to maintain their independence and autonomy.

The situation would not be so difficult if Brazilian philanthropy had “emerged” at the same pace as the country’s international political and economic prominence. Brazilian companies invest $3-4 billion per year (U.S.) in social projects, but this is not enough, given the size of Brazil´s social problems. Furthermore, only 30 percent of this money is allocated to grant making for independent organizations. The rest is spent on corporate social responsibility projects run by the companies themselves. 

National philanthropy: a necessary (and long-term) commitment

The current weakness of the Brazilian international-public-private triad has led many local human rights organizations to rethink their fund-raising strategies and sustainability models.

Clearly, an increase in international funding would be welcome. This would have to involve not only an increase in dollars but also greater grant predictability and duration. One major challenge today is for international grant-makers to understand that when a Brazilian NGO wants to act legally and responsibly, its operating costs are much higher than they used to be. Legal fees, salaries, real estate, and other costs are rising in emerging economies, and are often even higher than in the global North.

There is no doubt that Brazilian private foundations could strengthen their support to human rights causes and organizations, as well as that public funds should be distributed more equitably and transparently to civil society organizations. The state must also boost its social investments, making sure that at least some of this new money finds its way to organizations that challenge the status quo, as human rights groups often do. This requires a review of the legal framework and an overhaul of the archaic practices that still govern state-society relations in Brazil. 

Brazilian citizens must also develop a more robust tradition of philanthropy. The country currently ranks 83rd among 147 countries listed in the World Giving Index, which uses Gallup polling data to measure national populations’ propensity to donate time and money to charitable activities and help strangers. To improve their country’s ranking, Brazilians must increase the amount they donate.

Human rights have a bad name

Many Brazilians see the country’s human-rights organizations as contributing to the high rates of murder and overall urban violence. The reasoning goes as follows: Brazil currently has around 50,000 murders per year – a number that exceeds the casualty counts in several international conflicts. By attempting to reduce police violence, prison overcrowding and torture, human-rights organizations are perceived as “protecting” impunity and generally contributing to societal fears and insecurities. Reversing this perception will be no easy task.

Human-rights organizations have several challenges ahead. They must redefine their funding priorities and improve their fund-raising operations, and they must become better communicators about the positive impact of their work.

National fund-raising must become a pillar of organizational development, integral to human-rights groups’ strategic planning. It’s essential to rethink fund-raising “know-how” – beyond such initiatives as crowd-funding and other new tools. New fund-raising capacities are vital, especially with regard to the Brazilian economic elite. There is no magic bullet: Human rights groups need money to restructure and learn how to raise more money locally. Sadly, it’s hard to focus on growing an organization’s fund-raising capacities in an era of austerity, where most available funds are tied to specific projects.

All this should be accompanied by innovation and investment in new communications strategies. Human-rights organizations must move from the defensive to the offensive, and focus on winning over more allies to the cause. This is not impossible: After all, younger generations seem to be looking for a cause as shown in the massive street protests that recently took over Brazilian streets.

There is one more challenge, and it’s about building mutual trust. The lack of national private funding for human-rights organizations, in a format that maintains their autonomy and independence, severely impedes their ability to be “anchored” in their own societies. They need not only financial support but also domestic constituencies. Human rights organizations must emerge not only from the funding vacuum, but also from a vacuum of public trust and political support.


Conectas receives funds from some of the foundations cited in this article.


Posted on on November 11th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (



Trophy touches down in Israel and Palestine Sunday 10 November 2013
Trophy touches down in Israel and Palestine

© Getty Images

The FIFA World Cup Trophy has been steadily making its way around the globe through the planned 90 countries, and having just completed its Caribbean tour, it has now landed in the Middle East for the first time.

Bringing the joy of football to the region, FIFA together with Coca-Cola have brought the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour to Israel and Palestine for two days, before heading off to Jordan. Accompanying the trophy for this trip is special guest, former FIFA World Cup™ participant and Argentina national team player and coach Gabriel Calderon. He will be with the trophy through all the local activities that the tour is planning for the coming two stops, where kids from schools, universities and local football clubs will have the opportunity to experience the magic of most powerful symbol in world football.

“I think it’s extremely important that every child gets the same opportunities to enjoy the world’s game. Playing regularly when I was young is what shaped me into the player I turned out to be,” Gabriel said as he arrived in Israel for his first stop. “I am extremely honoured that I have been asked to be part of the tour, and especially to visit this historical region, as it is a cause I truly believe in, and I am happy to play my part.” added the former Argentina star.

Joining Gabriel on the tour in Palestine and Jordan is FIFA Vice President Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein who is very excited to be welcoming the trophy to his home for the first time.

I think it’s extremely important that every child gets the same opportunities to enjoy the world’s game.
Gabriel Calderon, former Argentina midfielder and coach

The situation in the Middle East has prompted a mandate to be received by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter during the 63rd FIFA Congress. This mandate was brought about by several years of conflict and unrest, making it challenging to improve and develop the game, and as part of FIFA’s statutes to develop the game. The President took this matter to heart to ensure that everyone has equal access and opportunities to play football, and the tour is another sign of the commitment which FIFA and its Partners have outlined to develop the sport in the Middle East.

A special FIFA Task Force, chaired by the FIFA President, was created with the aim to help improve the situation of football in Palestine and Israel, more specifically to analyse different bilateral matters including facilitating the movement of players, referees and equipment in and out of and within Palestine. The ultimate objective is to improve the situation of football in the region, particularly so that FIFA can implement its mission of developing and promoting the game in accordance with the FIFA Statutes.

As a result of the historical meeting, the football associations of Israel and Palestine will implement a mechanism under the umbrella of FIFA that will facilitate the movement of persons and goods. This mechanism includes the modalities and notification requirements as well as the appointment of liaison officers within each association. A meeting will be held under the auspices of FIFA within four months to assess the level of cooperation, with a view to signing a memorandum of understanding at the 2014 FIFA Congress.

To find out more about the stops, the stars and the trophy, visit the official trophy tour’s Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter.

FOLLOWING THE 2014 SERIES IN BRAZIL – the home of World Soccer...

Those that qualified for the 2014 games are:

Iran is thus the only Middle East State (or World Cup team – this being different as England is a player rather then the UK) to participate in Brazil.  Israel had to play in the European preliminaries as it is impossible to match it with an Arab State.



Posted on on October 5th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Looking backwards – we find the following Al-Jezeera Guide to Delegates to this year’s UN General Assembly pretty accurate.

The Al-Jezeera UN watch: Four names to keep tabs on at the general assembly.

The 68th United Nations General Assembly kicked off as what United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon described one of the highest turnouts in UN history. This Tuesday the United Nations General Assembly debate will begin with issues paramount to international security and peace. The Security Council, made up of five permanent members–US, Britain, France, Russia and China–will continue their meetings this week. Key matters being discussed include the Syria crisis and Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The meeting will begin with a statement from Ban Ki-Moon followed by remarks from the President of the 68th Session of the UNGA, John Ashe.

With over 130 representatives and leaders to attend the UNGA this year, Al Jazeera America profiles four world leaders to watch as the General Assembly and Security Council debates unfold.



Dilma Rousseff

Brazilian President Rousseff to speak first opening the UNGA general debate Tuesday
Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images

Country: Brazil

Title: President

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff is scheduled to open the 68th United Nations General Assembly debate on Tuesday. Her attendance coincides with mounting tension between her country and the United States, after it was revealed that the U.S. had spied on her personal communications and those of other Brazilian citizens. Last week, Rousseff called off a planned state visit to Washington, and she may use her speech to criticize the U.S.’ global intelligence gathering. On the other hand, Rousseff could completely ignore Obama for lack of a formal apology for or response to investigations into the U.S. spying in Brazil. She faced the most dramatic challenge of her presidency this past summer amid massive social protests that erupted nationwide, focused on bus-fare increases but also challenging government corruption. Her U.N. speech offers her an opportunity to move beyond a tough domestic political environment and assert Brazilian interests and leadership on the global stage.

Rousseff, who began her career as a civil servant, and was arrested and tortured as a leftist guerilla fighter in the 1960s, became the first woman president of Brazil when she took office in 2011. The challenges Rousseff has faced lend credence to the reputation she has earned as Brazil’s ‘iron lady,’ characterized by her hard-hitting politics and assertive manner. In the past, she has held influential positions in municipal and state governments, eventually serving former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as chief of staff. In that position, Rousseff worked closely with oil giant Petrobras and helped draft a legislative framework for offshore drilling.

In 2011, just months after taking office, Rousseff became the first woman to open the debate at the 66th U.N. General Assembly. This year, Forbes named her the second most powerful woman in the world – behind German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Hassan Rouhani

Iranian President Rouhani and President Obama anticipated to meet this week in New York

Country: Iran

Title: President

Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s newly-elected president, succeeded firebrand President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was known for his combative rhetoric and grandstanding hostility towards the West. Unlike the former president, Rouhani has adopted a more conciliatory posture towards the international community. Since entering office, he has made several diplomatic gestures, including an op-ed published in the The Washington Post asking world leaders “to respond genuinely to my government’s efforts to engage in constructive dialogue.”

Rouhani will address the assembly on Tuesday, but all eyes are on what he does on the sidelines of the event – specifically, whether he meets with President Barack Obama. They recently exchanged letters, igniting speculation that the two leaders will meet at the General Assembly. The meeting would be the first between a U.S. and Iranian president in more than 30 years, signaling a desire on both sides to find a diplomatic solution to the protracted standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.

The Glasgow-educated Rouhani’s experience working in Iran’s National Security Council and the backing for his diplomatic outreach by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, could be useful in continuing a diplomatic approach.

Viewed as a moderate, Rouhani began his career as a revolutionary activist before the 1979 overthrow of the Shah, and after the founding of the Islamic Republic took key roles in the Political, Defense, and Security Committee of the Expediency Council. He also served as a nuclear negotiator as the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council for 16 years before assuming the presidency.

John Ashe

Ashe will play crucial role in sustainable development and Millennium Development Goals this session
Getty Images

Country: Antigua and Barbuda

Title: President, 68th United Nations General Assembly

The president of the 68th  United Nations General Assembly, John Ashe hails from the tiny Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. But while his country may not wield much international influence, Ashe takes on the responsibility of pressing the power players at the international body to focus on the pressing concerns of the majority of its members – most importantly, addressing climate change.

Ashe has been at the forefront of international efforts to address environmental challenges, and has made it an objective to push Goal 7, to ensure environmental sustainability on the Millennium Development Goals road map for the session this year.

The Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said Ashe will lead one of the most important assemblies to push forward MDG’s and sustainability with confidence. “He shares my passion for sustainable development — and my concern about the problem of climate change,” Ban said. “He demonstrated his commitment by serving on the governing bodies of major U.N. environmental agreements.”

Ashe’s efforts this year could help promote MDG’s sustainability goals in partnership  with the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, considered one of the largest in the history of the United Nations. In addition, his efforts this year could influence next year’s UN Conference on Small Island Developing States, set forth by a UNGA resolution to address key environmental concerns affecting island nations.

Ashe has served in many roles chiefly as a United Nations diplomat. Previously, he served as the Chairman of the 13th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development at the United Nations in 2005 and chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol.

Sergei Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov will play crucial role in the Security Council meetings over the crisis in Syria
Getty Images

Country: Russia

Title: Foreign Minister

Russian foreign minister Lavrov began serving in the Soviet foreign ministry in 1973, a year after graduating Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He has held positions for the Soviet mission to the United Nations in New York City in 1981 and since then, has continued to play an instrumental part in both the foreign ministry and Russia Permanent Mission for the past 30 years. Lavrov has functioned as the president of the Security Council seven times throughout his diplomatic career. His experience within the Security Council, Russia’s close relationship with Syria and its position as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council made Lavrov a key player in the Syria crisis, brokering the chemical-weapons deal that has, at least for now, avoided U.S. military action against the Assad regime.

The deal, however, remains fragile. On Saturday, Syria disclosed details of chemical weapons to meet the deadline Russia and the U.S. had set, but Moscow and Washington continue to struggle over whether force should be threatened if Syria fails to keep its obligations.

Lavrov has publicly stated on many occasions that Russia would veto any resolution approving the use of force in case of Syrian violations. Kerry is in strong support of a resolution for military reinforcement should Syria violate its compliance to destroy chemical weapons. The resolution would fall under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which allows the international body to approve military action. The five permanent members of the Security Council – Russia, United States, China, United Kingdom and France – will meet this week.