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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 19th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

OPINION | Op-Ed Contributor to the New York Times, December 18, 2014

Coal, an Outlaw Enterprise

By ROBERT F. KENNEDY Jr.

The outsize influence and campaign donations of King Coal subvert democracy in Appalachia.
 www.nytimes.com/2014/12/18/opinio…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 19th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Obama Finally Acts Like a Nobel Laureate.

By Scott Galindez, Reader Supported News

18 December 2014

Normalizing relations with Cuba was an act worthy of consideration for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The diplomatic thaw can lead to more peace and justice if it is the first step. The most important move that can be made would be to lift the cruel and unjust embargo against Cuba. For over 50 years the embargo has made a poor country poorer.

The failed policy has not weakened the Castro Government, instead it has exacerbated poverty in what was one of the most vibrant economies prior to the Cuban Revolution.

According to the Smithsonian: “By the late ’50s, U.S. financial interests included 90 percent of Cuban mines, 80 percent of its public utilities, 50 percent of its railways, 40 percent of its sugar production and 25 percent of its bank deposits – some $1 billion in total. American influence extended into the cultural realm, as well. Cubans grew accustomed to the luxuries of American life. They drove American cars, owned TVs, watched Hollywood movies and shopped at Woolworth’s department store. The youth listened to rock and roll, learned English in school, adopted American baseball and sported American fashions.”

For the Cuban elite and American investors all was great. But for many in Cuba, the resources were concentrated in the hands of an elite class that was enjoying life with their partners, the American Robber Barons. The inequality led to the Cuban Revolution. When the Batista regime fell and American-owned resources were nationalized by Castro, the capitalists in Washington decided that they would do all they could to make sure the revolution failed.

The Cuba policy reminds me of the Republican strategy for dealing with Barack Obama’s presidency. They did everything they could to make sure more Americans would suffer and blame the President for their pain.

The US embargo on Cuba was designed to inflict pain on the Cuban people and force them into regime change.

Regime change never came. Some would argue that the embargo helped Fidel Castro unite the Cuban people against the “real” boogeyman in Washington.

President Obama, while not fully lifting the embargo, did make some moves that will increase commerce between the two nations. While these actions should be applauded, we must be vigilant. A return to the day when Cuba’s economy is dominated by US corporations is not what the Cuban people need. Exploitation is not the answer, but if you listen to Obama’s cabinet it may be exactly what they seek.

In a statement released by the State Department, Secretary of State John Kerry said: “This new course will not be without challenges, but it is based not on a leap of faith but on a conviction that it’s the best way to help bring freedom and opportunity to the Cuban people, and to promote America’s national security interests in the Americas, including greater regional stability and economic opportunities for American businesses.”

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said: “These historic actions by the President chart a new course for our country’s relationship with Cuba and its people. It will improve the lives of millions and will help spur long overdue economic and political reform across the country. Expanding economic engagement between the Cuban people and the American business community will be a powerful catalyst that will strengthen human rights and the rule of law.”

So buyer beware, while increased economic activity between the United States and Cuba could be a good thing, we must make sure it does’t lead to more exploitation by Cuba’s powerful neighbor.

President Obama said in Cuba yesterday: “There’s a complicated history between the United States and Cuba. I was born in 1961 – just over two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, and just a few months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, which tried to overthrow his regime. Over the next several decades, the relationship between our countries played out against the backdrop of the Cold War, and America’s steadfast opposition to communism. We are separated by just over 90 miles. But year after year, an ideological and economic barrier hardened between our two countries.”

Those differences have hardened for many Cuban Americans, but at the same time younger Cubans living in the United States support the president’s actions. They are the future, voices of hope and reconciliation. Let’s not listen to the voices of the past, being amplified by politicians like Marco Rubio who I am convinced express the view of an ideological fraction of the Cuban American community that will soon become the minority.

If we follow the direction the Obama administration is taking on Cuba, one day liberal Cuban politicians will start prevailing in South Florida and extremists like Marco Rubio will be out of office.

In a statement on Cuban television, Raul Castro called on President Obama to lift the embargo through executive action. Many are saying it will require an act of Congress. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait on the “just say no” Congress – since this policy was initiated by Obama, we know they will do everything they can to reverse it.

The Cuban and American people are pawns in the GOP’s political strategy. They will continue to do everything they can to make sure the Cuban and American people suffer, in hopes that they will blame the Castros and Obama. Let’s instead support the president’s Cuban policy and point the finger at the cruel politics of the Republican Party.

Scott Galindez was formerly the co-founder of Truthout.

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

Republicans were quick on Wednesday to accuse President Obama of appeasing our nation’s adversaries and showing weakness.

“First Russia, then Iran, now Cuba: One More Very Bad Deal Brokered by the Obama Administration,” blared the subject line of a release from Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Tex.) office.

“Unfortunately, this is yet another example of this administration continuing to show the rest of the world and dangerous leaders like those in Iran and North Korea that the United States is willing to appease them,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said.

“It is par for the course with an administration that is constantly giving away unilateral concessions, whether it’s Iran or in this case Cuba, in exchange for nothing, and that’s what’s happening here,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on Fox News.

But there’s one very important way in which Cuba differs from all of these other bad actors on the world stage. And it’s this: Americans aren’t scared of Cuba — like barely even a little bit.

Despite Cuba’s proximity to the United States (about 90 miles from Florida) and its alliance with other antagonistic countries like North Korea and Russia, Americans have grown progressively less and less concerned that the island country actually poses a threat to the United States.

A CNN/Opinion Research poll earlier this year, in fact, showed that just 5 percent of people viewed Cuba as a “very serious threat” and 21 percent said it was a “moderately serious threat.” Another 72 percent said it wasn’t a threat at all or “just a slight threat.”

Back in 1983, two-thirds of Americans viewed Cuba as at least a “moderately serious threat,” but that numbers has fallen steadily since then.

In addition, Cuba today simply can’t be compared to the likes of Iran, Russia, North Korea and the others as far as the threat it poses. Seven in 10 Americans say each of those countries poses at a least a “moderately serious threat,” compared to 26 percent for Cuba.

As President Obama makes his case that normalizing relations with Cuba is a good idea, this is a major factor working in his favor. As long as Americans aren’t afraid of Cuba, they will likely be more accepting of a diplomatic relationship.

It’s no coincidence, after all, that the sharp decrease in fear of Cuba has coincided with a sharp rise in support for diplomacy.

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


Obama secures Latin legacy

World leaders have welcomed a historic move by the US to end more than 50 years of hostility towards Cuba and restore diplomatic relations.

Pope Francis joined leaders from Latin America and Europe in praising the “historic” deal which saw the release of prisoners from both countries.


US-Cuba relations: Global praise for normalization of ties.

The BBC News, December 18, 2014
 www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-amer…

————————

Op-Ed Columnist – The New York Times, December 18, 2014
Welcome Back, Cuba!
By NICHOLAS KRISTOF

Sending in gunmen to liberate the Bay of Pigs failed, but perhaps we’ll do better with diplomats, tourists and investors.

Op-Ed Contributor – The New York Times, December 18, 2014
Hectoring Venezuela on Human Rights
By DIOSDADO CABELLO

Instead of punishing my country, the U.S. should check its own record.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 19th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency – for what it is worth this December (2014)

News Brief: Iran unveils monument to Iran-Iraq War Jewish ‘martyrs’
December 18, 2014 5:40pm

(JTA) — Iran unveiled a monument to Jews who died during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.

IRNA, the official Iranian news agency posted photos of the ceremony Monday, headlined “Monument to Jewish Martyrs Unveiled in Tehran.”

The page was captioned, “Iran on Monday unveiled a monument to the Jewish citizens who lost their lives in the 8-year Iraqi imposed war on Iran.”

The monument, a gold colored slab with inscriptions in Persian and topped by an artistic representation of the Hebrew phrase, “Peace Forever,” appears to be set in a Jewish cemetery.

Another slab bears a tiled depiction of a gold seven-stemmed Menorah set against a royal blue background.

There also are photos of officials speaking at a podium next to a large seven-stemmed Menorah, and of Jews praying and paying respects at tombstones in the cemetery.

The Iranian parliament’s vice-speaker, Mohammad Hassan Aboutorabi-Fard, praised the relationship between the government and Iran’s Jewish community during an address at the ceremony.

“The explicit stances of the Jewish community in supporting the Islamic Republic’s establishment and their obedience to the Supreme Leader of the (Islamic) Revolution demonstrate the bonds originating from the teachings of the divine religions,” he said, the Tasnim news agency reported.

He also praised the Jewish community for its condemnation of U.S. demands on Iran, Israeli actions visa vis the Palestinians, and the “violent and inhumane” behavior of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Read more: www.jta.org/2014/12/18/news-opini…

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

NEW YORK TODAY: GOODBYE TO FRACKING!
The New York Times – December 18, 2014

When Governor Cuomo announced Wednesday that he would ban hydraulic fracking, an unusual thing happened outside his office in Midtown Manhattan. A party!

The block, often the site of protests and calls for change, saw environmental advocates rolling their signs into hats and dancing, said The Times’s photographer Chang W. Lee, who shot the celebration.

“It lasted about 35 minutes,” he said. “They were chanting, ‘We made it happen!’”

The question of allowing fracking upstate, a process involving injecting water, sand and chemicals underground to release oil and natural gas, became one of the most heated debates the state had seen in years.

In opposing it, Governor Cuomo cited a long-awaited health study that showed that fracking posed significant risks.

“Everyone was really happy and dancing and thanking the governor and thanking each other,” Mr. Lee said.

As the party was breaking up, a limo pulled up and the governor got out to a hero’s welcome.

“He started talking to everyone, kissing the girls,” said Leslie Roeder, an advocate with New Yorkers Against Fracking.
“It was very endearing.”

On a video posted to Youtube, Mr. Cuomo accepted a “Thank you, Gov. Cuomo” sign from the activists and told them, “You really did a great job of making your voice heard.”

“That’s what democracy is all about,” he continued. “I actually enjoyed seeing it in action — I know it didn’t always seem that way.”

—————————————————————————————


Election over and economy improved, Andrew Cuomo kicks fracking to the curb.

By Philip Bump, for THE FIX, The Washington Post, December 17, 2014

New York state’s acting health commissioner, Howard Zucker, released a report Wednesday that settled one of the most contentious political fights in the state. At some point early next year, New York will ban hydraulic fracturing — better known as “fracking” — because a review conducted by Zucker found “significant uncertainties about the kinds of adverse health outcomes” possible from the practice.

It’s far more likely that the real reason the ban will go into effect is that the politics changed dramatically for Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). First, the state’s employment picture changed. And, second, he doesn’t need to worry about reelection for a long time — if at all.

Cuomo has avoided making a final decision on whether or not to allow fracking since he came into office. The Post’s Reid Wilson outlines the years-long machinations leading up to the decision. Cuomo, who is a master of working bureaucracy, repeatedly demanded analyses of possible health outcomes like that released this week. Now he stands behind the final product.

NY1 quotes the governor in response to Zucker’s announcement:

“It can create jobs. The negative is it’s dangerous and depending on which side of the table you’re on, that’s the argument. Obviously everybody is in favor of creating jobs, obviously everyone is against creating a dangerous public health or environment situation,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo insists that politics wasn’t involved. But that statement, to some extent, tips his hand.

In 2012, the New York Times reported that Cuomo would allow fracking in the state’s southernmost counties. That area has the strongest overlap with the rock formations in which fracking takes place: brittle shale, which is broken apart to release gas and oil. The Marcellus shale formation extends up from West Virginia into southern and central New York. Cuomo was reportedly considering letting companies drill only in part of it.


Why part? Almost certainly because the area was hard-hit economically. Upstate New York (here defined as “north of New York City”) has been struggling for years as the national economy has shifted, and after the recession, that got worse. Counties along the state’s southern border are not only more politically conservative (generally favoring Mitt Romney in 2012 and, therefore, more amenable to oil exploration), but they also needed jobs.

But even in western New York, there was contention. The Finger Lakes region, a bit further north, depends heavily on tourism. In 2012, I spoke with the Chamber of Commerce in Penn Yan, N.Y., at the tip of Keuka Lake, to gauge how the business community felt about the possibility of fracking. A representative said they were split: businesses that depended on tourism were worried about pollution in the lake, other businesses supported the possibility of job growth (which is very real; three cities in North Dakota were among the fastest-growing in the country in 2013, thanks to the boom in the Bakken shale formation in that state).

That was 2012. Over the past year, unemployment rates in the state have fallen, just as they have broadly across the country. Where the Finger Lakes were peppered with pro- and anti-fracking signs two years ago, this year, the signs dealt more often with Cuomo’s also-contentious gun control bill. While a lot of people upstate are still out of work, the urgency has faded a bit.

Also over the past year, Cuomo won reelection — handily, but not in a massive landslide. He took great pains in both the Democratic primary and general election to ensure as smooth a path as possible. If you believe that Cuomo didn’t defer a decision on fracking in part due to concerns about his campaign, you are less of a cynic than me.

In the end, Cuomo kicked the decision downstairs, leaving it up to the experts to decide. They decided against, certainly with Cuomo’s blessing. He’s not out of the woods politically; the economy could head south once again, so to speak.

But for now, Cuomo can at long last wash his hands of the issue — in pure, unpolluted Finger Lakes water.

———————–
Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He is based in New York City.

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

Launch of the ‘Open Geospatial Data for Energy Access’ Survey

from: Yann Loic Tanvez  ytanvez at worldbank.org

OPEN GEOSPATIAL DATA FOR ENERGY ACCESS

Phase 1 / Survey: Understanding the Practitioners’ Needs

Access the survey by clicking on the following link: goo.gl/forms/OY1bE5vFE6

Access to quality information and data is crucial for the need assessment, planning and monitoring of basic services delivery in developing countries. In the energy sector, and specifically in the context of providing energy access to currently un- or under-served populations, the use of ground level geospatial data for strategic planning at both national and project levels remains in an early stage. Yet, interest and uses have increased in recent years as public and private sector stakeholders intend to prioritize, rationalize and accelerate centralized and decentralized energy infrastructure-related investments.

The World Bank Group and the European Space Agency are joining forces in a pilot initiative capitalizing on existing ground level geospatial data and collecting missing information via satellite Earth Observation. Starting from the requirements of energy access practitioners, this collaboration seeks to identify relevant datasets, demonstrate their potential and formulate best practices for their use in energy access related projects.

The first phase of this pilot initiative is the following survey that aims to identify the various geospatial datasets required by the different stakeholders across the energy access value chain. The findings of this survey will be made available to the wider community through a short publication. Phase 2 will provide identified datasets on a demonstration basis in two selected countries, to assess their utility and test the project rationale in real-world investment scenarios.

We are grateful for your time in completing this survey. The information you provide below will inform the broader energy access agenda, as well as the World Bank Group team leading this initiative by ensuring it effectively responds to the data needs of the various energy access practitioners.

For any further information, or for discussing a deeper engagement with this initiative, please do not hesitate to contact M. Yann Tanvez at  ytanvez at worldbank.org.

This activity is part of the WBG initiative “Incubating Innovation for Rural Electrification”. Further information, knowledge resources, as well as recordings and materials from previous events are available on the initiative’s online collaborative platform. The platform is accessible at collaboration.worldbank.org/grou….

If you would like to join the energy-l at IISD Mailing Lists

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


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

Breaking News from CNN December 17, 2014:

President Barack Obama announced plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba and ease economic restrictions, a shift he called the end of an “outdated approach” that “for decades has failed to advance our interests.”

Speaking from his own country, Cuban President Raul Castro lauded the move: “This expression by President Barack Obama deserves the respect and recognition by all the people, and I want to thank and recognize support from the Vatican.”

and then: President Barack Obama announced plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba and ease economic restrictions, a shift he called the end of an “outdated approach” that “for decades has failed to advance our interests.”

Speaking from his own country, Cuban President Raul Castro lauded the move: “This expression by President Barack Obama deserves the respect and recognition by all the people, and I want to thank and recognize support from the Vatican.”

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida was harshly critical of the move: “By conceding to the oppressors, this President and this administration have let the people of Cuba down.”

KUDOS FROM ALL OVER LATIN AMERICA THAT LONG AGO HAS ESTABLISHED RELATIONS WITH CUBA.
FROM OUR ANGLE – BACK TO THE 1970s WE ARGUED THE US CAN LEARN FROM CUBA ABOUT HOW TO DECREASE DEPENDENCE ON OIL IMPORTS.
THIS AFTER LEARNING IN !978 ABOUT THEIR USE OF BIOMASS AT A UNIDO MEETING IN VIENNA, AND THEN OUR ATTEMPT TO INVITE THEM TO MAKE A PRESENTATION AT The first InterAmerican Conference on Renewable Sources of Energy, New Orleans, Louisiana, November 25-29, 1979 that I had the honor to organize for the Cordell Hull Foundation for International Education BUT WAS TURNED DOWN BY THE US DEPARTMENT OF STATE THAT WAS NOT READY TO ALLOW VISAS FOR THE CUBAN SCIENTISTS. I made sure nevertheless that the conference knows that when you have no trees to cut down you can make paper from sugarcane bagasse.

Louisiana, Cordell Hull Foundation for International Education
The Conference, 1980 – Science – 302 pages

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

From the U.S. Section of The New York Times:

Even Before Long Winter Begins, Energy Bills Send Shivers in New England – we add to this – just think of their opposition to ocean-located wind-power. Oh well – it is easy to blame others!

By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE – Weekend December 13, 2014

Starts with Photo of Patricia Richardson, 78, a retiree in Salem, N.H., who has taken energy-saving measures and said she could not understand why her bills had still increased. Credit Charlie Mahoney for The New York Times.

Then reporting from SALEM, N.H. — John York, who owns a small printing business here, nearly fell out of his chair the other day when he opened his electric bill.

For October, he had paid $376. For November, with virtually no change in his volume of work and without having turned up the thermostat in his two-room shop, his bill came to $788, a staggering increase of 110 percent. “This is insane,” he said, shaking his head. “We can’t go on like this.”

For months, utility companies across New England have been warning customers to expect sharp price increases, for which the companies blame the continuing shortage of pipeline capacity to bring natural gas to the region.

Now that the higher bills are starting to arrive, many stunned customers are finding the sticker shock much worse than they imagined. Mr. York said he would have to reduce his hours, avoid hiring any new employees, cut other expenses and ultimately pass the cost on to his customers.

Like turning back the clocks and putting on snow tires, bracing for high energy bills has become an annual rite of the season in New England. Because the region’s six states — Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont — have an integrated electrical grid, they all share the misery.

These latest increases are salt in the wound. New England already pays the highest electricity rates of any region in the 48 contiguous states because it has no fossil fuels of its own and has to import all of its oil, gas and coal. In September, residential customers in New England paid an average retail price of 17.67 cents per kilowatt-hour; the national average was 12.94 cents.

Beyond that, the increases confound common sense, given that global oil prices have dropped to their lowest levels in years, and natural gas is cheap and plentiful from the vast underground shale reserves in nearby Pennsylvania.

But the benefits are not being felt here. Connecticut’s rate of 19.74 cents per kilowatt-hour for September was the highest in the continental United States and twice that of energy-rich states like West Virginia and Louisiana. The lowest rate, 8.95 cents, was in Washington State, where the Columbia River is the nation’s largest producer of hydropower.

For the coming winter, National Grid, the largest utility in Massachusetts, expects prices to rise to 24.24 cents, a record high. The average customer will pay $121.20 a month, a 37 percent increase from $88.25 last winter.
Photo
John York, a small-business owner in Salem, paid 110 percent more for electricity in November than he had in October. Credit Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist for The New York Times

The utilities argue that they are hamstrung unless they can increase the pipeline capacity for natural gas, which powers more than half of New England. That would not only lower costs for consumers, they say, but also create thousands of construction jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue.

The region has five pipeline systems now. Seven new projects have been proposed. But several of them — including a major gas pipeline through western Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, and a transmission line in New Hampshire carrying hydropower from Quebec — have stalled because of ferocious opposition.

The concerns go beyond fears about blighting the countryside and losing property to eminent domain. Environmentalists say it makes no sense to perpetuate the region’s dependence on fossil fuels while it is trying to mitigate the effects of climate change, and many do not want to support the gas-extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that has made the cheap gas from Pennsylvania available.

Consumers have been left in the middle, as baffled as they are angry. Utilities across the region are holding workshops and town meetings to try to address their concerns and offer tips on energy conservation. About 100 people showed up this month for a meeting at Salem High School here that included a presentation by Liberty Utilities, the largest natural gas distributor in New Hampshire.

John Shore, a company spokesman, told the audience that in times of peak demand, the available natural gas went first to residential and business customers. Some power plants that normally rely on gas then turn to more expensive fuels like oil, although not all plants have the ability to switch fuels. In some cases, electric generating plants go offline, and more expensive generators are used to make up the capacity.

Prices are also up this winter because they are based in part on last winter’s high prices. Arctic blasts from the polar vortex drove up the cost of wholesale power in New England to $5.05 billion for the three months from December 2013 through February 2014 alone — almost the same as the cost for the entire year of 2012.

Patricia Richardson, 78, a Salem retiree in the audience, said she had already had an energy audit on her 100-year-old house, installed triple-pane thermal windows, bought a new boiler, had insulation blown in and put weather stripping around leaks. She could not understand why her bill had still increased, even after pressing Mr. Shore.

Ms. Richardson said after the meeting that his explanation had been confusing. “I wanted to know in my heart that he was giving it to me square,” she said. “But I didn’t get that feeling.”
Photo
Marie Morris at a meeting at Salem High School held by Liberty Utilities, the largest natural gas distributor in New Hampshire. Credit Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist for The New York Times

Many utilities provide rebates when customers buy high-efficiency appliances, and offer free energy audits, savings plans and guidance on limiting energy use. Government programs and nonprofit organizations are stretching to help those who cannot pay the utility bills necessary to make it through this cold, dark season.

But even if these stopgap measures help some households in the short term, the outlook for the long term appears gloomy.

A year ago, the governors of the six New England states agreed to pursue a coordinated regional strategy, including more pipelines and at least one major transmission line for hydropower. The plan called for electricity customers in all six states to subsidize the projects, on the theory that they would make up that money in lower utility bills.

But in August, the Massachusetts Legislature rejected the plan, saying in part that cheap energy would flood the market and thwart attempts to advance wind and solar projects. That halted the whole effort.

“The impasse just kicks the can down the road, and I see no reason why this dynamic isn’t going to be repeated during the heating season for years to come,” said John Howat, a senior policy analyst at the National Consumer Law Center, a Boston-based nonprofit advocacy group for low-income residents.

“I think we need to be more aggressive in pursuing renewables and energy efficiency,” Mr. Howat said. “But I doubt we can implement those solutions quickly enough and at a sufficient scale to relieve the economic burden in the short term on those 30 percent of households that don’t have sufficient income to pay these bills.”

The problem may be getting worse, not only because of pipeline constraints but because old coal and oil power plants are being retired. The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, which supplies nearly one-third of Vermont’s electricity, is also scheduled to go offline this month.

ISO New England, the independent system operator that oversees the region’s energy market, said it expected there to be “sufficient resources” this winter to meet demand. But in a November assessment, it called the pipeline constraints severe and said the reliability of the system would “continue to be threatened” until the region expanded its pipeline capacity or invested in other energy sources.

Figuring out how much new pipeline might be enough is not an easy calculation. Massachusetts, for one, is analyzing its needs now for a report due at the end of the month. It is a complex process, said Mark Sylvia, the state’s undersecretary for energy, because it must take into account the state’s desires to avoid dependence on one type of fuel, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure reliability “so the lights stay on.”

———————
A version of this article appears in print on December 14, 2014, on page A22 of the New York edition with the headline: Even Before Long Winter Begins, Energy Bills Send Shivers in New England.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 10th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


With Compromises, a Global Accord to Fight Climate Change Is in Sight.

By CORAL DAVENPORT, The New York Times World, December 9, 2014

LIMA, Peru — Diplomats from 196 countries are closing in on the framework of a potentially historic deal that would for the first time commit every nation in the world to cutting its planet-warming fossil fuel emissions — but would still not be enough to stop the early impacts of global warming.

The draft, now circulating among negotiators at a global climate summit meeting here, represents a fundamental breakthrough in the impasse that has plagued the United Nations for two decades as it has tried to forge a new treaty to counter global warming.

But the key to the political success of the draft — and its main shortcoming, negotiators concede — is that it does not bind nations to a single, global benchmark for emissions reductions.

Instead, the draft puts forward lower, more achievable, policy goals. Under the terms of the draft, every country will publicly commit to enacting its own plans to reduce emissions — with governments choosing their own targets, guided by their domestic politics, rather than by the amounts that scientists say are necessary.

The idea is to reach a global deal to be signed by world leaders in Paris next year, incorporating 196 separate emissions pledges.

“It’s a breakthrough, because it gives meaning to the idea that every country will make cuts,” said Yvo de Boer, the former executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change.


“But the great hopes for the process are also gone,” he added. “Many people are resigned,” he said, to the likelihood that even a historic new deal would not reduce greenhouse gas levels enough to keep the planet’s atmospheric temperature from rising 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

That is the point at which, scientists say, it will become impossible to avoid the dangerous and costly early effects of climate change — such as melting glaciers, rising sea levels, extreme drought, food shortages and more violent storms.

The Lima draft represents the input of all the negotiating countries, though there are still several major hurdles to work out. But even then, experts say, at best the new deal might be enough only to curb global warming by about half as much as scientists say is necessary.

Until recently, the United States and China, the world’s two largest greenhouse gas polluters, have been at the center of the impasse over a climate deal.

Until this year, the United States had never arrived at the United Nations’ annual climate negotiations with a domestic policy to cut its own carbon emissions. Instead, it merely demanded that other nations cut their use of coal and gasoline, while promising that it would do so in the future.

China, meanwhile, was the lead voice among nations demanding that developing economies should not be required to commit to any cuts.

But in November, President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China announced plans to reduce emissions, helping inject new life into the global climate talks.

Negotiators here call the joint announcement between China and the United States the catalyst for the new draft, which, if approved at the climate summit meeting this week, would set the stage for a final deal to be signed by world leaders next year in Paris.

In the United Nations’ first effort to enact a climate change treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the legally binding language of the agreement prescribed that the world’s largest economies make ambitious, specific emissions cuts — but it exempted developing nations. The United States Senate refused to ratify the treaty, effectively leaving it a failure.

The Lima draft does not include Kyoto-style, top-down mandates that countries cut emissions by specific levels. Instead, it includes provisions requiring that all nations, rich and poor, commit to policies to mitigate their emissions. Countries that sign on to the deal will commit to announcing, by March, detailed, hard-numbers plans laying out how they will cut emissions after 2020.

The draft that emerges this week “will look like a game of Mad Libs,” said one negotiator who was not authorized to speak publicly. Over the coming months, as countries put forth their emissions reduction pledges, the details of the final deal will be filled in.

It is expected that many countries will miss that March deadline. Officials from India and other countries have said that they are unlikely to present a plan before June.

In order to ensure that all countries are included in the deal, late announcers will get a pass. The point, United Nations officials say, is to ensure that the information exists to finalize a Paris deal by December 2015.

Negotiators concede that the “each according to their abilities” approach is less than perfect — but that it represents what is achievable.

“The reality of it is that nobody was able to come up with a different way of going about it that would actually get countries to participate and be in the agreement,” said Todd D. Stern, the lead American climate change negotiator. “You could write a paper, in theory, assigning a certain amount of emissions cuts to every country. That would get the reduction you need. But you wouldn’t get an agreement. We live in the real world. It’s not going to be perfect.”

And there are still many hurdles ahead.

While many major developing economies are now expected to follow China’s lead in preparing emissions plans, some countries remain wild cards. This year, the government of Australia repealed a landmark climate change law that taxed carbon pollution. Since then, its emissions have soared.

“Australia is left without any viable policy to cut emissions,” said Senator Christine Milne, the leader of the Australian opposition Green Party. “It’s going to drag its heels.”

Money, as always, is a sticking point.

The increasing likelihood that the planet’s atmosphere will warm past the 3.6 degree threshold, with or without a deal in Paris, is driving demands by vulnerable nations — particularly island states and African countries — that the industrialized world open up its wallet to pay for the damage incurred by its fossil fuel consumption. Under the terms of a 2009 climate change accord reached in Copenhagen, rich countries have agreed to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020 to help poor countries adapt to the ravages of climate change. But a report this month by the United Nations Environmental Program estimates that the cost to poor countries of adapting to climate change could rise to as high as $300 billion annually — and vulnerable countries are stepping up their demands that more money be included in any final deal. Many vulnerable and developing countries insist that each country’s national pledge include not just a plan to cut emissions, but also money for adaptation.
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“The financing question will be one of the deepest divides,” said Jennifer Morgan, an expert in climate change negotiations with the World Resources Institute, a research organization.

Another element to be hashed out by negotiators will be devising an international number-crunching system to monitor, verify and compare countries’ pledged emissions cuts.

China has always balked at any outside monitoring of its major economic sectors, and is pushing back on proposals for rigorous outside scrutiny.

Hong Lei, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that his country “always supports increasing transparency” but that the new reporting system should reflect “the reality that developing countries’ basic capacities in areas like national statistics and assessment are still insufficient.” He added that “developed countries should provide appropriate support to developing countries.”

The United States has urged that a final deal not take the form of a legally binding treaty requiring Senate ratification, hoping to avoid a repeat of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol experience.

But many countries continue to press for a legally binding deal.

French officials have already given the yet-to-be-signed deal a working title: the “Paris Alliance.”

The name, they say, is meant to signify that many different economies are working together, rather than complying with a single, top-down mandate.

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Edward Wong contributed reporting from Beijing.

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Philippines Pushes Developing Countries to Cut Their Emissions DEC. 8, 2014
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Optimism Faces Grave Realities at Climate TalksNOV. 30, 2014
Global Warming Concerns GrowSEPT. 22, 2014

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A version of this article appears in print on December 10, 2014, on page A8 of the New York edition with the headline: With Compromises, a Global Accord to Fight Climate Change Is in Sight.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 5th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Irith Jawetz writes from New York:

I just got back from the reception at the Austrian Consulate General in New York which was hosted by the Consul General and your friend Josef Mantl. I gave Mr. Mantl your regards and he reciprocated them.

This was a preview for a Charity auction at Sotheby to benefit operation Bobbi Bear in partnership with Arms Around the Child, which will take place on Monday, December 8th. Mr. Mantl and another Austrian gentleman Mr. Gery Keszler are involved in the Life Ball in Vienna and those bears are designed by celebrities and will be auctioned off. The celebrities who have their own bears include Bill Clinton, President Heinz Fischer, Vienna Mayor Michael Haeupl, Opera Star Anna Netrebko who lives now in Vienna, and many more. A few bears were on display tonight the rest are kept at Sotheby’s. The money will help abused children with HIV/AIDS in South Africa. This seems to be a huge problem there.

A few bears were on display tonight and sold! President Fischer’s Bear went for $1,300, and Mayor Haeupl’s bear fetched $ 1,350.

The Founder and Creative Director of Bobbi Bear, whose motto is “Giving abused children a voice” – Ms. Jackie Brandfield – is an incredible lady from South Africa. She runs this NGO from Durban.
I came very early and started talking to her without knowing who she was at first and we connected right away. I have her card and we became friends although she understood that I am not in the league of the bidders.

The South African NGO received tremendous help from Austria through the “Life Ball” event which is a huge charity event which takes place every year in Vienna and draws many celebrities including former President bill Clinton. This year the Life Ball will take place on May 16, 2015 inside the Vienna City Hall.

For further information about Bobbi Bear please visit keepachildalive.org

The children here are 5,6,7,8, years old and got aids because they were raped by people who had aids in the believe that this will help cure the AIDS. This was something I heard years ago in South Africa.

Above resonates because while I was in Johannesburg for the 2002 UN Global Summit, a lady of Scottish extract, helping out at my bed and breakfast Boer place, took me to visit an orphanage that was home to such children, and for which she did voluntary work. This was at a time we knew still very little of the AIDS scourge that was hitting Africa. She herself got interested because her son, of mixed race, a jazz musician, was living in a relationship with a black musician who contracted the virus. I was all amazed of complex human side of the new post-apartheid country. All volunteers there were church driven whites.

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

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Columnist of The New York Times

Committed to Carbon Goals

November 24, 2014


by Joe Nocera

Since the early 1990s, the consensus view in the climate science community has been that if the world is going to escape the most catastrophic consequences of climate change, it needs to keep the average global temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, compared with pre-industrial levels. A few years ago, the Presidential Climate Action Project issued a report in which it estimated that to meet that goal, global carbon dioxide emissions would need to be reduced by 60 percent by 2050 — and the industrialized world would need to reduce its emissions by 80 percent.

This would seem, at first glance, an impossible task. Until, that is, you meet a man named David Crane. He is the chief executive of NRG Energy, the largest publicly traded independent power producer in the country. When he took over a decade ago, NRG was just emerging from bankruptcy. Today, it is a Fortune 250 company, with 135 power plants capable of generating 53,000 megawatts of power.

NRG, Crane told an audience at the Aspen Ideas Festival this summer, is the country’s fourth-largest polluter. “We emit 60 or 70 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year,” he said, mainly because a third of its power is generated by coal-fired plants. “I’m not apologetic about that because, right now, owning those plants and operating those plants are critical to keeping the lights on in the United States.”

But then he quickly added, “We have to move away from that.” And he has, reducing the company’s carbon footprint by 40 percent in the decade that he’s run the company. And, on Thursday, as The Times reported, he committed NRG to reducing its carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050.

These are terribly ambitious goals, but Crane is not some pie-in-the-sky dreamer. Although he sees climate change as an “intergenerational issue” — a way of ensuring the future for our children and grandchildren — he is also a pragmatic man running a publicly traded company. He firmly believes that the technology exists to make his ambitious goals possible, and that the real problem is the refusal of the rest of the power industry to adapt and change.

Crane likes to say that when he first started hearing about carbon emissions, he didn’t view it all that seriously. “To be frank,” he said in that same Aspen presentation, “I thought this is just the next pollutant that we have to deal with.” But once he got religion — and realized, as he put it, that power producers like NRG are “the biggest part of the problem” — he was determined to make his company a leader in reducing carbon.

One of his early moves was to apply for a license to build a new nuclear power plant. (It already co-owns one nuclear plant.) But the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan in 2011 scotched those plans, and NRG wound up writing off more than $300 million. NRG also invested in a wind company, which it sold three years later “because we got a little disenchanted with the way that the wind technology was moving.”

So how is he planning to get that 90 percent reduction? One answer is solar power, in which NRG has invested some $5 billion. Crane is a big believer in the eventual importance of solar, both for consumers — he foresees a day when millions of Americans rely on solar as their primary power source — and for power companies. Even so, Crane told me that solar generates only 3,000 megawatts of the company’s potential for 53,000.

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Recent Comments:

Andrea
32 minutes ago

Why is there no mention of a transfer from coal powered generation to natural gas? There is an abundance of it, it is cheap and it burns…

Ken
32 minutes ago

Home heating remains as a huge source of carbon pollution. While not a solution for most urbanites, many like me in rural New England have…

Tom Pedersen
32 minutes ago

Mr. Crane suggests that a carbon tax is politically impossible. But that’s looking at the challenge from the wrong end. How about looking at…

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And then there’s coal. When I asked Crane if he would have to eliminate coal to reach his goals, he said no. Coal, he said, will continue to play a big role. A carbon tax would be a great way of reducing emissions. But that is politically impossible.

So, instead, the carbon will need to be captured and then put to some good use. At one of its Texas power plants, NRG is teaming up with JX Nippon of Japan in a $1 billion joint venture to build a carbon-capturing capacity, which it expects will capture 1.6 million tons of carbon each year — some 90 percent of the plant’s emissions. He is also convinced that that carbon will eventually be used to create liquid fuel or get embedded in cement. “We could rebuild America’s roadways with embedded carbon from coal.”

He has another reason for wanting to be out in front on climate change. He says it will make his company more attractive to investors — and consumers. The day is going to come, he believes, when climate change risk will be something investors factor in to their investment decisions. And he believes that the next generation of consumers will demand clean energy. He views the disinvestment campaign now taking place on college campuses as a harbinger of things to come.

“It’s like Wayne Gretzky said,” he told me before hanging up the phone. “We are skating where the puck is going, rather than where it is now.”

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A version of this op-ed appears in print on November 25, 2014, on page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: Committed to Carbon Goals

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

FROM THE WORLD FUTURE COUNCIL
November 25, 2014

Dr. Auma Obama joins World Future Council.

Auma Obama was warmly welcomed by WFC board members Alexandra Wandel and Stefan Keinert and WFC Director of Climate and Energy Stefan Schurig.

Hamburg, 25 November 2014 – Dr. Auma Obama has been appointed Councillor of the World Future Council. The organisation works with decision-makers worldwide to implement policy solutions that secure the rights of future generations. At an official meeting with WFC board members Alexandra Wandel and Stefan Keinert, the older sister of US president Barack Obama signed the acceptance statement, declaring “I am honoured to become a part of your organisation. I cannot wait to meet my fellow Council members and to support the work on the rights of women and children, particularly in Africa.”

Auma joins the ranks of Councillors from a vast variety of countries and backgrounds, including Dr. Frances Moore Lappé, Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE and Dr. David Krieger.

Jakob von Uexkull, founder of the World Future Council and the Alternative Nobel Prize, is thrilled to welcome the Kenyan literary and social scientist to the organisation. “Although the World Future Council was only established eight years ago and has always operated on a relatively small budget, we have been able to achieve a lot. With our support, several countries have introduced policies and laws that protect the environment and secure more equitable societies. Our unique approach and achievements so far convinced Dr. Auma Obama to join our efforts to make the world a better place, despite her many other commitments.”

Born and raised in Kenya, Auma Obama completed her doctorate at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. She is the initiator and CEO of the Sauti Kuu Foundation, which works to self-empower children and adolescents from underprivileged backgrounds in Kenya. A world sought-after speaker on sustainability issues, Auma Obama is also a board member of the Jacobs Foundation, which funds research and development programmes in the field of child and youth development.

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World Future Council: The World Future Council brings the interests of future generations to the centre of policy-making. Its 50 eminent members from around the globe have already successfully promoted change. The Council addresses challenges to our common future and provides decision makers with effective policy solutions. The World Future Council is registered as a charitable foundation in Hamburg, Germany. For more information, visit www.worldfuturecouncil.org

Media contact:
World Future Council
Alexandra Schiffmann
Tel.: +49 40 30 70 914-19
 alexandra.schiffmann at worldfuturecounc…
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Posted in Africa, Archives, Real World's News, Reporting From the UN Headquarters in New York, Reporting from Washington DC

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

Economy / AlterNet / By Janet Allon

Paul Krugman on Why the U.S.-China Agreement on Carbon Emissions Is a Really Big Deal
“It’s been a good week for the planet.”

November 14, 2014 |

The climate deal reached by the U.S. and China at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting this week is a very big deal, Paul Krugman writes in his Friday column.

The opposition to doing anything to save the planet has been long, idiotic and stubborn, and of course will continue in Republican circles, especially as Senator James Inhofe, who believes climate change is a hoax, takes over the leadership of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Climate change denialists have even pursued witch hunts against climate scientists.

There have also been the economic scare tactics, which argue that limiting emissions will destroy jobs and end growth. “This argument sits oddly with the right’s usual faith in markets,” Krugman writes. “We’re supposed to believe that business can transcend any problem, adapt and innovate around any limits, but would shrivel up and die if policy put a price on carbon. Still, what’s bad for the Koch brothers must be bad for America, right?”

There are those, like new Senate leader Mitch McConnell, who wring their hands over the “war on coal,” which is not making a lot of impact, Krugman points out, since coal mining employs few people, and they’ve already been defeated.

What makes the agreement truly meaningful, Krugman argues, is that even Americans who are worried about global warming (most people) have felt helpless to fight it with other developing countries like China continuing to pollute. And, until now, no one thought China would get on board to help protect the climate. In some ways, this has been understandable, Krugman writes.

America is not exactly the most reliable negotiating partner on these issues, with climate denialists controlling Congress and the only prospect of action in the near future, and maybe for many years, coming from executive orders. (Not to mention the possibility that the next president could well be an anti-environmentalist who could reverse anything President Obama does.) Meanwhile, China’s leadership has to deal with its own nationalists, who hate any suggestion that the newly risen superpower might be letting the West dictate its policies. So what we’re getting here is more a statement of principle than the shape of policy to come.

Still, though, there is a lot to cheer here, Krugman concludes.

Until now, those of us who argued that China could be induced to join an international climate agreement were speculating. Now we have the Chinese saying that they are, indeed, willing to deal — and the opponents of action have to claim that they don’t mean what they say.

Needless to say, I don’t expect the usual suspects to concede that a major part of the anti-environmentalist argument has just collapsed. But it has. This was a good week for the planet.

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SENATOR IMHOFE IS FROM OILKLAHOMA AND HAS AN OIL-CRAZED WORKERS AND COMPANY CEO’S _ THAT IS WHY HE OWNS THE ENERGY COMMITTEE. SO BE IT! I Met him at Kyoto and like him did not think the Protocol was a good idea. But since then I could not accept any other idea he stood for. // SustainabiliTank
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Charlie Wood for the whole 350.org team writes:

This week, just weeks after the largest climate mobilisation ever, the world’s two biggest polluters — the United States and China — announced their most ambitious climate action yet. That is not a coincidence: it’s a sign that our pressure is working, and that we need to apply much more.

The emissions of China and the US have been used by governments around the world as an excuse to dodge their own responsibilities. But this new agreement leaves these governments with nowhere left to hide and opens the door for real progress from global governments. Right now, world leaders are converging on Australia for the G20 leaders summit and we have momentum on our side.

But Tony Abbott, Australia’s conservative Prime Minister and host of the G20, is refusing to allow a meaningful discussion of climate change at the G20. Climate change is the elephant in the room and Tony Abbott is asking the G20 to ignore it.

Send a message to Tony Abbott and tell him that he needs to get out of the way of climate action at the G20 and put climate change back on the agenda.

The world is ready to act. Most countries want to talk about climate change but Australia’s climate denying government is using their position as President to block discussion. We are not going to let one politician block discussion on climate change get off easy.

Put the pressure on Tony Abbott to stop blocking discussion at the G20 and get out of the way of real climate action.

There is plenty that the G20 could talk about when it comes to climate action. G20 countries are wasting US $88 billion a year just to help fossil fuel companies find new fossil fuel reserves, despite numerous warnings from scientists that we need to leave the fossil fuels we already know about in the ground.

With the new agreement between the US and China, now is the time for the G20 to commit to ending fossil fuel subsidies and taking steps towards real action on climate change. But unless Tony Abbott lets them talk about it, no commitments will be made.

Keep the pressure on Tony Abbott. Tell him to get out of the way of real progress.

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And from the Canadian International Institute based in Winnipeg:

US-China Climate Commitment first step in road to phasing out coal and welcoming increased renewables says IISD

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WINNIPEG—14 November 2014—The U.S. and China’s joint climate commitment is a strong boost for the international process and should pave the way for a phasing out of the use of coal and increased use of renewable energies, according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD),

This important step comes directly after Ban Ki Moon’s successful New York Summit, and very early on the “Road to Paris 2015” and the international agreement expected there. But what does the announcement tell us about how the two countries will meet these commitments, and what steps might they and other countries take next?

“The Road to Paris will see countries pledging what they can deliver within their domestic political constraints,” said Peter Wooders, group leader of the Energy program at IISD. “This realism is a pragmatic first step and a change from the ‘top down’ commitment process which has largely stalled the UNFCCC, and which the U.S. could never ratify in any event, given division in Congress.”

IISD analysis notes that the U.S. and China have been able to make this commitment thanks to the common factor of coal, a major source of electricity generation in both countries. The “Shale Gas Revolution” in the U.S., its existing mix of power plants which allow ready switching between coal and natural gas, as well as the opportunity to import hydro power from Canadian provinces, give the U.S. the opportunity to significantly reduce projected emissions. In China, further increases in coal mining and supply are not the low-cost option they were once thought to be, and financial and environmental drivers – with the air quality of Beijing the most well-known issue – will reduce the reliance on coal.

“The use of coal has traditionally been under-priced, i.e. subsidized. Financially, the exploration, mining, transport and construction of coal plants has been supported around the world. Environmentally, we have not fully accounted for the air pollution and other costs,” said Wooders. “When these costs are taken into account – which they should be – renewable technologies and energy efficiency become much more attractive. But this is a major change to the business models around electricity generation, and will bring resistance from the potential losers and lobbying from the potential winners. The Chinese government in particular – as China does not currently have the scale of shale gas available to the U.S. – will need to support the energy transition through good policy.”

IISD’s work in China, and more broadly, focuses on some of the key tools needed:

the identification of subsidies to coal and renewable energy suppliers, allowing for a debate on their costs; the strong link between the government’s renewable commitments and the development of their renewable technology industries (“green industrial policy”); how the fiscal system can be made to work for sustainable development (“greening the financial system”); sustainable public procurement as an enabler of change; and the creation of low-carbon economic zones; the more general policy implementation support which comes from understanding who is impacted and how much, and how these impacts may be mitigated or the vested interests confronted.

The door is now open for renewables, and can be pushed wider.

And what of Canada? Its government has aligned its climate change policies – including overall targets – to that of the U.S. in the past. Both countries recently introduced regulations on coal-fired power generation, essentially banning new coal plant construction and – in the case of the U.S. – imposing constraints on existing plants. For Canada to follow the U.S. in terms of an overall target, however, it will have to find savings elsewhere. It – and other countries with relatively low coal generation – will need to move to reductions in oil and gas consumption and production now; they do not have the luxury of the one-off gain from the phase-out of coal.

For more information please contact Sumeep Bath, IISD media and communications officer, at  sbath at iisd.org or +1 (204) 958 7740.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 12th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

In effect – what Ms Napoleoni says is that the Islamic State uses globalization and aim at creating an original Muslim State that is for the Muslim world a parallel to what Israel is to World Jewry – albeit the first stage overlaps the borders of the Caliphate of Baghdad and will claim besides Iraq and Syria also Jordan , Lebanon, and Israel.
Now an ebook – The book will be available in printed form December 2nd, 2014.
 www.sevenstories.com/news/introdu…

Introduction to Loretta Napoleoni’s THE ISLAMIST PHOENIX.

September 8, 2014

The following is the introduction to The Islamist Phoenix, a study of ISIS by Loretta Napoleoni, one of the world’s leading experts on money laundering and the financing of terror. Islamist Phoenix will be available as an ebook in early November, and as a trade paperback on December 2nd.

For the first time since World War One, an armed organization is redesigning the map of the Middle East drawn by the French and the British. Waging a war of conquest, the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (al Sham), or ISIS, is erasing the borders that the Sykes-Picot Accord established in 1916. The region where the black and golden flag of IS flies already stretches from the Mediterranean shores of Syria well into the heart of Iraq, the Sunni tribal area. It is bigger than the United Kingdom or Texas and, since the end of June 2014, is known as the Islamic Caliphate. “Caliphate” is the name given to an Islamic state led by a supreme religious and political leader known as a caliph, or successor to the Prophet Muhammad – the most famous being the Ottoman Caliphate (or Empire), which began in 1453 and lasted until the dissolution of the Caliphate and expulsion of the last caliph, Abdulmecid, at the hands of Kemal Ataturk in 1924.

Many believe that the Islamic State, like al-Qaeda before it, wants to turn back the clock, and indeed in Western media Syrian and Iraqi refugees describe its rule in their countries as a sort of carbon copy of the Taliban regime. Posters forbid smoking and the use of cameras. Women are not allowed to travel without a male relative, must be covered up, and cannot wear trousers in public. The Islamic State seems also engaged in a sort of religious cleansing through proselytism: people must either join its creed, radical Salafism; flee; or face execution.
Al-Baghdadi

Paradoxically, to deem the IS essentially backward would be mistaken. Indeed, during the last few years the belief that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group’s leader and the new Caliph, is a clone of Mullah Omar may well have led Western intelligence to undervalue him and his organization’s strength. While the world of the Taliban was limited to Koranic schools and knowledge based upon the writings of the Prophet, globalization and modern technology have been the cradle of the Islamic State.

What distinguishes the Islamic State from all other armed groups that predate it, including those active during the Cold War, and what accounts for its enormous successes, is its modernity and pragmatism. So far its leadership has understood the limitations that contemporary powers face in a globalized and multipolar world – for example, the inability to reach an agreement for foreign intervention in Syria, as happened in Libya and Iraq. Against this backdrop the Islamic State’s leadership has successfully exploited the Syrian conflict, the most recent version of the traditional war by proxy, to its own advantage almost unobserved, drawing funds from a variety of people: Kuwaitis, Qataris, Saudis, who, seeking a regime change in Syria, have been willing to bankroll several armed groups. However, instead of fighting the sponsors’ war by proxy, the Islamic State has used their money to establish its own territorial strongholds in financially strategic regions, for example in the rich oilfields of Eastern Syria. No previous Middle Eastern armed organization has been able to promote itself as the region’s new ruler with the money of its rich Gulf sponsors.

In sharp contrast with the Taliban’s rhetoric and despite the barbarous treatment of the enemy, the Islamic State is spreading a positive and powerful political message in the Muslim world: the return of the Caliphate associated with happier and richer times for Muslims. This message comes at a time of great destabilization in the Middle East, while Syria and Iraq are ablaze, Libya is on the verge of another tribal conflict, Egypt is restive, and Israel has been once again at war with Gaza. Hence, the rebirth of the Caliphate and of its Caliph, al-Baghdadi, appears to many Sunnis not as yet another armed group but somehow as a political entity that is rising from the ashes of decades of war and destruction.

The fact that this Islamist Phoenix materialized on the first day of Ramadan 2014, the holy month of fasting and prayer, should be regarded as a powerful omen of the challenge that the Islamic State poses to the legitimacy of all the 57 countries that follow the Islamic faith. As clearly stated by its spokesman, Abu Mohamed al-Adnani: “the legality of all emirates, groups, states and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the Caliph’s authority and the arrival of his troops to their areas.” This is a challenge posed by a new political organization that, while claiming to trace its legitimacy all the way back to 7th-8th century Arabia and the first territorial manifestations of Islam, comprises a contemporary state and commands a modern army. As such it should not be underestimated, especially if the Islamic State consolidates its territorial conquests.

That the threat is real, and that it is particularly felt by those who share a border with Syria and Iraq, are facts: in July, 2014 the black and golden flag of the Islamic State appeared in Jordanian villages, and in August thousands of IS militants streamed into Lebanon from Syria and took Arsal. Even former sponsors fear the military power of the Caliphate: at the beginning of July, al-Arabiya broadcast that Saudi Arabia had deployed 30,000 soldiers to its border with Iraq after Iraqi soldiers withdrew from the area.

Under the religious veneer and the terrorist tactics, therefore, lays a political and military machine fully engaged in nation-building, seeking consensus after territorial conquest. Residents of the enclaves controlled by the Caliphate affirm that its arrival coincided with improvements in the day-to-day running of their villages, from fixing holes in the roads to organizing soup kitchens for those who had lost their homes to the daylong availability of electricty.

_76526461_iraq_syria_isis_caliphate_25.07.14_624mapWhile territorially the Islamic State’s master plan is to recreate the ancient Caliphate of Baghdad — an entity that the Mongols destroyed in 1261 and that stretched from the Iraqi capital all the way into modern Israel — its political goal seems to be the shaping of a twenty-first century incarnation. In his first speech as Caliph, al-Baghdadi pledged to return to Muslims the “dignity, might, rights, and leadership” of the past, and at the same time called for doctors, engineers, judges, and experts in Islamic jurisprudence to join him. As he spoke, a team of translators across the world worked almost in real time to release the text of his speech on jihadist websites, facebook and twitter accounts in several languages including English, French, and German.

The Islamic State wants to be for Muslims what Israel is for Jews, a state in their ancient land that they have reclaimed in modern times, a religious and powerful state that protects them wherever they are, something to be proud of. This is a potent message for the disenfranchised Muslim youth who live in the political vacuum created by disturbing factors, such as the corruption and inefficacy of the Free Syrian and Iraqi Army, the Maliki government’s refusal to integrate Sunnis into the fabric of political life, the absence of proper socio-economic infrastructures destroyed during the war, and a high rate of unemployment. It is a powerful message also for those living abroad, the disenfranchised Muslim youth of Europe. No other armed organization has shown such insight and political intuition into the domestic politics of the Middle East and Muslim immigrants’ frustration all over the world, and no other armed organization has adapted to contingent factors, such as the provision of basic socio-economic infrastructures in the territory it controls to succeed at nation-building.

Its leadership has also studied the tactical and structural mistakes of past armed groups as well as their successes, and has put these lessons into a modern context. Like the European armed organizations of the 1960s and 1970s, the Islamic State understands the power of propaganda, of fear at home and abroad, and has been skilfully used social media to propagate sleek videos and images of its barbarous actions. Fear is a much more powerful weapon of conquest than religious lectures, something that al-Qaeda has never understood. Equally, the Islamic State knows that the 24-hour media seeks ever more brutal images, because in a world overloaded with information, extreme violence sells the news: thus the plentiful supply of photos and videos of brutal punishments and tortures uploaded in formats that can be easily watched on mobile phones. Shockingly, in a voyeuristic society, sadism, when appealingly packaged, becomes a major attraction.

The Islamic State has closely analysed the propaganda machine that the US and UK administration employed to justify the preventive strike in Iraq in 2003, in particular the creation of the myth of al Zarqawi which US Secretary of State Colin Powell used on in his speech to the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003 to justify the invasion of Iraq. Thanks to an extensive and highly professional use of social media, the Islamic State has propagated equally false mythologies to proselytize, recruit, and raise funds across the Muslim world.

Crucial for the successes of this strategy have been the secrecy and mythology carefully woven around the Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Bagdhadi. Again, in a world overloaded with information, mystery plays a major role in stimulating the collective imagination. The less people know, the more they want to know, and the more they imagine. Give people a few clips and they will complete the picture as they like it. Islam is premised on a certain nostalgia rooted in the return of the Prophet, while the West still fears Islam. Hence the IS is leading Muslims to believe that the Prophet has returned wearing the clothes of al-Baghdadi and at the same time it terrorizes Westerners with shockingly barbarous killings. Modern advertising has constructed a trillion-dollar industry atop these simple concepts. Now the Islamic State propaganda machine is using them to manufacture the myth of al-Baghdadi and his new Caliphate. What’s surprising is our surprise.

Finally, unlike al-Qaeda, the Islamic State is showing pragmatism. It seems to understand that, in the twenty-first century, new nations cannot be built and held together with terror and violence alone. To blossom, they require popular consensus. Hence the IS uses violence and Sharia law together with propaganda distributed over social media and a variety of popular social programmes aimed at improving the living conditions of the Sunni population trapped inside the Caliphate.

If this strategy succeeds, the world will be forced to turn a new leaf in the history of terrorism and nation-building, because the Islamic State will have provided a workable solution to the dilemma of terrorism. This, in a nutshell, is the true challenge that any armed organization poses to the modern state: whether to consider acts of terrorism as a threat to national security or to law and order. This dilemma springs from the ambiguous nature of terrorism: it has military aims – for example, among the goals of the Islamic State are freeing the territories of the old Caliphate of Baghdad from the tyrannical rule of the Shiites and the annexation of Jordan and Israel to recreate its ancient borders – but it employs criminal and barbarous methods like suicide bombings, the crucifixion of its opponents, and the beheading of hostages. Terrorism, therefore, could be defined as a crime with the aims of war. This ambiguity has allowed states to deny members of armed organizations the status of soldiers and enemies, relegating them to the ranks of outlaws even while using armies against them.

If the Islamic State succeeds in building a modern state, one that the world will not be able to ignore, using terrorism to gain territorial control and social and political reforms to secure internal popular consensus, it will prove what all armed organizations have affirmed: that they are not terrorists but enemies engaged in an asymmetrical war to overthrow illegitimate, tyrannical, and corrupted regimes. No matter how barbarous their actions are or have been, their status as threats to national security, as warriors, will be beyond doubt.

As the Islamic State’s war of conquest progresses, it is becoming clear that since 9/11 the business of Islamist terrorism has been getting stronger instead of weaker — to the extent that now it has morphed into a state — by simply keeping abreast with a fast-changing world in which propaganda and technology play an increasingly vital role. The same cannot be said for the forces engaged in stopping it from spreading.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 9th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

As GOP Swept Congress, Black Republicans Took Home Historic Wins.
reported by Hansi Lo Wang for CodeSwitch blog of NPR.com – November 08, 2014

The Republican Party made historic gains during this week’s midterm elections. Among their victories were three wins by black Republicans, who seem to be building momentum for diversifying the GOP ranks.

Mia Love — who is Mormon and Haitian-American — is one of those three, and Republicans in Utah’s 4th District will be sending her to Congress next year.

“Many of the naysayers out there said that Utah would never elect a black, Republican, LDS woman to Congress,” Love told a crowd on Tuesday. “And guess what? Not only did we do it, we were the first to do it!”

Another big winner was Tim Scott, who was appointed to the Senate in 2012, but won a full term in his own right on Tuesday. He’s now South Carolina’s first elected black senator, and the South’s first since Reconstruction.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. greets supporters after winning his Senate race over challengers Jill Bossi and Joyce Dickerson on Tuesday.

Texas also celebrated a historic win in Will Hurd, a former CIA officer who is the first black Republican from Texas ever to win a U.S. Congressional seat.

“It’s a start,” says Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee. “And yeah, I want more. You know, I want to get to the point where it’s not notable.”

Steele, the first black chairman of the RNC, is notable himself. He says these rising stars will follow the lead of former representatives Allen West and J.C. Watts, who, like other black Republicans, faced suspicion from many black voters.

“You still have to deal with the stereotype that somehow if you’re a black Republican, you’re not a real black person,” he says.

But Steele adds there are also legitimate questions about his party’s commitment to racial diversity.

“White folks get excited when they see, ‘Oh, got a black candidate running for office!’ ” he says. “OK, that’s great. But what are you doing to get them elected? It’s not just enough to have the face on the ballot.”
With his outspoken conservative views, Dr. Ben Carson is a hit among Republicans. He spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week.
Code Switch
Black GOP Stars Rise In A Party That’s Still Awkwardly White

Amy Holmes, a former speech writer for Republican Sen. Bill Frist and an anchor on the TheBlaze.com, says this newly-elected group represents an important part of the post-Obama era of politics.

“I think President Obama’s election in 2008 inspired a lot of African-American politicians, including on the right,” Holmes says.

Holmes points out these candidates also succeeded in places where black voters did not make up the majority.

“The old conventional wisdom has been that an African-American politician has to run from a majority African-American district,” she says. “Well, these three candidates prove that’s not true.”
Barry Goldwater greets an Indianapolis crowd during a campaign tour in Oct. 1964.

Why Did Black Voters Flee The Republican Party In The 1960s?

But the relationship between the GOP and black voters has to change as U.S. racial demographics continue to shift, according to Lenny McAllister, a former Republican candidate for Congress and the host of The McAllister Minute on the American Urban Radio Network.

Early exit polls show almost 90 percent of black voters supported Democrats on Tuesday, and McAllister says that allegiance to the Democratic Party diminishes black political power.

“We cannot continue to only access half of the political process,” McAllister says. “We need Republicans and Democrats being actively and efficiently responsive to our needs.”
Darius Foster says he wants to challenge racial and political expectations. “With me, unfortunately, everything is black Republican. Not Darius did this, but the black Republican did that.” Politics Alabama’s Darius Foster Wants To Bring Back ‘Fight For The People’ GOP

McAllister admits it will take more than these three winners for Republicans to earn the trust of black voters. But he says we shouldn’t forget how a young senator from Illinois beat the odds to become America’s first black president.

“The impossible happens in America, and if we’re going to open up the doors to what’s possible for more Americans, we have to take on this fight now,” he says.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 9th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

ON THIS DAY The New York Times reminds us in its only notion: On Nov. 9, 1965, the great Northeast blackout occurred as several states and parts of Canada were hit by a series of power failures lasting up to 13 1/2 hours.

Also, Nov. 9, 1989 – the Fall of the Berlin Wall – After 28 years, East Berliners were giddy with marvel that they could now visit the West. This rated today an article in The World Section of the New York Times – under title “On Berlin Wall Anniversary, Somber Notes Amid Revelry.” Also a link to a video: Video Video: Berlin’s Wall of Light
To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, artists created a border of lights. Related Article

But then there was another event – and this one did not rate an article by The New York Times – Nov.9. 1938 – the infamous exercise in terror that would be called “Kristallnacht,” or “the Night of Broken Glass,” because of the cost of broken glass in looted Jewish shops—$5 million marks ($1,250,000). This was when Synagogues were burned and some Jews killed – the beginning of the Holocaust Germans and Austrians imposed on Europe’s Jewry.

In Heydrich’s report to Hermann Goering after Kristallnacht, the damage was assessed: “…815 shops destroyed, 171 dwelling houses set on fire or destroyed… 119 synagogues were set on fire, and another 76 completely destroyed… 20,000 Jews were arrested, 36 deaths were reported and those seriously injured were also numbered at 36…”

The extent of the destruction was actually greater than reported. Later estimates were that as many as 7,500 Jewish shops were looted, and there were several incidents of rape. This, in the twisted ideology of Nazism, was worse than murder, because the racial laws forbade intercourse between Jews and gentiles. The rapists were expelled from the Nazi Party and handed over to the police for prosecution. And those who killed Jews? They “cannot be punished,” according to authorities, because they were merely following orders.

To add insult to massive injury, those Jews who survived the monstrous pogrom were forced to pay for the damage inflicted upon them. Insurance firms teetered on the verge of bankruptcy because of the claims. Hermann Goering came up with a solution: Insurance money due the victims was to be confiscated by the state, and part of the money would revert back to the insurance companies to keep them afloat.

The reaction around the world was one of revulsion at the barbarism into which Germany was sinking. As far as Hitler was concerned, this only proved the extent of the “Jewish world conspiracy.”

In effect one can say that the Kristallnacht and the Austrian “Anschluss” (Mar 12, 1938 when German troops marched into a willing Austria) set in motion the Hitler’s campaign to impose Germany on Europe.

Yes, the German lost WWII and a US/British/French/Soviet Peace was imposed over Europe. Germany’s occupation by the four “Victors” was a division into four Sectors and it ended up as two divided states – the former US, British, and French Sectors turned into West Germany, the former Soviet Sector into East Germany.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall – a development started by a Hungarian Government that was ready to help East Germans escape, at a time that a Soviet Government under President Mikhail Gorbachev did not think it was worth opposing it, helped reunite Germany and make possible a renewal of German strength. Germany became a motor for the unification of Europe and eventually history will show that what the Germans could not achieve by going to war against Europe – they did eventually achieve since the the Fall of the dividing Berlin Wall and the creation of the EU. But does this allow others to forget the Holocaust? Strangely, it seems today that Germany and Austria are not afraid of recognizing their people’s past savagery, it is the American media that does not see the way those historical events connect.

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We pick some other historical events that occurred on November 9th – our choice was so that we looked to some relevance to above mentioned three events. The list we found had 173 listings.

Historical Events on 9th November


694 – Spanish King Egica accuses Jews of aiding Moslems/sentenced to slavery

1282 – Pope Martinus IV excommunicates king Pedro III of Aragonorth
1313 – Louis the Bavarian defeats his cousin Frederick I of Austria at the Battle of Gamelsdorf.
1330 – Battle of Posada, Wallachian Voievode Basarab I defeats the Hungarian army in an ambush
1492 – Peace of Etaples (Henry VII of England & Charles VIII of France)
1494 – Family de’ Medici become rulers of Florence
1526 – Jews are expelled from Pressburg (Bratislava), Hungary, by Maria of Hapsburg

1620 – After a month of delays off the English coast and about two months at sea, the Mayflower spots land (Cape Cod)

1681 – Hungarian parliament promises protestants freedom of religion
1720 – Rabbi Yehuda Hasid synagogue set afire
1794 – Russian troops occupy Warsaw
1799 – Napoleon Bonaparte becomes dictator (1st consul) of France
1821 – French Emperor Napoléon BonaparteFrench Emperor Napoléon Bonaparte 1842
1848 – Robert Blum, a German revolutionary and MP (Liberal), is executed in Vienna.
1851 – Kentucky marshals abduct abolitionist minister Calvin Fairbank from Jeffersonville, Indiana, and take him to Kentucky to stand trial for helping a slave escape.
1857 – Atlantic Monthly magazine 1st published
1862 – US General Ulysses S. Grant issues orders to bar Jews from serving under him

1888 – US President & Union General Ulysses S. GrantUS President & Union General Ulysses S. Grant 1900 – China has resumed nominal control of Manchuria, but in a secret agreement the Chinese governor of Manchuria grants Russia such rights as keeping troops along the railroad lines and controlling civil administration
1906 – Theodore Roosevelt is 1st US President to visit other countries (Puerto Rico and Panama)
26th US President Theodore Roosevelt26th US President Theodore Roosevelt 1912
1914 – Off Cocos Island, near Sumatra, the Australian cruiser ‘Sydney’ sinks German cruiser ‘Emden’, which has been attacking ships in the Pacific
1915 – Italian liner Ancona sinks by German torpedos, killing 272
1918 – Bavaria proclaims itself a republic
1918 – Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicates after German defeat in WW I
1918 – Republic Germany proclaimed
1921 – Partito Nazionalista Fascista, forms in Italy by Mussolini

1922 – Dictator of Nazi Germany Adolf Hitler 1923 – Beer Hall Putsch-Nazis fail to overthrow government, 16 die/Hitler flees
1925 – German NSDAP form Schutzstaffel (SS)
1932 – Riots between conservative and socialist supporters in Switzerland kill 12 and injure 60.
1937 – Japanese army conquers Shanghai
1938 – Kristallnacht, Nazi Germany’s first large-scale physical act of anti-Jewish violence, begins.

1939 – “Ninotchka,” with Greta Garbo premieres
1939 – Nobel for physics awarded to Ernest O Lawrence (cyclotron)
1942 – German occupiers put Erik Scavenius as Danish premier
1942 – Transport number 44 departs with French Jews to Nazi-Germany

1944 – Red Cross wins Nobel peace prize – 33rd US President Harry Truman 1950
1953 – Cambodia (aka Kampuchea) gains independence from Fance, within the French Union
1955 – UN disapproves of South Africa’s apartheid politics
1961 – PGA eliminates caucasians only rule
1961 – Paddy Chayefsky’s “Gideon,” premieres in NYC
1962 – US performs nuclear test at Nevada Test Site
1963 – “Tovarich” closes at Broadway Theater NYC after 264 performances
1965 – Hurricane hits north east US/Canada
1965 – Several U.S. states and parts of Canada are hit by a series of blackouts lasting up to 13 hours in the Northeast Blackout of 1965.
1966 – John Lennon meets Yoko Ono at an avante-garde art exposition at Indica Gallery in London
1966 – “Let’s Sing Yiddish” opens at Brooks Atkinson NYC for 107 perfs
1967 – Surveyor 6 soft lands on Moon
1967 – The unmanned Saturn V rocket is launched on its first successful test flight into Earth orbit – USSR performs nuclear test at Eastern Kazakh/Semipalitinsk USSR
1970 – Trial of Seattle 8 anti-war protesters begins
1972 – US performs nuclear test at Nevada Test Site – Beatles Drummer Ringo StarrBeatles Drummer Ringo Starr 1973 – Ringo Starr releases “Ringo” album
1976 – UN General Assembly condemns apartheid in South Africa

1980 – Iraqi President Saddam Hussein declares holy war against Iran
1983 – Discovery flies from Vandenberg AFB to Kennedy Space Center
Iraqi President Saddam HusseinIraqi President Saddam Hussein 1984 – )
1989 – East Berlin opens its borders
1998 – Brokerage houses are ordered to pay 1.03 billion USD to cheated NASDAQ investors to compensate for their price-fixing. This is the largest civil settlement in United States history.
2003 – A suicide-terrorist attack in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, kills 17 people.
2012 – 25 people are killed and 62 injured after a train carrying liquid fuel bursts into flames in Burma
2013 – María Gabriela Isler, a 25yo Venezuelan, is crowned Miss Universe 2013 – Isler visited Austria to help crown the winners of Miss Austria on July 3, 2014 – she probably is a descendant of a Jewish refugee who escaped the NAZI world.
Her complete name is María Gabriela de Jesús Isler Morales

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 9th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Obama’s Last Chance

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

07 November 14

he Democrats clearly deserved to lose on Tuesday, though the Republicans may not have deserved to win. Indeed, there was almost a yin-yang quality to the Democratic rout/Republican victory in which the Democrats played into almost all the Republican themes, making the outcome feel inevitable.

Most notably, President Barack Obama and the Democrats shelved all the “contentious” issues that might have rallied their “base” to turn out and vote. Immigration reform was put on hold; release of the Senate report on “torture” was postponed; what to do about “global warming” was ignored; the argument about the value of activist government was silenced; etc., etc., etc.

On a personal level, supposedly polarizing “liberal” candidates, such as actor Ashley Judd in Kentucky, were pushed aside in favor of supposedly more “electable” candidates, like Alison Lundergan Grimes. Unwilling to say whether she had voted for President Obama in 2012, Grimes managed to win only 41 percent of the vote against the perennially unpopular Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Obama himself was virtually sidelined from many races in what was an implicit Democratic admission of the Republican theme that Obama was a failure and that he deserved an electoral repudiation. The smell of fear pervaded the Democratic ranks – and panic is not the most inspiring of emotions.

In some states, the Democrats seemed enamored with what might be called the “nepotism strategy,” counting on the “magic” of political names and family connections to somehow overcome their lack of message and their image of timidity: Pryor in Arkansas, Grimes in Kentucky, Nunn in Georgia – all went down to decisive defeat.

In the bigger picture, the Democratic failure seems part and parcel with the broader weakness of progressivism in the United States. The Right continues to dominate in areas of media and messaging, investing billions upon billions of dollars in a vertically integrated media apparatus, from the older technologies of print, radio and TV to the newer ones around the Internet. The Right also has layers upon layers of think tanks and other propaganda outlets.

By comparison, the Left has never made anything close to a comparable investment. And, even the ostensibly “liberal” network MSNBC and the purportedly “liberal” New York Times fall into line behind neoconservative foreign policy initiatives at nearly every turn, such as the “regime change” campaigns in Syria, Iran and Ukraine. So, too, do many of the supposedly “liberal” think tanks, such as the Brookings Institution and the New America Foundation.

Indeed, a remarkable reality about U.S. policy circles is that six years after the end of George W. Bush’s disastrous neocon-dominated presidency, the neocons continue to dominate America’s foreign policy thinking, albeit sometimes rebranded as “liberal interventionism.”

A ‘Closet Realist’

Though President Obama may be something of a “closet realist” – hoping to work quietly with foreign adversaries to resolve international crises – he has never taken firm control over his own foreign policy.

Obama apparently thought that neocon holdovers from the Bush years, like Gen. David Petraeus or Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, and Democratic neocons, such as his first Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would somehow drop their ideological certitudes and cooperate with his approach.

Instead, the neocons and their “liberal interventionist” allies burrowed deep into the foreign policy bureaucracy and pop up periodically to press for their war-mongering agendas. A distracted President Obama always seems outmaneuvered – from the 2009 Afghan “surge,” to the 2010 stand-off over Iran’s nuclear program, to the 2011 civil wars in Libya and Syria, to the 2014 Ukrainian coup d’etat.

Arriving late at each new crisis, Obama usually signs off on what the neocons want, although he intermittently pushes for his “realist” approach, such as collaborating with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in avoiding a U.S. war on Syria in 2013 and negotiating a peaceful settlement to Iran’s nuclear program, which could be completed in 2014 if Obama doesn’t lose his nerve.

The big question now is whether the Democrats’ humiliating defeat on Nov. 4 will teach Obama and the party any meaningful lessons – or will the Democrats just kid themselves into thinking that “demographics” will save them or that they will prevail in 2016 by avoiding controversial stands and putting up another famous “name,” in Hillary Clinton.

Will Obama finally realize that he has to revert back to his inspiring messages of 2008 on issues such as his promise of government transparency? For the past six years, transparency has worked only one way: the government gets to look into the secrets of citizens while the citizens have no right to know about the government’s secrets.

There is a fundamental disconnect between this image of an intrusive federal government spying on everyone and the progressive concept that an active federal government is necessary to address fundamental problems facing the American people and the world, such as what to do about global warming, income inequality, corporate power, racial injustice, etc.

What I’m hearing from many young progressives is that they are so resentful of government intrusions into their lives that they are veering more toward libertarianism, even though it offers no solutions to most environmental, economic and social problems. If Obama hopes to stanch this flow of progressive youth to the right, he needs to finally recognize that the people need transparency on the government and the government must learn to trust the people.

An obvious first step would be to override CIA objections and release the report on torture during the Bush years. And while Obama is at it, he should make public the secret pages from the 9/11 report relating to Saudi funding for al-Qaeda terrorists.

I’m also told that Obama has information that contradicts his administration’s early claims blaming the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack on the Syrian government and faulting Russia for the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine. Those two incidents fueled dangerous international confrontations – with the United States nearly going to war against the Syrian government in 2013 and starting a new Cold War with Russia in 2014.

If Obama has U.S. intelligence information that points the finger of blame in different directions, he should correct the impressions left by Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. officials. The neocons won’t like that – and some “liberal interventionists” may have egg on their faces, too – but misleading propaganda has no place in a democracy. False information must be removed as quickly as possible.

Similarly, Obama should commit his administration to expediting release of historical secrets. Currently, it takes many years, even decades, to pry loose embarrassing “secrets” from the U.S. government, often allowing false historical narratives to take hold or creating a hot house for conspiracy theories. It’s way past time for the U.S. government to give the American people their history back.

By releasing as much information as possible about important topics, Obama could finally begin to win back the people’s trust, not just in him but in the government. Nothing is as corrosive to democratic governance as a belief by the people that the government doesn’t trust them – and that they, in turn, have no reason to trust the government.

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Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Democracy Now!
Excerpt: “How did the bank avoid prosecution for committing fraud that helped cause the 2008 financial crisis? Today we speak to JPMorgan Chase whistleblower Alayne Fleischmann in her first televised interview discussing how she witnessed ‘massive criminal securities fraud’ in the bank’s mortgage operations.”
READ MORE

Ralph Nader | Democrats Not Knowing What They Stand For – Lose
Ralph Nader, The Nader Page
Nader writes: “Did the Republicans win these mid-term elections? Or did the Democrats lose? The numbers show that in contested Senate races, where the Republicans picked up seven seats and will probably gain two more to take control of the Senate, voters did not support those Democrats who were the most wishy-washy.”
READ MORE

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 8th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From: EESI – the Environmental and Energy Study Institute

1112 16th Street, NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036-4819


Possible Actions on Renewable Energy & Fuels in the 114th Congress.

November 7, 2014

On October 5, with Republicans declaring a major victory in the Senate, the game of musical chairs for Committee leadership has already begun. Meanwhile, de facto Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Boehner (R-OH), released statements that hint at their agenda for the 114th Congress. In reading the tea leaves, what might be expected from this Congress with regard to renewable energy, particularly biofuels? While there may not be the super majority needed to block a filibuster or overcome a Presidential veto on bills that would negatively impact renewable energy – renewable fuels may not fare so well in the upcoming Congress.

With their sights already set on the 2016 election, Boehner and McConnell are vowing to end the ‘grid lock’ and “put as much legislation on the President’s desk as possible in the next two years, starting with many bills which passed [the House] with bipartisan support—only to gather dust in a Democratic-controlled Senate that kept them from ever reaching the president’s desk.” Not surprisingly, McConnell and Boehner’s agenda includes voting on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. While not specifically mentioned in early comments from leadership, it is likely that several bipartisan energy issues will be raised again, including the renewable tax credits and the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill. It is also likely that the oil export ban, the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan, and other proposed regulations and expansions of oil and gas drilling on federal lands will receive attention in the new Congress.

Within the renewable fuels industry, leaders were cautiously optimistic regarding the outcome of the election, reiterating that biofuels have historically enjoyed bipartisan support. In addition to being supported during a democratically controlled Congress, biofuels were included in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush. Renewable fuels did enjoy support on the campaign trail from both parties, particularly in the Midwest. Brian Jennings, executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol, expressed caution, stating, “Now is the time we have to hold newly-elected officials accountable for the promises made on the campaign trail.” And while for the most part Midwestern Senators state they are strongly in support of biofuels, it is less clear in other states with competing interests. In states with strong ties to the oil and gas industry, and ‘big food,’ making the case for biofuels has been more difficult, despite rising corn crop yields, falling corn prices, and advancements in renewable fuels.

Committee chairs wield considerable power in their ability to get legislation to the floor. Sen. Boxer (D-CA), chair of Environment and Public Works (EPW), has been a staunch supporter of renewable energy and the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). Just last month, she sent a letter in support of the RFS to Obama in October, along with Sen. Markey (D-MA). In the new Congress, Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) will most likely assume chairmanship of EPW, which oversees the EPA. Senator Inhofe has been a vigorous climate denier and a vocal opponent to the EPA’s regulation of the energy industry.

In early 2014, Inhofe expressed interest in repealing the RFS, and instead focus on expansion of domestic oil and gas drilling. Inhofe wrote that the RFS should be repealed, “allow[ing] ethanol and other biofuels to compete on a level playing field with all other transportation fuels”— a common refrain of renewable energy foes. Ironically, Inhofe makes no mention of the $4.8 billion in taxpayer funded subsidies to the oil and gas industry each year. But it is clear, without the support of the EPW Chairman, challenges to the RFS will be brought forward. In looking over previous anti-RFS legislation from the 113th Congress, a few patterns emerge. It is likely that efforts to modify the RFS could include capping ethanol at ten percent of fuel volumes, blocking or hindering mid-level blends, and possibly cuts to corn ethanol from the mandate. And while many environmentalists would like to see the focus shift solely to advanced fuels, such as those sourced from agricultural or other wastes, corn ethanol has provided the marketplace for the nascent advanced fuels categories. Indeed, many cellulosic plants coming online today are bolt-on technologies to existing corn ethanol facilities. Therefore, these two industries’ fates are intrinsically tied together and are both important to the future of biofuel and biobased products and our ability to move away from oil dependency.

What remains to be seen is if any of these bills could achieve the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and make it to a vote on the Senate floor. Hopefully, it will not come to that point; the importance of support beyond the ‘corn belt’ cannot be ignored. The industry itself has already had ‘1000 cuts’; distribution has been severely limited by infrastructure issues created by the oil and gas industry; public perception issues still loom large, and a long-delayed 2014 renewable volume obligates (RVOs) has chilled industry investments in new technologies and feedstocks. The result is an industry that is increasingly looking abroad for investor certainty, as China, South America and Europe still remain bullish on renewable fuels. Therefore, it would be unwise for the industry to rely on historic support. Instead, the case needs to be made as to why ethanol and other biofuels are important to every district and state, by lowering prices at the pump, reducing reliance on oil, creating jobs and a globally competitive industry, and lowering exposure to toxic tailpipe emissions.

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For more information see:

Energy Policy Seen Ripe for Compromise in GOP Congress, Bloomberg

Will Ethanol Ride the GOP Wave?, Agriculture.com

Sen. Inhofe, denier of human role in climate change, likely to lead environment committee, The Washington Post

Congress Should Repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard, Washington Times

Contact at EESI:

Jessie Stolark
 jstolark at eesi.org

Newsletters:

EESI Update
Climate Change News (CCN)
Sustainable Bioenergy, Farms, and Forests (SBFF)

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 8th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


In an unprecedented move, a Saudi advisory council says it approves of lifting a ban on female drivers. The Shura Council proposes that certain restrictions be applied, however: Women must be at least 30, have permission from their male guardian, not wear makeup and drive only in daylight hours, The Associated Press reports.


For years, the kingdom has refused to review the ban on female drivers, which is unique to Saudi Arabia, where conservative Muslim clerics have expressed concerns that female drivers could spread “licentiousness.”

The AP reports:

“The Shura Council’s recommendations are not obligatory on the government. But simply making the recommendation was a startling shift after years of the kingdom’s staunchly rejecting any review of the ban.

“The council member told The Associated Press that the Shura Council made the recommendations in a secret, closed session held in the past month. The member spoke on condition of anonymity because the recommendations had not been made public.”

As The Two-Way’s Bill Chappell reported last year, there have been a number of bold protests against the ban, with Saudi women getting behind the wheel for a day. Thousands have signed online protests against the ban. The October 2013 protest highlighted by Bill was the third of its kind since 1990.

The AP says that the Shura Council recommended that women 30 and older be allowed to drive until 8 p.m. each day if they have permission from a male guardian. They would be allowed to drive from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday through Wednesday and noon to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, the Muslim weekend.

The council is also recommending a “female traffic department” made up of female officers to deal with female drivers, the AP says.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 7th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

QUOTATION OF THE DAY:
“It doesn’t make me mopey. It energizes me, because it means that this democracy’s working.”
PRESIDENT OBAMA, on his party’s sweeping midterm losses.

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President Obama’s problems were in part caused by Senate Democrats who catered to demands from interests that claimed to speak for the people rather then backing foresight that was presented by the White House. Many of such Senators lost anyway and in their last two months in Congress are now free to vote their conscience having been freed from politics.
The Conservative winners see the danger looming now as a cloud of truth they say is manned by ZOMBIES.

For whatever this is worth – we post here the thoughts of Heritage Foundation’s President – former Congressional leader Jim DeMint – while eager to see what President Obama still manages to achieve during this interim two months of a “Zombie Congress” – the time he is facing a still a nominal Democrat Senate – at least by name. The following two years, with the fiction of a Democrat Senate out of the way – President Obama will be forced to govern by rulings from the White House and vetoes of Congressional legislation that he will not be ready to accept. We are thus optimists and say that the time of Gridlock will be over – a new era of compromise or clear confrontation is looming for these two years.

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Commentary By Jim DeMint
Washington’s Conservative Heritage Foundation President

With the midterm elections just behind us, Americans might think they can finally stop worrying about politics for a while. Not so fast! Now is when they need to be more vigilant than ever.

Although dozens of politicians were replaced with fresh faces on Election Day, the losers don’t have to vacate their offices for two months. That means they can keep on voting in a “lame duck” session of Congress.

While “lame duck” is the standard parlance in D.C., I prefer the more colorful term “Zombie Congress,” popularized in recent years by George Will and others. It more aptly conveys the peril of the situation. Zombie legislators are those unhappy senators and representatives who have been voted out of office, yet still stagger dutifully back to Washington for a month or so before Christmas break. ‘Tis the season when they are most dangerous.

Unlike their B-movie counterparts, these zombies don’t seek brains, though they could probably use some. With no electorate to appease, the newly politically “deceased” members have no incentive to restrain their more base urges to feast upon the hard-earned tax dollars of the living.
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Unfortunately, lame duck sessions have become more common in recent years and have been used to rush through liberal policies while most Americans are focused on the holidays. Obamacare was rammed through the Senate on Christmas Eve in 2009. Other lame ducks were used to pass bailouts, debt limit increases, big spending bills, special-interest tax breaks and even an ill-advised arms treaty with Russia.

Lame duck lawmakers could use this year’s post-election session to push through a costly omnibus spending bill … with total impunity. Those who want to further burden Americans by taxing their Internet purchases also are contemplating the chance to ram through the misleadingly titled “Marketplace Fairness Act.” The “fairness” here means you send more money to the government!

It’s not just a matter of electoral death and taxes, either. All sorts of controversial issues and massive bills could be brought up when We the People think it’s safe to turn our attention away from Washington and enjoy family, fall and football. Harry Reid has been clear in his desire to preserve corporate welfare for big “green” energy companies by tying it to good “must pass” tax provisions, instead of waiting until next year to consider them separately.

In the past two lame duck sessions of Congress, ill-advised treaties have arisen, such as the United Nations Disabilities Treaty, which violates American sovereignty in helping its citizens who need care. If the disability treaty rises from the dead this session, it would impose foreign educational and social agendas upon our country regardless of the will of the people.

Not all hazards arise from the legislative branch: President Obama has threatened to implement additional unilateral amnesty for illegal immigrants after the election. He already has “lit the beacon” of amnesty for further incoming waves under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and has hinted at expanding it to millions more who have entered the country illegally. A Congress where the balance of power is determined by folks with nothing to lose lacks incentive to stand up to the president’s executive overreach or work with him for a sane alternative to the border crisis.

Tackling these challenges will take time, deliberation and, most importantly, a legislative body which actually represents Americans and has a stake in the outcome. That’s not the kind of body you have in a Zombie Congress.

As of last night, the nation has spoken, giving a new generation of leaders the mandate to govern on popular conservative priorities such as school choice, increased energy production and more jobs. But the losers could still affect national policy even after the voters have made their wishes clear.

Harry Reid and John Boehner should insist the zombies shuffle homeward without hurting the country and begin the transition to real life as soon as possible. Americans don’t need divisive, expensive legislation forced on them in a lame duck session by senators and representatives they’ve already fired. We have big challenges to face as a nation, and we’ll face them best with a Congress that better reflects the will of the people. And it can all wait until January!

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Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint rose from modest South Carolina roots and a career in marketing to build and lead a resurgent conservative movement.

Jim DeMint @JimDeMint

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