Burlington, Vermont (CNN)It wouldn’t be the first time a revolution sparked in New England changed the world.
But two and a half centuries after the insurrection that birthed America, the idea that a rumpled radical like 73-year-old Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders could overthrow the U.S. economic, health care and tax systems seems farfetched at best.
Yet that’s exactly the task the fiery U.S. senator has set himself in a presidential campaign targeting billionaire “oligarchs” who he says have hijacked America’s economy and inflicted misery on the middle class.
Sanders, an agitator who doesn’t suffer fools, political opponents or journalists gladly, is testing whether the kind of populist, liberal agenda that gave him 75% approval ratings in his adopted home state can catch fire nationwide.
READ: Bernie Sanders’ brotherly love
“Brothers and sisters: Now is not the time for thinking small,” Sanders told thousands of supporters in Burlington on Tuesday.
“Now is not the time for the same-old, same-old establishment politics and stale inside-the-Beltway ideas,” Sanders said in an implicit denunciation of the runaway front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton.
The obstacles Sanders faces in the presidential primary race, however, are immense.
Sanders has no viable countrywide political organization, so he must foment a grassroots uprising. His task is complicated by the fact that although he caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate, he has always been a political independent wary of formal party affiliations.
Friday, May 22, 2015
Kaufman writes: In Friday’s column, the New York Times’ Paul Krugman argued that although he generally approves of the forthrightness with which the Obama administration has dealt with economic issues, when it comes to international trade and investment, the president deserves a failing grade.
Especially, he wrote, on the subject of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the quasi-secret deal that the administration has teamed up with Republican Congressman Paul Ryan (W) to push through the House.
“[the] selling of the 12-nation Pacific Rim pact has the feel of a snow job,” he argued. “Officials have evaded the main concerns about the content of a potential deal; they’ve belittled and dismissed the critics; and they’ve made blithe assurances that turn out not to be true.”
ALSO: Paul Krugman – New York Times Blog Trade and Trust.
May 17, 2015
I’m getting increasingly unhappy with the way the Obama administration is handling the dispute over TPP. I understand the case for the deal, and while I still lean negative I’m not one of those who believes that it would be an utter disaster.
But the administration — and the president himself — don’t help their position by being dismissive of the complaints and lecturing the critics (Elizabeth Warren in particular) about how they just have no idea what they’re talking about. That would not be a smart strategy even if the administration had its facts completely straight — and it doesn’t. Instead, assurances about what is and isn’t in the deal keep turning out to be untrue. We were assured that the dispute settlement procedure couldn’t be used to force changes in domestic laws; actually, it apparently could. We were told that TPP couldn’t be used to undermine financial reform; again, it appears that it could.
How important are these concerns? It’s hard to judge. But the administration is in effect saying trust us, then repeatedly bobbling questions about the deal in a way that undermines that very trust.
We have a particular problem here – this with no less then the Great New York Times.
The problem is that in the paper’s greed to make money they hide the important views of Paul Krugman by asking the internet readers to pay subscription money. We know this is a subject for long discussions – but what if a great economist is indeed trying to save the country and the World and a Board that owns a large chunk of media sources just gets in his way?
What if I tell you that the opinion page of that paper, years ago, seemed to be sold to the Mobil Oil Corporation that regularly had a quarter page advertisement that left no interest space for the paper’s business-folks when it came to non-petroleum fuels?
from Elzen, den Michel — Michel.denElzen at pbl.nl
This study provides an overview of projected greenhouse gas emissions of 13 major emitting countries up to 2030, taking into account the emission trajectories based on current and planned policies, and selected enhanced mitigation measures that are in line with national priorities.
Some countries are likely to achieve their 2020 pledges through current policies, while others require the effective implementation of planned policies or additional measures.
The full report can be downloaded at:
This study, as well as an assessment of the INDCs, will be presented at SB 42:
Preparation and assessment of intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs)
Friday, 5 June
PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
To Facilitate TTIP the US pushes the EU to forgo Environmental legislation. The Guardian reveals how this caused the shelving of legislation on endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility.
By Arthur Neslen / The Guardian
EU moves to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility were shelved following pressure from U.S. trade officials over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal, newly released documents show.
Draft EU criteria could have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). But these were dumped amid fears of a trade backlash stoked by an aggressive U.S. lobby push, access to information documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe show.
On the morning of July 2, 2013, a high-level delegation from the U.S. Mission to Europe and the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited EU trade officials to insist that the bloc drop its planned criteria for identifying EDCs in favor of a new impact study. By the end of the day, the EU had done so.
The TTIP is a trade deal being agreed by the EU and U.S. to remove barriers to commerce and promote free trade.
Responding to the EU officials, AmCham representatives “complained about the uselessness of creating categories and thus, lists” of prohibited substances, the minutes show.
The result was that legislation planned for 2014 was kicked back until at least 2016, despite estimated health costs of €150bn ($165bn) per year in Europe from endocrine-related illnesses such as IQ loss, obesity and cryptorchidism — a condition affecting the genitals of baby boys.
A month before the meeting, AmCham had warned the EU of “wide-reaching implications” if the draft criteria were approved. The trade body wanted an EU impact study to set looser thresholds for acceptable exposure to endocrines, based on a substance’s potency.
“We are worried to see that this decision, which is the source of many scientific debates, might be taken on political grounds, without first assessing what its impacts will be on the European market,” the chair of AmCham’s environment committee wrote in a letter to the commission.
These could be “dramatic” the letter said.
In a high-level internal note sent to the health commissioner, Tonio Borg, shortly afterwards, his departmental director-general warned that the EU’s endocrines policy “will have substantial impacts for the economy, agriculture and trade”.
Earlier this year, 64 MEP’s submitted questions to the commission about the delay to EDC classifications, following revelations by the Guardian about the scale of industry lobbying in the run up to their abandonment. Sweden, the European Parliament and European Council have brought court proceedings against the commission for the legislative logjam.
Just weeks before the regulations were dropped there had been a barrage of lobbying from big European firms such as Dupont, Bayer and BASF over EDCs. The chemical industry association Cefic warned that the endocrines issue “could become an issue that impairs the forthcoming EU-US trade negotiations”.
The German chemicals giant BASF also complained that bans on pesticide substances “will restrict the free trade with agricultural products on the global level”.
Around this time, the commission’s more industry-friendly agriculture department weighed into the internal EU debate after being “informed by representatives of the US chemical industry” about it.
A common theme in the lobby missives was the need to set thresholds for safe exposure to endocrines, even though a growing body of scientific results suggests that linear threshold models – in which higher doses create greater effects – do not apply to endocrine disruptors.
“The human endocrine system is regulated by hormones and the hormone receptors are sensitive to low doses,” said Hans Muilerman, PAN Europe’s chemicals coordinator. “In animal toxicity studies, effects are seen from low doses [of endocrines] that disappear with higher ones. But in the regulatory arena, lower doses are not tested for.”
A commission spokesperson insisted that health and environmental concerns would be fully addressed, despite pressure from industry or trade groups.
“The ongoing EU impact assessment procedure is not linked in any way to the TTIP negotiations,” the official said. “The EU will proceed to the adoption of definitive criteria to identify endocrine disruptors, independently from the further course of our TTIP negotiations with the US.”
An EU-TTIP position paper on chemicals published last May, cited endocrine disruptors as as one of the “new and emerging scientific issues” which the EU and the US could consider for “enhanced regulatory cooperations” in a future TTIP deal.
“However, given the fact that a possible future TTIP Agreement will most likely not enter into force before the adoption of definitive EU criteria to identify endocrine disruptors, it is clear that the EU’s ongoing impact assessment and adoption of definitive criteria will not be dealt with in the TTIP negotiations,” the spokesperson said.
From pro-American to pro-Russian? Nikola Gruevski as a political chameleon.
A former staunch ally of the US-led War on Terror, Macedonia PM Nikola Gruevski has gradually turned his country away from the west towards Russia – all the while keeping his neoconservative ideology intact.
Meanwhile, political analysts have detected a certain rift in the relations between Skopje and the West which has resulted in the Macedonian government’s more decisive reorientation towards Moscow.
From one neocon to another:
The latter objective was achieved via the recruitment of a younger pool of cadres. Following a widespread trend all over Southeast Europe (e.g. Albania’s Edi Rama and Serbia’s Vuk Jeremi?), the party’s central committee and later the Cabinet of Ministers consisted of young, aspiring and, often, Western-educated individuals (e.g. the Foreign Minister between 2006 and 2011, Antonio Milošoski). Moreover, Gruevski maintained the central aspects of Georgievski’s strategy of rapprochement vis-à-vis the ethnic Albanian community.
Despite this, Gruevski’s term in office has been marked by the emphatic endorsement of Neo-Macedonism to the detriment of the modernist narratives over the Macedonian ethno-genesis in the nineteenth century. The adoption of Neo-Macedonism became further institutionalized through the endorsement of grandiose architectural projects, largely inspired by classical antiquity, which commenced in 2010.
On the domestic front, the Socialists/SDSM and other opposition circles accused the government of investing a disproportional percentage of the state’s budget on these projects. In foreign policy, the emphasis on Neo-Macedonism further complicated relations with the southern neighbour, Greece.
Since the early days of Nikola Gruevski’s term in office, the ‘new’ VMRO-DPMNE drew inspiration from the rather influential trend of neoconservatism among policymaking circles in the US. As it was the case with various other statesmen in Central and Southeast Europe (e.g. Romania’s Traian B?sescu), Nikola Gruevski underlined his firm commitment to Euro-Atlantic institutions and opted for the rapid liberalization of the economy along post-Keynesian lines.
Meanwhile, Gruevski constantly stressed his deep faith in God and highlighted the significance of Eastern Orthodoxy and its system of moral values as a fundamental pillar of the state’s identity. In the field of foreign policy, Nikola Gruevski soon emerged as a staunch supporter of George W. Bush’s policy-doctrine on the Middle East. Throughout the 2000s, FYR Macedonia had dispatched military personnel to Afghanistan and Iraq under the auspices of the US-led ‘Coalition of the Willing’.
The pendulum shifts: Fluctuating geopolitics and disillusionment with the West
Meanwhile, the simultaneous advent of the economic crisis made European policymakers more introverted and reluctant to the prospects of the EU’s wider enlargement. With specific regard to FYR Macedonia, European policymakers and political analysts soon stroke a critical stance towards Nikola Gruevski and his apparatus. The main areas of concern were symptoms of nepotism and authoritarianism as well as accusations over the relentless propagation of ‘ethno-kitsch’.
This shifting landscape in global and regional politics had direct ramifications on the government circles in Skopje. Several commentators have argued that delaying the state’s accession to Euro-Atlantic institutions runs detrimental to FYR Macedonia’s stateness and it is largely to account for Skopje’s disillusionment with the West. From a more ‘ideological’ angle, though, the change of guard in the White House and the subsequent adoption of a new US foreign policy doctrine are not to be overlooked either.
In other words, Nikola Gruevski’s government has lost much of the patronage that it enjoyed during George W. Bush’s tenure in office. Moreover, we are currently experiencing the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world order. The last few years have witnessed the consolidation of semi-authoritarian models of governance among emerging regional actors (e.g. Recep Tayyip Erdo?an in Turkey and Vladimir Putin in Russia). The latter development has encouraged the, if only subtle, admiration of certain statesmen throughout Central and Southeast Europe towards the above-mentioned models.
For instance, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán recently coined the concept of illiberal democracy. According to the Hungarian PM, ‘it is not an imperative that contemporary democracy must be structured along the ideological frame of Liberalism…there can be numerous other models of democracy in Europe, nowadays’. Moreover, Viktor Orbán has also positioned Hungary’s foreign policy more solidly within Russia’s orbit of influence.
In particular, both FIDESZ and VMRO-DPMNE converge along a common axis. Both are post-Communist parties that commenced their engagement in politics as, anti-establishment, umbrella-initiatives that hosted a wide range of conservative as well as liberal standpoints. However, in the long run, local adaptations of neoconservatism evolved into the dominant intra-party trend.
Nikola Gruevski and/or Viktor Orbán are not merely unhappy with the outlook(s) of Euro-Atlantic institutions on their respective states or the way(s) that their rule has been portrayed in the Western press. They have also isolated specific elements in Vladimir Putin’s leadership which they deem rather akin to their brand(s) of neoconservatism. These are, namely, Russia’s leader-centred and strong government, the promotion of national and Christian values, and the safeguarding of ‘naturally ascribed’ gender-roles.
Especially in the light of a multipolar international system, one might contend that the neoconservative, ideological, core in parties such as VMRO-DPMNE and/or FIDESZ has remained intact despite the, apparent, foreign policy readjustment towards Moscow.
Pro-government circles have hinted at the involvement of ‘foreign decision-making centres’ who are not particularly content with the bilateral cooperation between Russia and FYR Macedonia. In the other end of the spectrum, opposition circles have suspected the government of engineering the Kumanovo troubles in an attempt to play the card of ‘national unity’ as a last resort. A third assumption that has not been examined to an adequate extent is the possibility of a peculiar, yet amorphous, blend between Albanian ethno-nationalism and elements of Islamic fundamentalism along the lines of the ‘Chechen precedent’.
Russia, on its part, has been quick to point the finger for both the Kumanovo incidents and the anti-government mobilization at the West. The US and the EU have been accused of orchestrating one more ‘Maidan-style’ coup with the aim to destabilize the government and obstruct cooperation with Russia in energy issues.
Russia Today and other pro-Kremlin media outlets dedicated considerable time to the coverage of pro-government demonstrations where Russian flags also featured among the crowd. Quite a few Western political analysts have expressed the wishful thinking that Nikola Gruevski may be forced to resign under popular pressure and be replaced by a coalition government with a Euro-Atlantic orientation.
Apart from nominally right-wing parties, centre-left statesmen in the region have also detected, albeit more subtly, some ‘positive’ aspects in Vladimir Putin’s pattern of governance (e.g. the Bulgarian Socialist Party/BSP and Slovakia’s SMER). Therefore, in order to grasp such chameleonic mutations more adequately, one should also pay close attention to political culture among post-Communist parties in Central and Southeast Europe and its evolution.
WE SUGGEST TO THINK ALSO THROUGH THE ELECTION RESULTS IN THE UK WHEN READING ABOVE ARTICLE – THIS SO THAT THE MAKINGS OF A EUROPEAN UNION ARE CONSIDERED WHEN LOOKING AT CENTRIPETAL MOVEMENTS LIKE THOSE APPEARING IN CENTRAL AND SOUTH EASTERN EUROPE.
Related Articles: The deep roots of Macedonia’s current turmoil – and the way forward – Heather Grabbe -the same source.
Heather Grabbe 13 May 2015, openDemocracy, London
The country must avoid just replacing the driver in the seat of a captured state machinery – by increasing inclusion and pluralism in governance. This will be impossible without EU and NATO assistance.
For nearly two decades, Macedonia has been a pressure cooker of public anger at corruption, deteriorating governance and chronic unemployment. Now the valve has blown. This year, union-organised strikes were followed by student protests against flawed education reforms. Then the opposition party released recordings of conversations that exposed government wire-tapping of more than 20,000 citizens. Quickly dubbed “bombs”, these recordings were released over the last three months by the main opposition party leader at press conferences. On them appear the voices of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, senior officials, journalists, judges and security officials conspiring in electoral and judicial fraud, and organising systemic corruption. On the latest, released on 4 May, the prime minister discusses with interior ministry officials a cover-up of the murder in June 2011 by one of his bodyguards of 21-year old Martin Neshkovski, a student who supported the ruling party.
These revelations have led to a new wave of protests, led by grassroots networks of civil society rather than the opposition party. The young activists have become more radical in their demands under sustained attacks by riot police and government infiltrators, who provoked the protestors for five nights in a row. Last Friday, they pledged to come back to demand the resignation of the prime minister. Then the population awoke on Saturday morning to news of what the government called a “terrorist attack” in an ethnically mixed neighbourhood in Kumanovo, a town near the Serbia/Kosovo border. The results were the deaths of police officers and arrests of alleged terrorists. The government-controlled media called for unquestioning support for the government, and labelled as a traitor anyone who disputed the official interpretation of events. What is going on? Is this a security crisis or a consolidation of power by the ruling party in the face of mounting opposition?
High stakes – but for security or politics?
The shootings in Kumanovo have woken up the rest of the world because they are reminiscent of the security crisis fifteen years ago, when ethnic Albanians took to the hills with their guns to demand rights, representation and jobs. The country narrowly escaped a full-blown civil war thanks to the Ohrid Agreement, which gave the Albanians greater political and economic inclusion, including quotas for public-sector jobs and parliamentary seats.
It was NATO and the EU that took responsibility for Macedonia’s security in 2001, with Javier Solana, as EU High Representative for Foreign Policy at the time, and George Robertson, then NATO Secretary-General, as the main negotiators at Ohrid. But the current crisis is not primarily driven by ethnic tensions. The security framing by the government obscures a much deeper crisis in the body politic, and a looming one for the economy.
After 24 years of independence, Macedonia’s model is crumbling. The ruling party has held onto power by controlling the state and media, and borrowing on international markets to keep the economy going. This has undermined the country’s fragile democracy – despite the promises made at Ohrid, which are still not fully implemented – and failed to build rule of law and a sustainable economy. Prime Minister Gruevski won power nearly a decade ago on promises of clean government and economic development. But he then perfected the system of clientelism and state capture begun by Branko Crvenkovski, his predecessor as opposition leader and prime minister, and later president. Gruevski has used snap elections twice to keep his party in power, and his leadership has become increasingly coercive. The wiretap recordings have confirmed that his VMRO-DPMNE party has captured all vital areas of the economy and established complete control over media, even imprisoning critical journalists. Macedonia’s ranking has fallen from 36 to 136 in the freedom of media index produced by Reporters Without Borders.
The government dispensed with parliamentary debate at the end of 2013. Faced with a short deadline to approve the next loan to pay pensions before the Christmas and New Year holidays, they forcibly expelled the opposition and media from the parliament during a debate over the state budget rather than find an agreement.
The public is scared. More than half of Macedonians believe they cannot freely express their opinions. A staggering 81 percent believe that fear of consequences for them and their families prevent them and others from speaking out. Their political fears are heightened by their economic vulnerability.
The chronic economic malaise underlying acute political crisis.
The Macedonian economy appears to be financially stable. The government nurtures an image of business promoter and responsible borrower. Until recently, it was the region’s poster child for the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. European banks were happy to earn good returns on Macedonian state bonds. Macedonia’s average GDP growth of 3% in the last three years is the highest in the region, completing this picture of prosperity.
But the economy is not sustainable. The government has used debt financing to invest in grandiose infrastructure projects, including the flagship “Skopje 2014” project, which erected statues and faux-classical buildings in the capital at a cost of over 600 million euro. Between 2008 and 2014, Macedonia’s public debt quadrupled, rising from 23% of GDP in 2008 to around 46% in 2014. Debt is projected to reach the 60% ceiling prescribed by the international financial institutions by 2019. The state budget increased by a third over the same period (from roughly 2 to 3 billion euro). Inflows of foreign direct investment averaged only 2.8% of GDP per year between 2009 and 2014, low even by regional standards.
Life for citizens has become more precarious. Around a third of the workforce is unemployed, the second highest rate in Europe after Kosovo. Without the heavy borrowing, the fragile economy could not sustain more than 300,000 pensioners, who rely on the state budget for half of their needs. Nor could it afford to pay the huge number of state employees. The last official number was 140,000 in 2008, and latest estimates range from 200,000 to 255,000. The total number of people employed in Macedonia is 700,000 – meaning that the state employs nearly a third of the workforce. No wonder people are leaving to seek better prospects abroad. A census has been postponed by the government, but Gallup estimates that more than 300,000 people have left the country. According to Deutsche Welle, most of the 120,000 Macedonians who acquired Bulgarian passports have already emigrated to the EU or elsewhere. Macedonia seems to have more registered voters (at 1,780,128) than residents.
VMRO-DPMNE has kept its hold on power in this unhappy state by resorting to strident nationalism and intimidation of its opponents, increasing the divisions in a multi-ethnic country. Ethnic Macedonians are understandably aggrieved by the lack of a solution to the dispute with Greece over the country’s name, which already blocked entry to NATO – and Gruevski has adroitly used the issue to rally nationalism in support of the government. Meanwhile, the ethnic Albanian political parties have been co-opted by their share in the spoils of mis-governance, even though their people remain even more alienated and poorer than the rest of the population.
The divisions are deepening right across society. Three-quarters of ethnic Albanians still firmly believe in EU and NATO accession as the way to a better future, but by now over 62 percent of other Macedonians think badly of joining the EU. Three-quarters of the ruling party’s supporters see the name dispute with Greece as the key reason for Macedonia’s now bleak EU accession prospects; but only 20% of opposition supporters agree. The biggest divide is between rich and poor, especially along party lines. The poor are undoubtedly getting poorer: resources available to the poorest fifth of citizens fell by 38% between 2008 and 2012. But business profits have grown by almost two and a half times since the year 2000. Nearly 80% of all Macedonians believe it is unfair that employment in state institutions and general prosperity is based on political party membership.
Macedonia is once again becoming a security threat on the EU’s borders. But this time it’s different: a non-partisan civic movement has taken to the streets for the first time to change the country. There is a real opportunity to use this energy to build democracy and a market economy in this multi-ethnic state.
No party is doing well in Macedonia: the secret recordings have lost the government all credibility, but the public has little faith in the leaders of the opposition and ethnic Albanian parties either. The immediate solution lies in collective action first by all those who have created the problem.
Now that three of the prime minister’s key allies have tendered their resignations, Macedonia should turn again to the solution that averted the civil war in 2001: a unity government composed of the four main parties. To foster the necessary compromises and offer a fresh start. it would not include the current prime minister, public prosecutor or speaker of the parliament – but opposition parties must be involved in open and credible oversight of the intelligence agencies, and take responsibility for the discredited interior ministry.
The most promising scenario is a government of national unity that lasts for 12-18 months, to prepare the country for free and fair elections, and create an independent commission to investigate all the events since the opposition was violently ejected from the parliament in 2013. And it should agree on a common negotiating platform on the name dispute with Greece. Macedonia’s newly reinvigorated civil society should also contribute to the work of the parliamentary commissions and monitor the new government’s progress in restoring the accountability of public institutions. The country must avoid just replacing the driver in the seat of the captured state machinery, by increasing inclusion and pluralism in governance.
As so often in the Balkans, such a scenario will be impossible without EU and NATO assistance. The default position among EU foreign ministers is to expect sovereign countries to sort out their own political problems through democratic institutions. But after a decade of unconsolidated democracy and state capture, Macedonia does not possess those institutions. Therefore, other levers of influence are needed. NATO could offer a tangible incentive to all parties by offering a possibility to re-open membership talks. EU accession negotiations are far off because so much time has been lost on necessary reforms, but the enlargement process is vital to offer hope, especially to the ethnic Albanians, and guidance to reformers who are seeking to take back captured parts of the state. The support of EU institutions, member-states and banks is vital for the country’s macroeconomic stability. Neighbouring governments could also exert more pressure, as their own security is at stake. Bulgarian Prime Minister Borisov was the first to request Gruevski to step down.
The EU can no longer afford to indulge a model of governance in Macedonia that has been far more aggressive in its authoritarian zeal than nearby Montenegro or Turkey. The European People’s Party has a particular responsibility to get involved, having accepted and protected VMRO-DPMNE as a sister party for all these years. Now it must act to uphold the standards of democracy on which it was founded, by putting pressure on VMRO-DPMNE to relinquish its grip on power and join a unity government. The time to move is now, as the costs of inaction will continue to rise.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany; Biovision Foundation in Zurich, Switzerland; and Millennium Institute in Washington DC, USA organize, a few days before the May session of the Post?2015 Intergovernmental negotiations on follow?up and review, titled “Follow?up and Review Mechanisms for Natural Resource Management and Governance to Achieve the SDGs.”
They will address some key issues associated with this topic. The event’s main focus is on the management and governance of natural resources, but the options presented could be further developed and applied to other thematic and cross-cutting areas.
“A High?Level Event on Follow?Up and Review Mechanisms for Natural Resource Management and Governance to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”
at the Millennium Broadway Hotel New York, 145 West 44th Street, New York.
This High?Level Event aims at providing a platform for UN Member States, UN organizations, ministries, non-governmental organisations, academia, civil society, and the private sector – to discuss options for follow?up and review mechanisms connecting national, regional and global levels.
It is an invitation only event – and for more information, please visit the event’s website: globalsoilweek.org/thematic-areas…
The Rise and Fall of a Modern ‘Devshirme’ in Erdogan’s Turkey
by Burak Bekdil
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Originally published under the title, “How Non-Muslims “Survive” in Turkey.”
Prominent non-Muslims in Turkey, then and now. Left: an Ottoman Janissary officer. Right: the Armenian Christian intellectual Etyen Mahcupyan, who retired as advisor to Turkey’s prime minister after saying “what happened to Armenians in 1915″ was “genocide.”
Last October, Etyen Mahcupyan, a leading Turkish Armenian intellectual, “liberal” writer and columnist, was appointed as “chief advisor” to Turkey’s Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. At first glance, this was good news in a country where Islamists privately adhere to the old Ottoman millet system, in which non-Muslims were treated as second-class (if not third-class) citizens.
In reality, Mahcupyan was a reincarnation of the Ottoman “devshirme” system, in which the Ottoman state machinery produced several non-Muslim converts who enjoyed a place in the higher echelons of the palace bureaucracy, and the finer things of life, because their pragmatism earned them excellent relations with the ruling Muslim elite.
In a December interview with Turkey’s leading daily, Hurriyet, Mahcupyan said, “Whatever has been a [political] asset for Turkey’s Armenian community (they number around 60,000) is an asset for the Jewish community too. But… there is Israel… As long as the psychology of the Israel issue continues to influence politics in Turkey and relations between the two countries do not normalize…” The line, which Mahcupyan shyly did not finish, probably would have gone on like this: “Turkey’s Jews will keep on paying the price.”
Mahcupyan admitted that if Turkey’s Jews felt alienated, it was the government’s responsibility to do something about that.
What more? “I have lived through this personally for the past 60 years,” he explained. “Among Turkey’s non-Muslim minorities, including Jews and Armenians, there is an opinion about humiliating Muslims.” As Mahcupyan’s statement is not true, it therefore just seems a way to justify Islamists’ intimidation of Jews.
Next, Mahcupyan argued, “Both Jews and Armenians are better-educated [than Muslim Turks] and more open to the West. And this brings in a feeling of superiority complex.” In this view, daily attacks on Turkey’s Jews and other non-Muslims happen because Jews and Armenians humiliate Muslims — they are better-educated than Muslims and hence their superiority complex. The charge is, at best, silly.
As in Ottoman times, just one unpleasant utterance can suffice to end a devshirme’s career in government service.
Only a few months later, Mahcupyan would learn how wrong he was about the Islamist supremacists in Ankara and their inherent intolerance to liberal thinking.
Mahcupyan recently commented on Pope Francis’s remarks on April 12, in which the Pope described 1915 as “the first genocide of the 20th century,” and said that the Vatican had “thrown off a 100-year-old psychological burden.”
If, Mahcupyan said, accepting that what happened in Bosnia and Africa were genocides, “it is impossible not to call what happened to Armenians in 1915 genocide, too.”
It was probably the first time in Turkish history that a senior government official recognized the Armenian genocide. Once again, at first glance, that was good news in a country where outright denial has been the persistent official policy. But it seems Turkey was not quite as liberal as Mahcupyan had thought.
Immediately after his remarks became public, EU Minister Volkan Bozkir expressed unease, saying that “Mahcupyan’s description was not appropriate for his title of adviser.” But that was not the only price Mahcupyan would have to pay.
A few days after his remarks on genocide, Mahcupyan “retired” as chief adviser to Prime Minister Davutoglu — after only about six months in the job.
Officially, Mahcupyan had retired in March after turning 65, the mandatory retirement age for civil servants. But it was an open secret in Ankara that his departure came simply because Turkey’s Islamists were not quite the liberals he had claimed they were.
The “Mahcupyan affair” has a message to Turkey’s dwindling non-Muslim minorities: Just like an Ottoman devshirme, a non-Muslim can rise and become a darling of today’s neo-Ottoman Turks. He can win hearts and minds in important offices in Ankara — and a bright career. But to maintain his fortunes he must remain loyal to the official Islamist line, both in deed and rhetoric. Just one unpleasant utterance would suffice to end a devshirme’s career in government service.
That is the kind of collective psychology into which Turkey’s ruling Islamists force non-Muslims: either become a collaborator, or…
There is another Turkish Armenian columnist who looks more seasoned than Mahcupyan in his devshirme career. Markar Esayan, a writer for a fiercely pro-government daily, recently said in reference to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s 2014 statement about the Armenian victims of 1915: “[Erdogan's] message of condolences illustrates how we have achieved the Ottoman spirit in line with this century and its democratic practice. Furthermore, the practices in the last 13 years [of the Justice and Development Party's rule] have positively influenced our [Armenian] community and non-Muslims.”
Apparently Esayan is happy with Turkey’s neo-Ottomans and their Islamist rule, including their rigid policies of genocide-denial, which he claims have done good to Turkey’s Armenians and other non-Muslim citizens. Etyen Mahcupyan may have been punished, but Markar Esayan is being rewarded for his loyalty: he has been selected to run for parliament on the ticket of Prime Minister Davutoglu’s party!
The Iran Nuclear Negotiations move now to the technical level of IAEA in Vienna and the Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz will stand by to help. Austria’s President Heinz Fischer stated that these negotiations do provide the best possible answer to the Iranian nuclear problem. The Austrian oil company OEMV is preparing to rekindle its own activities with Iran that stopped because of the sanctions.
At the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Fusion Energy Conference 13-18 October 2008, Geneva, Switzerland. Iran and the IAEA were close to reaching agreement on a framework for Iranian cooperation. Further information comes from IAEA October 28, 2008, from Geneva. Iran and the IAEA were close to reaching agreement on a framework for Iranian cooperation but it blew away because of the disagreements on credibility.
The United States and Iran may have agreed now on a vague framework for resolving issues between them, including the lifting of sanctions, but the final stage of the negotiations will bring a diplomatic confrontation over the sequence and timing of lifting sanctions.
And the most difficult issue in the coming talks will be how the “Possible Military Dimensions” or “PMD” – the allegations of Iranian nuclear weapons work that have been at the center of the entire Iran nuclear crisis for several years – is to be linked to lifting certain UN Security Council sanctions.
On that linkage Iran will insist that its cooperation in providing access to the International Atomic Energy Agency must be reciprocated with the lifting of certain sanctions on an agreed-upon timetable, regardless of how long the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) takes to make up its mind, and what judgment it renders, according to a source in close contact with the Iranian negotiating team (as per Mr. Porter).
However, nothing was officially agreed on in Lausanne on how Iranian cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the PMD issue would be linked to sanctions relief, according to the source close to the Iranian negotiators. But the source said that an informal understanding was reached that the linkage would involve the lifting of UN Security Council sanctions directly involving Iran’s imports for its nuclear and missile programs.
Iran continues to insist that the evidence being used to impugn its intentions was “manufactured.” Nevertheless, Iran “would be ready to give access to the IAEA on PMD even though that goes beyond NPT [Nonproliferation Treaty],” the source told Truthout.
Once the IAEA completed its visits and its environmental sampling, however, Iran will consider that the process is finished. “We don’t care what the IAEA analysis would be or how long it took,” the source said. “What Iranians cannot accept is that [the PMD issue] becomes an indefinite instrument for the Israelis, because they want to find out about Iranian capability and ask for this or that military site and a new inspection.”
The negotiations on the PMD-sanctions linkage will be part of a broader set of negotiations in which Iran will insist on a detailed set of arrangements on sanctions relief in return for each of its concessions in the agreement, according to the source. “Each of the elements listed in the US fact sheet must have a step-by-step plan with a timetable and proportionate reciprocation,” said the source.
Obama Under Pressure He Helped Create
The Obama administration has been under heavy pressure from the Israelis and their supporters in Washington to insist that Iran confess to having carried out nuclear weapons research and development as a condition for sanctions relief.
That pressure is the result of several years of news media coverage that has treated allegations that Iran carried out research and development on nuclear weapons, published by the IAEA in 2011, as established fact. The media have constantly repeated the theme that Iran has been “stonewalling” the IAEA to cover up its past nuclear weapons experiments.
Absent from the media narrative is the fact that the allegations that the IAEA is demanding that Iran explain are all based on intelligence that is now known to have come from Israel and which the IAEA itself suspected of being fabricated, from 2005 to 2009.
But the Obama administration itself helped to make PMD a hot button issue in American politics. It made Iran’s alleged refusal to cooperate with the IAEA investigation of the purported intelligence alleging an Iranian nuclear weapons research and development program the rationale for imposing punishing sanctions on Iran.
The US administration has been wary of demanding an actual admission of guilt, which it knew was unrealistic, but it has been unwilling to completely dismiss the position of the Israelis and their followers either. Last November a “senior Western official” told Reuters that the United States and the other five powers would try to “be creative” in finding a formula to satisfy both those who were insisting that Iran must “come clean” about its nuclear past and those who said it was not realistic to expect a confession.
In an April 8 interview with Secretary of State John Kerry, the host of “PBS NewsHour” Judy Woodruff asserted that the IAEA wanted Iran to “disclose past military-related activities” but that Iran was “increasingly looking like it’s not going to do this.” Woodruff then asked, “Is the US prepared to accept that?”
Without challenging the premise that Iran is expected to “disclose past military activities,” Kerry responded, “No. They have to do it. It will be done.”
Fabricated Intelligence and IAEA Investigation
The George W. Bush administration pressed documents supposedly from the laptop computer of an Iran scientist involved in an Iranian nuclear weapons research program on the IAEA in mid-2005. But Mohamed ElBaradei, then IAEA director general, refused to regard the documents as legitimate evidence because they had never been authenticated, and Bush administration officials refused to answer questions about their origins. In his memoirs published in 2011, ElBaradei writes, “The problem was, no one knew if any of this was real.
Information now available shows that the documents were created in Israel. According to a senior German office official, those documents were given to Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, in 2004 by the Mujahedin e-Khalq (MEK), the armed exile Iranian opposition group that had been an Israeli client organization for several years.
A popular Israeli history of the most successful covert operations by Israel’s Mossad, originally published in Hebrew in Israel, asserts that Mossad provided some of the documents to the MEK that later become the centerpiece of the case against Iran.
ElBaradei also reveals in his memoirs that the IAEA received another series of purported Iranian documents directly from Israel in summer 2009. Among them was a two-page document in Farsi describing a four-year program to produce a neutron initiator for a fission chain reaction. The former IAEA chief inspector in Iraq, Robert Kelley has recalled that ElBaradei found that document to be lacking credibility because it had no chain of custody, no identifiable source, and no official markings or anything else that could establish its authenticity. But ElBaradei’s successor as IAEA director general, Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano, gave the IAEA’s imprimatur to the entire collection as well as the earlier set of documents in an annex to the November 2011 report. After his election, Amano assured US officials that he was “solidly in the US court” in his handling of the Iran file.
The IAEA has never revealed that Israel was the source of the latter set of documents. The IAEA justified its decision to keep the identity of the member states that provided intelligence secret by citing the alleged necessity to protect “sources and methods.” The decision to maintain silence on the source has served to shield both Israel and the IAEA itself from questions about the obvious political motives behind the purported intelligence.
The other major purported intelligence find published by the IAEA was the claim from Israel that Iran had installed a large steel explosives containment cylinder at its military base in Parchin in 2000 for nuclear weapons-related testing. But no corroborating evidence has ever been produced, and Robert Kelley has challenged the IAEA’s adoption of the Israeli intelligence claim on the grounds it was technically implausible.
Relations between Iran and the IAEA on cooperation over the PMD issue have gone through three major phases. In a series of meetings in early 2012, Iran and the IAEA were close to reaching agreement on a framework for Iranian cooperation. Iran agreed on an IAEA visit to Parchin, where the bomb test cylinder was said to have been located, as part of the process. But the talks broke down over the IAEA’s insistence that the investigation would never have an end point, and that the Agency would have the right to return to any question or site, even after Iran had provided the necessary access and other cooperation.
A second phase of relations began when Iran and the IAEA reached agreement on a “Framework for Cooperation” in February 2014. Iran agreed to provide information and access in regard to a list of PMD issues, starting with the “Exploding Bridgewire” (EBW) issue.
But after Iran provided documentary evidence to show that its research in the field was for its oil and gas industry and not for nuclear weapons, Amano refused to acknowledge publicly that Iran had discredited one of the arguments about the intelligence documents.
The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akhbar Salehi, claimed that the IAEA had promised in the agreement to close issues once Iran had provided required information, and the IAEA did not challenge his claim. Amano insisted, however, that the IAEA would not issue any assessment until it had completed its investigation of all of the issues.
Iran apparently concluded from that experience that the IAEA would keep Iran on the hook as long as the United States and its allies wanted to maintain leverage over Iran. The Obama administration has now confirmed that conclusion by holding the lifting of sanctions hostage to Iran’s “cooperation” on PMD writes Porter.
US officials have never explained how they would expect Iran to satisfy the IAEA if the intelligence at issue was indeed fabricated.
von Arian Faal, Wiener Zeitung
The Austrian President in above interview states clearly that Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu is wrong in his opposition to the deal President Obama and the heads of the other four powers are trying to strike with Iran. The point being th prospective deal is indeed the best that can rationally be expected from Iran.
Further, President Fischer expects the deal to be agreed upon and signed by all involved by July 1st 2015, and he expects to go on a State visit to Iran after the agreement has been obtained. He will thus be the first of a EU-Member-State leader to go to this newly cleaned Iran.
Foreign Minister Sebastien Kurz wrote on his Facebook page today, April 17, 2015 about the return of the negotiations to Vienna
Minister Kurz already told the Kurier yesterday that the Vienna negotiations that deal with the details that can allow the removal of sanctions will be hard and sensitive. Experts and politicians will be here next week for two days – the first time since last November. The Iranian deputy Foreign Minister is expected. But the Kurier article is not optimistic indeed that it all will be wraped up before the end of June and mentions the news from Tehran that an extension will be required.
Ende der Sanktionen
Diesmal soll es also weniger um den großen Wurf – an dem war man ja im November in Wien gescheitert – sondern um die heiklen Details gehen. Die politischen Direktoren der UN-Vetomächte sowie Irans Vize-Außenminister Araqchi werden erwartet.
Im Mittelpunkt steht vor allem die Frage, wann und wie die Sanktionen gegen den Iran im Falle einer Einigung aufgehoben werden sollen. Teheran will sie natürlich umgehend loswerden, um der ohnehin angeschlagenen iranischen Wirtschaft endlich neue Auftrieb zu geben. Im Westen will man weiterhin eine stufenweise Aufhebung und dazu die Möglichkeit, im Falle eines iranischen Vertragsbruchs sofort zu den Boykottmaßnahmen in voller Härte zurückzukehren. Darauf drängt auch der US-Kongress in Washington, der sich ohnehin eine Entscheidung über die Sanktionen nach einer Einigung Ende Juni vorbehält.
Inzwischen aber wachsen die Zweifel, dass die auch tatsächlich zustande kommt. In Teheran spricht inzwischen sogar Revolutionsführer Khamenei von einer weiteren Verlängerung.
And coincidenta;;y, when looking up the Kurier I found an April 3, 2015 article that shows the Austrian Oil Company OEMV is alreadty sharpening its pens to reach out to Iran, to fulfill agreement for oil and gas they started before the sanctions hit. So – this is a sign of high Austrian interest in the success of these negotiations and the end of sanctions.
Ob die OMV, die vor den Sanktionen große Gasförder-Pläne im Iran hatte, auch bald wieder ins Iran-Geschäft zurückkehrt, ist noch offen. OMV-Sprecher Robert Lechner: „Wenn ein so großer Player im Energiebereich zurück auf die internationale Bühne kommt, muss man das zunächst neu bewerten. Derzeit ist es aber noch zu früh, konkrete Schlüsse zu ziehen.“ Die OMV unterhält noch immer ein Büro in Teheran.
Die OMV muss allerdings gegen riesige Konkurrenz antreten. Denn trotz des niedrigen Ölpreises dürften sich die Branchen-Riesen um Investitionen in neue Öl- und Gasfelder anstellen. Alexander Pögl von der Ölmarkt-Beratungsfirma JBC: „Grundsätzlich werden internationale Investoren vor der Tür stehen, so viele Möglichkeiten für einen Explorationszugang gibt es nicht.“ Der Iran verfüge zwar wegen der Sanktionen derzeit über große Lagerbestände, müsse aber nach deren Verkauf rasch in neue Fördertechnologien und -gebiete investieren.
In der österreichischen Wirtschaft und Politik findet derzeit geradezu ein Wettlauf statt, wer zuerst nach Teheran fliegt. Offiziell will man darüber nicht viel sagen. „Die Einladung des Iran an Bundespräsident Heinz Fischer ist aufrecht“, heißt es aus der Hofburg zum KURIER. Gut informierte Diplomaten erwarten, dass die Reise noch heuer stattfindet.
Autor: Franz Jandrasits
(kurier) Erstellt am 03.04.2015, 18:00
The danger in signing up on International Trade Agreements with the US is in having your own good environmental legislation over-ruled by a judge that takes interests of a corporation to be of higher value then those of millions of people. Ask Uruguay about its relations with Philip Morris and the possibility of having its tobacco-watch laws over-ruled.
From: Avaaz.org [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Liebe Freundinnen und Freunde,
Uruguay hat eines der besten Nichtrauchergesetze der Welt — und dafür wird das Land nun von Philip Morris verklagt. Der Tabakgigant könnte den Fall sogar gewinnen, es sei denn, wir schreiten ein.
Es ist erschreckend: Ein Konzern könnte mit einem tödlichen Produkt Gesetze kippen, die unsere Gesundheit schützen. Die Richter sind bereits unter Beschuss geraten, weil sie die öffentliche Meinung bei ähnlichen Fällen nicht beachtet haben. Sorgen wir dafür, dass das jetzt passiert: Wenn wir einen riesigen Aufruf starten und erstklassige Rechtsexperten engagieren, die unsere Stimmen in den Gerichtssaal tragen, können sie nicht weghören. So könnten wir verhindern, dass ihr Urteil einen schlimmen Präzedenzfall schafft.
Zeigen wir den Gerichten, dass es hier nicht nur um Uruguay geht — wenn Tabakgiganten ihren Willen durchsetzen, schaffen sie damit überall freie Bahn für Rechtsklagen. Mindestens 4 weitere Länder sind bereits ins Visier von Unternehmen geraten und auch in vielen anderen Ländern sind Nichtrauchergesetze bedroht.
Die Zeit ist knapp — vor Gericht werden bereits die Argumente angehört. Klicken Sie, um die öffentliche Gesundheit und unsere Demokratie vor der Habgier großer Unternehmen zu schützen. Unsere Namen werden dem Gericht überreicht:
In Uruguay müssen Zigarettenschachteln zu 80 Prozent mit gesundheitlichen Warnhinweisen und Schockbildern versehen werden. Das Rauchen war dort zu einer Krise ausgeartet, die täglich etwa sieben Uruguayern das Leben kostete. Doch seit es das Gesetz gibt, wird von Jahr zu Jahr weniger geraucht! Nun behauptet der Tabakriese Philip Morris jedoch, dass die Warnhinweise keinen Platz für seine Markenzeichen lassen.
All dies ist Teil einer weltweiten Strategie von Philip Morris: Länder zu verklagen und einzuschüchtern. Der Konzern hat Australien bereits einen teuren Gerichtsfall aufgedrückt, und wenn er jetzt gegen Uruguay Erfolg hat, könnte Philip Morris in über Hundert weiteren Ländern Klagen einleiten — darunter Frankreich, Norwegen, Neuseeland und Finnland. Denn in all diesen Ländern werden gerade neue lebensrettende Gesetze erwägt.
Experten sagen, dass Philip Morris gute Gewinnchancen hat. Schließlich wird das Verfahren hinter verschlossenen Türen vor einem internationalen Schiedsgericht behandelt, das letztes Jahr bei zwei Dritteln der Fälle zugunsten von Unternehmen geurteilt hat. Und das Urteil ist verbindlich, obwohl viele der Richter keine unparteiischen Rechtsexperten, sondern Privatpersonen mit Verbindungen zur Unternehmenswelt sind. Bringen wir sie also dazu, über die verheerenden Auswirkungen nachzudenken, die ihr Urteil für die weltweite Gesundheit haben könnte.
Uruguay hat sein eigenes Team von Rechtsexperten, doch diese konzentrieren sich zurecht auf ihre jeweiligen Verteidigungsargumente. Wir können jedoch ein einzigartiges rechtliches Argument zum Tragen bringen: dass dieses Urteil einen Präzedenzfall für jedes Land schaffen würde, in dem Rauchergesetze und ähnliche Handelsabkommen existieren. Wir können den Richtern außerdem zeigen, dass die Menschen hinter ihnen stehen, wenn sie zugunsten Uruguays und der öffentlichen Gesundheit urteilen.
Je mehr von uns unterschreiben, desto schwieriger ist es für die Richter, unseren Aufruf zu ignorieren. Klicken Sie unten, um mitzumachen, und verbreiten Sie diese Email:
Wenn Großkonzerne das Gemeinwohl in tödliche Gefahr bringen, tritt unsere Gemeinschaft in Aktion. Sei es bei Monsanto oder bei H&M — wir haben immer wieder dafür gesorgt, dass Profite nicht über das Wohl der Menschen gestellt werden. Und jetzt können wir das noch einmal tun.
Emma, Maria Paz, Katie, Mais, Alice, Ricken, Risalat und das ganze Avaaz-Team
Philip Morris klagt gegen Rauchverbot in Uruguay (Die Welt)
Rechtsstreit um Geld oder Leben (Deutsche Welle)
Wie Konzerne Staaten vor sich hertreiben: Philip Morris vs Uruguay (Die Zeit Online)
Und auf Englisch:
Philip Morris verklagt Uruguay wegen Schockbildern auf Zigarettenschachteln (NPR)
Jüngste Trends bei Investitionsschutzabkommen und Investor-Staat-Streitbeilegung (UNCTAD)
Das Spiel der Schiedsgerichte (The Economist)
Poles of Krakow burn coal for heat and die of cancer in this seconf largest city of Poland in high air pollution conditions. It is insane if a judge tries to say that mandating change in favor of cleaner air is unconstitutional.
Politics & Policy
April 11, 2015
by Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson of NPR
Krakow is one of Europe’s top tourist destinations and attracts millions of visitors each year to soak up its history, culture and architecture. But its appeal wanes during colder months when another prominent feature of the Polish city is on display: air pollution.
Environmental officials say Krakow’s air is among the most polluted in Poland, which in turn, has the most polluted air in the European Union.
And what’s the source of the smog hanging over the city during colder months? It’s not Polish industry, but rather residents who burn coal to keep warm.
One such resident is Arleta Wolek. The 73-year-old retired production line worker keeps her coal-burning stove in her basement in a hillside neighborhood. The furnace is four years old, and she feeds it from a nearby pile of coal that’s almost as tall as she is.
“I used to have gas but switched to coal because it’s warmer,” Wolek explains.
Like many Krakow residents, she doesn’t believe coal smoke is the main contributor to the thick smog that hangs over the city like a dirty blanket. But she nevertheless has decided to switch her heating system back to gas after learning the local government will reimburse her for the retrofit.
“The switch is a good thing and will make my life easier because going into the basement to get coal and putting it into the stove takes time” and is strenuous, Wolek says.
It can take up to a year to get the government refund, but Wolek says she doesn’t mind. What she is concerned about, however, is how senior citizens on fixed incomes are supposed to pay for the gas each month. Most gas here comes from Russia and costs consumers in Krakow twice as much as coal.
Dr. Eva Konduracka, a cardiologist, says air pollution causes 30 percent of the chronic obstructive lung disease cases she and other doctors here treat, many of them in young people. High cancer rates are also linked to the toxins people are breathing.
That’s likely why more than 30,000 Krakow homeowners continue to use coal. Their intransigence leaves the air here hazy and sour-smelling, says Wolek’s neighbor, Andrzej Plebancyzk, 71, who moved back from the United States in 2010.
“I have a problem breathing and it was really connected to the air, because I didn’t have it in the States,” he says. “Sometimes, when I used to be a kid, before we’d go to sleep we’d open the window to get fresh air. Forget doing that now, especially when there is no wind.”
The health effects are even worse than the smell, says Dr. Eva Konduracka, who compares it to “smoking 2,000 cigarettes per year.”
The cardiologist says smog is causing 30 percent of the chronic obstructive lung disease cases she and other doctors here treat, many of them in young people. High cancer rates are also linked to the toxins people are breathing.
In Krakow, she says, doctors diagnose a new case of malignant tumor every three hours.
One was Anna Krokosz. She died a few days after being diagnosed with lung cancer two years ago, says her daughter, Aleksandra Bedek. The quality control engineer says her 77-year-old mother never smoked a day in her life, but coughed all the time.
Bedek, who is 58, says she coughs a lot, too. She avoids spending any more time outdoors than necessary because of the smog. But the smell of her neighbors’ coal smoke seeps into her apartment.
Anna Dworakowska, 35, helped found a grass-roots movement called the Krakow Smog Alert campaign, which educates residents about the dangers of air pollution.
“Whenever the wind stops, I feel like I’m suffocating, especially when I’m lying in bed at night,” Bedek says.
Anna Dworakowska, 35, helped found a grass-roots movement called the Krakow Smog Alert campaign, which educates residents about the dangers of air pollution.
Her group spurred the Krakow government into approving a ban on residential wood and coal-burning in the city starting in 2018. But a regional court last August overturned the measure, declaring it unconstitutional and unenforceable.
Krzysztof Bolesta, a political adviser to the Polish environmental minister, says he isn’t surprised. In fact, it’s such a big problem that his ministry made air quality its highest priority for 2015.
The transformation to fair and sustainable regional economies requires place-based, citizen-driven tools. The principles behind these tools are universal, but their effective application will be shaped by the landscape, the people, the history, and the culture of each particular region.
On September 14, 2015 Schumacher College for New Economists will welcome its first class of students to the Berkshires for the first two months of a nine month program. The program will be unprecedented, involving over twenty partner organizations at multiple locations across the US and UK. The list of partners is still growing, and currently includes:
The initiative grows from a common recognition: every local economy will need its own community economists – part visionary theorists, part activists – imagining what can be achieved and organizing to achieve it. Schumacher College was formed to train these new economists.
Program graduates may not have all the answers – but they will have the resources and connections to know where to look. They will know, and be known by, their community, and be committed to sharing and applying what they have learned.
They will find allies in the Maker Community who value the hand-crafted over the mono-culture products of an anonymous global economy, in the new agrarians cultivating small lots to produce for a regional food system, in community bankers who still make loan decisions based on face to face interviews, in environmentalists who understand the carbon cost of transporting goods over long distance, and in all those who love the “sidewalk dance” of a vibrant local economy.
They will engage a community process to explore the financing structures, the land tenure structures, the community supported industry structures, and the ownership structures needed to sustain and grow locally-owned businesses that pay a living wage.
They will need community engagement and support for their training. See below for more information on how to send a student from your community.
To get further details on Schumacher sustainability and the education for a new economy – please go to:
By Bill McKibben, EcoWatch
04 April 15
The chairman of the Guardian Media Group called the move a “hard-nosed business decision” that is justified on both ethical and financial grounds. I couldn’t agree more.
The Guardian Media Group is leading by example by divesting its entire £800 million (aka $1.2 billion) fund from fossil fuels and committing to invest in socially responsible alternatives instead. You can watch a video and find out more about The Guardian decision here.
When the roll of honor for action on climate change is someday called, I believe The Guardian’s name will be high on the list. They’ve taken a bold step in joining the fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground, both through their journalism and their own investments.
Let’s make sure The Guardian’s divestment commitment sends a strong signal to other foundations—as well as universities, cities, states, churches and any institution that holds money and is dedicated to the public good—to get on the right side of history too.
+35 # Barbara K 2015-04-04 13:08
+1 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2015-04-04 18:00
+22 # Corvette-Bob 2015-04-04 15:13
-13 # brycenuc 2015-04-04 15:44
+12 # Littlebird 2015-04-04 17:50
+3 # seeuingoa 2015-04-04 16:26
+8 # Littlebird 2015-04-04 17:41
+3 # rhgreen 2015-04-04 19:31
+3 # Eliza D 2015-04-04 20:31
INFORMATION NOTE – Sustainable Energy for All Partnership: Selection of Director-General
Headquartered in Vienna, Austria.
(1) Ensuring universal access to modern energy services,
Meant to enable all stakeholders – both public and private – to take ownership of, and contribute to, the common efforts to achieve sustainable energy for all, a new international non-profit organization, to be named the “Sustainable Energy for All Partnership” will be established. The Sustainable Energy for All Partnership will be led by a Director-General who is to be appointed through a competitive process led by the SE4All Executive Committee. Both public and private entities will be invited to take part in the governance of the non-profit organization.
For more information, please visit: appointments.egonzehnder.com/
Any inquiries regarding this selection process should be directly addressed to:
The Egon Zehnder team with attention to:
If Korea re-unites a lot of money will be lost by the US military industry. Will they let this happen? Can President Obama move on this? A call to action on this 70 years old “Forgotten War” is brought up now by an international women’s group.
International women peacemakers are planning a peace walk across the De-Militarized Zone to bring global attention to the unresolved Korean War and amplify women’s leadership to help reunify the country.
The year 2013 marked the sixtieth anniversary of the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War. The temporary ceasefire has never been replaced with a peace treaty, and the 2 mile-wide and 155 mile-long demilitarized zone (DMZ) continues to divide the Korean peninsula with recurring tensions that serve as a sobering reminder of the possibility of renewed war.
Traversing the seemingly impermeable border, five New Zealanders crossed the DMZ in August 2013. They rode their motorbikes from Mt. Paekdu on the northern border with China all the way down the peninsula to Mt. Halla on the southernmost island of Jeju. This inspired me to begin imagining a women’s peace walk across the DMZ by international women peacemakers – many from countries that fought in the Korean War – to bring global attention to the unresolved Korean War and amplify women’s leadership to help reunify the country. After talking to one of the organizers of the August 2013 crossing, I decided to sequentially follow their blueprint and reached out first to the North Korean government
A year ago, I went on this peacebuilding mission to Pyongyang to discuss an international women’s peace walk across the two-mile wide De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas. To my relief, Pyongyang responded very favourably towards our proposal, but with a stern caveat: only if the conditions were favourable.
Today, despite New Year calls for engagement by both Korean leaders, tensions remain very high. And this month, the United States and South Korea are conducting a two-month long period of military exercises called Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, which the North Korean Rodong Sinmun believes are “aimed to occupy the DPRK through pre-emptive strikes.”
The conditions are not favourable, but we are still planning the women’s peace walk across the DMZ this May. We have formed an organization called Women De-Militarize the Zone, and thirty women from more than a dozen countries have signed dup to walk for peace and the reunification of Korea. They range from Nobel peace laureates to artists, academics, humanitarian aid workers, and faith leaders.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the division of Korea by the United States and the former Soviet Union. For nearly seven decades, Koreans on both sides of the DMZ have long awaited a peace treaty to formally resolve the 1950-53 Korean War that only ended with a ceasefire agreement. Instead, 70 million Koreans across the peninsula, from the northern border of China down to the southern-most Jeju Island, have endured political repression and an endless arms race.
In 1945, after Japan’s defeat in WWII, the United States landed in Korea, which had been under brutal Japanese colonization for 35 years. Without the consent of Koreans, who were awaiting its liberation and sovereignty after an entire generation under Japanese occupation, the two Cold War powers – Washington and Moscow – divided the peninsula along the 38th parallel. It was supposed to be a temporary division, but instead the creation of two separate states precipitated the 1950-53 Korean War.
Despite the massive loss of human life and destruction, the Korean War has come to be known as the “forgotten war.” More bombs were dropped on Korea from 1950 to 1953 than on all of Asia and the Pacific islands during World War II, and President Truman came seriously close to deploying an atomic bomb. One year into the Korean War, US Major General Emmett O’Donnell Jr. testified before the Senate, “I would say that the entire, almost the entire Korean Peninsula is just a terrible mess. Everything is destroyed. There is nothing standing worthy of the name . . . There [are] no more targets in Korea.” According to University of Chicago historian Bruce Cumings, during the Korean War, U.S. airstrikes led to the destruction of 18 of 22 major North Korean cities. Cumings cites Hungarian journalist Tibor Meray, who recalled, “I saw destruction and horrible things committed by American forces… Everything which moved in North Korea is a military target, peasants in the field often were machine gunned by pilots, who, this was my impression, amused themselves to shoot targets which moved.”
In 1953, after nearly 4 million people were killed, mostly Korean civilians, North Korea, China and the United States, representing the United Nations Command, signed the armistice agreement with a promise within three months to sign a peace treaty. Over 60 years later, we are still waiting for a peace treaty to end war.
What has ensued instead for the past six decades is an endless arms race between North and South Korea. Whether we like it or not, the fact that the Korean War ended with a temporary cease-fire rather than a permanent peace treaty gives both Korean governments justification to invest heavily in the country’s militarization. According to the Ploughshares Fund World Nuclear Stockpile Report, North Korea possesses less than 10 nuclear weapons of the 16,300 worldwide that are predominantly held by Russia and the United States. North Korea invests approximately $8.7 billion — significantly higher than the $570 million Pyongyang claims — or one-third of its GDP in the military, according to the South Korean government-run Korea Institute of Defense Analyses. In 2013, to great surprise, Pyongyang acknowledged how the un-ended war has forced it “to divert large human and material resources to bolstering up the armed forces though they should have been directed to the economic development and improvement of people’s living standards.”
But it’s not just North Korea. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) 2014 Yearbook, South Korea was the world’s 10th highest military spender, with its expenditures reaching $34 billion for the year. World Bank data shows that in 2012, 13.6 percent of the central government’s expenditures in South Korea went towards defence spending. According to a North Korea expert at Seoul National University, Suh Bohyuk, in 2011, South Korea became the world’s number-two weapons importer. In September 2014, South Korea spent $7 billion for 40 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets. “The reason that we are building up our military is to counter North Korea’s attacks and provocations,” said a South Korean military official. According to political science professor Yang Seung-ham of Yonsei University, “The Park administration is rapidly purchasing many advanced weaponry for military security, which does not help in easing inter-Korea tensions.” Conservative hawks in Washington are also pushing South Korea’s militarization. According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, although Washington withdrew 11 types of nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991, hawks in U.S. Congress are now advocating for the return of U.S. nukes.
North Korea’s heavy military spending isn’t just to defend against South Korea, but against the world’s most powerful military in the world: the United States, which has since it landed on Korean soil in 1945 maintained thousands of soldiers and bases throughout the southern half of the peninsula. Washington regularly conducts military exercises with Seoul, simulating the invasion of North Korea. In January, in order to promote dialogue on the Korean peninsula, Pyongyang offered a moratorium on nuclear testing in exchange for the United States to postpone war game exercises with South Korea. The olive branch came a day after the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Years Day speech in which he offered to meet President Park if “the mood was right” and that the two Koreas should promote reconciliation on the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule. North Korea’s gesture to lessen tensions was rebuffed by Washington, which recently passed another round of sanctions against North Korea for its alleged hacking of the corporation, Sony.
In 2012, Washington spent $682 billion on its military, or 39 percent of the world’s total spending. While the Pentagon uses China’s military spending, which has grown annually in the double digits, to justify Washington’s Asia-Pacific Pivot, the unresolved Korean War gives regional powers such as the United States, China, and Japan justification to further militarize, including expanding missile defence systems and building new military bases, as they continually lack funds for social welfare, such as education or childcare. Last year, at a March 25 Senate Defense Committee hearing on the 2015 budget, the commander of the U.S. Forces in Korea (USFK), General Curtis Scaparrotti, argued that while the 28,500 U.S. troops based in South Korea were “fully resourced,” he was concerned about the readiness of “follow-on” forces needed if fighting erupted. According to investigative journalist Tim Shorrock, during heightened tensions with Pyongyang in 2013, Washington deployed a new THAAD portable defense system to Guam and that plans are underway for a massive expansion of the U.S. missile defense system in Alaska and along the west coast as a “precautionary” measure against a possible North Korean missile strike.
Since military intervention is not an option, the Obama administration has used sanctions to pressure North Korea to de-nuclearize. Instead, North Korea has since conducted three nuclear tests, calling sanctions “an act of war”. That is because sanctions have had deleterious effects on the day-to-day lives of ordinary North Korean people. “In almost any case when there are sanctions against an entire people, the people suffer the most and the leaders suffer least,” said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on his last visit to North Korea.
International sanctions have made it extremely difficult for North Koreans to access basic necessities, such as food, seeds, medicine and technology. Felix Abt, a Swiss entrepreneur who has conducted business in North Korea for over a decade says that it is “the most heavily sanctioned nation in the world, and no other people have had to deal with the massive quarantines that Western and Asian powers have enclosed around its economy.”
A less obvious legacy of the Korean War is how governments use the state of war to justify repression in the name of preserving national security. Whether in Pyongyang, Seoul or Washington, the threat of war or terrorism is used to justify government repression and overreach, such as warrantless surveillance, imprisonment and torture in the name of preserving national security.
While repression in North Korea is widely known, less known is how the South Korean government uses the antiquated 1948-enacted National Security Law (NSL) to prosecute political dissidents, particularly those sympathetic towards or seeking to engage North Korea. In South Korea, the Constitutional Court recently abolished the Unified Progressive Party, a liberal opposition party, on charges of being pro-North. Amnesty International says that this case “has seriously damaged the human rights improvement of South Korean society which has struggled and fought for freedom of thoughts and conscience and freedom of expression.” And in January, the South Korean government used the NSL to deport and ban for five years Shin Eun-mi, a 54-year old Korean-American housewife who had written about her travels to North Korea, including describing North Koreans as warm-hearted and urging Korean reunification.
There is wide consensus that replacing the temporary armistice agreement with a permanent peace treaty would go a long way towards de-escalating tensions that have long plagued Korea and the region. In a 2011 paper, the U.S. Army War College warns that the only way to avert a catastrophic confrontation is to “reach agreement on ending the armistice from the Korean War” and “giv[e] a formal security guarantee to North Korea tied to nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” U.S. Ambassadors to Korea since the 1980s have argued for engagement and a formalized peace process. James Laney, U.S. Ambassador to South Korea in the Clinton administration prescribed, “to remove all unnecessary obstacles to progress, is the establishment of a peace treaty to replace the truce that has been in place since 1953. One of the things that have bedeviled all talks until now is the unresolved status of the Korean War…. Absent such a peace treaty, every dispute presents afresh the question of the other side’s legitimacy.”
Perhaps most tragic about Korea’s division is the two-mile wide De-Militarized Zone that separates millions of Korean families. In April 2014, South Korean President Park said in her Dresden speech on Korean reunification that in 2013, “some 3,800 people who have yearned a lifetime just to be able to hold their sons’ and daughters’ hands — just to know whether they’re alive – passed away with their unfulfilled dreams.”
To end the state of war and help reunite families, international women peacemakers have come together to form Women De-Militarize the Zone, an organization dedicated to promoting the peaceful reunification of Korea through women’s leadership. From Northern Ireland to Liberia, we have seen how women’s participation in peace negotiations makes peace attainable, and that peace itself is inextricably linked with the advancement of women. We will work towards seeing the passage of a peace treaty to defuse dangerous tensions in Northeast Asia and de-militarizing our world. We must act now to give hope to Koreans that peace and reunification is tenable in their lifetimes and to the thousands of Korean elders that they will be able to embrace their loved ones across the DMZ before they pass away.
Energy union attacked for continued reliance on gas supplies.
One of team Juncker’s flagship policy strategies, plans for the implementation of an energy union were finally unveiled last week. In its official communication, the commission explains, “our vision is of an energy union where member states see that they depend on each other to deliver secure energy to their citizens, based on true solidarity and trust”.
Late last year, the commission set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030, and increasing energy efficiency and renewables by at least 27 per cent.
Yet the energy efficiency target is not binding at national or EU level, and the renewables target is only binding at EU level. It is unclear how this will play into the new energy union plans, but the commission seems to have ignored any criticisms, referring to these targets in its communication as “ambitious”.
Moreover, “producing oil and gas from unconventional sources in Europe such as shale gas is an option, provided that issues of public acceptance and environmental impact are adequately addressed”.
The commission’s apparent commitment to “public acceptance” is interesting, as it was previously reported that during the course of the transatlantic trade and investment partnership negotiations, the EU planned to make provisions to import US gas and oil acquired through fracking.
“When the conditions are right, the EU will consider reframing the energy relationship with Russia”
There are also plans to “explore the full potential of liquefied natural gas, including as a back-up in crisis situations when insufficient gas is coming into Europe through the existing pipeline system”.
The commission also stresses, “to reach our goal, we have to move away from an economy driven by fossil fuels”.
According to the document, “when the conditions are right, the EU will consider reframing the energy relationship with Russia”. Unfortunately, team Juncker fails to specify what the “right” conditions are, nor what “reframing” the relationship would actually consist of.
The communication warns, “to ensure the diversification in gas supplies, work on the southern gas corridor must be intensified to enable central Asian countries to export their gas to Europe. In northern Europe, the establishment of liquid gas hubs with multiple suppliers is greatly enhancing supply security. This example should be followed in central and eastern Europe, and in the Mediterranean area, where a Mediterranean gas hub is in the making”.
This may seem like an ideal solution considering the situation in Ukraine seems unlikely to reach a peaceful conclusion any time soon. But the countries the commission plans to work with are hardly dream allies.
Unsurprisingly, last week’s announcement was met with a lukewarm response on the part of environmental organizations, with Juncker’s team accused of contradicting itself.
Greenpeace EU energy policy adviser Tara Connolly said, “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing with this plan. The commission says the EU should move away from fossil fuels but it also wants to chase after new gas supplies and doesn’t rule out coal”.
Brook Riley, climate justice and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe added, “we keep hearing repetitions of gas, gas, gas. But at the same time Europe has promised to cut emissions by up to 95 per cent by 2050 – it is saying one thing and doing another”.
And Roland Joebstl, European environmental bureau policy officer on energy and climate change, commented, “tackling climate change and the issue of energy security means that the 2030 targets and related policies must be revised upwards instead of spending political capital on looking for more fossil fuel suppliers”.
MEPs were equally divided over the announcements.
Brussels’ energy union strategy is due to be discussed at this week’s council meeting.
About the author: Julie Levy-Abegnoli is a journalist and editorial assistant for the Parliament Magazine
Challenges ahead for EU energy union implementation, warn MEPs
The European parliament has cautiously welcomed commission vice-president Maroš Šef?ovi?’s energy union plans.
MEPs were quick to react after the commission outlined plans for an energy union last week.
The former parliament president noted that “stable, sustainable, affordable and competitive energy is a challenge which no EU member state is capable of meeting by itself”.
He also stressed that “developments in relations with Russia might have been an impulse for us to shift up a gear in our energy considerations, but altering the EU’s relations with Russia or any other party is not one of the energy union’s goals”.
Representatives from the S&D group also appeared quite happy with the commission’s energy union plans. The Socialists’ spokesperson on climate and environment, Matthias Groote, said, “the paper on the energy union represents a first step towards a sustainable, decarbonised economy in Europe”.
Dan Nica, the group’s spokesperson on energy, praised them as “a good balance between the geostrategic need to reduce our energy dependency on expensive imports and the fair demand from families and industries to reduce the price of energy”.
He added, “Europe can no longer afford its addiction to imported fossil fuels from Russia and the Middle East. Our dependence on external energy resources has affected our ability to conduct an independent foreign policy. It is time for a European energy union with teeth”.
And the group’s environment, public health and food safety committee coordinator Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy warned, “the true test of the energy union will be overcoming the current fragmentation of energy policy into 28 different systems and reaping the full benefits of a common European approach”.
Morgen Helveg Petersen, a vice-chair of parliament’s industry, research and energy committee, underlined that “investors will only put their money in the many projects of the energy union if the associated regulatory framework is put in place, environmental legislation is predictable and competition policy is sound. The biggest barrier is regulatory uncertainty – we need to fix that”.
In his view, “these proposals are disappointing because I fear they offer a virtual energy union that is not adequate to meet our growing challenges”.
Over on the left, MEPs were equally cynical.
Greens/EFA energy spokesperson Claude Turmes criticised the commission’s proposals as “a missed opportunity for outlining a path to a real energy transition in Europe. The overarching focus is on finding new supply routes for gas and reviving nuclear power, rather than trying to wean us off our damaging dependence on unreliable energy exporters. If the EU wants to get serious about energy security, it should be prioritising energy efficiency as the first line of defence”.
Greens/EFA vice-chair Bas Eickhout pointed out that the proposed strategy “will not create the energy system we need to stop climate warming greenhouse gases and limit the increase in global temperatures to below two degrees, which is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change”.
GUE/NGL group member Josu Juaristi was also wary of the commission’s announcements, explaining that, “in some member states investment in renewables is almost disappearing. Very little account is taken of citizens or local government. What happens is that the big energy companies’ control over our citizens is strengthened.
“We need to avoid a situation where the EU just leaves its ideas for renewable energy on paper – as we see happening at the moment”, he concluded.
The energy union is due to be discussed at this week’s council summit.
About the author: Julie Levy-Abegnoli is a journalist and editorial assistant for the Parliament Magazine.
Something else relevant to this topic - SustainabiliTank.info feels important to include here – is the upcoming acquisition of a Russian energy concern – LI Energy – headed by oligarch Mikhail Fridman – of the German RWE Dea company and all its global oil and gas production assets for a neat 5 billion Euro.
The Germans seem to think it is OK but the British are of a different opinion because RWE Dea owns a large North Sea production area which in case of further sanctions against Russia because of Mr. Putin’s involvement in the Ukraine, might cause a stoppage of production from those wells and leading to loss in employment and danger to the environment. Passing the ownership of Energy assets of Europe to Russian hands in light of the EU Energy plans of decreasing dependence on the Russians – might just be the wrong signal to the seriousness of an EU Energy Policy plan in general and the position German business takes on the larger European interests.
In Vienna, Austria – advice directly to the people on advantages when using solar energy in their daily life – is given – and examples shown – on city district level. See Hitzing, Friday, March 13, 2015.
Holen Sie sich Informationen fu?r die optimale Energienutzung!
Freitag, 13. Ma?rz 2015 von 15.30 bis 20.00 Uhr Großer Festsaal der Bezirksvorstehung Hietzing 1130 Wien, Hietzinger Kai 1-3
Ero?ffnung durch Bezirksvorsteherin Mag. Silke KOBALD Einfu?hrung durch Landtagsabgeordneten
Kurzfu?hrung und Vorstellung der Firmen durch
Vortrag Fa. KORKISCH, Hr. Gerhard Korkisch,
Vortrag Fa. RAYMANN Kraft der Sonn e, Hr. Dipl.-Ing. Rudolf Raymann, “Photovoltaik – Sonnenstrom ernten und speichern”,
Fragestunde und Publikumsdiskussionsrunde zu Erneuerbaren Energien unter der Leitung von BR Prof. Arch. Dipl.-Ing. Edwin Piskernik
Vortrag ARGE Erneuerbare Energien, Hr. Andreas Reiter, “Erneuerbare Energien in Wien – Chancen und Mo?glichkeiten”
Vortrag BAUPHYSIK SPERL, Fr. Dipl.-Ing. Alexandra Sperl, „Energieausweis – Fluch oder Segen?“
?Parallel laufend Internet-Recherche u?ber Computer und Beamer: www.oekonews.at oder www.biotrieb.at oder www.wien.gv.at (zu Fo?rderungen) auf Zuruf!