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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 14th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Statement by UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant to the UN Security Council on the situation in Ukraine – 13 March 2014.

I welcome Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to the Security Council today. The United Kingdom stands side-by-side with the Ukrainian people in this time of crisis.

We commend Mr Yatsenyuk, his government, and the people and armed forces of Ukraine, for the remarkable restraint they have shown in the face of repeated provocation. Because of their strength of will, there is still a chance for a peaceful, diplomatic solution.

Mr President,

Over the past week, we have heard in this chamber, and elsewhere, an attempt to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the transitional government in Ukraine. This is entirely unwarranted. Mr Yanukovych deserted his office and his people in the midst of a crisis. Rather than work to implement the 21 February Agreement, he abandoned his post. He was disowned by his own party and his removal approved by an overwhelming majority of Members of Parliament.

The transitional Government which replaced him has already taken important steps, steps which uphold the spirit of the 21 February Agreement and which lay the foundations for the future of Ukraine. They have restored the 2004 Constitution; they have begun the process of constitutional reform; and they have scheduled elections for 25 May.
These forthcoming elections will enable all Ukrainians to choose their own leaders. International monitors stand ready to ensure that these elections are free and fair. We urge all parties to support this effort.

We all agree that Ukraine needs our support in this time of transition. We all acknowledge that Ukraine has a pressing need for reform, for improvements to its political culture, for political stability, for inclusiveness and for an end to corruption. We all support the call for investigations into the violence of the past three months. We all back fresh elections under international observation. And we all agree on the importance of protecting minority rights. These points of agreement could form a basis around which we could coalesce to find a way forward.

But in order to move from away from confrontation, the Russian Federation needs to accept that the cause of current instability in Ukraine lies not in Kiev, nor in Donetsk.

It comes from the actions of the Russian Federation in the Crimean Peninsula where, against the expressed wishes of the Ukrainian Government, Russian military forces have taken control of a large part of the sovereign territory of Ukraine.

We utterly condemn this blatant violation of the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine and this flagrant breach of international law.

Russia claims that it is acting to protect its citizens. We have heard claims of Russian speakers and nationals under threat, the Russian language outlawed, rampant anti-semitism, hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Ukraine. All these claims have been shown to be unfounded. The only part of Ukraine where minorities are under threat is in Russian occupied Crimea, where Ukrainian forces are besieged in their bases and hundreds of members of the Tartar community are fleeing Crimea in fear. Where, as we have heard just now from Mr Feltman, ASG Šimonovic has been denied access, denied the opportunity to investigate the disturbing developments taking place in Crimea. But those international observers who have visited Crimea, including Astrid Thors, the OSCE Commissioner on National Minorities, have found no evidence of any violations or threats to the rights of Russian speakers. They have, however, reported that, as a consequence of Russian actions, tensions between ethnic communities have increased.

Mr President,

We are deeply concerned by the decision by the so-called Crimean government – installed by an armed Putsch accompanied by Russian military intervention – to hold a referendum on 16 March to ascertain whether Crimea should become part of the Russian Federation. We are equally concerned by the legislative steps Russia is taking to facilitate this referendum.

It is absolutely clear that the proposed referendum would violate the Ukrainian Constitution. Article 73 sets out that any alteration to the territory of Ukraine must be resolved by an All-Ukrainian referendum. This is manifestly not an all-Ukrainian referendum.

Moreover, a free and fair referendum cannot possibly be held while Russian troops and Russian-backed militias dominate Crimea, where there is no electoral register, where there are restrictions on press freedom, and where voters are casting their ballots under the barrel of a gun.

Under such conditions, it is clear that any referendum vote in Crimea this weekend would be farcical. Worse, it would reopen ethnic divisions and risk a serious escalation in tensions. Such a referendum will not be recognised by the international community.

Mr President,

A window of opportunity remains to find a peaceful resolution to this crisis. The window is narrow, but it exists. But finding this solution requires Russia to take a number of important steps. It must de-escalate. Its forces must return to their bases in Crimea and to the force levels stipulated in the Black Sea Fleet basing agreements. International monitors must be allowed into Crimea. Their presence will ensure that the rights of people belonging to minorities are fully respected by all parties. Russia should distance itself from the proposed referendum, clearly indicate that it will not seek to use the result as a pretext for annexation, and publicly reaffirm its commitment to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. And Russia must agree to proposals for a dialogue with the Ukrainian Government either directly or through meaningful international diplomatic process.

Mr President,

The Council is meeting today in the gravest possible circumstances.

A referendum is set to take place on Sunday which is illegal under Ukrainian law and the consequences of which will clearly be inflammatory and destabilising – with serious implications for the UN charter and international norms.

There is no need for this. What we have just heard from Prime Minister Yatsenyuk confirms what many of us have been repeatedly emphasising in this Council: that there is a clear willingness on the part of the Ukrainian Government to address Russia’s stated concerns through peaceful dialogue, discussion and negotiation.

When there is a readiness for dialogue it makes no sense – indeed it would be dangerous and irresponsible – for Russia to take unilateral actions or to collude with unilateral actions of the Crimean authorities.

The United Kingdom urges Russia to refrain from such unilateral actions and to distance itself from the referendum set to take place on Sunday.

And the United Kingdom urges this Security Council to make clear that Ukraine’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity must be respected and that any attempt to modify Ukraine’s borders through unlawful means will not be tolerated.

Kind regards,
Press Office l UK Mission to the UN

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 13th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

World wide web inventor Tim Berners-Lee: 'Establish web's principles of openness and privacy' (photo: unknown)
World wide web inventor Tim Berners-Lee: ‘Establish web’s principles of openness and privacy’ (photo: unknown)

An Online Magna Carta: Berners-Lee Calls for Bill of Rights for Web.

By Jemima Kiss, Guardian UK

12 March 2014

Exclusive: web’s inventor warns neutrality under sustained attack from governments and corporations.

he inventor of the world wide web (www) believes an online “Magna Carta” is needed to protect and enshrine the independence of the medium he created and the rights of its users worldwide.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee told the Guardian the web had come under increasing attack from governments and corporate influence and that new rules were needed to protect the “open, neutral” system.

Speaking exactly 25 years after he wrote the first draft of the first proposal for what would become the world wide web, the computer scientist said: “We need a global constitution – a bill of rights.”

Berners-Lee’s Magna Carta plan is to be taken up as part of an initiative called “the web we want”, which calls on people to generate a digital bill of rights in each country – a statement of principles he hopes will be supported by public institutions, government officials and corporations.

“Unless we have an open, neutral internet we can rely on without worrying about what’s happening at the back door, we can’t have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture. It’s not naive to think we can have that, but it is naive to think we can just sit back and get it.”

Berners-Lee has been an outspoken critic of the American and British spy agencies’ surveillance of citizens following the revelations by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. In the light of what has emerged, he said, people were looking for an overhaul of how the security services were managed.

His views also echo across the technology industry, where there is particular anger about the efforts by the NSA and Britain’s GCHQ to undermine encryption and security tools – something many cybersecurity experts say has been counterproductive and undermined everyone’s security.

Principles of privacy, free speech and responsible anonymity would be explored in the Magna Carta scheme. “These issues have crept up on us,” Berners-Lee said. “Our rights are being infringed more and more on every side, and the danger is that we get used to it. So I want to use the 25th anniversary for us all to do that, to take the web back into our own hands and define the web we want for the next 25 years.”

The web constitution proposal should also examine the impact of copyright laws and the cultural-societal issues around the ethics of technology.

While regional regulation and cultural sensitivities would vary, Berners-Lee said he believed a shared document of principle could provide an international standard for the values of the open web.

He is optimistic that the “web we want” campaign can be mainstream, despite the apparent lack of awareness of public interest in the Snowden story.

“I wouldn’t say people in the UK are apathetic – I would say that they have greater trust in their government than other countries. They have the attitude that we voted for them, so let them get on and do it.

“But we need our lawyers and our politicians to understand programming, to understand what can be done with a computer. We also need to revisit a lot of legal structure, copyright law – the laws that put people in jail which have been largely set up to protect the movie producers … None of this has been set up to preserve the day to day discourse between individuals and the day to day democracy that we need to run the country,” he said.

Berners-Lee also spoke out strongly in favour of changing a key and controversial element of internet governance that would remove a small but symbolic piece of US control. The US has clung on to the Iana contract, which controls the dominant database of all domain names, but has faced increased pressure post-Snowden.

He said: “The removal of the explicit link to the US department of commerce is long overdue. The US can’t have a global place in the running of something which is so non-national. There is huge momentum towards that uncoupling but it is right that we keep a multi-stakeholder approach, and one where governments and companies are both kept at arm’s length.”

Berners-Lee also reiterated his concern that the web could be balkanised by countries or organisations carving up the digital space to work under their own rules, whether for censorship, regulation or commerce.

We all have to play a role in that future, he said, citing resistance to proposed copyright theft regulation.

He said: “The key thing is getting people to fight for the web and to see the harm that a fractured web would bring. Like any human system, the web needs policing and of course we need national laws, but we must not turn the network into a series of national silos.”

Berners-Lee also starred in the London 2012 Olympics, typing the words “this is for everyone” on a computer in the centre of the arena. He has stuck firmly to the principle of openness, inclusivity and democracy since he invented the web in 1989, choosing not to commercialise his model. Rejecting the idea that government and commercial control of such a powerful medium was inevitable, Berners-Lee said it would be impossible: “Not until they prise the keyboards from our cold, dead fingers.”

Creator of web free to use for everyone:

As a boy growing up in south-west London, Tim Berners-Lee was a keen trainspotter, which led to his interest in model railways and then electronics.

But computers were already familiar concept in the family home – both his parents worked on the creation of the world’s first commercially built computer, the Ferranti Mk1.

Berners-Lee got a first in physics at Oxford and then worked in a series of engineering roles. But it was at Cern, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, in Geneva where he embarked on projects which would lead to the creation of the world wide web.

His aim was to allow researchers all over the world to share documents and his first proposals were judged as “vague but interesting” by a manager at Cern.

He combined existing technology such as the internet and hypertext and combined them to produce an immense interconnected document storage system. Berners-Lee labelled it the world wide web, although his Francophone collaborators found it difficult to pronounce.

The web was first open to new users in 1991, and in 1992, the first browser was created to scan and select the millions of documents which already existed.

Although the web has seen the creation and loss of countless fortunes, Berners-Lee and his team ensured that it was free to use for everyone.

Berners-Lee now works through various organisations to ensure that the web is accessible to all and that the concept of the neutrality of the net is observed by governments and corporations.

 

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

 

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 1st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 What we ask is whom do represent the black clad military people that took over Crimea?  Are they representing a new force or their old Russian military. We see a way out if the lack of insignia means that there is a new force being born.

FIRST CLEAR CASUALTY – THE SOCHI G8 MEETING THAT BECOMES IMPOSSIBLE WITH RUSSIA AT WAR.
SO – IT IS NOW CLEAR THAT SOCHI IS NOT THE PUTIN PLANNED  RUSSIAN GOLD MINE.

—————————————–

Ukraine PR Says UN Charter Brutally Violated, Meeting Format Fight.

By Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press Follow Up

 

UNITED NATIONS, March 1 — As the UN Security Council on Saturday afternoon held its second emergency meeting in as many days on Ukraine, that country’s Permanent Representative Yuriy Sergeyev stopped and told the press it is now a Russian “aggression” and that the UN Charter has been “brutally” violated.
Video here.

 

 He said an appeal is being made to the US, France, UK and China, under the rubric of non-proliferation; he said there is still time, before Russian president Vladimir Putin signs the order for military moves in Crimea.

 

  Then the Security Council “suspended” for ten minutes; Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin emerged and said some members of the Council are trying to change the format of the meeting, that Russia agrees with the format proposed by Luxembourg, which took over today as Council president.

 

After UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s envoy Robert Serry spun the contents of a closed door Security Council consultation on Ukraine on which there was no agreed outcome, Ban himself did the same on Saturday.

 


 

   Could Serry go to Crimea?  Hours before Serry through the spokesperson had said no. But the purpose of the UN TV theater is to get this spin “on camera” – that’s the role Falk’s UNCA is playing.

 

   Also Ban said he is going to speak with Putin soon. Will his spokesperson take question, this time with notice, on that?

 

   On February 28, Serry’s impartiality as “UN” envoy on Ukraine was called into question, on camera, in front of the UN Security Council by Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin.

 

   A “Note to Correspondents” was put out Saturday morning by the UN Spokesperson’s Office in which Serry put his spin on the Security Council consultations at which he was not present, and at which not even a Press Statement was agreed:

 

Note to correspondents: Statement by Mr. Robert Serry, Senior Advisor to the Secretary-General, at the end of his mission to Ukraine

 

Kyiv, 1 March 2014

 

Following the consultations in the United Nations Security Council yesterday, the Secretary-General requested me to go to Crimea as part of my fact-finding mission. I have since been in touch with the authorities of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and have come to the conclusion that a visit to Crimea today is not possible. I will therefore proceed to Geneva, where I will tomorrow brief the Secretary-General on my mission and consult with him on next steps.

 

In Crimea, I would have conveyed, also on behalf of the Secretary-General, a message for all to calm the situation down and to refrain from any actions that could further escalate an already-tense environment.

 

It became very clear from yesterday’s Council consultations that the unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine is not to be called into question. This is a time for dialogue and to engage with each other constructively.

Note to correspondents: Statement by Mr. Robert Serry, Senior Advisor to the Secretary-General, at the end of his mission to Ukraine.

 

March 1, updated — After the Ukraine open meeting then consultations of the UN Security Council took place, Council president for March Sylvie Lucas of Luxembourg came out and read a short statement.

  Inner City Press asked her if this was a mere “elements to the press,” not even an agreed Press Statement. This seems to be the case. She politely answered, but not why China and the ten elected members did not speak in the open meeting.

  Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Lyall Grant about the Budapest Memorandum — has it already been violated, including by the Western IMF side, in terms of economic coercion? Is it just a superseded document summoned up for pragmatic reasons now?

  Lyall Grant acknowledged that some time has passed. From the UK Mission transcript:

Inner City Press: The Budapest memorandum. There’s been a lot of talk about it. It requires the UK, Russia and France to seek immediate Security Council action if there’s a threat of force, so is this the end of your duties, or do you have a duty to defend Ukraine? And it also seems to commit the UK and others to refrain from economic coercion, so some people have been saying that on both sides, the economic coercion factor has been played. Has this memorandum been complied with since ‘94, or is it just pulled out at this time as a convenient document?

Amb Lyall Grant: Clearly, this document has become very relevant in the last few days. We believe that the first step should be a meeting of the signatories of the Budapest memorandum, as Ukraine government has suggested should take place. Proposals have been made for a meeting of the three signatories as early as Monday, but so far Russia has not agreed to that meeting.

 

  Lyall Grant also said his prime minister David Cameron spoke with Vladimir Putin and his foreign secretary William Hague will be in Ukraine on Sunday.

 

  Inner City Press asked Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson of Russia’s critique of envoy Robert Serry “getting played,” and of the leaked (US) audio about former US now UN official Jeffrey Feltman “getting” Ban to send Serry to Ukraine.

 

   Eliasson said Serry is an international civil servant, but that the UN is not mediating, he is only a go-between for now. Will that change?

 

  US Samantha Power came out, saying another things that President Obama is suspending participation in the preparation for the G8 in Sochi. She took only two questions; it was not possible to ask her about movement on loan guarantees, or her view of the US’ duties under the Budapest Memorandum. So it goes at the UN.

 

  When the open meeting happened, after two hours of wrangling about format, not all 15 members of the Council — not even all five Permanent members — spoke. (China didn’t).

 

  Instead, UN Deputy Secretary General Eliasson led off, saying that Ban Ki-moon would speak with Vladimir Putin. That had already taken place, but even an hour later, no read-out.

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

  • The Ukrainian note says 12 Mi-24 Russian attack helicopters flew from Anapa to Kacha on Friday (Photo: wikimedia commons)

Ukraine’s EU embassy details ‘Abkhazia scenario’

01.03.14 @ 12:56

  1. By Andrew Rettman

BRUSSELS – Ukraine’s embassy to the EU has detailed Russian military movements in Crimea, saying operations to seize control began one week ago.

The Ukrainian embassy, in a two-page note circulated to EU diplomats on Friday (28 February) – and seen by EUobserver – cited seven “illegal military activities of the Russian Federation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Ukraine.”

Going back to February 21 and 22, it says Russia moved 16 BTR-80 armoured personnel carriers of the 801st Marine Corps brigade from the Russian naval base in Sevastopol, Crimea, which it leases from Ukraine, to the Crimean towns of Kaha, Gvardiiske, and Sevastopol.

It notes that on 23 February three BTR-80s moved from the base to the town of Khersones.

On 26 February, 10 armoured vehicles from the 801st brigade moved “into the depth of the Crimean peninsula towards Simferopol.”

On 28 February, 12 Mi-24 Russian attack helicopters flew from Anapa in Russia to the Kacha airfield in Crimea “despite [the fact] clearance was granted only for 3 helos.”

The same day five Il-76 Russian military transport planes landed at Gvardiiske with no clerance at all, while 400 Russian troops from the Ulyanovsk Airborne Brigade moved to Cape Fiolent, near Sevastopol.

The Ukrainian document says that also on Friday: “Belbek airport (Sevastopol) was blocked by an armed unit of the Russian Fleet (soldiers with no marking but not concealing their affiliation). Simferopol airport occupied by more than 100 soldiers with machine guns wearing camouflage, unmarked but not concealing their affiliation to the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.”

It adds that Captain Oleksandr Tolmachov, a Russian Black Sea Fleet officer, led a group of 30 soldiers who blocked the Sevastopol Marine Security detachment of the State Border Service of Ukraine.

Speaking in Kiev on Friday, Ukraine’s interim president, Oleksandr Turchynov, said: “They are provoking us into an armed conflict. Based on our intelligence, they’re working on scenarios analogous to Abkhazia, in which they provoke conflict, and then they start to annex territory.”

He added: “Ukraine’s military will fulfill its duties, but will not succumb to provocation.”

He also said Russia’s actions violate the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, signed by Russia, the UK, Ukraine, and the US.

Russia in 2008 invaded Georgia saying Georgian forces had fired on its “peacekeeping” troops in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia. After an eight-day war, Russia retreated from Georgia proper, but entrenched its occupation of South Ossetia and a second breakaway entity, Abkhazia, in what is widely seen as a way of blocking Georgia’s EU and Nato aspirations.

The Budapest document obliges signatories to “respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.” It also says they “will consult in the event a situation arises which raises a question concerning these commitments.”

There is no shortage of consultations.

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin on Friday phoned the British and German leaders and EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy.

Lithuania, which currently holds the UN Security Council (UNSC) presidency, also called a meeting of UNSC ambassadors in New York.

Statements coming from the Budapest signatories echo the terms of the agreement.

A spokesman for British leader David Cameron said he told Putin “that all countries should respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.” US President Barack Obama said on TV “the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”

Meanwhile, Sweden, a close US ally, corroborated Ukraine’s accusations. “Obvious that there is Russian military intervention in Ukraine. Likely immediate aim is to set up puppet pro-Russian semi-state in Crimea,” Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt said.

The Polish foreign ministry noted: “Any decisions that will be taken in the coming days, including of military nature, could have irreparable consequences for the international order.”

The UN meeting in New York did little to calm nerves.

Ukraine’s UN ambassador, Yuriy Sergeyev, told press afterward: “We are strong enough to defend ourselves.”

Russia’s UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said all Russian military activity in Crimea is “within the framework” of a 1997 Ukraine-Russia treaty governing the use of its Sevastopol base.

Churkin added the EU bears “responsibility” for events because three EU foreign ministers – from France, Germany, and Poland – on 21 February signed a deal between Ukraine’s ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, and opposition MPs which says he is to stay in power until December.

Yanukovych fled Kiev the next day when Kiev protesters rejected the agreement and threatened to storm his palace.

Churkin accused the EU of fomenting the revolution by criticising Yanukovych for refusing to sign an EU association and free trade treaty and by sending VIPs to Kiev to mingle with demonstrators. “They emphasize sovereignty. But they behave as if Ukraine was a province of the European Union, not even a country, but a province,” he said.

Budapest memorandum

For his part, Andrew Wilson, an analyst at the London-based European Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank, who was in Kiev during the unrest, told EUobserver on Saturday the Budapest accord should not be seen as a Nato-type treaty which obliges signatories to use military force

But he noted that the 1994 memorandum poses Cold War-type questions.

“Are we [the West] going to send a warship through the Bosphorus?” he said, referring to the channel which leads from the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea and Crimea.

“These kind of questions were asked in the Cold War: Would America be willing to lose Detroit [in a Russian nuclear strike] to save Berlin? Later it was about Vilnius [when Lithuania joined Nato in 2004], now it’s about Simferopol. Budapest is not Article 5. But if we are being logical, it does offer security guarantees and it is still in force,” he added, referring to the Nato treaty’s Article 5 on mutual defence.

Crimea is a majority ethnic Russian region which became part of Ukraine in 1954.

Its local parliament this week elected a new leader, pro-Russian politician Sergiy Aksyonov, who called a referendum on independence on 30 March.

The ethnic Russian population made up 49.6 percent of Crimea in 1939. It currently makes up some 58 percent, after Stalin deported its Armenian, Bulgarian, Jewish, German, Greek, and Tatar minorities during World War II. But Russians are in a minority in nine Crimean districts.

 

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 27th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

THE FOLLOWING SHOWS THAT UNDER UK LEADERSHIP, AND US BACKING, THE UN TURNS TO ITS MEMBER STATES’ LEGISLATORS IN ORDER TO FIND A WAY TO TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE.  IT SEEMS THAT FINALLY THE UN HAS LANDED ON SOMETHING – AND WE GIVE A LOT OF CREDIT FOR THIS TO  Dr. ROBERT ORR – a US citizen -  UN Assistant Secretary General in the UN Secretary-General’s office.

We are told that In 2013 there was substantive legislative progress in 8 countries (passage of “flagship legislation”) and positive advances in a further 19 countries:

– Americas: Bolivia passed its Framework Law on Mother Earth and Integral Development to Live Well; El Salvador adopted its National Climate Change Strategy; In Ecuador, Decree 1815 established the Intersectoral National Strategy for Climate Change; and in Costa Rica a draft General Law on Climate Change has been introduced and is expected to pass in 2014.

– Asia-Pacific: China published its National Adaptation Plan and made progress in drafting its national climate change law; Indonesia extended its forest moratorium; Kazakhstan introduced a pilot emissions trading scheme; Micronesia passed its Climate Change Act in late 2013.

– Europe: Poland adopted its National Strategy for Adaptation and Switzerland overhauled its CO2 Act to increase ambition.
– Middle East and North Africa: Jordan passed its National Climate Change Policy; and the United Arab Emirates launched a mandatory Energy Efficiency Standardization and Labelling Scheme.
– Sub-Saharan Africa: Kenya adopted 2013-2017 Climate Change Action Plan; Mozambique adopted 2013-2025 National Strategy for Climate Change;Tanzania passed its National Strategy on REDD+; Nigeria’s Legislative Council
approved the adoption of a National Climate Change Policy and Response Strategy.

 

BUT WHEN THINGS MOVE UP THEY MAY ALSO COME DOWN – SO -
* Two countries began processes to reverse legislation:
– Following an election, the new Australian government has proposed to repeal aspects of the Clean Energy Act in 2014.
– Japan announced a lowering of its ambition on climate change in response to its reduced reliance on nuclear energy after the tsunami and resulting accident at Fukushima.
        Key information on the GLOBE Partnership for Climate Legislation (supported by the UN and the World Bank Group):

* The Partnership For Climate Legislation will support national legislators in 66 countries to share best practice and to develop and oversee the implementation of legislation on climate change, natural capital accounting and forests/REDD+.   The Partnership directly responds to the demand from legislators for technical, policy and analytical capacity.

* Specific aims:
i. To share best legislative practice through the annual GLOBE Climate
Legislation Study, national case studies and the convening of GLOBE Climate
Legislation Summits.
ii. To provide a dedicated international process that supports legislators
– on a demand-led basis – to develop and implement climate change
legislation.
iii. To explore how commitments made in national legislation can be
recognised within the architecture of an international climate change
agreement.
iv. To develop a Climate Legislation Resolution to be agreed at the World
Summit of Legislators and to be taken by legislators to their respective
national parliaments.
v. To support legislators to obtain, use and exchange relevant climate data.
* Climate-related legislation and policies (including mitigation, adaptation and forests/REDD), once implemented, carry the potential to bring additional benefits including disaster risk reduction and resilience, new sources of income/livelihoods, sustainable energy access and positive effects on public health.

* Recognizing that developing and passing laws is not sufficient in itself, the Partnership will support legislators to ensure they are equipped to effectively oversee the implementation of the law by national governments, including ensuring national budgets are consistent with climate goals, as well as assessing the impact of climate-related laws on the national
economy and key sectors of society.

           About the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE):
* GLOBE was established in 1989 by cross party legislators from the EU, Japan, Russia and the USA.  Today GLOBE International is the world’s largest organisation of legislators dedicated to advancing laws on climate
change, forests/REDD+ and natural capital accounting .
* Legislators from 86 countries have participated in GLOBE’s dedicated policy initiatives and legislators from 40 countries work through formal national and regional chapters of the organization.
* With headquarters in Great Britain, offices in 8 countries and over 25 locally-recruited policy advisors across a global network, GLOBE is uniquely placed to support national legislators to develop and implement laws.

—————————————

 

FURTHER – A PRESS RELEASE – THAT WAS EMBARGOED UNTIL 00:01 UK/GMT 27 FEBRUARY 2014

STUDY REVEALS RAPID ADVANCE OF NATIONAL CLIMATE CHANGE LAWS CREATING BASIS FOR NEW INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE AGREEMENT

UN and World Bank support partnership with the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE) to encourage development of national climate change laws.
********

Thursday 27th February, US Senate, Washington DC, 115 senior national legislators from 50 countries along with the heads of key United Nations Institutions, United Nations Climate Negotiations and the World Bank Group receive the results of the most comprehensive analysis to date of the reach and depth of national climate changes laws in 66 of the world’s countries.  The Summit will be hosted in the US Senate Kennedy Caucus Room by Senator Edward Markey.

The Study covering countries responsible for 88% of global carbon emissions was co-authored by the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE) and the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics (LSE).  The Study sets out a series of politically significant findings that will have a direct bearing on success of the international negotiations. Legislators will also consider how national laws can be recognised within a 2015 international climate change agreement.

Responding to the Study, the Global Legislators Organisation is launching a major new international initiative, The Partnership for Climate Legislation, supported by the United Nations and the World Bank Group.  The Partnership will help national legislators to develop and implement climate change laws. It will work across the 66 nations covered by the Study by sharing best legislative practice, provide detailed policy, analytical and legal capacity to cross party groups of legislators as they develop their own laws.

The GLOBE Climate Legislation Study findings show:
* Almost 500 national climate laws have been passed in the 66 countries
covered by the Study.  The 66 countries account for 88% of global
emissions.
* 64 of 66 countries have progressed or are progressing significant climate
and/or energy-related legislation.
* Much of the substantive progress on legislative activity on climate
change in 2013 took place in emerging economies, including China and
Mexico, which will provide the motor of global economic growth in coming
decades.
* Whilst the legislative approach often differs (whether directly inspired
by climate change, energy efficiency, energy security or competitiveness),
national legislation is achieving similar results — improved energy
security, greater resource-efficiency and cleaner, lower carbon economic
growth.
* While current national legislation does not yet add up to what needs to
be done to avoid dangerous climate change, it is putting in place the
mechanisms to measure, report and verify emissions, a pre-requisite for a
credible global climate treaty.
* There is an urgent need for those countries that have not yet passed
climate legislation to do so

US Senator Edward Markey, said: “Climate action is happening in legislatures around the globe because climate change is harming countries and their people around the globe.  We need an international movement to pass climate legislation, and nowhere is that movement needed more than here in the United States.  The GLOBE study show legislators around the
world are taking actives steps to develop significant national legislation and I urge colleagues here in the United States to acknowledge the movement and take action”.

President of the Global Legislators Organisation, Rt Hon John Gummer, Lord Deben, said: “The message from the 4th GLOBE Climate Legislation Study is clear – more countries than ever before are passing credible and significant national
climate change laws. This is changing the dynamics of the international response to climate change and poses a serious question to the international community about how we can recognise credible commitments made by governments within their national legislature.  It is by implementing national legislation and regulations that the political conditions for a global agreement in 2015 will be created.”

“Understanding this message from the Study and embracing it in how major international processes and institutions work between now and Paris 2015 will be critical.  We must see more countries develop their own national climate change laws so that when governments sit down in 2015 they will do so in very different political conditions to when they did in Copenhagen. The Partnership for Climate Legislation will support legislators across party political lines to advance climate change-related legislation. The Partnership will provide a combination of political, analytical and administrative capacity.  It will also serve as a platform where legislators from across the world can meet, discuss common barriers, issues and successes and share information about best legislative practice”.

Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres said: “It is no exaggeration to say that theclean revolution we need is being carried forward by legislation. Domestic legislation is critical because it is the linchpin between action on the ground and the international agreement. At the national level, it is clear
that when countries enact clean energy policies, investment follows. At the international level, it is equally clear that domestic legislation opens the political space for international agreements and facilitates overall ambition”.

World Bank Group Vice-President and Special Envoy Rachel Kyte said: “2014 is the year we need to step up climate action.  Legislators have a critical role to play in raising political ambition and ensuring that effective laws and regulations support low carbon and resilient development.  For this reason, we’re pleased to support the new Partnership for Climate
Legislation”.

The President of the Mexican Congress, Hon. Ricardo Anaya Cortes said: “With the support of GLOBE, Mexico has passed ambitious climate legislation. We are here today in the US Senate to share our experience, to build a global coalition of parliamentarians against the damaging effects of climate change and to challenge inaction.”

UK Foreign Secretary Rt. Hon William Hague said: “A global and legally binding deal on emissions reductions in the UNFCC in 2015 is imperative. As we work towards that agreement, it is clear that domestic legislation has a key role to play in building consensus and cementing ambition, which is why GLOBE’s work is so important.  The launch of GLOBE’s Partnership forClimate Legislation, with the backing of the UN and World Bank, is an  important step towards sustaining this work for long term, which the UK Government wholeheartedly supports”.

Confirmed Keynote Speakers included:

Representing the United Nations Secretary General’s Office:
* UN Assistant Secretary-General, Dr Robert Orr Representing the World Bank:
* World Bank Group President, Dr Jim Yong Kim
* World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, Rachel Kyte

Representing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change:
* UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres

Representing the United Nations Environment Programmes:
* UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner

Representing the Congress of Mexico:
* President of Congress, Hon. Ricardo Anaya Cortes

 

—————————————————
For further information, please contact:

Study results and policy:
Terry Townshend, Study Author and Policy Director, Mobile: +86 15011 289613
and +44 7900 912808. E-mail: Terry.Townshend@globeinternational.org

Washington Summit:
Andrew Hammond, GLOBE Media Relations, Mobile: +44 7792926576. E-mail:
Andrew.Hammond@globeinternational.org
Office of Senator Markey:
Eben Burnham-Snyder, Telephone +1 202 224 2742, Email
eben_bs@markey.senate.gov
www.globeinternational.org

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 21st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Today Is My Last Day at Rolling Stone.

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

20 February 14

 

oday is my last day at Rolling Stone. As of this week, I’m leaving to work for First Look Media, the new organization that’s already home to reporters like Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras.

I’ll have plenty of time to talk about the new job elsewhere. But in this space, I just want to talk about Rolling Stone, and express my thanks. Today is a very bittersweet day for me. As excited as I am about the new opportunity, I’m sad to be leaving this company.

More than 15 years ago, Rolling Stone sent a reporter, Brian Preston, to do a story on the eXile, the biweekly English-language newspaper I was editing in Moscow at the time with Mark Ames. We abused the polite Canadian Preston terribly – I think we thought we were being hospitable – and he promptly went home and wrote a story about us that was painful, funny and somewhat embarrassingly accurate. Looking back at that story now, in fact, I’m surprised that Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana gave me a call years later, after I’d returned to the States.

I remember when Will called, because it was such an important moment in my life. I was on the American side of Niagara Falls, walking with friends, when my cell phone rang. Night had just fallen and when Will invited me to write a few things in advance of the 2004 presidential election, I nearly walked into the river just above the Falls.

At the time, I was having a hard time re-acclimating to life in America and was a mess personally. I was broke and having anxiety attacks. I specifically remember buying three cans of corned beef hash with the last dollars of available credit on my last credit card somewhere during that period. Anyway I botched several early assignments for the magazine, but Will was patient and eventually brought me on to write on a regular basis.

It was my first real job and it changed my life. Had Rolling Stone not given me a chance that year, God knows where I’d be – one of the ideas I was considering most seriously at the time was going to Ukraine to enroll in medical school, of all things.

In the years that followed, both Will and editor/publisher Jann S. Wenner were incredibly encouraging and taught me most of what I now know about this business. It’s been an amazing experience. I’ve had a front-row seat for some of the strangest and most interesting episodes of our recent history. At various times, thanks to this magazine, I’ve spent days hiding in a cell at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, gone undercover in an apocalyptic church in Texas (where I learned to vomit my demons into a paper bag), and even helped run a campaign office for George W. Bush along the I-4 corridor in Florida, getting so into the assignment that I was involuntarily happy when Bush won.

I was at the Michael Jackson trial, so close to the defendant I could see the outlines of his original nose. I met past and future presidents. I shared Udon noodles with Dennis Kucinich in a van on a highway in Maine. And I paddled down the streets of Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, so deep into the disaster zone that a soldier in a rescue copter above mistook me for a victim and threw a Meal Ready to Eat off my head. I still have that MRE, it has some kind of pop tart in it – I’m going to give it to my son someday.

To be able to say you work for Rolling Stone, it’s a feeling any journalist in his right mind should want to experience. The magazine’s very name is like a magic word. I noticed it from the very first assignment. Even people who know they probably shouldn’t talk to you, do, once they hear you’re from the magazine Dr. Hook sang about. And if they actually see the business card, forget it. People will do anything to get into the magazine, to have some of that iconic cool rub off on them.

There were times when I would think about the great reporters and writers who’ve had the same job I was so lucky to have, and it would be almost overwhelming – it was like being the Dread Pirate Roberts. It was a true honor and I’ll eternally be in the debt of Will and Jann, and Sean Woods and Coco McPherson and Victor Juhasz and Alison Weinflash and so many others with whom it was my privilege to work. I wish there was something I could say that is stronger than Thank You.

No journalist has ever been luckier than me. Thank you, Rolling Stone.

 

 

###

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

 

Surveillance revelations: Angela Merkel proposes European network to beat NSA and GCHQ spying.

 

 

 

 

Tony Paterson of The Independent writes from Berlin, February 16, 2014 – “Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has announced plans to set up a European communications network as part of a broad counter-espionage offensive designed to curb mass surveillance conducted by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and its British counterpart, GCHQ.”

{we add here that expected to be left out of the new European defense will be the other Anglo-Saxon partners in the spying conspiracy – the Australian-New Zealand and Canadian allies for the US spying for business deal. We also predict that Germany would love an independent Scotland replacing the present UK membership in the EU.}

The move is her government’s first tangible response to public and political indignation over NSA and GCHQ spying in Europe, which was exposed last October with revelations that the US had bugged Ms Merkel’s mobile phone and that MI6 operated a listening post from the British Embassy in Berlin.

Announcing the project in her weekly podcast, Ms Merkel said she envisaged setting up a European communications network which would offer protection from NSA surveillance by side-stepping the current arrangement whereby emails and other internet data automatically pass through the United States.

The NSA’s German phone and internet surveillance operation is reported to be one of the biggest in the EU. In co-operation with GCHQ it has direct access to undersea cables carrying transatlantic communications between Europe and the US.

Ms Merkel said she planned to discuss the project with the French President, François Hollande, when she meets him in Paris on Wednesday. “Above all we’ll talk about European providers that offer security to our citizens, so that one shouldn’t have to send emails and other information across the Atlantic,” she said. “Rather one could build up a communications network inside Europe.”

French government officials responded by saying Paris intended to “take up” the German initiative.

Ms Merkel’s proposals appear to be part of a wider German counter-espionage offensive, reported to be under way in several of Germany’s intelligence agencies, against NSA and GCHQ surveillance.

Der Spiegel magazine said on Sunday that it had obtained information about plans by Germany’s main domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, for a “massive” increase in counter-espionage measures.

The magazine said there were plans to subject both the American and British Embassies in Berlin to surveillance. It said the measures would include obtaining exact details about intelligence agents who were accredited as diplomats, and information about the technology being used within the embassies.

Last year information provided by the whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that US intelligence agents were able to bug Ms Merkel’s mobile phone from a listening post on the US Embassy roof. Investigations by The Independent subsequently revealed that GCHQ ran a similar listening post from the roof of the British Embassy in Berlin.

Intelligence experts say it is difficult if not impossible to control spying activities conducted from foreign embassies, not least because their diplomatic status means they are protected from the domestic legislation of the host country.

Der Spiegel said Germany’s military intelligence service, (MAD) was also considering stepping up surveillance of US and British spying activities. It said such a move would mark a significant break with previous counter-espionage practice which had focused on countries such as China, North Korea and Russia.

Germany’s counter-espionage drive comes after months of repeated and abortive attempts by its officials to reach a friendly “no spy” agreement with the US. Phillip Missfelder, a spokesman for Ms Merkel’s government, admitted recently that revelations about NSA spying had brought relations with Washington to their worst level since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Der Spiegel claimed that on a single day last year, January 7, the NSA tapped into some 60 million German phone calls. The magazine said that Canada, Australia, Britain and New Zealand were exempt from NSA surveillance but Germany was regarded as a country open to “spy attacks”.

The move is her government’s first tangible response to public and political indignation over NSA and GCHQ spying in Europe, which was exposed last October with revelations that the US had bugged Ms Merkel’s mobile phone and that MI6 operated a listening post from the British Embassy in Berlin.

Announcing the project in her weekly podcast, Ms Merkel said she envisaged setting up a European communications network which would offer protection from NSA surveillance by side-stepping the current arrangement whereby emails and other internet data automatically pass through the United States.

The NSA’s German phone and internet surveillance operation is reported to be one of the biggest in the EU. In co-operation with GCHQ it has direct access to undersea cables carrying transatlantic communications between Europe and the US.

Ms Merkel said she planned to discuss the project with the French President, François Hollande, when she meets him in Paris on Wednesday. “Above all we’ll talk about European providers that offer security to our citizens, so that one shouldn’t have to send emails and other information across the Atlantic,” she said. “Rather one could build up a communications network inside Europe.”

French government officials responded by saying Paris intended to “take up” the German initiative.

Ms Merkel’s proposals appear to be part of a wider German counter-espionage offensive, reported to be under way in several of Germany’s intelligence agencies, against NSA and GCHQ surveillance.

Der Spiegel magazine said on Sunday that it had obtained information about plans by Germany’s main domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, for a “massive” increase in counter-espionage measures.

The magazine said there were plans to subject both the American and British Embassies in Berlin to surveillance. It said the measures would include obtaining exact details about intelligence agents who were accredited as diplomats, and information about the technology being used within the embassies.

Last year information provided by the whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that US intelligence agents were able to bug Ms Merkel’s mobile phone from a listening post on the US Embassy roof. Investigations by The Independent subsequently revealed that GCHQ ran a similar listening post from the roof of the British Embassy in Berlin.

Intelligence experts say it is difficult if not impossible to control spying activities conducted from foreign embassies, not least because their diplomatic status means they are protected from the domestic legislation of the host country.

Der Spiegel said Germany’s military intelligence service, (MAD) was also considering stepping up surveillance of US and British spying activities. It said such a move would mark a significant break with previous counter-espionage practice which had focused on countries such as China, North Korea and Russia.

Germany’s counter-espionage drive comes after months of repeated and abortive attempts by its officials to reach a friendly “no spy” agreement with the US. Phillip Missfelder, a spokesman for Ms Merkel’s government, admitted recently that revelations about NSA spying had brought relations with Washington to their worst level since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Der Spiegel claimed that on a single day last year, January 7, the NSA tapped into some 60 million German phone calls. The magazine said that Canada, Australia, Britain and New Zealand were exempt from NSA surveillance but Germany was regarded as a country open to “spy attacks”.

 

 

###

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

 

Europe

Without Scotland, Premier Says, Britain Would Be Less ‘Great’

LONDON — Marking the formal beginning of the British government’s campaign to preserve the United Kingdom, Prime Minister David Cameron made an emotional plea to Scots to vote in September to remain in the union, saying on Friday that without Scotland, Britain would be “deeply diminished.”

“We want you to stay,” said Mr. Cameron, an entreaty that signaled a shift from the current pro-union campaign, which has featured dark warnings about financial and legal difficulties for Scotland should the Scots vote for independence. With seven months to go until the vote, he said, the outcome is up in the air.

Mr. Cameron does not want to be the prime minister who lost Scotland and began the breakup of the United Kingdom, even as he has promised Britons a similar referendum during the next Parliament on remaining in the European Union. Without Scotland, Great Britain would be considerably less great, he argued, and would be faced with new problems about borders and income, even about where to base its nuclear submarines.

            The British prime minister, David Cameron, speaking in east London on Friday.
Carl Court/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Cameron chose the velodrome at the Olympic Park in east London for his first major intervention in the Scottish referendum campaign, trying to appeal to the national pride that surrounded the highly successful Summer Olympics here 18 months ago. Then, Scots were prominent in what was known as “Team G.B.,” and one of the local heroes of the Games, the Scottish tennis player Andy Murray, is known to favor remaining in the union.

Excerpts from the speech were provided to British political journalists overnight, ensuring two days of news coverage. “For me, the best thing about the Olympics wasn’t the winning,” Mr. Cameron said. “It was the red, the white, the blue. It was the summer that patriotism came out of the shadows and into the sun, everyone cheering as one for Team G.B.”

Mr. Cameron focused on the importance of the “powerful” United Kingdom brand and how much it mattered in the world, and how it could be damaged. Scottish independence would “rip the rug from under our own reputation,” Mr. Cameron said, arguing that “we matter more in the world together” — the same argument used by Britons who want Britain to remain in the European Union.

Mr. Cameron said that while the decision was up to the Scots, “all 63 million of us” — in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — “are profoundly affected.”

“We would be deeply diminished without Scotland,” he said.

He pulled out all the Scottish stops, citing the Scottish Olympian Chris Hoy, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his own West Highland heritage. He also mentioned Scotch whisky, saying it “adds £135 to the U.K.’s balance of payments every single second,” which in another context might be an incentive for Scots to vote for independence. However, with Britons anxious about making ends meet, Mr. Cameron did not mention Adam Smith, the Scot famous for his theory of the “invisible hand” of the free market.

About four million people over the age of 16 and living in Scotland will be able to take part in the referendum, promised by the governing Scottish National Party, on Sept. 18. Scots living outside Scotland cannot vote.

Early opinion polls have shown a large plurality of Scots intending to vote to remain in the union, but the numbers are soft. In some recent polls, greater numbers have said they intend to vote for independence.

Given the unpopularity of Mr. Cameron and his Conservative Party in Scotland, which is dominated by the Scottish National Party and the opposition Labour Party, Mr. Cameron has been wary of intervening too much in the debate, fearing a counterproductive effect. The pro-union campaign, which is meant to be nonpartisan, is led by Alistair Darling, a Labour member of Parliament from Scotland and former chancellor of the Exchequer, who had a cabinet post during the entire Labour reign from 1997 to 2010.

Mr. Darling and his team have been emphasizing questions about whether an independent Scotland would have to reapply to join the European Union, whether it could continue to use the pound or adopt the euro, whether it would have a truly independent central bank, and even whether oil and gas revenues from declining production in the North Sea would be enough to fund Scotland’s budget.

The immediate response from the Scottish National Party to the excerpts — the “preaction,” as one BBC radio announcer put it — was predictably critical, accusing Mr. Cameron of being afraid to come to Scotland and debate the party leader, Alex Salmond.

Mr. Salmond called Mr. Cameron “a big feartie,” or coward, for refusing a face-to-face debate.

Scotland’s deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said in a statement, “This is a cowardly speech from a prime minister who uses the Olympic Park in London to give highhanded lectures against Scotland’s independence but hasn’t got the guts to come to Scotland or anywhere else to make his case.”

Touching on Mr. Cameron’s image as an elite, Eton-educated southerner, she said, “David Cameron, as the Tory prime minister, is the very embodiment of the democratic case for a ‘yes’ vote for an independent Scotland — and he knows it.”

She argued that using the Olympic Stadium on the day the Winter Olympics formally opened in Sochi, Russia, “seeking to invoke the successes of London 2012 as an argument against Scotland taking its future into its own hands,” only “betrays the extent of the jitters now running through the ‘no’ campaign.”

Watch Now: America’s first Muslim fraternity

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

 

Leaked Recordings Lay Bare E.U. and U.S. Divisions in Goals for Ukraine.

Launch media viewer
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany issued a sharp statement denouncing the American diplomat’s remarks on the political crisis in Kiev. John Macdougall/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

BERLIN — “Really Pretty Stupid” was the headline chosen by the august Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Friday to describe an editorial on the latest eruption between the United States and Europe, this time over who should take the lead in trying to calm the crisis in Ukraine, and how to do it.

The headline spoke to the tensions that flared this week over the release of a recording in which a top American diplomat disparaged the European Union’s efforts in Ukraine. On Friday, a second recording surfaced in which European diplomats complained about the Americans.

But it was also a reflection of the disarray that has marked much of the West’s dealings with Ukraine since late November, when President Viktor F. Yanukovych spurned a pact with the European Union. He then turned to Russia for a $15 billion aid package that the Kremlin has since suspended because of continuing antigovernment protests in Kiev, the capital.

—————————–====================————————

Ever since Ukraine became independent as the Soviet Union crumbled in 1991, the United States and Europe have had different aims for the country, a large, troubled nation of 45 million whose very name means “on the edge.”

Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state for European affairs, said her leaked conversation was “pretty impressive tradecraft.” Gleb Garanich/Reuters

With strategic considerations uppermost in American diplomacy, the United States helped, for instance, to rid Ukraine of old Soviet nuclear weapons. Europe, meanwhile, saw opportunities for trade.

As the European Union expanded eastward with the inclusion of Poland and Romania, the perception grew that neighboring Ukraine needed formal ties to regulate commerce and legal systems to facilitate the growing cross-border transactions. In 2012, Poland and Ukraine were even joint hosts of the continent’s premier sports event, the European soccer championship.

Russia, which has centuries of shared history with Ukraine and under Vladimir V. Putin has grown ever more painfully conscious of its loss of Soviet empire, looked on with mounting suspicion, and now seems to be intent on exploiting Western disarray.

The release of the recordings has further roiled the waters. In the first one, posted anonymously on YouTube, Victoria Nuland, the American assistant secretary of state for European affairs, profanely dismissed European efforts in Ukraine as weak and inadequate to the challenge posed by the Kremlin.

On Friday, a second recording was posted that featured a senior German diplomat, Helga Schmid, complaining in her native tongue to the European Union envoy in Kiev about “unfair” American criticism of Europe’s diplomacy.

“We are not in a race to be the strongest,” retorted the envoy, Jan Tombinski, a Pole. “We have good instruments” for dealing with the crisis.

Yes, replied Ms. Schmid, but journalists were telling European officials that the Americans were running around saying the Europeans were weak. So she advised Mr. Tombinski to have a word with the United States ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, the man whom Ms. Nuland was talking to in her recorded conversation.

While the Obama administration accused the Russians of making mischief by recording and then posting the Nuland conversation, neither the European Union nor Germany blamed the Kremlin for the second recording.

Illustrating how testy relations with Washington have become, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, earlier the target of American monitoring of her cellphone, issued an unusually sharp statement saying that Ms. Nuland’s remarks were “completely unacceptable.”

Germany, as befits its status as Europe’s largest economy and a country with centuries of dealings with lands to its East, has been heavily involved in the crisis over Ukraine. In a speech to the German Parliament on Nov. 18, Ms. Merkel, herself raised in Communist East Germany, emphasized that the Cold War should be over for everyone, including countries once allied with Russia but now independent. She made a forceful case for Ukraine to sign the European pact.Julianne Smith, a former national security aide to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. who is now at the Center for a New American Security, said there was a structural tension between the European Union and the United States because the Americans can speak with one voice and grow impatient waiting for decisions from a union with many voices.

“They all have different sovereign issues, different threat perceptions, different priorities,” she said. “As a result, there has always been this longstanding deep frustration on the part of the United States with the inability to get quick answers, quick responses and broker some sort of U.S.-E.U. agreement on whatever the issue of the day might be.”

The back-and-forth this week illustrates how many interests are a part of the mix in Ukraine — a mix that Western diplomats seem unable to keep free of their own differences.

In the editorial with the headline “Really Pretty Stupid,” Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger, the newspaper’s foreign editor, noted how the latest issue had been stoked by months of “bad blood” with Washington. “You can certainly criticize some parts of European policy toward Ukraine, but it is not as if American diplomacy has found the font of all wisdom. In fact, they can’t think of anything more than a few mini-sanctions against the regime in Kiev.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Frankenberger said, Mr. Putin “should certainly be laughing himself stupid.”

“If a top American diplomat could not care less about the Europeans,” he added, “then he will certainly bear more easily their absence from the opening of the Olympic Games in Sochi. And he will see in Ms. Nuland’s remark, which Moscow presumably disseminated, a confirmation of the bad opinion he already has of Europeans.”

The moral of the tale? “No disparaging remarks about partners on the phone.”

###

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

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

 

Obama promises not to spy on EU leaders

 

18.01.14  – THE EUobserver – by Andrew Rettman

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It promised to push for more, however.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 14th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

I recognized the stories from decades of living in the East End of London.
There are fifty thousand homeless people in New York City and 22,000 homeless children.
Governments across the world have abandoned their poorer or disadvantaged citizens to their fate.
I didn’t find this story either hopeful or pleasant but I read it carefully.

I congratulate EKATERINA LOUSHNIKOVA on this piece of work.

 

 

The lower depths in Russia today.

Over a century after Maksim Gorky’s famous play about homeless people – ‘The Lower Depths’ – Ekaterina Loushnikova has been looking around her home city of Kirov to see if anything has changed.

 

The church porch

I stood in the porch of Kirov’s St Serafim’s church, a traditional place for beggars to congregate. I wasn’t asking for anything, but someone handed me two roubles (about 4p). Ordinary Russians are kindhearted and I didn’t turn it down. I passed it on to my new acquaintance, an elderly woman in a flower-patterned headscarf sitting on a wooden box that once contained fruit. Lyudmila Petrovna is eighty years old, and begs for alms outside the church during morning and evening services. She doesn’t get a lot – it’s a rare day that she collects one hundred roubles (just less than two pounds sterling) – but people also bring her food: bread, toffees, biscuits, pea soup in a glass jar. Lyudmila Petrovna is cheered by their offerings, and asks each of them if there’s someone they’d like her to pray for.


Lyudmila Petrovna on the church porch. Cast out of her apartment by her own family,
Lyudmila is now forced to supliment her pension with begging.. Photo (c) Ekaterina Loushnikova.

Lyudmila Petrovna rarely collects as much as 100 roubles (just less than £2), but people also bring her food… and she offers to pray for them in return.

The elderly woman has a monthly pension of 6000 roubles (£110); the average Russian earns about 30,000 roubles (£550) a month.
A third of Lyudmila Petrovna’s money goes on the rent for a room in a communal flat in a nearby jerry-built block; the rest has to meet all her needs for the month. In Kirov, bread costs 20 roubles, potatoes 30, milk also 30, tea 40, and sugar 50 roubles. You can survive, of course, but you can forget about buying meat, sausage, fish, eggs and other non-essentials, and you buy any clothes you need in the second-hand shop. Here, amongst a heap of clothing from Europe and the US, Lyudmila Petrovna finds a frilled linen skirt ‘made in Germany’, a Dutch-made jacket and American shoes, which are two sizes too big but will be fine if she wears three pairs of socks with them. She can buy the socks here too, and the whole lot sets her back about 500 roubles. The old lady is as pleased as punch at finding such cheap stuff from European countries she has never seen.

‘Lyudmila Petrovna,’ I ask, ‘do you know where Holland is?’

‘I couldn’t tell you exactly’, she replies, ‘but I know it’s in Europe. I used to get good marks for geography! I was a good learner; I had ten years of school.’

Down and out

Before she retired, Lyudmila Petrovna was a postwoman, but she’s not keen on talking about the years when she worked and had her own flat – or about her children and grandchildren either. ‘They said, “Go and stay with relatives or somebody, Ma… or we’ll put you in a care home. You’re in the way here, you get on our nerves with your preachifying.” I’d already transferred the flat to their names. I went to stay with my sister but it didn’t work out, so I came back, and was homeless. Sometimes I’d sleep in an attic, sometimes in a cellar, sometimes right on the street under a tree. People would beat me up, boys would throw stones at me, the police would pick me up and throw me in a cell, then they’d let me go – this happened over and over again. But what could they do with me? The children had taken my name off the register for the flat, but if I wasn’t registered anywhere I couldn’t get my pension. I was living off bread and holy water from St Tryphon’s well.’

‘They said, “Go and stay with relatives or somebody, Ma… or we’ll put you in a care home. You’re in the way here, you get on our nerves with your preachifying.”’

Lyudmila Petrovna didn’t go to the social services. She was too embarrassed about her tattered clothes, her hands black with dirt, and the rumbling in her hungry stomach, and even more about her inconsolable grief. Sorrow doesn’t like company: it prefers solitude, wrapped in a cocoon of tears that have dried to a crust around the heart. Many people find consolation in a bottle of wine, but you don’t get much wine or vodka in a church porch. What they drink here is hawthorn berries and hot peppers infused in spirit from a chemist’s shop or hardware store – cheap and cheerful at thirty roubles a bottle. It’s not something you can drink for long: after a couple of years your skin turns yellow and becomes ulcerated, you lose your feet, then your memory, and finally your right to be called human. If a living corpse like this is lucky, they get picked up and taken to a drug dependency unit or a psychiatric clinic; if not, it’s straight to the cemetery for burial at government expense. While homeless people are alive they survive whatever way they can. They try to avoid contact with social services and charities, thinking that instead of help they’ll end up with servitude.

A saviour appears

Lyudmila Petrovna was lucky – she was saved by a happy marriage. ‘I got married when I was eighty. My suitor lived in the block of flats next to the church, and would come and sit in the porch with us for a chat. The old fellow was lonely – all his family had died or moved away. But he was nearly ninety, and one day he said, “If only someone would come and help me a bit at home. I haven’t washed the dishes for three years; my porridge is full of grubs; I put my laundry to soak last year and never got round to washing it, and the neighbours are cursing me day and night because of the smell.” So I went round and did a bit of washing and cleaning for him. Then one day I said, “Well, you might give me a bit of floor and a coat to sleep on, it’ll be warmer than the street”. And he said, “You may as well come and live with me. I’m fond of you.”

Off we went to the registry office, all dressed up – him in a jacket with all his war medals on, and me in a nice flowery dress and I even put lipstick on, believe it or not!

‘He registered me at the flat, so I could claim my pension. But our happy life together didn’t last long. My old man’s health started going – if it wasn’t his heart it was his blood pressure; and I’d be phoning for the ambulance every day. One day he proposed to me: “Let’s get married, love. You never know when I’ll die.” So off we went to the registry office, all dressed up – him in a jacket with all his war medals on, and me in a nice flowery dress and I even put lipstick on, believe it or not! We arrived and they said they couldn’t marry us straight away: “You might change your minds, just wait for a month to be sure of your feelings for each other”. So we waited a month and went back, and this time we got married. We didn’t have what you’d call a proper wedding; we had tea and sweets and I baked a cake. I don’t drink wine, but I gave some to the winos to warm the cockles of their hearts on our special day. Everyone drank to us and wished us a long and happy life together, but my old fellow died not long afterwards. The drunks in the porch didn’t even have time to dry out – one day they were drinking to his health, the next to his eternal rest.’

Lyudmila Petrovna has a photo album to remind her of her husband, as well as his jacket with the medals, and, most importantly, a roof over her head. She’s also adopted a stray dog called Naida, and the two of them live happily together.

People of No Permanent Abode

Splavnaya Street still has wooden pavements from the time of the Second World War, and is lined with cheap one-storey wooden housing blocks of the same era, probably built by German prisoners of war. The only stone building in the area is the rather grandly named Centre for the Rehabilitation of People of No Permanent Abode or Occupation. Here the social services give homeless people a warm bed with clean sheets, a hot shower and a packed lunch consisting of pasta, vegetable oil, sugar, tea and instant Chinese noodles. There’s no meat for the homeless. It’s also not supposed to become a permanent place of residence: the rules state that you can spend the night there but in the morning you have to go to work. However, many of the people there are unemployed, and some are disabled as well. Aleksei, who was brought up in a children’s home, lost his toes to frostbite when he lived in an unheated hut. The 37-year-old, who looks 20 years younger, has nothing: no father or mother, no place to live, no work, no money – just a younger sister who has a bed in the next room. This is their home; they have nowhere else to go. And there are many like them. The centre has fifty permanent residents and no room for any more.


Former Lieutenant-Colonol Nicholas took to drinking while serving in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Chechnya.
His wife has left him and he now spends his days in the rehabilitation centre. Photo (c) Ekaterina Loushnikova.

‘Don’t take my photo!’ warns Valera, a thin man of indeterminate age with a swarthy impassive face. It’s not hard to tell that he’s spent a lot of his life behind bars; and indeed he recently left prison after serving a 20-year sentence. What for? Robbery, burglary – all sorts, but no, he’d never killed anyone.

‘Do you have a family, any relatives?’

‘Not a soul’, he tells me, ‘no relatives, no friends, no home. Just me. So I’m living here for the time being.’

It feels as though the ex-con is finding it difficult to get used to freedom. He needs to start a new life, but how do you do that if you’ve spent 20 years behind bars? After struggling on the outside for a few months or a couple of years, former prisoners usually revert to crime just to get back home – to jail.

Some have a bit of luck. One of Valera’s roommates, another ex-con, has found a job in the north. His name is Alexander and he did time for murder.

If only I can stay off the bottle!’ he says in the tone of a man who is doomed to suffering or some other unavoidable disaster.

‘Yeah, I stabbed one of my colleagues with a knife. I’d had too much to drink. They gave me 15 years, and I served every day. But now I’m out I’m starting a new life. My mother’s in a care home and I have two sons. I have no contact with one of them – his mother has a new family now and she doesn’t want to see me. But my elder son, from an earlier marriage, is doing his military service, and when he finishes he might join me. My mother can come and live with us too. If only I can stay off the bottle!’ he says in the tone of a man who is doomed to suffering or some other unavoidable disaster.

A retired KGB Lieutenant-Colonel

In the next room I meet a man who is in such a state of chronic insobriety that it’s impossible to tell when he last drank – this morning, yesterday, the day before – or whether his breath just permanently reeks of alcohol. He unexpectedly introduces himself as Nicolas, in the French manner, and he turns out to be a retired KGB Lieutenant-Colonel. ‘I served in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Chechnya’, he tells me. ‘Carried out government instructions. I have medals to show for it – and wounds. I started drinking on active service – war drives you to all sorts of things. But that’s it – I’m quitting. I’ve made my mind up.’

‘Do you get any visitors here?’

‘Yes, my wife came to see me yesterday, but she’s found someone else, she’s left me. Are you married? I’m still a young man, after all;’ and the retired colonel winks at me provocatively.


One-time murderer and career criminal, Yury Flegontovich now works as a religious activist. Photo (c) Ekaterina Loushnikova

I’ve never had so many conversations about marriage as in this homeless centre and the prisons I’ve visited. It’s like a dream of paradise for them. ‘I long to meet someone and have a family. There’s nothing worse than loneliness,’ says a talkative, plumpish man as he gets up from his bed, introducing himself as Yury Flegontovich. ‘Wait a minute while I get dressed and I’ll tell you everything about my life. I have such a tale to tell you!’

‘Wait a minute while I get dressed and I’ll tell you everything about my life. I have such a tale to tell you!’

I hear his ‘tale’ in the centre’s library. Its shelves are full of books by Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Durrenmatt and Cortázar, as well as contemporary detective fiction, but my new acquaintance’s life beats them all. He arrives for his appointment with a journalist in an expensive suit, a silk shirt and a colourful tie complete with tiepin.

‘I now work for the Church of the New Testament [an evangelical protestant church] but I used to be a professional criminal’, he begins. ‘When I was young I messed about a fair bit – thieved, murdered, beat people up, went to prison once or twice. The first time I got sent down I was 18 – I roughed up a cop and got two years for it. When I came out I got my own gang together, and we stole cars, took the windscreens off. Did good business! Then I got sent down again, this time to a high security place. Came out of there, and started thieving and murdering again. I don’t know how many people I killed. Our boss was a guy known as “Cheburashka” [after a children’s TV cartoon character], but then I set up my own business dealing in stolen precious metal goods. I had loads of money, a car, a flat – but I lost it all playing the machines in casinos. They tried to kill me and they buried me alive, but I managed to scrabble my way out.

I set up my own business dealing in stolen precious metal goods. I had loads of money, a car, a flat – but I lost it all playing the machines in casinos.

‘I repented of my sins and became a pilgrim – I walked 7,000 kilometres around holy places, churches and monasteries. The one that made a particular impression on me was the Holy Trinity monastery in Perm, where I walked into a cell to find one monk had pulled up another monk’s habit and was buggering him like there was no tomorrow! And he didn’t even stop when I came in – he just said, “Brother, you should knock before you come in.” I left the next day and went off the Orthodox Church. We have people living here in the Centre that were buggered in prison [and so considered the lowest of the low in the prison hierarchy], and you need to be careful around them. You can help them, but don’t shake their hands!’

‘I’ve been shaking everyone’s hand!!!’ I cried in horror. Yury Flegontovich gave me a look of sympathy. ‘You’d better wash your hands with household soap then. Of course you’re a woman, not a bloke, but wash them anyway. You could catch some kind of itch or heaven knows what – they’re all tramps here, after all. In Perm I used to crash out in a shaft at a district heating plant, and I’d wake up in the morning on top of a thick black pile of cockroaches, all crawling around under me. Men and women would be sitting around eating and drinking, and there’d be a stinking corpse lying in the corner. No one had even thought about burying it!

‘And listen to what I saw here yesterday. There was a fight between an amputee and his girlfriend, who’s completely off her head. She had epilepsy and it’s turned into schizophrenia. She bashed him over the head with his own crutch, and he broke a stool over her. When the manager found out he threw them both out. He’s a strict man, but fair.’

Managing – just…

The Centre’s manager is Vladimir Zmeyev, a retired Lieutenant Colonel of police from Soviet times. He began his career as a police officer attached to the women’s department of a sexual health clinic, and later was in charge of detention centres and sobering-up stations for arrestees and alcoholics. Now he runs a homeless centre. Such is life. There’s never a dull moment.

‘My predecessor here was a woman, who sometimes had to hide under her desk when inmates got rough…. ’

‘My predecessor here was a woman, who sometimes had to hide under her desk when inmates got rough,’ he tells me. ‘One of our employees even got murdered by a homeless guy. The member of staff made some critical remark to him, and he grabbed a knife and stabbed him. The blade pierced his lung and he died instantly…’

The dead man’s wife still works at the Centre. She is coming up to retirement age so it’s not easy to find another job. Not that it’s easy here – staff salaries are sometimes lower than the wages of some residents. A construction worker, even if he’s a former tramp, can earn up to thirty thousand roubles a month, while an administrative worker at the Centre can’t earn more than five thousand, and there’s nothing they can do about it, that’s the rate for the job. Staff usually have two jobs, just to survive. After the murder, CCTV cameras were installed everywhere – a mouse would find it difficult to avoid them, but experienced ex-cons can and do.


A new arrival to the centre. Having fallen on hard times, he had taken to drinking fufyrika, a chemist-grade pepper lotion. Kirov, a city of 473,000 people, has about 2,000 homeless residents. Photo (c) Ekaterina Loushnikova

‘They still bring in drink and food, from who knows where,’ laments Vladimir Zmeyev. ‘We can’t feed them properly here. We have an annual budget of just 150,000 roubles (£3,000) for food and drink. But we do get donations and residents who are earning well help the rest out. We’ve had businessmen, bureaucrats, intellectuals; all kinds of military people living here. I remember one police officer that spent a long time working in Chechnya and came home to find his wife had left him for someone else. He did the right thing by her – didn’t take her to court over the flat, left her everything and went to live in a vault in the cemetery. Started to drink of course – his friends brought him here.’

‘And do people really get back on their feet after coming here?’ I asked.

‘Unfortunately, most of them go back to where they came from – cellars, doorways, heating plant shafts. They stay here for the winter, but as soon as it gets warmer they’re off. What can you do, it’s their decision.’

As I’m leaving I see one more sight. They’ve just signed in a new resident. His face is covered in bruises and ulcers, he has the watery blue eyes of a habitual drunkard, and the look of someone who no longer expects anything out of life…

The Centre staff fuss around the newcomer; they will wash him, give him medical treatment, delouse his clothes, establish his identity and renew his papers, but how can they re-establish his life, half of which is already lost?

Back at home, I spend a long time washing my hands with household soap, and wipe them with disinfectant, just in case. After all, you can’t avoid yourself…

 

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 9th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

The poorest pay the price for austerity: Workers face biggest fall in living standards since Victorian era.

The number of public sector workers on low wages doubles to more than one million, with women and part-time staff disproportionately affected by squeeze on incomes.

The biggest drop in living standards since the Victorian age is seeing low and middle earners suffering an unprecedented squeeze on their incomes as austerity measures continue to bite, with women and part-time workers disproportionately affected, research reveals today.

More than five million  people are officially classified as low paid and an increasing number of public sector  workers are struggling to make ends meet, according to the New Economics Foundation (NEF) think-tank.

It warned: “Workers on low and middle incomes are experiencing the biggest decline in their living standards since reliable records began in the mid-19th century.”

The NEF has calculated that the public sector now employs one million low-wage workers – double the previous estimate – with health and social care staff, classroom assistants and council employees trapped on small earnings.

Sales assistants and retail workers make up the largest group of low-paid workers in the private sector, with large numbers also working as waiters, bar staff and cashiers.

The study blames the continuing drop in disposable incomes on pay freezes and below-inflation rises, leading to wages steadily lagging behind prices.

Separate research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation concluded yesterday that for the first time the number of working families living in poverty exceeds those without anyone in work. The cost of living has moved up the political agenda in recent months with Labour claiming that the average person is £1,600 worse off than when the Coalition Government took power in May 2010.

Ministers counter that economic recovery is finally under way, with employment levels growing steadily, and that they have taken steps to lower the cost of petrol and energy and to raise the income tax threshold. However, one in four local authority employees is now on low pay, which is defined as less than 60 per cent of the average national income – equivalent to £7.47 an hour or £13,600 a year.

Helen Kersley, a senior economist at the think-tank, said: “Up to now it was assumed low pay was confined to the margins of the public sector. But take into account the 500,000 low-wage workers employed by outsourced service providers and you can see the problem runs a lot deeper than that.”

As squeezed local councils award contracts to the cheapest providers, these workers are often even worse off than their counterparts employed directly by the public sector. “A care worker earns only £6.44 to £7.38 per hour in the private sector compared to £9 to £11 in the public sector,” the report adds.

Karen Jennings, assistant general-secretary of Unison, which commissioned the report, said: “Wages are being benchmarked against those in the worst parts of the private sector… the public sector needs to start proving that society benefits from decent wages.”

Frances O’Grady, the TUC General Secretary, said: “The Chancellor has revelled in his attacks on the living standards of those who educate and care for our families.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Our welfare reforms are designed to further increase work incentives and improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities, with the [new benefits system] universal credit making three million households better off.”

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

USA’S NEW SCANDAL
USA’S NEW SCANDAL

[December 2013] This looming scandal could ruin the 44th President and disrupt the entire country… Read More »
———————————————————–

Op-Ed Columnistat The New York Times

The Punishment Cure

By PAUL KRUGMAN

The Republican response to the unemployed is a mix of callousness and bad economics.

—————-

A NEW YORK TIMES Editorial

Mr. de Blasio’s Fiscal Challenge

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Pain is on the way for the next mayor, despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal for a balanced budget.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 1st, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The New York Times reminded us that -

“On Dec. 1, 1959, representatives of 12 countries, including the United States, signed a treaty in Washington setting aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, free from military activity.”

This triggered our interest in the fact that the treaty was signed in Washington and not at the UN in New York – as well we remember having visited a Chilean military base in the Antarctica – “grandfathered” by the treaty as it was established before the signing of the treaty. As well – a large number of States have bases in the Antarctica – call them scientific – but be sure they may have military meaning as well. So far as science goes – the South Koreans have based their scientific work around the Chilean military base.

Looking up the internet we found for THE ANTARCTIC TREATY:

A lot of the major powers of the world (UK, Australia, Russia, and I’m sure some others) all have bases on Antartica. All are scientific, and I’m pretty sure the American ones are run by the military. I know the McMurdo Base (American) is huge in comparison to all the others. I think it staffs a couple thousand people, too. It’s all science though, no wars or anything being fought down there (though others may beg to differ.)

www.upi.comBusiness NewsSecurity IndustryFeb 20, 2012 – Chile is going ahead with a multibillion-dollar plan
that includes Antarctica, including defense and tourist options.
——————

Some important provisions of the Treaty:

 

Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only (Art. I)

 

Freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica and cooperation toward that end … shall continue (Art. II).

 

Scientific observations and results from Antarctica shall be exchanged and made freely available (Art. III).

 

Among the signatories of the Treaty were seven countries – Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom – with territorial claims , sometimes overlapping. Other countries do not recognize any claims. The US and Russia maintain a “basis of claim”. All positions are explicitly protected in Article IV, which preserves the status quo:

 

No acts or activities taking place while the present Treaty is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting , supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica or create any rights of sovereignty in Antarctica. No new claim, or enlargement of an existing claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica shall be asserted while the present Treaty is in force.

 

To promote the objectives and ensure the observance of the provisions of the Treaty, “All areas of Antarctica, including all stations, installations and equipment within those areas … shall be open at all times to inspection ” (Art. VII).

———-

“Signed in 1959, the Antarctic Treaty provides the legal framework for the region beyond 60º South latitude. It reserves the region for peace, promotes scientific investigations and international cooperation, requires an annual exchange of information about activities, and encourages environmental stewardship. Representatives of the 29 voting nations (Consultative Parties) and the 21 non-voting (Acceding Parties) meet regularly to discuss Treaty operations.

 

Agreements negotiated within the Antarctic Treaty system include environmental protection measures for expeditions, stations, and visitors; waste-management provisions; a ban on mining; establishment of specially protected areas; and agreements for the protection of seals and other marine living resources.”
The original Parties to the Treaty were the 12 nations active in the Antarctic during the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58.

The Treaty was signed in Washington on 1 December 1959 and entered into force on 23 June 1961. The Consultative Parties comprise the original Parties and other States that have become Consultative Parties by acceding to the Treaty and demonstrating their interest in Antarctica by carrying out substantial scientific activity there.

 

The primary purpose of the Antarctic Treaty is to ensure “in the interests of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord.” To this end it prohibits military activity, except in support of science; prohibits nuclear explosions and the disposal of nuclear waste; promotes scientific research and the exchange of data; and holds all territorial claims in abeyance. The Treaty applies to the area south of 60° South Latitude, including all ice shelves and islands.

 

The Treaty is augmented by Recommendations adopted at Consultative Meetings, by the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (Madrid, 1991), and by two separate conventions dealing with the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (London 1972), and the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (Canberra 1980).

BUT – The Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities (Wellington 1988), negotiated between 1982 and 1988, will not enter into force.

THE CONFLICT BETWEEN ARGENTINA AND THE UK SHOWS WHAT ANIMOSITY CAN COME UP WHEN THERE IS HOPE TO FIND OIL.

 

The Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) is now held annually. During each ATCM, there is also a meeting of the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP). The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) is an observer at ATCMs and CEPs, and provides independent scientific advice as requested in a variety of fields, particularly on environmental and conservation matters.

 

For more information on the Antarctic Treaty, please visit the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat website.

 

Contact
By phone
+ 54 11 4320 4250
+ 54 11 4326 2174
By Fax
+ 54 11 4320 4253
By Email
ats@ats.aq
By Post
Secretaría del
Tratado Antártico

Maipú 757 Piso 4
C1006ACI – Buenos Aires
Argentina

————–

The Antarctic Science meetings cycle can be found at:

Logo for 33 SCAR, Auckland, 2014

XXXIII SCAR Meetings and Open Science Conference

22 August – 3 September 2014, Auckland, New Zealand.

The Open Science Conference will be held on 25-29 August. A draft list of sessions is available.
Abstract submission is open until 14 February 2014.

'New!' Second Circular now available.

For more information, please see the [pdf] Second Circular and visit the Conference website.

 

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 16th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Shout Out UK: The 10 Largest Protests in Human History.

 
 mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1…

Shout Out UK subscribe@shoutoutuk.org via mail181.wdc02.mcdlv.net
We received this e-mail and decided to post it also for our own audience because we recognized the value of the truth it presents – the fact that it takes organized masses of people to bring about change. Today we seem to be at another junction
of the same kind – it will take masses of people to express the need to take seriously the dangers of Climate Change and stop exploiting the peanuts uncovered because of the effects of changed climate.
Their posting reminded us about LES MISERABLES (book by Victor Hugo and film) and theatrical ways of bringing about true change.
Washington DC needs now a dose of this – so do the people of Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and Australia – those with religion and those without. Think also Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Texas as examples of how religion can blind people to apply the wrong mass.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 11th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

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

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

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

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

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

—————-

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

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

 

—————

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

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

dates: 3-14 December 2014   -   location: Peru  

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

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

—————

UNFCCC COP 21

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

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

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

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

—-

See also, please -

 

Climate Change: The Road to Paris 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 27th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Uri Avnery

 

September 28, 2013

 

 

 

                                                            The Real Bomb

 

 

 

YEARS AGO I disclosed one of the biggest secrets about Iran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was an agent of the Mossad.

Suddenly, all the curious details of his behavior made sense. His public fantasies about the disappearance of Israel. His denial of the Holocaust, which until then had been typical only of a lunatic fringe. His boasting about Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Cui bono? Who had an interest in all this nonsense?

 

There is only one sensible answer: Israel.

His posturing depicted Iran as a state which was both ridiculous and sinister. It justified Israel’s refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention. It diverted attention from Israel’s refusal to discuss the occupation of the Palestinian territories or hold meaningful peace negotiations.

 

ANY DOUBT that I may have felt about this international scoop has evaporated now.

Our political and military leaders almost openly bemoan the demise of Ahmadinejad.

Obviously, the Supreme Guide, Ali Khamenei, decided that I was right and has quietly disposed of this clown.

Worse, he has reaffirmed his deadly enmity to the Zionist Entity by pushing forward a person like Hassan Rouhani.

 

Rouhani is the very opposite of his predecessor. If the Mossad had been asked to sketch the worst possible Iranian leader Israel could imagine, they would have come up with someone like him.

An Iranian who recognizes and condemns the Holocaust! An Iranian man who offers sweetness and light! An Iranian who wishes peace and friendship on all nations – even hinting that Israel could be included, if only we give up the occupied Palestinian territories!

 

Could you imagine anything worse?

I AM not joking. This is deadly serious!

 

Even before Rouhani could open his mouth after his election, he was condemned outright by Binyamin Netanyahu.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing! A real anti-Semite! A cheat out to deceive the whole world! A devious politician whose devilish aim is to drive a wedge between Israel and the naive Americans!

 

This is the real Iranian bomb, far more threatening than the nuclear one that will be built behind the smokescreen of Rouhani’s sweet talk!

A nuclear bomb can be deterred by another nuclear bomb. But how do you deter a Rouhani?

 

Yuval Steinitz, our failed former Minister of Finance and at present responsible for our “strategic thinking” (yes, really!) exclaimed in despair that the world wants to be deceived by Iran. Binyamin Netanyahu called it a “honey trap”. Commentators who are hand-fed by “official circles” (i.e. the Prime Minister’s Office) proclaim that he is an existential threat.

All this before he had uttered a word.

 

 

WHEN ROUHANI at long last made his Grand Speech at the UN General Assembly, all the dire forebodings were confirmed.

Where Ahmadinejad had set off a stampede of delegates from the hall, Rouhani packed them in. Diplomats from all over the world were curious about the man. They could have read the speech a few minutes later, but they wanted to see and hear for themselves. Even the US sent officials to be present. No one left.

 

No one, that is, except the Israelis.

The Israeli diplomats were instructed by Netanyahu to leave the hall demonstratively when the Iranian started to speak.

That was a stupid gesture. As rational and as effective as a little boy’s tantrum when his favorite toy is taken away.

Stupid, because it painted Israel as a spoiler, at a time when the entire world is seized by an attack of optimism after the recent events in Damascus and Tehran.

Stupid, because it proclaims the fact that Israel is at present totally isolated.

 

BY THE way, did anyone notice that Rouhani was constantly wiping his brow during his half-hour speech? The man was obviously suffering. Did another Mossad agent sneak into the UN maintenance room and shut down the air-conditioning? Or was it just the heavy robes?

I never became a priest, not only because I am an atheist (in common with many priests, I suspect) but also because of this obligation to wear the heavy clothes which all creeds demand. Same goes for diplomats.

After all, priests and diplomats are human beings, too! (Many of them, at least.)

 

ONLY ONE Israeli cabinet member dared to criticize the Israeli exit openly. Ya’ir Lapid. What has come over him? Well, polls show that the rising star is not rising any more. As Minister of Finance he has been compelled to take very unpopular steps. Since he does not speak about things like the occupation and peace, he is considered shallow. He has almost been pushed aside. His blunt criticism of Netanyahu may bring him back into the center.

However, he has put his finger on a central fact: that Netanyahu and his crew behave exactly as the Arab diplomats used to do a generation ago. Meaning, they are stuck in the past. They don’t live in the present.

 

Living in the present needs something politicians are loath to do: thinking again.

Things are changing. Slowly, very slowly, but perceptibly.

It is far too early to say much about the Decline of the American Empire, but one does not need a seismograph to perceive some movement in that direction.

 

The Syrian affair was a good example. Vladimir Putin likes to be photographed in judo poses. In judo, one exploits the momentum of one’s opponent to bring him down. That is exactly what Putin did.

President Obama has painted himself into a corner. He mouthed belligerent threats and could not retreat, though the US public is in no belligerent mood. Putin released him from the dilemma. For a price.

 

I don’t know if Putin is such an agile player that he pounced on a side remark by John Kerry about Bashar Assad’s chance of relinquishing his chemical weapons. I rather suspect that it was all arranged in advance. Either way, Obama got off the hook and Putin was in the game again.

I have very mixed feelings about Putin. He has done to his Chechen citizens very much what Assad is doing to his Sunni citizens. His treatment of dissidents, such as the Pussy Riot band, is abominable.

But on the international stage, Putin is now the peacemaker. He has taken the sting out of the chemical weapons’ crisis, and may quite possibly take the initiative in providing a political settlement for that dreadful civil war.

 

The next step could well be to play a similar role in the Iranian crisis. If Khamenei has come to the conclusion that his nuclear program may not be worth the economic misery of the sanctions, he may well sell it to the US. In this case, Putin can play a vital role, mediating between two tough traders who have a lot to trade.

(Unless, of course, Obama behaves like the American who bought a carpet in a Persian bazaar. The seller asked for 1000 dollars, and the American paid up without haggling. When told that the carpet was worth no more than a hundred dollars, he answered: “I know, but I wanted to punish him. Now he won’t be able to sleep, cursing himself for not asking 5000 dollars.”)

 

HOW DO we fit into this changing scene?

 

First of all, we must start thinking, much as we would prefer to avoid it.
New circumstances demand new thoughts.

In his own US speech, Obama made a clear connection between the Iranian bomb and the Israeli occupation. This linkage cannot be unlinked. Let’s grasp it.

The US is today a bit less important than it was yesterday. Russia is a bit more important than it was. As its futile attack on Capitol Hill during the Syrian crisis shows, AIPAC is also less powerful.

 

 Let’s think again about Iran. It’s too early to conclude how far Tehran is moving, if at all.
But we need to try. Walking out of rooms is not a policy. Entering rooms is.

 

If we could restore some of our former relationship with Tehran, or even just take the sting out of the present one, that would be a huge gain for Israel. Combining this with a real peace initiative vis-a-vis the Palestinians would be even better.

Our present course is leading towards disaster. The present changes in the international and the regional scenes can make a change of course possible.

 

Let’s help President Obama change American policy, instead of using AIPAC to terrorize Congress into blindly supporting an outdated policy towards Iran and Palestine. Let’s extend cautious feelers towards Russia. Let’s change our public stance, as the leaders of Iran are doing with such success.

 

Are they more clever than us?

 

 

 —————————————

FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES OF TODAY  NOTES OF THE GOING ON AT THE UN:

The diplomatic breakthrough on Syria came as Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said progress had been made toward a resolution of the nuclear dispute between his country and the West, suggesting it could happen in a year.

Mr. Zarif spoke optimistically after emerging from what he called a “very substantive, businesslike” meeting at the United Nations with representatives of the big powers. He also met face to face with Secretary of State John Kerry in one of the highest-level discussions between the estranged countries in years.

The Syria resolution was a major milestone for the United Nations after years of largely unproductive discussions in the Security Council over the civil war in Syria, which has killed more than 100,000.

Syria, the resolution states, “shall not use, develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to other states or nonstate actors.”

By November, international monitors are to inspect all of Syria’s declared sites, and equipment to produce and mix chemical weapons is to be destroyed, according to a so-called framework agreement that was negotiated by the United States and Russia this month and that is to be enforced by the new Security Council resolution.

Syria’s entire arsenal is to be eliminated by the middle of 2014, according to that accord, a process that Mr. Assad has said could take a year.

Skeptics worry that the process may become drawn out as it was during the 1990s when the United Nations sought to inspect Saddam Hussein’s arsenal in Iraq. Syrian compliance, they fear, may be only partial, and the Russians, they worry, may use their veto power in the Security Council to buy the Assad government more time.

Proponents of the measure say Russia may be cooperative because it shares the West’s concern about maintaining zero tolerance for chemical weapons use.

The diplomatic maneuvering over Syria came amid another drama at the United Nations

Mr. Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, emerged smiling from a meeting with six world powers late Thursday afternoon as American and European officials announced that negotiations on “details” would be worked out in Geneva next month.

The meeting, led by the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, took place with the five permanent members of the Security Council, along with Germany. Mr. Kerry’s separate meeting with Mr. Zarif lasted 30 minutes.

Ms. Ashton said she envisioned an “ambitious timetable” of next steps that would be discussed when the group meets in Geneva next month. The details, she said, would address what Iran needs to do, how soon, and how the international community can verify whether Iran is keeping its word. “Twelve months is a good time frame to think about implementation on the ground,” she said.

Mr. Zarif said Iran hoped to reach a détente “in a timely fashion” that would preserve its right to enrich uranium and persuade the world community that it is for civilian use. “Now we see if we can match our positive words with serious deeds,” he said.

———

Those who watched Mr. Rouhani closest this week describe him as serious, controlled and single-mindedly focused on message. He prefers to be called Dr. Rouhani, for his doctorate in law, rather than by his clerical title.  He seemed intent to convey that he was prepared to take concrete steps to normalize relations with the West, that he was reasonable and that he enjoyed the backing of the street and his country’s religious establishment. He also seemed to be in somewhat of a rush, even while saying events might have been moving too fast.

“He did not come to New York to negotiate with speeches or throw in the towel and surrender. He came to New York to start negotiations,” said Vali Nasr, dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. “He is very clever, very pragmatic, but he’s also now showing himself to be bold, a risk-taker. He is taking the biggest risk any Iranian has in reaching out to the West.”

“He’s far from being a traditional Shia cleric,” said M. Hossein Hafezian, who worked with him for nearly 10 years at his Center for Strategic Research in Tehran. He described Mr. Rouhani as a political “insider” and a moderate, but one who has shunned being called “westernized or liberal, because that would be a curse.”

One diplomat here described him as so composed while meeting one of his Western counterparts that he seemed hard to grasp. The diplomat, who asked not to be identified because of the delicacy of the bilateral meeting, said he was struck by the fact that Mr. Rouhani “didn’t have advisers whispering in his ears the whole time.”

The contrast with his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, could not be more stark. Mr. Ahmadinejad used his podium at the General Assembly to criticize Israel, deny the Holocaust and dangle the notion that Sept. 11 was the handiwork of Americans. Mr. Rouhani, in his public speeches, has mentioned Israel only once, calling on it to sign the Nonproliferation Treaty.

All the same, he has insisted on Iran’s right to build what he says is a civilian nuclear program. At a dinner for about 20 former diplomats and Iran scholars on Tuesday at the One UN New York, a hotel across the street from the United Nations building, one guest recalled that Mr. Rouhani was bluntly asked: What is Iran doing and why is it doing it?

“His answer was very simple,” said the guest, who could not be named because it was a confidential meeting. “We are enriching. We are doing it because it is our right.”

The only time the usually unflappable Mr. Rouhani was mildly exercised, the guest said, was when he spoke of Israel’s complaints about Iran’s nuclear program. Mr. Rouhani, he recalled, sharply pointed out that Israel itself had nuclear weapons.

The next morning, speaking at a meeting on disarmament, Mr. Rouhani called on Israel to give up its nuclear weapons.

Remarks like that prompted some critics to say that Mr. Rouhani was simply a camouflaged version of Mr. Ahmadinejad, pressing the same aims. “Rouhani came here today to cheat the world, and unfortunately many people were willing to be cheated,” Israel’s minister of intelligence and internal affairs, Yuval Steinitz, said Tuesday at the United Nations.

Gary Samore, a former Obama adviser, and now the president of United Against Nuclear Iran, said the substance was “very similar to Ahmadinejad’s, but he says it in a much kinder and gentler way.” “That’s the definition of a charm offensive,” he continued.

———

Mr. Rouhani’s interest in lowering tensions with the West is most directly helped by his closest aides. He has surrounded himself with men, who, like other Iranian bureaucrats, favor trim beards and suits without ties, but who speak the language of the American elite. Several, like his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, were educated here.

Perhaps the most unexpected — and closely guarded — encounter this week was attended by Mr. Rouhani’s chief of staff, Mohammad Nahavandian. He attended a breakfast meeting on Tuesday, organized at his request, with about a dozen New York business leaders, most of them retired, from the banking and energy sectors. His message, according to the breakfast organizer, was that Iran is now pro-business and welcomes private investment, if and when sanctions are lifted.

“This was the beginning of exploring if something like that could happen,” the organizer said, asking to remain anonymous because of the delicacy of the gathering.

Still, said William H. Luers, a retired United States ambassador who now runs an advocacy group called The Iran Project, Mr. Rouhani’s greatest challenge would be to convince skeptics in Iran and the United States. “He has to demonstrate this is more than a charm offensive, that he means what he says, that if there’s a response he’s ready to be engaged,” Mr. Luers said.

The same applies to Mr. Obama, he added. “It’s too far along,” Mr. Luers said. “We’ve said too much on both sides. There’s too much distrust to just say we had a good conversation.”

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 26th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

THE MEMORY OF Dr. MOHAMMAD MOSSADEQ 1882-1967 (Died: March 5, 1967, Ahmadabad-e Mosaddeq, Iran).
He was the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran from 1951 until 1953, when his government was overthrown in a coup d’état orchestrated by the British MI6 and the American CIA. That was when the US and the UK derailed what could have been the start of a movement to bring the Muslim World up to Modern Times. It was all done in order to support the UK and the US Oil Interests. This ought to be remembered when looking at the Middle East of 2013.
===============================================

 

Iran’s Leader, Denouncing Holocaust, Stirs Dispute.

WASHINGTON — As he conducts a high-profile good-will visit to New York this week, Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, says he is bringing a simple message of peace and friendship. But on Wednesday, Mr. Rouhani set off a political storm here and in Iran, with an acknowledgment and condemnation of the Holocaust that landed him in precisely the kind of tangled dispute he had hoped to avoid.

   Richard Perry/The New York Times

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday. He walks a delicate tightrope, trying to calm hard-liners at home.

Multimedia

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Mr. Rouhani, in an interview on Tuesday with CNN, described the Holocaust as a “crime that the Nazis committed towards the Jews” and called it “reprehensible and condemnable.” It was a groundbreaking statement, given that his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, denied the systematic extermination of Jews during World War II. Mr. Rouhani largely repeated his comments in a meeting with news media executives on Wednesday.

But a semiofficial Iranian news agency accused CNN of fabricating portions of Mr. Rouhani’s interview, saying he had not used the word Holocaust or characterized the Nazi mass murder as “reprehensible.” Mr. Rouhani spoke in Persian; officials at CNN said they used an interpreter provided by the Iranian government for the interview, which was conducted by Christiane Amanpour.

The dispute over his comments reflects the extreme delicacy of the Holocaust as an issue in Iranian-American relations. More broadly, it speaks to the political tightrope Mr. Rouhani is walking, trying to negotiate a nuclear deal with the United States that will ease sanctions to please everyday Iranians, without provoking a backlash by hard-liners.

Such careful calculations prompted Mr. Rouhani to eschew a handshake with President Obama at the United Nations General Assembly. After weeks of conciliatory moves, including Iran’s freeing of political prisoners, Iranian and American officials said they believed Mr. Rouhani needed to placate hard-liners in Tehran, who would have bridled at images of an Iranian leader greeting an American president.

“Shaking hands with Obama would have won Rouhani huge points with the Iranian public, but it would have caused Iran’s hard-liners a conniption,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an expert on Iran at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Rouhani avoided other land mines at the United Nations. His comments to the General Assembly, though less inflammatory than those of Mr. Ahmadinejad, touched on similar themes and grievances: the lack of respect for Iran, the West’s refusal to recognize its right to enrich uranium, and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

But when Mr. Rouhani sat down later with Ms. Amanpour, he moved into fraught territory. Asked whether he shared his predecessor’s belief that the Holocaust was a myth, Mr. Rouhani replied, according to CNN’s translation, that he would leave it to historians to judge the “dimensions of the Holocaust.”

But he added, “In general, I can tell you that any crime or — that happens in history against humanity, including the crime that the Nazis committed towards the Jews, as well as non-Jewish people — is reprehensible and condemnable, as far as we are concerned.”

The Iranian news agency Fars, which has ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, posted its own translation of Mr. Rouhani’s answer, and claimed that he did not use the word “reprehensible” and that he said historians should be left to judge “historical events,” not “the Holocaust.”

That translation resembles more closely the way Mr. Ahmadinejad used to discuss the issue. In an interview with CNN in 2012, he said: “Whatever event has taken place throughout history, or hasn’t taken place, I cannot judge that. Why should I judge that?”

In what appeared to be an effort to head off criticism of Mr. Rouhani, Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency reported Wednesday that the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, said the president had presented Iran’s clear and revolutionary stands in his United Nations speech.

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s refusal to recognize the Holocaust became a symbol of Tehran’s implacable hostility. For Israel, it is evidence that Iran is bent on its elimination, and this is why Israel is so determined to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

While American Jewish leaders characterized Mr. Rouhani’s remarks as a modest step forward, they remained deeply skeptical of Iran’s intentions and its readiness to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

 

“Assuming the accuracy of the translation, for me his comments are duly noted,” said David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee. “But he’s only acknowledging, and rather belatedly, the universally acknowledged truth of the last 70 years. That does not warrant a standing ovation.”

Israeli officials reject Mr. Rouhani’s claim that the factual details of the Holocaust are a matter best left to historians. In fact, some analysts say, even raising doubts about the scope of the genocide is itself a form of Holocaust revisionism.

A statement issued last week by the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, “It does not take a historian to recognize the existence of the Holocaust — it just requires being a human being.”

Mr. Netanyahu, rattled by Mr. Obama’s desire to engage Iran, has warned that Mr. Rouhani, with his professorial demeanor and moderate tone, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Yet Iran’s hard-liners, Mr. Sadjadpour said, “probably view him as sheep in wolf’s clothing.”

The complex political crosscurrents were on display in the Iranian news media’s coverage of Mr. Rouhani’s day at the United Nations. A reformist newspaper, Shargh, published pictures of Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Obama during their speeches, with the headline “Perhaps Another Time” — a reflection of the letdown among average Iranians about the missed opportunity for a handshake.

But another paper, Kayhan, which is close to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed horror over the possibility that “the clean hand of our president would for moments be in the bloody clench” of Mr. Obama.

Advisers and analysts close to the government in Tehran said that after weeks of conciliatory statements and gestures by Mr. Rouhani, the excitement had gotten out of hand.

“We need to gain something from the Americans, before we pose and smile with them,” said Hamid-Reza Taraghi, an official who is one of the few trusted to interpret the speeches of Ayatollah Khamenei. “Of course, Mr. Rouhani also needed to convince some at home that he is not making any wild moves.”

Mr. Rouhani himself suggested that a meeting would have been premature and might actually have jeopardized the longer-term goal of striking an agreement on the nuclear program. Speaking to editors and columnists in New York on Wednesday, he said, “I believe we did not have enough time to make it happen.”

“If we do not take our first steps carefully,” he said, “we may not at the very least be able to obtain mutual goals that are in our minds.”

White House officials, though deflated, said Mr. Rouhani’s decision showed he is an astute political player who knows how to calm hard-liners at home while charming audiences abroad. Those are skills they say he will need to navigate the treacherous waters of Iranian politics.

“The issue of the relationship between the United States and Iran is incredibly controversial within Iran,” said a senior administration official. “For them it was just too difficult to move forward with that type of encounter at the presidential level, at this juncture.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 15th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Extreme heatwaves are predicted as the new normal for British summers by 2040.
Report calls for dramatic curbs in greenhouse gas emissions and warns of threat to human society.

Tom Bawden, The Independent, Thursday 15 August 2013

for graphics – go please to –  www.independent.co.uk/environment…

Global temperatures are climbing so rapidly that by 2040 Britain will spend up to a fifth of its summer months in an extreme heatwave, a new report warns.

Unless something dramatic is done to curb the volume of greenhouse gas emissions widely regarded as responsible for climate change, then conditions currently regarded as “extreme” will become the “new normal” in the UK and most of the world by the end of the Century, the findings say.

Under this scenario, by the end of the century Spain and France are likely to be experiencing extreme temperatures during 80 per cent of their summer – across much of June, July and August – with the UK slightly lower at between 50 and 60 per cent, according to Dim Coumou, the lead author of the study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

For Britain, this would mean the July 2006 heatwave – the hottest month since records began in 1659 with an average temperature of 36.5C – or higher by 17.8C from the average since then would become normal. (The United Kingdom’s all-time temperature high till now was 38.5 °C (101.3 °F) attained at Faversham, Kent, on 10 August 2003.)

“The tropics, the Mediterranean and the Middle East will be worst affected, but in the UK you will definitely see a very strong increase in heat extremes as well,” Mr Coumou said, adding that this would be hugely damaging to agriculture and health.

“Heat extremes can be very damaging to society and ecosystems, often causing heat related deaths, forest fires or losses to agricultural production. So an increase in frequency is likely to pose serious challenges to society,” Mr Coumous said.

The extreme heatwaves referred to in the report are known as “3-sigma” events. These are categorised by a hugely complex formula, which compares the average temperature over the course of a month with the average for that time and place for every year since the beginning of the 20th Century.

Technically, the chance of experiencing a 3-sigma event is roughly one in a hundred. However, given the impact of human-emitted greenhouse gases in recent decades, such events have gone from being virtually unheard of in 1950s to becoming increasingly common in the past decade, Mr Coumou said.

“A good example of a recent three-sigma event is the 2010 heat wave in Russia. In the Moscow region the average temperature for the whole of July was around 7C warmer than normal,” said Mr Coumou.

Other examples include the European heatwave of 2003, which was the hottest summer on record for the continent as a whole since at least 1540.

Last month, while cooler than July 2006, may also qualify as a 3-sigma heatwave, said Mr Coumou, who cannot confirm this because he has not finished analysing the data.

The report predicts that by 2020, a tenth of the world’s land surface will be on the receiving end of a 3-sigma heatwave at any one time during the summer months – a figure that will double to a fifth by 2040. At the moment, 5 per cent of the world’s land surface is affected in this way, compared to just 1 per cent in the 1960s.

The changes between now and 2040 will happen regardless of the amount of carbon dioxide that is pumped into the atmosphere over that period because there is typically a ten to 20 year time lag between greenhouse gases being emitted and the resulting warming of the planet, Mr Coumous says.

However, beyond 2040 the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere in the coming decades will have a huge bearing on the frequency and intensity of heatwaves as they exacerbate climate change, he says.

If carbon emissions keep on growing then by the end of the century, 85 per cent of the global land area will be subject to extreme heatwaves during the summer months, the research found.

However, if emissions are severely curtailed, the frequency and severity of heatwaves would stable at 2040 levels, Mr Coumous said. This makes it extremely urgent to take decision action to curb climate change, he said.

The Potsdam report comes shortly after research linking a warmer world with droughts with a substantial increase in violent conflict between both individuals and entire societies. A review of 61 detailed accounts of violence published in the journal Science concluded that personal disputes and wider civil conflicts increase significantly with significant changes to weather patterns, such as increases in temperature and lack of rain.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 10th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Michael T. Klare does it again. He warns us that we are worshiping the old Golden Calf set up there by the Fossil Fuels Establishment.

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How to fry a planet.
Michael T.Klare and Tom Engelhardt 9 August 2013

Don’t for a second imagine we are heading for an era of renewable energy.

Look at it any way you want, and if you’re not a booster of fossil fuels on this overheating planet of ours, it doesn’t look good. Hardly a month passes, it seems, without news about the development of some previously unimaginable way to extract fossil fuels from some thoroughly unexpected place. The latest bit of “good” news: the Japanese government’s announcement that natural gas has been successfully extracted from undersea methane hydrates. (Yippee!) Natural gas is gleefully touted as the “clean” fossil-fuel path to a green future, but evidence is mounting that the newest process for producing it also leaks unexpected amounts of methane, a devastating greenhouse gas. The U.S. cheers and is cheered because the amount of carbon dioxide it is putting into the atmosphere is actually falling. Then Duncan Clark at the British Guardian does the figures and discovers that “there has been no decline in the amount of carbon the U.S. is taking out of the ground. In fact, the trend is upwards. The latest year for which full data is available – 2011 – is the highest level on record.” It’s just that some of it (coal, in particular) was exported abroad to be burned elsewhere.

In the meantime, the next set of articles come out of scientific circles suggesting that the results of all this are far from cheery. An example: a recent paper in the prestigious journal Scienceindicates that “climate change is now set to occur at a pace ‘orders of magnitude more rapid’ than at any other time in the last 65 million years,” and we should prepare for a wave of species extinctions. In other words, the much-ballyhooed coming of North American energy “independence” is an upbeat way of saying that we will continue to heat the planet till hell boils over. Of course, those who run the giant energy companies, the politicians in their pay, and their lobbyists and associated think tanks — the real global “terrarists” for their urge to make historic profits off the heating of the planet — will, of course, continue to cheer. Though it is notoriously hard to claim climate change as the author of any specific weather event, in theever-hotter continental U.S., the experience of what’s being called “extreme weather” — fromdrought to record wildfires, record heat waves to devastating tornadoes — is increasingly part of the warp and woof of everyday life.

In this context, the latest TomDispatch post by Michael Klare, author of The Race for What’s Left, is singularly important, if also singularly unnerving. Klare, who has long been ahead of the curve in his work on energy and resources, offers a clear-eyed look at the energy road chosen, and the view to the horizon is anything but pretty.
Tom Engelhardt

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The original article we got and was intended to disillusion us from belief that Washington is ready for switching to Renewables, was:

 www.truth-out.org/news/item/18060…

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The third carbon age.


By Michael T.Klare

When it comes to energy and economics in the climate-change era, nothing is what it seems. Most of us believe (or want to believe) that the second carbon era, the Age of Oil, will soon be superseded by the Age of Renewables, just as oil had long since superseded the Age of Coal. President Obama offered exactly this vision in a much-praised June address on climate change. True, fossil fuels will be needed a little bit longer, he indicated, but soon enough they will be overtaken by renewable forms of energy.

Many other experts share this view, assuring us that increased reliance on “clean” natural gas combined with expanded investments in wind and solar power will permit a smooth transition to a green energy future in which humanity will no longer be pouring carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. All this sounds promising indeed. There is only one fly in the ointment: it is not, in fact, the path we are presently headed down. The energy industry is not investing in any significant way in renewables. Instead, it is pouring its historic profits into new fossil-fuel projects, mainly involving the exploitation of what are called “unconventional” oil and gas reserves.

The result is indisputable: humanity is not entering a period that will be dominated by renewables. Instead, it is pioneering the third great carbon era, the Age of Unconventional Oil and Gas.

That we are embarking on a new carbon era is increasingly evident and should unnerve us all. Hydro-fracking – the use of high-pressure water columns to shatter underground shale formations and liberate the oil and natural gas supplies trapped within them -is being undertaken in ever more regions of the United States and in a growing number of foreign countries. In the meantime, the exploitation of carbon-dirty heavy oil and tar sands formations is accelerating in Canada, Venezuela, and elsewhere.

It’s true that ever more wind farms and solar arrays are being built, but here’s the kicker: investment in unconventional fossil-fuel extraction and distribution is now expected to outpace spending on renewables by a ratio of at least three-to-one in the decades ahead.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), an inter-governmental research organization based in Paris, cumulative worldwide investment in new fossil-fuel extraction and processing will total an estimated $22.87 trillion between 2012 and 2035, while investment in renewables, hydropower, and nuclear energy will amount to only $7.32 trillion. In these years, investment in oil alone, at an estimated $10.32 trillion, is expected to exceed spending on wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels, hydro, nuclear, and every other form of renewable energy combined.

In addition, as the IEA explains, an ever-increasing share of that staggering investment in fossil fuels will be devoted to unconventional forms of oil and gas: Canadian tar sands, Venezuelan extra-heavy crude, shale oil and gas, Arctic and deep-offshore energy deposits, and other hydrocarbons derived from previously inaccessible reserves of energy. The explanation for this is simple enough. The world’s supply of conventional oil and gas – fuels derived from easily accessible reservoirs and requiring a minimum of processing — is rapidly disappearing. With global demand for fossil fuels expected to rise by 26% between now and 2035, more and more of the world’s energy supply will have to be provided by unconventional fuels.

In such a world, one thing is guaranteed: global carbon emissions will soar far beyond our current worst-case assumptions, meaning intense heat waves will become commonplace and our few remaining wilderness areas will be eviscerated. Planet Earth will be a far – possibly unimaginably – harsher and more blistering place. In that light, it’s worth exploring in greater depth just how we ended up in such a predicament, one carbon age at a time.

The first carbon era

The first carbon era began in the late eighteenth century, with the introduction of coal-powered steam engines and their widespread application to all manner of industrial enterprises. Initially used to power textile mills and industrial plants, coal was also employed in transportation (steam-powered ships and railroads), mining, and the large-scale production of iron. Indeed, what we now call the Industrial Revolution was largely comprised of the widening application of coal and steam power to productive activities. Eventually, coal would also be used to generate electricity, a field in which it remains dominant today.

This was the era in which vast armies of hard-pressed workers built continent-spanning railroads and mammoth textile mills as factory towns proliferated and cities grew. It was the era, above all, of the expansion of the British Empire. For a time, Great Britain was the biggest producer and consumer of coal, the world’s leading manufacturer, its top industrial innovator, and its dominant power – and all of these attributes were inextricably connected. By mastering the technology of coal, a small island off the coast of Europe was able to accumulate vast wealth, develop the world’s most advanced weaponry, and control the global sea-lanes.

The same coal technology that gave Britain such global advantages also brought great misery in its wake. As noted by energy analyst Paul Roberts in The End of Oil, the coal then being consumed in England was of the brown lignite variety, “chock full of sulfur and other impurities.” When burned, “it produced an acrid, choking smoke that stung the eyes and lungs and blackened walls and clothes.” By the end of the nineteenth century, the air in London and other coal-powered cities was so polluted that “trees died, marble facades dissolved, and respiratory ailments became epidemic.”

For Great Britain and other early industrial powers, the substitution of oil and gas for coal was a godsend, allowing improved air quality, the restoration of cities, and a reduction in respiratory ailments. In many parts of the world, of course, the Age of Coal is not over. In China and India, among other places, coal remains the principal source of energy, condemning their cities and populations to a twenty-first-century version of nineteenth-century London and Manchester.

The second carbon era

The Age of Oil got its start in 1859 when commercial production began in western Pennsylvania, but only truly took off after World War II, with the explosive growth of automobile ownership. Before 1940, oil played an important role in illumination and lubrication, among other applications, but remained subordinate to coal; after the war, oil became the world’s principal source of energy. From 10 million barrels per day in 1950, global consumption soared to 77 million in 2000, a half-century bacchanalia of fossil fuel burning.

Driving the global ascendancy of petroleum was its close association with the internal combustion engine (ICE). Due to oil’s superior portability and energy intensity (that is, the amount of energy it releases per unit of volume), it makes the ideal fuel for mobile, versatile ICEs. Just as coal rose to prominence by fueling steam engines, so oil came to prominence by fueling the world’s growing fleets of cars, trucks, planes, trains, and ships. Today, petroleum supplies about 97% of all energy used in transportation worldwide.

Oil’s prominence was also assured by its growing utilization in agriculture and warfare. In a relatively short period of time, oil-powered tractors and other agricultural machines replaced animals as the primary source of power on farms around the world. A similar transition occurred on the modern battlefield, with oil-powered tanks and planes replacing the cavalry as the main source of offensive power.

These were the years of mass automobile ownership, continent-spanning highways, endless suburbs, giant malls, cheap flights, mechanized agriculture, artificial fibers, and – above all else – the global expansion of American power. Because the United States possessed mammoth reserves of oil, was the first to master the technology of oil extraction and refining, and the most successful at utilizing petroleum in transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, and war, it emerged as the richest and most powerful country of the twenty-first century, a saga told with great relish by energy historian Daniel Yergin in The Prize. Thanks to the technology of oil, the US was able to accumulate staggering levels of wealth, deploy armies and military bases to every continent, and control the global air and sea-lanes – extending its power to every corner of the planet.

However, just as Britain experienced negative consequences from its excessive reliance on coal, so the United States – and the rest of the world – has suffered in various ways from its reliance on oil. To ensure the safety of its overseas sources of supply, Washington has established tortuous relationships with foreign oil suppliers and has fought several costly, debilitating wars in the Persian Gulf region, a sordid history I recount in Blood and Oil. Overreliance on motor vehicles for personal and commercial transportation has left the country ill-equipped to deal with periodic supply disruptions and price spikes. Most of all, the vast increase in oil consumption — here and elsewhere — has produced a corresponding increase in carbon dioxide emissions, accelerating planetary warming (a process begun during the first carbon era) and exposing the country to the ever more devastating effects of climate change.

The age of unconventional oil and gas

The explosive growth of automotive and aviation travel, the suburbanization of significant parts of the planet, the mechanization of agriculture and warfare, the global supremacy of the United States, and the onset of climate change: these were the hallmarks of the exploitation of conventional petroleum. At present, most of the world’s oil is still obtained from a few hundred giant onshore fields in Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and Venezuela, among other countries; some additional oil is acquired from offshore fields in the North Sea, the Gulf of Guinea, and the Gulf of Mexico. This oil comes out of the ground in liquid form and requires relatively little processing before being refined into commercial fuels.

But such conventional oil is disappearing. According to the IEA, the major fields that currently provide the lion’s share of global petroleum will lose two-thirds of their production over the next 25 years, with their net output plunging from 68 million barrels per day in 2009 to a mere 26 million barrels in 2035. The IEA assures us that new oil will be found to replace those lost supplies, but most of this will be of an unconventional nature. In the coming decades, unconventional oils will account for a growing share of the global petroleum inventory, eventually becoming our main source of supply.

The same is true for natural gas, the second most important source of world energy. The global supply of conventional gas, like conventional oil, is shrinking, and we are becoming increasingly dependent on unconventional sources of supply — especially from the Arctic, the deep oceans, and shale rock via hydraulic fracturing.

In certain ways, unconventional hydrocarbons are akin to conventional fuels. Both are largely composed of hydrogen and carbon, and can be burned to produce heat and energy. But in time the differences between them will make an ever-greater difference to us. Unconventional fuels – especially heavy oils and tar sands – tend to possess a higher proportion of carbon to hydrogen than conventional oil, and so release more carbon dioxide when burned. Arctic and deep-offshore oil require more energy to extract, and so produce higher carbon emissions in their very production.

“Many new breeds of petroleum fuels are nothing like conventional oil,” Deborah Gordon, a specialist on the topic at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in 2012. “Unconventional oils tend to be heavy, complex, carbon laden, and locked up deep in the earth, tightly trapped between or bound to sand, tar, and rock.”

By far the most worrisome consequence of the distinctive nature of unconventional fuels is their extreme impact on the environment. Because they are often characterized by higher ratios of carbon to hydrogen, and generally require more energy to extract and be converted into usable materials, they produce more carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy released. In addition, the process that produces shale gas, hailed as a “clean” fossil fuel, is believed by many scientists to cause widespread releases of methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas.

All of this means that, as the consumption of fossil fuels grows, increasing, not decreasing, amounts of CO2 and methane will be released into the atmosphere and, instead of slowing, global warming will speed up.

And here’s another problem associated with the third carbon age: the production of unconventional oil and gas turns out to require vast amounts of water – for fracking operations, to extract tar sands and extra-heavy oil, and to facilitate the transport and refining of such fuels. This is producing a growing threat of water contamination, especially in areas of intense fracking and tar sands production, along with competition over access to water supplies among drillers, farmers, municipal water authorities, and others. As climate change intensifies, drought will become the norm in many areas and so this competition will only grow fiercer.

Along with these and other environmental impacts, the transition from conventional to unconventional fuels will have economic and geopolitical consequences hard to fully assess at this moment. As a start, the exploitation of unconventional oil and gas reserves from previously inaccessible regions involves the introduction of novel production technologies, including deep-sea and Arctic drilling, hydro-fracking, and tar-sands upgrading. One result has been a shakeup in the global energy industry, with the emergence of innovative companies possessing the skills and determination to exploit the new unconventional resources — much as occurred during the early years of the petroleum era when new firms arose to exploit the world’s oil reserves.

This has been especially evident in the development of shale oil and gas. In many cases, the breakthrough technologies in this field were devised and deployed by smaller, risk-taking firms like Cabot Oil and Gas, Devon Energy Corporation, Mitchell Energy and Development Corporation, and XTO Energy. These and similar companies pioneered the use of hydro-fracking to extract oil and gas from shale formations in Arkansas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas, and later sparked a stampede by larger energy firms to obtain stakes of their own in these areas. To augment those stakes, the giant firms are gobbling up many of the smaller and mid-sized ones. Among the most conspicuous takeovers was ExxonMobil’s 2009 purchase of XTO for $41 billion.

That deal highlights an especially worrisome feature of this new era: the deployment of massive funds by giant energy firms and their financial backers to acquire stakes in the production of unconventional forms of oil and gas — in amounts far exceeding comparable investments in either conventional hydrocarbons or renewable energy. It’s clear that, for these companies, unconventional energy is the next big thing and, as among the most profitable firms in history, they are prepared to spend astronomical sums to ensure that they continue to be so. If this means investment in renewable energy is shortchanged, so be it. “Without a concerted policymaking effort” to favor the development of renewables, Carnegie’s Gordon warns, future investments in the energy field “will likely continue to flow disproportionately toward unconventional oil.”

In other words, there will be an increasingly entrenched institutional bias among energy firms, banks, lending agencies, and governments toward next-generation fossil-fuel production, only increasing the difficulty of establishing national and international curbs on carbon emissions. This is evident, for example, in the Obama administration’s undiminished support for deep-offshore drilling and shale gas development, despite its purported commitment to reduce carbon emissions. It is likewise evident in the growing international interest in the development of shale and heavy-oil reserves, even as fresh investment in green energy is being cut back.

As in the environmental and economic fields, the transition from conventional to unconventional oil and gas will have a substantial, if still largely undefined, impact on political and military affairs.

US and Canadian companies are playing a decisive role in the development of many of the vital new unconventional fossil-fuel technologies; in addition, some of the world’s largest unconventional oil and gas reserves are located in North America. The effect of this is to bolster US global power at the expense of rival energy producers like Russia and Venezuela, which face rising competition from North American companies, and energy-importing states like China and India, which lack the resources and technology to produce unconventional fuels.

At the same time, Washington appears more inclined to counter the rise of China by seeking to dominate the global sea lanes and bolster its military ties with regional allies like Australia, India, Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea. Many factors are contributing to this strategic shift, but from their statements it is clear enough that top American officials see it as stemming in significant part from America’s growing self-sufficiency in energy production and its early mastery of the latest production technologies.

“America’s new energy posture allows us to engage [the world] from a position of greater strength,” National Security Advisor Tom Donilon asserted in an April speech at Columbia University. “Increasing US energy supplies act as a cushion that helps reduce our vulnerability to global supply disruptions [and] affords us a stronger hand in pursuing and implementing our international security goals.”

For the time being, the US leaders can afford to boast of their “stronger hand” in world affairs, as no other country possesses the capabilities to exploit unconventional resources on such a large scale. By seeking to extract geopolitical benefits from a growing world reliance on such fuels, however, Washington inevitably invites countermoves of various sorts. Rival powers, fearful and resentful of its geopolitical assertiveness, will bolster their capacity to resist American power – a trend already evident in China’s accelerating naval and missile buildup.

At the same time, other states will seek to develop their own capacity to exploit unconventional resources in what might be considered a fossil-fuels version of an arms race. This will require considerable effort, but such resources are widely distributed across the planet and in time other major producers of unconventional fuels are bound to emerge, challenging America’s advantage in this realm (even as they increase the staying power and global destructiveness of the third age of carbon). Sooner or later, much of international relations will revolve around these issues.

Surviving the third carbon era

Barring unforeseen shifts in global policies and behavior, the world will become increasingly dependent on the exploitation of unconventional energy. This, in turn, means an increase in the buildup of greenhouse gases with little possibility of averting the onset of catastrophic climate effects. Yes, we will also witness progress in the development and installation of renewable forms of energy, but these will play a subordinate role to the development of unconventional oil and gas.

Life in the third carbon era will not be without its benefits. Those who rely on fossil fuels for transportation, heating, and the like can perhaps take comfort from the fact that oil and natural gas will not run out soon, as was predicted by many energy analysts in the early years of this century. Banks, the energy corporations, and other economic interests will undoubtedly amass staggering profits from the explosive expansion of the unconventional oil business and global increases in the consumption of these fuels. But most of us won’t be rewarded. Quite the opposite. Instead, we’ll experience the discomfort and suffering accompanying the heating of the planet, the scarcity of contested water supplies in many regions, and the evisceration of the natural landscape.

What can be done to cut short the third carbon era and avert the worst of these outcomes? Calling for greater investment in green energy is essential but insufficient at a moment when the powers that be are emphasizing the development of unconventional fuels. Campaigning for curbs on carbon emissions is necessary, but will undoubtedly prove problematic, given an increasingly deeply embedded institutional bias toward unconventional energy.

Needed, in addition to such efforts, is a drive to expose the distinctiveness and the dangers of unconventional energy and to demonize those who choose to invest in these fuels rather than their green alternatives. Some efforts of this sort are already underway, including student-initiated campaigns to persuade or compel college and university trustees to divest from any investments in fossil-fuel companies. These, however, still fall short of a systemic drive to identify and resist those responsible for our growing reliance on unconventional fuels.

For all President Obama’s talk of a green technology revolution, we remain deeply entrenched in a world dominated by fossil fuels, with the only true revolution now underway involving the shift from one class of such fuels to another. Without a doubt, this is a formula for global catastrophe. To survive this era, humanity must become much smarter about this new kind of energy and then take the steps necessary to compress the third carbon era and hasten in the Age of Renewables before we burn ourselves off this planet.

This piece, including a new Tom Engelhardt introduction, is reposted on UK’s OpenDemocracy.net from TomDispatch.com with the original site’s permission.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 10th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From Matteo Bergamini, Executive Director, Shout Out UK

A thought experiment by Stephen Leece

Now that the moderate Hassan Rouhani has replaced the clearly bi-polar and fiercely anti-Israeli and anti-Western Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as President of Iran one would expect the West, and the US in particular to stop their incessant sabre-rattling at Tehran. But you would be wrong. Washington, London and Tel Aviv are still prattling on like frightened schoolchildren about Iran’s Nuclear Programme.

This attitude represents the blistering ignorance of the West towards matters Eastern. It’s never occurred to Western leaders to even attempt to try to see things from an Eastern perspective.

The problem here initially is to do with education, and how Western education subtly distorts our thinking processes. Education in the West revolves around Judeo-Christian teachings for morality, and for literature and history the Classical World. There should not be any need to discuss the difference between the Judeo-Christianity belief system of the West, and the Shia Islam of Iran. Less obvious though is the impact of Classical thinking on the Western mind-set where the Ancient Greeks, who we have inherited a lot of art, literature, philosophy and history from, were at war with the Persians (Iranians). So automatically, without even realizing it, Westerners have a jaundiced view of Iran.

During Mad Mahmoud’s Presidency (2005-13) the West used his ridiculous pronouncements about the Holocaust, and wiping Israel off the map, and demands for Nuclear Power as a reason for continually threatening Tehran. Again this displays weapons-grade stupidity on the West’s part as to how Iran is actually governed.

The President of Iran does not enjoy the same freedom of power as the President of the US. In fact, you could make a very good case for it being a nominal title only. Iran is actually governed by a politburo and in Iran’s case above the president you have the Supreme Leader, currently Ali Khamenei.


Khamenei has been very generous towards the West since September 11 attacks. He roundly condemned 9/11 and as a reward George W Bush added Iran to the Axis of Evil alongside North Korea and Iraq; he offered military support to NATO forces in Afghanistan, which was refused; he offered military support to Coalition troops in Iraq, which was also refused. If they had accepted his offer of maintaining security in Iraq’s Eastern zones, he would have disarmed Lebanese Hezbollah and turned it into a political party only.


Iran is Shia, Iraq and Afghanistan are Sunni. The 9/11 hijackers were Sunni. The London Transport Network bombers were Sunni. The Madrid Train Bombers were Sunni. The Sunni terrorists are funded by Oil Rich GCC States such as Saudi Arabia, who is supposedly a Western ally. Does it not look like Western foreign policy towards the Middle East is upside down and back to front?

If we compare Iran with Israel, they have much in common. Leaving Bahrain to one side, they are both unique in terms of faith, and are surrounded by nations composed of religions that are hostile towards them. Israel has Muslim Egyptians, Muslim Palestinians, Sunni and Shia Lebanese, and Sunni and Shia in Syria. Iran has largely Sunni Iraq, Sunni Afghanistan, and is still in dispute with the Sunni United Arab Emirates over ownership of the islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb. Two nations surrounded by hostile countries. Israel has Nuclear Weapons, Iran wants Nuclear capability. Why is it okay for Tel Aviv but not Tehran? They both face the same regional problems.

A further comparison can be made between Palestinian Hamas and the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah. Hamas has no strict chain-of-command. Hamas can execute a prisoner or hostage whenever they want. Hezbollah has a strict hierarchy- they cannot carry out paramilitary operations, kidnappings and executions without the say so of their backer be it Syria or Iran. Which paramilitary organization is the West more likely to be able to cut a deal with?

The Iran that exists now is not the Iran of Ayatollah Khomeini- that Iran died with him on June 3rd 1989.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 30th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


News Release from the New York City based Council on Foreign Relations

Haass to Chair Northern Ireland Talks.

CFR President Richard N. Haass to Chair All-Party Talks in Northern Ireland

July 30, 2013—Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), has agreed to chair talks intended to tackle some of the most divisive issues affecting Northern Ireland. The “All-Party Panel” negotiations—to take place among the five parties represented in the Northern Ireland Executive—will address sensitive issues and disputes, including parades and protests; flags, symbols, and emblems; and related matters stemming from the past in order to make the peace more resilient going forward. The Panel is to present a set of recommendations supported by all the parties before the end of this year.

“I welcome this opportunity to again work with the people and political leadership of Northern Ireland,” said Haass, who recently returned from meetings with party leaders in Belfast. “Much has been accomplished over the past decade and a half. The goal is to build on and both broaden and deepen these accomplishments.” The CFR president served as the lead U.S. government official in support of the Northern Ireland peace process from 2001 to 2003, during which time he also served as director of policy planning at the State Department.

Haass was the first choice of the five main political parties to serve as the independent chair of the All-Party Panel process. “We are deeply grateful that an international figure of Dr. Haass’s standing has agreed to facilitate these important discussions, which we hope will provide long-term and sustainable solutions that are in the best interests of the community,” read the official statement from First Minister Peter D. Robinson MLA and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA.

Meghan L. O’Sullivan will join Haass as vice-chair of the All-Party Panel. O’Sullivan served as Haass’s chief adviser on Northern Ireland during his tenure as special envoy and went on to serve as deputy national security adviser. She is currently the Jeane Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School and an adjunct senior fellow at CFR.

About CFR

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher dedicated to being a resource for its members, government officials, business executives, journalists, educators and students, civic and religious leaders, and other interested citizens in order to help them better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries.

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