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Posted on on February 8th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (

May defeats plan to give MPs Brexit veto.…

By BEN FOX, EUObserver

LONDON, February 8, 2017

UK MPs will get a “take it or leave it vote” at the end of Article 50 talks with the EU, but Theresa May’s government defeated an attempt by opposition MPs to ensure that parliament gets an effective veto over Brexit.
Under the deal offered by the May government on Tuesday (7 February), MPs will get a vote on any deal struck with EU negotiators during the Article 50 process, to take place before any Brexit agreement was voted on by the European Parliament.

This initially seemed like a significant concession when it was announced by Brexit minister David Jones at the start of four hours of the second day of debate on the Article 50 bill, but it isn’t.
If parliament rejects the deal, the UK will leave the EU anyway and would fall back to trading with the bloc on the basis of World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

“This will be a meaningful vote,” Jones told MPs, adding that it would “be the choice of leaving the EU with a negotiated deal or not”.

“The vote they’re offering – which will give MPs a choice between an extreme Brexit and falling off a cliff edge into WTO trade rules – isn’t a concession, it’s an ultimatum,” said Caroline Lucas MP, co-leader of the Green Party.

“MPs must not be duped by the government’s attempt to quell unrest on their back-benches.”

Out voted
MPs also voted by a majority of 33 against an amendment proposed by Labour MP Chris Leslie that would have stopped ministers striking a Brexit agreement until it had been passed by MPs and peers.

Seven Conservative MPs voted with Labour. The amendment was seen as a means of keeping alive the slim prospect of the UK remaining in the EU.

A Labour proposal which would have forced the government to publish impact assessments of the different potential trading models with the EU, indicating the likely economic effects of leaving the single market or customs union, was also defeated.

The government faces a potentially close vote on an amendment calling for the rights of EU nationals living in the UK to be guaranteed, but it is highly probable that the bill will be passed without any of the 287 amendments to it being adopted when MPs take a final vote on Wednesday (8 February).

As it stands, the only risk – albeit slim – to May’s plans would be a delay in the House of Lords, where the Conservatives number only 253 out of 805 peers.

The Lords is not elected and it is extremely unlikely that peers will risk a constitutional crisis by opposing the Brexit bill.

In the more likely event that the Lords proposes amendments, these would then, in turn, be subject to the approval of MPs.

The bill is timetabled to be signed into law on 13 March, giving May time to keep to her self-imposed deadline of formally triggering Article 50 before the end of March.

Separately, the Scottish parliament backed a symbolic motion rejecting the decision to trigger Article 50 on Tuesday with the support of the Scottish National Party, Greens, Liberal Democrats and most Labour MSPs.

The devolved assemblies have no power to prevent or delay the Brexit process, although Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned that the UK exiting the EU, despite a large majority for “Remain” in Scotland, could lead to her government demanding a second referendum on independence from the UK.


Posted on on June 10th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


The title of the Second Correction of Second Correction – of June 1, 2014 –  to this article was:  “The Party of European Socialists …” for the backing of President for the New European Commission – as we find out serially that this will not be Brussels reality. Now it is crystal clear that the UK, with one foot in the US and one foot in the EU, will just not allow the creation of a strong EU that can become World Power at equal level with the US and China. The UK Prime Minister David Cameron takes cue from the anti-EU UKIP party that won the elections for the European Parliament in the UK, and organizes the resistance to those that represent the two major parties in the European Parliament by insisting that the new Commission has to be dominated by the Member States rather then by their people/citizens. This is nothing less then a hold on to the power that the Parliament was voted to wrestle out from them.

With this reality in lead we lose all hope that the EU can become anything more then the window dressing to a bunch of 28 rather small States united in form but not in fact. This will not lead to the stability that more enlightened Europeans were envisioning.

Our hope now is that the Scots do indeed vote for independence and become their own EU members reducing England to its correct position as an ally of the US and a candidate to join the the United States of America instead. That is what they want and that is what they deserve. The European continent will then be allowed to unite in its own interest and perhaps Russia would then be able to consider its own interest in realigning with it in a Eurasian Economic Union from Lisbon to Vladivostok that can hold the line versus China on its Eastern borders.


Merkel and Cameron in battle over European Commission.

(L-R) Dutch PM Mark Rutte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British PM David Cameron and Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt an informal meeting on 9 June 2014 in in Harpsund, Sweden. Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt (far right) is hosting the wide-ranging talks at his summer residence in Harpsund

The leaders of Sweden, Germany, Britain and the Netherlands are meeting at a mini-EU summit near Stockholm to try to reach a consensus on European reform.

The controversial question of who is to head the European Commission is likely to be discussed, but not officially.

UK PM David Cameron is expected to try to get leaders on-side to block Jean-Claude Juncker taking the job.

It sets him against German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who publicly supports the ex-Luxembourg leader’s appointment.

Few details from the summit have emerged. However, job creation, institutional changes in the EU and structural reforms to boost EU competitiveness were said to be high on the agenda.

The UK, Sweden and the Netherlands are leading a campaign to block Mr Juncker’s candidacy, which has the support of the largest centre-right political grouping in the European Parliament, the European People’s Party (EPP).

David Cameron, Angela Merkel, Fredrik Reinfeldt and Mark Rutte talk in a boat near the summer residence of the Swedish Prime Minister The four leaders took to the river for a spot of relaxation before the talks began in earnest

Ahead of the two-day talks that began on Monday, Mr Cameron said he had the support of “all major UK parties” in opposing the appointment.

He also spoke to the prime ministers of Italy and Hungary, Matteo Renzi and Viktor Orban, by phone to discuss the matter, Reuters reports.

The BBC’s Ben Wright, in Harpsund, said the scene was set for a lengthy power struggle between EU leaders and the European Parliament over the appointment with the UK worried about the prospect of a “stitch-up”.

A news conference on the outcome of the talks is scheduled for 08:00 GMT on Tuesday.

Role of commissionMr Cameron is strongly opposed to Mr Juncker’s belief in a closer political union between EU member states and has described Brussels as “too big” and “too bossy”.

His hand was strengthened on Monday when the UK opposition Labour party said its MEPs in the European Parliament, which must approve the choice by EU leaders, would vote against Mr Juncker.

On arrival in Sweden, Mr Cameron said it should be EU leaders and not the European Parliament who decide who will head the commission.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt also dismissed the idea of a stronger role for the European Parliament.

“We in principle dislike the idea of presenting front-runners from the different parties because we think that twists the balance between the institutions and the way that the Lisbon treaty is set up,” he said.

More discussions were needed on the role of the EU commission before looking at names, he added.

Angela Merkel and Jean-Claude Juncker The German chancellor has given Jean-Claude Juncker her backing 

Juncker: For and againstAngela Merkel: German chancellor, after some hesitation, backed European People’s Party candidate. Some in Germany believe she may be willing to discuss alternatives

David Cameron: Opposed to former Luxembourg PM’s candidacy – said to see him as a “face from the 1980s” who cannot solve the problems of next five years

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Seen as opposed to Mr Juncker and reports in European media suggest Swedish prime minister himself could be compromise candidate

Mark Rutte: Opposed to Mr Juncker, and Dutch PM due to meet Irish prime minister after Swedish summit to discuss alternative candidates


Dutch PM Mark Rutte told reporters that it was premature to put forward names for who should replace Jose Manuel Barroso as head of the commission.

“My belief is that we should first focus on content, discuss what the new commission should do… then discuss who fits that profile,” he said.

Mrs Merkel said the four leaders would not make a final decision on who they would back, adding that her position was well known.

EU leaders have traditionally named the commission head on their own, but new rules mean they now have to “take into account” the results of the European Parliament elections.

The EPP grouping, of which Mr Juncker is a member, won the largest number of seats in May’s polls, and he has argued that that gives him a mandate.

The decision will be made by the European Council – the official body comprising the 28 leaders – by qualified majority vote. That means no single country can veto the choice.

The decision is expected at an EU summit on 26-27 June although an agreement by then is by no means guaranteed.

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The first Correction title was: “Correction to “The Party of European Socialists that backs Martin Schultz for the European Commission presidency seems to have an advantage in the building of a ruling coalition for the EU” – but we found out that this will not be Brussels reality.”  But after 3 days even that title was overtaken by real Brussels life as directed from the 28 Member States’ Capitals – and even some non-member States as well —- Perhaps.

Turns out that while the great gains of the parties of the Right introduced to the EU strong elements that came to undo the EU – these parties will have a hard time creating a new faction in the EU Parliament. In effect there might be two such factions – one based on a UK-Hungary alliance and the other on an Austria-France alliance. Nevertheless, the Black and Red factions are afraid of this invasion of their previously calm and inactive EU. Rather then gearing up for strong leadership – seemingly they are opting for a united front like it is the Austrian Government norm. It loooks that the Austrian Chancellor Mr. Faymann (a Red) initiated this effort by saying he backs Mr. Jean-Claude Junker (a black)  for the position of the New President of the New European Commission, because he got the largest number of votes.

Perhaps this was done in agreement with other heads of State or Government, we will never know, but what we know is that Mr. Junker then turned around and suggested Mr. Martin Schulz, the candidate of the reds, the holder of the second largest number of votes and mandates, should be his only Vice President. In this case the Denmark Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt could replace Mr. Van Rompuy as permanent head of the European Council which according to protocol is the highest EU position {sort of a Senate to the Parliament’s similarity to a House of Representatives}.

Denmark is outside the EURO group and could thus be a bow to the non-Euro States. Similarly the Poland’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Radoslaw Sikorski is being mentioned as a professional, for replacing Lady Catherine Ashton at the EU Foreign Policy desk. Let us see if this short list will be the final one in what has become negotiations run from the Capitals rather then the one we thought will be handled directly by the heads of fracctions based in Brussels.

The Alliance of Socialists and Democrats won only 193 seats in the Parliament and is second largest faction to the 211  member European People’s Party, but when analyzing the rest of the colors’ pallet they seem to have an advantage when judging the potential for coalition building in the 752 member Parliament. A majority means having 376 votes. 

The news of these elections is the emergence of Euro-skeptic parties and Right extremists that are outside the reach of the two rather centrist contenders for heading the new Parliament who will eventually head also the Commission – being something akin to a first EU President. Extreme right and EU skeptists just do not fit in – and that was the target of those that stood up to their home governments anyway.

The two largest blocs that are positioned between the EPP and the S&D – the ALDE liberals and the Greens, amount together to 132 mandates, and they are much closer to Martin Schulz of the S&D who wants to introduce change with a more socially oriented set of policies, then to Jean-Claude Juncker of the EPP who would mean more of the same and a continuation of the policies that allowed the EU to fall into an economic crisis that was set up in the US.

If indeed the two parties mentioned join Martin Schulz, and yesterday I learned from Mr. Gerhard Schick of the German Greens that this is in the cards, then Schulz presents himself as the head of a 325 bloc, which makes it easier for him then for Junker, to reach out to the magic 376 number, or at least be indeed the leader of the largest bloc if it has to be a minority rule.  

Juncker stakes claim to EU commission’s top job  – might thus be premature.

We wonder if all new Members of the European Parliament already packed their suitcases and are off to Brussels to do there the negotiations that eventually will lead to the real results.

EU wakes up to Eurosceptic hangover.
26 May 2014
The EU’s mainstream political parties will move quickly to re-establish themselves as the voice of the European parliament, following EU elections that saw a significant increase in support for Eurosceptic, extreme right and anti-establishment parties.

PES say Eurosceptic election swing sounds ‘warning bell.’

Written by Martin Banks on 26 May 2014 in News – The Parliament Magazine.

Party of European Socialists president Sergei Stanishev has conceded that the rise of far right and Eurosceptic parties in the elections sounds a “warning bell” for the political elite.


Martin Schulz and Sergei Stanishev at a Party of European Socialists event in the European parliament

Speaking at a news conference in parliament on Monday, the former Bulgarian prime minister said the big gains for such parties was “not so much about European politics but more about national policies and a protest vote”.

He went on, “The fact that parties like Front National and UKIP, which won more votes in the UK than another other party, can gain such support do so well is very serious and cause for concern. It should sound a warning bell to other parties and send a message that European people want change.”

“The EPP is the party which has run Europe for the last 10 years during the economic crisis and they were the big losers even though they remain the biggest group in parliament” Sergei Stanishev

Stanishev said the “big losers” in the election were the EPP, which he said had lost 60 seats and seen its share of the vote fall by some 20 per cent compared with the 2009 elections.

“The EPP is the party which has run Europe for the last 10 years during the economic crisis and they were the big losers even though they remain the biggest group in parliament.”

He said the Socialist vote share had remained stable compared with five years ago but voiced veiled disappointment that it had not done better. Even so, he said he was confident the party remained well placed to achieve its objectives in the next legislature, including further regulation of financial markets.

He also praised his colleague, German MEP Martin Schulz, a candidate for the commission presidency and parliament’s president, for an “outstanding” electoral campaign, saying he had “reached” 150 million citizens via social media. “His profile is now even bigger than it was before the election.”

Stanishev. who has led the Bulgarian Socialist party since 2001, also insisted that member states must “take account” of the outcome of the vote in deciding the next commission head, adding that, on this, he believes PES are in a “stronger position” than the EPP.

Addressing the same conference, PES general secretary Achim Post said, “It is now up to the political group leaders to form a ‘stable’ majority and the Socialists will play a decisive role in this.”



Above is good for a Europe if it wants to be seen as a post-Nationalism Union that gives preference to ideas over National identity.  But then, Mr. Junker does not get yet free sailing as members of his own European Party – from the UK, Hungary, and Sweden seem to prefer alternatives from inside the EPP  – names from Finland and Italy being mentioned.

The political juggling seems even more interesting when the other positions to be filled are taken into account.

As possible  compensation for Mr. Schulz getting himself out of contention – he might then get to be the German Commissioner – although one would have expected someone closer to the German Chancellor. Austria seems to follow the German example with the Red Party Chancellor from the Red Party declaring his backing for the candidate of the Black Party as he got more votes. This opens the question whom will he support for Commissioner from Austria?

With a Catholic holiday on Thursday there is no chance now that the Parliament will have a prospective winner before the end of this week,  another week of politics is still in the cards, and in effect it might take all of the month of June.

Also, if Mr. Junker does not get full backing from his own party and does not reach a majority – then according to Parliament norm the ball is passed to the second largest faction and that is Mr. Schulz – so it might be that the wheel might still turn in his direction. Seemingly Mr. David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, has the ropes in his hands – but in mind he has the success  the anti-EU UKIP party had at these elections. Similarly France is looking at the success the Le Pen Front National had on Sunday. Does this mean that these two EU members are now favoring a weakened EU because this seemed to be the wish of their countrymen?

The French Christian Democrat Joseph Daul is leading the Black Faction negotiators and Austrian Commissioner Hannes Swoboda is leading the Red Party negotiators with outgoing Head of the Parliament, the Belgian Hermann Van-Rompuy the address of their efforts. Who will get his job? Could it be that this position will go to the Commissioer from Poland – Ms. Danuta Hebner?




About the author:   Martin Banks is a veteran freelance, Brussels-based journalist specialising in European politics.


Posted on on June 2nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


Scots Are Divided Over Independence, and Its Economic Costs.


The case for tearing apart the United Kingdom was made on a recent evening at a community center in Beith,  a small town near Glasgow. More than 200 people were packed into folding chairs and standing along walls lined with posters promoting an independent Scotland, like the one with the word “Aye” emblazoned on a Scottish flag. A disco ball hung overhead.

The official campaign period kicked off Friday for the referendum that will determine whether Scotland will remain in Britain. If successful, the vote, which will be in September, would fundamentally reshape America’s closest ally, redrawing the borders of a union that has existed for more than 300 years.

Although the pro-Britain unionists lead, momentum has swung back and forth. The spread narrowed to just three percentage points in an April poll by ICM Research for the Scotsman newspaper, but it widened to 12 points in mid-May, with 20 percent still undecided.

The movement goes beyond the nationalistic pride that has fed previous calls for a split. For Scottish nationalists, much of the discontent comes down to clashing politics. They believe that the British government is far too conservative and has pushed austerity on a Scottish government that never wanted it.

“We again take a different view about the macroeconomic choices available for the country,” John Swinney, Scotland’s finance minister, said in challenging the British approach.

The financial implications weigh heavily on the debate. Top British government officials have ruled out sharing the pound with an independent Scotland, though their resolve has been questioned. José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, has said it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” for Scotland to join the European Union. That raised the question of whether Scotland would be left to create its own potentially volatile new currency.

We at, specially now, with the EU elections in, and the fact that UKIP or the Independence Party of all of Britain won the election in the UK, and Prime Minister David Cameron is being cowed, himself,  into becoming a pain in the side of the EU – then a breakaway Scotland that chooses to be a founding member of a stronger European Union, is a welcome event indeed – and a way to reach out to a  more sustainable EU.  It is clear that the UK of today is closer to the US then to the EU and thus counterproductive to efforts to strengthen the European Union.

Wealthy Scots are choosing sides. The biggest donor to the pro-British pro-union advocacy group Better Together is Donald Houston, a Scottish hotel and whisky magnate who has said “ripping up” the union “is a ridiculous idea.”

The biggest individual donors by far to the pro-independence advocacy group Yes Scotland are Colin and Christine Weir, who won the $271 million EuroMillions lottery jackpot in 2011. Established Scottish business figures, including George Mathewson, former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, have also spoken in support of independence.

Executives of large multinational corporations tend to see a breakup as a needless risk. More are speaking out, like the BP chief Bob Dudley, who said “Great Britain is great and it ought to stay together,” or General Electric’s top executive in Europe, who said “there would be some consequences that are unpleasant.” And two of Scotland’s largest employers, Royal Bank of Scotland and the insurer Standard Life, have mentioned a “yes” vote as a risk in regulatory filings. But are not such groups rather Wall Street oriented? The Scots-for-Independence could then realize that they live on a different continent indeed might find closer kinship to Denmark or Sweden, for instance, then the US.

The Weir Group, a large Scottish engineering company, released a study that found that independence would “create a number of costs and uncertainties, but fewer and more uncertain benefits.” The study cited increased borrowing costs and the likelihood of higher taxes and spending cuts. There would also be fees to convert a potential Scottish currency across a new border; the report projected $840 million in annual transaction costs.

The ruling Scottish National Party, however, sees a vibrant future for an independent Scotland, buoyed by North Sea oil wealth, free of nuclear weapons, and able to erect a firmer welfare state. This latter point being of importance to the Scots at large when looking back at Conservative London!   Several nationalists pointed to their own government’s analysis projecting that Scotland, on its own, would have the 14th-highest output per person among advanced economies. Their findings, however, were recently undercut by a University of Glasgow analysis that said “foreign ownership in key economic areas” was a drag on national income statistics.

Scotland already runs many of its own affairs after a 1997 referendum on so-called devolution of powers from London gave it authority over its health and education services, justice system and housing policy. The Scots also have some taxation powers.

Nationalists envision a fully independent Scotland as a petro-power. But oil revenue has fallen sharply, by 38 percent from 2010 to 2013. Last year, Scotland paid less into Westminster’s coffers than it took out. Total revenue, including its geographic share of North Sea oil, was about $89 billion, against spending of roughly $109 billion. Another recent analysis by the University of Glasgow’s Center for Public Policy for Regions projects that Scotland will be “significantly worse off than the U.K.” for several years to come, with a higher deficit of almost $1,700 a person in the fiscal year ending in 2016.

Then there is the debt. The cost of servicing Scotland’s proportional share of Britain’s debt “would be worth twice as much as North Sea oil,” said John McLaren, a professor at the University of Glasgow.


John Sweeney, the Scottish finance secretary, addresses an independence meeting in Edinburgh. A vote will be held in September.     Credit Robert Ormerod for The New York Times


Scotland is threatening to walk away from any share of its debt should it be kept out of a currency union. While there is precedent for that — Russia assumed all Soviet debt — it could lead to an acrimonious split and retaliation by Britain.

Creating a border with Scotland’s largest trading partner — the rest of Britain — could also be costly. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Stirling project that such a change could reduce Scottish output more than 5 percent.

Above might be quite true but it has a second side as well – the losses that England would have to carry in case of a belligerant divorce.

Over time, the conduct of business across the border would become more difficult,” said Iain McMillan, head of the Scottish office of the Confederation of British Industry, a leading British trade group. “People can move from Scotland to England to Wales to Northern Ireland without any restrictions whatsoever, and we believe that is the very best business and economic environment for Scotland.”


Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s deputy first minister, spoke from a lectern covered with a tartan drape.

“As a country, we’ve spent an awful long number of years being told we’re too wee, too poor and probably a bit too stupid to be independent,” she said. “If we were too small and too poor and too stupid, if we were the economic basket case, if we were the subsidy junkies that some of our opponents try to imply that we are, then don’t you think Westminster might have offloaded us by now?”

After the applause died down, she asked, “What’s the downside?”

Plenty, in the minds of many business leaders and economists, who are concerned that an independent Scotland will not have the financial strength to prosper alone. The economy would lean heavily on revenue from North Sea oil, which has been falling, and its per capita government spending outpaces the rest of Britain.


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


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 on February 8th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (



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 on March 30th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

From:  Osbert Lancaster  
Our online, part time MSc in Global Challenges now has a new, clearer website:

There are three postgraduate certificates. Each one takes a multidisciplinary approach that allows you to study while you work, developing your understanding, knowledge and skills to tackle the inter-related global challenges of development, health, and environment.

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As well as being of interest to individuals, the programme can also support organisational continuing professional development programmes. Once you’ve looked at the website, feel free to contact me with any questions, including how this might support organisational CPD.

Best regards

Osbert Lancaster
Honorary Fellow | Programme Director: PG Certificate Global Environment Challenges | School of Geosciences | University of Edinburgh |
+44 (0) 7981 528 991

The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in Scotland, with registration number SC005336.


Posted on on September 10th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

Jihadists Take Over, As Warned .
Analysis by Julio Godoy, published by IPS Terra Viva from the UN – New York.…
PARIS, Sep 8, 2011 (IPS) – The official euphoria with which the U.S. and European governments celebrated the fall of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya has given way to growing concern that many among the new Libyan leadership are radical Muslims with links to al-Qaeda. Revelations are surfacing also of a close collaboration of Western governments with the deposed dictator.

The overwhelming presence of radical Muslims among the rebel Libyan leadership has been known in Paris at least since early March. But the dangers from this are now beginning to be discussed openly in Western capitals.

On Mar. 8, François Gouyette, ambassador to Tripoli until late February, told a select group of deputies at a closed session of the French parliamentary commission of foreign affairs that the rebellion, especially in the east of the country, comprised mostly “radical Muslims”.

“In the east of the country, especially in the city of Derna, which was taken very easily by the insurrection, there is without question a high concentration of radical Muslims,” Gouyette told the deputies. “Hundreds of Libyan combatants taking part in the international jihad in Afghanistan and in Iraq originate from this region.

“Many of these combatants are back in Libya,” Gouyette warned. IPS has the minutes of the meeting.

Gouyette recalled that some 800 members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) banned by the United Nations after the terror attacks of Sep. 11, 2001, and who were recently released after being incarcerated by the Gaddafi regime for many years, “have joined the liberated areas of the country. They can represent a problem in the future.”

Gouyette recalled that Gaddafi’s regime had “closely cooperated” with “all Western intelligence services in the fight against (Muslim) terrorism represented by al-Qaeda.” Discussions at the meeting were not made available to French media.

Five months after the closed session in parliament, Gouyette’s warnings have been officially confirmed. It is now no longer a secret that four of the military leaders of the Libyan rebellion have had long-term links with radical movements.

On the other hand, secret documents found recently in Tripoli confirm that both the British and the U.S. governments collaborated closely with Gaddafi in the fight against radial Muslims.

The secret Gaddafi files were discovered by researchers from the Washington-based Human Rights Watch in the private offices of former Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa. Koussa fled Libya at the beginning of the insurrection last February, and has apparently found political asylum in Qatar.

Prominent among the radical rebel leaders is Abdelhakim Belhaj, also known as Abu Abdallah al-Sadek, founder of the LIFG, and veteran of the anti-Soviet war of the 1980s in Afghanistan. Following the triumph over Gaddafi, Belhaj is currently military governor of Tripoli.

U.S. secret services had captured Belhaj in Malaysia in 2003. They detained and interrogated him in a secret Bangkok prison until 2004, when he was handed over to the Gaddafi regime. Gouyette confirmed in the French parliament that Gaddafi released him in March 2010.

Among other well-known radical Muslims in the new leadership are Ismail as-Salabi of Benghazi, Abdelhakim al-Hasidi of Derna, and Ali Salabi, member of the Transitional National Council which now controls the Libyan government. All of them are founding members of the LIFG.

Salabi led the LIFG in negotiations with the Gaddafi regime that led to the release of practically the whole of the present rebel leadership from Gaddafi’s prisons.

Hasidi, who has admitted that some of his militia “are members of al-Qaeda…good Muslims and patriots fighting the invader (sic)”, also has a long past as jihadist. Hasidi fought in Afghanistan against the U.S.-led intervention, was captured in 2002 in Peshawar in Pakistan, and handed over to the Libyan government in 2004.

According to the secret Libyan files found in Tripoli, the British MI6 foreign secret service delivered information to Gaddafi on exiled opponents over many years. The files confirm that the CIA captured several Libyan Muslim militants abroad, such as Belhaj and Hasidi, interrogated them in secret prisons, and later handed them to Gaddafi.

Peter Bouckaert, director of the emergencies division at Human Rights Watch, told journalists that the role of the CIA went beyond “abducting suspected Islamic militants and handing them over to the Libyan intelligence. The CIA also sent the questions they wanted Libyan intelligence to ask and, from the files, it’s very clear they were present in some of the interrogations themselves.”

Other evidence of Western collaboration with the former Libyan regime is the discovery of modern German-made machine guns in Gaddafi’s arsenals. The German government, which supposedly has stern controls over export of such weapons, has offered no explanation how the military equipment was delivered to Gaddafi.

Between 2007 and 2010 French President Nicolas Sarkozy regularly courted Gaddafi for military cooperation with France. Among Sarkozy’s plans was the export to Libya of Rafale military aircraft and other weaponry, as well as nuclear technology.

At the beginning of the negotiations in December 2007, then French deputy minister for human rights Rama Yade described Sarkozy’s plans during an official visit by the Libyan leader to Paris as an opportunity for Gaddafi to “wipe the blood off his crimes.” But these deals did not materialise.


Posted on on August 30th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

Megrahi lay there, clinging to life. But will he die at home or in jail?

By Kim Sengupta in Tripoli, from Tripoli, The Independent, Tuesday, 30 August 2011.

The medicine needed for his cancer treatment was gone, plundered by looters who ransacked the house. The foreign-trained specialist doctors disappeared when the violence began. Now the desperate family of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi are begging the Scottish authorities to supply the drugs which may alleviate his pain and distress in the final days.
As Libya struggles to recover from its bloody and vengeful civil war, with the discovery of mass graves, places of torture, and claims that 50,000 people are missing, a terrible atrocity from 13 years ago has resurfaced in Tripoli amid diplomatic controversy.
The highly emotive issue is the fate of the man found guilty of blowing up Pan Am flight 103, killing 270 people. US congressmen, some British MPs and bereaved American families want continued retribution. Megrahi, they say, must return to his incarceration and die in jail.
The revolutionaries who have taken over in Tripoli are adamant that will not happen, with the recently appointed Justice Minister declaring: “We do not hand over Libyan citizens to the West, Gaddafi does.” A pointed assertion of sovereignty towards foreign states which had helped him and his colleagues come to power.
British diplomats, who began arriving in Tripoli yesterday to set up an embassy, are due to raise the issue with the new government.
The man at the centre of attention lay in a bed at his home in a suburb of the capital. Megrahi, his face skeletal, could barely move. He was attached to a drip, his face covered by an oxygen mask, drifting in and out of consciousness. His 84-year-old mother, Fatima and his wife, Aysha, were by his side, weeping, holding his hands.
Megrahi was granted compassionate release in 2009 on the basis that he was expected to die from prostate cancer within months. In return he dropped his appeal against conviction based on new evidence which allegedly showed serious flaws in the prosecution case against him. “Why do they want so much to drag him back to suffer in prison? You are looking at a man who is very close to dying,” said his brother, Abdelnasser al-Megrahi. “He cannot eat, he cannot walk. He only sometimes asks for our mother, he is afraid.
“The Scottish Government is in touch with us every month to ask how he is. It is part of the conditions under which he was freed. The last contact was by email yesterday. We told them what had happened and asked they send some medicine, what we had was stolen when people broke into the house.
“All we are asking for is what he was being given when he was in Britain. He got ill when he was in prison, his cancer worsened because of where he was, locked up. So we hope we may get some help. We also hope now that things are settling down a bit we may get the doctors to pay a call. We have had just one visit from a doctor recently, a local man, there was nothing he could do.”
Abdelnasser said his brother was aware of the uprising, the fighting which followed, and that Muammar Gaddafi was no longer in power.
He was confident, however, that the opposition administration, the Transitional National Council (TNC), would protect him from any extradition demands. “What can he [Abdelbaset] say about Gaddafi?” asked Abdelnasser, a former soldier. “He has met Gaddafi once. We are not involved in what is going on. The TNC does not have any problem with my brother. Almost all of them were Gaddafi people in the past, they know my brother’s case and that he is not guilty.”
Eleven members of the Megrahi family stay in a complex of two large houses in a relatively affluent part of Tripoli. The property, insisted Abdelnasser, was not a gift of the regime, but bought from their own savings.
Megrahi’s son Khalid, as well as Abdelnasser, insisted they have had no communications with regime officials in the past few months. They also said there had been no contacts with Lamin Khalifa Fhimah, who had been charged as co-conspirator in the bombing, but cleared. Fhimah, also living in Tripoli, maintained that although he had been a member of the Libyan intelligence service, he was delighted with the revolution. As for Lockerbie: “I do not know whether Gaddafi was responsible or not. He should appear before a court and then we will find out.”
The verdict on Megrahi, delivered by a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands, was mired in controversy from the outset with many observers convinced that key parts of the prosecution evidence lacked credibility. Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was among those killed in the bombing, said yesterday: “I feel that in view of all that Megrahi had been through he should be allowed to have a peaceful end in Tripoli with his family. The idea of extraditing him is a monstrous one.”
Yesterday, with discoveries of more bodies in the Libyan capital and fighting continuing around Colonel Gaddafi’s home town, Sirte, the Justice Minister, Mohammed al-Alagi, was asked once more, at a press conference, about the possibilities of extraditing Megrahi. He said: “We realise this case is important to some of our Western allies. But the most crucial thing now is to secure our country. The second thing is to stabilise Libya so that it can function. After that we can look at related issues between us and other governments.”

Britain and US accused of playing politics with Megrahi’s condition.

also August 30, 2011 – By Oliver Wright, The Independent, Whitehall Editor

The British and US governments were last night accused of ignoring the law and engaging in “international politicking” over the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

The Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond turned on the Foreign Secretary William Hague and on US senators who have repeatedly criticised the decision by his Scottish nationalist administration to free Megrahi on compassionate grounds.

He said images from Tripoli showing Megrahi in a coma and close to death underlined why he had been released in the first place and suggested that calls for his return to prison in Scotland had no legal standing.

Privately, government sources admit that they have no interest in pursuing the extradition of Megrahi despite the regime change in Libya. But they are anxious not to be seen as condoning the decision to release him. Macabre as it may be, ministers would like to see Megrahi die quickly and end the two-year controversy over his early release.

In his first public comments on the case since the fall of Tripoli, Mr Salmond welcomed the view of the Libyan transitional council that it would not consider extraditing Megrahi either to the UK or the US. “Perhaps if we all followed due process of law as the Scottish government has done and ceased the international politicking around this, then we could all be in a much better place,” he said.

“The only people with any authority in this matter are the Scottish government who have jurisdiction on the matter – he is a Scottish prisoner under licence – and the new Libyan transitional council, who are the new duly constituted legal authority in Libya.

“We have never had and do not have any intention of asking for the extradition of Mr Megrahi. It’s quite clear from the Libyan transitional council that following their own laws they had never any intention of agreeing to such extradition.”

Mr Salmond dismissed the suggestion that Megrahi could be questioned further about the bombing, saying: “You’ve seen the CNN pictures as I have. I think the idea that he would be available for interview in any recognisable form is pretty far-fetched … Mr Megrahi remains a sick man, dying of prostate cancer.”

Mr Salmond said that the investigation into the bombing remained open as it had been for the past 20 years and could be helped by the regime change in Libya. “There are matters that still could be progressed on the Lockerbie bombing. The Scottish Crown Office have made it clear that if any other evidence emerges, any other people are available to give evidence, or any other indictments are possible, that they stand ready to follow these leads.”

John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, persisted with the argument for extraditing Megrahi to the US. “Personally, I think the United States made a mistake in agreeing that he be tried under Scottish law, which doesn’t provide for the death penalty,” Mr Bolton said.

“I don’t much think of what the Scottish government thinks. I think the United States should insist that Megrahi be tried in the United States and face trial here.”


December 1988

Pan Am Flight 103 from London to New York explodes over Lockerbie. The 259 people on board the Boeing 747 are killed, as well as 11 on the ground.

November 1991

US and British investigators indict Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifa Fhimah on 270 counts of murder, accusing them of being Libyan intelligence agents.

April 1992

The UN Security Council imposes sanctions on weapons sales and air travel after Libya refuses to meet a 15 April deadline.

August 1998

Libya agrees to the two facing trial at a court in the Netherlands.

May 2000

The trial of the two begins, amid a large security operation.

January 2001

Megrahi is found guilty and jailed for a minimum of 20 years. Fhimah is found not guilty.

March 2002

Megrahi loses an appeal, heard by five Scottish judges.

August 2003

The families of the victims agree a compensation package with the Libyan government of £1.7bn.

August 2009

Megrahi is released after doctors say he has cancer and has only three months to live.

August 2011

Megrahi’s brother is reported as saying that Megrahi is in a coma. Scottish government officials say his “condition is consistent with terminal cancer”.


Posted on on June 5th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

The winds of spring were nice but what about the Hamsin weather that follows?

We listened in Vienna to a self declared leader of the Spring Protests and she did not impress us with anything more solid then the hatred of the Mubarak  regime. Now, with the political professionals that sat it out in the wings, returning as champions of democracy as means to get them the power that Mubarak denied them, what chance is there that the goals of those few idealists among the new leadership, being able to shape Egypt’s future? This article, posted by Open Democracy, does not make for high hopes.


Calling time on the January Revolution?

Ewan Stein3 June 2011…

Ewan Stein is lecturer in International Relations at the University of Edinburgh.

The forces of 25 January will have to take a long-term view on completing the Egyptian revolution, as both the military and Islamist groups seem keen to consolidate gains.

On Friday 27 May protesters took to the streets in their tens of thousands once again in Cairo, Alexandria and across Egypt. The groups involved—including the Coalition of Revolutionary Youth, April 6 Youth Movement and other liberal and leftist forces—advance a number of demands, but most generally call for reviving, completing or launching a ‘second’ Revolution.

Lining up against the protest—dubbed a million-man march—were much the same forces as initially opposed or were slow to join the Revolution in its early days, and who campaigned for a ‘yes’ vote in March’s referendum on amending the constitution. All the major Islamist forces came out against it. Although members of the Brotherhood’s youth cohort demonstrated, a day later the leadership announced its withdrawal from the Coalition of Revolutionary Youth, thus formally disassociating itself from the Revolution as an ongoing process.

The Muslim Brotherhood opposed the march as a ‘revolution against the people’; Salafists judged the process un-Islamic (in much the same way as they said voting ‘no’ in the referendum was equal to unbelief), while other Islamist groups like the Wasat Party and the resurgent Gama’a Islamiyya (Islamic Group or GI) asked their members to stay at home.

The Islamists, like the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), chastise and mock those incorrigible secularists that don’t seem to know when to stop protesting. In language reminiscent of that of the old regime, they deride what they see as demonstrating for its own sake, making incoherent and unreasonable demands, and refusing to appreciate the gains the Revolution has realised. They want, so they say, to protect Egypt’s economic recovery and prevent further ‘fitna’ (discord or sedition), which represents for Islamists and military men alike the sum of all fears. Perhaps most stingingly for those behind January 25, they chide the protesters for ignoring the wishes of the majority and riding roughshod over the long-suffering Egyptians’ desires for peace and stability.

Islamism and the military regime

Three months into the Revolution political Islam is enjoying something of a heyday. The Brotherhood’s political experience, combined with renewed vigour and self-confidence, is helping it to consolidate its influence over what has always been its primary base—the urban middle classes. But, more importantly, the Brotherhood now shares the political stage with a proliferation of other Islamist groups and movements. Most consequential, now as in the latter half of Mubarak’s rule, are Salafists. Previously ‘apolitical’ under Mubarak, who cultivated them as a safer alternative to the Brotherhood, Salafists now have political vehicles like the newly formed Fadila (Virtue) and Nur (Light) parties, as well as unprecedented access to the mosque pulpit and freedom to hold mass meetings and rallies.

Also Salafist in outlook , the previously ‘jihadist’ Gama’a Islamiyya, essentially dormant since its ceasefire in 1997, has exploded back onto the scene as both a proselytising and a political force. Aboud Zomr, mastermind of President Sadat’s assassination, has been released from prison and become a regular fixture on the media circuit. Zomr and other former militants, who—it must be stressed—remain sworn off violence, paint the January Revolution as a culmination of the GI’s own uprising against the Mubarak regime in the 1990s. The Revolution, they argue, vindicates the GI’s own decision to renounce armed struggle.

The revolutionary coalition of 25 January faces a military regime and an increasingly entrenched Islamist opposition, each enjoying robust external support and cordial mutual relations. Saudi Arabia has just promised Egypt a generouspackage of aid, and Qatar committed investment of up to $10 billion. The US, for its part, has pledged not to alter its own aid package to the regime.

The strength of political Islam in Egypt relates not only to grassroots popularity, but also to economic power supported by regional networks. The Brotherhood has, since the 1970s, had strong links to capital, and now benefits from the end of the repeated Mubarak-era seizures of its assets. Salafists continue, as they did under the old regime, to have access to substantial revenues, mostly from Wahhabi soul mates across the Red Sea. And there are strong pro-Salafist forces within the Muslim Brotherhood, a political direction that offers financial as much as transcendental payoffs. If its plush new Maqattam offices are anything to go by, Muslim Brotherhood Inc. is feeling no pain.

There are thus strong incentives for Islamists and the SCAF not to ‘complete’ the Revolution, something those expecting dramatic change in Egypt’s pro-Western foreign policy anytime soon should bear in mind. The demonstrations on Friday received scant coverage in the global media, meaning international interest in the Revolution will also be on the wane. The lifeline the forces of January 25 desperately need is continued, or increased, support from ‘ordinary’ Egyptians. The turnout on Friday was clearly nowhere near that of the first Friday of Anger on January 28. And while such comparisons are unfair—these were still mass protests—their opponents will spin them as sideshows, harmlessly playing out while grownup politics continues elsewhere.

Predictably enough, not unlike in other parts of the world, the powers that be in Egypt have decided—at least on core demands—not to change course. Parliamentary elections will still take place in September, with presidential ones shortly thereafter. By the end of the year, with a constitution in place, the SCAF will hand over to a civilian government. Not before.

Connecting with the people

Even once the new constitution has been written and a president and legislature elected via ‘free and fair’ elections, Egypt will remain an imperfect democracy. Still largely a peasant society, votes—particularly in rural areas—will no doubt be collected on community rather than individual levels. The political party of the provincial candidates will, to a large extent, remain arbitrary and irrelevant to the electorate. Local leaders will not readily support radical or leftwing political agendas, and will likely find more natural homes in Islamist parties.

In the ‘developed’ quarters of the cities people will vote according to political conviction, and here the Muslim Brotherhood is in the strongest position. But of no small significance will be the sprawling urban ‘ashwa’iyyat, the informal neighbourhoods whose inhabitants may not be beholden to the local sheikh, but neither are they members of the politically engaged intelligentsia. Over sixty percent of Cairenes live in neighbourhoods such as Imbaba, which have been neglected by the central government for decades, and often considered more-or-less outside the body politic.

In previous elections Mubarak’s National Democratic Party could rely on local heavies (baltagiyya) in such areas to corral people into polling stations and make sure they voted the right way. Such local brokers have tended to be ideologically flexible—respecting power and money—and also served as muscle for the Gama’a Islamiyya, which, in the late 1980s and early 1990s administered the effectively autonomous ‘Republic of Imbaba.’

It is groups like the GI and the Salafist movement in general that now stand the best chance of making inroads in these areas. Both the SCAF and the Brotherhood realise this. The former quickly turned to Salafist preachers as intermediaries in its, rather lame, attempts to calm sectarian tensions in Imbaba at the beginning of May. Whether or not Salafist leaders instigated the violence in the first place, they had the ability to stop it. They speak an intelligible language and can offer material, as well as spiritual, palliatives. This, after all, was why Mubarak tolerated the Gama’a Islamiyya in the same area for years, even when the group had colluded in his predecessor’s murder. And now they are back, not unreasonably hoping to receive the same largesse.

The Brotherhood, like the military, appears to have decided not to expend too many resources penetrating the ‘ashwa’iyyat directly. It has pledged not to contest more than 50 percent of seats in the elections, but it has also announced that it will form a unified list with Salafists (neither party fielding candidates in areas in which the other is running), thus allowing Salafists to pick up seats in those poorer areas in which they enjoy a clear advantage. Unless something changes it seems certain there will be an Islamist majority in parliament for the foreseeable future, albeit potentially one in which no single party dominates.

So where does this leave the forces of January 25? One of their biggest challenges has been to resonate with Egyptians in the countryside and poorer areas. In a recent interview, Khalid Za’farani, the leader of the Egyptian Justice and Development Party, formerly of the Brotherhood, remarked that liberal and socialist parties had no popular base, and that the ‘simple pious Egyptians’ rejected their ideas and would not vote for them. Za’farani is undoubtedly correct, and a substantial part of the shared Islamist agenda is to ensure, through education and proselytising, that those ‘simple’ folk never do accept secular ideas.

Urban menace?

Many who seek a better future for Egypt blame the malevolent political culture sustained by the previous regime for sectarianism and other social ills. The old system generated, for Rashid Khalidi, ‘pervasive self-loathing and an ulcerous social malaise… [which] manifested itself among other things in sectarian tensions, frequent sexual harassment of women, criminality, drug use, and a corrosive incivility and lack of public spirit.’ But now that Mubarak has gone, and these problems have clearly not gone away, many of those marching on Friday were, somewhat ironically, demanding increased policing to protect citizens.

Perhaps, in addition to confronting a mobilised Islamist social movement, and a military regime with substantial foreign support, some that want to see the Revolution ‘completed’ must also overcome a measure of class prejudice and denial. Hatred of Mubarak and his clique united Egypt, and with that unity came the feeling of common purpose that drove the Revolution forward. But many middle class Egyptians—Islamist and secularist alike—have tended to view the poor and the lower classes (tabaqat al-dinya) with a mixture of derision and fear. Popular language and customs are often sneeringly dismissed as biy’a, meaning base, course or low-brow. A recent intervention by Hazem Kandil about the role of Cairo’s slum dwellers in the Revolution provides a good example. In blatantly derogatory terms, Kandil remarks that ‘fortunately, this menacing human mass was entirely absent from the revolt, which probably contributed to its civilized and peaceful character.’ He concludes that to be successful ‘a revolutionary politics has to take the existing fears and anxieties of a class society into account.’

The political circus surrounding sectarian violence in Imbaba in early May likewise saw many a prejudice bubble to the surface. A Christian woman, Abeer Fakhri, was alleged to have been held against her will by the Coptic church for converting to Islam. For Qutb al-Arabi, writing on the Muslim Brotherhood’s website, Fakhri and other (generally Upper Egyptian) Copts who convert to Islam just to get divorced are little more than ‘ne’er do wells’ running away from their Christian husbands to shack up with equally lamentable Muslim miscreants (sayi’in), ‘many of them Microbus and tuk-tuk drivers.’ They are no use to either Christianity or Islam, al-Arabi suggests.

The Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t have to worry about the tabaqat al-dinya as it has its new Salafist allies to rely on. But who do the left and liberals have? There have been Islamist-secularist alliances in Egypt in the past, but surely uniting with Salafists would be a step too far? Clearly the forces of January 25 will have to take a long-term view on completing this Revolution, as both the military and Islamist groups seem keen to consolidate gains. Friday’s million-man march in Cairo may not have quite lived up to its name. But this is not the point.

What will matter in the long run is how, as counterrevolution takes hold, Egyptians can convert their protests into a social movement that moves beyond, rather than takes into account, society’s class ‘anxieties’.


Posted on on April 29th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

Nominations open for the 2011 Martha T. Muse Prize – Last date 1st May 2011.

The “Martha T. Muse Prize for Science and Policy in Antarctica” is a US$ 100,000 unrestricted award presented to an individual in the fields of Antarctic science or policy that has demonstrated potential for sustained and significant contributions that will enhance the understanding and/or preservation of Antarctica. The Tinker Foundation’s goal is to establish a prestigious award that recognizes excellence in Antarctic research by honoring someone in the early to mid-stages of their career. The Prize is inspired by Martha T. Muse’s passion for Antarctica and is intended to be a legacy of the International Polar Year 2007-2008.

The prize-winner can be from any country and work in ANY field of Antarctic science or policy, including Climate change, Life Sciences, Geo Sciences, Physical Sciences, Antarctic Politics. The goal is to provide recognition of the important work being done by the individual and to call attention to the significance of understanding Antarctica in a time of change. The Prize is awarded by the Tinker Foundation  and administered by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).

Please visit for further details. Online nominations will close on the May 1st, 2011.

Dr Renuka Badhe
Administrator, Martha Muse Prize
and Executive Officer, SCAR Secretariat
Scott Polar Research Institute
Lensfield Road
Cambridge CB2 1ER
United Kingdom

Skype:  renukabadhe

The original posting said:

The Tinker Foundation’s goal is to establish a prestigious award that recognizes excellence in Antarctic research by honoring someone in the early to mid-stages of their career.

The Prize is inspired by Martha T. Muse’s passion for Antarctica and is intended to be a legacy of the activities following the International Polar Year 2007-2008. Martha T. Muse is active with the New York Explorers Club and besides the normal interest of the Club in feats of heroism by exploration of nature, Martha tried to lead the Club also in a direction of review of the human impact on nature, and we wrote about her in our past articles – this including the effects of human induced climate change.
We hope that the Tinker Foundation has also picked up on this angle of Martha´s musing and we strogly recommend to our readers to apply for these grants. (this is a comment from the editor of

The prize-winner can be from any country and work in ANY field of Antarctic science or policy, including Climate change, Life Sciences including biodiversity and its management, Geo Sciences, Physical Sciences, Antarctic Politics. The goal is to provide recognition of the important work being done by the individual and to call attention to the significance of understanding Antarctica in a time of change. The Prize is awarded by the Tinker Foundation  and administered by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).

Please visit for further details. Online nominations will close on the May 1st, 2011.


Posted on on March 2nd, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

Reversal: UN Ousts Qaddafi from Human Rights Council
Latest from the United Nations
 Vol. 277  |  March 1, 2011         
Nine months after shamefully electing the Qaddafi regime to its Human Rights Council, the UN today reversed itself and suspended Libya’s membership. Click here for details.       

From the moment the Libyan regime declared its candidacy last year, UN Watch initiated the opposition to Qaddafi sitting as a world judge of human rights. Click here for chronology of UN Watch’s tireless campaign.

In September, when the Libyan regime took its seat, UN Watch launched a campaign demanding Libya’s suspension from the Geneva-based Council, becoming the first voice to do so. We were supported by 27 human rights groups, a number that surpassed 80 in our renewed NGO appeal of nine days ago.

Most powerfully, to support the campaign, victims and relatives of victims showed great courage in accepting UN Watch’s invitation to challenge the Libyan regime at the council and confront their oppressor. On this day, UN Watch pays tribute to these victims — and the partner organizations which signed our appeals —  by reprinting the September briefing below. The victim testimonies are worth hearing. Tragically, the UN refused to heed their pleas, until the mass killings of last week became unbearable.

Yesterday we shared these quotes from the media’s global coverage of UN Watch’s campaign. Today, UN Watch analysis was again featured at length in the Wall Street JournalFOX News, the Malaysia Sun, Canada’s National Post, and the blog of Commentary Magazine. Minutes ago, the Vancouver Sun reported: 


“The election of Libya to the world’s top human rights body last May was a shameful act that bolstered Gadhafi’s regime, demoralized his victims, and stained the reputation of the United Nations,” said Montrealer Hillel Neuer, executive director of Geneva-based UN Watch, which has led a campaign by international activist groups to remove Libya from the council. 



Geneva, September 16, 2010  for the record 

Only days after Libya took its seat for the first time as a newly elected member of the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council, UN Watch today launched a global campaign to remove it, bringing some of the world’s most well-known victims of Libyan crimes to testify before the assembly of country representatives.

Bulgarian nurse Kristyana Valchyeva (click for video) and Palestinian doctor Ashraf El Hagoug (click for video) took the floor to speak about their suffering as medical workers in Libya who were framed, imprisoned and tortured over false charges of infecting 400 children with HIV.

Speaking on behalf of Freedom House and UN Watch, the two were repeatedly interrupted by the Libyan delegate, who attempted to stop their testimony by making vociferous objections which were then echoed by speakers from Iran, China, Cuba and Venezuela.

However, the United States representative rallied to the defense of UN Watch’s witnesses, insisting on their right to speak freely, as did Belgium for the European Union, Britain, and Ireland.

As a result, amid heated exchanges between the repressive regimes and the democratic alliance, the president of the council, Ambassador Sihasak Phuangketkeow of Thailand, eventually allowed UN Watch’s invited victims to complete their testimony.

In addition, UN Watch today organized a press conference and a NGO panel, featuring the two torture victims together with Bob Monetti of the Pan Am 103 Victims Association (click for video), and Mohamed El Jahmi (click for video), brother of the late Libyan dissident Fathi El Jahmi — both of whom are scheduled to testify tomorrow before the plenary.

At the events, UN Watch released the appeal signed by 27 NGOs. The campaign invokes Article 8 of the council charter allowing for suspension of member states that commit systematic violations of human rights.

From today’s protest campaign:

  • Joint Appeal to Remove Libya Signed by 27 NGOs
    “The election of the Libyan Arab Jamahariya to the UN Human Rights Council is an outrage to the global human rights community. Given its notorious record as one of the world’s worst violators of human rights, the Qaddafi regime’s membership on the Council flies in the face of the United Nations’ promise, enshrined in Resolution 60/251 (2006), to elect member states that are committed to the promotion and protection of human rights.” Read more


  • Voice of America Reports on UN Watch Campaign
    “An overwhelming majority of U.N. member states elected Libya to the 47-member Council in May. U.N. Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer calls this an outrage. He says it sends the wrong message to what he calls the victims of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.”  Read more




  • Palestinian Doctor Challenges Council on Including Libya
    “Our trials were seriously flawed. The confessions obtained by torture were used and admitted in court against us. Evidence by experts on HIV was disregarded by the Libyan courts. Mr. President, in the name of universal human rights, how can Libya be elected a member of the Human Rights Council?”  Read more



Effort Launched to Remove Libya from UN Human Rights Council

Voice of America
By Lisa Schlein, Geneva
16 September 2010

A global coalition of human rights groups is launching a campaign to remove Libya from the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council. 

A coalition of 27 non-government human rights groups, joined by victims of Libyan human rights violations, are protesting the membership of what they call one of the world’s worst human rights violators in the U.N. body that is supposed to uphold and protect the rights of people around the world.

Human rights observers agree with Palestinian physician Ashraf El Hajouj who says that he and five Bulgarian nurses were framed, imprisoned and tortured in Libya for almost nine years on false charges of poisoning children with HIV. “Actually, we are the victims, the hidden victims of the Pan Am 103 [bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988] because the two cases – the HIV case and the Pan Am case – were going in the parallel way and almost all the politicians, they were denying this connection,” El Hajouj said.

El Hajouj questions the real motive behind the release of the Lockerbie bomber from prison last year on compassionate grounds. Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was freed because he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and given three months to live. He now resides in Libya.

Lockerbie Victims Association member Bob Monetti also questions al-Megrahi’s early release. His 20-year-old son, Rick, was one of 270 people killed when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. 

He says he knows al-Megrahi did not act alone, but that his guilt was proven and his conviction was correct. 

“In 2003, Libya finally accepted responsibility for the bombing of Pan Am 103 and a letter was sent to the United Nations. Hearing that Libya was responsible for the bombing and knowing that at least one murderer was in jail in Scotland gave some consolation and some sort of closure to the victims. The compassionate release last year by the Scots and the circus that followed ended that with a thud,” Monetti said.

The groups campaigning to oust Libya from the U.N. Human Rights Council are angry that the United Nations has given no official reaction to the release of the Lockerbie bomber. 

An overwhelming majority of U.N. member states elected Libya to the 47-member Council in May.

U.N. Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer calls this an outrage. He says it sends the wrong message to what he calls the victims of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

“Number one, we refuse to accept this result and number two, the procedure allows it,” Neuer said. “The procedure says Article 8 of the Resolution of 2006 that governs the Human Rights Council provides that a country that systematically violates human rights can be suspended.”

Two-thirds of the 47 members on the council need to vote to remove Libya from the forum. Neuer says this is unlikely to happen. Nevertheless, he says the campaign will continue. 


But Qaddafi is not out yet – his backing at home and lack of resolve by other governments may keep him going for a while.

Even a Weakened Qaddafi May Be Hard to Dislodge.
Published: March 1, 2011t – The New York Times. 

PARIS — The regime of the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, has been badly undermined, but he retains enough support among critical tribes and institutions, including parts of the army and the air force, that he might be able to retain power in the capital, Tripoli, for some time to come, say experts on Libya and its military.



Posted on on September 22nd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Hey there, Pincas:

Are you fed up with political leaders who’ve failed again and again and again to put us on a path toward climate sanity? Clearly, it’s time to take matters into our own hands — literally.

That’s the idea behind the Global Work Party being organized by On 10/10/10, people all around the world will gather in their communities to get things done. Politicians are invited to come and take notes.

Bill and ChipIn Hailey, Idaho, people are getting together for a home weatherization raffle and demonstration. In Auckland, New Zealand, they’re organizing a giant bike fix-up day. In Ambalantota, Sri Lanka, they’ll be planting hundreds of trees. In the Maldives, they’ll be putting solar panels on the president’s office. Find out what’s going on in your neck of the woods, or organize a work event yourself. With the might of our combined efforts, we’ll be sending a message to our leaders: We’re doing our part. Now get to work and do yours.

Join us in a live chat on Grist to find out more about the Global Work Party and the climate crisis that inspired it — today, Sept. 22, at noon Pacific time (3 p.m. Eastern).

Yours in working and partying,

Bill McKibben, author, activist, & Grist board member
Chip Giller, Grist founder & president


Posted on on September 9th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Eskom Ready To Start Buying Green Energy Plants

Date: 09-Sep-10
Author: Shapi Shacinda
South Africa’s power utility Eskom will start procuring renewable energy projects next month to help ease power shortages in the country and relieve its carbon footprint, it said on Wednesday.

Scotland To Align Green Energy Laws With England

Date: 09-Sep-10
Country: UK
Author: Karolin Schaps
The Scottish government launched two public consultations on Wednesday aimed at bringing its small-scale green project planning and renewable rewards laws in line with those in the rest of the United Kingdom.


Posted on on July 23rd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Wanted: BP’s Libyan Fixer.

BS Top - Shenon BP Lockerbie

Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi (Newscom)

U.S. officials tell The Daily Beast they are convinced an ex-MI6 spy—now a senior adviser to BP—helped free the Pan Am 103 bomber. Philip Shenon on the man the Senate wants to question.

Did a former top British spy now on BP’s payroll – a man known as “BP’s Lawrence of Arabia” – win the release of the Lockerbie bomber and preserve BP’s huge oil-drilling business in Libya?

U.S. law-enforcement and congressional officials tell The Daily Beast they are convinced the retired MI6 spy—Sir Mark Allen, now a senior adviser to BP in London—played a key behind-the-scenes role in freeing the Pan Am 103 bomber, Abdel Baset al Megrahi, who was released from a Scottish jail last summer and allowed to return home to Libya.

Through a BP spokesman, Allen, a well-respected spook who specialized in the Arab world in his career at MI6 and who led U.K. government efforts after the 9/11 attacks to persuade Libya to give up its WMD programs and restore ties to the West, denies he made any effort to help Megrahi.

“If we get the chance to call in some of the BP officials to testify about Megrahi, Allen will be on the top of our list for testimony,” a Senate aide said.

But government investigators in the U.S., outraged over the release of the only person convicted of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am 747 over Scotland that left 270 people dead, most of them Americans, are hoping that BP’s newfound infamy in the Gulf of Mexico will allow the U.S. to force BP to disclose what involvement the company—and specifically, Allen—may have had in Megrahi’s release.

“Allen seems to be at the heart of this story,” said a Senate aide whose boss joined with other Senate Democrats this week in calling on the State Department and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to investigate BP’s connection to the bomber’s release.

The Senate Democrats say their outrage over Megrahi’s freedom has only grown in the wake of new reports from Libya that the Lockerbie bomber, released from a Scottish jail because he was supposedly only weeks from dying from terminal prostate cancer, is far from dead—and may in fact survive for several more years.

“If we get the chance to call in some of the BP officials to testify about Megrahi, Allen will be on the top of our list for testimony,” the Senate aide said. “Certainly some of us think subpoenas are in order.”

Allen should be quizzed, the aide said, about the instructions he received at BP from the man who hired him at the company in 2004—then-Chief Executive John Browne, who later stepped down from BP in the wake of a perjury scandal. (In a book, Browne admitted having made mistakes in court papers testifying to details of a gay relationship he had.)

Allen had obvious appeal to BP, given his close ties to Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi and his friendships with other leaders of oil-rich Arab nations—friendships cultivated in part through Allen’s love of falconry, the hobby of choice of many Arab rulers. (Allen’s book, Falconry in Arabia, was published in 1980.)

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) singled out Allen by name this week in calling for an investigation of BP’s involvement in Megrahi’s release, alleging that the energy company may have “gained access to Libyan oil reserves by using a mass murderer as a bargaining chip.”


Posted on on July 22nd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (


Lockerbie Weighs On U.K.–U.S. Summit

While Leaders Stress Accord on Afghanistan and Mideast Strategy, Questions Center on Bomber’s Release to Libya.


in EUROPE NEWS, JULY 21, 2010,

WASHINGTON—British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama met Tuesday to talk about a wide-ranging accord between their two nations, but in public the conversation was dominated by talk of the Lockerbie bomber and the Gulf oil spill.

At issue was pressure placed on Mr. Cameron from some U.S. political leaders to further investigate the circumstances surrounding last year’s release of the Libyan man convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Mr. Cameron called the bomber the “biggest mass murderer” in British history, and said he and Mr. Obama were in “violent agreement” that his release was a mistake. But the prime minister rejected opening a new U.K. investigation into the release.

PM Report: BP Clouds First Cameron-Obama Talks

9:02U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, flanked by President Obama, said he understands the frustration that Americans have with BP over the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Jerry Seib discusses the two leaders’ first official meeting. Also, Katherine Rosman discusses why sleep-away camps aren’t just for kids anymore.

“I don’t need an inquiry to tell me what was a bad decision. It was a bad decision,” Mr. Cameron said in comments following his first official visit to the White House.

In a session marked by easy rapport and a discussion of the relative merits of their two nations’ beer, the two leaders expressed common views on the war in Afghanistan, the drive for a Mideast peace agreement and the nuclear threat posed by Iran. They played down differences on matters such as how best to revive the economy.

But the public session also touched on the central role of Britain’s BP PLC in the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and a connection that has surfaced between BP and a U.K. proposal on the release of Libyan prisoners.

{excuse me – that was the dominant issue of the public White House Press Conference – that and absolutely nothing else. It is this question that the UK will have to answer to the US people and the US oil industry will make sure that everyone realizes that BP is undercutting the pURE US interests – be those in Deepwater drilling or in libyan oil deals. – the comment based on watching the Press Conference}

Mr. Cameron faces pressure from some U.S. political leaders to further investigate the circumstances surrounding last year’s release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi from a Scottish prison. Mr. Megrahi was serving a life sentence for the Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270 people, including 189 Americans.

Mr. Cameron told a joint news conference that he would ask government officials to comb their records to see if any further information needs to be released, even after completed investigations by the Scottish Parliament and the prior British government.

The Megrahi release has become politically contentious in the U.S. amid revelations that BP had lobbied the British government to approve a 2007 prisoner transfer agreement that could have led to Mr. Megrahi’s freedom.

BP, which has a major offshore drilling contract with Libya secured in part by former Prime Minister Tony Blair, said last September that it had expressed concern to the U.K. government about the need to conclude an agreement with Libya. But it denies that it influenced the release of Mr. Megrahi.

This week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the Scottish and British governments to review the case, following calls for an investigation from several U.S. senators.

President Obama did not answer directly when asked if he agreed with Mrs. Clinton that an investigation was needed. But he said he was confident all the facts would come out.

“I have confidence that Prime Minister Cameron’s government will be cooperative in making sure that the facts are there,” he said.

On Tuesday evening, four senators who have expressed concern over the matter met with Mr. Cameron and urged him to pursue a “complete and independent investigation, not simply a document review,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D.,N.Y.), who was there. “The prime minister listened to our request and said that a full investigation was not off the table,” Mr. Schumer said.

The decision to release Mr. Megrahi rested not with the U.K. government, but with Scottish officials. Last summer, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill simultaneously processed two applications seeking the prisoner’s release.

One was an application, submitted by the Libyan government in May 2009, to transfer Mr. Megrahi to Libya under a prisoner transfer agreement signed by the U.K. government and Libya in November 2008 and ratified in April 2009. The other was an application, submitted by Mr. Megrahi in July 2009, in which he sought compassionate release for what he said was terminal prostate cancer.

Mr. MacAskill rejected the Libyan government’s prisoner transfer application. But he released Mr. Megrahi on grounds of compassion, concluding that Mr. Megrahi likely had less than three months to live.

Eleven months after his release, he is still alive.

Mr. Cameron said his review wouldn’t include an examination of BP’s alleged role, because there was no evidence that the Scots were swayed by BP. The role of BP’s lobbying is an issue that BP itself should explain, he said.

In September 2009, BP said it had lobbied the government to speed the passage of the transfer agreement, on which Mr. Megrahi’s rejected transfer application would later be based. BP said it was concerned that the slow progress on the agreement would jeopardize a $900 million oil deal it signed with Libya in May 2007. It said Mr. Megrahi’s name wasn’t raised in talks with U.K. officials.

On another matter, Mr. Obama portrayed both himself and Mr. Cameron as fiscal conservatives tackling government debt. But the two leaders have adopted different views of how to handle their immediate problems. Mr. Obama believes that deficit-funded stimulus is still needed to boost the recovery, while Mr. Cameron has instituted an aggressive program to raise taxes and cut spending.

Mr. Obama referenced the divide when he said Mr. Cameron “is making some courageous decisions,” whereas the U.S. president had “set a goal of cutting our deficit in half by 2013.”

On trade, Mr. Cameron arrived eager to push for enhanced exports. Mr. Obama promised to push the Senate to ratify a long-awaited defense trade cooperation agreement with the United Kingdom.

There were light moments too, suggesting the two men have developed a personal rapport. Mr. Cameron mentioned that he had been given a tour of the Obama residence, and marveled at how Mr. Obama got his daughters to keep their rooms clean. He wondered if he could get his kids to do the same.

“Tell them the prime minister is coming,” Mr. Obama replied.


A version of the above was on the Wall Street Journal’s printed edition page 10A – but The Financial Times saw correctly that this was the main FIRST PAGE news of the day!

The papers printed version as published in the Us had the caption: “UK PREMIER REFUSES TO CALL PROBE INTO ‘BP ROLE’ IN BOMBER’S RELEASE.

On the web we found a different title to another version of the report – dated July 20, 2010.…

Cameron tries to shield BP over Megrahi.

By George Parker and Ed Luce in Washington

Published: July 20 2010

David Cameron on Tuesday turned down calls in Washington for a full inquiry into BP’s alleged role in the release of the Lockerbie bomber, as he tried to shield the oil company from further political damage.

But on an awkward first official visit to the US, the British prime minister bowed to pressure from President Barack Obama and ordered a review on whether sensitive documents relating to the case should be released, a move that could further embarrass BP.

Mr Cameron said after almost three hours of White House talks that he and President Obama “violently agreed” that the decision to release Abdel Basset al-Megrahi last year rested had been “completely wrong”.

But on a day of damage limitation on behalf of one of Britain’s flagship companies, he told National Public Radio: “It was not a decision of BP – it was a decision of Scottish ministers.” He added: “He should have died in jail.”

Mr Obama urged the prime minister to release documents relating to BP’s lobbying for Libyan oil contracts to gain “a better understanding” of the affair and to be sure it was not a factor in the bomber’s release.

The prime minister said the devolved Scottish parliament had already conducted an inquiry into the affair and key documents had already been placed in the public domain.

But in what could be an important concession, he said he would instruct Sir Gus O’Donnell, Britain’s top civil servant, to trawl through further documents to see whether they would give a fuller picture on “what decision was taken and why”.

Those documents could relate to BP’s lobbying of Jack Straw, former Labour justice secretary, to speed up a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya, to facilitate oil exploration contracts.

Although BP says it did not specify Mr al-Megrahi, the bomber was the clear potential beneficiary of the deal. The Gulf of Mexico oil spill has intensified suspicion in the US about the company and its methods.

The emotion surrounding his release on “compassionate grounds” is still raw in Washington, not least since the bomber is still alive 11 months after his release – after supposedly having only weeks to live.

The Senate foreign relations committee may also ask to see the former prisoner’s medical records, to verify whether his release was solely related to health issues and not oil contracts.

Mr Cameron’s first day of a two-day trip was overshadowed by the affair, as he sought to defend the company and protect its future as “a strong and stable” company.

Mr Cameron, speaking to ABC, also dismissed calls from some senators for BP to be banned from future drilling in Libya until the affair was cleared up. “Frankly, I don’t think it’s right to connect these things up,” he said.

He said BP should pay compensation to those who suffered because of the oil spill but said “it would not be right” if Congress passed legislation stopping BP from further oil exploration or expected it to pay damages to those not directly affected.

Mr al-Megrahi was convicted of a central role in blowing up PanAm flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988 claiming 270 lives, mainly Americans.

Chuck Schumer, the New York senator who has been among those calling for a Congressional inquiry into the matter, said the US could apply legal “pressure” on BP as part of its probe.

“There are ways we can put pressure on BP to answer questions if the British government continues to refuse to hold a full investigation,” Mr Schumer told the FT. “For example we can ask the Department of Justice to put pressure on BP.”


The New York Times on the other hand hand seemed oblivious to the oil broohaha – not very commandious for a media that thinks it is ready to write everything it fits to print.

We hope the paper will excuse us for our skepticism when saying that the following two titles seemed like intended to put us to sleep:…

– Britain’s Leader Carves Identity as Budget Cutter.

By JOHN F. BURNS, Published: July 20, 2010, The New York Times.

and –…

Leaders Take Pains to Stress What’s Still Special in the U.S.-Britain Relationship.

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain met President Obama in Washington on Tuesday. A recent chill thawed.

By HELENE COOPER, Published: July 20, 2010, The New York Times.


Posted on on July 22nd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

BP Lobbied Brits Ahead of Lockerbie Bomber Release.

July 15, 2010. from London.
Theunis Bates, Contributor to aol News

LONDON (July 15) — Amid a new U.S. furor over trading a terrorist for commercial considerations, BP confirmed today that it had lobbied the British government in late 2007 over a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya prior to the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi.

The London-based petroleum giant said it had voiced concerns that the slow pace of negotiations risked impeding an offshore drilling deal with Moammar Gadhafi’s North African country.
Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, convicted in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, was released from a Scottish prison jail last August because a doctor said he was dying of cancer.
“BP told the U.K. government that we were concerned about the slow progress that was being made in concluding a Prisoner Transfer Agreement with Libya,” BP said in a statement. “We were aware that this could have a negative impact on U.K. commercial interests, including the ratification by the Libyan government of BP’s exploration agreement.”

The company’s statement appears to have been prompted by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s announcement on Tuesday that she was considering a request by four senators to investigate whether BP pushed for last year’s release of Megrahi in exchange for lucrative drilling concessions off the Libyan coast.

“Evidence in the Deepwater Horizon disaster seems to suggest that BP would put profit ahead of people — its attention to safety was negligible and it routinely underestimated the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf,” read a letter sent to Clinton by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer of New York, and Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez of New Jersey. “The question we now have to answer is, was this corporation willing to trade justice in the murder of 270 innocent people for oil profits?”

Schumer called on the company to freeze its projects in Libya, pending an investigation. “If BP is truly dealing in good faith and has nothing to hide, it should cooperate with such an investigation,” he said Tuesday at a news conference. “The companies should not be allowed to profit on this deal if it was facilitated at the expense of the victims of terrorism.”

Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence agent, is the only person ever sentenced in connection with the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over the small Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988. He was convicted in 2001 of 270 counts of murder for masterminding the attack. But last August, the Scottish government released him from jail on compassionate grounds, after being told by doctors that his prostate cancer was likely to result in his death within three months. That decision angered the U.S. and many relatives of those killed in the attack, who argued Megrahi should end his days in prison.

Almost a year later, Megrahi, 57, is still alive. And last week, the British doctor who originally diagnosed the bomber admitted Megrahi might survive for another decade.

BP insists that it never raised the actual subject of the Libyan intelligence officer’s fate while lobbying the government. “The decision to release al-Megrahi in August 2009 was taken by the Scottish government,” the company said. “It is not for BP to comment on the decision of the Scottish government. BP was not involved in any such discussions about the release of al-Megrahi.”

At the heart of this controversy is a $900 million exploration deal BP provisionally agreed with Libya in May 2007, the same month that Britain and Libya opened talks on a Prisoner Transfer Agreement. During initial negotiations over the transfer pact, Britain’s then-Justice Minister Jack Straw refused to sign on to the deal if it included Megrahi. At the same time, Libya was stalling and refusing to ratify its multimillion-dollar deal with BP.

Then in December 2007, according to The Sunday Times, Straw wrote to Kenny MacAskill — his counterpart in Scotland, who set the Libyan free last August — and said the government was abandoning its attempt to exclude Megrahi from the prisoner agreement, citing the national interest. Within six weeks of this about face, Libya had authorized the BP deal.

It later emerged that Straw had changed his mind following lobbying from the petroleum industry, especially BP. He took two phone calls from Sir Mark Allen, a former MI6 agent, then working for BP as a consultant, on Oct. 15 and Nov. 9, 2007.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph last September, Straw admitted that trade and BP were key considerations when the government decided to include Megrahi in the prisoner agreement. “Yes, [it was] a very big part of that. I’m unapologetic about that … Libya was a rogue state,” he said. “We wanted to bring it back into the fold. And yes, that included trade because trade is an essential part of it and subsequently there was the BP deal.”


BP faces Lockerbie allegations

Hillary Clinton vows to look into claims oil firm lobbied for release of Libyan convicted over 1988 bombing in oil-for-terrorist deal

Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, Moammar Gadhafi Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, convicted over Lockerbie bombing, meets the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, last August. Photograph: AP/Jamahiriya BroadcastingHillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, pledged last night to consider congressional demands for an investigation into allegations that BP lobbied for the release of the man convicted over the Lockerbie bombing as part of an oil-for-terrorist deal.

The White House added to the pressure on the British oil firm today as it gave the green light to renewed attempts to close valves on a new, tighter-fitting cap over BP’s fractured wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico.

With pressure mounting on BP, Clinton responded to reports that the firm had lobbied the British government for the release of Abdelbasset al-Megrahi to help it clinch lucrative drilling contracts off the coast of Libya. “I have received the letter and we will obviously look into it,” she said.

At a press conference, four senators demanded BP put its plans to drill in the Gulf of Sidra on hold until the UK and US state department investigations clear the firm of manoeuvring for Megrahi’s release.

“It is almost too disgusting to fathom that BP had a possible role in securing the release of the Lockerbie terrorist in return for an oil drilling deal,” said Charles Schumer, a Democratic senator from New York.

Megrahi was convicted in connection with the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in which 270 people died. He was released on compassionate grounds last August after doctors said he was suffering from cancer and it was likely that he had only months to live. The Libyan is still alive after his transfer to Tripoli.

The state department has been sympathetic to anger in the US over his release. “There was an expectation from last August that Mr Megrahi had only a few months to live,” a spokesman, Philip Crowley, said. “Every day that he lives as a free man, we think is an affront to the families of and victims of Pan Am 103.”

BP’s future in America looked precarious as legislation that could ban the firm from offshore drilling projects for seven years cleared its first hurdle.

The House committee on natural resources yesterday approved a proposal from a California Democrat, George Miller, that would ban oil companies with a history of violating safety and environmental regulations from new drilling projects.

“One of the things you should bring to this game is a safety record. You have a company that has had an egregious safety record, a fatal safety record,” Miller said.

On paper, companies would be banned if more than 10 workers are killed at any of their facilities or they have been fined more than $10m for polluting waters, over the previous seven years. Firms would also have to prove they have paid in full for any damages or cleanup costs resulting from an oil spill.

In reality, however, this would only apply to BP. The company is expected to face billions in fines for the Gulf disaster, and had a history of safety and environmental violations well before the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion killed 11 works and ruptured the wellhead in April.

Congressional hearings have since focussed on BP’s history in the US, which include more than 700 safety and environmental violations over the last five years – compared with fewer than 10 for the other big oil companies.

Most of those violations were unrelated to offshore drilling, including a 2005 explosion at a Texas refinery that killed 15 workers and a badly maintained pipeline that spewed 200,000 gallons (910,000) of oil along Alaska’s North Slope.

The ban would not apply to existing leases, and would still allow BP to act as a minority partner on leases.

But another amendment, due to be taken up today, would require the US government to consider an oil company’s safety record before awarding offshore contracts rather than choose the highest bidder.

“We allow them to drill no matter what their environmental, safety or public health record may be,” Bart Stupak, the Michigan Democrat who proposed the amendment, told the Platts Energy forum. “I think we have to give the secretary the discretion to say: ‘Look you have got such a history here. You are not going to be allowed to drill unless you clean up your act’.”

Stupak said the reports of a Lockerbie bombing link could provoke additional congressional investigations into BP activities.

The company is also facing months, if not years, of congressional scrutiny.

Stupak added that he expected the investigation to dominate the next chair of the oversight and investigation committee.

BP’s Megrahi plea

Claims made by US senators that BP lobbied for the release of Megrahi as part of an oil-for-terrorist deal are not out of the blue.

Last September, Britain’s then justice minister, Jack Straw, admitted the UK had been partly motivated by the need to secure fresh oil contracts when ministers tried, in 2007, to make it easier to release the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.

Straw accepted in an interview that he had decided in 2007 to drop his plan to exclude Megrahi from a prisoner transfer agreement (PTA) which was being negotiated with Libya. Straw’s change of mind followed lobbying by UK oil interests, notably BP, and the Libyan government.

Straw was lobbied on 15 October and 9 November that year by Sir Mark Allen, a former MI6 officer, who then worked for BP as a consultant. Libya was stalling on a £500m-plus oil deal with BP.

Documents last year showed Straw originally promised a PTA would only be reached with Libya if Megrahi was excluded. But he later acceded to Libyan demands to include Megrahi. The change followed a warning from BP that not including the bomber could hurt its business interests.

When asked in a Daily Telegraph interview last year if trade and BP were factors, Straw said: “Yes, [it was] a very big part of that. I’m unapologetic about that … Libya was a rogue state.

“We wanted to bring it back into the fold. And yes, that included trade … and subsequently there was the BP deal.”

A spokesman for BP said the oil company had raised concerns with the government about the slow progress in concluding the PTA, but denied mentioning Megrahi.

Megrahi was released by the Scottish government last year on compassionate grounds, because a terminal illness meant he only had a short time to live. But since his return to Libya, he has remained alive.

In a further complication, some argue that the evidence used to convict Megrahi was flawed, and that he is in fact innocent of the Lockerbie bombing.


Posted on on June 18th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

BP is Defended by UN, “Accidents Happen, Nature of Modern Life,” Global Compact.

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 15, 2010

As BP continues gushing oil for over 50 days into the Gulf of Mexico, at the UN on June 14, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s main adviser on corporate social responsibility defended the company.

“Big accidents happen all the time, it’s the nature of modern life,” said Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact. Video here, from Minute 42:20.

Kell was promoting an upcoming CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) event slated for New York on June 24, featuring Ban and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Inner City Press asked about several participating and donating corporation, including a tobacco distributor and a company of mercenaries or soldiers of fortune.

Then Inner City Press asked about BP, a long time Global Compact member. Video here, from Minute 33:11.

Kell claimed that BP has not been active in the Compact for two years. “I think their current status is non communicating,” he said. But even as he said it, on the Global Compact website BP was listed as fully in compliance, with its next “communication of progress” not due until June 9, 2011.

One can only imagine what “progress” BP will communicate to the UN at that time.

The reality is that the UN has no substantive standards for membership in the Global Compact.

UN’s Ban listen to Kell, BP’s gusher not shown.

Despite receiving numerous detailed complaints, the UN Global Compact has for example kept as a member PetroChina and its investment in Darfur with the Sudanese government of Omar al Bashir, indicted by the International Criminal Court.

That Kell would try to misrepresent the status of BP with the Global Compact, and so quickly try to distance the Compact from BP before defending it, reflects that BP’s image is now worse than PetroChina’s.

But that Kell would then dismissively say of BP’s still gushing undersea pipeline, “Big accidents happen all the time, it’s the nature of modern life,” shows either that Kell is not the right person to lead the UN’s Global Compact, or that the UN is not what it claims to be – or both.

Diplomatic footnote: “It seems that Kell is more responsive to the UK than the US,” opined one senior UN official, who requested anonymity due to Ban Ki-moon’s anti whistleblower policies. “But where is [US Ambassador] Susan Rice on this, given Obama’s new public attacks on Tony Hayward and BP?”


Please read also:


Posted on on May 26th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Mercer is a leading global provider of consulting, outsourcing and investment services. Mercer works with clients to solve their most complex benefit and human capital issues, designing and helping manage health, retirement and other benefits. It is a leader in benefit outsourcing. Mercer’s investment services include investment consulting and investment management. Mercer’s 18,000 employees are based in more than 40 countries. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., which lists its stock (ticker symbol: MMC) on the New York, Chicago and London stock exchanges. For more information, visit

Mercer’s Quality of Living index list was revised and now covers 221 cities compared to 215 in 2009, which means direct trend comparison will not be possible until 2011. The new selection includes prominent capital and other major cities from across the world currently available in Mercer’s database, and better reflects where companies are sending their expatriate employees in the current business environment.

Slagin Parakatil, Senior Researcher at Mercer, commented: “As the world economy becomes more globalised, cities beyond the traditional financial centres are emerging as attractive places in which to expand or establish a business. Cities in many emerging markets, such as in the Middle East or Asia, have seen a significant influx of foreign companies and their expatriate employees in recent years.”

“To ensure their expatriates are compensated appropriately and an adequate hardship allowance is included in their benefits package, companies seek a clear picture of the quality of living in these cities. We have reviewed our index to reflect these developments and it now better represents the cities that most interest our clients,” Mr Parakatil said.



Eco-City Ranking 2010 includes the following criteria: Water availability, water potability, waste removal, sewage, air pollution and traffic congestion. As this list is only a partial list from Mercer’s more general lists of criteria, but they still retain New York City as the base figure with 100 as guide-line, obviously these figures are different then in their general listings.

In the more general list – Vienna retains the top spot as the city with the world’s best quality of living, according to the Mercer 2010 Quality of Living Survey. Zurich and Geneva follow in second and third position, respectively, while Vancouver and Auckland remain joint fourth in the rankings. Also there Cities are ranked against New York as the base city, with an index score of 100 – but that figure obviously means a different 100. In the US, the highest ranking entry is Honolulu at position 31, followed by San Francisco at position 32.  In the UK, London ranks at 39, while Birmingham  at 55 and Glasgow at 57. Singapore at 28 is the top-scoring Asian city, followed by Tokyo at 40.

Mercer conducts the general ranking to help governments and multi-national companies compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments. The rankings are based on a point-scoring index, which sees Vienna score 108.6 and Baghdad 14.7.

Top Top 52 Eco-Cities ranked:

Base City: New York, US (=100)

Rank 2010 City Country Eco-city index* 2010
9 KOBE JAPAN 135.6
32 LYON FRANCE 129.3
48 MUSCAT OMAN 124.2
50 OSAKA JAPAN 123.1

Mercer is a leading global provider of consulting, outsourcing and investment services. Mercer works with clients to solve their most complex benefit and human capital issues, designing and helping manage health, retirement and other benefits. It is a leader in benefit outsourcing. Mercer’s investment services include investment consulting and investment management. Mercer’s 18,000 employees are based in more than 40 countries. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., which lists its stock (ticker symbol: MMC) on the New York, Chicago and London stock exchanges. For more information, visit


Posted on on March 31st, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Earth System Science 2010

Global Change, Climate and People

10-13 May 2010

Edinburgh International Conference Centre, Edinburgh, UK

This 3-day event will showcase recent advances in the understanding of Earth system dynamics and highlight new directions for the analysis of the interactions between humans and our environment.

We welcome participants from the growing international community engaged in all aspects of global change research.  Our aim is to help in the building of much-needed bridges between the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities, and between policy, assessment and research.   The conference themes are:

1.     Earth system modelling: from observations and process understanding to prediction and risk assessment

a. Confronting models (Earth System Models and Integrated Assessment Models) with observations.

b. Future projections (seasonal to centennial): consequences for the Earth system of climate change, and of mitigation actions (including geoengineering options, REDD, biomass energy development)

2.     Dynamics of biogeochemical cycles and climate: transitions, instabilities and feedbacks

a. Analysis of Earth system feedbacks and interactions, including issues surrounding global warming metrics

b. Rapid and abrupt changes in the Earth system: evidence from the past and risks for the future

3. People and resources: perspectives on the relationships among environment, ecosystems and human needs.

a. Socio-economic drivers in the use of natural resources

b. Implications of global environmental change, and global environmental policies, for ecosystem services and human well-being.

We are pleased to announce our keynote speakers:
Opening keynotes: Prof Berrien Moore (University of New Hampshire) and Prof Jacqueline McGlade (European Environment Agency, Denmark)
Theme 1 Dr Alan Robock (Rutgers University) Dr Mike Raupach (CSIRO) Dr Gavin Schmidt (NASA GISS) Dr Andy Morse (University of Liverpool)
Theme 2: Dr Eric Wolff (British Antarctic Survey), Prof Gabi Hegerl (University of Edinburgh) Dr Valérie Masson-Delmotte (SCE, France) Prof Carole Crumley (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Theme 3: Prof Johan Rockström (Stockholm Resilience Centre) Dr Veronika Eyring (Institute of Atmospheric Physics, DLR, Germany) Dr Jae Edmonds (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory) Prof Kevin Anderson (University of Manchester/Tyndall)

The deadline for submission of abstracts for presentations and posters has now been extended until 9th April.

For more information, and to submit abstracts and register for the conference visit:

Reduced registration is available for students, delegates from developing countries and members of QUEST.

This is the First Open Science Conference of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme’s project Analysis, Integration and Modelling of the Earth System (AIMES). Sponsored and organised by QUEST,NERC’s programme for Earth System Science.
———————–Earth System Science 2010Global Change, Climate and People Edinburgh, 10-13 May 2010
**Registration and abstract submission now open**
Cat DownyScience Programme AssistantQUEST – Earth SciencesUniversity of BristolWills Memorial BuildingQueens RoadBristol BS8 1RJ
t  0117 331 5134f  0117 925 3385w


Posted on on March 29th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (


China overtakes U.S. in green investments.
Published: March. 26, 2010

WASHINGTON, March 26 (UPI) — China in 2009 for the first time led the world in clean energy investments, with Britain jumping up to the No. 3 spot.

China spent a staggering $34.6 billion in clean energy over the past year, almost double the United States’ $18.6 billion, a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts said.

With $11.2 billion spent, Britain surprisingly claims the No. 3 spot, followed by Spain and Brazil. South Korea impressed with a 250 percent growth of installed capacity.

Overall, global investments in the sector more than doubled since 2005 and are projected to reach $200 billion in 2010.

“Countries are jockeying for leadership,” said Phyllis Cuttino, who heads Pew’s climate change division. “They know that investing in clean energy can renew manufacturing bases, and create export opportunities, jobs and businesses.”

Over the course of a few years, China became the world’s largest producer of solar cells and has a huge wind turbine production sector. It has set a goal of having a 30 gigawatt renewable energy capacity installed by 2020 but it will soon exceed that target.

Britain’s ascent is due to huge government-backed offshore wind power projects and investments into the relatively young marine energy sector.

Countries with strong green policies — including feed-in-tariffs, carbon markets, priority loans for renewable energy projects and mandated clean energy targets — such as China, Brazil, Spain, Britain and Germany, have the most robust clean energy sectors as a percentage of their economies, the Pew researchers write. Countries without such policy frameworks, including the United States, Japan and Australia, lag behind.

“The United States’ competitive position is at risk in the emerging clean energy economy,” Cuttino said. “Our nation has a critical choice to make: pass the federal policies necessary to position us as the world leader in the large and growing global clean energy market or continue to watch as China and other countries race ahead.”

The Pew researchers note that the United States’ clean energy finance and investments lag behind many of other Group of 20 nations relative to the size of the U.S. economy.

“In relative terms, Spain invested five times more than the United States last year and China, Brazil and the United Kingdom invested three times more,” the researchers write, adding that half of the G20 nations spent a greater percentage of their gross domestic product on clean energy. “Finally, the Unites States is on the verge of losing its leadership position in installed renewable energy capacity, with China surging in the last several years to a virtual tie.”

Pew’s study is based on figures on G20 nations collected by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the international analysis and consultancy group.