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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 4th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


SECRETARY-GENERAL APPOINTS CRISTINA GALLACH OF SPAIN UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC INFORMATION.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced today the appointment of Cristina Gallach of Spain as Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information. She succeeds Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal of Austria to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his commitment and dedicated service to the Organization.

Ms. Gallach brings to the position a wealth of experience in communication, information, public diplomacy, international affairs and security policy, combined with transformational leadership and hands-on management expertise. She is also an experienced newspaper, radio and television journalist.

Ms. Gallach is currently Head of the Public Relations Unit in the Council of the European Union, Directorate General for Information and Communication, Brussels since July 2010. Prior to that appointment, she was Spokesperson of the Spanish Government for the European Union rotating Presidency (2010), Spokesperson and Chief Media Advisor of the European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Brussels (1999-2009) and Deputy Spokesperson of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Chief Media advisor for the Secretary General, Brussels (1996-1999). She spent over 15 years as a journalist, during which time she held the positions of Senior Correspondent of the Spanish News Agency (EFE) in Brussels (1993-1996) and in Moscow (1990-1992), Correspondent with El Periodico, Barcelona (1986-1990), US Correspondent for Avui (1984-1986) and Reporter with TVE Barcelona (1983-1984).

Ms. Gallach holds a Masters degree in International Affairs from Columbia University, New York and a degree in Communication and Journalism from the Universidad Autonoma, Barcelona.

Born in 1960 in Barcelona, she is married with two children.

New York, 4 December 2014

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


Biofuel Companies Look Beyond the Gas Tank

By DIANE CARDWELL, for The New York Times, October 17, 2014

When it comes to the future of advanced biofuel production, Abengoa Bioenergy, the Spanish company whose $500 million plant in Hugoton, Kan., is opening on Friday, has just one word: plastics.

For many of the companies opening big new biofuel plants in the Midwest, executives are already shifting their focus to replacing petroleum not only in the gas tank but elsewhere as well. In Abengoa’s case, a big target is plastic bottles.

“There really is a huge upside potential in the nonfuel side of the business,” said Chris Standlee, executive vice president of global affairs at the company. “Hugoton is the step that allows us to move on to some of these other things.”

Other companies are joining in. DuPont, which is developing a plant in Nevada, Iowa, recently announced that it had reached an agreement with Procter & Gamble to funnel some of its ethanol into Tide Cold Water laundry detergent.

And companies using other technologies are pursuing similar paths. Under an agreement with Unilever, for instance, Solazyme, which uses microalgae to produce oils, is making ingredients for Lux soaps.

The ethanol companies are still relying on the fuels business for much of their sales. Of the roughly 25 million gallons of ethanol Abengoa plans to produce from agricultural waste — mainly the nonedible parts of corn plants — it will most likely sell the bulk to California, where a low-carbon fuel mandate is creating a stronger market for clean fuels. Since its technology can also transform municipal solid waste to fuel, Mr. Standlee said, the company could also open plants outside of the heartland.

But ethanol demand is limited, and it has turned out to be much more complicated and expensive to develop biofuel from cellulosic biomass like plant residue, wood chips and municipal solid waste. So despite millions in government grants and tax subsidies, many companies that originally aimed to make renewable fuel are also looking to make products and chemicals for which they can reap a higher price.

Abengoa plans to pursue supplying plastic for bottles, something beverage companies have been seeking to help bolster their green credentials, Mr. Standlee said.

This direction poses a problem for the Department of Energy, whose aim was to ignite the development of clean fuels, said Wallace E. Tyner, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue. But the energy market may not be ready.

“Today, if you want to build a plant economically, it doesn’t work unless you can get a decent amount of higher value product in the product stream,” he said. “You would hope that the companies who are investing in these plants are learning a lot. Some of them — many of them, maybe — are going to fail. But maybe some of them who are making higher value products will learn enough that they can more efficiently get some fuels out of it too.”

Ethanol operators have faced a shifting landscape in recent years. The market for ethanol to be used in vehicle fuels is already saturated, analysts say, and the industry is waiting on a long-delayed decision by the Environmental Protection Agency on whether to cut the amount required to be blended into the fuels by more than 40 percent. On top of this, technical challenges remain.

Still, major plants, representing hundreds of millions in investment, continue to come online. In addition to Abengoa’s opening, a joint venture between Poet, an ethanol producer, and Royal DSM, the Dutch life and materials sciences company, held its grand opening in Emmetsburg, Iowa, in September. Together, they are expected to produce about 50 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year — all generated from agricultural waste like corn cobs, husks and leaves, known as stover.

The uncertainty has forced ethanol producers like Abengoa to broaden their horizons.

DuPont is even looking overseas. On Thursday, it announced an agreement with Macedonia to develop a commercial-scale plant in partnership with Ethanol Europe, to produce about 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year.

“This is yet another example of the market’s readiness for cellulosic ethanol and the global interest,” the company said in a statement.

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

 

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.

THE NEWS OF THE DAY ARE:

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.

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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

line

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.

More on This Story

Related Stories

From other news sites

 

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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.
ONE MORE COMMENT – WITH FRANCE BEING REPRESENTED IN THE EU by DELEGATES VOTED IN by 25% of ITS POPULATION THAT IS ANTI-EU, and THE UK HAVING ALSO A LARGE REPRESENTATION OF ANTI-EU MANDATARIES, Mr. SCHULZ COULD FINALLY MOVE AWAY FROM THE NONSENSE SECOND SEAT  IN STRASBOURG THAT WAS AN EXPENSIVE GIVEAWAY TO FRANCE. REALLY – HE WILL OWE THEM NOTHING.
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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.”

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BUT WAKING UP ON WEDNESDAY MORNING WE FOUND THAT THE POLITICAL REALITY IS SUCH THAT THE SOCIALISTS OF VARIOUS COUNTRIES WILL NOT WANT TO UPSET THE GERMAN CHANCELLOR Ms. ANGELA MERKEL WHO PREFERS TO BACK THE BLACK  PARTY CANDIDATE WHO HAPPENS TO BE FROM LUXEMBOURG, OVER THE SOCIALIST CANDIDATE WHO HAPPENS TO BE FROM THE GERMAN OPPOSITION.

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.

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

 

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

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

Published on : Friday, February 14, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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THE MOST BRAZILIAN OF ALL SPANISH CARNIVALS.

 

Carnival

The Greatest event is THE FUNERAL OF THE SARDINE OF TENERIFE.

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

 

Practical information:

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

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

 Questions for the European Left   by Pilar Rahola in The Guardian.
brought to our attention by a Canadian cousin who is very proud of Canada’s position on the Middle East – as expressed by its Prime Minister Harper’s recent visit to Jerusalem.

 


Dr. Pilar Rahola i Martínez is a Spanish journalist, writer (writes also for the Guardian – the paper we honor most) a former politician and Member of Parliament. 

Rahola studied Spanish and Catalan Philology at the Universitad de Barcelona. A Spanish Catholic leftist that denounces the anti Israel wave for its antisemitism – which is not socially acceptable  correct diplomacy anymore, but says anti Israel is the same – but seemingly the more accepted course to go.

Quite a lady.  What she writes is more impressive because she is NOT Jewish.  Her articles are published in Spain and in some of the most important newspapers in Latin America.          en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilar_Rahola

 Questions for the European Left   by Pilar Rahola

Why don’t we see demonstrations against Islamic dictatorships in London, Paris , Barcelona ? 

Or demonstrations against the Burmese dictatorship? 

Why aren’t there demonstrations against the enslavement of millions of women who live without any legal protection? 

Why aren’t there demonstrations against the use of children as human bombs where there is conflict with Islam? 

Why has there been no leadership in support of the victims of Islamic dictatorship in Sudan ? 

Why is there never any outrage against the acts of terrorism committed against Israel ? 

Why is there no outcry by the European left against Islamic fanaticism? 

Why don’t they defend Israel’s right to exist? 

Why confuse support of the Palestinian cause with the defense of Palestinian terrorism? 

And finally, the million dollar question: Why is the left in Europe and around the world obsessed with the two most solid democracies, the United States and Israel, and not with the worst dictatorships on the planet? The two most solid democracies, who have suffered the bloodiest attacks of terrorism, and the left doesn’t care. 

And then, to the concept of freedom. In every pro-Palestinian European forum I hear the left yelling with fervor: “We want freedom for the people!” 

Not true. They are never concerned with freedom for the people of Syria or Yemen or Iran or Sudan, or other such nations. And they are never  preoccupied when Hamas destroys freedom for the Palestinians. They are only concerned with using the concept of Palestinian freedom as a weapon against Israeli freedom. The resulting consequence of these ideological pathologies is the manipulation of the press. 

The international press does major damage when reporting on the question of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. On this topic they don’t inform, they propagandize. 

When reporting about Israel, the majority of journalists forget the reporter code of ethics. And so, any Israeli act of self-defense becomes a massacre, and any confrontation, genocide. So many stupid things have been written about Israel that there aren’t any accusations left to level against her. 

At the same time, this press never discusses Syrian and Iranian interference in propagating violence against Israel, the indoctrination of children, and the corruption of the Palestinians. And when reporting about victims, every Palestinian casualty is reported as tragedy and every Israeli victim is camouflaged, hidden or reported about with disdain. 

And let me add on the topic of the Spanish left. Many are the examples that illustrate the anti-Americanism and anti-Israeli sentiments that define the Spanish left. For example, one of the leftist parties in Spain has just expelled one of its members for creating a pro-Israel website. I quote from the expulsion document: “Our friends are the people of Iran, Libya and Venezuela, oppressed by imperialism, and not a Nazi state like Israel .” 

In another example, the socialist mayor of Campozuelos changed Shoah Day, commemorating the victims of the Holocaust, with Palestinian Nabka Day, which mourns the establishment of the State of Israel, thus showing contempt for the six million European Jews murdered in the Holocaust. 

Or in my native city of Barcelona, the city council decided to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel, by having a Week of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Thus, they invited Leila Khaled, a noted terrorist from the 70′s and current leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist organization so described by the European Union, which promotes the use of bombs against Israel . 

This politically correct way of thinking has even polluted the speeches of President Zapatero. His foreign policy falls within the lunatic left, and onissues of the Middle East, he is unequivocally pro-Arab. I can assure you that in private, Zapatero places on Israel the blame for the conflict in the Middle East , and the policies of Foreign Minister Moratinos reflect this. The fact that Zapatero chose to wear a kafiah in the midst of the Lebanon conflict is no coincidence; it’s a symbol. 

Spain has suffered the worst terrorist attack in Europe and it is in the crosshairs of every Islamic terrorist organization. As I wrote before, they
Kill us with cell phones hooked to satellites connected to the Middle Ages. And yet the Spanish left is the most anti-Israeli in the world. 

And then it says it is anti-Israeli because of solidarity. This is the madness I want to denounce in this conference.

 
 Conclusion: 


I am not Jewish. Ideologically I am left and by profession a journalist. Why am I not anti-Israeli like my colleagues? Because as a non-Jew I have the Historical responsibility to fight against Jewish hatred and currently against the hatred for their historic homeland, Israel .

To fight against anti-Semitism is not the duty of the Jews, it is the duty of the non-Jews. 
 
As a journalist it is my duty to search for the truth beyond prejudice, lies and manipulations. The truth about Israel is not told. As a person from the left who loves progress, I am obligated to defend liberty, culture, civic education for children, coexistence and the laws that the Tablets of the Covenant made into universal principles. 
 
Principles that Islamic fundamentalism systematically destroys. That is to say, that as a non-Jew, journalist and lefty, I have a triple moral duty with Israel, because if Israel is destroyed, liberty, modernity and culture will be destroyed too. 
 
The struggle of Israel, even if the world doesn’t want to accept it, is the struggle of the world.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 8th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

THINGS GET MESSIER AND MESSIER – THE FOLLOWING IS A MASTERPIECE!OR SHOULD WE SAY – A MESSPIECE !!


“What If Snowden Was on Board the Bolivian President’s Jet?”

Violeta Ayala* – a *Bolivian “Imdian” filmmaker writes in The Huffington Post on July 4th but shown to us only now.

A month ago I was invited to a lunch in La Paz, the highest capital in the world and the capital of my country Bolivia. It was at the stylish residence of the French ambassador. We were a group of filmmakers, invited to wine and dine at the embassy. Two of us were indigenous and the rest belonged to the traditional ruling class of Bolivia. Sitting around a fancy table with diplomats, a butler served us quiche and wine.

During lunch, the French Ambassador made a comment about Bolivia, saying, it had taken France hundreds of years to become a Republic and that we need to forget in Bolivia about this business of being Indigenous or European. Then he said, “Bolivia is just being born.”

I felt like my head was about to explode and I can tell you, it wasn’t the wine or the altitude!

“Excuse me dear Ambassador, who has just been born? My people have lived on this land for thousands of years. We built an empire that you helped to destroy, but today we have an indigenous President of Aymaran origin, Evo Morales who was elected democratically in 2005. The idea of a Republic might have worked in France, but not in The Plurinational State of Bolivia, a multi-ethnic country with 38 official languages!”

This little incident made me think about how much respect European countries actually have for my people.

Last night, when I was in Paris of all places, I heard the news and I felt the fuzzy feeling of another head explosion. I’d just seen on Twitter that Bolivia’s presidential jet carrying Evo Morales was denied permission to fly through French, Portuguese and Italian airspace on route to Bolivia on the grounds of a rumor. It was suspected Edward Snowden was hiding on board winging his way to safety in Bolivia.

President Morales had been visiting Moscow, as one of the 13 members of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF). An overlooked fact, however, is that while he was in Moscow, President Morales’ jet was never at Sheremetyevo airport where Edward Snowden is supposed to be waiting in transit. It seems like a bad joke that with all the access the NSA has to everyone’s email and phone calls that they couldn’t figure out if one guy was on a plane.

So, where did the rumor start?

Was it the U.S. government’s intention to stop Evo’s plane? Or was it to scare Bolivia, because Evo Morales had said he would consider an asylum request from Snowden? Or to scare any country who might consider helping Snowden? Or was it to scare Snowden himself so he stays put in Russia and has no other option but to accept Putin’s condition to stop releasing more documents?

The intentions are anyone’s guess, but what would the U.S. response have been if Obama’s jet, Air Force One, had received the same treatment as Bolivia’s president and been forced down while on route to Washington?

As for the rumors about Snowden being on Evo’s jet… Beyond ridiculous. How do you think Russia would react if Snowden disappeared from under the watchful eye of Russian security? I have no doubt President Putin is happy to have Snowden in transit waiting to play him as a pawn at the right time. The U.S. Government can’t be that naïve to think a good-hearted Putin would let Snowden go so easily? Would the U.S. allow a Russian whistleblower to slip through their fingers at the airport in Washington?

I think we can say for certain that all the countries involved in this little saga knew Snowden wasn’t on or anywhere near the Bolivian presidential jet. But what if, hypothetically Snowden was able to sneak past the FSB, Russian police, airport security and get on that plane? The Bolivian government has the right to grant asylum to whomever they decide is facing persecution.

I would like people to know that today the U.S. hosts some of Bolivia’s largest criminals. One such person is the former president, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, and two of his ministers who are wanted in Bolivia, not for information leaks, but to face charges for the killing of 60 people who were protesting against his government’s policies to sell Bolivia’s resources to U.S. corporations. Sanchez de Lozada escaped Bolivia in a jet in 2003 and to this day the U.S. refuses to accept Bolivia’s extradition request for him.

I can only wonder looking out my hotel window in Paris why the French government started this nonsense that could have put the life of Bolivia’s president at risk?

Remember, it wasn’t the U.S. refusing air space to a presidential jet; it was the Republic of France, an independent country founded on the principles of Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite, refusing air space to a jet carrying the first indigenous president of Bolivia.

And now, the French government has said they didn’t know Bolivia’s president Evo Morales was on the presidential jet, the Spanish government say they didn’t do it, and the Portuguese say it was a technical problem.

Today is the 4th of July and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) is holding an emergency meeting in my hometown of Cochabamba to formulate their response to what was done to Bolivia’s presidential plane. Evo Morales has threatened to close the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia and the “Poncho Rojos” — Aymara Warriors have burned French flags outside the French Embassy in La Paz as a symbolic declaration of war.

As for me I celebrated the constitution of freedom of the founding fathers of the United States of America, with a glass of champagne next to a canal in the very country that gave the Statue of Liberty to the USA.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 8th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Daniel Ellsberg: Edward Snowden was right to flee.

The man who leaked the Pentagon Papers says the NSA leaker could not speak out if he had stayed.

That was then – and now is now!!!

Opinions
Snowden made the right call when he fled the U.S.
By Daniel Ellsberg, In The Washington Post of July 8, 2013.

Daniel Ellsberg is the author of “Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.” He was charged in 1971 under the Espionage Act as well as for theft and conspiracy for copying the Pentagon Papers. The trial was dismissed in 1973 after evidence of government misconduct, including illegal wiretapping, was introduced in court.

Many people compare Edward Snowden to me unfavorably for leaving the country and seeking asylum, rather than facing trial as I did. I don’t agree. The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago.

After the New York Times had been enjoined from publishing the Pentagon Papers — on June 15, 1971, the first prior restraint on a newspaper in U.S. history — and I had given another copy to The Post (which would also be enjoined), I went underground with my wife, Patricia, for 13 days. My purpose (quite like Snowden’s in flying to Hong Kong) was to elude surveillance while I was arranging — with the crucial help of a number of others, still unknown to the FBI — to distribute the Pentagon Papers sequentially to 17 other newspapers, in the face of two more injunctions. The last three days of that period was in defiance of an arrest order: I was, like Snowden now, a “fugitive from justice.”

Yet when I surrendered to arrest in Boston, having given out my last copies of the papers the night before, I was released on personal recognizance bond the same day. Later, when my charges were increased from the original three counts to 12, carrying a possible 115-year sentence, my bond was increased to $50,000. But for the whole two years I was under indictment, I was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures. I was, after all, part of a movement against an ongoing war. Helping to end that war was my preeminent concern. I couldn’t have done that abroad, and leaving the country never entered my mind.

There is no chance that experience could be reproduced today, let alone that a trial could be terminated by the revelation of White House actions against a defendant that were clearly criminal in Richard Nixon’s era — and figured in his resignation in the face of impeachment — but are today all regarded as legal (including an attempt to “incapacitate me totally”).

I hope Snowden’s revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here. There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado.

He would almost certainly be confined in total isolation, even longer than the more than eight months Manning suffered during his three years of imprisonment before his trial began recently. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Torture described Manning’s conditions as “cruel, inhuman and degrading.” (That realistic prospect, by itself, is grounds for most countries granting Snowden asylum, if they could withstand bullying and bribery from the United States.)

Snowden believes that he has done nothing wrong. I agree wholeheartedly. More than 40 years after my unauthorized disclosure of the Pentagon Papers, such leaks remain the lifeblood of a free press and our republic. One lesson of the Pentagon Papers and Snowden’s leaks is simple: secrecy corrupts, just as power corrupts.

In my case, my authorized access in the Pentagon and the Rand Corp. to top-secret documents — which became known as the Pentagon Papers after I disclosed them — taught me that Congress and the American people had been lied to by successive presidentsand dragged into a hopelessly stalemated war that was illegitimate from the start.

Snowden’s dismay came through access to even more highly classified documents — some of which he has now selected to make public — originating in the National Security Agency (NSA). He found that he was working for a surveillance organization whose all-consuming intent, he told the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, was “on making every conversation and every form of behavior in the world known to them.”

It was, in effect, a global expansion of the Stasi, the Ministry for State Security in the Stalinist “German Democratic Republic,” whose goal was “to know everything.” But the cellphones, fiber-optic cables, personal computers and Internet traffic the NSA accesses did not exist in the Stasi’s heyday.

As Snowden told the Guardian, “This country is worth dying for.” And, if necessary, going to prison for — for life.

But Snowden’s contribution to the noble cause of restoring the First, Fourth and Fifth amendments to the Constitution is in his documents. It depends in no way on his reputation or estimates of his character or motives — still less, on his presence in a courtroom arguing the current charges, or his living the rest of his life in prison. Nothing worthwhile would be served, in my opinion, by Snowden voluntarily surrendering to U.S. authorities given the current state of the law.

I hope that he finds a haven, as safe as possible from kidnapping or assassination by U.S. Special Operations forces, preferably where he can speak freely.

What he has given us is our best chance — if we respond to his information and his challenge — to rescue ourselves from out-of-control surveillance that shifts all practical power to the executive branch and its intelligence agencies: a United Stasi of America.

Read more on this topic —- Eugene Robinson: We can handle the truth on NSA spying.

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THAT WAS OUR ORIGINAL JULY 4th posting:

The British Guardian – an American Media — on the run-up to July 4-th, 2013.

By Dan Gillmore

How Did American Become So Fearful and Timid That We’ve Given Away Essential Liberties? Some Are Even Afraid to Speak up
America’s founders would be horrified at this United States of Surveillance

July 2, 2013

I’m a longtime subscriber to an Internet mail list that features items from smart, thoughtful people. The list editor forwards items he personally finds interesting, often related to technology and/or civil liberties. Not long after the Guardian and Washington Post first started publishing the leaks describing the National Security Agency’s vast surveillance-dragnet, an item appeared about a White House petition urging President Obama to pardon Edward Snowden. The post brought this reply, among others:

“Once upon a time I would have signed a White House petition to this administration with no qualms. Now, however, a chilling thought occurs: what ‘watch lists’ will signing a petition like this put me on? NSA? IRS? It’s not a paranoid question anymore, in the United States of Surveillance.”

As we Americans watch our parades and fire up our grills this 4 July, the 237th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence – the seminal document of the United States – we should take the time to ask ourselves some related questions: how did we come to this state of mind and behavior? How did we become so fearful and timid that we’ve given away essential liberties? Do we realize what we’re giving up? What would the nation’s founders think of us?

No one with common sense believes Obama is planning to become a dictator. But the mail list question was indeed not paranoid – because Obama, building on the initiatives of his immediate predecessors, has helped create the foundation for a future police state. This has happened with bipartisan support from patriotic but short-sighted members of Congress and, sad to say, the general public.

The American media have played an essential role. For decades, newspaper editors and television programmers, especially local ones, have chased readers and ratings by spewing panic-inducing “journalism” and entertainment that helped foster support for anti-liberty policies. Ignorance, sometimes willful, has long been part of the media equation. Journalists have consistently highlighted the sensational. They’ve ignored statistical realities to hype anecdotal – and extremely rare – events that invite us to worry about vanishingly tiny risks and while shrugging off vastly more likely ones. And then, confronted with evidence of a war on journalism by the people running our government, powerful journalists suggest that their peers – no, their betters – who had the guts to expose government crimes are criminals. Do they have a clue why the First Amendment is all about? Do they fathom the meaning of liberty?

The founders, for all their dramatic flaws, knew what liberty meant. They created a system of power-sharing and competition, knowing that investing too much authority in any institution was an invitation to despotism. Above all, they knew that liberty doesn’t just imply taking risks; it absolutely requires taking risks. Among other protections, the Bill of Rights enshrined an unruly but vital free press and guaranteed that some criminals would escape punishment in order to protect the rest of us from too much government power. How many of those first 10 amendments would be approved by Congress and the states today? Depressingly few, one suspects. We’re afraid.

America has gone through spasms of liberty-crushing policies before, almost always amid real or perceived national emergencies. We’ve come out of them, to one degree or another, with the recognition that we had a Constitution worth protecting and defending, to paraphrase the oath federal office holders take but have so casually ignored in recent years.

What’s different this time is the surveillance infrastructure, plus the countless crimes our lawmakers have invented in federal and state codes. As many people have noted, we can all be charged with something if government wants to find something – the Justice Department under Bush and Obama has insisted that simply violating an online terms of service is a felony, for example. And now that our communications are being recorded and stored (you should take that for granted, despite weaselly government denials), those somethings will be available to people looking for them if they decide you are a nuisance. That is the foundation for tyranny, maybe not in the immediate future but, unless we find a way to turn back, someday soon enough.

You may believe there’s no possibility of America turning into a thugocracy, that the amassed information – conversations, business dealings, personal health and financial data, media consumption, gun records and so much more – will never be systematically misused that way. But even if you do, ask yourself this: if a young employee of one of the countless private companies administering the surveillance state could get access to so much for idealistic reasons, how vulnerable is this material to people with baser motives? Do you suppose corporate spies or foreign security services might be able to tempt some of the holders of this information with money, or find others who are vulnerable to blackmail? We’re creating the ultimate treasure chest of information, and it’s value is nearly limitless.

America’s founders would be horrified at what we’ve done, and what we’ve become. They would have denounced our secret laws, Kafka-esque “no fly lists” and so many other recent creations of power-grabbing presidents emboldened by feeble lawmakers and compliant courts. While they wouldn’t have understood the modern concept of privacy – though they’ve have wanted to protect it once they did understand – they would have engineered checks and balances to prevent today’s wholesale abuses, made so much worse by active corporate participation, reluctant or not, in the digital dragnets.

I live in California. My senior US senator, Dianne Feinstein, is a former prosecutor and acts like it. In her no doubt sincere desire to protect Americans from harm, she has been a consistent Democratic enabler of untrammeled presidential and law-enforcement powers. She calls Edward Snowden, a whistleblower who unquestionably broke the law, a traitor. But he pulled back the curtain on an increasingly lawless surveillance state. She has helped shred the Bill of Rights. Who, in the end, will have done more to “preserve and protect the Constitution”? For me, that’s an easy call.

Will we confront what’s happening and move now to change our trajectory? There are glimmerings of rationality amid the fear-mongering, including the public’s growing understanding – despite politicans’ foot-dragging and the media’s longstanding refusal to do its job on this issue, like so many others – that the war on (some) drugs has been an international catastrophe and, at home, a useful tool for those who’d curb liberty.

Obama says he wants to have a “conversation” about surveillance, even though his administration works mightily to keep so much of its workings – on these and other matters – secret from the American public, Congress and the judiciary other than opaque, rubber-stamp courts. What we really need is a larger conversation about state power and the actual risks we face, with context and clarity. In the process we need to confront the people who amass power and profits by fueling the ever-expanding, increasingly militarized surveillance state, and insist that they explain and justify what they’re doing. Their “trust us” nostrums are hollow.

I don’t know what the American public will conclude if we ever have that conversation. I would do whatever I could to help everyone understand that a surveillance society is profoundly un-American. I implore journalists to be part of the truth-telling, to take a stand for the Bill of Rights by doing their jobs as the founders intended. If we’re to preserve the risk-filled but noble American experiment of trusting people with liberty, we’d all best get started.

I’m proudly American, in large part because we’ve so often faced hard facts and ultimately, if belatedly, done what’s right. I have faith that the American people want the unadorned truth and will think through what’s at stake this time – and that they’ll take to heart Benjamin Franklin’s eternally wise admonition: “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

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

AND THE INTERNATIONAL ANGLE:

New Rumor of Snowden Flight Raises Tensions.
By RICK GLADSTONE and WILLIAM NEUMAN
Published by The New York Tines: July 2, 2013

It began as a seemingly offhand remark by the president of Bolivia, who suggested during a visit to Moscow that he might be happy to host Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive former security contractor who is desperate to find asylum. It escalated into a major diplomatic scramble in which the Bolivian president’s plane was rerouted on Tuesday, apparently because of suspicions that Mr. Snowden was aboard.

Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, was attending an energy conference in Moscow when he was asked in an interview if he would consider giving asylum to Edward J. Snowden.

Related

*
Snowden Is Said to Claim U.S. Is Blocking Asylum Bids (July 2, 2013)
*
Outrage in Europe Grows Over Spying Disclosures (July 2, 2013)
*
India Ink: India Denies Asylum to Snowden (July 2, 2013)

By day’s end, outraged Bolivian officials, insisting that Mr. Snowden was not on the plane, were accusing France and Portugal of acting under American pressure to rescind permission for President Evo Morales’s plane to traverse their airspace on the way back to Bolivia. Low on fuel, the plane’s crew won permission to land in Vienna.

“They say it was due to technical issues, but after getting explanations from some authorities we found that there appeared to be some unfounded suspicions that Mr. Snowden was on the plane,” the Bolivian foreign minister, David Choquehuanca, told reporters after the plane touched down in Vienna, where Mr. Morales was spending the night.

“We don’t know who invented this big lie,” the foreign minister said at a news conference in La Paz, Bolivia. “We want to express our displeasure because this has put the president’s life at risk.”

Rubén Saavedra, the defense minister, who was on the plane with Mr. Morales, accused the Obama administration of being behind the action by France and Portugal, calling it “an attitude of sabotage and a plot by the government of the United States.”

There was no immediate response by officials in Paris, Lisbon or Washington.

“We were in flight; it was completely unexpected,” Mr. Saavedra said on the Telesur cable network. “The president was very angry.”

Speaking by phone with Telesur, Mr. Saavedra said that Mr. Snowden was not on the plane. Later, Reuters cited an unidentified Austrian Foreign Ministry official as saying the same thing.

Bolivian officials said they were working on a new flight plan to allow Mr. Morales to fly home. But in a possible sign of further suspicion about the passenger manifest, Mr. Saavedra said that Italy had also refused to give permission for the plane to fly over its airspace. Later he said that France and Portugal had reversed course and offered to allow the plane to fly through their airspace after all.

On Monday, Mr. Morales, who was attending an energy conference in Moscow, was asked in an interview on the Russia Today television network if he would consider giving asylum to Mr. Snowden, 30, who has been holed up at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport for more than a week, his passport revoked by the United States.

“Yes, why not?” Mr. Morales responded. “Of course, Bolivia is ready to take in people who denounce — I don’t know if this is espionage or monitoring. We are here.”

He said, though, that Bolivia had not received a request from Mr. Snowden, despite news reports to the contrary.

It was already clear by then that the Moscow conference had been overshadowed by the drama of Mr. Snowden and his disclosures about American intelligence programs, which have deeply embarrassed the Obama administration.

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, who was also at the conference, had suggested he might offer Mr. Snowden asylum but did not plan to fly him to Venezuela.

But Mr. Morales’s remarks appeared to open the door. At least that was the way they were interpreted.

The problems began even before Mr. Morales left Moscow, Mr. Choquehuanca said. On Monday, Portugal, without explanation, had withdrawn permission for Mr. Morales’s plane to stop in Lisbon to refuel, the foreign minister said. That required Bolivian officials to get permission from Spain to refuel in the Canary Islands.

The next day, after taking off from Moscow, Mr. Morales’s plane was just minutes from entering French airspace, according to Mr. Saavedra, when the French authorities informed the pilot that the plane could not fly over France.

There was also plenty of confusion in Moscow over how Mr. Snowden could possibly have left undetected on a government aircraft.

Government planes carrying foreign officials to diplomatic meetings in Moscow typically arrive and depart from Vnukovo Airport, which is also the main airfield used by the Russian government, rather than from Sheremetyevo, where Mr. Snowden arrived from Hong Kong on June 23 hours after American officials had sought his extradition there.

The speculation that Mr. Snowden would hitch a ride on a government jet was discounted by the fact that the plane would have to first make a quick flight from one Moscow airport to the other.

In an interview with the television station Russia Today, Mr. Maduro said he would consider any request by Mr. Snowden. Then, ending the interview with a dash of humor, he said, “It’s time for me to go; Snowden is waiting for me.”

Rick Gladstone reported from New York, and William Neuman from Caracas, Venezuela. David M. Herszenhorn and Andrew Roth contributed reporting from Moscow, and Monica Machicao from La Paz, Bolivia.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 5th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Venezuela’s Independence Day

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
July 3, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Venezuela as you commemorate the day that Venezuela declared its independence 202 years ago.

Venezuela and the United States have much in common. For example, revolutionary leader General Francisco de Miranda also played a part in our own struggle for independence, participating in the Battle of Pensacola in 1781. His contribution is forever memorialized in a monument that stands in the heart of Philadelphia, the original capital of the United States. When a devastating earthquake struck Venezuela in 1812 the United States sent the Venezuelan people the first humanitarian assistance it ever provided to a foreign country. These two examples demonstrate that Venezuela and the United States have shared ties of friendship and common values since the birth of our two nations, and the ties between our people endure.

I wish Venezuelans everywhere health, happiness, and hope on the anniversary of your independence.

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The Washington Post of July 5, 2013 tells us:

““As head of state, the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American Edward Snowden so that he can live in the homeland” of independence leader Simon Bolivar and the late President Hugo Chavez without “persecution from the empire,” Maduro said, referring to the United States.

He made the offer during a speech marking the anniversary of Venezuela’s independence. It was not immediately clear if there were any conditions to Venezuela’s offer.

Maduro added that several other Latin American governments have also expressed their intention of taking a similar stance by offering asylum for the cause of “dignity.”

In Nicaragua, Ortega said he was willing to make the same offer “if circumstances allow it.” Ortega didn’t say what the right circumstances would be when he spoke during a speech in Managua.

He said the Nicaraguan embassy in Moscow received Snowden’s application for asylum and that it is studying the request.

“We have the sovereign right to help a person who felt remorse after finding out how the United States was using technology to spy on the whole world, and especially its European allies,” Ortega said.

The offers came following a flap about the rerouting of Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane in Europe earlier this week amid reports that Snowden might have been aboard.

Spain on Friday said it had been warned along with other European countries that Snowden, a former U.S. intelligence worker, was aboard the Bolivian presidential plane, an acknowledgement that the manhunt for the fugitive leaker had something to do with the plane’s unexpected diversion to Austria.

It is unclear whether the United States, which has told its European allies that it wants Snowden back, warned Madrid about the Bolivian president’s plane. U.S. officials will not detail their conversations with European countries, except to say that they have stated the U.S.’s general position that it wants Snowden back.

Maduro joined other leftist South American presidents Thursday in Cochabamba, Bolivia, to rally behind Morales and denounce the rerouting incident.

President Barack Obama has publicly displayed a relaxed attitude toward Snowden’s movements, saying last month that he wouldn’t be “scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.”

But the drama surrounding the flight of Morales, whose plane was abruptly rerouted to Vienna after apparently being denied permission to fly over France, suggests that pressure is being applied behind the scenes.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told Spanish National Television that “they told us that the information was clear, that he was inside.”

He did not identify who “they” were and declined to say whether he had been in contact with the U.S. But he said that European countries’ decisions were based on the tip. France has since sent a letter of apology to the Bolivian government.”

———————————–

The bottom line is as reported by the Guardian:

“We are not colonies any more,” Uruguay’s president, Jose Mujica, said. “We deserve respect, and when one of our governments is insulted we feel the insult throughout Latin America.”

Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, said on Thursday he and other leaders were offering full support to Morales and called the rerouting of the plane an aggression against the Americas.

Cristina Fernandez of Argentina said Latin Americans treasured freedom after fighting for independence from Europe in the 19th century and then surviving Washington’s 20th-century history of backing repressive regimes in the Americas. She demanded an apology for the plane ordeal.

“I’m asking those who violated the law in calm but serious manner, to take responsibility for the errors made, it’s the least they can do,” Fernandez said. “To apologize for once in their life, to say they’re sorry for what they’ve done.”

Morales has said that while the plane was parked in Vienna, the Spanish ambassador to Austria arrived with two embassy personnel and they asked to search the plane. He said he denied them permission.

“Who takes the decision to attack the president of a South American nation?” Maduro asked. Spanish prime minister Mariano “Rajoy has been abusive by trying to search Morales’ plane in Spain. He has no right to breach international law.”

———————————–

It seems like time has come for a US face-saving diplomacy before true craters open up at US borders – East, West, and South.

We have previously outlined a draft that we did not publish – but think now that the airplane flap justifies a US Presidential pardon to Snowden – just to get the issue of the World table – the damage was done and no sense for the US to dig itself deeper into the hole it created.

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US senator from New Jersey, Robert Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told little Ecuadoran that he would block the import of vegetables and flowers from Ecuador if Ecuador gives asylum to Edward Snowden. The cost to Ecuador would be one billion dollars in lost revenues. Will he also forbid trips from the US to the Galapagos?

Will he be consistent and close US imports of Venezuela oil? Of Latin oil in general?
Ecuador and Venezuela happen to be also members of OPEC which Bolivia is not. A policy of threats presents many interesting angles and possibilities.
Will there be ways to enlarge this with some reaction to what happens in Egypt, in Saudi Arabia, some more grand-standing anyone?

———————————-

Thursday the leaders of Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina and Uruguay joined Bolivia’s President Morales in Cochabamba, for a special meeting to address the diplomatic row.

At the end of the summit a statement was issued demanding answers from France, Portugal, Italy and Spain. The United States was not mentioned in the statement.

“Europe broke all the rules of the game,” Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro said shortly after arriving at Cochabamba airport. “We’re here to tell president Evo Morales that he can count on us. Whoever picks a fight with Bolivia, picks a fight with Venezuela.”

Maduro said an unnamed European government minister had told Venezuela the CIA was behind the incident.

“We are not colonies any more,” Uruguay’s president, Jose Mujica, said. “We deserve respect, and when one of our governments is insulted we feel the insult throughout Latin America.”

Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, said on Thursday he and other leaders were offering full support to Morales and called the rerouting of the plane an aggression against the Americas.

Cristina Fernandez of Argentina said Latin Americans treasured freedom after fighting for independence from Europe in the 19th century and then surviving Washington’s 20th-century history of backing repressive regimes in the Americas. She demanded an apology for the plane ordeal.

“I’m asking those who violated the law in calm but serious manner, to take responsibility for the errors made, it’s the least they can do,” Fernandez said. “To apologise for once in their life, to say they’re sorry for what they’ve done.”

Morales has said that while the plane was parked in Vienna, the Spanish ambassador to Austria arrived with two embassy personnel and they asked to search the plane. He said he denied them permission.

“Who takes the decision to attack the president of a South American nation?” Maduro asked. Spanish prime minister Mariano “Rajoy has been abusive by trying to search Morales’ plane in Spain. He has no right to breach international law.”

Before the meeting, Morales said his ordeal was part of a US plot to intimidate him and other Latin American leaders.

He urged European nations to “free themselves” from the United States. “The United States is using its agent [Snowden] and the president [of Bolivia] to intimidate the whole region,” he said.

France sent an apology to the Bolivian government. But Morales said “apologies are not enough because the stance is that international treaties must be respected”.

Spain’s foreign affairs minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, said his country did not bar Morales from landing in its territory.

Amid the tensions, the US embassy in La Paz cancelled Independence Day celebrations scheduled for Thursday. In the eastern city of Santa Cruz, Bolivian government sympathisers painted protest slogans on the doors of the American consulate.

Bolivia has said it will summon the French and Italian ambassadors and the Portuguese consul to demand explanations.

Brazil was represented by Marco Aurelio Garcia, President Dilma Rousseff’s top international adviser. The presidents of Colombia, Chile and Peru, who have strong ties to the US, were not attending.

Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, said earlier on Thursday he supported Morales, but asked other leaders to remain cool and avoid an escalating dispute between Latin America and the European Union.

“We’re in solidarity with Evo Morales because what they did to him is unheard-of, but let’s not let this turn into a diplomatic crisis for Latin America and the EU,” Santos tweeted on Thursday.

—————————————

Our draft started: Thanks to the Egyptian military – their intervention got off the media front line the Snowden, Assage, Manning, WikiLeaks Warning Lighthouses – and replaced them with a renewed attention to the Islamic potential for acts of terror.

Furthermore – Latin America seems split between the go it alone States of the ALBA group – Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Venezuela, their new friends – Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and now Nicaragua – and their opponents – the strong US connected, Chile, Colombia, Peru and the Southern European States Italy, France, Spain, Portugal that acted out on unsightly pressure from the White House, and perhaps even Austria – if it turns out to be true that they searched the Bolivian President’s plane. What about Mexico? Will they want to be seen as residing in the US vest-pocket?

Today it seems that just the Greens, the so called Pirates, and some other non-political fringe parties, are left in Europe to stand up for Democracy – The Reds, Blacks, Blues, Yellow, Orange, and Purple – all established political parties – have abandoned the Democracy ship because of the Transatlantic breeze from the Potomac. Europe seems anew like the Europe of the thirties with governments worried about their business-ties. Any infringements of democratic inalienable rights are not noted now, like they were not noted then. But this is totally misleading – just read the Guardian where all these stories started. This at a time the voters in quite a few European States do take position on this – and we would not be surprised if Austria as well took back its “Neutral Mantle” to declare that they too are ready to give refuge to Snowden. The coming days will tell.

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And as if nothing happened – a US hand to the people of Argentina as if they have now no elected government?:

Western Hemisphere: Argentina’s Independence Day

07/05/2013 02:31 PM EDT

Argentina’s Independence Day

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
July 5, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I send best wishes to the people of Argentina as they celebrate their Independence Day this July 9.

The citizens of our two nations have a long history of productive and friendly relations, highlighted by educational and cultural exchanges and fruitful collaboration in the fields of science, technology, health, space, and energy.

The determination expressed by the patriots gathered at the Casa de Tucuman, to forge a free and independent nation, is a fundamental human longing, and one we share.

On this day, the United States wishes Argentina a happy celebration.

We look forward to working together to cultivate a strong bilateral relationship in the years to come.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 2nd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

 

 

Are We Witnessing the Long-Awaited Turnaround in EU Economic Policy?

 

 

On May 29, the EU Commission (as well as OECD) published its assessment of the budgetary and reform programs of its member states and issued its “country-specific recommendations”  – with the exception of Portugal, Greece and Cyprus which had already received their “adjustment programs” earlier.

Media reporting focused on the extension (by 2 years) of the time by which some countries have to achieve their medium-term objectives, and on President Hollande’s rebuke of the EC’s recommendations for France.

Commission President Barroso spoke of the need to loosen the consolidation efforts and to start combating unemployment, especially for youths. 6 bill EUR should be available for this purpose. Suddenly, promoting growth is no longer a taboo. The recent Franco-German announcement of an impending
“gouvernement economique” or “verstärkter Koordinierungsmechanismus”
also give some hope.

 

Still, Barroso (and the EC) thinks that ”structural reforms” in goods and labor markets are the key to growth, and thus need to be speeded up. His (marginal) slowing down of austerity is not based on the recognition that the EU crisis strategy has proven to be a complete failure, but “only” on the lack of political acceptance by the unemployed citizens of the EU.
A turnaround in policy, a necessary change in the policy paradigm, this is not.

 

It seems to be impossible for politicians, both national and supranational ones, to admit past mistakes. But this would be the pre-requirement for a turnaround. Barroso and the others act as if everything so far had been going according to plan, had been successful, and that now one just adds another element to the heretofor successful strategy. This behavior, repression of facts, has been analyzed extensively by my late compatriot Sigmund Freud.
It prevents new insights from coming onto the radar screen, a requirement for a new direction.

 

Technically, the EC assessed the Stability Programs and the Reform Programs. In its own words, by assessing them jointly, the EC purports to assess the complete economic policy of its member states. Let us look at the Austrian assessment as a case in point.

 

Economic growth is mentioned only with respect to the Austrian forecasts which underlie the programs – which are seen as being too optimistic. The prime objective of the analysis is, as usual, the positively assessed path of budget consolidation. The medium-term objective (as structural deficit of 0.45% of GDP) should be achieved 2 years earlier than originally (2017) planned. But Austria’s public expenditure share path again is seen as too optimistic. With respect to the tax system, the EC tells the Austrians that the least growth-damaging real estate taxes are far below the EU average, and thus could be increased.

 

The most important points of criticism concern the labor market: the participation rates of females and seniors are by far too low, income differences between genders too high, the pension age for women creeps only marginally towards that of men, early retirement is still to prevalent; education achievements are under par, at the same time costs of the system too high, migrants are left behind. All this against the background of the recognition that (measured) unemployment in Austria is the lowest in the EU. The EC criticizes also inadequacies in financial market supervision between home and host countries, as well as too many barriers for professional services and for personal services in health and care sectors.

 

For all these areas, EC gives recommendations to speed up reforms. All these points are well taken (by me, not necessarily the authorities), but: their implementation alone, while important, does not generate growth. There is not enough emphasis on promoting innovation, on real problems with the tertiary education system, no mentioning at all about a positive growth expectation – which would require an increase in effective demand in Europe. The structural problems of the financial sector are largely ignored, with the exception of the possible budgetary consequences of winding down one of the nationalized banks.

 

Macropolicy is not mentioned, not in the Austrian assessment, not in the assessment of the Eurozone. There EC mentions the need to achieve an adequate policy mix by better coordination of budget consolidation and structural policies, but no word is lost on coordination between the fiscal stance of the Eurozone and ECB’s monetary policy. This shows once more that macroeconomic policy is a foreign concept to the EC, that economic policy consists of budget policy cum supply side (micro) economics. Briefly, imbalances in foreign trade are mentioned, plus its necessary “rebalancing”, but that is it. When reading the documents, one sees that the focus on individual countries’ assessment virtually crowds out the assessment of the Eurozone and the EU as a whole. They are seen as the sum of the individual countries, but not as an objective of macroeconomic policy.

 

Conclusion: Nothing much has changed in the EU’s policy orientation. While the soaring youth unemployment is – finally – seen as a major (mainly political) problem, austerity is slowed down and youth training programs are encouraged. But this is not a change in the mainly austerity-driven paradigm. It does appear that the requirements of the financial markets still drive EU economic policy, rather than the life expectations of the EU citizens. The recent news about the watering-down and delay of the Financial Transactions Tax are only one indicator of this. The objective that the EU should pursue the welfare of its populations, enshrined in the Treaty, seems to have been forgotten.

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Op-Ed Columnist – THE NEW YORK TIMES.

Prisoners of the Euro

TO its custodians and admirers, the European Union is the only force standing between its member states and the age-old perils of chauvinism, nationalism and war. That was the pointed message that the Nobel Committee sent last year, when it awarded the union a Peace Prize for its role in “the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights.” And it is the message hammered home relentlessly by the Continent’s politicians, who believe their citizens face a stark choice, in the words of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, between continued integration and a return to “centuries of hatred and blood spill.”

But right now, the E.U. project isn’t advancing democracy, liberalism and human rights. Instead, it is subjecting its weaker member states to an extraordinary test of their resilience, and conducting an increasingly perverse experiment in seeing how much stress liberal norms can bear.

That stress takes the form of mass unemployment unseen in the history of modern Europe, and mass youth unemployment that is worse still. In the Continent’s sick-man economies, the jobless rate for those under 25 now staggers the imagination: over 40 percent in Italy, over 50 percent in Spain, and over 60 percent in Greece.

For these countries, the euro zone is now essentially an economic prison, with Germany as the jailer and the common currency as the bars. No matter what happens, they face a future of stagnation — as aging societies with expensive welfare states whose young people will sit idle for years, unable to find work, build capital or start families.

The question is whether they will face ideological upheaval as well. So far, the striking thing about the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, both in Europe and the United States, is how successfully the center has held. Power has passed back and forth between left and right, but truly radical movements have found little traction, and political violence has been mercifully rare.

In a sense, Francis Fukuyama’s post-cold-war declaration of the “end of history” — by which he meant the disappearance of credible alternatives to liberal democracy and mixed-economy capitalism — has held up pretty well in the last five years. Amid the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, illiberal societies like Egypt and Syria have faced political crises, but the developed world has not. There has been no mass turn to fascism, no revival of Marxist economics, no coup d’états in Madrid or jackboots in Rome.

But you have to wonder whether the center can hold permanently, if unemployment remains so extraordinarily high. How must liberal democracy and mixed-economy capitalism look to young people in the south of Europe right now? How stable is a political and ideological settlement that requires the rising generation to go without jobs, homes and children because the European project supposedly depends on it? And for that matter, how well is the Continent’s difficult integration of Muslim immigrants likely to proceed in a world where neither natives nor immigrants can find work?

Already, the Greek electorate has been flirting with empowering a crypto-communist “coalition of the radical left,” even as a straightforwardly fascist party gains in the polls as well. Hungary’s conservative government has tiptoed toward authoritarianism. Spain has seen huge street protests whose organizers aspire to imitate the Arab Spring. And lately, Sweden, outside the euro zone but not immune to its youth unemployment problems, has been coping with unsettling, highly un-Scandinavian riots in immigrant neighborhoods.

These perturbations do not threaten democracy in Europe yet, and maybe they never will. Maybe the liberal democratic consensus is so bred into the bone that no amount of elite misgovernment can persuade Europe’s younger generation to turn against it. Maybe nothing can end the end of history.

But for the countries facing a youth unemployment crisis, that still seems like an awfully risky bet to make.

Yet there’s a Catch-22 facing Greeks and Spaniards and Italians looking for an alternative to just staying the course. As wrenching as it would be, the option that would do the most to defang extremists of the left and the right would probably be to abandon the euro immediately, with each country regaining control of its own fiscal and monetary policy and seeing what options open up. But at the moment, the only people arguing for that course are … the extremists of the left and the right!

For that to change, more of the Continent’s political elites would need to recognize that their beloved integration project may actually be threatening Europe’s long democratic peace. For now, there simply aren’t enough responsible people ready to unwind what should never have been knitted together in the first place. But with every increase in the unemployment rate, the odds get better that irresponsible and illiberal figures will end up unwinding it instead.

Readers’ Comments:   Read All Comments (15) »

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 4th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The following is a presentation of facts that cannot be ignored anymore. Deserves close reading by those in the North that thought you can bumble your way through without creating a real union capable of calling out “it is all for one and not just one for all!” The EU is not just the fulfilling of the German dream of takeover of Europe by peaceful means. Cyprus dreaming of being the Mediterranean base of Russia? What else? Austria a bridge to the East? Yes, but only after twinning up with Finland.
The article does not mention the UK even once – we interpret this as a sign it has crystallized as the island off-shore that ought to partner with the US and stop bothering the decision making process of the continent at large.
It was the UK interest that created Cyprus in the first place by not letting it split and join Greece and Turkey. Who needed two weak Greek States in the Union? Malta? another UK invention? Slovenia was good – why not also a Catalunya or Catalonia?

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english banner othernews

A Line Of Demarcation Through The Eurozone Is Taking Shape

 
 
Wolf Richter*  

Everyone learned a lesson from the “bail-in” of the Cypriot banks: Russian account holders who’d laundered and stored their money on the sunny island; bank bondholders who’d thought they’d always get bailed out; Cypriot politicians whose names showed up on lists of loans that had been extended by the Bank of Cyprus and Laiki Bank but were then forgiven and written off. Even brand-new Finance Minister Michael Sarris who got axed because he’d been chairman of Laiki when this was going on. His lesson: when a cesspool of corruption blows up, no one is safe. And German politicians learned a lesson too: that it worked!

“With the Cyprus aid package, it was proven that countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and Finland, if they stick together, are able to push for a strict stability course,” Hans Michelbach told the Handelsblatt. The chairman of the finance committee in the German Parliament and member of the CSU, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition partner, called for deeper collaboration of the triple-A countries in the Eurozone “to strengthen the confidence of citizens and investors in the common currency.”

There are still five in that euro triple-A club: Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Finland, and Luxembourg. “It would be good if we could also convince Luxembourg to participate more strongly in this stability collaboration,” he said. It would be in the best interest of Luxembourg as major financial center, he added. A reference to Luxembourg’s precarious status, as Cyprus had learned, of being a tiny country with banks so large that it can’t bail them out by itself.

To protect the euro, the alliance of the triple-A countries must be united firmly against large euro countries like Italy and France, he said. “Strong signals of stability would be of great importance for the Eurozone,” particularly now, given the “unclear situation” in Italy, renewed doubts about Greece, and the failure of the French government in its stability policies.

Exactly what French President François Hollande needs: the euro triple-A club breathing down his neck. He’s already in trouble at home. To reverse the slide, he got on state-owned France 2 TV last Thursday to speak to the French people so that they could see how his sincerity, wisdom, and economic policies would stop the country from sinking ever deeper into a quagmire.

And a quagmire it is: double-digit unemployment, a Purchasing Managers Index just above Greece’s, new vehicle sales that plunged almost 15% so far this year, a budget deficit that refuses to be brought under control…. He has tweaked some policy measures here and there. And he dug up a new version of the 75% income-tax bracket that had been squashed by the Constitutional Court. But Jérôme Cahuzac, the Budget Minister who’d tried to get the first version through the system, went up in flames over allegations of tax fraud and “tax fraud laundering.”

Now the people have had it. After the TV appearance, his approval rating, ten months into his term, plummeted another 6 points to 31%, a low that scandal-plagued Nicolas Sarkozy took four years to reach. And only 27% approved of his economic policies. “The French simply don’t want austerity,” lamented an unnamed government insider.

France was suffering the consequences of the “socialist experiments” of its government and was becoming less and less competitive, explained Michelbach. He emphasized that France would remain an important partner of Germany. He wasn’t kidding: France buys 10% of Germany’s exports and is crucial to the German economy. But if France didn’t change course, he said, that could become a “serious problem” for the Eurozone.

As opposed to the mere hiccups of Cyprus or Greece. More banks and more countries will require bailouts­Slovenia, Spain, Italy, and Malta are on the list. And no one wants to see France on that list. Even Italy is too large to get bailed out by other countries­though it’s rich enough to bail itself out, à la Cyprus [ A "Politically Explosive" Secret: Italians Are Over Twice As Wealthy As Germans].

But in Germany, a revolt against these save-the-euro bailouts has been brewing for a while. With elections in September, it’s taking on volume and voices, and the structure of a political party, the Alternative for Germany, not unpalatable radicals but the educated bourgeoisie, and they want to stop the bailouts and dump the euro.

The government is feeling the heat. No one can afford to lose votes. Michelbach’s triple-A club, a line of demarcation in the Eurozone, is one of the reactions. Merkel might benefit from it in the elections. The other four countries might find if appealing, though it will be of dubious appeal in the rest of the Eurozone. But if efforts fail to fix the Eurozone’s problems­and the Eurozone lumbering that way­a tightly knit triple-A club could weather the storm together, more stable and more unified than the Eurozone ever was. And Michelbach had just floated a version of that idea.

Every country in the Eurozone has its own collection of big fat lies that politicians and Eurocrats have served up in order to make the euro and the subsequent bailouts or austerity measures less unappetizing. Here are some from the German point of view…. Ten Big Fat Lies To Keep The Euro Dream Alive

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    *    www.testosteronepit.com    www.amazon.com/author/wolfrichter
 twitter.com/TestosteronePit

Wolf Richter wrote also – “White House Hypocrisy And Trade Sanctions Against China.” -  Practically every car sold in the US contains Chinese-made components. But suddenly, in the middle of a heated presidential campaign, the Obama administration decided to do something about it.

Wolf Richter is a  San Francisco based executive, entrepreneur, start up specialist, and author, with extensive international work experience.

In www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/03/w… he explains “Having worked a bit on international deals, and for companies operating in foreign markets, cross border transactions have an even lower success rate than domestic ones. The big reason is the one mentioned here, which is marked cultural incompatibility between the seller and buyer. Here the Chinese did less badly than they could have (they could have tried forcing Chinese practices on the German operation, which would have destroyed the value of the asset). But the logic of the transaction was unclear. Was it technology transfer? Consolidation? It appears both might have been goals, and neither happened very much.

But I find it intriguing that as lousy as the Japanese were at doing deals  (they found it hard to understand that the contract was the deal, and were too inclined to overpay), they were good at managing workers in manufacturing operations (service businesses were another kettle of fish, there they tended to drive Americans crazy).  This is a skill the Chinese will have to master, since they desperately need to re-invest their surpluses, and they are trying to acquire more real-economy assets.”    FASCINATING.

His insights in Wall Street machinations are also very good.

 

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 21st, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Breaking News

Ronaldo, Portugal soccer team land in Israel.

 

Published: 03.20.13, 22:48 / Israel News

Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the world’s top soccer players, has landed in Israel together with his Portugal teammates ahead of Friday’s game against Israel.

Dozens of fans welcomed the team at the Ben Gurion Airport. (Ynet)

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

 

Uri Avnery

March 16, 2013

 

                                    To the Victor, the Spoils.

 IN THE days following the recent Israeli elections, Ya’ir Lapid, the major winner, let it be known that he wanted to be the next Foreign Minister.

 No wonder. It’s the hell of a job. You can’t lose, because the Foreign Minister is responsible for nothing. Serious foreign fiascos are always laid at the door of the Prime Minister, who determines foreign policy anyway. The Foreign Minister travels around the world, stays in luxury hotels with gourmet cuisine, has his picture taken in the company of royalty and presidents, appears almost daily on TV. Sheer paradise.

 For someone who declares publicly that he wants to become Prime Minister soon, perhaps in a year and a half, this post is very advantageous. People see you among the world’s great. You look “prime ministerial”. 

 Moreover, no experience is needed. For Lapid, who entered politics less than a year ago, this is ideal. He has all a Foreign Minister needs: good looks and a photogenic quality. After all, he made his career on TV.

 So why did he not become Foreign Minister? Why has he let himself be pushed into the Finance Ministry – a far more strenuous job, which can make or break a politician?

 Simply because the Foreign Ministry has a big sign on its door: Occupied.

 THE LAST Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, was, probably, the least suitable person for the job in the whole country. He is no Apollo. He has an air of brutality, shifty eyes and spare vocabulary. He is unpopular everywhere in the world except Russia and its satellites.  He has been avoided throughout by most of his international colleagues. Many of them consider him an outright fascist. 

 But Netanyahu is afraid of Lieberman. Without Lieberman’s parliamentary storm troopers, Likud has only 20 seats – just one more than Lapid. And within the joint party, Lieberman may well replace Netanyahu in the not too distant future.

 Lieberman has been forced out of the Foreign Office by the law that forbids an indicted person to serve in the government. For many years now, a dark judicial cloud has been hanging over his head. Investigations followed suspicions of huge bribes. In the end, the Attorney General decided to content himself with an indictment for fraud and breach of trust: a minor diplomat turned over to Lieberman a secret police dossier concerning his investigation and was awarded an ambassadorship.

 Netanyahu’s fear of Lieberman induced him to promise that the Foreign Minister’s post would remain empty until the final judgment in Lieberman’s case. If acquitted, his lofty position will be waiting for him.

 This may be a unique arrangement. After barring Lapid’s ambition to succeed him, Lieberman declared this week triumphantly: “Everyone knows that the Foreign Office belongs to the Israel Beitenu party!” 

 THAT IS an interesting statement. It may be worthwhile pondering its implications.

 How can any government office “belong” to a party?

 In feudal times, the King awarded his nobles hereditary fiefs. Each nobleman was a minor king in his domain, in theory owing allegiance to the sovereign but in practice often almost independent. Are modern ministries such fiefs “belonging” to the party chiefs?

 This is a question of principle. Ministers are supposed to serve the country and its citizens. In theory, the best man or woman suited for the job should be appointed. Party affiliation, of course, does play a role. The Prime Minister must construct a working coalition. But the uppermost consideration, even in a multi-party democratic republic, should be the suitability of the candidate for the particular office.

 Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Though no elected Prime Minister should go to the length of Ehud Barak, who displayed an almost sadistic delight in placing each of his colleagues in the ministry he was most unsuitable for. Shlomo Ben-Ami, a gentle history professor, was put into the Ministry of Police (a.k.a. Interior Security), where he was responsible for an incident in which several Arab citizens were shot. Yossi Beilin, a genius bubbling with original political ideas, was sent to the Ministry of Justice. And so on.

 I remember meeting several of the new ministers at a diplomatic reception soon after. They were all deeply embittered and their comments were of course unprintable.

 But that was not the point. The point was that by appointing ministers quite unsuitable to the tasks entrusted to them, Barak did great damage to the interests of the state. You don’t entrust your body to a surgeon who is really a lawyer, nor do you entrust your money to a banker who is really a biologist.

 YET THE idea of political entitlement was hovering over the whole process of forming the cabinet. The awarding of the ministries more closely resembles a dispute among thieves over the spoils than a responsible process of manning or womanning the ministries which will be responsible for the security and well-being of the nation.

 The quarrel that held up the formation of the new government for several crucial days was over the Ministry of Education. Lapid wanted it for his No. 2, an orthodox (though moderate) rabbi. The incumbent, Gideon Sa’ar, desperately clung to it, organizing petitions in his favor among teachers, mayors and what not.

 This could have been a legitimate fight if it had been about questions of education. For example, Sa’ar, a fanatical Likud man, has sent the pupils to religious and nationalistic sites in Greater Eretz Israel, to imbue them with proper patriotic fervor. He is also more intent on his pupils winning international capability tests than on education as such.

 But nobody spoke about these subjects. It was a simple fight over entitlement. In medieval times, it might have been fought out with lances in a tournament. In these civilized days, both sides use political blackmail. Lapid won.

 I AM not a great admirer of Tzipi Livni and her air of a spoilt brat. But I am happy about her appointment to the Ministry of Justice.

 Her last two predecessors were intent on destroying the Supreme Court and putting an end to “judicial activism”. (This seems to be a problem in many countries nowadays. Governments want to abolish the court’s power to annul anti-democratic laws.) Tzipi can be relied on to buttress the Supreme Court, seen by many as “the last bastion of Israeli democracy”.

 Much more problematical is the appointment of Moshe Ya’alon as Minister of Defense. He inherited the job because there is just nobody around who could be appointed instead. Israelis take their defense seriously, and you cannot appoint, say, a gynecologist to this job.

 “Bogy”, as everybody calls him, is a former Chief of Staff of the Army, and a very undistinguished one. Indeed, when he finished the standard three years on the job, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon refused to grant him the almost automatic fourth year. Bogy was bitter and complained that he always had to wear high boots, because of the many snakes in the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff. He may need them again now.

 His many detractors call him a “bock” – German and Yiddish for a goat, symbolizing a lack of intelligence. He is an extreme militarist, who sees all problems through the sights of a gun. He can be sure of the allegiance of Israel’s vast army of ex-generals (or “degenerals”’ as I call them).

  THE MOST problematical appointment of all is the choice of Uri Ariel for the crucial post of Minister of Housing.

Uri Ariel is the arch-settler. He was the founder of a settlement, a leader of the settlers’ organization, the Ministry of Defense official responsible for the settlements. He was also a director of the Keren Kayemet – Jewish National Fund – a major arm of the settlement enterprise. He entered the Knesset when Rehavam Ze’evi, the leader of the extreme-extreme Right, was assassinated by a Palestinian hit squad.

Turning this Ministry over to such a person means that most of its resources will go to a frantic expansion of the settlements, each of which is a nail in the coffin of peace. Yet Lapid supported this appointment with all his new-found political clout, as part of his “brotherhood” bond with Naftali Bennett, who is now the godfather of the settler movement.

Bennet’s party also gained the all-important Knesset finance committee, which is needed to funnel the funds to the settlements. It means that the settlers have gained complete control of the state.

Lapid’s big election victory may yet be revealed as the biggest disaster for Israel.

The brotherhood pact between Lapid and Bennett made it possible for them to blackmail poor Netanyahu and get (almost) everything they longed for. Except the Foreign Ministry.

How will Lapid turn out as Minister of Finance? Difficult to say. Since he is totally innocent of any economic knowledge or experience, he will have to depend on the Prime Minister above and the ministry bureaucracy below. Treasury officials are a tough lot, with a thoroughly neo-liberal outlook. Lapid himself also adheres to this creed, which is called by many Israelis “swinish capitalism” – a term invented by Shimon Peres.

ONE of Lapid’s main election promises was to put an end to the Old Politics, held responsible for all the ills and ugliness of our political life until now. Instead, he said, there will be the New Politics, an age of shining honesty and transparency, embodied by selfless and patriotic leaders, such as the members of his new party.

 Not for nothing did he call his party There Is A Future.

Well, the Future has arrived, and it looks suspiciously like the Past. Indeed, the New Politics look very much like the Old Politics.

 Very, very old. Even the ancient Romans are supposed to have said “To the victor, the spoils!” But then, Ya’ir Lapid doesn’t know Latin.

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Others, like Ari Shavit of Haaretz, look at the Obama visit, with expressed worry – something like -  The President who holds Israel’s fate in the palm of his hand: Israel has recently lost quite a bit of its ability to chart its own strategic future, and this will make Obama’s upcoming trip different than previous ones by U.S. presidents.

Above is potentially much more serious then if Ms. Merkel would pay a visit to Rome as in our second clip. There it is only about restructure and money – in Israel it is about restructure and Near East neighborhood policy.

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New York Times Editorial – March 15, 2013

Italy, in Search of a Government.

By
Published: March 14, 2013

Italy’s newly elected Parliament convenes on Friday with no clear governing majority. Only a government with a strong popular mandate can push through the kind of radical changes Italy really needs: sweeping labor market and tax reforms, tough anticorruption laws, electoral reform and a new fiscal bargain with euro-zone partners that replaces austerity with growth. All or most of that will now have to wait until new elections, probably later this year, can produce more definitive results.

The vote produced a four-way split among two parties that endorse the European-backed austerity policies that have plunged Italy into deep recession, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and a bloc led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

That four-way split means that no politically feasible coalition is mathematically possible, especially since the Five Star Movement’s founder, Beppe Grillo, has repeatedly declared that the movement will not support a government led by any of the other groupings. Even if Mr. Grillo does not reconsider that position, there is no need for Italians, their European partners or the bond markets to panic. Mario Monti will continue as the caretaker prime minister until Parliament can agree on a successor. Taxes will be collected, government bills paid and administrative decisions taken. One ratings agency, Fitch, last week downgraded Italian bonds one notch but still considers them investment grade. Bond auctions this week went tolerably well, and Rome has now successfully raised a significant chunk of the money it will need to see it through this year. Democracy’s ways can be frustratingly slow, especially when radical changes are on the agenda and long established parties fail to rise to the occasion. Yet democracy is the European Union’s founding and defining principle. Italy’s partners, though understandably frustrated, need to be patient and supportive. And the European Central Bank must be prepared to deter speculators by stepping in if necessary as a lender of last resort.

Those, like Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who pressured Mr. Monti’s government to tighten the screws of austerity on Italy’s growth-starved economy share some responsibility for his disappointing electoral performance. And they now share some responsibility to stand by Italy as it seeks a democratic way out of the resulting parliamentary deadlock.

A version of this editorial appeared in print on March 15, 2013, on page A24 of the New York edition with the headline: Italy, in Search of a Government.

 

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 4th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

March 3, 2013

Populists or Business (Banking) Lobbyists?

The public media and European mainstream parties’ politicians are unisono lamenting the rise of populism as manifested by the strong showing of Beppe Grillo in Italy’s parliamentary election last weekend. They decry, as they did earlier in the case of Greece, when the “populist” Syriza party nearly won the election, the irresponsibility, the negativism, the “against-it-all” attitude of these parties’ leaders. Let us add to these election results the street demonstrations and battles in Greece, in Spain, in Portugal, in Bulgaria, in Slovenia – all these before the background of people jumping to death from windows of their to-be-repossessed apartments, of soup kitchens, of soaring unemployment rates (especially, and even more tragically, of the young), and of the horrifying increase in poverty rates in many of these and other countries.

It does seem, that in spite of these politicians’ lamentoes, that European citizens are no longer accepting the crisis resolution policies imposed on them by politicians – at the bidding of financial markets. Yes, Mario Monti, the unelected and now defeated prime minister, managed to calm “market fears”, yes, Mario Draghi, the ECB president, managed to do the same – and more – by last fall promising to “do everything necessary” to enable European states’ return to the financial markets, yes, some of the Southern states (plus Ireland) were able during the past months to place bond auctions at “sustainable” yields (i.e. below the benchmark of 6%). But the concomitant “aid programs” by the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund, the dreaded “troika” are what the restive populations are no longer willing to swallow. Since governments took over bank debt, the citizens have been called upon to foot the bill, by having their taxes increased, government expenditures, especially social expenditures, cut and losing their jobs as a result of the persistent recession which these programs (and the similar, if less stringent “debt brake” conditions imposed on all EU countries. There is already talk about a “lost decade” for Europe.

With all this austerity (which is portrayed as without alternative) it is completely unclear where future growth should come from even after this decade. The mainstream recipe that balanced budgets (and their corresponding structural reforms) guarantee growth has been proven false, not only in theory, but also in empirical practice. If the second largest economic block in the world (with about 18 trillion $ in GDP, about one fourth of the world economy) reduces public sector demand in addition to falling demand in the private sector, this affects the whole world. This is different from the frequently cited more recent cases, where one individual country managed to export its way out of recession, when all other countries were growing and thus increasing their demand.

In this situation, the EU parliament has achieved a spectacular success, by agreeing (also with EU Finance Ministers) to limit bankers’ bonus payments to 100% of base salary (in exceptional cases to 200%). This is part of a hard-fought package setting new rules for European banks’ equity and liquidity requirements. There are widespread “populism” cries by especially English bankers, but also their colleagues around Europe that this would drive out banking from Europe, that this is a Continental coup to transfer banking business from London to Paris or Frankfurt (??), that this is “unfair”. The more sanguine bankers say (see eg. Financial Times March 2, 2013) that this just means that their base salary will have to be doubled as a consequence. Tory MPs are fuming and using this as an additional argument that the UK should leave the EU as soon as possible. Of course, they do not mention the fact that it was their leader, David Cameron, who pulled the Tories out of the European Peoples’ Party group, which – in the form of the Austrian Othmar Karas – was leading the negotiations of the European Parliament with the Finance Ministers. They also forget to mention that banking lobbies (led by the English) have delayed and watered down the other parts of the Banking package to be concluded.

The Greek and Italian elections, the street protests, the events in many other European countries should lead to a realization by the EU policy makers, both in the Central Bank, in the Commission and in the Council, that it is not just “clowns” (@ Peer Steinbruck, the Social Democratic candidate for the German premiership) who say “no more” to this oppressive economic policy recipe, but it is large parts of the European populations who have not only lost confidence that these recipes will work, but actively are against them – because they see that as in the Great Depression of the late 1920s – they lead to impoverishment and political disaster. Politicians should listen more closely to their populations, and less to the financial sector lobbyists, who have caused this crisis and refuse to play their part in shouldering their part of the burden. It was the lobbyists’ close connection to the politicians who made banking debts into government debt, it was their whisperings which had told politicians fairy tales about the financial markets being the most efficient markets in the world, thus self-regulation and “light-touch” regulation was all that was needed.

What are the alternatives?

The primary policy objective should not be to “return countries to financial markets’ access”, but to have indebted states return to a sustainable economic and social policy path which improves the welfare of their populations. To this end, government debt financing should be taken away from financial markets and turned over to a publicly accountable public institutions (the ECB or the ESM with a banking licence).

As far as bank debt is concerned, a European plan must be developed with a medium-term view of how the European Financial sector should look like in 10-20 years. This would counter-act the present “re-nationalization” trends where every country attempts to save its banks (frequently at the expense of others) at high costs to the taxpayers. Some banks will need to be closed, others restructured, and effective regulation set up. It is clear that (some) debts will need to be repaid, but much of bank debt should be paid by bank owners and their bondholders, not by taxpayers. For highly indebted bank sectors, a European bank resolution fund could take over some of the debt.

It is true that a number of “problem countries” in the EU have pursued wrong policies in the past, e.g. waste of public (EU and national) funds, neglect of innovation and R&D policies, high military expenditures, neglect of industrial policies, neglect of modern education systems, neglect of building up sustainable energy systems (both on the supply and demand side), and many more. Each country needs to develop a positive vision of where it wants to stand in 10 years’ time, and then select the appropriate instruments, and convince its EU partners of its way.
The major political task will be to convince the populations that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that some sacrifices are necessary, but that these will be distributed equitably, that there are positive prospects for this and the next generation, that the social system will cushion the inevitable burdens. To generate the confidence that “we are all in this together” will not be credible, if voiced by those politicians who have gotten us (knowingly or unknowingly) into the present mess. This is the task for new, and credible politicians who not only know what possible alternatives are, but can also muster enough support, both political and technical, from the populations who voted for them. This may and will require new communication methods – as they have been employed during the recent elections.

At a European level, a new more comprehensive economic policy umbrella must be opened. The nearly exclusive attention to budget consolidation was geared to placating the financial markets – who also are getting cold feet seeing what “their” policies do to growth (see the most recent downgrade of the UK). It must throw off the yoke of financial market dictate and turn itself to strengthening the European model, with a view to balance social, economic and environmental requirements for the future.

European civil society is growing together. Public institutions, like the labor movement, are not. In the face of the crisis, labor unions are re-nationalizing, attempting to save jobs for their own members at the expense of their foreign colleagues. They should learn from the business lobby, which has been much more successful in convincing European and national policy makers of their own interests.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 24th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Toward a New Generation of Development Goals – A Day of Informal Discussions
Monday November 26, 2012, 9:30 am – 5:40 pm
United Nations, New York, NLB Conference Room 1

as per e-mail from the UN-NGLS — the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service.


Background:

Following the Rio+20 Summit, and as the world and UN system move closer to the milestone of 2015 for
realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), many discussions are underway concerning the future
of the MDGs and their relation to the new generation of development goals that will succeed them.
Simultaneous discussions have emerged about whether the world needs a new development paradigm, and if
so, what sort of framework must underpin it, what aspirational goals will guide it, and what targets and
indicators will be used to measure and evaluate its progress. This new framework will not be built in the same
way we achieved the MDGs, which were distilled from key international agreements reached during the major
development conferences of the 1990s. The current state of international agreement regarding the future of
development is not yet at the point of consensus reflected in the Millennium Declaration and MDGs. Now, in
addition, the field of development actors has broadened: the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in
Busan, Korea, in 2011 culminated in a Partnership Agreement that—for the first time—established a framework
for development co-operation that includes traditional donors, South-South co-operators, the BRICS, civil society
organisations and private funders. All of these actors, as well as the G20, now have a major influence in the
shaping of development post-2015.

—————————–
Purpose and Format:


The purpose of this day of informal discussions is to bring together key participants in the relevant stakeholder
groups – in civil society, the UN system and among political decision-makers – to further ongoing discussions on
what is needed in order to move toward a new generation of development goals. The day’s discussions are
divided into three panels that will focus on what is needed to: 1) determine the guiding principles and values for
a joint MDG/SGD agenda, 2) define the core concepts and main elements of a new development paradigm, and
3) ensure coherence in bringing the different processes together. The need to bring the remaining work on
MDGs together in a single track along with the development of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) according
to the outcomes of Rio+20 is imperative and as such is a guiding principle for the day’s discussions.


9:30 am – 9:45 am
Opening: Welcome Remarks
Rubén Campos, Programs Coordinator, Club de Madrid
Patricia Espinosa, Member, SG’s High-Level Panel on Post-2015 Development Agenda; Secretary of
Foreign Affairs, Government of Mexico
Werner Puschra, Executive Director, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, New York Office

————————–
9:45 am – 11:30 am

Panel 1: Guiding Principles and Values for a Joint MDG/SDG Agenda

The Millennium Summit of September 2000 was the culmination of a decade of intense international debate on
aid in which both governments and civil society were strongly engaged. The resulting Millennium Declaration
put forward the human-rights based values of freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature, and
shared responsibility. This set of guiding principles informed the development of the MDGs, but the process
towards them led to the imperfect capture of the ideals of the Millennium Declaration.
Nevertheless, the Millennium Declaration is and must be the touchstone for the principles and values that will
guide a joint MDG/SDG agenda. Additionally, the UN Task Team on the Post-2015 Development Agenda has
proposed “a vision for the future that rests on the core values of human rights, equality and sustainability” that
is “reorganized along four key dimensions of a more holistic approach: (1) inclusive social development; (2)
inclusive economic development; (3) environmental sustainability; and (4) peace and security.” Panel 1
therefore brings together a set of speakers representing different stakeholder perspectives, from political
decision-makers, leaders from civil society and members of the UN Secretariat, to debate these and other
overarching principles and values that should guide the UN’s development agenda moving forward.

Moderator: Werner Puschra, Executive Director, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, New York Office
Inputs from: Alejandro Toledo, President of Peru (2001-2006); Member, Club de Madrid
Shamshad Akhtar, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, UN Department of
Economic and Social Affairs
Maria Teresa Mesquita Pessôa, Minister Plenipotentiary, Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United
Nations
H.E. Mr. Jun Yamazaki, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations
Telma Viale, Representative, Special Representative to the United Nations and Director, International
Labour Organization
Mwangi Waituru, Co-Chair, Executive Board, Beyond 2015; Director, Seed Institute; National Cocoordinator,
GCAP Kenya
Reflections: From members of the High-Level Panel on post-2015 framework:
Patricia Espinosa, Member, SG’s High-Level Panel on Post-2015 Development Agenda; Secretary of
Foreign Affairs, Government of Mexico
John Podesta, Member, SG’s High-Level Panel on Post-2015 Development Agenda; Chair and
Counselor, Center for American Progress
Stefano Prato, Advisor to SG’s High-Level Panel on Post-2015 Development Agenda Member Betty
Maina, Kenya; Managing Director, Society for International Development (Italy)

——————————
11:30am – 1:00 pm

Panel 2: Main Elements of a New Development Paradigm

The UN Inter Agency Task Team’s report to the Secretary General, “Realizing the Future We Want For All”,
proposes a more holistic approach toward a post-2015 development agenda. The Task Team’s recommendation
is that principles (human rights, equality and sustainability), broad objectives (environmental sustainability,
inclusive economic development, inclusive social development, and peace and security) as well as specific goals
and targets related to the objectives be embedded in an enabling environment which is characterized by
elements such as a fair and stable global trading, macroeconomic and financial system, sustainable food and
nutrition security, sustainable use of natural resources and democratic and coherent global governance
mechanisms.
Panel 2’s discussion is based upon an embrace of the idea that envisioning coherent and related national,
regional and global policy areas necessary for an enabling environment is an essential step in the creation of a
new and sustainable development paradigm. This panel will be an opportunity for interlocutors from civil society
and Member States to question and engage members of the Task Team and the broader Secretariat as well as to
present their own visions of the necessary enabling elements.

Moderator: Clem McCartney, Policy and Content Coordinator, Shared Societies Project, Club de Madrid
Inputs from: Homi Kharas, Executive Secretary, SG’s High-Level Panel on Post 2015 Development Agenda; Deputy
Director, Global Economy & Development Program, Brookings Institution
Rob Vos, Director of Development Policy, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Claire Courteille, Director, Equality Department, International Trade Union Confederation
David O’Connor, Chief, Policy Analysis and Networks Branch, Division for Sustainable Development,
UN-DESA
Kalissa Regier, Coordination Committee, International Food Security and Nutrition Civil Society
Mechanism; Representative National Farmers Union of Canada to Via Campesina
Richard Morgan, Senior Advisor, Post 2015 Agenda, UNICEF
Manish Bapna, Executive Vice President & Managing Director, World Resources Institute
Jose Dallo, Programme Specialist, Bureau for Development Policy, UN Development Programme
Minh-Thu Pham, Director of Public Policy, UN Foundation
Corinne Woods, Director, UN Millennium Campaign

1:00 pm – 3:00 pm Lunch break-
——————————————————–


3:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Panel 3: Ensuring Coherence—Bringing the Different Processes Together
Panel 3 gives the opportunity for a variety of Member States to elaborate upon ideas and proposals for how the
UN System can bring the MDG and SDG processes together to achieve coherence. It will be an interactive
discussion moderated by Barbara Adams, a member of the Civil Society Reflection Group, first with
representatives of Member States and then opening up a question and answer session with the audience,
including taking questions remotely from those around the world who will be watching via livestream webcast.

Moderator: Barbara Adams, Senior Policy Advisor, Global Policy Forum.

3:00 pm-3:45 pm
Inputs from: H.E. Mr. Luis-Alfonso de Alba, Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of
Mexico to the United Nations
H.E. Mr. Gérard Araud, Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of France to
the United Nations
H.E. Mr. Enrique Román-Morey, Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of
Peru to the United Nations
H.E. Mr. Hans Peter Wittig, Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of
Germany to the United Nations
H.E. Sir Mark Lyall Grant, Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the
United Kingdom to the United Nations
H.E. Mr. Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil, Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission
of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Nations

3:45 pm-4:00 pm
Reflections: From members of the High-Level Panel on post-2015 framework:
Betty Maina, Member, SG’s High-Level Panel on Post-2015 Development Agenda; Chief Executive
Officer, Kenya Association of Manufacturers
Patricia Espinosa, Member, SG’s High-Level Panel on Post-2015 Development Agenda; Secretary of
Foreign Affairs, Government of Mexico

4:00 pm-5:00 pm
Q&A Session: Moderated by Barbara Adams
Questions and comments to Member State panelists and High-Level panelists will be taken from the
audience as well as via social media from those watching the livestream.

5:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Concluding Reflections
Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary General, United Nations
Alejandro Toledo, President of Peru (2001-2006); Member, Club de Madrid

5:30 pm – 5:40 pm
Organizers’ Wrap-up
Clem McCartney, Policy and Content Coordinator, Shared Societies Project, Club de Madrid
Werner Puschra, Executive Director, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, New York Office

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 24th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

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International Earth Condominium Conference. 16 and 17 January, 2013. Gaia, Portugal.

from: Soraia Taipa  
to Sustainable

Dear all,

On the 16th and 17th of January 2013 the International Earth Condominium Conference will take place in the city of Gaia (Portugal). Participation is free but subscription is required.

The Earth Condominium Project proposes that the world’s climate and oceanic systems are recognized as a Global Intangible Heritage of Mankind. This may form the basis for a legal framework and a common accounting system for ecosystem services. This will allow the economic value of these contributions to be integrated into the economy, moving towards an economic system that drives towards ‘ecosystem-service growth’, while maintaining the use of ecosystem services within a safe operating space.

In the upcoming conference we wish to create a space of open discussion that addresses the following main themes:

  • Natural Intagible Heritage of Mankind;
  • Planetary boundaries;
  • Economic externalities;
  • Failed markets,
  • Rights of Future generations;
  • World Environmental Organization.

The conference will take place in ‘Parque Biológico de Gaia’. For a detailed program, which includes members of the panels and information on how to subscribe please check the following links:

? Clik here for Program

–> Click here for Subscriptions


We hope to see you at the conference!

Earth Condominium Project | Quercus
T +351 22 374 9249
TM +351 93 999 2185
E earthcondominium@quercus.ptBe a global neighbor www.earth-condominium.org

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 5th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

For the US it was the warning from President Dwight Eisenhower about the military – industrial complex. He was best positioned to understand the industry interest in supplying the military with materials they do not need. Today this is a political stand of Romney Republicans that pushes austerity on everybody else. Here an Obama campaign proposition that austerity itself is an unmanageable security threat to a State that allows unacceptable income gaps that destroy the middle class. The article uses the example of Europe in order to reflect on what might happen to the US.

Austerity Doesn’t Reduce Deficits.

By Terrance Heath from the Campaign for America’s Future
 ourfuture.org/blog-entry/20121144…

November 1, 2012

Austerity is back in the news, and the news about austerity is never good. We’ve only had de facto austerity on this side of the pond. So as usual, the news is from Europe, where the austerians are going full-tilt boogie. Our homegrown austerians, like their European counterparts, tell us that the kind of severe austerity underway in Europe is necessary to reduce the deficit. Everything from food stamps to Medicaid and Medicare — everything except defense spending — must be cut in order to reduce the deficit.

The thing is, it hasn’t worked. In Greece, Europe’s austerity poster child, austerity has shrunk the economy and increased the national debt.

Greece’s draft budget for 2013 has forecast a deeper recession and worse debt problems than previously thought.

The economy is expected to shrink by 4.5% next year, and government debts to rise to 189% of economic output.

Greece held inconclusive negotiations with its rescue lenders on Wednesday over the economic reforms needed to release further bailout funds.

The government also faces opposition to the reforms from coalition partners and unions have called a general strike.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras held a conference call on Wednesday with his counterparts from the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers, as well as representatives of the International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.

The German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said afterwards that Athens still needed to do more.

Austerity is literally killing Greece. Yet the austerians demand more.

Austerity only increased inequality in Portugal. Now, after painful austerity measures that hit ordinary Portuguese and public sector workers hardest failed to reduce the deficit, Portuguese citizens are planning to rally against new tax increases.

Anti-austerity protesters in Portugal are planning street rallies as the country’s parliament is expected to approve big tax rises in a new budget.

The centre-right government in Lisbon is hoping to reduce its budget deficit as part of the 78bn-euro (£63bn; $101bn) EU-IMF bailout deal.

However, the proposed 2013 budget could face a challenge in court.

Portugal has already cut public sector wages and raised taxes, triggering a series of street demonstrations.

Unemployment in Portugal is at a record high, and people have faced sharp reductions in their incomes. None of it seems to have made a dent in Portugal’s debt problem. Yet the austerians demand more.

Austerity has been disastrous for Ireland, which once made the top ten on the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Independence.

The Central Statistics Office released its yearbook of Ireland, giving a comprehensive picture with facts and figures on key areas of life, including population, education and the economy.

It revealed that the look of the labour market worsened in 2011, with jobs and pay still in decline since the recession.

The number of people in work fell to 1.821 million since 2010, while those unemployed rose 3.7 per cent to 304,500.

… A staggering 23 per cent of people had hit the deprivation rate by 2010 and were experiencing two or more types of poverty.

In September, Spain braced for further austerity measures even as hungry Spaniards foraged in trash bins for food. But Spain’s economy contracted for a fifth quarter, because of austerity-driven inflation.

Spain’s economy contracted for a fifth quarter, undermining efforts to plug the budget deficit that’s pushing the nation closer to a bailout, while austerity measures kept inflation at a 17-month high.

Gross domestic product declined 0.3 percent in the three months through September and 1.6 percent from a year earlier, the National Statistics Institute said today, compared with an Oct. 23 estimate from the Bank of Spain of a 0.4 percent contraction. Consumer prices, based on European Union methodology, rose 3.5 percent from a year earlier, INE said.

The deepening of Spain’s five-year slump, which is prompting record loan defaults at the nation’s banks and job cuts at companies including Gamesa SA, adds to pressure on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as he resists requesting international aid. While tax hikes he’s implementing as part of his austerity program are depressing consumption, they are also spurring inflation, which threatens to add 3 billion euros ($3.9 billion) to the country’s pension bill.

All across the EU, austerity has driven joblessness to a record high.

The jobless rate in the euro area climbed to a record in September as the fiscal crisis and tougher austerity measures threatened to deepen the economy’s slump.

Unemployment in the economy of the 17 nation single currency area rose to 11.6 per cent from 11.5 per cent in August, the European Union statistics office Eurostat said today. That’s the highest since the data series started in 1995.

Some 18.5 million people were unemployed in the euro area in September, up 146,000 from the previous month.

At 25.8 per cent, Spain had the highest jobless rate in the currency bloc.

Portugal’s unemployment rate was at 15.7 per cent, while Ireland reported a jobless rate of 15.1 per cent. France’s jobless rate was at 10.8 per cent.

Italy’s jobless rate rose to its highest point in 13 years, at 10.8 per cent on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Yet the austerians demand even more.

Americans should pay attention to the saga of austerity in the EU, for a couple of reasons. First, because conservatives here at home are committed to the same agenda that’s failed in Europe.

If Mr. Obama wins, he’ll presumably go back to pushing for modest stimulus, aiming to convert the gradual recovery that seems to be under way into a more rapid return to full employment.

Republicans, however, are committed to an economic doctrine that has proved false, indeed disastrous, in other countries. Nor are they likely to change their views in the light of experience. After all, facts haven’t gotten in the way of Republican orthodoxy on any other aspect of economic policy. The party remains opposed to effective financial regulation despite the catastrophe of 2008; it remains obsessed with the dangers of inflation despite years of false alarms. So it’s not likely to give up its politically convenient views about job creation.

And here’s the thing: if Mitt Romney wins the election, the G.O.P. will surely consider its economic ideas vindicated. In other words, politically good things may be about to happen to very bad ideas. And if that’s how it plays out, the American people will pay the price.

Second, if good things end up happening to bad political ideas here in the U.S., we may need to follow the example of Europeans who are standing up and saying “No,” when the austerians keep demanding more.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 5th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Tancredo de Almeida Neves, Commonly called Tancredo Neves (March 4, 1910 – April 21, 1985) – was  born in São João del Rey, in the state of Minas Gerais, of mostly Portuguese, but also Austrian descent. [1]

Neves was the opposition candidate to replace President João Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo – the last general-President of Brazil.

The campaign for direct elections failed. There was no popular public vote.[5] Neves was elected President by a majority of the Electoral College on January 15, 1985, where he received 480 votes.[6]

USING WIKIPEDIA LANGUAGE THE FOLLOWING IS THE OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION OF A CHAIN OF EVENTS:

On March 14, on the last day of his predecessor’s term, and on the eve of his own inauguration, Neves became severely ill, requiring immediate surgery. He thus was not able to attend his own inauguration on March 15.

The Constitution required the President and Vice-President elect to take oaths of office before the assembled National Congress.

The inauguration was accordingly held for the Vice-President only, the Vice-President immediately assumed the powers of the presidency as Acting President. At that time, there was still hope that Neves would recover and appear before Congress to take the oath of office.

However, Neves suffered from abdominal complications and developed generalized infections. After seven operations, Neves died on April 21, more than one month after the beginning of his term of office, without ever having taken the oath of office as President.[7] He was succeeded by José Sarney who was the Vice President. Neves’s ordeal was intensively covered by the Brazilian media and followed with anxiety by the whole nation, who had seen in him the way out of the authoritarian regime into what he had called a “New Republic” (Nova República).

His death caused an outpouring of national grief.

Tancredo Neves is counted among the official list of presidents of Brazil as a matter of homage and honour, since, not having taken the oath of office, he technically never became President. An Act of Congress was thus necessary to make this homage official. Accordingly on the first anniversary of his death, a statute was signed into law declaring that he should be counted among the Presidents of Brazil.

BUT NOBODY I TALKED TO IN BRAZIL BELIEVED THAT TANCREDO NEVES DIED OF NATURAL CAUSES. THE BELIEF IS RATHER THAT THE GENERALS WERE NOT READY YET TO TRANSFER POWER TO AN ELECTED PRESIDENT AND THIS INCLUDED NEVES, EVEN THOUGH HIS OWN ELECTION WAS NOT YET THE STATE OF THE ART OF PURE DEMOCRACY.

During the period that he was President Elect I had the great honor to be invited to Hotel Pierre in New York to a Presentation he made as guest of the Americas Society and Mr. David Rockefeller. Shortly after that the Organization of American States was involved in a conference on ethanol fuels that was held in Bello Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Neves was the opening speaker and Aureliano Chaves, who later became the Energy Minister, and at that time was Governor of Minas Gerais, was the opening presenter. Here was a Brazil in motion that was talking independence of oil imports and local production of fuels. Was this something that ruffled feathers?

Above is my addition to the following article that does not mention Tancredo Neves. Nevertheless, if Brazil is ready to look under the rugs of dictatorship, even that an amnesty for the sake of internal peace has been declared, the Tancredo Neves case will eventually be touched upon as well. All what we can say nevertheless, the search for the truth of past dictatorships in the Southern Latin Cone, has in it the makings of unravelling as well US business involvement and CIA operatives that taught methodology  of torture in the region.

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

Leader’s Torture in the ’70s Stirs Ghosts in Brazil.

By 
Published by the New York Times: August 4, 2012

RIO DE JANEIRO — Her nom de guerre was Estela. Part of a shadowy urban guerrilla group at the time of her capture in 1970, she spent three years behind bars, where interrogators repeatedly tortured her with electric shocks to her feet and ears, and forced her into the pau de arara, or parrot’s perch, in which victims are suspended upside down naked, from a stick, with bound wrists and ankles.

The Lady President of Brazil by Ricardo Moraes/Reuters

Ms. Rousseff, now president of Brazil, says little these days about the cruelty she endured.

And years ago by Adir Mera/Public Archive of the State of Sao Paulo

Dilma Rousseff at 22 as a captured guerrilla at a military hearing in 1970. Today, a panel is investigating the torture she and others endured under Brazil’s military dictatorship.

That former guerrilla is now Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff. As a truth commission begins examining the military’s crackdown on the population during a dictatorship that lasted two decades, Brazilians are riveted by chilling details emerging about the painful pasts of both their country and their president.

The schisms of that era, which stretched from 1964 to 1985, live on here. Retired military officials, including Maurício Lopes Lima, 76, a former lieutenant colonel accused of torturing Ms. Rousseff, have questioned the evidence linking the military to abuses. Rights groups, meanwhile, are hounding Mr. Lopes Lima and others accused of torture, encircling their residences in cities across Brazil. “A torturer of the dictatorship lives here,” they recently wrote in red paint on the entrance to Mr. Lopes Lima’s apartment building in the seaside resort city of Guarujá, part of a street-theater protest.

While a 1979 amnesty still shields military officials from prosecution for abuses, the commission, which began in May and has a two-year mandate, is nevertheless stirring up ghosts. The dictatorship killed an estimated 400 people; torture victims are thought to number in the thousands.

The torture endured by Ms. Rousseff, who was 22 when the abuse began and is now 64, is among the most prominent of hundreds of decades-old cases that the commission is examining. The president is not the region’s only political leader to rise to power after being imprisoned and tortured, a sign of the tumultuous pasts of other Latin American countries.

As a young medical student, Chile’s former president,Michelle Bachelet, survived a harrowing stretch of detention and torture after a 1973 military coup. And Uruguay’s president, José Mujica, a former leader of the Tupamaro guerrilla organization, underwent torture during nearly a decade and half of imprisonment.

Since Ms. Rousseff took office, she has refused to play the part of a victim while subtly pushing for more transparency into the years of Brazil’s military dictatorship. She rarely refers in public to the cruelty she endured; aside from ceremonial appearances, she has spoken sparingly about the truth commission itself. She declined through a spokeswoman to comment on the commission or the time she spent in prison.

Ms. Rousseff has evolved considerably since her days in the underground resistance, when she used several aliases, a trajectory similar to that of other leftists who ascended into Brazil’s political elite. The daughter of a Bulgarian émigré businessman and his Brazilian schoolteacher wife, she grew up in relative privilege, only to abandon that upbringing to join a fledgling guerrilla group, the Palmares Armed Revolutionary Vanguard.

After her release from prison, she moved to the southern city of Porto Alegre, where her husband at the time, Carlos Franklin Paixão de Araújo, was completing his own prison sentence for subversion. She resumed her studies in economics, gave birth to a daughter, Paula, in 1976, and entered local politics. Moderating her political views, she slowly rose to national prominence as a results-oriented technocrat. She served as chief of staff and energy minister for Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He prevailed on her to run in the 2010 election.

She governs with a markedly different style from that of Mr. da Silva, a gregarious former union leader. Even as Brazil’s economy slows, her approval rating stands around 77 percent, as the government expands antipoverty spending and stimulus projects. She won plaudits from some in the opposition by acknowledging the economic achievements ofFernando Henrique Cardoso, Brazil’s president from 1995 to 2002.

She keeps a low profile in Brasília, where she lives in the Alvorada Palace, the modernist presidential residence, with her mother and an aunt (she is divorced from Mr. Araújo, though the two remain close). News media pore over her interests, which range from René Magritte’s surrealist paintings to the HBO fantasy series “Game of Thrones.”

At the same time, her hard-charging governing style — she has been said to berate senior officials until they cry — has been enshrined in Brazilian popular culture, with Gustavo Mendes, a cross-dressing comedian, attaining fame by imitating her on the raunchy national television program “Casseta and Planeta Go Deep.”

Such satirical derision on television of a Brazilian leader would have been almost unthinkable at the time of Ms. Rousseff’s incarceration, when Brazilians faced censorship, prison sentences — or worse — for criticizing military rulers. Her experiences in the dictatorship’s torture chambers remained unknown to the public for decades.

Some details emerged in 2005, after she was serving in Mr. da Silva’s cabinet, when testimony she provided to the author of a book on women who resisted the military dictatorship was published in Brazilian newspapers.

She described the progression from palmatória, a torture method in which a paddle or stick is used to strike the knuckles and palms of the hand, to the next, when she was stripped naked, bound upside down and submitted to electric shocks on different parts of her body, including her breasts, inner thighs and head.

It was generally thought that Ms. Rousseff’s torture sessions were limited to prisons in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, until an investigative report published in June described more torture interrogations, including sessions during a two-month stretch at a military prison in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais. When she was still an obscure provincial official, she gave testimony in 2001 to an investigator from Minas Gerais, describing how interrogators there beat her in the face, distorting her dental ridge. One tooth came loose and became rotten from the pummeling, she said, and was later dislodged by a blow from another interrogator in São Paulo.

Robson Sávio, the scholar who interviewed her then, said she had no obligation to respond to the request for testimony, since the Minas Gerais commission had already collected proof that she had been tortured. But she did so anyway; by the end of the encounter, after recalling interrogations resulting in other injuries, including the hemorrhaging of her uterus, she was in tears, he said.

“I remember the fear when my skin trembled,” she said back in 2001. “Something like that marks us for the rest of our lives.”

Mr. Lima Lopes, identified as one of Ms. Rousseff’s torturers in São Paulo and still living in seaside Guarujá, has denied torturing her, while defiantly calling her a “good guerrilla.” Other retired military figures, meanwhile, have adopted a similar stance.

Luiz Eduardo Rocha Paiva, a former secretary general of Brazil’s Army, called into question in a newspaper interview this year whether Ms. Rousseff had been tortured. But he also claimed she belonged to an armed militant group seeking to install a Soviet-inspired dictatorship. Both insurgents and counterinsurgency agents committed abuses, he said. “Was there torture during the military regime? Yes,” he said. “Is there torture in Brazil today? Yes,” he added, referring to the deplorable conditions in some Brazilian prisons.

Ms. Rousseff, who has insisted she never took part in an armed act against the government, has opted not to publicly clash with the former officers. Meanwhile, the commission continues without interference from the president. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, a noted legal scholar who is one of its seven members, said the only time he met Ms. Rousseff was when he and his colleagues were convened this year in Brasília.

Here in Rio, the search for knowledge of the past has moved state authorities to pay reparations to nearly 900 people tortured in the state during the dictatorship. Among them is Ms. Rousseff, who said in May that she would donate her check of about $10,000 to Torture Never Again, a group that seeks to raise awareness of the military’s abuses.

Still, despite such moves, closure remains evasive. Rights activists here were stunned in July after the office of Torture Never Again was burglarized, and archives describing the psychological treatment undertaken by torture victims were stolen.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 29th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

How dare the world shun Israel on terrorism

José María Aznar

Published at 12:01AM, July 24 2012

Forty years after Munich, we are wrong to freeze out the country most affected by atrocities.

When we are about to mark the 40th anniversary of the terrorist attacks at the Olympic Village in Munich, in which 11 Israeli athletes were killed by Palestinian terrorists, it is a real paradox to see Israel excluded from the first meeting of the Global Counter-terrorism Forum.

This initiative, led by the United States and attended by 29 countries and the European Union, took place last month in an effort to improve the co-ordination of counter-terrorism policies at global level. Why wasn’t Israel invited? The meeting was held in Istanbul and no one wanted to “provoke” the host, the Islamist Government of the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Worse still, in July, the forum organised its first victims-of-terrorism meeting. Not only was Israel excluded, but Israeli victims had no place in its official speeches. When we see deadly terrorist attacks such as the recent one in Bulgaria, targeting tourists simply because they were Israeli, the marginalisation of Israel is totally unacceptable.

As a terrorism victim myself, who was fortunate to survive a car-bomb attack, I cannot understand or justify the marginalisation of other terrorist victims just for political reasons. If we extrapolate Israel’s experience of slaughter to Britain, it would mean that in the past 12 years about 11,000 British citizens would have died and 60,000 would have been injured in terrorist attacks. In the case of the United States, the figures would be 65,000 dead and 300,000 injured. Israel’s ordeal is far from insignificant.

It is even more poignant if one considers Israel’s willingness to face up to terrorism and the practical experience that it has acquired to defeat it. Israel has much to contribute in this area and everyone else has a lot to learn if we really want to defeat the terrorists.

Fiamma Nirenstein, the vice- president of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Italian Chamber of Deputies (and a member of the Friends of Israel Initiative) has made a proposal that is as fair as it is attractive — to hold a moment of silence at the London Olympics in memory of the 1972 massacre. Remembering is important, first, because of the victims, but also because many Europeans adopted the wrong attitude towards Palestinian terrorism after the Munich attack. The culprits who were arrested were later quietly released for fear of further attacks. And because of that initial fear the terrorists knew how to take advantage of the situation and to press for more rewards.

I have experienced terrorism at first hand. Many of my friends and some political colleagues have been killed by terrorists whose only merit was to have a hood, a gun or a bomb. Nonetheless, even in the most difficult times, I have always believed that weakness and appeasement are the wrong choices. Terrorism is not a natural phenomenon; it doesn’t happen spontaneously; it’s not something ethereal. It can and must be fought using all the tools provided by the law and democracy — and most importantly, it can be defeated if there is the will to defeat it. Israel has provided ample proof that it possesses that will, since its own existence is at stake.

To marginalise or isolate Israel to avoid irritating Turkey is a big mistake. All of the Middle East, from Morocco to the Gulf, is undergoing profound, although not always peaceful, change, which is yielding very disturbing results. Although the elections in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt are something new and promising for the region, Syria is immersed in civil war and there is a danger that the region’s largest arsenal of chemical weapons will spin out of control and become available to anyone — as happened with Libya’s portable anti-aircraft missiles, which disappeared after the fall of of Colonel Gaddafi. In Egypt, the rise of Islamism threatens economic and political stability. Hezbollah is still in Lebanon, keeping alive its goal of eliminating Israel — just as members of Hamas do in Gaza. Despite sanctions, Iran is moving forward with the development of a nuclear bomb in its effort to become the regional leader and to export its Islamist and revolutionary ideology as widely as possible. There are also other areas in turmoil that directly affect Europe, such as the Sahel region of Africa, south of the Sahara, which is now becoming dominated by al-Qaeda.

Isolation not only renders Israel weaker against its enemies, but also makes all Westerners weaker. And the practitioners of terrorism know all too well how to exploit our differences.

Remembering Munich 40 years on should be a useful reminder of our successes and failures. It should help us to enhance our collective abilities to fight terrorism. Israel is key in this fight. Israel is a part of the West. Israel is not the problem; it is part of the solution. We will become the problem if we continue to cold-shoulder Israel, the country most affected by terrorism and, possibly, the one that knows best how to defeat it.

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José María Aznar was Prime Minister of Spain from 1996 to 2004

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 24th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Road to Absurdistan: A European Policy Dilemma.

A Kurt Bayer Commentary

July 23, 2012

 kurtbayer.wordpress.com/2012/07/2…

It is not that significantly new measures have not been tried: a few days ago, the Eurozone finance ministers backed a 100 bn € bank rescue fund for Spain (after Ireland, Portugal and Greece), so Spain could rescue its ailing banks. As “conditionality” required by the finance ministers, the ECB and the IMF, the Spanish prime minister had just pushed through another 65 bn € austerity package, in order to prove that Spain was serious about “savings”. At the same time, the Spanish government lowered its already measly GDP forecast for 2013 from 0.4% to a minus -0.5%. This, of course, will once again make it more difficult to repay the old and the newly incurred Spanish debt. And this even more so, as the financial markets “rewarded” the Spanish and European efforts (to repay them) by increasing the requested yield on Spanish government bonds to a staggering 7.2% – a rate far from affordable, let alone sustainable.

If the reader is confused, she has any right to be so: Spain’s previous government was one of the poster-children of the Eurozone: low government debt, budget surpluses, strict banking supervision. Then the real estate bubble, mainly fed by regional banks which also had been re-financed by some of the largest European banks, burst, the non-performing loans of savings banks increased, the government tried to save them and racked up sizeable government debts and deficits. Unfortunate merging decisions of ailing Cajas were made, and suddenly Spain was deemed more than high-risk by its international lenders. One of the rating agencies recently downgraded Spanish government bonds to junk status. The newly formed government, whose leader when in opposition had rejected participation in budget consolidation, caved in to the requests of the “markets” and the Troika and imposed another severe austerity burden on the already suffering Spanish economy.  Let us not forget, that Spanish unemployment is above 20% and youth unemployment more than 50%! Many commentators had rejoiced that finally the new Spanish government had been brought to heel by the markets…

But, as Spain undergoes this counter-productive consolidation program, in order to please markets and EZ governments, the markets decide that this reduces Spain’s ability to service its debt. I am no sympathizer of the new Spanish government, but what should the poor blokes do? At high political cost, at the danger of having the country erupt in anarchy and protest, they have done what markets and EZ governments asked them to do: their reward is even steeper re-financing costs, an economy in deep recession with unemployment exploding – and with one region after the other coming to the central government for financial help.

At their last summit, EU heads of state made some important, if tentative and incomplete steps into the right direction: to create the semblance of a banking union with joint supervision, with banks being able (in the too-distant  future) to be re-capitalized directly by the European Stability Mechanism, etc.  And private creditors of Spain being given the assurance (at the cost of 100 bn €) not to lose their money. But then the markets and EZ governments  wanted “guarantees” from Spain (Finland even got  extra collateral for part of its credit), that the country, i.e. taxpayers would contribute to solving the Spanish debt problem. Spain’s government duly responded – and gets punished once more by downgrades and higher yield requests.

The EU has already poured a lot of money into “peripheral” countries. The EZB has gone extraordinary ways to provide liquidity and to calm the fears of the markets of government defaults. The result is ever more rising debt ratios, deep recessions spreading to the whole EU – and beyond – and ever increasing demands from the financial markets. It is high time that the EU authorities, and the member states, realize that this carousel with gigantic private gain generation, serviced by staggering public (taxpayer) debt leads to deep recession, and can never be won – unless the model of financing government debt by private “investors” is radically altered. It is utterly irresponsible to have democratically elected governments thrown before the greedy teeth of profit-seeking private investors. Their legitimate interest is not to increase the welfare of citizens, but to feed their own pocket books. This model has worked remarkably well (for them) for the last 30 years, but has brought the world economy to the brink of collapse. Government finance must be put in the hands of democratically elected institutions and be accountable to the taxpayers. There is no room for private profit in government executing its fiduciary role for its populations!

In the short run, however, it becomes clearer every day that the debt burdens of governments  (and some banks) cannot be repaid in full. To shift them to the next generations, in the hope that future economic growth will make repayment, or at least the interest repayments, possible, is provingan illusion. The EU policy of requesting fast and significant budget and debt consolidation is driving the EU economies down. Taxpayers are saddled with extremely high repayment costs for decades to come. Thus, the most urgent task is the swift introduction of a government debt restructuring mechanism, in addition to a bank default mechanism. The debt burdens must be borne in any case: either by generations of taxpayers (and at the expense of more productive government expenditures), or by those private and public creditors who recklessly lent gigantic sums of money, driven on by gurus of “new economic thinking” who had espoused the wisdom that business cycles were a way of the past and a new blissful age of permanent growth (and thus limitless repayment capacity) had been reached.

EU heads of state and finance ministers in general are a sober lot. They need to live up to the fact, belatedly but still in time, that they have been taken for a ride by financial market actors: they allowed them to take immense risks, take all the gigantic profits and shift the risk on to the unwitting taxpayer  - and at the same time take the world economy down. This game should be over, the welfare of the people must dominate once more.

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Kurt Bayer, according to his bio, since November 2004 he is the Deputy Director General forEconomic Policy and International Financial Institutions, Austrian Ministry of Finance.  Does the Austrian Government at least listen to him? Above Commentary is from his blog.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 7th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Back, February 20, 2011, the RIO+20 headletter was used by the UN information office in Vienna to note that the World conference of 2012 is started on that day in Austria with a call for “Justice in a Finite World” and gave the impression that this will be about the initiatives that stretch from RIO92 to RIO+20.

By now, having watched the preparation in New York of the RIO+20 “Outcome Document” –  that was supposed to be growing organically out of the initial “Zero Document” – with all 195 UN seats occupied – we are rather convinced that the June 2012 meeting in RIO is aspiring to become the RIO-20 event instead – or a reformulation of targets as if AGENDA 21 has never been accepted in 1992.

With this observation in my right breast-pocket, let us see the awakening of real Vienna as depicted in these last three days, the end of the week before the week that will see New York attempting another 5 days of haggling about the Outcome Document.

I will be reviewing here several meetings that were held in Vienna.

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(1) On Tuesday May 22nd the Modul University at Kahlenberg, Vienna, an institution that has strong programs on Tourism, sponsored an event titled “Did Tourism become more Sustainable?”

The main guest speaker was Mr. Eugenio Yunis who was former Chief of Sustainable Development of Tourism Department, World Tourism Organization headquartered in Madrid, Spain, and is now Exrcutive Vice-President of all tourism in Chile – FEDETUR. He was very outspoken about Rio, saying things he never would have said earlier  - while still with the UN.

With him on the panel was Manfred Pils,  President of Vienna based Naturefriends International.

The moderator was Professor Dagmar Lund-Durlacher, Head of the Department of Tourism, and Dean, Tourism and Hospitality Management, Modul University, Vienna. Their motto is BUILDING EXCELLENCE FOR SUSTAINABLE TOURISM.

The obvious question was – How do we teach Sustainable Tourism? Yunis said that at WTO – that was their main mission – to do research on how to make tourism more sustainable.

THERE WAS NO SUSTAINABLE TOURISM MENTIONED IN AGENDA 21 of RIO 1992. But tourism is an important part of World economy. With growth of 4%/year it constitutes 5% of World GDP, and makes for 6-7% of World’s Jobs (direct and indirect).

It was only at CSD 7 – in 1999 – that Sustainable Tourism entered the Sustainability talks at the UN. By the time of RIO+10 at Johannesburg in 2002, Sustainable Tourism already rated for 6-7 articles in the Jo’burg outcome document.

Manfred Pils added that he personally got involved in what became ST (Sustainable Tourism) even before the word Sustainable was coined – the talk in 1981 was of SOFT TOURISM – the kind that uses muscles and not machines. They led to the first Green Suitcase awards – but this failed.

Today we have TOI – the Tourism Operators Initiative and we think of how to use tourism to make more sustainable the rest of the society.

Listening to the introductory speeches I tried my hand at a definition of Tourism – and came up with:

SUSTAINABLE TOURISM – THE MAXIMIZATION OF SOCIAL, CULTURAL, AND ECONOMIC GOALS, WHILE CREATING MINIMUM ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE ON LOCATION, AND ENHANCING AWARENESS ABOUT ENDANGERED SPECIES.

Mr Yunis took a liking to this definition. In effect there is already an Environmental Degradation Tourism. While there is controlled tourism in Costa Rica, Spain, New Zealand, Botswana, Bhutan that limits numbers of tourists – while Kenya and Senegal say the more the better.  Mr. Yunis was ready even to name chains of hotels as involved in eco-tourism and Sustainable Tourism – these like the ACCOR hotels that include the Sofitels, but in the end it is in the hands of the consumers – if they demand it – it will happen.

China generates already 15 million outboard tourists/year – traditionally big tourism travelers – Germany have only 4-6 million. There will have to be a more regulated movement of people. Talking regulation, Mr. Yunis continued that in general, we must move from the former liberal capitalist society to a more regulated society – this is an INFLECTION POINT to  MORE STATE INVOLVEMENT.

Problem points – IN TRANSPORTATION and the smaller places have bigger problems. Bigger cities have actually more of a chance of tackling the problem.

Mr. Yunis provided an example – Andes Latina operators who try to use only local leaders, use locally produced and grown food – they have a list of 25 points – questions they ask the hotels. Also the TUI travel operators who originally were German, but now have many Nations involved,  manage to work in direction of a more Sustainable Tourism.

Moving to the subject of RIO+20 Mr. Yunis said it comes at a very bad time and to be honest – he has no great expectation all together.

Turning back to ST – tourism needs more planning, more regulation – it is not a tree that can be let to grow by itself.

RIO+20 MUST TAKE STOCK OF DEVELOPMENT.  NOW WE HAVE ISSUES OF GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT AND GLOBAL SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT. We have now issues that were not part of the text in 1992 – tourism is realy  just a small part of this situation.

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When planned and managed in a sustainable manner, tourism is one of the few sectors that ally socio-economic development and biodiversity conservation.

Tourism has shown a sustained and resilient growth over the last 50 years. According to the World Tourism Organization forecasts, this sector will pursue its growth and, every year, more people will be in motion than ever before.

There is now recognition that uncontrolled growth in tourism aiming at short-term benefits often results in negative impacts, harming the environment and destroying the very basis on which tourism is built and thrives. On the contrary, when tourism is planned, developed and managed using sustainable criteria, its benefits can spread through society and the natural environment.

This fact is now widely recognised and, as a part of this recognition, the interrelations between biodiversity conservation and sustainable development of tourism are reflected in various major documents such as:

- The Plan of implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002) contains an article on sustainable tourism (43) and an article on biodiversity (44) referring to “sustainable tourism, as a cross-cutting issue relevant to different ecosystems, sectors and thematic areas.”
- The Quebec Declaration on Ecotourism (2002)
- The CBD Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development (2003)
- The special recommendations of the V World Park Congress (2003):  ”Tourism as a Vehicle for Conservation and Support of Protected Areas”

Besides these principles and guidelines, many tools and techniques exist that allow tourism developers to increase, among others, environmental sustainability in the sector, such as: Zoning, ecolabels and other certification schemes, environmental indicators, water and waste management in tourist establishments, congestion management at tourism sites, etc.

The World Tourism Organization has conducted studies and published works aiming at raising awareness among all tourism stakeholders (public and private). WTO activities and publications in this field can be found under link:      www.world-tourism.org/sustainable

The Organization also encourages local authorities, NGOs and universities to conduct research on the actual impacts of tourism activities upon ecosystems, biodiversity, as well as upon local and indigenous cultures and the socio-economic fabric of the tourism destinations. Indeed, it has to be clearly understood that no action aiming at reducing the impacts on the environmental sphere can be dissociated from the two other dimensions of the sustainable development, which are the social and the economic ones.

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The problem with my not having posted this earlier stemmed from my not having  completed the article by introducing the two other meetings. I give up at this time and post just what I already have, with the idea of a follow up later.


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