United Against Pipelines, Forward on Climate!Tomorrow, Monday May 13th, New Yorkers will march and rally to greet President Obama when he attends a fundraiser in NYC––his first visit since his post-Sandy inspection. In his Inaugural Address just a few months ago, Obama promised “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
Yet he continues to promote an “All of the above” energy policy that includes coal, tar sands, and fracked shale gas.
Join us if you stand against fossil fuel pipelines, against fracking, against tar sands, and FOR a country powered by wind, water and solar.
Gather in Bryant Park starting at 5 (meet near the fountain off 6th avenue at 41st Street). Reverend Billy and his choir will lead us off with a rousing blessing and song. We’ll begin to march at 5:30, then rally in front of the Waldorf Astoria at 6:30.
If you can, please wear yellow and orange (the colors of Occupy Sandy) to demonstrate your support for a clean energy future. act.350.org/signup/NYC_Unites_Against_Pipelines/.
Event Partners: 350 NYC, 350 NJ, 350.org, Brooklyn For Peace, Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline (CARP), CREDO, CUNY Divest, Food & Water Watch, Global Kids Inc., Green Party of NY, Human Impacts Institute, NYC Friends of Clearwater, NYU Divest, Occupy the Pipeline, Occupy Sandy, Restore the Rock, Sane Energy Project, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Sierra Club National, United for Action, World Can’t Wait, WESPAC, YANA (You Are Never Alone).
President Obama makes his fourth visit to Mexico and continues on to Costa Rica on what is also his sixth visit to Latin America. On this journey, the President hopes to highlight and reinforce the deep cultural, familial, and economic ties that so many Americans share with Mexico and Central America, and to promote economic growth across the region.
On Monday, the President met with Latino leaders who work both domestically and across borders to enhance social and economic development. The President heard various perspectives on how to strengthen collaboration in the region, further develop our economic relationship, and ideas for how the hemisphere can fit into broader strategic priorities. He emphasized that the long term trends in the hemisphere are clearly moving in the right direction, with growing middle classes, declining poverty and inequality in much of the region, and countries such as Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia taking a more active global role.
On Friday at the White House,business representatives offered strong support for measures intended to facilitate global and hemispheric trade, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. They highlighted the growing importance of the energy sector throughout the Americas and the need for infrastructure improvements to facilitate cross-border trade.
The President made clear that immigration reform continues to be a top legislative priority this year; business leaders agreed on the need to enact commonsense immigration reform as quickly as possible. The meeting also underscored that increased trade throughout the region translates into jobs and growth here in America.
On Friday, in Mexico City, President Obama spoke of what he considered a changing country — one making more headlines lately for economic optimism and potential political reforms than the drug cartels and organized crime violence that have claimed about 65,000 lives over the past six years.
The trip came as Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto shifts his new administration’s focus to economic and social matters, instead of fixating on security — which analysts say remains a serious issue in many regions of the country.
President Obama promised to promote immigration reform — an important issue for Mexico, which has more than 10% of its population living in the United States. He also pledged action on guns, many of which flow south from the United States and are used to commit violence in Mexico.
President Obama went so far as to Blame U.S. For Gun Violence In Mexico – “Most of the guns used to commit violence here in Mexico come from the United States,” President Obama said during a speech at Mexico’s Anthropology Museum. “I think many of you know that in America, our Constitution guarantees our individual right to bear arms. And as president, I swore an oath to uphold that right, and I always will.”
“But at the same time, as I’ve said in the United States, I will continue to do everything in my power to pass common-sense reforms that keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people. That can save lives here in Mexico and back home in the United States. It’s the right thing to do,” Obama added.
Following a 24-hour stay in Mexico President Obama continued to San Jose, Costa Rica. He was received by Tico astronaut Franklin Chang, Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo, and U.S. Ambassador Anne S. Andrew.The official welcome ceremony was held at the Foreign Ministry in downtown San José, where Obama met with President Laura Chinchilla – he, Chinchilla, and members of her Cabinet, held a bilateral meeting with the U.S. delegation. The stop in Costa Rica was the safest stop the US could have chosen in Central America these days.
Now back home, and the above trip must be seen in relation to Washington – Congress and Lobbyists.
We posted already about the US need to find a reasonable solution to the so called illegal immigrants to the US who are target to the various police levels and criminals in the US and Mexico systems. Most of them are also cheap labor because they are undocumented aliens, afraid to complain, and thus they are being exploited by US employers. They are a low paid working force in the US and a means to destroy the organized economy. This must come to an end as part of the reconstruction in US government policy. But this is just the beginning.
The GPS program of Fareed Zakaria on CNN today – Sunday May 5th, 2013, was all about a basic “Reset” of the US.
THE US MUST START DEALING MAINLY WITH ITS INTERNAL POLICIES – REFRAIN FROM FURTHER INVOLVEMENT IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND SWITCH ATTENTION TO THE PACIFIC – SOUTH AND EAST ASIA. PART OF THIS CHANGE INCLUDES A CLEAR-CUT SOLUTION OF THE PROBLEMS WITH MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA AS WELL. Mexico is a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership as well – so here another link to above general “RESET.”
First let us explain the need to step out from the Lebanon-Iraq-Syria morass – the three countries of the Levant with a minority rule of which the Christian Maronite minority in Lebanon and the Sunni minority in Iraq have already been deposed, and only the Alawite minority in Syria was still left hanging on to power. [The Alawite are a Shi'ite subsect that makes up 12% of the population, but it also draws some support from other minorities--Druze, Armenians and others--who worry about their fate in a majoritarian Syria. These fears might be justified. Consider what has happened to the Christians of Iraq. There were as many as 1.4 million of them before the Iraq war. There are now about 500,000, and many of their churches have been destroyed. Christian life in Iraq, which has survived since the days of the Bible, is in real danger of being extinguished by the current regime in Baghdad.] These situations were impossible to defend and the US entered situations of civil war destined to end with the minority loosing power. No sense what-so-ever for the US to allow itself be dragged into the Syrian internal war as well.
[In fact, we have seen atrocities much worse than those in Syria very recently, in Iraq under U.S. occupation only few years ago. From 2003 to 2012, despite there being as many as 180,000 American and allied troops in Iraq, somewhere between 150,000 and 300,000 Iraqi civilians died and about 1.5 million fled the country. Jihadi groups flourished in Iraq, and al-Qaeda had a huge presence there. The U.S. was about as actively engaged in Iraq as is possible, and yet more terrible things happened - AND CONTINUE TO HAPPEN - there than in Syria.]
If the objective is actually to reduce the atrocities and minimize potential instability, the key will be a political settlement that gives each side an assurance that it has a place in the new Syria. That was never achieved in Iraq, which is why, despite U.S. troops and arms and influence, the situation turned into a violent free-for-all. If some kind of political pact can be reached, there’s hope for Syria. If it cannot, U.S. assistance to the rebels or even direct military intervention won’t change much: Syria will follow the pattern of Lebanon and Iraq–a long, bloody civil war. And America will be in the middle of it.
With the Middle East pushed thus to the backburner – Fareed Zakaria’s team on GPS could focus on what is really important and achievable for the US Administration – the fixing of the US Home.
The US must deal with the Financial Sector – this is done by looking at the infrastructure, the education system starting with day-care centers, and the immigration bill as well. Then focus on Asia.
The immigration bill must be presented as a win-win rather then a loosing platform. There are three scenarios for allowing the legalization of these illegal people living in the US underground. Legalizing them will create new tax-payers and new income for the Social Security Taxes. But they will also help bringing aboard their employers who will start paying taxes as well. The growth rate will increase by 1% and the average GDP by $1,500. This alone will give a jolt to the US economy.
Fareed Zakaria had two great teams on his program today – Richard Haas of the Center on Foreign Relations and Princeton University’s Anne Marie Slaughter covering the political side, and then Rana Faroohar of the Economist and Gillian Tett of The Financial Times on the economy.
Then, to top it all a direct interview with Salman Rushdie who has been an immigrant twice – first from India to London then from there to the US. He had the gift of gab to express all of the above and tie it up neatly. The two economists had no problem agreeing among themselves.
So let us summarize the day – The US will be brought back into balance by allowing a settlement of its tens-of-millions illegals and bringing them into the positive circle of tax paying residents with rights to an education, health, and freedom to move up the jobs-ladder.
As we wrote earlier today, in addition the settling of bringing in new professionally needed immigrants as requested by the Silicon Valley CEOs will help bringing back jobs that go now overseas because the skills are not available in sufficient amount in the US.
When people will start earning more, they will be able to afford new housing and eventually new demand will help growth.
Then, again as we recently wrote, with non-fossil energy becoming more competitive, with a little further push, the US will clearly be able to embrace the green economy which again will lead to further savings by avoiding environmental damage and health problems.
OH my! We just described the NEW AMERICAN REVOLUTION that starts with a friendlier look South-of-the-Border, arching to the true Orient and landing hard on those who opposed a betterment of the US economy by serving a 1% of the population aided by quite a few more naive followers that could not figure out by themselves that they were being had.
SINCE February, the North Korean government has followed one threatening move with another. The spiral began with an underground nuclear test. Then the North declared the armistice that ended the Korean War invalid. The young dictator Kim Jong-un followed with a flurry of threats to attack civilian targets in South Korea, Japan and the United States.
Earlier this week, North Korea closed the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the only facility where citizens from North and South Korea work together. And now the North is openly threatening (and visibly preparing) to fire a mobile-launcher-based Musudan missile with a range that could reach many of the places Mr. Kim has menaced in his public statements. American intelligence agencies believe that North Korea is working to prepare even longer-range delivery systems to carry the nuclear warheads already in its arsenal.
The Korean crisis has now become a strategic threat to America’s core national interests. The best option is to destroy the North Korean missile on the ground before it is launched. The United States should use a precise airstrike to render the missile and its mobile launcher inoperable.
President Obama should state clearly and forthrightly that this is an act of self-defense in response to explicit threats from North Korea and clear evidence of a prepared weapon. He should give the leaders of South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan advance notice before acting. And he should explain that this is a limited defensive strike on a military target — an operation that poses no threat to civilians — and that America does not intend to bring about regime change. The purpose is to neutralize a clear and present danger. That is all.
If North Korea is left to continue its threatening behavior, it will jeopardize the fragile economies of the region and it will encourage South Korea and Japan to develop their own nuclear weapons — a policy already advocated by hawks in both countries. Most of all, North Korean threats will encourage isolated states across the world to follow suit. The Iranians are certainly watching. If North Korea can use its small nuclear arsenal to blackmail the region with impunity, why shouldn’t the mullahs in Tehran try to do the same?
The United States and its allies in East Asia have a legitimate right to self-defense and they have a deep interest in deterring future threats on this scale.
Thanks to precise satellite reconnaissance, striking the North Korean missile on the ground would be much easier than after it was launched. Since the United States cannot possibly know the missile’s trajectory before a launch, and Mr. Kim has said he is targeting America and its allies, we have reason to believe that civilians face serious danger.
Since a missile on the ground is an obvious and largely undefended target, we can be reasonably sure that a strike would destroy it and preserve regional stability and the safety of our allies. An American pre-emptive strike would also re-establish necessary red lines for North Korea and other countries in similar circumstances.
As President Xi Jinping of China stated earlier this month, “No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains.” By eliminating the most recent North Korean missile threat, the United States will reduce the threat posed by the North’s arsenal. The United States would also reassure everyone in the region, and those watching from other parts of the world, that although it is not seeking regime change, America and its allies will not be blackmailed by threatened missile launches.
The North Korean government would certainly view the American strike as a provocation, but it is unlikely that Mr. Kim would retaliate by attacking South Korea, as many fear. First, the Chinese government would do everything it could to prevent such a reaction. Even if they oppose an American strike, China’s leaders understand that a full-scale war would be far worse. Second, Mr. Kim would see in the American strike a renewed commitment to the defense of South Korea. Any attack on Seoul would be an act of suicide for him, and he knows that.
A war on the Korean Peninsula is unlikely after an American strike, but it is not inconceivable. The North Koreans might continue to escalate, and Mr. Kim might feel obligated to start a war to save face. Under these unfortunate circumstances, the United States and its allies would still be better off fighting a war with North Korea today, when the conflict could still be confined largely to the Korean Peninsula. As North Korea’s actions over the last two months have shown, Mr. Kim’s government is willing to escalate its threats much more rapidly than his father’s regime did. An unending crisis would merely postpone war to a later date, when the damage caused by North Korea would be even greater.
China’s role in a potential war on the Korean Peninsula is hard to predict. Beijing will continue to worry about the United States extending its influence up to the Chinese border. If armed hostilities erupt, President Obama should be prepared for direct and close consultations with Chinese leaders to negotiate a postwar settlement, in a larger multinational framework, that respects Beijing’s legitimate security interests in North Korea. The United States has no interest in occupying North Korea. The Chinese are unlikely to pursue an occupation of their own.
Destroying the North Korean missile before it is launched is the best of bad options on the Korean Peninsula. A prolonged crisis would undermine regional security and global efforts to stop nuclear proliferation. And a future war would be much worse. The most prudent move is to eliminate the most imminent military threat in self-defense, establish clear and reasonable limits on future belligerence, and maintain allied unity for stability — not forced regime change — in the region. This is the kind of pre-emptive action that would save lives and maybe even preserve the uneasy peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Jeremi Suri, a professor of history and public affairs at the University of Texas, Austin, is the author of “Liberty’s Surest Guardian: American Nation-Building From the Founders to Obama.”
Top U.S. diplomat visits Beijing to help defuse growing nuclear fears
AFP-JIJI, The Washington Post, reprinted by The Times of Japan.
BEIJING/SEOUL – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with top officials from China — North Korea’s key ally and top aid provider — Saturday to press them to rein in a defiant Pyongyang, seeking Beijing’s help to defuse soaring nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Kerry held talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and met with President Xi Jinping after flying in from a summit in South Korea with President Park Geun Hye, where he offered public U.S. support for her plans to initiate some trust-building with the North.
The Korean Peninsula has been engulfed by escalating military tensions and dire threats of nuclear war since Pyongyang launched a rocket last December and conducted its third nuclear test in February.
China has backed the North since the 1950-53 Korean War and could wield tremendous leverage over the isolated communist regime thanks to the vital aid it provides, including almost all of Pyongyang’s energy imports.
But analysts say Beijing is wary of pushing too hard for fear of destabilizing its neighbor, which could send a wave of hungry refugees flooding into China and ultimately lead to a reunified Korea allied with the United States.
China and the U.S. have a sometimes strained relationship, with Beijing uneasy over Washington’s “rebalancing” toward Asia, and Kerry’s first visit to the region since becoming the top American diplomat has been completely overshadowed by the Korean crisis.
Washington is seeking to persuade Beijing to help rein in the bellicose threats from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and to bring Pyongyang back to the negotiating table over its nuclear program.
China is estimated to provide as much as 90 percent of North Korea’s energy imports, 80 percent of its consumer goods and 45 percent of its food, according to the U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations.
Despite intelligence reports that the North has prepared what would be a highly provocative, medium-range missile launch, Park has in recent days made some conciliatory gestures to Pyongyang.
In a meeting with her ruling party officials Friday, Park of South Korea said the South should meet with the North and “listen to what North Korea thinks.”
While Kerry berated Pyongyang’s “unacceptable” rhetoric and warned that any missile launch would be a “huge mistake,” he also took pains to stress Washington’s backing for Park’s initiative. “President Park was elected with a different vision for the possibilities of peace and we honor that vision . . . and we hope that vision is the one that will actually take hold here,” he said.
In another sign of U.S. hopes of defusing tensions, Kerry did not visit the truce village of Panmunjom, a common stop for foreign leaders visiting Seoul.
Kerry also attempted to tamp down the significance of a recent U.S. intelligence report that concluded that North Korea is now capable of making a nuclear warhead that can be mounted on a ballistic missile and fired. Kerry said that “it is inaccurate to suggest” that North Korea “has fully tested, developed or demonstrated capabilities that are articulated in that report.”
Is North Korea a real threat? (photo: Getty Images)
By William Boardman, Reader Supported News
13 April 13
Congressman acts warlike toward North Korea and Iran.
ome people say Representative Doug Lamborn, Republican of Colorado, is a reckless, warmongering fool, but others say he’s not that reckless.
His loose lips episode in a Congressional hearing had the Obama administration in a spin for the rest of the day trying to tamp down what mainstream media are now calling the “North Korea missile crisis.” Exposing previously classified information even got the congressman a page one story in the New York Times on April 12, with what turned out to be a misleading headline:
Pentagon Finds Nuclear Strides by North Korea
By mid-day, right-wing web sites were hyping the story with headlines like these from Red Flag News:
BREAKING: US Raises Nuclear Alert to DEFCON 3 China Mobilizes, Masses Troops on North Korean Border
[The initial report in DEBKAfile was picked up, often verbatim, by other web sites, including Infowars, PrisonPlanet, BeforeItsNews, Daily Paul and YouTube, which has a report that begins: "South Korean officials are telling the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) that B-2 stealth bombers are currently dropping leaflets over the city of Pyongyang warning its citizens of an impending attack." The report quotes a purported eyewitness who describes the leaflet drop and also says, "The girls here are super hot."]
If the U.S. Alert Level Is Raised, U.S. Not Saying
Calls to the Pentagon and NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) to confirm the heightened alert level elicited responses that included “I have no idea,” and “Really?” The alert level was neither confirmed nor denied. Emails to the Pentagon and the White House were unanswered.
Giving some immediacy to the situation is North Korea’s presumed plan to test another long range ballistic missile in a launch expected in mid-April. Both China and the U.S. have warned North Korea to cancel the test, but it’s not clear what either country, or Japan, or South Korea, would do in the event of a launch.
Addressing that question on Fox News on April 10, Rep. Lamborn ducked somewhat, saying that if a North Korean missile were going to land in the ocean, there would be no point in using one of our expensive missiles to take it down. He was not asked what he thought the odds were that we’d have a successful anti-missile missile launch.
He did suggest that North Korean missiles could hit the U.S. mainland or Hawaii or Guam, none of which is true. And he reiterated his longstanding call for spending more billions of dollars on missile defense, including anti-missile missiles deployed on the U.S. East Coast to defend against missiles Iran might get some day.
Rep. Lamborn Has Chronic Pattern of Inaccuracy
Along those lines, he called it “dangerously na•ve” to seek a world free of nuclear weapons. Defending that view, he said falsely that every nuclear-armed country except the U.S. is improving its weapons. He added falsely that the U.S. is the only country to have reduced its number of nuclear weapons.
Even with some reductions in recent years, the U.S. still has about 5,000 nuclear weapons. Only Russia has more, although fewer are operational. The rest of the world combined has fewer than 1,000 nuclear weapons.
Rep. Lamborn grabbed public attention April 11 when he misleadingly claimed that North Korea had developed a nuclear warhead that it could deliver to its target by missile. He based his comments on an unclassified part of a classified Pentagon report that the Pentagon later said should have been wholly classified.
Rep. Lamborn, a member of Congress since 2007, had not read the full report.
The congressman apparently made no effort to discover from the Pentagon, the White House, the intelligence community, or any other presumably knowledgeable source, whether what he was reading was meaningful, or even correct.
Officials Warn Not to Inflate North Korean Threat
Testifying at the same hearing, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said that he too had not read the report, telling Rep. Lamborn: “Well, I haven’t seen it. And you said it’s not publicly released, so I choose not to comment on it.”
The Director of National Intelligence, General James Clapper, warned that the report by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), even in its very tentative conclusion, did not represent the opinion of other intelligence agencies:
“I would add that the statement read by the Member is not an Intelligence Community assessment. Moreover, North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear armed missile.”
As Reuters, Rob Kall, the Times, and others have noted, the DIA was sure that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, an opinion that contributed to a long, expensive, and disastrous war. And the DIA’s opinion was completely wrong.
In the report on North Korean missiles, even the DIA didn’t believe the threat, saying it reached its conclusion with only “moderate confidence,” only one notch above “no confidence.” The executive summary reads:
D.I.A. assesses with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles; however the reliability will be low.
Rep. Lanborn posted his five and half minutes of questioning during the April 11 meeting of the House Armed Services Committee on his Facebook page, writing, misleadingly, “Here is the full video exchange I had with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey today about the true nature of the North Korean threat.”
Not everyone was impressed, as Brian Napolitano commented: “You didn’t even read the whole report before you started flapping your jaws. You knew you had a hot report and just couldn’t wait to blab. Loose lips sink ships, jerk. That’s why you got the reaction you did, and you know it.”
China’s Oblique Response, Implicit Slapdown for Rep. Lamborn
Rep. Lamborn’s other major effort was to lobby for the U.S. to have a second nuclear-strike aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf to “project American power.” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said he didn’t think a second carrier was necessary for that purpose.
Rep. Lamborn, 59, is an attorney with no military service who has been a state and federal legislator since 1994. In 2010, the National Journal named him the most conservative member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Secretary of State John Kerry was in the midst of a visit to Japan, South Korea, and China as Rep. Lamborn was making news and making waves in Washington. Secretary Kerry remained calm while answering reporters’ questions, making the point that “Our hope is we can get back to talks.”
And the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said, perhaps signaling that North Korean bellicosity was getting tiresome: “We do not want to see chaos and conflict on China’s doorstep.”
William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
President Obama meets with first-ever Ethiopian crowned Miss Israel
Israel is putting its best face forward for President Obama, and what better face to put forward for America’s first black president than Israel’s first black beauty queen? The newly crowned Miss Israel is an Ethiopian Jewish immigrant to Israel.
(in the background of the picture is the perpetual “matchmaker” The State of Israel President Shimon Peres – born August 2, 1923 in now the Belarus, at the time Poland – his first Ministerial portfolio was Minister of Immigrant Absorption, 1969-1970, when his David Ben-Gurion’s splinter group RAFI rejoined the Labor Alignment).
The beauty queen joined Obama that Thursday for the official state dinner in Jerusalem. Ethiopian immigrants have struggled to integrate into Israeli society, but Obama will be getting a taste of some of their recent success stories.
A few weeks ago, more than a quarter of all Israeli TV viewers watched the judges announce the new Miss Israel of 2013.
Titi is her name, short for Yityish Aynaw. She was the only black finalist in this year’s beauty pageant and she has become Israel’s first black beauty queen. She’s tall, commanding, and outspoken.
“It’s time that someone from my community, someone with my skin color, who is Israeli just like everyone else, represent the country,” Aynaw said.
What captivated the judges was not only her beauty, but also her life story.
Born in a small town, Titi was orphaned by the time she was about 10. She moved to Israel to live with her grandparents, who had already left Ethiopia for a new life here.
Titi said as an Ethiopian Jew, she grew up with stories about the Land of milk and honey, but her new life in Israel wasn’t all milk and honey.
Titi hardly remembered her grandparents. She was sent to an Israeli boarding school without knowing a word of Hebrew. Some of her classmates made fun of her Ethiopian name, Yitayish.
“What is ‘Yitayish?’ This is my name. but it sounds weird,” she says. “There were times they’d call me ‘Tayish.’ In Hebrew that’s a kind of animal. You know?” (It is the Hebrew for a male-goat.)
But she was proud of her Ethiopian heritage, and unlike many other Ethiopian Jewish immigrants who took on Hebrew names, she kept her own.
Back at the end of January 2013 we posted – based on an article in “Der Spiegel” – that reached us via the UN Wire – that there was in the making an Islamistan, much more dangerous to the West then the AfPak (Afghanistan & Pakistan) region. This will be a Sahelistan ranging from Mauritania to Somalia, right there as a second southern complete layer to the Mediterranean shore Arab States that stretch from Morocco to Egypt. We call this the SAHELISTAN.Its front line is in Mali, Niger, and Chad.
This layer of Islamism is a combination of conservative Islam used as mortar to bind together locally inspired aspirations to free themselves of the Arab century old imposed rulers and like in the Maghreb States and Libya and Egypt, is supported by the religious leaders out of pure opportunism.
Now, in Vienna, I realize further the influence of this newly evolving threat and the reality that Europe is happy to let France, the former Colonial power in that region, shoulder the problem by itself. Further, it is France that running its National energy network on nuclear power, is totally depended on the Uranium they get from those countries, while other Members of the EU have no such dependence.
Further, as we noted last month, at the time of the Vienna Conference of the “Alliance of Civilizations” – as shown by the regional division among the Workshops in that meeting, the Central European States have sort of distanced themselves from the Mediterranean States by showing their economic interest as an extension from Central Europe to Central Asia – that is the Black Sea – Caspian Sea and beyond to the other smaller Muslim States that were part of the former Soviet Union. This leaves the Southern EU States to worry about the Muslim MENA region (Middle East – North Africa) and Turkey – if it has to be.
We also suggested a third tier – the Northern tier – and that is the line that connects the Scandinavian countries – Germany – Poland – with Russia.
That will eventually be the route to bring Russia to the EU when it becomes clear that you must have one billion people at least in order to have a weight in the global economy in just a few years from now.
But that is not where Vienna left this part of the world.
In March I participated further at two wide scope events:
(1) March 11, 2013, the Austrian Institute for International Politics (OIIP) where Editor Walter Haemmerle of the Wiener Zeitung, was the moderator between three Members of OIIP – all Professors at the University but coming from different areas of interest – Prof. Heinz Gaertner – a political Scientist, Prof. Jan Pospisil for the Arab Space – in particular North Africa, and Prof. Cengiz Guenay, for the Near East/ Middle East Space.
The topic was USA – Near East – Mali – in context of Changes of International Applications of Power.
(2) March 21, 2013, the Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC) - www.VIDC.org – using the space at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialog – dealt with a more limited topic – and therefore could go down to quite some depth – “Mali: Perspectives for the Political Come-Back.” At this meeting, moderated by Marie-Roger Biloa of Cameroon, Producer and Editor of the Paris-based “Africa International” – and having published Development Magazines in Cameroon and Gabon, held in place, with a strong will, three very different panelists – that included two different aspects of Mali, and the French Ambassador to Vienna – Mr. Stephane Gompertz.
Ms. Biloa is also the President “Club Millennium” in Paris – an African Think Tank and training place for leadership.
From the OIIP event:
The issue is the US – it is retrenching from the Reagan – G.W. Bush (the son) days of overextended global involvements – so issues like the insurgency in Mali and other Islamization aspects of North Africa, are to be from now on pure European problems. Even the Middle East will have to take care of itself – the most the US will do is to express encouragement for others to act. Professor Gaertner studied the US elections and his view of the Obama II Administration is very similar to what we wrote on our website. The US is readjusting to the Trans-Pacific Partnership – with China its main focus, so much of what goes on in the Muslim Space will have to be filled in by others. Europeans will have to look across the Mediterranean for their own sake. This does not mean the US finds of a sudden France – but rather will not interfere if France wants to look for its own interests and put their money where they talk was for quite some time.
Dr. Jan Pospisil did his PhD thesis on US-German military cooperation and then looked at East Africa and Sri-Lanka. Like Prof. Gaertner he sees in Syria the biggest problem for the topic of human rights and both think that this is an area that Austria will pay attention as well. With this background it becomes interesting to note that the Austrian participation in Mali is with 9 people.
Dr. Cengiz Guenay wrote his PhD thesis on “Islam as a political factor in Turkey” and found Libya, Egypt, and now Syria as his main fields of interest and he is called in quite often to explain the situation to the media.
The two main points I marked myself from this discussion were:
A. that Turkey is now a TRADING STATE and will do whatever Mr. Erdogan finds opportune for the literal moment.
B. The World – Instead of Multi-polarity – now it will be MULTI-PARTNERSHIPS.
Then at the VIDC/Bruno Kreisky Forum event we got to know Mr. Assarid a full blooded Tuareg, dressed to prove it, who speaks about the Azawad State they want to carve out from the Northern half of Mali – the five towns – Timbuktu, Lere, Hombori, Gao, and Kidal. His bio says he is a writer, journalist and comedian – living in Paris since 1999. He has appeared on TV in several series as actor. He was saying that the Tuaregs have a National movement that is secular. They are not part of an Islamic uprising and their problem is rather that the other side – the present government in Bamako – that took over from an elected government by military coup – is the one that may help the North Africa Al-Qaeda – not the Tuaregs.
Listening to him, and to his opponent, Professor. Maiega, who is an intellectual – head of a Bamako Institute to promote indigenous languages and African Civilizations, it seems that in effect both of them are more interested in traditional African culture then in Islam, and in effect it is France’s interest in holding on to its previous Colony that is the most problematic aspect of this entanglement. Is it all because of the Uranium, coal, and other natural resources found in Mali? Will this move on to Niger and Chad? What would happen if Mali is allowed to split amicably into two States? Could this be worse then seeing it unravel in fighting that allows other groups to mix the boiling pot?
The French say they want to bring down their fighting troops from 4,000 to 1,000 by the end of April, and have by that time trained the Mali government troops, and the West African troops, that offered to help. I say – Do not hold your breath – I say.
It is easy to get in – it is much more difficult to get out - and the French Ambassador did not impress us that he really thinks France wants to get out from Mali. Though let me add immediately that Ambassador Gompertz is Professor for classic literature and has a degree in Germanistic – this while in the French Foreign Ministry he was head of the sections on Africa and the Indian Ocean (2009-2012) when he was appointed to Vienna. Before 2008 he was Ambassador to Ethiopia, and with the North Africa and Middle East sections in the ministry – so he is well into the Mediterranean region.
The problem with the desert people maybe much more complicated then what was presented. There is money to be made from those natural resources, and from kidnapping people for ransom. The desert is big and people rather unemployed – so the few can muster the rest, and bamboozle with religion cooked up with social, ethnic, tribal arguments to boot – this works in a world that thinks very little of terrorism, as an accepted tool for those that feel downtroden, and the passage to the world here-after as a move to step up an imagined personalized ladder.
Recent History as reported today – April 1, 2013: The fighting reflected the difficulty of securing Mali after a French intervention in January that pushed the rebels out of their northern strongholds.
“Things are quiet this morning. The markets are open, traffic is on the streets, and people are out of their houses,” Timbuktu resident Garba Maiga said by telephone.
Malian military sources said soldiers were sweeping parts of the town to ensure there were no remaining rebel fighters.
At least one Malian soldier was killed in the clashes, along with more than 20 insurgents, according to a government statement on Sunday night. Residents said at least five civilians were killed in the crossfire.
An army spokesman said that groups of rebels had entered the town after setting off a suicide car bomb at a checkpoint, diverting the military’s attention.
Paris is keen to reduce its current 4,000-strong troop presence to 1,000 by the end of the year as it hands over its mission to a regional African force.
Remarks at Luncheon in Honor of Four African Democratic Partners.
William J. Burns
Martin Van Buren Dining Room
March 29, 2013
Good afternoon. It is truly an honor to be here today with all of you. I want to thank Assistant Secretary Carson for hosting this luncheon. As you know, despite our best efforts to change his mind, Johnnie is leaving the State Department after a nearly four decades of exemplary public service. We are all deeply indebted to Johnnie for his leadership and stewardship of the U.S.-Africa relationship.
I would like to welcome President Banda of Malawi, Prime Minister Neves of Cape Verde, Foreign Minister Ndiaye of Senegal, and Foreign Minister Kamara of Sierra Leone. It is a pleasure to host you here at the Department of State.
Like Johnnie, I am an Africa optimist. I am an optimist because the tide of wars and civil strife is receding. I am an optimist because the continent continues to make steady progress in political reform — more than half of the countries in Africa have embraced democratic, multiparty rule and elections and term limits are now widely accepted norms. And I am an optimist because Africa’s growth rate will soon surpass Asia’s and seven of the world’s ten fastest growing economies are African.
The credit for this transformation belongs to leaders like you and courageous citizens across the continent. Looking back over the past two decades, the United States is proud of its modest contribution and steady support.
President Clinton worked with Congress to pass the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which helped create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the region. President George W. Bush created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, programs that saved millions of lives and brought hundreds of thousands of Africans out of poverty. Over the last four years, President Obama has built on this foundation by forming partnerships based on mutual respect and responsibility with governments, entrepreneurs, youth, women, and the private sector to strengthen democratic institutions, spur economic growth, promote opportunity and development, and advance peace and security.
Each of you illustrates the potential of these partnerships.
President Banda – in one year, you led Malawi out of a deep abyss, moving swiftly to stabilize the economy and elevate human rights. And as you did, the United States was pleased to restore its partnership with your government, including lifting the suspension of our $350 million MCC Compact. We look forward to continuing to work together further to strengthen Malawi democracy, address hunger and improve food security.
Prime Minister Neves – under your leadership, Cape Verde reached middle-income country status, joined the WTO, attracted significant foreign investment, and solidified its social safety net. We value our cooperation on maritime security and in countering narcotrafficking and are pleased to launch a second five-year MCC compact to accelerate economic growth.
Senegal is one of the United States’ strongest partners and a leading democracy in Africa. We applaud the Senegalese government’s commitment to improve governance, regional security, and bilateral cooperation. We deeply appreciate President Sall’s efforts for peace in the Casamance and his leadership on peacekeeping and regional security.
Last year, Sierra Leone held fair, free, and credible elections. We thank President Koroma and his government for their commitment to strengthening Sierra Leone’s democratic institutions. Predictably, the economy responded to your efforts, expanding by 30% in 2012. Let me also note our deep appreciation for your government’s troop contribution to the Somalia peacekeeping force.
There is no doubt that we face many challenges in the coming years – from the Horn to the Great Lakes, and the Sahel. This is why our partnership has never been more important. Fortunately, it has never been stronger.
According to the Scottish explorer and scientist Robert Brown, Azawad is an Arabic corruption of the Berber word Azawagh, referring to a dry river basin that covers western Niger, northeastern Mali, and southern Algeria. The name translates to “land of transhumance“.
the flag of AZAWAG
On 6 April 2012, in a statement posted to its website, the MNLA declared the independence of Azawad from Mali. In this Azawad Declaration of Independence, the name Independent State of Azawad was used (French: État indépendant de l’Azawad,Arabic: Dawlat Azaw?d al-Mustaqillah).
On 26 May, the MNLA and its former co-belligerent Ansar Dine – an Islamist group linked to Al-Qaeda – announced a pact in which they would merge to form an Islamist state; according to the media the new long name of Azawad was used in this pact. But this new name is not clear – sources list few variants of it: the Islamic Republic of Azawad (French: République islamique de l’Azawad), the Islamic State of Azawad (French: État islamique de l’Azawad), the Republic of Azawad. Azawad authorities did not officially confirm any change of name.
Later reports indicated the MNLA had decided to withdraw from the pact with Ansar Dine. In a new statement, dated on 9 June, MNLA uses the name State of Azawad (French: État de l’Azawad).
The MNLA has unveiled the list of 28 members of the Transitional Council of the State of Azawad (Conseil de Transition de l’Etat de l’Azawad, CTEA) serving as a provisional government with President Bilal Ag Acherif to manage the new State of Azawad.
The Economic Community of West African States, which refused to recognise Azawad and called the declaration of its independence “null and void”, has said it may send troops into the disputed region in support of the Malian claim.
Ansar Dine later declared that they rejected the idea of Azawad independence. The MNLA and Ansar Dine continued to clash, culminating in the Battle of Gao on 27 June, in which the Islamist groups Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar Dine took control of the city, driving out the MNLA. The following day, Ansar Dine announced that it was in control of all the cities of northern Mali.
On 14 February 2013 the MNLA renounced their claim of independence for Azawad; it asked the Malian government to start negotiations on its future status.
All of this points at a very confusing situation that in effect backs what we heard at the meeting of March 21, 2013 here in Vienna.
Above map suggests that the presence of Tuaregs which were nomads, is not limited to the north of Mali alone, but they are found in neighboring States as well. The history of the region involved wars that extended to Algeria and to larger Morocco. The area was part of empires that existed in Timbuktu and Gao.
After European powers formalized the scramble for Africa in the Berlin Conference, the French assumed control of the land between the 14th meridian and Miltou, South-West Chad, bounded in the south by a line running from Say, Niger to Baroua. Although the Azawad region was French in name, the principle of effectivity required France to hold power in those areas assigned, e.g. by signing agreements with local chiefs, setting up a government, and making use of the area economically, before the claim would be definitive. On 15 December 1893, Timbuktu, by then long past its prime, was annexed by a small group of French soldiers, led by Lieutenant Gaston Boiteux.The region became part of French Sudan (Soudan Français), a colony of France. The colony was reorganised and the name changed several times during the French colonial period. In 1899 the French Sudan was subdivided and the Azawad became part of Upper Senegal and Middle Niger (Haut-Sénégal et Moyen Niger). In 1902 it was renamed as Senegambia and Niger (Sénégambie et Niger), and in 1904 this was changed again to Upper Senegal and Niger (Haut-Sénégal et Niger). This name was used until 1920 when it became French Sudan again.
In the early twenty-first century, the region became notorious for banditry and drug smuggling. The area has been reported to contain great potential mineral wealth, including petroleum and uranium.
On 17 January 2012, the MNLA announced the start of an insurrection in Azawad against the government of Mali, declaring that it “will continue so long as Bamako does not recognise this territory as a separate entity”.On 24 January, the MNLA won control of the town of Aguelhok, killing around 160 Malian soldiers and capturing dozens of heavy weapons and military vehicles. In March 2012, the MNLA and Ansar Dine took control of the regional capitals of Kidal and Gao along with their military bases. On 1 April, Timbuktu was captured. After the seizure of Timbuktu on 1 April, the MNLA gained effective control of most of the territory they claim for an independent Azawad. In a statement released on the occasion, the MNLA invited all Azawadis abroad to return home and join in constructing institutions in the new state.
In an interview with France 24, an MNLA spokesman declared the independence of Azawad:
Mali is an anarchic state. Therefore we have gathered a national liberation movement to put in an army capable of securing our land and an executive office capable of forming democratic institutions. We declare the independence of Azawad from this day on.
In the same interview, Assarid promised that Azawad would respect the colonial frontiers that separate Azawad from its neighbours; he insisted that Azawad’s declaration of independence had international legality.
No foreign entity recognised Azawad. The MNLA’s declaration was immediately rejected by the African Union, who declared it “null and no value whatsoever”. The French Foreign Ministry said it would not recognise the unilateral partition of Mali, but it called for negotiations between the two entities to address “the demands of the northern Tuareg population [which] are old and for too long had not received adequate and necessary responses”. The United States also rejected the declaration of independence.
The MNLA is estimated to have up to 3,000 soldiers. ECOWAS declared Azawad “null and void”, and said that Mali is “one and [an] indivisible entity”. ECOWAS has said that it would use force, if necessary, to put down the rebellion. The French government indicated it could provide logistical support.
On 26 May, the MNLA and its former co-belligerent Ansar Dine announced a pact to merge to form an Islamist state. Later reports indicated the MNLA withdrew from the pact, distancing itself from Ansar Dine. MNLA and Ansar Dine continued to clash, culminating in the Battle of Gao and Timbuktu on 27 June, in which the Islamist groups Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar Dine took control of Gao, driving out the MNLA. The following day, Ansar Dine announced that it was in control of Timbuktu and Kidal, the three biggest cities of northern Mali. Ansar Dine continued its offensive against MNLA positions and overran all remaining MNLA held towns by 12 July with the fall of Ansogo.
In December 2012, the MNLA agreed on Mali’s national unity and territorial integrity in talks with both the central government and Ansar Dine.
Most are Muslims, of the Sunni or Sufi orientations. Most popular in the Tuareg movement and northern Mali as a whole is the Maliki branch of Sunnism, in which traditional opinions and analogical reasoning by later Muslim scholars are often used instead of a strict reliance on ?adith (coming directly from the Mohammed’s life and utterances) as a basis for legal judgment.
Ansar Dine follows the Salafi branch of Sunni Islam, which rejects the existence of Islamic holy men (other than Mohammed) and their teachings. They strongly object to praying around the graves of Malikite ‘holymen’, and burned down an ancient Sufi shrine in Timbuktu, which had been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Most of the 300 Christians who formerly lived in Timbuktu have fled to the South since the rebels captured the town on 2 April 2012.[dead link]
Refugees in the 92,000-person refugee camp at Mbera, Mauritania, describe the Islamists as “intent on imposing an Islam of lash and gun on Malian Muslims.” The Islamists in Timbuktu have destroyed about a half-dozen historic above-ground tombs of revered holy men, proclaiming the tombs contrary to Shariah. One refugee in the camp spoke of encountering Afghans, Pakistanis and Nigerians among the invading forces.
Dubai is prone to frequent dust storms.
A new solar panel dust particle remover made in Israel boosts power and cleans off dust at the same time
Solar voltaic panels, which at their best only have about 25 percent efficiency for converting direct sunlight into electricity, have even less efficiency than this when dust and heavy air pollution is factored in. A number of solar innovations can deal with desert dust and sand storms including Martian technology from earth to Mars space programs for ‘zapping’ dust from solar panels on terrestrial unmanned exploration vehicles.
Due to frequent dust and sand storms in the United Arab Emirates (like at Shams solar plant) and other parts of the Middle East, the efficacy of the solar cells is reduced even less if they are afterwards covered with dust. In order to alleviate this problem, a researcher, Sergey Biryukov at Israel’s Ben Gurion National Solar Energy Center came up with the idea of using an electrical field to “charge” the dust particles and repel them from the solar panels.He also specializes in optimizing solar energy output under clouds.
But in his new technique Biryukov applies two electrodes to repel the dust. One electrode charges the particles through a process called field charging, or ion bombardment. This gives all particles, regardless of size, the same charge, Biryukov says. Another electrode bearing the opposite charge then repels the particles. According to another researcher at the Center, David Faiman, the dust particle repelling technique also is useful in periodic cleaning of the panels.
The technique may also be useful in “sorting out” various particle sizes which can be incorporated in other functions, such as producing pharmaceuticals and powdered food, the researchers say.
Watch how electric charge can repel dust:
Areas in the Middle East where fog storms and dust storms are frequent and solar energy is beginning to be incorporated into local electrical systems may well benefit from Biryukov’s technique, one it is put into actual production.
Better yet: Biryukov has created a special computerized control system designed to pick the right moment for cleaning of the dust.
The Ben-Gurion National Solar Energy Center houses 6 Laboratories,
each of which is used for the study of one or more aspect of solar energy conversion.
In addition, research in these laboratories forms part of the study program
for our graduate students, towards a higher degree in Ben-Gurion University…
A new report [PDF] from the International Monetary Fund tries to tally up fossil fuel subsidies around the world and finds that they add up to an eye-popping $1.9 trillion a year. That’s 2.5 percent of global GDP!
Brad Plumer has a typically lucid summary on the report’s conclusions, but I want to dig in a little on one part, because believe it or not, the IMF’s conclusion may be too conservative. The real truth about global fossil fuel subsidies may be more eye-popping yet.
So, where does that $1.9 trillion come from?
Around $480 billion of it comes from direct subsidies, i.e., government handing out money. This is what people usually think of when they hear “subsidies.” Contrary to popular opinion, the developed world does very little of this kind of thing.
Direct fossil fuel subsidies (“pre-tax” subsidies) are overwhelmingly concentrated in the developing world and mostly devoted to making petro-products affordable for poor people:
Those direct subsidies are a) a growing problem for the budgets of those countries, and b) a fraught and delicate political issue. Needless to say, people don’t like suddenly losing a big pot of financial assistance. They often retaliate by rioting or, you know, starving. The report contains a big section on ways that countries can wind back those subsidies without unduly hurting the poor. It’s interesting.
But my focus here is on the other $1.4 trillion, which is IMF’s tally of “the effects of energy consumption on global warming; on public health through the adverse effects on local pollution; on traffic congestion and accidents; and on road damage.” These are the “externalities” you’re always hearing about, and by failing to make fossil fuel companies pay for them, governments are implicitly subsidizing those companies. IMF says calls this under-taxing of fossil fuels “mispricing,” but it’s easier to think of them as indirect subsidies.
Indirect subsidies are much larger than direct subsidies — a point I have made before — and are concentrated in developed countries:
Among these externalities are the damages wrought by climate change.
How much damage does a ton of carbon do? How large is that particular indirect subsidy?
So, for every ton of carbon that is emitted but not taxed, there is a $25 implicit subsidy.
However! There are good reasons to think that the real SCC is considerably higher than $25 a ton. I don’t want to bore you, but here are a few nerdy things to read if you want to dive in on the subject:
A white paper [PDF] from Ackerman and Elizabeth A. Stanton explains why the government’s SCC figure is almost certainly too low.
A peer-reviewed paper from Laurie Johnson and Chris Hope argues that a properly assessed SCC would be “2.6 to over 12 times larger” than the U.S. government’s official SCC.
I wrote here about what it would mean to accommodate stochastic change in the SCC (spoiler: it would be higher).
I wrote here about how discount rates shape (and misshape) the SCC. Guess what a more morally defensible discount rate would do to it? Yup, raise it.
I don’t want to pretend this is a settled matter — it is the subject of lively, ongoing academic debate — but I’m pretty convinced that the SCC used in the IMF’s report is hugely, misleadingly conservative. So what would happen if it weren’t?
Ackerman and Stanton write:
In the United Kingdom, which started estimating prices for carbon emissions several years ago, the government’s latest calculation is a range of $41-$124 per ton of CO2, with a central case of $83.
So, just for the sake of argument, say the IMF adopted an SCC of $83 — more than three times the figure it actually used. What would happen?
It’s hard to say precisely, since the IMF paper is not clear what portion of the indirect subsidies are carbon-related. (Or at least, I lack the fortitude to dig that info out.) I suspect it’s well over half, but to be conservative, let’s just say half. Based on my back-of-napkin calculations, if carbon were responsible for half the indirect subsidies, and the SCC were $83 instead of $25, the grand total of annual global fossil fuel subsidies would rise from $1.9 trillion to around $3.5 trillion.
Three and a half trillion dollars a year. That’s about 5 percent of global GDP. Crazy.
As enviro hero Paul Hawken is fond of saying, “we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it GDP.” I can’t think of a better description of these fossil fuel subsidies. And when we use a more realistic cost for carbon damages, we get a better sense of just how much we are stealing from our descendents — trillions and trillions of dollars a year. The heedless radicalism and grotesque immorality of it are breathtaking.
Evolver executive director and “2012″ author Daniel Pinchbeck meets National Geographic “Brain Games” series host and futurist Jason Silva to discuss the implications of the present, the meaning of the future, the destiny of technology, and the “far antipodes” of the mind. Will humans merge with super-intelligent machines? Will climate change force a rapid transformation of human society? Will shamanism and science converge in a new hybrid? Please join us for this unique conversation, followed by discussion with the audience.
BRUSSELS - Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev humbled European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso in public remarks on Thursday (21 March) over the EU’s handling of Cyprus.
Speaking alongside Barroso at a conference in Moscow, he called the EU’s original Cypriot bailout idea “to put it mildly, surprising … absurd … preposterous.”
“The situation is unpredictable and inconsistent. It [the bailout model] has been reviewed several times. I browsed the Internet this morning and I saw another Plan B, or a Plan C or whatever,” he noted.
He upbraided EU institutions for failing to give Moscow due notice of its decision.
“The system of early warning did not work very well … that means we need to work on it,” he said.
He also quoted unnamed Russian “eurosceptics” as saying: “The euro crisis has strengthened ideas that Europe is in decline in the 21st century … that the European project has turned out to be too cumbersome.”
Earlier the same say, he told Russian newswire Interfax that he is thinking of reducing Russia’s holding of euro-denominated currency reserves.
In a sign of broader Russian upset, Leonid Grigoriev, an academic and a former Russian deputy finance minister, told a separate news conference that Russian money is no longer safe anywhere in the EU.
“The Cyprus situation has created new uncertainty in the banking sector. People have started thinking whether the same can happen elsewhere, in Spain, Portugal, Ireland?” he said.
The EU’s Plan A for Cyprus was to lend it €10 billion, but to impose a 7-to-10 percent levy on all Cypriot savers, including Russian expats, who alone stood to lose €2 billion.
It has now been scrapped.
It is unclear what new model might be found.
But the Cypriot finance minister, Michael Sarris, also in Moscow on Thursday, said he is in talks to give Russia shares in Cypriot “banks, natural gas [reserves]” in return for Russian bailout money.
For his part, Barroso told Medvedev that the EU could not have warned Russia even if it wanted to.
“Regarding the conclusions of the last Eurogroup [euro finance ministers, who drew up Plan A], Russia was not informed because the governments of Europe were not informed – let’s be completely open and honest about that issue. There was not a pre-decision before the Eurogroup meeting. The Eurogroup meeting concluded, I think, in the very early hours of Saturday and the decision was the result of a compromise,” he said.
He added: “Don’t believe in this idea of the decline of Europe … The European Union is stronger than it is today fashionable to admit.”
Leaked documents on internal EU talks seen by the Reuters news agency give substance to Russia’s criticism, however.
The notes record remarks by finance officials from euro-using countries during a panicky conference call about Cyprus held on Wednesday.
According to Reuters, a French official said Cyprus’ decision not to take part in the phone-debate is “a big problem … We have never seen this.”
A German official said Cyprus might quit the euro and there is a need to “ring-fence” other countries from contagion.
A European Central Bank official said there is a “very difficult situation” because savers might pull money from the island if banks re-open next week.
Meanwhile, Thomas Wieser, an Austrian-origin EU official who chaired the phone-meeting, described the situation as “foggy.” He added: “The economy is going to tank in Cyprus no matter what.”
To the above we add that Turkey, its holding onto North Cyprus, and its interest in the gas fields that stretch from Cyprus to Israel and Lebanon, having first development seen by Israel, are part of the larger scope of the Cyprus potential move away from the EU. But, In effect, these other aspects might make the EU stiffen up in a bailing out effort conditioned only on reorganizing some of the Cypriot Banks – letting Russian oligarchs foot part of the bill – without selling to Russia port holdings in the Mediterranean. Seeing a Syria solution that drives out Russia from its port facilities there, may be part of the American interest in the region as well. In short – Cyprus is not Iceland – this because it is geographically located in a very complicated region of the Outer EU. Is it so that an Obama trip could help by forcing a Cyprus-Turkey reconciliation first?
We just found out that The New York Times is catching up:
Also, we know that Oligarch Abramowich is overexposed in Cyprus banks, is this also the case of Mr. Berezowski who just committed suicide at his home near London? Were there politics involved and this was a Russian in-fight? The coincidence of the timing will create rumors – we say.
Russian Oligarch and Critic of Putin Dead in Britain.
Boris Berezovsky in London in last year. He is said to have committed suicide on Saturday.
MOSCOW — Boris A. Berezovsky, once the richest and most powerful of the so-called oligarchs who dominated post-Soviet Russia, and a close ally of Boris N. Yeltsin who helped install Vladimir V. Putin as president but later exiled himself to London after a bitter falling out with the Kremlin, died Saturday.
He was 67 and lived near London, where last year he lost one of the largest private lawsuits in history — an epic tug-of-war over more than $5 billion with another Russian oligarch, Roman A. Abramovich, in which legal and other costs were estimated to be about $250 million.
Mr. Berezovsky’s death was first reported in a post on Facebook by his son-in-law Egor Schuppe and was confirmed by Alexander Dobrovinsky, a lawyer who had represented him.
Mr. Dobrovinsky wrote in Russian on his Facebook page: “Just got a call from London. Boris Berezovsky has committed suicide. The man was complex. An act of desperation? Impossible to live poor? A series of blows? I am afraid that no one will know the truth.”
The Thames Valley police in Berkshire, an hour from London, said Saturday that they were investigating the “unexplained” death of a 67-year-old man, apparently Mr. Berezovsky, in Ascot.
The police statement did not name Mr. Berezovsky, but British news reports said an investigation was under way at his home. “Specially trained officers are currently at the scene, including C.B.R.N.-trained officers, who are conducting a number of searches as a precaution,” said a spokeswoman for the Thames Valley police, referring to the force’s chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear team. “This is to enable officers to carry out an investigation into the man’s death. The body of the man is still in the property at this time.”
In London, Mr. Berezovsky had adopted much the same style as an oligarch in Russia, with chauffeurs and bodyguards. But recent news reports said Mr. Berezovsky had begun to sell personal assets, including a yacht and a painting by Andy Warhol, “Red Lenin,” to pay debts related to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, in which Mr. Berezovsky brought a claim against Mr. Abramovich in a dispute over the sale of shares in Sibneft, an oil company, and other assets, ended in a spectacular defeat.
In her ruling, the judge in the case, Elizabeth Gloster, called Mr. Berezovsky an “unimpressive and inherently unreliable witness” and at times a dishonest one. By contrast, the judge said Mr. Abramovich had been “a truthful, and on the whole reliable, witness.”
Mr. Berezovsky’s legal troubles worsened recently with a claim by his former girlfriend, Elena Gorbunova, that he owed her about $8 million from the sale of a house they owned in Surrey, England. The judge also ordered him to pay more than $53 million of Mr. Abramovich’s fees.
A friend of the tycoon, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said Mr. Berezovsky said he had been “extremely depressed” for at least six months since losing his case. “He was a great believer in British justice, and he felt it let him down,” the friend said.
A spokesman for Mr. Putin said Mr. Berezovsky had recently sent a letter asking President Putin for forgiveness and permission to return to Russia. “Some time ago, maybe a couple of months, Berezovsky sent Vladimir Putin a letter, written by himself, in which he admitted that he had made a lot of mistakes,” the spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said on the Russia 24 television channel. “He asked Putin for forgiveness for the errors to be able to return home.”
Mr. Peskov said that he did not know Mr. Putin’s reaction, but that “news of anyone’s death, no matter what kind of person they were, cannot arouse any positive emotions.”
Mr. Berezovsky was a Soviet mathematician who after the fall of Communism went into business and figured out how to skim profits off what was then Russian’s largest state-owned carmaker. Along with spectacular wealth, he accumulated enormous political influence, becoming a close ally of Mr. Yeltsin’s.
With Mr. Yeltsin’s political career fading, Mr. Berezovsky helped engineer the rise of Mr. Putin, an obscure former K.G.B. agent and onetime aide to the mayor of St. Petersburg who became president of Russia in 2000 and last May returned to the presidency for a third term.
After his election, Mr. Putin began a campaign of tax claims against a group of rich and powerful Russians, including Mr. Berezovsky and Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, an oil tycoon, who remains jailed in Russia.
Mr. Berezovsky fled to London, where he eventually won political asylum and at one point raised tensions by calling for a coup against Mr. Putin.
David E. Hoffman, the author of “The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia,” an exploration of the role of such magnates in the era after the breakup of the Soviet Union, said Mr. Berezovsky stood out for seeking not only wealth but political clout.
“Boris Berezovsky was among that wave of oligarchs who realized that great fortunes were to be made in the massive sell-off of assets in the new Russia,” Mr. Hoffman said by e-mail on Saturday. “While many of his peers also saw the opportunity, Berezovsky was more focused than most on the role that politics would play. He realized the need to co-opt those in power in order to make deals. He did it from the early days with automobiles and later with oil.”
Mr. Berezovsky had an outsize, if hardly always benevolent, role in post-Soviet Russia.
George Soros, a financier and a critic of the Russian oligarchs, had likened them to 19th-century American robber barons. But if that was an apt metaphor, the power and influence of these new tycoons was amplified by the legal and political vacuum left by the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Mr. Berezovsky amassed his fortune at first in automobiles, including a business he formed in 1993 with Aleksandr Voloshin, who would later become Mr. Yeltsin’s chief of staff. But like other oligarchs, Mr. Berezovsky’s interests spread across many sectors of the post-Soviet Russian economy, to oil; media; and Aeroflot, the Russian airline.
He survived an assassination attempt in 1994, a car bombing in which his driver was killed.
Mr. Litvinenko, then working for the F.S.B., the domestic successor to the K.G.B., was assigned to investigate the blast, and Mr. Berezovsky became his mentor and later his employer.
Mr. Berezovsky helped Mr. Litvinenko flee Russia in 2000 before he, too, left the country to seek asylum in London.
On the day he was poisoned, Nov. 1, 2006, Mr. Litvinenko went from a meeting with several Russians at a hotel in central London to Mr. Berezovsky’s nearby office. There he met with a Chechen exile, Akhmed Zakayev, another Berezovsky protégé, and the two drove together to adjacent homes financed by Mr. Berezovsky, in North London.
After Mr. Litvinenko’s death, and with his wealth dwindling during his time in London, Mr. Berezovsky slowly withdrew his financial support for Mr. Litvinenko’s widow as she pressed for an inquest into the death, now scheduled to begin in May.
Boris Abramovich Berezovsky was born in Moscow on Jan. 23, 1946, to Abram Berezovsky, a civil engineer who worked in construction, and Anna Gelman, at a time when the Soviet Union was recovering from World War II.
He studied forestry and mathematics at the Moscow Forestry Engineering Institute. He worked as an engineer and researcher until the late 1980s.
In the mid-1990s, Mr. Berezovsky served on Russia’s security council, only to be dismissed from that post by Mr. Yeltsin in 1997.
Mr. Berezovsky and Mr. Putin had been close, and Mr. Berezovsky aided Mr. Putin’s rise to the presidency. But signs came quickly that Mr. Berezovsky had fallen out of favor. In October 2000, just 10 months after Mr. Yeltsin’s resignation, Mr. Berezovsky was ordered to vacate a spacious government country house and to return the government plates on his limousine. He left Russia for Britain that year.
In March 2003, the British authorities arrested Mr. Berezovsky and said they were beginning a process that could lead to his extradition. But he was granted political asylum later that year apparently after the British determined that Russia sought him solely on political grounds.
In 2007, he was convicted of fraud charges by a Russian court in absentia and sentenced to six years in prison, and had potentially faced prosecution in at least 10 other cases.
The sharpest blow to his wealth came from the failed lawsuit against Mr. Abramovich.
On the day last August when the court ruled against him, Mr. Berezovsky attempted an air of nonchalance. “Life is life,” he said, flanked by bodyguards, before driving off in a Mercedes.
Andrew E. Kramer contributed reporting from Moscow, Alan Cowell from Venice, and Ravi Somaiya from New York.
After taking time to lay the groundwork amid pressure from lobby groups and lawmakers from rural constituencies, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe formally announced Friday that Japan will join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks.
Abe’s government also unveiled its estimate of the possible economic impacts of joining the trade initiative, showing Japan’s participation would drive up its gross domestic product by 0.66 percent, or around ¥3.2 trillion, but that production in the farm, fishery and forestry sectors could decrease by ¥3 trillion annually if all tariffs are abolished unconditionally.
“The TPP is turning the Pacific Ocean into an inland sea and a huge economic zone,” Abe told reporters at his office.
As 11 member countries have already spent the last three years deciding rules to free up trade, services and investment in the Pacific Rim, Japan needs to actively engage in the talks to make them as advantageous as possible for the country, Abe said.
“This is the last chance. If we miss this opportunity, it would immediately mean that we would be left out of setting global regulations” on free trade, he said. “If Japan becomes only inward-looking, there will no longer be a chance of economic growth.”
At the same time, Abe admitted that “it will be difficult to overturn rules already set” by the 11 TPP member countries in past rounds of talks. But he also stressed that he will defend the nation’s interests throughout the discussions, which are scheduled to end by December, in particular by mitigating the negative impact on the domestic agriculture and fisheries industries.
He declined to answer whether Japan would withdraw from the discussions if it fails to persuade the other TPP members to allow existing tariffs on rice, pork, beef, wheat, dairy products and sugar to continue, as demanded earlier by Abe’s own Liberal Democratic Party.
“We will negotiate based on the national interests. Commenting on whether to withdraw (from the TPP) at this point won’t serve that purpose,” he said.
Still, Abe’s LDP administration faces an uphill battle with time running out for Japan to negotiate any exemptions — especially in the key areas of rice, sugar and dairy products — with the other 11 TPP member states, making it more difficult for Tokyo to exert much leverage and ensure the minimum damage to the domestic agriculture industry.
The founding members of the TPP talks have been hammering out a framework for the regional accord since 2010, and their number has swelled to 11 countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Singapore, New Zealand and Peru.
With little information available to nonmember nations, many are worried that Japan is taking its place at the table far too late if it hopes to amend agreements already settled by the current TPP participants.
“If (Japan) wants to take part in the talks, it needs to obey our ‘dress code,’ which has been already decided,” an official of one of the 11 countries reportedly said.
Led by the United States, the TTP members finished the 16th round of talks covering 21 trade and service areas Thursday in Singapore, and aim to reach a final agreement by the end of the year.
Japan’s participation requires the prior approval of every other TPP member, a process that is expected to take until mid-June to complete. That means the earliest opportunity for Japan to enter the fray could be a round of talks eyed for July, giving Abe’s government less than six months to negotiate any tariff exemptions before the final accord is inked.
But failing to join the regional trade zone would still be too big a risk for Japan to run, according to Abe and many experts.
The combined gross domestic product of the 11 TPP countries comes to around $21 trillion (around ¥2 quadrillion) and if Japan’s nearly $6 trillion (roughly ¥575 trillion) GDP is included, the bloc would account for 40 percent of total global economic output.
Yorizumi Watanabe, a former trade negotiator at the Foreign Ministry who is now a professor at Keio University, said Japan’s accession to the TPP is critical because it is likely to become a key platform for Asia-Pacific countries in setting rules for cross-border trade and services.
The Doha Round of tariff elimination talks at the World Trade Organization has remained stalled for years, he said, making it even more likely the TPP framework will serve as a template for future free-trade accords.
And with China and a number of other key economies showing interest in joining the TPP, Japan’s presence will be essential not only for its firms that are trying to tap overseas markets but also for those seeking to build production bases abroad, Watanabe said, adding, “It’s a big opportunity. Japan has wasted the past three years (by not joining the TPP talks).”
That said, the damage to Japan’s agricultural sector is likely to be equally substantial.
Prompted by farm lobbies, the LDP on Thursday adopted a resolution demanding Abe’s government prioritize the exclusion of rice, wheat, beef, pork and sugar from tariff exemptions in the TPP discussions.
Farmers argue that maintaining the current level of output is vital to ensure the nation can produce the minimum food supply that would be necessary in times of severe emergencies, such as wars or global food shortages.
Opening up rice and other sectors to foreign imports would devastate rural economies and communities, but Japan’s agricultural industry already seems to be dying a slow death despite the current protections against foreign products.
According to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, the average age of the nation’s 2.6 million farmers stood at 65.9 as of 2011, and most of them lacked successors. The farm industry, meanwhile, accounted for just 1 percent of Japan’s GDP that year.
“Rice consumption came to 12 million tons in 1994, but it has shrunk to 8 million tons at present,” said Kazuhito Yamashita, a former farm ministry official who now serves as research director of the Canon Institute for Global Studies. “(Agricultural) production will further shrink because of the aging society and decreasing population numbers.
“Japan will no longer be able to maintain its farm industry (at its current level). Everybody is aware of that.”
Yamashita also argued that Japan, if necessary, could still protect its farmers by providing them with direct payments if tariffs against foreign produce are scrapped. A similar policy has been adopted by many other major industrialized countries and is widely considered acceptable in a free-trade agreement like the TPP, he said.
To survive, some domestic farmers will need to begin exporting high-quality produce overseas, Yamashita argued, adding that in that sense, Japan’s participation in the TPP is essential.
Kyodo Graphic – How Participation in TPP may impact Japan – just click on to see it.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA www.irena.org) has issued a request for proposals for: Promotion of national renewable energy policies and incentive schemes in the ECOWAS member countries.
For more information, please check our procurement website:
The University of Salento (Lecce-Italy) announces the second edition of the International Summer School “Life-Cycle Approaches to Sustainable Regional Development”, which will take place in Santa Maria di Leuca (LE) from July 8th to July 12th 2013. The focus of the school will be on LCA, Carbon Footprint, Water Footprint and Integrated Reporting. For all the details please see:www.lcss.unisalento.it/
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Published NYT on-line: February 21, 2013
THE average price of gasoline in the United States, $3.78 on Thursday, has been steadily climbing for more than a month and is approaching the three previous post-recession peaks, in May 2011 and in April and September of last year.
But if our goal is to get Americans to drive less and use more fuel-efficient vehicles, and to reduce air pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases, gas prices need to be even higher. The current federal gasoline tax, 18.4 cents a gallon, has been essentially stable since 1993; in inflation-adjusted terms, it’s fallen by 40 percent since then.
Politicians of both parties understandably fear that raising the gas tax would enrage voters. It certainly wouldn’t make lives easier for struggling families. But the gasoline tax is a tool of energy and transportation policy, not social policy, like the minimum wage.
Instead of penalizing gasoline use, however, the Obama administration chose a familiar and politically easier path: raising fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks. The White House said last year that the gas savings would be comparable to lowering the price of gasoline by $1 a gallon by 2025. But it will have no effect on the 230 million passenger vehicles now on the road.
Greater efficiency packs less of a psychological punch because consumers pay more only when they buy a new car. In contrast, motorists are reminded regularly of the price at the pump. But the new fuel-efficiency standards are far less efficient than raising gasoline prices.
In a paper published online this week in the journal Energy Economics, I and other scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimate that the new standards will cost the economy on the whole — for the same reduction in gas use — at least six times more than a federal gas tax of roughly 45 cents per dollar of gasoline. That is because a gas tax provides immediate, direct incentives for drivers to reduce gasoline use, while the efficiency standards must squeeze the reduction out of new vehicles only. The new standards also encourage more driving, not less.
Other industrialized democracies have accepted much higher gas taxes as a price for roads and bridges and now depend on the revenue. In fact, Germany’s gas tax is 18 times higher than the United States’ (and seven times more if the average state gas tax is included). The federal gasoline tax contributed about $25 billion in revenues in 2009.
Raising the tax has generally succeeded only when it was sold as a way to lower the deficit or improve infrastructure or both. A 1-cent federal gasoline tax was created in 1932, during the Depression. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan raised the tax to 9 cents from 4 cents, calling it a “user fee” to finance transportation improvements. The tax rose again, to 14.1 cents in 1990, and to 18.4 cents in 1993, as part of deficit-reduction deals under President George Bush and President Bill Clinton.
A higher gas tax would help fix crumbling highways while also generating money that could help offset the impact on low- and middle-income families. Increasing the tax, as part of a bipartisan budget deal, with a clear explanation to the public of its role in lowering oil imports and improving our air and highways, could be among the most important energy decisions we make.
Valerie J. Karplus is a research scientist in the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change at M.I.T.
For NYT Op-Ed, follow @nytopinion and to hear from the editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, follow @andyrNYT.
Barbara Carroll is an elegant pianist, composer and vocalist long recognized as one of the premier players of swinging jazz piano and expressive vocals. Her inventive piano playing and totally unique vocal sound leads her into transforming any composition into her own art with her trade-mark emotional directness and respect for the tune, its lyrics and it’s many possibilities.
Barbara will be accompanied by the witty and superior jazz bassist Jay Leonhart who has been called the Fred Astaire of Jazz by LA Times jazz critic Don Heckman.
Barbara Carroll with Jay Leonhart and Ken Peplowski
Originally from Western Canada, Bria Skonberg is a trumpeter, vocalist, songwriter and bandleader taking New York by storm with her “red-hot” trumpet playing and “soul sultry and innocent sweet” voice.
Writing in the The Wall Street Journal author and jazz critic Will Friedwald had this to say “…Bria Skonberg looks like a Scandinavian angel…plays trumpet like a red hot devil and sings like a dream…”
Ken Peplowski’s virtuosity – not only is he an outstanding clarinetist and saxophone player, but he’s also a charismatic entertainer who has been delighting audiences for over 30 years with his warmth, wit, and musicianship. The late Mel Torme´said, “Since the advent of Benny Goodman,there have been too few clarinetists to fill the void that Goodman left.
Actually playing – Joey Morant, Art Baron, Zeke Mullins, Jackie Williams, Bill Wurtzel, David Lee Jones and Michael Max Fleming
The Harlem Blues & Jazz Band Founded in 1973 by King Oliver’s trombonist/blues singer Clyde Berhardt and jazz aficionado Al Vollmer, the Harlem Blues & Jazz Band has as its main concept to keep significant side-men of the Classic Jazz Period working and not forgotten. The continued quality of this group has caused the band to be declared a National Treasure and one of the most authentic Swing Bands playing today. A very special highlight for the 40th anniversary was announced thesaxophonist Fred Staton (the brother of Dakota Staton) will celebrate his 98th birthday but he did not appear.
A great feature of the concert were the young performers – the follow up generation:
Young sax player = Seven Frieder
The terrific Gal trumpet player and singer = Bria Skonberg from Vancouver
The veteran trumpet player in the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band = Joey Morant
at the Piano = Zeke Mullins
Unanounced Special Guests: Ehud Asherie on the piano, Steven Frieder, Marion Felder
the Grand Finale Jam – with everybody on stage was “Take The A Train”
By car take FDR Drive south to end, through underpass onto West Street, north to Chambers. By Subway take 1, 2, 3, 9, A, C, E, J or M train to Chambers or N, R to City Hall stop. Walk west on Chambers. For information call the box office at: (212) 220-1460
Though in favor of the Sunday Washington rally and demonstration to show support for a Presidential Clean Energy policy, it is a letter from Dr. James E. Hansen that helps us formulate what we instinctively found structurally wrong in the way the issue was presented at the rally.
It seemed to us that the rally – booked as a CLIMATE PRESIDENTIAL event – was effectively just an anti Keystone Pipeline and anti Fracking event – thus putting in front, in the eyes of many in the crowd, the main issues of the day. But the deep issues are CLIMATE CHANGE, AIR POLLUTION, WATER POLLUTION, LAND DEGRADATION, and the hold the fossil fuels industries have on our government.
What should have been stressed was rather those issues, and the need of the Administration to address those issues, and saying that the two operative technologies that the business as usual crowd want to use, and that we abhor, are like going the wrong way at a moment that we have reached A FORK IN THE ROAD - the image used by Jim Hansen (Dr. James E. Hansen. ( www.columbia.edu/~jeh1 )
The speeches at the Rally should have thus started by stressing that FORK IN THE ROAD – The one that has positives for the economy, and that we want the President to take, and the other that continues us on the road to doomsday. We do not want those two technologies mentioned above because they take us down the wrong path, but we want the President to lead the country out of the economy debacle by using the right way out of the fork in the road – and he has our backing if he leads in the right way.The truth is that the main media – the TV channels – did not cover the event because it presented mainly the negatives – the “anti” action, and it did not show the positives – the suggested technologies AND TAXES TO HELP – that could put us on the right path from this moment’s FORK IN THE ROAD.
We continue here by posting excerpts from the content of Dr. Hansen’s e-mail – in a reorganized way to help us make above point. And please – let us remember – we are the FOSSIL FUEL FOOLS – if we do not advocate the carbon tax to help us get out from the fake illusion that extending the carbon-age with new carbon technologies does anything but accelerate our voyage to a doomsday destiny. (by the way – that is why I wore that yellow fools’ nose at the Washington rally as mentioned in our reporting.)
The economics is crystal clear. We are all better off if fossil fuels are made to pay their honest costs to society. We must collect a gradually rising fee from fossil fuel companies at the source, the domestic mine or port of entry, distributing the funds to the public on a per capita basis. This approach will provide the business community and entrepreneurs the incentives to develop clean energy and energy-efficient products, and the public will have the resources to make changes.
This approach is transparent, built on conservative principles. Not one dime to the government.
The alternative is to slake fossil fuel addiction, forcing the public to continue to subsidize fossil fuels. And hammer the public with more pollution. The public must pay the medical costs for all pollution effects. The public will pay costs caused by climate change. Fossil fuel moguls get richer, we get poorer. Our children are screwed. Our well-oiled coal-fired government pretends to not understand.
We stand at a fork in the road.
Conventional oil and gas supplies are limited. We can move down the path of dirtier more carbon-intensive unconventional fossil-fuels, digging up the dirtiest tar sands and tar shales, hydrofracking for gas, continued mountain-top removal and mechanized destructive long-wall coal mining. Or we can choose the alternative path of clean energies and energy efficiency.
Transition to a post-fossil fuel world of clean energies will not occur as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy.
Fossil fuels are cheap only because they are subsidized and do not pay their costs to society. Air and water pollution from fossil fuel extraction and use have high costs in human health, food production, and natural ecosystems, with costs borne by the public. Costs of climate change and ocean acidification also are borne by the public, especially young people and future generations.
Thus the essential underlying policy, albeit not sufficient, is for emissions of CO2 to come with a price that allows these costs to be internalized within the economics of energy use. Because so much energy is used through expensive capital stock, the price should rise in a predictable way to enable people and businesses to efficiently adjust lifestyles and investments to minimize costs.
An economic analysis indicates that a tax beginning at $15/tCO2 and rising $10/tCO2 each year would reduce emissions in the U.S. by 30% within 10 years. Such a reduction is more than 10 times as great as the carbon content of tar sands oil carried by the proposed Keystone XL pipeline (830,000 barrels/day). Reduced oil demand would be nearly six times the pipeline capacity, thus rendering it superfluous.
If a rising price is placed on carbon, the tar sands will be left in the ground where they belong. And the remarkable life and landscape of the original North American people will be preserved.
The climate science is crystal clear. We cannot go down the path of the dirty fuels without guaranteeing that the climate system passes tipping points, leaving our children and grandchildren a situation out of their control, a situation of our making. Unstable ice sheets will lead to continually rising seas and devastation of coastal cities worldwide. A large fraction of Earth’s species will be driven to extinction by the combination of shifting climate zones and other stresses. Summer heat waves, scorching droughts, and intense wildfires will become more frequent and extreme. At other times and places, the warmer water bodies and increased evaporation will power stronger storms, heavier rains, greater floods.
I TESTIFY TO MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE OF THE US COMPTROLLER GENERAL – THEY DO AN HONEST DAY OF WORK AND THEY ARE AS NON-PARTISAN AS ONE SHOULD EXPECT FROM THEM. Pincas Jawetz
As climate change leads to more frequent and destructive natural disasters and threatens crop yields, bridges and other infrastructure, the federal government faces big financial risks that it is poorly positioned to address, auditors said Thursday.
These risks, along with the threat of gaps in critical weather forecasting satellites that could last years, topped a biennial list released Thursday of federal programs at high risk of waste, fraud, abuse or financial loss.
“The federal government is terribly exposed to this change,” Gene L. Dodaro, comptroller general and director of the Government Accountability Office, said in announcing why climate change made his agency’s high-risk list. “The government needs a much more strategic and centralized approach.”
The government owns vast swaths of land, runs flood and crop insurance programs with millions of policyholders and regularly pours billions of dollars into emergency aid. But it has no system to address these costs as global warming escalates them, the GAO said in a report on the high-risk list. A White House task force “has no mechanisms for making or enforcing important decisions and priorities,’’ the report said.
Gaps in accurate weather forecasts are expected because a program to launch the next generation of polar satellites has a “troubled legacy of cost overruns, missed milestones, technical problems, and management challenges,” auditors wrote. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a gap of up to two years after existing satellites wear out, but GAO said the new ones could be delayed as long as 53 months.
In the meantime, weather forecasts will be less accurate, with shorter warning times on hurricanes, floods and storm surges, auditors said.
Although NOAA is looking for ways to compensate, its steps “are only the beginning,” the report said.
The high-risk list, released at the start of each Congress, is a to-do list for committees that oversee government operations. This year’s list of 30 problem areas includes federal oversight of food safety, management of government real estate and federal oil and gas resources, several military management systems, fraud in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and a shortage of federal workers with crucial skills as retirements increase.
Six areas have been on the list since it was created in the 1990s, including Medicare and management of the military supply chain.
Two long-standing problems fell off this year: management of contracting among federal agencies and the Internal Revenue Service’s modernization of its business systems.
Dodaro said contracting has improved since the days when “there was no appropriate competition and interrogators in Iraq came from an information technology contractor.” The IRS, “mired in technological and management programs for years,” has made “slow, steady progress” updating taxpayer records and using industry best practices, he said.
Lawmakers in charge of government oversight said that while Americans may disagree about the science of climate change, Congress must address its financial fallout.
“Let’s assume for a moment that there is no such thing as climate change,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “If we see an escalation in these types of catastrophes, we need to be prepared because it’s going to cost [the government] money.” Several experts said the GAO has underscored what scientists and economists already have suggested: Even developed countries will have to devote significant resources to coping with global warming’s impact.
“It really highlights the true cost of climate change on federal assets, as well on other national interests like agriculture and responding to disasters,” said Bruce Stein, the National Wildlife Federation’s director of climate change adaptation.
Under an executive order signed by President Obama, each federal agency must specify plans to address future climate impacts, and during his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama reiterated he would instruct agencies to take steps “to prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change.”
“It’s another sign that it’s finally sinking in that this is the new normal, that sea level, extreme weather and the impact of climate change is something that’s going to cost us both today and long into the future,” said Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center.
Still, not all agencies are responding with the same fervor. Stein noted that while the Interior Department has focused intensely on the issue, “there’s clear and present danger to Department of Defense facilities, but they have not been moving as aggressively on this as we hope to see.”
Robert Stavins, who directs the Harvard Environmental Economics Program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, said that while the issue of global warming remains politically polarized, the GAO report may have an impact because “they’ve always had a reputation for sound analyses unaffected by who’s in the White House or which parties are in the majority.”
NOAA spokeswoman Ciaran Clayton said in an e-mail that the agency has done its best to keep the satellite program “on track” despite inheriting in 2009 “a failed management structure, cost overruns and schedule delays that jeopardized its mission.”
She said funding shortfalls have hampered the agency’s effort to get the program back on track.
“Our top priority is ensuring NOAA’s National Weather Service is able to maintain the accuracy and timeliness of its forecasts and warnings,” Clayton wrote.
C2C Fellows / National Climate Seminar / Bard 02.13.13
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
There is hope in the air that newly appointed Secretary of State Kerry will kill the Keystone Pipeline, but hope, as they say, is not a strategy. Luckily our friends at 350.org, the Sierra Club, and the Hip Hop Caucus have given us all an opportunity to put unstoppable pressure on the White House. If you are able, please head to DC this Sunday, February 17, 2013, for what is shaping up to be the biggest climate rally in history—and have fun doing it!
When you come home, fired up about what to do next, get your college, university, high school, faith group or community organization involved in our National Conversation on Democracy and Climate, scheduled for April 17th. The day centers around a nationwide screening of the fantastic film The Island President, followed by a webinar with the film’s Director Jon Shenk, 350.org’s Director May Boeve, and Thilmeeza Hussain, former UN Representative from the Maldives.
The focus for the day is on the link between democracy and climate justice. With the US political system awash in fossil fuel money, the link holds as true in the United States as it does in the Maldives.
Finally, please urge undergrads and recent grads aspiring to sustainability leadership in policy, politics and business, to join us this spring in Colorado, Michigan and Oregon for our C2C Fellows weekend training workshops.
On September 28, 2005, Lichtman formally announced his candidacy for the United States Senate from Maryland. He ran as a progressive, opposing the War in Iraq and calling for an immediate and safe withdrawal of U.S. troops. He lost in the Primaries to Ben Cardin who went on to win the election.
Allan Lichtman has developed a Presidential candidate-picking system in 1981 based on the 13 criteria he has used to correctly forecast every presidential election since Ronald Reagan’s re-election victory in 1984. He published the rather basic formula in his book, The Keys to the White House.
Basically, the “keys” test the recent performance of the party that is currently in the White House; according to US News, if six or more of them go against the party in power, then the opposing party can start picking out the bands they want at the inaugural ball.
“The keys have figured into popular politics a bit,” Lichtman says. “They’ve never missed. They’ve been right seven elections in a row. A number that goes way beyond statistical significance in a record no other system even comes close to.” Allan Lichtman has gone 7-for-7 at predicting presidential elections since 1984 utill 2012. We write about Allan Lichtman because he was entrusted by the US Department of State to explain to the Foreign Press what to expect from the State of the Union speech President Obama will be making tomorrow – February 12, 2013, President Lincoln’s birthday – this because the speech will be laying the fundamentals for the potential win of the Presidency a Democrat in 2016 besides preparing the legacy of the Obama Presidency.
Professor Lichtman started by explaining that today there are two important speeches a President makes – the Inaugural and the State of the Union – but only the State of the Union was prescribed by the Constitution and in modern times – since President Wilson – is given in person and not just submitted in writing. Since President Truman it is transmitted as well on TV – so it is reaching not just Congress but also the people. The modern strategy is that in the Inaugural speech the President presents large ideas that inspire the Nation, and then in the State of the Union presents technical proposals of how he intends to go about moving towards those goals. Usually this second stage was quite boring and dealt with steps to legislation, but now with the Nation watching on TV one can expect much more.
In 2013 – President Obama started in his inaugural by marking the dangers from Catastrophic Climate Change and their impact on the economy. Tomorrow one can expect that this topic will evolve into the fundament on which the economy will be rescued. One can also bank on it that the President will rather not present boring details of legislation that he knows the present Republican Congress will not want to vote for, and the present Democratic Senate might allow a Republican filibuster. What will happen will be a clear reach-out to the people of the Nation and tell them what has to be done – then it is for the people to put pressure on their elected officials and get them to do the right thing.
Professor Lichtman gave great explanations on how the system evolved and how the speech tomorrow will be very important – perhaps the most important speech in Obama’s political career. In the Q&A time I had a chance to ask the presenter about the Executive Order of June 3, 1999 of the Clinton Administration in which President Clinton decreed the help to meet the challenge of global warming by requiring each Federal agency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from energy use in buildings by 30% below 1990 levels by 2010. Professor Lichtman fully agreed that the President has the power to use such executive orders in his pursuit of the goals he sets – and not only in the energy area but much more.
So, without trying to write the whole Lichtman depiction of what to expect tomorrow and how we got there, I will just bring here the main topics we can expect:
a. the President will not get bogged down to issues like the sequester – budgets – taxes and the like. Issues the Republicans would love to see him get lost in the maze they have built around him.
b. the President has a main theme – it is repairing the economy by taking steps that help decrease the dangers from catastrophic climate change.
This means jobs in an economy that looks at renewable energy and works on infrastructure.
c. moves in the second line of important topics that he can tackle – Immigration, Gun Control and Education. Interesting – Professor Lichtman pointed out that in Congress there are mainly professional politicians and at present time no educators or scientists – and it shows.
d. mention will be made on international problems and US interest in improvement in that area.
So, for us, it will be a good day and it is hoped that the people will show up on Sunday the 17-th on the Mall in Washington in order to show wit their presence that they want to see action. Much of this we have on our website from previous postings.
Allan Lichtman has gone 7-for-7 at predicting presidential elections since Ronald Reagan’s re-election victory in 1984.
The President’s New Federal Energy Efficiency Executive Order
On June 3, 1999, President Clinton issued Executive Order 13123 that will help meet the challenge of global warming by requiring each Federal agency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from energy use in buildings by 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2010. This will reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2.4 million metric tons of carbon equivalent (MMTCE) — the equivalent of taking 1.7 million cars off the road — and save U.S. taxpayers more than $750 million a year. The order also will expand markets for renewable technologies, reduce air pollution, and serve as a powerful example to U.S. businesses and consumers who can reap substantial benefits from energy improvements. Prior Federal Energy Efficiency Efforts
The President’s June 1999 Executive Order builds upon previous efforts to improve Federal energy efficiency. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 established the goal of improving energy efficiency in Federal office buildings by 20 per-cent on an energy-per-square-foot basis by the year 2000, compared with a baseline year of 1985. In March 1994, President Clinton issued Executive Order 12902, which extended the energy efficiency goal to 30 percent below 1985 levels by 2005. The latest order extends these goals still further, while also tightening provisions on exempted facilities and setting forth the first-ever Federal goal tied specifically to greenhouse gas reductions. Aggressive New Goals
The Federal government is the largest energy consumer in the United States. Its annual energy bill runs more than $8 billion, including $4 billion to heat, cool, and power 500,000 buildings. Federal agencies already have reduced energy consumption 17 percent per square foot relative to 1985 levels. The Executive Order builds on that progress, extending current energy efficiency goals and set-ting new targets for greenhouse gas reductions, renewable energy use, and water conservation.
New Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goal. The order requires each Federal agency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that result from energy use in its buildings by 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2010. This is the Federal government’s first-ever goal tied to greenhouse gas reductions.
New Energy Efficiency Goal for Facilities. The Executive Order requires each Federal agency to improve energy efficiency in its buildings by 35 percent relative to 1985 levels by 2010.
New Energy Efficiency Goal for Industrial and Laboratory Facilities. The order requires each Federal agency to improve its energy efficiency in industrial and laboratory facilities by 25 percent relative to 1990 by 2010.
Expanded Use of Renewable Energy. Building on the President’s commitment to install 20,000 Federal solar energy systems by 2010, the order calls for Federal agencies to expand their investments in renewable energy through applications of solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass technologies at Federal facilities and through the purchase of electricity from renewable energy sources.
Water Conservation. The order calls for Federal agencies to improve their efficiency in the use of water in order to reduce water consumption and associated energy use. The order requires the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) to work with other Federal agencies to develop water consumption baselines and then set appropriate goals for water conservation.
Fewer Exempt Facilities. Prior to the President’s new Executive Order, a large number of facilities (accounting for 17 percent of energy use in buildings) were exempt from meeting Federal energy goals. Now all facilities are subject to those goals and requirements unless they meet new exemption criteria to be developed by DOE. In addition, each agency must report all exempt facilities in its annual report to the President and explain the rationale behind excluding them from Federal energy goals. Cutting-Edge Tools and Strategies
The Executive Order calls for agencies to use a wide range of energy management tools and strategies to fulfill the new energy efficiency, renewable energy, and greenhouse gas reduction goals.
Alternative Financing. Financing options such as Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs) and utility energy efficiency service contracts offer Federal agencies powerful tools for leveraging private sector financing to fund cost-saving energy improvements at no net cost to taxpayers. Under ESPCs, private sector energy service companies finance the up-front cost of purchasing and installing new energy efficient equipment. The Federal government uses a portion of the savings it accrues through reduced energy bills to repay the energy service company over the life of the contract. Contractors then receive a predetermined share of the value of the energy savings generated by their efforts and may be paid only if actual savings result from the reduced energy use. All additional savings go to the Federal government. The government benefits from new equipment, reduced energy costs, improved energy efficiency, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and conservation of nonrenewable fuels.
To date, DOE and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) have made more than $8 billion in ESPC contract authority available for all Federal agencies to fund energy improvements. In addition, many of these contracts are “Super ESPCs” that rely on the same principles as regular ESPCs but offer an umbrella contract to allow expedited service. The Executive Order calls for agencies to maximize their use of ESPCs and utility energy efficiency service contracts to realize energy and cost savings.
Life-Cycle Cost Analysis. Federal agencies need to consider the full cost of their investments, including energy, operation, and maintenance costs, not simply the purchase cost of projects or products. By taking all costs into account, agencies can save money and reduce energy use. To that end, the order requires agencies to consider life-cycle costs-that is, investment, capital, installation, energy, operating, maintenance, and disposal costs-over the life of the project or product.
ENERGY STAR ® Labels and Other Energy Efficient Products. The order calls for agencies to purchase energy efficient products such as those with the ENERGY STAR label. Purchasing compact fluorescent light bulbs, highly efficient boilers, and other energy efficient products can save Federal agencies hundreds of millions of dollars.
ENERGY STAR Building SM Label. Agencies shall strive to meet the ENERGY STAR Building criteria in their eligible facilities to the maximum extent practicable by the end of 2002. The label signifies that the building is in the top 25 percent of similar buildings with regard to energy efficiency.
Electricity from Renewable Energy and Energy Efficient Sources. Given that more than 70 percent of the Federal government’s costs for energy used in buildings comes from electricity, the Executive Order requires agencies to consider the source of their electricity and opt for cleaner, more efficient electricity generation. Specifically, agencies shall strive to minimize the greenhouse gas intensity of purchased electricity. In addition, agencies should adopt policies to increase the use of electricity from renewable energy sources.
Highly Efficient Energy Systems. The Executive Order calls for agencies to make greater use of highly efficient energy systems, including combined heat and power systems that use “waste” heat from industrial processes to supply power to other needs. These systems can offer tremendous energy and cost savings, as well as significant environmental benefits.
Off-Grid Electricity Generation. The Executive Order requires agencies to consider off-grid electricity opportunities that often provide energy and environ-mental benefits, while allowing agencies to avoid the costs of building new transmission lines or digging up existing lines. Off-grid options can be particularly effective in remote locations such as some U.S. national parks. Technologies range from solar outdoor lighting to small wind turbines and fuel cells.
Sustainable Building Design. In July 1998, a number of Federal agencies committed to constructing sustainably designed buildings. The June 1999 Executive Order requires all Federal agencies to apply sustainable design principles to the siting, design, and construction of new facilities, thereby saving energy and taxpayer dollars, and reducing pollution. Strengthening Agency Accountability
The Executive Order provides a frame-work to hold agencies accountable for their progress in Federal energy management. The following new management strategies and reporting requirements will help ensure that all Federal agencies manage energy use wisely, reaping substantial fiscal and environmental benefits for years to come.
Annual Reports to the President and Annual Score Cards. Under the Executive Order, each Federal agency must submit an annual report to the President describing the agency’s progress in meeting the goals. In addition, the Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management Budget will evaluate each agency’s performance and submit agency score cards to the President.
President’s Management Council. The President’s Management Council, which generally consists of deputy secretaries from all agencies, will monitor agency progress on Federal energy management and provide a high-level forum for identifying ways to accelerate improvements.
Agency Energy Teams. The Executive Order requires each agency to form a technical energy support team to ensure that energy management strategies are implemented across all facilities. The energy teams bring together legal, procurement, and other essential agency representatives to overcome barriers to realizing energy and cost savings.
New Public-Private Advisory Committee. The order calls for DOE to organize an advisory committee to bring together private and public sector experts who can advise agencies on ways to improve their energy management practices. Concrete Steps, Concrete Savings
In conjunction with the signing of a new Executive Order to promote energy efficiency, President Clinton announced the Pentagon’s intent to award the Federal government’s largest-ever Energy Saving Performance Contract (ESPC). Under this award, Viron Energy Services and Pepco Energy Services will upgrade the energy performance of 837 Federal buildings at no up-front cost to taxpayers. The 18-year service contract, covering five military installations in the Washington, DC, area, will reduce annual energy consumption by 17 percent. The reductions will reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 24,000 metric tons of carbon equivalent (MTCE) — equivalent to taking more than 19,000 cars off the road — and will save DoD more than $219 million in energy and related costs. Other examples of energy-saving actions that the Executive Order is designed to promote include:
Energy Efficient Procurement. The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which supplies almost 20 percent of all light bulbs purchased by the Federal government, teamed up with DOE to offer half-price compact fluorescent light bulbs to any Federal purchaser.
Last year, the DLA supplied 1.5 million bulbs to Federal purchasers. If the bulbs had all been compact fluorescents, savings over the life of the bulbs would have totaled $7.5 million. Recently, DOE added compact fluorescents to the ENERGY STAR product-rating program, providing consumers with quality assurance when they purchase the bulbs. A compact fluorescent bulb can last up to five years, saving $67 over its lifetime.
Renewable Energy Projects. Some 18 Federal agencies — from the departments of Agriculture, Interior, and Transportation to the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Postal Service — recently received a combined $1.5 million in DOE funding for more than 100 cost-effective renew-able energy projects at government sites. The technologies include more than 50 new or renovated solar water heating systems, large and small photovoltaic (PV) systems, PV-powered lights, wind power, and “solar walls” that preheat outside air for interior heating.
Buying Renewable Power. EPA’s Richmond, California, laboratory became the first major Federal facility to use 100 percent renewable energy. Initially, 60 percent of the power supplied will come from geo-thermal sources, and 40 percent will come from biomass. This green power purchase will produce environmental benefits equivalent to eliminating more than two million passenger car miles driven in California each year.
ENERGY STAR Buildings. EPA retrofitted GSA’s Foley Square Federal Office Building in New York City to qualify for the ENERGY STAR Buildings Label. The building, which opened in 1994, has 1.2 million square feet and houses offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, and EPA. By deploying equipment and products that qualify the building for the ENERGY STAR label, Foley Square saves taxpayers $1.3 million annually in energy costs.