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

 

Sons of Abraham: A Candid Conversation about the Issues That Divide and Unite Jews and Muslims.

Overview

A prominent rabbi and imam, each raised in orthodoxy, overcome the temptations of bigotry and work to bridge the chasm between Muslims and JewsRabbi Marc Schneier, the eighteenth generation of a distinguished rabbinical dynasty, grew up deeply suspicious of Muslims, believing them all to be anti-Semitic. Imam Shamsi Ali, who grew up in a small Indonesian village and studied in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, believed that all Jews wanted to destroy Muslims. Coming from positions of mutual mistrust, it seems unthinkable that these orthodox religious leaders would ever see eye to eye. Yet in the aftermath of 9/11, amid increasing acrimony between Jews and Muslims, the two men overcame their prejudices and bonded over a shared belief in the importance of opening up a dialogue and finding mutual respect. In doing so, they became not only friends but also defenders of each other’s religion, denouncing the twin threats of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and promoting interfaith cooperation.

In Sons of Abraham, Rabbi Schneier and Imam Ali tell the story of how they became friends and offer a candid look at the contentious theological and political issues that frequently divide Jews and Muslims, clarifying erroneous ideas that extremists in each religion use to justify harmful behavior. Rabbi Schneier dispels misconceptions about chosenness in Judaism, while Imam Ali explains the truth behind concepts like jihad and Shari’a. And on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the two speak forthrightly on the importance of having a civil discussion and the urgency of reaching a peaceful solution.

As Rabbi Schneier and Imam Ali show, by reaching a fuller understanding of one another’s faith traditions, Jews and Muslims can realize that they are actually more united than divided in their core beliefs. Both traditions promote kindness, service, and responsibility for the less fortunate—and both religions call on their members to extend compassion to those outside the faith. In this sorely needed book, Rabbi Schneier and Imam Ali challenge Jews and Muslims to step out of their comfort zones, find common ground in their shared Abrahamic traditions, and stand together and fight for a better world for all.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Sons of Abraham represents the culmination of years of work by Rabbi Schneier, my partner at the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Imam Ali, and myself to bring Muslims and Jews together all across the world.  Few people thought that these orthodox religious leaders could be friends, and even fewer believed their work would succeed, but Sons of Abraham shows how their friendship has created a model for a worldwide Muslim-Jewish reconciliation.”
—Russell Simmons, Chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and co-founder of Def Jam Records“Through a robust discussion of the history and mindsets that define both Judaism and Islam, Imam Shamsi Ali and Rabbi Marc Schneier offer that the truest illustration of faith lies not in traditions or a myopic approach to piety, but rather in a deeply held belief in one God, a concern for human dignity, and a commitment to mutual respect.  The authors—in their friendship and in their service—offer a rare example of cooperation and provide a beacon of hope as we pursue peace between peoples torn apart by millennia of misunderstanding and mistrust.  Sons of Abraham is a work of political, social, and religious significance and a roadmap for how we should and can move forward.”
—Congressman André Carson

“In this book my friends Rabbi Marc Schneier and Imam Shamsi Ali show us that Muslims and Jews are not enemies, but friends who are united by our belief in a monotheistic god and our lineage to our forefather Abraham. The Rabbi and Imam’s friendship is a reminder that peace and friendship are possible between our peoples.”
—S. Daniel Abraham, Chairman, Center for Middle East Peace  

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807033074
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 9/17/2013
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 291,633

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

 

Launch media viewer
Robert M. Gates in April 2011 on a visit to Irbil, Iraq, as secretary of defense. His new memoir covers his service under Presidents Bush and Obama. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Robert M. Gates gives us a forthright, impassioned, sometimes conflicted account of his four and a half years as defense secretary in his fascinating new memoir “Duty,” a book that is highly revealing about decision making in both the Obama and Bush White Houses.

Mr. Gates — who has won plaudits from both Republicans and Democrats over the years for his pragmatic, common-sense approach to his job — has a doctorate in Russian and Soviet history, was director of central intelligence in the early ’90s, and worked under eight presidents. His writing is informed not only by a keen sense of historical context, but also by a longtime Washington veteran’s understanding of how the levers of government work or fail to work.

Unlike many careful Washington memoirists, Mr. Gates speaks his mind on a host of issues, freely expressing his dismay with the micro-managerial zeal of White House national security aides and his unfettered fury at a dysfunctional Congress. The majority of it, he says, is “uncivil, incompetent in fulfilling basic constitutional responsibilities,” “hypocritical, egotistical” and eager to put “self (and re-election) before country.”

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Alessandra Montalto/The New York Times

Some of his more detailed descriptions of debates within the administration over Afghanistan will be of interest mainly to Washington policy wonks. They can be read as Mr. Gates’s efforts to set the record straight or to take issue with accounts already in print, like in Bob Woodward’s 2010 book “Obama’s Wars.” But while his overall portraits of Mr. Obama (“the most deliberative president I worked for”) and George W. Bush (he “had strong convictions about certain issues, such as Iraq, and trying to persuade him otherwise was a fool’s errand”) are familiar enough, they are fleshed out with myriad, telling glimpses of the two men at work. Mr. Gates — whose nickname in the Obama White House was Yoda — also gives us his shrewd take on a range of foreign policy matters, an understanding of his mission to reform the incoherent spending and procurement policies of the Pentagon, and a tactile sense of what it was like to be defense secretary during two wars. (For security reasons, he traveled to Iraq inside “a sort of large silver Airstream trailer” placed in the hold of a military cargo plane, which, he says, felt “a lot like being FedExed halfway around the world.”)

Headlines have already been made by passages in this book relating to Mr. Obama’s stewardship of the war in Afghanistan. Mr. Gates writes that while he “never doubted Obama’s support for the troops,” he did question his support for their mission there. From early on, he writes, there was suspicion in the White House that the president was “getting the ‘bum’s rush’ from senior military officers” over the question of a troop increase in Afghanistan, and that that suspicion grew over time.

During a heated March 2011 meeting, Mr. Gates says, the president suggested he was possibly “being gamed” by the military. Listening to this, Mr. Gates says he thought, “The president doesn’t trust his commander,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, “can’t stand” the Afghan president Hamid Karzai, “doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.”

Such widely quoted bits of the book — now being dissected on TV — give the impression that as a whole it is less nuanced and measured than it actually is. In fact, Mr. Gates seems less intent on settling scores here than in trying candidly to lay out his feelings about his tenure at the Pentagon and his ambivalent, sometimes contradictory thoughts about the people he worked with.

He writes that he found President Obama’s methodical approach to problem solving “refreshing and reassuring,” and commends his ability to make tough decisions “regardless of the domestic political consequences.” But he also talks about coming close to resigning, feeling “deeply uneasy with the Obama White House’s lack of appreciation — from the top down — of the uncertainties and inherent unpredictability of war.” In a note to himself, he wrote: “They all seem to think it’s a science.”

Mr. Gates says he found it dismaying to hear Hillary Rodham Clinton talk about her opposition to the 2007 surge in Iraq in terms of domestic politics and the Iowa primary. But in another passage, he praises her as “smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world.”

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. does not fare as well. Mr. Gates says Mr. Biden is “impossible not to like” though, in his opinion, Mr. Biden “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

Launch media viewer
Clockwise from top left, Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister of Israel; King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia; Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff; and Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. Clockwise from top left: Nicholas Kamm/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images; Pool photo by Brendan Smialowski; Charles Dharapak/Associated Press; Jim Bourg/Reuters 

Mr. Obama’s national security aides like Denis McDonough and Ben Rhodes are singled out for some of Mr. Gates’s most stinging criticism. He suggests that such advisers were often “out of their depth” in foreign policy and military matters, and blurred the chain of command by circumventing more senior officials. In this respect, this book echoes the journalist James Mann’s 2012 book “The Obamians,” which argued that the president leaned heavily on an inner circle of young aides who had been with him through his 2008 campaign, while keeping more experienced hands at a distance.

The Obama White House, Mr. Gates writes, was “by far the most centralized and controlling in national security of any I had seen since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger ruled the roost.” He adds that its “controlling nature” and “its determination to take credit for every good thing that happened while giving none to the people in the cabinet departments — in the trenches — who had actually done the work, offended Hillary Clinton as much as it did me.”

Mr. Gates points out continuities in national security policies between Mr. Bush’s second term and Mr. Obama’s first. And he notes other similarities between the two presidents: both “had the worst of both worlds on the Hill: they were neither particularly liked nor feared” and did little to reach out to individual members of Congress; nor did either “work much at establishing close personal relationships with other world leaders.” In short, both seemed “very aloof with respect to two constituencies important to their success in foreign affairs.”

Regarding the Bush administration, the most compelling parts of this book concern Iran and Mr. Gates’s worries about “the influence of the Israelis and the Saudis” on the White House, particularly the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and “their shared desire to have problems like Iran ‘taken care of’ while Bush was still president.” Mr. Gates repeatedly warned of the dangers of “looking for another war” when America was already at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. At one point, he says, he was so worried that Mr. Bush might be persuaded by Vice President Dick Cheney and Mr. Olmert “to act or enable the Israelis to act” (that is, to take military action to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon) that he made an intense private call to Mr. Bush in which he argued “we must not make our vital interests in the entire Middle East, the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia hostage to another nation’s decisions — no matter how close an ally.”

Mr. Gates says little more about Mr. Cheney’s influence in the White House, observing that by 2007 the vice president “was the outlier on the team” with President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley “and me in broad agreement on virtually all important issues.” He is also curiously elliptical when it comes to his predecessor at the Pentagon, Donald H. Rumsfeld, whom he replaced in December 2006. Instead, he talks in more general terms about the chaotic war in Iraq he inherited, writing that he was “stunned by what I saw as amazing bungling after the initial military success.” He also confides that Mr. Bush told him in January 2008 that “he wished he’d made the change in secretary of defense ‘a couple of years earlier.’ It was the only thing I ever heard him say even indirectly critical of Rumsfeld.”

Critics of the Bush administration, he writes, fail to understand the sense of fear and urgency that Sept. 11 left on the White House. He adds, though, that “the key question for me was why” several years later, with improved defenses in place, “there was not a top-to-bottom review of policies and authorities with an eye to culling out those that were most at odds with our traditions, culture, and history, such as renditions and ‘enhanced interrogations.’ ” He says that in the summer of 2008, he and Ms. Rice argued “for an aggressive effort to get legislation that would permit us to close” Guantánamo Bay prison but did not prevail.

Mr. Gates is at his most emotional — and moving — in talking about his love for the men and women who serve in the military. “Signing the deployment orders, visiting hospitals, writing the condolence letters and attending the funerals at Arlington all were taking a growing emotional toll on me,” he writes near the end of this plain-spoken memoir. “Even thinking about the troops, I would lose my composure with increasing frequency. I realized I was beginning to regard protecting them — avoiding their sacrifice — as my highest priority. And I knew that this loss of objectivity meant it was time to leave.”

In retrospect, Mr. Gates says, his time as secretary of defense reinforced his “belief that in recent decades, American presidents, confronted with a tough problem abroad, have too often been too quick to reach for a gun — to use military force” even though “wars are a lot easier to get into than out of.”

DUTY
Memoirs of a Secretary at War
By Robert M. Gates
Illustrated. 618 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. $35.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 12th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

CTMD Upcoming Events

 

Center for Traditional Music and Dance & Verite sou Tanbou present

Verite Sou Tanbou   

VODOU IS NATURE!

A conversation about Vodou and the Environment

followed by a Vodou singing session

 

WITH SPECIAL GUESTS

 

OUNGAN DIEUDONNÉ JEAN-JACQUES

AND

MANBO MARIE CARMEL

 


Sunday, Jan 19th, 6:30PM
138 South Oxford Street, 2nd Floor
Brooklyn, NY
FREE ADMISSION – PRIOR RSVP IS REQUIRED
(Kindly RSVP by January 18th to econdon@ctmd.org.
Your RSVP will be confirmed via e-mail.)
The Center for Traditional Music and Dance and its Haitian Community Cultural Initiative, Verite sou Tanbou (formerly known as Ayiti Fasafas), invite you to “Vodou Is Nature,” an educational workshop on Haitian Vodou practice and performance in New York City. Oungan (Vodou priest) Dieudonné Jean-Jacques and Manbo (Vodou Priestess) Marie Carmel will lead a conversation discussing the roots of Haitian Vodou with respect to the environment, in its “four elements” (air, earth, fire, and water), and the Vodou spirits (lwa) which guard and represent the powerful forces and precious resources of the natural world.  The conversation will be translated into English and Kreyol and will be followed by a question-and-answer session, plus a performance of traditional Vodou songs on nature themes. Audience participation is encouraged!
WikiCommons Tree

  

FOR UP-TO-THE-MINUTE SUBWAY DIRECTIONS VISIT WWW.HOPSTOP.COM

Verite sou Tanbou image design by Kesler Pierre.     kp@keslerpierre.com

Roots/water photo by Pam Fray, 2007 (public domain via Wikimedia Commons).

Support for this program is provided to the Center for Traditional Music and Dance and Verite sou Tanbou by the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, Con Edison, the Emma A. Sheafer Charitable Trust, the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, the Gilder Foundation, the Hearst Foundation, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation and the Scherman Foundation.

Find out more about CTMD!
For more information about upcoming events, what’s happening in New York City’s traditional music and dance scene, to join or to donate, go to CTMD’s website.  

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 28th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

From Daniel Pipes of Middle East Forum about his new book

“Islam and Bebop Jazz”

 

Dear Reader:

To commemorate the publication of this look at the connections of Islam to jazz, I posted today “Bibliography – My Writings on Music and Islam.” It contains nine items. 

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Pipes

Islam and Bebop Jazz

by Daniel Pipes
December 27, 2013

www.danielpipes.org/blog/2013/12/islam-and-bebop-jazz

The passing of Al-Hajj Dr. Yusef Abdul Lateef, 93, on Dec. 23 in Massachusetts brings to mind the exotic, semi-forgotten influence of Islam on the American music scene in the 1950s, when Islam, and specifically Ahmadiyya Islam, was cool.

Lateef was born William Emanuel Huddleston on Oct. 9, 1920, in Chattanooga and grew up in Detroit, where his father changed the family name to Evans. He began as a saxophonist in 1946, then went on to play the flute, oboe, bassoon, and many other instruments. In a very long and important career, he made music with such renowned figures as Cannonball Adderley, Donald Byrd, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charles Mingus, as well as being a band leader in his own right.

 

Yusef Abdul Lateef died at 93 on Dec. 23, 2013.

Lateef become one of the first black jazz musicians to associate with Islam, converting in 1948 and changing his name at that time, then twice going on the pilgrimage to Mecca and writing a PhD dissertation in 1975 titled “An Overview of Western and Islamic Education.” As an implicit indication of his piety, from 1980 on he banned alcohol from his performances.

Missionaries of the small Ahmadiyya movement out of Pakistan had eye-popping success among leading jazz musicians of the 1950s, converting in addition to Lateef such luminaries as Nuh Alahi, Art Blakey (Abdullah Ibn Buhaina), Fard Daleel, Mustafa Daleel (Oliver Mesheux), Talib Daoud, Ahmad Jamal (Fritz Jones), Muhammad Sadiq, Sahib Shihab (Edmund Gregory), Dakota Staton (Aliya Rabia), and McCoy Tyner (Sulaiman Saud).

 

Dakota Staton, aka Aliya Rabia (1930-2007).

Superstars whispered to have converted included John Coltrane (who first married a Muslim), Dizzy Gillespie (whose band included several Muslims), Charlie Parker (Abdul Karim), and Pharaoh Sanders (whose work contains Muslim themes). One listing of Muslim jazz players contains about 125 names. These musicians preferred to perform at clubs owned by fellow Muslims, many of whom hailed from the Caribbean.

In short, Islam was the unofficial religion of bebop.

The musicians turned to Islam in part for genuine religious reasons; in part because (in the words of 1953 Ebony article), “Islam breaks down racial barriers and endows its followers with purpose and dignity”; and in part because Islam served them as a mark of distinction in a United States where Muslim numbered only about 100,000 out of a population of 150 million.

Comments:

(1) This connection contains a certain irony, given Islam’s dubious and sometimes directly hostile attitude toward music. For example, when the singer British Cat Stevens first converted to Islam in 1977, he stopped recording music for two decades. For a time in 2010, Somali Islamists not only banned all music but even school bells. Their counterparts in Mali in 2013 banned mobile phone ringtones.

(2) Ahmadis also harbor reservations about music, especially what they call pop music (which presumably includes jazz): Replying to a question on this topic, Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the fourth caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, replied in 2010:

it all depends on the degree of the habit and the nature of the music. The music in itself, as a whole, cannot be dubbed as bad. … In these things it is a matter of taste. … as far as pop music is concerned I don’t know how people can tolerate that! Just sheer nonsense! I don’t disrespect music altogether, because I know the classical music had some nobility in it. … the taste left behind by this modern “so-called music” is ugly and evil, and the society under its influence is becoming uglier and more permissive, more careless of the traditional values, so this music is obviously evil and sinful. … an occasional brush with music which draws you into itself at the cost of higher values, at the cost of memory of Allah, at the cost of prayers, where you are taken over by music and that becomes all your ambition and obsession; if that happens then you are a loser, obviously.

(3) The Islam of the bebop era enhanced the musicians’ cool factor and was apolitical.

(4) That stands in sharp contrast to American Muslim music of subsequent years, which is characterized by alienation and anger. In the 1990s, for example, the Nation of Islam could count on the support of Ice Cube, King Sun, KMD, Movement X, Queen Latifa, Poor Righteous Teachers, Prince Akeem, Sister Souljah, and Tribe Called Quest. The Five Percenters, a splinter group of the Nation, had Grand Puba, Big Daddy Kane, Eric B. and Rakim, and Lakim Shabazz in its corner. Normative Islam also had a smattering of artists such as Soldiers of Allah. Mattias Gardell, a biographyer of Louis Farrakhan, finds that the “hip-hop movement’s role in popularizing the message of black militant Islam cannot be overestimated.” (December 27, 2013)

 

Louis Farrakhan was a talented violinist when young and still Eugene Walcott. He made his mark in the late 1950s with theatrical and musical creations, the only ones the Nation of Islam countenanced in its early decades.

 This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

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

 

 

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

I congratulate EKATERINA LOUSHNIKOVA on this piece of work.

 

 

The lower depths in Russia today.

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

 

The church porch

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


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

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

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

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

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

Down and out

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

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

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

A saviour appears

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

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

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

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

People of No Permanent Abode

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


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

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

‘Do you have a family, any relatives?’

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

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

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

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

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

A retired KGB Lieutenant-Colonel

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

‘Do you get any visitors here?’

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Managing – just…

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

EXIL: BRUCHSTÜCKE UND LEBENSMODELLE

JULYA RABINOWICH IN TEXT UND GESPRÄCH.

 

 

Julya Rabinowich: österreichische Schriftstellerin, Dramatikerin, Malerin und Simultandolmetscherin.

 

Moderation: Isolde Charim, Autorin und Philosophin

Anmeldungen unter:

Tel.: 3188260/20

Fax: 318 82 60/10

e-mail: einladung.kreiskyforum@kreisky.org

Melitta Campostrini
Bruno Kreisky Forum
for International Dialogue
Armbrustergasse 15
www.kreisky-forum.org

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

 

Media Decoder

Turning to Public to Back Investigative Journalism.

If you suspect your local town government is corrupt, would you pay a journalist to investigate?
We re-post this and add the question – Would you bother spending money on investigating the UN that wastes your money?

 

  Asie Mohtarez

Israel Mirsky, founder of the journalism site Uncoverage.

Uncoverage, a website that will be announced on Monday {that is today}, will test whether the public cares enough about investigative journalism to pay for it. The site, to be at Uncoverage.com, will allow journalists and nonprofits to seek crowdsourced funding for both articles and topics like, for example, the Syrian war. Money for general topics will be split up among projects by the site’s editors.

The nonprofit investigative group the Center for Public Integrity has signed on as a partner whose projects will be featured on the site.

The commercial site is being founded by Israel Mirsky, an entrepreneur who said that the current model for financing investigative journalism was broken.

“I am passionate about depleted uranium” he said, “but if I want to see more on the topic, my only choice is to buy a paper where reporting on the topic has appeared before and watch for future articles. I can’t imagine a less effective and satisfying way to get journalism on a topic I care about.”

Investigative journalism, he said, is shrinking as web journalism grows, and tends to cater to celebrities and other traffic-driving topics. “There is a lot of things digital journalism can do well, investigations is not one of them,” he said.

He said that sites like Kickstarter, which lets people back a broad array of projects like movies or new businesses, are not suited to investigative journalists who might require serial funding, instead of a one-time infusion.

Uncoverage, which will take 5 to 7 percent of every transaction, will provide specific services to journalists and other safeguards like fact-checkers who verify the quality of the pitches and editors who hone the pitches and help shape and sell the final product.

Editors will receive a portion of the funding of each article they work on beyond the site’s take, a compensation structure Mr. Mirsky said was intended to give an incentive to editors to build followings for their topics.

Topic cans be proposed by would-be backers, but only on subjects of public interest. “I won’t take money for journalism on Miley Cyrus — it is not an open season,” Mr. Mirsky said.

He also said that the site was only for journalists with significant experience. “This is not a place to start your career,” he said.

The site will post completed work, but hopes journalists will also be able to sell their articles to other outlets for the widest possible distribution.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 29th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

Das demokratische Zeitalter

Rezension: Christian Moser [Müller, Jan-Werner (2013): Das demokratische Zeitalter. Eine politische Ideengeschichte Europas im 20. Jahrhundert. Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag, ISBN 9783518585856, Preis: € 41,10]

Politische Ideen bewegen die Menschen

Das 20.Jahrhundert war das Zeitalter der Ideologien. Der deutsche Politologe Jan-Werner Müller definiert Ideologien als Formen eines leidenschaftlichen, mitunter auch fanatischen Glaubens an Ideen und Entwürfe zur Perfektionierung der Gesellschaft. Nach dieser Lesart stiften Ideologien nicht nur Sinn und versprechen innerweltliche Erlösung, sondern manche „politische Religionen“ wie der Nationalsozialismus oder der Kommunismus erheben den Anspruch, einen „neuen Menschen“ erschaffen zu können.

Mehr dazu unter www.PolAk.at.


Gewinnspiel

Die Politische Akademie verlost fünf Exemplare des Buches edition noir Band 24 „Wohlstandsatlas Österreich“ der Julius Raab-Stiftung.

Die Gewinnfrage lautet: Von wem stammt die berühmte politische Formel „Wohlstand für alle“?

a) Ludwig Erhard
b) Adolf Kolping
c) Alois Mock

Ihre Antwort samt Namen und Adresse schicken Sie bitte bis Di., 03.12.2013, 12:00 Uhr an judith.feldmann@PolAk.at.

Die Politische Akademie wünscht viel Erfolg!

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


The pillar of fire that went before the peace camp.

Haaretz ?September 8, 2013 in Hebrew / September 9, 2013 in English.

Uri Avnery, who is turning 90 on September 10, 2013, wasn’t just a pioneer of Israeli journalism – he mainly stands out as a statesman and prophet.

By Gideon Levy in HAARETZ – Hebrew Sep. 8, 2013 / English September 9, 2013

He’ll be 90 years old tomorrow. He is as fleet as a deer (but less than he once was); brilliant, sharp and clear (definitely no less than he once was). Barbra Streisand won’t be singing for him and Bill Clinton won’t be coming. He won’t even receive the Israel Prize for journalism. Here, they prefer to give that to television anchors and political gossips. But Uri Avnery doesn’t need all these things. He has already left his imprint, and the history minister has granted him what no momentary minister ever received.

Last week he wrote in his column: “What is there about it [poison gas] that is so special, such a red line? … Poison gas is not a weapon of mass destruction … moreover, it is not a decisive weapon … poor Obama.”

Avnery has already been granted the best gift a person his age could receive – he is as relevant as he always was. Israel is a consumer of the media he helped create; its Hebrew contains quite a few expressions he invented; it is dealing with issues that he was the first to address; and the only diplomatic vision Israel has, if indeed it still has one, is his.

He broke the back of the propaganda model of journalism. Back in the day, before the fashion started for faculties of journalism and PR, there were two schools for aspiring journalists here: Avnery’s weekly magazine, Ha’olam Hazeh, and Army Radio. The first educated, the second corrupted. Avnery was dean of the school that educated.

You just have to recall the long line to the newspaper seller outside the intellectuals’ hangout Cafe Cassit in Tel Aviv every Tuesday evening, and the next morning at the Knesset library, to realize what an effect he had. Suffice it to remember what a war Isser Harel’s Shin Bet security service waged against him. Suffice it to recall what kind of journalism we had here in the heyday of the self-censoring “editors committee,” with the lies about Qibiyeh and the fabrications about Kafr Qasem, to understand that without Ha’olam Hazeh, we would have had no journalism here.

The weekly also played a role in Haaretz – the only real newspaper that’s left here, forged by its legendary editor Gershom Schocken – with a number of senior journalists coming from Ha’olam Hazeh to the daily.

But the history minister will not just remember Avnery the journalist and editor. First and foremost, Avnery stands out as a statesman and prophet. The fighter from the “Samson’s Foxes” unit during the War of Independence – who wrote the books “In the Fields of Philistia” and subsequently “The Other Side of the Coin” – was and is a true Zionist. His two-volume autobiography, which he is now finishing, will certainly be a true biography of the state.

Avnery was one of the first to utter the words that everyone mumbles now – “two states for two peoples.” Together with Yeshayahu Leibowitz and the radical socialist organization Matzpen, he was the pillar of fire that went before the camp. He was a detested, denounced and ostracized trailblazer who survived two assassination attempts – and Israel never kneeled before him to ask his forgiveness, or at least to say thank you.

He supported the rebellion of the striking sailors before anyone was yet talking about “social justice.” He supported the Israeli version of the Black Panthers before anyone had yet coined the phrase “ethnic demon.” He fought corruption in Labor Party forerunner Mapai, before anyone had heard about the connection between big money and government. He wrote about nightlife and celebrities, the Hebrew word for which – yeduanim – he invented, long before the celeb culture started here. He also met with Palestine Liberation Organization head Yasser Arafat in Beirut when Arafat was the enemy of the people.

How easy it is to imagine what the State of Israel would be like if it had walked in the guiding light of this prophet. How frustrating it is that Israel never heeded him. A prophet? Avnery would grimace at the word. He was never a man for high language, pathos and emotion. Rather, he is a man of words that are simple, sharp and cool. Read his analyses from decades ago or today and answer honestly, what was he wrong about?

He is still fighting, writing and protesting, imbued with optimism and enthusiasm that, to a man like me, are foreign and incomprehensible. “If we keep looking down at our feet, we will die of sorrow. Therefore, I always look up,” he once stated in a Haaretz interview.

The truth is, I am very envious of Avnery – the rich biography and enthusiastic faith of the man for whom no heir has been found, the man whom we never listened to in time, the prophet in his own city. Mazal Tov.

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

When I congratulated Uri Avnery on his actual 90-th Birthday – September 10th – and called him writing his autobiography – “What Could Have Been” – he corrected me characteristically:

Thanks!!!
Let’s think more about the future !

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 24th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Communicating Environmental Patriotism
A Rhetorical History of the American Environmental Movement.
By Anne Marie Todd

Published June 7th 2013 by Routledge – 174 pages

Series: Routledge Explorations in Environmental Studies


Environmental patriotism, the belief that the national environment defines a country’s greatness, is a significant strand in twentieth century American environmentalism. This book is the first to explore the history of environmental patriotism in America through the intriguing stories of environmental patriots and the rhetoric of their speeches and propaganda,

The See America First movement began in 1906 with the aim of protecting and promoting the landscapes of the American West. In 1908, Gifford Pinchot and President Theodore Roosevelt hosted the White House Conservation Conference to promote the wise use of natural resources for generations of Americans. In 1912, Pittsburgh’s smoke investigationcondemned the effects of coal smoke on the city’s environment. In World War II, a massive propaganda effort mobilized millions of Americans to plant victory gardens to save resources for the war abroad. While these may not seem like crucial moments for the American environmental movement, this new history of American environmentalism shows that they are linked by patriotism.

The book offers a provoking critique of environmentalists’ communication strategies and suggests patriotism as a persuasive hook for new ways to make environmental issues a national priority. This original research should be of interest to scholars of environmental communication, environmental history, American history and environmental philosophy.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 24th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Death by Corporation, Part II: Companies as Cancer Cells.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013 09:40 By Dr Brian Moench, Truthout | Report

The financial industry, chemical industry, drug companies, nuclear industrial complex and dirty energy empire work “like tumor cells for the relentless destruction of the environment that they themselves depend upon for their very lives. And the rest of us stand by and watch it happen.”

The Financial Industry

The global financial crisis of 2008, at a cost of more than $20 trillion, caused millions of people to lose their jobs and homes in the worst recession since the Great Depression. The financial crisis became a human crisis. The World Bank estimated that 53 million people worldwide were thrown into poverty and that between 200,000 and 400,000 babies died annually as a result. Millions of children in sub-Saharan Africa have suffered severe malnutrition and long-term brain damage as fallout from the financial disaster.

Suicide rates rise and fall with the state of the economy. Unemployment and foreclosure are the largest triggers in increased suicide risk. About 35,000 Americans die every year from suicides, up about 28 percent since 1999. Suicide rates in Europe, where the recession has been even more severe, are even higher. Ervin Lupoe from Wilmington, California, shot his five children and wife to death before turning the gun on himself. Lupoe was deep in debt, behind on his mortgage and had been fired from his hospital job. Anxiety, fear, crime, domestic abuse, murder and suicide all increased worldwide because of the financial crisis.

It was an “avoidable” disaster caused by widespread failures in government regulation, corporate mismanagement and heedless risk-taking by Wall Street, according to the conclusions of a federal inquiry. It was the private market, not government programs, that made, packaged and sold most of these wretched loans without regard to their quality. The packaging, combined with credit default swaps and other esoteric derivatives, spread the contagion throughout the world. That’s why what initially seemed to be a large but containable US mortgage problem touched off a worldwide financial crisis.

The speculative binge was abetted by a giant “shadow banking system” in which the banks relied heavily on short-term debt, snake oil mortgage hucksters and credit rating agencies that essentially prostituted themselves for cash from the investment banks. Regulators “lacked the political will” to scrutinize and hold accountable the institutions they were supposed to oversee. The financial industry spent $2.7 billion on lobbying from 1999 to 2008, while individuals and committees affiliated with it made more than $1 billion of campaign contributions.

The banking industry is completely unchastened. It is now pressing a full-frontal assault on repealing Dodd-Frank – a small, inadequate attempt to prevent it from destroying our economy again.

The Chemical Industry

Albert Einstein is often attributed with a statement like, “If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.” Although Einstein may not have actually said that, and he was not an entomologist, the importance of pollinators to modern agriculture is difficult to overstate. Humans likely will not survive a total collapse of the bee population, and we are headed in that direction. Eighty-seven of the top human food crops, which supply about 90 percent of the world’s nutrition, are pollinated by bees.

“Human beings have fabricated the illusion that in the 21st century they have the technological prowess to be independent of nature. Bees underline the reality that we are more, not less, dependent on nature’s services in a world of close to 7 billion people,” said UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“Colony collapse disorder” (CCD) began to appear in 2007. The bees were abandoning their hives, losing their homing behavior and acting disoriented, kind of like “bee autism.” Like three blind mice, scientists, federal regulators and the media initially pointed the finger at climate change, poor nutrition, fungus, cell-tower radiation, mites, and viruses. Finally they’ve begun to open their eyes.

A new class of pesticides that systemically infiltrates the entire plant from seed to flower, called neonicotinoids, attacks the nervous system of insects with devastating efficiency. Neonicotinoids surged in popularity about the time CCD appeared. Not surprisingly, they were found to be as toxic to beneficial insects as they were to pests. These pesticides have risen to the top of the list of CCD culprits, and the European Union has placed a two-year ban on neonicotinoids. So far, nothing has been done by the EPA in the US.

Europe and the United States have different approaches to environmental regulation of toxic substances. Europe errs on the side of safety; the US errs on the side of corporate profits. Where Europe requires chemicals to demonstrate safety before release and is willing to take products off the shelf at a relatively low threshold of evidence, the United States does virtually the opposite. The EPA basically assumes all products are safe and will withdraw products only after they have been conclusively proven guilty of serious harm.

The chemical companies Bayer, Syngenta, BASF, Dow, DuPont and Monsanto (highlighted in Part I of this essay) have waved a smoke screen in front of the bee calamity, claiming the mystery cannot yet be solved and not even precautionary action can be taken. The mounting science that implicates their product is “faulty,” they say, just like the “junk” science that exposed tobacco, asbestos, lead and human-caused global warming. But to show its objectivity and concern, Monsanto is hosting a “Bee Summit,” Bayer is breaking ground on a “Bee Care Center,” and Sygenta is funding grants for research into the accelerating demise of honeybees in the United States. I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m willing to guess that the pesticide industry’s research will exonerate pesticides.

Despite the unique and critical function that bees perform, despite what is common sense to everyone else, the EPA appears only too happy to let the smoke screen obscure its responsibility to protect our food supply. The EPA has shunned researchers who have drawn conclusions critical of neonicotinoids and are poised to make the situation even worse by approving another bee-killing class of pesticides from our friends at Dow – the sulfoximines.

When it comes to safeguarding the food supply of all humankind or the profits of a handful of chemical companies, you can tell who has the upper hand.

The Drug Companies

About 20 years ago, the United States became, and still is, virtually the only major country where the $600 billion drug industry can advertise directly to consumers. Patients now tell their doctors what drugs they should be on. For the drug companies, the results have been spectacular, for public health, the exact opposite. The US is 49th in the world in life expectancy despite Americans taking more prescription drugs per capita than any other country. Spending on prescription drugs more than doubled between 1999 and 2008. Nine of ten adults over 60 are on a prescription drug, as are one of every four children and teenagers. More than 20 percent of all American adults are taking at least one drug for “psychiatric” or “behavioral” disorders. Americans’ recent fascination with doped-up zombies is a reality show playing out in front of their own mirrors.

Between 2001 and 2007, the percentage of adults and children on one or more prescriptions for chronic conditions rose by more than 12 million. Twenty-five percent of American children now take a drug for some kind of chronic condition. Nearly 3 million children are on Lipitor, the anti-cholesterol drug that is increasingly suspected of causing a wide range of neurologic pathologies, including Lou Gehrig’s disease. (It turns out nerve cells require cholesterol to function). Twenty million Americans are on these anti-cholesterol drugs, the largest-selling class of prescription medicine.

I have seen patients on as many as 18 prescription drugs. When I was in medical school, I was told that by the time a patient is on five different drugs, there is virtually a 100 percent chance of having an adverse drug interaction. One doctor observed that there is no scientific basis for treating older folks with more than $300 of meds per month that have serious side effects and largely unknown multiple drug interactions. In fact 200,000 Americans are killed every year by prescription drugs, including adverse drug interactions. A standard marketing approach for drug companies seeking to meet “sales quotas” is to send drug reps to doctors and push them to prescribe drugs for off-label use, which although legal, raises obvious questions of ethics, efficacy and magnification of side-effect risks. The end result is Americans take epilepsy seizure drugs for pain, antipsychotics for the blues and an antidepressants for knee pain – and hot flashes – all because of marketing and sales quotas.

A deadly example is Cephalon’s painkilling fentanyl lollipop, Actiq, which is loaded with the potent painkiller that I use only as a supplement to general anesthesia and for the first few hours of postoperative pain. The product was approved only to treat terminal cancer patients in chronic pain who are already on an opioid drug because life-threatening conditions can occur at any dose in patients without a chronic, buildup of tolerance for narcotics. With the pressure to meet their quota at their backs, Cephalon sales reps were regularly sent to doctors who treated no cancer patients, with free coupons to pass out to patients with simple problems like migraines and back pain. A study by Prime Therapeutics found Actiq was prescribed off-label nearly 90 percent of the time. You can go online right now and get a free coupon for a “reduced price” on your fentanyl lollipop. Meeting a sales quota is certainly one of the reasons prescription pain killer overdoses kill 15,000 people a year, nearly four times more than in 1999, with 500,000 ER visits and costing health care insurers $72.5 billion annually. Some pharmaceutical corporations have become simply drug dealers with fancier clothes.

Many drugs become part of mainstream medical practice only because of studies sponsored by drug companies.
Most published trials funded by drug companies show positive results and are conducted overseas – on sick Russians, homeless Poles and slum-dwelling Chinese – in places where regulation is virtually nonexistent. Furthermore, drug companies spend twice as much on sales and marketing as they do on research. The pharmaceutical industry has the largest political lobbying force in the United States. None of that lobbying is to persuade Congress to let them save more lives. Its only objective is let the industry make more money.

The pharmaceutical industry has heavily infiltrated the curriculum in American medical schools, is taking a dominant role in its relationship with the medical profession, and is having a corrupting influence on academic research into its own products. At Harvard Medical School, the pinnacle of American medicine, where I served as an instructor years ago, of the 8,900 professors and lecturers there in 2009, 1,600 admitted that they or a family member have had some kind of business link to drug companies, sometimes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, that could bias their teaching or research.

The story of Vioxx and Celebrex is a microcosm of drug company behavior. When studies on Vioxx and Celebrex became available in 1998 and 1999, many doctors were disappointed. Neither drug alleviated pain any better than the older medicines. And the drugs cost close to $3 a pill; over-the-counter pain relievers, in contrast, cost pennies a dose.

Merck had known of potential lethal side effects even before launching Vioxx in 1999 but had brushed all such disturbing tests under the rug. Merck held data for three years that proved Vioxx caused an alarming increase in the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Estimates of deaths caused by Vioxx are as high as 500,000. Merck knowingly and maliciously allowed a deadly drug to continue to be sold to patients for years to maximize profits through the sale of a product they knew was killing people. Merck’s actions fit the legal definition of “negligent homicide.” Part of this story is the cozy relationship between Merck and the FDA. An FDA scientist who discovered the Vioxx heart connection early on said his FDA bosses forced him to quash information that was potentially damaging to Merck. The most disturbing part of the Vioxx story is – despite paying out billions of dollars in lawsuits, Vioxx still made money for Merck. Walking over a few dead bodies on the way to meet a sales quota is just what we do in corporate America.

The Nuclear Industrial Complex

Any discussion about corporations that threaten the future of mankind must obviously include the nuclear industry. Even outside the realm of nuclear accidents, every phase of the nuclear fuel cycle releases radiation into the environment – the uranium mining, the milling, the fuel production, the power plant operation and the multiple streams of waste.

For example, out of sight, out of mind, and virtually out of the discussion of nuclear power are the 200 million tons of uranium mill tailings still lying scattered throughout the Western US exposed to the winds and rain. Dr. William Lochstet of Penn State University calculated that operation of a single uranium mine could result in 8.5 million deaths over time.1 Dr. Robert O. Pohl of Cornell believed the potential health effects from mill tailings could “completely dwarf” those from the rest of the nuclear fuel cycle and add significantly to the worldwide toll of death and mutations.2 In 1977, Dr. Walter H. Jordan, of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), stated the commission “had underestimated radon emissions from tailings piles by a factor of 100,000. It is very difficult to argue that deaths to future generations are unimportant.”3 Radon gas is heavier than air but can travel thousands of miles from its source, damaging chromosomes and causing cancer every mile of the way.

The health risks of radiation always have been viewed differently by scientists with a background in the hard sciences – physics and engineering – compared with scientists with a background in the soft sciences – biology, genetics, physiology and medicine. Generally, the “hard” scientists tend to discount risks of low-dose radiation and are more often proponents of nuclear power. The “soft” scientists observe that biological organisms are too complex to establish rules for safe exposure; they more often oppose nuclear power, like the aforementioned scientists who have warned about mill tailings.

Hermann Muller won the 1943 Nobel Prize for discovering genetic mutations caused by X-rays. In a paper he published in 1964, “Radiation and Heredity,” he predicted the gradual reduction of the survival of the human species as the exposure to ionizing radiation increased. Since then, radiation to the human population has steadily increased. And, in fact, sperm counts and fertility rates are dropping worldwide, according to a 2010 report from the European Science Foundation. Multiple culprits likely are involved, but our exposure to radiation, from medical procedures to fallout from nuclear tests, accidents and power plants, are at the top of the list.

The National Academy of Sciences’ last report on the health risk of radiation in 2006 (BEIR VII) stated all radiation has consequences, and no dose can be considered safe. Radiation damage is cumulative, and each successive dose builds upon the cellular mutation caused by the last. It can take years for radiation damage to manifest pathology. For nuclear apologists to declare that no one died from Fukushima, so onward with the “nuclear renaissance,” reveals childlike ignorance or deliberate deception.

All nuclear power plants are potential global disasters that threaten the future of mankind and every living thing. Every human has been affected by radiation from the 1986 Chernobyl accident because the radiation eventually circumnavigated the entire globe. Radiation’s calling card is damage to chromosomes that can be passed on to subsequent generations. Chromosomal damage is not just the first step in a long road to cancer and infertility, it is also a common denominator for myriad diseases and dysfunction involving virtually every organ system.

Fukushima, although it has disappeared from the news cycle, is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind.
Three self-sustaining nuclear meltdowns that will not be fully contained for years, six damaged reactors, the equivalent of 20 nuclear cores exposed. Half of Japan is now contaminated. Serious cleanup could cost $10 trillion. The Japanese government has admitted that the amount of radioactive cesium-137 released by the Fukushima nuclear disaster so far is the equivalent of 168 Hiroshima bombs. That doesn’t count the radioactivity that is still being spread into the Pacific Ocean from radioactively contaminated water used to cool the doomed reactors, which will end up distributed throughout the global ecosystem.

The whole concept of nuclear power plants, launched by President Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” speech to the United Nations in 1953, was an afterthought to the development of nuclear weapons. The public had become terrified of “mutually assured destruction” and those politicians, convinced that nuclear arms were nonetheless imperative, were looking for a means to soothe Americans’ nuclear anxiety, or what we might call today “pre-traumatic stress disorder.”

The promise of safe, “too cheap to meter” electricity turned out to be a complete and utter fraud, and the governments of the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Russia played a major role in that deception.

But so did the corporations that stood to cash in on the nuclear power “boom.” The companies that helped bring us these nuclear power plant disasters – General Electric, Hitachi, Toshiba – through flawed designs, poor construction, cheap materials and prioritizing profits over safety have nonetheless enjoyed near immunity from financial consequence. In virtually every country with nuclear reactors, the laws seriously limit a nuclear company’s liability to a tiny fraction of the real damages. So when that is the case and a corporation’s only motive is profit, there is little incentive for them to prioritize safety instead.

The list of examples of nuclear corporations cutting safety corners to save money is too long for this article, but how the nuclear industry responded after the Fukushima debacle is just the most recent example. Rather than being chastened by this disaster, the nuclear industry has done just exactly what the financial industry did – act like nothing happened and fight tooth and nail against any reform. The NRC spent a year assembling a list of 12 post-Fukushima safety improvements but, succumbing to industry pressure, chose to demand only three. Then it gave the industry up to five years to comply. Recently the nuclear industry complained to congressional Republicans that NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko was being too aggressive in pursuing post-Fukushima safety regulations, so they got him canned.

Granting a license extension to an existing nuclear power plant may not seem like much of a reason to march and protest, but nuclear reactors have a limited life span because all their component parts do. And the materials degrade more quickly because of the radioactive exposure. Extending a plant’s life of operation definitely increases the risk of an accident. So far by 2013, 71 nuclear reactors have applied for a 20-year extension of their licenses, and all 71 have been approved, many with the same design flaws as found at Fukushima. “Fukushima? What Me Worry?”


The Dirty Energy Empire

Finally, this brings us to the fossil fuel industry. As I write this, the temperature is a record-setting 105 degrees in Salt Lake City; no relief is expected for a week. Western forests are being obliterated by drought, pine beetle infestations and wildfires. Reservoirs are only half full. The summer is just getting started; so is global warming.

To keep the climate stabilized enough to maintain civilization as we have come to know it, or even avoid mass starvation and global chaos, we will have to stay within a carbon budget. The world must only allow about one fifth of the known, economically recoverable reserves of coal, oil and gas to be extracted and burned. There is no evidence whatsoever that any of these corporations are entertaining any thoughts of self-restraint. As mindless, amoral, and unbridled as a malignancy destroying its host, Exxon-Mobil, TransCanada, Peabody Energy, Koch Industries and the like employ hundreds of thousands of people working like tumor cells for the relentless destruction of the environment and climate that they themselves depend upon for their very lives. And the rest of us stand by and watch it happen. In fact, if we work for a bank, we may not only be watching it happen, we may be loaning them the money to make sure it happens.

If the fossil-fuel corporations seem like Frankenstein monsters, unbelievably they may actually not be the worst. According to the Environmental Investigation Agency, many Chinese and Indian companies that make the refrigerant HCFC-22 are demanding big money to dispose of a byproduct of that process, HFC-23, which is a greenhouse gas 14,800 times more potent than CO2. Despite having cheap destruction technology readily available, they intend to hold their stores of HFC-23 hostage until the rest of the world pays up. This has caught the attention of other manufacturers of HCFC-22 in developing countries who are poised to join in the “climate bomb” threat.

Under a UN program, incinerators for HFC-23 are installed at 19 refrigerant facilities, mostly in China and India but also in South Korea, Argentina and Mexico, to help control the super greenhouse gas. Destruction of HFC-23 is extremely cheap. But refrigerant companies made billions in windfall profits from the sale of carbon credits, maximized through manipulation of HCFC-22 and HFC-23 production levels. This prompted the European Emissions Trading Scheme to ban the trade of HFC-23 credits as of May 1, 2013. Other carbon markets have followed suit, resulting in the collapse of the HFC-23 credit market. What is at stake here is the greenhouse gas equivalent of one-fourth of China’s annual CO2 emissions.

As disturbing as all of this is, something looms on the horizon that could dismantle what few tools citizens have to defend their health, environment, wallet and climate from evisceration by corporate invaders from across the globe. In Part III of Mankind: Death by Corporation, we’ll investigate what is being assembled behind a curtain of secrecy, a “Death Star” of corporate omnipotence, allowing them to impose their will on citizens and communities anywhere in the world as never before – The Trans-Pacific Partnership.

[1] William Lochstet, “Radiological Impact of the Proposed Crownpoint Uranium Mining Project,” August 1978, unpublished manuscript.

[2] Robert O. Pohl, “In the Matter of Public Service Company of Oklahoma,

Associated Electric Coop., Inc. and Western Farmers Coop., Inc. (Black Fox Station Units 1 and 2,” testimony before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, Docket Nos. STN 50-556 and STN 50-557.

[3] Walter Jordan, “Errors in 10 CFR Section 51.20, Table S-3,” memorandum to James R. Yore, NRC, September 21, 1977; and Walter Jordan, letter to Congressman Clifford Allen, December 9, 1977.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 25th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,

wir laden Sie herzlich zur letzten Veranstaltung vor der Sommerpause ein:


Im Rahmen der Reihe GENIAL DAGEGEN (kuratiert von Robert Misik) spricht Ralf FÜCKS am kommenden Montag (1. Juli 2013, 19.00 Uhr) at the Bruno Kreisky Foundation for International Discours to the following theme (zu folgendem Thema):

———-

INTELLIGENT WACHSEN — INTELLIGENT GROWTH

WIE WIR RESSOURCENSCHONUNG UND — HOW WE SAVE RESOURCES AND

WIRTSCHAFTSWACHSTUM UNTER EINEN HUT KRIEGEN ECONOMIC GROWTH PUT UNDER THE SAME HAT.

———-

In der Krise rufen alle nach “Wachstum” – die soziale Katastrophe ist nur mit Wachstum zu beenden, Banken, Haushalte und Staaten kommen auch nur mit Wachstum von ihren Schulden runter. Aber tut sich da nicht ein großer Zielkonflikt auf? Wachstum beutet endliche Ressourcen aus, zerstört den Planeten und ist außerdem in ausreichendem Maße überhaupt nicht mehr zu erwarten, wenden Kritiker ein.

Ralf Fücks sieht das in seinem Buch “Intelligent wachsen” anders. Mit einer radikalen Umstellung von Energie, Verkehr, Städtebau, mit hocheffizienten Technologien und intelligenten Stoffkreisläufen können wir Wohlstand für bald 9 Milliarden Menschen schaffen und zugleich die natürlichen Ressourcen schonen. So lässt sich auch die größte ökologische Herausforderung der Zukunft bewältigen: das stürmische Wachstum der Länder des Südens, deren Aufstieg gerade erst begonnen hat.

Ralf Fücks, 61, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung,ist einer der schillerndsten Politiker der deutschen Grünen. 1989 war er Parteisprecher der Grünen (de facto Parteivorsitzender), danach Senator und Vizebürgermeister in Bremen. Seit Ende der neunziger Jahre ist er Chef der Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, der Parteiakademie der deutschen Grünen.

Moderation: Robert Misik, Journalist und Autor

Ralf Fücks: Intelligent wachsen. Die grüne Revolution, Carl Hanser Verlag

His new book – ISBN-10: 3446434844

ISBN-13: 978-3446434844

Bruno Kreisky Forum für Internationalen Dialog | Armbrustergasse 15 | 1190 Vienna

U.A.w.g.: Tel.: 3188260/20 | Fax: 318 82 60/10 | e-mail:  einladung.kreiskyforum at kreisky.org

Melitta Campostrini
Bruno Kreisky Forum
for International Dialogue
Armbrustergasse 15
A-1190 Vienna

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 18th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

A lot has happened in the last week. The Earth hit the 400 parts per million CO2 threshold for the first time in human history. Scientists tell us this is bad news if we want to prevent runaway climate change. “If we continue to burn fossil fuels at accelerating rates, if we continue with business as usual, we will cross the 450 parts per million limit in a matter of maybe a couple decades,” scientist Michael Mann told Democracy Now! “We believe that with that amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, we commit to what can truly be described as dangerous and irreversible changes in our climate.”

 

 

 

May 17, 2013  | from Tara Lohan on AlterNet

If you didn’t know this already, we should be listening to Mann and to other scientists. I thought this was settled a long time ago, but someone keeps giving print space to climate deniers, so a new survey of 12,000 peer-reviewed studies on the climate was just completed and the not-so-shocking conclusion was this, as Mother Nature Network reports:

 

Published this week in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the analysis shows an overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that humans are a key contributor to climate change, while a “vanishingly small proportion” defy this consensus. Most of the climate papers didn’t specifically address humanity’s involvement — likely because it’s considered a given in scientific circles, the survey’s authors point out — but of the 4,014 that did, 3,896 shared the mainstream outlook that people are largely to blame.

 

In light of this news, it makes it even more infuriating to see that the Obama administration has spent the week prostrating to the fossil fuel lobby. Here are four disturbing things the administration’s been up to.

 

1. Moniz Hearts Fracking

 

Obama tapped nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz to head the Energy Department and the Senate gave a big thumbs-up to Moniz on Thursday. Many environmental groups had concerns that Moniz was too pro-fracking, and those concerns are clearly warranted. Moniz’s first order of business Friday was to clear the way for 20 years of liquified natural gas exports via Freeport LNG Terminal on Quintana Island, Texas.

 

Of course, we’ve already been sold the story that we’re suposed to frack the crap out of the country in the name of energy security, but we knew all along it was for industry profit, right? Brad Jacobson recently detailed for AlterNet about how Congress members are clamoring for export plans to be fast-tracked — although what Americans will get out of the deal
will be higher gas prices and less energy security.

 

2. Thanks for Nothing, Sally

 

While the nomination of Moniz disappointed many environmentalists, some were cheered by REI exec Sally Jewell taking over the Interior Department. Those same folks might not be cheering after Jewell announced the Bureau of Land Management’s newest regulations (or lack thereof) for fracking on our public lands.

 

As Sierra Club’s Michael Brune reported Friday:

The new rules are disappointing for many reasons: Drillers won’t be required to disclose what chemicals they’re using, there is no requirement for baseline water testing, and there are no setback requirements to govern how close to homes and schools drilling can happen. Once again, though, the policy documents an even bigger failure to grasp a fundamental principle: If we’re serious about the climate crisis, then the last thing we should be doing is opening up still more federal land to drilling and fracking for fossil fuels.

 

3. No Time for Farmers

The group Bold Nebraska reported this week that Obama turned down an invitation to hear from Nebraska farmers and ranchers about their concerns that the Keystone XL pipeline could destroy their livelihoods. Of course, the President is a busy guy, right? And besides, the White House said he was not “taking any meetings on the pipeline.”

Or is he? The group writes:

Bold Nebraska was therefore surprised the President is meeting with staff at Ellicott Dredges, a company that just testified in Congress in support of Keystone XL and makes equipment that creates the tailing ponds, which are massive bodies of polluted water and a byproduct of the tar sands mining process.

“I simply do not understand why President Obama can find the time to visit a company that helps hold 12 million liters of toxic tar sands water but cannot find the time to visit ranchers who put over $12 billion of Nebraska-grown food on Americans’ dinner tables every year,” said Meghan Hammond, a young farmer whose family land is at risk with the current route in Nebraska.

 

4. Who Needs the Arctic? (Hint: We Do)

Subhankar Banerjee, a photographer and longtime Arctic activist, was recently appalled by a new report from the Obama administration on the future of the Arctic. And the rest of us should be, too. Banerjee writes about the report:

“Our pioneering spirit is naturally drawn to this region, for the economic opportunities it presents…” President Obama hides his excitement for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean by carefully choosing the euphemism—“economic opportunities.”

In page 7 the true intent of the report is finally revealed: “The region holds sizable proved and potential oil and natural gas resources that will likely continue to provide valuable supplies to meet U.S. energy needs.”

Of course the report mentions protecting the environment, but gives no specific details.

 

We know that Obama talks a good talk about climate protection, but his second term has proven thus far that he’s completely out of touch with reality. You can’t hit 400 ppm CO2 and still think “all of the above” is a rationale energy strategy.

 ————————————-

Tara Lohan, a senior editor at AlterNet, has just launched the new project Hitting Home, chronicling extreme energy extraction. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis, including most recently, Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource.                            Follow her on Twitter @TaraLohan.

###

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

Climate Change Adaptation, Not to be Missed

from: Mica Longanecker  - micalonganecker.gcap@gmail.com via lists.iisd.ca 
t

Climate change is here to stay, what are you doing to ensure that we live in a more prepared, better-adapted world?

 

Climate change is a global issue that requires smart action. According to a recent article in the Guardian, global carbon dioxide levels are set to pass the 400ppm milestone over the next few days, setting an unprecedented level of carbon in the atmosphere.

 

Other recent news headlines re-enforce the extent to which climate change is affecting current systems. From the USGS-NOAA’s Climate Change Impacts to U.S. Coasts Threaten Public Health, Safety and Economy to the IPCC urging Obama to raise awareness of science behind climate change. From Pacific Islands looking for new and innovative models to UK tourist attractions at risk of surface water flooding and early indicators that climate change could bring malaria to Europe. The evidence is there. What’s needed is action.

 

The Global Climate Adaptation Partnership (GCAP), working with the University of Oxford Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, is excited to offer the 2013 Adaptation Academy Foundation Course: Creating Climate Adaptation Leaders aiming to support decision making in a changing environment.

 

Now in our fourth year, the Adaptation Academy is a leading climate adaptation training programme, supporting participants in developing technical and leadership skills in climate adaptation through actual project work and practical case studies. We constantly refine and shape the course based on the learning and feedback from previous years, ensuring that we remain a global leader in climate adaptation training.

 

Climate adaptation requires champions, leaders and agents of change. Join us next August and immerse yourself in the Foundation Course. Emerge transformed. Be prepared to find adaptation solutions for some of the most profound challenges ever to face the world and build a strong foundation for integrating climate adaptation into your work. Join world-renowned alumni and the leading global network of climate adaptation.

 

From the halls of an Oxford college, explore your role, make new and binding friendships with future leaders, raise the bar on your own thinking and potential by rubbing shoulders with an internationally renowned academic community, learn first-hand from expert practitioners and be inspired by leading intellectuals pioneering revolutionary interventions.

 

The Foundation Course integrates four central learning themes:

  1. Participants’ role as change makers
  2. Causal chains of climate science
  3. Adaptation as a process
  4. Project/Program development

Building on these four central themes, we have developed a range of different modules and exercises to bridge knowledge and application, theory and practice. The content of the 2013 Foundation Course will be:

  • Concepts of climate change, risk, vulnerability and adaptation
  • Analysing climate data for change and variability – trends and extreme events
  • Using climate change scenarios – uncertainty, probability, climate envelopes
  • Theory of change, leadership skills and communicating climate risks
  • Assessing vulnerability and impacts
  • Mapping socio-institutional networks, information flows and needs
  • National, sectoral, urban and local strategies and measures
  • Disaster risk reduction
  • Economics of adaptation and adaptation finance
  • Screening adaptation options to develop sound projects
  • Monitoring, evaluation and learning in adaptation pathways
  • Project development and practical skills development

Places are filling up and only a few remain! Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to revolutionise your thinking and take steps towards becoming an effective change maker.

The 2013 Adaptation Academy Foundation Course runs from the 12-30 August 2013, Oxford UK.

For more information, check out the Academy website (www.adaptationacademy.org) or contact Mica Longanecker, the Academy Coordinator, at academy@climateadaptation.cc.

 

Apply directly online for the course here!

 

If you want to engage with some of the world’s leading climate adaptation experts on an ongoing basis, join GCAP’s LinkedIn Group.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 13th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. (photo: Getty Images)
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. (photo: Getty Images)

The Madness of NYT’s Tom Friedman

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

11 April 13

 

Looking back at the Iraq War and other disastrous U.S. foreign policy choices, you might wonder about the sanity of American leadership. But if you read star columnist Thomas L. Friedman, you’ll learn that it’s the rest of the world that’s crazy, as Robert Parry explains.

hen ranking which multi-millionaire American pundit is the most overrated, there are, without doubt, many worthy contenders, but one near the top of any list must be the New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman – with his long record of disastrous policy pronouncements including his enthusiasm for George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

Friedman, of course, has paid no career price for his misguided judgments and simplistic nostrums. Like many other star pundits who inhabit the Op-Ed pages of the Times and the Washington Post, Friedman has ascended to a place where the normal powers of gravity don’t apply, where the cumulative weight of his errors only lifts him up.

Indeed, there is something profoundly nonsensical about Friedman’s Olympian standing, inhabiting a plane of existence governed by the crazy rules of Washington’s conventional wisdom, where – when looking down on the rest of us – Friedman feels free to cast aspersions on other people’s sanity, like the Mad Hatter calling the Church Mouse nuts.

Friedman describes every foreign adversary who reacts against U.S. dictates as suffering from various stages of insanity. He accepts no possibility that these “designated enemies” are acting out of their own sense of self-interest and even fear of what the United States might be designing.

In last Sunday’s column, for instance, Friedman airily dismissed the leaders of Iran, Syria, North Korea, China and Russia as all operating with screws loose, either totally crazy or fecklessly reckless. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un was a “boy king … who seems totally off the grid.” In Friedman’s view, China is enabling North Korea’s nuclear brinkmanship and “could end the freak show there anytime it wants.”

Russia is aiding and abetting both the violence in Syria and the supposed nuclear ambitions of Iran. Friedman asks: “Do the Russians really believe that indulging Iran’s covert nuclear program, to spite us, won’t come back to haunt them with a nuclear-armed Iran, an Islamist regime on its border?”

To Friedman, Bashar al-Assad is simply “Syria’s mad leader,” not a secular autocrat representing Alawites and other terrified minorities fearing a Sunni uprising that includes armed militants associated with al-Qaeda terrorists and promoting Islamic fundamentalism.

You see, according to Friedman and his neoconservative allies, everyone that they don’t like is simply crazy or absorbed with mindless self-interest – and it makes no sense to reason with these insane folks or to propose power-sharing compromises. Only “regime change” will do.

Who’s Detached from Reality?

But the argument could be made that Friedman and the neocons are the people most disconnected from reality – and that the New York Times editors are behaving irresponsibly in continuing to grant Friedman some of the most prestigious space in American journalism to spout his nonsensical ravings.

Looking back at Friedman’s history of recommending violence as the only remedy to a whole host of problems, including in places like Serbia and Iraq, you could reasonably conclude that he’s the real nut case. He’s the one who routinely urges the U.S. government to ignore international law in pursuit of half-baked goals that have spread misery over large swaths of the planet.

In 1999, during the U.S. bombing of Serbia, Friedman showed off his glib warmongering style: “Like it or not, we are at war with the Serbian nation (the Serbs certainly think so), and the stakes have to be very clear: Every week you ravage Kosovo is another decade we will set your country back by pulverizing you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too.”

Before George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, Friedman offered the witty observation that it was time to “give war a chance,” a flippant play on John Lennon’s lyrics to the song, “Give Peace a Chance.”

Yet, even amid his enthusiasm to invade Iraq, Friedman was disappointed by Bush’s clunky rhetoric. So, he hailed the smoother speechifying of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and dubbed himself “a Tony Blair Democrat.” Today, it might seem that anyone foolish enough to take that title – after Blair has gone down in history as “Bush’s poodle” and is now despised even by his own Labour Party – should slink away into obscurity or claim some sort of mental incapacity.

But that isn’t how U.S. punditry works. Once you’ve risen into the firmament of stars like Tommy Friedman, you are beyond the reach of earthly judgments and surely beyond human accountability.

When the Iraq War didn’t go as swimmingly as the neocons expected, Friedman became famous for his repetitious, ever-receding “six month” timeline for detecting progress. Finally, in August 2006, he concluded that the Iraq War wasn’t worth it, that “it is now obvious that we are not midwifing democracy in Iraq. We are babysitting a civil war.” [NYT, Aug. 4, 2006]

At that point, you might have expected the New York Times to drop Friedman from its roster of columnists. After all, the Iraq War’s costs in lives, money and respect for the United States had become staggering. You might even have thought that some accountability would be in order. After all, advocacy of aggressive war is a war crime as defined by the Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II.

Yet, 12 days after his admission of Iraq War failure, Friedman actually demeaned Americans who had opposed the Iraq War early on as “antiwar activists who haven’t thought a whit about the larger struggle we’re in.” [NYT, Aug. 16, 2006] In other words, according to Friedman, Americans who were right about the ill-fated invasion of Iraq were still airheads who couldn’t grasp the bigger picture that had been so obvious to himself, his fellow pundits and pro-war politicians who had tagged along with Bush and Blair.

As I noted in an article at the time, “it’s as if Official Washington has become a sinister version of Alice in Wonderland. Under the bizarre rules of Washington’s pundit society, the foreign policy ‘experts,’ who acted like Cheshire Cats pointing the United States in wrong directions, get rewarded for their judgment and Americans who opposed going down the rabbit hole in the first place earn only derision.”

Instead of a well-deserved dismissal from the Times and journalistic disgrace, Friedman has continued to rake in big bucks from his articles, his books and his speeches. Meanwhile, his record for accuracy (or even sophisticated insights) hasn’t improved. Regarding foreign policy, he still gets pretty much everything wrong.

‘Crazy’ Enemies

As for the supposed madness of America’s “designated enemies,” Friedman refuses to recognize that they might see defensive belligerence as the only rational response to U.S. hostility. After all, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi both accepted U.S. demands for disarmament and both were subsequently attacked by U.S. military force, overthrown and murdered.

So, who in their right mind would accept assurances about the protections of international law when Official Washington and Tommy Friedman see nothing wrong with invading other countries and overthrowing their governments? In view of this recent history, one could argue that the leaders of Iran, Syria and even North Korea are acting rationally within their perceptions of national sovereignty – and concern for their own necks.

Similarly, Russia and China have searched for ways to resolve some of these conflicts, rather than whipping up new confrontations. On the Iranian nuclear dispute, for instance, Russia has worked behind the scenes to broker a realistic agreement that would offer Iran meaningful relief from economic sanctions in exchange for more safeguards on its nuclear program.

It has been the United States that has vacillated between an interest in a negotiated settlement with Iran and the temptation to seek “regime change.” Recently, the Obama administration spurned a Russian push for genuine negotiations with Iran, instead favoring more sanctions and demanding Iranian capitulation.

It should be noted, too, that the Iranian government has renounced any desire to build a nuclear weapon and that the U.S. intelligence community has concluded, since 2007, that Iran ceased work on a nuclear weapon in 2003, a decade ago. Friedman could be called irrational – or at least irresponsible – for not mentioning that fact. And you might wonder why his Times’ editors didn’t demand greater accuracy in his column. Is there no fact-checking of Friedman?

Seeking ‘Regime Change’

Of course, the Times and Friedman have a long pattern of bias on Iran, much as they had on Iraq. For instance, the newspaper and its star columnist heaped ridicule on Turkey and Brazil three years ago when those two U.S. allies achieved a breakthrough in which Iran agreed to ship about half of its low-enriched uranium out of the country in exchange for some medical isotopes. To Friedman, this deal was “as ugly as it gets,” the title of his column.

He wrote: “I confess that when I first saw the May 17 [2010] picture of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, joining his Brazilian counterpart, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with raised arms – after their signing of a putative deal to defuse the crisis over Iran’s nuclear weapons program – all I could think of was: Is there anything uglier than watching democrats sell out other democrats to a Holocaust-denying, vote-stealing Iranian thug just to tweak the U.S. and show that they, too, can play at the big power table?

“No, that’s about as ugly as it gets.”

Though Friedman did not call Lula da Silva and Erdogan crazy, he did insult them and impugned their motives. He accused them of seeking this important step toward a peaceful resolution of an international dispute “just to tweak the U.S. and show that they, too, can play at the big power table.”

In the column, Friedman also made clear that he wasn’t really interested in Iranian nuclear safeguards; instead, he wanted the United States to do whatever it could to help Iran’s internal opposition overthrow President Ahmadinejad and Iran’s Islamic Republic.

“In my view, the ‘Green Revolution’ in Iran is the most important, self-generated, democracy movement to appear in the Middle East in decades,” Friedman wrote. “It has been suppressed, but it is not going away, and, ultimately, its success – not any nuclear deal with the Iranian clerics – is the only sustainable source of security and stability. We have spent far too little time and energy nurturing that democratic trend and far too much chasing a nuclear deal.”

Just three years later, however, it’s clear how wrongheaded Friedman was. The Green Movement, which was never the mass popular movement that the U.S. media claimed, has largely disappeared.

Analyses of Iran’s 2009 election also revealed that Ahmadinejad did win a substantial majority of the vote. Ahmadinejad, with strong support from the poor especially in more conservative rural areas, defeated the “Green Revolution” candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi by roughly the 2-to-1 margin cited in the official results.

For instance, an analysis by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes concluded that most Iranians voted for Ahmadinejad and viewed his reelection as legitimate, contrary to claims made by much of the U.S. news media. Not a single Iranian poll analyzed by PIPA – whether before or after the election, whether conducted inside or outside Iran – showed Ahmadinejad with less than majority support. None showed Mousavi, a former prime minister, ahead or even close.

“These findings do not prove that there were no irregularities in the election process,” said Steven Kull, director of PIPA. “But they do not support the belief that a majority rejected Ahmadinejad.” [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's "Ahmadinejad Won, Get Over It!"]

Bias Over Journalism

During the Green Movement’s demonstrations, a few protesters threw Molotov cocktails at police (scenes carried on CNN but quickly forgotten by the U.S. news media) and security forces overreacted with repression and violence. But to pretend that an angry minority – disappointed by election results – is proof of a fraudulent election is simply an example of bias, not journalism.

One can sympathize with those who yearn for a secular democracy in Iran – as you may in other religiously structured states including Israel – but a journalist is not supposed to make up his or her own facts, which was what the Times and Friedman did in 2009 on Iran.

Friedman’s contempt for the Turkey-Brazil deal in 2010 also looks pretty stupid in retrospect. At the time, Iran only had low-enriched uranium suitable for energy production but not for building a nuclear weapon. If Iran had shipped nearly half that amount out of the country in exchange for the medical isotopes, Iran might never have upgraded its reactors to refine the uranium to about 20 percent, what was needed for the isotopes and which is much closer to the level of purity needed for a bomb.

There are other relevant facts that a serious analyst would include in the kind of column that Friedman penned last Sunday, including the fact that the United States possesses a military force unrivaled in world history and enough nuclear bombs to kill all life on the planet many times over.

Also relevant to the Iran issue, Israel possesses a rogue nuclear arsenal that is considered one of the world’s most advanced, but Israel has refused to accept any international oversight by rejecting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran has signed and insists it is living by.

An objective – or a rational – observer would consider the unbelievable destructiveness of the U.S. and Israeli nuclear stockpiles as a relevant factor in evaluating the sanity of the supposedly “crazy” leaders of Syria, Iran and North Korea – and their alleged accomplices in Russia and China.

But Friedman operates on a plane of impunity that the rest of us mortals can only dream about. Apparently once you have achieved his punditry status, you never have to say you’re sorry or acknowledge countervailing facts. All you have to do is say that everybody else is crazy.


Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, “Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush,” was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, “Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq” and “Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’” are also available there.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 7th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Far From Reservation, Sisters Lead Louisville.

  Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Shoni Schimmel (23) with her sister Jude, right, during Louisville’s win over Baylor last Sunday. Louisville then defeated Tennessee to reach the Final Four.

By Published, The New York Times on-line: April 6, 2013

OKLAHOMA CITY — Louisville had just advanced to the women’s Final Four, and the sisters Shoni and Jude Schimmel had helped cut the nets in celebration, a rare achievement for American Indian athletes. But it was not the biggest family news of the day.

    Alastair Christopher/Hock Films

Shoni Schimmel leads Louisville in scoring at 14.4 points a game.

As the sisters left the court Tuesday night, their father beamed and their mother waved and flashed her wedding ring. After 25 years of companionship and 8 children, Ceci Moses and Rick Schimmel had been officially married, inspired in part by Louisville’s epic run through the N.C.A.A. tournament, a mother’s deferred dream realized and an accomplishment by her daughters that was as much a cultural triumph as an athletic success.

Although basketball has long been the most popular sport on Indian reservations, seldom has that esteem translated into great performance in the highest college and professional ranks. An N.C.A.A. study indicated that during the 2011-12 academic year, only 21 women and 4 men identified as American Indian/Alaska Native participated among the 10,151 basketball players at the Division I level.

The Schimmel sisters, who belong to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla in eastern Oregon, are not only participating, but also have become indispensable members of Louisville’s team. Shoni Schimmel, a 5-foot-10 junior guard, leads the Cardinals in scoring at 14.4 points a game and has seemingly unlimited range on her arcing 3-point shot. Jude Schimmel, a 5-5 sophomore, is the team’s steady sixth man.

While Jude is quietly reliable, Shoni is a florid passer with a brash on-court personality. She twice scored more than 20 points and was named most outstanding player of the Oklahoma City regional as Louisville upset Baylor, the defending national champion, and Tennessee, which has won eight N.C.A.A. titles.

On Sunday, Louisville (28-8) will face California at the Final Four in New Orleans. Through Shoni’s influence, in particular, the Cardinals have adopted a more structured version of what many call Rez Ball, an up-tempo style that is joyful, feverish and fearless.

“It’s a very rare position they’re in to excel at this level,” said Ryneldi Becenti, a star at Arizona State in the 1990s who is the only female basketball player inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame. “I don’t think I’ve heard of any Native American women getting to the Final Four, especially being the biggest part of the team.”

For Tuesday’s victory over Tennessee here in the regional final, Indians from numerous tribes came in support, holding up signs that said “Rez Girls Rock” and “Native Pride” and “Never Give Up.” Many said they viewed the Schimmels as an inspirational counterpoint to the despair of poverty, alcoholism, teenage pregnancy, drug addiction and educational indifference often found on reservations.

Depending on the region of the country, 30 percent to more than 50 percent of Indians do not graduate from high school, according to various studies. And many who do leave for college often feel pressure to return in a culture that finds comfort at home, and fear and suspicion in the outside world.

“This shows you can go to college and you don’t have to drink and have babies,” said Glory Thompson, 48, a Cherokee from Holdenville, Okla. “Every step you want to take to get somewhere, it’s out there. Just because you’re Indian doesn’t mean you can’t go.”

Basketball serves a passionate communal purpose and provides an objective measure of success against the bleak statistics of failure on reservations, said Don Wetzel Jr., who operates the Montana Indian Athletic Hall of Fame, founded by his father. Stories abound of cars ringing makeshift courts at night, lights on, boundaries marked with flour, players honing their ball-handling skills by wearing gloves or dribbling over rocks.

“A lot of things are holding the tribes down in a lot of ways,” Wetzel said, “but you cross those lines on the court, and it’s an equal playing field. What these Schimmel sisters are doing is really impacting Indian country. It’s all over Facebook, TV. Everybody is cheering for them.”

For as long as she can remember, Shoni Schimmel said, she was obsessed with basketball. By age 2, she was allowed to dribble freely around the house. At 4, she played in her first tournament. By 10 or 12, she said, she sometimes shot outside until 3 in the morning. Her parents knew she was safe “because they could hear me dribbling.”

“Rez Ball,” Shoni said. “It’s run and gun, shoot whenever you’re open, trust in your heart.”

As Shoni entered her junior year of high school and Jude her sophomore year in 2008-9, however, the family left the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Mission, Ore., for Portland. Moses, now 40, began coaching her daughters at Franklin High School. Rick Schimmel, now 44, who is white and played baseball briefly at Stanford, became the assistant coach.

Shoni Schimmel and her mother and ex-coach Ceci Moses, right, were in a documentary about the family called “Off the Rez.”

Shoni Schimmel in the documentary film “Off the Rez,” directed by Jonathan Hock.

Some relatives resisted, but the move was necessary, Moses said. Her own basketball and track career had been disrupted in high school, she said, when she gave birth to her eldest son at 15. Later, she had to settle for basketball at community college, Moses said, because her coach seemed reluctant to promote Indians to university recruiters.

For her daughters, Moses planned a different outcome. To help them gain exposure, they would play at a city school and showcase their talents against top-flight competition.

“I was afraid,” Moses said. “I love the reservation. But I wanted my babies to have a fair opportunity. Plus, I wanted to show people what I could do. Even though I didn’t want to leave the reservation, I told myself: ‘If I don’t do it, my kids are going to follow suit. They’re going to see, well, Mom never left, why should I?’ I wanted to show the kids that if you really want your dream, sometimes you have to go out of your comfort zone and go get it.”

Urged by her mother not to limit her college possibilities to the West Coast, Shoni chose Louisville in 2010. The Cardinals had reached the national championship game in 2009. They average 9,500 fans a game and have a coach, Jeff Walz, who cultivates a flamboyant, frantic style that suits her. He also provides what she considers a family-style atmosphere. During inevitable periods of homesickness as a freshman, Shoni even baby-sat for Walz’s two children.

“That made her feel comfortable and needed,” said Jonathan Hock, who directed a documentary about the Schimmel family called “Off the Rez.”

To have her sister Jude now joining her “is amazing,” Shoni said, adding, “I’m so glad I can share it with her.”

Still, Shoni can be a challenge to coach. She leads the team in assists (127) and turnovers (123). In a tense 82-81 victory over Baylor last Sunday, Schimmel made a sublime and maddening play at the same time, dribbling behind her back, flicking a blind shot over the 6-8 Brittney Griner, then screaming at Griner and risking a second technical foul.

“I tell her all the time, she’s talented enough to play for anybody,” Walz said of Shoni. “But not anybody can coach her because she’s going to do some things that make you scratch your head.”

Kim Mulkey, the Baylor coach, complained that the referees had lost control and let the game become too personal among the players. Shoni shrugged and said her barking was just an exhale of emotion. She apparently is not the only family member who acts on the spur of the moment.

On a 26-hour drive to Oklahoma City from Portland, Rick Schimmel joked with his wife that Louisville would beat Baylor because the game was on “Easter Sunday, a day of miracles.” O.K., Moses said, “If they win, I’ll marry you.”

On Tuesday, the couple married in a chapel near the county courthouse, records indicate. Their daughters could not attend because of a shoot-around practice. Hours later, after Louisville defeated Tennessee and their parents debated whether to drive to New Orleans and the Final Four, Shoni and Jude greeted about 30 Indian fans who had waited for the team bus.

“It’s a blessing to show other people you can make it; coming off a reservation, you can do whatever you want,” Shoni said. “You’ve got to set your mind to it and believe in yourself. It’s indescribable how I feel that they’re following me and supporting me.”

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

Dear Pincas,

This year, the Climate Reality Project will conduct trainings around the world for the next generation of Climate Leaders, who will in turn become part of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps. Already, more than 4,000 Climate Leaders from 58 countries are educating people about the climate crisis and how we can solve it. I want to personally invite you to join this global community of change-makers.

Click here to learn more about the Climate Reality Leadership Corps and apply to become a Climate Leader and join this global community today.

More than ever before, the climate crisis is creating a new reality for millions around the world. From Australian farmers losing their crops to bushfires, to New Yorkers rebuilding neighborhoods devastated by Superstorm Sandy, to crippling droughts throughout Central and Eastern Asia, Mexico and the Southwestern U.S. that are compromising the regions’ food security—the consequences of the climate crisis are growing more intense. Even as the severity of the climate crisis grows, many people don’t yet understand how it touches them personally or what they can do about it.

We need more Climate Leaders across the world to lead a carbon conversation about solutions and spread the truth about the climate crisis. Join us to become one of these leaders today.

In a three-day training, including sessions that I lead, Climate Leaders learn the latest climate science and best practices for connecting the dots between the facts about climate change and the daily lives of their audiences, in simple and accessible terms. They emerge as energized and skilled communicators with the knowledge, tools, and passion to educate and empower diverse audiences and communities to help solve the climate crisis. I invite you to become a part of this network.

Click here to apply for our training in Istanbul in June or in Chicago in July.

Together, we have an enormous opportunity to communicate the reality of climate change. With your help as a Climate Leader, we can do this person by person, family by family, and city by city. I have faith that when enough minds are changed, we will cross a threshold, and we can accomplish this goal together. Apply to join us today.

Sincerely,

Al Gore
Chairman, The Climate Reality Project

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

Dear Pincas,



 

 

In order to win the fight to protect our climate, we have to change the climate in our government. 

Kick dirty energy money out of the State House in Albany

Big Money from Big Polluters has polluted our democracy. The coal, fracking, and other big polluting industries have spent approximately $10 million since 2000 writing checks to politicians[1] to try to get their way.

And just yesterday we get another huge scandal involving campaign finance in Albany and New York City.[2] Governor Cuomo and state legislative leaders have already expressed their desire to pass legislation that would fix these problems. Major newspapers have even said this is the next big fight in Albany.[3] But for our leaders to act, they need to hear from you that we are ready to stand up and fight for it.

Tell our leaders — get money out of politics in Albany now!

A coal-fired power plant or fracking well might give us asthma, heart attacks, or cancer. But the money those same polluters spend on politicians is just as damaging — causing gridlock in Albany, giving them permission to pollute more, and preventing New York from moving to the clean energy, 21st century economy that we deserve.

Getting big money out means your voice, and the voice of other average New Yorkers, will be heard above the lobbyists and big donors.

Clean up New York politics – tell Governor Cuomo and your legislators to support fair elections reforms.

Fair Elections will transform how Albany does business by empowering small donors, lowering campaign contribution limits, ending lobbyists’ pay-to-play schemes, and encouraging stronger enforcement and transparency. Our leaders want to take the necessary next steps, but they need to hear you are behind them.

Hundreds of you joined Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director, and Governor Andrew Cuomo last month as they told New Yorkers how fair, citizen-funded elections can put environmental priorities on the level with the fracking lobbyists and corporate polluters. Dozens of other good government, labor, environmental and social justice organizations are collecting signatures on the same petition. Together we can make fair elections a reality. 

Add your voice to theirs in Albany by sending a message to your representatives to support fair elections.

Thanks for all you do to protect the environment,

Jennifer Tuttle
Organizing Representative
Sierra Club

P.S. After you take action, be sure to forward this alert to your friends and colleagues!

References

[1] National Institute on Money in State Politics, FollowtheMoney.org “Industry Influence – New York – Energy & Natural Resources Contributions to All Candidates and Committees 2000 – 2012
[2] William K Rashbaum and Marc Santora, New York TimesLawmakers Charged in Plot to Buy Spot on Mayoral Ballot” April 2, 2013.
[3] Albany Times Union, “Now Fix Those Elections!” March 31, 2013.

 

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

Bridging Cultures: Poetic Voices of the Muslim World After over a year of planning and hard work by  City Lore Director of Poetry Programs, Catherine Fletcher, City Lore is proud and excited to announce the launch of Poetic Voices of the Muslim World, a two-year initiative funded by NEH’s Bridging Cultures grant comprising programs and performances presented against the backdrop of a traveling exhibition and companion website, that will be presented in six cities across the country. www.Citylore.org

Incorporating dialogue and performance, music and visual art to celebrate poetry of rare power and beauty — including ancient oral traditions still practiced today, literary forms that have flourished for more than a millennium and contemporary poetic arts — Poetic Voices of the Muslim World was developed in collaboration with national poetry library and literary center Poets House to fully explore the crucial role that poetry plays in Muslim cultures.

The initiative opened in Los Angeles and Jacksonville, Florida, in March 2013; will move to Washington, D.C. and Milwaukee in September 2013;
and Detroit and New York City in March 2014.

See the website (still in progress) and explore the exhibit here.

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

We decided on this posting, not just because of the New York Times Op-Ed Article of today, but in effect we followed the subject watching the fate of Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts in New York to legislate the decrease of intake of sugar by his charges in the city – efforts that were overturned by a judge who thinks you cannot force people to do the right thing for themselves if this right thing harms the interests of the lobby of the sugar industry. We had a chance to talk about this in Vienna as well, and clearly agriculture interests here are just as opposed to get people to use less sugar, as their co-professionals in the US.

But then last Saturday I had a chance to sit in at an Ayurveda class and learned about ethics and healthy food. The meeting was at the Sant Mat Center at Siebensterngasse 16a/2 in the 7th District – 1070 Vienna.

Dr. Daniel Scheidbach was the speaker and a Text-book was on the table.

www.santmat.at      –     www.ayurveda-akademie.org     —  www.yourdosha.at   — are sights to get further information.

The system here is that one has to enjoy his food and has to go about with ethics in choosing his food. The system is vegetarian plus milk. No meat, fish or foul or eggs are allowed. The vegetables are eaten cooked and not raw.

The elements are Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth and our body has Vata, Pitta, and Kapha elements that describe our own nature.  Bitter, Sour, Sweet, Salty are our tastes and they are determined by our nature. Each person will adjust his food to his nature and you have the license to eat whenever you feel hungry. Children start out as Kappa and can emerge. I got the feeling that the body is holy and you are supposed to enjoy the intakes.

You eat breakfast, a main meal and in the evening before 6 PM – no snacks unless you are hungry.

You take in one third solids, one third liquids and you leave one third for your VPK. You always make sure you drank enough.

You never eat yogurt at night and you drink milk warm – not cold – and not plain but with Ghee.

The best position for eating is Vastu – South East – that is where the sun power emanates.  

My purpose in bringing up this introduction is to show that it is not just the monotheistic Abrahamic religions that dealt with the relationship between our body as a Holy shrine and the food we take in – as such the following article becomes even more to the point. We must push back the forces of commercialism that make us overeat – this because we want to be healthy in mind and body. Power to Mayor Bloomberg who is out on his one man crusade to show the Americans that health care starts at home by opposing the media that makes us over-eat and obese, or alternatively bulimic and self starved.

Kerstin and Mark Rosenberg have established the Ayurveda Yoga Academy at Birstein, Germany, and on April 6, 2013 will celebrate 20 years since the inroad this Yoga system made in Europe.

 

An Advertisement:   Ayurveda Ausbildung
Ayurveda Anwendungen Abhyanga Shirodhara usw   www.gloriet-ayurveda.at

 

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

THE NEW YORK TIMES — OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

THE TALMUD AND OTHER DIET BOOKS

By Jonathan K. Crane

Published: March 26, 2013

Related:   “Anti-Bloomberg Bill”   —   Mississippi Bars Local Restrictions on Food and Drink (March 14, 2013)


From Atanta, Georgia, the home of Coca Cola Headquarters:

 HARDLY a week goes by without yet another study documenting the increasing prevalence of obesity in America. Most of us take seriously the fact that close to 70 percent of American adults are now either overweight or obese, and most are willing to consider various ways to mitigate the problem.

Yet the solutions frequently trumpeted, like taxing sugary beverages, are top-down and invariably meet with strong resistance.
In fact, Mississippi recently passed a bill essentially barring federal restrictions on what its people may eat or drink.
Most Americans don’t want to be told what to consume. They want their fill.

Perhaps a different approach can be considered, one that begins from within. Instead of fixating on indulgence and excess, as do so many top-down and outside-in efforts, we should focus on what it means for each individual to be sated.

Satiety, the feeling of being satisfied, is inherently idiosyncratic: everyone has her or his own sensation of being full. What sates my hunger will be different from what sates yours. Nevertheless, what sates our hunger will be less than what you might imagine.

Long before cooking shows and diet fads, many ancient civilizations understood this balance. The Greeks, for example, worried that excessive consumption would disrupt the four humors constituting the human body. They, like the ancient Buddhist and Confucian traditions, encouraged moderation as the golden mean. Judaism, Christianity and Islam added to those arguments theological overtones: eating too little could be as spiritually damning as eating too much.

The prophet Isaiah, for example, inveighed against the Israelites for vainly fasting when so much injustice surrounded them. Such fasting, and particularly fasting only for self-affliction, was sinful, rabbis of the Talmud said. But the Talmud also counseled “removing your hand from a meal that pleases you.”

Christianity, especially through the teachings of Pope Gregory I and Thomas Aquinas, identifies gluttony as a mortal sin. More than just excessive desire for food, gluttony involves eating irregularly (snacking), being preoccupied with eating, consuming costly (sumptuous or unhealthy) foodstuffs and being fastidious about food. And the Koran insists that improper and wasteful eating incurs God’s wrath. Eat well and live well, Islam teaches.

Of course, every civilization and religious tradition has its exceptions. Many Jewish households are celebrating lavish Passover Seders this week, and many Christian ones will have Easter feasts on Sunday. Celebrations like these are highly regulated, however. Not every day or every meal is meant to be a feast or a fast, and the one who feasts or fasts too much sins. It is far better, these traditions hold, for people to eat only the amount that satisfies them.

Among these old arguments is the novel idea of eating less than what fills one’s belly. The Talmud teaches that people should eat enough to fill a third of their stomachs, drink enough to fill another third, and leave a third empty. (A hadith in the Islamic tradition also teaches this.) Rashi, a medieval French rabbi, interpreted the Talmud to mean that the final empty third is necessary so that the body can metabolize emotions. If one ate until one’s belly was completely full, there’d be no room left to manage one’s emotions and one would burst asunder.

However absurd this may seem to us today, it made physiological sense in the premodern world as the emotions were considered physical things that, like food and drink, were metabolized by the body. A body stuffed with food and drink is full only of biology; it leaves no room for biography, for what makes us human.

The medieval physician and legal scholar Maimonides similarly instructed people to eat and drink less than what filled their bellies (he thought the stomach should be three-quarters full). Moreover, they should eat slowly. Modern science corroborates Maimonides: it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to receive messages from the stomach that it has had enough. Satiety can be achieved with less food than one might think, and it requires more time to reach it.

Of course, one need not be a theist to experience satiety. One needs only a belly. Perhaps these old ideas could inspire new ways of addressing the complex weight problem in America. They could help us reduce the amount of food we put on our plates, which would lower the tonnage of otherwise good food discarded every day. And they could mitigate the costly and debilitating diseases associated with our current eating practices.

This approach is personalized: everyone is empowered to be in control of his own satiety. It is adaptable, changing as a person ages and ails. And although it is not exactly nonhierarchical if you believe it’s God’s will, at least it is not imposed by any human government. Finally, it is sustainable, as it promotes a culture that views limitless consumption with suspicion. Capitalism may abhor contentedness, but our bodies need us to heed it.

We have to realize that enough is enough. We should stop asking ourselves, “Am I full?” and start asking, “Am I satisfied?”

——————————————-

Jonathan K. Crane, a rabbi, is a professor of bioethics and Jewish thought at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.

 

Emory University is a private research university in metropolitan Atlanta, located in the Druid Hills section of unincorporated DeKalb County, Georgia, United States.   Founded: 1836.  It has a very good department for Judaic studies.
Address: 201 Dowman Dr, Atlanta, GA 30322
Acceptance rate: 26.7% (2011)
Enrollment: 13,893 (2011)


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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 25th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We always keep wondering how business interests manage to convince themselves that what they feel is good for themselves is as well acceptable to others. One such preposterous US position is the belief that what is good for US business is as well good to the Latin States south of the border.

In effect the US problems with its immediate neighbors – Spanish-Speaking – is just that – you guess – they want a mind of their own.

I know that in effect I am unfair to the author of a new book reacting just to her title of her book – this without having read the book or even seen it.

My defense is that I just saw the title and did not like it – the title suggests just that – Mexico is tied to the US, and any Mexican who is not sold out to the US will tell you that they find it quite unfavorable to be in the proximity of the US – the big magnet that empties their country of content rather then what some North of the Border would love to call a cooperation for the benefit of both countries. After the title we find it hard to believe that the book can pick up the true side of things. {the editor of this website}


AS/COA Programs

AMERICAS SOCIETY/COUNCIL OF THE AMERICAS



Has Mexico made it? While grisly tales of narcotics violence and corruption dominate U.S. headlines, the United States’ third largest trade partner has undergone an unprecedented political, economic, and social transformation in the last three decades. This year alone, Mexico’s GDP is expected to grow between 3 to 4 percent, outpacing growth in Brazil, China, and the United States. Still, serious challenges remain, including security and a host of untackled structural reforms.
 

Please join Shannon K. O’ Neil as she presents her book, Two Nations Indivisible: Mexico, the United States, and the Road Ahead. The Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, O’Neil will discuss the overlooked successes of Mexico as well as the challenges of U.S.– Mexico relations including immigration, economic integration, and drugs.

 

Speaker:
 
Shannon K. O’ Neil Author of Two Nations Indivisible: Mexico, the United States, and the Road Ahead (April 2013) and the Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
Discussant*:
 
   
Gray Newman Managing Director, Chief Latin America Economist, Morgan Stanley
   
Moderator:  
   
Christopher Sabatini Senior Director of Policy, Americas Society/Council of the Americas and Editor-in-Chief, Americas Quarterly


*Additional Discussant to be confirmed.

WHEN:
Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Registration: 5:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Presentation: 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Book Signing and Reception: 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

 

WHERE:
AS/COA
680 Park Avenue
New York, NY

Book Launch: Two Nations Indivisible: Mexico, the United States, and the Road Ahead
by Shannon K. O’Neil
 

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