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Reporting from Washington DC:

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 21st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


What Are Donald Trump’s Views on Climate Change? Some Clues Emerge

By ERICA GOODE – The New York Times, MAY 20, 2016

So far, Donald J. Trump has said very little about climate change and energy policy beyond his Twitter posts on the issues.

He has called global warming a “hoax,” for example, and claimed that the Chinese fabricated climate change (just a joke, he later said). And in an interview this week with Reuters, he said that he was “not a big fan” of the Paris climate accord, and that “at a minimum I will be renegotiating those agreements.”

But more clues about Mr. Trump’s views on environmental issues emerged this week from a four-page briefing on energy policy prepared for the presumptive Republican nominee by Representative Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota and an early supporter of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cramer, who defines himself as a climate change skeptic, discussed in his briefing paper a variety of government regulations that Mr. Trump might do away with if he were president.

Short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change:
The issue can be overwhelming. The science is complicated. We get it.
This is your cheat sheet.


They included the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, currently pending in the courts, as well as a federal rule intended to protect waterways and wetlands, and a regulation setting standards for methane emissions that the Environmental Protection Agency completed last week.


In an interview, Mr. Cramer said he wrote in the briefing paper that a growing number of Americans wanted action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. And he outlined a broad energy policy that embraced all types of fuel sources — including coal, oil, solar, wind and hydropower — that he called an “all-of-the-above, America-first energy message.” Mr. Cramer, from a heavy coal- and oil-producing state, said it was important that any policy does not “punish coal” or other fossil fuels.

Mr. Trump may soon share more of his views. His press secretary, Hope Hicks, said that the campaign “will have more to say on the topic soon.” He is scheduled to speak at an oil conference in North Dakota on Thursday.

Many Conservative Republicans Believe Climate Change Is a Real Threat SEPT. 28, 2015
Exclusive: Trump Would Talk to North Korea’s Kim, Wants to Renegotiate Climate Accord MAY 17, 2016
Whenever Mr. Trump does fill in more details on the topic, he will have eager audiences both inside and outside his political party.

There is deep concern among Republicans about political divisions and the future of the party, a new Times/CBS News poll shows. We want to hear from the party’s longtime members or those who have just registered as Republicans.


Republican leaders worry that Mr. Trump’s views, his climate-denying Twitter messages notwithstanding, could end up somewhere left of the party’s mainstream.

“I think there is concern about where he stands because he hasn’t come out strongly one way or another,” said a Republican aide who insisted on anonymity because she was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

Environmental groups, for their part, have seized on each new scrap of information to warn of disastrous consequences should Mr. Trump be elected.

“Trump and Cramer are two peas in the climate denial pod, who would make reckless attacks on the progress we have made in the fight against climate change,” Seth Stein, a spokesman for the League of Conservation Voters, said in response to news reports Thursday afternoon about Mr. Cramer’s briefing paper.

If Mr. Trump were to acknowledge the reality of climate change, that might provide some Republican politicians with political cover to do so as well.

Since 2010, when a Republican member of Congress, Bob Inglis, lost his re-election bid after saying he would favor a carbon tax, many in the party have regarded any mention of climate change as the equivalent of political suicide. (Mr. Inglis has since focused on persuading conservatives to be “less averse” to addressing climate change, and started a nonprofit group, the Enterprise and Energy Initiative, focusing on conservative responses to the problem.)

Yet polls have repeatedly found that a majority of Republican voters, particularly young ones, believe that climate change is real and that the government should take action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale program on Climate Change Communication, said that a nationally representative survey of 1,004 registered voters, conducted in March in conjunction with George Mason University, found that 56 percent of Trump voters agreed that climate change was occurring. Just over half of them, however, thought those changes were caused by natural changes in the environment, rather than the result of human-generated emissions.

———————————-

MORE REPORTING ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Wildfires, Once Confined to a Season, Burn Earlier and LongerAPRIL 13, 2016

Environmental Activists Take to Local Protests for Global ResultsMARCH 20, 2016

How Much Warmer Was Your City in 2015?FEB. 19, 2016

The Marshall Islands Are DisappearingDEC. 02, 2015

Short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate ChangeNOV. 28, 2015

Naomi Oreskes, a Lightning Rod in a Changing ClimateJUNE 16, 2015
The number of Americans over all who say climate change is real has risen to 73 percent from 66 percent two years ago, according to the Yale/George Mason poll. But the jump among those who believe in global warming was steepest among Republicans, with a 16 percent increase in two years among all Republicans, and a 19 percent increase among conservative Republicans.

Jay Faison, a North Carolina businessman who describes himself as a conservative Republican, said that denying climate change was “the No. 1 peel-away issue” that could pull voters away from supporting a candidate, according to research conducted by ClearPath, the organization he founded to promote clean energy and climate change policies that could appeal to conservatives.

Mr. Faison, who has said he will devote $10 million to persuading Republican candidates to address climate change, said that a platform that emphasized clean energy solutions could make a difference of 1 or even 2 percent in close elections — “which decides a whole lot of elections.”

Like many on both sides of the political aisle, Mr. Faison said he had no idea what Mr. Trump’s views on climate change might be. But he noted that the candidate once said in an interview that he believed in “immaculate air.”

——————————————————–

Graphic: Where Trump Breaks With the Republican Party:

“If you believe in air pollution, then perhaps we could get to the same place,” Mr. Faison said. “If we have cleaner energy solutions and it brings more energy independence, more jobs and lower air pollution, then we would do these things even if we don’t agree with scientists on climate change.”

It is a view that echoes those expressed by Mr. Cramer, who in the past has said he would support a small carbon tax if the revenue went to research on clean fuel technologies.

“There is no downside in reducing emissions from fuel,” said Mr. Cramer, who added that “the climate is clearly changing,” but that he was skeptical about how much humans were contributing to the change and about the regulatory solutions offered by Democrats.

Climate change has long been far down on the list of issues that voters say are important to them. (Developing clean energy was ranked No. 21 of 23 issues by Trump supporters in the Yale/George Mason survey).

But Jerry Taylor, the president of the Niskanen Center in Washington, a libertarian think tank, said that the importance of issues in voters’ minds might change during an electoral campaign if a candidate talked about them repeatedly.

Mr. Taylor said that if Mr. Trump continued to deny the existence of climate change, Hillary Clinton could use that to claim that Republicans were anti-science and out of touch with reality.

“Climate contributes significantly to the poor branding of the Republican Party,” he said, adding that just because an issue was a low priority to voters “doesn’t mean it can’t be used to devastating effect against you.”

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 15th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Why Do We Keep Learning New Secrets About 9/11?

By Charles Pierce, Esquire
14 May 16
 readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…


There are allegedly more Saudi officials implicated in the 9/11 Report than we thought.

The pointless alleged cover-up of the role of Saudi nationals in the attacks of September 11, 2001 is starting to come just a little bit unraveled.

The Guardian had a provocative piece quoting John Lehman, a Republican member of the 9/11 Commission, and a former Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan, to the effect that the investigation essentially buried the question of Saudi involvement.

“There was an awful lot of participation by Saudi individuals in supporting the hijackers, and some of those people worked in the Saudi government,” Lehman said in an interview, suggesting that the commission may have made a mistake by not stating that explicitly in its final report. “Our report should never have been read as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia.” He was critical of a statement released late last month by the former chairman and vice-chairman of the commission, who urged the Obama administration to be cautious about releasing the full congressional report on the Saudis and 9/11 — “the 28 pages”, as they are widely known in Washington—because they contained “raw, unvetted” material that might smear innocent people.

I, for one, didn’t know that a Saudi diplomat had been implicated in the support network on which some of the hijackers depended while living in San Diego. (Why is Fahad al-Thumairy walking around free while shoeless losers who fall for FBI stings get shipped off to the nether regions of the federal penal system?) But Lehman wasn’t finished yet.

In the interview Wednesday, Lehman said Kean and Hamilton’s statement that only one Saudi government employee was “implicated” in supporting the hijackers in California and elsewhere was “a game of semantics” and that the commission had been aware of at least five Saudi government officials who were strongly suspected of involvement in the terrorists’ support network. “They may not have been indicted, but they were certainly implicated,” he said. “There was an awful lot of circumstantial evidence.”

Allegedly, there was a considerable brawl within the commission about how the material concerning the Saudi involvement was being handled, and at the center of it was staff director Philip Zelikow, whose previous job was as an aide to Condoleezza Rice back in the days when she was proving to be the worst National Security Advisor ever. This always has stuck in my craw, and if the stonewall is falling down, then that’s all to the good.


Zelikow fired a staffer, who had repeatedly protested over limitations on the Saudi investigation, after she obtained a copy of the 28 pages outside of official channels. Other staffers described an angry scene late one night, near the end of the investigation, when two investigators who focused on the Saudi allegations were forced to rush back to the commission’s offices after midnight after learning to their astonishment that some of the most compelling evidence about a Saudi tie to 9/11 was being edited out of the report or was being pushed to tiny, barely readable footnotes and endnotes. The staff protests were mostly overruled.

The crime against history is ongoing, but it does seem we’re edging a little closer to solving it.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 14th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


BDS: Squeezing Palestinians to Hurt Israel

by Asaf Romirowsky and Nicole Brackman in The Jerusalem Post
May 8, 2016, Re-posted by Middle East Forum
 www.meforum.org/6005/bds-squeezin…

Originally published under the title “BDS Equals Economic Warfare.”

The October 2015 closure of SodaStream’s factory in Mishor Adumim put 500 Palestinians out of work.
At the core of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) is economic warfare meant to delegitimize and marginalize Israel. But the fatal fallacy of the movement is rooted in the fact that its proponents are hurting the very constituency they claim to represent.

Daniel Birnbaum is the CEO of SodaStream, one of Israel’s greatest commercial start-up successes. The company (made famous in a 2014 Super Bowl advertisement featuring actress Scarlett Johansson) was a pioneer in economic inclusion, establishing a factory in the West Bank and employing both Palestinian and Jewish workers (among them a high proportion of women).

Due to the ongoing violence in Syria, SodaStream also went out of its way to offer employment to Syrian refugees – one of the only Middle Eastern companies to do so. Providing an avenue to job security in skilled labor is a fundamental tenet of refugee rehabilitation policy. Israel has been at the forefront of successful refugee resettlement and absorption since the state’s inception, with the integration of close to one million Jewish refugees expelled from Arab lands.

As Birnbaum underscored in a press release,

As the son of a Holocaust survivor, I refuse to stand by and observe this human tragedy unfold right across the border in Syria… just as we have always done our best to help our Palestinian brothers and sisters in the West Bank, the time has come for local business and municipal leaders to address the Syrian humanitarian crisis and take the initiative to help those in need. We cannot expect our politicians to bear the entire burden of providing aid for the refugees.

But in October 2015, nearly 500 of the company’s Palestinian workers lost their jobs. The reason wasn’t because the company no longer wanted to employ them. It was due – at least in part – to the efforts of the BDS movement to mount enough international pressure to close the facility. Though the company denied it was a factor, the tactic worked; many of the workers were thrust into unemployment.

Notwithstanding that, SodaStream offered 1,000 positions to Syrian refugees at the company’s new facility in Rahat.

The BDS movement uses economic pressure to attempt to strong-arm the Israeli government into complying with its agenda. Its effects are wide-ranging, from political activism on college campuses to commercial guerrilla tactics, like covertly placing stickers on grocery products to draw attention to their Israeli origins.

Much of the time, its claims are laden with anti-Semitic overtones and rely on emotional appeal rather than hard data. Such tactics have far-reaching – and very counterproductive – consequences, for example, the unwillingness of the French directorate-general for international security of intelligence to accept technology offered by an Israeli security company that “could have helped counter-terror agents track suspects in real time,” undermining the chance to avert the recent deadly terrorist attacks in Paris and Belgium.

The BDS movement has had little economic impact on Israel.

Despite its aspirations, in fact BDS has had little economic impact on Israel. According to Forbes, “The impact of BDS is more psychological than real so far and has had no discernible impact on Israeli trade or the broader economy… that said, the sanctions do run the risk of hurting the Palestinian economy, which is much smaller and poorer than that of Israel.”

Israel’s centrality to US regional and global policy has not gone unnoticed; US Congress sought to cement Israel’s economic and trade ties to the US with a bipartisan bill – the US-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act – designed to counter the BDS movement and strengthen the two nations’ relationship. The bill “leverages ongoing trade negotiations to discourage prospective US trade partners from engaging in economic discrimination against Israel” and “establishes a clear US policy in opposition to state-led BDS, which is detrimental to global trade, regional peace and stability.”

The extremism that the BDS movement advocates highlights the group’s refusal to come to terms with the State of Israel and its ignorance in evaluating the landscape of greater Middle East politics.

When Syrian refugees are being offered jobs in Israel at an Israeli company it is clear how removed the BDS reality is from that of the Middle East.

—————————————-
Asaf Romirowsky is the executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. Nicole Brackman is a fellow at SPME.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 13th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Why Is LA Toxic?

By Mark Ruffalo, Reader Supported News
Friday, 13 May 2016


With 840 miles of beautiful coastline and palm trees swaying in the breeze, “toxic” is not the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of California. Yet, in spite of its reputation as a progressive environmental state, California’s toxic affair with oil and gas has been hiding in plain sight.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Los Angeles, the nation’s largest urban oil field. Though it is the second most populous city in the country, L.A. is still the wild, wild west when it comes to oil development. Active oil wells dot the cityscape, connected by a spider web of pipelines carrying oil, explosive fumes, and corrosive acids directly under homes. Worst of all, these oil wells have a devastating impact on Angelenos’ long-term health.

I went on a “toxic tour” of L.A. and witnessed what it looks like when extreme fossil fuel extraction collides with the places where people live, work, and play. Our reliance on fossil fuels puts real communities at risk across the city. Extreme oil extraction injects a toxic mixture of chemicals into the ground to stimulate oil wells in a manner similar to fracking, and the emissions can cause headaches, nosebleeds, respiratory ailments, inter-generational reproductive harm, and even cancer for surrounding neighbors.

Last year, the state of California mandated an independent scientific assessment of oil and gas development. They found that in areas of high population density — such as South Los Angeles — oil drilling poses elevated health risks because more people are exposed to toxic air contaminants. The 580,000 Angelenos living less than a quarter mile from an oil well are subjected to the dangers of neighborhood drilling every single day. L.A.’s oil problem is more than just a problem; it’s a crisis of human health and safety.


On that eye-opening tour, I met young Nalleli Cobo — a South L.A. teenager who has been fighting neighborhood drilling since she was sickened at age nine by the AllenCo Energy drill site across the street from her home. For years, she was in and out of hospitals trying to get answers to the long list of symptoms she experienced daily. On some days, Nalleli had to be carried to the car to go to the doctor because painful body spasms made it difficult to move.


After hundreds of community complaints, USEPA investigators finally conducted an inspection — only to fall ill immediately upon entering the drill site. Though they were temporarily forced to shut down, AllenCo is now working to reopen the drilling site this year.

Make no mistake about it, L.A.’s oil drilling is toxic.

Shockingly, Nalleli’s story isn’t unique. California is the third largest oil producing state in the nation and over 75% of the active oil wells in Los Angeles are within 2,000 feet of homes, schools, or hospitals, where they pose the gravest threat to human health.

Concrete walls may try to shield extreme extraction from neighbors’ eyes, but they are useless at protecting them from poisonous fumes. It’s common to see workers in hazmat suits monitoring rigs on one side of a wall, while families on the other side remain completely unprotected sitting around their dinner table.

That’s why Nalleli, fueled by her sense of duty to protect her neighbors and fellow Angelenos, wants to hold her elected leaders accountable for allowing the oil industry to pollute her community. As a member of the coalition called Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling (STAND-L.A.), she has spoken at press conferences with Senator Barbara Boxer, organized health surveys to track symptoms in her community, and serves as a youth plaintiff in a lawsuit against the City of L.A. for violating her civil rights. Nalleli has even taken the fight to Pope Francis, asking him to urge the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to stop leasing their land to AllenCo Energy and other oil companies.

Fortunately, Nalleli is not alone in this fight. This Saturday, thousands of Californians will gather to support the communities on the front lines of neighborhood drilling at the March to Break Free from Fossil Fuels. They will gather at Los Angeles City Hall to call on Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Herb Wesson to put an end to urban oil drilling.


Confronting the mighty oil industry is not an easy task, but Mayor Garcetti and President Wesson need only follow the courageous lead of Nalleli and others in STAND-L.A. who have been fighting for years. L.A.’s elected leaders have the opportunity to send a clear signal to the rest of the nation with a victory in this climate battle. We must keep oil in the ground. Stand with Nalleli and families like hers on the front lines at this critical moment in history.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 2nd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

BREAK FREE NORTHEAST – MAY 14, 2016

“The average global temperature change for the first three months of 2016 was 1.48°C, essentially equaling the 1.5°C warming threshold agreed to by COP 21 negotiators.”
Earth Flirts with a 1.5-Degree Celsius Global Warming Threshold, Climate Central, 4/20/16

This is an emergency. We need to act like it!

Buses from NYC and Brooklyn. Sign up now!

In Albany, on May 14th, as part of a global week of fossil fuel resistance, thousands of people will stand in the way of the fossil fuel industry in North America. Many of us will participate in direct action, and many more will come to rally and stand in solidarity. How you participate is up to you, but please be there. We need to demand a different world!

Representing a coalition from across the northeast, we will gather with frontline communities, including Ezra Prentice Homes, and others living in the oil train blast zone.

This act of mass civil disobedience against oil trains will also stand against fracked gas infrastructure and pipelines like AIM, and other fossil fuel projects like the Pilgrim Pipeline and Indian Point.

Gathering pipeline-fighters, power plant fighters and compression station resisters from across the region, we’ll join together to say it’s time to stop investing in the ways of the past.

Join to Break Free from Fossil Fuels in Albany on May 14th

SEE Map of Break Free actions around the world: breakfree2016.org

Break Free Albany Action Camp – Housing provided.

If you can go to the training camp in Troy there will be a civil disobedience training on Friday 5/13.

Or you can join us for a Break Free Training in NYC:
Non-violent Civil Disobedience Training
Saturday, May 7th
9am – 12:30pm
New York Society for Ethical Culture
Social Room, 2 W. 64th St.
New York, NY, 10025
Hosted by 350NYC and 350Brooklyn

This is an important moment: it is clearer than ever that we need a powerful movement able to make the changes needed. Throughout our history, few acts have been more powerful than conscientious civil disobedience. Break Free Northeast is an opportunity to put our bodies where our mouths are, and inspire a new wave of resistance.

We know the solution. Keep fossil fuels in the ground, stop funding climate change, and make an immediate and rapid transition to 100% Renewables Now.

Please join us is Albany on May 14th to Keep it in the Ground

In peace,
The 350NYC Team

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 22nd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

2016 Hannover Messe: US is Partner Country
United States is Partner Country at the 2016 Hannover Messe

Chancellor Merkel to Welcome President Obama in Hannover

Chancellor Merkel and President Obama will take part in the opening event of the trade fair on Sunday, April 24. Afterwards, the Chancellor will host a dinner in honor of President Obama with business representatives from both countries.

Obama to Visit Hannover Messe Panel Discussion

With less than a month to go before the Hannover Messe, the German Embassy in cooperation with Siemens USA and The US Department of Commerce hosted an event entitled, “On the Road to Hannover Messe.”

HANNOVER MESSE – US Named Partner Country for Hannover Messe 2016

The US will be the partner country of the Hannover Messe in 2016. “Hannover Messe is of exceptional importance to the development of our transatlantic trade relations,” Ambassador Wittig said on the news.

President Obama Will Open Hannover Messe with Chancellor Merkel

US President Barack Obama announced that he will make his fifth trip to Germany in April of this year. President Obama will join Chancellor Angela Merkel in opening the annual Hannover Messe, one of the world’s largest industrial trade fairs.

Hannover Messe
Doing Business in Germany and the US
German Foreign Chamber of Commerce (c) ahk
Representative of German Industry and Trade (RGIT)

RGIT is the liaison office of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) and the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) in Washington. RGIT represents the interests of the German business community vis-à-vis both the U.S. administration and the international organizations based in D.C. They report regularly on economically significant developments as well as legislative activities in the U.S. and provide their partners in the United States with information on German business.

Representative of German Industry and Trade (RGIT) – German American Chambers of Commerce

With a network of six offices and 2,500 member companies throughout the United States and Germany, the German American Chambers of Commerce offer a broad spectrum of activities and services.

AHK SelectUSA

SelectUSA, a subsidiary of the US Commerce Department, is in charge of the US presence at the 2016 Hannover Messe. Information on taking part in the trade fair and on the US businesses attending can be found on their website.

SelectUSA

German Missions
in the United States

Representative of German Industry and Trade (RGIT)

RGIT is the liaison office of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) and the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) in Washington. RGIT represents the interests of the German business community vis-à-vis both the U.S. administration and the international organizations based in D.C. They report regularly on economically significant developments as well as legislative activities in the U.S. and provide their partners in the United States with information on German business.

Representative of German Industry and Trade (RGIT)

Transatlantic Ties
Flags of the European Union and the United States -Tapping Potential with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

With TTIP, the EU and the U.S. will strive to negotiate the most comprehensive and largest bilateral trade and investment agreement ever.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 17th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

80 new coal power plants for Turkey?

from Bahad?r Do?utürk and 350.org
Find out why Turkey is joining Break Free.

This May, thousands of people from all over the world will join a global wave of resistance to keep coal oil and gas in the ground called Break Free from Fossil Fuels. The fossil fuel industry harms people all over the world, and we wanted to share with you some of those stories in the lead up to these actions. You can find out more and join an action near you here.

Friend,

Right now the Turkish government is planning to build around 80 new coal power plants across the country. Four of those will be in my home of Alia?a.

Alia?a is already struggling with extensive pollution due to existing coal plants, and four new power plants will make the problem even worse. At a time when the world could be transitioning to clean energy, the government of Turkey is asking us to sacrifice even more of our health and our environment for this dirty industry.

Coal in Turkey already causes 2,876 premature deaths per year. Imagine the impact of adding 80 new coal power plants on top of the existing 21. And it’s not only the air we breathe; the ?zdemir coal plant in Alia?a currently produces 150 thousand tonnes of coal ash per year, which contaminates our food and our water. There are plans to add a second unit to this plant. This would mean 300,000 tonnes of coal ash per year, not to mention the irreversible damage to our climate.

We decided to join our forces as groups fighting against coal all over Turkey to stop every single new coal plant in our country. On the 15th of May, we are mobilising hundreds of people at the gates of the major ash pond in our area to clearly show that there’s no place for new coal infrastructure here, or anywhere.

We know that the impacts of these new power stations go well beyond Alia?a and Turkey. Coal is the world’s dirtiest power source and the source of carbon emissions and with global temperatures rising faster than anyone predicted the planet can not afford 80 new coal power plants. And we can not afford another coal plant in our town.

Will you stand with me and people all over the world as we fight to keep fossil fuels the only place they are safe: in the ground?

There has never been a better time to break free from fossil fuels.
People all over the world are planning bold actions of their own, which will keep fossil fuels in the ground and demand the transition to clean energy we know is possible.
Click here to find out more and to join an action near you: breakfree2016.org

signed:
Bahad?r Do?utürk

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Posted in Archives, Future Events, Reporting from Washington DC, Turkey, West Virginia

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 9th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Politics
Bernie Sanders Accepts An Invitation From The Vatican.

April 8, 201611:20 AM ET

by Asma Khalid
on Twitter

NPR’s Don Gonyea spotted a poster at Bernie Sanders’ Buffalo field office in New York that shows the Pope pointing out “WHAT BERNIE SAID.”

Sanders has often praised Pope Francis for his focus on economic inequality.


Bernie Sanders will be taking a few days off the campaign trail to attend a Vatican conference about social, economic and environmental issues.

The day after a debate in New York next week, Sanders will travel to Rome for the event.

In an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Sanders said he was “a big, big fan of the pope.”

“He has played an unbelievable role, unbelievable role in injecting a moral consequence into the economy,” Sanders said. “He’s talking about the idolatry of money, the worship of money, the greed that’s out there.”

In a statement from his campaign, Sanders praised the pope for focusing on income inequality — the defining issue of his own presidential campaign.

“Pope Francis has made clear that we must overcome ‘the globalization of indifference’ in order to reduce economic inequalities, stop financial corruption and protect the natural environment. That is our challenge in the United States and in the world,” Sanders said in a statement.

No meeting between Sanders and Pope Francis has been scheduled.

Sanders, who is Jewish, has often praised the current pope. He previously referred to Francis as a “socialist,” in an interview obtained by The Washington Post. “When (Pope Francis) talks about wealth being used to serve people, not as an end in itself, I agree with that,” Sanders said in the interview.

Sanders and Francis often speak about the economy in nearly identical ways. In 2014, the pope took to Twitter with this message: “Inequality is the root of social evil.”

Pope Francis Verified account
? @Pontifex — 28 April 2014

Francis is sometimes described as a “liberal” pope for his views on immigration, income inequality and the death penalty; but, Catholic teaching straddles political affiliation, particularly because of the Church’s stance on same-sex marriage.

With his public statements, Francis seems to have emboldened the church’s social justice wing, and Democrats are widely embracing him. Last year, a number of big-city Democratic mayors (Boston’s Marty Walsh and New York’s Bill de Blasio) attended a Vatican conference on climate change.

For Sanders, the trip’s timing is also fortuitous, coming just ahead of the New York and Pennsylvania primaries (April 19 and April 26 respectively).

Both states have sizable Catholic populations — a mix of traditionally Democratic white working class voters and a smaller, but growing, Hispanic community.

The Pew Research Center estimates one-third of people in the New York City metro area identify as Catholic, and similarly, about a quarter (26 percent) in Philadelphia.

Many of those Catholics lean left — 46 percent surveyed by Pew in New York and Pennsylvania identify as Democrats.

For a full breakdown of New York Catholic demographics, you can sift through the data on the Pew website.

Some Comments:

LindaWagner • 12 hours ago
As an avowed atheist, it warms my heart to see this Pope becoming involved in issues that matter so much to me. Keep up the good work, Pope Francis. It’s not easy to turn around hundreds of years of entrenched doctrine and it will probably take hundreds more but you sure are moving it along at a faster pace than I ever thought imaginable.

Sobin Tulll LindaWagner • 12 hours ago
As a fellow Atheist I couldn’t agree with you more. There are people in this thread that seem to hold Pope Francis responsible for the entire churches history, which in my opinion is unfair. I see a person that is trying move his massive and stubborn organization in a better direction.

Wait_Wait_Ill_Tell_You Sobin Tulll • 12 hours ago
Mark down another atheist in concurrence.
As far as religious leaders go, Francis is a “God-send.”

THIS POPE IS AMAZING INDEED. He enters now the discussion in further issues:

Francis’ Message Calls on Church to Be Inclusive
By JIM YARDLEY and LAURIE GOODSTEIN

The pope asked priests to welcome single parents, unmarried couples and gay people, lamenting the “severe stress” of modern families.
 www.nytimes.com/2016/04/09/world/…


Francis’ Message Calls on Church to Be Inclusive

By JIM YARDLEY and LAURIE GOODSTEIN – APRIL 8, 2016

ROME — In a broad proclamation on family life, Pope Francis on Friday called for the Roman Catholic Church to be more welcoming and less judgmental, and he seemingly signaled a pastoral path for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive holy communion.

The 256-page document — known as an apostolic exhortation and titled “Amoris Laetitia,” Latin for “The Joy of Love” — calls for priests to welcome single parents, gay people and unmarried straight couples who are living together.

“A pastor cannot feel that it is enough to simply apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives,” he wrote.

But Francis once again closed the door on same-sex marriage, saying it cannot be seen as the equivalent of heterosexual unions.

The document offers no new rules or marching orders, and from the outset Francis makes plain that no top-down edicts are coming.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 9th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


How Madonna and Hillary Clinton Betray Muslim Women

by Phyllis Chesler
The New York Post
April 6, 2016
 www.meforum.org/5946/western-wome…


Edited version of an article originally published under the title “By Covering Up Too Much, Western Women Betray Their Muslim-World Sisters.”

Many American celebrities (clockwise, from upper left: Lady Gaga, Madonna, Khloe Kardashian, and Rihanna) simulate the oppression of Muslim women as a fashion statement.

The stewardesses of Air France are outraged and have just refused to don headscarves when they fly into Tehran, as the mullahs have demanded.

Viva La France!

The French stewardesses have more dignity, more sobriety, and more self-respect than many American and European women do, beginning with trendsetting celebrities, female diplomats and first ladies, who have all donned headscarves (hijab), face masks (niqab), or full burqas when visiting Muslim countries, or as carefree fashion statements.

For example, Madonna, three Kardashian sisters, Rihanna, Selena Gomez, Katy Perry, and Nicole Richie have all recently posted photos of themselves in Islamic “drag,” either on visits to Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Morocco or just because it suited their fancy. They’re posed wearing filmy, long scarves (Katy Perry), heavy black hijab (Kylie Kardashian, Rihanna), niqab or face masks (Madonna), heavy hijab plus abayas (Gomez) and almost full burqas (Kim and Khloe Kardashian).

Such female celebrities may influence Western girls more than female Western political leaders can. They don’t understand that they are “slumming;” they can remove their exotic Islamic garb and pose naked whenever they choose to do so. This isn’t possible for Muslim girls and women who are forced to wear the Islamic veil (headscarf, face mask, or full head, face, and body covering) and who risk death when they resist.

A female U.S. Navy sailor was forced to where the hijab while detained in Iran with her shipmates in January.

Being forced to adopt a colonizing custom that subordinates women; being forced to “pretend” that one is a Muslim when that isn’t the case; and being made to feel shameful, shameless, if one is naked-faced are acts of psychological warfare.

Remember the sole female Navy sailor who was forced to don hijab on board while Iran held American sailors in captivity? It was an outrage, and reminiscent of how Barbary pirates once treated their captured Christian female slaves.

Why, then, are female non-Muslim Western leaders sometimes willing to comply?

Daniel Pipes has been keeping a careful list of such compliant Westerners. For example, in 1996, Britain’s Princess Diana donned a headscarf when she visited Pakistan; in 1997, First Lady Hillary and Chelsea Clinton both donned hijab on a visit with Yasser Arafat; in 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wore one on a state visit to Tajikistan; in 2007, journalist Diana Sawyer did as well when she interviewed Iranian tyrant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; also in 2007, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wore a headscarf on a visit to Damascus, Syria; and in 2007, First Lady Laura Bush wore hijab on a state visit in Saudi Arabia. In 2012, a high-ranking UN official on climate change, Christiana Figueres, donned hijab on a visit to Qatar. In 2015, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop wore hijab on a state visit to Iran; and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wore hijab on a state visit to Pakistan.

Some of these same American and European Christian leaders have chosen not to wear a hijab at other times. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to their decisions. In 2008, Rice and Bush did not wear the headscarf in Saudi Arabia; in 2010, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a bare-headed visit to Saudi Arabia; in 2012, Clinton wore no hijab when she visited Saudi Arabia. When Obama attended the late Saudi King’s funeral, his wife wore no hijab.

If you’re representing America, it’s fine to find ways to respect the customs of the country you are visiting. But please note: American male diplomats don’t wear traditional Saudi male attire — the bisht or thobe, the keffiya and the ayal.

The Quran doesn’t command that women wear body bags or face masks.

Modesty is a legitimate concern. So it’s important to understand that the Quran doesn’t command that women wear body bags or face masks. Like men, women are commanded to dress “modestly” and to “cover their breasts.” While Muslim countries do have a long history of face- and body-veiling women, they also have a hundred-year history of naked-faced Muslim women who fought for their rights or whose kings granted them the right to feel the sun on their faces, make eye contact with their students and teachers, perform surgery, sit in parliaments, etc.

When is the last time you have seen large numbers of Muslim women in the 21st century (wives of Muslim leaders, female Muslim leaders, immigrants, citizens) in the West going bare-headed and naked-faced? They certainly exist and, if they’re lucky, their families are also westernized.

But some very brave westernized Muslim girls and women have also paid a high price for their decision to dress Western-style. They’ve been threatened with death, battered, imprisoned at home, rushed into forced marriages, escorted to and from school — and have been the victims of honor killings.

As long as women are forced to wear face masks and burqas, or even to wear the heavy hijab, it renders naked-faced women vulnerable, both in Muslim lands and in the West. Remember the large number of Western women who were assaulted, groped and raped by male Muslim mobs earlier this year all over Europe?

———————————–
Phyllis Chesler, a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum, is an emerita professor of psychology and women’s studies and the author of sixteen books.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 7th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From the Union of Concerne Scientists
ACTION ALERT
Questions to the Presidential Candidates

Dear Pincas,

The next president will be leading a nation that is facing critical and complex challenges. That’s why we’re working with Science Debate to elevate discussion of science in the presidential election—and we want you to be a part of it.

Science Debate is crowd sourcing questions to submit to the candidates. We need candidates who are prepared to put forward proactive, evidence-based plans to address the most serious issues facing Americans today, including climate change, nuclear arms, food security, and energy and vehicle development.

For instance, here at the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, we think that the candidates should address scientific integrity in government and fighting attacks on the scientific foundation of public protection laws such as the Clean Air Act.

Starting next week, I’ll join a Science Debate team that will narrow down the questions to send the presidential candidates. You can vote for the scientific integrity and public protections questions, or another that you think is best. You can also submit your own question.

In 2008 and 2012, we got all major party presidential candidates on record supporting strong scientific integrity standards in government, leading to President Obama’s pledge to “restore science to its rightful place” in policy making. Help us do it again.

Sincerely,
MichaelHalpern_jpg
Michael Halpern
Program Manager, Strategy and Innovation
Center for Science and Democracy
Union of Concerned Scientists

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 31st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Two Parties Are (Still) Not The Same On Climate Change
March 30, 2016

by Bill Scher, of www.ourfuture.org


It may be that Hillary Clinton is not as progressive as Bernie Sanders. And it may be that Donald Trump holds some positions, such as opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that hold sway with economic populist.

But when it comes to the climate, there’s no debate. Clinton and Sanders are on the side of addressing climate change, and the Republican candidates are on the side of doing nothing.

I’ve written before about the nuances that separate the two Democratic candidates’ position on climate: Sanders proposing more ambitious goals and Clinton offering a more politically pragmatic approach.

And I’ve written about how Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are outright climate science deniers, while John Kasich merely refuses to give up coal.

With Trump you could never be completely sure if what he says yesterday will be consistent with what he says today. But he has been consistent for a long time about climate change: in 2013 and 2014 he declared global warming a “hoax.” He said in 2012, inaccurately of course, that, “wind farms are hurting the country” and “solar, as you know, hasn’t caught on because, I mean, a solar panel takes 32 years — it’s a 32-year payback.”


Now Trump and Cruz have filled out a survey for the fossil fuel-friendly American Energy Alliance in which they line up perfectly with right-wing orthodoxy on energy issues.


They oppose Obama’s Clean Power Plan to limit emissions from power plants. They oppose calculating the social cost of carbon emission when determining the cost of government regulations. They oppose subsidies for renewable energy. They oppose a carbon tax.


Sanders and Clinton have their differences, but their differences are over how best to combat climate change, not whether to do it at all.


Perhaps some day, we’ll have a Republican Party that accepts science so we can debate with their leaders the finer points of how to contain carbon emissions. But that day is not today.

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 21st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From our friend Jay Hauben of Columbia University – Hi,

Many peoples get spirit from celebrating the changes of season. The Jewish people celebrate the start of a new year with the coming of fall and the harvest. Many people in Asia celebrate a new year with a Spring Festival just before the coming of spring and the time for planting. People in the Persian tradition celebrate the new year called Norooz at the Spring Equinox. This year Norooz falls on March 20.

Ronda and I send you warm greetings for Norooz and for the whole year to come. May all of us learn from nature a way of renewing our lives, seeing the light instead the dark and uniting with all that is good.

Norooz is celebrated as the start of a new year by 350 million or more people worldwide. It is an ancient Zoroastrian celebration and was spread by the first Persian Empire established by Cyrus The Great over 2,500 years ago, around 550 BC. A later Persian empire even included parts of what is now the western Xinjiang province in China. That area was within the Sassanid Empire’s borders, around 450 A.D. Even today people there still celebrate Norooz.

Last year, after I sent out my Norooz greeting, a Korean friend answered that people in Asia consider every human being part of great Nature as is every tree or bird or even the wind. He said they try not to conquer Nature rather keep intact as a part of our body. I heard from a friend in Japan that it is also a Japanese tradition to celebrate the Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes. A friend in Norway told me that “Nowruz – is deeply indo-european, it is New (in Norwegian Ny), the word rooz or ruz has rich associations in the direction of (new/re) birth, flowering, (spring out), in slavic languages rodzenia, rust (birth, growth). We need some of that in the world now, the Arab Spring did not quite get as far as I had hoped.”

An Iranian friend wrote to me. “We spell it No Ruz (New Day) but the double “o” is OK too- When in Iran everything closes and people picnic everywhere for 13 days, even stopping by the side of a main highway and pitching a colorful tent. Iran is certainly a major player as the most stable country in the region and has always had the respect of its neighbors-well, most of them…”

A neighbor in Manhattan wrote, “I love nature [when it’s not violent] and do learn from it when i can. unfortunately, we city-folks are not immersed in it; the little i see is from my window: the birds, the sky, the amazing view of the snow-filled trees, and central park; we all must go there soon.”

A friend in China responded to my Norooz message, “How nice to learn about the Norooz and the Zoroastrian religion of so many people of the earth village. I like definitely as you said: the way of life seeing the light instead the dark and uniting with all that is good. But to our common misfortune, there are always the powers who see the world as a neighborhood to control and to fight with rather than to respect and live in peace.” A friend living in Thailand observed that “Nature is pure and simple, human politics is complicated and insane.” And wished me and Ronda Happy Norooz.

Also, one of my cousins wrote to me that he is “familiar with the fact that many civilizations celebrate the solar equinox, which was and still is the start of renewing (spring and planting), the new yearly start of fertility, both plant and animal alike.” He reminded me that Jewish people celebrate Passover at this time and Christians celebrate Easter. It shows me that we people everywhere are really more the same than different.

Last year Ronda and I attended the UN celebration of Norooz. It consisted of short speeches and videos from twelve nations: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The theme of all the speeches was that Norooz reconnects humans and nature every year. That we all should learn from nature to renew our lives. That Norooz transcends ethnicity and religion and geography. The spirit of Norooz is good neighborliness. Translated into international diplomacy that means respect for cultural diversity and national sovereignty. I found such statements valuable even though I agree with my friend in China that there are dominant nations who see the world as a neighborhood to control not to respect.

Ronda and I hope you are and can stay well and that Spring will make everyone’s life a bit easier and more pleasant.

Happy Norooz, Happy Easter! Happy Passover!
Happy Spring!

Take care.
Hello from Ronda.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 20th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The idea driving the protests is that climate change can be blunted only by moving to renewable energy and capping any growth of fossil fuels.

The New York Times – Environment

Environmental Activists Take to Local Protests for Global Results

By JOHN SCHWARTZ – MARCH 19, 2016

READING, N.Y. — They came here to get arrested.

Nearly 60 protesters blocked the driveway of a storage plant for natural gas on March 7. Its owners want to expand the facility, which the opponents say would endanger nearby Seneca Lake. But their concerns were global, as well.

“There’s a climate emergency happening,” one of the protesters, Coby Schultz, said. “It’s a life-or-death struggle.”

The demonstration here was part of a wave of actions across the nation that combines traditional not-in-my-backyard protests against fossil-fuel projects with an overarching concern about climate change.


Activists have been energized by successes on several fronts, including the decision last week by President Obama to block offshore drilling along the Atlantic Seaboard; his decision in November to reject the Keystone XL pipeline; and the Paris climate agreement.

Bound together through social media, networks of far-flung activists are opposing virtually all new oil, gas and coal infrastructure projects — a process that has been called “Keystone-ization.”

As the climate evangelist Bill McKibben put it in a Twitter post after Paris negotiators agreed on a goal of limiting global temperature increases: “We’re damn well going to hold them to it. Every pipeline, every mine.”

Regulators almost always approve such projects, though often with modifications, said Donald F. Santa Jr., chief executive of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America. Still, the protests are having some impact. The engineering consultants Black and Veatch recently published a report that said the most significant barrier to building new pipeline capacity was “delay from opposition groups.”

Activists regularly protest at the headquarters of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, but there have also been sizable protests in places like St. Paul and across the Northeast.

In Portland, Ore., where protesters conducted a “kayaktivist” blockade in July to keep Shell’s Arctic drilling rigs from leaving port, the City Council passed a resolution opposing the expansion of facilities for the storage and transportation of fossil fuels.

Greg Yost, a math teacher in North Carolina who works with the group NC PowerForward, said the activists emboldened one another.

“When we pick up the ball and run with it here in North Carolina, we’re well aware of what’s going on in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island,” he said. “The fight we’re doing here, it bears on what happens elsewhere — we’re all in this together, we feel like.”

The movement extends well beyond the United States. In May, a wave of protests and acts of civil disobedience, under an umbrella campaign called Break Free 2016, is scheduled around the world to urge governments and fossil fuel companies to “keep coal, oil and gas in the ground.”

This approach — think globally, protest locally — is captured in the words of Sandra Steingraber, an ecologist and a scholar in residence at Ithaca College who helped organize the demonstration at the storage plant near Seneca Lake: “This driveway is a battleground, and there are driveways like this all over the world.”

The idea driving the protests is that climate change can be blunted only by moving to renewable energy and capping any growth of fossil fuels.

Speaking to the crowd at Seneca Lake, Mr. McKibben, who had come from his home in Vermont, said, “Our job on behalf of the planet is to slow them down.”

He added, “If we can hold them off for two or three years, there’s no way any of this stuff can be built again.”

But the issues are not so clear cut. The protests aimed at natural gas pipelines, for example, may conflict with policies intended to fight climate change and pollution by reducing reliance on dirtier fossil fuels.

“The irony is this,” said Phil West, a spokesman for Spectra Energy, whose pipeline projects, including those in New York State, have come under attack. “The shift to additional natural gas use is a key contributor to helping the U.S. reduce energy-related emissions and improve air quality.”

Those who oppose natural gas pipelines say the science is on their side.

They note that methane, the chief component of natural gas, is a powerful greenhouse gas in the short term, with more than 80 times the effect of carbon dioxide in its first 20 years in the atmosphere.

The Obama administration is issuing regulations to reduce leaks, but environmental opposition to fracking, and events like the huge methane plume released at a storage facility in the Porter Ranch neighborhood near Los Angeles, have helped embolden the movement.

Once new natural gas pipelines and plants are in place, opponents argue, they will operate for decades, blocking the shift to solar and wind power.

“It’s not a bridge to renewable energy — it’s a competitor,” said Patrick Robbins, co-director of the Sane Energy Project, which protests pipeline development and is based in New York.

Such logic does not convince Michael A. Levi, an energy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Saying no to gas doesn’t miraculously lead to the substitution of wind and solar — it may lead to the continued operation of coal-fired plants,” he said, noting that when the price of natural gas is not competitive, owners take the plants, which are relatively cheap to build, out of service.

“There is enormous uncertainty about how quickly you can build out renewable energy systems, about what the cost will be and what the consequences will be for the electricity network,” Mr. Levi said.

Even some who believe that natural gas has a continuing role to play say that not every gas project makes sense.

N. Jonathan Peress, an expert on electricity and natural gas markets at the Environmental Defense Fund, said that while companies push to add capacity, the long-term need might not materialize.

“There is a disconnect between the perception of the need for massive amounts of new pipeline capacity and the reality,” he said.

Market forces, regulatory assumptions and business habits favor the building of new pipelines even though an evolving electrical grid and patterns of power use suggest that the demand for gas will, in many cases, decrease.

Even now, only 6 percent of gas-fired plants run at greater than 80 percent of their capacity, according to the United States Energy Information Administration, and nearly half of such plants run at an average load factor of just 17 percent.

“The electricity grid is evolving in a way that strongly suggests what’s necessary today won’t be necessary in another 20 years, let alone 10 or 15,” Mr. Peress said.

Back at Seneca Lake, the protesters cheered when Schuyler County sheriff’s vans showed up. The group had protested before, and so the arrests had the friendly familiarity of a contra dance. As one deputy, A.W. Yessman, placed zip-tie cuffs on Catherine Rossiter, he asked jovially, “Is this three, or four?”

She beamed. “You remember me!”

Brad Bacon, a spokesman for the owner of the plant at Seneca Lake, Crestwood Equity Partners, acknowledged that it had become more burdensome to get approval to build energy infrastructure in the Northeast even though regulatory experts have tended not to be persuaded by the protesters’ environmental arguments.

The protesters, in turn, disagree with the regulators, and forcefully.

As he was being handcuffed, Mr. McKibben called the morning “a good scene.” The actions against fossil fuels, he said, will continue. “There’s 15 places like this around the world today,” he said. “There will be 15 more tomorrow, and the day after that.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 19th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

IIASA study assesses land use impacts of EU biofuel policy

Laxenburg Austria, 16 March 2016 – The indirect impacts of biofuel production on land use change and greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union vary widely depending on the type of biofuel, according to a study published last week.

{The Study Argues – this is our insert}
Biofuel policy in the European Union has been under scrutiny for several years, with intense debate around its efficiency in reducing greenhouse gases emissions. Indeed, biofuel production can take up agricultural land otherwise used for food and feed, and lead to land use conversion elsewhere that would offset some of the climate benefits of the policy, a problem known as indirect land use change. In a new study for the European Commission in partnership with the sustainable energy consultancies Ecofys and E4tech, IIASA researchers have now brought more precise insight to the topic, showing the different levels of impact that different biofuels have on land use change and the climate.

The study revisits the impacts of biofuels consumed in the European Union and is the most comprehensive comparison to date of land use effects across feedstocks. It provides the first analysis, in a consistent modeling framework, of both conventional (or first-generation) biofuels, produced from food crops such as vegetable oil, and advanced (or second-generation) biofuels, produced from residues or energy crops such as grasses, forestry residues and cereal straw.

IIASA researcher Hugo Valin led the modeling for the study. He says, “First generation biofuels have been criticized in the past due to their indirect land use change impact, which our study confirms. But by looking at a much broader range of biofuel options, we clearly show that not all biofuels are equal.”

On one end of the spectrum, the study shows that certain types of vegetable oils, such palm or soybean oil, can lead to significant greenhouse gas emissions. It also shows that impacts of ethanol feedstocks are relatively lower than for biodiesel, in particular for high yielded crops such as sugar beet or maize. And on the other end of the spectrum, second generation crops, included for the first time in the analysis for the EU, showed a good performance overall with in several cases net negative emissions.
{This part is a very wise conclusion with which we can completely agree – our insert}

The study also included mitigation scenarios which showed that promoting agricultural expansion on European land compared to the rest of the world would help reducing the impacts in the short run. However, in the long run, the most efficient policy for limiting land-based greenhouse gas emissions would be a better control of agricultural land expansion globally, through policies to preserve forests and other natural ecosystems which can sequester large amounts of carbon including peatlands in Southeast Asia.

The study also included an in-depth analysis of uncertainties in the scenarios to better inform stakeholders. While in some cases uncertainties can be large, the study clearly indicates how impacts of different policy orientations compare.

Valin says, “It’s impossible to remove all uncertainties in such an analysis, but the real value of this study is that it helps decision makers to better anticipate the potential implications of the option they choose. Models help to develop a common understanding of what the problems at stake are and how to mitigate them. In the context of biofuel policies this is especially true, as modeling illustrates the trade-offs between greenhouse gas emissions, food consumption, land occupation, agricultural income, and other issues.”

More information
Ecofys: Report quantifies land use change impact of biofuels consumed in the EU

————————-

We, at SustainabiliTank, find some problems with above study based on our own experience.

Years ago – end of seventies-beginning of eighties – we published via US Congressional hearings about land use and industrial liquid biofuels production. Our argument was that agriculture in industrialized countries is managed by government policy. This was clearly true in the US, and I was approached by the newly formed Brussels based EU Agriculture Commissioner who was interested in that analysis of policy for the EU States as well.

The argument was that the various Departments of Agriculture support the price of food commodities by limiting their production or simply put – by paying farmers NOT TO PRODUCE or keep land out of production. My argument was to use that land – the so called SET-ASIDES – for the new industry of liquid biofuels and stop non-production-subsidies. I went so far as to calculate that for the US I could PRODUCE ETHANOL FROM CORN THAT WAS NOT GROWN AND PAY FOR IT WITH MONEY THAT WAS NOT SPENT. That testimony caused – because of request from Members of Congress – to my being hired as a consultant by the Office of the Comptroller General Of the United States – the US GAO – the General Accounting Office – in order to have them check out those arguments. Surely they found that there was a base for my arguments. They also found that the reduction of the quantities of agricultural commodity produced was much smaller then expected because, naturally, the farmer kept out of production the worst parts of their land. The funniest part was that agricultural corporations would switch the non-production claims from one commodity o another contingent on which ‘asides” provided higher subsidies that year – one year it could have been historic corn, but another year it could have been a claim of not growing wheat.

Whatever, at least for the EU and the US – the “set aside” policy is just public money dished out to the large farming industry for no good purpose and the concept of “hunger in China” just did not hold water. Environmentalists in this context did rather play up to the big oil and farming interests rather then my perception of reduction of dependence on petroleum. Surely, this is different when replacing natural forests in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil with oil- producing palm trees in the tropics. In those cases the damage to the environment is real. But not when we talk about the vast already deforested agricultural expances of Europe and America. Further, it is clear to us that in a globalized world – producing those commodities in smaller farms overseas, and subsistence farming, would save CO2 emissions that occur in the transport of those commodities originating in highly agriculture-industrialized economies – albeit this means lower take in the industrialized countries, lower need for food production by industrialized countries, and a parallel gain in employment by therural sector in non-industrialized countries we usually define as Developing Countries.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 18th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Dear Pincas,

We wish to send you the warmest Nowruz greetings on behalf of everyone at the American Iranian Council. Nowruz is the first day of spring, which begins on March 21. We wish you a healthy and happy 1395 (Iranian calendar year), and we hope that this Nowruz will usher in better US-Iran relations.

Last October, the American Iranian Council became 25 years old. What a challenging quarter century! Congratulations to all AIC administration, supporters, and sponsors for the 25th AIC anniversary and for our collective tenacity and accomplishments in a hostile environment and tough time. When we began dreaming and preaching better US-Iran relations in 1990, not even a small minority of Iranians and Americans believed in our project. We had entered a highly taboo field.

Today, we can claim a total reversal of that figure: a large majority of the people in Iran and beyond now think that the goal of an improved US-Iran relationship is a noble one, and that its time has long past. What a sea change! Our world has always been changed by vision and ideas, not propaganda.

Even more satisfying is that while celebrating our quarter century of work, we witnessed a historic nuclear accord that we hope will last and grow into a springboard for better US-Iran relations. As it is said, dreams come true, but only if you keep dreaming and working hard for their realization. That is what we at AIC have done.

The Council is a community of believers, thought leaders and practitioners. We pioneered the marketplace of ideas for better understanding, opposed all forms of sanctions, and rejected war in any form including coercive diplomacy. We offered a platform for dialogue and never wavered in our support for diplomacy.

This consistency of position over a quarter century is what sets us apart from the organizations and individuals who today claim to support diplomacy and nuclear negotiations. We are also unique for our unparalleled accomplishments in US-Iran relations.

Indeed, for over two decades, major developments in US-Iran relations happened at an AIC platform or through the mediation of the Council. We also published helpful policy papers including the AIC Whitepaper, which became a roadmap for the Obama Administration’s outreach to Iran.

Let us then celebrate the AIC at 25. In that direction, we plan to become even more active and effective as a thinker and policy developer for all parties involved. As in the past, we will also maintain our non-partisan position and help conceive unifying ideas for the common interests of all involved.

With your help, 1395 (2016) could be the year diplomacy will help resolve other matters in US-Iran relations, just as it did in the case of the nuclear dispute. Benevolent individuals such as you fund our programs—we have never taken money from governments. Your tax-deductible contribution of $100 or any amount that is right for you to the AIC during this season of giving will help the Council implement the following established programs:

– The US Congress: Organize four educational roundtables with congressional leaders and staffers.
– Iran and the Nuclear Accord: Publish a major analytical document and several shorter analyses in Farsi showing why the nuclear deal is in Iran’s national interest and economic well?being.
– Saudi Arabia and Iran: Coordinate a major policy conference on Iran-Saudi relations and help formulate a regional security structure involving Iran and its Persian Gulf neighbors.
– Economic Relations with Iran: Organize an informative conference on legalized business, compliance frameworks, and trade prospects.

Best regards and Happy New Year!

Senator J. Bennett Johnston (Rte.)
Chairman

Professor Hooshang Amirahmadi
President

The American Iranian Council

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 17th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From:  mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1…

What voters say: A Fox News poll released earlier this month found that registered voters want Obama and Senate leaders to “take action to fill the vacancy now” by a margin of 62% to 34%. A Pew Research Center poll released Monday found a majority of Americans (56%) say the Senate should hold hearings and vote on Obama’s choice to fill the vacancy, with 38% saying they should not hold hearings until the next president takes office. Much more from CNN’s Manu Raju, Ted Barrett and Tom LoBianco.

Obama restarts Gitmo political fight with a blueprint for closure:

President Barack Obama on Tuesday called for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility after delivering his plan to Congress to achieve a goal that has long eluded his presidency. Much more on the specifics from CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Elise Labott.

This morning, President Obama fulfilled his constitutional duty and nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland to be the next Supreme Court justice, citing his lengthy experience on the D.C. Circuit Court, respect among his peers and colleagues—including bipartisan praise from many senators—and his real world experience.

Chief Judge Garland has more federal judicial experience than any other Supreme Court nominee in history. He has been a public servant for almost his whole career, notably leading the investigation and prosecution after the Oklahoma City bombing. Garland has been on the D.C. Circuit court—often called the second-most important court in the country—for almost two decades and has served as Chief Judge of the Court since 2013. He was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit in 1997 with a 76-23 vote. Many Republican Senators still in office today voted for Garland including: Sens. Hatch, Inhofe, McCain, Roberts, Coats, Cochran, and Collins.

Before ever hearing the name of a nominee, Senate Republicans promised to refuse to even meet with the nominee, hold a hearing, or take a vote, vowing to ignore their constitutional duty. Since news broke of Garland’s nomination, a small group of Senate Republicans have broken with party leadership and said they are willing to meet with Garland. Those senators should push their leadership to call the entire senate to do its job and consider the nominee.

But before Senate Republicans vowed to obstruct the nomination process, many had positive things to say about Garland. In fact, just last week Sen. Hatch said, President Obama “could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man.”

The Senators are being paid for reviewing the nominee and giving a clear YES or NO verdict on his joining the Supreme Court. Saying they do not intend to do so is a plain act of sedition or if you prefer – insurrection against a sitting US President. This is unacceptable and demands clear steps by the President. No place here for political games – or the institution of the Presidency will be harmed.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 15th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Oregon Becomes First State in Nation to Sign Bill That Phases Out Coal, Ramps Up Renewables

By Ben Jervey, DeSmogBlog

15 March 2016

The Oregon legislature just put another nail in the coffin of the coal era.

On Friday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed into law one of the most ambitious and sweeping pieces of energy legislation in the country’s history, one which will eradicate the use of coal for electricity generation entirely within two decades.

The pioneering law makes Oregon the first state in the nation to legislate a ban on coal for the electric supply, while also mandating that utilities provide half of their electricity from new renewable sources by 2040.

Add those new renewables to Oregon’s existing hydropower resources and, in less than 25 years, the state’s electric sector will be between 70 and 90 percent carbon-free, one of the cleanest energy portfolios in the country.

Currently, coal supplies roughly 30 percent of the state’s electricity.

“Knowing how important it is to Oregonians to act on climate change, a wide range of stakeholders came to the table around Oregonians’ investments in coal and renewable energy,” said Gov. Kate Brown. “Working together, they found a path to best equip our state with the energy resource mix of the future. Now, Oregon will be less reliant on fossil fuels and shift our focus to clean energy. I’m proud to sign a bill that moves Oregon forward, together with the shared values of current and future generations.”

In Blue Oregon, Nick Abraham of Oil Check Northwest described this remarkable coalition of groups that came together to push for the law, an alliance that included ratepayer advocates, green groups and the utilities themselves.

“CUB believes that this a big victory for utility customers. Coal is a huge financial risk and we are mitigating this risk by moving away from coal and investing in clean energy instead,” said Bob Jenks, executive director of the Citizens’ Utility Board of Oregon, the ratepayer advocacy group.

Still, the legislation was fought tooth and nail by clean energy opponents in the state senate, particularly Republican Ted Ferrioli (who, according to Abraham, “takes tens of thousand from oil, gas and coal companies” every year). But, again, the utilities impacted by the law support the measure.

“Our company has been reducing reliance on coal generation and expanding our renewable energy portfolio for the past 10 years as market forces, regulation and evolving customer preference continue to drive change in the way electricity is generated and delivered,” stated Stefan Bird, president and CEO of Pacific Power. “This landmark legislation allows us to effectively manage Oregon’s transition to a clean energy future in a manner that protects customers from cost impacts, ensures grid reliability and allows us to meet all of our responsibilities to the communities we serve.”

This sentiment was echoed by Jim Piro, president and CEO of Portland General Electric, the state’s largest electric utility.

“The path forward was forged through a collaborative process where we all tried to balance stakeholder needs,” said Piro in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Public Utility Commission and all of our stakeholders to implement this policy in a way that benefits the environment, manages price impacts for our customers and ensures that the reliability of the electric grid is not compromised.”

Clean energy advocates who fought for passage of the bill are celebrating. “Oregon had a clear choice to make: do we want to power our homes with coal or with clean energy? Today it is clear we chose clean,” said Oregon Environmental Council Executive Director Andrea Durbin in a press release. “Kissing coal goodbye and doubling renewable energy will give Oregon some of the cleanest power? in the country, delivers clean energy for all Oregon families and re-establishes our state as a leader in green.”

It will also effectively clean up the grid in neighboring states. Because of how the utilities procure their power, the impacts of the law will be felt throughout the whole northwest, as Noah Long and Angus Duncan explain on NRDC’s Switchboard:

“Although one-third of Oregon’s electricity today comes from coal-fired plants, the only in-state facility was already slated to retire by 2020. However, the two affected utilities supply power to Oregon from coal facilities they own in Utah, Wyoming and Montana. By ending Oregon’s investments, the market for dirty energy will shrink—which should speed the retirement of those aging plants.

“At the same time, the law doubles the amount of energy from new renewable resources that Pacific Power and Portland General Electric must provide to their Oregon customers. Therefore, the utilities will be obliged to look first to wind, solar and other clean energy sources—and not new base-load natural gas turbines—to replace those aged coal plants.”

Many state and national clean energy advocates have upheld the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan as a precedent setting model for other states to follow.

“This landmark climate legislation puts Oregon on a bold new course,” said Kristen Sheeran, Oregon director of Climate Solutions. “Moving away from coal and oil toward clean, renewable electricity raises the bar for clean energy in other states.”

Indeed, no other state has yet legislated an end to coal-powered electricity. (Though Hawaii and Vermont do boast electric grids that already operate free of coal).

The renewable energy standards that the transition plan mandates put Oregon amongst the small handful of states that have renewable standards of 50 percent of more. Hawaii, again a leader, will require a full 100 percent by 2045; California and New York now both require 50 percent within 25 years; Massachusetts is demanding a 1 percent annual increase indefinitely, until it reaches the full electric portfolio.

Now, given the state’s mandate to scrap coal from its electric mix, if the “thin green line” of Cascadia activists can continue to block coal exports from the state’s ports, Oregon can effectively bid adieu to coal entirely.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 13th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Markets – NPR

The U.S. Is Pumping All This Oil, So Where Are The Benefits?

March 12, 2016 5:00 PM ET

The U.S. has joined Saudi Arabia and Russia as one of the world’s top oil producers. But the benefits that many forecasters predicted have not materialized.

In 2015 – Russia produced 10.3 millions of barrels of oil per day; Saudi Arabia 10.1 mb/d; and the US 9.4 mb/d.

The U.S. has ramped up oil production so dramatically that it’s joined Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s third largest producer.

Since this surge began in 2008, American production rocketed from 5 million barrels a day to nearly 10 million barrels a day at the high point last year.

More importantly, oil analysts confidently predicted that a tide of benefits would flow as freely as the oil now coming out of the ground.

First, the U.S. economy would get a boost that would include a renaissance in manufacturing. Second, the U.S. would be far less dependent on the vagaries of foreign energy producers. And third, America could shrink its footprint in the volatile Middle East.

Yet none of this has happened. Why not?


Forecast No. 1: An Economic Boost

The boom, fueled by shale oil fields in places like North Dakota, was supposed to turbo-charge the economy. Energy would be abundant and cheap. Consumers would have more money to spend on other stuff.

And that’s all true. You see it in places like convenience stores. When it costs drivers less to fill up the tank, they buy more soda. Good for Coke. Good for Pepsi.

But many forecasters failed to see the other side of the equation. More American companies and workers are now linked directly or indirectly to the oil industry, and they get hurt when prices go down.

“Actually, oil has become more important to the U.S. economy because of this almost doubling of U.S. oil production,” said Daniel Yergin, the author of best-selling books on the industry, including The Prize and The Quest.

Americans used to worry only about high oil prices, he noted. But now the country needs to consider what happens when prices go down.

“You have people working all across the United States that are in effect part of the supply chains. So when the oil price goes down, and companies cut spending, this reverberates in Illinois, Ohio and many other states,” said Yergin, who is vice chairman of the economics firm IHS.

The U.S. economy has grown steadily since the 2008-2009 recession. But that growth has been modest compared to previous recoveries. Since oil prices crashed in the summer of 2014, going from more than $100 a barrel to around $30 today, the economy has continued at roughly the same pace.

So what’s the overall impact of cheap oil? Yergin describes it as a “titter-totter.” Some gains here, some losses there, but overall, pretty neutral.


Forecast No. 2: Energy Independence

U.S. imports have dropped dramatically, but this really hasn’t set the U.S. free in the ways anticipated.

All this new American oil contributes to the current worldwide glut and the low prices. And neither the U.S. nor any other country wants to be the one that cuts back and sacrifices its own production for the greater good.

“Someone has to cry uncle,” says oil analyst Steve LeVine, who writes for Quartz and teaches at Georgetown University. “The conventional wisdom is that American shale oil producers will be the ones. And they are in trouble.”

The reason is cost. Saudi Arabia and other low-cost producers still make a profit when oil is $30 a barrel. Much of the U.S. production is relatively high-cost, and many companies are losing money at the current price.

Every day, world production of oil exceeds demand by more than 1 million barrels. Many countries are running low on places to store the excess.

In the U.S., that place is Cushing, Oklahoma, home of huge and rapidly filling storage tanks, LeVine says.

Some 500 million barrels of oil are in storage around the world, says LeVine.

“That’s the largest volume in storage since the Great Depression,” he notes, adding that some forecasters are predicting that if storage runs out, oil could go below $20 a barrel.


Forecast No. 3: U.S. Pulls Back In The Middle East

Forecasters also argued that more U.S. oil would mean a reduced American need to resolve conflicts in the Middle East. Oil was, after all, the main reason the U.S. was drawn into the region decades ago.

But here’s the catch: Cheap oil can destabilize Middle Eastern countries that depend almost entirely on oil revenue.

Consider Iraq. It’s desperately short of cash as it fights the Islamic State and tries to stay current on salaries to millions of government workers.

President Obama pledged to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he has withdrawn the large contingents of U.S. large ground forces. Yet in Obama’s final year in office, the U.S. is still engaged in three regional wars — Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria — and dealing with instability throughout the region.

All the forecasts looked at the potential upside of more American oil, but never fully factored in the downside.

—————–
Greg Myre is the international editor of NPR.org. Follow him @gregmyre1.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 10th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The stakes are high. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on 2016 Presidential Elections
- The Risk I Will Not Take.

March 7, 2016 5:00 PM EST
By Michael R. Bloomberg

Americans today face a profound challenge to preserve our common values and national promise.

Wage stagnation at home and our declining influence abroad have left Americans angry and frustrated. And yet Washington, D.C., offers nothing but gridlock and partisan finger-pointing.

Worse, the current presidential candidates are offering scapegoats instead of solutions, and they are promising results that they can’t possibly deliver. Rather than explaining how they will break the fever of partisanship that is crippling Washington, they are doubling down on dysfunction.

Over the course of American history, both parties have tended to nominate presidential candidates who stay close to and build from the center. But that tradition may be breaking down. Extremism is on the march, and unless we stop it, our problems at home and abroad will grow worse.

Many Americans are understandably dismayed by this, and I share their concerns. The leading Democratic candidates have attacked policies that spurred growth and opportunity under President Bill Clinton — support for trade, charter schools, deficit reduction and the financial sector. Meanwhile, the leading Republican candidates have attacked policies that spurred growth and opportunity under President Ronald Reagan, including immigration reform, compromise on taxes and entitlement reform, and support for bipartisan budgets. Both presidents were problem-solvers, not ideological purists. And both moved the country forward in important ways.

Over the last several months, many Americans have urged me to run for president as an independent, and some who don’t like the current candidates have said it is my patriotic duty to do so. I appreciate their appeals, and I have given the question serious consideration. The deadline to answer it is now, because of ballot access requirements.

My parents taught me about the importance of giving back, and public service has been an important part of my life. After 12 years as mayor of New York City, I know the personal sacrifices that campaigns and elected office require, and I would gladly make them again in order to help the country I love.

I’ve always been drawn to impossible challenges, and none today is greater or more important than ending the partisan war in Washington and making government work for the American people — not lobbyists and campaign donors. Bringing about this change will require electing leaders who are more focused on getting results than winning re-election, who have experience building small businesses and creating jobs, who know how to balance budgets and manage large organizations, who aren’t beholden to special interests — and who are honest with the public at every turn. I’m flattered that some think I could provide this kind of leadership.

But when I look at the data, it’s clear to me that if I entered the race, I could not win. I believe I could win a number of diverse states — but not enough to win the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win the presidency.

In a three-way race, it’s unlikely any candidate would win a majority of electoral votes, and then the power to choose the president would be taken out of the hands of the American people and thrown to Congress. The fact is, even if I were to receive the most popular votes and the most electoral votes, victory would be highly unlikely, because most members of Congress would vote for their party’s nominee. Party loyalists in Congress — not the American people or the Electoral College — would determine the next president.

As the race stands now, with Republicans in charge of both Houses, there is a good chance that my candidacy could lead to the election of Donald Trump or Senator Ted Cruz. That is not a risk I can take in good conscience.

I have known Mr. Trump casually for many years, and we have always been on friendly terms. I even agreed to appear on “The Apprentice” — twice. But he has run the most divisive and demagogic presidential campaign I can remember, preying on people’s prejudices and fears. Abraham Lincoln, the father of the Republican Party, appealed to our “better angels.” Trump appeals to our worst impulses.

Threatening to bar foreign Muslims from entering the country is a direct assault on two of the core values that gave rise to our nation: religious tolerance and the separation of church and state. Attacking and promising to deport millions of Mexicans, feigning ignorance of white supremacists, and threatening China and Japan with a trade war are all dangerously wrong, too. These moves would divide us at home and compromise our moral leadership around the world. The end result would be to embolden our enemies, threaten the security of our allies, and put our own men and women in uniform at greater risk.

Senator Cruz’s pandering on immigration may lack Trump’s rhetorical excess, but it is no less extreme. His refusal to oppose banning foreigners based on their religion may be less bombastic than Trump’s position, but it is no less divisive.

We cannot “make America great again” by turning our backs on the values that made us the world’s greatest nation in the first place. I love our country too much to play a role in electing a candidate who would weaken our unity and darken our future — and so I will not enter the race for president of the United States.

However, nor will I stay silent about the threat that partisan extremism poses to our nation. I am not ready to endorse any candidate, but I will continue urging all voters to reject divisive appeals and demanding that candidates offer intelligent, specific and realistic ideas for bridging divides, solving problems, and giving us the honest and capable government we deserve.

For most Americans, citizenship requires little more than paying taxes. But many have given their lives to defend our nation — and all of us have an obligation as voters to stand up on behalf of ideas and principles that, as Lincoln said, represent “the last best hope of earth.” I hope and pray I’m doing that.

———————-

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
David Shipley at  davidshipley at bloomberg.net

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 3rd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

President Obama meets with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in September 2015 at the Oval Office. On January 1, Saudi Arabia executed 4 individuals who engaged in non-violent protest for democracy and human rights in the Kingdom. Behind the president and King Salman sits a bust of the champion of non-violent protest, Martin Luther King Jr. (photo: AP)
(under the photo by AP heading the original article)


US Ties to Saudi Kingdom Are Beheading Democracy: An Interview With the Son of an Executed Political Prisoner.

By Paul Gottinger, Reader Supported News
 mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1…

26 February 2016


Saudi Arabia opened 2016 with a tragic, yet increasingly common event for the Kingdom, a mass execution.
In the words of Amnesty International, “Saudi Arabia’s authorities demonstrated their utter disregard for human rights and life by executing 47 people in a single day.”

According to the British rights organization Reprieve, Saudi Arabia has had one of the world’s highest rates of execution for over ten years. Many of these executions occur after unfair trails and may be carried out by the barbaric means of beheading, public crucifixion, stoning, or firing squad.

All 47 individuals executed on January 1 were accused of being terrorists. However, four of those executed were involved in Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring protests. These four remained strictly nonviolent in their calls for greater democracy and rights in the Kingdom.

Despite being a major US ally, Saudi Arabia has an atrocious human rights record. The Kingdom is intolerant of any dissent and harshly represses any critics. The Kingdom has also banned all public gatherings and demonstrations since the Arab Spring erupted in 2011.

One of these four political prisoners executed was the well-known Shia cleric Sheik Nimr al-Nimr. Al-Nimr was a powerful and articulate critic of the Saudi government and royal family.

Amnesty International stated that Sheik al-Nimr’s execution showed that Saudi officials were “using the death penalty in the name of counter-terror to settle scores and crush dissidents.”

Reader Supported News spoke with Sheik al-Nimr’s son, Mohammed al-Nimr, just a few weeks after his father’s execution.

Mohammed described his father as someone who believed in the same values as Americans and who wanted all people to have basic things like democracy, freedom, justice, dignity, and human rights.“He was a peaceful man who demanded change in my country because he wouldn’t tolerate any tyranny. He always spoke for the oppressed against the oppressors.”

Mohammed said his father guided Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring protesters in the way of nonviolence. “He demanded peaceful change in the form of democratic elections and he also demanded basic human rights.”

Despite the Saudi government labeling him a terrorist, Mohammed said, “My father was always a strong supporter for peaceful change. He always asked people to be peaceful and not to fall into violence. I never saw my father with a weapon. He once told a protestor, you are right to demand your rights, but don’t engage in even the smallest forms of violence like throwing rocks at riot police.”

Mohammed’s father was first arrested in 2012. A security vehicle rammed into his car, security personnel dragged him out of the car, then finally opened fire on him, striking him 4 times.

When Sheik al-Nimr woke up in the hospital his upper chin was broken and two teeth were missing. “My father underwent an operation to remove the bullets, but the hospital intentionally left one bullet in his thigh to cause him pain.”

Due to his injuries, Sheik al-Nimr suffered an enormous amount of pain, which prevented him from sleeping properly for an entire year. Sheik al-Nimr was also held in solitary confinement for almost four years, the entire time he was imprisoned.

I asked whether the US reached out to help free his father, who believed in democracy, nonviolence, and justice, the very values America claims to stand for. But Mohammed said the US never reached out to him. “They know about the case, but they didn’t do enough to stop the execution.”

In the days after Sheik Nimr’s execution, the White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that the White House had “raised concerns” with the Saudi government that executing Sheik Nimr al-Nimr could heighten sectarian tensions.

Mohammed said this is the US government’s way of saying they did their part. “But that’s not enough. You don’t just warn them. He was a peaceful man. The US should have demanded his release and done all they could to stop the execution from happening.”

When asked if he had a message for the American people, Mohammed said, “Your security is in danger. As long as your government supports the Saudi regime, which has a lot of money to support terrorism all over the world, your security is in danger.”

“This Saudi regime supported the Taliban, and the result was al Qaeda. Then the Saudi regime supported the rebels in Syria, and the result was ISIS.”

“Where does the money for all these terror groups come from? It’s the Saudi government’s oil money. The Saudi government pretends to fight terrorist ideology, but their ideology is the root of terrorist ideology. For example, 15 of 19 September 11th hijackers were Saudi. Why is that? Because that’s what they teach people in school.”

“So my message for American citizens is look out for your safety. You don’t want more 9/11 attacks, you don’t want more Paris attacks. That’s what this regime supports, even if the regime shows another face.”

When asked what his father would think of the attack on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran that followed his father’s execution, he said, “I believe if my father was here he would not agree to the attack in Tehran. As I said, he was a peaceful man and would never encourage violence.”

Mohammed said his father’s execution left an enormous impact on him. “My father was really a friend to me. He was a great father and I will have a deep sadness for the rest of my life due to his loss. I know he’s in a better place right now, but the painful thing is that I’m never going to see him, or hear his voice with new words about freedom, justice, dignity and humanity.”

When asked how he planned to attain justice for his father, Mohammed said, “I will make the whole world hear his voice. Make the whole world know what he stood for and what he demanded and not the picture the Saudi government is trying to paint of my father.”

“He was not a violent man. He was just someone who wouldn’t tolerate any tyranny and any oppression against anyone. He would stand up for anyone who is oppressed.”

Paul Gottinger is a staff reporter at RSN whose work focuses on the Middle East and the arms industry. He can be reached on Twitter @paulgottinger or via email.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

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