Oil & Water Symposium
The Museum of Chinese in America in New York City (MOCA) will host a scholarly
10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
For more information and to register, click here [r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=
Sponsored by the Museum of Chinese in America
WE HOPE WE CAN CONVINCE THESE CHINESE TO TAKE A LOOK AT OIL & WATER IN THE FUTURE OF CHINA – AND TALK OF OIL & WATER IN TERMS OF SUSTAINABLILITY!
The comments show how deep is the Republican brainwashing of the population. You have here pundits for whom loss of life is nothing when compared to what they think is the right of corporations to make a profit.
What is even worse, nobody asked whose oil and coal is it anyway? If Natural Resources are the property of the Whole Nation, then why should a company get depletion subsidies for their appropriating to themselves the natural National treasures? The whole system of paying royalties is inadequate – but the payment to them for the deletion of the resources is ridiculous. Getting a bonus for gains from misappropriated resources is much more like rewarding the CEOs for being great thieves! Just give it some more rational thinking and use the babble of the comments as your guideline. ST.info editor)
A Stanford Social Innovation Review points out that the post-2015 UN Agenda will have to be based on innovative thinking that. makes space for the private World – not just on the International Union of Government Sponsored Bureaucrats. Will those bureaucrats participate by agrreing to stay aside?
A Stanford Social Innovation Review on Beyond Aid.
This as leaders across sectors convene at the UN in NewYork to discuss the new post-2015 global agenda – the opportunity to collaborate on a new breed of large-scale development projects known as innovative financing has never been brighter.
Imagine you have the opportunity to define how the world develops for the next 15 years. All government projects, nonprofit work, and foundation funding would cater to your agenda. If you are one of the representatives of the 193 United Nations member states currently discussing the new global agenda, your job entails exactly that.
By 2015, when the current development agenda expires, the international community must determine a new set of goals, and how to achieve and fund them. Based on early recommendations from the UN Secretary General’s office, this next-generation agenda will probably be more ambitious in scope and cost than the present Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While the current MDGs focus on a narrowly defined set of eight goals, the new global agenda will likely aim to both end poverty and increase sustainable development across many dimensions.
Unlocking More Money Through Innovative Financing
Development projects known as “innovative financing” reflect a new way of filling this funding gap. The term, coined in 2002 at a UN conference, refers to projects that raise money for development in new ways and spend money more effectively.
Given a variety of creative names, in truth innovative financing programs take just three different forms: pay only for results, make funding of the development agenda a safer investment, and find new funders.
Variations of innovative financing programs include known mechanisms such as social impact bonds or pay-for-success programs, which are used more and more frequently—research by Dalberg suggests at least a half dozen new initiatives have launched annually, on average, since 2002. To date, these programs have been initiated independently and for an array of causes on an ad-hoc basis.
Development leaders now have the opportunity to apply innovative finance tools on a major scale and in a systematic way; they also have new information on where and how to apply them. The most promising element of innovative financing is its ability to unlock pools of funds from the private sector, which typically finds development projects too risky and the results too uncertain to warrant investment. Funders of these development programs do not need to be impact investors looking for social returns; instead, programs can generate high returns or reduce risk for traditional investors. Innovative financing can also tap into additional public funds by providing opportunities for global coordination and public-private partnerships.
Pay only for results:
Spending money more effectively by paying for results rather than promises has two benefits: It reduces the total size of the fund needed to achieve the next-generation agenda and also ensures a greater impact from every dollar spent. For example, when the development community learned that Western pharmaceuticals were holding back from developing a cheap pneumonia vaccine for Africa because of a legitimate fear that there would be no money to buy these vaccines after they invested in building capacity, they designed an innovative financing program. The resulting program, known as the Pneumococcal Advance Market Commitment, guaranteed a minimum market size to any pharmaceutical company that could develop an appropriate vaccine. This enabled Pfizer and others to scale facilities that have since vaccinated more than 10 million children; it also enabled them to sell vaccines at less than 10 percent of their usual cost. Another results-based innovative financing mechanism, the Haiti Mobile Money prize, rewarded mobile operators in Haiti with $6 million to build out mobile banking. If applied to initiatives in the next development agenda, such cost-effective programs would reduce the total dollars needed.
Make funding development safe:
Innovative financing mechanisms include a whole suite of creative funding vehicles that shift risk away from funders, making development projects a safer investment. This includes social impact bonds and insurance for funders, who can then invest in projects that would otherwise be too risky—for example, global health clinics, rural energy, and agriculture equipment. The recently launched HUGinsure provides up to $400 million in insurance backed by Lloyd’s, making it safe for private sector banks to fund unproven social impact projects. A potential new malaria bond will draw on public-private funders who will pay program implementers only if malaria eradication is successful. Such social impact bonds allow third-party backers like governments to take on risk instead of the private sector funder. Without these mechanisms, private funders tend to invest in sectors such as natural resource extraction, which offer immediate returns. But with them, private funders can benefit from sectors with more diffuse value, such as health and infrastructure.
Find new funders
Innovative mechanisms for raising new funds broaden the funding toolkit beyond simple grants and equity. Such mechanisms include ongoing programs such as social taxes and voluntary solidarity contributions, which raise small amounts of funds over time. A solidarity tax on airline tickets in France, for example, charges travelers a few dollars each time they leave French soil, and has raised nearly $2 billion since 2006 for the global health initiative UNITAID. This can also include large programs such as carbon emissions trading, which has raised more than $30 billion since 2002.
The Private Sector Potential:
Compared to international aid—which represents less than 1 percent of available funding for development—harnessing private sector funding presents a significant new opportunity for backing the new development agenda. Private sector spending within and flowing to low- and middle-income countries represents a rapidly growing pool –more than $20 trillion (see chart). Tapping into even a small portion of that through innovative financing would draw immense new resources. And more effectively allocating this funding means fewer dollars will be needed.
Though this funding would bridge only a small portion of the $1 trillion required for the next-generation development agenda, without it, many areas with benefits beyond financial returns will remain underfunded—private sector investors will continue to fund only clearly profitable projects such as mining. With increased coordination and fresh lessons from past experiments, development leaders can effectively wield innovative financing for greater impact.
Angela Rastegar Campbell (@angelarastegar) is a Project Leader at Dalberg Global Development Advisors, where she has worked with the Gates Foundation, the UN Foundation, and GAVI on projects related to the new development agenda and innovative financing. Angela holds an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business and a BA in Human Biology from Stanford University.
The Arctic is warming up, and the US needs a Special State Department appointee to interact with the governments that claim a right to exploit its resources. Dr. Charles Ebinger’s team at the Brookings Institution has put together a report on Oil and Gas present in the Arctic and exploitation could spell disaster for the planet’s climate stability. He is asking for establishment of policy on the subject.
WHAT: Rally to Divest New York from Fossil Fuels
New York could be the first state to divest from destructive fossil fuels — but only if we can convince Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to do the right thing.
This Thursday, maech 27, 2014, we’ll gather in front of the Comptroller’s NYC offices to deliver our petition and make a lot of noise. Will you help us send the Comptroller a message he can’t ignore?
Our state’s Common Retirement Fund is the third largest pension plan in the country, with $160 billion in investments. It’s heavily invested in the fossil fuel industry, and we think that makes no sense at all.
Climate change is real, it’s here, and it’s endangering the biodiversity and natural resources we depend on, as well as the physical infrastructure that makes our state run. Why is a state that’s still rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy invested in the very companies driving this crisis?
Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has the power to divest New York from fossil fuels, and divestment has the power to rein in the fossil fuel industry — an industry that’s both driving the climate crisis and polluting our democracy. I think that’s an easy call, but evidently the Comptroller needs a little more convincing.
Lyna & the 350.org team
Rally co-sponsors include: Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, GreenFaith, Responsible Endowments Coalition, United for Action, Green Party of New York, Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition, Green Map System, Cuny Divest, Hunter Sustainability Project, NYU Divest, Barnard Columbia Divest for Climate Justice, and Fossil Free Fordham
March 24, April 6, April 22, 2014 – New York City events with historic Jewish music from places like Istanbul and Bessarabia (now Moldova) – about effort to preserve lost cultures in places of strife.
HONG KONG — The chairman of Bloomberg L.P. said in a speech here on Thursday that the company should have reconsidered articles that deviated from its core of coverage of business news, because they jeopardized the huge sales potential for its products in the Chinese market.
The comments by the chairman, Peter T. Grauer, represented the starkest acknowledgment yet by a senior Bloomberg executive that the ambitions of the news division should be assessed in the context of the business operation, which provides the bulk of the company’s revenue. They also signaled which of those considerations might get priority.
Acknowledging the vast size of the Chinese economy, the world’s second-biggest after that of the United States, Mr. Grauer, said, “We have to be there.”
“We have about 50 journalists in the market, primarily writing stories about the local business and economic environment,” Mr. Grauer said in response to questions after a speech at the Asia Society. “You’re all aware that every once in a while we wander a little bit away from that and write stories that we probably may have kind of rethought — should have rethought.”
Bloomberg, the financial data and news company, relies on sales of its terminals, which are ubiquitous on bankers’ desks around the world, for about 82 percent of its $8.5 billion in revenue. But sales of those terminals in China declined after the company published an article in June 2012 on the family wealth of Xi Jinping, at that time the incoming Communist Party chief. After its publication, officials ordered state enterprises not to subscribe to the service. Mr. Grauer did not specifically mention the article about Mr. Xi or any other articles.
Mr. Grauer’s comments on Bloomberg’s journalistic priorities in China reflect what some Bloomberg employees say is a re-emphasis on financial news, and skepticism from the business side about whether investigative journalism is worth the potential problems it could create for terminal sales.
A Bloomberg spokesman in New York said the company would have no comment on Mr. Grauer’s remarks.
A day earlier, Justin B. Smith, the chief executive of the Bloomberg Media Group, outlined an ambitious growth strategy for the news unit that would require expansion and increased investment. In a memorandum posted on the website Medium, he wrote: “Bloomberg Media is setting out to build a leading digitally led, multiplatform media company for global business. We want to become the indispensable source of information for the world’s most influential people.”
Bloomberg, controlled by the billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg, who returned to the company at the beginning of this year after 12 years as mayor of New York City, employs about 125 people in mainland China across its businesses, which also include providing data about the country’s currency and bond futures markets.
“Being in China is very much a part of our long-term strategy and will continue to be so going forward,” Mr. Grauer said. “It occupies a lot of our thinking — Dan Doctoroff, our C.E.O.; me; Mike; and other members of our senior team. After the article about the Xi family’s wealth was published, Chinese officials also blocked Bloomberg’s website on Chinese servers, and the company has been unable to get residency visas for new journalists. Other news organizations have come under similar pressure. The websites of The New York Times, including a new Chinese-language edition, were blocked when it published an article in October 2012 on the family wealth of Wen Jiabao, then the prime minister. Like Bloomberg, The Times has not received residency visas for new journalists.
In November, several news outlets, including The New York Times, published reports quoting unidentified Bloomberg employees saying that top editors at the company, led by Matthew Winkler, editor in chief of Bloomberg News, did not publish an investigative article because of fears the company would be expelled from China. Mr. Winkler denied that the article had been killed.
A reporter who was the co-writer of the unpublished investigative article — and who had been a lead reporter on the Xi family wealth article in 2012 — left Bloomberg News shortly after reports of the controversy were published in November. He joined The New York Times in January.
Some current and former Bloomberg journalists, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they had hoped the controversy surrounding Bloomberg’s China reporting would prompt the company to reaffirm its support for investigative efforts. Mr. Grauer’s comments were met with dismay, particularly because he is regarded as close to Mr. Bloomberg and would be unlikely to voice views that were not broadly accepted at the top of the company.
In his comments on Thursday, Mr. Grauer did not provide figures for the size of Bloomberg’s business in China. One former executive said in November that the company had about 2,000 to 2,500 terminals in mainland China, out of 300,000 terminals worldwide.
Mr. Grauer said the company was investing aggressively in fast-growing emerging markets, including China and dozens of other countries. Such nations account for about 12 percent of people who use Bloomberg terminals, but 30 percent of its sales in the year to date, he said.
“Our approach is pretty much to tune out all the news about weaknesses in the emerging markets,” Mr. Grauer said. “We’re investing full speed ahead.”
In recent weeks, Mr. Bloomberg has taken up residence on the fifth floor of his company’s New York headquarters, which primarily houses the television operation of Bloomberg News. The glass of a small conference room has been frosted since he arrived, and he uses it to take Spanish lessons, an employee said. His influence within the editorial unit has also increased since he left city hall, said people with knowledge of the operation, who insisted on anonymity in discussing internal operations.
Bloomberg has moved swiftly to put behind it a scandal in which its journalists were found to have used data from the terminals, like contact information, to help report stories. Reporters have been instructed in meetings, employees said, to avoid the use of proprietary information and to identify themselves clearly as from the news division. The aim, said one person present, has clearly been to assure terminal customers that their information is safe.
Neil Gough reported from Hong Kong and Ravi Somaiya reported from New York.
On Climate Change US Senate behaved like schoolchidren in an all-night sleepover. Republican McConnell was chief DEMAGOGUE crying about the future loss of jobs of the coal miners and others still see a hoax when expressing human climate change dennial.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Senate ‘All-Nighter’ Suggests Long Road Ahead for U.S Climate Action.
One by one, nearly 30 Senate Democrats came to the Senate floor last night in what they touted as an all-nighter on climate change, a mix of policy speeches and political theater that sought to hammer home their message that climate change is real and Congress needs to act.
But in trying to present a unified front, they also served to underscore the serious hurdle they face in trying to revive climate change legislation that passed the House in 2009 but died in the Senate a year later.
Environmental groups noted that the dusk-to-dawn speeches that began March 10 brought nearly one-third of the U.S. Senate to the floor, including Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other members of his leadership team. “Climate change is real,” Reid said. “It’s here. It’s time to stop ignoring the crisis of rapidly rising global temperatures.”
But getting one-third of the Senate still left many Democrats missing. Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska)—all in competitive races that could decide who controls the Senate next year—were absent.
So was coal-state Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), who in a 2010 campaign ad took “dead aim” with a rifle and shot a copy of the cap-and-trade bill. Manchin sounded a note of unity by arguing Democrats are generally in agreement that climate change is occurring. But he said he was not asked to speak on the issue by his colleagues.
“I would have been happy to participate,” Manchin said.
Once-Supportive Republicans Absent.
However, getting the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster threat and pass a U.S. climate bill would require convincing not only such coal-state Democrats but also Republicans.
None of the 45 Senate Republicans joined Democrats on the floor to call for climate action. Instead, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who once called climate change a “hoax,” came to the floor just before Democrats launched their speeches to say he remains a skeptic.
But other Republicans were notable for their absence: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who co-authored three bills over the last decade to put mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who co-sponsored a 2007 emissions cap bill.
Some Republicans, including Murkowski and Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), said there was a reason for that: they were not invited.
“I was actually hoping I might be able to do it early tonight,” Murkowski told reporters, adding that she had worked on a speech days earlier that “speaks to energy issues and weaves climate in [it] brilliantly.”
The Alaska Republican said she would offer the speech soon, adding “I don’t think what you’re going to hear tonight is policy. I think it’s going to be more theater.”
“I was not approached,” Collins told Bloomberg BNA, before adding that she agreed climate change is a concern. But “this is a partisan exercise,” she said.
Democrats Hope for ‘New Dawn’ on Climate.
Senate Democrats readily acknowledge that it could take years to revive a climate bill given strong opposition to any legislation by Senate Republicans but also in the Republican-controlled House.
However, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who co-authored the cap-and-trade bill when he was in the House, said Democrats were launching a “new dawn” and that the speeches would bring the Senate one step closer to getting a climate bill passed.
Markey joined other longtime climate advocates speaking on the floor including Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). But there were also newcomers such as Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who argued that the scientific evidence linking climate change to human activity is overwhelming and irrefutable.
Schatz, who was touted as the lead organizer of Democrats’ night of floor speeches, called it an “opening salvo” toward getting legislative action. Markey said he hoped raising the profile of the issue would allow for more comprehensive legislation to be passed in two or three years.
Some Republicans said such predictions were little more than a pipe dream.
“You’re going to hear 30 hours of excuses from a group of people who think that’s OK,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told colleagues just before Democrats began. “Well it’s not OK. It’s cruel,” he said. “It’s cruel to tell struggling coal families that they can’t have a job.”
McConnell said environmental advocates and Democrats are targeting the coal industry under the guise of addressing climate change.
Earlier in the day, White House Spokesman Jay Carney stressed that President Barack Obama, who has long supported U.S. climate action, “absolutely” supported the effort by Democrats to highlight the issue with an all-night focus on climate change.
This blog was co-authored by Anthony Adragna.
The Highly Subsidized Big FARM Industry Bill is not what it is called – A Farm Bill – and was defended that it is for Poor Small Farmers. This is untrue and we suggest that only a Family Small Farms Bill is Sustainable.
The following article says basically that with more consciousness about healthy eating, there was a switch with more emphasis on subsidies to organic food, fruit and vegetables. This is nice we say – but far from what is needed.
The article also says that a new use for excess land of the farming industry is for growth of industrial hemp. You can bet that this is intended for the large industrial farms as well.
Any Farm Bill is rather a farm industry Bill – it addresses the large producers and makes it difficult for the true small farm-family to make ends meet – as they are not included in the subsidies. Also, the commodity farmers produce mainly for export and for animal feed – not for direct human consumption in the US. Also, they are located far from where US consumers are located, and undercut with lower pricing efforts to produce locally.
Sustainability requires the production of vegetables and fruit for consumption in New York City for instance – that these are produced on city roofs and in New Jersey and Connecticut small farms – family owned – perhaps part-time work. Rather then subsidizing the production of lettuce in California so it is shipped to New York, why not give a premium to New York growers for saving the transportation fuel when replacing the distant producer?
What I am saying here is that the whole thinking of backing an industry – rather then striving to answer a sustainability needs – damns any farm support legislation that comes out from US Congress – and for fairness sake – in foreign States as well.
WASHINGTON — The farm bill signed by President Obama last month was at first glance the usual boon for soybean growers, catfish farmers and their ilk. But closer examination reveals that the nation’s agriculture policy is increasingly more whole grain than white bread.
Within the bill is a significant shift in the types of farmers who are now benefiting from taxpayer dollars, reflecting a decade of changing eating habits and cultural dispositions among American consumers. Organic farmers, fruit growers and hemp producers all did well in the new bill. An emphasis on locally grown, healthful foods appeals to a broad base of their constituents, members of both major parties said.
“There is nothing hotter than farm to table,” said Representative Bill Huizenga, a Michigan Republican from a district of vast cherry orchards.
While traditional commodities subsidies were cut by more than 30 percent to $23 billion over 10 years, funding for fruits and vegetables and organic programs increased by more than 50 percent over the same period, to about $3 billion.
Fruit and vegetable farmers, who have been largely shut out of the crop insurance programs that grain and other farmers have enjoyed for decades, now have far greater access. Other programs for those crops were increased by 55 percent from the 2008 bill, which expired last year, and block grants for their marketing programs grew exponentially.
In addition, money to help growers make the transition from conventional to organic farming rose to $57.5 million from $22 million. Money for oversight of the nation’s organic food program nearly doubled to $75 million over five years.
Programs that help food stamp recipients pay for fruits and vegetables — to get healthy food into neighborhoods that have few grocery stores and to get schools to grow their own food — all received large bumps in the bill.
The new attention and government money devoted to healthy foods stem from the growing market power of those segments of the food business, as well as profound shifts in nutrition policy and eating habits across the country.
“This is my fourth farm bill, and it’s the most unique I have ever been involved in,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow, the Michigan Democrat who negotiated, prodded, cajoled and finally shepherded the bill through Congress over two and a half years. “Past farm bills pit regions against regions. I said that we were going to support all of agriculture.”
The bill also eased a 75-year-old restriction on growing and researching industrial hemp, paving the way for several states to begin pilot growing programs for this variety of the cannabis plant, which can be refined into oil, wax, rope, cloth, pulp and other products.
At the same time, hunting programs were protected in the farm bill, which attracted the rare approbation of the National Rifle Association. The bill also ties conservation requirements to crop insurance benefits, which many environmental groups praised. “I think this is the new coalition,” Ms. Stabenow said.
While still in the shadows of traditional farming, organics are the fastest-growing sector of the food business. Support for that movement has traditionally come from Democrats in Congress, but the organic farming provisions in the bill had broad support from both parties.
“We kind of overperformed with younger new members of Congress on both sides of the aisle,” said Laura Batcha, the executive director of the Organic Trade Association.
Ms. Batcha pointed to a provision sought by her organization to exempt organic producers from having to pay assessments for certain marketing programs, which received broad backing from both Republicans and Democrats. The support surprised her, she said, but showed the popularity of organic product.
“I think we should let consumers make their own decisions about what kinds of foods they purchase,” said Representative Reid Ribble, Republican of Wisconsin, who is a member of the House Agriculture Committee. “And if there’s a market for organic products, we should support it.”
Over all, healthy food has become more politically popular because of efforts to combat childhood obesity and diabetes and a growing national interest in the farm-to-table movement promoted by the first lady, Michelle Obama, and other national figures.
“The average member of Congress, whether they are urban or suburban, knows that is what their constituents want,” said Ferd Hoefner, the policy director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “Even the most ag-centric member of the Agriculture Committee knows that is what helps sell the bill when it gets to the floor.”
For farmers of fruits and vegetables, oddly referred to in ag-speak as specialty crops, the ability to participate in crop insurance programs, which were expanded as direct payments to farmers were ended, is a major victory.
John King, a co-owner of King Orchards, which specializes in Montmorency cherries in Central Lake, Mich., was previously able to get insurance only for his apples. His cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and raspberries went uncovered.
In 2012, the combination of a bitterly cold winter and a March heat wave resulted in Mr. King’s greatest losses in the farm’s 34-year history, wiping out all of his stone fruit and a third of his apple crop. “Crop insurance did not even cover half my labor bill for the year,” said Mr. King, who has already signed up for the maximum insurance for 2014.
“Over the years the big-program crops have been able to get what they want while for specialty crops it has been, ‘Tough luck as you freeze,’ ” Mr. King said. “Well, we grow the stuff people eat and want to eat, and we do need some financial cover from this increasingly precarious weather situation.”
On the farm bill, Ms. Stabenow was able to come to an agreement with her Republican counterparts in the Senate as well as the House, where the most conservative members sought large cuts to the food and nutrition program that makes up about 80 percent of the bill.
Ms. Stabenow had to fend off the most conservative House members, who at one point wanted drug testing for food stamp recipients. (Ms. Stabenow told them that she would agree only if every recipient of farm bill dollars was also tested.) But she also had to deal with some liberals who pushed back against any cuts to the food stamp program, including a provision that had allowed some states to inflate residents’ food assistance by counting the costs of utility bills that residents did not actually have.
“I appreciate passionate advocates,” Ms. Stabenow said. “But I believe it helps to be the first one to call out situations where there is not accountability.”
Ms. Stabenow was so persistent, her colleagues, supporters and Senate aides said, that some senators began to fear her approach as she moved purposefully between the Republican and Democratic cloakrooms just off the Senate floor. The clerks there would bet over drinks whether she could get her bill passed.
In general, the bill reflects the diverse agricultural landscape of Ms. Stabenow’s home state, which plays a leading role in movements like community gardens in schools and offers a program that gives food stamp recipients double credit for food and vegetable purchases — a model for the federal farm bill.
“I give her a lot of credit,” Mr. Hoefner said. “She made it clear from the get-go that these items needed to be in the bill.”
MILAN — The Oprichniks were the murderous henchmen of Ivan the Terrible, torturing and killing the czar’s enemies.
It says a lot about the Russian director Dmitri Tcherniakov’s world view that he has chosen to reimagine these thugs as contemporary television executives in his exhilarating production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Tsar’s Bride” at the Teatro alla Scala here. This lurid tale of jealousy, insanity and the search for a royal wife has become, in Mr. Tcherniakov’s alchemical hands, a vivid, unsettling reflection on the media and the fast-disintegrating line between what seems real and what is.
It isn’t the first time that this director has brought a new angle to an older work. His charged, often claustrophobic interpretations of operas like Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” over the past few years have revealed fresh narratives and unexpected emphases in well-trodden classics. Just last month at the Metropolitan Opera, his new production of Borodin’s “Prince Igor” added some sections, cut others and rearranged what was left to create a dreamy portrait of a ruler and society thrown out of joint by the hunger for war.
But “Prince Igor” is a torso. Borodin never finished it and, as far as an overarching structure, barely even started it, a fact that even the Met’s strong production couldn’t conceal. While Mr. Tcherniakov’s version of “Igor” showed craft and care, it was bracing on Wednesday, at the second performance of “The Tsar’s Bride,” to see what he is capable of when he actually has a full opera to work with.
Like many Russian masterpieces, this Rimsky-Korsakov piece, which premiered in 1899, is still a relative rarity in the West, and it hasn’t always gotten the respect it deserves. It can seem, at first glance, a rather superficially sumptuous melodrama. But this performance made a strong case for its glimmers of forward-thinking angularity as well as its late-Verdian propulsion: it is an assemblage of set pieces — arias, ensembles, choruses — that presses forward with vigor.
The plot takes its cue from an encyclopedia footnote about which little is known: Ivan the Terrible’s brief third marriage to a commoner who was selected from 12 finalists for his hand and who died mysteriously a few days after their wedding. In the opera, this young woman, Marfa, is the pawn in a tangled love story that leaves her insane, succumbing to poison, and several other people dead.
The odd thing about Rimsky-Korsakov’s telling is that while there’s certainly a bride in it, there’s no czar. The one time in the original libretto that the fearsome Ivan seems to enter the picture, we’re not even sure it’s him: Marfa and her friend think they recognize his dreadful eyes in an anonymous man on horseback.
First at the Berlin Staatsoper in October and now in Milan, and both times with Daniel Barenboim conducting, Mr. Tcherniakov has taken this empty space at the opera’s core and run with it. The curtain rises on a TV studio where what seems to be a storybook pageant about old Russia is being filmed.
Before the overture is over, video projections bring us into an online chat among the Oprichnik-executives, who propose the need to invent a fake czar. A computer-generated leader is swiftly created for the public to revere and fear, and a “Bachelor”-style competition is started to help choose his bride.
At its heart this is yet another iteration of the theater-within-the-theater conceit that has tripped up even gifted directors. (See Stefan Herheim’s London production of Verdi’s “Les Vêpres Siciliennes” last fall.) But Mr. Tcherniakov makes it work with the fresh energy of his concept and the vital performances he draws from his cast.
All the world’s a screen in this “Tsar’s Bride,” a society distinguished most by the ceaseless generation and consumption of “content.” So Lyubasha, driven to desperation by jealousy, performs part of her first-act monologue in front of the cameras in an empty studio.
At the end, the innocent Marfa’s mad scene is filmed — ready to join happier, earlier clips flickering on the studio monitors. Becoming a media spectacle may be the most fitting way for her to go, in a live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword way: Throughout the previous acts, the Oprichniks’ product — a manufactured reality, half-news, half-entertainment — has been gobbled up from the television at Marfa’s family’s home. (We glimpse a few seconds of battle footage, too, lest anyone forget what all the fuss about a royal wedding is distracting from.)
Mr. Tcherniakov’s tweaks yield some of the production’s most effective moments. In the original libretto, the vindictive Lyubasha secretly spies on Marfa, her romantic rival. But here the encounter was face to face, making Lyubasha’s furious vows both more terrifying and more pitiable.
This director designed his own set, as is his usual practice, and it is a rotating wonder that makes possible, for instance, an elegant transition into the first-act trio. The world of the opera is rendered as a hermetic, arid interior. Nature is just another image, whether in the form of video of sun-dappled leaves or in the flowered wallpaper of Marfa’s living room.
The intense performances, not least that of the theater’s vibrant chorus, popped against this stark setting. The dusky-voiced mezzo Marina Prudenskaya’s Lyubasha was a small miracle of barely contained despair. The tenor Pavel Cernoch was a bright-voiced wimp as Marfa’s childhood sweetheart, Lykov, and the bass Anatoli Kotscherga a bearish presence as her father, Sobakin.
His baritone husky and lithe, Johannes Martin Kränzle was a bitter cynic at the heart of a cruel game as Gryaznoy, the Oprichnik mastermind of the czar’s bride scheme. The mezzo Anna Lapkovskaja was warm-hearted and warm-toned as Marfa’s friend, Dunyasha. The veteran soprano Anna Tomowa-Sintow was touchingly deluded as her mother, Saburova.
Her voice and manner agile and girlish in the early acts, the soprano Olga Peretyatko was transformed into a bitter Norma Desmond lookalike for a riveting mad scene, her eyes glittering under the studio spotlights. (She gets another descent into insanity next month as Elvira in Bellini’s “I Puritani” for her Metropolitan Opera debut.)
Mr. Barenboim brought out the music’s broad sweep and agitated details in moments like the febrile trembling as Gryaznoy toasts the bride-to-be in Act 3. He led the brass blasts at the start of the fourth act, each of which recedes into quiet unease, with a tautness and weight that revealed their debt to the opening of Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung.”
I wondered how the plusher Metropolitan Opera Orchestra would sound in this score, which has never been performed at the Met. I hope to have the chance to find out before too long, perhaps in Mr. Tcherniakov’s daringly theatrical production, a natural fit if ever there was one for media-driven New York.
The Tsar’s Bride. Directed by Dmitri Tcherniakov. Teatro alla Scala, Milan.Through March 14. teatroallascala.org.
*Full house for February’s Sustainability Event. A standing-room only crowd enthusiastically engaged in a presentation by Ron Gonen, NYC Deputy Commissioner for Recycling.
Gonen stressed that it is possible for NYC to divert all but 18% of waste from landfills. He explained both the economic and environmental benefits of intensive recycling, and the planning for future residential and commercial composting. To get composting in your building or neighborhood, ask your city councilmember to contact the Sanitation Dept (firstname.lastname@example.org). Other presenters included: Brooklyn College Professor Brett Branco, who stressed sustainable use of phosphorous, a finite resource for agriculture; Elizabeth Balkan, a senior policy advisor to Mayor de Blasio, who talked about how the new city law requiring commercial food waste recycling will be rolled out; and Vandra Thorburn, who established Vokashi, a unique composting service using the Japanese method of fermenting organic matter and returning it to the earth. There was much enthusiastic discussion.
*On the Bus to Baltimore. On February 20th, about 30 activists, including a number of Sierra Club members, got on a bus at 7:00 in NYC, picking up another 10-15 at two New Jersey stops, to join a rally against an LNG export facility in Cove Point, Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay. Dominion Resources which built an import facility there, wants to break its agreement to set aside wetlands and build an export facility on those wetlands. The demonstration was spirited and the speakers, including Sierra Club’s Josh Tulkin, were inspiring. The Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr. (see picture) made a strong case to the environmental justice aspect of this issue, see picture right. For more pictures, see here.
*Fossil Fuel Stock Divestment is a movement that is quickly gathering steam on campuses across the country. While still principally on campuses, it is moving into city and state governments. Six speakers at a February 26th “Divestment Open House” at the Ethical Culture Society discussed the divestment movement from a variety of perspectives. Sierra Club’s Lisa DiCaprio (far left in photo), spoke about how successful divestment efforts might shift the way investors view the value of fossil fuel investments, making them less attractive. The presentations were followed by a lively Q&A session with the audience.
“GLOBE” – The UN via UNFCCC tells us that the word GLOBE means now “Global Legislators Organization” which is encouraging as their meeting hosted by the US Senate, covers 50 countries responsible for 88% of global carbon emissions, and is the best the UN can do trying to work for the People of the World.
THE FOLLOWING SHOWS THAT UNDER UK LEADERSHIP, AND US BACKING, THE UN TURNS TO ITS MEMBER STATES’ LEGISLATORS IN ORDER TO FIND A WAY TO TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE. IT SEEMS THAT FINALLY THE UN HAS LANDED ON SOMETHING – AND WE GIVE A LOT OF CREDIT FOR THIS TO Dr. ROBERT ORR – a US citizen - UN Assistant Secretary General in the UN Secretary-General’s office.
We are told that In 2013 there was substantive legislative progress in 8 countries (passage of “flagship legislation”) and positive advances in a further 19 countries:
– Americas: Bolivia passed its Framework Law on Mother Earth and Integral Development to Live Well; El Salvador adopted its National Climate Change Strategy; In Ecuador, Decree 1815 established the Intersectoral National Strategy for Climate Change; and in Costa Rica a draft General Law on Climate Change has been introduced and is expected to pass in 2014.
– Asia-Pacific: China published its National Adaptation Plan and made progress in drafting its national climate change law; Indonesia extended its forest moratorium; Kazakhstan introduced a pilot emissions trading scheme; Micronesia passed its Climate Change Act in late 2013.
– Europe: Poland adopted its National Strategy for Adaptation and Switzerland overhauled its CO2 Act to increase ambition.
BUT WHEN THINGS MOVE UP THEY MAY ALSO COME DOWN – SO -
* The Partnership For Climate Legislation will support national legislators in 66 countries to share best practice and to develop and oversee the implementation of legislation on climate change, natural capital accounting and forests/REDD+. The Partnership directly responds to the demand from legislators for technical, policy and analytical capacity.
* Specific aims:
* Recognizing that developing and passing laws is not sufficient in itself, the Partnership will support legislators to ensure they are equipped to effectively oversee the implementation of the law by national governments, including ensuring national budgets are consistent with climate goals, as well as assessing the impact of climate-related laws on the national
About the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE):
FURTHER – A PRESS RELEASE – THAT WAS EMBARGOED UNTIL 00:01 UK/GMT 27 FEBRUARY 2014
STUDY REVEALS RAPID ADVANCE OF NATIONAL CLIMATE CHANGE LAWS CREATING BASIS FOR NEW INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE AGREEMENT
UN and World Bank support partnership with the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE) to encourage development of national climate change laws.
Thursday 27th February, US Senate, Washington DC, 115 senior national legislators from 50 countries along with the heads of key United Nations Institutions, United Nations Climate Negotiations and the World Bank Group receive the results of the most comprehensive analysis to date of the reach and depth of national climate changes laws in 66 of the world’s countries. The Summit will be hosted in the US Senate Kennedy Caucus Room by Senator Edward Markey.
The Study covering countries responsible for 88% of global carbon emissions was co-authored by the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE) and the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics (LSE). The Study sets out a series of politically significant findings that will have a direct bearing on success of the international negotiations. Legislators will also consider how national laws can be recognised within a 2015 international climate change agreement.
Responding to the Study, the Global Legislators Organisation is launching a major new international initiative, The Partnership for Climate Legislation, supported by the United Nations and the World Bank Group. The Partnership will help national legislators to develop and implement climate change laws. It will work across the 66 nations covered by the Study by sharing best legislative practice, provide detailed policy, analytical and legal capacity to cross party groups of legislators as they develop their own laws.
The GLOBE Climate Legislation Study findings show:
US Senator Edward Markey, said: “Climate action is happening in legislatures around the globe because climate change is harming countries and their people around the globe. We need an international movement to pass climate legislation, and nowhere is that movement needed more than here in the United States. The GLOBE study show legislators around the
President of the Global Legislators Organisation, Rt Hon John Gummer, Lord Deben, said: “The message from the 4th GLOBE Climate Legislation Study is clear – more countries than ever before are passing credible and significant national
“Understanding this message from the Study and embracing it in how major international processes and institutions work between now and Paris 2015 will be critical. We must see more countries develop their own national climate change laws so that when governments sit down in 2015 they will do so in very different political conditions to when they did in Copenhagen. The Partnership for Climate Legislation will support legislators across party political lines to advance climate change-related legislation. The Partnership will provide a combination of political, analytical and administrative capacity. It will also serve as a platform where legislators from across the world can meet, discuss common barriers, issues and successes and share information about best legislative practice”.
Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres said: “It is no exaggeration to say that theclean revolution we need is being carried forward by legislation. Domestic legislation is critical because it is the linchpin between action on the ground and the international agreement. At the national level, it is clear
World Bank Group Vice-President and Special Envoy Rachel Kyte said: “2014 is the year we need to step up climate action. Legislators have a critical role to play in raising political ambition and ensuring that effective laws and regulations support low carbon and resilient development. For this reason, we’re pleased to support the new Partnership for Climate
The President of the Mexican Congress, Hon. Ricardo Anaya Cortes said: “With the support of GLOBE, Mexico has passed ambitious climate legislation. We are here today in the US Senate to share our experience, to build a global coalition of parliamentarians against the damaging effects of climate change and to challenge inaction.”
UK Foreign Secretary Rt. Hon William Hague said: “A global and legally binding deal on emissions reductions in the UNFCC in 2015 is imperative. As we work towards that agreement, it is clear that domestic legislation has a key role to play in building consensus and cementing ambition, which is why GLOBE’s work is so important. The launch of GLOBE’s Partnership forClimate Legislation, with the backing of the UN and World Bank, is an important step towards sustaining this work for long term, which the UK Government wholeheartedly supports”.
Confirmed Keynote Speakers included:
Representing the United Nations Secretary General’s Office:
Representing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change:
Representing the United Nations Environment Programmes:
Representing the Congress of Mexico:
Study results and policy:
“Storms of My Grandchildren”, by James Hansen
On the webpage “Updating the Climate Science: What Path is the Real World Following?”, Drs. Makiko Sato and James Hansen update figures in the book Storms of My Grandchildren (see LA Times review) and present updated graphs and discussion of key quantities that help provide understanding of how climate change is developing and how effective or ineffective global actions are in affecting climate forcings and future climate change. A few errata in Storms are also provided.
Near Future Presentations
Dr. Hansen periodically posts commentary on his recent papers and presentations and on other topics of interest to an e-mail list. To receive announcements of new postings, please click here.
Recent Scholarly Publications
Hansen, J., P. Kharecha, M. Sato, V. Masson-Delmotte, et al., Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature. PLOS ONE, 8, e81468.
Hansen, J., M. Sato, G. Russell, and P. Kharecha, 2013: Climate sensitivity, sea level, and atmospheric carbon dioxide. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A, 371, 20120294, doi:10.1098/rsta.2012.0294.
Other Recent Publications
Apr. 4, 2013: Keystone XL: The pipeline to disaster. Op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.
February 2014: Symposium on a New Type of Major Power Relationship: Presentation given at Counsellors Office of the State Council, Beijin, China on Feb. 24.
December 2013: Minimizing Irreversible Impacts of Human-Made Climate Change: Presentation given at AGU Fall Meeting on Dec. 12.
Recent TV Appearance
in Recent News
Fracking Infrastructure? Not in My Backyard, Says Exxon CEO
23 February 14
oe is Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil.
Public utility Cross Timbers Water Supply Corp. has had the nerve to plan a water tower in Bartonville, Texas – right next to Tillerson’s own personal horse ranch! Not only is the tower a blight on Tillerson’s very own piece of Texas forever, but it’s also going to bring all kinds of noise, traffic, and plebeians to his driveway. Oh, and one more thing – it’s also going to supply the energy companies that are quickly growing their fracking operations in the area. Included among these companies is XTO Energy, which ExxonMobil acquired in 2009.
Tillerson and his wife have brought suit against Cross Timbers to block the proposed water tower, and they’re not alone. Former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R) and his wife are the lead plaintiffs in the suit. Armey’s impressive track record includes a stint as chairman of Tea Party-affiliated FreedomWorks, a D.C.-based nonprofit committed to “helping activists fight for lower taxes, less government, and more freedom.”
The Cross Timbers case has been going on since 2012, and was recently sent back to the district court after a ruling reversal by an appellate judge, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Tillersons, Armeys, and their co-plaintiffs argue that they were promised that utility construction would not come near their homes. Cross Timbers’ position has been that, as a public utility, they can build wherever they goddamn please.
Tillerson’s primary concern seems to lie in damage to the aesthetics and privacy of the property in which, as he repeatedly reminded the audience at a Bartonville town meeting in November, he’s invested millions of hard-fracked dollars. We might focus more on the danger of water contamination that tends to accompany fracking infrastructure, for which XTO Energy currently faces criminal charges in Pennsylvania. But, hey – you do you, Rex!
UPDATE: Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) has released a statement kindly inviting Tillerson to an exciting new club:
Read the rest of Polis’ statement here.
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Richard Silverstein Calls Black Supporter of Israel ‘Negro Zionist,’ Says ‘Uncle Tom is Dancing for Joy.’
Blogger Richard Silverstein’s racism was laid bare today when he tweeted the following to his followers, referring to an African-American Zionist named Chloe Valdary who had published an op-ed at Times of Israel about Judith Butler. He also posted the offensive message to his Facebook page.
Silverstein - a ‘Comment is Free‘ contributor through 2012 who, until now, was best known for his anti-Israel (and at times pro-Hamas) activism and his faux scoops - has now revealed himself to be bigoted towards black Americans as well. The term “Negro” stopped being used in America in the late 60s or early 70s, and the term “Uncle Tom“ of course is a horrible epithet used historically to accuse African-Americans of being subservient to whites, and betraying their own group by participating in systematic white racism.
As Valdary’s column about Butler had nothing to do with the issue of American racism, Silverstein’s ugly assault seems to have been motivated by his disgust at seeing a woman of color expressing support for Israel.
Silverstein seems to have deleted the post from his Facebook account (though the Tweet is still there), but let the snapshots above serve as a reminder of the narrow-mindedness of some on the Left when confronted with information contradicting their anti-Zionist assumptions.
Adam Levick is the managing editor of CiF Watch, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).
JNS.org – The American Studies Program at New York University (NYU), with the support of American Studies Association (ASA) President-Elect Professor Lisa Duggan, is set to hold a two-day anti-Israel conference.
The Feb. 28-March 1 event, titled “Circuits of Influence: U.S., Israel, and Palestine,” comes “following an unprecedented wave of public dialogue in response to the American Studies Association’s recent endorsement of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions,” according to an event flyer.
The ASA voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions last December. Since then, about 200 universities have condemned the move.
The flyer says the conference seeks to address the “convergence between international justice movements and emerging scholarly directions within the increasingly transnational field of American Studies.”
Duggan, who teaches in NYU’s department of social and cultural analysis, in a Facebook post describes the event as a “kick ass” conference that will feature speakers solely from the anti-Israel perspective, such as Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace. The event registration page directs all questions on the conference to NYU.
Additionally, Duggan wrote on her Facebook, “PLEASE DO NOT post or circulate the flyer. We are trying to avoid press, protestors and public attention. Feel free to share it with friends, colleagues and grad students though.”
Truly impressive how she promotes open discourse with statements like “PLEASE DO NOT post or circulate the flyer. We are trying to avoid press, protestors and public attention. Feel free to share it with friends, colleagues and grad students though.” Useful idiots all.
This is the kind of person we have teaching our children? When is she planning to grow up?
But the reasoned approach and solution to the entire problem makes sense. And that the anti-Jewish stance of the neighbours too, would vanish, as would their one-sided attitude toward the exclusion of the displaced, self-exiled Arabs from into inclusion into their society! Imagine, Palestinian Arabs actually being in a position to sustain themselves instead of being held in camps, often prisoners of their own self-serving leaders.