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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 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 February 11th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

THE NEW YORK TIMES Politics section:

Supreme Court’s Blow to Emissions Efforts May Imperil Paris Climate Accord.

By CORAL DAVENPORT February 10, 2016

Photo — A coal-fired power plant behind homes in Poca, W.V., in 2014. Credit Robert Galbraith/Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s surprise decision Tuesday to halt the carrying out of President Obama’s climate change regulation could weaken or even imperil the international global warming accord reached with great ceremony in Paris less than two months ago, climate diplomats say.

The Paris Agreement, the first accord to commit every country to combat climate change, had as a cornerstone Mr. Obama’s assurance that the United States would enact strong, legally sound policies to significantly cut carbon emissions.
The United States is the largest historical greenhouse gas polluter, although its annual emissions have been overtaken by China’s.

But in the capitals of India and China, the other two largest polluters, climate change policy experts said the court’s decision threw the United States’ commitment into question, and possibly New Delhi’s and Beijing’s.

————————-
Related Coverage

Supreme Court Deals Blow to Obama’s Efforts to Regulate Coal EmissionsFEB. 9, 2016
With Coal Industry Under Pressure, Some See Long-Term DeclineDEC. 2, 2015
Climate Deal’s First Big Hurdle: The Draw of Cheap OilJAN. 25, 2016
2015 Was Hottest Year in Historical Record, Scientists SayJAN. 20, 2016

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“If the U.S. Supreme Court actually declares the coal power plant rules stillborn, the chances of nurturing trust between countries would all but vanish,” said Navroz K. Dubash, a senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi. “This could be the proverbial string which causes Paris to unravel.”

————————-

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.

The court did not block the rule permanently, but halted it from being carried out in the states until legal challenges against it have been decided, a process that could take a year or more. Legal experts said the justices’ decision to stop work on the rule before any court had decided against it was unprecedented and signaled that the regulation might ultimately be overturned. That could set back the United States’ climate efforts for years, although there would still be a chance for Washington to meet its commitments by 2025.

“If the American clean energy plan is overturned, we’ll need to reassess whether the United States can meet its commitments,” said Zou Ji, the deputy director general of China’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, a government think tank in Beijing.

Mr. Zou, who was an adviser to the Chinese delegation at the Paris negotiations, said by telephone: “It had seemed that with the American commitments, it was possible to get on the right emissions path globally. But without those commitments, that could be a blow to confidence in low-carbon development. In China domestically, there is also resistance to low-carbon policies, and they would be able to say: ‘Look, the United States doesn’t keep its word. Why make so many demands on us?’ ”

—————————–

Paris Climate Change Conference 2015
Complete coverage of the United Nations meeting in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, and efforts to reach an emissions deal.

Paris Climate Accord Is a Big, Big Deal
DEC 16

Silence on the Climate Pact From the Republican Candidates
DEC 14

The Paris Climate Pact Will Need Strong Follow-Up
DEC 14

Republicans on Campaign Trail Largely Ignore the Climate Deal
DEC 13

A Climate Deal, 6 Fateful Years in the Making
DEC 13

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Inaction by the United States has long been the chief obstacle to meaningful global climate change agreements.

Mr. Obama sought to change that with aggressive but politically controversial Environmental Protection Agency rules to cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. With those rules, Mr. Obama won agreements from China and India to enact pollution reduction plans and helped push other countries to sign on to the Paris measure.

—————————


The top priority for Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India remains to provide cheap electricity to the 300 million Indians without power. If the United States reneges on its commitments, “it really would strengthen the hand of those who say Paris was ineffective and a bad deal for India,” Mr. Dubash said.

————————–

What the Supreme Court’s Decision to Halt Climate Regulation Means:

Answers to questions about the court’s decision to temporarily block the Obama administration’s effort to regulate emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Under Mr. Obama’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, the United States will cut its emissions 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025, largely through the E.P.A. regulations on power plants and a mix of rules reining in pollution from cars, buildings and other sources. All of those policies were set to be carried out briskly so they would be well underway by the time Mr. Obama left office.

White House officials insisted on Wednesday that the rule would eventually be upheld, and that given the timetable for litigation and for meeting the target, the United States could still achieve its Paris commitment.

A White House spokesman, Eric Schultz, pointed to other greenhouse gas reduction policies Mr. Obama had established to help meet the 2025 target, including a federal budget agreement late last year that included long-term extensions of tax credits for wind and solar power.

Still, the Supreme Court’s decision ensures that climate policy will not be set on Mr. Obama’s watch. A Federal District Court will hear oral arguments on the climate rule June 2 and is expected to issue its decision later this year, but an appeal to the Supreme Court is all but certain. If the justices agree to hear the case, a ruling is unlikely before June 2017.

If the rule is eventually overturned, the E.P.A. is still required by law to put forth a regulation controlling carbon dioxide emissions. That rule would be shaped by the next president and face its own legal gantlet, pushing action years into the future.

————————-


The White House and its supporters took hope from announcements that the governors of some states, including California, New York and Washington, would continue to work voluntarily to carry out the rule.

————————

More Reporting on Climate Change

A Climate Deal, 6 Fateful Years in the Making Dec. 14, 2015
Climate Accord Is a Healing Step, if Not a Cure Dec. 13, 2015
The Marshall Islands Are Disappearing Dec. 02, 2015
Short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change Nov. 28, 2015
Naomi Oreskes, a Lightning Rod in a Changing Climate June 16, 2015
The New Optimism of Al Gore March 17, 2015

But most states are expected to halt their compliance efforts. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, had already been urging governors to refuse to comply with the plan. “These regulations are, in my view, likely illegal,” Mr. McConnell said Wednesday. “Yesterday’s Supreme Court order is just the latest sign of that. If nothing else, it shows we were right to let governors know their options.”

American policy experts said that the Supreme Court decision might be the first of many fractures in the deal.

“This pushback is not something that’s unique to the United States,” said John Sterman, a professor of management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who attended the negotiations in Paris. “It’s happening all over the developed world.”

Poland and some other coal-reliant countries have resisted the European Union’s commitment under the agreement to more stringently reduce emissions across member states.

Already, some people close to the climate talks worry that the events in the United States could lead to a repeat of what happened after the signing of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the first major climate change treaty. Vice President Al Gore, a staunch environmentalist, negotiated the treaty with other world leaders, but the Senate voted against it. Then President George W. Bush pulled the United States out entirely.

The Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, have pledged to continue and strengthen Mr. Obama’s climate change agenda, so a rule developed by their administrations would probably let the country meet its Paris goals.

But Republican contenders, including Donald J. Trump, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, have questioned or denied the science of human-caused climate change and sharply criticized the climate change regulations and the Paris Agreement.

“The Supreme Court just clarified the stakes for the American people in the election when it comes to climate change,” said Nigel Purvis, the president of the Climate Advisers consulting group and a climate diplomat under Bill Clinton and Mr. Bush.


——————————-
Ellen Barry contributed reporting from New Delhi, Chris Buckley from Beijing and Justin Gillis from New York.

You can follow The New York Times’s politics and Washington coverage on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for the First Draft politics newsletter.

###

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

VISUAL ARTS

CONTEMPORARY “ART MEETS SCIENCE” EXPERIENCE

THURSDAY JAN 21, 07:00 PM at The Austria Cultural Forum building – New York City – 11 East 52nd St., NYC 10022

Jonáš Strouhal and Jakub Jansa will introduce “The Name of the Project is Project Itself”, an innovative project organized by the Czech Center NY, that incorporates installation and procedural performances created in response to the context of the environment.

The two artists will introduce the 12 artist/curator partnerships and discuss the work that will be happening throughout the year. They will use live demonstration and video to outline the elements of this fascinating endeavor.

Therefore, the launch of “The Name of the Project is Project Itself” at the Austrian Cultural Forum will give an extensive and entertaining overview of what to expect from this contemporary art experience throughout 2016.

ABOUT THE INITIATIVE

This is a yearlong initiative where artists from the Czech Republic work with curators from New York to present their unique projects that blend artistic and scientific approaches in the creation of their internationally acclaimed work at Czech Center NY. The works of the invited artists are not limited to the gallery space, instead the artists will be free to explore New York City and create their interventions directly at any given location. These events will take place at architecturally interesting open spaces, in gardens, courtyards, street corners, abandon buildings, garages, industrial spaces, train stations. The selected places are areas that visitors usually do not have access to, and their precise location will remain hidden from them. The only transmitted image of the installation will be placed in the gallery in the form of a video. Czech Center New York will transform its gallery into the entrance portal.

The first of “The Name of The Project is Project Itself” initiatives will occur on 26 January 2016 and is entitled “The Patient Constructed an Apparatus”. It features artist, Jonáš Strouhal and curator Ali Cashman (MA Art Business, Sotheby’s Institute of Art) who will introduce the event. He will project his mental process towards a landscape. An EEG sensor evaluates the level of his frustration. When abnormal values are reached, it activates instruments that manipulate the surrounding environment.

At the Lecture Demonstration on 28 January 2016 the audience can experience one of these Art and Science procedural performances called “First Scratch”. Jonáš motivates himself and other people to scratch or have their new possessions scratched. He utilizes various techniques and has altered 3 laptops, 12 mobile phones, 4 tablets and a parquet floor. Jonáš Strouhal oscillates between art and serious research in the fields of humanities and natural science. You can follow the hashtag #firstscratch.

“The Name of the Project is Project Itself” is a movement to explore fascinating spaces that can yield the maximum potential for these experiments to flourish. It is a contemporary vision where “Mind meets Hand”/ “Art meets Science” that culminates in a unique experience in the visual arts landscape of New York City.

For more Information visit www.czechcenter.com
 jonasstrouhal.com/portfolio.pdf

 cargocollective.com/jansa

VENUE ACFNY

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

Editorial
Proof That a Price on Carbon Works
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Canadian provinces and some American states have shown that raising the cost of burning fossil fuels does not damage the economy.

Editorial
Deregulating Corporate America
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Legislation planned for Senate introduction would interfere with regulation of big banks and businesses and limit protections for ordinary Americans.

Op-Ed Columnist
Time for a Republican Conspiracy!
By DAVID BROOKS

Reality-based conservatives should mobilize against the hijacking of our party.

Op-Ed Contributor
Talk to Tehran, but Talk Tough
By NICHOLAS BURNS

The nuclear deal is a triumph for diplomacy. But we must still deter Iranian aggression.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 19th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

BUSINESS-is-GREAT says the UK

Invitation to a seminar on Governance, Technology and Skills Transfer:
An Entrepreneurial Approach to Meeting Post 2015 Global Development Goals in Education Health and Innovation.

Date: Friday, 25 September 2015

Time: 9:00 am – 12 pm

Location: UK Trade & Investment at the British Consulate
845 Third Avenue, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10022

To register, visit
 www.iscintelligence.com/events.ph…

The current increase in poverty, hunger, civil unrest, migration and social cohesion are major challenges to the UN development goals to implement and realise the proposed agenda to 2030. But can individuals help solve these problems?

This seminar coinciding with the opening of the UNGA Summit for “the Adoption of the Post 2015 Development Agenda” uses experiences from key stakeholders and innovators to propose a model for sustainable, scalable development based on a multilevel partnership of governmental ‘top down’ and grassroots ‘bottom up’ approach of local communities.

Issues of governance, commissioning, technology – and more importantly – skills transfer will be connected in ways that develop a value chain which drives the sustainability, growth and ultimate success of the of this proposed plan.

Speakers:

Prof Farida Fortune CBE, Queen Mary University London
Mr Ian Jones, CEO, Goonhilly Earth Station, UK
Prof Willaim Jacobs, Jr., Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Prof Julio Rezende, Centre of Innovation and Sustainability in Semiarid lands.

Presentations from leading practitioners on sustainable models for health and science education
Presentation and discussion of an action plan for future funding proposals

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 14th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From US Senator Bernie Sanders:

Dear Friend,
It’s time to break up the banks.

THIS IS ABOUT GOLDMAN SACHS and similar Extra-Large FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS.

The greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street drove this country into the worst recession since the Great Depression. Their casino-style gambling has helped divert 99 percent of all new income to the top one percent. And it has contributed to the most unequal level of wealth and income distribution of any major country on earth.


In the midst of all of this grotesque inequality sits a handful of financial institutions that are still so large, the failure of any one would cause catastrophic risk to millions of Americans and send the world economy into crisis.

If it’s too big to fail, it’s too big to exist. That’s the bottom line.

I introduced legislation in Congress that would break up banks that are too big to fail.


Banking should be boring. It shouldn’t be about making as much profit as possible by gambling on esoteric financial products. The goal of banking should be to provide affordable loans to small and medium-sized businesses in the productive economy, and to Americans who need to purchase homes and cars.

That is not what these financial institutions are doing. They’re instead creating an economy which is not sustainable from a moral, economic, or political perspective. It’s a rigged economy that must be changed in fundamental ways.


Let’s be clear who we’re talking about: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, and other institutions; they’re all too big to fail. So they must be broken up.

Wall Street can’t be an island unto itself separate from the rest of the productive economy whose only goal is to make as much money as possible. I fear very much that the financial system is even more fragile than many people may perceive.


Millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages, while virtually all new income goes to the people who need it the least. In fact, the top 14 wealthiest people saw their wealth grow more last year than the bottom 130 million have in total.

We must break this cycle to save the middle class in America. Can you show your support for my bill to break up the banks?

I’m running for President of the United States because I believe that it is incumbent on us to try to take back our country from the billionaires and make it thrive again for the working and middle class. Breaking up the banks is a critical part to making that a reality.

Thank you for all of your support.

Senator Bernie Sanders

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

UPDATED:

Jeff Weaver, Bernie 2016 <info@berniesanders.com>
September 15, 2015

Pincas -

If you haven’t had a chance to read the email Bernie sent earlier today, please do.

The billionaire class is terrified. No presidential campaign in American history has accomplished what we have in just a few months, and they’ve responded as you’d expect: by activating their Super PACs in an effort to halt our progress.

Now that they’re attacking our campaign directly, we have a choice: we can either stand by and accept business as usual, or we can strike back and send a message that we’ve had ENOUGH of billionaires and corporations buying our elections.

The billionaire class has never dealt with a threat like ours before, and this will not be the last time a Super PAC considers attacking our campaign. If we stand together in this moment, we can make them think twice the next time they do.

In solidarity,
Jeff Weaver
Campaign Manager
Bernie 2016

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


In the run-up to Paris2015 Kevin Rudd of the New York based Asia Society argues that “U.S., China, and India Must Lead Together for a Climate Deal in Paris,” Lord Nicholas Stern said that there will be a complete change in what the planet will look like in 100 years from now, and Christiana Figueres said that what countries have prepared for Paris is insufficient, but she hopes that in those 100 coming years they will be more forthcoming.

On August 28, 2015 – on CNN International’s Amanpour – Kevin Rudd, the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) President, discussed the effects of climate change – with Lord Nicholas Stern, chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, and international climate policy, with Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Noting that projected levels of greenhouse gas emissions would cause average temperatures to rise by three-and-a-half to four degrees Celsius over the next 100 years, Lord Stern said “that is very dangerous territory” that the planet hasn’t seen “for around three million years,” since the end of the last Ice Age.

“These kinds of temperature increases are just enormous and would rewrite where we could live, where the rivers are, where the seashores are, what the weather is like,” said Lord Stern.

The poorest areas of the world would be “hit strongest and earliest,” he added. “Probably most of Southern Europe would look like the Sahara Desert.”


Figueres said that countries’ national climate change plans, which governments have been announcing ahead of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris this December, will fall short of “where we should be, according to science, to be on the two degree [temperature increase] pathway.”

The resulting gap “will not be filled in Paris,” Figueres said. “It will not be filled in January.”

She noted that the Paris climate agreement “is being constructed, actually, as a progressive effort over a certain period of timeframes, during which countries need, and will be able to, because of increased technology and further capital flows … increase their contribution to the solution.”

Video: Kevin Rudd discusses climate change with Lord Nicholas Stern and Christiana Figueres on CNN International’s Amanpour.

Related Links
Kevin Rudd on CNBC: Don’t Confuse the Chinese Stock Market with Overall Economy
Kevin Rudd in the New York Times: U.S., China, and India Must Lead Together for a Climate Deal in Paris

———–================================================================———–

THE UPDATE – SEPTEMBER 5, 2015


Ms. Christiana Figueres – the Executive Secretary of UNFCCC will end her contract at the end of this year after the conclusion of the Paris 2015 meeting – having guided the organization through all this preparatory years. It is being suggested that her candidacy be submitted for the 2016 selection process for next UN Secretary-General position. She would be the best informed person to lead the UN in the crucial 2017-2026 period when Climate Change and Sustainability become main UN topics under the incoming title from Paris – “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

The UN is in need of another period of reform, so it is ‘fit for purpose’ in ensuring that the new Sustainable Development Goals become the agenda of all its organs over the next 15 years.

————————————————————–

UN climate chief: No such thing as ideal pace for pre-Paris talks

By EUOBSERVER
4. Sep, 13:47
 euobserver.com/tickers/130117

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres countered criticism that preliminary talks for a Paris climate treaty were moving too slowly. “There is no such thing as an objective [ideal] pace of negotiations that everyone can agree on”, she said at a press conference Friday after a round of talks in Bonn.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Report: Retired Saudi General Makes it His ‘Personal’ Goal to Achieve Saudi-Israeli Peace.

From the Algemeiner and WSJ – August 23, 2015

Anwar Eshki, a retired major general in the Saudi armed forces, has made it his personal goal to strike peace between Saudi Arabia and Israel, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

A former top adviser to the Saudi government, Eshki raised eyebrows in June when he appeared alongside Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General and longtime confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Dore Gold at a conference held by the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington DC, espousing desires to build a Saudi-Israel peace, especially to counter the regionally destabilizing expansion of Iran.


“The main project between me and Dore Gold is to bring peace between Arab countries and Israel,” said Eshki.

The former general noted that while the initiative is “personal,” Riyadh “knows about the project” and “isn’t against it, because we need peace.”

Eshki said Israeli and Saudi plans for their shared principal enemy Iran do not completely align, especially regarding an Israeli strike against Iran. He added, however, that Israel would be interested in dealing first with the threat posed by Iran’s proxy in Lebanon and Syria, Hezbollah, before committing its military to countering the much larger and imposing threat of Iran.

Saudi Arabia is also fighting an Iranian-backed group in Yemen, the Houthi rebels, who have taken over the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, and Eshki said it was the common threat of Iranian attempts to destabilize the region and “revive the Persian Empire” that has brought him and Gold together.

Israeli and Saudi officials have reportedly held several meetings in light of the P5+1 arrangement with Iran to peel back international sanctions in exchange for some restrictions on and monitoring of its nuclear program, which Jerusalem and Riyadh view as a boon to Iranian efforts to spread its influence in the Middle East.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs

Jeffrey D. Sachs, Professor of Sustainable Development, Professor of Health Policy and Management, and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, is also Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals. His books include The End of Poverty, Common Wealth, and, most recently, The Age of Sustainable Development.

Read more at www.project-syndicate.org/columni…


The UN at 70

Project Syndicate – Sunday, August 23, 2015

NEW YORK –The United Nations will mark its 70th anniversary when world leaders assemble next month at its headquarters in New York. Though there will be plenty of fanfare, it will inadequately reflect the UN’s value, not only as the most important political innovation of the twentieth century, but also as the best bargain on the planet. But if the UN is to continue to fulfill its unique and vital global role in the twenty-first century, it must be upgraded in three key ways.

Fortunately, there is plenty to motivate world leaders to do what it takes. Indeed, the UN has had two major recent triumphs, with two more on the way before the end of this year.

The first triumph is the nuclear agreement with Iran. Sometimes misinterpreted as an agreement between Iran and the United States, the accord is in fact between Iran and the UN, represented by the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the US), plus Germany. An Iranian diplomat, in explaining why his country will scrupulously honor the agreement, made the point vividly: “Do you really think that Iran would dare to cheat on the very five UN Security Council permanent members that can seal our country’s fate?”

The second big triumph is the successful conclusion, after 15 years, of the Millennium Development Goals, which have underpinned the largest, longest, and most effective global poverty-reduction effort ever undertaken. Two UN Secretaries-General have overseen the MDGs: Kofi Annan, who introduced them in 2000, and Ban Ki-moon, who, since succeeding Annan at the start of 2007, has led vigorously and effectively to achieve them.

The MDGs have engendered impressive progress in poverty reduction, public health, school enrollment, gender equality in education, and other areas. Since 1990 (the reference date for the targets), the global rate of extreme poverty has been reduced by well over half – more than fulfilling the agenda’s number one goal.

Inspired by the MDGs’ success, the UN’s member countries are set to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – which will aim to end extreme poverty in all its forms everywhere, narrow inequalities, and ensure environmental sustainability by 2030 – next month. This, the UN’s third triumph of 2015, could help to bring about the fourth: a global agreement on climate control, under the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Paris in December.

The precise value of the peace, poverty reduction, and environmental cooperation made possible by the UN is incalculable. If we were to put it in monetary terms, however, we might estimate their value at trillions of dollars per year – at least a few percent of the world economy’s annual GDP of $100 trillion.

Yet spending on all UN bodies and activities – from the Secretariat and the Security Council to peacekeeping operations, emergency responses to epidemics, and humanitarian operations for natural disasters, famines, and refugees – totaled roughly $45 billion in 2013, roughly $6 per person on the planet. That is not just a bargain; it is a significant underinvestment. Given the rapidly growing need for global cooperation, the UN simply cannot get by on its current budget.

Given this, the first reform that I would suggest is an increase in funding, with high-income countries contributing at least $40 per capita annually, upper middle-income countries giving $8, lower-middle-income countries $2, and low-income countries $1. With these contributions – which amount to roughly 0.1% of the group’s average per capita income – the UN would have about $75 billion annually with which to strengthen the quality and reach of vital programs, beginning with those needed to achieve the SDGs. Once the world is on a robust path to achieve the SDGs, the need for, say, peacekeeping and emergency-relief operations should decline as conflicts diminish in number and scale, and natural disasters are better prevented or anticipated.


This brings us to the second major area of reform: ensuring that the UN is fit for the new age of sustainable development. Specifically, the UN needs to strengthen its expertise in areas such as ocean health, renewable energy systems, urban design, disease control, technological innovation, public-private partnerships, and peaceful cultural cooperation. Some UN programs should be merged or closed, while other new SDG-related UN programs should be created.

The third major reform imperative is the UN’s governance, starting with the Security Council, the composition of which no longer reflects global geopolitical realities. Indeed, the Western Europe and Other Group (WEOG) now accounts for three of the five permanent members (France, the United Kingdom, and the US). That leaves only one permanent position for the Eastern European Group (Russia), one for the Asia-Pacific Group (China), and none for Africa or Latin America.

The rotating seats on the Security Council do not adequately restore regional balance. Even with two of the ten rotating Security Council seats, the Asia-Pacific region is still massively under-represented. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for roughly 55% of the world’s population and 44% of its annual income but has just 20% (three out of 15) of the seats on the Security Council.

Asia’s inadequate representation poses a serious threat to the UN’s legitimacy, which will only increase as the world’s most dynamic and populous region assumes an increasingly important global role. One possible way to resolve the problem would be to add at least four Asian seats: one permanent seat for India, one shared by Japan and South Korea (perhaps in a two-year, one-year rotation), one for the ASEAN countries (representing the group as a single constituency), and a fourth rotating among the other Asian countries.

As the UN enters its eighth decade, it continues to inspire humanity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights remains the world’s moral charter, and the SDGs promise to provide new guideposts for global development cooperation. Yet the UN’s ability to continue to fulfill its vast potential in a new and challenging century requires its member states to commit to support the organization with the resources, political backing, and reforms that this new era demands.

Read more at www.project-syndicate.org/comment…

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How to Select the Next UN Secretary-General.

By Dean Ngaire Woods and Nina Hallon, Project Syndicate, Oxford University

Ngaire Woods is Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government and Director of the Global Economic Governance Program at the University of Oxford.

Nina Hall, a post-doctoral fellow at the Hertie School of Government in Berlin, is the lead researcher on the WEF/BSG project.

Read more at www.project-syndicate.org/comment…

OXFORD – When the United Nations elects a new secretary-general next year, the world will face a crucial choice. With crises erupting in every region of the world, the need for strong, decisive leadership is self-evident. And yet the selection process for filling important international posts has often been characterized more by political horse-trading than a meritocratic search for the best candidate.

The tools to improve the process are available, and the time is right to ensure their adoption by the UN and other international organizations. A new report by the World Economic Forum and Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government lays out a series of best practices – each one of which has already been implemented by at least one international agency – that can guarantee that leaders are drawn from the most qualified candidates, and that the organizations for which they work are vested with the best possible management practices.

For starters, it is important to professionalize the selection process. For too long, backroom deals among governments have taken precedence over searching for a candidate with the relevant skills and experience. When Pascal Lamy, one of the authors of the report, was chosen to become head of the World Trade Organization, there was not even a description of the job against which his qualifications could be measured.

Once a candidate has been chosen, it is important to set clear performance expectations that can be evaluated annually. Groups like the World Health Organization – which came under fierce criticism during the Ebola crisis – can learn from the 80% of American non-profit boards that have a formal process in place for a yearly evaluation of their CEO.

Ethical standards also need to be strengthened. In April, Spanish police questioned Rodrigo Rato, a former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, as part of a corruption probe. Not long before that, his successor at the IMF, Dominique Strauss Kahn, faced pimping charges in France.

Putting in place a code that sets out clear standards for identifying conflicts of interest and robust methods for dealing with complaints about a leader’s behavior is crucial. In recent years, allegations of improper behavior have led to resignations by the heads of the IMF, the World Bank, and the UN Refugee Agency.

A leader is only as good as the people who work for him, so organizations must make it a high priority to attract and retain good staff and rid themselves of those who lack professional integrity or competence. Many global agencies are introducing systematic surveys of their employees, but much remains to be improved. Crucially, international organizations must build up the capacity to resist governments’ efforts to protect their underperforming nationals. Performance evaluations should be made public, allowing outsiders to measure progress (or the lack thereof).

Organizations also need to focus more on delivering results and tracking outcomes. For decades, countries borrowing from the World Bank and regional development banks have begged for the loan process to be expedited; most cannot afford to wait more than two years to find out whether a loan has been approved. Halving the time it takes to approve a loan is the kind of operational goal that a good leader can set, and for which he or she can subsequently be held to account.

It is also important to ensure well-structured, systematic engagement with stakeholders and civil-society groups, which is necessary to ensure high-quality and innovative inputs. Adopting an ad hoc approach, as many organizations currently do, frequently yields poor results.

Finally, it is crucial that organizations learn from their mistakes. Fortunately, almost all global agencies have instituted processes for independent evaluation. Less happily, most are still grappling with how to implement lessons learned. Evaluation is important, but it needs to be followed up with strong governance reforms that require leaders to shift incentives and behavior.

Pressure for change is mounting. In November 2014, Avaaz, the United Nations Association, and other NGOs launched a campaign to reform the selection process by which the UN secretary-general is chosen, replacing an opaque process dominated by the permanent members of the Security Council with a transparent one, in which all countries have a say. Among their demands are a clear job description for the role, public scrutiny of candidates, and a shortlist with more than one candidate.

Progress is being made in some agencies. The UN High Commission for Refugees now describes its objectives in its Global Strategic Priorities and evaluates progress toward them annually. And all senior UN officials must file an annual financial-disclosure statement with the organization’s ethics office.

One notably successful agency in this regard is the African Development Bank (AfDB), which has introduced an organization-wide whistle-blowing policy, an anti-corruption and fraud framework, and an office to investigate disclosures. The AfDB will choose a new president in May, and it has not only defined the job clearly; it has also identified eight candidates and asked each to set out their strategy in advance of the election.

The world relies on international organizations to coordinate the global response to a host of critical threats, from pandemics to financial crises. An effective UN leader needs to be able to persuade member states to cooperate, manage the organization well, and deliver results. Without good leadership, any organization – even the UN – is destined to fail.

Read more at www.project-syndicate.org/comment…

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Gareth Evans

Gareth Evans, former Foreign Minister of Australia (1988-1996) and President of the International Crisis Group (2000-2009), is currently Chancellor of the Australian National University.

He co-chairs the New York-based Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect and the Canberra-based Center for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.

He is the author of The Responsibility to Protect: Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and For All and co-author of Nuclear Weapons: The State of Play 2015.

MAR 26, 2013 – Project Syndicate
Valuing the United Nations.

MELBOURNE – There is nothing like exposure to smart and idealistic young people to make jaded and world-weary policymakers and commentators feel better about the future. I have just had that experience meeting delegates to the 22nd World Model United Nations Conference, which brought together in Australia more than 2,000 students from every continent and major culture to debate peace, development, and human rights, and the role of the UN in securing them.

What impressed me most is how passionately this generation of future leaders felt about the relevance and capacity of the UN system. They are right: the UN can deliver when it comes to national security, human security, and human dignity. But, as I told them, they have a big task of persuasion ahead of them.

No organization in the world embodies as many dreams, yet provides so many frustrations, as the United Nations. For most of its history, the Security Council has been the prisoner of great-power maneuvering; the General Assembly a theater of empty rhetoric; the Economic and Social Council a largely dysfunctional irrelevance; and the Secretariat, for all the dedication and brilliance of a host of individuals, alarmingly inefficient.

My own efforts to advance the cause of UN reform when I was Australia’s foreign minister were about as quixotic and unproductive as anything I have ever tried to do. Overhauling Secretariat structures and processes to reduce duplication, waste, and irrelevance? Forget it. Changing the composition of the Security Council to ensure that it began to reflect the world of the twenty-first century, not that of the 1950’s? No way.

But I have also had some exhilarating experiences of the UN at its best. The peace plan for Cambodia in the early 1990’s, for example, dragged the country back from hellish decades of horrifying genocide and ugly and protracted civil war. Likewise, the Chemical Weapons Convention, steered through the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, is still the most robust arms-control treaty related to weapons of mass destruction ever negotiated.

Perhaps one experience stands out above all. In 2005, on the UN’s 60th anniversary, the General Assembly, convening at head of state and government level, unanimously endorsed the concept of states’ responsibility to protect populations at risk of genocide and other mass atrocity crimes. With that vote, the international community began to eradicate the shameful indifference that accompanied the Holocaust, Rwanda, Srebrenica, Darfur, and too many similar catastrophes.

What needs to be better understood publicly is just how many different roles the UN plays. The various departments, programs, organs, and agencies within the UN system address a broad spectrum of issues, from peace and security between and within states to human rights, health, education, poverty alleviation, disaster relief, refugee protection, trafficking of people and drugs, heritage protection, climate change and the environment, and much else. What is least appreciated of all is how cost-effectively these agencies – for all their limitations – perform overall, in both absolute and comparative terms.

The UN’s core functions – leaving aside peacekeeping missions but including its operations at its New York headquarters; at offices in Geneva, Vienna, and Nairobi; and at the five regional commissions around the world – now employ 44,000 people at a cost of around $2.5 billion a year. That might sound like a lot, but the Tokyo Fire Department spends about the same amount each year, and the Australian Department of Human Services spends $3 billion more (with less staff). And that’s just two departments in two of the UN’s 193 member states.

Even including related programs and organs (like the UN Development Program and the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees), as well as peacekeeping activities (which involve more than 110,000 international military, police, and civilian personnel), the UN system’s total cost is still only around $30 billion a year. That is less than half the annual budget for New York City, and well under a third of the roughly $105 billion that the US military has been spending each year, on average, in Afghanistan. Wall Street employees received more in annual bonuses ($33.2 billion) in 2007, the year before the global financial meltdown.


The whole family of the UN Secretariat and related entities, together with current peacekeepers, adds up to around 215,000 people worldwide – not a small number, but less than one-eighth of the roughly 1.8 million staff employed by McDonald’s and its franchisees worldwide!

The bottom line, as the youngsters gathered in Melbourne fully understood, is that the UN provides fabulous value for what the world spends on it, and that if it ever ceased to exist, we would have to reinvent it. The downsides are real, but we need to remember the immortal words of Dag Hammarskjold, the UN’s second secretary-general: “The UN was created not to bring us to heaven, but to save us from hell.”

Read more at www.project-syndicate.org/comment…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 20th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Mayors of cities like London, Vienna, Istanbul, are usually the second most important elected official in their countries. Why is this not the case with New York City? What is different here? I feel like having a proposed answer:

In New York City special interests are stronger then in above named cities. The reason for my writing this posting is my anger at what I see in New York City as an exaggerated importance allowed to the Yellow Cabs Owners’ Associations that seem to have a historical hold on the way the city develops public transportation. This is not just the problem of the present Mayor – Mr. Bill De Blasio, but we also saw this during the reign of his predecessor Mr. Michael Bloomberg – the Republican tycoon. Then we were not astonished by this fact.

But Mr. De Blasio is the Democrat elected for his presumably progressive ideas. Indeed – he runs all over the globe talking about the environment and climate change – just like Mr. Bloomberg did. He helped recently lead the world’s Mayors to the Vatican in order to line up behind Pope Francis to help save the Paris 2015 UNFCCC meeting. But what does he do here at home?

I am targeting my attention to the Public transportation in NYC – specifically the bus service of the MTA that cuts into the business of the yellow cabs – and their owners had the upper hand. So, New York City was probably the only large city in the world without a decent public link to its airports.

Mayor Bloomberg already started to undo the Manhattan Transit buses under the guise of improving it. The case in point is the line M15 and the introduction of the SELECT transportation to replace the EXPRESS bus stops. With three Select runs for each regular run, and the elimination of some connections to the crosstown lines – like at East 72nd street – the riders started switching to yellow cabs right back six-seven years ago. This was a boon to the yellow cabs that started suffering from the competition from the Green cabs that came into existence when sectors of the public were pointing fingers at the “Yellows” refusing to go to outer boroughs under the guise (clearly against the law) that it was dangerous.

Under De Blasio things got worse. So often you see buses skipping a scheduled departure and taking off instead with a “NOT IN SERVICE” sign going from end-to-end without passengers and leaving those in need of that transportation to turn to cabs.

So, this mayor increased the spewing of fumes and greenhouse gasses by having useless bus trips and unneeded single passenger cab runs – something only the cab owners could love.

I write this today after having observed at Third Avenue and East 45th Street how the M101 Express passed by without stopping and out of the two lines M102 and M103 both scheduled to stop there at 4:29 PM (? in itself questionable) only the M103 stopped, while the other bus passed empty – NOT IN SERVICE.

Further – the public likes the recent introduction of the new UBER service but the mayor entered in a fight to disallow this service. I never understood his position beyond – again – it would hurt existing yellow cab owners. Is he indeed wedded to them?

The recent pols show the Mayor may have a hard time getting reelected. We hope some truly progressive Democrat steps forward to challenge him.

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THE UPDATE of August 20, 2015 to our original article of August 8, 2015:


Mr. De Blasio seems to have found a new outlet for his energies – the nearly naked women-beggars of Times Square. But the “Job 1″ of his, according to the Wednesday August 19, 2015 editorial of amNewYork, is “MAKE THE TRAINS RUN ON TIME.” That is the subject we hammered on in our original paper as well.

Thinking of the mayhem that lies ahead of us in New York during the second half of this September month – this because New York is in effect the Capital of the World and most Heads of State will be flocking here – De Blasio simply does not feel like up to this situation. Sorry we must keep hammering on this.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 19th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Last night – August 18, 2015 – in New York City – we went to Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center to listen to a performance of perfection – Joshua Bell playing Bach – the Chaconne dating from 1720 and the Violin concerto in E major dating to “before 1730.”

I thought this became a subject for our website because of an article by Lars Gustafsson that was part of the printed program brochure that was handed out to us. The title “THE STILLNESS OF THE WORLD BEFORE BACH” – the fact that we might think that it might seem there was no great music before Bach – BUT THERE MUST HAVE BEN SOMETHING THERE BEFORE 1720.

Then I thought = wait the steam engine was developed over a period of about a hundred years by three British inventors. The first crude steam powered machine was built by Thomas Savery, of England, in 1698. Savery built his machine to help pump water out of coal mines – only in 1781 James Watt patented a steam engine that produced continuous rotary motion.

So we can say that the development of the steam engine, that brought about the industrial revolution, went on in parallel with the development of music that started with Bach and if we may say continued with Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart.

Could we say that some form of life did exist before we started to use coal en-masse and invented concepts of economic growth and development? What was the life we replaced? What was the cultural expressions we lost when accepting the progress in music?
The Gustafsson article stimulates our thoughts.

Gustafsson – since the late 1950s has produced poetry, novels, short stories, critical essays, and editorials. He gained international recognition as a Swedish writer with literary awards such as the Prix International Charles Veillon des Essais in 1983, the Heinrich Steffens Preis in 1986, Una Vita per la Litteratura in 1989, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for poetry in 1994, and several others. He has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. His major works have been translated into fifteen languages, and Harold Bloom includes Gustafsson in The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages (1994). John Updike offered high praise for Gustafsson’s The Death of a Beekeeper in his collection of criticism, Hugging The Shore.

Gustafsson said once “I listen. I listen and I look. Creativity knows no rules. You can get an idea for a novel from a little something someone says, or just a face you see. A rabbi once told me that when God spoke to Moses in that bush, it wasn’t in a thundering voice; it was in a very weak voice. You have to listen carefully for that voice. You have to be very sharp.”

In May 2009, Lars Gustafsson declared that he would vote for the Pirate Party in the upcoming elections for the European Parliament

Lars Gustafsson: The Stillness of the World Before Bach

There must have been a world before
the Trio Sonata in D, a world before the A minor partita,
but what kind of a world?

A Europe of vast empty spaces, unresounding,
everywhere unawakened instruments
where the Musical Offering, the Well-Tempered Clavier
never passed across the keys.

Isolated churches
where the soprano line of the Passion
never in helpless love twined round
the gentler movements of the flute,
broad soft landscapes
where nothing breaks the stillness
but old woodcutters’ axes
the healthy barking of strong dogs in winter
and, like a bell, skates biting into fresh ice;
the swallows whirring through summer air,
the shell resounding at the child’s ear
and nowhere Bach nowhere Bach
the world in a skater’s stillness before Bach.

published in New Directions Paperback NDP656, “The Stillness of the World Before Bach: New Selected Poems” by Lars Gustafsson.

Yes – there was a harmonious world even without the sound of Bach – that is what I took from the above poem.
Surely, I did not transform this into a feeling that this was a better world – simply I picked up that it was still a livable world that could exist with simpler pleasures.

Nevertheless we are thankful to Bach for having shown us the way to perhaps a higher level of civilized pleasures. How does this translate to the Steam-engine thought that we understand today as a step backwards – because of the dependence on fossil fuels?

But this would be a wrong conclusion – it would be more correct to see that we can get all those benefits from higher technologies like we get from Bach’s music, if we only opt to use Renewable Energy and even higher tech methods that allow us similar results without that pesky dependence on oil and coal. Gustafsson was right in in opting for the Pirates in his search for true enlightenment in a corrupt world.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 18th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Why Republicans Vote for Bernie?
Monday, 17 August 2015 00:00 By Thom Hartmann, The Thom Hartmann Program
| Op-Ed

Ann Coulter knows who she wants to be the Democratic nominee for president, and who that person is, well, it may surprise you.

She wants Hillary Clinton to be the nominee, and thinks that if Bernie gets the nod, he’ll beat whoever the Republicans come up with to run against him.

You won’t hear me say this often, but Ann Coulter is right.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

If Bernie Sanders ends up being the Democratic nominee for president, and it looks more and more every day like he will be, his Republican opponent is going to have a very hard time beating him.

And that’s because of all the Democratic candidates running, Bernie Sanders has the best chance of capturing Republican votes.

I’ve seen how Bernie does this, up close and personal.

Despite its reputation as a place filled with liberal hippies, Vermont, like most of rural northern New England, is home to a lot of conservatives.

Anyone running for statewide office there needs to win these conservatives’ votes, and Bernie is great at doing that.

Back in 2000 when Louise and I were living in Vermont, it wasn’t all that uncommon to see his signs on the same lawn as signs that said “W for President.”

Seriously, I’m not kidding.

And as NPR’s “Morning Edition” found out last year, some of Bernie’s biggest fans are in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, the poorest and most conservative part of the state.

It’s people from the Northeast Kingdom who’ve overwhelmingly elected Bernie to almost 20 years in Congress and two straight terms as senator, and it’s people like them in the rest of the country who will probably send Bernie to the White House if he gets the Democratic nomination for president.

So why is that?

Why is Bernie Sanders, a socialist, so popular with people who should hate “socialism?”

The answer is pretty simple.

While Americans disagree on social issues like gay marriage and abortion, they’re actually pretty unified on the bread and butter economic issues that Bernie has made the core of his campaign.

In fact, a recent poll by the Progressive Change Institute, shows that Americans overwhelmingly agree with Bernie on key issues like education, health care and the economy.

Like Bernie, 75 percent of Americans poll support fair trade that “protects workers, the environment and jobs.”

Seventy-one percent support giving all students access to a debt-free college education.

Seventy-one percent support a massive infrastructure spending program aimed at rebuilding our broken roads and bridges, and putting people back to work.

Seventy percent support expanding Social Security.

Fifty-nine percent support raising taxes on the wealthy so that millionaires pay the same amount in taxes as they did during the Reagan administration.

Fifty-eight percent support breaking up the big banks.

Fifty-five percent support a financial transaction or Robin Hood tax.

Fifty-one percent support single payer health care, and so and so on.

Pretty impressive, right?

And here’s the thing – supporting Social Security, free college, breaking up the big banks, aren’t “progressive” policies, they’re just common sense, and 60 years ago they would have put Bernie Sanders smack dab in the mainstream of my father’s Republican Party.

This is why Ann Coulter is so scared of Bernie becoming the Democratic nominee.

She knows that he speaks to the populist, small “d” democratic values that everyday Americans care about, regardless of their political affiliation.

That’s the really radical part of Bernie’s 2016 campaign, and what’s what maybe, just maybe, might make him the 45th President of the United States.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.


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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 17th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The time for feeling powerless in the face of climate chaos is over.

From: May Boeve - 350.org

Monday, August 17, 2015

Friends,

2015 is on track to be the hottest year in recorded history, and this December hundreds of world governments will meet in Paris to try to strike a global climate agreement. It will be the biggest gathering of its kind since 2009, and it’s potentially a big deal for our global movement.

In Paris our governments are supposed to agree on a shared target for climate action, based on the national plans governments have been putting together all year — but the numbers just aren’t adding up. Everything being discussed will allow too many communities that have polluted the least to be devastated by floods, rising sea levels and other disasters.


This has the makings of a global failure of ambition — at a moment when renewable energy is becoming a revolutionary economic force that could power a just transition away from fossil fuels.

Join us in telling world leaders to keep fossil fuels underground and finance a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

Our movement has grown tremendously — and it shows every time a new leader stands up to declare we must keep fossil fuels under ground, or a university, church or pension fund divests from fossil fuels. The problem is the power of the fossil fuel industry.

The Paris negotiations could potentially send a signal that world governments are serious about keeping fossil fuels in the ground. If they fail, it will embolden the fossil fuel industry and expose more communities to toxic extraction and climate disasters.

The solutions are obvious: we need to stop digging up and burning fossil fuels, start building renewable energy everywhere we can, and make sure communities on the front lines of climate change have the resources they need to respond to the crisis.

This could be a turning point — if we push for it. Join our global call for action to world governments, telling them to commit to keeping at least 80% of fossil fuels underground, and financing a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

The time for feeling powerless in the face of climate chaos is over. No matter what happens in the negotiating halls, we must build power to hold them accountable to the principles of justice and science.

After many months of consultation with our global network, here is the plan for what I call “The Road Through Paris”: the plan to grow our movement and hold world leaders accountable to the action we need.

First, in September we will launch a global framework to grow the movement before and after the Paris talks. On September 10th, Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein and others will be joined by global movement leaders in New York City to lay out our vision for the road ahead. Then on September 26th communities across the globe will hold workshops to plan for the coming months of action. After that, I think we’ll see several months of escalating activity as communities drive the message home that we can’t wait for action.

The talks in Paris start on November 30th, and run for 2 weeks. But before the talks start, the world will stand together in a weekend of global action, paired with an enormous march in the streets of Paris. During the talks, 350′s team on the ground will do their best to help keep you in the loop on the most important developments. And when the talks wrap up, we’re planning a big action in Paris on December 12th to make sure the people — not the politicians — have the last word.

But most importantly, we won’t stop there. I want you to mark your calendars for the month of April in 2016. That’s when we will mobilize in a global wave of action unlike any we’ve seen before. Not one big march in one city, not a scattering of local actions — but rather a wave of historic national and continent-wide mobilizations targeting the fossil fuel projects that must be kept in the ground, and backing the energy solutions that will take their place.

In the 6 years 350.org has been around, this is the most ambitious plan we’ve ever proposed. But ambition is what is called for, along with courage, faith in each other and the readiness to respond when disaster strikes, plans change, or politicians fail to lead.

We are nearer than ever to the changes we’ve been fighting to see. I hope to stand with you in the coming months to see them through.

May Boeve
Executive Director

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 21st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


De Blasio, After Diverted Flight, Joins Climate Conference at Vatican

By MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM – JULY 21, 2015 for the New York Times

VATICAN CITY — Leaders from around the globe, settled in their seats as a Vatican official approached the lectern.
A rare gathering of mayors, beckoned to this holy city by Pope Francis from as far as away as Johannesburg, was about to begin.

One participant, however, was missing: the mayor of New York. Scheduled to arrive in Rome on Tuesday morning for a two-day conference on climate change, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York instead found himself in Milan, thanks to fog that forced a brief diversion of his overnight flight from Kennedy Airport.

The mayor arrived at the Vatican about 80 minutes after his scheduled speaking slot. When he finally did speak there, he was unfazed, delivering an impassioned charge to his fellow mayors to resist “powerful corporate interests” and to aggressively battle climate change.

“Is it not the definition of insanity to propagate corporate policies and consumer habits that hasten the destruction of the earth?” Mr. de Blasio said.

He pledged that his administration would work to reduce the city’s carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030.

The Vatican event is part of an effort by Francis to focus world leaders on environmental causes, and mayors from across Europe, South America, and the United States were in attendance. The pope had been expected to address the gathering on Tuesday morning, but his appearance was changed to take place in the afternoon — a stroke of good fortune for Mr. de Blasio.

The mayor has taken pains recently to fight his reputation for tardiness, arriving more promptly at events in New York. But the vagaries of international travel can be trickier than a traffic snag on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Mr. de Blasio, who is expected to be in Rome for less than 48 hours, opted for an overnight flight that was scheduled to arrive about two hours before he was due at the Vatican. (Aides to Mr. de Blasio, aware of criticism about his frequent travels, had emphasized last week that his Vatican visit — his fourth European excursion in a year — would be kept short.)

But his plans were foiled by Roman fog, according to an American Airlines spokesman, who said the pilot of the mayor’s flight “elected to divert to Milan as a precaution.” The flight continued on to Rome after about an hour’s delay, once the fog was “burned off by the increasingly warm sun,” the spokesman, Ian Bradley, said.

Mr. de Blasio was not the only person to miss a scheduled slot for speaking. Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston was present but Mayor Eduardo Paes of Rio de Janeiro sent an aide in his stead, citing unrest in his home country.

The gathering at the Vatican was prompted in part by a recent papal encyclical warning of the destructive effects of climate change. In his remarks, Mr. de Blasio said the encyclical “burns with urgency,” and he praised the pope, saying he had “awakened people across the globe to the dangers we face as a planet.”

“The encyclical is not a call to arms,” Mr. de Blasio said. “It is a call to sanity.”

Mr. de Blasio is scheduled to attend an official dinner at the Vatican on Tuesday evening and to speak again on Wednesday morning. The mayor is expected to leave for New York on Wednesday afternoon — weather permitting.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 30th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The US and Brazil are about equal in size, in numbers of citizens, in economic potential, and in post colonial history. While the US was dependent on England and became part of an Anglo-American Trans-Atlantic culture, Brazil was dependent on Portugal but did develop its own Southern Hemisphere culture. Today the US is the Global economic leader that is destined to share this space with a rising China – Brazil is the Global sixth largest economy and China is its largest trade partner.

The US and Brazil have clashed on many issues because of US government and industry intrusion in Brazil’s affairs. One result is that Brazil suffers from an oil industry Malaise like the US does – while like the US it could actually make itself independent of the use of oil. Now, Petrobras, has become a source of large problems for the Brazilian President and a damper on the visit of Brazil’s President that came to the US with 11 of her cabinet ministers. Five of them sat on the stage when she summarized yesterday a meeting with potential investors in Brazil’s infrastructure. She then flew to Washington to meet President Obama in a private visit followed today with a joint visit to the Reverend Martin Luther King memorial, and a non-State-Dinner. She then continues to San Francisco for further business meetings.

We expected joint statements in view of the fact that Brazil is a leader on the introduction of Sustainable Development to the lingo of the Environment and Development. This might yet come today after having been hammered out between her Minister of the Environment and the Head of the US EPA. We will deal with this when it comes. As for now – we just bring here published various expectations from different points of view. We would like to see a better alignment of the Obama Administration with this most significant State of the Western Hemisphere.

President Barack Obama talks with President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil as they tour the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, D.C., June 29, 2015. (Official White House)

10:15 AM: The President holds a bilateral meeting with President Rousseff; the Vice President will also attend

12:05 PM: The President and President Rousseff hold a joint press conference WATCH LIVE – White House Snapshot for June 30, 2015. We assume this was followed by lunch.

Politics – PBS – Rundown
Obama, Rousseff aim to show they’ve moved past spy scandal.

BY Darlene Superville and Adriana Gomez Licon, Associated Press June 29, 2015 at 12:05 PM EDT

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff meets with business leaders in New York Monday during a visit to the United States.


WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and Brazilian leader Dilma Rousseff will aim to show they have smoothed over tensions sparked by a spying scandal, as they open two days of talks at the White House Monday.


The meetings come nearly two years after Rousseff canceled a rare state visit to Washington following revelations that Brazil was a target of American spy programs. The disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden deeply strained relations between the two hemispheric powers.


Rather than rehash the spying controversy, officials from both countries say Obama and Rousseff want to delve into talks on trade, investment and climate change.

“They are putting behind the Edward Snowden affair,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue. “The meeting is to create good atmosphere, a good mood, establish communication and get the relationship back on solid footing.”

Obama and Rousseff will meet for a private dinner Monday evening, and then hold more formal talks and a joint news conference on Tuesday.

The leaders are meeting six months before a United Nations-sponsored conference in Paris in December to finalize a climate treaty. Obama has argued that a gradually warming planet could worsen social tensions and political instability worldwide, in addition to harming the U.S.

Countries are making their positions on climate change clear ahead of the Paris talks. The U.S. already has announced a 2025 deadline to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels.

Brazil, the seventh largest economy, is one of the top emitters that has not presented pollution-control targets. Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira, who is traveling with Rousseff to Washington, has said that developed nations bear more responsibility than the developing world because of their emissions track record.

Brazil’s first female president started her second term in January — Vice President Joe Biden attended her inauguration — but she since has been weighed down by low approval ratings, her country’s poor economic performance and a massive corruption scandal involving Petrobras, a state-owned oil company. Tens of thousands of Brazilians filled streets across the country earlier this year to protest her leadership.

Snowden’s disclosures showed that in addition to spying on Rousseff’s communications, the NSA had hacked the oil company’s computer network. Rousseff served on the company’s board, but has not been implicated in the scandal.


With Brazil bracing for recession, officials are emphasizing the economic agenda for the Obama-Rousseff meeting. The U.S. is Brazil’s second largest trading partner after China, exchanging $62 billion in trade flows.

Carlos Eduardo de Freitas, an economist and former Central Bank executive director, said the White House meeting may invigorate Brazil as it seeks to cut down government spending to avoid being shunned in credit markets. Rousseff is traveling with 11 cabinet members and met with Brazilian businessmen and U.S. investment fund managers and government officials in New York to discuss infrastructure before arriving in Washington.

“The government needs to unshackle its economy,” Freitas said.

The timing of Rousseff’s trip was settled months ago; Obama announced it when the two met on the sidelines of a summit in Panama in April. But for Rousseff, being seen warmly received by an American president coming off one of the best weeks of his time in office could help her back home.

Since Rousseff is not on a state visit, she will not receive a welcome ceremony on the White House South Lawn or be celebrated with the formal State Dinner.

The Wall Street Journal – World – Latin America

Brazil’s President Seeks Investment During U.S. Visit
Business friendly environment is needed to attract investors and restore growth, Rousseff says
By Paulo Trevisani
Updated June 29, 2015 12:01 a.m. ET

NEW YORK—This week’s meeting of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington is expected to be short on splashy announcements, but it could go a long way to healing a breach between the leaders of the hemisphere’s two largest economies.

U.S.-Brazilian relations have been frosty since 2013, when leaked National Security Agency files revealed that the U.S. had spied on Brazil. Ms. Rousseff’s decision…
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Popular on WSJ

REUTERS Commodities | Mon Jun 29, 2015 9:13pm BST

By Daniel Bases

(Reuters) – Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff on Monday drew on her own experience as a political prisoner during the country’s dictatorship to denounce informants in a corruption scandal that has pummeled her popularity.

Rousseff also forcefully denied her campaign had received illegal donations originating from the scandal, which involves kickbacks allegedly paid by construction companies to politicians and former executives at state-run oil firm Petrobras.

Speaking to journalists in New York, Rousseff contrasted her experience in jail in the early 1970s opposing Brazil’s dictatorship with that of informants cooperating with prosecutors investigating the Petrobras scandal.

“I do not respect informants because I know, I was jailed in the dictatorship and they tried to turn me into one,” she said following a speech to investors focused on infrastructure projects. As a young Marxist, Rousseff was jailed, hung upside down and tortured with electric shocks.

Many of the key informants in the Petrobras corruption scandal have turned state’s witness after serving lengthy pre-trial jail terms.

Rousseff spoke after Veja magazine reported on Friday that Ricardo Pessoa, an executive linked to the scandal, had said in plea bargain testimony that part of the money resulting from the overpricing of contracts was donated to the campaigns of several politicians, including for Rousseff’s 2014 re-election.

Pessoa, the head of Brazilian construction firm UTC Engenharia, is under house arrest. He was jailed last year and prosecutors say he may have led the cartel. Veja did not say how it obtained the details of his testimony.

Rousseff has denied knowing about corruption at Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, when she chaired its board from 2003 to 2010, when much of the alleged graft occurred.

The nine prosecutors who brought the case are known as “The Untouchables” in a country where the elite has enjoyed impunity. But defense lawyers have criticized their practice of combining preventive detention and plea bargaining, calling it coercion.

Monday was the first time Rousseff addressed Pessoa’s testimony, though her Communications Minister Edinho Silva said on Friday that 7.5 million reais donated by Pessoa to Rousseff’s 2014 campaign were legal and approved by electoral authorities. Silva was Rousseff’s campaign treasurer.

Rousseff’s chief of staff, Aloizio Mercadante, also denied donations made to him in 2010 by companies owned by Pessoa were linked to kickbacks.

Workers’ Party Treasurer Joao Vaccari was arrested in April and will stand trial for corruption. (Writing by Walter Brandimarte and Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Mary Milliken and Christian Plumb)

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UPDATE 3-Brazil’s Petrobras slashes spending to cut debt, restore confidence |30 Jun
UPDATE 3-Oil bounces off 3-week lows as Greek debt default looms |30 Jun

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 30th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

CHRISTOPHER J. CHANG, PhD
2015 Blavatnik Laureate in Chemistry

University of California, Berkeley

PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
BS/MS, California Institute of Technology

Working at the frontiers of neuroscience and energy research

Chemistry wasn’t Dr. Christopher Chang’s initial major in college. However, his father was a chemist and he always wanted to know “what things were made out of.” He credits undergraduate mentor Dr. Harry Gray with getting him excited about chemistry and energy science. He became even more interested in chemistry benefiting society through his work with PhD and postdoctoral advisors Drs. Daniel Nocera and Stephen Lippard.

Driven by a strong social conscience, Dr. Chang and his lab work in two frontier areas of research. Dr. Chang’s first scientific goal is to identify and understand the roles of all basic chemical elements that are essential to the brain’s functioning. Using new molecular imaging tools, he visualizes chemical reactions involving metal ions and small molecules that help shape such basic processes as memory, cognition and the processing of sensory information, and may also play a role in aging and neurodegenerative diseases. His second goal is to develop technologies for personalized energy, in which people can make what they need in their own households without reliance on the energy grid, to help minimize waste and affect climate change.

“Winning the Blavatnik Award is humbling and exciting at the same time,” says Dr. Chang. “While awards are given to one or a few people, they represent the support of many others who have enabled good things to happen – including students, mentors, colleagues and family. It’s also great to support science and scientists in a public way, as education and technology have long-term benefits for society.”

“Chris Chang has changed the way bioorganic and bioinorganic chemists think about the role of redox active metals and reactive oxygen species in signaling, pathology and physiology in the brain…an emerging field known as metalloneurochemistry. Dr. Chang has overturned existing paradigms by demonstrating that redox active metals (iron, copper, cobalt, molybdenum) can serve in signaling pathways, and that reactive oxygen species such as hydrogen peroxide can be beneficial (not damaging) in stem cell regeneration in the brain.” – Dr. Scott E. Denmark, Reynold C. Fuson Professor of Chemistry, University of Illinois and a member of the 2015 National Jury.

EDWARD F. CHANG, MD
2015 Blavatnik Laureate in Life Sciences

University of California, San Francisco

MD, University of California, San Francisco
BA, Amherst College

Uncovering the neural mechanisms of language processing

Dr. Edward Chang credits his interest in neuroscience to wonderful teachers during his first year of medical school at UCSF, who “opened [his] eyes to the beauty of the nervous system.” These professors were also eminent scientists, and inspired him to take a few years off from his clinical training to work in a research laboratory. By the time he returned to medical school, it was clear that scientific discovery would be inseparable from his mission as a surgeon treating serious neurological disorders.

Since that time, Dr. Chang’s research, which aims to understand the uniqueness of human language and is conducted largely through monitoring brain activity patterns in awake patients during surgery, has made a major impact in a number of fields. These include: systems neuroscience, linguistics, psychology and biomedical engineering. His lab has established the basic “blueprint” of how the brain allows us to speak and hear – recording responses to nearly every speech sound in the English language. Dr. Chang is now beginning to look at brain activity patterns that underlie anxiety and depression, and developing safer and more effective methodologies to map the brain during surgery.

About receiving the Blavatnik Award, Dr. Chang says: “It is so gratifying to be recognized, especially at a relatively early stage in my career. Getting to this point required so much sacrifice and support from my family. In addition, our research requires such a special collaboration with our patients, who volunteer to participate during their surgeries. Sharing this recognition with them gives the experience that much more meaning to what they have contributed.”

“Dr. Chang has accomplished a hugely impressive and exciting body of work in a very short time – just five years since he established his own lab at UCSF. The work is unique and has already transformed our understanding of that most human of behaviors: language and speech.” – Dr. Carla J. Shatz, Sapp Family Provostial Professor, Professor of Biology and Neurobiology, and David Starr Jordan Director, Stanford Bio-X James H. Clark Center and a member of the 2015 National Jury.

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About the Blavatnik Family Foundation

The Blavatnik Family Foundation is an active supporter of leading educational, scientific, cultural, and charitable institutions in the United States, Europe, and throughout the world. The Foundation is headed by Len Blavatnik, an American industrialist and philanthropist. Mr. Blavatnik is the founder and Chairman of Access Industries, a privately-held U.S. industrial group with global interests in natural resources and chemicals, media and telecommunications, emerging technologies, life sciences and real estate. For more detailed information, please visit: www.accessindustries.com

About the New York Academy of Sciences

The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization that since 1817 has been committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide. With 22,000 members in 100 countries, the Academy is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. The Academy’s core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large. Please visit us online at www.nyas.org

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NEW YORK, June 30, 2015 – A chemist who has made important discoveries in both the human brain and sustainable energy, a neurosurgeon who has done pioneering work mapping the “blueprint” of how humans speak and hear, and a computer scientist who has changed our understanding of the capacity of wireless networks are the three winners of the 2015 Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists.

The Awards, given annually by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and administered by the New York Academy of Sciences, honor the nation’s most exceptional young scientists and engineers, celebrating their extraordinary achievements and recognizing their outstanding promise while providing an unparalleled prize of $250,000 to each National Laureate. The prize is the largest unrestricted cash award given to early career scientists.

This year’s National Laureates all hail from California. They include:

Christopher J. Chang, PhD, Class of 1942 Chair, Professor of Chemistry and Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Christopher Chang is honored for his discoveries in chemistry that span both neuroscience and energy science.
Edward F. Chang, MD, Associate Professor in Residence of Neurological Surgery and Physiology, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Co-Director of the Center for Neural Engineering and Prosthetics, UC Berkeley and UCSF. Dr. Edward Chang is being recognized for his work in establishing the neural code for human language processing.
Syed Jafar, PhD, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of California, Irvine. Dr. Jafar is selected for his discoveries in interference alignment in wireless networks, changing the field’s thinking about how these networks should be designed.

“Our 2015 National Laureates have made incredible discoveries early in their careers,” says Len Blavatnik, Founder and Chairman of Access Industries, head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation, and an Academy Board Governor. “On behalf of the Blavatnik Family Foundation, I congratulate the Laureates and the National Finalists and look forward to their future discoveries. This award will help to provide them with the freedom to pursue new ideas and further innovation.”

The three National Laureates were selected from a pool of nominations submitted by 147 of the nation’s leading universities and research institutions, representing 39 states. Each institution was invited to nominate one chemist, one life scientist and one physical scientist or engineer. The names of highly qualified nominees were also submitted by members of the Blavatnik Awards Scientific Advisory Council.

Starting with a pool of 300 nominations of exceptional faculty-rank researchers, the awards jury, composed of some of the world’s most eminent scientists and engineers, conducted a rigorous review. The judges first narrowed down the selection to 32 National Finalists, and then to three National Laureates. The three Laureates and 29 Finalists will be honored at a black-tie ceremony on Monday, September 28, 2015 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

“The nominations we received this year were outstanding. The New York Academy of Sciences is confident that these young scientists will have a major future impact on their respective fields, and beyond,” says Dr. Mercedes Gorre, Executive Director of the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists. “We congratulate the Laureates and the National Finalists on their achievement.”

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THE THIRD 2015 BLAVATNIK LAUREATE IS ALSO FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA – but from Irvine.

SYED A. JAFAR, PhD
2015 Blavatnik Laureate in Physical Sciences & Engineering

University of California, Irvine

PhD, Electrical Engineering, Stanford University
MS, Electrical Engineering, California Institute of Technology

Solving the mysteries of wireless communication

Dr. Syed Jafar became interested in science in high school. “Einstein’s ‘E=mc2’ captured my imagination,” he says. The equation made him wonder about how something so profound can be so simple and beautiful – and it became his lifelong dream to pursue beauty through science. As a graduate student studying information theory at Caltech, he found similar beauty in the formula describing the capacity of an information channel (Shannon’s equation). He realized how much about the capacity of communication networks was still unknown, and that the exploration of this problem would become his life’s work.

Because of the rapid growth of communication networks in the past decade, there is an unprecedented urgency to solving problems in network information theory. The main focus of Dr. Jafar’s research group is to solve as much of the mystery of wireless communication and networks as possible. He has made numerous discoveries in this area, including his groundbreaking discovery of interference alignment in wireless networks. This research demonstrated that data rates in wireless networks are not limited by the number of communications endpoints (nodes) sharing the radio frequency spectrum – a discovery that changed the thinking of the field about how wireless networks should be designed.

“I am incredibly honored to be recognized on the national stage as one of such an amazing cohort of extremely accomplished finalists, and by such an illustrious jury of the nation’s most distinguished scientists,” says Dr. Jafar. “It is my hope that this recognition will lead to broader exposure and appreciation of both the beauty of information theory and the tremendous impact it has on our lives. It is also a ‘shot in the arm’ for me to continue to take on challenging problems in our research group.”

“Syed Jafar revolutionized our understanding of the capacity limits of wireless networks. He demonstrated the astounding result that each user in a wireless network can access half of the spectrum without interference from other users, regardless of how many users are sharing the spectrum. This is a truly remarkable result that has a tremendous impact on both information theory and the design of wireless networks.” – Dr. Paul Horn, Senior Vice Provost for Research, New York University and a member of the 2015 National Jury.

To follow the progress of the Blavatnik Awards, please visit the Awards website  blavatnikawards.org), or follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@BlavatnikAwards). For media requests, please contact Marina Blinova ( mblinova at nyas.org; 212-298-8626).

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 15th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Sunday, June 14, 2015 program started with Fareed retelling us the content of his last Friday’s Washington Post column - www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/s… /9ce1f4f8-1074-11e5-9726-49d6fa26a8c6_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

While some hysteria-builders in Washington are worried about a Saudi nuclear race to follow Iran, Fareed Zakaria tells us clearly that besides drilling holes to get out oil from the ground, the Saudis have actually not proven capability of doing anything else. They just do not have the people nor the education system that leads to knowledge. You can actually conclude that they are hardly a State in the normal sense of the word – though with them having a full treasury they will not fail easily – but clearly not amount to much power either. In effect they are a natural target for ISIS – so let them not bluff us.

The Saudi GDP is based 44% on oil and 90% of their revenues are from oil. Their puritanical reactionary conservative education system puts them at 73rd place in global ranking compared to the much poorer Iran that is placed 44th. Two out of three people with a job are foreigners – hardly a recommendation for capability of doing anything.

Then Fareed brought on Professor Michael Porter of Harvard who makes now a career of talking and writing about America’s unconventional energy opportunity that turned the till-2005 dependence on gas import and till 2008 dependence on oil import – to an economy now that produces $430 billion/year of oil-shale fracking gas and oil products – that he says have reduced the energy bill of an average American family by $800/year and is now being enhanced by secondary industries like the petrochemical industry.

Gas prices are now lower by one third then those in US trading-countries and he contends that even though there are environmental problems with “fracking” these problems get smaller with time as there are new technological developments leading to decrease in pollution. Oh well – this at least reduces the US dependence on Saudi good-will.

To point out some more the effect of oil on developing countries that export the stuff, Fareed brought on a New Yorker journalist who works now in Luanda, Angola, and previously worked many years in Russia. Michael Specter was fascinating in his description of the “Bizarro” World of Luanda where for four out of the last five years Luanda was the most expensive City for the “Expatriates.” The Fifth year they were second to Japan.

With a watermelon selling for $105, a Coke for $10 and a cab-ride of 20 miles costing $450 – this while the working locals make $4/day while after Nigeria Angola is now the second largest oil producer in Africa.

For a saner discussion Fareed brought on Richard Haass – a former official of the Bush administration, Advisor to Colin Powell and president of the New York City based Council on Foreign Relations since July 2003, and David Rothkopf – who worked for the Clinton Administration, Managed the Kissinger Associates, and now is CEO and Editor of the Foreign Policy Group that publishes Foreign Policy Magazine. Interesting, it was Haass who wore a blue tie and Rothkopf who wore a red tie – and to my surprise, and clearly to their own surprise – there was no difference between their positions on the issues.

The main topic was Iraq and they agreed that sending in some more advisers to keep the ongoing losing policy in place makes no sense and never did. Iraq has passed, or was handed, to Iran while the only functioning part of it are the Kurdish evolving State.

The problem is the Sunni part that will eventually be a State as well – but it depends on a change in US position if this will be the ISIS State or a conventional Sunni State. Trying to hold the three parts of Iraq together does not make sense – period.

Oh well – how we got there – ask the Bush family – now we guess – ask Jeb (John Ellis) Bush. and Fareed also pointed a finger at Senator Rick Santorum who wants to be President and says the Pope should not mix the church and science – leave science to the scientists which for him are the Climate-deniers paid by the oil industry.

Fareed pointed out to Santorum that Pope Franciscus happens to be a scientist. He was trained as chemist and worked as a chemist before reentering the seminarium for clerical studies.

This coming week the world might finally get a boost from the Catholic Church as very well described in the New York Times article by Jim Yardley of June 13, 2015: “Pope Francis to Explore Climate’s Effect on World’s Poor.”

On Thursday June 18, 2015, Pope Franciscus will release his most important Encyclical on the theme of the environment and the poor. This follows a meeting May 2014 of the Pope with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accompanied by his Development lieutenants. This could be finally a joined effort for the good of humanity – of faith and true science.

Above is not completely new. Already the last two popes started to investigate the moral choices of development. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI already wrote about the role of industrial pollution in destroying the environment. Francis went further – and on his January 2015 trip to the Philippines expressed his being convinced that global warming was “most;y” a human-made phenomenon. Now he is expected in the September trip to Cuba and New York, to bring the encyclical to the UN General Assembly and encourage the Heads of States to bring the issue to a positive conclusion at the December Climate Convention meting in Paris. The driving force of this Pope is his experience in Latin America with an agenda of poverty and Unsustainable Consumption that reveals ethical issues. He can be expected to reject the American conservative interests underwritten by oil industry interests that send to his doorsteps folks like Marc Morano and the Heartland Foundation with Republican Skeptics found in the US Senate of James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

Fareed also mentioned on his program the fact that coincidentally it was June 15, 1215 that King John released the First Magna Carta that was shortly thereafter declared “Null and Void for all validity for-ever” by Pope Innocent II. A new Magna Carta was instituted later and it is the 2025 version that is the basis for the Constitutions of many States – including the USA. Pope Francis’s Encyclical might be viewed by future generations as the Magna Carta for the Earth – we hope the term SUSTAINABILITY will be brought into full focus – so ought to be “sustainable development.”

One last issue of this State of the World program was about the dwindling population in all European States and in many Asian States as well. It is only the USA that is growing – this thanks to immigration and some might say energy autarky?. The subject needs more linking to the rest of the program ingredients and we expect this will be done eventually.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 29th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Burlington, Vermont (CNN)It wouldn’t be the first time a revolution sparked in New England changed the world.

But two and a half centuries after the insurrection that birthed America, the idea that a rumpled radical like 73-year-old Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders could overthrow the U.S. economic, health care and tax systems seems farfetched at best.

Yet that’s exactly the task the fiery U.S. senator has set himself in a presidential campaign targeting billionaire “oligarchs” who he says have hijacked America’s economy and inflicted misery on the middle class.

Sanders, an agitator who doesn’t suffer fools, political opponents or journalists gladly, is testing whether the kind of populist, liberal agenda that gave him 75% approval ratings in his adopted home state can catch fire nationwide.

READ: Bernie Sanders’ brotherly love

“Brothers and sisters: Now is not the time for thinking small,” Sanders told thousands of supporters in Burlington on Tuesday.

“Now is not the time for the same-old, same-old establishment politics and stale inside-the-Beltway ideas,” Sanders said in an implicit denunciation of the runaway front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton.

The obstacles Sanders faces in the presidential primary race, however, are immense.

Sanders has no viable countrywide political organization, so he must foment a grassroots uprising. His task is complicated by the fact that although he caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate, he has always been a political independent wary of formal party affiliations.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Obama has lost Paul Krugman: Administration’s selling of new trade pact “a snow job.”

There has been no good faith effort to address reasonable concerns from well-intentioned critics
Review by Scott Eric Kaufman, Salon Web-magazine.
 www.salon.com/2015/05/22/obama_ha…

Kaufman writes: In Friday’s column, the New York Times’ Paul Krugman argued that although he generally approves of the forthrightness with which the Obama administration has dealt with economic issues, when it comes to international trade and investment, the president deserves a failing grade.

Especially, he wrote, on the subject of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the quasi-secret deal that the administration has teamed up with Republican Congressman Paul Ryan (W) to push through the House.

“[the] selling of the 12-nation Pacific Rim pact has the feel of a snow job,” he argued. “Officials have evaded the main concerns about the content of a potential deal; they’ve belittled and dismissed the critics; and they’ve made blithe assurances that turn out not to be true.”

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 krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/05…

ALSO: Paul Krugman – New York Times Blog Trade and Trust.

May 17, 2015

I’m getting increasingly unhappy with the way the Obama administration is handling the dispute over TPP. I understand the case for the deal, and while I still lean negative I’m not one of those who believes that it would be an utter disaster.

But the administration — and the president himself — don’t help their position by being dismissive of the complaints and lecturing the critics (Elizabeth Warren in particular) about how they just have no idea what they’re talking about. That would not be a smart strategy even if the administration had its facts completely straight — and it doesn’t. Instead, assurances about what is and isn’t in the deal keep turning out to be untrue. We were assured that the dispute settlement procedure couldn’t be used to force changes in domestic laws; actually, it apparently could. We were told that TPP couldn’t be used to undermine financial reform; again, it appears that it could.

How important are these concerns? It’s hard to judge. But the administration is in effect saying trust us, then repeatedly bobbling questions about the deal in a way that undermines that very trust.

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We have a particular problem here – this with no less then the Great New York Times.

The problem is that in the paper’s greed to make money they hide the important views of Paul Krugman by asking the internet readers to pay subscription money. We know this is a subject for long discussions – but what if a great economist is indeed trying to save the country and the World and a Board that owns a large chunk of media sources just gets in his way?

What if I tell you that the opinion page of that paper, years ago, seemed to be sold to the Mobil Oil Corporation that regularly had a quarter page advertisement that left no interest space for the paper’s business-folks when it came to non-petroleum fuels?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Shavuot & Pentacost: Jewish and Christian versions of revelation plus Arthur Waskow on Memorial Day – as posted by Tikkun Magazine.

To read online the articles below on Shavuot, (the Jewish celebration of the first fruits and also of the giving of Torah), and on Christian spiritual responses to Pentecost, please go to www.tikkun.org/nextgen/shavuot-re…

 magazine at tikkun.org

For a take by a Catholic source on the link between Shavuot and the Christian meaning of Pentecost, both of which are taking place this weekend, please go to:http://www.cruxnow.com/faith/2015/05/22/the-gifts-of-pentecost-and-shavuot


Shavuot wisdom from Arthur Waskow: Ten Notes on Celebrating Shavuot.


Dear friends, Shavuot, the “Festival of Weeks,” comes this year from Saturday night May 23 through Monday evening May 25.
Its name refers to the “super-week” of seven weeks after Passover plus one day (7 x 7 + 1= 50), when the 50th day becomes the holy day of late spring.


Here are ten steps into understanding Shavuot (and its Christian offshoot, Pentecost):

1. The Torah describes a festival that celebrates the fulfillment of the spring wheat harvest by offering at the Temple two loaves of leavened bread and the First Fruits of the farmers’ work and the land’s abundance. This ancient understanding invites us to renew our connection with the Earth as a sacred connection with YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh, the Interbreath of life that connects all life upon this planet.

2. The text of Torah never gives any precise date for the Revelation of Torah on Mount Sinai. The early Rabbis, bereft of the Land and strongly desiring that all future generations be able to experience the Torah in much the same way Passover made it possible for all future generations to experience the Exodus, interpreted Torah timing to make the biblical Festival of First Fruits into a festival of Torah.

Some Rabbinic interpretations of the Torah text then defined Revelation in radically open ways. Some suggested that the only expression that actually came forth at Sinai was the first letter of the Ten Utterances: an ALEPH. But the ALEPH is a “silent” letter, just an opening of the throat. So in that understanding, the deepest Truth was simply that the Universe opened its throat, wanting to speak.

3. In another view, the whole Revelation was the first word:ANOKHI, the Hebrew for an elevated, surpassingly awesome meaning of “I.” (The ordinary Hebrew word for “I,” like the Latin “ego,” is “Ani.”) This ANOKHI arises not only from the Mountain, from the universe, but also from each one of us, each human, each frog, each galaxy, each quark.

4. In the treasury of so-called “Gnostic” ancient texts written in the Semitic language Coptic and found in our own generation hidden at Nag Hammadi in Egypt, one was labeled The Thunder: Perfect Mind.

Most of its 60-some verses begin with the same “ANOKHI, I” and they are almost all celebrations of a female, feminine, and paradoxically all-inclusive understanding of God:

I [Anokhi] am the first and the last

I am what everyone can hear and no one can say

I am the name of the sound and the sound of the name

I am she who is honored and she who is mocked

I am the whore and the holy woman

I am the wife and the virgin

I am the mother and the daughter

I am the limbs of my mother

I am the sterile woman and she has many children

I am she whose wedding is extravagant and I didn’t have a husband

I am the midwife and she who hasn’t given birth

I believe this text, like that in our officially accepted Torah, is an attempt to describe the Holy ONE Who became audible and visible in a transcendent moment at “Sinai.” Its title evokes The Thunder that Torah says was seen, not only heard, at Sinai. For the full text and the story of its recovery, see [ theshalomcenter.org/sites/all/mo... /url.php?u=10464&qid=5267360 ]

5. In one of the Ten Utterances that come from Sinai, the Holy Voice insists that we not “take My Name in emptiness.” I do not think that means never to say “Oh My God!” etc. I think it means to keep fully in mind that the Name YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh is a Breath; that we should always be aware that every breath we take is the Name of God; and that the Breathing of our Mother Earth is the Name of God. “Do not breathe empty-minded, empty-hearted!” says the Voice.

Make a Shavuot practice of following your breath as it enters your body, is carried by your blood to every limb and organ, then leaves as you breathe out the CO2 to enter a tree, a field of grass — and there to be transmuted into oxygen and breathed out, for us to breathe in. As you breathe, let your breath carry these words: “We breathe in what the trees breathe out, the trees breathe in what we breathe out.”

6. Another of the Ten Utterances tells us, “Do not carve out false gods and worship them!”

I do not think this means only that we must not carve out and worship physical statues of stone or wood or metal.

I think it means, “Do not carve the One Flow into pieces and worship these mere pieces of Truth. Do not make gods of race or of nation, gods of wealth and of power, gods of greed and addiction. For these ‘gods’ may seem to have ears but hear not, hands but touch not, noses but breathe not. These idols are dead, and those who make them and worship them will bring death on themselves.”

7. Traditionally, the Haftarah (prophetic passage) that is read on the festival of Shavuot is Ezekiel’s mystical vision of the Chariot. Jerome Rothenberg and Harris Lenowitz, in A Big Jewish Book, their amazing collection of the poetic, mystical, and subversive or superversive passages of Jewish wisdom over the past 3,000 years, make their own poetic translation of this passage.

For a way of reading it intended to lift the reader closer to Ezekiel’s own ecstatic state, first see

and then theshalomcenter.org/sites/all/mo... ]

8. The early rabbis also decided that on Shavuot, we should also read the Scroll of Ruth. It celebrates the earthiness of the Torah’s understanding of Shavuot, and especially the Torah’s commitment to social justice in sharing the abundance of the Earth. Ruth, a penniless woman from a pariah community, is treated with love, generosity, and justice.

Read the book, imagining Ruth as a penniless woman from Guatemala trying to enter the USA across the Rio Grande. How would she be treated today? How does the Bible demand she be treated?

9. According to Christian tradition, there was a Shavuot on which Jews who were followers of the radical Rabbi Jesus — who had been tortured to death because he organized spiritually rooted opposition to the oppressive Roman Empire and its local puppet government — gathered to celebrate the Revelation of Torah.

They experienced being touched by the Ruach HaKodesh – the Holy Breathing Spirit. As if that Breath had spoken to them in every human language (as only Breath can do, since only Breathing encompasses all tongues), they found themselves able to speak in the 70 tongues of humanity.

In Christian tradition, this moment became known as Pentecost, from the Greek word for “Fiftieth Day.” From this moment they went forth to bring their vision to all peoples – sometimes by speaking words of conscience and sometimes by conquest, torture, and death.. From this moment stems all the spiritual triumphs and spiritual disasters of the Christian Church.

How do we make sure that the Holy BREATH is about speaking, not killing or torturing or conquering?

Christians have no monopoly on oppression, torture, or killing. Some Muslims, some Jews, some Buddhists (see Burma and Sri Lanka) have turned to tyranny, out of fear or privilege or fury. For a Jewish perspective on how the festival of Sinai and Torah might look upon the festival of Israeli independence, Yom HaAtzma’ut, see my essay at

10. Go back to experience again two lines from “The Thunder: Perfect Mind,” as what the “I” of Sinai spoke to us all:

I am what everyone can hear and no one can say

I am the name of the sound and the sound of the name

These lines bring us back to the “Anokhi YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh,” the first words of Torah heard at Sinai.

For if the YHWH is a Breathing, It would indeed be what everyone can hear and no one can say.

Its letters, if we try to pronounce them, would indeed be the name of the sound and the sound of the name. A Breath.

The Voice at Sinai tells us: The Interbreathing of all tongues, all life, is what frees us from the Tight and Narrow Place (in Hebrew, Mitzrayyim — the name for Egypt).

If we hear Her in the all-night Torah-learning that the mystics bequeathed us for Shavuot, could we learn to think, to feel, to commune, to be silent in a different way?

Could we hear the Shavuot of Harvest and the Shavuot of Sinai as One:

“I am the earthy food that goes into your mouth, and I am the airy words that come forth from your mouth.”

Could The Thunder teach us that Earth and Torah are one, The One?

Could we hear the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Breath that interbreathes all tongues, all languages, all life-forms, reminding us to Hush’sh’sh’sh, to Sh’sh’sh’sh’ma – to Listen to the still “silent” Voice and cease from our oppressions of each other?

May the Shabbat and Shavuot that come at this week’s ending and next week’s beginning help us achieve these deepening of Spirit in the body!

Shalom, salaam, peace, Earth!
Arthur Waskow

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