links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic
SustainabiliTank

 
 
Follow us on Twitter


 
Policy Lessons from Mad Cow Disease:

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 15th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

IPCC Approves Third Contribution to its Fifth Assessment

ipcc-39            13 April 2014: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) approved the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of its third contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) on mitigation of climate change. Human-generated emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) are continuing to rise to unprecedented levels, according to the report, which underscores the inadequacy of existing levels of effort to curb emissions.

The 12th Session of the IPCC Working Group III (WGIII-12) and 29th Session of the IPCC took place from 7-12 April 2014, in Berlin, Germany. WGIII convened to approve the WGIII SPM line-by-line and to accept the underlying assessment of scientific literature. 

The WGIII report outlines technological and behavioral changes that can limit the increase in global average temperatures to less than two degrees Celsius, the point at which science shows that climate impacts begin to overwhelm human coping efforts. The report further notes that only major institutional and technological change will result in a better than even chance that global warming will not exceed this threshold.

After adopting the report, IPCC-39 then convened to discuss, inter alia, future work of the IPCC, admission of observer organizations, and conflict of interest.

The report, titled ‘Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change,’ is the IPCC’s Working Group III report.

The Panel adopted its WGI contribution on the physical science basis of climate change in in September 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Panel adopted the WGII contribution on climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability in March 2014,
in Yokohama, Japan.

A Synthesis Report of all three WG volumes is expected to be finalized by the IPCC at a meeting that will take place
in October 2014, in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

[UNFCCC Press Release] [IPCC Press Release] [IISD RS Coverage] [UNEP Press Release] [UN Press Release] [WMO Press Release]

==========================
Photo

President Obama yesterday morning. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The United States needs to enact a major climate change law, such as a tax on carbon pollution, by the end of this decade to stave off the most catastrophic impacts of global warming, according to the authors of a report released this week by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

But aggressive efforts to tackle climate change have repeatedly collided with political reality in Washington, where some Republicans question the underlying science of global warming and lawmakers’ ties to the fossil fuel industry have made them resistant to change. The rise of the Tea Party in recent years has also made a tax increase unlikely.

This week’s report makes clear, however, that the window is rapidly narrowing to forge new policies that will protect the globe from a future of serious food and water shortages, a drastic sea level rise, increased poverty and disease and other profound risks.

“What would be required is a nationwide carbon pricing policy,” said Robert Stavins, director of Harvard’s environmental economics program and a lead author of the report. “And that would not be possible without action from Congress.”

Photo

President Obama has used his authority under the Clean Air Act to issue new E.P.A. regulations to slash pollution from cars and coal-fired power plants. Credit Jim Urquhart/Reuters

Democrats have twice pushed serious bills to force greenhouse gas polluters like coal-fired power plants and oil refiners to pay to pollute. Both of those bills — one by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and one by President Obama in 2010 — ultimately failed, contributing to heavy Democratic losses in midterm elections.

Lawmakers who back such efforts, which represent a threat to the bottom lines of the fossil fuel industry, particularly coal, the nation’s top source of carbon pollution, have been criticized by campaigns from Republicans, Tea Party-affiliated “super PACs” like Americans for Prosperity, and the coal and oil industries.

Many members of the Republican Party question the established science that carbon pollution contributes to climate change — and hundreds have also signed on to a pledge promising never to raise taxes.

But there has not been a huge public outcry to endorse new climate change policy. Polls consistently show that while a majority of Americans accept that climate change is real, addressing it ranks at the bottom of voters’ priorities.

In the absence of action from Congress, Mr. Obama has taken controversial measures to counter climate change;
he has already used his executive authority under the Clean Air Act to create Environmental Protection Agency regulations that will slash greenhouse gas pollution from cars and coal-fired power plants.

During this year’s midterm election campaigns, Republicans have used carbon-control policies as a political weapon, calling Mr. Obama’s E.P.A. rules a “war on coal.” The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, who is running for re-election in the coal-heavy state of Kentucky, has vowed to use every legislative tactic available to block, repeal or delay those rules if Republicans win control of the Senate this fall.

Within that context, many in the Republican establishment think that talking about climate change — and, particularly, any policy endorsing a tax on fossil fuels — would be political suicide for a Republican seeking to win the party’s nomination in 2016.

The United Nations report says that if the world’s major economies do not enact steep, fast climate policies well before 2030, in order to cut total global emissions 40 to 70 percent by 2050, the prospects of avoiding a global atmospheric temperature increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the point past which scientists say the planet will be locked into a dangerous future, will be far more difficult and expensive.

Ten countries are responsible for 70 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas pollution. While the report makes clear that all major economies must act, the actions of China and the United States, the top two carbon polluters, will be most crucial.

The authors of the report say Mr. Obama’s E.P.A. regulations represent a significant first step to cutting United States carbon pollution — but not enough to avert the worst effects of a warming world.

The next president will have to both carry out Mr. Obama’s climate change rules and quickly push through even more stringent pollution-cutting policies, according to the report’s authors.

“We need to increase the slope and the pace of the change,” said David Victor, one of the report’s authors and an expert on climate and energy policy at the University of California, San Diego. “Accelerating what we’re doing in the U.S. will be very important for the next administration.”

Despite the history of roadblocks to enacting climate change policy, some experts say they do see some potential for a legislative path to cut United States carbon pollution.

One window could open if Congress takes up a comprehensive effort to overhaul the nation’s corporate tax code, which could happen after the 2016 presidential election.

Lawmakers from both parties have pushed tax reform — and in that context, there could be room for a grand bargain incorporating new carbon tax, which Democrats want, paired with a cut in corporate or income taxes, which Republicans want. Prominent conservative economists, like Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who advised Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, and Gregory Mankiw, who advised Mitt Romney’s 2012 bid, have endorsed that proposal.

Experts also note that a shift at the national level could come as more states enact climate change policies. Currently California and several Northeastern states, including New York, have enacted state-level programs to force carbon polluters to pay to pollute.

Historically, California’s environmental laws have served as a vanguard and model for national environmental policy. The push for state-level policies could rise, say experts, if there is a significant increase in extreme weather like droughts and flooding, which contribute to higher adaptation costs for state and local governments.

“The question is whether state and local entities want to see action — and if that can then be translated to local action,” said Thomas Peterson, founder of the Center for Climate Strategies, a nonprofit group that works on climate policy with state governments.

This week’s report said the impact of climate change was already being experienced, and it followed on earlier scientific reports that have noted that climate change was exacerbating drought in Texas, rapidly rising sea levels along the Atlantic coast and higher storm surges caused by hurricanes in states like Florida and Louisiana. Among the likely Republican contenders for the 2016 presidential nomination are Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Of courses, some of those contenders, like Mr. Cruz, Mr. Jindal and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, also hail from states where fossil fuel development is a key part of the economy — and have thus led the way in fighting carbon control policies.

A version of this article appears in print on April 15, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Political Divide Slows U.S. Action on Climate Laws.

————————————–

Some Comments

dave commenter

One poster mentioned that since the first Earth Day when the alarms began sounding, not much has changed.
In the 1960′s Vance Packard wrote…

Sten Deadio

Does anyone else find it ironic that Conservatives deny a 97% scientific certainty in Climate Change AND accept with ZERO
PERCENT certainty…

Capt. Penny

As 300+ other comments ahead of mine have noted, politics trumps physics and reality.So what are WE going to do about that?
Take 3 simple…

——————

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 4th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Reject and Protect!Stop the KX
NATIONAL MOBILIZATION AND MARCH IN WASHINGTON DC
Saturday, April 26th 2014
Hello
We have buses? Will you join us?
March with 350NYC and the Cowboy and Indian Alliance on Saturday, April 26th
Reject the Keystone XL Pipeline and protect our planet.  Please join 350NYC on the bus and at the march.

On Saturday, April 26th, people from all across the country will gather in DC and march once more to the White House, sending a final, unmistakable message to President Obama – reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and protect our land, our water, and our climate.  This march is being led by the Cowboy and Indian Alliance – a coalition of farmers, ranchers, and Native Americans who’ve come together to oppose this pipeline that threatens the land that they work and love.

 “We’ll gather at 11 AM on Saturday the 26th at the Alliance encampment on the Mall to hear from farmers, ranchers, tribal leaders and others who will be directly impacted by KXL and the tar sands.  Then we’ll march to the White House to present a ceremonial painted tipi to President Obama. This tipi will represent our hope that he will reject KXL, and our promise that we will protect our land, water and climate if he chooses to let the pipeline move forward. Once the tipi is delivered, we’ll return to the encampment in song and make our pledge to continue resistance to the pipeline should it be approved.” 

Are you ready to get on the bus with us?

What: Reject and Protect Gathering
Who: The Cowboy Indian Alliance, allied groups, and you!
Where: The National Mall, between 9th Street and 12th Street NW, in front of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, Washington, D.C. [Map]
When: Saturday, April 26 (note the new date). Gather at 10:30 a.m., speakers will begin at 11 a.m., and the procession will begin at 12:30 p.m.
NYC Bus Departure: The first bus will leave from 34th and 8th Ave.  As more buses are added, other departure points may also be added.Please sign up NOW at our event web siteso we have time to assess the demand and add buses as needed.
Bus Schedule– subject to change

  • Bus departure from NYC: 6:00 a.m.  Arrive in Washington: 10:00/10:30 a.m.
  • Departure from Washington DC: 3:30 p.m.  Arrive back in NYC: 8:00/8:30 p.m.

To sign up for a seat on the bus please go to our event web site: Questions?  Contact 350NYC@gmail.com

  • Standard tickets, round trip:   $30
  • Scholarship tickets: $15  (For special code to access scholarship ticket please e-mail 350NYC@gmail.com)
  • Donation ticket:  If you cannot come to the march please consider making a donation to support scholarships for those who want to attend but cannot afford to.

Note: commercial bus companies (Greyhound, Bolt etc.) may have cheaper fares so please check them out also.
 

March with us on April 26th

Reject the KXL pipeline and protect our planet.
Demand environmental justice and investment in a sustainable, green energy future

###

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

 

The Opinion Pages  Op-Ed Contributor to The New York Times.

 

Is Canada Tarring Itself?

 

 

Photo

Credit Kristian Hammerstad

 

START with the term “tar sands.” In Canada only fervent opponents of oil development in northern Alberta dare to use those words; the preferred phrase is the more reassuring “oil sands.” Never mind that the “oil” in the world’s third largest petroleum reserve is in fact bitumen, a substance with the consistency of peanut butter, so viscous that another fossil fuel must be used to dilute it enough to make it flow.

Never mind, too, that the process that turns bitumen into consumable oil is very dirty, even by the oil industry’s standards. But say “tar sands” in Canada, and you’ll risk being labeled unpatriotic, radical, subversive.

Performing language makeovers is perhaps the most innocuous indication of the Canadian government’s headlong embrace of the oil industry’s wishes.

Soon after becoming prime minister in 2006, Stephen Harper declared Canada “an emerging energy superpower,” and nearly everything he’s done since has buttressed this ambition.

Forget the idea of Canada as dull, responsible and environmentally minded: That is so 20th century. Now it’s a desperado, placing all its chips on a world-be-damned, climate-altering tar sands bet.

Documents obtained by research institutions and environmental groups through freedom-of-information requests show a government bent on extracting as much tar sands oil as possible, as quickly as possible.

From 2008 to 2012, oil industry representatives registered 2,733 communications with government officials, a number dwarfing those of other industries. The oil industry used these communications to recommend changes in legislation to facilitate tar sands and pipeline development. In the vast majority of instances, the government followed through.

In the United States, the tar sands debate focuses on Keystone XL, the 1,200-mile pipeline that would link Alberta oil to the Gulf of Mexico. What is often overlooked is that Keystone XL is only one of 13 pipelines completed or proposed by the Harper government — they would extend for 10,000 miles, not just to the gulf, but to both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.

After winning an outright parliamentary majority in 2011, Mr. Harper’s Conservative Party passed an omnibus bill that revoked or weakened 70 environmental laws, including protections for rivers and fisheries. As a result, one proposed pipeline, the Northern Gateway, which crosses a thousand rivers and streams between Alberta and the Pacific, no longer risked violating the law. The changes also eliminated federal environmental review requirements for thousands of proposed development projects.

President Obama’s decision on Keystone XL, expected later this spring, is important not just because it will determine the pipeline’s fate, but because it will give momentum to one side or the other in the larger tar sands battle. Consequently, the Canadian government’s 2013-14 budget allocates nearly $22 million for pro-tar-sands promotional work outside Canada. It has used that money to buy ads and fund lobbyists in Washington and Europe, the latter as part of a continuing campaign against the European Union’s bitumen-discouraging Fuel Quality Directive.                                                                                                                             

THE REDEEMING VALUE IN ALL OF THIS IS THAT CANADA HAS REDUCED THE IMPORTANCE OF THE MIDDLE EAST OIL STATES – BUT THEN WE MUST NOTE THAT SO FAR AS THE ENVIRONMENT IS CONCERNED CANADA IS NOW A MAJOR SINNER – NO LESS A SINNER THEN THE US FRACKING AFFECTIONADOS.
THE TAR AND THE FRACKED METHANE HAVE HIGHER IMPACT ON CLIMATE CHANGE THEN PETROLEUM OIL.

Beginning in 2006, Mr. Harper pledged to promulgate regulations to limit carbon emissions, but eight years later the regulations still have not been issued, and he recently hinted that they might not be introduced for another “couple of years.” Meanwhile, Canada became the only country to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. Instead, in 2009 it signed the nonbinding Copenhagen Accord, which calls for Canada to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent beneath its 2005 level by 2020. According to the government’s own projections, it won’t even come close to that level.

Climate change’s impact on Canada is already substantial. Across Canada’s western prairie provinces, an area larger than Alaska, mean temperatures have risen several degrees over the last 40 years, causing releases of greenhouse gases from melting permafrost and drying wetlands. The higher temperatures have led to the spread of the mountain pine beetle, which has consumed millions of trees. The trees, in turn, have become fodder for increasingly extensive forest fires, which release still more greenhouse gases. Given that scientists now think the Northern Hemisphere’s boreal forests retain far more carbon than tropical rain forests like the Amazon, these developments are ominous. At least the Harper government has indirectly acknowledged climate change in one way: It has made a show of defending the Northwest Passage, an increasingly ice-free Arctic Ocean link between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that winds through Canadian territory.

Nevertheless, the Harper government has shown its disdain for scientists and environmental groups dealing with climate change and industrial pollution. The government has either drastically cut or entirely eliminated funding for many facilities conducting research in climate change and air and water pollution. It has placed tight restrictions on when its 23,000 scientists may speak publicly and has given power to some department managers to block publication of peer-reviewed research. It has closed or “consolidated” scientific libraries, sometimes thoughtlessly destroying invaluable collections in the process. And it has slashed funding for basic research, shifting allocations to applied research with potential payoffs for private companies.

With a deft Orwellian touch, Canada’s national health agency even accused a doctor in Alberta, John O’Connor, of professional misconduct — raising “undue alarm” and promoting “a sense of mistrust” in government officials — after he reported in 2006 that an unusually high number of rare, apparently tar-sands-related cancers were showing up among residents of Fort Chipewyan, 150 miles downstream from the tar sands. A government review released in 2009 cautiously supported Dr. O’Connor’s claims, but officials have shown no interest in the residents’ health since then.

 

Dr. O’Connor’s experience intimidated other doctors, according to Margaret Sears, a toxicologist hired by the quasi-independent Alberta Energy Regulator to study health impacts in another region near the tar sands operation. Dr. Sears reported that some doctors cited Dr. O’Connor’s case as a reason for declining to treat patients who suggested a link between their symptoms and tar sands emissions.

The pressure on environmentalists has been even more intense. Two years ago Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver (who this month became finance minister) declared that some environmentalists “use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest” and “threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.” Canada’s National Energy Board, an ostensibly independent regulatory agency, coordinated with the nation’s intelligence service, police and oil companies to spy on environmentalists. And Canada’s tax-collecting agency recently introduced rigorous audits of at least seven prominent environmental groups, diverting the groups’ already strained resources from anti-tar-sands activities.

Few Canadians advocate immediately shutting down the tar sands — indeed, any public figure espousing that idea risks political oblivion. The government could defuse much tar sands opposition simply by advocating a more measured approach to its development, using the proceeds to head the country away from fossil fuels and toward a low-carbon, renewables-based future. That, in fact, was the policy recommended by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, a nonpartisan, eminently moderate independent research group founded by another right-leaning prime minister, Brian Mulroney, in 1988. The Harper government showed what it thought of the policy when it disbanded the Round Table last year.

 

Jacques Leslie is the author, most recently, of “A Deluge of Consequences: A Riveting Adventure in the High Himalayas.”

A version of this op-ed appears in print on March 31, 2014, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: Is Canada Tarring Itself?.

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 14th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From:

AFJN

It is all because of interests of big business why Africa is held down – and this with the help of corrupt African Governments’ leaders.  If this continues – there is indeed no future for Africa. Foreign aid by old industrialized
Nations is wasted effort.


 

US aid to DR Congo: No more free rides for corrupt government officials!
Did you know your tax dollars are subsidizing corrupt bureaucrats in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)? Instead of subsidizing millions of dollars in theft, fraud and unpaid taxes, the US should…
Read more

Herakles Farms must Stop Unjust Lawsuits Against a Cameroonian Activist
Herakles Farms, a US based agribusiness has filed a lawsuit against Mr. Nasako Besingi, a Cameroonian activist for defamation for peacefully protesting against the company’s grabbing of his ancestral land in South-West Cameroon. For the defamation case, the maximum penalty is 6 months imprisonment and $4,000 in fines, money he does not have.
Today, ask Mr. Patrick Jones to withdraw this lawsuit.

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 28th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

United Nations Press Release
 
Small Island Developing States Call for Global Partnerships to Take  Urgent Action on Climate Change.
(New York, 24 February) – Small Island Developing States called for global support for partnerships to take actions that would assist them in building resilience against climate change impacts and achieve sustainable development.
 
Representatives from small islands told  the first preparatory committee for the third United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States that just concluded that global action on climate change is essential not only for their sustainable development but also for their survival.
 
“A reality that can no longer be ignored in this process is climate change. The crisis has made realizing our sustainable development more difficult,” said Ambassador of Nauru Marlene Moses, who currently chairs the Alliance of Small Island States.
 
“Extreme weather and ecological degradation erode the economies we depend on for food and survival. In other words, we cannot develop sustainably if we fail to act on climate change and we cannot act on climate change without effective sustainable development. These issues are inextricably linked.”
 
The series of meetings at UN headquarters discussed the main objectives of the Conference, whose theme this year is “sustainable development of small island States through genuine and durable partnerships.”
 
Representatives from small island developing states also emphasized that the Conference, which will be held in Apia, Samoa, in September 2014 {during the UN year of special attention to the SIDS}, should result in a concrete and focused document that could not only benefit small islands, but also inform other processes such as the climate negotiations in Paris in 2015 as well as the UN’s post-2015 development agenda.
 
For their part, China, the European Union, and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to support small island developing states at a regional and national level, as well as develop new partnerships that could evolve into more comprehensive cooperation on global challenges.
 
“The recognition of the extreme vulnerabilities of small island developing states should propel us urgently towards clarity of collective vision and concrete actions,” said the UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States Gyan Chandra Acharya. “In doing so, we will be rendering a great service to the global community as whole.
 
“The situation in islands should be an eye-opener for all of us given the severity and multiplicity of the challenges this should lead us to urgent action.”
 
 Conference Secretary-General, Wu Hongbo, encouraged small island developing States to take advantage of this “historic year” for them. In addition to the Conference, 2014 has also been declared the International year of Small Island Developing States with the objective of highlighting these countries’ economic, social and cultural contributions.
 
“The Conference will be a major milestone for small island developing states,” Mr. Wu said. “It will make an important contribution to the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda. It will also result in tangible outcomes through strengthened and collaborative partnerships between small island developing states and the international community.”
 
For more information on the Conference and the preparatory committee see: sids2014.org
For information on the International Year and ways to get involved visit: www.un.org/islands2014
 
Media contacts: Florencia Soto Nino, sotonino@un.org, 917-367-4833; Melanie Prudhomme, prudhommem@un.org, 917-367-3541, UN Department of Public Information

What is missing from this UN PRESS RELEASE IS THE REALIZATION THAT THE PLIGHT OF THE SIDS IS NOT A MATTER FOR THE SIDS ALONE, BUT IN EFFECT THEY ARE THE PROVERBIAL CANARY IN THE ROOM THAT ITS CONDITION TELLS US ABOUT OUR OWN PLIGHT.

CLIMATE CHANGE DOES NOT ENDANGER JUST THE ISLANDS BUT ALSO THE MOUNTAINS AND HIGHLANDS – THE SHORES AND PLAINS – AND THE SIDS’ PROBLEMS WERE NOT CAUSED BY THEM,  BUT BY US – THOSE UNSCRUPULOUS EMITTERS OF FOSSIL CARBON FROM CHINA,  THE US,  THE EU, and other big-shots called now to participate in “PARTNERSHIPS” without any mention of the need for changes in production and consumption ways of the gluttonous Industrialized – old and new – States.Yes, we were there and attest that speakers did address these issues, but the PRESS RELEASE does not mention those criticisms. Giving money as aid has not washed clean the emitters in the past, and will not do so in the future – only a combined program that reduces emissions by those others – that is the mitigation work on climate change – linked with direct work with the Inhabitants of the SIDS – to help in their Adaptation to the misery that was created already,  can do.

The best we can say about the just concluded preparatory meeting for the Conference that will eventually be held in Apia, Samoa, is that it was a celebration of what those Island States contribute to the World Population at large – so it really is not only their loss from what goes on by our direct loss – beyond the Canary role – that should concern us.

That is why we find those meetings very important and we will continue to watch for signs that the UN talking about SIDS does not come instead of REAL ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE BY ALL.

ON THE OTHER HAND – with the UN General Assembly meeting in New York 16-29 September 2014, this means the UN schedule for the second half of September is already taken – the Arctic Circle meeting is scheduled for September 5-7, 2014,  so the Apia , Samoa meeting was set for 1-4 September or as we found in a Samoa posting - ” title=”http://www.sids2014.org” target=”_blank”>, Reporting From the UN Headquarters in New York, Samoa

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 28th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

“Their Mothers, their Fathers” – or maybe even ours -  a movie that tries to promote thinking about the triteness of the reality of an evolution of crime as a worm that eats into what looks like civilized normalcy.

These days in New York we host the Carnegie Hall Festival “Vienna City of Dreams” which is a celebration of culture of the last 100 years which is in effect the time-span since the break out of WWI on June 28, 1914, and as a matter of fact includes also WWII.

To above Festival The Calgary, Alberta, CHUMIR FOUNDATION for Ethics in Leadership contributed a three events Symposium – “Vienna’s History and Legacy of the Past 150 Years” – and this morning coincidentally I received the Uri Avnery mailing about the German Film “THEIR MOTHERS, THEIR FATHERS” that is being shown in Israel. We find it all connects – and we start looking into this by bringing here the Uri Avnery article.

Also, these days the Peace Islands Institute, which is connected to a Turkish Cultural Center, had its own events in New York of which one – linked – without mentioning it – to the previous mentioned events – it was a panel on Intergovernmental Relations among Balkan Nations & The EU with the participation of the Ambassadors to the UN from Bulgaria, Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia, chaired by the President of the Federation of Balkan American Associations, that followed a similar earlier event that included Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Croatia but never looked at Slovenia or Austria. Then the same Peace Islands Institute followed on its studies of the three Abrahamic religions with a first inroad into Muslim – Buddhist understanding after quite successful previous activities into ethics of Muslim -Jewish mutual acceptance. These days such are events happening in  New York.

 

Uri Avnery

March 1, 2014

 

                                    Their Mothers, Their Fathers

 

IT IS the summer of 1941. Five youngsters – three young men and two young women – meet in a bar and spend a happy evening, flirting with each other, getting drunk, dancing forbidden foreign dances. They have grown up together in the same neighborhood of Berlin.

It is a happy time. The war started by Adolf Hitler a year and a half before has progressed incredibly well. In this short time Germany has conquered Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium and France. The Wehrmacht is invincible. The Führer is a genius, “the greatest military strategist of all times”.

So starts the film that is running now in our cinemas – a unique historical document. It goes on for five breathless hours, and continues to occupy the thoughts and emotions of its viewers for days and weeks.

 

Basically it is a film made by Germans for Germans. The German title says it all: “Our Mothers, Our Fathers”. The purpose is to answer the questions troubling many of the young Germans of today: Who were our parents and grandparents? What did they do during the terrible war? What did they feel? What was their part in the horrible crimes committed by the Nazis?

 

These questions are not asked in the film explicitly. But every German viewer is compelled to ask them. There are no clear answers. The film does not probe the depths. Rather, it shows a broad panorama of the German people in wartime, the various sections of society, the different types, from the war criminals, through the passive onlookers, to the victims.

 

The Holocaust is not the center of events, but it is there all the time, not as a separate event but woven into the fabric of reality.

 

THE FILM starts in 1941, and therefore cannot answer the question which, to my mind, is the most important one: How could a civilized nation, perhaps the most cultured in the world, elect a government whose program was blatantly criminal?

True, Hitler was never elected by an absolute majority in free elections. But he came very close to it. And he easily found political partners who were ready to help him form a government.

 

 Some said at the time that it was a uniquely German phenomenon, the expression of the particular German mentality, formed during centuries of history. That theory has been discredited by now. But if so, can it happen in any other country? Can it happen in our own country? Can it happen today? What are the circumstances that make it possible?

The film does not answer these question. It leaves the answers to the viewer.

The young heroes of the film do not ask. They were ten years old when the Nazis came to power, and for them the “Thousand-Year Reich” (as the Nazis called it) was the only reality they knew. It was the natural state of things. That’s where the plot starts.

 

 

 TWO OF the youngsters were soldiers. One had already seen war and was wearing a medal for valor. His brother had just been called up. The third young man was a Jew. Like the two girls, they are full of youthful exuberance. Everything was looking fine.

The war? Well, it can’t last much longer, can it? The Führer himself has promised that by Christmas the Final Victory will be won. The five young people promise each other to meet again at Christmas. No one has the slightest premonition of the terrible experiences in store for each of them. 

 

 While viewing the scene, I could not help thinking about my former class. A few weeks after the Nazis’ assumption of power, I became a pupil in the first class of high school in Hanover. My schoolmates were the same age as the heroes of the film. They would have been called up in 1941, and because it was an elitist school, all of them would probably have become officers.

Half way through the first year in high schooI, my family took me to Palestine. I never met any of my schoolmates again, except one (Rudolf Augstein, the founder of the magazine Der Spiegel, whom I met years after the war and who became my friend again.) What happened to all the others? How many survived the war? How many were maimed? How many had become war criminals?

In the summer of 1941 they were probably as happy as the youngsters in the film, hoping to be home by Christmas.

 

 THE TWO brothers were sent to the Russian front, an unimaginable hell. The film succeeds in showing the realities of war, easily recognizable by anyone who has been a soldier in combat. Only that this combat was a hundredfold worse, and the film shows it brilliantly.

The older brother, a lieutenant, tries to shield the younger one. The bloodbath that goes on for four more years, day after day, hour after hour, changes their character. They become brutalized. Death is all around them, they see horrible war crimes, they are commanded to shoot prisoners, they see Jewish children butchered. In the beginning they still dare to protest feebly, then they keep their doubts to themselves, then they take part in the crimes as a matter of course. 

One of the young women volunteers for a frontline military hospital, witnesses the awful agonies of the wounded, denounces a Jewish fellow nurse and immediately feels remorse, and in the end is raped by Soviet soldiers near Berlin, as were almost all German women in the areas conquered by the revenge-thirsty Soviet army. 

 

 Israeli viewers might be more interested in the fate of the Jewish boy, who took part in the happy feast at the beginning. His father is a proud German, who cannot imagine Germans doing the bad things threatened by Hitler. He does not dream of leaving his beloved fatherland. But he warns his son about having sexual relations with his Aryan girlfriend. “It’s against the law!”

When the son tries to flee abroad, “aided” by a treacherous Gestapo officer, he is caught, sent to the death camps, succeeds in escaping on the way, joins the Polish partisans (who hate the Jews more than the Nazis) and in the end survives.

 

 Perhaps the most tragic figure is the second girl, a frivolous, carefree singer who sleeps with a senior SS officer to further her career, is sent with her troupe to entertain the troops at the front, sees what is really happening, speaks out about the war, is sent to prison and executed in the last hours of the war.

 

 BUT THE fate of the heroes is only the skeleton of the film. More important are the little moments, the daily life, the portrayal of the various characters of German society.

 

 For example, when a friend visits the apartment where the Jewish family had been living, the blond Aryan woman who was allotted the place complains about the state of the apartment from which the Jews had been fetched and sent to their death: “They didn’t even clean up before they left! That’s how the Jews are, dirty people!”

Everyone lives in constant fear of being denounced. It is a pervading terror, which nobody can escape. Even at the front, with death staring therm in the face, a hint of doubt about the Final Victory uttered by a soldier is immediately silenced by his comrades. “Are you crazy?”     

Even worse is the deadening atmosphere of universal agreement. From the highest officer to the lowliest maid, everybody is repeating endlessly the propaganda slogans of the regime. Not out of fear, but because they believe every word of the all-pervading propaganda machine. They hear nothing else.

It is immensely important to understand this. In the totalitarian state, fascist or communist or whatever, only the very few free spirits can withstand the endlessly repeated slogans of the government. Everything else sounds unreal, abnormal, crazy. When the Soviet army was already fighting its way through Poland and nearing Berlin, people were unwavering in their belief in the Final Victory. After all, the Führer says so, and the Führer is never wrong. The very idea is preposterous. 

It is this element of the situation that is difficult for many people to grasp. A citizen under a criminal totalitarian regime becomes a child. Propaganda becomes for him reality, the only reality he knows. It is more effective than even the terror.

 
THIS IS the answer to the question we cannot abstain from asking again and again: How was the Holocaust possible? It was planned by a few, but it was implemented by hundreds of thousands of Germans, from the engine driver of the train to the officials who shuffled the papers. How could they do it?

They could, because it was the natural thing to do. After all, the Jews were out to destroy Germany. The communist hordes were threatening the life of every true Aryan. Germany needed more living space. The Führer has said so.

 

 That’s why the film is so important, not only for the Germans, but for every people, including our own.

 

People who carelessly play with ultra-nationalist, fascist, racist, or other anti-democratic ideas don’t realize that they are playing with fire. They cannot even imagine what it means to live in a country that tramples on human rights, that despises democracy, that oppresses another people,  that demonizes minorities. The film shows what it is like: hell.

 

THE FILM does not hide that the Jews were the main victims of the Nazi Reich, and nothing comes near their sufferings. But the second victim was the German people, victims of themselves.

Many people insist that after this trauma, Jews cannot behave like a normal people, and that therefore Israel cannot be judged by the standards of normal states. They are traumatized.

This is true for the German people, too. The very need to produce this unusual film proves that the Nazi specter is still haunting the Germans, that they are still traumatized by their past.

When Angela Merkel came this week to see Binyamin Netanyahu, the whole world laughed at the photo of our Prime Minister’s finger inadvertently painting a moustache on the Kanzlerin’s face.

But the relationship between our two traumatized peoples is far from a joke.

——————————————————————–

THE 90 year young URI AVNERY NEVER ENDED HIGH-SCHOOL BUT HE IS NON-DISPUTABLE ISRAEL’S GREATEST JOURNALIST AND MOST FAMOUS EX-MEMBER OF THE KNESSET (PARLIAMENT). WHO COULD SAY WHAT GERMANY LOST – IF NOT FOR HITLER – HE WOULD HAVE HIMSELF BEEN NOW A SECULAR COMPLETELY ASSIMILATED GERMAN?

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 19th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Politics

 

Obama Orders New Efficiency for Big Trucks.

 

 

President Obama announced the development of tough new fuel standards for heavy-duty trucks while in Maryland on Tuesday. Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — President Obama on Tuesday ordered the development of tough new fuel standards for the nation’s fleet of heavy-duty trucks as part of what aides say will be an increasingly muscular and unilateral campaign to tackle climate change through the use of the president’s executive power.

The new regulations, to be drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department by March 2015 and completed a year later so they are in place before Mr. Obama leaves office, are the latest in a series of actions intended to cut back on greenhouse gases without the sort of comprehensive legislation the president failed to push through Congress in his first term.

————————————-

 

 

The limits on greenhouse gas pollution from trucks would combine with previous rules requiring passenger cars and light trucks to burn fuel more efficiently and pending rules to limit the carbon emissions of power plants. Cumulatively, experts said the à la carte approach should enable Mr. Obama to meet his target of cutting carbon pollution in the United States by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. But they said he would still be far short of his goal of an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

Michael Reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency

Obama Delivers Remarks on Economy:

The president spoke at the Safeway Distribution Center in Maryland about efforts to bolster the economy and announced plans for new fuel economy standards for trucks.

 

“Improving gas mileage for these trucks is going to drive down our oil imports even further,” Mr. Obama said at a Safeway grocery distribution center here, flanked by a Peterbilt truck and Safeway and Coca-Cola cabs. “That reduces carbon pollution even more, cuts down on businesses’ fuel costs, which should pay off in lower prices for consumers. So it’s not just a win-win, it’s a win-win-win. We got three wins.”

Not everyone sees it that way. United States car and truck manufacturers have lobbied heavily against aggressive increases in federal fuel economy standards, saying that they could increase vehicle prices and diminish safety. More broadly, Republicans have said that the president should not single-handedly impose what they consider onerous requirements on vast swaths of the energy economy when Congress has opted against its own intervention.

The announcement was part of the President’s vow in his State of the Union address last month to advance his agenda “with or without Congress.” But while most of the actions taken since then have been relatively modest, like ordering a study of job training programs, one area where Mr. Obama both has the power to take more sweeping action and seems intent on using it is the environment.

In the case of carbon pollution, Mr. Obama has the legal authority under the 1970 Clean Air Act, which requires the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate any substance designated as a pollutant that harms or endangers human health. In 2009, the E.P.A. determined that carbon dioxide, emitted in large quantities from tailpipes and smokestacks, meets that definition.

While Mr. Obama effectively gave up on comprehensive climate legislation after it stalled in the Senate in his first term, aides said he saw climate change as an area where he could still shape his legacy. He recruited John D. Podesta, a former White House chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, to join his team as counselor in part to direct a more aggressive approach to the issue.

The administration has recently sought to elevate the issue. Two weeks ago officials announced creation of seven regional “climate hubs” to help farmers adapt to the impact of climate change, like drought and increased pests. Last week in California’s parched Central Valley, Mr. Obama announced a $1 billion “climate resiliency” fund for affected communities. Last weekend while in Jakarta, Secretary of State John Kerry urged Indonesia to sign a major climate treaty and directed American diplomatic missions to make climate change a top priority.

These accompany more assertive actions the administration is taking to reshape the American energy sector. In August the E.P.A. issued rules requiring automakers to double average fleet economy standards for passenger cars to 50.4 miles per gallon by 2025, which the administration said would cut carbon pollution from vehicles in half.

In September the E.P.A. proposed new rules cutting carbon pollution from future coal-fired power plants, a move that has effectively frozen construction of new coal plants. Mr. Obama has directed the E.P.A. to produce by June a draft regulation targeting existing coal plants, a deeply controversial move that could shutter hundreds of facilities.

“They have to do the actions at home to show the rest of the international community that they’re doing the actions they need the rest of the world to do,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, a Washington research organization.

But environmental advocates warn that the E.P.A. rules will be effective only if they withstand legal and legislative efforts to undo them, which is why they want Mr. Obama to be more energetic about selling them to the public. “If you make a push purely on the executive action front and you don’t back it up with measures to bolster public support, a lot of this can crumble under a new administration,” said Michael Levi, a climate change expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

————————-

Specialists like Mr. Levi also note that no matter what the United States does on its own, it may not matter if Washington fails to persuade other nations, like China and India, to commit to similar actions, which is Mr. Kerry’s assignment.

In his speech here Tuesday, Mr. Obama said that heavy-duty trucks represent just 4 percent of all vehicles on American highways but generate 20 percent of the carbon pollution produced by the transportation sector.

Environmentalists applauded Mr. Obama’s move. Michelle Robinson, director of the clean vehicles program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said improving fuel efficiency of heavy-duty trucks could reduce oil consumption by as much as one million barrels a day in 2035, more than the capacity of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

A coalition of shippers that stand to benefit from lower fuel costs, including FedEx, Wabash National Corporation and Waste Management Inc., welcomed the president’s action and released its own suggestions to shape the administration’s new regulations.

“This collaborative approach will result in realistic, achievable goals and an effective regulatory framework to improve fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Douglas W. Stotlar, president of Con-way Inc., the nation’s third-largest freight company and a member of the coalition.

The American Trucking Association took a more cautious view, saying that it had worked with the administration on previous rules. “As we begin this new round of standards, A.T.A. hopes the administration will set forth a path that is both based on the best science and research available and economically achievable,” said Bill Graves, the association’s chief executive.

Mr. Obama pointed to what he called an emerging consensus. “If rivals like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola or U.P.S. and FedEx or AT&T and Verizon, if they can join together on this, then maybe Democrats and Republicans can do the same,” he said.

 

Peter Baker reported from Upper Marlboro, Md., and Coral Davenport from Washington.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 17th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From:

 

Fossil Free NYC Open House
Fossil Free NYC: A Divestment Open House
Wednesday, February 26th, 7- 9pm
New York Society for Ethical Culture
2 West 64th St, NY, NY
(Near Columbus Circle & Lincoln Center)


(** Rain/snow date is 2/27 – hope we don’t need it!)

——–

We are excited that our long-awaited Fossil Free NYC Open House will take place in just over a week.  We are building a movement to shift investment away from the big fossil fuel companies and we need your voice and your action to make this a truly effective campaign. Please RSVP to let us know you plan to join us and help us spread the word.

RSVP to the Open House and learn more about the Fossil Free NYC divestment campaign on the 350NYC website.  Please share this email and our Facebook invitation to the event with your friends.

On February 26th, join 350NYC and partners for an Open House  to launch a fossil fuel divestment campaign in New York City. One by one, cities around the world are making the commitment to divest from fossil fuels and we want New York City to be a leader in this effort.  Come learn what this important movement means for our communities, get the latest news on what’s happening with the city campaign, and how you and your organization can help create a Fossil Free NYC. Join with us to become part of the solution for a sustainable future for all.

If it’s wrong for coal, oil and gas companies to wreck the climate, then it’s wrong for NYC to profit from that wreckage.

You can take action right now to send a message and influence our elected leaders.
Sign the divestment petition to Comptroller Scott Stringer and learn about the Fossil Free NYC Campaign

Event is free and open to the public. RSVP encouraged but not required.
Hosted by New York Society for Ethical Culture.
Co-sponsored by Responsible Endowments Coalition, GreenFaith, and the NYC Grassroots Alliance

 “It is clear that cities and local governments – whose citizens will bear the brunt of impacts from the climate crisis – should refuse to financially benefit from fossil fuels and should seriously consider the future volatility of those assets. We shouldn’t be funding our retirement by investing in companies whose operations ensure we won’t have a safe planet to retire on.” -Mayor’s Innovation Project

 

 

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

They had a meeting on February 10th and want you to watch he video. They just do not want to know that we have a Global Warming phenomenon that does not allow us to continue gorging on oil and gas. All what the gluttons of CATO want to see is how the US can now export oil and gas and they make a lot of money by doing so – the hell with the World is what they mean to say.

Boom to Bust? How Export Restrictions Imperil America’s Oil and Gas Bonanza

Policy Forum
February 10, 2014 11:30AM
Hayek Auditorium
Featuring James Bacchus, Former WTO Appellate Body Jurist and Former U.S. Congressman; Scott Lincicome, Cato Institute Adjunct Scholar and International Trade Attorney; and Mark Perry, Professor of Economics, University of Michigan–Flint, and American Enterprise Institute Scholar; moderated by Daniel Ikenson, Director, Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, Cato Institute.

A once-in-a-generation supply shock is transforming global energy markets, lowering crude oil and natural gas prices, and quickly making the United States the world’s largest producer of oil and gas. But energy politics threatens to short-circuit this American economic boom. Of immediate concern are federal regulations — in particular, discretionary export-licensing systems for natural gas and crude oil — that were implemented during the 1970s, an era of energy scarcity. By restricting exports and subjecting approvals to the whims of politicians, the current licensing systems distort energy prices and deter investment and employment in these promising sectors of the U.S. economy. They also irritate global trading partners, likely violate U.S. trade treaty obligations, and undermine other U.S. policy objectives. Ernest Moniz, President Obama’s energy secretary, recently stated that these export restrictions are deserving of “some new analysis and examination in the context of… an energy world that is no longer like the 1970s.” Please join us at the Cato Institute for our examination of these issues.

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Green Prophet Headlines – El Gouna: Egypt builds MENA’s first carbon-neutral city

Link to Green Prophet

 


 

El Gouna: Egypt builds MENA’s first carbon-neutral city

 

Posted: 15 Feb 2014 09:23 PM PST

 

el gouna carbon neutral city EgyptEl Gouna, a resort city on Egypt’s Red Sea Riviera, is set to become the first carbon-neutral city in that nation, in Africa, and likely the entire Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. Masdar City, in continuing development in Abu Dhabi, initially targeted zero-carbon status, but has yet to hit that goal.
Image of El Gouna from Shutterstock

 

The ambitious development agreement was signed last week by the Egyptian Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs, the Italian Ministry of Environment and El Gouna City.

 

Dr. Laila Iskandar, Egyptian Minister of State for Environmental Affairs, told Trade Arabia, “This agreement will help the Egyptian government to achieve a significant breakthrough in the fields of environment and tourism, enhancing Egypt’s global image and opening the door for Egyptian tourism projects and cities to rank among the leading carbon-neutral entities.”

 

El Gouna is already hailed as Egypt’s most environmentally-friendly vacation destination.  It’s captured Green Globe and Travelife certifications and was selected as the pilot location for the Green Star Hotel Initiative (GSHI).

 

Launched in 2007, GSHI is a cooperative effort between public and private sectors, the Egyptian and German tourism industries, and supported by key technical consultants.  They promote use of environmental management systems and environmentally sound operations to improve environmental performance and to increase competitiveness of the Egyptian hotel industry.

 

Priority projects include conservation of natural resources such as clean beaches, healthy marine life and protected areas, which are the backbone of the Red Sea Riviera and the nation’s eco-tourism market.

 

Mr. Hisham Zaazou, Egyptian Minister of Tourism, told Trade Arabia, “We will also be working on implementing this project in other Egyptian cities.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 8th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Last night, Friday February 7, 2014, the day of the truly brilliant opening of the Sochi Putin Olympics, here at the UN, present Russia’s true face was shown by its Representative to the UN Olympics – the SDG games – by saying NYET to the idea that Peace, Rule of Law and Good Governance are a main Requirement for Sustainability – as Russia led the weak Despotic Islamic States claiming that National Sovereignty under UN rules precludes us from looking into the Democracy status of UN Member States.

According to the Russians it seems that the greatest achievements of the UN – The Declaration of Human Rights (HR) and The Responsibility To Protect (R2P) are just fictions in the imagination of the Progressive World that shatter when hitting the wall of CULTURE in States of a different Tradition.

So why do the Russians fight the Islamists within their own fiction of a Federation while leading them at the UN? Czar Putin, who on the face of it leads Russia into the modern World, at the same time puts it back into the block of traditionalist Dark Ages of Religion-leading-the-poor into submission?

By the end of the 8th Session of the OWG for the SDGs, when the Hungatian and Kenian co-chairs read the Summary of the week’s discussions that included presentations from Member States, International Agencies and Civil Society, the above mentioned States wanted to express their objections to the non-binding wording of the Summary -by that is the above mentioned Islamic countries led by Pakistan in the absence of Russia – announced they want to speak but were told to submit in writing with the co-chair promising that the letters will be attached to the two pages of the Summary. That was a great move by the co-chairs who toiled very hard during the week to show that Rule OF Law is much better then Rule BY Law which could be understood as giving Apartheid, or God-forbids if Nazism, the cover of Law. The UN was founded to serve much higher ideal – not the interests of Oil-family Saudis or political technocrats Soviets.

In fact – we have found the meeting’s side event of that day – reserved by the El Salvador Delegation (current Vice Chairs of ECOSOC), and with the participation of the only ECOSOC NGO from Turkey – the Journalists and Writers Foundation and the New York based Peace Islands Institute – with speakers from the New York Academe – most relevant to the understanding how the UN, by allowing itself being exploited by autocratic governments – through wrongly designed Foreign Aid programs that bend to the notion of government knows best pushers – does in effect exacerbate global problems – such as climate change and poverty – while enriching the autocrats. When funds are given after a disaster – and distributed via the Member State government bureaucracy – in effect it cuts off interest in preventing money making disasters. The obvious conclusion is thus that if you want to help the people do this only if you can help create an activity that reaches out directly to the poor and to those that are impacted directly. Here you have to reach directly to  governance structure on the ground level. this clearly means entering the Sovereignty area in order to build a way of helping with problem solving talking to those that really know and have the interest to help themselves. In the end – if you help them you also help yourselves in the donor countries because of the global interdependence – the most basic planetary fact today.

 

Latest News

By JULIET MACUR

As the Olympics began, Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, made some telling points that sounded like sharp digs at Russia’s president.

By STEVEN LEE MYERS

Russian authorities detained at least 61 people on Friday for holding unauthorized protests, underscoring the government’s efforts to stifle dissent.

—————

We give here the NYT links – but to read these you will have to sign up with them. That is the business of the Olympics. Free you can get the NBC TV reporting which in Manhattan is on channel 4. There you can follow the sports and some of what happens around them.

—————

But let me add here the first impression from Putin’s Sochi:

“With an outsize extravaganza that reached deep into the repertory of classical music and ballet, traversed the sights and sounds of the world’s largest geopolitical expanse, soared into outer space and swept across millenniums of history in a celebration of everything from czarist military might to Soviet monumentalism, a swaggering, resurgent Russia turned its Winter Olympic aspirations into reality on Friday night.”

So, why does Russia have to feel insecure and become head to the dog pack at the UN? Why not rather join the Lyons instead?

Why instruct the Ambassador to the UN to take this – don’t mix into our private affairs position – when we are so great but bothered by terrorists in parts of our own territory? Does that point at a self-secure head of State?

If the re-narration of history in the opening ceremony at Sochi occasionally involved some breezing past inconvenient episodes — the Stalinist purges that killed millions, for instance, and the gulags that imprisoned and killed millions more — the ceremony was, in many respects, the introduction to the world of a re-created Russia, one far different from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that hosted the Summer Games in Moscow in 1980.

The national anthem played to the crowd of 40,000 in the stadium and heard by billions more watching on television around the world was the same music played nearly 35 years ago. But the lyrics have been rewritten, with lines about “the united, mighty Soviet Union” and “the great Lenin” replaced by references to “Russia — our sacred homeland” and “wide spaces, for dreams and for living.”

We also found it interesting – the Games were largely financed by Russia’s oil and gas wealth, and by many of the billionaires, so-called oligarchs, who have profited most handsomely from it.

But above all – considering the 20th Century in Europe and remembering it was defined by two terrible regimes – the Right-Wing ideology of Nazism-Fascism and the National Bolshevism masquerading as a proletarian movement, I nevertheless am obligated to recognize that personally – a born Jew – I am still alive thanks to the goodness of the Russian people. It was the Soviets that stopped the Nazi killing machine – not the Americans – though later they also busied themselves with old style Antisemitism as well – for Stalin everything was a soul-less game – and nothing rational about that. Putin grew up under Stalin and as former KGB officer may have picked up some genetic strains that hinder his efforts at really doing the best we believe he would have wanted to do for what he sees as his charges. He is proud of being an ethnic  Russian, of the historic achievements of his people – even if they are active now outside Russia – and tried to get their backing for this Sochi show-case he worked on for over 7 years. This realization makes it so much harder for us to accept Russia’s recent position at the UN.

###

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

 

Are we one step closer to Obama green lighting the keystone pipeline? (photo: AP)
Are we one step closer to Obama green lighting the keystone pipeline? (photo: AP)

 

Keystone XL Pipeline Closer to Reality After State Department Review.

By Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian UK

01 February 2014

 

• Review: no significant effect on carbon emissions likely
• Campaigners hope Obama will say no to crude-oil project

 

he Keystone XL, a mundane pipeline project that escalated into a bitter proxy war over climate change and North America’s energy future, moved one important step closer to reality on Friday.

The State Department, in its final environmental review of the project, concluded that the pipeline, which would carry crude from the Alberta tar sands in Canada to refineries on the Texas Gulf coast, would not – on its own – have a “significant” effect on carbon pollution.

The report acknowledged that crude from the tar sands was 17% more carbon intensive than conventional oil. But it said that did not mean that the project on its own would worsen climate change by expanding production from the tar sands.

“The approval or denial of any single given project is unlikely to significantly affect the extraction of the oil sands,” Kerri-Ann Jones, assistant secretary of state, said during a conference call with reporters.

The finding clears the way for President Barack Obama to approve a project that has became a highly charged symbol of the fight over North America’s energy future. But he is under no deadline. The State Department said that the environmental impact statement it released on Friday was not an automatic guarantee Keystone XL would be completed.

“It’s only part of what we need to look at in order to make this important decision,” Jones said. She said that the decision-making process would also examine issues of energy security, foreign policy and economic interests, along with climate change.

Eight government agencies and the public now have 90 days to weigh in on the project. Secretary of State John Kerry, who worked on climate change for years in the Senate, will also have a say. The final decision rests with Obama, who will determine whether Keystone XL is in the US national interest.

But after five years of wrangling and delays, it now appears increasingly likely that TransCanada will be able to build the pipeline.

“If anything I would hope we would see a shorter time frame rather than a longer time frame,” Russ Girling, TransCanada’s chief executive, told reporters. “My view is that the 90 days could be truncated significantly because I do believe that a lot of the inter-agency consultation has already taken place.”

Girling said it would take two full years to build the pipeline, once it had final approval.

The State Department, in Friday’s report, essentially concluded that Keystone would have little material effect on greenhouse gas emissions and that Canada would continue to develop and ship tar sands crude with or without the pipeline.

“Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude at refineries in the United States,” the review said.

The review included models suggesting that transporting oil by rail would generate even more greenhouse gas emissions than a pipeline, and also discussed measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the pipeline.

“The facts do support this project. The science continues to show that this project can and will be built safely,” Girling said. “It will have a minimal effect on the environment and it will not significantly impact carbon emissions.”

The finding came as a bitter disappointment to environmental groups and some Democratic members of Congress, who had urged Obama to reject the pipeline.

“Even though the State Department continues to downplay clear evidence that the Keystone XL pipeline would lead to tar sands expansion and significantly worsen carbon pollution, it has, for the first time, acknowledged that the proposed project could accelerate climate change,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, a campaigner for the Natural Resources Defence Council.

“Piping the dirtiest oil on the planet through the heart of America would endanger our farms, our communities, our fresh water and our climate. This is absolutely not in our national interest.”

The campaign against Keystone XL has become a national movement over the last three years, with environmental activists, Nebraska landowners and hedge fund managers all coming out against the project. In 2012, Obama, under pressure from landowners concerned about underground water sources and sensitive prairie, rejected the first proposed route for the pipeline across Nebraska.

The White House continued to come under pressure from environmental campaigners. Former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer took out television ads on Tuesday, the night of Obama’s state of the union address, attacking Keystone XL, and other wealthy Democratic donors wrote open letters to the White House seeking to shut down the project.

The pipeline would eventually double the amount of crude oil being shipped from Alberta’s tar sands.

Campaign groups argued it would open up a vast store of carbon and tie North America more closely to a fossil fuel future. The climate scientist James Hansen said building Keystone XL would be “game over” for the planet.

Industry groups and supporters said the project would help protect America’s energy supplies and provide jobs.

Republicans in Congress – joined by some Democrats in conservative or oil-producing states – put forward legislation to compel Obama to move on the pipeline. They also warned that rejection of Keystone XL would damage relations with Canada, which has lobbied hard for the project.

Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, built his economic strategy around natural resource extraction – despite its toll on the climate. The Canadian government, in a report to the United Nations last September, estimated its carbon emissions will soar 38% by 2030, largely because of the development of the tar sands.

Others argued that opponents had oversold the importance of Keystone XL as a contributor to future climate change. They said Obama’s commitment to cutting carbon pollution from power plants – the single biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions – would have a far greater impact on the climate.

Obama said last June that he would base his decision on the project’s carbon pollution impacts.

Some campaigners said they hoped Friday’s finding would still provide enough leeway for a refusal.

“The State Department has given Obama all the room he needs to do what he promised in both campaigns: to take serious steps against global warming,” said Bill McKibben, the co-founder of 350.org, which led the fight against the pipeline. “Now we’ll see if he’s good for his word.”

But Obama has been consistent in trying to move on climate change while expanding fossil fuel development, much to the frustration of campaigners who say the two policies are incompatible. In his state of the union address, Obama gave strong support to natural gas development, but made no mention of Keystone.

The State Department had conducted two earlier environmental reviews of the project. Last March, it found that if Obama rejected the pipeline Alberta crude would go to market by rail or other pipelines. But it revisited the issue under criticism from the Environmental Protection Agency, which said the early reviews had not been broad enough.

The State Department is awaiting a separate report from its inspector general, into allegations by environmental groups that a contractor’s review was biased because of connections to TransCanada and the oil industry.

“It seems like it’s been very influenced by industry and that’s highly problematic,” said Scott Parkin, senior campaigner at Rainforest Action Network.

Activists immediately called a series of protests against the decision.

Nearly 80,000 people have signed up to commit civil disobedience to stop approval of the pipeline, said Elijah Zarlin, senior campaign manager at Credo.

“If the State Department is recommending to the president that this is in the national interest, that would trigger action,” he said.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 26th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

Kumi Naidoo | Don’t Bet on Coal and Oil Growth
Kumi Naidoo, Reader Supported News
Naidoo writes: “A mind-boggling sum of about $800 for each person on the planet is invested into fossil fuel companies through the global capital markets alone. … The amount of money invested into the 200 biggest fossil fuel companies through financial markets is estimated at 5.5 trillion dollars. This should be an impressive amount of money for anyone reading this.”
READ MORE

 

How the Coal Industry Impoverishes West Virginia
Omar Ghabra, The Nation
Ghabra writes: “There’s a joke circulating among Syrians who fled the brutal conflict devastating their country to the quiet mountains of West Virginia: ‘We escaped the lethal chemicals in Syria only for them to follow us here.’ Of course, what’s happening in West Virginia right now is no laughing matter.”
READ MORE

———-

By Kumi Naidoo, Reader Supported News

 

25 January 14

 

mind-boggling sum of about $800 for each person on the planet is invested into fossil fuel companies through the global capital markets alone. That’s roughly 10 percent of the total capital invested in listed companies. The amount of money invested into the 200 biggest fossil fuel companies through financial markets is estimated at 5.5 trillion dollars. This should be an impressive amount of money for anyone reading this.

 

By keeping their money in coal and oil companies, investors are betting a vast amount of wealth, including the pensions and savings of millions of people, on high future demand for dirty fuels. The investment has enabled fossil fuel companies to massively raise their spending on expanding extractable reserves, with oil and gas companies alone (state-owned ones included) spending the combined GDP of Netherlands and Belgium a year, in belief that there will be demand for ever more dirty fuel.

 

This assumption is being challenged by recent developments, which is good news for climate but bad news for anyone who thought investing in fossil fuel industries was a safe bet. Frantic growth in coal consumption seems to be coming to an end much sooner than predicted just a few years ago, with China’s aggressive clean air policies, rapidly dropping coal consumption in the U.S. and upcoming closures of many coal plants in Europe. At the same time the oil industry is also facing slowing demand growth and the financial and share performance of oil majors is disappointing for shareholders.

 

Nevertheless, even faced with weakening demand prospects, outdated investment patterns are driving fossil fuel companies to waste trillions of dollars in developing reserves and infrastructure that will be stranded as the world moves beyond 20th century energy.

 

A good example is coal export developments. The large recent investment in coal export capacity in all key exporter countries was based on the assumption of unlimited growth of Chinese demand. When public outrage over air pollution reached a new level in 2012-2013, the Chinese leadership moved swiftly to mandate absolute reductions in coal consumption, and banned new coal-fired power plants in key economic regions. A growing chorus of financial analysts is now projecting a peak in Chinese coal demand in the near future, which seemed unimaginable just a couple of years ago. This new reality has already reduced market capitalization of export focused coal companies. Even in China itself, investment in coal-fired power plants has now outpaced demand growth, leading to drops in capacity utilization.

 

Another example of potentially stranded assets is found in Europe, where large utilities ignored the writing on the wall about EU moves to price carbon and boost renewable energy. Betting on old business models and the fossil-fuel generation, they built a massive 80 gigawatts of new fossil power generation capacity in the last 10 years, much of which is already generating losses and now risk becoming stranded assets.

 

Arctic oil drilling is possibly the ultimate example of fossil companies’ unfounded confidence in high future demand. Any significant production and revenue is unlikely until 2030, and in the meanwhile Arctic drilling faces high and uncertain costs, extremely demanding and risky operations, as well as the prospect of heavy regulation and liabilities when (not if) the first major blowout happens in the region. No wonder the International Energy Agency is skeptical about Arctic oil, assuming hardly any production in the next 20 years. Regardless, Shell has already burnt $5 billion of shareholders’ money on their Arctic gamble.

 

Those investing in coal and oil have perhaps felt secure seeing the global climate negotiations proceed at a disappointing pace. However, the initial carbon crunch is being delivered by increasingly market-driven renewable energy development, and by national level clean energy and energy efficiency policies — such as renewable energy support schemes and emission regulation in Europe, or clean air policies in the U.S. and in China. Global coal demand, and possibly even oil demand, could peak even before a strong climate treaty is agreed.

 

Investors often underestimate their exposure to fossil fuels, particularly indirect exposure through e.g. passively managed pension funds and sovereign debt of strongly fossil fuel dependent states. Assessing exposure, requiring fossil energy companies to disclose and reduce carbon risks, and reducing investments in sunset energy technologies will lead to profitable investment in a world that moves to cleaner and smarter energy systems.

 

Improving competitiveness of renewable energy, growing opposition to destructive fossil fuel projects, concerns on water shortage and the imperative of cutting global CO2 emissions all point in the same direction: Governments, companies and investors should all be planning for a world with declining fossil fuel consumption — not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it makes economic sense. It is the direction the world will be moving to — faster than many yet anticipate.

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

Following our original posting, we watched today the Fareed Zakaria show at CNN/GPS and reporting from Davos – from the World Economy dialogues, he pointed out that 85 people own as much wealth as the lowest 3.5 billion people of the World.

Then he also mentioned that the 5 members of the family that owns Walmart own a disproportionate part of the wealth of the US – to be exact – just as much as 42% of all Americans.

He also said that there were no problem if everybody would improve their economic standing and the few at the top just grow more – but the reality is that the Middle class is receding and the explanation is that we moved from the human based Manufacturing Age to a machine based Manufacturing Age that does not need humans in the production line. This is endemic and this spiral is bound to drive us further down.
Now a big company like Apple employs only 50,000 Americans – so he has a true argument.

Because he mentioned Walmart this triggered my Sustainable Development thinking as I know that the Walmart company is in partnership with Mr. Jigar Shah in order to decrease their expenditure on electricity by allowing him the use of the roofs covering their stores to produce with photovoltaics the electricity they need. In effect they just did what the US government ought to campaign for. If they are so smart they indeed deserve being so rich – and they put the rest of us to shame because we do not have the initiative to improve our lives by ourselves.

In the context of this posting – why do we not rebel against those in Washington that insist the government sends dollars overseas to buy oil when there is no compelling reason to continue this man-made dependency on unneeded resources? Just think what array of industries could spring up from alliances like that of Jigar and Walmart? The whole Davos exercise ought to be reorganized – the apple of the economy is rotten not because of high-tech apples but because of the intentional subsidization of the old low-tech industries and the move to a globalized market that does not allow for globalized sustainability. You can bet safely that the Koch Brothers will push the US deeper in the hole of retardiness – this because it benefits their old ways of making money.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 25th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

Will The GOP Get Away With Its Economic Sabotage?

Dave Johnson

Republicans smell an election opportunity – but only if they can keep the economy down, jobs down and wages down. Most recently to keep people and the economy miserable they filibustered long-term unemployment assistance, and are working to cut back from the meager 26 weeks of assistance the states offer.

The New York Times explains in “States Cutting Weeks of Aid to the Jobless,” “[L]ast July, North Carolina sharply cut its unemployment program, reducing the maximum number of weeks of benefits to 20 from 73 and reducing the maximum weekly benefit as well.”

When North Carolina did this, a huge number of people just gave up looking for work and disappeared from the workforce. This made it look like the unemployment rate went down because only people who are actively looking are counted in the statistics. But what actually occurred was an increased need for food stamps and other aid. This, of course, doesn’t save the government money because, instead of paying unemployment, they are paying for this assistance.

As Republicans explain it, their idea is that people getting unemployment assistance are too “comfortable.” So the have to force these lazy, comfortable people into conditions that are so bad they will take any nasty, low-wage, humiliating, dangerous job. Of course, this means they will work for even less than the people who are already in such jobs. Meanwhile, the reality is that there is only one job for every three people looking for work.

Here is the thing: Obviously cutting this assistance drags down the surrounding economy as even more people can’t pay their mortgage or rent or buy shoes, gas, clothes of even enough food. So local stores have to cut back, causing even more unemployment. Billions are taken out of the economy, things get worse… And now more “red” states are working on doing the same thing.

The Bet Is That The Public Will Blame Democrats

Republicans are betting that voters will blame the “party in power,” which means the party of the president. Our corporate media is complicit in this strategy. If Americans found out that it is Republican filibusters in the Senate and obstruction in the House that keeps bills from even getting a vote that is holding back the economy, they would know who to blame. The media works to keep that a secret.

For example, from the New York Times story cited above:

A federal program supplying extra weeks of benefits to the long-term unemployed expired at the end of 2013, and congressional Democrats failed in an effort to revive it.

Right, It was Democrats who “failed to revive it.” This surely tells voters to hold Democrats responsible for the cutoff of long-term unemployment assistance. With media reports like this, Republicans will win their bet.

While Republicans are doing everything they can to hold back economic recovery, the right’s propaganda machine is blasting out that the economy is terrible. For example, one of the headlines at Drudge this week, “Wall Street Advisor: Actual Unemployment is 37.2%…,” was right there next to the usual drumbeat, “Record 20% of Households on Food Stamps…

The strategy is paying off. This from The Hill: “Boehner touts poll finding more blame Obama for economy than Bush“:

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday used a private meeting with House Republicans to tout polling that suggests that voters now blame President Obama more than former President George W. Bush for the state of the economy.

. . . Republicans, he argued, now have the upper hand when it comes to the economy.

. . . After Obama’s 2012 reelection, according to Winston’s polling, 53 percent of voters said “policies of the past” were causing the nation’s economic problems, while 44 percent blamed policies “of the present.” Polling in November 2013 found those numbers largely reversed; 41 percent blame the policies of the past, while 49 percent blame current policies.

Other Sabotage Examples

Related to this is the ongoing Republican effort to sabotage Obamacare. This Wednesday TPM had this: “Republicans Seek To Sabotage Obamacare With Higher Premiums“:

Conservative wonks and Republican lawmakers are coalescing around a new strategy to sabotage Obamacare by repealing a temporary piece of the law designed to hold down premiums in the event of major market disruptions.

. . . The conservatives are open about the end goal: collapse Obamacare by causing higher premiums on the law’s marketplaces for the newly insured, which progressive experts who support Obamacare agree would occur if the provision is scrapped.

But wait, there’s more. The Guardian reported last month that “State conservative groups plan U.S.-wide assault on education, health and tax.”

Conservative groups across the US are planning a co-ordinated assault against public sector rights and services in the key areas of education, healthcare, income tax, workers’ compensation and the environment, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.

The strategy for the state-level organisations, which describe themselves as “free-market thinktanks”, includes proposals from six different states for cuts in public sector pensions, campaigns to reduce the wages of government workers and eliminate income taxes, school voucher schemes to counter public education, opposition to Medicaid, and a campaign against regional efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

Here’s the strategy: Sabotage things, wait as corporate media doesn’t inform the public who is filibustering and obstructing, let conservative propaganda outlets tell the public to blame Democrats for the terrible suffering and economic catastrophe that result. Over time people really don’t have much choice except to blame the people who the radio and TV and FOX News and all the other outlets tell them to blame: Obama and the Democrats.

The sabotage strategy is starting to become apparent. Brian Beutler at Salon recently wrote this article, “GOP’s ulterior motive on unemployment: Economic sabotage?

Unemployment benefits make people’s lives better and buoy a fragile, but possibly accelerating recovery. Some Republicans are apparently reluctant to give the economy, and by extension the Democrats, a shot in the arm right now.

A while back I posted this at Crooks and Liars, “It’s Economic Sabotage As GOP Obstructs Infrastructure Work” and C&L published this video at the top:

5 Years of Republican Economic Sabotage Explained in 3 Minutes

Rev. Al Sharpton had this on the air:

Here is the Economic Policy Institute, a year ago, in “The congressional GOP has smothered a more rapid economic recovery“:

If this ideologically driven objective of deeply cutting spending is met, this will represent just one more way that the GOP Congress has managed to delay full recovery from the Great Recession. The evidence continues to pile up that these spending cuts, forced on a still-depressed economy, can easily throw the nation back into an outright recession and prolong the nation’s economic misery.

Is this an overly harsh read on the motivations of GOP members of Congress? Not at all. Motivations aside—regardless of whether they deeply believe that their ideological goal of reducing government spending will help the economy or whether they think that a slowed economy will simply help their own electoral prospects—the facts are simply that congressional Republicans have consistently hamstrung efforts that a large consensus of economists agree would have provided crucial help in lowering American unemployment.

[. . .] Conclusion

Concern that the GOP Members of Congress have a vested interest in slowing economic recovery has been brewing for quite some time. Speaking at Cuyahoga Community College ahead of the election, former President Bill Clinton accused congressional Republicans of deliberately trying to keep the unemployment rate elevated for political gain.

Here is Talking Points Memo from June 2012, “Harry Reid Accuses Eric Cantor Of Economic Sabotage“:

It’s a theory that progressives have grown sympathetic to as Republicans make it ever-more difficult for President Obama to govern and thwart initiatives in Congress to stimulate the economy. Democratic operatives have loosely floated the claim in broad ways by suggesting the GOP is hoping for economic failure, but Reid’s pointed accusation took it to a new level.

But these are not the outlets that reach the broad majority of Americans. Will the Republican strategy of economic sabotage win them the House, Senate and maybe even the presidency? If it does succeed, what does this mean for the future of our economy and our country?

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

The Penance of Glenn Beck

 

This week Glenn Beck said something I agree with. (Now, there’s a line I never thought I’d write.)
During an interview on Tuesday with Megyn Kelly of Fox News, Beck reflected on his time at Fox this way:

“I remember it as an awful lot of fun, and that I made an awful lot of mistakes, and I wish I could go back and be more uniting in my language. Because I think I played a role unfortunately in helping tear the country apart. And it’s not who we are. I didn’t realize how really fragile the people were. I thought we were kind of a little more in it together. And now I look back and I realize if we could have talked about the uniting principles a little more, instead of just the problems, I think I would look back on it a little more fondly. But that’s only my role.”

That’s not exactly a Damascus Road conversion, but it is a meaningful confession.

And I applaud Beck for his candid assessment. That doesn’t undo the damage — Beck’s list of sins is long, and some of those sins are beyond absolution — but admitting a mistake is always an admirable act.

—————————————————————-

Launch media viewer

I hope Beck’s confession shines a light on the underbelly of punditry.

————————————————————

Many media personalities are far from noble. As in any field, there are those consumed by ambition and possessed of dubious ethical bearings.

And in an arena where influence is measured by ratings, views and followers, the pressure to increase those metrics can get the better even of men and women with weather vane convictions.

It simply becomes an issue of wealth and power, two of the oldest corrupters in the human experience. Part of the job of opinion makers is to be provocative. One could express it this way: illuminate, elucidate and agitate.

But chasing provocation is a dangerous thing. It often leads you further out on a limb than is wise or safe. Columnists aren’t immune to this problem, either.

In his farewell column, my former colleague Frank Rich lamented the pressures of the pacing of column writing, saying, “That routine can push you to have stronger opinions than you actually have, or contrived opinions about subjects you may not care deeply about, or to run roughshod over nuance to reach an unambiguous conclusion.”

I agree with his assessment, and most of us try diligently to steer clear of the hazards.

But few columnists, least of all the masterly Rich, have ever or could ever come close to the willful recklessness exhibited by Beck.

Among Beck’s greatest hits was his assertion that President Obama is a “racist” who has “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.” This is the same Obama who was born to a white mother and raised in part by his white grandparents.

Beck also joked about wanting to kill Michael Moore, said he had started “hating the 9/11 victims’ families” and called some victims of Hurricane Katrina “scumbags.”

Beck is in a class all his own.

He built a career out of trolling for attention. It was the media equivalent of twerking with a giant foam finger. There seemed to be nothing too outrageous or spurious. And it worked for him.

The problem is that viewers and readers don’t always know that they’re being hustled.

Beck and his colleagues at Fox did their viewers and the country a tremendous disservice, not only riling folks up but outrightly misinforming them.

In 2012, the year after Beck left his Fox show (which at the time was one of the highest-rated shows in all of cable news), a Fairleigh Dickinson PublicMind poll found that people who watched or listened to no news were better informed than those who watched Fox. According to the report, “The largest effect” of a news source “is that of Fox News: all else being equal, someone who watched only Fox News would be expected to answer just 1.04 domestic questions correctly — a figure which is significantly worse than if they had reported watching no media at all.”

(It should be noted that watching MSNBC also had a “negative impact on people’s current events knowledge,” according to the poll, although it was not as large as the effect of watching Fox.) This study is not the only study that has pointed out that misinformation is consumed by Fox News viewers.

Beck practiced a particular brand of dangerous “info-tainment” that reduced complexity and facts to a smelly chum of hyperbole and invectives that did immeasurable damage. Let’s hope he and his fans understand that now.

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

Huckabee Spills the Beans


It’s not often we think about Mike Huckabee. True, he has a talk show. But so does half the world. Kelly Ripa has a talk show. Geraldo Rivera has a talk show. How often do they come up in conversation?

Now, Huckabee is suddenly in the news, thanks to a speech he made at a Republican Party gathering in Washington, in which he dismissed the idea that the G.O.P. has a “war on women” by …

Actually, it’s pretty hard to encapsulate what he said. Here’s the most dramatic part:

“If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it. Let us take that discussion all across America.”

Say what? Basically, Huckabee seems to be telling us that the Republican Party will not insult women by suggesting the federal government should require health insurance policies to include birth control pills in the prescription drug coverage.

He appears confident that women will find that an attractive proposition.

Huckabee was at a meeting of the Republican National Committee that was supposed to be pondering ways to close the gender gap. Instead, he laid bare a fact that the party has always tried desperately to hide — that its anti-abortion agenda is also frequently anti-contraception.

Once upon a time, Republicans took the lead when it came to helping women get access to birth control. Now, the whole party is hostage to an anti-abortion movement that harbors a wide-ranging contempt for sex outside of marriage, combined with a strong streak of opposition to any form of artificial birth control, even for married couples.

“What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right?” Rush Limbaugh said of Sandra Fluke, the law student who was lobbying for inclusion of contraceptives in health care plans. However garbled his language, Huckabee’s control-their-libido harks back to the same mind-set.

This is a super political strategy. Let’s target all the voters who waited until they were married and then practiced the rhythm method.

The Huckabee speech also raises the question of what happened to Mike Huckabee. Remember him in the old days? Like Bill Clinton, he was a popular governor of Arkansas.

Unlike Bill Clinton, he used to fry squirrels in a popcorn popper when he was in college. That has absolutely nothing to do with this story, but I couldn’t resist bringing it up.

Huckabee was always a social conservative — as governor he once tried to stop a mentally retarded girl who had been raped by her stepfather from getting an abortion. But he also signed a law requiring Arkansas employers to cover contraceptives under their insurance plans.

Yes!

This version of Mike Huckabee ran for president in 2008, and he was a front-runner for a while, because he was the most likable candidate. Huckabee was the one who smiled and wanted everybody to get along. He also calmly accepted flak from his opponents for having supported the idea of allowing the children of illegal immigrants to qualify for state scholarships in Arkansas. (“We’re a better country than to punish children for what their parents did.”)

That Mike Huckabee was the author of a book — well, actually he is the author of an entire library of books. But the precampaign book for 2008 was “From Hope to Higher Ground” in which he suggested that the best solution to illegal immigrants was a path to citizenship. (In his to-do lists for readers, he suggested attending a naturalization ceremony — along with buying Girl Scout cookies and always saying “thank you.”)

Well, the lovable Mike lost and went on to a career as a radio commentator and a Fox TV host. Perhaps he wanted to juice ratings. Perhaps he wanted a new path to the presidency in 2016. But over the past five years, as his party got raw and angry and mean, Huckabee got raw and angry and mean.

In his 2011 book “A Simple Government,” he railed about everything from giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship (Amnesty!) to subsidized school breakfasts. He compared President Obama to “an arrogant nerd.”

Last summer, he said that when Muslims go to a mosque to pray “they come out of there like uncorked animals — throwing rocks and burning cars.” After the school massacre at Sandy Hook, Huckabee asked why Americans should be surprised since “we have systematically removed God from our schools.” He later tried to roll that one back a bit.

And there was no backtracking after the “Uncle Sugar” speech. In fact, Huckabee sent an email to his supporters replaying his remarks. Then he asked for a donation.

———————————————

Related in Opinion

Taking Note: Mike Huckabee’s War for Women

———

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 25th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 Questions for the European Left   by Pilar Rahola in The Guardian.
brought to our attention by a Canadian cousin who is very proud of Canada’s position on the Middle East – as expressed by its Prime Minister Harper’s recent visit to Jerusalem.

 


Dr. Pilar Rahola i Martínez is a Spanish journalist, writer (writes also for the Guardian – the paper we honor most) a former politician and Member of Parliament. 

Rahola studied Spanish and Catalan Philology at the Universitad de Barcelona. A Spanish Catholic leftist that denounces the anti Israel wave for its antisemitism – which is not socially acceptable  correct diplomacy anymore, but says anti Israel is the same – but seemingly the more accepted course to go.

Quite a lady.  What she writes is more impressive because she is NOT Jewish.  Her articles are published in Spain and in some of the most important newspapers in Latin America.          en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilar_Rahola

 Questions for the European Left   by Pilar Rahola

Why don’t we see demonstrations against Islamic dictatorships in London, Paris , Barcelona ? 

Or demonstrations against the Burmese dictatorship? 

Why aren’t there demonstrations against the enslavement of millions of women who live without any legal protection? 

Why aren’t there demonstrations against the use of children as human bombs where there is conflict with Islam? 

Why has there been no leadership in support of the victims of Islamic dictatorship in Sudan ? 

Why is there never any outrage against the acts of terrorism committed against Israel ? 

Why is there no outcry by the European left against Islamic fanaticism? 

Why don’t they defend Israel’s right to exist? 

Why confuse support of the Palestinian cause with the defense of Palestinian terrorism? 

And finally, the million dollar question: Why is the left in Europe and around the world obsessed with the two most solid democracies, the United States and Israel, and not with the worst dictatorships on the planet? The two most solid democracies, who have suffered the bloodiest attacks of terrorism, and the left doesn’t care. 

And then, to the concept of freedom. In every pro-Palestinian European forum I hear the left yelling with fervor: “We want freedom for the people!” 

Not true. They are never concerned with freedom for the people of Syria or Yemen or Iran or Sudan, or other such nations. And they are never  preoccupied when Hamas destroys freedom for the Palestinians. They are only concerned with using the concept of Palestinian freedom as a weapon against Israeli freedom. The resulting consequence of these ideological pathologies is the manipulation of the press. 

The international press does major damage when reporting on the question of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. On this topic they don’t inform, they propagandize. 

When reporting about Israel, the majority of journalists forget the reporter code of ethics. And so, any Israeli act of self-defense becomes a massacre, and any confrontation, genocide. So many stupid things have been written about Israel that there aren’t any accusations left to level against her. 

At the same time, this press never discusses Syrian and Iranian interference in propagating violence against Israel, the indoctrination of children, and the corruption of the Palestinians. And when reporting about victims, every Palestinian casualty is reported as tragedy and every Israeli victim is camouflaged, hidden or reported about with disdain. 

And let me add on the topic of the Spanish left. Many are the examples that illustrate the anti-Americanism and anti-Israeli sentiments that define the Spanish left. For example, one of the leftist parties in Spain has just expelled one of its members for creating a pro-Israel website. I quote from the expulsion document: “Our friends are the people of Iran, Libya and Venezuela, oppressed by imperialism, and not a Nazi state like Israel .” 

In another example, the socialist mayor of Campozuelos changed Shoah Day, commemorating the victims of the Holocaust, with Palestinian Nabka Day, which mourns the establishment of the State of Israel, thus showing contempt for the six million European Jews murdered in the Holocaust. 

Or in my native city of Barcelona, the city council decided to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel, by having a Week of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Thus, they invited Leila Khaled, a noted terrorist from the 70′s and current leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist organization so described by the European Union, which promotes the use of bombs against Israel . 

This politically correct way of thinking has even polluted the speeches of President Zapatero. His foreign policy falls within the lunatic left, and onissues of the Middle East, he is unequivocally pro-Arab. I can assure you that in private, Zapatero places on Israel the blame for the conflict in the Middle East , and the policies of Foreign Minister Moratinos reflect this. The fact that Zapatero chose to wear a kafiah in the midst of the Lebanon conflict is no coincidence; it’s a symbol. 

Spain has suffered the worst terrorist attack in Europe and it is in the crosshairs of every Islamic terrorist organization. As I wrote before, they
Kill us with cell phones hooked to satellites connected to the Middle Ages. And yet the Spanish left is the most anti-Israeli in the world. 

And then it says it is anti-Israeli because of solidarity. This is the madness I want to denounce in this conference.

 
 Conclusion: 


I am not Jewish. Ideologically I am left and by profession a journalist. Why am I not anti-Israeli like my colleagues? Because as a non-Jew I have the Historical responsibility to fight against Jewish hatred and currently against the hatred for their historic homeland, Israel .

To fight against anti-Semitism is not the duty of the Jews, it is the duty of the non-Jews. 
 
As a journalist it is my duty to search for the truth beyond prejudice, lies and manipulations. The truth about Israel is not told. As a person from the left who loves progress, I am obligated to defend liberty, culture, civic education for children, coexistence and the laws that the Tablets of the Covenant made into universal principles. 
 
Principles that Islamic fundamentalism systematically destroys. That is to say, that as a non-Jew, journalist and lefty, I have a triple moral duty with Israel, because if Israel is destroyed, liberty, modernity and culture will be destroyed too. 
 
The struggle of Israel, even if the world doesn’t want to accept it, is the struggle of the world.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 PLEASE – REMEMBER PRESIDENT BUSH THE FIRST WHO PROUDLY DECLARED HE DOES NOT EAT BROCCOLI!

———————————————————————————-

 

The Standard American Diet in 3 Simple Charts

| Mon Jan. 20, 2014

US obesity and diabetes rates are among the globe’s very highest. Why? On her blog, the NYU nutritionist and food-politics expert Marion Nestle recently pointed (hat-tip, RealFood.org) to this telling chart on how we spend our grocery money, from the USDA’s Amber Waves publication:

So, we do a pretty good job eating enough potatoes. But the healthier, more brightly colored vegetables like kale and carrots, no so much. We spend four times the amount on refined grains the USDA thinks is proper, and about a fifth of the target expenditure in whole grains. We spend nearly 14 percent of our at-home food budgets on sugar and candies, and another 8 percent on premade frozen and fridge entrees. Whole fruit barley accounts for less than 5 percent of our grocery bill. And so on—a pretty dismal picture.

That chart deals with at-home expenditures. What about our food choices out in the world? The USDA article has more. This chart shows that we’re getting more and more of our sustenance outside of our own kitchens:

And while the article doesn’t offer comparable data to the above at-home chart about expenditures outside the home, it does deliver evidence that our eating out habits are pretty dire as well:

Why do we eat such crap food? The USDA throws up its hands: “Despite the benefits to overall diet quality,” the report states, “it can be difficult to convince consumers to change food preferences.”

But it never pauses top consider the food industry’s vast marketing budget. According to Yale’s Rudd Center, the US fast-food chains like McDonalds, Wendy’s, and Burger King spent $4.6 billion on advertising in 2012. “For context,” Rudd reports, “the biggest advertiser, McDonald’s, spent 2.7 times as much to advertise its products ($972 million) as all fruit, vegetable, bottled water, and milk advertisers combined ($367 million).” I can’t find numbers for the marketing budgets for the gigantic food companies that stock the middle shelves of supermarkets; but according to Advertising Age, Kraft alone spent $683 million on US advertising in 2012.

By contrast, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, the USDA’s sub-agency that “works to improve the health and well-being of Americans by developing and promoting dietary guidance that links scientific research to the nutrition needs of consumers,” had a proposed budget of $8.7 million in 2013.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 19th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

One of the most laudable American goals in negotiating the trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 11 other countries was to strengthen environmental protections around the world. But a draft chapter of the agreement made public last week by WikiLeaks shows that many of the countries involved in the talks are trying to undermine that goal.

American negotiators have sought to make the environmental provisions in the agreement enforceable through a dispute settlement process, an idea that most of the other countries appear to oppose. That list includes countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand that might have been expected to play a more constructive role.

The disagreement is a reminder that this trade agreement is more complex — and in many ways more ambitious — than most. Unlike other agreements that are concerned mainly with lowering import tariffs and quotas, these talks are also trying to set common legal and regulatory standards in areas like the environment, intellectual property, labor rights and state-owned companies.

If done right, agreement on these issues should ease fears that freer trade would lead to greater environmental damage and sweatshop conditions by giving businesses an incentive to ship production and jobs to countries with lower standards. But winning agreement is difficult when a large and diverse group of countries is involved. The other partners are Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, Mexico, Chile and Peru.

American negotiators began including enforceable environmental standards in trade agreements in 2007 as part of a deal between the Bush administration and Senate Democrats. Since then, American trade agreements have asked trading partners not to weaken their environmental laws and required them to carry out commitments they had already made under treaties like the Montreal Protocol, which aims to protect the ozone layer, and a convention on the trade of endangered species and wild plants and animals.

The Pacific nations are now pushing for a process in which nations would consult with one another about environmental disputes and come up with plans to address them. But it would not include penalties, as the American proposal would.

Even as some Trans-Pacific Partnership countries are rejecting binding commitments on environmental issues, they seem perfectly willing to include such provisions in other areas, including rules governing expropriation in which a state seizes the property of private businesses.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative said last week that it would not back down on its environmental agenda. In a statement, it said, “we will insist on a robust, fully enforceable environment chapter in the T.P.P. or we will not come to agreement.”

It is important that American negotiators stick to that policy. And members of Congress, who have to ratify all trade deals, should insist on it.

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 19th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

  • Obama: ‘No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillance programmes’ (Photo: whitehouse.gov)

 

Obama promises not to spy on EU leaders

 

18.01.14  – THE EUobserver – by Andrew Rettman

 

 

 

BRUSSELSUS President Barack Obama has said he will not spy on EU leaders or conduct economic espionage, but will continue snooping on ordinary US and EU citizens.

He made the pledge in a TV speech on Friday (17 January) in reaction to the Edward Snowden leaks.

“I’ve made clear to the intelligence community that unless there is a compelling national security purpose, we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies,” he said.

“We do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to US companies or US commercial sectors,” he added.

He justified the mass-scale collection of information on ordinary US or foreign nationals’ telephone calls, however.

“Why is this necessary? The programme grew out of a desire to address a gap identified after 9/11 … [It] was designed to map the communications of terrorists so we can see who they may be in contact with as quickly as possible,” he noted.

He promised to create a data privacy tsar to implement new safeguards.

The measures, enshrined in an executive order, centre round the future storage of intercepted phone data by an independent agency, which can only be accessed “after a judicial finding or in the case of a true emergency.”

Obama also ordered one of his spy chiefs, James Clapper, to draft better protection for US citizens whose internet data is caught in the NSA’s overseas operations.

He did not give non-US citizens any right of redress in US courts, however.

He also made no reference to the NSA’s most controversial exploits.

He said nothing on its introduction of bugs into commercial encryption software, on burglarising undersea cables, on hacking internet and phone companies, or bugging EU officials.

He also defended America’s right to spy in general.

He said: “The whole point of intelligence is to obtain information that is not publicly available.”

Counter-terrorism aside, he added: “Our intelligence agencies will continue to gather information about the intentions of governments … around the world in the same way that the intelligence services of every other nation does. We will not apologise simply because our services may be more effective.”

He noted that some foreign leaders “feigned surprise” on the Snowden leaks, while others “privately acknowledge” they need the NSA to protect their own countries.

He also claimed the US handling of the Snowden affair shows its respect for democratic values.

“No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillance programmes or Russia to take privacy concerns of citizens in other places into account,” the US President noted.

For its part, the European Commission welcomed Obama’s words in a communique published shortly after he finished speaking.

“President Obama’s remarks and action show that the legitimate concerns expressed by the EU have been listened to by our US partner,” it said.

It promised to push for more, however.

It said it will seek “an improvement of the Safe Harbour scheme,” an EU-US pact on data handling by US firms.

It will also seek “the swift conclusion of an umbrella agreement on data protection in the area of law enforcement that will guarantee enforceable rights for EU citizens, including judicial redress.”

The European Parliament, which held an inquiry into the NSA affair, was more sceptical.

British centre-left deputy Claude Moraes, its NSA rapporteur, said Obama’s reaction is “substantial” but “weighted towards … a concerned US audience.”

He added that “lack of clarity” on the new safeguards mean “his comments may not have been enough to restore confidence.”

German Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht, who also took part in the NSA inquiry, was more critical.

He told EUobserver: “My impression is he [Obama] is making a change in rhetorical terms, not in substance.”

Albrecht said almost all NSA programmes, including Prism, which intercepts data held by internet firms like Google and Microsoft, “will be the same as before, there are no changes.”

He also said people should pay attention to the small print in Obama’s language.

He noted that the ban on spying on friendly “heads of state and government” leaves the US free to spy on lower-rank officials, such as foreign ministers.

He also noted that Obama included numerous “security carve-outs.”

For instance, the NSA can still bug German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone if “there is a compelling national security purpose.”

“European leaders will have to decide if they want to follow him, and lose the trust of their citizens in their ability to safeguard their basic rights,” Albrecht said.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 18th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey speaking at an event hosted by The McCain Institute in Phoenix, Arizona.Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey speaking at an event hosted by The McCain Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Why Governor Chris Christie and His Aides Belong in Handcuffs.

Saturday, 18 January 2014 10:19 By Carl Gibson, Occupy.com

{Are the Christies operated by McCain and the Koch Brothers?}

If Occupy Wall Street protesters get arrested for blocking a bridge to make a larger point, then every member of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s administration should receive at least the same treatment, if not face greater charges.

During his January 9 press conference, Gov. Christie’s explanations of the scandal in which he used his official position to score political payback prove that he’s corrupt, a coward and a bully. He’s a coward for deflecting accountability away from himself to members of his administration.

And he’s a bully for shutting down traffic in a political opponent’s city simply because that public official exercised his First Amendment rights to support a gubernatorial candidate other than Christie. But this is just the latest incident in Christie’s long career of cowardice, bullying and corruption.

As Ezra Klein wrote, Gov. Christie has a staffer who is paid to follow him around with a camera, record him bullying his constituents, and proudly post the videos on YouTube. One clip showed Gov. Christie shouting Keep walking! Keep walking! to a constituent who was criticizing him openly.

Another incident involved Christie shouting at a teacher who dared to criticize him at a campaign rally. There’s no reason to engage in such buffoonery as governor of a state unless you are actively trying to cultivate a tough-guy political image.

One of the most cowardly ways Christie exercised his executive power was by setting the date for the special election for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the late Senator Frank Lautenberg, which popular Newark Mayor Cory Booker had already said he would seek. The three dates Christie could have chosen for the election were a Tuesday in November 2014, a Tuesday in November 2013, or a date of his choosing.

While Christie said he went with the last choice – October 15 – in order for the election to be held as soon as possible, it’s been widely speculated that he chose the date so he wouldn’t have to share a ballot with Booker in November, which would have provoked a much higher turnout for State Senator Barbara Buono, Christie’s gubernatorial opponent.

Christie’s most nakedly corrupt acts as governor was in using his executive power to remove a public official from office for opposing one of his campaign contributor’s projects. On January 10, the New Jersey Pineland Commission is set to vote on controversial pipeline that will run through state protective land, possibly harming residents nearby and threatening protected plants and wildlife.

On December 13, one of Christie’s deputy attorney generals removed Ed Lloyd, an environmental law professor, from the Pinelands Commission accusing him of having a conflict of interest in the upcoming vote. Lloyd’s firing came without due process and resulted in a weakening of the opposition bloc – which makes the close vote on the 15-member board this Friday even closer.

Normally, the commission will favor projects if they are built for the public good. But in this case, the two-foot-wide, 10-mile-long gas pipeline is solely for the profit of South Jersey Gas and Rockland Capital, which is financing the pipeline. In the 2009 election, Rockland Capital president Joseph Lambert donated $3,400 to Christie’s campaign.

While campaign finance records haven’t yet been made public for the 2013 New Jersey gubernatorial election, it’s probable that Lambert and other officials at Rockland and South Jersey had a financial stake in Christie’s success. And Lloyd’s removal from the Pinelands Commission, in which he claims there was no conflict of interest, likely resulted from Gov. Christie using executive power to improve his sponsor’s chances at getting rich.

What Chris Christie has in common with bullies is that he steals kids’ lunch money to give to his rich friends. Since he was inaugurated in 2010, Christie has cut public education by $1 billion, while giving out $2.1 billion in corporate tax breaks – half a billion more than the state previously gave out in the last ten years combined. The most recent corporate tax break bill Gov. Christie signed made it even easier for corporations to have access to public money.

             The bill, the New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act of 2013, expanded from 47 pages to 82 pages, and once it go to                     Gov. Christie’s desk he vetoed it and told the legislature he wouldn’t pass it unless language was taken out that                   guaranteed prevailing wages for the employees of companies receiving the tax breaks.

The bill’s key sponsor, Rep. Al Coutinho (D-Essex), was just as corrupt himself. Christie signed the tax breaks into law a week after Coutinho resigned as a result of pleading guilty to stealing money from his family’s foundation.

As a consequence of Christie’s education cuts, schools in New Jersey have been forced to cut AP and Honors classes, make kids pay to participate in extra-curricular activities, and lay off staff like coaches, teacher assistants and janitors.

It is despicable for a public official like Gov. Christie to exercise state powers to help friends and scorn opponents, and anyone who does this should must not only lose his or her office, but also face criminal charges. When Christie shut down lanes on the George Washington Bridge to punish Fort Lee’s mayor for not supporting his re-election bid, he and everyone who followed his orders should be arrested – just as Occupy Wall Street activists were when we blocked bridges in acts of civil disobedience.

On November 17, 2011, I helped organize the blocking of the Travis Street Bridge in downtown Houston, Texas, during evening rush hour traffic. The action I was part of was also taking place in major cities across the country, where roughly 1,000 people were arrested in acts of civil disobedience, speaking out about the importance of fixing unemployment by repairing crumbling infrastructure like bridges.

But unlike members of Christie’s administration, these activists were private citizens peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights to make a larger political point. Christie, on the other hand, was spitefully using his power as a public official to bully a political opponent.

When will top Christie aide Bridget Anne Kelly face criminal charges for emailing “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” and doing it from her Yahoo account instead of her work account? When will we see those responsible for maliciously shutting down a critical national thoroughfare face the consequences for a petty, political act that ruined the days of everyone involved in those traffic jams? If the state puts political activists in handcuffs for shutting down bridges, it should do the same to governors and the minions who do their bidding.

———————————————————–

Carl Gibson – Carl Gibson, 25, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary “We’re Not Broke,” which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact Carl at  usuncut[at]gmail[dot]com, and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 What India does in its own country is India’s business, and ethical people all over the world are entitled to express an opinion about how India handles its social system – BUT when India comes to an outside country – they must submit to the laws of that country where they are mere guests. When they go to a State where there is even more discrimination then in their home country – the Indians ought then to behave among themselves at a minimum according to their own mores – this we include for the sake of Indian homes in Arab States.

Above ought to be rock substance for a US paper of the New York Times stature. Any pussifooting around on this just reminds us of worse days for this paper – the days of its refusal to look at the Holocaust for fear of  alienating some perceived American interests.

——————————————–

India-America Relations on Edge.

The Indian diplomat charged with visa fraud and mistreating her domestic worker is back in Mumbai, and tensions between India and the United States have eased. But her case and the issues it raised are not resolved, and the damage to India-America relations is unlikely to dissipate soon. This unfortunate episode is a reminder that while both nations are democracies, neither can avoid the hard work necessary to make the relationship work.

The envoy, Devyani Khobragade, was arrested last month on a criminal complaint charging that she had paid her maid, Sangeeta Richard, $1.42 an hour or less despite promising on her visa application to pay the minimum wage of $9.75 an hour. Prosecutors said that Ms. Richard was not only underpaid but overworked. Last Thursday, a federal grand jury indicted Ms. Khobragade on similar charges and accused her of trying to intimidate the victim.

India, its passions fanned by election-year politics, pushed back hard at what many Indians said was American arrogance. Authorities removed security barriers at the American Embassy in New Delhi, canceled the embassy’s food and alcohol import privileges and engaged in other fits of pique. The State Department, at India’s request, granted Ms. Khobragade diplomatic immunity. But after negotiations with prosecutors on a plea bargain failed, she was asked to leave the United States and, in exchange, an American diplomat was withdrawn from India.

Ms. Khobragade has been hailed at home as a symbol of Indian pride. Her father, a retired bureaucrat and her chief defender, is talking of running for public office with a campaign focused on his daughter’s case. Indians have been overwhelming sympathetic to Ms. Khobragade and shockingly indifferent to Ms. Richard, one of untold numbers of powerless domestic workers lured to America by the promise of a job gone bad.

Even so, the case might have been handled better. The United States cannot ignore laws that mandate how workers should be paid and that they be treated fairly. But federal prosecutors have wide discretion, and the State Department, before the criminal investigation, could have urged India to reassign Ms. Khobragade to New Delhi and required her to make restitution.

The United States has to make sure that foreign diplomats understand American laws, although the indictment says that this defendant knew exactly what she was doing. America should also re-examine its own demands for special privileges for its diplomats overseas. More broadly, the case has exposed differences between the two countries over such basic concepts as fairness and equality, while revealing a troubling level of Indian animosity toward the United States. The two governments are trying to turn the page by resuming high-level meetings. But it will take more than that to achieve the “global strategic partnership” with India that President Obama has boasted about.

###