China Takes On Big Risks in Its Push for Shale Gas.
Chinese Fireball Mystery – Jonah M. Kessel, The New York Times, Photography.
China’s largest energy company has made the country’s first commercially viable shale gas discovery, but the path to energy independence is fraught with risks, as one town has seen first-hand.
JIAOSHIZHEN, China — Residents of this isolated mountain valley of terraced cornfields were just going to sleep last April when they were jolted by an enormous roar, followed by a tower of flames. A shock wave rolled across the valley, rattling windows in farmhouses and village shops, and a mysterious, pungent gas swiftly pervaded homes.
“It was so scary — everyone who had a car fled the village and the rest of us without cars just stayed and waited to die,” said Zhang Mengsu, a hardware store owner.
All too quickly, residents realized the source of the midnight fireball: a shale gas drilling rig in their tiny rural hamlet.
This verdant valley represents the latest frontier in the worldwide hunt for shale gas retrievable by the technology of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. It is a drilling boom that has upended the energy industry and spurred billions of dollars of investment.
Like the United States and Europe, China wants to wean itself from its dependence on energy imports — and in Jiaoshizhen, the Chinese energy giant Sinopec says it has made the country’s first commercially viable shale gas discovery. Its efforts could also help address another urgent issue, as Beijing looks to curb an overwhelming reliance on coal that has blackened skies and made China the largest contributor to global warming.
But the path to energy independence and a cleaner fossil fuel is fraught with potential pitfalls. Threats to workplace safety, public health and the environment all loom large in the shale gas debate — and the question is whether those short-term risks threaten to undermine China’s long-term goal.
The energy industry around the world has faced criticism about the economic viability of vast shale projects and the environmental impact of the fracking process. But interviews with residents of six hamlets here where drilling is being done, as well as with executives and experts in Beijing, the United States and Europe, suggest that China’s search poses even greater challenges.
In China, companies must drill two to three times as deep as in the United States, making the process significantly more expensive, noisier and potentially more dangerous. Chinese energy giants also operate in strict secrecy; they rarely engage with local communities, and accidents claim a high death toll.
The still-disputed incident in Jiaoshizhen has raised serious concerns among its residents.
Villagers said that employees at the time told them that eight workers died when the rig exploded that night. Sinopec officials and village leaders then ordered residents not to discuss the event, according to the villagers. Now villagers complain of fouled streams and polluted fields.
“There was a huge ball of fire,” said Liu Jiazhen, a mustard greens farmer with three children who lives a five-minute walk from the site. “The managers here all raced for their lives up the hill.”
Ms. Liu said that the flames rose higher than the pines on a nearby ridge, covering the steel frame of the rig, which is nearly 100 feet high. The flames burned for hours, she said.
Sinopec describes the incident as a controlled flaring of gas and denies that anybody died. While the company would not speak in detail about its shale projects, Sinopec said it ran its operations safely and without harm to the environment.
Li Chunguang, the president of Sinopec, said in an interview in late March that nothing had gone wrong in Jiaoshizhen. “There is no basis for this,” he said.
The bustling activity in Jiaoshizhen indicates a significant find for Sinopec.
Feeder pipes connect some of the dozen or so drilling sites, and 100 more wells are planned. Bright blue, boxy equipment for gas compression is being installed on large, flat lots next to at least two of the drilling rigs. A two-lane road has been paved across a mountain pass from Fuling, the nearest city, to help carry the 1,100 truckloads of steel, cement and other supplies needed for each well.
The valley has been so isolated for centuries that residents of its 16 hamlets still speak a dialect that is distinct even from Fuling, 13 miles away. Jiaoshizhen had only two-story concrete buildings and single-story mud brick farmhouses last August; Sinopec workers lived in trailers while managers rented the upstairs of concrete homes. On a visit six months later, at least 20 tower cranes were erecting high-rises.
The gas field in Jiaoshizhen “is the closest we have in China to a breakthrough project,” said Gavin Thompson, the head of Asia and Pacific gas and power research at Wood Mackenzie, one of the largest energy consulting companies. He noted, however, that Sinopec was providing few details and that he, like most Western experts, had not been able to visit the valley.
Chris Faulkner, the chief executive and president of Breitling Energy, a Dallas company that has advised Sinopec on its drilling in western China for four years, said that the energy giants’ reluctance to have open discussions about health, safety and environmental issues might prompt communities to fear the worst.
“If they think that they’re going to go out and drill 1,000 wells, and no one is going to Google ‘fracking,’ they’re fools,” he said, adding that even in China, “the days of ‘shut up and be quiet’ are gone.”
The Chinese energy giants have plenty of money to fund their efforts. Sinopec has one million employees and is the world’s fourth-largest company by revenue after Royal Dutch Shell, Walmart and Exxon Mobil; the fifth-largest is China National Petroleum. With their deep pockets, the companies have been investing heavily in North American shale businesses; Sinopec paid $2.2 billion in 2012 for a 30 percent stake in Devon Energy’s shale gas and oil operations in the United States.
In China, workplace safety is a significant concern. Thousands die each year in coal mines, according to government statistics that have prompted a successful national crackdown over the last decade.
Scant information is publicly available about the safety and environmental records of the politically powerful, mostly state-owned oil and gas industry. But Sinopec has acknowledged two deadly accidents in the last year, albeit not related to fracking. An oil pipeline explosion in Qingdao killed 62 and injured 136, and a cooking gas explosion in Dongguan killed one.
In Jiaoshizhen, after the blast, worries linger about the impact on the residents’ health and their fields.
Villagers said in interviews in August and February that the fast-spreading gas they encountered last year had been foul-smelling. Sinopec said that it had done air tests and not found any toxic pollution, although it declined to identify the gas.
The gas evoked particular fear here because drilling by China National Petroleum in 2003 about 120 miles to the northeast released toxic gases that killed 243 people and sickened thousands. That accident involved conventional gas exploration, however, not fracking.
Residents here also worry about diesel runoff from the drilling sites, tainting local streams and at least one shallow well. The drilling “makes so much noise and the water that comes down the mountain has become so much dirtier to drink; now it smells of diesel,” said Tian Shiao Yung, a farmer.
Sinopec said that it temporarily provided drinking water to residents after drilling foam surfaced in a nearby cave last spring, and it changed its drilling practice. The company said that subsequent tests had shown the local water to be “drinkable.”
Despite her complaints, Ms. Tian, like every other resident interviewed, welcomed the drilling for one reason: money.
Sinopec rents land from farmers for 9,000 renminbi, or $1,475, per acre each year. Farmers earn that much money from growing crops only in the best years, and then after hundreds of hours of labor.
“Farmers don’t mind; now they can buy their rice instead of having to grow it,” Ms. Tian said, adding: “I’m still drinking the water.”
The IPCC in Berlin accepts the results of its Working Group III that looked for ways to mitigate Global Warming – while from Washington we learn that the Republicans are still set to sabotaje any changes that favor the future of the planet.
IPCC Approves Third Contribution to its Fifth Assessment
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,
A Synthesis Report of all three WG volumes is expected to be finalized by the IPCC at a meeting that will take place
Is The Latest Climate Report Too Much Of A Downer?
March 31, 2014
UN Climate Change Secretariat to Showcase Worldwide Climate
Action: Momentum for Change Call for Applications Now Open
Read the release on our website:
(Bonn, 31 March 2014) – Starting today, communities, cities, businesses and
The secretariat officially opened the call for applications for its 2014
“This year, we are looking to do things a little differently,” said UNFCCC
The 2014 Lighthouse Activities will be selected by an 18-member,
Winning activities will be announced in November 2014 and officially
The high visibility of the annual UN climate change negotiations creates a
“Seeing these activities scale up and replicate is the really exciting
Applications for the 2014 Lighthouse Activities are being accepted until 23
Please note that UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres will host a
Learn more: unfccc.int momentum4change.org
Short videos of the 2013 Lighthouse Activities are available at: vimeo.com/user14800810
The US will act on Cutting Methane Emissions and this will help Bangladesh and others Suffering from the Rising of the Sea Levels: The US and the World are better off with the Obama Administration taking more actions that need no Congressional aproval.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday announced a strategy to start slashing emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas released by landfills, cattle, and leaks from oil and natural gas production.
The methane strategy is the latest step in a series of White House actions aimed at addressing climate change without legislation from Congress. Individually, most of the steps will not be enough to drastically reduce the United States’ contribution to global warming. But the Obama administration hopes that collectively they will build political support for more substantive domestic actions while signaling to other countries that the United States is serious about tackling global warming.
In a 2009 United Nations climate change accord, President Obama pledged that by 2020 the United States would lower its greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels. “This methane strategy is one component, one set of actions to get there,” Dan Utech, the president’s special assistant for energy and climate change, said on Friday in a phone call with reporters.
Environmental advocates have long urged the Obama administration to target methane emissions. Most of the planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution in the United States comes from carbon dioxide, which is produced by burning coal, oil and natural gas. Methane accounts for just 9 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas pollution — but the gas is over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so even small amounts of it can have a big impact on future global warming.
And methane emissions are projected to increase in the United States, as the nation enjoys a boom in oil and natural gas production, thanks to breakthroughs in hydraulic fracturing technology. A study published in the journal Science last month found that methane is leaking from oil and natural gas drilling sites and pipelines at rates 50 percent higher than previously thought. As he works to tackle climate change, Mr. Obama has generally supported the natural gas production boom, since natural gas, when burned for electricity, produces just half the greenhouse gas pollution of coal-fired electricity.
Environmental groups like the Sierra Club have campaigned against the boom in natural gas production, warning that it could lead to dangerous levels of methane pollution, undercutting the climate benefits of gas. The oil and gas industry has resisted pushes to regulate methane leaks from production, saying it could slow that down.
A White House official said on Friday that this spring, the Environmental Protection Agency would assess several potentially significant sources of methane and other emissions from the oil and gas sector, and that by this fall the agency “will determine how best to pursue further methane reductions from these sources.” If the E.P.A. decides to develop additional regulations, it would complete them by the end of 2016 — just before Mr. Obama leaves office.
Among the steps the administration announced on Friday to address methane pollution:
- The Interior Department will propose updated standards to reduce venting and flaring of methane from oil and gas production on public lands.
- In April, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management will begin to gather public comment on the development of a program for the capture and sale of methane produced by coal mines on lands leased by the ederal government.
- This summer, the E.P.A. will propose updated standards to reduce methane emissions from new landfills and take public comment on whether to update standards for existing landfills.
- In June, the Agriculture Department, the Energy Department and the E.P.A. will release a joint “biogas road map” aimed at accelerating adoption of methane digesters, machines that reduce methane emissions from cattle, in order to cut dairy-sector greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.
Advocates of climate action generally praised the plan. “Cutting methane emissions will be especially critical to climate protection as the U.S. develops its huge shale gas reserves, gaining the full greenhouse gas benefit from the switch away from coal,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former White House climate change aide under President Bill Clinton, now with the German Marshall Fund.
Howard J. Feldman, director of regulatory and scientific affairs for the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies for oil and gas companies, said he hoped the steps would not lead to new regulations on his industry. “We think regulation is not necessary at this time,” he said. “People are using a lot more natural gas in the country, and that’s reducing greenhouse gas.”
Since cattle flatulence and manure are a significant source of methane, farmers have long been worried that a federal methane control strategy could place a burden on them. But Andrew Walmsley, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, said that his group was pleased that, for now, the administration’s proposals to reduce methane from cattle were voluntary.
“All indications are that it’s voluntary,” he said, “but we do see increased potential for scrutiny for us down the line, which would cause concern.”
Photographs: Rising Seas,
Borrowed Time on Disappearing Land:
Facing Rising Seas, Bangladesh Confronts the Consequences of Climate Change
DAKOPE, Bangladesh — When a powerful storm destroyed her riverside home in 2009, Jahanara Khatun lost more than the modest roof over her head. In the aftermath, her husband died and she became so destitute that she sold her son and daughter into bonded servitude. And she may lose yet more.
Ms. Khatun now lives in a bamboo shack that sits below sea level about 50 yards from a sagging berm. She spends her days collecting cow dung for fuel and struggling to grow vegetables in soil poisoned by salt water. Climate scientists predict that this area will be inundated as sea levels rise and storm surges increase, and a cyclone or another disaster could easily wipe away her rebuilt life. But Ms. Khatun is trying to hold out at least for a while — one of millions living on borrowed time in this vast landscape of river islands, bamboo huts, heartbreaking choices and impossible hopes.
As the world’s top scientists meet in Yokohama, Japan, this week, at the top of the agenda is the prediction that global sea levels could rise as much as three feet by 2100. Higher seas and warmer weather will cause profound changes.
Climate scientists have concluded that widespread burning of fossil fuels is releasing heat-trapping gases that are warming the planet. While this will produce a host of effects, the most worrisome may be the melting of much of the earth’s ice, which is likely to raise sea levels and flood coastal regions.
Such a rise will be uneven because of gravitational effects and human intervention, so predicting its outcome in any one place is difficult. But island nations like the Maldives, Kiribati and Fiji may lose much of their land area, and millions of Bangladeshis will be displaced.
“There are a lot of places in the world at risk from rising sea levels, but Bangladesh is at the top of everybody’s list,” said Rafael Reuveny, a professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University at Bloomington. “And the world is not ready to cope with the problems.”
The effects of climate change have led to a growing sense of outrage in developing nations, many of which have contributed little to the pollution that is linked to rising temperatures and sea levels but will suffer the most from the consequences.
At a climate conference in Warsaw in November, there was an emotional outpouring from countries that face existential threats, among them Bangladesh, which produces just 0.3 percent of the emissions driving climate change. Some leaders have demanded that rich countries compensate poor countries for polluting the atmosphere. A few have even said that developed countries should open their borders to climate migrants.
“It’s a matter of global justice,” said Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies and the nation’s leading climate scientist. “These migrants should have the right to move to the countries from which all these greenhouse gases are coming. Millions should be able to go to the United States.”
River deltas around the globe are particularly vulnerable to the effects of rising seas, and wealthier cities like London, Venice and New Orleans also face uncertain futures. But it is the poorest countries with the biggest populations that will be hit hardest, and none more so than Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated nations in the world. In this delta, made up of 230 major rivers and streams, 160 million people live in a place one-fifth the size of France and as flat as chapati, the bread served at almost every meal.
A Perilous Position
Though Bangladesh has contributed little to industrial air pollution, other kinds of environmental degradation have left it especially vulnerable.
Bangladesh relies almost entirely on groundwater for drinking supplies because the rivers are so polluted. The resultant pumping causes the land to settle. So as sea levels are rising, Bangladesh’s cities are sinking, increasing the risks of flooding. Poorly constructed sea walls compound the problem.
The country’s climate scientists and politicians have come to agree that by 2050, rising sea levels will inundate some 17 percent of the land and displace about 18 million people, Dr. Rahman said.
Bangladeshis have already started to move away from the lowest-lying villages in the river deltas of the Bay of Bengal, scientists in Bangladesh say. People move for many reasons, and urbanization is increasing across South Asia, but rising tides are a big factor. Dr. Rahman’s research group has made a rough estimate from small surveys that as many as 1.5 million of the five million slum inhabitants in Dhaka, the capital, moved from villages near the Bay of Bengal.
The slums that greet them in Dhaka are also built on low-lying land, making them almost as vulnerable to being inundated as the land villagers left behind.
Ms. Khatun and her neighbors have lived through deadly cyclones — a synonym here for hurricane — and have seen the salty rivers chew through villages and poison fields. Rising seas are increasingly intruding into rivers, turning fresh water brackish. Even routine flooding then leaves behind salt deposits that can render land barren.
Making matters worse, much of what the Bangladeshi government is doing to stave off the coming deluge — raising levees, dredging canals, pumping water — deepens the threat of inundation in the long term, said John Pethick, a former professor of coastal science at Newcastle University in England who has spent much of his retirement studying Bangladesh’s predicament. Rich nations are not the only ones to blame, he said.
In an analysis of decades of tidal records published in October, Dr. Pethick found that high tides in Bangladesh were rising 10 times faster than the global average. He predicted that seas in Bangladesh could rise as much as 13 feet by 2100, four times the global average. In an area where land is often a thin brown line between sky and river — nearly a quarter of Bangladesh is less than seven feet above sea level — such an increase would have dire consequences, Dr. Pethick said.
“The reaction among Bangladeshi government officials has been to tell me that I must be wrong,” he said. “That’s completely understandable, but it also means they have no hope of preparing themselves.”
Dr. Rahman said that he did not disagree with Mr. Pethick’s findings, but that no estimate was definitive. Other scientists have predicted more modest rises. For example, Robert E. Kopp, an associate director of the Rutgers Energy Institute at Rutgers University, said that data from nearby Kolkata, India, suggested that seas in the region could rise five to six feet by 2100.
“There is no doubt that preparations within Bangladesh have been utterly inadequate, but any such preparations are bound to fail because the problem is far too big for any single government,” said Tariq A. Karim, Bangladesh’s ambassador to India. “We need a regional and, better yet, a global solution. And if we don’t get one soon, the Bangladeshi people will soon become the world’s problem, because we will not be able to keep them.”
Mr. Karim estimated that as many as 50 million Bangladeshis would flee the country by 2050 if sea levels rose as expected.
Already, signs of erosion are everywhere in the Ganges Delta — the world’s largest delta, which empties much of the water coming from the Himalayas. There are brick foundations torn in half, palm trees growing out of rivers and rangy cattle grazing on island pastures the size of putting greens. Fields are dusted white with salt.
Even without climate change, Bangladesh is among the most vulnerable places in the world to bad weather: The V-shaped Bay of Bengal funnels cyclones straight into the country’s fan-shaped coastline.
Some scientists believe that rising temperatures will lead to more extreme weather worldwide, including stronger and more frequent cyclones in the Bay of Bengal. And rising seas will make any storm more dangerous because flooding will become more likely.
Bangladesh has done much to protect its population by creating an early-warning system and building at least 2,500 concrete storm shelters. The result has been a vast reduction in storm-related deaths. While Cyclone Bhola in 1970 killed as many as 550,000 people, Cyclone Aila in 2009 killed 300. The deadliest part of the storm was the nearly 10-foot wall of water that roared through villages in the middle of the afternoon.
The poverty of people like Ms. Khatun makes them particularly vulnerable to storms. When Aila hit, Ms. Khatun was home with her husband, parents and four children. A nearby berm collapsed, and their mud and bamboo hut washed away in minutes. Unable to save her belongings, Ms. Khatun put her youngest child on her back and, with her husband, fought through surging waters to a high road. Her parents were swept away.
“After about a kilometer, I managed to grab a tree,” said Abddus Satter, Ms. Khatun’s father. “And I was able to help my wife grab on as well. We stayed on that tree for hours.”
The couple eventually shifted to the roof of a nearby hut. The family reunited on the road the next day after the children spent a harrowing night avoiding snakes that had sought higher ground, too. They drank rainwater until rescuers arrived a day or two later with bottled water, food and other supplies.
The ordeal took a severe toll on Ms. Khatun’s husband, whose health soon deteriorated. To pay for his treatment and the cost of rebuilding their hut, the family borrowed money from a loan shark. In return, Ms. Khatun and her three older children, then 10, 12 and 15, promised to work for seven months in a nearby brickmaking factory. She later sold her 11- and 13-year-old children to the owner of another brick factory, this one in Dhaka, for $450 to pay more debts. Her husband died four years after the storm.
In an interview, one of her sons, Mamun Sardar, now 14, said he worked from dawn to dusk carrying newly made bricks to the factory oven.
He said he missed his mother, “but she lives far away.”
Discussions about the effects of climate change in the Ganges Delta often become community events. In the village of Choto Jaliakhali, where Ms. Khatun lives, dozens of people said they could see that the river was rising. Several said they had been impoverished by erosion, which has cost many villagers their land.
Muhammad Moktar Ali said he could not think about the next storm because all he had in the world was his hut and village. “We don’t know how to support ourselves if we lost this,” he said, gesturing to his gathered neighbors. “It is God who will help us survive.”
Surveys show that residents of the delta do not want to migrate, Dr. Rahman said. Moving to slums in already-crowded cities is their least preferred option.
But cities have become the center of Bangladesh’s textile industry, which is now the source of 80 percent of the country’s exports, 45 percent of its industrial employment and 15 percent of its gross domestic product.
In the weeks after the storm, the women of Dakope found firewood by wading into the raging river and pushing their toes into the muddy bottom. They walked hours to buy drinking water. After rebuilding the village’s berm and their own hut, Shirin Aktar and her husband, Bablu Gazi, managed to get just enough of a harvest to survive from their land, which has become increasingly infertile from salt water. Some plots that once sustained three harvests can now support just one; others are entirely barren.
After two hungry years, the couple gave up on farming and moved to the Chittagong, Bangladesh’s second-largest city, leaving their two children behind with Mr. Gazi’s mother.
Mr. Gazi found work immediately as a day laborer, mostly digging foundations. Ms. Aktar searched for a job as a seamstress, but headaches and other slum-induced health problems have so incapacitated her that the couple is desperate to return to Dakope.
“I don’t want to stay here for too long,” Mr. Gazi said. “If we can save some money, then we’ll go back. I’ll work on a piece of land and try to make it fertile again.”
But the chances of finding fertile land in his home village, where the salty rivers have eaten away acre upon acre, are almost zero.
Dozens of people gathered in the narrow mud alley outside Mr. Gazi’s room as he spoke. Some told similar stories of storms, loss and hope, and many nodded as Mr. Gazi spoke of his dreams of returning to his doomed village.
“All of us came here because of erosions and cyclones,” said Noakhali, a hollow-eyed 30-year-old with a single name who was wearing the traditional skirt of the delta. “Not one of us actually wants to live here.”
Produced by Catherine Spangler, David Furst, Hannah Fairfield, Jacqueline Myint, Jeremy White and Shreeya Sinha.
A version of this article appears in print on March 29, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: As Seas Rise, Millions Cling to Borrowed Time and Dying Land.
A Stanford Social Innovation Review points out that the post-2015 UN Agenda will have to be based on innovative thinking that. makes space for the private World – not just on the International Union of Government Sponsored Bureaucrats. Will those bureaucrats participate by agrreing to stay aside?
A Stanford Social Innovation Review on Beyond Aid.
This as leaders across sectors convene at the UN in NewYork to discuss the new post-2015 global agenda – the opportunity to collaborate on a new breed of large-scale development projects known as innovative financing has never been brighter.
Imagine you have the opportunity to define how the world develops for the next 15 years. All government projects, nonprofit work, and foundation funding would cater to your agenda. If you are one of the representatives of the 193 United Nations member states currently discussing the new global agenda, your job entails exactly that.
By 2015, when the current development agenda expires, the international community must determine a new set of goals, and how to achieve and fund them. Based on early recommendations from the UN Secretary General’s office, this next-generation agenda will probably be more ambitious in scope and cost than the present Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While the current MDGs focus on a narrowly defined set of eight goals, the new global agenda will likely aim to both end poverty and increase sustainable development across many dimensions.
Unlocking More Money Through Innovative Financing
Development projects known as “innovative financing” reflect a new way of filling this funding gap. The term, coined in 2002 at a UN conference, refers to projects that raise money for development in new ways and spend money more effectively.
Given a variety of creative names, in truth innovative financing programs take just three different forms: pay only for results, make funding of the development agenda a safer investment, and find new funders.
Variations of innovative financing programs include known mechanisms such as social impact bonds or pay-for-success programs, which are used more and more frequently—research by Dalberg suggests at least a half dozen new initiatives have launched annually, on average, since 2002. To date, these programs have been initiated independently and for an array of causes on an ad-hoc basis.
Development leaders now have the opportunity to apply innovative finance tools on a major scale and in a systematic way; they also have new information on where and how to apply them. The most promising element of innovative financing is its ability to unlock pools of funds from the private sector, which typically finds development projects too risky and the results too uncertain to warrant investment. Funders of these development programs do not need to be impact investors looking for social returns; instead, programs can generate high returns or reduce risk for traditional investors. Innovative financing can also tap into additional public funds by providing opportunities for global coordination and public-private partnerships.
Pay only for results:
Spending money more effectively by paying for results rather than promises has two benefits: It reduces the total size of the fund needed to achieve the next-generation agenda and also ensures a greater impact from every dollar spent. For example, when the development community learned that Western pharmaceuticals were holding back from developing a cheap pneumonia vaccine for Africa because of a legitimate fear that there would be no money to buy these vaccines after they invested in building capacity, they designed an innovative financing program. The resulting program, known as the Pneumococcal Advance Market Commitment, guaranteed a minimum market size to any pharmaceutical company that could develop an appropriate vaccine. This enabled Pfizer and others to scale facilities that have since vaccinated more than 10 million children; it also enabled them to sell vaccines at less than 10 percent of their usual cost. Another results-based innovative financing mechanism, the Haiti Mobile Money prize, rewarded mobile operators in Haiti with $6 million to build out mobile banking. If applied to initiatives in the next development agenda, such cost-effective programs would reduce the total dollars needed.
Make funding development safe:
Innovative financing mechanisms include a whole suite of creative funding vehicles that shift risk away from funders, making development projects a safer investment. This includes social impact bonds and insurance for funders, who can then invest in projects that would otherwise be too risky—for example, global health clinics, rural energy, and agriculture equipment. The recently launched HUGinsure provides up to $400 million in insurance backed by Lloyd’s, making it safe for private sector banks to fund unproven social impact projects. A potential new malaria bond will draw on public-private funders who will pay program implementers only if malaria eradication is successful. Such social impact bonds allow third-party backers like governments to take on risk instead of the private sector funder. Without these mechanisms, private funders tend to invest in sectors such as natural resource extraction, which offer immediate returns. But with them, private funders can benefit from sectors with more diffuse value, such as health and infrastructure.
Find new funders
Innovative mechanisms for raising new funds broaden the funding toolkit beyond simple grants and equity. Such mechanisms include ongoing programs such as social taxes and voluntary solidarity contributions, which raise small amounts of funds over time. A solidarity tax on airline tickets in France, for example, charges travelers a few dollars each time they leave French soil, and has raised nearly $2 billion since 2006 for the global health initiative UNITAID. This can also include large programs such as carbon emissions trading, which has raised more than $30 billion since 2002.
The Private Sector Potential:
Compared to international aid—which represents less than 1 percent of available funding for development—harnessing private sector funding presents a significant new opportunity for backing the new development agenda. Private sector spending within and flowing to low- and middle-income countries represents a rapidly growing pool –more than $20 trillion (see chart). Tapping into even a small portion of that through innovative financing would draw immense new resources. And more effectively allocating this funding means fewer dollars will be needed.
Though this funding would bridge only a small portion of the $1 trillion required for the next-generation development agenda, without it, many areas with benefits beyond financial returns will remain underfunded—private sector investors will continue to fund only clearly profitable projects such as mining. With increased coordination and fresh lessons from past experiments, development leaders can effectively wield innovative financing for greater impact.
Angela Rastegar Campbell (@angelarastegar) is a Project Leader at Dalberg Global Development Advisors, where she has worked with the Gates Foundation, the UN Foundation, and GAVI on projects related to the new development agenda and innovative financing. Angela holds an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business and a BA in Human Biology from Stanford University.
UN to Observe Earth Hour to Focus Global Attention on Need for Climate Action.
New York, 27 March – The UN will participate in the 2014 edition of Earth Hour on Saturday 29 March. Coming in the lead-up to the Climate Summit this September, this global initiative aims to focus attention on the need for climate action.
The authoritative Encyclopaedia of Islam’s entry for “jihad” states that the “spread of Islam by arms is a religious duty upon Muslims in general … Jihad must continue to be done until the whole world is under the rule of Islam.
Why ‘Moderate Islam’ is an Oxymoron.
by Raymond Ibrahim
At a time when terrorism committed in the name of Islam is rampant, we are continuously being assured—especially by three major institutions that play a dominant role in forming the Western mindset, namely, mainstream media, academia, and government — that the sort of Islam embraced by “radicals,” “jihadis,” and so forth, has nothing to do with “real” Islam.
“True” Islam, so the narrative goes, is intrinsically free of anything “bad.” It’s the nut-jobs who hijack it for their own agenda that are to blame.
More specifically, we are told that there exists a “moderate” Islam and an “extremist” Islam—the former good and true, embraced by a Muslim majority, the latter a perverse sacrilege practiced by an exploitative minority.
But what do these dual adjectives—”moderate” and “extremist”—ultimately mean in the context of Islam? Are they both equal and viable alternatives insofar as to how Islam is understood? Are they both theologically legitimate? This last question is particularly important, since Islam is first and foremost a religious way of life centered around the words of a deity (Allah) and his prophet (Muhammad)—the significance of which is admittedly unappreciated by secular societies.
Both terms—”moderate” and “extremist”—have to do with degree, or less mathematically,zeal: how much, or to what extent, a thing is practiced or implemented. As Webster‘s puts it, “moderate” means “observing reasonable limits”; “extremist” means “going to great or exaggerated lengths.”
It’s a question, then, of doing either too much or too little.
The problem, however, is that mainstream Islam offers a crystal-clear way of life, based on the teachings of the Koran and Hadith—the former, containing what purport to be the sacred words of Allah, the latter, the example (or sunna, hence “Sunnis”) of his prophet, also known as the most “perfect man” (al-insan al-kamil). Indeed, based on these two primary sources and according to normative Islamic teaching, all human actions fall into five categories: forbidden actions, discouraged actions, neutral actions recommended actions, and obligatory actions.
In this context, how does a believer go about “moderating” what the deity and his spokesman have commanded? One can either try to observe Islam’s commandments or one can ignore them: any more or less is not Islam—a word which means “submit” (to the laws, or sharia, of Allah).
The real question, then, is what do Allah and his prophet command Muslims (“they who submit”) to do? Are radicals “exaggerating” their orders? Or are moderate Muslims simply “observing reasonable limits”—a euphemism for negligence? — when it comes to fulfilling their commandments?
In our highly secularized era, where we are told that religious truths are flexible or simply non-existent, and that any and all interpretations and exegeses are valid, the all-important question of “What does Islam command?” loses all relevance.
Hence why the modern West is incapable of understanding Islam.
Indeed, only recently, a Kenyan mosque leader said that the Westgate massacre, where Islamic gunmen slaughtered some 67 people, “was justified. As per the Koran, as per the religion of Islam, Westgate was 100 percent justified.” Then he said: “Radical Islam is a creation of people who do not believe in Islam. We don’t have radical Islam, we don’t have moderates, we don’t have extremists. Islam is one religion following the Koran and the Sunna“ [emphasis added].
Note his point that “Radical Islam is a creation of people who do not believe in Islam,” a clear reference to the West which coined the phrase “radical Islam.” Ironically, the secular West, which relegates religious truths to the realm of “personal experience,” feels qualified to decide what is and is not “radical” about Islam.
Consider one example: Allah commands Muslims to “Fight those among the People of the Book [Jews and Christians] who do not believe in Allah nor the Last Day, nor forbid what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden, nor embrace the religion of truth [i.e., Islam], until they pay the jizya [tribute] with willing submission and feel themselves subdued” [Koran 9:29].
How can one interpret this verse to mean anything other than what it plainly says? Wherein lies the ambiguity, the room for interpretation? Of course there are other teachings and allusions in the Koran that by necessity lend themselves over to the fine arts of interpretation, or ijtihad. But surely the commands of Koran 9:29 are completely straightforward?
In fact, Muhammad’s 7th century followers literally acted on this and similar verses (e.g., 9:5), launching the first Muslim conquests, which saw the subjugation of millions of Christians, Jews, and others, and the creation of the “Muslim world.” Such jihadi expansion continued until Islam was beaten on the battlefield by a resurgent West some two or three centuries ago.
Western scholarly works, before the age of relativism and political correctness set in, did not equivocate the meaning of jihad. Thus the authoritative Encyclopaedia of Islam‘s entry for “jihad” states that the “spread of Islam by arms is a religious duty upon Muslims in general … Jihad must continue to be done until the whole world is under the rule of Islam … Islam must completely be made over before the doctrine of jihad [warfare to spread Islam] can be eliminated. Islamic law expert and U.S. professor Majid Khadduri (1909-2007), after defining jihad as warfare, wrote that “jihad … is regarded by all jurists, with almost no exception, as a collective obligation of the whole Muslim community.”
(As for the argument that the Bible contains similar war verses, yet Jews and Christians are not out to conquer the world—so why say Muslims are?—see “Are Judaism and Christianity as Violent as Islam” for a detailed breakdown of the similarities and differences. Also see “Islamic Jihad and the Doctrine of Abrogation” to understand how the Koran’s more tolerant verses have been abrogated by its more militant ones, such as 9:29.)
In short, how can a sincere Muslim—by definition, one who has submitted to the teachings of Allah—”moderate” verses like 9:29? How can he “observe reasonable limits” vis-à-vis these plain commands to combat and subjugate non-Muslims?
Must Muslims not, at the very least, admit that such teachings are true and should be striven for—even if they do not personally engage in the jihad, at least not directly (but they are encouraged to support it indirectly, including monetarily or through propaganda)?
Just recently, reports appeared telling of how Islamic groups in Syria were following Koran 9:29 to a tee—forcing Christian minorities to pay them jizya, i.e., extortion money, in exchange for their lives. In fact, all around the Islamic world, Christians and other minorities are regularly plundered by Muslims who justify their actions by referring to the aforementioned verse.
Are all such Muslims being “extreme” in light of the commands of Koran 9:29—which specifically calls for the taking of money from Christians and Jews—or are they simply upholding the unambiguous teachings of Islam?
One may argue that, if Muslims are to take Koran 9:29 literally, why are Muslim nations the world over not declaring an all-out jihad on all non-Muslim nations, including America? The ultimate reason, of course, is that they simply can’t; they do not have the capability to uphold that verse (and Islamic teaching allows Muslims to postpone their obligations until circumstances are more opportune).
It would obviously be silly, if not suicidal, for, say, Saudi Arabia, birthplace of Islam, to issue a statement to the West saying either accept Islam, pay jizya/tribute, or die by the sword. But just because Muslim nations do not currently have the capacity to actualize Koran 9:29, does not mean that they do not acknowledge its veracity and try to actualize it in other places when they can.
A quick survey of history before the meteoric rise of Western military might put Islam in check makes this especially clear.
Bottom line: If Islam teaches X and a Muslim upholds X—how is he being “extreme”? Seems more logical to say that it is Islam itself that is being “extreme.” Similarly, if a self-professed Muslim does not uphold Islamic teachings—including prayer, fasting, paying zakat, etc. — how is he being a “moderate”? Seems more logical to say that he is not much of a Muslim at all—that is, he is not submitting to Allah, the very definition of “Muslim.”
It’s time to acknowledge that dichotomized notions like “moderate” and “extreme” are culturally induced and loaded standards of the modern, secular West—hardly applicable to the teachings of Islam—and not universal absolutes recognized by all mankind.
Take Action: Urge U.S. & EU to Oppose Imminent U.N. Appointment of Richard Falk’s Wife.
As Richard Falk ends his despicable 6-year UN term this Friday, his wife, co-author and closest collaborator Dr. Hilal Elver (above) is about to be named to her own 6-year UN term, as expert on the right to food.
This Cuban-created position was for years held by Jean Ziegler – founder and recipient of the “Moammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize” — which he abused to attack America, Israel and the West.
Given her shameful record of extremist politics, there is no doubt that Falk’s wife intends to do the same. And that essentially Falk will retain his U.N. influence after all.
The only way to stop Elver’s appointment to this 6-year global post is if the U.S. and EU make clear they will vote NO if her name is moved forward.
Stop this from happening on Friday.
Urge world leaders to oppose the
ENVIRONMENT: TOP STORIES THIS WEEK – March 26, 2014
WHAT: Rally to Divest New York from Fossil Fuels
New York could be the first state to divest from destructive fossil fuels — but only if we can convince Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to do the right thing.
This Thursday, maech 27, 2014, we’ll gather in front of the Comptroller’s NYC offices to deliver our petition and make a lot of noise. Will you help us send the Comptroller a message he can’t ignore?
Our state’s Common Retirement Fund is the third largest pension plan in the country, with $160 billion in investments. It’s heavily invested in the fossil fuel industry, and we think that makes no sense at all.
Climate change is real, it’s here, and it’s endangering the biodiversity and natural resources we depend on, as well as the physical infrastructure that makes our state run. Why is a state that’s still rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy invested in the very companies driving this crisis?
Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has the power to divest New York from fossil fuels, and divestment has the power to rein in the fossil fuel industry — an industry that’s both driving the climate crisis and polluting our democracy. I think that’s an easy call, but evidently the Comptroller needs a little more convincing.
Lyna & the 350.org team
Rally co-sponsors include: Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, GreenFaith, Responsible Endowments Coalition, United for Action, Green Party of New York, Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition, Green Map System, Cuny Divest, Hunter Sustainability Project, NYU Divest, Barnard Columbia Divest for Climate Justice, and Fossil Free Fordham
UPDATE TO: Training for “Laufen fuer Europa” or “Running for Europe” – that is for the May 25, 2014 date when the elections for the European Parliament provide finally the possibilty for the creation of a strong Europe. THE SECOND TRAINING WILL TAKE PLACE APRIL 6th.
Mr. Georg Pfeiffer, the Representaive of the European Parliament in Austria – Wipplingerstraße 35, 1010 Vienna, with officials of the European Commission and the Austrian Society for Europa-Politics in Austria, arranged for an activity to strengthen interest in Austria for the May 25th elections.
This time the elections are important indeed – this because of the European Parliament’s moves to create a European Presidency – or some other form of real union. Specially now, with the events in the Ukraine calling for a united EU position, these election must help create this united front through a clear united leadership.
The main Austrian political parties are setting up their lists and the top candidate of each of these lists becomes a potential candidate for the leadership in Brussels.
Thus, at the start up of 2 PM today, at the parking-lot of the Vienna Stadium, were present Mr. Reinhold Lopatka, the Club Chief (the Fraction Head) in the Austrian Parliament of the Austrian People’s Party (OEVP), Mr. Andreas Schieder, the Club Chief of the Austrian Socialist Party (SPOE), Ms. Eva Glawischnic-Pieszczek – the National Spokesperson and Club Chief of the Green Party, and Mr. Anton Fink – a candidate for the new NEOS Party.
There were present European integration Ministers Ambassadors – Ivana Cucukic, Renee Wagner, Deazen Ivanis, Cedrick Mayer, and Fadi Merza as well the 2012 Beauty Queen of Austria – Miss Amina Dagi.
THE FOLLOW UP:
Vielen Dank, dass du gestern trotz Regens beim Lauftreff dabei warst.
Am 06.04.2014 werden wir im Prater übrigens unseren 2. Lauftreff veranstalten.
The First training run was: APA/OTS-Reminder II: www.ots.at/
Is the US being readied to be another country safe for Oligarchs? Ask Economics Nobel Prize Winner Paul Krugman – he has a clear view of today’s Republicans. In Vienna I heard Mr. Friederich (Fritz) Hinterberger, President of the Sustainable Europe Research Institute (SERI) who has also views on the Capital and Labor mix.
The Opinion Pages Op-Ed Columnist of the New York Times.
Wealth Over Work.
It seems safe to say that “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” the magnum opus of the French economist Thomas Piketty, will be the most important economics book of the year — and maybe of the decade. Mr. Piketty, arguably the world’s leading expert on income and wealth inequality, does more than document the growing concentration of income in the hands of a small economic elite. He also makes a powerful case that we’re on the way back to “patrimonial capitalism,” in which the commanding heights of the economy are dominated not just by wealth, but also by inherited wealth, in which birth matters more than effort and talent.
To be sure, Mr. Piketty concedes that we aren’t there yet. So far, the rise of America’s 1 percent has mainly been driven by executive salaries and bonuses rather than income from investments, let alone inherited wealth. But six of the 10 wealthiest Americans are already heirs rather than self-made entrepreneurs, and the children of today’s economic elite start from a position of immense privilege. As Mr. Piketty notes, “the risk of a drift toward oligarchy is real and gives little reason for optimism.”
Indeed. And if you want to feel even less optimistic, consider what many U.S. politicians are up to. America’s nascent oligarchy may not yet be fully formed — but one of our two main political parties already seems committed to defending the oligarchy’s interests.
Despite the frantic efforts of some Republicans to pretend otherwise, most people realize that today’s G.O.P. favors the interests of the rich over those of ordinary families. I suspect, however, that fewer people realize the extent to which the party favors returns on wealth over wages and salaries. And the dominance of income from capital, which can be inherited, over wages — the dominance of wealth over work — is what patrimonial capitalism is all about.
To see what I’m talking about, start with actual policies and policy proposals. It’s generally understood that George W. Bush did all he could to cut taxes on the very affluent, that the middle-class cuts he included were essentially political loss leaders. It’s less well understood that the biggest breaks went not to people paid high salaries but to coupon-clippers and heirs to large estates. True, the top tax bracket on earned income fell from 39.6 to 35 percent. But the top rate on dividends fell from 39.6 percent (because they were taxed as ordinary income) to 15 percent — and the estate tax was completely eliminated.
Some of these cuts were reversed under President Obama, but the point is that the great tax-cut push of the Bush years was mainly about reducing taxes on unearned income. And when Republicans retook one house of Congress, they promptly came up with a plan — Representative Paul Ryan’s “road map” — calling for the elimination of taxes on interest, dividends, capital gains and estates. Under this plan, someone living solely off inherited wealth would have owed no federal taxes at all.
This tilt of policy toward the interests of wealth has been mirrored by a tilt in rhetoric; Republicans often seem so intent on exalting “job creators” that they forget to mention American workers.
In 2012 Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, famously commemorated Labor Day with a Twitter post honoring business owners. More recently, Mr. Cantor reportedly reminded colleagues at a G.O.P. retreat that most Americans work for other people, which is at least one reason attempts to make a big issue out of Mr. Obama’s supposed denigration of businesspeople fell flat. (Another reason was that Mr. Obama did no such thing.)
In fact, not only don’t most Americans own businesses, but business income, and income from capital in general, is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people. In 1979 the top 1 percent of households accounted for 17 percent of business income; by 2007 the same group was getting 43 percent of business income, and 75 percent of capital gains. Yet this small elite gets all of the G.O.P.’s love, and most of its policy attention.
Why is this happening? Well, bear in mind that both Koch brothers are numbered among the 10 wealthiest Americans, and so are four Walmart heirs. Great wealth buys great political influence — and not just through campaign contributions. Many conservatives live inside an intellectual bubble of think tanks and captive media that is ultimately financed by a handful of megadonors. Not surprisingly, those inside the bubble tend to assume, instinctively, that what is good for oligarchs is good for America.
As I’ve already suggested, the results can sometimes seem comical. The important point to remember, however, is that the people inside the bubble have a lot of power, which they wield on behalf of their patrons. And the drift toward oligarchy continues.
Sisi’s Incompetent Anti-Islamist Campaign.
by Daniel Pipes
An Egyptian court in short order sentenced some 529 people to death today for the killing of a single police officer. News like this gives one pause.
Very tough treatment of Islamists is needed to repress this totalitarian movement, including rejection of their efforts to apply Islamic law, keeping them out of mainstream institutions, even excluding their parties from the democratic process. But Field Marshall Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s extra-legal crackdown on Islamists will likely backfire and help the Islamist cause by winning them broad sympathy. Even if today’s absurd judgment gets reversed on appeal, it and others like it are doing real damage.
Sisi is riding high now, with out-of-sight popularity ratings, but he appears as unprepared to rule Egypt as another military man, Gamal Abdul Nasser, was 60 years ago. Two factors in particular – the dismal economy and the hostility between pro- and anti-Islamists – will likely bring Sisi down fast and hard. When that happens, Islamists will benefit from his incompetence no less than Sisi exploited the failures of Mohamed Morsi. The cycle continues, the country falls further behind, and the precipice looms.
More broadly, because the expected Egyptian failure in suppressing Islamism will have global ramifications, Sisi’s mistakes damage the anti-Islamist cause not just in his own country but internationally. The stakes in Egypt these days are high indeed. (March 24, 2014)
and I hope that the folks at Rutgers University take notice and do not cry only – injustice to Muslims in the US – we hope they will rather call for Imams in the US to speak up and tell co-religionists in the Middle East to shape up!
Film Screening of the Test of Freedom
& Talk with Director Khaliff Watkins.
APRIL 11th FRIDAY
Teleconference Lecture Hall
Alexander Library, New Brunswick NJ
(parking available in lots, 26, 30 & College Ave parking deck)
Flyer is attached!
Refreshments & finger foods will be served!
Using Copyright to Censor, from Turkey to Svoboda to Ban’s UN & Reuters.
By Matthew Russell Lee, The Inner City Press (ICP) at the UN in New York.
UNITED NATIONS, March 20 — Turkey has now blocked Twitter citing a prosecutor’s decision, drawing ire in the US from Press Secretary Jay Carney and State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in order to get his leaked phone calls removed from Google’s YouTube has reportedly “copyrighted” his calls.
This use of copyright to try to censor has echoes in the United Nations — and in Ukraine, where the Svoboda Party tried to get videos of its Members of Parliament beating up a news executive taken down as violations of copyright.
On the Guardian website on March 21, where the video had been was a notice that “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim.”
The New York Times reported that late on March 20, YouTube copies of the video were taken down “for violating the copyright of the Svoboda party spokesman, who seems to be working to erase the evidence from the Internet through legal means.”
This is a growing trend. As set forth below, an anti-Press complaint to the UN’s Stephane Dujarric, now Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson, has been banned from Google’s Search by an invocation of copyright similar to Erdogan’s.
On March 21, Dujarric from Kyiv told Inner City Press neither he nor, he assuumed, Ban had seen the Svoboda beat-down video. This seems noteworthy, given its prominence in Ukraine. Now we can add: perhaps Ban and Dujarric didn’t see it due to the same censorship by copyright that has for now banned an anti Press complaint to them from Google’s Search.
And as to Twitter, Dujarric in his previous post in charge of UN Media Accreditation grilled Inner City Press about a tweet mentioning World War Two – the basis for example of France’s veto power in the Security Council, which it parlayed into essentially permanent ownership of the top post in UN Peacekeeping, now though Herve Ladsous (coverage of whom Dujarric tried to dictate, or advise, Inner City Press about.)
Dujarric’s now bipolar tweeting has intersected with a recently revived anonymous trolling campaign which originated in the UN Correspondents Association, in support of the Sri Lankan government, alleging that any coverage of the abuse of Tamils must be funded by the now defunct Tamil Tigers.
These outright attempts to censor are echoed, more genteelly, even as part of the UN press briefings these days. When Dujarric took eight questions on March 20 on Ban’s essentially failed trip to Moscow, fully half went to representatives of UNCA’s 15 member executive committee, including state media from Turkey, France and the United States. Other questions — by Twitter — were not answered, except those from explicitly pro-UN sources. These are the UN’s circles.
Google has accepted and acted on DMCA complaints about leaked e-mails, for example from Reuters to the United Nations seeking to get the investigative Press thrown out, and has then blocked access to the leaked documents from its search.
Of this abuse of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Electronic Frontier Foundation‘s Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry told Inner City Press about the Reuters case:
“Unfortunately, it is all too easy for a copyright holder (assuming that the person that sent this notice actually held copyright in the email) to abuse the DMCA to take down content and stifle legitimate speech. As countries outside the US consider adopting DMCA-like procedures, they must make sure they include strong protections for free speech, such as significant penalties for takedown abuse.”
In this case, copyright is being (mis) claimed for an email from Reuters’ Louis Charbonneau to the UN’s chief Media Accreditation official Stephane Dujarric — since March 10 Ban Ki-moon’s new spokesperson — seeking to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN.
Access to the document has been blocked from Google’s search based on a cursory take-down request under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
If this remains precedent, what else could come down?
Why not an email from Iran, for example, to the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency? Why not a sanctions filing by a country? Here is Reuters logic, accepted if only automatically by Google:
The copyrighted material is a private email I wrote in April 2012 and for which I never gave permission to be published. It has been published on a blog and appears in on the first page of search results for my name and the firm I work for, Reuters. It can be seen here: www.innercitypress.com/
But this is true of ANY leaked document: it can be said that the entity or person exposed “never gave permission [for it] to be published.” Does that mean Google can or should block search access to it?
Can a complaint to a Media Accreditation official against a competitor legitimately be considered “private”? In any event, the DMCA is not about protecting privacy.
Iran or North Korea could say a filing or status report they make with the IAEA is “private” and was not intended to be published. Would Google, receiving a DMCA filing, block access to the information on, say, Reuters.com?
Charbonneau’s bad-faith argument says his complaint to the UN was “published on a blog.” Is THAT what Reuters claims makes it different that publication in some other media?
The logic of Reuters’ and Charbonneau’s August 14, 2013 filing with Google, put online via the ChillingEffects.org project, is profoundly anti free press.
The fact that Google accepts or didn’t check, to remain in the DMCA Safe Harbor, the filing makes it even worse. The request to take-down wasn’t made to InnerCityPress.com or its server — it would have been rejected. But banning a page from Search has the same censoring effect.
The US has a regime to protect freedom of the press, and against prior restraint. But this is a loophole, exploited cynically by Reuters. What if a media conducted a long investigation of a mayor, fueled by a leaked email. When the story was published, could the Mayor make a Reuters-like filing with Google and get it blocked?
Here is the text of Charbonneau’s communication to the UN’s top Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit official Stephane Dujarric and MALU’s manager, to which he claimed “copyright” and for now has banned from Google’s Search:
Hi Isabelle and Stephane,
I just wanted to pass on for the record that I was just confronted by Matt Lee in the DHL auditorium in very hostile fashion a short while ago (there were several witnesses, including Giampaolo). He’s obviously gotten wind that there’s a movement afoot to expel him from the UNCA executive committee, though he doesn’t know the details yet. But he was going out of his way to be as intimidating and aggressive as possible towards me, told me I “disgust” him, etc.
In all my 20+ years of reporting I’ve never been approached like that by a follow journalist in any press corps, no matter how stressful things got. He’s become someone who’s making it very hard for me and others in the UN press to do our jobs. His harassment of fellow reporters is reaching a new fever pitch.
I just thought you should know this.
This email was sent to you by Thomson Reuters, the global news and information company.
“UNCA” in the for-now banned e-mail is the United Nations Correspondents Association. The story developed here, as to Sri Lanka; here is a sample pick-up this past weekend in Italian, to which we link and give full credit, translated into English (NOT for now by Google) –
The fool of Reuters to the UN
by Mahesh – 12/27/2013 - calls for the removal of a letter from the head of his bureau at the United Nations, pursuing a copyright infringement on the part of the competition.
Try to make out a small competitor from the UN press room and then, when these publish proof of intrigue, invokes the copyright to release a letter from compromising the network.
MOLESTA-AGENCY Inner City Press is a small non-profit agency covering the work of the United Nations for years, with an original cut, which become distasteful to many. Unlike other matching its founder master sent never tires of asking account of inconsistencies and contradictions and often refers to unpleasant situations involving colleagues and their reportage, too often twisted to obvious political contingencies.
THE LAST CAVITY – In this case the clutch is born when Matthew Lee, Inner City Press ever since he founded and made famous in the 90 ‘s, challenged the screening of “Lies Agreed Upon” in the auditorium of the United Nations, a filmaccio of propaganda in which the Sri Lankan regime tries to deny the now tested massacres (and destroyed by International Crisis Group). In the piece, in which denounced the incident, Lee also announced that the screening was organized by the President of the United Nations Correspondents (UNCA), Italian Giampaolo Pioli, skipping the normal consultation procedure for this kind of events. Pioli then, was also accused of being in a conflict of interest, given that he rented an apartment in New York an apartment to the Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in Sri Lanka, named Palitha Kohona and is suspected of war crimes.
TRY WITH THE COPYRIGHT- So he comes to the letter with which Louis Charbonneau, Reuters bureau chief at the United Nations, wrote to the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit (MALU) calling for the ouster of Lee, which the UN being there for years as his colleagues, but we see that this was not done. Lee, however, comes into possession of the letter and publish it, and then writes to Google millantando Charbonneau the copyright on the letter and asking for removal pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That is a bit like if a company request the removal of a compromising document from a journalistic investigation, in the name of copyright, a claim clearly absurd and disingenuous.
HARASSMENT AND THREATS - In the letter published, Charbonneau complained about the aggressive behavior of Lee and cited among the witnesses to cases where Lee had been “aggressive” towards him even Pioli. Lee with that piece has gained throughout a hail of protests from Sri Lanka and an investigation by the UNCA, along with death threats and other well-known amenities the refugees away from the clutches of the regime, but it is still there. Behold then the brilliant idea of Charbonneau, improperly used copyright law to censor the objectionable publications to a colleague and competitor. Pity that Lee has already resisted successfully in similar cases, in 2008 was the same Google to remove your site from being indexed in the news in its search engines, it is unclear what impetus behind, only to regret it soon after that even Fox News had cried scandal.
And further – to the place of UN as restricting flow of information – Matthew Lee has the following:
In Ukraine, List of Parties UN’s UNSG Ban Ki-moon Met With Still UNdisclosed, Visa Ban.
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, March 22 – With UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Kyiv for a second day, it remained unclear if he met with representatives from the Svoboda Party, whose “freedom of speech” parliamentarian was filmed beating up a news executive and then sought to get the video removed from YouTube.
Inner City Press on March 21 asked Ban’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, video here
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about sanctions. I know that in his opening remarks, the Secretary-General talked about provocative actions and counter-reactions and obviously there have been, the US announced sanctions on a slew of individuals and one bank, and another bank, SMP, has been cut off from the Visa and Mastercard system. Russia has its own sanctions. Was this discussed, was this discussed while he was in Moscow? Does the Secretary-General think that sanctions should be done through the UN? And will he meet with representatives of the Svoboda party while he’s there, if they were to request it?
Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: There was a — I will share with you as soon as I get it — the list of party leaders that attended the meeting with the Secretary-General. So we will see who exactly was there and, you know, I’m not going to get into detailed reactions to sanctions and counter-sanctions and so forth. But what I will say is that, you know, everybody needs to kind of focus on finding a peaceful, diplomatic solution and lowering the tensions.
Inner City Press: Has he or you seen the video of the Svoboda party MPs beating up the television executive?
Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: I have not and I doubt that he has.
But more than 24 hours later, the “list of party members” who met with Ban was still not provided or shared, nor was an explanation provided. What should one infer from that?
… … ….
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s race to Russia for relevance didn’t work as he’d hoped. Just after his meetings with Vladimir Putin and Sergey Lavrov, Lavrov went to the Duma for the next step on Crimea.
Then Ban’s spokesperson did a call-in Q&A to the UN press briefing room in New York where only questions pointing one way were selected and allowed. Thus, there were no questions to Ban’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric about the new unilateral sanctions, or the trade embargo allegations.
On March 19 after US Ambassador Samantha Power said Russia’s Vitaly Churkin was creative like Tolstoy or Chekhov, Churkin asked for a right of reply or additional statement at the end of the March 19 UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine.
Churkin said that from these two literary references, Power has stooped to tabloids, and that this should change if the US expected Russian cooperation. The reference, it seemed, was to Syria and Iran, and other UN issues.
One wanted to explore this at the stakeout, but neither Power nor Churkin spoke there. In fact, no one did: even Ukraine’s Yuriy Sergeyev left, down the long hallways with his leather coat and spokesperson. One wondered why.
There were many questions to ask. Why did Ivan Simonovic’s UN human rights report not mention the Svoboda Party MPs beating up the head of Ukrainian national television? Will France, despite its Gerard Araud’s speech, continue selling Mistral warships to Russia? What of France’s role in the earlier referendum splitting Mayotte from the Comoros Islands?
Araud exchanged a few words with those media he answers to while on the stairs, then left. The UK’s Mark Lyall Grant spoke longer, but still left. Why didn’t Simonovic at least come and answer questions? Perhaps he will, later in the week.
When Security Council session began at 3 pm on March 19, Russia was listed as the tenth speaker, after other Council members including not only the US but France. (The order, however, would soon change: Argentina and Russia switched spots.)
Speaking first, Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson recounted dates and events, such as the US and European Union sanctions of Marcy 17. Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric if there was any UN comment on or view of such unilateral sanctions. There was no comment.
UN human rights deputy Ivan Simonovic spoke next, saying that attacks on ethnic Russians have been neither widespread nor systematic. Simonovic did not mention the widely publicized assault on a national TV executive by Svoboda Party MPs.
Ukraine’s Yuriy Sergeyev mocked the referendum, saying that those who didn’t vote were visited at home.
France’s Gerard Araud said that if there are fascists in this story, it is not where they’re said to be — but he did not address the Svoboda Party and its attack on the TV executive. Nor has he addressed the analogy to the referendum France pushed to split Mayotte from Comoros, nor France’s ongoing sale of Mistral warships to Russia.
After Nigeria spoke, Argentina’s listed place was taken by Russia, in what has been confirmed to Inner City Press as an exchange. Russia’s Vitaly Churkin zeroed in on Simonovic not mentioning the Svoboda MPs’ assault, nor evidence that the same snipers should police and protesters in Kyiv.
US Ambassador Samantha Power called this an assault on Simonovic’s report, and said Churkin had been as imaginative as Tolstoy or Chekhov, echoing an earlier US State Department Top Ten list. So what is the US, one wag mused, John Updike or Thomas Pynchon? It was a session meant for words.
It’s worth remembering Moscow’s anger at who called Ban’s tune on Kosovo. What will be different now? After Russia, Ban will head to Kyiv to meet Yatsenyuk and the UN human rights monitors.
But no announcement by Ban’s Office of the Spokesperson, which has repeatedly refused to confirm Ban trips even when the country visited has already disclosed it.
And so the Free UN Coalition for Access wrote to Ban’s new spokesperson Stephane Dujarric:
“Will you confirm what BBC says UN Moscow told it, that the Secretary General is traveling to Russia tomorrow to meet President Putin and FM Lavrov — and is so, can you explain why and how this UN news was distributed in that way first, and not through your office, to all correspondents at once? The latter part of the question is on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access as well.”
Forty five minutes later, after a mass e-mail, Dujarric replied:
“Matthew, The official announcement was just made. The UN office in moscow did not announce anything before we did. I did see some leaked reports this morning from various sources but nothing is official until it’s announced by this office.”
But it wasn’t a “leaked report” — BBC said that UN Moscow had CONFIRMED it. We’ll have more on this. For now it’s worth reviewing Ban Ki-moon’s response to Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008…
The day after the Crimea referendum, the US White House announced new sanctions and Russia said Ukraine should adopt a federal constitution.
Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric for Ban’s or the UN’s comment on either, if Ban thinks sanctions should ideally be imposed through the UN and not unilaterally, and if this might lead to a tit for tat.
Dujarric said Ban’s focus is on encouraging the parties to “not add tensions;” on Russia’s federal constitution proposal he said the UN is “not going to get into judging every step.” Video here.
With Serry gone from Crimea and Simonovic called unbalanced by Russia, what is the UN’s role? Is it UNrelevant?
… … … and there is much more on our link.
To Russia – the Eu and China are mirror images to each other with former chunks of the Soviet Union vedged in between them and Russia. It makes sense that eventually the interests of the EU and China will be the same in relation to a reconstructing SU.
Ukraine: the view from China.
by: Nicu Popescu, senior analyst at the EU Institute for Security Studies in Paris, where he deals with the EU’s eastern neighbourhood and Russia-
Posted by EUobserver March 22, 2014.
With every new major international crisis – be it the Arab Spring, the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, recurrent emergencies in Africa, or the current Ukrainian-Russian tensions – it does not take long for diplomats and observers to start wondering ‘what does China think’. It is increasingly frequent during such crises for China to be put in the spotlight and expected to have a position on events and regions on which, until recently, Chinese opinions were barely worth a footnote. This is also true for the Crimean crisis. A few days into the crisis, the Russian foreign ministry announced that the Chinese and Russians shared “broadly coinciding points of view” on the situation.
Looking at China for comfort is driven by many factors. The rise of Chinese power is just one. In international public opinion China is often seen as a sort of ‘swing’ power, capable of tipping the political balance between entrenched political warriors whose preferences are already well known. On a crisis like the one in Crimea – which elicits completely different narratives from Russia, on the one hand, and the EU and US on the other – the Chinese are seen by some as a potentially less subjective or biased source of opinions. In this sense, China can offer surprises. After the 2008 Russia-Georgian war the Chinese maintained public politeness towards Russia but, in private, were clearly against the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia – thereby helping Central Asian countries resist alleged Russian pressures to recognise the independence of those entities.
Hence the rush by Russia to claim Chinese support for its actions in Ukraine – as an effort to claim greater legitimacy for its military invasion of a post-Soviet state. However, the claim that China is on Russia’s side is spurious.
China and the EU
The Chinese approach to the situation in Ukraine is driven by competing pressures. Its overall approach to the post-Soviet space is quite similar – or rather parallel – to that of the European Union as it is based on two equally important pillars: an evident desire to have good relations with Russia and a strong interest in not seeing the resurgence of a Russian empire and in supporting the independence of post-Soviet states. The difference here is that, for the EU, the Eastern Partnership states are of primary importance while, for China, the Central Asian countries are. In this respect, Brussels’ and Beijing’s interests and views regarding the post-Soviet states are both close and complementary. China would also like to see Central Asia become a higher priority for the EU – and it has been in principle favourable to the EU’s Association with countries like Ukraine.
Even their toolboxes are not dissimilar in that they mainly rely on political dialogue and economic integration. The EU offered Russia and other post-Soviet states trade integration. Russia has de facto, though not formally, rejected the offer which has been on the table for over a decade. China made a similar offer: it proposed the creation of a Free Trade Area within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, but Russia has refused that too. And now China is suggesting the creation of a ‘Silk Road Beltway’ through Central Asia as a vehicle for economic integration.
In both cases, Russia refused to go along with EU and Chinese initiatives, preferring to launch its Customs Union. The problem is that the Russian-led Customs Union would complicate the existing trade relations between the EU, China and the post-Soviet countries. This is not irrelevant since the EU is the biggest trading partner for Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan – while China is the biggest trading partner for Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
As is the case for the EU approach to Russia, it is not uncommon for China’s binary objectives (having good relations with Russia and supporting the independence of post-Soviet states) to clash each and every time Russia tries to assert its influence through economic, political or even military coercion. The Chinese think the crisis in Ukraine as a “headache” . It creates new problems in their relations with Russia since they cannot say either yes or no to their request for diplomatic support.
China and Ukraine
The Chinese strongly disapprove the Russian military intervention in Ukraine at several levels. Russia is an opportunistic supporter of the principle of state sovereignty: it resists military or political interventions in Kosovo, Iraq, or Syria, but practices such interventions in Georgia and Ukraine, while piling up pressure on other post-Soviet states. China is more consistent in its respect of sovereignty as it does not support or practice open military interventions, though it can still be tough with its neighbours.
The easy recourse by Russia to military means of power projection is also worrying for the Chinese with regard to Central Asia. It is not unimaginable that a country like Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan face a messy succession when their current ageing leaders have left the political stage. The question from a Chinese perspective is then: if such an intervention can take place in Ukraine, why should it not happen in Kazakhstan, too, provided there is a pretext for that?
There also are a number of Ukraine-specific reasons for China to be less than enchanted with Russia’s military behaviour. To begin with, China has just engaged in a 10 billion USD project to build a deep-water port in Crimea, the function of which would be to redistribute cargo flows from the East to Europe. Any uncertainty in Crimea thus affects this project, especially in the event of a de facto secession.
China also had a general preference for Ukraine to have closer links with the EU. The Chinese are inclined to think that Ukraine was moving closer to the EU, even under Yanukovich. They believe that the main debate within Ukraine was on how fast – and Yanukovich was in favour of a slower path. Yet, the direction towards the EU was still clear for the Chinese. In fact, a Ukraine embedded in a free trade area with the EU and with an improved business climate could offer extra advantages to Chinese business, especially if the new ‘silk road’ project takes shape. Ukraine would then give China a direct inland access to the European market.
On the other hand, while the strategic objectives of China overlap significantly with those of the EU, Beijing strongly rejected the tactics of the Ukrainian revolution. On that, China’s view is much closer to Russia’s: the overthrow of an autocratic regime by popular protesters is not something to its liking. And Yanukovich’s attempts to supress the Kiev revolt Tiananmen-style were also unlikely to provoke Chinese ire. Just like Russia, China hoped the 21 February agreement between the opposition and the President, giving him a lease of political life until December, would hold. Suspicion of US meddling is another factor bringing Russian and Chinese tactical views of the situation closer to one another.
In sum, sympathy with the European strategic interests in the post-Soviet space coupled with sympathy with the Russian assessment of the tactics of the revolution. None of these instincts is likely to be expressed in public. The China-Russia relationship is hidden under a much thicker layer of smiles, politeness and hypocrisy than the Russia-EU relationship – which often slides into impolite and ‘frank’ exchanges.
Chinese president Xi Jinping, over the phone with American president Obama, has “urged for a political and diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian crisis” says XinHua news agency. However, Chinese interests in Eastern Europe remain too small for Beijing to take an open and vocal stance – at least for now, and as long as Russia’s aggressive actions do not reach into Central Asia.
Nicu Popescu and Camille Brugier, EUISS Alert, March 2014.