links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic
SustainabiliTank

 
 
Follow us on Twitter

Brazil China IBSA
CanadaIsraelIndonesiaJapanKoreaMexicoRussiaTurkey
Other Europe  Africa  Asia & Australia  Latin America  Island States
 

Archives
Green Sources Jobs
Real World's News Promptbook
FuturismCharts DatabaseBook reviewsArt and Peformance ReviewsCartoonsFuture MeetingsEco Friendly Tourism
Recent articles:
Ethical Markets Media works to reform markets and grow the green economy worldwide, focusing on the best practices, the most ethical, best-governed, cleanest, greenest organizations so as to raise global standards. EthicalMarkets.com provides news and perspective on climate prosperity,  reforming global finance, LOHAS and more through reports, articles, newsletters and analysis by our editor-in-chief, Hazel Henderson.  Ethicalmarkets.tv streams original Ethical Markets productions and video gathered from around the world. fowpal-banner.gif

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

BUSINESS LITIGATION CORNER

Responding to Stockholder Inspection Demands Under Delaware Code § 220

Delaware Code § 220 gives stockholders the right to inspect a corporation’s books and records subject to important limitations that have developed in the Delaware caselaw. This article explains the scope of and limitations on that right, and it also discusses the 10 questions that a corporation should consider upon receipt of such a request.
View the full article »

DELAWARE: Shareholders Entitled to Privileged Corporate Documents »
NEW YORK: Shareholders Allowed to Inspect Books and Records »

###

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

In the late 1970s, U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher often repeated the phrase “There is no alternative” — meaning that deregulated capitalism was the only possible way of doing things.

It’s an idea that still carries a lot of weight today, stifling the popular imagination. The feeling that we’re stuck with the system is so embedded in the dominant narrative that when the economy collapsed in 2007 we couldn’t imagine an alternative to bailing out the banks and hitting restart on Wall Street.

Except that’s not entirely true. Communities and social movements have been imagining alternatives to capitalism — many alternatives — for centuries.

A major challenge for our movements is creating space in the popular imagination for these ideas to flourish so that when the next crisis happens the solutions on the table move us closer to the world we need.

This raises the question we’re wrestling with on day two of #NewEconomyWeek:

How can we catalyze public conversation about the need for systemic change and the viability of economic alternatives that put people and the planet first?

Today, and each day this week, we will be featuring written responses by NEC coalition members and allies. We are also thrilled to be partnering with Yes! Magazine to broadcast some of this week’s content on their website. Check out their #NewEconomyWeek page here.

Sincerely,

The New Economy Coalition team

———————————

#NewEconomyWeek Day Two Responses

We Can’t Talk About A New Economy Without Talking About Race by Anand Jahi

The Finite Planet Frame by Eric Zencey, Gund Institute For Ecological Economics

In the New Economy, Caring Counts by Riane Eisler, Indradeep Ghosh, and Natalie Cox, Caring Economy Campaign

Co-Creating a New Vision by Jonathan Cohn, Christi Electris, and Paul Raskin, Tellus Institute

A Mantra For The Movement: “More of What Matters” by Sarah Baird, Center for a New American Dream

Five Metaphors for New Economies by Vanessa Timmer, One Earth

#NewEconomyWeek Day Two Featured Events

Public Banking For Vermont
Tuesday, October 14, 6:30PM to 8:00PM EST
Woodstock, VT

Winning Hearts and Minds: Anti-Racism, Feminism and the New Economy
Tuesday, October 14, 6:30PM to 9:30PM EST
Medford, MA

Limits to Growth: Where We Are and What to Do About It
Tuesday, October 14, 10:00PM EST / 7:00PM PST
Vancouver, BC and Online

Visit www.neweconomyweek.org for the full list of over 90 events planned by NEC’s friends and allies!

#NewEconomyWeek Online Panel Series

Starting Wednesday, we will be hosting online discussions with new economy leaders from across the US and Canada. After checking out the line-up below, register today to access all of this week’s panels.

There Are Many Alternatives: System Change Not Climate Change
POSTPONED (Date/Time TBD) Tuesday, October 14 @ 3-4pm EST

Scaling Power for a Just Transition: Strategies to Catalyze the New Economy
Wednesday, October 15 @ 4-5pm EST

Honoring our Histories, Fighting for our Future: Learning From Communities on the Frontlines of a Just Transition
Thursday, October 16 @ 3-4pm EST

Displacing Injustice, Embracing Community: Lessons from Local and Regional New Economy Organizing
Friday, October 17 @ 3-4pm EST

###

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


Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan Proposed for Southern California

 www.drecp.org
Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan Proposed for Southern California

  Permalink | | Email This Article Email This Article
Posted in California, Reporting from Washington DC

###

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


Bernie Sanders vs. the Billionaires

By Andrew Prokop, Vox also on Readers Supported News

14 October 2014

On a recent Sunday morning in Waterloo, Iowa, about 150 people filed into the local arts center to hear a speech by the United States’ only socialist senator. Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, white-haired and 73 years old, spoke for about an hour in his gravel-voiced, thick Brooklyn accent. His views are, he said, “a little different than most views.” Sanders denounced the power of the wealthy, advocated for single-payer health care and the public funding of elections — and called for a “political revolution” in America.

The crowd of mostly-elderly, liberal Iowans seemed to like the senator’s pitch. When Sanders said the top 25 hedge fund managers last year made more money than 425,000 public school teachers, many gasped. When he said Wall Street bankers were “too big to jail,” many clapped. And when he opened the floor for questions, one from a younger audience member, Rachel Antonuccio, led to particularly loud cheers. “I have a very simple question,” she said to Sanders. “Will you please run for president?”

Once Sanders quieted the applause, he didn’t give the standard politician’s coy non-response. He admitted that he’s “given thought to” running, saying he was motivated by the “enormous problems” the US faces — but he then quickly veered into his misgivings.

“I’m not much into hero-worship and all this stuff,” he said. “If somebody like me — or me — became president, there is no chance in the world that anything significant could be accomplished without the active, unprecedented support of millions of people, who would be prepared to make a commitment — the likes of which we have not made!”

Sanders argued that his positions — critical of the wealthy and corporate power, supportive of campaign finance reform, skeptical of trade deregulation and cutting social services — had the support of most Americans. But, he said, more than half of the public remained politically apathetic. “60 percent of the American people are not likely to vote in the coming election,” he said. “You think you can bring around change with that dynamic? You can have the best human being in the world in the White House fighting all the right fights, and he or she will fail.”

The question, he said, was whether those average Americans would join the political process — because, if they didn’t, the power of billionaires and corporate interests would never be checked. He asked, “Will those people stand up and fight?” When someone in the audience yelled out, “Yes,” Sanders cut him off. “It’s easy to say that they will!” He raised his voice further: “But I know that I don’t wanna be in the White House taking on the Koch brothers, who’ll be running ads 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, trying to destroy me and my family and everything else that we believe in, and not have people getting involved. And I don’t know whether that can happen.” He wound down: “That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”

As Hillary Clinton prepares for another presidential run, most observers believe that she’s nearly certain to win the Democratic nomination. Yet over the past several months, progressive activists have grown increasingly unsettled by her positions on both economic and foreign policy issues. She generally takes a conciliatory, rather than confrontational, tone toward the rich — which is perhaps not surprising, since she’s accepted millions in speaking fees and donations from corporations and banks, for both herself and her family’s foundation. Like Obama, Clinton wants to win support from, and work closely with, many of the wealthiest people in the country.

Bernie Sanders offers a very different approach. Though he’s never been a member of the Democratic Party, he’s considering challenging Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. He believes the central issue in America today is that the nation is drifting toward oligarchy. To stop this, he hopes to mobilize the American public — including traditionally Republican constituencies like elderly, rural, and white voters — to back an explicit, full-on challenge to the power of billionaires and corporate interests. With Thomas Piketty’s book becoming a bestseller, and politicians like Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio winning enthusiastic support for campaigning on inequality, could the Democratic electorate be ready for Bernie Sanders’ pitch?

The socialist senator

The word “socialist” is generally considered an epithet in the US, suggesting support for excessive government power or even Communist-style dictatorial abuse. But it’s a term Sanders embraces. A portrait of Eugene Debs, labor organizer and five-time Socialist Party candidate for president, hangs on a wall of Sanders’ Senate office in Washington, DC. Back in the late 1970s, Sanders created educational filmstrips for schools, and wrote and narrated one about Debs, in which he called him “a socialist, a revolutionary, and probably the most effective and popular leader that the American working class has ever had.” Sanders told C-SPAN in 2011 that Debs pioneered ideas like retirement benefits and a right to health care. When ABC’s Jeff Zeleny quizzed him about the socialist label in August, Sanders responded, “Do you hear me cringing? Do you hear me running under the table?”

Debs’ portrait is a reminder that, over Sanders’ four decades in politics — as a perennial third-party candidate, mayor of Burlington, Congressman, and then senator — he’s been laser-focused on checking the power of the wealthy above all else. Even as a student at the University of Chicago in the 1960s, influenced by the hours he spent in the library stacks reading famous philosophers, he became frustrated with his fellow student activists, who were more interested in race or imperialism than the class struggle. They couldn’t see that everything they protested, he later said, was rooted in “an economic system in which the rich controls, to a large degree, the political and economic life of the country.”

“Bernie is in many ways a 1930s radical as opposed to a 1960s radical,” says Professor Garrison Nelson of the University of Vermont. “The 1930s radicals were all about unions, corporations — basically economic issues rather than cultural ones.”

Richard Sugarman, an old friend who worked closely with Sanders during his early political career, concurs. “We spent much less time on social issues and much more time on economic issues,” he told me. “Bernard always began with the question of, ‘What is the economic fairness of the situation?’”

Sanders’ parents were Jewish immigrants from Poland, and his father couldn’t speak English. They lived in a small apartment in Brooklyn. “My mother’s dream was to own her own home, and she never achieved that,” he told me. “We were never hungry by any means. But money was always a major issue within our family. It caused a lot of tension between my mother and my dad.”

After college and a few aimless post-graduation years, Sanders moved up to Vermont permanently in 1968, and has lived there ever since. At the time, Vermont was viewed a rural refuge from New York, and a wave of migrants was reshaping the conservative state. Only a few years later, Sanders walked into a meeting of a local third party, the Liberty Union Party, and walked out its candidate for United States Senate. It would be the first of 20 third-party or independent bids for office — 14 of which he’d win.

Sanders’ first such victory — his election as mayor of Vermont’s largest city, Burlington, in 1981 — made national news. Dissatisfied with the rising cost of living, he had come out of nowhere to challenge an entrenched five-term Democratic incumbent, who basically ignored him. But Sanders had a keen political eye for finding defining issues. He opposed a plan to build high-end condos on the Burlington waterfront as a sop to the wealthy, criticized proposed property tax increases as too regressive, and won a crucial endorsement from the city’s police union. After a bitter recount battle, he ended up with 4,030 votes to the incumbent’s 4,020. Stories across the nation announced that a socialist would become the mayor of Vermont’s largest city. One report ran with the headline: “Everyone’s scared.”

The Sanders agenda

While Sanders is clearly to the left of today’s Democratic Party, the platform he laid out in Waterloo, Iowa, was not as extreme as the word “socialist” might lead people to think. “He’s a ‘small s’ socialist,” says Nelson. “He’s not, ‘Let’s totally revamp the government, break up the corporations, create five-year plans.’ He doesn’t get out too far on an ideological limb.”

The major issue on which Sanders embraces “full socialism” is health care, where he maintains his longtime support of a single-payer health care system. In Waterloo, Sanders called Obamacare a “modest step forward,” but called for expanding coverage and reducing the costs of care, much as candidates Obama and Clinton did in 2008. The problem is that in the current system, he said, “the goal is for the insurance companies and the drug companies to make as much money as possible.” (As a Congressman, Sanders brought a busload of breast cancer patients to Canada so they could buy cheaper prescription drugs.)


But support for single-payer isn’t so radical in Sanders’ home state, which actually enacted the nation’s first such system in 2011. After years of advocacy, and bitter disappointment at the compromises to the health industry that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama made, Sanders was jubilant over Vermont’s achievement. “If we do it and do it well, other states will get in line and follow us,” he said. “And we will have a national system.”

On other issues, Sanders is more like a traditional populist Democrat, willing to disregard the concerns of business and the wealthy in order to try and help the less fortunate. “I voted against all the trade agreements,” he told me. “Unfettered free trade has been a disaster for the American people.” He has no time for deficit hawks, and instead mocks “entitlement reform” as a “code word” meaning “cutting Social Security and Medicare.” Rather than cut Social Security, he says, we should expand it, after raising payroll taxes on the wealthy. On education, he says “it’s time we thought about” making college free for everyone. He’s argued that the government should spend billions more on infrastructure, to create jobs. And he supports amending the Constitution to allow for greater Congressional regulation of campaign finance, like the rest of his party.

Elsewhere, he is more cautious. He has not voiced support for increasing taxes on the middle class, arguing instead that they’re already getting squeezed. On social issues, like abortion, gun rights, and gay rights, he is squarely within the mainstream of the Democratic party — not to its left. And on foreign policy, while he opposed the war in Iraq, he voices sympathy with Israel’s security concerns and warns of the dangers of ISIS — positions that have sometimes led to awkward confrontations with a few more radical constituents.

“He knows the game,” Nelson says. “Most radicals don’t know the game and they don’t want to learn the game because it would compromise their purity. But he likes to win elections, and he has got a very good sense of what will work and what won’t.” In Waterloo, Sanders voiced confidence that the views he’s pushing were broadly popular. “What I believe is, on all these issues, we have the vast majority of people on our side.”

Mayor of Burlington

Half an hour before the Waterloo event, I met up with Sanders at a cafe downtown. It was a chilly, windy Sunday morning, and few places nearby were open. We sat at a table outside, Sanders ordered tea, and I asked him why Obama’s presidency fell short of progressives’ expectations. “I like Barack Obama. I think he is a very, very smart guy,” he said. “His views, his heart, while not terribly progressive, are more progressive than I think some of his actions have shown.” But his “major flaw,” Sanders said, was his “post-partisan” approach to Washington politics. “He believed that people could sit down in Congress and have serious discussions about serious issues and move forward. Well, he was wrong.”

Instead, Sanders said, “There was an unprecedented level of obstructionism” from the GOP, “starting literally from the day that he got inaugurated.” He argued that the GOP’s major strategy was trying to block action on any issue, so the American people would blame Obama for being a failure. “And I think he did not understand that,” he said. “That has been their political strategy, and by and large it’s been reasonably successful.”

If Sanders believes Obama should have been prepared for an immediate, tooth-and-nail fight, perhaps that’s because he himself faced one right after being sworn in as mayor of Burlington in 1981. His “most bitter enemies,” he told a reporter at the time, were the local Democrats, who controlled the city’s 13-member board of aldermen. Board members viewed Sanders’ victory as a ludicrous affront, and felt a Democrat was certain to retake the mayoralty two years later. So when the new mayor tried to replace city officials held over from the previous administration with his own appointees, the Democrats blocked nearly all of them, refusing even to hold hearings considering their appointments. Forget socialist reforms — Sanders couldn’t even get a staff. “He was operating without any kind of administration,” his first mayoral campaign manager, Linda Niedweske, said.

The atmosphere was tense. Early on, his political inexperience was mocked. In one embarrassing case, he nominated a man for a city position without realizing the man had died a month earlier. A Democratic alderman told a reporter that Sanders was “quite crude.” A leaflet dubbed the “Burlington Flea Press,” written anonymously by an apparent City Hall insider, spread rumors that Sanders was truly a Communist, not a socialist. He even got a ticket for parking his car in the mayor’s parking spot. “I guess now what I expect is that the Democrats on the board are going to attempt to make every day of my life as difficult as possible,” Sanders said at the time. “That’s fine. We will reciprocate in kind.”

Rather than sway his opponents by reason, or through compromise, he campaigned to get them kicked out of office — recruiting challengers, organizing volunteers, and working himself to exhaustion. Beyond that, he zeroed in on the tedious, day-to-day details of ensuring services were provided. “He understood that if you were going to be mayor of a city with a very cold climate and a lot of snow, that snow removal rather than ideology would most often prevail,” says Sugarman. He started to ride around on snow trucks to supervise the plowing, and even started a volunteer program called Operation Snow Shovel to help senior citizens.

The voters rewarded him. In 1982, most of his Democratic opponents went down to defeat, and Sanders’ appointees were soon confirmed. And when Sanders himself was up for reelection the following year, he won easily, with 52 percent in a three-way race. “We came close to doubling the voter turnout” compared to his initial election, Sanders told me. “Why? Because we kept our promises. We did pay attention to the low-income and working-class areas. They saw parks being improved, they saw their streets being plowed, and being paved. People saw — ‘Oh my God, government works!’”

While some of his most bitter enemies would never fully be won over, tensions with business interests began to cool when they realized Sanders wanted to bring jobs to the city, not confiscate their wealth. “Taxes went up and the government charged new fees for all kinds of things that kind of aggravated them,” Nelson said. “But the smarter businesses learned to live with Bernie.” The proposal for making high-rises on the waterfront was killed, but the developer behind it started to work closely with Sanders on other issues, and they became good friends. Sanders’ radicalism was mainly limited to foreign policy — yes, Burlington had one, including resolutions supporting the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. (The mayor’s supporters were nicknamed the “Sanders-istas.”)

Sanders served four two-year terms as mayor, and left a legacy. “Had Bernie Sanders not become mayor, the city would have become hopelessly yuppified, with poor people being priced out of Burlington,” Nelson told the Washington Post’s Lois Romano in 1991. Still, nothing like a socialist revolution ever materialized. But Sanders had raised his profile enough to be elected Vermont’s sole Congressman in 1990 — the first independent elected to the US House of Representatives in 40 years.

Political revolution

Throughout his two and a half decades in Congress, Sanders has often worked with Republicans on individual issues. In 2005, Matt Taibbi dubbed him the House’s “amendment king” because, since the GOP takeover of 1994, Sanders had more amendments approved by floor vote than any other lawmaker. “He accomplishes this on the one hand by being relentlessly active, and on the other by using his status as an Independent to form left-right coalitions,” Taibbi wrote. Sanders looked for issues that would appeal to most Americans and be broadly popular, even if — especially if — the corporate-influenced leadership of both parties would prefer to avoid them.

But small wins haven’t been enough for Sanders, who’s always been obsessed with the big picture. He now says the trend he’s been warning about for decades — the rise of oligarchy — has only gotten more urgent and dire. Somehow, despite his belief that the American people agree with him, the Republican Party has won many elections, even as it’s moved further to the right. “The Republican Party right now in Washington is highly disciplined, very, very well-funded, and adheres to more or less the Koch brother position,” Sanders told me. They’ve “moved from being a right-center party to a right-wing extremist party,” he said. As with the Burlington Democrats, Sanders doesn’t believe they can be negotiated with on major issues — only defeated.

How would defeat be possible? Democrats already have some advantages among the presidential electorate, with large leads among racial minorities, women, and young voters. But in midterms, the electorate tends to be older and whiter. In 2010, Democratic Congressional candidates got their lowest percentage of the white vote ever, and in 2012, Obama lost whites and white seniors by the most of any Democratic presidential candidate since the 1980s. Plus, the GOP has a built-in edge in both chambers of Congress — from the gerrymandered map and natural geography for House districts, plus the overrepresentation of rural white states in the Senate.

Yet Sanders himself has repeatedly won double-digit statewide victories in Vermont — the second-whitest, second-oldest, and second-most-rural state in the nation. Accordingly, he believes that the only way to break the GOP’s power is to turn many of their own core voters — white voters, rural voters, and seniors — against them, and against the power of the wealthy.

This is the political revolution Sanders hopes to achieve, and this is why he’s repeatedly visited Iowa and New Hampshire this year. “I do not know how you can concede the white working class to the Republican Party, which is working overtime to destroy the working class in America,” Sanders told me. “The idea that Democrats are losing among seniors when you have a major Republican effort to destroy Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, is literally beyond my comprehension.”


So why is it happening? “I think the average Tea Party person is angry because he or she has seen their family’s income go down, their college is unaffordable, that they’re struggling with health care, they’ve seen their jobs go to China,” Sanders said. “But the people who fund the Tea Party believe in all of those things! So I think the first thing you have to do is explain to them how they are being manipulated by the Koch brothers and the folks who put the money into the Tea Party.”

That explanation has recently been the main theme of Sanders’ political project. In Waterloo, Sanders listed a blizzard of statistics about growing inequality — diagnosing the problem. Then, he identified the culprit — billionaires, corporations, and specifically the Koch brothers, whose names he mentioned 18 times. He spent several minutes reading and criticizing the Libertarian Party’s political platform from 1980, when David Koch was its vice presidential nominee. He quoted sections supporting “the repeal of federal campaign finance laws,” “the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs,” “the repeal of the fraudulent, bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system,” and the repeal of minimum wage laws and personal and corporate income taxes.

“The agenda of the Koch brothers,” Sanders said, “is to repeal virtually every major piece of legislation that has been signed into law over the past 80 years that has protected the middle class, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the most vulnerable in this country.”

Essentially, Sanders is calling for the Democratic Party to wage a rhetorical war on the billionaire class, to better mobilize the general public against them, and break their power. He believes the power of the rich is the defining issue of our politics, and wants to elevate it accordingly. The specifics of how this mobilization happens, and what the public does once it’s mobilized (beyond voting out Republicans), are less clear. Sanders’ generic suggestion tends to be for a march on Washington. “You wanna lower the cost of college? Then you’re gonna have to show up in Washington with a few million of your friends!” he told an audience member in Waterloo. “You wanna raise the minimum wage? Bring two million workers to Washington,” he continued.

Much of the party has already gravitated toward his rhetoric, if not all of his policies. In September, every Senate Democrat voted to amend the US Constitution to reverse the Citizens United Supreme Court decision on campaign finance. And lately, Harry Reid has been sounding positively Sanders-esque on the topic of the Koch brothers, mentioning their names on the Senate floor repeatedly in speeches. Though it’s just rhetoric, politicians who use it tend to elicit very strong reactions from their targets — Obama’s brief, one-time use of the term “fat-cat bankers” resulted in quite a backlash from bankers who felt offended.

But Hillary Clinton is extremely unlikely to take up the banner of class warfare in her presidential campaign. According to a report by Amy Chozick of the New York Times, she is currently exploring, through discussions with donors and friends in business, how her campaign can address inequality “without alienating businesses or castigating the wealthy.” Beyond Clinton’s desire to raise campaign cash, there’s a long-held belief among many Democratic political consultants that messaging critical of the rich simply isn’t effective in US politics. Instead, they argue, much of the American public actually rather admires successful businessmen, and aspires to be like them. And lack of trust in government is a real and consistent force in American politics and public opinion.

Sanders acknowledges all this, but wants to persuade people that they should blame the billionaires and corporations pulling the government’s strings and gumming up its gears. The problem, he believes, is that many Americans don’t believe the Democratic Party will fight for them — because, he says, “corporate influence makes the party more conservative, which raises doubts among people.” A campaign focused on issues of inequality and the power of the wealthy, he argued, can convince people Democrats will fight for them again. “You win because you are there fighting for working families all across the board, for seniors, for the children,” he says. “That’s how you win.” Beyond Vermont, though, it’s a theory that remains unproven.

A presidential run?

After Sanders laid out his misgivings about running for president in Waterloo, an audience member broached the question of whether he might run as an independent or a Democrat. “That’s a great question!” Sanders said, animated. “I’d love to get your opinions on it.” He laid out his thinking to the crowd. An independent candidacy could be appealing because of “huge frustration at both parties,” but it’s very difficult to get on the ballot in 50 states. And he emphasized that he would never run as a spoiler if it could lead to the election of a Republican president — “we’ve made that mistake in the past.” On the other hand, if he ran as a Democrat, “It’s easier to get on the ballot, you can get into the debates, and the media will take you more seriously.” The disadvantage? “People are not overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the Democratic Party.”

Sanders asked the crowd which sounded better, and about 80 percent of them raised their hands in favor of a primary contest. “I think you run as a Democrat, because you want to push the debate, with Hillary or whoever it is, in the direction you want to see it go,” an audience member said. “We need to hear the establishment challenged.” Sanders then asked the crowd another question. “I know Iowa does politics differently than other states,” he said, to knowing chuckles. “How many of you would be prepared to work hard if I ran?” A sizable majority raised their hands again.

If Sanders runs, his ideas could have their highest-profile spotlight in decades. In 2007 and 2008, the candidates in the Democratic presidential primary debated 26 times, though that number will surely be much lower next time around. Sanders’ best hope is that few other candidates besides Clinton, or none, enter the race. If there are 8 challengers on stage, he could easily be dismissed by the media as a kook, like Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel. If it’s just him and Clinton debating, that’s exactly the contrast he hopes for. “I think there’s a hunger for somebody who will take on banks and the corporations and the wealthy,” said Huck Gutman, Sanders’ former chief of staff.

It’s quite plausible that we’ll see a moment in 2015 when Sanders benefits from such a surge of attention, however brief it may be. “I have nightmares that someone like a Bernie Sanders will catch fire and cause trouble for Hillary Clinton,” a pro-Clinton Democratic operative told MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald recently. But little-known challengers who go up in the polls are then likely to go down. In the GOP race in 2012, dissatisfaction with front-runner Mitt Romney led to a surge of attention and poll performance for several other challengers — Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum — who soon flamed out. Political scientists John Sides and Lynn Vavreck characterized this pattern as “discovery, scrutiny, and decline.” The GOP electorate learned more about an interesting new challenger, but eventually realized he or she wasn’t the right choice — perhaps due to concerns over electability.

Still, Iowa and New Hampshire could be two advantageous states for Sanders. Rural and white, they resemble Vermont demographically, and are filled with exactly the sort of voters he wants for his revolution. “A misconception about Vermont is that it’s a bunch of Volvo-driving liberals,” said Gutman. “A lot more people there drive patched up old cars than Volvos, and they’re the heart of Bernie’s constituency. Bernie appeals to working families, seniors, veterans — to people who say ‘I’m being pushed and shoved.’” But though outsider Republicans like Pat Buchanan, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum have edged out victories in either Iowa or New Hampshire, true outsider Democrats have had less luck there in recent years. And afterward, the road will only get tougher.

Ideals are nice, but pragmatists deal with the world as it is. Bernie Sanders knows that very well — and so does Hillary Clinton. Even if the political revolution doesn’t quite materialize, Sanders, in positioning himself for a run, is reshaping the world Clinton will have to deal with by presenting a threat to her left. How she responds will have implications for her own candidacy, the Democratic party’s platform, and potentially even the presidency. “I like Hillary. I respect Hillary,” Sanders told me. “But it is important that we discuss issues. Which is what the future of America will be about.”

###

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

Making the SDGs Relevant.

From Emily Benson  emily.benson at greeneconomycoalition.or…

From Sustainable Development Announcement List of IISD.
London, UK, October 13, 2014

Dear friends,

With less than a year to go until the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are agreed, the big question now is implementation. Specifically, how do we make the SDGs relevant to businesses as well as national and local level decision makers?

As part of the Measure What Matters initiative, we are bringing together statisticians from corporate reporting with national and international statistical bodies to explore how we align data frameworks at different scales (global, national, corporate, local).

Our first consultation is focused on WATER: How might global Goal(s) on water sustainability be operationalised at local, corporate and national levels? How do we ensure that the data frameworks are aligned?

If you are involved in water – then we want to hear from you! We need your expertise.

We will feed the results of this consultation directly into the implementation working groups for the SDGs, discussions at the national level on alternative GDP measurements, and consultations for strengthening corporate reporting.

The dialogue is available here. Please also see our one-page guidance note on taking part.

Measure What Matters is an initiative aiming to generate dialogue amongst diverse stakeholder groups on the case for operationalising global sustainability goals at the national and corporate levels. Please do see our website for more information. The initiative is led by the Green Economy Coalition in partnership with the Global Reporting Initiative, Accounting for Sustainability, the Stockholm Environment Institute, the International Institute for Environment and Development, and Stakeholder Forum.

Do contact us for more information or help:  emily.benson at greeneconomycoalition.or….
Emily Benson
Programme Manager
Green Economy Coalition

E:  emily.benson at greeneconomycoalition.or…

T: +44 (0)203 463 7399

M: +44 (0) 7771 915 591

Come join the debate: www.greeneconomycoalition.org

IIED is a company limited by a guarantee and incorporated in England. Reg. No 2188452. Registered office: 80-86 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8NH, UK. VAT Reg. No. GB 440 4948 50. Charity No. 800066. OSCR No 039864 www.iied.org

###

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

Humanity at Crossroad : How to Shape a New Sustainable Development Trajectory.

On US Columbus Day, The Women’s International Forum at the United Nations in New York – WIF – took advantage of the slower ongoings at the UN and convened a meeting with the two Co-Chairs of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG SDG) who toiled for a full year to produce an aspirational text that eventually was accepted by all UN Member States, and which now has to be fleshed out so there is also a financing agreement by the end of this General Assembly year – ready to go to the Paris Summit of November 30 to December 11, 2015.

The wife of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Ms. Ban Soon-taek is the Patron of WIF and the wife of the Ambassador from Thailand, Ms. Nareumon Sinhaseni is the current President of the Executive Board of WIF.

Today’s presentations by the two co-chairs was the best lay-out of the issues which encompass no less then the future of Humankind on earth. The presenters were:

H.E. Csaba Korosi – Ambassador of Hungary and H.E. Macharia Kamau – Ambassador of Kenya

The two Co-chairs of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG SDG).

Ambassador Korosi spoke first and with the help of power-points provided an in-depth analysis of how the Working Group spent their time. Then Ambassador Kamau boiled the future we aspire to down to Three Words – AMBITIOUS, TRANSFORMATIVE and UNIVERSAL.
I will proceed by reporting this vision first, and pick up the mechanics later.

The targets and goals boil down to us an image of a world without poverty, without hunger everywhere, where diseases are under control, a truly inclusive society, equality for genders, businesses are responsible in their production methods and where animals are not seen as means for us but part of the ecosystem – and countries are equal as well.

Then he said he wants to imagine the standard in Manhattan as the norm for the SDGs. He challenged us to think of the conditions in the year 1960 and contemplate on how the world changed since then in travel, phones, medicines, how we moved away from the danger of a nuclear war. Then he suggested to flip this and ask why not continue this progress for the next 40 years as well, and spread the gains worldwide. That was the AMBITION part.

Now to TRANSFORMATIVE – this when we realize that after 3,000 years of civilization we still talk of gender equality. We need
a major change in the economic, social, and political structure of our lives.

It must be UNIVERSAL because those that progress was denied to them will come to claim their part. We do not talk anymore of charity towards the poor – that got us nowhere.

We must be held with our feet to the fire of accountability. This is not just about money. It is rather about holding ourselves accountable – he said. After what we achieved in preparing goals and targets we now have the span of time – January – September 2015, to come up with an AGENDA THAT IS ACCOUNTABLE. We have to overcome the people that do not see this – and bring them on board. He knows for a fact that we will succeed, and that collective effort will lead us to the future we all want.

Ambassador Korosi opened by telling us that we have now 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 Targets – all accepted by all of the UN body after a year of hard work that spread over 13 sessions. All this is ACTION ORIENTED AND ASPIRATIONAL IN NATURE. Let us round this up to 170 TARGETS.

Now we use the resources of 1.5 Earths – but we have only one. This year the Earth Overshoot Day was August 19. That was the day we started to borrow this year resources from the future generations. This date of the “Overshoot” moves back year-by-year so it shows our consumption of resources accelerates us with increasing speed towards the climate disaster. If we do not change our ways by 2030 we need then 50% more food and 35% more freshwater while nnually we loose agricultural land equal to half a Hungary or the size of a Belgium.

Since 1900 the world population tripled and available water per capita decreased from 12.000 m3 to 5.000. Urbanization that is now at 52% of the 7.5 Bn people today will reach 75% of the 8.5-9 Bn by 2050. Looking at the MDGs that were not achieved yet we find that 2.5 Bn people today still need electricity.

SD was defined in 1987 as Development to meet the present needs but that does not compromise the future. Now SD is seen as a bridge between the past, present, and future – all right – but it is between humans and nature, between politics and economics, between governments, civil society, and business, between the rich and poor, and between the North and South, and South and South. Sustainability is thus a hub of bridges and the SDGs are there to motivate the construction of these bridges.

We were presented the 17 SDGs and told that the 169 targets, global in nature as well, result from looking at local, national, regional needed actions. We attach the list of the 17 SDGs further down.

The concept is to turn the global aspirations into opportunities. We will need methods for data collection in order to build a supporting system for achieving the SDGs. We tried working on single goals and developed indicators for that purpose – but it did not work because all goals are interconnected. To support this, Amb. Korosi showed us a slide how the three Dimension of SD in the SDGs – the environmental, social, and economic, cut across all 17 SDGs and from goal to goal.

Among the lessons we learned from the work with MDGs is the need for a global Paradigm Change. The SD is a joint commitment to change in global trends – not limited to assistance to address some challenges in a group of countries – we are really all in the muck – together.

Implementation will be on national / regional / local levels with political commitment, national responsibility, supporting international cooperation – resulting in 193 different ways of implementation that result from the fact that there are now 193 Member States at the UN – but also involving the cooperation of stake-holders – a term that allows windows for Civil Society, business, and we assume also factors that have only outside relationship to the UN like the indigenous peoples’ Nations, or countries that are not Members of the UN. Cities and urbanization, as well as communities and sub-national States, come under the Local level while regional includes neighboring Nations.

Here we get to the issue of money and the speaker said that the global savings stand at 22 trillion with the value of assets reaching 230 trillion – so – in honesty – the 2-5 trillion needed as investment in the SDGs ought not to be a problem considering the vast amount of good these investments will provide. The problem is thus not money but accountability.


The home stretch of the follow up to the agreed-upon text, what the speaker called THE WAY AHEAD, includes the following steps:

- A Synthesis Report by the Secretary-General to be ready December 2014 followed by Intergovernmental negotiations – January to September 2015.

- The all important Summit on Financing SD to be held in Addis Abeba, July 2015

- The Summit on post-2015 agenda that is timed with the General Assembly 2015 meeting in September 2015 at UN New York Hqtrs.

- The target meeting in Paris, December 2015 of the make or brake Climate Summit 2015.

The speaker pointed out that a failure in any one of these steps is simply unaffordable.

————————

The presenters were introduced to the members of WIF:

“Elected by acclamation by members of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goal (OWG SDG) as Co-Chairs of the OWG on SDGs on the first day of the first session of the OWG on SDGs on 14 March 2013, Ambassador Csaba Korosi, PR of Hungary, and Ambassador Macharia Kamau, PR of Kenya, had, in fact, been highly involved in the issue of Sustainable Development since they were the co facilitators for the preparations of the first session of the OWG.

Upon their election, PGA Vuk Jeremic remarked that “process of formulating the SDGs will undoubtedly be a complicated one, requiring great diplomatic skills”.

Thirteen sessions of OWG from March 2013 to July 2014, 17 goals and 169 targets adopted by the OWG by acclamation, as well as the adoption of the Report of the OWG by UNGA 68, are clear evidence of the diplomatic skills of the Co-chairs. Proposing SDGs that are action oriented, concise and easy to communicate, limited in number, aspirational, global in nature and applicable to all countries. All the while ensuring that the intergovernmental process is transparent and inclusive to all stakeholders.

The two Co-chairs presented to WIF the process and results of their more than a year of hard work.
WIF members heard that of the 17 goals agreed upon, goal Five is devoted to “Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls” If this particular goal and its targets are faithfully integrated into the Post 2015 Development Agenda, it will be a real “game changer” towards the effective protection of women’s rights throughout the world.”

—————-
THE SDGs:

1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere

2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages

4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all

5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all

8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

10. Reduce inequality within and among countries

11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable

12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat
desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss

16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build
effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

—————

Much further information was provided in the lively follow up discussion with the WIF ladies.

We know about the relationship between Global Warming and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere already since 1896 from the studies by Svante Arrhenius of Sweden who also thought of human induced increase of the gas concentration in air. It took 60 years to think of the need of an international agreement, and now 120 years since Arhenius we are still on the wrong trajectory.

So knowledge is not enough. Governments did not act because their interest is in the yearly budget, or the time period of their rule – so long term projects that we must be facing now had no chance until the problem became larger.

On a question from Peru if the number of SDGs was not too large – after all – “END POVERTY” would have been enough – the answer came that 250 SDGs were proposed and it was a long discussion that brought them down to 17.

The question of youth came up and the Ambassador from Kenya answered that actually we have only one SDG and that is for a Sustainable World that we can hand down to our children – so it is really not necessary to mention the youth because it is about ONE WORLD.

—————

Please Note:

While the 2014 COP20 (2014) conference of the UNFCCC at Lima, Peru, is the next in the annual series, Ban Ki-moon has directed more attention toward the COP21, 2015 conference in Paris. A statement made by Ban Ki-moon called for the climate change summit he held on September 22, 2014 in New York, to lead to the Paris conference, but made no reference to the 2014 conference in Lima.

According to the organizing committee, the objective of the 2015 conference is to achieve, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, a binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. This is part of the
package that includes the fulfillment of the MDGs and the establishing of the new SDGs

I found interesting that Ms. Ban was taking notes at the meeting of the WIF – I wonder if this was followed up by a direct report at the dinner table?

###

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

The key to nuclear’s future or an element of doubt?

Date: 14-Oct-14
REUTERS – PLANET ARK – October 13, 2014
Author: Geert De Clercq

The key to nuclear’s future or an element of doubt?

Work at the Cadarache CEA (Atomic Energy Authority) site near Saint-Paul-les-Durance, south eastern France, September 26, 2014.


For sodium, the sixth-most abundant element on the planet, is being held up as the key to one of several new types of nuclear reactor being developed as governments grapple with the problem of making atomic energy more environmentally friendly, safe and financially viable.

The 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan effectively brought a global nuclear boom to a halt, but a decade-old research program into new reactors has regained relevance of late.

Quite apart from Germany’s decision to phase out a large slice of its nuclear capacity in the wake of Fukushima, Britain and Belgium have recently switched off several aging reactors over safety concerns while a number of U.S. plants have closed because they can no longer compete with cheap shale gas.

Launched by the United States in 2000, the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) has 13 member countries including China, Russia, France, Japan and Britain, which have whittled down nearly 100 proffered concepts to focus research on six nuclear reactor models.

By far the most advanced of the six is the sodium-cooled fast reactor (SFR), developed by France, Russia and China from a concept pioneered in the United States in the 1950s.

The SFR’s main advantage is that it can burn spent uranium and plutonium. These unwanted byproducts from water-cooled reactors have been piling up for years and the World Nuclear Association estimates stocks at about 1.5 million tonnes.

“We could produce power for several thousands of years with that without getting new natural uranium,” said Christophe Behar, the vice-chairman of GIF.

Behar, also head of research at French nuclear agency CEA, points out that SFRs can also burn up uranium’s most long-lived radioactive waste products, reducing the need for deep storage.

EXPLOSIVE DRAWBACK

Liquid sodium is better than water at evacuating heat from the reactor core and its high boiling point of about 900 degrees Celsius allows SFRs to operate close to atmospheric pressure, negating the need for the thick, steel containment vessels at pressurized water reactors.

But sodium has significant disadvantages, too. On contact with air, it burns; plunged into water, it explodes.

Early SFRs built by France, Russia and Japan have suffered corrosion and sodium leaks. But these were not built to GIF standards and the CEA research facility amid the pine trees in Cadarache, southeast France, is working on how to tame sodium as the agency seeks to convince lawmakers to allow construction of its new Astrid reactor, a 600 megawatt SFR.

The Astrid project was granted a 652 million euro ($823 million) budget in 2010 and a decision on construction is expected around 2019.

The use of sodium, which occurs naturally only as a compound in other minerals, presents huge challenges, however.

Nitrogen-driven turbines are being designed to prevent sodium from mixing with water, while purpose-built electromagnetic pumps are seen as the solution to moving the superheated metal within reactors. Then there’s the headache of not being able to see through the liquid metal should something go wrong in a reactor core.

The other five concepts – including lead and helium-cooled fast neutron reactors and three very-high-temperature reactors – are less mature than the SFR and face similar technological hurdles.

But technology is not the only obstacle. Cost is key, as ever, and abundant U.S. shale gas and a renewables energy boom in Europe have undermined the viability of the nuclear industry, leading some GIF member states, including Japan, Canada and Switzerland, to scale back funding.

SCIENCE FRICTION

Regardless of which, if any, of the new concepts eventually holds sway, the inevitable political wrangling over commercial projects will almost inevitably bring further delays, as with Britain’s 16 billion pound ($26 billion) Hinkley Point C plant to be operated by French utility EDF.

“Between the ambition in the beginning and today’s status, the Generation IV research is not exactly on track,” the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency’s Thierry Dujardin said.

GIF’s target of having the first prototypes in operation around 2020 has been pushed back to 2030, with the first commercial plants not expected before 2040-2050, but such are the timescales in the nuclear industry.

The group does have some wriggle room, as many of the second-generation reactors built in 1970s and 1980s are expected to run for another decade, while third-generation plants built today by firms such as Areva and Westinghouse are designed to operate for up to 60 years.

Critics of GIF say that France and other nations have been too quick to focus research on the SFR and should have made a more audacious bet on newer technologies, such as the pebble-bed high-temperature reactor or the molten-salt reactor.

“There is not a single really new idea among the 4G models,” said Bernard Laponche, a retired CEA nuclear engineer.

Given sodium’s explosive potential, Laponche argues that the molten-salt reactor, the least developed technology, is the safest of the six models.

“It’s not a windmill, but it’s better than the others,” he said.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 12th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Reducing Carbon Emissions Would Fuel Global Economy.

By Anastasia Pantsios, EcoWatch

11 October 14

Evidence is amassing to discredit those middle-ground politicians who say they think climate change is real but don’t think we should address it because of the steep economic costs.

Two reports issued today by the Climate Policy Institute add to the growing pile of studies showing that moving to clean-energy, low-carbon policies that help mitigate the effects of climate change could actually provide fuel for the economy.

They found that moving to such policies could save the global economy trillions of dollars in the next two decades to invest in economic growth. The reports were commissioned by the New Climate Economy project as part of the research conducted for the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.

“For policymakers around the world wondering whether the transition to a low-carbon economy will help or hurt their countries’ ability to invest for growth, our analysis clearly demonstrates that, for many, the low-carbon transition is a no-brainer,” said Climate Policy Initiative’s executive director Tom Heller. “It not only reduces climate risks, its benefits are clear and significant.”

“Moving to a Low Carbon Economy: The Financial Impact of the Low-Carbon Transition” juxtaposes the costs of low-carbon electricity and low-carbon transportation system with the costs of the current system. “Moving to a Low Carbon Economy: The Impact of Different Policy Pathways on Fossil Fuel Asset Values” looks at the risk and extent of existing fossil fuel assets’ loss of value (aka asset-stranding), which would limit governments and businesses’ ability to borrow against them to finance growth and investment, including investment in a clean energy technologies.

The reports came to a number of conclusions about the positive economic impacts of shifting to policies that favor clean, renewable energy. They found that since governments worldwide and not private companies control 50-70 percent of oil, gas and coal resources, they also have the power to shape policies that can lead to savings or to asset-stranding. They also concluded that the savings in operational costs from renewable energy as opposed to fossil-fuel energy far outweighs the value of the stranded assets. And they assert that transitioning away from coal would provide the greatest benefits in emissions reductions with the least loss in value.

They also urge reducing the cost of financing renewable energy plants to lower the cost of transition worldwide, implementing a planning approach that includes taxes and innovation, and using gas as a bridge fuel in some regions—particularly China and India—until 2030 but saying gas use would have to decrease after that.

“Our analysis reveals that with the right policy choices, over the next twenty years governments can achieve the emissions reductions necessary for a safer, more stable climate and free up trillions for investment in other parts of the economy,” said Climate Policy Initiative’s senior director David Nelson. “This is even before taking into account the environmental and health benefits of reducing emissions.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 12th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


EU regional projects see ‘encouraging’ shift in focus.

10.10.14 By Honor Mahony – The Euobserver

BRUSSELS – As he finishes up his mandate as EU regional affairs commissioner, Johannes Hahn says his “legacy” is getting member states to spend money on the real economy rather than hulking infrastructure projects.

Romania’s Corina Cretu (Partidul Social Democrat) is due to take over as EU regional affairs commissioner in November

Under his watch, rules governing how regional aid money – running to €325 billion between 2014-2020 – is spent were given a shake-up to encourage projects in line with the EU’s long-term economic goals.

Adopted at the end of December, the new rules have already resulted in a big decrease in spending on traditional infrastructure – such as roads – and a leap in spending on green and ICT projects.

“We see a clear shift from investment in infrastructure towards stimulation of the “real” economy,” Hahn told this website, adding that this is “encouraging”.

“I like to think [of this] as a legacy of my time as commissioner for this policy.”

Analysis by late September of the plans of various regions have showed that there was a 22 percent rise in spending (to €125bn) on projects dedicated to research & development, innovation, ICT, small businesses, and low-carbon economy compared to the last budget cycle (2007-2013).

Spending on transport and other major infrastructure has sunk by 21 pecent, to €60bn, while member states such as Belgium, Croatia, Italy, Portugal, and the UK have made helping small companies a priority.

On energy security and green projects specifically, the chunk of aid money has more than doubled to €38 billion.
Red tape – also in the member states

Hahn notes that while the more stringent rules mean that getting spending programmes agreed is more time-consuming, the “insistence” on focussing on what results will be achieved rather than just whether money will be spent is “very valuable”.

“Member states will have to spell out what they want to achieve and by when, and be monitored whether those results are there,” he says.

And while he admits that the rules are still complicated – or not simplified “as much as we might have wished” – leading to grumbling by some local authorities, he says member states themselves are just as much to blame.

“Many layers of red tape come from member states themselves – what we call ‘gold-plating’ and it is too easy to blame this on the so-called ‘Brussels bureaucracy ‘.”

On tying funds to good economic governance – a controversial innovation to the rules – Hahn said stopping EU aid because a member state is fiscally misbehaving would be a “last resort”, but underlines that “investments will deliver more in the context of budgetary discipline”.

“We are not talking about punishment but rather about an incentive to maintain financial and budgetary discipline so that funds can deliver for citizens.”

The Austrian politician, who is due to take over the European neighbourhood policy dossier from November, declines to give advice to his successor candidate, Romania’s Corina Cretu.

But he does suggest that, in future, GDP – or how rich a region is – should not be the only criteria for determining whether it should qualify for EU money.

“Other measures such as innovation performance could be taken into account,” he says, indicating that being a forward-looking region with clever ideas should be enough for a shot at EU aid.
 euobserver.com/regions/125754

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 12th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From The Washington Post
The Switch/Innovations
It’s all about what’s next • Sat., Oct. 11, 2014

5 insights from Vint Cerf on bitcoin, net neutrality and more
When Vint Cerf, often called the “father of the Internet,” is speaking, it’s wise to listen. Earlier this week Cerf, who holds the title of chief Internet evangelist at Google, spoke at a Startup Grind event at Google’s office in Washington, D.C. Here are some of his thoughts, drawn from his remarks to the group and an […]


Why it matters that Microsoft is channeling the Star Trek holodeck

Instead of measuring innovation in terms of new products or services, maybe it’s time to start measuring innovation in terms of how companies change our perceptions of reality. Before virtual reality and augmented reality, there was simulated reality, immersive virtual reality, mixed reality and artificial reality. All of these iterations of “reality” represented new ways […]


Jeff Pulver opens up on Silicon Valley’s scorn for old entrepreneurs, and why every start-up needs a lead singer

Entrepreneur Jeff Pulver, best known for his role in a series of Internet communications companies including Vonage, spoke at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., Wednesday. When discussing his involvement in the Israel tech scene he recounted a personal story about ageism in Silicon Valley: What I like about Israel — in many cases […]


America can’t lead the world in innovation if the FAA keeps dragging its feet on drone rules

As the latest revolutionary digital technology takes off, entrepreneurs are finding themselves battling federal regulators for permission just to experiment with new applications. This time, it’s not the FCC (smartphone apps), the FTC (the Internet of Things), the FDA (genetic testing), the Department of Transportation (driverless cars), the Federal Reserve (bitcoin), state and local utility […]


Why the mobile payments space is the most exciting space in tech right now

It seems as if every big player in the tech sector is developing a mobile payment solution. It’s not just Apple Pay, which was announced with much fanfare at the big Apple launch event in early September, and reportedly could go live as early as Oct. 20. There are now rumors that Facebook is working on […]


The glaring gender dilemma Silicon Valley venture capitalists are hiding from

The dominoes are falling in Silicon Valley: technology companies releasing their diversity data, apologizing for the sins of the past, and promising to do better. I know from my meetings with executives of Google and Facebook that they are dead serious; that this isn’t just a marketing campaign. They are looking into the sources of […]
Advertisement

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 11th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Jenan Moussa is a reporter for the Arabic language TV network Akhbar AlAan out of Dubai.

For the past 48 hours she has been witnessing the battle raging in the Kurdish town of Kobane, just south of Turkey’s border with Syria.

At 07:00 EST she tweeted, “ISIS did not manage to enter Kobane yet, Kurdish activist Mustafa Bali just told me over phone.
He is still in Kobane. @Akhbar”

An hour later, she was the first to report: “I can confirm. I just saw an ISIS flag. It is flying on eastern edge of Kobane. Will try to tweet a pic in a sec.”

As fighting raged, news came of the desperate situation of the Kurds.

One female fighter reportedly charged the advancing ISIS jihadists, hurling grenades at them and then blew herself up in their midst. Another reportedly shot herself rather than be captured by ISIS when she ran out of ammunition.

Moussa’s tweets from one of her Kurdish contacts from inside Kobane conveyed the sense of betrayal the Kurds felt because of the lack of American help. She tweeted: “Kurdish guy from#Kobane tells me: We hoped American planes will help us. Instead American tanks in hands of ISIS are killing us.”

———————————————————————

The US betrayal of the Turks is evident for decades – as the US is busy courting Muslim Arabia and no US President to-date has helped the only Muslim Nationality that is trying to emerge from this regressive Arab World that is advancing back into the dark ages in human development. This only Nationality are the Kurds -whose lands were carved up by the British and given to Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The fate of the Kurds is worse then that of the Armenians – and an ongoing example of what the Israeli Jews could expect from their Middle East neighbors as well.

———-

THE NEW YORK TIMES – The Opinion Pages | Editorial

Mr. Erdogan’s Dangerous Game: Turkey’s Refusal to Fight ISIS Hurts the Kurds.

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD October 8, 2014

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once aspired to lead the Muslim world. At this time of regional crisis, he has been anything but a leader. Turkish troops and tanks have been standing passively behind a chicken-wire border fence while a mile away in Syria, Islamic extremists are besieging the town of Kobani and its Kurdish population.

This is an indictment of Mr. Erdogan and his cynical political calculations. By keeping his forces on the sidelines and refusing to help in other ways — like allowing Kurdish fighters to pass through Turkey — he seeks not only to weaken the Kurds, but also, in a test of will with President Obama, to force the United States to help him oust President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, whom he detests.

It is also evidence of the confusion and internal tensions that affect Mr. Obama’s work-in-progress strategy to degrade and defeat the Islamic State, the Sunni Muslim extremist group also called ISIS or ISIL. Kurdish fighters in Kobani have been struggling for weeks to repel the Islamic State. To help, the Americans stepped up airstrikes that began to push the ISIS fighters back, although gun battles and explosions continued on Wednesday.

But all sides — the Americans, Mr. Erdogan and the Kurds — agree that ground forces are necessary to capitalize on the air power. No dice, says Mr. Erdogan, unless the United States provides more support to rebels trying to overthrow Mr. Assad and creates a no-fly zone to deter the Syrian Air Force as well as a buffer zone along the Turkish border to shelter thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled the fighting.

No one can deny Mr. Assad’s brutality in the civil war, but Mr. Obama has rightly resisted involvement in that war and has insisted that the focus should be on degrading ISIS, not going after the Syrian leader. The biggest risk in his decision to attack ISIS in Syria from the air is that it could put America on a slippery slope to a war that he has otherwise sought to avoid.

Mr. Erdogan’s behavior is hardly worthy of a NATO ally. He was so eager to oust Mr. Assad that he enabled ISIS and other militants by allowing fighters, weapons and revenues to flow through Turkey. If Mr. Erdogan refuses to defend Kobani and seriously join the fight against the Islamic State, he will further enable a savage terrorist group and ensure a poisonous long-term instability on his border.

He has also complicated his standing at home. His hesitation in helping the Syrian Kurds has enraged Turkey’s Kurdish minority, which staged protests against the Turkish government on Wednesday that reportedly led to the deaths of 21 people. Mr. Erdogan fears that defending Kobani would strengthen the Syrian Kurds, who have won de facto control of many border areas as they seek autonomy much like their Kurdish brethren in Iraq. But if Kobani falls, Kurdish fury will undoubtedly grow.

The Americans have been trying hard to resolve differences with Mr. Erdogan in recent days, but these large gaps are deeply threatening to the 50-plus-nation coalition that the United States has assembled. One has to wonder why such a profound dispute was not worked out before Mr. Obama took action in Syria.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 11th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Looking Forward: The UH Secretary-General and UN General Assembly President Address U.N.’s Ambitious “Post-2015 Development Agenda.”

as reported by United Nations Correspondent George Baumgarten

The very name seems to have a grandiosity about it, an air of “Planning the Next Decade for the Whole World”. Yet it carries the baggage of the U.N.’s past plans and projects, and all the promise of its hopes for the future: “The Post-2015 Development Agenda”.

In what was dubbed a “Stocktaking Event”, in the very waning hours of the General Assembly’s 68th Session, the U.N. met to review the progress of its development agenda, and to plan its next, successor phase.

The antecedent of all this reviewing and planning is what the U.N. called its “Millennium Development Goals”, so named because of its passage in the year 2000, on the cusp of the new millennium. That list contained eight such objectives, including ones related to poverty, education, maternal health and others. These goals were to be attained by 31 December 2015, so there is just a bit over a year to accomplish the objectives.

While it seems that some of the goals will be accomplished, it is obvious that others will not, Therefore, an entire “successor agenda” had to be developed and crafted, to re-emphasize the importance of the objectives not accomplished, and make a new, successor plan for their completion and achievement. Hence, the “Stocktaking Event”, for review and planning purposes, was developed and scheduled. Chaired by Ambassador Collin Beck, of the Southwest Pacific’s Solomon Islands, it featured major addresses by both Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the outgoing President of the General Assembly’s 68th Session, John W. Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda.

Ban’s address identified three priorities:

1) Make a “final push” to achieve the Millennium Development Goals – “MDG”s, by the end of next year.

2) Launch a new Sustainable Development Agenda, based on “SDG” goals.

3) Members must agree on a “meaningful, universal climate change agreement, by the end of 2015.

After presenting these three priorities, the Secretary-General lauded the “Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals”, noting that Member States clearly “want to be in the driver’s seat”, in the crafting of the New Development Agenda. He also mentioned the various “thematic debates,” which had been forums for the expression of both opinions and concerns. He also mentioned the coming “Third International Conference on Financing for Development”, to be held next July in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Other bodies who have been (to use the U.N.’s expression) “seized of the matter” have included the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the U.N. Environment Assembly – MY World and Global Youth Call.

Secretary General Ban is expecting to produce a “Global Synthesis Report” which will, he hopes, do credit to the “key elements and the high level of ambition” on this issue. As he said, “we have an intense and important year ahead”. This is a goal that he sees as “simple but daunting”. He presents that goal as “prosperity and dignity for all, in a world where humankind lives in harmony with nature”.

Ban’s speech was followed by that of the General Assembly President, John W. Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda. In possibly his last major address before handing over the Assembly’s Presidency to his African colleague, Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa of Uganda, Ashe charged members to take up the challenge of the Secretary-General’s “synthesis report”. He asked them to think “…what could constitute a truly participatory , inclusive, people-centered post-2015 Development Agenda that has the eradication of extreme poverty as its overarching objective…”. He spoke also of including those who have hitherto felt disenfranchised or otherwise neglected by their governments or societies: women, the young, Indigenous People, older persons and those with disabilities.

The outgrowth of this thinking and planning, said Ashe, would be a “…new development paradigm emerging that is people-centered and based on inclusiveness, equality and equity”. But the responsibility that nations would then have is that “…achieving sustainable development means that societies must truly transform”. Those previously disenfranchised must become empowered. Gender equality and women’s empowerment are an absolute priority.

Ashe emphasizes, however, that this agenda must be “…focused and action-oriented”. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) must build on the original Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), which they replace. They add to those original goals, by including such elements as energy, economic growth, inequality, cities and others.

Ashe sees four elements, as part of a new “toolkit” for the implementation of these goals:

First, we must have an integrated approach, taking into account the interrelationships between various goals and objectives.

Second, people and civil society organizations but have an opportunity to present their “input”, in all these projects and efforts.

Third, there must be the full cooperation of governments, and that cooperation and participation must be transparent.

Fourth, there must be a global partnership for development, and other partnerships at all levels.

Finally—in addition to these four elements—there must be a robust accountability framework, with full use of oversight functions.

The Post-2015 Development Agenda, says Ashe, must mobilize resources and use them effectively. It must also “promote the development, transfer and dissemination of environmentally sound technologies. This is especially critical in developing countries. At the end of his one-year presidency, Ashe seems particularly proud of his accomplishments on this vital future agenda.

________________
© Copyright 2014 George Alan Baumgarten

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 9th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Organizing for Action – OFA

Pincas –

Google just did something pretty cool: Along with other tech companies like Facebook, last week, they decided to drop their support of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-backed group that promotes right-wing legislation at the state and national level. That’s because, as one executive put it, “they’re just literally lying” about the realities of climate change.

Several companies have now taken action, after hundreds of thousands of Americans called on them to end their affiliation with ALEC.

This is the type of change that happens when ordinary Americans raise their voices. It’s why OFA is collecting signatures to submit to the EPA in support of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

More than 250,000 people have added their names — join in and tell the EPA where you stand.

Climate change deniers like ALEC are exactly the reason why this EPA comment collection period is so important.

The polluters and special interest groups have an outsized voice in shaping public policy. And you can believe they’re doing all they can right now to fight back against the President’s plan, which The New York Times called the “strongest action ever taken by an American president to tackle climate change.”

We want as many OFA supporters as possible to stand up in support before we cut off submissions.

You haven’t added your name yet — will you take a quick minute to fix that right now?
 my.barackobama.com/Support-Carbon…

Thanks,

Ivan

Ivan Frishberg
Climate Change Senior Advisor
Organizing for Action

—————————-++++++++++++++++++++++++———————-

We add to this from:  www.ora.tv/offthegrid/top-3-clima…
that is a Governor Jesse Ventura TV program -

that Climate deniers John Boehner (R-OH), Joe Barton (R-TX), and Steve Stockman (R-TX)
are top deniers in US Congress and they will stand up for re-election this November. A better Congress would not miss them !!!

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 7th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Dr.Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist, Founding Director of the MIT Energy Initiative and Director of the MIT Laboratory for Energy and the Environment, a former Undersecretary of DOE in charge of disposing of nuclear materials including those of Russia, he came to Head DOE in May 2013 after Nobel Laureate Steven Chu decided to return to academia.

Prof. Steven Chu was a vocal advocate for more research into renewable energy and nuclear power, arguing that a shift away from fossil fuels is essential to combating climate change. For example, he has conceived of a global “glucose economy”, a form of a low-carbon economy, in which glucose from tropical plants is shipped around like oil is today. On February 1, 2013, he announced he would not serve for the President’s second term and resigned on April 22, 2013. The position then fell to Prof. Moniz who seems to be more in tune with the President’s “All of the above” energy concept.

Secretary Moniz appeared today, October 6, 2014, before the New York Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in a conversation with Matthew A. Winkler, Editor in Chief, Bloomberg News. This was a very active day that started at NYU - energy.gov/epsa/agenda-energy-inf… -

Agenda: Energy Infrastructure Finance. A Public Meeting on the Quadrennial Energy Review, Hosted by the United States Department of Energy and with Opening Remarks by

The Honorable Ernest Moniz, Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy and
The Honorable Carolyn Maloney, Member from New York of the United States House of Representatives

The event dealt with: ATTRACTING AND MAINTAINING CAPITAL FOR ENERGY TRANSMISSION, STORAGE, AND DISTRIBUTION (TS&D); BANKABILITY OF ELECTRICITY TS&D INFRASTRUCTURE; OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR NATURAL GAS AND LIQUID FUELS TS&D INFRASTRUCTURE.

The CFR meeting was titled “A Conversation With Ernest Moniz” and after a short lunch was followed at CFR by a Panel “The Battle of Interests Over the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals” where Ms. Gail Fosler, formerly President of the Conference Board and now provider of advisory service for global business leaders and public policymakers, presided over discussants: Carol Adelman, Director, Center for Global Prosperity, Hudson Institute; Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health, Council on Foreign Relations; and Fred Krupp. President, Environmental Defense Fund.

CFR showed interest also in the Arctic region emergence as a source of oil and gas as per: www.cfr.org/polar-regions/emergin…

In our posting we cover only the Ernest Moniz presentation before the CFR, as we feel this presentation introduced the Administration’s thinking without distraction from the conflicting interests of the 2014 various protagonists.

Asked what are the three main tasks of his Department, Professor Moniz opened by saying that a main task of his work is Energy Security, and going back to Jim Schlesinger who when the Department was established said this has to be considered in a collective context with the US allies, Moniz now mentioned the EU and specifically also the G7 and the immediacy of the need to assure heating gas for this winter for the Ukraine. In parallel he said he must devise a long-term plan on which he works with Canadian and UK experts even if the Russians do supply for now gas to Ukraine – the problem of energy security remains.

A second Question was if “All of the Above” is capable of handling the CO2 issue? The answer was that everything they do is geared to carbon reduction. Carbon sequestration is pushed with projects in this area involving enhanced oil recovery and oil production. Then there is the increased energy use efficiency in vehicles. Reduced dependence on oil is promoted and a new large bio-refinery will soon be opened in Kansas. So – it is nuclear, renewables, efficiency for the long-term and the use of gas in the mid-term. In the electricity production, wind use was increased by 45% and solar by 6%. LED is a great economic success. The stress is on aiming in 2015 to set goals of reduction in CO2 emissions by 17% in general with a reduction of 30% in the electricity sector. Most of this via sector by sector energy efficiency.

From here the discussion moved to the UN and the obvious that global challenges cannot be met without the Chinese and the European’s cooperation. “we saw at the UN strong statements by China, India, and he expects from these introductory statements a Paris outcome that has in it declarations of goals that are different by the different States. Asked directly if the target of 2 degrees Centigrade is realistic – the answer came in one word – “Challenging.” Then he enlarged by saying – “I would focus first on coal.” He feels bullish on solar – costs are coming down. 2000-2009 the US had no photovoltaic production now we have 9 plants and 12 under construction. He expects Europe to show leadership in the run-up to the 2015 meeting in Paris. “We will continue to encourage China, India, Brazil. and we will be a lot on airplanes.”

So far there was nothing new in what we heard except the emphasis on interdependence. Then came questions about exports from the US and about natural gas. His answers started by saying that the international market looks very different from 1975 when the laws forbidding exports of oil and gas from the US were passed. That is when we established DOE and the Petroleum Reserve etc. Ultimately exports are an issue for the Department of Commerce and not for DOE. There are also changes in production methods and at the petroleum refinery to be considered. He also pointed out that crude oil changed into products was not under those laws.

On the Keystone Pipeline he said that it was under the Secretary of State responsibility. On gas he predicted that exports cannot start before the end of 2015 – “so it is not an answer to Ukraine.”
Further, on a question about Eastern Mediterranean gas he said that this is also no answer for Europe’s needs. We consider these answers as newsworthy replies by the Secretary.

An added topic I was able to talk about with the Secretary after his presentation relates to the US position on supplies of oil and gas from the Arctic. He remarked that at the end of 2015 the Arctic Circle Council moves to the US for two years and he sees rather the subject from an environmental angle. To my great satisfaction I heard from him the old Sheik Yammani adage that the Age of Oil will end not because of a lack of oil. He also pointed at Shell Oil’s problems with their attempt at drilling for Arctic oil. With this attitude by the US I am now even more curious then ever of what will be the underlying spirit at the end of this moth’s meeting in Reykjavik of the 2014 Arctic Circle Assembly.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 5th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

What Washington Does not Want to See Even in September 2014 was known to those with sight already in 2001 – The USA Has No Arab Friends or Even True Arab Allies in the Middle East. President Obama does see this, but seemingly tries also to ignore reality in order to avoid a consistently open oil trap.

It does not amuse us to find 2001 references that point to a total lack of understanding in Washington of events in the Middle East – on the meaning of the entanglement of the Saudi Royal family and Wahhabi Islam. It gets worse when we find direct 2001 references to Iraq and Syria under their 2001 ruling despots, as the beginning of the process that leads to what the present revolutionary force calls the Islamic State. Let us just say kindly that the US helped the Saudi Wahhabis fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, but then the US just allowed the Taliban to take over and open the land to Bin Ladin whose shadow continues the fight he initiated by bringing it back closer to the Arabian Peninsula. Washington 2014 seems not to realize the meaning of these forces that it discovered only in New York in 2001.

“TWO QUESTIONS have been raised about Osama bin Laden. First, if bin Laden opposes the Saudi regime, why has he never struck Saudi targets? Second, if he threatens Saudi Arabia, why has the Saudi government taken the lead in recognizing and funding the Taliban government of Afghanistan, which is entwined with bin Laden’s al Qaeda organization? The answer is: The bin Laden problem is deeply embedded both in Saudi religious and dynastic politics and in an effort by Iraq and Syria to shift the balance of power in the Middle East.”

The Above is from:
“The Saudi Connection: Osama bin Laden’s a lot closer to the Saudi royal family than you think.”
Oct 29, 2001, YJE WEEKLY STANDARD, Vol. 7, No. 07 • By DAVID WURMSER

The 2001 articles talk of -

“The Saudi Connection – Osama bin Laden’s a lot closer to the Saudi royal family than you think.”
Oct 29, 2001, The Weekly Standard, Vol. 7, No. 07 • By DAVID WURMSER

TWO QUESTIONS have been raised about Osama bin Laden. First, if bin Laden opposes the Saudi regime, why has he never struck Saudi targets? Second, if he threatens Saudi Arabia, why has the Saudi government taken the lead in recognizing and funding the Taliban government of Afghanistan, which is entwined with bin Laden’s al Qaeda organization? The answer is: The bin Laden problem is deeply embedded both in Saudi religious and dynastic politics and in an effort by Iraq and Syria to shift the balance of power in the Middle East.

To begin to unravel this murky business, it is necessary to go back to the mid 1990s, when a succession struggle was beginning in Saudi Arabia. This struggle pits the octogenarian king, Fahd bin Abdel-Aziz, and his full brothers in the Sudairi branch of the family (especially the defense minister, Prince Sultan) against their half-brother, Crown Prince Abdallah. King Fahd and the Sudairis favor close ties to the United States, while Crown Prince Abdallah prefers Syria and is generally more enamored of pan-Islamic and pan-Arab ideas. All of these contenders are old. Whoever succeeds in securing the crown after Fahd will anoint the next generation of royal heirs and determine Saudi Arabia’s future course–either toward the West or toward Syria, Iraq, and others who challenge the position of the United States in the region.

Abdallah is closely allied with the puritanical Wahhabi religious establishment that has underpinned the Saudi government for over a century. The Wahhabis are strident and hostile to a continued American presence in the Middle East. They made this explicit in 1990 in a pronouncement known as the Muzkara an-Nasiha, originated by Osama bin Laden and signed by virtually every sheikh in the Wahhabi establishment. It condemned Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow U.S. troops into the kingdom for the purpose of resisting Saddam.

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

Saudi Friends, Saudi Foes – Is our Arab ally part of the problem?
Oct 8, 2001, THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Vol. 7, No. 04 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ

THE EXTRAORDINARY ACT of destruction seen on September 11 had a noteworthy harbinger in Islamic history. In 1925, Ibn Saud, founder of the present Saudi Arabian dynasty, ordered the wholesale destruction of the sacred tombs, graveyards, and mosques in Mecca and Medina. These are, of course, the two holy cities of Islam, whose sanctity the Saudi exile Osama bin Laden and other Islamist extremists ostensibly seek to protect from the defiling presence of U.S. troops on Saudi soil.

Saud’s armed supporters, in a frenzy of iconoclasm, first leveled Jannat al-Baqi, the “heavenly orchard” in Medina, where one of the original associates of Muhammad was buried under the prophet’s supervision. Other relatives and thousands of early companions of the prophet were also interred at the site, as were the imams Hassan and Hussein, venerated by Sunni and Shia Muslims. All these graves were wrecked by Saud’s minions, who then looted the treasure at the prophet’s shrine.

The Saud party went on to demolish the cemetery in Mecca where the prophet’s mother, grandfather, and first wife, Khadijah, were buried; then to smash many more honored sites, devastating the architectural achievements of Arabia, including mosques and even Muhammad’s house. Only the tomb of the prophet was spared, after an outcry from traditional Muslims.

This spree of vandalism was accompanied by wholesale massacres of Muslims suspected of rejecting Wahhabism, a fanatical strain of Islam that emerged in Arabia in the eighteenth century and has periodically disturbed the Muslim world. In the nineteenth century, it fueled the Arab nationalist challenge to the tolerant and easygoing Ottoman Empire; and it became, and remains today, the state-sanctioned doctrine of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, founded in 1932.

These events of 75 years ago aid in understanding the violence of bin Laden and other Islamic terrorists, who (since the waning of atheist leftism as a motivating ideology) are all Wahhabis. A direct line extends from the demolition of the holy places in Medina and Mecca through the slaughter of 58 tourists in Egypt in 1997, the orgy of killing in Algeria in this decade, and the bombardment of the Buddhist statues at Bamyan by the Taliban only months ago to the assault on the World Trade Center, symbol of Western wealth and power. In all these cases, unrestrained destruction and bloodshed were justified by Wahhabi doctrine.

Wahhabis, who regard the veneration of the prophet and of saints as a polytheistic corruption of Islam, are offended by the honoring of tombs and shrines, along with many other traditional Muslim practices. Observance of the prophet’s birthday, for example, is illegal in Saudi Arabia, although lately Prince Abdullah has introduced a novel concession: Observances in private homes will no longer be subject to suppression by the religious police.

Wahhabism’s bloodstained record explains why so many Muslims around the world fear and hate Islamic fundamentalism—and why certain marginal types are drawn to it. As an acquaintance of mine put it, in Muslim Morocco, the footloose young sons of the lower middle class and proletariat can take one of three paths. They may adopt Western ways, drink and acquire girlfriends, and be envied. They may take up the life of an ordinary observant Muslim and be respected. Or they may join the Wahhabis—funded by the Saudis and organized by such as bin Laden—and be feared.

This is the most important point for Western leaders to understand right now: The West has multitudes of potential Muslim allies in the anti-terror war. They are the ordinary, sane inhabitants of every Muslim nation, who detest the fundamentalist violence from which they have suffered and which is symbolized, now and forever, by the mass murder in New York.

There is another historical lesson to be drawn. Wahhabism—whose quintessence is war on America—seeks to impel Islam centuries back in time, to the faith’s beginnings, yet it is neither ancient nor traditional. Indeed, it achieved its culmination, the establishment of the Saudi kingdom, only in the 1930s, in parallel with fascism and Stalinism.

Although it appears to be a rejection of modernity, Wahhabism can usefully be thought of as a variant of the nihilistic revolutionary ideologies that spilled oceans of blood in the twentieth century but finally collapsed—truly, the discredited lies consigned to history’s graveyard of which President Bush spoke.

This analysis continues for two more pages starting -
  Permalink | | Email This Article Email This Article
Posted in Arab Asia, Archives, Real World's News, Reporting from Washington DC, Saudi Arabia

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 5th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Oil falls on generous supplies, stronger dollar.
MENAFN – AFP – 03/10/2014

(MENAFN – AFP) Global oil prices fell Friday, with the US contract hitting a 17-month low amid ample supplies on the market and the dollar strengthening following a positive US jobs report.

The US benchmark futures contract, West Texas Intermediate for November delivery, closed at 89.74 a barrel, down 1.27 from Thursday. It was the first time WTI closed below 90 since April 2013.

Brent North Sea crude for November, the main European contract, slumped 1.11 to $92.31 a barrel, its lowest close since June 2012.

The positive US jobs report, generally considered a sign of health in the world’s largest crude-oil consumer, was not powerful enough to lift the market.

The Labor Department reported Friday that the US economy added 248,000 jobs in September and revised higher job gains in previous months, pushing the unemployment rate down to a six-year low of 5.9 percent.

The unemployment number was “very strong,” said Carl Larry of Oil Outlooks and Opinion, “but for now, the big picture for the oil prices is the situation of supply, of oversupply, not in the US but everywhere else in the world.”

Oil production in the United States is booming, thanks to oil shale extraction, and exports are on the upswing in Russia, Libya and Kurdistan. Key exporter Saudi Arabia also cut oil prices for the fourth straight month this week to defend its market share.

In the third quarter of 2014, both Brent and New York oil prices have shed approximately 15 percent of their value on generous supplies and slowing consumption growth.

Oil prices have also been under pressure from a rising dollar, which hit a fresh four-year high against the euro on Friday helped by the jobs report.

The dollar firmed to 1.2501 against the euro, a level last seen in late August 2012, and remained close to a six-year high against the yen.


A stronger greenback makes dollar-priced commodities more expensive for buyers using weaker
currencies, which tends to dent demand and push prices lower.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 3rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

VIENNA CONFERENCE ON THE HUMANITARIAN IMPACT OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS. 8-9 December 2014

Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons
Logo HINW

Vienna Hofburg Palace, 8 – 9 December 2014

Conference Information:
 www.bmeia.gv.at/en/european-forei…

Draft Program
Registration
UNDP Sponsorship Program
Conference Venue
Tourist Information
Exhibition space


A world without nuclear weapons is a goal shared by all humanity. Yet, so far, it has remained elusive. An estimated 16.300 nuclear weapons still exist nearly 25 years after the end of the cold war. Today, nine states are believed to possess nuclear weapons, but as nuclear technology is becoming more available, more states, and even non-state actors, may strive to develop nuclear weapons in the future.

As long as nuclear weapons exist, the risk of their use by design, miscalculation or madness, technical or human error, remains real. Nuclear weapons, therefore, continue to bear an unacceptable risk to humanity and to all life on earth. Any use of nuclear weapons could cause gravest humanitarian emergencies and have catastrophic global consequences on the environment, climate, health, social order, human development and the economy.

A single detonation of a modern nuclear weapon would cause destruction and human suffering on a scale far exceeding the devastation seen in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No State or international body would be able to provide adequate assistance. Nuclear weapons continue to pose an existential threat to all humankind. These risks are not abstract. They are real, more serious than previously known and can never be eliminated completely.

In the past few years, a growing number of states and many civil society actors focussed on the humanitarian consequences and risks associated with nuclear weapons through different national, regional and international events and activities. Two international conferences were devoted specifically to this issue; in Oslo, Norway, in March 2013 and Nayarit, Mexico, in February 2014.

This increased focus on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons is an important development and has a positive and uniting effect on international discussions about nuclear weapons. The more the international community discusses and understands the scale of these consequences and of the risks involved, the clearer the case and the stronger the sense of urgency become for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

The government of Austria is proud to host the 3rd international conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons which will take place on 8 and 9 December 2014 at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. With this conference, Austria wishes to strengthen the global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime and to contribute to the growing momentum to firmly anchor the humanitarian imperative in all global efforts dealing with nuclear weapons and nuclear disarmament.

The Vienna Conference will

- be open to all interested parties. All states will receive official invitations and will be invited to nominate experts and/or senior officials. International organizations and civil society representatives with relevant expertise will also be welcome;

- will feature facts based discussions and expert presentations and aims to allow for an interactive debate among participants;

- Will also provide delegations an opportunity for statements of a more general nature;

A limited sponsorship program for LDC participants is forseen.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 3rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Eastern countries (of the EU) oppose EU climate goals.

The EUObserver, By Peter Teffer, .October 2, 2014

Brussels – With only three weeks to go before the European Council is to make a final decision on new climate goals for 2030, six Central and Eastern European countries have declared their opposition to the proposed targets.

In an effort to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, the European Commission proposed in January 2014 several targets for 2030.

Greenhouse gas emissions should be 40 percent lower; the market share of renewable energy should be 27 percent and energy efficiency should be improved by 30 percent.

In March and June, the European Council failed to agree on the commission’s proposal. When the EU government leaders meet again on 23 and 24 October in Brussels, they hope to reach a “final decision on the new climate and energy policy framework”.

However, the ministers and deputy ministers for environment of six Central and Eastern European countries, declared on Tuesday (September 30) their opposition to binding targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The six countries are the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.

The six ask for a framework that “reflects different regional needs and circumstances”. The energy mix differs greatly among member states and reaching the targets will be easier for some than others.

The EU share of renewable energy consumption was 14.1 percent in 2012, according to Eurostat, but that average conceals regional differences.

Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Czech Republic are below that average, with shares between 9.6 and 11.2 percent. Most of the six rely heavily on coal, which is one of the energy sources that emits the most carbon dioxide.

The question then is, which targets will be binding for the whole of EU, and which for each individual member state.

A group of 13 mostly western and northern European states, called the Green Growth Group, is in favour of a binding greenhouse gas target of 40 percent for member states.

But in March it said the “Council should agree on a binding EU renewables energy target which should not be translated into binding national targets by the EU, leaving greater flexibility for Member States to develop their own renewable energy strategies.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 3rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

(MENAFN – QNA – October 2, 2014) Qatar Stock Exchange (QSE) – according to Qatar News Agency – will remain closed from Sunday, October 5th to Thursday October 9th to observe Eid Al Adha, a bourse notification said Thursday.

The bourse cited Qatar Central Bank and Qatar Financial Markets Authority circular which said, “It’s decided the QSE holidays for Eid Al-Adha will be five working days”.

QSE management wished Eid Mubarak to investors, citizens and residents.

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

But then see also:

from The Huffington Post / By Charity R. Carney
July 3, 2014 (and this had 500 comments!)

I Worked at Hobby Lobby and Saw the Troubling World of Corporate Christianity
Can Americans tell the difference between religion and consumption?

 www.alternet.org/economy/i-worked…

(A Hobby Lobby store is Pantation, Florida is shown seen on June 30, 2014 in Plantation, Florida)

It was the most difficult job I’ve ever had. I’ve been a history professor for years, toiled as a graduate assistant before that, and even did a stint as an IT technician. But the three months I worked at Hobby Lobby stocking googly eyes and framing baseball cards takes the cake. I wanted a break from academia but it ended up not being a break at all. I found myself deconstructing and analyzing all aspects of my job — from the Bible in the break room to the prayers before employee meetings and the strange refusal of the company to use bar codes in its stores. (The rumor amongst employees was that bar codes were the Mark of the Beast, but that rumor remains unsubstantiated.)

Three months was enough to convince me that there is something larger at work and the SCOTUS decision only confirms my belief that corporate Christianity (and Christianity that is corporate) has made it difficult for Americans to discern religion from consumption.

As a scholar of religious history, I observe the way that faith intersects with culture. I study and publish on megachurches and my interpretation of this week’s events is informed not only by my experiences as an employee at Hobby Lobby but also my knowledge of recent religious trends. My biggest question after hearing the decision was not about the particular opinions or practical repercussions (which are significant and have far-reaching and dangerous consequences). Instead, my first thought was: “What is it about our cultural fabric that enables us to attribute religious rights to a corporate entity?” In the United States we have increasingly associated Christianity with capitalism and the consequences affect both corporations and churches. It’s a comfortable relationship and seemingly natural since so much of our history is built on those two forces. But it’s also scary.

Hobby Lobby is a for-profit craft chain, not a church. I’m stating the obvious just in case there was any confusion because — let’s face it — it’s confusing. It’s as confusing as those googly eyes (do you really need three different sizes, Hobby Lobby, really?). Today, we see giant churches that operate like corporations and now corporations have some of the same rights as churches. Many megachurches adopt “seeker-sensitive” approaches to attract members, relying on entertainment and conspicuous consumption to promote their services. After a while, the spiritual and secular lines start to blur and the Christian and corporate blend. Ed Young, Jr.’s Fellowship Church, for instance, started a “90-Day Challenge” for members. The church asks congregants to pledge 10 percent of their income and promises “that if you tithe for 90 days and God doesn’t hold true to his promise of blessings, we will refund 100 percent of your tithe.”

Megachurches advertise on television, billboards, the Internet. They have coffee shops and gift stores. Some feature go-cart tracks, game centers, even oil changes. Many are run by pastors that also serve as CEOs. So when Hobby Lobby seeks similar religious rights as these very corporate churches, we have to reconsider our definition of religious organizations and maybe even say “why not?” We have normalized corporate Christianity to the point that the Supreme Court deems it natural for businesses to hold “sincere” religious beliefs. The religious landscape in the United States, including our familiarity with megachurches and celebrity pastors, certainly contributes to the acceptance of the church/company conundrum.

The “why not” can be answered, however, with the real costs of the decision. Women’s reproductive rights are compromised. The religious freedom of employees for these corporations is compromised. The sanctity of our religious institutions is also compromised. To protect religious pluralism and freedom of the individual we need clear demarcations between what is spiritual and what is economical. Otherwise, we sacrifice the soul of American religion and all that makes it good and why I study it on the altar of industry. I can’t get those three months at Hobby Lobby back (or the praise muzak out of my head) but I can see more clearly the dangers of allowing corporate Christianity to become the norm. Without clear boundaries, we risk distorting the very idea of religious freedom and the rich, diverse religious culture that makes us who we are. And that’s tragic — maybe not as tragic as praise muzak, but tragic nonetheless.

Carney is a historian of religion, gender, and the South.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 2nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Wednesday October 1, 2014, after all those UN Member States’ Heads have left New York, the UN was still closed to the NGOs – supposedly for security reasons – the guards say this will hold on until next week – so it will be three weeks without “Civil Society” at the UN except for the handful handpicked by the UN itself. So much if you had any illusion that the UNSG hullabaloo about the enlargement of his entourage to include Civil Society in his deliberations was intended to lead to the new post-2015 world. Oh yes – we posted the harmless poem that was touted as the Civil Society contribution to the deliberations by that handful of participants.

Now we find that Grist publishes the analyses of the pure fact that the UN can in effect not aim at true results, and that it can only at best paint fake blue onto a heavy clouded sky – so please just know that you are being had and understand the reasons why. But also do not give up to despair – this because you are right in what you are fighting for and can rxpect that the truth will break through because it does make even economic sense. If allowed in some countries it will lead to alliances of States so it spreads eventually outside the UN that at best could then be used to bless the results.

———————————

Grist Daily posed 2014,today, October 14 2014, the question – “Is there any hope for international climate talks?”

A binding international treaty with firm emission limits just isn’t happening. Now attention is turning to a bottom-up, “pledge and review” strategy. Can it work?

By David Roberts

I don’t write very often about international climate talks because it’s super-depressing and nothing ever changes. Which I guess characterizes most things I write about, but something about climate talks in particular really drains the spirit. Nonetheless! Let’s take a fresh look at the landscape.

The original idea behind the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks was simple. Climate change is a classic tragedy of the commons. When emitting greenhouse gases, a country gets all the economic benefit but only a tiny fraction of the harm; conversely, when mitigating emissions, a country pays all the cost but receives only a tiny fraction of the benefit. I wrote about this in a recent post and Harvard’s Robert Stavins sums it up nicely in a recent op-ed:

“Greenhouse gases mix globally in the atmosphere, and so damages are spread around the world, regardless of where the gases were emitted. Thus, any country taking action incurs the costs, but the benefits are distributed globally. This presents a classic free-rider problem: It is in the economic self-interest of virtually no country to take unilateral action, and each can reap the benefits of any countries that do act. This is why international cooperation is essential.”

This has always been the logic of UNFCCC talks: burden sharing. Determine the proper way to distribute the load, and then sign a binding treaty to insure that all countries do their appointed part.

The same logic that yields the need for international cooperation, however, has made it virtually impossible to achieve in practice. Turns out national governments don’t like burdens! So the dispute over how to properly divide the burden between developed and developing countries has been as endless as it has been intractable. Early on in the UNFCCC process, developing countries like China and India were effectively exempted from the obligation to reduce emissions. What the U.S. and Europe have wanted ever since is to ditch the (arguably outmoded) developed vs. developing dichotomy, acknowledge that China et al. are going to be major sources of emissions growth this century, and sign a treaty in which all countries, including China, commit to binding targets. China disagrees, as do India and all the other countries that have so far escaped targets.

The result has been stalemate. And despite feverish hopes in the run-up to each new meeting (“last chance!”), nothing has happened to dislodge that dynamic. Yet the 2015 climate negotiations in Paris are supposed to be all about a “binding treaty.” What to do?

In many quarters, a comprehensive, binding treaty with national and global carbon targets is the holy grail. But its pursuit has led to nothing but a cycle of high hopes and crushing disappointment. There is very little hope of such a treaty in Paris, or maybe ever. What’s more, the focus on burden sharing has made the meetings a defensive, angst-ridden affair, everyone blaming everyone else while trying to minimize their own responsibility.

Most of the world’s major emitters agree that collective action on climate change is badly needed. Yet the meetings meant to facilitate such action produced little of it.
Something had to change.

The idea that’s gained traction since the 2009 talks in Copenhagen is that it’s time to abandon the “burden sharing” frame altogether, give up on a binding treaty, and shift to a regime known as “pledge and review,” in which countries pledge specific policies and reductions and agree to have those policies and reductions internationally verified. Rather than being forced to accept a target, every country is simply asked to put on record what it is willing to contribute. Peer pressure and economic competition are supposed to do the rest. This is more or less what came out of Copenhagen, and Durban in 2011, and what will likely come out of Paris in 2015.

Those pledges are unlikely to add up to what’s needed to avoid 2 degrees C of warming, the stated international goal, any time soon. An outfit called Climate Interactive is tracking the pledges and adding them up; so far, they leave us on a path to exceed 4 degrees, which would be a disaster. But as John Podesta told Jeff Goodell (in the latter’s must-read story on China and climate), “If we wait until we have a binding international agreement that actually puts us on track for 2 C, we’ll hit 2 C before we get an agreement. But we have to get started if we hope to get to the destination.” Fred Pearce has a nice rundown of this general line of thinking here. It also finds clear expression in a recent op-ed from retired senators Tim Wirth and Tom Daschle.

Wirth has been working in and around international climate talks for as long as they’ve been going on. When I talked to him about pledge-and-review, he grew most animated when discussing the sheer torpor of the UNFCCC talks. “Everybody’s so depressed by the whole thing,” he said. “It’s a problem, it really is. They need a shot of energy! They need some enthusiasm! They need a new framework! Any time you run into a political dead end, you gotta change the rules. This is a way of changing the rules.”

Wirth says pledge-and-review has a chance of working because the economics have shifted and clean energy investment is increasingly in countries’ self-interest. He cites the recent New Climate Economy research project led by Nicholas Stern. Nations competing to outdo each other in these vast new markets could spark a “race to the top,” a sense of energy and progress that has been sorely missing. “We’re not saying we’re in the best of all possible worlds, by any means,” Wirth said, “but if we do it relatively soon, it’s going to end up being in everyone’s best interests.”

Wirth has a close eye on this November’s APEC meetings, where Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping are likely to discuss climate change (among other things). A substantial bilateral agreement on climate would bring momentum into Paris, giving, Wirth laughed, “the U.S. a chance to hide behind China’s skirts and China a chance to hide behind the U.S.’s skirts. That’s important politically.” The U.S. and China being the world’s two largest markets, other countries would be pulled along. “The U.S./China relationship is so much more important than anything else in the world,” Wirth said.

Whatever the prospects of a race to the top, there remains the question of climate justice — what to do about those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, who did little to cause the problem. Wirth points to the Green Climate Fund, which is supposed to transfer money from the developed to the developing world. But the nature of those funds is in hot dispute. In their piece, Wirth and Daschle write:

Finance is the final key to a global deal. At Copenhagen in 2009, the United States memorably pledged that developed countries would mobilize $100 billion a year in climate change assistance for the rest of the world by 2020. At a time of fiscal retrenchment in the West, the chance of that pledge being met in the form of additional development assistance is approximately zero. The pledge is eminently achievable, however, in the context of global energy investment, which has an annual flow a dozen times as large as the amount pledged in Copenhagen.

And when I talked to Wirth, that’s what he emphasized: opportunities to channel private investment money to developing countries. It appears that the climate fund is primarily going to consist in such investments.

But where does this leave the world’s poorest countries and low-lying islands? There’s a lot of adaptation to be done in those areas and not all of it is going to be a profit opportunity. Will the fund end up being just another instance of what Naomi Klein calls “disaster capitalism,” wherein wealthy westerners descend on countries reeling from misfortune and treat them as business opportunities to exploit?

The reason climate-justice advocates have always relied on the UNFCCC framework is that it’s the only venue in which the claims of vulnerable nations are guaranteed a hearing. If the meetings become nothing more than a forum for mutually advantageous bilateral and multilateral dealmaking, where is the pressure to do right by the vulnerable, much less any kind of guarantee?

I’ve never heard a good answer to that question. I sure don’t have one. But we return again to an ineluctable fact: The chances of the U.S. Senate ratifying a binding climate treaty are nil. The chances of it ratifying one that is also supported unanimously by all 195 or so countries of the UNFCCC are even niller. So what else is there to do?

“The building blocks approach, bottom up, is the only way to go,” says Wirth. “We’re not going to get a top-down agreement. So you gotta go the other direction.”

###