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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Uri Avnery

July 11, 2015

To be Greek

EVERYBODY HAS already voiced his (or her) opinion on the Greek crisis, whether he (or she) has an opinion or not. So I feel obliged to do the same.

The crisis is immensely complicated. However, it looks to me quite simple.

The Greeks spent more than they earned. The creditors, in their incredible impertinence, want their money back. The Greeks have no money, and anyhow, their pride does not allow them to pay.

So what to do? Every commentator, from Nobel prize-winning economists to my taxi driver in Tel Aviv, has a solution. Unfortunately, no one listens to them.

Angela Merkel and Alexis Tsipras go on fighting World War II. But the relations between the two nations played a role in my family long before that.

AS A boy, my father was a pupil in a German “humanist” high school. In these schools, pupils learned Latin and ancient Greek instead of English and French. So I heard Latin and Greek sayings before I went to school and learned Latin myself – for half a year before we fortunately left Germany for Palestine in 1933.

Educated Germans admired the Romans. The Romans were straight-minded people who made laws and obeyed them, almost like the Germans themselves.

Germans loved the ancient Greeks and despised them. As their most important poet, Wolfgang von Goethe, said: “Das Griechenvolk, es taugte nie recht viel” – the Greek people never amounted to very much.

The Greeks invented freedom, something the ancient Hebrews did not even dream of. The Greeks invented democracy. In Athens, everybody (except slaves, women, barbarians and other inferior folk) took part in public discussions and decision-making. This did not leave them much time to work.

That was the way my father looked at them, and this is the way decent Germans look at them now. Nice people to have around on vacation, but not serious people to do business with. Too lazy. Too life-loving.

I suspect that these ingrained attitudes influence the opinions of German leaders and voters now. They certainly influence the attitudes of Greek leaders and voters towards Germany. To hell with them and their obsession with law and order.

I HAVE stayed several times in Greece, and always liked the people.

My wife, Rachel, loved the island of Hydra and took me there. To find a ship to go there from Piraeus was quite an ordeal. That was of course before the internet. Every shipping agency had a timetable for its boats, but there did not exist a general timetable. That would have been too orderly, too German. (If Piraeus had been Haifa, there would have been an all-inclusive timetable in every shop window.)

I was invited to several international conferences in Athens. One was presided over by the wonderful Melina Mercouri, so intelligent and so beautiful, who served at the time as a cabinet minister. It concerned Mediterranean culture, and was mixed with a lot of good food and folk dances. I once helped to host Mikis Theodorakis in Tel Aviv.

So I have no prejudices against the Greeks. On the contrary. Before the last Greek elections I received an e-mail message from a person I did not know, asking me to sign an international statement of support for the Syriza party. After reading the material, I did. I sympathize with their heroic fight now.

I am reminded of the “Sailors’ Revolt” in Israel in the early 1950s. It was an uprising against the governing bureaucracy. I supported it with all my heart and was even arrested for a few hours. When it all ended in a glorious defeat, I met a famous leftist general and expected to be lauded. He said: “Only fools start a struggle they cannot win!”

It boils down to this: the Greeks owe a lot of money. A huge lot of money. It is now immaterial how this huge debt came about, and who is to blame. Europe (the very name is Greek) has no chance of getting the billions back. But they’ll be damned if they will pour more money into this bottomless pit. How can Greece survive without more money?

I don’t know. I strongly suspect that no one else does, either. Including the Nobel Prize laureates.

FOR ME, the most important aspect of the disaster is the future of the two great experiments: the European Union and the Euro currency.

When the European idea gained ground on the continent after the fratricidal World War II, there was a great debate about its future contours. Some proposed something like the United States of Europe, a federal union on the lines of the USA. Charles de Gaulle, a very influential voice at the time, objected strenuously and proposed l’Europe des Nations, a much more loose confederation.

Much the same debate took place in America before the final decision to create the United States, and again at the time of the civil war. In the end, the federalists won, and the confederate flags are being burned even now.

In Europe, de Gaulle’s idea won. There was no strong will to create a united European state. National governments were ready, after some years, to create a union of independent states, which grudgingly transferred some sovereign powers to the super-government in Brussels.

(Why Brussels? Because Belgium is a small country. Neither Germany nor France was ready to allow the union’s capital to be located in either of them. It reminds one of the Biblical King David, who moved his capital to Jerusalem, which belonged to no tribe, so as to avoid the jealousy between the powerful tribes of Judah and Ephraim.)

The Brussels bureaucracy seems to be heartily hated by all, but its power is inexorably growing. Modern reality favors larger and larger units. No future for small states.

This brings us to the Euro. The European idea led to the formation of a huge bloc, in which a common currency could flow freely. To a layman like me, it seemed like a wonderful idea. I don’t remember a single prominent economist warning against it.

Today it is easy to say that the Euro bloc was flawed from the beginning. Even I understand that you cannot have a single currency when each member state shapes its national budget according to its own whims and political interests.

That is the fundamental difference between a federation and a confederation. How would the USA operate if each of its 50 member states ran its own economy independently of the other 49?

As the economists teach us now, something like the Euro crisis cannot happen in the US. If the state of Alabama is in bad financial shape, all the other states step in automatically. The central bank (or Federal Reserve) simply shuffles money around. No problem.

The Greek crisis arises from the fact that the Euro is not based on such a federation. The Greek economic breakdown would have been stopped by the European central bank long before it had reached the present point. Money would have flowed from Brussels to Athens without anybody even noticing. Tsipras could have embraced Merkel in her chancellery and happily announced “Ich bin ein Berliner!” (I can’t really imagine Merkel going to Athens and proclaiming “Ich bin eine Griechin!”)

The first lesson of the crisis is that the creation of a currency union presupposes a readiness of all member states to give up their economic independence. A country that is not prepared to do so cannot join such a union. Each country can keep its precious football team, and even its sacred flag, but its national budget must be subject to the joint economic super-government.

Today that is quite clear. Unfortunately, it was not clear to the founders of the Euro bloc.

In this respect, a giant nation like China has a huge advantage. It is not even a federation, but in practice a unitary state, with a unitary currency.

Small states, like Israel, lack the economic security of belonging to a large union, but enjoy the advantage of being able to maneuver freely, and to fix our currency, the Shekel, according to our interests. If export prices are too high, you just devalue. As long as your credit rating is high enough, you can do what you want.

Fortunately, nobody invited us to join the Euro bloc. The temptation would have been too strong.

THIS BEING so, we can follow the Greek crisis with some equanimity.

But for those of us who believe that after achieving peace with the Palestinian people and the entire Arab world, Israel must become a part of some kind of a regional confederation, this is an instructive lesson.

I wrote about this even before the State of Israel was born, calling for a “Semitic Union”. It probably won’t happen while I am still around, but I am fairly sure that it will come about before the end of this century.

It cannot happen while the economic gap between Israel and the Arab countries is as immense as it is now – with per capita income 25 times higher in Israel than in Palestine and many Arab countries. But once the Arab world overcomes its present turmoil, they can hope for rapid progress, as is happening in Turkey and Muslim countries in East Asia.

Sometime in the not too remote future, in historical terms, the world will consist of large economic units striving to create a working economic world order, with a joint currency.

It may seem silly to think about this in the present situation. But it’s never too early to think.

Always remembering what Socrates said: “The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.”

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

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Jeb Bush Explains You Are Not Working Hard Enough

By Charles Pierce, Esquire

09 July 15

And Scott Walker would like to tell us what to do with that time we used to call a weekend.

t has been three generations since any member of the extended Bush clan of Kennebunkport has done any actual physical labor so, if we’re being charitable, we can assume that Jeb (!) wouldn’t recognize real work if you handed him a shovel and pointed him toward a ditch. Nonetheless, he would like you to know that you are not working as hard as you should work if you want to be as successful as, well, him.

“My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this rut that we’re in.”

Holy Jesus H. Christ on a furlough, there’s your “47 percent” moment for this cycle. What is it with this guy and with that other Florida Man, Marco Rubio? Is the sun so bright that neither of them sees the rakes until it’s too late? Every legitimate survey demonstrates that Americans are working longer hours for wages that pretty much have remained flat for 30 years while most of the country’s wealth was being shoved up to that level of the economy wherein reside Jeb (!) and his family of entitled layabouts. This is pure Romneyism in action. This one statement should kill his campaign. It should be hung around his neck like a dead raccoon until the last ballot of the 2016 election is cast. If it’s not, it’s only because some people will do anything to keep this guy viable because he allegedly is more “serious” than many of the other presidential candidates. Those people are wrong.

Meanwhile, Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin, is preparing to announce his candidacy for president next week by signing a Superfund site of a state budget that includes a provision that—and I am not kidding here—does away with the concept of the weekend.

Of course, this merely allows an “employee” to “opt out” of the requirement that he be given one day of rest every seven, and I am sure that the state’s employers will do nothing to “encourage” their employees to take advantage of their newfound freedom to be worked to death. This is pure Lochnerism in action, of course. Nobody can say they don’t have a jobs plan anyway.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 8th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Why is it that just about only two true liberal economists – Nobel Prize Winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugmann – seem to have it right on Greece vs. the German dominance of Europe?

With so much in the media – most of it telling about the writer – not the subject – we did not find it interesting to enter the fray. Looking up the subject in the SustainabiliTank.info memory – we found only one article to-date. It is: the January 26, 2015 article: “Can Bolivia Chart a Sustainable Path Away From Capitalism? Will Greece try to come up with a Pachamama and an ALBA Charge? In this Globalized economy can a State honestly drop out and isolate itself?”
 www.sustainabilitank.info/wp/wp-a…

I posted some excerpts of a very interesting and long article I picked up from Truthout – this with my thinking of the latest changes in Greece and wondering if rhetoric is true change – and how can Greece fare in a capitalist world with management outside its borders, but vested interests residing also in the country itself. Will there be a Greek Pachamama in Europe’s future? Will the Tsipris Greece be the Morales of an ALBA Charge of anti-capitalist rhetoric in Europe? The article I was looking at the time did not deal with Greece but with countries in Latin America that did shake off impositions from the globalization of capitalism.

The true problem in Europe seems to be that Ms. Angela Merkel just does not have the knowledge of European history. Having grown up under the Communism of East Germany, then liberated by the reunification process, she transferred the communist zeal into a capitalist zeal that basically says – all is well if you make money of it. What she does not understand is that the First World War caused the Second World War by imposing debt on the losing side Germany, but then after the Second World War, a Democratic Administration in the US, having learned from the previous experience, made sure that the rebirth of Europe, and Germany being a main ingredient of Europe, will be made possible by avoiding the sort of debt situation that the Treaty of Versailles allowed.

Besides finally annulling the German debt from WWI eventually in 1953 the European debtors of a reborn West Germany, including Greece, decided on writing off the major part of the new debt.

Sustainability is thus based on writing off debt, rather then in puritanical insistence on repayment. This is not just a matter of an uninformed Ms. Angela Merkel, but also of a large part of US politics – the present Republican party of all its streams.

We find today that my question of January 2015 is becoming very relevant in the European negotiations of July 2015, and the two above Professors seem to have reached some very similar conclusions. It just makes better sense for Greece to bail out from a system full of directives and regain their independence by printing their own money, and running their own country by themselves – and for themselves.

The problem with all those conservative-puritanical blind a-National capitalism adherents that were trained also in blind Business Administration – they have no feelings for social issues, and the understanding that good income for the lower classes creates the customers for the goods that are produced in the country that finds employment for its citizens. Making profits overseas and not paying taxes at home – just does not lead to sustainability of a Nation.

Providing fake “bail-outs” by providing money to pay for the interest on old loans, is only an illusion of help and leads only to further decline of the debtor Nation. The Greeks were totally right in voting OXI over NAI. Now Ms. Merkel wants to charm them back into submission – but only Debt forgiveness provides a path to a solution.

In absence of such an approach, the Greeks are advised by the above two professors to leave the EURO, create a NEW DRACHMA, devalue it to the point it hurts – but it promisses a better future for their children – something that is in their hands to achieve and not decided for them from outside by a non-Union that only rules but does not tend to their social needs.

We wish the best luck to Prime Minister Tsipras. He already sacrificed his finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and brought in a milder speaking Euclid Tsakalotos, but the EU has not yet reciprocated by retiring Ms. Merkel. What Germany needs is a leader not afraid, or mentally opposed, to tackle their Bank Managers who on their own will never make the needed decisions.
Such decisions will have to be made with SUSTAINABILITY and the social needs of all 29 States of the EU with an eventual push for the creation of a true Union even if it is deemed to base it in a Federal System – something like the USE – the Unitted States of Europe. If not – the EURO has no place in their deliberations, and Tsipras might as well declare his admiration for the Bolivian Morales.

The Official debt of Greece is to:

Germany 68.2 bn EURO
France 43.8 bn
Italy 38.4 bn
Spain 25.0 bn

IMF 21.4 bn
ECB 18.1 bn

US 11.3 bn

UK 10.8 bn

Belgium 7.5 bn
Austria 5.9 bn
Finland 3.7 bn

Of these EU countries, Italy and Spain, are themselves heavily indebted and might very soon be in need of bailouts.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 8th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Low Income Solar Act of 2015

Friend -

Our country faces more serious problems today than at any time since the Great Depression.

And if you include the planetary crisis of climate change, it may well be that the challenges we face now are more dire than at any time in our modern history.

Scientists are telling us that if we do not transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into sustainable energy, our planet could be ten degrees Fahrenheit warmer by the end of this century.

That will mean more droughts, more famine, more floods, rising sea levels, and more human suffering.

Our job, in this moment, is not to think small. The United States must lead the world in fighting climate change.

Throughout my career, I’ve introduced legislation to combat climate change – I even co-wrote the Green Jobs Act with Senator Hillary Clinton that passed in 2007.

But we must think even bigger.

In 2010 I introduced the 10 Million Solar Roofs and 10 Million Gallons of Solar Hot Water Act. In 2012 I introduced the End Polluter Welfare Act because it is immoral that millions of young Americans can’t afford a decent college education while we’re providing huge tax breaks for ExxonMobil, the most profitable corporation in America.

And just yesterday, I introduced the Low Income Solar Act of 2015.


The bill would provide loans and grants to make solar power affordable for community facilities, public housing, and low-income family homes. These families are the hardest hit by rising utility prices and among the most vulnerable to the perils of a changing climate.

If you agree it’s time for America to think big and lead the world on climate change, add your name as a citizen co-sponsor of my Low Income Solar Act of 2015.

When we talk about our responsibilities as human beings, and as parents, there is nothing more important than leaving this country, and this planet, habitable for our kids and grandchildren.

The debate is over.

The scientific community has spoken in a nearly unanimous voice.

Climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, and the United States must lead the world in reversing its effects.

This moment requires a massive investment in solar, wind, and geothermal. My Low Income Solar Act is a commonsense proposal to create jobs, make energy affordable for the most vulnerable among us, and protect the planet for future generations.

Thank you for joining me.

Bernie Sanders

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 4th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


WikiLeaks Reveals NSA’s Top Brazilian Political Targets

By Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda, The Intercept

04 July 15 – reported by RSN

Top secret data from the National Security Agency, shared with The Intercept by WikiLeaks, reveals that the U.S. spy agency targeted the cellphones and other communications devices of more than a dozen top Brazilian political and financial officials, including the country’s president Dilma Rousseff, whose presidential plane’s telephone was on the list. President Rousseff just yesterday returned to Brazil after a trip to the U.S. that included a meeting with President Obama, a visit she had delayed for almost two years in anger over prior revelations of NSA spying on Brazil.

That Rousseff’s personal cell phone was successfully targeted by NSA spying was previously reported in 2013 by Fantastico, a program on the Brazilian television network Globo Rede. That revelation – along with others exposing NSA mass surveillance on hundreds of millions of Brazilians, and the targeting of the country’s state-owned oil company Petrobras and its Ministry of Mines and Energy – caused a major rupture in relations between the two nations. But Rouseff is now suffering from severe domestic weakness as a result of various scandals and a weak economy, and apparently could no longer resist the perceived benefits of a high-profile state visit to Washington.

But these new revelations extend far beyond the prior ones and are likely to reinvigorate tensions. Beyond Rousseff, the new NSA target list includes some of Brazil’s most important political and financial figures, such as the Finance Ministry’s Executive Secretary Nelson Barbosa; Luiz Awazu Pereira da Silva, a top official with Brazil’s Central Bank; Luiz Eduardo Melin de Carvalho e Silva, former Chief of Staff to the Finance Minister; the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s chief of economics and finance, Luis Antônio Balduíno Carneiro; former Foreign Affairs Minister and Ambassador to the U.S. Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado; and Antonio Palocci, who formerly served as both Dilma’s Chief of Staff and Finance Minister under former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Most notable about the list, published simultaneously by WikiLeaks, is the predominance of officials responsible for Brazil’s financial and economic matters (last four digits of the listed telephone numbers are redacted; click to enlarge):

NSA list covering the high priority targets in Brazil. (photo: The Intercept)
 readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…

Next to each name on the list, there are codes which indicate the purpose of the surveillance and the group of analysts within NSA responsible for it. The codes appear under under the column entitled “TOPI,” which stands for “Target Office of Primary Interest.”

Alongside most of the government officials’ phone numbers is the designator “S2C42,” a reference to an NSA unit that focuses on intelligence collected from Brazil’s political leadership. The same code was seen in the previously reported document revealing NSA’s targeting of Dilma’s cellphone:

But even more revealing on this new list is the designation next to several of the targeted officials responsible for financial and economic issues. Many of these individuals have a different code next to their phone number – S2C51 – which refers to NSA’s “international financial policy branch.” Brazilians are particularly sensitive to economic espionage by the U.S., both for historical reasons (as a hallmark of American imperialism and domination on the continent) and due to current economic concerns (for that reason, the story of NSA’s targeting of Petrobras was arguably the most consequential of all prior surveillance stories).

Several Brazilian officials expressed anger over the latest revelations. Gilberto Carvalho, former Chief of Staff to Lula and a top aide to Dilma, harshly denounced the spying in an interview with the Intercept. He described his reaction as “maximum indignation,” declaring it a “violation of Brazilian sovereignty” which the U.S. “does not have the right to do.” Carvalho added that the fact that Brazil “is trying to repair our relationship with the U.S. does not in any way diminish the gravity of these new revelations.”

For his part, the Central Bank’s Pereira da Silva said his reaction is to fully embrace the stinging denunciation of NSA’s electronic surveillance contained in Dilma’s September, 2013 United Nations speech, delivered while Obama waited in the hallway to speak. That blistering speech was widely regarded in Brazil as a high point of Dilma’s leadership on the world stage.

Speaking from the General Assembly podium, she declared that “tampering in such a manner in the affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and is an affront of the principles that must guide the relations among them, especially among friendly nations.” She condemned U.S. mass surveillance as a “grave violation of human rights and of civil liberties” and, in a rare invocation of her own personal history as a rebel against the country’s oppressive military dictatorship, said: “As many other Latin Americans, I fought against authoritarianism and censorship, and I cannot but defend, in an uncompromising fashion, the right to privacy of individuals and the sovereignty of my country. In the absence of the right to privacy, there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore no effective democracy.”

Other Brazilian targets on the newly released NSA list include the long-time diplomat and author André Amado, as well as a current official with the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Fernando Meirelles de Azevedo Pimentel. It also includes the “cell” numbers for several of the key targets along with their office numbers. And it lists the Brazilian ambassadors in Paris, Berlin and Geneva, with the official “residence” of the latter targeted.

Questions submitted to NSA were not answered by the time of publication. Prior to the disclosure about its spying on Petrobras, the NSA insisted to the Washington Post that (emphasis in original) “the department does ***not*** engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber.” In response to the Petrobras report, however, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that “it is not a secret that the Intelligence Community collects information about economic and financial matters” but claimed that it does not “use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of – or give intelligence we collect to – US companies.”

The list obtained by The Intercept from WikiLeaks is extracted from an NSA database. Dates that appear on it indicate that the eavesdropping on several of the officials began in early 2011, but others were first targeted in 2010 while Lula, Rousseff’s predecessor, was still President. There is no indication that the surveillance has stopped. Rather than a one-time document created on a single day, the list appears to be an aggregate list of targets continually compiled and updated by the NSA. Last week, WikiLeaks released similar documents showing surveillance of French and German political and financial officials, and that spying took place over many years.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 2nd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from The Century Foundation, New York City  events at tcf.org
July 2, 2015

Egypt’s Next Phase: Sustainable Instability

Senior fellow at The Century Foundation Michael Wahid Hanna describes Egypt’s Next Phase: Sustainable Instability in a new issue brief out today:

“Two years after Egypt’s July 2013 coup that ousted President Mohamed Morsi, the country is entering a new and unsettled phase in its ill-fated post–Hosni Mubarak political transition. The air of instability in the run-up to this anniversary was punctuated by the country’s first major political assassination in decades, with the June 29 killing of Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat in a sophisticated bomb attack on his convoy. That attack was quickly followed by a major coordinated militant assault on Egyptian army positions in northern Sinai Peninsula on July 1, which resulted in scores of dead and injured, and further highlighted the growing threats facing the country.

However, while Egypt as a country will continue to suffer various kinds of instability, the regime of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi remains firmly ensconced for the foreseeable future.”

For the full article please go to:  www.tcf.org/blog/detail/egypts-ne…

Conclusion of the article: Despite unprecedented economic and security challenges and the first signs of serious public dissatisfaction with the Sisi regime, there is no evidence that these complaints will ripen into a challenge to the sustainability of Sisi’s rule. Paradoxically, this sustainability will endure despite the inevitable instability that will be a persistent feature of Egyptian life in the near-term future. Instability is unlikely to translate into serious regime vulnerability so long as the state remains outwardly unified and coherent, which itself is highly likely in an environment when the state and its institutions perceive a collectivized sense of fate. With an irreparably fragmented state of political opposition coming together with other key factors to produce an environment of sustainability, Egypt and the outside world will have to contend with the durability of the Sisi regime and the unlikelihood of a political course correction amidst a deteriorating security situation.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 1st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From THE AMERICAN IRANIAN COUNCIL
Established in New Jersey in 1997 by Professor Hooshang Amirahmadi of Rutgers University

July 1, 2015

Dear Pincas,

Negotiators representing the P5+1 and Iran announced an extension to the self-imposed June 30 deadline to secure a final nuclear deal. The new date they have set for themselves is July 7. The outstanding issues are, reportedly, the timing of sanctions relief, access to military sites, and access to Iranian nuclear scientists.

The AIC throws its full support behind a fair, diplomatic resolution to the nuclear issue that (1) reduces tension between the United States and Iran, (2) lifts sanctions that are contributing to that tension, and (3) further ensures the international community of Iran’s sustained commitment to restrict its nuclear program to peaceful purposes.

We maintain that it is more important that the deal be comprehensive and sustainable than rushed. An expedient deal that fails to address all technical issues will inevitably fall apart, as the parties could walk away with distinct interpretations. It is better to get full clarity now, during the negotiating phase, rather than during the implementation phase.

Despite this one-week extension, tremendous progress has been made since these negotiations began, and that momentum must be seized upon for a comprehensive deal. The framework that the parties agreed to in April 2015 required Iran to make significant concessions, well outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Additional Protocol, in order to provide verification of its nuclear program’s peaceful nature. In return, sanctions imposed by the United Nations, European Union, and United States over Iran’s nuclear program were to be removed. While the timing of sanctions removal has proven to be a sticking point, we remain optimistic that the diplomats can arrive at a negotiated timeline.

Most importantly, a fair nuclear deal would go a long way in reducing the intense mistrust and tension between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran, something for which the American Iranian Council has advocated for over 25 years. This would be a pro-peace paradigm shift in a region embroiled in instability and conflict. It is a goal for which all peace-loving people should advocate. A diplomatic resolution to the nuclear file is one step in that pro-peace direction, and for that reason we fully endorse it.

Sincerely,
The American Iranian Council

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

Having just announced by USA and Cuba the reestablishment of Embassies in Washington and Havana – this fourth of July weekend is already loaded with important news passed on from the White House to the people of the Americas. The announcement about a solution on the Iranian front can wait because it will have to be scrutinized very attentively.

###

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

By the end of the second day of the Dilma Rousseff mission to the US – it becomes clear that the Brazilian President had the upper hand, and this was about overcoming the repugnant fact that under this US President US agencies spied on the President of Brazil by hacking into her private phones and mail.

For one thing, Brazil wins now the right again to export its beef to the US, and there was also some mention of Brazil-US cooperation on Climate Change — though this was much less at the forefront as we wished to see it.

REUTERS – Politics | Tue Jun 30, 2015 6:30pm EDT

Obama, Rousseff turn page on spy spat, work on trade, travel

WASHINGTON | By Roberta Rampton and Idrees Ali

President Barack Obama and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff used a White House visit on Tuesday to turn the page on a spying scandal that had damaged bilateral relations and said they want to work to bolster economic ties.

The presidents agreed to a series of steps to make it easier for people and goods to move between the two countries, including reopening fresh beef trade.


During an hour-long press conference, Rousseff said “things have changed” since October 2013, when she canceled an official state visit after revelations from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that the United States had spied on her.

“The change is particularly due to the fact that President Obama and the U.S. government have stated on several occasions that they would no longer engage in intrusive acts of spying on friendly countries. I believe President Obama,” Rousseff said.

Obama greeted Rousseff with a warm hug when she arrived in Washington on Monday, taking her for an impromptu visit to a memorial for civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. before a working dinner.

Obama praised Brazil during Tuesday’s press conference as a “global power” and an “indispensable partner” playing a critical role in addressing climate change with a deal to boost renewable power production.

—————————–


2 years after spying flap, Obama and Brazil’s Rousseff declare end to chapter of tense ties.

Writes US News and World Report of June 30, 2013

The president and visiting Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff sought Tuesday to cast their nations as “natural partners” collaborating closely on critical issues like climate and regional diplomacy, glossing over recent tensions over spying that have strained relations between the U.S. and Brazil.

Associated Press
June 30, 2015 | 4:48 p.m. EDT
+ More

By JOSH LEDERMAN, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two years after revelations about U.S. spying frayed ties between their countries, President Barack Obama and visiting Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff publicly closed that chapter Tuesday, declaring that the relationship between the U.S. and Brazil is on an upward swing.

Rousseff canceled a 2013 visit to Washington in the wake of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden’s disclosures that the U.S. had intercepted her emails and phone calls, and U.S. leaders have been working to repair the damage ever since. On Tuesday, the two leaders were all smiles in the East Room of the White House, trading bets about the 2016 Summer Olympics, to be held in Rio de Janeiro.

“I believe President Obama,” Rousseff said, referring to the U.S. pledge to no longer engage in intrusive spying on friendly nations.

“I trust her completely,” Obama rejoined.

Both leaders acknowledged that the NSA leaks had strained the relationship between two of the hemisphere’s largest powers. Even still, Rousseff said the conditions today are different than they were in 2013, noting that Obama has since told her that should he ever need confidential information about Brazil, he’ll pick up the phone and call her directly.

“Countries do go through crises and difficulties. It’s just natural,” Rousseff said through a translator.

Aiming to move past those difficulties, Obama and Rousseff put a spotlight on areas of growing cooperation between the U.S. and Brazil as she wrapped up her two-day visit to the White House. The leaders touted a recent defense agreement as well as a U.S. decision Monday to begin allowing fresh beef imports from all 14 of Brazil’s states — a longstanding Brazilian request.

Yet the capstone of the attempt to show common cause was a joint announcement on climate change, an issue Rousseff deemed “one of the central challenges of the 21st century.”

Brazil pledged to curb illegal deforestation and expand renewable energy use as it gears up to unveil its contribution to a global climate treaty that Obama has been championing and world leaders expect to finalize this year. Although the announcement stopped short of a commitment to bring deforestation down to zero, as many environmentalists wanted, the pledge offered some of the first signs of how Brazil intends to curb its greenhouse gas emissions as part of the treaty.

The South American nation also vowed to restore and reforest 12 million hectares — an area roughly the size of England — by 2030. About three-quarters of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions come from destruction in the Amazon rainforest, which acts as a giant absorber of carbon dioxide.

Both the U.S. and Brazil announced plans to increase the share of renewable, non-hydropower electricity sources to 20 percent by 2030. That will require tripling the amount of renewable energy on the U.S. electricity grid, while doubling it in Brazil. The White House said it was counting on gains from Obama’s controversial power plant emission rules to meet the new goal.

From its inception on Monday with a visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Rousseff’s stay in Washington appeared designed to show that the U.S. and Brazil were no longer saddled by the spying flap that drew headlines and outrage from Brazilian lawmakers in 2013 and 2014.

And after an Oval Office meeting and joint news conference with Obama on Tuesday, Rousseff headed to the State Department for lunch, where she was toasted by Vice President Joe Biden — the point person in the White House’s charm offensive to regain Rousseff’s trust.

Rousseff had been scheduled to be honored with a state dinner in October 2013, an honor meant to demonstrate the growing importance of Latin America’s largest nation and a particular nod to Rousseff, who adopted a friendlier foreign policy toward the U.S. than her predecessor when she took office in 2001.

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

News
BASIC Ministers Outline Views on Paris Agreement

28 June 2015: Ministers from the four BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) countries convened for the group’s 20th Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change to discuss: the outcomes of the previous sessions of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP); the upcoming sessions of the ADP; and the elements of the expected Paris Agreement.

The 20th BASIC Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change was held at the Permanent Mission of Brazil to the UN in New York, US, on 27-28 June 2015. In a joint statement issued at the end of the meeting, BASIC Ministers welcome: the convening of the High Level Event on Climate Change by the President of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on 29 June 2015; the outcome of Lima Climate Change Conference in 2014; and the work of the Peruvian Presidency.

They further: commit to work constructively to ensure a successful outcome at the Paris Climate Change Conference in December 2015; reaffirm that the ADP process and outcome should be guided by, and be in accordance with, the Convention; and express appreciation for the progress achieved in the recent ADP sessions, but stress the need to accelerate the pace of negotiations.

Ministers underscore the need for the Paris Agreement to: address, in a balanced manner, mitigation, adaptation, finance, capacity building, technology development and transfer, transparency of action and support; not solely focus on mitigation; provide a framework for Parties to enhance actions to limit warming to below 2 degree Celsius and enable adaptation; and include comprehensive contributions that will be nationally determined and reflect each Party’s highest possible effort, in accordance with its common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR).

They call for the upcoming ADP negotiations to focus on the core provisions to be included in a protocol, another legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention. They highlight that the streamlined negotiating text being prepared by the ADP Co-Chairs should be concise, including all core elements of the Durban mandate, and that COP decisions should detail the agreement’s provisions, including modalities and technical aspects.

Ministers consider that ambition and effectiveness will be achieved by maintaining differentiation among developed and developing countries in the agreement. They call on developed countries to provide new, additional, predictable, adequate and sustained public support to enhance actions by developing countries, and for the Paris agreement to establish a link between developing countries’ actions and the scale of finance, technology and capacity building support.

On pre-2020 ambition (or workstream 2), they stress that: the pre-2020 ambition gap shall be primarily addressed through the implementation of the 2nd commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and the outcome of the Bali Action Plan; and that developed countries’ current emission reduction, financial and technological commitments are inadequate. They support the call by the G77 and China for the ADP Co-Chairs to prepare an inclusive paper as a starting point for the discussions under Workstream 2 at the next ADP session in August-September 2015.

They express disappointment over the lack of a clear roadmap for developed countries to provide USD 100 billion per year by 2020, as well as on substantially scaling up financial support after 2020. Ministers also underlined that domestic preparations for their respective intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) are at an advanced stage and will reflect their “utmost efforts towards the objective of the Convention.”

The 21st BASIC Ministerial Meeting will be hosted by China in the second semester of 2015. [Joint Statement of BASIC Ministers]

read more: climate-l.iisd.org/news/basic-min…

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News
UNGA Holds High-Level Event on Climate Change

29 June 2015: “We must act with courage,” UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Sam Kutesa told UN Member States gathered at the High-Level Event on Climate Change he hosted. He called for “bold, collective action” to “reverse the current trends and preserve our planet.” The High-Level Event was convened at the midpoint between the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the UNFCCC and COP 21, and aimed to provide political momentum for an ambitious climate agreement.

Held on 29 June 2015, in New York, US, the High-Level Event also featured remarks from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who called climate change and sustainable development “two sides of the same coin” that are being addressed by “two mutually reinforcing agendas.”

Also addressing the links between these agendas, Kutesa stressed that 2015 is a critical year, “when the world’s attention is focused on the future,” adding that “a successful outcome at COP 21 will send a resounding message that the well-being of the planet must go hand-in-hand with development efforts.”

Both Ban and Kutesa focused on the building blocks, such as intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) and finance, needed to achieve an ambitious agreement and commended large emitters for coming forward with commitments. Noting some controversial issues remain to be resolved ahead of COP 21, Kutesa said “a successful outcome can be reached if all Parties engage constructively and with flexibility.” Ban reminded that the agreement must not be an “end point,” but rather a “turning point” in how the world collectively acts to address climate change.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres also spoke at the event, asserting that “Never before has it been so evident that we can address both climate change and sustainable development with the same measures,” and urging negotiators to show leadership to “create jobs, ensure energy access, safeguard food and water, improve health and protect economic and social stability for the future.”

After the opening session, two high-level panel discussions were held. The first consisted of two segments, moderated by UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner and Global Commission on the Economy and Climate Chair Felipe Calderón, respectively. It focused on mobilizing political momentum for ambitious actions on mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation (MOI). Panelists discussed: equity; differentiation; renewable energy development; scaling action under current commitments; China’s green development strategy; anti-poverty efforts; transparency; and adequacy of support.

The second panel, on mobilizing stakeholders for ambitious actions on mitigation, adaptation and MOI, addressed the US$100 billion goal, private sector perspectives, land restoration for food security and increased resilience and falling costs of renewables. Green Climate Fund (GCF) Executive Director Héla Cheikhrouhou and Global Environment Facility (GEF) CEO Naoko Ishii spoke on the financing efforts their institutions are undertaking. Cheikhrouhou urged “significant, predictable funding” for the GCF, saying it “can play a key role in driving the transition to climate-resilient and low emission societies.”

Kutesa intends to circulate a President’s summary of the High-Level Event to all Member States and other stakeholders. The event will reconvene for its closing session on 30 June 2015. [High-Level Event on Climate Change Webpage] [UNGA President Opening Statement] [UN Press Release] [UNFCCC Press Release] [UNFCCC Executive Secretary Remarks] [GCF Executive Director Remarks] [UNEP Press Release] [UN Meeting Summary]

read more: climate-l.iisd.org/news/unga-hold…

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

Remarks by President Obama and President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil Before Meeting

ATLAPA Convention Center
Panama City, Panama

The White House Press, April 11, 2015

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it is wonderful to be able to meet once again with my good friend, President Rousseff, and her delegation.

PRESIDENT ROUSSEFF: I understand. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: She doesn’t need a translator.

Brazil is obviously not only one of the most important countries in the hemisphere, but is a global leader on a whole range of issues. And so I’m looking forward to this meeting where we can discuss furthering the cooperation that we already have on a whole range of issues, including climate change, energy, educational exchanges, and science and technology.

I’m also very pleased that President Rousseff is going to be able to visit Washington at the end of June, on June 30th, where we’ll be able not only to deepen our discussions, but also put forward some very concrete plans for mutual cooperation in these areas.

So let me just say once again, thank you to President Rousseff for her leadership and her friendship. And I’m looking forward to a very productive meeting.

PRESIDENT ROUSSEFF: (As interpreted.) I would also like to say that, to me, it is of course very important that we, the U.S. and Brazil, be able to ensure continuity of our relations. Brazil and the U.S. have had a very longstanding track record in our bilateral relations, and I think a very solid one.

We have before us a wide array of different topics in the areas that can serve as subjects for further cooperation, not only between the two countries but also throughout Latin America and the world at large. May I quote just one example of an area for fruitful cooperation, such as climate change, which is not only a pressing need but also a much-needed area for joint initiatives in the world at large. Brazil has experienced a very harsh drought. The U.S., in turn, has experienced a very rigorous winter. So the climate change agenda is an illustration, a clean-cut example of where we can cooperate jointly.

Science and technology, education, as well as all manners pertaining to economic growth are just examples of what we can do together to improve and boost the quality of our production activity, which is key for Brazil and which I think will help us elevate our relations to a higher threshold than it is currently today.

I am very much pleased to learn about the upcoming visit on June the 30th in the United States, and do look forward to that occasion.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you, everybody.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The Wall Street Journal – World – Latin America

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

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

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

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

By Daniel Bases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHRISTOPHER J. CHANG, PhD
2015 Blavatnik Laureate in Chemistry

University of California, Berkeley

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

Working at the frontiers of neuroscience and energy research

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

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

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

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

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

University of California, San Francisco

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

Uncovering the neural mechanisms of language processing

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

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

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

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

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About the Blavatnik Family Foundation

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

About the New York Academy of Sciences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

University of California, Irvine

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

Solving the mysteries of wireless communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pope Francis’ Message on Climate Change Is Extraordinarily Important

By Robert Reich
Readers Supported News – June 28, 2015


Pope Frances’s message this week on global climate change is extraordinarily important (that it comes out the same week Donald Trump declared his candidacy exposes a human continuum extending from bombast and narcissism to grace and humility). The Pope finds morally deficient an economic system that degrades the environment and worsens inequality; links environmental decline to poverty; attributes it to the growing concentration of greenhouse gases brought on human activity; and rejects the idea that economic growth alone can solve the problem. No Pope in living memory has so poignantly and powerfully cast the problems of inequality and the environment in moral terms that everyone, Catholic and non-Catholic, can understand.

But I wish the Pope hadn’t rejected an important means of reducing carbon in the atmosphere: putting a price on it. By broadly condemning “market forces” the Pope suggests the answer is to give up on the market rather than reorganize it to meet human needs. In this respect he plays into the hands of those who see the fundamental choice as between the “market” and the people, when the real choice is between a market system organized for all people or one organized primarily for the rich.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 1st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Energy & Environment
E.P.A. Proposal Will Put Bigger Trucks on a Fuel Diet

By AARON M. KESSLER and CORAL DAVENPORT – MAY 30, 2015

The national emissions lab in Ann Arbor, Mich. Proposals for fuel economy in big trucks are expected to require innovation. Credit Laura McDermott for The New York Times

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Inside the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory here, a mammoth contraption, with steel rollers, advanced electronics and exhaust tubes, is nearing completion.

The project — an enormous “truck treadmill” — is the new centerpiece of the Environmental Protection Agency’s complex. One of the largest vehicle testing centers in the world, the truck lab will play a crucial role in shaping and enforcing a major new environmental mandate by the Obama administration that could dramatically transform America’s trucking industry.

Related Coverage: Jamie Holland and her husband, Jarrod, of Wilmington, N.C., got rid of their older, nonturbocharged cars and replaced them with more fuel efficient turbo models: a BMW for her and a Ford for him.
Wheels: Carmakers Find That Turbos Are a Powerful Path to Fuel EfficiencyFEB. 26, 2015
President Obama announced the development of tough new fuel standards for heavy-duty trucks while in Maryland on Tuesday.
Obama Orders New Efficiency for Big TrucksFEB. 18, 2014

This week, the E.P.A. is expected to propose regulations to cut greenhouse gas emissions from heavy-duty trucks, requiring that their fuel economy increase up to 40 percent by 2027, compared with levels in 2010, according to people briefed on the proposal. A tractor-trailer now averages five to six miles a gallon of diesel. The new regulations would seek to raise that average to as much as nine miles a gallon. A truck’s emissions can vary greatly, depending on how much it is carrying.

The hotly debated rules, which cover almost any truck larger than a standard pickup, are the latest in a stack of sweeping climate change policy measures on which President Obama hopes to build his environmental legacy. Already, his administration has proposed rules to cut emissions from power plants and has imposed significantly higher fuel efficiency standards on passenger vehicles.

The truck proposals could cut millions of tons of carbon dioxide pollution while saving millions of barrels of oil. Trucks now account for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles in the United States, even though they make up only 4 percent of traffic, the E.P.A. says.

But the rules will also impose significant burdens on America’s trucking industry — the beating heart of the nation’s economy, hauling food, raw goods and other freight across the country.

It is expected that the new rules will add $12,000 to $14,000 to the manufacturing cost of a new tractor-trailer, although E.P.A. studies estimate that cost will be recouped after 18 months by fuel savings.

Environmental advocates say that without regulation, the contribution of American trucks to global warming will soar.

“Trucking is set to be a bad actor if we don’t do something now,” Jason Mathers, head of the Green Freight program at the Environmental Defense Fund.

But some in the trucking industry are wary.

“I’ll put it this way: We told them what we can do, but they haven’t told us what they plan to do,” said Tony Greszler, vice president for government relations for Volvo Group North America, one of the largest manufacturers of big trucks. “We have concerns with how this will play out.”

The E.P.A., along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, began its initial phase of big truck fuel economy regulation in 2011, and those efforts have been widely seen within the industry as successful. But meeting the initial standards, like using more efficient tires, was not especially difficult by comparison.

The proposed rules will ask much more of the industry. They will require more investment and innovation, like tweaking engines and transmissions, improving aerodynamics and using lighter materials. More disruptive options, like recycling engine heat to drive a secondary turbine, or moving away from diesel itself, are also under consideration. Already, some bigger fleets like that of the United Parcel Service have started outfitting some of their trucks with natural gas.

To win over industry players, regulators say they have made efforts to engage companies up and down the supply chain. They have held hundreds of meetings and have tried to shape their proposal in a way that would help truck-related businesses.

“Fuel is either at the top or near the top of truck operators’ costs,” said Christopher Grundler, director of the E.P.A.’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality. Reducing those costs, he added, was good for business and the environment.

Mr. Obama led the cheerleading for his truck rules. In a speech last year signaling the rules, he said, “Because they haul about 70 percent of all domestic freight — 70 percent of the stuff we use, everything from flat-screen TVs to diapers to produce to you name it — every mile that we gain in fuel efficiency is worth thousands of dollars of savings every year.”

John C. Wall, chief technical officer at Cummins, a leading manufacturer of truck engines, said his company had “tried to engage proactively in the development of the regulations” and had found federal officials to be open-minded about what the company thought could be achieved.

Others in the industry, though, hold a different view.

John Yandell Jr., president of Yandell Truckaway in Pleasant Hill, Calif., said that fuel is the second-highest cost for his family business and that he would love to get better mileage on his fleet, which operates short-haul regional routes. But, he said, he is skeptical that can be achieved in the near future in a way that is affordable for him, if at all.

“Twenty years ago, my trucks were getting five miles per gallon; today they are getting around 6.2 to 6.4,” he said, but getting up to nine or 10 seemed like a pipe dream. “Talk is cheap, but I don’t see how they get there.”

Getting there, however, is a priority for Mr. Obama. The administration also hopes that ambitious government targets can help drive the innovation needed to achieve them. After the 54.5 m.p.g. requirement for cars and light trucks was announced in 2009, a wave of new research and development happened in Detroit, as automakers rushed to develop new hybrid, electric and super-efficient gasoline engines.

The new truck rules are intended to spur the same rush to innovation among the companies that build the 10-ton tractor-trailers that haul things as varied as timber, steel and frozen fish.

But as with any new environmental rules, the details are complicated and will take time to sort out. The public will be asked to comment on the proposed rules before the final version is put in place sometime next year.

Back at the testing lab, the truck treadmill was put through its paces. A semi truck was fastened down with thick chains secured to even thicker steel anchors. A driver started the engine, which roared as the truck sat atop enormous metal rollers that allowed the wheels to spin in place. Orange tubes, intended to collect the exhaust fumes when the formal testing begins, hung from the ceiling.

“This was a hole in the ground before Christmas,” said David Haugen, director of the E.P.A. lab’s testing and advanced technology division. “Now we’re ready to make history.”

Aaron M. Kessler reported from Ann Arbor, Mich., and Coral Davenport from Washington.

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

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

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

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

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

READ: Bernie Sanders’ brotherly love

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 22, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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 krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/05…

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

May 17, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from Elzen, den Michel —  Michel.denElzen at pbl.nl


PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, NewClimate Institute, Ecofys and IIASA have published a report entitled “Enhanced policy scenarios for major emitting countries: Analysis of current and planned climate policies, and selected enhanced mitigation measures”.

This study provides an overview of projected greenhouse gas emissions of 13 major emitting countries up to 2030, taking into account the emission trajectories based on current and planned policies, and selected enhanced mitigation measures that are in line with national priorities.

Some countries are likely to achieve their 2020 pledges through current policies, while others require the effective implementation of planned policies or additional measures.


The policy brief can be downloaded at:

 www.pbl.nl/en/publications/enhanc…

The full report can be downloaded at:
 www.pbl.nl/en/publications/enhanc…

 www.pbl.nl/sites/default/files/cm…

This study, as well as an assessment of the INDCs, will be presented at SB 42:

Preparation and assessment of intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs)

Friday, 5 June
18:30—20:00
Bonn III (72)

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PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency

 Michel.denelzen at pbl.nl

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

IISDRS – Summary & Analysis from the 5th Intergovernmental Negotiation on Post2015 Development Agenda

as per Langston James Goree VI

5th Session of the Post-2015 Intergovernmental Negotiations (Follow-Up and Review)
18-22 May 2015 | UN Headquarters, New York
 www.iisd.ca/post2015/in5/

The fifth session of intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda took place from 18-22 May 2015, at UN Headquarters in New York.

The session, which focused on follow-up and review of the post-2015 development agenda, was led by the Co-Facilitators for the post-2015 process, David Donoghue, Permanent Representative of Ireland, and Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya.

This session marked the last of the “scripted” sessions outlined in UN General Assembly decision A/69/L.46, on modalities for the process of intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda. During the course of the week, delegates discussed: follow-up and review of the post-2015 development agenda; goals, targets and indicators; themes for the interactive dialogues during the Post-2015 Summit in September; and the way forward. An interactive dialogue with Major Groups and other stakeholders took place on Wednesday, 20 May. Delegates adopted the six themes for the interactive dialogues, which will be transmitted to the President of the General Assembly.

During the week, participants discussed what exactly “follow-up and review” entails at the national, regional and global levels. There was much discussion on the role of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development in this regard. There was disagreement on whether there should be technical revisions to the targets, which were approved by the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals in July 2014.

At the end of the week, the Co-Facilitators announced that the zero draft of the outcome document would be circulated on or about 1 June 2015, noting this would provide enough time to delegations to organize preliminary informal consultations before the sixth session of the intergovernmental negotiations begins on 22 June.

The Summary of this meeting is now available in PDF format

at  www.iisd.ca/download/pdf/enb3218e… and in HTML format at
 www.iisd.ca/vol32/enb3218e.html

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A BRIEF ANALYSIS OF THE MEETINGS

The fifth session of the post-2015 intergovernmental negotiations marked the last stocktaking session of the process before the focus turns to the textual negotiations on the post-2015 outcome. Since January 2015, participants have discussed elements of the structure of the post-2015 development agenda, including the declaration, the goals and targets, means of implementation and, at the fifth session, follow-up and review. As delegates await the zero draft of the outcome document, which they were informed would be issued by the Co-Facilitators on or about 1 June, it is clear that some “existential questions” remain regarding the post-2015 development agenda. These questions could be the focus of difficult debates before negotiations conclude in July. This brief analysis reflects on some of these questions, within the context of the fifth session’s discussions on follow-up and review, and examines the way forward, in the context of a complex set of interrelated sustainable development negotiations.

“COMING TO TERMS WITH THE TERMS”

While most delegations shared the view that a well-functioning review framework is essential for the implementation of the SDGs, it was clear that there is not yet agreement on the nomenclature. While most developing countries wanted to maintain the terminology “follow-up and review” in the outcome document, some developed countries preferred to use “monitoring, accountability and review” instead. The phrases have different meanings and implications and many developing countries are concerned that “accountability” could imply conditionality.

The EU, for example, said monitoring, accountability and review are all essential for the implementation of the agenda, and clarified that monitoring is about data and information to provide an assessment of progress, while accountability is about taking ownership, responsibility and ensuring follow-up of commitments. By contrast, the G-77/China stressed the importance of follow-up and review, noting that these terms were used in decision A/69/L.46 on the modalities for the process of intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, and stating that accountability and monitoring had “no place in the debate.” India argued that it is better to look at this part of the post-2015 agenda as “review and follow-up,” since review should precede follow-up.

It was clear from this that achieving a common understanding on the terminology is necessary before agreeing on any review framework.


“BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR”

By the end of the week, there was some degree of consensus that, at the global level, the HLPF should be the main platform for follow-up and review. However, the issue of whether the review of the post-2015 agenda should take place under a highly centralized structure under the authority of the HLPF or under a network with the HLPF at its core remained, among other questions. As these discussions took place, Co-Facilitator Kamau cautioned delegates to “be careful what you wish for,” noting that there was a level of complexity built into their proposals and that, once their complexity was unpacked, it would be difficult to develop a proposal that would work, especially given the short negotiating time left before the Post-2015 Summit. The G-77/China said the HLPF should be the key forum, to which other mechanisms created to follow up on outcomes of UN conferences and conventions should report in order to eschew unnecessary duplication.

Japan, however, stressed that it is impossible to build a highly centralized structure whereby one single authority would take charge of following up the wide and interlinked agenda. Therefore, Japan and others suggested that the global review structure should have the HLPF at the center, with the widest possible network of existing review mechanisms supporting it. Existing mechanisms, from the World Trade Organization for trade elements, to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee for reviews related to official development assistance, the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation for multi-stakeholder efforts, and existing legally binding agreements for relevant targets were identified as candidates for supporting mechanisms during the discussions, but the nuts and bolts of the reporting relationship with the HLPF and timing for reviews require further examination and discussion.

Another issue that remains to be unpacked is whether the follow-up for the FfD3 and post-2015 processes should take place under an integrated framework or in two separate review mechanisms. The EU and Switzerland, among others, supported developing an overarching monitoring, accountability and review framework for the entire post-2015 agenda, including both the financial and non-financial MOI, and said the FfD3 review process should ultimately feed into the HLPF. The G-77/China, by contrast, argued that the two processes are independent and said, even though they have points in common, they need two different review frameworks. Many agreed that the unpacking of this issue will depend on what is agreed by FfD3 in July.

A key question for the follow-up and review mechanism relates to how the HLPF itself will function. As the Co-Facilitators noted, delegates assigned a multitude of possible tasks to the HLPF during this session, including: keeping track of progress; identifying shortcomings and gaps on the SDGs; making recommendations about what countries should do to stay on track; discussing national and regional reviews; providing a science-policy interface; and addressing emerging issues and challenges. The Co-Facilitators reminded delegations that the HLPF only meets eight days a year, under the auspices of ECOSOC, with three of those days taken up with a ministerial segment. Co-Facilitator Kamau’s suggestion that the HLPF might need to meet twice a year was almost universally rejected, but his idea that some elements could be “offloaded” to other UN bodies that could report back to the Forum generated some interest. Additional proposals related to the HLPF’s functions included calls for the annual HLPF meetings to focus on thematic topics, and for the adoption of a four-year review cycle, where governments could be invited to communicate how they are implementing the SDGs at the national level and what still needs to be done.

In addition to the HLPF, there was also discussion on how other institutions and stakeholders would be involved. On the question of whether regional or global institutions should undertake national reviews, some proposed that country reviews should be done at the regional or sub-regional levels, with the HLPF taking the lead on the global assessment with inputs from the UN Regional Commissions, other relevant stakeholders and international organizations. Others, such as Switzerland and Germany, said the HLPF should review both how countries are doing individually and how the international community is doing globally. Many countries also stressed the importance of stakeholder participation at all levels. The EU, for example, suggested that the UN Global Compact could contribute to the work of the HLPF by preparing assessments of the private sector’s involvement in implementation. Several delegates noted that NGOs, civil society and the private sector also need to be held accountable for implementation of the post-2015 development agenda, especially with regard to MOI. The G-77/China and Egypt said that the follow-up and review process should be determined by national governments and include the participation of all relevant stakeholders in accordance with existing laws and regulations, pointing to another aspect in which further unpacking will be necessary before the follow-up and review framework is adopted.

“WE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO PICK AND CHOOSE WHICH GOALS TO IMPLEMENT AND WHICH GOALS NOT TO”

In opening the session, Co-Facilitator Kamau highlighted that, because the SDGs are interrelated, “we will not be able to pick and choose which goals to implement and which goals not to.” This indivisibility of the agenda, due to the integrated nature of the SDGs, implies that one cannot look at a goal without taking into account its relationship with other goals and targets. For example, as a participant noted during the interactive dialogue with Major Groups and other stakeholders, universal health coverage will not be achieved without sanitation, and sanitation will not progress without improvements in education, such as school toilets, which calls for integration and policy coherence. Some participants noted that the same interdependence applies to thematic reviews and proposals to organize the work of the HLPF along thematic lines. If those thematic reviews are to be considered, inter-sectoral linkages as well as horizontal linkages with other multilateral agreements, international organizations, the private sector, governments and other stakeholders will have to be considered to ensure coherence of action.

What will be reviewed does not, however, simply relate to the coherence and inter-linkages between the goals, but also to the targets and indicators under each goal. While the targets were included in the report of the OWG, some said that having undefined numbers?identified by the use of “Xs”?was unacceptable and expressed concern that Heads of State should not adopt a document with “Xs.” However, when the Co-Facilitators distributed a document containing revised targets, there were mixed reactions to the proposal to revise only some of the targets. Some welcomed the revisions so as to ensure that the goals are measurable and aligned with international agreements. Others actually supported leaving the “Xs” in the text since it would allow countries to choose the targets that are best for them. Finally, there were those who expressed concern that this exercise could reopen the SDGs and thus derail the entire post-2015 agreement. The development of indicators by the UNSC will also try to achieve coherence across this indivisible agenda.

“WE CANNOT USE PREVIOUSLY AGREED LANGUAGE IN A DOCUMENT THAT IS LOOKING TOWARDS THE FUTURE”

Based on the discussions during the first five sessions of the intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, the Co-Facilitators will attempt to put “flesh on the bones” of the document to be adopted in September. However, as several countries noted, the outcome document has to look towards the future, not rely on “stale,” previously agreed UN language. To achieve this objective, delegates will need to unpack previous arrangements and business-as-usual frameworks to understand how 193 countries can individually and jointly pivot to pursue a sustainable development path for the next 15 years. Optimists at the fifth session pointed to the sticking points that emerged from the discussion as evidence that delegates are grappling with the need to change course, although they too wondered how the complexities of interrelated issues and actors could be fully recognized when the process finally puts pen to paper over the next two months.

The zero draft of the outcome document will be the focus of three weeks of negotiations in June and July. The Co-Facilitators have asked delegations to consult within and among their negotiating groups before the sixth session begins on 22 June, and start to build bridges across the chasms on the agenda. Many questions remain about the details of this agenda and the fifth session of the intergovernmental negotiations indicated that there could be a rocky road ahead in reaching agreement on terminology, the follow-up and review process, the role of the HLPF, and any changes to the targets. What is clear, however, is that many want a document that will “connect, inspire and motivate” a global audience, avoid recycling UN language, and look towards the future.

This analysis, taken from the summary issue of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin ©  enb at iisd.org, is written and edited by Pamela Chasek, Ph.D. , Ana Maria Lebada, Nathalie Risse, and Christine Søby. The Editor is Lynn Wagner, Ph.D. The Director of IISD Reporting Services is Langston James “Kimo” Goree VI <kimo@iisd.org>. The Sustaining Donors of the Bulletin are the European Union, the Government of Switzerland (the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC)), and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. General Support for the Bulletin during 2015 is provided by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, SWAN International, the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Japanese Ministry of Environment (through the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies – IGES), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Funding for translation of the Bulletin into French has been provided by the Government of France, the Wallonia, Québec, and the International Organization of La Francophonie/Institute for Sustainable Development of La Francophonie (IOF/IFDD). The opinions expressed in the Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IISD or other donors. Excerpts from the Bulletin may be used in non-commercial publications with appropriate academic citation. For information on the Bulletin, including requests to provide reporting services, contact the Director of IISD Reporting Services at <kimo@iisd.org>, +1-646-536-7556 or 300 East 56th St., 11D, New York, NY 10022 USA.

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

Environment
EU Dropped Pesticide Laws Due to U.S. Pressure over TTIP, Documents Reveal.

U.S. trade officials pushed EU to shelve action on endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility to facilitate TTIP free trade deal.

By Arthur Neslen / The Guardian
May 25, 2015

EU moves to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility were shelved following pressure from U.S. trade officials over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal, newly released documents show.

Draft EU criteria could have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). But these were dumped amid fears of a trade backlash stoked by an aggressive U.S. lobby push, access to information documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe show.

On the morning of July 2, 2013, a high-level delegation from the U.S. Mission to Europe and the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited EU trade officials to insist that the bloc drop its planned criteria for identifying EDCs in favor of a new impact study. By the end of the day, the EU had done so.

Minutes of the meeting show commission officials pleading that “although they want the TTIP to be successful, they would not like to be seen as lowering the EU standards”.

The TTIP is a trade deal being agreed by the EU and U.S. to remove barriers to commerce and promote free trade.

Responding to the EU officials, AmCham representatives “complained about the uselessness of creating categories and thus, lists” of prohibited substances, the minutes show.

The U.S. trade representatives insisted that a risk-based approach be taken to regulation, and “emphasized the need for an impact assessment” instead.

Later that day, the secretary-general of the commission, Catherine Day, sent a letter to the environment department’s director Karl Falkenberg, telling him to stand down the draft criteria.


“We suggest that as other DGs [directorate-generals] have done, you consider making a joint single impact assessment to cover all the proposals,” Day wrote. “We do not think it is necessary to prepare a commission recommendation on the criteria to identify endocrine disrupting substances.”

The result was that legislation planned for 2014 was kicked back until at least 2016, despite estimated health costs of €150bn ($165bn) per year in Europe from endocrine-related illnesses such as IQ loss, obesity and cryptorchidism — a condition affecting the genitals of baby boys.

A month before the meeting, AmCham had warned the EU of “wide-reaching implications” if the draft criteria were approved. The trade body wanted an EU impact study to set looser thresholds for acceptable exposure to endocrines, based on a substance’s potency.

“We are worried to see that this decision, which is the source of many scientific debates, might be taken on political grounds, without first assessing what its impacts will be on the European market,” the chair of AmCham’s environment committee wrote in a letter to the commission.

These could be “dramatic” the letter said.

In a high-level internal note sent to the health commissioner, Tonio Borg, shortly afterwards, his departmental director-general warned that the EU’s endocrines policy “will have substantial impacts for the economy, agriculture and trade”.


The heavily redacted letter, sent a week before the EU’s plans were scrapped continued: “The US, Canada, and Brazil [have] already voiced concerns on the criteria which might lead to important repercussions on trade.”


The series of events was described as “incredible” by the the Green MEP Bas Eickhout. “These documents offer convincing evidence that TTIP not only presents a danger for the future lowering of European standards, but that this is happening as we speak,”
he told the Guardian.

Earlier this year, 64 MEP’s submitted questions to the commission about the delay to EDC classifications, following revelations by the Guardian about the scale of industry lobbying in the run up to their abandonment. Sweden, the European Parliament and European Council have brought court proceedings against the commission for the legislative logjam.

Just weeks before the regulations were dropped there had been a barrage of lobbying from big European firms such as Dupont, Bayer and BASF over EDCs. The chemical industry association Cefic warned that the endocrines issue “could become an issue that impairs the forthcoming EU-US trade negotiations”.

The German chemicals giant BASF also complained that bans on pesticide substances “will restrict the free trade with agricultural products on the global level”.

Around this time, the commission’s more industry-friendly agriculture department weighed into the internal EU debate after being “informed by representatives of the US chemical industry” about it.

A common theme in the lobby missives was the need to set thresholds for safe exposure to endocrines, even though a growing body of scientific results suggests that linear threshold models – in which higher doses create greater effects – do not apply to endocrine disruptors.

“The human endocrine system is regulated by hormones and the hormone receptors are sensitive to low doses,” said Hans Muilerman, PAN Europe’s chemicals coordinator. “In animal toxicity studies, effects are seen from low doses [of endocrines] that disappear with higher ones. But in the regulatory arena, lower doses are not tested for.”

A commission spokesperson insisted that health and environmental concerns would be fully addressed, despite pressure from industry or trade groups.

“The ongoing EU impact assessment procedure is not linked in any way to the TTIP negotiations,” the official said. “The EU will proceed to the adoption of definitive criteria to identify endocrine disruptors, independently from the further course of our TTIP negotiations with the US.”

An EU-TTIP position paper on chemicals published last May, cited endocrine disruptors as as one of the “new and emerging scientific issues” which the EU and the US could consider for “enhanced regulatory cooperations” in a future TTIP deal.

“However, given the fact that a possible future TTIP Agreement will most likely not enter into force before the adoption of definitive EU criteria to identify endocrine disruptors, it is clear that the EU’s ongoing impact assessment and adoption of definitive criteria will not be dealt with in the TTIP negotiations,” the spokesperson said.

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Arthur Neslen is the Europe environment correspondent at the Guardian. He has previously worked for the BBC, the Economist, Al Jazeera, and EurActiv, where his journalism won environmental awards.

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

From The Middle East Forum: Research on the Islamic State

by Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi


various publications
April 1-May 15, 2015

 www.meforum.org/5257/research-isi…

Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, a research fellow at Middle East Forum’s Jihad Intel project, is one of world’s leading experts on the Islamic State (IS) group terrorizing Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS. The overwhelming majority of his writings and translations are too detailed or esoteric for distribution to a general audience, so instead MEF compiles periodic updates providing links and summaries for those who wish to follow the groundbreaking work of this prolific researcher.

Is ISIS Islamic? (April 3, 2015)
Jihadology: Jawad al-Tamimi argues that IS documents and publications show respect for the four traditional schools of Sunni jurisprudence and that many of its actions, however heinous, “can find a place within the vastness of Islamic tradition.”

Jamaat Ansar al-Islam: Eulogy to Abu Ahmad of Mosul (April 15, 2015)

Translation and Analysis of a statement from the Sunni jihadist group Jamaat Ansar al-Islam, which was based primarily in Iraq until its disintegration in the wake of last year’s IS advance across the north of the country, with elements of its Syria chapter continuing to operate in a limited capacity. The statement eulogizes Abu Ahmad of Mosul, a leader of the group’s Iraq branch reportedly killed by IS.

Muqawama Suriya Statement: Loss of Jisr al-Shughur (April 26, 2015)

Translation and analysis of a statement by Muqawama Suriya, a pro-Assad militia led by Turkish-born Alawite Ali Kayali. The statement illustrates “growing war weariness among pro-Assad circles” in the wake of recent losses in Idlib province, notes Jawad al-Tamimi, while its emphasis on “popular” and “national” forces “implicitly acknowledges some of the increasing resentment in regime circles that the war effort is too dependent on foreign irregular forces.”

Interview with the leader of Harakat al-Nujaba (April 28, 2015)

Translation and analysis of an interview with Akram al-Ka’abi, the leader of Harakat Hizballah al-Nujaba (The Movement of the Party of God of the Outstanding), or HHN, an Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia militia that emerged in 2013, operating both in Iraq and in Syria via multiple front groups. The interview sheds light on several aspects of HHN, notably its open identification with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and ties with the Lebanese Shia Hezbollah movement.

“We have the Swords”- IS nasheed (May 2)

Translation of a musical chant (nasheed), produced by IS’s Ajnad Media Foundation. One of the “darker” nasheeds, according to Jawad al-Tamimi, with lyrics such as “we sever off heads by the strike of the sword.”

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