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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 6th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

In Break With Precedent, Obama Envoys Are Denied Extensions Past Inauguration Dayy

By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS JANuary 5, 2017 – The New York Times.

Leading photo: John B. Emerson, the United States ambassador to Germany, greeted President Obama in Berlin in November.

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition staff has issued a blanket edict requiring politically appointed ambassadors to leave their overseas posts by Inauguration Day, according to several American diplomats familiar with the plan, breaking with decades of precedent by declining to provide even the briefest of grace periods.


The mandate — issued “without exceptions,” according to a terse State Department cable sent on Dec. 23, diplomats who saw it said — threatens to leave the United States without Senate-confirmed envoys for months in critical nations like Germany, Canada and Britain. In the past, administrations of both parties have often granted extensions on a case-by-case basis to allow a handful of ambassadors, particularly those with school-age children, to remain in place for weeks or months.

Mr. Trump, by contrast, has taken a hard line against leaving any of President Obama’s political appointees in place as he prepares to take office on Jan. 20 with a mission of dismantling many of his predecessor’s signature foreign and domestic policy achievements. “Political” ambassadors, many of them major donors who are nominated by virtue of close ties with the president, almost always leave at the end of his term; ambassadors who are career diplomats often remain in their posts.

A senior Trump transition official said there was no ill will in the move, describing it as a simple matter of ensuring that Mr. Obama’s overseas appointees leave the government on schedule, just as thousands of political aides at the White House and in federal agencies must do. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about internal deliberations, said the ambassadors should not be surprised about being held to a hard end date.

The directive has upended the personal lives of many ambassadors, who are scrambling to secure living arrangements and acquire visas allowing them to remain in their countries so their children can remain in school, the diplomats said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly on the matter.

In Costa Rica, Ambassador Stafford Fitzgerald Haney is hunting for a house or an apartment as his family — which includes four school-age children and his wife, who has been battling breast cancer — struggles to figure out how to avoid a move back to the United States with five months left in the school year, according to the diplomats.

In the Czech Republic, they said, Ambassador Andrew H. Schapiro is seeking housing in Prague as well as lobbying his children’s Chicago-based school to break with policy and accept them back midyear. In Brussels and Geneva, Denise Bauer, the United States ambassador to Belgium, and Pamela Hamamoto, the permanent representative to the United Nations, are both trying to find a way to keep daughters from having to move just months before their high school graduation.

Ronald E. Neumann, the president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, a Washington-based nonprofit association for former ambassadors and senior diplomats, said it was reasonable to expect ambassadors to return at the end of a term, given that they are direct representatives of the president with broad grants of authority. But he could not recall an occasion on which such a strict timeline had been applied.

“When you have people out there whose only reason for being an ambassador is their political connection to the outgoing president of a different party, it’s pretty logical to say they should leave,” said Mr. Neumann, a career Foreign Service officer who held ambassadorships in Algeria, Bahrain and Afghanistan. “But I don’t recollect there was ever a guillotine in January where it was just, ‘Everybody out of the pool immediately.’”

Ambassador Denise Bauer with Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo of Belgium in Brussels in 2013. Ms. Bauer is trying to stay in the country until her daughter finishes high school.

W. Robert Pearson, a former ambassador to Turkey and a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said the rule was “quite extraordinary,” adding that it could undermine American interests and signal a hasty change in direction that exacerbates jitters among allies about their relationships with the new administration.

With the world already primed to be worrying about such an abrupt change, “this is just a very concrete signal that it is going to happen,” Mr. Pearson said.

At a White House farewell reception that Mr. Obama held on Wednesday night for noncareer ambassadors, many of them commiserated, attendees said, comparing notes about how to handle the situation.

Some expressed dismay that Mr. Trump, whose wife, Melania, has chosen to stay in New York to avoid moving the couple’s 10-year-old son, Barron, to a new school midyear, would not ensure that such allowances were made for American ambassadors.


They are weighing a direct appeal to Rex W. Tillerson, Mr. Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, or other top transition officials to reconsider the policy.

Derek Shearer, a professor of diplomacy at Occidental College who is a former United States ambassador to Finland, said it was difficult to see a rationale for the decision. “It feels like there’s an element just of spite and payback in it,” he said. “I don’t see a higher policy motive.”

The State Department informed all politically appointed ambassadors in a letter the day after the election that they were to submit letters of resignation effective Jan. 20. It instructed those who wanted to seek extensions to submit formal requests explaining their justifications.

Incoming presidents of both parties have often made exceptions to allow ambassadors to wrap up personal affairs and important diplomatic business while their successors were in the confirmation process, which can take months. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Mr. Obama all granted extensions for a few politically appointed ambassadors.

Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell offered particularly wide latitude to ambassadors facing family issues, said Marc Grossman, a longtime diplomat and former top State Department official who is vice chairman of the Cohen Group, a Washington consultancy.

“This was something that was important to Secretary Powell because of his own experience living and serving all over the world, so when people asked him, ‘Could I stay another couple of weeks, couple of months; my kids are finishing school,’ he was very accommodating,” Mr. Grossman said, adding that his flexibility was an “exception” to the general practice. “He was trying to, I think, send a message that family was important.”

Oh well! Menschlichkeit is not part of the Art of the Deal.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 6th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


China Aims to Spend at Least $360 Billion on Renewable Energy by 2020

By MICHAEL FORSYTHE, January 5, 2017, The New York Times

China intends to spend more than $360 billion through 2020 on renewable power sources like solar and wind, the government’s energy agency said on Thursday.

The country’s National Energy Administration laid out a plan to dominate one of the world’s fastest-growing industries, just at a time when the United States is set to take the opposite tack as Donald J. Trump, a climate-change doubter, prepares to assume the presidency.

The agency said in a statement that China would create more than 13 million jobs in the renewable energy sector by 2020, curb the growth of greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming and reduce the amount of soot that in recent days has blanketed Beijing and other Chinese cities in a noxious cloud of smog.

China surpassed the United States a decade ago as the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses, and now discharges about twice as much. For years, its oil and coal industries prospered under powerful political patrons and the growth-above-anything mantra of the ruling Communist Party.

The result was choking pollution and the growing recognition that China, many of whose biggest cities are on the coast, will be threatened by rising sea levels.

But even disregarding the threat of climate change, China’s announcement was a bold claim on leadership in the renewable energy industry, where Chinese companies, buoyed by a huge domestic market, are already among the world’s dominant players. Thanks in part to Chinese manufacturing, costs in the wind and solar industries are plummeting, making them increasingly competitive with power generation from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.

Sam Geall, executive editor of Chinadialogue, an English- and Chinese-language website that focuses on the environment, said that the United States, by moving away from a focus on reducing carbon emissions, risked losing out to China in the race to lead the industry.

Mr. Trump has in the past called the theory of human-cased global warming a hoax and picked a fierce opponent of President Obama’s rules to reduce carbon emissions, Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

The investment commitment made by the Chinese, combined with Mr. Trump’s moves, means jobs that would have been created in the United States may instead go to Chinese workers.

Even the headline-grabbing numbers on total investment and job creation may understate what is already happening on the ground in China. Greenpeace estimates that China installed an average of more than one wind turbine every hour of every day in 2015, and covered the equivalent of one soccer field every hour with solar panels.

China may meet its 2020 goals for solar installation by 2018, said Lauri Myllyvirta, a research analyst at Greenpeace, who is based in Beijing.

But despite these impressive numbers, China’s push to clean its air and reduce its greenhouse gasses faces political pressure from the politically powerful coal industry.

Mr. Geall and Mr. Myllyvirta both said that Thursday’s announcement was missing any language on curtailment, or the amount of electricity generated by wind and solar that never finds its way to the country’s power grid. In China, wind power curtailment was 19 percent in the first nine months 2016, Mr. Myllyvirta said, many times higher than in the United States, where curtailment levels are often negligible.

The main reason for curtailment, he said, is that China is plagued by overcapacity in electricity generation and operators of China’s grid often favor electricity generated from coal.

In recent years the country has also been building coal-fired power plants at a furious pace, although that has recently slowed along with China’s economy. Another omission from Thursday’s announcements, Mr. Myllyvirta said, was the absence of any specific target to reduce coal consumption.

But both Mr. Geall and Mr. Myllyvirta said Thursday’s announcement set the stage for still more power generation from renewable energy and a gradual shift away from coal.

“My experience with China is when a numeric target gets written down, it gets implemented,” Mr. Myllyvirta said. “It doesn’t always get implemented in the way you like, but it does get implemented.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 6th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Foreign Policy Editors’ Picks, presented by the Embassy of Germany in Washington, D.C.
: Cambodia wants China as its neighborhood bully; and a U.S. intel chief fires back at Trump in feud over Russian election meddling.

AMAZING! FOREIGN POLICY – foreignpolicy.com – is a Magazine of global politics, economics and ideas. Published bimonthly in print and daily online by the Slate Group, a division of the Washington Post Company. (See also an attachement at the end of this posting.)

Starting January 2017 we started receiving the daily FP e-mail saying it was sponsored by Germany — Sponsored Content — “SHAPING AN INTERCONNECTED WORLD”: That is the motto of Germany’s G20 Presidency in 2017. The stability of the global economy will be a top issue. The highlight of the Presidency will be the leaders’ summit on July 7 and 8 in Hamburg. Learn more. (This from the Wednesday, January 4th mailing)


It seems to us, that in view of the expressed lack of interest in an “interconnected world”
on the part of the incoming Trump Administration, this while Germany as incoming leader of the G20 has the opposite opinion, it is logical for German Policy to lend its shoulder to the Foreign Policy Magazine and sponsor the continuation of its very important task.


Now – to the information we found in today’s incoming mail – January 6, 2017:


“Shaping an interconnected world”: That is the motto of Germany’s G20 Presidency from December 1, 2016, to November 30, 2017.

The highlight of the Presidency will be the leaders’ summit on July 7 and 8, 2017, in Hamburg.


Making globalization benefit everybody:

Germany would like to use its G20 Presidency to intensify international cooperation. It is the G20’s job to ensure that globalisation benefits everyone. The aim is to strengthen the benefits of globalisation and worldwide interconnectedness, and to ensure that more people reap benefits. The German government is thus setting a course diametrically opposed to isolationism and any return to nationalism.


Chancellor: Stability of global economy is a “top issue:”

Germany is happy to assume the G20 Presidency as of December 1, 2016, and to host the G20 summit July 7-8, 2017, Chancellor Angela Merkel declared in a video podcast on the German G20 Presidency. She cited the stability of the global economy as the “top issue.” The G20 finance ministers will be focusing on achieving progress on the stricter regulation of financial markets, especially in the field of shadow banking.

Germany attaches a great deal of importance to continuing with the major issues of its G7 Presidency, Angela Merkel continued. And a number of issues “related to development” will be given a very high profile, in particular fighting pandemics.


Agenda of Germany’s G20 Presidency with three main focuses

The German G20 agenda rests on three main pillars:

Ensuring stability
Improving viability for the future
Accepting responsibility

The G20 is the main forum for international cooperation among the 20 leading industrialized nations and emerging economies in the fields of finance and economics. The G20 nations are together home to almost two thirds of the world’s population, as well as generating more than four fifths of global GDP, and accounting for three quarters of global trade.
Ensuring stable and resilient national economies

The first pillar involves strengthening stable environments for the global economy and the financial system, but also promoting dynamic economic growth. Structural reforms are the lynchpin here.

Over and above this, Germany’s G20 Presidency will continue cooperation on international financial and fiscal issues, employment, and trade and investment. The aim is to strengthen free and fair trade around the globe. The German government will also be working for sustainable global supply chains.


Fit for the future:


During its G20 Presidency, Germany not only aims to ensure the stability of the global economy, but also, and this is the second pillar, to make it more fit for the future. One main concern is to make progress on realising the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.


It is every bit as important to discuss viable energy and climate strategies for the future. And the growing importance of digitalisation for the global economy will play a prominent part in the discussions of the G20. To be fit for the future will also mean improving health care. The worldwide fight against antimicrobial resistance is part of this, as are efforts to put in place the mechanisms to prevent the outbreak of pandemics.

And last but not least, empowering women in the economy, in particular improving the quality of women’s jobs, is on the agenda. Chancellor Merkel will be working to give women in developing countries easier access to information and communication technologies.


Accepting responsibility – especially for Africa:


Germany also intends to strengthen the G20 as a community of responsibility – and that is the third pillar. A priority concern is to achieve sustainable economic progress in Africa.

The German G20 Presidency aims to take concrete steps to improve people’s living conditions in the long term and to put in place a stable environment for investment. And it aims to promote infrastructure development on the African continent. In June a separate conference, entitled “Partnership with Africa,” will be held in Berlin.

But the G20 also aims to accept responsibility in other fields. Migration and refugee movements, the fight against terrorism, money laundering and corruption will also be addressed during Germany’s G20 Presidency.

Meetings of G20 ministers and dialogue with civil society

In the run up to the G20 summit, numerous line minister meetings will be held, in order to explore individual G20 issues in greater depth. Between January and May 2017, ministers responsible for finance, foreign affairs, labour affairs, health, agriculture and digital policy will be meeting.

As was the case during the G7 Presidency, Chancellor Merkel will again be meeting with representatives of civil society. Between March and June 2017, several dialogues are to take place, including events for the business community (Business20), non-governmental organizations (Civil20), trade unions (Labour20), the science and research community (Science20), think tanks (Think20), women (Women20) and youth (Youth20).

The civil society organizations themselves are responsible for these meetings, which will pick up on relevant G20 issues. With international partners they will be producing recommendations for the German G20 Presidency.

© Press and Information Office of the Federal Government

——————————————————-
Germany will be holding the presidency of the G20 in 2017. The summit of the heads of state and government and representatives of international organisations will be held in Hamburg on 7 and 8 July 2017. A number of G20 ministers’ conferences are scheduled to take place prior to this. The G20 Foreign Ministers will meet in Bonn on 16 and 17 February 2017. The summit and ministers’ meetings will provide an opportunity to discuss current international challenges and to raise awareness of new issues in international affairs.

Further information is available on the following webpages:

Information on this topic provided by the Federal Foreign Office
Official German G20 presidency website

———————————————————-

Foreign Policy was founded in the winter of 1970-71 by Samuel P. Huntington, professor of Harvard University, and his friend Warren Demian Manshel to give a voice to alternative views about American foreign policy at the time of the Vietnam War. Huntington hoped it would be “serious but not scholarly, lively but not glib.” In the Spring of 1978, after six years of close partnership, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace acquired full ownership of Foreign Policy. In 2000, a format change was implemented from a slim quarterly academic journal to a bi-monthly magazine. Also, it launched international editions in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.

In September 2008, Foreign Policy was bought by The Washington Post Company (now Graham Holdings Company). In 2012, Foreign Policy grew to become the FP Group – an expansion of Foreign Policy magazine to include ForeignPolicy.com and FP Events.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 5th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We found the following observation on the internet and found it revealing of the new Washington Republicans.

“Elephants use soft rumbling sounds to alert the extended family to Maasai warriors, or they may emit a commanding roar or trumpet-blast to intimidate a lion lurking in the bush.”

Oh well! The Bush has changed as well while the Trump became handy.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 5th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Donald J. Trump ? @realDonaldTrump TWEET
China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade, but won’t help with North Korea. Nice!
12:47 AM – 3 Jan 2017

THE ANSWER from China did not fail to come:
China tells Donald Trump to lay off Twitter

By Katie Hunt, CNN
Updated 0442 GMT (1242 HKT) January 5, 2017

(CNN) China has slammed US President-elect Donald Trump over his use of Twitter to conduct international diplomacy in a commentary published by the country’s official news agency Xinhua.

Trump has earned a reputation for making unpredictable statements on Twitter that often depart from long-standing US policies and he’s made several controversial comments about China.
“The obsession with ‘Twitter diplomacy’ is undesirable,” said the bylined commentary, which only appeared on the agency’s Chinese website. Xinhua is the biggest and most influential of China’s state-run media.
“It is a commonly accepted that diplomacy is not a child’s game — and even less is it business dealing.

As former United States Secretary of State [Madeleine] Albright said, Twitter should not be a tool for foreign policy,” the commentary, which was published this week, said.
Albright served under former President Bill Clinton and was a vocal supporter of Trump’s democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

In a Tweet late Monday, Trump suggested that China wasn’t doing enough to rein in its nuclear-armed neighbor North Korea.

Trump also used Twitter to accuse China of keeping its currency artificially low, of military posturing in the South China Sea and to announce that he’d spoken directly with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen — upending a long-standing US policy.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 5th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Donald Trump Didn’t Save the Ethics Committee. You Did.
By Richard Wolffe, Guardian UK
04 January 17

Many in the media gave Trump all the credit for the House Republicans caving on its ethics evasions. Welcome to the slippery moral slope of the new Washington
he last time a Republican president took office after losing the popular vote, he made it clear that ethics were his highest priority. How could we tell? At every campaign stop, George W Bush ended his stump speech by raising his right hand and promising to uphold not just the laws of the land but what he called “the honor and dignity of the office”. For good measure, he added: “So help me God.”

We may all need divine intervention to defend ethics inside the new US Congress and the new Trump administration.

It’s not clear why the new Republican-dominated Congress thought it was a good idea to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics. But it is clear why they decided to abandon the plan: public pressure from social media and a deluge of phone calls to their offices.

House Republicans apparently felt burdened by all those pesky investigations into their questionable conduct. But they couldn’t bring themselves to make that argument in public, so they voted to gut the office behind closed doors on a public holiday.

Instead it was left to Kellyanne Conway, counselor to a swamp-draining president-elect, to defend the anti-ethics vote in public, telling ABC News: “There’s a mandate there for them to make significant change.”

Funny. The only Republican discussion of ethics through the election year was their insistence that Hillary Clinton was unqualified to be president because of her private email server. That’s even less of a mandate than President-elect Trump after losing the popular vote by almost 3 million.

Conway complained, like all those oppressed members of Congress, that the ethics office suffered from “overzealousness”.

“We don’t want people wrongly accused and we don’t want people mired in months if not years of ethical complaint review,” she explained.

This from the campaign manager of a candidate who insisted there was a law and order crisis in America. It would be refreshing to hear Conway’s concerns about overzealous policing in US cities, or the suffering of people mired in years of criminal justice proceedings.

Instead we got to hear a couple of tweets from her boss, who also criticized the ethics office as “unfair” before questioning the Republicans’ priorities.

For that nudge on priorities, many in the media gave Trump all the credit for the House Republicans caving on its ethics evasions.

Welcome to the slippery moral slope of Trump’s Washington. A president-elect who continues to enrich his own business through the course of his presidential transition chides a new Congress over ethics.

Never mind the hypocrisy and lies about “draining the swamp”. Of course Trump thinks there are other priorities than ethics. Otherwise he wouldn’t be meeting with his Indian business partners, and his new Washington hotel might not do business with foreign diplomats.

He might find his treasury decisions compromised by his large debts to foreign banks, his choice of IRS commissioner compromised by his personal tax audit and his new hotel lease compromised by the fact that he is now his own landlord.

This is the same slippery slope that places the publisher of far-right garbage inside the West Wing. Steve Bannon hasn’t personally written racist or antisemitic stories; he was merely the executive chairman of Breitbart which published those stories. Just as Trump isn’t really going to deport millions of undocumented immigrants this month; he merely stoked racial resentment with that promise.

Back in the 1990s, conservatives called this moral relativism Slouching Towards Gomorrah.

Today the Republican party is slouching towards something uncomfortably close to Moscow.

For the past eight years, the Republicans have been seized by an anti-Obama fever that was supposedly rooted in a constitutional defense against an abusive president. If there was any point of agreement between all those Republican primary candidates, it was the notion that Obama had ignored the founding fathers.

And yet here we are on the brink of inaugurating a president who thinks nothing of Article I of that same constitution, and its clear prohibition against the kind of foreign dealings in which Trump is so expert.

As ethics experts from both the Bush and Obama administrations have written, the founders saw the so-called emoluments clause as a way to stop corruption by foreign powers. If a president accepts any gifts and benefits from foreign nations, he faces the threat of impeachment.

Instead the newly elected Trump claims, wrongly, that there is nothing to prevent him from being president of the United States and CEO of his company at the same time. “In theory I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly,” he told the New York Times.

It takes real leadership to create a culture of ethics, and it takes very little leadership to destroy any semblance of ethics. It’s only natural that the House Republicans would follow Trump’s lead by treating ethics as some kind of low-priority interference with their real business: business itself.

Having sworn to uphold the dignity of the presidency, George W Bush kept his promise to keep his pants on in the Oval Office, after two years of the Monica Lewinsky saga. Setting aside a catastrophic war and approving torture, he was indeed true to his family. He also never sought to profit from the presidency through the kind of private business deals so beloved in banana republics.

But even Bush’s presidency was undone by unethical conduct in Congress and a House Republican party that misunderstood the notion of a mandate. After finally winning the popular vote in the upset victory of 2004, the House set itself on an anti-immigrant path that destroyed Bush’s self-proclaimed political capital.

Along the way, the same Republican party was embroiled in a series of corruption scandals personified by the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The result of those scandals was nothing less than the creation of the congressional ethics office.

After serving several years in prison, Abramoff (today a supporter of ethics reforms) now condemns the same party he once courted for having misread the voters’ desire for reform in last year’s election. “I guess some people in Washington still don’t get what happened in November,” he told Politico.

Single-party rule rarely ends well. Two years after Bush’s thumping re-election, Democrats took control of Capitol Hill. Two years after Obama’s historic win in 2008, Republicans took back the House.

The voters’ desire for reform will not be satisfied by the survival of the congressional ethics office. And it certainly won’t be satisfied by the sight of the Trump children running the president’s businesses.

If Donald Trump fails to drain his own family swamp, he will quickly discover how you can win the electoral college but lose the battle for power.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 5th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


If Trump’s Nominee Scott Pruitt Is Confirmed, ‘EPA Would Stand for Every Polluter’s Ally’

By Elliott Negin, EcoWatch
04 January 17


Nominating Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives lie to Donald Trump’s claim that he is serious about protecting the public from pollution. While the president-elect has waffled on climate change, he has been unequivocal about toxics.

“Clean air is vitally important,” Trump declared during a Nov. 22, 2016 interview with The New York Times. “Clean water,” he added, “crystal clean water is vitally important. Safety is vitally important.” And when he announced Pruitt’s nomination in early December, Trump vowed that the attorney general would “restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and water clean and safe.”

Putting aside the fact that the EPA has not forsaken that mission, Pruitt’s track record indicates that he would do the exact opposite. Under Pruitt, the acronym EPA would stand for Every Polluter’s Ally.

Follow EcoWatch @EcoWatch
Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, ‘Puppet of the Fossil Fuel Industry,’ to Head EPA ow.ly/sGrC306X0Cr @GreenpeaceAustP @Green_Europe 1:40 PM – 9 Dec 2016

Photo published for Trump Picks ‘Puppet of the Fossil Fuel Industry’ to Head EPA
Trump Picks ‘Puppet of the Fossil Fuel Industry’ to Head EPA
Donald Trump has appointed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The conservative Republican has close ties to the fossil fuel industry and…  ecowatch.com 33 33 Retweets 17 17 likes

Since he took office as Oklahoma’s attorney general in 2010, Pruitt has repeatedly sued the EPA to block key safeguards limiting power plant pollution, most notably the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which limits sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which curb mercury, arsenic, cyanide and other emissions.

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are primary ingredients of soot and smog pollution, which cause a number of respiratory problems, including bronchitis and aggravated asthma, as well as cardiovascular disease and premature death. Mercury and other toxic pollutants covered by MATS have been linked to heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks and premature death. Some 25 million Americans suffer from asthma, alone. That’s one out of every 12 people.

The potential benefits of the Cross-State Rule and MATS are considerable. Taken together, they are projected to prevent 18,000 to 46,000 premature deaths across the country and save $150 billion to $380 billion in health care costs annually. In Pruitt’s home state, the two regulations would avert as many as 720 premature deaths and save as much as $5.9 billion per year.

Pruitt also has sued the EPA to prevent the agency from implementing a rule that would reduce the amount of ground-level ozone or smog, which the American Lung Association says is the most widespread pollutant nationwide and one of the most dangerous. Produced when sunlight heats nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide from power plants, industrial facilities and automobiles, ozone pollution has been linked to respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease and premature death. It is particularly harmful for the most vulnerable, including children, the elderly, and people already suffering from asthma or another respiratory disease.

No matter. In October 2015, Pruitt joined with four other states to challenge the new ozone rule in court, despite the fact that earlier that month, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality said the state could meet the new EPA limits.

Pruitt also has targeted clean water safeguards. In July 2015, he sued the EPA over the Clean Water Rule, which the agency and the Army Corps of Engineers had just issued to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act. The rule was in response to two Supreme Court decisions—in 2001and in 2006—that called into question whether the federal government had the authority to protect smaller streams, wetlands and other water bodies that flow into drinking water supplies. From a scientific perspective, it’s a no-brainer. As EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy explained in a statement: “For the lakes and rivers we love to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them have to be clean, too.”

Pruitt doesn’t see it that way. In a March 2015 column he co-wrote with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for The Hill, Pruitt called the Clean Water Rule “the greatest blow to private property rights the modern era has seen.” Pruitt and Rand maintain that states should be responsible for protecting the environment within their respective borders, not the federal government. Never mind that air and water pollution do not honor political boundaries and state legislatures are all too often dominated by corporate interests.

Besides Pruitt’s disdain for air and water safeguards, he is no fan of federal efforts to address climate change, which he falsely insists is an open scientific question. Pruitt, who has received generous contributions from fossil fuel interests, is not only party to a pending lawsuit against the EPA over its Clean Power Plan to curb electricity sector carbon emissions, he also attempted unsuccessfully to overturn the agency’s science-based “endangerment finding” that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare, a cornerstone of the EPA’s climate work.

Public health advocates are rightly horrified at the prospect of Pruitt running the EPA. The response from Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, was typical.

“The EPA plays an absolutely vital role in enforcing long-standing policies that protect the health and safety of Americans, based on the best available science,” Kimmell said in a press statement. “Pruitt has a clear record of hostility to the EPA’s mission, and he is a completely inappropriate choice to lead it. … It’s this simple: If senators take seriously their job of protecting the public, they must vote no on Pruitt.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 4th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

California is destined to be the anti-Trump like Texas was the anti-Obama.
Take notice – California is the Fifth largest economy in the World and its legislature does not want Trump to mess it up.

California braces for a Trump presidency by tapping former U.S. Atty. General Eric Holder for legal counsel.

By Melanie MasonMelanie Mason, Contact Reporter based in Sacramento, The Los Angeles Times.

Bracing for an adversarial relationship with President-elect Donald Trump, the California Legislature has selected former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. to serve as outside counsel to advise the state’s legal strategy against the incoming administration.


The unusual arrangement will give Holder, leading a team of attorneys from the firm Covington & Burling, a broad portfolio covering potential conflicts between California and the federal government.

“He will be our lead litigator, and he will have a legal team of expert lawyers on the issues of climate change, women and civil rights, the environment, immigration, voting rights — to name just a few,” Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said in an interview.

Such a task typically falls to the state attorney general. On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown formally nominated Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra to replace former Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, who now serves in the U.S. Senate. Becerra, whose nomination hearings in the Legislature begin next week, is expected to be easily confirmed.

But De León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon began contemplating hiring outside legal counsel for the Legislature almost immediately after Trump’s election, in hopes of protecting existing state policies that are at odds with the president-elect’s stated positions.

“While we don’t yet know the harmful proposals the next administration will put forward, thanks to Donald Trump’s campaign, cabinet appointments and Twitter feed, we do have an idea of what we will be dealing with,” Rendon said in a statement.

“The Covington team will be an important resource as we work with the governor and the attorney general to protect Californians,” he added.

The two legislative leaders have taken an unabashedly combative posture against Trump.
Rendon, in remarks last month at a swearing-in ceremony for lawmakers, described the incoming administration as a “major existential threat,” and asserted “Californians do not need healing. We need to fight.”

De León said the additional counsel would offer “more legal firepower” that would complement and bring additional heft to the state attorney general’s efforts.

“Hiring the former attorney general — the nation’s top lawyer — it shows that we’re very serious in protecting the values of the people of California against any attempt to undermine the policies that has made us the fifth-largest economy in the world,” De León said.

Bringing on outside counsel is not unprecedented for the Legislature. The state Senate hired special counsel for a select committee investigating price manipulation in the wholesale energy market by Enron in the early 2000s. The Senate also sought outside counsel to sort through the federal investigation of former Democratic state Sen. Ron Calderon, who later pleaded guilty to corruption charges.


Updates from Sacramento:

But it is far more unorthodox for both houses to join together in retaining counsel in a preemptive bid to prepare for as-yet-unknown litigation and policy-making at the federal level. Much of the arrangement remains murky, including how Holder’s efforts will differ from or align with Becerra’s.

Also unclear: the price tag. Aides to legislative leaders declined to specify how much Covington & Burling’s services will cost the state, citing still-unfinished contracts, but said the payment would come out of both chambers’ operating budgets and would not require additional state funds.

Holder, who was a partner at Covington from 2001 until 2009 before rejoining the firm in 2015, will direct the efforts from the firm’s Washington, D.C., office. The firm, which has a long-established presence in the nation’s capital, has in recent years expanded its footprint in California. Covington’s Los Angeles office, which will play a major role in working with the Legislature, was launched in part by former federal prosecutor Dan Shallman, whose brother, John Shallman, is a prominent Democratic strategist whose clients include De León.

“I am honored that the legislature chose Covington to serve as its legal advisor as it considers how to respond to potential changes in federal law that could impact California’s residents and policy priorities,” Holder said in a statement provided by De León’s office.

“I am confident that our expertise across a wide array of federal legal and regulatory issues will be a great resource for the legislature.”

Holder, a close friend of President Obama, left the Justice Department in 2015. As one of the most liberal figures in the Obama administration, his tenure was defined by a focus on civil rights and criminal justice reform and was marked by a tumultuous relationship with Congress and scandal stemming from the failed gun-trafficking operation known as Fast and Furious.

Representing California lawmakers against Trump won’t be Holder’s sole foray into politics in the coming years. He is also overseeing a Democratic campaign focused on redistricting, the process of redrawing political maps that, in recent years, has tilted state legislative and congressional landscapes in the Republicans’ favor.

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 melanie.mason at latimes.com

Follow @melmason on Twitter for the latest on California politics.

ALSO

California is itching to take on Trump. Here are the prominent figures leading the charge.
Texas was Obama’s chief antagonist. In Trump’s America, California is eager for the part.

California’s new legislative session begins with a message: We’re ready to fight Trump.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 4th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

By Jay Michaelson –
The Forward December 30, 2016

Jay Michelson writes: Looking toward 2017 can be overwhelming. The coming Trump administration presents so many potential risks, it’s hard to know which to feel anxious about. When I feel overwhelmed, I find that it helps to make lists. Here, then, in a rough order of danger, but also grouped by category, are 50 things for American Jews to be worried about as the new administration takes shape.

National Security and International Affairs

1. Unprepared Amateurs in a Crisis. Surely the most dangerous aspect of the Trump presidency isn’t what we know — it’s what we don’t know. What happens when the next terrorist attack takes place? Or the next belligerent move from Russia, China or North Korea? With ideologues and amateurs in charge of national security, the risk of war, even nuclear exchange, grows extremely high.

2. Poor Muslim Intelligence. Having alienated our former allies in the Muslim world and in the U.S. Muslim community, the United States has worse intelligence and more radicalized Islamists. The risk of a large-scale terror attack on our soil skyrockets.

3. Ceding Power to Russia. With America’s retreat from the world stage, Russia gains power, influence and money. Human rights, democracy and the rule of law decline.

4. Ceding Power to China. With America’s retreat from the world stage, China gains power. Same effects as No. 3.

5. Global Disorder. Trump’s erratic behavior alienates our allies, destabilizes the world order and destroys American prestige (as has already begun to happen with his buffoonish phone calls with Taiwan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and the United Kingdom).

6. International Organizations Undermined. NATO and the United Nations are crippled. Israel suffers in particular, as its stalwart friend is undermined and ultranationalist Israeli policies leave few other allies.

7. War Crimes. Trump makes good on his promise to kill terrorists’ families and is brought up on war crimes charges. In response, America pulls out of the International Criminal Court. The United States targets and murders innocent people.

8. Climate Change Accelerates. Its effects lead to violence and to further economic destabilization. Global agriculture is severely disrupted, and entire ecosystems wither.
7. War Crimes. Trump makes good on his promise to kill terrorists’ families and is brought up on war crimes charges. In response, America pulls out of the International Criminal Court. The United States targets and murders innocent people.8. Climate Change Accelerates. Its effects lead to violence and to further economic destabilization. Global agriculture is severely disrupted, and entire ecosystems wither.

9. Cowboy Diplomacy. With extremists running the executive branch, the United States engages in “cowboy diplomacy,” including numerous military actions in the Middle East, leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths and to a further destabilization of the region.

10. Decline of International Rule of Law. The United Nations is weakened as America undermines it and refuses to pay its dues. International rule of law declines to its lowest point since World War I.

11. The Islamic State Group Strengthens. With Assad in Syria, Russia’s sphere of influence grows. The gains Iraq has made against the Islamic State group are lost when the United States alienates Iraq and others. Islamic State emerges stronger.

12. Israel Moves Away From Democracy. Israel passes a wave of anti-democratic measures, leading to the further emigration of its smartest, most productive citizens.

13. Nuclear Iran. With the Iran nuclear deal scuttled, Iran resumes development of nuclear weapons. This leads to a massive, deadly military exchange with the United States and/or Israel.

14. Global Intolerance. The State Department not only stops funding pro-women, pro-education, pro-human rights and pro-LGBTQ initiatives around the world, but also starts funding the exact opposite, channeling billions of federal dollars to hard-right Christian organizations.

15. Russian Machinations. It can’t be ruled out that Russia had further interests in influencing the American election beyond having a weakened America. We don’t know what these interests were.

Decline of Democracy

16. Civil Liberties Are Discarded. Muslims and Mexicans are the primary targets, but the rule of law decays in America with summary deportation processes, decreased oversight from the Department of Justice, and legitimized stereotyping and scapegoating. Other minorities, including Jews, suffer from this overall decline.

17. Big Brother. All Americans are spied on, all the time. Per Newt Gingrich’s recommendation, the Un-American Activities Committee is re-formed, targeting political opponents, liberals, etc.

18. First Amendment Is Redefined. Registries of Muslims are adopted, religious tests barring Muslims from entry, along with other anti-Muslim activities, erode the fundamental constitutional order of the United States and alienate our most important allies — moderates of all stripes, believers in modernity and the 88%? of Muslims who despise the fundamentalist terrorists — against terror.

19. Human Rights Nightmare. Deporting 3 million people is a human rights nightmare, especially for enrollees in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA participants were brought here as young children and gave their private information in exchange for deferred action on deportation. Now, Immigration and Customs Enforcement knows exactly where they are.

20. Social Permission for Discrimination. The “Trump Effect” leads to widespread “brownshirt” violence and discrimination against people of color, Muslims, women, LGBTQ people and Jews, among others. Rudeness, boorishness, chauvinism and vulgarity become even more commonplace, and often spill into physical attacks (as have already taken place).

21. White Supremacists in the Mainstream. The rise of the “alt-right” has unknown effects. At the very least, anti-Semitism and racism are mainstreamed.

22. Escalation of Invasive, Race-Based Policing. National stop-and-frisk and “law and order” policies cause a massive increase in police violence, leading to vicious rebellion by people of color, which in turn leads to further militarization of police, crackdowns across the country and an enormous spike in mass incarceration. Massive private prisons are built. Half of the country’s young black men are in the criminal justice system. Many are dead.

23. Scapegoating the Fourth Estate. With the mainstream media no longer granted access to the White House, partisan, billionaire-funded yellow journalism such as Fox News and Breitbart supplant the “fourth estate.” The press itself becomes regarded as the enemy, and standards of truth and fact-checking are disregarded. Transparency and the principles of government for the people are discarded.

24. Racial Disenfranchisement. Trump continues to baselessly allege voter fraud, leading to widespread disenfranchisement, particularly of people of color. The Republican Party seizes on voter suppression as a primary way to maintain power as a minority party.

25. Kleptocracy. As did his actual conflict of interests, Trump’s potential kleptocracy goes unpunished. In addition to Trump’s family siphoning off billions of dollars, American democracy becomes a banana republic in which kowtowing to the leader is de rigueur for anyone wishing to do business here.

26. De Facto Censorship. Trump continues to insult and assault artists, leading to de facto censorship.

27. Post-Truthiness. All of the foregoing and more lead to a retreat from truth and reasoned discourse, and to its replacement by a conservative relativism that denies science and the basic principles of truthful exposition.

28. Militarization of the Border. Trump’s border policies are an abject failure, leading to further militarization of the border and to numerous incidents of deadly violence.

Other Domestic Issues

29. Gun Violence. All gun control is banned across America, with a federal law taking precedence over local and state regulations and banning gun restrictions. Handgun violence and mass shootings skyrocket, amplifying calls for “law and order.”

30. Drill, Baby, Drill. The “Drill, Baby, Drill” mantra becomes national policy. Devastating spills occur in the Gulf of Mexico and in the former Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Keystone XL and other mega-pipelines are built. America loses its edge in renewable technologies, enriching China. And, of course, climate change accelerates.

31. Pollution Reaches Unprecedented Levels. The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act are repealed or unenforced, and pollution reaches levels never before seen in America. The Environmental Protection Agency is dismantled from within by a “director” cherry-picked from the fossil fuel industry.

32. America’s Wilderness Is Destroyed. America’s vast open areas are turned into coal mines, forests are clear-cut and wilderness areas across the country are destroyed. The die-off of mass species spikes.

33. Unregulated Chemicals Cause Devastation. Generally modified organisms, pesticides and other newly unregulated technologies lead to unexpected devastation across the country.

34. Jim Crow Era Voter Restrictions. The Civil Rights Act is ignored, and African Americans have essentially no legal protections whatsoever. The Voting Rights Act is fully repealed, and we see a return to Jim Crow era restrictions on voting. Affirmative action is likewise repealed, of course.

35. Supreme Court Rollback. Another Supreme Court justice dies, and so Trump nominates two arch-conservatives who not only roll back Roe v. Wade and same-sex marriage, but also take a “strict” reading of the Commerce Clause and thus invalidate all civil rights laws, most environmental laws and the modern American state as we know it.

36. Anti-LGBTQ Discrimination Is Legalized, Funded. With the passage of the “First Amendment Defense Act,” it becomes legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people across the country. Conversion therapy is offered in public schools.

37. Transgender Is Declared To Be Mental Illness. Anti-trans discrimination is formally legal, and violence against trans people skyrockets.

38. Church-State Barriers Are Dismantled. Led by Mike Pence, re-Christianization of America unfolds, with billions of dollars flowing to conservative religious organizations, and the introduction “religious liberty” laws that enable anyone to discriminate or otherwise flout laws for religious reasons. Moralizers use intimidation, censorship and regulation to shut down “immoral” art and expression.

39. Gutting of Higher Education. Focusing on the nonissue of “political correctness” and “safe spaces,” public university education is gutted. Liberal arts education particularly suffers. The American work force becomes dumber and less adaptable.

40. Gutting of Public Education. Under Betsy DeVos, federal funds for public education are rerouted to barely regulated sectarian private schools. Federal education curricula promote intelligent design, abstinence-only education and discredited pseudoscience on sexuality.

Financial Issues

41. A Feudal Wealth Gap. With taxes slashed for the .01% richest Americans, the wealth gap balloons to levels unknown since feudalism. The depredations of the 1% look like a socialist paradise. Ironically, Trump’s own working-class supporters lose the most.

42. Health Insurance Destroyed. With Obamacare repealed and replaced by private health accounts, millions become uninsured once again, and the health system becomes further stratified, resembling an airplane with a crowded coach class and an ever more opulent first class.

43. Organized Labor Participation and Wages Plummet. Union busters take over (or eliminate) the Department of Labor, destroying the institutions most responsible for the middle-class: labor unions. Wages fall across the country.

44. Dollar and Real Estate Collapse. With America retreating from the world stage, the dollar loses its status as reference currency, the New York real estate market crashes and trillions of dollars of wealth are wiped out, causing economic depression. (Low risk, but high damage.)

45. Trade War. Protectionist policies and a trade war with China devastate America’s economy, and since the Trans-Pacific Partnership dies, China establishes economic dominance over the entire Pacific Rim. A U.S. depression quickly follows.

46. Risky Wall Street Speculation. Dodd Frank is repealed, which causes a new round of risk-taking and double-dealing on Wall Street, exacerbating the risk of a repeat of 2008. Wall Street wins big, and when the crash comes Wall Street wins big again, as in 2009. Everyone else loses worse than in 2008.

47. Economic Disorder. The Trump administration meddles with the Federal Reserve, causing financial panic.

48. Brain Drain. Immigration laws make it impossible for talented technology workers to come to the United States, leading to a massive brain drain for other countries.

49. Destruction of the Internet as We Know It. Net neutrality is discarded, leading to a monopolization of the internet by a small handful of companies. The internet as we know it is replaced by something that looks more like network television.

50. Creation of the U.S. Oligarchy. Giant monopolies, especially in finance, are allowed to be created through unregulated mega-mergers. Power is aggregated in a small handful of gigantic institutions. The United States becomes an oligarchy.

Jay Michaelson is a regular columnist for the Forward. Follow him on Twitter @jaymichaelson
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 4th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Rex Tillerson to put Exxon nest egg in a trust over conflict of interest concerns

by Jethro Mullen @CNNMoneyInvest January 4, 2017

ExxonMobil and Rex Tillerson have announced their plan to address concerns about the huge nest egg the oil giant has promised to its former CEO.

Tillerson, who Donald Trump has picked as his secretary of state, is due to receive more than 2 million Exxon shares — worth more than $181 million at current prices — over the next decade.

To tackle the ethical and legal problems raised by the massive payout, Exxon said late Tuesday that if Tillerson is confirmed for the job, it plans to put the value of the shares he would have received in an independently managed trust, which won’t be allowed to invest in the oil company.

Tillerson, 64, has also agreed with the State Department to sell the more than 600,000 Exxon shares he owns at the moment, the company said. They’re worth more than $54 million at today’s prices.

Related: Exxon’s Tillerson retiring to prep for Senate confirmation

Richard Painter, a former ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, said the measures appeared to satisfy concerns he had expressed previously about Tillerson’s financial ties to Exxon.

“He should convince President-elect Trump to come up with a similar arrangement to divest his conflicts of interest,” Painter said, comparing Tillerson’s deal to what was done for former Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson when he became treasury secretary in 2006.

Tillerson’s arrangement, which Exxon says was drawn up in consultation with federal ethics regulators, involves giving up various payouts and perks, according to the company’s statement.

He’ll no longer be entitled to more than $4.1 million in cash bonuses that he was set to receive over the next three years — or medical, dental and other benefits from Exxon. He retired as the oil company’s CEO on Saturday after working there for more than four decades.

As America’s chief diplomat, Tillerson could have a tremendous impact on Exxon’s business, from negotiations over a climate change treaty and sanctions on Russia to the nuclear deal with Iran and general geopolitical unrest in the Middle East.

Exxon said that if Tillerson returns to work in the oil and gas industry during the 10-year payout period from the trust, he would forfeit the funds.
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“The money would be distributed to one or more charities involved in fighting poverty or disease in the developing world,” the company said. “Neither Tillerson nor ExxonMobil would have any control over the selection of the charities.”

Painter described that part of the plan as “an added benefit” that will make it “highly unlikely” that Tillerson will go back into the oil industry.

“Most public servants have no restrictions on where they can work after government … and we have to worry about them trying to help future employers,” he said, pointing to Treasury Department officials who go back to Wall Street.

Related: The problem with Rex Tillerson’s nine-figure nest egg

Over all, the arrangement would cost Tillerson about $7 million in compensation he would have received, Exxon said.

As with all political appointees who sell assets that may pose conflicts of interest, Tillerson would be allowed to defer any capital gains tax he owes on the more than 600,000 Exxon shares he’s agreed to sell so long as he reinvests the proceeds within 60 days into so-called “permitted property.” That basically means U.S. Treasury securities and diversified mutual funds.

It’s not immediately clear, however, what the tax implications are for Tillerson from Exxon agreeing to set up the trust for the value of the more than 2 million shares he’d otherwise have coming to him over the next 10 years.

— Jeanne Sahadi and Chris Isidore contributed to this report.

OUR COMMENT:

Rex Tillerson during the years 2006 to 2016 changed his views on Climate Change from total denial by EXXON to a controlled acceptance of the Paris outcome.
Exxon had a history of funding false scientists – ten moved on to join what seemed to be the winning crowd, but took positions that slow change.

ExxonMobil k nows the global oil industry and understandably will promote it above everything else. This leads to alliances with Saudi Arabia and Putin’s Russia that will turn away the US from the Obama path of disengagement from te dependence on oil as the true path to slow down climate change and the harm the use of fossil fuels causes to the environment.

And besides, Foreign relations of the USA contain many other topics besides the negotiation of oil contracts. What are the visions of Rex Tillerson when he gets of the Oil Barrel?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 3rd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

With a $1 million grant, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs jumpstarts solar-electricity small-vessels transportation in Tunisia for the benefit of the Middle East and North Africa.

UNDESA – 01-JANUARY 2017

Project for solar-powered vessels receives $1 million UN Energy Grant

A partnership working to promote solar-powered electric vessels in Tunisia and in the Middle East and North Africa was awarded the one million US dollars 2016 Energy Grant from UN DESA on 14 December 2016. The project “Solar Fueled Electric Maritime Mobility” by SINTEF, an independent non-profit research institute based in Norway, seeks to demonstrate the feasibility and the social, economic and environmental benefits of solar-fueled electric boat transport in Tunisia and the wider region.

SINTEF is implementing this demonstration project with the National Agency for Energy Conservation of Tunisia.

SINTEF will use the grant to develop technology for a traditional ferry or other vessel with a plug-in hybrid electric powertrain and to construct an electric charging point. It will help also support data collection and analysis. Selection of the vessel in Tunisia to be used for the demonstration will be decided in the first phase of the project.

The project aims to generate the data and evidence needed to replicate sustainable transport in the region. It seeks to demonstrate the benefits of low cost electric vessels as key transport between coastal cities in the region, with a view to encouraging other stakeholders to implement such transport on a larger scale. This would in turn benefit in particular the low and middle income parts of the population. The project will also contribute to the avoidance of transport related greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, and it will help to prevent and reduce marine pollution.

Furthermore, the project will conduct capacity development workshops for Tunisian and other regional stakeholders, the preparation of a Tunisian Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) to be submitted to the UNFCCC portal, as well as public outreach activities to spread knowledge of this low-cost, sustainable transport solution.

SINTEF has extensive expertise in solar and wind energy, energy regulation and storage, grid integration of renewable energy, maritime transport and maritime technologies.

“The transport sector is responsible for nearly a quarter of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. It also has significant public health impacts,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the award ceremony. “The answer is not less transport – it is sustainable transport.
We need transport systems that are environmentally friendly, efficient, affordable, and accessible,” he said.

UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson said the “Powering the Future We Want” programme is a “creative initiative that promotes and funds innovative activities related to sustainable energy – an issue that goes to the heart of achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” He added, “it is vital to our efforts to move towards a sustainable future that we establish transport systems that are smart, clean, affordable, and powered by clean energy.”

Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo expressed deep gratitude to all of the finalists, the China Energy Fund Committee, the High-level Steering Committee and the Advisory Council of the Grant. “This Energy Grant is an excellent example of global partnership. Working together, we can make a difference. Today’s award bears vivid testimony to that success,” he said.

“We firmly believe that energy belongs to all of us, today and tomorrow. And each and every one of us has the duty to use energy sparingly, wisely and responsibly. By partnering with UN DESA in making this grant possible, the China Energy Fund Committee is sending out a most sincere message of collaboration and partnership to work together finding solutions for energy security by achieving energy sustainability for the entire humanity,” said Dr. Patrick Ho, Secretary-General of the China Energy Fund Committee.

The “Powering the Future We Want” initiative

The UN-DESA Energy Grant is a capacity building initiative launched and managed by UN DESA, in collaboration with the China Energy Fund Committee, a Hong Kong based NGO in consultative status with ECOSOC. Titled “Powering the Future We Want”, this initiative offers a grant in the amount of one million US dollars to fund capacity development activities in energy for sustainable development. The grant is awarded to an individual, institution or partnership based on past and current achievements in leadership and innovative practices in advancing energy for sustainable development. The 2016 cycle of the grant had as focus “Energy for Sustainable Transport”.

In 2016, the UN DESA Energy Grant received over 150 applications. The winner has been selected through a rigorous review and objective assessment of these applications, undertaken in multiple stages, guided by an Advisory Council and a High-level Steering Committee. A grant will be awarded annually from 2015 until 2019.

The eight finalists of the 2016 Grant Cycle, in alphabetical order: Ms. Fiza Farhan; GerWeiss Motors Corporation; KPIT Technologies Limited; Medellin Mayor’s Office- Mobility and Transit Department; Motor Development International SA (MDI SA); South Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE); SINTEF; SNV Netherlands Development Organisation.

Winner of the US$1 million 2016 UN-DESA Energy Grant: SINTEF
The $1 million come from a China/Hong Kong based NGO.

For more information: UN-DESA Energy Grant.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 3rd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Will António Guterres be the UN’s best ever secretary general? Asks the Guardian.

Cultured and consensual, the Portuguese politician has had the perfect preparation for the United Nations’ top job says the Guardian.

Sunday 1 January 2017 07.00 GMT Last modified on Sunday 1 January 2017 22.00 GMT

When António Guterres resigned halfway through his second term as Portuguese prime minister in 2002 because his minority government was floundering, he did something unusual for a man who had seen the highest reaches of power.

Several times a week, he went to slum neighborhoods on the edge of Lisbon to give free maths tuition to children.

“He never allowed a journalist to go with him or let himself be filmed or photographed, and he never let journalists talk to any of his students,” said Ricardo Costa, editor-in-chief of the Portuguese SIC News, who covered Guterres’s political career. The former prime minister told his surprised students that what he was doing was personal and not for show.

The Portuguese socialist, who becomes the next UN secretary general on Sunday, is an intellectual who grew up under Portugal’s dictatorship and came of age with the 1974 revolution that ended 48 years of authoritarian rule.

Crucial to understanding Guterres, 67, is his Christian faith: his progressive Catholicism always informed his brand of social democratic politics.

In the heady days of Portugal’s revolution, it was rare to be a practising Catholic in a new Socialist party where many members had Marxist backgrounds. But Guterres, a star engineering student who grew a moustache in honour of the Chilean left’s Salvador Allende, would eventually become a modernising leader, arguing that his mission was social justice and equality.

On the Portuguese left, faith was a delicate issue that required discretion. Under Guterres, the country held a referendum in 1998 on a proposal to liberalise the strict abortion laws. Socialist MPs had a free vote and, as prime minister, Guterres chose not to officially campaign. But it was publicly known that he opposed changing the law, which irked many in his party. The no vote against liberalising the abortion law narrowly won, but turnout was so low that the result was not binding. Abortion laws were finally relaxed in 2007 after a second referendum.

Born in Lisbon, Guterres spent stretches of his childhood with relatives in the countryside, where he saw the poverty of rural life under the dictatorship, and later volunteered with Catholic student groups on social projects in the capital.

In 1976, the young engineering lecturer was elected a Socialist MP in Portugal’s first democratic vote since the revolution. In parliament, he was a fearsome orator. Such was his talent for verbally destroying political opponents, he became known as “the talking pickaxe”.

Guterres became prime minister in 1995. His campaign slogan was “heart and reason”, a cry for more humanism and social politics. Three years earlier he had taken over the Socialist party and modernised it, although he remained to the left of contemporaries such as Tony Blair. For years he led the Socialist International international grouping of leftwing parties.

With Portugal’s rapid economic growth and nearly full employment, Guterres was able to set up a guaranteed minimum income and nursery schooling for all. But he had failed to win an absolute majority and was condemned to preside over a tricky minority government. He had to rely on his skill for consensus, always having to negotiate with the opposition parties if he wanted to get anything passed – something he later argued was perfect training for running the UN.

“He was a skillful person – very smart, very quick to understand the other point of view and very focused on having solutions – that’s why it worked,” said António Vitorino, Guterres’s deputy prime minister and defence minister.

Guterres was furiously hardworking. But behind this was a backdrop of family tragedy. His wife, Luísa Guimarães e Melo, a psychiatrist with whom he had two children, had been critically ill for most of his time in government and was undergoing treatment at a London hospital.

“It was one of the hardest moments of his political life,” Vitorino said. “Every Friday morning, he took a plane to London, spent the weekend there in a very desperate situation and then on Monday morning he was back at work. I was his deputy prime minister, I was amazed. I could never have done what he was doing.”

In 1998, Guterres’s wife died. The following year, he threw himself into the general elections. He had hoped to win an outright majority but the Socialists ended up one MP short and began a second minority government. This time, a slowdown in the economy made things harder.

Guterres, privately growing disillusioned with internal party politics, turned increasingly to his interest in international diplomacy. He had already won praise for his role in resolving the crisis in Timor-Leste, a former Portuguese colony, which had erupted into violence in 1999 after a referendum vote in favour of independence from Indonesia. Guterres led diplomatic efforts to convince the UN to intervene to restore peace.

In 2000, when Portugal took the rotating presidency of the European Union, its success was attributed to Guterres’s ability to get big leaders to agree and smaller leaders to be heard.

António Guterres accepts roses from a supporter in Lisbon
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António Guterres is cheered after his party won Portugal’s general elections in October 1999. Photograph: Armando Franca/AP
“He did something very original: he looked at what every country wanted and set up an agenda that could be interesting for everyone,” said Francisco Seixas da Costa, a Portuguese diplomat who served as Guterres’s European affairs secretary. “Small countries disappear in the decision-making process so we tried to listen to their interests.”

Guterres managed to talk down powerful leaders at loggerheads. “At the European council, I remember a conflict between Jacques Chirac and Helmut Kohl over one issue,” Seixas da Costa said. “Guterres asked for the floor. I was sitting next to him, I was afraid it might be naive. But he took the floor and made a proposal that covered both their interests, and it was a success. It worked. He had a fantastic capacity to moderate and create links and bridges.”

In 2002, halfway through his second term as prime minister, Guterres abruptly resigned after the Socialists suffered a drubbing in local elections. He famously said he wanted to avoid the country falling into a “political swamp” and that he had discovered “politics has its limits”.

At the time he was unpopular, criticised for too much compromise and too much dialogue. But over the years since his departure, polls showed he was increasingly liked and seen as fair, serious and honest – a possible contender for Portuguese president, although he never wanted to return to national politics, preferring, he said, to make a difference on the world stage.

His decade serving as UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) from 2005 to 2015 was seen in Portugal as an obvious fit for his personality: socially engaged but seeking common ground.

Guterres – who speaks Portuguese, English, French and Spanish and is now remarried to Catarina Vaz Pinto, who works at Lisbon city hall – was known in political circles for enthusiastic, cultured conversations on everything from ancient Greece to Middle Eastern culture, opera to geography.

Whenever he had free time during visits to Washington as UNHCR chief, he would get the organisation’s regional representative, Michel Gabaudan, to take him to Politics & Prose or another of the city’s bookshops.

“He’s an avid reader of history, and his pleasure was, if we had an hour, to go to a bookshop, so we would have access to books in English that weren’t easy to get in Geneva,” said Gabaudan, now president of Refugees International. “I’m sure this immense knowledge of past and ancient history did inform his political judgment.”

Guterres also took a broad approach to the UNHCR’s responsibilities. The organisation grew dramatically under his management, and not just because the number of the world’s refugees soared in the 21st century. He broadened the categories of people the UNHCR would seek to protect, including internally displaced people and migrants forced from their homes by natural disasters and climate change. He preferred the all-encompassing phrase “people on the move”.

He managed to persuade donors to fund the expansion by retaining their confidence that the money was well spent, and to do that he cut overheads.

Guterres, then UN high commissioner for refugees, visits Ikafe camp for Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda.
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Guterres, then UN high commissioner for refugees, visits Ikafe camp for Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda in June 2005. Photograph: Radu Sigheti/Reuters
“Like all UN organisations, as the organisation had grown up, it had become a little bit top-heavy and one of his first actions was really to slim down headquarters fairly substantially. He sent people back to the field and he put some of the services in much cheaper places than Geneva,” Gabaudan said.

“He never thought the details of finance were just for the technicians. I saw him looking at spreadsheets faster than his financial officer, spotting the line or column where we had a problem. So he was really as much hands-on about how the organisation worked as he was the top political figure and spokesman for refugees.”

When Justin Forsyth was chief executive of Save the Children UK, he travelled with Guterres to refugee camps in Lebanon, and recalled Guterres meeting a group of children. “The thing that struck me was him cross-legged on the floor of a tent talking to children. He really listens and he asks questions and he’s very moved by what he hears. He gets his hands dirty,” said Forsyth, the new deputy executive director of Unicef, the UN children’s charity.

Guterres’s tenure as high commissioner has attracted some criticism. Some former officials said he should have spoken out more strongly in defence of refugee rights enshrined in the 1951 refugee convention. “His record is very mixed, particularly on protection. His tenure was a rough time for the protection of refugees,” a former senior UN official said. He pointed to Thailand forcibly repatriating ethnic Uighurs to China despite the risk they would face persecution.

He argued that a tripartite agreement the UNHCR made with Kenya and Somalia on the voluntary return of Somali refugees had paved the way for the reported forced repatriations now under way in Kenya aimed at emptying its biggest camp, at Dadaab.

The former official said the EU’s deal with Turkey to repatriate refugees, also widely seen as a violation of basic principles of refugee protection, was largely negotiated while Guterres was at the helm, even if it was only signed in March this year, three months after he left.

“His style is to make general statements on the issue but not to directly challenge governments on their actions,” the former official said. “It raises concerns on what he would be like as secretary general.”

Jeff Crisp, who was head of UNHCR policy development and evaluation under Guterres and is now a research associate at the University of Oxford’s Refugee Studies Centre, said not all the criticisms could be pointed at the secretary general designate.

He said the UNHCR did push back against infringements of refugee rights by European states and had been strongly critical of the EU-Turkey deal. And he argued the tendency to address abuses by authoritarian states by behind-the-scenes persuasion had historically been the “institutional approach” taken by the UNHCR, before and after Guterres.

“I think you have to understand that UNHCR’s public criticism of states is very carefully calibrated and in general the more liberal a state is, the more publicly the UNHCR will criticise it,” Crisp said.

Adaptable, consensual, affable, intellectual, Guterres is perhaps better qualified than any of his nine predecessors for the world’s most demanding job. But one of his deftest skills he learned not from the hurly burly of Portuguese politics, nor from the harrowing years at the UNHCR, but from his first wife.

At a Guardian event last June in which he debated with rivals for the secretary general job, he said her psychoanalytical insights were highly valuable. “She taught me something that was extremely useful for all my political activities. When two people are together, they are not two but six. What each one is, what each one thinks he or she is and what each one thinks the other is,” he said.


“And what is true for people is also true for countries and organisations. One of the roles of the secretary general when dealing with the different key actors in each scenario is to bring these six into two. That the misunderstandings disappear and the false perceptions disappear. Perceptions are essential in politics.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 3rd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

TRUMP WILL LIKELY BACK CONSERVATIVE AGENDA: The Washington Post has a good piece pointing out that congressional Republicans are set to enact “the most conservative agenda since the 1920s,” and Trump will probably go along:

Rather than a Democratic president standing in the way, a soon-to-be-inaugurated Donald Trump seems ready to sign much of it into law. The dynamic reflects just how ready Congress is to push through a conservative makeover of government, and how little Trump’s unpredictable, attention-grabbing style matters to the Republican game plan.

It will be a huge shock if we see deep tax cuts for the rich, Obamacare repeal, and Wall Street deregulation go forward, even as the “populist” elements of Trump’s agenda quietly don’t.

A Lie, Is a Lie, Is a Lie
By Dan Rather, Dan Rather’s Facebook Page, as reported by RSN – Readers Supported News.
03 January 2017

lie, is a lie, is a lie. Journalism, as I was taught it, is a process of getting as close to some valid version of the truth as is humanly possible. And one of my definitions of news is information that the powerful don’t want you to know.

So this statement (see attached article) from the editor in chief of the Wall Street Journal about how his paper will report on Donald Trump’s potential (likely?) future lies is deeply disturbing. It is not the proper role of journalists to meet lies—especially from someone of Mr. Trump’s stature and power—by hiding behind semantics and euphemisms. Our role is to call it as we see it, based on solid reporting. When something is, in fact, a demonstrable lie, it is our responsibility to say so.

There is no joy in taking issue with the Journal’s chief editor. His newspaper is a publication for which I have deep respect for the overall quality of its reporting. But, as I have said before and will say as long as people are willing to listen, this is a gut check moment for the press. We are being confronted by versions of what are claimed to be “the truth” that resemble something spewed out by a fertilizer-spreader in a wind tunnel. And there is every indication that this will only continue in the Tweets and statements of the man who will now hold forth from behind the Great Seal of the President of the United States.

Some journalists and publications will rise to the occasion. Some will not. You as the paying, subscribing public, can use your leverage and pocketbooks to keep those who should be honest brokers of information, well, honest.

See: Yes, Donald Trump ‘Lies.’ A Lot. And News Organizations Should Say So.
 www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plu…

Wall Street Journal Editor Says His Newspaper Won’t Call Donald Trump’s Lies ‘Lies’
“I’d be careful about using the word ‘lie,’” says Gerard Baker.
That event in WSJ is what caused the response that we posted.
 www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/wall…

 www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/me…

 www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plu…

 www.wsj.com/articles/the-method-i…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 3rd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

BREAKING — THE DANGLING FRUIT IN FRONT OF TRUMP: Ford is canceling plans to build a new manufacturing plant in Mexico and instead is investing $700 million in Michigan. The company’s CEO Mark Fields told CNN that the move is a “vote of confidence” in President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to create a pro-business environment. Fields emphasized, however, that he did not negotiate any special deal with Trump. “We didn’t cut a deal with Trump,” he said. “We did it for our business.” bit.ly/2j4UZZ4

U.N.’s Israel vote: The House will vote Thursday on a resolution disapproving of the United Nations Security Council resolution criticizing Israel’s settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Many Democrats could join with Republicans to pass the measure as a means of demonstrating their support for Israel, even if their votes would put them at odds with President Obama. The U.S. refused to veto the Security Council resolution and instead abstained from the vote.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 3rd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

What to Expect in China Policy During the First 100 Days of Donald Trump’s Presidency
Young China Watchers and the Center on U.S.-China Relations of the New York City based Asia Society, present Daniel Rosen and Orville Schell.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017
6:30pm – 8:00pm
Asia Society
725 Park Ave., New York, NY, 10021

With the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States fast approaching, nominations for most of the highest cabinet appointments and many senior staff positions announced, and months of frenetic media coverage of President-Elect Donald Trump’s transition team behind us, it is worth assessing how Trump’s world view and that of his advisors is likely to shape American policy toward China.

By establishing contact with the Taiwanese leader and openly questioning the “One China” policy, Trump has already signaled that he is willing to turn the U.S.-China relationship as we know it on its head. Daniel Rosen, co-founder of the Rhodium Group, and Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations Orville Schell will discuss what it all means for the future of U.S.-China relations.

SPEAKERS:

Daniel H. Rosen is a co-founding Partner of the Rhodium Group (RHG), and leads the firm’s work on China and the world economy. His is currently focused on China’s reform challenges, patterns in Chinese direct investment, and the impact of nationalistic technology policies on Chinese welfare. Mr. Rosen has been an Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia University since 2001, and he is affiliated with a number of preeminent American think tanks. Since 1992, he has authored more than a dozen books and reports on aspects of China’s economic and commercial development. He served on the White House National Economic and Security Councils in 2000-01.

Orville Schell is the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society in New York. He is a former professor and Dean at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. He is the author of numerous books on China, most recently Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-first Century. Schell was born in New York City, graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard University in Far Eastern History, was an exchange student at National Taiwan University in the 1960s, and earned a Ph.D. (Abd) at the University of California, Berkeley in Chinese History.


LIVE WEBCAST:
Can’t make it to this program? Tune in Wednesday, January 18, at 6:30p.m. New York time for a free live video webcast. Viewers are encouraged to submit questions to  moderator at asiasociety.org or via Twitter by using the hashtag #AsiaSocietyLIVE.
 AsiaSociety.org
/Live

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Co-organized by Young China Watchers and the Center on U.S.-China Relations.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 3rd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

ISRAELI-INNOVATION By REUTERS \ 01/03/2017 14:05

Israeli firm creates autonomous aircraft that goes where no helicopter dares.
New Israeli tech sees machines leading the blind.


An autonomous aircraft the size of a car could revolutionize aviation by flying in areas currently inaccessible to aircraft, according to its Israeli developers.

After 15 years of development, an Israeli tech firm are optimistic of finally get their one-and-a-half tonne people-carrying drone off the ground and into the market.

The Cormorant aircraft, billed as a flying car capable of transporting 500kg of weight and traveling at 115 mph, completed its first automated solo flight in November, taking off, flying and landing by itself.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 3rd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is a unique forum where the governments of 34 democracies with market economies work with each other, as well as with more than 70 non-member economies to promote economic growth, prosperity, and sustainable development.

Today, OECD member countries account for 63 percent of world GDP, three-quarters of world trade, 95 percent of world official development assistance, over half of the world’s energy consumption, and 18 percent of the world’s population. Together with its sister agencies, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), the OECD helps countries – both members and non-members – reap the benefits and confront the challenges of a global economy by promoting sound energy policies that further: economic growth; energy security; free markets; the increasingly safe, clean, and efficient use of resources to reduce environmental impacts and preserve our climate; and science and technology innovation.

The US Mission to the OECD writes: “The Organization provides a setting where governments can compare policy experiences, seek answers to common problems, identify good practice and coordinate domestic and international policies.

For more than 50 years, the OECD has been a valuable source of policy analysis and internationally comparable statistical, economic and social data.

Over the past decade, the OECD has further deepened its engagement with business, trade unions and other representatives of civil society. The U.S. Council for International Business (USCIB) represents the views of America’s private sector through its participation in the OECD’s Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC). The U.S. trade union interests are represented on the OECD’s Trade Union Advisory Committee by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) (USA).”

How does accession to the OECD work?

In 2007 the OECD Council at Ministerial level opened membership discussions with five candidate countries, as a result of which Chile, Estonia, Israel and Slovenia became members in 2010, while discussions with the Russian Federation are currently postponed. In May 2013, the Council decided to launch a new wave of accession discussions with Colombia and Latvia; in April 2015, it invited Costa Rica and Lithuania to open formal OECD accession talks. Latvia became an OECD Member on 1 July 2016

As a first step, interested countries typically present a request to become OECD members. Once the OECD Council invites the Secretary-General to open discussions for accession with one or several countries, an “Accession Roadmap” is developed to detail the terms, conditions and process of each accession discussion. This roadmap lists the reviews to be undertaken by Committees in various policy areas in order to assess the country’s position with respect to the relevant OECD instruments and to evaluate its policies and practices as compared to OECD best policies and practices in the relevant area. Each country follows its own process and is assessed independently.

Browse the roadmaps for the accession of the Russian Federation, Colombia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Costa Rica

At the end of the technical review, each Committee provides a “formal opinion” to the OECD Council. The timeline for the accession process depends on the pace at which the candidate country provides information to Committees and responds to recommendations for changes to its legislation, policy and practice.

On the basis of the formal opinions and other relevant information, the Council takes a final decision on the basis of unanimity. An Accession Agreement is then signed and the candidate country takes the necessary domestic steps and deposits an instrument of accession to the OECD Convention with the depositary, e.g. the French government. On the date of deposit, the country formally becomes a Member of the OECD.

Reviewing the above and reading the pronouncements of President-elect Trump of the USA –
it seems to us that the proper way for a reaction from the OECD is to start a process to negate USA membership for failing minimal rules of a democracy. It is clear that 3 million Americans were denied the value of their votes and Mr. Trump does not seem to accept the meaning of democracy. His economy projections promote the oligarchy that surrounds him and
it becomes obvious that he will lead the USA in the direction of Putin’s Russia which was declared not up to OCED requirements. Jn effect we find that China projects a better understanding of OECD requirements then a Trumpist America.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 2nd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Green Prophet. Sustainable News for the Middle East.

This article base on news from Australia.

Sundrop Farms grows tomatoes with seawater.

Posted on January 2, 2017 by Karin Kloosterman in Green Tech and Gadgets.

Saltwater greenhouses can save the Middle East and humanity from drought and climate change. Three cheers to Sundrop Farms in Australia for pioneering saltwater greenhouses in Australia: they are now harvesting tomatoes for a leading grocery store called Coles. And Sundrop is producing what they say is a “better product, better for the people, better for the planet –– all year round.”

Sundrop Farms is using hydroponics, a method of growing plants on a treated water medium, without soil. It’s an extremely efficient way for growing plants, and it’s now becoming a leading choice for growing food in difficult climates, in urban centers or in areas where water is poor and lacking. In China for instance where the soil is contaminated with cadmium and lead, people are very eager to buy organic food grown hydroponically.

Sundrop says it’s the first farming system of its kind to have reached commercial scale. The 65-hectare facility was made possible with an investment of 200 million Australian dollars ($148 million) which paid for a desalination plant, greenhouses and other installations needed to grow the tomatoes.

It’s a bet worth betting as we see the rise in agricultural crops in Australia and the world.

The Sundrop greenhouses are powered by sunlight, using 23,000 mirrors that reflect rays toward the top of a 127-meter high receiver tower that turns the sun into electricity.

This power is used to pump seawater from 5km away. Beyond producing tomatoes, the facility also produces 1 million liters of fresh water every single day.


Sundrop Farms CEO Philipp Saumweber, a former investment banker, says the agriculture model as “innovative” in that it harnesses only seawater and sunlight.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 31st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


We’re Living Through the First World Cyberwar – but Just Haven’t Called It That

By Martin Belam, Guardian UK
30 December 16

Nation states have been attacking each other electronically for a decade or more. Historians will eventually give it a name and a start and end date
he job of the historian is often to pull together broad themes and trends, then give them a snappy title that people will easily recognise and understand. That’s how we end up with labels like “The decline and fall of the Roman Empire” or “The Rise of Hitler and the Third Reich”.

As someone who studied history, I’ve had this lingering curiosity about how historians of the future will view our times. It is easy to imagine textbooks in a hundred years with chapters that start with Reagan and Thatcher and end with the global financial crisis and called something like The Western Neoliberal Consensus 1979-2008.

But contemporaries seldom refer to events with these names, or can see the sharp lines that the future will draw. It wouldn’t have seemed obvious with the capture of Calais in 1347 that this decisive siege was just one early development in a dynastic struggle that would come to be known as the hundred years war.

This always makes me wonder what broader patterns we might be missing in our own lives, and I’ve come round to thinking that we might already be living through the first world cyberwar – it’s just that we haven’t acknowledged or named it yet.

What might a timeline of that war look like to a future historian? Well, 2007 seems like a good bet as a starting point – with a concerted series of cyber-attacks on Estonia. These were particularly effective, because the Baltic state has pushed so much of its public life online. The attacks were generally regarded to have come from Russia with state approval. That’s just one reason why I suspect cyberwarfare will provoke endless debates among historians.

Cyberwarfare is clearly a front where nation states will try to gain advantage over each other and make plans for attack and defence. But, like espionage, it is a murky world where it is hard for outsiders to get an exact grasp on what is being done. Nation states seldom openly claim credit for hacking.

In 2008 there were events that a historian might weave into a narrative of a global cyberwar, when several underwater internet cables were cut during the course of the year, interrupting internet communication and particularly affecting the Middle East. Some have argued these were accidents caused by ships dragging their anchors, but they mostly remain unsolved mysteries, with the suspicion that only state actors would have the required equipment and knowledge to target the cables. Of course, it might have just been sharks.

In 2010 the Stuxnet worm was used to attack Iran’s nuclear program. Carried on Microsoft Windows machines, and specifically targeting software from Siemens, Stuxnet was reported to have successfully damaged the fast-spinning centrifuges used to develop nuclear material in Iran. Analysts at the time thought the computer virus so sophisticated that it must have been developed with state support – with fingers frequently pointed at the US and/or the Israelis.

Another event from 2010, the WikiLeaks American embassy cables release, which the Guardian participated in the publication of, would be irresistible for a historian to refer to in this context. It is also one of the things that makes the first world cyberwar different from conventional warfare – the mix of nation states being involved with pressure groups, whistleblowers and hackers. As well as the state apparatus, a history of this period of electronic warfare would have to name Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Anonymous and the Syrian Electronic Army as key players.

We are definitely living through something global in scope. North Korea has been suspected of hacking as a way to achieve diplomatic goals. The FBI publicly accused it of hacking Sony Pictures in 2014, exposing confidential company information. It was a hack of a Japanese company, targeted by an Asian state, with the aim of pressuring the US arm of the company over a movie.

Along the way there have been other equally odd quirks of war – the infected USB keys distributed at a US military base in 2008, or the curious laptop theft at a facility in Scotland that had recently received an official Chinese delegation.

The one that historians will be unable to ignore though is the 2016 US election campaign being influenced by alleged hacked and leaked emails – and the open speculation there was an attempt to hack into election counting machines by a foreign power. It might be unprecedented, but it isn’t going to go away. Yesterday Obama announced retaliation from the US and Germany is already braced for interference in its 2017 elections.

What reason is there to suppose that these events might eventually be grouped together as a single world cyberwar by historians? Well, for me, it is the idea that hostilities might formally come to an end.

You can envisage a scenario where Russia, China and the US can see a mutual benefit in de-escalating cyber-attacks between the three of them, and also begin to collectively worry about cyberwarfare capabilities being developed in a range of smaller nation states. Cue a UN summit about cyberwarfare, and the development of some code of conduct, or an anti-cyberwarfare treaty that provides historians with a neat endpoint.

It isn’t, of course, that nation states would stop electronic surveillance or building up hacking capabilities, but as with most wars that don’t deliver a decisive victory, eventually they become too expensive and too disruptive to maintain.

It is important to remember that the internet originally came from defence research, designed to provide communications capabilities in the event of a nuclear attack. It wouldn’t surprise me if in a hundred years it is the military purpose that historians mainly remember it for, and that we are living through the first time it is being used in anger.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 31st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Trump Could Be Fighting Obama’s Climate Policies for Years

By Timothy Cama, The Hill
30 December 16

President-elect Donald Trump’s energy agenda is shaping up to be a years-long effort to undo President Obama’s policies.

Supporters of Trump and industries that have opposed Obama’s regulatory actions say turning back the clock is the most important thing the president-elect can do to help businesses succeed.

But it won’t be easy to undo many of the energy and climate regulations that Obama has put in place.

Under federal law, reversing major regulations requires a time-consuming process that can drag on for months and sometimes years. And even after new rules are issued, they can be challenged in court — something environmental groups are already vowing to do.

The Obama administration, meanwhile, has in recent weeks added to Trump’s list of targets by issuing a new coal-mining regulation and offshore drilling bans in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

Obama also created controversial national monuments in Utah and Nevada that Republicans are pushing Trump to repeal, something Obama says is not in Trump’s power to do.

“Some actions they will be able to do in relatively short order. Other major rules will take time to meet the burden of regulatory process,” said Scott Segal, a lobbyist at Bracewell who represents numerous energy companies.

“The next administration needs to be careful, transparent and follow the rule of law, or else they’ll have potential trouble in front of a reviewing court,” Segal said. “Because there’s no doubt that the environmental community would sue to prevent these actions.”

Still, much of Obama’s environmental agenda was enacted through executive actions, which are within Trump’s power to quickly reverse.

The Republican Congress can also help undo some of Obama’s recent rules by using the Congressional Review Act, which provides for the expedited repeal of regulations.

“The Obama administration has done a lot unilaterally, and the silver lining of that is that it can be undone unilaterally,” said Nick Loris, an economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

What seems clear is that Trump is dedicated to the fight.

While Trump has given a few nods to the green movement — Trump met separately with climate activists Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio after the election — his Cabinet picks are vocal critics of Obama’s agenda.

Trump’s selections include Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke (R) to lead the Interior Department and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) to lead the Energy Department.

William Yeatman, a senior fellow at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, said an aggressive fight against Obama’s policies is a welcome change and something to be expected when the White House changes hands.

“It is not uncommon whenever there’s a change of party, given how much policy emanates from the executive branch these days, for recension to be of the order for the incoming president,” he said. “When policy emanates from the executive, and there’s a change in the executive, policy is supposed to reflect that.”

During the campaign, Trump ran in part on an aggressive deregulatory plan, saying in September that he would pursue “the elimination of all unnecessary regulations and a temporary moratorium on new regulations not compelled by Congress or public safety.”

Trump has specifically pledged to undo the Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the United States rule, Interior’s stream protection rule and the moratorium on new coal-mining leases on federal land.

He’s also promised to stop all payments to international climate efforts, to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, and to open more federal land and water to oil and natural gas drilling.

The Trump transition website promises that the next administration “will unleash an energy revolution that will transform us into a net energy exporter, leading to the creation of millions of new jobs, while protecting the country’s most valuable resources — our clean air, clean water, and natural habitats.”

Environmentalists and other Trump opponents say many of Obama’s actions are popular with the public and should be preserved. They accuse the Republican of focusing solely on reversing Obama, rather than putting forward energy and environmental plans of his own.

“If President-elect Trump decides to go in the direction that it appears he is, trying to undermine a full range of environmental protections, weakening or eliminating a move to a clean-energy economy, there will be a very strong reaction,” said David Goldston, director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Goldston compared Trump’s plans to those of presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, as well as that of former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). All three came to power with broad deregulatory promises but failed to overcome opposition, he said.

“There was a strong vocal backlash, and they eventually decided this was not worth their effort. And we expect that to be the case again,” he said.

James Goodwin, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Progressive Reform, said he is optimistic that the country will continue to move toward clean energy sources like wind and solar, no matter what Trump does.

“There’s only so much you can do with policy that’s going to change the way we’re headed,” he said.

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