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

 

On Golan, After Ladsous’ Peacekeepers’ Surrender,  UNSG Ban Ki-moon Tells ICP For Safety.

By Matthew Russell Lee reporting for Inner City Press and FUNCA.

UNITED NATIONS, September 16 — With UN Peacekeepers in the Golan Heights having first surrendered to the Al Nusra Front, then left weapons, vehicles and uniforms for them, Inner City Press on September 16 asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:

Inner City Press: Matthew Lee, Inner City Press. On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, thanks for taking questions and I hope in the next two weeks we have as much access as possible.

I want to ask about the Golan Heights.  There is a lot of controversy about what has taken place there, with apparently an order to surrender and Al-Nusra is now running around with UN trucks and vehicles.  And it was said at the stakeout this morning that the equipment was given over and basically that the mission is no longer completing what its mission is, which is to monitor both sides of the ceasefire line.

So I wonder what are you going to do in terms of getting to the bottom of if a surrender was ordered, who ordered the surrender and what can you say to the troop contributing countries who say that this is kind of a disarray and people need to know what the role of peacekeepers is, stand and fight or surrender and run?

SG Ban: For that issue I understand that Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, has explained to you in detail what had happened.  And, as you know, the security situation was very, very urgent and dangerous at that time.  Therefore, you should also appreciate the peacekeepers were and still are working on the very difficult and dangerous situation.  That is why, as was briefed by the spokesperson yesterday, we had to relocate this UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force] peacekeepers to a safer and more secure place.  This is a part of and continuing efforts to make sure that our peacekeepers and UN staff’s security and safety are ensured.

  While the change to put the question to Ban was appreciated, things are arranged for DPKO chief Herve Ladsous to avoid the tough questions, just as he has announced he will not respond to questions of media whose questions he doesn’t like. Video here and here and here.

 

  While respecting safety of peacekeepers, how does this relate to the Office for Internal Oversight Services’ critique of Ladsous’ DPKO has not protecting civilians? If they cannot protect themselves, how can they protect civilians?

 

  Inner City Press on September 2 asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric:

Inner City Press: the Philippines military has complained that the military force commander of UNDOF asked or ordered the Filipino peacekeepers to lay down their weapons in some sort of in relation to the Fijians and they refused to do so and has asked, as they say, for an investigation of the commander.

Could you explain under what circumstances the UN central peacekeeping or force commander would ask peacekeepers to lay down their weapons in the face of a hostile group and why?

Spokesman Dujarric: Again, as the situation is ongoing and the situation in the Filipinos and Fijians are obviously linked, I’m not getting into the detail of it. What I will say is that we will respond to any formal request made by Member State. Its normal procedure of review of action being taken and after review action be taken by mission once the situation has concluded. So, I think we have to get through this is extremely volatile situation. The safety of all our peacekeepers here is foremost on our mind. It’s at risk. We have seen the kind of area they are operating on and I think we need to let this — we need to let all of this conclude and then we can address it more formally.

Inner City Press: for troop-contributing countries, are you aware of any other case in which peacekeeping has asked peacekeepers to essentially surrender and are they supposed to obey those orders? Usually they complain the other way and they are ordered to fight and they won’t fight. Are you aware of any other case when they are ordered to surrender?

Spokesman Dujarric: And I think every situation is different, and as I said what is foremost on our mind is the safety of our soldiers.

Back on September 3, Inner City Press asked about the black-flagged UN vehicles, and about public and widely reported comments by Ireland’s minister of defense that no more Irish troops will be send to the UNDOF mission until it is reviewed.

  Dujarric said no formal communication has been received from the Irish government.

  Earlier on September 3 the first, set-aside UNCA soft ball question, unpressed, was about Filipino Colonel Ezra James Enriquez. Ladsous said he has “tendered his resignation” but that “is a matter for them.” For whom? It was then reported that Ezra James Enriquez has “left his post.”

There is more to be said.  Watch www.InnerCityPress.com  – the informed investigative reporting from the UN.

###

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

 

From:  Vanessa, People’s Climate March    -    peoplesclimate.org

   PLEASE SEE - ” title=”http://peoplesclimate.org/march/” target=”_blank”>Click here to find a bus near you: peoplesclimate.org/transportation.

More buses are being confirmed every day, so there may even be more than one nearby.

If the bus fills up and/or you’d like to step up and organize your own bus, click here to volunteer to be a bus captain.

It’s pretty simple, and there’s even some funding available –  the awesome bus team  will support you every step of the way.

If you need more info on transportation (and housing) options for the People’s Climate March, click here.

We have a real chance to make a difference on the issue of our time – make sure you have a ticket to New York to be part of it.

Click here to find a bus near you: peoplesclimate.org/transportation.

We can’t wait to march with you,
Vanessa T & the bus team

P.S. If you already have a ticket (or after you buy yours now), join our Thunderclap promoting the march. It only takes a second — you can sign up with your Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr to join a huge simultaneous social media post on September 15th and make sure everyone knows that this is too big to sit out.

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

Sierra Club - Explore, enjoy and protect the planet


Dear Pincas –
Climate change is personal. March with us.

RSVP now!

RSVP now for the People’s Climate March!

Trapped and hungry, in the middle of New York City. Climate change is here.

That is what I thought when I drove into Brooklyn, after Hurricane Sandy. My name is Carl Giles. I am a groundskeeper for the New York City Housing Authority and was dispatched after the storm to clear debris and set up generators and pumps at some of our hard-hit public housing.

I and other members of my union, Teamsters Local 237, were out even before the storm, to keep city residents safe and to prepare for the damage that Sandy would bring. The images from those days will be with me forever. People without power, begging for just an opportunity to charge their cell phones and let family members know that they are ok. Families in public housing without heat as cold weather bore down on the Northeast. Signs of the storm surge left behind; water marks three stories high on apartment buildings and four feet of sand covering the street.

Pincas, we’ve seen what climate change can do. That is why I and my Teamster brothers and sisters will be marching in the People’s Climate March on September 21st. Will you join the fight and march alongside us?

Working people are on the front lines of climate change. We live in the most vulnerable neighborhoods. We lead the recovery after extreme weather. And work in the industries that have to change to reduce emissions and clean our atmosphere.

For many Teamsters, Hurricane Sandy was a traumatic experience. I heard about one member working in an underground garage who drowned during the storm. Another Teamster lost two children. Too many lost homes and livelihoods.

At the same time, we were called on to put our city back together. Many Teamsters cleared roads and delivered supplies by day, while repairing their own homes at night.

We are marching because we want to tell our story and tell the world that workers are part of the solution to climate change. Teamsters in the private waste hauling industry are working to reduce pollution from their garbage trucks. Meanwhile, Teamsters in food distribution are working to build a more climate-resilient food system for our city.

We are all part of the solution. March with us on September 21st. RSVP now.

Thanks,

Carl Giles
Member, Teamsters Local 237

P.S. If this march is going to be big enough to get the world’s attention, we need everyone. After you RSVP, forward this message to five of your friends and family and share it on Facebook and Twitter to get the word out.

###

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

 

from: Nanette Woonton  sprep.org 

   
 

Talofa,

 

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) has several key events during the UNSIDS we would like to invite you to attend:

Tuesday 2 September, 5.30 – 7.00

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) will open their Pacific-sub office at the SPREP Headquarters in Vailima. 

The Honourable Prime Minister Tuilaepa Fatialofa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa, Achim Steiner the Executive Director of UNEP and Mr. David Sheppard Director-General of SPREP will present at today’s historical event.  Transport to the SPREP Headquarters will be available from Gate 6 at the UNSIDS Conference Venue an hour before the event.

 

Wednesday 3 September

11.00 – 12.30

The Cook Islands will be launching the Vital Harbours DVD developed under the Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change Project at the SIDS Venue – CR1.  The Honourable Prime Minister Henry Puna of the Cook Islands will launch the dvd.

5.00 – 6.30pm

Launch of the SIDS Sustainable Energy Partnership will take place at the SIDS Venue – CM4, an event coordinated by SPREP

7.00 – 8.30

Official launch of the Framework for Nature Conservation and Protected Areas in the Pacific Islands region 2014 – 2020: A partnership platgorm followed by the signing of partnership agreements at the SPREP Headquarters.  The key address will be presented by Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity.  Transport to the SPREP Headquarters will be available from Gate 6 at the UNSIDS Conference Venue an hour before the event.

Kia manuia.

Nanette Woonton | Media and Public Relations Officer
Attachée de relations publiques
Phone | +685 21929 Ext 305Fax  | +685 20231 |
Website |
www.sprep.orgEmail  | nanettew@sprep.org |
The Pacific environment – sustaining our livelihoods and natural heritage in harmony with our cultures

###

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

THE WASHINGTON POST AS PER AN EARTH INSTITUTE/ GALLUP POLL STUDY.

A fascinating map of the world’s happiest and least happy. countries

By Caitlin Dewey September 10, 2013

The results of Columbia University’s World Happiness Report, mapped. Click to enlarge. (Max Fisher/The Washington Post)

Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and the Netherlands are the happiest countries in the world, according to the U.N.-sponsored “World Happiness Report” released Monday by Columbia University’s Earth Institute. The report infers happiness using a number of social and economic metrics, measured using data from 2010 to 2012.

The very least happy countries, all in sub-Saharan Africa, are Togo, Benin, Central African Republic, Burundi and Rwanda. Syria also falls within the bottom 10. The United States ranks 17th of the 156 ranked countries, behind Mexico (16) and Panama (15).

The happiness metrics are highest in the Western, developed world: North America, Western Europe and Australia. But, as you can see in the above map, it’s also quite high in much of Latin America and on the Arabian Peninsula. It tends to be lower in poorer countries, with some interesting outliers and sub-trends.

The science of assigning a concrete number to something as abstract as happiness is, unsurprisingly, neither straightforward nor uncontroversial. This report used three measures of happiness, each evaluated by Gallup polls: life satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10, positive emotional state the prior day (Did you smile a lot yesterday? Did you experience enjoyment?) and negative emotional state the prior day (Did you experience anger or sadness?). The researchers aimed for a sample size of 3,000 people in each country over three years of Gallup polls — which, as they point out, risks skewing the data as events change within those countries over those years.

Here are regional trends in happiness metrics over time:


(World Happiness Report 2013)

The statistics do, however, seem to mirror some wider medium- and long-term social trends, such as the global recession and the ongoing political instability in parts of the Middle East and Central Africa. Between the 2005-07 period and the 2010-12 period, happiness fell most in the Middle East than in any other part of the world. Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal also did not fare well: On average, people there rated their lives about two-thirds of a point lower than they would before the financial crisis.

Happiness also correlates to things like life expectancy and GDP per capita, though perhaps not quite how you’d expect. While longer lives and more money do correlate to national happiness, they’re not nearly as important as social support, which researchers define as “having someone to count on in times of trouble.” The report also found that perceptions of corruption and generosity (the latter measured by donations to charity in the past month) are better indicators than GDP per capita.

That could help explain, in part, why Scandinavian countries consistently rank at the top: Their wide-ranging social welfare policies, per Denmark’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Integration, tend to be much stronger than in richer Western countries and are based on the principle that all citizens have a safety net “in case they encounter social problems such as unemployment, sickness or dependency.”

But while there’s obvious value in understanding aggregate happiness — it contributes, after all, to things like health and economic productivity — it’s unclear how well reports like this one really capture that. Countless factors can influence an individual’s perception of her happiness: the order of survey questions, a bad day at work, the weather. As The Post’s Peter Whoriskey reported in 2012, researchers have debated a host of alternative survey methods, from diary-keeping to digital devices, just to overcome the tendency of people to answer these questions differently based on the time of day.

There’s also an entire discourse on the philosophy of happiness, which economist Deirdre McCloskey examined at enormous length in her article skewering happiness economics last year. At one point, she points to the case of a theoretical man “tormented by starvation and civil war” in South Sudan who rated himself as three, “very happy,” on a happiness scale of one to three. But if he won an immigration lottery and left South Sudan, McCloskey argues, he’d undoubtedly become happier. It’s all relative, a matter of perception and experience.

Other economists might point out that McCloskey’s example ties subjective happiness to public policy, which is exactly the type of link they’re trying to make. That’s the big so-what of these rankings and other reports like it: One day, with more and better data, policymakers could embrace happiness, rather than GPD per capita, as an end-goal metric. In fact, former British Cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell argues that that t transition has already begun.

“This is only the second World Happiness Report,” he writes, “but already the importance of well-being as the goal of policy is spreading.”

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

###

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

LOOKING AT THE  FREEDOM HOUSE MAP OF PRESS FREEDOM 2014 – THE ONLY UN MEMBER STATES RATED AS ALLOWING FOR FREE PRESS ARE – JAPAN, TAIWAN, and ISRAEL   JUST THREE STATES.

RATED AS PARTIALLY FREE ARE – MONGOLIA, SOUTH KOREA, INDIA, BHUTAN, BANGLADESH, LEBANON, KUWAIT, HONG KONG (the PART OF CHINA that is governed with the help of an agreement with the UK), THE PHILIPPINES, INDONESIA, and EAST TIMOR. Any other country is just – “NOT FREE.”

Judging from the above mentioned map,  it is clear that FREEDOM OF THE PRESS is not the “Forte” of Asia, Africa, or Latin America – so why does misbehavior of South Korea excite us?  The answer is to be found in the fact that this is the home country of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who seemingly has allowed the UN as a whole to fall behind when it comes to allowing for  truly Free Access to a Free Press in its dealing with the media. That, rather then South Korea per se, is the true content of the following complaint in Matthew Lee’s reporting from the UN.

—————————————————————————————————————————

As S. Korea Cracks Down on Questioning of Park, Ban’s UN Notably Silent.

By Matthew Russell Lee – Reporting from inside the UN for Inner City Press.

UNITED NATIONS, August 31 — A recent and ongoing press freedom case in South Korea has echoed all the way to the UN in New York. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was a long-time South Korean diplomat before taking up his UN post. But he has been notably quiet about press freedom generally, and now strikingly, with regard to South Korea.

  The government in Seoul has summoned Sankei Shimbun’s Tatsuya Kato on possible charges of defaming President Park Geun-hye, and has blocked him from leaving South Korea in the interim.

  At issue is an article that Tatsuya Kato wrote and Sankei Shimbun published, citing the South Korean publication Chosun Ilbo, that during the sinking of the Sewol ferry in April, President Park was not seen for seven hours and may have been trysting with a recently divorced former aide.

  While understandably causing anger, such a report should not trigger travel bans or criminal charges.

  It is particularly troubling that while Tatsuya Kato of Japan’s Sankei has been targeted, the South Korean publication Chosun Ilbo from which he quoted is not being targeted. This disparate treatment of journalists, based on nationality or other factors, should not be tolerated.

 

{SO THE ISSUE IS NOT ONLY FREEDOM OF THE PRESS – BUT MISUSE OF CENSORSHIP FOR FOREIGN POLICY REASONS AND THE QUESTION HOW THIS IS TRANSFERRED TO THE UN PROPER?  THIS AS ADDED COMMENT BY SUSTAINABILITANK.INFO}

  As a comparison, when Afghanistan recently imposed a similar travel ban on a New York Times reporter, not only the US State Department but also many others spoke out.

  But when at the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman was twice — three times, actually — asked about South Korea’s treatment of Sankei Shimbun’s Tatsuya Kato, only platitudes emerged.

Continuing the trend on August 31, Ban Ki-moon’s comment on the coup in Lesotho did not mention that the military took over the television and radio stations there.

  The day’s New York Times recounted how South Korean artist Hong Sung-dam had his painting depicting Park Geun-hye and his view of her role in the sinking of the Sewol ferry censored by authorities in Gwangju.

  Some including the new Free UN Coalition for Access, an anti-censorship alliance established at the UN during and counter to Ban Ki-moon’s time in control, have noted a trend toward ignoring some attacks on the media. How far back does it go? What will happen in South Korea, and at the UN?

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 31st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Fijians negotiating with Islamist captors of 44 {or 45?} peacekeepers.

Head of Fiji’s army says exact location of kidnapped troops cannot be confirmed.

By Times of Israel staff and AP  – August 31, 2014, 3:12 pm
For what the UN releases on this – please look www.InnerCity.Press.com – whose reporter at the UN Headquarters in New York – Matthew Russel Lee – is following closely this topic.
The Freedom House Map of “Press Freed0m 2014″ has Fiji and The Philippines among the “Partly Free States” – thus reflecting on the source of the UN Mercenary hired personnel that is the human fodder to Peace Keeping Missions that do not get full UN backing when finding themselves in difficult situations.
Members of United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) using binoculars to watch the Syrian side of the Golan Heights near the Quneitra border crossing, on August 31, 2014. (photo credit: AFP Photo/Jalaa Marey)

Members of United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) using binoculars to watch the Syrian side of the Golan Heights near the Quneitra border crossing, on August 31, 2014. (photo credit: AFP Photo/Jalaa Marey)

The Fijian military said Sunday that it was pursuing negotiations with the Syrian Islamic rebel group which kidnapped 44 UNDOF peacekeepers in the Syrian Golan Heights Thursday, but still had not received word on where the soldiers were being held.

Fiji has been told that the men were unharmed and were being treated well, but “we still at this stage cannot confirm the exact location of our troops. We are continuing negotiations at all levels,” said Brig. Gen. Mosese Tikoitoga, head of the Fijian army, according to a Reuters report.

 

“However, we are still very concerned that we cannot confirm at this stage their exact location, whether they are still in Syria or whether they have been moved to neighboring countries,” the general added.

Tikoitoga’s comments came after 40 Filipino peacekeepers made a daring escape after being surrounded and under fire for seven hours by Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights on Sunday, leaving the 44 Fijian troops in the hands of al-Qaeda-linked insurgents.

The peacekeepers became trapped after Syrian rebels entered the UN-patrolled buffer zone between Syria and Israel this past week, seizing the Fijian soldiers and demanding that their Filipino colleagues surrender. The Filipinos, occupying two UN encampments, refused and clashed with the rebels on Saturday. The first group of 35 peacekeepers was then successfully escorted out of a UN encampment in Breiqa by Irish and Filipino forces in armored vehicles.

As night fell and a ceasefire took hold, a further 40 Filipinos fled with their weapons, traveling across the chilly hills for nearly two hours before meeting up with other UN forces, who escorted them to safety inside Israel early Sunday, Philippine officials said.

The clashes erupted after Syrian rebel groups — including al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front — overran the Quneitra crossing on the frontier between Syrian- and Israeli-controlled parts of the Golan on Wednesday and seized the 44 Fijians.

The SITE Intelligence Group reported that the Nusra Front posted a statement on its Twitter account Saturday taking responsibility for detaining the Fijian peacekeepers. The Nusra Front stated that the Fijian detainees “are in a safe place, and they are in good health, and that we have given them what they need of food and treatment.”

The Nusra Front also posted a photo showing what it said were the captured Fijians in their military uniforms along with 45 identification cards, SITE said.

SITE added that the Nusra Front claimed the Fijians were seized in retaliation for the UN’s ignoring “the daily shedding of the Muslims’ blood in Syria” and even colluding with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s army “to facilitate its movement to strike the vulnerable Muslims” through a buffer zone in the Golan Heights. The SITE report could not be independently confirmed.

The UN mission has 1,223 troops from six countries: Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands and the Philippines. A number of countries had previously withdrawn their peacekeepers due to the escalating violence.

Philippine officials said Filipino forces would remain in Golan until their mission ends in October despite the rebel attacks and the capture of the Fijian peacekeepers.

Both UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council strongly condemned Saturday’s attack on the peacekeepers’ positions and the ongoing detention of the Fijian peacekeepers.

The Nusra Front has recently seized hostages to exchange for prisoners detained in Syria and Lebanon.

Read more: Fijians negotiating with Islamist captors of 44 peacekeepers | The Times of Israel www.timesofisrael.com/fijians-negotiating-with-islamist-captors-of-44-peacekeepers/#ixzz3BzEeLB38

————————————————————————————————————————————-

As of July 31, 2014 UNDOF has 1,223 peacekeepers from six countroies – Fiji, India, Irelamd, Nepal, Netherlands and the Philippines.

The mission was established in 1974 with the purpose to monitor the disengagement accord between Syria and Israel after the 1973 war (the Yom Kippur War). In effect they monitor the line between the no-man’s zone and the Syrian State. But let us not forget that the Syrian Government these days rules only over part of Syria and rebels of Al-Qaeda persuasion – organized in the Al-Nusra front and the ISIL – Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – are what the UN peacekeepers are facing now – this rather then a Syrian State military. Does the original mandate hold under these conditions? Seemingly Austria had some doubts and pulled out their troops at last mandate-renewal.

Actually – the mandate is up to renewal every 6 months and the current mandate ends on December 31, 2014.  Would this not be a good opportunity to allow the current forces to go home? Ireland, Netherlands and Austria were not there for the money, and those that are in for the money better learn that this is a tough spot, and it is rather without real purpose – only potential harm.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 30th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Please forget the old question of what is a Non-Government Organization and when it is the front for a particular autocratic government as now we have the final list of 38 participants that are tasked with telling the angle of the “WE THE PEOPLE” – that are those that feel the brunt of Climate Change – while our governments – we elected or self-styled – might be more interested in superficial monetary gains then in our true suffering.

These 38 participants have now been given the chance to speak to the 100 Heads of State that answered the call of the UN Secretary General to participate at this ONE-DAY SUMMIT he has called.

Please also note that the remaining 94 Heads of UN Member States State will not be present in person on that day.

 

……????
……??
……Español
……Français
……???????
……Dansk

 

At the request of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, UN-NGLS issued an open call for nominations of civil society speakers and attendees for the 2014 UN Climate Summit, with a deadline of 15 August. UN-NGLS received 544 nominations, which can be viewed here (multiple submissions for the same person were consolidated into one entry). Between 16-25 August, UN-NGLS facilitated a civil society Selection and Drafting Committee to review all nominees. A list of the members of the Committee is available here.

The Committee short-listed 76 candidates for consideration by the Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team (CCST). From this list of 76 candidates, the CCST has now selected the following 4 speakers and 34 attendees for the Climate Summit:

 

Speaker for the Opening Ceremony:
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner – College of the Marshall Islands and Jo-Jikum – Marshall Islands .
.
3 Panellists for the “Voices from the Frontlines of Climate Change” Thematic Debate (organized by UN Women, UNICEF, and UNFPA):

Alina Saba – Mugal Indigenous Women’s Upliftment Institute / Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development – Nepal

Christina Ora – Pacific Youth Council – Solomon Islands

Sylvia Atugonza Kapello – Riamiriam Civil Soceity Network Karamoja – Uganda .
.
34 Attendees (in alphabetical order by first name):

Agnes Kinaka – Carterets Catholic Parish/Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency (LNWDA)/Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development – Papua New Guinea

Alexandra Vanessa D. Pierre – PLURIELLES – Haiti

Arthur Mychal Johnson – South Bronx Unite – USA

Assia Korichi – Friends of the Environment Association “Ahbab EL Biaa” – Algeria

Bianca Hakena Carwinn – Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency/ Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development – Papua New Guinea

Carlos Bernabe Chex Mux – Asociación Ak’ Tenamit – Guatemala

Caroline Usikpedo – Niger Delta Women’s movement for Peace and Development (NDWPD) – Nigeria

Catherine de Medici Jaffee - 350.org – USA

Daniel Temesgen Gelan – Pastoralist forum Ethiopia – Ethiopia

Diana Eurydyka Maci?ga – Pracownia na rzecz Wszystkich Istot (Association Workshop for All Beings) – Poland

Emad Adly – Arab Network for Environment and Development (RAED) – Egypt

Erika Pires Ramos – RESAMA – South American Network for Environmental Migrations – Brazil

Fadoua Brour – Arab Youth Climate Movement & Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network – Morocco

Farah Kabir – ActionAid Bangladesh – Bangladesh

Gladys Lorena Terrazas Arnez – Network Peace Integration and Development – Bolivia

Jatani Sora Liban – Gayo Pastoral Development Initiative (GPDI) – Ethiopia

Kandi Lea Marie Mossett – Indigenous Environmental Network – USA / Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara tribal nation

Kanyinke Sena – Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC) – Kenya

Kathryn Kay Leuch – Philippine Movement for Climate Justice Phillippines

Linda Onyenya Wamune – SolarAid – Kenya

Margaret Hiza – Indian Nations Conservation Alliance – USA / Crow Tribe

Maria Theresa Nera-Lauron – IBON International – Phillippines

Melissa Ann Daniels – Native Women’s Association of Canada – Canada / Athebasca Chipewa

Mohamed Adow Iman – Christian Aid – Kenya

Osver Jaime Polo Carrasco – Iniciativa Construyendo Puentes – Peru

Relinda Melania Sosa Perez – National Confederation of Women Organized for Life and Integrated Development (CONAMOVIDI) / GROOTS Peru – Peru

Saleemul Huq – International Institute for Environment and Development – Bangladesh

Sandra Leticia Guzman Luna – Grupo de Financiamiento Climático para América Latina y el Caribe (GFLAC) – Mexico

Sara Suwan – Heinrich Boell Foundation Palestine and Jordan – Palestine

Sharad Joshi – Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society (CECOEDECON); Public Advocacy Initiatives for Rights and Values in India (PAIRVI) – India

Sheng Ying – Shanghai Tongji Urban Planning & Design Institute – China

Tshiwe Shiri – Zimbabwe chapter of the Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA) – Zimbabwe

Ursula Regina Rakova Tulele Peisa – Papua New Guinea

Xinxin Bi – China Association for NGO Cooperation – China

————————————

Related articles

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 30th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Middle East

Can the Middle East Redraw Itself?

 

11

 

Amre Moussa, the former Arab League head from Egypt, is calling for a Middle Eastern equivalent of the 1814 Congress of Vienna, in which Europe’s great powers established a new order to prevent wars between empires following the defeat of Napoleon. Admittedly, Moussa quickly backtracked to say the plan couldn’t initially include Iran, Turkey or Israel, making it really just another Arab League meeting. Still, I think he’s onto something.

For years, the people of the Middle East have complained that the U.S. and Europe treat it as a kind of colonial playground, while the West has moaned the region must take more responsibility to regulate and provide security for itself. This week, reports of United Arab Emirates airstrikes in Libya, launched from airstrips in Egypt, suggest that is beginning to happen — but in precisely the wrong way. The airstrikes pit the more secular client of one Persian Gulf state, UAE, against Islamists supported by another, Qatar.

This is a recipe for a long and bloody civil war in Libya, at a time when the Middle East is imploding and the U.S. is no longer willing or able to police it alone. Divisions among the Sunni states and an expanding proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia have already resulted in a vortex of human suffering and instability in Syria that has spawned the Islamic State.

So Moussa’s idea of a congress “emanating from the Middle East” itself, rather than from the U.S. or Europe, and focused on how to ensure stability in the region makes sense. As a model, the Congress of Vienna has an attractive echo for the Middle East’s monarchies and dictators, as it was designed mainly by conservative autocrats as they sought ways to contain the subversive republican fervor unleashed by the French revolution. Old regime leaders in the Middle East see the Arab Spring in much the same light.

“We are talking about a major change in the Middle East,” Moussa said at a conference I’m attending this week in Salzburg, Austria, on lessons to be drawn from the Vienna Congress and the outbreak of World War I, hosted by the International Peace Institute and the Salzburg Global Seminar. “We have to discuss this like grownups: What are we going to do when this wave of change comes to its end?”

The Congress of Vienna was also used to redraw the map of Europe after the Napoleonic wars, and then fix borders and establish a mechanism to agree on changes. In this light, Moussa was adamant that proposals to break up Iraq along sectarian lines would be infectious and disastrous for the region. A deal in in which the likes of Iran and Saudi Arabia guaranteed the non-violation of borders is appealing.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. For one thing, Iran and Saudi Arabia are involved in what they see as a zero-sum contest for power, and a meaningful agreement between them seems fantastical: The empires of Europe were driven to reconciliation only after nearly 20 years of defeats forced them to learn the value of alliance. Indeed, while Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki al-Faisal, also in Salzburg, supported Moussa’s idea, his focus was on how to create a united Arab front toward Iran — a poor starting point if the goal is to reconcile Iranian and Saudi interests

So long as the focus is on getting the Arab house in order, this is unlikely to get anywhere. A more serious attempt would focus not on Arab identity but on who needs to be at the table so that any deal that is reached would be meaningful. At a minimum, that means Iran, Israel and Turkey must be present. Inviting the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to facilitate and hold the ring would also be smart. It’s crazy, and it’s worth a try.

 

To contact the author: Marc Champion at  Bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this article: Tobin Harshaw at  bloomberg.net

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 27th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

From James Snifen, UNEP

UNEP Targets Innovative Learning to Reduce Disaster Risk Worldwide.

More than 1,000 risk and disaster experts, practitioners and government officials from over 100 countries convene in Davos this week to tackle the growing challenge of disaster risk.

DAVOS, Switzerland, 26 August 2014 – In the past decade, natural disasters have cost over 1.2 million lives and economic losses have continued to skyrocket. Projections indicate that damages from disasters will climb up to US$400 billion per year and with climate change expected to worsen these impacts, identifying innovative solutions and responses has become an urgent priority.

This week at the 5th Annual International Disaster Risk Conference (IDRC), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) unveiled its latest effort to build resilience to this global challenge. UNEP is launching the first-ever Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) focusing on how to minimize disaster risk through “natural” or ecosystem-based solutions.

Ecosystems such as forests, wetlands and reefs often provide valuable protection against natural hazards like avalanches and flooding. They also supply vital services such as food, fuel and shelter following a disaster event. Yet limited awareness of the services offered by ecosystems and false perceptions on their effectiveness as a tool for disaster risk reduction is preventing concrete action.

“In order to bring disaster losses under control, we need more skills, scale and speed in our disaster risk reduction efforts. This MOOC improves access at a global scale by enabling people to learn directly from experts and practitioners how to apply ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and adaptation in their own communities,” said Dr. Muralee Thummarukudy, Senior Manager for Disaster Risk Reduction at UNEP.

This MOOC will also broaden awareness on the different tools available beyond concrete or engineered solutions by demonstrating how climate change, disasters and the environment are linked. It exposes participants to a range of tools for eco-disaster risk reduction and adaptation. With over 20 hours of video lectures, guest lectures from world leaders and real-life case studies, the MOOC targets policy-makers and decision-makers, practitioners, experts and the wider public.

Today, UNEP and the Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR) are also hosting an interactive panel discussion on “Bridging disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation through ecosystems management.” The panel aims to demonstrate through field projects how ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and adaptation are building resilience in communities worldwide.

 

The MOOC is the result of a collaboration between UNEP and the Centre for Natural Resources and Development, a consortium of 11 universities from around the world that is coordinated by the Cologne University of Applied Sciences (CUAS), Germany.

Further details on UNEP’s disaster risk reduction programme are available at www.unep.org/disastersandconflicts/Introduction/DisasterRiskReduction/tabid/104159/Default.aspx

The Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR) is a global alliance of UN agencies, NGOs and specialist institutes; see www.pedrr.org

The International Disaster Risk Conference is a major biennial forum on disaster risk; see www.idrc.info

 

For more information, please contact:

UNEP Newsdesk, Nairobi, Kenya: unepnewsdesk@unep.org

Cassidy Travis, Communications Advisor, UNEP Post-Conflict & Disaster Management Branch: +41 22 917 8839 or Cassidy.travis@unep.org

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On this website we believe that the qualifier “Natural Disasters” is Unnecessary and misleading.These are disasters – All-Right – but there is nothing Natural with them.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 27th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

As per e-mail from Maya Valcheva  —  Maya.VALCHEVA at unitar.org  – on behalf of  envdem.yale@gmail.com and envdem@unitar.org where ENVDEM siands for ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE and DEMOCRACY two topics that did not make it into the AGENDA of the RIO Conference of 1992 and are being tackled only now in the run-up to the Post-2015 decision making process.

————–

Human Rights, Environmental Sustainability, Post-2015 Development Agenda, and the Future Climate Regime.

3rd UNITAR-Yale Conference on Environmental Governance and Democracy
Yale University, 5-7 September 2014
 
 
The 2014 Conference on Human Rights, Environmental Sustainability, Post-2015 Development Agenda, and the Future Climate Regime will take place from 5-7 September 2014 at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
The Conference is organized by Yale University and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United National Development Programme (UNDP), and the World Resources Institute (WRI).
The Conference will bring together more than 100 scholars and policy experts to discuss state-of-the-art knowledge at the nexus of human rights and the environment, building on more than 70 papers which will be written by researchers and expert practitioners from 40 different countries as a contribution to the Conference.
The keynote presentation will be given by John Knox, the UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment.
Given that the Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals was just completed, and the upcoming climate change negotiations in Peru are approaching, the Conference also provides an opportunity to develop policy insights for strengthening the human rights-environment interface at the international level.
Details concerning the Conference are available on this Web Page.  
Inquiries may be sent to envdem.yale@gmail.com with cc to envdem@unitar.org.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 27th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

ISIS is to America as Hamas is to Israel

by Alan M. Dershowitz

President Barak Obama has rightfully condemned the ISIS beheading of American James Foley in the strongest terms.  This is what he said:

“There has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so it does not spread. There has to be a clear rejection of the kind of a nihilistic ideologies. One thing we can all agree on is group like (ISIS) has no place in the 21st century.  Friends and allies around the world, we share a common security a set of values opposite of what we saw yesterday. We will continue to confront this hateful terrorism and replace it with a sense of hope and stability.”

At the same time that President Obama has called for an all-out war against the “cancer” of ISIS, he has regarded Hamas as having an easily curable disease, urging Israel to accept that terrorist group, whose charter calls for Israel’s destruction, as part of a Palestinian unity government.  I cannot imagine him urging Iraq, or any other Arab country, to accept ISIS as part of a unity government.

Former President Jimmy Carter and Bishop Desmond Tutu have gone even further, urging the international community to recognize the legitimacy of Hamas as a political party and to grant it diplomatic recognition.  It is hard to imagine them demanding that the same legitimate status be accorded ISIS.

Why then the double standard regarding ISIS and Hamas?  Is it because ISIS is less brutal and violent than Hamas?  It’s hard to make that case.  Hamas has probably killed more civilians—through its suicide bombs, its murder of Palestinian Authority members, its rocket attacks and its terror tunnels—than ISIS has done.  If not for Israel’s Iron Dome and the Israeli Defense Forces, Hamas would have killed even more innocent civilians.  Indeed its charter calls for the killing of all Jews anywhere in the world, regardless of where they live or which “rock” they are hiding behind.  If Hamas had its way, it would kill as least as many people as ISIS would.

Is it the manner by which ISIS kills?  Beheading is of course a visibly grotesque means of killing, but dead is dead and murder is murder.  And it matters little to the victim’s family whether the death was caused by beheading, by hanging or by a bullet in the back of a head.  Indeed most of ISIS’s victims have been shot rather than beheaded, while Hamas terrorists have slaughtered innocent babies in their beds, teenagers on the way home from school, women shopping, Jews praying and students eating pizza.

Is it because ISIS murdered an American?  Hamas has murdered numerous Americans and citizens of other countries.  They too are indiscriminate in who they kill.

Is it because ISIS has specifically threatened to bring its terrorism to American shores, while Hamas focuses its terrorism in Israel?  The Hamas Charter does not limit its murderous intentions to one country.  Like ISIS it calls for a worldwide “caliphate,” brought about by violent Jihad.

Everything we rightly fear and despise from ISIS we should fear and despise from Hamas.  Just as we would never grant legitimacy to ISIS, we should not grant legitimacy to Hamas—at the very least until it rescinds its charter and renounces violence.  Unfortunately that is about as likely as America rescinding its constitution.    Violence, anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism are the sine qua non of Hamas’ mission.

Just as ISIS must be defeated militarily and destroyed as a terrorist army, so too must Hamas be responded to militarily and its rockets and tunnels destroyed.

It is widely, and in my view mistakenly, argued by many academics and diplomats that there can never be a military solution to terrorism in general or to the demands of Hamas in particular.  This conventional wisdom ignores the lessons of history.  Chamberlain thought there could be a diplomatic solution to Hitler’s demands.  Churchill disagreed.  History proved Churchill correct.  Nazi Fascists and Japanese militarists had to be defeated militarily before a diplomatic resolution could be achieved.

So too with ISIS and Hamas.  They must first be defeated militarily and only then might they consider accepting reasonable diplomatic and political compromises.  Another similarity between ISIS and Hamas is that if these terrorist groups were to lay down their arms, there might be peace, whereas if their enemies were to lay down their arms, there would be genocide.

A wonderful cartoon illustrates this:  at one end of the table is Hamas demanding “death to all the Jews!”  At the other end is Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu.  In the middle sits the mediator, who turns to Netanyahu and asks:  “Can’t you at least come half way?”

No democratic nation can accept its own destruction.  We cannot compromise—come half way—with terrorists who demand the deaths of all who stand in the way of their demand for a Sunni caliphate, whether these terrorists call themselves ISIS or Hamas.  Both are, in the words of President Obama, “cancers” that must be extracted before they spread.  Both are equally malignant.  Both must be defeated on the battlefield, in the court of public opinion and in the courts of law.  There can be no compromise with bigotry, terrorism or the demand for a caliphate.  Before Hamas or ISIS can be considered legitimate political partners, they must give up their violent quest for a worldwide Islamic caliphate.

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What Barack Obama Can Learn from Richard Nixon on Israel and Foreign Policy.

August 26, 2014  -  3 comments

Richard Nixon and Barack Obama are rarely compared.  But the way these two presidents have dealt with crises in the Middle East provides instructive contrasts on the nature of leadership.

This summer marks the 40th anniversary of the resignation of President Nixon, a man more associated with skullduggery than leadership.  But in October 1973, when his Vice President was resigning in disgrace and the congressional investigation into his own misconduct was moving to its fatal conclusion, Nixon demonstrated how a leader can take command, master events, and shape history.

His example provides a contrast to the current President, whose concept of leadership involves “leading from behind.”  To the extent it involves taking initiative, it is the initiative of “avoiding doing stupid shit.”

President Obama has not abandoned Israel, nor has he declared himself neutral in its current struggle against Hamas. But time after time, he has undercut Israel’s position, in an effort to curry favor with a hostile world.

His Secretary of State tried to involve Turkey and Qatar, two implacable foes of Israel, in the cease-fire negotiations, even though their financial support enabled Hamas to amass the missiles and build the tunnels that threaten Israel. After an Israeli shell landed close to a UNRWA school in Rafah, his Administration joined the global anti-Israel chorus. Before any investigation could be conducted, the State Department immediately declared itself “appalled” by Israel’s “disgraceful” act – even though Hamas rockets have been found in UNRWA schools at least three times, and even though the U.S. armed forces conducted similar attacks against schools used by hostile forces in Afghanistan. (The Israeli 4-year old boy killed on Friday was the victim of a missile fired from a site near a UNRWA school.)

Most disturbing, Obama’s White House has recently changed the military-to-military relationship by which American weaponry has been transferred to Israel, to require White House and State Department approval. Now these are U.S. weapons, and it is of course up to the U.S. government to set the protocols for their transfer. But to change the rules so abruptly, while Israel is under daily bombardment, is unprecedented.

Once again, it represented the Obama Administration’s tendency to placate the world, rather than stand by a lonely ally. This emerges from an observation by a “senior Obama Administration official” to the Wall Street Journal:

“We have many, many friends around the world. The United States is their strongest friend,” the official said. “The notion that they are playing the United States, or that they’re manipulating us publicly, completely miscalculates their place in the world.”

In other words, the Administration was telling Israel by these leaked remarks: We have many friends.  You do not. Don’t ever forget it.

Sniping at friends to placate their enemies is not leadership. It is not even shrewdness. The United States has won no new friends from undercutting Israel.

To see a different kind of leadership, travel back in time and consider the performance of Richard Nixon in October 1973.

Israel faced a military crisis. Egypt and Syria, backed by nine Arab states and lavishly supplied by the Soviet Union, attacked on Yom Kippur. Israeli forces were thrown back in the Sinai and on the Golan Heights. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan told Prime Minister Golda Meir that Israel faced imminent defeat. The situation was so dire, that the Israeli government considered resorting to a last ditch nuclear option.

In this crisis situation, Richard Nixon ordered a massive airlift of military supplies to Israel. During a 32-day period beginning October 14, jumbo U.S. military aircraft touched down in Israel 567 times, delivering some 22,300 tons of material.

Conducting such an operation was a complicated task. Then, as now, Israel was not popular on the international scene. Fearful of the Arabs’ oil weapon, NATO allies refused to allow U.S. transport planes to refuel in their countries – even while NATO members Turkey and Greece were allowing Soviet supply planes to overfly their territory. Ultimately, the U.S. managed to pressure Portugal to allow landing in the Azores for refueling.

Meanwhile, in Washington, bureaucratic hurdles threatened to delay the airlift. Nixon took charge personally. White House counsel Leonard Garment recalled:

It was Nixon who did it. I was there. As [bureaucratic bickering between the State and Defense departments] was going back and forth, Nixon said, “This is insane….He just ordered Kissinger, Get your [behind] out of here and tell those people to move. “

Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, concerned by the reaction of the Arabs and Soviets to the airlift, advised sending just three transports. Nixon responded: “We are going to get blamed just as much for three as for 300…Get them in the air, now.”

Nixon worked closely with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on the airlift. When Kissinger gave him a list of the type and quantity of weaponry sought by the Israeli military, Nixon ordered him to double it, then added: “Now get the hell out of here and get the job done.” Informed of a delay caused by disagreements in the Pentagon over which planes to use, Nixon shouted at Kissinger: “[Expletive] it, use every one we have. Tell them to send everything that can fly.”

The airlift helped turn the tide. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat proposed a ceasefire enforced by Soviet and U.S. troops on the ground. The U.S. rejected the proposal. Soviet leader Brezhnev then threatened to send Russian troops to the Middle East unilaterally. Nixon ordered that U.S. military to be put on high alert. Air Force strike units were prepared for attack, and two aircraft carriers were deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean. Brezhnev backed down.

Richard Nixon neither sought nor received any political gain for his decisive leadership. The Watergate investigation intensified, culminating in his resignation ten months later. American Jews, who voted overwhelmingly for Humphrey in 1968 and McGovern in 1972, remained, and remain today, hostile to the man.

But Golda Meir never forgot Nixon’s leadership. For the rest of her life she referred to him as “my president.” She once said, in tones reminiscent of the Passover haggadah: “For generations to come, all will be told of the miracle of the immense planes from the United States bringing in the material that meant life to our people.”

It is doubtful that any Israeli, of any political persuasion, will ever remember Barack Obama as “my president.”

It is also doubtful that friends of the United States in other parts of the globe will remember him that way. When Iranian populists remember Obama, they are likely to remember him as the President who reached out to the regime’s theocratic dictators, but failed to support the courageous demonstrators of the Green Revolution. When the Poles and Czechs remember Obama, they are likely to recall him as the President who reneged on the promise to build a missile defense shield in Europe, to avoid irritating the Russians.  When Ukrainians remember Obama, they are likely to recall him as the President who, after the non-irritated Russians annexed the Crimea, responded by airlifting, not weapons, but 300,000 ready-to-eat meals.

The irony of leadership is that it often proves a more effective tool to win over foes than supplication.  Obama’s forbearance has won the United States no points from Russia or Iran, or any of our other opponents.  It has only disappointed our friends. In contrast, Richard Nixon steadfastly supported Israel during wartime – and was lionized by Egyptians in the aftermath of that war after brokering a ceasefire.

In June 1974, just weeks before his resignation, Nixon visited Egypt and rode in an open railway car from Alexandria to Cairo with President Sadat. An estimated 6 million Egyptians lined the route, cheering him. Sadat saluted Nixon with these words:

Since the 6th of October, and since the change that took place in the American foreign policy, peace is now available in the area. And President Nixon never gave a word and didn’t fulfill it; he has fulfilled every word he gave.

Richard Nixon was a man of many flaws, not least of which was a strong strain of anti-Semitism. But he was also a leader. The current President, driven to make America liked again, may have more charity in his heart, but he has far less spinal fluid in his backbone.

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Lawrence J. Siskind is a San Francisco attorney, who blogs on issues of politics, foreign policy, law, and culture, at ToPutItBluntly.com.

 

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

August 25, 2014

To: Listings/Critics/Features
From: Jazz Promo Services
Press Contact: Jim Eigo, jim@jazzpromoservices.com
www.jazzpromoservices.com

 

For the eleventh consecutive year, on a glorious end-of-summer night, the intersection of Wall and North Front Streets in Kingston will become “The Jazz Corner of Upstate New York.” Once again, in an evening of music that should not be missed, the Wall Street Jazz Festival presents an array of some of today’s finest jazz artists – pianist Laura Dubin’s trio, saxophonist Virginia Mayhew’s quintet, pianist Roberta Piket’s sextet, plus two all-star ensembles featuring saxophonists “Sweet” Sue Terry and Claire Daly, singers Jay Clayton and Teri Roiger, pianist (and the festival’s Artistic Director) Peggy Stern, among others. For many years now, this annual event has been one of the highlights of my summer, an exciting and engaging way to enjoy the music I love in an elegant, intimate, and inviting setting. 

The Wall Street Jazz Festival, “where the traditions meet the progressives, and all the leaders are women,” it’s happening Saturday, August 30, from 5:00 to 10:00 p.m. in Kingston, NY – and it’s all free!

www.wallstreetjazzfestival.com/home.html

 

Bob Bernotas, Host of “Just Jazz,” Sunday nights, 10:00 p.m-3:00 a.m. at

www.wnti.org

 

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Zephyr Teachout teaches at Fordham Law School. She is the former National Director of the Sunlight Foundation and Director of Online Organizing for Howard Dean’s Campaign. She is a Board Member of Public Campaign Action Fund and Fight for the Future.

She wrote: “In a blog post this week, Former White House Counsel Bob Bauer critiqued an essay I wrote recently entitled “Constitutional Purpose and the Anti-Corruption Principle.” The basic argument of my essay is that the global purposes of the Constitution should be relevant in making hard Constitutional decisions. We ought look beyond the purposes of particular clauses and to the Constitution as a whole when making sense of the application of particular clauses. As I point out in the essay, Courts already do this: they interpret clauses to be consistent with the global principle of Separation of Powers, for instance, even though there is no “Separation of Powers” clause. Therefore, given the strong historical evidence that anti-corruption concerns were as fundamental as any other at the Constitutional convention, anti-corruption concerns should get significant constitutional weight when interpreting other clauses, like the First Amendment.

She was a Professorial adviser to “Occupy Wall Street” – and that is why we make the connection here.

N.Y. / Region

Cuomo Opponent Unbowed by Underdog Status.

By

 

There she was, Prof. Zephir Teachout of Fordham University, just to the right of the stage, waving her arms furiously, hoping that the event’s host, Eric L. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, would see her and give her a shout-out. No such luck; a tall security guard was in the way.

As Zephyr Teachout was leaving the gospel concert in East Flatbush, a man in a wheelchair called out, “Who are you?” Ever eager, she explained that she was running as a progressive against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in the Democratic primary.

The man, won over, pointed to a homemade campaign button pinned to Ms. Teachout’s jacket. “Can I have your button?” he asked. She gladly obliged.

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Just a few months ago, Ms. Teachout was a popular Fordham University law professor with ties to Occupy Wall Street and a keen interest in political corruption. But after the liberal Working Families Party approached her to run against Mr. Cuomo — before it arrived at a bitterly contested decision to stick by the governor — Ms. Teachout decided, with the encouragement of other liberal activists, to mount her own long-shot campaign.

Photo

 
Ms. Teachout, a candidate for governor, gave away her campaign button to a potential supporter this month after a gospel concert in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Credit Andrew Renneisen/The New York Times

Yes, she knows that few New Yorkers have heard of her. Yes, she knows that she will not have enough money for television ads. And yes, she knows that her best shot at statewide exposure — a debate with Mr. Cuomo — is unlikely. Still, she insists that she is gaining momentum, and is zestily campaigning with a kind of cynicism-free optimism that makes her a sunny surprise.

“I didn’t know politics would be this much fun!” she beamed after a South Asian festival in Queens a week ago.

Privately, Ms. Teachout’s admirers say that her campaign has already succeeded, by forcing Mr. Cuomo to embrace more liberal causes. If she gets more than 25 percent in the Sept. 9 primary, some argue, then Mr. Cuomo might need to worry about liberal angst heading into a general election against the Republican candidate, Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive.

Ms. Teachout does not pretend that her task will be easy. But she said the worst that could happen would be that she got only 1 percent of the vote, and that she became known as an idealistic but politically naïve professor.

“We’re underdogs, we know that, but we’re serious underdogs,” she said at a house party near her apartment in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Ms. Teachout and her running mate for lieutenant governor, Tim Wu, a Columbia University law professor, talked about winning over the small number of Democrats who actually vote in primaries.

They hope to tap into disillusionment or even anger with Mr. Cuomo among teachers, public employees and upstate residents opposed to hydraulic fracturing.

Photo

 
Ms. Teachout speaking at a cocktail party in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where she currently resides. Credit Andrew Renneisen/The New York Times

“In the face of Andrew Cuomo’s silence, I am being loud,” she said in Fort Greene.

Mr. Cuomo has not publicly mentioned Ms. Teachout by name, and his campaign has declined to comment on her candidacy.

Still, avid Democrats are getting to know her. A Vermont native, Ms. Teachout, 42, worked as a death penalty lawyer in North Carolina and co-founded an organization intent on breaking up Wall Street banks. The author of a coming book on political corruption, she is on track for tenure at Fordham early next year.

Her most formative political experience came in 2003, when she became the director of online organizing for Howard Dean’s presidential campaign.

“She was terrific; she was hard-working,” Mr. Dean said during a 10th-anniversary celebration that Ms. Teachout attended for Democracy for New York City, a Dean-inspired group.

She often mentions two United States senators — Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sherrod Brown of Ohio — as role models. She also raves about State Senator Gustavo Rivera of the Bronx and Letitia James, the New York City public advocate.

She even buys into the anti-“crony capitalism” message, if not the prescription, of Dave Brat, the Virginia professor and Tea Party upstart who defeated Eric Cantor, the former House majority leader, in the Republican primary in June.

Photo

 
Ms. Teachout tried on a sari this month at the Chatpati Mela festival in Jackson Heights, Queens. She spoke with the vendors about the challenges of running small businesses. Credit Andrew Renneisen/The New York Times

Like Mr. Brat, Ms. Teachout has little money. But contributions have increased so much since Mr. Cuomo unsuccessfully tried to kick her off the ballot that a highly targeted online advertising campaign is planned. She has a paid staff of about 10, and shares a cramped office in Midtown Manhattan with lawyers, real estate brokers and a casting company.

On the trail, she often asks people what they want in a governor. She has also honed a stump speech, talking about her unusual name (yes, that is her first name, and her last name is Dutch), then touching on public schools, small businesses, transportation and infrastructure.

“In my vision we can have an economy and a democracy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy and well-connected,” she said at a street fair outside the Bronx Zoo a week ago, eliciting a few “that’s right” replies.

To get around, Ms. Teachout usually takes public transportation or relies on rides from volunteers, especially when she travels to Ithaca, Binghamton and other areas to fire up “fractivists.” One afternoon she spent $65 to take five people, including an aide and an independent filmmaker, from the Bronx to Queens by livery cab.

Things do not always go according to plan.

At the Chatpati Mela celebration in Jackson Heights, for example, she could not distribute any campaign literature (black-and-white photocopies) or speak onstage — it was a strictly nonpartisan affair.

Unfazed, she talked excitedly with vendors until she stumbled upon some Bangladeshis selling saris. After hearing about the travails of establishing small businesses, she bought an orange one for $20, and tried it on.

“Should I wear this to my debate with Governor Cuomo?” she joked.

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A version of this article appears in print on August 25, 2014, on page A15 of the New York edition with the headline: Cuomo Opponent Unbowed by Underdog Status.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 24th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 From Daniel Pipes:

Dear Reader:

The article below began life as a presentation at a Muslim conference in Toronto a week ago and is today published in Turkish and English by a newspaper in Turkey.

Also: I appeared August 22 on Sun News Network’s The Arena with Michael Coren, and discussed “Hamas and ISIS on the Rampage.” It’s studio quality and 8 minutes long. Click here.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Pipes


The Caliphate Brings Trauma.

by Daniel Pipes
Ayd?nl?k (Turkey)
August 24, 2014

www.danielpipes.org/14791/caliphate-trauma

Without warning, the ancient and long powerless institution of the caliphate returned to life on June 29, 2014.
What does this event augur?

The classic concept of the caliphate – of a single successor to Muhammad ruling a unified Muslim state – lasted just over a century and expired with the emergence of two caliphs in 750 CE.

The power of the caliphate collapsed in about the year 940 CE. After a prolonged, shadowy existence, the institution disappeared altogether in 1924. The only subsequent efforts at revival were trivial, such as the so-called Kalifatsstaat in Cologne, Germany. In other words, the caliphate has been inoperative for about a millennium and absent for about a century.

 

“The Kaplan Case,” a German magazine cover story about the “Caliph of Cologne.”


The group named the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria conquered the city of Mosul, population 1.7 million, in June; days later, it adopted the name Islamic State and declared the return of the caliphate. Its capital is the historic town of Raqqa, Syria (population just 220,000), which not-coincidentally served as the caliphate’s capital under Harun al-Rashid for 13 years.

Under the authority of an Iraqi named Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim, the new caliphate projects boundless ambition to rule the entire world (“east and west”) and to impose a uniquely primitive, fanatical, and violent form of Islamic law on everyone.

 

{Harun al-Rashid was the fifth Abbasid Caliph. His actual birth date is debatable, and various sources give dates from 763 to 766. His surname translates to “the Just,” “the Upright” or “the Rightly-Guided.”  He died: March 24, 809 AD, Tous, Iran.

Al-Rashid ruled from 786 to 809, during the peak of the Islamic Golden Age. His time was marked by scientific, cultural, and religious prosperity. Islamic art and music also flourished significantly during his reign. He established the legendary library Bayt al-Hikma (“House of Wisdom”) in Baghdad in modern-day Iraq, and during his rule Baghdad began to flourish as a center of knowledge, culture and trade.

In 796, he moved his court and government to Ar-Raqqah in modern-day Syria.

Since Harun was intellectually, politically, and militarily resourceful, his life and his court have been the subject of many tales. Some are claimed to be factual, but most are believed to be fictitious. An example of what is factual, is the story of the clock that was among various presents that Harun had sent to Charlemagne. The presents were carried by the returning Frankish mission that came to offer Harun friendship in 799. Charlemagne and his retinue deemed the clock to be a conjuration for the sounds it emanated and the tricks it displayed every time an hour ticked.  Among what is known to be fictional is  The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, which contains many stories that are fantasized by Harun’s magnificent court and even Harun al-Rashid himself.

Amongst some Shia Muslims he is despised for his role in the murder of the 7th Imam, Musa ibn Ja’far.

(These lines above were  added by PJ when editing this material for SustainabiliTank.info as we wonder how the ISIS fighters reconcile their deeds with the historic image that put the Ar-Raqqah town on the Caliphate’s map?)}

Caliphs of Baghdad
(749–1258)

 

 

Harun al-Rashid as imagined in a 1965 Hungarian stamp.

 

I have predicted that this Islamic State, despite its spectacular rise, will not survive: “confronted with hostility both from neighbors and its subject population, [it] will not last long.” At the same time, I expect it will leave a legacy:

No matter how calamitous the fate of Caliph Ibrahim and his grim crew, they have successfully resurrected a central institution of Islam, making the caliphate again a vibrant reality. Islamists around the world will treasure its moment of brutal glory and be inspired by it.

 

Looking ahead, here is my more specific forecast for the current caliphate’s legacy:

1. Now that the ice is broken, other ambitious Islamists will act more boldly by declaring themselves caliph. There may well be a proliferation of them in different regions, from Nigeria to Somalia to Afghanistan to Indonesia and beyond.

2. Declaring a caliphate has major implications, making it attractive to jihadis across the umma (the worldwide Muslim community) and compelling it to acquire sovereign control of territory.

3. The Saudi state has taken on a quasi-caliphal role since the formal disappearance of the Ottoman caliphate in 1924. With the emergence of the Raqqa caliphate, the Saudi king and his advisors will be sorely tempted to declare their own version. If the current “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” (as the Saudi king like to be called), who just turned 90, does not indulge this claim, his successors might well do so, thereby becoming the first caliphate in a recognized state.

 


Pope Benedict XVI (right) met in 2007 with Saudi king (and future Caliph?) Abdullah.
{is this picture a sign of things to come – the Saudi King’s ambition to speak for all Islam?}


4. The Islamic Republic of Iran, the great Shi’ite power, might well do the same, not wanting to be conceptually out-gunned by the Sunnis in Riyadh, thus becoming the second formal caliphal state.

5. This profusion of caliphs will further exacerbate the anarchy and internecine hostility among Muslim peoples.

6. Disillusion will quickly set in. Caliphates will not bring personal security, justice, economic growth, or cultural achievement. One after another, these self-declared universal states will collapse, be overrun, or let lapse their grandiose claims.

7. This caliphate-declaring madness will end some decades hence, with a return to roughly the pre-June 29, 2014, conditions. Looking back then on the caliphal eruption, it will appear as an anachronistic anomaly, an obstacle to modernizing the umma, and a bad dream.

 

In short, declaring the caliphate on June 29 was a major event; and the caliphate is an institution whose time has long passed and, therefore, whose revival bodes much trauma.

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Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. This paper was first delivered at a QeRN Academy conference on “The Caliphate as a Political System: Historic Myth or Future Reality?” in Toronto on August 16, 2014. © 2014 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

Related Topics:  History, Islam This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 24th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

SundayReview | Opinion

The Climate Swerve.

By ROBERT JAY LIFTON,  The New York Times,

AMERICANS appear to be undergoing a significant psychological shift in our relation to global warming. I call this shift a climate “swerve,” borrowing the term used recently by the Harvard humanities professor Stephen Greenblatt to describe a major historical change in consciousness that is neither predictable nor orderly.

The first thing to say about this swerve is that we are far from clear about just what it is and how it might work. But we can make some beginning observations which suggest, in Bob Dylan’s words, that “something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is.” Experience, economics and ethics are coalescing in new and important ways. Each can be examined as a continuation of my work comparing nuclear and climate threats.

The experiential part has to do with a drumbeat of climate-related disasters around the world, all actively reported by the news media: hurricanes and tornadoes, droughts and wildfires, extreme heat waves and equally extreme cold, rising sea levels and floods. Even when people have doubts about the causal relationship of global warming to these episodes, they cannot help being psychologically affected. Of great importance is the growing recognition that the danger encompasses the entire earth and its inhabitants. We are all vulnerable.

This sense of the climate threat is represented in public opinion polls and attitude studies. A recent Yale survey, for instance, concluded that “Americans’ certainty that the earth is warming has increased over the past three years,” and “those who think global warming is not happening have become substantially less sure of their position.”

Falsification and denial, while still all too extensive, have come to require more defensive psychic energy and political chicanery.

But polls don’t fully capture the complex collective process occurring.

The most important experiential change has to do with global warming and time. Responding to the climate threat — in contrast to the nuclear threat, whose immediate and grotesque destructiveness was recorded in Hiroshima and Nagasaki — has been inhibited by the difficulty of imagining catastrophic future events. But climate-related disasters and intense media images are hitting us now, and providing partial models for a devastating climate future.

At the same time, economic concerns about fossil fuels have raised the issue of value. There is a wonderfully evocative term, “stranded assets,” to characterize the oil, coal and gas reserves that are still in the ground. Trillions of dollars in assets could remain “stranded” there. If we are serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sustaining the human habitat, between 60 percent and 80 percent of those assets must remain in the ground, according to the Carbon Tracker Initiative, an organization that analyzes carbon investment risk. In contrast, renewable energy sources, which only recently have achieved the status of big business, are taking on increasing value, in terms of returns for investors, long-term energy savings and relative harmlessness to surrounding communities.

Pragmatic institutions like insurance companies and the American military have been confronting the consequences of climate change for some time. But now, a number of leading financial authorities are raising questions about the viability of the holdings of giant carbon-based fuel corporations. In a world fueled by oil and coal, it is a truly stunning event when investors are warned that the market may end up devaluing those assets. We are beginning to see a bandwagon effect in which the overall viability of fossil-fuel economics is being questioned.

Can we continue to value, and thereby make use of, the very materials most deeply implicated in what could be the demise of the human habitat? It is a bit like the old Jack Benny joke, in which an armed robber offers a choice, “Your money or your life!” And Benny responds, “I’m thinking it over.” We are beginning to “think over” such choices on a larger scale.

This takes us to the swerve-related significance of ethics. Our reflections on stranded assets reveal our deepest contradictions. Oil and coal company executives focus on the maximum use of their product in order to serve the interests of shareholders, rather than the humane, universal ethics we require to protect the earth. We may well speak of those shareholder-dominated principles as “stranded ethics,” which are better left buried but at present are all too active above ground.

Such ethical contradictions are by no means entirely new in historical experience. Consider the scientists, engineers and strategists in the United States and the Soviet Union who understood their duty as creating, and possibly using, nuclear weapons that could destroy much of the earth. Their conscience could be bound up with a frequently amorphous ethic of “national security.” Over the course of my work I have come to the realization that it is very difficult to endanger or kill large numbers of people except with a claim to virtue.

The climate swerve is mostly a matter of deepening awareness. When exploring the nuclear threat I distinguished between fragmentary awareness, consisting of images that come and go but remain tangential, and formed awareness, which is more structured, part of a narrative that can be the basis for individual and collective action.

In the 1980s there was a profound worldwide shift from fragmentary awareness to formed awareness in response to the potential for a nuclear holocaust. Millions of people were affected by that “nuclear swerve.” And even if it is diminished today, the nuclear swerve could well have helped prevent the use of nuclear weapons.

With both the nuclear and climate threats, the swerve in awareness has had a crucial ethical component. People came to feel that it was deeply wrong, perhaps evil, to engage in nuclear war, and are coming to an awareness that it is deeply wrong, perhaps evil, to destroy our habitat and create a legacy of suffering for our children and grandchildren.

Social movements in general are energized by this kind of ethical passion, which enables people to experience the more active knowledge associated with formed awareness. That was the case in the movement against nuclear weapons. Emotions related to individual conscience were pooled into a shared narrative by enormous numbers of people.

In earlier movements there needed to be an overall theme, even a phrase, that could rally people of highly divergent political and intellectual backgrounds. The idea of a “nuclear freeze” mobilized millions of people with the simple and clear demand that the United States and the Soviet Union freeze the testing, production and deployment of nuclear weapons.

Could the climate swerve come to include a “climate freeze,” defined by a transnational demand for cutting back on carbon emissions in steps that could be systematically outlined?

With or without such a rallying phrase, the climate swerve provides no guarantees of more reasonable collective behavior. But with human energies that are experiential, economic and ethical it could at least provide — and may already be providing — the psychological substrate for action on behalf of our vulnerable habitat and the human future.

———————————-

Robert Jay Lifton is a psychiatrist and the author of “Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima,” and a memoir, “Witness to an Extreme Century.”

A version of this op-ed appears in print on August 24, 2014, on page SR4 of the New York edition with the headline: The Climate Swerve.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 23rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor

Saudis Must Stop Exporting Extremism:

ISIS Atrocities Started With Saudi Support for Salafi Hate.

By ED HUSAIN,  

ALONG with a billion Muslims across the globe, I turn to Mecca in Saudi Arabia every day to say my prayers. But when I visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the resting place of the Prophet Muhammad, I am forced to leave overwhelmed with anguish at the power of extremism running amok in Islam’s birthplace. Non-Muslims are forbidden to enter this part of the kingdom, so there is no international scrutiny of the ideas and practices that affect the 13 million Muslims who visit each year.

Last week, Saudi Arabia donated $100 million to the United Nations to fund a counterterrorism agency. This was a welcome contribution, but last year, Saudi Arabia rejected a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council. This half-in, half-out posture of the Saudi kingdom is a reflection of its inner paralysis in dealing with Sunni Islamist radicalism: It wants to stop violence, but will not address the Salafism that helps justify it.

Let’s be clear: Al Qaeda, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram, the Shabab and others are all violent Sunni Salafi groupings. For five decades, Saudi Arabia has been the official sponsor of Sunni Salafism across the globe.

Most Sunni Muslims around the world, approximately 90 percent of the Muslim population, are not Salafis. Salafism is seen as too rigid, too literalist, too detached from mainstream Islam. While Shiite and other denominations account for 10 percent of the total, Salafi adherents and other fundamentalists represent 3 percent of the world’s Muslims.

Unlike a majority of Sunnis, Salafis are evangelicals who wish to convert Muslims and others to their “purer” form of Islam — unpolluted, as they see it, by modernity. In this effort, they have been lavishly supported by the Saudi government, which has appointed emissaries to its embassies in Muslim countries who proselytize for Salafism. The kingdom also grants compliant imams V.I.P. access for the annual hajj, and bankrolls ultraconservative Islamic organizations like the Muslim World League and World Assembly of Muslim Youth.

After 9/11, under American pressure, much of this global financial support dried up  {something this website doubts indeed – a PJ comment}, but the bastion of Salafism remains strong in the kingdom, enforcing the hard-line application of outdated Shariah punishments long abandoned by a majority of Muslims. Just since Aug. 4, 19 people have been beheaded in Saudi Arabia, nearly half for nonviolent crimes.

We are rightly outraged at the beheading of James Foley by Islamist militants, and by ISIS’ other atrocities, but we overlook the public executions by beheading permitted by Saudi Arabia. By licensing such barbarity, the kingdom normalizes and indirectly encourages such punishments elsewhere. When the country that does so is the birthplace of Islam, that message resonates.

I lived in Saudi Arabia’s most liberal city, Jidda, in 2005. That year, in an effort to open closed Saudi Salafi minds, King Abdullah supported dialogue with people of other religions. In my mosque, the cleric used his Friday Prayer sermon to prohibit such dialogue on grounds that it put Islam on a par with “false religions.” It was a slippery slope to freedom, democracy and gender equality, he argued — corrupt practices of the infidel West.

{ Above is an oxymoron – Wahhabism is the religious base that kept Salafism alive and is the base on which was mounted the Saudi throne. The Saudi monarchy and Wahhabism are one and the same so the Saudi treasury it is also the modern age father of Salafism. And what fills the Saudi treasury? Those are the foreign currencies spent at any gas-pump – be it by buying Saudi oil products or any oil products. As oil is fungible, any oil sold globally increases the value of Saudi oil sales.The bottom line is thus that anyone of us, by his thirst for oil, feeds ISIL.}

This tension between the king and Salafi clerics is at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s inability to reform. The king is a modernizer, but he and his advisers do not wish to disturb the 270-year-old tribal pact between the House of Saud and the founder of Wahhabism (an austere form of Islam close to Salafism). That 1744 desert treaty must now be nullified. 

{WHAT IS HE TALING ABOUT HERE – WHAT TENSION? IT REALLY IS A SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP.
(PJ comment)}

The influence that clerics wield is unrivaled. Even Saudis’ Twitter heroes are religious figures: An extremist cleric like Muhammad al-Arifi, who was banned last year from the European Union for advocating wife-beating and hatred of Jews, commands a following of 9. 4 million. The kingdom is also patrolled by a religious police force that enforces the veil for women, prohibits young lovers from meeting and ensures that shops do not display “indecent” magazine covers. In the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the religious police beat women with sticks if they stray into male-only areas, or if their dress is considered immodest by Salafi standards. This is not an Islam that the Prophet Muhammad would recognize.

Salafi intolerance has led to the destruction of Islamic heritage in Mecca and Medina. If ISIS is detonating shrines, it learned to do so from the precedent set in 1925 by the House of Saud with the Wahhabi-inspired demolition of 1,400-year-old tombs in the Jannat Al Baqi cemetery in Medina. In the last two years, violent Salafis have carried out similar sectarian vandalism, blowing up shrines from Libya to Pakistan, from Mali to Iraq. Fighters from Hezbollah have even entered Syria to protect holy sites.

Textbooks in Saudi Arabia’s schools and universities teach this brand of Islam. The University of Medina recruits students from around the world, trains them in the bigotry of Salafism and sends them to Muslim communities in places like the Balkans, Africa, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Egypt, where these Saudi-trained hard-liners work to eradicate the local, harmonious forms of Islam.

What is religious extremism but this aim to apply Shariah as state law? This is exactly what ISIS (Islamic State) is attempting do with its caliphate. Unless we challenge this un-Islamic, impractical and flawed concept of trying to govern by a rigid interpretation of Shariah, no amount of work by a United Nations agency can unravel Islamist terrorism.

Saudi Arabia created the monster that is Salafi terrorism. It cannot now outsource the slaying of this beast to the United Nations. It must address the theological and ideological roots of extremism at home, starting in Mecca and Medina. Reforming the home of Islam would be a giant step toward winning against extremism in this global battle of ideas.

—————————

Ed Husain is an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a senior adviser to the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on August 23, 2014, on page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: Saudis Must Stop Exporting Extremism

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 23rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

From the Ashes of Iraq: Mesopotamia Rises Again.

by Alexander H. Joffe
The National Interest – Posted also by The Middle East Forum
August 20, 2014

www.meforum.org/4780/iraq-mesopotamia-rises-again

 

The dissolution of the colonial creation named “Iraq” is now almost complete. Perhaps what comes next is a return to the past; not a brutal Islamic “caliphate,” but something more basic.

Today, Mesopotamia is reappearing. The term is a Greek word meaning “the land between the two rivers.” The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are the defining features, each arising in mountains far to the north of Baghdad. The rivers and their annual floods defined the landscape, the cycle of life and the worldview of civilizations. The deserts to the west and the mountains to the east and far north provided rough boundaries and were liminal spaces related to the center, but yet separate and apart, sunbaked and dangerous. Inside Mesopotamia was a cauldron.

From the Sumerians of the third millennium BCE through the Assyrian and Babylonian civilizations of the second and first millennia BCE, to the Abbasids of the eighth century CE and until the arrival of the British in the early twentieth century, the space called Mesopotamia was the container for civilizations that rose and collapsed. Cultures invented writing and built the first cities, growing and shrinking in response to changing river courses and global climate. They conquered and were conquered, traded with surrounding regions, and formed a baggy but recognizable whole—what we call Mesopotamian civilization.

{Let’s remember history as it really happened – not as it was dreamed-up b y the French and British Empires, and later on by the American Oil-Industry forging an American Empire of Oil. The bottom line of this posting we are getting to is that thre never were Nations of Iraq or Syria and it seems now that there never will be a repeat of what the colonial powers did here for their own purpose. This article leads us to undeerstand that in Mesopotamia – as a region – there always was a strong South opposed by a North with a middle moving in between the two, and in contact with an arid desert West and an arid mountain area on the East. (PJ comment)}

Internal distinctions were paramount. Babylonia in the south was dominated by the rivers and the annual flood, irrigation agriculture and seemingly unrelenting heat and mud. Assyria in the northern, rain-fed zone sat amidst undulating plains and foothills. Culturally, Babylonia was older and more developed, the “heartland of cities” going back to 4000 BCE, a primacy that Assyria acknowledged even in periods when they dominated the south. By and large, both shared the same deities and myths, the same aggressive tendencies, and the same fear and loathing of surrounding regions. But competition, warfare and repression were constant.

For inhabitants, that is to say the kings and priests whose thoughts we read on clay tablets many millennia later, Mesopotamia the whole, a unity of north and south, was an ideal—the supreme prize, something overseen by the gods—to be aspired to and claimed by quotidian rulers. But, much like the idea of “Iraq,” it was conceptual, rather than practical. The south often dominated the north and vice versa, but never for very long.

Then, as now, the neighbors were a problem. One historical parallel seems especially apposite today. The Third Dynasty of Ur was short-lived, existing from around 2212 to 2004 BCE. It arose in southern Mesopotamia after the fall of the Semitic Akkadian Empire and revived the culture of the original or dominant southern ethnic group, the Sumerians. This dynasty created a fanatically integrated state, where temples, palaces and estates spun elaborate networks of supply and whose record keeping was unprecedented. As a territorial state, it was not far-flung; its core area extended only from modern Baghdad south to the Arabian Gulf, but it briefly reached into Iran and Assyria.

Toward the end of the dynasty, however, ruler Su-Sin faced a growing threat, the Amorites. These Semitic-speaking peoples arose somewhere on the middle stretches of the Euphrates River and surrounding steppe-lands in what is, for now, called Syria. Amorites were regarded with contempt and fear by the neo-Sumerians. It was said they did not cultivate grain, nor did they cook their meat. They did not even bury their dead.

Whether this terrifying image was correct or was something cultivated by Ur III scribes, Amorites themselves, or both is unknown. But Su-Sin’s response was to build a wall—the “wall against the Martu,” perhaps 280 kilometers in length—to keep the Amorites out. It didn’t work, any better than other walls in antiquity designed to keep barbarians out. The Ur III dynasty collapsed and was followed by centuries of conflict between various dynasties.

Eventually, the Amorites took control, their most famous scion being Hammurabi of Babylon. Like all Mesopotamian dynasties before and since, it was necessary to connect with the greater Mesopotamian tradition; Hammurabi’s lineage was crafted to show he descended from ancient kings and was the restorer of justice. Hammurabi’s famous “law code” described him as the pious defender of widows and orphans, when in fact he was their maker. No surprise that Saddam Hussein was often depicted with Hammurabi and with Nebuchadnezzar, destroyer of the temple in Jerusalem. Similarly, ISIS’ claims to the Islamic “caliphate,” to the restoration of glory and piety can be viewed through the same lens. In Mesopotamia, the past is always charter.

As concession to divisive reality, the Ottoman Turks had ruled Mesopotamia with three administrative units, in which a bewildering assortment of ethnic groups coexisted uncomfortably. About the Sunni-dominated state created by Britain, their “Iraq,” a revived medieval term, little more need be said. The claptrap monarchy they invented gave way to a repressive and then tyrannical “republic.” As it happened, America disposed of Saddam Hussein, although the Arab Spring may have done the same. In a historical irony, an act of imperialist intervention thus undid a previous one.

So it is as well with Syria, now divided into warring territories along lines familiar three thousand years ago. Many, especially ISIS itself, pointed to the vehement erasure of the so-called “Sykes-Picot” line, the 1916 boundary between British and French spheres of influence, from which the borders of Iraq and Syria were drawn. ISIS even bulldozed the berm that marked this mostly arbitrary line.

The symbolism of Sykes-Picot in the minds of Westerners and Islamists alike is telling, if nothing else, of the psychological impact of the last century. Their borders, drawn with thick pencils on imprecise maps, looked to the future, to a Middle East under Western domination. Iraq, and Syria, created holes where none existed.

Iraq has fractured along traditional lines; Kurdistan in the north, the Sunni regions around Baghdad and west toward the Euphrates and the Shiite regions of the south. These correspond roughly to Assyria and Babylonia, and the swing zones in the middle over which they fought endlessly. Hordes more terrifying than the Amorites—judging from their tweets of mass murder and crucifixion—rush in from the west while Persia struggles to defend its Shiite vassal state in Baghdad.

More of what is old is new again. ISIS threatens the Haditha Dam on the Euphrates, which if destroyed, would unleash catastrophic floods, much as the Assyrian king Sargon II did in 710 BCE against rebellious Babylonian ruler Merodach-Baladan. Cutting off the water supply, as ISIS did when it captured the Fallujah Dam earlier this year, is an even more ancient tactic; the cities of Lagash and Umma had fought a water war around 2500 BCE.

Ethnic cleansing and mass slaughter, proud announcement of the mutilation and execution of captives as nearly religious expressions of power, arbitrary decisions to provision or starve captive populations—all these are ancient Mesopotamian patterns of conflict. Only the destruction of Islamic religious buildings and sites by ISIS is truly new; Mesopotamian dynasties were fastidious about maintaining or restoring the cults and temples of conquered city-gods, even though the gods’ statues might “choose” to dwell in the conqueror’s city.

Geography is the container for cultures and helps create their possibilities and limits. Iraq was always a figment, as well as an ideal held by people who, for a few decades following the European style, thought of themselves as a nation-state. But underlying dynamics have proven stronger, and Iraq is no more. The ancient cauldron returns and decades of warring tribes and dynasties likely await.

——————–

Alex Joffe is editor of The Ancient Near East Today, the monthly e-newsletter of the American Schools of Oriental Research. He is also a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Related Topics:  Iraq  |  Alexander H. Joffe

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Commentary Magazine

Contentions

Israel’s Record on Civilian Casualties Compares Well to America’s.

@EvelynCGordon -  08.19.2014 – The Commentary Magazine.

Writing in the Washington Post last Friday, Natan Sharansky argued that Western nations are quite right to hold Israel to a higher standard than its nondemocratic neighbors; the problem is that they hold Israel to a higher standard than they hold themselves. Many Westerners would doubtless deny doing so. But for proof, just compare the recent war in Gaza to the Iraq War.

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2009, of the victims of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq whose age and gender could be determined, 46 percent were women and 39 percent were children. The study, based on data from Iraq Body Count, covered the period from March 2003 to March 2008, but specifically excluded airstrikes carried out during periods of intense fighting, such as the initial U.S. invasion and the 2004 battle of Fallujah. In other words, it excluded those periods when fire was likely to be heaviest and most indiscriminate due to the need to protect troops at risk.

By contrast, according to statistics published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 12 percent of all Palestinians killed in Gaza were women and 23 percent were children (239 women and 459 children out of 1,976 fatalities). Thus even if OCHA’s numbers are accurate, the percentages of women and children killed in Gaza were far lower than the percentages killed in U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. Yet one would expect them to be higher, for at least three reasons.

First, unlike the NEJM study, OCHA’s figures cover the entire war, including periods of intense fighting when soldiers’ lives were at risk. In other words, they include the battles involving the heaviest fire, which NEJM’s study excluded. Second, the NEJM figures referred only to airstrikes, which utilize precision weapons; OCHA’s figures also include people killed by non-precision weaponry such as artillery fire. Third, though the claim that Gaza is one of the world’s mostly densely populated places is nonsense, almost all the fighting took place in dense urban areas: Since Hamas’s strategy depends on massive civilian casualties, it locates its rocket launchers and tunnels mainly in such areas. In contrast, U.S. airstrikes in Iraq weren’t limited to dense urban areas.

In short, even if OCHA’s figures are credible, Israel comes off well by comparison with coalition forces in Iraq. But in fact, they aren’t. First, OCHA doesn’t say whether any of these “children” were combatants, though it’s hardly unheard of for 16- or 17-year-old Palestinians to bear arms. More importantly, however, it doesn’t say how many of these women and children were actually killed by Hamas rather than Israel.

As I’ve noted before, almost a sixth of all Palestinian rockets launched at Israel–475 out of 3,137–actually landed in Gaza, where, given the lack of either Iron Dome or civilian bomb shelters, they would have been far more lethal than they were in Israel. In one documented case alone, a misfired Hamas rocket killed 10 people in a park, including eight children.

Moreover, as I’ve also noted, Hamas’s practice of booby-trapping and storing rockets in houses, mosques, and clinics means that many Israeli strikes inadvertently set off massive secondary explosions. In other words, many Palestinian “victims of Israeli attacks” were likely killed not by the Israeli strike itself, but by secondary explosions caused by Hamas’s own bombs.

Americans rightly expect the world to understand that when U.S. airstrikes decimate a Yemeni wedding party or kill civilians in Iraq, it isn’t because the U.S. is bloodthirsty, but because mistakes happen in wartime, especially when fighting terrorists who don’t wear uniforms and operate from amid civilian populations. But Israel is entitled to that same understanding.

Instead, the White House, Pentagon, and State Department have all accused Israel in the harshest terms of doing too little to prevent civilian casualties. Given that Israel’s record on this score, as the NEJM study shows, is even better than America’s, that is the height of hypocrisy.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

How the War on Terror Created the World’s Most Powerful Terror Group.

From the hours immediately after 9/11 to the present, Washington’s policies in the Middle East have created the conditions for more—not less—jihadist terror.

The Nation, August 21, 2014  

[This essay, which originally appeared on TomDispatch, is excerpted from the first chapter of Patrick Cockburn’s new book, The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising, with special thanks to his publisher, OR Books.  The first section is a new introduction written for TomDispatch.]

 

There are extraordinary elements in the present US  policy in Iraq and Syria that are attracting surprisingly little attention. In Iraq, the US  is carrying out air strikes and sending in advisers and trainers to help beat back the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL – better known as ISIS) on the Kurdish capital, Erbil. The US  would presumably do the same if ISIS surrounds or attacks Baghdad. But in Syria, Washington’s policy is the exact opposite: there the main opponent of ISIS is the Syrian government and the Syrian Kurds in their northern enclaves. Both are under attack from ISIS, which has taken about a third of the country, including most of its oil and gas production facilities.

But US , Western European, Saudi, and Arab Gulf policy is to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, which happens to be the policy of ISIS and other jihadis in Syria. If Assad goes, then ISIS will be the beneficiary, since it is either defeating or absorbing the rest of the Syrian armed opposition. There is a pretense in Washington and elsewhere that there exists a “moderate” Syrian opposition being helped by the US , Qatar, Turkey, and the Saudis.  It is, however, weak and getting more so by the day. Soon the new caliphate may stretch from the Iranian border to the Mediterranean and the only force that can possibly stop this from happening is the Syrian army.

The reality of US  policy is to support the government of Iraq, but not Syria, against ISIS. But one reason that group has been able to grow so strong in Iraq is that it can draw on its resources and fighters in Syria. Not everything that went wrong in Iraq was the fault of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, as has now become the political and media consensus in the West. Iraqi politicians have been telling me for the last two years that foreign backing for the Sunni revolt in Syria would inevitably destabilize their country as well. This has now happened.

By continuing these contradictory policies in two countries, the US  has ensured that ISIS can reinforce its fighters in Iraq from Syria and vice versa. So far, Washington has been successful in escaping blame for the rise of ISIS by putting all the blame on the Iraqi government. In fact, it has created a situation in which ISIS can survive and may well flourish.

 

Using the al-Qa’ida Label.

The sharp increase in the strength and reach of jihadist organizations in Syria and Iraq has generally been unacknowledged until recently by politicians and media in the West. A primary reason for this is that Western governments and their security forces narrowly define the jihadist threat as those forces directly controlled by al-Qa‘ida central or “core” al-Qa‘ida. This enables them to present a much more cheerful picture of their successes in the so-called war on terror than the situation on the ground warrants.

In fact, the idea that the only jihadis to be worried about are those with the official blessing of al-Qa‘ida is naïve and self-deceiving. It ignores the fact, for instance, that ISIS has been criticized by the al-Qa‘ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri for its excessive violence and sectarianism. After talking to a range of Syrian jihadi rebels not directly affiliated with al-Qa‘ida in southeast Turkey earlier this year, a source told me that “without exception they all expressed enthusiasm for the 9/11 attacks and hoped the same thing would happen in Europe as well as the US.”

Jihadi groups ideologically close to al-Qa‘ida have been relabeled as moderate if their actions are deemed supportive of US  policy aims. In Syria, the Americans backed a plan by Saudi Arabia to build up a “Southern Front” based in Jordan that would be hostile to the Assad government in Damascus, and simultaneously hostile to al-Qa‘ida-type rebels in the north and east. The powerful but supposedly moderate Yarmouk Brigade, reportedly the planned recipient of anti-aircraft missiles from Saudi Arabia, was intended to be the leading element in this new formation. But numerous videos show that the Yarmouk Brigade has frequently fought in collaboration with JAN, the official al-Qa‘ida affiliate. Since it was likely that, in the midst of battle, these two groups would share their munitions, Washington was effectively allowing advanced weaponry to be handed over to its deadliest enemy. Iraqi officials confirm that they have captured sophisticated arms from ISIS fighters in Iraq that were originally supplied by outside powers to forces considered to be anti-al-Qa‘ida in Syria.

 

The name al-Qa‘ida has always been applied flexibly when identifying an enemy. In 2003 and 2004 in Iraq, as armed Iraqi opposition to the American and British-led occupation mounted, US  officials attributed most attacks to al-Qa‘ida, though many were carried out by nationalist and Baathist groups. Propaganda like this helped to persuade nearly 60% of US  voters prior to the Iraq invasion that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and those responsible for 9/11, despite the absence of any evidence for this. In Iraq itself, indeed throughout the entire Muslim world, these accusations have benefited al-Qa‘ida by exaggerating its role in the resistance to the US  and British occupation.

Precisely the opposite PR tactics were employed by Western governments in 2011 in Libya, where any similarity between al-Qa‘ida and the NATO-backed rebels fighting to overthrow the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, was played down. Only those jihadis who had a direct operational link to the al-Qa‘ida “core” of Osama bin Laden were deemed to be dangerous. The falsity of the pretense that the anti-Gaddafi jihadis in Libya were less threatening than those in direct contact with al-Qa‘ida was forcefully, if tragically, exposed when US  ambassador Chris Stevens was killed by jihadi fighters in Benghazi in September 2012. These were the same fighters lauded by Western governments and media for their role in the anti-Gaddafi uprising.

 

Imagining al-Qa’ida as the Mafia.

Al-Qa‘ida is an idea rather than an organization, and this has long been the case. For a five-year period after 1996, it did have cadres, resources, and camps in Afghanistan, but these were eliminated after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. Subsequently, al-Qa‘ida’s name became primarily a rallying cry, a set of Islamic beliefs, centering on the creation of an Islamic state, the imposition of sharia, a return to Islamic customs, the subjugation of women, and the waging of holy war against other Muslims, notably the Shia, who are considered heretics worthy of death. At the center of this doctrine for making war is an emphasis on self-sacrifice and martyrdom as a symbol of religious faith and commitment. This has resulted in using untrained but fanatical believers as suicide bombers, to devastating effect.

It has always been in the interest of the US  and other governments that al-Qa‘ida be viewed as having a command-and-control structure like a mini-Pentagon, or like the mafia in America. This is a comforting image for the public because organized groups, however demonic, can be tracked down and eliminated through imprisonment or death. More alarming is the reality of a movement whose adherents are self-recruited and can spring up anywhere.

 

Osama bin Laden’s gathering of militants, which he did not call al-Qa‘ida until after 9/11, was just one of many jihadi groups 12 years ago. But today its ideas and methods are predominant among jihadis because of the prestige and publicity it gained through the destruction of the Twin Towers, the war in Iraq, and its demonization by Washington as the source of all anti-American evil. These days, there is a narrowing of differences in the beliefs of jihadis, regardless of whether or not they are formally linked to al-Qa‘ida central.

 

Unsurprisingly, governments prefer the fantasy picture of al-Qa‘ida because it enables them to claim victories when it succeeds in killing its better known members and allies. Often, those eliminated are given quasi-military ranks, such as “head of operations,” to enhance the significance of their demise. The culmination of this heavily publicized but largely irrelevant aspect of the “war on terror” was the killing of bin Laden in Abbottabad in Pakistan in 2011. This enabled President Obama to grandstand before the American public as the man who had presided over the hunting down of al-Qa‘ida’s leader. In practical terms, however, his death had little impact on al-Qa‘ida-type jihadi groups, whose greatest expansion has occurred subsequently.

 

Ignoring the Roles of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan  !!!

The key decisions that enabled al-Qa‘ida to survive, and later to expand, were made in the hours immediately after 9/11. Almost every significant element in the project to crash planes into the Twin Towers and other iconic American buildings led back to Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden was a member of the Saudi elite, and his father had been a close associate of the Saudi monarch. Citing a CIA report from 2002, the official 9/11 report says that al-Qa‘ida relied for its financing on “a variety of donors and fundraisers, primarily in the Gulf countries and particularly in Saudi Arabia.”

The report’s investigators repeatedly found their access limited or denied when seeking information in Saudi Arabia. Yet President George W. Bush apparently never even considered holding the Saudis responsible for what happened. An exit of senior Saudis, including bin Laden relatives, from the US  was facilitated by the US  government in the days after 9/11. Most significant, 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission Report about the relationship between the attackers and Saudi Arabia were cut and never published, despite a promise by President Obama to do so, on the grounds of national security.

In 2009, eight years after 9/11, a cable from the US  secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, revealed by WikiLeaks, complained that donors in Saudi Arabia constituted the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide. But despite this private admission, the US  and Western Europeans continued to remain indifferent to Saudi preachers whose message, spread to millions by satellite TV, YouTube, and Twitter, called for the killing of the Shia as heretics. These calls came as al-Qa‘ida bombs were slaughtering people in Shia neighborhoods in Iraq. A sub-headline in another State Department cable in the same year reads: “Saudi Arabia: Anti-Shi’ism as Foreign Policy?” Now, five years later, Saudi-supported groups have a record of extreme sectarianism against non-Sunni Muslims.

Pakistan, or rather Pakistani military intelligence in the shape of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was the other parent of al-Qa‘ida, the Taliban, and jihadi movements in general. When the Taliban was disintegrating under the weight of US  bombing in 2001, its forces in northern Afghanistan were trapped by anti-Taliban forces. Before they surrendered, hundreds of ISI members, military trainers, and advisers were hastily evacuated by air. Despite the clearest evidence of ISI’s sponsorship of the Taliban and jihadis in general, Washington refused to confront Pakistan, and thereby opened the way for the resurgence of the Taliban after 2003, which neither the US  nor NATO has been able to reverse.

The “war on terror” has failed because it did not target the jihadi movement as a whole and, above all, was not aimed at Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the two countries that fostered jihadism as a creed and a movement. The US  did not do so because these countries were important American allies whom it did not want to offend. Saudi Arabia is an enormous market for American arms, and the Saudis have cultivated, and on occasion purchased, influential members of the American political establishment. Pakistan is a nuclear power with a population of 180 million and a military with close links to the Pentagon.

 

The spectacular resurgence of al-Qa‘ida and its offshoots has happened despite the huge expansion of American and British intelligence services and their budgets after 9/11. Since then, the US, closely followed by Britain, has fought wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and adopted procedures normally associated with police states, such as imprisonment without trial, rendition, torture, and domestic espionage. Governments wage the “war on terror” claiming that the rights of individual citizens must be sacrificed to secure the safety of all.

In the face of these controversial security measures, the movements against which they are aimed have not been defeated but rather have grown stronger. At the time of 9/11, al-Qa‘ida was a small, generally ineffectual organization; by 2014 al-Qa‘ida-type groups were numerous and powerful.

In other words, the “war on terror,” the waging of which has shaped the political landscape for so much of the world since 2001, has demonstrably failed. Until the fall of Mosul, nobody paid much attention.

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August 21, 2014  
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What Cockburn did not say is that US Intelligence was happy to work with the officials in Pakistan and with the Sunni preachers and moneyed Saudis in Cold War days in order to pep up the Muslim opposition to the Soviet Infidels in Afghanistan. That was the start of scourge-building instigated by the US & Pakistani Intelligence services. The Ginny that was unleashed never went back into the Foggy-Bottom bottle. His success in Afghanistan those days encouraged the Saudi Wahhabi preachers  to want ever more. They wanted a more Islamic strict Saudi Monarchy and were ready to settle for Saudi money support to move their attacks against non-Saudi targets – why not the US infidel?It was the alliance between the House of Bush and the House of Saud that eventually wove together the two Oil-States.

It was the cover the Bush family gave to the Bin-Ladin Family after 9/11 that bared the liaison for all to see.

Then – still with glimpses of oil as blinders on their eyes – the CIA  after 9/11 ventured into Afghanistan and Iraq establishing dubious local alliances that we see crumbling these days when a new US President tried to decide he had enough of it. He has a very tough time, and seemingly an impossible task, if he were to try to stop the Middle East from sliding back into a new pre-civilization era.

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

The changing landscape of religion.

Laxenburg, Austria, 20 August 2014: The mixes of religion and ethnicity in society are changing in Vienna, Europe, and the world. IIASA research provides a demographic perspective. 

Religion is a key factor in demography, important for projections of future population growth as well as for other social indicators. A new journal, Yearbook of International Religious Demography, is the first to bring a quantitative demographic focus to the study of religion. The journal is co-edited by IIASA researcher Vegard Skirbekk, an expert in the field of religious demography. The first edition of the journal includes three studies by IIASA researchers:
 

Vienna: Growing diversity in religion and ethnicity.

The city of Vienna is growing increasingly diverse in both religion and ethnicity, according to a new study by IIASA researcher Markus Speringer and Ramon Bauer of the Vienna Institute for Demography, which explored how Vienna’s ethnic and religious diversity has developed from 1970 to 2011.

The study reflects Vienna’s changing religious and ethnic structure, which has seen increased migration since 1970. By 2011, almost a third of Vienna’s population was foreign-born, the study showed. But while in 2001, a majority of those immigrants came from Turkey and the former Yugoslavia, in 2011 the immigrant population was far more diverse, including many newcomers from Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria.

At the same time, the percentage of Roman Catholics has declined in the city, from nearly 80% in 1971 to less than 50% in 2001. This decline is due to both an increase in religious disaffiliation as well as an influx of people of different religions, the study shows.

The study also assessed the makeup of Vienna’s neighborhoods – showing that most migrants live in Vienna’s inner districts, in diverse, mixed neighborhoods. The outer districts of Vienna, by contrast, are mainly home to people born in Austria with a catholic religious affiliation.

 

Europe:  Immigration and religious switching.

Christians still make up 75% of people in Europe, according to a second paper published in the journal, which quantified Europe’s population by religious affiliation. The study, led by IIASA researcher Marcin Stonawski, showed that the next-largest group (18%) of Europeans claims no religious affiliation, and Muslims are the third-largest group with about 6% of the population. The study estimated religious distribution by age and sex for 42 countries – the first to provide such a detailed demographic analysis over all of Europe. It shows that the Christian population is relatively old, with a median age of 41.7 years, while the median age for the Muslim population was 31.8 years.
Contact: Marcin Stonawski stonaw@iiasa.ac.at


A third paper published in the new journal provides the methodology behind the Pew Research Global Religious Landscape Study published in 2012, the most thorough demographic analysis to date of global religious populations. The study, based on more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers, found that 84% of the 2010 world population was affiliated with a religion. The study also found that roughly one-in-six people around the globe had no religious affiliation.

The report included estimates of the religious composition of over 230 countries and territories and, for the first time ever, median age data for followers of each religion. The study documented a wide gulf between the median age of Muslims (23) and Jews (36).
 
The report was produced by the Pew Research Center in collaboration with researchers from the Age and Cohort Change Project (ACC) at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), including Vegard Skirbekk, Marcin Stonawski and Michaela Potancokova.
Contact: Vegard Skirbekk  skirbekk@iiasa.ac.at

Reference
Feng, Kuishuang, Klaus Hubacek, Stephan Pfister, Yang Yu, Laixiang Sun. 2014. “Virtual Scarce Water in China.” Environmental Science and Technology, dx.doi.org/10.1021/es500502q.

For PDF copies of the studies highlighted in this release please contact IIASA Press Officer Katherine Leitzell.

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

 

Sunday, August 17 2014 -  The America Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) spearheaded by US Jewish organizations presented at Union Square, New York,  speakers from South Sudan, the Kurdish Nation, The Christian Copts of Sudan and Egypt. One could see among the sea of Israeli flags also the flag of a free Kurdistan and the Coptic Cross of the individual Christian Communities being exterminated in present day Muslim Africa. I asked myself Where are those that fought the Apartheid in South Africa – except the Jews? South African Apartheid was a much milder phenomenon then what goes on in Nigeria and Sudan, Syria and Iraq, these days – right under our eyes.

WE RECEIVED THE  ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT THE SUNDAY UNION SQUARE DEMONSTRATION FROM THE CHASSIDA SHMELLA ORGANIZATION OF THE ETHIOPIAN BLACK JEWS THAT RESIDE NOW IN THE US. THEY LIVED AMONG THE ETHIOPIAN CHRISTIANS – SO THEY DID NOT HAVE THE EXACT EXPERIENCE AS THE COPTS OF THE SUDAN, BUT NEVERTHELESS THEY ARE FIRST IN LINE TO UNDERSTAND AFRICA – AND THAT IS OBVIOUS IN THE WAY THEY REACT TO EVERYTHING THAT HAS TO DO WITH TRUE DISCRIMINATION BECAUSE OF RACE OR RELIGION. THAT UNION SQUARE DEMONSTRATION IS FOLLOWED NOW BY A NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE AUTHORED BY FORMER US AMBASSADOR RONALD LAUDER – A REPUBLICAN.

They had at that meeting also Hindu, Sikh, Caldeans and Buddhists – and among the flags was also the flag of India.
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The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor

Who Will Stand Up for the Christians?

By RONALD S. LAUDER  – The New York Times –

Credit Edel Rodriguez

 

WHY is the world silent while Christians are being slaughtered in the Middle East and Africa? In Europe and in the United States, we have witnessed demonstrations over the tragic deaths of Palestinians who have been used as human shields by Hamas, the terrorist organization that controls Gaza. The United Nations has held inquiries and focuses its anger on Israel for defending itself against that same terrorist organization. But the barbarous slaughter of thousands upon thousands of Christians is met with relative indifference.

The Middle East and parts of central Africa are losing entire Christian communities that have lived in peace for centuries. The terrorist group Boko Haram has kidnapped and killed hundreds of Christians this year — ravaging the predominantly Christian town of Gwoza, in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria, two weeks ago. Half a million Christian Arabs have been driven out of Syria during the three-plus years of civil war there. Christians have been persecuted and killed in countries from Lebanon to Sudan.

Historians may look back at this period and wonder if people had lost their bearings. Few reporters have traveled to Iraq to bear witness to the Nazi-like wave of terror that is rolling across that country. The United Nations has been mostly mum. World leaders seem to be consumed with other matters in this strange summer of 2014. There are no flotillas traveling to Syria or Iraq. And the beautiful celebrities and aging rock stars — why doesn’t the slaughter of Christians seem to activate their social antennas?

President Obama should be commended for ordering airstrikes to save tens of thousands of Yazidis, who follow an ancient religion and have been stranded on a mountain in northern Iraq, besieged by Sunni Muslim militants. But sadly, airstrikes alone are not enough to stop this grotesque wave of terrorism.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is not a loose coalition of jihadist groups, but a real military force that has managed to take over much of Iraq with a successful business model that rivals its coldblooded spearhead of death. It uses money from banks and gold shops it has captured, along with control of oil resources and old-fashioned extortion, to finance its killing machine, making it perhaps the wealthiest Islamist terrorist group in the world. But where it truly excels is in its carnage, rivaling the death orgies of the Middle Ages. It has ruthlessly targeted Shiites, Kurds and Christians.

“They actually beheaded children and put their heads on a stick” a Chaldean-American businessman named Mark Arabo told CNN, describing a scene in a Mosul park. “More children are getting beheaded, mothers are getting raped and killed, and fathers are being hung.”

This week, 200,000 Aramaeans fled their ancestral homeland around Nineveh, having already escaped Mosul.

The general indifference to ISIS, with its mass executions of Christians and its deadly preoccupation with Israel, isn’t just wrong; it’s obscene.

In a speech before thousands of Christians in Budapest in June, I made a solemn promise that just as I will not be silent in the face of the growing threat of anti-Semitism in Europe and in the Middle East, I will not be indifferent to Christian suffering. Historically, it has almost always been the other way around: Jews have all too often been the persecuted minority. But Israel has been among the first countries to aid Christians in South Sudan. Christians can openly practice their religion in Israel, unlike in much of the Middle East.

This bond between Jews and Christians makes complete sense. We share much more than most religions. We read the same Bible, and share a moral and ethical core. Now, sadly, we share a kind of suffering: Christians are dying because of their beliefs, because they are defenseless and because the world is indifferent to their suffering.

Good people must join together and stop this revolting wave of violence. It’s not as if we are powerless. I write this as a citizen of the strongest military power on earth. I write this as a Jewish leader who cares about my Christian brothers and sisters.

The Jewish people understand all too well what can happen when the world is silent. This campaign of death must be stopped.

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Ronald S. Lauder is the president of the World Jewish Congress.
{A Former US Ambassador and head of a very rich American Jewish family}

A version of this op-ed appears in print on August 20, 2014, on page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: Who Will Stand Up for the Christians?.

 

SOME OF THE COMMENTS:

“Everyone who believes in religious freedom should protest the efforts of Boko Haram and ISIS to persecute Christians and other religious…”

“I couldn’t care less about some contrived and convenient “bond between Jews and Christians”. Let’s hear it for the bonds between humans. The…”

“Ron, please remember that groups like ISIS were not a factor while that predator Saddam still ruled the jungle. Please remember that the…”

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