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Azerbaijan and the Two EUs. (?? – this is our comment)
by Amanda Paul – a Policy Analyst at the European Policy Centre in Brussels, where she deals with the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood, Russia, Turkey and Eurasia Region. She is also a columnist for the Turkish Daily, Today’s Zaman.
Of the six countries in the EU’s Eastern Partnership (EaP), Azerbaijan is the only one that has not chosen to definitively align itself with either the EU or Russia. With the signing of Association Agreements with the EU on June 27, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia declared their strategic choice to further integrate with the EU and, despite Russian opposition and aggression, stated full membership as their goal. Meanwhile, Belarus and Armenia have taken another path, choosing Russia’s Eurasian Union (EaU).
Azerbaijan, as Georgia and Armenia, is located at a very sensitive and volatile geopolitical crossroads, sandwiched between Russia, and Iran. However, unlike its neighbors, Baku has chosen a policy of “choosing not to choose”, having a cautious approach, not wanting to openly confront and create waves with Russia. Nevertheless, when analyzing Azerbaijan’s relationships with the West and Russia, it seems that Baku’s feet are increasingly under the West’s table. In fact, this engagement is nothing new. It began 20 years ago when former President Heydar Aliyev signed the “Contract of the Century” with a consortium of Western energy companies. Over the last two decades ties with Euro-Atlantic institutions have gradually deepened, although Azerbaijan has no aspirations to join either the EU or NATO. However, Baku wants Western “know-how” to work on modernizing the country including vocational training, best practices in sectors such as energy, science and technology and education.
For the EU Azerbaijan is an important and reliable partner. While energy is the backbone of relations, with Azerbaijan the enabler of the Southern Gas Corridor, there is a desire from both sides to broaden areas of cooperation. This was underlined during a recent speech, on 12 June, at Azerbaijan’s Diplomatic Academy, by President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso. Today the two partners are moving ahead with a “Strategic Partnership for Modernization (SPM)” along with ongoing Association Agreement talks. THE SPM, which will act as a framework for cooperation, is almost ready for signature, with EU officials hoping this can be done before the end of the present European Commission in the autumn. However, with the ongoing crisis between Russia and Ukraine and the ramifications this has had on the broader region it is not impossible that signature may take place at a later date, possibly at the 2015 EU EaP Riga Summit.
This relationship is also clearly not without difficulties. While on the one hand the EU would like to see Azerbaijan take more steps towards improving democracy and human rights, Baku on the other hand would like the EU to have a more credible and consistent approach towards recognizing Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, as it does with other EaP countries that have territorial disputes — Georgia, Moldova and most recently Ukraine following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Unfortunately, the EU’s ambiguous approach towards Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity is a thorn in relations. In fact in light of Russia’s revanchist ideas, the EU should give explicit support to the territorial integrity of all EaP countries, not only those with territorial disputes.
Despite the fact that Azerbaijan has not expressed a desire to join the EU, and because Azerbaijan is not a member of the WTO it is unable to have a deep trade agreement with the EU, with Russian President Vladimir Putin apparently fixated on “rebuilding” the Soviet Union, Baku has still come under increasing pressure from Moscow, to join the EaU. In recent weeks Moscow has significantly increased its diplomatic activity with a number of visits to Baku, including from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who arrived the day after Barroso left.
Azerbaijan wants good relations with Moscow, but it also wants to maintain full control over its foreign and economic policies. Joining the EaU would affect this independence. Not only would it have no added value for Azerbaijan economically – Azerbaijan’s economy, which is currently dominated by energy sector, is increasingly linked to the West – it would also impinge on Azerbaijan’s sovereignty.
There is also little appetite for closer ties with Russia from Azerbaijani society. There is a broad dislike and distrust of Russia’s leadership, something that has been exacerbated since the Russia’s annexation of Crimea, while deep resentment also continues to exist over the role that Russia has played in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia. Furthermore, and fortunately, because the majority of Azerbaijanis prefer to watch Turkish television rather than Russian, they have not been exposed to Russia’s extensive media propaganda campaign over Ukraine.
However, while Russia presently continues to be focused on Ukraine, as with the other EaP countries in the region, Moscow may also try to impact Baku’s foreign policy choices although its leverage on Azerbaijan is less than some of the other countries in the region. All the same, some 500,000 Azerbaijanis work in Russia; Azerbaijan is home to a Russian-speaking Lezgin ethnic minority that Moscow has tried in the past to create internal tension; the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia, where Russia is key to any settlement and uses for its own self-interest and Georgia. Georgia is important to Azerbaijan because it is the transit state for Azerbaijan hydrocarbons to European markets. Instability in Georgia could be disastrous for Baku.
Ultimately, while many people believe that Moscow may try to make Baku a very tempting offer, it is highly unlikely if not totally impossible that Azerbaijan will accept it. Nevertheless with such a resurgent Russia with a President that seems to have “no limits”, the ongoing climate of uncertainty and trepidation over what may be around the corner, over what Russia may or may not do next, is of significant concern and will probably keep Baku on a very cautious track. Moreover, the fact that there has been a significant failure from the EU (and the West more generally), to adequately respond to Russia’s actions towards Ukraine, is hardly reassuring to other countries in the region either.
(This article was originally published – in a shorter form – in Today’s Zaman)
Evening Edition: ‘Very high possibility’ of Gaza invasion, Israeli official says and other headlines for this evening, Wed, Jul 16, 2014.
By Sudarsan Raghavan,, William Booth and Ruth Eglash July 16 at 6:56 PM – for The Washington Post.
JERUSALEM — On a day rattled by a fury of air attacks, Israel and Hamas found themselves Wednesday searching for a way forward, with a senior Israeli military official declaring that a ground invasion of Gaza was a “very high possibility.”
Israel announced that it will observe a unilateral “humanitarian truce” for five hours Thursday to allow Gaza residents to stock up on food and other supplies and let aid reach civilians. The pause in fighting was requested by the United Nations, said another military official, army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.
It was unclear whether Hamas would also hold its fire. The militant group rejected an earlier cease-fire proposed by Egypt, and a top Hamas leader declared that the Islamist militant group is alone in the world as it battles Israel.
Hamas continued to shower rockets Wednesday into southern and central Israel, including Tel Aviv, underscoring the extent to which the militants believe they still have the military capability to persuade Israel to accept their terms, analysts said.
“From their rationale, they are holding strong, as if they have nothing to lose,” said Miri Eisen, a former Israeli army intelligence official. She added, “If they feel they have nothing to lose, they can continue this for a long time.”
That attitude is increasing pressure on Israel. Hundreds of Israeli airstrikes have killed hundreds of Palestinians but have done little to stop Hamas rockets from striking Israeli towns. Human rights activists are accusing Israel of killing innocent civilians and possibly committing war crimes. Egypt, once a reliable ally, no longer seems to have the negotiating clout it once had.
All this is generating discussions — within Israeli political and military circles and on television, radio and editorial pages — of a possible ground invasion of Gaza in the coming days. In Tel Aviv, a high-ranking Israeli military official told reporters Wednesday that there was “a very high possibility” of such an operation, adding, “If you want to efficiently fight terrorism, you need to have boots on the ground.”
More than 113 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel on Wednesday, according to the Israeli military.
By Wednesday night, 222 people had been killed in Gaza during the nine-day operation, including 49 minors and 24 women, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. More than 1,600 people have been wounded in Gaza, the officials said.
Among the latest casualties were four Palestinian children, all younger than 12, who were killed by an Israeli missile or shell while playing on a beach in Gaza near a hotel used by foreign journalists, according to witnesses and Palestinian officials. The four boys were cousins. Seven others — adults and children — were reported wounded in the strike.
The Israeli army, calling the incident tragic, said the target had been a Hamas operative.
President Obama addressed the situation in brief White House remarks. Although he did not specifically mention the beach deaths, he said, “We are all heartbroken by the violence .?.?. especially the death and injury of so many innocent civilians in Gaza.” Obama said the United States would continue to “use all our diplomatic resources and relationships” to bring about a lasting cease-fire. “In the meantime,” he said, “we are going to support efforts to protect civilians in Israel and Gaza.”
Message to the Congregation: Israel
Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch
July 16, 2014
I hope that you have been able to slow down a bit during the summer, and are finding some time for rest and relaxation.
As you know, it has been a tense and trying summer for Israelis. Many of us have family and friends in Israel, as well as children who are on summer programs. We continue to pray for their safety and well being.
I would like to emphasize the following basic values:
Israel is on the front lines of the Western war against Islamic extremism that considers Israel to be an illegitimate presence in the Middle East. Israel deserves the political and moral support of all Western nations and freedom-loving people.
Israeli military operations are defensive in nature. No country would – or should – allow missiles to be fired on its cities and towns. The indiscriminate firing on Israeli civilians is a war crime. Every single missile fired from Gaza constitutes a war crime. The Hamas use of Palestinian civilian human shields is a war crime.
We have noted the extraordinary care employed by the Israel Defense Forces in avoiding civilian casualties. There is no other military in the world that takes such extensive precautions. At the same time we lament the suffering of innocent Palestinians caught in the crossfire, and grieve for the loss of innocent Palestinian lives. They deserve better than Hamas. Hamas bears the primary political and moral responsibility for their senseless suffering.
We condemn the savage kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers.
We condemn the savage kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teenager in revenge. We are appalled that Jews could carry out such acts of terror.
The discussion on the disproportionate numbers of Palestinian casualties relative to Israeli casualties is a moral outrage. Israel has invested billions of dollars in defensive capabilities – shelters, warning systems, civilian preparation and anti-missile technology (partially funded by US citizens). Israel does everything it can to prevent Palestinian civilian harm, including calling off bombing missions in mid flight if pilots perceive excessive risk to civilians nearby. The moral question is not whether casualties on one side are greater than the other. Rather, the question is whether the military action is proportional to the threat. Hamas rockets threaten most of Israel; they have reached as far as Haifa in the north. Millions of Israelis live under constant threat of missile attacks. In fact, many in Israel and its supporters worldwide consider the current Israeli measures not strong enough proportional to the threat.
Traditionally, American Jews have helped Israel in times of crisis by donating funds and joining a solidarity mission to Israel. We encourage you to do both.
Accordingly, we have established an Israel Emergency Fund at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue. If you would like to make a contribution, please send your check made out to Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, clearly marked for Israel Emergency Fund. You can also donate online with a credit card here www.swfs.org/donate/.
Representatives of the synagogue board of trustees and Israel committee will decide upon the distribution of the funds. All of the money will be forwarded to worthy causes; none of the funds will be retained by the synagogue.
Also: SWFS has arranged a mission to Israel from October 17-22, 2014. Journalist Ari Shavit, author of My Promised Land, a New York Times bestseller, will accompany us throughout our five days in Israel for a unique opportunity to engage Israeli and Palestinian leaders who shape events in the Middle East I urge you to consider joining. For mission information, contact Donna Levine or call 212-877-4050 x223.
If you would like additional talking points and links to media outlets, please email our Israel committee, chaired by Alan Scheiner, at SWFS Israel and ask to be added to the mailing list so that you will receive regular updates.
With continuing prayers for the peace of Jerusalem,
Youth training at the Al-Futuwa program, where Hamas trains children to hate Israel. Photo: Paldf.net.
Nothing plays better in the mainstream media these days than wailing Gazans, mourning their dead from Israeli missile strikes responding to the unprovoked deluge of Hamas rockets on the Jewish state. As Ben Wedeman (CNN) recently reported from Jabalia, “There is no Iron Dome in Gaza to protect civilians.” But Gaza civilians most need protection from Hamas. Its leaders intentionally jeopardize their lives by embedding rocket-launching and ammunition storage sites in schools, mosques and hospitals located in civilian neighborhoods.
In Gaza, recruits for martyrdom in the holy war against Israel are urged to gather on rooftops. They are instructed by their demented leaders to serve as a human shield against Israeli retribution for thousands of rockets that have been fired into the Jewish state during the past week. The designated locations for martyrdom are not random. Beneath the rooftops are Hamas command centers and tunnels, where leaders take refuge and weapons are stored.
According to Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri: “This attests to the character of our noble, Jihad-fighting people who defend their rights and their homes with their bare chests and their blood.” He proudly cited the exemplary “martyr” Nizar Riyan, the senior Hamas leader during the 2009 Gaza war. Receiving a warning phone call from the IDF to evacuate his house, he chose to remain in place, thereby consigning his four wives, ten children and himself to martyrdom from the Israeli air strike that he knew was imminent.
Last Sunday, following rocket attacks on the Tel Aviv area, the IDF dropped leaflets in northern Gaza urging residents to evacuate their homes in advance of a retaliatory military strike to destroy embedded rocket launchers. After 4000 residents heeded the Israeli warning the Hamas Interior Ministry urged them to disregard “random messages to instill panic” and return “immediately” to their homes, the better to become human shields and gain world attention.
As Jeffrey Goldberg observed (Bloomberg, July 11), “Hamas is trying to get Israel to kill as many Palestinians as possible.” Why not? Dead Palestinians “represent a crucial propaganda victory” for an inhumane regime that has abjectly failed to provide its own people with even the most minimal amenities of civilized life: safety, food, employment, education, medical care. (It is an irony seldom noted that Gazans are still admitted for treatment in Israeli hospitals.) But Hamas leaders do not hesitate to protect themselves. They take refuge in a vast web of underground tunnels and shelters reserved for their exclusive use. Gaza civilians are expendable. Urged to become targets, their dead bodies are garishly paraded in public to stoke the Hamas cause.
As rockets fall on Israel the world grants Hamas immunity for its war crimes. Blaming the Jewish targets of Palestinian terrorism has long been a popular international trope. As the commissioner general of UNRWA, which invents Palestinian “refugees” by the millions to stay in business, recently declared: “I urgently call on the Israeli Security Forces to put an end to attacks against, or endangering, civilians . . . which are contrary to international humanitarian law.” About Hamas rockets targeting Israeli civilians he had nothing to say.
Palestinian suffering inflicted by cruel Israelis is the preferred worldwide narrative. Where better than Frankfurt, as a recent protest demonstrated, for Israel to be equated with Nazi Germany? With the cease-fire proposed by Egypt evidently crumbling, and Israeli retaliation for Hamas attacks resuming, the number of Palestinian martyrs is likely to increase. Nothing could make Hamas happier. Indeed, today’s death of four soccer-playing Palestinian boys in Gaza, struck by an Israeli missile, is certain to ratchet up rampage against Israeli retaliation for the unrelenting Hamas rocket attack.
Nobody summed up the situation more succinctly, and accurately, than Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who told Fox News: “We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using civilians to protect their missiles.”
Jerold S. Auerbach is the author, most recently, of Jewish State Pariah Nation: Israel and the Dilemmas of Legitimacy (Quid Pro Books).
Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the UN. Photo: UN Multimedia.
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor called for the “immediate” suspension of a UN spokesperson on Tuesday.
The move came as Israel is in the midst of a full-flung campaign against terror group Hamas to end rocket fire from nearby Gaza.
Prosor asked for action to be taken against Chris Gunness of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, after the spokesman encouraged reporters to interview a professor with a history of supporting terror attacks against civilians.
In a letter to Pierre Krähenbühl, UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, Prosor said, “Gunness, yet again abused his position by calling on reporters to interview Dr. Mads Gilbert, an outspoken proponent of terrorist attacks against civilians. In September 2001, Dr. Gilbert explicitly supported the ‘moral right’ of Al-Qaeda to perpetrate the 9/11 terrorist attacks against thousands of American civilians.”
In the letter, seen by The Algemeiner, Prosor included the text of a recent Twitter post from Gunness encouraging reporters to speak to Gilbert: “Great interviewee @ Shifa Hosp Gaza right now Prof Mads Gilbert +4790878740 call him 4 fatality & cas figs and atoms RT.” The message has since been deleted.
“Rather than denouncing Hamas’s targeting of innocent civilians, Mr. Gunness is shamelessly promoting an individual who shares Hamas’s morally reprehensible convictions,” Prosor said in his letter. “Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, deliberately embeds its military operations in residential areas and exploits its own civilian population as human shields. These actions constitute war crimes and should be condemned in no uncertain terms. In failing to do so, Mr. Gunness is ignoring Hamas’s abuse of the civilian population in Gaza and acting in opposition to UNRWA’s mandate.”
Prosor also accused Gunness of displaying “an ongoing pattern of anti-Israel bias,” adding, “he has abused his position to promote incitement against Israel and present a one-sided view of reality.”
Prosor said that on Monday, after Hamas fired a rocket at an electrical plant in Ashkelon cutting off power to 70,000 Gazans, “Mr. Gunness tweeted that the lights had gone out, conveniently omitting Hamas’s responsibility.”
“Israel supports UNRWA’s important humanitarian work; however, actions that encourage incitement undermine this work. UNRWA staff members have repeatedly failed to abide by the UN’s principles of neutrality and impartiality,” Prosor said.
“I ask that you immediately suspend Mr. Gunness while you investigate the matter. The integrity and impartiality of the UN demands that this matter be addressed expediently.”
A Win-Win Solution for the Negotiations over Iran’s Nuclear Program – as reported by Irith Jawetz who participated at the UN in Vienna Compound July 15th Meeting .
The Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) and Search for Common Ground invited us to attend a panel discussion titled “A Win-Win Solution for the Negotiations over Iran’s Nuclear Program,” which was held on Tuesday, 15 July 2014 at 13:00 at the Vienna Center for Disarmament & Non Proliferation (VCDNP).
As P5+1 and Iran are meeting in Vienna at Foreign Ministers level to resolve the outstanding issues preventing a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program before the 20 July deadline, a group of renown experts on the technical and political aspects of the negotiations have met at VCDNP to discuss and identify possible compromises.
Dr. Frank von Hippel, Senior Research Physicist and Professor of Public and International Affairs Emeritus at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security
Mr. Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association. Previously he was the Executive Director of the Coalition to reduce Nuclear Dangers, and the Director of Security Programs for Physicians for Social Responsibility.
This was a very timely event, as the Foreign Ministers of the P5+1 group of Nations – the U.S., U.K., France. Germany, China, and Russia – spent the weekend in Vienna discussing follow ups to the interim agreement reached between them and Iran in advance of this July 20th deadline.
At the start of the Panel discussion, it was announced that at that very moment Secretary of State John Kerry is giving his Press Conference before flying back to Washington to report to President Obama about the negotiations. He is willing to come back next weekend for the July 20-th continuation of the discussions.
Ambassador Miller was the first speaker, and he gave a rather optimistic view of the situation. His presentation had more of a political nature. In his presentation he said that the basic principles of the negotiations is to assure that Iran has no nuclear weapons . Iran has the capability, brain, expertise and knowhow but has no strategic moral or ethical reason to develop nuclear weapons to be used as weapons of mass destruction.
It is a fact, though, that the Iranians insist on use of peaceful nuclear energy – to what extent it is peaceful and how can the rest of the world be sure that it will be peaceful, this is why the negotiations have to succeed. Ambassador Miller is hopeful that, after 35 years of the current regime in Iran, those negotiations will result in a positive answer.
Ambassador Miller commended all the participating teams, the Press and Academia. First he mentioned the top quality Iranian team at the negotiations, many of the participants he knows personally. They were able, motivated, and anxious to find a solution. The US team, led by Secretary Kerry did a remarkably good job, as did the rest of the teams. He commended the Press who were persistent – fully covered the negotiations and were very professional – and academia who helped with background information.
————— Mr. Daryl G.Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association talked about a solution for the Iranian Uranium-Enrichment Puzzle. In his presentation he stressed that “Solutions that prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, lower the risk of yet another major conflict in the region, and still provide Iran with the means to pursue a realistic, peaceful nuclear program are within reach” – he said.
Progress has already been achieved on several key issues – stregthening International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections and oversight at existing and undeclared sites. … Iran has agreed to modify its Arak heavy-water reactor to drastically cut its plutonium output, and a general framework has been developed to waive, and eventually lift, sanctions against Iran. … Nevertheless, the two sides have more work to do to bridge differences on the most difficult issue: limiting Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity.As part of a comprehensive deal, Iran and the P5+1 have to agree on several steps to constrain Iran: limit uranium enrichment to levels of less than 5% – keep stocks of its enriched uranium near zero – and halt production-scale work at the smaller Fordow enrichment plant and convert it to research-only facility.
He shares Ambassador Miller’s hope and positive outlook that the negotiations will succeed. Anything less than success will be a catastrophe.
The last speaker was Dr. Frank von Hippel who is a Senior Research Physicist and Professor of Public and International Affairs Emeritus at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security.Dr. von Hippel gave a very technical presentation about the Possible elements of a compromise on Iran’s Nuclear Program.
Potential sources of fissile material from Iran’s nuclear energy program are:
1. Plutonium presence in reactor fuel (current issue is Arak reactor)
2. Iran’s centrifuge enrichment complex.
There are two stages in rationalizing the Current situartion:
Iran currently has installed 18,000 IR-1 centrifuges – the compromise would be:
1) to retire IR-1 and replace it with already installed IR-2ms to support research-reactor LEU needs.
2) Continued transparency for Iran’s centrifuge production – possibly as a template for enhanced transparency for centrifuge production worldwide.
3) Continued minimization of stocks of low enriched UF6.
Stage 1 will provide time to cool down an inflamed situation and would provide Iran and the West an opportunity for a cooler assessment of the costs and benefits of diferent possible paths.
In stage II, negotiations might agree on a solution currently beyond reach and also lay a base for a new global regime for enrichment.
National or Multi-National enrichment? A global Issue.
National – Every state has the right to enrich fuel for power reactor fuel. However today only Brazil, China, Iran, Japan and Russia have completely independent national civilian enrichment programs.
Multinational – Urenco (Germany, Netherland, UK) . Today Urenco owns the only operating U.S,. civilian enrichment plant.
Building in Flexibility for Iran:
1. Iran should have access to nuclear reactor and fuel vendors worldwide – to ensure that it is getting a good price and reliable delivery.
2. Iran could build up stockpile of fabricated fuel for Bushehr. That would take care of Iran’s fuel security concerns and make it easier for Iran to postpone a large domestic enrichment capacity or depend on a multinational enrichment plant – perhape equiped with Iranian centrifuges in another country in the Middle East.
Dr. von Hippel COPLIMENTED his theory with charts.
The consensus at the end of the discussion was that the negotiations seem to go well, and all panelists, as well as some members of the audience expressed their hope that they will indeed succeed. Ambassador Miller even went as far as to state that Iran at the moment is the most stable nation in the region, and we have to take advantage of it, make sure the negotiation succeed, and bring Iran back to the International community.
In the news today it was reported that Secretary of State John Kerry was on his way to Washington to brief President Obama on the negotiations – rather then on a prior advertised new effort in the Israel-Palestine arena. He was hopeful, but also said there are still some points which need to be clarified.
Further last comment by SustainabiliTank editor – we add – taken from a Thom Friedman article about a different issue:
We accept that in the future the World true powers of today – The US, China, India, Russia, Japan and the EU – and we like to add Brazil as well – will have to meet their minds and harmonize what ought to be a global leadership for a safe future planet. Just ad hoc chaperoning specific issues will be proven to be not enough.
The way to find a solution to the issue of a nuclear Iran shows that in the globalized world of today there must be an international guiding force. But on this much more has to be written for the sake of Sustainability.
For many, this has raised the question of whether they will watch the game together. But the more basic question is whether Francis, 77, of Argentina, and Benedict, 87, of Germany, will be watching at all, given that the match begins at 9 p.m. in Italy and may not end until nearly midnight.
Francis and Benedict have both lived on the grounds of the Vatican since Francis was elected to the papacy in March 2013, after Benedict’s historic resignation. Initially, some analysts speculated that the arrangement might breed intrigue: Would the Vatican be divided between two popes? Instead, the two men have apparently forged a warm friendship, as Benedict has quietly receded from public life while Francis has emerged as a major global figure.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, who has fielded soccer questions this week with a chuckling amusement, doubted the two men would watch the game together, or at all. He noted that Benedict, a scholarly theologian and author of a multipart meditation on the life of Jesus, has never been much of a soccer fan, “though he clearly understands that it’s important to many people.” (In March 2012, Benedict did greet the German star Miroslav Klose at the Vatican.)
The first Latin American pope, Francis is unquestionably a fan, who as archbishop of Buenos Aires cheered for San Lorenzo, a local soccer club. After San Lorenzo won the Argentine championship last year, a small delegation of managers and players came to the Vatican in December to present Francis with a trophy and an inscribed team jersey that read, “Francisco Campeon,” or “Francis Champion.”
Last August at the Apostolic Palace, Francis welcomed the national teams of Italy and Argentina, including the star Argentine striker Lionel Messi, before the two sides played a friendly match in Rome. Francis managed to duck a question about which country he would be rooting for (Argentina won, 2-1), even as he called on the athletes to be role models for young people.
Francis also asked players on both teams to pray for him, according to The Associated Press, “so that I, on the ‘field’ upon which God placed me, can play an honest and courageous game for the good of us all.”
In that spirit, the Vatican Pontifical Council for Culture has launched a “Pause for Peace” campaign and is asking for a global moment of silence before Sunday’s match to remember people enduring war and conflict.
And will the pope be watching on Sunday night?
Father Lombardi said the pope “sent the Argentine team his best wishes before the tournament,” but added that Francis watches very little television, “and especially at that hour.”
“Above all,” he added, “I think they both want the best team to win. They’re above partisan passion. In this, they are united.”
A version of this article appears in print on July 12, 2014, on page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: An Argentine and a German, but No Sign at the Vatican of a World Cup Rivalry.
S.E. Giorgio Marrapodi
The Italian Ambassador to Vienna
Europäische Kommission – Vertretung in Österreich, Leiter a.
the representative of the EU in Vienna.
On July 1, 2014 Italy took over the Presidency of the European Union. The Europa Club Wien invitedHis Excellency Ambassador Giorgio Marrapodi, Italy’s Ambassador to Vienna to lay out Italy’s Priotities during the Italian Presidency of the Council of the EU .
Mr. Johann Sollgruber, Head of the Austrian Chamber of the European Commission was the Chair and Moderator of the event.
Mr. Sollgruber started the event by greeting HE Giorgio Marrapodi and thanking him for coming. Itly’s Ambassador -Mr.Marrapodi - lay out a vast program, which Italy will tackle during its Presidency. It is a very ambitious program. He spoke of the main issues that Italy will try to solve – and we will just highlight in short a few of those:
Creating jobs among young people, especially now with the high unemployment rate in many of the EU countries, which will require not only finding jobs, but also training and educating young people; Economic growth and stability of the banking system througout the EU;
Developing a common EU position on Climate Change and Energy;
Tackling the very difficult problem of Migration, refugees who seek sylum in the EU countries and there he stressed the immense problem his country is facing ; Fundamental Human Rights and equal rights for men and women;
The Global Role of the EU in getting involved in the problems of the Mediterranean Region, Middle East, Libya Syria, Iraq, Ukraine;
Economic Partnership between the EU, Canada and Japan in Trade and Investment;
Promotion of Macro-Regional strategies;
For a full program of Italy’s challenges for their Presidency please log on to their website at: www.italia2014.eu
Ambassador Marrapodi then went on to inform us of the EXPO Milano 2015 which will take place in Milan between May 1, 2015 to October 31, 2015. Expo Milan will be the largest worldwide event ever organized on the theme of Food: “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”.
For full information about the Expo please log on to their website at: www.expo2015.org.
Mr. Sollgruber introduced His Excellency Ambassador Edgars Skuja, Latvia’s Ambassador to Austria. Latvia will take over the Presidency after Italy from January 1, 2015 to June 30, 2015. Ambassador Skuja said that he is looking forward to work with his Italian colleague in preparing his country’s first ever Presideny and he will be happy to report to us in January 2015.
At the End of the event we were invited for a glass of wine and some delicacies from Umbria, courtesy of the Embassy of Italy.
For whoever is curious: Umbria, is a region of historic and modern central Italy. It is the only Italian region having neither a coastline nor a common border with other countries. It includes the Lake Trasimeno, Cascata delle Marmore, and is crossed by the River Tiber
As reported by Irith Jawetz from the Vienna Seminar., July 1, 2014.
Seminar: “Brazil’s Nuclear Kaleidoscope: An Evolving Identity.”
On Tuesday, July 1, 2014, The Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) hosted a seminar by Dr. Todzan Kassenova, that had the above title. It was both – important and informative.
Dr. Kassenova is an Associate in the Nuclear Program at the Carnegie Endowment based in Washington DC. She currently works on issues related to the role of emerging powers in the global nuclear order, weapons of mass destruction, non proliferation, nuclear security, and strategic trade management. She also serves on the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament matters.
Prior to joining the Carnegie Endowment, Dr. Kassenova worked as senior research associate at the Center for International Trade and Security in Washington DC, as a postdoctoral fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, and as an Adjunct faculty member at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
Previously she was a journalist and professor in her native Kazakhstan.
Today’s seminar focused on Dr. Kassenova’s recently published a research paper on this topic – on which she worked for two years – it focuses on focusing on Brazil’s Nuclear program.
In order to do some justice to that very involved topic, we would just highlight a few points from that research study.
For the electronic copy of the report please visit CarnegieEndowment.org
An important point Dr. Kassenova stressed at the very beginning of her talk was that negative past experiences explain why Brazil seeks nuclear independence. Brazil tried first to obtain nuclear technology from abroad, i.e. France, Germany, the USA, prompting Brasilia to develop domestic capabilities.
Currently Brazil mines uranium, produces nuclear fuel, operates two nuclear power plants and is building a third.
The Brazilian navy is important in the nuclear field as well, it developed uranium conversion and enrichment technology, and since the 1970s has been working on a nuclear powered submarine.
The nuclear submarine program is essential in order to protect Brazil’s coast and offshore natural resources, and to stave off potential enemies from the sea. Brazil wants to bolster its international standing with that program.
Rivalry with Argentina was initially a drive of Brazil’s nuclear program. Today both countries work together in a bilateral nuclear safeguards regime to verify their nuclear activities are peaceful.
Brazil has not signed an IAEA Additional Protocol on nuclear safeguards because it is reluctant to accept additional non proliferation obligations as long as nuclear weapon states do not achieve meaningful progress towards nuclear disarmament.
Brazil’s nuclear policy, especially its advanced nuclear fuel cycle and its nuclear powered submarine project generate attention internationally, but little is known about the domestic drives behind that program. Dr. Kassenova based her study on numerous conversations over two years with Brazilian policy experts, academics, former and current officials, and representatives of the nuclear industry.
For more information, please log on to Dr. Kassenova’s full report at: carnegieendowment.org/2014/03/12/brazil-s-nuclear-kaleidoscope-evolving-identity/h2rx.
If you think really hard, I wonder how many animals you can think of that occur in the Bible and fulfill a role? First there was the snake in the Garden of Eden, then there were the pairs of every species that went into the Ark with Noah – but what else? The raven and the dove that helped in the search for dry land after the Flood; the ram that sacrificed itself for Isaac; the speckled sheep that helped to make Jacob’s fortune and which still survive as a recognized breed today, called Jacob’s sheep; the ravens that helped feed Elijah when he was hiding from Jezebel; the she-bear that devoured the children who abused Elisha, his successor; the wild and domestic animals whose peaceful coexistence is such a beautiful metaphor of the Messianic age in the writings of Isaiah; the whale that helped Jonah perform his mission to the people of Niniveh. And doubtless there are others too that have slipped my mind.
However, in the entire Bible there is only one mammal that talks, and I have left her till last. It is the she-ass of the pagan prophet Balaam which plays a significant role in the portion of Balak.
Balaam is an Aramean who is summoned by Balak, the ruler of Moab, to curse the Israelites and, in so doing, halt their march towards his country. He has heard of their advance to date and is fearful of their intentions, so something special must be done to stop them. Balaam’s reputation must have been very high, for not only is he called from a long way away, but he is also offered a massive fee to perform Balak’s bidding. As is so often the case in human life, though, things do not transpire in exactly the way either Balak or Balaam intend. God is not prepared to have the Israelites cursed, and tells Balaam this in no uncertain terms; if anyone is going to give the Israelites a broch (misery, disaster), it will be Me, not you, God seems to say. To further make the point, Balaam sees the Israelites encamped in a valley from a mountain vantage point.
He sees how numerous they are, and realises that God is with them, that God has blessed them, and that as long as this is the case there is nothing he can do to curse them, whatever Balak his employer may say.
Unfortunately, although Balaam is quite clearly meant to be understood by us as being a cut above the run of pagan seers, especially as he is given the opportunity to approach God directly and to experience divine revelation without any intermediary, he is nevertheless not as bright as he should be; indeed, in the key aspect of his story he is so downgraded as to be bested by a donkey.
Before looking at the story again, let me digress a little bit about modes of transport in the ancient world. Apart from walking, or being pulled in carts drawn by oxen, there were three animals on which one could ride. The ass, the symbol of patience and understanding in ancient Jewish sources, which had two names: Hamor, the male, used as a beast of burden as well as a means of transport, and the Aton, the female of the species, used only for riding and usually owned by the rich and well-to-do. The camel, or to be more precise the dromedary, camelus dromedarius, which was one of the first domesticated animals, used largely for transporting goods or people over long distances, and whose remains have been found in Egypt from the time of the beginning of the First Pharaonic dynasty, c.3000 BCE. And the horse, used for war, which was something of a luxury in biblical times and was not indigenous to the Middle East, being introduced there from the steppes of Asia and Africa.
In this tale, Balaam, riding his she-ass (a sign of his wealth and position), sets off in contravention of what he has been told by God, to curse the Israelites. An angel is sent to block his path and prevent him from fulfilling his intention: Balaam, however, cannot see the angel, identified by the rabbis as the Angel of Mercy, but here an adversary, and it is only because the she-ass sees it that her master is saved from death.
Balaam, however, does not understand why his mount is continually shying and gets more and more angry with her and violent towards her, beating her with his stick each time she disobeys him; in the end he is so wild that he tells her that if he had a sword he’d kill her, a sure sign of the pitch of his frustration.
There is a lovely twist in this part of the tale, because although Balaam does not have a sword the angel does, and Balaam is informed by the angel that had the ass not seen what was in front of her and shied away, he, Balaam, would have been killed by the sword and the ass would have been spared. In fact, the story is full of twists and ironies, so replete in fact that scholars have suggested that it was not part of the original tale and that it was interpolated for a specific purpose. They also point out that it does not fit properly with the context in which it falls.
So what was the reason for the tale? The answer seems clear. The story is designed to humiliate Balaam, who could not be forgiven for having desired to curse Israel, and not out of conviction either, but for money. Balaam wants to subdue Israel with words, so he is unable to subdue his ass with a stick. He claims prophetic sight, but is unable to see what his ass sees three times. He claims prophetic speech, because God puts words in his mouth, but he is now matched by his ass. He is extremely wise, or so he makes out, but in conversation he is bested by his ass, supposedly a stupid animal. Balaam would slay Israel with his words but cannot even slay his ass with a sword. And when the angel, who does hold a sword, is finally revealed to him, it states as I have already mentioned, that if the ass had not stopped him from proceeding, the angel would have killed him with the sword and spared the she-ass’s life.
Clearly, then, as some scholars have remarked, this story is a lampoon, inserted to downgrade the reputation of Balaam; it demonstrates that this heathen seer, intent on cursing Israel without God’s consent is in reality a fool, a caricature of a seer, outwitted even by his beast of burden.
It is also possible that the tale is part of a genre of folk stories, spread among many peoples, concerning confrontations with negative or demonic forces while making a journey. An example from Italy states (T. Gaster, Myth, Legend, and Custom in the Old Testament, vol.1, p.310):
Between Aci Castello and San Filipo, there is an ancient oak, haunted by spirits who prevent anyone from passing. A man who once found himself at the spot around midnight and who wanted at all costs to forge ahead, was knocked so violently against the walls on either side of the road that he died. Another, who likewise reached the place at midnight with his donkey, was forced to turn back. And a laborer who came by one day with a cartload of hay saw the rear-axle of his vehicle buckle and the oxen stop in a fit of terror. He had to take to his heels, leaving everything by the roadside.
If we can derive anything else from this story – beyond, that is, its clear statement of the stupidity of Balaam and his shortsightedness – it is the fact that animals are often much more percipient and quick-witted than we are.
They sense things, and become aware of things, before we do, and in many cases show greater intelligence. All of which makes the crimes we perpetrate against them, be it through horrific laboratory experiments, innate cruelty, the quest for food that could just as easily come from other sources, the lust for their riches like ivory, or the morally despicable hunting of whales, quite indefensible.
As Madame de Stael once remarked: “the more I come to know men, the more I love my dog”.
Seen in this light, Balaam and his ass become nothing less than paradigms: he for the myopia of men and women, she for the suffering of an innocent animal kingdom. As we ponder this thought, I am sure that we should not ignore the fact that in the final analysis it is the beast, not the man, who is vindicated.
It was a World Cup full of goals, political intrigue and pressure of an expectant home crowd. Amid equal measures of excitement and agony, penalties decided most of the second round games. In the end, an unlikely champion was crowned.
Not to be confused with the World Cup finals now underway in Brazil, this tournament took place last month in the northern Swedish city of Ostersund. As 203 national teams fought a two-and-a-half-year battle across six continents to qualify for Brazil, the Swedish tournament, called the Conifa World Cup, was played by national teams not recognized by FIFA, the sport’s governing body.
The participating teams represent a collection of unrecognized states, ethnic groups, islands and “frozen conflict” zones. Some want to raise awareness of their unique culture, while others hope for greater autonomy and perhaps even a nation of their own. And one of the first steps toward that, they believe, is having a national soccer team.
The 12-team tournament included Iraqi Kurdistan, a self-governing region in the north of Iraq; Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both separatist states within Georgia; and Darfur, from Sudan.
Membership in FIFA can be intensely political. For many teams, membership confers legitimacy and a shot at reaching the World Cup finals, a huge stage from which to wave their nation’s flag.
Palestine — recognized as a “nonmember observer state” by the United Nations and a member of FIFA since 1998 — now has a national stadium near Ramallah and has attempted to qualify for four World Cup finals. Other teams, like Kosovo, have been unable to join European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, because of political lobbying from Serbia. When Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on the Iberian Peninsula claimed by Spain, tried to join FIFA, Spain threatened to pull all of its teams — including the powerhouses of Barcelona and Real Madrid — from the European Champions League and international football. Despite the political pressure, Gibraltar became a member of UEFA in 2013 and hopes to join FIFA next.
Almost all of the teams in Sweden have little chance of political recognition, and little chance of joining FIFA or any of its six confederations. The Conifa World Cup is the best opportunity for some of them to play international football.
Darfur, playing its first games on a grass field, lost its debut match 20-0, and its second 19-0. In the quarterfinals Abkhazia met South Ossetia in the Georgian frozen conflict zone derby (South Ossetia won on penalties). But it was the county of Nice, from the South of France, and Ellan Vannin, the national team of the Isle of Man, a self-governing British crown dependency, that met in the final.
The match finished 0-0 and, like the 1994 World Cup final between Brazil and Italy, was decided by a penalty shootout. Nice prevailed, but for the players the tournament meant more than merely winning. “This has been about culture and friendship,” Conor Doyle of Ellan Vannin told Isle of Man News. “We showed our culture to the rest of the world. We’ve done our island proud.”
Our week-end update is Bravo Colombia for eliminating Uruguay that advanced thanks to one of their players biting an Italian player before that game was over – then scored one more goal. We did not see any clear excuse on part of Uruguay for the misdeed – that is for the third time a repeating crazy activity on the part of that player.
Brazil failed by not taking clear stand on a crime committed on its territory and on its watch as hosts of these games.
FIFA failed miserably by eliminating only the culprit player and this only for the rest of this com petition. They did not even make the minimum effort of recommending psychiatric treatment for the player who was left rejoining a British or Spanish team that might think they can now bask in his increased fame. Only decent reaction we found from advertisers that used his fame as a player for their TV adds. Some already pulled of those advertisements hitting him in his pockets. But how long will this last?FIFA must be restructured and the fact that there are allegations of bribery against their executive just increases the call for personnel change in that organization. Only clean sport should prevail. The present situation is not sustainable.
Luis Suarez Apologizes For Biting Rival At World Cup
by Krishnadev Calamur
Luis Suarez holds his teeth after biting Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder during last week’s World Cup match between Italy and Uruguay in Brazil. FIFA has banned Suarez for nine games and four months over the incident.
Ricardo Mazalan/APUpdated at 2:14 p.m. E
Controversial Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez apologized Monday for in last week’s World Cup soccer game between their two countries.
FIFA, soccer’s governing body, for nine games and fined him 100,000 Swiss francs (about $112,000) for the act, and banned him from any soccer activity for four months. Uruguay, playing without their star player on Saturday, in the knockout stage of the World Cup being held in Brazil.
Chiellini himself said he thought the ban was “,” and on Monday, responding to Suarez’s tweet, he tweeted: “I hope FIFA will reduce your suspension.”
——————————– THESE ARE REACTIONS IN THE WORLD OF THE BUSINESS OF FOOTBALL/SOCCER NOT IN THE WORLD OF ETHICS.
Why Luis Suarez should be banned from the remainder of the World Cup
World Soccer Spotlight
Why Luis Suarez should be banned from the remainder of the World Cup
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Uruguayan media makes no mention of Suarez bite
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — As the world was judging Uruguay‘s Luis Suarez for biting a player in the World Cup, his teammates, coaches and fans in World Cup organizers scrambled Wednesday to quickly decide on a punishment before Uruguay plays Colombia Saturday in the round of 16.
”We have to resolve it either today or tomorrow,” FIFA disciplinary panel member Martin Hong told reporters Wednesday.
”It’s our duty to see justice done.”
The disciplinary committee meeting was already underway on Wednesday evening, FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer said.
Wilmar Valdez, Uruguay football federation president, told the Associated Press shortly after midnight local time that the disciplinary hearing will continue Thursday morning.
”What we know is they (the disciplinary panel) met for a long time,” he said. ”We don’t know if that’s a good or a bad situation.’
”Luis is fine. He’s been through 1001 battles,” he told the online site Tenfield.com on Wednesday. ”We all know who Luis is and that’s why we have to defend him.”
The bite – just before Uruguay scored the clinching goal to eliminate the four-time champion Italians -will now test FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s often-stated commitment to ”fair play, discipline, respect.”
Blatter, who was in the crowd for the Uruguay-Italy match at Natal, has pledged a zero tolerance for the darker side of the game.
Many are questioning where that leaves a player like Suarez, who has a history of disciplinary problems including separate bans of seven and 10 matches for biting opponents in the Netherlands and England.
Valdez said Uruguay officials were sent a video of the incident by FIFA, and would respond with footage showing Suarez – a striker for Liverpool and last season’s player of the year in England’s Premier League – as a victim of Italian aggression.
”When he falls, several substitutes insult him on the ground and some members of Italy’s staff even came out of the bench to try to hit him,” Valdez said, suggesting FIFA could investigate Italy.
Uruguay also will cite Brazil star Neymar getting only a yellow card in a clash with a Croatia player, Valdez said.
Uruguay federation board member Alejandro Balbi, who is Suarez’s lawyer, blamed European media reporting.
”This happened because there have been campaigns launched by the media in England and Italy,” Balbi told Uruguayan radio Sport 890.
Uruguay’s Luis Suarez holds his teeth after running into Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini’s sho …
”The British media has a vendetta against Suarez, and everyone knows that,” he said. ”It’s obvious the vendetta sells newspapers in England, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Uruguay and Italy played yesterday. On Saturday Uruguay plays Colombia, I don’t know why there’s a British journalist asking about Suarez.”
Lugano said he had seen ”much more violent plays” than the bite at the World Cup.
”It was a normal taunt in football, and the world press ends up talking about something totally trivial,” he said.
FIFA’s case against Suarez – announced early Wednesday – will be managed by a Swiss lawyer, Claudio Sulser, chairman of the FIFA disciplinary committee. A former international forward himself, Sulser has worked for four years at FIFA, first as head of its ethics court.
10ThingstoSeeSports – Uruguay’s Luis Suarez holds his teeth after running into Italy’s Giorg …
Sulser can choose to judge the offense within the scale of typical red-card incidents: A three-match ban may then be appropriate, banishing Suarez at least until the World Cup final should Uruguay advance that far.
The maximum penalty would be a ban of 24 international matches.
FIFA can also choose to ban Suarez for up to two years. That would cover club and international games and would ruin a widely speculated transfer to Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Suarez and the Uruguay football federation had until 5 p.m. local time Wednesday (4 p.m. EDT/2000 GMT) to present a documented defense.
Completing the case ahead of Saturday’s match could be complicated if Suarez appeals. That challenge could go direct to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland for an urgent and binding ruling.
Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini displays his shoulder showing apparent teeth marks after colliding wit …
However, one option open to FIFA and Sulser to avoid that scenario is that a suspension of ”fewer than three matches or of up to two months” cannot be appealed, according to FIFA rules.
Already, one of Suarez’s sponsors said it was ”reviewing our relationship with him.”
”We will not tolerate unsporting behavior,” 888poker said in a Twitter message.
Last month, the firm announced a global endorsement contract with Suarez, a poker enthusiast.
adidas, which also has Suarez as a client and is FIFA’s longest standing World Cup sponsor, said it was monitoring the case.
Meanwhile, Suarez was criticized by a Uruguay football great Alcides Ghiggia, the last survivor of the team which defeated Brazil to win the 1950 World Cup.
Suarez ”plays well but he has done things that are not normal for a player nor for a soccer game,” Ghiggia told The AP. ”I think FIFA can sanction him.”
AP Sports Writer Rob Harris in Rio de Janeiro and Associated Press writer Leonardo Haberkorn in Montevideo, Uruguay, contributed to this report
America’s favorite national pastime: Hating soccer.
By Ann Coulter
I’ve held off on writing about soccer for a decade — or about the length of the average soccer game — so as not to offend anyone. But enough is enough. Any growing interest in soccer can only be a sign of the nation’s moral decay.
(1) Individual achievement is not a big factor in soccer. In a real sport, players fumble passes, throw bricks and drop fly balls — all in front of a crowd. When baseball players strike out, they’re standing alone at the plate. But there’s also individual glory in home runs, touchdowns and slam-dunks.
In soccer, the blame is dispersed and almost no one scores anyway. There are no heroes, no losers, no accountability, and no child’s fragile self-esteem is bruised. There’s a reason perpetually alarmed women are called “soccer moms,” not “football moms.”
Do they even have MVPs in soccer? Everyone just runs up and down the field and, every once in a while, a ball accidentally goes in. That’s when we’re supposed to go wild. I’m already asleep.
(2) Liberal moms like soccer because it’s a sport in which athletic talent finds so little expression that girls can play with boys. No serious sport is co-ed, even at the kindergarten level.
(3) No other “sport” ends in as many scoreless ties as soccer. This was an actual marquee sign by the freeway in Long Beach, California, about a World Cup game last week: “2nd period, 11 minutes left, score: 0:0.” Two hours later, another World Cup game was on the same screen: “1st period, 8 minutes left, score: 0:0.” If Michael Jackson had treated his chronic insomnia with a tape of Argentina vs. Brazil instead of Propofol, he’d still be alive, although bored.
Even in football, by which I mean football, there are very few scoreless ties — and it’s a lot harder to score when a half-dozen 300-pound bruisers are trying to crush you.
(4) The prospect of either personal humiliation or major injury is required to count as a sport. Most sports are sublimated warfare. As Lady Thatcher reportedly said after Germany had beaten England in some major soccer game: Don’t worry. After all, twice in this century we beat them at their national game.
Baseball and basketball present a constant threat of personal disgrace. In hockey, there are three or four fights a game — and it’s not a stroll on beach to be on ice with a puck flying around at 100 miles per hour. After a football game, ambulances carry off the wounded. After a soccer game, every player gets a ribbon and a juice box.
(5) You can’t use your hands in soccer. (Thus eliminating the danger of having to catch a fly ball.) What sets man apart from the lesser beasts, besides a soul, is that we have opposable thumbs. Our hands can hold things. Here’s a great idea: Let’s create a game where you’re not allowed to use them!
(6) I resent the force-fed aspect of soccer. The same people trying to push soccer on Americans are the ones demanding that we love HBO’s “Girls,” light-rail, Beyonce and Hillary Clinton. The number of New York Times articles claiming soccer is “catching on” is exceeded only by the ones pretending women’s basketball is fascinating.
I note that we don’t have to be endlessly told how exciting football is.
(7) It’s foreign. In fact, that’s the precise reason the Times is constantly hectoring Americans to love soccer. One group of sports fans with whom soccer is not “catching on” at all, is African-Americans. They remain distinctly unimpressed by the fact that the French like it.
(8) Soccer is like the metric system, which liberals also adore because it’s European. Naturally, the metric system emerged from the French Revolution, during the brief intervals when they weren’t committing mass murder by guillotine.
Despite being subjected to Chinese-style brainwashing in the public schools to use centimeters and Celsius, ask any American for the temperature, and he’ll say something like “70 degrees.” Ask how far Boston is from New York City, he’ll say it’s about 200 miles.
We picked the following article from the Austrian Erste Foundation Newsletter . We were intrigued by the fact that in Timisoara, Romanian West, there is nearly full employment and this makes for the need to change demands of worker skills in order to help bring in new investors when there is shortage of local labor.
At first the city grew after ouster of communism the usual way – it provided cheap labor to foreign investors. But since the 2008 economic crisis in the EU, above had to change and the level of skilled labor increased. The mayor dtill complains that not enough people can be offered to new investors, but nevertheless, as a total – the city is doing very well in the EU that evolves from the crisis. This is thus 2.0 in Timisoara’s post-communist economy. We are anxious to report on Timisoara 3.0 which will come when it will be obvious that industry has to take in consideration the environment. We say this when looking at the photo posted here.
Return to Europe – Timisoara 2.0
Dan Diaconu, deputy mayor of Timisoara, has an unusual problem. “Unemployment in our city stands at one per cent,” the 36-year-old, elected in 2012, explains. “This is a problem for attracting new investors. Some are scared away by this fact.”
In conditions of near full employment, labour is hard to find.
Yet this is a problem that most European cities would long to have. Diaconu concedes, with no sign of enthusiasm, that in his city of 320,000 people, “the economic indicators show that indeed there is no big crisis in Timisoara today.”
Diaconu was twelve years old in 1989, the year Timisoara became famous as the birthplace of the Romanian anti-communist revolution, which precipitated the fall of the Ceausescu regime. He was a student in the 1990s when the first Italian investors, mostly smaller businesses looking for cheap labour, arrived in Timisoara. When he graduated from the local Polytechnic University in 2000, the first multinationals, Siemens and Alcatel, had arrived in town. Many of his colleagues went to work for them. Diaconu decided instead to manage social projects, focusing on the plight of young people. In 2007, while Diaconu was running EU projects, the BBC called Timisoara a “revolutionary boomtown.” More than 2,600 Italian and 1,500 German companies had settled in the city. There was a growing number of multinational companies, from the tire maker Continental to the consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble. By this point, finding workers was already a challenge.
Romania’s membership of the EU in 2007 seemed to promise a continuation of this growth trajectory and an eventual catching up with EU living standards. It was a promise that seemed plausible until 2008. In the six years after Romania started its accession negotiations, GDP per capita rose from 30 to 47 per cent of the EU average. Romania remained poor, but salaries were rising. A new middle class – university graduates employed by multinational companies – found itself with money to spend. It began heading off with low-cost airlines for weekend trips. Timisoara airport offered daily direct flights to more than 20 European destinations.
Then, in late 2008, the European economic crisis hit Romania. Convergence with the EU stopped. Salaries ceased to rise. The citizens of one of the EU’s poorest economies were left to ponder whether the dream of “convergence” had gone.
Visiting Timisoara in 2013, one can get the impression that little has changed since 2008. If one asks businessmen about major recent foreign investors, many have difficulties coming up with even a single new company. But they also cannot name a single major foreign investor who has left. Unemployment, after increasing to 4.5 per cent in the Timisoara region, is back to 2 per cent. In the city itself, it is even lower. Yet salaries average just €400 net and are barely keeping up with inflation. The dynamism of the pre-crisis years has gone, leaving many with the impression of protracted stagnation. But is this really the case?
Florentin Banu, a casually dressed man with a firm handshake, has a remarkable story to tell. In 1994, he started producing wafers in a garage. The company and its “Joe” brand became so successful that Nestle bought it (and still today sells “Joe” wafers). With the proceeds, Banu started a local supermarket chain. He nearly went bankrupt, and had to bring in additional investors before the chain turned profitable. In 2005, he sold his share in the chain (now owned by French retail giant Carrefour). He started two new businesses from scratch: Banu Construct, a real estate developer, and Interpart, producing plastic parts. By 2008, before the crisis, Banu Construct turned in annual profits of more than a million Euros. Interpart made losses of half a million. At that time Banu said: “If I was interested only in money, I would only do real estate.” But with his passion for management, he persisted in his efforts to turn Interpart into a profitable company that would supply the automotive industry.
It was a far-sighted decision. In late 2008, the construction sector imploded. Banu dryly lists the facts: “The demand for flats and real estate fell by about 90 per cent. The prices gave way by 50-60 per cent. Land prices decreased even more.” Banu’s company had just purchased a huge piece of land where he planned to build 300 flats. The land price was €200 per square metre. “Today it is worth 60 or 70.” Banu Construct only survived because it could cover its losses from profits accumulated in the pre-crisis years, and by shrinking dramatically. Of 170 employees, only 30 remain. Banu is “proud that we are still standing.” Of the bigger real estate developers in town, all but two went bust.
Interpart, Banu’s other company, has grown, however. He moved the factory premises to an industrial suburb southwest of Timisoara. The new building includes offices and even a flat, where Banu now lives. “It is very practical.” Down in the production hall, visitors are walked along a row of precision instruments producing metal moulds. Across the other side of the hall, large machines use the moulds to produce plastic parts of diverse shapes and colours, which drop continuously into large plastic boxes.
With only a slight increase in its workforce – from 100 to 120 – the company has managed to double its annual turnover in the last two years to €5 million. The investment has finally turned profitable. Sixty percent of production now is for the automotive industry, a growth sector across Romania. Interpart supplies various multinationals in the surrounding area, including in Hungary. Banu is optimistic: “The industry needs us. We are a local supplier for global players.”
Banu’s story, combining success, defeat and innovation, is telling. A lot has changed in Timisoara’s economy since 2008. One whole sector, construction, collapsed. Others, like IT and transport, have grown. Industrial producers have adapted. Domestic purchasing power, driven by credit growth, took a hit during the crisis and is only slowly recovering. Many smaller companies lacked the resources to survive the crisis and have had to close. However, with its focus on manufacturing and export, Timisoara weathered the crisis better than less industrial areas of South East Europe.
Peter Hochmuth is a German businessman who came to Timisoara 12 years ago as the financial director of the Continental tire factory. When the company wanted to rotate him to headquarters in Hannover, Hochmuth decided to quit and stay on in Timisoara. Since then, he has advised foreign investors and – more recently – Romanians on doing business with foreigners. “There is a clear transformation in the industry here,” he says. “Simple manufacturing jobs that were predominant in the 1990s are disappearing. Geox and Rieker, the Italian and German shoe giants, have closed their production facilities. But more skilled jobs, particularly in the automotive industries and IT, are growing.”
Hochmuth is also president of the German-speaking business club. Initially an informal gathering, the club today brings together over 150 German-speaking executives.
One of them is Dan Popovici, general director of the Timisoara plant of Dräxlmaier, a big German automotive supplier with production sites in more than 20 countries. Waiting for Popovici in the company’s entrance hall, one is left wondering how the floor of white tiles can be kept so impeccably clean, even on a rainy day. Popovici is in his 50s. His measured tone carries the authority of someone who has witnessed many dramatic changes. Asked about developments in the industry, he says: “We can talk about two waves: the first was labour intensive. The second is technology oriented.”
The automotive industry was particularly hard hit by the global financial crisis. Sales collapsed. The suppliers based in Timisoara first introduced shorter working hours and compulsory leave, before beginning to shed workers. Their headquarters quickly realized, however, that it made little sense to close efficient and cost-effective plants in Romania. Within six months, the industry was in full swing again.
In 2008, Dräxlmaier employed 2,000 people in Timisoara. They manufactured cable harnesses for higher end cars like BMW. Harnesses are a complex product, comprising all the electric cables in a car. “Every harness is different, depending on the specifications of the car,” Popovici explains. “In each car, you find 1.5 to 2.5 kilometres of cables.” Since 2008, Dräxlmaier has relocated the more labour intensive production steps to Serbia. In Timisoara, they invested in the automation and mechanisation of production and now mainly produce motor harnesses. “Few plants in this sector are technically as equipped as we are here. While since 2008 we have reduced our staff from 2,000 to 800 people, efficiency has risen,” says Popovici. “There is a constant battle to remain competitive,” he adds, pointing to new machines in the huge production hall.
The jobs in the plant have become more sophisticated. They are also better paid. The share of university-educated staff has tripled over the last five years to about 20 per cent. Over 100 jobs are in services for other plants of the company abroad. There is a service centre covering all locations except North America. When new factories are opened, often staff from Timisoara are sent there, be it to China, Mexico or Serbia.
“In the simplest sectors, Timisoara cannot compete anymore,” claims Hochmuth. “But it is competitive in the higher skilled production processes where you have to work closer with your clients. Take software system development. Engineers here earn at least €700 a month, much more than their colleagues in low-cost countries. But you can easily and cheaply fly a team from here to Germany, Austria or Italy. Many speak German, Italian or good English. They know what a consumer expects. They have the same way of thinking. Eventually, everything considered, it pays off to be here for these more sophisticated production activities.”
The fact that household incomes have not grown for many years is reflected in the city’s overall mood. Many people are slightly worse off than five years ago. There are many challenges for businesses: administrative hurdles, a shortage of skilled labour. And yet, it is not difficult to imagine Timisoara as a prosperous, bustling, global industrial centre a decade from now. This cannot be said for many cities in the region, and certainly not for those across the border in Serbia, where membership of the European Union still seems a distant prospect. There, politicians will continue to envy Dan Diaconu for his problem – convincing outsiders to keep investing under conditions of almost full employment.
However you cut it ISIS or ISIL (the second S for Syria, the L for the Levant) – this is a Sunni anti-Western and anti-Shiia organization that was sprung originally on the World by the Saudi Wahhabism. Call it Al-Qaeda or Al-Qaeda alikes – these are Sunni anti-colonial fanatics who believe that all of Western Asia Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, that were formed after the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, are basically one State or Arab Nation of Sunni Islam. To them the Shiia reform movement was actually another foreign intrusion. They understand the fact that the area was divided by colonial western powers for reasons of oil. To them all Western Asian oil is Arab and they claim it now.
The US never acknowledged this self determination will of the Sunni Muslims as we in the West believe in human rights as an ethic that is beyond religion, but supported by Nationalism based on Democracy that can accept diversity of religions as long as they adhere in common to a Wahhabi style of a capitalist economy. The Arabs say – all this is rubbish. ISIS or ISIL want just one Muslim-Sunni State based on religion and the Sharia Laws Wahhabi-style. For now the aspirations of ISIS/ISIL end at the borders of Jordan and Saudi Arabia – perhaps also leaving out all of the Gulf States. By destroying Iraq that never was a true Nation State, the US allowed for an eventual unleashing of these Sunni forces that are being directed now against Iran and enclaves of non-Sunni communities in Lebanon and Syria. The US is now pushed to change sides from originally backing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that was business friendly to the US, to the practicality of working with Iran in order to disrupt the regional Sunni movement that does not want the US as part of the power structure in the region. The US still fights for the post-Ottoman division into so called States, which to them felt as manageable Administrative units. Syria like Iraq can exist only when headed by a dictator – so the US will back now the one running Syria because they saw what happened when they tried to change the government of Iraq. Switching bedfellows makes life interesting in Washington – but seems very fishy to these Middle Easterners. The following article is a good description of the present “is.”
Syria Bombs Iraq, US Doesn’t (It Says).
By William Boardman, Reader Supported News
25 June 2014
US lines up to ally with Iran and Syria in support of Iraq.
In the current round of fighting, it seems the first international aerial bombing of Iraq was carried out June 23 by the Syrian Air Force, acting at the behest of the Iranian government in support of the Iraqi government, which the U.S. government has sort of pledged to support, just as soon as the Iraqi government purges itself to U.S. satisfaction, which may or may not please the governments of Iran and Syria to which the U.S. government has pledged clear opposition.
The Syrian attack apparently went unreported in almost all media. All the same, this escalation marked a widening of the ongoing war in Iraq and Syria, which already involves, at a minimum, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United States (as well as Israel and Lebanon), either overtly or covertly.
BBC Arabic reported earlier on Tuesday [June 24] that unmanned American aircraft had bombed the area of al-Qaim, which was overrun over the weekend by Sunni fighters led by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Syrian bombing of Iraq continued on June 24, this time reported by The Wall Street Journal (alone at first), which referred to the earlier attacks:
It was the second consecutive day of airstrikes by Syria, which has joined Iran in coming to the aid of the embattled Baghdad government.Tehran has deployed special forces to help protect the capital and the Iraqi cities of Najaf and Karbala, which Shiites revere. [Najaf and Karbala are each a hundred miles or more from the bombing targets.]
The Syrian Air Force comprises mostly Russian and French planes
Syrian bombs reportedly killed at least 50 people and wounded at least 132 others when they hit targets including the municipal building, a market, and a bank in Al Rutba, a town of about 55,000 in western Iraq, captured by ISIS forces June 21. Al Rutba (also Ar Rutba or Al Rutbah) is strategically located on the prime east-west highway across vast and mostly desert Anbar Province. It is about 90 miles from both the Syrian and Jordanian borders, and more than 120 miles from Baghdad.
U.S. forces occupied Al Rutba during most of 2003-2009.
In December 2013, a complex ISIS suicide attack on Iraqi military forces in Al Rutba killed at least 18 officers, including two commanders. Even though the current ISIS offensive has apparently surprised many – including the U.S. government – it’s part of a long campaign, as documented in The Long War Journal in December 2013:
The ISIS continues to display its capacity to plan and execute coordinated operations against Iraq’s security facilities. These attacks are part of multiple ‘waves’ of al Qaeda’s “Destroying the Walls” campaign, which was announced by emir Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who is also known as Abu Du’a, on July 21, 2012.
Another purported bombing target, Al Qaim, is located about 100 miles to the northeast, on the Euphrates River and the Syrian border. The city of about 250,000 was reportedly the site of Iraq’s Uranium refining complex during the 1980s. Americans bombed the city and destroyed the complex during the 1991 Gulf War.
For most of 2003-2006, Al Qaim was occupied by American forces, who used it as a base for raids into Syria (tactics reminiscent of Viet Nam, where U.S. forces covertly raided Cambodia). When an Iraqi general there turned himself in to Americans in 2003, in an effort to free his two sons, Americans eventually tortured the general to death, without releasing his sons.
Al Qaim was scene of fierce fighting during last Iraq War
In 2005, insurgents took Al Qaim from the Iraqi forces left in charge by the Americans. American Marines were unable to fully re-take the city in the face of fierce resistance. American bombing of Al Qaim in August killed at least 47 people. Late in the year, a sign outside the city reportedly said, “Welcome to the Islamic Republic of Qaim.”
The American denial of drone strikes on Al Qaim is explained by RT (Russian Television) this way:
Unidentified bombers have reportedly launched an air strike on ISIS positions in the northern Iraqi city of al-Qaim. Iraqi television has claimed they are US planes, but the Pentagon has denied responsibility.
US planes were identified by Iraqi television, but the Saudi Al-Arabiya network claims that the raid was carried out by Syria, citing local tribal chiefs.
The Iraqi Air Force has bombed the Iraqi city of Baiji, about 130 miles north of Baghdad, on the Tigris River. Americans bombed the city in 1991, destroying most of its oil refinery, which was quickly rebuilt. Americans occupied Baiji for most of 2003-2009, putting down significant resistance in 2003.
ISIS and Iraqi forces have been fighting for control of the Baiji oil refinery since June 11. With ISIS in control by June 20, the Baghdad government over 100 miles away decided to start bombing. The United Nations has reported that the Iraq death toll for June is already the highest in years, with more than 1,000 killed, most of them civilians.
Meanwhile, Israel has bombed Syria, killing civilians, in retaliation for an attack from Syria that killed Israeli civilians in the Golan Heights.
Testimony before U.N. Human Rights Council, delivered by UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer, 19 June 2014, in the debate under Agenda Item 3, “Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights”
Thank you, Mr. President.
The members of this Council have been mandated by the international community to protect victims of human rights violations around the world. Is the Council living up to its mandate?
Let us consider the most fundamental of all human rights—the right to life—by examining what has happened in the world, over the past 12 months:
July 2013, Turkey: Doctors report that in the Gezi Park protests, police killed 5 people, wounded 8,163 and used chemical riot control weapons against more than 10,000.
August, Egypt: Authorities crush the sit-in held by supporters of deposed president Morsi, killing 1,000 people.
September, Iran: One month after President Rouhani’s inauguration, amid promises of human rights reforms, Iranian officials ignore UN appeals, and hang a record 50 individuals.
Did the council respond with any resolutions, urgent debates, or inquiries to determine the facts, and hold perpetrators accountable? No. Its response was silence.
October, Afghanistan: Terrorists bomb a minibus, killing 14 women and a child who were on their way to celebrate a wedding.
November, Libya: Militia kill 31 during protests in Tripoli, injuring 235.
December, South Sudan: BBC reports mass ethnic killings, including 200 shot by security forces.
January, Pakistan: 236 civilians killed by terrorist attacks.
This Council’s response? Silence.
February, Ukraine: Police kill 75 protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square.
March, China: Activist Cao Shunli, who was arrested for trying to travel to Geneva and participate this Council, mysteriously dies in prison.
April, Iraq: 750 Iraqis killed, 1,541 injured by terrorism and other violence.
May, Venezuela: Troops arrest 243 student protesters and kill one of their own, bringing the death toll to 42 since the start of the opposition protests.
Finally, June — a few weeks ago — in Nigeria: Boko Haram massacres 200 civilians while still holding the 276 school girls it abducted in April…
President: Please can I ask you to wait? There is a point of order from Venezuela…
Venezuela: I think this speaker is out of order and I would ask that he confine himself to the agenda items under consideration. He’s also mentioned my country and I will take the floor later on that…
France: France attaches great importance to the voice of civil society which should be able to speak freely in the work of the council and contribute to her work…
USA:Along the same lines as my colleague from France, we firmly believe that NGOs and civil society be heard… What the speaker was saying is consistent with the topic of this agenda item so we urge you to let him continue.
Cuba:I am looking at the agenda, [and] we were never talking about countries as far as I understood. We do not understand why the NGO has been spending its entire time talking about country situations. This is not the agenda item for this…
Ireland: We do believe that the speaker was speaking to the agenda item by providing concrete examples linked to those thematic issues and therefore we would kindly ask that he be allowed to continue.
China: China requests the president to make a ruling to end the speech by this NGO.
Canada: Canada, much like others who have spoke before us, firmly believes that accredited NGOs must be permitted to speak at the council… It is essential to respect the council’s emphasis on open dialogue. This is a question of freedom of speech… The statements that were being made were pertinent to the agenda items that were being discussed.
Norway: This statement should not be interrupted because an NGO mentions concrete examples of human rights violations so we therefore ask you to let the speaker continue the statement.
Iran: My delegation would like to support the point of order made by the delegation of the Venezuela.
Pakistan: My delegation also supports the point of order raised by Venezuela. It is important that we should respect and adhere to the rules of procedure and discuss relevant issues under the relevant agenda items.
United Kingdom: The UK supports the right of accredited NGOs to speak at the UN Human Rights Council… We request that the speaker be allowed to finish their statement.
Egypt: We just want to also add our voice to other speakers who spoke about the appropriateness of speaking under the right agenda item. We don’t believe that what was mentioned in the statement of the NGO here relates to our discussion.. there are certain rules and regulations for this council all of us have to stick to.
President: What I can say is that already I’ve noted that you agree that NGOs do have the right to speak. The issues relating to human rights don’t take place in an abstract context… If a speaker were to refer to relevant human rights issues under the agenda item under consideration, it is possible that the speaker may give examples or illustrations from specific examples from specific situations… I give the floor back to the speaker.
UN Watch (Hillel Neuer): Thank you. Mr. President, if it “inappropriate” to speak about the urgent need to take action for victims of human rights violations around the world, then why are we here?
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Last night, June 23, 2014, former Austrian Ambassador to Finland, Canada, Jamaica, and at the Council of Europe, Wendelin Ettmayer, presented his views at the Austrian Consulate General in New York City in answer to the double question: “World War I: Why did European Diplomacy Fail – Could it Happen Today?”
The basic idea is that at the time of WWI Europe had not emerged yet from feud.alism while starting to develop Nationalism. Heads of State could still take vacation while in one day 80,000 of their soldiers were killed. On the other hand wars were something viewed as a concept of honor -so that day was seen as a day of glory.
The Ambassdaor’s thesis is that today it could not happen in Europe anymore – but outside Europe yes. Simply some of the emerging countries have not learned from the experience of WWI and are in effect still in that feudal age where the leader has complete power – or at least that is what he thinks. In these conditions diplomacy is viewed as Klausewitz described it when he said that war is a continuation of diplomacy by other means. In this situation he sees China’s interest in Islands of fthe Pacific a question of honor – something a member of the audience tried to correct by just saying – OIL!
From notes of the Vienna meeting – Ambassador Ettmayer does in effect see the change that occured since the preparations that led to WWI:
New Dimensions of Security and Power: The Essence of Security and Power has Changed Dramatically in Recent Decades
Traditional security was to 90% military security. Compared to the great challanges of human security in today´s world, military security covers only 10%. The same can be said as far as power is concerned:
traditionally, 90% of power exerted on an international level was military power. Today, the power of the brave, the new players and new dynamic forces make up 90% of the power. In this sense, 90% of the changes which took place in former times were caused by war, which is responsable of 10% of the new development in today ´s world, when we think of globalisation, the rise of China, the implosion of the Soviet Union or the unification of Germany.
In former times, wars were decided to 90% on the battlefield, today to 10%, what makes it practically impossible to win wars anymore. On the other hand, people today are affected to 90% by the international development, what was not the case in former centuries.
1. New Dimensions of Security
Traditionally foreign policy was orientated towards the security of the state, based on a strong army. Today, foreign policy is, to a very large extent, also oriented towards human security, towards the security of the individual citizen. In the 21th century, threats to international security are to 90% non-military threats. An essential goal of foreign policy has become to guarantee the basic necessities of human life. Many international orgainziations, countless NGOs and governments are actively promoting human security. They fight against hunger and disease and are in favor of development, human rights and a decent standard of living. Where the basic requirements for human security are not met, from Ukraine to Venezuela and from the Central African Republic to Thailand, peace and security are in danger.
The United Nations and many of their agencies like UNCTAD, UNICEF, UNESCO, to name only a few, want to create security through cooperation. To safeguard human security and to promote human rights has become a basic legitimacy of foreign policy.
In former times, international relations were mostly about one single
issue: military security, power and war. Today countless issues are an essential part of international conferences and international activities. Today there are many dimensions to international security:
there is an economic and financial dimension; there is the important role of energy and the environment; there are human rights and education. Most importantly, those new dimensions of human security do not anymore rely on the strength of the military.
2. New Dimensions of Power
In former times, the essence of power was based on the grace of God or on military power. Today, power should be based on a democratic legitimacy. In practice, the legitimacy of a government is linked to its possibility to increase the wellbeing of the people. For many people it has become more important to increase their standard of living than to increase the military power of their country in order to dominate others.
To demonstrate what fundamental changes have taken place, consider the word “great” we use for powerful personalities in history. Alexander the Great as well as Peter the Great or Catherine the Great are considered “great”, because they succeeded to increase their power of their country, conquering and destroying others. Any ruler who would act in similar ways today would not be considered as “Great”; the international community would demand that they would be brought before the International Criminal Court.
In former times, a ruler was powerful if he succeeded to enforce his will upon his subjects. Today an elected official can exert power if he can attract and convince others. In former times, conquering a country was a legitimate act. Anyone who wants to conquer foreign territory today faces international sanctions, like Saddam Hussein, after he invaded Kuwait in 1990.
In former times a state had a power-monopoly. This monopoly has been broken by countless new institutions like the media, NGOs or international corporations. Those new institutions can not only exert power, but also oppose the power of the state.
What are the driving forces behind great changes which take place in the world today? Through centuries wars were the driving force for changing the international landscape. If we analyze today why the Soviet Union imploded, why apartheid was abolished in South Africa or why minorities succeeded to emancipate themselves, we can see that those changes were not brought about by wars, but by the power of the brave, by new technologies or by new ideas.
The Polish trade Union movement, Solidarnosc and Nelson Mandela represent the power of the brave. The anti baby-pill, the mobile phones, the internet and computers stand for the power of new technologies. The power of new ideas was demonstrated by the 1968 movement and the influence of human rights.
His answer comes to his asking – “How Could All That Happen?”
Those dramatic changes in international relations took place on the basis of a revolution in education; a democratic revolution and a revolution in information. People have become more critical. They see the great sacrifices, suffered by wars and that goals proclaimed on the occasion of outbreaks of wars are hardly achieved. On the other hand people have developed a sense of entitlement. They prefer a higher standard to a conquering army.
With the mobile phone, the computer and the internet a revolution in information has taken place. Social media give everybody the opportunity to share his or her opinion to participate in decision making. Naturally it is easier to be critical than to be constructive in this context.
The New York City presentation was organized by Austrian Council General H.E. Ambassador Georg Heindl who does this sort of events as New York City, with a large Austrian population that evolved because of the presence of immigrants that escaped Nazism can provide for lively discussions of this sort of intellectual topics. Last night just proved the point with a lively follow up Q&A period.
There was no cosensus on many issues. Questions asked why NATO, why Turkey and not Russia which had an aristocracy formed after Western Europe and were even family. Actually, the Europeans have no alternative to peaceful internal coexistence between its member states if facing billion people mega-States.
While still thinking about last night, I found the following article in incoming e-mail and decided to post both points of view.
IT IS CLEAR TO ME THAT A TRUE STRONG STRUCTURE OF A EUROPEAN MEGA-STATE MUST FIND A POSITIVE WAY THAT HAS A NATURAL BASE. IT SEEMS ONCE MORE THAT HUMAN RIGHTS aND DEMOCRACY MUST BE THE BASR ON WHICH SUSTAINABILITY EXISTS.
Today we have to move away from the idea of a United States of Europe, to think of the EU as a republic, as the European res publica, and to put citizens and civil society back into the centre stage that they have abandoned.
Human Chain in Irurzun for the right to decide for the Basque region. Demotix/Javi Julio. All rights reserved.
The European Union, and more particularly the Eurozone, does not know what it is. This is not only a matter of nominalism, but also of the meaning of the project.
To still consider this Europe as a “Federation of Nation States”, as Jacques Delors put it many years back, is clearly insufficient as a description and as a desideratum. Today we have to move away from the idea of a United States of Europe, to think of the EU as a republic, as the European res publica, and to put citizens and civil society back into the centre stage that they have abandoned.
To consider a European republic means to make democracy a priority, especially in these times in which we are emptying out national democracy without replacing it with a European democracy.
European citizens feel they can choose among politicians, but much less so among policies. Or that, to make a real difference, they would need to choose among European policies.
But that is not possible, as the electoral system, as we have seen in the last elections to the European Parliament, is a sum of national elections, even in some ways of nationalistic elections, and nationalism can destroy Europe and its peoples.
That Europe has no demos (people), but rather a collection of demoi (peoples) is not the central problem. A demos is not something given, but constructed as a result of historical processes and also of policies, of purpose. The problem is to see Europe as an entity formed exclusively by states–not even nation states but member states–and not by citizens, in spite of the Treaties that say that it is both at the same time.
The problem of not being able to choose European policies is that the real choice is between populisms and technocracy. And that is something that alienates people and ultimately reinforces populisms (of various kinds).
The way out of that bogus choice, again was very present in the recent European elections, is by going for transnational European choices that could form the basis of a European republic. Citizens in Europe are not organized in a transnational setting. They have no real voice through their representatives. The idea of a European republic should push the emergence of a political ‘we’, based on social bodies. A more transnational and republican organization would also mean getting away from the vertical structures of the EU towards a horizontal one that would allow coalitions building among European citizens.
It also means that there is a need for a redistribution of powers among the EU institutions. The European Parliament has gained new powers with every new treaty, all except the one which from a democratic point of view it should have: the right of initiative that remains a monopoly at the behest of the European Commission (and in some instances, of the member states).
Joachim Glauck, the president of Germany, has made use of the term ‘European Republic’ in some of his speeches. This idea of a ‘Republic’ is connected with the meaning it possessed in the European Middle Ages as it appeared in the first modern writings of thinkers like Bodino: that is, a legal concept of the cross-national exercise of sovereign powers. It was conceived as a way of sharing a democracy in common among citizens, but citizens with different national democratic systems and different ways of doing things. Some are parliamentary monarchies, others more purely parliamentarian, others presidential or semi presidential systems, and so forth.
It also means aiming for a European common good. And that idea of the common good shared by every European citizen would also be a way of overcoming the worrying divisions that have arisen of late in Europe between north and south, creditors and debtors, centre and periphery and even between the ins and outs (of the Eurozone), although the major aim which the republic needs to steer towards has to be the construction of the economic and monetary union, open to all EU member states of course.
The republic has to be based not so much on equality as on solidarity, even solidarity in the plural—solidarities–, as a concept and a set of realities no longer directly linked to sovereignty and national borders.
It has also to be a solidarity between generations, and especially towards the young who have felt abandoned in the latest phases of construction of the EU and the Eurozone, an abandonment that has led to more people aged 18-25 voting above average for populist options in most of the countries of the Union.
In the end, to opt for the European republic idea means to organize European civil society and to give it a voice in the European system. Not to do this will lead citizens to exit the system, as Albert O. Hirschman would have put it.
In this context, the Spanish debate should be more than about a monarchy-republic. It should be about the European dimension of the res publica.
This article was originally published in El Pais on 24/6/14.
About the authors
Andrés Ortega is presently senior fellow at the Elcano Institute in Spain and member of the European Council on Foreign Relations. He has been twice (1994-96 and 2008-2011) director of Policy Planning in the Prime Minister’s Office. His latest book is Recomponer la democracia (2014).
Ulrike Guérot is Senior Associate for Germany at the Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE). She previously worked as head of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), head of the European Union unit at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) and as senior transatlantic fellow with the German Marshall Fund (GMF). She blogs for the ECFR here.
The twelfth session of the UN Ge, 2014neral Assembly Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) took place from 16-20 June 2014, at UN Headquarters in New York. Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya, and Csaba K?rösi, Permanent Representative of Hungary, continued in their roles as Co-Chairs of the OWG at the second to last session of the OWG, which is mandated to develop a set of sustainable development goals and targets.
OWG-12 represented the first OWG meeting during which delegates worked primarily in informal sessions. Following opening remarks during a formal session on Monday morning, delegates considered proposed goals 7-17 in informal sessions during day and evening sessions from Monday through Friday. The discussion on goals 1-6 had taken place in “informal-informal” consultations from 9-11 June. The Co-Chairs also presented a set of revised goals, based on the informal-informal discussions, for comment on Monday night. On Tuesday night, the Co-Chairs distributed a new set of targets for proposed goal 1 on ending poverty. However, delegates said they did not want to discuss any revisions until they had a chance to review the complete package of revised goals and targets.
On Friday afternoon, Co-Chair Kamau opened the second formal session of OWG-12, noting that the Group had made “amazing progress” during the week. He announced that there would be another set of “informal-informals” from 9-11 July, to be followed by the final meeting of the OWG from 14-18 July. He said a revised version of the zero draft should be ready by 30 June, and that it will have fewer targets, and be a more refined, balanced and “tighter” document. He expressed the Co-Chairs’ confidence that the OWG will successfully conclude its work on 18 July and agree on a set of goals and targets.
The Summary of this meeting is now available in PDF format
“Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance.”
Mufasa, The Lion King
As OWG-12 opened on Monday, 16 June, OWG Co-Chair Macharia Kamau highlighted a critical challenge for the Group as he presented the “zero draft.” He stressed the difficulty in achieving a balance among the issues and government positions while drafting the 17 goals and 212 targets in that document. Throughout the week, delegates’ discussions revealed the challenge that remains to achieve a balanced, consensus outcome. During OWG-12, many options were presented for each proposed goal and target, and delegates worked to weigh the tradeoffs, formulations and difficult decisions they must make to arrive at a final set of SDGs and targets at the close of OWG-13.
Underlying the SDGs themselves is an overarching goal to promote balanced, sustainable development. Inherent in the definition of sustainable development is the concern that meeting the needs of future generations and reducing poverty depends on how well humans balance social, economic, and environmental objectives—or needs—when making decisions today. It is also known that human activities in a number of sectors, including agriculture, industry, fisheries, urbanization and travel, have disturbed the balance of nature and have threatened species and ecosystems.
During OWG-12, the discussions were framed around balance along different axes: conceptual (between universality and differentiation), temporal (between historical and present responsibilities), procedural (between comprehensiveness and duplication), substantive (among the three pillars of sustainable development), and presentational (between specificity and “crispiness”). This brief analysis assesses the state of the OWG’s deliberations amid the challenges of fulfilling its mandate, given in The Future We Want adopted two years ago, by ensuring the sustainable development goals achieve a delicate balance.
BALANCE BETWEEN UNIVERSALITY AND DIFFERENTIATION
The SDGs are expected to be “global in nature and universally applicable to all countries,” according to Paragraph 247 of The Future We Want. At the same time, their effective implementation requires differentiation in accordance with specific national circumstances. Throughout the week, delegates struggled to find balance between universality and differentiation. This struggle was most apparent during discussions on proposed Goal 12: Promote sustainable consumption and production patterns. Despite the mandate of universality, some delegates said the targets for this goal should be differentiated between the efforts that developed and developing countries should undertake, with many insisting that developed countries have to take the lead. For example, target 12.6 says that “by 2030 at least halve per capita food waste at retail and consumer level, particularly in developed countries and countries with high per capita food waste.” While most recognized that such action would achieve a great deal, some also noted related efforts in developing countries. As some argued, this is in fact a universally relevant goal because there is also a lot of food waste on the production and distribution side in developing countries.
On proposed Goal 13 on climate change, the question of balance between universality and differentiation focused on historical and current responsibilities. Developing countries argued that, if a goal on climate change is to be included in the SDGs, it must be based on the principles under the UNFCCC, and therefore differentiate between the countries that are historically responsible for greenhouse gas emissions (developed countries) and those that are not (developing countries). The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) forms the basis of the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol, which only mandate that developed countries (Annex I countries) reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. However, as some developed countries note, there are non-Annex I countries whose current emissions are greater than some of the Annex I countries, and there can be no meaningful reduction of CO2 emissions without the participation of all major emitters. Since the SDGs will be in place for 15 years, some argue, a goal on climate change should recognize the scope for further changes in emission profiles and not lock in UNFCCC country groupings from the 1990s.
A third issue relates to the larger issue of CBDR and the legacy of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit “bargain,” according to which developing countries would pursue environmentally sustainable development in exchange for greater assistance from developed countries. This assistance was expected to come in the form of financial resources, technology transfer and capacity building—the so-called means of implementation. Given their disappointment with how this grand bargain played out in the twenty years following the Rio Earth Summit, the Group of 77 and China has been firm during the SDGs negotiations that each goal must have its own designated means of implementation. Some countries went so far as to indicate that absence of MOI could be a deal breaker on the SDGs. Yet, other countries argue that if the SDGs are supposed to be universal, how can the MOI targets focus on differentiated responsibilities among groups of countries, such as Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, LDCs, LLDCs, and SIDS? As the discussion on proposed Goal 17 (MOI) began on Friday, the statements mirrored those that were heard at the beginning of the OWG process, not to mention similar themes that have been heard for over twenty years about the responsibility of developed countries to provide MOI. There appeared to be some progress, however, as several governments across groupings called for an inclusive global partnership for development that involves the public, private and civil society sectors, and addresses the need for triangular cooperation and South-South cooperation.
BALANCE AMONG THE THREE DIMENSIONS OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
The OWG has faced another recurring question of balance in fulfilling its mandate, this time from Paragraph 246 of The Future We Want: “The goals should address and incorporate in a balanced way all three dimensions of sustainable development and their interlinkages.” What would such a balance mean for each dimension, and how would the balance be embedded in the SDG framework?
For many developing countries, balance should be reflected in the number of goals dedicated to each dimension. One delegate shared his assessment that out of the proposed substantive goals, there are two on the economic dimension, five or six on the social dimension, and four or five on the environment. Developing countries, in particular, expressed concern that currently only two goals are “dedicated” to the economic dimension: proposed Goals 8 (sustainable economic growth) and 9 (industrialization). When some suggested merging these two goals, these countries rejected the notion as it would leave only one “economic goal.” Yet at the same time, one delegation said the three explicitly environmental goals should be consolidated into two, noting that three goals for one theme are too many.
On the other hand, some developed countries have expressed a different vision of balance among the three dimensions of sustainable development, calling for each goal to reflect a “three-dimensional” approach to sustainable development, through targets that address economic, social, and environmental aspects. Regarding the same Goals 8 and 9 that were welcomed by developing countries as ensuring an economic development dimension to the SDGs, developed country delegations critiqued the current drafting of these goals as lacking a vision of inclusive and environmentally friendly growth. Some delegations thought that integrated goals would do a better job at ensuring ministries and UN and other international organizations and agencies work together and get out of their traditional “silos.”
BALANCE BETWEEN WORDINESS AND “CRISPINESS”
Throughout the week, the Co-Chairs urged delegates to achieve “crispiness,” using a term popularized by Co-Chair K?rösi, amid the desire for an all-encompassing yet concrete set of goals. In other words, delegates face the challenge of crafting goals that are clear, coherent, concrete and comprehensive (the four C’s). The quest for this need for balance took on various forms.
First, there was a concern about the titles of the goals themselves in substantive as well as presentational terms. Using the MDGs as an example, observers noted that the wording, formatting and number of MDGs made the goals conducive to iconographic representation and visually compelling packaging that was used in effective advocacy and outreach campaigns. This helped to generate traction within and beyond the development arena. Both Co-Chairs consistently reminded delegates that these goals and targets have to make sense to people beyond the walls of the United Nations and, thus, need to be “crispy”, translatable and easy to understand
The OWG has also recognized that the number of goals to be adopted will be an important consideration. At previous OWG meetings, some, including Jeffrey Sachs and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, called for a set of ten goals—a sort of “ten commandments” for sustainable development. Similarly, others have previously called for twelve goals to allow an equal number of goals for each of the three dimensions of sustainable development. Overall, many speakers at many sessions conceded that the power of the goals will be in focusing international attention on a set of priorities, which would be lost if the list of priorities become too unwieldy. The Co-Chairs tried to reduce the number of proposed goals to 15 and distributed a new suggested list of goals on Monday night, but their effort did not immediately gain traction.
There is still uncertainty about retaining at least three of the proposed goals—10 (reduce inequality), 13 (climate change) and 16 (peaceful and inclusive societies, rule of law and effective and capable institutions)—while strong support was expressed for maintaining the separation among the current Goals 8 (sustainable economic growth and work for all) and 9 (sustainable industrialization), and among Goals 14 (conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, oceans and seas) and 15 (terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity). As a result, it is still not clear how many goals will constitute the final package of SDGs and how they will be balanced.
At the same time, delegates expressed concern about creating strong targets that are action-oriented and measurable. For the first time during the OWG, delegates at OWG-12 seemed to focus on whether proposed targets were achievable and how implementation could be monitored and reported. While some delegates continued to propose new targets, many more noted that certain targets were better placed as indicators, and others should be deleted because they were highly aspirational but not achievable. This has become yet another challenge for the OWG—how to achieve a balance between what they want to accomplish and what can realistically be accomplished by 2030.
TWELVE DOWN, ONE TO GO
With twelve sessions completed, the OWG has only eight days left to complete its work, including the three days of “informal-informal” consultations that will precede OWG-13. As the Co-Chairs noted, the time has come to reach agreement on the final package of SDGs to submit to the UN General Assembly to be taken into consideration as part of the deliberations on the post-2015 development agenda.
With so little time remaining before 18 July—the final day of OWG-13—delegates emerged from the ECOSOC Chamber on Friday evening exhausted from an intense week of work, yet curious about what will happen between now and 18 July. Some wondered how the Co-Chairs will manage the OWG’s final session and related consultations to enable delegates to produce a balanced set of SDGs that are universal, “crispy,” action-oriented, and reflective of the three dimensions of sustainable development. Others asked themselves if OWG members can bridge the North-South divide and create a new framework that truly operationalizes sustainable development and anchors a truly transformative agenda. Still others wondered if the 13 OWG sessions and the Co-Chairs’ careful management of the process will enable governments to arrive at a consensus outcome in an increasingly challenging political environment for multilateral negotiations. In the end, after 18 months, the OWG has just a few days left to show that it can create a package of SDGs that will exist together in a delicate balance.
Big Organizing Meeting – People’s Climate March
Tuesday, July 1st @6 – 8:30pm The New School – Old Tishman Auditorium 66 West 12th St., between 5th and 6th Ave. in Manhattan
In September, world leaders are coming to New York City for a UN summit on the climate crisis. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is urging governments to support an ambitious global agreement to dramatically reduce global warming pollution.
With our future on the line and the whole world watching, we’ll take a stand to bend the course of history. We’ll take to the streets to demand the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities.
To change everything, we need everyone on board.
Sunday, September 21 in New York City. Join us.
Consideration should be given to establishing an EU program to stimulate weak key sectors of the economies of its member states and correct bubbles through dedicated ECB lending on specific terms and conditions to their Central Banks. This would enable each member country to have control over its own economy: to stimulate job and revenue growth and minimized bubble risks by varying the amount and costs of this dedicated and restricted money supply borrowed from this ECB program to each of its economic sectors. This program would have a sunset provision.
Eligible Economic Sectors: manufacturing plant construction or upgrades; new machine tools or equipment to increase productivity; new and improved commercial services and communications; agricultural improvement; infrastructure repair, maintenance, and expansion; education and skill training; residential and commercial construction; clean and alternative energy, regional transportation networks; power grids; water conservation; tourism; etc.
Flexible and Dedicated Selective Sector Credit Simulation Recovery Policy would be set by the European Commission, carried out and supervised by European Central Bank, and administered by the Central Banks of each member country since they are familiar with and understand the economic conditions and needs of their respective nations. All of these ECB loans to the Central Banks of each country would be exclusively dedicated to stimulating specific sectors of its economy approved by the ECB.
The Banking System As Operating Instrument: The ECB would be allowed to adjust the amount and/or vary the interest rate of these restricted and dedicated loans to each member country’s Central Bank according to need. In turn, each Central Banks would utilize qualified local or national banks to place and service said dedicated funds on a modest fee basis to qualified collateralized borrowers on pre-set Central Bank terms and conditions. All loans would be subject to the approval of the Central Bank. Each member country would guarantee all said ECB dedicated funding to its Central Bank for these dedicated local purposes. All such Central Bank lending would be confined to their own country and only used for private sector job and revenue growth and other eligible purposes as specified above.
Domestic Insourcing: When and if necessary, any and all member state outsourcing needs would be confined within the boundaries of the EU to help create job and revenue growth for mutual recovery and prosperity.
A Selective credit stimulation policy could be an effective, minimum cost tool for economic, job, and revenue growth.
REQUISITES FOR GLOBAL LEADERSHIP AND FULL EMPLOYMENT:
(1) Nations cannot achieve and maintain greatness without a balanced multi-sector economy.
(2) A wealth generating high and low tech industrial base is essential to supply the funds to support a service economy, obtain full employment, provide opportunity, achieve a positive trade balance, sustain prosperity, maintain security, and reduce debt and income inequality.
(3) The most common causes of the decline and/or downfall of great nations or empires are unaffordable foreign military adventurism (beyond national security) and prolificacy at home.
(4) Governments, as well as, individuals must live within their means.
(5) If the domestic economy cannot produce the revenues to support the needs and demands of the nation, a country must either reduce its living standards, public services, and the size and costs of its government or develop the capability to exploit the growth opportunities in the global economy to generate the jobs and revenues needed to avoid decline, sustain itself, and prosper.
(6) Government is overhead and expense and must be kept lean and cost efficient. All non-essential or superfluous departments, programs, services, perks, benefits, and personnel must be continuously culled along with ineffective or counterproductive laws and regulations. Extendable sunset provisions should be incorporated into all government programs.
(7) Government has a duty and obligation to create and maintain the business friendly economic environment needed to enable the private sector to provide the job and revenue growth necessary to achieve and sustain national prosperity.
(8)Good and effective government is dependent upon: campaign reform (solely government financed) and tax reform (graduated Flat Tax over poverty levels); all elected and public officials being held to the highest standards of competence, honesty, diligence and ethics and be removed for failure to place the national interests above personal, political, and special interests; the elimination of crony regulations, regulators and revolving job switching between public officials and regulated entities, and special interests; the prohibition of insider trading by all elected or appointed officials and government employees; and the return of all unspent campaign funding.
(9) Automatically grant Green Cards to all top foreign graduates of American Universities and all talented foreign immigration seekers with college and/or advanced degrees in science, math, physics, engineering, and business from other countries and individuals with special skills to keep the U.S. the leading R&D magnet and innovation center of the world.
(10) Effective economic growth strategies and policies can quickly reverse negative conditions, statistics, research findings, and conventional thinking.
(11) Decent jobs, quality education, relevant skill training, and high and low tech re-industrialization and domestic insourcing, are the most feasible means to eliminate poverty, reduce the income gap, increase revenues, and reduce/eliminate the national debt.
(12) It is not true that automation and innovation will cause permanent unemployment shortages and declining wages. While automation may reduce minimum wage assembly line jobs, it increases productivity and competitiveness and creates compensating higher paying jobs in the innovation , design, production, operation, maintenance, and installation of sophisticated machine tools, and robots, and their related services (marketing, distribution, clerical, accounting, education, training, etc.) along with the development of educational partnerships and apprenticeship arrangements between industry and school and community college systems to produce an educated, sophisticated, high tech middle class workforce that will be more prosperous, productive and globally competitive in both high and low tech manufacturing and services.
(13) Sustained severe unemployment, under employment, and denied opportunity can lead to social and political unrest, revenue reduction, and increased criminal activity as a means of individual or family support and survival.
(14) The fastest means to middle class values is a middle class income. Decent jobs, quality education, and relevant skill training are the best means to end poverty and inequality.
(15) Minimize taxes on the producers of jobs and opportunity and fairly and progressively
tax their beneficiaries eliminating all deductions.
(16) Foster and sustain a national and personal spirit and culture of excellence, pride, and pre-eminence. Teach civics. Enact compulsory voting with penalties for non-compliance.
(17) It is essential to upgrade the skills, professional status and compensation of teachers and provide superior and free public education from grade schools through universities.
(18) The keys to successful global and domestic trade are to build superior products at an affordable price and to require reciprocal market access, set minimum labor and environmental standards, and disallow unfair currency manipulation with foreign trading partners.
Following is a proposal for full employment via cost free high and low tech reindustrialization, relevant skill training, and affordable Universal Healthcare and livable Social Security systems:
HOW TO GET AND KEEP U.S. FULL EMPLOYMENT AND PROSPERITY COST FREE
Despite dire predictions to the contrary, it is not true that automation and innovation will cause permanent unemployment, job shortages and declining wages. While automation may reduce some minimum wage assembly line jobs, it creates others plus compensating higher paying jobs in the innovation , design, production, operation, maintenance and installation of sophisticated machine tools, and robots, and their related services (marketing, distribution, clerical, accounting, education, training, etc.). A key part of the solution is the development of educational partnerships and apprenticeship programs between industry and school and community college systems to develop an educated and
skilled, high tech middle class workforce. This workforce will be more prosperous, productive and globally competitive in both high and low tech manufacturing and services to provide full employment, a positive balance of trade, and produce the revenues to fully fund the government, its agencies, and programs, and reduce the debt. Immigration laws must be liberalized to attract the world’s best and
brightest to make the U.S. the global center of research, development, and innovation reinforced by free public college and universal healthcare funded by a fractional securities and derivatives transfer tax.
REINDUSTRIALIZATION could be accomplished by requiring all recipients and beneficiaries of government basic research, development grants and/or other incentives to produce the created products in the USA for 3-5 years. After that period, these goods would likely become generic and could be offshored through patent, copyright, and/ or joint venture arrangements, making room for the next generation of innovation. All research and development would be required to be done in the USA. Non-compliance would result in duties on those goods produced overseas in whole or in part. Domestic insourcing must be promoted. Also, Sovereign high tech and financial investments would be strictly regulated to prevent industrial theft. This is not protectionism. These measures would ensure U.S. technological- superiority, competitiveness, job growth. Additionally, a U.S. High Tech Light Industrial Export Free Zone Program for Major Urban Centers is necessary for fiscal and social stability. U.S. prosperity is dependent upon the expansion of markets and demand. While innovation creates its own global markets (especially in advanced nations), the developing countries in South America, Africa, the Middle East, South East Asia and Russia offer the greatest trade growth potential. It is essential to cultivate and dominate these developing markets through mutually beneficial trade agreements. The major portion of our foreign aid policy should be the exchange of U.S. produced goods, equipment, and know-how for raw, semi-finished, and low tech goods and materials. This would create jobs in both donor and recipient nations, increase the economic value of the recipient’s natural resources, provide needed education, skill training, technical assistance, and boost their GDP.
FISCAL AND SOCIAL VIABILITY: Our cities, states, businesses, and unions must be saved from the unaffordable and crippling burdens of health and pension obligations both of which are rightfully the duty and responsibility of the federal government and are universal rights. Consequently, it is necessary to (1) implement affordable universal healthcare incorporating well known reforms and expanding Medicare to cover all citizens and veterans (eliminating the need for Medicaid) and (2) reform Social Security on a need and livable basis. Both systems could be financed by a new progressive flat tax code that would eliminate all tax havens, loopholes, deductions, and carried interest. Impose a fractional securities and derivative transaction tax dedicated to reduce healthcare, Social Security, and education costs. Legitimate business capital investments would be expensed in accordance with IRS schedules. Existing pension and 401k accounts would be automatically switched, on a pro rata basis, into either Roth IRA’s or a special inflation protected issue of U.S. government bonds (any resulting bond revenue surplus to Social Security needs would be added to the Social Security Fund).
TAX REFORM: A graduated flat tax would cover actual cost of government operations and said federal programs. There would be separate tax surcharges (and/or FICA increases) for the actual costs of healthcare and Social Security and the military, thus creating an effective taxpayer watchdog effect on government spending, waste, inefficiency, and military expenditures beyond national security needs. Set mandatory repatriation of 80% +/- of foreign business profits at a capital gains rate (to offset foreign taxes and special charges). Alternatively, compensating duties would be imposed on the goods and services produced overseas by non-compliant corporations and sold in the U.S. There would be modest progressive estate taxes and only a mortgage interest deduction on primary homes. The International Financial Stability Board and /or the Bank for International Settlements would set and oversee a uniform global transaction tax on all stock, bond and derivative transfers. SEC regulation of shadow banking.
Harry L. Langer 20 E 68th St. NY, NY 10065. E:email@example.com T:212-517-5942
(Without Strangulation or expanding the bureaucracy)
*Restore a revised Glass/Steagall Act to separate banking and speculation to reduce systemic risk.
*Restoreformer individualusury interest limits (6 to 7%) and personal bankruptcy protection standards (including judicial cram-downs for home mortgages, college debt, and usurious credit card interest rates, fees and penalty charges. Set and enforce heavy civil and criminal penalties for non-compliance. (No need for an additional consumer protection agency.)
*Restrict access to the Federal Reserve Window to legitimate commercial and savings banks for domestic lending and normal operational purposes only [not for use to offset funding for capital market affiliates, bank holding companies, Wall Street financial houses or hedge or equity funds in order to prevent their gaming of the financial markets, speculation and obscene remuneration at taxpayer risk and expense, and financial system crisis].
*Set minimum reserve (12% Tier One capital assets) and maximum leverage limits (8.5 X Tier One capital assets) for each type of bank, financial institution, lender, insurer, pension fund, hedge fund, equity fund mutual fund etc. domestically and globally.
*Set and regulate minimum equity capital requirements (12% of asset value) and maximum leverage limit (8.5 X equity capital in assets) in each category of financial transactions domestically and globally via the International Financial Stability Board, the Basel Committee on Banking Regulation and Supervision and make compliance a condition of membership in the Group of 30, IMF, World Bank, OECD, WTO who would also ban all national bank secrecy protections by governments to help stop tax evasion and financial fraud).
*Establish and enforce uniform standards of transparency, disclosure, and due diligence in all individual and consumer financial transactions including mortgages, credit cards, credit & investment accounts, etc.
*The Financial Stability Board should: set and oversee a global ban on Credit Default Swaps and all naked trading including sovereign debt and bank equity and debt control; regulate shadow banking; set and oversee a uniform global transaction tax on all stock, bond and derivative transactions; establish exchange for derivatives; and put Hedge Funds and shadow banking under SEC supervision and regulations. Eliminate carried interest tax advantage.
*Enact law allowing only government campaign financing and prohibit all contributions, gifts or benefits to elected, aspiring, or appointed public officials from any source to end government for sale.
*End crony capitalism and the rotation of regulators and regulated officials between Wall Street, other financial institutions, hedge funds, lobbyists, and banks and government regulatory agencies and departments (Treasury, Federal Reserve, SEC, FDIC, Comptroller of the Currency, etc.). Prohibit employment of regulators and their key staffers by the regulated for a minimum period of 3 years after they leave government service to stop the existing clubby, revolving door system that creates individual, financial institution, and corporate insider advantages, favoritism and gains at public expense. Staffing of the regulator agencies should primarily come from top highly qualified independent professionals (academics, economists, public spirited retired and active top executives of leading corporations, think tank experts, etc.) without ties to banks, Wall Street, financial institutions, hedge funds, investment houses, and corporate special interests. An advisory panel of independent financial and economic experts should be established to oversee the regulators and the efficacy of their activities and policies to help maintain economic growth and stability, and detect and avoid systemic risk.
*No bank bonuses, perks, and top executive salary increases until the government gets fully repaid and then bank bonuses should be paid in stock options at high target bank stock exercise price. Restitution by Bank and Wall of all Government bailout costs (loans, toxic assets and subprime mortgage losses).
Although they perform certain beneficial financial and capital market and merger services, Wall Street houses, financial institutions, and hedge and equity funds can also suck the wealth out of the economy for themselves at the expense of jobs, economic growth, and their corporate targets and their stockholders. All shadow banking must be regulated in the public interest. The raison d’etre for banks and Wall Street is to provide services for businesses, governments, and individuals, not to control or exploit them. Harry L. Langer, NYC, Permalink | | Email This Article
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