Aletho News


Putin – Burkhalter talks: an eluding chance for Ukraine


A couple of brief remarks on today’s meeting in Kremlin between Russian President Vladimir Putin and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Didier Burkhalter:

1. The elaborated framework of the road map for de-escalation in Ukraine consists of four basic provisions: ceasefire, deescalation (withdrawal of troops and disarmament of illegal armed groups), initiation of national reconciliation dialogue and holding elections. The ball is obviously on Kiev’s side. Any further attempt to repress the protest in the South-East will definitely close this narrow window of opportunity.

2. Putin’s request to postpone referenda on independence in Donetsk and Lugansk is an act of good will. Being aware of the public mood in these regions it is very unlikely that the ballot will be held off. People there are counting days to have a legal foundation to get rid of Kiev’s dictate. By the way, such development would undermine traditional Western claims that Putin is manipulating the protests in the South-East of Ukraine.

3. The Russian President emphasized again that “the blame for the crisis… lies with those who organised the coup d’etat in Kiev and have not yet taken the trouble to disarm right-wing radical and nationalist groups.” That means that prior to such disarmament there would be no dialogue and no elections.

4. It was also stressed that the draft new constitution of Ukraine should be discussed during this national reconciliation dialogue and  again, prior to the elections.

5. The situation on the ground suggests that this road-map would take at least 6 months to be implemented and require a substantial participation of the legitimate Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovych.

This is the last (and rather unexpected) chance to retain a united federative Ukraine. Taking into account highly contradicting interests of the international centers of power which dominate over the current Kiev administration, it would be almost impossible to keep this narrow window open for this term. But apparently Hope will be the last victim of the ongoing Ukrainian crisis…

May 7, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Comments Off on Putin – Burkhalter talks: an eluding chance for Ukraine

U.S. National Climate Assessment Report

By Judith Curry | May 6, 2014

Climate change, once considered a problem for the distant future, has moved firmly into the present.  Climate change is already affecting the American people. – U.S. NCADAC

The U.S. National Climate Assessment Report was published Tuesday [link].  I’ve read half of the chapters (at the beginning and end), skimming the ones in the middle.

My main conclusion from reading the report is this:  the phrase ‘climate change’ is now officially meaningless.  The report effectively implies that there is no climate change other than what is caused by humans, and that extreme weather events are equivalent to climate change.  Any increase in adverse impacts from extreme weather events or sea level rise is caused by humans. Possible scenarios of future climate change depend only on emissions scenarios that are translated into warming by climate models that produce far more warming than has recently been observed.

Some of the basic underlying climate science and impacts reported is contradictory to the recent IPCC AR5 reports.  Pat Michaels and Chip Knappenberger have written a 134 page critique of a draft of the NCADAC report [link].

Even in the efforts to spin extreme weather events as alarming and caused by humans, Roger Pielke Jr. has tweeted the following quotes from the Report:

  • “There has been no universal trend in the overall extent of drought across the continental U.S. since 1900″
  •  “Other trends in severe storms, including the intensity & frequency of tornadoes, hail, and damaging thunderstorm winds, are uncertain”
  • “lack of any clear trend in landfall frequency along the U.S. eastern and Gulf coasts”
  • “when averaging over the entire contiguous U.S., there is no overall trend in flood magnitudes”

As a I wrote in a previous post on a draft of the report, the focus should be on the final Chapter 29: Research Agenda, which outlines what we DON’T know.  Chapter 28 Adaptation is also pretty good.  Chapter 27 Mitigation is also not bad, and can hardly be said to make a strong case for mitigation.  Chapter 26 on Decision Support is also ok, with one exception: they assume the only scenarios of future climate are tied to CO2 emissions scenarios.

An interesting feature of the report is Traceable Accounts – for each major conclusion a Traceable Account is given that describes the Key Message Process, Description of evidence base, New information and remaining uncertainties, Assessment of confidence based on evidence.  The entertainment value comes in reading the description of very substantial uncertainties, and then seeing ‘very high confidence’.  This exercise, while in principle is a good one, in practice only serves to highlight the absurdity of the ‘very high confidence’ levels in this report.

 White House

Apparently President Obama is embracing this Report, and the issue of climate change, in a big way, see this WaPo article For President Obama A Renewed Focus On Climate.  Motherboard has an interesting article How extreme weather convinced Obama to fight climate change.

In an interesting move, Obama Taps TV Meteorologists to Roll Out New Climate Report, which describes how Obama is giving interviews to some TV weathermen.  It will be interesting to see how this strategy plays out, since TV weathermen tend to be pretty skeptical of AGW.

The politics on this are interesting also, see especially these two articles

JC reflections

While there is some useful analysis in the report, it is hidden behind a false premise that any change in the 20th century has been caused by AGW.  Worse yet is the spin being put on this by the Obama administration.  The Washington Post asks the following question: Does National Climate Assessment lack necessary nuance? In a word, YES.

The failure to imagine future extreme events and climate scenarios, other than those that are driven by CO2 emissions and simulated by deficient climate models, has the potential to increase our vulnerability to future climate surprises (see my recent presentation on this Generating possibility distributions of scenarios for regional climate change).  As an example, the Report highlights the shrinking of winter ice in the Great Lakes:  presently, in May, Lake Superior is 30% covered by ice, which is apparently unprecedented in the historical record.

The big question is whether the big push by the White House on climate change will be able to compete with this new interview with Monica Lewinsky :)

May 7, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Progressive Hypocrite, Science and Pseudo-Science | , | Comments Off on U.S. National Climate Assessment Report

When Our Land is Free, We are Free

By Silas Kpanan’Ayoung Siakor & Jacinta Fay | The Ecologist | May 7, 2014

Right now in Abuja, Nigeria, agribusiness corporations are courting African governments at the Grow Africa Investment Forum to “further accelerate sustainable agricultural growth in Africa”.

That sounds harmless enough, until you know what it really means. Corporate interest in agriculture in Africa has certainly accelerated corporate control of land, seeds and water. But it has done little to support agriculture that will feed the continent.

Rather than support family farming and smallholder agriculture, private sector investment in agriculture has resulted in grabbing land from communities – the land which they farm sustainably and rely on for their survival.

Resisting the corporate bully boys

Communities are resisting this corporate takeover of their land and they are winning. All over Africa people are sending a clear message to their governments: “Stop selling Africa to corporations!” The Jogbahn Clan in Liberia is one such community and here is their story.

The sense of jubilation in Blayahstown, small town in Liberia, is palpable. People come from surrounding villages to join in the celebrations and the town is filled with singing and dancing.

The Jogbahn Clan is celebrating a victory as the President of Liberia has now recognised their right to say no Equatorial Palm Oil (EPO) a British palm oil company grabbing their land.

This is no small feat in a country where over 50% of the land has been given to corporations without the consent of the communities who customarily own the land.

We come from this land – it is ours!

The sense of accomplishment is not lost on Chief Elder Chio Johnson who looks like he hasn’t stopped smiling since he returned from the Clan’s meeting with the President of Liberia – where she committed to support them in protecting their land from being grabbed by EPO.

“Why should a company take away our livelihood?” asked Chio. “We come from this land. Everything our ancestors left us is preserved in the forest, so why should we give up our forest?”

Walking through the forest with Deyeatee Kardor, the Clan’s Chairlady, she picks leaves and describes the different medicines that they can be used for. She recounts how she and her family hid in the forest throughout the Civil War and managed to survive on the plants and fruits growing in the bush.

Though the land bears the scars of the recent past it also represents the Clan’s ancestral home and they would not willingly allow this deep connection to the land to be fractured.

20,000 hectares of community land given away

377291The land gives us everything”, Chio says as he surveys the area; the vegetables, wild palm and sugar cane growing all around. Like other rural communities in Liberia they make their livelihood from the land they manage collectively.

The clan are self-sufficient and manage the land sustainably. For the Clan, to lose their land is to lose everything.

The communities’ resistance began in 2012 when EPO began to expand their plantation onto the community land of eleven towns. The Government of Liberia and EPO had signed a concession agreement allowing the company’s plantation to engulf communities’ land amounting to over 20,000 hectares.

Communities all over Liberia are facing the same threat as their lands are given to companies without their consent. As a result conflict between communities and companies has been widespread.

Police and EPO security intimidation

The Clan organised and came together to resist their land being grabbed. Men, women and youth from the affected towns chose representatives to form a core group to lead the resistance.

They met the company and the government several times to object to the company’s expansion. In spite of this towards the end of 2012 EPO began clearing and planting their land, destroying crops and farmland.

In September 2013 EPO began surveying the communities’ land without their consent. When the communities attempted to stop the survey a paramilitary police unit was deployed into the area, and began to run a campaign of harassment and intimidation by both the police and EPO’s security force.

They drove through villages at night flashing their emergency lights and arrived in villages riding on top of vehicles the same way rebel fighters did during the war.

People were also assaulted during a peaceful march and 17 people suffered arbitrary arrest. The Clan Chief was also suspended from his position by the government because he spoke out against the company.

Divide and rule – this time, it failed

Despite these aggressive tactics the community continued resisting. They lodged a complaint to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and presented a petition to the government stating their objections.

“All they have done is try to divide us”, commented Deyeatee. “They offer important people a little money to try to convince them.”

However the community refused to be weakened by division and eventually secured the crucial meeting with the Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf where she recognised their right to say ‘no’ to the company.

The struggle has made us stronger than ever before and we’ve learned a lesson to stay united”, said Anthony Johnson, a youth representative.

“The success is so great as it secures my future and the future of my children to come. I will stay on this land and plant crops for my children so future generations can live off the land.”

But for EPO, it’s business as usual

Despite the President’s commitment EPO has still not recognised that the Clan has said no to their operations. They are operating as if things are business as usual and conducting studies of the Clan’s land in preparation for clearing.

But the Clan are not discouraged and they continue their resistance for the hope of a better future.

Land clearance and other preparatory activities would be unlawful, as they do not respect communities’ right to give or withhold their Free Prior and Informed Consent, which is a requirement provided for under both national and international law.

“We want the government to support us to be self-sufficient on our land instead of giving it to a company who will just take the money and go home”, said Garmondeh Benwon, who suffered assault on the march. ”Instead we can keep the money in Liberia and we can live better lives.”

Organise and resist!

Every year, an area five times the land size of Liberia is grabbed from communities around the world. The Jogbahn Clan show that stopping it is possible when communities stand together, mobilise and resist.

The government has recognised their right to say no – and now EPO and KLK, their majority shareholder, must do the same.

It is a privilege to work in solidarity with the Clan and their drive and resilience has been a constant source of inspiration for everyone in SDI / FoE Liberia.

The Clan are preparing to share the lessons of their struggle and give hope to other communities resisting land-grabbing. And as Deyeatee says:

“I am very happy my land is free – because when our land is free, we’re all free.”

Silas Siakor is a campaigner on Community Rights and the founder of the Sustainable Development Institute/Friends of the Earth, Liberia a national civil society organisation promoting the sustainable and just use of Liberia’s natural resources. Silas has received the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2006, the Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Environmental and Human Rights Activism from The Alexander Soros Foundation in 2012 and TIME Magazine chose him as one of the 2008 Heroes of the Environment.

Jacinta Fay is a community worker and campaigner for the Community Rights and Corporate Governance Programme of the Sustainable Development Institute/Friends of the Earth Liberia which supports communities protect their land and resources and challenges corporate and government actions which threaten community rights. She is also Landgrab Campaigner for Friends of the Earth International which works to challenge landgrabbing, defend community territories and protect land rights. She also campaigns on trade justice, reproductive rights and social justice.

Twitter: Join the conversation on Twitter #stopEPO

Petition: Support the Jogbahn Clan to protect their land and resources: Landgrabbing in Liberia: Tell Equatorial Palm Oil NO means NO!

EPO backgrounder: EPO’s majority shareholder is the Malaysian company KLK, widely known to use child labor and other egregious practices. In turn, US-based investment company Dimensional Fund Advisors holds over $12 million in KLK. DFA also holds over $2.5 billion in companies with significant stakes in the palm oil sector. And DFA is partly owned by Arnold Schwarzenegger – who claims to care a great deal about saving forests. DFA also manages money for a wide range of US clients, from cities’ endowments to pension funds.


May 7, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Environmentalism, Solidarity and Activism | | Comments Off on When Our Land is Free, We are Free

Putin calls for end to Kiev’s military operation, postponing referendum in E. Ukraine

RT | May 7, 2014

Ukrainian right-wing groups are behind the recent events in the country, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, adding that Kiev has not disarmed them. He also called on anti-Kiev protesters to postpone a May 11 federalization referendum.

“Russia believes that the crisis, which originated in Ukraine and is now actively developing in accordance with the worst-case scenario, is to be blamed on those who organized the coup in Kiev on 22-23 February and still do not care to disarm the right-wing and nationalist elements,” the president said.

Direct dialogue between Kiev and anti-government protesters in southeast Ukraine is key to ending the crisis, Putin said.

It is now essential “to create the necessary conditions for this dialogue,” he added.

This, however, would require rescheduling the referendum, which anti-government activists scheduled on May 11 to determine the fate of southeast Ukraine.

“We are calling for southeast Ukraine representatives, supporters of federalization of the country, to postpone the May 11 referendum to create the necessary conditions for dialogue,” Putin said at a press conference with Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss President Didier Burkhalter in Moscow.

In response to Putin’s offer, one of the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, said the possibility would be discussed Thursday.

“We respect Putin’s position. He is a balanced politician. So we will submit this proposal tomorrow to the people’s council,” he said.

‘Russia withdraws troops from Ukrainian border’

President Vladimir Putin also said that Russia has withdrawn its troops from the Ukrainian border.

“We have been told that our troops on the Ukrainian border are a concern – we have withdrawn them. They are now not on Ukrainian territory, but at locations where they conduct regular drills at ranges,” he said.

Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested holding “roundtable discussions,” a proposal that Moscow fully supports, Putin added.

Moscow and the OSCE agree substantially on the approach to resolving the situation in Ukraine, Putin said, adding that negotiations had made it clear.

“Moscow is interested in a swift resolution of the crisis in Ukraine, taking into consideration the interests of all people of the country,” he said.

OSCE drafting Ukraine road-map

In the coming hours, OSCE will offer a “roadmap” on Ukraine, Burkhalter said.

“Our offer now is the following: literally in the next few hours we would like to offer a road-map for the four signatories of the Geneva agreements,” Burkhalter said, adding that the roadmap lays out “concrete steps” to resolve the Ukrainian crisis.

There are four major points, he said: “These are the ceasefire, the de-escalation of tensions, the dialogue and elections.” Burkhalter added that the roadmap had been discussed earlier in Vienna.

It comes as a “more pragmatic” alternative to the so-called Geneva-2 peace talks on Ukraine, which Burkhalter said for now are not being planned to be held.

Burkhalter also believes that dialogue between Kiev and southeast Ukraine is a “realistic prospect.”

“As for the probability of a national dialogue in Ukraine, I think it’s quite a realistic prospect, because only Ukrainian people need to be involved in determining their own destiny,” he said.

On behalf of OSCE, Burkhalter said that the organization is ready to take responsibility for coordination the “roadmap” and negotiations with the US and the EU will be taking place soon.

May 7, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Comments Off on Putin calls for end to Kiev’s military operation, postponing referendum in E. Ukraine

Lieberman denounces Palestinian “traitors” over Nakba rally

Al-Akhbar | May 7, 2014

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday denounced as a “fifth column” thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel who joined a demonstration calling for the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Around 10,000 protesters, many waving Palestinian flags, joined a rally inside the 1949 Green Line on Tuesday to remember 530 villages from which some 760,000 people fled or were expelled in the 1948 Nakba.

The rally took place as Israel marked the 66th anniversary of what it describes as its “independence day,” with Lieberman accusing the demonstrators of being traitors.

“Those who marched with flags of the Palestinian Authority demanding that it not give up on the right of return, are a fifth column whose aim is the destruction of Israel,” he told army radio.

He also addressed the demonstration on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

“To those Arabs that took part today in the ‘Nakba Day’ procession and waved Palestinian flags, I suggest that next time they march directly to Ramallah and they stay there,” he wrote.

But he acknowledged that those who joined the Nakba demonstration were only “a minority” among Israel’s Arab minority, who make up just over a fifth of the overall population of 8.2 million.

At the rally, which took place in a small village in the North, the protesters marched under the slogan: “Your ‘independence’ day is our Nakba” — Arabic for catastrophe.

More than 760,000 Palestinians fled or were driven out of their homes by armed Zionist forces when Israel declared itself a state in May 1948. Today, with their descendants, they number an estimated 4.8 million.

Around 160,000 Palestinians stayed in their homes and took Israeli citizenship. Official figures published last week show they now number 1,694,000 people, or 20.7 percent of the population.

Lieberman, a hardliner within the ruling rightwing coalition, is an open proponent transferring densely-populated Palestinian areas inside the Green Line to the control of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority in any future peace deal.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

May 7, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 1 Comment

US announces opposition to referendum in eastern Ukraine

Press TV – May 7, 2014

The United States has announced its opposition to a planned independence referendum in eastern Ukraine, saying such a move could trigger new sanctions against Russia.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that the US and its allies “reject” efforts for organizing the referendum set for Sunday, calling the referendum “bogus” and saying “its pursuit will create even more problems in the effort to try to de-escalate the situation.”

Referring to a referendum in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea on March 16 in which nearly 97 percent of the participants voted for independence from Ukraine, Kerry said, “This is really the Crimea playbook all over again.”

Meanwhile, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, who disclosed earlier this year that Washington has “invested” about $5 billion in “promoting democracy” in Ukraine over the past two decades, has said that the independence referendum in eastern Ukraine “will be a trigger” for more sanctions against Moscow.

Pro-Russians are planning their own vote on self-determination in Ukraine’s eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Meanwhile, Washington and its Western allies support a May 25 presidential poll that they say can prevent Ukraine from plunging into a civil war.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID), which was recently in the headlines for the covert creation of a text-based social network to stir political unrest in Cuba, has said it will support Ukraine’s media financially so that the pro-Western media outlets can cover the planned presidential election in the country.

USAID officials have said they want to add $1.25 million to the more than $10 million already promised by US government agencies to help bring about the expected election.

Russia has opposed the vote saying holding the election during the current violence would be “unusual” and “absurd.”

Following a military offensive against pro-Russian activists in eastern Ukraine ordered by Ukrainian authorities, nearly 90 people have been killed in less than a week.

According to a report published on Sunday in the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, dozens of CIA and FBI agents are involved in the offensive against the pro-Russian activists.

May 7, 2014 Posted by | Video, War Crimes | , , , | Comments Off on US announces opposition to referendum in eastern Ukraine