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New July 2013

Rich countries: Sure, climate change will screw poor countries, but what about us?


The new report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights that we are already feeling the pain of global warming across the planet. Heat waves and drought are increasingly in rhythm in every major continent, including our own, while severe flooding is more frequently becoming the business in Africa. If you don’t want to read the IPCC’s 2,500-plus page report, here’s the shorter version: Climate fuckery is not futuristic; we have been fucking up the atmosphere; it is fucking us back. But, as I wrote recently, there are certain people — particularly those with large concentrations of melanin in their skin, and smaller concentrations of money in the bank — who are suffering more of that fuckery than their less-melanated, more-resourced counterparts. The IPCC’s latest makes note of this. Disturbingly, the report’s authors wanted to keep this critical information out of the much-shorter IPCC executive summary — the part that’s supposed to be the most accessible to the public and lawmakers. From New York Times reporter Justin Gillis: The poorest people in the world, who have had virtually nothing to do with causing global warming, will be high on the list of victims as climatic disruptions intensify, the report said. It cited a World Bank estimate that poor countries need as much as $100 billion a year to try to offset the effects of climate change; they are now getting, at best, a few billion dollars a year in such aid from rich countries. The $100 billion figure, though included in the 2,500-page main report, was removed from a 48-page executive summary to be read by the world’s top political leaders. It was among the most significant changes made as the summary underwent final review during a days long editing session in Yokohama. The edit came after several rich countries, including the United States, raised questions about the language, according to several people who were in the room at the time but did not wish to be identified because the negotiations are private. The language is contentious because poor countries are expected to renew their demand for aid this September in New York at a summit meeting of world leaders, who will attempt to make headway on a new treaty to limit greenhouse gases. Many rich countries argue that $100 billion a year is an unrealistic demand; it would essentially require them to double their budgets for foreign aid, at a time of economic distress at home. That argument has fed a rising sense of outrage among the leaders of poor countries, who feel their people are paying the price for decades of profligate Western consumption. Those bolds are all mine. And before I elaborate, I have to add that it’s equally disturbing to me that this information came two-thirds of the way into Gillis’s article. Talk about burying the lede — this erasure is the story, but it was relegated to the story’s third act, meaning many people probably won’t read it. Back to the bolds, starting with the last one: Rich countries argue that $100 billion a year to shield poor countries from climate impacts is an “unrealistic demand.” I do not believe that if the World Bank said that Europe and U.S. will be destroyed without $100 billion in aid each year, that this would have been deleted from the IPCC summary. Arguing that they cannot afford to deal with the poor in the way that the world’s lead economists say they need to means rich countries do not truly understand what they’re up against. It means that they believe they will somehow be immunized from the kinds of violent uprisings over food, land, energy, and water that result when the poor — mostly people of color — are left out of the picture. It means they do not get what is already happening in Syria, the Ukraine, Taiwan, Mexico, and the Sudan, where forced massive migration and civil wars have already started over limited resources, arguably the result of climate change’s impacts. When rich countries can edit the poor out of the most important document on the gravest danger facing Earth, it means that they are not serious about addressing climate change. It means that climate mitigation funds will help protect millionaire beachfront condo owners in South Beach, but have yet to address how it will protect what’s left of Geechee families in South Carolina. Perhaps it even means that rich countries think their money is better spent on technology and “innovation” to shield themselves from climate catastrophe. And those tricks very well might shield some people from flooding, but it doesn’t shield the “poorest” from the kind of reckless capitalism that traps them in a perpetual state of vulnerability. This is an insult to nations who even with meager resources have already started making the difficult investments that their wealthier counterparts don’t have the courage to make. “Bangladesh has invested $10 billion of its own money to adapt to extreme climatic events,” said Dr. Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development in a statement on the IPCC report. “Nepal is the first country to develop adaptation plans at the community level. It is time for the richer countries to pull their weight and do the right thing, by investing at home and abroad in actions that can reduce emissions and protect people and property from danger.” There is little today that says whiteness is supreme more than arguing that it is an “unrealistic demand” for nations with predominantly, if not exclusive, white leadership to pay what is necessary to protect the people of Africa, India, and South America from climate calamity they did not cause. The oppression, the bigotry, and the fuckery of that argument is that it allows rich countries to continue perpetuating unrealistic demands on the world’s “poorest” — those who “virtually have had nothing to do with” climate change. Chattel slavery was an unrealistic demand. Putting Latin American workers in the most dangerous farm and factory jobs, exposing them to pesticides, carcinogens, and other toxic elements so that Walmart can have “roll back” prices — these are unrealistic demands. Asking the poorest of communities to fend for themselves against unprecedented waves of heat, drought, and rising sea levels is an unrealistic demand. In my estimation, there are two things that will destroy us eventually if not resolved soon: white supremacy and climate change. These happen to both be things that the wealthy believe they can afford to ignore. It’s for this reason that the IPCC’s summary just may be their infamous last words.Filed under: Cities, Climate & Energy

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Syria’s Refugee Soccer Starlets

At the Zaatari refguee camp, where families try to piece their lives together after fleeing Syria’s civil war, a group of young women are showing that soccer may be the key to bridging violent divides.

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UN climate panel warns that global warming will complicate security issues

<!– google_ad_section_start –> A United Nations climate panel for the first time is connecting hotter global temperatures to hotter global tempers. Top scientists are saying climate change will complicate and worsen global security problems, such as civil wars, strife between nations and refugees. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Kidnapped journalists land back in Spain

<!– google_ad_section_start –> El Mundo correspondent Javier Espinosa, 49, and freelance photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova, 42, were “freed and handed over to the Turkish military”, the Spanish newspaper had said on its website earlier in the day. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Warmer temperatures can lead to warmer tempers, UN report to say

Top scientists are saying that climate change will complicate and worsen existing global security problems

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More than 100,000 protesters rally in Taiwan against trade pact with China


Protesters say deal was rushed through and could leave Taiwan beholden to China’s Communist party leadersMore than 100,000 protesters took to the streets of Taiwan’s capital on Sunday as a two-week-long campaign against a trade pact with China gathered steam, piling further pressure on the island’s leader.The rally in Taipei where many were dressed in black and some clutched sunflowers to symbolise hope was one of the largest in recent years in Taiwan, an island that split from China over six decades ago after a civil war.

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Fedor Burlatsky obituary


Political scientist who sought reform from within the Soviet Communist party and was an early advocate of perestroikaBehind its facade of unity, the post-Stalin Soviet Communist party was nothing like as single-minded as its leaders pretended and as many in the outside world believed. It contained radically different undercurrents: among the reformers essential to Mikhail Gorbachev’s eventual programme of perestroika was Fedor Burlatsky, who has died aged 87.A vivid personality and at times an influential figure in intellectual and political life, he observed enough of the rules of the game to maintain a comfortable, although far from lavish, lifestyle. His political writings often pushed to the limits of the permissible: he was an eloquent representative of those party insiders who were critical both of the influence of the military-industrial complex and of Russian nationalist currents within the party.

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Thousands of Taiwanese protest China pact

Tens of thousands take to streets of Taipei to pressure president to retract controversial trade agreement with China.

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Taiwan stages mass anti-China trade pact rally

<!– google_ad_section_start –> Tens of thousands of Taiwanese protesters took to the streets in Taipei on Sunday in a bid to pressure embattled President Ma Ying-jeou to retract a controversial trade pact with China. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Climate change ‘complicates’ global security

Top scientists say climate change will complicate and worsen global security problems such as wars and refugees.

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Car bomb hits Lebanese army checkpoint

At least three soldiers killed in suicide car bomb attack on army checkpoint in border town of Arsal, officials say.

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Hamid Karzai’s tangled legacy: inept failure or anti-Taliban hero?


A look at the extraordinary career of the Afghan president, the leader first hailed by the west who is now widely attacked for his perceived weaknesses, as he prepares to give up powerAmid the dust and traffic of today’s Kabul, three things remain almost as they were a decade or so ago. In winter, and when the wind clears the smog that is a side-effect of years of economic boom, the blue sky above the snowcapped peaks that ring the city is as impressive as ever. Then there is the Arg, the sprawling palace at the city’s centre and the apparently calm eye of a turbulent storm of a country. The complex is home to the third element that has remained constant since the end of the Taliban’s grim regime in 2001: Hamid Karzai, now in his 13th year of power.However, Karzai, 56, will soon be gone. He is constitutionally barred from contesting next weekend’s elections and soon this theatrical, mercurial, complex man will have to find a new occupation. Many, particularly in Washington, will be relieved.

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Car bomb kills three soldiers in attack on Lebanese army checkpoint

Border town attack hit just hours after a speech by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah

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Obama Meets With Saudi King in Effort to Mend Ties

President Obama’s meeting, at King Abdullah’s desert camp northeast of Riyadh, came amid strains over the civil war in Syria and negotiations with Iran.

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Want to attract a new generation to the national parks? Find a few new rangers.


Come 2016, the National Park Service will turn 100 years old. In anticipation of the centennial milestone, the agency announced this week a new public engagement campaign to “reintroduce the national parks … to a new generation of Americans.” This is the federal agency responsible for not just Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, but also the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and Governor’s Island in New York City, which holds the Statue of Liberty. Still, it is having a hell of a time attracting young people to the parks, particularly people of color. Shelton Johnson, an African American ranger at Yosemite National Park in California, talked about the challenge of getting black youth into the great outdoors in Ken Burns’ 2009 PBS documentary, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. “How do I get them here?” Johnson asked. “How do I let them know about the buffalo soldier history, to let them know that we, too, have a place here? How do I make that bridge, and make it shorter and stronger? Every time I go to work and put the uniform on, I think about them.” Part of the problem is that, despite the mosaic of nationalities of people who’ve frequented the parks, there’s not a lot of people like Johnson putting that uniform on. The staffing at the Park Service has remained perpetually and overbearingly white throughout its century-long history. The National Park Service is among the worst on diversity of all federal agencies. For a read on how the agency’s own employees feel about it, check out the 2013 “The Best Places to Work” report, which scores departments based on the yearly Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. According to the report, NPS has one of the lowest scores for diversity, ranked number 258 out of 300 agencies scored. For African Americans, it’s ranked 150 out of 195. Numbers I obtained directly from the National Park Service on its staff’s racial composition show why its rankings are so pitiful. Last year’s third quarter statistics show a roughly 82 percent white workforce, with black workers making up just above 6 percent of the staff. For Latino Americans, it’s less than 5 percent; Native American, less than 3 percent. Some might argue that Park Service employees are mostly white because they’re pulled from rural communities that tend to surround national parks. OK, that works for Yosemite. But not for D.C., New York, and the many other urban areas where NPS is represented. A Powerpoint I obtained on the workforce for the National Parks of New York Harbor shows that 87 percent of their seasonal staff and 80 percent of their permanent staff are white. For black and Latino staff, it’s 4 and 8 percent respectively. “We recognize that if our desire is to reflect the face of America, then that face is becoming [less white] so we have our work cut out for us,” says David Vela, an associate director for NPS who handles workforce diversity. “Clearly the agency is very committed to making sure that at every level — from entry-level positions to mid-range to senior management — it has that diversity. Our numbers don’t reflect that. We know that. We own that and we are developing strategies to deal with it.” Vela mentions strategies in place for pipelining college graduates into the fold, for bringing inner-city kids out to NPS’ locations in the wilderness, and even for bringing NPS into the urban wilderness — the agency just wrapped up a pilot academy program in New York City last week. But the numbers certainly don’t show any marked improvement, and I didn’t hear much about how the agency deals with the kind of racism, both explicit and implicit, that keeps people of color in a perpetual status of “minority.” Looking at NPS’ centennial celebration website, under the “visionary leaders” history page, you read about people like President Teddy Roosevelt and Stephen T. Mather, the NPS’ first director. What’s not mentioned is that both men were close friends with — and closely influenced by — Charles M. Goethe and Madison Grant, leaders of both the conservation movement and the eugenics movement. ICYMI, the eugenics movement was a brand of scientific racism that held that people of color were an innately inferior species. These men saw the national parks as refuges for white people. This is the kind of white supremacist history that has to be reconciled before diversity is appropriately addressed in the NPS workforce. That, and the fact that many if not all of these parks were originally the homes of Native Americans. Asked about this, Vela said, “I would say that park superintendents are more empowered today to connect all of the dots, from Civil War to civil rights.” There are some hints of progress. The New York Times ran a fascinating story last month focusing on Park Ranger Jerry Bransford, a tour guide at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. Throughout the early 1800s, Mammoth served as a labor camp for enslaved African Americans, including Bransford’s great-great-grandfathers and uncles. A few of his ancestors became popular cave tour guides in the 1830s, a professional tradition that was passed down through the Bransford family until 1939, when the federal government nationalized the land for a park. Willie Bransford, who not only ran the cave tours, but also a bed and breakfast above ground, was the last in that succession of Bransfords to run the property. A local news article describes the end of the Bransford era like this, “When the government took over his land and business in 1939, Willie was forced to sell out, ‘Cheap,’ … and was not hired back as a park guide as most white guides were.” Jerry, Willie’s grandson, was able to restore the Bransford line when in, the 1990s, the National Park Service invited him back to work there. It’s the least the NPS could do to make amends for what it took from the black family who served as stewards and shepherds of the Mammoth Cave grounds for so long. But as an African American, Jerry Bransford is more of the exception at NPS than the rule. And much work remains if the agency is going to address its problems around welcoming people of color, both as visitors and as workers. “Sometimes I come here, and I can hear the moans and groans of these Americans,” Bransford told the New York Times, referring to his enslaved ancestors. “And they were Americans, these slaves, fighting for the cause of freedom, something they themselves would not possess for another 60 years.” This is true of many of our national parks, and the least the Park Service can do is have a workforce that reflects this.Filed under: Article, Climate & Energy, Politics

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Missing jet: ’300 objects’ spotted

A Thai satellite appears to show images of up to 300 objects in a south Indian Ocean zone being searched for missing Malaysian flight MH370.

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Syrian conflict put Bashar al-Assad’s home village under threat

<!– google_ad_section_start –> Syria’s civil war has edged closer to Bashar al-Assad’s home village, with opposition groups mounting their second sustained attack on the area. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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