Daily Archives: October 1, 2008

Brown, Merkel May Be Pushed Into Paulson-Type Bailout

U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown may be forced to advocate a comprehensive approach of the kind U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke are urging Congress to pass.

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“The gods of the markets are punishing those who showed hubris,” said Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. in New York.

Bloomberg | Sep 30, 2008

By Simon Kennedy

Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) — European politicians are discovering what cometh after pride.

A week after lambasting the U.S. for allowing its banks to run out of money and after resisting calls to set up their own rescue mechanisms, leaders across Europe yesterday bailed out banks from Belgium, Germany and the U.K. Dexia SA today received aid from France and Belgium, while Ireland’s government said it would guarantee bank deposits and debt for two years.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown may be forced to advocate a comprehensive approach of the kind U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke are urging Congress to pass. The two Americans turned to a broad package after early attempts to deal with each financial-institution crisis individually didn’t work.

“The gods of the markets are punishing those who showed hubris,” said Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. in New York. “Europe has been bashing the U.S., but it’s realizing now it has its own problems.”

Paulson encountered difficulties yesterday when the House of Representatives voted down the $700-billion plan by a 228 to 205 margin. The failure to pass the legislation sent the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to its biggest decline since the 1987 crash. Paulson said he will work with Congress to salvage the proposal. Lawmakers may take up the measure again this week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said.

`No Choice’

“The Americans have no choice. We must have a comprehensive solution,” European Central Bank council member Christian Noyer said on RTL radio today. “I’m counting on a solution coming very soon.”

Yesterday, the British Treasury seized Bradford & Bingley Plc, the U.K.’s biggest lender to landlords, hours after the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg agreed to inject 11.2 billion euros ($16.1 billion) into Fortis, Belgium’s biggest financial-services firm, in return for minority stakes. Germany guaranteed a 35 billion-euro loan to property lender Hypo Real Estate Holding AG.

Investors will dump shares of the continent’s banks and keep borrowing costs elevated if leaders don’t coordinate a solution, Lena Komileva, an economist at Tullett Prebon Plc, the second-biggest broker of transactions between banks, said in London.

`Clear Message’

“The U.S. experience should send a clear message to Europe that you need a contingency plan,” said Komileva. “The fact there still isn’t one will focus investors on the vulnerability of Europe’s economy and financial system.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged yesterday to support that country’s banks, paving the way for the 6.4 billion euro state-backed rescue for Dexia, the world’s biggest lender to local governments. He met today with executives from banks and insurers and said he will announce measures next week to address the crisis. Peer Steinbrueck, Merkel’s finance minister, yesterday called his country’s package “the biggest bank bailout in German history.”

When Paulson asked European leaders on Sept. 21 to “do similar things” as he was with the bailout package, the response wasn’t enthusiastic.

Steinbrueck said the U.S. would lose its status as the “superpower of the global financial system” and that the “Anglo-Saxon” model of banking had “an exaggerated fixation on returns.” Sarkozy decried the “mad system” that sparked the meltdown in New York on Sept. 23. And U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling said the situation required “not a knee-jerk reaction, but a measured response.”

Rhetoric `Backfiring’

“The European rhetoric is backfiring as its own banking system comes under pressure,” said Marco Annunziata, chief economist at Unicredit MIB in London.

Last yesterday, Brown told reporters “we will continue to take whatever steps are necessary” to ensure financial stability.

Europe’s leaders may have been foolhardy to think their banks would avoid the fallout. Of the $591 billion in losses and writedowns recorded by global banks since the start of 2007, 39 percent are accounted for by European institutions.

At the same time, economists at Citigroup Inc. said in a report yesterday that European banks, with lower profits and interest margins than those in the U.S., have “less cushion to absorb financial strains and losses.”

National Needs

In theory, the 27-nation EU should be a means of coordinating policy. The bloc has unified laws on trade and labor standards. But reaching a consensus requires agreement among 27 capitals, many juggling their own political needs.

Budget deficits also limit Europe’s firepower. Barclays Capital estimates that of the large economies, only Germany, the biggest, has the fiscal room to finance a U.S.-like plan.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, will unveil legislation this week aimed at strengthening bank monitoring across borders. It may let national authorities set capital requirements for their lenders operating in multiple countries, according to a draft obtained by Bloomberg News.

So far, though, governments have agreed only to knit supervision closer together by 2012 and pledged to cooperate in managing a crisis. They have also resisted devising a formula for splitting the bill should a cross-border bailout become necessary.

Cross-Border Reach

“We have been for a long number of years trying to get some kind of European supervisory authority for those institutions that have cross-border reach,” EU Financial Services Commissioner Charlie McCreevy said yesterday in Dublin. “It is particularly difficult to get agreement among member states who want to preserve control of supervision.”

The ECB, which oversees monetary policy in the 15 nations sharing the euro, gives Europe one way of acting multilaterally. It joined the Fed, the Bank of England and other counterparts yesterday in injecting another $630 billion into the global financial system through currency swaps.

Politically, some European officials maintain they are equipped to deal with the crises. Dutch central bank governor Nout Wellink said in an interview yesterday that Fortis’s rescue shows “that cross-border issues can be solved by respective governments.”

Still, Greg Fuzesi, an economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in London, noted that Dutch and Belgian authorities already had a support agreement in place, making Fortis “a special case.” It remains “less clear whether European policy makers could agree and implement a system-wide fiscal package,” he told clients.

Bank Liabilities

Ireland’s decision to protect liabilities of about 400 billion euros for two years may be followed by other countries, economists said.

Daniel Gros, director of the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels, says European governments ultimately will have to put capital into their banks, which he calculates are more leveraged than their U.S. rivals.

“These are highly leveraged institutions which need to have support from the public purse,” said Gros. He suggested that governments assign the European Investment Bank, the EU’s financing arm, with the job of infusing 250 billion euros to support the region’s banks, in return for an equity stake.

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Federal Reserve Directors: A Study of Corporate and Banking Influence
Chart 1 reveals the linear connection between the Rothschilds and the Bank of England, and the London banking houses which ultimately control the Federal Reserve Banks through their stockholdings of bank stock and their subsidiary firms in New York. The two principal Rothschild representatives in New York, J. P. Morgan Co., and Kuhn,Loeb & Co. were the firms which set up the Jekyll Island Conference at which the Federal Reserve Act was drafted, who directed the subsequent successful campaign to have the plan enacted into law by Congress, and who purchased the controlling amounts of stock in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 1914. These firms had their principal officers appointed to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the Federal Advisory Council in 1914. In 1914 a few families (blood or business related) owning controlling stock in existing banks (such as in New York City) caused those banks to purchase controlling shares in the Federal Reserve regional banks. Examination of the charts and text in the House Banking Committee Staff Report of August, 1976 and the current stockholders list of the 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks show this same family control.

EU monitors start patrol mission in Georgia

Russia and Georgia agreed to the EU observer mission as part of an updated cease-fire plan following the war  Photo: AFP/GETTY

European Union monitors have begun patrolling Georgian territory under a French-brokered peace deal, and Russian troops allowed some monitors into a buffer zone around South Ossetia despite insisting earlier they would be blocked.

TELEGRAPH | Oct 1, 2008

A Russian peacekeeping statement saying monitors would not be allowed on Georgian territory around the separatist region of South Ossetia had raised concern that Moscow was stalling on withdrawing its troops from Georgia as it promised to do after its August war with Georgia.

But when EU observers arrived at Russian checkpoints near the Georgian villages of Karaleti and Kvenatkotsa, at the perimeter of Russia’s so-called “security zone” on Georgian territory, Russians quickly let them move into the area.

The Russian soldiers did not allow reporters to follow the observers into the buffer zone near Kvenatkotsa, but let Georgian civilians pass after examining their vehicles.

“The situation is very calm,” Ivan Kukushkin, a Russian officer in charge of the checkpoint said with a smile.

EU mission head Hansjoerg Haber told reporters the Russian military had earlier warned the EU monitors from entering the buffer zone, citing concerns for their security.

“We received different signals,” Haber told reporters. “We want to clarify these differences in the coming hours.”

Another group of EU monitors visited the village of Odisi in a different sector just outside South Ossetia.

Russia and Georgia agreed to the EU observer mission as part of an updated cease-fire plan following the war, which ended with Russian and separatist forces in control of the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and dug in on other territory in Georgia.

As part of the deal, Moscow agreed to withdraw its forces completely from areas outside of South Ossetia and Abkhazia within 10 days of the EU monitors’ deployment – including from a roughly 4-mile buffer zone they have created southward from South Ossetia.

“The Russians gave us plans for dismantling their (check) points but didn’t say when,” Haber said.

At the Russian checkpoint near the Georgian village of Kvenatkotsa, an armored personnel carrier was parked up the hill near camouflaged tents and there was no sign of any preparations for a Russian troop pullback.
Russia still plans to keep around 7,600 troops in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and has refused to allow EU monitors inside the regions themselves.

“Show the flag, be friendly, show confidence,” Haber told monitors in Basaleti, about 12 miles (20 kilometres) north of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.

Some 300 EU observers will be based in four semi-permanent locations, including the central city of Gori near South Ossetia and the Black Sea port of Poti, key targets of Russian forces.

In Gori, another group of EU monitors boarded their light armored vehicles to head toward the buffer zone outside South Ossetia.

One observer, Adam Glinsky, a 43-year old Polish policeman, downplayed Russia’s warning not to enter the buffer zone. “It’s only yesterday’s opinion, hopefully tomorrow it will be different,” he said.

Plan to sterilize poor women brings to mind Adolf Hitler, David Duke, some say

LaBruzzo plan to sterilize poor women brings to mind Adolf Hitler, David Duke, some say

Louisiana Weekly | Sep 29, 2008

State Rep. John LaBruzzo reminded some New Orleanians of white supremacist and former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke last week when he told New Orleans CityBusiness of his plans to consider introducing new legislation that would pay poor women $1,000 to voluntariily have their tubes tied in order to avoid getting pregnant in the future.

After witnessing the long lines of Louisiana residents seeking food stamp assistance after hurricanes Gustav and Ike – and 2005’s Hurricane Katrina – Rep. LaBruzzo decided it was time to take drastic measures to reduce the massive needs that are taking the state’s Department of Social Services.

“I realized that all these people were in Louisiana’s care and what a massive financial responsibility that is to the state,” he told CityBusiness. “I wonder if it might be a good idea to pay some of these people to get sterilized.”

LaBruzzo is still researching the subject and is pondering the introduction of a bill during the next legislative session that would pay poor women to voluntarily be sterilized.

“If both the welfare and Social Security system keep growing, one day we’re going to have a small minority of people working to fund and finance everybody else who isn’t working or producing,” LaBruzzo told CityBusiness. “Our kids, who will be working, will be the minority and any vote of theirs will be canceled out. If your livelihood is based on government handouts, why would you ever vote for somebody who is going to lower taxes? They never would. So once we reach that breaking point there’s no return.”

LaBruzzo’s concerns about Louisiana’s neediest residents becoming an increasingly large burden on the Department of Social Services is unfounded. DSS records show that between 1990 and 2007 the number of Louisiana households receiving monthly food stamp benefits dropped from 258,768 to 249,343. During the same period, the number of families receiving welfare assistance was reduced from 280,177 to 13,504.

Not surprisingly, LaBruzzo raised the ire of some New Orleanians with his controversial remarks.

Shana Griffin, interim director of the New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic, told CityBusiness that Rep. LaBruzzo’s comments are reminiscient of eugenics, which is defined by the as “the study of hereditary improvement of the human race by controlled selective breeding.” Nazi leader Adolf Hitler embraced this philosophy to justify exterminating six million Jews as part of his plan to create an Aryan “master race.”

Although not as widely accepted today, many white supremacist groups still ascribe to some of the basic tenets of eugenics, particularly the notion that nonwhite people are genetically inferior.

“If someone doesn’t have a car and needs city-assisted evacuation, that makes them a social burden?” Griffin told CityBusiness. “The fact that he feels so comfortable and entitled to make these statements is a reflection of our society, that we’re OK with the most vulnerable of our community being blamed for the social, economic and political crises that we’re experiencing. If we really want to improve the lives of people in our communities we should think about raising the minimum wage, holistic health care. improving labor laws, employment opportunities for all people and the educational system.

“Instead he wants to use a form of medical experimentation and forced sterilization on poor women of color, using their economic status as a way to make them more vulnerable to the offer.”

LaBruzzo, who was targeted for impeachment this summer by residents of his district after vigorously supporting the ill-fated legislative pay raise, told CityBusiness that he anticipated outrage from Blacks about his plan to do away with a welfare system that is out of control.

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Bush Sr presents Gorbachev with Liberty Medal at National Constitution Center

“The Soviet strategy of ‘perestroika’ must be exposed because it is deceptive, aggressive and dangerous. Gorbachev and ‘glastnost’ have failed to reveal that ‘perestroika’ is a world-wide political assault against the Western democracies…. It must be revealed that ‘perestroika’ is … not just Soviet domestic renewal but a strategy for ‘restructuring’ the whole world…. Gorbachev’s renunciation of ideological orthodoxy is not sincere or lasting, but a tactical manoeuvre in the cause of the strategy. The Soviets are not striving for genuine, lasting accommodation with the Western democracies but for the final world victory of Communism…”

– Anatoliy Golitsyn, The Perestroika Deception 1990

“In October, 1917 we parted with the Old World, rejecting it once and for all. We are moving toward a New World, a world of Communism. We shall NEVER turn off that road.”

– Mikhail Gorbachev speech at the Kremlin in Moscow, Nov. 2, 1987

Former President George H.W. Bush and Gorbachev, old friends, shake hands after the presentation of the Liberty Medal.

Mikhail Gorbachev Receives 2008 Liberty Medal at the National Constitution Center

Award presented by President George H.W. Bush

Earth Times | Sep 19, 2008

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Former Soviet leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mikhail Gorbachev was presented with the National Constitution Center’s 2008 Liberty Medal tonight for his courageous role in ending the dangerous, decades-long Cold War and in giving hope and freedom to millions who lived behind the Iron Curtain. President Gorbachev accepted the prestigious Medal in a public ceremony at 7:00 p.m. at the National Constitution Center on Independence Mall in Historic Philadelphia.

During the ceremony, National Constitution Center President and CEO Joseph M. Torsella said the event would serve as a poignant reminder, nearly 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, of how many victories Mikhail Gorbachev helped win for freedom, and how much courage it took.

“Tonight we honor a man who altered the direction of history and pointed it towards freedom. His actions encouraged freedom fighters old and new across Eastern Europe, and around the globe,” said Torsella. “And we will make some history of our own by bestowing the 20th Liberty Medal on Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, who reshaped our world for the better, for the freer. And whose life teaches us, above all, that none of us — not people and not nations — are prisoners of our past.”

As Mikhail Gorbachev said in his Nobel Lecture, “Steering a peaceful course is not easy in a country where generation after generation of people were led to believe that those who have power or force could throw those who dissent or disagree out of politics or even in jail. For centuries, all the country’s problems used to be finally resolved by violent means. I will never agree to having our society split once again into Reds and Whites, into those who claim to speak and act ‘on behalf of the people’ and those who are enemies of the people.'”


Former Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev waves after receiving the 2008 Liberty Medal at the National Constitution Center.

Fittingly, the Liberty Medal was presented to Gorbachev by President George H.W. Bush, Chairman of the National Constitution Center. While serving as President of the U.S., Bush’s friendship and political alliance with Gorbachev enabled the world’s two superpowers to peacefully end their decades-long rivalry. In fact, Gorbachev trusted and valued their friendship so much that, as the Soviet flag was being lowered for the final time at the Kremlin, the person he called was President Bush. Their partnership is symbolic of the way in which Gorbachev has transcended old animosities to spread the blessings of liberty.

President George H.W. Bush said that he and the Center’s Board of Trustees were proud to pay tribute to this year’s recipient. “It is a true honor for me to participate in this year’s Liberty Medal ceremony to celebrate the achievements of someone whom I consider a great world leader and a dear friend. Regardless of the dividing lines between us, President Gorbachev opened up new possibilities for the world to come together and solve its problems in the pursuit of liberty. When Eastern Europeans were living in the dark shadow of the Cold War, he provided a beacon of light. Now, almost twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we are still witnessing the positive impact his efforts have had across the globe. President Gorbachev is always looking ahead at a better future and helping all of us work to get there.”

“Mikhail Gorbachev came of age when Russia was ruled by a totalitarian regime, but his thinking as a political leader broke free of this repressive straight-jacket,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “Caring about the freedom and prosperity of his people, he negotiated the end of the costly and dangerous Cold War and oversaw the demise of the very political system that brought him to power. He was a true agent of change on the global stage.”

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After becoming the youngest full member of the Politburo in 1980, Gorbachev was named General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1985, ready to make long overdue reforms in the Soviet system. For six years he pressed for democratization by promoting glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). These policies gave a voice to the people of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, resulting in an unprecedented extension of the freedoms of assembly, speech, and travel, as well as religious freedom. In 1988, Gorbachev announced that the Soviet Union would abandon the Brezhnev Doctrine and allow the Eastern bloc nations to determine their own internal affairs. Gorbachev’s refusal to intervene militarily in Eastern European affairs gave hope to those struggling to end four decades of Soviet control.

Ultimately, his policies created the environment which led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November of 1989. Gorbachev was elected as the first executive President of the Soviet Union in 1990. He was, wrote Lance Morrow in TIME, “a visionary enacting a range of complex and sometimes contradictory roles,” bringing the East closer to the West, acknowledging the power of the free market and religious expression, while managing a recalcitrant party establishment and attempting to revive a stagnant economy. The reforms he initiated had global implications, dramatically reducing East-West tensions and transforming geo-politics.

Gorbachev was also a tireless advocate for the abolition of nuclear weapons, which led to the first major reduction of U.S. and Soviet weapons stockpiles. Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990. In a move unprecedented in Soviet history, Gorbachev voluntarily resigned as leader of the Soviet Union in 1991. At that time, he told President Bush that he wished to remain in public life to encourage “new thinking to prevail in world politics.” Keeping in line with this goal, he launched Green Cross International, a non-profit organization that focuses on global ecological law. Gorbachev fervently crusades for clean air and water, and against toxic wastes and chemical weapons, in addition to working with businesses, industry, and governments to make sustainable environmental policy a top global priority. He also serves as President of the Gorbachev Foundation, which conducts political and economic research, and promotes international exchange.

Established in 1988 by We the People 200 to commemorate the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, the Liberty Medal annually honors men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people across the world. The Liberty Medal was administered by the National Constitution Center for the first time in 2006, when Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were honored for their bi-partisan humanitarian efforts on behalf of the victims of the tsunami in Southeast Asia and the hurricanes on the Gulf Coast. Last year’s Liberty Medal was awarded to Bono and DATA, the advocacy organization he co-founded to combat poverty and disease in Africa.

“Two of the twenty Liberty Medal recipients were significantly influenced by Gorbachev,” added Torsella. “Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel could not have become presidents of their countries if Gorbachev had not paved the way by abandoning the Brezhnev Doctrine. His refusal to interfere in the domestic politics of Eastern Europe allowed for these great men to triumph in their pursuits of liberty.”

Other past Liberty Medal winners include Nelson Mandela, Shimon Peres, Kofi Annan, and Sandra Day O’Connor. The Medal has also been awarded to organizations, including Doctors Without Borders and CNN International. Six former recipients of the Medal have subsequently won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Liberty Medal ceremony was broadcast live on CBS 3 and webcast live on http://www.constitutioncenter.org and http://www.cbs3.com. The CW Philly 57 will rebroadcast the ceremony on Thursday, September 18 at 10:00 p.m. CBS 3 (KYW-TV) and The CW Philly 57 (WPSG-TV) are part of CBS Television Stations, a division of CBS Corporation.

Ira Lubert and Independence Capital Partners renewed their support for the Liberty Medal ceremony and co-sponsored the Liberty Medal Award in 2008. The Liberty Medal was also generously supported by the Hamilton Family Foundation. Citizens Bank was the presenting sponsor for the President’s Reception prior to the Liberty Medal ceremony. This is the third consecutive year that Citizens Bank has partnered with the Center for the Liberty Medal.

The Liberty Medal was also supported by the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The National Constitution Center, located at 525 Arch St. on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall, is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing public understanding of the U.S. Constitution and the ideas and values it represents. The Center serves as a museum, an education center, and a forum for debate on constitutional issues. The museum dramatically tells the story of the Constitution from Revolutionary times to the present through more than 100 interactive, multimedia exhibits, film, photographs, text, sculpture and artifacts, and features a powerful, award-winning theatrical performance, “Freedom Rising”.

The Center also houses the Annenberg Center for Education and Outreach, which serves as the hub for national constitutional education. Also, as a nonpartisan forum for constitutional discourse, the Center presents — without endorsement — programs that contain diverse viewpoints on a broad range of issues. For more information, call 215.409.6700 or visit http://www.constitutioncenter.org.

Past Recipients of the Liberty Medal

2007 Bono and DATA (joint prize)

2006 George H.W. Bush and William J. Clinton, former U.S. Presidents (joint prize)

2004 Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan

2002 Colin Powell, U.S. Secretary of State

2001 Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General*

2000 Dr. James Watson and Dr. Francis Crick, co-discoverers of the structure of DNA (joint prize)

1997 CNN International

1996 King Hussein I of Jordan and Shimon Peres, former Prime Minister of Israel (joint prize)

1993 F.W. de Klerk, President of South Africa* and Nelson Mandela, President of the African National Congress* (joint prize)

1990 Jimmy Carter, former U.S. President*

Report: Meat must be rationed to four portions a week to fight climate change

The Guardian | Sep 30, 2008

By Juliette Jowit

People will have to be rationed to four modest portions of meat and one litre of milk a week if the world is to avoid run-away climate change, a major new report warns.

The report, by the Food Climate Research Network, based at the University of Surrey, also says total food consumption should be reduced, especially “low nutritional value” treats such as alcohol, sweets and chocolates.

It urges people to return to habits their mothers or grandmothers would have been familiar with: buying locally in-season products, cooking in bulk and in pots with lids or pressure cookers, avoiding waste and walking to the shops – alongside more modern tips such as using the microwave and internet shopping.

The report goes much further than any previous advice after mounting concern about the impact of the livestock industry on greenhouse gases and rising food prices. It follows a four-year study of the impact of food on climate change and is thought to be the most thorough study of its kind.

Tara Garnett, the report’s author, warned that campaigns encouraging people to change their habits voluntarily were doomed to fail and urged the government to use caps on greenhouse gas emissions and carbon pricing to ensure changes were made. “Food is important to us in a great many cultural and symbolic ways, and our food choices are affected by cost, time, habit and other influences,” the report says. “Study upon study has shown that awareness-raising campaigns alone are unlikely to work, particularly when it comes to more difficult changes.”

The report’s findings are in line with an investigation by the October edition of the Ecologist magazine, which found that arguments for people to go vegetarian or vegan to stop climate change and reduce pressure on rising food prices were exaggerated and would damage the developing world in particular, where many people depend on animals for essential food, other products such as leather and wool, and for manure and help in tilling fields to grow other crops.

Instead, it recommended cutting meat consumption by at least half and making sure animals were fed as much as possible on grass and food waste which could not be eaten by humans.

“The notion that cows and sheep are four-legged weapons of mass destruction has become something of a distraction from the real issues in both climate change and food production,” said Pat Thomas, the Ecologist’s editor.

The head of the United Nations intergovernmental panel on climate change, Rajendra Pachauri, also sparked global debate this month when he urged people to have at least one meat-free day a week.

The Food Climate Research Network found that measured by production, the UK food sector produces greenhouse gases equivalent to 33m tonnes of carbon. Measured by consumption – including imports – the total rises to 43.3m tonnes. Both figures work out at under one fifth of UK emissions, but they exclude the indirect impacts of actions such as clearing rainforest for cattle and crops, which other studies estimate would add up to 5% to 20% of global emissions.

The report found the meat and dairy sectors together accounted for just over half of those emissions; potatoes, fruit and vegetables for 15%; drinks and other products with sugar for another 15%; and bread, pastry and flour for 13%.

It also revealed which parts of the food chain were the most polluting. Although packaging has had a lot of media and political attention, it only ranked fifth in importance behind agriculture – especially the methane produced by livestock burping – manufacturing, transport, and cooking and refrigeration at home.

The report calls for meat and dairy consumption to be cut in developed countries so that global production remains stable as the population grows to an estimated 9bn by 2050.

At the same time emissions from farms, transport, manufacturing and retail could be cut, with improvements including more efficient use of fertilisers, feed and energy, changed diets for livestock, and more renewable fuels – leading to a total reduction in emissions from the sector of 50% to 67%, it says.

The UN and other bodies recommend that developed countries should reduce total emissions by 80% by 2050.

However, the National Farmers’ Union warned that its own study, with other industry players, published last year, found net emissions from agriculture could only be cut by up to 50% if the carbon savings from building renewable energy sources on farms were taken into account.

The NFU also called for government incentives to help farmers make the changes. “Farmers aren’t going to do this out of the goodness of their hearts, because farmers don’t have that luxury; many of our members are very hard pressed at the moment,” said Jonathan Scurlock, the NFU’s chief adviser on renewable energy and climate change.

Gorbachev launches new political party with Russian billionaire banker

LONDON – JUNE 06: Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (L) leaves Downing Street with Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev after meeting with Gordon Brown on June 6, 2008 in London, England.

Former Soviet leader joins forces with businessman to campaign for legal and economic reform

Guardian | Sep 30, 2008

By Sadie Gray

The former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, is to launch a new political party with a Russian billionaire, Alexander Lebedev.

Lebedev, a businessman and banker whose company, National Reserve Corps, controls more than 30% of the Russian national carrier, Aeroflot, announced the launch today and said the party would campaign for legal and economic reform.

Other policies are a stronger role for parliament, “less state capitalism” and the expansion of Russia’s independent media.

Lebedev and Gorbachev between them own 49% of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which employed the reporter Anna Politkovskya, a fierce critic of the Kremlin who was reknowned for exposing human rights abuses in the Chechen conflict. Her death in October 2006 was said to bear the hallmarks of a contract killing.

“I would call the new party project undoubtedly nonconformist, with one simple thought: We cannot develop further as a country without independent political institutions,” Lebedev told the Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti.

Lebedev, a former state duma deputy who describes himself on his blog as a “capitalist-idealist”, said Gorbachev was the driving force behind the new group, which has provisionally been named the Independent Democratic party.

“He gave our people freedom but we just can’t learn how to use it,” wrote Lebedev on his website.

Lebedev said there would be “no extremists” among the party’s prospective membership. He suggested that economists and members of the right-wing SPS party, which played a role in Russia’s transition to a market economy, would be welcome to join.

He said he would not bankroll the party, but that it would be financed by “non-state sources”.

Gorbachev, 77, won the 1990 Nobel peace prize for allowing the previous year’s largely peaceful revolutions across the eastern bloc, which saw the fall of communism in Europe.

But he became deeply unpopular at home as the break-up of the Soviet Union led to economic and political chaos, and when he last ran for president in 1996, he won only 0.5% of the vote.

The party will contest elections, although Mikhail Kuznetsov, the deputy chairman of Gorbachev’s political organisation, the Union of Social Democrats, said winning seats in the state duma, currently dominated by the Russia’s four biggest parties, was not the objective.

“Mikhail Sergeyevich (Gorbachev) is not striving to take seats in parliament, he is going to establish an independent democratic party and its task will be to let young people find fulfilment in new politics,” he said.

Gorbachev has in the past criticised many of the electoral practices of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, but has stopped short of personally attacking Putin, the former president who is now prime minister.

Gorbachev also backed Russia’s role in last month’s war with Georgia, which was widely condemned by the west.

Putin has been accused in the west and by Russian liberals of stifling free expression and the development of multi-party democracy.

British-educated “Playboy King” rules over Swaziland with absolute power

British public school-educated “playboy king” Mswati III of Swaziland, Africa’s last absolute monarch, attends his million-dollar birthday celebrations. Photograph: Gianluigi Guerica/AFP/Getty Images

It has the last absolute monarch in the world and the highest HIV-infection rate. Swaziland is crying out for change, reports Chris McGreal

Guardian | Sep 30, 2008

Africa’s other Zimbabwe

By Chris McGreal in Mbabane

Mario Masuko is a man who looks with envy at Zimbabwe. The former Barclays bank manager-turned-political leader lost his job for daring to suggest that the world’s last absolute monarch, the British public school-educated “playboy king” Mswati III of Swaziland should allow his subjects to choose their government.

Since then, Masuko has been locked up for sedition and treason. His followers have been beaten and persecuted. And when Swazis elected a new parliament earlier this month, his People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), like all other political parties, was effectively banned from competing because the selection of candidates is closely controlled by the monarchy under the guise of preserving the country’s culture.

“The situation in Zimbabwe is better, in that political parties are allowed,” Masuko said. “The only challenge there is one despot – that people go to elections and then the despot annuls them. People in Swaziland can’t even elect who they want. Instead we’ve got a king who treats this country and its people as his plaything. It’s feudal.”

The parallels between the two African tyrannies may be far from absolute, but the struggle for freedom in both countries is increasingly linked. South Africa’s powerful trades union confederation, Cosatu, has described the two countries as “twins who are reversing our collective gains as a region by promoting undemocratic and oppressive practices against their own people”.

It has announced plans to blockade the landlocked kingdom of about 1 million people as the first step in a rolling plan to increase pressure on Mswati to allow democratic government.

Clearly, however, the king is disturbed at being compared to Zimbabwe’s despotic leader: after the head of Swaziland’s trades union confederation, Jan Sithole, returned home from a Cosatu conference in South Africa last month to debate the parallels, he was interrogated by senior police officers. “They were absolutely obsessed with this link people were making between Mugabe and Mswati,” he said.

Masuko said Mswati, who came to the throne in 1986, has doubly failed because he has not only resisted reform but also abused his power.

“Monarchs are extravagant. They tend to be dictatorial. This one in Swaziland is more than both of those things because it is an absolute monarchy,” he said.

Swaziland has the highest HIV-infection rate in the world, a life expectancy of less than 35 years and extensive rural poverty. Nearly half the population is unemployed, and those with skills, such as nurses and teachers, often leave the country in search of work.

Yet the king spent the equivalent of half the national health budget to dispatch his 13 wives on a collective shopping trip to Dubai and Europe last month. The jaunt prompted Swazi protesters to coin the refrain: “We are dying while they are flying.”

The government spent millions more on a lavish joint celebration this month to mark 40 years of Swaziland’s independence from Britain and the king’s 40th birthday. That helped bring out thousands of people in the largest anti-government protest for years. The government hesitated to crush it, however, because it coincided with an influx of foreign dignitaries – Mugabe among them – for the celebrations.

Swazis did get to vote earlier this month, but they elect only a parliament, not a government. That is appointed by the king, whose choice of prime minister always happens to be someone from his extended family, the Dlaminis.

While political parties are not specifically banned, the constitution says elections are based on the traditional system, called tinkhundla.

On the surface, tinkhundla is an exercise in local democracy; in practice, it is a reflection of the much broader grip of the monarchy and traditional chiefs – officially described as the footstalls of the king – over the everyday lives of people.

Candidates for election to parliament have to be approved by local chiefs, who use their powers to quash dissent. And the only issues permitted to be raised in campaigns are local ones, forestalling any debate about the competence of the government.

“Everybody belongs to a chief in a village,” said Sithole. “If you don’t allow your children to go to the highly politicised cultural activities held by your chief, you are risking a lot: risking eviction from your home [and] your children not getting a scholarship for tertiary education, even if they get straight A grades. The father of the children may lose his job. It’s hard to resist that pressure.

“It’s the same with the elections. They are so controlled by the chiefs, from the selection of candidates to the issues that can be discussed, that they are in no sense democratic.”

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Mswati III was 18 years old when he was crowned king of the Southern African nation of Swaziland. According to the constitution, he has the right to overrule all laws and rules, and it is illegal to investigate any matter relating to the him.