Daily Archives: November 5, 2009

Artificial Snow in Beijing Delays Hundreds of Flights

Epoch Times | Nov 3, 2009

By Aifang He & Gu Qing’er

Chinese scientists tinkering with the weather caused millions of tons of snow to fall on Beijing over the weekend, delaying 523 flights from the capital and infuriating passengers.

The Beijing Weather Modification Office (BWMO) induced the first snow of the season, a month earlier than usual, after firing 186 silver iodide capsules into the clouds, according to Weather China.

They fired the capsules at 8:00 p.m. on Oct. 31, and by 11:25 a.m. the following morning Beijing was covered in snow.

Chinese meteorologists say the earliest snowfall normally occurs around Nov. 29, according to statistics developed over 50 years as reported by state-run media.

“We won’t miss any opportunity to use artificial precipitation since Beijing is suffering from an ongoing drought,” the Weather Modification Bureau chief Zhang Qiang said to Student News Daily.

The snowfall inconvenienced more than 10,000 airline passengers and delayed 523 flights at the Beijing Capital International Airport.

Former Google Vice-President Li Kaifu waited 17 hours in the boarding area for a Taipei flight, according to the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolitan Daily. He blogged about the experience on Sina.com: “I thought bringing two notebook batteries to fly from Beijing to Taipei would be enough; I didn’t think I’d be waiting 11 hours. Now I can only use twitter on my cell phone. People on the plane were full of complaints; some people were so hungry they were going to faint, I just took it as a chance to lose weight. I’d not eaten for nine hours or drunk water for three, and there was nothing for it. The air conditioning was terrible. The grumbling staff didn’t have any strength left to get angry.”

Other passengers were loaded onto planes that wouldn’t take off for hours.

Because the oxygen supply on the planes was short, some passengers fainted and had to be carried out. Later, many began demanding they be let off, some trying to force their way out of the cabins in an attempt to return to the terminal. Jin, who flew from Beijing to Shanghai, said passengers on his plane were extremely agitated, quarrelling angrily with airline staff.

Others complained about the inefficient coordination between the airlines and the Beijing Weather Modification Office.

Al Gore, world’s first ‘carbon billionaire’, raking in profits from climate change

gore billionaire
Former U.S. vice president Al Gore, who publishes a new book this week, has denied being a ‘carbon billionaire’ who has profited from supporting climate change policies

Critics slam former vice president for benefiting from climate change

Daily Mail | Nov 4, 2009

A former American vice-president has been accused of making billions of dollars from championing climate change issues.

Al Gore, who left office in 2001, has become an outspoken green campaigner.
Yesterday he was forced to defend himself after details of his financial deals with energy-saving companies emerged in the New York Times.

Mr Gore had invested in a small California firm seeking financing for its energy-saving technology last year.

His firm invested $75million in the company, Silver Springs, which produces hardware and software to make the electricity grid more efficient. He was then made an unpaid consultant for the company.

Last week his investment appeared to pay off: The U.S. Energy Department announced $3.4billion in smart grid grants. Of those grants, $560million went to companies with which Silver Springs has contracts.

Now Right-wing critics and global warming sceptics claim Mr Gore is about to become the world’s first ‘carbon billionaire’ in a sleazy scenario that would see him profiting from government policies he supports that would direct billions to the business ventures he is invested in.


Cap and trade – Gore’s ‘gravy train’

Mr Gore – who also makes more than £60,000 a year for speaking engagements – hit back yesterday, saying he was just putting his money where his mouth is.

He launches his latest book Our Choice: A Plan To Solve The Climate Crisis this week, a sequel to an earlier work which was also a popular film, An Inconvenient Truth.

Mr Gore, 61, is a partner in venture-capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers which has interests in alternative energy and energy-efficient technology.

He is also co-founder of the London-based Generation Investment Management, which has shares in eco-energy companies.

Speaking on U.S. ABC TV show Good Morning America, Mr Gore defended his business activities and said he believed the U.S. would succeed in making the switch to renewable energy sources.

‘I am proud to have put my money where my mouth is for the past 30 years,’ he said.

‘And though that is not the majority of my business activities, I absolutely believe in investing in accordance with my beliefs and my values.’

The book explores possible solutions to climate change, including forest management, geo-thermal energy and nuclear power generation, which come from a series of ‘solutions summits’ held with environmental experts at his Tennessee home.

Mr Gore is a regular visitor to Capitol Hill where he exerts pressure on members of Congress to pass legislation that cuts emissions.

In April, he reacted angrily to a question from Republican Marsha Blackburn about a conflict of interest with his business connections.

He said: ‘Congresswoman, if you believe that the reason I have been working on this issue for 30 years is because of greed, you don’t know me.’

Mr Gore was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 and served as vice-president to Bill Clinton between 1993 and 2001.

Al Gore to become world’s first ‘carbon billionaire’

timesofindia.indiatimes.com | Nov 4, 2009

Gore_oscarWASHINGTON: Former US vice president Al Gore, who has campaigned relentlessly on green issues, is on track to become the world’s first “carbon billionaire” amid claims of profiting from the climate change agenda.

Since he abandoned mainstream politics following his defeat in the 2000 presidential polls against George W Bush, Gore’s personal fortune has risen from 1.2 million pounds to an estimated 60 million pounds, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

It is claimed that the Nobel peace laureate is on course to become the world’s first “carbon billionaire” after significant investments in environmentally friendly projects like carbon trading markets, solar power, biofuels, electric vehicles, sustainable fish farming and waterless lavatories.

Global warming sceptics are not convinced about his “altruistic” climate change agenda. “Al Gore wants to become the first carbon billionaire and he is poised to do it,” Marc Morano of climatedepot.com was quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

“As much as Gore’s made now, it is going to be a piker league compared to what he is going to make in five years if all these new carbon trading mandates go through,” Morano claimed.

Glenn Beck and PETA: Eat tofu to save the planet

Strange bedfellows: Glenn Beck, PETA join forces to give Al Gore what for

LA Times | Nov 4, 2009

by Lindsay Barnett

A day has dawned that we never thought we would see: conservative Fox News commentator Glenn Beck (who recently shocked viewers with his throwing-a-seemingly-live-frog-in-boiling-water gag) has publicly expressed his admiration for controversial animal-rights group PETA.

All right, so Beck’s strange leap onto PETA’s bandwagon just so happens to give him some ammunition against another of his regular targets, former Vice President Al Gore.

PETA has long held that Gore, whose work on behalf of the environment is well-known and who has apparently become the world’s first “carbon billionaire,” is remiss in failing to promote vegetarianism as an effective means of helping the environment.  (“Gore should have named his movie Sorta-Inconvenient Truths if he didn’t want to cover the environmental destruction that his meaty diet causes,” PETA blogger Shawna Flavell wrote earlier this year.)  Odd as it may sound coming from him, Beck says he agrees.

The Fox host explained last week that he’s “siding with PETA on this one — once again asking Al Gore: If you really want to save the planet, put down the cheeseburgers and pick up the veggie burgers. Time for soy milk and [Tofurky]. No more delicious chocolate cookies — how about a nice bean-thing. That is, if you want to save the planet.”  (Apparently Beck hasn’t tried the host of delicious and widely available chocolate cookies that are free of animal products, but we digress.)

“I’ve said before I disagree with PETA,” Beck continued, “but I respect them because they are not hypocrites: They say what they mean and mean what they say. I just disagree with what they say — except when it calls for Al Gore to eat tofu.”  To cement the point that he sides with PETA rather than Gore on this issue, Beck even invited PETA cofounder and president Ingrid Newkirk to appear on his program.  (Newkirk lost no time in asserting that “you can’t be a meat-eating environmentalist” before calling Gore a “baby” and “basically a steakaholic.”)

The media-savvy animal-rights group seems, predictably, over the moon about having Beck as a strange bedfellow. “Makes me wanna send Mr. Beck some vegan chocolate kisses,” another PETA blogger, Karen Bennett, gushed last week.  But others are less than thrilled; environment site Ecorazzi tweeted today, “I know PETA loves publicity, but Glenn Beck? Really? You have got to draw the line at conversing with this fool.”  PETA promptly tweeted the response, “We’ll do whtvr it takes 2 show ppl the connection between meat production and the environment.”

For his part, Gore addressed the meat-vs.-environment issue in an interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer this week, chuckling at a clip from Beck’s show before describing concerns over the meat industry’s environmental effects as legitimate.  Though not a vegetarian, he said, he is eating less meat than he used to.

“So, Tofurky for you? Thanksgiving?” Sawyer asked.

“I don’t … I don’t plan to,” Gore responded.  That’s no surprise to us, or, we’d wager, to Beck and Newkirk.

China’s wealthiest gaining on U.S. counterparts

chuanfu buffett

Wang Chuanfu. Net Worth: $5.8 billion. Company: BYD. Industry: Battery, Automobile. City: Shenzhen. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett (R) receives a BYD car model as a gift from BYD’s Chief Executive Officer Wang Chuanfu in this file photo. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc has realized a $1.02 billion paper profit on a 10-month-old investment in BYD Co after shares in the mainland car and battery maker quintupled. China Daily.

His BYD, which makes electric cars and batteries, got a jolt from recent Warren Buffett investment; stock up 6 times this year.

China’s 400 Richest

The nation’s wealthiest are gaining against their U.S. counterparts.

Forbes | Nov 4, 2009

by Russell Flannery

SHANGHAI — A quick comparison of our new Forbes China Rich List with that of the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans, published in September, appears to tell a familiar story. China’s 400 Richest are worth a record $314 billion, but that is just one-fourth the total net worth of their American counterparts. China’s richest person, BYD’s Wang Chuanfu, has a net worth of $5.8 billion, far below the $50 billion fortune belonging to America’s richest citizen, Microsoft’s Bill Gates. In the U.S., Wang would only rank no. 40, tied with petroleum magnate Harold Hamm.

But the more interesting story is the fact that Chinese tycoons are making huge gains, at a time when many of the world’s richest haven’t been as lucky, thanks to strong economic growth and rebounding stock markets. Shanghai’s main index is up 69% and Hong Kong’s 56% in the past 12 months. As a result, we pinned down a record 79 billionaires, up from 24 a year earlier, more than Germany, Russia or India had in March when we published our worldwide billionaire rankings. The U.S. has 391 billionaires, but that’s down from 489 a year ago. The total net worth of the China 400 jumped 81%, or $141 billion, at a time when American’s wealthiest lost $300 billion, or 20% of their cumulative total, dropping to $1.27 trillion.

Chinese tycoons are also giving some of their American rivals a run for their money. Baidu’s ( BIDU – news – people ) Robin Li is worth $12.4 billion less than his rivals at Google ( GOOG – news – people ), Sergey Brin and Larry Page, but he has bragging rights for keeping Google at bay in China; his Internet search engine’s market share in his native country is about double that of its American nemesis. Chinese billionaire Chen Yihong’s China Dongxiang is seen as one of the country’s most competitive sports apparel brands, going up against internationals like Philip Knight’s Nike ( NKE – news – people ).

Rather than just a rivalry, there is also a growing collaboration of resources–capital, technology and people–between the U.S. and China that will likely help lead to continuing good fortunes for the Asian nation’s increasingly global entrepreneurs. Warren Buffett’s investment through a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK – news – people ) in China’s car and battery maker BYD highlights the trend this year (read the story on Wang here). That Buffett support helped push up its co-founder Wang Chuanfu’s net worth by $4.7 billion, the biggest dollar gain of anyone on the list, and propelled him to the top spot in the rankings. Two other BYD executives, Lu Xiangyang and Xia Zuoquan, are billionaires as well. In September, Duke Energy ( DUK – news – people ) signed an agreement with Rich List-member Wang Yusuo’s ENN Group to jointly develop commercial solar power projects in the U.S.

U.S. investment banks and capital markets are also courting Chinese businesses like never before. China Rich List members who took companies public in the U.S. this year include Zhou Xin (China Real Estate) Charles Zhang (Changyou) and Chen Tianqiao (Shanda Games).

But for now, China’s wealth boom, after last year’s bust, is still very much tied to its own robust growth. China quickly overcame the financial crisis with a dose of government spending and loose monetary policy. The economy is likely to grow by 8% this year. Yet it’s not just short-term stimulus that’s buoyed its wealthy. A long-term trade surplus, urbanization and favorable demographics are benefiting the economy. Heavy infrastructure spending–from the integration of Hong Kong and Guangzhou to the Beijing subway is laying the groundwork for longer-term gains for Chinese entrepreneurs like Shen Guojun and China Zhongwang’s Liu Zhongtian, assuming he can overcome accusations about his company’s prospectus.

China’s cash-rich consumers, who are prone to saving–in contrast to overextended Americans–have fueled the fortunes of many on our list this year, including Zhou Chengjian of retailer Metersbonwe and Li Shufu of Geely Automobiles. Real estate tycoons have also done quite well, catering to the upwardly mobile and burgeoning middle classes as well as multi-nationals coming to China for business; in fact, real estate is the main source of wealth for more than a third of the 400 Chinese and at least a quarter of the country’s billionaires.

The Chinese expression, shi lai yun zhuan, which means “a new moment has arrived, and luck has changed,” captures well the improved fortunes of the country’s richest. But the best may still be yet to come. More than ever, there are new opportunities for Chinese entrepreneurs willing to seize them, and along with those opportunities, still more fortunes to be made.

To compile these rankings, a dozen reporters interviewed rich listers, employees, rivals, investors, fund managers, real estate agents and securities analysts. We also sifted through documents and databases to determine value and ownership of assets. For people with publicly traded fortunes, net worths were calculated using Oct. 16 stock prices. Privately held fortunes were valued at book value or by coupling estimates of revenues, profits or book value to prevailing ratios for similarly publicly traded companies. Unlike the Forbes billionaires list, the ranking has been broadened to include some family fortunes. We also include a few entrepreneurs born in mainland China who have citizenship from elsewhere but whose main source of wealth and/or residence is still on the mainland.

Reporting and research by Maggie Chen, Danni Cao and Jiang Yan. Additional research by Forbes China.

Pope invites Catholic world leaders to Vatican for summit on Church political influence

Pope invites Tony Blair to Vatican summit to discuss Church’s fears that politics is losing its religion

Daily Mail | Nov 4, 2009

By Nick Pisa

Catholic convert Tony Blair is among several world leaders being invited to attend a top level summit with Pope Benedict XVI to discuss the role of the Church in politics.

The two-day summit will be held at the Vatican and will include other Catholic politicians from all over the world, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. vice president Joe Biden, former Spanish PM Jose Maria Aznar, and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Church officials have been quietly working on the conference, which will be called ‘Witnesses of Christ in the Political Community’, for several months.

Items to be discussed include the family, right to life, Christian roots, education and bio-ethics.

Vatican sources said that Pope Benedict XVI was becoming ‘increasingly concerned’ at how Christian values were being eroded because of various world governments introducing legislation against Catholic teaching.

During his time in office Mr Blair chose to remain a member of the Church of England after spin doctor Alistair Campbell famously warned him: ‘We don’t do religion.’

Some Labour policies were at odds with the Catholic Church and Mr Blair even incurred the wrath of the late Pope John Paul II by refusing to back down over the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The former Prime Minister famously converted to Catholicism after he left Downing Street in 2007.

He has met current Pope Benedict XVI and he has also set up The Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Two months ago he told the Communion and Liberation Committee in Rimini, Italy, that switching to Catholicism was like ‘coming home’ and is now ‘where my heart is.’

Vatican sources said the timing of the meeting would be pushed forward to early next year given the decision earlier this week by the European Court of Human Rights that Italy should remove crucifixes from classrooms.

A senior Vatican official said: ‘There is growing alarm within the Vatican and especially the Holy Father that not enough prominence is being given to basic Christian and family values by governments.

‘This has been further increased by this week’s ruling by the European Court of Human rights and the display of crucifixes in Italian classrooms – it is outrageous that such an institution could interfere in the cultural heritage of Italy in such a way.’

The landmark decision caused outrage amongst Italian politicians and was also slammed by the Vatican who described it as ‘wrong, short sighted and regretful.’

Passing on the Mantle of Deep North American Integration

Deep North American Integration

nauresistance.org | Nov 3, 2009

By Dana Gabriel

With the demise of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America and the restructuring of many of its key priorities under the banner of the North American Leaders Summit, other trilateral initiatives are also passing on the mantle of deep continental integration.

The Fifth Annual North American Forum was held in Ottawa on October 4-6, 2009.  In a news release the group describes itself as, “a community of Canadian, Mexican and American thought leaders whose purpose is to advance a shared vision of North America, and to contribute to improved relations among the three countries.”  It goes on to say that, “They come together annually to explore linkages among the mutually reinforcing goals of security, prosperity and enhanced quality of life.”  Meetings are co-chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State, George Schultz, former Premier of Alberta, Peter Lougheed, as well as former Mexican Finance Minister Pedro Aspe.  The North American Forum has no business office and no business address.  It consists of the three co-chairs, along with their extensive network of contacts in government, business and the military, meeting privately to champion North American integration.  The news release also stated that, “This year’s meeting of the North American Forum focused on the need for Canada, Mexico and the United States to work together in responding to the global economic crisis and promoting a quick return to strong and sustainable growth.  In addition, the Forum included special sessions on two critical issues: one on energy and the environment, and the other on transnational crime, arms smuggling and drug trafficking.”  The North American Forum has been described as a parallel structure to the SPP.

The Standing Commission on North American Prosperity is an initiative of the U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce and directly relates to the ongoing efforts to further merge North America.  The group characterizes itself as “an united effort of distinguished individuals from Mexico, Canada and the USA to provide sound economic and social policy guidance to the political leaders of the three countries for the future prosperity of all peoples of North America.”  It notes that, “In the aftermath of NAFTA and the SPP initiatives, a vacuum presently exists in developing a vision for North American prosperity.  The lack of such a vision jeopardizes previous achievements in building strong economic ties across North America made during the past 15 years.”  It also states that, “The Commission will meet 3 times a year and will provide ‘A North American Prosperity’ White paper to the leaders of the three countries upon conclusion of each session.”  The group’s inaugural Summit was held at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University on May 12-13, 2009.

The Future of North America Summit presented by the Standing Commission on North American Prosperity was scheduled to take place on November 2-3 of this year in Toronto, Canada.  It was reported that the Summit was cancelled, but there is no indication if it will take place at a later date.  The meetings would have included the participation of past political heavyweights such as former Mexican President Vicente Fox, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, as well as former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos Escobar.  The agenda would have dealt with economic, environmental and climate change, energy, trade, transportation, along with other issues and how they relate to North America.  In a recent article Manuel Pérez-Rocha, director of the NAFTA Plus and the SPP Advocacy Project, raised some valid questions concerning the meetings.  He stated, “Are we going back to the future?  Why are these former leaders ‘representing’ countries they don’t run any more?  Is their purpose to dictate to our actual presidents what to do to build North America?  Why was ex president Lagos from Chile invited at all?”  What is clear is that with the SPP no longer the vehicle being used to create a North American Union, other groups and initiatives are further advancing deep continental integration.

The 2009 meeting of the NAFTA Free Trade Commission was held in Dallas, Texas on October 19 of this year and brought together top trade officials from the U.S., Canada and Mexico.  The meeting was used as an opportunity to celebrate NAFTA’s achievements and to plot a course for the future.  Manuel Pérez-Rocha stated, “What the three governments are really doing is incorporating the already-buried, George W. Bush-led Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) agenda into NAFTA.  While current presidents are stripping the SPP label, which has garnered much negative publicity, they’re keeping its principles to armor NAFTA as an instrument for further deregulation.”  He also said that, “the merging of the SPP prosperity agenda into NAFTA is evident, especially after the recent Dallas meeting.  In their declaration, the trade officials stated that since 2007, the three countries have worked together to protect and enforce intellectual property rights.  This was one of the SPP’s plans, together with a ‘framework for regulatory cooperation,’ a ‘North American plan for avian and pandemic influenza,’ and an ‘agreement for cooperation on energy science and technology,’ which are also well under way.”  Mexico is scheduled to host the next NAFTA Commission meeting in 2010.  Despite the demise of the SPP, many of its key objectives have already been implemented or continue to move forward through other initiatives.

Speaking at the annual policy forum of the Canadian American Business Council held in Montreal on October 21, U.S. ambassador to Canada David Jacobson said that there are no immediate plans to reopen NAFTA.  He also echoed Washington’s sentiments that the trade agreement is working well for all sides.  This could not be further from the truth as NAFTA is badly flawed.  Minus a few cosmetic changes that the Obama administration might make regarding side deals related to labor and the environment, the reality is that NAFTA will remain intact.  The NAFTA structure is also being used to advance SPP objectives.  All the talk of renegotiating the agreement appears to have revived the 15 year old trade accord and renewed the push for North American integration.  This could lead to NAFTA’s expansion into a North American Union and might serve to further spread its failed model to other parts of the Western Hemisphere.

Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, as well as other issues. Contact: beyourownleader@hotmail.com

Visit his blog site at beyourownleader.blogspot.com