sexta-feira, 18 de dezembro de 2009

Speech of the Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, during the informal Plenary Session on 18 December 2009 at the 15th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen

Speech of the Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, during the informal Plenary Session on 18 December at the 15th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-15) in Copenhagen.

"Mister President, Mister General-Secretary, Ladies and Gentlemen Heads of State, Ladies and Gentlemen Heads of Government, and friends.

I confess to all of you that I am a bit frustrated. Because we have been discussing the issue of climate for a long time and we came to the conclusion that the problem is more serious than we can imagine. Thinking about it´s contribution to the discussion in this conference, Brazil had a very ambitious position. We presented our targets until 2020. 
We assumed a commitment and approved through the National Congress, transforming in law, that Brazil, until 2020, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 36.1% and 38.9%, based on what we consider important: changes in the Brazilian agriculture system; changes in the Brazilian metallurgical system; changes and improvement of our energy balance, already one of the world’s cleanest, and we assumed the commitment to reduce deforestation in the Amazon in 80% until 2020. 
And we made this building an economic engineering that will force a developing country, with many economic difficulties, to spend US$ 166 billion until 2020, equivalent to US$ 16 billion a year. This is not an easy task, but it was necessary to define those measures to show the world that, just with words and bargains, we would not reach a solution in this Conference of Copenhagen. 
Last night, I had the pleasure to participate, until two-thirty in the morning, in a meeting where, sincerely, I did not expect to participate, because it was a meeting with many Heads of State, some of the most prominent personalities of the political world and, sincerely, to submit Heads of State to certain discussions such as we had yesterday, I did not see for a long time.

Yesterday, I was in the meeting and remembered my time as trade union leader, when we were negotiating with the entrepreneurs. And why did we have all those difficulties? Because we did not care about the responsibility that it was necessary to work with. The issue is not just money. Some people think that money solves the problem. But money did not solve in the past, it will not solve in the present and, even less, it will solve in the future. Money is important and the poor countries need money to ensure their development, to preserve the environment, to take care of their forests. It is true. 

But it is important that we, the developing countries and the rich countries, when we think about money, we should not think that we are doing a favor, we should not think that we are distributing alms, because the money that will be put on the table is the payment for greenhouse gas emissions made during two centuries of those who had the privilege of industrializing first. 
It is not a bargain of those who have money or those who do not have money. It is a more serious commitment, it is a commitment to know if it is true or not what the scientists are saying, that global warming is irreversible. And, therefore, who has more resources and more possibilities needs to guarantee the contribution to protect the people who need most.
Everybody agreed that we need to ensure the 2% of global warming until 2050. On that, we all agree. Everybody is aware that it is only possible to reach this agreement if the countries assume, with huge responsibilities, their targets. And even the targets, that should be a simple issue, there are many people who want to bargain the targets. All of us could offer a bit more if we had assumed good will during the last months.

All of us know that it is necessary, to ensure the commitment of the targets and the commitment of financing, that we, in any document that will be approved here, that we defend the principles adopted in the Kyoto Protocol and the principles adopted in the Framework Convention. Because it is true that we have common responsibilities, but it is true that they are differentiated. 
I will never forget that when I assumed the Presidency, in 2003, my commitment was to try to guarantee that all Brazilians could have breakfast, lunch and dinner. For the developed world, that was something of the past. For Africa, for Latin America and for many Asian countries, it is still something of the future. And it is linked to the discussion that we are having here, because it is not just a discussion on the issue of climate. 
It is about discussing development and opportunities for all countries. I talked to important leaders and came to the conclusion that it was possible to build a political base to explain to the world that we, Presidents, Prime Ministers and specialists, are very responsible and would find a solution. I still believe, because I am excessively optimist. But it is necessary that we play a game, not thinking about winning or losing. It is true that the countries that give money have the right to ask for transparency, they even have the right to ask for the implementation of the policy that was financed. But it is true that we need to take care with that kind of intrusion in developing and the poorest countries. The experience that we have, of the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank in our countries, should not be repeated in the 21st century.

What we need... and I will say, publicly, something that I did not even say yet in my country, not even to my party and not even to my Congress: if it is necessary to do one more sacrifice, Brazil is willing to put money also to help the other countries. We are willing to participate in the financing if we reach an agreement on a final proposal, here in this meeting.
Now, something we disagree is that the most important people of planet Earth sign any document, just to say that we signed a document. I would love to leave this place with the most perfect document of the world signed. But if we did not have conditions to do this up to now - I do not know, my dear friend Rasmussen, my friend Ban Ki-moon - if we did not manage to get this document up to now, I do not know if some angel or some wise person will come down to this plenary and put in our heads the intelligence we lacked until now. I do not know. 
I believe, as I believe in God, I believe in miracles, it can happen, and I want to be part of it. But, for that miracle to happen, we need to take into account that there were two groups here working on the documents, which we cannot forget. Therefore, the document is very important, of the groups here. 

Second, that we can get a political document to serve as umbrella base, this is also possible if we understand three things: first, Kyoto, the Framework Convention, MRV, they shall not threaten the sovereignty of the countries - each country has to keep the competence of auto-inspecting - and, at the same time, that the money is given to the indeed poorest countries. 
Brazil did not come here to bargain. Our targets do not need external money. We will do with our resources, but we are willing to do a step more if we success solving the problem that will serve, in the first place, the development of the developing countries. We spent one century without growing, while others grew a lot. Now that we started to grow, it is not fair to make sacrifices again. 
In Brazil there are still many poor people. In Brazil there are many poor people, in Africa there are many poor people, in India and in China there are many poor people. And we also understand the role of the richest countries. They cannot be, neither, those who will save us. What we want is, simply, together, the rich and the poor, to establish a common point that allows us to get out of here, proudly, telling to the world that we are worried with the preservation of the future of planet Earth without sacrificing its main species, the men, women and children who live in this world. 

Thank you very much."

quinta-feira, 10 de dezembro de 2009

Amir Taheri, WSJ: Iran's Democratic Moment : Protestors now demand an 'Iranian Republic, not Islamic Republic'

Iran's Democratic Moment

Protestors now demand an 'Iranian Republic, not Islamic Republic'

by Amir Taheri, Wall Street Journal, December 9, 2009

A month ago, Gen. Muhammad-Ali Aziz Jaafari, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, vowed to stop further antiregime demonstrations in Iran and break what he termed "this chain of conspiracies." But this week the "chain" appeared to be as strong as ever: Students across the nation defied the general and his political masters by organizing numerous demonstrations on and off campus.

The various opposition groups that constitute the pro-democracy movement have already called for another series of demonstrations on Dec. 27, 2009, a holy day on the Muslim Shiite calendar. Meanwhile, the official calendar of the Islamic Republic includes 22 days during which the regime organizes massive public demonstrations to flex its muscles. Since the controversial presidential election last June, the pro-democracy movement, in a jujitsu-style move, has used the official days to undermine the regime.

Antigovernment demonstrators at Tehran University, Dec. 7, 2009. Getty Images

On Jerusalem Day, Sept. 18, officially intended to express anti-Semitism, the opposition showed that Iranians have no hostility toward Jews or Israel. One popular slogan was "Neither Hamas nor Hezbollah! I give my life for Iran!" Another was "Forget about Palestine! Think about our Iran!"

On Nov. 4, 2009, the anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979, the opposition distanced itself from the regime's anti-American rhetoric. The democrats instead expressed anger against Russia and China, which are perceived as allies of the Islamic Republic. One slogan was "The Russian Embassy is a nest of spies!"

Most significantly, the movement that started as a protest against the alleged rigging of the election that gave a second term to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been evolving. The crowds' initial slogan was "Where Is My Vote?" and the movement's accidental leaders, including former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, tried hard to keep the protest confined to demands such as a recount of the votes and, ultimately, a runoff in accordance with the law.

The slogans of the protestors are no longer about election fraud. Today they include "Death to the Dictator," "Freedom Now," and "Iranian Republic, Not Islamic Republic!" One slogan is a direct message to President Barack Obama: "Obama, Are You With Us or With Them?"

In short, the protestors no longer regard the present regime as the legitimate government of the country.
Both Mr. Mousavi and Ayatollah Mahdi Karroubi, another defeated presidential candidate, tried to prevent attacks on the "Supreme Guide" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the hope of eventually making a deal with him. As part of such a deal, they promised to defend the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, according to sources close to the opposition. The crowds have rejected that by shouting: "Abandon uranium enrichment! Do something about the poor!"

It is clear the democracy movement is in no mood for deals with Mr. Khamenei, who they castigate for having betrayed his constitutional role of arbiter by siding with Mr. Ahmadinejad even before the official results of the election were declared. The demonstrators now burn his effigies, tear up posters showing his image, and chant violent slogans against him. One popular slogan goes: "Khamenei is a murderer! His guardianship is invalid!"

By cracking down ruthlessly on the protestors, the regime has only radicalized the movement. Even such notorious dealmakers as Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president now opposed to Mr. Ahmadinejad, have made it clear they would not accept any formula that would leave the "landslide winner" in place.

Last week, Mr. Rafsanjani refused to attend a much-publicized "reconciliation event" concocted by Ali Ardeshir Larijani, the speaker of Iran's ersatz parliament. The reason? Mr. Rafsanjani did not wish to be seen under the same roof as Mr. Ahmadinejad. Later, in a speech in Mash'had, Mr. Rafsanjani spoke of the regime's "long, deep and, potentially lethal crisis."

To judge by their most popular slogans, demonstrators across Iran are bent on regime change. Even rumors that the regime is working on scenarios for ditching Mr. Ahmadinejad—ostensibly on "health grounds"—after the Iranian New Year in March, have failed to halt the spread of regime-change sentiments.

Given the nation's mood, Messrs. Mousavi and Karroubi have abandoned their earlier talk of "realizing the full potentials of the existing constitution." An adviser to Mr. Mousavi tells me that "They wanted to make an omelet without breaking eggs. They now realize that [the people] have moved faster than imagined." More significantly, perhaps, Mr. Mousavi appears to have put his plans for an ill-defined "green organization" on the backburner. He is beginning to understand that the antiregime movement is too wide to fit into a centrally controlled framework.

Over the past six months, thousands of people have been arrested and hundreds killed in the streets. And yet, despite promises to squash the movement by Gen. Jaafari, it persists. To make matters worse for the regime, the Shiite clergy, often regarded as the backbone of the Islamic Republic, is beginning to distance itself from the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad tandem. Some ayatollahs, such as Messrs. Montazeri, Bayat, San'ei, Borujerdi and Zanjani, are especially annoyed at Mr. Ahmadinejad's claim of being in contact with the "Hidden Imam"—a messiah-like figure of Shiism whose second coming is supposed to occur at the end of times.

Mr. Ahmadinejad claims that the "return" is imminent and that he, as one of the "pegs" designated by the Hidden Imam to prepare the ground for the advent, has a mission of chasing the "Infidel" out of Muslim lands and liberating Palestine from "Zionist occupiers." In a speech in Isfahan last week, Mr. Ahmadinejad claimed that the pro-democracy movement was created by the Americans to sabotage his mission and thus prevent the return of the "Hidden Imam."

In response, a mid-ranking cleric in Qom tells me: "The way Ahmadinejad talks, he must be a sick man . . . by backing such a man, Khamenei has doomed the regime."

The Ahmadinejad-Khamenei tandem is also coming under attack for its alleged incompetence. The regime is now plagued by double-digit inflation, a massive flight of capital, and unprecedented levels of unemployment. Divisions within the ruling clique mean that the president has been unable to fill scores of key posts at middle levels of government. Rapidly losing its popular base, the regime is becoming increasingly dependent on its coercive forces, especially the Islamic Revolutionary Guard.

Revolutionary Guard commanders appear on TV almost every night, presenting themselves as "guardians of the system." Gen. Jaafari himself says he is attracted by the "Turkish model" in which the army acts as a bulwark of the republic.

However, the general may not have all the time in the world to ponder his next move. The pro-democracy movement is deepening and growing. Much work is under way to connect it to independent trade unions and hundreds of formal and informal associations that lead the civil society's fight against the evil of the Islamic Republic.

Iran has entered one of those hinge moments in history. What is certain is that the status quo has become untenable.

Mr. Taheri's new book, "The Persian Night: Iran Under the Khomeinist Revolution," is published by Encounter Books. 


domingo, 25 de outubro de 2009

Public must learn to 'tolerate the inequality' of bonuses, says Goldman Sachs vice-chairman

We all know what happened the last time a "let them eat cake" strategy was employed.

Public must learn to 'tolerate the inequality' of bonuses, says Goldman Sachs vice-chairman

Bankers' soaring pay is an investment in the economy, Lord Griffiths tells public meeting on City morality

by Kathryn Hopkins, The Guardian, October 21, 2009

Brian Griffiths AKA Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach
Conservative peer Lord Griffiths said banks should not be ashamed of rewarding staff. Photograph: Rex Features

One of the City's leading figures has suggested that inequality created by bankers' huge salaries is a price worth paying for greater prosperity.

In remarks that will fuel the row around excessive pay, Lord Griffiths, vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs International and a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher, said banks should not be ashamed of rewarding their staff.

Speaking to an audience at St Paul's Cathedral in London about morality in the marketplace last night, Griffiths said the British public should "tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity for all."

He added that he knew what inequality felt like after spending his childhood in a mining town in Wales. Both his grandfathers were miners who had to retire from work through injury.

With public anger mounting at the forecast of bumper bonuses for bankers only a year after the industry was rescued by the taxpayer, he said bankers' bonuses should be seen as part of a longer-term investment in Britain's economy. "I believe that we should be thinking about the medium-term common good, not the short-term common good ... We should not, therefore, be ashamed of offering compensation in an internationally competitive market which ensures the bank businesses here and employs British people," he said.

Griffiths said that many banks would relocate abroad if the government cracked down on bonus culture. "If we said we're not going to have as big bonuses or the same bonuses as last year, I think then you'd find that lots of City firms could easily hive off their operations to Switzerland or the far east," he said.

Goldman Sachs is currently on track to pay the biggest ever bonuses to its 31,700 employees after raking in profits at a rate of $35m (£21m) a day.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) said today that City bonuses could soar to £6bn this year.

The chairman of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), Lord Turner, who was also present at the meeting, called once again for a global tax on financial transactions. He said that such a so-called "Tobin tax" could redistribute bank profits to help fight world poverty and climate change.

"The role of regulation is to bring a concordance between private actions and beneficial results," he said.


terça-feira, 13 de outubro de 2009

New York Times absence of journalistic integrity becomes ever more appalling -- now they shill for the health insurance industry, as well as ExxonMobil

Dear Readers,

It is getting to the point that the New York Times has become a simple prostitute for corporate interests (i.e., ExxonMobil, other fossil-fuel companies, and the health insurance industry, just for starters).

The NYTimes has so lost its journalistic integrity that it is hard to know which articles are puff pieces and which are not.

If the NYTimes believe they have a long-term future doing this, they are very mistaken.

All that remains is for Fox News to buy them out.

From the Naked Capitalism blog -- the best in describing what is really going on in the financial world. (Bold face emphases are mine.)

Naked Capitalism, Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New York Times: Missing in Action on Health Insurance Lobby Duplicity

In the early days of this blog, I would often wind up comparing coverage of news between the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal because the offender (almost without exception the Journal) had done a job so poor or misleading that it merited comment. Then the credit crisis forced the Journal to up its game, and the FT appeared to slip a bit (I wondered if it was catering, as in pandering, to US readers).

This time, the dubious reporting object lesson is the New York Times, on what is supposedly its most prized beat: Washington, DC, political reporting. The Times ran two articles that verged on sycophantic in its coverage of the health insurance industry as it moved its chess pieces on the health care reform game board. The Times acted as close to a PR outlet. From an early August post:
A similar charade is in motion on the health care front. My bullshit meter went into high alert earlier this week with this New York Times story, “For Health Insurers’ Lobbyist, Good Will Is Tested,” which was clearly a PR plant. It featured Karen Ignagni, a $1.6 million-a-year earning lobbyist to the health insurance industry as a heroine (I started getting nauseaous as soon as I saw the deliberately low-key picture of her in her office). And why should we see a representative of one of the biggest forces undermining democracy in America, the usually-successful efforts of well-funded industry groups to steam-roll legislative process, as a good guy, or in this case, gal? Because she supposedly talked a mean and obstructionist industry into playing nice.
Towards the end of August, in “New York Times Runs Yet Another Fawning Story on Health Insurance Industry,” I noted:
The latest salvo in the health care industry charm offensive is another story humanizing the health insurance industry, this one on the front page of the New York Times website, “Dealing With Being the Health Care ‘Villains’
 So what is the story about? The author, Kevin Sack, interviewed a bunch of employees at Humana, the fourth-largest insurance company.
Let’s start with the basics. Why is this even a reasonable premise for a story? This is a perverse twist on a type of story the Times runs periodically, of dropping into a particular community, often in the heartland, to get the populace’s view on a pressing political or social issue.
Since when is it legitimate, much the less newsworthy, to get a company’s perception on its embattled status, at least without introducing either some contrary opinion or better yet, facts, to counter the views of people who will inevitably see what they are doing as right? I hate to draw an extreme comparison to make the point, but staff in Nazi concentration camps also thought they were good people. It is well documented that for all save the depressed, people’s assessments of their own behavior is biased in their favor.
Similarly, I don’t recall many examples of industries under attack having prominent members get flattering front page pieces. The now-famous AIG Financial Products “I Quit” letter was an op-ed. I will admit I could have missed it, but I did not see any New York Times front page pieces during the auto bailouts featuring GM or Chrysler execs and workers saying they were misunderstood. and were being maligned.
So what do we have here? You have a bunch of people whose livelihood depends on Humana. Of course they are gong to see the industry as benign.
And nowhere in this fawning piece do you see mention made of the ugly fact that as recently as the early 1990s, 95% of every dollar spent on insurance claims went to medical care. It is now only 80%. That is a simply stunning change, and shows how completely fact free the industry’s defenses are. The insurers are a major culprit in America’s high medical costs. But no, we are supposed to take the mere opinion of employees who are deeply vested in the current system as views worth considering.
Back in the days when I did M&A, one of my clients was a frighteningly good negotiator. He knew part of his reason for success was that he did not look the part: he was short, genial, a bit rotund, and bespectacled. He would (to those who he was certain would not spill the beans on him) describe himself as the Antichrist and say things like: “I rub their bellies and only years later do they realize what I have done to them.” And I have to say, he was masterful in getting people to think his self-serving view of things was the only sensible way to see a situation.

The insurance industry is not so adept, or more accurately, is less concerned about appearances than my old client. The Financial Times reports tonight that the health insurance industry, after its great show of making nice to the Obama administration, backstabbed it on the eve of a key vote. Do we see any coverage of this duplicity in the US media, much less the New York Times?

From “Health insurance lobby attacks reforms” in the Financial Times:
The White House and the health insurance industry on Monday descended into open conflict on the eve of a critical Senate vote that could determine the fortunes of Barack Obama’s healthcare reform plans.
Supporters of President Obama accused the health insurance industry of attempted “sabotage” after it issued a report by PwC, which estimated that premiums would rise much faster under the proposed reforms than they would have done otherwise.
The 26-page report marked an abrupt end to the unlikely alliance between Mr Obama and America’s Health Insurance Plans – the main industry lobby group, which has spent about $100m on advertising to support the reforms….
A spokesman for Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which is to hold a key vote on Tuesday on its $829bn, 10-year, healthcare reform plan, described the report as a “hatchet job, pure and simple.”
The Wall Street Journal did report on the insurer “push back” and indicated that the industry had cooperated earlier, “attracted to the effort, in part, by the prospect of gaining millions of new customers.” So the Journal’s staff recognized this as a mere marriage of convenience from the get-go.

Update 4:30 a.m.: Robert Reich is more optimistic about the implications than I am, see “The Audacity of Greed: How Private Health Insurers Just Blew Their Cover.”


sexta-feira, 2 de outubro de 2009

Thomas Friedman: Where did "we" go?


Where Did ‘We’ Go?

Published: New York Times, September 29, 2009
I hate to write about this, but I have actually been to this play before and it is really disturbing.
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Thomas L. Friedman

Readers' Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.
I was in Israel interviewing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated in 1995. We had a beer in his office. He needed one. I remember the ugly mood in Israel then — a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords. They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.

And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by one right-wing Jewish nationalist as a license to kill Rabin — he must have heard, “God will be on your side” — and so he did.

Others have already remarked on this analogy, but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach: I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.

What kind of madness is it that someone would create a poll on Facebook asking respondents, “Should Obama be killed?” The choices were: “No, Maybe, Yes, and Yes if he cuts my health care.” The Secret Service is now investigating. I hope they put the jerk in jail and throw away the key because this is exactly what was being done to Rabin.

Even if you are not worried that someone might draw from these vitriolic attacks a license to try to hurt the president, you have to be worried about what is happening to American politics more broadly.

Our leaders, even the president, can no longer utter the word “we” with a straight face. There is no more “we” in American politics at a time when “we” have these huge problems — the deficit, the recession, health care, climate change and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — that “we” can only manage, let alone fix, if there is a collective “we” at work.

Sometimes I wonder whether George H.W. Bush, president “41,” will be remembered as our last “legitimate” president. The right impeached Bill Clinton and hounded him from Day 1 with the bogus Whitewater “scandal.” George W. Bush was elected under a cloud because of the Florida voting mess, and his critics on the left never let him forget it.

And Mr. Obama is now having his legitimacy attacked by a concerted campaign from the right fringe. They are using everything from smears that he is a closet “socialist” to calling him a “liar” in the middle of a joint session of Congress to fabricating doubts about his birth in America and whether he is even a citizen. And these attacks are not just coming from the fringe. Now they come from Lou Dobbs on CNN and from members of the House of Representatives.

Again, hack away at the man’s policies and even his character all you want. I know politics is a tough business. But if we destroy the legitimacy of another president to lead or to pull the country together for what most Americans want most right now — nation-building at home — we are in serious trouble. We can’t go 24 years without a legitimate president — not without being swamped by the problems that we will end up postponing because we can’t address them rationally.

The American political system was, as the saying goes, “designed by geniuses so it could be run by idiots.” But a cocktail of political and technological trends have converged in the last decade that are making it possible for the idiots of all political stripes to overwhelm and paralyze the genius of our system.

Those factors are: the wild excess of money in politics; the gerrymandering of political districts, making them permanently Republican or Democratic and erasing the political middle; a 24/7 cable news cycle that makes all politics a daily battle of tactics that overwhelm strategic thinking; and a blogosphere that at its best enriches our debates, adding new checks on the establishment, and at its worst coarsens our debates to a whole new level, giving a new power to anonymous slanderers to send lies around the world. Finally, on top of it all, we now have a permanent presidential campaign that encourages all partisanship, all the time among our leading politicians.

I would argue that together these changes add up to a difference of degree that is a difference in kind — a different kind of American political scene that makes me wonder whether we can seriously discuss serious issues any longer and make decisions on the basis of the national interest.
We can’t change this overnight, but what we can change, and must change, is people crossing the line between criticizing the president and tacitly encouraging the unthinkable and the unforgivable.

segunda-feira, 21 de setembro de 2009

Judge Jed S. Rakoff deserves to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor

This guy should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor!

Judge Rejects Settlement Over Merrill Bonuses

The New York Times, September 14, 2009, 12:33 pm

A Federal District judge on Monday overturned a settlement between the Bank of America and the Securities and Exchange Commission over bonuses paid to Merrill Lynch executives just before the bank took over Merrill last year.

The $33 million settlement “does not comport with the most elementary notions of justice and morality,” wrote Jed S. Rakoff, the judge assigned to the case in federal court in Lower Manhattan, The New York Times’s Louise Story writes. (Read the decision after the jump.)

The ruling forces the commission to go back to the drawing board in its case against the bank, which focused on $3.6 billion bonuses paid out by Merrill Lynch late last year, just before that firm was taken over by Bank of America. Neither company provided details of the bonuses to their shareholders, who voted on Dec. 5 to approve the merger.

The judge focused much of his criticism on the fact that the fine in the case would be paid by the bank’s shareholders, those supposed to have been injured by the lack of disclosure around the bonuses.

“It is quite something else for the very management that is accused of having lied to its shareholders to determine how much of those victims’ money should be used to make the case against the management go away,” the judge wrote.

Bank of America has argued in its filings with the judge that it did nothing wrong in its disclosures.

The case before Judge Rakoff is just one of several investigations into the bank’s deal with Merrill. Andrew M. Cuomo, the attorney general of New York, is also investigating the bank’s disclosures of bonuses and of Merrill’s surprise losses late last year. The House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform is also looking into the merger.

Judge’s Rejection of S.E.C.-Bank of America Settlement
Judge's Rejection of S.E.C.-Bank of America Settlement

sexta-feira, 11 de setembro de 2009

Reintegração de posse de terreno da Viação Campo Limpo no Capão Redondo

Link to images of 570 families being forcibly moved off of the land they have occupied illegally since 2007:

Excellent blog on responsible urban renewal -- Blog da Raquel Rolnick

You know it is really nice to see a Brazilian blog that offers up some concrete solutions to urban problems in Brazil, instead of the usual endless litany of complaints.

Parabéns Raquel!!!

We need to focus much more attention on urban renewal in the U.S., as well -- after all, that is where most people live today and will live tomorrow.


domingo, 30 de agosto de 2009

Blocked rivers threaten livelihood of Brazilian tribes

Blocked rivers threaten livelihood of Brazilian tribes

Plans to build more than 200 hydroelectric dams bring prospect of cheap electricity but destruction of Amazon habitats

Melobo, shaman, standing on Xingu river

Activists say government plans for up to 16 new hydroelectric plants pose an unprecedented threat to the 14 tribes that live in the park. Photograph: Tom Phillips

by Tom Phillips in Pavuru, Xingu national park, The Guardian, August 23, 2009

Once they were threatened by wildcat gold-miners and a measles epidemic that slashed their population to just 56. But now the Ikpeng, a proud tribe of Amazon warriors, say a new catastrophe looms over their future: the damming of the rivers they depend upon for food.

Across Brazil alarm bells are ringing over plans to build at least 229 small hydroelectric dams, known as PCHs, which the government hopes will generate electricity and drive economic development.

Opponents say they will damage the environment and destroy the livelihoods of thousands of Brazilian tribespeople.

There are 346 PCHs in Brazil, with another 70 under construction and 159 awaiting licences. If the construction of dams continues, "the fish will run out and the waters will start to go down," warned Komuru Txicao, a local tribesman. "Here in the forest we don't need electricity. We need fish, water and land."

Other hydroelectric projects planned by the government are huge — the $4bn Belo Monte dam further north along the Xingu river from Pavuru would be the third biggest plant of its kind on earth, producing over 11,000 megawatts of electricity. While Belo Monte has been described by the government as a "gift from God," critics say it will destroy lives, homes and traditions.For Komuru and his neighbours, the immediate concern is the construction of a network of PCHs around the Xingu national park in Mato Grosso state. Komuru fears the dams will block the tributaries of the Xingu, itself the largest tributary of the Amazon.

According to the National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel), four PCHs – the Paranatinga II, Culuene, ARS and Ronuru – operate near the reserve; another, Paranatinga I, is waiting for its licence. Aneel says 13 PCHs are being built in Mato Grosso state, while another 19 projects are awaiting licences. The government says such dams will help power the agricultural revolution that is sweeping Brazil's mid-west and bring electricity to small towns.

Recent years have seen the Ikpeng, a proud tribe of Amazon warriors, embrace many of the comforts and distractions of the outside world.

Three months ago wireless internet was installed here in Pavuru, one of over 30 villages located in the Park — a vast, 2.8 million hectare indigenous reserve home to some 5,000 Indians from 14 different ethnic groups. Today Ikpeng teenagers spend their afternoons downloading tracks by artists such as Enrique Iglesias and the US rapper 50 Cents while many of the tribe's hunters use shot-guns rather than the traditional bow and arrow to hunt spider monkeys and wild-boar in the surrounding forests.

"Things are changing," admitted Karane Txicao, 28, sat behind an HP laptop in the village's concrete internet cafe. "Now people never leave the front of the computer screen."

Several of the traditional huts – or owros – also shelter large television sets, powered by a diesel generation which is switched on at 9 a.m. each day and turned off at 9 p.m.

But unlike the telenovelas and MP3s, government plans for PCHs around the Xingu Park have met with a furious reception.

"It is very worrying," said Kumare, a resident who is the local head of Funai, Brazil's indigenous agency. "This will directly affect us. They are damming all of the rivers." Kumare said the dams would make it impossible for the fish to migrate upstream thus decimating the main source of food for the reserve's Indians.

Last March the conflict escalated when eight staff from the electricity company responsible for one PCH spent five days held "hostage" near Pavuru. They were released only after the president of Brazil's indigenous agency, Funai, personally intervened. "We didn't kill them, we 'arrested' them," recalled Komuru.

Similar battles are raging across the Amazon region, where plans to build roads, hydroelectric dams and other major infrastructure projects have triggered a conflict between those who want to protect the world's largest tropical rainforest and its indigenous tribes and those wishing to drive development and relieve poverty. A dispute over the Belo Monte dam turned violent in May when an engineer from the Brazilian power company Eletrobras was attacked during a presentation about the plant. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has sought to allay fears over the dam, vowing that it "would not be shoved down anyone's throat."

But concerns grew in July when a federal court lifted an embargo on the Belo Monte licensing process, clearing the way for a bidding round later this year.

Having witnessed the Ikpeng's plight in the 1960s, Melobo, an Ikpeng shaman, who says he is around 60 years old and wears 15 shell ear-rings in each ear, fears history may be repeating itself. "The farmers ruin the Indian's things," Melobo said, in heavily accented Portuguese, standing on the banks of the Xingu river. "They ruin the Indian's water. They ruin the Indian's land." "We don't want to negotiate," added Komuru. "We don't want money. We don't want things that are worth nothing. We want our land."


terça-feira, 28 de julho de 2009

Câmara Sutra by Cassetta e Planeta!!!

I can't help it. I had to come here and laugh with the world about Cassetta e Planeta's skit called "Câmara Sutra" -- LOLOLOLOL (sacanagem politica).

If you didn't catch it on Globo TV, tonight, you really missed it!

If this ever comes out on YouTube, I will post it up.

segunda-feira, 29 de junho de 2009

Paul Krugman: Treason Against the Planet

Betraying the Planet

by PAUL KRUGMAN, New York Times, June 28, 2009
Credit: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

So the House passed the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill. In political terms, it was a remarkable achievement.

But 212 representatives voted no. A handful of these no votes came from representatives who considered the bill too weak, but most rejected the bill because they rejected the whole notion that we have to do something about greenhouse gases.

And as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet.

To fully appreciate the irresponsibility and immorality of climate-change denial, you need to know about the grim turn taken by the latest climate research.

The fact is that the planet is changing faster than even pessimists expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a terrifying rate. And according to a number of recent studies, catastrophe — a rise in temperature so large as to be almost unthinkable — can no longer be considered a mere possibility. It is, instead, the most likely outcome if we continue along our present course.

Thus researchers at M.I.T., who were previously predicting a temperature rise of a little more than 4 °F by the end of this century, are now predicting a rise of more than 9 °F. Why? Global greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than expected; some mitigating factors, like absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans, are turning out to be weaker than hoped; and there’s growing evidence that climate change is self-reinforcing — that, for example, rising temperatures will cause some arctic tundra to defrost, releasing even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Temperature increases on the scale predicted by the M.I.T. researchers and others would create huge disruptions in our lives and our economy. As a recent authoritative U.S. government report points out, by the end of this century New Hampshire may well have the climate of North Carolina today, Illinois may have the climate of East Texas, and across the country extreme, deadly heat waves — the kind that traditionally occur only once in a generation — may become annual or biannual events.

In other words, we’re facing a clear and present danger to our way of life, perhaps even to civilization itself. How can anyone justify failing to act?

Well, sometimes even the most authoritative analyses get things wrong. And if dissenting opinion-makers and politicians based their dissent on hard work and hard thinking — if they had carefully studied the issue, consulted with experts and concluded that the overwhelming scientific consensus was misguided — they could at least claim to be acting responsibly.

But if you watched the debate on Friday, you didn’t see people who’ve thought hard about a crucial issue, and are trying to do the right thing. What you saw, instead, were people who show no sign of being interested in the truth. They don’t like the political and policy implications of climate change, so they’ve decided not to believe in it — and they’ll grab any argument, no matter how disreputable, that feeds their denial.

Indeed, if there was a defining moment in Friday’s debate, it was the declaration by Representative Paul Broun of Georgia that climate change is nothing but a “hoax” that has been “perpetrated out of the scientific community.” I’d call this a crazy conspiracy theory, but doing so would actually be unfair to crazy conspiracy theorists. After all, to believe that global warming is a hoax you have to believe in a vast cabal consisting of thousands of scientists — a cabal so powerful that it has managed to create false records on everything from global temperatures to Arctic sea ice.

Yet Mr. Broun’s declaration was met with applause.

Given this contempt for hard science, I’m almost reluctant to mention the deniers’ dishonesty on matters economic. But in addition to rejecting climate science, the opponents of the climate bill made a point of misrepresenting the results of studies of the bill’s economic impact, which all suggest that the cost will be relatively low.

Still, is it fair to call climate denial a form of treason? Isn’t it politics as usual?

Yes, it is — and that’s why it’s unforgivable.

Do you remember the days when Bush administration officials claimed that terrorism posed an “existential threat” to America, a threat in whose face normal rules no longer applied? That was hyperbole — but the existential threat from climate change is all too real.

Yet the deniers are choosing, willfully, to ignore that threat, placing future generations of Americans in grave danger, simply because it’s in their political interest to pretend that there’s nothing to worry about. If that’s not betrayal, I don’t know what is.

Link to article:

sábado, 27 de junho de 2009

Zimbabwe’s diamond fields enrich ruling party, report says

Zimbabwe’s diamond fields enrich ruling party, report says

Miners in the Marange diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe in 2006, the year the fields were discovered. The New York Times

by CELIA W. DUGGER, New York Times, June 26, 2009

JOHANNESBURG — Zimbabwe’s military, controlled by President Robert Mugabe’s political party, violently took over diamond fields in Zimbabwe last year and has used the illicit revenues to buy the loyalty of restive soldiers and enrich party leaders, Human Rights Watch charged in a report released Friday.

Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/Associated Press

Human Rights Watch says the military killed more than 200 miners in the Marange fields.

The party, ZANU-PF, has used the money from diamonds — smuggled out of the country or illegally sold through the Reserve Bank — to reinforce its hold over the security forces, which seemed to be slipping last year as the value of soldiers’ pay collapsed with soaring inflation, Human Rights Watch researchers said.

On Friday, Zimbabwe’s government roundly denied the charges in the report, which cited visits by its researcher to the diamond fields in February and interviews with soldiers, miners and other witnesses.

The information minister, Webster Shamu, of ZANU-PF, said in a telephone interview that the report’s aim was to tarnish the country’s image, block the sale of its diamonds internationally and, “in so doing, deny Zimbabwe much needed foreign currency.”

“The whole report is just not true,” he said.

Last year Zimbabwe’s state media depicted the military blitz, code-named Operation No Return, in the Marange district as a push to restore order in the midst of a lawless diamond rush in the area.

But the Human Rights Watch report charged that the military killed more than 200 miners and used the push to seize the Marange fields.

Some miners died when soldiers opened fire from helicopters with automatic rifles mounted on them, the group said. Many of the dead were taken to the morgue at Mutare General Hospital, or buried in mass graves, the report says.

Army brigades are being rotated into the diamond fields, discovered in 2006, so more soldiers can profit from the illegal trade, the report says.

Villagers from the area, some of them children, are being forced to work in mines controlled by military syndicates and have complained of being harassed, beaten and arrested, the report says.

“It’s a big cash cow for the military and the police, especially since Zimbabwe is virtually bankrupt,” Dewa Mavhinga, the Zimbabwean lawyer who was the main researcher for the report, said in an interview.

Mr. Mugabe, who has ruled for 29 years, is now governing with his rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, who spent the past three weeks in Western capitals seeking assistance for Zimbabwe’s devastated economy.

President Obama and European heads of state have generally declined to aid Zimbabwe’s government directly, in part because of concerns that it continues to flout the rule of law.

The Human Rights Watch report is the latest sign of growing international concern about charges of killings and human rights abuses in the diamond fields southwest of the city of Mutare.

“While Zimbabwe’s new power-sharing government, formed in February 2009, now lobbies the world for development aid, millions of dollars in potential government revenue are being siphoned off,” the report said.

The World Federation of Diamond Bourses, an umbrella group of 28 bourses in 20 countries, called on its members in April not to trade diamonds that originate in the Marange deposits in Zimbabwe.

“Somewhere along the line, we have to stand up and be counted,” Michael H. Vaughan, the federation’s executive director, said in an interview on Friday.

On Sunday, representatives of the Kimberley Process, an alliance of industry, civic and government officials set up to stop the flow of so-called blood diamonds, will be traveling to Zimbabwe to explore whether the country is complying with the alliance’s standards.

A coalition of nonprofit groups is lobbying to have Zimbabwe suspended from membership in the Kimberley Process. “There’s rampant smuggling out of the country,” said Annie Dunnebacke of Global Witness, one of the nonprofit groups. “The military is profiting from the trade and is directly involved in the sale of the diamonds.”

At a time when Zimbabwe is struggling to pay civil servants and soldiers a stipend of $100 a month, the extra income from diamond mining for soldiers is serving “to mollify a constituency whose loyalty to ZANU-PF, in the context of ongoing political strife, is essential,” the Human Rights Watch report said.

In December, soldiers rioted in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, to protest pay that had become virtually worthless as inflation increased to astronomical levels. Analysts and Western diplomats said at the time that Mr. Mugabe might lose his grip on power if he were unable to sustain the patronage he had deployed for decades.

Link to article:

sábado, 20 de junho de 2009

Charles M. Blow: Hate in a Cocoon of Silence

Hate in a Cocoon of Silence

Charles M. Blow . Credit Earl Wilson/The New York Times

by Charles M. Blow, New York Times, June 12, 2009

We were warned.

An April assessment by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis said pointedly: “Lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.”

Slowly, but steadily, these bigots are slithering from beneath their rocks, armed and deadly.

The most recent was an octogenarian-hater named James von Brunn, who, officials said, opened fire this week in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, killing a security guard.

Just as disturbing as the incidents themselves are the lineups of family, friends and neighbors who emerge to talk about the vitriol they heard and the warning signs they saw. I always want the interviewer to stop and ask them this simple question: “And when he said or did that, how did you respond?”

I would ask: What did you say or do as the shooters retreated into their xenophobic silo and consumed the bile slouching about the Internet? What did you say or do as the darkness in their hearts obscured the light of their reasoning, and the vacuum of hate consumed them?

My suspicion is that far too many do far too little.

While many might say that they would be quick to condemn and excoriate such hatred, they can often passively condone and fail to expostulate the hater when they see it firsthand.

That’s the gist of a January study that was written about in ScienceDaily. It was led by Kerry Kawakami, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto, and it found that although people predicted “that they would be very upset by a racist act and would take action,” their actual reactions were “much more muted.” Why? Because people are “much less willing to pay the emotional cost” of the confrontation than they thought they would be.

The authorities won’t be able to stop every “lone wolf” with a gun and a gripe. But we, as a society, can do a much better job of creating an environment where hateful beliefs are never ignored and suspicious behavior never goes unreported.

In 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in a letter from a Birmingham jail, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” That’s still true.

Hateful people are loud — to disguise their cowardice and shame. But good, decent people are by far the majority, and we dare not be silent. There can be no family too close and no friend too dear for hatred to go unchecked. Allowing it to do so diminishes the better, more noble parts of ourselves.

These confrontations won’t be easy, but doing the right thing rarely is. There is someone reading this column who knows someone who could be the next shooter. What will that reader do?

Link to article:

segunda-feira, 8 de junho de 2009

Peru: death toll reaches 60 -- Asháninka indigenous Indians fighting to prevent confiscation of their lands for logging, Brazil's hydroelectric dams

From Lou Gold's blog: Vision Share

Monday, June 08, 2009


Indigenous Protesters in Peru
Indigenous protesters fighting logging and drilling blocked a road in northern Peru on Friday as police tear gas hung in the air. Photo: Associated Press

[Update 1: Reuters reports that the death toll has risen to more than 60 and that thousands of Indians are still blocking roads. Here's an activist's report about the actions likely this week.]

[Update 2: Simon Romero, reporting for the NY Times, points out that the issue is not only over oil and timber leases. For instance, leaders from the Asháninka indigenous group are trying to derail a plan by Eletrobrás, a company controlled by Brazil’s government, to spend more than $10 billion to build five hydroelectric plants in Peru.]

This morning (Jun 6) I received an email from our dear friend Anjo who is in Peru. She says: "heading into the jungle in a few days. mad stress to get all done. 35 people dead this morning. hundreds wounded. many I know. a curfew. feels like back in Palestine."

Anjo is not exaggerating. Here is some video from May 22, 2009.

According to AMAZON WATCH 25 civilians and 9 police have been killed in the current clashes. Peru's Amazon Indigenous Peoples need you to TAKE ACTION now.


Since April 9th communities throughout the Peruvian Amazon have been protesting new laws that usher in an unprecedented wave of extractive industries into the Amazon Rainforest. President Alan Garcia's government passed these laws under "fast track" authority he had received from the Peruvian congress to make laws to facilitate the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and to make Peru more economically "competitive".

Over 30,000 indigenous people have taken to blockading roads, rivers, and railways to demand the repeal of these new laws that allow oil, mining and logging companies to enter indigenous territories without seeking prior consultation or consent. The protests have led to disruptions of transport as well as the interruption of oil production.

In the early morning of June 5, Peruvian military police staged a violent raid on a group of indigenous people at a peaceful blockade on a road outside of Bagua, in a remote area of northern Peruvian Amazon. Several thousand indigenous peoples were forcibly dispersed by tear gas and real bullets. Initial reports of fatalities include at least eleven indigenous people, along with nine police officers.

We need you to immediately TAKE ACTION adding your voice in solidarity with thousands of indigenous people. Send a letter today to the Garcia Administration demanding and end to the violent repression and respect for the constitutionally guaranteed rights of indigenous peoples.

As one of the Earth's largest tropical rainforests, the Amazon plays a critical role in safeguarding the global climate. Its destruction releases massive amounts of global warming gases into the atmosphere, worsening climate change. Indigenous peoples are the guardians of the Amazon rainforest. They need your support.

There's more from AmazonWatch and an excellent roundup at DailyKos that covers how US Free Trade agreements have been contributing to the problem.

Link to Lou Gold's blog:

sexta-feira, 29 de maio de 2009

Japanese & American donate to Caritas International for the flood victims in northern and northeastern Brazil -- Learn how!

From Laurie Dougherty in Massachusetts:

An advantage of Caritas International is that you can donate online with any credit card -you don't have to fool with bank wire transfers. And as Suya pointed out there is now an option on the online donation form to earmark the donation for the Brazil flood (this option was not yet there last evening when I became aware of Caritas involvement).

From the press release on Brazil at this link, click the black box "Support our work in Brazil" (or go to to Donate Now, select Emergency Response Fund, check "emergencies," open the drop down list and select Brazil Flood). I will also donate 100 EUR which at the moment is US$138.78. (A donation of US$100 would be 72.06 EUR.) This currency converter may not be the exact "official" exchange rate, but we use this at work to get a good approximation. I will also spread the word among contacts at work -- we have a large Latin American program and several Brazilians on staff.


quinta-feira, 28 de maio de 2009

Caritas - the charitable arm of the Catholic Church - is appealing for contributions to provide assistance to flooded areas in northeastern Brazil

Caritas - the charitable arm of the Catholic Church - is appealing for contributions to provide assistance to flooded areas in the northeast of Brazil

Caritas Brazil issued an appeal a couple of weeks ago requesting contributions that can be made through several bank accounts in Brazil (contributions from out of the country would need to be wired to the banks, most likely):

Caritas International, based in the Vatican, issued an appeal today to raise US$1.1 million for Brazil flood victims. Contributions can be made online with any credit card (as well as by check or wire transfer). The press release describes the kind of relief intended.

The Caritas website says donations can be earmarked for a specific emergency, but the Brazil floods are not on the list of choices on the online donation form.

Contact: Michelle Hough Tel. 39-06-69879721, 39-334-2344136 or

Currency converter (Euros to other currencies):

Many thanks to Laurie Dougherty, in Massachusetts, for the information in this post.