Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Cancún meeting looks promising - from a climate realist´s point of view

The latest reports from Cancún are promising:

The potential crisis was provoked by Japan stating earlier this week that it would not sign up to a second period of the Kyoto Protocol.
Other countries, including Russia, Canada and Australia are thought to agree but have yet to say publicly that they will not make further pledges

And there will be a considerably smaller CO2 footprint at this year´s meeting:

Few heads of state are expected to attend this year's talks – in sharp contrast to the summit in Copenhagen. However, Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela, Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador, and Bolivia's Evo Morales have said they will be there. All were accused by Gordon Brown of "holding the world to ransom" at the Copenhagen talks. They will be joined by the presidents of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil and Guatemala.

The German Daily Die Welt also has noted the almost nonexistent intererest for the Cancún meeting:

Das Interesse am Klimaschutz ist deutlich gesunken. Die Konferenz in Cancún wird kaum wahrgenommen. In die Debatte kehrt Pragmatismus ein.

Aus Kopenhagen sandten die deutschen Nachrichtenagenturen täglich bis zu 50 oder 60 Meldungen zum Thema, aus Cancun kann man sie an einer Hand abzählen. Nichts zu melden. „Verschwunden ist die Feierlichkeit, der Hype, die Erwartungen“, klagt eine englische Aktivistin, die für ihr Netzwerk „Global Campaign for Climate Action“ die Verhandlungen beobachtet, „verschwunden auch die Menschenmengen und die Medien. Stattdessen haben wir ein leeres Konferenzzentrum und Minister, die mit wenig Erwartung kommen.“

Let´s hope that the end result of this climate change madnesss will be an increased interest in fighting real pollution and real environmental problems.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Merkel: "If this is the sort of club the euro is becoming, perhaps Germany should leave,"

According to this newspaper report chancellor Angela Merkel mentioned the possibility of Germany leaving the euro at a recent EU summit:

"If this is the sort of club the euro is becoming, perhaps Germany should leave," Merkel replied, according to non-German government figures at the dinner. It was the first time in the 10 months since the euro was plunged into a fight for its survival that Germany, the EU's economic powerhouse and the lynchpin of the euro's viability, had suggested that quitting the currency is an option, however unlikely.


From a western point of view, things do not look promising in Ukraine:

Mr. Yanukovych, however, has again proved the adage that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. He is a Russophile thug who is slowly forging an authoritarian state. His government has centralized power, repealing amendments to the constitution - without public debate or any kind of vote - that substantially weaken parliament. Media censorship is on the rise. Journalists critical of the regime have disappeared mysteriously. In recent regional elections, opposition parties were harassed. Ballot tampering and voter fraud were rampant.
Mr. Yanukovych's base is in the Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine - the Sovietized industrial east. His Party of Regions seeks to make Russian an official language; in fact, its website refuses to use Ukrainian. He has put joining NATO and the European Union on the back burner - bowing to Moscow's demands. Slowly, but surely, he is splitting Kiev from the West. In short, he is Mr. Putin's poodle.

Read the whole article here.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

US embassy cables: Russia is virtual 'mafia state'

Leaked US embassy cables do not paint a very nice picture of Putin´s Russia:

US embassy cables: Russia is virtual 'mafia state', says Spanish investigator

Grinda stated that he considers Belarus, Chechnya and Russia to be virtual "mafia states" and said that Ukraine is going to be one. For each of those countries, he alleged, one cannot differentiate between the activities of the government and OC groups.

The second reason is the unanswered question regarding the extent to which Russian PM Putin is implicated in the Russian mafia and whether he controls the mafia's actions. Grinda cited a "thesis" by Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian intelligence official who worked on OC issues before he died in late 2006 in London from poisoning under mysterious circumstances, that the Russian intelligence and security services - Grinda cited the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), and military intelligence (GRU) - control OC in Russia. Grinda stated that he believes this thesis is accurate.

 Grinda said that according to information he has received from intelligence services, witnesses and phone taps, certain political parties in Russia operate "hand in hand" with OC. For example, he argued that the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was created by the KGB and its successor, the SVR, and is home to many serious criminals. Grinda further alleged that there are proven ties between the Russian political parties, organized crime and arms trafficking. Without elaborating, he cited the strange case of the "Arctic Sea" ship in mid-2009 as "a clear example" of arms trafficking.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Where the EU money goes

This makes interesting reading:

Europe’s hidden billions: Tracking the EU’s Structural Funds

The Bureau, in collaboration with the Financial Times, has created the only comprehensive database tracking every penny distributed through the EU’s Structural Funds to date.

As Europeans face the uncertainty of swingeing government cuts, the European Union continues to spend. Its structural fund programme distributes €347bn of European taxpayers’ money across 271 regions in 27 countries.
Yet a web of bureaucracy has hidden this spending. Even MEPs have not had a truly transparent view of the organisations getting the funds.
Over eight months the Bureau and the FT have collected data relating to billions of euros to reveal, for the first time, the 646,000 recipients that have received the funds.

Our research reveals:
  • How Italy’s most dangerous mafia, the ndrangheta, has become an expert at getting its hands on these funds
  • A decentralised, cumbersome and weak system allows, and rarely punishes, fraud and misuse
  • Millions of euros are going to multinational companies to help them move factories within the union despite guidelines discouraging this practice
  • Funds have been used to finance a hotel building boom on protected nature reserves in Spain
  • The lack of thorough checks means money is being wasted
  • Some of the world’s largest companies are receiving funding despite the programme being aimed at small and medium-sized companies

No wonder that voters in most EU countries are getting more and more critical.

It is also good to remember that for more than 16 years in a row the Court of Auditors has been unable to give a clean bill of health to the ovarall EU budget. But nobody seems to care.

One German MEP at least showed some interest:

"We have to ask ourselves if we can continue to allocate more and more money to the EU commission, if year after year it is uncapable of managing the funds efficiently," said German Liberal MEP Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, responsible with drafting the Parliament position on this report.

Russia: “an oligarchy run by the security services”

Vladimir Putin is not pleased to hear that he leads a country that is described by US defense secretary Robert Gates in in this way: “an oligarchy run by the security services,”. He is evidently not used to hearing the truth.

Erdogan´s Turkey - not so suitable for the EU

Turkey under the leadership of Tayyip Erdogan is not - if US diplomats are to be believed - a very promising candidate for EU membership:

The US is concerned about its NATO ally Turkey. Embassy dispatches portray Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a power-hungry Islamist surrounded by corrupt and incompetent ministers. Washington no longer believes that the country will ever join the European Union.

US diplomats claim that Erdogan gets almost all of his information from Islamist-leaning newspapers -- analysis from his ministries, they say, is of no interest to him. The military, the second largest among NATO member states, and the secret service no longer send him some of their reports. He trusts nobody completely, the dispatches say, and surrounds himselves with "an iron ring of sycophantic (but contemptuous) advisors." Despite his bravado, he is said to be terrified of losing his grip on power. One authority on Erdogan told the Americans: "Tayyip believes in God ... but doesn't trust him."
Accusations of Corruption
Erdogan took office as prime minister in 2003, two years after having founded his party, the Islamic-conservative AKP. During the campaign Erdogan announced his intention to tackle corruption.
Since 2004, however, informants have been telling US diplomats in Turkey of corruption at all levels, even within the Erdogan family.

Read the whole piece here.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Cancún Climate Meeting

Walter Russel Mead says it all:

What a difference a year makes.  Last year at this time, the Great Green Delusion — that the United Nations process could deliver a treaty that would stop global warming dead in its tracks — was the hottest idea in town.  Those who dissented were scorned and despised; the environmental movement and its army of press loyalists were the Great and the Good who knew how to solve the world’s problems.  120 country heads dropped whatever they were doing to catch a flight to Copenhagen: who could miss a historic moment like this?
Now, a year and two high-profile international negotiating fiascoes later, the next scheduled meeting in the UN process in Cancun, Mexico isn’t getting nearly the same kind of attention.  The New York Times will not even be sending a reporter for the full event; “What will there even be to cover in Cancun in terms of public policy or reader interest?” asks the chief climate reporter of the Washington Post.  The BBC sent 20 reporters to Copenhagen; only one will go to Cancun.

It is not just that the Cancun meeting isn’t expected to produce much.  The whole UN treaty process is increasingly being seen as a colossal and humiliating blunder. 

Read the whole article here.

NATO and Russia

John  Vinocur has written an interesting piece on the "historic" Lisbon NATO summit:

Anyone out there feel safer, surer, better protected against the world’s nasties as a result of the “historic breakthroughs” announced between NATO and Russia at that summit meeting in Lisbon 10 days ago?

Alexander Golts, a Russian security and military affairs analyst with a reputation for considerable integrity and cheek, said he heard at least 10 references coming from the conference hall to the event’s “historic” character — including two (my count) from the Russian president, Dmitri A. Medvedev.
Mr. Golts also said “this celebration of mutual understanding is completely worthless.”

Vinocur also reminds us of something that was not talked about in Lisbon:

A coda: the high-pressure gush at Lisbon was successfully slip-streamed by France so that in the midst of all the self-congratulatory talk no one uttered a word about French efforts to sell the Russian Navy two helicopter-carrying assault ships, a NATO first. The French could certainly cheer, Long live Mr. Obama’s reset!

Read the whole article here.

Monday, 29 November 2010

The Chinese bubble

It is becoming more and more likely that the next big bubble will burst in China:

Hedge fund manager Mark Hart bets on China as the next 'enormous credit bubble' to burst

Mark Hart, an American hedge fund manager who has made millions predicting the crises in US sub-prime market and European debt, has launched a fund to bet on the imminent implosion of China.

Mr Hart, who runs Corriente Advisors from Fort Worth Texas, has told potential investors in a presentation that China is in the "late stages of an enormous credit bubble".
When this bursts, the financier said he expects an "economic fall-out" that will be as "extraordinary as China's economic out-performance over the last decade".

Mr Hart, who launched a record performing sub-prime fund as early as 2006 and, in 2007, a fund that bet on a European debt crisis, told investors: "Complacency among market participants regarding China is eerily similar to the complacency exhibited prior to the United States sub-prime crisis and European sovereign debt crisis."