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Wednesday:  December 17, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Monday
Apr162012

Nigeria: World Bank Presidency - US vs the World? (PERSPECTIVE) 

By Yemi Ajayi

(PHOTO: Dr. Jim Yong Kim, new World Bank President/Dartmouth College) *Since this article posted on Monday, the World Bank board voted to confirm Jim Yong Kim as the next World Bank President. He will start his tenure on June 30 when Robert Zoellick steps down from this same post.

The race for the World Bank presidency will enter the homestretch Monday when the bank's 25-member executive board votes on who succeeds its outgoing president, Robert Zoellick.

It is a defining race for the Bretton Woods institution (comprising the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) founded in 1944. It is also a race that has assumed the character of a clash between an arcane tradition and the quest for change in the way the international finance institution with the official goal of fighting poverty picks its president.

In the race for the World Bank presidency were initially three candidates: Nigeria's Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Colombian Minister of Finance, Jose Antonio Ocampo and a public health expert and president of Dartmouth College in the United States, Jim Yong Kim. The number was reduced to two last Friday with Ocampo's withdrawal for the post.

However, the candidates are merely instruments in a proxy war between Washington and its European allies, which has traditionally produced the president and the rest of the world that is clamouring for a paradigm shift in how the leadership of the World Bank emerges.

The clamour has pitted the rest of the world against the US, which is out to defend its tradition of producing the World Bank president since foundation.

(PHOTO: Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria/NigeriaMailOnline)For US President Barack Obama, he cannot afford to fail where his predecessors had succeeded. Losing out in the jostling for the post, especially in a crucial election year, is to hand the Republicans the ammunition to make a bid at undoing his attempt to renew his tenancy at the White House.

Withdrawing from the race last Friday, Ocampo, in a letter to the World Bank, said he was doing so because "it is clear that this is becoming no longer a competition on the merits of the candidates, but a political exercise."

"For me, as an economist and as a Colombian, it has been a great honour to participate in this first open competition for the presidency of the World Bank... to facilitate the desired unity of the emerging and developing economies around a candidate, today (last Friday) I am retiring from the race to support the minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who I wish the best of luck in this final stage."

If it were going to be a straight fight based on merit on a level playing field for the candidates, Okonjo-Iweala could start preparing her handover notes for her successor in Nigeria and return to the organization where she was managing director before her call to national duty last year.

Even though she was reluctant to join the race some weeks ago, her candidacy has gathered rave endorsements from the media at home and abroad, 35 former World Bank economists and managers, Africa and other developing nations since she threw her traditional headgear into the ring.

She is the official candidate of Africa and its allies who have canvassed the argument that someone with high-flying credentials and requisite experience like hers is better placed to make the World Bank deliver on its goals of helping developing nations to improve on their peoples' wellbeing.

Since March when Obama picked him as the US candidate for the post, Kim has come under global scrutiny. Despite his credentials and achievements, especially in public health, including his stint as a director of HIV/AIDS at the World Health Organization, he is considered as one who lacks the "appropriate finance and economic credentials" to lead the World Bank.

(PHOTO: Jose Antonio Ocampo of Colombia/Columbia Univ) In contrast, Okonjo-Iweala has institutional knowledge, hands-on experience in development economics and public finance and has proven to be reform minded. In her first appointment as Nigeria's Minister of Finance, she superintended over the country's historical debt relief, an exercise that earned her global accolades; spearheaded the reform of the public sector in Nigeria leading to greater transparency and the monetization policy of the federal government; and championed the creation of the Excess Crude Account that largely provided a buffer for Nigeria during the global economic crisis between 2008 and 2009.

Notwithstanding his diminished credentials, Kim, by some quixotic arrangement, is most likely to succeed Zoellick who bows out on June 30 after a five-year term during which the bank provided over $247 billion to help developing countries boost growth and overcome poverty. His being the US candidate, which some analysts have described as a "wrong call," guarantees him victory under the weighted voting system that Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are calling for a review.

Under the voting system, the US, which is the bank's largest shareholder, Europe and Japan control 54 per cent of the votes. The trio has formed an alliance which ensures that the bloc votes are delivered to the US' candidate. Europe is under obligation to back the US as repayment for its support in always ensuring that the headship of the International Monetary Fund, is held by the continent under an informal pact.

According to reports at the weekend, so far, US, Russia, Canada and Japan are lining up behind Kim alongside Spain, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia and South Korea. This follows a move last Friday by the US members on the World Bank executive board to block the board from transparently assessing the outcome of the interviews of the three candidates, which took place earlier last week.

With Ocampo's withdrawal for Okonjo-Iweala, his backers - Brazil and Argentina - may team up with the three African constituencies to vote for the Nigerian minister.

However, the straw poll held by the bank's board last Friday before Ocampo's withdrawal, showed that Kim was guaranteed 36 per cent of the votes, Okonjo-Iweala about five per cent and six per cent for Ocampo. The votes reflect the voting rights of the countries or regions backing each of the candidates.

The undecided were the European Union with 29.2 per cent; India, 4.6 per cent; China, 3.4 per cent; Switzerland, 3.0 per cent; Saudi Arabia, 2.4 per cent; and Asia, 9.5 per cent bloc votes.

Monday's decision by the bank's executive board was some three weeks ago clearly encapsulated for the members by the Financial Times. The newspaper in an editorial on March 27, in which it endorsed the candidacy of Okonjo-Iweala, said: "In this less than ideal world, Mr. Kim's appointment seems inevitable. But if the Bank's shareholders wanted the best president, they would opt for Ms. Okonjo-Iweala."

Will the board heed the voice of reason as the World Bank, for the first time in its 68 years of existence, chooses between candidates?

Well, if the Nigerian minister loses, as that fact cannot be discounted, given the high stakes politics, she can take solace in the immortal word of American journalist and writer, Damon Runyon, "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong...."

--- This editorial originally appeared in AllAfrica HERE

Thursday
Mar222012

Brazil Prepares for the UN Rio+20 Conference in June (REPORT) 

By Sarah de Sainte Croix, Senior Contributing Reporter, The Rio Times

(RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL) - Twenty years after the inaugural 1992 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – the Earth Summit - was held in Rio, the city will once again play host to the event. Now Rio is gearing up for the “Rio+20” (June 20th to 22nd), and on March 9th Conference Secretary-General, Sha Zukang was in Brazil to discuss the logistics with Environment Minister, Izabella Teixeira.

The organizers are expecting representatives from 193 member states to attend, from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other stakeholders.

The Brazilian Rio+20 Commission, which was set up in 2011, is responsible for coordinating the hosting of the event. The conference itself is an intergovernmental process, directed by United Nations Member States and overseen by the UN.

The debates will focus on two principle themes: the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and the institutional framework for sustainable development, which will look at ways to strengthen the effectiveness of global sustainability resolutions.

(PHOTO: In Sept 2011, International Youth met in Mollina, Spain to decide what future they want/Human Impact Institute) According to the organizers, its objective is to renew political commitment to sustainable development, by assessing the progress made on the goals set at previous major summits – including the 1992 Earth Summit and the 2002 Johannesburg Summit – and identifying gaps in implementation.

On March 9th, Teixeira said the elections in other countries should not hinder the presence of heads of state at Rio+20, stating that 79 delegations have confirmed their presence so far. She also reinforced that the goal of the conference is to come up with concrete decisions, and not just to debate. “[Rio+20] is a conference for stamping documents and saying that we approve.”

The organizers say, “[It] should help define the sustainable development agenda for the coming decades.”

The event will be built up in three stages, the first of which runs from June 13th to 15th,in advance of the official conference dates. This will be a Meeting of the Preparatory Committee to unite government representatives from around the world and negotiate the documents to be adopted at the Conference.

During the second stage, from June 16th to 19th, a series of events has been scheduled for the participation of civil society. So called “major groups” who are registered with the UN, are invited to take part, including: non-governmental organizations, business groups, indigenous communities, local authorities, community groups, and the scientific and technological community, as well as individuals.

The third and final stage is the High Level Segment of the Conference, scheduled for June 20th to 22nd, in which Heads of State and Government of various United Nations member countries will meet to agree on the conference outcomes.

Riocentro conference center, in Barra da Tijuca, will host the intergovernmental agenda and other event locations have yet to be decided. The Sub-Secretary General for Energy and Technology at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, said at a public hearing at the beginning of the month that, “The conference itself is extraordinarily complex [to coordinate].”

However, he considers the event an important demonstration of Brazil’s commitment to being a key player in solving world issues, saying – “It is a renewal of our commitment to multilateralism as a legitimate way of solving global problems.”

- This article first appeared in The Rio Times

Tuesday
Mar062012

World's Smallest Territory/World's Hungry, Benefit From Biggest Anticipated Movie (REPORT) 

Hungry no longer?  

 

(HN, March 6, 2012) -- Next month brings the launch of one of Hollywood's most anticipated `book-turned-film series' of 2012, The Hunger Games.  In the spirit of others before it - "Twilight" and "Harry Potter" - author Suzanne Collins's bestselling young-adult adventure book trilogy features teenaged heroine Katniss Everdeen and depicts a remade North America, run by a dystopian dictatorship.

Renamed Panem and ruled by the governing body called `The Capitol' a highly advanced metropolis which holds absolute power over the rest of the nation, The Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl aged 12 to 18 from each of the 12 districts surrounding `The Capitol' are selected by lottery to compete in a televised battle in which only one person can survive.  

(PHOTO: The Hunger Games, 1st edition, 2008/Scholastic) Since its initial publishing in 2008, the novel has been translated into 26 different languages and rights of production have been sold in 38 countries. "The Hunger Games" is the first novel in The Hunger Games trilogy, followed by Catching Fire, published on September 1, 2009, and Mockingjay, published on August 24, 2010.

The film adaptation, which will be released on March 23, was written and produced by Collins herself and directed by Gary Ross. The cast features Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, Liam Hemsworth as Gale with cameo's by notable's Wood Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, and singer Lenny Kravitz.  

Collins has said that the inspiration to write The Hunger Games came from channel surfing on television. On one channel she observed people competing on a reality show and on another she saw footage of the invasion of Iraq. The two "began to blur in this very unsettling way" and the idea for the book was formed.

PITCAIRN

So where on Earth would a Hollywood producer film a futuristic Panem that would live up to the enormous interest in the storyline of The Hunger Games and be believable?  North Carolina, USA of course.  In fact, The Hunger Games was shot almost entirely on location in the southern US state - Asheville, Charlotte, Concord, DuPont State Forest, Hildebran, North Fork Reservoir, Pisgah National Forest, and Shelby.

The US is obviously one of the biggest nations on the planet. And, if The Hunger Games premise were to come true, would be taken over by a New `North American' order in Panem. 

But it's one of the world's tiniest territories that is reaping the rewards of one of the most waited-for movies of the year.

Which territory is this?  Pitcairn of course.

(MAP: Pitcairn Islands/Wikipedia) The Pitcairn Islands are a group of 4 volcanic islands Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands in the southern Pacific Ocean which stretch between Tahiti, and Easter Island. The islands are spread over several hundred miles of ocean and have a total land area of about 18 square miles.  Only Pitcairn, the second largest island with only about 48 people, is inhabited; and only from 4 families: Christian, Warren, Young, and Brown.

Pitcairn is the least populous jurisdiction in the world (though it is not a sovereign nation). The United Nations Committee on Decolonisation includes the Pitcairn Islands on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The islands are a British Overseas Territory and have alternately been `found' by both Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the 1600's. The original settlers of the Pitcairn Islands were Polynesians.

(DRAWING: A depiction of the British HMS Bounty arriving at Pitcairn, circa 1700's/Wikipedia) As far as Hollywood goes, the islands are best known as home of the descendants of the HMS Bounty mutineers (British, who came to the islands in the 1700's);  and the Tahitians (or Polynesians) who accompanied them, an event retold in numerous books and films.

But now, with The Hunger Games, Lionsgate, the film's distributor has expanded its promotional campaign to be as `experiential' for fans as possible. As if Panem actually existed

And what would a fictitious Panem have as its web address?  Likely something with the .PN URL - which just happens to be, the web domain of the smallest populated territory on the planet, Pitcairn.

According to Movieline, this unique designation was a "happy coincidence with a financial benefit"  to Bill Haigh, the governmental registrar for Pitcairn's domain offices, which provides the web affiliation for companies to protect their brand, and he says the proceeds "go a long way toward the islands' infrastructural upkeep".

(PHOTO: Pitcairn postage stamp, superimposed with Jennifer Lawrence's photo/TaimiOnline) The island’s internet domain name sales are reportedly now bringing in as much income as Pitcairn postage stamps or the islands other export, honey; equaling "tens of thousands of dollars", he says.

Again, Movieline reports that, "While it's impossible to know how many .PN's will be registered, an online registry  shows already established PN's as Capitol.pn, and CapitolCouture.pn; there are registrations for Panem's various districts (District1.pn, through District13.pn), and each of the main characters have their own addresses (e.g. PresidentSnow.pn)". 

 At approximately $75 per registrar the islands could go a long way towards creating revenue for real things it needs support for such as telecommunications, supply shipping, children's education, and medical care among other modern day staples. 

ACTUAL, GLOBAL HUNGER

In an interview with Suzanne Collins, she stated that the books "challenge the reader to explore issues such as severe poverty, starvation, oppression, and the effects of war among others".  

(GRAPH: Global hunger, 2010/FAO) The starvation and need for resources that Panem citizens experience both in and outside of the `Hunger Games' arena create an atmosphere of survival that the main characters try to overcome in their fight for self preservation. She goes on to say, "The choices the characters make and the strategies they use are often morally complex."

So it's no surprise then that a film called "The Hunger Games" is a perfect fit for messaging around the poverty, hunger and famine issues plaguing many countries and millions of people across the world.

In fact a month before the release of the film opening on March 23, the cast and producers teamed up with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and Feeding America to raise awareness about global hunger - launching a public service video and a new website wfp.org/hungergames with the movie’s stars urging fans of the film to help end hunger and malnutrition.

Hunger affects 1 in 7 people in the world – almost one billion men, women and children who go to bed every night not having enough to eat or enough nutrition to sustain them.  "The Hunger Games" campaign states that for just $5 a month, Feeding America and WFP will help to provide at least 20 meals to someone in need.

“This partnership will help us spread the word that hunger is the world’s greatest solvable problem,” said Nancy Roman, Director of Communications of WFP, adding that millions of readers identified with the characters in The Hunger Games trilogy and are excited about the upcoming movie.  “We want to tap into that excitement." 

 Said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO, Feeding America, "There is enough food to feed everyone living in the US, but it’s not getting to millions of low-income people who need it”.

On the website users can watch the public service announcement; participate in a Hunger Quiz; or make a donation to actively become a part of the solution and help solve world hunger.

CATCHING FIRE

With early projections of $100 million dollar success already being hyped in Hollywood for The Hunger Games launch - the cast has set out on a mall tour speaking to thousands of people ahead of the movie's release.

Looking towards the future, Suzanne Collins, her directing partner Gary Ross and Lionsgate aren't waiting for the film to open to begin the next chapter. They are already anticipating that The Hunger Games will `Catch Fire' - and the only way to keep a flame burning, is to keep going. 

(PHOTO: Catching Fire, published 2009/Scholastic) So weeks before The Hunger Games even arrives in theaters, the script for "Catching Fire" - the sequel - has already been written and is being reviewed by Collin's herself according to the NY Daily News.

Lionsgate has already announced a release date of November 22, 2013 for the sequel and filming is set to begin rolling in the fall, with stars Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson all returning. 

Indeed, "Catching Fire" is also what the The Hunger Games beneficiaries hope will happen too.

A three film trilogy that could potentially bring worldwide awareness of the inequity of life which the millions who face hunger and poverty around the world deal with every day?  A blockbuster, made in North Carolina which brings global awareness to the world's least populated territory?

Perhaps,  the real legacy of "The Hunger Games" could mean `Hunger no longer'.  Now that's a blockbuster.

--- HUMNEWS

Monday
Jan302012

`Resilient People, Resilient Planet': New UN Report says World is running out of time, resources. 

(PHOTO: Global Greenhouse Warming.com)(HN/January 30, 2012) - A high level Global Sustainability panel organized by the UN released its report on resilient sustainability for both people and the planet today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  The report release by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon comes on the sidelines of the 18th ordinary African Union Summit which opened here this weekend.

The report says a “Future Worth Choosing” must be based on true costs to people and the environment and that the world is running out of time to create real solutions to ensure there is enough food, water and energy to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population expected to reach 9 billion by 2040 from 7 billion now, and the number of middle-class consumers which will increase by 3 billion over the next 20 years.  As a result, demand for resources will rise exponentially.

Even by 2030, the world will need at least 50% more food, 45 % more energy and 30 % more water, according to U.N. estimates, at a time when a changing environment is creating new limits to supply. The report warns that if the world fails to tackle these problems, it risks sending up to 3 billion people into poverty.

"The current global development model is unsustainable. To achieve sustainability, a transformation of the global economy is required," the report said.

There are 20 million more undernourished people now than in 2000; 5.2 million hectares of forest are lost per year - an area the size of Costa Rica; 85 percent of all fish stocks are over-exploited or depleted; and carbon dioxide emissions have risen 38 percent between 1990 and 2009, which heightens the risk of sea level rise and more extreme weather.

Among the panel's goals for governments is to agree on a set of sustainable development goals which would complement the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) by 2015 and create a framework for action.

(PHOTO: File) The 22 member panel, established by the Secretary-General in August 2010 to formulate a new blueprint for sustainable development and low-carbon prosperity, was co-chaired by Finnish President Tarja Halonen and South African President Jacob Zuma.  The final report contains 56 recommendations to put sustainable development into practice and to mainstream it into economic policy as quickly as possible.  “Resilient People, Resilient Planet” calls for the integration of social and environmental costs in how the world prices and measures economic activities. It also calls for a set of sustainable development indicators that go beyond the traditional approach of Gross Domestic Product and recommends that Governments develop and apply a set of Sustainable Development Goals that can mobilize global action and help monitor progress.

The Secretary-General, in receiving the Panel’s report, stated that sustainable development is a top priority for his second term of office. “We need to chart a new, more sustainable course for the future, one that strengthens equality and economic growth while protecting our planet,” said the Secretary-General.  The report of provides a timely contribution to preparations for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil in June 2012.

Addressing the Secretary-General via video, co-chair President Halonen stressed the importance of placing people at the center of achieving sustainable development. “Eradication of poverty and improving equity must remain priorities for the world community,” noted President Halonen. “The Panel has concluded that empowering women and ensuring a greater role for them in the economy is critical for sustainable development.”

(GRAPH: EOLSS.COM)Among the panel’s other recommendations they said that governments should work with partners to create an "evergreen revolution," which would at least double productivity while reducing resource use and avoiding further biodiversity losses, the report said.  Water and marine ecosystems should be managed more efficiently and there should be universal access to affordable sustainable energy by 2030.  Carbon and natural resource pricing should be established through taxation, regulation or emissions trading schemes by 2020 and fossil fuel subsidies should also be phased out by that time. National fiscal and credit systems should be reformed to provide long-term incentives for sustainable practices as well as disincentives for unsustainable ones. Sovereign wealth and public pension funds, as well as development banks and export credit agencies should apply sustainable development criteria to their investment decisions, and governments or stock market watchdogs should revise regulations to encourage their use.  Science should be behind environmental progress and the UN should consider naming a chief scientific adviser or board to advise the organization, and calls on the Secretary-General to lead efforts to produce a regular Global Sustainable Development Outlook report that integrates knowledge across sectors and institutions

The 22 members of the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability included current and former heads of states, ministers, and representatives of the private sector and civil society.  In addition to the Co-chairs, the Panel included Sheikh Abdallah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates; Hajiya Amina Az-Zubai, Former Senior Special Assistant and Adviser to the President of Nigeria on the Millennium Development Goals; Ali Babacan, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey; James Laurence Balsillie, former Co-Chief Executive Officer of Research in Motion; Alexander Bedritsky, Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation, Special Envoy for Climate; Gro Harlem Brundtland, Former Prime Minister of Norway; Micheline Calmy-Rey, Former President and former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Switzerland; Julia Carabias Lillo, Former Secretary of the Environment of Mexico; Gunilla Carlsson, Minister for International Development Cooperation of Sweden; Luisa Dias Diogo, Member of Parliament and former Prime Minister of Mozambique; Han Seung-soo, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Global Green Growth Institute and former Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea; Yukio Hatoyama, former Prime Minister of Japan; Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action; Cristina Narbona Ruiz, former Minister of the Environment of Spain, Jairam Ramesh, Minister of Rural Development of India, Susan E. Rice, United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations; Kevin Rudd, Minister for Foreign Affairs and former Prime Minister of Australia; Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister of Barbados; Izabella Mônica Vieira Teixeira, Minister of the Environment of Brazil, and Zheng Guoguang; Administrator of the China Meteorological Administration. Mr. Janos Pasztor was an ex-officio member as Executive Secretary of the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability.

The full report is available at www.un.org/gsp.

---HUMNEWS

Tuesday
Jan172012

Justice Chases a Human-Rights Judge (NEWS BRIEF) 

By Jonah Hull in Europe

Judge Balthasar Garzon PHOTO: WikipediaThose who have claimed Judge Balthasar Garzon is the victim of a judicial witch-hunt by colleagues jealous of his fame, might have been surprised to see the top investigative judge arrive at Madrid's Supreme Court flanked by six of his fellow judges showing their support.

The group walked towards the courthouse through a throng of demonstrators calling for justice in Garzon's name.

One told me, "This is a democracy and this judge is being judged by corrupt people. The hunter has become the hunted."

Inside, Garzon was met by applause from members of the legal fraternity. It's clear, Garzon has plenty of support, but plenty of enemies as well.

The darling of human-rights groups - and victims - in Spain and around the world, Balthasar Garzon stepped on many toes in his long career.

Arch-conservatives in Spain are angry at his attempts to dig up Spain's wartime past.

Plenty of enemies

Members of both the ruling Popular Party and the previous Socialist government resent indictments handed down implicating officials in corruption and state-sponsored death squads. 

He's no friend of extant elements of old regimes in Latin America, where amnesties for war crimes have successively been tested and repealed in Guatemala and Argentina after Garzon's indictment of Chile's General Augusto Pinochet in the late 1990s.

He's even viewed with suspicion in the US after WikiLeaks revealed cables describing Garzon as having an anti-American streak following his investigation into alleged abuses at Guantanamo Bay.

But perhaps the most outspoken reaction has come from the New York-based Human Rights Watch who've called trials against Garzon an "outrage".

The cases, they say, have already dissuaded judges elsewhere from applying the principle of universal justice - cherished by Garzon - to determine which governments are obliged to investigate the worst international crimes, regardless of relevant amnesties.

It was that principle that Garzon used to indict Pinochet and which successively led to the overturning of amnesties in Latin America.

And it is also the principle he relied upon to open an investigation into wartime abuses by the forces of General Francisco Franco during Spain's civil war in the 1930s, despite a government amnesty passed in 1977 for "political acts" committed at that time. 

For this act he faces trial next week. Garzon's actions appear to be supported by international law - both the principle of universal justice and the notion that disappearances remain open cases until the fate of victims is known.

'Crime against humanity'

Garzon himself described the alleged Franco abuses as "a systematic drive to crush opponents and thus a crime against humanity".

His work on the investigation began and ended in 2008 after a dispute over jurisdiction. But the effect lingered until another case presented an opportunity. 

He had ordered the phone-tapping of conversations between the detained suspected ringleaders of a corruption ring involving officials from the now-ruling Popular Party and their lawyers.

He'd suspected they were discussing money laundering, and indeed, one lawyer was subsequently indicted. 

The state prosecutor opposed criminal charges, saying no crime had been committed. 

Private prosecutions brought by the lawyers and detainees in the first case, and pro-Franco groups in the second. And they were accepted for trial by the supreme court - the only court empowered to try a sitting judge, which is almost unprecedented in Spain.

Garzon doesn't face jail time but could be struck off for many years. Even if acquitted, the feeling is that the stain on Garzon's reputation could mean the end of the road in the long career of Spain's - and perhaps the world's - most famous investigative judge.

Originally published by AlJazeera under Creative Commons License

Sunday
Jan152012

(UPDATED) International Films at Tonight's Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Golden Globe Awards

(PHOTO: Ricky Gervais, JUST JARED) Tonight in Hollywood, the 69th annual Golden Globe awards put on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) will take place.  Hosted, as it has been for the past three years, British comedian Ricky Gervais will be back even though in his past appearances he has caused controversy by taking aim at Mel Gibson and Sir Paul McCartney in 2010; and again in 2011 when he openly questioned the sexuality of "some famous Scientologists" before revisiting the troubled past of actor Robert Downey Jr.

Gervais has tweeted about his Globes game plan in the days leading up to the show: "I keep having to write new jokes as I pick my victims, I mean targets, I mean presenters to introduce. Some great people have confirmed." He even told Twitter followers that he'll be drinking lager, ad-libbing and speaking his mind.

The HFPA origins stem from a group of journalists' desire “to efficiently and accurately cover all aspects of the world of entertainment”.  According to the group’s website, “today's organization has its roots in the early 1940s when Pearl Harbor had drawn America into World War II. Audiences, hungry for diversion, were seeking out films offering escape, inspiration and entertainment.  Amid the turmoil of war and the difficulties with communications, a handful of Los Angeles-based overseas journalists banded together to share contacts, information and material.”

   

(Ricky Gervais 2011 Golden Globe Opening Monologue, Courtesy Golden Globe Awards)

In 1943 the journalists, led by the correspondent for Britain's Daily Mail, formed the HFPA and conceived the motto “Unity Without Discrimination of Religion or Race.”  The group’s first special event was a luncheon in December 1947, at which a plaque was awarded to Harry M. Warner, president of Warner Bros., in recognition of his humanitarian work as the principal sponsor of the “Friendship Train,” which left Hollywood with food, clothing and medical supplies for the needy of Europe.

 

(THE FLOWER OF WAR, CHINA)

During its early years the HFPA established itself with the studios by innovations such as its World Favorites awards, which it came up with by polling more than 900 newspapers, magazines and radio stations around the world. The group also came up with the idea of "bon voyage" interview lunches with actors and actresses who were leaving to make films in countries represented by the members.

At first awards were only given for films, but in 1955 the Golden Globes began honoring achievements in television too. Today, the Golden Globes recognize achievements in 25 categories; 14 in motion pictures and 11 in television. Dick Clark Productions has produced the Golden Globes ceremony since 1983. 

 

(THE KID WITH A BIKE, BELGIUM)

Today the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association represent some 55 countries with a combined readership of more than 250 million. Their publications include leading newspapers and magazines in Europe, Asia, Australasia and Latin America, ranging from the Daily Telegraph in England to Le Figaro in France, L'Espresso in Italy and Vogue in Germany as well as the China Times and the pan-Arabic magazine Kul Al Osra.

However, despite the group’s international beginnings, only one of the twenty six categories for awards features `International Films”.  This year from China, Belgium, Iran, Spain and the United States.

The Flowers Of War (China) features Christian Bale and Ni Ni tells the story of a Westerner who finds refuge with a group of women in a church during Japan's rape of Nanking in 1937. Posing as a priest, he attempts to lead the women to safety.

 

(A SEPARATION, IRAN)

The Kid With A Bike (Belgium) directed by brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, starring Cécile de France and Thomas Doret.  Set in Seraing, it tells the story of an 11-year-old boy who turns to a woman after his father has abandoned him. The film was produced through companies in Belgium, France and Italy.

A Separation (Iran) tells the story of a married couple who are faced with a difficult decision, to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimers. The film stars Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami and Sareh Bayat.

 

(THE SKIN I LIVE IN, SPAIN)

The Skin I Live In (Spain) features the story of a brilliant plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, who creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig: a mysterious and volatile woman who holds the key to his obsession. The film stars Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya and Jan Cornet.

And Angelina Jolie’s recently released film In The Land Of Blood And Honey (United States) which tells a story which took place during the Bosnian War, in which Danijel, a soldier fighting for the Serbs, re-encounters Ajla, a Bosnian who's now a captive in his camp he oversees. Their once promising connection has become ambiguous as their motives have changed.  Directed and written by Jolie the film stars Zana Marjanovic, Goran Kostic and Rade Serbedzija.

The 68th Golden Globes will be seen LIVE around the world on local broadcasters from Brazil to Botswana to Bahrain and beyond.

---HUMNEWS