Trump’s deal with Carrier moves 1,300 jobs to Mexico
02 Dec 2016 at 08:37 ET
The deal announced Thursday to preserve 800 jobs at a Carrier factory in Indianapolis that was planning on shipping those jobs to Mexico was classic Trump. He gushed over his election victories in Indiana, blustered about building a wall on the border with Mexico, threatened other companies about moving jobs, and basked in the adulation of workers at the plant who were “all crying” at his dealmaking prowess.
But Trump offered few specifics. Like his dodgy business empire, it’s what’s behind the curtain that matters more than the smoke and mirrors on stage. Trump’s deal shows that his plan to “Make America Great Again” is based on accelerating the race to the bottom for American workers.
Take the agreement itself. Trump crowed about saving 1,100 jobs, but the Wall Street Journal reported that includes “300 research and headquarters positions that weren’t slated to go to Mexico.” That means the number of jobs being saved is 800 out of a total of 2,100 jobs that were to be transferred. In other words, 1,300 workers will still get the boot from two Carrier facilities in Indiana.
So when Trump told the crowd at Carrier, “All of the workers will have a great, great Christmas,” he was erasing the many more workers whose jobs will be eliminated.
Few will find another job that pays up to $30 an hour, and government will be stuck with the bill from Carrier. Larry Cohen, chair of the board of directors for Bernie Sanders’ “Our Revolution,” says the government will have to pay for “18 months of extended unemployment benefits and retraining” for the fired workers.
That’s just one downside. Other details leaking out make the deal look even shadier. Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies, will receive $7 million in incentives from the state over a 10-year period, or nearly $9,000 per job saved. But that pales in comparison to the $65 million in labor costs Carrier would have saved by moving to Mexico.
So it wasn’t about the money, what’s the real story? Former Indiana Lt. Gov. John Mutz, a “prominent” member of the Indiana Economic Development Corp., which will fork over the aid to Carrier, told the Indianapolis Business Journal the agreement was more influenced by “United Technologies Corp’s desire to keep its hefty federal contracts” that amount to some $6 billion annually.
Larry Cohen approves of playing hardball with corporations, but laments, “It’s a sad day when you have to depend on Donald Trump for this.” Cohen says the Obama White House “should have been doing this for years.” He points out that United Technologies expects to get those federal contracts “with giant profits baked in” while being free to “devastate this country by costing the city of Indianapolis at least 2,000 jobs.”
Also overshadowed by the Trump reality show is the fact Bernie Sanders deserves substantial credit for the deal, according to Cohen. He says Sanders “campaigned to keep Carrier in Indianapolis, introduced legislation aimed at including the jobs record as a factor in government contracts, and scheduled an NBC town hall in Indianapolis next week” to ramp up the pressure on Carrier.
The proposed legislation was unveiled on Nov. 26, nearly a week before the Carrier deal. Called the “Outsourcing Prevention Act,” Sanders says it will prevent “companies that outsource jobs from receiving federal contracts, tax breaks, grants or loans.” The bill includes anti-outsourcing policies aimed at all federal contractors, any company that receive federal benefits, imposes a tax on corporation that outsources jobs equal to or greater than its estimated savings—so in the case of Carrier, it would pay a fine of at least $65 million if it moved the jobs—and it prohibits executives from profiting off outsourcing.
Such policies would strike at outsourcing, showing it is a profit-making scheme and not some force of nature. But it’s also dubious to accept corporations’ rationale that they need to cut labor costs to compete. Writing in the Washington Post, Sanders noted that United Technologies recently lavished “a golden parachute worth more than $172 million” on its former chief executive, it paid five executives more than $50 million,” and in 2015 it upped its stock buyback program by a staggering $12 billion that has no purpose other than inflating its share price. The stock buyback alone is nearly 200 times the savings Carrier would have realized by shipping jobs to Mexico.
Trump, meanwhile, made the jobs announcement about him. In Indianapolis he said, “We’re going to have a lot of phone calls to companies that say they’re thinking about leaving this country, because they’re not leaving this country. Leaving the country is going to be very difficult.”
He gets to play the strongman bestowing largesse on the little people. The Obama White House needled Trump, pointing out he would have to replicate the Carrier deal at least 804 more times to match the number of manufacturing jobs created since 2010. And it would take nearly 1,900 Carrier deals to match the 1.5 million jobs estimated to have been saved by the auto industry bailout.
But Trump did outline some policies in Indianapolis. He said, “We’re going to do great things for business. … Your taxes are going to be at the very low end” by slashing the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent. He also said he would hack away at federal regulations, as “most of the regulations are nonsense.”
Most regulations, however, concern workplace safety, consumer safety, and the environment. That’s the real story, not 800 jobs saved. Trump is telegraphing his plans for an unrelenting assault on all American workers, their wages, their quality of life and health, and their right to organize. Trump’s message to corporate America is they don’t need to move jobs to some impoverished, environmentally trashed country ruled by business-friendly despots because he is going to create those conditions here.
The New York Times said the deal shows, “Mr. Trump is a different kind of Republican, willing to take on big business, at least in individual cases.” The only thing different is Trump’s transparent machinations.
Trump has talked of a tax holiday so corporations can repatriate up to $3 trillion in profits squirreled overseas. This could give him the funds for a sugar-rush burst of infrastructure to help him get re-elected. But his fiscal policies will cripple federal spending, which has been the right’s dream for decades, and drag down fail the economy over the long term. When companies were last given a tax holiday in 2004, they were allowed to bring booty home at a paltry 5.25 percent rate. But, as the Times reported, “they used very little of their repatriated money to create jobs or develop new businesses or technologies. Most of the cash simply flowed to investors in the form of buybacks and dividends.”
That’s a missing part of the Carrier puzzle. Trump was signalling to United Technologies it may be able to bring back $38 billion it’s sheltered and use it to fatten dividends and profits.
Expect Trump to roll out more one-off “deals” that allow him to garner laurels even as he remakes America into a Koch Brothers-style utopia. But there won’t be any policies that hammer corporations in the bottom line to staunch outsourcing or improve the lives of American workers, including those of his supporters.
Bernie Sanders: ‘United Technologies took Trump hostage and won’
02 Dec 2016 at 08:52 ET
Donald Trump launched into a post-election victory lap Thursday by visiting a company where he claimed credit for saving American jobs, as he warned other US firms they will face consequences if relocating abroad.
The president-elect, who made guaranteeing jobs for blue-collar American workers a key plank of his campaign, strode triumphantly through an Indiana factory that makes Carrier air conditioners, trumpeting a deal to keep 1,100 manufacturing positions from being shifted to Mexico.
He completes his tour of the Midwest later Thursday with a campaign-style mass rally in Ohio. The events mark Trump’s first major public outings since winning the White House on November 8.
Casting aside interviews for senior cabinet positions yet to be filled, the 70-year-old maverick tycoon flew to Indianapolis where he glad-handed workers on an assembly line before defending his negotiation with the company.
“I think it’s very presidential. And if it’s not presidential, that’s OK because I like doing it,” Trump said.
“But we’re going to have a lot of phone calls made to companies when they say they’re leaving this country because they’re not going to leave this country.”
During the presidential campaign, the Republican billionaire threatened to slap tariffs on firms that decamped for places like Mexico or Asia where labor costs are cheaper.
It became a refrain of his victorious campaign, during which he repeatedly leaned on Carrier not to ship a planned 2,000 jobs to Mexico.
“Companies are not going to leave the United States any more without consequences. Not going to happen,” Trump said as Greg Hayes, chairman of United Technologies Corporation which owns the Carrier brand, looked on.
“You don’t have to leave anymore. Your taxes will be at the very low end and your unnecessary regulations will be gone,” he said, repeating campaign promises to cut corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 15 percent and curb regulations on industry.
Carrier has announced that it will preserve more than 1,000 jobs and continue to manufacture gas furnaces in Indianapolis. Hundreds of jobs reportedly will still be moved to Mexico.
Under a deal hammered out with the help of Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who is Indiana’s outgoing governor, the state offered Carrier $7 million in incentives over 10 years, “contingent upon factors including employment, job retention and capital investment,” the company said.
Critics are fearful that workers’ rights may not be adequately protected, or that the deal may embolden other firms to threaten to relocate jobs.
– Fierce criticism –
“United Technologies took Trump hostage and won,” Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont and prominent Trump critic on the left of American politics, wrote in a stinging op-ed in Thursday’s Washington Post, saying it “endangered” other American jobs.
Trump “has signaled to every corporation in America that they can threaten to offshore jobs in exchange for business-friendly tax benefits and incentives.”
The Trump team hailed the agreement as a “big win.” Anthony Scaramucci, an entrepreneur and member of the Trump team’s executive committee, said “the whole purpose” was to slash corporate tax rates to make it more competitive for US companies to allocate capital at home.
“I’m hoping that every CEO in America is getting that beacon signal from the new Trump administration that we’re open for business here in the United States, and we’ve got to get American people back working in American jobs.”
Steven Mnuchin, the multi-millionaire former Goldman Sachs banker who Trump has nominated as Treasury secretary, said he couldn’t remember the last time a president had made such an intervention with an American chief executive.
“I think it’s terrific,” he told reporters Wednesday, saying that he and Wilbur Ross, the billionaire nominated as commerce secretary, would work with Trump to “do the right thing for the American workers.”
The deal is an extraordinary industry intervention by a president-elect.
The White House avoided outright criticism of Trump’s effort, but it did express skepticism about the strategy of keeping jobs on American soil, one company at a time.
“Mr Trump would have to make 804 more announcements just like that to equal the standard of jobs in the manufacturing sector that were created in this country under President Obama’s watch,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday.
Trump has so far peppered top-level administration appointments with billionaires and millionaires, after slamming his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for her Wall Street ties and for amassing millions in between stints in public office.
He has been narrowing his choices for secretaries of state and defense. The Washington Post reported Thursday that Trump has decided on retired Marine general James Mattis, 66, to head the Pentagon.
The pick would be a break from tradition and require congressional intervention, as federal law prohibits defense secretaries from having been on active duty in the previous seven years. Mattis retired in 2013.
10 ways the tech industry and the media helped create President Trump
02 Dec 2016 at 07:57 ET
Three weeks after Donald Trump won a historic victory to become the 45th president of the United States, the media postmortems continue.
In particular, the role played by the media and technology industries is coming under heavy scrutiny in the press, with Facebook’s role in the rise of fake news currently enjoying considerable coverage. This represents a shift from earlier in the campaign, when the volume of media airtime given to Trump was often held culpable for “The Apprentice” star’s political ascendancy.
In truth, a Trump presidency is – in part – a reflection of the status and evolution of the media and tech industries in 2016. Here are 10 ways that they combined to help Trump capture the White House in a manner not previously possible. Without them, Trump might not have stood a chance.
Inside the tech industry’s role
1) Fake news looks a lot like real news. This is not a new issue, but it’s a hot topic, given the social media-led explosion of the genre. As BuzzFeed found, fake news can spread more quickly than real reporting.
President Obama has weighed in on the problem, as have investigative reporters. And The New York Times found that fake news can “go viral” very quickly, even if it’s started by an unassuming source with a small online following – who subsequently debunks their own false story.
2) Algorithms show us more of what we like, not what we need to know. Amazon, Netflix and Spotify demonstrate how powerful personalization and recommendation engines can be. But these tools also remove serendipity, reducing exposure to anything outside of our comfort zone.
Websites like AllSides, and the Wall Street Journal’s Red vs Blue feed experiment – which let users “See Liberal Facebook and Conservative Facebook, Side by Side” – show how narrow our reading can become, how different the “other side” looks, and how hard it can be to expose ourselves to differing viewpoints, even if we want to.
3) Tech doesn’t automatically discern fact from fiction. Facebook doesn’t have an editor, and Mark Zuckerberg frequently says that Facebook is not a media company. It’s true that Facebook content comes from users and partners, but Facebook is nonetheless a major media distributor.
More than half of Americans get news from social media; Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla. “The two-thirds of Facebook users who get news there,” Pew notes, “amount to 44 percent of the general population.” But its automatic algorithms can amplify falsehoods, as happened when a false story about Megyn Kelly trended on Facebook this summer.
4) The rise of robots. It’s not just publications and stories that can be fake. Twitter bots can look the same as real Twitter users, spreading falsehoods and rumors and amplifying messages (just as humans do). Repeat a lie often enough and – evidence suggests – it becomes accepted as fact. This is just as true online as it is on the campaign trail.
My mother always warned me not to believe everything I read in the papers. We need to instill the same message in our children (and adults) about social media.
5) Tech has helped pull money away from sources of real reporting. Google, Facebook, Craigslist and others have created new advertising markets, diverting traditional ad revenues from newspapers in the process.
Meanwhile, programmatic advertising, which uses computer algorithms to buy – and place – online ads, is changing the advertising dynamic yet again. This can mean companies unintentionally buy ads on sites – such as those from the alt-right – which don’t sit with their brand or values; and that they would not typically choose to support.
The media played its part, too
1) Fewer ad dollars means fewer journalistic boots on the ground. Data from the American Society of News Editors show that in 2015 the total workforce for U.S. daily newspapers was 32,900, down from a peak of 56,400 in 2001. That’s 23,500 jobs lost in 14 years.
Though some of these roles have migrated to online outlets that didn’t exist years ago, this sector is also starting to feel the cold. A reduced workforce has inevitably led to less original journalism, with fewer “on the beat” local reporters, shuttered titles and the rise of media deserts. Cable news, talk radio, social networks and conservative websites – channels that predominantly focus on commentary rather than original reporting – have, in many cases, stepped in to fill these gaps.
2) Unparalleled airtime helped Trump build momentum. A study by The New York Times concluded that in his first nine months of campaigning, Trump earned nearly US$2 billion in free media. This dwarfed the $313 million earned by Ted Cruz and the $746 million secured by Hillary Clinton. The Times noted this was already “about twice the all-in price of the most expensive presidential campaigns in history.”
Wall-to-wall coverage wasn’t just beneficial to Trump. “The money’s rolling in,” CBS Chairman Les Moonves told an industry conference this year, noting that a Trump candidacy “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”
3) Did all the investigative journalism and fact-checking make a difference? Great work by NPR, The New York Times, the Atlantic, the Washington Post and others didn’t slow Trump’s momentum. Just two of the country’s 100 largest newspapers endorsed Trump, but more than 62 million people voted for him anyway.
We need to understand whether these journalistic efforts changed any opinions, or simply reinforced existing voter biases. As Fortune journalist Mathew Ingram observed: “Trump supporters and the mainstream media both believed what they wanted to believe.”
4) Many journalists were out of step with the mood of much of the country. We need a greater plurality of voices, opinions and backgrounds to inform our news coverage.
A 2013 study from Indiana University’s School of Journalism revealed that journalists as a whole are older, whiter, more male and better-educated than the American population overall. This means journalists can be disconnected from communities they cover, giving rise to mutual misunderstandings and wrong assumptions.
5) The jury’s out on whether Trump is a master of deflection. But despite his fabled short attention span, too often it’s the media that is distracted and dragged off-course.
In March, the Washington Post’s editorial board astonishingly allowed Trump to play out the clock when he ducked a question on tactical nuclear strikes against ISIS by simply asking – with just five minutes of the meeting remaining – if people could go around the room and say who they were.
More recently he led the press corps and Twitterati on a merry dance, after his “Hamilton” tweet got more coverage than the $25 million settlement against Trump University. He repeated the trick when tweets alleging illegal voters turned the spotlight away from discussions about potential conflicts of interest between his presidency and his property empire.
The next four years
There were other factors, of course, that helped Republicans win the Electoral College. These include a desire for change in Washington, Clinton’s ultra-safe campaign and Trump’s ability to project the image of “blue-collar billionaire” who understood economically and politically disenfranchised communities.
Trump capitalized on these opportunities, prospering despite myriad pronouncements and behaviors (accusations of assault, unpublished tax returns, criticism of John McCain’s war record, feuding with a Gold Star family, mocking a disabled reporter and routinely offending Muslims, Mexicans and women) that would have buried any other candidate.
Trump’s use of media and technology means his presidency promises to be like no other.
In the past few days we’ve finally started to see discussions emerge about how the media should respond to this. Suggestions include focusing on policy, not personality; ignoring deflecting tweets; and a raft of other ideas. To these, I would add the need to promote greater media literacy, a more diverse media and tech workforce and improving the audience engagement skills of reporters.
Journalists and technologists will need to redouble their efforts if we are to hold the White House accountable and rebuild trust across these two industries. This promises to be a bumpy ride, but one that we all need to saddle up for.
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Donald Trump reverts to campaign mode, bashing Clinton and media
President-elect hit the same notes he campaigned with at the start of a victory lap where he will hold campaign-style rallies across the US
Ben Jacobs in Cincinnati
Friday 2 December 2016 09.54 GMT
In April, Donald Trump pledged “at some point, I’ll be so presidential that you people will be so bored.” Despite being president-elect, it seems that particular pivot has yet to come.
On the first day of his self-described “thank you tour”, Trump returned to his bombastic style on the stump at a half-full arena in Cincinnati. He bashed Hillary Clinton to chants of “lock her up” from the rowdy crowd while settling scores with the media and former rivals as well as announcing the nomination of former marine general James Mattis to be secretary of defense.
The event came at the start of an unprecedented victory tour where Trump will hold campaign-style rallies across the country. Often, however, Trump still seemed to be fighting the campaign. He reminisced, “We did have a lot of fun fighting Hillary, didn’t we?” to chants of “lock her up” while criticizing conservative critics.
The president-elect launched an attack on Evan McMullin, his independent, conservative third-party rival in the campaign: “What the hell was he trying to prove? I guess he wanted us to lose the supreme court.” Trump didn’t mention McMullin by name and simply called him “that guy”. The president-elect also expressed his displeasure towards Ohio’s Republican governor, former presidential rival John Kasich.
Trump said of his win over Kasich in the Buckeye State: “We didn’t have much help at the top levels, and it turned out it didn’t matter,” and noted how Kasich eventually gave him a congratulatory phone call after the election. The Ohio governor didn’t vote for his party’s nominee and instead wrote in John McCain on election day. In a tweet, Kasich strategist John Weaver indirectly returned fire: “No tour, but thankful every day @JohnKasich shows us the #twopaths way with honor & integrity.
The president-elect also teased the crowd with his long-expected announcement that Mattis was his choice to head the Pentagon. “I don’t want to tell you to this, I refuse to tell you, don’t let it outside of this room. I will not tell you that one of our great great generals, don’t let it outside, we are going to appoint Mad Dog Mattis as our secretary of defense, and we’re not announcing it until Monday so don’t tell it to anybody.”
Trump also gave his usual tirade against “the dishonest media” and expressed his displeasure that it took television networks until after midnight on election day to call his win in Pennsylvania. Trump went on to boast of his win in the electoral college, but not the popular vote: “We won in a landslide. We didn’t have the press, the press was brutal.”
Trump began the rally with broad attacks on what he termed “globalism”.
“There is no global anthem, no global currency,” he said. “We pledge allegiance to one flag, and that flag is the American flag.” Trump added: “Global is wonderful, but right now we want to focus on our national community.”
The president-elect also cast blame for terrorist attacks on the admission of refugees into the United States. “These are threats that are stupidly created by our stupid politicians’ refugee programs,” Trump said.
The venue was the same location where a packed house rained down boos towards the media at a Trump rally in mid-October. This time, the disdain for the press was far less visible in an arena that was half empty, in part because road closures due to the president-elect’s visit tied up traffic in the area.
The rally happened as top staffers for every presidential candidate’s campaign met at Harvard’s institute of politics to discuss the campaign, resulting in fiery exchanges between former Clinton staffers and Trump aides.
In one instance, Clinton’s former communications director, Jennifer Palmeiri, told Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway: “If providing a platform for white supremacists makes me a brilliant tactician, I am proud to have lost. I would rather lose than win the way you guys did.”
Conway was also asked about Trump’s recent untrue tweets about voter fraud. She said, “He’s president-elect so that’s presidential behavior.” If so, it means being presidential may not be so boring after all.
‘He’s not gonna change’: CNN panel blasts Trump for singing his own praises during Carrier speech
Sarah K. Burris
01 Dec 2016 at 19:08 ET
If there’s one thing Donald Trump loves more than making American great again, it’s himself.
That philosophy was on full display during the President-Elect’s speech at the Carrier plant in Indiana Thursday. Instead of beginning the speech promoting the company or talking about the workers, Trump talked about his electoral win and his campaign in Indiana.
CNN contributor Jeffry Toobin isn’t shocked by Trump, but what he is shocked by are people who keep expecting Trump to become presidential.
“You know, maybe the famous pivot is gonna to happen now. You think?” Toobin said, dripping with sarcasm. “I mean, come on. He’s 70 years old! He just was elected president of the United States. He is who he is. He’s not going to change.”
Toobin continued, saying that he can’t understand why people are still waiting for Trump to suddenly become presidential or humble. “It’s not going to happen. For example, to see an inaugural address or State of the Union address in that style. But you know what? That’s what we’re going to get, because that’s who he is and that’s who won the election, and people who don’t like it are going to have to deal with it.”
Political analyst Rebecca Berg agreed, saying that Donald Trump is Donald Trump and will always be Donald Trump.
“I mean, you can give the man a teleprompter and maybe half of the time he’ll use it. But Donald Trump is always going to be, at least to some degree, unscripted,” Berg explained. “He’s always going to go off on these tangents about polling, about having won the primary in this state or that.”
She continued, saying that it was shocking to see Trump do an event that was meant to be about saving jobs and turn it into another campaign event about how he won the Indiana primary election.
“But one question I have about his style at these thank you rallies, will be whether he takes that harsh tone he took at some of these rallies, especially early on. This was something that was very divisive, very polarizing. And this is a time now where he’s hoping at least he has said to unify Americans, so I wonder if he’ll try to take a more conciliatory tone.”
Trump's rich pickings: president-elect's team could be wealthiest ever
Opponents warn the administration is set to be packed with tycoons who will do nothing to fulfil his promise of helping working-class Americans
David Smith in Washington
Friday 2 December 2016 08.00 GMT
The appetisers were young garlic soup with thyme and sautéed frogs’ legs, diver scallops with caramelized cauliflower and caper-raisin emulsion. Donald Trump ate a prime sirloin with citrus glazed carrots; Mitt Romney chose lamb chops with a mushroom bolognese sauce.
At Jean-Georges, a three-star Michelin restaurant in the Trump International Hotel in New York, it’s a rich man’s world, and one where the US president-elect feels at home. This has also been evident in his appointments so far, as the so-called “blue-collar billionaire” looks set to preside over the wealthiest administration in modern history.
Trump, a former host of reality TV show The Apprentice, is surrounding himself with the 1%: billionaires and millionaires, investment bankers and venture capitalists, Wall Street insiders and family fortune heirs, many educated at elite schools. It is the most brazen embrace of big money since the 1980s era of Ronald Reagan, Tom Wolfe’s Masters of the Universe and Oliver Stone’s Gordon Gekko.
“It is a throwback to the ‘greed is good’ mentality,” said Marge Baker, executive vice-president of the liberal pressure group People For the American Way. “It’s also alarming that the president-elect said he believes what’s good for his business is good for America. That’s not how you want the leader of your country to be making decisions.”
Baker added: “When you’ve got Wall Street billionaires setting the agenda it’s not likely to benefit average Americans. Research shows that the wealthy have different priorities and policy priorities, for example on healthcare and the minimum wage.”
The Trump cabinet’s emphasis on tax cuts and deregulation is also likely to echo the Reagan era. Election rival Hillary Clinton warned during the campaign: “Trump is trickledown economics over and over again. I called it trumped-up trickledown economics.”
Igor Volsky, deputy director of a pro-Clinton thinktank, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, said: “The same trickledown policies we saw in the 80s [that] didn’t help ordinary Americans are going to be put forward again. If you look at large parts of the cabinet it does feel like going back in time.”
The very people who heard Trump’s blunt, populist message about unrigging the system would be the ones to suffer its betrayal, Volsky added. “He’s going to perpetuate a system that helps the very richest Americans at the cost of programmes that help middle and lower-income Americans.”
Andrew Mellon, one of the richest Americans of the early 20th century, served as treasury secretary in three administrations. George W Bush’s first cabinet was criticised for containing high rollers in 2001. But Trump has taken the mix of democracy and plutocracy to a whole new level.
The Politico website suggested the new president’s team could be worth $35bn – some have made political donations worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Whereas the median household income in the US is about $55,000.
Trump’s supporters have said they welcome the fact he is a businessman, not a politician beholden to special interests, and hope he will run America like an efficient corporation. But several members of the administration could face accusations of a conflict of interest – that they are forming policy with at least one eye on their own businesses, or those of their cronies.
Neil Sroka, spokesman for the liberal organisation Democracy for America, said: “You’ve got a group of entitled, out-of-touch billionaires who are going to be bossed around by a bigoted, out-of-touch billionaire. It is beyond credibility that they are going to be able to accurately reflect the needs of working-class citizens who rely on leaders in Washington to fight for them.”
The appointments were self-serving, Sroka added. “What this rogues’ gallery of billionaires that Trump is trotting shows is that he isn’t interested in protecting working people. He wants to curry favour with a millionaire and billionaire class that he’s always sought the approval of.
“This is a class that dines on lobster steak and caviar every night. They’re not figuring out how to put food on the table. They’re figuring out how to make a few more millions before they go home at night.”
Betsy DeVos, education secretary. Daughter-in-law of Richard DeVos, co-founder of marketing company Amway. The family has a net worth of $5.1bn, according to Forbes. Her lobbying for school vouchers has been criticised for undermining public sector schools (which critics note neither she nor her children attended). DeVos’s brother is Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, a private security contractor notorious for its lucrative and deadly role in the Iraq war.
Elaine Chao, transport secretary. Daughter of a shipping magnate, she made more than $1m from serving on the boards of News Corp, Wells Fargo, Ingersoll Rand and Vulcan Materials in 2015, public records show. Chao was in Bush’s cabinet and is married to the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, whose net worth in 2014 was $22m, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Nikki Haley, ambassador to the UN. South Carolina governor earned half a million dollars for a memoir in 2012. She and her husband Michael, a member of the South Carolina national guard, reported a total income of $170,661 last year.
Steven Mnuchin, treasury secretary. Studied at Yale, where he reportedly drove a Porsche, and followed in his father’s footsteps to work at Goldman Sachs, where his stake was worth a reported $46m when he left in 2002. Started his own hedge fund and financed Hollywood films. Mnuchin reportedly profited from the 2008 housing crash after buying the IndyMac bank hit by losses on risky mortgages with US government help. Also served as the Trump campaign’s finance chairman. Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown said: “This isn’t draining the swamp – it’s stocking it with alligators.”
Tom Price, health secretary. Orthopaedic surgeon staunchly opposed to Obamacare. Six-term Republican congressman ranks 44th in the House with an estimated net worth of $13.6m in 2014, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Todd Ricketts, deputy commerce secretary. Family is worth an estimated $5.3bn, according to Forbes, having made their fortune through a discount brokerage that processes 400,000 transactions per day. Co-owner of the Chicago Cubs baseball team.
Wilbur Ross, commerce secretary. Net worth of $2.9bn, according to Forbes. Dubbed a “vulture” and “king of bankruptcy” because of his knack for extracting a profit from failing businesses. Helped Trump keep control of his failing Taj Mahal casino in the 1990s by persuading investors not to push him out. An explosion at a mine in West Virginia, which his company had bought a few weeks earlier, killed 12 miners in 2002.
Jeff Sessions, attorney general. From Alabama and known for hardline stance on immigration. Ranks 25th in the Senate with an estimated net worth of $7.5m in 2014, according to opensecrets.org.
Jared Kushner, son-in-law and close adviser. Property tycoon, publisher and multimillionaire. Went to Harvard, allegedly after his father, a developer, donated $2.5m to the university. At age 26 he bought an office building on Fifth Avenue for a record $1.8bn. Masterminded Trump’s astounding election win with a “stealth data machine”.
Steve Bannon, chief strategist. Studied at Harvard and worked at Goldman Sachs for four years. Believed to be worth tens of millions of dollars, in part from his stake in royalties from the TV show Seinfeld. Executive chairman of Breitbart News, he is described by critics as a white nationalist, a charge he denies.
Mitt Romney, potential secretary of state. Private equity investor. During the 2012 election campaign, when he was the Republican nominee, Romney estimated his personal fortune at $250m. Barack Obama described him at the time as a “vulture capitalist”.
Rudy Giuliani, another potential secretary of state. Lawyer and former New York mayor reported to be worth tens of millions of dollars. His complex web of foreign connections might cost him the job.
Ben Carson, tipped for housing secretary. The retired neurosurgeon has an estimated fortune of $26m.
Kellyanne Conway melts down after Clinton staffer calls out Trump’s courting of ‘white supremacists’
Sarah K. Burris
01 Dec 2016 at 20:34 ET
A Harvard University political panel went awry this week, when former Hillary Clinton staffer Jenn Palmieri called Donald Trump’s campaign a vehicle for “white supremacists.”
Thursday began a two-day conference digesting the election among the political elite, The Daily Beast reports. The goal was to have campaign managers and senior staffers from six campaigns come together to discuss what went on behind the scenes. But it quickly devolved into a heated argument between the two campaigns.
“I would rather lose than win the way you guys did!” said Palmieri, the communications director for Hillary for America to the Trump team
“How exactly did we win, Jenn? How exactly?” Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway snipped back. “I have a smile on my face at all times.”
Palmieri called out the Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon and his former employer Breitbart News a vehicle for emboldening America’s “white supremacists and white nationalists.”
“Are you gonna look me in the face and say I ran a campaign that was a platform for white supremacists?” Conway snapped.
Palmieri basically said she was.
“Are you kidding me?” Conway asked.
“You guys are punching down, this is unbelievable,” Trump’s deputy campaign manager David Bossie shouted.
Clinton spokeswoman Karen Finney agreed, saying, “part of what Donald Trump did in this campaign was to mainstream the alt-right.”
Conway told the Clinton staffers, “You guys are bitter. We are being very gracious. You’re bitter.”
Conway even slammed Clinton campaign chief strategist Joel Benenson, who also slammed the alt-right for their racism. “You’re not being nice.”
“Hashtag-he’s-your-president, how about that?” Conway also slammed the Clinton crew, referencing the #NotMyPresident campaign on Twitter. “We won.”
One audience member called the panel “a goddamn foodfight.”
“Trump rallies were like rock concerts,” former Trump manager turned CNN pundit Corey Lewandowski said. “It was something that the people were energized about. We had groupies! Holy shit!”
While Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook spoke, The Beast noted that Lewandowski would fiddle with his phone while others paid attention. When he continued, he bragged even more about the win and Mook glared at him.
“He looked like he wanted to strangle him,” one audience member noted.
Mook also noted over the course of the summit that “The Media” didn’t cover Trump to the degree that it did Clinton. Thus, stories like Trump’s business conflicts of interests, ties to the “Lolita Express,” Trump University and other stories didn’t garner the attention Clinton’s emails did. He called it a “post-fact” election.
“We were punished for telling the truth, and being true to nuance,” Mook said. “And there are problems that the next president is going to have to address that are complex.”
“In a race where people wanted fundamental change, Donald Trump sure was a fundamental change,” Mook said Thursday. “It was a strength being an outsider.”
One place Mook he also admitted fault was in voter outreach. “We weren’t measuring the white vote correctly,” he said.
on: Dec 02, 2016, 07:00 AM
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on: Dec 02, 2016, 06:51 AM
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François Hollande will not seek re-election as president of France
Surprise move not to stand for a second term in upcoming presidential election throws selection of a Socialist candidate wide open
Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
Thursday 1 December 2016 19.20 GMT
François Hollande, the least popular French president since the second world war, has announced he will not run for a second term in office.
With a satisfaction rating so low it recently dropped to just 4%, the Socialist president appeared shaken and emotional as he said in a live televised address from the Élysée palace that he would not attempt to run for a second term, conscious of the “risks” to the French left if he did so.
“Today I am aware of the risks that going down a route that would not gather sufficient support would entail, so I have decided not to be a candidate in the presidential election,” a sombre-looking Hollande said.
He said his only concern was “the superior interest of this country” and that he could not stand for “the break-up of the left”. He said his time in power had taught him “humility”.
He is the first French president since the war not to attempt to run for re-election.
François Fillon, the right’s presidential candidate and the favourite to win next spring, said Hollande had “admitted with lucidity that his obvious failure stopped him going any further”. Fillon, who last week called Hollande’s presidency “pathetic”, said Hollande’s presidency was ending in a “political shambles”.
Hollande’s decision leaves the way open for a bitter Socialist primary race in January to decide who will run in his place. Manuel Valls, the ambitious prime minister who is a tough law-and-order voice and pro-business reformist on the right of the party, could now decide to run to become the Socialist candidate.
If he does run, Valls will face opposition from several former government ministers who are part of a leftwing rebel movement, including the ambitious former economy minister Arnaud Montebourg, who is fiercely critical of Hollande’s pro-business line.
Hollande’s popularity slumped right from the start of his presidency in 2012. He beat the rightwing Nicolas Sarkozy after a classic leftwing campaign in which he targeted big business and pledged to raise taxes for high earners.
He began his presidency with a leftist programme that included a wealth super-tax of 75% on top earners but he shifted course midway through his term.
Grassroots supporters were further alienated by a pro-business switch in 2014, a wavering over security reforms, and labour laws that brought thousands out onto the streets in protests early this year.
Hollande was accused of a lack of preparation, zigzagging on policy and being unable to keep a lid on his government’s internal feuding on how to address the economy. His initial attempt to style himself as a “normal president” – paying no heed to the superficial trappings of office – backfired and endeared him even less to the electorate.
Accused of lacking authority and coherence, dithering over policy decisions from tax increases to pro-business reform, failing to kickstart the sluggish economy and failing to protect France from a series of devastating terrorist attacks, he was eventually abandoned by his own core of Socialist party voters who felt betrayed by his muddled, stop-start pro-business reforms.
One recent poll by Odoxa put him at only 7.5% in the first round of the presidential race, behind the right’s Fillon, the far-right Marine Le Pen, his former economy minister and maverick independent candidate Emmanuel Macron, and the hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
In his televised address, Hollande said he felt he had achieved many changes for France in his time in office, including introducing same-sex marriage and beginning to lower France’s stubbornly high jobless figures after decades of mass unemployment.
But he admitted that the drop in the number of unemployed had come too late and “unemployment is still too high”.
Hollande said he was pleased he had led France to intervene against Islamists in Mali, in west Africa. He said his biggest regret came after the Paris terrorist attacks of November 2015 when he planned to strip French citizenship from dual-nationality citizens convicted of terrorism. The plan caused havoc and division on the left and right, and Hollande was forced to abandon it.
Hollande’s complicated personal life in office only served to reinforce his image as indecisive and distracted. In January 2014 he was photographed by paparazzi going by scooter to a flat near the Élysée where he was conducting an affair with actor Julie Gayet.
His partner, the political journalist Valérie Trierweiler, then wrote a tell-all book about their tumultuous relationship, in which she described their relationship breakdown in excruciating detail and, most seriously, accused Hollande of mocking poor people as “toothless”. The fallout was disastrous for his image.
A recent 600-page book, A President Shouldn’t Say That, in which Hollande shocked even those in his close circle by regularly confiding in two journalists with the private details of his presidency and personal life – including openly discussing state secrets such as details of plans for an airstrike on Syria in 2013, or paying ransom for abducted French journalists – served to damage him further.
More than any other French president, Hollande attempted to play the transparency card, confiding in journalists and inviting documentary crews into the Elysée, yet there was a communication gap in which he was never able to build a relationship with the French people in which they understood his goals and felt he understood them.
Hollande’s family, including his ex-partner and mother of his children, Ségolène Royal, a government minister, is said to have advised him not to stand again and risk being humiliated.
The French presidential election takes place next April and May.
on: Dec 02, 2016, 06:49 AM
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Raviv Drucker: the Israeli journalist incurring the wrath of Netanyahu
Israel’s premier is waging social media war against reporter whose investigations have landed the most effective blows
Peter Beaumont in Tel Aviv
Thursday 1 December 2016 16.18 GMT
Israel’s best known investigative reporter, Raviv Drucker, has become used to the attacks from the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
They have come in the form of personal and regular Facebook posts denouncing him, as well as telephone calls to Drucker’s colleagues.
This week, Drucker – who works for Channel 10 television – was in Netanyahu’s sights again as the prime minister used Facebook to accuse Drucker of waging a personal war against him and his family in attempt at “brainwashing” Israel’s voters.
The reason for the animus at least is clear. Amid all the allegations against Netanyahu during his present period in office, Drucker’s reports have landed the most effective and repeated blows.
The journalist has been behind a run of high-profile stories in the last few weeks that have embarrassed Netanyahu, his family and friends – and dominated Israel’s headlines.
He has raised concerns over the role of Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and relative, David Shimron, in a deal to buy German submarines. (Netanyahu and Shimron insist they never spoke about the deal so there could be no conflict of interest.)
In recent days, Drucker has raised questions over the relationship between Netanyahu’s son, Yair, and the billionaire Australian businessman James Packer. Drucker’s report alleged Packer paid for lavish holidays and flights, and gave other gifts to Netanyahu’s family.
The prime minister’s office insisted that Netanyahu’s son is a private citizen who does not need to answer to journalists and has the right to be hosted by friends.
But the latest stories have prompted Netanyahu to lash out again in public, singling out Drucker in a post on Wednesday evening.
“It is amusing to see these same journalists explain their smear campaign against me and my family with the explanation that the ‘media needs to criticise the government’,” Netanyahu wrote on Facebook.
Israeli police to probe alleged Netanyahu submarine scandal
“By means of daily brainwashing of the public and character assassination against me and my family they hope to distract the public’s attention away from the core issues of the political debate in Israel.
“That isn’t going to do them any good. The hot air escapes from every balloon that is inflated by Noni Mozes [the owner of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper], Raviv Drucker, and company.”
A Facebook attack just a few days earlier saw Netanyahu launch a lengthy attack on Drucker, mocking him for joining a well-known TV gossip show.
“It’s sad to see,” Netanyahu wrote, “how Drucker always manages to reach new lows of malicious and shameful journalism, even by the standards of the already biased Israeli media.”
Netanyahu’s complaints have become familiar to Israeli media since his 2015 re-election. A piece earlier this month in the newspaper Haaretz detailed Netanyahu’s habit of calling journalists, their publishers and television executives, often in the most aggrieved tone, to complain about coverage and the treatment of his wife, Sara – a habit confirmed to the Guardian by other Israeli journalists.
Drucker is not the only one who has been targeted by Netanyahu in recent weeks.
Ilana Dayan – like Drucker one of the country’s most prominent broadcast reporters – read out on-air a 680-word response from Netanyahu’s office to an investigative piece.
The response accused her of being an “extreme leftist” responsible for “political propaganda against the prime minister and his wife, made up entirely of recycled slanted gossip and vicious lies.”
Drucker seemed to shrug off the attacks. “I’m used to it,” he told the Guardian in a cafe below his Tel Aviv studio a few hours before the latest Facebook rant from Netanyahu.
“I believe he’s now published five or six posts against me, as far as I know. You know, I don’t go looking for them, but sometimes I bump up against them.”
He mentions, the calls – sometimes to multiple people, one after the other. “He’s called everyone. Shareholders in the television company, managers editors, even correspondents. I can’t believe how much time he spends on this. He texts people as well.”
Drucker says the change came after the 2015 election, when Netanyahu won a far larger share of seats than expected.
He said: “After that election, when he won against all odds, from his perspective it was: ‘Shut the fuck up. You, the outside world, told me I needed to go along with what they thought and yet I won by a landslide.’”
The irony is not lost on Drucker that he once enjoyed a good relationship with Netanyahu, and his political rivals accused him of being too close to him. “It got to point that when I published stories about former prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert they would say I’m the was the most friendly reporter to Netanyahu,” Drucker said.
Netanyahu’s critics say his claim that the media is “against him” is somewhat disingenuous in a country where the biggest circulation newspaper – the freesheet Israel Hayom – is owned by Netanyahu’s biggest supporter, the US casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
But in a country whose press freedom rating has been downgraded by the US NGO Freedom House to only “partly free”, Netanyahu’s interventions – on top of his recent stated desire to shut down the country’s public broadcasting authority – has led to mounting concern in the media.
Drucker, however, believes some claims that Netanyahu wants media controls echoing those of Russia’s Vladimir Putin or Turkey’s Recep Tayipp Erdoğan are exaggerated.
“Yes, democracy is fragile here,” he said. “But I don’t think were are on the slippery slope towards Erdoğan and Putin. In Russia and Turkey people like me were already behind bars years ago. But it is not like Britain or the US in terms of press freedom.
“Sure Netanyahu wants an obedient media. And he is smart. You can’t take that away from him. So long as he is prime minister of Israel he knows he won’t get the totally obedient media he wants. He pressures the media so that people will think before broadcasting anything.”
Netanyahu’s latest attack suggests that his interventions are calculated as much as angry, and he seeks, like Donald Trump in the US, to bypass traditional outlets to speak to his supporters via social media.
“The media is the new Arabs,” Israeli journalist Udi Segal told Haaretz. “The bloody steak that Netanyahu serves his electorate. He’s in a win-win situation because he manages to have a chilling effect on the media outlets while portraying himself as a victim.”
His actions have not gone without comment by Netanyahu’s political rivals. Responding to the attack on Dayan, Tzipi Livni, the joint leader of the Zionist Union party, said: “We must not remain silent to this targeting, incitement and persecution – but to act together to replace Netanyahu and save Israeli democracy.”
Barak, the former prime minister, was more succinct, tweeting that Netanyahu had “gone off the rails”.
Netanyahu, however, appears to have an answer ready for his critics, writing: “It is also amusing to hear the media’s cries of dismay and its double standards when I respond to their smears. They hold freedom of speech to be a preeminent value – as long as it is reserved only for them.”
on: Dec 02, 2016, 06:46 AM
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Brazil is in crisis. And once again, the poorest will bear the burden
Mariana Prandini Assis
President Michel Temer is aiming to enshrine 20 years of austerity in the constitution. It amounts to a coup against the poor – and against democracy itself
Friday 2 December 2016 12.30 GMT
Poor Brazilians have long counted on a thin welfare state for basic human rights, such as healthcare, education and social security; but this reality may soon drastically change. Brazil’s unelected president, Michel Temer, is seeking to amend the constitution to impose unprecedented austerity measures for the next two decades, effectively disenfranchising ordinary Brazilians, and especially the country’s most vulnerable citizens.
Temer, formerly Dilma Rousseff’s ally and vice president, came to power in August as Rousseff was ousted from office in a highly controversial impeachment procedure many have called a parliamentary coup. The country he has taken charge of is facing a serious economic crisis similar to that confronting many of Brazil’s neighbours; his answer for a stagnant economy is to freeze the federal budget for decades through a constitutional amendment.
PEC 55, as the amendment is known in Brazil, establishes that for the next 20 years, growth in annual public spending will be limited to the previous year’s inflation rate, thereby freezing, in real terms, federal expenditures until 2037 at 2016 levels.
While some countries, such as Germany and the UK, have in the past resorted to expenditure rules as a mechanism to curb fiscal deficit, none of them did so through a constitutional amendment or for such an extended duration. In all other cases, fiscal rules were enshrined in law or in a coalition agreement, leaving enough flexibility for future changes that will be nearly impossible in the Brazilian case; here, it will take a drastic modification of the constitutional framework for the amendment to be overturned.
PEC 55 not only means that public spending on education, healthcare and social assistance will remain constant for years as the population grows and ages, but also that various interest groups will be fighting over the meagre money left over. Quite predictably, during this arm-wrestling match, the more powerful actors, such as the judiciary and military, will be able to secure funding at the expense of public universities and the health system.
Public spending on education and healthcare will remain constant for years as the population grows and ages
What is more, this amendment is fundamentally antidemocratic. The scandal-ridden Temer was not elected to office, and the austere economic agenda he seeks to implement never received a mandate from the people. As it is structured, PEC 55 is an open attack on the voting rights of the poor: no matter who they elect in the next two decades, they will have to endure under an unalterable austerity policy. It’s a case of deja vu: the new regime is making the poor pay, again, for a bill they neither participated in creating, nor will benefit from. It’s an emblematic issue in one of the most unequal countries in the world, where 25% of the country’s total income goes to the top 1%.
Moreover, even IMF economists agree that austerity policies do more harm than good. According to the UN economic commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, reduction of external demand for primary products coupled with deceleration of the local economies that consequently received reduced investment and consumption, are the major factors underlying the South American crisis. Temer’s economic team justifies the proposed new fiscal regime by claiming that the growth of primary public spending is at the heart of the country’s current economic crisis. This is a false argument. The real root of our fiscal problems lies in a highly unequal tax system, one that does not tax the rich proportionally and gives exemptions to the business sector, particularly on dividends for shareholders.
As the amendment process moves ahead, the authoritarian political agenda behind the proposed rolling-back of public spending is ever more apparent. PEC 55 has already made its way through the chamber of deputies without any opposition and was approved on Tuesday in the first round, by the senate. At least 50,000 protesters – among them students, teachers, indigenous people, landless and homeless movements, retired people and union leaders, from all around the country – congregated at the ministry-lined central esplanade of Brasília in an attempt to bar the voting. They were met with teargas, pepper spray and rubber bullets, leaving at least 40 people injured and many more detained. While the legislative process has thus far been alarmingly expedient and without much substantial deliberation, the warlike scene outside parliament last night provided a glimpse of the tremendous impact of this counter-reform on Brazil’s already weakened democracy.
With this move, Temer is fulfilling the promise he made after replacing Rousseff – namely, to implement severe cuts on social programmes and propel an extensive privatisation plan. If there was no coup against Rousseff, as some still insist, it is now hard to deny the ongoing coup against the poor, and, indeed, against democracy itself.
on: Dec 02, 2016, 06:44 AM
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Joana Foster: 'She made African women realise they can do anything'
Joana Silochina Foster, the formidable Ghanaian-British activist and lawyer who died last month, co-founded Africa’s first feminist philanthropic institution
Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah
Friday 2 December 2016 07.00 GMT
Before the fourth world conference on women, held in Beijing in 1995, Joana Silochina Foster, a Ghanaian-British activist and lawyer, attended a workshop organised by the Global Fund for Women. She happened to be seated next to Dr Hilda Tadria, a Ugandan scholar and activist whom she had not met before. Turning to Tadria, Foster said: “What we really need are our own resources.”
And so the idea of a fund for African women was born. At the time, it was a groundbreaking notion: no such institution existed on the African continent, where funding for women’s rights was primarily channelled through international NGOs based in the global north.
The creation of a fund to support the work of an African women’s movement began, but was put on hold when Foster took up the role of regional coordinator at Women in Law and Development in Africa, in which she oversaw the organisation’s gradual expansion into a women’s law network covering 26 African countries.
Despite her engagements, Foster did not give up on her dream of a fund led by African women that would support the work of African women’s rights organisations. In 1996, a conversation with Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi – a Nigerian feminist who, at the time, headed Akina Mama wa Afrika, a pan-African women’s rights organisation based in the UK – led to a partnership that culminated with the creation of the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) in 2000.
Co-founded by Foster, Tadria, and Adeleye-Fayemi, the institution has since provided funding of more than $28m (£22m) to a total of 1,200 women’s rights organisations in 42 African countries.
Speaking on AWDF’s 10th anniversary, Foster said: “The concept of a fund for African women was an innovative idea. The launch of AWDF in 2000 was the result of a compelling vision, strategic planning and years of hard work. AWDF is an excellent example of solidarity amongst African women.”
Foster died on 5 November 2016, after a two-year battle with cancer. She was 70. Her lifelong journey as an activist started at 17 when she became a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the UK. She studied law, and practised in both the UK and Ghana, focusing on poverty, race equality and women’s rights. From the early 1990s Foster devoted her working life fully to the non-governmental sector, becoming the country director of Cuso, Ghana, a Canadian non-profit organisation committed to social justice around the world.
Foster was an elegant, graceful woman, with an aesthetic and style that spoke to her dual Ghanaian and Indian heritage. She often dressed in white or cream-coloured cotton tunics, with a colourful shawl draped around her slender frame. She always made time to give everyone a hug, and had a particular interest in connecting with – and inspiring – younger feminists.
“Joana put all her energy into everything she did,” said Dorcas Coker-Appiah, executive director of the Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre based in Accra, which Foster co-founded. “She was willing to stand back and let others take the limelight. As a co-founder of the gender centre, she was always ready to support our work, pointing us in the right direction.”
Akua Kuenyehia, a Ghanaian lawyer and former international criminal court judge, said: “Joana, together with others, began the process of getting African women to realise that they can do whatever they set their minds to because they are capable.”
The African women’s movement has lost a formidable activist.
Joana Foster is one of 60 feminists commemorated in Awid’s 2016 online tribute to women’s human rights defenders who have died
on: Dec 02, 2016, 06:39 AM
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Dirty laundry: washing line art highlights South Africa's rape epidemic
Installation features used knickers said to illustrate number of attacks that take place against women each day
Peter Lykke Lind
Friday 2 December 2016 07.00 GMT
Thousands of pairs of used knickers have been hung above the streets of Johannesburg as part of an installation to raise awareness about the country’s record rates of rape.
Devised by two sexual assault survivors, the installation consists of washing lines 1,200 metres long displaying 3,600 pairs of pants – matching the number of rapes estimated to occur on a daily basis, according to the artists.
Jenny Nijenhuis and Nondumiso Msimanga put out a public call for donations of underwear under the hashtag #SasDirtyLaundry, and set up a Facebook page, Pantiesplea. They arranged collection points across the city.
Carmen Ives, a volunteer who helped with the project, said each pair donated “speaks loudly” of severity of the situation in South Africa. “One pair of panties is one pair too many. It made me think that today, some girl is being raped somewhere,” she said.
On display until Sunday, the installation has received a largely positive response from the public. On Twitter, one user wrote that the project “feels like a movement”.
Another said the project connected “very deeply with experience of sexual assault, emotional abuse and trauma”.
However, the exhibition has faced questions over the rape statistics it uses.
While South Africa undisputedly has the highest rates of rape in the world, estimates on the number of assaults each day vary greatly. The 3,600-a-day estimate from the medical research council is far larger than the UN estimate of 132.
Responding to criticism Nijenhuis said that the figure was “symbolic”, adding that just a fraction of attacks are reported to the police.
Lisa Vetten, a research associate at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, said: “The problem of under-reporting [assault] means that we cannot know whether the drop [in recent rape statistics] is due to fewer rapes occurring, or fewer victims reporting.
“The most conservative research estimate suggests that only one in seven victims report being raped, but other studies suggest the figures may be higher.”
Africa Check, an organisation promoting accuracy in public debate and reporting, said the 3,600 figure remained unproven.
“When people use flawed statistics, and have a voice as is the case here, they neglect the complexity of issues, and make it seem like there are valid statistics, which is not the case,” said Anim van Wyk, editor-in-chief of Africa Check. “We need better statistics to do something about the root of the problem … to offer solutions.”
Anne Githuku-Shongwe, a representative for UN Women, said southern Africa was “the epicentre of the pandemic of violence against women and girls”, and the cost of violence “economically, physically and emotionally” must be recognised.
She advocated caution when using numbers. “The exhibition is great to spotlight the issue, but we must be careful not to sensationalise,” she said.
on: Dec 02, 2016, 06:36 AM
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After 60 years, is nuclear fusion finally poised to deliver?
It’s been a long time coming, but the world’s top powers are now betting billions on the Iter collaboration to deliver clean, safe, limitless energy for the modern world
Friday 2 December 2016 07.00 GMT
“We are standing on the ground that could change the future of energy,” says engineer Laurent Pattison, deep in the reactor pit of the world’s biggest nuclear fusion project.
Around him is a vast construction site, all aimed at creating temperatures of 150mC on this spot and finally bringing the power of the sun down to Earth. The €18bn (£14.3bn) Iter project, now rising fast from the ground under the bright blue skies of Provence, France, is the first capable of achieving a critical breakthrough: getting more energy out of the intense fusion reactions than is put in.
“It is a bet that is very important for humanity,” says Johannes Schwemmer, the director of Fusion for Energy, the EU partner in the international Iter collaboration. “We need to get this energy once and for all.”
The long allure of nuclear fusion is simple: clean, safe, limitless energy for a world that will soon house 10bn energy-hungry citizens. But despite 60 years of research and billions of dollars, the results to date are also simple: it has not delivered.
Fusion is in danger of following its atomic cousin, conventional fission nuclear power, in over-promising – “electricity too cheap to meter” – and under-delivering. The Iter project itself, which stems from a cold war Reagan-Gorbachev summit in 1985, has seen years of turmoil. The US pulled out entirely between 1998-2003 and in 2008, Iter had to treble its budget and shift its deadline back a decade.
But leaders representing half the world’s population – through the Iter partners, the EU, China, Russia, US, India, Japan and South Korea – are now making the €18bn wager that fusion can deliver and have radically overhauled Iter’s management to fix the mistakes of the past.
The goal is to trap a plasma in a huge magnetic ring and force heavy hydrogen isotopes to fuse together to release prodigious amounts of energy – four times more than the splitting of uranium atoms produces in conventional fission reactors.
“We are convinced we can deliver hundreds of megawatts through Iter,” up to 10 times more energy than is put in, says David Campbell, the director of science and operations at Iter (which means “the way” in Latin).
To achieve that breakthrough, Iter will use a donut-shaped magnetic cage called a tokamak to trap the plasma. More than 200 smaller tokamaks have been built around the world and Campbell says the decades of physics and engineering that Iter is building on is a strong guarantee of success.
But nothing has ever been attempted on the scale of Iter. The world record for fusion power – 16MW - was set in 1997 at the JET reactor in the UK. The longest fusion run – six minutes and 30 seconds – was achieved at France’s Tore Supra in 2003. Iter is aiming for 500MW and 50-minute runs.
The site is a cathedral to the fusion dream: it spans the equivalent of 60 football fields and the reactor building will weigh 320,000 tonnes, all resting on rubber bearings in case of an unlikely, but not impossible, earthquake. The reactor itself will weigh 23,000 tonnes, three times more than the Eiffel Tower. It is the most complex engineering project in history.
More than 2,800 tonnes of superconducting magnets, some heavier than a jumbo jet, will be connected by 200km of superconducting cables, all kept at -269C by the world’s largest cryogenic plant, which will pump 12,000 litres per hour of liquid helium.
Millions of precision components will be shipped in from the seven partners to be assembled by thousands of workers. This is all aimed at keeping just two grammes of plasma hot enough and stable enough in the 30m-diameter tokamak for fusion to take place.
Iter’s schedule is to create the first plasma in 2025, then start firing tiny 5mm frozen pellets of heavy hydrogen – deuterium and tritium – into the plasma and generating energy. Deuterium is easily refined from seawater and fuses with tritium, which is harvested from fission reactors but could be self-generated in Iter in future. The aim is to reach its maximum power output by 2035 and, if so, Iter will be the foundation of the first fusion power plants.
Bernard Bigot, the director general of Iter, is certain it will produce plentiful power, “but what is not granted so far is that this technology will be simple and efficient enough that it could be industrialised,” he says.
The point of Iter is finding out, says Bigot: “The world needs to know if this technology is available or not. Fusion could help deliver the energy supplies of the world for a very long time, maybe forever.”
Even if things go well, getting real fusion power plants online before 2050 would be a triumph, raising an awkward question: what if fusion comes too late? Climate change is driving an accelerating transformation to low-carbon energy and drastic cuts in emissions are needed by 2050. If these are achieved, will there be a need for fusion power, which will be expensive at the start?
“It is certainly not going to be too cheap to meter,” says Campbell. But it’s a question of timescale, he says: “In the long term there are very few available options: renewables, fission and fusion.”
For Schwemmer, there is only one long-term option. “You would have to cover whole continents with wind turbines to produce the energy needed for 10 billion people,” he says. “And if our children’s children are not to sit on piles of [fission] nuclear waste, we have to make fusion work. Even if it takes till 2100, we should still do it.” Nuclear fission is also limited by uranium supplies, perhaps to a few decades if it were to play a large role.
Bigot said: “People have to realise, if we want a breakthrough [that could provide energy] for millions of years, 10 or 20 years is nothing.” He thinks fusion may still come in time to meet the need to move the world to zero emissions in the second half of the century to defeat global warming.
As a nuclear technology, some will remain implacably opposed to fusion. While fusion reactions produce only harmless helium, the high-energy neutrons also ejected irradiate the walls of the reactor, leading to radioactive waste.
Again, the key is timescale, says Campbell. Waste from fission can remain radioactive for 250,000 years, making plans to store dangerous waste for many times longer than the whole of human civilisation speculative. In contrast, fusion waste will decay on the scale of decades. “Looking after the waste for 100 years is credible,” he says.
Fusion is also intrinsically safe, with the large meltdowns seen in fission accidents such as Fukushima and Chernobyl physically impossible. Part of the reason is the tiny amount of fuel in a fusion reactor at any one time and part is the temperamental nature of plasma, a boiling gas of ions and electrons. “If you lose control of the plasma, it doesn’t just sit there, it disappears like that,” says Campbell, clicking his fingers.
“After Fukushima, we thought we would be flushed down the toilet like all nuclear,” says Sabina Griffith, a communications manager at Iter. “But the opposite happened – governments thought if not fission, then what?”
There are other fusion reactor designs that might be better and, in particular, smaller. A €1bn reactor opened in Germany by chancellor Angela Merkel earlier in 2016 uses a stellarator, in which the plasma ring is shaped like a Mobius strip. This makes it potentially more stable and, crucially, able to operate continuously, rather than in pulses like a tokamak.
There are also numerous private companies, staffed by serious fusion researchers, promising much smaller reactors, including the UK’s Tokamak Energy and Tri Alpha Energy and General Fusion in the US.
“There are technology routes that might let you build something smaller – in principle,” says Campbell. But he says they either rely on unproven “exotic” ideas or underestimate the heavy engineering needed to contain burning plasmas. “Iter is the size our present technology allows us to build,” he says.
Politics remains a challenge to delivering Iter and uncertainty has been ramped up by the election of Donald Trump as president of the US, where some powerful voices want to leave the project for good. Britain’s vote to leave the EU has also added to the uncertainty.
But Bigot believes the need to know if full fusion power is feasible will keep the partners in. “To be frank, the US is only 9% of the project, if they were to leave alone, I believe we could go on,” he said. “But it would be the wrong signal showing the most powerful country in the world is not preparing for its future.” On Brexit he says: “It would damage Iter a little, but it would damage the UK a lot,” given its long and continuing research in fusion.
The political problems usually boil down to costs and the governments of Iter partners wanting to reduce the taxpayers’ money spent on the project. “Iter looks very expensive to the ordinary person in the street,” says Campbell. “But the cost is spread across half the world’s population. Seen in that context I don’t think it is such a big investment to make.” The world spent $325bn on fossil fuel subsidies in 2015 alone, according to the IEA, and $150bn on renewable energy support.
Fusion supporters such as Campbell also suggest fusion has geopolitical benefits because its key fuel – heavy hydrogen – is accessible to all. “No one has a monopoly on the fuel so no one is going to fight each other over it.”
The 1985 Reagan-Gorbachev summit that kickstarted the Iter project called for “the widest practicable development of international collaboration” in nuclear fusion to obtain “energy which is essentially inexhaustible, for the benefit of all mankind”.
So how far is the world from achieving that, 30 years and numerous stumbles on? Many still point to the answer given by Lev Artsimovich, the father of the tokamak and head of the Soviet fusion power programme for more than two decades until his death in 1973. Fusion power, he said, will arrive “when mankind needs it – maybe a short time before that”.
on: Dec 02, 2016, 06:34 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
US businesses push against Trump's attempts to dismiss climate change
Environmentally friendly groups at Companies vs Climate Change said they will work to make sure Trump won’t undo all the progress the country has made
Richard Luscombe in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Thursday 1 December 2016 14.00 GMT
From his claim that global warming was a gigantic hoax masterminded by China to his promise to pull the United States out of the landmark Paris agreement, Donald Trump’s surprise election win was widely decried by those who feared that recent progress in tackling climate change was about to come undone.
But a growing number of environmentally friendly American businesses – including major airlines and banks, as well as energy, tech and pharmaceutical companies – are pushing back against the president-elect’s attempts to dismiss climate change concerns and are planning to take the lead in the drive to make the US a worldwide leader at slowing or reversing the damage.
At the first Companies vs Climate Change conference in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, a succession of company executives, sustainable business experts and environmental activists spoke of the need for corporate America to step up efforts to help guide policy and fight what many see as the biggest threat facing the world today.
“If they don’t then the people who are hellbent on rescinding regulations and just allowing the market to function without any guardrails are likely to undo all the progress that the United States has made over the past 70 years,” said Richard Eidlin, vice-president of policy and campaigns for the lobbying group American Sustainable Business Council.
“Businesses that are in favour of addressing climate change, and maintaining environmental safeguards need to really express their views and express the business case for doing so. Not only is it good for them, and they’re generating profit and mitigating their risk, but what is just as important is stepping into the policy process.”
The three-day summit, which brought together executives from companies including TD Bank, Citigroup, Nasdaq, Ingersoll Rand, Bright Power, United and Alaska Airlines, was arranged before Trump’s presidential election victory on 8 November. But because of that, the event became more poignant and provided companies a greater sense of urgency, according to Jason Youner, chief executive of solveclimatechange.com.
“Complaining about the election and the incoming administration doesn’t help anybody. We’re not here to debate whether there is climate change. We’re here to try to save the world, because the government’s not going to,” he said.
We’re here to try save the world, because the government’s not going to
Jason Youner, chief executive of solveclimatechange.com
Joe Doolan, head of environmental affairs at TD Bank, said his company planned to press ahead with green initiatives that had won environmental awards and proved popular with customers, including a 15% reduction in its consumption of paper since 2010, partly through eliminating receipts and envelopes at ATMs.
“We set ourselves up as an environmental leader back in 2007 and became the first carbon-neutral bank in the US in 2010,” he said.
“We’ve installed solar canopies over our drive-through lanes, which has helped us offset our energy costs, and 90% of our waste is diverted from landfills. For us it’s about reduction, reduction, reduction.”
Jeffrey Perlman, founder and chief executive of New York-based Bright Power, an energy and water management company for mostly multi-family residential buildings, said he had “never been so happy for energy policies at a state level”.
He said: “We have an incoming administration not willing to even admit that climate change is a thing [but] they won’t be able to dismantle a lot of the great energy policies in the states that are being more progressive.
“If we’re talking about how people interact and consume energy, from how they heat and cool their homes to how they do business in a more environmentally friendly way, the only way that happens is through business.”
Smaller businesses say they also have concerns. Forest Green, a nature technology company in Virginia, has launched a “carbon transaction platform” that allows business and individuals to offset their carbon footprint using a mobile phone app.
“If compliance isn’t going to come from the government it really is going to be the power of individual decision-making that’s going to create the change,” said company representative Sarah McDonough.
The conference opened with a keynote address from David Fenton, a prominent climate change publicist, who said the politicisation of global warming had dissuaded many businesses from taking action.
“Business is more important than ever if we’re going to face a bunch of climate deniers,” he said. “The way climate change has become a partisan issue in the US has become a big issue in the world, other countries look at the US Senate, where one can’t get a simple, non-binding resolution passed that says humans are changing the planet, those countries say, ‘These yahoos in the US aren’t going to do anything, so why should we?’”
Eidlin believes that businesses need to send a loud enough message that the Trump administration cannot ignore them. “Many companies have expressed support for US staying in the Paris agreement, more are working with municipalities across the US, so there is a lot of activity,” he said.
“On the positive side, it’s great to see more companies stepping up. On the negative side, we need the policies put in place, which is why businesses, when they show up, really have an audience, because policymakers listen to what business people have to say.”
on: Dec 02, 2016, 06:32 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
Quitting UN climate change body could be Trump's quickest exit from Paris deal
Lawyer on president-elect’s transition team says leaving UNFCCC is ‘most practical way’ way to quit agreement, a process that normally takes four years
Friday 2 December 2016 08.00 GMT
The US should completely quit the United Nations forum to tackle climate change in order to quickly exit the Paris climate agreement, according to a conservative lawyer who is part of Donald Trump’s transition team.
Abandoning the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would allow the US to back out of the international climate effort within a year, far sooner than the four-year period that would be required to ditch the Paris accord, which came into force in November. Such a move would probably prove a severe blow to global efforts to avoid dangerous warming.
Steven Groves, a lawyer at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said exiting the UNFCCC would be the “most practical” way for the US to drop its climate change commitments. Groves is part of the state department transition team for the president-elect, who has promised to “cancel” the Paris deal.
“There’s a practical reason for canceling the UNFCCC in that it would provide the shortest timeframe,” Groves, who said he was speaking on the Heritage Foundation’s position on the issue as he was not authorised to speak on behalf of the Trump transition team, told the Guardian.
“If we only withdrew from the Paris agreement, that’s still three or four years. We’ve declined to join other international agreements and there were dire threats of the end of US influence in the world and that hasn’t come to pass. It’s not as if Nato would disband if we did that.”
Although Trump recently said he has an “open mind” about the Paris agreement, he has consistently threatened to exit the deal. Reince Priebus, Trump’s incoming chief of staff, told Fox News Sunday that Trump’s position on the climate accord remains that “most of it is a bunch of bunk”.
Trump, who has himself called global warming a hoax, has appointed a number of people who reject the overwhelming scientific position on climate change to his transition team.
Myron Ebell, who has said climate science is “phony”, is heading the transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency, while Groves, albeit in a less influential position, has used Twitter to assail “climate change alarmists” and Hillary Clinton for “shilling for the orthodox climate change ‘consensus’”.
Meanwhile, Bob Walker, a Trump campaign adviser who is not part of the transition process, has advocated eliminating climate research at Nasa and claimed that scientists are deeply divided on the cause of warming.
The US’s status in international climate talks will be heavily influenced by Trump’s choice for secretary of state. Former presidential nominee Mitt Romney, ex-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and former CIA chief David Petraeus have all been linked to the role.
There has also been speculation that Rex Tillerson, chief executive of oil giant Exxon, is being considered by Trump for the position, a prospect that has horrified environmental groups due to the company’s history of concealing the full impact of climate change.
“If the goal is to drain the swamp in DC, Tillerson might not be your man; Exxon’s business plan continues to require raising the level of the ocean to the point where Foggy Bottom will be well underwater,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of climate group 350.org.
“But this is certainly a good way to make clear exactly who’ll be running the government in a Trump administration - just cut out the middleman and hand it directly to the fossil fuel industry.”
In fact, the vast majority of peer-reviewed science, along with all of the world’s major scientific bodies including Nasa and the Royal Society, agree that the world is warming and that human activity is the primary cause. Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000, with 2016 set to be the warmest yet. Separate lines of evidence, such as rising sea levels, shrinking glaciers and the shifting range of species, all point to a rapidly changing climate.
President George HW Bush, with ratification from the Senate, committed the US to the UNFCCC in 1992 following the Earth summit in Rio. Following two decades of often fraught negotiations, 196 nations agreed in Paris last year to cut emissions in a bid to avoid a temperature rise of 2C globally.
Trump’s election has raised concerns that the US, the world’s second largest emitter, could exit the process and discourage other nations during a period when emissions must be radically reduced to avoid disastrous heatwaves, sea level rise and the mass displacement of people.
The new president could choose to simply ignore the Paris agreement but Groves said the US should quit the entire framework to undo what he said was Barack Obama’s improper signing of the deal. Obama did not ask the Republican-controlled Senate to ratify the Paris agreement, which has a binding goal but leaves emissions reduction targets and methods to individual nations.
“The current administration wouldn’t submit it to the Senate, where it would’ve gone up in flames,” Groves said. “It’s being a little too clever with the constitution and the treaty-making power. There is a balance between Congress and the executive on this issue and the Paris agreement has thrown that balance off for raw political reasons.
“Just because you’re the president, you don’t become a dictator. President Obama was betting that another president, such as Hillary Clinton, wouldn’t withdraw the agreement. He made a political calculation and we’ll soon find out if that was right or not.”
Other legal experts have maintained that Obama was well within his powers to put the US’s name to the Paris deal, given that it is largely unenforceable. John Kerry, the secretary of state, successfully pushed for key parts of the text to use the word “should” rather than “shall” in order to negate the need for Senate approval.
David Wirth, of the Boston College law school and formerly of the state department, said that previous Senate approval of the UNFCC, along with the language of the Paris deal, meant there was no executive overreach.
“There’s no question that it’s constitutional,” Wirth said. “The state department was extremely precise in making sure of that. If anything, they were extra cautious. These are aspirational provisions and the president has the authority to review an existing situation, that’s self-evident. The legal authority is already there.
“Withdrawing from the UNFCC would leave the US without a seat at the table, having withdrawn from a set of requirements that are procedural rather than onerous. That would be political grandstanding and contrary to the national interest. There would be opprobrium and criticism from the rest of the world, for no apparent benefit.”
Scientists have warned that renewed efforts are required to avoid breaching the 2C threshold, with the current Paris commitments still leaving the world on course for a temperature increase of 3C or more.
Adam Sobel, a climate scientist at Columbia University, said Groves had presented “a misleading and inaccurate portrayal of both the science and economics of climate mitigation, greatly understating both the risks of human-induced climate change and the benefits of the Paris agreement while overstating the costs.
“It is transparently a piece of advocacy on behalf of the short-term interests of fossil fuel companies, against the broader interests of both the US and the rest of the world.
“The majority of the American people support US participation in the Paris agreement. If the US withdraws from the UN convention and the Paris agreement, history will judge us harshly.”
on: Dec 02, 2016, 06:28 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
Joy as China shelves plans to dam 'angry river'
Environmentalists celebrate as Beijing appears to abandon plans to build giant hydroelectric dams on 1,750-mile Nujiang
Tom Phillips in Beijing
Friday 2 December 2016 08.35 GMT
Environmentalists in China are celebrating after controversial plans to build a series of giant hydroelectric dams on the country’s last free-flowing river were shelved.
Activists have spent more than a decade campaigning to protect the Nujiang, or “angry river”, from a cascade of dams, fearing they would displace tens of thousands of people and irreparably damage one of China’s most spectacular and bio-diverse regions.
Since the start of this year, hopes had been building that Beijing would finally abandon plans to dam the 1,750-mile waterway, which snakes down from the Tibetan plateau through some of China’s most breathtaking scenery before entering Myanmar, Thailand and eventually flowing into the Andaman Sea.
On Friday, campaigners said that appears to have happened after China’s State Energy Administration published a policy roadmap for the next five years that contained no mention of building any hydroelectric dams on the Nu.
“I am absolutely thrilled,” said Wang Yongchen, a Chinese conservationist and one of the most vocal opponents of the plans, which first surfaced in 2003.
Wang, who has made 17 trips to the Nu region as part of her crusade to protect the river, said geologists, ecologists, sociologists and members of the public who had been part of the campaign could all take credit for halting the dams.
“I think this is a triumph for Chinese civil society,” the Beijing-based activist said.
Aerial view of the Three Gorges dam on the Yangtze river, the biggest such project on earth.
Stephanie Jensen-Cormier, the China programme director for International Rivers, said environmentalists were “very happy and very excited” at what was a rare piece of good news for China’s notoriously stressed waterways.
“The state of rivers in China is so dismal. Thirty years ago there were 50,000 rivers in China; today there are less than 23,000. Rivers have completely disappeared. They have become polluted, they have become overused for agriculture and manufacturing,” she said. “So it is so exciting when a major river – which is a major river for Asia – is protected, at least where it flows in China.”
Jensen-Cormier said the shelving of plans to dam the Nu – which is known as the Salween in Thailand and the Thanlwin in parts of Myanmar – represented “a great turning point for the efforts to preserve China’s rivers”.
“It is a really good indication that China is starting to look at other ways of developing energy, and renewable energies especially, that mean they don’t have to sacrifice their remaining healthy river.”
China is the world’s hydro champion, having built tens of thousands of dams since the 1950s – including the Three Gorges, the world’s biggest project of its kind. Hydropower is a key plank of the country’s bid to reduce its dependence on “dirty” fossil fuels such as coal and produce 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.
And while dambuilding is set to continue in other parts of China, such as Tibet, activists highlight three key reasons as to why Beijing may have decided to ditch plans to dam the Nu.
One is the growing concern for the environment shown by China’s leaders, after decades in which economic growth was given precedence over environmental protection.
“We will make China a beautiful country with blue sky, green vegetation and clear rivers,” President Xi Jinping promised in September when world leaders gathered in China for the G20.
A second explanation is concern over the wisdom of building such mega-projects in China’s seismically active south-west, where geologists warn of potentially catastrophic accidents were an earthquake to strike near such dams.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, is the economics. Waning demand for power, a consequence of China’s slowing economy, and the difficulty of transmitting electricity from remote regions such as Yunnan to the rest of the country, means many believe large-scale dams no longer make financial sense.
“There is already an excess of energy that is produced in Yunnan and can’t actually be used and also it’s not really financially viable either to be developing the river at this time,” said Jensen-Cormier.
Having, for now, turned away from plans to dam the Nu, local politicians are poised to push ahead with plans to develop tourism in the impoverished border region.
Speaking in March, Li Jiheng, Yunnan’s Communist party chief, spoke of plans to transform a region some call “China’s Grand Canyon” into a world-class tourism destination that would surpass its namesake in Arizona.
Jensen-Cormier predicted that the influx of investors and tourists to the bio-diverse area, which scientists say is home to half of China’s animal species and 6,000 species of plant, would pose a new set of challenges for environmentalists.
Wang Yongchen, who runs Green Earth Volunteers, one of China’s oldest environmental groups, cautioned that while the decision to scrap plans for dams on the Nu was a significant triumph, it was not necessarily a permanent one.
“They haven’t said they will never build the dams, so we still need to carry on fighting. It is too easy to say this is the final victory.”
Additional reporting by Christy Yao