Climate Change Debate is Losing Momentum

Polar bear on a diminishing ice floe cake, photo: douglemoine/flickr

For those (still) interested in climate change issues, two things are happening next week that are worth to ponder:

First, Global Warming is turning 35! As announced on the blog of the RealClimate website, the term “global warming” was used for the first time in an article by Wally Broecker in the journal Science on 8 August 1975. Happy Anniversary!

Second, a UN Climate Change Confererence will be held next week (2  – 6 August 2010) in Bonn, discussing  possible contributions by both industrialized and developing countries to reduce emissions. Further issues to be discussed include how to adapt to climate changes, slow down deforestation and develop new technologies – and how all these measures can be financed. The conference is intended as a further preparation for the sixth meeting of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will take place in Cancun, Mexico, in November and December 2010.

Yet the global optimism prior to last year’s Copenhagen Summit, when there was so much hope that a newly elected US president who promised change and truly seemed to care about the environment would finally lead the world into a new, environmentally more responsible era, has all but vanished.

ISN Weekly Theme: A Look Inside Israel

Menorah, Knesset in Jerusalem. Photo: Jerzy Strzelecki/wikicommons

The heterogeneity and complexity of Israeli society is often ignored in the mainstream media, which focuses almost exclusively on Israeli foreign policy and the Arab-Israeli conflict. This week the ISN takes a closer look at the dynamics of Israeli society today, revealing a broad range of political viewpoints and visions of what the state of Israel is all about.

This week’s Special Report contains the following content, easily navigated along the tab structure above:

  • An Analysis by Dominic Moran on the divides between secular and religious Jews and within Jewish religious communities.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including reports on Israel’s Gaza blockade.
  • Primary Resources, including historical documents on the founding of the state of Israel.
  • Links to relevant websites and articles on Israel.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring a broad range of Jewish NGOs, such as the Yitzhak Rabin Center.

When Dictators Have ‘Image Problems’

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama with Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and his wife, photo: Lawrence Jackson/wikicommons

You’re ranked the 14th worst dictator in the world; you preside over a country with a per capita GDP that is higher than that of Italy, but your people’s living standards are among the lowest in the world; your son is widely accused of spending his daddy’s (read: country’s) money on a USD 33 million private jet, a USD 35 million Malibu mansion, speedboats and a fleet of fast cars; and you win 96.7 percent of the vote in a presidential election, and then international observers publicly doubt the election’s credibility.

Well, if all that applies to you, you really have an image problem.

Luckily, there are professionals who can amend such glitches. We recently learned that former Clinton aide and DC lobbyist Lanny J Davis took on the noble task of recasting the image of Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (described above). And all that for the modest sum of USD 1 million.

Davis says that he only agreed to the contract because of Mr. Obiang’s promise to introduce a series of reforms. These include a more effective use of the country’s vast oil resources for the benefit of the people, social sector development, institutional reform, improved relations with human rights organizations and environmental conservation initiatives.

For years, the US government has been accused of soft-pedaling the record of this unusually corrupt and unscrupulous dictator, whom Condoleeza Rice in 2006 called “a good friend.” Also the Obama administration has been accused of looking the other way when it comes to corruption and human rights abuses in Equatorial Guinea so as not to alienate this oil-rich African state. A significant amount of the country’s substantial oil resources is exported to the US, and the bulk of investment in the country’s oil industry comes from US-based oil companies.

True, you can hire DC lobbyists for almost anything these days. But the fact that Mr. Obiang hired Lanny Davis makes the story particularly controversial.

Davis is an old friend of both Hillary and Bill Clinton (they went to law school at Yale together), and he had worked on Hillary’s campaign. This naturally raises suspicions that the US State Department, and hence the Obama administration, doesn’t mind too much that Obiang’s image is getting a professional overhaul. After all, people may ask, couldn’t Hilary ask an old friend to perhaps find himself another client instead?

More disturbingly, Davis had been criticized in the past for touting himself as an ‘independent news analyst’ and devout Liberal; for speaking regularly on US television networks and writing op-eds in influential newspapers while his audience is often left in the dark about his clients.

Truly, Lanny Davis himself has an image problem. But unlike Obiang, he doesn’t seem to care.

Gay Rights Are Human Rights, Too

LGBT rights campaign poster/Photo: IGLHRC, Picasa

Twenty years ago, on 17 May 1990, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Yet homophobia remains on the upswing in many parts of the world.

On the occasion of this year’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on 17 May, the ISN’s Special Reports week focuses on the plight of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in different parts of the world.

The Special Report contains the following content:

An Analysis by Sara Kuepfer Thakkar on the discrimination and persecution of gays and lesbians in the world, with a strong focus on the reported surge of homophobia in Africa.

A Podcast interview with Jason MacFarlane of JFLAG, focusing on LGBT people’s fight for human rights in Jamaica.

Security Watch articles on gay rights issues, such as the debate in the US about lifting the ban on lesbians and gays serving openly in the US military.

Publications housed in our Digital Library, including studies on the discrimination of sexual minorities in the employment sector in Hungary and Slovakia.

Primary Resources, including the “Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.”

Links to relevant websites, such as Wikigender.

Our IR Directory featuring various organizations dealing with LGBT rights issues, such as the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).

Back to the 80s? Bring Them On!

80s sneaker wallpaper / photo: roberlan, flickr

One fine Manic Monday, election campaign strategists of the British Labour Party put out an ad admonishing voters: “Don’t let him [David Cameron] take Britain back to the 1980s.”

But weren’t the 1980s supposed to be The Best of Times?

At least we of Generation Y tend to think so. Back in the 80s, we were not yet so politically aware. Some of us played with Barbie dolls (you guessed it: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun), others practiced the Moonwalk, watched Alf or kept ourselves busy growing mullets – yes, Madonna said so: “Express Yourself“.

Actually, we do not necessarily associate the 1980s with rampant greed, a growing economic gap, poverty, unfettered capitalism, a roll-back of the welfare state and the looming threat of nuclear extinction.

Rather, we think of 80s rock: big hair; Dirty Dancing; a booming stock market; pegged jeans; neon colors; Money for Nothing – all, baby, Hurts So Good!

The New York Times recently commented on Hillary Clinton’s voluminous hairstyle, suspiciously resembling the big bumpy hair donned by women in the (presumably conservative) 80s. And that coming from a Democrat! (But then again, Obama these days is often compared to Ronald Reagan – a Democrat version of the Reagan phenomenon, that is.)

The Tories skillfully responded to the Labour ad, playing on the 1980s nostalgia. They released a slightly modified version of the Labour poster portraying Mr Cameron as Gene Hunt from the BBC’s popular Ashes To Ashes series. Come’on, the 80s weren’t that Bad after all!

So the moral of this campaign flop is: if you want to invoke bad memories of conservative politics in Britain, don’t use the culturally rather successful 1980s to make your point.

I hope Labour has learned its lesson; otherwise, it will turn out to be a very Cruel Summer for Gordon Brown’s party.