Bahamas Blog International
The right of humanity to exist
REFLECTIONS OF FIDEL
(Taken from CubaDebate)
CLIMATE change is already causing considerable damage and hundreds of millions of poor people are suffering the consequences.
The most advanced research centers assure that very little time is left for avoiding an irreversible catastrophe. James Hansen, of NASA’s Goddard Institute, says that a level of 350 parts carbon dioxide per million is still tolerable; today, however, the figure is in excess of 390 and it is increasing at a rate of 2 parts per million every year, exceeding the levels of 600,000 years ago. Each one of the last two decades has been the hottest ever recorded. The abovementioned gas increased 80 parts per million in the last 150 years.
The ice of the Artic Sea, the vast, two-kilometer-thick layer that covers Greenland, the glaciers of South America which feed its principle sources of freshwater, the colossal volume that covers Antarctica, the layer that covers Kilimanjaro, the ice that covers the Himalayas and the enormous frozen mass of Siberia are visibly melting. Notable scientists fear qualitative jumps in these natural phenomena that give rise to changes.
Humanity placed great hope in the Copenhagen Summit, after the Kyoto Protocol signed in 1997, which entered into effect in 2005. The summit’s resounding failure gave way to shameful episodes that require due clarification.
The United States, with less than 5% of the world’s population, issues 25% of its carbon dioxide. The new president of the United States had promised to cooperate with international efforts to confront a problem that is affecting that country as much as the rest of the world. During meetings prior to the summit, it became evident that the leaders of that nation and of the richest nations maneuvered to make the weight of the sacrifice fall onto emerging and poor countries.
A large number of leaders and thousands of representatives of social movements and scientific institutions, determined to fight to preserve humanity from the greatest threat in its history went to Copenhagen, invited by the summit’s organizers. In order to focus on the political aspects of the summit, I will not go into details concerning the brutality of the Danish public forces, which attacked thousands of demonstrators and guests of the social movements and scientists who went to Denmark’s capital.
In Copenhagen, real chaos prevailed, and unbelievable things happened. Social movements and scientific institutions were not allowed to attend the debates. There were heads of state and government who were not even able to issue their opinions on vital problems. Obama and the leaders of the richest countries took over the conference with the complicity of the Danish government. The agencies of the United Nations were relegated.
Barack Obama, who arrived on the last day of the summit to remain there for only 12 hours, met with two groups of guests "hand-picked" by him and his collaborators. Together with one of them, he met with the rest of the highest delegations in the plenary hall. He spoke and immediately left via the back door. In that plenary session, except for the small group selected by him, the representatives of other countries were not allowed to speak. During that meeting, the presidents of Bolivia and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela were allowed to speak, because the president of the summit had no alternative than to concede that in the face of the strenuous demands of those present.
In an adjoining room, Obama met with the leaders of the richest countries, several of the most important emerging states, and two very poor ones. He presented a document, negotiated with two or three of the most important countries, ignored the United Nations General Assembly, gave press conferences, and marched away like Julius Caesar during one of his victorious campaigns in Asia Minor, which prompted him to exclaim, "I came, I saw, I conquered."
Even Gordon Brown, prime minister of the United Kingdom, had affirmed on October 19, "If we do not reach a deal at this time, let us be in no doubt: once the damage from unchecked emissions growth is done, no retrospective global agreement in some future period can undo that choice. By then it will be irretrievably too late."
Brown concluded his speech with dramatic words: "We cannot afford to fail. If we act now; if we act together; if we act with vision and resolve, success at Copenhagen is still within our reach. But if we falter, the earth itself will be at risk… For the planet there is no plan B."
Now he arrogantly stated that the United Nations cannot be taken hostage by a small group of countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Tuvalu, while accusing China, India, Brazil, South Africa and other emerging states of giving in to the seduction of the United States and signing a document that dumps the Kyoto Protocol into the garbage bin and contains no binding commitment whatsoever on the part of the United States and its rich allies.
I feel obliged to remember that the United Nations was born just six decades ago, after the last World War. There were no more than 50 independent countries at the time. Today, it is made up of more than 190 independent states, after the odious colonial system ceased to exist because of the determined struggles of the peoples. Even the People’s Republic of China was denied UN membership for many years, and a puppet government held its representation in that institution and on its privileged Security Council.
The tenacious support of a growing number of Third World countries was indispensable to the international recognition of China, and an extremely important factor for the United States and its allies in NATO recognizing its (China’s) rights in the United Nations.
In the historic struggle against fascism, the Soviet Union made the largest contribution. More than 25 million of its sons and daughters died, and enormous destruction ravaged the country. Out of that struggle, it emerged as a superpower, capable of countering, in part, the absolute dominion of the imperial system of the United States and the former colonial powers in their unlimited plunder of the peoples of the Third World. When the USSR disintegrated, the United States extended its political and military power toward the East, toward the heart of Russia, and its influence over the rest of Europe grew. There is nothing strange about what happened in Copenhagen.
I would like to emphasize the unjust and offensive nature of the statements of the prime minister of the United Kingdom, and the yanki attempt to impose, as a summit agreement, a document that was never discussed at any time with the participating countries.
At a December 21 press conference, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez stated a truth that is impossible to deny; I will use some of his exact paragraphs: "I would like to emphasized that in Copenhagen, there was no agreement whatsoever of the Conference of the Parties; no decision whatsoever was made with respect to binding or non-binding commitments or international law; there was simply no agreement in Copenhagen.
"The summit was a failure and a deception of world public opinion…. The lack of political will was laid bare….
"It was a step backward in the actions of the international community to prevent or mitigate the effects of climate change….
"The average world temperature could rise by 5 degrees…."
Immediately, our foreign minister added other interesting facts about possible consequences according to the latest scientific investigations.
"From the Kyoto Protocol to date, the emissions of the developed countries have risen by 12.8%... and 55% of that volume comes from the United States.
"One person in the United States consumes, on average, 25 barrels of oil annually; one European, 11; one Chinese citizen, less than two, and one Latin American or Caribbean, less than one.
"Thirty countries, including those of the European Union, consume 80% of the fuel produced."
The very real fact is that the developed countries which signed the Kyoto Protocol drastically increased their emissions. They now wish to replace the base of emissions adopted starting 1990 with that of 2005, with which the United States, the maximum issuer, would reduce its emissions of 25 years earlier by only 3%. It is a shameless mockery of world opinion.
The Cuban foreign minister, speaking on behalf of a group of ALBA countries, defended China, India, Brazil, South Africa and other important states with emerging economies, affirming the concept reached in Kyoto of "common, but differentiated responsibilities; meaning that the historic accumulators and the developed countries, those responsible for this catastrophe, have different responsibilities from those of the small island states, or those of the countries of the South, above all the least-developed countries….
"Responsibilities means financing; responsibilities means the transfer of technology under acceptable conditions, and then Obama makes a play on words, and instead of talking about common but differentiated responsibilities, talks about ‘common, but differentiated responses.’
"He leaves the plenary without deigning to listen to anybody, nor had he listened to anybody before his speech."
At a subsequent press conference, before leaving the Danish capital, Obama affirmed, "We've made meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough in Copenhagen. For the first time in history the major economies have come together to accept their responsibility…"
In his clear and irrefutable statement, our foreign minister affirmed, "What is meant by ‘the major economies have come together to accept their responsibility?’ It means that they are shrugging off an important part of the burden signified by the financing for the mitigation and adaptation of countries — above all the entire South — to climate change, onto China, Brazil, India and South Africa; because it must be said that in Copenhagen, there was an assault on, a mugging of China, Brazil, India, and South Africa, and of all of the countries euphemistically referred to as developing."
These were the resounding and irrefutable words with which our foreign minister recounted what happened in Copenhagen.
I should add that, at 10 a.m. on December 19th, after our Vice President Esteban Lazo and the Cuban foreign minister had left, there was a belated attempt to resuscitate the corpse of Copenhagen as a summit agreement. At that point, virtually no heads of state or even ministers were left. Once again, the exposé of the remaining members of the Cuban, Venezuela, Bolivian, Nicaraguan and other countries’ delegations defeated the maneuver. That was how the inglorious summit ended.
Another fact that cannot be forgotten was that, during the most critical moments of that day, in the early morning, the Cuban foreign minister, together with the delegations that were waging their dignified battle, offered UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon their cooperation in the increasingly difficult battle that is being waged, and in the efforts that must be undertaken in the future to preserve the life of our species.
The environmental group WWF warned that climate change will become uncontrollable in the next 5 to 10 years if emissions are not drastically cut.
But it is not necessary to demonstrate the essence of what is being said here about what Obama did.
The U.S. president stated on Wednesday, December 23 that people were right to be disappointed by the outcome of the Summit on Climate Change. In an interview with the CBS television network, the president noted, "Rather than see a complete collapse in Copenhagen, in which nothing at all got done and would have been a huge backward step, at least we kind of held ground and there wasn't too much backsliding from where we were…"
Obama, according to the news dispatch, was the one most criticized by those countries which, virtually unanimously, believe that the outcome of the summit was disastrous.
The UN is now in a predicament. Asking other countries to adhere to the arrogant and antidemocratic agreement would be humiliating for many states.
Continuing the battle and demanding at all meetings, particularly those of Bonn and Mexico, the right of humanity to exist, with the moral authority and strength the truth affords us, is, in our opinion, the only way forward.
Fidel Castro Ruz
December 26, 2009
Translated by Granma International
|December 28, 2009 | 4:05 PM
Fighting poverty more effectively in times of crisis
By Vinod Thomas and Marvin Taylor-Dormond:
The current economic crisis could push nearly 90 million people into poverty worldwide, including some 8 million in Latin America and the Caribbean. Sounder macroeconomic policies and healthier financial sectors in the region today more than during earlier crises episodes allow to weather it better. But the socio-economic effects of the crisis are still severe, especially in rising unemployment and growing credit gaps.
Dealing with such impacts requires re-invigorated financial flows and more effective use of funds. Similar volumes of spending in the past have been seen to have produced vastly different development outcomes. The World Bank Group’s Independent Evaluation Group, based on reviews of countries, including several in this region, highlights factors regarding the quantity and quality of the crisis response.
First, financial flows need to be adequate and timely, especially in the face of growing fiscal gaps. During the current crisis, official flows from multilateral sources have been at record levels in answer to country needs. In this situation, it is essential to recognize that sustained recovery depends not only on the volume of spending but also on its quality and its structure.
Currently, the World Bank Group is seeking a substantial capital increase to help clients confront the severity of the economic slowdown, especially its social impacts.
Within the World Bank Group, this year’s commitments by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (lending to middle-income governments) have tripled to $33 billion; and by the International Development Association (lending to low-income governments) increased 25 percent, to $14 billion. Some 30 percent of this increase by the World Bank is to Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. The International Finance Corporation (the private sector arm) invested $10.5 billion in 2009, and has focused its crisis response on strengthening the financial sector and facilitating trade. Some examples include the new IFC Capitalization Fund that made its first investments in a systemic Paraguayan bank; IFC’s trading platforms that help banks in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, and South America to maintain their trade facilities, as well as investments in infrastructure and support for micro, small, and medium enterprises in the region, as has been done in Caribbean countries.
However, to sustain the economic revival, private capital flows must be re-invigorated. Those to developing countries fell from $1,200 billion in 2007 to $360 billion in 2009. Reversing this trend is fundamental, as the poorer developing countries worldwide face a $12 billion financing gap this year, and may not be able to cover even the most essential social spending.
Second, the macroeconomic implications of the crisis response, in particular the growing government deficits, need to be handled well. Fiscal deficits in 2009 are estimated to be nearly 7 percentage points of GDP higher than in 2007 in G-20 nations, and about 5 percentage points higher in G-20 emerging economies. Meanwhile, the ratio of public debt-to-GDP in the G-20 could, by one estimate, rise by nearly 15 percentage points between these years. Going forward, a sharp fiscal adjustment and stronger growth will be needed to pay down the debt.
Equally, to generate economic growth, the spending needs to be directed to high-productivity areas, such as infrastructure projects that have been seen to have produced higher payoffs than providing untargeted subsidies. But even here, just any spending on infrastructure would not automatically generate growth. Only a few countries have, during the crisis response, put in place the much-needed mechanisms for analyzing, tracking, evaluating project costs and benefits.
Third, considerations of poverty and unemployment are paramount. During past financial crises, poverty issues did not receive sufficient attention. Signals are that this time, social safety nets, such as conditional cash transfers, are better established and better protected, with support from official sources such as the World Bank Group. Given the long-term damages of crises for the poor, it is vital to protect vulnerable groups early on.
Finally, the rising pressures of the financial crisis should not dilute the attention to the environment and climate. The fiscal stimulus presents a unique opportunity to shift to sustainable investments—as Mexico is doing to some degree.
Every crisis is unique, yet lessons from past crisis responses are informative. The speed and scale of response needs to be matched by careful attention to the quality of the interventions. Together with improved coordination across organizations, the World Bank Group, drawing on these lessons, can support countries in the hemisphere to mitigate the crisis impacts.
Vinod Thomas is the Director-General and Marvin Taylor-Dormond is Director of the Independent Evaluation Group at the World Bank Group.
December 26, 2009
|December 26, 2009 | 12:36 PM
Lessons from Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer
By Dr Isaac Newton:
‘’More, more please,’ was her plea, as I tossed her high in mid-air. She laughed heartily. Even as a toddler, my sister’s daughter, Nikko Moses, sees life quite differently from most of us -- why settle for a little fun, when you can have plenty of it.
While interacting after a thanksgiving service, I overheard these words: “Maybe you are too prideful to consider that you are prideful.” The young man being addressed, stout for his age, with heavy limbs and large fingers, walked away with shock plastered all over his face.
But that young lady’s voice -- a reservoir of courage and truth -- must have echoed from the summit of his wonder to the valley of his worry. Like all ideas that creep up in reflection, it dawned on me that loving people heal people.
Each of these experiences interrupted the passing of 2009 with lessons that won’t go away. My niece taught me that it is better to seek abundant happiness than less joy. That beautiful young lady showed me that sincere outpouring, surrenders deep insights that penetrate.
This year, disappeared between paradise and hell. Scandalous memories and bitter sufferings occurred around dramatic changes in the market, the environment and the cry for peace. For many, the shift from joyful pessimism to biting optimism resulted in trading sadness.
Just think. Has 2009 bullied you? Were there moments of sheer terror? Could it be that you did not pour out your trials into testimonies of resurrection? I failed to parade my blessings as a trophy of gratitude. I was too busy trying to navigate the storms that I did not appreciate the fresh supply of love that came from family and friends.
But without explanation, sometime in early October, thoughts of ‘Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,’ crossed my mind. The more I reflected, the more I became convinced that perhaps Rudolph’s dilemma is our experience. Perhaps like us, Rudolph’s life was barren because it was plagued with the side effects of mockery and the madness of insecurity.
Too many of us still permit our economic status to define our dignity. How many times have we allowed, the hammering voices of others to make us feel tragically worthless? The story of ‘Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer’ demonstrates that to be obsessed with our brokenness is to miss the essence of living. It is as if we remember what does not matter, to forget what truly matter. Rudolph discovered that there were many things he could not have and didn’t need.
But Rudolph’s radical turnaround from red-nosed shame to cheering stardom points symbolically, to the celebration of the Christ child in the manger. In this sense, Christmas declares that God abounds in the gift of giving.
The Christ child, like Santa Claus, comes so that we can discover our real worth and true identity. For Rudolph, the capacity to overcome inner scars is therapeutic. For us, Christmas is an oasis of peace, a garden of goodwill, and a teaspoon of spiritual medicine.
We may be poorer than we ever were. The dread of days and the fears of nights may creep up upon us. Guilt may point its bony finger of condemnation and we may feel forever doomed by loneliness and jealousy.
The good news of great joy is that the Christ child grew up and became our Saviour. See through the manger into the empty tomb. Do more. Look beyond the cruel cross to the risen Lord. Let Christmas declare once more, that God is with us to bring our lives purpose and joy.
How miraculous that Rudolph’s red nose, once a point of pain, with the advent of Santa Claus, became a posture of celebration and usefulness. I suspect we suffer from a kind of Rudolph syndrome, when our talents function as volcanoes or waterfalls, depending on whether we are laughed at by other reindeers or embraced by Santa Claus.
Seen through the lens of the story of the Christ child, Rudolph’s experience inflates our lives with hopefulness and vigor. It signals that fundamental change is possible -- we can step away from extravagance into intimacy. We are healthy ambassadors of love, in the presence of the Christ child. And like Rudolph, we can make history.
Embodied in Christmas, the Red-nosed Reindeer’s story dramatises that our personal misfortunes, national infightings, and regional challenges can be overcome. The blight of our red-noses is but a transition from solitude to solidarity.
Applied to the Caribbean, the story of Rudolph suggests that our development must come from within. We must learn to value our cultural, human and natural resources. Perhaps in the transformational ethos of Christmas, where the generosity of love abounds, we may realise that our red-noses, which represents national and regional turmoil, point to the splendour beyond.
How beautiful is the Caribbean’s natural inheritance; how precious is the resilience of our people; how sacred our belief in God. While enjoying the festivities, the spirit of Christmas could refresh us. It could push us to improve inter-island relations and strategic agreements with global partners.
Let it not be said, that we are too prideful to defect our pride or too coward to reach for much more than what is. Turning our red-noses into great causes for the Caribbean is one way to celebrate Christmas. We can respond to the hopes of 2010. But we must cross the bridge from 2009 to 2010 inspired by lessons from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Let’s think of what is yet to be achieved -- prosperity for all, the preservation of our natural habitat and the affirmation of the worth and genius of our own people.
If you have God’s breath in your body and your heart is beating, you still have a lot of good to do. With miracle, compassion and mystery wrapped in one package, may all that is happy about Christmas and healthy about the New Year be entrusted to you!
December 23, 2009
|December 23, 2009 | 10:39 AM
Givers and takers in relationships
ELIZABETH and George Knight in their book, Compatibility Code: An Intelligent Woman's Guide to Dating and Marriage, write that, "there are givers and takers in every relationship". The giver is the person who is always giving; the one who is always going the extra mile, and as you might guess, the taker is the one who does nothing but takes what the giver has to offer.
When there are two takers in a relationship, the relationship is doomed to fail, and will tend to end at a very early stage. When there is a giver and a taker in a relationship, the relationship may last for a longer period but the giver suffers in silence; sometimes for many years. Usually, after many years of suffering the giver may decide to quit. When there are two givers in a relationship, the relationship is poised for success as both partners take the time to give and to nourish each other.
Because there is more blessing in giving than receiving, I implore you to commit to being a giver for the rest of your relationship; aim to become a giver rather than a taker. Just in case you are a taker, wondering where to begin or what to give, here is a short list of inexpensive items that your partner should be sure to enjoy.
Foot massage or back rub No cost
One hour of listening ear No cost
Quality time No cost
Three little wishes No cost
Stroll in the park No cost
Setting the bath No cost
Little love notes No cost
Helping with house work No cost
Since it is better to give than to receive, no wonder, successful relationships are those where both partners are givers. Show your appreciation this Christmas by getting creative or giving something special. Remember to give according to your budget and the taste of your partner.
Jacqueline Champier is a counselling psychologist from Mandeville.
December 21, 2009
|December 22, 2009 | 11:27 AM
Venezuela's Chavez renames world's tallest waterfall
Related to country: Venezuela
CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) -- Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez on Sunday renamed Angel Falls, the world's tallest waterfall, saying it should be called by its indigenous name Kerepakupai Meru.
Angel Falls are named after a US explorer Jimmie Angel, who in the 1930s crashed his plane onto the table-top mountain where the roughly 3,280-feet (1 kilometre) drop begins.
"This is ours, long before Angel arrived there," Chavez said on his weekly television show, in front of a large painted mural of the falls and surrounding jungle.
"This is indigenous property, ours, aborigine." He said thousands of people had seen the falls before Jimmie Angel "discovered" them.
The falls are in the Canaima National Park in the Gran Sabana region in southeastern Venezuela, near borders with Brazil and Guyana. About 15,000 Pemon Indians live in the region.
Chavez initially said the waterfall was to be called Cheru-Meru, also spelled as Cherun Meru, but corrected himself when his daughter pointed out that was the name of a smaller waterfall in the same region.
He spent several minutes practicing the name Kerepakupai, before declaring he had mastered it.
The socialist Chavez said the remote falls normally reached by plane and boat were only visited by the wealthy, and called on a publicly owned airline to fly poor Venezuelans to the site.
The unique landscape of sheer table-top mountains known as tepuis juts out of the rainforest and inspired Arthur Conan Doyle's novel "The Lost World."
The 2009 animated film "Up" is also partially based on the Canaima area.
Chavez, who says his government is revolutionary, has in the past changed the formal name of Venezuela, redesigned the flag and created a new time zone for the South American country.
December 21, 2009
|December 21, 2009 | 10:08 AM
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