United Nations Declaration (Articles 1 - 30):

Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Incoming UN chief names three women to top posts

Incoming UN chief names three women to top posts
Nigerian Minister of the Environment Amina Mohammed, seen in 2015, will be the UN's number two official (AFP Photo/Mireya ACIERTO)

Sustainable Development
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -
"The Timing of the Great Shift" – Mar 21, 2009 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Text version)

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013. They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."
"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)

The Declaration of Human Freedom

Archangel Michael (Via Steve Beckow), Feb. 19, 2011

Every being is a divine and eternal soul living in a temporal body. Every being was alive before birth and will live after death.

Every soul enters into physical life for the purpose of experience and education, that it may, in the course of many lifetimes, learn its true identity as a fragment of the Divine.

Life itself is a constant process of spiritual evolution and unfoldment, based on free choice, that continues until such time as we realize our true nature and return to the Divine from which we came.

No soul enters life to serve another, except by choice, but to serve its own purpose and that of the Divine from which it came.

All life is governed by natural and universal laws which precede and outweigh the laws of humanity. These laws, such as the law of karma, the law of attraction, and the law of free will, are decreed by God to order existence and assist each person to achieve life’s purpose.

No government can or should survive that derives its existence from the enforced submission of its people or that denies its people their basic rights and freedoms.

Life is a movement from one existence to another, in varied venues throughout the universe and in other universes and dimensions of existence. We are not alone in the universe but share it with other civilizations, most of them peace-loving, many of whom are more advanced than we are, some of whom can be seen with our eyes and some of whom cannot.

The evidence of our five senses is not the final arbiter of existence. Humans are spiritual as well as physical entities and the spiritual side of life transcends the physical. God is a Spirit and the final touchstone of God’s Truth is not physical but spiritual. The Truth is to be found within.

God is one and, because of this, souls are one. They form a unity. They are meant to live in peace and harmony together in a “common unity” or community. The use of force to settle affairs runs contrary to natural law. Every person should have the right to conduct his or her own affairs without force, as long as his or her choices do not harm another.

No person shall be forced into marriage against his or her will. No woman shall be forced to bear or not bear children, against her will. No person shall be forced to hold or not hold views or worship in a manner contrary to his or her choice. Nothing vital to existence shall be withheld from another if it is within the community’s power to give.

Every person shall retain the ability to think, speak, and act as they choose, as long as they not harm another. Every person has the right to choose, study and practice the education and career of their choice without interference, provided they not harm another.

No one has the right to kill another. No one has the right to steal from another. No one has the right to force himself or herself upon another in any way.

Any government that harms its citizens, deprives them of their property or rights without their consent, or makes offensive war upon its neighbors, no matter how it misrepresents the situation, has lost its legitimacy. No government may govern without the consent of its people. All governments are tasked with seeing to the wellbeing of their citizens. Any government which forces its citizens to see to its own wellbeing without attending to theirs has lost its legitimacy.

Men and women are meant to live fulfilling lives, free of want, wherever they wish and under the conditions they desire, providing their choices do not harm another and are humanly attainable.

Children are meant to live lives under the beneficent protection of all, free of exploitation, with unhindered access to the necessities of life, education, and health care.

All forms of exploitation, oppression, and persecution run counter to universal and natural law. All disagreements are meant to be resolved amicably.

Any human law that runs counter to natural and universal law is invalid and should not survive. The enactment or enforcement of human law that runs counter to natural and universal law brings consequences that cannot be escaped, in this life or another. While one may escape temporal justice, one does not escape divine justice.

All outcomes are to the greater glory of God and to God do we look for the fulfillment of our needs and for love, peace, and wisdom. So let it be. Aum/Amen.

Pope Francis arrives for historic first US visit

Pope Francis arrives for historic first US visit
Pope Francis laughs alongside US President Barack Obama upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, on September 22, 2015, on the start of a 3-day trip to Washington (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

Today's doodle in the U.S. celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech on its 50th anniversary (28 Aug 2013)

'Love is love': Obama lauds gay marriage activists in hailing 'a victory for America'

'Love is love': Obama lauds gay marriage activists in hailing 'a victory for America'
The White House released this image, of the building colored like the rainbow flag, on Facebook following the supreme court’s ruling. Photograph: Facebook

Same-sex marriage around the world

"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Merkel says Turkey media crackdown 'highly alarming'

Merkel says Turkey media crackdown 'highly alarming'
Reporters Without Borders labels Erdogan as 'enemy of press freedom'

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Venezuela suspends summit over Hugo Chavez's illness

BBC News, 29 June 2011

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Venezuela has suspended a regional summit scheduled for 5 July amid continuing speculation over the state of health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Venezuelan TV had shown pictures
of Mr Chavez (r) apparently looking well
President Chavez left Venezuela on 8 June for Cuba, where he had surgery, apparently for a pelvic abscess.

On Tuesday, Cuban state TV aired images of President Chavez talking animatedly to former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

But officials said the summit, which he was due to host, had been delayed.

Analysts say the suspension of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) meeting will be a blow to President Chavez.

He was due to chair the first gathering of the new regional bloc on Margarita island, off the Venezuelan coast.

Venezuelan officials had earlier said that extended video footage released on Wednesday and showing the president apparently looking well proved his recovery was continuing.

Vice-President Elias Jaua said President Chavez had been in close contact with officials in an effort to "continue driving the national plans forward".

Mr Chavez's unexpectedly long absence from Venezuela has prompted debate on whether he should delegate executive power to the vice-president.

Venezuelan officials have said he underwent emergency surgery on 10 June for a pelvic abscess, but there has been speculation in the Venezuelan and foreign press that the president's condition could be more serious.

He had been widely expected to be back in time to host the CELAC summit which also coincides with Venezuela's bicentennial celebrations.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

BofA near $8.5 billion settlement on securities: report

Reuters, NEW YORK, Tue Jun 28, 2011

The sign of a Bank of America branch is pictured in downtown
Los Angeles October 8, 2010. (
Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser)

(Reuters) - Bank of America Corp is close to a deal to pay $8.5 billion to settle claims from investors that lost money on mortgage-backed securities, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The sum would be the largest such settlement in the banking industry to date, the Journal said. It reported that the deal would have to be approved by the bank's board, which met on Tuesday to discuss it, according to the sources.

The largest U.S. bank by assets has been fighting claims by a group of 22 investors, over the housing-related securities it packaged and sold before the financial crisis. The investor group includes BlackRock Inc, MetLife Inc and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Bank of America was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Maria Aspan in New York and Joe Rauch in Charlotte; editing by Carol Bishopric)

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Beatings instead of wages - domestic helpers in the diplomatic service

Deutsche Welle, 27 June 2011

Seeking a better life - maids from
A Saudi diplomat in Berlin is said to have maltreated his Indonesian domestic helper. A 50-year-old international convention guaranteeing diplomatic immunity means the attache will not face legal consequences.

Dewi Ratnasari left her home in Indonesia in hopes of a better life. Via Saudi Arabia, she travelled to Germany, where she started to work as a domestic helper for the family of a Saudi-Arabian diplomat in Berlin in April 2009.

She did not find a better life. Later, she told authorities that she was forced to hand over her passport, was not allowed to leave the house alone and was prohibited to get in touch with her family. She worked up to 18 hours daily in the diplomat's large household. She slept on the bare floor in one of the children's bedrooms.

Ratnasari - not her real name but a pseudonym - managed to escape in the fall of 2010, and showed up on the doorstep of Ban Ying, a Berlin based, city-funded human rights association founded in 1988 as a shelter and counseling center for migrant women from Southeast Asia. The center deals with up to ten cases a year from among the 249 domestic helpers currently employed by diplomats in Germany.

Ban Ying's Nivedita Prasad told Deutsche Welle that the Indonesian woman is an example of particularly shoddy treatment. The entire family regularly slapped the 30-year-old Indonesian household help, beat her with objects, humiliated her and insulted her. "The worst part is that they never called her by her name, but by the Arabic word for 'shit,'" Prasad said.

Exploitation is not isolated

Nevedita Prasad of Ban Ying, the
Thai term for 'House of Women'
NGOs across Europe are aware of the problem of exploitation of domestic help in diplomatic households. A common complaint is that employees are forced to work long hours without extra pay and that they have signed what amounts to a virtually worthless work contract.

Maltreating and locking up domestic help is regarded as a grave human rights abuse and a breach of the ban on slavery. In many European countries, stressful working conditions and measly pay violate both human rights and national legislation.

But the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations guarantees diplomats and their personnel legal immunity. Diplomats are immune from civil or criminal prosecution and no German civil court is allowed to, for example, require a diplomat to pay lost wages to an employee.

"This immunity blocks the legal process for domestic help in diplomatic households," Heike Raabe of the German Institute for Human Rights said. "It's a gap in the protection of human rights at the expense of women, who usually take on such jobs because of economic hardship."

Under the Vienna Convention, Dewi Ratnasari could have taken her employer to court in Saudi Arabia - in theory. In reality, according to Heike Raabe, that is impossible because of her gender, her family background, a lack of resources and visa limitations. "Without a male escort, women are forbidden to travel to or within Saudi Arabia. They also have to be accompanied by a man in court," she said.

Unrealistic legal claims

Ban Ying contacted the German Foreign Ministry, in the hope that it would negotiate compensation for Dewi Ratnasari, in exchange for a commitment not to go public about the case. But the sum the Saudi embassy offered was "outrageously low," said Nivesita Prasad.

Bertelsmann is up against slavery
and exploitation of foreign domestic
The Institute and other organizations helped to bring the case to trial, hiring labor lawyer Klaus Bertelsmann to take Dewi Ratnasari's case to Berlin's Labor Court. He filed a criminal complaint on the grounds of human trafficking and claimed 70.000 euros ($99,310) in back wages, overtime and compensation for personal suffering. On June 14, the court ruled against the complainant, citing her employer's diplomatic immunity.

Dewi Ratnasari has meanwhile returned to her native Indonesia. Ban Ying organized a fundraiser so she would not have to go home empty-handed, but she officially passed on her wage entitlement to Heide Pfarr, a women's rights activist who continues to act for her as claimant.

Lawyer Bertelsmann said he is appealing the Labor Court's ruling, and is confident of a solution along the lines of a ruling in a similar case earlier this year by France's top administrative court, which said that the state must pick up the tab for the foreign employee's back wages.

It can take up to six months before the next higher German court rules on Dewi Ratnasari's claim, but diplomats will in any case go scot free despite continuing human rights abuses and slavery practices.

But the situation will not be changed unless the 192 signatory states to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations decide to do so.

Author: Ulrike Mast-Kirschning / db
Editor: Michael Lawton
Martin Kuebler

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Israel warns media against boarding Gaza flotilla

Associated Press, by JOSEF FEDERMAN, June 26, 2011

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel on Sunday threatened to ban international journalists for up to a decade from the country if they join a flotilla planning to breach the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The warning reflected Israeli jitters about the international flotilla, which comes just over a year after a similar mission ended in the deaths of nine Turkish activists in clashes with Israeli naval commandos.

Israel is eager to avoid a repeat of last year's raid, which drew heavy international condemnations and ultimately forced Israel to loosen a blockade on Hamas-controlled Gaza. Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons into the territory.

It remains unclear when the current flotilla will actually set sail, but organizers have hinted it could be as soon as this week.

In a letter to foreign journalists, the Government Press Office's director, Oren Helman, called the flotilla "a dangerous provocation that is being organized by western and Islamic extremist elements to aid Hamas."

"I would like to make it clear to you and to the media that you represent, that participation in the flotilla is an intentional violation of Israeli law and is liable to lead to participants being denied entry into the State of Israel for 10 years, to the impoundment of their equipment and to additional sanctions," Helman said.

The letter, he added, had been reviewed and approved by Israel's attorney general.

Organizers of the flotilla say the mission is necessary to draw attention to the plight of Gaza's 1.6 million residents. The Israeli blockade has caused heavy damage to Gaza's economy: Unemployment is estimated at close to 50 percent, and the territory still suffers from a shortage of badly needed construction materials.

Israel has long had a strained relationship with the international media. During its invasion of the Gaza Strip 2½ years ago, Israeli-based journalists were prevented from entering the territory, forcing the Supreme Court to order the army to allow reporters in.

Israel imposed a land and naval blockade of Gaza after Hamas, an Iranian-backed group that has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks, took control of the coastal strip.

The international uproar over last year's deadly flotilla raid forced Israel to greatly ease the land embargo, but the naval blockade remains intact.

Israel has already said it will block the flotilla this time. Naval officials say they will use different tactics though in hopes of avoiding bloodshed.

Federman can be reached at www.twitter.com/joseffederman.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

New York state approves gay marriage

BBC News, 25 June 2011

Related Stories

New York has become the sixth and most populous US state to allow same-sex marriage.

Supporters of same-sex marriages celebrated
after the Senate vote
The Republican-controlled state senate voted 33-29 for a bill that had earlier been approved by the lower house, which has a Democratic majority.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo quickly signed the bill into law. Gay weddings are expected to start within 30 days.

It has become a contentious social issue ahead of next year's presidential and congressional elections.

"New York has finally torn down the barrier that prevented same-sex couples from exercising the freedom to marry and from receiving the fundamental protections that so many couples and families take for granted," Mr Cuomo said in a statement.

He kept his promise to sign the bill as soon as he received it after the Senate vote - rather than wait the usual 10 days.

Gay rights activists said the approval of the bill was a key victory for them, in what is seen as the birthplace of the US gay rights movement.

"It's about time. I want to get married. I want the same rights as anyone else," 36-year-old student Caroline Jaeger told Reuters news agency.

Places where gay marriage is legal in the US:
  • New York
  • New Hampshire
  • Massachusetts
  • Connecticut
  • Iowa
  • Vermont
  • Washington DC

But New York's Catholic bishops said they were "deeply disappointed and troubled" by the passage of the bill, Reuters news agency reports.

Just four Republicans voted for the bill, but it was enough to make the New York senate the first Republican-controlled legislative chamber in the country to vote in favour of same-sex marriage.

New York now joins Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and also the District of Columbia, all of which allow same-sex marriages.

About the Challenges of Being a Gay Man – Oct 23, 2010 (Saint Germain channeled by Alexandra Mahlimay and Dan Bennack) - “You see, your Soul and Creator are not concerned with any perspective you have that contradicts the reality of your Divinity – whether this be your gender, your sexual preference, your nationality – or your race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, or anything else.”

Madoff trustee seeking $19 billion from JPMorgan

Reuters, Fri Jun 24, 2011

Securities Investor Protection Act (SIPA) Trustee Irving Picard speaks as
 Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara (L) looks on during a news conference
 in New York, announcing the return of $7.2 billion from the estate of Madoff
 insider Jeffry Picower to settle civil claims for victims of Bernard Madoff's ponzi
scheme December 17, 2010. (
Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)

(Reuters) - The trustee seeking money for Bernard Madoff's victims filed an amended complaint on Friday more than tripling the amount of damages he is seeking to recover from JPMorgan Chase & Co, once the imprisoned Ponzi schemer's main bank.

Irving Picard is now looking for $19 billion in damages, up from the $5.4 billion he previously sought.

The damages are in addition to about $1 billion sought in fraudulent transfers and equitable claims.

The amended complaint, based on expanded allegations, also includes a jury demand.

In a complaint made public in February, Picard accused the second-largest U.S. bank of being "thoroughly complicit" in Madoff's fraud and ignoring red flags.

J.P. Morgan now has until August 1, 2011, to respond to the amended complaint, Picard said in a statement.

JPMorgan did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The case is Picard v. JPMorgan Chase & Co et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-00913.

(Reporting by Jochelle Mendonca in Bangalore; editing by Andre Grenon)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Europe aims to set the credit rating rules

Deutsche Welle, 24 June 2011

Europe wants to ensure ratings
agencies operate by EU rules
The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) warns US credit ratings agencies that they will need to play by EU rules if they want a license to continue operating within the bloc.

The head of the European Securities and Markets Authority, Steven Maijoor, said Europe wants to break the monopoly currently held by major US ratings companies, and enforce its own operating regulations.

"We shouldn't blindly adopt the regulatory system of a third country," Maijoor told the Financial Times Deutschland, referring to the guidelines governing the behavior of ratings companies in the United States.

He said any agency seeking a license to operate within Europe would be expected to supply extensive paperwork with their application. ESMA said this has not yet been forthcoming.

The biggest agencies, Fitch, Moody's and Standard and Poor's, the latter two of which are American, have been widely criticized since the global financial meltdown.

"Everyone knows that after the crisis there was a big problem with ratings agencies, and that was a conflict of interest," Philip Whyte, senior research fellow with the Centre for European Reform in London told Deutsche Welle. "The people's whose papers were being rated were the people who paid the agencies."

Mixed messages

Greece's ratings have been slashed by Standard and Poor

Yet he added that it is sometimes hard to disentangle what politicians say about the behavior of the agencies in the run up to the financial crisis and what they are saying now in the face of sovereign debt woes.

"Either politicians want them to be independent and to do a good job of rating paper, or they want them to be political puppets who respond to European political pressure," Whyte said. "But they can't have it both ways."

For the past year, Europe has been promising to curb the power of the major three agencies, which the Financial Times Deutschland reported as having a collective market share of 95 percent. Although as of July 1, ESMA will hold the sole responsibility for the supervision of credit rating agencies in Europe, Fitch, Moody's and Standard and Poor's will remain the major players.

In a recent EU report on the reform of the ratings industry, Wolf Klinz, a German member of the European Parliament, called on central banks, investors and private banks to practice risk assessment themselves, thereby reducing dependency on the main agencies.

He also said ratings companies should be held accountable for the economic consequences of their actions.

"When the agencies say they are only expressing opinions, it is inaccurate," Klinz said in his report. "What we need is greater responsibility and accountability."

A European ratings entity

Fitch is owned by a European financial group

The MEP is one of many EU politicians, including Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of the group of eurozone finance ministers, to back the proposal of the creation of a European ratings agency.

But as Nicolas Veron, a senior fellow with the European think tank Bruegel, was quick to point out, the idea is a very old one, and would be hard to pull off.

"I am not exactly sure what is desired here," he told Deutsche Welle. "If it is a state controlled ratings agency, it would be hard to establish credibility, and it if is about creating a state monopoly, I think it would be a non-starter."

The future of Frankfurt

On Friday, Roland Berger Strategy Consultants announced that it is in talks with the German state of Hesse, the association Frankfurt Main Finance and the Frankfurt Stock exchange "in order to promote, establish and develop a European rating agency in Frankfurt am Main."

Could Frankfurt become home to
an European ratings agency?
The company's global head of risk management, Markus Krall, said in a statement that it was crucial to "reduce conflicts of interest and restore credibility of and confidence in ratings." He added that Roland Berger was inviting companies and institutions across Europe to participate in setting up the initiative.

Whyte, however, said he is skeptical of both the wish and the need for such an entity. He said he believes the EU is angry with rating agencies for downgrading sovereign debt and is looking for ways to make them stop.

"They always think Anglo-Saxons have an inherent bias and that an EU agency would be more balanced," he said. "But one person's balance is another person's susceptibility to political pressure."

Reporter: Tamsin Walker
Editor: Sean Sinico

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Citizens across world oppose nuclear power, poll finds

The debate over nuclear energy is fiendishly complex, but one important factor is public opinion, and people in 24 nations across the world oppose it

guardian.co.uk, Damian Carrington Thursday 23 June 2011

Nuclear power plants in the US, such as New Jersey's Oyster Creek,
are supported by 52% of Americans. Photograph: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

I've been able to express my thoughts on nuclear power on this blog, but what do the citizens of the world think? A new opinion poll from Ipsos MORI tells us: 62% of citizens in 24 countries across the world oppose the use of nuclear energy, with a quarter of those having change their minds after the Fukushima disaster.

Before looking in more detail at the poll, let me make very clear that I think the debate over nuclear power is a fiendishly complex one. It encompasses the risks of rising carbon dioxide, the strength of political will behind renewables like wind and solar, whether the true cost of nuclear can be calculated and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. I don't think there's an easy formula that combines all these factors and into which you can feed data and get the "right" answer. You have to make your own judgements about some things, as I've written before, and one of those things is public opinion.

This is a proper poll, across a wide range of countries and details of the poll methodology is at the end of this post. I am also promised a link to the full data, which I have only as a file. I'll add that when it arrives.

So what stands out? The most anti-nuclear nations in the poll, at about 80% against, were Italy, Germany and Mexico. Only three of the 24 countries had majorities that favoured nuclear power: India (61%), Poland (57%) and the US (52%). The UK and Sweden were split 50-50 within the uncertainty cited.

In France, where most of the electricity is produced by nuclear, 67% opposed it, the same percentage as in coal-rich Australia. Perhaps surprisingly, 42% of people in Japan, still recovering from the huge tremor that wrecked the Fukushima nuclear plant, remain supportive of nuclear power.

The pollsters also asked whether people opposed other ways of generating electricity. With 62% against, nuclear was the least popular, followed by coal (52% against), gas (20%), hydroelectricity (9%), wind power (7%) and solar power (3%).

Polls can't tell us why people hold the opinions they do. But its blindingly clear that renewables have global support. It is possible to keep the lights on without nuclear, if renewables get the huge support needed from governments. My question is whether governments are listening to what people want?

Methodology: The survey was conducted in 24 countries: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States of America. An international sample of 18,787 adults aged 18-64 were interviewed between May 6 and May 21, 2011 via the Ipsos Online Panel system. Approximately 1000+ individuals participated in each country with the exception of Argentina, Indonesia, Mexico, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Russia and Turkey, where each have a sample 500+. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample's composition reflected that of the adult population according to the most recent country Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of +/-3.1 percentage points for a sample of 1,000 and an estimated margin of error of +/- 4.5 percentage points for a sample of 500.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

G-20 announces measures to stabilize food prices

The Jakarta Post, Associated Press, Paris | Thu, 06/23/2011

The largest economies in the world agreed Thursday to a series of measures to stabilize world food prices after years of sudden fluctuations caused global instability, especially in poorer countries.

French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire said the G-20 summit of agriculture ministers had agreed to calm the world market by establishing a transparent system to track global supplies, set up emergency food reserves, engage in more research into new wheat strains and create a rapid response mechanism to deal with drought in producer countries.

"It is a tour de force for the international community that lets you still believe in the power of solidarity and working together to address the big questions facing the planet, like the future of world agriculture," Le Maire told journalists.

The accord was a rare case of international agreement in the area of food and agriculture, where countries have long been at loggerheads because of divergent interests.

International farm groups have also called for more regulation in the market, but that has been resisted by more free market-oriented governments like Britain and Australia.

The gravity of the situation, however, was driven home when rising energy prices prompted a spike in food prices in 2008 that sparked riots in almost two dozen nations over three continents.

Last week, David Nabarro, the U.N. special representative on food security and nutrition, said that a repeat of 2008 is very likely and shortages of food, water and power are bound to create social anxiety and political instability in the future.

A recent U.N. study also predicted that prices will be 20 percent higher for cereals and up to 30 percent higher for meat in the coming decade compared to the past ten years.

With the global population expected to increase from 6.9 billion to 9 billion by 2050, the problem of feeding the world put food security at the top of G-20 summit's agenda.

"We all recognize the necessity of putting in place on the market of agricultural products new rules and regulations," Le Maire said, reflecting the new consensus that food prices had to be protected, especially from financial speculation in commodity markets.

Several dozen French farmers dressed as livestock and ears of corn demonstrated near the Paris bourse on Wednesday, protesting the role of financial markets in the food crisis.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick appeared at the ministers' side during the news conference to express his support for the new measures and the seriousness of price swings.

"We are not going to be able to stop food prices from going up and down, but we can smooth out the swings and we can protect the poor whether they are small farmers or consumers," he said.

One of the key aspects of the new accord is the Agricultural Market Information System that would stave off panic food speculation by making instantly available to all countries the state of world food stocks, production and consumption, Zoellick explained.

"What we saw when prices started to surge in 2008 was that the lack of information on stocks and availability can lead to panic in markets and panic is what leads to price hikes," said Zoellick. "Uncertainty leads to volatility."

The new "action plan on food price volatility and agriculture" also called for the institution of emergency food reserves to offset humanitarian crises.

Banks and international agencies were also urged to draw up risk management plans for developing countries financial tools to offset price fluctuations.

"Financial engineering has been associated with the 'dark side.' This initiative helps bring it into the light," said Zoellick. "These tools that are widely and commonly used in developed countries, we can now make them available to farmers in developing countries."

The plan also called for ending export bans by producer nations, such as when Russia banned grain exports following forest fires, causing a spike in wheat prices.

Le Maire emphasized that the plan sets down concrete and ambitious proposals that will be put in place immediately.

"The plan takes place as of today," he said.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

G20 agriculture ministers to confront food crisis

Deutsche Welle, 21 June 2011

More food than ever will be needed to
feed the world
Demand for food is outpacing supply, driving up prices and eating into reserves. Agriculture ministers from the Group of 20 nations will meet in Paris this week to discuss how to combat food shortage and soaring prices.

While the G20 nations agree the world needs more affordable food, they are divided on how to achieve this goal: whether to tame prices through regulation or increase agriculture production - or both.

Agriculture ministers meeting in Paris hope to iron out their differences amid surging demand for food and biofuels that is putting upwards pressure on farm prices expected to remain high for years to come.

Their meeting is seen as a preparation for the November summit at which G20 leaders hope to agree to concrete steps to reduce food price volatility in agricultural commodities.

Calls for tighter regulation

Agreement is expected on the launch of an agricultural market information system to share key data on global stocks and production. The initiative comes as the world economy battles a food price shock due to production shortfalls, strong demand and speculators pushing prices higher.

Many speculators are laughing all the
way to the bank
But France wants far more to come out of the meeting than just an agreement on a food stock database. The country has made tighter regulation of commodity markets a top priority of its G20 leadership, which ends with the November summit. French President Nicolas Sarkozy blames speculators for the food price inflation, which, among other things, has caused unrest in parts of Africa and the Middle East.

The French proposal envisions putting a lid on how much of a market an investor can buy into or imposing a minimum cash deposit for commodity derivative transactions. It also calls for greater transparency of who is making the transactions.

Even some commodities experts, like Frank Neidig at Bankhaus-Lampe in Düsseldorf, admit to a problem with speculators. Neidig notes that while crop growers prefer to lock into fixed prices and play it safe, other stakeholders like to gamble and haul in the profits. Markets, he said, are becoming increasing crowded with speculators "who are the least bit interested in real grain deliveries."

French idea

The French idea, however, has yet to win the support of the United States, the United Kingdom and several other countries that believe speculation isn't the cause for the high food prices. Many of them argue against regulation in favour of measures to increase agricultural output through investments and the use of new technologies.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy
wants to clamp down on
Ralf Südhoff, director of the Berlin office of the United Nations World Food Program, argues that " a little bit of everything" is needed to avoid a food crisis. "We need to establish greater transparency and larger reserves," he told Deutsche Welle. "And we need to dramatically increase production in developing countries in a sustainable way and get speculators under control to calm markets and avoid price swings."

Südhoff said G20 agricultural ministers will discuss the establishment of regional reserve centers to respond to food needs in emergency cases and ways to increase food production in developing countries. But whether France, he added, can garner support for its proposal to curb speculation remains to be seen.

The clock is ticking. The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization projects that the world will need to produce 70 percent more food by 2050 to feed its population and that food prices already this decade will be 30 percent higher than in the previous decade.

The need for more affordable food is real. That's a fact G20 leaders will need to swallow fast.

Author: John Blau
Editor: Thomas Kohlmann