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Demonstrate Solar IS Civil Defense at the Boston Climate Defense Carnival

by gmoke Mon Nov 30th, 2015 at 12:25:34 AM EST

Update: This event has been cancelled as of November 30, 2015. 350 Maine, 350 Vermont, 350 Massachusetts, 350 New Hampshire & 350 Connecticut are organizing a Boston Climate Defense Carnival on Saturday, December 12, 2015 at 3:30pm - 5:30pm at Fanieul Hall, 1 Faneuil Hall Square, Boston, MA.

I'd like the Boston Climate Defense Carnival to demonstrate that
Solar IS Civil Defense
that by using simple Solar Principles
you can discover that
A South-facing Window Is Already a Solar Collector
and see at least six basic solar devices in a single plastic bottle

Us And Them

by john_evans Mon Nov 16th, 2015 at 05:14:52 AM EST

Daniel Schneidermann this morning (by e-mail). This is my translation, the original French follows.

Us. Our street cafés. Our laughter. Our unarmed hands in the streets of thirst. And then our flowers. Our candles. Our glistening eyes. Our proud statues. Our little hands making hearts in front of the candles and the statues, like yesterday with the pencils. Our solidarity retweets. Our little Joann Sfar cartoons. Our little crowd-replicas of the 11 January. Our little bravados. Our little braveries. We're not going to stop living. Right away this evening we're going back to the street cafés. And our little panics. Our nerves that give way when we hear firecrackers, since we keep on hearing that they thought it was firecrackers, at first. Our irresolute fears.

Our politicians. Our Sarkozies. Our Vallses. Our Cazeneuves. Their jaws set. Their bursts of figures. Their thousands of soldiers, of police officers, of border controls, of expulsions, their deprivations of nationality, their hundreds of police busts all through the night. Their inventories, their balance sheets, their imperturbable catalogues of measures to be taken, of suggestions. Their blocked software. Their incapacity to admit that it all hasn't worked.

Our newspapers. Our leader writers. Their war headlines. Their memorial special numbers. Their journalist-witnesses who live in the stricken areas, are regulars of the martyred bars. The fine words they find, here or here. Their Pantheons raised out of the sand, when suddenly it's the hipsters who have fallen. The tender hipsters. Our hipsters. Our children. Our brothers. Us. This innocent between-us of grief, that invites, as with the 11 January, tomorrow's eye-openers and disillusions.

Marking out this us is marking out a them. It is to draw, between the two, a radical, uncrossable line. It is to accept that this line exists. To discover it bounding their enclosure, unless it is ours. So, them. Who are not us, and never will be. Who we are bombing over there, don't let us forget. And who here hold the automatics. Who kill tranquilly. Who give orders. Who receive them. Who do their job. Who must have a good laugh, when they see us, with our candles and all the paraphernalia.

This unbroken line, let's dare call it by its name. Marc Trévidic [investigating magistrate in terrorist cases] is on TF1. One of the only voices that sounds right in the tumult. Who talks technique. Who talks business. Who talks shop. Hands in the motor. Who has nothing to sell, nothing to defend, neither political mandate, nor subsidised research institute. TF1 gave him three minutes, two or three times less than to Sarkozy [in the same newscast]. Three minutes to translate "state of emergency", this term that has been going the rounds since the day before, half-threat half-shield, first of all twelve days, then three months, without anyone wishing to state exactly what it means. State of emergency, Mister Judge, what does it mean? "More or less, we do Guantanamo. Perhaps the French will be in favour, perhaps the politicians will be in favour. But either we remain within a judicial system, where you need evidence to arrest and imprison someone, or we take leave of it. I'm a judge, I'm very attached to... I would have wanted us to go on being efficient while holding on to our principles. If we can't do so any longer, we'll take leave of it, and we'll do Guantanamo, that we criticised the Americans for." That's exactly what it's about. Do Guantanamo, or reopen Cayenne, it doesn't matter what we call it. We're almost there. What am I saying, we're right there. In another world, already, where no one can find the emergency exit.

Read more... (64 comments, 1183 words in story)

Cameron's ransom note

by eurogreen Fri Nov 13th, 2015 at 03:36:03 PM EST

This week, David Cameron sent a letter to Donald Tusk, outlining his proposals for changes that he seeks in the EU and in the UK's relationship with it.

For years, Cameron's posturing has been a running joke in Europe. It was purely for internal consumption within the UK political scene, and completely nonsensical when seen from the continent. But now, with the EU seriously weakened on several fronts, it could be a catalyst for intensifying the unravelling of Europe.

Read more... (5 comments, 326 words in story)

Iran's Oil Strategy: Interview in Iranian Magazine "Ayandenegar"

by ChrisCook Mon Nov 2nd, 2015 at 06:05:23 AM EST

From time to time the thoughts of Chairman Cook are published in all sorts of Iranian publications,and this interview on Page 57 of the Iranian energy/finance magazine "Ayandenegar" is my latest.

Since my Farsi is poor, I'm not sure how much of the interview was printed, and to what extent it was edited but the original English text follows.

With your permission I would like firstly to outline my view of the dynamics of modern commodity markets. The market in fossil fuels has exhibited the same cyclical 'Boom and Bust' behaviour historically as any other commodity market. In my analysis there are essentially two price levels or boundaries in commodity markets, and where the commodity is limited in supply both of these boundary levels trend upwards over time.

Firstly, there is a lower boundary level or 'buyer's market' at which supply exceeds demand. The cheapness of the commodity attracts new buyers while producers with high costs shut down production when losses become too great to bear. Meanwhile banks and investors are reluctant to finance new development.

Over time, demand for consumption begins to exceed supply - a 'seller's market' - until the market price eventually reaches the upper boundary level. At this point the combination of new higher cost supply, and demand destruction through substitution or efficiency measures leads to an excess of supply over demand and the price falls to the lower boundary again.

In the case of the oil market this cycle has been amplified by the presence in the market of massive financial buying of commodities supported by debt, derivatives such as futures contracts, and more recently, by passive investment by risk averse investors fearful of price inflation, and investing in commodities in an attempt to preserve the $ value of their capital.

So much for the history, but I must add at this point that I believe that this historic paradigm of boom and bust is now over for good. Due to exclusion by sanctions from both physical and financial markets Iran has a historic opportunity to refuse to rejoin the failed Western oil market paradigm and to lead the transition to a new paradigm.

So with that introduction I will now turn to your questions.

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Zero Net Energy

by gmoke Wed Oct 21st, 2015 at 11:27:58 PM EST

Zero net energy is a growing body of practice in which buildings produce all the energy they consume.  It is the application of high efficiency construction in combination with renewable energy, usually solar or geothermal.  Sometimes it is also called net zero energy building.

I began to collect links to various zero net energy building projects around the world back in 2013 soon after, in the story I heard, Cambridge City Councillor Minka Van Beuzekom  proposed it as a building standard for a large development MIT is planning in East Cambridge.  That idea didn't fly (the development is part of an ecodistrict instead, as I understand it) but did lead to a task force which has prepared a path to zero net energy standards in the city.

The EU has adopted the building energy target of nearly zero and all new public buildings must be nearly zero-energy by 2018 with all new buildings, public or private, constructed to nearly zero-energy standards by the end of 2020.

CA has a 2020 zero net energy goal "focused on new residential construction, including single-family and low-rise multifamily (3 stories or less) buildings, as well as low and moderate income housing within these categories."

The knowledge and materials to build buildings that are comfortable without outside energy inputs through advances in energy efficiency and energy production on site have made zero net energy buildings practical and affordable.  They will only become more so as time goes on, examples accumulate, and experience grows.

Since we build about a million new residential units a year, nearly 1% of the units available, these changes in the way we shelter ourselves will have increasingly significant effects on our energy usage in the years and decades after 2020 in, at least, Cambridge, CA, and the EU.

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Portugal: Left Front government prospect rocks the establishment

by Luis de Sousa Mon Oct 19th, 2015 at 08:08:13 AM EST

"As if we were overthrowing the remainder of the Berlin Wall." That is how António Costa, the leader of PS, described the events of the past two weeks in Portugal. Beyond all the metaphors this sentence may carry, it properly conveys the sense of fundamental shift in the country's politics. Right from election night, events took an unusual course, departing from the traditions instituted since the 1974 revolution.

This note digests the events of these past two weeks and the political choices the country faces. It then reflects on the particularly delicate situation in which the Social Democrats now find themselves, to which there are many parallels at the European scale. I then try to anticipate forthcoming developments.

Update 23-10-2015: President Cavaco Silva addressed the country yesterday evening to communicate his decision to appoint Pedro Passos Coelho as prime minister, leaving the right in power. With an uncharacteristic surly tone, the president made clear he will not accept a left front government, calling such solution "inconsistent". The president now hopes for a rebellion within PS to support his government. If that does not happen, Portugal will remain effectively without a government until next March, when Cavaco Silva leaves office.

Promoted by DoDo

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DÖ is dead

by fjallstrom Mon Oct 12th, 2015 at 05:54:29 PM EST

Decemberöverenskommelsen (DÖ) - The December deal is being buried in Sweden. That is the name of the deal that prevented new elections in Sweden after last autumn's cabinet crisis in Sweden that followed the rather inconclusive elections. The deal that was supposed to last until 2022 did not last a year.

So is the crisis back on? Not at all.

Promoted by DoDo

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Ireland 24 France 9

by Frank Schnittger Sun Oct 11th, 2015 at 02:11:18 PM EST

OK, I don't want to crow too much but Ireland were unfortunate to win by only 15 points and lose three of their best players to injury - Sexton, O'Connell and O'Mahoney - three of the main leaders of the team.  The match confirmed my  prior prognostications that Ireland are now a better team than that which won the last two 6 Nations titles.  Not only that, but all 8 substitutes played their part and added something positive to the team performance - something that would never have been the case in the past.

For France it is a demoralising defeat, the third time in a row that they have now lost to Ireland - and they have not beaten Ireland in their last five meetings.  Ireland had 70% possession and France never looked even close to winning the match never once threatening the Irish try line. Having said all of that, France are still a very good side, and could well embarrass the All Blacks in the quarter-final.

The Quarter final match-ups have now been decided:

South Africa vs. Wales
New Zealand vs. France
Ireland vs. Argentina
Australia versus Scotland

In other words, very much as I predicted with Wales replacing the home nation England. So much for my detractors Eurogreen, Melanchthon et al! That is part of the weakness of Rugby as a world sport: the international pecking order is fairly clearly established and is rarely upset.  For all their natural and numerical advantages, France still have some way to go to being a top power in World Rugby.

Having said all that, if O'Connell and Sexton are ruled out of the World Cup, the road ahead will become increasingly difficult for Ireland.  Argentina will offer a stern challenge in the quarter final and my prediction that Ireland will proceed to the semi-final is far from a done deal.  Nevertheless it has beeen a good week for Irish sport - beating world champions Germany in the European Cup qualifying was another highlight.  If things get much better than this, I can see Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, calling a snap general election in November rather than the expected date in early spring...

Comments >> (15 comments)

Silver screen science

by DoDo Mon Oct 5th, 2015 at 03:38:44 PM EST

After Gravity two years ago and Interstellar last year, the recently released The Martian is the third big-budget hard sci-fi movie with an ambition to show more than escapist fantasy. The more so as this story of a Martian Robinsonade and an interplanetary rescue mission was based on a hard sci-fi novel in which the calm application of the scientific method is the key to survival. So I watched with even higher expectations on scientific realism. But, while the film is spectacular and relatively well-acted, and there was plenty of applied science – from growing plants to establishing communication with Earth –, unfortunately, director Ridley Scott played more fast and loose than the creators of the previous two films.

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Onwards and upwards: Rugby World Cup 2015 Part II

by Frank Schnittger Mon Oct 5th, 2015 at 07:32:37 AM EST

England, despite home advantage, have crashed out of the World Cup beaten by their own expectations and two very good Wales and Australia performances.  Some crunch matches remain - notably Australia vs. Wales and France vs. Ireland to see who wins their respective pools and thus how, exactly, the quarter-finalists will match up. But the likelihood of an upset is now very small and only Japan, of the Tier 2 nations, have a realistic chance of progressing if they beat the USA and Scotland fail to beat Samoa.

The Quarter-finalists will thus likely be very much as I predicted in Rugby World Cup with Wales replacing England.  Hardly a shock result as results between them have tended to be 50:50.  What is remarkable is that Wales have achieved this despite losing 6 of their best backs to injury. Good team management, spirit, cohesion and tactical nous still counts for a lot in rugby.  However after Australia's convincing win against England, it is hard to bet against them beating Wales and winning the pool.  Both France and Ireland have been under-whelming to date, so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top on Sunday 11th. October.

Read more... (2 comments, 660 words in story)

Zero Emissions Economy to Reversing Global Warming

by gmoke Thu Oct 1st, 2015 at 03:32:17 PM EST

Meteor Blades recently (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/09/28/1425368/-Open-thread-for-night-owls-Mobilizing-for-the-clim ate-crisis) wrote about The Climate Mobilization (http://www.theclimatemobilization.org) which is asking people to sign a pledge to

Reduce our country's [USA's] net greenhouse gas emissions 100 percent by 2025 and implement far-reaching measures to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere...

Establish the following imperatives as our nation's top foreign policy priorities: A 100 percent reduction of global net greenhouse gas emissions at wartime speed, and the deployment of comprehensive measures that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere until a safe climate is restored.

Zero emissions of greenhouse gases is a necessary mental step to take and it is good to see that people are beginning to organize around it.  I've been writing about a zero emissions economy for at least 20 years and that means EVERYTHING not just greenhouse gases.  Zero emissions as an approachable goal as zero defects on a production line in Total Quality Management is an approachable goal.  Zero emissions for all materials and resources within an ecological design framework like Bill McDonough's simple ecological design principles:
waste equals food
use only available solar income
respect diversity
love all the children

We should be doing this as at least a thought experiment now and, I believe, that thought experiment would have enormous benefits as we transition to a new ecological economy where the throw away society begins to realize there is no such place as away.

Recently, I had the opportunity to raise these ideas with the Dr Lynn Orr, DOE Undersecretary for Science and Technology, at MIT as both a public question and in private conversation.  Perhaps I planted a seed.

I'm also glad to see that The Climate Mobilization is taking on another part of the climate question which is not often addressed.  Zero emissions of greenhouse gases is good but it addresses only the source side of the issue.  There are sinks as well.  As systems dynamics teaches, a working system contains both sources and sinks.  John Wick is a CA rancher who has measured for the last 5 years a ton of carbon per hectare per year sequestered on his grazing land and computer models estimate that he can do this for 30-100 years.  See http://www.marincarbonproject.org He says there are 35 soil carbon sequestration methods now recognized by USDA.  Soil scientist Rattan Lal believes that increasing soil carbon on agricultural lands globally could reverse climate change within a decade or two.

I also mentioned this to Undersecretary Orr.

On October 16-18, 2015 there will be a conference at Tufts University on Restoring Water Cycles to Reverse Global Warming (http://bio4climate.org/conferences/conferences-2015/tufts-2015-restoring-water-cycles/).  Last year, the same group held a conference on soil carbon cycles (http://bio4climate.org/conferences/conference-2014/).  You can watch the proceedings on their webpages.  You can also participate in Soil Saturday on October 10 (https:/www.facebook.com/events/559598744189515) to help raise awareness about these issues and practical solutions to reverse climate change now while improving the soil and rebuilding our agricultural systems.

Zero emissions of greenhouse gases is a radical idea in the present context.  A zero emissions economy and reversing climate change through natural soil and water carbon cycles are even more radical and far-reaching.  They are also very much within our grasp if we want to reach for them.

Comments >> (6 comments)

Portugal Parliamentary Elections 2015

by Luis de Sousa Mon Sep 28th, 2015 at 06:37:09 AM EST

Portugal is going for regular Parliamentary elections on the 4th of October. The international press wonders now and then why after five years of austerity the political landscape remains apparently unchanged, with the three parties that signed the agreement with the Troika in 2011 still harnessing more than two thirds of the votes in polls.

While it is true that political upheaval seen in Spain, Italy or Greece is yet to materialise in Portugal, the outcome of this election is not as straightforward as might appear on the surface.

This post provides an overview on the election method, the parties with possibilities of electing MPs and the prospects for a resulting government.

Promoted by DoDo

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LQD: Precariat and UBI

by ATinNM Thu Sep 24th, 2015 at 01:37:00 PM EST

The Growing Precariat: Why We Need a Universal Basic Income:

Globalisation, technological change, and government policies have produced a class structure with a tiny plutocracy of billionaires coexisting with a dwindling salariat, with employment security, pensions and paid vacations, and a rapidly growing precariat, living bits-and-pieces lives, without occupational careers and experiencing declining real wages. Telling the precariat that they must obtain more schooling and training is disingenuous. Millions are currently over-qualified for the labor and work they can expect to be doing.

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Rugby World Cup

by Frank Schnittger Thu Sep 24th, 2015 at 01:28:21 PM EST

OK, so I know that Eurotrib.com isn't exactly a hotbed of sports fans, never mind professional rugby fans.  But who amongst us is perfect? I've long been an armchair rugby supporter even though my own experience of the game is decidedly limited and mixed. So for the very afew readers here with a passing interest in rugby, what follows is my take on the Rugby World Cup which has just gotten under way.

  1. Although World Rugby Limited (the Governing Body) like to claim the Rugby World Cup is the third biggest sporting event that ever takes place on this planet, rugby still has relatively limited appeal.  Only four countries (New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and England) have ever won the quadrennial World Cup in its 28 year history, and there are, at most, 7 or 8 countries with any realistic prospect of winning the Cup, and anything other than a New Zealand win this time around would be an upset.

  2. The fact that a "second tier" nation (Japan) has actually beaten one of the major powers (South Africa) in this years tournament is, already, one of the greatest shocks of World Cup history. Of course the playing schedule, designed to suit the "tier 1 nations", then immediately pitted the Japanese against an improving Scottish team with only  three rest days in between.  Not surprisingly, Japan then lost to a team much less accomplished than South Africa. Rugby is a much more physical game than soccer, and it simply isn't possible to peak for two games in a row within 5 days. Professional boxers, by way of comparison, often only have 2 or 3 fights in a year.

  3. If you want to predict the relative standard of each rugby playing nation, the following table is instructive:

New Zealand outperforms based on its player numbers because it is the no. 1 sport in New Zealand, and practically defines New Zealand's identity, whereas, say, in Ireland, Rugby is only the no. 3 or 4 sport, behind Gaelic football, Soccer, and Hurling.

4. The other key determinant of playing standard is whether a country can support or participate in a professional club league.  New Zealand, South Africa, France and England have their own fully professional indigenous leagues whereas the Celtic Nations, Italy and Australia have a share in multi-national professional leagues.

5. Overall, however, there are only a few hundred fully professional players in even the leading nations, with the vast bulk of the players being amateurs.  And even the top professional players only earn in a year what a top soccer player can earn in a week. Players in many nations like the Pacific islands or eastern Europe have to migrate to New Zealand, Australia, France or England to earn a living, and often end up playing international rugby for their adopted country. The advent of professionalism in the 1990's has therefore only served to accentuate the divide between the leading and second tier nations.

So who is going to win this year's tournament?  If you can't contain your excitement, please follow me below the divide...

Read more... (19 comments, 1142 words in story)

City Agriculture Links List

by gmoke Wed Sep 23rd, 2015 at 11:40:47 PM EST

I've been doing an occasional email on City Agriculture links that I come across navigating the online infosphere for a couple of years now.  Every few weeks there are enough links to warrant an email to the City Ag mailing list.  This one is a little larger than usual.  

If you're interested, contact me and I'll add you to the mailing list.

Atlanta homeless shelter rooftop farm
http://atlantaprogressivenews.com/2015/05/17/task-force-shelter-producing-pounds-of-veggies-on-rooft op-garden/

City trees and health mapping app from Portland State University, funded by the U.S. Forest Service

Urban Permablitz

2nd Annual Food+City Challenge Prize (formerly known as the Food Lab at The University of Texas) open to anyone, anywhere with a great idea that will improve how our food system operates.  Submissions open Tues, 9/1 and run through 10/15. Go to

SF's Neighborhood Vineyard Project
http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/aug/27/can-san-francisco-establish-its-first-urban-vineyard- since-the-19th-century

The Cannery in Davis, CA - a farm to table community development

Sustainable restaurant on a rooftop farm in Copenhagen

Re-Nuble - urban metabollism and local food

Pop-up urban farm in Norway

Plant This Movie - urban farming around the world, from the incredible story of Havana, Cuba to communities of urban farmers in cities as diverse as Shanghai, Calcutta, Addis Ababa, London, and Lima.  In the US, the story focuses on New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon.  The film is narrated by Daryl Hannah.

The last decade of urban agriculture in Detroit

Cook County Jail flower garden
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/cook-county-jail-flower-garden_55c917cbe4b0f73b20ba69c4?kvcommre f=mostpopular

Can cities feed themselves?  Estimates are that 15 percent of all food in the United States is produced in a metropolitan area
www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/7023/Cleveland-Other-Cities-Could-Produce-Most-of-Their-Food-Ohio-S tate-Study.htm - study by OHIO AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT CENTER shows that "by using just 80 percent of the vacant land in Cleveland, producers could grow 50 percent of the fruits and vegetables, 25 percent of the poultry and eggs, and 100 percent of the honey that the city consumes..."

GrowOnUs floating garden for food and phytoremediation on Gowanus Canal
http://inhabitat.com/nyc/floating-water-filtering-garden-pops-up-on-the-gowanus-canal/diane-balmori- with-growonus

Research study on Chicago gardens and gentrification
http://community.bowdoin.edu/news/2015/08/in-chicago-michelle-kruk-16-researches-gardening-gentrific ation-link/

Short history of Detroit urban agriculture system

Urban farmers around the world
http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/sep/18/urban-farmers-around -the-world-in-pictures

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Peak CRH

by DoDo Sat Sep 12th, 2015 at 06:43:57 PM EST

Let's interrupt our witnessing of Europe's self-destruction with austerity and xenophobia (well unless Corbyn, Podemos & co can turn the tide), with another update on a case study of what would be possible if our leaders would have real visions: China's rapid expansion of rail infrastructure.

I have no narrowly defined occasion to post this now, just that 2015 looks like the year the construction of high-speed lines peaks, and the finances of the operational network consolidate.

A CRH380CL (front) and a CRH380BL (back), which represent two successive stages in the domestic further development on the basis of Siemens's Velaro platform, meet at Beijing South in January 2014. Photo from Wimimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 3.0

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Orbán's Next Plan

by DoDo Thu Sep 10th, 2015 at 02:59:37 PM EST

If you think the Orbán regime's handling of refugees bottomed out morally with the situation at Röszke, wait until next week, when Hungary's recently passed tough anti-migration laws come into effect.

Until the late summer, Viktor Orbán's government had no migration policy: they only had a premature election campaign, a xenophobic drive aimed at the domestic population. But when reality struck back and not managing the situation resulted in a crisis (eventually shutting down the most important transport route of the country), the regime had to consider actual policy – and their policy of choice is deterrence. Some say the refusal of UN and EU help or the apparent total incompetence of authorities at the refugee gathering site at Röszke is a first conscious part of this. True or not, the real deal is the plan set in motion with a legal package adopted last week and coming into force on Tuesday next week. One that is both vile and impractical.

Stuff like the reinforcing of the border fence, sending down the army, and criminalising illegal immigration and any aid given to migrants reached the international media. But there is more: the practical negation of the right for asylum. To achieve the goal of turning away just about everyone, refugee processing camps are to be set up directly at the Serbian border, in front of (not behind) the border fence. There, Kafkaesque courts housed in containers are to go through the legal motions to arrive at a guaranteed rejection, on the basis that people can take refuge in Serbia which is a safe country.

This plan can easily turn deadly: if, like at Röszke, the government does little to feed and protect the heath of the waiting crowds, or if there is a crowd crush. Furthermore, the plan is way too optimistic about managing crossings of the fence and smuggling (not to speak of people running along the tracks when the gates are opened for a train). Finally, it guarantees even less cooperation from Serbia than before. IMHO the only way it can avoid becoming a total disaster is if the onset of cold weather throttles the refugee wave.

Comments >> (23 comments)

A mini Eurotrib funding drive for UNHCR

by epochepoque Tue Sep 8th, 2015 at 02:37:12 PM EST

UN agencies 'broke and failing' in face of ever-growing refugee crisis - Guardian

Click on the link to see the complete graph. The first bar is the current unfilled request of the UNHCR for $2.89 billion for the Syria regional response plan. Only $0.9 billion of the total $3.8 billion have been funded. If some European governments had had the foresight (yeah I know), they would've just funded the rest long ago which would've been that much cheaper. Bygones, but it's not too late to make a difference.

frontpaged with minor edit - Bjinse

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The 2nd Migrant Wave to Germany

by DoDo Thu Sep 3rd, 2015 at 08:12:27 AM EST

Back in 1989, around the time school started for me at the start of September, Budapest was full of East Germans hoping to leave for West Germany (for a mix of political and economic reasons), hopeful because Hungary started to dismantle the Iron Curtain a few months earlier. A large group camped out at the West German embassy, but there were makeshift camps around the city. The government finally opened the borders for them on 11 September, launching a mostly car-riding emigration wave (at least 70,000 people in three months). A few weeks later, East Germans camping out in Warshaw and Prague were taken to West Germany in sealed trains.

Yesterday, something similar happened, only this time the refugees are dark-skinned and faced much worse treatment. In line with both the government's xenophobic campaign and the EU's Dublin Agreement (whose main aim was to keep refugees from moving to the richer EU members), Hungarian authorities prevented the mostly Syrian refugees without EU visa from boarding trains bound for the west. Most of the stranded refugees who refused to be taken to Hungarian camps stayed in the underpass at main station Budapest Keleti (up to two thousand), in a makeshift "transit zone" lacking basic hygiene and only cared for by an NGO.

I don't know whether it was concern about image (to have such misery as the first sight of arriving Western tourists), or anger at the German foreign minister's denouncement of the anti-refugee wall built at the Serbian border, or anger at general Western hypocrisy; but yesterday, the government decided to withdraw police and let refugees board the trains. Without any plans about how to manage the thousands of extra passengers (all transit countries refused to send extra trains), entirely predictably, the result was utter chaos, from Budapest to Munich: ticket counters were (actually, still are) clogged, some trains left with an hour delay due to over-loading, the first train was stopped in the last city before Munich but local police didn't have the capacity to process more than half of the refugees on-board; other trains were stopped at the Hungarian–Austrian border station, but after the filtering-out of refugees who already filed for asylum in Hungary the trains still travelled on over capacity; on the parallel highway, Austrian police started checks of all trucks, causing a 50 km traffic jam.

For the hectic events since, especially today, check the comments.

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The UK Left and Brexit

by car05 Thu Aug 27th, 2015 at 02:37:04 PM EST

Many on the UK left seem caught in the middle between escaping from an EU that, after the treatment of the Greeks, looks like an instrument of torture, and the gloomy prospects for the politics of an unreformed UK state...

The long-awaited in-out referendum on the UK's continued membership of the European Union (EU) is coming soon, in 2016 or 2017. But it isn't clear what, if any, clear options exist within a morass of unpredictable consequences and a rapidly growing uncertainty at the heart of a European project increasingly dominated by a single, politically rootless German state.
EU reform and the left.

Those of us on the left, seeking more genuinely internationalist outcomes, might place faith in the prospect of a reformed EU. Perhaps this would entail a wholly improved and empowered European parliament, which would either involve a diminution of national sovereignty or a decrease in inter-governmental decision-making. It might involve a newly remoulded European commission, dedicated to developing new forms of actual co-operation across Europe, rather than simply pushing for liberalisation and strange policy minutia which barely flirts with regulating a fairly destructive consumer economy.

It should be noted that realistic chances of such reforms to parliament or commission happening appear to be exceptionally remote, and that the commission appears to lack both the drive and resources to engineer a form of internationalist social enterprise as many of us would perhaps like to see. Despite the presence of some fairly underdeveloped countries and regions on Europe's south-eastern borders, we are unlikely to see pan-international development strategies along the lines of a Marshall Plan.

Instead, given that fundamental institutional reform is such a remote and unpopular prospect, a pro-reform stance would perhaps require a more explicit political union of Eurozone countries in order to engineer pan-European Keynesian economics in the core EU federation. It holds out the prospect of Eurobonds, and increasing fiscal union, with political structures which would increasingly cement the Eurozone states into an inseparable federation.

Of course, with the UK unlikely to adopt the Euro in any case, this would not be an option which the UK could seriously engage with or promote, even if it were to continue its reluctant and grudging acceptance of EU membership. If the Eurozone were to allow a Keynesian approach to deficit spending, it would require the amendment of treaties extending back, at least, to the 1992 Maastricht Treaty. Once again, one is forced to conclude that such a development appears unlikely.

More here...

What I think is uniquely frustrating in 2015, is that there are these huge transfers going on from the richer to poorer countries in the EU; but with hugely inequitable results... And if it all falls apart at some stage, the opportunity for any kind of solidarity might be even harder.

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