Tag Archives: eu

VOD: Is Russell Brand an Anarchist or Just Smarter Than We Give Him Credit For?

Russell Brand has been known to rustle more than a few feathers for speaking his mind. He gets a bad wrap for his crude sense of stage humor or the details of his short-lived marriage to Katy Perry ending up in the tabloids. He doesn’t mind telling off reporters when they slack in asking thoughtful and researched questions and he’s all about sharing his enlightening experiences with yoga and meditation. But would you peg him for a political scholar?

He just finished a week as guest editor at New Statesman despite having never voted in his life. In a recent interview on the BBC’s Newsnight, Russell shared his disdain for the current political system and how it favors the rich hierarchy. He spends a large amount of time defending his position of not voting as his way of refusing to comply with a system that clearly doesn’t benefit the lower classes. Having grown up poor, Russell explains that’s why a lot of poor youth don’t vote – their apathy comes from growing up in a system that clearly doesn’t cater to their needs. Newsnight host bawks at Brand, saying he has no right to complain about a system that he doesn’t put a voice into – and Russell argues back that it seems pointless to voice an opinion in a system that doesn’t work. It seems like revolutionary talk, but the further he explains the more you realize it actually makes sense. Is voter apathy a sign of youth laziness or a call for political overhaul? Does it make Russell irresponsible for promoting these tactics or is he on to something?

Even if you don’t agree with Russell’s political sense, you should also check out this interview where he explains that every person is just a different physical representation of God – or the ordering force of the universe. You’ll see it sounds pretty similar to this Deepak Chopra interview. And you probably thought he was just a comedian with crazy hair.

Way to go Russell.

Brazil Suspends Amazon Dam Project Targeted By Avatar Director

With the 40th anniversary of Earth Day just around the corner, a renewed sense of activism and attention is cast around the present state of our natural environment. What started as a local grassroots effort to increase environmental awareness and provoke action from our political leaders has not only led to significant policy changes, but has also developed into an international celebration of our planet. As we remember what this day first meant, it is important we not only look back on our past with a critical eye, but also look at our world with the hope that is needed to make the future better than today. We, along with our partner Rainforest Alliance, are calling on you to take the action needed to help make that dream a reality. Because as the recent events involving the rainforest show us, we hold the power for both tremendous improvement and colossal destruction.

We start with an update in Brazil, where a recent decision to suspend the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam provides new evidence for an argument we have been highlighting for months, suggesting Hollywood holds a great deal of environmental leadership power. The project cited as a "danger of irreparable harm" to the Amazon rainforest" was suspended after Avatar director, James Cameron, not only vocalized concerns but also visited the indigenous communities who would be impacted by the dam. And in Malaysia, individuals continue to work towards protecting land in Borneo. Recent efforts have been directed at attaining a World Heritage Listing for the Maliau Basin, which would effectively save the isolated and celebrated rain forests from timber and mining interests.

The gains in positive action have also been coupled with reports of controversy and scandal. Palm oil has been a topic of continual scrutiny, and as we’ve seen, Unilever, the world’s biggest buyer of palm oil, has been at the center. Unilever had suspended business with Sinar Mas after reports surfaced that the company is partaking in the illegal destruction of rainforest land. Based on the company’s latest decision to purchase palm oil from PT SMART a subdivision of Sinar Mas, Unilever is not only sending mixed messages to its consumers but also has learned little from its past. The EU Ecolabel has come under fire from consumers, environmentalists, and The European Environmental Bureau (EEC) who are all angered by recent revelations that Golden Plus and Lucky Boss brand copy paper, products which had been awarded with the EU Ecolabel, have actually been adding to "devastating impacts on Sumatran rainforests, causing deforestation, threatening endangered species such as the orangutan, and harming the rights of indigenous peoples".

It is obvious that we have a long way to go in solving our global environmental crisis, but just because it may seem daunting doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In the words of late anthropologist Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." We encourage you to keep this in mind as you move forward and invite you to join our celebration of Earth Day by visiting us on Facebook.

Gulf petro-powers to launch currency in latest threat to dollar hegemony

Posted on 16 December 2009

The Arab states of the Gulf region have agreed to launch a single currency modelled on the euro, hoping to blaze a trail towards a pan-Arab monetary union swelling to the ancient borders of the Ummayad Caliphate.

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By Daniel Spelzmann
Published: 7:12PM GMT 15 Dec 2009

“The Gulf monetary union pact has come into effect,” said Kuwait’s finance minister, Mustafa al-Shamali, speaking at a Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) summit in Kuwait.

The move will give the hyper-rich club of oil exporters a petro-currency of their own, greatly increasing their influence in the global exchange and capital markets and potentially displacing the US dollar as the pricing currency for oil contracts. Between them they amount to regional superpower with a GDP of $1.2 trillion (£739bn), some 40pc of the world’s proven oil reserves, and financial clout equal to that of China.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar are to launch the first phase next year, creating a Gulf Monetary Council that will evolve quickly into a full-fledged central bank.

The Emirates are staying out for now – irked that the bank will be located in Riyadh at the insistence of Saudi King Abdullah rather than in Abu Dhabi. They are expected join later, along with Oman.

The Gulf states remain divided over the wisdom of anchoring their economies to the US dollar. The Gulf currency – dubbed “Gulfo” – is likely to track a global exchange basket and may ultimately float as a regional reserve currency in its own right. “The US dollar has failed. We need to delink,” said Nahed Taher, chief executive of Bahrain’s Gulf One Investment Bank.

The project is inspired by Europe’s monetary union, seen as a huge success in the Arab world. But there are concerns that the region is trying to run before it can walk.

Europe took 40 years to reach the point where it felt ready to launch a currency. It began with the creation of the Iron & Steel Community in the 1950s, moving by steps towards a single market enforced by powerful Commission and European Court. The EMU timetable was fixed at the Masstricht in 1991 but it took another 11 for euro notes and coins to reach the streets.

Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Kalifa, Bahrain’s foreign minister, told the FIKR Arab Thought summit in Kuwait that the project would not work unless the Gulf countries first break down basic barriers to trade and capital flows.

At the moment, trucks sit paralysed at border posts for days awaiting entry clearance. Labour mobility between states is almost zero.

“The single currency should come last. We need to coordinate our economic policies and build up common infrastructure as a first step,” he said.

Mohammed El-Enein, chair of the energy and industry committee in Egypt’s parliament, said Europe’s example could help the Arab world achieve its half-century dream of a unified currency, but the task requires discipline. “We need exactly the same institutions as the EU has created. We need a commission, a court, and a bank,” he said.

The last currency to trade in souks from Marakesh, to Baghdad and Mecca, was the Ottomon Piaster, known as the “kurush”. It suffered chronic inflation as the silver coinage was debased.

There is a logic to an Arab currency. The region speaks one language, has the unifying creed of “Umma Wahida” or One Nation from the Koran, and has not torn itself apart in savage wars – ever – in quite the way that Europe has in living memory.

Yet hurdles are formidable even for the tight-knit group of Gulf states. While the eurozone is a club of rough equals – with Germany, France, Italy, and Spain each holding two votes on the ECB council – the Gulf currency will be dominated by Saudi Arabia. The risk is that other countries will feel like satellites. Monetary policy will inevitably be set for Riyadh’s needs.

Hans Redeker, currency chief at BNP Paraibas, said the Gulf states may have romanticised Europe’s achievement and need to move with great care to avoid making the same errors.

“The Greek crisis has exposed the weak foundations on which the euro is built. The gap in competitiveness between core Europe and the periphery has grown wider and wider. The obvious mistake was to launch EMU without a central fiscal authority and political union, as the Bundesbank warned in the 1990s,” he said.

“The euro was created for political reasons after the fall of the Berlin Wall to lock Germany irrevocably into Europe. It was not done for economic reasons,” he said.

Ben Simpfendorfer, Asia economist for RBS and an expert on the Middle East, told the FIKR conference that the rise of China had paradoxically disrupted the case for pan-Arab economic integration.

There was a natural fit ten years ago between rich oil state and low-wage manufacturers in Egypt and Syria, but cheap exports from China have forced poorer Arab states to retreat behind barriers to shelter their industries. “The rationale for a single currency has become weaker,” he said.

The GCC also agreed to create a joint military strike force – akin to the EU’s rapid reaction force – to tackle threats such as the incursion of Yemeni Shiite rebels into Saudi territory earlier this year.

This is a major breakthrough after years of deadlock on defence cooperation.

The Sunni Gulf states are deeply concerned about the great power ambitions of Shiite Iran and its quest for nuclear weapons, to the point where the theme of a possible war between Iran and a Saudi-led constellation of states has crept into the media debate.

They nevertheless repeated on Tuesday that “any military action against Iran” by Western powers would be unacceptable.

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