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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

UN says PA ready to govern state

Photo: AP

The Palestinian Authority is now largely ready to govern a state, the office of the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process said in a report on Tuesday.

"In six areas where the UN is most engaged, governmental functions are now sufficient for a functioning government of a state," said the report, which will be submitted to Palestinian donor nations meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.

But the report warned that it would be difficult for the Palestinian Authority to make any additional progress while the Israeli occupation continued and peace talks remained stalled.

"The key constraints to the existence and successful functioning of the institutions of a potential state of Palestine arise primarily from the persistence of the occupation and the unresolved issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," the report said.

"The institutional achievements of the Palestinian state-building agenda are approaching their limits within the political and physical space currently available."

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has set itself a September 2011 deadline to be ready for statehood, with the hope of pressuring Israel and the international community to recognize a Palestinian state.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since late 2010 over the issue of Jewish settlement in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

But the Palestinians have said they will seek United Nations recognition for a unilateral declaration of statehood if the talks do not resume, and have touted their state-building efforts as evidence of their readiness for statehood.

In a statement accompanying the report, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Robert Serry, praised Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

United Nations treaty giving “Mother Earth” the same rights as humans

Bolivia is preparing a draft treaty to present to the United Nations giving “Mother Earth” the same rights as humans. The bid mirrors a law passed in that country in January

UNITED NATIONS — Bolivia will this month table a draft United Nations treaty giving “Mother Earth” the same rights as humans — having just passed a domestic law that does the same for bugs, trees and all other natural things in the South American country.

The bid aims to have the UN recognize the Earth as a living entity that humans have sought to “dominate and exploit” — to the point that the “wellbeing and existence of many beings” is now threatened.

The wording may yet evolve, but the general structure is meant to mirror Bolivia’s Law of the Rights of Mother Earth, which Bolivian President Evo Morales enacted in January.

That document speaks of the country’s natural resources as “blessings,” and grants the Earth a series of specific rights that include rights to life, water and clean air; the right to repair livelihoods affected by human activities, and the right to be free from pollution.

It also establishes a Ministry of Mother Earth, and provides the planet with an ombudsman whose job is to hear nature’s complaints as voiced by activist and other groups, including the state.

“If you want to have balance, and you think that the only [entities] who have rights are humans or companies, then how can you reach balance?” said Pablo Salon, Bolivia’s ambassador to the UN. “But if you recognize that nature too has rights, and [if you provide] legal forms to protect and preserve those rights, then you can achieve balance.”

The application of the law appears destined to pose new challenges for companies operating in the country, which is rich in natural resources, including natural gas and lithium, but remains one of the poorest in Latin America.

But while Mr. Salon said his country just seeks to achieve “harmony” with nature, he signalled that mining and other companies may come under greater scrutiny.

“We’re not saying, for example, you cannot eat meat because you know you are going to go against the rights of a cow,” he said. “But when human activity develops at a certain scale that you [cause to] disappear a species, then you are really altering the vital cycles of nature or of Mother Earth. Of course, you need a mine to extract iron or zinc, but there are limits.”

Bolivia is a country with a large indigenous population, whose traditional belief systems took on greater resonance following the election of Mr. Morales, Latin America’s first indigenous president.

In a 2008 pamphlet his entourage distributed at the UN as he attended a summit there, ten “commandments” are set out as Bolivia’s plan to “save the planet” — beginning with the need “to end with capitalism.”

Reflecting indigenous traditional beliefs, the proposed global treaty says humans have caused “severe destruction … that is offensive to the many faiths, wisdom traditions and indigenous cultures for whom Mother Earth is sacred.”

It also says that “Mother Earth has the right to exist, to persist and to continue the vital cycles, structures, functions and processes that sustain all human beings.”

In indigenous Andean culture, the earth deity known as Pachamama is the centre of all life, and humans are considered equal to all other entities.

The UN debate begins two days before the UN’s recognition April 22 of the second International Mother Earth Day — another Morales-led initiative.

Canadian activist Maude Barlow is among global environmentalists backing the drive with a book the group will launch in New York during the UN debate: Nature Has Rights.

“It’s going to have huge resonance around the world,” Ms. Barlow said of the campaign. “It’s going to start first with these southern countries trying to protect their land and their people from exploitation, but I think it will be grabbed onto by communities in our countries, for example, fighting the tar sands in Alberta.”

Postmedia News

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World’s most powerful bond fund manager dumped all U.S. treasuries last month

Bill Gross, who heads up Pacific Investment Management Co., or Pimco, reduced the US$236-billion fund’s treasury holdings to -3% in March, a position achieved through derivatives, futures or short selling.

When Bill Gross bets big, markets tend to pay attention. So when the world’s most powerful bond fund manager dumped all U.S. treasuries last month, he amplified broader concerns about the stability of U.S. government debt.

And now, it appears, his confidence in treasuries has dropped to less than zero.

Mr. Gross, who heads up Pacific Investment Management Co., or Pimco, reduced the US$236-billion fund’s treasury holdings to -3% in March, a position achieved through derivatives, futures or short selling.

Paramount among the forces working against the treasury market is the approaching end to QE2, the second round of quantitative easing that saw the U.S. Federal Reserve sink US$600-billion of liquidity into the system, Mr. Gross said in recent interview.

“The question remains, when the Fed stops buying treasuries, does the private sector take the baton and run the last leg of the relay race?” he said.

For investors who forecast rising yields, there is little reason to do so.

“If things are improving, why aren’t you incentivized to go to riskier assets?” said Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets. “Why aren’t you incentivized to go into equities? Why would you put money to work in an asset that’s probably going to be falling in price?”

And treasuries are almost certain to do so as yields rise in the coming months, Mr. Porcelli said. Forecasts for economic growth and inflation alone will likely force 10-year yields past the 4% mark by the end of the year, he explained.

“Fundamentally, the environment almost demands higher yields,” Mr. Porcelli said, and that’s before factoring in concerns about U.S. federal deficit, as well as the withdrawal of quantitative easing in June.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt when such a huge buyer of treasuries exits the market, that you have to see some backup in yields. The question is, to what extent. And it’s an open question still.”

Add to all that the growing negative sentiment against U.S. treasuries, as exemplified by Mr. Gross’s vote of non-confidence.

“He has no problem putting out large bets,” said Justin Hoogendoorn, managing director at BMO Capital Markets’ fixed-income U.S. group.

But there are limits to Pimco’s influence, he added. “He has a major impact and he’s a large player, but it only goes so far.”

Since Mr. Gross eliminated government debt from the Pimco Total Return Fund last month, the market has certainly been on a slide. Treasuries fell Monday, extending a three-week decline, as yields on 10-year debt rose to 3.59%.

But much of that is explained by concerns that the pace of inflation is rising, as expected to be shown in a number of government reports due to be released this week.

Additionally, there is little chance now of Mr. Gross increasing his negative position, Mr. Hoogendoorn said. “He’s got his bet on, I would say.”

Once the Fed stops purchasing treasuries and stops injecting liquidity in the system, economic growth could slow down, Mr. Hoogendoorn said. That, in turn, could result in a spike in demand for government debt.

“We could easily see a bit of a softening and a better performance in the treasury market.”

Financial Post

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Fukushima nuclear disaster as bad as Chernobyl

The regular media Told you that wasnt that bad, that no contamination is comming... as always here comes the truth

Japan Earthquake

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Japanese officials have increased the severity rating at the Fukushima power plant to seven, the maximum level, only previously seen after Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986.

The decision by the country's nuclear regulator on Tuesday (12 April) came after radiation levels of 10,000 terabequerels per hour had been estimated for several hours, posing a greater risk for human health and the environment. Radiation levels are then reported to have dropped back.

Japan had earlier classified escaped radiation at the crisis-stricken Fukushima plant at level five on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (Ines).

Despite the maximum severity rating, officials stressed that radiation was roughly one tenth of what was seen at Europe's own nuclear disaster.

"There are still major differences from Chernobyl," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, an official at the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. "In terms of volume of radioactive materials released, our estimate shows it is about 10 percent of what was released [after the accident in Ukraine]."

The explosion of a nuclear reactor at Chernobyl spread radioactive material over a wide area, something which had not happened at the Fukushima power plant, stressed Nishiyama.

Traces of radioactive materials have been detected in Europe however, following the 11 March earthquake and subsequent tsunami which led to the Japanese crisis.

French research body CRIIRAD published a document last week in which it said the risks associated with iodine-131 contamination in Europe were no longer "negligible".

The NGO advised pregnant women and young children against the consumption of fresh milk and vegetables with large leaves, but health agencies in various member states have so far stressed that detected quantities of radioactive material are too small to pose a threat to human health.

As a "precaution", the EU on Friday reduced the thresholds of radioactive materials allowed in food and animal feed imports, previously set 24 years ago after the Chernobyl accident in the former Soviet Union.

At a meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH), EU member states endorsed a commission proposal that lowers the acceptable maximum levels of iodine-131, caesium-134 and caesium-137, bringing them into line with stricter Japanese standards.

The Japanese nuclear crisis comes as Ukraine prepares to mark the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl meltdown, with Kiev inviting world leaders to a conference on 19 April to mark the world's worst nuclear accident, which caused the evacuation of over 350,000 people.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is set to open the event, but a diplomatic row broke out last month when it was made known that Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko was also planning to attend.

Belarus was one of the country's worst effected by the Chernobyl accident, but Lukashenko is on a Western human rights blacklist and it now looks like a senior government official will replace him at the conference instead.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests 4,000 deaths may have been caused as a result of escaped radiation in Chernobyl, while others such as Greenpeace say the figure is much higher.

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Silver price doubled in the last 12 months

Silver prices at 31-year high , silver hit a new 31-year peak Tuesday as investors' desire for safe havens trumped news of a Chinese interest rate increase. the price of silver, which more than doubled in the last 12 months, climbing to its most expensive level versus gold since 1983.according to some experts like James Turk and Eric Sprott , the silver bull rally just started and we are going to see an explosion in the silver market in the coming months and years , this is the decade of the silver Eric Sprott calls it ,this is the biggest investment opportunity in human history says Mike Maloney.

Gold and Silver 
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Arab League to ask UN to impose no-fly zone over Gaza

Arab League Secretary-General Amir Moussa.

Gaza ceasefire brokered by UN official Robert Serry who acts as intermediary between Hamas and J'lem, Ma'an reports.

on Sunday announced during a special meeting in Cairo that it plans to press the UN to impose a no-fly zone over Gaza amid an escalation in violence in the area, AFP reported.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said he plans to present the proposal to the UN Security Council, the report said.

The announcement came as Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported on Sunday that UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Roberty Serry successfully brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip including Hamas.

The deal, reportedly reached Saturday night stipulated that the IDF stop its air and artillery strikes against Palestinian terrorist groups, who also reportedly have agreed to halt their rocket and mortar fire.

Neither Jerusalem nor Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip have announced a ceasefire, but senior officials made statements Sunday hinting to their openness towards such a deal.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said early Sunday that Jerusalem was willing to accept a mutual ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza after several days of projectile fire and IDF strikes, adding that "If necessary, we will act, but," he said, "restraint is also a form of strength."

"If they stop firing on our communities, we will stop firing. If they stop firing in general, it will be quiet, it will be good," Barak told Israel Radio.

On the Gazan the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, Al-Quds, said that it was committed to a ceasefire with Israel, saying it was in the "interests of our people not to give Israel an excuse to launch a major military operation in Gaza."

The announcement came only hours after the group claimed responsibility for firing three mortars and a rocket into Israeli territory Sunday morning.

Abu Ahmed, Islamic Jihad's spokesperson, said that his group would cease violence "so long as Israel fulfills it's responsibility and stops attacks against the Palestinian people in Gaza."

Hamas also softened its language on Sunday.

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