11 Countries Are Meeting in Peru to Figure Out How They Can Control the Internet | The Top Information Post

11 Countries Are Meeting in Peru to Figure Out How They Can Control the Internet | The Top Information Post.

But now it appears that it’s going to be even easier for international copyright offenders to be tried in court by the interests–and lobbying power–of Hollywood. Starting today, 11 countries—Canada, America, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, Brunei, Malaysia, Australia, and New Zealand—are having a secret (no members of the public and no press) meeting in Lima, Peru to figure out what can be done about copyright offenders who transmit Hollywood’s precious content over the interweb’s tubes without paying for it.

The meeting is held under the banner of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. They’re looking to sign an international treaty that will create world government-esque laws to handle anyone who downloads an early leak of Iron Man 3 illegally.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is calling this the “biggest global threat to the internet since ACTA.” If you remember, ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) is an international, internet-policing treaty that was shut down by the European Parliament with a 92 percent nay vote. Luckily for Europeans, no EU country is anywhere near the TPP negotiations in Peru right now—and European politicians are now quick to distance themselves from the policies that ACTA is trying to ram down the world’s throat.

But in North America, the ACTA movement is still very much alive. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government passed a bill in March that makes Canada more ACTA-friendly by allowing customs officers to destroy counterfeit goods and ratcheting up the criminal penalties against copyright offenders. And the United States has seized hip-hop blog domains without warning or trial, because they were alleged to host pirated material.

A leaked chapter outlining some preliminary discussion to re-examine intellectual property has revealed that TPP wants to add further checks and balances to restrict fair use. Those behind TPP want to make sure that if a teacher is trying to show some copyrighted material in their class for the purpose of education, or if a humorist using copyrighted material in an article for the purpose of satire, they’re doing so under what TPP calls a “good faith activity.”

The language in this leaked TPP chapter is incredibly dense and dates back to February 2011—so not only is it a confusing bit of writing, but it will also likely be revised over and over during this meeting in Peru. As it stands, the EFF is worried that “the United States is trying to export the worst parts of its intellectual property law without bringing any of the [fair use] protections.” And just like SOPA or CISPA, many people are concerned that the broad language in new legal terms like “good faith activity” will potentially lead to unjust prosecutions.


NZ WikiLeaks scoop: NZ, US in trade battle – National – NZ Herald News

NZ WikiLeaks scoop: NZ, US in trade battle – National – NZ Herald News.


Intellectual property is especially important to Hollywood and US pharmaceutical, biotechnology and entertainment corporations, which have a strong influence over the Obama Administration’s trade policy. Their influence is seen throughout the draft document.

A large section reveals the battle between the US pharmaceutical lobby and countries such as New Zealand that want to continue to buy cheaper generic medicines. The US negotiators have inserted several pages of measures to help maintain and extend the dominant position of big pharmaceutical companies. Only the US supported these proposals while Australia, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei opposed them in full.

New Zealand is the lead nation for a series of alternative proposals to “adopt and maintain measures to encourage the timely entry of pharmaceutical products to the market”. Canada, Singapore, Chile, Malaysia and Vietnam join New Zealand in proposing rules that would avoid blocks to generic medicines.

Since this text was written US Trade Representative Michael Froman has publicly proposed giving developing countries a phase-in period if they accept the US-promoted pharmaceutical rules, but this would give no relief to New Zealand.

Other areas of dispute are provisions that would require internet service providers to enforce copyright of behalf of foreign corporations, including closing down their customers’ accounts; overseas royalty payments on all books, music and movies for 20 years longer than at present; restricting cheaper parallel importing; imposing penalties for breaking “digital locks” such as regional zones on lawful DVDs; allowing plants and animals to be patented; and allowing “diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical methods for the treatment of humans or animals” to be patented.

There is also dispute over agricultural chemicals.

A target of Christmas for concluding the agreement was set by President Barack Obama last year and was reconfirmed at the TPP leaders’ meeting in Bali in October.

However the wide differences evident between the US and New Zealand mean someone would have to back down on national interest provisions – or the US back down – for there to be any prospect of the agreement being concluded. More than 100 issues are unresolved.

A coalition of groups, ranging from Internet New Zealand to Trade Me and the Library Association, have opposed the agreement. The Fairdeal Coalition’s spokeswoman Susan Chalmers said the New Zealand negotiators have been sticking up for the country and called on the Government to support them.

“If New Zealand caves on the intellectual property chapter,” she said, “it will face inevitable economic, cultural and social losses that in the long-term will likely outweigh any gains from improved agricultural access.”

An earlier WikiLeaks release of US embassy cables showed former New Zealand chief TPP negotiator Mark Sinclair privately telling visiting US State Department Deputy Assistant Frankie Reed in February 2010 that there were “a number of areas sensitive to New Zealand” in the TPP talks and pharmaceuticals were “bound to be a contentious issue”.

The battle against climate change is not confined to Warsaw | EurActiv

The battle against climate change is not confined to Warsaw | EurActiv.


Still, it is clear that Warsaw will not produce a new climate treaty. The conference is an intermediate stop on the way to a global climate agreement to be adopted in Paris in 2015. Warsaw offers an opportunity to develop rules for this agreement. The disappointing summit in Copenhagen in 2009 showed the importance of having the building blocks for a new agreement in place before any emission pledges are put on the table. In addition, there will be talks on climate finance, ‘loss and damage’ and other key topics on which it is essential to maintain and build trust among countries. And the negotiations will help keep climate change on national and international political agendas at a time when it is often eclipsed by economic turbulence.

The summit in Warsaw is therefore important in the run-up to 2015, even if it won’t result in a climate-saving treaty. In fact, even an agreement in Paris is likely to be insufficient, because it cannot go further than individual Parties are willing it to go. Success in Paris thus is closely linked to changes that will need to take place at regional, national and local levels. The United States is a case in point: in 1997, their negotiators signed the Kyoto Protocol, but Congress refused to ratify it. Without political pressure on the major emitting countries and sectors to undertake action, the results of the climate negotiations will remain limited. However, in part thanks to the climate negotiations, this pressure is increasing, with climate change now regularly being on the agenda of the G20 and the UN Security Council, and the private sector increasingly being engaged in climate action.

Another key limitation of any Paris treaty is that it will only enter into force from 2020 onwards. Postponing action until then is not only irresponsible, but will increase the costs and difficulty of curbing emissions and adapting to climate change in the future. This means it is crucial to find other ways to keep making progress.

Thankfully, there are other forms of international cooperation that can help. For instance, addressing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) such as tropospheric ozone, soot and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) can lead to relatively fast and easy results, with additional benefits for public health. More and more is being done in this area. For instance, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, established in 2012, has grown to 72 members, including 33 countries and the European Commission, as well as environmental, scientific and international organizations, all committed to implementing known emission reduction strategies. Tackling CFCs through the Montreal Protocol on ozone layer depletion has also contributed significantly to greenhouse gas emission reductions. Last week, parties to this agreement had a chance to make another contribution by reducing HFCs, but sadly missed the opportunity. Doing so in the near future could make a great difference.

Another short-term measure is the reduction of fossil fuel subsidies, which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates at 480-1900 billion USD annually. Reducing them could shift consumption enough to reduce global CO2 emissions by 13%, the IMF suggests. With climate change in mind, the G20 agreed in September to phase out ‘inefficient’ government subsidies. This goal can be pursued through the World Trade Organization, where subsidies for unsustainable fisheries have similarly been targeted.

These examples confirm that progress on climate change can also be made outside the climate negotiations. The UN should track those activities and link them to overarching climate objectives. In this way, the negotiations can build on actions outside of the climate treaty, with small victories in the short term building trust – and confidence – for achieving long-term goals.

Copenhagen taught us the perils of setting unrealistic hopes for a UN climate conference; now we need to learn not to be cynical, either. Climate change has to be – and is being – tackled by a multitude of forums working in concert. Warsaw will probably not save the climate, but by gathering people who are committed to saving it, sharing ideas and understanding how all the pieces fit together, we can make real progress.”


Geoengineering Could Reduce Critical Global Rainfall | Climate Central

Geoengineering Could Reduce Critical Global Rainfall | Climate Central.

Climate researcher John Fasullo, one of the authors of the study, said geoengineering options present a “Pick your poison” dilemma. “Climate change is one ill, but geoengineering contains its own downsides as well.”


The study focused on one geoengineering proposal that has gained traction among geoengineering proponents and some policymakers looking for a technical fix to the climate challenge. The plan, known as solar radiation management, involves injecting small particles that reflect sunlight, or possibly even giant mirrors, into the upper atmosphere, to reduce the amount of incoming solar radiation, thereby cooling the Earth’s surface.


The new study simulated the effects of using solar radiation management in an environment in which the amount of greenhouse gases in the air is four times the level observed at the start of the industrial revolution. That is far higher than today, since the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main long-lived greenhouse gas, in the atmosphere has not yet doubled from the preindustrial level.


The study found that blocking some incoming solar radiation would alter the temperature profile of the atmosphere by cooling the lower atmosphere. At the same time, increased amounts of greenhouse gases would continue to warm the air at higher altitudes. That would make the atmosphere more stable and reduce the amount of storminess that would occur, said Simone Tilmes, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo.


According to Tilmes, “it’s not possible” for geoengineering to bring the climate back to where it was in preindustrial times, because the climate system will still be responding to the increased amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.


Change in average precipitation (without geoengineering) projected for the end of the 21st century, showing a wetter planet overall.
Click image to enlarge. Credit: IPCC Fifth Assessment Report.


For example, increased levels of CO2 cause plants to release less water vapor through evapotranspiration, which can reduce precipitation over land, Tilmes said. That response would continue to occur even if geoengineering were to succeed in bringing global average surface temperatures back to where they were before the industrial era began in the mid-to-late 19th century.


The study is part of an international effort among climate scientists to gain insight into the possible side effects of the geoengineering proposals that have been put forward as last-ditch plans to diminish the severity of global warming. Interest in geoengineering has increased in recent years as efforts to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases have stalled.


Based on the study, a benefit of geoengineering — in addition to reducing global average surface temperatures — could come into play with extreme precipitation events. Such events present the risk of flooding, as was seen recently in Colorado when a 1-in-1,000 year rainfall event led to extensive flooding.


In a world with more CO2, precipitation extremes are becoming more severe and more common. According to the National Climate Assessment, released in draft form in January, the most extreme precipitation events have increased in every region of the contiguous U.S. since 1950, a trend that the study attributed partly to increased evaporation from manmade global warming. At the same time, a more intense water cycle is likely to lead to more frequent and severe drought in other areas, such as in the Southwestern U.S.


However, if the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface were reduced, the study suggests that the frequency of heavy precipitation events would also decrease. In fact, relative to preindustrial conditions, geoengineering would produce about a 20 percent reduction in heavy precipitation events globally, with significant regional variations, Fasullo said.


It might be possible to pursue a middle-of-the-road geoengineering option that would offset some of the manmade warming while avoiding a harmful impact on precipitation — a “Goldilocks” scenario — but studies on such options have not yet been completed, and Fasullo and Tilmes both expressed skepticism that such a geoengineering sweet spot exists.

“We have to be aware of the problems” with geoengineering, Tilmes said. “It helps the conversations and the arguments about the impacts of geoengineering.”

Plutocrats vs. Populists: Good Piece Until the End — Answers are Easy | Beat the Press

Plutocrats vs. Populists: Good Piece Until the End — Answers are Easy | Beat the Press.


Plutocrats vs. Populists: Good Piece Until the End — Answers are Easy

Sunday, 03 November 2013 08:17

Chrystia Freeland has a good piece in the NYT on the rise of plutocratic politics in the United States and elsewhere and the populist opposition it has provoked. The piece makes many interesting points but then towards the end strangely tells readers:

“Part of the problem is that no one has yet come up with a fully convincing answer to the question of how you harness the power of the technology revolution and globalization without hollowing out middle-class jobs.”

No, this is very far from true. There are very convincing answers to this question, it’s just the plutocrats block them from being put into practice.

Topping the list of course would be aggressive stimulus to bring the economy back to something resembling full employment. This not only would give tens of millions of people more income, it would make many bad jobs into decent jobs.

In a tight labor market employers will pay someone $15-$20 hours to work as a retail clerk at big box stores or fast food restaurants or as custodians. These jobs pay very low wages in the current economy because government policy acts to limit employment. If we didn’t have policy (fiscal and exchange rate policy) that reduced employment, then there would be more demand for labor and the wages in low-paid occupations would rise.

In terms of globalization, we have deliberately structured globalization so as to put downward pressure on the wages of low and middle wage earners. There is no reason, except for political power, that we could not have designed globalization to put downward pressure on the wages of the doctors and other highly paid professionals. This was a policy choice, it has nothing to do with the inherent dynamics of globalization.

Also, the high pay on Wall Street would be brought down to earth with the end of too big to fail subsidies. This policy reversal coupled with the imposition of financial speculation taxes or other taxes that would bring taxation in the financial industry in line with taxation in other industries (a policy even advocated by the IMF), would substantially reduce the take of Wall Street plutocrats.

And replacing government granted patent monopolies in the drug and high tech sectors with more efficient mechanisms of supporting innovation would also go a long way towards both reducing high end incomes and making essential medicines more affordable. These and other issues are discussed in The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progress, among other places.

Anyhow, it is bizarre that Freeland would end her piece by asserting the problem is a lack of answers. As she effectively documents, the plutocrats have managed to seize control over politics in the United States and elsewhere. There is no lack of good answers, the problem is that the plutocrats have power to stop them from being put into practice.

The oceans are acidifying at the fastest rate in 300 million years. How worried should we be?

The oceans are acidifying at the fastest rate in 300 million years. How worried should we be?.


There’s reason for alarm here: Studies have found that acidifying seawater can chew away at coral reefs and kill oysters by making it harder to form protective shells. The process can also interfere with the food supply for key species like Alaska’s salmon.

But it’s not fully clear what this all adds up to. What happens if the oceans keep acidifying and water temperatures keep rising as a result of global warming? Are those stresses going to wipe out coral reefs and fisheries around the globe, costing us trillions (as one paper suggested)? Or is there a chance that some ecosystems might remain surprisingly resilient?

That’s one of the big outstanding questions on climate change. “We understand the physics of simple things like how oceans become acidic,” said Richard Norris, a paleobiologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. “But when it comes to how ecosystems might react, that’s big and complex and messy, with all these interactions going on, both physiological and how organisms interact with each other.”

How to study acidification’s effects

Broadly speaking, there are two ways that scientists can try to study the effects of ocean acidification — and both have limitations. First, they can examine various species in laboratories or in the field and see how corals and molluscs and fish respond to changes in ocean pH levels. The downside is that it’s hard to see how these species might adapt (or not) over the longer run.

Another approach is to examine the fossil record. There have been multiple periods in the Earth’s history where atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose sharply (for natural reasons) and the oceans became warmer and more acidic. That includes the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, an era 55 million years ago with greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere roughly comparable to what the Earth could soon face.

In a recent paper for Science, Norris and his co-authors found that this ancient world had few coral reefs, a poorly oxygenated ocean, and drastically different food chains that had difficulty sustaining large predators like sharks and whales. On the flip side, “the extinction of species was remarkably light, other than a mass extinction in the rapidly warming deep ocean.” So that’s one possible glimpse into our future:

The Surprising Reason Americans Are Far Less Healthy Than Others in Developed Nations | Alternet

The Surprising Reason Americans Are Far Less Healthy Than Others in Developed Nations | Alternet.


Just how does inequality translate into unhealthy outcomes? Growing numbers of researchers see stress as the culprit. The more inequality in a society, the more stress. Chronic stress, over time, wears down our immune systems and leaves us more vulnerable to disease.

This same stress drives people to seek relief in unhealthy habits. They may do drugs or smoke — or eat more “comfort foods” packed with sugar and fat.

Can the United States change course on health?

Japan offers an encouraging precedent. Sixty years ago, Japan ranked as a deeply unequal and unhealthy nation. But, since the 1950s, Japan has become one of the world’s most equal places and, on life expectancy, now ranks number one globally.

The United States, over the same span of time, has gone in the exact opposite direction. We have become the world’s most unequal major nation, with health outcomes among the developed world’s worst.

How can we turn this around? Most Americans, Stephen Bezruchka notes, already understand the concept of “vital signs.” We feel their importance “every time we step on a scale at the doctor’s office or feel a blood pressure cuff tighten.”

But societies have “vital signs,” too, with none more important than our level of inequality. If we start recognizing these vital signs — and acting on them — we’ll stop dying so much younger than we should.

Originally posted at OtherWords.Org.