Gov. Scott Walker’s job creation agency has been plagued by repeated law-breaking and mismanagement, according to an audit released by the state’s non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau.In a report that was almost 100 pages, the Bureau sharply criticized the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., created in 2011 by Walker and the state legislature, and called for much more oversight.From the Associated Press:The audit faulted WEDC for not having sufficient policies to administer its $520 million worth of grant, loan and tax credit programs effectively, including some policies required by law. It awarded $80 million in its first year. The agency did not consistently follow the law or existing policies when making awards, and had no policies for determining how to handle delinquent loan amounts, the audit said. It lacked invoices or other contractually required documentation showing authorized costs for seven of 29 grants reviewed, the audit said. Four contracts gave $906,000 total in tax credits for job creation and employee training that had already occurred, the audit said. Twelve of 14 recipients of grant and loan contracts worth at least $100,000 did not submit verified financial statements as required by law, the audit found.”This audit dates back to 2011 and largely reflects information that WEDC has known for some time,” a Walker spokesman said in a statement. “This new agency has taken proactive and positive measures to address its issues, and Governor Walker is confident in the direction of WEDC as an agency that aims to promote job creation and economic growth for Wisconsin.”Continue Reading… …
More than 70 years ago, a chemical attack was launched against Washington State and Nevada. It poisoned people, animals, everything that grew, breathed air, and drank water. The Marshall Islands were also struck. This formerly pristine Pacific atoll was branded “the most contaminated place in the world.” As their cancers developed, the victims of atomic testing and nuclear weapons development got a name: downwinders. What marked their tragedy was the darkness in which they were kept about what was being done to them. Proof of harm fell to them, not to the U.S. government agencies responsible.Now, a new generation of downwinders is getting sick as an emerging industry pushes the next wonder technology — in this case, high-volume hydraulic fracturing. Whether they live in Texas, Colorado, or Pennsylvania, their symptoms are the same: rashes, nosebleeds, severe headaches, difficulty breathing, joint pain, intestinal illnesses, memory loss, and more. “In my opinion,” says Yuri Gorby of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, “what we see unfolding is a serious health crisis, one that is just beginning.”Continue Reading… …
http://www.youtube.com/v/pWgvhKMn4a8?version=3&f=videos&app=youtube_gdata Visit link: Where Russia meets North Korea
The database, which was developed by the Washington-based Center for Global Development and AidData, includes 1,673 Chinese development finance projects worth US$75 billion in 50 African countries from the years 2000-2011.It provides detailed data, including an interactive map which breaks down information to country and project levels. The database creators say it was developed in order to provide transparency regarding China’s aid to Africa.“China treats its aid activities as a state secret and this is an attempt to uncover what’s going on,” database creator Andreas Fuchs told Reuters.Beijing has come under criticism for allegedly exploiting Africa’s natural resources, providing support to corrupt regimes, and undermining good governance, debt relief and environmental policies promoted by traditional Western donors.China rejects the assertions, which have been put forth by some African and Western aid experts and officials. Accusations disprovedThe data sheds new light on China’s financial aid and breaks down previous allegations that Beijing is solely looking out for its own interests, Parks said.“They do a lot in the health sector, they do a lot in the government and civil society sector…a lot of things not usually appreciated as activities supported by the Chinese government,” he said. “It’s just striking the diversity of the work they do in the development arena.”According to the database, the largest number of Chinese aid projects is in the health sector, totaling 149 projects accounting for $676 million. Contributions in the government and civil society sector came in second place, with 133 projects totaling $170 million.Double standard?While experts accuse China of ill intent when it comes to aid in Africa, other major donors have managed to avoid such criticism.According to Parks, the Chinese figures revealed in the data are on par with US aid to Africa during the same period.”Pound for pound, when you compare the US versus China, the total official finance is roughly comparable,” he said. He added, however, that “the composition of the official finance is very different.”Other major countries have become involved, too – mainly India, Brazil, Russia, Turkey and Iran.“The increased interest in Africa by these new actors has been due to the realization that Africa has much to offer,” Mwangi Kimenyi, senior fellow and director of the Brookings Institution’s Africa Growth Initiative, said in a March report titled ‘Top Five Reasons why Africa should be a priority for the United States.’According to Witney Schneidman, a non-resident fellow for the Africa Growth Initiative, tapping into Africa’s opportunities – like China has done – is simply a logical thing to do. He told the How We Made it in Africa website that the “region is poised for an economic takeoff.” …
Around half of those killed in these accidents are pedestrians, cyclists or motorcyclists. The impact on families and society is devastating. Strategies exist that are proven to reduce road traffic injures and, through their implementation, a number of countries have successfully taken steps to reduce their rod traffic death toll.Russia is among those countries that have worked successfully to cope with the problem, reducing the number of deaths and injures and becoming active in promoting road safety on the international stage.In November 2009, Russia hosted the first Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Moscow, which led to the adoption of a resolution by the UN General Assembly in 2010. Sponsored by Russia and many other countries, this resolution later led to the approval of the international ‘Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020,’ designed to tackle what it described as “a major public health problem which, if unaddressed, may affect the sustainable development of countries and hinder the progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.”The importance of reducing road injures was also recognized in the Rio+20 Communique ‘The Future We Want,’ which followed the Russian proposal at the summit.Russia is also an active member of the Commission for Global Road Safety, which has been a leading advocate for a stronger international response to the global plague of road traffic injures.On May 7, 2013, Russia will host another major road safety event in St. Petersburg: The ‘Decade of Action Policy & Donor Forum 2013: Safe Roads for All.’ It is an annual event that brings together international policymakers, philanthropies, NGOs and private-sector companies to review the progress of the UN’s ‘Decade of Action for Road Safety,’ and to share international examples of best practices. The meeting summit will review the policies and interventions that major emerging economies – including the BRICS nations – can use to ensure the safety of all travelers in an age of rapid motorization.A new report will be published at this meeting by the Commission for Global Road Safety, and will include policy recommendations for the automotive industry. Issues to be also covered include safer road infrastructure, vehicle crash testing programs, new vehicle technologies, pedestrian safety measures and a post-2015 sustainable development agenda.Though there are clear sign of improvement in this sphere, some reports, including by the WHO, show that road death injury continues to increase in some countries. It is now vitally important to maintain the momentum and positive trends, like those we have in Russia, to build up our countermeasures against this problem.Russia’s St. Petersburg summit will be another opportunity to do just that ahead of the ‘Friends of the Decade’ gathering of governments, UN agencies and leading road safety NGOs in Stockholm in June 2013. …
This weekend saw the election of the first Pirate Members of Parliament to a national-level, proportional parliament. (Pirates have previously been elected into the European Parliament, the Czech Senate, multiple state-level parliaments, and many local councils.)
The most fascinating thing about that election wasn’t that it happened a mere seven years after the movement’s founding, but that it happened in another country than where it was founded.
They say that each generation must reconquer democracy. In practice, there seems to be a little more time between each major wave of new political values. Universal suffrage and liberalism gained ground about 120 years ago, the labor movement gained ground about 80 years ago, and the environmental movement gained ground about 40 years ago. But still.
These movements took decades from their inception to their first successful elections. Decades! In contrast, the Pirate Party’s first election success was in 2009, a mere three and a half years after the movement was founded. Today, there are Pirate parties in 70 countries – arguably in varying stages of development – and support is growing pretty much everywhere, slowly but measurably.
Some would say that the Pirate Party movement is “just a protest party”, as if that were something bad. Such parties are part of a functioning democracy. We call them “opposition”. If you’re not content with the way things are run, then by definition, you are dissenting against the incumbent administration.
All major movements have followed the same pattern. They started out as a protest against what they saw as unfair, solidified that protest into a narrow set of policy changes, and ran for office. Then, they deepened into an ideology that could be applied across all of society.
The labor movement protested exploitation of workers, solidified that into a narrow policy that would legalize and strengthen labor unions, and then deepened into an ideology of solidarity. The green movement protested pollution, crafted a narrow policy that would regulate industries, then deepened that into an ideology of sustainability.
The Pirate Party movement is in the middle of this deepening and broadening process. I find it fascinating that whenever I speak to self-identified pirates no matter where in the world, we seem to be in agreement on the most minute of policy details far outside the cores of sharing, transparency, and accountability, as well as how we arrived at that conclusion. It’s true that we started out protesting that some businesses’ neophobia (fear of the new) were allowed to supersede civil liberties online, but we’ve come a long way since.
It’s like the understanding of society spread by osmosis through the Internet. Perhaps the Pirate Parties really are the political arm of the Internet, as some have called the movement.
Anyway, with this election, the movement is officially out of the starter blocks.
The election of Pirate MPs on Iceland is an exciting beginning. My congratulations to Birgitta, Jon-Thor and Helgi on your new jobs.
About The Author
Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at falkvinge.net focuses on information policy.
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Source: Reflections on Iceland’s Election of Pirate MPs
The circle of possible contenders to head the institution has narrowed to Mexico’s Herminio Blanco and Brazil’s Roberto Azevêdo.According to the Financial Times citing sources familiar with the situation, the two Latin Americans – Mexico’s former Trade and Industry Minister Herminio Blanco and Brazil’s ambassador to the WTO Roberto Azevêdo are now seen as favorites to succeed France’s Pascal Lamy, who is due to leave the post on August 31.A five candidates are still in the running. Earlier reports suggested that three other candidates from the Asia-Pacific region- New Zealand’s Tim Groser, South Korea’s Trade Minister Taeho Bark, and the only woman on the short list Mari Pangestu of Indonesia – also had a strong chance. The final decision is due by the end of May.Experts say the new leader of the WTO will have to introduce reforms to revive the organization. Resuming the Doha talks is essential to keep the organization ‘relevant’. No progress has been achieved in recent years, due to a conflict of interests between the key members, including the US, the EU, and developing economies such as India, China and Brazil. One of the front runners Herminio Blanco of Mexico said in an interview with Bloomberg, that “Unless you have solved in a substantive fashion the Doha development agenda, the table will be very empty for starting a new negotiation. So there’s no choice. The WTO has to keep moving and modernizing,” he added.In an interview with the Wall Street Journal Banco also said “The rules of the WTO were drafted 20 years ago, and a lot has changed in the sophistication of countries that decrease tariffs but create new very sophisticated barriers.” ”To remain relevant, it must remain competitive vis-à-vis these mega agreements, not only in terms of size but in terms of rules,” he added.Brazil’s Roberto Azevêdo, an eminent figure around the WTO headquarters in Geneva, says the organization survives on “borrowed time” due to “years of paralysed negotiations.” “What we have today is a WTO with almost 160 countries of various shapes, sizes, and levels of development. What we have to do is find a dynamic of negotiations that accommodates all of them. We need to figure out how to have everyone interact in a positive and constructive way,” he told the Center for Global Development. An unnamed official cited by the Financial Times explained that while Blanco has support from the Asia-Pacific region, the Brazilian candidate is widely supported from Africa, a region where Mexico has much less presence. …