June 8, 2005

Complement to the Meditation Focus #131


This is a special complement of information provided for your convenience in relation to the current Meditation Focus #131: Making Poverty History archived at http://www.aei.ca/~cep/MeditationFocus131.htm and effective until June 18 - including next Sunday's globally synchronized meditation.

Jean Hudon
Focus Group Facilitator

This complement is archived at http://www.aei.ca/~cep/ComplementFocus131.htm

"When you have this rich minority in a position of absolute control over the institutions of global governance, like the World Bank or the I.M.F., the U.S. being allowed to appoint the president of an international institution like the World Bank, the Europeans have their pick in appointing the president of the I.M.F. Then you understand that we live in political economy of essentially global apartheid, international minority rule, where this tiny minority of rich states are dictating economic rules, political rules that the rest of the world must follow if it’s going to have access essentially to financing for development. "

- Salih Booker, Director of Africa Action

From: http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=05/06/08/140254

Salih Booker on Africa Debt: The Poorest Regions in the World Have Subsidized the Richest

June 8th, 2005

President Bush refused to meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair's request to double aid to African nations. Instead, the two leaders announced a U.S. aid package of $674 million dollars from funds previously appropriated by Congress. We speak with Salih Booker of Africa Action. [includes rush transcript]


President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair met in Washington Tuesday for the first time since the release of the so-called "Downing Street Memo." The memo is actually the text to the minutes of secret meeting in 2002 between Blair and his senior national security team. It reveals how the former director of the British intelligence agency, MI6, told Blair that the U.S. had already made plans to attack Iraq as early as July 2002.

While the memo has seen relatively little attention from the corporate media, calls for a full investigation have gained momentum in Congress. Bush and Blair were asked about the memo at a joint news conference yesterday in Washington.

* President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Washington DC, June 7, 2005.

The focus of Bush and Blair's public appearance was on aid to African nations in advance of the Group of 8 summit in Scotland next month. Bush announced that both countries are developing a proposal for the G-8 that will eliminate 100 percent of that debt but neither leader gave any details on the proposal. And as Chair of the G8, Blair has promised to focus on fighting poverty in Africa and addressing global climate change. But Blair's appeal to Bush to double U.S. assistance to Africa fell on deaf ears. Instead, at yesterday's press conference, the two leaders announced a U.S. aid package of $674 million dollars. The money will be drawn from funds previously appropriated by Congress. The White House said this was in addition to the 1.4 billion dollars the United States has already pledged to contribute to the United Nations" Africa fund. At yesterday's news conference, Bush insisted that the U.S is in fact increasing aid to Africa by threefold.

* President Bush, Washington DC, June 7, 2005.

According to The New York Times, most Americans believe that the United States spends 24 percent of its budget on aid to poor countries, it actually spends well under a quarter of 1 percent. In an editorial today titled "Crumbs for Africa," the Times writes "At a time when rich countries are mounting a noble and worthy effort to make poverty history, the Bush administration is showing itself to be completely out of touch by offering such a miserly drop in the bucket."

* Salih Booker, Director of Africa Action.


AMY GOODMAN: Bush and Blair were asked about the memo at a joint news conference yesterday in Washington.

REPORTER: On Iraq, the so-called Downing Street memo from July 2002 says, “Intelligence and facts remain fixed around the policy of removing Saddam through military action.” Is this an accurate reflection of what happened? Could both of you respond?

TONY BLAIR: Well, I can respond to that very easily. No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all. And let me remind you that that memorandum was written before we then went to the United Nations. Now, no one knows more intimately the discussions that we were conducting as two countries at the time than me. And the fact is, we decided to go to the United Nations and went through that process, which resulted in the November 2002 United Nations resolution to give a final chance to Saddam Hussein to comply with international law. He didn't do so. And that was the reason why we had to take military action. But, you know, all the way through that period of time, we were trying to look for a way of managing to resolve this without conflict. As it happened, we weren't able to do that because, as I think was very clear, there was no way that Saddam Hussein was ever going to change the way that he worked or the way that he acted.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I, you know, I read kind of the characterization of the memo, particularly when they dropped it out in the middle of his race. I'm not sure who they dropped it out is, but I'm not suggesting you all dropped it out there. And somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There is nothing farther from the truth. My conversations with the Prime Minister was how can we do this peacefully, what could we do, and this meeting, you know, evidently that took place in London happened before we even went to the United Nations or I went to the United Nations, and so it’s – look, both of us didn't want to use our military. Nobody wants to commit military into combat. It's the last option.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair at a joint news conference in Washington Tuesday. The focus of Bush and Blair’s public appearance was on aid to African nations in advance of the Group of 8 summit in Scotland next month. Bush announced both countries are developing a proposal for the G8 that will eliminate 100% of that debt. But neither leader gave any details on the proposal. And as chair of the G8, Blair has promised to focus on fighting poverty in Africa and addressing global climate change. But Blair's appeal to Bush to double U.S. assistance to Africa fell on deaf ears. Instead at yesterday’s news conference, the two leaders announced a U.S. aid package of $674 million. The money will be drawn from funds previously appropriated by Congress. The White House said this was in addition to the $1.4 billion the United States has already pledged to contribute to the United Nations’ Africa fund. At the news conference yesterday, Bush insisted the U.S. is, in fact, increasing aid to Africa threefold.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We tripled aid to Africa. I mean, Africa is an important part of my foreign policy. I remember when I first talked to Condi, when I was trying to convince her to become the national security advisor, she said, “Are you going to pay attention to the continent of Africa?” I said, “You bet.” And I fulfilled that commitment. We’ve convinced Congress to triple aid. We’ve got a significant HIV/AIDS initiative that we're undertaking. We start what’s called the Millennium Challenge Account. And we'll do more.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush yesterday in Washington. According to The New York Times, most Americans believe a quarter of our budget goes to poverty relief. In fact, it actually spends well under a quarter of 1%. In an editorial today titled “Crumbs for Africa,” the Times writes, (quote), “At a time when rich countries are mounting a noble and worthy effort to make poverty history, the Bush administration is showing itself to be completely out of touch by offering such a miserly drop in the bucket.” We now turn to Salih Booker, Director of Africa Action, joining us in Washington, D.C. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Salih.

SALIH BOOKER: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Well, your reaction to President Bush's response to Tony Blair's request in the whole news conference yesterday?

SALIH BOOKER: Well, I think President Bush's response is completely disingenuous. It’s a sham, and in fact, it’s insulting. The announcement of $670 million for famine relief is money that was already approved; it is not something new. And it doesn't respond to what Prime Minister Blair came to Washington to discuss, which is reaching an agreement on a plan for debt cancellation and how to finance it for African countries, and also Tony Blair's push to get the rich companies to double their official development assistance to Africa.

Now, when President Bush says that he has tripled aid to Africa over the past several years, it’s simply not true. It’s another case of the Bush administration using Arthur Andersen accounting in terms of coming up with numbers. The United States for the last many years has provided slightly less than $1 billion for all 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. What he’s adding to that are various forms of emergency food assistance, some of the money of the HIV/AIDS initiative. This is not development assistance. These other moneys appropriately are responding to disasters, are responding to needs for humanitarian relief. But they are not investments in the economic development, in health care, in education, in agriculture.

And so, when Prime Minister Blair speaks about the need for rich countries to double foreign assistance to Africa, he's speaking about official development assistance, and the United States is ranked at the bottom of all of the wealthy countries when it comes to the amount of assistance we provide for poor developing countries, as a percentage of our gross domestic product.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain the debt? What does it mean to write off the debt?

SALIH BOOKER: Right. Well, and it requires explanation, because African countries owe some $300 billion in debt, primarily to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the I.M.F., as well as some of the rich country creditors. Now, this debt is based largely on loans that were made to African governments during the Cold War years. Most of this debt essentially is illegitimate. It’s what’s known as odious debt. These loans were made to unrepresentative governments, in many cases military dictators, in some cases dictators that the U.S. C.I.A. helped put in power, like Mobutu Sese Seko in the former Zaire. The money went to these individuals. It was not used for the benefit of the citizens of these countries, and it’s continued to accumulate because of compounded interest over the years, even though African governments have continued to service this debt. In fact, they’ve paid it off several times over, but it keeps growing because of the interest.

Now, odious debt in the case of Iraq, the Bush administration wants creditors to cancel Iraq’s debt. Iraq has some $120 billion in foreign debt. The Bush administration appointed former Secretary of State, James Baker, to travel around the world and get creditors to agree to cancel Iraq's debt. And he has succeeded, at least with some $70 billion. The argument about odious debt has not been applied to Africa as it should be. Certainly, African governments and African civil society argues that we don't owe, we shouldn't pay. But the rich countries continue to stall any final plan on debt cancellation.

Now, what they're talking about right now, what's on the table, certainly represents progress, but we have to bear in mind this is progress that has come as a result of the actions of activists in Africa, African government demands and activists around the world, including here in the United States, that have been campaigning for debt cancellation, in many cases for decades. It’s illegitimate debt. African governments are spending more money on this debt than they spend on health care or education for their own children. These debts suck some $15 billion out of Africa each year. And that’s more money that’s going – than is going into Africa in the form of new loans or new official assistance or foreign direct investment. So you have this tragic irony where the poorest region of the world is in effect subsidizing some of the wealthiest institutions and economies in the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Salih Booker of Africa Action, Paul Wolfowitz is making his first trip to Africa as head of the World Bank and held a news conference in Washington. He’s going to be going to Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, and South Africa. This is an excerpt of what he had to say.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: As I have said many times, Africa will be my first priority. It is, I think, the first priority for the Bank. The Bank has a unique role to play in Africa, and there is a unique need for the Bank in Africa.

AMY GOODMAN: Paul Wolfowitz, again the former Deputy Secretary of Defense, was considered one of the chief architects of the invasion of Iraq. Your response to this trip, Salih Booker?

SALIH BOOKER: Well, it’s, of course, a great concern to all those in Africa and here in the United States that have been campaigning for cancellation of World Bank debts, that have been campaigning for an end to the World Bank essentially dictating economic policies to African governments, because it holds such enormous leverage over the finance ministers of African governments.

With the appointment of Paul Wolfowitz, there is even more reason to be concerned. Activists used to refer to James Wolfensohn, the former president, as a Wolfensohn in sheep’s clothing at the World Bank. With Wolfowitz, people are simply saying it’s a wolf in wolf's clothing. His record as a co-conspirator and architect of the war on Iraq is very troubling in terms of what does that mean in terms of his vision of development in Africa. It’s a man who has no experience in the development – in the world of development professionals, of poverty reduction. He certainly has no experience in Africa. And his vision of what is required in terms of responding to Africa's enormous challenges is certainly out of sync with the visions of, not only African governments, but more importantly, African people.

AMY GOODMAN: Last question. The U.N. now estimating three million children will die because of famine in sub-Saharan Africa as a result of the global community's failure to meet its promises of aid.

SALIH BOOKER: Well, this simply underscores the point that The New York Times made in their editorial. And they had it exactly right: "Crumbs for Africa." The chronic famine that a number of countries face, like Ethiopia or Eritrea, the food insecurity, is just a symptom of the larger issue of the growing disparities between this wealthy minority represented by the G8, the leaders who will meet in Scotland next month, and the vast majority of the world, as indicative of the plight facing so many Africans on the continent. When you have this rich minority in a position of absolute control over the institutions of global governance, like the World Bank or the I.M.F., the U.S. being allowed to appoint the president of an international institution like the World Bank, the Europeans have their pick in appointing the president of the I.M.F. Then you understand that we live in political economy of essentially global apartheid, international minority rule, where this tiny minority of rich states are dictating economic rules, political rules that the rest of the world must follow if it’s going to have access essentially to financing for development. But, again, this issue of how famine in Africa is manipulated by the Bush administration to show its compassionate side, that's exactly what yesterday's press conference was all about. It appeals to the worst of American ignorance to this racist preconception of Africa as a continent just of starving people and, gee, isn't the United States generous in giving more food assistance, as a way of denying the real role of the United States and other rich countries in impoverishing Africa and in dictating the economic terms, whether it’s trade, whether it is investment, whether it is access to development resources.

AMY GOODMAN: Salih Booker, I want to thank you for being with us, Director of Africa Action, joining us from Washington, D.C.

SALIH BOOKER: Thank you, Amy.


See also:

Africa Action Rejects White House Announcement on Aid to Africa (June 7, 2005)
Africa Action today rejected as 'disingenuous' a new U.S.-UK initiative, which would provide a small increase in humanitarian assistance to African countries threatened with famine, but which does nothing to address the crisis of African countries’ illegitimate debts." (...) Africa Action today condemned the ongoing failure of the U.S., UK and other rich countries to reach agreement on debt cancellation for impoverished countries. Marie Clarke Brill, Director of Public Education & Mobilization at Africa Action, said, "Today’s announcement on humanitarian assistance risks distracting attention from the urgent priority of debt cancellation. Unless Africa’s debts are canceled, all new aid will simply flow back out of Africa in the form of debt service payments. The debt crisis will be on the G-8 agenda again in July, and a new deal must be agreed for 100% debt cancellation for at least 50 impoverished nations in Africa and elsewhere, without harmful economic conditions attached." Ann-Louise Colgan, Director of Policy Analysis and Communications at Africa Action, noted today, "Both Bush and Blair claim a commitment to addressing Africa’s challenges, but the sad reality is that their current agenda promotes "compassionate showmanship" over sea-change in Africa policy. If these leaders’ pledges on Africa are to be taken seriously, they must cancel Africa’s debts, greatly increase their funding to fight HIV/AIDS, fulfill their previous promises on trade-related reforms, and support multilateral efforts to promote peace & security in Africa, with the immediate priority of ending the genocide in Darfur." Salih Booker added, "When debt cancellation is already acknowledged as an urgent African priority, and when the U.S. has the resources to support a far greater investment in addressing HIV/AIDS and poverty in Africa, today’s media spin focused on feeding the hungry in Africa is almost insulting. We demand justice for Africa’s people, not small gestures of charity and small amounts of food aid." CLIP

Revealed: how oil giant influenced Bush (June 8)
White House sought advice from Exxon on Kyoto stance - President's George Bush's decision not to sign the United States up to the Kyoto global warming treaty was partly a result of pressure from ExxonMobil, the world's most powerful oil company, and other industries, according to US State Department papers seen by the Guardian. The documents, which emerged as Tony Blair visited the White House for discussions on climate change before next month's G8 meeting, reinforce widely-held suspicions of how close the company is to the administration and its role in helping to formulate US policy. CLIP


The following material is excerpted from...

The Big Scoop Series #3: The Megasborgpilation (June 8)

where you will find much more information...

Money for Africa drying up, aid agencies say (June 5, 2005)
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (Reuters) -- Despite a new drive in the west to focus attention on Africa, aid agencies say accounts are dwindling as money is diverted elsewhere or channeled directly through governments. The Group of Eight rich nations are expected to call for more help for Africa at a summit next month. But on the ground, aid workers say they are having to cut programs, either because money has been diverted to victims of the Asian tsunami or because official help is being increasingly channeled through governments as debt relief or direct aid."We've certainly seen some cuts in funding in the last year," said Dave Snyder, spokesman for U.S.-based agency Catholic Relief Services. "We've had to cut back some programs." Those cut included school feeding programs in Malawi and Madagascar aimed at persuading parents to send children to school rather than keeping them at home to work or sending young girls off to get married, he said.While aid agencies welcome debt relief and direct aid, they say local civil society organizations and international NGOs must also get a share to make sure the money reaches the people who need it. "The biggest fear is corruption," said David Sanderson, southern and west Africa co-ordinator for Care International UK." If you only give money to government, you end up not holding government to account. There needs to be a mixture. But there's also a fear people are getting bored with Africa." Aid workers say while attracting aid for high-profile disasters such as the tsunami or Sudan's Darfur region is still relatively easy, attracting money for longer-term problems such as the AIDS pandemic or chronic food shortages is much harder. CLIP

More related news at http://search.news.yahoo.com/search/news/?p=Aid+for+Africa&c=

Weapons spending tops $1 trillion (June 7, 2005)
Spending on weapons around the world topped $1 trillion (£560bn) for the first time in 2004, a new report says. A study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) found that countries around the world spent $162 on weapons for each person alive.The US alone accounted for 47% of the global total, mainly because of soaring spending on its "global war on terror". Arms companies were benefiting from the demand, with sales at the top 100 firms up 25% in 2003 on the year before.The pace of mega-mergers in the arms trade in recent years had slackened, Sipri said, but had left major military suppliers comparable in size and influence to top multinational corporations. According to the 2005 yearbook published by Sipri, a well-respected think-tank on war and peace studies, the total spending on weapons in 2004 grew 8% to $1.035 trillion - the highest dollar value yet. Adjusted for inflation, the figure falls just 6% below the all-time peak of spending in 1987-88, the last gasp of the Cold War. CLIP

Protests Planned For Scottish G8 Summit (June 3, 2005)
LONDON - The G8 protest movement is growing, boosted by a call from Bob Geldof for 1 million people to march through Edinburgh as leaders of the world's richest nations meet some 40 miles (65 km) to the northwest. The following is a list of some of the planned protest events around the Group of Eight industrialised nations summit to be held from July 6-8 at Scotland's Gleneagles hotel, famous for its world-class golf courses. CLIP

Now Geldof calls up fleet for G8 armada (7 June 2005)
Bob Geldof yesterday sparked new fears of G8 chaos as he invited thousands of French protesters to descend on Edinburgh, promising a Dunkirk-style flotilla of small ships to carry them across the Channel. Already reeling from Geldof's call for a "million-man" march through the city's streets, Lothian and Borders Police warned protesters to stay away if they had no accommodation. And the coastguard service, which was not told in advance of Geldof's plans, also expressed concern that his armada would be crossing some of the world's busiest seaways. One Scottish politician also said he was worried that Geldof's plan was being "made up as it goes along". Speaking in Southampton, Geldof urged British boat owners to form a mass flotilla and cross the Channel to pick up French supporters of the anti-poverty campaign on 3 July - the day after the first Live 8 concerts. (...) The Irish singer's appeal received a powerful endorsement from record-breaking British yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur, who is also planning to join the crossing. Dame Ellen said she supported the "Sail 8" event "because all of us are responsible for the world and the environment we live in". Speaking to Geldof from her yacht off the coast of France, she said: "Anyone who has qualifications and a safe boat to go across the Channel, July is a good time to do it. There are many ways to cross the Channel - the Channel Tunnel, the ferries; it just doesn't have to be boat owners." (...) Geldof claimed that shipping companies, the coastguard, lifeboat rescue and marine safety organisations would all be alerted ahead of the proposed Channel crossing. "We live in a world of timidity and this isn't the time for timidity. If you don't think it will make any difference you are wrong. We urge you to take due caution but not to take unnecessary caution," he said. Geldof's call for a million protesters in Edinburgh sparked concern last week among police commanders. CLIP

The new scramble for Africa (June 1, 2005)
A new "scramble for Africa" is taking place among the world's big powers, who are tapping into the continent for its oil and diamonds. Tony Blair is pushing hard for African debt relief agreements in the run-up to the G8 summit in Scotland in July. But while sub-Saharan Africa is the object of the west's charitable concern, billions of pounds' worth of natural resources are being removed from it. A Guardian investigation beginning today reveals that instead of enriching often debt-ridden countries, some big corporations are accused by campaigners of facilitating corruption and provoking instability - so much so that organisations such as Friends of the Earth talk of an "oil curse". Simon Taylor, director of Global Witness, which has been prominent in urging reform, said: "Western companies and banks have colluded in stripping Africa's resources. We need to track revenues from oil, mining and logging into national budgets to make sure that the money isn't siphoned off by corrupt officials." Looting of state assets by corrupt leaders should become a crime under international law, he said. "The G8 should take the lead in this." CLIP

Court Investigates Sudan's Darfur Region (June 7)
The Hague - The International Criminal Court said Monday it had begun investigating alleged war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region, where an estimated 180,000 people have died and 2 million have been displaced since the conflict began in 2003. The court has a list of 51 potential suspects named by a special U.N. investigative commission, which concluded in January that crimes against humanity had occurred in Darfur. The government in Khartoum, accused of trying to intimidate international aid workers, indicated it would not cooperate with the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal or allow its citizens to be sent abroad for trial. The U.N. Security Council asked the court to take on the Darfur situation two months ago, in what would be the first case to be investigated against the will of the country where the alleged crimes took place. The court also is investigating war crimes in Congo and Uganda. A failure by Khartoum to cooperate with the court could result in economic sanctions, human rights groups said. The investigation is the court's most difficult and dangerous so far as it ventures into the vast desert of western Sudan. (...) The list of 51 potential suspects has not been made public, but it apparently includes Sudanese government officials, anti-government rebels and Janjaweed militiamen. Prosecutors will determine which suspects to indict. It was not clear, however, how arrests would be made or by whom, since the court has no enforcement arm. The court is intended to step in only when countries themselves are unable or unwilling to take action against war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed on their soil. CLIP

Science Academies Urge Greenhouse Gas Cuts (June 7, 2005)
LONDON (AP) -- The U.S. National Academy of Sciences joined similar groups from other nations Tuesday in a call for prompt action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, warning that delays will be costly. The statement was released as British Prime Minister Tony Blair was meeting with President Bush in Washington. Blair has made action on climate change a priority for the July G-8 summit. Bush opposes the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, and his administration questions scientists' views that man-made pollutants are causing temperatures to rise. Lord May, president of Britain's Royal Society, said in releasing the statement that Bush's policy on climate change was ''misguided'' and ignored scientific evidence. The statement called on G-8 countries to ''identify cost-effective steps that can be taken now to contribute to substantial and long-term reductions in net global greenhouse gas emissions.'' It urged the G-8 nations to ''recognize that delayed action will increase the risk of adverse environmental effects and will likely incur a greater cost.'' CLIP

Lights, Climate, Action (Grist summary - EXCELLENT NEWS!)
Schwarzenegger declares war on global warming - "I say the debate is over. We know the science, we see the threat, and the time for action is now." With those words, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) last week defied Bush administration orthodoxy, announcing ambitious plans to reduce his state's emissions of greenhouse gases. The Governator issued an executive order that would set targets -- cut emissions to 2000 levels by 2010, 1990 levels by 2020, and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 -- that are less stringent than the Kyoto Protocol's in the short-term, but one of the world's most aggressive in the long-term. Some analysts say that if the targets are met (a big if, obviously), California would cut more emissions than Japan, France, or the U.K. Schwarzenegger was vague about how the targets would be met, but his eco-adviser Terry Tamminen said that accelerating current programs and adopting proposals the governor has already made would achieve the short-term goals, and that a cap-and-trade system was not out of the question for the longer term. More details at http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/06/02/MNGUOD27741.DTL&sn=005&sc=671
(...) Many scientists said Schwarzenegger's goals are important because they could help spur more technological innovations and set the stage for major emission reductions in the future. (...) As the 10th largest emitter of greenhouse gases, California's every action is important, said Jason Mark, California director of the Union for Concerned Scientists. "My sense is the governor's voice adds immeasurably," Mark said. Whether the goals will cost consumers remains to be seen. Automakers have argued that car prices will rise in California with the emissions law and that Schwarzenegger's solar legislation could lead to a slight increase in power rates. But many economists and administration officials argue that decreasing reliance on fossil fuels actually saves money. The Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental group, estimates motorists could save $10 billion between 2009 and 2016 by driving more fuel efficient cars, for example. Schwarzenegger has consistently portrayed himself as an environmental vanguard in his party, and the speech Wednesday seemed to further distance him from Bush and many California Republicans. CLIP

Fifty mayors from around world sign environmental accord (Grist summary)
Marking the culmination of World Environment Day festivities in San Francisco, 50 mayors from cities the world over signed a set of environmental accords some are calling a "municipal Kyoto." Among the 21 commitments therein are increasing clean-energy use, reducing waste sent to landfills, adding affordable public transportation, planting trees, and of course, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Action by urban centers is vital, says David Cadman, deputy mayor of Vancouver, British Columbia: "Cities now cover 2 percent of the world's surface, but they accommodate 50 percent of the world's population and consume 75 percent of its resources." In a separate effort organized by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, 158 U.S. mayors have agreed to help fight global warming in their cities -- all part of a general trend toward the local in addressing climate change. Says Pietro Nivola of the Brookings Institution, "Very often that is the way policy works: When enough major states take action, then eventually the central government follows." More details at http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/06/06/MNG4VD47071.DTL&sn=003&sc=778

Official Played Down Emissions' Links to Global Warming (June 7, 2005)
A White House official who once led the oil industry's fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming, according to internal documents. In handwritten notes on drafts of several reports issued in 2002 and 2003, the official, Philip A. Cooney, removed or adjusted descriptions of climate research that government scientists and their supervisors, including some senior Bush administration officials, had already approved.Mr. Cooney is chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the office that helps devise and promote administration policies on environmental issues. Before coming to the White House in 2001, he was the "climate team leader" and a lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade group representing the interests of the oil industry. A lawyer with a bachelor's degree in economics, he has no scientific training. (...) Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who met with President Bush at the White House today, has been trying for several months to persuade Mr. Bush to intensify American efforts to limit greenhouse gases. Mr. Bush has called only for voluntary measures to slow growth in emissions through 2012. Today, saying their goal was to influence that meeting, the scientific academies of 11 countries, including those of the United States and Britain, released a joint letter saying "the scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action."