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Hillary Clinton accepts historic US President nomination,shift focus to joust with Trump

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Promising a populist agenda to build a better nation based on unity and to shift perceptions that have dodged her more than two decades globally  as First lady U.S. Senator and secretary of State  , Hillary Clinton on Thursday night accepted the Democratic Party’s historic presidential nomination making her the first women candidate of a major US party and challenged Republican rival Donald Trump on what she said was his message of hate and divisiveness.

“It is with humility, determination and boundless confidence in America’s promise that I accept your nomination for President of the United States,” Clinton said to thunderous applause at the Wells Fargo Centre in Philadelphia.

“Your cause is our cause,” she declared as her party members waved placards and flags and roared their support. “Our country needs your ideas and commitment.”

She promised to take on Wall Street, large corporations and the rich to make them pay their fair share of taxes and treat workers fairly.

The former First Lady also said she would penalise corporations that send jobs abroad and hit out at Trump for having some of his products manufactured abroad, mentioning picture frames made in India.

At the same time she promised stern against terrorism, but by working with allies. Clinton said she would strike the Islamic State (IS) terror group from the air and and empower allies to defeat them, while countering its appeal to youth.

She invoked the commitment of Humayun Khan, a 27-year-old Pakistani American Army captain, killed in 2004 in Iraq trying to save his soldiers, and Nat Kaine, the Marine son of her Vice President nominee, Tim Kaine, to protect the US to declare her commitment the armed forces and to keeping the nation safe.

Philadelphia was where the US Independence Declaration was signed 240 years ago. From the Convention in the city, the party and the nation should message of unity, liberty and equality enshrined in it, she said.

The former Secretary of State presented her vision of a “country that works for everyone, not only those at the top.

Clinton promised to work to bring jobs, penalise corporations that hurt workers, and improve the life of the citizens. She said she would work along with the Republican Party to make the biggest investments since the Second World War to create jobs.

In an appeal to the Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ backers and to assuage the sense of economic insecurity that plagues also the supporters of Trump, she said, “Our economy isn’t working the way it should because democracy isn’t working the way it should.”

She said that she would appoint Supreme Court judges who would overturn judgments that allowed some types of political donations and, if necessary, introduce a constitutional amendment.

“Wall Street will not be allowed to wreck Main Street,” she said, outlining her populist agenda.

Corporations, Wall Street and the rich will be made to pay more taxes, Clinton added.

Working with Sanders, she said she would work to make college tuition free and eliminate college tuition debts.

Overcoming an early party leadership crisis and the persistent vociferous opposition to her from the supporters of insurgent rival, Sanders, the Convention ended generally on an upbeat note.

In a political coup to tamp down dissent and build unity for the party, Sanders on Tuesday night asked the convention to discard the votes cast for him and nominate Clinton unanimously by acclamation.

Pockets of resistance persisted with the Sanderistas – the supporters of Sanders – booing her speech.

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama addressed the Convention and gave her a resounding endorsement and declare Clinton the leader to pick up the baton and give the nation continuity and strong leadership.

The coronation of the Clinton dynasty came eight years late after Hillary Clinton’s first bid for the presidency was waylaid by President Barack Obama, who came from behind and seized the party’s nomination in 2008 and went on to become the first African-American to lead the US. And it was 24 years after her husband, Bill Clinton (1993-2001), was crowned with the party’s nomination.

Now comes the momentous task of waging a tough electoral battle against Republican Donald Trump, who has taken the campaign to new levels of bitter and aggressive animosity.

The Democratic Party presented her as an amalgam of compassion and toughness, a leader who can heal the economic, social and racial of the nation, but is also has the steely resolve to taken the enemies of her nation.

Trump loomed large over the Convention as an ominous presence that Democrats saw as a divisive and disrupt force. Clinton said he had taken the country from “morning in America to midnight”.

he conceded there was economic stagnation and various problems, but the nation still remained strong and a beacon of multi-ethnic harmony that inspired the world.

“Don’t trust anyone who says he alone can fix” the nation, she said.

For the Convention’s finale, Chelsea Clinton introduced her mother extolling her commitment to public service and the values of compassion for the less fortunate she instilled.She said Hillary Clinton keeps going amid the sound and fury of politics despite setbacks because of her commitment.

Patriotism was the theme of one of the last segments of the Convention showing support of military veterans, placards with “USA” shouts of “USA,USA” by the audience and a show of cards by participants to spell out a patriotic theme.

The displays sought to douse Republican Party criticism and to seek to reassure a nation uneasy with terror and Islamic radicalism – a fear Trump has mined – that Clinton would be a determined leader who would keep the country safe and at the same time douse anti-Americanism at home.

A Sikh ex-serviceman, Major Kamaljeet Singh, in a pink turban stood with his colleagues behind retired General John Allen, who declared, “We are the greatest country on the planet”.

As the audience shouted, “USA, USA,”, he said that under Clinton the country will not “abandon the world,” and pursue our enemies defeat the IS and stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

To rebut Donald Trump plans on Muslim immigration, Khizr Khan, the father of a 27-year-old Pakistani American Army captain, Humayun Khan, killed in 2004 in Iraq trying to save his soldiers from a bomb, challenged Trump, “You are asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you, if you have read the US Constitution?”

He added, “We will become stronger when Clinton becomes president.”

The four-day convention began on an uneasy note with the party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigning after WikiLeaks revealed emails by party leaders strategising to undermine Sanders, who is Jewish by portraying him as an atheist, and a vociferous revolt by his supporters.

The scenario changed on the second day, when Sanders strongly endorsed her. Every major political speaker from Obama to Clinton herself praised Sanders for bringing progressive ideas to the public discourse.

America

EU top diplomat warns Trump against recognizing Jerusalem as Israeli capital

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Federica Mogherini
Federica Mogherini (Credit European Commission)

The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, said on Tuesday that “any action that would undermine” peace efforts to create two separate states for the Israelis and the Palestinians “must absolutely be avoided.”

US President Donald Trump is considering recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Mogherini was speaking alongside US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was on a visit to Brussels, Reuters reported. “A way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states,” Mogherini said.

The EU supports unlocking meaningful peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The EU’s 28 foreign ministers will discuss the matter with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Brussels next Monday. A similar meeting will be held with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas early next year.

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Raise a toast, Trump is all for this climate treaty

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George Bernard Shaw once said that “England and America are two countries separated by the same language”. When the UN conference on the Montreal Protocol on the substances that deplete the ozone layer ended in Montreal on November 24, albeit in the wee hours of November 25, I thought this could also be said for Paris and Montreal, not only because of the French language but also the agreements signed there on global action on the climate.

The UN meeting in Montreal celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the success of the phase-out of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS). The meeting in Bonn a week before, after its 25 years of global efforts, was still wondering how to even finalise the rulebook to stabilise the climate and keep the temperature rise to not more than to 2 degrees Celsius before 2100, while making efforts to limit that rise to 1.5 degrees — the objective of the Paris Climate Agreement.

While US President Donald Trump is walking out of the keenly-negotiated Paris pact, he has surprisingly decided to support the Montreal Protocol, including its 2.0 version that now includes full-blast action against climate change. He has even agreed to take a nearly 25 per cent share of funding of over $500 million pledged by the developed countries to provide to the developing countries. The deal to provide $500 million over the next three years for the purpose was sealed in Montreal last week.

It was warm news in the freezing temperatures at Montreal in contrast to the cold winds blowing from the Bonn climate conference.

The extraordinary success story of the Montreal Protocol never seems to have a full stop. Though Trump never tweeted about it, this multilateral environmental accord, brokered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1987, was signed by the Republican President Ronald Reagan and fully supported by the Democrats.

Under the treaty, developed countries pledged all the incremental financial support to the developing countries during their transition away from ODS. More importantly, that pledge was honoured year after year without interruption, even during the global financial crisis. It has now reached a cumulative amount of $3.5 billion.

Developing countries responded by implementing the transition to ozone-friendly technologies. The protocol has already achieved its goal of phasing out nearly 100 percent of millions of tonnes of more than 90 man-made ODSs like Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), used mainly in refrigeration, air conditioning, foams and solvents. The factories producing these chemicals have literally shut down.

If the slogan “Yes We Can” has a real-life example, it is this one. In one single generation, these ozone depleting chemicals were invented, their catastrophic impact on the stratospheric ozone layer that shields life on the Earth was scientifically identified, global action to phase them out was agreed through an international agreement, developing countries were provided by the developed countries all the incremental costs and technologies — and the phase-out of these chemicals was achieved exactly on the targeted year and day.

Never before has such an astonishing chain of actions been triggered and taken to its completion.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called it “…the single-most successful international environmental agreement to date”. Erik Solheim, Executive Director, UN Environment, during the opening ceremony on November 24, called the Montreal Protocol “a testimony of the spirit of togetherness of nations and humans”.

That “togetherness” has carried the Montreal Protocol’s success beyond the phase-out of ODS. Major ODS like CFCs are also Green House Gases (GHGs). Thus, their phase-out under the Protocol has, as a side benefit, also resulted in the permanent cumulative emission reduction of GHGs to the extent of 130 giga tonnes equivalent of carbon dioxide by 2010, compared to just about one giga tonne of GHGs reduction aimed by 2012 under the Kyoto Protocol. In reality, GHGs increased during this period.

While the Montreal Protocol did successful market transformation to an ozone-friendly world, the Kyoto Protocol remained fatally flawed. The 2015 Paris pact, a follow-up to the unfinished Kyoto Protocol, is still faltering and fudgy.

The “togetherness” highlighted by Solheim is conspicuous by its absence from climate agreements. However, it was ever evident under the Montreal Protocol. The latest achievement came when, in 2016, all 197 countries agreed to deploy the institutions nurtured under the Montreal Protocol for the last 30 years to now phase-down the deadly GHG — hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) — some of which are more than 10,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. The developed countries, led by the US, pledged financial and technology support.

That was an unprecedented decision, because the seminal objective of the Montreal Protocol was to get rid of ODS and not GHGs. “It was like using Non-Proliferation Treaty for nuclear weapons to control the trade in drugs and crime,” said an African environmental law expert, commenting on the decision in Kigali. The Montreal Protocol, in other words, was used as a “surrogate mother” to carry the seeds of the Paris pact to deliver a climate-friendly baby.

There are two-fold reasons for that unusual action: First, HFCs were introduced as substitute for CFCs and other ODS due to their zero-ozone depleting potential. The countries therefore considered that getting away from HFCs would correct their unintended error and contribute to mitigation of climate change. Second, the developed countries agreed to the incremental funding for the developing countries for their — yet another — transformation from HFCs to non-HFCs.

Thus, the Montreal Protocol has now entered its version 2.0 and became the treaty to reduce the emissions of the most potent global warming gas — HFC — which, incidentally, is also one of the six groups of the GHGs under the Paris pact.

Developed countries will start reducing HFCs as early as 2019, while developing countries will start later. Phasing down HFCs under the Protocol is expected to avoid up to 0.5 degrees of global warming by the end of the century, while continuing to protect the ozone layer. If the energy efficiency improvements due to use of non-HFCs in refrigeration and air conditioning appliances are taken into account, then the avoided warming would be even more. That will be equivalent of achieving at least 25 per cent of the objective of the Paris pact.

The world should now concede some cool points to President Trump and his administration amidst the warming and hot chaos.

By Rajendra Shende

(Rajendra Shende is Chairman, TERRE Policy Centre, a former UNEP Director and an IIT Alumnus. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected])

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Donald Trump declares North Korea state sponsor of terror

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The US President said the designation will impose further penalties on Kim Jong-un’s regime, saying it was long-overdue step and part of a “maximum pressure campaign” against the North.

North Korea will join Iran, Sudan and Syria on a list of countries that have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism”. The designation triggers sanctions including restrictions on US foreign assistance and a ban on defence exports and sales.

Mr Trump told reporters on Monday that the decision “should have happened years ago,” and called Pyongyang “a murderous regime”. He added that North Korea “must end its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile development,” as well as its support for international terrorism.

US officials said the action was partly motivated by the killing of Mr Kim’s estranged half brother in a Malaysian airport this year, which was defined as an act of terrorism.

North Korea was last on the state-sponsored terror list in 2008, under the George W Bush administration. It was removed that year in a bid to salvage a deal halting its nuclear development.

Syria was added to the list in 1979, with Iran following five years later. Sudan was defined as such in 1993.

The administration debated the decision for months before the announcement, US officials told the Associated Press. State Department officials reportedly disagreed on whether the country met the legal requirements to be deemed a state sponsor of terror.

There must be more than one incident of state-sponsored terrorism for a country to be added to the list. The killing of Mr Kim’s half brother counted as one incident, but officials were divided over whether the treatment of American student Otto Warmbier constituted terrorism. Warmbier was returned to the US in a coma after 17 months in North Korean custody, and died shortly thereafter.

Tensions have risen between North Korea and the US this year, as Pyongyang progressed rapidly with its nuclear missile and bomb testing. The country tested its most powerful nuclear weapon yet in September, and is said to have developed missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads to the US mainland.

In August, after Pyongyang threatened to launch missiles into the water around the US territory of Guam, Mr Trump said the country would be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen”. The remarks sparked concern in the American public, and aggressive comments from the North Korean regime.

American diplomats have attempted to soothe North Korea with dialogue, while also working to cut off funds for the country’s nuclear programme with sanctions. In September, the United Nations passed its most stringent sanctions yet against the country. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, vowed to pursue the “strongest possible” sanctions to deter North Korea’s nuclear programme.

“Today, we are saying the world will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea,” she said. “And today the Security Council is saying if North Korea does not halt its nuclear program, we will act to stop it ourselves.”

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