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FEATURE

Key Members of House and Senate Raise Alarm Bells on Climate Investments Cuts





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In the middle of the House of Representatives' efforts to completely gut US international investments in addressing carbon pollution, two leading Members of Congress highlighted how the US would lose out from these draconian cuts.  US Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) both raised the alarm bells – and they are ringing very loud as the House just voted for these major cuts.  Now eyes are on the Senate and the White House to reject these cuts.
Rep. Berman took to the House Floor to remind us that these cuts would hurt Americans.   Continued...

FEATURE

Poor No More! Or That 'Hard-Working Middle Class'





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Protest in Wisconsin, 2011
When have you last heard the term "hard-working poor" coming from any politician? Probably not in the past decade. Nobody is a member of the working poor anymore. Everyone is a member of the over-worked, over-taxed, hard-working middle class. That includes those making $25,000 a year as a Wal-Mart store manager, to those making $450,000 as a hedge fund clipper, to those making $12,000 dollars as a part time hospital cleaning woman. Continued...

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FEATURE

President Obama's Budget Proposal Would Make Key Climate Investments





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President Obama released his Fiscal Year 2012 budget request that will invest in global efforts to reduce carbon pollution, tap into the growing global demand for clean energy, and make countries more resilient to the impacts of global warming.  It takes a scalpel to the international funding at a time when we need more international climate funding, not less.  But the President’s budget invests in efforts that benefit Americans, while the recent House Republican proposal would gut programs that help America compete and protect its citizens from the damages of carbon pollution.  One budget invests in what is needed, the other turns a blind eye to the opportunities and challenges that are in front of us.      
The President’s budget would (full details here):
Invest in clean energy development and deployment in the developing world. As the President’s budget request states:
In addition to investing at home to create and deploy clean energy technologies, the President’s budget would help create the global demand and market conditions for clean energy deployment throughout the world.  The budget would propose $652 million for efforts to speed up the deployment of clean energy technologies throughout the world. This is a small investment in an effort which could create up to 850,000 American jobs.  After all, this investment unleashes much larger private sector investment so small, targeted investments can reap much larger benefits to the US.  Continued...

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FEATURE

Republican Budget Proposal Guts International Climate Funding





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Wind Ranch in Texas - Photo: Billy Hathorn 
The House Republican budget proposal would gut key programs to help the US tap into the growing global demand for clean energy technologies, reduce the carbon pollution from the loss of tropical forests, and help developing countries adapt to the impacts of global warming.  Cutting these programs is bad for American competitiveness and for the environment.
In the last fiscal year (FY2010), Congress approved funding of $1.3 billion for global efforts to reduce carbon pollution and help developing countries become less vulnerable to global warming impacts.  This funding is a very, very, very small share of the overall US budget—around 0.04% of the overall US budget.  Cutting this funding will have important implications for Americans.    Continued...
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Where To Buy Fair Trade Chocolate





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Given chocolate's status as a conflict substance, it's important to know that ethical (and tasty!) chocolate is readily available. 

Why is this important? 

With Fair Trade chocolate:

•  Forced and abusive child labor practices are prohibited
•  Farmers earn a price that is adequate to meet their basic human needs
  Environmentally sustainable production methods are required
Where to buy fair trade chocolate and other fair trade goods?

• Fair Trade Resource Network (Fair trade flowers)

For more links to healthy foods, see resources.

FEATURE

Risky Business





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by William S. Becker

2011 Flood in Queensland, Australia
Like a family with no homeowner’s insurance, no fire detectors, a gas leak in the basement and a bad case of denial, the global community remains unprepared for irreversible and potentially catastrophic changes to the Earth’s climate.

What’s needed – quickly – is an international risk management effort, a process that’s more familiar in military and national security circles than it is in environmental and scientific circles.

That process is described in “Degrees of Risk: Defining a Risk Management Framework for Climate Security” -- a report just released by the London-based think tank Third Generation Environmentalism (E3G). The report’s recommendations are the result of consultations E3G held over the past two years with military and intelligence leaders in Europe, the United States and several developing countries. Continued...


U.N. Launches International Year of Forests (Forests 2011)





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The United Nations has proclaimed 2011 as the International Year of Forests. In the new U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) State of the World’s Forests report, launched at the opening ceremony, the FAO points out that millions of forest-dependant people play a vital role in managing, conserving, and developing the world’s forests in a sustainable manner. The report adds that the outside world often underestimates their rights to use and benefit from these local forest resources.

“What we need during the International Year of Forests is to emphasize the connection between people and forests, and the benefits that can accrue when forests are managed by local people in sustainable and innovative ways,” Eduardo Rojas, FAO’s Assistant Director-General for Forestry, said.

Moving the “Green” Economy Forward

The increased interest in social and environmental sustainability presents a unique challenge to the forest industry to innovate and restructure itself. The industry must respond to the demands of the 21st Century to change the generally poor perception of wood products by consumers who think it is ethically unsound to cut down trees.

To counter this perception, the FAO report explains that the forest industry is an important part of a “greener” economy with wood products that have environmental attributes which would appeal to people. They point out that wood and wood products, as natural materials, are made from renewable resources that store carbon with a high potential for recycling. Continued...

Race to Innovate the Clean Energy Future Heats Up After the President's Address





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President Barack Obama, in his annual State of the Union address called for new economic growth based on clean energy and innovation. The President proposed obtaining 80% of America’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.  Other countries are seeing the benefits and reaping the rewards of making smart investments in the clean energy future.  So as President Obama hinted: the US better get in the game or it will be left on the sidelines.  The numbers (and pictures) tell the story.  Clean energy investments are happening right now all throughout the world.  Continued...

FEATURE

The Non-Mandated Society: Why Obama's Mortgage Programs Fail





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To expect banks to care about Americans over their global shareholders is asking banks to become 'persons' rather than corporate persons. When programs come from Washington as guidelines rather than mandated, banks use them to maximize profits at the expense of those the programs are meant to help.

That would seem a harsh statement until one takes into account disturbing reports that support such a conclusion. It became more evident recently with a multi-billion program the Obama Administration sent to states hardest hit by the recession to provide emergency mortgage loans to the unemployed. It was not altruism. This was initiated to save the tax base in middle class neighborhoods -- an essential ingredient to economic recovery. The program had been anticipated by struggling homeowners who'd waited a year for their states to initiate the program that would give them loans to cover their mortgage payments for up to two years.

President Obama established the Hardest Hit Fund in February 2010 to provide targeted aid to families in states hit hard by the economic and housing market downturn. Each state housing agency gathered public input to implement programs designed to meet the distinct challenges struggling homeowners in their state are facing. States were chosen either because they are struggling with unemployment rates at or above the national average or steep home price declines greater than 20 percent since the housing market downturn.
While investigating the program's implementation in California, I came across what may be the primary reason that the Obama Administration mortgage programs out of their Treasury Department have such an abysmal track record of achieving their stated goals.  Continued...


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