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Kerry urges Abbas to restart peace talks


Kerry urges Abbas to restart peace talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry has met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as part of a fresh US bid to restart negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

Kerry is on a 10-day tour, which will also take him to Asia, and met Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday after holding talks earlier in the day with Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul.

While in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, Kerry will also meet with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Abbas told visiting Kerry that the release of prisoners held by Israel was a “top priority” for resuming failed peace talks.

“President Abbas stressed that the release of the prisoners is a priority that creates an appropriate climate for the possibility of moving the peace process forward,” his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said.

Abbas told Kerry that releasing the 4,500 or so prisoners held in Israeli jails, a deeply sensitive issue on the Palestinian street, was a “top priority for creating the right atmosphere for the resumption of negotiations”.

Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnstone in Ramallah reported that the priority for the US was for “both sides to return to talks without any preconditions”.

But, she said, “the Israelis are saying that they want the Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, and the Palestinians want Israel to stop its settlement construction”.

Most Palestinians reject the idea of recognising Israel as a “Jewish-only” state because many still demand the right of return for refugees who decades ago were forced from their homes in what is now Israel.

Israel-Turkey relations

During earlier talks with Davutoglu in Istanbul, Kerry urged Turkey and Israel to fully normalise relations, after Israel’s US-brokered apology for a deadly 2010 raid on a Gaza aid flotilla organised by a Turkish charity.

“We would like to see this relationship that is important to stability in Middle East, critical to the peace process itself, we would like to see it back on track in its full,” Kerry said in a joint news conference with Davutoglu.

He said, however, that it was not for the United States “to be setting conditions or terms” for the reconciliation.

Israel apologised to Ankara on March 22 for the deaths of nine Turkish activists in a botched raid by Israeli commandos on a Gaza-bound aid ship, in a breakthrough engineered by US President Barack Obama during a visit to Jerusalem.

The apology ended a nearly three-year rift between Israel and Turkey – two key US allies in the region – and the two countries are due to begin talks on compensation on Friday.

But they have yet to exchange ambassadors and fully restore diplomatic ties.

“It is imperative that the compensation component be fulfilled, that the ambassadors be returned,” Kerry said. “I’m confident there will be goodwill on both sides.”

‘Oases of stability’

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accepted the Israeli apology “in the name of the Turkish people” but said the country’s future relationship with Israel including the return of ambassadors would depend on Israel.

Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Istanbul, said that Davutoglu had already spoken to Khaled Meshaal, the leader of the Palestinian group Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Mahmoud Abbas.

“We don’t know what they discussed, but its an indication that Turkey is taking some sort of interest in the Middle East peace process,” said Smith.

He added that Kerry “wants Turkey to normalise its relationship with Israel because it sees Israel, Turkey and Jordan as three oases of stability in a very turbulent region.”

The US top diplomat also commended Turkey’s efforts to provide for the tens of thousands of refugees who have entered the country during Syria’s two-year conflict.

He called Turkey “incredibly generous” for keeping its border open and doing “everything possible” to respond to the increasing humanitarian crisis in the neighbouring country.

“The US and Turkey will continue cooperating to reach the shared goal of a peaceful transition in Syria,” he said, repeating the US position that President Bashar al-Assad must leave power.

“Thousands of Syrians have lost their lives,” Davutoglu said. “The international community needs to act on this. The failure to do so would be interpreted by Assad as a weakness.

“The US position is important and so is Turkey’s.


Al Jazeera And Agencies



The burning issue


The burning issue

Drought to Cause Dairy, Meat, Other Food Prices to Rise


Drought to Cause Dairy, Meat, Other Food Prices to Rise


By , Expert Senior Meteorologist
Jul 28, 2012

Be on the lookout for higher food prices in general in 2013. However, the greatest impact is likely to be on meat and dairy prices as livestock feed shortfalls caused by the Drought of 2012 catch up with producers and consumers.

While some improvement in terms of drought have occurred over the Upper Midwest and Eastern states in the past week, drought conditions continue to amplify over much of the middle of the nation, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s United States Drought Monitor.

Processed foods are not as heavily impacted by the drought.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that this year’s ongoing drought will push up food prices in general 2013 by 3 to 4 percent, outpacing typical yearly inflation.

AccuWeather.com meteorologists are projecting that additional episodes of rain and lower temperatures are in store from the Upper Midwest into the Ohio Valley moving forward through August, but frequent extreme heat and very limited rain will continue over a large part of the central and southern Plains through the middle of the month.

However, the percentage price increase on meat and dairy products could be greater.

According to Dr. James W. Dunn, Professor of Agricultural Economics at the Pennsylvania State University, “During the past two years, we have used more corn than we have produced. We don’t have as much of a buffer going into this year’s harvest, which will be smaller than originally expected.”

The greatest and most immediate impact will be on livestock feed, followed by trickle down impact on meat and dairy products.

“Thirty-five percent of the United States’ corn crop is used as animal feed. Ninety-five percent of animal feed is made up of corn. The rest is made up of sorghum, hay, soybeans and other additives to achieve the desired nutritional value to the animals,” Dunn stated.

While corn is largely irreplaceable in terms of feed, sorghum, hay and soybeans (protein source) are also being negatively impacted by the drought.

The United States is the number one exporter of corn in the world.

Lower exports will impact livestock producers worldwide.

In order to battle higher prices for animal feed beef, pork and poultry producers will initially butcher or sell some of their livestock, causing prices to “initially” fall or hold steady.

Some meat and dairy producers are already straining from high feed prices in recent years may go under.

The initial surge of meat on the market will eventually be depleted. Once this happens, meat prices are likely to climb.

“Significant food shortages are not likely. However, expensive food creates problems for the very poor,” Dunn said.

In some parts of the world, such as Mexico, corn is a major part of the diet and impacts there may be much greater than others.

This summer, much higher-than-average temperatures and drought are also negatively affecting milk production.

During extreme heat, cows are stressed and provide less milk. In addition, poor grass quality also restricts the amount of milk dairy cows produce.


“We have already begun to see milk prices rise this summer,” Dunn said.

Additional price increases in milk and other dairy products are possible this fall and winter. Even as temperatures fall during the change of seasons, the impact of high feed prices on producers will continue.

“From an agricultural standpoint, we could start off 2013 on the wrong foot,” Dunn stated.

In addition to lower reserves of animal feed, the impact of an El Niño pattern this fall and winter could result in the same conditions that contributed to the dry soil conditions this spring and summer.

Warmer sea surface temperatures in tropical Pacific waters, which define an El Niño, often bring above-normal temperatures and below-normal snowfall to a large part of the Plains and Midwest.

Spring snow melt is a major contributor to soil moisture and holding back temperatures into the first part of the summer.


Bill to Protect Coal Ash Recycling Filed in U.S. Senate


Bill to Protect Coal Ash Recycling Filed in U.S. Senate


            A bipartisan group of 10 U.S. Senators filed a bill on October 20 to create enforceable national coal ash disposal standards while protecting coal ash recycling from an unwarranted “hazardous waste” designation.

            The Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act – which has not yet received a Senate bill number – is patterned after a bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives less than a week earlier. The original Democrat co-sponsors of the Senate bill are Kent Conrad (ND), Mary Landrieu (LA), Joe Manchin (WV), Jay Rockefeller (WV), and Ben Nelson (NE). The original Republican co-sponsors are John Hoeven (ND), Michael Enzi (WY), Rob Portman (OH), John Boozman (AR), and John Thune (SD).

            In introducing the bill, Senator Hoeven said, “North Dakota is a good example of how states can manage the disposal of coal residuals with good environmental stewardship, and at the same time, allow for beneficial uses like building roads, bridges and buildings that are stronger and less expensive. Just as importantly, this legislation helps to preserve valuable jobs at a time when the nation so very much needs them.” 

Senator Conrad said, “Years of research have shown that coal ash should not be regulated as a hazardous waste. Doing so would only force unworkable requirements on our state’s utilities, resulting in serious economic consequences and the loss of good-paying jobs. While coal ash must be handled properly, there are less burdensome regulatory options that still protect public health and the environment and can be administered by state programs.”  

            The bill’s counterpart in the House – HR 2273 – passed 267-144 on October 14 and attracted the support of 37 Democrats. The bill mandates the first ever national standards for coal ash disposal. The standards are patterned after successful regulatory programs for managing municipal solid waste. The bill requires state-administered permit programs to create enforceable requirements for groundwater monitoring, lining of landfills, corrective action when environmental damage occurs and structural criteria. It also provides that if a state is unable or unwilling to implement the permit program, the federal EPA would have authority to do so.

            A complete copy of the Senators’ news release announcing the bill is reproduced below.  A copy of the complete bill can be found here.

HR 2273 was initiated in April when Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) filed another bill – HR 1391 – which simply would have prohibited EPA from regulating coal ash disposal as a “hazardous waste.” (See previous blog post here.) Following a subcommittee hearing on that bill, Members of Congress from both parties began working together to develop the more comprehensive approach that was approved by the full House and now has become the basis for bipartisan action in the Senate.

Patterning the coal ash regulations after programs for regulating municipal solid waste is appropriate because the ecological risks are similar. For a discussion of why household garbage is actually more challenging to dispose than coal ash, click here.

            Here is the text of the Senate news release:

Oct 20 2011

Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduce Coal Ash Recycling Legislation

Measure Will Help Preserve Jobs, Protect Local Oversight, Hold Down Energy Costs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), and John Boozman (R-Ark.) today introduced the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2011, legislation that will ensure the safe and effective disposal of coal combustion residuals, a byproduct of coal-fired electricity generation that is also recycled as a valuable building material. 

Under this legislation, states could set up their own permitting program for the management and disposal of coal ash that is based on existing EPA regulations to protect human health and the environment. States will know where they stand under this bill, since the benchmarks for what constitutes a successful state program will be set in statute. This is a states-first approach that provides regulatory certainty. 

Hoeven outlined the new legislation on the floor of the U.S. Senate today in Washington, illustrating his comments with photos of Bismarck State University’s National Center of Energy Excellence and a rendering of the new North Dakota Heritage Center expansion, both of which incorporate recycled coal residuals in their construction. 

“North Dakota is a good example of how states can manage the disposal of coal residuals with good environmental stewardship, and at the same time, allow for beneficial uses like building roads, bridges and buildings that are stronger and less expensive,” Hoeven said. “Just as importantly, this legislation helps to preserve valuable jobs at a time when the nation so very much needs them.” 

“Years of research have shown that coal ash should not be regulated as a hazardous waste. Doing so would only force unworkable requirements on our state’s utilities, resulting in serious economic consequences and the loss of good-paying jobs,” Senator Conrad said.  “While coal ash must be handled properly, there are less burdensome regulatory options that still protect public health and the environment and can be administered by state programs.”  

“This bipartisan legislation will prevent serious government overreach that would negatively impact utility consumers, workers and our economy,” said Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio. “It’s just another example of an out of control regulatory regime that has created uncertainty and threatened job growth in everything from farming to manufacturing and mining. By some estimates, the regulations EPA are proposing for coal combustion byproducts would eliminate 316,000 jobs over the next 20 years and cost hundreds of billions of dollars.  Ohio’s economy, which is already struggling, would be heavily burdened by these regulations.  This legislation, supported by a broad coalition of job creators, will provide a common sense framework that balances our economic, environmental, public health and energy security needs.” 

“This bill paves the way for states to manage coal ash in a safe, effective manner,” said Sen. Michael Enzi of Wyoming. “It is a serious legislative effort that takes a unique approach to fixing a problem that industry and the states want to address.” 

“The bipartisan support for this commonsense legislation is so strong, and has been building for a long time because overregulation of coal ash by the EPA would threaten vital industries, as well as needlessly cost West Virginia and the nation more jobs – neither of which we can afford,” Senator Manchin of West Virginia said. “This legislation gives us a commonsense fix: let each state use existing EPA health and environment regulations to set up their own permitting program that allows them to recycle and reuse coal ash. This approach will protect jobs and our economy, and give families and businesses the certainty they need to help restore confidence.” 

“This is a commonsense approach to protecting jobs for hardworking Americans by empowering states to both protect our environment and keep electricity affordable,” said Senator John Boozman of Arkansas. 

Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska pointed out that his state has 100 percent public power, meaning every utility customer in Nebraska purchases electricity from a public power, rural electric or municipal utility.   

“This legislation will help control rates for every Nebraskan who pays for electricity,” Senator Nelson said.  “It will prevent the implementation of new repetitive, burdensome, and potentially expensive EPA regulations, keeping the regulation of coal ash at the state level.  Local control helps Nebraska’s publicly-owned utilities and municipalities manage their coal ash byproducts in a way that is cost-effective while ensuring the continued protection of human health and the environment.”   

The legislation is prompted by the EPA’s proposal to regulate coal ash as hazardous waste. Coal ash is a byproduct that has been safely used for buildings, roads, bridges and other infrastructure for years under state regulations. The agency’s new rule would add additional costs to recycling companies and power plants, thereby increasing the cost of electricity to consumers. 

The bill will set up a state permitting program for coal ash under a section of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) that would ensure sites have the adequate groundwater monitoring, protective lining, and properly engineered structures needed to protect communities.  

“This legislation represents a reasonable new approach to environmental law – a states-first approach,” Hoeven said. “It ensures good environmental stewardship, while helping to preserve jobs and ensure that a beneficial product is made available for worthy uses. Just as importantly, it ensures that Congress and the states hold the reins of environmental policy.”



Posted by: on: Oct 21, 2011 @ 09:49