Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (C) addresses the
audience during a meeting of the annual Mercosur trade bloc presidential
summit in Mendoza June 29, 2012. (Credit: Reuters/Enrique Marcarian)

Chinese leader woos Latin America with deals

Chinese leader woos Latin America with deals
Chinese President Xi Jinping (4-L, first row) poses with leaders of the CELAC group of Latin American and Caribbean states, in Brasilia, on July 17, 2014 (AFP Photo/Nelson Almeida)
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."

"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)


.
A student holds a sign reading "Don't shoot, listen!!!" during a protest
on June 17, 2013 in Brasilia (AFP, Evaristo)

Brazil's Rousseff claims nation 'ready for greatest World Cup'

Brazil's Rousseff claims nation 'ready for greatest World Cup'
Google: Ready, set, goooaaallll! The WorldCup is finally here.

Paraguay police search S. American football HQ

Paraguay police search S. American football HQ
The Conmebol headquarters in Luque, Paraguay, is seen on January 7, 2016, during a raid within the framework of the FIFA corruption scandal (AFP Photo/Norberto Duarte)

'Panama Papers' law firm under the media's lenses

'Panama Papers' law firm under the media's lenses
The Panama Papers: key facts on the huge journalists' investigation into tax evasion (AFP Photo/Thomas Saint-Cricq, Philippe Mouche)

Mossack Fonseca

Mossack Fonseca

.

.
"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Latin America poverty level lowest in 20 years, says UN

BBC News, 30 November 2011

Related Stories 

Peru is among the countries registering the biggest drop
in poverty but life is still hard for many
Poverty in Latin America is at its lowest level for 20 years, the UN's regional economic body, Eclac, says.

From 1990 to 2010, the rate fell from 48.4% to 31.4%, which means 177 million people currently live in poverty.

Eclac says the main reason for the reduction in poverty and inequality is the rise in household incomes.

But progress is hindered by the big gaps between productive and better paid sectors and work that is poorly paid and of low productivity, Eclac says.

"Poverty and inequality continue to decline in the region, which is good news, particularly in the midst of an international economic crisis," said Alicia Barcena, Eclac's executive secretary.

"However, this progress is threatened by the yawning gaps in the productive structure in the region and by the labour markets which generate employment in low-productivity sectors."

According to Eclac's report, Social Panorama of Latin America 2011, the rate of extreme poverty or indigence also fell from 22.6% to 12.3%.

The body forecasts that by the end of the year, 174 million people will be classed as living in poverty.

However, a rise in food price is set to see the indigence rate increase slightly to 12.8%.

Caribbean challenge

Among the countries that saw the biggest drops in poverty are Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia.

Poverty increased only in Honduras and Mexico.

Eclac welcome the increase in social spending by governments but said more was needed to achieve a more balanced distribution of income.

Eclac's report for the first time includes a chapter devoted to the Caribbean.

Among the major risks it notes are high unemployment and HIV rates among young people.

The reports notes that the HIV rate, equating to 1% of the total population, is the second-highest in the world, surpassed only by sub-Saharan Africa.



Honduras army to take on drug gangs

Congress votes to deploy troops across the country to confront organised crime and drug traffickers

guardian.co.uk, Reuters, Wednesday 30 November 2011

The plan to use the Honduran army against drug gangs worries some
human rights observers, who say the military is not prepared to combat
civilian crimes. Photograph: Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images

Honduras has voted to deploy the army to fight encroaching Mexican drug cartels in an effort to curb violence in the country.

By an overwhelming majority, congress decided to follow a model used by the Mexican president, Felipe Calderón who launched an army-backed campaign against powerful drug gangs soon after taking office in late-2006.

Since then, more than 45,000 people have died in drug violence in Mexico. But on a per capita basis, the small nation of Honduras far outpaced every other country in the world in homicides, with 82 murders per 100,000 people last year, according to the UN.

About 20 people are killed in Honduras every day.

Officials blame most of the murders on cartels smuggling South American cocaine through Central America to consumers in the US. Honduras also struggles with violent youth street gangs that extort local businesses with death threats.

"This legislation will allow the armed forces to take on policing roles to confront organised crime and drug traffickers operating across the country," congressman Oswaldo Ramos from the ruling conservative party said.

Some human rights activists worry the military is not prepared to combat civilian crimes and have accused Mexican soldiers of involvement in torture and disappearances in the drug war.

The concerns are heightened in Honduras, where the military helped oust leftist president Manuel Zelaya in a 2009 coup.

"We have serious doubts about the implications of sending the army to do policework," said leftist congressman Sergio Castellanos. "They are not prepared to deal with civilians and this will only strengthen their position in society after the coup," he said.

The move is popular though, and polls have shown people feel safer with soldiers patrolling the streets.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Protests in Peru halt Newmont gold mine project

BBC News, 30 November 2011

Related Stories 

Protesters say the project will cause pollution
and destroy water supplies
The US company Newmont which plans to build a huge open-cast gold mine in northern Peru says it is halting construction after days of protests.

At least 10 people were injured on Tuesday at the site in the high Andes.

Critics say the $4.8bn (£3.1bn) mining project will cause pollution and destroy water supplies.

The mining giant has promised to resume dialogue with local residents and the government in an effort to reach a compromise.

Newmont, based in Denver, Colorado, is the majority owner of the Conga project, which was to begin production in 2015 and is an extension of Yanacocha, Latin America's biggest gold mine.

"For the sake of re-establishing tranquillity and social peace in Cajamarca (region), it has been decided to suspend the project's activities," said a statement from the Yanacocha mine, operated by Newmont and its local partner Buenaventura.

Reservoirs

The Conga project, located some 3,700 m (12,140 feet) above sea level, involves moving the water from four lakes high in the mountains into reservoirs the company would build.

The protesters say the reservoirs do not adequately replace the lakes, which also provide groundwater for agriculture and irrigate pasture for livestock.

Cajamarca is Peru's leading dairy and livestock region, and activists fear that pollution from the mine could affect agriculture.

The Newmont Mining Corporation says its plans have been drawn up in consultation with local communities and meet the highest environmental standards.

It says the Conga mine will generate thousands of jobs.

Peru's deputy environment minister Jose De Echave resigned on Monday, calling official environmental impact studies on the project "weak, outdated and lacking in credibility."

Political leaders in Cajamarca began a general strike against the project last Thursday and violence has been escalating, with sabotage of machinery and clashes with the police.

The dispute is a test for President Ollanta Humala, who is trying to balance the needs of the mainly poor people who elected him with the demands of the mining industry, one of the engines of Peru's economic growth.

Mr Humala was elected in June after promising to ensure poor Peruvians saw more benefit from the development of the country's natural resources.

Since taking office he has also increased taxes on mining companies and given indigenous communities the right to be consulted about development on their land.


Related Article:


S&P downgrades top US banks' credit ratings

Associated Press, Nov 29, 2011

Latest News

NEW YORK (AP) -- Standard & Poors Ratings Services is adjusting the ratings on 37 of the world's largest financial institutions, including downgrading the biggest banks in the U.S.


Bank of America Corp. and its main subsidiaries were among those cut at least one notch on Tuesday, along with Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo & Co.

S&P says the changes reflect its new ratings criteria for banks, which incorporate shifts in the worldwide financial industry and macroeconomic trends, including the role of governments and central banks in industry funding.

Top U.K. downgrades include Barclays, HSBC Holdings, Lloyds Banking Group and The Royal Bank of Scotland.

Ratings for several big European banks, including Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, ING and Societe Generale are unchanged.

Civil Action #8500, United States District Court for Southern District of New York,Nov 23, 2011

Fed secretly handed out $8 trillion

Downgraded:

  • Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria S.A.
  • Bank of America Corp.
  • Bank of New York Mellon Corp.
  • Barclays Plc
  • Citigroup Inc.
  • Rabobank Nederland
  • Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
  • HSBC Holdings Plc
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  • Loyds Banking Group Plc
  • Morgan Stanley
  • Royal Bank of Scotland Plc
  • UBS AG
  • Wells Fargo & Co.

Upgraded:

  • Bank of China Ltd.
  • China Construction Bank Corp.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fed secretly handed out $8 trillion

RT.com, 28 November, 2011, 20:24

An anti-Wall Street demonstrator shouts slogans in front of the
Federal Reserve Bank (AFP Photo / Frederic J. Brown)

We knew the last bailout from the Federal Reserve was pretty big, but not until now did we have statistics on the actually tally. If you thought that the $700 billion bailout for TARP was big, get a load of this.

Just exactly how big was the Federal Reserve’s bailout of the banks between the years of 2008 and 2010? Thanks to a Federal Request of Information Act gone fulfilled, America now knows the truth behind a colossal cover-up: almost $8 trillion.

Ever since the Fed stepped in to bail out the biggest banks in the country, Ben Bernanke and company have gone to great lengths to keep the exact details of the transactions a secret, citing that the truth would cause concern for the world financial crisis far greater than what was already at hand, saying in particular that investors would step away from the “too big to fail” banks that were benefiting from the bailout. And while Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke went on the record to call the bailouts to even the most “sound institutions” only “marginal,” details of the FOIA request obtained by Bloomberg News now reveals that the Federal Reserve spent nearly half of the entire production output of the US during that span of less than two years — the biggest bailout in the country’s history — while going to great lengths to keep Congress and the American people in the dark.

By March of 2009, the Fed had already dished out $7.77 trillion to save the US financial system, dwarfing other assistance programs several times over. As the financial sector was on the brink of collapse, neither the Fed nor the banks involved came clean with the truth, instead lying through their teeth to keep the total facts a mystery. Until now.

While the banks kept the bailout a secret from Congress, they lobbied to the Legislative Branch to imply more lax governmental regulations on the industry, something that would haven arguably been near impossible had the truth surfaced at the time.

The website Naked Capitalism explains it pretty clearly in not so many words: “The bottom line is everybody close to the process lied like crazy.”

On November 26, 2008, Bank of America Chief Executive Officer Kenneth D. Lewis told shareholders that he ran “one of the strongest and most stable major banks in the world.” On that very day, BofA was indebted to the Fed something to the tune of nearly $90 billion. Less than two weeks later, the Federal Reserve blew $1.2 trillion total in a single day to bail out the breaking financial institutions.

All the while, of course, banks were borrowing loans at interest rates of as low as 0.01 percent. “No one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates,” writes Bloomberg now.

That’s not the worst part, either. As the Fed continues to operate without oversight from the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches, further bailouts are guaranteed to keep being generated at the cost of the American taxpayer while a recession still seems imminent — if not already occurring. Critics including presidential hopeful Congressman Ron Paul have lobbied to abolish the Federal Reserve once and for all. Could the next president help make that dream a reality? In the meantime, don’t be surprised if billions get borrowed at America’s expense minute by minute.



Venezuela arrests Colombian 'drug lord' Valenciano

BBC News, 28 November 2011

Related Stories 

President Santos of Colombia (l) thanked his
Venezuelan counterpart (r) for Valenciano's arrest
One of Colombia's most-wanted men, Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco, has been captured in Venezuela.

Mr Orozco, who is better known under his alias Valenciano, is accused of smuggling tonnes of cocaine from Colombia to the United States.

American officials had offered a $5m reward for information leading to his capture.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has praised his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez, for the arrest.

President Santos was speaking ahead of a summit with President Chavez in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.

He described Mr Orozco, 39, as a "high value target for Colombia, and the entire world".

The Colombian security forces accuse him of leading a drug gang based in the Colombian city of Medellin.

The gang, known as The Office, was once the armed wing of Pablo Escobar's drug trafficking ring and took over many of its operations after his death in 1993, Colombian officials say. 

Valenciano was captured far from his power
base in Medellin
Valenciano is accused of managing a 1,500-strong gang controlling the main drug trafficking routes from Colombia through Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, to the United States.

Both President Chavez of Venezuela and President Santos of Colombia hailed Valenciano's arrest as an example of successful security collaboration.

He was seized by Venezuelan forces in the northern state of Aragua with the help of intelligence provided by Colombian police.

President Chavez said: "Under no circumstance have we or will we allow drug trafficking, paramilitary or armed groups of any kind to violate our territory."

In 2010, relations between Colombia and Venezuela broke down when then Colombian President Alvaro Uribe accused Venezuela of harbouring left-wing Farc guerrillas.

Relations between the two neighbours have improved markedly since President Santos came to power in August 2010.

President Chavez said Valenciano would be taken to the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, to be handed over to Colombian authorities.

Ecuador's women farmers reap rewards of joint work

BBC News, by Irene Caselli, Apahua, Ecuador, 28 November 2011

Fabiola Quishpe wants to share her experiences to help other women

Related Stories 

As Fabiola Quishpe stands in a field wearing a bright red shawl and black hat, there is little that sets her apart from the other indigenous women in her small community in the Ecuadorean Andes.

But she is far from typical.

At 43, she is divorced, has no children, and has flown more than once.

And for the women in Apahua, a small Quechua settlement, Ms Quishpe is more than a sister to laugh with: she is a model to look up to.

After being married to an abusive man for several years, Ms Quishpe left him, went back to her parents' home and started dedicating herself to her community.

"There used to be a lot of sexism," she says. "Husbands were not letting their women out - we were not allowed to participate in public meetings.

"We were already in charge of the home, of raising our children and the animals, we were in charge of the fields and of food.

"We started thinking, why can't we women also participate in public events and get organised?" 

Local women have traditionally tended the flocks
and grown the crops
What started as a group of 38 women pushing for more female participation in the community is now an organisation recognised for its environmental work.

Two-hundred women are now involved and several non-governmental organisations have come here to provide training and technical support.

When Ms Quishpe and other women first got together in 2003, they realised that the environment around them was changing.

"We started noticing that there was less water available in the community," she says.

Native seeds

Water capacity in the Andean highlands depends on a delicate ecosystem known as paramo, a sponge-like grassland that absorbs water from rivers and rainfall and releases it gradually.

Some organisations say that up to 30% of the paramo has been destroyed nationwide in recent years.

"People in the community used the paramo to let their animals graze," says Ms Quishpe.

"There were a lot of animals - goats, llamas, cows, and pigs - and they would destroy the grasslands."

"When there is paramo, there is water," says Ms Quishpe.

"When there is no paramo, there is no water."

Apahua is an isolated place, some four hours south of Ecuador's capital city, Quito, and located some 4,000m (13,000ft) above sea level.

Given the scarce job opportunities in the area and the high levels of poverty, most men have left for Quito or other cities to find work and send money home. It was the women who were left to tackle the water problem.

They stopped animals grazing and decided that no trees should be planted there. They also started a conservation scheme to recover and preserve native seeds.

They now grow 30 varieties of potatoes, as well as different species of broad beans and local root vegetables.

Farming together allows the women to share the work - and the fun

As she walks around her plot of land, Maria, another organisation member, is very proud of how productive her fields have become - at a very low cost.

"In the past we used chemicals," she says. "But now we use guinea pig manure. It's our own compost, we don't have to buy it."

Ms Quishpe adds that their new awareness is also helping to improve the community's diet.

"If you want to buy something in the city, you can do it only if you have money," says Ms Quishpe.

"But if you work in your own fields, you always have something to eat."

Getting an education

In December 2009, she flew to Copenhagen to participate in the United Nations climate change negotiations.

It was the first time she had left Ecuador, and the first time she had flown.

"I was scared," she says. "I was amazed. I asked myself, how did I end up here?" 

The project is allowing the women to
produce better and more varied food
She says her community involvement started when she was 14 and travelled with missionaries to teach people about Catholicism.

Her participation in the climate change meeting reminded her of that work, Ms Quishpe says, because she was able to share her knowledge with other women from around the world.

"In the past we always knew when it was summer, and when it was winter. Now, we don't know anymore," she says. "We women need to be prepared to face climate change."

Every week the women gather for a minga - a Quechua word meaning collective work. They tend to a small community garden to grow vegetables which they they cook and eat together. Every new step is discussed at meetings.

As Ms Quishpe tells her story, sitting on a patch of land by the side of a road, some women listen with admiration, while others knit and laugh, gossiping about the cars that drive by.

Some changes are evident, says Ms Quishpe, as she encourages the others to explain how the organisation has influenced their lives.

Some older women say they learnt how to read and write. Others say men are slowly becoming less aggressive.

"There aren't many cases of rape anymore," says Maria Josefina. "Earlier men always used to beat us up, and call us names.

"We were always scared and we kept to ourselves."

"We have a good time together," says Marta. "Every time we come here we can laugh together."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How Guyana gold mining threatens its green future

BBC NewsBy Sarah Grainger, Port Kaituma, Guyana, 26 November 2011

Related Stories 

People are coming to Port Kaituma in the hoping
of striking it rich
Almost everyone in Port Kaituma is making money from gold. From the miners who head out to the camps in the surrounding jungle to the owners of the bars and stores where the miners spend their money.

It is clear that the economy of this small town in northwest Guyana is entirely reliant on the precious mineral.

"I moved here for the work," says Wayne Wright Doris, a docker unloading food, fuel and timber at the river port. "I'm very comfortable here", he says.

The goods Mr Wright Doris is handling are destined for the mining camps, known as back dams.

Port Kaituma's reliance on mining is replicated across Guyana - gold accounts for nearly half of the country's total exports, which were some $218m in the first quarter of 2011.

But mining threatens what could be a greater asset for Guyana - its pristine rainforests. 

Around 80% of the country is covered by Amazon jungle which is home to a myriad of species, including the rare golden tree frog, jaguar and harpy eagle.

It is a dilemma many developing countries face - how do you balance the desire for economic growth and preserve the world's forests?

As a new round of UN climate talks gets under way in Durban, South Africa, from 28 November until 9 December, Guyana's outgoing president Bharrat Jagdeo believes he has the answer to this particular dilemma.

He came up a scheme in 2006 to "sell" stewardship of his country's rainforests to investors who would pay to preserve them.

The Norwegian government liked the idea and in 2009 pledged $250m to Guyana in return for protection of the forest.

But so far, Guyana has not received any of the $70m deposited to date with the World Bank.

Increasing threat

President Jagdeo says the World Bank has never administered funds for a scheme like this before and puts the delay in disbursing the money down to teething problems.

Mr Jagdeo, who cannot stand for office again, has indicated that he expects the funds to be released once Guyana's general election on 28 November is over.

But amid the delay, gold is continuing to fetch high prices on international markets, so increasing the threat to Guyana's rainforests.

Flying over the country, the back dams stand out as ugly yellow scars on an otherwise deep green surface.

"Two years ago on trips to Kaieteur Falls I wouldn't see any evidence of mining," says local tour operator Alisha Ousman.

"Now there are patches everywhere, there's no control of logging and mining."

These concerns are echoed in Norway, where critics of the scheme say the government cannot properly monitor what is happening on the ground in Guyana 

Gold accounts for almost half of Guyana's total exports
"I am yet to see any concrete action by the Guyanese government to make sure more mining does not lead to increased deforestation in the long term," says Vemund Olson from the Rainforest Foundation in Norway.

President Jagdeo insists that his government has the situation under control.

He says the government is monitoring key road and river routes to check for any illegal logging.

Mr Jagdeo has also pledged to replant the areas cleared by small-scale miners for the back dams and help medium-sized companies to do the same.

"There's a difficulty in being the first," said Mr Jagdeo. "We want to create a model that can be easily replicated by other countries, so we can't cut corners."

As other nations show an interest in implementing similar schemes - including the Republic of Congo, Belize and Suriname - Guyana's success or failure in resolving the dilemma of economic growth versus environmental protection will be closely watched.


Related Article:


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Howlers and omissions exposed in world of corporate social responsibility

Study points to slapdash fact and figure checking in companies

guardian.co.uk, Juliette Jowit, Thursday 24 November 2011

Two companies both managed to excise, completely legally, a huge
coal plant from their pollution record. Photograph: John Giles/PA

Environment reports by some of the world's biggest companies are routinely including wrong statistics and leaving out vital information, according to the most comprehensive study yet carried out.

The examination of more than 4,000 corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports and company surveys by a team at Leeds University found "irrelevant data, unsubstantiated claims, gaps in data and inaccurate figures" – a finding that will cast serious doubt over the burgeoning sector.

Among the most colourful mistakes and omissions made by some of the world's biggest corporations were a company whose carbon footprint was four times that for the whole world, and a carmaker and power group which both, entirely legally, managed to excise a huge coal plant from their pollution record.

More regular problems included companies ignoring data from individual countries or subsidiaries in their group – including many in China and Brazil – two of the world's biggest economies

Failing to collect or ignoring data from multiple sources was so endemic that BT, which has won awards for its CSR reporting, highlighted zero energy and water use, waste and transport for many of its international operations in 2007; the following year the company did not claim they were zero but left more than half the table blank. In total, fewer than one in six of the companies surveyed reported greenhouse gases for all their operations, said the academics, and many more did not make it clear which activities were covered.

The Leeds study, carried out jointly with Euromed Management School in Marseille, France, comes just weeks after a major report by the consultancy and accountants KPMG, who found nearly two-thirds of the biggest companies in the 34 countries they studied were producing CSR reports, and that Britain was leading the world with a 100% reporting rate.

Previous studies of CSR have also praised some of the world's most reviled companies, raising doubts over the value of the practice.

"The quality of environmental data in sustainability reports remains appalling at times, even today," said Dr Ralf Barkemeyer, a lecturer in CSR at Leeds and one of the team leaders. "In financial reporting to leave out an undisclosed part of the company in the calculation of profits would be a scandal. In sustainability reporting it is common practice.

"Put provocatively, companies get points for knowing where they want to go, but nobody seems to check whether this is where they are heading. Aspiration replaces performance."

Although some of the howlers were clearly mistakes rather than attempts to distort the picture, they were wrong by such enormous factors, and sometimes for several years in a row, that it suggested they were not being read properly or taken seriously by staff inside the company, said Barkemeyer. In one example, power group ABB over-reported sulphur emissions by a factor of 1,000 by using kilotonnes instead of tonnes, for three years in a row. In another, relevant staff at a large Swedish group did not even know that it owned a paper and pulp business until the researchers pointed it out that it was the subsidiary of an acquisition.

Although the quality of reporting has improved over the 10 years or so that CSR has become commonplace, and even the period studied from 2005-2009, many problems still remain, even with the high profile issue of reporting carbon emissions, said Barkemeyer. For example, a forthcoming study of this specific issue has found "every second company has major problems".

Tom Woollard, of consultants Environmental Resources Management, said, however, that CSR reporting had also helped many companies make significant improvements, including wider issues such as staff and contractor health and safety, because publishing data forced them to address problems, and in some cases they only discovered where problems were at their worst when they collected the data. "Public EHS [environment health and safety] reporting has driven a remarkable level of transparency and performance improvement over a wide range of issues in a relatively short time," said Woollard. "Our experience of working with some of the world largest multinationals is to put more effort into achieving fewer targets – only then can you achieve a real step change in performance."

Barkemeyer said improvements should come from more public scrutiny and companies should follow the lead of mining group BHP Billiton, which asked KPMG to check and sign off its reported emissions "We pretend it's better when it's voluntary [as are the commonly used Global Reporting Initiative standards for CSR] because companies can respond more quickly, but in some cases they don't make any effort and if we don't make an effort in terms of scrutiny who can blame them," he added.

In a statement, BT said: "As the research from Leeds University highlights, this is a new and evolving science, and one that is especially complex when it comes to trying to standardise measurement and reporting across dozens of countries. International data collection is far more complex than it is in the UK and, in some countries, the data is just not available. In those instances where reliable data isn't available a zero appears in the report. We will review the points highlighted and, where necessary, look to update our CSR reporting in coming years."


Related Article:

   (Photo: RNW)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Venezuela gets its first shipment of gold bars back from Europe

President Hugo Chávez has ordered almost all of the country's foreign bullion reserves to be repatriated from western banks

The Guardian, Reuters, Saturday 26 November 2011

Vehicles carrying gold bars drive past Miraflores Palace in Caracas.
Photograph: Reuters

A first shipment of gold bars arrived in Venezuela on Friday after President Hugo Chávez ordered almost all of the country's foreign bullion reserves to be repatriated from western bank vaults.

Experts have cautioned that the operation, which will eventually transport more than 160 tonnes of ingots worth more than $11bn (£7.1bn) to Venezuela – will be risky, slow and expensive.

Central bank chief Nelson Merentes did not say how much gold was brought back in the first shipment.

The bars were unloaded at Maiquetia international airport, driven across the runway and packed on to pallets with an armed soldier riding on top, before being transferred to several grey armoured cars for the journey to Caracas.

"They say Chávez is going to take the gold … and give it to Cuba as a gift," the president chuckled yesterday, mocking rivals who accuse him of planning to sell the ingots to fill his warchest ahead of next year's presidential election.

"It's coming to the place it never should have left … the vaults of the Central Bank of Venezuela, not the bank of London or the bank of the United States," he said. "It's our gold."

A senior government source involved in transporting the bars, which amount to 90% of Venezuela's gold held abroad, has said they will be shipped in several cargo flights before the end of the year.

"The gold comes from European countries," Merentes told reporters at the airport. "We cannot give exact dates [for the arrival of the other gold] due to questions of security. When we bring the last shipment, the people will learn about it."

Chávez announced the repatriation in August as a sovereign step that would help protect Venezuela's foreign reserves from economic turbulence in the US and Europe. It also was seen as a populist measure ahead of next October's election, when the socialist leader will seek another six-year term.

Next year's vote is likely to be contentious, and some critics suggest Chávez is worried about Venezuela's foreign reserves being frozen - as happened to Muammar Gaddafi.

The repatriattion also reduces the risk of assets seizures related to arbitration cases, including those linked to the nationalisation of oil projects run by big US companies.