Tribal Report no.19

26 April 2009 2 Iyar 5769
1. Australia: Is Gobal Warming becoming a Threatening Reality?
2. Judah: Jews USA; Some Interesting Statistics
3. Switzerland, Iran, and a Questionable Past


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1. Australia: Is Gobal Warming becoming a Threatening Reality?
What will global warming look like? Scientists point to Australia,0,65585.story?track=rss
Drought, fires, killer heat waves, wildlife extinction and mosquito-borne illness -- the things that climate change models are predicting have already arrived there, they say.
By Julie Cart
April 9, 2009

They call Australia the Lucky Country, with good reason. Generations of hardy castoffs tamed the world's driest inhabited continent, created a robust economy and cultivated an image of irresistibly resilient people who can't be held down. Australia exports itself as a place of captivating landscapes, brilliant sunshine, glittering beaches and an enviable lifestyle.

Look again. Climate scientists say Australia -- beset by prolonged drought and deadly bush fires in the south, monsoon flooding and mosquito-borne fevers in the north, widespread wildlife decline, economic collapse in agriculture and killer heat waves -- epitomizes the "accelerated climate crisis" that global warming models have forecast.

With few skeptics among them, Australians appear to be coming to an awakening: Adapt to a rapidly shifting climate, and soon. Scientists here warn that the experience of this island continent is an early cautionary tale for the rest of the world.

"Australia is the harbinger of change," said paleontologist Tim Flannery, Australia's most vocal climate change prophet. "The problems for us are going to be greater. The cost to Australia from climate change is going to be greater than for any developed country. We are already starting to see it. It's tearing apart the life-support system that gives us this world."

Deadly fires

Many here believe Australia already has a death toll directly connected to climate change: the 173 people who died in February during the nation's worst-ever wildfires, and 200 more who died from heat the week before. A three-person royal commission has convened to decide, among other things, whether global warming contributed to massive bush fires that destroyed entire towns and killed a quarter of Victoria state's koalas, kangaroos, birds and other wildlife.

The commission's proceedings mark the first time anywhere that climate change could be put on trial. And it will take place in a nation that still gets 80% of its energy from burning coal, the globe's largest single source of greenhouse gases.

The commission's findings aren't due until August, but veteran firefighters, scientists and residents believe the case has already been made. Even before the flames, 200 Melbourne residents died in a heat wave that buckled the steel skeleton on a newly constructed 400-foot Ferris wheel and warped train tracks like spaghetti. Cities experienced four days of temperatures at 110 degrees or higher with little humidity, and 100-mph winds. In areas where fires hit, temperatures reached 120.

On the hottest day, more than 4,000 gray-headed flying foxes dropped dead out of trees in one Melbourne park.

"Something is happening in Australia," firefighter Dan Condon of the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade wrote in an open letter. "Global warming is no longer some future event that we don't have to worry about for decades. What we have seen in the past two weeks moves Australia's exposure to global warming to emergency status."

The possibility that a high-profile royal commission may find a nexus between climate change and the loss of human life is significant for many scientists here.

"That will be an important moment in its own right," said Chris Cocklin, a climate change researcher at James Cook University in Townsville, in Queensland state, and lead author on the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"It may mean that climate change will be brought to the fore in a way that has never happened before."

Dust Bowl scenes

Australia's climate change predicament is on depressing display in the Murray-Darling Basin, where the country's three largest rivers converge...

The rivers -- the Murray, Darling and Murrumbidgee -- flow from the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range and nourish the valleys of Australia's fruit and grain basket, as well as a diverse system of wetlands, grasslands and eucalyptus forests.

Farmers who once grew 60% of the nation's produce are walking off their land or selling their water rights to the state and federal government. With rainfall in the region at lower than 50% of average for more than a decade, Australia is witnessing the collapse of its agricultural sector and the nation's ability to feed itself.

In rural Victoria, one rancher or farmer a week takes his own life. Public health officials say hanging is the preferred method.

Australians in the south would see water as heaven-sent; in the north, it's a curse. In March, a young girl playing by a rain-swollen river was carried off by a crocodile, the second child lost to crocs in a month.

The region is beset with twin epidemics of malaria and a dangerous form of hemorrhagic dengue fever, from mosquitoes that breed in the standing water. Such diseases are expected to become more common in the tropics with climate change.

Most Australians live on the coast, where they are vulnerable to flooding because of rising sea levels, projected to increase by 6 1/2 feet this century.

2. Judah: Jews USA; Some Interesting Statistics
Of the approximately 5.2 million Jewish people in the United States, over 80% describe themselves as actively religious according to the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey. Jewish people tend to belong to religion-based organizations as well. There are 335 national organizations, 481 libraries, 156 universities with Jewish studies, 206 newspapers and magazines, and 305 bookstores and gift shops in the United States catering to the Jewish community. Genealogy is another large area of interest and there are several organizations like JewishGen that help people find their roots.

Median income is $50,000 compared to $42,000 overall, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. About 59% of employed Jewish adults work in management, professional, and technical areas compared to 46% of non-Jewish workers, and 55% have earned at least a Bachelor's Degree compared to 28% of all people in the United States.

3. Switzerland, Iran, and a Questionable Past

Morality in neutral
Switzerland is situated in the heart of Europe, surrounded by Germany, France, Austria and Italy. But unlike these EU-member countries, the Swiss are neutral in international affairs.
And under cover of neutrality, Swiss President Hans Rudolf Merz, who is both chief of state and head of government, met Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last night over dinner in Geneva. The Iranian leader is in town to attend the Durban II "anti-racism conference," which opens today.

Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told Army Radio that the Merz-Ahmadinejad meeting "caught us by surprise." It shouldn't have.

The Swiss have their interests. Swiss businessmen with ties to Pakistan's A.Q. Khan have been implicated in selling, on the black market, blueprints for a compact nuclear weapon. The Swiss trading company EGL is doing billions of dollars' worth of (technically legal) business with Iran.

When Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey was granted an audience with Ahmadinejad last year, the feminist politician, eager not to offend, donned a head-scarf.

THE SWISS Foreign Ministry explains that Berne has a "long-term strategic rationale" for its actions. Some of that rationale was already on display during World War II, in Switzerland's erratic policies toward Jewish asylum seekers.

When it looked like Germany would win the war, Switzerland, for the most part, kept Jewish refugees out; but when it appeared the Allies might win, the Swiss reversed course. In the final weeks of the war, they even demanded that the Nazis stop deportations altogether.

Back in 1938, when Berlin was ascendant, the Swiss requested that Germany and Austria mark the passports of their Jewish citizens with a "J" so that Berne could distinguish between "genuine political refugees" and fleeing Jews. A Swiss police captain named Paul Gruninger who allowed thousands of Jews to cross the border illegally was thrown off the force.

But when it suited Swiss "rationale," Jews were allowed in - from The Netherlands and Belgium in 1941; from Italy in 1943. And in 1944, 1,684 Jews were permitted to enter from Bergen Belson as part of the Rudolf Kastner-Adolf Eichmann deal.

All told, perhaps 30,000 Jews managed to reach Switzerland during the Shoah.

All along, Eduard Von Steiger, who was in charge of Switzerland's refugee policies, claimed that "the boat is full." He would later explain that had he known the Nazis were systematically slaughtering Europe's Jews on the other side of the Swiss border, "we might have widened the bound (sic) of what was possible."

That alibi has more holes than a piece of Emmental cheese. By May 1942, Swiss army intelligence had photos of Jews who had been asphyxiated by the Nazis at the Russian front.

In fact, the Swiss leadership knew exactly what the Nazis were doing - from their own diplomats and businessmen, from the Brazilian ambassador and from German sources.

Hugo Remuad, of the Swiss Red Cross, argued that genocidal anti-Semitism was simply a consequence of there being too many Jews. Or as Swiss judge Eugen Von Hasler put it: "It is also in our own interest that the greatest thing of all [the destruction of Europe's Jews] is coming to pass, and our hearts beat as one with the young white men who, dog-tired, forge onward to the East as [defenders] of European culture."

Meanwhile, Swiss banks raked in their spoils both by collaborating with the Nazis over pilfered Jewish cash and gold, and - later - by retaining some 36,000 bank accounts, valued at $1 billion, belonging to murdered Jews. This wealth lay dormant until 2004, when a class-action suit (and the resultant Volker Committee) forced Swiss banks to begin returning the money to the estates of the murdered.

IN 1995, former Swiss president Kaspar Villiger apologized for his country's treatment of the Jews.

And yet his successor, Merz, met last night with Ahmadinejad even as the Iranian leader puts the finishing touches on his atom bomb, swears that the Holocaust never happened, and calls for the extermination of of the "filthy [Zionist] bacteria."

While Swiss leaders shamelessly fete Ahmadinejad, we Israelis are heartened by the decision of the United States, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia and Italy to boycott the Durban II circus, along with its various sideshows.


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