Sunday, January 19, 2014

Property and pollution (link round-up 1/19/14)

Italy’s Jewish community grapples with attitudes on Israel
The meetings were called in the wake of an incident on January 14, in which Jewish protesters disrupted a panel discussion of a book on the left wing and Israel, “The Left and Israel: The Moral Frontier of the West.” The event was organized at a Rome Jewish center by the leftist Jewish group J-Call – which is modeled on the American J-Space, and the Hans Jonas Association Jewish cultural organization.

Amid what a report in the local Jewish media called “heavy intimidation,” the protesters prevented J-Call spokesman Giorgio Gomel, from speaking, and Gomel and another organizer had to be escorted from the premises by Jewish community security.

Gomel, who has been vocal in his criticism of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians, has frequently come under fire from opposing Jewish factions. Reports said protesters on January 14 unfurled a banner saying “Gomel, go back to Gaza.”
The Mafia's Deadly Garbage: Italy's Growing Toxic Waste Scandal
"We are talking about millions of tons," Schiavone, formerly head of administration for the Mafia organization, told the parliamentarians. "I also know that trucks came from Germany carrying nuclear waste." The operations took place under the protection of darkness and were guarded by Mafiosi in military police uniforms, he said. He showed Italian justice officials the location of many of the dumpsites because, as he put it in 1997, the people in those areas are at risk of "dying of cancer within 20 years."

More than 16 years have passed since Schiavone uttered this prophecy before the investigative committee -- and nothing has been done. The outrage is all the greater now. Not only because cancer researchers have found mounting indicators that Schiavone might have been telling the truth. But also because numerous officials at all levels must have known about Schiavone's warnings since the mid-1990s -- and ignored them.

The pressure is particularly great on the following players:
  • Giorgio Napolitano was Italy's interior minister at the time and thus ultimately in charge of the investigation. Today, he is the country's president. 
  • Gennaro Capoluongo was, according to Schiavone, in a helicopter that went on a tour of some of the toxic waste dumps. Today, he is Italy's Interpol head. 
  • Alessandro Pansa was head of mobile units for the Italian police force at the time. Now he is head of the Italian State Police. 
  • Nicola Cavaliere was with the criminal police at the time and was involved in the case, according to Schiavone. Today is the deputy head of Italy's domestic intelligence service.
Video: India draws up a plan to give every adult a bank account
An expert panel has now drawn up a plan to give every Indian adult a bank account by 2016.
China starts televising the sunrise on giant TV screens because Beijing is so clouded in smog
The futuristic screens installed in the Chinese capital usually advertize tourist destinations, but as the season's first wave of extremely dangerous smog hit - residents donned air masks and left their homes to watch the only place where the sun would hail over the horizon that morning.

Commuters across Beijing found themselves cloaked in a thick, gray haze on Thursday as air pollution monitors issued a severe air warning and ordered the elderly and school children to stay indoors until the quality improved.
How China could save Detroit
He says reports of Chinese speculators buying dozens of vacant homes are exaggerated, but the attraction is real. Detroit’s assets — the auto industry, clean water, clean air, open land — resonate with Chinese homebuyers. “In China,” Stevanovich says, referring to Detroit’s bankruptcy, “crisis is opportunity.”

Elsewhere, the trend could be less welcome, and more weird. In Miami, an incredible 90 percent of condos are sold to overseas buyers, prompting speculation that the city’s condo boom is functionally a money-laundering operation.

But the money from Chinese residential investors could prove, in the coming years, to be of another order of magnitude. Housing prices in Palo Alto, Calif., are rising faster than in London, which realtors say is thanks to surging interest (and all-cash bids) from Chinese buyers an ocean away. Others say that stratospheric housing prices in Vancouver, Canada, can be blamed on an investor program aimed at wealthy Chinese immigrants, and that foreign buyers should bear additional taxes. In Oct., 2012, a similar tax was implemented in Hong Kong, a city that has also held rising Chinese speculation accountable for high home prices.
Rich Chinese continue to flee China
A new report shows that 64 percent of Chinese millionaires have either emigrated or plan to emigrate—taking their spending and fortunes with them. The United States is their favorite destination.

The report from Hurun, a wealth research firm that focuses on China, said that one-third of China's super rich—or those worth $16 million or more—have already emigrated.

The data offer the latest snapshot of China's worrying wealth flight, with massive numbers of rich Chinese taking their families and fortunes overseas. Previous studies show the main reasons rich Chinese are leaving is to pursue better educations for their kids, and to escape the pollution and overcrowding in urban China.
Sherlock is incredibly popular in China
With its mix of odd villains, eccentric aristocrats and fashionable London settings, "Sherlock" can draw on a Chinese fondness for a storybook version of Britain.

Wealthy Chinese send their children to local branches of British schools such as Eton and Dulwich. Rolls Royce Motor Cars Ltd. says China passed the U.S. last year to become the biggest market for its luxury sedans. On the outskirts of Shanghai, a developer has built Thames Town, modeled on an English village with mock Tudor houses and classic red phone booths.

"The whole drama has the rich scent of British culture and nobility," Yu said. "Our drama doesn't have that."
Ethiopia's landless young find hope and security in keeping bees
The prospect of earning money in Middle Eastern countries as a domestic maid or as a construction worker has spurred many young Ethiopians overseas. But for some the dream has become a nightmare as employers exploit them and ignore their rights.

Last month, the Ethiopian government ordered the repatriation of more than 130,000 young Ethiopian migrants illegally working in Saudi Arabia and placed a travel ban on workers going to the region for six months.

To help mitigate this crisis of land scarcity and spiralling youth unemployment, Farm Africa, an NGO, which has directors based in Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, has begun supplying beehives to 200 landless young people in the Tigray region to give them a resilient means of making a living.

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