The GMO Deception Part 2

SUBHEAD: GMO potato study show growths in the stomach lining and other abnormalities in the intestines of the animals.

By Interview with Sheldon Krimsky on 31 October 2014 for Democracy Now! -
(http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2014/10/31/the_gmo_deception_sheldon_krimsky_on)


Image above: Illustration of a From (http://eatdrinkbetter.com/2010/04/15/genetically-modified-frankenstein-potato-comes-to-europe/).


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Seventy-five percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves in the United States—from cracker, to soda, to soup—contain genetically engineered ingredients. Public concern has been steadily intensifying. The Vermont Legislature has passed a GMO labeling law, and now voters in Colorado and Oregon are voting on GMA labeling ballot initiatives.

Sheldon Krimsky is with us today, the editor and author of several contributions in the new book, The GMO Deception: What You Need to Know about the Food, Corporations, and Government Agencies Putting Our Families and Our Environment at Risk. He is a professor of urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts University, as well as an adjunct professor in the Department of Public Health and Family Medicine at Tufts School of Medicine. Professor Krimsky is also a board member of the Council for Responsible Genetics.

Welcome to Democracy Now! for part two of our conversation. Now, you tell a remarkable story about the scientists who get destroyed as they attempt to look at GMO foods. But before we do, what is the problem with genetically modified foods? Why in the United States are 75 percent of our foods have ingredients that are genetically modified, but in Europe, in state after state, it’s completely outlawed? Why the difference?


Video above: Interview with Sheldon Krimsky. From original article.

SHELDON KRIMSKY: The Europeans operate on the precautionary principle. They say, if you introduce a new product on the market, you should evaluate it before the consumers get a chance to purchase it. In America, we made a decision that genetically modified foods are safe before you even have to test it. So the government never required tests for GMOs in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Who made that decision?

SHELDON KRIMSKY: Well, that decision was made by a commission, first of all, in the United States headed by Dan Quayle, and then it was—

AMY GOODMAN: The vice president under President Bush.

SHELDON KRIMSKY: Yes, yes, that’s correct. And by the 1990s, the decision was made how to divide the regulatory authority over genetically modified organisms—plants, animals, etc. And there were three agencies. The EPA would deal with environmental effects. USDA would be dealing with how it affects agriculture. And the FDA would be addressing the questions of human health.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, why are you concerned?

SHELDON KRIMSKY: Well, because we have some evidence that animal studies can produce adverse effects when fed GMOs. There have been many studies. Many of them have said there’s no effects. But a few of them—I found 22 studies.

AMY GOODMAN: Give an example of one of these studies.

SHELDON KRIMSKY: Well, one of these studies was published in one of the most important journals in international journals. It’s called The Lancet. It started publishing—

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the British medical journal.

SHELDON KRIMSKY: The British medical journal. It’s among the most prestigious journals in the world. And that was published in 1999 by a scientist who lived in Britain for 50 years—originally he was born in Hungary—Árpád Pusztai. And he was a researcher at the Rowett Institute. And he published a study which showed that his animals were harmed when fed a genetically modified potato.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to this scientist, to the biochemist, the nutritionist, Árpád Pusztai, world authority, as you said, actually on plant lectins, authoring some 270 papers, three books on the topic. In 1998, the scientist published research that showed feeding genetically modified potatoes to rats caused harm to their stomach lining and immune system. This led to a backlash against Dr. Pusztai and his subsequent suspension from his academic home, the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland. Let’s turn to a clip of Pusztai explaining the experiment he did using these genetically modified potatoes, the experiment that unleashed such a firestorm of criticism.
ÁRPÁD PUSZTAI: What we did was that, first, we took the genetically modified potatoes and put as much as possible of this into the diet, and we fed rats on it for a short time, 10 days. That’s an appropriate time in most of the nutritional studies as a sort of preliminary, short-term study. And we found that there were some problems. And then we said, "Oh, but it is—is it possible that if we dilute it with a good protein, a non-GM protein, would these problems disappear? Would you dilute them out? So when we did that, we found that, no, it didn’t. The problems persisted, and particularly the problems affecting the gastrointestinal tract of the rats.
The problems were that the genetically modified potatoes induced what we call a proliferative growth in the small intestine. And I shall explain what it means. But before I do that, the most important thing was that we pre-selected the gene that its product should not do that. So, we spent six-and-a-half years of selecting out a gene whose product wouldn’t do the thing which we did see in the genetically modified potatoes.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Professor Sheldon Krimsky, that’s Árpád Pusztai.

SHELDON KRIMSKY: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain further what exactly he’s saying. Now, he was actually not critical of these genetically modified potatoes that he fed to rats, right?

SHELDON KRIMSKY: That’s correct. And his institute had a patent on those potatoes. I mean, after all, if you can produce a potato that would be resistant to insects, then you’d save money on pesticides, and you might be able to, you know, have a product that would be worthy of pesticidal properties. So he took protein from a flower, a snowdrop flower. And that protein—the genetics for that protein was put into the potato. But he honestly believed that he would have a safe outcome. He had already done an experiment with genetically modified peas, which did not show adverse effects on animals. And he felt that—the protein that he used, he fed to the animals when it wasn’t in the potato, so he felt the protein from the plant was going to be safe. And then he put it into the genetically modified potato, and then he fed it to the animals when it was embedded into the potato. And that’s when it caused the effects.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain again the effects.

SHELDON KRIMSKY: Well, the effects he found were effects of the stomach lining of the animals, that there were proliferative growths in the stomach lining and other abnormalities in the intestines of the animals.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain then—so he did this scientific experiment. That’s what he found. It’s published in this very prestigious journal, Lancet.

SHELDON KRIMSKY: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: So what happened to him, Dr. Pusztai?

SHELDON KRIMSKY: Well, first of all, he published in Lancet in 1999. And prior to that, 1995, Scotland had put out a request for scientific studies to evaluate genetically modified food. So he put in one of those requests. At the time, he was the project director of eight projects. He was very well respected and had written a number of books on these lectins, which are insecticidal proteins. The plants themselves have proteins that resist insects. That’s how they survived all those years. So, his project was accepted by the council in Scotland, and then he did the research for it. So it was already reviewed before it was accepted for funding. And he got 1.3 million pounds to do the study. That’s where it began.

Prior to publishing his study in The Lancet, he was asked to appear on television. And he’s not a political—you know, he’s not a politicized scientist. He was naive. He went on television, with the approval of the director of the Rowett Institute. And the Rowett Institute, for one day, was very excited, because they got publicity being on TV with his research. The day after, all of a sudden, all of the phone calls started coming into the Rowett Institute, political phone calls from politicians—Tony Blair’s office, etc. And then, within a day, he was dismissed from his position. Within a day, this man who had been working there for decades and had such a prominent position, all of a sudden, lost his entire position.

AMY GOODMAN: Dismissed on what grounds?

SHELDON KRIMSKY: He did not have tenure, the way we do in universities—dismissed because they felt—they believed his research was not good. At least that’s what they said. What they didn’t say was that there were political pressures on the institute to devalue and diminish and marginalize his study.

AMY GOODMAN: What was Blair’s interest, the prime minister at the time, in negating, in going after the scientist, in genetically modified food?

SHELDON KRIMSKY: The United States had been the primary country that’s promoting biotechnology and trying to transfer it all over the world. So, the Clinton administration was very high on biotechnology. It’s going to rejuvenate American high technology and create many jobs, etc., and be able to spread it throughout the world. Blair was very interested in getting biotechnology into Britain. So, the U.S. government and the British government were both very interested in pushing biotechnology. And, of course, in the background were the corporations who were politicking those two governments to make sure that biotechnology had an easy road to success.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to another scientist. In 2012, French scientists carried out a study linking pesticide-treated, genetically modified corn with cancer in lab rats. The journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology initially published the report but later retracted it amidst controversy. The scientists stood by their findings, releasing a statement that read in part, quote, "Censorship of research into the risks of a technology so intertwined with global food safety undermines the value and credibility of science." Their article was republished this year in a different journal, Environmental Sciences Europe. I want to turn for a moment to the lead author on the study, Gilles-Éric Séralini. He recently told ME-TV what happened to the rats that were fed genetically modified corn and Roundup weed killer.
GILLES-ÉRIC SÉRALINI: Abnormalities in livers and kidneys, inflammations and pathologies, and we had also inversion of sexual hormones and also breast tumors.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s the scientist, Gilles-Éric Séralini. If you can, Professor Krimsky, explain further what he found.

SHELDON KRIMSKY: Well, he found organ failure. First of all, he did one of the first long-term experiments. So, in other words, he did an experiment on the rats that lasted for a couple of years. Usually they would do a 90-day experiment on the animals. So this was a long-term experiment, which really was needed, because some of these effects you won’t see right away. And his results showed damage to organs, kidneys, and also proliferation of tumors at a much higher rate than the controls. And after his results came out, there was another surge of vilification of his work and his research and his reputation, on and on and on.

A few very unusual things happened. The first you mentioned, that his journal first supported him and said, "We have a very good refereed system, and he passed the referees," to get into this peer-reviewed journal. Within a year, however, they changed their mind, because of the political pressure that there was a solid journal, American U.S. journal, that said there were problems with one of the genetically modified products. So, the journal went ahead and retracted his article, without his permission.

And then they gave the reason for the retraction. And this is where a hundred scientists had signed a petition saying that the reasons they gave were not only unorthodox, they violated international standards. The reason they gave was very explicit. They said, "There is no fraud. There is no clear mistakes in this paper. The results were not definitive, and that’s why we’re retracting it." Now, if you use that criteria, you would have to retract 95 percent of all published work.

AMY GOODMAN: What does "definitive" mean?

HELDON KRIMSKY: Well, "definitive" means that it hasn’t resolved the controversy, that some people still believe that maybe he didn’t have enough rats. Maybe they would have changed the methodology slightly differently. There isn’t an experiment in toxicology that can be done which doesn’t have some shortcomings. Everybody knows that.

AMY GOODMAN: Or you reach a kind of critical mass in your studies indicating a trend; no one study actually proves it.

SHELDON KRIMSKY: Exactly. There’s no single study that can absolutely definitively prove it, so you need follow-up studies to account for criticisms or larger numbers of animals, etc.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Krimsky, can you explain what "the funding effect" is, a term you’ve coined with your colleagues?

SHELDON KRIMSKY: Many years ago, we began looking at what happens to scientific research when it’s heavily funded by corporate interests. And we started by looking at drug research. And as a result of publishing a few papers, other people started doing these studies, and there is now a body of research in the drug industry which shows that corporate funding of research tends to produce the outcomes favorable to the financial interests of the corporation. That’s what we mean by "the funding effect." You have to show that the effect exists for any particular area. You can’t just assume it exists. So there are methods for showing that there is a funding effect. We’ve shown it in tobacco, we’ve shown it for drug research, in the best journals that we have, that have accepted these studies. And now people are beginning to look at it in other fields, like chemical toxins and GMOs.

AMY GOODMAN: How are other countries dealing with genetically modified foods?

SHELDON KRIMSKY: Well, it’s interesting, because when you look at the studies that have been done that have negative outcomes—and I say I found 22 of them in the literature—they’re almost all done by European scientists. In order to do a study of a genetically modified plant seed in the United States, you have to have funding. Funding doesn’t come from the federal government, because the federal government has said, "We don’t need information about this." So the only funding that can produce these results is funding from corporations.

Secondly, you have to have permission from the company that manufactures the seeds to do this kind of research, to get the seeds, the special seeds that you need from the company. And they won’t release the seeds. So, people like Pusztai and Professor Séralini—well, Pusztai produced his own potato. Séralini had to get the seeds from some other source, not from the company. Pusztai could not get seeds from Monsanto. Monsanto signs—everyone who purchases seeds from Monsanto has to sign a contract with them. And one of the provisions of that contract is they cannot save their seeds, and they cannot deliver their seeds to some institute for study. In other words, Monsanto has complete control over the seeds, as well as other companies, so that it’s not even possible for researchers to do the work they need to do, unless they get permission from the companies.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you respond to the claim that GMOs will feed the world? Explain also the difference between genetically modified vegetables, plants—wait, can you respond to the claim that GMOs will feed the world, genetically modified organisms?

SHELDON KRIMSKY: Well, this claim has been made by a number of people, but there’s no evidence for it. It may very well be that for a certain farm in a certain region, that a particular GMO might give them higher productivity in that particular area. But the world is filled with different regions of, you know, ecological regions, and seeds that work in one region do not necessarily work in another region. That’s what we call agroecology. We have to understand that you have to match the seed to the region, and not match the region to the seed. That’s why you don’t necessarily have high productivity in every region of the world. Some of the Indian farmers did not get high productivity with GMOs. And unfortunately, some of them committed suicide.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

SHELDON KRIMSKY: The Indian farmers had a high rate of suicide in the last few years, and that’s because many of them got into intense debt, and they couldn’t pay their debt. And in their mental capacity, they felt the only way to deal with this was to take their lives, unfortunately. Part of that debt was due to the fact that they were purchasing GMO seeds, which were at a higher rate than the seeds that they were originally purchasing.

AMY GOODMAN: Democracy Now! just traveled to Austria, and I was speaking to an Austrian farmer who was saying, "We recognized in our country, which is why we made it GMO-free," he said, "that you can’t have an organic farm next to a farm that’s growing genetically modified plants, because there is drift, and you can’t honestly have—say something is organic if you’re right nearby something that isn’t."

SHELDON KRIMSKY: That’s correct. And the pollen flows can flow quite a distance, a number of kilometers, so that in the United States, if you have an organic farm, there’s no protections for that organic farmer from the drift of pollen from another farm.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, hasn’t Monsanto famously sued farmers, saying that they stole their genetically modified seeds, when in fact they drifted onto their property?

SHELDON KRIMSKY: As far as we know, the evidence suggests that the Canadian farmer that had the genetically modified plants didn’t—

AMY GOODMAN: This is Percy Schmeiser?

SHELDON KRIMSKY: Yes, Schmeiser. As far as we know, evidence that I have is that he did not plant those seeds, that those seeds had drifted into his farm. And Monsanto sued him for intellectual property theft. And in some bizarre ruling of the Canadian court, Monsanto won. But the penalty was very, very low, like a dollar or something like that. So, Monsanto won, but Schmeiser didn’t have to pay a severe penalty.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this year, Vermont became the first state to approve GMO labeling with the passage of HB 112. The legality of the decision is now being challenged by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other national organizations, which have come together to file a lawsuit in federal court. The Grocery Manufacturers Association put out a statement that read in part, quote, "Consumers who prefer to avoid GM ingredients have the option to choose from an array of products already in the marketplace labeled 'certified organic.' The government therefore has no compelling interest in warning consumers about foods containing GM ingredients, making HB 112’s legality suspect at best." Your response to this, Professor Krimsky?

SHELDON KRIMSKY: Well, it is true that right now, under government standards, if a product is classified as organic—and there are criteria for that, including non-GMO—that there is some level of confidence that they won’t contain GMO products. But organic costs a lot of money. So there might be food companies that want to put out food that wouldn’t be classified as organic, but would be classified as non-GMO. Just like there are plastic companies that want to put out their plastics and say, "We don’t contain bisphenol A in our plastics," because there’s been a lot of evidence that it might be harmful, and therefore consumers have the right to buy something that says, "No bisphenol A in this substance," they should have the right to buy some food products that say, you know, "No GMOs," even though they’re not classified as organic, because the prices might be quite different.

AMY GOODMAN: Backers of GMOs cite the success of genetically modified papaya in Hawaii. It was designed to resist a virus that was killing off the fruit crop. It’s the only commercially grown GMO fruit in the United States. According to The New York Times, "after an outbreak of Papaya ringspot virus in the mid-’90s, only the Rainbow, endowed with a gene from the virus itself that effectively gave it immunity, had saved the crop." Your response to that, Professor Krimsky?

SHELDON KRIMSKY: You know, one of the issues about biotechnology is that they try to put into the crop a pesticidal property. And in theory, you know, one might think that this would be terrific. You include the pesticide or the herbicide-resistant/tolerant into the crop. But nature has its own way of adapting. So if you put in herbicide-resistant into the crop, eventually the weeds will get resistant to the herbicide that you use. And that’s in fact what’s happening with glyphosate, which is the most widely used herbicide now in the United States. So, they have plants which are glyphosate-resistant, so you can spray all the herbicide on your plant; it’ll kill everything else. But the weeds have adapted to it. So now they need a next generation of herbicide in the plant. So, the whole theory that you can introduce into the plants some magical protein that is going to be sustainable is just not a viable theory.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you referring to the superweeds that are growing throughout the West?

SHELDON KRIMSKY: The superweeds, exactly. And now the farmers are saying, "Hey, we bought into this glyphosate resistance, and now we’re getting these weeds that are in fact resistant to the glyphosate." And now they’re introducing a second generation. And one of the products that they’re trying to introduce is 2,4-D, which was used in the Vietnam War as part of the herbicides, defoliants.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re talking about Agent Orange. So—

SHELDON KRIMSKY: Yes, it was part of the Agent Orange mix. And I have to say, Rachel Carson cited 2,4-D as a suspect chemical in her 1962 classic book, Silent Spring.

AMY GOODMAN: Considered the mother of the modern environmental movement, she would later die of cancer herself.

SHELDON KRIMSKY: Yes, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, the significance of the ballot initiatives in Colorado and Oregon? In California and Washington state, genetically modified labeling bills failed.

SHELDON KRIMSKY: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Is there anything different about Colorado and Oregon right now?

HELDON KRIMSKY: Colorado is always different. It’s a very single-minded, independent state that pushed the boundaries beyond belief in terms of, you know, legislation on marijuana, etc. If any state can do it, they have a very high consciousness for environmental issues. And if they do do it, I think it’ll cascade to other states, because I think the fear that the prices will skyrocket is just a scare tactic, it’s not real. We have companies that issue milk that say, "No bovine growth hormone used to make this milk," and it hasn’t skyrocketed the price of milk. So—

AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting that Ben & Jerry’s and the Denver-based Chipotle company, the chain, food chain Chipotle—

SHELDON KRIMSKY: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —have actually come out in support of GMO labeling, whereas you’ve got Pepsi and Kraft Foods and, well, most importantly, Monsanto pouring millions into the anti-labeling movement.

SHELDON KRIMSKY: Yeah. You know, the corporations don’t want a patchwork of regulations. I could understand that. They always would rather have one regulation that applies to everyone. And so, from their standpoint, they don’t want to have to make an adjustment to Colorado and an adjustment to this other state. But that doesn’t—

AMY GOODMAN: Well, they wouldn’t have to make an adjustment. If it was passed in Colorado and Oregon, they could just identify genetically modified foods all over the country.

SHELDON KRIMSKY: That’s correct. That’s correct.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, so goes Oregon and Colorado, so goes the nation.

SHELDON KRIMSKY: And that’s exactly what happens when California passes as an initiative on a toxic chemical. The companies just list it on the product, and every state, every community, has access to that information. It’s just a question of open information, which is really supposed to be at the groundwork of American capitalism. Keep the information open.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much, Professor Sheldon Krimsky, editor and author of The GMO Deception: What You Need to Know About the Food, Corporations, and Government Agencies Putting Our Families and Our Environment at Risk. You can read an introduction on our website at democracynow.org. Professor Krimsky teaches urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts University, as well, adjunct professor at the Tufts School of Medicine. Krimsky is also a board member of the Council for Responsible Genetics. This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

Watch part 2 of our conversation with Sheldon Krimsky, editor of The GMO Deception: What You Need to Know about the Food, Corporations, and Government Agencies Putting Our Families and Our Environment at Risk. He is a professor of urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts University, as well as an adjunct professor in the Department of Public Health and Family Medicine at Tufts School of Medicine. Professor Krimsky is also a board member of the Council for Responsible Genetics.

GMO Deception Part 1
(http://www.democracynow.org/2014/10/28/monsanto_bigag_spend_millions_to_fight)

Sheldon Krimsky, editor of The GMO Deception: What You Need to Know about the Food, Corporations, and Government Agencies Putting Our Families and Our Environment at Risk.




Hormel heir donates to GMO labeling

By Dana TIms on 20 October 2014 for GMOinside.org -
(http://gmoinside.org/tom-hormel-meat-packing-scion-antes-500000-support-oregon-gmo-labeling-measure/)
Tom Hormel has no role in running the famous meat-packing company his grandfather founded in 1891, but he and the company are now locking financial horns over Measure 92, Oregon’s mandatory GMO-labeling initiative.

Hormel, one of four family members listed as a beneficiary of the Hormel Foundation trust, just donated $500,000 in support of Measure 92. If the measure passes Nov. 4, it would make Oregon the first state to pass a GMO labeling at the ballot box.

Hormel Foods, meanwhile, has now made two donations of $42,500 to the No on 92 Coalition, with the second coming immediately after Hormel made his contribution.

“I heard last week they gave their second donation after I put mine in,” said Hormel, reached by telephone Monday at his Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., residence. “I figured it was in response to my donation.”

Hormel and his two brothers (one of whom is now deceased) have said previously they were pushed out of the Austin, Minn.-based meat-packing giant shortly after their father, Jay C. Hormel, died in 1954. Jay Hormel was the son of company founder George A. Hormel.
Hormel, while still pursuing numerous endeavors in art, photography, music and writing, said he considers mandatory labeling of products containing genetically modified ingredients a must for consumers.

“It’s a monster of a threat that people have no concept of,” he said. “I want there to be a clear picture of the risks and I don’t see any. No one is talking about that.”

He called Measure 92 a “button, and it’s exciting to have one last opportunity to push it. Oregon can show the rest of the states the road on this. It will make a huge different if it actually prevails.”
Calls to Hormel Foods were not immediately returned.

With more than two weeks to go before the election, Measure 92 is already the most expensive ballot measure in state history, according to Oregon secretary of state financial filings.

The No on 92 Coalition has raised just over $11.1 million. The Yes on 92 campaign has brought in about $6.1 million.

.

Fukushima chronic radiation

SUBHEAD: Plants outside the exclusion zone are getting of chronic radiation that the Japanese choose to ignore.

By Admin on 29 October 2014 for ENEnews -
(http://enenews.com/gundersen-gigantic-plants-food-crops-being-reported-gardens-fukushima-zone-mutations-appearing-after-generations-seeds-exposed-chronic-radiation-levels-professor-radiation-biologist-trees-gigant)


Image above: Mutation in a tomato found in Fukushima. From (http://pixgood.com/fukushima-mutated-animals.html).

Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Energy Education on Radio Ecoshock, Oct 27, 2014 (11:30 in): We work with a woman… an organic gardener. Every year, she’s taken the seeds from her garden, planted, then harvested seeds from those plants to be the next year’s crop. So she’s got 4 years now of seeds that have been growing about 30 miles (~50 km) from Fukushima. She’s beginning to experience gargantuanism in her food now, which is an indication of radiation damage.

It’s one of the many DNA changes that occur after a couple of generations. So we know that gardeners and plants that are outside the exclusion zone are seeing the effects of chronic levels of radiation that the Japanese would choose to ignore.

Dr. Timothy Mousseau, University of South Carolina biological sciences professor, July 10, 2014: Photo Caption: Mutant Dandelions in Fukushima… Fukushima released enormous quantities of radioactive elements [with] 15,000 km2 land area significantly contaminated…

Key results published in 2013-14 include… impacts on biodiversity… effects on neurological development in small mammals… birds, butterflies, and cicadas showed significant declines… species may show the consequences of mutation accumulation over multiple generations…

In Fukushima, the first signs of developmental abnormalities have been observed in birds in 2013… these findings clearly demonstrate landscape-scale individual, population and ecosystem consequences… developmental abnormalities and deformities that likely contribute to the depressed abundances and biodiversity.

Natalia Manzurova, radiation biologist: For the 10 years before Chernobyl happened, I worked as a scientific researcher [at the] Mayak nuclear facility. We studied the impact of radiation on the environment… plants, fish, birds… When Chernobyl happened, all the members of this institute were sent permanently to Chernobyl… The trees that had leaves — the leaves were gigantic.

The seeds and the leaves were very big. I’m following the accident in Fukushima very attentively and when I heard, ‘Everything is okay, the environment will be safe, there is no immediate risk’… the same we were told when Chernobyl happened — just in the same words…

Is there anyone who believes the mass media confirmations that everything is okay in Fukushima? You should understand perfectly well that the nuclear industry and nuclear bureaucracy — the first thing they think about is not you, but about their pocket, about the face they present. But the public will have to pay.

The public can lose everything — health, the place where they live, their future. You should build up your own point of view of how to react to this nuclear industry… You should educate yourself… It is up to you to know. I’m quite sure… you will say, ‘We want to live in a clean environment and grow healthy children — and we want to decide our own destiny.’

IAEA: “Increased mutation level was apparent…abnormalities include…size of leaves and flowers”


Video above: Presentatio by scientist Natalia Manzurova on Chernobyl and Fukushima. From (http://youtu.be/NWdd2QnVRpE).

Listen to Arnie Gundersen on Fukushima "Avoiding the Worst" 10/27/14
(http://www.fairewinds.org/avoiding-worst/)


.

Tthe big fat fertile females

SUBHEAD: If you want more fish in the ocean they are ones that should survive, not the little ones.

By Jan TenBruggencate on 26 October 2014 for Raising Islands -
(http://raisingislands.blogspot.com/2014/10/want-more-fish-throw-back-big-females.html)


Image above: A large female bluefin tuna at center of photograph. From original article.

If we were talking about humans, the acronym, BOFFFF would be a horribly inappropriate term.
But we’re talking about fish, and the term represents the most valuable and important members of the school—animals that are big, old, fat, female, fecund (or fertile) fish.
(Image: Bluefin trevally in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. You want to save the big ones. Credit: Dwayne Meadows, NOAA/NMFS/OPR)
And what’s important about them is that they reproduce more, have healthier and bigger eggs, have young more likely to survive, they may spawn at different times than younger fish so they increase species’ chance of success, and they are more likely to survive hard times than smaller, skinnier fish.
And what does that mean for the fishing community? They’re the ones you ought to throw back.
“Increasingly, fisheries managers are realizing that saving some big old fish is essential to ensure that fished populations are stable and sustainable,” said Mark Hixon, the University of Hawai`i researchers who was the lead author in a new paper, BOFFFFs: on the importance of conserving old-growth age structure in fishery populations.
 
His co-authors are Darren W. Johnson of California State Long Beach and Susan M. Sogard of the National Marine Fisheries Service. Theypublished in the ICES Journal of Marine Science.
“The loss of big fish decreases the productivity and stability of fishery stocks,” Hixon said.
The big old fat females have been shown to be important in a broad range of fish, both in fresh and salt water. They have the resources to survive periods of low food. They produce enormously more eggs than smaller fish. Their eggs are bigger and more likely to produce successful young. 
And the difference in egg production is amazing. A 27-inch ‘ōmilu or bluefin trevally, as an example, produces 84 times more eggs than a 12-inch fish. The increase with age is not the case with every fish species, but it seems to be the case with most of them.
And yet, we are removing them from the fish population faster than others. 
“Fishing differentially removes BOFFFFs, typically resulting in severe truncation of the size and age structure of the population. In the worst cases, fishing mortality acts as a powerful selective agent that inhibits reversal of size and age truncation, even if fishing intensity is later reduced,” the authors write.
Another way of saying that: If you keep taking the big, fat, females out of the population, you’re likely to end up with few fish overall, and fewer big, fat fish.
One of the solutions to this issue is slot limits—you keep the fish in the middle size slot, while releasing keiki as well as the biggest fish. But there are other ideas for fishery enhancement, as well.
“A growing body of knowledge dictates that fisheries productivity and stability would be enhanced if management conserved old-growth age structure in fished stocks, be it by limiting exploitation rates, by implementing slot limits, or by establishing marine reserves, which are now known to seed surrounding fished areas via larval dispersal,” the authors wrote.
A University of Hawai`i press release on the paper is here.

.

America's Involuntary Simplicity

SUBHEAD: Pitting the elites of a failing civilization against the proto-warlords of the nascent dark age.

By John Michael Greer on 29 October 2014 for the Archdruid Report -
(http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2014/10/dark-age-america-involuntary-simplicity.html)


Image above: Dothraki encampment of warlord and horseman Khal Drogo. From TV series Game of Thrones. From (http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/game-of-thrones/images/24330597/title/dothraki-photo).

The political transformations that have occupied the last four posts in this sequence can also be traced in detail in the economic sphere. A strong case could be made, in fact, that the economic dimension is the more important of the two, and the political struggles that pit the elites of a failing civilization against the proto-warlords of the nascent dark age reflect deeper shifts in the economic sphere.

Whether or not that’s the case—and in some sense, it’s simply a difference in emphasis—the economics of decline and fall need to be understood in order to make sense of the trajectory ahead of us.

One of the more useful ways of understanding that trajectory was traced out some years ago by Joseph Tainter in his book The Collapse of Complex Societies. While I’ve taken issue with some of the details of Tainter’s analysis in my own work, the general model of collapse he offers was also a core inspiration for the theory of catabolic collapse that provides the basic structure for this series of posts, so I don’t think it’s out of place to summarize his theory briefly here.

Tainter begins with the law of diminishing returns: the rule, applicable to an astonishingly broad range of human affairs, that the more you invest—in any sense—in any one project, the smaller the additional return is on each unit of additional investment. The point at which this starts to take effect is called the point of diminishing returns.

Off past that point is a far more threatening landmark, the point of zero marginal return: the point, that is, when additional investment costs as much as the benefit it yields. Beyond that lies the territory of negative returns, where further investment yields less than it costs, and the gap grows wider with each additional increment.

The attempt to achieve infinite economic growth on a finite planet makes a fine example of the law of diminishing returns in action. Given the necessary preconditions—a point we’ll discuss in more detail a bit later in this post—economic growth in its early stages produces benefits well in excess of its costs.

Once the point of diminishing returns is past, though, further growth brings less and less benefit in any but a purely abstract, financial sense; broader measures of well-being fail to keep up with the expansion of the economy, and eventually the point of zero marginal return arrives and further rounds of growth actively make things worse.

Mainstream economists these days shove these increments of what John Ruskin used to call “illth”—yes, that’s the opposite of wealth—into the category of “externalities,” where they are generally ignored by everyone who doesn’t have to deal with them in person.

If growth continues far enough, though, the production of illth overwhelms the production of wealth, and we end up more or less where we are today, where the benefits from continued growth are outweighed by the increasingly ghastly impact of the social, economic, and environmental “externalities” driven by growth itself.

As The Limits to Growth pointed out all those years ago, that’s the nature of our predicament: the costs of growth rise faster than the benefits and eventually force the industrial economy to its knees.

Tainter’s insight was that the same rules can be applied to social complexity. When a society begins to add layers of social complexity—for example, expanding the reach of the division of labor, setting up hierarchies to centralize decisionmaking, and so on—the initial rounds pay off substantially in terms of additional wealth and the capacity to deal with challenges from other societies and the natural world.

Here again, though, there’s a point of diminishing returns, after which additional investments in social complexity yield less and less in the way of benefits, and there’s a point of zero marginal return, after which each additional increment of complexity subtracts from the wealth and resilience of the society.

There’s a mordant irony to what happens next. Societies in crisis reliably respond by doing what they know how to do. In the case of complex societies, what they know how to amounts to adding on new layers of complexity—after all, that’s what’s worked in the past. I mentioned at the beginning of this month, in an earlier post in this sequence, the way this plays out in political terms.

The same thing happens in every other sphere of collective life—economic, cultural, intellectual, and so on down the list. If too much complexity is at the root of the problems besetting a society, though, what happens when its leaders keep adding even more complexity to solve those problems?

Any of my readers who have trouble coming up with the answer might find it useful to take a look out the nearest window. Whether or not Tainter’s theory provides a useful description of every complex society in trouble—for what it’s worth, it’s a significant part of the puzzle in every historical example known to me—it certainly applies to contemporary industrial society.

Here in America, certainly, we’ve long since passed the point at which additional investments in complexity yield any benefit at all, but the manufacture of further complexity goes on apace, unhindered by the mere fact that it’s making a galaxy of bad problems worse.

Do I need to cite the US health care system, which is currently collapsing under the sheer weight of the baroque superstructure of corporate and government bureaucracies heaped on top of what was once the simple process of paying a visit to the doctor?

We can describe this process as intermediation—the insertion of a variety of intermediate persons, professions, and institutions between the producer and the consumer of any given good or service. It’s a standard feature of social complexity, and tends to blossom in the latter years of every civilization, as part of the piling up of complexity on complexity that Tainter discussed.

There’s an interesting parallel between the process of intermediation and the process of ecological succession. Just as an ecosystem, as it moves from one sere (successional stage) to the next, tends to produce ever more elaborate food webs linking the plants whose photosynthesis starts the process with the consumers of detritus at its end, the rise of social complexity in a civilization tends to produce ever more elaborate patterns of intermediation between producers and consumers.

Contemporary industrial civilization has taken intermediation to an extreme not reached by any previous civilization, and there’s a reason for that. White’s Law, one of the fundamental rules of human ecology, states that economic development is a function of energy per capita.

The jackpot of cheap concentrated energy that industrial civilization obtained from fossil fuels threw that equation into overdrive, and economic development is simply another name for complexity.

The US health care system, again, is one example out of many; as the American economy expanded metastatically over the course of the 20th century, an immense army of medical administrators, laboratory staff, specialists, insurance agents, government officials, and other functionaries inserted themselves into the notional space between physician and patient, turning what was once an ordinary face to face business transaction into a bureaucratic nightmare reminiscent of Franz Kafka’s The Castle.

In one way or another, that’s been the fate of every kind of economic activity in modern industrial society.

Pick an economic sector, any economic sector, and the producers and consumers of the goods and services involved in any given transaction are hugely outnumbered by the people who earn a living from that transaction in some other way—by administering, financing, scheduling, regulating, taxing, approving, overseeing, facilitating, supplying, or in some other manner getting in there and grabbing a piece of the action.

Take the natural tendency for social complexity to increase over time, and put it to work in a society that’s surfing a gargantuan tsunami of cheap energy, in which most work is done by machines powered by fossil fuels and not by human hands and minds, and that’s pretty much what you can expect to get.

That’s also a textbook example of the sort of excess complexity Joseph Tainter discussed in The Collapse of Complex Societies, but industrial civilization’s dependence on nonrenewable energy resources puts the entire situation in a different and even more troubling light.

On the one hand, continuing increases in complexity in a society already burdened to the breaking point with too much complexity pretty much guarantees a rapid decrease in complexity not too far down the road—and no, that’s not likely to unfold in a nice neat orderly way, either.

On the other, the ongoing depletion of energy resources and the decline in net energy that unfolds from that inescapable natural process means that energy per capita will be decreasing in the years ahead—and that, according to White’s Law, means that the ability of industrial society to sustain current levels of complexity, or anything like them, will be going away in the tolerably near future.

Add these trends together and you have a recipe for the radical simplification of the economy. The state of affairs in which most people in the work force have only an indirect connection to the production of concrete goods and services to meet human needs is, in James Howard Kunstler’s useful phrase, an arrangement without a future.

The unraveling of that arrangement, and the return to a state of affairs in which most people produce goods and services with their own labor for their own, their families’, and their neighbors’ use, will be the great economic trend of the next several centuries.

That’s not to say that this unraveling will be a simple process. All those millions of people whose jobs depend on intermediation, and thus on the maintenance of current levels of economic complexity, have an understandable interest in staying employed.

That interest in practice works out to an increasingly frantic quest to keep people from sidestepping the baroque corporate and bureaucratic economic machine and getting goods and services directly from producers.

That’s a great deal of what drives the ongoing crusade against alternative health care—every dollar spent on herbs from a medical herbalist or treatments from an acupuncturist is a dollar that doesn’t go into feeding the gargantuan corporations and bureaucracies that are supposed to provide health care for Americans, and sometimes even do so.

The same thing is driving corporate and government attacks on local food production, since every dollar a consumer spends buying zucchini from a backyard farmer doesn’t prop up the equally huge and tottering mass of institutions that attempt to control the production and sale of food in America.

It’s not uncommon for those who object to these maneuvers to portray them as the acts of a triumphant corporate despotism on the brink of seizing total power over the planet. I’d like to suggest that they’re something quite different.

While the American and global economies are both still growing in a notional sense, the measures of growth that yield that result factor in such things as the manufacture of derivatives and a great many other forms of fictive wealth.

Subtract those from the national and global balance sheet, and the result is an economy in contraction. The ongoing rise in the permanently jobless, the epidemic of malign neglect affecting even the most crucial elements of America’s infrastructure, and the ongoing decline in income and living standards among all those classes that lack access to fictive wealth, among many other things, all tell the same story.

Thus it’s far from surprising that all the people whose jobs are dependent on intermediation, all the way up the corporate food chain to the corner offices, are increasingly worried about the number of people who are trying to engage in disintermediation—to buy food, health care, and other goods and services directly from the producers.

Their worries are entirely rational. One of the results of the contraction of the real economy is that the costs of intermediation, financial and otherwise, have not merely gone through the roof but zoomed off into the stratosphere, with low earth orbit the next logical stop. Health care, again, is among the most obvious examples.

In most parts of the United States, for instance, a visit to the acupuncturist for some ordinary health condition will typically set you back well under $100, while if you go to an MD for the same thing you’ll be lucky to get away for under $1000, counting lab work and other costs—and you can typically count on thirty or forty minutes of personal attention from the acupuncturist, as compared to five or ten minutes with a harried and distracted MD.

It’s therefore no surprise that more and more Americans are turning their backs on the officially sanctioned health care industry and seeking out alternative health care instead.

They’d probably be just as happy to go to an ordinary MD who offered medical care on the same terms as the acupuncturist, which happen to be the same terms that were standard a century ago for every kind of health care.

As matters stand, though, physicians are dependent on the system as it presently exists; their standing with their peers, and even their legal right to practice medicine, depends on their willingness to play by the rules of intermediation—and of course it’s also true that acupuncturists don’t generally make the six-figure salaries that so many physicians do in America.

A hundred years ago, the average American doctor didn’t make that much more than the average American plumber; many of the changes in the US health care system since that time were quite openly intended to change that fact.

A hundred years ago, as the United States moved through the early stages of its age of imperial excess, that was something the nation could afford. Equally, all the other modes of profiteering, intermediation, and other maneuvers aimed at maximizing the take of assorted economic sectors were viable then,since a growing economy provides plenty of slack for such projects.

As the economics of growth gave way to the economics of stagnation in the last quarter of the 20th century, such things became considerably more burdensome.

As stagnation gives way to contraction, and the negative returns on excess complexity combine with the impact of depleting nonrenewable resources, the burden is rapidly becoming more than the US economy or the wider society can bear.

The result, in one way or another, will be disintermediation: the dissolution of the complex relations and institutions that currently come between the producer and the consumer of goods and services, and their replacement by something much less costly to maintain.

“In one way or another,” though, covers a great deal of ground, and it’s far from easy to predict exactly how the current system will come unglued in the United States or, for that matter, anywhere else.

Disintermediation might happen quickly, if a major crisis shatters some central element of the US economic system—for example, the financial sector—and forces the entire economy to regroup around less abstract and more local systems of exchange.

It might happen slowly, as more and more of the population can no longer afford to participate in the intermediated economy at all, and have to craft their own localized economies from the bottom up, while the narrowing circle of the well-to-do continue to make use of some equivalent of the current system for a long time to come.

It might happen at different rates in different geographical areas—for example, cities and their suburbs might keep the intermediated economy going long after rural areas have abandoned it, or what have you.

Plenty of people these days like to look forward to some such transformation, and not without reason. Complexity has long since passed the point of negative returns in the US economy, as in most other aspects of American society, and the coming of disintermediation across a wide range of economic activities will arguably lead to significant improvements in many aspects of our collective life. That said, it’s not all roses and affordable health care.

The extravagant rates of energy per capita that made today’s absurdly complex economy possible also made it possible for millions of Americans to make their living working in offices and other relatively comfortable settings, rather than standing hip deep in hog manure with a shovel in their hands, and it also allowed them to earn what currently passes for a normal income, rather than the bare subsistence that’s actually normal in societies that haven’t had their economies inflated to the bursting point by a temporary glut of cheap energy.

It was popular a number of years back for the urban and suburban middle classes, most of whom work in jobs that only exist due to intermediation, to go in for “voluntary simplicity”—at best a pallid half-equivalent of Thoreau’s far more challenging concept of voluntary poverty, at worst a marketing gimmick for the consumption of round after round of overpriced “simple” products.

For all its more embarrassing features, the voluntary simplicity movement was at least occasionally motivated by an honest recognition of the immediate personal implications of Tainter’s fundamental point—that complexity taken past the point of diminishing returns becomes a burden rather than a benefit.

In the years ahead of us, a great many of these same people are going to experience what I suppose might best be called involuntary simplicity: the disintermediation of most aspects of economic life, the departure of lifestyles that can only be supported by the cheap abundant energy of the recent past, and a transition to the much less complex—and often, much less comfortable—lifestyles that are all that’s possible in a deindustrial world.

There may be a certain entertainment value in watching what those who praised voluntary simplicity to the skies think of simple living when it’s no longer voluntary, and there’s no way back to the comforts of a bygone era.

That said, the impact of involuntary simplicity on the economic sphere won’t be limited to the lifestyles of the formerly privileged. It promises to bring an end to certain features of economic life that contemporary thought assumes are fixed in place forever: among them, the market economy itself. We’ll talk about that next week.


In other news, I'm pleased to report that Twilight's Last Gleaming, my novel of the fall of America's empire based on 2012's "How It Could Happen" series of posts, is hot off the press and available from the publisher with free shipping worldwide.
.

Peak Empire - Take Two

SUBHEAD: The US is busy spending billions on defending its fringes while allowing the home front to fall apart from malign neglect.

By Gary on 28 October 2014 for Club Orlov-
(http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2014/10/peak-empire-take-two_96.html)


Image above: US soldier at unidentified military base reaches for another Bud. From originl Peak Empire article.

[Dmitry Orlov's note: Many thanks to Gary for putting this update together.]
[IB Publisher's note: This is an update of 'Peak Empire" (http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2010/12/peak-empire.html) from 12/20/10]

Based on the lessons of history, all empires collapse eventually; thus, the probability that the US empire will collapse can be set at 100% with a great deal of confidence. The question is, When? (Everyone keeps asking that annoying question.)

Of course, all you have to do is leave the US, go some place that isn't plugged into the US economy in non-optional ways, and you won’t have to worry about this question too much. Some people have made guesses but, as far as I can tell, no one has come up with viable methodology for calculating the date.

In order to provide a remedy for this serious shortcoming in collapse theory, I once tried to outline a method for figuring it out in an article titled “Peak Empire,” which was based on Joseph Tainter’s theory of diminishing returns on complexity—or diminishing returns on empire.

It’s a perfect problem for differential calculus, and all those microeconomics students who are busy calculating marginal cost vs. marginal revenue, so that they can look for work in the soon-to-be-defunct shale gas industry, might take it up, to put their math talents to better use. In the meantime, here is an update, and a revised estimate.

US Empire of Bases

Just to review, as the brilliant analyst Chalmers Johnson explained, the US is an “empire of bases,” not an empire of colonies. It is not considered politically correct to annex other countries anymore. Witness the reaction to Russia taking back Crimea, even though its population has a right to self-determination, and voted 98% in favor of the idea. But, had things turned out differently, putting a NATO base in Crimea would have been just fine. 

Still, there are quite a few US “territories” (read “colonies”) listed in the Pentagon Base Structure report, including American Samoa, Guam, Johnston Atoll, Marshall Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands and Wake Islands. We should probably include Hawaii, since in 1993 the US Congress “apologized” to Hawaii for kidnapping the Queen and illegally annexing the territory

They are not giving it back, mind you, but they don't mind saying we’re sorry, because they stole it fair and square. The same could be said for Texas, California—the whole bloody continent for that matter. But they don’t do that sort of thing any more—not too much. Sure, the US stole Kosovo from Serbia just to set up a huge NATO base there, but in general there has been a shift to controlling other countries through economic institutions—like the IMF, the WTO, and the World Bank. 

There has also been plenty of political subterfuge, assassinations and coups d’états, as explained by John Perkins in Confessions of an Economics Hit Man, or in Michael Hudson’s work. William Blum writes: “Since the end of the Second World War, the United States of America has…
  1. Attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, most of which were democratically elected.
  2. Attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 countries.
  3. Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.
  4. Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries.
  5. Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.”
Only a few of these actions—such as Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, Nicaragua in the 1980’s, Ukraine 2014, etc.—are well known in the US. Now here is the key point: all of this “democracy-building” requires the US to have plenty of foreign military bases. Much of the military is outsourced, so there is no need for consent of the governed any more—just their tax money. Marching in the streets in protest is a complete waste of time. Millions of people marched against the Iraq War in 2003. Did it make any difference? 

Secretary of State Alexander Haig remarked during a peace march in the 1980’s: “Let them protest all they want as long as they pay their taxes”; Kissinger explained that “Soldiers are dumb, stupid animals for the conduct of foreign policy”; and CIA director William Casey made sure the US public remains completely in the dark with his famous dictum, “We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.”

(This is from his first staff meeting in 1981; it’s not a secret.) The US is completely open about its desire to subjugate the entire world—if this weren't already obvious from its behavior.


Pentagon Base Structure Report

And so, maintaining US hegemony requires an empire of bases. How many bases? Every year the Pentagon publishes a “Base Structure Report,” which lists all the property of the military including land, buildings and other infrastructure. The latest Pentagon Base Structure report lists 4169 domestic military bases, 110 in US territories, and 576 in foreign countries, for a total of 4855. But it turns out to leave out a lot: Nick Turse of TomDispatch calculated that in 2011 the number of foreign military bases was closer to 1075.

But even though a lot is left out of the Pentagon report, it is still a good data source for us to use because, for the purpose of calculating our estimate, all we are interested in is trends, not absolute numbers. Trends require that data from year to year be reported consistently, and the Pentagon appears to be very consistent in what it reports and what it keeps secret from one year to the next. So this is a very good source by which to measure trends.

Since the US public is completely in the dark, zombified and terrified by the mass media and traumatized by psy-ops like 9/11, the empire will have to collapse on its own, without their help. I’m sorry to say this, but the American sheeple are not going to rise up and help it collapse. But when will it collapse on its own? Do we all want to know when? Ok, here goes...

Peak Empire
Total US Military acreage peaked in 2007 at 32,408,262 acres, and has been declining ever since, including a precipitous drop in 2014.  This curve of military acreage follows peak oil and peak empire theory generally quite well. I haven’t done the curve-fitting exercise, but it looks a bit like a Hubbert curve from peak oil theory.

The important point is, according to total acreage the US empire has already peaked and is in decline. Note that global conventional crude oil production peaked at around the same time; you may consider that a pure coincidence if you wish.





Looking at the data from 2003-2014, we see shows a bit more detail, including a sharp downturn in 2014. The drop in total bases in 2006 and 2007 seems like a bit of an anomaly, but the trend in acreage follows the peak theory.

What is even more noteworthy is the decline in foreign military bases and acreage. The US may still have control of its domestic and territorial bases, but it has suffered huge losses of foreign military bases and acreage. Since reaching “peak foreign military bases” in 2004, the US now has just 64% of them—a loss of over a third in a decade!

In the case of acreage the US retains 69% of its peak acreage in 2006, so it has lost 31% of its foreign military acreage—also close to a third. If you want to guess at what's behind these numbers, you might want to look at them as the fallout from disastrous US foreign policy, as described by Dmitry in his article,

“How to start a war and lose an empire.” Perhaps the people to whom we are bringing “freedom and democracy” are getting sick of being occupied and murdered? But, whatever the explanation, the trend is unmistakable.

But we still haven’t addressed Tainter's central thesis of diminishing returns on empire.  Ok, let's do that next next.



I previously showed military acreage divided by military spending declining since 1991 in constant 2008 dollars.

Bringing this up to date in constant 2014 dollars, we see that return on spending leveled off in 2010, but in 2014 the trend of decreasing returns on spending has resumed.



At the same time, US Government debt, which fuels much of this military spending, continues to climb at a steady rate, and the military acreage/debt ratio shows negative returns on debt. That is, the empire is getting negative returns in military acreage from increasing its debt burden. In their prime, empires are massively profitable ventures.

But when the returns on government spending, debt and military spending all turn negative—that is when we enter the realm of diminishing returns on empire—that, according to Tainter's theory, sets them on a trajectory that leads directly to collapse.

The collapse does not have to be precipitous. It could be gradual, theoretically. But the US economy is fragile: it depends on international finance to continue rolling over existing debt while taking on ever more debt. This amounts to depending on the kindness of strangers—who aren't in a particularly kind mood.

To wit: numerous countries, with Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa leading the way, are entering into bilateral currency agreements to avoid using the US dollar and, in so doing, to avoid having to pay tribute to the US. Just like Rome, the US empire is being attacked all over the world by “barbarians,” except the modern barbarians are armed with internet servers, laptops and smartphones.

And just like Rome, the empire is busy spending billions on defending its fringes while allowing everything on the home front to fall apart from malign neglect.

Meanwhile, the US has been struggling to avoid a financial panic through lies and distortions. The US Federal Reserve has been printing $1 trillion a year just to keep US banks solvent, while selling naked shorts on gold in order to suppress the price of gold and to protect the value of the US dollar by (see Paul Craig Roberts for evidence).

In truth, US employment has not recovered since the financial panic and crash of 2008, and wages have actually gone down since then, but the US government publishes bogus economic data to cover this up (See John Williams' Shadow Stats for details). Meanwhile, there are signs that the militarized police state is getting ready to face open rebellion.

Two paths down

As we have shown, return on investment in empire has turned negative: the empire has to go further and further into debt just to continue shrinking its foreign presence by a third from its peak every decade. There are two ways out of this situation: quick and painful, or slow and even more painful.

The quick one is for the US to recognize the situation, cut its losses and abandon the project of empire, like the USSR did in 1989/90. But it must be understood that the threat of military action is what keeps countries around the world in line, forcing them to soak up US debt.

Without this discipline, further money-printing will trigger hyperinflation, the financial house of cards on which the spending ability of the US government now rests will promptly pancake, and the US economy will shut down, just like in the USSR in the early 1990s.

The other option is the more likely one, since it doesn't require making any large course adjustments, which are unlikely in any case. (You see, even in its dying days the USSR had slightly better leadership than the USSA currently does, which was actually capable of making major decisions.)

This option is to simply keep smiling and waving and borrowing and spending until the empire is all gone. This will take no more than two decades at the current rate. Note that this forecast is based on a straight-line projection that doesn't take into account any of the positive feedbacks that may hurry the process along.

One positive feedback is that a smaller empire means more countries around the world thumbing their noses at the US, escaping from dollar hegemony, and making it harder for the US to continue sinking into debt at an ever faster rate. These positive feedbacks are likely to be highly nonlinear, and this makes their effect difficult to estimate.

But a moment may arrive well before empire is all gone when the suspension of disbelief that is required to keep US government finances from cratering ceases to be achievable—regardless of the level of propaganda, market distortion, or US officials smiling, waving and lying in front of television cameras. Thus, we have two estimates.

The first estimate is objective and based on US government's own data: two decades or less. But we also have room for an estimate that is subjective yet bracketed: anywhere between later today and two decades (or less) from now.

Based on these estimates, you can be as objective or subjective as you like, but if you are “long empire,” holding dollar-denominated assets and such, and if your horizon extends beyond 2034 (or less), then there is a reasonably high likelihood that you are just being silly.

Likewise, if you think that NATO will come to your defense more than a decade from now, you should start reconsidering your security arrangements now, because NATO will cease to be functional on the same time scale as the US empire.

Some time ago President Obama issued what for him sounded like a pretty good order: “Don't do stupid stuff.” You should probably try to follow this order too, and I am here to try to help you do so.


.

DOD says Ebola is Aerostable

SUBHEAD: The Army has found is that sewer systems also offer an ideal environment for longer term Ebola persistence.

By Ms. X on 27 October 2014 for Pissin' On The Roses -
(http://pissinontheroses.blogspot.com/2014/10/department-of-defense-says-ebola-is.html)


Image above: Indications the Feds fear airborne Ebola. From (http://www.wnd.com/2014/10/document-shows-feds-fear-airborne-ebola/).

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency [DTRA], in a just released a broad agency announcement last Friday seeking rapid assistance against Ebola's weapon of mass destruction [WMD] capability, stated that:

  "Ebola is aerostable in an enclosed controlled system in the dark and can survive for long periods in different liquid media"
The short of it is that DTRA's WMD arm sees a massive potential for Ebola to persist in sewage systems in Airborne, Waterborne, and BioFilm form.

The obvious dangers are multifold.

  1. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) spread in the Amoy Gardens high-rise apartment complex via a similar plumbing related infectious route.
  2. CDC's current guidance encourages untreated EBOLA waste discharge into sewer systems.
  3. Dr. Craig Spencer has already potentially infected NYC sewer system despite his 21 day "home quarantine".
  4. Sewers may be a reoccurring source on #Ebola infection.
  5. CDC's assurances that Ebola can not be spread via Air, Water, or Sewer places people at great risk.
Specifically, DTRA wants answers in 3 to 6 months regarding environmental conditions that allow to Ebola to persist in an airborne state, and persist on surfaces after precipitating out of the air.
DTRA is also looking for genetic weaponization markers that elucidate that persistence.

Interestingly enough, DTRA's solicitation also seeks Africa specific data that will allow them to use a a NATO Biowarfare Ebola simulation to predict the flow Ebola infection in Africa; we'll have more on that in a separate video analysis.


Video above: This article is available as video on YouTube. From (http://youtu.be/XFv5XuTnfHI).

As we have reported in previous posts, the US Army says that Ebola has an airborne stability similar to Influenza and that winter weather conditions may allow to spread via the airborne route.See (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2014/09/ebola-to-be-airborne-in-cold.html).

Apparently what the Army has found is that sewer systems also offer an ideal environment for longer term Ebola persistence.

Sources:
Chemical/Biological Technologies Department Ebola Broad Agency Announcement


Defense Threat Reduction Agency Announcemnet

Aerosolizing ONE DROP of Ebola Infected Blood Can Kill 500,000 People

US ARMY Says EBOLA = FLU in Airborne Stability, Needs Winter Weather To Go Airborne

Inadequate plumbing systems likely contributed to SARS transmission

Hong Kong seals apartment building to contain SARS

http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/environmental-infection-control-in-hospitals.html




 Fever removed from Ebola case definition

SUBHEAD: CDC removes FEVER from Ebola Case Definition & adds FATIGUE as a symptom

By Ms. X on 28 October 2014 for Pissin' On The Roses -
(http://pissinontheroses.blogspot.com/2014/10/alert-cdc-removes-fever-from-ebola-case.html)

The CDC has removed fever from the Ebola Case Definition, and replaced it with the a more nebulous definition of:
 "Elevated body temperature or subjective fever or symptoms". 
 The CDC has also added "Fatigue" to the case definition. 

Here is the relevant part of the PRIOR case definition:


Person Under Investigation (PUI)
A person who has both consistent symptoms and risk factors as follows:
  1. Clinical criteria, which includes fever of greater than 38.6 degrees Celsius or 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, and additional symptoms such as severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or unexplained hemorrhage; AND
  1. epidemiologic risk factors within the past 21 days before the onset of symptoms, such as contact with blood or other body fluids or human remains of a patient known to have or suspected to have EVD; residence in—or travel to—an area where EVD transmission is active*; or direct handling of bats or non-human primates from disease-endemic areas.
Here is the relevant part of the CURRENT case definition:
Person Under Investigation (PUI)
A person who has both consistent symptoms and risk factors as follows:
  1. Elevated body temperature or subjective fever or symptoms, including severe headache, fatigue, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or unexplained hemorrhage; AND
  1. An epidemiologic risk factor within the 21 days before the onset of symptoms.

Other important changes have also been made to loosen up CDC's Ebola case definition; we will update this post as time permits:

UPDATE: 10/28
The CDC's new Ebola case definition greatly increase the category of persons who may be forcefully quarantined to anyone who was in proximity of an Ebola case even if the Ebola victim was not actively showing symptoms at the time of proximity. (more to follow).
 
UPDATE 1: 10/29
The CDC's new Ebola case definition greatly increase the category of persons who may be forcefully quarantined to anyone who was in proximity of an Ebola case even if the Ebola victim was not actively showing symptoms at the time of proximity. (more to follow)

UPDATE 2: 10/29
After a more detail reading, the CDC has greatly increased the at risk Ebola category to include the following:
  1. Direct contact (hand shake) with Ebola victim 21 days PRIOR to symptom onset
  2. Airborne contact, that is even "brief proximity" (such as being in the same room for a brief period of time) with an Ebola victim AFTER their symptom onset
Any person who meets those two above definitions and in the subject eyes of an examiner has any "signs" of concern such as elevated body temperature (98.7 deg F) is now defined as a "Person Under Investigation" for Ebola. And as such, that person is subject to forceful quarantine



Tapering, Exiting or just Punting

SUBHEAD: Western economies have lost the ability to generate real wealth that their debt-based monetary systems require.

By James Kunstler on 27 October 2014 for Kunstler.com -
(http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/tapering-exiting-or-just-punting/)


Image above: Monopoly money. From (http://picturesofmoney.org/category/monopoly-money/).

Oh, that sound you hear this morning is the distant roar of European equity markets puking after the latest round of phony bank “stress tests” — another exercise in pretend by financial authorities who understand, at least, the bottomless credulity of the news media and the complete mystification of the general public in monetary matters.

I rather expect that roar to grow Niagara-like as US markets catch the urge to upchuck violently. Problem is, unlike Ebola victims, they can’t be quarantined.

The end of the “taper” is upon us like the night of the hunter, conveniently just a week before the US election. If the Federal Reserve is politicized, the indoctrination must have been conducted by the Three Stooges. America’s central bank never did explain the difference between tapering and exiting their purchases of US treasury paper.

I guess that’s because it has other interventionary tricks up its sleeves. Three-card Monte with reverse repos… ventures into direct stock purchases… the setting up of new Maiden Lane type companies for scarfing up securities with that piquant dead carp aroma.

Who knows what’s next? It’s amazing what you can do with money in a desperate polity with a few dozen lawyers.

Of course, there is the solemn matter as to what happens now to the regularly issued treasury bonds and bills. Do they just sit in an accordian file on Jack Lew’s desk next to his Barack Obama bobblehead.

The Russians don’t want them.

The Chinese are already stuck with trillions they would like to unload for more gold.

Frightened European one-percenters may want to park some cash in American paper to avoid bail-ins and other confiscations already rehearsed over there — but could that amount to more than a paltry few billion a month at the most?

What do the stock markets do without up to $85 billion a month (peak QE) sloshing around looking for dark pools to settle in? Can US companies keep the markets levitated by buying back their own shares like snakes eating their tails? Isn’t that basically over and done?

And exactly how do interest rates stay suppressed when only a few French tax refugees want to buy American debt? I don’t think anybody knows the answer to these questions and the scenarios are too abstruse for the people who get paid for supposedly writing learned commentary in the sclerotic remnants of the press.

A few things are for sure, though they are sedulously kept out of the public discussion by interested gate-keepers. One is that the western economies have lost the ability to generate real new wealth of the type that their debt-based monetary systems require for ongoing operations (such as paying interest on old debt). Instead, we’ve entered a liminal era when fake wealth passes for wealth. Jive capital poses as capital.

The main reason for this, of course, is the inability of world energy producers to meaningfully increase energy production in a way that does not suck more capital out of the system than the system can regenerate. But that conversation also has been outlawed from the public arena in “Saudi America.”

I suspect the subject will force itself on the national consciousness in the year ahead as one company after another in the shale oil regions craps out on a shortage of available investment capital. That’s the inflection point where fake wealth is unmasked for what it really is: crippled capital formation. The disappointment from that looming event will thunder through our society.

In the meantime, the distractions are many and powerful. Ebola may appear controlled for the moment in the USA, but the host countries in West Africa are virtually falling apart and the demographic movement out of failed economies like Liberia’s would suggest an awful dynamic for the spread of that disease into new regions.

ISIS (or whatever we call them) is putting on a diversionary show on the Turkish border, but the real action awaits in Baghdad, perhaps poignantly at Christmas time, when mortar rounds start falling on the US embassy in the Green Zone and the evacuations commence.

.