Orcas held as slaves

SOURCE: Don Oystryk (doystryk@sasktel.net) SUBHEAD: For the first time a federal court heard arguments as to whether living, breathing, feeling beings have rights. By Staff on 7 Februaey 2012 for the Associated Press - (http://www.cbc.ca/news/offbeat/story/2012/02/07/killer-whale-lawsuit.html) Image above: Killer whale Tilikum, right, watches as SeaWorld Orlando trainers take a break during a training session at the theme park's Shamu Stadium in Orlando. Fromoriginal article.

A federal judge for the first time in U.S. history heard arguments Monday in a case that could determine whether animals enjoy the same constitutional protection against slavery as human beings.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller called the hearing in San Diego after Sea World asked the court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that names five orcas as plaintiffs in the case.

PETA claims the captured killer whales are treated like slaves for being forced to live in tanks and perform daily at its parks in San Diego, Calif., and Orlando, Fla.

"This case is on the next frontier of civil rights," said PETA's attorney Jeffrey Kerr, representing the five orcas.

Sea World's attorney Theodore Shaw called the lawsuit a waste of the court's time and resources. He said it defies common sense and goes against 125 years of case law applied to the U.S. Constitution's 13th amendment that prohibits slavery between humans.

"With all due respect, the court does not have the authority to even consider this question," Shaw said, adding later: "Neither orcas nor any other animal were included in the 'We the people' ... when the constitution was adopted."

Miller listened to both sides for an hour before announcing that he would take the case under advisement and issue his ruling at a later date. The judge raised doubts a court can allow animals to be plaintiffs in a lawsuit, and he questioned how far the implications of a favourable ruling could reach, pointing out the military's use of dolphins and scientists' experiments on whales in the wild.

Kerr acknowledged PETA faces an uphill battle but he said he was hopeful after Monday's hearing.

"This is an historic day," Kerr said. "For the first time in our nation's history, a federal court heard arguments as to whether living, breathing, feeling beings have rights and can be enslaved simply because they happen to not have been born human. By any definition these orcas have been enslaved here."

The issue is not about whether the animals have been subjected to abuse, the defense said. If the court were to grant orcas constitutional rights, Shaw warned the ruling would have profound implications that could impact everything from the way the U.S. government uses dogs to sniff out bombs and drugs to how zoos and aquariums operate.

"We're talking about hell unleashed," he said.

PETA said a ruling in its favour would only help to protect the orcas in the entertainment industry and other cases involving animals would have to be decided on their own merits.

Kerr said Sea World employees are in violation of the 13th amendment because their conduct is enslaving an intelligent, highly social species that suffers from its confinements in ways similar to what humans would experience.

Brushing animals off as property is the same argument that was used against African-Americans and women before their constitutional rights were protected, PETA says.

Shaw pointed out that argument does not translate because both women and African-Americans are people for which the Constitution was written to protect.

Miller did not specify when he would issue his ruling.


Fukushima fights chain reaction

SUBHEAD: Tepco tries to control nuclear reaction threat as Fukushima reactor #2 temperature rises. By Tsuyoshi inajima on 6 February 2012 for Bloomberg News - (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-07/tepco-injects-boric-acid-into-fukushima-no-2-reactor-as-temperature-rises.html) Image above: A photo of Fukushima Reactor #2 looking as good as it can... considering. From original article.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. injected boric acid into a reactor at its crippled Fukushima nuclear plant to prevent an accidental chain reaction known as re- criticality after temperatures rose in the past week.

The temperature of the No. 2 reactor was 70.1 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit) as of 6 a.m. today, according to preliminary data, Akitsuka Kobayashi, a spokesman for the utility, said by phone. The reading fell from 72.2 degrees at 5 a.m. this morning, and is below the 93 degrees that’s used to define a cold shutdown, or safe state, of the reactor.

Since Feb. 1, temperatures at the bottom of the No. 2 reactor vessel have risen by more than 20 degrees Celsius, according to the company’s data. Tepco, as the utility is known, and the government announced that the Fukushima plant reached a cold shutdown on Dec. 16, nine months after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami wrecked the nuclear station, and caused three reactors to meltdown and release radiation.

“It was too early to say the plant is safe in December. They declared cold shutdown even though nobody is sure about the location of melted fuel,” Tetsuo Ito, the head of the Atomic Energy Research Institute at Kinki University in western Japan. “A similar incident will probably occur again.”

Tepco increased the rate of cooling water being injected into the unit to 13.5 cubic meters per hour from 10.5 cubic meters per hour at 4:24 a.m. today, it said. A cold shutdown describes a reactor’s cooling system operating at atmospheric pressure and below 93 degrees Celsius, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.


“Tepco is in a dilemma,” Ito said. As Tepco maintains water injection at a high rate, more radioactive water will be accumulated in the basements of plant buildings, he said.

About 95,000 cubic meters, which is enough to fill 38 Olympic-sized swimming pools, of highly radioactive water may still be in the basements, even after the company has processed more than 220,000 cubic meters of contaminated water, according to Tepco’s latest estimate on Feb. 1.

Tepco replaced coolant piping on Jan. 26 to improve reliability of equipment following water leaks caused by freezing temperatures, Taichi Okazaki, a spokesman for the utility, said by phone today. This may have led to insufficient cooling water reaching inside the reactor, according to Tepco.

Water Leaks

Tepco found a total of 28 water leaks between Jan. 28 and Feb. 3, according to the utility. The average temperature in Namie town near the wrecked plant in January was 0.5 degrees Celsius, compared with the 2.1 degrees Celsius January average between 1981 and 2010, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency’s data.

No traces of xenon 135, which is associated with nuclear fission, were found when Tepco conducted a gas sampling of the reactor yesterday, the company said in an e-mailed statement.

In November, Tepco said it detected xenon, signs of nuclear fission, in gases taken from the No. 2 reactor, raising concerns that radiation emissions may increase. Tepco later announced the xenon was caused by “natural” nuclear fission and the plant isn’t in a critical state.


Why not let Greece go?

SUBHEAD: Why now may be the best time to let Greece slip beneath the waves. By Jeff Cox on 6 February 2012 for NetNet at CNBC - (http://www.cnbc.com/id/46281928) Image above: Costa Concordia sinking off the coast of Italian island. From (http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/282482/20120116/costa-concordia-crusie-ship-sinking-worst-titanic.htm). [Editor's note: As you probably already guessed, we surmise a Greek default will likely kickstart a cascade of failures that will take down the world financial network more effectively than the loss of Lehman Brothers did in 2008. The Great Recession is likely to seem just a preview of the Greater Depression that is to follow. Strong medicine, but a tonic to the planet.] As sovereign debt defaults go, there may be no better time than now for Greece.

Global investors are clearly in risk-on mode, with the US stock market off to its best start in 15 years and equities in many emerging markets faring even better.

Friday’s job report helped assuage at least one of the primary fears regarding the U.S. economy, even though the housing market remains a shambles—an improving shambles, but still a long ways from healthy.

Last week in general gave life to the recovery theme, with 15 of 23 indicators beating expectations and causing some economists to raise their growth outlook for the full year.

So, with sentiment running so garishly positive, why not go ahead and get that pesky Greek default and all of the accompanying futile denial out of the way already?

“In the last six months, there's probably been no better time to let Greece strategically default than right now,” said Citigroup credit analyst Jason Shoup.

Shoup was quick to point out that a Greek debt default is not Citi’s “base case,” or most likely outcome, but one that needs to be taken seriously if the markets are ever to absorb the magnitude of Greece’s problems and come out intact on the other side.

One key reason is that the window could be small for the present enthusiasm to last.

Some economists consider the startling jobs growth—a 243,000 surge in payrolls and an unemployment rate drop to 8.3 percent—unsustainable and as much a product of statistical anomalies as a jump in hiring. Specifically, a revision that saw the workforce drop by 1.2 million and a consistent drop in the labor force participation served as troubling signs.

If the recent uptick in economic indicators is indeed transitory, policy makers may want to consider attacking the Greece situation now while the market can still bear it.

“Letting Greece default either after a (Private Sector Involvement) haircut or in lieu of may have been unthinkable just a few months ago, but it wouldn't surprise us if resistance to such an idea may be weakening in the halls of Brussels and Frankfurt,” Shoup said. “Certainly, buoyant markets seem to be emboldening policymakers to take more of a hard line even while Portuguese bonds oscillate.”

Indeed, there’s the Portugal problem.

It’s hardly a secret that Greece will be only the first of several dominos likely to fall in the Eurozone sovereign structure. Several of its neighbors face burgeoning obligations that they cannot meet, and Greece’s importance as much as anything is that it will serve as a signpost for how future crises will be handled.

An orderly Greek default in which panic is limited and bondholder haircuts are contained means future defaults may not capsize the markets either. But let the crisis spread and the fallout could be catastrophic.

Bob McKeee, chief economist at Independent Stratedy, a London-based research firm, told CNBC that Portugal will be next on the agenda. The nation is far more stable than Greece, which is why the eurozone needs to address its problem children first and then work on more manageable problems.

Concerns over Portuguese debt have come since the nation’s 10-year bond rates hit their highest level since the creation of the European Monetary Union. That came after a debt downgrade from Standard & Poor’s. In a supposedly solid country with a new government, investor confidence remains a problem.

“We believe this is a sign that, despite the tentative progress made by eurozone leaders on a ‘fiscal compact’ and increased liquidity support from the (European Central Bank), the eurozone remains in crisis,” London-based Capital Economics said in a research note.

News over the weekend that no agreement has been reached in Greece mildly spooked the markets in Monday trading.

The developments show that despite liquidity assurances through the ECB’s Long-Term Refinancing Operations, the market wants some closure on how the European crisis will be handled.

Making a decisive move at a time when global markets have stabilized and appear ready to handle shocks, and before other debt obligations in nations such as Italy come to the fore, likely will be just the right medicine.

“While a sovereign debt default in Greece or Portugal might not trigger the end of the euro,” Capital wrote in its note, “such an outcome in Italy could very well do just that. .

Screaming id - No brains - No honor

SUBHEAD: A Superbowl audience of diabetic fat men, in loungewear, eat cheesy lard-laden foods and drink beer.  

By James Kunstler on 6 February 2012 for Kunstler.com -  
(http://kunstler.com/blog/2012/02/all-screaming-id-no-brains-no-honor.html) Image above: Still from GM ad shown during Superbowl. A Big Boy sign burns in ally as Silverado passes through ruined cityscape. From video below.

[IB Publisher's note 1/31/15: This article deserves republishing now and again to remind us just what the corporations (providing the bread and puppet theater) actually think of us.]

A Martian psychoanalyst observing the US Superbowl on TV would be shocked by the vicious animal spirits emanating from that spectacle, starting with the triumphal trumpet blasts borrowed straight from the old 1950s Hollywood epic movies echoing the prideful mis-steps of ancient Rome, along with the by-now clich├ęd CGI trick in the opening credits of gleaming metallic heraldic insignia spun into a military cordon of stars so as to protect the tender collective ego of this anxious nation. America wears its zeitgeist plastered right on its sweaty forehead.

Everybody knows that the commercial messages between the play-action amount to a national Rorschach test, and this year's collection made us look more psychopathic than ever - starting with the advertisement for the Chevy Silverado: Fade in on a devastated nameless American city, the buildings smashed, the streets littered with debris, a gray ash coating over everything, and no living creatures in evidence.... A newspaper headline proclaims "2012 Mayan Apocalypse...." How reassuring!

Wait! Something stirs behind a heap of rubble... it cracks open... and out drives a plucky American male lumpen "worker" dude behind the wheel of a gleaming giant pickup truck. He is soon joined by other men and their trucks, all of them blithely unfazed by the end-of-the-world.

A curious scenario. What's the take away? I wondered, of course, where these plucky fellows would look for their next fill-up in the devastated landscape. Surely the service stations would miss the next scheduled fuel truck delivery. Are American men not expected to think beyond the immediate moment they are in? Are they on an intellectual level with lemurs and Holstein steers?

The Superbowl pageant is a window into the condition of American manhood, and the view is pretty pathetic. It's a picture of men who feel so weak, insecure, and fearful that they have to compensate with fantasies of limitless destructive power. Ads for several new movies and (I think) video games followed the Silverado apocalypse romp.

There were unifying themes throughout. All depicted the problems of life as 1) coming from outside our own society (or world); 2) in the form of aliens who wield mystifying technological destructive power; and 3) leaving a few human remnants on a smoldering landscape after a cosmic showdown.

These onslaughts from elsewhere in the universe always end with superior American guile and the latest technology defeating the purblind invaders.

The aliens are vanquished by Apple computers, Air Force stunt pilots, and a little extra help from God Almighty, who is surely on our side. From these realms of engineered grandiosity, we slip in and out of the grinding ground game in Lucas Oil stadium in Indianapolis, another pseudo-military operation loaded with acronyms and jargon intended to confer an illusion of control and competence.

The reality out there in "flyover" land is an audience of diabetic fat men in clownish loungewear slouched on sofas in foreclosed houses enjoying stupendous portions of cheesy and lard-laden foodstuffs between cigarettes and beers.

They have a lot to worry about and they have no idea how they might overcome their financial, familial, and medical problems. The real onslaughts besetting the nation in realms such as banking fraud, money in politics, peak oil, climate uncertainty, and economic contraction are at once too complex for the diabetic fat men to comprehend, and grossly misreported in the public arena, were Cable TV and newspapers work the levers of propaganda for one client or another.

Then there was the grotesque half-time extravaganza featuring Madonna, which was a weird parallel commentary on the state of American womanhood. Pretending to be ageless and indomitable, the old trooper performed a variety of standing crotch-locks on her Praetorian guard of hoofers and then stumbled more than once on the ridiculous bleacher stage-set that looked as if was designed to trip the performers up.

Message to American women: be sluts as long as you possibly can because there is nothing else for you in this culture. I couldn't help thinking that American chanteuses of yesteryear - say, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Carole King - sang about adult problems and emotions with a greater thematic range, and would never have subjected themselves to such a display of pitiful narcissism.

Did anyone notice that Madonna's corps de ballet all wore her monogram on their loincloths? America needs a prayer, all right, but I don't think they'll find it by calling Madonna's name.

Meanwhile, in whatever remains of the Real World, we have a couple of things to be concerned about this week. One is the ultimatum tendered to Greece by the Lords of Euroland to make a deal or die-dog-die. Last time I checked, they had until 11 a.m. today Berlin time to reply... and nothing happened.

The other matter is the pending possible robo-signing settlement with the TBTF banks, which is designed to let them off the hook for any and all future lawsuits in this matter if they pay a penny-ante fine. This latest ghastly trespass of the rule-of-law is a joint project of the Obama White House and 50 states attorneys general in an epic act of perfidy.

You can read about it at Yves Smith's excellent Naked Capitalism blog. Your country is being stolen from you. I hope you are getting ready to re-occupy it with your bodies and minds. Don't plan on giant magical robots flying to your rescue.

Video above: GM's Chevy Silverado ad for Superbowl XLVI. in 2012.  From (http://youtu.be/9ZVfvw0WMD4). Note: may have pop-up ads within the ad.

Food for Life

SUBHEAD: KCC offers Sustainable Gardening and Farming course beginning March 3, 2012.  

By Glenn Hontz on 5 February 2012 for Island Breath -  

Image above: Taro gowing in flooded fields at KCC Puhi Campus. Photo by Juan Wilson.

 If you really want to have the food you like, in the quantity you like, when you like it, and at the price you like….. there is one perfect solution: grow your own. If that seems like an flippant answer, then consider these facts:
1) Food prices have increased dramatically in recent months and are expected to continue increasing 2) Food shortages are occurring in many regions of the planet and experts indicate that the world population has already exceeded the ability of current food production systems to feed everyone. 3) Kauai imports 85% of its food
These are gloomy facts, but they are also a wake-up call to the residents of Kauai as an isolated island in the Pacific ocean. Fortunately, the growing conditions for food on Kauai are excellent and the island has several growing seasons per year. Gardening and farming methods have been developed that are well-suited to this semi-tropical environment and these methods can produce an abundance of healthy, nutritious food of a quality that is often better than many of the imported varieties. Locally grown food is also becoming more cost effective, especially if you consider the expense of shipping along with the negative impact on human health produced by some of the packaged food. In recognition of these conditions, it makes good sense to start growing your own food. Courses at Kauai Community College are designed to teach you how.  

The Sustainable Gardening and Farming course at KCC provides the basic knowledge and skills you need for a successful start at gaining food independence. It will be offered starting March 3 and ends on May 12. It meets on Saturdays from 1:00 till 6:00 pm. The tuition is $275, and financial assistance is available to qualified candidates.

This course provides a comprehensive program for those intending to start a home garden, a neighborhood community garden or a small farm. It offers classroom instruction in the principles of organic and permaculture systems, combined with the with practical field experiences at gardens on the College campus and at farms around the island The training includes how to assess the suitability of your proposed garden or farm site and how to improve any of its negative conditions, how to design the layout of your site for optimal production, the basics of irrigation, soil building, seed germination, weed management, pest and disease control, and seed saving as a means to progressively improve production of subsequent crops.

The training resources for this course have been drawn from the University of Hawaii, College of Tropical Agriculture, the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems, and other leading research organizations sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture that specialize in research and development of organic farming methods. Individual instruction and personal follow-up assistance is provided to graduates to improve their successful growth and development. Assistance is also provided in building relationships that can result in team work to create needed labor support and on-going technical assistance as graduates go forth in developing gardens and farms.

 The training is conducted by experienced farmers and consultants from local agricultural enterprises. The two principal instructors, Kenneth Lindsey and John Parziale, have a common background that includes teaching, managing their own farms and consulting with other gardening and farming enterprises on Kauai. Lindsey is a graduate of Southern Illinois University where he majored in plant biology and graduated at the top of his class. He was later awarded a highly competitive internship in botany fieldwork in Alaska that further enriched his knowledge and practical experience in biology.

 After moving to Kauai he completed additional studies at Kauai Community College in farming and business while developing his own organic farming businesses. He joined the instructional team at the College three years ago and has continued developing farming enterprises that have become highly cost effective and efficient food production facilities. He is one of the co-founders of the Village Green LLC and manages farm service teams that assist other local gardens and farms to increase their crop production. Parziale is a graduate of Boston University where he earned his BS and MS degrees.

 He has also completed post-graduate studies in permaculture design, soil science, microbiology, and natural farming. These are skills that he has applied in the development of the Center for Regenerative Agriculture, where he served as director for five years, and previously as the manager of two organic farms for another five years, all of these on Kauai. He directed the Soil Food Web Laboratory in Kilauea where he managed soil testing research and conducted outreach projects to train staff and volunteers.

A self-proclaimed student of nature, John integrates agricultural models with natural patterns and ecosystem design. He has taught at Kauai Community College for the past two years in the Food Industry Career Pathways Program. The Sustainable Gardening and Farming course taught by Lindsey, and Parziale is one of the offerings in the Food Industry Career Pathways Program, directed by Dr. Glenn Hontz, and offered through OCET, the Office of Continuing Education and Training, at Kauai Community College. This program is training a new generation of farmers who are helping to achieve the goal of food self-sufficiency for the island.

To learn more about the course, contact Kenneth Lindsey at 346-7090 or email kenlindsey@hotmail.com; or John Parzial at 651-6930 or email <parziale@hawaii.edu>. To register for the course, call OCET at 245-8318.

 Inquiries concerning tuition support should be made to Dr. Hontz at 246-4859 or via email at hontz@hawaii.edu. Applications for tuition support must be received by February 20.


Greece on razor's edge

SUBHEAD: It's being forced take dose of a medicine that is proven deadly and only will postpone the inevitable. By Marcus Bensasson on 5 February 2012 for Bloomberg News - (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-04/greece-talks-enter-final-phase-on-2nd-bailout.html) Image above: Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos pauses during a news conference in Athens. From original article.

Greece’s efforts to win a second bailout from international creditors teetered in the balance as negotiations in Athens failed to clinch an agreement.

“The distance between success and failure, which could come from misfortune or misunderstanding, is very small,” Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told reporters in Athens yesterday after consultations with euro area finance ministers. “We are on razor’s edge.”

While agreement had been found on issues such as bank recapitalization and state asset sales, the government and the so-called troika of international creditors are still at odds over labor reforms and fiscal measures for this year. The talks with euro-area finance ministers were “very difficult,” Venizelos said yesterday.

With the country’s stability at stake, the government is racing to clinch agreement on a plan that’s been in the works since July, with talks between international monitors and Greek officials running in parallel with discussions among caretaker Prime Minister Lucas Papademos’s coalition members and Greece’s government and its private creditors.

Venizelos and Papademos convened with leaders of the three political parties backing Papademos after “intensive” meetings with representatives of international creditors earlier in Athens today.

Bond Payment

Open questions involve how much more aid Greece needs, how much more austerity is required, and how to involve the European Central Bank in the debt swap. Facing a 14.5 billion-euro ($19.1 billion) bond payment on March 20 and general elections as soon as April, Papademos must heed calls for tighter austerity to complete the talks on a second aid package in time.

Venizelos said everything needed to be completed by tonight in advance of a meeting of euro-area ministers scheduled for Feb. 8. A formal offer for the debt swap must be made by Feb. 13 to allow all procedures to be completed before the March 20 bond comes due.

The discussions have led to tussles among European central bankers and political leaders. The rescue blueprint includes a loss of more than 70 percent for bondholders in a voluntary debt exchange and loans that will probably exceed the 130 billion euros now on the table.

‘Pandora’s Box’

Deutsche Bank AG Chief Executive Officer Josef Ackermann said a collapse of Greece’s economy would open a “Pandora’s box” that would kill a euro-area recovery.

“We are in a make-or-break situation and Greece plays a very important role -- and if we find a solution in the next few days, I think we’re on the right track,” Ackermann told a panel yesterday in Munich. Ackermann was due fly to Athens last night as talks go on over the swap involving Greek debt with a face value of about 200 billion euros.

The ECB is considering using its bond holdings to bolster Greece’s next rescue program and support efforts to contain the sovereign debt crisis, three euro-region officials said. The ECB has purchased 219 billion euros of debt-strapped nations’ bonds since 2010 and between 36 billion euros and 55 billion euros are invested in Greek sovereign debt, according to estimates by Barclays Capital and UBS AG.

Greek Yields

The euro fell against the yen last week, dropping from a one-month high, as the unresolved Greek situation added to concern the region’s fiscal crisis is far from over. The yield on Germany’s benchmark 10-year bond rose 8 basis points to 1.93 percent, while the yield on Greek 10-year bonds fell 18 basis points to 34.19 percent.

Papademos held meetings over the weekend with members of the so-called troika -- the European Commission, the ECB and the International Monetary Fund -- over what the country has to do to receive more funds. A government official said after yesterday’s meeting the creditors were insisting on cuts to wages and bonuses.

The troika wants the country to detail over 4 billion euros of measures to meet targets for 2011 and 2012 because wage cuts will deepen the recession and cause a shortfall this year, the official told reporters in Athens. Another official said the talks were difficult though not at an impasse.

With Papademos’s term set to end when general elections are held, most likely in April, EU and IMF officials seek guarantees from political leaders in Greece that they will stick to pledges made to receive the financing.

Minimum Wage

Underlining the complexity of the task for Papademos, representatives of Greek employers and the biggest private sector union on Feb. 3 called on him to resist pressure to cut the minimum wage and holiday allowances.

The troika argues that cutting private-sector holiday allowances is among reforms necessary to boost competitiveness in the country. Those opposed say the cuts would deepen the country’s recession, now in its fifth year.

The troika demanded the minimum wage be cut to less than 600 euros a month and that at least one holiday allowance be abolished, Mega TV said, citing unidentified ministers who met with Venizelos yesterday. Supplementary pensions should be cut by 35 percent, the Athens-based channel said.

Greece must carefully examine the terms being demanded by international creditors before agreeing to them, said George Karatzaferis, leader of the Laos party, one of the three supporting Papademos.

Budget Targets

“I will examine every detail and footnote,” Karatzaferis said in Thessaloniki yesterday, according to an e-mailed transcript of his speech. “If we don’t agree with something and the troika insists, we won’t take the package.”

Greece has lagged behind budget targets set when it won an initial, taxpayer-funded rescue of 110 billion euros in May 2010, prompting euro-area threats to cut off aid and hastening a German push to make bondholders contribute. The country’s economy shrank 6 percent last year, according to the latest IMF estimates, the budget deficit is still close to 10 percent of GDP and unemployment is around 18 percent.

“We can’t pay into a bottomless pit,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Feb. 2. “Greece needs a new program, there’s no question about that, but Greece must create the conditions for it.”

More austerity risks triggering a “social explosion,” Hieronymos II, the head of Greece’s Orthodox Church, said in a statement on Feb. 3.

Bitter Pill

“We are being asked to take even larger doses of a medicine that has proven to be deadly and to undertake commitments that do not solve the problem, but only temporarily postpone the foretold death of our economy,” he said.

Papademos’s spokesman, Pantelis Kapsis, denied news reports on Feb. 3 that the leader would resign if leaders of the parties backing his interim government refused to agree to additional conditions for new financing.

Even after a second bailout, Greece may be saddled with too much debt, too little growth and too large a budget hole to do without even more money, which euro nations led by Germany are increasingly reluctant to offer.

The lead negotiators of the creditors’ steering committee working on a debt accord with Greece, Charles Dallara, managing director of the International Institute of Finance, and Jean Lemierre, a senior adviser to the chairman of BNP Paribas SA, returned to Athens this weekend to continue talks.

Deutsche Bank’s Ackerman is the chairman of the group, based in Washington, which has more than 450 financial firms as members and is representing private creditors in the talks.

Those talks are happening in parallel with those with the troika, Venizelos said yesterday “but that’s now the easiest part of the process.”

Creditors are prepared to accept an average coupon of as low as 3.6 percent on new 30-year bonds in the exchange, said a person familiar with the talks, who declined to be identified because a final deal hasn’t been struck yet.


Toward an Economy of Earth

SUBHEAD: I’ve taken responsibility for myself living in agrarian anarchy in a community at the edge of empire.  

By Guy McPherson on 2 February 2012 for Nature Bats Last - 

Image above: Hippy farm girl with staff of light. From (http://maryaseer.deviantart.com/art/hippy-farm-girl-106752302).
We need to develop a new economy because the current version is not working. The industrial economy is destroying every aspect of the living planet. And, as it turns out, we need a living planet for our own survival.

In this essay, I briefly describe the horrors of the current interconnected, globalized, planet-destroying house of cards. Then I articulate another way, which is not difficult to do: It would pose quite a challenge to come up with a worse way, and we have several models from which to choose. I will focus on two such models, agrarian anarchy and the post-industrial Stone Age.

What’s wrong?
Detailing all that is wrong with the industrial economy would require libraries full of books. The cryptic version includes, at a minimum, the following: (1) an industrial economy at the apex of western civilization, a set of living arrangements that transfers financial wealth from the poor to the wealthy; (2) human-population overshoot on an overcrowded planet; (3) runaway climate change on an overheated planet; and (4) wholesale destruction of the living planet. The latter brings an extinction rate of a few hundred species each day, along with destruction of potable water and living soil.

In short, as I wrote in the leading journal in my discipline, “the modern world essentially requires one to live immorally. There is no doubt that a society that enslaves, tortures, and kills people and abuses the lands and waters needed for the survival of our species and others is immoral, yet these actions are produced with stunning efficiency by the world’s industrial economy, as epitomized by American empire. Most people know that Big Energy poisons our water, Big Ag controls our food supply, Big Pharma controls the behavior of our children, Wall Street controls the flow of money, Big Ad controls the messages we receive every day, and the criminally rich get richer through exploitation of an immoral system. This is how America works. And, through it all, we think we live moral lives in the land of the free.”

It should be clear that the industrial economy is making us sick, mentally and physically, and also greatly reducing habitat for our species on Earth. As a result, I’m a big fan of terminating this set of living arrangements — that is, I’m a fan of terminating industrialized civilization — and replacing it with a more sane and durable set of living arrangements.

Alternatives abound, and generally rest along a continuum ranging from the current system to the post-industrial Stone Age. I will consider three points along the continuum: (1) the current system, which must be replaced if we are to persist as a species beyond a few decades, (2) agrarian anarchy, and (3) the post-industrial Stone Age.

The current system: industrial economy
The contemporary version of civilization is creating a dire set of predicaments: human-population overshoot, climate chaos, and an unparalleled extinction crisis. It is the primary problem we face. As such, I think it’s time to leave it behind before it leaves us. Considering the ongoing, accelerating collapse of the industrial economy and the virtual absence of national- or international-level discussion about mitigation, I strongly suspect our society is headed for the post-industrial Stone Age within a matter of years, not decades. But communities and the individuals comprising communities have the option of choosing between agrarian anarchy and the post-industrial Stone Age.

Agrarian anarchy
Anarchy assumes the absence of direct or coercive government as a political ideal, while proposing cooperative and voluntary association between individuals and groups as the principal mode for organizing society. This close-to-nature, close-to-our-neighbors approach was the Jeffersonian ideal for the United States, as evidenced by Monticello and the occasional one-liner from Thomas Jefferson. It was also the model promoted by Henry David Thoreau and, more recently, radical thinkers such as Wendell Berry (farmer, writer), Noam Chomsky (linguist, philosopher), Howard Zinn (recently deceased historian), and Tucson-based iconoclastic author Edward Abbey.

Consider, for example, a few well-known lines from Thomas Jefferson: (1) “The result of our experiment will be, that man may be trusted to govern themselves without a master”; (2) I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it”; and (3) “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” Although Jefferson did not call himself an anarchist, his words and ideals indicate he strongly supported the rights and role of individuals, as well as a small government that minimally oversaw the citizenry. The Greco-Latin roots of anarchy suggest the absence of a ruler, which seems like a good idea to me.

Like Jefferson, Henry David Thoreau idealized an agricultural society that was close to nature. Thoreau was a staunch defender of agrarian anarchy, and he focused even more closely on the individual than did Jefferson: “That government is best which governs not at all; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.” To my knowledge, no state governments believe we’ve yet reached that point.

Fast forward to the late twentieth century, and we find several other philosophers defending agrarian anarchy. Perhaps the best known examples are Wendell Berry, Noam Chomsky, and Howard Zinn, but the clearest voice for agrarian anarchy came from Edward Abbey in the years before he died in 1989: (1) “Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hardheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, and county commissioners”; (2) “Anarchism is founded on the observation that since few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough to rule others”; and (3) “A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”

In my dreams, industrialized nations are headed for agrarian anarchy. Many countries have been there for years and can show us the way, if only we allow them. If a region never acquired ready access to cheap fossil fuels, agrarian anarchy was an obvious approach. How else but a strong sense of self-reliance and dependence on neighbors to grow and distribute all food locally? How else but reliance on those same traits to secure the water supply, and protect it from the insults of industry? How else to develop a human community dominated by mutual respect and mutual trust? Contrary to our current set of living arrangements, no currency is needed: barter fills the bill. Better yet, a gift economy is well-suited to agrarian anarchy.

Post-industrial Stone Age
The first two million years of the human experience, and the first few hundred thousand years for our own species, was spent with relatively small communities living close to the land that supported them. These humans knew each other and they knew the plants and animals with which they shared the area. They had minimal impact on the lands and waters that supported them. These humans spent a few hours each week doing what we call “work,” making sure the members of the community were well-hydrated, well-fed, and warm. This was a durable set of living arrangements, as characterized by its longevity and minimal impact on Earth.
We arrogantly and disparagingly refer to this time as the Stone Age.

The first civilization arose a few thousand years ago. Civilization is characterized by cities. In other words, civilization is defined by by human populations too large to be supported in the local area. Cities require use of clear air, clean water, and healthy food from adjacent wildlands, as well as materials to ensure body temperature is maintained at about 37 C. In exchange, cities export dirty air, polluted water, and garbage to outlying areas. Most civilized people think this is a wonderful exchange, although it is unsustainable by definition because there are limits on nature’s abundance.

The current version of civilization, the world’s industrial economy, is the least sustainable model to date, in part because it requires growth for its survival: Civilizations, like organisms, grow or die. This finite planet cannot support infinite growth.

The world’s industrial economy mainlines ready supplies of inexpensive crude oil. The lifeblood of western civilization, cheap oil infuses our daily lives. Petroleum products transport us easily and conveniently, thus allowing for exchange of materials and ideas. Without inexpensive crude oil to deliver water, food, and building materials, the world’s industrial economy declines.

Each of the six worldwide economic recessions since 1972 was preceded by a spike in the price of crude oil, and the days of cheap oil are behind us. At the global level, peak extraction of crude oil occurred in May 2005. A modest decline in available crude oil, coupled with increased industrialization in lesser-developed countries such as China, India, and Brazil, indicates further spikes in the price of oil lie in our future. That the world has nearly a trillion barrels of crude oil remaining to exploit hardly matters:

The price of oil is key to growth of the industrial economy. There is little doubt that future spikes in the price of oil will prove sufficient to terminate the industrial economy, taking us on a one-way trip to the post-industrial Stone Age. Already, expensive oil is overwhelming the ability of central banks and central governments to provide the illusion of economic growth by printing fiat currency. As nearly occurred in 2008 in the wake of oil priced at $147.27 per barrel, western civilization faces an abrupt termination in the face of expensive crude oil.

It is unclear what the future holds. I suspect completion of the ongoing collapse of the industrial economy will engender short-term but large-scale mortality of humans. Shortly thereafter, all “renewable” energy systems will fail because they depend heavily on maintenance and support from oil-driven industries. The batteries associated with most home-based PV solar and wind-energy systems have a life of a decade or so.

When collapse of the industrial economy is complete and is followed by inability to generate electricity via “renewable” systems, it seems humans will be forced to live — yet again — close to our neighbors and close to the natural systems that allow for our survival. That is, we’ll be immersed in the post-industrial Stone Age, albeit with plenty of technology that was not present during the Neolithic period. The simplest of these technologies, including knives and jars, will be readily usable for a long time. The more complex technologies, especially those relying on electricity, will fade quickly from our memories.

An economy based on gift exchange
The current version of the industrial economy has most people obsessed with the tertiary economy (symbolic, green pieces of paper and magnetized particles on hard drives). A few thoughtful individuals focus instead on the secondary economy (the items we use in our daily lives), which rests firmly on the foundational but rarely contemplated primary economy.

The primary economy is comprised of the raw materials we use to survive, and perhaps even thrive. Faith in the symbols characterizing the tertiary economy will be lost when people recognize there are too few items of use (secondary economy) and too few underlying materials (primary economy). One result will be a profound loss of power in the symbols.

An economy based on exchange of gifts worked for the first two million years of the human experience and, due to collapse of the industrial economy certain to result from ongoing decline of fossil-fuel energy, we’re headed toward a similar set of circumstances. We would do well to allow history to serve as a guide to our fossil-fuel-free future.

Our current monetary system is based on faith in symbols and it appears to give us something for nothing. Instead, it steals our sense of community.

People with an abundance of paper wealth have no need to build their human community. Their wealth allows them to buy goods and services, so they need not know the names of the people providing the services. Ditto for the names of the plants, animals, soils, and water providing the services on which we depend for our survival.

On the other hand, financially poor people depend heavily on their neighbors. The rural poor recognize that those neighbors include non-humans as well as humans. True community is woven from gifts, and the gifts come from the lands and waters that support us, as well as from our human neighbors.

A personal example
I had the brass ring. And I let it go. My parents were lifelong educators. So are my only brother and my only sister. Among them, only I reached the pinnacle of the educational world: I was a tenured full professor by the age of 40. I walked away from that life, which I loved, an act that made most people think I’d lost my mind. I walked away after trying to change the morally bankrupt system in which we are immersed when I realized the system was changing me, and not for the better.

I let go of the brass ring after I realized the first step toward destroying this irredeemably corrupt system is to leave it. Because I was born into captivity and assimilated into the normalcy bias of a world gone bonkers, I left later than I should have, and long after I realized the immorality of the system.

A large part of this delay resulted from my inability to identify where and how to leave the system. I had come to see the industrial economy at the apex of western civilization as a horrific system but, because it was the only system I ever knew, I didn’t know how to escape it. Finally, after several years of thought and a few aborted attempts to reach escape velocity, my wife and I developed a set of living arrangements on a small property with another small family where we try to model agrarian anarchy.

When I finally tossed aside the brass ring, I worked cooperatively with others to develop to transition toward a gift economy embedded in agrarian anarchy. I live in a small, sparsely populated valley where gifts are the rule, not the exception. I share a small property with a small family of humans, as well as goats, ducks, chickens, and gardens.

We have attempted, and continue to attempt, to develop a durable set of living arrangements with particular attention to securing potable water, healthy food, appropriate body temperature, and a decent human community. Living in agrarian anarchy in a human community at the edge of empire, I’ve taken responsibility for myself and my neighbors, human and otherwise.

This way of living is far superior to my former life. I drink pure water extracted from a local well with PV solar and hand pumps. I eat healthy, whole foods, much of which is grown on this property. I burn no fossil fuels during my daily life in a well-insulated, off-grid home. I know my neighbors, human and otherwise, and they know me.

Finally, very late in an unexamined life, I came to see the horrors of the way we live, and I let go. Please join me.


PMRF missiles destroying us

SUBHEAD: Speakers on Kauai & Oahu, 2/18 -21 on impacts of Missile Defense in the Pacific, Asia, and the World  

By Raymond Catania on 4 February for Island Breath - (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2012/02/pmrf-missiles-destroying-us.html)

Image above: Illusration for Joan Conrow article "Pumping Up PMRF" for Honolulu Weekly in 2oo7. From (http://honoluluweekly.com/cover/2007/11/pumping-up-pmrf-2).
Impacts of Missile Defense on democracy, culture and the environment in the Pacific, Asia, and the World.

Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space (http://www.space4peace.org/), an Air Force Veteran, and member of Maine Veterans for Peace.  
Dave Webb, National Chair of the UK Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (http://www.cnduk.org/), a former space physicist for the UK Ministry of Defence and a recipient of the Pax Christi Award.  
Lynda Williams, Physics Educator at Santa Rosa Junior College in California and a board member of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. She is also a singer and songwriter.  

Kauai Event: Free Public Forum: Impacts of Missile Defense in the Pacific, Asia, and the World: PMRF Missiles Destroy Environment, Democracy, and Cultures Kapaa Library, Tuesday February 21, 2012, at 6:30pm Moderated by Koohan Paik

Oahu Events: Free Public Forum:
Along the Axis of Peace: Global Resistance to U.S. Military Bases and Space-based Weapons Art Auditorium, UH Manoa, February 18, 2012, 7:00 - 9:oo pm This event also features Jamie Oshiro, activist with the Hawaii Okinawa Alliance, a group that conducts education and action in solidarity with anti-bases struggles in Okinawa as well as Hawaii. Moderated by Kyle Kajihiro, Hawaii Peace and Justice (http://hawaiipeaceandjustice.org/), and DMZ Hawaii/Aloha Aina (http://www.dmzhawaii.org/).  

Mini-Conference on Oahu:
"Growing Our Resistance to .S. Military Bases and Space -based Weapons" Honolulu Friends Meeting House, February 20, 2012, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. $10 covers lunch and materials, registration required, space limited. To register contact info@hawaiipeaceandjustice.org or call 808-988-6266. This day long mini-confab will be an opportunity for local and international activists to engage in more in-depth dialogue about peace and demilitarization issues and struggles. It is also a chance to develop ideas for greater international collaboration.  

On Kauai:
The Kauai Alliance for Peace & Social Justice, co-sponsored by the International Forum on Globalization. Contact Ray Catania. Phone 822-7646 or e-mail may11nineteen71@gmail.com
 On Oahu:
Hawaii Peace & Justice, Contact Kyle Kajihiro at 808-988-6266 or e-mail info@hawaiipeaceandjustice.org. UH event also sponsored by University of Hawaii at Manoa Department of English, Department of American Studies, and Department of Political Science, the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, DMZ-Hawaii / Aloha Aina.  

The role of the U.S in the new world corporate order is going to be to export security. that means endless wars and weapons in space. How will we ever end America's addiction to war and violence as long as our communities are dependent on military spending for jobs? Bruce Gagnon From Vandenberg, California to Kwajalein Atoll, from Kauai to Jeju Island, from Okinawa to the UK, the U.S. global network of military bases and space-based weapons systems seeks to attain 'full spectrum dominance' over the planet. But grassroots movements are resisting through dynamic local-global networks of solidarity. We are happy to host leaders of this growing international movement and we look forward to sharing their good work with the public.

Kyle Kajihiro. After Hawaii, the visiting Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space delegation will proceed to Jeju Island, South Korea, where the annual conference of the network will take place amidst intense protests against a proposed naval base. For more information, visit: Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space (http://www.space4peace.org/) .

California offers Smart Meter Opt Out

SOURCE: Ken Taylor (taylork021@hawaii.rr.com) SUBHEAD: Smart meters, cellphone towers and wi-fi will be a controversy until medical research catches up with reality. By Mike Ludwig on 3 February 2012 for TruthOut - (http://truth-out.org/smart-meter-scoop-california-utility-launches-opt-out-program/1328294529) Image above: Do you want 37 microwave transmitters against your bedroom wall. From (smartmeters.webbery.net/2011/08/do-you-want-37-microwave-transmitters-up-against-your-bedroom-wall).

In response to heated opposition from consumers and activists, state regulators ruled on Wednesday that residential customers of California's PG&E utility company can choose not to have controversial smart meters installed in their homes, but it's going to cost them some extra fees.

Haven't heard of smart meters? Think of gas or electric meter combined with a smart phone, but there are no apps to download. Smart meters use wireless signals that automatically send energy usage information on regular intervals to the utility company. Utility companies in 25 states are working to integrate the new technology.

The Obama administration's 2009 stimulus package included $4.9 billion to develop a "smart" energy grid, a project the green-tech savvy state of California quickly jumped on board. Proponents claim the smart meters are as safe as other wireless devices and will help consumers and society save money and energy, but a growing grassroots movement claims smart meters pose privacy and health risks.

After hearing heated testimony from consumers, the California Public Utility Commission (PUC) ruled that smart meters will not be mandatory, but those who wish to opt out must pay a one-time fee of $75 and a monthly fee of $10. Residents in a program for low-income consumers will pay an initial $10 fee and $5 each month.

Smart meter opponents were seeking the right to opt out, but the fees angered some opponents who claim smart meters make them sick, and the fees amounted to extortion, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

The fees cover costs the smart meters would have eliminated, such as sending workers to take readings.

Grassroots groups across the country, including Stop Smart Meters in California, are fighting smart meters tooth and nail. They dispute the potential benefits of smart meters and claim that it's risky to live with an ever-present wireless system that produces electromagnetic radiation.

Others are concerned about civil liberties issues and say that allowing utility companies to continuously monitor energy usage is an invasion of privacy.

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According to the Stop Smart Meters web site, "thousands of people have complained of tinnitus, headaches, nausea, sleeplessness, heart arrhythmia, and other symptoms after a 'smart' meter was installed." The web site tracks 49 local governments in California that are seeking a moratorium on their installation until more information is available.

As the world is quickly becoming more connected by wireless communications, scientists are racing to study potential health problems related to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation, which is created by wireless networks, smart meters and cell phones.

Last year, World Health Organization (WHO) classified radiofrequency electromagnetic radiations as a "possible" carcinogen based on limited evidence that cell phones may cause certain types of brain cancer. There is no conclusive evidence that wireless devices are carcinogenic, but the WHO said scientists should continue to study potential health risks.

The American Board of Environmental Medicine, a group of scientists that first warned the public about Gulf War Syndrome and other environmental diseases, has called for a moratorium on smart meters until more research can be completed. In a letter to the California PUC, the group claimed that "the widespread, chronic, and essentially inescapable extremely-low frequency and radiofrequency exposure of everyone living near a smart meter" warrants a moratorium until medical concerns are addressed by further research.

We cannot always choose when we are exposed to wireless signals, but at least some energy consumers in California will not be forced to live with another source of constant electromagnetic radiation. As the smart grid spreads across America and Europe, smart meters - along with Wi-Fi in schools and cell phone towers - will continue to be a source of controversy until medical research catches up with technological innovation and the public's fears.


Mayor puts KPD brass on leave

SUBHEAD: Horsesh*t of a different color - Stumblebums, troglodytes and mental midgets - Oh my. By Andy Parx on 3 February 2012 for Parx News Daily - (http://parxnewsdaily.blogspot.com/2012/02/horsesht-of-different-color.html) Image above: Asst Chief Asher (center left) and Chief Perry (center right) answer questions about KPD heavy weapons at Kukui Grove Mall in 2010. From (http://thegardenisland.com/news/local/article_ded16138-6182-11df-978b-001cc4c03286.html). Those are just some of the words that come to mind over Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.'s "Goo-goo-ga-joob" response to charges he had no authority to place Kaua`i Police Department (KPD) Chief Darryl Perry on leave yesterday- an action reportedly taken after Assistant Chief Roy Asher and Ale Quibilan were the subject of a "creating a hostile work environment" complaint from- guess who- Officer Darla Abbatiello-Higa. "Creating a hostile work environment" has cost the county millions and these guys are apparently still at it. "Un-freakin'-believable," as one former Kaua`i official repeatedly yelled into the phone last night. Perhaps the best line we heard yesterday came from "KPD Blue" author Anthony Sommer who wrote, regarding Carvalho, "maybe he just wants to keep the tradition of 'every Kauai mayor gets to fire one police chief' alive." But if Asher and Quibilan are Neanderthals, it pales in comparison to Carvalho's "I am the Eggman, They are the Eggmen, I am the Walrus" statement that somehow the county charter gives him the right to place Chief Perry on leave. Though he cites charter section 7.05, that section has 13 different provisions in it. But assuming the first one is the one to which he refers, it plainly begins with the phrase "unless otherwise provided" which, although Carvalho and real mayor Beth Tokioka disingenuously and conveniently chose not to read this part, means that the operable section, 11.04 supersedes 7.05(A). That's the section that says the police commission is the body empowered to hire and fire the chief and therefore apparently to whom he is responsible. But not only is Carvalho tone deaf to the limits of his own authority, he apparently hasn't read the sunshine law either. In his "statement" he explained that he contacted the chair and vice chair of the police commission and apparently discussed the matter with them. Since the mayor sits as a non-voting "ex-officio" member of all boards and commissions, this is a blatant violation of prohibitions on more than two members of a board discussing matters that are before that board, outside of a duly agendaed meeting. The matter is on the police commission's agenda for a special "executive session" meeting next Tuesday. Oh- and one last thing. Though the county has been tight-lipped about the type of leave Perry and the two assistant chiefs have been forced to take, one report may indicate it's not just some routine, non-disciplinary type. Today's pay-walled Honolulu Star Advertiser reports that "(a)ll three were ordered to turn in their equipment." You don't take away an officer's- or especially a chief's- gun and badge without some serious wrong-doing behind the action. Another question that comes up is why if, as reported, the complaint against Asher was filed last October 24, it did not show up on the October, November, December or January police commission meeting agendas. It just goes to show how seriously the county continues to take charges like this. We haven't been directly privy to the information that apparently came from either Abbatiello-Higa or Perry or both but it certainly wouldn’t be being spread by almost every media outlet in the state unless the source was unimpeachably "close to Abbatiello-Higa" or "has direct knowledge of the investigation" as they have characterized their source. But the real issue is that even after efforts by current Councilmember Tim Bynum and former Councilperson Lani Kawahara to put an end to the sexual harassment that pervades the county offices, it continues. A letter from the two dated October 13, 2010 states that the county "has repeatedly failed to respond appropriately to allegations of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment." Yet the Carvalho administration hasn't done a thing other than have a few "training sessions." Many of the harassers- even some of those that cost the county big bucks- are still on the job in positions that actually ARE under the direct supervision of the mayor. Funny how he's willing to butt in where he's apparently forbidden by law to do so but when it comes to his own hand-picked cronies it's a "hand-off" policy that pervades. If we didn't know better, we might think there was some kind of corruption going on in the administration. .

Monsanto suppresses GMO labeling

SUBHEAD: Washington state legislators in both the House and Senate Ag committees want no GMO labeling.  

By Randy Ananda on 2 February 2012 for Activist Post -  

Image above: Logo for Just Label It! From (http://marycrimmins.com/just-label-it).

 If Washington State’s GMO-label bills, HB 2637 and SB 6298 don’t get voted out of committee by Friday at 5 pm, they’re dead, which is exactly what Monsanto-funded legislators on both the House and Senate Ag committees want.

The Senate’s Agriculture and Water & Rural Economic Development committee chair, Democratic Sen. Brian Hatfield, and two Republicans, Sens. Jim Honeyford and Mark Schoesler, have all taken money from Monsanto, reports the Organic Consumers Assn.

“Committee Chair Hatfield denies taking campaign cash from Monsanto, saying the Organic Consumers Fund is making ‘wild claims,’ even though anyone can see the public record of these contributions by entering ‘Monsanto’” at this search link in the Contributor Name box. Sucks to be caught lying in public, but when a public servant does, that man ought to step down or recuse himself from the vote. That’s what someone with morals would do, anyway. “If he’s willing to lie about being sold-out to Monsanto, don’t believe him when he says,

‘The truth is, this bill does not have the votes to pass out of committee.’ It’s more likely that he’s blocking the vote to protect Monsanto because the bill WOULD pass,” says OCA.

The House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources also has two politicians sucking on Monsanto: the committee chair, Democratic Rep. Brian Blake and Republican Rep. Joel Kretz. Last week, two public hearings on the GMO-label bills were packed, with OCA transporting 50 people to each of them. You can watch the full Senate Ag hearing on the 26th here, and the House Ag hearing on the 27th here.

Residents are urged to write and call their state representatives and senators, asking them to co-sponsor HB 2637 and SB 6298. Folks are also asked to contact these members of the agricultural committees if you live in their districts, urging passage of the bills out of committee.

In related news: Kentucky takes on Big Ag in S.B. 47, a raw milk bill that would allow direct sales from farm to consumer as long as the milk and milk products are clearly labeled “Ungraded raw milk” or “Produced with ungraded raw milk.” Kentuckians should take immediate action by calling the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) and leaving a message in support of S.B. 47 for the full Senate and your senator at 1-800-372-7181. On Feb. 1, the bill was “passed over and retained in the Orders of the Day,” meaning the bill is being reworked before being submitted to the Senate for a vote.

While there is opposition to the bill, the latest version (which LRC has not posted) includes clarification about buying clubs, farmshares and herdshares, related to poultry and livestock, as well as direct sales of raw milk and raw milk products from farm to consumer. You can read more about SB 47 at Food Freedom.

On Feb. 1, the Vermont House passed H.R. 13, a resolution declaring the inalienable right of all Vermonters to save and grow seeds. Last year, Vermont passed a raw milk bill allowing direct sales from farm to consumer. It’s also looking to label GMOs.

 “Local Food is Homeland Security,” says Jessica Bernier of Vermont Coalition for Food Sovereignty. There’s also a move afoot to get Monsanto lobbyist Michael R. Taylor fired from the FDA.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture organized the Small Herd Dairy Working Group to meet with stakeholders. At the Dec. 17 meeting, the Food Rights Coalition proposed new rules for very small dairies, exempting them from the onerous rules and laws in place, which were written with a one-size-fits-all mentality.

The Coalition is looking to ensure the continued flow of organic, raw milk for its customers without undue interference from state regulators. You can read more about this at Civil Eats.

At least 15 states currently have GMO-label bills pending: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia. You can read more about these and other food freedom bills at the OCA’s current legislation page.


Greeks fight to stay with Euro

SUBHEAD: Greece seen as struggling to avoid default even after expected second rescue package passes. By Jonathan Stearns on 3 February 2012 for Bloomberg News - (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-02/greece-seen-as-struggle-even-after-2nd-rescue.html) Image above: Cartoon of Greek debt crisis by Dave Simonds. From (http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/jun/12/greece-could-pay-heavy-price-eurozone-reckless-banks).

Greece’s fight to win its second international bailout may only open a new chapter in its struggle to remain in the euro area.

The rescue plan, which European officials and Greek creditors say may be wrapped up in coming days, includes a loss of more than 70 percent for bondholders in a voluntary debt exchange and loans likely to exceed the 130 billion euros ($171 billion) now on the table.

That won’t stanch the bleeding, say economists including Holger Schmieding of Berenberg Bank in London. Greece will be saddled with too much debt, too little growth and too large a budget hole to do without even more money that euro nations led by Germany are increasingly reluctant to offer, they say.

“Greece is in deep trouble,” Schmieding said in a Jan. 30 report. “The current Greek adjustment program is failing. Excessive austerity, a lack of supply-side reforms, administrative incompetence and political deadlock have pushed the Greek economy into an apparent death spiral. More of the same will not work.”

As Greek officials negotiate with representatives of the so-called troika -- the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- Deutsche Bank AG Chief Executive Officer Josef Ackermann may travel to Athens this weekend for talks over a swap involving Greek debt with a face value of about 200 billion euros.

Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said today the country is close to completing the bailout talks.

‘Final Phase’

“We are in the final phase of this very critical process to shape a new financing program for Greece and to complete the loan agreement which will lighten the burden of public debt and ensure funding for years to come,” Papademos said in a statement posted on his website.

The euro is headed for a weekly decline against all of its 16 major peers. It rose 0.2 percent to $1.3169 at 11:45 a.m. in London. The yield on Germany’s benchmark 10-year bond fell 1.5 basis points to 1.84 percent, while the yield on Italian 10-year bonds declined 2 basis points to 5.58 percent.

Creditors are prepared to accept an average coupon of as low as 3.6 percent on new 30-year bonds in the exchange, said a person familiar with the talks, who declined to be identified because a final deal hasn’t been struck yet. The aim is to cut Greece’s debt load to 120 percent of gross domestic product by 2020 from 162 percent in 2011. The alternative is an uncontrolled default that may lead to deeper losses and ripple effects throughout Europe.

Agreement Seen

An agreement could be reached “in the coming weeks, maybe days,” said Ackermann, also chairman of the Institute of International Finance. The group, based in Washington, has more than 450 financial firms as members and is representing private creditors in the talks.

Meantime, the finance ministers of the AAA-rated euro countries -- Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Finland -- are set to meet today in Berlin to discuss options.

“We can’t pay into a bottomless pit,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said yesterday. “Greece needs a new program, there’s no question about that, but Greece must create the conditions for it.”

Greece remains in intensive care more than two years after triggering Europe’s debt crisis, testing the patience of other European Union nations. Last November, when discussing the Greek situation, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the first time raised the prospect of a country’s exit from the euro.


Failure to control Greece’s troubles helped to push Ireland and Portugal into rescue programs, to raise borrowing costs for Italy and Spain, to embroil the European Central Bank in a controversial program of sovereign-bond purchases and to prompt Standard & Poor’s to strip France of its top credit rating.

Greece has lagged behind budget targets set when it won an initial, taxpayer-funded rescue of 110 billion euros in May 2010, prompting euro-area threats to cut off aid and hastening a German push to make bondholders contribute. The country is in its fifth year of recession, with a budget deficit still close to 10 percent of gross domestic product and unemployment of around 18 percent.

Bond Payment

Facing a 14.5 billion-euro bond payment on March 20 and general elections as soon as April, Papademos’s caretaker government must heed familiar calls by the euro area and the IMF for tighter austerity to complete the talks on a second aid package. The demands are also for lower wage costs and the deregulation of professions including lawyers and truck drivers.

The cuts risk triggering a “social explosion,” Hieronymos II, the head of Greece’s Orthodox Church, said in a statement posted on the website of the Archdiocese of Athens.

“We are being asked to take even larger doses of a medicine that has proven to be deadly and to undertake commitments that do not solve the problem, but only temporarily postpone the foretold death of our economy,” the Archbishop said.

Greece will default on its debt and is likely to leave the euro, Nobel economics laureate Paul Krugman said yesterday at a conference in Moscow.

“The Greek situation is essentially impossible,” Krugman said. “They will default on their debt. In fact they already have. The question is whether they will also leave the euro, which I think at this point is more likely than not.”


Feds Threaten Hawaiian Sovereignty

SOURCE: Ken Taylor (taylork021@hawaii.rr.com)
SUBHEAD: The Whale Sanctuary regulation changes means Hawaiian waters resources are under Federal control.  

By Lyn McNutt on 31 January 2012 in Island Breath -

Image above: Detail of map of the waters of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Monument Sanctuary.
From (http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/library/imast_gis.html).

There have been changes proposed to the Humpback Whale Sanctuary that will immensely increase the power of the Federal government in Hawaiian waters, taking away the State's jurisdiction to its own waters. This takes the rights of Hawaiian residents (1.4 M) and places them at the whim of the "American people" in general, some 300-400 Million of them. This is very troubling due to the way that the National Marine Sanctuary Act and the Endangered Species Act function.

People are being lead to believe that Hawaiian peoples' rights will somehow be preserved after these changes, but my experience of how the Federal system of regulatory laws works leads me to believe that expanding any authority of the Federal government within the sanctuary can lead to very undesirable consequences (see review of compact agreement below). Currently Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Monument Sanctuary (HIHWNMS) Act says:
"Sanctuary resource means any humpback whale, or the humpback whale’s habitat within the Sanctuary."
Keep in mind that whales do NOT come here to feed, so they do not compete with native Hawaiian species for resources. This is the proposed change:
"Sanctuary resource means any living or non-living resource of the National Marine Sanctuary that contributes to the conservation, recreational, ecological, historical, research, educational, or aesthetic value of the Sanctuary, including, but not limited to, the substratum of the area of the Sanctuary, other submerged features and the surrounding seabed, carbonate rock, corals and other bottom formations, coralline algae and other marine plants and algae, marine invertebrates, brine-seep biota, phytoplankton, zooplankton, fish, seabirds, sea turtles and other marine reptiles, marine mammals and historical resources."
Please NOTE that there is NO MENTION of subsistence use. In other words. everything will belong to the Feds.
The key wording in the HIHWNMS Act is this:
'The purpose of the regulations in this subpart is to implement the designation of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary by regulating activities affecting the resources of the Sanctuary"
Therefore under the current definition of "Sanctuary resources", the sanctuary's mandate is limited to "humpback whales or the humpback whale's habitat". Under the ecosystem based management method "resources" means...


...becomes subject to protection and regulation. Please, consider the longterm consequences of this change for the people of Hawaii. With the Federal laws as currently enforced, and the agreements in place, there really is no protection (see below) 

Notes on the Compact Agreement with the State of Hawaii and NOAA 

Please note in the agreement that NOAA, through the Sanctuary Act "has been vested with the jurisdiction and authority to protect and manage the resources of this sanctuary in trust for the People of the United States and is specifically charged with implementation of the policy of the United States". (bold lettering is mine). There is your catch because the policies of the United States may not be consistent with the laws or regulations or needs of the state of Hawaii. This allows NOAA to bring in a whole slew of federal rules and policies INCLUDING the new National Ocean Policy (remember, we have no exemptions or Strategic Plan under that policy---what goes for the Mainland goes for us, too). Section IV (D) States clearly that NOAA and the State will collaborate, but the management of the Sanctuary falls under the laws in the National Marine Sanctuary Act. In Section IV (D) (2) it says that...
"To the extent permitted by law, there shall be mutual agreement regarding enforcement policies and priorities."
The main title of that section indicates that the "law" is the "National Marine Sanctuary Act, the Sanctuary Management Plan, and MOAs, and protocols developed thereunder". ALL of these will trump the State, so beware. The agreement keeps saying that nothing will happen without the signature of the Governor, but when it comes to the Governor proposing changes (section IV (H) it says "...NOAA shall initiate the Federal rule promulgation process required to make revisions requested by the Governor..." Here is where the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws will come in. NOAA consistently "outvoted" the state in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, and overrode the State's veto of several items related to several different species, the monk seal in particular (V. Alter, Stanford Law School, April 2006, available on request).

 It also does NOT say that fishing will not be regulated (it never mentions subsistence fishing, by the way). It says fishing is currently not included, unless DLNR implements new regulations. So, all they have to do is ask the State... and the State has a dismal record here.

  Also, the National Marine Sanctuary Act says that the Feds have the authority to "take over" if they feel that the State is not enacting laws and regulations that are effective enough. The Endangered Species Act permits the Federal Government to regulate the State's treatment of endangered species.  

So it goes back to the Federal Law trumping State law if there is a conflict in the goals of the Management Plan, and then National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is the agency that will decide what needs to be done, all within the authority of the Sanctuary Act and the Endangered Species Act, under the new National Ocean Policy.

Section IV M gives NMFS oversight of all the resources for the Federal Government in the Sanctuary through "implementation of the management plan" and gives them the authority to "evaluate the effectivenedss of existing management efforts in achieving those abjectives and policies including whether additional measures (e.g. regulations or critical habitat) to protect the humpback whale or its habitat are needed)"

 OK, now substitute the word "monk seal" or "coral" for humpback whale in that sentence, and you will see that NMFS will have the authority to enact anything that they feel necessary under the ESA through the management plan and into the Sanctuary as part of the National Marine Sanctuary Act and this agreement. It also says that NOAA will "fully involve and consult with the State". It does not say that they are obligated to listen to the State. Section IV (A) says that the State doesn't relinquish its right to "title or authority to manage and regulate submerged lands, resources, or activities..." but the next two sections go on to say that the Governor agrees to put state owned lands into the Sanctuary system, and that the Sanctuary Management Plan (and therefore the laws of the Sanctuary Act) will apply throughout the ... "Sanctuary, including the portion of the Sanctuary within the seaward boundary of the State."

MOAs and Compact Agreements with references to external documents are really tricky. I used to run into the same thing with all the Space Station agreements, etc. This Agreement looks OK on the surface, since whales don't compete for resources here. Whales DO NOT EAT while they are here. Keeping this agreement in place and giving the Sanctuary the authority to add additional species that might compete for resources, such as the monk seal, would be a real mistake. They will have to create a new agreement. Stand firm on this.