Summer Sanctuary

SUBHEAD: Closing the blinds, we lie down under the ceiling fan and take a sacred midday nap.

By Brian Miller on 7 June 1025 for Winged Elm Farm-
(http://www.wingedelmfarm.com/blog/2015/06/07/sanctuary/)


Image above: Vincent Van Gogh's "Noon Rest from Work" painted in 1890 after the work of Jean-François Millet. From (http://www.artofeurope.com/van_gogh/van20.htm).

The mowers across the valley hum with honey bee intensity. Mid-morning heat and the grass has parted ways with the dew after their nightly tryst. Hay is down in dozens of fields, signs of industry from the stewards of those lands.

Other pastures are newly shorn and baled, revealing lines both stark and sensual. Round and square bales dot the landscape like chess pieces randomly scattered after play.

Gathering my own pieces—a stirrup and a Dutch hoe, a pitchfork and a rake, a 50-gallon tub—I head into the vegetable garden. As I work, the sounds of lawnmowers combine with the nearby shout of a mother to a son, “Pick the green beans while you’re at it.”

The sounds of scraping the soil, grunts of my own exertion, a ping as metal strikes rock, the thud of a rock casually tossed to the edge of the garden, where dozens more have gathered over the years.

The tub gradually fills with a spring mix of weeds, a buffet of flavors I tip over the adjoining fence for the sow and gilt, Delores and Petunia, to enjoy. They have been pacing the fence since I arrived, coated in mud from their wallow, grunting and squealing their impatience to begin dining.

Another hour of weeding and culling and another tub filled: cabbages and turnips past their prime, leaves of chard and collards, all to be fed to the hogs in the woods later in the evening.

A retreat to the house and a lunch of the previous night’s dinner of grilled ribeyes, creamed chard, and new potatoes, then we catch up on our respective tasks. I read and finish a book before leaving to ted the hay in an upper field.

The grass cut only yesterday is already dry and ready to be baled, no tedding needed, its conversion to winter’s feed complete. Leaving the tractor behind, I enter on foot the sanctuary of the woods. Meaningful word “sanctuary,” both a refuge and a sacred place.

Under the canopy of large oaks, poplars, and maples, the woods are still cool and sheltering from the blazing afternoon heat, and the word is both to me. The dogs drink from secret stumps water collected in recent rains. How many other animals know the same? Do they find these watering dishes by scent or instinct?

I walk along the winding lane and exit back into the sunlight. In a heat not yet marred by the humidity of late day, there is an oven-like comfort, like a woodstove in a cool house.

At pasture’s edge, a new mother guards her calf, fiercely eyeing the dogs. We move on, past the pond, past the white oak, through the equipment yard. The dogs find shelter from the heat under the chicken coop; I find shelter indoors.

Closing the blinds, we lie down under the ceiling fan and take a midday nap. Sleep is refuge against a hot Tennessee summer day, a sacred state of renewal before the workday reconvenes.

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Good, Good, Good, Good Bacteria

SUBHEAD: Fermented foods are healthy low-energy users – they require no cooking or refrigeration.

By Elisabeth Wiknler on 29 May 2015 for Sustainable Food Trust -
(http://www.resilience.org/stories/2015-06-04/good-good-good-good-bacteria)


Image above: Step in a recipe for fermented kimchee. From (http://www.chow.com/recipes/29505-basic-napa-cabbage-kimchi-kimchee).

Recent research on the role of bacteria suggests we need a radical rethink about what makes us healthy. Thanks to advances in genetic sequencing, scientists are starting to discover, categorise and understand the importance of the vast universe of microbial organisms that live invisibly on, in and around us.

In May, results from studies conducted by Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, showed that a ten-day diet of junk food caused the loss of 1,300 species of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. Professor Spector said: “Microbes get a bad press, but only a few of the millions of species are harmful, and many are crucial to our health.”

Instead of bacteria being our deadly foe, it turns out the vast majority are really our best friends – and our oldest. According to the Human Microbiome Project, our ‘live-in’ molecules – the single cell organisms including bacteria and fungi that are neither plant nor animal but in a category of their own – have evolved symbiotically with us and our pre-historic ancestors since time began.

Like the best of relationships, we are inter-dependent. We provide energy via food to our single-cell friends: in return they perform a myriad of life-giving activities.

As it is in our gut, so it is in the soil. The idea articulated by SFT director Patrick Holden that healthy topsoil thrives because of microbial activity – functioning in a similar way to human digestion – illustrates the interconnectedness of everything. In the dark of topsoil, microscopic microbes perform vital tasks to maintain the health of soil life. Meanwhile, in the dark of our digestive system, trillions of tiny microbes are likewise busy keeping our bodies healthy.

The role of beneficial bacteria is multi-functional. A key role of both soil and gut bacteria is digestion. These beneficial bacteria break down nutrients into digestible forms that can be assimilated by the plant’s roots, or the gut lining in our intestines, enabling both plants and humans to thrive. As well as bacteria being an essential component of digestion, beneficial bacteria also help to repel disease and are a key component of a healthy immune system.

The number of microorganisms living invisibly in the world is mind-boggling: one teaspoon of rich garden soil can hold one billion bacteria along with fungi and other microorganisms. As for the bacteria in a symbiotic relationship with us, the majority live in the walls of our intestines. This community of diverse bacterial species, called the gut microbiome, weighs about two kilos.

There is a clear analogy between soil and human digestion and, according to nutritionist and author Daphne Lambert, there is also a direct relationship. In her soon-to-be-published book Living Food: A Feast of Soil and Soul, she traces the origins of soil eating for health, drawing on recent studies to argue for increased exposure to soil to build immunity.

She writes, “Today our food industry kills off these organisms and together with our excessively clean households this means few if any of these soil-based organisms manage to find their way into the human digestive system.”

According to Lambert there is evidence to suggest that the ingestion of soil-based organisms from a vibrant, healthy soil enhance the functioning of our gastrointestinal tract. But our modern lifestyles break the link between healthy soils and healthy humans, with less people than ever before working on the land and every last trace of soil washed off the vegetables we buy.

But what about the scary bugs? Small children are naturally drawn to soil but it’s usually us adults who start freaking out about the dirt. Take heart that the benefit of handling soil far outweighs the risks. First, the good bacteria outnumber the bad. Second, we develop the capacity to deal with the bad ’uns by the very practice of being exposed to microbes in the first place.

First proposed in 1989, the hygiene hypothesis in medicine shows that we do small children a disservice by keeping them in a sterile environment. Getting down and dirty is how our immune system learns to defend us from disease.

Children who develop healthy immune systems in this way will doubtless be better able to resist infections. However, a word of caution: a great deal of our soil has had its inherent health degraded by intensive agricultural methods and intensive farms can be breeding grounds for dangerous bacteria such as E.coli O157, so hand washing hygiene is called for in some situations.

Ideally, we should be able to ditch our antibacterial cleaners too. Rather than obliterating all bacteria, we could take a leaf out of traditional Asian cultures and clean our houses with a fermented solution of probiotics that feeds good bacteria, which then eat up the bad smells, dirt and grease caused by harmful bacteria.

Yet, in our spoiled and imperfect world there will be exceptions here too, and caution is needed, especially when preparing chicken, which is so often a source of campylobacter infections.

Good bacteria in food
Just as we can colonise our homes and soil with good bacteria, so we can restore health to our gut.

When it comes to the human diet, nutritional therapists commonly agree that the best way to create good gut bacteria via what we eat is to eat more as our ancestors ate and adopt a three-step approach: reduce sugar, raise fibre and eat fermented foods.

Take sugar first. Or rather don’t! Bad bacteria feed on sugar and they start complaining when they don’t get it. Based on a review of recent scientific literature, US researchers found that gut microbes may cause us to crave the very nutrients they need to grow, by releasing signaling molecules into our system.
You can diminish bad bacteria by giving your good bacteria a boost with prebiotics, or fibre on which good bacteria feed. As Lambert explains:
“The intestine lacks the enzymes necessary to break down oligosaccharides so they move through to the colon where they serve as food for beneficial existing bacteria so they grow and multiply, squeezing out bad bacteria. Oligosaccharides are found in many foods but there is a major one for each season: onions in winter, asparagus in spring, leeks in summer, and Jerusalem artichokes in autumn. Nature really has got it right.”
Finally, fermented foods are important. Bacteriology may be in its infancy, but, according to author and food campaigner Michael Pollan, every traditional food culture has fermented food in its diet. Think sauerkraut, chocolate, tamari and kimchi.

“Fermented foods not only produce amazing tastes, they also increase nutrients,” says Lambert, who also runs fermentation workshops. “Growing colonies of microbial cultures makes nutrients more available, and also increases them, including vitamins and especially Vitamin B.”

Fermented foods are low-energy – they require no cooking or refrigeration. By preserving summer foods throughout long winters or saving food from decomposition in tropical heat, humans have survived inhospitable climates. Captain Cook famously took sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) to reduce scurvy on his sea voyages.

Most bacteria are notoriously hard to culture in a petri dish, so our knowledge of bacteria’s many uses is still severely limited. One of the most widely known bacteria is Lactobacillus acidophilus – the Latin for acid-loving milk bacterium – which predigests food, transforming, for instance, milk into yogurt.

“The more foods you eat that aid digestion the better, and in many cases these foods are beneficial because of bacteria,” says Lambert. “It is about understanding our relationship with bacteria – not annihilating them. By declaring war on bacteria, we are declaring war on life itself.”

Currently being crowdfunded at Unbound, Living Food: a Feast for Soil and Soul celebrates a gastronomy that is good both for human and planetary health. The following extract features two recipes from a collection of more than 70.

Fermented vegetables
Cabbage is cheap to buy. Once fermented, it adds complex and delicious flavours – one of the joys of life.

Sauerkraut
3 medium-size white cabbage heads (about 2 kilos)
1 four-litre clean glass jar
2–3 tablespoons sea salt
Shred the cabbage and place it in a large metal bowl. Sprinkle over one tablespoon of salt and pound gently with a wooden rolling pin to help pull the water out of the cabbage. Cover with a cloth and leave overnight. The next morning, place about two inches of cabbage into the glass jar and press firmly down, sprinkle with a little salt and repeat until the jar is full. As you layer up you can add spices and herbs to flavour.

Firmly compress the layers of cabbage. Place a weight on top like a jam jar filled with water to make sure the cabbage is completely submerged by the brine (if necessary add a little water). Cover with a cloth to protect from flies. Every day, push the cabbage gently down. Let the jar sit at room temperature. After a week the cabbage has fermented sufficiently to be eaten, but you can leave it for a further couple of weeks. If you are not going to eat the cabbage straight away, fit with a lid and store in a cool, dry place where the tangy flavour will continue to develop. Once you start eating the cabbage, keep it in the fridge.

Fermented grains
Many grains in different parts of the world are made more digestible through fermentation: in Japan the soya bean is fermented into traditional fermented foods such as tempeh, soy sauce and miso.

In Africa, millet is fermented for several days to produce a sour porridge called ogi, and in India rice and lentils are fermented for at least two days before making idli and dosas. Corn was fermented before using in Mexico, and throughout Europe grains used to be soaked overnight in soured milk ready to make porridge in the morning.

It’s very easy to start soaking grains and this simple process is an enormous aid to digestion. Soak your chosen grain in water for a minimum of eight hours at room temperature. You can assist the process by adding a little fermented (sauerkraut) vegetable juice or yogurt.

Fermented whole oat porridge
By fermenting the whole oat grouts before cooking, the flavour of the porridge is enhanced, the grains are more digestible and there is greater nutrient bioavailability.

Place oat grouts (whole oats) in a bowl, just cover with water and leave at room temperature for two days. You can leave for longer if you choose to create a more intense acidic flavour. To assist the process, add a tablespoon of sauerkraut juice, apple cider vinegar or kefir to the water.

Strain the oats, saving the soak water, then simply eat the grains as they are with soaked nuts and seeds and seasonal fruits. Alternatively, you can cook the grouts, either in the soak liquid or fresh water, depending on your flavour preference. Gently heat the oats and cook very slowly until thick and creamy. Add a pinch of salt and serve with whatever you fancy.

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Jackson County GMO ban upheld

SUBHEAD: A federal judge has upheld the Jackson Counnty, Oregon, GMO crop ban legislation.

By Info on 6 June 2015 for Shaka Movement -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2015/06/jackson-county-gmo-ban-upheld.html)


Image above: Supporters of the Jackson County measure to ban GMO crops react 5/20/2014 after returns show it passing by a wide margin. From (http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/05/jackson_county_gmo_crops_ban_w.html).

Great News for SHAKA and the Maui GMO Crop Moratorium: A Federal Judge upholds the Jackson Counnty, Oregon, GMO Crop Ban. This can help Maui by setting a precident in Federal Court. Our next court date is Monday, June 15.

A federal judge just ruled in favor of Jackson County's ban on genetically engineered crops! This is a major win for farmers and families who want to keep Monsanto OUT of our food supply.

Just last year, farmers and local activists in Jackson County voted overwhelmingly to ban GMOs after organic farmers found their crops were being contaminated by Roundup-resistant seeds made by Syngenta, the agrochemical giant.

But even though Jackson County voters passed the GMO ban by a 2:1 margin, Monsanto and their Big Chem allies still refused to accept defeat. They took their fight to the courts in a desperate last-ditch attempt to overturn the will of the people -- and now they've been stopped in their tracks.

This victory proves that when grassroots activists join together, we can take on the biggest corporations – and win.



GMO ban litigation shifts gears

By Mateusz Perkowski on 2 June 2015 for Capital Press -
(http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?category=staff&template=staffProfilePages&staffID=mperkowski)

A federal judge has also found that lawmakers intended to permit the GMO ban when they excluded Jackson County from a 2013 bill that pre-empted other local governments from regulating biotech crops.


Litigation over the genetically engineered crop ban in Oregon’s Jackson County is now expected to focus on whether the government took farmers’ property without just compensation.

A federal judge on May 29 rejected the argument by two alfalfa farms that Oregon’s “right to farm” law rendered the prohibition invalid.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Clarke said the “right to farm” statue prohibits ordinances and lawsuits that treat a common farming practice as a trespass or nuisance, but it does not protect activities that harm commercial agriculture.

Oregon’s legislature passed the law to shield farmers from urban encroachment and complaints about smells, noises and other irritations, he said.

“While farming practices may not be limited by a suburbanite’s sensitivities, they may be limited if they cause damage to another farm’s crops,” Clarke said.

Growers are able to file lawsuits over such grievances under the “right to farm” statute, and Jackson County’s ordinance simply “serves to prevent such damage before it happens” — even if it hasn’t yet occurred, he said.

While Clarke has dismissed the farmers’ arguments regarding “right to farm,” their claim seeking $4.2 million in compensation from Jackson County remains alive in the case.

The growers, Schulz Family Farms and James and Marilyn Frink, argue that forcing them to remove about 300 acres of herbicide-resistant “Roundup Ready” alfalfa amounts to the county condemning their property for public use, which requires just compensation.

“Their right to make a living, support their families and contribute to the local economy will be seriously damaged by the ban — costing them millions of dollars,” said Shannon Armstrong, attorney for the farmers, in an email.

The lawsuit argues that Jackson County’s ordinance is a form of “inverse condemnation,” in which the government takes private property without using its power of eminent domain.

It would be easier for the farmers to prevail if they convince the judge that the ban on genetically modified organisms is a “physical taking” of their property, said Paul Sundermier, an Oregon attorney specializing in takings and condemnation cases.

They can also claim that the GMO ban is a “regulatory taking,” but this is a tougher legal route because the plaintiffs would have show the ordinance eliminated all the economically viable use of their property, Sundermier said.

“Regulatory takings are very difficult to prove,” he said.

The question would then be whether removing the alfalfa completely wipes out its value, since the farmers may still be able to sell the hay even if they ultimately kill the perennial plant.

Even as the case shifts to government takings, it’s possible that the “right to farm” argument may be resurrected on appeal.

The plaintiffs could wait until the entire case is finished before challenging Clarke’s findings or obtain a partial judgment that they could appeal earlier, among other options.

Capital Press was unable to reach Jackson County for comment. The ordinance was set to take effect on June 5 but the county previously agreed not to enforce the prohibition until there’s a judgment in the case.

The Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit critical of biotech crops, considers the ruling a “big win” but expects the plaintiffs will challenge it before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for the group.

The judge has recognized that genetically engineered crops pose a significant commercial threat to non-biotech growers, which was a key issue in the litigation, Kimbrell said. “This case is a resounding affirmation of the right of farmers to protect themselves from GE contamination.”

Most Oregon counties are pre-empted from regulating GMOs under Senate Bill 863, passed by lawmakers in 2013. The legislature excluded Jackson County from the legislation because its GMO prohibition initiative was already on the ballot when SB 863 was enacted.

Roughly two-thirds of Jackson County voters approved the measure in a 2014 election. The county includes the cities of Ashland and Medford.

The alfalfa farmers argued that SB 863 did not affect the “right to farm” law, which they interpreted as protecting their genetically engineered alfalfa crops from being destroyed regardless of the GMO ban.

The judge disagreed, pointing to testimony from lawmakers representing the county who claimed the ordinance was necessary to avoid unwanted cross-pollination between biotech crops and those that are conventional or organic.

Former Gov. John Kitzhaber also stated that Jackson County was specifically exempt from Senate Bill 863, the state pre-emption law, when he pushed lawmakers to approve it, said Clarke.

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TMT permit goes to Supreme Court

SOURCE: Kerri Marks (occupyhilomedia@yahoo.com)
SUBHEAD: The transfer signals the court believes the TMT Conservation District Use Permit deserves the utmost scrutiny.

By  Kealoha Piscotta on 5 June 2015 for Mauna Kea Hui -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2015/06/tmt-permit-goes-to-supreme-court.html)


Image above: Mauna Kea with fresh snow in the light of sunset, 12 Jan 2011. From (http://darkerview.com/darkview/index.php?/archives/2142-Wordless-Wednesday-Sunset-and-Snow.html).

Today, the Hawaii Supreme Court issued its order granting the Mauna Kea Hui’s application for transfer of their case concerning the construction of a Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT) on the sacred summits of Mauna Kea from review by the state Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA).

Mauna Kea Hui members, Kealoha Pisciotta of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, Deborah J. Ward, Clarence K ū Ching, the Flores-Case ʻOhana (E. Kalani Flores and Pua Case), Paul Neves, and KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, are appealing the state Third Circuit’s affirmation of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources’ (BLNR) decision to grant a conservation district use permit (CDUP) to the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo (UHH) for TMT construction.

Richard Naiwieha Wurdeman, attorney for the Mauna Kea Hui, said that his clients are encouraged by the Hawaii Supreme Court’s decision to grant the application for transfer.

One of the criteria that the Supreme Court considers in granting an application for transfer is whether the matter involves a question of imperative or fundamental public importance.

Wurdeman said UHH, on behalf of TMT, had strenuously objected to his clients’ application for transfer of the appeal from the ICA to the Hawaii Supreme Court for review.

The grant of transfer comes in the wake of UH’s public concessions of its mismanagement of Mauna Kea and agreements to Governor Ige’s plans for purported “improvements” on Mauna Kea, all of which fall short because they were premised on continued support of the TMT project. “These are interesting, to say the least,” said Wurdeman, “given the University’s vigorous opposition in legal battles.”

In a separate case, the ICA had earlier ruled against the Kilakila o Haleakala’s similar appeal concerning the University ’s CDUP for an Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST) to be constructed on the Haleakala summit.

The Hawaii Supreme Court subsequently granted a request for review and oral arguments were held in April in that case. Now, appeals from both the TMT and ATST CDUPs are under review by the Hawaii Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has not yet issued an order on whether oral arguments will be held in the Mauna Kea case.

Deborah Ward said the court’s decision to hear the case is “heartening” and Kealoha Pisciotta stated, “This is good news and recognizes the importance of our case for all of Hawaii.”

 Both cases may bear on the ways conservation districts islandwide will be treated. CDUPs are essentially variances for construction in conservation districts and can be granted only if a project meets eight criteria, including an absence of substantial adverse impact, preservation of natural beauty, and consistency with conservation district purposes.

“The transfer signals that the Hawaii Supreme Court, in unanimity, believes that the so-called TMT Conservation District Use Permit deserves the utmost legal scrutiny and priority,” stated K ū Ching.

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Fukushima prefecture uninhabitable

SUBHEAD: Conditions are getting worse, we have to move people away. Someone has to do something.

Compiled by Admin on 6 June 2015 for EneNews -
(http://enenews.com/govt-officials-fukushima-be-declared-uninhabitable-wait-around-conditions-getting-worse-move-people-away-like-evacuation-children-during-world-war-ii-japan-newspaper-fukushima-youths-ready)


Image above: Junior high school students from Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, dedicate a thousand paper cranes to the Children's Peace Monument in Hiroshima on 6 Aug 2012. From (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/life_and_death/AJ201208070076).

Jiji Press, Jun 5, 2015

Fukushima youths ready to desert irradiated hometowns, survey finds… a majority of the young people living in 12 radiation-contaminated municipalities in Fukushima do not plan to be living in the same place… The survey, conducted in February and March, covered members of some 13,000 households randomly selected from the 77,600 still remaining in the 12 municipalities…

“The results are very shocking,” said Satoshi Endo, mayor of the town of Hirono… Fukushima Prefectural Government will present a clear vision so young people can have hope about their hometowns, a senior official said..

The Asia-Pacific Journal, May 25, 2015:
  • Murakami Tatsuya, former mayor of Tōkaimura (“Birthplace of nuclear power in Japan”): There are 14 reactors on [Japan's Pacific coast] and I wouldn’t have been surprised if all these reactors had ended up failing in some way or another… It tells you how catastrophic it could be for a country like Japan to house nuclear power plants… It is crazy. Right now about 130,000 people in Fukushima have been evacuated from the exclusion areas, although it would be 80,000 or 90,000 people if we do not count voluntary evacuees… Speaking from the examples of Chernobyl, Fukushima should have been declared uninhabitable, especially to raise children.

  • Prof. Katsuya Hirano, UCLA: I agree… families with small children should have been given new land somewhere safe to start their lives again. The government should have provided them with a new village and community to live…

  • Murakami: I thought about the possibility of relocating the entire Tōkaimura myself. The news about the Fukushima crisis chilled me to the bone. As I mentioned, we were so close to having a similar situation, so I started thinking about relocating the entire village and in fact found a place in Hokkaido… and have them start dairy farming and cultivating new land in Hokkaido… I even visited the area. If it doesn’t work, I thought, other alternatives would be Australia or our sister state, Idaho.
Press Conference for Dr. Akira Sugenoya, Mayor of Matsumoto, Japan (AP):
 Sugenoya is a surgeon and thyroid specialist who left a prestigious Japanese hospital to perform lifesaving cancer surgeries in Chernobyl for several years): “It is clear that a significant amount of radioactive iodine was released from Fukushima Daiichi. It was a huge mistake not to take any measures immediately…

There are children in Fukushima diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and the number of cases is increasing… I have said “children and pregnant women will suffer negative health effects in the future, as a result of external — and especially internal — exposure… In order to protect their lives, the government must, as a matter of national policy, move the children out of contaminated regions… The people are being exposed to radiation on a daily basis.

Someone has to do something… A good part of Japan has been contaminated with nuclear fallout. This is just like the evacuation of children that took place en masse during the World War II.”

Taro Yamamoto, member of Japan’s Upper House of Parliament:
“We have to grasp the real situation of which our children are in… we cannot wait around, because the conditions are getting worse. We have to move people away from the affected areas.”

Dr. Sugenoya’s press conference here | Interview with Yamamoto here
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The Disappearing Stock Market

SUBHEAD: In a giant leveraged buyout corporations will not be publicly owned but become fiefdoms with legal barriers to protect them.

By Daniel Drew on 4 June 2015 for Dark Bid   -
(http://www.dark-bid.com/stock-market-disappearing.html)

http://www.islandbreath.org/2015Year/06/150605usacorpbig.jpg
Image above: The biggest corporations (by revenue) in each state. Click to embiggen. From (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/21/biggest-companies-map_n_5518107.html).

It's easy to find critics and doomsayers who predict that the next stock market crash is just around the corner. They could be right, but another possibility is that the stock market itself will disappear entirely.

Anyone who is familiar with mergers and acquisitions knows what happens when a company is being slowly acquired. The price climbs higher, slowly yet relentlessly. Liquidity evaporates as offers are lifted. If the price moves up too quickly, buy programs are canceled. The buyer waits until the froth dies down a little before resuming purchases. Eventually, the bids reappear, and the process continues.

Once the buyer acquires 5% of the company, a legal requirement is triggered: the SEC requires the buyer to file Schedule 13D, otherwise known as a "beneficial ownership report." Once this report is filed, everyone can see the buyer, and the stock price will usually jump.

This same process has been underway in the stock market over the last 6 years. The market is up well over 200%. Liquidity has evaporated in the S&P 500 futures market, and the central banks themselves are buying S&P 500 futures. Companies are spending nearly all of their profits on stock buybacks. Just recently, Wendy's announced they would buy back half of their stock.

All of this activity harms employees. William Lazonick discussed the negative effects in a Harvard Business Review article called "Profits Without Prosperity." According to Lazonick, the American economy has transformed from a system of value creation to one of value extraction. He explained,
From the end of World War II until the late 1970s, a retain-and-reinvest approach to resource allocation prevailed at major U.S. corporations. They retained earnings and reinvested them in increasing their capabilities, first and foremost in the employees who helped make firms more competitive. They provided workers with higher incomes and greater job security, thus contributing to equitable, stable economic growth - what I call "sustainable prosperity."

This pattern began to break down in the late 1970s, giving way to a downsize-and-distribute regime of reducing costs and then distributing the freed-up cash to financial interests, particularly shareholders. By favoring value extraction over value creation, this approach has contributed to employment instability and income inequality.
The private takeover of the stock market is also apparent in the IPO market, or lack thereof. Rett Wallace said in Forbes, U.S. technology companies have already raised more money this year in the private market than in the public market in all of 2014 (excluding Alibaba's nearly $22 billion IPO, which is by any definition an outlier). The 25 tech IPOs in 2014 (again excluding Alibaba) raised a total of $6.5 billion, less than the $7.8 billion already raised privately by US tech companies this year.

This is the end game of unfettered capitalism. The signs are all here. When you cast aside reasonable restraints, the unscrupulous among us will rise to the top and exploit everyone else. What we have left is a new American feudalism where CEOs move around like a pack of ruthless Somalian warlords.

Riding behind the banner of efficiency, they replace employees with robots, outsource their work to foreigners and tell their employees to train their own replacements, and collude with hedge fund managers to strip companies of their most valuable assets to temporarily boost the stock price.

As if all this weren't enough, now they are buying the entire stock market with money provided by the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing policies. This is essentially the largest leveraged buyout in history, and it's being paid for by every American. If the IPO market continues to dry up and companies maintain their buybacks, eventually, they will run out of stock to buy, and the market will disappear.

In a country without public markets, corporate fiefdoms will dominate the landscape. Instead of actual castles and moats, fiefdoms will have legal barriers to protect them, like low minimum wages, tax loopholes, and regulatory capture. Warren Buffett always said he likes businesses with "economic moats." Just imagine how much he would like the moats of the new American feudalism.

The company that best epitomizes the increasing privatization of capital is Uber. With absurd valuations in the private market as high as $50 billion, the company already has a substantial fiefdom. One day in the future, when the private takeover of all public markets is complete, you will see a propaganda poster on the subway that says, "We are all Uber drivers now!"

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Renewable energy means no growth

SUBHEAD: Conversion to renewable solar and wind energy will not support industrial economic growth. 

By Richard Heinberg on 5 June 2015 for Resilience.org -
(http://www.resilience.org/stories/2015-06-05/renewable-energy-will-not-support-economic-growth)


Image above: Logistics at a modern container terminal at dusk. From original article and (http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-198840296/stock-photo-modern-container-terminal-at-dusk-the-busy-logistics-background.html).

The world needs to end its dependence on fossil fuels as quickly as possible. That’s the only sane response to climate change, and to the economic dilemma of declining oil, coal, and gas resource quality and increasing extraction costs.

The nuclear industry is on life support in most countries, so the future appears to lie mostly with solar and wind power. But can we transition to these renewable energy sources and continue using energy the way we do today? And can we maintain our growth-based consumer economy?

The answer to both questions is, probably not. Let’s survey four important sectors of the energy economy and tally up the opportunities and challenges.

The electricity sector: Solar and wind produce electricity, and the fuel is free. Moreover, the cost of electricity from these sources is declining. These are encouraging trends. However, intermittency (the sun doesn’t always shine, the wind doesn’t always blow) still poses barriers to high levels of solar-wind electricity market share.

Grid managers can easily integrate small variable inputs; but eventually storage, capacity redundancy, and major grid overhauls will be necessary to balance inputs with loads as higher proportions of electricity come from uncontrollable sources.

All of this will be expensive—increasingly so as solar-wind market penetration levels exceed roughly 60 percent. Some of the problems associated with integrating variable renewables into the grid are being worked out over time.

But even if all these problems are eventually resolved, only about one-fifth of all final energy is consumed in the form of electricity; how about other forms and ways in which we use energy—will they be easier or harder to transition?

The transport sector: Electric cars are becoming more common. But electric trucks and other heavy vehicles will pose more of a challenge due to the low energy density of battery storage (gasoline stores vastly more energy per kilogram).

Ships could use kite sails, but that would only somewhat improve their fuel efficiency; otherwise there is no good replacement for oil in this key transport mode. The situation is similar, though even bleaker, for airplanes.

Biofuels have been an energy fiasco, as the European Parliament has now admitted. And the construction of all of our vehicles, and the infrastructure they rely upon (including roads and runways), also depends upon industrial processes that currently require fossil fuels. That brings us to . . .

The industrial sector: Making pig iron—the main ingredient in steel—requires blast furnaces. Making cement requires 100-meter-long kilns that operate at 1500 degrees C. In principle it is possible to produce high heat for these purposes with electricity or giant solar collectors, but nobody does it that way now because it would be much more expensive than burning coal or natural gas.

Crucially, current manufacturing processes for building solar panels and wind turbines also depend upon high-temperature industrial processes fueled by oil, coal, and natural gas. Again, alternative ways of producing this heat are feasible in principle—but the result would probably be significantly higher-cost solar and wind power. And there are no demonstration projects to show us just how easy or hard this would be.

The food sector: Nitrogen fertilizer is currently produced cheaply from natural gas; it could be made using solar or wind-sourced electricity, but that would again entail higher costs. Food products—and the chemical inputs to farming—are currently transported long distances using oil, and farm machinery runs on refined petroleum.

It would be possible to grow food without chemical inputs and to re-localize food systems, but this would probably require more farm labor and might result in higher-priced food. Consumers would need to eat more seasonally and reduce their consumption of exotic foods.

In short, there are far more challenges associated with the energy transition than opportunities. There are potential solutions to all of the problems we have identified. But most of those solutions involve higher costs or reduced system functionality.

Moreover, the energy dynamics of the transition itself will pose a challenge: where will the energy come from to build all the solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, electric blast furnaces, and solar cement kilns that we’ll need? Building the fossil-fueled energy producing-and-consuming infrastructure of the modern world has been by far the greatest construction project in human history.

It took over a century, and it’s still a work in progress. Now we’ll have to replace most of this vast infrastructure with something different—different energy generators, different cars, trucks, roads, buildings, and industrial processes, using different materials (no petroleum-based plastics, no asphalt). All of this will take time, money . . . and energy.

And there’s the rub. Where will the energy come from? Realistically, most of it will have to come from fossil fuels—at least in the early-to-middle stages of the transition. And we’ll be using fossil fuels whose economic efficiency is declining due to the depletion of existing stocks of high-quality oil, gas, and coal. Again, this implies higher costs.

Why not just use renewables to build renewables? Because it would be slower and even more expensive.

Yet the faster we push the energy transition, the more energy will have to be diverted to that gargantuan project, and the less will be available to all the activities we’re already engaged in (running the transport, manufacturing, communications, and health care sectors, among others).

The issues surrounding the renewable energy transition are complicated and technical. And there are far too many of them to be fully addressed in a short article like this. But the preponderance of research literature supports the conclusion that the all-renewable industrial economy of the future will be less mobile and will produce fewer and more expensive goods.

The 20th century industrial world was built on fossil fuels—and in some ways it was built for fossil fuels (as anyone who spends time in American suburban communities can attest).

High mobility and the capacity for ever-expanding volumes of industrial production were hallmarks of that waning era. The latter decades of the current century will be shaped by entirely different energy sources, and society will be forced to change in profound ways.

That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The globalized consumer society was always unsustainable anyway, and we might be happier without it. But unless we plan for the post-growth renewable future, existing economic institutions may tend to shatter rather than adapt smoothly.

The fossil fuel and nuclear industries have an understandable interest in disparaging renewable energy, but their days are numbered. We are headed toward a renewable future, whether we plan intelligently for it or not. Clearly, intelligent planning will offer the better path forward. One way to hasten the energy transition is simply to build more wind turbines and solar panels, as many climate scientists recommend.

But equally important to the transition will be our deliberate transformation of the ways we use energy. And that implies a nearly complete rethinking of the economy—both its means and its ends. Growth must no longer be the economy’s goal; rather, we must aim for the satisfaction of basic human needs within a shrinking budget of energy and materials.

Meanwhile, to ensure the ongoing buy-in of the public in this vast collaborative project, our economic means must include the promotion of activities that increase human happiness and well being.

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European nuke policy collapses

SUBHEAD: Plans for a worldwide fleet of huge new nuclear reactors have collapsed, with the cancellation of a major project.

By Paul Brown on 28 May 2015 for Climate Network News -
(http://www.climatenewsnetwork.net/new-energy-policy-needed-as-nuclear-giants-take-a-hit/)


Image above: GreenPeace members preparing for demonstration against European Pressurized Reaactor in Flamanville. From original article.

[IB Piublisher's note: After realizing that there is no way we can contain or clean up the Fukushima Daiichi triple meltdown that is killing the Pacific Ocean it should be a no-brainer that expanding reliance on nuclear energy is worse than a deadend - it's suicide. Yet we carry on.]

Plans for a worldwide fleet of huge new nuclear reactors have collapsed, with the cancellation of a major project and no new orders being placed.

The European nuclear industry, led by France, seems to be in terminal decline as a result of the cancellation of a new Finnish reactor, technical faults in stations already under construction, and severe financial problems.

The French government owns 85% of both of the country’s two premier nuclear companies Areva, which designs the reactors, and Électricité de France (EDF), which builds and manages them. Now it is amalgamating the two giants in a bid to rescue the industry.

Even if the vast financial losses involved in building new nuclear stations can be stemmed, there is still a big question mark over whether either company can win any new orders.

Their flagship project, the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), billed as the most powerful reactor in the world, has two prototypes under construction − one in Finland and the second in France. Both of the 1,650 megawatt reactors are years late and billions of  Euros over budget, with no sign of either being completed.

Enthusiastic cheerleader

The Finnish government, once the most enthusiastic nuclear cheerleader in Europe, has lost patience with Areva, and the Finnish electricity company TVO has scrapped plans to build a second EPR in Finland.

This is because the first one, under construction at Olkiluoto since 2005, and which was supposed to be finished by 2009, is not expected to be producing electricity until 2018 and even that may yet prove optimistic. It was intended  to be the first of a “worldwide fleet”.

The second EPR under construction, at Flamanville in France, is also seriously delayed, and possibly in even deeper trouble because of concerns about the quality of steel in the pressure vessel.

The components, forged in France by Areva, were already in place in the half-built reactor before questions over the carbon content of the vessel and its safety were raised and work was halted.
The knock-on effect of the inquiry into this safety glitch is that the Flamanville reactor will be delayed again. In a worst-case scenario, it would have to be part-dismantled or scrapped altogether.
The French government is keen to rescue
the industry, but had already decided against
ordering any more reactors after the fiasco
in building Flamanville
This has also raised queries over the French company’s biggest potential export market, China. Two EPRs are being built in China, but checks are being made there too because these reactors may also have excess carbon in the steel. The suspect parts were made in France in the same forge as the Flamanville pressure vessel.

These delays and cancellations have placed a severe strain on Areva’s finances. In 2014, on revenues of €8.3 billion ($9.2 billion), it lost €4.8 billion. Hence, the French government’s move to amalgamate the two companies to try to make one viable unit. In fact, EDF will take over Areva, which has not sold a new reactor since 2007.

Serious blow

This is a serious blow to the pride of a country that is seen as the world leader in nuclear energy, with 75% of its electricity coming from 58 reactors.

The French government is keen to rescue the industry, but had already decided against ordering any more reactors after the fiasco in building Flamanville, which was years late and over budget even before the latest hiccup.

All this leaves the UK as the last country in the world anxious to buy a French reactor. With a new Conservative government in power for less than a month, its energy policy is already in disarray.

Plans to build four 1,650 megawatt EPRs in Britain to produce 14% of the country’s electricity − announced before this month’s general election − look ever more unlikely.

Even with the first two at Hinkley Point in the west of England − where site preparations have been made, and a final agreement was expected with EDF this summer − nothing is likely to happen for months. The most likely course must now be cancellation.

Plans have been put on hold while EDF and Areva sort out the problems at Flamanville, and then try to find a way of financing the project. Four hundred workers on the Hinkley Point project have already been laid off.

Unfair state aid

The new British government is already facing legal challenges from Austria and Luxembourg and from various renewable energy groups for unfair state aid for this nuclear project.

Even if ministers see these threats off, it seems unlikely that anyone will commit to building new EPRs in the UK until at least one of the four reactors under construction in China, Finland and France is actually shown to work.

There is no guarantee that will happen in the next three years, so the chances of Britain getting any new nuclear power stations before 2030 are close to zero.

Currently, the UK is closing coal-fired stations to comply with European Union directives to combat climate change, but it has not developed renewables as fast as Germany and other European neighbours − claiming that new nuclear build would fill the gap.

It now looks as though the government will urgently need to rethink its energy policy.
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Wikileaks tells secrets of TPP & TISA

SUBHEAD: Documents suggest that World Trade Organization-style tribunals would be expanded under TISA.

By Michael McAuliff on 3 June 2015 for Huffington Post -
(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/03/wikileaks-secret-trade-deals_n_7504548.html)


Image above: Gangster-wear - a black hoodie sweatshirt by Tisa for the Oakland Raiders. From (http://galleryhip.com/tisa-sweatshirt.html).

The latest trove of secret trade documents released by Wikileaks is offering opponents of the massive deals currently being crafted by the Obama administration more fodder to show that such agreements can impact United States laws and regulations.

The latest leak purports to include 17 documents from negotiations on the Trade In Services Agreement, a blandly named trade deal that would cover the United States, the European Union and more than 20 other countries. More than 80 percent of the United States economy is in service sectors.

According to the Wikileaks release, TISA, as the deal is known, would take a major step towards deregulating financial industries, and could affect everything from local maritime and air traffic rules to domestic regulations on almost anything if an internationally traded service is involved.

The pact would be one of three enormous deals whose passage through Congress could be eased with passage of Trade Promotion Authority, also known as fast-track authority. The Senate has passed fast-track, and it could be taken up in the House this month.

The other giant pacts are the Trans-Pacific Partnership covering a dozen Pacific Rim nations and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership targeted at Europe.

Among the staunchest opponents of the deals are unions, whose members point to job losses sparked by previous free-trade agreements, and to the excessive secrecy surrounding the measures.

"Once again Wikileaks reveals what we cannot learn from our own government, a government that defaults to giant trade deals that affect generations of Americans shrouded in secrecy until they are virtually adopted," said Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen.

"Today's leaks of TISA (trade in services) text reveal once again how dangerous Fast Track Authority is when it comes to protecting citizen rights vs. corporate rights," he added. "This TISA text again favors privatization over public services, limits governmental action on issues ranging from safety to the environment using trade as a smokescreen to limit citizen rights."

The Office of the United States Trade Representative and top European officials have repeatedly denied that TISA or the Transatlantic deal would impact local laws, releasing a joint statement to that effect earlier this spring.

Still, the Wikileaks documents suggest that World Trade Organization-style tribunals would be expanded under TISA, and that such tribunals convened to resolve trade disputes can impact local laws. One such WTO tribunal ruled last month that the United States must repeal its laws requiring meat to be labeled with its country of origin, or face punitive tariffs on exports.

The USTR declined to confirm whether or not the Wikileaks documents were genuine, calling them "alleged leaked negotiating information," but insisted that the agreement was especially important to the United States and its expansive service sector.

"It is important to underscore that American services exports are at all-time high of $710.6 billion, and those exports support 4.6 million well-paying jobs all over the country," USTR spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement. "That is why President Obama has made opening markets for U.S. services exporters a chief priority of his Middle Class Economics agenda.

The TPA legislation that passed the Senate last week with bipartisan support contains first-of-their-kind provisions to strengthen the President’s hand when it comes to expanding market access for American services exporters, including through the TPP, T-TIP, and TISA.”

Similarly, Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), pointed to the fast-track bill as a way to ensure people get to see what is in the deals before they pass, noting that under fast track, the president would have to unveil each proposal and wait for two months before Congress could vote on it.

"If secrecy is a concern, TPA is the solution," Buck said. "For the first time, it will ensure a trade agreement is public and posted online for 60 days before it can be sent to Congress."

However, fast-track authority also removes Congress' ability to change the trade deals in any way by barring all amendments to them. It also bars filibustering or other procedural hurdles that lawmakers in the minority can typically use to slow legislation, and requires a simple up-or-down vote to be held on the deals.

Fast-track opponents like Cohen warn that a corporate-friendly Congress -- especially a GOP-led Congress that is already hostile to regulations -- would be extremely unlikely to block any of the looming trade agreements, regardless of the details released Wednesday.

"Those in the U.S. Congress considering Fast Track should take heed," Cohen said. "TISA is as big a blow to our rights and freedom as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and in both cases our government’s secrecy is the key enabler."

Wikileaks has also released several parts of the TPP, and announced Tuesday that it is offering a $100,000 reward to anyone who can fork over the still-secret chapters.

During his Wednesday briefing, White House press secretary Josh Earnest dismissed the idea that the release of those documents would amount to much, saying the trade deal hasn't been finalized yet.
"Our reaction is just simply that there is no TPP agreement right now.

When we have one, it will be made public," said Earnest. "The president continues to be confident that if we're able to reach an agreement, it will be consistent with the TPA legislation that has already passed the Senate and hopefully will soon pass the House."

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Hawaii Dairy Farm faces lawsuit

SUBHEAD: Friends of Mahaulepu attorney says Clean Water Act violated by activities of HDF.

By Brittany Lyte on 3 June 2015 for the Garden Island -
(http://thegardenisland.com/news/local/hdf-faces-lawsuit/article_603afbae-150d-5463-a27a-ffb6bb7fd575.html)

http://www.islandbreath.org/2015Year/06/150603mahaulepubig.jpg
Image above: A pristine beach at Mahaulepu that is threatened by the Hawaii Dairy Farm operation. Photo by Juan Wilson. Click to embiggen

Oregon-based environmental attorney Charlie Tebbutt on Monday filed a lawsuit alleging violations of the federal Clean Water Act on the part of those behind a proposed dairy in Mahaulepu Valley.

The suit claims the backers of Hawaii Dairy Farms — a proposed $17.5 million, 576-acre operation — have and continue to violate federal water regulations by installing irrigation systems, wells and water troughs without a state stormwater construction permit.

Specifically, the suit alleges that these ongoing construction activities are “reasonably likely to cause discharges of pollutants,” including dirt, debris, sewage sludge, rock and sand, into Waiopili Stream and other nearby waterways.

“The fact that HDF is publicly saying one thing while violating the law by undertaking construction activities is a sign that this company is willing to do anything to try and get its way, and that is certainly not the way to proceed in Kauai,” Tebbutt said.

Tebbutt is representing the nonprofit group Friends of Mahaulepu in its fight to stop HDF, a company backed by eBay Founder Pierre Omidyar’s Ulupono Initiative. The suit also names Mahaulepu Farm among the illegal “dischargers.”

Amy Hennessey, HDF’s spokeswoman, has said the only activity taking place on the site is the growing and mowing of grass for pasture and the installation of water quality monitoring wells and fencing. All pasture cultivation activities, including the installation of an irrigation system, are authorized under the Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Plan and are not subject to National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System requirements because they are for agricultural purposes, she said.

“We believe this suit is without merit and a regrettable waste of the community’s resources,” Hennessey said in a prepared statement. “It is unfortunate that Friends of Mahaulepu group is using litigation instead of conversation to address its concerns about Hawaii Dairy Farms’ planned pasture-based dairy.”

HDF filed an application for a stormwater permit in September 2014, but did not complete the permit process after the company decided to first conduct a voluntarily Environmental Impact Statement prior to construction, Hennessey said.

The application lapsed due to inactivity, she said. HDF has filed a new application to restart the process.

“While Hawaii Dairy Farms does have its building permits from the County of Kauai, we are demonstrating good faith by not moving forward with construction until after the completion of the EIS,” Hennessey said. “As the first pasture-based dairy in the state, Hawaii Dairy Farms has encountered new, unique situations in the regulatory process. This uncharted path has led Hawaii Dairy Farms to work closely with the federal, state and county governments to ensure adherence to all regulatory standards.”

The lawsuit comes 60 days after FOM filed a notice of intent to sue the defendants for launching preliminary site construction projects without a stormwater National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.

Bridget Hammerquist, president of FOM, said the group is committed to protecting the Mahaulepu area from pollutants.

“FOM is supportive of safe agriculture that does not risk the public’s health or threaten the environment, but this proposal not only threatens the Mahaulepu area, but is operating in disregard for the law already,” she said in a prepared statement. “The harm and further degradation of one of Kauai’s most revered locations must be stopped.”

The lawsuit states that HDF’s preliminary construction work, including grading and excavating, is a likely source of the pollution ending up in Waiopili Stream, which flows off Grove Farm land and enters the ocean near Makauwahi Cave Reserve and downhill from the proposed dairy site.

Recent testing has shown it is Kauai’s most polluted stream — of several that continuously fail to meet state water quality standards.

Bacteria tests conducted by Surfrider Foundation’s Kauai Chapter found that pollution levels in the stream are 275 times higher than the bacteria limits set by the government, according to data released by the ocean protection group. Test results from nearby waters where the stream meets the sea are nearly 17 times greater than state and federal limits, the data shows.

Surfrider and FOM mailed a petition last month to the Department of Health and its Environmental Health Administration calling for the stream to be listed as an impaired waterway under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. They also requested public health warning signage.

“FOM has previously offered to sit down with HDF to discuss the foolishness of the proposal to put 2,000 head of cattle in the Mahaulepu Valley,” Tebbutt said.

FOM is not the only entity that has taken legal aim at HDF.

Kawailoa Development, LLP, owner of the nearby Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa and the Poipu Bay Golf Course, filed suit against HDF in 5th Circuit Court last July, claiming its business, recreational, environmental and aesthetic interests would be adversely affected should the dairy move into the neighborhood.

In light of public concern surrounding the project, HDF agreed in November to move forward with a voluntary Environmental Impact Statement — one demand of Kawailoa’s complaint.

Hennessey said HDF’s consultants are working on the draft EIS statement and plan to share the document for public comment this summer.

Crazyland

SUBHEAD: Uncontrolled ranting, previously suppressed through confinement in mental institutions is now encouraged via social media.

By Dmitry Orlov on 2 June 2015 for Club Orlov -
(http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2015/06/crazyland.html)


Image above: Painting of "The New Normal" by Mark Bryan in 2014. From (http://www.artofmarkbryan.com/recent-work/?dop_wall_grid_gallery_id=1&dop_wall_grid_gallery_share=10).

A long time ago—almost a quarter of a century—I worked in a research lab, designing measurement and data acquisition electronics for high energy physics experiments. In the interest of providing motivation for what follows, I will say a few words about the job. It was interesting work, and it gave me a chance to rub shoulders (and drink beer) with some of the most intelligent people on the planet (though far too fixated on subatomic particles).

The work itself was interesting too: it required a great deal of creativity because the cutting edge in electronics was nowhere near sharp enough for our purposes, and we spent our time coming up with strange new ways of combining commercially available components that made them perform better than one had the right to expect.

But most of my time went into the care and feeding of an arcane and temperamental Computer Aided Design system that had been donated to the university, and, for all I know, is probably still there, bedeviling generations of graduate students.

With grad students just about our only visitors, the atmosphere of the lab was rather monastic, with the days spent twiddling knobs, pushing buttons and scribbling in lab notebooks.

And so I was quite pleased when one day an unexpected visitor showed up. I was busy doing something quite tedious: looking up integrated circuit pin-outs in semiconductor manufacturer's databooks and manually keying them into the CAD system—a task that no longer exists, thanks to the internet.

The visitor was a young man, earnest, well-spoken and nervous. He was carrying something wrapped in a black trash bag, which turned out to be a boombox.

These portable stereos that incorporated an AM/FM radio and a cassette tape player were all the rage in those days. He proceeded to tell me that he strongly suspected that the CIA was eavesdropping on his conversations by means of a bug placed inside this unit, and he wanted me to see if it was broadcasting on any frequency and to take it apart and inspect it for any suspicious-looking hardware.

He also told me that he was regularly picking up transmissions from what could only be visiting flying saucers, which showed up in the static between AM stations, and he was wondering if it would be possible to modify his unit so that he could transmit messages back to them, because, you see, he wanted to hitch a ride...

...Uncontrolled ranting—previously suppressed through confinement in mental institutions and medication—is now encouraged via social media, with an ever-expanding menu of rantworthy topics just a click away...

For the rest of this article click (here).

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Cinderella Carriage Economy

SUBHEAD: Is our economy's Cinderella Carriage about to turn into a pumpkin at midnight?

By Charles Hugh Smith on 1 June 2015 for Of Two Minds -
(http://www.oftwominds.com/blogjune15/cinderella-economy5-15.html)


Image above: Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen working her magic on the economy. From (http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/File:Cinderella-disneyscreencaps.com-5132.jpg).


The past six years of expansion have been as illusory as Cinderella's magic carriage.

The clock is about to strike midnight, and our Cinderella economy's magic carriage will revert to a pumpkin. The magic of the Federal Reserve's flood-the-fields policies of zero interest rates (ZIRP) and liquidity (via quantitative easing (QE) and other programs) had an expiration date of December 2014, judging by the negative gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter and the deep slump in corporate profits:
U.S. GDP falls 0.7%
U.S. corporate profits sink 5.9%, biggest drop since 2008
There are many other indications that the Fed's magic has worn off: new orders are slumping, for example:

In a recent conversation with Chris Martenson of Peak Prosperity, I suggested that the Fed's policies were akin to monoculture agriculture. At first, slamming fields with nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers and herbicides and pesticides yields bumper crops.

In an analogous fashion, the Fed's zero-interest rate policy and massive goosing of credit appeared to work wonders on the U.S. economy: growth exceeded 2% and inflating bubbles in bonds, stocks and real estate have fueled a speculative frenzy, all based on a simplistic faith in the Fed's power to keep assets rising forever.

But the magic of flooding the fields with credit/fertilizer doesn't last forever. The soil is stripped of value and yields plummet; at some point, the returns on flooding the economy with credit diminish: only marginal borrowers and the riskiest speculations are left to exploit.

Just as insects quickly develop resistance to pesticides, the economy develops resistance to cheap credit. Since interest rates cannot fall much below zero, there are no more gains to be had from lowering rates. Since qualified borrowers have already bought a new vehicle or home, the only borrowers that are left are the ones that will default at the first layoff, medical emergency, etc.

Just as flooding a field with fertilizers and pesticides does not restore the soil, flooding the financial system with liquidity and cheap credit does not restore health to a stripmined, financialized economy. Just as monoculture erodes the soil, financialization hollows out the economy and strips away the values that underpin sustainable, healthy expansion. What the Fed has fueled is the predation and pillage of the real economy by Wall Street and financiers.

The Fed insists that Cinderella's carriage is forever golden, ignoring the increasingly obvious reality that the carriage is turning back into a pumpkin before our eyes. The Fed's magic was always a short-term fix, akin to over-fertilizing and over-poisoning our economy to create the illusion of massive growth in profits and stock, bond and home valuations.

The past six years of expansion have been as illusory as Cinderella's magic carriage. Now that the magic is wearing off, the reality is going to hit everyone who believed the fantasy of permanent asset bubbles especially hard.
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TPP Slave Problem

SUBHEAD: Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership is tangled in the intricate web of Malaysia's human trafficking problem.

By Laura Barron-Lopez on 30 May 2015 for Huffington Post -
(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/30/malaysia-slavery-trade_n_7472682.html)


Image above: Migrants sit on their boat as they wait to be rescued by Acehnese fishermen on the sea off East Aceh, Indonesia, Wednesday, May 20, 2015. From original article.

President Barack Obama's push for legislation that would enable the U.S. to strike a major trade deal with 11 other countries has gotten tangled in a debate over Malaysia's record on slave labor, throwing up a last-minute legislative obstacle.

Inconveniently for backers of the trade deal, a full-blown humanitarian crisis is erupting in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar, directly connected to the region's reliance on human trafficking in industries as varied as electronics manufacturing, fishing and prostitution.

Last year, Malaysia and Thailand joined North Korea and Saudi Arabia on the State Department’s list of countries that are the worst offenders in forced labor and human trafficking -- formally known as a tier 3 designation. One year later, little has changed, though the importance of the tier 3 designation has surged as a result of the trade debate. the U.S. Senate last week passed legislation declaring that no country that engages in slave labor, such as Malaysia, can be a part of the trade deal.

As Malaysia angles for membership in a historic international trade deal of epic scope, it is facing increased scrutiny for its human rights record, yet doing little to change the facts on the ground.

In April, U.S. Ambassador Joseph Yun criticized Malaysia’s lack of progress on human trafficking. “The most obvious area is prosecution. Is there enough prosecution [of offenders] considering the incidence of trafficking?” Yun said, suggesting that such prosecutions were inexcusably rare.

This month, more than 139 grave sites were discovered, along with 28 suspected human trafficking camps in the far north of Malaysia, near the Thai border. Multiple bodies were found in each site, leading Malaysian authorities to estimate the number of dead to be well above 100.
With Malaysia finding itself engulfed in a migrant crisis, the United Nations has called on it to help rescue tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims stranded at sea and in jungle concentration camps. Malaysia has not only refused, but has rebuffed even seriously participating in discussions. Meanwhile, a top Malaysian minister has said that despite the U.S. Senate's legislation, his government is sure it will be allowed into the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which may explain Malaysia's lack of interest in addressing the human trafficking crisis.
According to Malay Mail Online:

US news website Huffington Post reported Friday that while the White House is on the verge of securing the fast-track approval it needs to push ahead with the long-delayed free-trade deal, a US senator has succeeded in inserting a provision that would bar his country from entering agreements with countries officially viewed as engaging in slavery, which includes Malaysia.
“Regarding our Tier 3 position on human trafficking, this could be resolved if a Tier 3 country is seen to be taking concrete steps to implement recommendations in the Trafficking in Persons report,” Malaysia Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed told the paper, referring to the State Department’s trafficking report. The White House has pushed for a modification of the Senate bill that mirrors the policy described by Mohamed, meaning revised language in a future House bill could allow Malaysia, or a tier 3 nation, into trade deals if they craft a plan to address human trafficking.
But the task of watering down the slavery language is made more challenging by the exploding humanitarian catastrophe, which couldn't come at a worse time for trade deal negotiators, who have argued that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, in the words of Obama, will be "the most progressive trade deal in history."

While that's a low bar, the active participation of a country that so blatantly participates in the slave trade calls that claim into question. American workers argue that they will face downward wage pressure from competition from Southeast Asian countries, and the fact that some of those workers will not be paid at all, but rather will be forced to work for free, only feeds those suspicions.

How did Malaysia get to this point? For the past four years, it has been on the State Department’s tier 2 watch list, and over the last seven has been ranked a tier 3 human trafficking nation three times.

The lack of consequences is just one explanation for Malaysia's apathetic response to the crisis. Perhaps more to the point, trafficking is an integral part of the nation's political economy, fed by surrounding countries.

The majority of the persecuted Rohingya are fleeing from Myanmar to neighboring nations of Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Further exacerbating the issue, Thailand cracked down on land-based migrant routes earlier this year, forcing smugglers to traffic people by sea, pushing even more to Malaysia.

Additionally, foreign workers typically migrate willingly to Malaysia from other Asian nations, according to the State Department annual report on human trafficking. Those countries include Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal and Thailand. A number of the migrants, the State Department report says, “subsequently encounter forced labor or debt bondage at the hands of their employers, employment agents, or informal labor recruiters.”

On top of that, the Malaysian government began a policy in 2013 that “places the burden of paying immigration and employment authorization fees on foreign workers,” rather than employers, making workers more susceptible to debt bondage. To make matters worse, employers in agriculture, construction, textile factories, and other domestic work throughout Malaysia routinely confiscate foreign workers' passports and other immigration documents, making it impossible for them to leave the country, and very difficult to find other work if they want to stay. Most workers aren't allowed to travel within Malaysia without immigration documents.

Immigration officials also contribute to the problem. “Press reports continued to accuse some immigration officials of facilitating smuggling, including the transportation of trafficking victims,” the State Department’s report says.

Such press reports include detailed investigations by Reuters revealing that the Thai navy is one key link in the chain of smugglers exploiting Rohingya Muslims. After interviewing smugglers and dozens of survivors who migrated via boat, Reuters found Thai naval personnel had worked with smugglers to profit from asylum seekers. (The Thai navy subsequently filed defamation charges against two journalists; the journalists won a Pulitzer Prize.)

Still, the State Department notes the Malaysian government “did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking,” despite multiple reports alleging such involvement.
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Twenty-Three Geniuses

SUBHEAD: Give the NY Times an award for rounding up so many credentialed idiots for one job.

By James Kunstler on 1 June 2010 for Kunstler.com -
(http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/twenty-three-geniuses/)


Image above: From NYT Article "A Recipe for Disaster: Climate Change and Our Booming Population". From (http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/07/11/world-population-day-2013-booming-human-population-exacerbates-impacts-climate-change).

If there is a Pulitzer Booby Prize for stupidity, waste no time in awarding it to The New York Times’ Monday feature, The Unrealized Horrors of Population Explosion. The former “newspaper of record” wants us to assume now that the sky’s the limit for human activity on the planet earth. Problemo cancelled. The article and accompanying video was actually prepared by a staff of 23 journalists.

Give the Times another award for rounding up so many credentialed idiots for one job.

Apart from just dumping on Stanford U. biologist Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb (1968), this foolish “crisis report” strenuously overlooks virtually every blossoming fiasco around the world. This must be what comes of viewing the world through your cell phone.

One main contention in the story is that the problem of feeding an exponentially growing population was already solved by the plant scientist Norman Borlaug’s “Green Revolution,” which gave the world hybridized high-yielding grain crops. Wrong. The “Green Revolution” was much more about converting fossil fuels into food.

What happens to the hypothetically even larger world population when that’s not possible anymore?

And did any of the 23 journalists notice that the world now has enormous additional problems with water depletion and soil degradation? Or that reckless genetic modification is now required to keep the grain production stats up?

No, they didn’t notice because the Times is firmly in the camp of techno-narcissism, the belief that the diminishing returns, unanticipated consequences, and over-investments in technology can be “solved” by layering on more technology — an idea whose first cousin is the wish to solve global over-indebtedness by generating more debt. Anyone seeking to understand why the public conversation about our pressing problems is so dumb, seek no further than this article, which explains it all.

Climate change, for instance, is only mentioned once in passing, as though it was just another trashy celebrity sighted at a “hot” new restaurant in the Meatpacking District. Also left out of the picture are the particulars of peak oil (laughed at regularly by the Times, which proclaimed the US “Saudi America” some time back), degradation of the ocean and the stock of creatures that live there, loss of forests, the political instability of whole regions that can’t support exploded populations, and the desperate migrations of people fleeing these desolate zones.

As averred to above, the Times also has no idea about the relation of finance to resources. The banking problems we see all over the world are a direct expression of the limits to growth, specifically the limits to debt creation. We can’t continue to borrow from the future to pay for our comforts and conveniences today because we have no real conviction that these debts can ever be repaid.

We certainly wish we could, and the central bankers running the money system would like to pretend that we could by making negligible the cost of borrowing money and engaging in pervasive accounting fraud.

But that has only served to cripple the operation of markets and pervert the meaning of interest rates — and, really, as a final result, to destroy any sense of consequence among the people running things everywhere.

The crackup of that financial system will be the signal failure of the collapse of the current economic regime. The financial system is the most fragile of all the systems we depend on (though the others do not lack fragility).

This is the reason, by the way, that oil prices are so low, despite the fact that the cost of producing oil has never been higher. The oil customers are going broke even faster than the oil producers. Does anybody doubt that the standard of living in the USA is falling, despite all our cell phone apps?

The basic fact of the matter is that the energy bonanza of the past 200-odd years produced a matrix of complex systems, as well as a hypertrophy in human population.

These complex systems — banking, agri-biz, hop-scotching industrialization, global commerce, Eds & Meds, Happy Motoring, commercial aviation, suburbia — have all reached their limits to growth, and those limits are expressing themselves in growing global disorder and universal bankruptcy. Do the authors of The New York Times report think that the oil distribution situation is stable?

There were two terror bombings in Saudi Arabia the past two weeks. Did anyone notice the significance of that? Or that the May 29th incident was against a Shiite mosque, or that the Shia population of Saudi Arabia is concentrated in the eastern province of the kingdom where nearly all of the oil production is concentrated? (Or that the newly failed state of neighboring Yemen is about 40 percent Shiite?)

Have any of the 23 genius-level reporters at The New York Times tried to calculate what it would mean to the humming global economy if Arabian oil came off the market for only a few weeks?

Paul Ehrlich was right, just a little off in his timing and in explicating with precision the unanticipated consequences of limitless growth. But isn’t it in the nature of things unanticipated that they generally are not?

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