Published on Friday, August 19, 2011 by The Huffington Post
by Dave Murphy
This week President Obama returned to Iowa, where he launched his successful bid to the White House, to speak about “jobs and economic security” in rural America. According to the White House, his bus tour is not a campaign trip, but veteran political observers would disagree. For farmers and rural advocates this tour is really about something much larger than electioneering or a new jobs program, it’s about the survival of rural America.
While the plight of urban decay has been widely publicized in the mainstream press, similar issues facing our country cousins (myself included), lack of well paying jobs, rural brain drain, food deserts, poverty and lack of access to quality health care, have either been ignored or largely misunderstood by policy makers and the press. Today, more rural Americans are on food stamps and face bleaker economic prospects than their urban counterparts, despite the romantic image of small town life often portrayed by the media.
By Lester R. Brown
WASHINGTON, Aug 23, 2011 (IPS) – People do not normally leave their homes, their families, and their communities unless they have no other option. Yet as environmental stresses mount, we can expect to see a growing number of environmental refugees. Rising seas and increasingly devastating storms grab headlines, but expanding deserts, falling water tables, and toxic waste and radiation are also forcing people from their homes.
Advancing deserts are now on the move almost everywhere. The Sahara desert, for example, is expanding in every direction. As it advances northward, it is squeezing the populations of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria against the Mediterranean coast.
The Sahelian region of Africa – the vast swath of savannah that separates the southern Sahara desert from the tropical rainforests of central Africa – is shrinking as the desert moves southward. As the desert invades Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, from the north, farmers and herders are forced southward, squeezed into a shrinking area of productive land.
A 2006 U.N. conference on desertification in Tunisia projected that by 2020 up to 60 million people could migrate from sub-Saharan Africa to North Africa and Europe.
Brad Johnson, Think Progress
Climate science denial is one of the strongest anti-scientific currents running through today’s Republican Party. American conservatives, who tend to be most skeptical of the scientific consensus on greenhouse pollution, generally hold other politically relevant anti-science views, such as support for creationism and opposition to stem-cell research. As global warming touches all of our lives, people are having to reconcile the reality of a polluted world with their personal moral views.
Presidential candidate Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) is presenting his denial of climate science as rooted in his same faith that evolution is a hoax. Perry’s response to the greenhouse-powered drought in Texas has been to issue an official prayer for rain, while spurning man’s responsibility. On the campaign trail, he portrays the climate science as a “secular carbon cult” working against his infallible faith.
However, climate science denial has a very different provenance from other conservative anti-scientific attitudes. The facts of climate science challenge the business model of the fossil fuel industry, whereas the facts of evolution and the like challenge religious fundamentalism. The oil industry and evangelicals form two pillars of American conservatism (see the work of Allen Lichtman and Kevin Phillips), but their networks and influence are not the same. Climate denial has traditionally been spread not through conservative churches but through the secular, oil-funded media networks — the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh.
By DEAN BAKER
The world financial system had another serious scare last week. The immediate issue was the prospect that the euro could break up. With the debt crisis spreading from smaller countries such as Greece and Ireland to the eurozone giants of Spain and Italy, events were again getting scary.
A default by the smaller countries would create serious disruptions throughout the eurozone and the larger world economy, but no one doubts that these could be contained. The European Financial Stabilization Fund (EFSB) is large enough to paper over the mess that would be created by the default of Greece or Ireland.
However the default of Spain or Italy is an entirely different matter. If either country were to default, the repercussions would be enormous, dwarfing the resources of the EFSB. A default would almost certainly make several major European banks insolvent and lead to the sort of freeze-up of the financial system that we saw after the bankruptcy of Lehman in September of 2008. With the interest rate on Italian and Spanish debt soaring, the financial markets had to take this risk seriously.
by PF Louis
(NaturalNews) Big Pharma, the CDC and other public health organizations tell the mainstream media (MSM) what to report about outbreaks and epidemics. So you may have the impression that recent measles outbreaks are occurring because of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccination refusals.
According to official public health documents kept from public attention, the opposite is true. Many stricken with measles have had the full array of three MMR vaccinations.
Measles and MMR Vaccinations
If you’re old enough, you may remember that measles and mumps were common childhood diseases that came and went. The incidence of death or permanent damage was very small. Once you recovered from measles, you were immunized for life.
The Ecologist, 23 August 2011
Greenpeace’s chief scientist Dr Paul Johnston on why recent proposals to expand GM technology support a flawed agricultural system and serve the biotech companies with the greatest vested interests
In a recent Ecologist interview, the scientist leading the controversial trials of genetically modified (GM) potatoes in the UK, Professor Jonathan Jones, outlined his vision for the future of GM crops, proposing economic and policy changes that appear to be based on some sweeping assumptions and his own perceptions of the supposed benefits of these crops. In my view, Prof. Jones’ vision is deeply flawed in relation to its potential scientific, ecological and public policy impacts.
Professor Jones states that in the future, he expects about 90 per cent of several important staple crops, including maize and soy, to be genetically modified, and recommends that public sector funding should be used to help biotech companies further develop these, and other GM crop varieties. In addition, he suggests that the costs of regulation to the GM industry be reduced to zero, and that the products themselves be labeled to promote their (supposed) benefits.
Professor Jones’ ambitions for the future of GM would undoubtedly prove highly lucrative for Mendel Biotechnology – which he co-founded and is a science advisory board member – which carries out contract research for the biotechnology giants Monsanto and Bayer. More troubling are the implications of Prof. Jones’ suggestions for the conduct of robust science and the use of scientific information in informing policy and the effective regulation of GM crops.
Published on Tuesday, August 23, 2011 by Huffington Post
by Alexander Eichler
During the 2008 financial crisis, when the nation’s banking system seemed on the verge of collapse, President George W. Bush authorized a $700 billion bailout of the financial industry. The U.S. Treasury implemented that program, known as TARP, in an effort to stave off economic catastrophe.
At the same time, and in the years that followed, the Federal Reserve was undertaking its own rescue operation, in the form of private, previously undisclosed loans to banks and other institutions — lending as much as $1.2 trillion, nearly twice the amount of the Treasury bailout, according to a data analysis performed by Bloomberg News and published on Monday.
The scope of the Fed’s private lending had previously only been guessed at, but figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Bloomberg News show that the nation’s central banker issued loans to more than 300 institutions between August 2007 and April 2010, including over 100 loans of $1 billion or more.
While the Fed’s loans likely helped to prevent a complete implosion of the global banking system, analysts say they fear the loans may have contributed to an atmosphere of complacency on Wall Street. Banks that received emergency cash infusions during the crisis may now believe the Fed will always be there to bail them out of trouble, the thinking goes.
By Mike Whitney
Global Research, August 22, 2011
“We believe that the market has now entered a major downtrend. It is a mistake to dismiss the slide we’ve seen to date as mindless and devoid of fundamentals as many strategists maintain. These are not just scary headlines—-they are scary fundamentals…. There will undoubtedly be some more sharp rallies that will be interpreted as new bull markets. In our view, however, the bear market has only begun, and has a long way to go.”
– Comstock Partners, “Bear Market Rally Far From Over”, Pragmatic Capitalism
A toxic combo of poor economic data in the US and a widening credit crunch in the eurozone has sent stocks plunging for a 4th consecutive week. On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrials fell 172 points as jittery investors exited equities for the safe haven of cash and government debt. Global equities have lost more than $6 trillion in the last month alone while the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury dropped to a record 1.99 per cent on Thursday. The low yields on Treasuries indicate the growing fear that troubles in the EU are reaching a crisis-phase. Political gridlock has increased volatility and triggered a slow-motion run on the EU banking system. The same process unfolded in the US for a full year before Lehman Brothers collapsed (from July 2007 to Sept 2008) putting the financial system into a death-spiral. Now it’s Europe’s turn. This is from the Wall Street Journal:
“A dramatic sell-off in European financial markets on Thursday renewed fears that Europe’s banks are too weak to withstand the Continent’s debt crisis, increasing the chances that the region’s leaders will be forced to pursue radical steps toward fiscal union in order to preserve their single currency….
Published on Tuesday, August 23, 2011 by Agence France-Presse
BEIJING — Traces of toxic chemicals harmful to the environment and to human health have been detected in products made by 14 top clothing manufacturers, Greenpeace said Tuesday.
Samples of clothing from top brands including Adidas, Uniqlo (above), Calvin Klein, H&M, Abercrombie & Fitch, Lacoste, Converse and Ralph Lauren were found to be tainted with the chemicals, known as nonylphenol ethoxylates, the watchdog said at the launch of its report ‘Dirty Laundry 2′. Samples of clothing from top brands including Adidas, Uniqlo, Calvin Klein, H&M, Abercrombie & Fitch, Lacoste, Converse and Ralph Lauren were found to be tainted with the chemicals, known as nonylphenol ethoxylates, the watchdog said at the launch of its report “Dirty Laundry 2″.
Greenpeace campaigner Li Yifang said that nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), commonly used as detergents in industries including the production of natural and synthetic textiles, were detected in two-thirds of the samples the group tested.
Published on Monday, August 22, 2011 by Agence France-Presse
TOKYO — Some areas close to Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant will likely remain no-go zones for “several decades”, a media report citing an unnamed government official said Monday.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan is expected to visit the region as early as Saturday to apologize to people who had to flee their homes as a result of the nuclear accident more than five months ago.
The Yomiuri Shimbun daily, citing an unnamed government source, said areas within about three kilometers (1.8 miles) of the plant will likely be kept off-limits “for an extended period — possibly for several decades”.
by Marcy Wheeler
The NYT has an article about efforts to strong-arm Attorney General Schneiderman to get him to put rule of law aside for yet another bank bailout.
First, it quotes HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan as saying,
The disagreement is around whether we should wait to settle and resolve the issues around the servicing practices for him — and potentially other A.G.’s and other federal agencies — to complete investigations on the securitization side. He might argue that he has more leverage that way, but our view is we have the immediate opportunity to help a huge number of borrowers to stay in their homes, to help their neighborhoods and the housing market. [my emphasis]
by Alex Hawkes
The recent riots in London and other big cities were the product of an “out-of-control consumerist ethos” which will have profound impacts for the UK economy, a leading City broker has said.
The report by Tullett Prebon warns: “The consumerist ethos, in which a materialist vision is both peddled and, for the vast majority, simultaneously ruled out by exclusion, has extremely damaging consequences, both social and economic.”
The report, the firm’s global head of research Tim Morgan, the report is part of a series one of in a series put out by in which the brokerage in which it analyses bigger issues for the UK. Last month, the broker Tullett Prebon issued a report on the UK’s economic situation as part of Morgan’s Project Armageddon.
By Ed Silverman // July 29th, 2011 // 12:13 pm
As if Merck does not have enough problems with vaccine production, the drugmaker apparently distributed charred bits of plastic shrink wrap in vials of various vaccines – including Gardasil for preventing HPV infection, Varivax for chicken pox, Pneumovax for pneumococcal disease, Zostavax for shingles and MMR II for measles, mumps and rubella, according to Dow Jones.
In 2008, the FDA issued a warning letter about manufacturing problems at Merck’s West Point, Pa., plant (read here). Since then, FDA inspection reports have cited more problems: the presence of metal particles in certain products, cracks in vaccine vials and delays in Merck’s reporting adverse event from products made at the plant to the FDA, Dow Jones writes.
ByJames R. Holmes
August 20, 2011
The impending sea trials of China’s first aircraft carrier set commentators abuzz in the West and Asia over the past couple of months. I weighed in myself. And for good reason. The cruise of the yet-to-be-officially-named flattop, which finally took place last week, heralded a decisive break with the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s Maoist past as a coastal defence force. This is a development worth exploring in detail. As it happened, the Naval War College also convened its first Asian Strategic Studies Conference in Newport last week, in conjunction with the American Enterprise Institute and the Journal of Strategic Studies. My assigned topic was to determine whether there exists a common Asian culture of sea power (no, say I) and how influential the Western canon of maritime theory is among seafaring Asian nations (very, mainly by default).
To me, though, the most provocative presentation delivered at our conference related not to the sea but to the future of China’s land-based nuclear arsenal. In March 2008, China’s state-run CCTV network broke the news about a 5,000-kilometre-long network of hardened tunnels built to house the Chinese Second Artillery Corps’s increasingly modern force of nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. Tunnelling evidently commenced in 1995. Located in, or rather under, mountainous districts of Hebei Province, in northern China, the facility is reportedly hundreds of meters deep. That makes it an exceptionally hard target against conventional or nuclear counterstrikes.China Defense Daily, a publication of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), confirmed the CCTV account in December 2009.
By Bob Burnett, The Smirking Chimp
Posted on August 21, 2011, Printed on August 22, 2011
We live in interesting times. The global economy is splintering. U.S. voters hate all politicians and there’s political unrest throughout the world. The root cause of this turmoil is the failure of the dominant economic paradigm — global corporate capitalism.
The modern world is ruled by multinational corporations and governed by a capitalistic ideology that believes: Corporations are a special breed of people, motivated solely by self-interest. Corporations seek to maximize return on capital by leveraging productivity and paying the least possible amount for taxes and labor. Corporate executives pledge allegiance to their directors and shareholders. The dominant corporate perspective is short term, the current financial quarter, and the dominant corporate ethic is greed, doing whatever it takes to maximize profit.