We wish you ALL... Peace (Heddwch), throughout 2017. ________________________________
The media blame Corbyn for Copeland - but the facts tell a very different story February 24th, 2017 Tom Wall @ TOM WALL UK Share Using Facebook Twitter
Media pundits and commentators all seem to agree that the Conservative victory in Copeland is a humiliation for Jeremy Corbyn. But Labour’s troubles in its heartlands long predate its current leader.
The Guardian pointed the finger at Corbyn. The paper’s North of England correspondent, Josh Halliday, reported that Corbyn had suffered a “humiliating by-election defeat”.
Heather Stewart, The Guardian’s Political Editor, went further. She said Corbyn’s anti-cuts message had“fallen flat again”:
The BBC, meanwhile, said that the“slow painful anguish under Jeremy Corbyn”looked likely to continue.
The Mirror‘s Associate Editor Kevin Maguire also singled out Corbyn. He claimed the Islington MP was an“albatross”around Labour’s neck:
But the truth is a lot more complex. The Labour vote began falling in Copeland under Tony Blair’s leadership. In 1997, the party attracted just over 24,000 votes. But by 2005, it had dropped by 43% to around 17,000. Under Ed Miliband, the decline continued.
This trend is not unique to Copeland. New Labour lost five million voters during its 13 years in power, as the public discovered things were not getting better, but worse --- in many ways.
Income inequality and poverty grew under New Labour. The party introduced tuition fees. It built hospitals under the discredited Private Financial Initiative (PFI) scheme. It lightly regulated the banks and allowed them to gamble away the nation’s future. Private landlords grew rich while councils almost completely stopped building council homes. The party sent soldiers off to die in illegal wars, costing thousands of lives. And it allowed old industries to decline --- without replacing them.
Corbyn’s critics don’t want to give him the time to overcome this toxic legacy. Instead, many of them want to bring a version of New Labour back from the dead. But this would worsen, not solve, the party’s problems in its heartlands.
– Join Momentum.
– Read more about Jeremy Corbyn from The Canary.
Copeland votes for Tory cuts as Labour hold Stoke
Gareth Snell (Lab) 7,853 (37.09%, -2.22%)
Paul Nuttall (UKIP) 5,233 (24.72%, +2.07%)
Jack Brereton (C) 5,154 (24.35%, +1.80%)
Zulfiqar Ali (LD) 2,083 (9.84%, +5.67%)
Adam Colclough (Green) 294 (1.39%, -2.22%)
Barbara Fielding (Ind) 137 (0.65%)
The Incredible Flying Brick (Loony) 127 (0.60%)
David Furness (BNP) 124 (0.59%)
Godfrey Davies (CPA) 109 (0.51%)
Mohammed Akram (Ind) 56 (0.26%)
Lab maj 2,620 (12.38%)
2.14% swing Lab to UKIP
Electorate 57,701; Turnout 21,170 (36.69%, -13.24%) Winklebury (Basingstoke & Deane) Council Byelection result: LAB: 61.6% (+31.1) CON: 35.3% (-10.5) LDEM: 3.1% (-2.7) Lab GAIN from Con. No UKIP as prev.
Sister launches judicial review claim in bid for sanctions death inquest Thursday 16th February 2017 by Mike Sivier
Please visit Ms Thompson’s crowdfunding site --- and help her reach her target.
Her Majesty’s coroner service has been making some extremely strange decisions regarding benefit-related deaths and it seems a judicial review is the only way to make sense of what’s happening.
The sister of a disabled man who died after being left destitute, by having his benefits sanctioned, has launched a high court legal challenge over a coroner’s refusal to hold an inquest into his death.
David Clapson, who had diabetes, died in July 2013 as a result of an acute lack of insulin, three weeks after having his jobseeker’s allowance sanctioned.
Because he had no money, he couldn’t afford to pay for electricity that would have kept the fridge where he kept his insulin working, in the height of summer, and he had also run out of food.
An autopsy held after his death found his stomach was empty and the only food left in his flat in Stevenage was six tea bags, a tin of soup and an out-of-date can of sardines. He had just £3.44 left in his bank account.
But despite the circumstances of his death, and clear links with the sanctions system, no inquest was ever held, even though the DWP admitted that it knew he was insulin-dependent.
Now Clapson’s sister, Gill Thompson, has issued a judicial review and human rights claim in the high court challenging the refusal of the senior coroner for Hertfordshire to hold an inquest into her brother’s death.
Thompson has been campaigning for an inquest to be held in a bid to secure answers and change the sanctions system she believes led to her brother’s death.
She has set up a crowdfunding account to pay for her legal battle, and needs to raise another £7,000 to reach her target.
Image: the sabbath years march 3 rhondda hotel
Labour’s EU Fanatics Need To Wake Up Thursday 16th February
Party rebels must embrace Brexit --- or Labour risks becoming irrelevant, writes Fawzi Ibrahim.
If Labour loses in either of the forthcoming by- elections in Copeland & Stoke-on-Trent Central, it would not be down to Jeremy Corbyn and his “lack of appeal” but to the infantile behaviour of some Labour MPs; in particular those who defied the three-line whip, and voted against invoking Article 50 to start the process of exiting the EU.
It is one thing for the SNP to vote against invoking Article 50; they want nothing less than the break -up of the union.
It is quite another for Labour MPs to join them, given that the motion in front of them wasn’t which part of Britain wishes to leave the EU but whether the whole of Britain should leave, something that was resolved by the referendum.
Basic trade union and working-class discipline demands that once a decision is taken, everyone should work towards making it a success, other- wise how could a strike ever be a success, if those on the losing side not only refuse to take part, but actively obstruct its implementation?
Time after time, Corbyn’s attempts to reconnect the Labour Party with its working-class base have been frustrated by his MPs who have refused, and some continue to refuse, to accept the result of the EU referendum.
There is a tide in the affairs of nations, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. The EU referendum was just such a tide; a sea change craving for leadership.
Corbyn provided that leadership when he recognised that Article 50 would have to be invoked immediately following the result of the EU referendum on June 24.
At that time, the Tories were in disarray with the resignation of David Cameron and a nasty leadership election in the offing.
Unfortunately, his initiative was quickly thwarted by his shadow cabinet colleagues and most Labour MPs.
Instead of providing leadership, they preferred to moan about the result, question its validity and worst of all, call for a second referendum on the grounds that the riff-raff who voted to leave, knew not what they were voting for.
This made time for the Tories to re-group, cut the leadership contest short and install Theresa May as PM who, with the simple words “Brexit means Brexit,” grabbed the initiative to put Labour on the back foot. Ever since, the Labour Party has been playing catch-up.
When, three months later, shadow chancellor John McDonnell attempted to regain some credibility for Labour, telling a meeting in central London that Brexit was an enormous opportunity for the country, he was pounced upon & denounced by several Labour MPs, including a “furious” shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer.
Imagine where Labour would be now had Labour MPs been clear-eyed some eight months ago. They would’ve been chasing the government instead of being chased by it.
Corbyn called it right again when he tweeted: “The fight starts now,” following the decisive vote to invoke Article 50 in the House of Commons. He was mocked by some on the left, Corbyn’s own supporters, the purveyors of doom, who obviously thought that sitting back and predicting a Brexit disaster, is the way to garner support. “Vote for me and I’ll lead you to Armageddon,” seems to be their preferred slogan.
For Labour to regain the support and trust of the working class, it has to do more in terms of policy. It is the song and not the singer that’s holding them back.
It must ditch its disastrous attachment to the free movement of labour, not just because it has been roundly rejected by the British people, but because it is detrimental to the interests of workers, no matter the countries they inhabit.
As for those who scream “scapegoating immigrants,” controlling the number of immigrants crossing the border is as much “scapegoating immigrants” as controlling the number of passenger on a boat is “scapegoating passengers.” Only a reckless captain would allow an unlimited number of passengers to board a ship regardless of its size and the available amenities. A nation is not that different.
Coupled with ditching the freedom of movement of labour must be the abandonment of the other main pillar of the EU’s free market ideology -- the free movement of capital -- and bringing back UK capital controls, the scrapping of which, was one of Thatcher’s first acts upon taking office in 1979.
Capital, though privately owned, is essentially a product of workers’ toil, either directly, via the pension funds, or indirectly through the accumulation of surplus value, the product of social labour over centuries. Society has an obligation to not allow capital to up sticks in tough times, to go to pastures new, where exploitation is unconstrained and profits are high.
In the process, Labour should look for a post- capitalist form of economy in which commodity production, ceases to be the dominant form of production.
Labour can campaign and make some inroads on issues such as the NHS, welfare, housebuilding, transport and care for the elderly.
But the central issue, for the immediate future, remains Brexit - and unless Labour embraces Brexit in all its ramifications and projects a bright future outside the EU’s single market and customs union - it risks becoming as irrelevant as a party calling for a return of colonial rule would have been, in a newly independent India.
It is a bit pointless arguing about the kitchen if you’re not serious about owning the house in the first place.
(source - Morning Star)
Image: Explanation of why Corbyn's Article 50 strategy is spot on
Aleppo is Liberated - Thanks to Russia! (funny how the West is quiet now on Syria!)
Image: Labour's Ten Pledges
Genuinely, I am baffled as to what's
hard-left about Corbyn's #10Pledges
- If wanting this makes me hard-left
then count me in.
Jeremy Corbyn:- Labour will change a rigged system & hand back wealth & control to people & communities Sat 14 Jan 2017
Under a Labour government, failing care homes will be taken into public ownership, to protect social care provision, Jeremy Corbyn pledges.
In a speech to the Fabian Society's new year conference, the Labour leader warns that the social care system is at "serious risk of break- down", unless more money is invested in it.
Corbyn noted that rising costs and falling contributions from councils had seen 380 care home businesses dissolve since 2010.
He also cited figures from the Care Quality Commission, which last year found 1 in 5 nursing homes did not have sufficient staff on duty, to ensure residents received good and safe care.
"So we warn Theresa May today; if you don’t put the money into social care now --- the system is at serious risk of breakdown."
"Labour will not let the elderly down, people who've worked all their lives, paid their taxes and made a massive contribution to society," he added.
"So a Labour government would give social care the funding it needs, & give a firm commitment to take failed private care homes into public ownership to maintain social care protection.
"It's the least we can do to guarantee dignity for people who've given so much to our country."
Following his clash with Theresa May at Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Corbyn also attacked the government on the NHS's winter crisis.
He said:"I don't keep talking about the NHS because it's in Labour's comfort zone. I talk about the National Health Service, because it's in a danger zone."
After the British Medical Association accused the Tories of "scapegoating" GP services, as they are urged to roll out a 7-day service, or lose funding, Mr Corbyn said:
"This is another example of a Prime Minister in denial. A Prime Minister who would much rather listen to spin doctors, than real doctors."
"I suggest she goes to visit a surgery, and asks doctors what it's like," Corbyn added.
Corbyn also accused the government of cutting taxes for the rich, while cutting pay and public services, for everybody else.
"The people who run Britain have been taking our country for a ride. They have stitched up our political system, to protect the powerful," he said.
"The truth is the system simply doesn't work for the vast majority of people. Labour under my leadership stands for a complete break with this rigged system.
"We will hand back wealth and control to people and communities."
(source - PA)
Cash Spent On Privatising NHS ‘Doubled’ Friday 13th January 2017 by Lamiat Sabin
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn revealed yesterday how the huge amount of cash spent on privatising parts of the NHS has more than doubled under the Tories.
Mr Corbyn said the Conservative-led government is sneakily privatising the NHS --- even though there have been major crises as companies have taken over services and hospitals — eg., the failed running of Hinchingbrooke Hospital by Circle Health — in a bid to make profits.
Private provision of healthcare in England has shot up in absolute terms, from £4.1 billion to £8.7 billion, since 2010.
Mr Corbyn said: “The Conservatives are privatising our NHS by stealth, despite the repeated failures and costs of private provision.
“It saddles us with an expensive and unnecessary internal market. It puts tax avoidance, not patient care, at the heart of its management. It also promotes excessive boardroom pay and grotesque inequality.
“Health privateers are earning huge sums at taxpayers’ expense, yet health workers are faced with a pay freeze.
“When health services are privatised, the brakes come off the pay of the executives in charge.”
Health Emergency campaign director, John Lister, told the Star that it was “bizarre” how local clinical commissioning groups choose to divert cash into private companies, when investment needs to stay within the NHS.
He added: “Companies only want to pick up profitable services such as elective care and are not interested in taking the load off under-pressure departments such as A&Es.
“Despite the financial freeze, none of these firms are making much money -- because the margins are small. It’s a pointless fracturing of the NHS. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 was brought in by the Tories to facilitate this.”
Mr Corbyn referred to his new proposal revealed on Tuesday, which would require that no public- sector department or government contracted firm would pay top executives more than 20 times the salary of the lowest-paid worker.
Patients and health workers are denied quality of care and sufficient resources, because the pay of bosses in the sector skyrocket. He said that the policy “will apply to the private health companies who bid for NHS contracts and pay their top executives indefensible & sometimes obscene amounts.
“Shrinking the widening pay gap in health will aid Labour’s plans to end health privatisation and bring services into a secure, publicly provided NHS.”
(source - Morning Star)
Five important lessons 2016
taught all Corbyn supporters
Posted by Mike Sivier in VoxPolitical (original source - Turning the Tide)
These are just a few bullet-points from a longer article which I urge you to read:
With a new year stretching out before us I felt it appropriate to look back on 2016, and the lessons it taught us.
Lesson number one – The vast majority of the PLP want Corbyn’s Labour to fail. In fact, they would prefer to see the Tories rule in perpetuity rather than see Labour win under Corbyn.
Lesson number two – this lesson, which is entwined with lesson number one, is that we cannot trust the PLP plotters. Their contempt for us and the leadership hasn't gone away. A temporary lull in hostilities is just that, temporary.
Lesson number three – We must NEVER give up.
Lesson number four is the most important lesson of all – We chose the right leader. This past year has tested Corbyn in a way none of could possibly have imagined. Yet he has shown utter grit and dignity throughout.
Lesson number five – We are all in this together. No matter how hard it gets or how low we sometimes feel, there are hundreds of thousands of people feeling the same.
I for one will be doing everything in my power to fight for a Corbyn-led Labour victory to ensure the plotters’ damage isn’t permanent.
IF YOU WANT RID OF McNICOL, YOU NEED TO READ THIS 14/12/2016 · by SKWAWKBOX · Bookmark the permalink.
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Iain McNicol, General Secretary of the Labour party, has been putting on quite a performance of late - and not in a good way.
If you’re one of the many tens of thousands of Labour members, supporters or affiliate members who were deprived of a vote in the leadership election, and/or you were suspended or even expelled from the party as part of the latest purge, or if you simply care about having a democratic Labour party, that gets behind its leader to fight the reckless and damaging Tories, McNicol’s name will be mud – or several rungs below that.
If you’re a member of Wallasey CLP (Constituency Labour Party), currently still suspended indefinitely after false allegations of abuse, and under further investigation for daring to challenge them, or of Brighton & Hove District Labour Party, suspended and then broken up after equally false smears, his name will be more akin to something that might be mistaken for mud, but you’d be very unhappy, if you stepped in it.
CLPs such as Garston and Halewood in Liverpool and Brecon and Radnorshire in Wales have already voted emphatically for motions of no-confidence in him, but further action is needed.
If you want him removed from his position for the indisputable disrepute he’s brought on Labour, and the damage he has done to it, and to the millions of people who need it to obstruct and eventually bring down this malevolent government, you face a significant hurdle:
His tenure depends on the 33 individuals who make up Labour’s NEC (National Executive Committee).
That committee, essentially Labour’s ruling body, can remove McNicol. Nobody else has the power to do it – and that committee is currently finely balanced between pro- and anti-Corbyn (and therefore, largely, anti- and pro-McNicol) members.
It is currently so finely balanced, only because the democratically-removed former members ‘rigged the deck‘ just before their time on the NEC ended at the end of the last annual conference – by crowbarring in 2 additional, unelected members: one each appointed by the anti-Corbyn leaders of Scottish and Welsh Labour. Kezia Dugdale, the Scottish leader, immediately appointed herself and immediately started voting against Corbyn.
In order to achieve said deck-rigging at Labour’s conference, the NEC broke its own rules – and in doing so, according to a legal opinion provided by a highly-qualified barrister, rendered the existence of the Scottish-/Welsh-appointed places on the NEC, completely unlawful.
That unlawful, rigged NEC is, as things stand, one that would be highly unlikely to vote against Mr McNicol’s continued presence in the role that he is considered, by hundreds of thousands of Labour members, to have abused.
Anyone who wishes to see McNicol booted out of a position they believe he has no business occupying, therefore needs to set their sights on an even tougher – but not impossible – target: change the NEC.
The key is in the fact that the NEC is currently unlawfully-composed. This could be the subject of a legal challenge but this is likely to be slow and expensive.
An alternative route is to make the position of the two unlawful members untenable by passing a resolution at all – or a large majority – of the UK’s 600-odd constituency parties.
Below is a model motion denouncing the unlawfully- constituted NEC. If you want McNicol gone, submit this to your CLP executive (or branch if your CLP operates a branch structure) for a vote at your next monthly meeting. Links to supporting information are provided throughout this article & if you want further background and even a series of other motions, you can find them here.
Model motion Background:-
Video footage from the Labour Party’s own YouTube channel provided at an internet address bit.ly/2fjvUsa shows events surrounding a vote to ‘reference back’ the Conference Arrangements Committee report. The report being voted upon described and entered into record the alleged authorisation by Conference for a package of rule-changes to be the subject of a single vote on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis.
One of these proposed constitutional amendments had the effect of adding 2 unelected representatives to the National Executive Committee, one each appointed by the leaders of the Scottish and Welsh parties.
‘Reference back’ means that the report is not approved until fully discussed by Conference and voted on.
At 31:25 – 34:00 in the video several delegates from the floor can be heard calling for a card vote. Chapter 3 Clause 3 Rule 3 of Labour’s 2016 rulebook requires that “Voting at Party conference on resolutions, reports, amendments, proposals and references back shall be by show of hands or, when the conditions laid down by the CAC require it, by card.”.
The CAC report specified that “votes at Conference are taken as a show of hands unless a card vote is requested by delegates or by the decision of the Chair” [emphasis added]. The failure to hold a card vote after it was requested was therefore a breach of the Labour party constitution.
This video evidence therefore demonstrates conclusively that conference Chair Paddy Lillis violated Labour party voting rules & the labour party constitution during voting on the report in question. The video also shows that Mr Lillis violated this rule, despite attention being drawn to the fact, by dozens of people on the conference floor and representations by both NEC member Christine Shawcroft, & the mover of the reference back motion, TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes.
As legal precedent during the recent challenge by disenfranchised members shows that the rules of the Party have legal force, any such violation also constitutes violation of the law and renders it and what follows from it, unlawful and invalid.
The video evidence is therefore clear that the platform Labour party and NEC chair perpetrated a breach both of the Party’s democratic constitution and of the law in an illegitimate and unlawful process.
This CLP/BLP therefore moves that the addition of two new, unelected members to the NEC was unlawful and that those members therefore have no legitimacy or voting rights on the Committee.
If this motion is passed at a BLP (Branch Labour Party) then the BLP resolves that the BLP secretary shall pass this motion to the CLP secretary at the earliest opportunity to be moved there and mandates any delegates to the CLP to move, second and vote for the motion at that time.
If passed at CLP, then the CLP resolves that the motion shall be passed to the CLP representatives on the NEC and to the 33 member NEC for motion there.
Moreover, as the conflict of interest of the additional members appointed by the leaders of the party in Wales and Scotland is self-evident, they shall not be permitted to vote on the matter.
Please act on this immediately and don’t take no for an answer from your branch/CLP exec – then whip all your right-minded fellow members to attend to make sure it goes through.
And share widely so others know to do the same. Your party and your country need it.
If you decide to put this motion forward to your BLP/CLP, drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be keeping a note of which constituencies have it going forward so we can keep readers updated.
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Rhondda Records exists to express the Rhondda's vision --- when it was confident, powerful, caring, and socialist.
A Rhondda very aware of the media's poisonous tricks -- how they con working class people into attacking each other, or racial groups, or, often, even their best allies and friends... instead of seeing their real enemies:--- an elite who hate the very idea that working people can think, create, or achieve a fairer society.
Thatcher said her proudest achievement was Blair and New Labour - who parachuted in careerists and expenses fiddlers - to stop local Labour members having a say, and who made genuine socialist MPs leave the Labour party in disgust and many members and voters to despair... and the young to stop voting.
Jeremy Corbyn is being attacked because he's trying to reverse all that New Labour corruption --- that's why membership is flooding in all over the UK - watch this video in Kilburn, London: don't believe the dripping poison of the media and the corrupt MPs -- and understand Jeremy's role !
John McDonnell revisits his childhood home
Jewish Labour Movement Chair & exec block call for investigation into Israeli interference 5th of February 2017 by Mike Sivier
This is deeply disturbing information from the Skwawkbox. Read:
Riverside Labour MP Louise Ellman is Chair of the JLM (Jewish Labour Movement) and vice-Chair of Labour Friends of Israel (LFI). The former organisation is highly controversial because of its affiliation with the openly pro-apartheid Israeli Labour Party ‘Havoda’ and the latter as it was specifically mentioned by the Israeli embassy operative filmed by an undercover Al Jazeera reporter, in connection with his actions: in setting up pro-Israeli groups inside the Labour party.
Supporters of both groups have been prominent in the discredited, but persisting, antisemitism smear against the national party.
And it appears that Ms Ellman and her allies in Riverside CLP – in spite of the obvious conflict of interest – have no intention of allowing members to add their voices to the calls for a full Labour investigation into the infiltration of the party by a foreign government.
Source: JLM Chair and exec block CLP call for investigation into Israeli interference:
Time For Labour To Go On The Attack by John McDonnell February 3rd 2017
Anybody who thought electing a socialist leader of the Labour Party would be an easy ride, now knows that was never going to be the case.
Winning an internal party election for leadership was the relatively easy part. The coup was also totally predictable & could be planned for. Therefore the second leadership election was arduous, but with determination and hard work, was eminently winnable.
We have now reached the toughest period so far. The euphoria of winning a greater mandate in the second leadership election, despite every trick in the bureaucratic textbook used against us, has given way to a serious appreciation of the challenge we now face.
The character of our politics is to be straightforward & honest with people. So let’s be straight about this. This is the toughest of times we have experienced so far and it is not only also absolutely predictable and understandable but also something we can completely deal with.
It does mean though that we need to understand fully what we are up against and what we have to deal with.
We are currently facing exactly what we predicted but many didn’t fully appreciate. The full forces of the Establishment are being thrown against us.
In no way will the elite Establishment tolerate the popular election of a socialist leader, without a bitter fight.
One of the key fundamental problems we face is not a lack of political analysis, policies, direction, courage, determination or leadership.
It is the critical question of how we can communicate a narrative about our objectives and policies in a way that can cut through the bilious, cynical distortion of every aspect of the traditional media.
Any criticism of media bias by the left is always distorted as whining.
The various independent reports have proved conclusively that we are witnessing a level of media bias that certainly most, have never seen on this scale before.
The evidence demonstrates that it ranges from the Sun and the Mail to the Guardian and the BBC.
This daily grinding out of distortion and attack can undoubtedly have its effect on our standing in the polls - and in turn - on the morale of some of our supporters, who are not always close to the action and may not be experienced in past trade union or political campaigns.
So we need to explain both what we are up against and how we can overcome this.
This is the time for determination in the face of whatever they throw against us. The best form of defence is attack.
Politically, that means using the one resource that we have, which the other side doesn’t. It’s true that we are the many, they are the few.
Mobilising our large base of support in the Labour Party, the trade unions, progressive campaigns and the wider community, is the way to win.
How we do that is the key to our success. First, it means ensuring that our supporters and potential supporters have the opportunity to engage in the exploration, discussion, debate & determination of political analysis and policymaking.
That’s why we're going on the stomp around the country, with a series of regional and national economic conferences to develop our economic thinking and planning, from the grassroots up.
Similar exercises are planned in several other policy areas, including how we can decarbonise our economy, based upon local initiatives, facilitated by creative national policymaking.
New creative initiatives to enable large-scale involvement in digital democracy will facilitate and energise the discussion of politics and policy in and beyond our party.
Second, it means mobilising around consistent campaigning --- setting up, or using, existing structures to co-ordinate our campaigning at local and national levels.
People are becoming increasingly angry at the Tories’ attacks on our public services and more workers are willing to take action to protect their jobs and their living standards.
We need to lead in mobilising support and solidarity with these campaigns. It will require the increasingly effective use of social media to communicate ideas and to assist mobilisation.
Third, it also means gearing up and training our members to give them confidence & motivation to access the party’s structures and engage in the vital routine work that is needed to ensure the political direction of the party and deliver the votes that we need in elections over the coming years.
The message therefore is that the times may be tough and may get tougher — but it is the mobilisation of our committed, inspired and enthusiastic members that will see us through to success.
John McDonnell is shadow chancellor of the exchequer. This article first appeared on Labour Briefing:
REVEALED: NUS official colluded with Israeli embassy to oust student leader Middle East Eye 11/Jan/2017 by Mike Sivier of Vox Political
The worms are coming out of the woodwork now.
Shall we pencil in the Union of Jewish Students as one of Shai Masot’s “front” organisations for the Israeli government?
A senior official from the UK’s National Union of Students, has been covertly filmed conspiring --- to oust the NUS president Malia Bouattia as part of a sting involving the Israeli embassy.
An undercover Al-Jazeera reporter – known only as Robin – posed as a political activist with links to the now disgraced Israeli diplomat Shai Masot - to investigate the influence the Israeli embassy exerts on British politics.
“Robin” is heard discussing how to oust Ms Bouattia from her position as NUS president with NUS Vice President Richard Brooks --- after Masot introduces him as the Chair of the Young Labour Friends of Israel.
Labour & Jeremy Corbyn Could Win The Next General Election, Because Of Housing Crisis. Millions feel a ‘sense of unfairness’
Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey:
“Even David Cameron’s inner circle now admit that the Conservative failure on housing is a huge liability for their party, with the public.
”The Tories are right to be worried. Their 6 years of failure has seen the housing crisis get worse on all fronts directly as a result of Conservative policy decisions.
“Homelessness has doubled, investment in afford- able homes to rent and buy has been slashed, & the number of young home-owners is in freefall.
“Things can be different. Labour will invest in thousands of new affordable homes to rent & buy, and fix the mess left by Tory Ministers.”
During his leadership campaign, Corbyn unveiled a radical plan to build a million new homes in five years, with at least half a million council homes, through a public investment strategy.
Jackie Walker’s crowdfunded action means Labour’s general secretary is facing TWO legal cases against him by Mike Sivier.
It’s turning into a bad decade for Labour Party general secretary Iain McNicol.
First he incurred litigation by party member Glynis Millward, on grounds that he excluded her from the Labour Party leadership election for no reason.
Mr McNicol’s name was on a letter of suspension she received --- for taking part in “recruitment” practices prohibited by the party. Except, of course, Ms Millward has never done so.
Part of her case is that Mr McNicol breached Data Protection law by combining publicly-held social media information with privately-held Labour Party data, in order to reach his conclusion.
Then he was forced, as party treasurer, to pay a £20,000 fine after the Electoral Commission found major irregularities in Labour’s declaration of its spending on the 2015 general election – including the cost of that monumental embarrassment, the ‘Ed Stone’.
Now Jackie Walker is crowdfunding a legal case against Mr McNicol, again over a breach of Data Protection law.
Ms Walker, a lifelong anti-racist campaigner and socialist, was suspended from the Labour Party in May amidst allegations of anti-Semitism. She was reinstated but has been suspended again after apparently being “set up” at a training event organised by the Jewish Labour Movement during the party’s national conference in September.
She writes: “I was suspended from the Labour Party in May of this year, amidst what appears to have been a breach of Data Protection law, by Iain McNicol, as General Secretary of the Labour Party.
“This is my campaign to raise money in order to bring legal proceedings against Iain McNicol for this serious breach of data – briefing a major community media publication or other parties before informing me of my suspension from the party. This is not acceptable in his position as General Secretary of the Labour Party.
“As General Secretary, Iain McNicol is directly responsible for the damage caused to me, my family and friends.
“I was suspended for the alleged (subsequently cleared) charge of antisemitism. As a Jewish person, whose partner is Jewish, this was heart-breaking.
“Since May I have continued to be targeted by the media, in print, online and in other places.
“Currently I am suspended for questions asked at a training session on ‘Confronting Antisemitism & Engaging Jewish Voters’ at this year’s Labour Conference, after being unethically filmed by a Jewish Labour Movement campaigns officer who is also a Labour councillor. It seems this training was not a ‘safe space for all Jews’ by any means.
“As soon as the first article was released before my notification had even arrived, trolls circled for the kill, posting spooky blacked up faces (and worse) to my Facebook account. The community & national newspapers led the attacks, querying my Jewish identity (a racist move in itself), my work as an anti-racist activist and my political commitment.
“When my suspension was lifted things got worse. Indignation at my alleged breach reached the heights of irony, when Nigel Farage, anxious not to miss out on the fun being had by among others, the Spectator, a number of Labour MPs and officers of the Party... dedicated an article in Breitbart and a good dose of righteous indignation on national TV, to publicly calling me out as a racist.
“The widespread hate campaign against me led to public abuse, strangers shouting ‘racist’ as I walked to the tube. With the murderous racist political discourse now taking the place of debate, I became conscious I was recognisable on the street.
“My story is just one of many where Labour members have found themselves in a similar position. While this may not be the only case where a breach has occurred, as I was abroad at the time, it may well be the most provable.
“We invite anybody who has a personal interest in this case, or the wider public, to contribute.”
Solicitor Martin Howe, representing Ms Walker, added: “Jackie Walker has faced a barrage of hurtful, threatening & nasty abuse since the private details of her investigation by the Labour Party over alleged anti-Semitism was leaked to the press before she even knew of her suspension by the Party.
“This apparent breach of her private data has had a devastating impact on her public and private well-being and has led directly to her being pre-judged & unfairly cast as a racist -- before she was given any opportunity to tell her side of the story.
“Data Protection laws are there to protect all of us and any breach is a very serious matter.”
Anybody wishing to support Ms Walker financially can do so, by visiting the Walker v McNicol page on the CrowdJustice website.
Ms Walker is hoping to raise £10,000. At the time of writing she has already raised £7,260, with 28 days to go.
If you would like to contribute to her fund, details are on the web page.
Source: CrowdJustice – Crowdfund public interest law
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If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!
– If you feel you’ve been ‘purged’, take this online survey:
“Any member who is suspended & intends to appeal the decision should throw in a ‘Subject Access Request in accordance with the Data Protection Act’ --- for ALL data that the Labour Party hold on them.
The Labour Party are Data Controllers and therefore have to, by law, provide you with all material/information they hold on you.”
If anyone is in contact with anyone who was barred from voting --- please can you pass this info on:
The Labour leadership election was under the jurisdiction of the electoral reform services.
If you were unfairly deprived of your vote you can call them on 0208 365 8909 and lodge your complaint, and inform them of your Data Protection request.
The notification letters barring new members did not give a clear reason, or information on how to appeal, so Vox Political suggests that anyone in this situation, could also contact Liz Davies here: http://www.whycantivote.com
She is a barrister --- who can advise members on what to do.
Saving Labour? The secretive battle to oust Jeremy Corbyn – BBC News Reg Race is a 'co-ordinator' of the group campaigning against Jeremy Corbyn.
At least, that's what a report ‘Saving Labour’ by the BBC’s Ross Hawkins, has concluded.
Reg Race is said to be co-ordinating a project to collect information on Labour members who are willing to attack Jeremy & his supporters... but that doesn't mean he is the one behind it, as no such information is available.
Meanwhile, the organisation has been collecting data on people sympathetic to its cause – which may be used for ''other purposes'' after the leadership election, we are told.
If these people admitted who they were and what they're doing, perhaps their behaviour might be more acceptable – but they won’t.
Supporting MPs, donors, and trade unionists, are all staying anonymous for the time being.
One wonders how these people would react if it was revealed that there was a secretive co- ordinating hub of Corbyn supporters, working to spread their influence across the UK.
Reg claimed Saving Labour recruited over 120,000 registered supporters & affiliated union members to vote anti Mr Corbyn, using online advertising.
The group, he says, has amassed details of 60,000 people on its own database, in just two months. There are plenty of numbers, but virtually no names.
In his first broadcast interview, he told Radio 4’s Today programme, he has the support of trade unionists - but will not say which ones.
Nor will he name MPs or donors; those will be published by the Electoral Commission, in the fullness of time, he says.
Why the secrecy?
“There’s a group of us and lots of us don’t want to be out there in terms of the media, because they are in relatively vulnerable positions,” he says.
“Data's absolutely crucial in these races,” says Tom Flynn, Saving Labour’s full-time digital campaigner. “This was set up as a way of trying to get good data on those Labour people who would like a change of leadership.”
That data – contact details of sympathisers who have a vote in Labour contests, could have an interesting future.
A Saving Labour supporter, Graham Jones MP suggests it may even play a part in trying to get rid of Unite’s general secretary, Len McCluskey.
The data, the money, and the intent of those trying to wrestle back control of the Labour Party from Mr Corbyn, will not expire, now the win for Jeremy has been declared.
They failed this year, but they will try again.
It will have to provide a list of its supporters & funders to the electoral commission, now the leadership election is over, and must provide its first 3 monthly accounts and audits.
For a company that is supposedly all about “savinglabour” it is trying very hard to hide who is behind it.
Momentum, by the way, had to have its books audited early after a complaint "was raised".
Reply bladeofgrassuk on September 3, 2016 at 2:49 pm
This is a survey that they have sent out to all their supporters. They are hoping to set up local anti-deselection groups nationwide. https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/53G2PLD
The goal of the groups will be to protect MPs parachuted into “safe” Labour seats, from being democratically removed from office for their role in the right-wing coup.
It is worth mentioning that these groups have managed to avoid appointing a Data Controller under the Data Protection Act, and so are not subject to the DPA of 1998.
Reg Race? Could this be the same one?
‘Reg Race, the former Labour MP and close ally of socialist firebrands Tony Benn & Ken Livingstone, has been paid millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money as a result of regulations brought in by New Labour ministers. The union man-turned- consultant has also become a substantial Labour Party donor and is one of the biggest backers of Alan Johnson’s bid for the party’s deputy leadership.
Mr Race’s company, Quality Health, is one of a select band of “approved contractors” that health trusts must hire to conduct patient and staff surveys.’
Jeremy Corbyn was torn to pieces over not wanting to go to war if a NATO member was attacked (by Russia, the question implied).
There seems to be a mistaken idea that preferring negotiations and a peaceful approach to international relations, to a kneejerk war which could so easily go nuclear - leading to the end of life on this planet - can be compared to Chamberlain's appeasement before World War 2.
Yet the NATO treaty itself, is not, as some Tories have tried to make out, a simple case of rushing to war, if one of NATO's states are hit.
Article 5 of the Washington Treaty envisions the support of other NATO members, in the case of external aggression, it's true, but...
The response measures are left at the discretion of member states --- it can be a mere diplomatic note of support - without providing any real aid.
Labour Pledge We Will Bring Back Student Grants And The £30 EMA
Labour will reverse the abolition of student grants and the education maintenance allowance (EMA), if it wins the next general election, the shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, stated.
The Tories replaced maintenance grants for poor university students in England with repayable & often crippling loans, and the EMA, a £30-a-week cash payment helped 16 to 18-year-olds to stay in education --- but was cut by the Tory/LibDem coalition government.
Now Labour vows to reinstate the policies, which will support over a million students, & says they will be paid for, by increasing corporation tax by less than 1.5 per cent.
Ms Rayner: “While the Tories continue to burden our young people with debt, the Labour Party is committed to investing in our young people.
“It is only by investing in education, that we can ensure that all our young people, whatever their background, are able to succeed in whatever they aspire to.”
A DREAM COME TRUE
Support for Jeremy Corbyn from Tyrone O’Sullivan, a fourth-generation south Wales miner, who led a workers’ buy-out of Tower Colliery, to save it from closure.
"I’ve been close to Jeremy since the miners’ strike. Knowing the man, knowing his abilities and his education, it was a dream come true for me when he became leader. His ideas and values are more necessary, here in south Wales, than probably anywhere else in the country. He wants victory for Labour, but only under our terms - for a change."
O’Sullivan, a lifelong Labour member, says Jeremy is the only true socialist, Labour have had as leader, ''for 20 or 30 years''. ************************************** CHILCOT REPORT: SOME MAIN POINTS:
1) "Military action was not a last resort".
2) UK government "undermined the authority" of the UN security council.
3) Weapons of Mass Destruction presented "with a certainty that was not justified".
4) UK forces were "ill-prepared".
5a) "The government failed to achieve its stated objectives."
5b) Post-war planning: Blair "should have known what might happen".
6) Chilcot says Blair also "overlooked the threat the invasion would pose to Britain."
Blair to Face Law
The former prime minister has been put on notice by families of dead servicemen, that he will face legal action, for his part in the illegal Iraq war.
They are being crowd-funded now, and have raised so much money, that Blair is probably heading for a big fall...
Shadow Commons leader Paul Flynn: the Iraq Inquiry's findings are an "utter condemnation" of his terrible decision --- and his prosecution should now be given "serious consideration".
Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond: "I would like to see Blair investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC), for the crime of a war of aggression, and face parliamentary action to stop him holding public office ever again."
A former British ambassador to the UN: "The UK was pushed into entering this military action, too early."
Stop the War Coalition Convener Ms German: “This is an incredibly damning report for Tony Blair. It will not call for legal sanctions, but it says that Blair is culpable for the war, in many ways.
“He needs to be driven out of public life. He is still part of the Labour Party. We need to make sure that truth & justice prevails. There must be legal action against Blair, & he should no longer be considered fit for any office.”
CND general secretary Kate Hudson: “The report shows that Tony Blair had no respect for cabinet procedure, no respect for Parliament, & no respect for international law.
“Chilcot reveals the evidence that must now be used to bring Tony Blair to justice. This is our demand. Only when justice is served, can we prevent disasters like the Iraq war from ever happening again.”
Iraqi journalist Juma al-Quraishi: "Everyone who took part in the war against Iraq should be condemned, either Britain, or others."
Baghdad resident Ali al-Saraji: "Ex-UK prime minister, Tony Blair, destroyed our country. From 2003, to now, our country has been the scene of destruction, killing, massacres, explosions and sectarianism."
A defiant Blair refuses to accept accusations from service families that he was wrong and reckless, and he insists that he would make the decision again, 'come what may'.
Families of some of the 179 military personnel killed in Iraq, say the former PM is "a terrorist".
Jeremy Corbyn has offered an apology, on Labour's behalf, for the"stain on our party and our country".
PONCY LABOUR MPS PROBLEM?
A huge drop in working-class Labour MPs, caused a massive drop in support among voters with similar backgrounds, reveals research seeking to explain why support has dwindled in the party’s heartlands.
The study says past leaders like Kinnock and Blair made a concerted effort to pick “more and more middle-class candidates to run for office, during the 80s and 90s, as part of an effort to rebrand” -- which had initial successes at the ballot box.
But this “conscious electoral strategy” stored up problems, as working-class voters who initially, just didn’t vote in response, now seek an alternative.
The solution?Trust each constituency to put forward its own candidates, and don't impose ‘party-approved’ choices who can't do the job.
Now, unfortunately, there are "entryist" MPs who, for decades, have been groomed by CIA cold war relic organisations -- like the Atlantic Council -- and are now trying to misdirect the Labour Party towards cuts, a militarised police, and a US war agenda... - and their anti-Corbyn slant is hobbling Labour.
‘How Can I Deselect My Labour MP?’ A Short Guide to Reselection and Democratic Accountability by Eric Sim, excellent free advice here:
http://novaramedia.com/2016/07/13/how-can-i- deselect-my-labour-mp-a-short-guide-to- reselection-and-democratic-accountability/ CHRIS BRYANT - SUPPORT THE MEMBERS' LEADERSHIP CHOICE & POLICIES - OR GO!
Chris Bryant, the Rhondda's dodgy MP, was on TV -- as soon as the PLP coup started -- telling us that Jeremy MUST go, because it was the ONLY way to act in the Labour Party's interest...
Chris Bryant's voting record: from TheyWorkForYou.com
On Tuition Fees:
On 27 Jan 2004: Chris Bryant voted in favour of university tuition fees increasing from £1,125 per year, to up to £3,000 per year.
On 31 Mar 2004: Chris Bryant voted to allow university tuition fees to increase from £1,125 per year, to up to £3,000 per year.
On 31 Mar 2004: Chris Bryant voted for the introduction of variable university tuition fees (top-up fees) of up to £3,000 per year in place of the previous fixed fee of £1,250 per year.
On 31 Mar 2004: Chris Bryant voted to allow university tuition fees to increase from £1,125 per year to up to £3,000 per year, and to make other changes to higher education funding and regulation arrangements.
On 14 Sep 2004: Chris Bryant voted against: the immediate abolition of all tuition fees, the re-introduction of maintenance grants of up to £2,000 for students from low-income homes, and changes to the country's higher education system.
On 14 Sep 2004: Chris Bryant voted to reject the Liberal Democrat policy of abolition of tuition fees.
On 25 May 2016: Chris Bryant was absent for a vote on Queen's Speech - Forcing Schools to Become Academies - Further Rises in University Tuition Fees
On Human Rights:
Consistently voted for introducing ID cards
Almost always voted for requiring the mass retention of information about communications
Generally voted for mass surveillance of people’s communications and activities
On the Environment:
Generally voted against greater regulation of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract shale gas
On Special Interests:
Almost always voted against limits on success fees paid to lawyers in no-win no fee cases
Generally voted against a statutory register of lobbyists
On War or Peace:
Generally voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas
Consistently voted for the Iraq war
Consistently voted against an investigation into the Iraq war
Generally voted for replacing Trident with a new nuclear weapons system
On 2 Dec 2015: Voted to support UK airstrikes in Syria [without UN authorisation]
On 2 Dec 2015: Voted to support UK airstrikes in Syria [without UN authorisation]
Generally voted for more EU integration
Chris Bryant Labour MP From Wikipedia
(aka 1962-1986: Mr Christopher John Bryant 1986-1991: The Reverend Christopher John Bryant, 1991-2001: Mr Christopher John Bryant, 2001-: Mr Christopher John Bryant MP.)
Born in Cardiff, to a Scottish mother & a Welsh father, Bryant grew up in Cardiff, Wales (where his father worked for 5 years), and Cheltenham.
He was educated at Cheltenham College, an independent school for boys in the spa town of Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, where he was captain of the school swimming team, and Mansfield College at the University of Oxford, where he graduated in 1983, with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in English. This was later promoted to a Master of Arts degree (MA (Oxon)), as per tradition.
After completing his first degree, Bryant began training to be a priest in the Church of England at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, in Oxfordshire. There, he obtained a degree in theology.
Although a member of the Conservative Party, and an elected office-holder in the Oxford University Conservative Association, he joined the Labour Party in 1986, after leaving Oxford.
He was ordained deacon in 1986 and priest in 1987. He served as a Curate at the Church of All Saints, High Wycombe, from 1986 to 1989; then as a Youth Chaplain in Peterborough, as well as travelling in Latin America.
In 1991 Bryant left the ordained ministry, after deciding that being gay and being a priest, were incompatible. Statements made by Richard Harries, then Bishop of Oxford, also influenced his decision.
After leaving the priesthood in 1991, Bryant worked as the election agent to the Holborn and St Pancras Constituency Labour Party, where he helped Frank Dobson hold his seat in the 1992 general election.
From 1993, he was Local Government officer for the Labour Party; he lived in Hackney and was elected to Hackney Borough Council in 1993, serving until 1998. He became Chair of the Christian Socialist Movement.
He is both a member of the Labour Friends of Israel and Labour Friends of Palestine & the Middle East. From 1994 to 1996 he was London manager of the leader-grooming "charity", Common Purpose.
He was Labour candidate for Wycombe, in the 1997 general election (he lost by 2,370 votes), and Head of European Affairs for the BBC, from 1998.
His selection for the very safe Labour seat of Rhondda, South Wales in 2000, shocked many people given Bryant's background – gay, an ex- Anglican vicar, and someone who was a Tory, while studying at Oxford, and a member now, of the Henry Jackson Society 'think tank' --- described by The Guardian newspaper as 'neoconservative'. It is pro-US, pro-NATO and pro-military intervention, as well as being fundamentally anti-socialist.
Fifty-two people applied for the candidature and a local councillor was hot favourite to win, before Bryant was parachuted in.
In 2004, a photograph of Mr Bryant in his underpants, which he had posted to a gay dating website, was published in 'papers.
When an interviewer suggested he was a 'disgrace to the Rhondda', he replied: "They can't get rid of me."
His pay, allowances and some expenses:
The basic annual salary for an MP, from April 1st, 2016 is £74,962. MPs also get expenses: to cover the costs of running an office, employing staff, having some- where to live in London, plus, in their constituency and travelling between Parliament and their constituency.
His MP's expenses story:
Chris Bryant changed second home twice to claim £20,000: the deputy leader of the House of Commons, "flipped" his second home twice, in 2 years, allowing him to claim almost £20,000 for renovations and fees.
Chris Bryant, MP for the Rhondda, split over £92,000 of expenses between 3 properties in Wales and London --- within five years.
In 2004, he attempted to claim £58,000 to overhaul his second home in Wales, after allegedly complaining that properties in his constituency were "terrace or mine owners' houses".
Mr Bryant, a former Church of England clergyman, wanted the money for a new bathroom & kitchen, and to demolish his conservatory. He'd bought the detached house for £97,500, under a year earlier.
He submitted a claim to the Commons fees office for £58,493.26 --- almost 3 times the annual maximum. He noted that the claim exceeded his allowance.
His alleged justification was disclosed... in correspondence between Commons officials. By email, an official wrote: "He had problems finding a suitable property because in the Rhondda there is a choice mainly of terraced property or mine owners' houses." When approached by the Daily Telegraph, Mr Bryant said: "I have never said or thought anything of the sort".
In all, he successfully claimed over £13,000 for renovations, repairs & appliances, in 2004. Along with other bills, his annual claim was £20,902.
In April 2005, he flipped his expenses to his flat in west London, which he bought for £400,000 in April 2002. He also claimed £630 a month for mortgage interest, along with other bills. After claiming over £3,600 over 3 months, he sold the flat in July 2005 for £477,000.
Mr Bryant used his profits to buy a more expensive flat in west London, which was valued at £670,000. He immediately flipped his second home expenses there, claiming almost £6,400 in stamp duty, legal fees and mortgage fees, incurred in the purchase.
He then began claiming interest of £1,000 a month on the mortgage. He also claimed a further £6,000 a year for the flat's service charge and ground rent.
In all, he claimed £92, 415 in second home expenses, from 2004 to 2009.
Mr Bryant said at the time: "I moved flat in London, so as to be closer to Parliament."
Research by Channel 4 News in 2015 found that at least 46 MPs had this kind of system in place – a move one Labour backbencher described as “a new fiddle”. Channel 4 reported then:
“Our investigation found that many of the MPs bought their London properties with the help of the taxpayer, when a previous expenses system allowed them to claim back mortgage payments. But when those claims were banned, following the expenses scandal, they switched to letting out their properties, in some cases for up to £3,000 a month. They then started claiming expenses for rent and hotels in the capital.”
Among those identified was Chris Bryant, shadow leader of the House of Commons. He had already bought a penthouse in London back in 2005 and claimed around £1,000 a month in mortgage claims under the old system.
But after the expenses scandal, he started renting the property out. It’s since been advertised by estate agents as having a private lift and a porter, with rent at about £3,000 a month. Meanwhile, Bryant moved into a new flat;- claiming his own rent on expenses.
Image: the Philippines' People Power Revolution,
today, February the 25th, in 1986, the Philippines'
People Power Revolution,
with a 2,000,000+ uprising in Manila, took place.
The People Power Revolution was a series of popular demonstrations in the Philippines, that began in 1983 and culminated on February 25th, 1986.It involved a sustained campaign of civil resistance against regime violence & electoral fraud.The nonviolent revolution led to the departure of the US-backed dictator, the President, Ferdinand Marcos,and to a restoration of democracy, in the Philippines.
It is also referred to as the Yellow Revolution, due to the presence of yellow ribbons during the demonstrations after the assassination of Filipino senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr.
It was widely seen as a victory of the people and made news headlines as"the revolution that surprised the world".
The majority of the demonstrations took place on a long stretch of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, more commonly known as EDSA, in Metro Manila, from February 22–25, 1986.
They involved over two million Filipino civilians, as well as several political and military groups, and religious groups led by Cardinal Jaime Sin, the Archbishop of Manila, and the CBCP President, Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, the Archbishop of Cebu.
The protests, fueled by resistance and opposition to years of corrupt governance, by Marcos, culminated with the departure of the dictator from Malacañang Palace, to Hawaii. Corazon Aquino was proclaimed as President of the Philippines, after the revolution.
Image: Wales elderly paying for health care
Figures released by The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that UK pensioners are 4th worst off.... out of all of the countries in the European Union.
100s of council tax arrears notices sent out – to Welsh councillors February 5th 2017 Posted by Mike Sivier
Whatever happened to leadership by example?
It seems our councillors are happy to vote our council tax bills up into the stratosphere, but are less keen to pay up themselves.
Their reasons for non-payment make a mockery of the system – none of them are valid. I mean… “Forgetfulness”?
It’s a shame we don’t have a breakdown of late- or non-payers, by political party.
Fortunately, 2017 is an election year and those of you who live in Wales, have a chance to vote out this dead weight.
Remember, nothing ever changed for the better by being allowed to stay the way it was.
Hundreds of notices over unpaid council tax have been sent to councillors, in the past six years, figures have shown.
Since 2011, nearly 400 reminders have been sent to councillors in arrears – some by more than £1,000.
Reasons given for failing to pay, included illness, family problems and forgetfulness.
Source: Hundreds of council tax arrears notices sent to councillors – BBC News
Welfare Slashing ‘Leaves Disabled Unable To Live’ by Zoe Streatfield Friday 3rd February 2017
Proposed £30 ESA cut will mean many can’t afford the essentials of life
The Tories’ plans to slash unemployment benefit for disabled people making new claims, could leave some unable to afford the essentials of life, MPs warned yesterday.
Under government plans, from April, new ESA claimants assessed as 'fit for work' will see their benefits cut by £29.05 to £73.10 per week, the same rate as jobseeker’s allowance (JSA).
The government claims the changes will help halve the “disability employment gap” — the difference between the employment rates of the disabled and non-disabled — and save the Treasury an estimated £1 billion by 2020-21.
However, the Commons work and pensions committee said the cut could leave some people -- with lower disposable incomes than JSA claimants as they often face unavoidably higher living costs due to their disability.
The evidence that reducing employment and support allowance (ESA), would provide an incentive for disabled people to find work was “ambiguous at best,” the report concluded.
The committee said its members had heard “substantial concerns about the possible impact of the new rate on disabled people’s capacity to look for and move into work.”
Committee chairman Frank Field said that if the government intended to proceed with the cuts “we expect an explanation of how this will not be detrimental to its aim of halving the disability employment gap by making finding and keeping a job, even more difficult for disabled people than it already is.”
The committee called on the government to respond to the report before the new lower rate of ESA is introduced in April.
Disabled People Against Cuts founder Linda Burnip told the Star that the Tories’ welfare changes are painting a “really grim picture” -- and having a “massive impact on disabled people, overall.”
She said there was stark evidence that the latest round of cuts will “push people further & further into poverty” and would lead to claimants “not being able to meet their additional needs, as disabled people.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman:
“Our welfare reforms are increasing the support and incentives for people to move into work, while keeping an important safety net in place for those who need it.”
(source - Morning Star)
The scandal of unfairly-refused sickness and disability benefits: it isn’t new, but it is killing Thursday 5th of January 2017 by Mike Sivier
Amazingly, this is still being treated as news, when it is, in fact, an ongoing scandal.
Perhaps we should take this as a sign that the Conservative Government laid its groundwork well; the incessant hate campaigns against sickness and disability benefit claimants have made it seem – to the unobservant member of the public – that these people deserve to lose their benefit payments because they are all cynical scroungers who simply don’t want to do a decent day’s work.
If that was true, why do so many of them suffer in poverty when the money is cut off? Why do so many of them die?
The simple answer is that the claim that they are all perfectly fit is a lie. Less than half of 1 per cent of sickness & disability benefit claims are fraudulent, but a far larger proportion are having their claims overturned.
We know that the assessors – for private firms Capita and Atos – don’t do their job properly. They have targets to hit (even though the Department for Work and Pensions – their employers – deny it with all their lying might).
We know that the assessment system is rubbish. It assumes that any ill-health professed by a claimant is entirely in their mind, or made up by them to get the benefit, and its questions are skewed in order to make it possible for this to be claimed.
Medical evidence by doctors is routinely ignored – in fact, the system is designed to do so.
And we know that the appeal system is designed to put people off demanding their right as citizens of the United Kingdom. Mandatory reassessment by the initial assessors was introduced, because too many people were winning on appeal so the Conservatives wanted to put a barrier in their way – a means of withholding payment while an excuse was found to continue withholding payment, for an unlimited period of time.
Only after a mandatory reassessment had run its course, could a claimant appeal – if the extreme poverty into which the DWP, Atos or Capita had thrown them had not forced them to give up and claim another benefit or try to do a job (and how many of those who managed to get one have suffered serious health issues as a result? Nobody tracks these), & if the stress of going through this Kafka-esque system, has not already killed them.
The appeal process is also relatively lengthy, but the success rate is remarkable – far higher than that of mandatory reassessments. So we may conclude that the assessment system is seriously at fault.
The DWP absolutely refuses to draw this obvious conclusion, though.
And in the background,the number of deaths just keeps on rising.
The solution is to outlaw any private, profit-driven firm from carrying out health assessments on people in the United Kingdom, to disband the Department for Work & Pensions and ensure none of the civil servants who made the key decisions ever work in the public sector again, and to start from scratch with a new system, based on a claimant’s health, rather than on fantasy.
That requires a change of government.
Until then, the current system will continue putting people off claiming, in the hope that they will go away and not bother the public finances again – either by getting a job, living off the good graces of relatives and friends, or dying.
Dying is the preferred option of the DWP, according to all the evidence.
It is a scandal of terrifying proportions. It has been going on for years. But still the media organisations are treating it as a surprise.
To be struck down with illness or disability is difficult enough. To then have to fight tooth and nail for benefits to which one has a genuine right, is soul-destroying.
Increasingly, it’s being reported that people in Stoke-on-Trent have Personal Independence Payments (PIP) rejected. And yet when these decisions are taken to tribunal, they are, say organisations representing the disabled, routinely overturned.
Not only does that suggest the system, overseen by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), is deeply flawed, but those who fall victim to it are forced to wait months without payment, before their appeal is heard.
Atos and Capita are the Government contractors charged with getting the system right. But putting the private sector into healthcare, isn’t something of which everyone is a fan. There’s a risk, they say, financial targets might cloud reasoned judgment.
Last year, a mental health nurse, sent undercover to train as a personal independence payment assessor with Capita, was told in training that the company needed its assessors “to be doing as many assessments a day as you can possibly manage”.
One assessor revealed he sometimes completed his assessment reports before even meeting claimants, stating he could usually “completely dismiss” what he was told by PIP claimants, and making offensive comments about an overweight claimant who was unable to carry out her own personal care. He also claimed some assessors were earning up to £20,000 a month at a time when the DWP was trying to clear an embarrassing backlog of claims. “We were flying through them, because of that money,” he said.
Source: Big Issue: ‘Many disabled people simply give up’ – the scandal of unpaid benefit payments
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DWP ‘Hid 7 Deaths From Review Team’ Saturday 31st December 2016 Underhand ministers ‘showed contempt for disabled people’ by Felicity Collier
The Department for Work and Pensions “hid” the deaths of seven disability benefit claimants from an independent expert hired to review its “fitness for work” assessments, a freedom of information (FOI) request has found.
Campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) accused the government of showing “contempt for disabled people’s lives and wellbeing.”
The FOI request, obtained by the Independent newspaper, revealed that data from the DWP’s work capability assessments was withheld from Professor Malcolm Harrington, who was preparing a report on them.
The assessments are used by the DWP to determine whether claimants are entitled to sickness benefits. It is mandatory practice that claimant deaths - including suicides - which could be linked to the test, are peer-reviewed.
Speaking to the Disability News Service website, Prof Harrington said: “I have NO recollection of seeing any of these reviews.
“Such damning indictments of the system - if seen - should have triggered a response from me. It didn’t.”
DPAC co-founder Linda Burnip said: “The failure of the DWP to pass on all the information to Malcolm Harrington relating to the deaths of disabled people -- which were a direct result of the failure of their work capability assessments -- show their contempt for disabled people’s lives and wellbeing.”
She said the Disability News Service had worked relentlessly to uncover the information “in spite of the many obstacles put in the way by the DWP, in trying to suppress the truth.”
In its response to the FOI request, the DWP said: “The department does not hold any information to confirm or deny whether these peer reviews were shared with Prof Harrington.”
On Thursday, it was reported that James Harrison, a man who was physically and mentally unwell, had died 10 months after his doctor was told, by the DWP, to stop writing him sick notes.
Mr Harrison, of Liverpool, had been suffering from a serious lung condition and a hernia, as well as depression and anxiety.
His mental health condition developed after he lost his job at a community centre near his home when it was forced to close by government spending cuts. He had worked there since leaving school.
In the months before his death, he was declared “fit for work” following a work capability assess- ment with the DWP in Birkenhead. But he none- theless needed to see his doctor regularly.
Only when his daughter asked to see his medical records was it revealed --- that the DWP had contacted his GP declaring him “fit for work” and asking for him not to undergo any further assessment unless an appeal was made, his condition worsened significantly, or a new medical condition arose.
Ms Burnip commented: “It is totally unacceptable that a job centre manager with no medical training can tell a GP to stop writing fit notes for a patient.
“There should be an independent inquiry into how this was allowed to happen.”
(source - Morning Star)
Malnutrition has tripled since 2008:but Tories say the cause can’t be identified. It’ll be ESA by Mike Sivier - Vox Political
‘Poverty is causing vulnerable people … to go hungry and undernourished,’shadow health secretary says.
Isn’t it interesting that the official figures show malnutrition increasing hugely, year-on-year, from 2008 onwards – when the Employment and Support Allowance was introduced - but the Conservative Government is insisting that no cause can be identified?
ESA, with a hated, nonsensical Work Capability Assessment, which governs whether a claimant qualifies for the benefit, was introduced in 2008.
This Blog ran an article on the increase in malnutrition in November, but reader Tony Dean went further - requesting information from the Department of Health.
In the financial year 2007-8, there were 7,695 primary diagnoses of malnutrition – up from 6,704 the previous year. Secondary diagnoses had fallen from 58,344 the previous year, to 57,052.
From then on, the figures started to increase – hugely. In 2015-16 there were 17,166 primary diagnoses of malnutrition and a massive 167,362 secondary diagnoses.
Primary diagnoses describe the most serious or resource-intensive condition suffered by a patient who is hospitalised for any period of time. A secondary diagnosis describes those conditions that coexist at the time of admission, or develop subsequently, and that affect the patient for the current episode of care.
So we are seeing not only an increase in malnutrition as an illness in its own right --- but a massive increase in it, as a contributory factor to other illnesses.
The information may be found here. It was provided by Health Under-Secretary Nicola Blackwood in response to a question by Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth in November.
Ms Blackwood: “The cause of the malnutrition is not presented in these figures and it is not possible to make assumptions on which factor was responsible for the admission.
“Malnutrition can be caused by a variety of factors, including an inability to absorb nutrients normally, or a condition or disease which affects a patient’s ability to feed normally.”
Doesn’t this sound eerily similar to the Department for Work and Pensions’ mantra about suicides by benefit claimants? That line runs something like this: “Any suicide is a tragedy and the reasons for them are complex, however it would be inaccurate and misleading to link it solely to a person’s benefit claim.” (The word “solely” was added fairly recently, after the Department’s chiefs realised that mounting evidence had shown they could no longer deny all guilt.
Strangely, nobody has yet prosecuted the DWP for corporate manslaughter, after this admission).
This Writer thinks it is entirely possible to make assumptions on the facts responsible for the admissions. But there is no need to do so; unlike the suicides, people who have been treated for malnutrition are not likely to be dead.
So why not ask them why they were going hungry?
It’s a simple enough question. If the Department of Health is too busy to do the work itself, I’m sure some of the rest of us could step in and lend a hand.
Or is the government afraid of the answer?
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Tory government policy made Legal Aid lawyer shortage inevitable by Mike Sivier /Vox Political
Charities warn there are less and less legal aid housing lawyers in practice
When the Conservatives cut the amount of money available for Legal Aid, they knew it would happen.
Thousands of people are being made homeless every year, because they cannot find lawyers to help them resist eviction, charities are warning.
Even though legal aid is available to help anyone in danger of losing their home, there has been an 18% decline in the number of challenges brought -- at a time of record repossessions in the private rental market.
The latest figures, highlighted by the Legal Action Group (LAG) and the homeless charity Shelter, reinforce warnings by the Law Society, that “advice deserts”, where few, if any, lawyers are left in practice, who are capable of dealing with legal aid housing cases, are emerging across Wales.
Source: Thousands left homeless by shortage of legal aid lawyers, say charities | The Guardian
DWP staff - £140 million in bonuses for sanctioning people off benefits? by Mike Sivier Vox Political
Gosh – nearly £140 million in bonuses to DWP staff in three years is pretty impressive. What did those people do to deserve that cash?
Run a ‘Space Invaders Challenge’ (whatever that is) to get Employment and Support Allowance claimants off their books, as staff at Yardley Job Centre did?
Employment Minister Justin Tomlinson was shamed into ordering Job Centre “advisers” to take down the poster, but his only comment was that it was not “presented in the best way.”
Or did they…
Award themselves ‘sheriff stars’ for hitting sanction targets?
According to The Void, Job Centres are being awarded special 'sheriff stars' for meeting sanction targets (that's right - the sanction targets that the DWP keeps insisting don't exist, even after being presented with the proof).
According to The Void, Job Centres were being awarded special ‘sheriff stars’ for meeting sanction targets. Link:
I know – the DWP insists that it has no targets for sanctions, even after being presented with photographic proof.
Or did they do even worse things that have yet to be made public?
For a current example of the way Job Centres treat benefit claimants, see: Teen committed suicide after being ‘belittled’ by Job Centre staff
Over the last 3 years, the Department for Work and Pensions has handed out £139.9 million in bonuses to its staff – £124.37 million of which has gone to Senior Civil servants.
In the year ending April 2015, the DWP paid out £42.1 million, slightly less than the year before when bonuses totalled £46.5 million.
The DWP has insisted that bonuses are only paid to employees whose work is consistently good or outstanding.
Responding to a written question from Andrew Gwynne MP, Work and Pensions Minister Justin Tomlinson said: “In line with Civil Service pay guidance, DWP rewards employees for their performance through either end of year non- consolidated payments and/or in-year pay- ments. In year payments are limited to 0.23% of the total DWP paybill.
“Employees who've attained agreed performance levels as part of their performance review may receive end of year non-consolidated payments based on their grade & end of year performance marking. End of year payments are limited to 1.9% of the total DWP paybill”
Source: DWP staff received almost £140 million in bonuses over the last three years | The Independent
Note: The figures relate to the three years up to late 2015. Who knows how much has been handed out to DWP staff since then?
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Liberal Democrats fined £20,000 for undeclared election spending. When we will hear about the Tories? by Mike Sivier Vox Political
If any Lib Dems scoffed at Labour for having to pay £20 grand because of the ‘Ed Stone’ (and other undeclareds), they’ll need to eat a bit of humble pie.
This Writer is more concerned that this does not indicate a direction of travel, regarding ongoing investigations into Conservative Party election spending.
As far as I can tell, none of the undeclared Labour or Lib Dem expenditure is being suggested as having changed the result of the general election in particular seats.
But if the Conservative MPs under investigation turn out to have broken the rules, it seems far more likely that they took their Parliamentary seats illegally.
With around 30 Tories under suspicion, and the party’s majority in the Commons standing at much fewer, the outcome of the whole election is cast into doubt.
That is a much more serious offence – which of course is why the police are investigating.
We will need to keep a watchful eye on events -- to ensure Conservatives aren’t let off lightly – if any guilt is proved.
The Liberal Democrats have been hit with a maximum £20,000 fine by the Electoral Commission, for failing to declare hundreds of items of campaign spending at the general election.
The watchdog notified the police of a possible electoral offence after 307 payments totalling £184,676 were found to be missing from the Liberal Democrats’ spending return “without a reasonable excuse”.
In addition, invoices supporting 122 out of the 307 payments were missing from the return. It says declarations to the Electoral Commission "may have been signed recklessly", as there was evidence indicating some people in the party knew it was incorrect.
The Lib Dems say, it's a result of “human error and failure of process”. However, Bob Posner, the director of political finance at the Electoral Commission, said there were “systemic failures in ensuring that the rules were being followed”.
Source: Lib Dems fined £20,000 for undeclared election spending | Politics | The Guardian
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Third Of Domestic Abuse Starts During Pregnancy by Lamiat Sabin
Up to 60% of women who experience domestic violence, are abused by their partners while pregnant, a midwives’ union says -- as a new campaign is launched to combat the problem.
Nearly a third (30 per cent) of abuse cases are triggered by pregnancy, and existing violent behaviour escalates, when the victim is expecting a baby, according to statistics provided by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).
The report shows that this is due to a partner’s inability to cope with their jealousy and anger, towards an unborn child.
Domestic violence has overtaken gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia as the main cause of foetal death, as pregnant women are more likely to be hit on the abdomen by a partner or ex.
The risk of severe violence appears to be greatest after a child is born, the report adds.
The data used in the Domestic Violence and Pregnancy report, published in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, were drawn from victim admissions to A&E.
It is likely that the prevalence of violence against women and their unborn and newborn children is under-reported --- since many expectant and new mothers find it difficult to seek help, the RCM said.
Midwives play a crucial role in identifying abuse, by being alert to unexplained injuries and causes of damage to a baby, RCM policy adviser Janet Fyle says.
The RCM joined government, domestic abuse charity SafeLives and other organisations, in launching 16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence Campaign, which runs to December 3.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow minister for women and equalities, Sarah Champion, made a joint statement to mark the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls.
They said: “We must support the incredible work of women’s organisations who provide essential, life- saving services to survivors.
“It is unacceptable that these specialist organisations who support women and girls have seen resources decimated in the name of austerity.”
A Labour government would introduce statutory, age-appropriate school lessons to teach children about healthy relationships and friendships, and also how to identify abuse.
Mr Corbyn and Ms Champion condemned the “unacceptable” government cuts to women’s aid charities and vowed that Labour would increase funding.
Earlier this month, ministers launched a temporary £20 million pot of funding for refuges and domestic violence support services, which have to bid for a share of the money.
(source Morning Star)
More need, less money: older people are missing out on the care they need by Ignacio Amigo
There are currently 1.2 million older people in the UK living with some basic need unmet. That’s 48% more than six years ago. Basic needs include things such as getting out of bed, washing, or going to the toilet.
Those are the shocking findings of a new analysis by Age UK, a charity dedicated to the elderly.
Of those 1.2 million older people, about 40% do get some kind of support, but the support is insufficient. This often means that carers are only available at particular times of the day. The rest – almost 700,000 people – don’t get any help at all.
Age UK also highlights the dramatic situation of the 291,400 older people that have three or more needs unmet. Of those, more than 20% fall into the group that receives no help whatsoever.
Carolyn Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, has asked the government to pledge giving social care priority in the forthcoming Autumn Statement, which will be published on 23 November.
The numbers shown by Age UK should come as no surprise, after years of budget cuts. A recent BBC analysis showed that spending on care for people over 65 has dropped by 20% since 2004. Over the same period, the proportion of people over 65 in the UK has increased another 20% [PDF, page 4]. This means that there is now less money to treat more people.
In fact, in the last few years, there has been a great reduction in the number of older people receiving care from the state. While in 2009 there were more than 1.1 million people receiving care funded by local authorities, that number fell to 853,615 by 2013/2014 [PDF, page 16].
Ruth Thorlby, Deputy Director of Policy at the Nuffield Trust, sums up the situation perfectly:
The number of older people needing care is increasing and yet we are continuing to put less money in. Unmet need is rising, many providers are threatening to pull out of contracts, the wellbeing of carers is deteriorating, access to care is get- ting worse. A Government that wants to create ‘a country which works for everyone’ --- should not tolerate the oldest, most vulnerable, falling in to a social care system, riddled with holes.”
Poor people are being hit harder
The lack of care funding is not affecting everyone equally. A recent report by The King’s Fund warns us, that a change in the care providers’ business strategy is taking place. Due to the reduction of fees paid by local authorities, as well as other increasing pressures, many care providers are concentrating on people who can pay for their own care. This is creating a ‘two-tier’ system: one for people with higher income, and one for those who rely on local authority-arranged care.
The report puts it boldly [PDF, page 5]:
Access to care depends increasingly on what people can afford – and where they live – rather than on what they need. This favours the relatively well off and well informed --- at the expense of the poorest --- who are reliant on an increasingly threadbare local authority safety net – especially if they live in areas where local authorities have been least able to sustain spending levels – and who are at a higher risk of declining quality and provider failure.
The reports concludes [PDF, page 82] that long-term policies, along with a mechanism to secure cross- party consensus, on some shared principles, are urgently needed. Policy-makers should take note.
source The Canary
Shadow employment minister demands action as child poverty hits 3.9 million
From her website:
Shadow Employment Minister, Margaret Greenwood MP, called on the Government to take urgent action to tackle child poverty after figures released by the End Child Poverty campaign revealed that in some parts of the UK, nearly half of children are living in poverty.
“3.9 million children in the UK are living in poverty and that includes 18,000 children in the Wirral. Children in the UK are now twice as likely to be poor --- as our pensioners,” said Ms Greenwood.
“In every part of the country, there are children who are growing up in poverty and having to do without.
“That means going without all sorts of things, including food. Some will be wearing shoes that don’t fit, clothes that aren’t warm enough, and going to bed hungry. This is wholly unacceptable, and the government needs to take urgent action.
“Millions of families are struggling to meet basic household bills as a result of low pay, insecure work and the lack of affordable housing. On top of that, food prices are expected to rise in the coming year.
“Cuts to Universal Credit are going to hit the poorest families hard. A single parent family would have to work an extra 2 months each year, to make up the money they will lose as a result of these cuts. Clearly that is impossible.
“Where a family has to move to cheaper accommodation, children may also have to move schools, causing disruption to their friendship groups and their education.
“Family tensions caused by money worries are easily transmitted to children --- even though that would be the last thing that parents would want.
“The Prime Minister said on coming to power that her Government would be on the side of families just struggling to get by.
“I am calling on the Government to live up to its rhetoric by reversing cuts to Universal Credit in the Autumn Statement.”
You can find more information on the Child Poverty campaign at
The Trussell Trust reports that food bank use has increased again this year. Food parcels were given to 519,000 in the 6 months to the end of September, which included 188,000 children.
source - Vox Political
WALES TO SUFFER AS TORIES CUT RAIL ELECTRIFICATION
Rail Minister Paul Maynard’s decision to 'defer' electrification of the Great Western rail line from London to Wales, is a blatant failure to honour a general election manifesto pledge.
His assertion that new rolling stock can “bring in the benefits expected by passengers” with- out “costly & disruptive electrification works” is a pathetic joke.
The new trains were originally intended to run on electric alone, but have been ''amended'' to provide a diesel back-up, which Maynard now says is ''the way ahead'' for GWR.
This breaks government commitments to reduce global warming emissions and makes a mockery of the disruption that many areas have already suffered, through their preparatory work for electrification.
Ministers still set greater store on the austerity agenda of cuts, than on public investment for economic growth and prosperity.
GWR was to deliver customer improvements by 2019, but has now kicked completion of the electrification project, originally meant for 2018, to a faraway 2024.
If such projects are postponed, costs rise. The price of GWR electrification was £874 million in 2013 -- and is now estimated at £2.8 billion!
Upgraded, efficient, safe, environmentally sound, affordable rail networks, are not an optional extra in a modern economy.
In Europe, massive public investment in rail has delivered for passengers.
Margaret Thatcher’s preference for private cars, followed by John Major’s decision to fragment and privatise British Rail, leaves the UK and Wales decades behind...
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald demands that the government reverse this decision and keep its election promises.
Tory austerity cuts ‘systematically’ violated rights of disabled Britons – UN
The United Nations accuses the Conservative government, of violating the human rights of disabled people by cutting welfare provision.
A report by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities criticizes the reforms brought in by the former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.
The committee says the cuts and caps to welfare introduced under the guise of austerity, “gravely or systematically” violate disabled people's rights.
UN committee members visited the UK in Oct. 2015 on a fact-finding mission. Their report was based on over 200 interviews and around 3,000 pages of evidence.
The committee says Britain should establish a watchdog to assess the impact of policy changes on disabled people’s lives.
It also criticizes the distorted representation of disabled people in the UK.
“Persons with disabilities have been regularly portrayed negatively as being dependent or making a living out of benefits, committing fraud as benefit claimants, being lazy and putting a burden on taxpayers, who pay ‘money for nothing,’” the report says.
The government is also attacked for its cuts to housing benefits, that cause high levels of stress and depression, the report says.
Ministers had not factored disabled people’s needs into reforms, while programs to encourage them to find work had “no visible impact,” with many now driven into debt or forced to use food banks.
Disabled People Against Cuts (Dpac) founder Linda Burnip told the Guardian it “came as no surprise to anyone who's followed the stripping away of disabled people’s rights over the last six years.”
“The United Nations has found today that there is reliable evidence showing the Tory Government is responsible for grave violations of the rights of disabled people, under its failing austerity plan,” Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams says.
“The UN report confirms that, despite Theresa May’s warm words, the Government is failing sick and disabled people.
“Labour will transform our social security system to ensure that, like our NHS, it is there for us all in our time of need.”
The government said in a statement: “As a strong parliamentary democracy, where the voices and opinions of disabled people are represented and listened to, the UK is a place where disabled people's rights are respected, promoted and upheld.”
The Benefits Cap Has Now Come Into Force. Desperate People Are About To Become More Desperate Still by Charlotte Hughes
The new benefits cap has now come into force. Myself, other activists and politicians had tried desperately to warn the public about this, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears in many cases.
I suppose it’s easier to run away from reality, to try to carry on as normal and ignore the fact that this is happening.
The enormity of the situation has now hit people very hard.
As a community activist, I started to receive emails from worried people in the early hours of yesterday morning and this continued throughout the day.
Questions such as: “How will I manage?” “I’m scared I’m going to lose my home,” “We can’t afford to eat and pay the rent, what shall we do?”
Make no mistake, this is going to be devastating and these are the questions that thousands and thousands of people were asking themselves yesterday, and they will continue to do so.
The government stated that it has implemented the benefit cap because it wants to make unemployed and sick people think more about the cost of things. It wants them to be more in line with people who are working.
Theresa May was quoted as saying that this will provide “good value for money.”
I say that making the poorest suffer is never good value for money. You quite simply can’t put a price on a person’s life. It’s unconscionable to do so.
How will the new benefit cap affect people? Basically, unemployed and people claiming employment and support allowance who are not in the support group are expected to pay the shortfall in their rent. Deciding between eating, keeping warm or paying the rent is an impossible choice to make.
There’s a massive misunderstanding among the media and society that claimants receive all the money that they are entitled to in their hands. They don’t.
Most of their money goes to pay their landlord their rent. With social housing being in very short supply, more and more people are forced to go to the private rented sector and many are already paying a top-up rent.
Having to pay a now impossible amount will see tenants being evicted, having to rely on homeless shelters which are already full or being housed in B&Bs which are usually in a state of disrepair.
If a tenant falls behind with their rent and gets evicted, the local authorities will see them as making themselves intentionally homeless and therefore have no statutory duty to house them. Whether single, a couple, or with children — the situation is dire.
The pressure that will be put on foodbanks will be unprecedented. They find it hard enough to cope already, so how will they be able to cope with more and more people coming to them?
They rely on donations, many probably made by the very same people that are now being hit by the benefit cap now. In effect, the amount of people able to donate will drop as well.
This will also have a direct effect upon the NHS and related services. More and more people will become ill and admitted to hospital with malnutrition-related diseases. And now winter is here, people will suffer from more cold-related illnesses too.
It has been estimated that as many as 88,000 families will be affected, including a quarter of a million children — which is the equivalent of 350 primary schools all being faced with homelessness by the new benefit cap.
It’s horrific. It can never be seen as good value for money. It’s inhumane and we need to start raising our voices more.
source - The Morning Star
How did we – the British people – ever come to accept such laws as reasonable?
An elderly couple who have been by each other’s side for 70 years are being ‘forced apart’ by social services – as they ‘don’t meet the criteria’ to live together.
Jessie and Ray Lorrison, of South Shields in South Tyneside, have spent nearly every day of their lives together since they first met in 1946 – but have now been told they must live separate lives.
Ray, 95, is living at Westoe Grange Care Home in the town, while his heartbroken wife Jessie, 88, is in hospital after being told she ‘does not meet the criteria’ to join her husband.
A South Tyneside Council spokesperson said:"The Council is not able to comment on individual cases, however any decision on care and support for an individual is based on their own needs and is made in line with the Care Act."
Another statement is that this is NOT an unusual case. Social Services do this to almost ALL frail couples as they enter hospice care.
Despicable, obscenely cruel, gob-smackingly vile... that's the UK's Social Services!
As Labour gets fined over election expenses Tory election fraud scandal is being ignored by Steve Topple source: The Canary
It was revealed on Tuesday 25 October that the Labour Party had been fined over undeclared election expenses.
The Electoral Commission fined the party £20,000 for not submitting numerous expenses from the 2015 general election, including the infamous ‘Ed Stone’. But it begs the question — just what is happening with the so-called Tory election fraud scandal?
Hitting brick walls
The Commission found that the Labour Party had not declared £123,748 of expenses in last year’s election campaign. These included an 8ft stone tablet which had Labour’s key pledges carved into it – the missing costs being £7,614. A further 33 receipts were missing from the campaign, plus 49 for transport costs.
The party’s General Secretary, Iain McNicol, committed two offences under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act in relation to the missing payments and the missing invoices. The £20,000 fine is the highest in the Electoral Commission’s history.
And while the commission said Labour had co-operated throughout the inquiry, it criticised the party for not giving the requested information in a “reasonable time frame”.
But while Labour has been held to account over what could be considered fraudulent expenses, the Conservative Party’s alleged election fraud appears to have been kicked into the long grass.
As The Canary previously revealed, the Electoral Commission and police have been investigating allegations that tens of thousands of pounds that should have been declared as expenses locally, were in fact, paid for nationally.
These expenses fell into 2 main areas: the use of hotels for campaign staff, and the so-called Tory “Battle Bus” – which ferried activists up and down the country. If they should have been declared locally, this would mean that the Tories had breached spending limits in at least 29 constituencies.That, in turn, may well put the legitimacy of the 2015 general election result into question.
In June, 18 police forces across the UK had been given, or were seeking an extension to, the time limit for the investigations related to election expenses. David Cameron’s Conservative government was the first government in UK history to face police investigations into alleged electoral fraud.
One such example was in South Thanet, where Craig Mackinlay is the Conservative MP. The party is accused of spending around £20,000 on Mackinlay’s 2015 campaign which was not only not declared as national or local spending --- but was not declared at all.
In June, Mackinlay attempted in court to block a police investigation into the matter. But the judge threw the case out, ----- saying that the alleged fraud was on an “unprecedented s cale” and the police investigation was of “very significant public interest”.
Tory pork pies?
David Cameron, when he was still Prime Minister, went on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show to defend Mackinlay’s court action. Marr asked:
Did you authorise the payment of a very expensive QC to go to Kent Police, and try to stop them extending their investigation? Because that looks like a cover-up.
In an attempt to deflect from his own apparent involvement in the “cover-up”, Cameron said:
This is all being handled, I think quite properly, by the party Chairman, and I’m very happy that what we did was right and we can answer all the questions that we’re being [asked].
Since then, the investigations appear to have gone quiet. As The Guardian reported on 29 July, police forces are applying for a year’s investigation extension, but no conclusions have been drawn yet.
The judgement over the Labour Party’s transport costs now shines some light into the severity of the allegations about the Tories. The Electoral Commission said it didn’t suspect an offence had been committed regarding Labour busing activists up and down the country. The fact that the Commission has not yet dismissed the same allegations against Conservatives could well mean there is a case to answer.
Crash the campaign bus: The Blairites’ plan B
With the botched coup simply bolstering Corbyn’s position as leader, Labour rightwingers look ready to commit an ultimate betrayal, says Charley Allan.
The term “Blairite” is often misapplied, leaving some centre-left Corbyn-sceptic MPs unfairly tarred by Tony’s toxic brush.
Within Labour, it’s normally meant and taken as an insult, which is why the “B-word” has been banned along with “traitor” — using either online can see you summarily suspended.
But there are some politicians who still wear this particular label with pride.
Step forward Baron Peter Mandelson, New Labour architect and by far the best spin-doctor Blair ever had.
Mandelson has long opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership — he even tried to pull the plug on last year’s contest by putting pressure on all the other candidates to resign en masse at the last minute.
He still insists that “unelectable” Corbyn can’t be allowed to lead the party, but his latest solution is sure to send shivers down centre-left spines.
At a Royal Television Society conference, the political “prince of darkness”, was asked about the possibility of a snap election.
“Bring it on,” he replied. “I get up every day and pray that will be the case.”
And the reason for such enthusiasm? “So we can deal with the awful situation in the Labour Party earlier than 2020.”
Just to be clear, “awful situation” is code for “Corbyn’s leadership” — as is “deal with” for “bring to a brutal end.”
Mandelson is openly calling for a speedy general election loss to dislodge Corbyn as leader — and it’s not the first time the Labour right has been caught committing such a betrayal.
Back in August, Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told the Sunday Times: “I’ve had very senior Labour MPs come to me and they've begged me to push for an early general election to finish Corbyn off.”
He said they’d told him: “Put us out of our misery — it would be a mercy killing.”
And according to the Telegraph, the MPs “warned the only way to rid the party of Mr Corbyn would be if Labour is ‘wiped out’ at a general election -- proving his unpopularity with the public.”
Make no mistake, Blairites really are praying for Labour to lose a snap general election, just so they can topple their twice-elected leader.
It’s the abuse of the power to ban that has caused such bad blood in recent months. It must be tackled head on before Labour can move on.
Will there now be thousands of disciplinary hearings, costing who knows how much of our precious party resources?
Maybe we’ll see a mass amnesty in the spirit of clean slates — though that runs the risk of laying bare the right’s dirty tricks.
However this is resolved, we still have to deal with the “detrimental effect” and “inevitable shame” of our suspensions, which is why there needs to be a full investigation into what happened and who is to blame.
At the very least, seeing the back of general secretary Iain McNicol — who purged us all personally using powers given to him by the NEC — would help draw a line under the whole debacle.
It makes no sense for the centre-left to keep supporting the same people who led them up the garden path this summer, unnecessarily turned their own members against them, and now threaten to “destroy the village in order to save it.”
Let’s pray they wake up, before it’s too late.
Chat to Charley on Twitter: @charleyallan
Tory Boundary Short-Changers The Conservatives are hardly even bothering to pretend that they are cutting the size of Parliament to make the distribution of seats fairer.
The vanishing constituencies are almost all Labour ones, with Wales — where over a quarter of seats are to be eliminated — London, the N-East & N-West England all taking significant casualties.
By contrast most Tory areas get off lightly, with the true-blue Isle of Wight even due to nab an extra seat --- despite having too few people to merit it.
This could be defeated --- with a UNITED LABOUR PARTY !!!
UK police will soon start bagging people’s heads during arrests
Metropolitan Police officers will soon be able to use specially designed bags, known as spithoods, to cover suspects’ heads... during arrests and in police stations.
The mesh bags are used to restrain suspects and protect the police from those who might try to bite or spit at them. The Met insists the hoods prevent exposure to diseases and serious infection.
In a pilot scheme starting in October, 32 custody units, will receive material and training, on how to use “spit guards.” Their application on any suspect will be recorded under “use of force.”
Spit hoods aren't to be used on the streets initially, so as not to incense the public, but details on their use after the pilot scheme expires, have not been provided.
The measure has been controversial with human rights groups, which say the use of spit hoods is “an alarming development" and "cruel and degrading.”
The device may breach suspects’ rights, with some police chiefs suggesting the hoods resemble the trappings adopted at Guantanamo Bay. Even the Met was once opposed to them.
“A spit hood is a primitive, cruel and degrading tool that inspires fear and anguish,” says Liberty's director, Martha Spurrier.
“We have seen many cases where the police use them unnecessarily and without justification, including on children and disabled people.
“Police have the power to use force against citizens when they have to – using handcuffs, arm restraints, leg restraints, pepper spray, batons. The suggestion that officers need to be able to cover people’s faces and heads is as far-fetched as it is frightening. Spit hoods belong in horror stories, not on the streets of a civilized society. We urge the Metropolitan police to think again.”
TORY PARTY MEMBERS DISAPPEARING!
Tory party membership, is now below 100,000 for the first time. The Tory Party is disappearing.
It'll be weird, having thousands of Young Corbynites canvassing - and all the Tory party have is a few imported American nut-jobs.
How will that play in the marginals?
Remember - there are still 19 police forces investigating 32 Tory MPs for election fraud.
Police investigate ‘hidden payments’ to Northampton South MP’s fund
VoxPolitico - This story seems to be separate from the wider issue of alleged election fraud by many Conservative candidates. [ed. See articles below]
Apparently the donations come from 1st Land Ltd, a firm at the centre of an inquiry into the disappearance of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.
Hidden payments - totalling £30,000 - to a Tory MP’s general election campaign are being investigated... by the police.
Auntie BBC has already established that the money for David Mackintosh’s Northampton South fighting fund, in 3 (three) £10,000 donations, was disguised -- in terms of who made them.
The Electoral Commission passed their file on the case to the police.
Mr Mackintosh, ex-leader of Northampton council, welcomed the investigation and “will co-operate fully with police”.
“I'd no reason to believe that the donations --- were from anyone other than the named donors,” he said.
Labour promises to rescue communities and industry by Peter Lazenby
Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell unveils plans to pump billions of pounds of investment in to the UK’s regions, to boost industry and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
He pledges radical changes, including giving workers the right to sit on company boards and funding for co-operative enterprises - proposals similar to the Bullock Report - commissioned by Wilson’s government.
Mr McDonnell says a Labour government will create a publicly controlled investment bank - and similar banks for Britain’s regions - with access to £500 billion, to boost industrial development and jobs.
McDonnell says his investment plans will help those communities “left behind”, by Osborne’s austerity campaign, which hit the UK’s worst- off areas (like Wales valleys) the hardest.
“Today, I want to announce a major new commitment, from Labour, to the British people, a policy that will form the lynch- pin of everything else we do, to rescue Britain’s communities from decay and to rebuild Britain’s industries after years of neglect,” he said.
“George Osborne leaves behind a legacy of failure. We’ve got public services cut to the bone and in some cases, beyond.
“We’ve got a million people using foodbanks -- in the sixth-richest economy in the world. And investment has fallen, dragging down productivity.
“Our economy has become far too dependent on low-paid, insecure work, as a result.
“Worse yet, spending cuts have hit the places least able to cope with them, the hardest. The UK has the worst regional inequalities of any current member of the European Union.
“Our country needs a programme of economic transformation.
“That must start with addressing the funding imbalance, and delivering the investment needed, to kick-start high-quality growth.”
Mr McDonnell pledges:“On coming to power, Labour will set up a National Investment Bank and a network of regional banks, whose aim is to help mobilise £500bn into the economy --- and transform Britain.
“A national investment bank, managed independently of government ---- can raise the financing needed to deliver infrastructure on this scale.”
He says the plans will create 100,000 well-paid jobs in the north-east alone.
43 year old former soldier dies in Wales --- after police Taser him
A former soldier who served in Iraq & Afghanistan has died after being tasered by police in Llanelli. The man had reportedly been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The victim, identified as 43-year-old Spencer Beynon, was tasered after officers were called by a woman who was “concerned” about the welfare and behaviour of the man, who appeared injured and was acting erratically.
Beynon was a former member of the Royal Welsh Regiment and had served in the Army for 15 years.
The UN has already told the UK to ban police Taser use on children – but what about other vulnerable people?
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has launched an inquiry into the incident.
Local councilor Robert Davies says Beynon was “a nice guy” who “always had time to say hello, very pleasant.”
"I think he found it hard coming out of the Army. So many of our soldiers who serve the country, are forgotten about."
Nia Griffith, Labour MP for Llanelli, & Lee Waters, Labour Welsh Assembly member for Llanelli, say in a joint statement:
"We are both extremely concerned about reports of the police Taser shooting incident in Llanelli, and would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the man who died."
According to government statistics, police in England and Wales used Tasers more than 10,000 times in 2014 – a 2 percent increase over the previous year. From 2013 to 2014, Taser use rose by 3 percent.
UK police used stun guns on 407 minors, --- despite the United Nations warning.
Housing Associations: Friend Or Foe?
A fascinating article for many [formerly known as] RCT Homes tenants, in the Rhondda --- and throughout Rhondda-Cynon-Taf:
More Tory election fraud allegations: MPs failed to declare online ad costs
Two more Tory MPs face fresh allegations of fraud for failing to declare the cost of running negative campaign ads online, as police forces across the UK, continue to probe the election spending of Conservative candidates.
Energy Secretary Amber Rudd and Amber Valley MP Nigel Mills apparently used local versions of national online advertisements designed by ad firm M&C Saatchi, but failed to declare the ads in their election spending returns, the Daily Mirror reports.
The Tories paid the ad agency, which has worked with the party for 35 years, £395,575 (US$580,000) for advertising costs in the run up to the 2015 election.
A ‘wrecking ball’ video ad created by Saatchi, --- and declared by the party under “national spending” --- was altered slightly and used by both Rudd and Mills on their YouTube channels for local campaigns.
Rudd posted a version of the same ad on her YouTube page, on March 29, 2015, with the slogan changed from “Recovering Economy: Don’t Let Labour Wreck It” to “Unemployment down by 1,921 in Hastings & Rye since 2010.”
The ad does not appear in Rudd’s campaign election spending return.
Mills, already being investigated by Derbyshire Police --- for failing to declare the cost of the 'battlebus’ filled with party activists --- also ran a local version of the ad, on his You Tube page, but didn't report paying for it.
Mills is one of 28 Conservative candidates under investigation for having written off as national spending the cost of transport and hotel rooms, for hundreds of activists bused in to rally more support in highly contested parliamentary constituencies: allegedly breaking legal spending limits.
An Electoral Commission spokesman says:
“Our guidance explains that candidates need to make an honest & responsible assessment, as to whether expenses were for their election, or whether it was for promoting the national party.
“If used in a constituency, and only promoting the national party and national policies, then that should count as national party spend.
If the cost promotes both the local candidate & national policies, then a portion of the cost should be allocated to the candidate’s spending limit, & a portion towards the party’s national spending limit.”
Neither MP responded to the Daily Mirror’s request for a comment.
Exposed & Investigated: UK Tory Election Fraud
Seven police forces in the UK are looking into claims the Conservative party failed to report large sums of money it spent during its election campaign in 2015.
Apparently, according to Channel 4, which investigated alleged election fraud, the UK's ruling party failed to report up to $288,000, spent on MPs and local candidates in 33 elections --- which should have been declared in the party's local spending.
Some of the undeclared expenses included hotel bills, plus the cost of transporting activists in highly contested areas of the UK, to aid the Tory campaign.
Under electoral law, breaching spending limits is a criminal offence.
In a statement, the Conservative party blames the omission of the hotel costs of people bussed in to help campaign --- on an "administrative error."
Following the exposure by Channel 4, investigations have been launched by seven different forces, including the Greater Manchester Police, Devon and Cornwall, Northamptonshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, West Yorkshire and Gloucestershire.
Two police forces, West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, say that they are seeking to extend their one-year time limit into the investigation into these improper electoral expenses.
It's expected that other forces will now follow suit. Come on, Wales' police!
Meanwhile, accusations are emerging that this alleged fraud, carried out by the UK's ruling party, has been ignored by some of the UK's mainstream media.
Fostered UK children often denied mental health treatment
UK Children in care often have no access to mental health services, a report says.
UK lawmakers have found that children in care are often denied access to any mental health services because of their 'unstable' placement.
The House of Commons education committee says in a report that a “significant number” of child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), fail to provide support for young people -- for not meeting diagnostic thresholds, or for moving placements, 'too often'.
The report also says that the current methods of assessing the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people who enter care often do not "identify those in need of specialist care and support.”
Around half children in care, have a diagnosable mental health disorder, while one in 10 kids out of care, has such a health condition.
The report is based on evidence from a group of service users and experts involved in the social care system, that says initial health assessments on children who enter care are "highly variable and often poor."
A 16-year-old girl in foster care told the committee that she had waited for over two and a half years to access services --- as she moved 13 times in that period.
The committee was told that CAMHS are often not willing to begin treatment for children who move placement.
This, as official guidance says that “looked- after children should never be refused a service, including for mental health, on the grounds of their placement."
Neil Carmichael, education committee chair, says local authorities are responsible for the welfare of children in care, noting, “in spite of this duty, it is clear that many looked- after children in England are not getting the mental health support they need.”
"We recommend children in care be given priority access to mental health assessments & never refused care based on their placement or severity of their condition,” Carmichael adds.
A government spokesperson further stresses that children in care often have traumatic experiences --- and need to receive the necessary support.
"That's why we're putting a record £1.4bn into children and young people's mental health, and investing in better links between these services & schools,” he adds.
UK women given tents and sleeping bags instead of homes when released from prison
Women released from UK prisons, are being issued with tents and sleeping bags because of "accommodation shortages" reports state.
A report carried out last November shows 103 prisoners were discharged from HMP Bronzefield, Surrey in 2015 with nowhere to live.
The figures appear to echo further analysis that female prisoners are in an increasingly precarious position when they are released.
The number of women leaving jail with a secure place to go, fell to around 88% in 2015, down from 95% the previous year.
The report found that Bronzefield performed well overall, but said “the prison had issued tents to 2 women who were released with- out anywhere to go to - and the chaplaincy often gave out sleeping bags.”
Prison director Charlotte Pattison-Rideout said the private jail works with local authorities to house those released --- but that the shortfall “affects the whole of the prison estate.”
In a statement on the revelations, Labour’s Shadow Prisons Minister Jo Stevens lauded the progress which had been made, but said it's “absolutely staggering that women seem to have been released from prison ------ with nothing more than a tent or a sleeping bag.
“This is astonishing and a far cry from the safe and secure accommodation needed, to assist them in the rehabilitation process,” she added.
A 2013 report by the Howard League for Penal Reform, warned that homelessness is a key driver in re-offending among former prisoners.
It also found the uneven spread of housing meant that “to be accommodated, women were removed from their original home communities.”
Former foreign secretary urged Britain's departure from EU to "protect our NHS"
Brexit will protect the NHS from interference by the "dysfunctional European Union", the former Labour foreign secretary said.
Lord Owen said that successive governments have accepted an EU market in health, which has now become entrenched in the NHS.
The peer, who campaigned as health minister to remain in the European Economic Community in the '75 referendum, launched Vote Leave's 'Save our NHS' campaign.
"The EU/Eurozone from 1992, in marked contrast to the old European Community of 1975, creeps into every nook and cranny of our life.
Before the vote, he pointed out: "It is now becoming entrenched in the NHS, and this June we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity --- to get it out."
"Now is the time to take back control from the EU and protect our NHS for future generations.
"We are agreed in Vote Leave that whatever our political views on the present marketisation of the NHS, decisions on the NHS should, for the future, be for the UK Parliament and devolved administrations to take.
"It should not be a decision for the European Commission, or the European Parliament."
He argued that leaving will mean that our NHS would be free from any competition-, or-market-led involvement brought in by the European Commissioners.
"Thereafter, UK legislation will govern the NHS in future and, as a consequence, we can take back control & protect the NHS from the EU."
English Junior doctors struck over contract row
Junior doctors across England began a 48-hour strike in a long-running dispute with the UK government, over working conditions.
The walkout, was the 4th industrial action by junior doctors to date against proposed amendments to their contract --- which will see a "change" in pay and working hours.
5,000 procedures & operations in the state-run National Health Service (NHS) in England, were "postponed" due to the work stoppage.
The UK’s Department of Health says that approximately 25,000 operations, have now been cancelled, since January.
"Doctors have a very real concern ---- that the imposed terms will stretch existing resources too thinly - and threaten the quality of patient care," says Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patient Association advocacy group.
UK's top cop tells banks not to refund cyber-crime victims, even as online defenses declared useless
Banks shouldn't compensate customers who are victims of cyber-crime because it “rewards” them for sloppy internet security, the UK’s highest- ranking police officer says.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan- Howe, says banks should refuse to reimburse people who fail to update anti-virus software and tighten their passwords.
His remarks come days after internet security firm Webroot warns that traditional computer defenses are “useless” in the face of modern cyber-attacks.
Hogan-Howe compares refunding bank customers who are victims of cyber-crime to rewarding “bad behaviour.”
“If you're continually rewarded for bad behaviour, you will probably continue to do it ---- but, if the obverse is true, you might consider changing behaviour," he tells the Times.
“The system is not incentivizing you to protect yourself,” Hogan-Howe says.
"If someone said to you: 'If you've not updated your software, I will give you half back', you would do it."
Hogan-Howe’s comments are criticized as “misjudged” by Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumer group, Which?.
"The priority should be for banks to better protect their customers, rather than trying to shift blame on to the victims of fraud,” he says.
Cyber-crime is the fastest growing economic crime in the UK, says a report published last month by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) which measured a 20% rise, since 2014.
Internet security firm Webroot describes 2015 as a “record year for cyber-crime”, in a recent report, which labels traditional computer defenses as “useless.”
More malware, malicious IPs, websites and mobile phone apps were discovered in 2015 than in any previous year, Webroot Chief Technology Officer, Hal Lonas, says.
“The continued onslaught of hacks, breaches, and social engineering scams, targeting individuals, businesses, and government agencies alike, has caused many in the security field to ask if it’s truly possible to defend against a persistent attacker,” he adds.
“We conclude that we can only succeed by being more innovative than our criminal opponents.”
Lonas says the vast majority of malware and potentially unwanted applications (PUAs), have become polymorphic, with 97% of malware morphing, to become unique to an endpoint device.
“By changing attributes to evade detection, polymorphic threats pose a major problem for traditional, signature-based security approaches, which often fail to discover singular variants,” he says.
Lonas believes organizations & corporations need to invest in next-generation security, to protect themselves and 'their' customers.
UN tells UK toban police Taser use on children – report
The United Nations will tell the UK to ban police Taser use on minors, after figures reveal a 38% increase in the use of stun guns on under-18s over the last year.
The UN will confront the UK in Switzerland later this year, over violations of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, which the UK signed in 1990, the Independent on Sunday reports.
In 2008, the last time the UK was admonished for allowing Taser use on children,the UN called on ministers to “put an end to the use of all harmful devices on children.”
However, since that first hearing, police use of Tasers has been steadily on the rise.
Tasers, which were first introduced in England & Wales in 2003, as part of a 12-month trial for firearms officers, send 50,000 volts through a "target", overwhelming the nervous system.
Police use of the powerful stun guns jumped from 6, 238 incidents in 2010 to 9,196 in 2014.
Carla Garnelas, co-director of the Children's Rights Alliance for England, calls for an out- right ban on the use of Tasers on children.
“The use of Taser on children, is a breach of their human rights,” she tells the Independent on Sunday.
“UN bodies have repeatedly called for the UK government to ban their use on children, highlighting the serious risk of physical and psychological harm they pose, yet the use of Tasers on children continues. We want to see a ban on Taser use on children.”
A Home Office source tells the Independent:
“Tasers provide police with an important tactical option when facing potentially physically violent situations, and this government is committed to giving officers the necessary tools to do their job.
“All officers trained in the use of Taser must consider the vulnerability of the individual, and factors such as age and stature, form part of this assessment.”
UK Press seen as most right-wing in Europe
Media bias against Corbyn
UK campaign Media Reform Coalition (MRC) says media ownership, relates closely to media bias.
MRC warns of the media outlets’ monopolization of debate in the UK, & a risk of undue influence on politicians.
It says that Jeremy Corbyn has been exposed to a high degree of right-wing media bias, since being voted in as leader of the Labour Party. Right-wing bias was apparent in most coverage of his first week in power, states the campaign group.
A report conducted by MRC, a revised version of which was published in early January, finds that large sections of the UK press appeared to deliberately undermine the newly elected leader, straight after his landslide victory.
The study examined 8 national daily papers and their Sunday sister papers, spanning 494 news, comment and editorial pieces.
It found that 60% of the stories were framed in a negative manner, while 13% were seen as positive and 27% were seen as neutral.
In the Murdoch-controlled Sun and the Sun on Sunday, 32 out of 36 news stories were hostile to Corbyn, while 50 out of 52 in the Daily Mail & the Mail on Sunday, also gave negative coverage.
Given that these right-wing tabloids have the largest & second largest share of circulation in the UK, their agenda-setting influence is noteworthy, says the MRC.
The group’s report also finds that 100% of the editorials in the Sun, Mail & Express, framed Corbyn’s first week as Labour leader, in a negative light.
'Risk of undue political influence'
The study’s release follows remarks by the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, urging Labour to commit itself to reforming the UK media landscape --- and to examining how to break up the existing concentrations of media ownership.
MRC Chair Dr Justin Schlosberg welcomed McDonnel’s comments at the time.
“In a democracy, newspapers have every right to take a partisan line, but what concerns us are the skewed ownership structures under- lying this kind of political intervention.”
“The risk of undue influence on elected politicians is high, and it is hard to see how democracy can flourish when the mass channels of debate are monopolized in this way.”
“Let’s not forget that Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of this country’s main opposition party by 250,000 people, which is 100,000 more than the number of people who elected David Cameron as leader of the Conservatives. It is surely a problem for all of us, when the newspaper owners are actively seeking to undermine a democratic mandate of that scale.”
Tory MP Geoffrey Cox says Sorry --- 'Forgot' £400,000 Of Income
The millionaire Tory MP was told to apologise for failing to declare £400,000 of income – by blaming it on his being too busy setting up his law firm in Dubai and Mauritius.
Geoffrey Cox, a practising barrister and the highest earning MP in Parliament, stunned colleagues, by suggesting that he had not noticed the money going into his account ----- as his clerk was ill.
Standards watchdog Kathryn Hudson published a scathing report on Mr Cox’s failure to register his full earnings, stating that he had committed "a serious breach" of Parliament's Code of Conduct.
But the Commons Standards Committee – that Mr Cox used to sit on and was forced to resign from – decided only to ask him to apologise.
No further sanction is to be applied.
LONDON - THE WORLD CAPITAL OF FRAUD
City fraudsters stole from Nepalese soldiers through £50m Ponzi scheme
White-collar criminals operating in the City of London used a Ponzi scheme to pilfer £2.4 million from 450 Nepalese citizens --- including many retired Gurkha soldiers who invested their life savings in the scam.
The fraudulent funds, which were managed by City firm CWM FX, attracted £50 million (US$73 million) from unsuspecting investors promised a monthly 5% return. The foreign exchange trade platform the financial firm used, was licensed by the financial regulator of Cyprus, allowing it to operate in the UK under EU regulations.
CWM acted as the online forex trading partner of Chelsea Football Club while the scam was active, giving the firm a veneer of respectability. It also offered a range of foreign exchange services and employed a small group of traders.
Police probe investigators say computer records suggest the firm made the majority of its income from the scam. Police report they have enough evidence uncovered, to present to prosecutors.
City of London police are calling for the Nepalese victims who invested in the scam to come forward.
Detective Chief Inspector Dave Manley says it's vital that the voices of the victims targeted by the scam, are heard.
“My concern now is that the voices of the majority of victims will not be heard in the judicial process -- if they do not come forward very soon,”he tells the Financial Times.
“They are also missing out on receiving the financial advice and psychological support that is available to them, at what will be a very difficult time.”
JEREMY LOOKING FORWARD...
“We’ve beaten the government back on tax credits, which has helped 3 million people not have £1,200 taken off them in April. “We’ve beaten them back on police cuts & we’ve beaten them back on Saudi Arabia” (The government was forced to shelve a contract to provide prison services to the Saudi regime, after Corbyn raised it in his conference speech).
“We also had a very good result in the Oldham by-election. The activity level of local parties is huge --- and it’s completely contrary to everything the media are saying.” There was no period in the last parliament where Labour had the government so consistently on the back foot. “We’ve increased membership to nearly 400,000 -- we have the biggest, most active membership ever in my lifetime.”
He’s proud as “our campaign for the leadership did bring a lot of people into politics who have never been involved before,” and says he was knocking on doors with new members, that morning.
On reports of Tory politicians bullying staff: “The Tories should learn from the CWU, [postal workers’ union] who have a hot- line for reporting bullying & harassment.”
Jeremy has worked closely with the CWU, championing its People’s Post campaign, “which is about protecting the universal service obligation on the Royal Mail and stopping them from introducing a two- tier workforce.”
He’s announced his commitment to take Royal Mail back into public ownership.
“I want to see public control because postal services are fundamental to our communities.
“Postal delivery workers are actually part of the community, and they do a lot of good work beyond delivering letters. “Workers are very nervous of what’s coming with further privatisation of the Royal Mail --- after shares were sold well below their value. It’s an absolute rip-off.”
But wouldn’t renationalising Royal Mail fall foul of EU competition law?
“I’m quite prepared to challenge EU competition law & EU directives on public ownership and state funding. “Other governments in Europe challenge it. It’s kind of weird that the British government doesn’t. “Germany, & particularly Italy, have intervened to take parts of their steel industry into public ownership --- and we should be prepared to intervene where necessary. “We’ve already lost a lot of steel capacity in Britain. If we’re going to have a manufacturing base, we’ve got to have a steel industry.” The Tories' treatment of the coal industry - he spoke the day after the “tragic” closure of Kellingley colliery - suggests it doesn't share his concern for the UK economy.
What about countries like Greece, where the EU has actively prevented a left-wing government from fulfilling any of its electoral pledges?
“I wouldn't join the eurozone or the European Central Bank. I voted against Maastricht [in 1992] because it was a Europe based on free-market economics rather than on social security and workers’ rights.”
“Yes, the Central Bank has treated [Greece] disgracefully. I had a very useful meeting with the prime minister of Portugal on Thursday, and he has invited me and John McDonnell to go there & hold meetings in support of their programme of anti-austerity. “We’re building an anti-austerity coalition across Europe.”
NO FOOL LIKE A CORBYN CRITIC
Rochdale's MP, Danczuk, has been a prominent campaigner against child sexual exploitation, and played a role in exposing the late Sir Cyril Smith, as a pedophile.
The MP is also a vocal critic of Labour's leader Jeremy Corbyn. He recently told Sky News he would “probably give Jeremy a 'D', if I had to score him.”
He also served as a Labour Party whip, but is now suspended, after allegedly having a text conversation with a 17 year old, Ms Houlihan, during which, he said he was “horny”... and then asked her if she wanted “spanking.”
Houlihan told the Sun she feels duped by the MP.
“When I first got in touch, I never expected the messages to get so graphic. At the time I played along with it, but now I feel like he duped me. I was keen for a career in politics - and he is a very high-profile MP - and I was in awe of him,” she says.
Majority of tased people by UK police - mentally ill
A new report indicates that over two-thirds of the people tasered by UK police, from 2010 to 2014, were mentally ill.
Police stun gun use increased over the period, from 6,238 incidents in 2010 to 9,196 last year, and there has been a corresponding rise in the number of cases involving mentally ill people, from 2,737 in 2010 to 4,200 in 2014, the news- paper The Independent reports, citing Home Office figures.
The latest statistics were released in response to a Freedom of Information request made by the website The Justice Gap.
It reveals that in 67% of cases where tasers were discharged, they were fired at people identified by officers, as mentally ill.
In cases where weapons were drawn, aimed, but not fired, are included, mentally ill people were the target in only 45% of 'incidents'.
US guards with guns ---- at UK airports
The UK plans to allow armed US guards to 'help provide security' at its airports, the UK's media report.
The Daily Mail 'paper reports that “US border guards” will have the power to search holidaymakers.
It adds that the plan is still being discussed by Washington and London, adding that the US Department of Homeland Security aims to introduce this, at airports world-wide... including in Heathrow and Manchester.
The measure is meant to reduce the risk of IS terrorists flying to the US, the Daily Mail adds.
Guards from Customs & Border Protection would carry out immigration and customs checks, before passengers board.
They would be given diplomatic immunity - so they could not be prosecuted for any crime committed in the UK,the Mail adds.
Other reports on Sunday say that the UK's armed police could also get greater legal protection if shooting suspected criminals.
This comes, because David Cameron ordered a review of current laws after mass shootings in Paris last month, the Sunday Times reports.
Unlike most forces around the world, the UK's police are not routinely armed, and currently just over 2,000 of London's 31,000 officers, are able to carry guns, says the AFP.
The Sunday Times cites a senior government source, stating that Cameron is prepared to change the law, to give the armed officers greater protection against prosecution.
"Terrorist incidents both at home and abroad have shown very clearly the life-and-death decisions police officers have to make in split-second circumstances," the source says, according to the newspaper.
Jeremy Corbyn 'publicly-run Royal Mail' vow on National Postal Workers Day
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he wanted a publicly-run Royal Mail --- when he met staff on one of the busiest postal days of the year.
Talking to Communication Workers Union members in London, he pledged to support its campaign, to preserve the UK's universal service of deliveries, to its twenty-nine million homes and businesses.
The union fears there will be an attack on Royal Mail workers' terms and conditions --- under a review next year, by the industry's regulator.
Mr Corbyn told workers gathered in a carpark at the huge Mount Pleasant site -- that he will organise 2016's Opposition Day debate in the Commons, to support the CWU's campaign.
"I want to see a publicly-run Royal Mail --- with protection for workers & the service," he said and, "Labour will be doing our very best to support & protect your conditions."
Mr Corbyn called on Conservative MPs to support the campaign, warning:services to rural areas will be among those under threat by any changes such as increased competition, with other companies taking over the so-called "final mile" deliveries to houses.
General secretary Dave Ward:
"The CWU is campaigning hard to protect the terms and conditions of our members, at the same time as preserving the service that we provide to the public & businesses.
"Royal Mail may have been sold off on the cheap, but the service is and always will be, the people's post."
UK police investigating MPs expenses claims
The UK police say the expenses claims of 2 UK lawmakers are being investigated over possible criminal offences.
The case has reminded the public of the memory of the 2009 scandal, which damaged UK citizens’ trust in elected politicians.
London's Metropolitan Police say they are investigating 2 complaints referred to them in March by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA). This body has been set up, to oversee the expenses and business costs of Members of Parliament.
"I have felt it necessary, for the first time during my term of office, to refer requests for investigation received from IPSA to the police," says the IPSA's Peter Davis, in an annual report.
The names of the politicians have not yet been disclosed.
Police say a third IPSA referral resulted in a lawmaker's employee receiving a caution, in April, for fraud by false representation.
METRO “FUTURE OF PUBLIC TRANSPORT” IN SOUTH WALES
The proposed Metro transport scheme for South East Wales, represents "the future of public transport" in the region, according to first minister Carwyn Jones.
The project aims to increase the speed & frequency of public transport across South Wales, through a combination of heavy rail, light rail and bus rapid transit, plus other infrastructure improvements, and integrated ticketing.
The rail part of the Metro, part of the All-Wales rail franchise, would be run and managed by a not-for-dividend company being set up by the Welsh Government to operate a rail franchise on its behalf, after 2018.
First minister Carwyn Jones has launched a campaign to raise public awareness of the Metro project, ahead of consultations early next year, and he states:
"The Metro project represents the future of public transport in South East Wales, which will provide faster journey times and more frequent services, covering a greater area. It is an ambitious project linking people and jobs across South Wales in a fast, efficient and environmentally positive way.
"The Metro is far more than just a transport project. It will be a catalyst for transforming the economic and social prospects of South East Wales and the country as a whole."
Tories Back Off on Tax Credit cut
Controversial cuts to tax credits won't go ahead, Chancellor George Osborne announced, in his Autumn Statement. He said the benefit system is “being phased out anyway” to make room for a Tory Universal Credit payment.
Conservative MPs welcomed the decision. Many in Osborne’s own party rebelled and voted against the cuts.
Labour MPs are crediting staunch opposition by their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, for the U-turn, with many claiming the move as a victory for Labour.
Green MP Caroline Lucas tweets:“Scrapping changes to tax credits v welcome - now must overturn rest of cruel welfare policies, & get a real living wage.”
UK Government Splashes Out --- $18 Bln on 138 F-35 Fighter Jets
As pensioners face more hard times ahead -- under the UK's New Austerity Plan to cut public spending -- the UK government is set to unveil plans to buy 138 stealth fighter jets, for £12bln [$18 bln].
The UK government is planning to spend £12bln [$18 bln] on 138 F-35 fighter jets --- as part of a 'new defense' strategy.
Chancellor George Osborne tells the state run BBC that, as a result of the government's new Strategic Defense & Security Review, by 2023 the UK will have 24 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, and two new aircraft carriers.
In the summer, the chancellor pledged to push UK defense spending above inflation --- to meet the NATO target of 2% of GDP each year on defense, up to 2020.
"By 2023, we will be able to have these jets -- some of the most powerful in the world -- the F35, on the decks of these carriers, & Britain, second only to the United States, will be able to project power abroad in order to defend ourselves at home," says Osborne.
The UK press reported on Sunday that - over a longer period of time - the UK's Royal Air Force will order 138 of the F-35 fighter jets.
The UK is also expected to purchase new reconnaissance planes, reversing an earlier decision in 2010 to scrap the latest generation of Nimrod maritime surveillance aircraft.
The announcement of "extra investment" in surveillance planes, comes as the UK's armed forces are being aided by French, Canadian and US patrol aircraft, in their fruitless search for a Russian submarine 'reportedly' in its waters, 10 days ago.
NOTE WELL ----- Google F-35 -- and see what a turkey it is.
1,500 of UK's care homes to close by 2020:- back to 1970's geriatric wards for UK elderly?
A new report says about 1,500 of UK care homes will close by 2020 because of the financial crisis.
The report released by the think tank ResPublica says the National Health Service (NHS) will be left with an annual bill of $4.55 billion after 37,000 care home beds disappear over the next five years.
The report also finds that elderly patients are likely to be left with no choice but to stay in hospitals, where they would take up one in four beds.
Media reports say the UK is already facing a hospital bed shortage.
According to a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD), it is the second worst in Europe.
The report adds that the number of people aged over 85 in the UK, is set to rise by nearly 2 million in the next 20 years.
Meanwhile, the care sector will have a shortfall in funding of £1.1 billion by the 2020/21 financial year, with £382 million linked costs associated with introducing the national 'living wage'.
Anti-austerity bloc brings down Portugal's government
Portugal’s pro-austerity government is forced to resign by a leftist anti-austerity block, despite being sworn in only two weeks before.
Proposals to continue austerity policies were blocked in parliament -- backed by mass public anger -- forcing the government to dissolve.
Moderate Socialists worked with the Communist Party & radical Left Bloc - to form a majority that has voted down any fresh austerity proposals.
After the October 4th general election, the anti- austerity leftist majority was openly prevented from forming a government, by the president, who cited ‘the national interest’.
Portugal took a €78 billion 'bailout' in 2011 and since then, has spiraled into an austerity dead- end, fueling mass social unrest and emigration.
Sweeping cuts and increased taxes led to huge street protests and strikes. Unemployment hit 17.7%, in 2013.
Anti-austerity supporters are celebrating the fall of the right-wing administration.
The attempt to sideline anti-austerity politics is sending shock waves through Europe, but is being largely ignored in Brussels --- where protecting shaky austerity plans from any democratic upheaval, seems paramount.
While the socialist party has argued it will respect the policies of the Eurozone... the PS will now be working with two parties that want to repeal pro-market reforms.
In fact, Portugal's communist party has openly campaigned to leave the Euro.
If Labour Party MPs ALL vote against austerity cuts -- with the socialists in the Scottish Nationalist Party and in Plaid Cymru -- the UK's government too, will fall.
POST OFFICE BANK APPROVED
As the US, UK, Netherlands & others in the West, 'privatise' their citizens' Post Ofices...
Russia’s government approves the creation of a huge new bank, based on the country’s postal service:- a move that will eventually form an institution with more retail outlets than all other Russian banks combined.
The new entity, called Post Bank, is a joint venture between Russian Post, and one of Russia’s largest lenders, the state-owned VTB Bank.
Post Bank is being established, in part, to provide banking services across Russia’s far-flung, near-empty regions, and to help Russia's pensioners.
VTB will fuse one of its subsidiaries, Leto Bank, into the new institution. The partners say that the new institution will begin giving out loans as early as January 2016, with a pilot project to be launched in Moscow this Autumn.
Over the next 3 years, the bank will open outlets in no less than 15,000 Russian Post offices. After the initial rollout the bank should start operating in all 42,000 offices of the national operator.
Once it is completed, Post Bank will have more retail locations than all the other Russian banks combined, says Russian banking portal Banki.ru.
UN probes UK's disabled rights violations
The UN is to send a delegation to the UK as part of an inquiry into the “grave and systematic violations” of the rights of disabled people --- allegedly taking place under London’s austerity measures.
A visit of the UN Committee Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) is taking place at the request of the campaign group, 'Disabled People Against Cuts' using a legal mechanism known as the Optional Protocol. The request was made at the start of 2012. Britain is the first country to face a high-level inquiry by the UN committee.
“This is the first time any country has been investigated by the UN using the Optional Protocol so it will be, if nothing else, a very historic event,” Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts says, adding that the process is “long and arduous,” with strict rules for proof of any claims.
News of the investigation was leaked back in September. UN inquiries are usually "confidential", but UNCRPD confirmed it would be visiting the UK, after the revelation.
“The inquiry follows a string of scandals involving disabled people in the UK, including a rise in hate crimes, which have been overlooked by police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS),” former director of prosecutions, Lord Kenneth MacDonald, says.
Disabled people have been affected by cuts, nine times more than most other citizens, according to a report by the Centre for Welfare Reform, in 2013.
A “massive shot in the arm” for people resisting austerity...
Jeremy Corbyn has the biggest mandate in UK political history. Mr Blair won with 57% of the vote when he was elected leader in '94, but Mr Corbyn beat that, with 59.5%.
And now, for a second time, with 62%!
The left candidate won a majority of more than 170,000 over second-placed Andy Burnham, who polled 19%.
Yvette Cooper, viewed as the right’s best hope of beating Mr Corbyn, was third with 17%, & Blairite Liz Kendall won just 4.5%.
Moments after being named Labour leader, Mr Corbyn said: “The fightback of our party... now gathers pace.”
“We go forward now as a movement and a party, bigger than we’ve ever been, stronger than we’ve ever been, and more determined than we’ve ever been.”
“Our party is going to become more inclusive, more democratic, and we’re going to shape the future of everyone in this country.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey:
“Voters can now look at Labour and see, unquestionably, that it stands for fairness, justice, peace, and strong communities.”
“It is the party of hope, ready to take on a government hell-bent on making life worse for ordinary people.”
Transport union RMT - unaffiliated to Labour - said the result's a “massive shot in the arm” for people resisting austerity and attacks on trade unions.
The Islington North MP won huge majorities among affiliated and registered supporters, but was also most popular among full party members. Of 245,520 party members voting, 121,751 of them voted for Mr Corbyn.
John McDonnell MP, chair of the Corbyn campaign, says it's “the greatest victory for the left that we’ve seen in decades,” then adds: “I just wish, I just wish Tony Benn had been here to see it.”
“Because all through those dark years when the left were isolated and there was no discussion of socialism, and people were giving up on the Labour Party, it was people like Tony Benn & Jeremy who kept the flame alive.”
A Tory insisted Mr Corbyn’s victory's a “serious risk to our nation’s security, our economy’s security, and your family’s security.”
(think he meant to say "my family's security.")
AND WHERE IS WALES' BLOSSOMING...?
Imagine the Rhondda using wind and sun energy to create new rate and rent free business units, that encourage new enterprising companies, which pay well and market under a "brand" with a superb reputation for quality.
Everything to help hitting the ground running, with hot-desking, science, and agriculture, to to employ our youth.
Image: Russian scientists and Scottish ones
Russian/Scottish scientists hail long-range secure quantum communication system.
A group of scientists from ITMO University in Saint Petersburg, Russia, has developed a new approach to constructing quantum communication systems for secure data exchange.
The experimental device based on the results of the research is capable of transmitting single-photon quantum signals across distances of 250 klmtrs or more, which is on par with its cutting edge analogues, the ITMO press-service says.
"Now researchers are on a mission -- to create a fully-fledged quantum cryptographic system, that will generate & distribute quantum keys and transmit useful data simultaneously", ITMO says.
Information security is becoming more and more of a critical issue not only for large companies, banks and defense enterprises but even for small businesses and individual users.
But the data encryption algorithms we currently use for protecting our data are imperfect - in the long-term, their logic can be cracked. Regardless of how complex and intricate the algorithm is, getting around it, is just a matter of time.
Unlike algorithm-based encryption, systems that protect information by making use of fundamental laws of quantum physics, can make data transmission totally immune to hacker attacks, in the future.
Information in a quantum channel is carried by single photons that change irreversibly if an eavesdropper tries to intercept them. The legitimate users will instantly know about any kind of intervention.
Researchers at the Quantum Information Centre of the International Institute of Photonics and Optical Information Technology at ITMO Uni., Russia, along with their colleagues from the Heriot-Watt University, in Edinburgh, have devised a new way to generate and distribute, quantum bits.
This makes it possible to share quantum signals --- via optical fibres --- 250 kilometers in distance.
"To transmit quantum signals, we use the so- called side frequencies," says Artur Gleim, head of the Quantum Information Centre at ITMO University,
"This unique approach gives us a number of advantages, such as a considerable simplification of the device architecture and the large pass-through capacity of the quantum channel. In terms of bit rate and operating distance our system is comparable to absolute champions in the field of quantum communications."
According to Robert Collins, research associate at the Institute of Photonics & Quantum Sciences at Heriot-Watt University and one of the authors of the study, this may become a pivotal point for the whole field of quantum communication and cryptography:
"Down the track, this new approach can enable smooth coexistence of numerous data streams with different wavelengths in one single optical cable. On top of it, these quantum streams can be fed into the already existing fibre optic lines --- along with conventional communications."
The research paper is published in the Optics Express journal.
Scottish universities are to be congratulated for their strong & growing links with Chinese and Russian universities....
What a shame, that Wales is lying low --- with academics too scared to break from US military research.
China to send 30 missions into space in 2017 - a record! January 04, 2017
China plans to conduct some 30 space launch missions in 2017, a record-breaking number in the country's space history, said China Aero- space Science and Technology Corporation.
Long March-5and Long March-7 rockets will be used to carry out most of the space missions this year, the China News Service reported.
Long March-5 is China's largest carrier rocket. The successful test launch of the vehicle in November in S. China's Hainan Province, will pave the way for space station construction, analysts said.
Wang Yu, general director of the Long March-5 program, said 2017 is a critical year for China's new generation of carrier rockets - and Long March-5 rockets will carry Chang'e-5 probe to space. The probe will land on the moon, collect samples and return to Earth.
On the other hand, Long March-7, the more powerful version of Long March-2, will send China's 1st cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 into space, in the first half of 2017, according to Wang Zhaoyao, director of China Manned Space Engineering Office.
Tianzhou-1 is expected to dock with Tiangong-2 space lab & conduct experiments on propellant supplements.
China conducted 22 launch missions in 2016 and 19 in 2015. The country successfully tested its Long March-7 rocket in June last year & has gradually shifted to new generation rockets that reduce the use of toxic rocket fuels.
Last Month, China released a white paper on space activities, announcing plans to soft land Chang'e-5 on the moon, by the end of 2017, and launch its first Mars probe, by 2020.
After Chang'e-5, China will launch Chang'e-4 lunar probe about 2018 to achieve mankind's first soft landing on the far side of the moon, and conduct in situ and roving detection and relay communications at Earth-moon L2 point.
The white paper also says that in the next five years, China will provide space and aviation- related services to countries involved in the One Belt and One Road initiative, such as satellite communications, navigation and weather forecasting analysis.
Image: events in Rhondda
ROGER WATERS TO MUSICIANS:- "BOYCOTT ISRAEL"
Roger Waters formerly of Pink Floyd, in an open letter, calls on his fellow musicians to boycott the Zionist Israeli regime and follow the example of the cultural boycott against the ex South African Apartheid regime.
“Given the inability or unwillingness of our governments [to act] …. I write to you now, my brothers and sisters … to ask you to join with me, and thousands of other artists around the world, to declare a cultural boycott on Israel,” Roger Waters says in his letter.
Waters says the Zionist regime has been found guilty of major breaches of human rights and the international law by international organizations, UN officials and the International Court of Justice.
He touches on two such cases, saying the regime has been identified as perpetrating the “crime of Apartheid”, including in a statement on March 9th, 2012 by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the “crime of ethnic cleansing” including in East Jerusalem (al-Quds).
Waters adds that he has been a member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against the Israeli regime’s occupation of the Palestinian lands and Tel Aviv’s violations of Palestinian human rights for seven years, and now wants other musicians to also join the anti-Israeli front.
“Please join me and all our brothers and sisters in global civil society in proclaiming our rejection of Apartheid in Israel and occupied Palestine, by pledging not to perform or exhibit in Israel or accept any award or funding from any institution linked to the government of Israel, until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.”
The former Pink Floyd Musician also says he has recently faced a boycott by the US media after his November 29th, 2012 address at the UN on behalf of the Russell Tribunal.
In the address, he sought accountability for the Zionist regime’s violations of the international law and the lack of United Nations resolve that prevents the Palestinian people from achieving their inalienable rights, especially the right of self-determination.
AT THE FACTORY
browse venues in Wales
Cash tickets from:
The Factory, Porth Instrumental Music, Penygraig Spillers Records, Cardiff
Indulge in a delicious cake and a cup of tea while enjoying music and sing-along songs from fantastic Welsh musicians.
The Cultural Services Booking & Information Line:
08000 147 111 or book online at
Mid Rhondda Modelling Club...
7pm - 9pm
Tonyrefail Comprehensive School Mid Rhondda Modelling Club
has been running for over 30 years.
We meet on a regular basis
& enjoy making models for display.
We encourage both Gentlemen
and Ladies to attend, and also young people aged 12+.
However, Young people under 16, must be accompanied by an adult.
£1 contribution every week. Under 16's free
Telephone Mr. Davies on 01443 686658
Comedy In The Laughter Lounge
The Park & Dare Theatre, Treorchy.
COMEDY IN THE LAUGHTER LOUNGE
Join us once a month in the intimate setting of the Laughter Lounge for some top notch comedy with some of the biggest and brightest rising comedians on the circuit.
Laugh? You'll snort like a pig!
Hilarious - TimeOut.
Image: conserving life on earth
MAN by Steve Cutts
The Bee Cause
Did you know that it’s been three years since bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides were restricted across Europe? This is brilliant news and it couldn’t have happened without hundreds of thousands of people like you speaking out.
But sadly it’s only a partial ban, and doesn’t cover some of our most important crops such as wheat. So our bees are still facing the threat of toxic neonicotinoids (neonics) in our fields every day.
The scientific evidence against neonics is piling up. Just three months ago, an independent study spanning 17 years showed that exposure to neonic treated oilseed rape crops can be linked to the decline of wild bee species across the English countryside.
Shockingly, this year we also learnt that neonics can poison the wider countryside. Wildflowers surrounding some crops have also been found to have high levels of neonics in them, meaning there’s no safe place for our bees to go.
It gets even worse - our government has the power to temporarily lift the ban at any time and Brexit could mean the restrictions are scrapped altogether. We must make sure the UK government backs a ban on these toxic pesticides on all crops, permanently.
But there is some good news - bees are getting lots of support from people like you and me. And we’re not alone. Did you know that 81% of the public are in favour of maintaining the current EU ban on bee-harming pesticides?
I’m hopeful that I can write to you again next year to let you know that neonics are a thing of the past.
Together we’ve got the power to reverse bee decline.
Best wishes, Emi and the Bee Cause team
P.S Ask your friends and family to sign the petition too, via the share buttons below.
We send communications to our supporters who have opted in to receive emails.
Friends of the Earth Limited. Reg. No.1012357. Friends of the Earth Trust. Reg. No.1533942. Charity No.281681.Both incorporated in England and Wales. Both registered office: Friends of the Earth The Printworks 139 Clapham Road London, SW9 0HP United Kingdom
The more of us that join the call to end diesel, the harder it will be for decision makers to ignore us. The time for action is now – let's make 2017 a turning point in the fight for clean air.
Thank you, Ollie Hayes, air pollution campaigner
NOTES:  Monitoring stations are dotted around the UK and take readings hourly. Pollution levels are only allowed to breach the set limit 18 times a year. At the time of writing Brixton Road in South London has already broken the limit 24 times, and more will follow soon.  Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City have made commitments towards phasing out diesel vehicles from their roads.  Scale of diesel scandal unknown as garages banned from advertising pollution filter removal: get the full story.
We send communications to our supporters who have opted in to receive emails from us.
Friends of the Earth Limited. Reg. No.1012357. Friends of the Earth Trust. Reg. No.1533942. Charity No.281681.Both incorporated in England and Wales. Both registered office: Friends of the Earth The Printworks 139 Clapham Road London, SW9 0HP United Kingdom
Here's a look at our natural world and the ways people shape it. First stop, your next holiday destination...
Our sources tell us the government is about to announce a 25 year plan for the natural environment – so here's a look at our natural world and the ways people shape it. First stop, your next holiday destination...
FANCY A NO-FLY HOLIDAY?
Holidays often conjure up images of jetting off to far-flung landscapes. But does every adventure have to start at the airport? Read our tips and tell us your own.
We don’t want to see fracking, full stop. But it would be doubly disgraceful if Cuadrilla started drilling at Little Plumpton, Lancashire, before carrying out the full legally-required year of groundwater testing.
That's it from me. I'm leaving for pastures new at the end of next week, so thanks for reading E-News over the past few months. I've had a great time keeping in touch with you.
Best wishes, Li-Anne Nixon, E-News Editor
IN LOVING MEMORY
Next Friday marks the first anniversary of the murder of Berta Cáceres in Honduras. An indigenous, environmental and human rights activist, Berta is one of many women who has inspired Friends of the Earth over the years.
We send communications to our supporters who have opted in to receive emails from us.
Friends of the Earth Limited. Reg. No.1012357. Friends of the Earth Trust. Reg. No.1533942. Charity No.281681.Both incorporated in England and Wales. Both registered office: Friends of the Earth The Printworks 139 Clapham Road London, SW9 0HP United Kingdom
Army veterans form human shieldto protect NoDAPL protesters at Standing Rock 12 Feb, 2017 at 00:08
RT -US veterans are returning to Standing Rock to support and protect Native American protesters as the Dakota Access Pipeline continues to meet resistance despite President Trump’s executive order to continue construction of the $3.7 billion pipeline.
The veterans are gathering in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, with many on their way.
“We're prepared to put our bodies between Native elders and a privatized military force,” Air Force veteran Elizabeth Williams told the Guardian. “We’ve stood in the face of fire before. We feel a responsibility to use the skills we have.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has vowed to fight the president’s order to push ahead with the pipe- line,despite the Army Corps of Engineers saying it would cancel its planned environmental impact study & grant a permit for construction of the final phase of a pipeline beneath Lake Oahe to go ahead.
The protest camps are being prepared for flooding that's expected to come as temperatures increase. The veterans’ presence will present a challenge to law enforcement wishing to remove the water protectors from the area.
Previous clashes between security officials and protesters have been violent, with the US police deploying water cannons, rubber bullets and teargas, at protesters. Private contractors also set dogs on the demonstrators.
The Veterans Stand group is fundraising for the protesters, who continue to resist the pipeline being built by Energy Transfer Partners, and has raised close over $220,000 so far. It said the increase in “turmoil and uncertainty” at Standing Rock has inspired them to act.
More than 1,000 veterans came to Standing Rock in December. When there, they apologized to Native Americans for the US government’s treatment of the country’s indigenous people. Veterans Stand does not expect the same veteran presence as before, but it will provide support to the camps, through its fundraising.
"The biggest misconception is that Veterans Stand wants to do anything aggressive in response,” Veterans Stand founder Michael Wood Jr told CNN. “People want to do something and they just don't know what to do. We just want to give people a platform."
“We’re not coming as fighters, but as protectors,” Jake Pogue, a Marine Corps vet, told the Guardian. “Our role in that situation would be to simply form a barrier between water protectors and the police force and try to take some of that abuse for them.”
“Finally, it’s the US military coming on to Sioux land to help, for the first time in history, instead of coming on to Sioux land to kill natives,”veteran Dan Luker said.
Native Americans revive fight against oil pipeline --- after Trump approves it 25/Jan/2017 Posted by Mike Sivier
The fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline – an oil pipe that threatens the drinking water of a Sioux community in North Dakota, USA – is back on.
Protesters – from around the world – who forced the Obama administration to order an Environmental Impact Assessment on the pipeline may have thought the battle was over.
But new US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order resurrecting the pipeline’s construction – despite the ongoing EIA.
What are you going to do about it?
The Standing Rock Sioux of North Dakota are vowing a fight against President Trump’s Dakota Access Pipeline green light.
“Today, Trump announced an executive order on DAPL–which not only violates the law, but violates tribal treaties. Nothing will deter us from our fight for clean water. We will be taking legal action, and take this fight head on.”
“We urge you to fight and stand tall besides us,” a Facebook post on the tribe’s page says, encouraging supporters to take advantage of the recently announced Environmental Impact assessment and submit comments to the Army Corps of Engineers, and asks them to “call your congressional representatives --- and let them know that the people do not stand behind today’s decision. ”
“Stand together as one and we will not fall,” closes their most recent post.
(Source: Vox Political)
Greenpeace: Gulf of Mexico Coasts are Contaminated (source - Prensa Latina)
The coasts off the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea and the Yucatan Peninsula, are contaminated by plaguicides, because of the agricultural model in Mexico, the environmental organization, Greenpeace, declares in an alert.
Aleira Lara, an expert from the agriculture program of Greenpeace, urges the governors of Campeche, Yucatan and Quintana Roo, to let people know of any plans they have, to take care of the natural areas under their protection.
Lara states that the remains of plaguicides and fertilizers are located at 300 and 500 metres off the coasts of the 3 Mexican states, provoking damaging affects to the sea's biomass, cliff areas and fish.
In the Agreement for Sustainability of the Yucatan Peninsula, Greenpeace demands that ecological, sustainable agriculture, should be included.
Scientists Turn Sewage into Crude Oil
Prensa Latina - US scientists have developed a technique that can turn sewage into biocrude oil.. in a matter of minutes, the Pacific North- west National Laboratory (PNNL) announces.
The technique is called hydrothermal liquefaction, and mimics the geological conditions required to create crude oil. What takes Nature millions of years to do, can now be achieved in a few minutes, PNNL says.
By using hydrothermal liquefaction, human waste can be turned into simpler chemical compounds. The material is pressurized to 1,200 Kg per sq. inch, and then goes into a reactor system, operating at about 350 degrees Celsius.
In a few minutes a material similar to petroleum is created, but with a small amount of water & oxygen mixed in. This biocrude can be refined using normal petroleum refining techniques.
Cuba Only Country in the World to Achieve Sustainable Development
Cuba has been declared, this week, the only country in the world to achieve sustainable development, according to a report which the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) publishes every two years.
The WWF document, presented in Beijing, China, noted that, if things continue as they are now, humanity will need to use natural resources & energy, equivalent to two Earths --- by 2050.
This is a vicious circle, as poor countries produce much lower per capita damage, to nature, but as they develop (and China and India are following this trend) the rate rises to unsustainable levels for the planet.
And, within this panorama, Cuba stands out for its favorable indicators, and although the text clarifies that this does not mean that the tiny Caribbean nation is perfect; it's the only country that complies with those conditions.
The WWF has played a key role in fostering an international environmental movement, combining growth and development -- and Cuba's currently the most evident example.
On several occasions, the UN Development Program (UNDP) has recognized that Cuba is a benchmark for the continent regarding the integration of policies and actions for sustainable development.
UNDP's deputy resident representative in Cuba, Claudio Tomasi, told Prensa Latina that the country's development scheme combines its economic approach, with a social and environmental component through comprehensive programs, that save effort & funds; with higher results.
Historic deal reached on a New Marine Sanctuary in Antarctica!
24 countries and the EU, agree to create the world’s largest marine reserve in the Antarctic Ocean by the frozen continent.
A deal to make Ross Sea, in Antarctica, the world’s first large-scale marine park in international waters, was reached on Friday, Oct. 28th, in Hobart, Australia.
The agreement comes after years of diplomatic wrangling and high-level talks between the US and Russia --- which have rejected the idea in the past.
The new marine reserve is located south of New Zealand, in a vast pristine area, which is cold & largely untouched by humans. The reserve will cover 1.55 million square kilometers.
Some 1.12 million square kilometers of the reserve will be a no-fishing zone. The Ross Sea one of the world's most ecologically important oceans.
Decisions on Antarctica need unanimous support among a 25-member commission, involving the US, Russia, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the EU, a hurdle which had left past efforts unsuccessful.
This week, in a rare show of unity, the 24 countries and the European Union, agreed on the deal !
“To get them all to align - especially in the context of divergent economic interests - is quite a challenge,” said Evan Bloom, a director at the US State Department and leader of the US delegation at the event.
“This decision is very important not just for the Antarctic --- but for efforts to promote world marine conservation,” Bloom said.
In a statement, US Secretary of State John Kerry said it “will safeguard one of the last unspoiled ocean wilderness areas on the planet -- home to unparalleled marine biodiversity & thriving communities of penguins, seals, whales, seabirds, and fish.”
Scientists & activists have described the agreement, as a historic milestone in the global efforts to protect marine diversity. The sanctuary will cover more than 12% of the Southern Ocean.
The Southern Ocean around Antarctica is one of the most diverse, fragile, & poorly studied ocean ecosystems on Earth.
The Antarctic Ross Sea is home to over 10,000 species -- including most of earth’s penguins, whales, seabirds, giant squid, and Antarctic tooth fish -- and is one of the world’s most ecologically-important marine areas, and the healthiest remaining marine ecosystem on the planet.
Globally averaged concentration of CO2 reaches alarming level in 2015: WMO
Globally averaged concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2)in the atmosphere reached the symbolic milestone of 400 parts per million for the first time in 2015 and surged again to new records in 2016 on the back of the powerful El Nino event, according to a report released by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on October 24th.
WMO released its annual "Greenhouse Gas Bulletin" ahead of the United Nations climate change negotiations in Marrakech, Morocco, to be held from November 7 to 18, providing a scientific base for decision-making.
The report said CO2 levels had previously reached the 400 ppm barrier for certain months of the year & in certain locations but never before on a global average basis, for the entire year. Monitoring systems predict that CO2 concentrations will stay above 400 ppm for the whole of 2016 and not dip below that level for many generations.
The growth spurt in CO2 was fueled by the El Nino event, which started in 2015 & had a strong impact well into 2016. This triggered droughts in tropical regions and reduced the capacity of "sinks" like forests, vegetation & the oceans, to absorb CO2.
These sinks currently absorb about half of CO2 emissions but there is a risk that they may become saturated, which would increase the fraction of emitted carbon dioxide staying in the atmosphere, states the report.
"The year 2015 ushered in a new era of optimism and climate action with the Paris climate change agreement. But it also makes history as marking a new era of climate change reality, with record high greenhouse gas concentrations,"said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas."The El Nino event's disappeared. Climate change has not."
The report highlighted there was a 37% increase in radiative forcing; the warming effect on our climate - because of long-lived greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide (N2O) - from industrial, agricultural and domestic activities, between 1990 and 2015.
In 2015, globally averaged CO2 levels were 144% of pre-industrial levels.
In 2015, global annual average CO2 concentrations, reached 400.0 ppm.
People of Earth: We Survived the Hottest September Ever, Again!
Last month was the hottest in recorded history, according to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS).
"September 2016 was the warmest September in 136 years of modern record-keeping," the GISS said on Tuesday. According to meteorological records, 11 of the past 12 consecutive months since October 2015 have hit a new record, with the exception of June 2016, which previously was considered the hottest June on record but turned out to be "the 3rd warmest June behind 2015 and 1998 --- after additional temperature readings from Antarctica."
GISS director Gavin Schmidt explained that monthly rankings are sensitive to updates & though newsworthy, are not as important as long-term trends. "Monthly rankings, which vary by only a few hundredths of a degree, are inherently fragile," he said. "We stress that the long-term trends are the most important, for understanding ongoing changes that are affecting our planet."
September 2016's temperature, was 0.004 degrees Celsius warmer than the previous warmest September of 2014: 0.91 degrees Celsius warmer than mean temperatures for the month from 1951-1980, according to the GISS statement.
Climate scientists have shown how global warming is human-caused, due to greenhouse gases emitted in various ways, including via carbon dioxide, the byproduct of internal combustion engines that burn fossil fuels.
Other emissions contributing to greenhouse effects include gases used in refrigerators, methane, nitrous oxide from fertilizers, and chlorofluorocarbons, which are currently banned in much of the world.
Deforestation is an important factor in climate change as well. Water vapor works as a feed- back mechanism to the greenhouse effect, according to NASA.
While much of humanity attempts to mitigate the effects of climate change by limiting its emission levels, some scientists suggest that it is too late to stop global warming.
James Hansen, a US climatologist & former NASA scientist, claims it's highly likely that the goals of the Paris agreement emissions accords limiting average temperature rises --- will not be achieved.
Experts push for strong measures to save Ozone Layer
They made the call during the opening technical session of the 28th Meeting of Parties to the Montreal Protocol (MOP28), in Rwanda's capital, Kigali.
The Montreal Protocol treaty is a global agreement that protects the ozone layer, by phasing out the production of substances responsible for ozone depletion and climate change.
It was first signed on September 16, 1987, and is widely considered to be one of the most-effective multilateral environment treaties ever negotiated. It's the only treaty in the United Nations system to which every country is a signatory.
The UN Environment Program, says that HFC emissions are growing at about 7% per year. If the current mix of HFCs is unchanged, increasing demand may result in HFC emissions of up to 8.8 gigatons of CO2 equivalent a year, by 2050.
‘By 2050 half the forms of life we know will be gone’ – conservation biologist
Humanity should start saving nature and switch to 80% renewables by 2030, otherwise the Earth will keep losing species, and within 33 years around 800,000 forms of life will be gone, conservation biologist Reese Halter, underlines.
Humans have changed the Earth so much that some scientists think we have entered a new geological age.
According to a report in the Science Magazine, the Earth is now in the anthropocene epoch. Millions of years from now our impact on Earth will be found in rocks - just like we see fossils of plants and animals which lived years ago- except this time, scientists of the future, will find radioactive elements from nuclear bombs, and fossilized plastic.
Reese Halter: "First of all, imagine you’re back on the football field. Each year in America - America alone - we throw away the equivalent of one foot- ball field, 100 miles deep. That is the first thing. The second thing is, we’ve entered the age of climate instability. That means, from burning subsidized climate-altering fossil fuels, our food security is in jeopardy.
"The third thing that is striking, is we’re losing species a thousand times faster than in the last 65 million years. At this rate within 33 years, by mid-century, that means 800,000 forms of life, or half of everything we know, will be gone. The only way we can reverse this, is to do things: save nature now, our life support system, and we do this, by switching to 80% renewables, by 2030.
"It is a WWIII mentality. In America we have the technology; we have the blueprint. We lack the political will just right now. But in the next short while we will, because it is a matter of survival."
"As I said, we’re taking 160% more than mother Earth can sustain, with 7.4 billion people. The way to do it --- is to pull it back to 90%. If we were a big bathtub, the ring would read: toxicity, toxicity, toxicity.
"We’ve got to peel that back -- because what we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves."
Taken from RT interview
ENJOYING THE HEATWAVE?
Global Warning as Rapid Temperature Rise Steers Humanity Toward Catastrophe
Global warming, rising at an unprecedented pace, is threatening the Earth, and humanity’s place upon it with disaster, according to Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Beginning in October 2015, each month has set a new heat record --- and July has been the warmest month since global temperature observation began in 1880.
The speed of rising temperatures is much higher than in the last millennium, according to data obtained by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), demonstrating that warming rates over the past 100 years are about 10 times faster than the century that preceded it.
"In the last 30 years we've really moved into exceptional territory. It's unprecedented in 1,000 years. There's no period that has the trend seen in the 20th century, in terms of the inclination (of temperatures)," Schmidt told the Guardian.
For the next 100 years the prognosis isn't good... According to NASA, the pace of increasing temperatures will be at least 20 times faster than the historical average.
Last year, the international community agreed to a 1.5 degree Celsius limit at a landmark Paris climate accord. As Schmidt pointed out, keeping temperatures within this limit will require rapid & significant cuts in carbon dioxide emissions, a global economic shift that --- given current attitudes & habits, is arguably an impossible goal. But, according to climate scientists, exceeding the temperature limit set at the Paris talks will bring dire outcomes.
Sea level increases as a result of melting polar ice, drought, and other severe weather conditions, will lead to catastrophe for island nations & developing countries. Finding a way to shift the dependence of the developed world away from fossil fuels is of the utmost importance, according to climate experts.
New Study Shows Controversial Pesticide Linked to Massive Bee Die-Off
A new study published this week shows that pesticides called neonicotinoids, or neonics, are probably linked to the decline of wild bee populations.
Published in the Nature Communications journal, the study examines the wild bee population relative to the use of the controversial neonicotinoids in the 18-year span of 1994-2011. Researchers discovered that extinction rates for bees, parallel the use of the pesticide on plants -- and this is found throughout the country.
One of the co-authors, Dr. Nick Isaac:
"The negative effects reported previously, do scale up to long-term, large-scale multi-species impacts that are harmful. Neonicotinoids are harmful -- we can be very confident about that -- and our mean correlation is three times more negative for foragers, than for non-foragers."
The 34 species analyzed in the study, saw a 10% population drop across the board, with 5 of the species seeing a decrease of 20% or more, and the most-impacted group seeing a 30% drop. Researchers say this indicates that half of the population decline could be attributed to the use of neonics.
"Historically, if you just have oilseed rape, many bees tend to benefit from that because it is this enormous foraging resource all over the country -side," said Dr. Ben Woodcock, lead author of the study. "But this correlation study suggests that once it’s treated with neonicotinoids up to 85%, then they are starting to be exposed and it's starting to have these detrimental impacts on them."
"Our results suggest that sub-lethal effects of neonicotinoids could scale up to cause losses of bee biodiversity. Restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids may cut population declines."
Friends of the Earth (FOE) environmental group have launched a petition calling on the Ace and True Value hardware companies to stop carrying the pesticides, as consumers grow ever more conscious of their devastating impact.
FOE said, "If these garden retailers don't act fast, they'll lose customers. A new poll shows that 66 percent of Americans prefer to shop at Lowe's and Home Depot, because they've committed to stop selling bee-killing pesticides."
In a separate study, the group found that toxic chemical use is declining in the US, with 23% of plants in the nation testing positive for the chemicals, a decline from 50% two years ago. FOE credits the drop in numbers, to hardware stores stopping selling products that contain harmful pesticides, including neonicotinoids.
"It's nice to see the use of long-term data to look at trends in pesticide impacts over a longer time scale."said Dara Stanley, plant ecology lecturer at the National University of Ireland Galway...
"That is something that has been missing in the debate on bees and pesticides so far, and there have been many calls to look at the effects over time."
The BIG lie about Jeremy Corbyn is that there is NO economic plan - there is --- it'sGREEN
Below are just 8 0f the 10 pledges:
1) My over-arching commitment will be for Britain to take the lead in developing the clean Energy Economy of the future.
2) As leader I would establish an Energy Commission to draft a fundamental shift in UK energy thinking.
3) The Commission will be tasked to produce a route-map into tomorrow’s ‘smart energy’ systems that will:
• Deliver more, but consume less
• Use clean energy before dirty
• Put energy saving before more consumption
• Use smart technologies to run localised storage, balancing & distribution mechanisms, • Shift the costs of grid access and grid balancing from clean energy across to dirty
• Be open, democratic, sustainable and accountable (in ways that today’s market is not).
4) The Commission to be charged with bringing new partners into energy policy making. These will include:- local authorities, communities, energy co-operatives, & ‘smart’ technology companies, that are already working on tomorrow’s ‘virtual’ power systems and new energy thinking.
5) As leader I will conduct a root & branch review of energy market subsidies; moving away from the notion of everlasting hand-outs; instead, using public support as ‘transition funding’ that transforms Britain’s energy infrastructure.
6) I will expect the energy industry, not the public, to meet the costs of their own clean-up.
7) I will look to re-define the roles of Ofgem, the National Grid and the Competition and Markets Authority, to promote a genuinely open, competitive and sustainable energy market; one in which there are more players and clean energy choices than we have today.
8) I will examine ways to allow communities to be owners of local energy systems, with the right (as in other parts of Europe) to have first use of energy they generate themselves.
EU approves imports of genetically modified Monsanto soybeans
The European Commission has approved the import & processing of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, after debates over glyphosate herbicide’s safety, delayed the introduction of the genetically modified soybean variety, for months.
“Today the Commission authorized three GMOs for food/feed uses (soybean MON 87708 x MON 89788, soybean MON 87705 x MON 89788 & soybean FG 72) --- all of which have gone through a comprehensive authorization procedure, including a favorable scientific assessment by EFSA,” the European Commission statement reads.
Following the Commission’s approval Monsanto’s GMO soybeans are now authorized for use in the feed of animals and in human food --- but not for planting in the EU. The authorization is now valid for 10 years but the EU warns that “any products produced from these GMOs will be subject to the EU’s strict labeling and traceability rules.”
Although Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans are tolerant to glyphosate and dicamba herbicides, the use of dicamba herbicide over the Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans remains in a late stage of the Environmental Protection Agency review and is not currently approved by the EPA.
Dicamba was first approved in 1967 & has been linked to high rates of cancer & birth defects in the families of food growers say the government and other scientific studies. Consumer, health, environmental, and farmer advocates, have all fiercely opposed the new Xtend system, over health and environmental concerns.
Europe is the second largest soybean customer as it relies on soybeans to meet demand for meat and dairy products. The entire bloc produces less than 1 million tons of soya a year, yet imports around 35 million tons, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.
France has banned plastic bags?
While some countries like France have opted for a ban, others like Ireland and the UK have introduced plastic bag charges in an effort to minimize their use.
It is estimated that 100 billion plastic grocery bags are used across Europe per year, with 8 billion ending up as litter.
Depending on the type of plastic, these bags have been estimated to take between 100 & 500 years to decompose in the environment, where they pose a great risk to wildlife.
According to a study published in the peer- reviewed journal, PLUS ONE, in December 2014, there are a minimum of 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the world's oceans.
Because plastic takes so long to decompose, much longer than an animal does, one piece can kill several living creatures.
In Sept 2015 Australian scientists estimated that as many as nine in ten seabirds have plastic in their gut, & that increasing rates of ingestion mean that this figure will reach 99 percent of all species by 2050 --- unless there is more effective waste management.
Health Risk: Scientists warn that people are ingesting plastic by eating ocean fish.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: India to Build Roads of Plastic
The government of Maharashtra state in India has decided to kill two birds with one stone. Plastic waste now will be used with asphalt to improve roads’ durability and reduce soil pollution at the same time.
Plastic bags & pouches, bin linings, household goods, bottles and bottle caps in Maharashtra, get a second chance to serve a good purpose as the state government plans to use plastic waste along with asphalt, to build roads.
Delhi's Central Road Research Institute studies revealed, that plastic waste added to asphalt makes road building cheaper & better quality.
Added in small doses, 5-10% of the weight of the asphalt (3-6 kg of plastic for every 100 kg of tar), it helps to improve stability, strength, fatigue life and other desirable properties of the road material.
"Such roads will have higher resistance to deformation and water induced damage, increase their durability & strength, and ultimately, dispose of plastic waste in a larger amount to save pollution,"say the recommendations of the institute to the Maharashtra government, adding:-"The use of waste plastic thus contributes to the construction of green roads."
As a survey conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board in 2015 says: the plastic waste generated in 60 of India's cities, is estimated at over 15,300 tons a day and over 6,100 tons remain uncollected, as litter.
World's biodiversity drops below "safe" levels: study
Xinhua - Changes in land use have caused global biodiversity to fall below what's considered to be "safe" levels & threatens efforts toward long-term sustainable development, a new study reveals.
The study, published in the US journal Science, studied 2.38 million records of 39,100+ species at 18,600 sites ---- to estimate how biodiversity in every square kilometre of land has changed ---- since humans modified the habitat.
For 58.1% of the world's land surface, where 71.4% of the human population live, the level of biodiversity loss is substantial enough to question the ability of these ecosystems to support human societies, it found.
The loss due to changes in land use puts levels of biodiversity, beyond the recently proposed planetary boundaries: an international frame- work that defines a safe operating space for humanity.
"This is the first time we've quantified the effect of habitat loss on biodiversity, globally, in such detail and we've found that across most of the world, biodiversity loss is no longer within the safe limit suggested by ecologists," the lead researcher, Tim Newbold, from University College, London, says, in a statement.
"We know biodiversity loss affects ecosystem functioning, but how it does this, isn't entirely clear. What we do know, is that in many parts of the world, we are approaching a situation where human intervention might be needed to sustain ecosystem functioning," he says.
The study found that grasslands, savannas and shrublands were most affected by bio- diversity loss, followed closely by many of the world's forests and woodlands.
It suggests the ability of biodiversity in these areas to support key ecosystem functions, such as the growth of living organisms and nutrient cycling, has become increasingly uncertain.
The researchers also found that biodiversity hotspots - those that have seen habitat loss in the past, but have a lot of species only found in that area - are now threatened... & show high levels of biodiversity decline.
Some high biodiversity areas, eg Amazonia - that haven't seen land use change - have higher levels of biodiversity ---- and more scope for proactive conservation.
"The greatest changes have happened in the places where most people live, which might affect physical & psychological well-being.
To address this, we would have to preserve the remaining areas of natural vegetation & restore human-used land," adds Dr Newbold.
Expansion of Transgenic Seeds Stopped in Guatemala
Prensa Latina - Indigenous communities, ancestral authorities and social organizations celebrate today in Guatemala, the suspension by the Constitutional Court (CC) of the agreement giving a green light to the expansion of genetically modified seeds.
This victory, which had much to do with the work of the Winaq deputy, Amilcar Pop, is seen by wide sectors, as an important step in defending the natural resources and autochthonous seeds of the indigenous peoples of this country.
The CC of Guatemala notified, on June 17th, the provisional suspension of Decree 6-2014 Protocol of Nagoya (Japan, 2010), dealing with Access to genetic resources and the equitable distribution of the benefits arising from its use.
This treaty is questioned by civil organizations and the ancestral authorities --- because of the procedure used in its approval, in Guatemala's Congress --- as a matter of national urgency.
Also, the treaty did not gain the two thirds of the vote required by the Political Constitution (1985) and the organic law of the legislative power:- despite which, it was implemented.
The Nagoya Protocol, legitimised after 6 years of negotiations within the context of the 10th Conference of the Parts of the agreement on Biologic Diversity, pretends to promote new biotechnology for food production & genetic modification, as a benefit for natives and creoles.
This ruling -- by Guatemala's CC -- forces the National Council of Protected Areas to now suspend all actions oriented to compliance, on Guatemalan territory.
One Third of 'Dead Zones' in World’s Oceans Around United States - Kerry
Roughly a third of all 'dead zones' in the world’s oceans, are in or around the US, Secretary of State, John Kerry, reveals.
Sputnik -One third of the 400 "dead zones" in the world’s oceans depleted of oxygen, are in or around the US, Kerry informs a classroom discussion in Silver Spring, Maryland.
"We have 166 dead zones in the United States. The largest dead zone of all is about 5,000 square miles down in the Gulf of Mexico, where the Mississippi River comes out," Kerry said on Wed- nesday in remarks published by the US Department of State.
"There are now over 400 dead zones on a global basis and they’ve gone up every single decade, for the last decades. What does that tell you? It tells you that we’re not solving the problem; it’s getting worse, not better," Kerry explained.
Which sea is the most heavily polluted in Europe? The North sea ---- around the UK.
TTIP risks to health & environment, US pressure on EU revealed in secret docs leaked by Greenpeace
The controversial trade deal between the EU and the US could affect public health, human rights, internet privacy & the environment, badly, Greenpeace says, citing leaked negotiation print. The US is pressuring the EU over the deal, the text appears to show.
The 248 pages of classified negotiation papers on The Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) were released by Greenpeace Netherlands on Monday, May 2nd.
“This treaty is threatening to have far-reaching implications for the environment and the lives of over 800 million citizens in the EU and US,” a Greenpeace statement says.
The TTIP is “about a huge transfer of power from people to big business,” according to the group.
Greenpeace says the papers’ authenticity is confirmed by an investigative research team consisting of Rechercheverbund NDR, WDR und Süddeutsche Zeitung, media outlets.
The US is blocking European car exports into the US, to force the EU to buy more environmentally risky US farm produce, Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported, after analyzing the documents.
The deal will result in abandoning long- standing environmental protections, Greenpeace says, adding:
“The US demand for a ‘risk based’ approach aiming to manage hazardous substances - rather than avoid them - finds its way into various chapters. This approach under- mines the ability of regulators to take preventive measures, for example, regarding controversial substances like hormone disrupting chemicals,” the statement reads.
Greenpeace has been worried that the negotiation papers do not mention the General Exceptions rules, that would allow nations to regulate trade --- “to protect human, animal and plant life or health" or for "the conservation of exhaustible natural resources."
“The omission of this regulation, suggests both sides are creating a regime that puts profit ahead of human, animal & plant life and health,” Greenpeace says.
“Whether you care about environmental issues, animal welfare, labour rights, or internet privacy, you should be concerned about what is in these leaked documents. They underline the strong objections civil society and millions of people around the world, have voiced.”
Cecilia Malmstrom, a European Commissioner for Trade, blogs, saying the documents “reflect each side’s negotiating position, nothing else.”
“It is only normal that both parties in a negotiation want to achieve as many of their own objectives as possible. That does not mean that the other side gives in to those demands. That does not mean that the parties will meet halfway,” she adds.
EU chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero also dismisses Greenpeace’s report: “We have made crystal clear that we would not agree on any- thing that implies changes of our regulatory regime on GMOs.”
While the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and Europe is set to create the world's largest free trade zone, many Europeans worry the agreement will elevate corporate interest, above any national interest. TTIP opponents say that cheaper goods and services ----- will only hurt the EU & help the US.
Europeans argue that international corporations will be given power at the expensive of small/medium-sized businesses. Secrecy around the negotiations has also produced fierce criticism.
Just a day before Obama's visit to Germany, thousands of anti-TTIP protesters hit Hanover's streets.
According to a new survey by pollsters YouGov -- on behalf of the Bertelsmann Foundation -- only 17% of Germans say that TTIP is a good thing --- down from 55%, two years ago; & in the US, only 18% of people now support the deal, compared to 53%, in 2014.
Plant-based motor oil introduced in Iran
The fresh brand was reportedly synthesized with the use of environmentally friendly extracts from plants.
The new class of bio-based oil is said to improve engine performance and increase motor age, plus making it run cleaner.
It will, additionally, reduce sedimentation in the motor, which causes gradual engine power loss.
Officials, who attended the unveiling ceremony, hail the company’s latest effort as a step toward to a healthy environment, Iranian reports say.
Studies show bio-based oils cause a reduction of at least 80% in greenhouse gas emissions -- compared to similar petrol-based synthetic oils.
A US report in 2013 said 40%+ of the pollution in US waterways ---- came from used motor oil.
BRICS bank approves first loans, $811mn investment in renewable energy projects
The BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) has approved its first package of loans worth some $811 million. The four projects in Brazil, China, South Africa and India, are all in the renewal energy development sphere.
The decision to approve the first loans, which are to be handed out in tranches, was passed by the NDB, at the board of governors on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank spring meetings in Washington DC, RIA reports.
The NDB decided to provide $300 million to Brazil, $81 million to China, $250 million to India & $180 million to South Africa. The bank estimates that renewable energy field projects with a combined capacity of 2.37MW, can help reduce the amount of harmful emissions by 4 million tons annually.
“There are many more new projects in the pipeline including projects from Russia. They're at various stages of consideration or appraisal,” the NDB spokesperson says.
The ministers also discussed creating a credit rating agency of their own, to tackle western dominance in this sphere.
“Deliberations were held on the efficacy of establishing a New Development Bank Institute and BRICS rating agency,” the Indian media releases said:
“It was decided that a technical working group, will examine the issues in detail.”
The New Development Bank created by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, started its operations in July, 2015, with an initial authorized capital of $100 billion.
The goals of the bank --- with its headquarters in Shanghai, is to fund infrastructure projects in the emerging economies, for sustainable development.
Whey To Go! UK Homes to Be Powered By Cheese
Protein from cheese residue, like the stuff used in energy supplements ---- will be used to power the UK's gas grid and a creamery factory in the north of England. The plant in Cumbria will be the first in Europe to turn cheese waste into bio-methane.
Clearfleau, the firm behind the project, is to use bio-methane gas to power 40% of all homes in the local area; the remaining gas will go back to power the creamery itself.
Lake District Biogas will run the First Milk Aspatria plant for 20 years and will be the first Anaerobic Digestion (AD) dairy plant in Europe to put bio-methane in the gas grid ----- generated by cheese.
The very core of both Obama’s ‘trade’ deal with Europe, TTIP, and his ‘trade’ deal with Asia, TPP, is to sign away legislators’ power to protect the electorate -- from harmful additives, toxic water and foods and air, unsafe cars, and to preserve the environment for themselves and future generations – and more.
At its core, it transfers national sovereignty to a worldwide dictatorship of international corporations (via three-person corporate- accountable panels of ‘arbitrators’, whose rulings are non-appealable and are not required to adhere to any nation’s laws (– it’s shocking, but true).
China proposes $50 trillion global renewable energy network
The company running China’s power grid is proposing a $50 trillion global electricity network --- to tackle pollution and climate change. If it goes ahead, the network would use advanced renewable solar & wind technology, and be operating by 2050.
Beijing’s network will be the world’s biggest infrastructure project, if given the green light. The State Grid has signed a memorandum of understanding, already, with Russia's energy grid Rosseti, Korea’s Electric Power and SoftBank Group of Japan.
According to State Grid’s Chair, Liu Zhenya, the planet is facing "three major challenges", which are:- energy scarcity, environmental pollution and climate change.
Liu adds that smart grids, ultra-high voltage (UHV) grids and clean energy are the only way to a green low carbon, economical, efficient and open energy system, with sustainable supplies.
Liu adds that the global network, could boost the share of clean energy to 80% of world consumption --- displacing fossil fuels as the main energy source.
"China is already the biggest country in the world for wind, solar power generation & also UHV grids. And it has scale, so we can learn many things from China's success. Also, by interconnecting, we can help each other on supply and demand,"SoftBank CEO, Masayoshi Son, tells the Global Times.
"It's a brilliant plan. It might encounter difficulties during construction --- but it is possible," Xue Jiancong, spokesperson for China Merchants New Energy Group, a leading renewable energy company, tells NBC News.
The major barriers for the project “are institutional, not technical,” the former US energy official David Sandalow, tells the Wall Street Journal.“It is an open question, whether national governments will be open to such a revolutionary idea,” he adds.
Saudi Arabia to set up $2 trillion mega-fund for post oil era
The world’s largest crude exporter, Saudi Arabia, plans to create a huge sovereign wealth fund for the country’s most prized assets, to prepare for the post oil era,says the Deputy Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, as cited by Bloomberg.
The Public Investment Fund (PIF) will eventually control over $2 trillion, & help the kingdom shift away from oil, which has seen falling prices strain Saudi Arabia's finances.
The Prince says that the wealth fund already holds stakes in companies, such as, Saudi Basic Industries (the world’s second-biggest chemicals manufacturer) --- and in National Commercial Bank (S. Arabia’s largest lender).
“Undoubtedly, it will be the largest fund on Earth,”says the prince.“This will happen as soon as Aramco goes public.”
As part of the new strategy, Riyadh plans to sell shares of state-owned energy company Saudi Aramco ----- and transform it into an industrial conglomerate. The sale of the company is planned for 2018, or even a year earlier.
“IPOing Aramco & transferring its shares to PIF, will technically make investment the source of Saudi government revenue, not oil,”the prince says, in an interview at the royal compound in Riyadh, on Thursday.“What is left now is to diversify investments. So within 20 years, we will be an economy or state that doesn’t depend mainly on oil.”
According to the fund’s sec. general, Yasir Alrumayyan, PIF is expected to raise the proportion of foreign investments to 50% by 2020... from the current 5%.
The kingdom is highly dependent on oil revenues, & is suffering a record high budget deficit, which is expected to reach $87 billion, this year. The crude oil price crisis has had an impact on the economy, as oil sales account for almost 80% of the country’s revenue. Saudi Arabia’s foreign reserves fell to $640 billion last year, from $737 billion in 2014.
In January Riyadh outlined an ambitious economic development plan -- aimed at dramatically reducing dependence on crude prices. The authorities intend to restructure the economy by investing more in other sectors, particularly in healthcare, tourism and IT.
The government has also announced plans to liberalize the market in order to attract foreign investors.
“It is clear Saudi Arabia needs to reform, diversify, and re-energize its economy, but this will involve more than just increasing investment in non-oil industries,” a professor of security studies at Georgetown University in Washington, Paul Sullivan tells Bloomberg. “One cannot order economic reforms like a ten course dinner.”
TEPCO Starts to Freeze Soil at Fukushima Nuclear Plant
Prensa Latina -Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) started work on Thursday to freeze soil around the disaster-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, in an operation to slow the pace of increase in radioactive water there.
The measure is expected to reduce the amount of groundwater flowing into the facilities every day to about 50 tons, from 100+ tons, currently.
TEPCO required a Nuclear Regulation Authority permit that took two years, since the directors feared environmental damage.
To freeze the soil, special coolant under 30 degrees centigrade, is circulated through pipes driven into the ground around the 4 reactors at the plant -- which was heavily damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
TEPCO experts explain that the Nuclear Regulation Authority has approved the operational start of frozen soil shields -- on condition that the work is done in stages and results will start showing in 45 days.
We’re #1! Carbon dioxide is at its highest rate -- in 66 million years
After February’s most abnormally warm month on record, a new study in National Geoscience shows humans are releasing carbon dioxide at a rate 10 times faster than at any time in the past 66 million years.
Carbon dioxide is necessary for the Earth, but the study by Richard Zeebe of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Andy Ridgwell of the University of Bristol, and James C. Zachos of the University of California Santa Cruz, explains that “The Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), is known, at present, to have had the highest carbon release rates of the past 66 million years.”
The PETM refers to a period 56 million years ago, when ''something'' caused the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, to spike at levels higher than today’s.
This caused Earth to warm, its oceans to acidify, & a mass extinction of animal and plant species.
This is important, because the PETM took place over a long period of time.
Zeebe's team gathered their information on the PETM by examining a deep core of ocean sediment from the New Jersey coast... which was used to analyze ratios between isotopes of carbon & oxygen, and could consequently determine how atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have influenced temperatures.
Scott Wing, a paleobiologist and curator at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, told Mashable:
“If the rate of PETM carbon addition was a tenth of our rate, then the future will likely be much more extreme than the PETM, in many ways.”
Mashable reports that the PETM is believed to have lasted more than 4,000 years, with a maximum emission rate of 1.1 billion tons a year. Today, emission rates are estimated to be closer to 10 billion tons per year.
So what does this mean for planet Earth? Well, it’s hard to say, because the PETM occurred very slowly, and there is no analogue to be drawn between today’s high carbon dioxide emission rates, and those of the PETM.
“... Unfortunately, because we’re doing it so fast, our conclusion is that the rate of acidification will be much more severe in the future, and also that the effects on the calcifiers are likely to be more severe than what we see during PETM,” Zeebe told Mashable.
Tory inaction on emissions ‘insults people dying from air pollution,’ say green lawyers
Green campaigners are suing the government for failing to meet EU air pollution limits in UK cities.
Environmental law group ClientEarth issued a fresh legal challenge on March 18th, after accusing the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), of delaying stricter pollution laws.
The government is legally required to meet EU targets on the toxic gas NO2, which is thought to kill about 25,000 people in the UK each year.
ClientEarth have asked the High Court to now urgently review Defra’s plans to tackle the gas - which is emitted from vehicles, and industry.
A lawyer for the group says the court could force the government to rewrite its policies to counter pollution.
“The plan they came up with [in Dec 2015], was just not good enough. It was a plan for a plan... These are classic delaying tactics. Meanwhile, thousands of people are dying,” ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews says.
“Government has been delaying for years. This challenge will force a full legal examination of Defra’s plans.”
ClientEarth’s case concerns 15 cities & regions across the UK, including London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow.
Scottish and Welsh ministers, the Mayor of London, and the Department for Transport, will also be served with papers.
The group claimed victory last April, when the UK Supreme Court, ruled the government had failed to meet EU pollution limits.
Alan Andrews, a lawyer from ClientEarth, says the government plans, were an insult to those dying from air pollution.
“As the government can’t be trusted to deal with toxic air pollution, we are now asking the court to intervene, and make sure it is taking action,” he says.
“It is a disgrace that we have had to take further legal action, to force the government to protect our health.
“The government’s plans were an insult to those being made sick and dying from air pollution and failed to consider strong measures ----- to get the worst-polluting diesel vehicles out of our towns and city centres."
In January, London exceeded its EU air pollution limits for the entire year in just 8 days, according to London Air Quality Network.
High levels of toxic gas are emitted from diesel exhaust fumes. A new study says that exposure to the fumes, can significantly impact people with asthma.
Researchers at Imperial College, London, have found that both during and after a 2-hour walk along the city’s busy Oxford Street, volunteers experienced increased asthmatic symptoms including reduced lung capacity and inflammation in the lungs.
‘Climate Emergency’: Scientists Stunned by February Temperature Records
Experts warn that we may be nearing a tipping point that could trigger a massive, apocalyptic temperature increase.
This weekend NASA released data showing that February 2016 was not only the hottest February in recorded history, but soared so far past all previous records, as to cause scientists to describe it as "an ominous milestone in our march towards an ever-warmer planet."
The average global surface temperature for February was 1.35°C warmer than the average for the month, as measured from 1951 to 1980.
The previous record, 1.14°C above the 1951-1980 baseline, was set one month earlier, in Jan. 2016.
According to meteorologists Bob Henson & Dr. Jeff Masters, founder of the popular Weather Underground meteorological website, NASA's report is a "bombshell."
The meteorologists worry that Earth may have passed a critical tipping point, with "February 2016 soaring past all rivals, as the warmest seasonally adjusted month in 100 + years, of global record-keeping."
Stefan Rahmstorf, of Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research, Germany, describes the development by using cataclysmic terminology.
"We are in a state of climate emergency now," says Rahmstorf, adding, "the new figures are quite stunning --- and what we are seeing, is completely unprecedented."
Generally, scientists caution against highlighting a one or two month temperature spike, particularly in an El Niño climate cycle, as Earth is experiencing this year. However, the climate data reported, is so extraordinary, many scientists believe it warrants serious alarm.
Temperatures reported in February 2016 exceed even the "super" El Niño of Feb. 1998 -- by 0.47°C.
Climatologists believe this string of monthly temperature records will continue, with record readings in the months and years to come, due to an increased concentration of carbon in the global atmosphere, that, in turn, will drive higher longer-term temperatures.
What many scientists fear, beyond a gradual rise in temperatures, is reaching a tipping point, a full- scale melting of the polar ice caps --- which would release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas with roughly 80 times the impact on world temperature as carbon dioxide.
If the ice caps melt, scientists speculate that it could trigger a rapid, potentially apocalyptic temperature hike.
Pope Francis Calls to Address One of the Greatest Crises
Prensa Latina - "We can no longer remain silent before one of the greatest environmental crises in world history", pope Francis said on Monday, 15th of February, during a mass held in Chiapas, Mexico, before indigenous communities.
Francis criticized the irresponsible use and abuse of natural resources.
"We grew up thinking we were the world's owners and were authorized to plunder it, he emphasized.
The Pope presided over the mass in the main indigenous languages of Chiapas: Tzeltal, Tzotzil and Chol. The liturgy included readings, prayers and hymns in those languages.
Francis said indigenous communities have much to teach mankind, as they know how to relate harmoniously with nature.
He denounced how, in a systematic and organized way, indigenous peoples have been misunderstood and excluded from society, over the course of history.
"Some have considered your values, culture and traditions to be inferior", he emphasised. "Others, intoxicated by power, money and market trends, have stolen your lands, or have contaminated them."
UK closes its oldest nuclear reactor after 45 yrs of operation
The UK closed its oldest nuclear reactor, Wylfa 1, after nearly 45 years of operation, Reuters reports, citing operator Magnox.
“Wylfa Nuclear Power Station closed down, marking the conclusion of Magnox reactor generation in the UK,” the company says.
The 490-megawatt nuclear reactor in Wales was scheduled to shut in September 2014, but operations were extended.
Wylfa 1 started operating in 1971 next to its twin Wylfa 2 reactor, which was permanently shut down in April 2012.
‘Cut antibiotics use in livestock to avert superbug catastrophe’ – UK health review
Urgent cuts must be made in the use of antibiotics in livestock farming, as misuse of the drugs, risks sparking a global public health crisis, a UK- government commissioned review says.
World governments need to reach internationally agreed targets, to reduce the use of antibiotics -- if medicine is to retain its effectiveness in killing bacteria.
The review, led by former Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill, suggests countries follow the lead set by Denmark and the Netherlands.
Denmark uses an average of less than 50mg of antibiotics a year per kilogram of livestock – a figure O’Neill says “may be a good starting point for such a target.”
“Denmark has shown that a very productive farming industry can be sustained alongside relatively low levels of antibiotic use,” the review says.
In many countries the majority of antibiotics are used in livestock, not in humans, the study finds.
In the United States for example, over 70% of medically important antibiotics are used on animals, while humans use 30%.
“This creates a big resistance risk for everyone,” O’Neill says. “It’s time for policy makers to act on this.”
Infectious disease expert and Wellcome Trust director, Jeremy Farrar, says urgent action is needed, to combat a future crisis.
“We can now be certain that the health of live- stock animals, and how we care for them, is inextricably linked to our own health and the effectiveness of medicines we rely on every day,” he says in a statement.
“We need international governments, policy makers and the agricultural industry to coor- dinate their actions, and set tangible targets for the reduction, & better use of, antibiotics in animals.”
The review’s recommendations come amid global alarm over the discovery in China of a gene dubbed MCR-1, that makes bacteria resistant to even the strongest antibiotic.
Professor Timothy Walsh of the University of Cardiff’s Institute of Infection & Immunity told the BBC last month, that the world is on the cusp of the “post-antibiotic era.”
“All the key players are now in place to make the post-antibiotic world a reality,” he said.
“If MCR-1 becomes global, which is a case of when not if, & the gene aligns itself with other antibiotic resistance genes, which is inevitable, then we will have very likely reached the start of the post-antibiotic era.
“At that point if a patient is seriously ill, say with E. coli, then there is virtually nothing you can do,” he adds.
Putin wants Russia to become world's biggest exporter of Non-GMO food
Russia could become the world's largest supplier of ecologically clean & high-quality organic food, said President Vladimir Putin on thursday. He also called on the country to become completely self-sufficient in food production by 2020.
"We are not only able to feed ourselves, taking into account our lands, water resources. Russia is able to become the largest world supplier of healthy, ecologically clean and high-quality food --- which the Western producers have long lost: especially given the fact that demand for such products in the world market, is steadily growing,"said Putin, addressing the Russian Parliament.
According to the President, Russia is now an exporter, not an importer, of food.
"10 years ago, we imported almost half of our food from abroad and were dependent on imports. Now Russia is among the exporters. Last year, Russian exports of agricultural products totalled almost $20 billion - a quarter more than the revenue from the sale of arms, or one-third of the revenue from gas exports," he said.
Putin said all this makes Russia fully capable of supplying the domestic market with home- grown food by 2020.
In September, the Kremlin decided against producing food products with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Russia imposed an embargo on the supply of products from the EU & US, in response to Western sanctions. When Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber, Russia's authorities banned fruit, vegetables, & poultry from Turkey, as from Jan. 1st.
Botswana Sells UK Company Right to Drill for Shale Gas in National Park
Sputnik — Botswana's government has recently sold the rights to the UK owned Karoo Energy company, to frack for shale gas in the Kgalagadi transfrontier park, the Guardian newspaper reports.
The Kgalagadi park is among Africa's largest conservation areas.
Record radiation at Fukushima power plant could kill person in under 1 hour – reports
Deadly radiation levels of up to 9.4 Sieverts per hour have been recorded at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant --- enough to kill a person in less than an hour, if directly exposed, Japan's local media report.
The mortal radiation reading was taken in a small room, using a remote-controlled robot, where a pipe leads to the containment vessel of No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, JIJI Press reports, citing Tokyo Electri c Power Co (TEPCO).
The reading of 9.4 sieverts (Sv) per hour was taken during the September 4-25 checks.
According to the operator, the highest levels of contamination were measured on the floor. TEPCO did not offer any further details. The company is about to start a decontamination process, it hopes to complete by December.
Immediate radiation exposure around the Fukushima nuclear power plant after the deadly incident reached 400 millisieverts (mSv) per hour in places.
One millisievert is a thousandth of a sievert, therefore the new 9.4 Sv reading is 23.5 times higher than the radiation level recorded in March, 2011.
Just to compare, the typical average dose for a person is about 0.0036 Sv. per year.
Combined career exposure limits for NASA's male astronauts --- by the time they are 55 years old --- is 4.00 Sv.
Early last week, a government commissioned study, said that nearly 40% of those involved in the emergency assistance operation at Fukushima's plant in March 2011, suffered from radiation exposure, exceeding the yearly public norm.
A magnitude 9 earthquake triggered a tsunami that struck Fukushima on March 11, 2011. The disaster caused a triple meltdown at the plant, where so far almost 45,000 workers have been involved in a clean-up & decommissioning effort that is expected to cost billions of dollars and take about 40 years.
Fukushima – a Hushed Up Catastrophe
“Its against international law to dump radioactivity into the sea, but that is precisely what is happening on a daily basis,” says Dr. Keith Baverstock, former regional adviser for Radiation and Public Health, World Health Organization (“WHO”), speaker at the Citizen-Scientist International Symposium on Radiation Protection, in October, 2015.
As intimated by Dr. Baverstock, inexplicably, Fukushima is immune to international law, standards, and conventions, and nobody cares enough to do anything about it.
Japan’s PM Abe (61), a graduate in political science from Seikei University, is reopening nuclear power plants as quickly as possible.
Dr. Baverstock, “I’m really appalled at the way the international system has failed. Quite frankly, we don’t get anything through the media. There's no general understanding of the situation here in Europe, because the media are not putting this view forward. In fact, I think many people would be very surprised, that it was still a matter for discussion. They would be even more surprised to learn that it’s still an ongoing accident, and that it hasn’t terminated yet… and they would be more surprised to learn that nobody knows how to stop it.”
Abe's administration established a very tight news blackout and instituted severe secrecy laws --- to prevent the truth from getting out.
Information about the meltdown is controlled via biased sources. Dr. Baverstock underlines:
It is imperative for “the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to have its role clarified. It cannot continue to be the promoter of nuclear power and the organization that is involved for safety. So, the failure of the IAEA to respond, in this particular instance is very good ammunition to move towards getting that view heard at the UN General Assembly, and that will be something which politicians have to do. There are some politicians who are sympathetic to the view expressed here.”
Of course, it's only too self-evident that PM Abe is preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and posturing to re-open nuke facilities. As of 22nd October, 21 of Japan’s 43 operable reactors, are undergoing NRA safety reviews.
Already, Kyushu EPC’s Sendai 2 nuclear power plant restarted last week, supplying electricity to the grid. It’s as if nothing bad has happened.
Corium is a lava-like radioactive hot molten mix of a nuclear reactor core formed in a meltdown.
The corium is missing at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant No. 2. Nobody knows where it is. Nobody knows! Better yet, or rather worse yet, finding No.2’s melted core is an ongoing challenge.
What if the corium leaked or leaks into the ground, beneath the reactor’s final cement & steel containment vessel, the last line of defense? Answer: Nobody knows because it has never happened before.
Cesiun-137, deadly to all Earth's life forms, and one of many dangerous isotopes, is water-soluble --- and makes its way into soils and waters --- and quickly becomes ubiquitous in the ecosystem; that’s what happens: “ubiquitous in the ecosystem.”
Afterwards, an exclusion zone is established to keep everybody out, due to excessive levels of radiation. When Ihor Gramotkin, director of the Chernobyl Power Plant, was asked how soon Chernobyl's reactor site would be inhabitable again, he replied: “At least 20,000 years.”
Yet the Abe government is already, now, moving people back into some of the 4- year-old exclusion zones of Fukushima.
200 US sailors of the USS Reagan have a pending lawsuit against TEPCO, et al and say young sailors are already enduring leukemia, ulcers, gall bladder removals, brain cancer, brain tumors, testicular cancer, dysfunctional uterine bleeding, thyroid illness, stomach ailments & other complaints, unusual in such young adults.
The sailors served in “Operation Tomodachi,” providing humanitarian relief after the March 11th, 2011 Fukushima disaster -- based upon assurances that radiation levels were okay.
According to the plaintiff’s attorneys, more sailors are now in the process of coming on board, as a storm of nuclear radiation after-effects, spreads through the ranks.
Belgium to power 170 trains with wind energy
Xinhua -- Belgium has inaugurated a project to power 170 trains by wind energy -- with the first seven of the 25 turbines having entered service on Saturday, 25th October, local media report.
Sudpresse newspaper group says turbines will be built along the main rail line from Leuven to Liege, generating enough power for every high- speed and local train using the line.
The number of trains to be covered by the wind project, represents about 5% of the country's total rail traffic, Belgian railtrack operator Infrabel says.
Belgian broadcaster RTL reports that once all 25 turbines are operating, they are expected to produce 35,000 megawatt hours -- enough energy to power 10,000 homes.
About two-thirds of the produced electricity is needed for the rail line and the surplus will be added to the domestic electricity supply grid.
Philippe Van Troeye, production director at Belgian energy firm Electrabel, tells media:
"Wind energy, like solar power, is intermittent, but it will play a more and more important role in our energy provision, in the future."
The Bee Under Frosty’s Bonnet
This article appeared first in the Morning Star.
Peter Frost reports on how relentless and secret lobbying of the Tory government by agribusiness has brought a banned bee-killing poison back to our countryside.
Do you remember that once David Cameron vowed that his government would be the greenest ever? Well that is just one more velvet glove that has been discarded to reveal yet another Tory iron fist.
Cameron’s Tory government along with its most un- green minister to destroy the environment Liz Truss has caved to pressure from agrochemical farming's lobby & agreed to let bee-harming pesticides back into the UK's fields this autumn.
Truss and her team at Defra have ignored the overwhelming science showing neonicotinoids harm honeybees, bumblebees and many other pollinators and beneficial insects.
After months of secrecy the government has agreed to let farmers in some parts of England sow seeds treated with neonicotinoid pesticides.
They claim it is only a temporary measure, but in fact it's much more likely to become permanent and nationwide.
Friends of the Earth bees’ campaigner Paul de Zylva, tells the Morning Star:
“It’s scandalous that the government has caved in to the National Farmers Union (NFU) pressure and given permission for some farmers to use banned pesticides that have been shown to harm our precious bees.
“Ever more scientific evidence shows just how dangerous these chemicals are to bees & other pollinators — they should have no place in our fields and gardens.”
Dr Lynn Dicks of the University of Cambridge:
“We now have robust evidence that neonicotinoids have a serious impact on free-living bumblebee colonies in real farmed landscapes.”
The government has been negotiating with the agrochemical industry in secret... It continues to refuse to make publicly available the NFU application - and even suppressed the notes of its expert advisers’ meeting.
Public pressure finally got these released and published but surprise, surprise, they say nothing about the alleged scientific basis for the decision.
Truss and other ministers promised that decisions would be science-based. But how can we believe them if the secrecy continues?
The government tell us that this use of chemicals is only a limited and temporary permission for one crop in a particular areas of the country, but we know the NFU continues to lobby for the extension of use for these poisons, that we know, kill bees.
These neonicotinoids are banned all over the EU and there’s more than enough evidence to make the ban permanent here in Britain.
For instance the ingredient allowed under this change of mind by Truss and the government -- clothianidin -- was tested in the recent study......... It showed that bumblebees in landscapes with clothianidin-treated oilseed rape produced only a third as many queens as those in landscapes treated with other — non neonicotinoid — insecticides.
The NFU and the industrial farming lobby continue their campaign to get the ban lifted all across the UK. Commercial beekeepers are deeply worried both about crop pollination and honey production.
Public pressure, protest demonstrations, online petitions, have all shown the government, that most people are totally opposed to the industrial farming lobby and to their poisons.
The lack of government transparency shows how much pressure it has been under from members of the public who are totally opposed to the use of neonicotinoids.
Countries Confirm Presence at Climate Summit in Bolivia
In Morales' opinon, there is a world environmental movement for the 'Pachamama', or 'Mother Earth'.
The conclusions of the 2nd World Summit in October on the Rights of Mother Earth --- in Cochabamba --- will be presented to the next UN Conference on Climate Change, slated for Paris on November 30 - December 11 this year.
Scotland is the latest nation to ban cultivation of genetically-modified (GM) crops, also known as GMOs – genetically-modified organisms.
Scotland is taking advantage of EU regulations which permit it to opt out of being forced to let GMO agri-business gain access to Scotland.
In its decision, the Scottish National Party (SNP) government in Edinburgh has broken with the Tory government in London, which has allowed the production of GMO crops.
Opponents of GM foods argue that, although the European Union law allows some nations to opt out of growing GM crops, it lets others permit GM companies into their agricultural sectors, thus circumventing the current GM bans in Germany, Italy, and France.
Scottish government official statement:
"The Scottish Government believes that GM policy in Scotland should be guided by what is best for our economy, & our own agricultural sector, rather than by UK priorities. There is no evidence of a significant demand for GM products, by Scottish consumers. To grow GM crops in Scotland, would damage our 'clean and green' brand."
To stop a contamination of Scottish crops by English GM seeds, a strict agricultural inspection regime must be established on the English-Scottish border, a thing that's music to the ears of pro-independence Scots, and a nightmare for the English, who want to preserve an increasingly- unworkable "United Kingdom".
The only Scottish MEP on the EU's agricultural committee, Alyn Smith of the SNP, says Scotland wants to have a reputation for growing and exporting natural foods, not these adulterated GM products.
Smith says, while the SNP favors "carefully regulated research and development of GM foods", it does not want to jeopardize Scotland’s role, as a producer of natural quality foods.
One effect of the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) --- if the UK accedes to the TTIP --- will be that Monsanto could sue Scotland before an ISDST... and potentially scrap Scotland’s GMO farming ban.
The role of the TTIP... is to circumvent national sovereignty & put corporations - like Monsanto - over the will of elected governments & the people they govern.
In addition, under free trade agreements like the TPP, articles like this, criticizing Monsanto, could result in costly lawsuits against both author & publisher, brought before ISDSTs.
Constitutional guarantees of the freedom of the press & speech in the US, & other TTIP signatory nations are abrogated by "free trade" agreements designed to put the rights of multinational corporations above nations, states, provinces, counties, municipalities, and individual citizens.
Russia and France ban the cultivation of Monsanto’s GM products, including corn. Monsanto corn has been found to cause cancerous tumors in laboratory rats.
Yet the proto-fascist government of Ukraine welcomes Monsanto & other GM companies with open arms. At risk, is Ukraine’s large wheat-growing industry.
Perhaps nothing shows the link between neo-cons and GM foods, better, than the US neocons' support for the Ukrainian government & its dangerous agricultural policy, which aims to benefit Monsanto, & destroy the individual Ukraine farmer.
The Monsantos made much of their fortune via the transatlantic slave trade. From its roots in trading in African slaves, Monsanto now trades in adulterated food products and in pesticides shown to be harmful, not only to humans, but also livestock and bees, and other beneficial insects, and to bird populations.
Monsanto’s first major Frankenfood offering was saccharin, a derivative of coal tar, and which was sold to the Coca Cola Company.
Saccharin has been shown to cause bladder cancer in humans.
After President Obama’s trip to his dad's homeland in Kenya, 7 Kenyan MPs from parliamentary committees dealing with Agriculture, Livestock & Cooperatives, Education, Research and Technology, Health, the Environment and Natural Resources, Finance, Planning and Trade, introduced legislation to lift Kenya’s ban on GMOs.
Kenya succumbed to the desires of a US president, more interested in protecting the profits of Monsanto -- whose initial financial backing came from a family of slave traders -- than in the health of the people of Kenya.
Earth closer to 'irreversible changes' as humans cross 4 of 9 planetary boundaries
Earth is slipping towards the “danger zone” as humanity has crossed 4 of the 9 environmental phases (so-called planetary boundaries) moving closer potentially “irreversible changes,” a new high-profile study claims.
A combination of factors, including climate change, shifting agriculture patterns & other activities that cause biological and chemical changes to nature (not least of which is the use of fertilizer), have got us closer to “the danger zone” from which there’s no return, a study in 'Science' claims.
“We’re running up to and beyond the biophysical boundaries that enable human civilization as we know it to exist,” says the co-author of the study, Steve Carpenter, who's director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Limnology.
Carried out by 18 leading experts in their fields, the study entitled ‘Planetary Boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet’ points out that human activity is changing the planet's functions, destabilizing complex interactions between people, oceans, land, and atmosphere.
"For the first time in human history, we need to relate to the risk of destabilizing the entire set," one of the authors of the study, Professor John Rockstrom of Stockholm University, tells the Thomson Reuters Foundation. His colleague, Professor Will Steffen, believes that “past a certain threshold, curbing greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, or land-use change may not reverse or even slow the trends of Earth System degradation, with potentially catastrophic consequences.”
The report is based on the 9 ‘boundaries’ idea that originated in 2009. Each phase stands for boundaries, within which, humanity can live sustainably and what that would entail.
The nine planetary boundaries:
1. Climate change
2. Change in biosphere integrity (biodiversity loss and species extinction)
3. Stratospheric ozone depletion
4. Ocean acidification
5. Biogeochemical flows (phosphorus and nitrogen cycles)
6. Land-system change (for example deforestation)
7. Freshwater use
8. Atmospheric aerosol loading (microscopic particles in the atmosphere that affect climate and living organisms)
9. Introduction of novel entities (e.g. organic pollutants, radioactive materials, nanomaterials, and micro-plastics).
Each is marked by an irreversible change to our environment and, once reached, is followed by a period where we can either act or let it all slip further. And, “given the pace of change, we can no longer exclude the possibility of reaching critical tipping points that could abruptly and irreversibly change living conditions on Earth,” the report says.
Back in September, a WWF report said Earth has crossed 3 of the 9 identified "planetary boundaries,” which, it said, are “potentially catastrophic changes to life as we know it.”
The 3 extreme danger points crossed:
Biodiversity, Carbon dioxide levels Nitrogen pollution from fertilizers.
Scientists consider climate change as at the top of this list of planetary boundaries, the researchers believe.
"We are at a point where we may see abrupt, irreversible changes, due to climate change," Rockstrom says, referencing particularly the danger of the melting Arctic ice sheets, which releases large amounts of greenhouse gases.
According to the study, our planet has been in a “remarkably stable state” for 12,000 years. But this changed roughly 100 years ago, says Carpenter, who adds “everything important to civilization” occurred during that precise time – from agriculture to the industrial revolution.
The paper will be discussed at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, next week, presented as a wake-up call to policymakers.
It will also be incorporated into the UN’s upcoming global strategy in September, for when the current Millennium Development Goals expire.
A forum on ecological development in southwest China's Guizhou Province
Under the theme "Embracing New Era of Eco- civilization", Eco Forum Global in Guiyang City, Guizhou's capital, saw 1,700 plus delegates from across the globe discuss topics like: sustainable development, climate change, & green energy, to finance, says the forum organizer.
The environment is at the highest ever place on China's agenda, Du Qinglin, vice chair of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said in a speech at the opening ceremony.
China is trying to find new growth in eco- friendly industries, create sustainable urban patterns, control pollution and cure China's environmental damage, Du says.
"We expect to nurture a new competitive edge and new sources of national strength through green development. Going green will be China's new path to tackle the economic new normal," he says.
The event is China's latest effort to enhance awareness to protect the environment, after a growth-at-all-costs economic model fueled decades of explosive growth --- but tainted much of the country's air, water and land.
Environment Minister Chen Jining said: "the Chinese environment is reaching, or has reached, its limit -- due to years of sprawling development at the price of the environment".
The Chinese government has promised to take "more forceful" measures in the next five years to protect the environment and promote green development.
6th mass extinction already here as species disappear 100 times faster - study
The world is on the brink of its 6th mass extinction, as animals are disappearing 100 times faster than previously, scientists warn in a new report. They say humanity could be among its first victims.
According to Princeton, Stanford and UC Berkeley scientists, rates like these haven't been seen since the last age of the dinosaurs, some 66 million years ago. Paul Ehlrich of Stanford says the data “shows without any significant doubt, that we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event."
Data demonstrates “without any significant doubt that we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event,” Ehlrich, whose work on species disappearance, dates back to 1980, says.
The report has been drawn to counter critics who believe the data is exaggerated. Ehlrich and co- authors seek to demonstrate, using conservative assumptions, that the new phase is already well under way, seeing as they are “far above the ‘background’ rates prevailing in the 5 preceding mass extinctions.”
The background rate is the normal rate of disappearance between mass extinctions.
“If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself will likely disappear early on,” lead author Gerardo Ceballos, of the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico, says in support.
But the background rate is difficult to estimate, so scientists had to improvise with techniques. Humanity has gaps in its knowledge of what happened over Earth’s 4.5 billion-year lifespan.
The team used a past extinction rate that was twice as high as the estimates widely used in previous studies, and compared that rate to the most conservative estimates. In this way, they brought the two approximate rates as close to each other as possible – the current and all- time background rates.
The researchers argue that if the past rate was two mammal extinctions out of 10,000 species over 100 years, the “average rate of vertebrate species loss over the last century is up to 114 times higher than it would be without human activity --- even when relying on the most conservative estimates of species extinction.”
They add that their “calculations very likely underestimate the severity of the extinction crisis because our aim was to place a realistic lower band on human impact on biodiversity.”
The International Union for Conservation of Nature backs up the alarming news, giving a threat level of 26% for mammals and 41% for amphibians – Elrich calls those making it into the statistic, “the walking dead.”
“Averting a dramatic decay of biodiversity and the subsequent loss of ecosystem services, is still possible through intensified conservation efforts, but that window of opportunity is rapidly closing,” the scientists say.
There is a man-made causal chain that leads to biodiversity reduction, habitat loss, deforestation, overexploitation of resources and other evils. As species disappear, so do key ecosystem services provided by bee pollination, as well as wetlands water purification. The researchers say we stand to lose many of those biodiversity benefits within three generations. As Ehlrich puts it, “We are sawing the limb that we are sitting on.”
The authors hope their study, published in Science Advances, will serve to influence policy and propel conservation efforts forward before the changes become completely irreversible.
China Makes First Electric Plane for Passengers
Prensa Latina - China has produced the first electric planes for passengers in the world with an airworth- iness certificate, according to official media.
The BX1E has a wingspan of 14,5 meters and a load capacity of 230 kilograms. This artefact can reach an altitude of 3,000 metres, they say.
The energy load is completed in 2 hours, allowing the flight to last from 45 minutes to an hour, at a speed of 160 kilometres per hour, notifies news agency Xinhua.
The plane is designed by Shenyang Aeroespatial University and the Academy of Aviation Liaoning.
The first two airplanes have already been delivered, to Liaoning Ruixiang General Aviation Co., Ltd.
The BX1E can be used in training pilots, tourism, meteorology and emergencies.
Each can be sold for around 163,000 US dollars, states this official press organ.
G7 Group Agrees to ‘Decarbonize’ Global Economy by End of Century – Merkel
Sputnik –The G7 group of the world’s leading industrialized nations has agreed to replace oil, gas and coal, with alternative energies by the end of the century, to reduce global carbon emissions, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, says after the 'summit'.
“We are committed to the fact that during the course of the century we want to see the decarbonalization of the world economy,” Merkel tells media reporters commenting on the results of the two-day G7 summit in Germany’s Bavaria.
The G7 nations have also agreed to raise funds for climate change mitigation, Merkel says.
“It will be one of our goals by 2020. We want public and private sources to allocate $100 billion every year,” she says.
The G7 leaders agreed that the world should reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 70% by 2050, the German chancellor adds.
Ahead of key climate talks to be held in Paris in December, the group is committed to the goal of keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius, by the end of the century.
The statement comes a month after Merkel pledged to make every effort to achieve a global climate change agreement during a UN conference in Paris.
The 21st UN Climate Change Conference is due to be held in Paris, in late November and early December. The Paris deal will replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which failed to agree on legally binding and universal agreements on climate for all nations of the world.
G7's "ambitious" climate targets another empty promise?
The Group of Seven (G7) leaders say they are to fill a gap in financial support for developing countries to address climate change, and seek a phase-out of fossil energy globally, within this century.
Although the "club of rich countries" describe this commitment as "ambitious", analysts say -- considering their past real actions -- that what G7 vow now, could be just another empty promise.
G7 say they will continue their efforts to meet their previous commitment to provide 100 billion US dollars a year by 2020, from both public and private sectors, to developing countries, to help them battle against climate change.
Other targets: to seek world decarbonization over the course of this century:- to cut carbon emissions by 40 to 70% by 2050 compared to 2010 levels and transform their own energy sectors, by 2050.
"Urgent, concrete action is needed to address climate change," said the G7 leaders in their communiqué, asking "all parties" to share the task of emission cutting.
Environmental activists, however, say the G7 need more actions than words.
"G7 leaders still aren't spelling out how they will keep their vow to deliver 100 billion US dollars in climate finance by 2020 and failed to commit to provide more of this money from public funds -- a vital foundation for success in Paris at the end of the year," states Oxfam: "Developing countries need a credible financial roadmap, not a set of accounting tricks."
"Developing countries are ready to move fast & far on renewables, but they need finance and technology from rich countries to do it. We need to see more concrete commitments for immediate action," says Samantha Smith, leader of WWF's Global Climate and Energy Initiative.
The developed countries, including the G7, promised in 2009 to increase climate cash support to developing states to 100 billion US dollars a year by 2020. A clear roadmap to meet this commitment, however, was never provided.
The Green Climate Fund, by June 3rd, has only 59% of the total pledged money delivered. No promised money was transferred from Canada, Italy or the United States.
"We urgently need a roadmap to the pledged 100 billion US dollars. These (G7) countries still have plenty of opportunity between now and Paris to step up to the plate," says Anoop Poonia from Climate Action Network, S. Asia.
Finance & allocation of emission reduction responsibilities are two of the key issues in ongoing tough climate negotiations within a UN framework, towards a new global climate deal, which is set to be made by the year's end, in Paris.
Analysts say the G7 countries themselves are not making enough efforts to phase out fossil fuels and cut emissions.
"G7 leaders have indicated that fossil fuels are on their way out. However you wouldn't know it by looking at the national emissions reduction pledges they have put on the table for the crucial climate conference in Paris," says Oxfam's spokesperson Jorn Kalinski, "They must now live up to their own rhetoric and kick their dirty coal habit."
In Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), or climate actions it was willing to take under the new climate deal after 2020, officially submitted to the UN, Canada pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels -- by 2030.
The vow was criticized by environmental groups pointing out that the target was just equivalent to 14% below 1990 levels, a more commonly used base year to calculate emission reduction.
A similarly weak pledge was planned to be submitted by Japan, whose PM Shinzo Abe announced earlier this month that Japan was willing to reduce carbon emissions to 26% below 2013 levels by 2030. But when compared with the 1990 levels, the target means Japan would only cut its emission by 18% -- by 2030.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN scientific body, says developed countries must reduce their emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The EU, which had already reduced its carbon emissions by 19% from 1990 levels in 2013, insisted during the ongoing UN climate talks in Bonn that it was only willing to to further reduce its emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020.
"We are looking for more than 'hot air'. We are looking for real action from this summit," said Adrian Lovett, Europe Executive Director of international campaign group "One" which floated huge balloons depicting G7 leaders on Sunday when the summit started.
"'Hot air' can mean empty promises...when it's all talks, and no action," he said then.
1000s in Ecuador plant nearly 650,000 trees --- in one day!
Thousands of people in Ecuador have cooperated to plant 647,250 trees in one day -- setting a new world record in reforestation, says the president.
President Rafael Correa says several different species were planted during the day and that reforestation efforts were carried out all over the country, which prides itself for its diverse geography from its Pacific coast, high Andean peaks, and low Amazon basin.
"I've just been informed that we have broken the Guinness record for reforestation," Correa announced in his weekly address to the nation.
Environment Minister Lorena Tapia tweets that 44,883 people participated in planting the trees on more than 2,000 hectares of land.
Environmental scientists believe planting trees is helpful in offsetting carbon buildup -- as they sequester carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere and help to reduce global warming.
Guinness officials say the previous record was set by a group in the Philippines, just last year.
And in Wales? All we get is broken promises to plant native trees - and garbage planted by the Forestry Commission!
NASA: Major Antarctic Ice Shelf to Disintegrate Within Few Years
For the last 10,000 years, the Larsen B Ice Shelf has clung to the edge of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Two-thirds of it collapsed in 2002, and according to a NASA study, the rest could break away and disintegrate -- by 2020.
The Antarctic continent has a number of huge ice shelves which hug the land’s perimeter. Some are over half a mile thick.
With rising global temperatures, they are melting quickly. According to some estimates a complete disappearance of Antarctica’s ice could result in a sea level rise of 240 feet.
According to a new NASA study based on radar information and airborne surveys, one of those ice shelves will melt completely in just 5 years.
While most of Larsen B Ice Shelf collapsed in 2002, the rest still covers approximately 625 square miles.
"These are warning signs that the remnant is disintegrating," lead author of the study, Ala Khazendar's statement says. "Although it’s fascinating scientifically to have a front-row seat to see the ice shelf becoming unstable and breaking up, it’s bad news for our planet."
"What is really surprising about Larsen B is how quickly the changes are taking place," Khazendar says. "Change has been relentless."
The ice shelves serve a specific purpose on Antarctica, stopping massive glaciers in the continent’s interior, from sliding into the sea.
Without Larsen B, many of those glaciers will slowly creep into the ocean.
"This study of the Antarctic Peninsula glaciers provides insights about how ice shelves farther south, which hold much more land ice, will react to a warming climate," states Eric Rignot, the study’s co-author.
Pope’s Top Adviser: Climate Skeptics Don't Want to Pay For Ruining Earth
One of Pope Francis' advisers says climate change denial, is a phenomenon rooted in, and fueled by, capitalism.
In the US, global warming denial is typically a belief of the far right, despite all scientific evidence, and the religious fundamentalists and conservative talk show hosts, all push the idea that the majority of scientists are 'bought off' by green technology business people, left think tanks, and governments.
Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, one of Pope Francis’ closest advisers, thinks the answer lies in capitalism.
“The ideology surrounding environmental issues is too tied to a capitalism that does not want to stop ruining the environment, because they do not want to give up their profits,” Cardinal Rodriguez says, reports the Boston Globe.
His words are a reaction to lobbying by some US groups, to the Pope’s planned encyclical on climate change.
The Pope's encyclical is timed to coincide with the UN climate change summit later this year, and a UN-sponsored agreement on Sustainable Development Goals.
Apparently it is designed to encourage the world's Catholics to recognize and fight climate change.
Although the encyclical has not been released yet, the Heartland Institute, a think-tank controlled by Charles & David Koch is already "lobbying" the Vatican with the message: “there is no global warming crisis.”
Yes, the same Koch brothers who own Koch Industries, a big energy company which could suffer financial losses -- if strict environmental legislation arrives.
“I have already heard criticism of the encyclical” Rodrigues says, calling it “absurd” to reject a document which has not even been seen yet.
A survey published in 2013, of thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers, found 97.1% of the world's scientists agreeing - that climate change is real, and is being caused by human activity.
Study Links Swarm of Quakes in Texas to Fracking
With real time monitors, scientists have linked a swarm of earthquakes west of Fort Worth, Texas, to nearby natural gas wells & wastewater injection.
In 84 days from November 2013 to January 2014, the area around Azle, Texas, shook with 27 magnitude 2 or greater earthquakes, while scientists at Southern Methodist University and the US Geological Survey, monitored the shaking.
It's an area that's had no recorded 'quakes for 150 years on faults "inactive for hundreds of millions of years," says SMU geophysicist Matthew Hornbach.
When the volume of injections decreased significantly, so did the shaking. The scientists conclude that removing saltwater from the wells in the gas production process and then injecting that wastewater back underground, "represents the most likely cause" for the swarm of 'quakes, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.
The scientists determine this based on where and when the quakes happened; computer models that track pressure changes; and company data from near- by wells.
Hornbach says the timing & location of the quakes correlates better to the drillings & injections, than any other possible reason.
"There appears to be little doubt about the conclusion that the earthquakes were in fact induced," USGS seismologist Susan Hough, who wasn't part of the study team emails. "There's almost an abundance of smoking guns in this case."
Russia To Start Producing Ecologically Clean Wheat
Scientists at Nemchinovka Scientific Research Institute of Agriculture in Moscow, a well known scientific breeding centre, have produced a kind of winter wheat which is supposedly superior to all types of existing wheat, in that it can grow in less fertile regions with cool climates - and still provide higher yields than those grown in more favorable conditions.
Protein content in the new varieties is two times higher than most wheat on the market.
Breeders at Nemchinovka believe that the new varieties of wheat will be able to solve a major agricultural problem: the quality of grain, globally, is on the decline.
“Currently, in the developed world, the average yield of winter wheat is 90-100 hundredweight (hundredweight = approximately 45 kilograms) per hectare,” Bagrat Sandukhadze, a famous breeder, and head of the Laboratory of Winter Wheat Breeding at Nemchinovka, tells RIR.
“What’s more its protein content is only 8-9%, which doesn’t make for good bread.” he says. Nemchinovka varieties can produce 100-120 hundredweight per hectare --- with a protein content of 17% and a gluten content of 30% or more.
Sandukhadze (& his colleagues) have created 15 new varieties of winter wheat to grow in the “Nechernozemye” zone - a vast territory of the European part of Russia from the Arctic Ocean to the forest-steppe zone in the south and from the Baltic Sea to western Siberia.
14 have already obtained patents & copyright certificates... "The brilliant breeder, Professor Sandukhadze, can essentially provide quality wheat to feed the entire non-Black Earth area of Russia," says Valery Charushin, executive director of the Demidov Scientific Foundation and Chair of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Margarita Shipitsyna, a member of the coordinating council of the Russian Guild of Bakers and Confectioners and director of research at Russian Recipe, says that genetically modified varieties, presently occupy about 70% of the world's fields.
Experts believe that, due to the high yield, these new Russian varieties are a worthy "response to GMOs."
"Growing good varieties of food grains with strong genes lets you save the environment & is 10 times more profitable than investing in chemicals that stimulate growth, or in genetic engineering,” says Sandukhadze.
“Professional selection is worth a maximum of millions, yet technological factors lead to billions in costs & degrade the environment.
In Russia, there are 40 million hectares of vacant land, where you can grow a good eco-friendly grain and ensure the health of the nation."
Shpitsyna adds that, despite the success of breeders, Russia still has to solve some problems associated with land quality...
"In order to get a good healthy bread, Russia needs to revive quality control, which was systematically carried out in the Soviet era. The quality of food grains in Russia has significantly decreased. There are new diseases in the grains."
The breeding of new varieties has taken Sandukhadze 47 years. Breeding winter wheat in non-fertile zones with wet and cool climates, was started by Soviet breeders, way back in the 1930s.
Sandukhadze already belongs to the third generation of researchers.
Winter wheat varieties by Sanukhadze in recent years are now cultivated throughout Russia and abroad. The Moscow 39 variety is considered particularly unique and is sown in Canada, Austria, Turkey and other countries.
"When this strain was tested at an international competition in Canada, between 1999-2002, it was recognized as best, for its combination of high yield & grain quality,” Sandukhadze says.
“This wheat can grow in any weather due to its special genes & durability. It is frost-resistant, disease-resistant & has a unique grain quality and good baking qualities.
For his achievements, Sandukhadze won the prestigious Demidov Prize in February 2015. It's the first time since the award’s inception, in 1832, that it has ever been awarded to a breeder.
This article originally appeared in full at Russia Beyond the Headlines
GMO Lies: Study Shows How Pesticide Use Soars with more GMO Crops
And it is killing the pollinators.
Remember claims that genetically modified foods would result in less pesticide residues? Well, those promises were baseless.
What's really happened is that a huge increase in bee-toxic neonicotinoids has replaced those chemical insecticides used previously --- and especially in GM corn and soy crops.
34−44% more for GM soybeans and 79−100% for GM corn in 2011 alone.
Biotech has caused an almost 100% increase in chemical pesticides --- in just a few years.
Ms Douglas, graduate student in entomology at Pennsylvania State University & an author of the study, comments:
"The application of neonicotinoids to corn seed & soybeans has driven a surge in crop-land treated with insecticides, ever since the mid-2000s."
No wonder the bees and butterflies are dying.
Over 40 million hectares of land are doused in neonics and the now limited availability of any neonicotinoid-free seed, means US farmers, are running out of other options.
Bt crops ARE a pesticide. The Bt toxins are inside every fibre of the plant once it grows, and insects that eat them end up with their gut exploding in a quick and painful death.
Monsanto’s Bt toxins don’t just kill insects. They are also harming human embryo cells.
E Toxin Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) has also been found in the blood of pregnant women and baby’s umbilical cord blood supply.
Yet still, Monsanto asserts that all their pesticide in the form of Bt crops are safe.
Straight from Monsanto’s Pages:
“Are foods & ingredients developed through biotechnology (or GMOs) safe to eat?
Yes. Plants and crops with GM traits have been tested more than any other crops — with no credible evidence of harm to humans or animals.
Smog-beater: First hydrogen powered tram developed in China
Trams fueled by hydrogen could soon be appearing on the streets of China. The country has mastered the technique of using this clean energy source, which has been widely used elsewhere for cars and other forms of mass transport.
Air pollution killing Europeans en masse, says environment body
Hundreds of thousands of Europeans may face a premature death over the next two decades because of toxic air, a new major report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) warns.
In 2011 alone, about 430,000 people died prematurely from air pollution.
A five-yearly environmental study, State of the Environment Report for 2015, blames governments for inaction, and calls for changes in policies and technologies and lifestyles. The European Union will need new, radical policies to safeguard the environment by 2050, experts say.
"We need to start now," Hans Bruyninckx, head of the EEA, tells Reuters.
The Copenhagen-based EEA says Europe has increased waste recycling & cut greenhouse gas emissions by 19% since 1990. The EU plans further emissions cuts of 40% by 2030.
Despite these gains, however, Europe "still faces a range of persistent and growing environmental challenges," including global warming, chemical pollution & extinctions of species of animals and plants.
“Despite considerable progress in reducing the discharge of pollutants into Europe's waters in recent decades, nutrients, pesticides, industrial chemicals and household chemicals continue to affect the quality of surface, ground and marine waters. This threatens aquatic ecosystems and raises concern about potential human health impacts,” it states.
Air pollution causes damage to human health through direct exposure (via inhalation) or through exposure to contaminants transported through the air, deposited on plants and the soil.
Vehicles, power plants, agriculture & households all contribute to Europe's air pollution, the report’s authors state, adding that transport remains the main contributor to poor air quality levels in cities and the related health impacts.
Exposure to environmental noise is estimated to contribute to at least 10,000 premature deaths due to coronary heart disease and strokes each year.
Chemicals from pharmaceuticals, personal care products, & other consumer products can have a range of negative effects on the environment and on human health.
Endocrine disruption, which impacts the body's hormonal system, is of particular concern, says the study, which points out that potential human health impacts of these chemicals are “poorly understood,” especially as people are exposed to mixtures of chemicals, or when exposure occurs in pregnant women and small children.
Europe will scarcely manage to realize its target of "living well, within the limits of our planet" by 2050, according to the report, given that most Europeans have been using more than four hectares of the planet's resources each year - more than double what rates as a sustainable ecological footprint.
The European Commission has estimated that a shift to a greener, low-carbon economy by 2050 will require investments of an extra €270 billion a year, or 1.5% of the EU's GDP over the coming decades.
The EEA says Europe could benefit economically from greener cities, industry, transport and agriculture.
"This is not a threat to well-being. For Europe this is a major opportunity," Bruyninckx says, adding that 2050 green goals are closer than we think, given that Europeans born today will be 35 in 2050, with over half their expected lifetimes ahead of them.
According to the report, EU citizens live longer than in many parts of the world. Life expectancy at birth in the EU-28 member states exceeded 80 years in 2012, and is higher for women.
The gap between the lowest life expectancy in the EU (68.4 years for men in Lithuania) and the highest (85.5 years for women in Spain) is considerable, however.
The share of the older population in all the member states has been increasing recently.
The current proportion of people aged 65 yrs and over, already exceeds 17.5% and is projected to be 29.5% by 2060, says Eurostat.
Fracking moratorium rejected by MPs
There was a vote on fracking in the UK's House of Commons, at which, Greenpeace held a protest, out- side Westminster Palace.
MPs overwhelmingly rejected a bid to suspend fracking for shale gas.
But the government agreed to Labour proposals for 13 new conditions to be met, ere shale gas extraction occurs.
During a Commons debate, ministers also pledged an "outright ban" on fracking in national parks.
Earlier, a committee of MPs called for a moratorium on the practice, on the grounds that it could derail efforts to tackle climate change.
The Environmental Audit Committee also warned that there were "huge uncertainties" about the impact on the environment, of fracking.
In the Commons, committee chair, Joan Walley, backed an amendment tabled by a cross-party group of MPs calling for fracking to be suspended for 30 months... while assessments are carried out.
But the measure did not attract front- bench support and was defeated by 308 votes to 52.
A Labour amendment was added to the bill, to cheers from opposition benches, which will impose 13 tests to be met, before fracking can take place.
These include environmental assessments -- and the need to consult residents on an individual basis.
Labour and other MPs tabled amendments to allow the change to be made, so Energy Minister Amber Rudd told the House that the government will remove the provision that shale gas exploration will be allowed in such areas, only in "exceptional circumstances".
She later said there will be an outright ban in "national parks, sites of special interest and areas of national beauty".
Mass extinction in Earth’s oceans probable --- comprehensive study
The first comprehensive ocean study has determined that ocean life faces mass extinction from human activity.
But the record damage is still reversible – unlike our impact on land... US scientists say that the effects "can be" mitigated.
"We’ve known for a while that sustainability will become impossible with our lifestyles. Although most of Earth is covered in water we are hugely reliant on, many practices cause unprecedented damage to marine biology:-- coral reef damage, resource mining, fish farming, construction work, chemical pollution, the depletion of bio- resources, unintended species migration, global warming, military drills – to name just a few.
Drs. Malin L. Pinsky, Stephen R. Palumbi, Douglas J. McCauley and colleagues from the University of California have examined hundreds of sources, including fossil records and statistics on shipping and seabed mining to inform their study, published on Thursday in the journal 'Science'.
“We may be sitting on the precipice of a major extinction event,” McCauley says.
“If by the end of the century we’re not off the business-as-usual curve we are now, I honestly feel there’s not much hope for normal ecosystems in the ocean,” Palumbi says.
One conclusion is that oceans have until now, largely evaded the damage we'd caused to life forms on land. But after 1800, industrialization accelerated land extinction, plus, the stage was set for irreversible water damage.
“Current trends in ocean use suggest that habitat destruction is likely to become an increasingly dominant threat to ocean wildlife over the next 150 years,” the team says in their study.
And because oceans are a fluid mechanism - more difficult to monitor accurately - some places could be far worse off than others.
Fishing, for example, has affected 20 million square miles of ocean already, altering the continental shelf.
Seabed mining contracts are an especially huge change: the area went from 0 square miles in the year 2000, to 460,000 in 2014.
The US Navy alone, kills or injures 1,000s of whales and dolphins, during its drills.
Humans have caused a 40% decline in coral reefs worldwide, which consequently leads to habitat destruction for marine species.
Some migration may result in the arrival of predatory species to ecosystems that are not prepared to accept them, etc, etc.
But everything is feeling the impact of polution and overheating...
“If you cranked up the aquarium heater & dumped some acid in the water, your fish would not be very happy,” Pinsky says. “In effect, that’s what we’re doing to oceans.”
And it starts on land for many marine animals: some lay eggs – like sea turtles; seabirds nest in cliffs, and so on. Some ocean species have already become extinct, due to land activity.
“But in the meantime, we do have a chance to do what we can. We have a couple of decades more than we thought we had, so let’s please not waste it,” Palumbi says. "I fervently believe that our best partner in saving the ocean is the ocean itself.”
McCauley explains that if we severely limit the industrialization of Earth’s water, we could let species recover – much more so than we ever could on land, where damage is irreversible in many places.
“There are a lot of tools we can use,” he says. The team believes that designing an approach with climate change in mind would be the way.
It’s about considering how & where species can escape rising temperatures and lower pH levels.
As we learn that some areas are affected more, one chance may be to limit industrial operations to some areas, while allowing others to recover.
“It’s creating a hopscotch pattern up and down the coasts to help these species adapt,” Pinsky says.
World’s soil may be degraded in 60 years: UN
All of the world's top soil could be gone in the next 60 years if the current rate of degradation continues, a prominent UN official says.
Nearly a third of the soil across the world has already been degraded, & it takes 1,000 years for 3 centimeters of top soil to be generated, Maria-Helena Semedo of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) told a forum marking World Soil Day in Rome on Friday.
"Soils are the basis of life. Ninety-five percent of our food comes from the soil," Semedo said.
Experts say chemical-heavy farming methods, deforestation, which raises erosion, and global warming are the main causes of soil destruction.
"We are losing thirty soccer fields of soil every minute, mostly due to intensive farming," Volkert Engelsman from the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements told the forum.
"Organic may not be the only solution but it's the single best (option) I can think of," he said.
Soil is a significant factor in absorbing carbon and filtering water, FAO says.
Soil degradation causes a vicious cycle, in which less carbon is stored, the world gets hotter, and the land is further eroded.
Japan: Big Hole in Ozone Layer A hole in the ozone layer, which started to grow in early September, reached 23,400,000 square kilometers on October 1st, report Japanese scientific institutions.
That's equivalent to 1.7 times the Antarctic's surface - and it almost equals last decade's measure, says Japan's Meteorology Agency.
Despite the volume of gases in the air shrinking due to the fulfilling of international regulations, it will still be midcentury before the ozone layer hole recovers to the size it was in 1980, says researcher Atsuya Kinoshita, from Japan's Meteorology Agency.
According to medical sources, the ozone layer prevents harmful ultraviolet rays coming to earth, from the sun.
Long exposure to electromagnetic radiation can cause skin cancer, and other problems.
Venezuela Rejects Unipolarity at Environmentalist Forum
Capitalism, which destroys the environment and is headed by the United States, will be challenged now from South America, the Venezuelan Vice President for the Social Area, Hector Rodriguez, predicts, at an environmentalist forum.
Venezuela supports the consensus against unipolarity, defended by the meeting 'Social PreCOP on Climate Change', which was held in Margarita Island, says the Minister, who is also the Minister for Education.
Our Government supports the central purpose of the meeting - to boost the world mobilizing towards a new multipolar world, he says.
The participants analysed experiences, capacities and efforts to save the planet, and proposals were presented, to add them to the global political agenda.
Social PreCOP, which gathered representatives of 40 States in Venezuela, was the world's first gathering to bring both Governments and social movements face to face on the issue, he said.
The objective of the meeting was to highlight the social dimension of the debate on climate change and establish the foundations of an alliance between people and Governments, to face the threats that hover over humanity.
Delegates issued a document containing their proposals, which was then discussed at a round table with ministers in charge of the issue, said the organizers.
Greenpeace anti-fracking protesters block Chevron shale gas exploration
Greenpeace activists chained themselves to the gates of a Chevron shale gas exploration well in Romania --- to protest fracking there.
Activists from Romania, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Germany came to the Pungesti site, wearing bright yellow jackets and holding banners reading "Pungesti- anti-Chevron quarantine area" & "Stop fracking."
US energy major Chevron began work on the exploration well in the village of Pungesti in eastern Romania in December. An exploration start was postponed several times by protests.
88% of world’s oceans covered by plastic junk – study
At least 88% of the surface of the world’s open oceans is polluted by plastic debris, says a new scientific report.
The findings raise big concerns about the safety of marine life and how this ocean litter may now be affecting food chains.
US pressures El Salvador to buy Monsanto's GMO seeds
As a precondition for authorizing $300 million in aid, the US is now pressuring El Salvador to buy genetically modified seeds from Monsanto, instead of non- GM seeds from local farmers.
According to Sustainable Pulse, a website covering developments related to GM organisms and sustainable agriculture, the US will withhold $277 million in aid through the Millennium Challenge Compact --- if El Salvador refuses to purchase GM seeds from the biotech company Monsanto.
The president of El Salvador's Centre for Appropriate Technologies (CESTA) criticizes the US negotiating position and says the US should back away from its demand.
“I'd like to tell the US Ambassador to stop pressuring the Government to buy ‘improved’ GM seeds,” CESTA president Ricardo Navarro says, adding that it would hurt the local economy & only aid US companies.
Navarro then singles out Monsanto: “There's a harmful corporation on Earth called Monsanto. It's truly disturbing, that the US is trying to promote them.”
In March, France banned the growth and sale of the company’s insect-repelling maize seed MON 810, just a few days before it was revealed that insects in the US were developing resistance to the crop.
El Salvador passed a law in September 2013 banning glyphosate in Monsanto’s Roundup pesticides, as well as dozens of other agricultural chemicals.
Similar proposals are being considered in Brazil, where the country’s prosecutor general recently urged the National Health Surveillance Agency to “reevaluate the toxicity of 8 active ingredients suspected of causing damage to human health and the environment,” including glyphosate and seven other chemicals.
Glyphosate, research shows, becomes extremely toxic to humans, as it mixes with natural metals found in soil.
Other reports link glyphosate to a fatal kidney disease that has killed thousands of people in El Salvador and Sri Lanka, & could also help explain similar situations in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and India.
Chernobyl memories fade? Kiev turns blind eye to disaster-risk in nuclear deal with US
The coup-imposed government in Kiev has resurrected a contract with a US company to supply fuel to Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, despite the fact that using US fuel rods was banned in 2012, because of a dangerous incompatibility.
In April 2014, shortly after the armed coup, Kiev signed a new deal with the US’s leading nuclear fuel producer, Westinghouse Electric Company, instead of the Russian TVEL company that has been supplying fuel rods to Ukraine for years.
Ukraine’s 4 nuclear power plants constitute a huge part of the country's energy system. The country’s 15 nuclear reactors produce at least 50% (over 13 megawatts) of all electric power generation in Ukraine.
All nuclear fuel for Ukrainian reactors (worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year) has been produced in Russia, which also recycles Ukraine’s nuclear waste.
Moreover, Russia’s Rosatom state-owned nuclear monopoly is currently constructing a nuclear fuel fabrication plant in Ukraine, where nuclear fuel rods will be assembled using uranium enriched in Russia.
Ukraine has relied on Russia in all atomic matters – but since the coup the US has muscled in on the relationship.
The Westinghouse Electric Company has been trying to ‘ease’ the former Soviet-bloc country's energy reliance on Russia and enter the market in Eastern Europe for over a decade.
Back in 2012, the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attempted to convince Czech leaders to pick Westinghouse as a first nuclear fuel supply partner instead of Russia, which would create thousands of new jobs in the US.
Westinghouse has tried supplying nuclear fuel to Energoatom nuclear power generating company, in Ukraine before...
In 2005, six experimental Westinghouse fuel assemblies, adopted for use in USSR- developed reactors, were tried at the South Ukraine plant in one reactor, together with Russian fuel rods.
Though nuclear engineers were skeptical of the pilot probe, the government of ex president Viktor Yushchenko signed a deal in 2008 with Westinghouse on fuel rod supply, despite the fact that American nuclear fuel is significantly more expensive and technologically different.
Russian nuclear fuel rods are hexagonal in section, while US fuel assemblies are square.
Despite experts' fears, 42 fuel assemblies were loaded into three reactors at the South Ukraine nuclear power plant for a standard three-year period of commercial operation.
When, in 2012, the time came to replace the fuel assemblies, Ukrainian nuclear engineers found that Westinghouse assemblies deformed during exploitation and got stuck in the core.
Energoatom accused Westinghouse of producing poorly engineered assemblies, and Westinghouse countered, by accusing the Ukrainian engineers of installing the rods badly.
After this, the use of US nuclear fuel was banned in Ukraine, while the fuel rods were returned to the producer ‘to get fixed’, and Russian experts were summoned to help with the repair of the equipment, produced in the USSR.
Energoatom Company lost approx. $175 million.
Similar problems with Westinghouse fuel assemblies occurred at a number of other USSR-constructed nuclear power plants: NPP Krško in Slovenia, NPP Loviisa in Finland and NPP Temelin in the Czech Republic.
All these countries opted to return to time-proved fuel assemblies produced by Russia’s TVEL Company.
Now Ukraine appears to be ready to fall into the same trap twice.
The coup-imposed Kiev regime has renewed the 2008 nuclear fuel deal till 2020, to replace 25% of the Russian-made fuel rods, with an option to “provide more if needed,” reported AP in April - all for the sole purpose of ‘diversifying’ supply.
What happened back in 2012 at Zaporozhskaya NPP could have ended with another Chernobyl, because having unextractable fuel assemblies loaded means a potential loss of control over the fission processes inside the reactor.
But the new Kiev authorities, supported by Washington, are making every effort to cut Ukraine’s ties with Russia, so moving from Russian nuclear fuel to US assemblies is attractive to A. Yatsenyuk’s coup regime, despite the 2012 incident.
Worse, Westinghouse won’t recycle its fuel rods when they ‘burn out’, so Ukraine will spend even more budget money to prepare special storage facilities for nuclear waste.
Westinghouse has its eyes on a bigger prize...
“This move by Westinghouse is really to secure not just a fuel contract, which will go on for many years, but to put its foot in the door to build a fuel fabrication plant in eastern Ukraine. And that’s what’s most important and that’s what they’re after,” John Large, an independent nuclear analyst from London, tells RT news.
Experts warn that nuclear power plants should not undergo such drastic transitions.
“A nuclear reactor demands a coherent structure of operations. The active reactor core is the most dangerous when it comes to the impact it may have on people and the environment. All reactors differ in smallest details, and toying around with them leads to no good,” Evgeny Akimov of the International Union of Nuclear Energy Veterans warns.
If something goes wrong, Kiev may find they face all the consequences alone.
“As far as I know, Westinghouse signs contracts in which the company bears no responsibility, so the burden will lie with Ukraine,” states Rafael Arutyunyan, nuclear security expert & professor at Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.
Kiev’s actions are being dictated by politics and corruption rather than risks, even when the severe consequences may affect not just Ukraine, but the entire European continent.
When the Chernobyl tragedy occurred in 1986, it was by pure coincidence that Ukraine’s wind direction, usually directed to Europe, changed, sending most radioactive fallout in the direction of Russia and Belarus.
In this over-politicized case, European capitals would do well to understand how the wind blows.
FRANCE INSISTS ON "NO GM"
France’s lower house of parliament has passed a law prohibiting genetically modified (GM) maize from being grown, citing environmental concerns.
The law can be applied to any GM strain that is adopted at EU level.
The law follows a decree halting the planting of Monsanto’s insect-resistant maize MON810, which will be allowed for cultivation in the EU, Reuters reported.
But if any strain of GM crop is adopted in the future at EU level – including Pioneer 1507, developed by DuPont & Dow Chemical, it will be banned in France.
Pioneer 1507 could be approved by the EU later this year, after 19 of the 28 EU member states failed to gather enough votes to block it.
The law adopted now by France's lower house (National Assembly) is similar to one rejected by the upper house in February, which was seen as "unconstitutional."
“It's essential today to renew a widely shared desire to maintain the French ban. This bill strengthens the decree passed last March by preventing the immediate cultivation of GM & extending its reach to all transgenic maize varieties” Jean Marie Le Guen, the minister in charge of relations with the EU parliament, told the National Assembly.
The current Socialist-led government in France, like the previous conservative one, has opposed the growing of GM crops after public suspicion and protests by environmentalists.
Le Guen called for an EU system that would make sure that the decisions of member states not to adopt GM, couldn't be challenged legally.
A debate on the future of EU policy is going on at EU level, with the European Commission suggesting an opt-out to allow individual countries to ban GM crops.
The French ban on GM maize will now have to go to the Senate for approval. However, even if it is rejected again, the National Assembly will have the final say.
France is against genetically modified crops, but the UK argues that without them, Europe risks becoming a “museum of world farming.”
Spain also says its own farmers have to be able to compete with those outside the EU – many of whom are growing GM crops.
GM crops, though still unpopular in Europe, are widely grown in the US & parts of Asia.
Rotating crops beats agrotoxins as crop-eating insects beat GM
For thousands of years, farmers beat pests by rotating their crops, or placing them next to plants which kept the insects away.
Then came the wonderful world of agrotoxins.
But the bugs beat all that GM biotechnology could throw at them. Now, the latest advice to farmers is... go back to rotating crops.
UN warns world to produce 60% more food by 2050... or face mass unrest.
Political turmoil, social unrest, civil war, terrorism - all could be on the table unless our world boosts food production by 60% by mid-century, the UN’s hunger fighting agency warns.
The world’s population is expected to hit 9 billion people by 2050, which, coupled with a high calory intake by increasingly better off people, is likely to drastically increase demand in the coming decades, says Hiroyuki Konuma, assistant director- general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, for the Asia-Pacific region.
This, at a time when the world is investing less in agricultural research, raises fears among scientists that global food security could be imperiled.
"If we fail to meet our goal, and a food shortage occurs, there will be a high risk of social and political unrest, civil wars and terrorism, and world security as a whole might be affected," Reuters cites Konuma as saying at a regional food security conference in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.
A leaked draft of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's report, says climate change alone could cause a 2% drop each decade, this century. In the past 3 years, Australia, Canada, China, Russia and the US, have all suffered big flood and drought induced harvest losses.
Our reliance on an ever smaller group of crops is also leaving global food supplies increasingly vulnerable to price inflation, insects and disease.
"As the global population rises and pressure increases on our global food system, so too does our dependence on global crops and the production system that feeds us,” Luigi Guarino, of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, told the BBC earlier this month.
"The price of failure of any of these crops will become very high."
Progress is been made to stop global hunger: with vegetable production in Asia & the Pacific, where over three-quarters of all vegetables are grown, increasing by 25% over the last decade.
The FAO estimates, however, that 842 million people in the world remain undernourished, and two thirds of them live in the Asia-Pacific.
One in four children under the age of five is stunted due to malnutrition.
To combat the problem, the UN body outlines two primary options: increasing arable land areas, and increasing productivity.
Environmentalists also urge better food distribution methods. In February, the FAO, World Bank and World Resources Institute estimated that the world "loses" 25 to 33% of all the food it produces – nearly 4 billion metric tons.
More efficient agricultural production, better food storage, and more biologically diverse, local food systems, which are less vulnerable to global changes, are also proposed, to help tackle the growing threat of food insecurity.
EUROPE SPLITS AGAIN ON GM CROPS
The European Commission is set to authorize the growing of genetically modified maize on EU land, despite 19 member states voting against the move, highlighting the “absurd” rules of weighted votes in the EU.
In a debate on Tuesday, 19 EU member states indicated they would vote against authorizing genetically modified maize because of health and environmental concerns and opposition in the European Parliament.
But because of the EU's "comitology rules", their votes will be insufficient to overturn decisions by bigger member states who want insect resistant Pioneer 1507.
The UK & Spain both spoke in favor of GM crops, while Germany abstained. France is staunchly against their introduction.
European health Commissioner Tonio Borg says the commission is now legally bound to approve the crop, and Borg insists that extensive research since 2001 shows that the crop is safe.
The UK argued that, without GM crops, Europe risks becoming “the museum of world farming,” and that there is a clear scientific case for GM, while Spain said its farmers need to be able to compete with nations that grow GM produce.
DuPont, which jointly developed Pioneer 1507 with Dow Chemical, says in its statement that the EU has a “legal obligation to itself, to its farmers & scientists and to its trade partners” to support the approval of agricultural advances.
France however, warns that if the EC goes ahead with the introduction of GM maize, it risks fuelling even more euroscepticism, by granting approval in the face of fierce opposition.
Thierry Repentin, the French EU affairs minister:
“We have a majority against it, so I don’t understand how we can approve this. Even more so ahead of EU elections. This is dangerous to the image of the EU institutions, it will fuel the idea that Europe doesn’t work or works badly.”
Italy calls the outcome “indigestible” and Hungary calls it a showcase of the “European absurd”.
The Green group in the European Parliament says there is now no democratic mandate for giving a green light to GM maize. The environmental groups Greenpeace & Friends of the Earth say Pioneer 1507 harms moths & butterflies & is designed to be resistant to a kind of weed killer about to be phased out anyway, on safety concerns.
Marco Contiero, Greenpeace agriculture policy director:
“Approval by the Commission would be irresponsible because of the environmental risk, untenable because of widespread political and public opposition, & legally compromised, because the Commission has forced it through without the required consultation.”
Borg says the EC might compromise, and revive a separate proposal that would allow individual member states to ban GM crops while other countries could approve them.
He appeared to back down then...
“This file took thirteen years to come to fruition, I am cautious about giving timelines,” he said.
THERMAL POWER - THE NEGLECTED GIANT?
China and Russia are to build the world’s biggest thermal power plant with an 8 gigawatt capacity.
The Erkovetskaya TPP project in Russia’s Amur region could cost up to $24 billion, and will export energy to China where domestic demand is high.
The plant will be developed by Eastern Energy Company, a subsidiary of Inter RAO, the Russian state-run power utility, Vedomosti news reports.
The plant will supply 30-50 kilowatts per year - 5% of the Russian Federation's total production, General director of Eastern Energy Company, Mikhail Shashmurin says.
Sergey Beiden from Otkrytie Financial Corporation estimates the total cost at between $12.5 - $24 billion, reports Kommersant,
To deliver the energy to Beijing, where demand is strongest, 2,000 km of transmission lines will need to be installed.
Green Routines launches Wales' first Solar PV cooperative at The Senedd
US emits 50% more methane than EPA reports - study
The US is responsible for 50% more methane, a heat- trapping gas, than previous government estimates, a new study finds.
Methane is the most abundant global warming gas, and is 21 times worse than carbon dioxide at trapping heat.
The study estimates that in 2008, the US spewed 49 million tons of methane into the air, more than all the carbon dioxide pollution from cars and other vehicles --- in six months.
The figure is way over the 32 million tons estimated by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Most of America’s methane comes from Texas, Oklahoma & Kansas via livestock - cows, especially their manure, are twice as bad as originally thought - but also from leaks while refining and drilling for oil, the National Academy of Science says in its report released Monday.
Experts called this study of methane emissions the most comprehensive yet - given that the gas is difficult to track and measure.
The study was based on about 13,000 measurements from airplane flights and tall towers, the most used in any such research, the AP reports.
LOSS OF AMAZON RAINFOREST GROWS SHARPLY
New data released by the Brazilian government shows that deforestation in the Amazon has increased by nearly a third over the past year.
According to Brazilian government figures just released, satellite data for the 12 months to the end of last July, shows a 28% increase in deforestation compared to last year.
The study also shows that approximately 2,256 square miles (5,843 square km) of land has been cleared during the period, an area roughly the size of the US state of Delaware.
Scientists and environmentalists say the trend marks a reversal in gains against deforestation in Brazil, though other Amazon countries have also witnessed a rise in deforestation since 2011.
The reason is unknown, but experts attribute it to government infrastructure projects, environmental policy and a rise in demand for soybeans and other Brazilian farm exports, which encourages ranchers to clear private land in the Amazon.
“You can't argue with the numbers,” says Marcio Astrini, a coordinator with Greenpeace, adding, “This is not alarmist - it's a real and measured inversion of what had been a positive trend.”
The Amazon rainforest covers territory belonging to 9 nations, with over 60% in Brazil, followed by Peru with 13%, Columbia with 10%, and minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.
Mass rally staged in Australia for climate change action
Thousands of Australians gathered to call for action on climate change across the country as the PM moved to abolish carbon tax.
GetUp, the group organizing the countrywide event, estimates that 60,000 people turned out to protest.
Australia has just had the hottest 12 months ever recorded, which triggered massive bush fires in New South Wales.
HUNGER STRIKE FOR CLIMATE SENSE
Hundreds of activists from different NGOs joined a hunger strike on the second day of talks at the UN Climate Change Summit.
Wael Hmaidan, director of Climate Action Network International and one of the hunger strikers, told media that organizations away from the summit and other well-known individuals, joined in the voluntary fasting as well.
The strike was in solidarity with Naderev Saño, the Philippines' representative to the summit, who stated at the event's inaugural meeting that he was going on hunger strike until the conference was over and agreements made on concrete action to fight climate change.
"I'm overwhelmed by civil society's solidarity all over the world, especially from young people," Saño says.
He also highlights the urgent need to take action to tackle global warming & prevent "natural" disasters.
THROW AWAY LIVES
One point three billion metric tons - that's how much food that we waste each year, China Daily reports.
As this massive wastage of food occurs, 840 million people experience chronic hunger on a daily basis. Many millions more suffer from "silent hunger" - malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies.
The economic cost of waste is $750 billion a year, based on producer prices; if we consider retail prices and the wider impacts on the environment, including climate change, the figure is far higher.
As governments preach austerity, it's hard to understand how a hemorrhage of money like this could go neglected. Yet in some places, the volume of food wastage is rising.
A new report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, published at a Green Growth Forum now on in Copenhagen, highlights a troubling aspect: the negative consequences on the environment and natural resources we all need to simply survive on this planet.
When food is wasted, energy, land and water resources that went into producing it are also squandered - while at the same time large amounts of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere during the production, processing, and the cooking of food.
We simply cannot tolerate the waste of 1.3 billion tons of food every single year - a third of world food production.
This is why seriously cutting down on food loss & waste is one of the five elements of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Zero Hunger Challenge is a major focus of the UN High Level Task Force on Global Food Security.
We are working together within the UN system & with a broad coalition of partners to rise to the challenge, that also calls for 100% access to adequate food all year round; to eliminate childhood stunting; to make all food systems sustainable; & to end rural poverty.
To begin with, food loss and waste needs to be seen as a cross-cutting policy issue, rather than a lifestyle choice to be left in the hands of individual consumers.
The world needs to wake up to the need for policies on food waste and losses, that look at all stages of the food chain, from production to consumption.
In most developing countries, post-harvest losses can reach as high as 40% of production.
Especially in these places, investment in infrastructure for transportation, storage, cooling & marketing of food is badly needed. Training farmers in best practices also has an important role to play.
In developed countries, food retailing practices require a rethink. For example, rejection of food products on the basis of aesthetic concerns is a major cause of waste. Some supermarkets are already relaxing standards on fruit appearance, selling "misshaped" items at reduced prices and helping raise awareness that "ugly does not mean bad." More approaches like this, to find markets or uses for surplus food, are needed.
Both businesses & households should monitor to see where & how they waste food & take corrective steps - because prevention of waste is even more important than recycling or composting.
Unlike the mindboggling figure of 1.3 billion tons, these simple steps are easy enough to grasp - and within the reach of each of us. The world has enough on its plate but food wastage is something we can all do something about now.
Jos Graziano da Silva is director-general of UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and Achim Steiner is executive director of UN Environmental Programme. The two organizations are founding partners of the Think Eat Save - Reduce Your Foodprint campaign launched earlier this year.
STOP FRACKING NOW
A new US report shows that fracking for shale gas generated 280 billion gallons of toxic waste in 2012 - containing cancerous and radioactive substances.
Fracking one well, can use 2 to 9 million gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals, and 'though most of the water used then returns to the earth, it contains both radium and bromides, it says:
“When bromide in wastewater mixes with chlorine (often used at drinking water treatment plants), it produces trihalomethanes, chemicals that cause cancer and increase the risk of reproductive or developmental health problems”.
It also finds that 450,000 tons of air pollutants can potentially be produced in one year by the practice.
Environment America, who published the report, calls fracking “highly polluting” and notes growing numbers of documented cases of illness as a result. As well as cancer, toxic substances from fracking chemicals and waste water can cause endocrinal, neurological and immune system problems.
“The numbers don't lie — fracking has taken a dirty and destructive toll on our environment. If this dirty drilling goes unchecked, these numbers will only get worse,” John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment America says, in a post-publication news release.
Fracking extracts oil and gas by injecting water to break rock formations deep underground and its use in the US has rapidly risen recently - despite scientists warning about the climate- damaging methane or radiation its use brings. Over 80,000 US wells have been drilled or endorsed across 17 different states since 2005, and the report says that 360,000 acres are "damaged" as a result – the highest being in Texas, where 130,000 acres are calculated as "damaged".
While this figure includes land cleared for roads, well sites and pipelines, among other technical processes, the report states that “the total amount of habitat and landscape affected by fracking is much greater.”
This report comes after the publication of research from Duke University in the Environmental Science and Technology journal.
That team analyzed water and sediment samples from the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility, Indiana County, Pennsylvania, showing radium 200 times greater than samples taken upstream from the plant, and far higher than permissible under the Clean Water Act.
Radium is a radioactive metal that can cause diseases like leukemia and other ill effects, if exposure occurs over long periods of time.
The uncertainty over fracking is making house prices fall. The report cites a Texas study finding, that homes worth $250,000 but within 1,000ft of a well, have lost between 3% to 14% of their value.
Another reason for the decline in property values, could be the increased chance of earthquakes. Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Ohio and Colorado have had earthquakes after fracking's well wastewater disposal.
Environment America’s report suggests that damage from fracking is on a scale “unimagined” a few years ago and says:
“banning fracking is the prudent and necessary course to protect the environment and public health.”
The report strongly advises that US states take the initiative now and ban the practice.
NOT IN ROMANIA, CANADA!!!
Thousands of Romanians staged a new day of protest against a controversial Canadian gold mine project, by forming a human chain around the parliament building.
The chain stretched 7 kilometers around parliament. People chanted, “United we can save Rosia Montana.”
“Only pressure on the streets can force politicians to stop this project - which is very dangerous for the environment,” said protester Stefania Iordache.
The crowd was acting against government support for a plan by Canadian Gabriel Resources, to mine in the village of Rosia Montana, in Transylvania region.
Protesters say the project - which would become Europe’s largest open-cast gold mine - will damage the environment, as the Canadian company plans to destroy four mountain tops and wipe out three outlying villages in the area.
The project would also involve using an average of 12,000 tons of cyanide a year, to mine approx. 314 tons of gold and 1,500 tons of silver.
Protests erupted on September the 1st, after the Romanian government OKed a draft law granting 'national interest' status to the Canadian project.
The government approved it, after it received a bigger stake in the project by the Canadian company, which has waited for 14 years to gain an official permit for the mine. The recent weeks of protests forced the Romanian government to postpone a vote on the bill in parliament and PM V. Ponta agreed to form a special committee 'to examine' the project.
El Salvador Opens Bio-fertilizer Plant in Cooperation with Cuba
The first bio-fertilizer plant in El Salvador, built in collaboration with Cuban scientists, is opened by VP Salvador Sanchez Ceren, in La Palma municipality, 80 kilometers from the capital, San Salvador. "The Cuban and Salvadorian people share knowledge and wisdom, because knowledge isn't the property of individuals, but humanity -- and that is what the Cuban government has shown," the Salvadoran vice president says.
The bio-fertilizer plant's main objectives are to positively influence crop yields and grow healthy products for human consumption.
The project also has the collaboration of the Tri-national Trifinio Plan Commission, administered by El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, which seeks to protect natural resources and work in harmony with nature.
The Salvadoran vice president stresses the importance of replacing utilitarian & predatory policies, with new organisations, to promote social and economic relations which focus on gender equality, equity, and justice, while also preserving natural processes and biodiversity, and thus, contributing to 'ecological balance'.
"Poop-power is taking human waste by-products and extracting the energy from the waste, and using the energy for useful things," Michael R. Hoffmann, a professor at California Institute of Technology (Caltech), explains in Beijing.
He was at a next-generation toilet campaign launched in China last week, and promoting his own design.
His dream is that one day all faeces can be disinfected and processed into hydrogen for electric power generation.
His whole toilet unit includes processing machinery and a storage tank for hydrogen and is designed for 40 uses per day.
The 70-year-old's vision is that one family will be able to sustain their daily electrical needs using their own excrement and reuse the water they urinate after processing in their bathroom.
Each family will need just one next-generation toilet, says Hoffmann, winner of the "toilet revolution" campaign held by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation last year.
"The whole unit will cost the same price as an iPhone and you can charge your iPhone with your own poop-power," says the professor.
The toilet hasn't been fundamentally changed in 200 years after its invention in 1775, until the likes of Hoffmann created "toilet 2.0."
He came up with the new idea in 2011 when he was attracted by a US military toilet project.
The military was interested in independently operated toilet systems to be used by troops in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
"They didn't want to have to use fuel power generators. They wanted something that would be self-contained," Hoffmann says.
The military finally dismissed his toilet idea, but The Gates foundation then came up with a similar idea.
The Foundation defines a "next-generation toilet" as one which is waterless, hygienic, not needing any sewer connection or electricity, and costs less than five US cents per user, per day.
"Although we can fly people to the moon, 40% of the world's population, 2.5 billion people, practice open defecation or lack adequate sanitation facilities," says Dr. Doulaye Kone, senior officer of water, sanitation and hygiene at the Gates foundation.
Even in urban areas, 2.1 billion people still use toilets connected to septic tanks that are not safely emptied, or use systems discharging raw sewage into open drains or surface water.
The Foundation has extended its "toilet revolution" campaign to China, kicking off with a competition and with grants of 5 million dollars to encourage Chinese talent to reinvent the toilet.
"Imagine - each person discharges 1.5L urine and 300g of feces per day, and if you multiply the number of people of Beijing, how much stuff has to be processed on a daily basis," Hoffmann says.
Processing today's raw toilet-generated sewage is a huge project demanding huge facilities, yet instead, his small invention could do the job within each home, he says.
Hoffmann has been dealing with human waste for about 20 plus years. "If you want to study something, you have to invite it into your lab. Yes, all my students and even my brave wife have contributed to my research," he says.
Sometimes, the experiments went wrong. "Yeah, people made mistakes and they forgot to do something. And it just ran out on the floor. They had to clean up the human waste with their hands," the professor says, pulling a face.
Hoffmann says his invention is expensive, as research has cost a lot. He has been seeking partners in China to manufacture the product in large numbers, which would reduce costs.
He has introduced it to industry companies and toilet designers in Beijing, calling his presentation slides the "shit show."
He asked the audience to "put our shit together" for the new "poop-power."
The Caltech team are also trying to work with an electric car company... on battery applications.
"In the future, maybe you can power your car, with your own poo. If you feel your production is not enough, you can invite some of your friends to watch television at your home," he suggests.
JAPANESE AUTHORITIES "DEVOID OF RESPONSIBILITY"
The operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant admits - for the first time - that its reactors are leaking highly contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, admitted the leakage to oceans for the first time since a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami damaged the plant’s reactors in 2011 !!!
The operator made the acknowledgement after steam was seen at one of the plant's reactors.
TEPCO is under criticism for delaying the announcement, since experts had strong suspicions about a possible leak for most of the time they have spent completely denying it.
Previously, the company denied all reports suggesting that ANY contaminated water was leaking into the ocean.
TEPCO spokesperson Masayuki Ono, says that radioactive water leaking from the wrecked reactors is likely to have run into underground water systems, before joining the ocean, and "might" be the result of initial leaks to the underground system, spotted way back in 2011.
Ono adds that officials believe now a leak is "possible", as underground water levels "fluctuate in accordance with tidal movements and the rate of rainfall".
The plant operator says the number of plant workers with thyroid radiation exposures exceeding threshold levels for raised cancer risks, is "noticeably" higher than early reports.
On March 11th, 2011, a 9-magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami that inflicted heavy damage on the six-reactor Fukushima plant. Cooling systems of the plant’s reactors were knocked out, leading to meltdowns and the release of radioactive material.
Last July, a Japanese parliamentary panel said the crisis at Fukushima nuclear plant was a “man-made disaster” and not only a result of the tsunami.
Their report criticizes “governments, regulatory authorities and Tokyo Electric Power” for being devoid of “a sense of responsibility to protect people’s lives and society.”
NO MORE GMOs IN EUROPE?
Monsanto drops bid to approve new crops in Europe
The world’s largest seed corporation says it has dropped its bid to get more genetically modified crops onto the European market, after wide-spread popular opposition. The biotech giant says it will expand its share of the natural seed market instead.
“We will no longer be pursuing approvals for cultivation of new biotech crops in Europe. Instead, we will focus on enabling imports of biotech crops into the EU and the growth of our current business there,” the US- based company says in an email statement.
Pending applications for GM crops – 6 types of corn, a soybean variety and a modified sugar beet – will be withdrawn shortly, the biotech giant states.
Currently, only 2 GM crops are approved in Europe, the MON810 maize and a modified potato created by BASF, a German biotech company. However, much of the allowed genetically modified produce is delivered to Europe as animal feed.
Europe has long expressed its concern over the effects of GM food produce on human health.
Several EU member states, including France, Germany, Austria, and Spain, have banned cultivation of genetically-modified crops.
French scientists from the University of Caen released a study showing rats fed on a diet containing NK603, a corn seed variety, resistant to Monsanto's Roundup weed-killer, along with those given water mixed with the product at levels permitted in the US, died earlier than those on a standard diet.
Protests against Monsanto are frequent, all over the world.
Monsanto Video Revolt beats a corporate media blackout on GMO foods, to bring the issue to the world’s attention. The campaign was announced by the Global Healing Centre, Natural News and Natural Society, which have united to counter GM produce & the huge amounts of poisonous herbicides and pesticides, poisoning the planet.
In May, an estimated two million people, many in Europe, turned out for global anti-GM rallies.
In the UK, a YouGov poll shows that only 21% of the UK's people favour growing GM crops, with 35% opposed.
Yet senior officials in the UK have been stepping up their efforts to get large-scale farming of genetically- modified crops in Europe. In June, the UK's present Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, asked the EU to loosen controls, or risk being “left behind.”
Monsanto says they will invest in its European non-GMO seed business instead, to boost sales.
The company’s seed business in Europe accounts for over 98% of its $1.72 billion turnover in Europe.
"Conventional seeds is the area where we are focusing at this time in Europe, & we are funding the business in a way that we haven't done for more than 15 years," Monsanto’s President and managing Director for Europe, Jose Manuel Madero, says to Reuters.
The corporation is already investing $300 million to boost its seed production in France, Romania, Hungary and Turkey, with a mind to cashing in on "several hundred million dollars" more over the next five years, Madero says.
A significant part of that cash, an initial investment of $150 million, which could double to $300 million within a few years, is to be directed to Ukraine, a major global grain producer. Monsanto stresses that the total area sown with its seeds in Ukraine doubled between 2012 and 2013.
LATIN AMERICA AND CHINA LEAD
The 2nd International Summit on the Environment (CIMA) was held at Guayaquil city, in Ecuador, and aims at promoting businesses which work in unity with environmental protection.
The Guayaquil's Convention Centre hosted some 30,000 visitors, about 103 speakers, a business conference, the Latinoamerica Verde Awards for bio-entrepreneurs, and eight specific forums.
The CIMA also included Academic Forums for female leaders, visionary entrepreneurs & those responsible for policies and laws on environmental protection.
Swiss President Ueli Maurer, Dominican PM Roosevelt Skerrit, Tongan PM Siale'ataonga Tu'ivakano and Thai Deputy PM Nivatthamrong Boonsongpaisal, attended an ecological forum in China, a spokesperson says.
The Eco-Forum Global was held over three days in Guiyang, capital of south China's Guizhou Province, says Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying.
UK THE DIRTIEST POLLUTER
The UK government is violating EU air quality law by producing the highest level of NO2, judges rule.
The UK's High Court rules that the coalition is in breach of an EU directive which puts limits on nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a colorless, odorless gas made by burning fuels, which can cause respiratory conditions, leading to early death.
Judges asked the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg for guidance on what action needs to be taken. However, an immediate improvement to air pollution was delayed.
Air pollution kills almost 29,000 people in the UK each year --- according to a body which advises the UK government. Before deciding on further action, the High Court has referred a number of legal questions to the ECJ, and they could take up to 18 mths to be answered.
The case was filed against the government in 2011 by the firm ClientEarth. Alan Andrews, a lawyer at the firm, says the High Court could eventually force the UK government to take certain steps to improve air quality, but doesn't have the power to issue fines.
The environmental law firm wanted to force the government to come up with an air quality plan to comply with EU limits on N02, by 2015.
Via the EU directive, member states are supposed to have complied with limits on NO2 in 2010, but the deadline can be extended by five years if a plan to deal with high levels of NO2 is delivered.
Court documents show 40 of the UK’s 43 air quality zones exceeded the limits, and the government’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says 23 zones might comply by 2015 and 16 between 2015 and 2020, while London is not expected to comply until 2025.
“This historic ruling marks a turning point in the fight for clean air & will pile the pressure on,” says James Thornton, chief executive of ClientEarth, referring to the UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
“He must now come up with an ambitious plan to protect people from carcinogenic diesel fumes,” --- largely blamed for creating NO2, he says.
Salmon Confidential How Government Cover-Up on Fish Farming Threatens Your Health, and the Entire Ecosystem
Ben and I watched it on Sunday.
We actually didn't intend to watch it, but I plugged in a new set of speakers for my computer, and opened a link in a mercola.com newsletter to test the sound, and we were enthralled by this brilliantly presented extended report: The problem, analysis, solution is very clearly laid out, leading to an uplifting and inspiring result.
Salmon Confidential is a new film on the government cover up of what is killing British Columbia’s wild salmon.
When biologist Alexandra Morton discovers BC’s wild salmon are testing positive for dangerous European salmon viruses associated with salmon farming world- wide, a chain of events is set off by government to suppress the findings.
Tracking viruses, Morton moves from courtrooms, to British Columbia’s most remote rivers, Vancouver grocery stores and sushi restaurants.
The film documents Morton’s journey as she attempts to overcome government and industry roadblocks thrown in her path and works to bring critical information to the public, in time to save BC’s wild salmon.
The film gives surprising insight into the inner workings of government agencies, as well as rare footage of the bureaucrats tasked with managing our fish and the safety of our food supply. >>> more
'Keystone' Species Missing in Action by the Millions
Wild Salmon Declines Traced Back to Salmon Farms
Lethal Salmon Virus in Every Region with Salmon Farms
Buying Salmon Infected with Dangerous Fish Viruses
Farmed Fish Pose Health Hazards to Your Health
Buying Local Increases Food Safety and Food Security
• Salmon Confidential draws back the curtain to reveal how the Canadian government is covering up the cause behind British Columbia’s rapidly dwindling wild salmon populations:
• In British Columbia, pacific salmon are an essential species for the ecosystem. They fill 100s of streams and rivers, feeding hundreds of species, including humans.
Since the early 1990’s, salmon numbers have rapidly dwindled, coinciding with the introduction of farmed salmon pens.
• Fish farms breed pathogens that can spread like wild fire and contaminate any wild fish swimming past. Wild salmon that died before spawning have tested positive for a number of salmon viruses, including the highly lethal “salmon influenza”
• Farmed fish, purchased in stores around British Columbia have tested positive for at least three lethal fish viruses, including the dreaded ISA virus (aka salmon flu), salmon alpha viruses, & Piscine reovirus, which causes salmon to have heart attacks, barring them swimming upriver.
• I recommend buying locally-grown foods & wild fish only.
Fish farms are breeding grounds for disease & toxic waste, and produce fish of inferior quality. Due to the dramatically increased disease risk—a natural side effect of crowding— these animals are further contaminated with drugs, and in the case of salmon, synthetic astaxanthin, which is made from petrochemicals that are not approved for human consumption. >>> more
Excerpts: "The position of government and corporations is identical. Democracy is slipping away. ... The level of carelessness is unforgivable.... The government is not doing it. Someone has to! We must step up to support politicians who are stopping that... Department of Wild Salmon: That's us!"
And an exemplary statement of Canadian government official position on the findings: "...not designed as a public document. That's one of the drawbacks of releasing it to the public." Dr. Gary D. Marty, British Columbia Fish Health Vet.
It was edifying to see the faces of the many bureaucrats who've submitted to telling lies. The camerawoman did a brilliant job focusing on their eyes - watching them glaze over when they lied. I felt sorry for them, and very glad for the people who pursued the truth and came up with the best solution possible: Department of Wild Salmon: That's us!"
— the local communities taking responsibility for overseeing the protection and health of a wild salmon habitat themselves. They show how they can turn this around.
Queen Elizabeth 1st took a bath once a year – whether she needed it or not.
Many people now take 2 showers - a day. This is very relevant to our current stage of consumption.
Consumption of our resources such as water, land, clean air and fossil fuels is now at an unsustainable level. At the time of Elizabeth 1 the world population was about half a billion. Today it is 10 billion. That is a lot of showers.
Clearly there have been many improvements since the year 1500: we are now more hygienic, warmer, better fed and more healthy, but the way we have gone about improving our lifestyles has come at a price. And although we might think everything is quite expensive enough already, we are not actually paying the full price.
A full price would include the cost to the environment. Trees don’t bill us for their loss of forests, endangered animals do not bill us for their loss of habitat. The oceans ask no price for the pollution humans pour into them, and the air will not send us an invoice for the extra greenhouse gasses it has to endure.
If the fish and whales took us to court for murder of their family members, we would at least have more life left in the sea.
In 1972 a group of eminent scholars, called the Club of Rome, published a book called Limits to Growth. They spent years pulling information together, then modelled it to create a future trend scenario. Their conclusions were that we were using up the natural resources of the planet too quickly, and if we did not change our ways, collapse was inevitable. Limits to Growth was an early warning siren. Sadly few people listened.
In essence, they estimated that if human beings continue to consume more than nature is capable of providing, global economic collapse and abrupt population decline could occur at around 2030.
In other words humans are taking too much, and not giving enough back, and sooner rather than later there is going to be a very big problem.
Governments baying for economic growth at all cost are digging us deeper into the quagmire. They pursue this because they measure success in money, not in wellbeing or protection of the ecosystems on which we all actually depend in order to stay alive.
Ever more dangerous and unwholesome methods are being used to extract fossil fuels. Tar sands are huge wasters of energy and put more CO2 into the atmosphere in their extraction than when they are burnt. Fracking - or hydraulic fracturing – pumps toxic chemicals into the ground to release small pockets of gas, deep sea oil drilling has an abysmal record, but still they do it,
But there's another way of doing business. Growth is still possible, but only if we invest in technologies like renewable energy supplies, allocate money for innovation and research so that we can overcome our dependence on dirty fuels and convert to clean energies such as wind, tide & sun. We need to stop wasting so much, & stop polluting the air with CO2 and poisons from incinerators and dirty industries.
We need to reuse more of what we have, and recycle more of what we need, such as metals and plastics. Recycling leaves more in the resource pot for the next generation.
If you had the choice between a car burning fossil fuels, and a long and healthy life for your children, which would you choose?
From 1970 to 2008, the biological resources of our planet shrank by 28%. The main consumer? The USA.
Living Planet's specialists at the World Wide Nature Foundation studied over 9000 mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians, Vesti.ru reports. The report sayss if the whole world used our natural resources like Americans use them, we would need 5 planets to sustain the Earth.
Yet the USA is only 5th on the list of countries that extravagantly uses the world's natural resources for its own population.
First are Qatar, Kuwait, The United Arab Emirates and Denmark. After the USA? Belgium, Australia, Canada, The Netherlands... and Ireland!
Researchers also note that small plastic particles now present a serious threat to sea life as they are entering animals' respiratory and digestive systems.
10% of fish caught in areas close to the islands of rubbish around the USA & Hawaii have plastic in their stomachs, says ECO portal.
China Usurps US As Germany’s Biggest Trade Partner 25/2/2017 at 03:36
China has taken another step in global economic dominance: becoming Germany’s most significant international trading partner, a place the US had.
Germany sent and received with China, goods and services worth approximately $180 billion in 2016, according to recent Federal Statistics Office data. France was Germany’s second-largest trade ally, while the US ranked third.
In 2015, the US enjoyed a brief stint as Germany’s top trade partner, a spot occupied by France, for the previous half-century.
Optimism among exporters in China, the world’s third-largest economy, is “rising further,” says Clemens Faust, of Ifo Institute for Economic Research, a Munich-based think tank.
(source - Sputnik)
Moody's Russia rating stable (from negative) February 18th 2017
TASS -Moody's international rating agency has changed its outlook on Russia’s sovereign rating to stable from negative, today's statement says.
"Moody's Investors Service ("Moody's") has today changed the outlook on Russia's Ba1 government bond rating to stable from negative. Moody's also affirmed Russia's government bond rating and issuer rating at Ba1,"says their statement.
"The main driver for changing the outlook on Russia's Ba1 government bond rating to stable from negative is the government's enactment of a medium-term fiscal consolidation strategy, that is expected both to lower the government's dependence on oil and gas revenues, and to permit the gradual replenishment of its savings buffers. In addition, the Russian economy is now recovering, after a nearly two-year-long recession,"the agency says.
TPP members woo China after US exit Tuesday Jan 24th, 2017
The Pacific Rim nations say they are determined to salvage a major trade pact after US President Donald Trump kept his promise to pull out of it.
Australia and New Zealand said Tuesday, they will seek to encourage China and other Asian nations to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), while Chile said it will continue to pursue new deals.
The TPP was a pillar of former US President Barack Obama's policy to pivot to Asia, which Japanese PM Shinzo Abe has touted as a counterweight to a rising China.
On Monday Trump signed an executive order, pulling the US out of the 2015 agreement -- and distancing the US from its Asian allies.
Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull said he has held discussions with his Japanese, New Zealander & Singaporean counterparts on the possibility of proceeding with the TPP, without the US.
"Losing the United States from the TPP is a big loss, there is no question about that. But we are not about to walk away: certainly there's potential for China to join the TPP," Turnbull told reporters in Canberra. Tuesday.
China's counter pact to Obama's "pivot to Asia" is the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) and the Southeast Asian-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English said the region could switch to alternative trade deals, warning the US it's ceding influence to China.
"We've got this RCEP agreement with S. East Asia, that up until now has been on a bit of a slow burn, but we might find the political will for that to pick up, if TPP isn't going to proceed," he said.
Malaysia said negotiators from the remaining TPP countries, would be in "constant communication", to decide the best way forward.
Across the Pacific, Chile said it's invited ministers from other TPP members, plus China and S Korea, to a summit in the S. American country in March, to pursue new deals, and has received positive responses at a high level.
Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz said another regional trade deal without the US might be possible, but "it wouldn't be the TPP."
Another member, Mexico, said it would immediately seek bilateral deals with other countries that signed the TPP.
Non-member the Philippines, a key US ally, said it will build closer economic ties with its Asian neighbours, including China.
The 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership also includes Brunei, Canada, Peru and Vietnam.
Trump argues that free trade agreements like TPP, are lopsided against the US and harmful to US workers & manufacturing.
He's vowed to implement more protectionist trade policies as president, sparking alarm, even among European allies.
(source - PressTv)
Politician: European-style reforms to degrade Ukraine’s economy January 23rd
Ukraine’s economy has been degrading as its dependence on commodity exports grows as a result of "European-style reforms", leader of the Ukrainian Choice public movement, Viktor Medvedchuk said Monday, in a LiveJournal post.
"Rather than developing innovations to achieve a technological breakthrough, we have been witnessing destruction of the country’s high tech industries. In 2013, the share of various machines, equipment and transport vehicles in our exports was 16.3%, but, in 2014, it dropped to 13.2% and to 12.1% in 2015. During the first 11 months of 2016, this share fell to 11.6%," he elaborated.
At the same time, Medvedchuk stressed that agricultural exports had grown, reaching 41.6% during the January to November period of 2016.
"However, there is nothing to celebrate: we export only agricultural commodities while 'ready-to-use' food products’ share is 6.6%. Where agriculture is concerned, structural problems have been growing: it would be enough to say that livestock population has been decreasing, which may create serious problems in the next few years," he added.
The politician also pointed to the planned education reforms, bound to "contribute to the process of turning Ukraine into a banana republic." The country’s education ministry... "has decided that children in 10th and 11th grades do not need that many physics, chemistry, mathematics & informatics classes so it is better to declare those subjects, as optional."
"Really --- why build nuclear power plants and produce machines? This reformed education will be enough to grow sunflowers and rapeseeds," Medvedchuk concluded.
(source - TASS)
Russian, Armenian PMs to discuss integration cooperation within EAEU January 24th, 2017
Integration cooperation between Russia & Armenia within the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) will be the focus of talks between Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his Armenian counterpart, Karen Karapetyan, who arrives in Moscow on Tuesday, at the invitation of the Russian government.
The agenda of the talks will include issues of Russian-Armenian cooperation in the area of trade-and-economic relations, and in such sectors as energy, transport, and the humanities.
The 2 prime ministers will also discuss the implementation of joint investment projects Russia's government's press service said.
The talks are expected to yield a number of intergovernmental & inter-ministerial documents.
(source - TASS)
All countries observing oil output cuts agreement — Russian energy minister January 22, 17:04 TASS - All countries are observing the agreement on cutting output, Russia's Minister of Energy Alexander Novak told media on Sunday.
The IMF expects oil prices to grow by almost 20% in 2017.
"On the agreement's fulfilment - I can say, we see with satisfaction, the successful implementation of the agreement & joint action of OPEC & non-cartel countries, stabilizing the situation on the oil market," he said.
"We have seen the statement made by Saudi Arabia’s minister claiming the country cut output by more than the agreement reads," he said.
"Russia observes its obligations faster - and cuts are almost twice faster than planned. The ministers' committee will be meeting every other month and, prior to the next (in May) OPEC summit, it will have two meetings," the minister said.
"Today, we have noted that the situation on the market is approaching balance, stock is lowering already. Most importantly", he said "we can see stability and lower volatility.".
"I think the statistics data for January will show cuts of over 1.7 million barrels a day," he said.
"The potential for price growth is exhausted. In general, the situation can be viewed as follows: oil prices are going to be from $50 to $60 per barrel," he said.
US MARKET RECOVERS UNDER TRUMP PICKS 22.01.2017
Market uncertainty resulting from the ‘unpredictable Trump’ factor, eased recently, as the President’s cabinet picks have provided multiple clues over the path of economic policy: making the situation clearer... and more investment-friendly.
Kristian Rouz – A cautiousness amongst US and international investors stemming from uncertainty regarding President Donald Trump’s economic policies, is gradually fading:- industry heavyweights tend to approve Trump’s choices for his Cabinet.
Most prominently, billionaire investor Warren Buffett expressed his ‘overwhelming’ support for the new administration, regardless of risks stemming from Trump’s perceived unpredictability. Part of the reason is that Buffet recently turned losses into gains on his IBM portfolio, as the new administration’s protectionist policies are poised to boost US electronics production.
Meanwhile, a majority of S&P 500 executives are optimistic because of high expectations that the now projected gains in US domestic manufacture, will boost corporate profits.
US corporate earnings have remained between a rock and a hard place for the past year-and -a-half, so even the most sceptical CEOs have come to the realisation, that there’s hardly any way to go, except up.
Still, safe haven assets such as US Treasuries, gold, and real estate have all risen in demand & value in the last several days, as the dollar slid and equities have wavered around their multi-year highs.
On Trump’s fiscal stimulus plans, Treasury yields, with interest rates, are poised to increase further --- which supports the demand for US bonds. Trump’s recent remarks that the dollar is ‘too strong’ have indicated that his Cabinet may pursue a devaluation of the national currency to some extent, resulting in a dollar sell-off while it's still at its multiyear highs.
Overall -- as the situation becomes clearer -- investors can’t help but feel more confident, as nothing attracts money, like a greater degree of certainty and clarity.
“I feel that way no matter who is president,” billionaire investor Warren Buffett, head of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said. “The CEO – which I am – should have the ability to pick people that help you run a place. If they fail, then it’s your fault, & you have got to get somebody new.”
Buffett was a Hillary supporter in the presidential campaign, but didn't harbour critical feelings following Trump’s election, like George Soros, who is quite sceptical of the upcoming makeover of the US economy.
Trump’s administration is comprised of high- ranking business executives and people from the military, among others. The new Cabinet includes representatives from both the financial and non-financial sectors of the economy.
Trump’s Secretary of the State is former Exxon Mobil CEO, Rex TIllerson, while his Treasury Secretary is Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker, who helped found conservative news source Breitbart. The cabinet suggests the nature of the new admin’s policies, with energy's agenda prominent in US foreign policy, while appointing a banker as head of the Treasury Dept, suggests an upcoming struggle between the White House and the Fed, over world money matters: until now an exclusive 'Fed' prerogative.
"There is certainly more reason to be optimistic as we enter 2017, than there was at the start of 2016," Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman underlined. He cited optimistic consumer sentiment post-election, & expectations of across-the-board tax cuts under the Trump administration.
A plan to boost infrastructure spending has lifted confidence in the US transportation sector quite prominently. Major airlines & railway companies now find themselves in a better position to attract private capital as their capital expenditure projections are lower, due to Trump’s election.
Delta Airlines is hoping that Trump’s US protectionism and fiscal stimulus will fix the US airlines' situation, and United Continental shares their view.
"It feels like we are on a really good path,” Scott Kirby, the airline’s President, said. “It felt to me like there was an inflection point after the election for business demand."
Corporate profits, meanwhile, are gradually rebounding in the 'election quarter': rising some 6.3%, after the disastrous slumps in mid-2015 – 2016. Private sector earnings are expected to gain momentum, this quarter, increasing by up to 13.6% --- says Thomson Reuters outlook.
Goldman Sachs evacuates UK 19 January, 2017
US bank Goldman Sachs will move 1,000 staff from London to Frankfurt as a post-Brexit reorganisation that will reduce its City headcount by half, German business daily Handelsblatt reports on 19 January.
“The bank is weighing transferring up to 1,000 employees to Frankfurt, including traders as well as top bankers,” the paper reports, citing financial industry sources.
In total, Goldman Sachs will cut its head- count in London, from 6,000... to 3,000.
(source - Katehon)
Moldova's New President Hopes to Cancel EU Association Agreement January 17th, 2017
Moldova’s President said on Tuesday that he hopes the country’s association agreement with the European Union will be cancelled.. if his party obtains a parliamentary majority, paving the way for an alliance with Moscow.
“I don’t exclude that, after the next parliament polls, this agreement will be annulled,” if the socialist party wins the majority of seats in the next election, Igor Dodon noted on his first foreign trip to Moscow, after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
(source - Al Manar)
HughesMetallurgical Plant - relaunch in spring 2017 January 12, 2017
One of the biggest industrial enterprises of the Donetsk People’s Republic, founded by a Welsh entrepeneur in the 19th century, is relaunched in the spring of 2017, the press-service of the DPR's Ministry of Industry and Trade, reports.
Also, DPR's industrial enterprises, Donfrost and Nord,are now producing 51,000 fridges.
It's necessary to point out that the production of fridges in Nord factory stopped completely in August 2016, and the Donfrost plant was established at that time. Now this plant is working with FSR states (Former Soviet Republics) and in Asia, where 70% of DPR's production, is imported.
Gabriel: Germany’s insistence on fiscal discipline may lead toEU breaking-up Sat Jan 7, 2017
Germany's Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has warned Chancellor Angela Merkel that increasing pressure on the European Union countries to maintain their fiscal discipline could widen divisions in the EU and lead to its imminent collapse.
"I once asked the chancellor, what would be more costly for Germany: for France to be allowed to have half a percentage point more deficit --- or for Marine Le Pen to become president?" Gabriel said in an interview published on Saturday in Der Spiegel magazine... adding:- "Up until today, she still owes me an answer."
Gabriel, the head of Germany's Social Democrats Party and a partner to Merkel's conservatives in her ruling grand coalition, said that Germany's insistence on austerity in the eurozone has left Europe more divided than ever, putting the 28- member bloc at the risk of a real break-up.
"But I also know about the state of the EU. It's no longer unthinkable that it breaks apart," he said, adding that Berlin's pressure on countries such as France and Italy, to tighten their fiscal discipline, has led to more political risks, such as the rise of far-right, nationalist parties.
The SPD repeatedly challenges Merkel's emphasis on fiscal discipline as a basis for economic prosperity, saying greater focus on investment, could be the EU's path to success.
Gabriel said Germany would badly lose if the EU crumbles over economic problems and divisions - over how the bloc handles the unprecedented flow of refugees from the Middle East & Africa.
"Should that happen, our children and grand- children would curse us," he said, adding, "Germany is the biggest beneficiary of the European community, economically and politically."
SPD sources said on January 5th, that Gabriel, who's also Germany's economy minister, could contest Merkel in September's federal election - if members extend the mandate of the party's long-standing president.
Oil Prices Reach 18-Month High January 3rd 2017
Oil prices rose sharply today, hitting an 18-month high, fueled partly by market expectations that OPEC members, & other major producers, will abide by an agreement to curb output, in order to stabilize the market in 2017.
Brent crude oil price climbed $1.27, or 2.2%, trading at $58.09 a barrel, the highest since July 2015. US crude was trading at $54.94 a barrel, also higher than the 2015 price.
January 1st is the starting date for the agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC producers to reduce production by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd).
Meanwhile, Libya, one of two OPEC countries exempt from reducing production, increased its output to 685.000 barrels a day, from around 600,000 in December.
Russia, although it kept its extraction in December, at a 30-year high (11.21 million bpd), is expected to cut output by 300,000 bpd, in the first half of 2017.
World Economic Forum director calls on EU: to reset relations with Russia December 31, 2016
"A reset in the complicated situation of the kind could be a very important step" - Philipp Rosler
The World Economic Forum’s Managing Board Member and Director, Philipp Rosler, calls on the EU to improve relations with Russia.The former German chancellor's statement came in an interview with the Neuer Osnabrucker Zeitung newspaper, published on Saturday.
"A reset in the complicated situation of the kind could be a very important step,"he said, adding both sides now, should offer respective signals.
"Achieving mutual understanding on the European continent is necessary and is, first of all, the affair of Europeans, not Americans,"Rosler said."Using these approaches, we should structure policies."
The official said the issue of how to behave with Russia after the Soviet Union collapsed, has not been cleared up, and"today, we can see what conflicts have arisen from this negligence," he added.
(source - TASS)
WEALTHY GAZPROM TELLS IT LIKE IT IS
TASS - Gazprom sees some risks for gas transit through Ukraine to Europe, and in the case of unsanctioned gas tapping by Ukraine, it may cut off supplies to the EU, Gazprom's CEO, Alexei Miller, told reporters.
"Indeed there are risks for gas transit to Europe (via Ukraine). In the contract, which was signed in 2009, we clearly fix all cases of force majeure. If Ukraine starts gas tapping, then we can either cut supply by the volume of illegally taken gas, or can carry out a disproportionate reduction. But we may stop deliveries all together, even after a single unauthorized tapping of gas," Miller said.
Russia and China cut investment in USA's government securities 16.12.2016 | Source: Pravda.Ru
The Russian Federation reduced investment in US government securities in October of this year, by 7.4 billion dollars compared to the same period in 2015. Thus, Russia's investment in US government securities has shrunk from 82 to 74.6 billion dollars.
In 2015, Russia was ranked 16th on investments in US government securities. As of late 2016, Russia has slipped 2 positions down, to 18th. China has given over its lead to Japan. In October, Beijing's investment reached 1.115 trillion dollars, while that of Tokyo was evaluated at 1.131 trillion.
Foreign states owned US government securities to the amount of 6.038 trillion dollars in October 2016, TASS reports, with reference to the US Treasury Department.
Meanwhile, Russia, China and India, are to "completely refuse to use dollars or euros" in international payments in five or seven years. Turkish President Erdogan also calls to abandon US dollars.
In early January 2016, the Bank of Russia was said to have become the largest buyer of gold of all the central banks in the world.
Experts suggest Russia is buying lots of gold, as part of a new Kremlin geopolitical strategy, as Russia wants to relieve herself of the dollar peg and have more independence for financial manoeuvres, in the event that the West keeps tightening sanctions on Russia.
Russia says sanctions extension shows EU's weakness 16-12-2016
The decision of the European Union (EU) to extend the sanctions against Russia, demonstrates the alliance'sweakness, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on December 16th.
"The European Union has once again demonstrated its weakness and its inability to admit the obvious fact -- linking the restrictions to implementation of the Minsk agreement by Moscow, is absurd," the ministry said in a statement.
The Minsk agreement aimed at ending conflict in eastern Ukraine was reached by leaders of a so-called Normandy format group: Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France, in February 2015 in Minsk, Belarus' capital.
However, the peace treaty has not been fully implemented.
European Council President Donald Tusk said Thursday that EU leaders agreed to extend to July 31st, 2017, economic sanctions imposed on Russia in 2014 over its takeover of Crimea and alleged involvement in the Ukraine crisis.
Russia has retorted with a ban on imports of a range of European commodities, mainly foodstuffs, which will remain in effect until December 31st, 2017.
The ministry slammed Tusk for saying that the EU was still awaiting a clarification of the new US administration's policy in relation to Russia.
"In fact, the President of the European Council thus acknowledged its complete dependence on the United States, via this issue, which is contrary to the interests of its member states, which have been significantly affected by the sanctions standoff with Russia," the ministry added.
IMF Data Shows China’s GDP Outpaces US's --------- in 2016
In purchasing power parity, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) will exceed that of the US by some $2.7 trillion, in 2016.
The figures come from a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimate, and serve to shift the canon that the US is the world’s primary economic superpower.
Economists forecast that US GDP will measure some $18.5 trillion, while China is expected to net $21.2 trillion in GDP, as per IMF data.
''Deeply Concerned'' -- Gazprom ready to supply gas to Ukraine — Russia’s energy minister
TASS - Ukraine is ready to purchase from 1.5 to 4 bln cubic metres of gas, the minister said.
"It can be said according to outcomes that the Ukrainian party expressed readiness to buy 1.5 to 4 bln cubic metres of gas in the winter in order to provide an uninterrupted supply for Ukrainian consumers and transit to European consumers,"
"Russia's party and Gazprom showed readiness to supply Russian gas to Ukraine, within the framework of the effective contract," the Russian minister said.
Russia is deeply concerned at Ukraine’s decision to impose a $6.6 bln fine, the minister went on to say.
Novak handed over a letter concerning an antimonopoly probe against Gazprom, in Ukraine, to the Vice President of the European Commission, Maros Sefcovic.
"We expressed deep concern at the decision made on December 5 by the economic court of Kiev to impose $6.6 bln fine on Gazprom. In our opinion, this is an absolute unlawful decision, as it was not made by Stockholm Court, and gives an opportunity for now, to speak about new risks to gas transit, to European consumers,"Russia's minister said.
Unlike previously, Russia and Ukraine have no disagreements this Winter, on gas prices.
"This time we have no price disagreements because the Ukrainian party and Russian party, confirm that the gas price formed in this quarter, particularly in December, -- pursuant to the contract formula -- is absolutely competitive," Novak said.
"The Ukrainian side is interested in buying gas from Russia, in its commercial aspect," the minister said.
The EU's energy chief has assured Russia that Ukraine has funds to purchase gas.
Trump meets with an ex-bank CEO who wants to abolish the Federal Reserve and return to the gold standard source Novorossia Today: November 29th, 2016
As President-elect’s Donald Trump’s transition rolls on, much more attention is being paid to possible selections for a variety of high-ranking positions, and to meetings, that might help decide these appointments.
On Monday, Trump met with John Allison, the former CEO of BB&T bank, and of the libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute.
There have been reports that Allison is being considered for Treasury secretary.
On the campaign trail Trump has questioned the future of the Federal Reserve’s political independence, but Allison takes rhetoric a bit further. When running the Cato Institute Allison wrote a paper in support of the abolition of the Fed.
“I would get rid of the Federal Reserve because the volatility in the economy is primarily caused by the Fed,” Allison wrote in 2014 for the Cato Journal, a publication of the institute.
Allison said that simply allowing the market to regulate itself would be preferable to the Fed harming the stability of the financial system.
“When the Fed is radically changing money supply, distorting interest rates, and over- regulating the financial sector, it makes rational economic calculation difficult,” he wrote. “Markets do form bubbles, but the Fed makes them worse.”
Allison suggested that the government’s practice of insuring bank deposits up to $250,000 should be abolished, and the US should return to a banking system backed by “a market standard such as gold.”
Allison also argued for higher capital reserves of up to 20% of assets at banks. On the other hand, he also argued that the government should repeal three of the broadest banking regulations.
“We should raise capital standards, but it's more important to eliminate burdensome regulations:- including Dodd-Frank, the Community Reinvestment Act, and Truth in Lending,” Allison wrote. “About 25% of bank personnel costs relate to regulations. Banks cannot pay the regulatory costs and have high capital standards.”
This is similar to Trump’s desire to roll back regulation -- including Dodd-Frank -- on the financial institutions, though he has since backtracked somewhat.
It is unclear if any of Allison’s policy views will ultimately be a part of Trump’s plans, but given the unconventional nature of his ideas, the meeting is notable.
Russia's 'Syria countersanctions' will hit the West below the belt
The West and Russia are entering the third year of a war of sanctions. Washington threatens to impose new sanctions against Russia, this time for Syria. Russia will take "painful measures" in response, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, says.
Pravda.Ru offers a list of counter sanctions that we compiled on the basis of experts' opinions.
1. Russia's first answer would be the abolition of neo-liberal economic policies and a transition to a new economic development strategy. This can block Western influence channels on our country & thus become the most asymmetric, but tough answer, to any new Western sanctions, noted Ruslan Dzarasov, Doctor of Economics, head of the department of political economy, at Russia's 'Plekhanov' Economic University.
The expert noted that"we continue to adhere to the export growth model, taking capital to the West and forming a budget on the basis of financial interests of capital rather than domestic consumers."Russia, the expert said, should introduce a combination of state planning and a market sector,"similar to what the USSR was doing during the 1920s."
"The state should ensure the financial transparency of corporations, expand the rights of trade unions and workers, strengthen social control over big business, & show influence on the formation of prices in the economy, to stop price disparities in favour of the mining export sector, and to the detriment of manufacturing industry," Ruslan Dzarasov told Pravda.Ru.
2. Russia could refuse to save its reserves in US dollars. Russia doesn't take first place in terms of dollar savings in the world - but it could still give a serious blow to the Western financial system, Dr Valentin Katasonov, Economics Professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Finance, and head of Russia's Sharapov Economic Society, told Pravda.Ru.
"A lot of Russia's liabilities in national gold and currency reserves, are denominated in US dollars. Should they be put on the market --- the dollar will suffer greatly," leading expert at the Union of Oil and Gas Industrialists, Rustam Tankan said.
Noteworthy: some private Russian companies have already abandoned the US dollar in their activities. Megafon, one of Russia's 3 leading cellular providers, converted about 40% of its dollar deposits to euros & Hong Kong dollars. The company transferred the funds to major Chinese bank accounts. Norilsk Nickel took similar measures. The Hong Kong dollar is a Chinese foreign clone of the dollar, and the US is unable to impose any sanctions on this currency.
Russia has started abandoning the US dollar as a reserve currency, by opening a Raw Materials Exchange in St. Petersburg, where Russian energy carriers are traded in rubles.
3. Russia could freeze US investors' assets in the Russian economy."Foreign citizens are the ultimate beneficiaries of our shadow holdings. There are 'tricky' financial mechanisms in the timber industry, for instance," Igor Gerasimov, a member of the Committee for Business Security at the Chamber of Commerce, and security expert, told Pravda.Ru.
The shadow mechanism works as follows... A wood-working firm does most of the work, while most of the profit goes to a "general contractor." The latter pays the company a relative price for production, & a minimum profit. Most of the profit goes to specific individuals, to the accounts of foreign companies. Therefore, Russia could adopt laws over the nationalization of natural resources & city-forming enterprises,said Igor Gerasimov.
4. The State Duma of the Russian Federation has already discussed a draft law to relieve both state-run and privately-owned Russian companies of $700 billion of debts... which are held by Western banks in countries now threatening sanctions on Russia.
5. Sanctions in the field of high technology, will be no less sensitive."Russian titanium will stop arriving at European companies, and this will certainly be a very significant act of pressure on our partners,"Alexei Mukhin, general director of the Centre for Political Information, told Pravda.Ru.
Boeing & United Technologies, as well as Europe's Airbus Group, purchase most of their titanium from Avisma, a Russian company, which happens to be the world's largest titanium producer. Yet this covers only about 30% of their needs. The US, however, is entirely dependent on Russia for its rocket engines. RD-180 is a 6-ton liquid rocket engine, with a thrust of 400+ tons. The US has used Russian rocket engines since 2000. The US Congress passed a budget which provides for the allocation of 100s of millions of dollars... to buy an "unlimited" number of RD-180 engines.
6. Russia's sanctions against Western airlines would lead to their elimination. A great deal of airlines fly across the territory of Russia and save a lot of money on this, chair of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs, Andrei Klimov, told Pravda.Ru.
"If all of a sudden, the Russian authorities try to do something in this field, it will generate huge profits to companies from such states as the United Arab Emirates, & at the same time, it will cause serious financial damage to German, French and other air carriers," said the expert.
7. Many large companies in the West have strong lobbies in legislative authorities. Therefore, the input of targeted sanctions... under the pretext of rules and regulations violations, would be a very strong response. Starting from 1 Nov 2016 Russia banned imports of salt from the EU, the US, Canada, Australia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Albania and Ukraine.
On 15 February 2016, Russia banned imports of soybeans and corn from the US, including through third countries. Russia still imports various US food products, spending millions of US dollars a year (PepsiCo, Starbucks, Cargill, McDonald's), pharmaceuticals (Pfizer), cosmetic products (Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson), plastics, machinery, textiles, footwear, auto- mobiles (Ford, General Motors), as well as products under a "secret code" worth $554 million --- in the first half of 2016, alone.
Lyuba Lulko Pravda.Ru
World Central banks get rid of US securities Thursday, 20 October, 2016
The number of US bonds shrank dramatically last month (27.5 billion dollars). This decline is the biggest this year. As a result, the value of US securities, has fallen.
Now their total cost is about $3 trillion. This is the lowest level in five years.
China & Saudi Arabia are the leaders among those countries which are selling US bonds.
IMF heralds catastrophe for major banks of EU and US Source: REX
The International Monetary Fund said in a report published on October 5 that a significant number of major banks in the wealthiest countries of the world are so weak that neither the growth of the world economy nor an increase in interest rates will help them solve their problems.
The problematic credit organizations include one- third of Europe's banks with assets totaling $8.5 trillion and a quarter of US banks with assets worth $3.2 trillion.
According to the IMF, the financial stability now depends on how well financial institutions can adapt themselves to the new era with tougher regulation and supervision, restrained growth and low interest rates.
Experts note that despite an improvement in the structure of bank assets and equity indices, low profitability remains a significant problem, that can not be solved through cycles of economic recovery.
The report, in particular, draws attention to the euro-zone banks, profits of which, have halved, since the average levels of 2003-2006.
Experts believe that Europe lags behind the US in terms of the disposal of bad loans. Both the IMF and the European Central Bank see loose monetary policy as the main cause of bank problems.
IMF experts also remained concerned about the financial stability of Japan and China. At the same time, experts point out decreasing pressure on emerging markets, against the backdrop of higher prices on raw materials and a certain stabilization of the Chinese economy.
Vietnam joins Russia-led free trade zone
A free trade agreement between the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and Vietnam takes effect now with its ratification. The deal opens the EEU's market of 181 million people to Vietnam.
The EEU countries – Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan – get the opportunity to sell goods in Vietnam on a preferential basis.
The free trade deal covers more than 90 percent of all goods traded between the EEU & Vietnam. It will save exporters from the EEU about $40-60 million in the first year. Vietnamese companies can expect savings of up to $5-$10 million a year.
With the deal Hanoi expects to significantly raise its foreign trade. Trade with Russia is expected to more than double to $10 billion by 2020.
"Specific conditions will be created for Russia in order to increase the supply of its products on the Vietnamese market. It concerns not only high value-added products, but also agricultural produce, consumer goods and so on," said the Russian Trade Mission in Vietnam.
Russia’s exports to Vietnam, include, nuclear reactors, mineral fuels, oil and its distillation products and fertilizers. Imports from Vietnam include electrical machinery, boilers & knitwear.
In terms of the agreement, Russian automotive companies GAZ, Kamaz & Sollers will be able to create joint ventures to produce buses, trucks, special vehicles, and passenger cars. The localization of production is expected to reach 40 to 50 percent over the next decade.
Vietnam signed the free trade zone agreement with the EEU in 2015, becoming the first non- regional country to join the bloc.
More than 40 countries and international organizations, including China, Indonesia, Israel and Iran, have expressed interest in a free trade deal with the bloc.
Establishment of the EEU was signed by the presidents of Russia, Belarus & Kazakhstan in 2014. Armenia & Kyrgyzstan, joined later.
The bloc was designed to ensure the free movement of goods, services, capital and workforces, between member countries.
WESTERN BANKS CRACKING
4 of the biggest banks are reported as going down: HSBC, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and Wells Fargo, are all reported by eminent experts as "about to fail."
Chinese yuan becomes IMF reserve currency, first new addition since 1999
The Chinese yuan is now added to the IMF reserve basket, becoming the first currency to be added to the list since the emergence of the euro in 1999.
The official entry brings to a close, at least partly, Beijing’s years-long struggle for international acceptance on the sort of level enjoyed by the US dollar. The currency now joins the big four: the US dollar, the euro, the yen, and the UK's pound.
The decision means the Chinese yuan will now be used as one of the International Monetary Fund’s lending currencies, in emergency bailouts. This sort of internationalization is in line with China’s wish for an increase in the legitimacy of its currency.
The move also evidences China’s growing role as a power to challenge the global economic dominance of the United States.
The IMF has fixed the relative amounts of the five main currencies in its basket for five years, based on the exchange rate of each, over the last three months.
Deutsche Bank to fight US $14bn claim
Deutsche Bank says it will challenge a $14 billion claim by the US Department of Justice on alleged mis-selling of mortgage-backed securities during the 2008 financial crisis.
“Deutsche Bank has no intent to settle these potential civil claims anywhere near the number cited. The negotiations are only just beginning. The bank expects that they will lead to an out- come similar to those of peer banks which have settled at materially lower amounts,” Deutsche Bank says in its statement.
No details on the case have been publicized. Yet reports say sales of mortgage securities before the 2008 financial crisis, lie at the heart of the case.
The claim against Deutsche Bank far exceeds its expectations that the DoJ would look for a figure of only up to 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion), Reuters reported.
European stocks wrapped up in negative territory on Friday in reaction to the case against Deutsche Bank. Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays both fell over 5%, while Credit Suisse and UBS fell over 3%. French lenders BNP Paripas and Societe Generale both fell over 2%.
Deutsche Bank’s shares stumbled 8.5%, wiping off roughly €1.5 billion from the German lenders’ market capitalization.
Other big banks have reached deals in recent years with US authorities over their mortgage activities in the run-up to the financial crisis. Earlier in 2016, Goldman Sachs agreed to pay $5.1 billion to settle claims on its dealings.
Russian oil transport monopoly to stop oil exports via domestic Baltic ports by 2018
Xinhua - Russian oil pipeline company Transneft is planning to stop Russia's oil exports via the Baltic ports by 2018 and redirect the routes to Russian ports, the Russian presidential web- site reported.
"Last year, around nine million tons were shipped through Baltic ports, while this year, the figure was 5 million tons. By 2018 we will reduce this flow to nil and will direct it to our ports instead - as we have surplus capacity," said Chair and President of Transneft, Nikolai Tokarev, at the meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to Tokarev, the company will redirect oil freight flows from the Baltic ports of Ventspils and Riga, in Latvia, to Russia's own Baltic ports of Ust- Luga and Primorsk, along with the construction of oil transport routes.
Transneft is a Russian state-owned transport monopoly and the largest oil pipeline company in the world. The company is operating over 70 thousand km of trunk pipelines, and transports about 90% of the oil produced in Russia, to various destinations.
HBOS banking group on long- awaited trail for £35 million scam
A group of HBOS bankers in the UK are on trial charged with conspiracy to corrupt, fraudulent trading & money laundering, at a London court.
The London-based Southwark Crown Court will host the first trial of bankers to come from the financial crisis in 2008. 2 former senior HBOS managers and 6 other defendants, will appear in court.
The heavily postponed trial was originally scheduled to start at the beginning of the year. The defendants were initially charged in 2013.
Those charged also include bankers David Mills & Michael Bancroft, as well as their wives, who are accused of giving money & “numerous high-value gifts” to HBOS managers in exchange for favours.
The alleged scam was exposed by Thames Valley Police after a two year investigation code-named Operation Hornet.
HBOS collapsed in 2008 and was bought by UK- backed Lloyds TSB. A former head of corporate lending, Peter Cummings, was fined £500,000, and banned from the banking industry.
The British government bailed out Lloyds at the height of the financial crisis in 2008 at a cost of some £20 billion, handing the state a 43% stake in the bank.
Banking giants reverse predictions of post-Brexit ‘Brecession’,proving it was the Remain Camp, who lied:
Two of the City’s biggest powerhouses have scrapped their predictions: of a post-Brexit recession which would see the UK economy collapse, following the EU referendum - and now envisage better-than-expected results in the third financial quarter.
But investor Jim Rogers warns that the US policy of printing money will soon hurt us:
"You should be very worried. There's going to be a serious economic crisis --- in the next year or two. We all are going to pay a horrible price for the artificial money coming out of America, and other central banks. We’re all going to have a huge problem. Be worried, be worried."
US's "INVISIBLE" EARNER ON THE LINE
The TRIPS agreement, which the US presented as a "free trade" agreement, is currently facing an update; TPP, the "Trans-Pacific Partnership."
Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), lie at the heart of the World Trade Organization. Its champion was then-CEO of Pfizer, Edmund Pratt.
Mr Pratt wants to prohibit people in the third world from using their own raw materials & pharmaceutical knowledge, in their own laboratories and plants, to cure and treat their own people's diseases.
He wants to force them to buy from Pfizer or die trying. Millions have died as a result of the success of the TRIPS "free trade" agreement and the WTO.
It concerns the monopolies and exclusive rights we know as copyrights, patents, trademarks, and so on.
As people in the US started shunning Detroit's cars in favor of Toyota, policymakers in the US realized that the country's age of industrial competitiveness had effectively come to an end.
They sought new ways to enrich the US by redefining "value,” "industry,” and "production" with contracts that made sure the US kept being paid by the world.
As TRIPS was negotiated, every interest in the US - Hollywood, the record industry, cars - all benefited.
This new Wiki-leaked agreement also has little to do with free trade, but with the upholding of exclusive rights and monopolies.
Building on the previous TRIPS agreement, TPP, the "Trans-Pacific Partnership," strengthens it, despite the rest of the world's aspirations, seen in this introductory paragraph...
"The objectives of this chapter are... to maintain a balance between the rights of intellectual property holders and the legitimate interests of users and the community in subject matter protected by intellectual property; to protect the ability of Parties to identify, promote access to and preserve the public domain; ensure that measures and procedures to enforce intellectual property rights do not themselves become barriers to legitimate trade."
The US position opposes all of this. There "shall only be" exclusive rights, typically held by the US.
The US even seeks to give Hollywood the right to shut people off from the internet without due process; yet this outrage is obscured in legal terms such as "injunctive relief" or "liability conditions".
Copyright & patent monopolies, by definition, are the opposite of free trade and the rights now being proposed by the US are monopoly rights which will prevent free trade.
This is similar to the land rights and trading monopolies forced by the British Empire, on its unwilling subjects. And just as disgusting.
China welcomes Canada's decision to apply for AIIB membership: Xi
Xinhua - Meeting Canadian PM, Justin Trudeau, Xi says China is willing to improve communication and coordination with Canada, protect an open & inclusive multilateral trade system with the country and deepen cooperation in areas such as climate change, peacekeeping and marine protection.
This is the first official visit by Trudeau since taking office in November 2015. His father, former Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau, was the first Canadian PM to visit China, after the establishment of diplomatic relations.
After his stay in Beijing, Trudeau flew to Hangzhou, to attend the G20 summit.
World seeing‘greatest monetary policy experiment in history’- Rothschild
Low interest rates, negative yields on government debt & quantitative easing, are part of the biggest financial experiment in world history, and the consequences are as yet, unknown, says RIT Capital Partners Chair, Lord Rothschild.
“The six months under review have seen central bankers continuing what is surely the greatest experiment in monetary policy in the history of the world. We're therefore in uncharted waters and it is impossible to predict the unintended consequences of very low interest rates, with 30% of global government debt --- at negative yields, combined with quantitative easing on a massive scale,” Rothschild writes, in the company's semi-annual financial report.
The banker says this policy has led to a rapid growth of stock markets --- US stocks have grown 3-fold since 2008 - with investments growing and volatility remaining low.
However, the real sector of the economy didn’t enjoy such profits, as “growth remains anemic, with weak demand and deflation in many parts of the developed world,” says Rothschild.
The billionaire stresses that many risks remain for the global economy, with the deteriorating geopolitical situation. Among those risks, he includes the UK's vote to leave the EU, the US' presidential election & China's slowing economic growth. Another risk is global terrorism, which Rothschild says is a consequence of continuing 'conflict' in the Middle East.
A Bank of America Merrill Lynch report in June, shows interest rates in developed countries, in particular America’s 0.5%, are now at their lowest level in 5,000 years.
In their battle with deflation, countries such as Sweden, Switzerland or Japan, have even turned to negative key lending rates.
Another woe is negative yields on government bonds. In June, 10-year German government bonds dipped below 0% for the first time in history.
Janus Capital estimates that global yields are the lowest in 500 years, and the total amount of such bonds, is $10 trillion.
The investment group’s lead portfolio manager, Bill Gross, is calling it a “supernova, that will explode one day.”
Post-Brexit Inaction ‘Risks New Recession’
John McDonnell, Labour's UK Shadow Chancellor, warns that Tory inaction since the Brexit vote... is catapulting Britain into another recession.
The shadow chancellor’s comments come as two separate studies show rising fears of job losses and growing concerns among both employees and employers.
A report from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), a think tank, says there is a 50-50 chance of the country falling into recession, in the next 18 months.
It predicts that inflation will also pick up, rising to 3%, by the end of 2017.
NIESR head of forecasting Simon Kirby says: “We expect the UK to experience a marked economic slowdown in the second half of this year, and throughout 2017.
“There is an evens chance of a technical recession in the next 18 months, while there is an elevated risk of a further deterioration, in the near term.”
The Confederation of British Industry says that UK small & medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), fear they will be hit by a fall in orders, in the next three months.
Its latest quarterly survey of SMEs found that business optimism has fallen at its fastest rate, since January 2009, when the economy was heading for recession.
Mr McDonnell urges the new Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, to explain what he intends to do about it.
“The economic outlook for the UK is uncertain, and it is time the Chancellor stepped up, and told us what he is planning to do.
“The government’s woeful lack of planning for the impact of the EU referendum result, has only added to the uncertainty employees and employers are feeling today.
“Many people are understandably anxious, fearing for their jobs, and worried about the future of the economy. “We cannot afford to be stuck with Mr Osborne’s planned investment cuts, until an Autumn Statement.
“We must rebalance our economy & support our key industries, with an industrial strategy that can provide the good, secure jobs, that we so desperately need.
“Labour have pledged to invest in our economy, with priority investment in those communities that have been economically neglected for years.”
GOOD "POST BREXIT" NEWS !?!
EU mulls abolishing "non-market economy" list
Xinhua -The European Union (EU) is mulling abolishing its "non-market economy" list, on which China & 14 other states are included, to set up a new, "country-neutral" method, & reform its anti-dumping and anti-subsidy legislation, it announced, on July 29th.
The decision was made after the EU Commission held another orientation debate on the treatment of China, in anti-dumping investigations, as a 15- year-old EU "surrogate system" is set to expire, in December, 2016.
"Colleagues have agreed to propose changes to EU anti-dumping and anti-subsidy legislation -- with the introduction of a new anti-dumping methodology,"said EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom in a press briefing.
"We're eliminating the existing list of non- market economy countries,"Malmstrom told reporters."This is a new method, it will be country-neutral, and applied to all WTO member countries, equally."
"This new methodology, would lead to approximately the same level of anti- dumping duties as the EU has now" -- the commissioner said.
EU officials say... the new method will mark a "huge change" to the bloc's anti-dumping & anti-subsidy laws, & the EU Commission will have to shoulder the burden, & prove there is "market distortion" in its future investigations, on a case-by-case basis.
Besides China, other countries on the EU "non-market economies" list, are:
Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and, last but not least, Vietnam.
Deficit in UK's Current Account Remains Unaltered
The deficit in the current account of the United Kingdom --- after all this austerity --- remains at an historic maximum.
The need to finance the country from abroad, was high before the yes for Brexit. The British National Office of Statistics shows no change in its initial growth estimate for the first quarter -- but shows that the economy still depends mostly on home expenditure and services, for any expansion.
On the other hand, the growth of foreign trade, investment and manufacturing, slowed down.
In global terms, the UK economy grew 0.4 % in the first three months of 2016, in line with forecasts, and was 2% higher than last year.
Head of Putin’s Administration calls to not lift anti-Russian sanctions
The head of Russia's presidential administration, Sergei Ivanov, says the anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the EU are having a positive impact on the economy. According to him, damage due to the sanctions is falling, and budget revenue has ceased to be dependent on oil and gas.
The introduction of European sanctions has not only demonstrated the strength and viability of Russia's economy, but has also, according to Mr Ivanov, helped the development of many industries that were previously forgotten.
The head of the presidential administration says Russia will take retaliatory measures --- if the sanctions are lifted !
Americans and Europeans Divided Over Sanctions Against Russia
Prensa Latina -Almost half of Europeans (47%) --- believe that sanctions against Russia should be lifted --- according to a recent Sputnik Poll.
The poll found that 51% of Italians, 48% of Germans, & 43% of French respondents, said they agree with the lifting of sanctions;according to the consultant firms, Ifop and UK Populus.
In contrast, when asked about the same topic, only 29% of US people, said that they would like to see sanctions against Russia lifted.
The poll was conducted by the French opinion and marketing research company, Ifop, and UK polling agency Populus, for Sputnik News Agency & Radio.
The poll also found that respondents in the US, are most likely to support extending sanctions.
When asked if sanctions against Russia should be lifted or extended : 42% of US citizens said they support extending them.
However, only 31% of respondents in Germany, 29 per cent in France, and 27 per cent in Italy agreed with extending sanctions.
The EU's economic sanctions against Russia were imposed in 2014.
Analists say that, since the sanctions were applied, the EU has had to pay 10 times more than the US.
“The Most Corrupt Country in the World”.
Journalist & world-renowned expert on the Italian mafia Roberto Saviano calls the UK “the most corrupt country in the world”.
“If I asked, what's the most corrupt place on Earth, you might well tell me it’s Afghanistan or maybe Greece, Nigeria, the South of Italy: and I will tell you --- it’s the UK,” Saviano told the audience at Wales’ Hay Literary Festival.
“It’s not the bureaucracy, it’s not the police, & it’s not the politics, but what is corrupt is the financial capital. Ninety percent of the owners of capital in London, have their headquarters offshore,” he added.
The UK is Europe’s “criminal capital” when it comes to allowing corruption, the journalist thinks, with trust funds in Jersey and British Overseas Territory the Cayman Islands, being its “access gates.”
“That is why it is important, why it is so crucial for me to be here today & talk to you;- because I want to tell you, this is about you, this is about your life, this is about your government,”the 36-year-old journalist told the audience.
Surprise! US Should Be Considered as a Tax Haven, EU Report Suggests
New research by the Green/EFA group in the European Parliament calls for the USA to be considered as a tax haven, following claims that it has fallen behind in tax transparency.
The research — which was published ahead of a special visit to the US by the European Parliament's special committee, looking at tax avoidance this week, could also cast a shadow on the ongoing TTIP negotiations -- which aim to secure closer trade agree- ments between Europe and the US.
The report is critical of what it sees as inaction on the part of the US ---- in tackling the issue of transparency of company ownership and bank account info' between tax administrations --- arguing that, whilst the EU has made progress, the US has not.
The report, 'The Role of the US as a Tax Haven — Implications for Europe' says:
"The US is a major financial centre. It holds almost 20% of the financial services' world market share for non-residents. Foreign assets amounted to US $16,745 billion in 2013, and foreign direct investment reached US$2.9 billion in 2014.
However, its transparency legal framework is not consistent with the responsibility involved in being a major financial hub."
The German Green MEP Sven Giegold comments on the report -- claiming the US has failed to live up to standards it requires of other countries:
"The US has made bold moves on the exchange of financial information but it is just a one-way street: its exchange of tax information with other states, is more limited and full of loopholes,"Giegold says.
Molly Scott Cato - a Green MEP for the UK - argues that the US is becoming increasingly attractive -- as a "tax haven" for the world's most wealthy.
Responding to the recent report, she argues for greater scrutiny of the US tax regime by the EU:
"The EU should carefully scrutinize the US, in the upcoming process of creating a common blacklist of tax havens. We should introduce a withholding tax on US banks not exchanging information -- as the US has done with European banks. We need the US to sign up to the highest international standards of transparency."
A fact-finding delegation visited the US between 17-19 May, as part of the European Parliament's special committee investigating tax avoidance in the US.
Worst is Yet to Come? US Billionaire Warns of Crisis Worse Than 2008
The current situation in the global economy is similar to the situation on the eve of the crisis of 2008, billionaire trader Stanley Druckenmiller says.
According to the businessperson, the main risk stems from actions by the US Federal Reserve.
He criticizes the Federal Reserve for a "myopic policy" of low interest rates, which has led to fast-growing bullish sentiments, in the market.
"The bull market is exhausting itself," he said, at the Ira Sohn Investment Conference, in New York.
The Fed’s easy monetary policy has resulted in companies taking on big debt loads... which they then use to buy back their shares -- instead of increasing capital spending.
By keeping interest rates low, the Fed is 'raising the odds of an economic tail risk they are trying to avoid', Druckenmiller points out.
A big concern, is the uncontrollable growth of US debt, the investor adds. According to him, US corporations are "stuck in the mud, forlorn of growth, unwilling to invest, and addicted to share buybacks, to gin up their stocks."
"The Fed has borrowed from future consumption more than ever before. It is the least data-dependent Fed in history. This is the longest deviation from historical norms in terms of Fed dovishness that I have ever seen in my career," Druckenmiller is quoted as saying, by CNBC.
"This kind of myopia causes reckless behaviour."
According to media reports, Druckenmiller - whose net worth is estimated at $4.4 billion - is making long-term investments in gold... while holding short positions on US companies’ shares.
At the same time, some economists believe that the current state of the global economy indicates that it may be facing a structural adjustment -- and is not just the downward part of an economic cycle.
In April, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that the global economy was expecting growth at 3.2 percent, in 2016, & a further growth of 3.5% in 2017.
"Maybe it is not just an economic cycle we are facing, but a kind of structural adjustment of the world economy that we do not understand, yet: what the consequences are, and how to deal with this,"European Commission Europe-Aid head, Jose Correia Nunes, notes.
Bankers in Prison --- New Rule?
In October 2015, courts in Iceland handed down sentences against 5 bankers who helped usher in the country’s 2008 financial crisis. Among the convicted were 3 senior managers from Landsbanki Íslands and 2 senior managers from Kaupthing Bank. Then suddenly, with no big hooha, sentences were pronounced against more bankers working in Iceland.
A total of 26 have been convicted. This is the world’s first ruling against the bankers who oversaw the 2007-2009 financial crisis.
Is the jig up yet?
On Jan. 11 eleven former employees of Deutsche Bank, Barclays, and Société Générale, appeared in a London court, accused of manipulating the Euro Interbank Offered Rate (Euribor), which sets interest rates on many financial products, including mortgages.
The Libor and Euribor interbank rates, which determine the cost at which banks lend to one another, are used to price over $450 trillion of financial products. Over three years since the UK bank Barclays, admitted, in 2012, that its traders had tried to manipulate the Libor & Euribor rates, between 2005 and 2009, legal proceedings have begun.
For many bankers the start of the trial in London --- was a genuine shock.
In the banking world, where the London law- suit's currently a hot topic, there're those who point out, that only the managers of European banks are in the dock and they hope that Wall Street banks are not next. Others claim that the trial in London... is just the beginning.
And, finally, a third group is suggesting that it is not that hard to figure out which bank managers and employees are responsible for misbehaving.
The long silence on the part of the banks and regulators, can only be explained by the well- established bonds of corruption:- financial regulators are always guided by 2 unwritten rules in their work. One rule applies to the banks as legal entities: Too big to fail.
The other applies to the managers of large banks: Too big to jail.
The lawsuits in Iceland and London are the first exceptions to the second rule.
AS THE WEST FACES RUIN...
Xinhua --The World Bank expects the Chinese economy to 'slow' to 6.7 percent in 2016.
The projection is on par with its last estimate. The bank has kept its projection for 2017 at 6.5 percent.
62 billionaires now control half of world’s wealth
The 44-page report, ‘An Economy for the 1%’, published by Oxfam GB for Oxfam International (ISBN 978-1-78077-993-5, Jan. 2016, Oxford, UK) says:
“The gap between rich and poor is reaching new extremes: Credit Suisse has recently revealed that the richest 1% have now accumulated more wealth than the rest of the world put together. Meanwhile, the wealth owned by the bottom half of humanity, has fallen by a trillion dollars in the past 5 years. This is just the latest evidence that today we live in a world with levels of inequality we may not have seen for over a century.”
The poorest 50% of the world’s population is now worth an estimated $1.76 trillion --- which is also the estimated net worth of the richest 62 people.
In 2010, it required the richest 388 persons to make up the wealth of the bottom 50%. Since then, the world’s richest 62 persons have added 44% to their cash and assets -- while the wealth of the bottom half has dropped by 41%, despite the rise in the global population by 400 million.
In the same period, the wealth of the richest 62 persons increased by $500 billion to $1.76 trillion.
Within 5 years, the majority of the world’s wealth has been consolidated into the hands of less than one-sixth of the number of persons who used to control it.
Nine out of 10 World Economic Forum corporate partners had a presence in at least 1 tax haven.
It's estimated that tax dodging by multinational corporations costs developing countries at least $100 billion every year. Corporate investment in tax havens almost quadrupled from 2000 to 2014.
The report cited estimates that billionaires have $7.6 trillion in offshore accounts. This amount is more than the joint GDP of the UK & Germany.
It is said that, if tax were paid on the income this wealth generates, an extra $190 billion would be available to governments --- every year.
EU Tries ending Tax Evasion by Multinationals
Prensa Latina -The European Union loses up to 70 billion euros a year --- due to tax evasion by multinationals --- estimates the regional bloc, and it announces measures to contain this.
According to the Economic Affairs Commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, the transnationals' aggressive fiscal engineering, reduces the public coffers of the 28 member countries of the EU, by amounts fluctuating between 50 - 70 billion euros a year.
In remarks to journalists, Moscovici says these practices generate a competitive disadvantage for local businesses -- and increase the fiscal burden for all other tax payers.
Moscovici says the Commission's plan needs the approval of the 28 member countries and considers that the negotiations, as is usual over fiscal matters, will not be easy.
Under the proposal, 6 tax practices linked to aggressive fiscal engineering, would be banned - including the transfer of benefits to subsidiaries placed in countries where lower taxes are paid.
The initiative also tries to prevent dividends or profits arriving to the EU from third states from enjoying tax exemption, when it hasn't been charged in the nations of origin.
Under the package, multinationals will have to give specific information to the fiscal authorities of the country where the headquarters are based and, if it is outside the EU, the responsibility will fall on the subsidiary.
Europe Bank Rout Erases $434 Billion, Twice Greek Economy.
The plunge in European bank stocks over the past six months, has wiped out about 400 billion euros ($434 billion) in market value --- over twice the annual output of Greece at current prices.
The STOXX Europe 600 Banks Index, grouping 46 lenders, has dropped twice as much as the region’s benchmark share index since late July.
Banking stocks have fallen 14% in January alone, heading for their worst monthly performance since the depths of Europe’s 2011 sovereign-debt crisis.
Deutsche Bank AG and Standard Chartered Plc are each down by over 40 percent, since July.
Saudi Riyal Falls Sharply after Cutting Ties with Iran
The Saudi riyal fell sharply against the US dollar in the forward foreign exchange market after relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran deteriorated, raising concerns that dollar funding for the kingdom could become more expensive.
A new austerity budget for 2016, seemed to partly ease the fears, but geopolitical tensions, may now increase them.
Iran & Saudi Arabia have had tense relations for many years without direct, major conflict, and the breaking of diplomatic ties will not, necessarily, have a direct impact on their economies, which have minimal trade and investment ties.
But geopolitics could make foreign banks & investors more wary of funding Saudi Arabia, as Riyadh is considering borrowing abroad to ease the pressure of funding its fiscal deficit on the domestic banking system.
US Companies Led the World in Debt Defaults in 2015, S&P Says
More US companies defaulted on their debt in 2015 than issuers from any other country or region, S&P analysts say, in their December reports.
111 companies worldwide defaulted on their obligations, the highest tally since 2009 when the figure hit 242 for the same period.
About 60 percent of last year’s global defaults came from US borrowers, up from 55 percent in 2014, when 33 of 60 defaulters, were US ones.
After the US, companies from emerging markets were the second-largest defaulters, accounting for 23 percent of the pool, which was a smaller share than in 2014, according to S&P's data.
Plummeting oil prices and speculation about how the Federal Reserve’s plan to tighten monetary policy would affect corporate borrowing costs has made companies more vulnerable, expert Vazza says.
“The current crop of US speculative-grade issuers appears fragile, and particularly susceptible to sudden, or unanticipated shocks,” she wrote, on December 24th.
Arch Coal Inc. was the most recent, with its credit rating downgraded to “speculative default” by Standard & Poor’s last week -- after the coal producer missed about $90 million in interest payments, & exercised a 30-day grace period, with the holders of some of its notes.
Bloomberg.com reports that shale is now running out of survival tricks, as OPEC ramps up the pressure.
Looking ahead, S&P expects the US corporate default rate to rise to 3.3 percent by September 2016 from 2.5 percent a year earlier.
The bulk of the failures to come from companies in the oil and gas sector, which accounted for about a quarter of 2015’s defaults.
A CRISIS WORSE THAN ISIS?BAIL-INS BEGIN
While the mainstream media focus on ISIS extremists, a threat that has gone virtually unreported is that your life savings could be wiped out in a massive derivatives collapse.
Bank bail-ins have begun in Europe, and the infrastructure is in place in the US. Poverty also kills. At the end of November, an Italian pensioner hanged himself after his entire €100,000 savings were confiscated, in a bank “rescue” scheme.
He left a suicide note blaming the bank, where he'd been a customer for 50 years and had invested in bank-issued bonds.
But he might better have blamed the EU and the G20’s Financial Stability Board, which imposed an “Orderly Resolution” regime, to keep insolvent banks afloat --- by confiscating the savings of investors and depositors.
Some 130,000 shareholders and junior bond holders suffered losses by “rescue.”
A special communique of the G20 on the subject of the IMF adopted at the G20 summit in Turkey --- and signed by US President Obama --- urges the US to ratify IMF reforms agreed in 2010.
This reform implies that the US will have to give up its blocking stake of votes in the IMF and the fund itself will cease to depend on Washington politicians.
US saddled with debts of $65 trillion: Former US comptroller
When all the US's unfunded liabilities are added up, the national debt is 3 times more than the oft-cited figure of $18 trillion, states Dave Walker, former US' Comptroller General.
The real US national debt is about $65 trillion, says Mr Walker, who headed the Government Accountability Office (GAO) --- under former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
“If you end up adding to that $18.5 trillion -- the unfunded civilian & military pensions & retiree healthcare, the additional underfunding for Social Security, the additional underfunding for Medicare, and the various commitments and contingencies that the federal government has, the real number is about $65 trillion rather than $18 trillion, and it’s growing automatically --- absent reforms,” Walker tells John Catsimatidis on “The Cats Roundtable” on New York’s AM-970.
Walker, in charge of ensuring federal spending is fiscally responsible, says a large national debt hinders the US government’s ability to conduct both domestic and foreign policy initiatives.
“If you don’t keep your economy strong, and that means to be able to generate more jobs and opportunities, you are not going to be strong internationally, with regard to foreign policy,” he notes.
He adds that such a problem prevents the country from investing “in national defense and homeland security.”
Walker goes on to say that US citizens have “lost touch with reality”, when it comes to spending.
He calls on Democrats and Republicans to set aside partisan politics in order to band together to tackle the problem.
“You can be a Democrat or a Republican, you can be unaffiliated, you can be what- ever you want, but your duty of loyalty needs to be to country, rather than to party, & we need to solve some of the large, known, and growing problems that we have,” he says.
IMF warns: Saudi Arabia may go bankrupt by 2020
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warns in a report, that Saudi Arabia may run out of financial assets within 5 years, if the government keeps to its current policies.
Saudi Arabia is expected to run a budget deficit of 21.6% in 2015 and 19.4% in 2016, according to the IMF’s latest regional economic outlook. The state needs to adjust its spending, the IMF urges.
The IMF says the region’s outlook is currently being shaped by several key factors---- the most important of which include deepening regional conflicts, and slumping oil prices.
The conflicts have given rise to large numbers of displaced people and refugees, on a scale not seen since the early 1990s, according to the report.
“Achieving fiscal sustainability over the medium-term will be especially challenging -- given the need to create jobs for the over 10 million people anticipated to be looking for work by 2020 in the region’s oil exporting countries,” IMF Middle East and Central Asia Department Director, Masood Ahmed, told media, after unveiling the report in Dubai.
“For the region’s oil exporters, the fall in prices has led to a large fall in revenue, amounting to a staggering $360 billion this year alone,”Masood Ahmed said.
OPEC members Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Algeria and Libya have all seen revenues drop sharply, as a result of a decline in oil prices.
Saudi Arabia is currently facing a budget deficit for the first time since 2009.
Oil sales account for 80% of revenues. It has prompted the government to cut spending, delay projects and sell bonds.
The country’s net foreign assets fell by about $82 billion from Jan. to August.
The government sold state bonds worth $15 billion (55 billion riyals) this year.
The budget deficit has caused project layoffs in Saudi Arabia.
Firms working on infrastructure projects haven’t been paid for 6 months, or more. Payment delays increased lately, as the government wants to cut prices on contracts, in order to preserve cash.
Growth momentum still huge in Chinese economy: People's Daily
China's economy still has huge momentum, "as structural readjustment will transform challenges into strengths in the long run," says a commentary in the People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China.
China's GDP last year posted its weakest annual expansion in 24 years, mainly resulting from a housing slowdown, weakening domestic demand and unsteady exports.
Economic growth slowed further, to 7% in the first half of this year.
A 7% rise is not an easy achievement in a slowing world economy, & the rate is among the highest in major economies, Premier Li Keqiang says, at the Summer Davos forum in northeast China's Dalian.
"China is the source of global growth," Li says, adding the country has sufficient policy tools to reform the macro-economy, and will keep rolling out targeted & innovative measures to counter downward pressure.
China contributed roughly 30 percent of world economic growth, in the first half of this year.
UN Principles Against Vulture Funds, Victory for Argentina
It was worth the fight, said president Cristina Fernández on TV, after the UN voted by a big majority, to approve a resolution with the principles that create a legal framework to protect the process of exchange in paying off debts.
The UN principles of sovereignty are:
good faith, transparency, impartiality, equitable treatment, sovereign immunity, legitimacy, sustainability, & restructuring of the majority.
Cristina Fernández --- over the year it took --- defended the need to establish a legal frame- work that protects restructuring of sovereign debts --- from speculation by financial groups known as 'vulture' funds.
The proposal was received and sponsored by the Group of 77 plus China, which upheld it until now.
Argentinean Minister of Economy, Axel Kicillof said this approval not only favors his country, but all the rest, including developed countries going through a process of crisis.
Although the resolution by the General Assembly isn't obligatory, it constitutes a fundamental step against the attacks of vulture funds, like those Argentina is suffering today and other countries too, affirmed Kicillof.
Cristina Fernandez thanked the 136 nations who voted 'yes' and the 41 states which abstained, "as we know of the pressures they're against." She also congratulated the diplomatic and economic teams that made it possible.
The World Bank, using PPP calculations, has Russia's economy above Germany's.
Its top five -- in order -- are: China, the US, India, Japan and Russia.
It puts BRICS GDP at 96% of the G7's.
The world is changing.
'Largest-ever' Mediterranean gas field discovered
Italian energy company Eni says it's discovered the Mediterranean Sea's "largest-ever" gas reservoir --- off Egypt.
Justice Ministry drafts bill proposing legalizing seizure of foreign state assets
Kommersant business daily writes that Russia's Justice Ministry has developed a bill, according to which, any state’s property in Russia can be seized -- in proportion to the amount of Russian assets frozen in that country. Presently, the bill is approved by a designated committee.
"The number of lawsuits against Russia in foreign courts is steadily rising," says the Justice Ministry, "and no one is asking Russia to agree to participate."
The ministry notes that in several countries Russian property now has "limited juridical immunity," which is why a special law is needed to guarantee a "balance" on the basis of the "reciprocity principle."
"Currently, it is possible to seize foreign government assets when there is a court order," says Dmitry Matveyev, executive partner of Dmitry Matveyev & Partners Law Firm.
He does not see a special law as necessary, but notes that if the law is passed, it will not contradict international law.
"Any court or arbitration institute can ‘deprive’ a foreign government of immunity if it is guided by the applicable law," says Marat Davletbayev, partner from Nektorov, Saveliev and Partners Law Firm.
But Davletbayev also warns that the court of the country whose property was deprived of immunity, can refuse to recognize this, and implement the decision of the Russian court.
Transit Gas Through Ukraine Politically Motivated by EU
Sputnik – The EU is trying to maintain the transit of Russian gas via Ukraine, for political reasons, Russia's Envoy to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, says.
"I think they have the ultimate goal of keeping Ukrainian transit, as a purely political stance. It doesn't have any economic basis," he says, answering questions in an interview with RIA Novosti, on why Brussels is not seeking to enhance co-operation with Russia on the Turkish Stream gas pipeline project, via the Black Sea and Greece, bypassing Ukraine.
The European Union won't be able to continue giving Kiev financial support, if Ukraine now announces a default, due to the EU's own legislation, Vladimir Chizhov says.
"Yes, if a default is announced, they cannot continue financial support according to the EU's legislation," he says, in the interview.
The EU is -- to a certain extent -- standing on the sidelines in Ukraine's conflict settlement process, Russia's Envoy to the EU, says.
"Two EU members are participating in the Normandy format negotiations on the settlement of the situation in Ukraine, and they are both operating in their national capacity.
"The European structures, as well as US representatives -- for obvious reasons -- are not engaged [in the talks]," he says.
The EU is supporting the Kiev authorities, who have repeatedly violated the Minsk agreements, instead of putting pressure on them, Russia's Envoy to the EU says.
“It's not the first time Kiev has violated the Minsk agreements. I think this is obvious to every unbiased observer, but here [in the European Union] they do not even think about it. Instead [of imposing sanctions on Ukraine], they just repeat their support for the authorities in Kiev,” he says, in an interview with RIA Novosti.
‘No mandate or moral right to say yes’: Greece rejects ‘generous’ EU bailout
It’s up to the Greek people, Tsipras says, to make a fateful decision on Greece’s sovereignty, independence and future.
If Anti-Russia Sanctions Stay...
According to WIFO’s assessment, Germany will shoulder the main burden. 500,000 jobs now are under the threat of liquidation in Germany. The German economy will lose €27 billion and its GDP will contract by 1% in the coming years, according to experts’ estimates.
Italy will lose over 200,000 jobs and 0.9% of GDP while France’s losses will amount to 150,000 jobs and 0.5% of GDP. Poland, Estonia and Spain will suffer too. Germany has already lost 175,000 working places with 290,000 more to be lost, if the sanctions war continues.
The unemployment rate may rise by 185,000 in Poland, 135,000 in Italy, 115,000 in Spain, 95,000 in France, 80,000 in the UK & 75,000 in Estonia. If we include Switzerland, the EU has already lost 950,000 working places. With the sanctions in force, unemployment will rise by 1,460,000.
Anti-Russian Sanctions Can Cost EU Up to $114 Billion - Austrian Study
Sputnik - The European Union could lose up to €100 billion ($114 billion) over its anti-Russian sanctions if things remain unchanged, a study by Austria's Institute of Economic Research, reveals.
Die Welt newspaper reports that the research, conducted exclusively for the Leading European Newspaper Alliance (LENA), considers a worst- case scenario, if the sanctions remain in place.
“If the situation does not change fundamentally, our most pessimistic scenario will come true,” one of the research authors, Oliver Fritz, is quoted as saying, by Die Welt.
According to their calculations, the current political situation could also affect over 2 million EU jobs, through declining exports.
In contrast to the analysts’ forecast, the European Commission says the losses of the European Union are “relatively small and manageable,” the newspaper says.
Since March 2014, the US, EU, and other western countries have sanctioned Russia’s banking, defense & energy sectors, over its alleged role in the Ukrainian crisis. Moscow has repeatedly denied those allegations.
In August, Moscow imposed a year-long food embargo on the countries that sanctioned it.
The decision on the extension of anti-Russian sanctions is due to be made next week at the meeting of EU foreign ministers. Moscow vows new countermeasures -- if sanctions are kept.
Two Can Play This Game: Russia Warns: Belgium Asset Freeze Works Both Ways Sputnik - Russia's Foreign Ministry summoned the Belgian ambassador, informing him that Russia may adopt reciprocal measures --- if the recent asset seizures are not reversed.
A Belgian court instructed Wednesday, that 47 Belgian & Russian companies be stripped of assets of 1.65 billion euros ($1.87 billion), in connection with a settlement awarded to exYukos shareholders by a Dutch arbitration court. Russia's Justice Minister, Alexander Konovalov, says Belgium's legal arguments for seizing Russian property are unclear, & Russia has requested information on this, through diplomatic channels.
"Belgium's ambassador was informed that the Russian side considers such acts by competent authorities of the Kingdom of Belgium, as openly unfriendly acts and flagrant violations of the universally recognized norms of international law," the ministry statement says.
The ministry calls on Belgium to take immediate acts to restore the property of Russian organizations. The seizures appear to be made under the auspices of the European Energy Charter Treaty, which Russia signed, but did not ratify.
"Otherwise, the Russian side will be forced to consider adopting appropriate response measures, regarding assets of the Kingdom of Belgium," it adds.
French authorities also began seizing Russian state-owned property earlier on Thursday. France seized the bank accounts of Rossiya Segodnya news agency, of which, Sputnik is a part.
The organization's real estate wasn't seized, as the organization does not own any real estate in France, & employees continue to access rented buildings without hindrance.
French economist and professor at Moscow School of Economics, Jacques Sapir, says the French government's decision threatens to create a "cold war" climate between the two countries, and the attacks show how the West intends to deal with the rise in influence of Russia's alternative media.
India confirms bid to join Russia-led bloc
India has confirmed that it will sign a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) -- a Russia-led bloc which is attracting more emerging powers.
TASS news agency quotes a senior diplomat at the Indian embassy in Russia, saying that New Delhi will be “definitely signing this agreement".
Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan are members of the EEU which started operation on January 1st, with the aim of regional economic integration.
China, Vietnam, Iran, Egypt & Israel, have also indicated their interest in joining the EEU free trade zone which guarantees the free transit of goods, services, capital and workers, among its members.
Last month, the union gave the initial go- ahead to signing a free trade agreement with Iran, a senior EEU official says.
Russia's representative on the Eurasian Economic Commission board, Andrey Slepnev, says the Iran proposal was approved by all the panel members, at an expert-level meeting, held in Armenia's capital, Yerevan.
He adds that discussions with China on joining the union will begin soon, Xinhua news agency says.
Currently the EEU has a combined population of 170 million people, and a gross domestic product of $2.7 trillion, and is being tipped as a major economic force to challenge the might of the European Union and the US.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is also calling for a regional currency union, as it will make it "easier to react to external financial & economic threats, & protect our joint market".
Australia, China sign landmark free trade agreement
Xinhua - The Australian & Chinese governments signed a long-awaited, "monumental" free trade agreement in Canberra, last month, lifting most of the import tariffs between the two countries.
The landmark signing by Australia's Trade Minister Andrew Robb and China's Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng finalized negotiations that began 10 years ago and follows the Declaration of Intent signed in November by the countries' leaders, Tony Abbott and Xi Jinping.
PM Abbott says the "unprecedented" and "monumental" pact is the "next chapter" in strong relations between the countries.
On full implementation of the wide-ranging agreement, tariffs are to be lifted on 95% of Australian exports, hurdles for Chinese businesses to invest in Australia will be lowered, and more visas for Chinese holidaymakers will be granted.
China is Australia's largest trading partner, with trade in goods and services last year exceeding 135 billion U.S. dollars - almost a quarter of Australia's total world trade.
Australia FTA to spur more regional deals
China and Australia's landmark free trade agreement, with a recent deal with South Korea, is expected to serve as a positive example --- and help advance economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region.
Under the deal, 85.4% of bilateral exports will be tariff-free immediately after it takes effect.
When ChAFTA is fully implemented, 97% of Australian products to China and all Chinese products to Australia, will enjoy tariff-free entry.
China has been Australia's largest trade partner since 2010, and Australia was China's eighth largest trade partner in 2014, says MOFCOM's statement.
Compared with other free trade agreements with China, ChAFTA has a broader tariff-free coverage, Tu Xinquan, executive director of the China Institute of WTO Studies, tells the Global Times.
China & South Korea signed a free trade agreement on June 1 which will remove tariffs on about 90% of products traded between the two countries, in 20 years.
Australia & China have complementary industries, so removing tariffs won't put undue pressure on China's enterprises, Chen Fengying, research fellow, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, tells the Global Times.
China mainly imports minerals, such as iron ore, from Australia & exports manufacturing products like clothing & telecommunications equipment to the country, according to the website of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
As for agriculture, Tu says Australian products can meet the needs of China's growing middle class and spur domestic producers to improve.
China's dairy industry, for example, is expected to work harder for survival as it faces Australian competition, when tariffs gradually reduce.
Australia first country to open service sector to China.
In addition to the removal of tariffs, Australia is the first country in the world to open its service sector to China, with a negative list.
The two countries have mutually granted most- favored-nation status, and reduced the review threshold for corporate investments.
"ChAFTA is a comprehensive and high-level free trade agreement," Chen says.
Most free trade agreements mainly focus on goods and services, yet ChAFTA includes lowering review thresholds for investments, & in some other areas such as e-commerce, & government procurement, she says.
China's FTAs with Australia & South Korea, are expected to persuade more in the Asia-Pacific region to join the trend, observers say.
China, South Korea and Japan have discussed a trilateral free trade agreement since 2013... but have not reached a final agreement.
If bilateral ties between China and Japan can be improved, it is possible to have a trilateral free trade zone, Chen says, noting that the China-South Korea FTA, has placed some pressure on Japan.
Also on Wednesday, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) released its 2015 Japanese Business in China White Paper, which says the JCCI expects China, Japan & S. Korea to OK a free trade agreement 'soon'.
Japan has been involved in talks on the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), but this trade initiative has not progressed much, in recent years.
NZ to invest $87m in Asian infrastructure bank
New Zealand's government announces that the country will invest NZ$125 million ($87.27 million) in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), over five years.
Hungary becomes 1st EU country to join China’s Silk Road project
Hungary has become the first European country to join the Chinese 'Silk Road’ project, aimed at strengthening ties between Asia and Europe & developing trade & infrastructure in the region.
The foreign ministers of China and Hungary have signed a memorandum of understanding on the New Silk Road, also known as the"One Belt, One Road" project in Budapest, the Chinese Foreign Ministry states on its web-site, Reuters reports.
In March, Chinese President Xi Jinping said trade among the project’s participants would he hoped, exceed $2.5 trillion in one decade.
Hungary hopes to intensify cooperation with China that can speed up the construction of the Hungarian-Serbia railway & other projects, says the country’s President Janos Ader, as quoted by the Chinese foreign ministry.
China is financing and constructing a rail- way between Hungary and Serbia.
The Chinese government is to inject dozens of billions of dollars to support the project via the building of railways, highways, power grids, oil & gas pipelines, maritime & infrastructure links across Central, West and South Asia to Europe, increasing the connection between the East and the West.
Blind adherence to US policies & introducing anti-Russia sanctions, was fatal for Europe, as the Russia-China-BRICS axis is about to overturn the global economic system and prevail over US' hegemony, states the chief economist of Germany's Bremer Landesbank.
The real damage to EU countries caused by the launch of anti-Russian sanctions is much more comprehensive than that estimated by statistics, Folker Hellmeyer, chief economist of Germany's Bremer Landesbank says, in an interview with the German publication, Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten.
“The slump in German export volumes of 18% in 2014 and by 34% for the first two months of 2015 is just the tip of the iceberg,” he says. “There are many more side-effects.”
“European countries, like Finland and Austria, with strong developing businesses in Russia, are placing fewer orders within Germany. Moreover, Europe's corporations are evading these sanctions and creating high-efficiency production facilities in Russia. We, therefore, lose this potential capital stock -- the basis of our prosperity -- and Russia wins.”
The relationship of trust between Russia and Germany and the EU is somewhat broken. And it will take years to rebuild it. As a result, such companies as Siemens and Alstom have lost major Russian projects, he says. The potential damage -- not only for Germany but the whole EU -- therefore, is much more comprehensive than what's being shown by current figures.
Meanwhile, Moscow, Beijing and other BRICS countries, are looking forward to building the largest project in modern history: construction of new Eurasian infrastructure, from Moscow to Vladivostok, in South China, and in India.
Participation by Western countries in these mega-projects looks quite uncertain, he says.
“For me, the conflict has already been set,” he says. “The Moscow-Beijing-BRICS axis has won. The West has had enough. In 1990, the BRICS countries were 25% of the world's economic output. Now, they are 56% of world economic output, and 85% of the world's population.
They control about 70% of the world's foreign exchange reserves. They grow annually, by an average of 4% to 5%. Since the US hasn't been prepared to share power worldwide, nor build the emerging market sector on its own financial system --- it has lost.”
Neither problem in the world, now, can be solved, without Moscow or Beijing, says the economist.
The lack of its own agenda makes the EU & Germany look like losers.
“The longer we pursue this policy in the EU, the higher the price and the less anyone will take us seriously as interlocutors,” he adds.
The rating agencies, like Moodys and S&P, are very powerful, because practically all lawmakers around the world have made it a national law, that certain investment groups must follow the agencies' ratings.
Example: Life Insurance (huge investors) in the EU must, by law, invest in Class A Investments (those with the lowest risk). This requires a rating of no lower than AA+, otherwise money from such funds can't be invested by law. If an insurance company does it, it will be fined and the whole Board sacked.
The Rating Agencies are all US controlled. They're a typical power multiplier. There's no need for the US Government to come out into the open. They just tell their Rating Agency Puppets what to do, and a large part of the investment world will act as per the law, fully automatically and without a single brain cell as to why, being set in motion.
It's for this reason that each country needs to delink the legal link between US controlled Rating Agencies and its own legal structure regulating the investment companies. This would be way more important than a separate currency or a separate investment bank.
China has done it and Russia is preparing for it. The EU has been talking about it, but has not acted on it.
Japanese and US "Difficulties"
China will always welcome the US & Japan joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and has kept them informed on all relevant information, China's Finance Minister Lou Jiwei says.
"The United States and Japan have not been able to join AIIB due to their own difficulties," Lou tells Xinhua on the sidelines of the World Bank-IMF Spring Meeting, without elaborating.
The United States and Japan decided to stay out of China's initiative by the March 31 dead- line, as both countries worry that the AIIB may challenge the Japan-led Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the US-dominated World Bank.
However, China has underlined that the AIIB will take an open and inclusive attitude and, as complementary to existing development banks, able to strengthen the whole region's communications plus its social & economic development.
German Media Reveals Mass Layoffs by the World Bank
German media say now that over 3.4 million people worldwide, have been displaced over the last years, or lost their livelihoods, due to World Bank policies.
According to research by public TV networks NDR and WDR, and the journal Sueddeutsche Zeitung, many of the people affected by 972 World Bank projects, were laid off, or suffered other kinds of human rights violations.
The media analyzed over 6,000 documents of the WB, in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, reacts with "great concern" to the reports and demands a change in policy by the international financial institution.
However, the media also finds that the German government, through its development policy, is involved in some of the controversial projects.
Since the end of 2013, German representatives on the top Board of Directors at the World Bank have voted just once against a project, out of its 600 initiatives each year.
India Scraps Major Arms Purchase with France, Inks Major Deal with Russia
India has essentially annulled a gigantic arms contract with France, for the purchase & joint construction of 126 Rafale fighter planes: the Indian Prime Minister agreed to buy only 36 of them on his Paris visit, a serious government source states. Instead, India will buy 127 fifth generation Russian fighter jets.
It's part of the direct fall-out from the French government's anti-Russian policy, which has united with Washington. Obedient to the US, Le Drian/Hollande's pair chose not to send the Mistral ships to Russia. This about-face by India, constitutes a massive triumph for Vladimir Putin. Moscow’s revenge against France, will cost Paris 20 billion euros.
“1 car can’t go on 2 highways at the same time. The other route had numerous problems” says Mr Parrikar, alluding to the former Rafale deal with France signed by the former coalition government, led by the Indian National Congress Party.
India, governed by Hindu Nationalists, has in effect engaged in conciliation with China, and a move toward Russia, which now has disappointed US expectations about any anti-Russian, anti-China axis.
Indian PM Narendra Modi met Vladimir Putin in December when the hot issue was non-delivery of the Mistral because of the conflict in Ukraine.
The head of the government of India, determined to enter the Shanghai Cooperation Organization with China, Russia, and Iran, and to free Eurasia from US tutelage, told the Russian president he wishes to “keep Russia as the primary partner in defense materiel.”
The Indian government therefore entered into negotiations to acquire 5th generation Russian fighter jets, which should be emerging from the factories in 2016. The contract envisions giving India 127 Russian fighters, which experts know are the best in the world.
Russia undertakes to accelerate production and to deliver the first fighters in 36 months.
This check on the antiRussian policies asked for by Le Drian and Holland, is not done yet with its consequences for the French arms industry.
Le Drian, a future candidate in regional elections in 2015 and the current Defense Minister, will do anything to avoid the Mistral question, which is striking a decisive blow now to the shipyards of Saint-Nazaire.
An Atlantist, Le Drian has considerably damaged the interests of Brittany as well as of France, as the cost of the non-delivery of the Mistral has set France back at least 20 billion euros, five times the cost of a Mistral.
The impact of the Russian counter-attack on France is considerable, both in the mid-term and the long term.
Meanwhile, France’s press, anxious to please the government, prefers to congratulate it for a 36 Rafales deal with India, preferring to not bring to mind the ruinous effect of a French foreign policy firmly aligned with Washington.
Asia Times: Merkel Urges Japan to Join China's Asian Bank.
Japan’s Jiji Press agency quoted Japanese government sources as saying the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, called on Japan to join AIIB, as a founding member.
Sources state that Merkel made her request to Japanese PM, Shinzo Abe, in an April 1st 'phone call. Abe is said to have repeated his concerns about the AIIB’s structure and its lending sustainability.
A high-level European diplomatic source has also confirmed to Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar, in an April 6th dispatch, that Merkel’s government has 'vigorously' talked to Beijing, in an effort to disrupt its present strategic partnership with Russia.
“Beijing won’t necessarily listen to this political gesture from Berlin, as China is tuning the strings on a pan-Eurasian 'New Silk Road' project, which implies closer trade/commerce/business ties with both Germany and Russia,” Pepe Escobar writes.
The new Chinese rating agency set up to counter US agencies' obvious bias:
They give Russia - an A rating = stable.
But the US gets - an A rating negative (because of its gigantic debt and deficit)
CHINA SIDE-STEPS DOLLAR -- AGAIN
China's central bank signs a currency swap agreement -- valued at 30 billion yuan ($4.9 billion) -- with South Africa's central bank.
The agreement lasts for three years and can be extended upon agreement, by both sides, says a spokesperson for the People's Bank of China (PBOC).
The deal aims to facilitate bilateral trade and investment and to maintain regional financial stability, Xinhua news agency reports.
South Africa's Reserve Bank (SARB) states the agreement's purpose is to support trade and investment between South Africa and China, and act as a mitigating resource for short term balance of payment pressures.
The PBOC also signed swap agreements with Armenia & the Republic of Suriname in March.
To promote international use of the yuan, China has currency swap agreements now with over 20 countries & regions since the start of a global financial crisis in late 2008.
Telegraph: Greece Plans To Nationalise Banks, And Issue A Parallel Currency: Greece is drawing up plans to nationalise banks and introduce a parallel currency to pay salaries and pensions --- unless the eurozone softens its demands for austerity measures --- reports the UK newspaper, The Telegraph.
The present coalition led by left-wing Syriza, could also decide to default on an IMF loan, according to sources close to Syriza, the newspaper says.
“We're a Left-wing government. If we've to choose between a default to the IMF, or a default to our own people, it is a no-brainer,” The Telegraph quotes a senior Greek official as saying.
“We may have to go into a silent arrears process with the IMF. This will cause a furore in the markets and means that the clock will start to tick much faster,” the source adds.
“We will shut down the banks and nationalise them, and then issue IOUs if we have to, and we all know what this means. What we will not do is become a protectorate of the EU,” stated the source The Telegraph quoted in its article.
AIIB having tremendous influence on shift of power from West to East.
The popularity of the China-proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) shows that Asia in general, and China in particular, are leading the world in another -- and more relevant -- direction, a Dutch expert says.
Rien T. Segers, a Dutch expert on the political economy of east Asia, believes that the world is undergoing a transition from "the financial, economic and political dominance of the US, towards the dominance of a number of Asian countries, led by China."
"If dominance is a politically incorrect word, leadership is not nice either. I would prefer 'cooperative influence'", says Segers.
"The rich and old economies have no other choice, but to go for a development which is a reflection of the cooperative influence of Asian countries on the West - and vice versa", he adds.
Over 40 countries, so far, have shown an interest in becoming members of the AIIB.
European countries, including France, Italy, the UK, Germany, Spain & the Netherlands, have all stated that they want to become founding members of the new bank.
The Netherlands has now applied to join the AIIB as a founding member.
WEST's MONOPOLY WEAKENING FASTER
Russia, Australia, the Netherlands and Brazil have all announced that they plan to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
Despite US criticism, more countries from the heart of Washington’s camp, say they too, are considering joining. They include diehard allies like Turkey & South Korea.
China says it has already accepted the application of Brazil, its largest trading partner, to the AIIB, adding that Austria has also applied to join.
The AIIB is a multinational lender. It has 30 founding members with applications still coming in.
Other nations will still be able to join the bank, but as common members.
US SEES EUROPE SHIFT TO CHINA
France, Germany and Italy have all joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank - and the UK joined it the week before.
Their choice is a vote of confidence in China, which has achieved 3 decades of economic success and readied itself to make greater contributions to world development. How- ever, what makes the AIIB so popular, does not end there...
Unlike existing world lending bodies like the World Bank, in which the US has the dominant role and a veto, the AIIB gives China no such privileges.
Instead, all members participate in the decision-making process, in order to achieve win-win results.
The AIIB doesn't seek to weaken present institutions, but to strengthen them, and vigorously push forward the global economy.
The World Bank welcomes the AIIB, says World Bank Managing Director Sri Mulyani Indrawati, adding: "the WB will cooperate closely" with the AIIB.
The US may be embarrassed that so many allies braved its warnings, and embraced the AIIB, but as a NYT editorial says: "this is a problem of America's own making."
The US has been too sluggish in reforming global financial institutions it controls, as their power distribution no longer reflects reality in the global economic landscape.
Decision-makers in the United States truly do have to be reminded - that if they don't jump on the bandwagon of change in time, they'll soon be overrun by the bandwagon.
Meanwhile, South Korea and Australia are also applying for membership, but Japan, wishing to keep its relationship exclusively with the US, has said 'no'.
AIIB --- launched last year --- is a China-led international development bank, targeting investment in Asian infrastructure such as transport, energy and telecommunications.
Analysts consider the new institution as a rival to the Western-controlled World Bank and the (US-led) Asian Development Bank.
Money Pouring into Russia despite Sanctions
The net inflow of money into funds investing in Russian shares continued its six-week streak, $40.7 million between 26 February – 4 March, the Emerging Portfolio Fund Research shows.
The leader among BRICS countries is India, whose inflows totaled .55% ($678.1 million) over the course of the week (the 12 month total was 7.4%, or $7.4 billion).
China had comparatively weak results— an outflow of .12% ($341.1 million) in the week, or 3.8% ($11.1 billion) over the year.
Investors continued to withdraw assets from Latin America--.75% ($216.3 million) in the week, reports Vesti Ekonomika.
Russia is in 2nd place among the BRICS. Its total capital influx over the year reached 1.1% ($525.2 million).
Therefore Russia is continuing to outpace developing markets, concludes Sberbank Investment Research.
Most are funds oriented toward Russia (inflow of .11%, $34.3 million). Passive funds attracted .47% ($54.2 million), active funds lost .02% of assets ($4.6 million). In the week ending March 4th, RTS index increased by .1% and Brent crude rose by 3.2%.
'To put it in plain English, Russia is considered to have an attractive investment climate, no mean feat after a decade of sanctions, credit rating downgrades, threats of more sanctions, even threats of military action and provocative NATO exercises on its border.'
'All of these measures were intended, not to hurt Russia’s economy directly, but to create the impression Russia is surrounded, isolated, starved of capital, and with its economy “in tatters”, to quote Barack Obama.
International investors know when they see a winner.
US Frenzy at Chinese ad of yuan as new world reserve currency
In Thailand, China has recently erected a curious billboard. The words on the billboard announce a new "world currency" called the Renminbi. The US dollar is nearing the end of its global power and dominance.
Renminbi's trading hubs have appeared all over the world, from Singapore to London to Luxembourg to Frankfurt and Toronto.
Transnational corporations like McDonald's issue bonds in renminbi. Sovereign states, including the UK, issue debt in renminbi.
The renminbi is the official currency of the People's Republic of China. Renminbi literally means "people's currency." The yuan is the basic unit of the renminbi, but is also used to refer to the Chinese currency generally, especially in international contexts.
A historic look at dominant reserve currencies shows that reserve currencies run in cycles that last somewhere between 80 and 110 years per cycle.
The US Dollar has held its status as a reserve currency since 1921, bringing it to a 94 year long streak, indicating that the US Dollar has almost run its course.
The US prints money in an attempt to postpone the crisis, creating currency wars with nearly all major central banks in the world. As history shows, money printing will only aggravate the problem, making the transition more painful and costly.
Many international experts in finance believe that the US Dollar is on its last legs. Central banks simply manipulate events to help the dollar maintain its status for a little longer. However, the time when the US Dollar crashes is not too far away.
China and other countries, including Russia, have been calling for the US Dollar to be replaced by another world reserve currency.
More and more countries are deciding to do without the dollar in their settlements.
Rothschild warns of 'chaos, extremism' and 'horrendous' problems in Europe
Jacob Rothschild, 78-year-old banker & chair of RIT Capital Partners, warns of global instability and the fragility of any hope for future incomes, Richard Dyson writes, in The Telegraph.
In his statement on the economic year 2014, Rothschild expresses his concern about the complicated economic background investors will face in the future.
According to Jacob Rothschild, the current geopolitical situation is perhaps even more dangerous than it was during the Second World War, Pravda.Ru reports.
He stresses that the current state of affairs exists, as a result of the rampant chaos and extremism in the Middle East, the crisis in Ukraine and a general weakening of Europe -- which faces horrendous unemployment -- against the backdrop of the EU's inability to conduct necessary reforms.
The US is Completely Bankrupt.
Some time ago, a summary of a report by the authoritative Washington-based Cato Institute was published. According to this institute, US government debt in 2014, was not USD 18 trillion, but was in fact, USD 91 trillion.
The huge difference arises from the fact that official estimates do not include “unfunded liabilities of programs like Social Security and Medicare.”
“While those liabilities don’t show up on official balance sheets, they nonetheless, represent the legal obligations of the US government.”
“The expected shortfall from these programs brings the true debt to an unfathomable USD 90.6 trillion,” notes the Cato Institute’s brief summary. The full version of the report -- including all calculations -- was in March.
US Investment Advisor, Ron Holland:
"Americans should take advantage of the recent dollar strength to diversify into gold, investments, real estate and safe havens outside the US dollar & the United States.
"Better to be early than too late, because eventually the consequences of aggressive military actions, central bank manipulation, uncontrolled government debt & unfunded liabilities, will come home to the American people.
"Neither the guilt of our political and banking leadership nor the innocence of our citizenry will protect you, your assets or your family."
China outstrips US foreign investment
More foreign direct investment flowed into China than the US in 2014, bumping the US off its top spot for investment in the world, a position it has held since 2003.
China's $127.6 billion in foreign investment in 2014, was far more than the $86 billion flowing into the US, according to figures published by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The difference between 2013 is staggering, when $123.9 billion poured into China and $230.8 billion into the US.
The US saw foreign direct investment (FDI) falling to its lowest since 2009, when the market was wiped out by a financial crisis.
The US ‘lost’ so much investment because of Verizon’s $130 billion purchase of Voda- fone in the UK, which counted against it in the UNCTAD tally.
China, the 2nd largest economy, has been steadily gaining ground in FDI, which has accelerated since the yuan's exchange rate became flexible, and other reforms made it easier for Western businesses to operate in main-land China.
“There were structural changes in inflows to China, from manufacturing, to services, & from labour-intensive to tech-intensive,” according to the Director of Investment and Enterprise at UNCTAD, James Zahn.
After China, Hong Kong too, passed the US --- into second spot, followed by Singapore and Brazil. The US is the only developed, and not developing, nation in the top five.
The UN survey notes a major shift favoring investment in the developing economies --- which saw investment rise 4% in 2014 --- while developed economies fell by 14%.
The biggest losers are the EU --- and the former Soviet bloc.
(Russia lost 70% of its foreign investment, and Ukraine lost out on $200 million. Both as a result of the conflict in E. Ukraine.)
Another title China took from the US in October 2014, was the world’s biggest economy in terms of purchasing power.
“China's been steady with modest growth over the past few years -- & it's expected to continue,” Zhan tells the WSJ.
Iran stops using dollar in international settlements
Iran is stopping the use of the US dollar in settlements with foreign countries, Iran's Central Bank said, on Saturday (24th of January, 2015).
“In foreign trade from now on, we'll be using other currencies, including the yan, euro, Turkish lira, Russian rouble and South Korean won,” the Central Bank’s deputy head, Gholam Ali Kamyab, tells Tasnim News Agency.
He says Iran is presently considering bilateral currency agreements with several countries on the use of other currencies. The agreements favour trade and economic operations, he says, and are planned for in the "near f