Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Iran's Nuclear Facilities Under Covert Attack

The Times of London reports that a large blast occurred at Iran's Isfahan uranium conversion facility, twenty-four hours before the British embassy was trashed [photo] in a government instigated riot. The powerful explosion shook buildings in the city. On November 12 a large explosion took place at the Bid Ganeh missile base on the outskirts of Tehran. Thirty Revolutionary Guard members were killed in that blast including General Hassan Moghaddam, head of Iran's missile program. The Times was told by a confidential Israeli intelligence source that "no doubt" the blasts were deliberate. The latest explosion damaged uranium storage facilities.

These were not the first covert attacks against Iran's nuclear program. It is widely believed by experts that the Stuxnet software "worm" that severely disrupted Iran's computer network was a joint US-Israeli sabotage. The software security company Symantec said in July that 60,000 systems in Iran are infected with the worm. The self-contained program enters a network via a USB stick where it replicates and specifically attacks Siemens designed software used to monitor and control industrial processes such as nuclear plant operations and uranium enrichment facilities. The worm contains coded references to biblical events hinting at the malware's origin and target[1]. Further clues to its origin can be gathered from the program's sophistication--it exploits four vulnerabilities in Window architecture--lack of profitability, and virulence. All of these characteristics point to a government sponsor since many man hours and tremendous computer resources, including access to highly specialized Siemen's software, had to be devoted to its "amazing" creation according to software experts. Stuxnet is probably the world's first known example of a state cyber-weapon attack.

Observers suggest Mossad is behind the attacks on Iran's nuclear program that Israel considers life-threatening, including a 2010 strike against a base at Khoramabad which killed 18 Guards. Probably not by mere coincidence, four 122mm Katyusha rockets exploded in northern Galilee a few hours after the Isfahan blast. Hezzbolah, a proxy of Iran, controls southern Lebanon across the Israeli border, and used rocket attacks against nearby Israeli towns to great effect in the 2006 conflict. Although Iran continues to deny it has a nuclear weapons program, the IAEA concluded in its latest report that the Islamic government may be developing nuclear weapon capacity. Of course, Israel has had a nuclear arsenal and the means to deliver it for decades thanks to western military assistance [photo], but it too denies the possession of nuclear weapons. The authoritative newspaper Ha'aretz reported recently that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is attempting to sway a divided cabinet to approve an airstrke against Iran. Israeli air force units are currently training for such a long range mission. In 2009 the Obamatron agreed to deliver 55 specialized GBU-28 "bunker buster" bombs to the Israeli air force.[2] Those bombs may simply be large fireworks now, since Iran has moved its enrichment centrifuges to near Qom where they are protected in a NORAD style installation beneath a mountain.

[1]Stuxnet contains the word "guava", a member of the myrtle family, and the number "19790509". The Hebrew name for myrtle is hadassah also the name of the biblical Queen Esther who saved Persian Jews from genocide. The number maybe a date reference on which a Persian Jew was executed in Iran.
[2] Russia delivered its versatile S-300 radar system to Iran which can track multiple 'bogies' and engage ten targets with mobile "Favorit"interceptor missiles simultaneously. The system was delivered and installed in 2007. Greece allowed Israeli air units to train against a version of the S-300 it bought from Russia this summer.  Israel recently acquired the latest western jet aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II which is stealthy and VSTOL capable. The Cold War still lives in the Middle East, except it is much more likely to turn hot very quickly.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Swiss Rave Party Kills Two Dolphins

The selfish insanity of humans knows no political or ideological boundaries. Even the most progressive of human societies, such as Norway or Switzerland experience moments of almost indescribable, selfish stupidity. The last remaining dolphin tank in Switzerland at the Connyland theme park was the scene of a two day, non-stop rave party. Veterinarians say that ear-splitting sound and drugs thrown into their tank killed the two dolphins. The highly intelligent mammals died excruciating deaths, seizing and foaming at the mouth. Connyland ignored protests by local activists who warned a rave held a few yards from their tank would endanger the dolphins. Eight dolphins have died at Connyland in the past three years. An investigation is still pending while the health of the remaining dolphin inmates is slowly deterioriating due to illness, posioning, and claustrophobia that results in severe depression and self-abuse. The time to stop this insanity and sae the remaining dolphins is now. The weight of world opinion can be enough to motivate Swiss officials to shut down the park. So go to 
and sign the petition to shut down the extreme abuse at Connyland.

Chart of the Week II: Downhill Since Nixon

While the European Union totters on the edge of financial dissolution, US Person gives equal attention to the facts bringing impoverished American youth into the streets:
When weekly wages are adjusted for inflation, American workers are making 12% less than they did in 1971. Using statistics not adjusted by the government, that figure is actually 30% less. Again, using unmanipulated statistics the current unemployment rate is reaching Great Depression levels of 23%:
The mass unemployment is reflected in the fastest growing welfare program, food stamps, in which participation has increased 43% in the past 3 years. 14.7% of the US population now use food stamps. It is no coincidence that JP Morgan Chase makes millions administering the program:
One usually associates depressions with falling prices. But the current reality is that some prices fall while other rise. At the playground of plutocrats, the stock market and other financial markets, prices are bid up using inexpensive leverage while housing prices, the traditional major investment of the 99%er, are down due to weak demand and oversupply. Commodity prices including food are also higher:
All of these charts support the same basic fact of life in 21st Century Amerika. The middle and working classes are becoming increasingly impoverished, not just in body, but in mind and spirit. So get out your pepper spray and elbow your way to that wide screen TV made in Asia. Watch your favorite pixels delivered to your eyeballs at light speed by Madison Avenue while the Plutocracy mugs you. The TV promises it won't hurt; but if you complain, they will libel you a terrorist. God help you then.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chart of the Week: The European Debt Quagmire

This week's chart focuses on the European debt crisis again because it remains unresolved:
The countries in crisis (PIIGS) need to refinance €1.5trillion in debt over the next three years. That is a near impossible task given the projected levels of economic activity and the existing (aging) tax base in these countries. The following is a chart showing Europe's falling GDP and leading indicators:
The 'kick the can' approach used to date by the tag team of Merkle-Sarkozy has failed to convince European bond buyers. If the euro union is to be saved it is becoming unavoidable that the Bundesbank allow the European Central Bank to essentially print more euros, so weak member nations can pay their debts. This is the route taken by the US Federal Reserve to avoid a crisis meltdown of the financial markets in 2008. The other alternative is to allow (perhaps the verb should be "force") Greece and other financially weak countries to leave the union to face national bankruptcy on their own with disastrous 'knock-on' effects for over leveraged European banks:
A common currency trading zone led by Germany could be reistablished with countries willing to enforce fiscal stability on themselves. For Germans who still remember the thousands of Weimar marks it once took to buy a loaf of bread or lump of coal, it is a bitter choice either way.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Weekend Edition: Just Say No to Peace

credit: Johnson's Russia List
The Obamatron's major foreign policy accomplishment, besides the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, is the renewal of the strategic arms limitation treaty with Russia. But that accomplishment, achieved against the determined opposition of war mongers in Congress, is in danger of being unraveled. President Medvedev said last week that Russia would target proposed European missile defense installations. The statement undoubtably gave some NATO member countries pause. What apparently prompted the Cold war sentiment was the collapse of negotiations with the United States over what kind of missile defense could be installed in Europe that would be acceptable to Russia. The sticking point remains that Russia wants more than repeated assurances from the United States that the system is intended to counteract a nuclear armed Iran, a possibility that is becoming more likely according to the UN's latest assessment of Iran's mostly secret nuclear program.

Medvedev told Russians last Wednesday that negotiations with the United States over a missile defense system located in Europe were over. He said Russia would withdraw from the new START treaty if the impasse over missile defense continues to deteriorate, and promised to install mobile Iskander tactical nuclear missiles [image] in the European enclave of Kaliningrad as part of his military's countermeasures to a missile system which his government believes could be used against Russia nuclear deterrent. President Medvedv implied that conservative legislators in Congress were responsible for the inability to reach agreement, saying "legislators in some countries openly state the whole system is against Russia". Russia views the US led missile defense program as a "fait accompli" that could in "6 to 8 years weaken our nuclear deterrent." War mongers in Congress categorically refuse to allow a legal pledge from the United States to Russia that it would not use a missile defense system in Europe to cloak its own offensive nuclear weapons, or engage in a cooperative system of sector defense as proposed by President Medvedev.  They called the effort to provide missile data to Russia and consultations on the building process "was never realistic" since the Russians "seek to limit US missile defense by any means." The Unites States pledged not to limit its deployment plans for a European missile shield despite President Medvedev's statement. It announced a new radar site in Turkey that can detect low trajectory missile launches from Iran (Shahab-3) as well as southern Russia in September. US espionage efforts to counter the Iranian program were seriously knocked back by Iran's rolling up of US informant networks.

Toontime: Occupy This!

[credit: Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune]
Wackydoodle sez: She'll show y'all a real good time!
Steve Kroft of the venerable 60 Minutes news program reported about the use of insider information by Congressmen to trade stocks. A pending bill in the House outlawing the practice (already considered unethical under House rules) only had nine cosponsors before the airing of the program. Afterwards, politically vulnerable members scrambled to sign on bringing the number to 92. The STOCK bill (it is absurd how fond Washington politicians are of acronyms with double meanings) was first introduced in 2006 and reintroduced every Congress since then, but never got out of committee.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Keystone XL Off the Radar Now, But Not Down

Environmentalists are thankful for the delayed Keystone XL decision, but the battle to stop more tar sand crude from coming south is not over. Production of bitumen at the northern Alberta site is backing up due to tight pipeline capacity. Syncrude Canada, Ltd. produces 350,000 barrels a day, but has had to delay shipments due to lack of space. Kinder Morgan's 300,000bpd Trans Mountain pipeline was oversubscribed by 24% in December 2010. Consequently the search is on for alternative routes to refineries. The state of Nebraska will finance a supplemental environmental impact study of an alternate route through the state for Keystone XL, bypassing the Sandhills. Many of the objections to the original route that crosses the critical Ogallala aquifer came from politically connected Nebraskan ranchers who are not categorically opposed to the pipeline. The first Keystone pipeline already crosses the state, and it began carrying tar sand last year. In a state with a declining population, the prospect of an extra 150 million a year in property taxes paid by TransCanada Corp. is hard for impoverished local governments to resist. The US State Department has said that the supplemental study is necessary before it can make the "national interest" determination, perhaps signaling that an alternate route which avoids the acquirer may be sufficient for a second term administration to make a positive finding.

Despite the setback to the XL, Canadian firms are actively looking for ways to flow tar sand oil south in greater quantities. Recently Canadians bought up thousands of miles of existing pipelines in the Midwest to accommodate the large amount of product coming from the strip mining operation in Alberta. It is considered an interim workaround solution, with not enough capacity to carry future production. An alternative solution to the US midwest route is to carry the bitumen westward over the Rockies to Canada's Pacific coast where it could be transshipped to California refineries which have spare capacity and have been recently upgraded to handle heavier (dirtier) crude oil. Sources of crude from Alaska and within the state are dwindling. The western route involves two pipelines, expanding the existing Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain and the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway. Either way, the ultimate consumer is the Chinese dragon that has an increasing appetite for oil. Because of the intense energy required to process bitumen into fuel, it has a carbon footprint of 10-20% larger than light oil, so bitumen as a fuel is not congruent with California's plan for a green energy future.

There are objections to the Pacific route too. The possibility of increased oil tanker traffic at Vancouver, British Columbia already has local environmentalists alarmed and their cell phones sounding off. The Wilderness Committee based in Vancouver is providing oil tanker alerts to cell phone users. The service alerts when a tanker is preparing to fill up at Kinder Morgan's Westbridge terminal to the Trans Mountain pipeline system. According to the Wilderness Committee the alerts are intended to make residents aware of the risks of an oil spill and climate change due to expansion of oil exports. Tanker traffic could increase from two a week to nearly one tanker a day in 2016 if Kinder Morgan is allowed to expand its pipeline. Kinder Morgan has plans to dredge the Second Narrows channel to allow access by super tankers that can carry one million barrels of crude oil, four times what was spilled by the drunken captain of the Exxon Valdez. Canadian environmentalists say they are determined to prevent the B.C. coast from becoming another Gulf Coast.

The proposed Northern Gateway pipeline is even more problematic for environmentalists. Enbridge's plan is to send as many as 220 super tankers a year through the narrow, serpentine passages of the Great Bear Rainforest, North America's largest temperate rainforest. The Northern Gateway would stretch 700 miles from northern Alberta over the Rockies to the port of Kitimat. From there there the dirty crude would be shipped south to California. NRDC says the plan is "one of the most reckless and potentially catastrophic proposals" ever considered. Clear cutting would be required to create a right of way and it would cross thousands of salmon steams and the headwaters of major rivers like the Fraser. The sea passages involved are even more difficult to navigate than Prince William Sound. The British Columbia coast is no stranger to environmental protests. It was the locus for protracted disputes over industrial logging. Conservationists succeeded in protecting more than five million acres of rainforest with a landmark agreement between the British Columbia government and First Nations in 2006. The white variant brown bear or "spirit bear" [photo] was adopted as the campaign's symbol. Already more than 70 First Nations along the proposed pipeline and tanker route have indicated their opposition to the plan, and so another fight begins.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

End Corporate Personhood

When the putative Republican nominee publicly claims that corporations are persons, you know something is terribly wrong with our nation's political system. When a 99%er is struck by police so hard she miscarries her baby in the street or peaceful protesters are deliberately sprayed with a toxic "food product", it is time to act*. The 100 year legal fiction that corporations are 'persons' entitled to the same civil rights as citizens was reinforced by the horrendous decision in Citizens United vs. FEC in which the conservative majority struck down campaign contribution rules previously upheld by the Court. A constitutional amendment is needed to settle the issue once and for all. Corporations are NOT humans "entitled to certain inalienable rights among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". The founders never intended such an absurdity, and it took one hundred years of increasing capital concentration for the doctrine to be enshrined in American jurisprudence. Corporate political speech can and should be regulated if the Republic is not to degenerate into a fascist police state. US Person is asking his readers to visit and sign the petition to amend the Constitution so Congress and states can pass laws allowing campaign finance reforms that will withstand corporatist legal challenges. Do a "mic check" with this petition and get your friends and acquaintances to sign too. Protection of our civil right to organize and petition government is just one reason your fellow citizens are risking their personal safety in the streets.

*on the Scoville Scale police pepper spray is just below pure Capsicum, the irritant contained in chili peppers and is therefore considered poisonous. At least corporate paid talking heads should do some research before they open their vacuous mouths on the public airwaves.

Egypt at the Crossroads.

Tahrir Square, Cairo
US Person suggested in previous posts concerning the "Arab Spring" that the acid test of the Egyptian revolution would be whether the military, which so dominates Egyptian society that it is a government and economy onto itself, would actually give up power once the dictator Murbarak, himself a product of the military, was removed from power. The Tahrir Square rebellion embraced the military as allies, knowing instinctively perhaps that the military's tacit support would help the rebellion end Mubarak's thirty year dictatorship. Now, that tacit alliance appears to be broken because civilian demonstrators have returned to the Square [photo: AFP]to protest the junta's foot dragging over a constitution and a presidential election. A parliamentary election is scheduled to take place in a week, but some commentators have suggested that even that election could be delayed in the face of renewed unrest.

After three days of protest and bowing to protesters demands the interim civilian counsel, appointed by the ruling military junta, submitted their resignations en masse. The protests have not been peaceful. The Health Ministry said twenty-three people have died in the demonstrations--some said to have been killed by live ammunition--and 1500 have been seriously injured. Protesters are being gassed with American made tear gas according to The Guardian. The powerful Muslim Brotherhood said it would not take part in a rally scheduled for Tuesday to avoid delaying parliamentary elections while other groups have decided to join it. It may be the largest demonstration against military rule so far. A member of the ruling military junta visited the Square Monday for a news conference. When asked about alleged deaths due to live ammunition being used against demonstrators, he blamed "an invisible hand in the Square causing a rift between the army and the people." US Person thought only Newt Gingrich believed in the "invisible hand", but apparently Egyptian generals do too.

Monday, November 21, 2011

'Toontime: American Plutocracy Evicts the 99%

[credit: Aislin, Montreal Gazette]
Update: The National Lawyers Guild has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all information the federal law enforcement agencies have concerning the orchestrated response to peaceful Occupy encampments by riot-equipped police. Defense lawyers have asked for expedited treatment of the request for information. An answer from the agencies should be forthcoming within twenty days, unless the agencies withhold the information on ground of "national security". Would that be ironic or what?

{18.11.11}Despite beatings, midnight raids, tear gas, rubber bullets, percussion grenades, and mass arrests the 99% alliance is not giving up. The similarity in police tactics against the overwhelmingly peaceful protesters and the legal pretexts employed to justify the use of force indicates there is some coordination among local officials. There was at least one conference call among 18 city mayors and leaders from as many as forty cities confirmed by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan in a radio interview. A Quan legal adviser resigned in disgust after Oakland police and law thugs from surrounding jurisdictions drove out occupiers with brutality in the early hours of November 14th. Quan says the phone conference took place while she was in Washington DC. Shortly thereafter on October 25th she authorized the first forceful eviction of Occupy Oakland. The mayor's former adviser strongly suspects the recently established federal anti-terror "fusion centers" are involved, especially after the protesters shut down the Port of Oakland for a day. The Port is no doubt considered to be a national security site by federal officials. The centers were created after analysis of the terror attacks showed a lack of coordination and information sharing between and among the many national, state and local layers of law enforcement apparatus in Amerika. Homeland Secretary Napolitano said in Kansas City in 2009, that "we know that it's not just the 9/11 type incidents but many, many other types of incidents that can benefit from having fusion centers that share information and product and analysis upwards and horizontally", One of those "types of incidents" is surely domestic civil unrest and mass protest. So in the post 9/11 world, the legitimate exercise of constitutionally protected rights of free speech and assembly are categorized as a national security threat by an increasingly secretive, reactionary and authoritarian national government. Lawyers representing the protesters agree there is no legal justification for anti-terror forces to be used against legitimate, peaceful citizen protesters.The Cop-in-Chief has a lot of explaining to do if federal anti-terror resources are being used to supress a peaceful protest movement against the Plutocracy.

Chart of the Week: Corporate Tax Dodgers

It is the beginning of a new week and time to get the economic stuff out of the way more charts! Yes, the US has a high corporate tax rate (35%) compared to other countries, but no CFO worth his bonus money would allow his or her company to pay that:
As a percentage of total corporate profits, corporate income tax paid has been going down since the early 50s. The same trend is visible when corporate taxes are compared to total GDP:
In 2009 Bank of America, actually got a net tax benefit of $2.3 billion while General Electric received $3.2 billion despite profits of over $14 billion; just two examples of the corporate welfare enjoyed by the biggest companies in the nation. Thanks to an unfair tax code corporations kept $222.7 billion in federal tax revenue from 2008 to 2010. Corporatists and TEA party extremists want to blame the federal government for causing the financial panic of 2008 by inflating the real estate market with a lot of deadbeat buyers. But the truth is [video @13:00] the United States real estate market was no more inflated than other countries:
No argument that Freddie and Fannie guaranteed bad loans, but it was because the banking industry wanted it that way. One of the few Washington lobbyists that paid his dues in jail, Jack Abramoff, says, "During my years as a lobbyist, I saw scores of congressional staff members become the willing vassals of K Street firms before soon decamping to K Street employment themselves. It was a dirty little secret, And it is a source of major corruption in Congress." He should know, right?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Weekend Edition: Transboundary Conservation

US Person has posted before about the critical concept of transboundary conservation in which ecosystems are preserved intact regardless of their location in two or more nations. To preserve migratory animals or those using large hunting territories, national boundaries must give way to the natural landscape. Elephants are the epitome of an animal that lives large. Historically, elephants wandered across the entire African continent on ancient routes to water and food. Those days are no more. However, the presidents of five southern African nations have taken an unprecedented and historic preservation step. The nations of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe signed a treaty establishing the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area in August of this year. The 109 million acre Area is within the borders of those nations and encompasses the famed Okavango inland delta[photo], a unique ecosystem of exceptional wildlife richness. It is the home of an estimated 325,000 elephants or 44% of the remaining African elephant population [photo]. The Area is larger than the state of New Mexico, and will allow elephants and the wild creatures that live with them to live on the land in a more natural way. The Conservation Area will allow sustainable development with emphasis on creating a world class tourist destination. Local human inhabitants will benefit from the increased economic activity. WWF intends that its positive experience with Namibia's community based natural resource management will be applied to provide technical training and assistance to local communities. In Namibia, about 12% of the population have the right to manage and economically benefit from wildlife. The goal in the world's largest transnational conservation area is to promote a peaceful human culture of shared resources while at the same time preserving the landscape's biological integrity for future generations of humans and wild creatures. GREEN KUDOS!

Police Beat: America, the Oppressed

This video says it all: the deliberate use of excessive force by paid thugs of the Plutocracy against peaceful protesters. The brutality occurred at UC Davis:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Last Ice Refuge

Scientists have projected based on computer simulations that the Canadian high Arctic Archipelago will be the last area of ice in the warmer world to come. This remnant of persistent ice will be the refuge for those polar bears that survive rapid global warming. The region in Canada and Greenland is about 500,000 square miles, or twice the size of Texas.{map 14.5.2011}The World Wildlife Fund has been working to preserve Arctic wildlife since 1992 and is now focusing efforts on developing a management plan for the polar bear's last refuge. WWF brought the Coca-Cola, Inc. chairman and CEO to Hudson's Bay to observe the impact of global warming on the bears and the threat it poses to sensitive Arctic ecology. Readers no doubt know that Coca-Cola has been using the polar bear in its advertisements during the holiday season for years [image]. As a result of this visit, and the available scientific evidence, the Coca-Cola company decided to support WWF's efforts to save a home on this planet for such an iconic species. It will donate $2 million over the next five years to begin the important development plan work. Coca-Cola's "Arctic Home" campaign is a first step to raising public awareness of the polar bear's plight and providing the necessary financial resources. The company will match public donations up to $1,000,000. US Person does not endorse products, but believes that business corporations willing to help preserve nature and not destroy it should receive consumer support for their cooperation. Look for the white cans and bottle caps--the first ones in 125 years--if you buy Coke this holiday season. Give a polar bear a home for Christmas by making a donation. (Discliamer: There is no scientific evidence that polar bears enjoy Coca-Cola.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rio Grande's Big Bend Headed For International Park

The US already shares an international park with Canada, and if the vision of Franklin Roosevelt and Manuel Camacho is realized, the United States and Mexico will one day establish a transnational park along the shores of the Rio Grande in the Big Bend region. Big Bend National Park was established on June 12, 1944, and at that time Roosevelt wrote the Mexican President that the undertaking would not be complete until the protected areas on both sides of the Rio Grande "forms one great international park". Today, Mexico and the US are working to restore the desert river region's diverse eco-system, control invasive species, preserve wildlife, and manage wildfires. In October wildlife officials from both sides released endangered Rio Grande silvery minnows into the river as part of these efforts. Silvery minnow, once common, have vanished from this stretch of the river since the 1960s. The first reintroduction occurred in 2008 [photo]. Mexican wildlife officials also released hawks and owls in the border state of Chihuahua. At the fish release, Secretary Salazar said both governments "share a commitment towards the conservation vision proposed over 60 years ago." The possibility of a peaceful, beautiful and healthy transnational park is a far cry from the specter of barbed wire, guard towers, searchlights, and concrete walls often touted as solutions by reactionary nationalists in the United States. As the Ambassador to Mexico put it, "the seamless flow of nature across both banks of the river is far stronger and far more enduring than what divides us." The cooperative plan to restore the Big Bend/Rio Bravo region was developed by the US National Park Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, Geological Survey, the Mexican National Commission of Natural Protected Areas and other partners. It was signed into action by Secretary Ken Salazar and Secretary Juan Elvira on October 24, 2011.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

If You Can't Beat Them, Join Them

The paid thugs of the plutocracy have evicted Occupiers all across the nation. The latest sweep was in  Zuccotti (formerly known as Liberty) Park in downtown Manhattan, the epicenter of the movement. But evicting protesters will simply create more supporters who will occupy other public spaces in order to make their collective voice heard. Exhibit One is this human banner on the beach at San Francisco. To find statistics on the worldwide 1% go to the Paris School of Economics website. Here are a few pertinent ones from The Progress Report:
  • The top 1 percet of Americans still own 40 percent of our country’s wealth while the bottom 80 percent owns only 7 percent;
  • The richest 1 percent earned one out of every four dollars in 2007. Thirty years earlier, the richest only made one out of every 11 dollars;
  • One in four millionaires pays a lower tax rate than 10 million middle-income Americans;
  • Fourteen million Americans are unemployed (the actual figure is higher);
  • Corporations are sitting on $2 trillion in cash – more cash than at any time in nearly a half century – instead of hiring more employees.

Wolves Come Home to Germany

Johan Geiler von Kaisersberg (1516)
Wolves were exterminated in Germany in the 19th century, but a new study by the German federal government finds that wolves are recolonizing Germany from Poland. Six wolves in Saxony were collared with tracking devices to find out when young wolves leave their parental pack and where they go. It is the first study undertaken in central Europe of wolf movements. Scientists found that wolves can travel large distances, up to 70km (43.5 miles) a day. The study shows males tend to roam farther afield. One young male left his Belarus pack at 12 months old and travelled an amazing 1,550kms (963miles) Wolves are very adaptable animals and can live near humans. Some young wolves in the study made a home in several caves just 500 meters from a busy road. The first pack that migrated from Poland was discovered in Germany about 11 years ago. Since then wildlife officials believe 12 packs, several pairs and a few lone wolves now make their home in Germany. Twenty wolves have been counted roaming the Lusatia region of eastern Germany. With the wolves' return comes fear mongering by anti-wolf groups and Germans are no exception. An anti-wolf association claimed in the mass circulation daily Bild that once wolves become numerous they will pose a threat to humans, and hunting groups in Saxony want permission to shoot them. Computer modelings indicate sufficient lowland habitat to theoretically support approximately 440 wolf packs with more room in the Alps. The average territory size was found to be 172km² (66.4mi²)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Chart of the Week: Europe at the Edge

The players change to give the illusion of progress, but Europe's debt problem, actually the western world's debt problem, is still there like the sword of Damocles (or is it Madame Guillotine?) hanging over the heads of the European Union. The EU technocrats have taken over the Greek and Italian governments. Their so-called solution is to leverage Europe even more to buy more debt that governments will have to issue to avoid default. But the debt pile is now toxic to economic growth:
This table in a Bank of International Settlements working paper shows that western nations are in debt beyond what is economically sustainable (Threshold). According to Oliver Sarkozy, the half-brother of France's president, institutional funding has an average 3 year life. Therefore European banks need to raise $800bn each month just to keep current on their borrowing obligations. As Europe slows down under the crushing weight of its debt costs, these debts will become even more onerous. Greece's economy is on emergency life support, and is essentially "brain dead" as one commentator put it. The latest European summit told Greece to sell another €16bn in national assets on top of the €50bn already ordered. Spain's unemployment reached its highest level in 15 years. Portugal's M1 deposits, considered a leading economic indicator, have fallen at an annual rate of 21% over the past six months. Even Germany, on which the fate of the EU rests, is heavily indebted, and the spreads on French debt is widening:
Occupy Wall Street has manifested because the 99% know they are in the grip of an international financial cartel that acts like a bunch of drunken sailors willing to hazard their ships of state if they can keep the plunder coming. Wall Street paid itself $60billion in bonuses between 2008-10 for pumping the stock market up 84% from its 2009 lows. Ms. Merkel is right, the whole shebang hinges on "confidence" as in bunko, facilitated by nanosecond computer algorithms and "voluntary" bond haircuts that do not trigger credit default contracts. Only the millennial guy shivering in his tent gets caught holding the debt bag:
Its widely thought that Italy's pensioners will be the target of EU austerity programmers as they attempt to reduce Italy's €1.9trillion debt, massive youth unemployment, and poor productivity. Clearly, the days of 'bunga-bunga' sonno volati. Is Social Security next?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bitumen Bags Another Species

credit: National Geographic
More: The White House has delayed its decision on the proposed pipeline to beyond the November election, raising the probability that a Repugnant president will approve the pipeline should the current occupant fail. The delay is reportedly to allow the State Department to study an alternative route for the international project that avoids crossing the environmentally sensitive Nebraska Sand Hills and Ogallala Aquifer. Nebraska politicians, lead by the state governor, have been vocal about their opposition to the current route. US Department officials acknowledged the outpouring of concern from the state and the nation about the environmental risks of a pipeline that would carry a hot slurry of toxic bitumen. The State Department's Inspector General has announced it will investigate allegations of conflict of interest and improper political influence in preparation of the project's environmental impact statement. Two large demonstrations have taken place in sight of the White House opposing the project. At least a thousand protesters have been arrested.

{10.11.11}Readers of this space know {"Keystone XL"} that the bitumen development in northern Alberta is ripping up the boreal forest [photo], home to numerous species including the woodland caribou. Humans like to eat woodland caribou (a type of elk) and their dwindling numbers are causing concern among Canadian wildlife officials. Rather than blame the lost of caribou habitat to human development, Canadian officials are exterminating the historical culprit, the grey wolf. Five hundred wolves in Alberta's Smoky River region have been poisoned in a mind-bogglingly misguided attempt* to save the caribou. Ed Struzik, a Canadian who has written extensively on the Arctic and the environment, says $1 million has been spent extermination wolves with strychnine and aerial gunning in Alberta. Two caribou herds are being squeezed by the massive open pit mining operation to remove tar sands. Their plight is typical of caribou herds worldwide. Thirty-four of the forty-three major herds scientists have studied are in decline. Numbers have been reduced by 57% from historical peaks, and scientists say the declines are directly attributable to human exploitation of resources in the far north and global warming. Hunting plays only a minor role in depleting beleaguered populations. Caribou or reindeer have inhabited the far north for 1.6 million years and their evolutionary adaptation has made them well suited to cold conditions, even to the extent of endowing them with ultraviolet sight that allows them to spot predators against a blinding white backdrop of snow. But rapid global warming is disrupting the animal's ability to survive.

Rangifer tarandus caribou
Added to this existential threat is the unprecedented upheaval of the boreal forest to feed Americans' inability to see beyond their SUVs. The tar sands extend over an area the size of New York state. If the entire area is developed, as oil companies would like, the woodland caribou is certain to disappear. The Alberta Caribou Committee, dedicated to preserving the caribou, says three of the provinces 18 herds are in danger of vanishing because of loss of habitat.  Wildlife officials engaged in the wolf extermination admit habitat protection is absolutely essential, yet wolves still take the brunt of man's mismanagement of natural resources. In Alberta's old growth forests, prime habitat for caribou and wolves, there are according to Struzik 34,773 wells, 66,489 kilometers of seismic lines, 11,591 kilometers of pipeline and 12,283 kilometers of roads. Vast areas have also been logged. All of this human disturbance favors other herbavore species who rely on open areas for browse and increases the number of predatory wolves. Canadian biologists have been warning for years about the effects of fracturing the boreal forest, but the warnings have gone unheeded by a government faced with the prospect of billions in oil revenue.

*Canadians are not alone in their biological delusions. The depleted salmon runs of the American northwest are primarily due to human develop of hydropower on the region's once prolific spawning rivers. Yet state wildlife officials and commercial fishing interests want to cull protected sea lions that are observed having the audacity to eat one of man's favorite sea foods below the dams he built which prevent the fish from reproducing in historic numbers. Damn removals have been too few and far between to have significant ameliorative effect.

'Toontime: American Spring Turns to Winter

[credit: Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune]
With the temperatures dropping, and local politicians loosing their patience, the encampments of 99% protesters are perhaps beginning to realize the enormity of their undertaking. Corporate mass media is content to broadcast the near meaningless sound byte line-up ludicrously termed "debates", and report candidate Herman Cain's latest denial of sexual harassment allegations. Pop music has given way to pop politics in America, sandwiched between the scandals seemingly errupting daily in the big business that is major college sports.  Money counts most in 21st century America.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Chart of Week: Greeks Against the Wall

More: The European debt crisis has claimed its latest victim, Silvio 'BungaBunga' Berlusconi. The Italian PM lost his parliamentary support and he agreed to resign after austerity budget measures are passed. Proving once again that bond prices are stronger than a lot of sex. Italy's cost of borrowing reached a sky high 7.3% and the Dow meter sank 3.7% indicating plutocrats are not convinced that Italy can revive its moribund economy, and expressing doubts that the EU is big enough to bail out #3 Italy. But Italy is not Greece since its debt ratio to domestic product is more in line with Great Britain's and it could withstand higher interest payments for a longer period of time. France is the next domino in line, holding the most Italian debt of about $100 billion. French bond yields rose over 3% on Wednesday while French big bank shares went down more than 2%. Two big French banks, Societe General and BNP Paribas are derivative players with US counterparts. ♫♩"The leg bone is connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone is connected....♪♬"

{7.11.11}Papandreou is out as the Greek government scrambles to deal with the stark reality of years of painful economic relapse or national insolvency. He won a confidence vote Friday night, but was continually under pressure to resign by his parliamentary opposition. Leaders agreed to a coalition government of national unity yesterday, but the Prime Minister must step aside, possibly in favor of the Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos who supported the European bailout in the face of Papandreou's surprise call for a referendum on the bailout which comes with onerous austerity strings. The chart below shows what the Greek government is up against in terms of upcoming debt payments:
Most financial observers believe Greece will run out of money in December without additional loan money from the EU. That money has been cut off until Greece sees its way clear to ratifying the terms of the agreement reached last month. Greece's chaotic political gyrations has roiled the financial markets and the nation has come under huge pressure from worldwide financial interests to resolve the crisis:
The dilemma facing European governments is that the fiscal austerity demanded by international finance is dampening economic growth, making their debt overhang more difficult, not easier to pay down. The other major problem is that the deep pocket countries, mainly Germany, are not willing to allow the ECB to issue more debt such as Eurobonds to prop-up the already debt ridden PIIGS. Germany, however, does not have clean hands in the crisis. Germany violated the fiscal stability rules it demanded at the creation of the monetary union with impunity in 2002-05 by borrowing more than 3% of its GDP. A forensic study of Greek economic and budgetary data from the time of its admission in 2000 indicates that its data was manipulated to insure entry.

Americans may be viewing the European financial difficulties with wry amusement and feelings of smug superiority. They would be wise to think not. Besides the indisputable financial connection of American banks 'too big to fail' with European banks in a liquidity crisis, there is the spectacle of a impotent U.S. Congress unable to agree on austerity measures of its own. The super-committee of budget negotiators created to circumvent partisan deadlock is itself deadlocked over a deficit reduction plan. Under the debt ceiling-budget deal between the President and Congress the negotiating committee has until November 23rd to propose ways to cut the budget by $1.2 trillion. The only issue widely agreed on is that the automatic defense cuts of 5% (termed "sequestration") in the absence of a bipartisan deficit reduction plan should not be allowed to occur. In other words to cut federal spending the federal government's largest spending category, national defense, should not be reduced. Only in Washington would such an inversion of common sense make perfect sense to politicians beholding to the plutocracy for his or her elite status. The political farce in Washington makes the Greeks look positively stoic.

Pacific Humpback Whales Recovering

credit: Animal Planet
NOAA scientists report that the Pacific humpback whale population is recovering. According to their paper in Marine Mammal Science there are 1,000 more humpbacks in the North Pacific Ocean than previously estimated. That number is now pegged at 21,000 whales. When commercial whaling ended in 1966, only 1400 whales were estimated to survive. The SPLASH survey involved hundreds of scientists from several Pacific rim nations over a three year period in an attempt to make a systematic survey of the ocean's humpback population, its structure, and genetic makeup. Individual humpbacks are identified by photographic comparison of an animal's flukes in the northern feeding grounds and tropical breeding areas 3,000 miles away. Other whale species have yet to recover from centuries of hunting, such as the sperm, wright, and blue whales, but the singing humpbacks are doing all right according to researchers.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Keystone XL Pipeline: Jobs for a Few

credit: Think Progress
As the Keystone XL pipeline decision is forthcoming, it is important for opponents of the bad idea from Big Oil to refute the usual arguments made to foist development projects that ruin the landscape on the unsuspecting public. TransCanada, the proposed pipeline builder, admitted that the number of jobs created by the project has been grossly oversold. The Chamber of Commerce claimed at one point over 250,000 permanent jobs would be created by the pipeline project. The American Petroleum Institute pulled an even bigger number out of its ten gallon hat, claiming that oil sands development would create nearly half a million jobs by 2035.  Pipe dreams. The only independent study of the project's jobs impact concluded that any jobs coming from the project (TransCanada now claims 20,000 calculated at one year's employment for one person) would be outweighed by environmental damage and higher fossil fuel costs in the Midwest. Are you listening, Mr. Obama?

Friday, November 04, 2011

'Toontime: A Bridge Too Far

[credit: Riber Hansson, Svenska Dagbladet]
Wackydoodle axes: Does a monkey wrench come with that?

Backed up by his cabinet, Prime Minister Papandreou set the Greek referendum for December 4th or 5th.  A disturbed German Chancellor Merkel said the referendum was about whether Greece should stay in the currency union.  But at the end of the day the Greek Prime Minister bowed to outside pressure to call the referendum off. Betting was that the Greek people would opt out, if given the chance to vote.  Some observers believe Papandreou is engaged in a high risk game of brinksmanship to get parliamentary opponents to endorse the EU bailout.  If Greece becomes insolvent, Italy will be extremely hard hit. It has extended the most credit to Greece and its banks are already on life support. The ECB has been pumping funds into Italy on the condition that it pass austerity measures, but Prime Minister Berlusconi failed to pass measures demanded by the EU prior to the G-20 summit in Cannes.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Gorilla War

Gorilla poaching is rampant in the Congo Basin and weak local governments are admittedly powerless to stop it. In Cameroon a forest ranger was killed and another seriously wounded in a violent clash with poachers outside Lobeke National Park near the border with the Central African Republic. The ranger, Zomedei Pierre Achille, was killed September 27th. He and his partner were on patrol when they discovered two western lowland gorilla carcasses in a poacher's camp. They concealed themselves to wait for the poachers to return. Six poachers open fired on the two unarmed rangers when they were spotted. His stripped body was found later tied to a tree and showed evidence that he did not die immediately. A WWF spokesman said poachers are waging a war for control of Cameroon's forests. Achille left behind a family of five children.

Poachers not only hunt for gorilla body parts, but also to capture baby gorillas. An infant can fetch as much as £25,000 on the black market. In April and June, lowland babies were rescued from poachers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. In August, a mountain infant was rescued when poachers attempted to smuggle the baby into Rwanda.{"Gorillas"}. The most recent rescue [photo] was the result of a sting operation near the western boarder of Virunga National Park. Poachers agreed to sell an eighteen month old Grauer's (lowland) gorilla to rangers in civilian clothes. Christian Shamavu, who led the operation, said it was likely the infant's family had been killed. Often the captured infants are injured or sick from contact with human captors carrying communicable diseases. They are usually extremely stressed. The rescued infant called Shamavu for the ranger who saved him is doing well after veterinarian care and feeding. Most likely he will be sent to the GRACE Center, a gorilla orphan sanctuary in eastern DRC.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Feds Finally File for Fraud

It must be the first big case of fraud* arising from the real estate bubble of the previous decade. The case against Allied Home Mortgage Capital Corporation of Houston, Texas accuses the company of defrauding the federal government of at least $834 million, but it took years of warnings and sanctions from the feds before they took court action. The suit seeks triple damages and civil penalties which could total $2.5billion. The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development suspended the company from issuing new mortgages backed by the FHA or the Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae). Between 2001 and 2010 Allied originated 112, 324 home mortgages insured by FHA. 32% went into default resulting in the $834 million in insurance claims by Allied. In 2006 and 2007 the company's default rate was a staggering 55%. According to a Justice Department spokesman, Allied played a mortgage industry game of "heads I win, tales you loose". Allied bills itself as the nation's largest privately held mortgage broker/lender with 200 branches. The fact that it took the government this long to finally file suit against a serial abuser is indicative of the overall lack of fraud enforcement against the banking industry.

*Citigroup settled a billion dollar fraud case with a consent decree and a fine of $258 million, but it did not have to admit to being guilty of fraudulent derivatives trading. The federal judge overseeing the settlement is now asking how such a large fraud cannot be the result of willful and knowing actions.

Corporate Class Warfare Revealed

Watch this video by Al-Jazeera that reveals the pivotal role of the Birchers, David and Charles Koch, in taking over the majority in the House of Representatives using the TEA Party front:

But Koch money can only go so far in distorting reality. A Berkeley study of climate change funded by the Koch Brothers, the so-called BEST (Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature) study confirms the consensus conclusion among climate researchers that global warming is high and accelerating:.
*HadCRU denotes University of Anglia climate study

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Greece DOA

Update: In a move that caught European officials, the Germans, and even his own finance minister by surprise, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou announced a referendum on whether Greece should accept the latest eurozone deal to prevent Greek bankruptcy and a meltdown of the euro currency union. Wall Street markets dropped with news of the referendum call. Papandreou said in response to the turmoil caused by his announcement on Monday, that he needs the support of the Greek people to impose more austerity measures. Measures imposed so far by the EU and IMF have proved extremely unpopular with most Greeks, who have taken to the streets to protest what they see as the sale of their nation's sovereignty to rescue corrupt banks and plutocrats. The austerity measures have hit the public sector in Greece hardest. There are dramatic cuts in wages, bonuses and pensions. Thirty thousand public employees have been suspended on partial pay for one year and then will be laid off. Collective bargaining has also been suspended. Overall the plan calls for €14.32bn in public sector cuts while raising €14.09bn in new taxes. Papandreou has called for a vote of confidence in his government for Friday. His parliamentary majority is down to two following the resignation of one his party's MPs. The Prime Minister will meet with the French and German heads of state at the G20 meeting in Cannes this week. A former German economic minister said that the referendum risks the insolvency of the Greek state since, "Europe will have to consider turning off the flow of money which is keeping Greece afloat." Public opinion in the cradle of democracy now is better insolvent than slave.

Update: {27.10.11}After a weekend of talks that stretched into Wednesday night, Germany and France have managed to put a finger in the EU dike. As expected Greece will technically default on its soverign debt obligations to the tune of a 50% 'haircut' on its bonds. That means bondholders will be asked to accept a 50% loss on the Greek bonds they hold. The Institute of International Finance has begun the process of negotiating the terms, but bondholders will have little choice but to accept the terms imposed by the European Union. Greece will be the first euro country to be rated as defaulting on its debt. The fifty percent cut in value equals a contribution to Greece's debt problem of $139 billion. So far, Greece has been kept a going concern on two rescue loans of $150 billion from the 17 countries in the eurozone. In the new agreement Greece will be given another tranche of loans worth $139 billion, and $30 billion in bond guarantees. To shore up the European Financial Stability fund, it will be leveraged to around $1.39 trillion. Banks have been asked to increase their capital reserves by $48 billion by June. Financial markets have reacted positively to the agreement.

{21.10.11} Greece is headed for default. The numbers do not add up and the Greek people have had enough. A forty-eight hour national strike this week closed the country down, and socialist legislators are beginning to balk at more austerity measures. The Greek economy is suffering under the measures imposed by the EU and IMF causing their national deficit to increase and tax revenues to fall. A Greek default will affect US banks because they are widely believed to be directly exposed by $41 billion to Greece. The $600 trillion derivates market will also be affected by a default and just four Wall Street banks hold 96% of derivatives in the United States. They will have to come up with huge amounts of cash to cover their positions, a situation similar to the Lehman Brothers collapse that triggered the liquidity Panic of 2008. The EU leadership is meeting this weekend to discuss what to do about Greece. There is no agreement among member nations as yet. Greece has about €350 in outstanding debt. 75% of that is held by weak banks in the other nations in crisis: Portugal, Italy, Ireland and Spain. They cannot afford to have their Greek bonds devalued. Greek long bonds are trading at 30 cents on the Euro, implying a 70% haircut. The ripples of Greece's default will spread outward, swamping other European financial institutions. Dexia Bank in Belgium is an example of what will happen. It was nationalized and the governments of France, Belgium and Luxembourg put up €90 billion to cover the yet undisclosed losses. Dexia's balance sheet of about €518 billion is about the size of the entire banking system of Greece and larger than the combined assets of the Irish financial institutions previously bailed out at taxpayer expense. Allegedly it was the safest bank in the European "stress tests". The European Financial Stability Fund is authorized to issue bonds up to only €440 billion. That is hardly enough if a Greek default results in 30 or so Dexia-size banks becoming insolvent. Where are the brave, rich investors going to get the money to buy these Euro bonds? From their banks, of course.

Qaddafi Family to File War Crimes Complaint against NATO

More: NATO's allies in the vicious Libyan civil war, rebel militias, are torturing the residents of the "loyalist" village of Tawergha near Misrata. Human Rights Watch released a report on Sunday saying Misrata militia are terrorising the town apparently in retaliation for the civilian deaths and abuse caused by Qaddafi forces during the seige of Misrata between March and May. Witnesses interviewed by the independent human rights organization say detainees have been raped and beaten to death. One mentally ill man was beaten with a horse whip for 45 minutes while his mouth and hands were taped. He died within the space of two hours.

{28.10.11}As the shaky cell phone video linked here showed, Muammar al-Qaddafi was alive and bleeding when captured by rebel forces in Sirte. Apparently, Qaddafi's escape convoy was stopped by a NATO helicopter strike and the former dictator injured by the strafing. He fled to a roadside drainpipe where he was cornered by rebels. He surrendered. [Warning: graphic video]  Before he was shot in the head, he was displayed to a frantic rebel mob on the hood of a truck and abused. All of these rebel actions, including the exhibition of his corpse in a meat locker at Misrata, constitute war crimes if proven to be true. A French lawyer for the Qaddafi family told a French radio station he will file a complaint with the International Criminal Court that has jursidiction over war crimes. The lawyer also mentioned the bombing of a Qaddafi son's private residence by NATO as a possible war crime. The United Nations, Amnesty International, and the Libyan interim governing council have all called for a full investigation into the circumstances of Qaddifi's death.

Javan Rhinoceros Declared Extinct in Vietnam

WWF: empty Rhino wallow in Cat Tien NP
The Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinocerous sondaicus) was officially declared extinct by the government of Vietnam at a press conference in Hanoi last week. Two of the single horned rhinos clinged tenaciously to life until about 2006. Since then only one survived and it was killed by poachers. Found dead in April 2010, a recent field survey funded by the World Wildlife Foundation and the International Rhino Foundation covered 10,000 hectares but located no rhinos. Genetic analysis of dung samples confirmed that the dung belonged to a single rhinoceros living in Cat Tien National Park and the DNA isolated from the samples matched that taken from the carcass. Despite living in a protected area, the rhino was killed for its horn. Lax law enforcement, a problem all over Asia, allowed the last Vietnamese rhino to be snuffed out for superstition. Habitat loss also played a role since the extremely shy animals were restricted to only 6500 hectares of habitat in the park because dirt bike roads crisscrossing the area between human villages. WWF's rhino program director concluded that reintroduction of the Javan rhino is not feasible. Vietnam is experiencing an epidemic of poaching and habitat loss that will lead to a cascade of species extinctions.  The rhino was unfortunately the first, but not the last.  There are now only 44 Javan rhinos in the wild, all of which live in Indonesia's Ujung Kulon National Park. Only three to five breeding females are believed to be among the population. Poaching has been prevented for sixteen years by rhino protection units funded by the International Foundation for Rhinos. Conservation groups including WWF and local partners are working to expand rhino habitat in the park. There is hope for the survival of the Javan rhinoceros through aggressive management of habitat, expanding available habitat and increasing the population as fast as possible. All of this takes human commitment and money to preserve the species. You can join US Person and contribute to the effort by donating at