Dump GoDaddy Day Works

SUBHEAD: GoDaddy domain service bows to boycott, now 'opposes' dangerous SOPA copyright bill.

 By Declan McCullagh on 29 December 2011 for CNET - 
  (http://news.cnet.com/8301-31921_3-57349913-281/godaddy-bows-to-boycott-now-opposes-sopa-copyright-bill)

   
Image above: Still image of GoDaddy dilemma created by embracing SOPA. Still from video below.
  
GoDaddy, the domain register targeted by online activists in response to its enthusiasm for a pair of Hollywood-backed copyright bills, has finally denounced the legislation in response to a boycott scheduled for today.

Warren Adelman, the company's chief executive, said today that "GoDaddy opposes SOPA," meaning the Stop Online Piracy Act, which is facing a House of Representatives committee vote next month.

A GoDaddy spokeswoman confirmed to CNET this afternoon that "we oppose PIPA, as well." That's the Senate bill known as Protect IP, which will be debated on the Senate floor January 24. (See CNET's SOPA FAQ.)

The idea of boycotting GoDaddy began with a protest thread on Reddit and was aided by Jimmy Wales' announcement last week that "Wikipedia domain names will move away from GoDaddy." It inspired GoDaddyBoycott.org, which urged Internet users and companies to "boycott GoDaddy until they send a letter to Congress taking back any and all support of the House and Senate versions of the Internet censorship bill, both SOPA and PIPA."

GoDaddy did itself few favors by only saying it no longer supported SOPA -- but pointedly not criticizing it -- and declining to answer questions from CNET and customers who asked for further clarification. Accusations of interfering with customers' attempts to leave, which appear to have arisen from a misunderstanding, didn't help.

Neither did gleeful attempts by competitors to lure away GoDaddy customers. At least half a dozen GoDaddy rivals responded with anti-SOPA promotions: NameCheap dubbed December 29 "move your domain" day, offering below-cost transfers with the coupon "SOPASUCKS" plus a $1 donation to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Other registrars such as Dreamhost, HostGator, Hover.com, and Name.com have offered similar anti-SOPA promotions. NameCheap even offered step-by-step instructions titled: "How to transfer a domain from GoDaddy."

After GoDaddy began to back away from SOPA last week, customers-turned-activists demanded a full repudiation. A discussion thread on GoDaddy's support forums said: "Until GoDaddy gets a clue and changes their stance to being opposed to all SOPA-like legislation... my business and I and our network of influence will continue to boycott you."

Today's newly contrite statement from Adelman, the CEO, did just that:
We have observed a spike in domain name transfers, which are running above normal rates and which we attribute to GoDaddy's prior support for SOPA, which was reversed. GoDaddy opposes SOPA because the legislation has not fulfilled its basic requirement to build a consensus among stake-holders in the technology and Internet communities. Our company regrets the loss of any of our customers, who remain our highest priority, and we hope to repair those relationships and win back their business over time.
SOPA, of course, represents the latest effort from Hollywood's movie and recording studios and their allies to counter what they view as rampant piracy on the Internet, especially at offshore sites such as ThePirateBay.org. It would allow the Justice Department to force search engines, Internet providers, and other companies to make a suspected piratical Web site effectively vanish, a kind of Internet death penalty. It's opposed (PDF) by many Internet companies and Internet users, who often cite free speech concerns.

Before this public relations debacle, GoDaddy had been an enthusiastic supporter of expanding copyright law to deal with "parasite" Web sites. In testimony (PDF) before a House of Representatives hearing this spring, GoDaddy general counsel Christine Jones endorsed Domain Name System (DNS) blocking as a way to prevent Americans from accessing suspected piratical Web sites.

Jones said that DNS blocking is an "effective strategy for disabling access to illegal" Web sites. It can "be done by the registrar (which provides the authoritative DNS response), or, in cases where the registrar is unable or unwilling to comply, by the registry (which provides the Root zone file records -- the database -- for the entire TLD)," she said.


Video above: Taiwanese animation explains "Leave GoDaddy Day!" From (http://www.technologytell.com/apple/87361/leave-go-daddy-day-explained-by-taiwan-animation).

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: GoDaddy support of SOPA hurting 12/26/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Internet Censorship Delayed 12/18/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Internet Censorship Ahead 11/16/11 .

Hackers go after Gung Ho sites

SUBHEAD: Anonymous targets military related sites in latest holiday hacks revealing personal user information.

 By Michelle Meyers on 29 December 2011 for CNET - 
(http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-57349976-83/anonymous-targets-military-gear-site-in-latest-holiday-hack)


Image above: Graphic for tee-shirt illustrating an armed special forces team dressed as Santas and about to parachute into a drop zone. From (http://www.specialforces.com/t-shirts-clothing-gifts/sfg-shirts/twas-the-night-xmas).

 On Christmas Day the target was security think tank Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor. This time it was SpecialForces.com, a Web site that sells military gear.

"Continuing the week long celebration of wreaking utter havoc on global financial systems, militaries, and governments, we are announcing our next target: the online piggie supply store SpecialForces.com," the group wrote in a Pastebin posting today.

The hackers said they breached the SpecialForces.com site months ago, but only just got around to posting the customer data. Even though the site's data was encrypted, they claim to have 14,000 passwords and details for 8,000 credit cards belonging to Special Forces Gear customers.

In a statement to CNET, Special Forces Gear founder Dave Thomas confirmed that his company's Web servers were compromised by Anonymous in late August, resulting in a security breach that allowed the hackers to obtain customer usernames, passwords, and possibly encrypted credit card information in some cases. "We have no evidence of any further security breaches, and we believe that the recent Stratfor incident is being used to bring this old news back into the spotlight," he noted.
Thomas added that the compromised passwords were from a backup of a previous version of the Web site that is more than a year old. "Most of the credit card numbers are expired, and we don't have evidence of any credit card misuse at this time," he wrote. "The current Web site does not store customer passwords or credit card information."

After the security breach, "we completely rebuilt our Web site and hired third-party consultants to help us shore up Web site security," he said, adding that the vast majority of the sites' sales are custom t-shirts and related gifts, and that the company donates a portion of its profits to charity.
Identity Finder, a New York-based data loss and identity theft prevention service, determined that files posted to date by Anonymous and its AntiSec offshoot related to this breach include 7,277 unique credit card numbers; 68,830 e-mail addresses (of which 40,854 are unique); and 36,368 plain-text usernames and passwords, some of which might be duplicates.

In the statement issued today, the hackers also took another shot at Stratfor for its alleged confusion over whether its data had been encrypted or not:
We also laughed heartily whilst these so-called protectors of private property scrambled desperately to recover the sensitive information of all the customers who they wronged by failing to use proper security precautions.
SpecialForces.com does encrypt customer data. "Nevertheless, our voodoo prevailed and we were quickly able to break back into the military supplier's server and steal their encryption keys," the hackers wrote. "We then wrote a few simple functions to recover the cleartext passwords, credit card numbers, and expiration dates to all their customers' cards. That's how we roll."

Anonymous hacks StratFor Inc  

By Jim Finkle on 30 December 2011 for the Chicago Tribune - 
(http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/sns-rt-us-usa-cyberattack-stratfortre7bt10z-20111230,0,6489174.story)

Hackers affiliated with the Anonymous group published hundreds of thousands of email addresses they claimed belong to subscribers of private intelligence analysis firm Strategic Forecasting Inc.

 The list, published late on Thursday, includes email addresses appearing to belong to people working for large corporations, the U.S. military and major defense contractors - information that hackers could potentially use to target them with virus-tainted emails in an approach known as "spear phishing." The Antisec faction of Anonymous last weekend disclosed that it had hacked into the firm, which is widely known as Stratfor and is also dubbed a "shadow CIA" because it gathers open-source intelligence on international crises.

 The hackers had promised to cause "mayhem" by releasing stolen data from the private group. Stratfor issued a statement confirming that the published email addresses had been stolen from the company's database, saying it was helping law enforcement probe the matter and conducting its own investigation. "At Stratfor, we try to foster a culture of scrutiny and analysis, and we want to assure our customers and friends that we will apply the same rigorous standards in carrying out our internal review," the statement said.

 "There are thousands of email addresses here that could be used for very targeted spear phishing attacks that could compromise national security," said John Bumgarner, chief technology officer of the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, a non-profit group that studies cyber threats. The Pentagon said it saw no threat so far. "We are not aware of any compromise to the DOD information grid," said Lieutenant Colonel Jim Gregory, a spokesman for the Department of Defense, or DOD.

 In a posting on the data-sharing website pastebin.com, the hackers said the list included some information from about 75,000 customers of Stratfor and approximately 860,000 people who had registered to use its site. It said that included some 50,000 email addresses belonging to the U.S. government's .gov and .mil domains. The list also included addresses at contractors including BAE Systems Plc, Boeing Co, Lockheed Martin Corp and several U.S. government-funded labs that conduct classified research in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Idaho Falls, Idaho; and Sandia and Los Alamos, New Mexico.

 Corporations on the list include Bank of America, Exxon Mobil Corp, Goldman Sachs & Co and Thomson Reuters. The entries included scrambled versions of passwords. Some of them can be unscrambled using databases known as rainbow tables that are available for download over the Internet, according to Bumgarner. He said he randomly picked six people on the list affiliated with U.S. military and intelligence agencies to see if he could crack their passwords. He said he was able to break four of them, each in about a second, using one rainbow table. .

US Military going green

SUBHEAD: United States armed forces are testing out alternative energy solutions in Afghanistan. By Quil Lawrence on 29 December 2011 for NPR - (http://www.npr.org/2011/12/29/144395953/u-s-military-tests-out-green-tech-in-afghanistan) Image above: Lance Cpl. Dakota Hicks, from Laharpe, Ill., connects a radio battery to a portable solar panel From original article.

The heavy, mine-resistant vehicles that almost all U.S. military personnel use to move about Afghanistan are gas guzzlers. And even though the U.S. military buys that fuel at a reasonable price, the energy it takes to fly it and truck it to remote parts of Afghanistan drives the price into the stratosphere.

There's also a much greater cost, says Ray Mabus, secretary of the U.S. Navy.

"It's expensive in terms of getting us there financially. It's also expensive in the fact that for every 50 convoys, we lose a Marine, either killed or wounded, guarding that convoy," he says.

That cost, in both lives and dollars, is pushing the military to go green.

Practical Benefits Of Green Tech

The Navy has set the goal of using nonfossil fuels for 50 percent of its power by the year 2020. Mabus recently paid a visit to U.S. Marines in the remote Afghan province of Helmand, at the far end of the fuel supply chain, where some innovative green equipment is already in use.

Some of the solutions are incredibly simple: silvery tent liners that increase the efficiency of heaters or air conditioners. More novel are the portable solar-panel blankets, able to power communications gear for a patrol. That means carrying far fewer heavy batteries. There's also a small shipping container connected to a bank of solar panels that is powering flat screens and surveillance equipment.

Marine Capt. Brandon Newell says the troops don't have to be environmentalists to like the new gear.

"If the system works, they don't care. In fact, a Marine will love it if he has to refuel that generator less often. They'll love it. They don't care about the message or anything else; all they want is something that works whenever they need it," he says.

Newell admits that the measures so far are baby steps, and there are plenty of bugs in the system.

But the important thing, says Mabus, is that the U.S. military is starting to test some of the technology in the roughest conditions.

"When the military does something and shows that it works ... in the most critical circumstances, it makes it much easier to commercialize something," he says.

Environmental Impact A Side Benefit

That goes for solar panels, says Mabus, but also for biofuels. This fall, the Navy purchased half a million gallons of fuel made from algae or used cooking oil. In the spring, a huge exercise in the Pacific Rim intends to demonstrate that it works just as well as petroleum-based fuel.

Mabus says the strategic goal is to free the U.S. military from a product that comes from volatile places with unsavory regimes. He points out that during the NATO action in Libya, a spike in the price of oil cost the U.S. military about $1 billion. The environmental impact is a side benefit, he says.

"It really is a question of national security. It may be a side effect on climate change, being better stewards of the environment, but that's not the reason we're doing it," Mabus says.

Still, major environmental groups have reacted positively. And developers of biofuels and solar panels say having the Pentagon — the world's largest consumer of fossil fuel — trying to go green is providing a shot in the arm to their industry.

"It's a signal to investors that there is going to be stability. That is the game changer," says Sean O'Hanlon, president of the American Biofuels Council. "The bottom line is there has to be stable policy for them to invest hundreds of millions of dollars."

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New Years Day at Taro Patch

SUBHEAD: Come and help us celebrate the shift in consciousness that embraces us all. Rain or Shine! We’ve got tents!  

By Ken Taylor on 28 December 2011 for Kauai New Year's Brunch -  
(taylork021@hawaii.rr.com)


Image above: Ceremonial entrance to the Taro patch site in Anahola. Photograph provided by Ken Taylor.

 The Kauai Community Brunch Bunch Welcomes You to the 2012 New Year’s Day Celebration

WHERE: At the Taro Patch in Anahola!!  

WHEN: 10:30 am to 5:00 pm on 1 January 2012  

CONTACT: Any questions, or if you wish to be a volunteer, please contact, Anne Thurston phone: (808) 826-7002 email: athurston@irmt.org website: http://kauainewyearsbrunch.org  

WHAT:  
Opening Ceremony
We are honored and privileged to announce that Puna Dawson will be with us to offer an entry procession to the Taro Patch followed by an opening ceremony. The procession will start promptly at 10:30, so if you want to be present for this powerful part of the day, please arrive at the Taro Patch a little earlier. As one of the wisest and clearest spokespeople for the truth on Kaua’i (or anywhere), Puna tells us that the Hawaiian calendar marks this as a time of transition to greater clarity, characterized by three qualities of our deepest desire: intention (faith), hope and love: Ekolu me nui.  

Program Opening ceremony and prayer followed by performances.
  • Puna Dawson and Halau (opening)
  • Performers (not in order of performance)
  • +Elijah- Goddess Chant
  • Millicent and Darby Slick
  • Jivan
  • Malia and Michael Locey and Halau/Hula
  • Omashar
  • Yemaya 'dance'
  • Kekane Pa and friends
  • Aloha Africa featuring Ousmane Sall
  • Steve Backinhoff (closing circle prayer/dance)
Food
This is a potluck. If you can, please bring a dish (main course or dessert) to serve six to eight people. Please let’s keep chips and dips to a minimum.

 Costs
This event is non-profit and non-commercial. All performers and site volunteers lovingly donate their time and energy. But there are costs, so please help us with expenses if you can (including site rental, tents, eco paltes/cups/ cutlery, stage equipment, generator, prataloos, recycle bins, etc). There is a suggested donation of $10 (or more), but no one will be turned away. There will be a place for donations at the registration table.  

Directions and Parking
When you reach the Anahola Bridge, driving north from Kapa'a, the entrance to the Taro Patch (Kikoo Loop) is on the left just before you reach the Anahola shops. There will be six parking attendants throughout the area to help you park. Please don’t park at the Anahola shops. There is some parking on Kikoo Loop, although no one other than performers and organizing committee members may park on or beyond the old bridge at the Taro Patch trailhead.  

Entrance to the Taro Patch
When Kikoo Loop is full, please park either on the Highway or on Puu Hale Loop, which is the very next left turning (going north) after Kikoo Loop. This short road runs parallel to the Highway, past the the Anahola Baptist Church, and then back to the Highway at the Shave Ice Stand. By kind permission of the Anahola Japanese Community Association, you may park in the Church parking lot after 12:30 when church is over. (Please DO NOT park in parking lot before 12:30!!) Mahalo from all of us!!
‘I’m going to do my part, within myself and within the world, to bring about a shift that lets us live more authentically, more lovingly, more intuitively, more creatively, more collaboratively. That's my idea of spiritual evolution.’ - Oprah Winfrey, Oprah Magazine, January 2012, p 142
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NRC Chair Jaczko & the Commission

SUBHEAD: Pro-nuclear industry politicians and lobbyists are trying to dump safety oriented NRC Chairman. By Staff on 18 December 2011 for Enformable - (http://enformable.com/2011/12/jaczko-claims-small-victory-after-failed-coo-attempt/) Image above: NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko. From article below. It was a hearing more fit for Dr. Phil than C-SPAN, but members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission bemoaned the behavior of commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko — as they flanked him in a hearing room.

It is laughable to think that some members of Congress have the audacity to complain about another government body being plagued by bullies, angry tirades or dysfunction. (Don’t they have mirrors?) Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the committee’s top Democrat, said it best: “Congress isn’t functioning very well at all. So I don’t want to sit here and tell you how to conduct your business.”

However, hypocrisy wasn’t going to stop his colleagues, some of whom demanded Jaczko apologize and some of whom called for Jaczko’s resignation.

There is no allegation that Jaczko has done anything illegal so, has Jaczko stifled work and put the safety of Americans at risk because of a poor management style? No.

This year alone the commission has held 48 meetings, 14 planning sessions and made dozens of official decisions. That doesn’t sound like commissioners are getting shoved aside or left in the dark.

Jaczko has dared to act independently, he has been attacked by the industry, by members of Congress and by his colleagues.

The striking point for all of this goes back to the meltdown of the nuclear power plant in Japan earlier this year. Jaczko took control of his agency, as he is allowed to do, and called for a task force study of how to improve safety in American nuclear power plants.

The other commissioners have balked at Jaczko’s push for safety, showing themselves to be petulant and contrary, and that’s the real problem at the NRC.

If anyone is endangering the public, it’s not Jaczko. He may need to put some polish on his management skills, but there is no need for change in the chairmanship. He has stood up for the public by trying to ensure the safety of the nation’s reactors. His colleagues, meanwhile, have been in a snit and should be ashamed. They should apologize and start following Jaczko’s lead.

By Staff on 12 December 2011 for Enformable - (http://enformable.com/2011/12/jaczko-faces-battle-but-accusers-end-up-with-mud-on-the-face)

Let’s apply the usual Washington rules — nothing is what it seems and the motives of the accusers are often questionable — to a dust-up at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The four commissioners who wrote the letter, two Democrats and two Republicans, said Jazcko, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has “intimidated and bullied” senior staff, leading to a “chilled” work environment. They also charge that he has acted with “intemperance” and “disrespect” toward other commissioners.

Rep. Shelly Berkley says the four NRC members targeting Jaczko are simply trying to “turn our state into a radioactive wasteland,” while Sen. Dean Heller complained that the commissioners “should be focusing on the safety of the American public, not internal politics.”

The Nevada delegation should oppose efforts to get rid of Jaczko, and they should call the White House and tell Obama to do the same.

Maybe this is really about the strong record of Jaczko on nuclear safety and public health issues, including on Yucca Mountain.

The nuclear industry knows he won’t carry its water, so industry allies are trying to force him out.

According to one NRC observer, Jaczko is pushing hard for policies that will prevent blackouts at nuclear plants; much of the catastrophe at Fukushima can be pegged to power failures after the earthquake and tsunami there.

To begin with, if these incivility issues were cause for termination in Washington, half the government would be left unstaffed. More to the point, the lack of specificity of the charges is revealing.

Indeed, according to the government’s Office of Personnel Management, which surveys federal employees, the NRC is one of the best places to work in the federal government, which would seem to contradict the commissioners’ case.

Harry Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman issued a statement of support for Jaczko, saying he has “focused the NRC on its core mission: nuclear safety.”

The statement continued: “It is sad to see those who would place the interests of a single industry over the safety of the American people wage a politically-motivated witch hunt against a man with a proven track record of making sure nuclear power is produced as responsibly as possible.”

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2012 - The End of the Euro

SUBHEAD: It could be the return of the drachma and lira, or the return of the mark and guilder.  

By Ilargi on 29 December 2011 for the Automatic Earth -  
(http://theautomaticearth.blogspot.com/2011/12/december-29-2011-trends-2012-end-of.html)
 
Image above: Fore burning in front of the European Central Bank to keep protesters warm. From (http://exame.abril.com.br/economia/mundo/noticias/queda-em-setor-privado-da-zona-do-euro-sugere-recessao-no-4o-tri).

Oh, sure, don't get me wrong, there may still be a Euro a year from now. And there’ll certainly be some investors left. But the Euro, if it manages to survive, will have to do so in what can only be characterized as a radically different form and shape. At the same time, small mom and pop stock investors will be few and far between; there's no money in the "traditional" stock markets, as they've found out - once more - in 2011.

Many will also need what money they still have in stocks to pay down various kinds of other obligations. As for the stock markets, I found it greatly ironic that on December 23, the S&P 500 was up for the year. Yesterdays markets plunge did away with that irony, but given the psychological importance, I wouldn't be surprised if, in the slim trading volume between Christmas and New Year's, one party or another will make sure the number comes in positive anyway.

What strikes me in all this is the disparity between the S&P and financial stocks. It’s unreal. If mom and pop hold bank stocks, they're not very likely to have turned a profit. If pension funds are anything to go by (they lost big time this year), mom and pop had lean turkey at their holiday family parties. Here's a little overview of the year-to-date performance of some of the major global banking stocks on December 29, 2011, before the opening bell:
  • BofA: -60.38%
  • Citi: -44.76%
  • Goldman Sachs: -46.41%
  • JPMorgan: -23.03%
  • Morgan Stanley: -45.24%
  • RBS: -50%
  • Barclays: -34.32%
  • Lloyds: -63.02%
  • UBS: -29.33%
  • Deutsche Bank: -28,55%
  • Crédit Agricole: -56.04%
  • BNP Paribas: -37.67%
  • Société Générale: -59.57%
These are just some of the Too Big To Fail institutions. And while your governments have enough faith in them - or so they want you to believe - to prop them up with trillions of dollars of your money, investors are fleeing them, even if they can expect them to be propped up further. That doesn't just say something about confidence in the individual banks, it shouts loud and clear from the rooftops on confidence in the banking system as a whole, and indeed on governments' ability to continue bailing them out.

In other words: bailouts don’t build confidence, they are taken as a sign that trouble's on the way. Mom and pop will finally clue in to this in 2012, and get -their money- out of harm's way. Well, either that or lose it. Their money, that is. Perhaps their minds too. And their homes. Their jobs. Of the banks above, the European ones are in even deeper doodoo than their US counterparts. Gordon T. Long, in a report called Collateral Contagion, lifts a hitherto little known part of the veil:

There are approximately $55 trillion of banking assets in the EU. This compares to only $13 trillion in the US. Bank assets in the EU are 4 times as large as in the US. In the US, debt held by the bank is smaller because retail deposits are a primary source of funds. EU banks use wholesale lending and, as a consequence, the debt held by banks is close to 80% versus less than 20% by US banks. Wholesale bank lending in the EU approximates $30 trillion versus only $3 trillion in the US, a 10 X differential. Wholesale lending is fundamentally borrowing from money market funds and other very short term, unsecured instruments. The banks borrow short and lend long. It all works until short term money gets scarce or expensive. Both have occurred in the EU and this recently placed Dexia into bankruptcy, forcing it to be taken over by the Belgian and French governments. The unsecured bond market fundamentally closed in the EU in Q3 2011, as fears mounted that an EU solution was not forthcoming. Assuming $30 trillion of loans is spread over three years, EU banks have a requirement for $800 billion a month of rollover financing for wholesale lending outstanding.
If those numbers don't render you speechless, please read them again. $800 billion a month of rollover financing, every single month for three years. The ECB recently passed out €489 in three-year loans at 1%. Nobody was impressed for more than a few hours. Gordon T. Long's report reveals at least a part of the reason why. Moreover, the ECB is now accepting the proverbial toilet paper as collateral for the loans, but guess what, banks are running out of toilet paper! David Enrich and Sara Schaefer Muñoz touch on the same topic for the Wall Street Journal:
Europe's Banks Face Pressure on Collateral
Even after the European Central Bank doled out nearly half a trillion euros of loans to cash-strapped banks last week, fears about potential financial problems are still stalking the sector. One big reason: concerns about collateral. The only way European banks can now convince anyone—institutional investors, fellow banks or the ECB—to lend them money is if they pledge high-quality assets as collateral. Now some regulators and bankers are becoming nervous that some lenders' supplies of such assets, which include European government bonds and investment-grade non-government debt, are running low. If banks exhaust their stockpiles of assets that are eligible to serve as collateral, they could encounter liquidity problems. That is what happened this past fall to Franco-Belgian lender Dexia SA, which ran out of money and required a government bailout. "Over time it is certainly a risk," said Graham Neilson, chief investment strategist for Cairn Capital Ltd. in London. "If banks don't have assets good enough to pledge as collateral, they will not be able to tap as much liquidity...and this could be the end-game path for a weaker bank.
The market for unsecured bonds issued by banks is dead. And they no longer have any collateral left to issue secured bonds. So what will they do? Saw this Guardian headline yesterday: Liquidity crunch fears stalk markets. I’d say that should have read Solvency crunch fears stalk markets. The ECB has taken care of short term liquidity. But to no avail. Collateral equals solvency. The ECB loans equal liquidity. And liquidity means nothing if you're insolvent.

Inevitably, banks will start to fall by the wayside. Even some of the Too-Big-To-Fail ones. As will countries. There is no chance - well, I’ll give you 1% or 2% - that Greece will still be part of an unchanged Eurozone a year from now. Chances for Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain may be a bit higher, but certainly not by much. France will face huge market pressure. And presidential elections. The road going forward has become completely unpredictable. For you and me, and also for our "leaders". They don’t like that, even less than we do. That's why we saw this report from Philip Aldrick in the Telegraph a few days ago:
UK treasury plans for euro failure
The Government is considering plans to restrict the flow of money in and out of Britain to protect the economy in the event of a full-blown euro break-up.[..] Officials fear that if one member state left the euro, investors in both that country and other vulnerable eurozone nations would transfer their funds to safe havens abroad. [..] Under European Union rules, capital controls can only be used in an emergency to impose "quantitative restrictions" on inflows, [..] Capital controls form just one part of a broader response to a euro break-up, however. Borders are expected to be closed and the Foreign Office is preparing to evacuate thousands of British expatriates and holidaymakers from stricken countries. The Ministry of Defence has been consulted about organising a mass evacuation if Britons are trapped in countries which close their borders, prevent bank withdrawals and ground flights.
Every government, in Europe and in the US, is busy working on contagion plans, just like this one, over the holidays. Bank holidays are considered, capital controls, travel restrictions. In order to keep the basics of their economies going in case of financial disaster, governments will need to make sure they have the means to cover basic necessities. In a world where most of the energy and food is imported, that is a herculean task.

Who's going to issue the letters of credit that make imports possible? And what will they be covered with? Will Saudi Arabia, Russia, China and the US still accept euros when the defection of Greece and/or others makes the future of the Eurozone and the entire EU highly uncertain?

No, they will probably want guarantees in US dollars. As we speak, the euro is getting hammered, as is sterling, as is gold. Or are they? Or is it perhaps that the USD is rocking, in anticipation of near-future demand? The risks for Europe come from all sides now, and at some point, which I think could be very close, one of these risks will not be -fully- covered. Because of the close interconnectedness between EU countries, as well as that between European and global financial institutions, one single domino may set in play a chain of events that will be beyond governments' control.

And, as I said, they don't like that. They may opt to pre-empt any such possible events. In the Eurozone alone, we're looking at 17 different governments who may decide to do so, in whatever way. Leave the Eurozone, leave the EU, stall decision making, refuse to pay debt. 17 different governments, many of whom will change during the course of the year, have multiple options that would derail the entire EU project as it was intended to be. While sovereign and private debt is certain to keep on rising, and willingness to lend in order to stave off defaults is disappearing.

No, I don't know what the euro will look like next Christmas, but it won't be what it looks like today. It could be the return of the drachma and lira, or the return of the mark and guilder, or all of the above. But not a 17 countries' Eurozone.

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Hope in a Cold Season

SUBHEAD: When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will come to you. By John Michael Greer on 28 December 2011 for Archdruid Report - (http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2011/12/hope-in-cold-season.html) Image above: Jiminy Cricket convinces Pinocchio to "Wish Upon a Star". From (http://www.flickr.com/photos/disneyfreaksam/4692957979/). Last week’s post, "Tweedledoom and Tweedledee", on the empty promise of December 21, 2012 and other apocalyptic fantasies fielded me a fair number of denunciations. That was predictable enough; the parallels I mentioned in that post between apocalyptic beliefs and bubble economics include the awkward fact that in both cases, those with the most to lose by buying into the delusion du jour are pretty consistently also the ones least willing to hear any questioning of their misplaced dreams. Under other circumstances I’d simply have shrugged and filed the resulting tirades with the ones I get on a more routine basis from those who can’t stand some other aspect of this blog’s project. Still, one of this latest batch made an accusation that I found baffling at first glance, and then indicative of something worth attention just now. The commenter in question, to be precise, insisted that by criticizing the industry that has sprouted around the fake-Mayan prophecies of 2012, I was treating "love, joy, hope, and inner well-being" as so many delusions. It probably needs to be said first off that this assertion involves a very odd definition of the concepts just named. Let’s imagine, to put the same logic in a different context, the plight of an unemployed single mother in today’s America during the holidays. She has, we’ll assume, barely enough money to pay the most basic expenses for herself and her children, and the clock is ticking on her unemployment benefits, which will run out after 99 weeks. Her desperate efforts to land any job at all have gone nowhere—that’s common enough these days—and it’s become plain, as the holidays draw near, that if she’s going to be able to afford to keep her children fed and clothed and housed into the new year, there aren’t going to be any Christmas presents. What does she say to the children? According to the logic offered by my commenter, she presumablyought to insist to them that;
"Santa Claus will show up on Christmas Eve with a big sack full of presents for all."
It’s certainly true that this will fill the children with love, joy, hope, and a sense of inner well-being, for the moment. It might even seem like a good idea, as long as you don’t think about what’s going to happen on Christmas morning, when eyes that had been sparkling with delight the night before look up tearfully from the bare floor to their mother’s face. I think most people recognize that the right thing to do instead in a situation of that kind is to tell the truth, or as much of it as the children are old enough to grasp, and do it early enough in the season that they can get past the inevitable misery and go to work making the best of things. Talk to people who grew up during the last Great Depression and you’ll hear stories of this kind over and over again—the holiday decorations pieced together from wrappers and scraps, the depressingly plain meal livened up with a few little touches or sheer make-believe, the little doll handmade from rags and burlap sacking that’s still treasured three quarters of a century later, and so on. If love, joy, hope, and authentic inner well-being are to be had in such a difficult situation, they’re going to come that way, not by way of making gaudy promises that are never going to be fulfilled. Still, that sort of ethical clarity—so obvious to most Americans in the 1930s—is apparently far from obvious to a great many Americans today. The speculative bubbles of the last decade, again, offer an uncomfortably clear look at the popularity of delusion in American public life just now. When John Kenneth Galbraith wrote his brilliant and very funny history The Great Crash 1929 back in 1954, he noted that the best preventive for the miserable economic aftermath of a speculative bubble was a clear memory of just how miserable that aftermath had turned out to be. In 1954, he was quite correct; a generation raised in the Depression years kept Wall Street on a very tight leash back then, and indeed Galbraith’s own testimony before a Senate subcommittee in 1955 on the implications of the 1929 experience was enough all by itself to pop a stock market boomlet—a circumstance Galbraith recounted in wry terms in the foreword to the second edition. The memory of 1929 had an immunizing effect so potent that it took until the 1960s for the US stock market to blow its first very tentative bubbles, and it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that a really classic stock market boom and bust followed the traditional path, up with the rocket and down with the stick. Consider today’s economic scene and the contrast is hard to miss. The tech-stock bubble inflated all through the second half of the 1990s and crashed to earth between 2000 and 2002. No sooner had the rubble stopped bouncing than an even more gargantuan bubble in real estate took off. That crashed in 2008, and even though the rubble’s still bouncing, it’s doing so right alongside a bouncing baby bubble in shale gas. If some clever promoter comes up with a way for ordinary investors to speculate in shale gas leases or something of the kind—and I’ll be surprised indeed if that fails to happen in the coming year—it’s a safe bet that millions of people will take all the money they’ve got left and plunge into the shale market, driving another economically devastating cycle of boom and bust. Part of the difference between then and now is that the 1929 crash came on the heels of a spectacular bubble in Florida real estate, which crashed in 1925, and that followed another nasty little bubble and crash in the stock market in 1921; thus we’re only just now at the point where the idiocy of trying to get rich off bubbles should be sinking in. Another part of the difference is that the financial authorities in 1929 responded to the implosion of the bubble by letting investors crash and burn, where today’s basically wet themselves trying to make sure that investors don’t lose money, even if keeping them solvent means that the economy goes down in flames. Still, I think there’s more to it than that. In 1929, America was still an expanding society, with an economy that was still producing something other than fiscal hallucinations, and a standard of living that had been moving raggedly upward for a good long time. The delusion that drives bubbles—the notion that it’s reasonable to expect to get rich on unearned wealth—could seize the population now and then, as it’s done since market economies got abstract enough that speculative bubbles became possible in the first place. Still, most Americans could reasonably expect that with hard work and prudence, they could expect to have a better standard of living in the future than they had in the past, and their children could expect to do better still. Those days are long past. For the great majority of Americans, living standards have been declining since the early 1970s, upward mobility is increasingly a nostalgic dream, and it’s becoming harder even for government flacks to keep pretending that training people for jobs that don’t exist will make those jobs miraculously appear. Ours is a contracting society, and outside of the narrowing circle of privilege—itself facing, a little further down the road, a far more drastic form of downward mobility—most people realize that hard work and prudence, the road to a better future in past generations, are merely a slightly slower road to impoverishment than the one everyone else seems to be taking. Combine that with the modern cult of celebrity that showers randomly chosen individuals with brief but spectacular bursts of wealth for the most absurd of reasons—would anybody care to explain to me just what the Kardashians did in 2010 that was worth an income of $65 million?—and the frantic marketing of consumer gewgaws that pervades American culture, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for a society in which an increasingly desperate populace will gamble all they have at increasingly long odds for a shot at unearned wealth. That’s what drove the speculative bubbles of the recent past, and will drive those of the near future. It’s also what drives the fixation on apocalyptic events that will supposedly dump history’s ultimate jackpot into the laps of those lucky enough to draw the winning ticket, whether that ticket is marked "Rapture," or "Singularity," or "December 21, 2012." Now it’s fair to say there are those—and the commenter mentioned above may be among them—for whom a fixation of that sort is readily confused with hope. It may even be that it’s the closest thing to hope that some of them have left. Still, it’s not actually hope in any meaningful sense of the word. To understand why, we’re going to have to take a hard look at just what hope is. That’s a vexed question just now, and not only because the current US president used the word to get into office via one of the most monumentally cynical political campaigns of modern times. Even before it got stripped of its remaining content by Obama’s marketing team, the old virtue of hope had gotten tangled up in America’s culture of entitlement, and twisted completely out of shape in the service of cynical marketing disguised as cheap sentimentality.
"When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will come to you..."
Readers of a certain generation will remember hearing that bit of doggerel out of the mouth of an animated insect. I knew a small boy who, after seeing the movie in question, took to singing, "When you wish upon a star, you don’t see things as they are." Like most children, he knew better, and hated being on the receiving end of lies. I sympathized, having had exactly the same reaction a quarter of a century earlier. We have, to be more precise, confused hope with the facile optimism of the privileged, the sort of thinking that insists that nothing really unpleasant can ever actually happen, not to us. A great many Americans, for example, think that being hopeful in the face of the depletion of fossil fuels means assuming against all the evidence that some ample replacement will be found in time to allow us to keep our energy-intensive lifestyles running. A great many of us more generally think that being hopeful in the face of the limits to growth means trying to convince ourselves that those limits don’t apply to us, or that there will turn out to be some way around them, or that somebody or other will bail us out before our refusal to deal with those limits lands us in consequences harsher than we want to think about. It’s interesting by contrast to consider the historical conditions that surrounded the evolution of the concept of hope in the ethical thought of the Western world. Like so much of postclassical Western culture, it emerged out of the creative collision between Greek philosophy and Christian religious ideas in the late Roman world. That was not an age of economic expansion and rising standards of living. Quite the contrary; as the Roman Empire ran up against its own limits to growth, and then drove itself into bankruptcy and collapse trying to defend borders defined in a more expansive age, economic crises and a soaring tax burden sent standards of living steadily downwards while the Empire lasted. Its fall in turn brought an age of chaos in which whole regions that had once known widespread literacy, busy market economies, and such amenities as central heating devolved into fragmented, impoverished and drastically underpopulated successor states in which eking out a bare subsistence was an achievement not everyone managed. The current American concept of hope would not have lasted long in the protracted downward spiral of the Roman world. The concept of hope as an ethical virtue, by contrast, became universally accepted during that same downward spiral. Why? Because hope, to translate its definition out of the ornate moral philosophy of the day, isn’t a sense of entitlement that insists that good things will inevitably come one’s way. Rather, it’s the recognition that some good can be achieved no matter what the circumstances might be, combined with a sustained willingness to try. Compare hope to any of the other ethical virtues celebrated in that harsh time and the distinction is even clearer. Courage, for example, isn’t a facile assurance that one is destined to win. It’s the quality of character and the act of will that does the right thing in the face of danger and fear. This is, among other things, the opposite of the conviction that victory is inevitable. That’s a logical point—if someone recognizes no danger and feels no fear, he’s not courageous no matter how many risks he unknowingly runs—but it’s also a practical one. One of the commonplaces of military history, for example, is the army that believes it can’t lose, and then collapses in panic when the battle turns against it because it has never had to grapple with the possibility of defeat. In the same way, hope doesn’t depend on a sense of entitlement that insists the universe is obligated to provide us with whatever happy ending we think we want, and in any real sense, it’s incompatible with notions of that kind. Hope is the quality of character and the act of will that finds some good that can be achieved, no matter what the circumstances, and then strives to achieve it. The sense of entitlement, in turn, is precisely equivalent to the belief that victory is inevitable, and it produces the same sort of brittleness; it’s for that reason that it tends to collapse into despair, and it’s despair, ultimately, that feeds fantasies of the apocalyptic event that will make everything different. It’s for this reason that apocalyptic fantasies always flourish in the aftermath of grandiose movements for social and spiritual transformation. Behind the current flurry of 2012 prophecies lies the New Age movement’s conclusive failure to create its own reality, just as the parallel flurry of Rapture prophecies mark the bitter endpoint of a trajectory that began with the buoyant optimism of the "Jesus freaks" and the Good News Bible, when enthusiastic young Christians believed they could remake the world in Christ’s image. Hubris disguised as one kind of hope always ends up giving way to despair disguised as another kind of hope. In the process, the concept of hope itself risks being discredited. That’s profoundly unfortunate, because it’s when overblown ambitions crash to the ground that hope in the true sense of the word is most needed. Behind the rise and fall of the New Age and the Evangelical movements stands the vaster rise and fall of another attempt to build Utopia here on Earth, the attempt we call industrial civilization. Right now, as the limits to growth tighten around us like a noose and an economy geared to perpetual expansion shudders and cracks in the throes of decline, one of the things that’s needed most is the willingness, in a time of gathering darkness, to locate what lamps can still be found, and light them. To return to the metaphor I offered earlier, we need to listen to the voice that tells us,
"Honey, I’m really sorry, but Santa Claus isn’t coming this year"
—and having heard that, and done whatever grieving we need to do, we need to draw in a deep breath, accept the hard fact, and get to work to spread at least a little light and warmth in a cold season. .

Thank God its Not Friday

SUBHEAD: What's happening in Samoa on Friday? Nothing (sort of). Officially, the day won't exist. By Mark Memmott on 28 December 2011 for NPR - (http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/12/28/144385201/there-will-be-no-friday-this-week-in-samoa) Image above: A palm frond roofed shack at the beach in Somoa. From original article. As Eyder previewed back in May, the tiny island nation in the South Pacific has decided to move from one side of the very near International Dateline to the other. People in Samoa (population 193,000) want to be closer time-wise to Australia, New Zealand, China and Tonga because they do so much more day-to-day business with those relatively nearby nations than with the rest of the world. And the problem until now, for example, has been that when it's 8 a.m. Monday in Samoa it's 8 a.m. Tuesday in Tonga. Business people in Samoa have kind of been losing a working day when it comes to dealing with their nearest neighbors. Now the time, literally, has come. When 11:59:59 p.m. strikes Thursday in Samoa, the next tick will take folks there to Saturday. And no one will be born or die on Dec. 30, 2011, in Samoa. Weird. Samoa has been on the eastern side of the dateline since 1892, The Australian notes, "following lobbying by merchants who did most of their business with America and Europe. ... The world has changed. Australia and New Zealand provide half the country's imports and buy 85 per cent of Samoa's exports." Right now, Samoa is five hours behind the U.S. East Coast. Which means, if we have this right, that when it crosses to the other side of the dateline it will be 19 hours ahead. American Samoa, "100 miles to the east, will not be making the switch," as MSNBC says. .

Roundup poisons groundwater

SOURCE: Brad Parsons (mauibrad@hotmail.com) SUBHEAD: Study confirms GMO herbicide glyphosate contaminates groundwater supplies. By Jonathan Benson on 28 December 2011 for Natural News - (http://www.naturalnews.com/034504_glyphosate_groundwater_contamination.htm) Image above: Pallets for sale of Roundup"Extended Control" herbicide used by farmers and suburban lawn gardeners. From (http://www.greenrightnow.com/kabc/2011/05/09/let%E2%80%99s-get-royally-concerned-about-monsanto-roundup-and-the-food-we-eat/). Contrary to claims made by the chemical industry and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it does not leach into groundwater, the deadly herbicide glyphosate, also known as Roundup, has been found to be fully capable of contaminating groundwater supplies. Published in the journal Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, a new study confirms that glyphosate is far from the benign crop protector that its proponents claim it is, and that it has the potential to cause widespread environmental damage. For their study, researchers from the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IEAWR) in Barcelona, Spain, performed a number of tests on groundwater samples to determine the presence of glyphosate. After employing a magnetic particle immunoassay (IA), as well as solid-phase extraction, liquid chromatography (LC), and tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS), they determined that, while soils absorb some of the chemical, glyphosate does not fully break down before reaching groundwater, which the government and the chemical industry have long claimed it does. In fact, the findings completely contradict claims made by the chemical industry and the EPA that glyphosate has "little potential for leaching to ground water." According to the EPA, "[m]icrobes in the soil readily and completely degrade [glyphosate] even under low temperature condition and glyphosate does not tend to accumulate in aquatic life" (http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw/pdfs/facts...). The EPA presumably obtained this false information directly from glyphosate's manufacturer, which just so happens to be the infamous Monsanto. But the agency has its own responsibility to verify safety claims on behalf of the public, which it obviously did not do for glyphosate. As a result, millions of gallons of this deadly chemical are doused on crops all around the world every year, and nobody knows how much of it has reached groundwater supplies. Two other studies recently conducted by the US Geological Survey (USGS) also found glyphosate in streams and rivers, as well as in rainwater and even air surrounding agricultural areas that use glyphosate. And the worst aspect of this revelation is the fact that Monsanto has likely known about this environmental contamination for years, but has done nothing about it (http://www.naturalnews.com/033699_R...). Even though the lie that glyphosate does not contaminate groundwater supplies has been officially debunked, it is highly unlikely that either the EPA or the chemical industry will reverse its errant position on the matter. Sources for this article include: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/... .

Widespread failure of GMO pesticdes

SUBHEAD: Monsanto Bt corn is not killing rootworms in four state and Roundup is not killing weeds on 14 million acres of U.S. farmland.  

By Jack Kaskey on 2 December 2011 for Bloomberg News - (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-12-01/monsanto-corn-may-be-failing-to-kill-rootworms-in-four-states-epa-says.html)

 
Image above: Photo of sculpture of "Cornhenge" photo taken on October 15, 2008 in Dublin, Ohio. From (http://greenlandoceanblue.com/2010/03/29/you-know-who-eats-genetically-modified-corn-right-everyone-eric-savitz-barrons).

  Monsanto corn that’s genetically engineered to kill insects may be losing its effectiveness against rootworms in four states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said.

Rootworms in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska are suspected of developing tolerance to the plants’ insecticide, based on documented cases of severe crop damage and reports from entomologists, the EPA said in a memo dated Nov. 22 and posted Nov. 30 on a government website.
Monsanto’s program for monitoring suspected cases of resistance is “inadequate,” the EPA said.

“Resistance is suspected in at least some portions of four states in which ‘unexpected damage’ reports originated,” the EPA said in the memo, which reviewed damage reports.

The insects, which begin life as root-chewing grubs before developing into adult beetles, are among the most destructive corn pests, costing U.S. farmers about $1 billion a year in damages and chemical pesticides, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Monsanto fell 3.8 percent to $70.42 at the close in New York, the tenth-biggest (SPX) decline among companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

“The stock is always going to be susceptible to headline risk as it pertains to the effectiveness of their products,” Mark Demos, a portfolio manager who helps oversee $18 billion at Fifth Third Asset Management in Minneapolis, said by telephone. “They are leading the charge in biotech, so it’s bad for the whole industry.”

Introduced in 2003
Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, introduced its rootworm-killing corn technology in 2003. The modified corn was planted on more than 37 million acres this year, Lee Quarles, a spokesman for St. Louis-based Monsanto, said yesterday. Monsanto isn’t having resistance issues with seeds engineered to kill corn borers and other pests that live above ground. Corn is Monsanto’s largest business, accounting for 41 percent of its $11.8 billion of sales in the fiscal year ended Aug. 31.

An Iowa State University study said in July that some rootworms have evolved resistance to an insect-killing protein derived from Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, a natural insecticide engineered into Monsanto corn. Entomologists in Illinois and other Midwestern states are studying possible resistance where the insects devour roots of Monsanto’s Bt corn.

‘Stay Ahead’
Monsanto continues to believe there’s no scientific confirmation of resistance to its Bt corn, Quarles said by telephone. Still, Monsanto takes the EPA report “seriously” and is increasing efforts to teach farmers how to respond to unexpected damage in their fields, he said.

Less than 0.2 percent of the acres planted with Monsanto’s Bt corn were affected by unexpected rootworm damage this year, Quarles said. Farmers with root damage in their fields should consider changing practices to “stay ahead of this insect,” Monsanto said in a statement. That could include rotating corn with soybeans or using a product such as Monsanto’s SmartStax corn, which kills rootworms with two types of Bt, the company said.

The EPA report “does throw a harsher light on the longer- term efficacy of the trait,” Chris Shaw, a New York-based analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt & Co., said today by telephone. The development of SmartStax shows Monsanto knows it can’t rely on a single gene to address farmers’ problems, he said.

No Refuge
The agency said in the memo that SmartStax could lose its effectiveness if it’s planted in fields where bugs have developed a tolerance to Monsanto’s Bt gene, known as CRY3bB1. That’s because SmartStax’s effectiveness is predicated on both types of Bt working as designed. SmartStax corn produces the second type of Bt, called Cry34/35, with a gene licensed from Dow Chemical Co. (DOW).
 
To deter resistance to all types of Bt corn, the EPA requires farmers who use the modified crop to also plant corn that doesn’t produce the pesticide. The agency reasons that bugs in the so-called refuge that are not exposed to the toxin will mate with any resistant rootworms, creating a new generation of insects that are once again susceptible to the insecticide.

Some corn farmers don’t appear to be planting the required refuges in Minnesota, where moderate to severe rootworm damage is spreading and occurred for a third straight year in 2011, according to the EPA.

Remedial Action
The EPA’s decision earlier this week to extend the registration of SmartStax, which was originally approved in 2009, shows that the resistance concern “isn’t significantly important,” Mark Gulley, a New York-based analyst at Ticonderoga Securities, said in a phone interview today.

Monsanto should enact a remedial action plan in fields where resistance to its Bt insecticide is suspected, the EPA said. That includes having growers use conventional pesticide to kill adult rootworm beetles late in the season and alternate pest control methods in the following season.

Monsanto tested rootworms for resistance in Nebraska, Illinois and Iowa and should expand the monitoring to Colorado, Minnesota, South Dakota and western Wisconsin because questions about the performance of Bt corn extends to all seven states, the EPA said in the memo.

Monsanto’s most advanced resistance problem is with crops engineered to tolerate its Roundup herbicide. Weeds that are no longer killed by Roundup have invaded 14 million acres of U.S. cotton, soybean and corn, according to Syngenta AG (SYNN), a Swiss chemical maker. A Dow Chemical Co. study this year found as many as 20 million acres of corn and soybeans may be infested.


See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Monsanto GMO Bt corn failing 9/2/11
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Electrified Coral Reefs

SUBHEAD: A weak, harmless voltage run through metallic structures underwater is reviving near-dead reefs. By Loic Vennin on 26 December 2011 in Discovery News - (http://news.discovery.com/tech/electricity-coral-reefs-biorock-111226.html) Image above: Coral growing on electrified metal cage off Bali. Still from video below.

Cyanide fishing and rising water temperatures had decimated corals off Bali until a diver inspired by a German scientist's pioneering work on organic architecture helped develop a project now replicated worldwide.

Based on ""Biorock" technology, it is implemented in 20 countries, mainly in Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific.

In the turquoise waters of Pemuteran off the north coast of Bali where the project was launched in 2000, a metal frame known as "the crab" is covered with huge corals in shimmering colors where hundreds of fish have made their homes.

"It's amazing, isn't it ?" Rani Morrow-Wuigk says proudly. The 60-year-old German-born Australian first dived in Pemuteran bay back in 1992, to see its beautiful reefs.

But at the end of the nineties rising water temperatures had led to the near-disappearance of the reef, already badly affected by cyanide and dynamite fishing in the area. "I was devastated. Basically, all the corals were dead. It was gravel and sand," Rani recalled.

But when German architect and marine scientist Wolf Hilbertz told her about a discovery he had made in the 1970s, the diver's ears pricked up.

Hilbertz had sought to "grow" construction materials in the sea, and had done so by submerging a metallic structure and connecting it to an electric current with a weak and thus harmless voltage.

The ensuing electrolysis had provoked a build-up of limestone, in a kind of spontaneous building work.

When he tested out his invention in Louisiana in the United States, Hilbertz saw that after a few months oysters progressively covered the whole structure, and colonized the collected limestone.

More experiments were carried out and the same phenomenon was confirmed for corals.

"Corals grow 2-6 times faster. We are able to grow back reefs in a few years," Thomas J. Goreau, a Jamaican marine biologist and biogeochemist, told AFP.

Goreau began working with Hilbertz in the mid-1980s to develop Biorock technology, and he has continued their work since Hilbertz's death four years ago.

When Rani saw the discovery, it gave her an idea for how she might save "her" bay.

She decided to expand the project to 22 structures using her own money with the help of Taman Sari, the holiday resort in front of the coral restoration project.

Today there are around sixty of these "cages" in Pemuteran bay, across a surface of two hectares, and the reef has not only been saved from near-death, it is flourishing better than ever before.

"Now we've got a better coral garden than we used to have," said Rani.

Biorock not only revives the corals but it makes them more resistant, in particular against bleaching and global warming.

"Biorock is the only method known that protects corals from dying from high temperatures. We get from 16 to 50 times higher survival of corals from severe bleaching," Goreau said.

The evidence of this has been on show in Pemuteran, said Rani.

"We had coral bleaching happening in the last two years. The water temperature was 34 degrees (93 Fahrenheit), instead of 30. Only 10 percent of the corals were affected and two percent died. Whereas, in 1998, they basically all died".

The local community in Pemuteran has also been won over after early reticence on the merits of the project.

"At first, I thought he was a crazy 'bule' (white guy) putting iron in the water," Komang Astika said, recalling his first meeting with Goreau, but in 2000, Komang joined the project when he left college.

Today he is the diving instructor and manager in charge of the Biorock information center, located on Pemuteran beach and set up with funds from the sponsorship program, "Adopt a baby coral."

The tourists have also cottoned-on. "It was a poor village when I arrived," Rani said, "since 2000, the number of dive shops doubled."

And the local fishermen have also seen the merits of the project they initially regarded as a threat to their livelihoods.

"At the beginning, the fishermen didn't want Biorock because we were trying to stop them fishing. They were saying 'It's my ocean,' but now they see the fish coming back and the tourists coming," said Astika.

Video above: Snorkeling a BioRock project in northwet Bali. See (http://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/electrified-cages-revive-near-dead-corals.html). From (http://youtu.be/6hjuEoURPZE). .

Talk on Ocean Noise

SUBHEAD: The proliferation of intense underwater noise poses a threat to the depleted fish stocks in the world’s oceans.  

By Sandy Herndon on 26 December 2011 for Children of the Land -
  (http://thechildrenoftheland.com)

   
Image above: Detail of illustration depicting sources of ocean noise that can endanger whales. From (http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/01/big-idea/noisy-ocean).

Underwater Noise Pollution is intense human-generated noise in the marine environment. It is caused by use of explosives, oceanographic experiments, geophysical research, underwater construction, ship traffic, intense active sonars and air guns used for seismic surveys for oil and related activities.

 There is grave concern that proliferation of these noise sources poses a significant threat to marine mammals, fish and other ocean wildlife. Scientists agree, and a growing body of research confirms, that the intense sound produced by these noise sources can induce a range of adverse effects in marine mammals.

These effects include death and serious injury caused by brain hemorrhages or other tissue trauma; strandings and beachings; temporary and permanent hearing loss or impairment; displacement from preferred habitat and disruption of feeding, breeding, nursing, communication, sensing and other behaviors vital to the survival of these species, psychological and physiological stress, making animals more vulnerable to disease, parasites and predation.

High-intensity sound has been shown to have adverse impacts on other marine species as well. The proliferation of intense underwater noise poses a threat to already depleted fish stocks throughout the world’s oceans. As stated most recently by the Cetacean Specialist Group of the IUCN-World Conservation Union: “Military operations involving the use of high-intensity sonar, explosive devices, and other intense noise sources pose both lethal and sub-lethal threats to cetaceans.  

WHAT:
A free lecture on Ocean Noice by Marsha Green, PhD. of the Ocean Mammal Institute  

WHEN:
Thursday, December 29, 2011, 7:00 pm  

WHERE:
Children of the Land Center, Kapa'a (next to Papaya's) 
Kauai Village Shopping Center (Safeway Center) 4-831 Kuhio Hwy #332 Kapaa, HI 96746

SPONSOR:
Koholā Leo (Whale Voice), Kaua'i based marine mammal protection organization.  

WEBSITES:
www.oceanmammalinst.com
www.koholaleo.com  

CONTACT:
The Children of the Land - Na Keiki O Ka `Aina
Sandy Herndon, Administrator
email: sandy@thechildrenoftheland.com
phone: (808) 821-1234

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Occupy - Embrace what you are!

SUBHEAD: The Occupy movement can light a fire of human beauty, and human love amidst the sterility of this world. By John Duffy on 21 December 2011 for Grow Food Raise Hell - (http://growfoodraisehell.tumblr.com/post/14572070695/occupy-embrace-what-you-are) Image above: Police arrest a protester on New York's Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011, during a march by Occupy Wall Street. From (http://abcnews.go.com/US/occupy-wall-street-protesters-americans/story?id=14652698#.TvtzUEpfW2A). Since the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City and around the US and the globe, there has been a constancy of criticism coming from the entrenched establishment and its would-be supporters. It’s easy enough to ignore the banality and mindlessness of the critiques coming from this camp—critiques aimed at the supposèd lack of direction amongst Occupiers, or their supposed lack of employment, or their supposed lack of hygiene. What is frustrating is the sideline coaching from non-participants who think themselves far too clever to get involved, but who nonetheless feel they know the exact direction and focus that the movement must take. It surprises me that Occupy Wall Street’s original impetus somehow slides over, under, and around the attention of those who proclaim to know what would be best for it. It surprises me more when Occupy participants miss the obvious reality of what I believe their movement is, so I will say it plainly here: Occupy Wall Street and its sister protests around the world are a cultural resistance. It is forgivable to observe the name “Occupy Wall Street,” to see that the original protesters planted themselves as close to the heart of the financial death cult as the enforcement arm of the state would allow, and to arrive at the conclusion that all Occupy efforts are a reaction to monetary malfeasance, both public and private. However, it is clear with even a cursory study of the class demographics and ideological spectrum present that Occupy Movement groups are resisting a broader cultural meme—of which the recent fiduciary debauchery on Wall Street and in Washington is but one outgrowth. Occupy protests have targeted everything from Goldman Sachs and Bank of America’s recent abundance of criminality, to homelessness, the degradation of the environment, the corporate influence in politics, the toxicity of the food supply, foreign wars, domestic repression, foreclosures, Wal-Mart, big Pharma, etc, ad nauseam. This plethora of targets, this seemingly endless hit list, is not as the critics smugly proclaim: a lack of focus or meandering of thought. Rather, it is an acknowledgment of the greater cultural malaise. The challenge of focus for Occupy protests is not necessarily one of targets or tactics. Though strategic maneuvering of their members to the pinch points and bottle necks of the dominant culture is a conversation of constant necessity, more pressing is the discovery of the poisonous heart of the dominant culture. What is the common thread which grafts together the banks, the oil companies, the degradation of the planet’s ecosystems, the drugging of children, the indefinite detention of “terror suspects,” and the imprisonment of non-violent drug possessors? To me, it seems clear that the dominant culture is a culture of domination. The dominant culture, that is — the culture of industrial civilization, that is — our culture — is a culture that rests on a foundation of violence, exploitation, slavery, and brutality. In the privileged West, it is harder to see this than in, say, the Niger Delta, the Brazilian rain forests, or in the sweatshops of Asia. To be sure, the barbarity of our culture is present domestically, but as most modern, “civilized” people have lost connectivity with the natural world, they likely don’t see their city, suburb, or local shopping mall as an exploitation of the land. Further, they take little notice of the flowers, the salamanders, the moths, or any of the over two hundred species which go extinct every day on Earth, including those who forever exit their own communities. Somehow, the exported violence of the tar sands mining operations in Alberta Canada, the Pacific or Atlantic garbage “islands,” or the petroleum wastes of Azerbaijan or newly liberated Iraq remain invisible to those who benefit from these graveyards the most. Perhaps you don’t see the congruity between environmental destruction and the revolving door that exists between government and finance. Perhaps you don’t see ours as a culture of domination, of violence, of exploitation. Let’s look at it another way. This culture is one in which it is not only acceptable, but celebrated, to destroy life for profit. Indeed, the only way to profit, the only way to generate material “wealth,” is by killing. A tree doesn’t become lumber unless you cut it down. Cows don’t become McBurger filling until they have been executed (and of course, tortured). Even humans don’t become laborers until they have been enclosed into a capitalist marketplace, off of and separate from the land, where they must choose between labor and starvation. Thus there is a price tag hung around the neck of every living thing. Since the only laudable goal according to cultural dogma is the accumulation of excess capital, it is axiomatic that this culture will cut down more trees every year, drag more and bigger nets across the ocean floor every year, lay more concrete every year, burn more petroleum every year, in a never ending quest to convert the living planet into the abstract object of our insane festishizations: money. Though it may be a bit heavy for some, it must be stated; capitalism is reaching its endgame. The growth requirement which capitalism has built into itself is now colliding headlong with the limits of the natural world, which provides all of the raw stock required by industry. Like an organism undergoing ketosis, the system is beginning to devour itself for sustenance. Governments create imaginary capital to patch over privately created black holes of debt, while financial institutions feast on the accumulated “wealth” of the poorer strata of western society by mechanisms like foreclosure, stagnant wages, increasing tuitions, increasing interest payments, layoffs, and every other conceivable and now commonplace “austerity measure.” It is this amalgam of symptoms of collapse that the people of the “first” world are now experiencing. Of course, these first-worlders have lived on the backs of exploited peoples, animals, and land bases for generations, all too happy to consume to their heart’s content in a drunken orgy of self-righteous hedonism. (In their defense, the masters of capital did scar these people at birth with the brand of consumption, bombarding them day and night with self defeating advertisements and a ceaseless campaign of pro-authoritarian, anti-life propaganda.) This monstrous architecture has not only built into an impossible growth requirement, but also a series of premises concerning the validity of hierarchy. This is a culture of domination. Our culture regularly promotes and lauds the violence committed by armies and police against civilians. It regularly promotes and lauds violence committed by men against women and children. It regularly promotes and lauds the violence committed by humans against animals, against plants, against water, soil, and air. This culture reviles any violence in the reverse direction. Violence may not flow up the hierarchy without being met by immense over-pressures of force. Those at the top and their mercenary defenders will not allow their status to be questioned, let alone challenged. Hence, we witness the unfounded violence so far committed against Occupy protesters, despite their near uniform docile behavior. Now that the maw of imperial capitalism is fixing itself upon the white people of the first world, now that a future of more luxury and entitlement is not a guarantee, there is a revelation to the true nature of the culture appearing to those willing to see it. The chant “banks got bailed out, we got sold out” rings of this dawning truth. The system isn’t here for you—you are here for it. You are to turn your cog, move your little piece of the machine, keep it marching, keep it killing, and the moment you become a net drain on the architecture of this society, you find your place in the cast iron furnace next to the felled redwood, the poisoned aquifer, and the Bangladeshi slave. You will be chewed up and spit out like the expendable component that you are. It’s no longer just the exotic foreigners in some far away land who are getting in the way of profit, now it is you. Now it’s your family, your co-workers, your town that stands between a corporation and black ink on the bottom line. This is the intellectual hurdle before the Occupy Movement. Do they dare shine a light on the built-in flaws of capitalism? Do they dare indict long held “self evident truths,” and stand united behind the idea that another world truly is possible? Themselves organized in an egalitarian, horizontal fashion, making decisions by consensus and demanding respect for all participants—do Occupy Movements dare recognize their anarchism, and move forward with stolid conviction that it is not merely a handful of nasty players they are fighting, not merely a corrupt electoral process, but toxic imaginings of power and right in the minds of the masters, and indeed, in the minds of all men born into the belly of this twisted device? At the moment, many Occupy groups and members will hold up their hands and soften their voices to meekly proclaim, “Now, I’m not against capitalism or rich people,” instead hiding behind a desire for “financial fairness.” The problem is that one cannot, with full education on the topic, simultaneously believe in capitalism and financial fairness. Volumes on this issue have been written by men smarter and more articulate than myself, so I will spare the reader an extrapolation on this topic, hopefully sufficing to say that the logic of capitalism dictates that were one man capable of accumulating the capital to do so, he could buy all of the land in the world. Any logic that leads to that conclusion is not logic at all, and must be abandoned by all sane people. If the Occupy Movement, fearful of public opinion, fearful of poll numbers and the manufactured and implanted concerns of fence-sitters, decides not to move forward and proudly adopt that theirs is truly a rejection of the dominant culture, it will stagnate. As this culture has made a mess of all of its participants psychologically and emotionally, it is folly to fear the misguided notions of non-participating members of the culture, especially at such an early stage of our collective activism. On the other hand, if the Occupy Movement recognizes its true heart, embraces its foundational disdain for the culture at large, and follows through with whatever manifests from that heartbreak and that need, it has a chance to do something incredible: to inspire. To inspire true revolt in the hearts of all people. To inspire an outpouring of collective sympathy, a great sigh from a worldwide population subjugated for lifetimes upon lifetimes. The Occupy Protest Movement and all of its congruent revolutions around the world have in their hands, if they have the courage to use it, the ability to inspire one last flare up of human fire, human beauty, and human love a world of hastening emotional sterility. It is from this rage and awe burning in the guts of man, that freedom, peace, and communion are born. Yet at this moment, a brave new world dawns. The empires of the world are increasing the scale of their violence as they scrape and claw for dominion of the remaining global hydrocarbon reserves. Capitalist institutions, including nations themselves, cannibalize one and other for survival. A shadow of tyranny and fascism is creeping forth, extinguishing the last remnants of freedom people have, and in this dark hour, I implore the Occupy protesters, of which I am a dedicated one: bring light, in what is otherwise a truly blackened future without us. • John Duffy is an artist, activist, and voice of the Grow Food, Raise Hell podcast. He currently resides in Austin, Texas. .