Links January 2018

January 7, 2018

Finally we’ve turned the corner and the days get longer again, but it will take a few weeks till there’s a noticeable increase of daylight. One cannot rule out occasional cold spells and snow, but, in case that nobody starts a nuclear war, it only can get warmer and brighter.

Here it is sunny and unseasonable warm, but thats Europe. Across the Atlantic, a record-shattering cold is gripping most of the USA, and the sustained period of cold weather has claimed the lives of at least 20 people, mostly homeless or elderly.

Homeless people are the most susceptible to the winter cold. While the lack of affordable housing effects everybody, homeless individuals are especially hard-pressed to find accommodation in winter, as funding for shelters is cut back and decent living spaces are few and far between. Much of the increase in homelessness is connected to the ever rising cost of housing while real wages have stagnated.

The city of Detroit appealed for donations after it had to open three additional emergency warming centers. Working with local churches and religious groups, the centers are sending volunteers out to locations where homeless communities congregate, in an effort to bring them to the various shelters.

This is not a minor issue, more than half a million people are homeless in the USA. Well, its the richest nation on earth, what can one say?

Heavy snow, strong winds, and bitter cold battered the US East Coast and snow was on the ground in every state from Florida to Maine.

There was a snow storm which meteorologists described as a “bomb cyclone,” followed by a deep freeze with minus 40 degrees Celsius in New England. Snow made roadways impassable, businesses closed and flights were grounded. In New England, gusts threatened to bring down power lines and leave residents without power or heat.

Power outages affected more than 12,400 Georgia Power customers, 10,200 Florida Power & Light customers and 2,700 South Carolina Electric & Gas customers. 8,000 New York City Housing Authority residents were without heat. Heating systems in five public housing developments were shut down completely.

Many schools had to close because of failing heating systems and broken pipes. Due to funding cuts nobody was being there during the holidays to make sure the heat stayed on and pipes didn’t freeze (can that be? My central heating has an automatic function which turns circulation on no matter what and keeps the water in the pipe system at 4 degrees Celsius when temperatures reach the freezing point).

Reading all that one can only hope that the US economic and political model is not implemented here. Maybe the reports are exaggerating, are sensationalism, but the plain statistics suggest, that things are indeed that bad: 13.5 percent of US inhabitants live in poverty (in Russia poverty is also 13 percent), 42 million are on food stamps, half a million are homeless, 27 million are despite ACA (Affordable Care Act) without health care, depending on emergency room treatment. 

To keep US-capitalism at bay is one of my concerns, another concern is the threat of war, especially nuclear war. Nuclear war is unimaginable, millions would die in a few hours, permanent nuclear winter would make us starve or freeze to death.

A report by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War described the effects of a single 1-megaton warhead:

At ground zero, the explosion creates a crater 100 meter deep and 360 meter in diameter. Within one second, the atmosphere itself ignites into a fireball more than a 800meter in diameter. The surface of the fireball radiates nearly three times the light and heat of a comparable area of the surface of the sun, extinguishing in seconds all life below and radiating outward at the speed of light, causing instantaneous severe burns to people within one to three miles. A blast wave of compressed air reaches a distance of three miles in about 12 seconds, flattening factories and commercial buildings. Debris carried by winds of 250 mph inflicts lethal injuries throughout the area. At least 50 percent of people in the area die immediately, prior to any injuries from radiation or the developing firestorm.

Another concern is the steadily increasing chemical contamination of the biosphere. Agricultural chemicals, industrial waste, degrading plastic materials, household chemicals, paint, ink, household waste, pharmaceutical drugs, etc contribute. Humans emit more than 250 billion tonnes of chemical substances a year. The pollutants are found everywhere; mercury is found in polar bears, Mount Everest’s snow is so polluted it fails to meet WHO drinking water standards, DDT, banned since 1972, can be detected in every human hair sample taken.

Well, as long as only bees and other insects, amphibians, bats, and fish are affected, thats fine. Who needs the critters anyway? But wait:

60 percent of US-Americans have one and 40 percent have multiple chronic conditions, like allergies, arthritis, asthma, cancer, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, MS etc.

Can you remember when the “victory over cancer” was promised to be a matter of only a few years? Nobody speaks of that anymore. 

According to the WHO, cancer accounted for 8.8 million deaths in 2015. There were 4.3 million new cancer cases in China and more than 2.8 million cancer deaths in 2015, with lung cancer the most common occurrence. Cancer is the leading cause of death in China.

Denmark, Belgium, Bulgaria, Serbia, Poland, Slovenia, Australia, Norway, USA, Ireland, South Korea, Netherlands, Canada, Hungary also report high cancer rates. Cancer deaths are more prevalent in developed/industrialized countries and the cancer rates align by and large with the consumption of chemicals and plastics.

Cancer deaths in developed countries are between 24 and 32 percent of all deaths and have become the leading or second leading cause of death.

Another concern is the steadily decreasing nutritional value of fruits and vegetables. Mineral content has dropped 76 percent in the last 50 years. This is due to the use of fast growing new varieties wich were bred for hight yield, but also because there is more sunlight, more UV radiation, more CO2 in the air. The plants produce a lot of sugar via photosynthesis and the fruits ripen faster, but in the shorter period of growth they don’t absorb as much of the trace minerals which our body needs for metabolic functions. Soil deplation also plays a role.

This will lead to nutritional deficiencies (iron, iodine, calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, potassium). To avoid this problem, one could eat meat instead of plants, but this also has serious downsides:

Meat production is environmental damaging. Meat from factory farms is laced with growth hormones and antibiotics. All meat is contaminated with environmental pollutants, which are accumulated in the fatty tissue of animals as they eat contaminated plants. This is called bioaccumulation. If several animals (prey, predator) in a food chain are involved, the accumulation multiplies. This is called biomagnification, and it means, that meat eaters can have levels in their body 1000 times higher than the initial concentration of a substance in soil, water, air.

Heavy metals (mercury, arsenic, cadmium, lead), PAHs, PFAs, dioxins, pesticides, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and other POPs (persistent organic pollutants) are the most common pollutants in meat.

A related concern is climate change. Droughts are not a problem here until now, because this is a rainy country, but extreme weather events can do lot of damage. Last year in April a series of cold spells damaged the blooms of fruit trees, there were nearly no plums and pear fruits, apples were greatly reduced. Peach harvest was great, because peach trees bloom early and they were ready before the cold snaps.

This could happen every year from now on, because wide temperature swings are increasingly common, and the only precaution one can take is to plant a wide variety of fruit trees, blooming at different times of spring.

A hefty storm damaged two of the peach trees in my garden, both full of fruits. This could also become a frequent occurrence.

Other concerns: China plans to implement a social credit system, with your lifelong credit score influencing every aspect of your life: For instance your chances of getting education, employment, finding friends, finding a wife. Not even George Orwell did imagine this. If the Chinese rulers can pull that off, it will be swiftly adopted everywhere else.

Compared to this, the envisioned “cashless economy” is a minor threat. In Sweden, Australia, Netherlands, UK, USA, France, Canada the majority of transactions is cashless. Cashless means, one is depending on a bank, on a computer, smartphone, or tablet. I never liked banks. 

Bertolt Brecht: “What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?” (from The Threepenny Opera). Some clever guy reformulated that into: “Robbing a bank is for amateurs. True professionals found one.” I once composed a tune “Angels robbed the bank,” its even here on the blog, in the Music section.

Bankless, not cashless.

I set up an account at the only remaining cooperative bank here only to find out, that after half a year it merged with another bank, one that had nearly gone bankrupt before because of risky investment bets and was bailed out with taxpayer money. I considered going bankless and it still is possible in my country, but it is so cumbersome and costly (because of transaction fees) that for now I stay with this bank.

At least I never bought anything at Amazon. One doesn’t need the 480 million items that Amazon offers. One can stop shopping, drop out of the consumer society. Flea markets, bartering and swapping groups, local organic gardeners and farmers are possible sources to get the necessities of life.

Though many people sense, that it cannot go on like this forever, few try to change their habits. When the economy of affluence and plenty one day will collapse into an economy of scarcity, it will get ugly, as people will scramble to get their piece of the shrinking cake.

Maybe we are already there and the only thing that keeps the illusion of affluence and plenty intact are the flickering pictures on the screens at which people stare most of their time.

Feline news:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/06/police-arrest-man-over-northampton-cat-deaths  The world is full of sick people.

Environmental news
“Avoiding GMOs isn’t just anti-science. It’s immoral.” At least according to a headline in the Washington Post.
http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176360/ About climate refugees and the walls to hold them back.
http://www.euractiv.com/section/energy-environment/news/mercury-poisoning-widespread-as-even-un-delegates-test-positive/ Mercury poisoning is widespread, yet mercury mining increases.
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-06/china-s-blow-to-recycling-boosts-u-s-s-185-billion-plastic-bet You thought recycling is the answer — it seems that China knows better.

https://dgrnewsservice.org/resistance/strategy/the-significance-of-renewables/ Renewables are not the solution.
https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/12/11/dying-ecosystems/ Armageddon. One doesn’t have to make a will, one doesn’t have to worry about the future. Just accept the inevitable.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/13/english-rivers-polluted-by-powerful-insecticides-first-tests-reveal They spread agro-poisons like candy.
http://www.ehn.org/plastic_pollution_ocean_turtles-2516639433.html The end of the sea turtle.
https://www.localfutures.org/what-does-organic-mean/ Hijacked by industry.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/14/a-different-dimension-of-loss-great-insect-die-off-sixth-extinction Another long and detailed article written, published, and ignored.
https://ensia.com/videos/watch-fixers-club-argentina-pushing-back-throwaway-culture/ Use the old appliances and gadgets as long as possible and, in case of a defect, repair them. The new ones are no good, they are crap, they don’t last long, they are purposely designed to make mending impossible.
https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/12/18/pesticide-suicide/ This is not scaremongering. This is just the well documented, scary reality of the global ubiquitous contamination with agricultural poisons.
http://www.ehn.org/capitalism-and-our-environmental-collapse-2521833465.html Armageddon. I’m considering to establish a separate category, as these kind of articles become more numerous. Disaster porn? Or could it really be that bad?
https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/12/29/a-future-free-for-all/ Armageddon, a poetic version.
https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/01/01/the-unsung-epidemic/ And? Are you using less chemicals after reading this?
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/men-resist-green-behavior-as-un-manly/ Huh! Prove them wrong, please!

Economic news:
http://evonomics.com/less-work-job-creation-peter-gray/ About work and automation.
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/07/amazon-hunger-games-players-losers-second-headquarters-site-us-techno-capitalist “Smart cities” are not smart. Smart cities would avoid Amazon.
http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-42322706 The most dangerous insurgency.
https://wolfstreet.com/2017/12/10/a-new-stealth-attack-in-eus-war-on-cash/ Surveil and control.
http://www.defenddemocracy.press/capitalism-reduced-indonesian-cities-to-infested-carcases/ Must read. This is what they are planning for us too in the name of modernity and progress.
Long read, some debatable conclusions, but still worth the time.
https://www.edge.org/response-detail/26756 Maybe you read it twice, there is something in it.

Media and technology news:
http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-china-42248056/in-your-face-china-s-all-seeing-state Our future. Surveilled and controlled.
https://www.treehugger.com/culture/france-will-ban-mobile-phones-elementary-schools.html A rare example of rationality.
https://medium.com/ill-ixi-lli/-da9326e97d1f About Bitcoin. Difficult to read but interesting.
http://www.atimes.com/article/jailed-journalists-hide-mass-graves-myanmar Press freedom in Myanmar.

Imperial news:
US Police fatally shot 987 people in 2017, two dozen more than they killed in 2016, according to a project by The Washington Post that tracks police shootings.
https://phys.org/news/2017-12-gun-related-deaths-tied-sandy-mass.html About after effects of gun violence.
https://williamblum.org/aer/read/153 Blum’s Anti-Empire Report 153.
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/12/12/repo-d12.html The free market forces eventually will fix everything, including infrastructure deficiencies.
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/dec/15/america-extreme-poverty-un-special-rapporteur Special UN rapporteur Philip Alston, fresh from a fact-finding tour, issued a devastating critique of US society and condemned ‘private wealth and public squalor’: “Trump is turning US into world champion of extreme inequality”.
John Chuckman commented the remark about Trump:
I’m sorry, but that is an uninformed statement.
I grew up in the United States, in a large city, and the kind of slums we see here have been around since I was young.
Detroit, Baltimore, Toledo, New Orleans, parts of Chicago, parts of New York, Newark, Gary, and dozens of other places would shock Europeans who are used to seeing only travel photos and Hollywood movies.
The stark poverty and ugliness are not in any way distinguishable from parts of the third world.
And it’s not just cities. Many years ago, I was taking some photos of river bridges near Joliet, Illinois, and turned onto a small road to get one of the shocks of my life. There was a sizable settlement of homemade shanty structures ahead on both sides of the road. It looked exactly like something from Soweto, South Africa, and perhaps worse.
The United States is full of such surprises. You find them in Appalachia and out on the Southwestern desert, quite apart from all the vast urban slums. A great many Americans live in beat-up little trailers in places like rural Maine or Arizona.
It isn’t Trump, although I’m sure he won’t be helping.
And it isn’t just Republicans.
Democrats in the national government along with Republicans have done nothing about this.
Obama, the first black president, did nothing.
The places I’ve listed plus many others have looked like scenes from hell for forty or fifty years.
America’s government has busied itself with creating new ruins in many parts of the world. Instant ruins with bombs. That’s how it spends its time and resources.
Washington has shown no interest and made no effort for decades to help the American people. Washington resembles more an occupying power than a government “of the people.”

Imperial conquest news:
http://www.mintpressnews.com/76-years-of-pearl-harbor-lies/235375/ Long read, but worth it. You will not be disappointed, though maybe you will be depressed.
http://www.defenddemocracy.press/read-this-if-you-want-to-understand-korea/ The crimes of empire.
https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/2017-12/fs_arms_industry_2016.pdf The exceptional arms-producer.
https://www.globalresearch.ca/africa-in-review-2017-africom-finance-capital-and-the-elusive-independent-policy/5624557 Informative overview from an undisputed authority in the field.
https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/houthi-navy-discovers-spy-device-along-yemeni-coast-video/ In Yemen Houthi divers have captured a US Navy UUV (unmanned underwater vehicle) off the coast and published a video about it. Why Houthis call it a spy drone, US defense officials say, the REMUS 600 UUV was operated by the Navy as part of a meteorological study. The REMUS 600 has been used by the USA during the war in Iraq, it is remotely controlled and capable of spotting mines underwater.

Uncategorized news:
Peace efforts are not popular in some quarters.

News from cat land:

Still missing Miss Marple.

Initially I wanted to write about why the cat family doesn’t like dogs and I myself, in loyalty to my feline friends, am also not too fond of dogs. Dogs bark, dogs don’t purr, dogs often smell bad — they are not even able to clean themselves properly.

No, I shouldn’t elaborate on that and discuss thorny details, it would only cause animosity and make enemies. I also want to go out and work in the garden. The weather is incredibly mild here, its the perfect time to do some further cleanup and preparations for spring.

Eventually the issue will come up again, and till then I have to find out, how to bridge the gap between dog lovers and cat lovers. This may be even more difficult than bridging the gap between religious believers and atheists.

I will try, but later. First comes the garden.

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