Category Archives: Finance

EnviroWatch: Dengue, water woes, toxics


We open with the latest on that other outbreak on another continent, via Jiji Press:

Dengue Fever Outbreak in Japan Shows No Signs of Ending

Despite Japanese authorities’ efforts for containment, dengue fever has not yet shown clear signs of subsiding in the country, with the number of domestic infections topping 100.

The health ministry calls for calm, saying there is no need to panic because the spread of the tropical disease, which is transmitted only by tiger mosquitoes, will not last long, daily reports of new infections are stirring up fears.

The first locally transmitted case of dengue fever in nearly 70 years was reported in late August.

From NBC News, water woes in the Golden State:

Not One Drop: How Long Will California Survive Life Without Water?

The old man knew of the $500-a-day fine for people caught wasting water. He heard the plea for conservation from Governor Jerry Brown. But the water police can’t scare a person whose water isn’t running in the first place.

“Look,” said Carlos Chavez, a retired farm hand in the small town of Seville. He turned the wheel on a big outdoor faucet, the kind of high pressure spigot that’s illegal to operate in California without at least a hose attached to it. Nothing came out except air. It was the same story inside his home, where his plates piled up beneath a kitchen faucet as dry as the shop model.

As the California drought approaches its fourth year, Seville’s well is one of hundreds of private water holes coughing up sand and spitting air in the Central Valley, according to Tulare County officials. As many as 100,000 more wells are at risk around the state if the rains don’t come by October.

From NASA Goddard, another water woe:

Phytoplankton Levels Dropping

Program notes:

New research led by NASA researchers has found populations of the microscopic marine plants, phytoplankton, have decreased in the Northern Hemisphere. An analysis using a NASA model in combination with ocean satellite data between 1998 and 2012, showed a 1% decrease of phytoplankton per year.

From the Guardian, all hat, no cattle in Old Blighty:

Richard Branson failed to deliver on $3bn climate change pledge

  • New book by Naomi Klein claims that Virgin founder gave less than a tenth of cash promised to develop low carbon fuel

Richard Branson has failed to deliver on his much-vaunted pledge to spend $3bn (£1.8bn) over a decade to develop a low carbon fuel.

Seven years into the pledge, Branson has paid out only a small fraction of the promised money – “well under $300m” – according to a new book by the writer and activist, Naomi Klein.

The British entrepreneur famously promised to divert a share of the profits from his Virgin airlines empire to find a cleaner fuel, after a 2006 private meeting with Al Gore.

From Chemical & Engineering News, chemical intransigence:

Syngenta Stands Firm On Neonicotinoids

  • Pesticides: Manufacturer seeks to expand uses of thiamethoxam as pressure against chemical mounts

Amid growing concerns and lawsuits linking neonicotinoid pesticides with bee declines, Syngenta is asking the Environmental Protection Agency to increase the allowable levels of the company’s controversial neonicotinoid product thiamethoxam on certain crops.

Syngenta is seeking the change so thiamethoxam can be used as a spray on the foliage of alfalfa, corn, barley, and wheat. Currently, the pesticide is approved for use only as a seed treatment on those crops. In explaining its request, the company says, “Mid- to late-season insect pests are not controlled by seed treatment.”

The environmental group Beyond Pesticides says the move would be a “step backward for pollinator health.” Syngenta’s request “comes at a time when researchers are discovering that even ‘near-infinitesimal’ exposure to this class of pesticides can result in harm to honeybees and other wild pollinators,” the group says.

From the Yomiuri Shimbun, global warming sets the stage for conflicts ahead:

U.N. to set new rules for N. Sea Route

The U.N. International Maritime Organization will create the first-ever mandatory safety and environmental regulations for the Northern Sea Route by revising relevant conventions, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The London-based organization decided to formulate international rules for maritime traffic because the number of ships using the route has surged, as global warming has been causing ice in the Arctic Ocean to melt. The new regulations are expected to take effect in 2016.

Currently, no international laws have been established for the Arctic Ocean like those in the Antarctic Treaty, which dictates that nations not make territorial sovereignty or other claims. There have also been concerns that coastal nations such as Russia may implement their own regulations.

The paper also illustrates the routes of the new Northwest Passage:

BLOG Seas

From the Contra Costa Times, hints of oily woes ahead:

Crude-by-rail: One federal inspector oversees all California’s railroad bridges, no state oversight

As concerns grow over aging rail infrastructure, earthquake readiness and a dramatic increase in crude oil shipments by train, state railroad regulators are scrambling to hire their first-ever railroad bridge inspectors — two of them.

Once they are hired, the California Public Utilities Commission plans to create a state railroad bridge inventory to determine which are most at risk. That’s right — neither the state nor federal government has a list of railroad bridges for California or the rest of the country. Until that happens, the safety of California’s thousands of railroad bridges — key conduits that carry people and hazardous materials over environmentally sensitive ecosystems and near urban areas — is left up to rail line owners and a single federal inspector who splits his time among 11 states.

“Two more inspectors is better than none, but it’s really a Band-Aid,” said Suma Peesapati, attorney with Earthjustice, an environmental group fighting the oil rail influx. “I think there should be no crude by rail over those bridges until there’s a comprehensive look at all of them.”

And from Global Times oil and water don’t mix:

Kunlun river polluted by oil pipe leaks

A river at the foot of Kunlun Mountain in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has become seriously polluted due to leaks from a diesel oil pipeline, which was broken by criminals who planned to steal oil, media reported Friday.

An unnamed government agency stated that broken valves on the oil pipeline in Qinghai Province, severed by prospective oil thieves, are the cause of the leaks, the Qinghai branch of China National Radio (CNR) reported on its Sina Weibo account Friday.

A total of 6 tons of oil had leaked, and 3 tons have been cleaned up, CNR reported, adding that the broken pipeline has also been repaired.

For our final item, China Daily hints of massive fracking ahead:

Experts: Potential of shale gas huge in China

China is one of the world’s largest markets for energy consumption, but some experts believe China can make significant headway in the natural gas sector by exploiting technology to tap its potentially huge reserves of shale gas.

China Energy 2020, an event that probed China’s place in the global energy market, was held Thursday at the Columbia Club of New York. The event was co-hosted by the China Energy Fund Committee, Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy and the National Committee on US-China Relations.

A report published by Columbia’s new energy policy center, titled Meeting China’s Shale Gas Goals, states that though China has “a huge shale gas resource,” production of shale gas in China is “just starting” to take shape and “will not be substantial” in the next few years.

Keiser Report: Global economic crash redux


Max and Stacey are back, this time with an episode focusing on the shaky world economy and the host of signs that we’re headed for yet another very bumpy ride, with African Americans certain to bear the brunt of it.

From RT:

Keiser Report: Mortgage Crisis 2.0

Program notes:

In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert discuss the impending second wave of the lastest mortgage crisis, this time due to Helocs (Home equity lines of credit) and HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program) interest rate resets. In the second half, Max interviews Aaron Krowne on the true state of the housing market across America – from home ownership rates to mortgage arrears.

Joseph Stiglitz: On the corporate looting machine


In conversation with Bill Moyers, the Nobel laureate economist deconstructs the parasitic nature of the postmodern neoliberally reconstructed politically empowered machine that is, shall we say, RoboCorp.

From Moyers & Company:

Joseph E. Stiglitz: Let’s Stop Subsidizing Tax Dodgers

Program notes:

A recent report by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz for the Roosevelt Institute suggests that paying our fair share of taxes and cracking down on corporate tax dodgers could be a cure for inequality and a faltering economy.

This week on Moyers & Company, Stiglitz tells Bill Moyers that Apple, Google, GE and a host of other Fortune 500 companies are creating what amounts to “an unlimited IRA for corporations.” The result? Vast amounts of lost revenue for our treasury and the exporting of much-needed jobs to other countries.

“I think we can use our tax system to create a better society, to be an expression of our true values,” Stiglitz says. “But if people don’t think that their tax system is fair, they’re not going to want to contribute. It’s going to be difficult to get them to pay. And, unfortunately, right now, our tax system is neither fair nor efficient.”

From BBC 2: ‘Super Rich: The Greed Game’


Broadcast, fittingly, on 1 April 2008 just as the bubble was bursting, this BBC 2 documentary, produced and directed by John O’Kane and narrated by Robert Peston, is a reminder that the modern “wealth creator” is rarely the inventor of some new product that makes our lives better but is rather an expert at manipulating the money game, in which creation of notional riches becomes the end rather than a mere byproduct of their efforts.

And at the center of the debacle were the central banksters, acting to ensure that confidence in currency, the prerequisite for green game players, was bolstered, despite all the screeching alarm bells.

And note that facilitating it all were the so-called “liberal” political parties, with Britain’s Labour Party and the Democrats in the U.S. greased the skids in the 1990s by deregulating financial markets and paving the way to an explosion of hedge fund wealth.

What is particularly galling is the rampant and unalloyed arrogance of the players to whom the rest of us, as one of them offhandedly remarks, are mere riffraff.

From BBC 2 via Underground Documentaries:

Super Rich: The Greed Game

Program note:

As the credit crunch bites and a global economic crisis threatens, Robert Peston reveals how the super-rich have made their fortunes, and the rest of us are picking up the bill.

From wiseguys to banksters, nasty payday loans


Wiseguys call it “the vig,” those extortionate rates guys with names like Vinny or Frankie Fists used to collect on loans you got from your friendly neighborhood loan shark.

But wiseguys have fallen on hard times because Uncle Sam has legitimated those muscular interest rates. And now you get ‘em from your friendly neighborhood corporate bankster.

Indeed, the guys who used to hand out in candy stores and dimly lit pool halls have been replaced by grinning hucksters who operate out of brightly lit storefronts that now outnumber Starbucks and Mickey Ds.

But fear not, John Oliver and Sarah Silverman are on the cash.

From HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Predatory Lending

Program notes:

Payday loans put a staggering amount of Americans in debt. They prey on the elderly and military service members. They’re awful, and nearly impossible to regulate. We’ve recruited Sarah Silverman to help spread the word about how to avoid falling into their clutches.

What a world! There’s now no separation between underworld and upperworld.

And now for a word from our sponsor. . .


From the Other 98‘s Koch-Blocked campaign:

Koch Bros: It’s the Evil Thing

Program note:

See this kick-ass video. Then join the campaign to push Koch money out and bring democracy back in.

Keiser Report: What recovery? And hold on!


All that talk of recovery is a fraud, says a leading British financial journalist, and Crash II is on it’s way.

While the meat of this latest edition of Max’s long-running RT show is in the second half interview with scribe Liam Halligan, in the opening minutes Max and Stacy Herbert do a deft debunking of the language of traders and economists to reveal the meaning of all those words so blithely bandied about.

But it’s Halligan who gets to the root of the recovery myth, and what he has to say will throw a sizable chill on your day.

From RT:

Keiser Report: Casino Gulag

Program notes:

In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert the nouns, like ‘poor,’ who want to be known as verbs, like ‘can’t make ends meet,’ and the thieving verbs (i.e., ‘defrauding investors,’ ‘manipulating markets’) who want to be called nouns, like ‘wealth creator.’ In the second half, Max interviews Liam Halligan about his recent Spectator cover story, “The Next Crash: We could be on the brink of another financial crisis.” They look at derivatives, leverage, GDP and more.