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Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
« Reply #14310 on: October 20, 2019, 10:23:57 AM »


The Statement Problem

Since the re-beginning of the environmental movement in the 1960s, the scale and scope of environmental ills have been systematically understated, suggesting both that the causal mechanisms weren’t entirely understood and that environmental problems have been growing. That way of proceeding, of identifying problems and solving their proximate causes, occasionally resolved individual problems without addressing their singular generating mechanism— industrial capitalism. Environmental woes are now past the point when solving multiple problems individually constitutes a workable path forward.

Regular assurances that technology will save us have been issued in the 1970s. Since then, environmental problems have aggregated to world-threatening scale. Granting the extraordinary regenerative capacity of nature and, to use a spatial metaphor, the localized cleverness of technology, it is this localized quality that is the problem. If I take a bite from an apple, whither the apple? Without knowing the size of the bite relative to the size of the apple, there is no way to know. Then apply the complexity of the world to the idea of the apple. Technology is the bite of the apple.

The logic of capitalist solutions ties to the logic of the generating mechanism. Through the latter, the world is broken into pieces and reconfigured using the framework of capitalist efficiency. This is how environmental problems were conceived for a while— as isolated problems to be solved by addressing constituent pieces. ‘External’ solutions like geoengineering to address climate change take this modular view from capitalist production and apply it to ‘the world.’ Rather than changing the configuration of the pieces creating the problem, change the world to accommodate it.

What is seen as a technical problem is, in fact, conceptual. This has been partially recognized with the shift from siloed sciences to environmental ‘systems’ analysis. But holism and systems are variants of the ontology that guides capitalism. They are complex taxonomic objects, but then so are their constituents. The problem is, and always will be, the reciprocal in the world— what isn’t known. Or to go deeper, what may be known in some sense— the feel of the breeze on one’s cheek, the cock of a lover’s arm in sleep, etc. but that isn’t known to be a constituent. Capitalism is the occasional aspect of life that has been put forward as its totality.

This comes to bear in a pragmatic sense through now accumulating environmental crises. The history of pesticides since Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring has been to serially replace one adverse side-effect with another. Separately, PFAS were known to cause adverse health effects by the early 1970s. Today, several thousand PFAS exist, each developed to ‘solve a (particular) problem’ while causing a host of others. Even within the ontological conceit that guides capitalism, these serial failures are only plausible under the terms provided until their toxic effects become known. In an earlier age, this was called a ‘long con.’

A temporal dynamic is set up through capitalist production. The choices are, 1) forego the activity that will cause an environmental problem, 2) engage in the activity without regard for the consequences, 3) reconfigure the activity with the hope of not causing the problem, or 4) reconfigure the world to accommodate the problem. Note: only 1) precludes capitalist production. 2), 3) and 4) are first and foremost types of violence toward the world, and second, profit opportunities for capitalists. 3) assumes that the logic that caused the problem will solve it. And 4) relies on the ‘broken window fallacy.’

Violence is as Violence Does

The very idea of ‘the environment’ as a separate and distinct entity is one with the ontological premises that drive capitalism. To the extent these are applicable, animals breath, drink water and eat just fine without any necessary ‘human’ knowledge of what they are doing. Put differently, ‘the world’ doesn’t come with necessary conceptual partitions. Foucault’s ‘Chinese encyclopedia,’ whatever its fealty to its subject, captures this idea wonderfully. His point, if I may (can): the contingency of taxonomy.

‘animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) suckling pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies’.

Capitalism is in this sense a meth-addled drone pilot sitting in an air conditioned trailer in bumblefuck Virginia with a pile of pornographic magazines in one hand and the button that slaughters a wedding party in Afghanistan in the other. The choices are, 1) don’t push the button, 2) push the button and slaughter the entire wedding party, 3) push the button, but only target the men, 4) OD on meth with plans to meet the wedding party in the afterlife. If anything, this metaphor is too generous.

A History of Violence

The American story of goodness and benevolence has always depended on a particular conception of time linked to selective history. The Indian Wars— genocide to clear the land for ‘real estate’ and resources, had just concluded, and the American eugenics movement of forced sterilization was just getting started, when Nazism was being conceived in Germany. Far from being driven by ideology, it was the economic success of American industrialization driven by the fruits of slavery and genocide that motivated Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich.

The conception of a sad and tragic, but necessary, past is used to place this history in a vaguely conceived ‘before.’ However, indigenous women were still being forcibly sterilized in 1976. The U.S. war in Southeast Asia, in which at least four million overwhelmingly innocent human beings were slaughtered, was just ending then. And despite the victories of the Civil Rights movement, the class position of American blacks remained little changed. This marked the start of the era of ‘freedom to’ capitalism— neoliberalism.

Following decades of smaller scale terror, brutality, rape and pillage, George W. Bush launched the U.S. War against Iraq that led to the deaths of at least one million Iraqis and lit the wider Middle East on fire. The bloodshed led several million Iraqis to flee their homes both internally, and to neighboring countries, including Syria. The U.S. has been ‘putting out fires’ it started in the region, including supporting a Saudi-led genocide in Yemen, arming a relentless proxy war in Syria and bombing Libya back to the seventeenth century, ever since. Most of the central architects of the Iraq War spent years or decades working in the oil and gas industry.

This can be understood through epochs, in geopolitical terms, as tragedy related to being human and / or as an amalgam particular to American history. Left out would be the economic motivations, the use and abuse of ‘the world’ as a means to ascend an economic pyramid to wealth, prestige and power. This isn’t to suggest that this is all that it is, history reduced to a single motivation. However, religious, political and cultural ‘freedom’ could in theory have been achieved without slavery, genocide and / or anyone getting rich.

By the late nineteenth century, the American forests had been cut to the ground. Resources had been mined. With ‘industrialization’ in full flower, rivers and lakes were used as open toilets for industrial waste. Jim Crow laws were in force, the later stages of ‘Indian removal’ were underway and industrial conglomerates were using their economic power to eliminate competition, consolidate market power and crush labor. ‘Freedom to’ remained the province of the oligarchs, newly minted industrialists and those outside of government reach.

By the 1960s the environmental consequences of American industrialization had reached their temporary limits. Rivers and lakes were catching fire from high concentrations of industrial pollutants. The ravages of strip mining for coal— along with the human toll that coal mining had on miners, was becoming known outside of Appalachia. The air in major cities was toxic and had been made nearly unbreathable by surrounding industries, vehicular traffic and the burning of waste. The Federal government responded to unrest from below, with Richard Nixon creating the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) shortly after the first Earth Day in 1970.

The ‘process’ of industrialization has been turned into a formula of sorts by economists. 1) produce industrial inputs and consumers goods (dirty production) for export, 2) use the wages and accumulated capital from doing so to shift to higher value-added production and domestic consumption and when this has been accomplished 3) let ‘newly industrializing’ countries take over dirty production. From London to New York to Beijing, two and one-half centuries of toxic air, undrinkable water and rolling public health crises. But then, the pollution moves on and everyone is rich, right?

Back to the conception of time at work for a moment: the idea of ‘progress’ in the economist’s history is an illusion in the sense that it implies a past, present and future to an idea— that of industrialism, that is totalizing. Capitalism is a mode of social organization. Labor is organized as parts of a whole as gears are to a machine. The reciprocal of capitalist social organization is ever-present within capitalist societies. America is littered with the carcasses of past capitalism. The abandoned factories, gas stations and industrial sites exist in the present as much as they did in the past. ‘Capitalism’ doesn’t see them— and live with them, but we do.

Industrial agriculture is a prime example of the capitalist concept of efficiency applied to break a process into constituent parts and then reconfigure it along industrial lines. Monoculture planting reconfigures the landscape and local ecosystems. Chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides reconfigure plants, ecosystems and the makeup of the soil. Formerly prime agricultural land is killed, denuded of the very life that made it good for growing crops for millennia. By the 1970s, farmers in Southeastern Pennsylvania were abandoning orchards, claiming improbably that the land had ‘gone sour’ when industrial methods were to blame.

Liberal economists admit to environmental destruction without granting it primacy. This is by design. Value Theory, the capitalist method of determining what something is worth, is tied to money and power. As the argument goes, something is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Two points: in this theory, without a price, there is no value. Second, given the skewed distribution of income and wealth, price means one thing to the rich and another to the poor. And in fact, the relation of price to wealth has its direct corollary in the relation of wealth to political power.

As accumulating environmental crises are in the process of demonstrating, nature exists regardless of whether or not it has a market price assigned to it. And to the extent that wealth can buy temporary respite from the consequences of environmental destruction, the people with the money to adequately price nature, were doing so actually possible, have less motivation than the people who don’t. And this leaves aside the class relations that have environmental destruction as a source of concentrated wealth and power.

An argument is making the rounds that a small number of corporations are responsible for the preponderance of greenhouse gas emissions. This formulation supports not-useful parsing of the problem in favor of a limited response. Climate change is a function of carbon emissions relative to nature’s capacity to absorb CO2— carbon sinks, which are being destroyed. Industrial agriculture both emits greenhouse gases (primarily methane) and destroys carbon sinks. And oceans are giant carbon sinks that are being destroyed. The problem is larger than ‘rogue corporations’ encompasses.

The problem is capitalism, not corporations per se. And the problem with capitalism is political and conceptual, not technological. Technological solutions to climate change 1) address the problem in isolation and 2) provide no indication that the unsolvable problem of unintended consequences is understood. The refocus on science and technology since the 1970s correlates 1:1 with the accumulation of environmental problems in multiple, related dimensions. You can argue that this is coincidence, not correlation, but the technological generating mechanisms— industrial production, industrial agriculture and industrial fishing, tell the true story.

The irony that liberal critics of past totalitarian regimes are about to face is that unless immediate and far reaching action is taken to resolve the environmental crises now unfolding, liberal capitalism might end up being the most murderous force in human history. Since the 1960s the U.S has had enough nuclear weapons to end human life on the planet. Through its promotion and practice of industrial capitalism, the U.S. now has primary responsibility for its consequences. If the powers that be don’t want to lead, then get out of the way.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/10/18/capitalism-and-the-violence-of-environmental-decline/
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The Centrism of Elizabeth Warren
« Reply #14311 on: October 20, 2019, 10:35:30 AM »
The mainstream media, and elite opinion, seem to be coming to a consensus on who’s going to be the next president of the United States and they seem to be breaking for Elizabeth Warren. Warren was given by far the most speaking time at CNN’s most recent debate and the overall treatment of her in the corporate media continues to be mostly favorable.

Of course a lot can change in a couple weeks, let alone a year, but the prevailing winds, as we’ve seen in the past, tend to blow in a certain direction-that’s why they call them prevailing. We experienced this very early in the process last time around with the coronation of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee.

The so-called cranks on the left warned everyone that this would be a grave error, but the powers-that-be seemed so self-assured that many went along with what many saw as a flawed candidate-too close to insiders, pro-intervention/war in a more isolationist time, unable to “connect” with average voters…

Well, as Ronald Reagan said, here we go again.

It seems that once again the anti left-wing coalition in the Democratic party wants to put forward a candidate that in plain sight, in many ways, is a representation of the old order that has been recently repudiated (think 2016).

To be fair, Elizabeth Warren is not singing the same tune as Hillary Clinton did. In fact, when sharing the debate stage with the neo-liberal likes of Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Joe Biden, Warren is positioned well to the left of most 2019 primary opponents. But her very recent conversion to left-wing populism can be explained in two words-Bernie Sanders.

Elizabeth Warren may not have set out to be the centrist candidate to defeat the left insurgency, but at this point that would be her historic role.

Many on the liberal, and even left wing side of the ledger, want to argue that Bernie and Elizabeth Warren are identical when it comes to policy and politics. This is patently false.

Both in style and in substance the differences are significant.

To begin with, Warren is a relative newcomer to the left-wing cause, describing herself as a Republican and a conservative into the 1990’s. Why would you hold this against her you might ask? Aren’t left-wing ideas minority ideas and aren’t we trying to win people over to them? Well yes, but imagine supporting the Reagan administration and Bushes as they murdered thousands in Central America, race baited “welfare Queens,” incarcerated millions, and rolled back much of the regulatory structures enacted by labor and the New Deal? This wasn’t some idealistic Young American for Freedom yearning for a purer land, but a full formed Harvard Professor trying to roll back the historic gains of the 20th century.

For instance, look at her plans and policy formulas that will tax the rich and deliver health care for all.

I guess they are okay but they seem to miss the fundamental issue that has motivated Bernie Sanders his entire life-who wields power and for whom? And when implemented, do they fundamentally alter our institutions?

Whether it’s her approach to healthcare, foreign policy, civil rights, monopoly pricing or most importantly labor, Warren’s policies fail to fundamentally alter power in the United States, Bernie’s do. The distinction is important here. A Warren presidency risks repeating the same mistakes made by Obama’s administration. Like Warren, Obama the law professor came to Washington with a plan. This plan was usually the market compromise solution, the likes of which were meant to attract enough Republican votes and appease the Democratic establishment’s corporate overlords. But coming to the table with the final offer, so to speak, was Obama’s demise.

Can one President deliver such a program as radical as Sanders’ on their own? In a word, no. That is why the Sanders’ campaign has stressed social movements from the beginning. And not only during the campaign, but throughout Bernie’s entire life he has been a participant and a leader working to fundamentally balance the scales of justice to the side of the people. His slogan, “Not Me, Us” points to an approach that knows there is a fight ahead, not one that is won by the best plan. The incoming endorsements by freshman congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar are a testament to how the old order is threatened by Sanders and why they lean towards Warren, or worse, Biden.

A final issue to consider as elite opinion coalesce around Warren-how will Warren motivate the Obama coalition to beat Donald Trump?

Unfortunately, it seems she will be as vulnerable to Trump’s critique of elites as Hillary was. As a wonkish Harvard professor, with lots of plans, and a weak case for First Nations identity, she represents the image of what many around the world despise-a privileged do-gooder who thinks thinks they know more than they do and is more of the same. For many voters who are motivated by authenticity, she will represent what they hate-someone that talks a good game but in the end represents the established order that has created the current malaise.

The primary is not over and Bernie’s massive third-quarter fundraising haul, high profile endorsements, and solid debate performance (despite the limited speaking time afforded by the panel) all remind us that he is still in the fight. He continues to gain young and working-class voters in an attempt to expand the electorate, targeting those who sat out in 2016, or voted for Trump in some cases.

The question between he and Warren, unfortunately, seems to be among college-educated and primarily white liberals. Knowing that they will be the deciders in this primary cycle should be unsettling. If Warren is the candidate, the left will surely coalesce around her. But as long as Bernie is in the race, not to mention with a real prospect of winning, settling for Warren is again coming to the table with the metaphorical final offer. It’s a losing strategy.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/10/18/the-centrism-of-elizabeth-warren/
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Robert De Niro: Trump should not be President. Period.
« Reply #14312 on: October 21, 2019, 09:53:56 AM »
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/VWW7mv15XWg&fs=1" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/VWW7mv15XWg&fs=1</a>
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US troops pelted with rotten fruit and stones as they leave Syria
« Reply #14313 on: October 21, 2019, 10:00:00 AM »
40 second video

People have thrown rotten fruit and stones at US troops as they left Syria in armed vehicles, with one man appearing to shout: ‘You liars!’

Donald Trump’s decision to suddenly withdraw US forces from Syria, which prompted an incursion by Turkish forces, has also created concern on what to do about accused Isis fighters and their families

https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2019/oct/21/us-troops-pelted-rotten-fruit-stones-leave-syria-video
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PG&E plans more power cutoffs, warns of severe weather this week
« Reply #14314 on: October 21, 2019, 10:06:29 AM »

PG&E crew work on power lines to repair damage caused by the Camp Fire in Paradise

PG&E Corp said it was considering more power cutoffs, which would be much smaller than the recent outage, as the bankrupt California power producer warned about severe weather risks later this week.

The company said it activated its emergency operations on Sunday night to keep an eye for a possible "strong and dry offshore" wind likely to hit 17 counties across northern and southern California later this week.

PG&E is considering implementing a public safety power shutoff (PSPS) and turning off power across portions of the counties, adding that as of late Sunday no PSPS had been called.

The potential power cutoffs will be "significantly smaller" than the Oct 9-12 PSPS event, the company said.

The primary phase of weather risk is expected to last about 18 to 24 hours from Wednesday evening through the middle of Thursday, according to the statement issued on Sunday.

PG&E's handling of recent power outages has been criticized for being conducted on too large a scale with insufficient communication with customers.

The company cut off electricity to more than 730,000 homes and workplaces in northern California earlier this month in a bid to reduce wildfire risks posed by extremely windy and dry weather.

The outage was the latest one in a string of many for which PG&E has received widespread public criticism. The utility filed for bankruptcy in January, citing potential civil liabilities in excess of $30 billion from major wildfires linked to its transmission wires and other equipment.

https://kfgo.com/news/articles/2019/oct/21/pge-plans-more-power-cutoffs-warns-of-severe-weather-this-week/949157/
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Corporate America's Second War With the Rule of Law
« Reply #14315 on: October 21, 2019, 10:10:54 AM »
Opinion: Uber, Facebook, and Google are increasingly behaving like the law-flouting financial empires of the 1920s. We know how that turned out.

Last month, after a fierce lobbying battle, California passed a law that will likely end up mandating that companies in the “gig economy,” such as Uber, treat gig workers as employees. After losing the battle to carve out an exception for Uber drivers, Uber’s general counsel, former Obama official Tony West, announced the company simply did not believe the law applied to it. Disrespect toward law is not a surprise at Uber. From the very beginning, leaders there have often seen laws as something to be tested, not followed; at one point in 2017, the company was under five separate criminal investigations.

West’s announcement reflects an important ethos at Uber, and in corporate America in general. On the verge of the 2020s, we’re reverting to the 1920s: The rule of law, if you are powerful in either business or government, increasingly seems optional.

Elite disrespect for law is prompting a political backlash, often framed as a “techlash.” The gig economy law exists largely to address Uber’s history of a two-tiered system of worker treatment. There are the drivers who do the work, and there are the executives who control strategy and structure. Earlier this year, Uber unilaterally slashed pay for its drivers in Los Angeles by 25 percent, prompting a strike. Meanwhile, former CEO Travis Kalanick—who was removed from a leadership role after overseeing a corporate culture of alleged sexual harassment within the company and an expansion strategy of disrespecting laws set by elected leaders—remains a billionaire. The new gig economy law passed by California’s legislature is the democratic response to this unfair situation.

West’s statement is remarkable for what it implies about democratic institutions. Uber lobbied against the law, will go to court to fight the law while refusing to apply it to its drivers, and, even after the law passed the assembly, is trying to negotiate with the governor. More importantly, West says that Uber and Lyft “have already transferred $60 million into a campaign committee account” to run a ballot initiative against the new California labor law. Uber and Lyft are imposing a “money veto” over the will of elected leaders.

Silicon Valley leaders choosing to dispute the law is not unusual. Both Google and Facebook signed consent decrees with the Federal Trade Commission in 2011 over violations of privacy. Facebook, aside from its $5 billion fine from the FTC, was also charged with misleading European regulators during its purchase of WhatsApp, receiving a modest fine from the Europeans as well. Enforcers are investigating the company to see if its acquisitions of competitors like Instagram and WhatsApp over the past decade were legal. Google, no slouch to controversy, just paid a $170 million fine over alleged manipulation and tracking of children.

Silicon Valley giants are the pacesetters of society. When Uber can threaten legislatures, or Facebook or Google are fined without any consequence to their stock prices or business models, it threatens the legitimacy of our democracy. This is a crisis. It is not, however, the first time America has faced such a crisis.

In the 1920s technologically advanced financial empires—Rockefeller, JP Morgan, Dupont, and Mellon—dominated American business and politics. These were the high tech darlings of their day; Mellon’s Alcoa monopoly produced aluminum, key to the then-fantastical aerospace industry. Morgan bankers organized the electricity industry, which, like Uber or Google, seemed to most people like magic.

In some ways, elite disrespect for reasonable ethical norms was worse then. The third-richest man in the country, Andrew Mellon, wasn’t just a baron of industry, he also served as secretary of the Treasury from 1921 to 1932, under Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover. (Citizens joked that three presidents served under him.) In that role, he handed out tax cuts to himself and used his position to seemingly leverage the Colombian president into giving his own oil company, Gulf Oil, lucrative drilling concessions.

Americans responded to this two-tiered system of justice with a series of popular protests and elections. In 1932, a former cotton farmer named Wright Patman filed articles of impeachment against Mellon, backed by tens of thousands of protesters in Washington, DC, and his close ally, Congressman Fiorello LaGuardia. Even before Franklin Roosevelt took office, the Senate embarrassed oligarchs through high-profile hearings and investigations known as the Pecora Commission. Roosevelt used evidence from these hearings to bring tax evasion suits against high-profile bankers like Thomas Lamont of JP Morgan and Charles Mitchell of Citibank (then National City). Mellon faced a civil trial for tax avoidance. FDR did this as he helped to patch the banking system back together, restoring Americans’ confidence that they could in fact govern themselves.
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The old order fought back. Hoover, fearing disorder, had the protesters in 1932 teargassed and their protest encampments destroyed by the Army. When the government tried to impose the law on this small group of powerful actors, what FDR called the “informal economic government of the United States,” they at first refused. In the middle of the 1930s, the head of the American Bankers Association called on bankers to stop funding the government until it ended the New Deal. The A&P supermarket chain, the first company with a billion dollars in revenue and the Amazon of its day, fought the Robinson-Patman Act, a law passed in 1936 to stop the corporation and other chain stores from engaging in predatory practices against its rivals.

The courts, largely run by conservative old men, struck down 1,600 injunctions and rules in the summer of 1935 alone. Lamont, Mitchell, and Mellon escaped criminal charges, but the government continued pursuing civil remedies. Financiers poured money into advocacy groups. Patman likened them to the KKK, calling them “hooded organizations.” “They only believe in law and order,” he said, “if they write the law and give the order.”

The public validated these left-wing populists with three smashing elections, in 1932, 1934, and 1936. Just before the 1936 election, Roosevelt said that “the forces of selfishness and of lust for power” would soon meet their match, and “their master.”

By the 1950s, New Dealers had been able to impose some semblance of the rule of law in corporate America, and business leaders built great companies organized around creating better products and services. The likes of Google, Facebook, and Uber, however, are partly the result of the breakdown of this legal environment.

As I trace in my book Goliath, the New Deal system lasted until the 1970s, when a series of debates took place in corporate America and Congress over inflation, oil shocks, and breakdowns among corporations such as the train giant Penn Central—and the bankruptcy of New York City itself. Both the left and the right, for different reasons, agreed to relax rules on concentrated capital.

On the verge of the 2020s, we’re reverting to the 1920s: The rule of law, if you are powerful in either business or government, increasingly seems optional.

Starting in the early Reagan era, enforcers changed enforcement around antitrust laws and stopped aggressively enforcing white-collar-crime laws. From Michael Milken’s junk bond scandals to the savings and loan scandals to Microsoft’s predatory schemes around its operating system products, misbehavior in business soon paid well. At first much of the behavior, like that of Milken, was frowned upon. Milken and Enron executives, for instance, went to jail, and Microsoft went to trial for monopolization. But these would be the last great hurrahs for the rule of law. As Inside Job documentarian Charles Ferguson noted, between the late 1990s and early 2000s “all the rules just went away.”

This first became apparent when executives at almost 200 of the largest companies in America got unusually large stock option grants to take advantage of the post-9/11 stock market swoon. In 2004, the FBI warned Congress of a possible mortgage fraud “epidemic,” which of course went unaddressed until the 2008 financial crisis, when, again, no one in a powerful position was punished. No one was jailed for the BP oil spill or the Volkswagen pollution fraud scandal. By the time Wells Fargo was caught for systemic fraud, many Americans simply yawned at the very idea of justice for the powerful.

This trend has continued in the Trump era. Facebook’s stock went up significantly after the FTC’s action against the company for privacy violations become publicly known. The Sackler family, opioid billionaires, are reportedly set to announce a settlement with no admission of wrongdoing. As British writer Gilbert K. Chesterton once put it, "The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all."

In Washington, DC, it’s easy to see, with petty corruption of favor-seekers staying at the Trump hotel or golf course. But throughout C suites, for decades, self-dealing has been the route to riches. The gap between the rule of law as applied to the powerful and the rest of us widened long before Uber emerged. Uber, in other words, was simply adhering to norms set decades ago.
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The people, however, are fed up. We call it the techlash, but it is really a long-simmering anger at lawlessness among political and commercial elites. And that era will likely soon be over.

Last month, 50 state attorneys general announced an investigation into Google for monopolizing ad markets. California has passed a potentially groundbreaking privacy law regulating use of data by Big Tech companies to complement the law on the gig economy. New York Attorney General Tish James is investigating Facebook. Political leaders are proposing ending student debt and going after a bloated health care sector, as well as breaking up Big Tech and Big Ag giants. Big Tech is increasingly at the center of the 2020 election.

The battle, now joined, will be fierce. Public servants can expect bitter fights and threats, lies and payoffs and walls to justice established by ideologically blinkered judges. But fundamentally, the rule of law is a precious political achievement of liberal democracy. It doesn’t just happen. We the people, along with elected public servants, have to make it happen. This is our test. The road ahead will be rough, but we may yet regain our ability to act as a free people.

https://www.wired.com/story/corporate-americas-second-war-with-the-rule-of-law/
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Chile's Pinera extends state of emergency, says 'we are at war'
« Reply #14316 on: October 21, 2019, 10:15:48 AM »
Chile’s government will extend a state of emergency to cities in its north and south, President Sebastian Pinera said late on Sunday, after at least seven people were killed amid violent clashes and arson attacks over the weekend.

“We are at war against a powerful enemy, who is willing to use violence without any limits,” Pinera said in a late-night televised statement at army headquarters in Santiago.

He confirmed the state of emergency he declared for Santiago on Saturday night, which brought the military onto the streets, would be extended to the north and south of the capital.

Protests led by students began two weeks ago over fare hikes on public transport.

Pinera said Santiago´s metro and bus system would operate a partial service on Monday, along with hospitals and some schools and crèches, and appealed for Chileans to band together and help their neighbors to get on with their lives and remain safe.

“Tomorrow we will have a difficult day,” he said. “We are very aware that (the perpetrators of riots) have a degree of organization, logistics, typical of a criminal organization,” he said.

“Today is not the time for ambiguities. I call on all my compatriots to unite in this battle against violence and delinquency,” he said.

Interior Minister Andres Chadwick told news conference in Santiago earlier on Sunday night that the decision to extend the emergency measure came amid an “escalation of violence and vandalism.”

He cited 70 “serious incidents of violence” on Sunday, including the looting of 40 supermarkets and other businesses. Chadwick said military and police numbers were at 10,500 in Santiago and would be reinforced where necessary.

Santiago and other Chilean cities have been engulfed by several days of riots, along with peaceful protests, after the increase in public transport costs. The violence prompted Pinera to reverse the move and declare a state of emergency.

Chadwick said seven people had been killed in incidents related to the protests, without giving further details.

He said the state of emergency applied in Santiago early on Saturday would be rolled out to Antofagasta, Valparaiso, Valdivia, Chillan, Talca, Temuco and Punta Arenas.

Slideshow 28 images

There was transport deadlock in Santiago and chaos at the international airport on Sunday, where flights into and out of the capital were suspended or canceled because crew members and airport staff were unable to get to work, the city’s governor said.

Prosecutors said 1,462 people had been charged by mid-afternoon on Sunday in connection with that day’s protests, 614 of them in Santiago, That followed 179 arrests in Santiago on Saturday.

The military authorities mandated by Pinera with reestablishing order in Santiago declared on Sunday another night-time curfew in the capital as the government struggled to contain violent protests, looting and arson.

The general in charge of security in Santiago announced the curfew would begin at 7 p.m. (2200 GMT) on Sunday and end at 6 a.m. on Monday (0900 GMT).

However, several large demonstrations continued past the mandated curfew hour, witnesses and Chilean media reported.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-chile-protests/chiles-pinera-extends-state-of-emergency-says-we-are-at-war-idUSKBN1WZ0EP?utm_source=reddit.com
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Amazon is shipping expired food, from baby formula to old beef jerky...
« Reply #14317 on: October 21, 2019, 10:23:54 AM »
scaring consumers and putting big brands at risk.

Amazon’s sprawling marketplace, consisting of millions of third-party sellers, has become a go-to site for many grocery shoppers, especially since the company’s acquisition of Whole Foods over two years ago.

But an increasing number of consumers are finding that, just as the broader Amazon Marketplace has a major issue with counterfeits and unsafe products, the grocery section is littered with similarly problematic items in the form of expired foods.

From baby formula and coffee creamer to beef jerky and granola bars, items are arriving spoiled and well past their sell-by date, Amazon customers say. Interviews with brands, consumers, third-party sellers and consultants all point to loopholes in Amazon’s technology and logistics system that allow for expired items to proliferate with little to no accountability. Consumer safety advocates worry that as the marketplace grows, the problem will only get worse.

Within Amazon’s $900 billion empire, food sellers are among the more than 2.5 million businesses using the site for distribution, a group that now accounts for 58% of the company’s total merchandise sold. Third-party merchants sell products, new and used, from all over the world that they purchase from official distributors, flea markets and clearance aisles.

CNBC scanned the site’s Grocery & Gourmet category, finding customer complaints about expired hot sauce, beef jerky, granola bars, baby formula and baby food, as well as six-month-old Goldfish crackers and a 360-pack of coffee creamer that arrived with a “rancid smell.” A data analytics firm that specializes in the Amazon Marketplace recently analyzed the site’s 100 best-selling food products for CNBC and found that at least 40% of sellers had more than five customer complaints about expired goods.

Closeout sales and liquidation warehouses can be a hotbed for expired food that ends up on Amazon. In 2017, when Starbucks announced it was shuttering its Teavana locations, many sellers purchased discounted tea-related merchandise from the stores and resold it on Amazon. Today, you can find Teavana products such as rock sugar and fruit teas listed on Amazon even though they were discontinued two years ago.

For one Teavana listing, the top customer review says the tea had a “terrible chemical smell” possibly from spoiled fruit. The listing also clearly shows a “not for resale label,” which is alarming, said Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, or CSPI, a consumer advocacy group.

“At least someone in the supply chain considered these not suitable to be offered for consumption,” Sorscher said.


A listing for Teavana tea that shows ‘Not for resale’ on the package.

An Amazon seller, who has sold sugar, spices and other food products on the site for the past nine years, told CNBC that Amazon didn’t respond to numerous inquiries about the out-of-date Teavana products.

Representatives from Nestle, which owns the rights to sell Starbucks coffee and tea, including Teavana, declined to comment. An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC that products sold on the site, including those marked not for resale, must comply with laws and Amazon policies. Third-party sellers are required to provide Amazon with an expiration date if they’re selling an item meant for consumption and must guarantee the item has a remaining shelf life of 90 days.

Whether that Amazon policy is effective is a big question, says food-safety experts.

“There’s no indication of how well that policy is enforced,” said Thomas Gremillion, director of food policy at advocacy group Consumer Federation of America. “Some sellers could be making a business decision to sell expired products and let Amazon catch some of it and toss it out and persist.”
‘Stale’ Doritos

One third-party listing for Hot & Spicy Doritos, a best-seller in Amazon’s chips category and a featured product, has numerous reviews saying the chips were “stale” and set to expire in a matter of days. Popular listings for Fiji water, including one featured by Amazon, show reviews with users claiming they received recycled Fiji bottles filled up with tap water.


An example of a customer complaint about expired coffee creamer.


An example of expired beef jerky sold on Amazon.

Angie Atkinson of St. Louis was surprised in February when she received a box of Land O’ Lakes Half & Half creamers purchased on Amazon, and opened it to find that every carton was curdled. She looked at the use-by date and was “horrified” when she saw they were already expired.

“It didn’t occur to me that you could even sell something that was expired,” Atkinson said in an interview. “If I had bought it the first time and it was like that, I never would have bought it at all.”

By the time Andrea Wilson realized her Hostess brownies were more than a year old, she had already eaten one. She contacted Amazon about the order. The issue wasn’t resolved until she tweeted at the company. She got her full refund but said she’s done buying food on Amazon.

“I’m leery now,” said Wilson, who lives in the Washington, D.C., area. “It wasn’t just a month, it was a whole year, which I thought was pretty extreme.”

After CNBC brought a number of expired food products to Amazon’s attention, the company said it took corrective action to make sure the listings were in line with its standards. Amazon said they were isolated incidents that didn’t require enforcement action against the sellers or removal of any products.

Many of the identified products continue to receive complaints that they’re expired, with some showing negative reviews posted as recently as this week.
An imperfect process

Amazon’s spokesperson said the company uses a combination of humans and artificial intelligence to monitor the 22 million-plus pieces of customer feedback received weekly for product quality and safety concerns. Amazon may remove products or suspend an account if the seller violates its policies.

“We work hard to make sure customers receive high-quality products when they order from our store,” the spokesperson said. “We have robust processes in place to ensure customers receive products with sufficient shelf life.

“If customers have concerns about items they’ve purchased, we encourage them to contact our Customer Service directly and work with us so we can investigate and take appropriate action,” the spokesperson added.

Regulators and lawmakers are paying closer attention to Amazon’s every move now as part of a broader review of Big Tech. Specific to consumer safety, three Democratic senators recently sent a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos after a Wall Street Journal report found thousands of unsafe or banned products on the site.

In response to the request, Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, said that “bad actors are constantly attempting to evade our automatic tools and review procedures.”

Amazon says it feeds data from suspended listings and accounts into its AI systems so they can get better at detection and at blocking suspicious activity. Human moderators can also trigger an investigation if they receive feedback suggesting a product is unsafe. In the food category, Amazon uses a database called “Heartbeat” to monitor customer commentary through reviews, phone calls, emails and seller feedback for safety issues.

Even with all these tools, several consultants who advise sellers say Amazon needs to rely on more than just customer complaints and refunds to catch expired foods. They argue that Amazon needs to devise new strategies to police the marketplace more effectively and improve detection of questionable products, while strictly enforcing its policies when third-party sellers break the rules.

Sorscher of CSPI says Amazon’s technology is clearly coming up short.

“Expiration dates are a red flag for what else is harder to see,” she said. “If you can’t do something as basic as check an expiration date, then what else are you missing?”

The analysis that data firm 3PM performed for CNBC on best-selling food products and customer complaints fits with what the firm has seen in other categories.

Jon Derkits, 3PM’s chief product officer, worked at Amazon until June, most recently overseeing the electronics section of the third-party marketplace in Canada. He said that in his experience, the company was working to find solutions to food-related issues but there remained big gaps in its inability to prevent the shipment of expired or near expired products.

“They hadn’t yet earned my trust, as either an Amazon employee or a customer, that I would be safe purchasing a consumable or expiration-dated product from a third-party seller,” Derkits said.

Food sellers also suffer from a more general problem on Amazon, which is that consumers generally don’t know if they’re buying from a big seller, small seller or from Amazon itself. Two sellers — one with a perfectly fine item and another with expired products — could be on the same listing competing for the so-called buy box.

When shoppers receive expired products from third-party sellers, they often leave negative reviews or seller ratings for the manufacturer, who has nothing to do with the sale. Many food manufacturers feel they’re at a loss when it comes to controlling third-party sales of their products on Amazon, said Michael Neuwirth, a spokesman for French food group Danone.

“You have two damaged parties in this, one of which is the purchaser, who thinks they’re getting the best quality product,” Neuwirth said. “Injured party two is the maker of that product whose brand and reputation are now called into question out of no act or fault of their own and, in fact, in a way they can’t prevent it.”

Yet another snag in the review system is that Amazon will cancel certain negative seller reviews if the product delivered was fulfilled by Amazon, meaning that it was shipped from one of the company’s warehouses. For example, if a bottle of shampoo sent from an Amazon fulfillment center showed up with a leak, Amazon would cancel the bad review saying, “This item was fulfilled by Amazon, and we take responsibility for this fulfillment experience.”

Thus, some complaints about expired foods are being canceled even if they’re legitimate, and nobody is being held accountable for the mishap. Using software provided by 3PM, CNBC searched for seller feedback containing the word “expired” across a sample of a dozen popular vendors and found that each of these vendors had at least five reviews that were canceled by Amazon.

One example of a canceled review that 3PM shared with CNBC reads, “Expired product sent, and return option not available. Salsa was 4 months past expiration date (exp Aug2018, shipped Dec2018).”
Taking back control

At big companies, selling on Amazon and policing listings is such a complex job that teams of people are hired to work on it.

John Fandl, head of graphics at Southwest Specialty Foods, has expanded his duties beyond designing the packaging for the company’s products. With an increasing number of merchants selling Southwest’s hot sauces, popcorn, peanuts and other goods, customer complaints have been on the rise.

Fandl said that at one point there were more than 30 resellers for each of the company’s 200-plus listings, creating a chaotic, unpredictable experience. Southwest has considered hiring more employees to monitor third-party sellers, he said.

“We want to make sure that when you’re shopping for our product, it’s not something that will hurt you,” Fandl said.

Health care giant Abbott Laboratories, which manufactures consumer products like Similac baby formula and Pedialyte, is dedicating more resources to monitoring its supply chain to spot fraudulent or expired listings on Amazon. After encountering problems with expired Similac being sold by some sellers, Abbott has recommended that Amazon shoppers only buy products that are shipped and sold by the company directly.

Abbott also performs test buys on potentially expired or knockoff products, which can help convince Amazon to remove the listing.

“After manufacturing, we make every effort to ensure that our products reach our customers through approved, regulated channels,” the company told CNBC in a statement. “Our global security team works diligently to prevent sale by third-party sellers including working closely with all distribution partners, including Amazon.com, to identify and request removal of these sellers.”

More than two years after spending $13.7 billion on upscale grocery chain Whole Foods, Amazon is a major player in the grocery business. But on its core e-commerce site, the company risks losing the trust of consumers if it can’t clean up its listings.

Those who pay the closest attention to the marketplace are skeptical of Amazon’s ability to fix this particular mess.

“They’ve chosen to set up a business model where they don’t take responsibility for the food that they sell,” said Sorscher. “Traditional grocery stores have a lot of products, but they don’t put it on the shelf if it’s not safe.”

Here’s Amazon’s statement in full:

“We work hard to make sure customers receive high quality products when they order from our store. We require all selling partners to abide by strict product quality guidelines and we use a combination of artificial intelligence and manual processes to monitor for product quality and safety concerns in our store. We have robust processes in place to ensure customers receive products with sufficient shelf life. We also monitor more than 22 million pieces of customer feedback we receive weekly to detect concerns including where a product is expired or has product quality issues even if not expired, and when we find an issue, we work quickly to investigate, take appropriate action and improve our systems. While we may remove a product from sale and take appropriate action against the seller, we preserve all authentic reviews that meet our community guidelines. If customers have concerns about items they’ve purchased, we encourage them to contact our Customer Service directly and work with us so we can investigate and take appropriate action. Our customer service teams are empowered to instantly stop sales of an item if required. With the A-to-z Guarantee, customers are always protected whether they make a purchase from Amazon or a third-party seller.”

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/20/amazon-is-shipping-expired-baby-formula-and-other-out-of-date-foods.html
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Millionaires now hold nearly half of the world’s wealth
« Reply #14318 on: October 21, 2019, 01:25:23 PM »
The number of millionaires in the world grew to nearly 47 million over the past year, and they now own close to half of the world’s wealth, according to a new study.

Despite the trade wars, slowing global growth and the volatile stock markets, the total number of millionaires in the world increased by 1.1 million from the middle of 2018 to the middle of 2019, according to the Global Wealth Report from Credit Suisse. The world’s 46.8 million millionaires are now worth a combined $158.3 trillion – or 44% of the world’s total wealth.

The United States still leads the world in total number of millionaires and growth. The U.S. added 675,000 new millionaires over the past year, bringing its total to 18.6 million. Japan added 187,000 to bring its total to just more than 3 million. China, whose economy is slowing due in part to the trade tensions, still added 158,000 new millionaires, bringing its total to 4.5 million.

While the U.S. towers over China with millionaires, the report said China now leads the U.S. for the first time in the number of “global wealthy,” defined as those in the top 10% of wealth in the world.

The concentration of wealth at the top has become a key topic in the Democratic primaries. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have both proposed wealth taxes as they campaign for president. Both of their proposals would impose a tax on accumulated assets and savings rather than just income. The bottom half of the world’s population account for less than 1% of global wealth, according to the report. The bottom 90% of the world’s adult population – about 4.5 billion adults – account for 18% of global wealth.

Yet inequality may be on the decline. The top 1% controlled about 47% of global wealth in 2000 compared with 45% in 2019. The reason: the wealth of the global middle class is rising. The number of people in the world worth between $10,000 and $100,000 has seen the biggest growth of any wealth segment, tripling since 2000 to 1.7 billion people.

The report said inequality has declined for the past three years and is expected to continue its downward trend as more of the world’s lower-middle class and middle class gain ground.

“While it is too early to say that wealth inequality is now in a downward phase,” the report said, “the prevailing evidence suggests that 2016 may have been the peak for the foreseeable future.

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/21/millionaires-now-hold-nearly-half-of-the-worlds-wealth.html

Australia was the biggest loser of millionaires, down by 124,000 to 1.2 million, but much of that decline was due to exchange rates, since millionaires are measured in U.S. dollars.

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Surging SUV demand is canceling out the environmental benefit from electric cars
« Reply #14319 on: October 21, 2019, 01:29:26 PM »
f worldwide demand for SUVs continues to grow at its current pace, the carbon emissions from these larger vehicles will outweigh the benefits from electric vehicles, a new study from the International Energy Agency found.

The number of SUVs on the road around the world grew from 35 million in 2010 to over 200 million last year, representing 60% of the increase in the global car fleet over the 8-year period.



The surge in popularity is having a big impact on the environment since SUVs are less fuel-efficient than their smaller counterparts.

From 2010 - 2018, SUVs were the second-largest contributor to the global increase in carbon emissions behind the power sector, the study found. This places SUVs ahead of trucks and aviation in terms of carbon footprint. The study also found that 100% of the increase in demand for oil for passenger cars was driven by the popularity of larger vehicles.

“If consumers’ appetite for SUVs continues to grow at a similar pace seen in the last decade, SUVs would add nearly 2 million barrels a day in global oil demand by 2040, offsetting the savings from nearly 150 million electric cars,” the researchers found.

48% of car sales in the United States last year were SUVs, which was the highest percentage worldwide, but other countries are catching up. Large cars can be seen as a status symbol, and sales are rising in countries like China and India where the middle class is growing.

The shift towards bigger, less fuel-efficient cars is somewhat at odds with the auto market generally, where heavy R&D spending is fueling developments in energy-efficient vehicles.

Given the advances in electric vehicles, as well as the knowledge that SUVs are less fuel-efficient, the researchers called the growing number of larger cars and the impact on global emissions “nothing short of surprising.”

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/17/surging-suv-demand-is-canceling-out-the-environmental-benefit-from-electric-cars.html
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Climate crisis will not be discussed at G7 next year, says Trump official
« Reply #14320 on: October 21, 2019, 01:43:33 PM »
The climate crisis will not be formally discussed at the G7 summit in June next year, Donald Trump’s acting White House chief of staff said on Thursday.

“Climate change will not be on the agenda,” Mick Mulvaney told reporters, without elaborating.

Mulvaney announced that the 2020 summit of seven of the world’s most powerful industrialised countries will take place at the National Doral Miami, one of the president’s golf resorts in Florida, despite widespread ethics concerns and an ongoing impeachment inquiry into Trump’s conduct.

From weakening regulation on vehicle emissions to blocking warnings about how coastal parks could flood and withdrawing funding for conservation programs, the Trump administration is accused of consistently ignoring, burying and undermining climate science.

The White House’s stance is likely to be widely criticized, possibly even by members of the president’s own party. Florida is on the frontline of the climate crisis, facing ever stronger hurricanes and rising sea levels. While the state’s elected leaders had long denied climate science, they have recently started to change their tune. In August, the Republican senator Marco Rubio wrote that “climate change is a real problem”.

The state’s recently elected Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, has hired the ex-hostage negotiator Dr Julia Nesheiwat as the state’s first chief resilience officer in charge of preparing Florida “for the environmental, physical and economic impacts of climate change, especially sea-level rise”.

Gabriel Filippelli, a climate scientist who advised the state department under the Obama administration, criticized the administration for ignoring the crisis.

“It means that irony is definitely NOT on the agenda!” Filippelli said on Twitter, referring to the decision to ignore the source of rising temperatures and sea-level rise at an international meeting outside of one of the country’s most climate-vulnerable cities.

Paul Bledsoe, a climate adviser to Bill Clinton, said Trump won’t be able to prevent other countries from discussing the crisis anyway.

“The other nations will no doubt bring up climate change in both an economic and security context,” Bledsoe said. “The issue is going to come up frequently because it is increasingly a matter of public safety, national security and the economic costs of impacts.”

But even if climate were on the agenda, Bledsoe said: “It’s not like under Trump there were going to be any big breakthroughs anyway.”

“It’s deeply ironic that the US state most vulnerable immediately to climate change impacts will host a meeting at which global leaders will be forced by the US to largely ignore the topic,” Bledsoe added.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/17/g7-summit-2020-trump-climate-crisis
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Why the Next Mass Extinction Could Dethrone Humans From the Top of the Food Chain
« Reply #14321 on: October 21, 2019, 02:12:52 PM »


    “Life would never have evolved on Earth without death.”

Life and death are part of the same cycle establishing the core principles of the food chain.

The food chain is the one and only, omnipotent constitution for all living organisms on the planet. We all play by its rules, no cheating available.

    - “Are we here to talk about food?”

    - “We are here to discuss the connection between food, life, and death.”

We know what food is, and we know what life is, but we don’t know anything about death. Noone came back from the dead to tell a story — a real story. That’s why we had to make up stories about some people coming back from the dead. There are many religious books telling such stories.

Our minds acts like computers — they solve problems. Some problems, like walking and talking, are easy — we don’t spend much computing power. Other problems are more complicated, like a math problem in school, or what dress to wear for a dinner party. There is also another level or problems— those we cannot fully comprehend, therefore we cannot really solve. One such problem is what happens to us when we die. At least in terms of our souls. We just don’t know yet.

Since we don’t know the answer to what happens to us (to our souls) after we die, our minds have created a workaround solution. We fabricate fictional stories, out of thin air. Some of us are so good at making up mindblowing fictional stories that we deceive large masses of other people, and creating religions. Religions are mindblowing stories that mistify others to believe in them. It’s like a straw we catch when drowning - an easy way out. Same with religions — they are an easy way out of the mind-limbo-state.



    - “OK, so do we know anything about death, or is it all fiction?”

    - “We actually know stuff, that is scientifically proven.”

We may know nothing about death in terms of the soul, but we know plenty in terms of biology and chemistry. Each living organism on Earth — a plant, animal, or single-cell organism, will die at some point, leaving biological residue behind. What happens is that this residue transforms into nutrition (food) for other species on our planet, thus giving life. A tiny dead bug could release enough nitrogen from its decaying body that would make a nutritious snack for a neighbouring tree. Nothing is lost, nothing is wasted. It’s the recycle process of Mother Nature and we can all learn from it.



    - “The biological material of one dead being is serving as dinner for another. We’ve studied this in college, what else is there?”

    - “Sit tight, it gets way more interesting when death becomes a mass death event, or also called mass extinction.”

There have been five mass extinction events in our planet’s history. The worst one wiped out 96 percent of marine species and 70 percent of land species. It surely ranks as the number one annihilation event of our planet.

According to mass media, the UN, the WEF, and all the environmental organizations, we are now on the brink of the Sixth mass extinction event.

The last one wiped out all the dinos, and this one is supposed to wipe us out — the humans, along with many other species.

We are all very excited about this event because it not only concerns our own life, but it also endangers the survival of our future generations and our species as a whole.

We won’t discuss the cause of this coming sixth mass extinction. Let’s examine the possible outcomes.

According to scientific and anthropologic studies, the mass extinction of the dinosaurs was the main reason humans have climbed to the top of the food chain. During the age of the dinosaurs, humans were not capable of fighting them, so they were forced to live in constant danger for their lives. This permanent state of our ancestors in “fight or flight” mode, deprived them of any further development as species.

We see this effect even nowdays. When emotionally upset (stressed), we cannot remember, attend, learn, or make decisions clearly. In other words, “Stress makes people stupid.” No wonder our brains entered a rapid development period right after those major villains — the dinosaurs disappeared.

Death not only gives life, but it also triggers further evolution.

There will be a sixth mass extinction event, that’s for sure. Whether it will be soon and whether greenhouse gasses will trigger it, we don’t know. However, we can be sure, that this mass extinction event will trigger another rapid evolution period, the outcome of which could bring another species at the top of the food chain. Interesting to see which one it will be.

https://medium.com/predict/why-the-next-mass-extinction-could-dethrone-humans-from-the-top-of-the-food-pyramid-e764ddc8db72
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U.S. Supreme Court overturns Michigan gerrymandering ruling
« Reply #14322 on: October 21, 2019, 06:56:55 PM »
The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned a lower court’s ruling that called for the redrawing of several Michigan Congressional and legislative districts ahead of the 2020 election.

On Monday, the court vacated an order from U.S. Circuit Judges Eric Clay and Denise Hood and U.S. District Judge Gordon Quist that found the state’s last redistricting process gave an unfair advantage to Republicans and violated voters’ Constitutional rights, and ruled lawmakers must redraw the districts, otherwise the court would do it for them. The ruling also ordered special state Senate elections in 2020.



https://www.mlive.com/public-interest/2019/10/us-supreme-court-overturns-michigan-gerrymandering-ruling.html?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=grandrapidspress_sf
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U.S. mulls leaving some troops in Syria to guard oil: Pentagon
« Reply #14323 on: October 21, 2019, 07:04:20 PM »
DOHUK, Iraq/KABUL (Reuters) - The Pentagon is considering keeping some U.S. troops near oilfields in northeastern Syria alongside Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to help deny oil to Islamic State militants, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday.

U.S. troops are crossing into Iraq as part of a broader withdrawal from Syria ordered by President Donald Trump, a decision that allowed Turkey to launch an offensive against the SDF which for years was a U.S. ally battling Islamic State.

More than 100 vehicles crossed the border into Iraq early on Monday from the northeast tip of Syria, where Turkey agreed to pause its offensive for five days under a deal with Washington.

The truce expires late on Tuesday, just after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is set to discuss next steps in the region at a meeting in Russia with President Vladimir Putin.

Speaking to reporters during a trip to Afghanistan, Esper said that, while the U.S. withdrawal was under way, some troops were still with partner forces near oilfields and there had been discussions about keeping some of them there.

He said that was one option and no decision had been made “with regard to numbers or anything like that”. The Pentagon’s job was to look at different options, he added.

“We presently have troops in a couple of cities that (are)located right near that area,” Esper said. “The purpose is to deny access, specifically revenue to ISIS (Islamic State) and any other groups that may want to seek that revenue to enable their own malign activities.”

Trump’s shift has opened a new chapter in Syria’s more than eight-year war and prompted a rush by Turkey and by the Damascus government and its ally Russia to fill the vacuum left by the Americans.

Trump’s decision has been criticized in Washington and elsewhere as a betrayal of Kurdish allies who had fought for years alongside U.S. troops in a region rich in oil reserves and farmland.

The New York Times reported late on Sunday that Trump was now leaning in favor of a new military plan to keep about 200 U.S. troops in eastern Syria near the Iraq border. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“NECESSARY STEPS”

Turkey is seeking to set up a “safe zone” along 440 km of border as a buffer against the YPG militia, the main component of the SDF. Ankara sees the YPG as a terrorist group due to its links to Kurdish insurgents in southeast Turkey.

Erdogan has said Ankara will resume its assault when the deadline expires on Tuesday if the SDF has not pulled back.

Turkish sources said that the priority for Ankara was to see the YPG withdraw from a 120-km long strip where Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies have focused their assault, rather than the full border region.

They said it remained Turkey’s goal to establish the “safe zone” the full length of the border, which includes areas where Syrian and Russian troops have already moved in.

“We will take up this process with Mr Putin and after that we will take the necessary steps” in northeastern Syria, Erdogan told a forum in Istanbul hosted by broadcaster TRT World on Monday, without elaborating.

Erdogan has also said Turkey will set up a dozen observation posts in the “safe zone”, prompting criticism from Iran.

“We are against Ankara’s establishing of military posts in Syria,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told a weekly news conference on Monday broadcast live on state TV.

The issues should be resolved by diplomatic means ... Syria’s integrity should be respected,” said Mousavi, whose country is a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Echoing such concerns, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said Russia believed long-term regional security could only be achieved by restoring Syrian unity and also by taking into account the interests of all the country’s ethnic and religious groups.

He reiterated that Putin and Erdogan would discuss Turkey’s military offensive in their talks on Tuesday in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted as saying that 12 Syrian prisons holding foreign militants as well as eight refugee camps had been left unguarded as a result of Turkey’s military operation.

Turkey’s nearly two-week old offensive has displaced some 300,000 people and led to 120 casualties among civilians and 470 among SDF fighters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday. Turkey says 765 terrorists but no civilians have been killed in its offensive.

On Monday, Reuters video images showed armored vehicles carrying U.S. troops through the Sahela border crossing into Iraq’s northern province of Dohuk.

About 30 trailers and Hummers carrying heavier duty equipment crossed, with troops in cars coming through, an Iraqi Kurdish security source said.

The Turkish security sources said on Monday Kurdish YPG forces were advancing toward Al Hasakah, which is south of the proposed safe zone, adding some 125 vehicles had already left. They also said more than 80 Kurdish militants had been captured alive or surrendered to Turkish forces.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-security/u-s-mulls-leaving-some-troops-in-syria-to-guard-oil-pentagon-idUSKBN1X00S6?utm_source=reddit.com
Everything, I mean EVERYTHING, is a BIG FUCKING MESS!!

Offline knarf

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The Los Angeles Fire Department ordered mandatory evacuations Monday as a fire ripped across a hillside in the affluent Pacific Palisades area, threatening multimillion-dollar homes.
"This is due to both potential fire and smoke behavior" and the pending arrival of large aircraft dropping fire retardant, LAFD said in a news release.
The fire began around 10:30 a.m. PST at the base of Palisades Drive and quickly spread about 18 acres within 15 minutes. It quickly moved uphill and burned more than 40 acres of brush. About 200 homes within eight residential blocks were under threat from the flames and have been heavily impacted by smoke, said LAFD Chief Patrick Butler during a press conference.
There have been two reported injuries, one minor injury to a firefighter and one civilian who was taken to the hospital for respiratory stress, Butler said.

Pacific Palisades is a coastal neighborhood west of downtown Los Angeles. The wealthy area is home to many celebrities, including Reese Witherspoon, whose home was recently featured in an issue of Vogue. Director J.J. Abrams bought a home there in 2017 for $6.2 million, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Firefighters were clawing their way up the hillside

More than 150 personnel from the LAFD were battling the fire. Six hand crews from the Los Angeles County Fire Department were assisting the LAFD and plan to be in Palisades all night, Butler said. Fifty LA police personnel were on scene helping residents shelter in place, police officials said.
"Right now, the conditions are favorable for fighting this fire," said Capt. Branden Silverman of the LAFD. "We have on-shore winds that are coming off the coast and keeping the Santa Ana winds from pushing this fire hard."
The fire is not threatening Los Angeles County residents and there is no reason to evacuate the county, County Fire Chief Anthony Marrone said.
Helicopters were seen releasing numerous and precise water drops and fire retardants on the flames. Firefighters along an extremely steep ridge below multimillion-dollar homes were using hoses and cutting paths to stop the fire's progress.
"This is an extremely challenging fire for hand crews," Butler said. "If you look at the firefighters, they're essentially clawing up this hillside with rocks coming down on them."
While the fire is contained within a perimeter, Butler said the biggest concern for firefighters right now is the fire getting out of the containment area.

'You can't predict what Mother Nature is going to do'

Charlie Lyons said he was hiking Monday morning when he noticed the plumes of smoke.
"You go into denial immediately, saying, 'I hope it's not what I think it is,'" he said, adding that this was the second time in three weeks he's seen fire in the hills of Palisades. "We're in a terrible cycle right now."



His daughter, also named Charlie, told CNN she feared for the worst.

"I immediately started packing my stuff, my valuables," said Charlie Lyons, 22. "My friend last year lost her house in Malibu. You can't predict what Mother Nature is going to do."
Fire officials say this is a terrain-driven fire, not wind-driven.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/21/us/california-palisades-fire/index.html

Everything, I mean EVERYTHING, is a BIG FUCKING MESS!!