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Doomsteading / Re: Meanwhile back at the 'stead
« on: Today at 10:57:21 AM »
If the creek starts to look good, I'm going to put the stead on the market. If I can sell it for a good price, I can buy a smaller place closer to the lake cottage, which makes good sense. Maybe wait a bit for the next crash and then shop for it.

Find a Chinese RE Broker.  You'll double your money for sure.


Geopolitics / Re: 👮‍♂️ Why Police Kill So Often
« on: Today at 10:51:19 AM »

I think that assessment is overly optimistic. Maybe e more like it:

Maybe you could buy the oars?


Geopolitics / Re: 👮‍♂️ Why Police Kill So Often
« on: Today at 10:41:14 AM »
When you head out to the Big Potlatch In The Sky, Surly and I are gonna monetize this thing and make some real cash. We're just biding our time.

(And if you believe that, could I interest you in a nice waterfront bungalow on the banks of the Cape Fear River?.)

If you monetize and sell the Diner, maybe you could buy a nice Rowboat for a Seastead!  :icon_sunny:


Geopolitics / Re: Beto vs. Cruz Debates
« on: Today at 10:08:22 AM »
It was on the radio but I can't listen to Ted Cruz for more than about a minute without my gorge rising, so I didn't listen to much of it.

From what I heard, Beto stuck it to Cruz pretty well on his record, which is very assailable. When he was running for President, he more or less abandoned his responsibility in the Senate, for months. That's one thing.

I listened to Cruz try to thump the Bible and wrap himself in the flag, which is what he loves to do, and try to spin Republicans as the party of Lincoln (he used those words), the party that has always supported "equal rights for all Americans".

I'm surprised  he didn't talk about his wife's cloth coat. Maybe he did, I turned it off pretty fast.

You should go to the Houston or San Antonio debates and Heckle.  :icon_mrgreen:  Make some videos!


Geopolitics / Re: 👮‍♂️ Why Police Kill So Often
« on: Today at 10:05:16 AM »


Yea, The Diner is worth a LOT::)


Geopolitics / Re: 👮‍♂️ Why Police Kill So Often
« on: Today at 09:08:42 AM »
I also own property. So does RE.

I don't own any property other than portable stuff.  No land, no McHovel, nada.  My property ownership amounts to some old used carz and my vast array of SHTF Day Preps. 


Well just about everyone owns SOME property, unless you run around naked.  Clothes are property.  Boots were highly prized property at one time and would be removed from the corpse as a nice prize.

I don't deny the ownership of some forms of "property".  If you can move it with you, you can own it IMHO.  The type of property ownership I deny as valid is ownership of the land and fixed housing.  AKA, Farms, McMansions etc.  Once you accept this type of ownership as valid, you divide the population into the "haves" and "have nots".  Ownership of Property is what the whole setup of the FSoA was about from the very beginning.  Property holders had RIGHTS.  Everyone else was SOL.


Environment / 🌀 ruh comes Captain Kirk!
« on: Today at 07:55:01 AM »
Captain Kirk On Target For the VI and Puerto Rico next week.  Too far out still for the models to predict overall strength.  I'll bet a Cat 2 by the time it makes Puerto Rico.

Not a good time to have a Seastead in the Caribbean.  ::)


Energy / 🛢️ Oil Ghost Ships
« on: Today at 06:49:02 AM »

   Iran sends out ghost tankers as US oil sanctions loom
Tehran reverts to old tactic of selling in secret as economic pressure grows

An oil tanker loads gas at Assaluyeh in the Gulf: © Reuters

Anjli Raval in London and Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran yesterday

A supertanker called Happiness is carrying 2m barrels of trouble for Iran. The crude vessel filled up at a terminal operated by Iran’s national oil company on Kharg Island at the start of this month, before setting off on a journey for Asia, according to ship tracking data. But it was sailing into a global market where Iranian oil is acquiring pariah status.

When Happiness I — its official name — exited the Strait of Hormuz the tanker turned off the system that allows traders to track its movements. As the US prepares to reimpose sanctions on Tehran’s energy sector in November, the vessel joins a fleet of ghost ships that symbolises the pressure growing on Iran to hide the identity of its buyers.

Following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from a nuclear deal Iran signed with world powers, he is seeking to cripple the Iranian economy with sanctions that impose severe financial penalties on any party involved in trading its crude.

Iran cannot easily abandon the lucrative export business that generates much needed government revenues. There are growing signs of the country reverting to an old playbook of selling in secret.

Happiness I is one of at least seven tankers carrying Iranian oil that are no longer broadcasting their position. The tanker “has not sent a signal since” turning off its transponder on September 16, said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData, which is tracking the vessels filled with Iranian oil.

“We saw this happen in years past when Iran’s economy was under pressure from sanctions. We are now seeing the same thing again, with Tehran being surreptitious with its crude flows,” he added. Iranian oil officials could not be reached for comment.

Iran has been exporting about two-thirds of its crude production, which reached around 3.8m barrels a day earlier this year. When the Obama administration placed sanctions on Iran in 2012, it permitted oil exports of around 1m-1.5m barrels per day. But the Islamic republic still plunged into a deep recession. The Trump administration is taking an even harder line, declaring that it is not willing to countenance any exports of crude or ultralight condensate oil.

Since May, when Mr Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal and announced forthcoming sanctions, Iran’s oil exports have dropped by at least 500,000 barrels a day to below 2m, according to energy sector analysts, whose estimates generally include tankers without specified destinations.

The fear of US sanctions and a drop in oil revenues, the country’s main source of foreign currency, has already led to a decline of about 70 per cent in the national currency, the rial, this year.
Iran's oilfields map

South Korea and France are among countries that have halted their purchases completely. China and India — the biggest buyers of Iranian crude — are taking in fewer barrels. According to FGE, a consultancy, some 10m-15m barrels of Iranian oil are stored on offshore vessels, bereft of buyers. “Iran is having a tough time selling its crude,” said Iman Nasseri at FGE.

The White House is doing its best to turn the screws. This week a senior administration official said the US was helping allies find alternatives to Iranian barrels. Mr Trump has already asked Saudi Arabia to pump more oil to make up for any Iranian shortfall on the world market. Along with Iraq, it has increased production in recent months and pounced on Iranian customers.

Bijan Zanganeh, Iran’s oil minister, criticised Opec rivals that are ramping up production. He told S&P Global Platts on Thursday: “Anyone who says they will compensate for the shortfall in the market is speaking against Iran . . . They should come out and say, ‘The US has phoned and told me to increase output.’”

In Tehran, analysts do not expect the country’s oil exports to cease, but a sharp decline will have an immediate impact on the economy. The centrist government of Hassan Rouhani relies on petrodollars to pay civil servants’ salaries and cover cash handouts to compensate Iranians for rising energy prices. With anti-regime protests already occurring sporadically, public patience may run thin if money began to dry up.

The authorities are racing to adapt. Iran’s Supreme Council for Economic Co-ordination, formed this year to circumvent US sanctions, authorised the oil ministry this week to sell crude into the private sector as it searches for alternative outlets.

It is the first time Iran’s private sector has been officially allowed to become involved in crude sales. Under previous US and European sanctions in 2012, some well-connected businessmen and organisations discreetly sold crude to help the government skip sanctions, but the tactic was not problem free. Babak Zanjani, a businessman, is charged with selling $2.8bn of crude but refusing to pay back the government. He is sentenced to death while awaiting his appeal.
US foreign policy
Donald Trump takes deployment of sanctions to new level

Refiners and others that rely on the global banking, insurance, and shipping industries — which run on US dollars — expect the Trump administration to be more aggressive than its predecessors in hunting down sanctions busters.

Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at consultancy Energy Aspects, said widespread use of cargo-tracking technology would limit off-radar sales. “There are many more pairs of eyes to spot anomalies and investigate trade flows that do not match — occasional cargoes may go unnoticed, but large-scale smuggling will be too easy to spot,” she added.

Ghost tankers are a symptom of Iran’s problems, but not a cure.

Additional reporting by Katrina Manson in Washington


Toxic Spills Highlight Trump's Deregulation of Coal Plant Waste
By Ari Natter
and Jennifer A Dlouhy
September 21, 2018, 11:59 AM AKDT Updated on September 21, 2018, 3:22 PM AKDT

    EPA relaxed Obama-era rule on coal ash from power plants
    Fears of environmental disasters at North Carolina sites

Coal byproduct is seen spilling over Sutton cooling lake into the Cape Fear River.

The breach of a pond used to store coal ash in North Carolina has revived criticism of the Trump administration’s efforts to loosen restrictions on how power plants dispose of the toxic waste.

The Environmental Protection Agency in July relaxed Obama administration requirements that forced companies to keep a closer watch on coal ash disposal sites and their potential groundwater contamination -- and signaled further revisions sought by industry are coming.

“The rollbacks by the Trump administration make these kinds of risks more likely and more dangerous,” said John Rumpler, clean water program director for advocacy group Environment America.

Duke Energy Corp. said Friday that floodwaters from Hurricane Florence had overwhelmed a coal ash basin at its Sutton power plant in Wilmington, North Carolina, raising the possibility the material had spilled into the Cape Fear River.

The Obama-era regulation, put in place after several spills including one in North Carolina, wouldn’t prevent coal ash from pouring into the river. But environmentalists say the Trump administration’s changes will prolong the lives of those toxic waste sites and increase the risk of spills.

The Latest: Duke Ash Basin Overflows, Spilling Coal Byproduct Into River

More than 100 million tons of coal ash are generated each year from about 400 power plants across the country. When stored in disposal ponds, such as the one compromised in North Carolina, it is a toxic slurry teeming with mercury, arsenic, lead and chromium -- substances that can cause irreversible brain damage, cancer and other diseases.

“We’ve had a coal ash issue for just as long as we’ve been burning coal, and we haven’t addressed it,” said Dalal Aboulhosn, deputy legislative director at the Sierra Club. “We went decades and decades just closing our eyes and ignoring this problem of what the byproduct of burning coal was doing to these communities living next to these sites.”

The Trump EPA’s July overhaul effectively added a year of usable life to some existing coal ash ponds, while also giving utilities and states more flexibility in deciding when they have to be cleaned up. Under the newly updated rule, state regulators can suspend groundwater monitoring requirements for some coal ash disposal sites and are empowered to certify whether the facilities are adequate.

“We continue to work on rule-making and these types of events will inform our work going forward,” the agency said in an email.

The EPA estimated the changes would spare power producers as much as $31 million a year.

And more changes are coming. The EPA, headed by an interim director who once lobbied for a coal company, has telegraphed that it is working on a second wave of rewrites to federal coal ash mandates. The agency has signaled its next move may be to give states more authority in regulating the substance, Rumpler said.

The administration faces legal pressure in its efforts. A federal appeals court in August ruled that the coal ash rule put in place by President Barack Obama’s EPA in 2015 -- and weakened by the Trump administration a month earlier -- wasn’t strong enough. The court rebuked the EPA for failing to require the closing of unlined coal ash disposal sites and exempting legacy landfills at shuttered power plants from the mandates.

EPA officials have not announced how they will respond to the court’s ruling.

As long as coal ash slurry is sitting in ponds exposed to the elements, there’s a risk from storms and floods, activists argue.

“There’s nothing to prevent these things from failing in a huge storm event, if they are exposed to the elements, which just underscores why they shouldn’t be there in the first place,” said Jennifer Peters, water programs director with the advocacy group Clean Water Action. “And we shouldn’t have to wait until there’s a disaster like Florence to be talking about it.”

In North Carolina, Duke said that a coal byproduct known as cenospheres, tiny hollow beads comprised of alumina and silica, are flowing into the Cape Fear River, but that coal ash at the site “remains in place.” The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality said it has yet to ascertain if coal ash has entered the river.

“Cenospheres are part of coal ash,” said Avner Vengosh, a Duke University professor who specializes in geochemistry and water quality. “If we see them in the water, it means they’re mixed with coal ash.”

Matthew Starr, who works in North Carolina for the Waterkeeper Alliance environmental organization, said that at Duke Energy’s H.F. Lee plant in Goldsboro, North Carolina, floodwaters had inundated earthen coal ash dams, causing ash to flow into the Neuse River.

“We observed many many different places where coal ash was floating by us -- it was re-suspending in the water, it was laying on top of berms,” Starr said in an interview. “Everywhere we looked we kind of saw an impact. You’ve got a pretty large ongoing spill.”

After inspecting the H.F. Lee site Thursday, Duke said "only a small amount of coal ash has been displaced, similar to the impact in the wake of Hurricane Matthew." Crews will continue to monitor the situation, the company said.

River flooding has affected one of two "inactive" ash basins at Duke’s Sutton facility, according to Bridget Munger, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

"While the state is currently in emergency response mode, a thorough investigation of events will soon follow to ensure that Duke Energy is held responsible for any environmental impacts caused at their coal ash facilities," Munger said in an email on Friday.

Other coal ash sites remain at risk. South Carolina’s state-owned utility, Santee Cooper, said it expects the Waccamaw River to overtop one of its coal ash ponds at its Grainger site, about 85 miles southwest in Conway, South Carolina. The company, which earlier installed an inflatable dam to protect the site, said it doesn’t anticipate any "significant environmental impact."

When coal ash spills, it can cause lasting damage.

The 2008 rupture of a dam at a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant in Harriman, Tennessee, unleashed more than 1 billion gallons of coal ash slurry, sending a wave of mud to smother nearby homes. Ten years later, testing is still being conducted in the region, and workers who helped clean up the disaster are suing, claiming they were sickened by cancer and other illnesses.

A similar scene played out in 2014, when some 39,000 tons of coal ash escaped from a burst drainage pipe at a Duke Energy pond in Eden, North Carolina, sending the slurry into the Dan River and causing visible gray water in a nearby reservoir within days.

The incidents prompted a call for federal regulation of coal ash disposal, resulting in the 2015 EPA rule. But even that Obama administration regulation fell far short of what activists and residents near coal ash ponds had wanted, including regulation of the material as a hazardous waste, which would limit storage options and could require it to be steered away from the nation’s waterways.

“We’ve known these coal ash pits are disasters waiting to happen for a long time,” said Drew Ball, director of the environmental group Environment North Carolina. “And now we have a flood of this magnitude forcing us to recognize the dangers of that.”

— With assistance by Jim Efstathiou Jr
(Updates with statement from North Carolina environmental agency, in 21st paragraph.)

Geopolitics / 🗳️ Can Beto Beat-o Ted in Texas?
« on: Today at 02:48:33 AM »
Maybe TX voters aren't as stupid as they seem?


Surprisingly Close Texas Senate Race Sparks Testy Debate For Cruz, O'Rourke

September 22, 201812:47 AM ET

Rachel Osier Lindley


Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke makes a point as Republican Sen. Ted Cruz listens Friday during a debate at McFarlin Auditorium at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. O'Rourke is looking to unseat Cruz in November in what polls suggest has become a surprisingly close race.
Tom Fox/Pool/Getty Images

It was more duel than debate Friday night in Dallas as Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Rep. Beto O'Rourke went after each other from the start. Snappy and heavy on snark, Cruz and O'Rourke held nothing back in the first of three debates.

Friday's focus was domestic policy, and the candidates sparred on immigration, health care, gun control and even their opinions on professional football players taking a knee during the national anthem.

Cruz painted O'Rourke as part of a revolutionary fringe — placing him to the left of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Bernie Sanders. He characterized O'Rourke as a politician "out of step with the people of Texas" who wants to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, take away Texans' guns, and impeach President Trump.
To Win Texas, Beto O'Rourke Is Running To The Left
To Win Texas, Beto O'Rourke Is Running To The Left

"We're seeing nationally socialists like Bernie Sanders, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and, indeed, Congressman Beto O'Rourke advocating for those same policies," Cruz said.

O'Rourke accused Cruz of caring more about tax cuts for corporations than his constituents, saying he wanted "to deport each and every single Dreamer," and accusing him of being an absentee senator who spent more time campaigning in Iowa than working for Texas.

"In 2016, he missed half of the votes in the United States Senate," O'Rourke said. "You tell me who can miss half of the days of work and still be rehired for the same job going forward. That's not what Texans want."
Texas Democrat's Underdog Bid To Unseat Ted Cruz Picks Up Momentum
Texas Democrat's Underdog Bid To Unseat Ted Cruz Picks Up Momentum

The surprisingly competitive Senate race has become one of the most-watched and talked-about contests of the 2018 midterms. Once considered a safe seat for Cruz, recent polls show the candidates running within single digits of each other. Just this week, the Cook Political Report reclassified the race, calling it a tossup.

That's a big deal in Texas, which hasn't elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994. And it's a big deal nationally too: Democrats are likely to retake control of the House in November, and if they can sweep Cruz-O'Rourke and other close races could wrest control of the Senate from Republicans too.

Immigration and border security

The vast differences between the two candidates on almost every hot topic were on display, particularly immigration and border security.

"When it comes to immigration, we need to do everything humanly possible to secure the border," Cruz said. "That means building the wall. That means technology. That means infrastructure. That means boots on the ground. And we can do that all at the same time that we are celebrating legal immigrants."

O'Rourke says the U.S. needed to "bring people out of the shadows, allow them to get right by law."
The Biggest Hurdle For Beto O'Rourke In Texas Is Turning Out Latino Voters
The Biggest Hurdle For Beto O'Rourke In Texas Is Turning Out Latino Voters

O'Rourke chided Cruz for supporting legislation that would have allocated billions of dollars to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and called for an earned path to citizenship.

"The alternative, as Cruz has proposed, is to deport 11 million people from this country," O'Rourke said. "Imagine the cost, imagine the stain on this country for generations moving forward."

A Senate candidate gun fight

The crowd watching the debate at Southern Methodist University Friday was most animated while Cruz and O'Rourke took on guns, police violence and mass shootings.

The Dallas debate comes as North Texas has grappled both with the shooting of an unarmed black man by a white Dallas police officer and the killing of a Fort Worth police officer who was shot trying to stop a robbery. A few weeks ago, a white officer from the Dallas suburbs was convicted of murdering a black teenager.

A question about the shooting of 26-year-old Botham Jean pivoted into Cruz chastising O'Rourke for calling for the officer's firing, using hateful rhetoric and "turning people against the police." He raised the specter of the 2016 ambush killing of five Dallas officers by a troubled Army veteran, reportedly upset by stories of police brutality.

Cruz said O'Rourke wanted to get rid of the Second Amendment, prompting O'Rourke to say that wasn't the case. O'Rourke talked about learning to shoot as a kid, but also said it's time for universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons.

Cruz and O'Rourke will face off again Sept. 30 in Houston and Oct. 16 in San Antonio.

Since I am a confirmed Paleo-style Meat-o-Saurus (more on this topic coming soon to a laptop near you), back in the day when I had a huge appetite (and fast metabolism), one of my favorite Breakfast Meals to either order up if at IHOP or cook for myself was what I call the "Full House".  A Pair of Eggs with 3 of a Kind Pork Breakfast Meats, Bacon, Sausage and Ham.  When doing it up for myself, this was the whole Breakfast.  At IHOP you also got the Hash Browns, Pancakes and Toast, so that was an even more major Pig Out.

Here at the Diner, all the additional sides to the Full House Breakfast are A la Carte.  Also, you can double up on any of the main ingredients A la Carte as well for an additional charge.


Full House Breakfast


Rio de Janeiro’s Rocinha Favela and the Future of Urbanism
By Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
Global Research, September 21, 2018
Region: Latin America & Caribbean
Theme: Police State & Civil Rights, Poverty & Social Inequality

During a recent tour in Brazil, I visited the Rocinha Favela in Rio de Janeiro. Rocinha is the largest favela in Brazil and runs up a very steep hill near the centre of Rio. It is believed at least 70,000 people live in Rocinha (some estimates suggest more than double that number), living in houses made from concrete and brick. It is officially described as a neighbourhood and has very basic sanitation, plumbing and electricity. Rocinha also has shops, hairdressers, banks, art galleries and many other businesses. The word favela itself is derived from a skin-irritating plant of the spurge family: removing these plants to live in these areas was not easy so the people called the hills after the plant.


The favelas go back to the late 1800s when soldiers, brought in for a local war, had no place to live and so settled in the hills. After the end of slavery and the growth of city life many people moved to the cities and the favelas spread. A later industrialisation drive in the 1940s brought many more people to the cities and the favelas expanded dramatically. In the 1970s there were public housing projects but these too disintegrated into new favelas. As the drugs trade increased in the 1980s so too did the growth of gangs and gang warfare. In Rocinha, like many slums, it also has an ongoing conflict between police and drug dealers.


The state began a war on the drug gangs in 2008 with the Pacifying Police Units (UPP) moving in, usually after an initial operation by BOPE (Special Police Operations Battalion) who scour the area for heavy weapons and drug caches. The main purpose of the UPP is to stop armed men from ruling the streets and end drug trafficking. However, there seems to be an uneasy peace between the UPP and the drug gangs. While walking through the narrow ‘streets’ of Rocinha, a man with a revolver pointed in the air walked through our group and twice we were asked to refrain from taking photographs as we walked past armed groups of men.

Image on the right: Cemented-over bullet holes


If you look at any listicle of Brazil’s best films you will probably see two films, Elite Squad (2007)  and Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2010) contained within. These films follow the actions of a BOPE squad in a the favelas and does so without pulling any punches. Different, conflicting elements of society are portrayed in both Elite Squad films. The BOPE and police are shown to have corrupt elements, ultimately manipulated by political figures. The middle class are shown in the discussions about the nature of power in university lectures (with particular emphasis on Michel Foucault) and the students are shown working in charitable organisations in the favelas with the nod from drug gang leaders. The main narrative of the films is the idea of corrupt police making financial deals with the drugs gangs – Elite Squad (2007), and changing to corrupt politicians making money by taxing the whole community after the drug gangs have been pushed out – Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2010).

Image below: Overhanging wires on telegraph poles


The global success of these two films have probably been one of the factors in encouraging tourism in the favelas. While the drug gangs generally do not appear to target tourists there have been incidents where tourists have been injured or killed by both the police and the drug gangs usually as the result of some accident or misunderstanding. In general tourism, like in many other places, is quick-fix solution for local businesses but does little in the way of any real social or economic development of the favela neighbourhoods.
Whither the favelas?

While slums became common in Europe and the USA in the 19th and 20th centuries they are predominantly found in developing countries today. The Little Ireland slum in Manchester, for example, became a source for social scientist Friedrich Engels’ book titled The Condition of the Working Class in England published in Germany in 1845. According to the UN World Cities Report 2016: Urbanization and Development – Emerging Futures:

    “The percentage of slum  dwellers in urban areas across all developing regions has reduced considerably since 1990, but the numbers have increased gradually since 2000 except for a steep rise of 72 million new slum dwellers in sub-saharan Africa.”

Also, according to one article on the world’s five biggest slums:

    “Around a quarter of the world’s urban population lives in slums. And this figure is rising fast. The number of slum dwellers in developing countries increased from 689 million in 1990 to 880 million in 2014, according to the United Nations World Cities Report 2016.”

Image on the right: Favela mural

The biggest slums in the world today are: Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa (Population: 400,000), Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya (Population: 700,000), Dharavi, Mumbai, India (Population: 1 million), Ciudad Neza, Mexico City, Mexico (Population: 1.2 million), and Orangi Town, Karachi, Pakistan (Population: 2.4 million).
Urbanisation and the flight from the land
INDIA’S URBAN SLUMS: Rising Social Inequalities, Mass Poverty and Homelessness

The development of industrialised farming has been one of the major reasons for the the flight from the land.  There is also the perceived view that economic opportunities are greater in the cities. Governments invest less in rural communities because of lower population densities and this creates a vicious cycle. In Ireland today, for example, friends of mine in rural areas still can’t get broadband speeds fast enough to play video clips on their computers and in August the government announced the closure of over 160 post offices nationwide. Meanwhile the urbanisation of Dublin has extended into neighbouring counties while pubs and shops in the rural areas close due to a lack of footfall. While the pressure on Dublin has not produced slums it has created huge increases in rents and a growing homelessness problem.

So what can be done about slums? There appears to be three main approaches to the question of the future of slums around the world today: (1) Renovation: top-down and bottom-up approaches, (2) Demolition for rehousing and rebuilding, and (3) Demolition for parkland.
Renovation: top-down and bottom-up approaches

Around the world slum upgrading has consisted of concrete paths, sanitation, safe drinking water, water drainage systems and public transport. The Brazilian state has done some top-down upgrading in the favelas putting in basic sanitation and social services but much more needs to be done with masses of wires on telegraph poles and cabling bundled along the side of the paths. However, with the global neo-liberal move towards privatisation of public housing there doesn’t seem to be much hope for governments doing serious renovation of slums in the near future. More importantly, in my opinion, has been the bottom-up slum upgrading, for example, in Orangi Town, Karachi in Pakistan where the residents installed sewers in 90% of 8,000 streets and lanes, digging them by hand themselves. This kind of community spirit builds solidarity which is more important for the residents in the long run in their struggle against uncaring states:

    “In 1980, the development expert and entrepreneur, Akhtar Hameed Khan, observed how many communities were self-organising to fill the gap in services – from building homes and schools to water delivery – and launched the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP). Now globally renowned, the project has not only led the DIY sewerage projects which continue to expand to this day, but has built a network to manage a plethora of programmes that range from micro credit to water supply, to women’s savings schemes. OPP’s director Saleem Aleemuddin told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that when activists began working in the area in 1980, the lack of sanitation was the most “obvious” and “problematic” area for residents. While it took the OPP around six months to convince local residents to invest and pay for the installation of the first sewerage line on their street, it was not long before people were taking their lead and organising themselves. “Since the government gets almost nothing in revenue from the slum, it therefore pays the least interest to its [slum] developments too,” Aleemuddin said. “In fact, people in the town now consider the streets as part of their homes because they have invested in them and that’s why they maintain and clean the sewers too.””

Image below: Favela houses

Others argue that the slums should be seen as similar to the medieval towns and parts of cities preserved all over Europe:

    “The tight-knit structure of settlements built in the Middle Ages serves as an important lesson on making modern developments compact and keeping key services easily accessible to the people using them.”

Thus, they argue, slums could be converted into a form of green, eco-friendly living areas such as Cambridge where people walk everywhere now instead of driving. However, it is more likely to become a form of gentrification as usually it is wealthier people who can afford to do the extensive and detailed building and repairs (not to mention the demands of state preservation policies in the case of medieval buildings).

Government plans for Rocinha

Demolition for rehousing and rebuilding

The demolition of slums for rehousing projects does not have a great history. It tended to shift the social problems of the slums to other parts of the city. In Ireland in the 1960s, Dublin’s slums had reached a breaking point as urbanisation and the collapse of slum houses put pressure on the government to move people out to suburban Ballymun into high-rise 15-storey flat complexes. However, by the 1980s Ballymun was seen as a social sink and had to be regenerated itself in the 2000s and the blocks demolished. Also, this strategy can be a cynical ploy as the flats built on the sites of the former slums are sold as properties on high-value city-centre land.

Demolition for parkland

A prime example of a slum demolition is the Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong which eventually became the Kowloon Walled City Park. What started off as a Chinese military fort in the 1800s became one of the most densely populated slums in the world. It was extended upwards in the 1960s to become a city of over 30,000 people in 300 buildings occupying little more than 7 acres (2.8 ha). The residents were compensated (with some being forcibly evicted) and demolition was concluded in 1994. Today it is a 31,000 m2 (330,000 sq ft) park which was completed in August 1995.

In Brazil, this is always a possible future for the favelas in Rio. Not many realise that the sculpture of Christ the Redeemer on top of Corcovado mountain is in the middle of the Tijuca Forest – a massive reclamation project of land which had suffered from erosion and deforestation caused by intensive farming of sugar and coffee in the nineteenth century. The whole area was replanted with plants and trees of the rainforest and is one of the biggest urban forests in the world today.

Climate change and the future of urbanism

The future of slums around the world seems tied to a kind of trendy belief in the necessity of planning for an urban future. However, there are those that believe that an alternative to the constant growing urbanisation is to create a model that would attract a part of the urban population back to the rural environment. The potential for creating jobs in the agricultural sector in the future must be seen in the context of sustainable soil management and the difficulties that will be facing food production in future projected changes in temperature, ultraviolet radiation, soil moisture and pests which are expected to decrease food production.

Image on the right: Malcolm X mural

Governments would be better off to develop projects to modernise the rural areas with the type of facilities and services that can be obtained in the cities to attract people back to the land. Collapses in various crops or crop destruction around the world due to unexpected frosts, drought, hurricanes, floods etc can only be expected to increase, leading to food insecurity and the potential for global food price increases and food riots.

The very existence of a slum shows a government’s inability or reluctance to deal with mass population shifts. It reveals a fundamental structural problem in democratic processes and redistribution of tax wealth. For a government to allow a section its own citizens to live a Hobbesian existence exposes the rhetoric of a government for all. How can this be changed and slum issues be resolved? As the Orangi Town example above shows, solidarity and activism can solve practical problems efficiently even if it is letting the government off the hook of responsibility. As has been seen in the past, the social contract only operates when both government and people keep their sides of the bargain. When or if it breaks down the anger constantly bubbling underneath can spill over. While revolutionary changes around the world in the past, in general, are often attributed to their great leaders, the fact is that it is usually down to the most expropriated and alienated people in society to get the great social change juggernaut moving in the first place.


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Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin is an Irish artist, lecturer and writer. His artwork consists of paintings based on contemporary geopolitical themes as well as Irish history and cityscapes of Dublin. His blog of critical writing based on cinema, art and politics along with research on a database of Realist and Social Realist art from around the world can be viewed country by country here. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

All images in this article are from the author.


Ukraine’s Pending Disaster- Escalating in Lugansk and Donetsk
September 20, 2018 branford perry

Ukie armor: not anyhwere as serious a threat as it might appear.

The tragic murder of Alexandr Zakharchenko solidified Ukraine’s intent to retake the Donbass region by force. We know the attack on the Donetsk Republic leadership was meant to throw the fledgling nation into an emotional and political turmoil and cause a crisis in succession for the Republic.

Ukraine gravely miscalculated the response Poroshenko received which was both deliberate and dignified by the Donetsk Republic leadership and LNR’s interim president Leonid Pasechnik.

The murder was possibly to set up the conditions for a September 14th  assault.

The Donetsk People’s Republic Operations Command spokesman Daniil Bezsonov notes Ukraine is making a lot of noise but doesn’t have the fuel or munitions on hand. To make an assault from Mariupol possible they need to resupply. Donetsk Intel says Ukraine was trying to remedy this for the 14th and Ukraine has over 12,000 troops ready.

It’s common knowledge US and NATO trainers have been hard at work training Ukraine’s new and improved army. The problem with the army is that even with new and improved weaponry, tactics, and equipment, it still remains essentially what it was in 2014-2015.

In reality, it fits right into the outlook of Ukraine’s civil and military leadership to mount an attack without the supplies for the tanks to make it to the battle lines.

At Ilovaisk, Ukraine hoped to celebrate their victory in the civil war in August 2014. Instead, Ukrainian leadership got a lesson in how deeply layered ineptness was ingrained across Ukraine’s military leadership.

Not being able to deny this, even the Kiev Post laments the fact that Ukraine’s officer corps was so poor, its inherent strength lay in its ability to snatch victory out of Kiev’s hands and deliver it to Donbass militia forces it was fighting time and again.

In a crushing article by Andrew Higgins for the New York Times, Petr Poroshenko is described as the perfect kind of partner NATO should be seeking right now. Even though Ukraine’s military budget has jumped from 2.5 % to 5% of the national budget, Ukraine’s corruption is using the extra bonanza money to set up plush accounts for Poroshenko’s friends and business associates.

In Jan 2018, Ukraine announced it was purchasing 100 new ambulances for use on the front lines of the conflict which was music to the ears of Ukrainians on the front lines. The no-bid contract went to Poroshenko’s good friend Oleg Gladkovsky and the ambulances came pre-broken down. Ukrainians on the front lines will be stuck using wheelbarrows for the casualties again because corruption is so rabid in Ukraine. They will be lucky not to get paintball body armor like they did in 2014.

According to the Times article, “There is no proof that he influenced purchasing decisions, and there never will be. It is all secret,” said Victor Chumak, an independent member of the Ukrainian Parliament and deputy chairman of its anticorruption committee. “The merging of politics and business is our biggest problem.”

What Chumak describes is called Corporatism or Fascism. It is going on in real time in 2018 Ukraine. Are reforms possible under this type of government? They never have been anywhere else it’s been tried.

So, with all the new training and all the new weapons the Ukrainian military in 2018 must be much better prepared than in 2014, right? Wrong.

If that was the case, Ukrainian soldiers and officers would not be suffering a moral and morale crisis so great, they are voting with their feet and retreating from Ukrainian armed services.

According to Ukraine’s Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak, 11,000 servicemen and officers left service because they were demoralized by the conditions. The soldiers were paid less than low-paid citizens. Another 18,000 are leaving this year.

This type of officer corps attrition alone precludes any sane government from mounting an armed campaign. Replacement officers don’t have the training, experience, or temperament for the command positions they will be tasked with.

According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the same top brass that is responsible for Ukraine’s military degeneration is not capable of making many of the reforms that are necessary. Remember, before 2014, if you joined the Ukrainian military, there was no guarantee you would ever touch a rifle or receive hands-on training for equipment.

While some may have excelled under foreign trainers, leadership from the field to the Defense Ministry remains inadequate. Compounding this, they have even changed the language of the military from Russian to Ukrainian. Ukrainian as a language didn’t modernize and lacks basic terms for modern technology, social, and political expression.

This means either inventing new words on the fly which will take time to spread and learn or borrow terms from other languages. All of this leaves the command effectiveness wanting.

When Ukraine starts the assault on LDNR, I expect it will be conducted in a similar fashion to 2014. The reason for this is simple. Unless they bought an air force or large scale surface to surface missiles, the terrain and layout hasn’t changed. Trying to blitz in will only go so far before your troops are decimated. The Ukrainians started pounding Donetsk and Lugansk in 2014 to get the republics to defend the cities and then tried to roll in around them.

The first targets to take are the two main roads connecting the cities. Next, Ukraine will probably try to roll in overland and avoid contact as much as possible on the way to the border. In 2014, they had guides taking them across the open land.

The 12000 troops and equipment in Mariupol are there for two reasons. One is to serve Ukrainian propaganda with possibly a feint to draw DPR resources away from where Ukraine wants to be. The other reason is to roll up the entire border while the contact line troops engage DNR and LNR defenses. In 2014, Ukraine did not allocate near enough resources to do this even though other than key border areas the borders were relatively unprotected. This led to Ukrainian Diaspora volunteers sniping locals that were trying to flee the conflict.

Ukraine’s strategy now is probably similar, for the same reasons. There is no reason to get caught up fighting in the cities with a strong opponent. If they cut off both republics from access to supplies from Russia, they will be able to starve the cities out. The two governments ability to reinforce each other is a large multiplier when it comes to defense they need the connector roads clear to do so. The opposite is also true and losing control of the connector roads will be difficult, especially to Donetsk.

There are some large and glaring differences today that didn’t confront the Ukrainians in 2014. The majority of Ukrainians know exactly what’s going on inside their country today. They’ve had to suffer under the post-coup leadership and decaying conditions throughout the peaceful regions of Ukraine.

Most don’t see differences between themselves and the people of Donbass that didn’t exist before 2014 and like the people in Donbass, they want the war to end.

The inadequacies Ukraine faced in 2014 and display today show how quickly inept, bumbling leadership can turn to vile criminality. The Ukrainian Diaspora volunteer battalions like Donbass, Kiev1, Dniepr, Azov, etc, almost immediately turned to rob, raping, murder, and torture in the towns and villages they came across. They weren’t fighting forces but they had military weapons and hardware with no real leadership and a very cultivated drunk and drugged up nationalist perspective.

With the combined inherent conditions, it is doubtful the Ukrainian army will be able to survive its lack of command very long. Nationalist aggression in war might be helpful in remote situations but more often helps Donbass unintentionally. Just ask every nationalist volunteer punisher battalion commander that got shot in the ass or other soft tissue in 2014. Oh wait, that was nationalist volunteer punisher battalion commander that saw combat like Dimitry Yarosh.

GH Eliason Mr. Eliason lives in Ukraine. He writes content and optimizes web based businesses across the globe for organic search results, technical issues, and design strategies. He is also a large project construction specialist. When Fukushima happened it became known that he was a locked high rad specialist with a penchant for climbing. He was paid to climb a reactor at a sister plant to Fukushima 3 because of a “million dollar mistake”. His now works in  project safety.


China warns U.S. to withdraw sanctions or 'bear the consequences'
"We strongly urge the U.S. to immediately correct the mistakes and withdraw the so-called sanctions."
by Alexander Smith and Abigail Williams / Sep.21.2018 / 4:56 AM AKDT / Updated 5:24 AM AKDT

Russian S-400 Triumph medium-range and long-range surface-to-air missile systems ride through Moscow's Red Square during a parade.Natalia Kolesnikova / AFP - Getty Images file

Withdraw the sanctions or "bear the consequences."

That was the unnervingly vague ultimatum that China leveled at the Trump administration Friday, after Beijing was punished for buying Russian arms.

Since December, Russia has delivered 10 Sukhoi Su-35 combat aircraft to China as well as equipment related to Moscow's feared S-400, a state-of-the-art missile defense system.

From a U.S. perspective, the problem was that Beijing bought these components from Russia's state arms export agency, which was already on a U.S. blacklist.
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After months of deliberation, the U.S. on Thursday announced sanctions against the Chinese military agency that made the purchases, as well as its director.

Beijing's angry response came hours later.

The U.S. sanctions have "seriously violated the basic norms of international relations and seriously damaged the relations between China and the United States," Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters on Friday. "We strongly urge the U.S. to immediately correct the mistakes and withdraw the so-called sanctions, otherwise the U.S. must bear the consequences."

It did not specify what these consequences might be.
So what's actually going on here?

On the surface this might seem like a simple tit-for-tat exchange between two world powers that have increasingly locked horns in recent months. The reality is more complicated.
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Despite China being named in the measures, "the ultimate target of these sanctions is Russia," a senior Trump administration official said Thursday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the sanctions were "not intended to take down the economy of third-party countries" such as China.

The punitive measures are intended to punish "Russian malign acts," the official added.
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These "malign acts" range from Russia's annexation of Crimea and its participation in the Ukrainian and Syrian wars, to its meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The U.S. thinking is pretty straightforward: By targeting countries that buy Russian weapons, the U.S. is trying to squeeze the money Moscow gets from selling arms: buy from them and you might also be blacklisted.
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Thursday was the first time Washington has sanctioned anything or anyone for dealing with those blacklisted under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, known as CAATSA.

"This is a significant step," the administration official said.

With the same pen-stroke, the U.S. also blacklisted another 33 Russians who it said have been working for or on behalf of Russian defense or intelligence services. Some of these people were among those indicted by special counsel Robert Muller for allegedly meddling in the U.S. election.
A message to Turkey?

All this is playing against a backdrop of changing relations between China and Russia.

Cooperation between these world powers appears to be growing, underscored by their joint participation in military exercises earlier this month that were billed by Moscow as its biggest since the Cold War.
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Putin watches huge Russian military drill, pledges to strengthen army

Code-named "Growler" by NATO, the S-400 packs powerful radar and can hit aerial targets up to 250 miles away. It can target stealth warplanes, such as the Pentagon's latest F-35 fighter jet.

As if all that wasn't complex enough, the U.S. also hinted these sanctions are warnings to other countries — namely Turkey.

Turkey is a NATO member and traditionally an ally of the West. However, under strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, it has more recently grown closer to Russia — including ordering the very same S-400s that landed China in hot water this week.
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"We hope that at least this step will send a signal of our seriousness and perhaps encourage others to think twice about their own engagement with the Russian defense and intelligence sectors," the administration official said.

Alexander Smith reported from London, Abigail Williams reported from Washington, and Dawn Liu from Beijing.


Cook Political Report moves Texas Senate race to ‘toss-up’
By John Bowden - 09/21/18 08:34 AM EDT

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The Cook Political Report on Friday updated its rating for Texas's heated Senate race, moving it from "leans Republican" to "toss-up" amid new polls showing Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D) in a tightening race with Sen. Ted Cruz (R).

The change in rating Friday came amid two other Senate race changes, with the prediction website changing the race for Sen. Jon Tester's (D-Mont.) seat from "likely" to "leans" Democratic, while the West Virginia Senate race moved from "toss-up" to leaning in favor of incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin (D).

Cook's authors did not immediately give any explanation for the ratings change, but the move follows a series of polls showing Cruz with a small single-digit lead over his insurgent opponent, who has outraised Cruz by millions since the campaign began.

A survey by left-leaning pollster Public Policy Polling found Cruz with just a 3-point lead over his opponent on Thursday among registered Texas voters. A Reuters–Ipsos poll the day before found O'Rourke with a 2-point lead.

“There’s a possibility it could happen. I’m not saying probable. But it’s possible,” Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, told Reuters of O'Rourke's chances in the Reuter's poll release Wednesday.

An average of polls of the Texas Senate race produced by RealClearPolitics shows Cruz with a 4.5-point lead over O'Rourke.

O'Rourke is set to hit the campaign trail with Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro (D) and his brother, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, according to a press release, following polls that showed him with an insufficient lead over Cruz among Hispanic voters.

The two Senate candidates are scheduled for their first debate on Friday.

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