Laughing is always good:)
- Noam Chomsky on Peak Oil, Economics, Financial Markets (peakoil.com)
- Forget peak oil; peak trash is the world’s real concern: researcher (calgaryherald.com)
- World Energy Congress report dismisses fears of peak oil (peakoil.com)
- Unfortunately, peak oil is not at hand (peakoil.com)
- Peak Oil Demand: Peak Oil Didn’t Go Away, it Just Changed its Name (prometheus.org)
- The propaganda campaign against peaking fossil fuel production (resilience.org)
ClubOrlov: From the Mouths of Babes. (source)
From the Mouths of Babes
[This week’s guest post is by Scott Erickson, who is an award-winning humor writer and the author of a satirical novel titled The Diary of Amy, the 14-Year-Old Girl Who Saved the Earth. I liked it. It is entirely disarming and strikes a good balance between humor and seriousness. There are enough jeremiads and diatribes and rants on this topic out there. Luckily, this isn’t one of them because Scott’s scathing social critique and mordant wit are delivered via a charming narrative device: a smart, earnest, precocious 14-year-old girl.]
A 14-YEAR-OLD GIRL EXPLAINS HOW WE CAN STOP THE ADDICTION TO ECONOMIC GROWTH THAT’S DESTROYING THE EARTH
Hi! I’m Amy Johnson-Martinez, the 14-year-old girl who’s saving the earth from environmental destruction. A lot of people don’t understand how the destruction of the earth is connected to our addiction to economic growth. Actually, a lot of people don’t even realize that we’re addicted!
Personally speaking, I think it’s kind of weird that economists don’t tell us about this. So I guess it takes a 14-year-old girl to tell you about it!
Economists always say, “The economy has to keep growing or else it will collapse.” But it can’t grow forever, because the earth is running out of resources. Actually, it’s already starting to happen. That’s a big reason why the economy is getting worse.
Our economy is giving us a totally stupid choice: Save the economy or save the earth. It won’t let us save both! I personally think that’s pretty crazy!
On my journey to save the earth from environmental destruction, I figured out pretty quickly that the main problem is the economy. Pretty much every time there’s an idea that would make things less destructive and more sustainable, the argument against it is always: “It will be bad for economic growth.”
That’s when I found out the economy has to grow or else it collapses. But when I asked why, nobody knew the answer. So I had to figure it out myself.
I looked at a bunch of economic books, but none of them said anything about why we’re addicted to economic growth. I couldn’t even find out how the economy could grow. That’s another basic question: How can money grow?
Isn’t that an interesting question?
This led to another question, “How is money introduced into the economy?”
The answer wasn’t easy to find. At first I thought the answer was that the government prints it, but that was back when I was young and naive. It turns out that the government prints only a tiny percentage of the money in circulation, and the rest is just promises, based on future growth (which is kind of weird if you think about it.)
Then I found out about “quantitative easing,” which sounds intellectually sophisticated. But it’s not the “real” answer, because quantitative easing only creates more promises. And the only way to live up to these promises is by overall growth of the economy. So we’re back to where we started: How does the economy grow?
Since I couldn’t find any answers in books about contemporary economics, I tried looking at books about the history of economics. I focused a lot on John Maynard Keynes, who was from England and invented the basic economic ideas we still use.
I found something interesting that he wrote in 1933. It’s the first thing I found that talks about economic growth. Basically, he thinks it’s important to have the economy grow, but when everybody is doing OK then growth should stop:
Suppose that a hundred years hence we are eight times better off than today. The economic problem may be solved.
The economic problem, the struggle for subsistence, always has been the primary, most pressing problem of the human race. Thus for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem – how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to live wisely and agreeably and well.
When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. The love of money will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.
I see us free, therefore, to return to some of the most sure and certain principles of religion and traditional virtue – that avarice is a vice, that the exaction of usury is a misdemeanor, and the love of money is detestable.
But the prediction that economic growth would end poverty hasn’t happened. In fact, even with all the economic growth that’s happened since then, poverty is getting worse. Obviously, the idea that economic growth will end poverty isn’t right.
I had to look up what the word “avarice” means, and basically it means “greed.” I also had to look up what “usury” means. It means to charge interest on loaning money. It’s a religious word and at one time all religions were against it as unethical.
Even though the quote was interesting, it didn’t answer the question about how money can grow. So I had to go back even farther. The ideas of John Maynard Keynes were influenced by another guy – John Law.
What a weird person! According to one book, in addition to being a banker and an economist he was “a gambler, swindler, rake and adventurer forced to flee the British Isles after killing an opponent in a duel.” This kind of person helped invent our economic system?
I found something in a book about John Law that seemed important: “Law made clear the distinction between a passive treasury, where money just accumulated, and an active bank, where money was created.”
Banks create money? That was news to me! I thought they just kept money and loaned some of it out.
The answer has to do with the “fractional reserve system” which started in the 1700s. It used to be that money was sort of a “receipt” for gold. The receipt was called a “banknote,” which was printed by the bank. But then some bankers figured out they could print more “receipts” than the gold they had, therefore they only had a “fraction” of the gold compared to the “receipts” (actual money).
That explains how it came to be that banks could create money, but it didn’t explain how money could “grow” – since banks were only allowed to print a certain percentage extra.
Then, some bankers figured out a way to become even more wealthy with this “extra money” they could print themselves. What they did is to give out the money in the form of a loan. Since they charged interest on the loan, they would get back more than they gave out. This next part is where the addiction starts.
Let’s say you get a loan for $100, but because of the interest you pay back $110. Here’s an interesting question: Where did that extra $10 come from?
It didn’t come from you, since you can’t create money. Only banks can – by making loans. So the extra money could only come from one place: More loans! If you trace money to where money comes from, it almost always comes from a loan.
People can get personal loans, but what’s more important for the economy is business loans – loans to start or expand a business. Of course all the loans have interest, which means paying back more money. But we’ve already figured out that money is “created” by banks issuing loans. So to pay off past loans, somewhere else in the economy there has to be new loans which create more money. But then THOSE loans have to be paid off with money, which means MORE loans.
It always comes back to the banks making more loans to pay off the existing loans. This has been going on for hundreds of years, which is how the economy “grows.”
Economic growth needs more money, but more money needs more economic growth, which needs more money. And it doesn’t stop. It can’t stop.
That’s not only how the economy grows, but why it HAS to grow. We can never get to a point where growth is “enough.”
This is why we’re addicted to economic growth. We’re not creating money; we’re creating debt!Like with any addiction, we keep doing it even when it’s not working any more. This is why even when it’s obvious that economic growth isn’t solving unemployment or ending poverty or doing any of the other stuff it says it can do, we keep trying it anyway. It’s why even though we have more money than ever before in history, we still need more.
The funny thing is that the solution is super-easy. All we have to do is stop the banks from creating money as debt.
You know what’s really interesting? I discovered that our greatest president Abraham Lincoln figured this out and tried to stop it. Lincoln tried to fix the problem by having the government print a kind of money called “greenbacks”—$450 million of interest-free money. But the banks did NOT like this because they wanted to create all the money themselves! So they bought up all the “greenbacks” and forced the government to buy them back in exchange for gold.
Lincoln had the right idea, but he didn’t go far enough. We have to eliminate interest on ALL money. The answer is actually super-easy.
To end the addiction to economic growth and save the earth, this is what we need to do: End the creation of money as interest-bearing loans. Put an end to fractional reserve banking and make it so banks can’t create money. Then give the U.S. Treasury the exclusive right to issue U.S. currency free of debt.
Of course, the big banks won’t like this, because they make money from keeping us addicted. But as I learned in school, we live in a democracy which means companies aren’t the boss of us; we’re the boss of them. Yay for democracy!
Let’s stop the addiction before the economy collapses and destroys the earth, which is very beautiful. In fact, it’s my favorite planet!
It’s tough competition for headline space in the media lately. Tax policy and energy price adjustments just don’t have the same appeal as a mayor smoking crack or secret cheques to cover fraudulent housing expenses.
However, the boring stuff has far more impact on our lives than the circus that follows the eccentric and scandal-plagued leaders in our country.
Not all scandals are equal.
The Ontario Liberal’s political decision to cancel gas plants in vote-heavy ridings, on the other hand, actually affects our bottom line. The consequences of the gas plant boondoggle are now coming to fruition, as evident in the drastic rate increase in our power bills starting on November 1st.
The price for off-peak power has increased by 7.5 per cent per kilowatt-hour, and 4 per cent during peak hours. Compare that to the rate of inflation, which is currently about 1.2 per cent. Our off-peak power rates — the time of day we were previously told to use energy to save money — has been hiked by more than six times the rate of inflation!
Political interference from the premier’s office is responsible for the exasperated price tag of the cancelled gas plant, which could actually exceed the estimated cost of $1.09 billion. The recent auditor general’s report states that $625 million of that tab will be passed on to electricity ratepayers in Ontario, who will foot the bill over the next 20 years.
And, as of November, we will fork over more of our after-tax income to the Ontario Power Generation.
Politics often boils down to concentrated benefits and diffused costs. The Liberals — who benefited significantly from cancelling these plants by saving at least four seats during an election where four seats really mattered — are hoping that no one will notice this rate increase.
When thirteen and a half million Ontario residents split the tab and pay it off over 20 years from both their tax bill and energy bill, it’s less noticeable. That is diffused costs. And that is how our politicians get away with such blatantly partisan, self-interested decision-making.
Unfortunately for this government, that isn’t the only factor contributing to rising energy prices in Ontario. The cancelled gas plants are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the mismanagement of the energy file.
The costly and ill-conceived Green Energy Act, which saw billions of taxpayer dollars go to corporate welfare and subsidies to foreign firms, also drives up costs for electricity ratepayers.
Meanwhile, taxpayers pay for a billion-dollar-a-year subsidy known as the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit, a 10 per cent discount to household energy bills to cover the skyrocketing price tag for green energy.
Yes, taxpayers subsidize both the production and the consumption of green energy.
It gets better. Our government also pays some green energy producers not to do anything at all. We learned earlier this fall that Ontario pays some of its wind turbine farmers not to produce energy.
Ronald Reagan must have been talking about Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli’s policies when he explained how government works: “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
Ontario taxpayers and ratepayers will be stuck for the tab for the incompetence and mismanagement of our energy ministry for years to come. We may not always see it in the news, but we certainly see it in our electricity bills and on our pay stubs.
- Parker Gallant: Who really sets Ontario’s Energy Policies? (ep.probeinternational.org)
- Behind closed doors: who is really setting Ontario’s energy policies? (freewco.wordpress.com)
- New Ontario green energy rules to give municipalities greater control over projects and a chance to collect revenue (news.nationalpost.com)
- Windfall – massive contract boosts hiring (lfpress.com)
Delegates at the Conservative party convention in Calgary last weekend nearly unanimously supported policy proposals that would require enhanced financial transparency from unions and allow members to opt out of contributions to political and social causes.
But the most troubling resolutions for union brass were two successful resolutions that indicated Conservatives support controversial right-to-work legislation that might one day find its way into the government’s platform.
“The Conservatives, at both the federal and Ontario level, have taken a hard shift to the far right, adopting some of the most extreme U.S. Republican-style labour policies,” said York University Labour Law professor David Doorey.
“This plays well to the Conservative base, and I suspect the government will carry through with much of the platform.”
There are already two private members bills before Parliament that would erode union power. Bill C-525 would allow secret ballots in union certification and Bill C-377 would increase unions’ financial reporting. Labour leaders said it’s no surprise those issues were taken up as official party policy and expect a bill on opting out of political contributions to follow.
The policies approved by the grassroots of the party at the convention become party policy but don’t necessarily become part of an election platform or legislation.
The most hotly debated of the labour reforms was one that states the party believes “mandatory union membership and forced financial contributions as a condition of employment limit the economic freedom of Canadians and stifle economic growth.”
It passed with the support of 66 per cent of delegates, but some spoke out against the measure, which calls into question the tenets of the Rand formula, a staple of Canadian labour relations that requires all employees in a unionized environment to pay union dues regardless of whether they join.
“If we adopt this motion we are engaging in something that is highly controversial,” said one delegate.
That opened the doors to an affirmative vote on a policy that explicitly mentions support for a “right-to-work legislation to allow optional union membership”, which passed with a clear majority.
Right-to-work laws would allow workers to refuse to pay the often hundreds of dollars a year in union dues, yet still receive the benefits the union provides in a workplace. Proponents of the laws argue that union wage and benefit demands hurt the economy and encourage employers to ship jobs to cheaper jurisdictions where non-unionized workers are willing to work for less.
But critics, including U.S. President Barack Obama, say the laws have the effect of giving workers the right to work for less pay.
The issue was thrust into the spotlight in Canada after Michigan, which borders Ontario and competes for manufacturing jobs, passed a right-to-work bill in December, making Michigan the 24th right-to-work state.
Ontario Progressive Conservative party Leader Tim Hudak supported Michigan’s move and has claimed General Motors moved its Camaro production to Lansing, Mich. because of the newly enacted right to work laws.
Several union members gathered outside the convention to protest against the Harper government, which has introduced back-to-work legislation and a re-examination of “essential services,” where employees are unable to strike.
Inside, observers from the Canadian Labour Congress could only watch as party members showed their willingness to support anti-union measures.
Ken Georgetti, president of the CLC, said some of the resolutions met with more resistance than he was expecting.
“These aren’t overwhelming mandates that they’re getting,” he said of the most extreme labour reforms, adding that he believes some of the delegates have been misinformed about the perceived benefits of right to work.
“This is not responsible governance or leadership. You don’t counsel people to get free rides in Canada — you counsel them to pay their fair share,” he said of the legislation that would allow employees to opt out of union dues in a unionized shop.
Meanwhile, Terrance Oakey, president of Merit Canada, celebrated after delegates on the floor passed all of the labour reforms his group has been working for, including secret ballots for certification, financial transparency and opting out of political contributions.
“This is reflective of broad public opinion,” he said, citing a survey by Leger Marketing suggesting 83 per cent of working Canadians believe that unions should be required to publicly disclose detailed financial information.
“Being at the convention it was clear that the mood in the party reflects the mood in the country that something needs to be done on these issues so I wasn’t surprised.”
Oakey said right-to-work legislation is appealing to more members of the party as an increasing number of jobs, especially manufacturing jobs in Ontario, are lost to right-to-work states in the U.S. Some believe that enacting domestic right-to-work legislation would help to stem that tide.
But the right-to-work amendment that’s now part of party policy was extreme even for Oakey. Merit, he said, is not aiming to take away union funding and supports the Rand formula. But Oakey believes modern labour organizations are going beyond their Rand rights by forcing members to fund political causes they don’t support. Canada is the only country in the world that prevents members from opting out, he added.
Oakey doesn’t believe the Harper government will be in any rush to introduce right-to-work legislation, nor would it have much effect as Ottawa is responsible only for federal employees, while the provinces are responsible for regulating the majority of workplaces.
“Prime Minister Harper tends to be an incrementalist, I think he’s likely to watch how the three less contentious issues are dealt with … but I don’t expect a right-to-work policy coming forward — at least from the government.”
Still, he said, it is indicative of a party that has grown frustrated with the modern labour movement.
Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, the country’s largest union, said the moves are little more than the Conservatives trying to find a new enemy to obfuscate the real issues, including their own accountability crisis in the Senate scandal.
“If you look at all the things that have happened to the Conservatives, they need a wedge issue and they need someone to point the finger at so either they’re going to go after crime or go after unions.”
And while he is highly concerned that the Tories are following the right wing of the U.S. Republicans, he doesn’t believe Canadians will accept right-to-work measures once they learn more about their effects, including higher worker fatality rates, lower family incomes and poorer infrastructure, he said, citing studies of the effects in right-to-work states.
“If they are looking to pick a fight that will eliminate the working class in Canada, then there is going to be a strong reaction.”
Over the past year, pictures of China’s unprecedented air pollution have been seen around the world (for a sample seehere and here), Chinese smog has been exported to Japan, and there is even a dedicated hourly twitter update looking at the quality, or lack thereof, of Beijing air. As such, it was only a matter of time before the tragic consequences of China’s unprecedented and unplanned scramble to industrialize started manifesting themselves. This happened overnight when an eight-year-old girl has become China’s youngest lung cancer patient, reports said, with doctors blaming pollution as the direct cause of her illness. The girl, whose name was not given, lives near a major road in the eastern province of Jiangsu, said Xinhuanet, the website of China’s official news agency.
Since this is just what is officially reported, one can only imagine just how bad the reality is behind the Ministry of Truth firewall, but at least China is finally starting to come clean on its pollution problem, in what one can only hope is an attempt to remedy it. However, if that means even slower growth and a less furious scramble to industrialize through the construction of ghost cities, this will likely mean even slower economic growth, even less of an inflation tolerance by the premier and the PBOC, and even more animosity toward Bernanke’s QE, which as we reported earlier is the main reason for today’s reddish tint in the equity futures.
AFP reports that according to a doctor at Jiangsu Cancer Hospital in Nanjing, the 8-year old girl had been exposed to harmful particles and dust over a long period of time.
Lung cancer cases among children are extremely rare, with the average age for diagnosis at about 70, according to the American Cancer Society.
But the incidence of the disease has skyrocketed in China as the country’s rapid development has brought with it deteriorating air quality, particularly in urban areas.
Lung cancer deaths in China have multiplied more than four times over the past 30 years, according to Beijing’s health ministry. Cancer is now the leading cause of death in the smog-ridden capital.
The report of the eight-year-old girl’s diagnosis comes after choking smog enveloped the northeastern city of Harbin two weeks ago, bringing flights and ground transport to a standstill and forcing schools to shut for several days, with visibility in some areas reduced to less than 50 metres.
At the height of the smog, the city’s levels of PM2.5 — the smallest, most dangerous type of airborne particle — reached 1,000 micrograms per cubic metre, 40 times the World Health Organization’s recommended standard.
High levels of PM2.5 have been linked to health problems including lung cancer and heart disease.
And now with China finally admitting it has a health hazard problem, one wonders how long until Japan does the same with the even greater environmental catastrophe that is Fukushima, or will Abe continue to hide the disastrous health consequences of the worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl until his entire economic revitalization house of cards comes tumbling down and he is once again escorted out of the building in yet another epic case of diarrhea?
- 8-year-old Chinese girl contracts lung cancer, smog might be to blame (voiceofrussia.com)
- China: Smog blamed as girl, 8, becomes youngest lung cancer patient (crofsblogs.typepad.com)
- Girl, 8, is China’s youngest lung cancer case; doctors say pollution the cause (straitstimes.com)
- Chinese girl, eight, has lung cancer (skynews.com.au)
A fascinating talk by J. David Hughes, a research fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, given at Cornell Universtiy on 5-2-12, “Energy Sustainability Dilemma : Powering the Future in a Finite World”. Most of the easy energy is gone. Now we are pursuing Deep Ocean Drilling, Tar Sands, Fracked Shale Gas, etc. Are we heading for a dead end? What about Wind and Solar? Can they make up the difference? This talk is somewhat technical, but essential if we are to understand our energy options as our society pushes for more energy The slides are here.
Duct Tape Politics | KUNSTLER. (source)
The ObamaCare website rollout fiasco, joined by the bait-and-switch “You can keep your current insurance (not)” tempest, obscure the fundamental quandary about so-called health-care in America: that it is a gigantic racket structured to allow countless layers of grift and counter-grift. The end product of all that artifice is that medical care costs twice as much in America as any other civilized country, and that it has to be operated by a cruel and despotic matrix of poorly coordinated bureaucracies that commonly leave people more disabled financially than the diseases that brought them into the system.
ObamaCare was designed to work like a giant roll of duct tape that would allow the current cast of characters in charge (Democratic Progressives) to pretend that the system could keep going a few years longer. But it looks like it has already blown out the patch on the manifold and is getting ready to throw a rod — which duct tape will not avail to fix.
I had three major surgeries (hip, open heart, spine) the past year and paid attention to the statements that rolled in from my then-insurer, Blue Shield (the policy was cancelled in October). These documents were always advertised as “this is not a bill” and that was technically true, but it deflected attention from what it really was, a record of negotiated scams between the “providers” (doctors and hospitals) and the insurance company.
There was never any discussion (or offer of discussion) of the cost of care before a procedure. When asked, doctors commonly pretend not to know what their work costs. Why is that? It’s not to spare the patient’s feelings. It’s because sick people are hostages and both the doctors and the hospital management know they will agree to anything that will get them through the crisis of illness. This sets up a situation that allows the “providers” to blindside the patient with charges after the fact.
My hip “revision” operation was necessary because my original implant was a defective (“innovative” circa 2003) metal-on-metal joint that released metal fragments into my system and it had to be removed. The stated charge for replacement part — a simple two piece bearing made of metal and plastic, about the size of tangerine — was $14,000. Blue Shield “negotiated” the price down to about $7,000. If you go to the websites of any of the manufacturers of these things, you will not see any suggested retail or wholesale price. The markup on these things must be out of this world. Cars come with four ball joints that carry roughly the same time warrantee, and they come with a staggering array of “extras”— engines, transmissions, air-conditioning, seats, air-bags, and radios. The pattern was similar for the other surgeries and what they entailed. I ended up paying five-figures out-of-pocket. Lucky for me that I saved some money before this all happened. I don’t have kids so I haven’t been paying extortionate college tuitions during my peak income years.
All the surgeries I had required hospital stays. For the hip op, I was in for a day and a half in a non-special bed (no fancy hookups). The charge was $23,000 per day. For what? They took my blood pressure nine times. I got about six bad meals. The line charge on the Blue Shield statement said “room and board.” It would be a joke if this extortion wasn’t multiplied millions of times a day across the nation. Citizen-hostages obviously don’t know where to begin to unravel this skein of dreadful rackets. If you think it’s possible to have a productive conversation with an insurance company rep at the other end of the phone line, then you’re going to be disappointed. You might as well be talking to a third-sub-deputy under-commissar in the Soviet motor vehicle bureau.
This ghastly matrix of corruption really only has two ways to go. It can completely implode in a fairly short time frame (say, five years, tops), or we can, by some miracle of political will, get our priorities straight and sweep away all the layers of racketeering with a single-payer system. The evidence in other civilized countries is not so encouraging. England’s National Health Service has degenerated into a two layer system of half-assed soviet-style medicine for the proles and concierge service for the rich. France’s system works more democratically, but the nation is going bankrupt and eventually their health care network will fall apart. The Scandinavian countries have relatively tiny populations. I don’t know, frankly, how the Germans are doing.
Here in the USA, you can make arguments for putting a greater share of public money into a single-payer system. For instance, if we redirected the money spent on our stupid military adventures and closed some of the countless redundant bases we run overseas. That would be a biggie. Given the current choke-hold of the military-industrial complex on our politicians, I wouldn’t expect much traction there.
You can argue that nobody complains about government spending on the highway system, so why should “the people” complain about organizing a medical system that really works? Obviously, there’s no consensus to make that happen. Too many doctors want to drive BMWs. Too many insurance executives and hospital administrators want to make multi-million dollar salaries. Too many lobbyist parasites and lawyers are feeding off that revenue stream. Too many politicians with gold-plated health insurance coverage don’t want to change the current distribution of goodies. End-of-story, as the late Tony Soprano used to say.
It’s the old quandary of fire or ice… which way do you want to go? Since I’m interested in reality-based outcomes, my bet would be on implosion. In any case, several of the other systems that currently support the activities of our society are scheduled for near-term implosion, too. That would be the banking-finance system, the energy supply system, and the industrial agriculture system. As those things wind down or crash, you can be sure that everything connected with them will be affected, so the chance that we could mount a real national health care system is, in my opinion, zero.
The ObamaCare duct-taped system will go down. The big hospitals, HMOs, insurers, pharma companies will all starve and shrivel. Like all things in the emergent new paradigm, they will reorganize on a small and much simpler basis. Everyone will make less money and high-tech medicine will probably dwindle for all but a very few… and for them, only for a while. Eventually, we’ll re-set to local clinic style medicine with far fewer resources, specialties, and miracle cures. There will be a whole lot less aggravation, though, and people may die more peacefully.
Finally, there’s the pathetic American lumpen-public of our day itself, steadily committing suicide en masse by corn byproducts, the three-hundred pounders lumbering down the Wal-Mart aisles in search of the latest designer nacho. What can you do about such a people, except let fate take them where it will?
Published as an E-book for the first time!
The 20th Anniversary edition
With an entertaining new introduction by the author
Puerto Rico heads towards debt default – Americas – Al Jazeera English. (source/link)Puerto Rico’s economy is shrinking at an alarming rate. Officially the unemployment rate in the US territory is 13 percent, but some economists say it is three times higher.
The island is $70bn in debt, it has lost nearly 200,000 skilled workers in the past two years and could be heading towards default.
The US government says it is monitoring the situation. But without financial aid or a bail-out, the three and half million people that still live in Puerto Rico could be facing an even bleaker future.
Al Jazeera’s Andy Gallacher reports from San Juan.
Canadian natural gas giant Encana says it will cut its workforce by 20 per cent and close its office in Plano, Texas.
The Calgary-based company also plans to narrow its production focus to five oil-related projects in North America from as many as 30.
“In order to align our organization with our strategy, we have had to make a number of exceptionally difficult decisions,” chief executive Doug Suttles said in a statement.
“The restructuring that is underway reflects our shift from funding about 30 different plays to focusing our resources on five key areas.
Encana said it plans to sell assets and improve its cash flow. It will also create a separate company to own its mineral rights and royalty interests across southern Alberta, the statement said.
An initial public offering will be done by mid-2014.
“Encana intends to retain a significant stake in the new company, which will manage leasing activities in the area currently known as Encana’s Clearwater play,” the statement said.
Suttles was upbeat about the company’s future after the restructuring and layoffs
“I’m excited about Encana’s future and encouraged by how our people have rallied as one team to get Encana back to winning,” he said in the statement.
“While we have a lot of challenging work ahead of us, I am more confident than ever that we will be successful.”
Encana shares closed Monday at $18.59 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. They have fallen 16.2 per cent in the past 12 months.
The number of Canadians using food banks has fallen off slightly but still remains near record highs almost four years after the end of the economic recession.
The annual study by Food Banks Canada shows that more than 833,000 people relied on food handouts during one snapshot month earlier this year, compared with 872,379 the previous March. More than a third of them were children.
“Underlying this small drop is a concern of enormous proportions: food bank use remains higher than it was before the
recession began,” the report states.
“During a time of apparent economic recovery, far too many Canadians still struggle to put food on the table.”
Abundance of low-income jobs
Low-income jobs are the culprit, the report found, and there’s an abundance of them thanks to a Canada-wide loss of manufacturing jobs over the past three decades.
The annual HungerCount study provides one of the most up-to-date national indicators of poverty. The latest Statistics Canada numbers show that 8.8 per cent of people were living below the low-income cutoff in 2011.
Who is going hungry in 2013? More than half of those turning to food banks are families with children, the report concludes.
Twelve per cent of households asking for help were currently employed, while another five per cent were recently employed.
Eleven per cent of those using food banks self-identify as First Nations, Metis or Inuit, and another 11 per cent are new immigrants to Canada.
“Both of these groups continue to face unacceptable levels of poverty, and are forced to turn to food banks as a result,” the study found.
Food Banks Canada called on governments to invest in affordable housing, better income supports and to “increase social investment in northern Canada to address the stunning levels of food insecurity in northern regions.”
“We lose billions of dollars each year trying to address the health and social consequences of poverty after it takes its toll, rather than preventing it in the first place,” the study found.
Katharine Schmidt, the organization’s executive director, said the while federal and provincial governments are attempting to do more to combat hunger, the numbers remain disturbingly high.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Schmidt said in an interview.
“One child going to bed hungry is one child too many, and we have 300,000 of them in this country.”
She added that while the country’s thousands of food banks are “really doing their best,” they do not represent a long-term solution because they cannot address the root causes of hunger.
“We believe that government does care, that they do see that they have a role to play,” she said. “The challenge is actually implementing a change in policy.”