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Arkansas Nuclear Facility Offline Following Fire, Possible Explosion | Zero Hedge

Arkansas Nuclear Facility Offline Following Fire, Possible Explosion | Zero Hedge.

No tsunami or earthquake but Entergy’s Arkansas nuclear facility is offline…

  • *ENTERGY: ARKANSAS NUCLEAR ONE OFFLINE AFTER TRANSFORMER FIRE
  • *ENTERGY SAYS UNIT 2 OFFLINE, UNIT 1 REMAINS ONLINE

Reassuringly, Entergy explains there was “no damage to the actual nuclear reactor,” for now.

 

Via ArkansasOnline,

Authorities are responding to a fire that was reported Monday morning at an Entergy auxiliary transformer at Arkansas Nuclear One Unit Two in Russellville, company spokesman Mike Bowling said.

 

The blaze started about 7:50 a.m. after there was a “fault in the transformer that resulted in the fire,” Bowling said.

 

The facility’s Unit Two is offline, but Unit One is still online, Bowling said. No injuries have been reported, and the fire has been contained.

 

The auxiliary transformer is an electrical device that transfers energy and is not a nuclear portion of the plant, Bowling said.

 

The London Fire Department and Entergy’s onsite responders are working the scene.

 

Arkansas Department of Emergency Management spokesman Tommy Jackson said that the fire was not extinguished within the 15 minutes of detection.

 

“The auxiliary transformer exploded in Unit Two, and there was fire within the protected area,” he said.

 

Gov. Mike Beebe said after a speech Monday at the Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Directors’ Winter Conference in Little Rock that he had been briefed on the fire and that there was “no damage to the actual nuclear reactor.”

 

My Two Cents – “The Fate of Dollar Hegemony”

My Two Cents – “The Fate of Dollar Hegemony”.

My Two Cents – “The Fate of Dollar Hegemony”

 

12/06/2013

Despite the quiet nature of things lately from a geopolitical standpoint, coupled with the mainstream media’s obsession with new nominal highs in the various paper indexes, there is definitely turbulence below the surface. There have already been a number of thought-provoking articles written regarding the future of dollar hegemony and the purpose of this week’s piece is to hopefully add to the discussion and stimulate some thought.

The first important thing to remember is that unless one has access to credible inside information, most of what we read is speculation, and most of the commentators will readily admit that. I’m going to do the same thing here. Opinions will be clearly noted and facts will be referenced. Despite the abstract sounding nature of the term, ‘dollar hegemony’ is the paradigm that allows America to do what it is currently doing; namely spending money it doesn’t have on things it doesn’t produce (or need). It is the leverage mechanism that is used globally to politely – and sometimes with extreme prejudice – cajole other nations into doing what is in the Anglo-American banking syndicate’s best interests. The fact that the entire paradigm is a complete fabrication without foundation is lost neither on the powerbrokers that perpetrate the scam, nor the parties the scam is perpetrated on.

The main reason the dollar standard, or dollar hegemony, has lasted so long has been mainly been due to a lack of alternatives. Countries who attempted to stray from the dollar were labeled as enemies (remember the ‘axis of evil’?) and contrived wars were launched or economic sanctions were applied until compliance was achieved. That assertion is mostly fact, part opinion, but when it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck you don’t call it a horse.  However, as the wealth has shifted from America to other parts of the world due to our persistent lack of production, coupled with overconsumption and resulting debt load, alternatives to the dollar standard are beginning to show themselves.

The Dollar Standard’s Far-Reaching Effects

So why spend the time discussing this? Does it really matter to the average person? Absolutely. It couldn’t matter more from a financial standpoint. Every financial transaction you engage in as an economic actor rests firmly on this fraudulent paradigm. Without the dollar standard, your credit cards, paper scrip, and bank accounts would buy nothing. Without the dollar standard, your net worth, minus whatever tangibles you happened to own, would drop to zero, with negative equity because your debts would still exist, just not in dollar form.

That is probably one of the hardest things to grasp – the idea of not using the paper dollar. We’ve become so separated in a time manner from the pre-not-so-USFed era that we’ve lost our bearings on what it is like without the paper dollar. How many people are alive that remember what it was like before 1913? Take it another step back – there is not a person alive today that was alive and aware when the banking panic of 1907 took place. The portion of our population that remembers the great depression is dwindling every day and we ignore those people and their testimonies for the most part. We’re so much smarter now than they were back then, aren’t we? I’ve got news for you: those Americans were tougher than 99% of us today, this author included.

Think of feudalism for a minute if you would. I’ve mentioned that previously in other articles and believe that is the direction we’re headed. Let’s face it; America is not ‘rich’ as the quislings on television would have you believe. We’re broke. Sure we have a bunch of stuff, but it is mostly borrowed from others who now have the power over us. In my opinion, America is little more than a nation that is quickly becoming the land of the fee and the home of the debt slave. This is probably where some of you will choose to stop reading and that’s fine. Whether you believe it or not doesn’t make it any less true and ignoring it won’t make it go away. Believe me, I hate that reality as much as you do, but patriotism is about more than just waving flags and singing the Star Spangled Banner. It is also about taking responsibility, tightening the belt, and cleaning up our messes in the hopes of passing along a country better than the one we received.

Geopolitical Moves to End the Dollar Standard – Destruction from Within

So we’ve had this cushy lifestyle, by and large, since the mid 1980s or so. Madison Avenue had figured out how to remove the stigma of debt servitude and the deals had been cut with the Arabs to create the petrodollar (we buy their oil, they buy our junk USGovt bonds). So things were sort of copacetic with one minor problem; we’d started shedding our industry.  See, we cut a deal (my opinion here) with the Chinese to create what I’ll call the WallyWorld dollar. In exchange for unfettered access to the American consumer, who was by then beginning to be armed with credit cards, the Chinese would also become purchasers of our bonds. One of the necessary steps here was to depreciate the dollar to harm American exports and make the imported junk from China more appealing.

Now maybe this wasn’t an explicit treaty or anything like that, but there was a definite trend shift in trade and monetary policy. The 1990s included a bevy of additional ‘free trade’ agreements that did nothing but further the de-industrialization of America and fuel the industrial revolution in China. This period from the mid 1980s through the end of the millennium also featured significant destruction of the USDollar from a domestic price perspective. According to the USGovt’s delusional consumer price index (CPI), prices rose 57% from 1986 through 2000 (a period of 14 years). According to the newly cooked numbers, they’ve risen an additional 36% from 2000 to the present (almost 13 years), which, as many know, has been one of the most notorious inflationary periods in history even if the BLS insists otherwise.
To put it another way, from 1986 to 2013, the dollar lost around 54% of its purchasing power due to the above and sub-equilibrium interest rates to encourage indebtedness. The less the dollar has purchased, the more EVERYONE has borrowed to fill the gap – from the government to the consumer and every entity in between.

Tying this back to the dollar standard, if you’re one of the parties around the world that uses this currency for your international trade, then how do you feel about it losing its purchasing power in such a manner? You probably don’t like it very much. One of the functions of money is to act as a store of value and the USDollar has become like trying to hold sand between your fingers. The harder you squeeze to hang onto it, the more it slips away. The simpletons in academia and government like to pretend that either a) nobody has noticed this annoying trend, and/or b) they don’t really care or feel they can do anything about it, and/or c) because this is America and we’re just entitled to do whatever we please.

But so far, these are all moves that have served to systematically undermine the dollar standard from within. Well, there are some pretty prominent statesman who said the only way this country would fall would be from within. So maybe those old folks weren’t so dumb after all.

Geopolitical Moves to End the Dollar Standard – Destruction from Without

However, the above only represents half the story – and a very abbreviated version of it at that. There have been a whole raft of agreements over the past half dozen years in particular that have sought to undermine the dollar standard. It is pretty simple how it works. If the dollar is the ‘reserve’ currency, then that creates automatic demand for dollars because countries need to keep a given amount (subject to policy changes and economic conditions) for settling their international trades. As the purchasing power of the dollar has decreased this has increased the demand for dollars because countries needed more to purchase the same amount of goods. This is one of the biggest (and perhaps the main one) reasons the ‘fed’ has been able to get away with its inflationary policies without going into Weimar mode. Couple that with military strong-arm tactics and order has been maintained for the most part – up until now.

Conversely, what more and more countries are doing is cutting deals with other countries and settling the transactions in some other currency – or even gold in some cases. These actions that exclude the dollar reduce aggregate demand for dollars and make it harder for the ‘fed’ to hide its inflationary tactics such as QE. Assisting in that cause is the fact that most other central banks are doing the exact same thing; they’re attacking their own currencies to make them cheap to facilitate exports. As if you can’t have a strong currency AND a strong export base. We might get into that another day, but for now it is a race to the bottom. However, China for one is making a power play. Their gold-buying habits have become very well documented. From the article:
“The increased appetite for gold also reflects rising wealth. China’s rural per capita income in the first nine months of the year jumped 12.5% from a year earlier, while urban per capita disposable income rose 9.5%. In April, when the price of gold fell 14% in two days, Chinese media showed images of women clearing shelves in gold shops.”

The actions of the Chinese demonstrate the huge disconnect in thinking between East and West. But it isn’t rural Chinese buying gold that should concern Americans, it is the actions of the central bank and the deals the country has cut with Russia, Venezuela, and Iran, to name a few, that will impact the future of the dollar standard.

Central Bank Gold Buying

As indicated in the article below, Venezuela is set to start selling the Chinese oil priced in Yuan rather than USDollars. The deals to provide the oil were cut several years ago and at the time myself and many others opined that the trades would eventually be settled in Yuan rather than dollars. That pretty much takes Venezuela off America’s bully list. China will protect her interests as Russia did in the case of running to the side of Syria as the US screamed for war a few months back. Oh, by the way, where is all the outrage from our leaders at the alleged chemical weapons attacks? (emphasis on alleged) Stories rise and fall from the news based on political expediency rather than anything else. If you want backup for that assertion, just go and look up some of the stuff that has gone on in places like Liberia and Mali.

“Currency swaps taken individually are not of great importance, but the combined impact is resulting in a transformational change to the world financial system. In the first quarter of 2011, the Chinese renminbi surpassed the Russian ruble in trading volume for the first time. This year, Britain became the first G-7 country to set up an official currency swap line with China.

Venezuela, Sudan and Angola are expected in the near future to sell oil in the yuan. Both Russia and Iran are already using it for oil sales to China. This helped accelerate a new US $85-billion China-Russia oil-and-gas deal that will be transacted in rubles and yuan, not U.S. dollars.”
Note also in the paragraph above the part about Russia and Iran already using the Yuan for oil sales to the Chinese. Remember back to 2006 when Iran was rumored to be on the verge of starting its own oil bourse and selling its oil for Euros as opposed to dollars? That’s about the same time that Iran got put on the hotlist for its ‘nuclear aspirations’. Now, maybe Iran is working towards a nuke and maybe it isn’t, but the fact of the matter remains that there is a disturbing pattern of countries getting put on the Anglo-American hit list anytime they threaten the dollar standard.

These are not new developments though; the except below is from an International Business Times article written back in 2010 where China and Russia agreed to bilaterally dump the USDollar from trade between the two nations. But it gets even richer. Check this out:

“The dollar reserve currency status allows the U.S. to run up high deficits and have its debt be denominated in the U.S. dollar, which in turn enables it to print unlimited dollars and inflate its way out of debt. America, understandably, wants to protect these privileges.

In fact, some allege that the U.S. wants to protect this status so badly that it invaded Iraq because the country began selling oil in euros instead of dollars. Now, the U.S. is allegedly threatening Iran because of the country’s desire to use euros or Russian rubles in oil transactions.”

Russia's Gold Reserves

The bad news in all this for dollar hegemony is that the smaller countries are starting to get the hint. The US won’t (and really can’t) mess with a Chinese-Russian alliance, so if these smaller players want to dump the dollar, all they have to do is align themselves with either or both of those powers, cut a few deals, and let the big boys do the protecting of their interests, which they will.

A buck gets ten this turns into a military conflict at some point in the not too distant future. This is not that type of publication, but there is very good information that backs up the assertion that the Chinese and Russians are arming to the teeth and developing new weaponry specifically aimed at challenging and defeating the US military. Would the world really go to war over a bunch of paper tickets (dollars), and who gets to issue the ticket that everyone uses? Absolutely; not for the paper itself, but for the power it represents. Note also in this entire article, the theme of wealth transfer. America was formerly the richest nation in the world. Granted, we still are rich in many resources, such as coal, timber, and natural gas, but in all likelihood, it will be others, rather than Americans, who end up enjoying the bounty from our former riches. For after all, we’re the ones with the tab and the debtor doesn’t get to make the rules.

If you found this article informative, please consider listening to Andy’s podcast ‘Beat the Street’. It is free of charge and you can visit the show page, listen to shows, subscribe via RSS through Windows Media Player and iTunes, and sign up for the reminder service by clicking here. The podcast deals with similar topics and covers current economic and financial trends in great detail. The show also seeks to empower listeners to be their own advocates by providing information on various ways to navigate through a world that is fraught with risk and the unknown.

Until Next Time,
Andy

 

Andrew W. Sutton, MBA received international honors in the field of Economics in graduate school and is the Chief Market Strategist for Sutton & Associates, LLC, a Registered Investment Adviser in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For more information about the company, its products and services, or contact information, please visit our websitePlease feel free to distribute, copy or otherwise disseminate this information.

 

 

1 In 4 Europeans At Risk Of Poverty | Zero Hedge

1 In 4 Europeans At Risk Of Poverty | Zero Hedge.

As bonds and stocks soar, and Europe’s leaders continue to proclaim victory, despite Draghi’s downbeat jawboning as EUR surges to growth-crushing levels, it is well known that the employment situation remains abysmal in the real economy. However, what is worse that the red-flashing-headlines of record youth (and total) unemployment is, as Bloomberg’s Niraj Shah notes, 125 million people in the EU were at risk of pverty or social exclusion. According to Eurostat, that is 24.8% of the population. Almost half of Bulgarians faced economic hardship and Greece had the highest poverty rate in the euro area at 34.6% (though if Stournaras was to be believed this weekend, their problems are solved).

 

 

Source: Bloomberg Brief (@economistniraj)

 

Does Canada’s stance on climate change constitute moral negligence?

Does Canada’s stance on climate change constitute moral negligence?.

How could the media report, with apparent pride, Canada’s military and civil contributions to humanitarian rescue efforts in the Philippines while ignoring our nation’s commitment to ensuring that present disasters are mere prelude to greater future catastrophe?


Tifón Haiyan-Yolanda en Filipinas (Erik de Castro – Reuters) – mansunides/flickrcreative commons

A brief to the CBC and select Members of Parliament
It was several days before media reports and commentary on the havoc caused by typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines finally began to acknowledge a possible connection to anthropogenic climate change. While no single hyper-storm can be positively attributed to human disruption of the global climate system, climate models predict that extreme weather events will increase in frequency and violence. Unprecedented natural maelstroms like Haiyan provide empirical evidence that the models are likely correct.
What continues to be almost entirely missing from media analysis is Canada’s role in all this, particularly the moral dimensions of the nation’s current economic development policies and those of several provinces (e.g., BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland).  The facts are that:
1) on a per capita basis, historically and at present, Canada stands among the world’s top greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters particularly of carbon dioxide (CO2). Canadians are therefore as responsible as anyone else on Earth for human-induced global warming. (To argue that as a nation our emissions are only 2-3% of the global total is specious, essentially a form of denial);
2) the Federal government and several provinces have hitched their economic wagons largely to petroleum, natural gas and coal development/exports. In short, the nation’s economic future is tied, as a matter of deliberate policy, to the country becoming a major exporter of potentially catastrophic climate change. (To argue that Canada’s shale gas and tar-sands crude is greener or more ‘ethical’ than the alternatives is laughably ludricrous.)
This is an extraordinary state of affairs—would a thoughtful, well-informed, morally responsible people intentionally commit to an economic development path that will almost certainly contribute to accelerating climate disruption, global food shortages, ecological violence against the chronically impoverished, the physical displacement of hundreds of millions (billions?) of innocent people and generalized geopolitical chaos, possibly within their own lifetimes? (All of these things have been identified as likely outcomes of current trends in numerous graphic reports prepared by various high-level institutions ranging from national security think-tanks to the World Bank.) ;It is the more extraordinary because viable alternative economic development strategies are possible.
In this light, is it not time that we had a nation-wide adult conversation about just what is going on here? How could the media report, with apparent pride, Canada’s military and civil contributions to humanitarian rescue efforts in the Philippines while ignoring our nation’s commitment to ensuring that present disasters are mere prelude to greater future catastrophe? To remain in denial about Canada’s contribution to climate change constitutes silent defence of economic policies that will permanently disrupt natural systems, injure or kill millions of people, and undermine prospects for global civilization.
Canadian common law provides useful guidance in thinking this conundrum through. One may be found environmentally negligent as a result of unreasonable conduct that results in ecologically significant damage to another’s property or person. The law defines “unreasonable conduct” as doing something that a prudent or reasonable person would not do, or failing to do something that a reasonable person would do.  Fault may be found even in the case of unintended harm if it stems from unreasonable conduct.
The Criminal Code (Section 219) is even clearer that lack of intent to harm is no defence if the damage results from conscious acts performed in careless disregard for others: “Everyone is criminally negligent who (a) in doing anything, or (b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do, shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons” (where “duty” means a duty imposed by law). Indeed, “a person commits homicide when, directly or indirectly, by any means, he causes the death of a human being, by being negligent”. The fact that Canada is not the only offending nation would be no defence. All participating members are guilty of crimes committed by a criminal gang.
Of course, Canadian law does not apply in the international arena and, in the absence of a corresponding negligence framework, international law imposes no legal duty to act responsibly. That said, there is no prima facie reason why the behavioural standards we impose on ourselves as global citizens should not be as rigorous as those we accept at home under domestic law.
If human-induced climate change is the cause of death and destruction, is not Canada’s failure to reduce its CO2 emissions at least morally negligent? Does not the conscious pursuit of economic policies that actually exacerbate climate change display “wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons”, particularly so if alternative paths are available?
Point: Canada’s stance on climate change arguably constitutes gross moral negligence. In light of global change, our current economic development model is fatally flawed. The nation deserves a rigorous public discussion of both these issues in Parliament and in the national media. Without such debate, we cannot act like the thoughtful, well-informed, morally responsible people we hope to be.

Reference

1. For example, Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies argues that even a 2.5 Celsius degree warming could produce massive nonlinear events in the ecosphere that would give rise to massive nonlinear events in society. [Note that te are currently headed toward a four C° increase in global mean temperature.] “The flooding of coastal communities around the world, …has the potential to challenge regional and even national identities. The internal cohesion of nations will be under great stress, …as a result of a dramatic rise in migration and changes in agricultural patterns and water availability. Armed conflict between nations over resources, …is likely and nuclear war is possible…” (CSIS 2007). One co-author remarked at a press conference that rich countries could go through “a 30-year process of kicking people away from the lifeboat as the world’s poorest face the worst environmental consequences.”
CSIS. 2007. The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Climate Change. Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington.

 

As Keystone ruling nears, Canada short on time for climate plan | Canada | Reuters

As Keystone ruling nears, Canada short on time for climate plan | Canada | Reuters.

The Keystone Oil Pipeline is pictured under construction in North Dakota in this undated photograph released on January 18, 2012. REUTERS/TransCanada Corporation/Handout
1 of 1Full Size

By Patrick Rucker and Nia Williams

WASHINGTON/CALGARY (Reuters) – Canada is running out of time to offer U.S. President Barack Obama a climate change concession that might clinch the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, as the country’s energy industry continues to resist costly curbs on greenhouse gas emissions.

Two years of negotiations between the Canadian government and the energy sector to curtail carbon pollution have not produced an agreement. Oil producers have balked at anything more than the 10-cents-a-barrel carbon tax imposed by the province of Alberta.

Late last month, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq pointed to “good progress” in the talks but was unable to say when a resolution might come.

Concessions from Canada would make the pipeline more palatable in Washington, experts say, since Obama has made fighting climate change a second-term priority and has said that Canada could do more to reduce carbon emissions.

By linking Alberta’s fields to refiners in the Gulf Coast, the 1,200-mile (1,900-kilometer) Keystone XL pipeline would be a boon to an energy patch where oil sands are abundant but lead to more carbon pollution than many other forms of crude.

Keystone’s foes say that burning fossil fuels to wrench oil sands crude from the ground will worsen climate change, and that the $5.4 billion pipeline, which could carry up to 830,000 barrels a day, would only spur more production.

Increasing oil sands production will put Canada on track to miss its target of curbing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, according to a government report (full report:tinyurl.com/mgkghtc).

Keystone supporters say that is why Canada would be wise to offer a carbon-trimming plan before the White House decides the pipeline’s fate.

“If Canada were to volunteer new greenhouse gas restrictions, that would certainly help,” David Goldwyn, a former State Department official and energy consultant, told an industry conference in late October.

But the clock is running out. The U.S. State Department is finishing work on a report that will weigh the climate impacts of the pipeline in what could be one of last words before a decision. The White House is expected to rule on Keystone by next spring.

NEW LIMITS

Canada and the United States have often moved together on climate policy, developing similar rules on auto and power-plant emissions while turning their backs on the Kyoto Protocol to limit climate change.

Regulating the oil and gas sector has been thornier, though, with oil sands producers particularly concerned that higher costs will erode their already narrow margins.

“Anything more stringent than today’s system will increase costs, possibly lowering investments and reducing production,” the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers wrote in a memo to regulators in March that was made public under a freedom of information request.

Canada’s fast-growing oil sands sector will soon exceed the capacity of existing pipelines, and analysts say producers will be forced to rely on trains, barges and other transportation alternatives if Keystone XL and related projects are rejected. Those options are generally costlier and less certain than pipelines.

Nevertheless, industry executives say they doubt yielding on tougher pollution regulations will help secure Keystone.

“I don’t know any policies in Canada with respect to (greenhouse gas) emissions that would have any sort of material impact on the approval process,” Russ Girling, president of TransCanada, the pipeline operator, said last month.

Even if Prime Minister Stephen Harper were to offer new greenhouse gas limits this year, the vagaries of the regulatory process virtually guarantee those plans will not be in place until after a Keystone decision.

Canada needed 12 months to finalize regulations curbing emissions from coal-fired power plants that were ratified last year, and the rules were significantly weaker in the end than originally proposed.

“Judging by what we saw with coal-fired power plants, there is a real risk that a proposal to limit oil and gas emissions could be watered down before it’s final,” said P.J. Partington of the Pembina Institute, a think thank that has opposed oil sands development, which reviewed the industry memos disclosed under the freedom of information request.

(Reporting by Patrick Rucker in Washington and Nia Williams in Calgary; Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Douglas

 

 

Edward Snowden voted Guardian person of the year 2013 | World news | theguardian.com

Edward Snowden voted Guardian person of the year 2013 | World news | theguardian.com.

Edward Snowden

In May Edward Snowden flew to Hong Kong where he gave journalists the material which blew the lid on the extent of US digital spying. Photograph: The Guardian/AFP/Getty Images

For the second consecutive year, a young American whistleblower alarmed at the unfettered and at times cynical deployment of power by the world’s foremost superpower has been voted the Guardian’s person of the year.

Edward Snowden, who leaked an estimated 200,000 files that exposed the extensive and intrusive nature of telephone and internet surveillance and intelligence gathering by the US and its western allies, was the overwhelming choice of more than 2,000 people who cast a vote.

Snowden won 1,445 votes. In a distant second, from a list of 10 candidates chosen by Guardian writers and editors, came Marco Weber and Sini Saarela, the Greenpeace activists who spearheaded the oil rig protest over Russian Arctic drilling. They received 314 votes. Pope Francis gained 153 votes, narrowly ahead of blogger and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe, who received 144. Snowden’s victory was as clearcut as Chelsea Manning’s a year earlier.

It’s strange to think now, but a little more than six months ago, virtually no one had heard of Snowden, and few people outside the US would have been able to identify what the initials NSA stood for. Thoughinternet privacy was beginning to emerge as an issue, few people had any idea of the extent to which governments and their secretive auxiliaries were able to trawl, sift, collect and scrutinise the personal digital footprints of millions of private individuals.

All that changed in May when Snowden left Hawaii for Hong Kong, where he met Guardian journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, and independent filmmaker Laura Poitras, and handed over materials that blew the lid on spying technologies, some of which were truly stranger than fiction: a dragnet programme to scoop up digital activities direct from the servers of the biggest US tech companies; a tap on fibreoptic cables to gather huge amounts of data flowing in and out of the UK; a program to hoover up phone records of millions of Americans; a codebreaking effort to crack the encryption system that underpins the safety and security of the internet.

In so doing, Snowden certainly transformed his own life, and not for the better. Forced to go on the run, he ended up in Moscow where he now lives in a curious Julian Assange-like limbo, unable to move for fear of arrest, extradition to the US and a prosecution that would threaten a long jail sentence, if Manning’s term of 35 years is anything to go by.

It is this personal sacrifice, as much as his revelations, that impressed most readers who voted for him.

“He gave his future for the sake of democratic values, transparency, and freedom,” said Miriam Bergholz. Colin Walker wrote: “We need people like him to have the courage to forget about their own life in the cause of other people’s freedom. Let’s face it, his life is over as even if he goes back to the US he will face decades in prison and the personal sacrifice he has made is immense.” A commenter identifying themselves as “irememberamerica” asaid he voted for Snowden “for his extraordinary and exemplary courage, and the historic value of his daring act. At every step, he has displayed an astonishing integrity and presence of mind. He is a great American and international patriot.”

Some readers felt that the actions of the Greenpeace activists were as brave, if not braver, than Snowden’s

“Facing jail, as Snowden does, for defending privacy is one thing,” wrote CaptainGrey. “Facing injury or even death for defending the planet, as Greenpeace activists often do, is another entirely,” he said, in casting a vote for Weber and Saarela.

Others put in a good word for Pope Francis, Waris Dirie and Jack Monroe.

Iriscepero wrote: “[I am voitng for] Waris Dirie for her work concerning female genital mutilation. It’s an awful, brutal way of controlling females that carries significant health risks and it needs to end. I don’t feel the topic gets the attention it needs because of the nationalities that are usually involved in the practice.”

 

Final counts

 

Pope Francis – 153 votes

 

Marco Weber and Sini Saarela – 314 votes

 

Edward Snowden – 1,445 votes

 

Elon Musk – 11 votes

 

Kanye – 28 votes

 

Andy Murray – 22 votes

 

Waris Dirie – 69 votes

 

Jack Munroe – 144 votes

 

Satoshi Nakamoto – 33 votes

 

Ukraine Protest: President Viktor Yanukovych Agrees To Meet With Former Leaders To Diffuse Political Crisis (VIDEO/PHOTOS)

Ukraine Protest: President Viktor Yanukovych Agrees To Meet With Former Leaders To Diffuse Political Crisis (VIDEO/PHOTOS).

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s president has agreed to meet with the country’s three former presidents to talk about defusing the tense political crisis gripping the country.

Viktor Yanukovych said on his website that the meeting, labeled “a nationwide roundtable” will take place Tuesday.

Meanwhile, scores of riot police in full gear were deployed outside protest strongholds in Kiev, stoking fears of a crackdown.

Yanukovych is facing the biggest opposition protests since the 2004 Orange Revolution, after he chose to freeze ties with the EU and tilt toward Moscow.

 

TSB says CN Rail failed to report hundreds of derailments, collisions – Canada – CBC News

TSB says CN Rail failed to report hundreds of derailments, collisions – Canada – CBC News.

CN Rail said the issue stemmed from a disagreement over the types of minor accidents it must self-report to the Transportation Safety Board.CN Rail said the issue stemmed from a disagreement over the types of minor accidents it must self-report to the Transportation Safety Board. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Ex-TSB director on CN

Ex-TSB director on CN 3:45

A continuing CBC News investigation into rail safety has found that Canada’s largest freight carrier CN Rail did not report to authorities more than 1,800 derailments, including 44 on key rail arteries.

This came to light in 2005 when the Transportation Safety Board’s director of rail investigations says he became suspicious of a dramatic difference between CN’s accident numbers compared to other operators.

 

“All of a sudden there became a wide discrepancy in the [derailment] numbers [compared with CN’s competitors],” recalls Ian Naish, who left the TSB in 2009.  “You say ‘Well, OK, what’s going on here?’ ”

The safety watchdog agency took an unprecedented step and issued a statutory summons in June, 2006 to CN Rail requiring it to turn over its complete safety records. The TSB found a total of 1,843 unreported derailments, including 44 main-track derailments, over a six-year period.

CN spokesman Mark Hallman told CBC News that the company’s failure stemmed from a disagreement over the types of minor accidents it must self-report to the TSB.

“At no time did CN attempt to hide or under-report accidents,” Hallman said. “Following a series of discussions, CN and the TSB reached agreement on an interpretation for reportable equipment and track damage.”

An ‘artificial’ increase: CN

The first TSB discussions on CN’s reporting took place in September 2005. Naish told CBC News he “was not happy at all with someone from industry telling me what should be reported and what should not be reported.”

The TSB sent a strongly worded letter in April, 2006, laying out the importance of including all CN accident occurrences in the national rail safety database for trend analysis to prevent major accidents.

“We need to have insights into circumstances where something has gone wrong, even if there has been no substantial damage, injury or loss of life, so that trends can be detected and appropriate safety action considered,” wrote TSB’s David Kinsman on April 20, 2006.

Ed Harris, CN’s executive vice-president of operation, responded by saying the TSB’s reporting criteria was subjective — it didn’t demand all derailments be reported, only those that “sustain damage that affects safe operation.” He encouraged the TSB to begin work revising its reporting regulations.

CN insisted it reported its derailments and collisions the same way since the early 1990s, and to re-report subject to TSB demands would lead to an increase in their accident numbers.

“This would put us in a position of having to defend to the media and public, an artificial increase in reportable accidents solely based on a perceived need and interpretation change by the TSB,” added Harris.

The summons, issued a month later, elicited numbers that even surprised Naish, who feels that all of them should have been reported in the first place.

While many of the unreported accidents were inside rail yards and were minor, some involved damaged rail cars, locomotives and track, including a 2005 derailment of a car on a main track near Fort Langley, B.C. that broke 11 rails and a damaged a switch. In 2002, seven cars derailed at a Toronto-area CN yard destroying a rail switch and damaging 110 metres of rail.

‘Numbers matter’: Chow

The TSB entered the new CN data into its internal database but never publicly revealed, nor sanctioned CN, for its years of under-reporting.

U.S. discrepancies

CN also came under scrutiny in the U.S. for its compliance with regulators.

In 2009, a Federal Railroad Administration inspector named Timothy McQuaid noticed an increase in mechanically-caused derailments by CN trains. He sent a team to examine cars after CN’s carmen had done their inspections, and his team found a consistent failure by CN to correctly identify and repair defects.

According to an FRA press release announcing an award McQuaid would win for his work on this file, CN dismissed the findings as “minor.”

However, McQuad did an extensive audit to prove the scope of CN’s non-compliance, which eventually led CN to acknowledge “the seriousness of its shortcomings,” said the FRA at its award ceremony. In 2010 the FRA imposed a two-year compliance agreement on CN to improve mechanical inspections, by adequately trained and resourced personnel, with a focus on safety.

Auditors at the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) also called upon the railway to explain irregularities in the number of reported track delays and road blockages in the Chicago area. CN identified 14 delays, but auditors found more than 1,400 in a two-month period in 2010.

CN said it was due to different reporting interpretations. The STB decided to keep close tabs on CN for five years, and because of continued concerns with CN’s reporting, added a year.

 

“If there’s no consequence from hiding the truth, why wouldn’t companies continue to hide?” Olivia Chow, federal NDP transport critic told CBC News after reviewing CN’s records.

“I think we need to know, from 2007 on, to now, are there other accidents, especially derailments that Canadians need to know about,” Chow said questioning the continuing drop in all kinds of derailments in the TSB’s current data, which relies on ‘self-reporting’ by rail companies.

Naish, who now works as a consultant, believes that CN’s system of bonuses and rewards could influence the reporting of lower accident rates.

“I think the rewards system is ‘the less accidents you report, the better’,” said Naish, but that’s “not the way it should be in an optimal safety culture.”

Amin Mawani, an associate professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, reviewed public documents detailing CN’s bonus structure.

“Senior management has clear incentives to reduce actual safety violations,” said Mawani. “In the short run, there may be some incentive to under-report safety violations with the hope that such problems can be fixed before customers and shareholders find out.”

CN, however, said its bonus system “rewards the right behaviours.”

“CN believes remuneration should take into account the achievements of safety-related objectives, so long as it is coupled with a system that protects data integrity,” wrote Hallman in an email.

Though the TSB said the company is now compliant, Naish questions whether CN today is properly reporting all accidents.

TSB spokeswoman Rox-Anne D’Aoust said the agency takes reporting requirements and the need for accurate data seriously.

D’Aoust said they will review “occurrence trends from month to month and a statistical comparison of CN data with previous years and across the industry.”

“In light of the recent public and media questions, we will take a closer look at the data to determine if there is anything unusual and whether any followup is necessary,” said D’Aoust.

Send tips on this and other stories to john.nicol@cbc.ca anddave.seglins@cbc.ca.

French troops push further into CAR – Africa – Al Jazeera English

French troops push further into CAR – Africa – Al Jazeera English.

French troops are to begin disarming rebel fighters across the Central African Republic, as thousands of foreign soldiers pour into the country in an effort to stop recent violence.

The plan to seize weaponry comes after the country’s president told Al Jazeera that he was not in complete control of his country.

Michel Djotodia said he could not stop armed groups operating, as a wave of killings left hundreds dead in just a few days.

“It is too much to say I have no control. I control my men. The men I can’t control are not my men,” said Djotodia, who came to power after a mainly Muslim armed group now known as Seleka overthrew President Francois Bozize earlier this year.

Residents of Bossangoa have found refuge inside an
African peacekeepers’ base [Marcus Bleasdale/HRW]

The former rebels who control the country were on Sunday patrolling neighbourhoods across the capital, Bangui, despite an order to return to their barracks.

The Red Cross says 400 bodies were found after three days of fighting between Seleka and a largely Christian armed group named Anti-Balaka [“anti-machete”, the weapon of choice of many Seleka fighters].

Meanwhile, thousands more international troops are on their way to the embattled country.

The African Union has about 2,500 troops there now, but is increasing that to 6,000.

In addition, the 1,200 French troops already in the country have been bolstered by the arrival of 400 more soldiers.

On Saturday, the country’s interim authorities ordered all forces except foreign peacekeepers and the presidential guard off the streets of Bangui, after a hospital in the capital was been attacked by Seleka rebels.

The armed men reportedly pulled injured victims from Bangui’s Amitie hospital, and shot dead at least 10.

The hospital has since been abandoned.

Al Jazeera has learned that the Anti-Balaka group contains elements of Bozize’s army, and is regrouping outside the capital, awaiting reinforcements.

Hollande’s remarks

French President Francois Hollande also said on Saturday it would be difficult for the current head of CAR to stay in place because he let the crisis there unfold.

Nazanine Moshiri blogs from CAR
Bangui: Waiting for the next big battle 
Inside Bangui, a deserted city 
Hyped-up contact group meeting on CAR 
Uncovering a massacre in CAR 

Follow Nazanine on Twitter:
@NazanineMoshiri

“I don’t want to point fingers but we cannot keep in place a president who was not able to do anything, or even worse, who let things happen,” he said in an interview broadcast on the France 24 TV channel.

Hollande said elections should be held before 2015 when Djotodia’s mandate ends. “The idea is to head as fast as possible towards elections,” he said.

French forces started deploying to the north and west of the country to secure main roads and towns outside the capital, French army spokesman Gilles Jarron said on Saturday.

“Peacekeepers are patrolling the main roads. This is helping keep the looting down. But the atrocities are inside the neighbourhoods,” said Amy Martin, head of the UN officer for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

 

“If they can get into the neighbourhoods, we might start seeing a reduction in these crimes. The level of atrocities and the lack of humanity, the senseless killing defies imagination.”

The latest bloodshed started on Thursday as armed Christians from Anti-Balaka raided Muslim neighbourhoods, in a country that has been seeing tit-for-tat violence between rival armed groups since Bozize’s downfall in March.

 

37 Reasons Why “The Economic Recovery Of 2013″ Is A Giant Lie

37 Reasons Why “The Economic Recovery Of 2013″ Is A Giant Lie.

37 Sign

“If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.”  Sadly, that appears to be the approach that the Obama administration and the mainstream media are taking with the U.S. economy.  They seem to believe that if they just keep telling the American people over and over that things are getting better, eventually the American people will believe that it is actually true.  On Friday, it was announced that the unemployment rate had fallen to “7 percent”, and the mainstream media responded with a mix of euphoria and jubilation.  For example, one USA Today article declared that “with today’s jobs report, one really can say that our long national post-financial crisis nightmare is over.”  But is that actually the truth?  As you will see below, if you assume that the labor force participation rate in the U.S. is at the long-term average, the unemployment rate in the United States would actually be 11.5 percent instead of 7 percent.  There has been absolutely no employment recovery.  The percentage of Americans that are actually working has stayed between 58 and 59 percent for 51 months in a row.  But most Americans don’t understand these things and they just take whatever the mainstream media tells them as the truth.

And of course the reality of the matter is that we should have seen some sort of an economic recovery by now.  Those running our system have literally been mortgaging the future in a desperate attempt to try to pump up our economic numbers.  The federal government has been on the greatest debt binge in U.S. history and the Federal Reserve has been printing money like crazed lunatics.  All of that “stimulus” should have had some positive short-term effects on the economy.

Sadly, all of those “emergency measures” do not appear to have done much at all.  The percentage of Americans that have a job has stayed remarkably flat since the end of 2009, median household income has fallen for five years in a row, and the rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen for eight years in a row.  Anyone that claims that the U.S. economy is experiencing a “recovery” is simply not telling the truth.  The following are 37 reasons why “the economic recovery of 2013” is a giant lie…

#1 The only reason that the official unemployment rate has been declining over the past couple of years is that the federal government has been pretending that millions upon millions of unemployed Americans no longer want a job and have “left the labor force”.  As Zero Hedge recently demonstrated, if the labor force participation rate returned to the long-term average of 65.8 percent, the official unemployment rate in the United States would actually be 11.5 percentinstead of 7 percent.

#2 The percentage of Americans that are actually working is much lower than it used to be.  In November 2000, 64.3 percent of all working age Americans had a job.  When Barack Obama first entered the White House, 60.6 percent of all working age Americans had a job.  Today, only 58.6 percent of all working age Americans have a job.  In fact, as you can see from the chart posted below, there has been absolutely no “employment recovery” since the depths of the last recession…

Employment-Population Ratio 2013

#3 The employment-population ratio has now been under 59 percent for 51 months in a row.

#4 There are 1,148,000 fewer Americans working today than there was in November 2006.  Meanwhile, our population has grown by more than 16 million people during that time frame.

#5 The “inactivity rate” for men in their prime working years (25 to 54) has just hit a brand new all-time record high.  Does this look like an “economic recovery” to you?…

Inactivity Rate Men

#6 The number of working age Americans without a job has increasedby a total of 27 million since the year 2000.

#7 In November 2007, there were 121.9 million full-time workers in the United States.  Today, there are only 116.9 million full-time workers in the United States.

#8 Middle-wage jobs accounted for 60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession, but they have accounted for only 22 percent of the jobs created since then.

#9 Only about 47 percent of all adults in America have a full-time job at this point.

#10 The ratio of wages to corporate profits in the United States just hit a brand new all-time low.

#11 It is hard to believe, but in America today one out of every ten jobs is now filled by a temp agency.

#12 Approximately one out of every four part-time workers in America is living below the poverty line.

#13 In this economic environment, there is intense competition even for the lowest paying jobs.  Wal-Mart recently opened up two new stores in Washington D.C., and more than 23,000 people applied for just 600 positions.  That means that only about 2.6 percent of the applicants were ultimately hired.  In comparison, Harvard offers admission to 6.1 percent of their applicants.

#14 According to the Social Security Administration, 40 percent of all U.S. workers make less than $20,000 a year.

#15 When Barack Obama took office, the average duration of unemployment in this country was 19.8 weeks.  Today, it is 37.2 weeks.

#16 According to the New York Times, long-term unemployment in America is up by 213 percent since 2007.

#17 Thanks to Obama administration policies which are systematically killing off small businesses in the United States, the percentage of self-employed Americans is at an all-time low today.

#18 According to economist Tim Kane, the following is how the number of startup jobs per 1000 Americans breaks down by presidential administration

Bush Sr.: 11.3

Clinton: 11.2

Bush Jr.: 10.8

Obama: 7.8

#19 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income in the United States has fallen for five years in a row.

#20 The rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen for eight years in a row.

#21 Back in 1999, 64.1 percent of all Americans were covered by employment-based health insurance.  Today, only 54.9 percent of all Americans are covered by employment-based health insurance, andthanks to Obamacare millions more Americans are now losing their health insurance plans.

#22 As 2003 began, the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline was about $1.30.  When Barack Obama took office, the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline was $1.85.  Today, it is $3.26.

#23 Total consumer credit has risen by a whopping 22 percent over the past three years.

#24 In 2008, the total amount of student loan debt in this country was sitting at about 440 billion dollars.  Today, it has shot up toapproximately a trillion dollars.

#25 Under Barack Obama, the velocity of money (a very important indicator of economic health) has plunged to a post-World War II low.

#26 Back in the year 2000, our trade deficit with China was 83 billion dollars.  In 2008, our trade deficit with China was 268 billion dollars.  Last year, it was 315 billion dollars.  That was the largest trade deficit that one nation has had with another nation in world history.

#27 The gap between the rich and the poor in the United States is at anall-time record high.

#28 Right now, 1.2 million students that attend public schools in the United States are homeless.  That is a brand new all-time record high, and that number has risen by 72 percent since the start of the last recession.

#29 When Barack Obama first entered the White House, there were about 32 million Americans on food stamps.  Today, there are more than 47 million Americans on food stamps.

#30 Right now, approximately one out of every five households in the United States is on food stamps.

#31 According to the Survey of Income and Program Participation conducted by the U.S. Census, well over 100 million Americans are enrolled in at least one welfare program run by the federal government.

#32 In 2000, the U.S. government spent 199 billion dollars on Medicaid.  In 2008, the U.S. government spent 338 billion dollars on Medicaid.  In 2012, the U.S. government spent 417 billion dollars on Medicaid, and now Obamacare is going to add tens of millions more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.

#33 In 2000, the U.S. government spent 219 billion dollars on Medicare.  In 2008, the U.S. government spent 462 billion dollars on Medicare.  In 2012, the U.S. government spent 560 billion dollars on Medicare, and that number is expected to absolutely skyrocket in the years ahead as the Baby Boomers retire.

#34 According to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, an all-time record high 49.2 percent of all Americans are receiving benefits from at least one government program.

#35 The U.S. government has spent an astounding 3.7 trillion dollarson welfare programs over the past five years.

#36 When Barack Obama was first elected, the U.S. debt to GDP ratio was under 70 percent.  Today, it is up to 101 percent.

#37 The U.S. national debt is on pace to more than double during the eight years of the Obama administration.  In other words, under Barack Obama the U.S. government will accumulate more debt than it did under all of the other presidents in U.S. history combined.

Fortunately, it appears that most Americans are not buying into the propaganda.  According to a new CNN survey, the percentage of Americans that believe that the economy is getting worse far exceeds the percentage of Americans that believe that the economy is improving…

Americans views on the state of the nation are turning increasingly sour, according to a new national poll.

And a CNN/ORC International survey released Friday also indicates that less than a quarter of the public says that economic conditions are improving, while nearly four in ten say the nation’s economy is getting worse.

Forty-one percent of those questioned in the poll say things are going well in the country today, down nine percentage points from April, and the lowest that number has been in CNN polling since February 2012. Fifty-nine percent say things are going badly, up nine points from April.

So what do you think?

Do you believe that the U.S. economy is getting better or getting worse?  Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

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