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Daily Archives: January 15, 2014

Philippines seeks US ships to counter China – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

Philippines seeks US ships to counter China – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

The Philippine armed forces says it needs at least six more frigates to effectively patrol its waters [AP]
The Philippines has said it wants to acquire two more navy ships from the US to boost its maritime protection amid military threats from China, according to the country’s military chief.

“Within the last year, we realised that there is a real threat out there in terms of securing, defending our territory,” armed forces chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista told the Philippines’ ANC television on Wednesday.

There are Chinese fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea as we speak.

General Emmanuel Bautista,armed forces chief of staff

The new acquisitions fall under the $40m in military assistance pledged by US Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to the country in December 2013.

But Bautista said the country needs about six more frigates to effectively guard its coastline.

“In fact, we are bidding now for two frigates, hopefully we will be able to acquire them in (a) couple of years,” he said.

The Philippines is a long-time US military ally and has already received two refurbished ships in the past two years.

These boats now patrol the South China Sea where, in 2012, the flagship BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the first US acquisition, confronted Chinese ships on Scarborough Shoal, a small outcrop just off the coast of the country’s main island of Luzon.

The Chinese eventually gained control of the outcrop after Manila backed down. And the Filipino government sought UN arbitration to settle the dispute, a move which China rejected.

Ongoing dispute

The Philippines has been locked in an increasingly tense standoff with China involving disputed reefs and islands in an area Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.

Bautista said the Gregorio del Pilar, as well as another frigate that arrived last year, have been deployed to protect the country’s waters.

“There are Chinese fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea as we speak,” he said, but declined to say where they were in the disputed waters.

China has claimed almost all of the South China Sea, including waters near the cost of its neighbours.

And it recently declared an “air defence identification zone” over the East China Sea, where it is engaged in a dispute with Japan.

Kerry has warned China against imposing a similar air defence identification zone over the South China Sea.

Last week China also announced a new fisheries law requiring foreign vessels to obtain permits for activities in most of the South China Sea, triggering outrage in Manila.

The Day After Chaos | project chesapeake

The Day After Chaos | project chesapeake.

By: Tom Chatham

So, you’ve got your food all stored away to last the next several years. You have your fuel barrel full and your generator and solar panels ready for the end of the power grid. You have enough weapons and ammo to deal with anything. You are mentally and physically prepared for the long hard days ahead.

You are prepared to fight the war that will eventually show up at your front door someday in some form and for an unknown length of time. You are prepared for the chaos, but are you prepared for the eventual peace?

At some point, the situation will stabilize in some form. It will become possible to walk down the street without being shot at. It will become possible to reopen businesses or to barter. It will become possible to breathe a sigh of relief.

When that day comes, how will you survive? You probably have your stash of silver or gold and some barter items but how long will that last? When the system goes down it will take most peoples jobs, their savings, their retirement accounts and pensions and much of the property they thought they owned.

Everyone will be forced to start over again. It could be years before the job market is functioning again. Until then, how do you plan to take care of yourself and your family? What is your plan to generate some income to live on and acquire the things you need?

Surviving the chaos will be a full time job but when it’s over, then what? Your gold and silver will take you a long ways but they only provide you with a temporary solution to your future needs. At some point you will need to start saving for the day when you are no longer able to do useful work.

Most people are busy preparing to just survive the coming chaos but some thought needs to be given to the day after it all ends. Even a few minutes spent now developing a basic plan will be critical to helping you transition to the new normal. A basic idea and the acquisition of a few basic tools or supplies to help you develop your new income stream will help you leverage your time and supplies to get by in the future.

Knowledge is the primary tool you need to navigate the future. Knowing how to make physical things or repair things will help you meet the future needs of society. Next to that, the storage of tools, machines, raw materials and information relevant to start a new business needed by the community will give you an edge.

In a prolonged period of chaos much of our infrastructure will likely be destroyed. In the aftermath, those with the skills and tools to rebuild will be a valuable asset to society. The ability to repair vehicles or machines, carpentry, masonry, plumbing, electrical, healthcare, farming and skills to build physical products will all be needed by a populace that wishes to regain some of the creature comforts they have lost in past years.

The more skills and materials you have when that day comes the sooner recovery can happen. Some may say it is a bit presumptive to plan for a day when things get better but if you feel things will never get better then why prepare to get through the worst of times at all? If you have the courage to plan for difficult times then you should also give yourself the ability to enjoy the day when things get better. Planning ahead for the distant future was never more important than it is right now.

World Bank Raises Growth Forecasts as Richest Nations Strengthen – Bloomberg

World Bank Raises Growth Forecasts as Richest Nations Strengthen – Bloomberg.

The World Bank raised its global growth forecasts as the easing of austerity policies in advanced economies supports their recovery, boosting prospects for developing markets’ exports.

The Washington-based lender sees the world economy expanding 3.2 percent this year, compared with a June projection of 3 percent and up from 2.4 percent in 2013. The forecast for the richest nations was raised to 2.2 percent from 2 percent. Part of the increase reflects improvement in the 18-country euro area, with the U.S. ahead of developed peers, growing twice as fast as Japan.

The report by the institution that’s trying to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030 indicates a near-doubling of the growth in world trade this year from 2012, as developed economies lift export-reliant emerging nations. At the same time, the withdrawal of monetary stimulus in the U.S. may raise market interest rates, hurting poorer countries as investors return to assets such as Treasuries, according to the bank.

“This strengthening of output among high-income countries marks a significant shift from recent years when developing countriesalone pulled the global economy forward,” the bank said yesterday in its Global Economic Prospects report published twice a year. Import demand from the richest nations “should help compensate for the inevitable tightening of global financial conditions that will arise as monetary policy in high-income economies is normalized.”

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

Produce is sold at a market in Kolkata. Growth in developing countries will accelerate… Read More

Fed Tapering

The bank’s forecasts hinge on the orderly unwinding of Federal Reserve stimulus, which is starting this month with the trimming of monthly bond purchases to $75 billion from $85 billion. If investors react abruptly in coming months, as they did in May when the central bank mentioned the possibility of tapering, capital inflows to developing economies could drop again, according to the report.

“To date, the gradual withdrawal of quantitative easing has gone smoothly,” Andrew Burns, the report’s lead author, said in a statement. “If interest rates rise too rapidly, capital flows to developing countries could fall by 50 percent or more for several months — potentially provoking a crisis in some of the more vulnerable economies.”

The bank sees a global expansion of 3.4 percent in 2015, compared with 3.3 percent predicted in June.

In the U.S., where growth is seen accelerating to 2.8 percent this year, unchanged from the outlook in June, the recent budget compromise in Congress will ease spending cuts previously in place and boost confidence from households and businesses, the bank said.

Japan’s Outlook

The bank held its forecast this year for Japan at 1.4 percent, while cautioning that the reforms of the economy promised by the government “have disappointed thus far, raising doubts about whether the improvement in economic performance can be sustained over the medium to longer term.”

It raised its prediction for the euro region to 1.1 percent for this year from 0.9 percent in June as the monetary union comes out of it debt crisis, propelled by Germany and showing improvement in fragile economies including Spain and Italy.

“The euro area is where the U.S. was a year and a half or two years ago, where growth is starting to go positive but it’s still hesitant,” Burns, also the bank’s manager of global macroeconomics, said in a phone interview. “We’re not going to be totally convinced until this gathers a little more steam.”

The bank estimates that investors withdrew $64 billion from developing-country mutual funds between June and August, with the impact most pronounced on middle-income countries includingBrazilIndia and Turkey. Not all economies were hit the same way, as China or Mexico were less affected because of stronger economic fundamentals, the bank said.

Developing World

The 2014 forecast for developing markets was cut to 5.3 percent from 5.6 percent.

The bank lowered its forecast for China this year to 7.7 percent from 8 percent, saying the world’s second-largest economy is shifting “to slower but more sustainable consumption-led growth.”

It cut projections for Brazil to 2.4 percent from 4 percent, for Mexico to 3.4 percent from 3.9 percent and for India to 6.2 percent from 6.5 percent.

Growth in developing countries will accelerate “modestly” between 2013 an 2016, at a pace about 2.2 percentage points below that of the years preceding the global crisis, according to the bank’s report.

“The slower growth is not cause for concern,” according to the report. “More than two-thirds of the slowdown reflects a decline in the cyclical component of growth and less than one-third is due to slower potential growth.”

Still, not all countries are well placed to respond to capital outflows and higher interest rates, according to the bank, which urged policy makers to prepare now for such an outcome.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sandrine Rastello in Washington atsrastello@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net

Marc Faber Warns “The Bubble Could Burst Any Day”; Prefers Physical Gold To Bitcoin | Zero Hedge

Marc Faber Warns “The Bubble Could Burst Any Day”; Prefers Physical Gold To Bitcoin | Zero Hedge.

The Fed’s policies have actually led to a lot of problems around the world,” Marc Faber begins his discussion with Bloomberg TV’s Trish Regan, especially “people in the lower income groups [who] spend say 30% of their income on energy, transportation, and so forth, electricity and gasoline.” The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report author goes on to discuss everything from how the Fed is creating a two-class system around the world, the inexorable growth of governments, buying votes, Bitcoin, interest rates, wealth taxes, and overall market valuations. “We are in a gigantic financial asset bubble,” Faber explains, “everybody’s bullish,” but he sees a slowing global economy (as do we e.g. Baltic Dry Index); “[The bubble] could burst any day. I think we are very stretched.” Faber is on fire…

 

Take 10 minutes and listen…

 

 

Prepare yourself… “In China, if I say what I am saying about the USA, they would not let me in the country”

 

Faber on the Fed and how far the ‘rubber band can be stretched’:

We have to distinguish between the financial economy, the financial sector, and the economy of the well-to-do people that benefit from rising asset prices, from rising prices of wines, and paintings and art, and bonds, and equities, and high-end properties in the Hamptons and West 15 here in New York and so forth — and the average person, the typical household, the so-called ‘median household’, or the working class people. And the Fed’s policies have actually led to a lot of problems around the world in the sense that they’re not only responsible, but partly responsible that energy prices are where they are, they’re up from $10 or $12 in 1999 to now around $100 a barrel. Food prices are up and a lot of other prices are up. So on your income, energy prices have very little impact because you at Bloomberg – you, young man – you make so much money. But for the poor people, it has an impact.Some people in the lower income groups, they spend say 30% of their income on energy, transportation, and so forth, electricity and gasoline.”

On whether the Fed is creating a two-class system:

“Correct, largely. The problem is then that you have people like Bill de Blasio, they come in and say: ‘you know what’s the problem? All these rich guys. Because of these rich people, you are poor. They take advantage of you. So, let’s go and tax them.’ The IMF has come out with a paper in Europe that essentially the well-to-do people should pay a 10% wealth task — a one-time wealth tax. I can assure you, a one-time wealth tax, 10%, will become an every-year’s tax eventually.”

On how to help the people on the lower end of the economic spectrum:

“This is the point I’d like to make. All of these professors and academics at the Fed who never really worked in the private sector a single day in their lives, and write papers nobody reads and nobody’s is interested in. Why would they want not write about how you structure an economic system that lifts the standard of living of most people? You can’t lift everybody.”

 

“We had that in the 19th century in the U.S. because we had very small government at the time. The entire government — local, state federal — was less than 20% of the economy. Now it is close to 50% of the economy.”

On whether the government is spending too much money:

The larger the government becomes, the less economic growth you have and the more crony capitalism and corruptions you have. Because big corporations — and especially the money printers, they’re the most powerful people in the world, they control the governments. The U.S. Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and the government is one and the same. The Fed, they finance the Treasury, so the government can go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then they finance transfer payments to essentially buy votes so you can get elected.”

On bitcoin:

“I prefer physical gold and silver, platinum to bitcoin. Bitcoin can have a lot of competition. Gold, silver, platinum — they have no competition. How do you value a bitcoin? I can value gold to some extent and compare say gold to the quantity of money that is floating around the world, to the wealth increase, and to the monetary base increase, to the credit increase, and so forth and so on, and to the production costs. So I have an idea of where gold should be. I’m not sure because prices overshoot. How do you value Netflix? Is it overpriced or underpriced? Is Tesla overpriced, underpriced?”

On interest rates:

“But one thing I wanted to show you and talk about because you said that lower interest rates help people. Well, if money trending helps everybody, then why does not everybody in the whole world always have zero interest rates? And everybody would be rich. You keep on printing money and you don’t need to work here, you don’t need to put on makeup. I could stay in bed the whole day and go drinking in the evenings. So, let’s just print money and be all happy. It doesn’t add up. One thing about the figures you showed: first of all, you live in New York. Do you really think that your cost-of-living increase is a 1.2% per annum? You really believe that? It doesn’t feel like more, it feels like five times more, or even ten times more.”

 

“Number two, by keeping interest rates at zero percent on the Fed fund rate — i want to emphasize that this is now going on in March of 2014 for five years. It is not something new. For five years this has happened. You penalize the income earners, the savers who save, your parents, why should your parents be forced to speculate in stocks and in real estate and everything under the sun?

On his view of overvalued stocks, including Facebook:

I think it is to a large extent a fad. People they go on Facebook – what they do is they put pictures on and the only people that watch these pictures are themselves. They all want to be stars. It is a very distractive kind of occupation. I can’t imagine that this would have a lot of value. I would rather own – I don’t own it because I think it is very highly priced – I would rather own a company like Alibaba or Amazon or Google, than Facebook, personally. This is my view. Other people have different views. That’s what makes the market. Some people are buying it and some people are selling it.”

On overall market valuation concerns:

I think we are in a gigantic financial asset bubble. But it is interesting that that despite of all the money printing, bond yields didn’t go down. They bottomed out on July 25, 2012 at 1.43% on the 10-years. We went to over 3.0%. We’re now at 2.85% or something thereabout. But we’re up substantially. Now, this hasn’t had an impact on stocks yet. In fact, it pushed money into the stock market out of the bond market. But if the 10-years goes to say 3.5% to 4.0%, then the 30-year goes to close to 5.0%, the mortgage rates go to 6.0%. That will hit the economy very hard.”

 

“[The bubble] could burst before. It could burst any day. I think we are very stretched. Sentiment figures are very, very bullish. Everybody’s bullish. The reality is they’re very bullish because they think the economy will accelerate on the upside. But my view is very different. The global economy is slowing down, because the global economy’s largely emerging economies nowadays, and there’s no growth in exports in emerging economies, there’s no growth, in the local economies. So, I feel that the valuations are high, the corporate profits have been boosted largely because of the falling interest rates.”

The Negative Natural Interest Rate and Uneconomic Growth

The Negative Natural Interest Rate and Uneconomic Growth.

by Herman Daly, originally published by The Daly News  | TODAY

In a recent speech to the International Monetary Fund economist Larry Summers argued that since near zero interest rates have not stimulated GDP growth sufficiently to reach full employment, we probably need a negative interest rate. By this he means a negative monetary rate set by the Fed to equal the “natural” rate, which he believes is now negative. The natural rate, as Summers uses the term, means the rate that would equalize planned saving with planned investment, and thereby, as Keynes taught us, result in full employment. With near zero monetary rates, current inflation already pushes us to a negative real rate of interest, but that is still insufficiently negative, in Summers’ view, to equalize planned investment with planned saving and thereby stimulate GDP growth sufficient for full employment. A negative interest rate is a stunning proposal, and it takes some effort to work out its implications.

Suppose for a moment that GDP growth, economic growth as we gratuitously call it, entails uneconomic growth by a more comprehensive measure of costs and benefits — that GDP growth has now begun to increase counted plus uncounted costs by more than counted plus uncounted benefits, making us inclusively and collectively poorer, not richer. If that is the case, and there are good reasons to believe that it is, would it not then be reasonable to expect, along with Summers, that the natural rate of interest is negative, and that maybe the monetary rate should be too? This is hard to imagine, but it means that savers would have to pay investors (and banks) to use the funds that they have saved, rather than investors and banks paying savers for the use of their money. To keep the GDP growing sufficiently to avoid unemployment we would need a growing monetary circular flow, which would require more investment, which, in turn, would only be forthcoming if the monetary interest rate were negative (i.e., if you lost less by investing your money than by holding it). A negative interest rate “makes sense” if the goal is to keep on increasing GDP even after it has begun to make us poorer at the margin — that is after growth has already pushed us beyond the optimal scale of the macro-economy relative to the containing ecosphere, and thereby become uneconomic.

A negative monetary interest rate means that citizens will spend rather than save, so savings will not be available to finance the investments that produce the GDP growth needed for full employment. The new money for investment comes from the Fed. Quantitative easing (money printing) is the source of the new money. The faith is that an ever-expanding monetary circulation will pull the real economy along behind it, providing growth in real income and jobs as previously idle resources are employed. But the resulting GDP growth is now uneconomic because in the full world the “idle” resources are not really idle — they are providing vital ecosystem services. Redeploying these resources to GDP growth has environmental and social opportunity costs that are greater than production benefits. Although hyper-Keynesian macroeconomists do not believe this, the micro actors in the real economy experience the constraints of the full world, and consequently find it difficult to follow the unlimited growth recipe.

Summers (along with other mainstream growth economists), does not accept the concept of optimal scale of the macro-economy, nor the possibility of uneconomic growth in the sense that growth in resource throughput could reduce net wealth and wellbeing. Nevertheless, it is at least consistent with his view that the natural rate of interest is negative.

A positive interest rate restricts the total volume of investment but allocates it to the most productive projects. A negative interest rate increases volume, but allows investment in practically anything, increasing the probability that growth will be uneconomic. Shall we become hyper-Keynesians and push GDP growth to maintain full employment, even after growth has become uneconomic? Or shall we back off from growth and seek full employment by job sharing, distributive equity, and reallocation toward leisure and public goods?

Why would we allow growth to carry the macro-economy beyond the optimal scale? Because growth in GDP is considered the summum bonum, and it is heresy not to advocate increasing it. If increasing GDP makes us worse off we will not admit it, but will adapt to the experience of increased scarcity by pushing GDP growth further. Non-growth is viewed as “stagnation,” not as a sensible steady state adaptation to objective limits. Stimulating GDP growth by increasing consumption and investment, while cutting savings, is the only way that hyper-Keynesians can think of to serve the worthy goal of full employment. There really are other ways, and people really do need to save for security and old age, as well as for maintenance and replacement of the existing capital stock. Yet the Fed is being advised to penalize saving with a negative interest rate. The focus is on what the growth model requires, not on what people need.

A negative interest rate seems also to be the latest advice from Paul Krugman, who praises Summers’ insights. It is understandable from their viewpoint because in their vision the economy is not a subsystem, or if it is, it is infinitesimal relative to the total system. The economy can expand forever, either into the void or into a near infinite environment. It does not grow into a finite ecosphere, and therefore has no optimal scale relative to any constraining and sustaining environment. Its aggregate growth incurs no opportunity cost and can never be uneconomic. Unfortunately, this tacit assumption of the growth model is seriously wrong.

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Larry Summers and other growth-obsessed economists are calling for negative interest rates.

Welcome to the full-world economy. In the old empty-world economy, assumed in the macro models of Summers and Krugman, growth always remains economic, so they advocate printing more and more dollars to expand the economy to take over ever more of the “unemployed” sources and sinks of the ecosystem. If a temporary liquidity trap or zero lower bound on interest rates keeps the new money from being spent, then low or even negative monetary interest rates will open the spending spigot. The empty world assumption guarantees that the newly expanded production will always be worth more than the natural wealth it displaces. But what may well have been true in yesterday’s empty world is no longer true in today’s full world.

This is an upsetting prospect for growth economists — growth is required for full employment, but growth now makes us collectively poorer. Without growth we would have to cure poverty by redistributing wealth and stabilizing population, two political anathemas, and could only finance investment by reducing present consumption, a third anathema. There remains the microeconomic policy of reallocating the same GDP to a more efficient mix of products by internalizing external costs (getting prices right). While this certainly should be done, it is not macroeconomic growth as pursued by the Fed.

These painful choices could be avoided if only we were richer. So let’s just focus on getting richer. How? By growing the aggregate GDP, of course! What? You repeat that GDP growth is now uneconomic? That cannot possibly be right, they say. OK, that is an empirical question. Let’s separate costs from benefits in the existing GDP accounts, and develop more inclusive measures of each, and then see which grows more as GDP grows. This has been done (ISEW, GPI, Ecological Footprint), and results support the uneconomic growth view. If growth economists think these studies were done badly they should do them better rather than ignore the issue.

The leftover Keynesians are correct in pointing out that there is unemployed labor and capital. But natural resources are fully employed, indeed overexploited, and the limiting factor in the full world is natural resources, not labor or capital as used to be the case in the empty world. Some growth economists think that the world is still empty. Others think there is no limiting factor — that capital is a good substitute for natural resources. This is wrong, as Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen has shown long ago. Capital funds and natural resource flows are complements, not substitutes, and the one in short supply is limiting. Increasing a non-limiting factor doesn’t help. Growth economists should know this.

Although the growthists think quantitative easing will stimulate demand they are disappointed, even in terms of their own model, because the banks, who are supposed to lend the new money, encounter a “lack of bankable projects,” to use World Bank terminology. This of course should be expected in the new era of uneconomic growth. The new money, rather than calling forth new wealth by employing all these hypothetical idle resources from the empty world era, simply bids up existing asset prices in the full world. Most asset prices are not counted in the consumer price index, (not to mention exclusion of food and energy) so economists unconvincingly claim that quantitative easing has not been inflationary, and therefore they can keep doing it. And even if it causes some inflation, that would help make the interest rate negative.

Aside from needed electronic transaction balances, people would not keep money in the bank if the interest rate were negative. To make them do so, the alternative of cash would basically have to be eliminated, and all money would be electronic bank deposits. This intensifies central bank control, and the specter of “bail-ins” (confiscations of deposits) as occurred in Cyprus. Even as distrust of money increases, people will not immediately revert to barter, in spite of negative interest rates. Barter is so inconvenient that money remains more efficient even if it loses value at a rapid rate, as we have seen in several hyperinflations. But transactions balances will be minimized, and speculative and store-of value-balances will be diverted to real estate, gold, works of art, tulip bulbs, Bitcoins, and beanie babies, creating speculative bubbles. But not to worry, say Summers and Krugman, bubbles are a necessary, if regrettable, means to boost spending and growth in the era of newly recognized negative natural interest rates — and still unrecognized uneconomic growth.

A bright silver lining to this cloud of confusion is that the recognition of a negative natural interest rate may be the prelude to recognition of the underlying uneconomic growth as its cause. For sure this has not yet happened because so far the negative natural interest rate is seen as a reason to push growth with a negative monetary interest rate, rather than as a signal that growth has become a losing game. But such a realization is a reasonable hope. Perhaps a step in this direction is Summers’ suggestion that the old Alvin Hansen thesis of secular stagnation might deserve a new look.

The logic that suggests negative interest also suggests negative wages as a further means of increasing investment by lowering costs. To maintain full employment via GDP growth, not only must the interest rate now be negative, but wages should become negative as well. No one yet advocates negative wages because subsistence provides an inconvenient lower positive bound below which workers die. On this “other side of the looking glass” the logic of uneconomic growth pushes us in the direction of a negative “natural” wage, just as with a negative “natural” rate of interest. So we artificially lower the wage costs to “job creators” by subsidizing below-subsistence wages with food stamps, housing subsidies, and unpaid internships. Negative interest rates also subsidize investment in job-replacing capital equipment, further lowering wages. Negative interest rates, and below-subsistence wages, further subsidize the uneconomic growth that gave rise to them in the first place.

The leftover Keynesians tell us, reasonably enough, that paying people to dig holes in the ground and then fill them up, is better than leaving them unemployed with no income. But paying people to deplete and pollute the Creation on which our lives and welfare ultimately depend, in order to expand the macro-economy beyond its optimal or even sustainable scale, is surely worse than just giving them a minimum income, and some leisure time, in exchange for doing no harm.

An artificial monetary rate of interest forced down by quantitative easing to equal a negative natural rate of interest resulting from uneconomic growth is not a solution. It is just baling wire and duct tape. But it is all that even our best and brightest economists can come up with as long as they are imprisoned in the empty world growth model. The way out of this trap is to recognize that the growth era is over, and that instead of forcing growth into uneconomic territory we must seek to maintain a steady-state economy at something approximating the optimal scale. Since we have overshot the optimal scale of the macro-economy, this will require a period of retrenchment to a reduced level, accompanied by much more equal sharing, frugality, and efficiency. Sharing means putting limits on the range of inequality that we permit; it has huge moral and social benefits, even if politically difficult. Frugality means using less resource throughput; it results in less depletion and pollution and more recycling and efficiency. Efficiency means squeezing more life-support and want-satisfaction from a given throughput by technological advance and by improvement in our ethical priorities. Economists need to replace the Keynesian-neoclassical growth synthesis with a new version of the classical stationary state.

Reform EU or Britain quits – George Osborne lays down ultimatum | Politics | The Guardian

Reform EU or Britain quits – George Osborne lays down ultimatum | Politics | The Guardian.

George Osborne in Brussels, 2010

The chancellor, George Osborne, at a EU finance ministers’ meeting, in Brussels, three years ago. Photograph: KeystoneUSA-ZUMA/Rex/

George Osborne will today deliver a stark warning to Britain’s European partners that the UK will leave the EU unless it embarks on whole-scale economic and political reform.

The chancellor’s comments come as the Tory leadership tries to regain the initiative on Europe, after 95 MPs signed a letter calling for the dismantling of the core principles of the EU.

In a speech to a conference organised by the pro-reform Open Europe thinktank and the Fresh Start group of Tory MPs, Osborne will say: “There is a simple choice for Europe: reform or decline. Our determination is clear: to deliver the reform, and then let the people decide.”

Tory backbencher Bernard Jenkin won the support of about 100 MPs for a letter to David Cameron calling for the British parliament to be given a veto over all EU laws.

Such a move would dismantle the rules of the European single market which were drawn up by Margaret Thatcher’s ally, Lord Cockfield, to prevent France imposing protectionist measures by denying member states a national veto.

Jenkin suffered a blow when Andrew Tyrie, the chairman of the Commons Treasury select committee, said he had been wrongly listed as a supporter. But Osborne will make clear that Cameron will push for wide-ranging reforms if he wins the general election next year with a mandate to renegotiate the terms of British membership.

Osborne will tell the conference: “The biggest economic risk facing Europe doesn’t come from those who want reform and renegotiation – it comes from a failure to reform and renegotiate.

“It is the status quo which condemns the people of Europe to an ongoing economic crisis and continuing decline.”

Osborne will say the EU suffers from a chronic lack of competitiveness and that the European economy has stalled over the last six years while the Indian economy has grown by a third and the Chinese economy by 50%.

He will say: “Make no mistake, our continent is falling behind. Look at innovation, where Europe’s share of world patent applications nearly halved in the last decade. Look at unemployment, where a quarter of young people looking for work can’t find it. Look at welfare.

“As Angela Merkel has pointed out, Europe accounts for just over 7% of the world’s population, 25% of its economy, and 50% of global social welfare spending. We can’t go on like this.”

Osborne is expected to say that Cameron will press for a realignment of the rules of the single market to ensure the 18 members of the eurozone cannot outvote the 10 EU members, such as Britain, which have not joined the single currency.

Tory divisions will be highlighted at today’s conference as MPs from the Fresh Start group challenge Jenkin’s letter.

Mats Persson, director of Open Europe, said the Tory party risks “becoming its own worst enemy” as the likes of Jenkin table unrealistic demands.

Persson said: “There is a huge debate in Europe about what the EU’s defining mission should be in future – the single market or the euro?

The chancellor should clearly set out that the UK cannot accept an EU dominated by euro countries preoccupied with shoring up their currency at the expense of those who cannot join for democratic reasons. If the EU becomes a political extension of the euro, it’ll be hard for the UK to remain a member.

“As our conference clearly shows, there’s growing momentum for reform across Europe. However, the Tory party risks becoming its own worst enemy when it comes to achieving a new settlement in Europe.”

David Mowat, the Tory MP for Warrington South, who will address the conference, said that the Fresh Start group was proposing a constructive set of proposals to help the prime minister in his negotiations if he won the election. “The letter is a different initiative,” he said.

The Fresh Start group, led by the No 10 policy board member Andrea Leadsom, will focus on three areas of reform at the conference.

The areas include delivering Cameron’s proposal to keep Britain apart from moves to create an “ever closer union” in the EU; completing the single market, especially with services; and delivering William Hague’s plan of bumping up the EU’s “yellow card” system to a “red card” one.

This would mean that a third of national parliaments could block EU laws if they can reach an agreement.

Activist Post: Supreme Court Gives Monsanto Full Ability to Sue Farmers

Activist Post: Supreme Court Gives Monsanto Full Ability to Sue Farmers.

Heather Callaghan
Activist Post

Do you remember the 2011 lawsuit from the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association 80+ plaintiffs (farmers and small businesses) against Monsanto? They were fighting biotech giant Monsanto’s ability to sue them for patent infringement when genetically modified seeds inadvertently appear in organic/conventional fields.

Yes, were talking about the wind or insects carrying GM seeds onto another farm, which to them is considered contamination. But instead of the ability for the farmers to sue for a ruined field, they can be cleaned out in court for not having permission to plant patented seeds. Monsanto workers have been found trespassing and gathering evidence on farmers’ properties. The lawsuit had sought protection from this overreach, as Monsanto has filed 140 of these suits and settled 700 without suing.

Organic farmer and President of Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA), Jim Gerritsen, had said:

Our farmers want nothing to do with Monsanto. We are not customers of Monsanto. We don’t want their seed. We don’t want their gene-spliced technology. We don’t want their trespass onto our farms. We don’t want their contamination of our crops. We don’t want to have to defend ourselves from aggressive assertions of patent infringement because Monsanto refuses to keep their pollution on their side of the fence. We want justice.

And later:

We don’t think it’s fair that Monsanto can trespass onto our farm, contaminate and ruin our crops and then sue us for infringing on their patent rights.

A June 2013 ruling of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, DC conceded to the plaintiffs’ argument that contamination from Monsanto seeds would occur, but ultimately dismissed them: “because Monsanto has made binding assurances that it will not ‘take legal action against growers whose crops might inadvertently contain traces of Monsanto biotech genes (because, for example, some transgenic seed or pollen blew onto the grower’s land).” (source)

As Rady Ananda points out, a “trace amount” in this ruling, only means less than one percentcontamination of a crop! Those are not the percentages of contamination in the real world – i.e. Monsanto can sue, sue, sue. Furthermore, less than one percent contamination still leaves the integrity of an organic crop ruined. It does not settle the issue of Monsanto trespassing on private land to take samples for infringement cases.

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After the federal court threw out the 2011 lawsuit based on Monsanto’s assurances, OSGATA plaintiffs petitioned the Supreme Court:

However, Petitioners risk being contaminated in amounts much greater than 1%, and thus remain compelled to forgo full use of their land and adopt genetic testing of their seed supplies in order to avoid being accused of patent infringement by Respondents.

When the plaintiffs asked Monsanto to pledge not to sue, the company responded: “A blanket covenant not to sue any present or future member of petitioners’ organizations would enable virtually anyone to commit intentional infringement.”

The Supreme Court would not hear the case* on Monday, thereby sealing the previous decisions in the district and federal courts. Monsanto can sue with full immunity if one percent or more of a farmer’s crop contains their patented seeds.

Kyle McClain, Monsanto’s chief litigation counsel told Reuters:

Monsanto never has and has committed it never will sue if our patented seed or traits are found in a farmer’s field as a result of inadvertent means.

The lower courts agreed there was no controversy between the parties, and the Supreme Court’s decision not to review the case brings closure on this matter.

Image by Thierry Ehrmann, licensed under Creative Commons

* Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, et al., v. Monsanto Company, et al. Supreme Court Case No. 13-303

Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at NaturalBlaze.com and ActivistPost.com. Like at Facebook.

Recent posts by Heather Callaghan:

US physically hacks 100,000 foreign computers – Americas – Al Jazeera English

US physically hacks 100,000 foreign computers – Americas – Al Jazeera English.

The United States has implanted devices in nearly 100,000 computers to spy on institutions such as the Chinese and Russian military, EU trade groups and agencies within Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan.

The New York Times on Tuesday cited documents from the National Security Agency, computer experts and US officials stating that the NSA uses radio wave technology to gain access to otherwise encrypted computers or machines that are not connected to the internet.

The Times reported that the agency has been inserting tiny circuit boards into computers for several years. The technology allows non-internet connected computers to be hacked, and bypasses encryption and anti-spyware systems that otherwise prevent hacking over the world wide web.

The NSA calls the effort an “active defence”‘ and has used the technology to monitor units of the Chinese and Russian armies, drug cartels, trade institutions inside the European Union, and US allies including Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan, the Times reported.

Among the most frequent targets has been the Chinese army, the Times reported.

The United States has accused the Chinese Army of launching regular attacks on American industrial and military targets, often to steal secrets or intellectual property.

US officials have protested when Chinese attackers have placed similar software on computer systems of US companies or government agencies.

The NSA said the technology has not been used in computers in the US.

“NSA’s activities are focused and specifically deployed against – and only against – valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements,” Vanee Vines, an agency spokeswoman, said in a statement to the Times.

“We do not use foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of – or give intelligence we collect to – US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line.”

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