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TD Bank: Housing Slowdown Could Send Prices Down 25%

TD Bank: Housing Slowdown Could Send Prices Down 25%.

house prices canada

Canadian housing is overvalued by some 10 per cent, but a spike in interest rates or an “economic shock” could send prices spiralling down as much as 25 per cent, TD Bank says in a new report.
Canadian housing is overvalued by some 10 per cent, but a spike in interest rates or an “economic shock” could send prices spiralling down as much as 25 per cent, TD Bank says in a new report.

Yet “much of this imbalance appears to reflect frothier conditions in the larger urban centers of Toronto and Vancouver,” the report says.

TD economist Diana Petramala noted in the report that, when looking at house prices compared to rent or income, Canadian housing is massively overvalued — by 60 per cent compared to rental rates, and by 30 per cent compared to people’s incomes.

Those numbers agree more or less with estimates from The Economist, the OECD and Deutsche Bank, which last fall declared Canada’s housing to be the most overvalued among two dozen countries it surveyed.

But TD says those numbers are missing the point, because what matters is not house prices compared to rent or even income, but rather people’s ability to pay.

Thanks to record low interest rates, people are able to make much larger mortgage payments than those stats would suggest. So how much housing is actually overvalued depends on where interest rates are headed.

If interest rates go back to their historical norms, housing is overvalued by about 25 per cent, TD Bank estimates. But if they stay where they are, housing is actually undervalued — by about six per cent.

But interest rates are neither likely to go back to their historical norms (there’s been a downward, long-term trend for the past three decades), nor are they likely to stay as low as they are.

TD expects interest rates to rise nine-tenths of a percentage point by the end of 2015. If that happens, housing is overvalued by 10 per cent, and this is TD’s likeliest scenario, suggesting a correction, and not a crash, is in the cards. But even a relatively small correction in prices could send the market tumbling if it’s accompanied by weakness in the economy.

“In this case, housing activity can undershoot fundamentals. For example, if prices are 10 per cent overvalued, they could still potentially fall by 25 per cent if triggered by a spike in interest rates or a negative economic shock,” the report says.

Strengthening TD’s argument is a new report from the IMF, released Monday, whichalso estimates house prices in Canada to be overvalued by about 10 per cent.

Yet the long-expected correction is slow in coming. Even though home sales have stagnated in recent months, prices were still solidly up (by nearly 10 per cent) in the final months of 2013, and Canadians’ household debt continued to reach new record highs.

That debt burden is worrying TD Bank’s CEO, Ed Clark, who has been warning in recent public speeches that overextended consumers are making Canada’s economy “fragile” and ‘accident-prone.”

We’ve learned around the world that when you make the consumer indebted like that, their ability to withstand shocks is dramatically less,” Clark said.

He also worries that persistently high house prices could harm Canadians. Canadians will either end up spending a larger part of their income on housing, reducing their quality of life, or they will push wages higher, making Canadian labour less competitive in the global market, Clark argues.

The World-View Behind Minimum Wage Advocacy – Ludwig von Mises Institute Canada

The World-View Behind Minimum Wage Advocacy – Ludwig von Mises Institute Canada.

British Columbia, why do you hate the poor?

It’s at times like these, with minimum wage laws suddenly in vogue again, that one realizes that having the evidence on one’s side is not enough to win public policy debates.  The intellectual framework that people use to order their experience of the world must also be taken into account. How people interpret the facts is actually more decisive than the facts themselves.

Yes, I realize that there are studies purportedly showing that minimum wage legislation does not reduce employment. But these are significantly outnumbered by studies demonstrating the opposite that such laws give rise to job losses among the least skilled workers in society, precisely in line with the standard economic theory of wages (see hereand here). As William Watson tells us, even the panel that the Ontario government convened to study the issue noted that in Canada, “researchers have generally found  an adverse employment effect of raising minimum wages especially for younger workers … those studies find that teen employment would drop by 3-6% if the minimum wage is raised by 10%”. Yet the Ontario government brushed all this aside and went ahead this week to raise the province’s minimum wage by 75 cents to $11 per hour.

So why doesn’t this evidence register with the advocates of minimum wages? Much of it, if not all of it, reflects the powerful human tendency to make sense of things in terms of one’s moral priors. Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind is the most recent work to recognize this feature of the human mind. This propensity towards the moral interpretation of reality is not irresistible — indeed, it must be overcome if one is ever to arrive at the truth. But it is very difficult to thoroughly bracket one’s deep moral convictions, especially in trying to understand the social universe, where ethical issues pervade just about every inch of the entire scene. It’s a trait rarely to be witnessed, even among the most celebrated intellectuals, whose renown in fact is often predicated on their consistent application of a widely held moral view.

Supporters of minimum wage laws, being mostly on the political left, believe that the overriding aim of government policies should be to improve the condition of the less advantaged. By itself, this goal does not dictate any particular means of achieving it, but the passion with which that goal is espoused clearly predisposes its advocates to favor the most forceful means that immediately presents itself.

In other words, if you feel very strongly that poverty needs to be reduced, you are apt to choose the most direct route — which is have the government compel higher wages for those currently earning the least. You are not going to have much patience for someone claiming that high wages cannot be coerced into existence. Nor will you give much credence to someone pointing to a less direct route to the alleviation of poverty involving relatively abstract forces like supply, demand, capital, and productivity. You are liable to come away viewing someone like that as a mouthpiece for the employers whose stinginess you see as the problem.

Buttressing this set of beliefs is a more comprehensive theory of society. Naturally, it offers an interpretation favoring political over market solutions to social problems. The theory pays short shrift to the idea that individuals can interact voluntarily with each other in exchanging goods and services. Instead, society is portrayed as an intricate web of power relations, all of it ultimately reducing itself to the operation of two distinct groups — with the one holding more power having the advantage over the other with less power. Society comes to sight as a  battle between oppressors and the oppressed. Morality, then, summons us to side with the oppressed by calling on the state to deploy its power to force the hand of the oppressors.

Ever since Marx, this has been the essential thread in the left’s understanding of society. All that has varied is the definition of the basis of power. With Marx, of course, it was the ownership of the means of production. Since about the 1960′s, a more culturally oriented left, the post-modernist left if you will, has tended to emphasize race, gender, and ethnicity in its conception of power.

The case for minimum wages basically takes us back to the Marxist identification of power with property. The underlying premise is that the relationship between companies and workers is not consensual. Since workers have less leverage, the state must be brought in to make up for the power imbalance.

Such is the constellation of ideas that classical liberals and libertarians are up against, not just on minimum wages but on a much wider range of issues in which questions of power are apt to arise. Evidence from ordinary experience, history, and the social sciences can be helpful in waging this intellectual struggle. To more effectively sway minds, though, the job will have to emphasize moral and political philosophy in addition to the elaboration of more correct theories of the economy and society. Mindsets need to changed more than facts need to be adduced. That is the lesson to be taken away from this latest rage for minimum wages.

Tomas Salamanca is a Canadian Scholar.

Ponzi World (Over 3 Billion NOT Served): Zen and the Pointless Pursuit of Dopamine

Ponzi World (Over 3 Billion NOT Served): Zen and the Pointless Pursuit of Dopamine.

Rats in a Corporate Controlled Maze, Seeking the Next Ball of Cheese

 
“Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Now there’s a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond”
-Pink Floyd

The good news is that happiness via external gratification, can be pursued indefinitely, it can even be attained. The bad news is that it can in no way be sustained. By definition, it’s a moving target. Yet, even at this late juncture in modern civilization, there is still literally no universal acknowledgement that the pursuit of happiness via the de facto consumption-oriented lifestyle, is totally futile, pointless, empty (and of course doomed).

The Founding Fathers were intelligent enough to prescribe the “pursuit of happiness”, because they obviously knew that anyone who seeks happiness via career aspiration will never attain and sustain it. It’s a moving target. It’s a known fact that people who make $50k per year say they will be happy when they make $100k per year, those people in turn say they need $200k per year etc. etc.

Worse yet, happiness in our externally gratified society indicates contentment. Contentment indicates a state of fulfillment aka. capitulation aka. laziness. “What happened to you man, you used to be ambitious?”.
The other eternally gratified definition of happiness is the exact opposite. It’s not attainment, it’s striving. Striving implies not having. Having implies wanting. Wanting requires a constant state of dissatisfaction i.e. the exact opposite of true happiness.
Both of the above mutually exclusive forms of externally gratified “happiness” are totally elusive.
If you look around you right now and think of the people you know, who are truly “happy”, you will invariably identify someone who is easy-going, amiable and/or generally satisfied with their lot in life. These people can look you straight in the eye and have a down to earth conversation rather than turning it into a broadcast monologue about the latest “thing”, sporting event, or Kardashian episode. They’re not afraid to ask questions and even wait for you to give an answer. They can sit still that long.
Unfortunately, in this society, most people who say they are happy are in fact addicted to dopamine in some way shape or form. That addiction may be food, money, sports, television, booze, cigarettes, drugs, shopping, texting/Facebook, risky sex or all of the above.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Who We Are Now
Most people need some sort of addiction buffer so that they don’t have to face the raw truth of the moment. They can’t accept who they are now in the moment, and need “something” to dull the sensation. Our junk culture coming through our televisions from earliest childhood has programmed us to be something that we are not: A millionaire, a movie star, a pro athlete, a rock star etc. We are programmed to be dissatisfied with the status quo, from birth. Wanting, buying, getting, owning, going, seeing, eating, doing – but, at all costs, never just being. There is no profit in people just being.

Aside from destroying the planet…
The consumption oriented lifestyle is inherently pointless and futile. It’s predicated upon dopamine flow which is invariably “temperamental” i.e. it has a diminishing marginal utility that is not just perceived, it’s actually chemically based. This is all just commonsense of course, but here is what the literature states about dopamine-seeking: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/bad-appetite/201205/bad-boys-bad-brains
“if you overindulge in the reward in question, for instance, less dopamine might be released when you obtain it: it’s as if the body has subconsciously learnt that the prize is a dead certainty, and there’s no need for biochemical meddling to promote reward-seeking behavior. There’s evidence this might happen to rats and humans when they eat too many high-calorie foods.”
“Dopamine actually flows much more readily when the rewards are intermittent”

Clearly intermittent small pleasures are still a very important part of an enjoyable life. However, when taken to the logical extreme, dopamine-tolerance requires ever-more consumption just to receive the same “hit”, which is the point that many people have reached in their consumption-oriented “striving”. Maxed out.
Addicted to the Status Quo
Yet for all of this obvious and even well-known knowledge on the subject, the Borg-at-large in no way questions the status quo and its inherent vital addiction – the pointlessness, and the resulting emptiness of it all. The pursuit of external gratification is manufacturing people who are emotionally empty. However, the masses don’t question it, because they are fundamentally addicted.
Zen is the opposite of goal-oriented happiness
I will start by saying that I am by no means an expert on Zen philosophy. I still find the philosophical side to be very nebulous and mystical. However, I started meditating daily 8 years ago because for me it’s not a philosophy, it’s a physiological imperative. It’s quieting the mind by replacing Beta Waves with Alpha Waves. Since I started meditating, my appetite for external gratification has declined in a straight line down. Over time, the deeper I am able to achieve mindful Zen, the less I seek external gratification. For those interested in the subject of meditation’s physiological effects, I highly recommend the classic book: “The Relaxation Response”.
Zen is Feeling the Moment, it’s the Ultimate High
When Zen is at its best, one can truly feel like a kid again, because kids live in the moment – not in the past and not in the future. They see things as they are, in vivid colour. They don’t so much see, as they feel – Zen is about feeling the moment.

Zen is the future of humanity. The Eastern cultures already know this, and I suspect that most ancient cultures were in a state of Zen constantly as they went about their daily routine.

Best Buy and McDonald’s are the doomed past. 


P.S.
The Idiocracy is dopamine-tolerant indeed…
the ultimate effects will be felt far and wide…
Posted by Mac10

Tomgram: Engelhardt, The End of History? | TomDispatch

Tomgram: Engelhardt, The End of History? | TomDispatch.

Ending the World the Human Way 
Climate Change as the Anti-News
By Tom Engelhardt

Here’s the scoop: When it comes to climate change, there is no “story,” not in the normal news sense anyway.

The fact that 97% of scientists who have weighed in on the issue believe that climate change is a human-caused phenomenon is not a story.  That only one of 9,137 peer-reviewed papers on climate change published between November 2012 and December 2013 rejected human causation is not a story either, nor is the fact that only 24 out of 13,950 such articles did so over 21 years.  That the anything-but-extreme Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) offers an at least 95% guarantee of human causation for global warming is not a story, nor is the recent revelation that IPCC experts believe we only have 15 years left to rein in carbon emissions or we’ll need new technologies not yet in existence which may never be effective.  Nor is the recent poll showing that only 47% of Americans believe climate change is human-caused (a drop of 7% since 2012) or that the percentage who believe climate change is occurring for any reason has also declined since 2012 from 70% to 63%.  Nor is the fact that, as the effects of climate change came ever closer to home, media coverage of the subject dropped between 2010 and 2012 and, though rising in 2013, was still well below coverage levels for 2007 to 2009.  Nor is it a story that European nations, already light years ahead of the United States on phasing out fossil fuels, recently began considering cutbacks on some of their climate change goals, nor that U.S. carbon emissions actually rose in 2013, nor that the southern part of the much disputed Keystone XL pipeline, which is to bring particularly carbon-dirty tar sands from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast, is now in operation, nor that 2013 will have been either the fourth or seventh hottest year on record, depending on how you do the numbers.

Don’t misunderstand me.  Each of the above was reported somewhere and climate change itself is an enormous story, if what you mean is Story with a capital S.  It could even be considered the story of all stories.  It’s just that climate change and its component parts are unlike every other story from the Syrian slaughter and the problems of Obamacare to Bridgegate and Justin Bieber’s arrest.  The future of all other stories, of the news and storytelling itself, rests on just how climate change manifests itself over the coming decades or even century.  What happens in the 2014 midterms or the 2016 presidential elections, in our wars, politics, and culture, who is celebrated and who ignored — none of it will matter if climate change devastates the planet.

Climate change isn’t the news and it isn’t a set of news stories.  It’s the prospective end of all news.  Think of it as the anti-news.

All the rest is part of the annals of human history: the rise and fall of empires, of movements, of dictatorships and democracies, of just about anything you want to mention.  The most crucial stories, like the most faddish ones, are — every one of them — passing phenomena, which is of course what makes them the news.

Climate change isn’t.  New as that human-caused phenomenon may be — having its origins in the industrial revolution — it’s nonetheless on a different scale from everything else, which is why journalists and environmentalists often have so much trouble figuring out how to write about it in a way that leaves it continually in the news.  While no one who, for instance, lived through “Frankenstorm” Sandy on the East Coast in 2012 could call the experience “boring” — winds roaring through urban canyons like freight trains, lights going out across lower Manhattan, subway tunnels flooding, a great financial capital brought to its proverbial knees — in news terms, much of global warming is boring and repetitive.  I mean, drip, drip, drip.  How many times can you write about the melting Arctic sea ice or shrinking glaciers and call it news?  How often are you likely to put that in your headlines?

We’re so used to the phrase “the news” that we often forget its essence: what’s “new” multiplied by that “s.”  It’s true that the “new” can be repetitively so.  How many times have you seen essentially the same story about Republicans and Democrats fighting on Capitol Hill?  But the momentousness of climate change, which isn’t hard to discern, is difficult to regularly turn into meaningful “new” headlines (“Humanity Doomed If…”), to repeatedly and successfully translate into a form oriented to the present and the passing moment, to what happened yesterday, today, and possibly tomorrow.

If the carbon emissions from fossil fuels are allowed to continue to accumulate in the atmosphere, the science of what will happen sooner or later is relatively cleareven if its exact timetable remains in question: this world will be destabilized as will humanity (along with countless other species).  We could, at the worst, essentially burn ourselves off Planet Earth.  This would prove a passing event for the planet itself, but not for us, nor for any fragment of humanity that managed to survive in some degraded form, nor for the civilizations we’ve developed over thousands of years.

In other words, unlike “the news,” climate change and its potential devastations exist on a time scale not congenial either to media time or to the individual lifetimes of our short-lived species.  Great devastations and die-offs have happened before.  Give the planet a few million years and life of many sorts will regenerate and undoubtedly thrive.  But possibly not us.

Nuclear Dress Rehearsal

Here’s the strange thing: we went through a dress rehearsal for this in the twentieth century when dealing (or not dealing) with nuclear weapons, aka the Bomb — often capitalized in my youth as a sign of how nuclear disaster was felt to be looming over life itself.  With the dropping of that “victory weapon” on two Japanese cities in 1945, a new era opened.  For the first time, we humans — initially in Washington, then in Moscow, then in other national capitals — took the power to end all life on this planet out of God’s hands.  You could think of it as the single greatest, if also grimmest, act of secularization in history.  From 1945 on, at least prospectively, we could do what only God had previously been imagined capable of: create an End Time on this planet.

In itself, that was a remarkable development.  And there was nothing figurative about it.  The U.S. military was involved in what, in retrospect, can only be considered operational planning for world’s end.  In its first “Single Integrated Operational Plan,” or SIOP, in 1960, for instance, it prepared to deliver more than 3,200 nuclear weapons to 1,060 targets in the Communist world, including at least 130 cities which would then, if all went well, cease to exist. Official estimates of casualties ran to 285 million dead and 40 million injured.  (Those figures undoubtedly underestimated radiation and other effects, and today we also know that the exploding of so many nuclear weapons would have ended life as we know it on this planet.)  In those years, in the most secret councils of government, American officials also began to prepare for the possibility that 100 Russian missiles might someday land on U.S. targets, killing or injuring 22 million Americans.  Not so many years later, the weaponry of either of the superpowers had the capability of destroying the planet many times over.

The U.S. and the USSR were by then locked in a struggle that gained a remarkably appropriate acronym: MAD (for “mutually assured destruction”).  During the Cold War, the U.S. built an estimated 70,000 nuclear warheads and bombs of every size and shape, the Soviet Union55,000, and with them went a complex semi-secret nuclear geography of missile silos, plutonium plants, and the like that shadowed the everyday landscape we knew.

In 1980, scientists discovered a layer of particularly iridium-rich clay in sediments 65 million years old, evidence that a vast asteroid impact had put such a cloud of particulates into the atmosphere as to deprive the planet of sunshine, turning it into a wintry vista, and in the process contributing to the demise of the dinosaurs.  In the years that followed, it became ever clearer that nuclear weapons, dispatched in the quantities both the U.S. and USSR had been planning for, would have a similar effect.  This prospective phenomenon was dubbed “nuclear winter.”

In this way, nuclear extermination would also prove to be an apocalyptic weather event, giving it an affinity with what, in the decades to come, would be called “global warming” and then “climate change.”  The nuclear story, the first (and at the time the only imaginable) tale of our extinction by our own hands, rose into the news periodically and even into front-page headlines, as during the Cuban Missile Crisis, as well as into the movies and popular culture.  Unlike climate change, it was a global catastrophe that could happen at any moment and be carried to its disastrous conclusion in a relatively short period of time, bringing it closer to the today and tomorrow of the news.

Nonetheless, nuclear arsenals, too, were potential life-enders and so news-enders.  As a result, most of the time their existence and development managed to translate poorly into daily headlines.  For so many of those years in that now long-gone world of the Cold War stand-off, the nuclear issue was somehow everywhere, a kind of exterminationist grid over life itself, and yet, like climate change, nowhere at all.  Except for a few brief stretches in those decades, antinuclear activists struggled desperately to bring the nuclear issue out of the shadows.

The main arsenals on the planet, still enormous, are now in a kind of nuclear hibernation and are only “news” when, for instance, their very backwater status becomes an issue.  This was the case recently with a spate of headlines about test cheating and drug use scandals involving U.S. Air Force “missileers” who feel that in their present posts they are career losers.  Most of the major national arsenals are almost never mentioned in the news.  They are essentially no-news zones.  These would include the gigantic Russian one, the perhaps 200 weapons in theIsraeli arsenal, and those of the British, French, Indians, and Pakistanis (except when it comes to stories about fears of future loose nukes from that country’s stock of weapons).

The only exceptions in the twenty-first century have been Iran, a country in the spotlight for a decade, even though its nuclear program lies somewhere between prospective and imaginary, and North Korea, which continues to develop a modest (but dangerous) arsenal.  On the other hand, even though a full-scale nuclear war between Pakistan and India, each of which may now have about 100 weapons in their expanding arsenals, would be a global catastrophe with nuclear-winter effects that would engulf the planet causing widespread famine, most of the time you simply wouldn’t know it.  These days, it turns out we have other problems.

The End of History?

If the end of the world doesn’t fit well with “the news,” neither does denial.  The idea of a futureless humanity is difficult to take in and that has undoubtedly played a role in suppressing the newsiness of both the nuclear situation and climate change.  Each is now woven into our lives in essential, if little acknowledged, ways and yet both remain remarkably recessive.  Add to that a fatalistic feeling among many that these are issues beyond our capacity to deal with, and you have a potent brew not just for the repression of news but also for the failure to weave what news we do get into a larger picture that we could keep before us as we live our lives.  Who, after all, wants to live life like that?

And yet nuclear weapons and climate change are human creations, which means that the problems they represent have human solutions.  They are quite literally in our hands.  In the case of climate change, we can even point to an example of what can be done about a human-caused global environmental disaster-in-the-making: the “hole” in the ozone layer over Antarctica.  Discovered in 1985, it continued to grow for years threatening a prospective health catastrophe.  It was found to be due to the effects of CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) compounds used in air-conditioning units, refrigerators, and aerosol propellants, and then released into the atmosphere.  In fact, the nations of the world did come together around CFCs, most of which have now been replaced, while that hole has been reduced, though it isn’t expected to heal entirely until much later this century.

Of course, compared with the burning of fossil fuels, the economic and political interests involved in CFCs were minor.  Still, the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer is evidence that solutions can be reached, however imperfectly, on a global scale when it comes to human-caused environmental problems.

What makes climate change so challenging is that the carbon dioxide (and methane) being generated by the extraction, production, and burning of fossil fuels supports the most profitable corporations in history, as well as energy states like Saudi Arabia and Russia that are, in essence, national versions of such corporations.  The drive for profits has so far proven unstoppable.  Those who run the big oil companies, like the tobacco companies before them, undoubtedly know what potential harm they are doing to us.  They know what it will mean for humanity if resources (and profits) aren’t poured into alternative energy research and development.  And like those cigarette companies, they go right on.  They are indeed intent, for instance, on turning North America into “Saudi America,” and hunting down and extracting the last major reserves of fossil fuel in the most difficult spots on the planet.  Their response to climate change has, in fact, been to put some of their vast profits into the funding of a campaignof climate-change denialism (and obfuscation) and into the coffers of chosen politicians and think tanks willing to lend a hand.

In fact, one of the grim wonders of climate change has been the ability of Big Energy and its lobbyists to politicize an issue that wouldn’t normally have a “left” or “right,” and to make bad science into an ongoing news story.  In other words, an achievement that couldn’t be morecriminal in nature has also been their great coup de théâtre.

In a world heading toward the brink, here’s the strange thing: most of the time that brink is nowhere in sight.  And how can you get people together to solve a human-caused problem when it’s so seldom meaningfully in the news (and so regularly challenged by energy interests when it is)?

This is the road to hell and it has not been paved with good intentions.  If we stay on it, we won’t even be able to say that future historians considered us both a wonder (for our ability to create world-ending scenarios and put them into effect) and a disgrace (for our inability to face what we had done).  By then, humanity might have arrived at the end of history, and so of historians.

Tom Engelhardt, a co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, isTerminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.

[Note: I would like to thank Jonathan Schell for loaning me the term “anti-news” in relation to climate change.]

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Ann Jones’s They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars — The Untold Story.

Copyright 2014 Tom Engelhardt

The Dow Has Already Fallen More Than 1000 Points From The Peak Of The Market

The Dow Has Already Fallen More Than 1000 Points From The Peak Of The Market.

 By Michael Snyder, on February 3rd, 2014

Stock Market Decline - Photo by Nodulation

That didn’t take long.  On Monday, the Dow was down another 326 points.  Overall, the Dow has now fallen more than 1000 points from the peak of the market (16,588.25) back in late December.  This is the first time that we have seen the Dow drop below its 200-day moving average in more than a year, and there are many that believe that this is just the beginning of a major stock market decline.  Meanwhile, things are even worse in other parts of the world.  For example, the Nikkei is now down about 1700 points from its 2013 high.  This is causing havoc all over Asia, and the sharp movement that we have been seeing in the USD/JPY is creating a tremendous amount of anxiety among Forex traders.  For those that are not interested in the technical details, what all of this means is that global financial markets are starting to become extremely unstable.

Unfortunately, there does not appear to be much hope on the horizon for investors.  In fact, troubling news just continues to pour in from all over the planet.  Just consider the following…

-Major currencies all over South America continue to collapse.

-Massive central bank intervention has done little to slow down the currency collapse in Turkey.

-Investors pulled more than 6 billion dollars out of emerging market equity funds last week alone.

-The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) has risen above 20 for the first time in four months.

-Last month, new manufacturing orders in the United States declined at the fastest pace that we have seen since December 1980.

-Real disposable income in the United States has just experienced the largest year over year drop that we have seen since 1974.

-In January, vehicle sales for Ford were down 7.5 percent and vehicle sales for GM were down 12 percent.  Both companies are blaming bad weather.

-A major newspaper in the UK is warning that “growing problems in the Chinese banking system could spill over into a wider financial crisis“.

-U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is warning that the federal government could hit the debt ceiling by the end of this month if Congress does not act.

-It is being reported that Dell Computer plans to lay off more than 15,000 workers.

-The IMF recently said that the the probability that the global economy will fall into a deflation trap “may now be as high as 20%“.

-The Baltic Dry Index is now down 50 percent from its December highs.

If our economic troubles continue to mount, could we be facing a global “financial avalanche” fairly quickly?

That is what some very prominent analysts believe.

Below, I have posted quotes from five men that are greatly respected in the financial world.  What they have to say is quite chilling…

#1 Doug Casey: “Now is a very good time to start thinking financially because I’m afraid that this year, in 2014, we’re going to go back into the financial hurricane. We’ve been in the eye of the storm since 2009, but now we’re going to go back into the trailing edge of the storm, and it’s going to be much longer lasting and much worse and much different than what we had in 2008 and 2009.”

#2 Bill Fleckenstein: “The [price-to-earnings ratio] is 16, 17 times earnings,” Fleckenstein said on Tuesday’s episode of “Futures Now.” “Why would you pay 16 times for an S&P company? I don’t care about where rates are, because rates are artificially suppressed. Why isn’t that worth 11 or 12 times? Just by that analysis, you’d be down by a quarter or 30 percent. So there’s a huge amount of downside.”

#3 Egon von Greyerz of Matterhorn Asset Management: “Nothing goes (down) in a straight line, but the emerging market problems will accelerate and it will spread to the very overbought and the very overvalued stock markets and economies in the West.

So stock markets are now starting a secular bear trend which will last for many years, and we could see falls of massive proportions. At the end of this, the wealth that has been created in the last few decades will be destroyed.”

#4 Peter Schiff: “The crisis is imminent,” Schiff said.  “I don’t think Obama is going to finish his second term without the bottom dropping out. And stock market investors are oblivious to the problems.”

“We’re broke, Schiff added.  “We owe trillions. Look at our budget deficit; look at the debt to GDP ratio, the unfunded liabilities. If we were in the Eurozone, they would kick us out.”

#5 Gerald Celente: “This selloff in the emerging markets, with their currencies going down and their interest rates going up, it’s going to be disastrous and there are going to be riots everywhere…

So as the decline in their economies accelerates, you are going to see the civil unrest intensify.”

—–

Those that do not believe that we could ever see “civil unrest” on the streets of America should take note of what just happened in Seattle.

After the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, fans celebrated by “lighting fires, damaging historic buildings and ripping down street signs“.

If that is how average Americans will behave when something good happens, how will they act when the economy totally collapses and nobody can find work for an extended period of time?

We are rapidly approaching another great financial crisis.  Unfortunately, we didn’t learn any of the lessons that we should have learned last time.  It is being projected that the debt of the federal government will more than double during the Obama years, the “too big to fail banks” have collectively gotten 37 percent larger over the past five years, and the big banks have become more financially reckless than ever before.

When the next great financial crisis arrives (and without a doubt it is inevitable), millions more Americans will lose their jobs and millions more Americans will lose their homes.

Now is not the time to be buying lots of expensive new toys, going on expensive vacations or piling up lots of debt.

Now is the time to build up an emergency fund and to do whatever you can to get prepared for the great storm that is coming.

As you can see from the financial headlines, time is rapidly running out.

NASDAQ MarketSite TV studio - Photo by Luis Villa del Campo

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Feds Cannot Require A State To Carry Out Federal Acts : Personal Liberty™

Feds Cannot Require A State To Carry Out Federal Acts : Personal Liberty™.

January 28, 2014 by 

Feds Cannot Require A State To Carry Out Federal Acts

PHOTOS.COM

With a number of States now consideringbills to thwart the implementation of Obamacare or legislation to turn off resources like water and power to National Security Agency facilities around the country, a number of political commentators are weighing in.

For example, Gail Kerr over at The Tennessean wrote about State Senator Mae Beavers’ bill to block Obamacare: “The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act is constitutional. State laws cannot trump federal laws.”

Jacob Gershman at the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog suggested the same before having to retract shortly after.

The knee-jerk reaction of many “experts” is to claim that “Federal laws trump State laws when they conflict” whenever they write about a bill designed to take action against a Federal act.

Many of them don’t have a clue what they’re talking about.

The Legislation

The bills in question are not coming into “conflict” with Federal laws at all; they seek to direct State agents and employees to stop participating in the enforcement of various Federal acts.

In Washington State, for example, House Bill 2272 would ban all public employees from participating in any actions that aid the NSA in its mass surveillance programs. While this would immediately ban the use of warrantless data in court proceedings in the States, it has even more significant impact in a State like Washington, because there is a physical NSA facility there that relies on third parties, such as State agencies, to provide electricity or water to stay operational.

A similar bill has been introduced in Tennessee, where the NSA’s encryption-breaking facility at Oak Ridge resides. And another is expected to be introduced soon in Utah, where the new NSA data center requires as much as 1.7 million gallons of water every day to cool the supercomputers. That water is being supplied by the state of Utah.

In a rallying cry that sounds surprisingly simple, supporters know that no water equals no NSA data center.

Back in Tennessee, Senate Bill 1888 states, in part, “No state entity shall establish or administer, or assist in establishing or administering, any specific regulatory scheme to operate the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, or any subsequent federal amendment to such act, in this state.”

Similar bills have been introduced in GeorgiaIndianaOklahoma and elsewhere.

Analyzing such state bills, FOX News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano considered them an effective strategy against the Affordable Care Act. “If enough states do this, it will gut Obamacare because the federal government doesn’t have the resources… to go into each of the states if they start refusing,” he said.

In Florida yesterday, a bill was introduced in the State House to ban the entire State from enforcing or assisting in the enforcement of Federal gun control measures — all of them — past, present or future.

Napolitano last year urged States to do just this, suggesting that the Federal government simply does not have the manpower to carry out these measures. Such a bill in a single State, he said, would make “federal gun laws nearly impossible to enforce.”

The Legal Doctrine

Is this legal?

In short, absolutely. The State laws do not come into conflict with Federal laws in any legal sense.

All of these proposals are based on the widely accepted legal principle known as the “anti-commandeering doctrine.”

This means the Federal government cannot require a State to carry out Federal acts. The Federal government can pass a law and try to enforce it, but your State isn’t required to help them.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed anti-commandeering, relevant court cases being:

  • 1842 Prigg: The court held that States weren’t required to enforce Federal slavery laws.
  • 1992 New York: The court held that Congress couldn’t require States to enact specified waste disposal regulations.
  • 1997 Printz: The court held that “the Federal Government may not compel the States to enact or administer a federal regulatory program.”
  • 2012 Sebelius: The court held that the Federal government could not require the States to expand Medicaid, even under the threat of losing Federal funding.

Constitutional scholar Randy Barnett told National Journal recently: “State governments are free to refrain from cooperating with federal authorities if they so choose. In general, states cannot attack federal operations, but that’s not the same as refusing to help.”

These noncompliance bills do not run afoul of the Supremacy Clause, even if one were to claim that all Federal laws are supreme, instead of just those made “in pursuance” of the delegated powers in the Constitution.

Claiming they do is like claiming people who are boycotting a business are actually setting fire to it instead of just choosing not to shop there.

It’s just as absurd.  Saying no to participation is far different than a physical standoff, both legally and practically.

Can It Work?

Simply put, the Federal government cannot force State or local governments to do the bidding of the Federal government. Such a tactic is an extremely effective way to stop a Federal government busting at the seams.

Even the National Governors Association admitted the same recently when it sent out a press release noting that “States are partners with the federal government in implementing most federal programs.”

That means States can create impediments to enforcing and implementing “most federal programs.”

James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” advised this very tactic. Madison supplied the blueprint for resisting Federal power in Federalist No. 46. He outlined several steps that States can take to effectively stop “an unwarrantable measure” or “even a warrantable measure” of the Federal government. Anticipating the anti-commandeering doctrine, Madison called for “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” as a method of resistance.

This same process was used effectively by Northern Abolitionists in resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. And in Colorado, the whole world is able to see firsthand just how effective the States can be when they refuse to go along with Federal “laws.”

We should follow their courageous path against every other unConstitutional Federal act as well.

Moving forward, burning up the phone lines to your State House and asking legislators to introduce bills to refuse to participate in Federal acts like Obamacare, the NSA or gun control, can turn the tide toward liberty.

Many, if not most, Federal programs rely heavily on this kind of cooperation. Therefore, enacting anti-commandeering laws on various issues around the country can have the effect of a practical nullification — rendering Federal acts “nearly impossible to enforce.”

–Michael Boldin

Natural Gas isn’t a Bridge Fuel, it’s a Gateway Drug  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

Natural Gas isn’t a Bridge Fuel, it’s a Gateway Drug  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

4229298708_d6692dc2a0

In his State of the Union, President Obama added to the conventional wisdom that supplanting coal with natural gas will act as a bridge toward a climate solution. Unfortunately, gas is more of a gateway drug than a bridge to a clean energy future.

1) It’s still a major greenhouse gas.  Sure, natural gas is cleaner than coal, but that’s setting a pretty low bar.  Even if my shit smells sweeter than most, it’s still shit.

Natural gas powered electricity still pours 1.22 lbs of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for every kilowatt-hour of electricity it produces. That’s 6 tons of CO2 per year from every household in America if its electricity were completely generated with natural gas.

And that’s the emissions from the stuff that actually gets to the power plant. The EPA has collected industry-reported data suggested that leakage from the drilling, production, and pipeline process runs close to 1.5%.  Other studies show much higher leakage rates.  At a 2.7% leakage rate, gas is no better than coal for the climate.

2) Gas for electricity competes with gas for heating (and gas for transportation).  The recent “polar vortex” events have meant spikes in home heating costs.  As Forbes notes, “The cold affected electricity generation systems, particularly natural gas, in the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast such that supply weakened and prices skyrocketed. In New England, natural gas faltered so much that regional grid administrator ISO-New England had to bring up dirtier coal and oil plants to try to make up the difference.”

With gas prices as volatile as history shows (data below from EIA), increasing gas reliance in sectors other than home heating (e.g. electricity, transportation) is just asking for Oil Crisis v2.

henry-hub-gas-prices-1997-2014-EIA

3) In electricity and transportation, we have much cleaner options. If you want a cleaner way to heat your home than natural gas, you’re going to have to pay a lot more.  Solar hot water, geothermal, and other renewable options are not yet cost competitive.

But in the electricity market, renewables are more cost-effective than natural gas.  Wind power is routinely the lowest cost wholesale power, as the following cost comparison from investment bank Lazard (from 2011) illustrates.

Screenshot-2014-01-30-13.57.06

Solar power plants are competitive in a different way. They tend to deliver power right when natural gas power plants operate, at periods of peak demand (which is, in part, why a judge recently told a Minnesota utility to buy solar instead of building new natural gas power plants).  Even back in 2011, California utilities were buying energy from solar on long-term contracts for less than the cost of energy from natural gas power plants.

Furthermore, because they have zero fuel cost, wind and other renewables tend to exert downward pressure on wholesale electricity costs, as shown in the following graphic.

PTCpower_art-1

In transportation, natural gas loses to electric vehicles. Natural gas vehicles can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20-30% over gasoline vehicles, but electric vehicles would lower emissions by 50-75% in most regions of the country, and they get better as grid electricity gets cleaner.   And electric vehicles cost less per mile driven (5¢ compared to 6.7¢ for natural gas). Additionally, why build an entirely new refueling network for natural gas vehicles when every gas station and home in America already has a power outlet?

4) Building natural gas infrastructure chains us to a carbon-based energy future for 50 years. Electric utilities build power plants with 50 year life expectancies, same for gas companies and pipelines.  Every dollar invested in dirty gas infrastructure is a dollar not spent building solar and wind farms, not spent researching battery technologies, and not spent helping communities capture the most of their local energy dollar. And it’s committing us to burn more natural gas for decades, during a time which greenhouse gas emissions must fall precipitously to avoid the major consequences of climate chaos.

A Relapse

Expanding natural gas use in electricity and transportation is risky, it’s dirty, and – most of all – it’s unnecessary.

The electricity sector is already undergoing a rapid transformation to a carbon-free system, driven by renewable energy standards and rapidly falling costs for wind and solar power. Converting coal plants to natural gas makes short-term sense, but building new fossil fuel infrastructure when we have free-fuel renewables is inane.

The transportation sector has already identified a low-carbon alternative to gasoline vehicles with an in-place fuel network. Electric vehicles will only get more efficient and cleaner as they grow in numbers and as the grid gets greener.

Americans are finally on a course to wean ourselves from an unhealthy addiction to fossil fuels in two major sectors of our economy.  Natural gas isn’t a bridge, it’s a relapse.  And it’s time we admit it.

Grist

EU report: Corruption widespread in the bloc – Europe – Al Jazeera English

EU report: Corruption widespread in the bloc – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

Corruption affects all 28 member countries of the European Union and costs their economies about $162.19bn (120bn Euros) a year, according to an European Union report.

The report, the EU’s first on corruption, was issued on Monday by Cecilia Malmstrom, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, the AP news agency reported.

Malmstrom said in a statement that “corruption undermines citizens’ confidence in democratic institutions and the result of law, it hurts the European economy and deprives states of much-needed tax revenue.

Member states have done a lot in recent years to fight corruption, but today’s report shows that it is far from enough

Cecilia Malmstrom, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs

“Member states have done a lot in recent years to fight corruption, but today’s report shows that it is far from enough.”

The report said that an increasing number of EU citizens, who were surveyed as part of the report, thought it was getting worse.

Almost all companies in Greece, Spain and Italy believe it is widespread and, among businesses, belief is widespread that the only way to succeed is through political connections.

Corruption is considered rare in Denmark, Finland and Sweden, according to the report, a finding that reflects the work of Transparency International’s corruption perception index. It named Greece as the worst performer in the EU, sharing 80th place with China. Denmark was seen as the least corrupt.

Construction companies, which often tender for government contracts, are the most affected. Almost eight in ten of those asked complained about corruption.

Overall, 43 percent of companies see corruption as a problem. The cost to the European economy is almost equivalent to the size of the Romanian economy.

Corruption is commonplace

Eight out of ten EU citizens believe that close links between business and politics lead to corruption.

“Europe’s problem is not so much with small bribes on the whole,” Carl Dolan of Transparency International in Brussels, told Reuters. “It’s with the ties between the political class and industry.”

“There has been a failure to regulate politicians’ conflicts of interest in dealing with business,” he said.

“The rewards for favouring companies, in allocating contracts or making changes to legislation, are positions in the private sector when they have left office rather than a bribe.”

European Commission: the level of corruption across the EU is ‘breathtaking’

The European Commission recommended better controls and a redoubling of enforcement.

The report was published shortly after Romania’s former prime minister, Adrian Nastase, was sent to jail for four years for taking bribes. He was the first prime minister to be put behind bars since the collapse of communism in Europe in 1989.

The EU has repeatedly raised concerns about a failure to tackle corruption at high-level in Romania and Bulgaria, the bloc’s two poorest members. They have been blocked from joining the passport-free Schengen zone over the issue since their entry.

In October 2012, former European Health Commissioner John Dalli was forced to quit after an associate was accused of asking for 60 million euros from a tobacco company in return for influencing EU tobacco law.

Activist Post: Why the FCC Can’t Actually Save Net Neutrality

Activist Post: Why the FCC Can’t Actually Save Net Neutrality.

April Glaser
EFF

Network neutrality—the idea that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data that travels over their networks equally—is a principle that EFF strongly supports. However, the power to enforce equal treatment on the Internet can easily become the power to control the Internet in less beneficent ways. Some people have condemned last week’s court decision to reject the bulk of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Open Internet Order as a threat to Internet innovation and openness. Others hailed it as a victory against dangerous government regulation of the Internet. Paradoxically, there is a lot of truth to both of these claims.

Violations of network neutrality are a real and serious problem: in recent years we have seen dozens of ISPs in the U.S. and around the world interfere with and discriminate against traffic on their networks in ways that threaten the innovative fabric of the Internet.

At the same time, we’ve long doubted that the FCC had the authority to issue the Open Internet rules in the first place, and we worried that the rules would lead to the FCC gaining broad control over the Internet. The FCC in particular has a poor track record of regulating our communications services. We are not confident that Internet users can trust the FCC, or any government agency, with open-ended regulatory authority of the Internet.
Look at what happened with radio and television. Though it’s charged to regulate our media landscape in the best interest of the public, the FCC opened the doors to unforeseen levels of media consolidation. That consolidation has contributed to the gutting of newsrooms and a steep decline in diversity of viewpoints and local voices on the air, as independent broadcasters across the country shut down, unable to compete with big media monopolies. One of the best protections for the open Internet is probably more competition among ISPs, but the FCC’s history doesn’t leave us hopeful that it is the right entity to help create and defend a competitive Internet marketplace.

And the FCC sometimes makes rules that narrow our freedom to communicate and innovate, like the Broadcast Flag Rule—the bit of DRM that broadcasters wanted to use to prevent the home recording of television—which EFF fought so hard to defeat in 2007.

So while we are hesitant to task any government agency with the job of regulating the Internet, we aren’t thrilled about giving that power to the FCC.

The many faces of network discrimination

However this plays out, we think it’s important that the public understands what network discrimination actually looks like. The recent debate about network neutrality has involved a lot of speculation and “what-if” hypotheticals. This is strange because we have a clear, documented history of the kinds of non-neutral, discriminatory practices that ISPs have actually deployed in recent years. Here are a few ways ISPs have throttled or blocked content in the past. We stand firm in our opposition to this kind of behavior:

  • Packet forgery: in 2007 Comcast was caught interfering with their customers’ use of BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer file sharing;
  • Discriminatory traffic shaping that prioritizes some protocols over others: a Canadian ISPslowed down all encrypted file transfers for five years;
  • Prohibitions on tethering: the FCC fined Verizon for charging consumers for using their phone as a mobile hotspot;
  • Overreaching clauses in ISP terms of service, such as prohibitions on sharing your home Wi-Fi network;
  • Hindering innovation with “fast lane” discrimination that allows wireless customers without data plans to access certain sites but not the whole Internet;
  • Hijacking and interference with DNS, search engines, HTTP transmission, and other basic Internet functionality to inject ads and raise revenue from affiliate marketing schemes, from companies like Paxfire, FairEagle, and others.

Individually and collectively, these practices pose a dire threat to the engine of innovation that has allowed hackers, startup companies, and kids in their college dorm rooms to make the Internet that we know and love today.

How can we prevent these practices and ensure neutrality over our networks? The FCC tried, and while the agency was somewhat successful in putting the brakes on the kind of network discrimination ISPs would rather see[1], the FCC used poor legal reasoning to enact weak rules.

What was wrong with the FCC’s network neutrality approach

The Open Internet rules of 2010 that were rejected by the court last week were deeply flawed and confirmed our fears about heavy-handed Internet regulation. The FCC initially claimed that it had“ancillary” authority under the 1996 Telecommunications Act to enact the Open Internet rules. That means that although the FCC did not have explicit authority from Congress to issue network neutrality rules, especially after classifying Internet service as an “information service” and not a telephone-like “common carrier” in 2002, they still professed a broad authority to regulate the Internet.

That claim of ancillary jurisdiction, if accepted, would have given the FCC pretty much boundless clearance to regulate the Internet, and to claim other ancillary powers in the future. Even if you happen to like the FCC’s current goals, who’s to say we will still like whatever goals the agency has next year and the year after that?

We had serious issues with the initial Open Internet Order, as we explained in our comments to the FCC. For one, the Order allowed ISPs free rein to discriminate as long as it was part of “reasonable efforts to… address copyright infringement.” This broad language could lead to more bogus copyright policing from the ISPs. We’ve already seen companies use inaccurate filters to blocknon-infringing fair use content online, a practice we continue to fight.

The FCC’s rules also had troubling exceptions for law enforcement, permitting ISPs to engage in voluntary, non-neutral network management practices to fulfill any law enforcement requests. We opposed this exception when the rules were being considered, but the FCC did not adopt our recommendations. And by now we all know how overbroad law enforcement exceptions to gather user data can be. If you have any doubt, pick up a newspaper and read about how the U.S. government unconstitutionally collaborates with Internet companies for law enforcement purposes.

There are no easy solutions
In light of these threats it is tempting to reach for easy solutions. But handing the problem to a government agency with strong industry ties and poor mechanisms for public accountability to fix the very real problem of network neutrality is unsatisfying. There’s a real danger that we would just be creating more problems than we’d solve.
One alternative that would go a long way would be to foster a genuinely competitive market for Internet access. If subscribers and customers had adequate information about their options and could vote with their feet, ISPs would have strong incentives to treat all netowrk traffic fairly. The court agreed with us on this point:

“a broadband provider like Comcast would be unable to threaten Netflix that it would slow Netflix traffic if all Comcast subscribers would then immediately switch to a competing broadband provider.”

Another scenario would be for Congress to step in and pass network neutrality legislation that outlines what the ISPs are not allowed to do. But fighting giant mega-corporations like AT&T and Verizon (and their army of lobbyists) in Congress promises to be a tough battle.

Yet another option: empower subscribers to not just test their ISP but challenge it in court if they detect harmful non-neutral practices. That gives all of us the chance to be watchdogs of the public interest but it, too, is likely to face powerful ISP opposition.

These are not the only options. Internet users should be wary of any suggestion that there is an easy path to network neutrality. It’s a hard problem, and building solutions to resolve it is going to remain challenging. But here is one guiding principle: any effort to defend net neutrality should use the lightest touch possible, encourage a competitive marketplace, and focus on preventing discriminatory conduct by ISPs, rather than issuing broad mandatory obligations that are vulnerable to perverse consequences and likely to be outdated as soon as they take effect.

EFF is watching this issue closely, and we’ll continue to share our thoughts on how best to defend the free and open Internet on which we all depend.

Jean Laherrere uses Hubbert linearization to estimate Bakken shale oil peak in 2014  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

Jean Laherrere uses Hubbert linearization to estimate Bakken shale oil peak in 2014  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

In his latest research on shale oil French oil geologist Jean Laherrere from ASPO France

http://aspofrance.viabloga.com/texts/documents estimates a Bakken shale oil peak in 2014.
He uses a Hubbert linearization to calculate a total of 2,500 mb to be produced
In global terms, a total cumulative of 2.5 Gb is just around 10% of annual crude production and 1.3% of daily production.
Well productivity in Bakken is stagnant at around 130 b/d for a couple of years now.
There has been a peak in the number of drilling rigs. A shift of the rigs curve by 2 years suggests a production peak in 2014.
Jean’s research is in line with that published by David Hughes in November 2013:
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