- Fracking could carry unforeseen risks as thalidomide and asbestos did, says report
- This headline will subtly mislead you and science says that probably matters
- 5 Key Takeaways From the Latest Climate Change Report
- Why Ebola hit West Africa hard
- Nuclear Arms Control in China Today
- Texas oil town makes history as residents say no to fracking
- The secular stagnation hoax
- The Pentagon’s Arguments for Runaway Arms Trading Are Indefensible
- World’s first solar cycle lane opening in the Netherlands
- Raytheon acquires cyber firm for $420 million
- America’s New Mercenaries
- What’s the environmental impact of modern war?
- Petraeus joins pro-fracking choir at Harvard’s Belfer Center
- Stakes are high as US plays the oil card against Iran and Russia
- Foundation of US nuclear system showing cracks
- Midterms 2014: The Red Wedding for Democrats
- Can (green) energy policy create jobs?
- Death Wears Bunny Slippers
- It is the 0.01% who are really getting ahead in America
- The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and UK healthcare
- Is neoliberalism at last unravelling in Britain?
- For Whom the Wall Fell? A balance-sheet of transition to capitalism
- Ministers’ shale gas ‘hype’ attacked
- Some Very Initial Thoughts on the US-China Deal
- The social, political and ecological pathologies of the Ebola Crisis cannot be ignored
- F’d: How the U.S. and Its Allies Got Stuck with the World’s Worst New Warplane
- Spied on by BP
- How did the first world war actually end?
- Don’t Throw Billions at an Obsolete Nuclear Arsenal
- Hard Evidence: are we facing another financial crisis?
- Growth: the destructive god that can never be appeased
- Cameron is right to warn of another recession, but wrong to blame the world
- The Top 5 Foreign Policy Lessons of the Past 20 Years
- The .01 Percent Blow Their Fortunes on Yachts, Personal Jets and America’s Politicians
- How much is owed to Gaza? Does anyone know? This is not a rhetorical question. I’m really asking!
- International arms firm Lockheed Martin in the frame for £1bn NHS contract
- We Love the Pentagon’s ‘Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure’
- Massive Rail Deal Gives China’s Push Into Africa a Major Win
- Exaggeration Nation
- Barclays boycotted over Israel arms trade shares
- Firms invested £17bn in companies making cluster bombs, report says
- There is Nothing Natural about Gentrification
- 41 men targeted but 1,147 people killed: US drone strikes – the facts on the ground
- The ‘crass insensitivity’ of Tower’s luxury dinner for arms dealers, days after poppy display
- Fracking firm’s plans to look for gas in North Yorkshire criticised by environmental groups
- House Republicans just passed a bill forbidding scientists from advising the EPA on their own research
- Justifying War: “Just” Wars
Fracking could carry unforeseen risks as thalidomide and asbestos did, says report
Fracking could carry unforeseen risks in the way that thalidomide, tobacco and asbestos did, warns a report produced by the government’s chief scientific adviser.
A chapter in the flagship annual report produced by the UK’s chief scientist, Mark Walport, argues that history holds many examples of innovations that were adopted hastily and later had serious negative environmental and health impacts. The chapter is written by Prof Andrew Stirling of the University of Sussex. …
Stirling’s chapter also argues that the UK and the world could tackle climate change with energy efficiency and renewable energy alone but vested interests in the fossil fuel industry stand in the way.
This headline will subtly mislead you and science says that probably matters
In ‘The Effects of Subtle Misinformation in News Headlines’ researchers used two types of articles – factual ones discussing statistics such as crime rates and opinion pieces which highlighted someone disagreeing with an expert.
The study concludes “a headline can be used to cast someone in a dubious light even when every word in both the headline and the accompanying article is accurate”.
5 Key Takeaways From the Latest Climate Change Report
“Every time the IPCC comes around, we have a crisper more worrisome set of messages about the trends in emissions and impacts of climate change, and then you don’t see much connection between that story and what governments actually do,” Victor said. “That’s because it’s not really a scientific problem anymore. Essentially, everything that needs to be done to move the needle is political.”
Why Ebola hit West Africa hard
West Africa, in the throes of a calamitous Ebola epidemic, missed out on significant health investment during the past decade or more because it had low rates of HIV, a detailed survey of the changing health of Africa and Asia reveals.
A major project called Indepth, which has looked at the causes of death of more than 110 000 people in 13 countries, shows that health improved generally in those given substantial international aid to try to turn around the HIV epidemic.
But West Africa, with severe poverty and low healthcare standards but relatively little HIV, did not benefit.
Nuclear Arms Control in China Today
There are persistent U.S. rumors that China is engaged in an effort to alter the strategic balance of nuclear forces, but the Chinese presenters argued that China’s efforts to modernize its delivery vehicles are aimed at increasing their ability to survive a first strike as well as to penetrate U.S. missile defenses. Chinese strategists appear content to maintain what one Chinese presenter described as an “asymmetric stability” between China and the United States predicated on the continued existence of a large imbalance between U.S. and Chinese nuclear forces.
Texas oil town makes history as residents say no to fracking
The Texas town where America’s oil and natural gas boom began has voted to ban fracking, in a stunning rebuke to the industry.
Denton, a college town on the edge of the Barnett Shale, voted by 59% to ban fracking inside the city limits, a first for any locality in Texas.
Organisers said they hoped it would give a boost to anti-fracking activists in other states. More than 15 million Americans now live within a mile of an oil or gas well.
The claim that slow growth is due to a secular stagnation only survives because the economics debate is captured by the neo-liberal Groupthink.
The growth would have returned more or less as usual after the downturn if governments had have expanded their deficits sufficiently and not tried to reduce them prematurely.
European governments should in almost all cases have significantly larger deficits (double or larger in some cases) to address the medium- to longer-term effects of the crisis. If the ECB guaranteed all debt issuance in the Eurozone, there would be no need for such austerity.
What all this means is that governments should do everything within their capacity to avoid recessions.
Not only does a strategy of early policy intervention avoid massive short-run income losses and the sharp rise in unemployment that accompany recession, but the longer term damage to the supply capacity of the economy and the deterioration in the quality of the labour force can also be avoided.
A national, currency-issuing government can always provide sufficient aggregate spending in a relatively short period of time to offset a collapse in non-government spending, which, if otherwise ignored, would lead to these damaging short-run and long-run consequences.
The “waiting for the market to work” approach is vastly inferior and not only ruins the lives of individuals who are forced to disproportionately endure the costs of the economic downturn, but, also undermines future prosperity for their children and later generations.
The Pentagon’s Arguments for Runaway Arms Trading Are Indefensible
The Pentagon’s weapons trafficking arm — the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) — announced last week that it brokered $34 billion in arms deals in fiscal year 2014, one of the highest totals in the history of the agency. It’s no match for the record $69 billion in sales agreements the agency secured in 2012, but it still gives the United States the dubious distinction of being the world’s largest arms merchant. And all of this activity involves just one program — the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. It doesn’t even include billions in additional, commercial deals that are licensed by the State Department.
What is the official rationale for this boom in sales? In the words of DSCA director Vice Adm. Joseph Rixey:
“FMS agreements result in more-capable partners who are able to take on missions that might otherwise fall to US forces. In the broader foreign policy realm, FMS often serves as the basis for long-term relationships between partner countries and the United States. In a relationship context, every single sale is important to us.”
World’s first solar cycle lane opening in the Netherlands
But next week Krommenie’s cycle path promises to become even more useful: on 12 November a 70-metre stretch will become the world’s first public road with embedded solar panels.
Costing around €3m (£2.4m) and funded mostly by the local authority, the road is made up of rows of crystalline silicon solar cells, encased within concrete and covered with a translucent layer of tempered glass.
Raytheon acquires cyber firm for $420 million
Raytheon Co announced on Wednesday that it has acquired privately held Blackbird Technologies, which provides cybersecurity, surveillance and secure communications to spy agencies and special operations units, for $420 million.
Without much notice or debate, the Obama administration has greatly expanded the outsourcing of key parts of the U.S.-led counterinsurgency wars in the Middle East and Africa, and as a result, for its secretive air war and special operations missions around the world, the U.S. has become increasingly reliant on a new breed of specialized companies that are virtually unknown to the American public, yet carry out vital U.S. missions abroad.
Companies such as Blackbird Technologies, Glevum Associates, K2 Solutions, and others have won hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military and intelligence contracts in recent years to provide technology, information on insurgents, Special Forces training, and personnel rescue. They win their work through the large, established prime contractors, but are tasked with missions only companies with specific skills and background in covert and counterinsurgency can accomplish. …
The use of contractors could become a serious problem if controversies about them are not addressed, a senior British official warned during a recent visit to Washington. Pauline Neville-Jones, the U.K.’s minister of state for security and counterterrorism (and a former executive with QinetiQ PLC, a major intelligence contractor), told an audience at the Brookings Institution that “we have something of a crisis in Afghanistan” partly because of the “largely unregulated private sector security companies performing important roles” there.
What’s the environmental impact of modern war?
“The environment has long been a silent casualty of war and armed conflict. From the contamination of land and the destruction of forests to the plunder of natural resources and the collapse of management systems, the environmental consequences of war are often widespread and devastating,” said Ban in a statement for the UN’s International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict on Thursday. …
The US Department of Defence is the country’s largest consumer of fossil fuels. Research from 2007 showed the military used 20.9bn litres of fuel each year. This results in similar CO2 emissions to a mid-sized European country such as Denmark.
And that’s before they go to war. The carbon footprint of a deployed modern army is typically enormous. One report suggested the US military, with its tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, used 190.8m litres of oil every month during the invasion of Iraq. An estimated two thirds of this fuel is used delivering more fuel to the vehicles at the battlefront.
Petraeus joins pro-fracking choir at Harvard’s Belfer Center
Petraeus’s enthusiasm for natural gas gels nicely with his position at KKR, which was the subject of a Forbes article titled “Guess Who’s Fueling the Fracking Boom?” last year thanks to its massive investments in shale gas companies over the past several years. His voice also is a natural fit at the Belfer Center, which has extensive ties to the oil and gas industry and is home to the BP-funded Geopolitics of Energy Project.
Stakes are high as US plays the oil card against Iran and Russia
But a bit of pain is acceptable. The Saudis are gambling that they can live with a lower oil price for longer than the Russians and the Iranians can, and that therefore the operation will be relatively short-lived.
There is no question that this new manifestation of cold war muscle is hurting Russia. Oil and gas account for 70% of Russia’s exports and the budget doesn’t add up unless the oil price is above $100 a barrel. Moscow has foreign exchange reserves, but these are not unlimited. The rouble fell by 10% last week. That adds to the debt servicing costs of Russian firms, and the central bank is under pressure to push up interest rates, which should help stabilise the currency, but only at the expense of a deeper recession. …
Friends of the Earth said the chancellor’s intervention was a cynical ploy designed to win over strong opposition to fracking. It was certainly ill-timed. One side-effect of the US-Saudi attempt to drive down the oil price will be to prick the shale bubble.
Foundation of US nuclear system showing cracks
This is not mainly about the safety of today’s weapons, although the Air Force’s nuclear missile corps has suffered failures in discipline, training, morale and leadership over the past two years. Just last week the Air Force fired nuclear commanders at two of its three missile bases for misconduct and disciplined a third commander.
Rather, this is about a broader problem: The erosion of the government’s ability to manage and sustain its nuclear “enterprise,” the intricate network of machines, brains and organizations that enables America to call itself a nuclear superpower.
What have been slipping are certain key building blocks — technical expertise, modern facilities and executive oversight on the civilian side, and discipline, morale and accountability on the military side.
Midterms 2014: The Red Wedding for Democrats
The midterms were not a “wave election” for Republicans, and in fact left policies were adopted by voters. The Democrats did not lose because of technical factors like the electoral map, structural issues with their “coalition,” or even for the reasons put forward by emo-dems. Rather, the midterms were a protest against neo-liberal principles and policy outcomes successfully achieved by Obama and the dominant factions of the Democratic Party: An active protest against Obama’s redistribution of income to the rich, and a sullen refusal to take ObamaCare as the positive good that the political class, refusing to look out the windows as they talk on their cellphones on the Acela, are sure that it is. Finally, Republicans are no less despised than Democrats, and in 2016 it may well be their turn to be subject to the cycle of massacre.
Can (green) energy policy create jobs?
Many of the same caveats apply to other job creation arguments too, such as the ones around the potential benefits of shale gas exploitation.
But UKERC policy director Jim Watson tells Carbon Brief that ministers can continue referring to jobs in their announcements despite the evidence on long-term net job creation being weak, as long as their emphasis shifts.
This is already somewhat in evidence where ministers refer to projects ” supporting green jobs” rather than creating them, with “supporting” being code for an acceptance that the jobs may come at the expense of other sectors.
There are other even more productive ways to talk about green jobs, Watson suggests. This could involve efforts to create jobs for deprived areas of the country, or to create well-paid, highly skilled jobs in place of lower skilled employment.
More broadly, the UK’s transition towards a lower-carbon economy is bound to change the shape of the employment market and green jobs studies can help us understand and respond to that. The economic transition will produce both winners and losers in terms of both jobs and business models.
At a July 2013 forum in Washington, DC, Lt. General James Kowalski, who commands all of the Air Force’s nuclear weapons, said a Russian nuclear attack on the United States was such “a remote possibility” that it was “hardly worth discussing.”
But then Kowalski sounded a disconcerting note that has a growing number of nuclear experts worried. The real nuclear threat for America today, he said, “is an accident. The greatest risk to my force is doing something stupid.” …
“You can’t screw up once—and that’s the unique danger of these machines,” points out investigative journalist Eric Schlosser, whose recent book, Command and Control, details the Air Force’s stunning secret history of nuclear near-misses, from the accidental release of a hydrogen bomb that would have devastated North Carolina to a Carter-era computer glitch that falsely indicated a shower of incoming Soviet nukes. “In this business, you need a perfect safety record.” …
Without the urgent sense of purpose the Cold War provided, the young men (and a handful of women) who work with the world’s most dangerous weapons are left logging their 24-hour shifts under subpar conditions—with all the dangers that follow.
In August 2013, Air Force commanders investigated two officers in the ICBM program suspected of using ecstasy and amphetamines. A search of the officers’ phones revealed more trouble: They and other missileers were sharing answers for the required monthly exams that test their knowledge of things like security procedures and the proper handling of classified launch codes. Ultimately, 98 missileers were implicated for cheating or failure to report it. Nine officers were stripped of their commands, and Colonel Robert Stanley, the commander of Malmstrom’s missile wing, resigned. …
In June 2006, the top-secret nose cone fuse assemblies of four Minuteman III missiles were accidentally shipped from Hill Air Force Base in Utah to Taiwan, which had requested helicopter batteries; the boxes sat for nearly two years before the Air Force, prompted by Taiwanese officials, finally acknowledged its error.
The next year, just four months after Aaron started at Malmstrom, six hydrogen bombs from Minot went missing for a day and a half after a crew mistakenly loaded them onto a plane and flew them across the country. …
On September 18, 1980, an airman conducting maintenance on a Titan II missile in a silo near Damascus, Arkansas, used an unauthorized socket wrench to unscrew a cap near the top of the missile. The nine-pound socket came loose, plunged 70 feet, and punched a hole in the fuel tank. Nine hours later, the missile exploded, killing one person, injuring 21 others, and scattering debris over a half-mile radius. The warhead flew 200 yards and landed, thankfully without detonating, in a roadside ditch. It was the largest weapon ever mounted on an ICBM, a nine-megaton hydrogen bomb with more explosive potential than all of WWII’s bombs—including the nukes—combined. …
Retired General James Cartwright, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a 2012 Senate hearing that our nuclear stockpile could be safely reduced from 4,800 warheads to 900 mounted in bombers and submarines, with ICBMs eliminated entirely.
It is the 0.01% who are really getting ahead in America
The richest 0.01%, with an average net worth of $371m, now control 11.2% of total wealth—back to the 1916 share, which is the highest on record. The top 0.1% (consisting of 160,000 families worth $73m on average) hold 22% of America’s wealth, just shy of the 1929 peak—and exactly the same share as the bottom 90% of the population.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and UK healthcare
The threat to public health posed by agreements on trade liberalisation has been a topic of policy interest for many years. The outgoing UN special rapporteur for health, Anand Grover, devoted much of his final report to the UN General Assembly this autumn to highlighting how trade and investment treaties have consistently undermined the right to health.1 Yet it is only now, in the context of EU-US negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), that the health implications of free trade agreements have become a front line political concern in the UK.
Is neoliberalism at last unravelling in Britain?
Many have noted that the anticipated anti-neoliberal moment did not occur after 2008-9; instead, the mainstream political elite turned to either the actual pursuit of neoliberal austerity (the Conservatives and Lib Dems) or its mimicry (Labour). However, in politics change often begins at the bottom and forces its way to the political surface. Possibly, just possibly, the British people in their apparently contradictory reactions to the crisis are now signalling that they have had enough of neoliberalism and want something that actually delivers to their aspirations and needs.
For Whom the Wall Fell? A balance-sheet of transition to capitalism
Let me just focus on one often overlooked fact. It is most strikingly illustrated with respect to Russia. Russia, probably for the first time since the early 1800s, has gone through a quarter of a century without leaving any trace on the international world of arts, literature, philosophy or science. One does not need to mention Russia’s “Silver Age” of the early 1900s, nor a number of writers who, often in the opposition to the regime, produced some of the best literature of the 20th century (Akhmatova, Pasternak, Grossman, Sholokhov, Solzhenitsyn, Zinoviev); one does not need even to dwell on scientific progress, indeed limited to the military or military-used production, in the USSR, to realize that nothing similar happened in the past 25 years, which is indeed a sufficiently long period to draw conclusions. Capitalism was not kind to Russia’s arts and sciences.
So, what is the balance-sheet of transition? Only three or at most five or six countries could be said to be on the road to becoming a part of the rich and (relatively) stable capitalist world. Many are falling behind, and some are so far behind that they cannot aspire to go back to the point where they were when the Wall fell for several decades. Despite philosophers of “universal harmonies” such as Francis Fukuyama, Timothy Garton Ash, Vaclav Havel, Bernard Henry Lévy, and scores of international “economic advisors” to Boris Yeltsin, who all phantasized about democracy and prosperity, neither really arrived for most people in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The Wall fell only for some.
Ministers’ shale gas ‘hype’ attacked
Researchers from the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) told the BBC promises of lower prices and greater energy security from UK shale gas were “hype” and “lacking in evidence”.
UKERC, an academic consortium covering 30 institutions, has produced a report on the future of gas in the UK.
The Treasury said the potential of shale gas was “too big to ignore”.
Some Very Initial Thoughts on the US-China Deal
In this context, the US-China climate deal is a badly needed piece of good news. It signals that Barack Obama is willing to expend political capital fighting for his climate legacy.
The social, political and ecological pathologies of the Ebola Crisis cannot be ignored
There have always been two core requirements for the control of this outbreak. The first is a health system with sound management, personnel who can follow simple protocols and basic resources (beds, quarantine units, disinfectant, gloves, transport etc). The second is trust, so that information can be transmitted, understood and acted upon. …
We must hope that the international response works effectively and efficiently. Though many individuals and organisations are performing heroically, the international response has generally been slow and characterised by self-interest and bickering. The militarised nature of assistance provided by the US in particular may help build hospitals and establish command-and-control systems to help break disease transmission chains, but could also hinder the building of trust. The more developmental and social approach to disease control offered by the Cubans, which has received little attention in the mainstream media, possibly offers more hope. …
The Ebola crisis must also make it imperative for the global health community to find long-term and effective solutions to the problems of the World Health Organisation (WHO). We don’t need more fingers pointed at the financial, technical and management problems of WHO, particularly its regional office in Africa. These problems have been known for many years. What we need is a frank and independent enquiry that will highlight the role of specific actors in undermining the public health mandate and functions of WHO. There is culpability and there must be accountability. …
The global health community has tended to ignore such pathologies, but Ebola is both a call and an opportunity to change this. We can confront finance capitalists and multinational corporations as vectors of disease that bribe governments and extract wealth in ways that are unjust and ecologically destructive. We must describe bankers, lawyers and accountants who enable illicit trade, tax avoidance, theft and corruption as agents of poverty and illness. And we should view the arms trade as a pathogen that fuels violence and enables repression.
F’d: How the U.S. and Its Allies Got Stuck with the World’s Worst New Warplane
Owing to heavy design compromises foisted on the plane mostly by the Marine Corps, the F-35 is an inferior combatant, seriously outclassed by even older Russian and Chinese jets that can fly faster and farther and maneuver better. In a fast-moving aerial battle, the JSF “is a dog … overweight and underpowered,” according to Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight in Washington, D.C.
And future enemy planes, designed strictly with air combat in mind, could prove even deadlier to the compromised JSF. …
The analysts railed against the new plane, which to be fair played only a small role in the overall simulation. “Inferior acceleration, inferior climb [rate], inferior sustained turn capability,” they wrote. “Also has lower top speed. Can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run.” Once missiles and guns had been fired and avoiding detection was no longer an option — in all but the first few seconds of combat, in other words — the F-35 was unable to keep pace with rival planes. …
Engineering compromises forced on the F-35 by this unprecedented need for versatility have taken their toll on the new jet’s performance. Largely because of the wide vertical-takeoff fan the Marines demanded, the JSF is wide, heavy and has high drag, and is neither as quick as an F-16 nor as toughly constructed as an A-10. The jack-of-all-trades JSF has become the master of none. …
But this mix of characteristics came at a price to all three F-35 models, even the two that don’t need to take off vertically. “The STOVL requirements have dictated most if not all of the cardinal design elements for all three aircraft,” said Peter Goon, an analyst with the Air Power Australia think tank.
The addition of a lift fan to the baseline F-35 design started a cascade of problems that made it heavier, slower, more complex, more expensive and more vulnerable to enemy attack — problems that were evident in the 2008 war game set over Taiwan. …
But in many ways the JSF did become rocket science as it grew more complex. The original X-35 from 2001 had the advantage of being strictly a test plane with no need to carry weapons. But the frontline F-35 needs weapons. And to maintain the smooth shape that’s best for avoiding detection by radar, the weapons need to be carried inside internal bomb bays. Bomb bays would normally go along an airplane’s centerline, but the F-35’s center is reserved for the 50-inch-diameter lift fan. Hence Sprey’s claim that STOVL and stealth are incompatible. …
To add insult to strategic injury, one of the most modern Chinese prototype warplanes might actually be an illicit near-copy of the F-35 — albeit a more intelligent copy that wisely omits the most compromising aspects of the U.S. plane. It’s possible that in some future war, America’s JSFs could be shot down by faster, deadlier, Chinese-made JSF clones.
After a few years of increasingly intense activism targeting the company’s controversial entry into the tar sands, its abuse of Indigenous rights and its greenwash-soaked sponsorship of cultural institutions, I started to wonder if BP might be monitoring me.
So I submitted a ‘Subject Access Request’, requiring the company to send me all its files that mentioned me by name. The thick dossier of heavily redacted internal emails and documents I received made for surprising, unsettling and sometimes hilarious reading. It also provided a fascinating insight into some of the ways corporations are monitoring activists they see as threatening to their reputations.
How did the first world war actually end?
But the termination of war by working-class action fits uneasily at a deeper level: for most of history the existence of a workforce with its own consciousness and organisations is an afterthought, or an anomaly. I’ve tried this quiz question again and again on highly-educated people and, even once they know the answer, there are looks of “does not compute”. …
But to social historians the German workers’ role in ending the war is no surprise. Because exactly 100 years ago this week, they had also turned out in their hundreds of thousands to try and prevent it starting. The German socialist party was a massive social institution – with libraries, schools, choirs, nurseries – and during the fatal slide to war they called their members onto the streets in every major city. …
Alongside the tragic and glorious place names of the 1914-18 war – Ypres, Gallipoli and the Somme – we should also remember Kiel and Wilhelmshaven, for it was here German workers finally did what they had been trying to do since August 1914: they stopped the war.
Don’t Throw Billions at an Obsolete Nuclear Arsenal
So, if the Pentagon needs a few more wrenches, by all means buy them. But don’t try to use this story as part of a plea for billions in additional funding. …
The best policy at a time of constrained resources is to hold off on building a new generation of nuclear delivery vehicles while we take a closer look at what is really needed. A report by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies has estimated that modernizing and sustaining the nuclear triad of bombers and land- and sea-based ballistic missiles will cost roughly $1 trillion between now and the mid-2030s. Just one new ballistic missile submarine is estimated to cost $5.5 billion, even before the inevitable cost overruns. Depending how they are configured and deployed, a new generation of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles could cost anywhere from $20 billion to $120 billion. And the Air Force wants 100 new nuclear capable bombers at $550 million a pop. All of these projects are at an early enough stage in their development that a much needed course correction would be relatively easy to accomplish, given the will and the wisdom to do so. …
Even a modest restructuring of the force could save tens of billions of dollars. In a recent report entitled “The Unaffordable Arsenal,” the Arms Control Association proposes changes in nuclear modernization plans that would save $70 billion over the next decade. The proposals include delaying the development of a new bomber and a new ICBM; canceling the planned Air-Launched Cruise Missile; and reducing the buy of new ballistic missile submarines to eight from 12 while maintaining the capability to launch the same number of warheads. Further reductions in the size of U.S. nuclear forces would drive these savings numbers even higher.
Hard Evidence: are we facing another financial crisis?
Since then, the American philanthropist Richard Vague – who made his fortune in banking – has examined all major economic crises since 1850, and concluded that the two key signs of an imminent crisis are private debt exceeding 1.5 times GDP and that ratio rising by 17 percentage points or more over five years. Both those signals were clearly “flashing red” in 2007.
Growth: the destructive god that can never be appeased
For the first time in 170 years, parliament will debate one aspect of the problem: the creation of money. Few people know that 97% of our money supply is created not by the government (or the central bank), but by commercial banks in the form of loans. At no point was a democratic decision made to allow them to do this. So why do we let it happen? This, as Martin Wolf has explained in the Financial Times, “is the source of much of the instability of our economies”. The debate won’t stop the practice, but it represents the raising of a long-neglected question.
This, though, is just the beginning. Is it not also time for a government commission on post-growth economics? Drawing on the work of thinkers such as Herman Daly, Tim Jackson, Peter Victor, Kate Raworth, Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill, it would look at the possibility of moving towards a steady state economy: one that seeks distribution rather than blind expansion; that does not demand infinite growth on a finite planet.
Cameron is right to warn of another recession, but wrong to blame the world
Cameron is right to warn that the world is on the brink of a third recession. But he is wrong to say that this makes it even more necessary for Britain to stick to its “long-term economic plan” of deficit and debt reduction. Because it is these deficit and debt-reduction policies, implemented throughout the European Union, that have been causing the “red lights” of recession to start flashing. …
Spending is made up of private sector spending and government spending. If, for one reason or another, the private sector – businesses and households –reduces its spending, then total spending can only be kept up by the government increasing its own spending. If the government simultaneously reduces its own spending, then the amount of activity in the economy is bound to fall. If we take Britain and the eurozone together this is exactly what has been happening since 2010. Government spending has been cut, and this has dragged down total spending. It is a matter of simple arithmetic. …
Spending is made up of private sector spending and government spending. If, for one reason or another, the private sector – businesses and households –reduces its spending, then total spending can only be kept up by the government increasing its own spending. If the government simultaneously reduces its own spending, then the amount of activity in the economy is bound to fall. If we take Britain and the eurozone together this is exactly what has been happening since 2010. Government spending has been cut, and this has dragged down total spending. It is a matter of simple arithmetic.
The Top 5 Foreign Policy Lessons of the Past 20 Years
But the United States isn’t alone. China’s increasingly assertive policies toward its immediate neighborhood shows that Beijing is hardly indifferent to geopolitics, and Russia’s assertive defense of what it sees as vital interests in its “near abroad” (e.g., Ukraine) suggests that somebody in Moscow didn’t get the memo about the benign effects of globalization. And regional powers like India, Turkey, and Japan are taking traditional geopolitical concerns more seriously these days. Bottom line: If you thought great-power rivalry was a thing of the past, think again. …
The post-Cold War era proves this beyond all doubt: If the mighty United States could stumble with such relentless frequency, that was surely a reminder that statecraft should start with realistic goals and with an eye toward possible pitfalls. And if they are smart, prudent leaders will always have a Plan B at the ready.
The .01 Percent Blow Their Fortunes on Yachts, Personal Jets and America’s Politicians
According to new research by Emmanuel Saez of the University of California at Berkeley and Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics, the richest one-hundredth of one percent of Americans now hold over 11 percent of the nation’s total wealth. That’s a higher share than the top .01 percent held in 1929, before the Great Crash. …
Because this explosion of wealth at the top has been accompanied by an erosion of the wealth of the middle class and the poor. In the mid-1980s, the bottom 90 percent of Americans together held 36 percent of the nation’s wealth. Now, they hold less than 23 percent. …
In the 2012 election cycle (the last for which we have good data) donations from the top .01 accounted for over 40 percent of all campaign contributions, according to astudy by Professors Adam Bonica, Nolan McCarty, Keith Poole, and Howard Rosenthal.
This is a huge increase from 1980, when the top .01 accounted for ten percent of total campaign contributions. …
Their political investments have paid off in the form of lower taxes on themselves and their businesses, subsidies for their corporations, government bailouts, federal prosecutions that end in settlements where companies don’t affirm or deny the facts and where executives don’t go to jail, watered-down regulations, and non-enforcement of antitrust laws.
Since the top .01 began investing big time in politics, corporate profits and the stock market have risen to record levels. That’s enlarged the wealth of the richest .01 percent by an average of 7.8 percent a year since the mid-1980s. …
If you want to know what’s happened to the American economy, follow the money. That will lead you to the richest .01 percent.
And if you want to know what’s happened to our democracy, follow the richest .01 percent. They’ll lead you to the politicians who have been selling our democracy.
How much is owed to Gaza? Does anyone know? This is not a rhetorical question. I’m really asking!
I’m not good in math, so I use a calculator to add up these figures and I don’t get anywhere near the $5.4 billion that all media consistently reported as the amount pledged at that conference. So where can I find out who else pledged and how much? Or is money already missing?
International arms firm Lockheed Martin in the frame for £1bn NHS contract
We Love the Pentagon’s ‘Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure’
That’s right, the military maintains a database of the federal government’s worst ethics violators. Unlike many government documents, the encyclopedia is clear, easy to read … and actually quite funny. Many of the stories are as amusing as they are aggravating. …
The Standards of Conduct Office handles these kinds of cases for the Pentagon. “We are the principal ethics adviser for the secretary of defense and those serving in his office,” the official said.
The office is also responsible for updating The Encyclopedia of Ethical Failures.
Massive Rail Deal Gives China’s Push Into Africa a Major Win
The China Railway Construction Corporation’s eye-popping $12 billion deal to build an 870-mile railroad in Nigeria is the biggest single overseas contract in Chinese history and will boost the country’s manufacturing sector just as its overall economy shows some signs of slowing. That’s not the only upside for China, however: the deal will also give Chinese firms more of a foothold in Africa’s biggest economy.
Government officials routinely mischaracterize and inflate the threats posed to the United States in order to catalyze public opinion and ensure congressional acquiescence to the latest foreign military intervention. Yet neither the public nor members of Congress should accept such language, because it is both deeply misleading and factually wrong. Of course, the United States has faced any number of threats that were far more sophisticated, well-armed, better funded, and larger — the Soviet Union is one notable, superpower-sized example. It is also completely incorrect to contend that IS is an imminent threat to every interest, or even directly to the United States itself. As several U.S. intelligence officials have now declared: “We have no credible information that [the Islamic State] is planning to attack the homeland of the United States.” …
However, the practical reason is simple: They are rarely confronted nor are they held accountable by their peers, congressional members, or the media for continually making such erroneous assertions. Even during Thursday’s hearing, Sanchez responded apologetically by stating: “But, Mr. Secretary, I’m not — I understand the threat of ISIL.”
Barclays boycotted over Israel arms trade shares
The British bank Barclays has come under fire for its holdings in Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest military company and the main supplier of drones used to attack and kill Palestinian civilians in Gaza. The bank is the named owner of $2.9 million worth of shares in Elbit.
More than 1.7 million people have signed a petition calling on Barclays to divest from “projects that finance illegal settlements and the oppressive occupation of the Palestinian people” and campaigners have occupied and protested at bank branches across the UK.
Elbit’s share price rose in July off the back of the extensive use of its technology during Israel’s summer massacre in Gaza, which killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, including some 500 children.
The company advertises its products as “combat proven” and recently reported a backlog in orders worth $6.2 billion. …
The Norwegian state pension fund, leading Danish bank Danske Bank, Dutch pension giant ABP and the Swedish AP pension fund have all divested from Elbit Systems.
Firms invested £17bn in companies making cluster bombs, report says
More than 150 financial institutions worldwide invested £17bn in companies producing cluster munitions in spite of an international ban, according to a report.
The report from the Netherlands-based peace organisation PAX lists in its “hall of shame” banks, pension funds and other financial institutions that have contributed to production of the munitions between June 2011 and September 2014.
Most of the investors are from the US (76), South Korea (22) and China (21), but there are also three from Germany and seven from the UK. One of the biggest investors is a Singapore-based company.
There is Nothing Natural about Gentrification
There is nothing remotely natural about gentrification, and its positives are only felt by those who profit from the loss of housing opportunities of others. Contrary to contemporary journalistic portraits of latte-drinking white ‘hipsters’ versus working class people of colour, the class struggle in gentrification is between those at risk of displacement and the agents of capital (the financiers, the real estate brokers, policy elites, developers) who produce and exploit rent gaps. Housing is class struggle over the rights to social reproduction – the right to make a life. This is a class struggle playing out within the realm of the circulation of capital in urban land markets, between, on the one hand, those living in often desperate housing precarity, and on the other, finance capital and all its many tentacles.
41 men targeted but 1,147 people killed: US drone strikes – the facts on the ground
A new analysis of the data available to the public about drone strikes, conducted by the human-rights group Reprieve, indicates that even when operators target specific individuals – the most focused effort of what Barack Obama calls “targeted killing” – they kill vastly more people than their targets, often needing to strike multiple times. Attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people, as of 24 November.
The ‘crass insensitivity’ of Tower’s luxury dinner for arms dealers, days after poppy display
Fracking firm’s plans to look for gas in North Yorkshire criticised by environmental groups
House Republicans just passed a bill forbidding scientists from advising the EPA on their own research
H.R. 1422, which passed 229-191, would shake up the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board, placing restrictions on those pesky scientists and creating room for experts with overt financial ties to the industries affected by EPA regulations.
The bill is being framed as a play for transparency: Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, argued that the board’s current structure is problematic because it “excludes industry experts, but not officials for environmental advocacy groups.” The inclusion of industry experts, he said, would right this injustice. …
H.R. 1422, which passed 229-191, would shake up the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board, placing restrictions on those pesky scientists and creating room for experts with overt financial ties to the industries affected by EPA regulations.
The bill is being framed as a play for transparency: Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, argued that the board’s current structure is problematic because it “excludes industry experts, but not officials for environmental advocacy groups.” The inclusion of industry experts, he said, would right this injustice.
Author Herman Wouk put it best, in the words of Julien Benda, a character in his book, ‘The Winds of War.’ He wrote: “Peace, if it ever exists, will not be based on the fear of war, but on the love of peace. It will not be the abstaining from an act, but the coming of a state of mind.”
In an address to the UN in September, President Obama distorted that admonition against militarism and modified it into sort of a ‘war is peace’ declaration, insisting that,
The United States will never shy away from defending our interests, but nor will we shrink from the promise of this institution and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the notion that peace is not merely the absence of war, but the presence of a better life. …
Yet, King’s answer to the dilemma the president faces was non-violence. His own Nobel acceptance speech was a promotion of peace and love, not a litany of excuses for militarism.
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy,” King said in 1967. “Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.”