Archive for May, 2011

Memorial Day Breakfast Tacos And A Visit To LACMA

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Today I made famous breakfast tacos. Today is Memorial Day, a holiday in the USA when people go to the beach if it is hot enough, or shopping if it is not. It is supposed to be a day to honor those who have fallen in America’s imperialist ventures overseas and our domestic civil war and wars of extermination against the Native Americans. Only a couple of these wars would be considered even remotely justifiable, perhaps World War 2. Not much to honor, except the valor of the poor guys caught up in the machinations of the rich and powerful. Perhaps if the War between the States had been a war to free the slaves it would have been more justifiable, just as WW 2 would have been more reasonable if it had been a war to free the Jews and Gypsies from extermination.

But back to my tacos. So this is how I make them, for one very hungry guy or two moderately hungry people. Take some chorizo, maybe a two or three inch length throw it into a heated frying pan with some olive oil. I use a gas stove with a cast iron frying pan. I like the slow controlled heat. Chop up some bell pepper, onion, zucchini, garlic and throw them in the pan, I would use about 1/4-1/3 of a pepper, 1 fat slice of an onion, maybe half of a zucchini, and one piece of garlic, all chopped up into medium bite sized chunks. Add a pre-cooked potato, 1/2 to a whole one, sliced up again in chunks. Add perhaps half a Roma tomato, again bite sized chunks, a little squirt of catsup and some spicy mustard, throw in a whole lot of red pepper, some basil and oregano, saute’ until warm, not to long, you don’t want to burn anything or get it too soft. Then cut a slice of extra sharp cheddar cheese and cut it up into small pieces and throw it in. Throw in your eggs last, one or two per person. With the eggs sometimes I scramble them and mix with the rest of the food, sometimes I poach them separately and put them on top of my tacos as a whole egg. Finally I heat the tacos, removing the rest of the food from the frying pan first. Usually two or three tacos per person. I like to use white or yellow corn tortillas, heated, not hardened. I throw these on the plate with the scrabble mix, and you have breakfast tacos. If you want you can sprinkle a little hot sauce, pepper, salt and lemon on each taco and I like to put a little New Mexico style hot salsa on it also. This should make your head sweat and tastes great!

Yesterday I was at LACMA, (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and there was a Pacific Islander exhibit with human skulls artfully arranged in glass cases presented in such a sterile environment that it seemed perfectly reasonable to use the head of your dead opponent as a fetish object. Museums take the mess out of such things and present them as abstractions. Interesting comments on the curators perhaps, but not much is really said about the culture of the head hunters. This is a case of artistic representation, misrepresenting something that has meaning in a cultural context, as if it were some form of rarified aesthetic. Imagine the head hunter sitting in his study pipe in hand with an exhibit if Nazi lampshades made of human skin, all neatly displayed behind glass in a neutral white room, in this case air conditioned by a gas generator in the hut next door. Anyway I was entertained, not appalled. The skulls had about as much connection to a real live human being as the meat in the supermarket does to a cow, or a pig or some poor butcher’s missing finger. Bon appetite.

Reality Check Zimbabwe

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

Depending on whose perspective you read Zimbabwe is either taking off economically or it is still stuck in the doldrums. The Mugabe government seems to be entrenched in power and although there have been reforms since the power sharing agreement with the MDC or Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai, things are not all smooth sailing. It seems that Zimbabwe with large gold and platinum reserves, excellent agricultural land and coal reserves could be an economic powerhouse as it once was. The problem is one of ideology and the markets. The Mugabe regime has attempted to enforce certain levels of social legislation to give land to poor blacks and to force industry to have native Zimbabwean ownership. These laudable causes have created economic instability as agriculture has collapsed, largely due to the disruption of large scale agribusiness and its replacement with small scale farming without economic support.

Zimbabwe has undergone a major social experiment. The results have been mixed, with allegations flying as to whether the results have been beneficial or harmful to the average Zimbabwean. The economic consequences have been tough and the capitalists don’t like the instability and the unfriendly business climate. China has been a friend to the Mugabe regime offering loans and investment when the west refused. The opposition claims that China is propping up the regime, but the question remains who are the main beneficiaries? If it is the people of Zimbabwe then who cares what the capitalists say, but if it is only a clique around Mugabe and if as it seems, the mass of people are suffering, then we can question the benefits of the Mugabe regime. It seems to me that there should be a democratic process working in Zimbabwe, but things are more complicated than surface appearances would seem. The bottom line seems to be that Zimbabwe is finding its feet after a decade of extreme struggle.

The economy has been picking up since the end of the hyperinflation with the dropping of the native currency. But the country needs infrastructure development, and investment. For that to happen there needs to be a stable government. ZANU-PF, the party of the revolution that overthrew the white minority regime has been in power for three decades with only the recent power sharing agreement with MDC-T as a change. We can hope to see more democratization as things stabilize economically. The question is can attempts at economic democracy and political democracy survive in a capitalist world without major socialist players? We have minor socialist regime and former socialist experiments but no socialist bloc like we once had. We do have moves internationally for more social control of the world economy but it is still within a capitalist context and that is causing constant disruption. Zimbabwe may not be a good case for government intervention, but it is still a work in progress.

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From The Times of London

May 16, 2003

Zimbabwe sees return of hunter gatherer

No transport, no fuel, no power, just sackfuls of banknotes - a report from a collapsing nation

by Jan Raath

MY MAID, Nyarai, failed to turn up for work yesterday. There was no public transport and private minibuses have doubled their charges since a 283 per cent increase in petrol prices a month ago. She was unable to call because the telephone boxes no longer work.
Nyarai would have come if she could. Her boyfriend is on forced leave because the textile factory where he works as a machinist can work only half time because of power cuts.

Zimbabwe is a country rich in resources and with great potential. It used to have a well-oiled infrastructure that even South Africa, with its far bigger economy, envied. It was robust enough to withstand the first two decades of President Mugabe’s rule but it has now reached the point of collapse. An advanced society is returning to the primitive.

Turn-of-the-switch technology for heating, cooking and water is being replaced by fuel gathering, wood fires and water collection on foot. The bizarre and dysfunctional is the norm and very little surprises people.

The expression “the wheels have come off” is on everyone’s lips.

In Colquhoun Avenue, an upmarket area of embassies and apartment blocks, a young man uses a long metal rod to break twigs from trees for kindling.

On Samora Machel Avenue, hundreds of battered white Japanese minibuses — the core of Harare’s commuter fleet — form a mile-long queue for petrol. Roads into the city from townships on the outskirts are thronged with people who have to walk to work.

The country’s sole sugar refinery closed this week. There is ample, locally grown, raw sugar but no coal for the refining process. Wankie Colliery, the state-owned company that sits on one of the world’s biggest coalfields, has suspended production. The massive dragline that scoops opencast coal was halted when it ran out of spares. There is no foreign currency to import new ones.

Harare Hospital, which serves the capital’s townships, is on the verge of closing. Unable to purchase coal, the hospital has its boilers out of action and cannot sterilise instruments, launder bedding or cook food. Air Zimbabwe, the state-owned airline, could soon be grounded. It confirmed this week that it had only “two or three days” of fuel. That is more than most motorists have. A two or three-day wait in a fuel queue no longer ensures a full tank.

Most queues outside service stations are referred to as “hope queues”, where people leave their cars for a week at a time. When a petrol tanker arrives, bedlam erupts. Opportunists cut in front of those who have waited. Fights break out and sometimes shots are fired. Riot police arrive late, blaming the fuel shortage.

In the past month, the South African and Mozambican utility companies that supply Zimbabwe with power have declared the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, the state company run by Mr Mugabe’s brother-in-law, as an “interruptible customer” because of its failure to service its £22 million debt. This means that the company gets only ten minutes’ notice of power cuts.

Factory machinery jerks to a halt. Companies moulding tyres or plastics are left with hard, useless lumps oozing from moulds. The Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce estimates that fuel and electricity crises have cut industrial output to 35 per cent of normal.

Officially inflation is running at 228 per cent. In reality it is out of control. The official exchange rate is 824 Zimbabwe dollars to one US dollar but on the black market it is 2,200. A white loaf cost five Zimbabwe dollars in 1998; it now costs 350. A businessman carjacked in the affluent suburb of Borrowdale last month offered 10 million dollars as reward for his year-old Mercedes SUV. That was the sum listed in the national budget ten years ago for procuring vehicles for the entire police force. The central bank still refuses to print denominations bigger than 500 dollars. At banks, depositors line up with sacks of money. At the withdrawal counter, tellers and customers can barely see each other over the wall of notes.

The 500 dollar note is nicknamed the Ferrari because it is red and goes fast. It is disappearing from the streets as people hoard it. The central bank is not printing more because it has no foreign currency to import the high-quality watermarked paper and silver strips. Commercial bank officials say that it costs 700 Zimbabwe dollars to print a single 500 note.

This week a bank told a businessman who buys large quantities of cotton in peasant areas that it could offer him only 50 dollar notes. “He laughed,” the bank manager said. “He says he needs one billion dollars a week. In fifties, that’s 40 cubic metres of banknotes.”

This week it cost me 2,750 dollars to airmail a letter to Britain containing three A4 sheets of paper. I covered the back and front of the envelope with 100 dollar stamps — the highest denomination — except for a small patch where I wrote the address. Interestingly, the stamp features a pretty sketch of the Tokwe Mukorsi dam, which has not been built because Cabinet ministers have been fighting over bribes for the lucrative tender for the past 15 years.

The cheapest telephone call is now 24 dollars, but the largest coin is 5 dollars. The coin boxes in busy public telephones would fill much faster than the post office could collect the coins, so they have been removed. They would be replaced by computer chip card phones “depending on the availability of foreign currency”, a spokesman said.

Signs of poverty

Life expectancy at birth: 42.9 years, down from 56.0 years in 1975 Proportion of children dying before they are five: 11.7 per cent Proportion of adult population with HIV/Aids in 2001: 33.7 per cent

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article1132707.ece

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From Investor Relations Issues in Africa

Zimbabwe economic insights:highly recommended reading

Published on 30 July 2010 by AfricanisCool in For investors, For listed companies
2

Imara Holdings, a pan African investment banking organisation with an asset management division managing funds across Africa, and with offices in Harare, provide some really insightful research into African markets. Especially for Zimbabwe. This is some of their best stuff.

Investment Notes – July/August 2010 – “Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics!”

In recent weeks we have read reports from the IMF and heard the Mid-term review from Finance Minister Biti. In recent months we have also heard from companies operating on the ground in terms of their current sales and future intentions. We therefore find it hard to understand why both the IMF and Government are being as cautious as they are. That said we are pleased that they are not being overly optimistic as past Governments have tended to do. Nonetheless their views give a rather sobering view of the economy rather than an upbeat and exciting outlook for a country barely in its second year of reform that we would rather take.

The IMF believes that the Zim economy is just over $5 billion. We are not sure as to where they got their figures from but we assume it is based on CSO data and their own estimates. They do however point out that “Data have serious shortcomings that significantly hamper surveillance due to capacity constraints”. In past Investment Notes we have been skeptical about such a number. Zimbabwe’s $5 billion economy compares with $14 billion for Zambia, a country with a similar sized population. In the past, and before the “lost decade”, Zimbabwe’s economy was always around 50% larger than Zambia’s as our agriculture, tourism and manufacturing sectors were always much larger whilst Zambia’s copper mining industry was still recovering from years of neglect. Indeed, had Zimbabwe continued on its growth path that it began from the mid 1990s, its economy today could well be a $25 to $30 billion economy. But it didn’t and it’s not!

In this month’s Notes we will be looking at what is happening on the ground to assess whether the $5billion is reasonable or not. We start by looking at Zambia. Taking both major breweries in Zambia (owned also by SAB), in the year ending March 2010, they sold a combined $230 million worth of beverages (at higher prices than in Zim). This compares with Delta that sold $324 million in a year when they could not meet demand. That could imply that the Zambian breweries may not have such a tight control of their distribution thereby allowing in competition from imported product. Or it could mean that Zimbabweans simply drink more…or importantly can afford to drink more! At the same time, Zimbabweans are due to spend around $500 million using Econet’s mobile phone network in 2010. Zambians are spending only around $280m on their major network provider Zain (who no doubt charge less than Econet!). Innscor will soon be reporting their June 2010 numbers. We would not be surprised if the amount of spend that Innscor is receiving domestically from fast foods, Colcom, National Foods and Spar will take the combined spend for just these three companies alone to well over $1.1 billion in 2010. Whilst the latter company is also selling imported product, it does give an indication of the current spending power in Zimbabwe just one year after dollarization. According to the IMF and Government Zimbabwe’s GNP per capita (ie economy per head) is US$450 which compares with Zambia at US$1,200 per head. The spending patterns in both countries alluded to above would suggest the opposite!

If we look at Zimbabwe’s major exports being generated by the mining, tobacco and cotton sectors in 2010, we also see an upbeat picture. Gold production is estimated by the Chamber of Mines to be around 7.5 tonnes in 2010 compared with 5 tonnes in 2009 and 3.5 tonnes in 2008. That’s a 50% increase over the year when gold prices have reached new highs. The value of those exports should be roughly US$250m. Zimplats this year will produce around 180 million ounces of platinum plus 160 million ounces of rhodium and palladium. The value of those combined is roughly $500million. Then Anglo’s Unki mine starts to sell its concentrate in the last quarter of 2010 adding to these numbers whilst Mimosa should add around $200million. In addition Zimbabwe is exporting chrome and coal and may even see ‘official’ sales of diamonds from Marange in the second half of 2010, adding to the diamond exports from Rio’s Murowa mine and River Ranch. Murowa is due to sell $30m in 2010. In the first half of 2010, the Mid-term review suggests, the value of shipments from platinum, ferrochrome and gold alone was $550 million. For 2010 as a whole a number nearer $1.2billion could be achievable for these minerals although we would expect more.

In agriculture, the tobacco crop has been revised up on a number of occasions whilst the global price for our Virginia tobacco has been high due to global demand, especially Chinese. The export value of semi and processed tobacco could reach $500million in 2010, twice the amount of 2009. The cotton crop is up 18% whilst the cotton price is also higher than in 2009. The value of lint should be $200million in 2010, an increase of 60% on 2009. Thanks to the investment by Tongaat Hullet in Hippo Valley and Triangle over the past year, sugar output should jump by 24% in 2010 to 350,000 tonnes. Maize production in Zimbabwe has also increased in 2010 whilst the price has fallen sharply on World markets. The cost of importing maize should therefore be less than $100 million although the donors often fund a part of this and the cost to Zimbabwe could be lower still. Overall agricultural exports in 2010 could surpass $1 billion.

So excluding manufacturing and tourism, exports from agriculture and mining might top $2.3 billion or higher in 2010. That’s a bigger number than the IMF forecast that includes manufacturing exports. We have not analysed Zimbabwe’s manufacturing exports for these Notes but believe that longer term, Zimbabwe’s export growth will come from mining and agriculture rather than manufacturing production. That said there will always be a place for Zimbabwean manufacturers who produce niche products that can compete regionally and globally. Sadly, long gone have the days when we can or should try to compete with large scale production from China and India in mass market products.

In the construction sector, PPC Cement has capacity to produce 700,000 tonnes of cement, a level that can be increased with clinker imports from SA. Lafarge Zim produces 450,000 tonnes, plus 350,000 tonnes of clinker. Meanwhile Lafarge Zambia’s new plant produces 1.23 million tonnes a level that easily meets Zambian demand. Zimbabwe’s cement demand is set to rise strongly as demand for housing and infrastructure increases. Investment projects announced so far by the mining companies include those for Zimplats ($445m) and Rio Tinto for Murowa ($300m). AngloPlats are also investing heavily in Unki. Recent tenders published in the newspapers highlight the amount of works about to go into housing and infrastructure for such projects.

Meanwhile the financial sector has seen deposits rise from $700 million a year ago to $1.9 billion today, a growth of 167%. Year to date the growth is 40%. As a result liquidity and lending is slowly picking up. Just as we are seeing globally post the credit crunch, credit and bank loans are hard to come by. The banks themselves will admit that the cash in circulation and held by individuals could be substantial relative to the deposits in the banking system such is the mistrust in the banking system on the one hand and the size of the informal economy on the other. In some African countries the informal economy can be the same size as the recorded formal economy. Looking at Zambia again, bank deposits at the end of March totaled $1.6 billion in kwacha deposits plus another $1 billion of forex deposits, little higher than Zimbabwe today!

The Mid-term review also gave some upbeat data. Tax revenues in the first six months of the year were 12% above target with Vat receipts 9% above budget. PAYE was 22% above budget and 290% above that raised twelve months before. This also explains in part why consumption is strong year on year. Corporation tax is also 54% above target. Overall revenue earned was $931million whilst expenditure was $813million thereby following the Government’s cash targeting. Overall budgeted expenditure for 2010 is being held at around $2.25 billion which we believe might be nearly 50% above 2009. (the year of transition makes this comparison difficult). It would appear though that most of this revenue will be generated from local sources rather than by the “vote of credit” assumed in December’s budget.

Our sources are primarily those on the ground ie the operating companies, rather than the Government or the individual Ministries. We share both the Finance Minister’s views and that of the IMF that the data is poor hence the revamp for the Central Statistical Office that is soon to be implemented. We wonder for example whether the mobile phone industry that barely existed ten years ago is even recorded in the statistics, or for that matter platinum! An economist who relies on Government statistics will find analysis tough. The Mid-term review reduced Government’s economic growth forecast from 7% to 5.4%. The IMF revised it’s down to 2.2% as they are concerned about Zimbabwe’s exports falling far short of imports. Surely not! We remain totally unconvinced and further don’t believe that the underlying number used for the economy, being $5 billion, is correct. As we saw in last year’s December budget, the Government revised up the size of the economy from $3.5 billion to $5.1 billion but with barely a corresponding uplift in the growth rate! We would not be at all surprised to see a similar ‘re-rating’ occur in the future. Last year we suggested that the economy is more likely an $8billion to $10 billion one. We stand by this and suggest that it might in fact be much bigger once the informal economy is included. That makes the current stock market capitalization of $3.5 billion look very cheap especially given the broad sector coverage of the economy that the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange provides investors. The Zim economy is pumping !

http://www.africanir.com/2010/07/30/zimbabwe-economic-insightshighly-recommended-reading/

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From Afrique Avenir
China earmarks US$10bn for Zimbabwe economy

February 2nd, 2011 in Development, News

APA - London (United Kingdom) China has offered to inject US$10 billion into Zimbabwe’s economy, a gesture which economic analysts endorsed as “potentially huge boost to the country’s ailing economy, APA learns on Wednesday in London.

The Zimbabwean government rejects concern that Beijing cash could prop up President Robert Mugabe, and says investment can turn economy around.

Political pundits said the £6.19 billion equivalent windfall is likely to heighten concerns about president Robert Mugabe’s increasingly warm relationship with China, which has been accused of down-playing bad governance and human rights violations across Africa.

China promised preferential loans to Africa (2010-2012), with over 500 infrastructure projects assistance amounting to US$10 billion, according to the country’s ‘Information Office of the State Council’.

But at the home-front, Zimbabwe’s coalition government is putting up a united front on the issue, insisting that Chinese investment in mining and agriculture could help turn the economy around.

While confirming the Chinese gesture, Zimbabwe’s minister of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion, Tapiwa Mashakada, said : “We have met with officials from China Development Bank and they have said they are willing to invest up to $10bn in Zimbabwe”.

The offer is coming nearly two months after Minister Mashakada, and another cabinet minister Professor Welshman Ncube, in charge of Industry and Commerce, led a high-powered delegation to the United Kingdom capital – London for a landmark investment conference on Zimbabwe.

Under the theme of the conference ” Zimbabwe Rising : Exploring Partnerships for Profits and Growth”, the December 2010 forum, among other objectives, aimed at showing the world that the southern African nation is ready to talk business across border.

Both government ministers from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) told APA during interviews that their country was ready to play its part at the global market, after many years of missing from the global market.

Professor Ncube, who is also the chairman of the Council of the Ministers of Common Markets for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), suggested the need for regional integration for Africa as the world is fast shrinking into a global village.

http://www.afriqueavenir.org/en/2011/02/02/china-earmarks-us10bn-for-zimbabwe-economy/

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From ITA/CIA World Factbook

Page last updated on January 13, 2011
Economy - overview:
The government of Zimbabwe faces a wide variety of difficult economic problems. Its 1998-2002 involvement in the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo drained hundreds of millions of dollars from the economy. The government’s land reform program, characterized by chaos and violence, has badly damaged the commercial farming sector, the traditional source of exports and foreign exchange and the provider of 400,000 jobs, turning Zimbabwe into a net importer of food products. The EU and the US provide food aid on humanitarian grounds. Until early 2009, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe routinely printed money to fund the budget deficit, causing hyperinflation. The power-sharing government formed in February 2009 has led to some economic improvements, including the cessation of hyperinflation by eliminating the use of the Zimbabwe dollar and removing price controls. The economy is registering its first growth in a decade, but will be reliant on further political improvement for greater growth.

http://www.theodora.com/wfbcurrent/zimbabwe/zimbabwe_economy.html

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From ZIMONLINE

Gold output to hit 20 tonnes: Chamber

by Edward Jones

Saturday 28 May 2011

VICTORIA FALLS – Zimbabwe’s gold output could hit 20 tonnes in the short to medium term if the sector gets funding and electricity supplies improve, outgoing Chamber of Mines president Victor Gapare said yesterday.

Gapare said gold production would hit between 12 and 15 tonnes this year from 9.6 tonnes last year as the mining industry slowly recovers from a decade of decline.

“We have capacity to increase production to 20 tonnes, which would be 60 percent of our capacity,” Gapare told the annual general meeting of the mining chamber,” Gapare said.

“We expect the firm prices of gold to remain. With this positive outlook for gold, it is high time we put in place policies that will allow us to ride the crest of this positive trend.”

Zimbabwe’s mining sector contributes 7 percent to GDP and accounts for about half the country’s export earnings.

Heinz Pley, a managing director at Morgan Stanley’s investment banking division told the meeting yesterday that Zimbabwe had the capacity to double its GDP growth but said this was possible only if Harare ensures a stable political environment and investors were guaranteed security of their investment.

Zimbabwe has scared foreign investors with its plans to force mining companies to sell at least 51 percent shares to local Zimbabweans.

Delegates at the meeting questioned where the government would get the money to buy the shares.

“GDP could grow double digit if there was a stable political environment in Zimbabwe (and) the most important thing is security of tenure. If those things are there, this economy will grow,” Pley said.

Economic analysts say Zimbabwe, which has been impoverished by a decade of economic collapse, does not have the money to buy controlling shareholding in mines.

The country has the second largest reserves of platinum and large deposits of gold, ferrochrome, chrome and diamonds.

The empowerment drive is likely to discourage foreign investment and will hit foreign miners in the country including AngloPlat and Impala Platinum, the world’s largest and second largest platinum producers, and Rio Tinto, which runs a diamond mine in the country.

Rio Tinto’s Zimbabwe arm, Rio Zim, this week reported that a foreign investor it did not name who had shown keen interest to pump money into the gold mining firm withdrew at the eleventh hour because of concerns over the controversial plan to transfer control of the mining sector to local blacks.

The government has sought to allay fears that it would not expropriate mines but investors are still concerned.

“This is not nationalisation, we are looking at broad based empowerment,” Tapiwa Mashakada, Minister of Economic Planning said.

Analysts say the government should take the route of increasing taxes for the mining sector as a different route to empowerment and use the money to build infrastructure like roads, hospitals and electricity generating plants.

The indigenisation programme has divided the fragile unity government formed two years ago by President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Mugabe, whose previous government used its majority in Parliament in 2007 to ram through the indigenisation law, says the empowerment programme is necessary to ensure blacks benefit from the country’s lucrative mineral resources.

But Tsvangirai, who says he is for genuine indigenisation of the economy that benefits ordinary Zimbabweans, has castigated the empowerment drive as “looting by a greedy elite”. —

http://www.zimonline.co.za/Article.aspx?ArticleId=6709

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From AllAfrica.com

Zimbabwe: Agriculture Fragile Despite Recovery Signs

Paul Nyakazeya

30 December 2010

ONCE regarded as the breadbasket of southern Africa during the first two decades after Independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has for the past 10 years become a perennial importer of food and relying more on food handouts from aid agencies after “farm invasions” which started in February 2000.

Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector is, however, emerging from the intensive care unit after a decade which was characterised by political unrest, drought, shortage of inputs and fuel, declining economy, unreliable electricity for winter farming and absence of collateral to access loans.

It was against agricultural growth that Finance minister Tendai Biti revised upwards economic growth projection figures.

The new projected economic growth rate for 2010 is now 8,1%, up 2,7 percentage points from 5,4%.

Biti and the International Monetary Fund had initially projected an economic growth rate of 7,7% which they later revised downwards to 5,4% in July citing slow performance of the economy.

Analysts, however, say the sector’s full recovery remains fragile and will depend on political and economic stability, reliable electricity, availability of inputs, cheap loans for farmers and favourable rains.

Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union president Silas Hungwe told businessdigest that agriculture production had improved a lot in Zimbabwe.

He said: “It was important for farmers to build on this year’s encouraging output as all major sectors of the economy’s revival largely depend on agriculture.

“Compared to previous years the figures are encouraging. However, there is no support for the small grains, but government is making subsidised fertiliser available to farmers,” he said.

Hungwe said agriculture was the centre of gravity for the economy contributing 19% of the gross domestic product (GDP) last year.

GDP is the most important measure of economic activity in the country as it is the crossing point of expenditure, output and income.

This year’s growth was mainly driven by tobacco which doubled to 120kgs on the 2009 figure. More than US$320 million was realised from the sale of the crop.

In a statement this month, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB), said planting for the 2011 crop had started whileâ-¯indications from seed sales showed that a minimum of 90 million kgs would be produced.

About 72% of the crop that was sold this year came from contract farmers.

“We are very happy to see this recovery and I think it is sustainable and it means the whole economy will recover as well,” said Wilson Nyabonda, the immediate past president of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union.

However, in an earlier interview with businessdigest Commercial farmers’ president Deon Theron said the country will need about US$264 million to import about 800 000 tonnes of maize and 339 000 tonnes of wheat to meet the annual national requirement.

“About 800 000 tonnes of maize is needed for consumption. Maize is being imported at between US$160 and US$180 per tonne,” Theron said.

The national maize consumption requirement stands at two million tonnes per annum but Theron sees maize output this year at 1,35 million tonnes, a deficit of about 800 000 tonnes.

Wheat is Zimbabwe’s second staple grain after maize but the farmers have failed to meet its annual consumption requirements of around 350 000 tonnes.

This year’s national wheat target was set at 60 000 hectares but farmers planted only 11 000 hectares. Theron said Zimbabwe needed to import wheat worth over US$128,8 million to meet an expected shortfall of 339 000 tonnes, which could cripple operations.

Farmers, hamstrung by lack of capital, high costs of inputs and land tenure issues and ownership wrangles, expect to produce 11 000 tonnes of winter wheat planted on 3 100 hectares this year.

This is against a national annual demand of 350 000 tonnes, said Theron.

Treasury allocated US$122 million to agriculture which was said to be grossly inadequate for a sector that is expected to spur economic growth.

Of that amount there was no specific funding for A2 commercial farmers.

A total of US$41 million was set aside for

the ministry’s capital expenditure, with US$11,8 million earmarked for rehabilitation and expansion of 63 irrigation schemes nationwide.

Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) chairman Basil Nyabadza said the budget sent a clear signal that commercial farmers were on their own now and have to look for alternative funding if the sector is to be restored to its former glory.

Relevant Links
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“A2 have been cut loose from the treasury’s umbilical cord. This marks the birth of the new farmer who took over Mr Jones’ farm. We have now to look at in-house solutions to farmers’ financing needs,” Nyabadza said.

“As AMA, we have started looking at comprehensive ways of funding agriculture on a permanent basis. Agriculture should look at alternative ways than continued reliance on Treasury. We need a revolving fund outside Treasury to spur agricultural production once more.”

In the 2011 financial year, the government has sourced loans from financial institutions for A2 farmers amounting to over US$350 million.

The funding, among other things, will cater for tobacco production (US$158,9 million), cotton, soya and horticulture will receive a combined US$49,7 million and lending to individual farmers totals US$71,9 million.

http://allafrica.com/stories/201012310692.html

Kidney Failure Treatment Options In China

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

Having Kidney failure is no joke. It has limited my ability to travel, work, and function. This past year has been cushioned by the fact that I have been able to collect disability from the state of California. But those payments are going away and I will only have social security to live on, which is like living on unemployment unless I can find work which is not looking too promising.

I am going to have to look into alternatives. I had seen on TV somewhere a special that mentioned IBM and Guangdong Provincial Hospital were working together to systematize the data collected in their traditional Chinese medicine program so that the treatments that work will be entered in a database. What interested me was the fact that they have a kidney treatment program that is successful in treating chronic kidney failure naturally. I am not sure what that means, there is one treatment mentioned ACEI or angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor, which we call ACE inhibitors, and are fairly common in usage now, derived from the venom of the Pit Viper. The question is what have the Chinese come up with in the use of traditional medicines and can that be of any benefit to someone in my position with renal failure.

Anybody out there got any answers?

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From IBM Global Careers

The Chinese government is pushing healthcare reform aimed at solving the current situation of inadequate and overly expensive medical services and uneven allocation of resources. Working in Guangzhou, the capital of the Guangdong province in the People’s Republic of China, IBM’s smarter healthcare solution has made real progress.

IBM partnered with the Guangdong Province Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine (GDHTCM) - the largest hospital of traditional Chinese medicine, to introduce an effective means for keeping and analyzing the results of medical treatments. The GDHTCM was the first hospital in China that used IBM Healthcare Information Warehouse Analytics and Sharing (HIWAS) technology to support their clinical scientific research.

Xue Qiao, manager of the Healthcare Solutions Lab, IBM Software Group, notes: “GDHTCM was faced with the challenge of managing, analyzing and researching huge amounts of clinical data from over 5 million visits each year. There was no existing database that accurately stored diagnosis and medical treatments (the majority of which were in traditional Chinese), so it became another obstacle to keeping and sharing such valuable information.”

Says Xue Qiao: “Now, patients’ medical records can be processed as standardized documents despite the differences in formats, terms and languages. This will not only help track the valuable experience of Chinese physicians, but also explore new ways of treating disease.”

http://www-03.ibm.com/employment/news/201102_volume1art1_ibmersinaction.html#Xue

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From Guangdong Provincial Hospital

Guangdong Provincial Hospital of kidney disease research has been carried out more than 40 years of history. Department of Nephrology, 1989, formally established in 1997 by the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine is recognized as a national medical center renal units in 2001, is recognized by the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine as a national key specialty medical renal disease, while the Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and key specialty hospital. After forty years of efforts, and built a set of medical, teaching and research in one of the TCM kidney medical center.

Kidney specialist fully apparent Chinese characteristics, advantages, to stick with traditional Chinese medicine-based treatment of chronic nephritis, IgA nephropathy, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, chronic renal failure and other kidney as early as mid-common disease; nephrotic syndrome Integrative Medicine , diabetic nephropathy, systemic lupus erythematosus nephritis, acute and chronic renal failure and other difficult diseases and Intensive; active use of modern technology to carry out a kidney CT and ECT, since the free series, renal biopsy and other diagnostic projects; conduct the colon hydrotherapy, colon dialysis, dialysis and other skin treatment Chinese characteristics; carried out hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, plasma exchange, hemoperfusion, hemodiafiltration, continuous renal replacement therapy such as blood purification; developed Niaodukang, Tongmai oral fluid, Jiawei Yang and soup powder, rhubarb capsules, such as colon dialysis solution into the clinical medicine and achieved significant efficacy; traditional Chinese medicine combined hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis patients with uremic dialysis, dialysis to reduce complications and improve quality of life, etc. achieved significant effect, by the patients are welcome.

Department of Nephrology has 45 beds, 35 units of blood dialysis machines, specialist out-patient 3, renal laboratory 1. Department of Nephrology has a high-quality personnel, there are currently 4 full professor, associate professor 4, 2 doctoral tutor, Master Tutor 5, 1 post-doctoral, PhD 5, MA 5, 5 physicians, In the PhD, MS 10; Chinese Society of Internal Medicine, vice chairman of kidney professional one, the Chinese Society of Internal Medicine of Traditional Chinese Medicine Professional Committee of two kidney, renal medicine, Guangdong Province, deputy director of a professional committee, Guangdong Province, Journal of Nephrology deputy director of a professional committee. Echelon structure is reasonable, with good development potential. There are hospital “young top-notch talent,” 3, “Talent Project of Guangdong Province ten thousand talents” 3, and the country name of the old Chinese medicine practitioners with only three.

http://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?hl=en&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dwww.gdhtcm.com%26hl%3Den%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26hs%3DeoT%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official%26prmd%3Divns&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=zh-CN&u=http://www.gdhtcm.com/vba/zdzk/default.aspx%3Fid%3D3&usg=ALkJrhhqTNT0FmjjXidXMx5F56ikm–YKQ

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More From Guangdong Provincial Hospital

侯凡凡院士加盟我院领衔慢性肾脏病研究 Hou Fanfan led academicians to join our hospital study of chronic kidney disease
[发布时间:2011-5-18 10:32:22] [Published :2011-5-18 10:32:22]

4月28日,中国科学院院士侯凡凡教授从我院吕玉波院长手中接过了聘书,成为我院的首席科学家,指导肾病基地的临床与科研工作。 April 28, Chinese Academy of Sciences Professor Hou Fanfan Lvyu Bo from the hospital president, who took over the letter of appointment as chief scientist of our hospital to guide clinical and kidney research bases. 当天,广州中医药大学校长徐志伟等领导出席了聘请仪式。 The same day, President of Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine Xu Zhiwei and other leaders attended the ceremony to hire.

侯凡凡教授是中国科学院院士,现任南方医科大学南方医院肾脏科主任,广东省肾脏病研究所所长,国际AGE协研会执行委员,中华肾脏病学会常委,在慢性肾脏病研究领域享有很高声誉。 Professor Hou Fanfan is the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the incumbent of Nephrology, Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University, director of Guangdong Provincial Research Institute of Nephrology, the International Association for Research will AGE executive member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese Society of Nephrology in the field of chronic kidney disease have a high reputation.

作为临床学家和医学科学家,侯凡凡院士通过多年攻关,系统研究了慢性肾脏病及其主要并发症的发病机制,通过系统的临床研究,为防治慢性肾脏病这一对公共健康有重大影响的慢性疾病群提供了新策略。 As a clinical scientist and medical scientists, academicians Hou Fanfan through years of research, system of a major complication of chronic kidney disease and its pathogenesis, clinical research through the system for the prevention of chronic kidney disease have a significant impact on the public health group of chronic diseases, provide a new strategy. 首次证实了合理运用血管紧张素转换酶抑制剂(ACEI),能延缓肾功能恶化——使晚期肾功能不全患者发展至终末期肾病的危险性减少43%。 The first time that a rational use of angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor (ACEI), can delay the deterioration of renal function - to make the development of advanced renal dysfunction in patients with end-stage renal disease to reduce the risk of 43%.

近几年来,我院的肾病专科也取得了一定的成绩:2006年被国家中医药管理局评为重点专科,2007年被国家中医药管理局选定为重点病种、慢性肾衰竭诊疗方案研究的牵头单位,2009年成为慢性肾脏病国家中医临床研究基地。 In recent years, our hospital’s kidney specialist also made ​​some achievements: In 2006, the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine as the key specialties, in 2007 was selected as the State Administration of Traditional focus on disease, chronic renal failure of treatment programs the lead unit, chronic kidney disease in 2009 became the national Chinese medicine clinical research base. 从2010年开始,还将在全国多家医院的共同协助下,承担中医药行业科研专项——慢性肾脏病3、4期的临床研究,并拟于近期内开展系列实验研究。 Beginning in 2010, several hospitals in the country will be the common assistance of a special commitment to scientific research in the pharmaceutical industry - 3,4 of chronic kidney disease clinical research, and intends to study a series of experiments carried out in the near future.

吕院长表示,希望此次能更好地借助侯院士及其团队的智慧和才华,为中医药防治慢性肾脏病研究的研究提供决策咨询、学术指导,同时培养一支高水平临床、科研人才队伍,建立起一支优秀的中医药防治慢性肾脏病研究团队,使我院慢性肾脏病临床和科研工作更上一个台阶。 Lvyuan Zhang expressed the hope that the better use of Houyuan Shi and his team of intelligence and talent, for Chinese medicine research in chronic kidney disease research policy advice, academic guidance, develop a high level of clinical, scientific research personnel team, established a good Chinese Medicine research team in chronic kidney disease, chronic kidney disease to our hospital clinical and research work to a higher level.

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From Pub.Med.gov

Nephrol Dial Transplant. 1996 Jan;11(1):186-90.

The effect of rhubarb extract on experimental renal fibrosis.

Zhang G, el Nahas AM.

Source

Sheffield Kidney Institute, UK.

Erratum in
Nephrol Dial Transplant 1996 Apr;11(4):753.

Abstract

In order to explore the therapeutic potential of traditional Chinese medicinal herbs on the progression of experimental chronic renal failure (CRF), we have studied the effect of orally administered rhubarb extract on the course of CRF in rats submitted to subtotal nephrectomy (SNx). Adult male Wistar rats were submitted to either a SNx (n = 18) or a sham operation (n = 10). Thirty days after SNx, nine SNx and five sham operated rats were given aqueous rhubarb roots extract (150 mg/day) in drinking water. The rats were followed up for 120 days. Rhubarb treatment had no effect on the systemic hypertension observed in SNx rats. Rhubarb-tested SNx rats had significantly less proteinuria 90 days (172 +/- 63 mg/24 h) and 120 days (228 +/- 92 mg/24 h) after SNx when compared to untreated SNx controls (day 90, 246 +/- 80 mg/24 h; day 120, 335 +/- 113 mg/24 h, P < 0.05). Renal function was comparable in rhubarb-treated and untreated SNx rats. However, at sacrifice the severity of glomerulosclerosis was significantly reduced in SNx rats treated with rhubarb (2.03 +/- 0.44; SNx controls, 2.58 +/- 0.53, P < 0.05). The difference in tubulointerstitial scarring between the two groups did not reach significance. Our results suggest that rhubarb extract reduces proteinuria and the severity of glomerulosclerosis in rats with remnant kidneys

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8649632

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From New England Journal Of Medicine

EFFECT OF THE ANGIOTENSIN-CONVERTING–ENZYME INHIBITOR BENAZEPRIL ON THE
PROGRESSION OF CHRONIC RENAL INSUFFICIENCY
GIUSEPPE MASCHIO, M.D., DANIELE ALBERTI, M.D., GÉRARD JANIN, M.D., FRANCESCO LOCATELLI, M.D.,
JOHANNES F.E. MANN, M.D., MARIO MOTOLESE, M.D., CLAUDIO PONTICELLI, M.D., EBERHARD RITZ, M.D.,
PIETRO ZUCCHELLI, M.D., AND THE ANGIOTENSIN -CONVERTING –ENZYME INHIBITION IN PROGRESSIVE
RENAL INSUFFICIENCY STUDY GROUP
*
Abstract
Background.
Drugs that inhibit angiotensinconverting
enzyme slow the progression of renal insufficiency
in patients with diabetic nephropathy. Whether
these drugs have a similar action in patients with other renal
diseases is not known. We conducted a study to determine
the effect of the angiotensin-converting–enzyme
inhibitor benazepril on the progression of renal insufficiency
in patients with various underlying renal diseases.
Methods.
In a three-year trial involving 583 patients
with renal insufficiency caused by various disorders, 300
patients received benazepril and 283 received placebo.
The underlying diseases included glomerulopathies (in
192 patients), interstitial nephritis (in 105), nephrosclerosis
(in 97), polycystic kidney disease (in 64), diabetic
nephropathy (in 21), and miscellaneous or unknown disorders
(in 104). The severity of renal insufficiency was
classified according to the base-line creatinine clearance:
227 patients had mild insufficiency (creatinine clearance,
46 to 60 ml per minute), and 356 had moderate insufficiency
(creatinine clearance, 30 to 45 ml per minute). The
primary end point was a doubling of the base-line serum
creatinine concentration or the need for dialysis.
Results.
At three years, 31 patients in the benazepril
group and 57 in the placebo group had reached the primary
end point (P

0.001). In the benazepril group, the
reduction in the risk of reaching the end point was 53
percent overall (95 percent confidence interval, 27 to 70
percent), 71 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 21
to 90 percent) among the patients with mild renal insufficiency,
and 46 percent (95 percent confidence interval,
12 to 67 percent) among those with moderate renal insufficiency.
The reduction in risk was greatest among
the male patients; those with glomerular diseases, diabetic
nephropathy, or miscellaneous or unknown causes
of renal disease; and those with base-line urinary protein
excretion above 1 g per 24 hours. Benazepril was not effective
in patients with polycystic disease. Diastolic pressure
decreased by 3.5 to 5.0 mm Hg in the benazepril
group and increased by 0.2 to 1.5 mm Hg in the placebo
group.
Conclusions.
Benazepril provides protection against
the progression of renal insufficiency in patients with various
renal diseases. (N Engl J Med 1996;334:939-45.)

1996, Massachusetts Medical Society.

http://health.upenn.edu/renal/journal%20titles/ACE%20-%20week%201.pdf

=====================================
From MedicineNet.com

ACE Inhibitors
(Angiotensin Converting Enzyme Inhibitors)

Pharmacy Author: Omudhome Ogbru, Pharm.D.
Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, M.D.
•What are ACE inhibitors, and how do they work?
•For what conditions are ACE inhibitors used?
•Are there any differences amont the different types of ACE inhibitors?
•What are the side effects of ACE inhibitors?
•With which drugs do ACE inhibitors interact?
•What are some examples of ACE inhibitors?

What are ACE inhibitors, and how do they work?

Angiotensin II is a very potent chemical that causes the muscles surrounding blood vessels to contract, thereby narrowing the vessels. The narrowing of the vessels increases the pressure within the vessels causing high blood pressure (hypertension). Angiotensin II is formed from angiotensin I in the blood by the enzyme angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE). ACE inhibitors are medications that slow (inhibit) the activity of the enzyme ACE, which decreases the production of angiotensin II. As a result, the blood vessels enlarge or dilate, and blood pressure is reduced. This lower blood pressure makes it easier for the heart to pump blood and can improve the function of a failing heart. In addition, the progression of kidney disease due to high blood pressure or diabetes is slowed.

For what conditions are ACE inhibitors used?

ACE inhibitors are used for controlling blood pressure, treating heart failure, preventing strokes, and preventing kidney damage in people with hypertension or diabetes. They also improve survival after heart attacks. In studies, individuals with hypertension, heart failure, or prior heart attacks who were treated with an ACE inhibitor lived longer than patients who did not take an ACE inhibitor. Because they prevent early death resulting from hypertension, heart failure or heart attacks, ACE inhibitors are one of the most important group of drugs. Some individuals with hypertension do not respond sufficiently to ACE inhibitors alone. In these cases, other drugs are used in combination with ACE inhibitors.

Are there any differences among the different types of ACE inhibitors?

ACE inhibitors are very similar. However, they differ in how they are eliminated from the body and their doses. Some ACE inhibitors need to be converted into an active form in the body before they work. In addition, some ACE inhibitors may work more on ACE that is found in tissues than on ACE that is present in the blood. The importance of this difference or whether one ACE inhibitor is better than another has not been determined.

What are the side effects of ACE inhibitors?

ACE inhibitors are well-tolerated by most individuals. Nevertheless, they are not free of side effects, and some patients should not use ACE inhibitors.

ACE inhibitors usually are not prescribed for pregnant patients because they may cause birth defects.

Individuals with bilateral renal artery stenosis (narrowing) may experience worsening of kidney function, and people who have had a severe reaction to ACE inhibitors probably should avoid them.

http://www.medicinenet.com/ace_inhibitors/article.htm

===============

The Wikipedia article is fairly comprehensive

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ACE_inhibitor

==================

From Drugs.com detailed information about Rhubarb with links to studies.

http://www.drugs.com/npp/rhubarb.html

Prison Lobbyists Behind Anti-Immigrant Laws

Friday, May 27th, 2011

It seems that the private prison industry has an interest in seeing anti-immigrant laws spread across the country. They are lobbying for them.

===========================================

From Terraviva

Prison Lobbyists Help Spread Anti-Immigrant Laws to U.S. South
By Matthew Cardinale

ATLANTA, Georgia, May 26, 2011 (IPS) - Earlier this month, Georgia became the third state to enact some of the most anti-immigrant legislation in recent U.S. history, when Governor Nathan Deal, a Republican, signed the bill, HB 87.

Among other things, the bill allows law enforcement officials to ask suspicious individuals to prove that they are U.S. citizens. In practice, critics say, “suspicious looking” is another way of saying “Hispanic”, raising concerns that the law encourages racial profiling.

The law is modeled on Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, passed last summer. Utah became the second state earlier this year. Both state’s laws are currently held up in the courts, where federal judicial circuits in the Western U.S. have not been favourable on the grounds that the laws are state or local interference with federal immigration policy.

The laws have already led to statewide boycotts in Georgia and are expected to bring legal challenges as well. In part, national lobbyists targeted Georgia because they wanted to set up a court battle in a more conservative eastern U.S. federal judicial circuit.

Meanwhile, supporters of the bill are celebrating, including the right-wing Republican base that supported the bill, as well as the for-profit prison corporations which stand to profit from the massive influx of suspected undocumented immigrants through the private prison system.

“Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), we know they have lobbyists here [at the legislature],” said Larry Pellegrini of Georgia Rural Urban Summit. CCA is one of the largest for-profit prison corporations in the U.S.

“They [CCA] will benefit by the legislation. They have a corporate stake in it around the country,” Pellegrini told IPS.

Pellegrini also noted that the lobbying effort to pass anti- immigration laws in Georgia was part of a national effort.

One national lobbying group that was instrumental in bringing together business interests and lawmakers was the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

It was an ALEC task force, which included a representative from a private prison - along with lawmakers from Arizona and other states - who helped draft Arizona’s immigration bill, which became a template for Georgia’s law as well.

According to CCA reports obtained by National Public Radio, the corporation believes that immigration detention is its next big growth market.

CCA’s earnings were up 15 percent in the first quarter compared to the same period a year ago.

CCA reported earnings of 40.3 million dollars, or 37 cents per share, on revenue of 428 million dollars in first quarter of 2011, according to the Nashville Business Journal newspaper. CCA’s revenue for 2009 was 1.7 billion dollars.

The federal government pays over 60 dollars per detainee per day to house men at CCA’s Stewart Detention Center, the largest immigration detention centre in the U.S., located in Lumpkin, Georgia.

CCA’s top management in Tennessee contributed the largest block of out-of-state campaign contributions received by Arizona’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer. Brewer employs two former CCA lobbyists as aides who assisted with signing Arizona’s SB 1070 into law.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, CCA spent 770,000 dollars lobbying at the federal level in 2009 and has spent as much as 3.4 million since 2005.

Georgia State Sen. Donald Balfour, a key Republican supporter of Georgia’s HB 87, in 2006, 2007, and 2008 received 2,000 dollars each year in donations from CCA; in 2009 he received 1,000; and in 2010, 750.

Governor Deal received from CCA 5,000 dollars in 2010 for the General Election. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has received at least 7,000 dollars from CCA since 2006.

Georgia Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers has received at least 3,500 dollars from CCA since 2008.

When recently asked about the Georgia bill, U.S. President Barack Obama said, “It is a mistake for states to try to do this piecemeal. We can’t have 50 different immigration laws around the country. Arizona tried this and a federal court already struck them down.”

Groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia are “seriously considering a legal challenge,” Azadeh Shahshahani, National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director at the Georgia ACLU told IPS.

“We believe the law is unconstitutional,” she said. “It encourages racial profiling and interferes with federal authority to enforce federal immigration laws.”

Meanwhile, key Republican legislators remain undaunted.

“I applaud Governor Deal’s signing of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011, which includes numerous common-sense reforms aimed at addressing the social and economic consequences in Georgia resulting from the federal government’s inability to secure our nation’s borders,” State Rep. Matt Ramsey said in a statement.

“HB 87 is a comprehensive and necessary effort to enforce the rule of law and protect the taxpayers of Georgia from being forced to subsidize the presence of nearly 500,000 illegal aliens in our state. Current economic conditions have made it painfully obvious that the state of Georgia literally cannot afford to continue this broken system,” Ramsey said.

But not all Republicans were thrilled about the new laws, particularly Republican legislators representing rural Georgia districts. Many Georgia farmers are believed to rely upon low-cost immigrant labour to perform tasks like picking onions and plucking chickens.

Time will tell how the new immigration laws - even the very passage of them, whether the courts uphold them or not - will impact immigrants and their families living in Georgia - that is, whether they will stay here or decide to take their chances in another U.S. state.

http://ipsnews.net/newsTVE.asp?idnews=55802

=========================================

From NPR

Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law
by Laura Sullivan

October 28, 2010

Laura Sullivan/NPR
Glenn Nichols, city manager of Benson, Ariz., says two men came to the city last year “talking about building a facility to hold women and children that were illegals.”

text size A A A October 28, 2010
Last year, two men showed up in Benson, Ariz., a small desert town 60 miles from the Mexico border, offering a deal.

Glenn Nichols, the Benson city manager, remembers the pitch.

“The gentleman that’s the main thrust of this thing has a huge turquoise ring on his finger,” Nichols said. “He’s a great big huge guy and I equated him to a car salesman.”

What he was selling was a prison for women and children who were illegal immigrants.

“They talk [about] how positive this was going to be for the community,” Nichols said, “the amount of money that we would realize from each prisoner on a daily rate.”

But Nichols wasn’t buying. He asked them how would they possibly keep a prison full for years — decades even — with illegal immigrants?

“They talked like they didn’t have any doubt they could fill it,” Nichols said.

That’s because prison companies like this one had a plan — a new business model to lock up illegal immigrants. And the plan became Arizona’s immigration law.

Behind-The-Scenes Effort To Draft, Pass The Law

The law is being challenged in the courts. But if it’s upheld, it requires police to lock up anyone they stop who cannot show proof they entered the country legally.

Read Part 2 Of This Report

Shaping State Laws With Little Scrutiny
Among hundreds of bills drafted by an alliance of business, lawmakers: Arizona’s immigration law.
When it was passed in April, it ignited a fire storm. Protesters chanted about racial profiling. Businesses threatened to boycott the state.

Supporters were equally passionate, calling it a bold positive step to curb illegal immigration.

But while the debate raged, few people were aware of how the law came about.

NPR spent the past several months analyzing hundreds of pages of campaign finance reports, lobbying documents and corporate records. What they show is a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070 by an industry that stands to benefit from it: the private prison industry.

The law could send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to prison in a way never done before. And it could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to private prison companies responsible for housing them.

Enlarge Joshua Lott/Getty Images
Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, pictured here at Tea Party rally on Oct. 22, was instrumental in drafting the state’s immigration law. He also sits on a American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) task force, a group that helped shape the law.

Joshua Lott/Getty Images Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, pictured here at Tea Party rally on Oct. 22, was instrumental in drafting the state’s immigration law. He also sits on a American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) task force, a group that helped shape the law.

Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce says the bill was his idea. He says it’s not about prisons. It’s about what’s best for the country.

“Enough is enough,” Pearce said in his office, sitting under a banner reading “Let Freedom Reign.” “People need to focus on the cost of not enforcing our laws and securing our border. It is the Trojan horse destroying our country and a republic cannot survive as a lawless nation.”

But instead of taking his idea to the Arizona statehouse floor, Pearce first took it to a hotel conference room.

It was last December at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C. Inside, there was a meeting of a secretive group called the American Legislative Exchange Council. Insiders call it ALEC.

It’s a membership organization of state legislators and powerful corporations and associations, such as the tobacco company Reynolds American Inc., ExxonMobil and the National Rifle Association. Another member is the billion-dollar Corrections Corporation of America — the largest private prison company in the country.

It was there that Pearce’s idea took shape.

“I did a presentation,” Pearce said. “I went through the facts. I went through the impacts and they said, ‘Yeah.’”

Drafting The Bill

The 50 or so people in the room included officials of the Corrections Corporation of America, according to two sources who were there.

Pearce and the Corrections Corporation of America have been coming to these meetings for years. Both have seats on one of several of ALEC’s boards.

And this bill was an important one for the company. According to Corrections Corporation of America reports reviewed by NPR, executives believe immigrant detention is their next big market. Last year, they wrote that they expect to bring in “a significant portion of our revenues” from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that detains illegal immigrants.

In the conference room, the group decided they would turn the immigration idea into a model bill. They discussed and debated language. Then, they voted on it.

“There were no ‘no’ votes,” Pearce said. “I never had one person speak up in objection to this model legislation.”

Four months later, that model legislation became, almost word for word, Arizona’s immigration law.

They even named it. They called it the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act.”

“ALEC is the conservative, free-market orientated, limited-government group,” said Michael Hough, who was staff director of the meeting.

Hough works for ALEC, but he’s also running for state delegate in Maryland, and if elected says he plans to support a similar bill to Arizona’s law.

Asked if the private companies usually get to write model bills for the legislators, Hough said, “Yeah, that’s the way it’s set up. It’s a public-private partnership. We believe both sides, businesses and lawmakers should be at the same table, together.”

Nothing about this is illegal. Pearce’s immigration plan became a prospective bill and Pearce took it home to Arizona.

Campaign Donations

Pearce said he is not concerned that it could appear private prison companies have an opportunity to lobby for legislation at the ALEC meetings.

“I don’t go there to meet with them,” he said. “I go there to meet with other legislators.”

Pearce may go there to meet with other legislators, but 200 private companies pay tens of thousands of dollars to meet with legislators like him.

As soon as Pearce’s bill hit the Arizona statehouse floor in January, there were signs of ALEC’s influence. Thirty-six co-sponsors jumped on, a number almost unheard of in the capitol. According to records obtained by NPR, two-thirds of them either went to that December meeting or are ALEC members.

That same week, the Corrections Corporation of America hired a powerful new lobbyist to work the capitol.

The prison company declined requests for an interview. In a statement, a spokesman said the Corrections Corporation of America, “unequivocally has not at any time lobbied — nor have we had any outside consultants lobby – on immigration law.”

At the state Capitol, campaign donations started to appear.

Thirty of the 36 co-sponsors received donations over the next six months, from prison lobbyists or prison companies — Corrections Corporation of America, Management and Training Corporation and The Geo Group.

By April, the bill was on Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk.

Brewer has her own connections to private prison companies. State lobbying records show two of her top advisers — her spokesman Paul Senseman and her campaign manager Chuck Coughlin — are former lobbyists for private prison companies. Brewer signed the bill — with the name of the legislation Pearce, the Corrections Corporation of America and the others in the Hyatt conference room came up with — in four days.

Brewer and her spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

In May, The Geo Group had a conference call with investors. When asked about the bill, company executives made light of it, asking, “Did they have some legislation on immigration?”

After company officials laughed, the company’s president, Wayne Calabrese, cut in.

“This is Wayne,” he said. “I can only believe the opportunities at the federal level are going to continue apace as a result of what’s happening. Those people coming across the border and getting caught are going to have to be detained and that for me, at least I think, there’s going to be enhanced opportunities for what we do.”

Opportunities that prison companies helped create.

Produced by NPR’s Anne Hawke.

(There is an interesting chart showing who the players are in this article, worth a look.-Ed.)

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130833741

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From Citizen Orange

ICE Raids - Detention Centers Not About Immigration, All About Money!

By dee on February 3, 2009 6:22 PM |

What did Deep Throat Say? “Follow the Money!” In 2007/2008, ICE stepped up their raids across the country. Ask yourself WHY!!

Let’s start with three of the largest, most recent ICE raids. In New Bedford, MA., 300+ Seamstress Workers making backpacks were swept away to Texas Detention Centers. In Postville, IA, 500+ Meatpackers were swept off to Texas Detention Centers. In Laurel, MS, 600+ technical workers were swept off to a GEO Detention Center in Jena, LA. As I previously reported, GEO’s Jena facility was newly opened in late 2007, projecting they would fill to capacity in 2008. The 2008 Laurel raid filled them to capacity.

How do these privately run prisons profit? They are paid per diem (per head/per day). Maximum profit is made if the centers are filled to capacity.

GEO Group has a long history of prisoner abuse. Records show these prisons have been cited for feces on walls, on sheets, on beds, vermin - rats, roaches, prisoners dying in custody due to no healthcare, prisoners sexually abused. The lawsuits detail the abuses. Contracts have been rescinded across the country due to the abuse. Last weekend, the second prison riot occurred within 2 months in the RCDC in Pecos Texas due to charges of inhumane treatment and death.

Ask yourself why GEO Group now focuses their lobbying to receive Detention Center contracts? Does anyone listen to the complaints of those in Detention Centers? Does anyone care about their abuse? Is the media reporting the conditions or the reason for rioting in the RCDC in Pecos, TX? Does anyone question why the GEO Detention Centers continue to be filled to capacity with detainees? The detainees should NOT be incarcerated for long periods of time, yet they are, many for months and years on end. Our nation is spending billions of dollars to detain hundreds of thousands of uncharged detainees. In some locations, entire families are incarcerated. Why? Per diem $$ paid per head/per day.

The Lobbyists:

The GEO Group spends millions of dollars lobbying and filling the pockets of Republican Texas State Congressmen and National Politicians, including their friends, George W. Bush and Tom Delay.

This article shows the following examples:

First, Ray Allen, the former Texas representative from Grand Prarie who chaired the House Committee on Corrections, and his former chief of staff, Scott Gilmore, are two of the biggest private prison lobbyists in the state. Gilmore and Allen took heat several years ago for working as lobbyists even while Allen was still a state representative. Allen was a major privatization advocate while a state representative and both he and Gilmore lobbied, while in office, for the National Correctional Industries Association - a group that advocates for prison labor and includes private prison corporations amongst its members.
Second, the troubled GEO Group spent the most on private prison lobbying in 2007 and actually upped its lobbying expenditures after scandals forced state hearings into private prison oversight. According to the report:
With its starring role in the scandal, Geo Group increased its Texas lobby spending tenfold, accounting for more than half of the lobby money that the industry spent in 2007.

It is imperative that Janet Napolitano and her teams investigate the GEO Group, the abuse in their centers and report back why GEO continues to abuse detainees or any prisoners. Ask why detainees are held for such long periods of time. Determine if it is the best use of ICE Funds to incarcerate seamstresses, meatpackers and technical workers for such long periods of time. Ask why these raids and suppression sweeps are not used for felonious criminals, gangs and stopping guns from going back into Mexico.

http://www.citizenorange.com/orange/2009/02/antis-true-core-agenda-is-to-s-1.html

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From Institute for Southern Studies

Detained and Dying: Immigrant deaths in detention raise questions about oversight of private prisons

By Desiree Evans on June 16, 2009 7:42 AM

A coalition of immigrant and civil rights groups held a vigil in front of the Atlanta headquarters of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency last week to mark the three-month anniversary of Roberto Martinez Medina’s death in immigrant detention in southwest Georgia.

Before his death, Medina, a 39-year-old Mexican national, was held on immigration violations at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga., a federal ICE facility. For three months the immediate cause of Medina’s death remained unclear. The autopsy results were finally released last Thursday by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, noting that Medina died of myocarditis, an inflammatory heart disease.

Medina’s death in March marked the latest in the mounting number of immigrant deaths in ICE detention centers. For the past year, stories of inadequate health care for immigrant detainees and a slew of questionable deaths in immigration custody have been surfacing. Even though Medina died of apparent natural causes, immigrant advocates maintain that these immigrant deaths, as well as the stories detainees continue to tell about abuse and neglect, raise questions about the adequacy of medical practices in the jails and private prisons under contract to hold immigrant detainees, as well as underscore the lack of overall accountability in U.S. immigrant detention.

Rights advocates have pointed out that many of the reported immigrant deaths could have been prevented through timely and effective access to medical care. But due to the absence of enforceable standards and an independent oversight mechanism, ICE and the corporations that contract with it for the most part escape accountability, advocates say.

Amnesty International released a report last March criticizing the system of immigrant detention in the United States. The report found that tens of thousands of immigrants have been held without access to due process and many have been left to “languish” in deplorable conditions. In the last few months groups such Human Rights Watch and the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center have also released reports detailing startling levels of immigrant abuse in detention centers and a real lack of adequate medical care.

Profiting From Immigrant Detention

ICE oversees a network of federal centers, county jails and privately-run, for-profit prisons that detain and process undocumented immigrants; more than 30,000 immigrants are incarcerated in the U.S. on any given day. Many of these facilities are located in the South and Southwest.

Facing South has reported on the large-scale immigration raids that have swept across the country in the last couple of years. The heightened anti-immigration actions have left federal authorities struggling to cope with rapidly rising numbers of detainees. Arrests have overwhelmed detention systems and local jails.

In turn, over the past couple of years, immigrant detention has become the nation’s fastest-growing form of incarceration. The private prison industry in the United States is making a fortune on the exponential increase in the number of immigrants detainees, and despite the economic downturn, the industry is currently experiencing the largest business demand in its history.

Many of these private prison corporations are looking to open more detention facilities for immigrants. But human rights advocates point out that many of these for-profit facilities being built to house the overflow are problem-riddled and lacking in oversight. In fact, privately-run detention centers are continually plagued by scandal, lawsuits and controversy surrounding prisoner maltreatment.

For years, the Florida-based GEO Group, a private corporation that owns and operates correction facilities and is contracted to manage five of ICE facilities, has been at the center of scandal in its private prisons and detention centers in places such as Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Idaho, and Texas. Charged with squalid conditions, prison abuse, ill treatment of prisoners and even prisoner deaths, the corporation has faced several lawsuits by prisoner family members who say the facility did not provide adequate medical care or proper supervision for inmates.

The Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest private prison company, operates six ICE facilities, and has a long, documented history of abuses in its prisons. The CCA runs the same detention center in Lumpkin, Ga., where Medina was held. In 2007, nearly 1,000 immigrant prisoners at the 1,500-bed facility in Lumpkin went on a hunger strike protesting conditions including lack of medical care.

Georgia Detention Watch, an Atlanta-based coalition of immigrant rights advocates, released a report in April on detention conditions at the CCA-run Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin. Calling the conditions at the CCA-run facility “grossly inadequate,” the report found that detainees were denied food and medicine as punishment, there were too few working toilets, detainees were placed in solitary confinement without a disciplinary hearing, the facility lacked necessary medical care, and it served undercooked and expired food.

Rights groups continue to demand accountability and transparency from ICE in regards to its CCA-run facilities. From October 2003 through Feb. 7, 2009, 18 people died in immigration detention custody in facilities operated by CCA alone, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Private prison corporations such as the CCA and the GEO Group are seeing an exponential growth in business and stock prices, even though stories of their inadequate facilities continue to stream into the public. In 2008, the GEO Group reported nearly $60 million in profits, and the CCA posted profits of more than $150 million. And the profits continue to soar.

As the Business of Detention pointed out in 2008:

[CCA] has partnered with the federal government to detain close to 1 million undocumented people in the past 5 years until they are deported. In the process, Corrections Corporation of America has made record profits. Critics suggest the CCA cuts corners on its detention contracts in order to increase its revenue at expense of humane conditions. Thanks to political connections and lobby spending, it dominates the industry of immigrant detention. CCA now has close to 10,000 new beds under development in anticipation of continued demand.

CCA plans to open a new facility in Gainesville, Ga. similar to its Lumpkin facility. Rights advocates say that the prospect of yet another CCA-run immigrant detention facility should trouble lawmakers.

Immigrant advocates are also demanding greater transparency and swift and public investigations for deaths in immigration detention. Groups are calling on Congress and the Obama administration to create enforceable standards binding ICE and corporations such as CCA to humane standards of care for the detainees and to ensure an effective and independent oversight mechanism.

http://www.southernstudies.org/2009/06/post-22.html

Patriot Act Again, Conspiracy, Immanence And Arizona Migrant Law Upheld.

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

The Senate and Congress have voted to continue the Patriot Act for four more years. This act has no purpose. If it was to get Osama then it should have been ended. It is an abrogation of our civil liberties as citizens and should never have passed in the first place. Now the power to invade our privacy has been continued without a rational reason other than the simple aggrandizement of power into the hands of the security apparatus.

I am no conspiracy nut. I spent quite a bit of time studying the Kennedy assassination twenty years ago and read a lot of material. Thirty years ago I studied the whole UFO phenomena. Twenty odd years ago I was reading about occult cabals, mind control experiments etc. After years of study, I came to the conclusion that reality was fairly subjective and a product of our collective unconsciousness. We create it together, and have for thousands of years. But there has to be a base, an atomic level structure that holds what we call reality together. This basic reality is the repetition of pattern, as far as I can tell. Molecular repetition, out of habit, inertia, or design I don’t know. If it were by design then there would have to be a creator. If by inertia or habituation, then there could be a random factor, and a tendency to repetition. I am no scientist, so these speculations are simply the meanderings of a semi-intelligent human. I guess I have a somewhat Hegelian belief in the immanence of the historical process, although I am not sure I understand it. I prefer that to a cyclical process or one of continuous fractal divergence.

Back to the day to day reality; today the Supreme Court allowed the Arizona migrant laws stand. The Senate has rejected the Ryan health care plan to gut Medicare and turn it into a State run program. The people have spoken in upstate New York electing a Democrat in a heavily Republican district, Kathy Hochul won. This may indicate that the American people although concerned about the budget deficits are not willing to sacrifice important programs like Medicare and Social Security. After all the people get very little for their tax dollars in the USA compared to Europeans. If this little is taken away, what exactly would we be paying taxes for, other than supporting the military and big business interests?
The tide may be turning back to the left after the right wing reaction last year. It may be that the Tea Party has overextended itself and people are beginning to realize that Obama is not so bad after all. That is the main stream, but for those of us on the left, Obama has been a big disappointment. Guantanamo is still there, now the Patriot Act has been continued. The US wants to keep a force in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan continues. US interference keeps Yemen a boiling pot of conflict and Bahrain repressed its citizens with America turning a blind eye. Libya where a form of socialism existed has been turned into a war zone and Syria is on the verge of becoming one. There are good and bad signs but what we really need is a left party in the USA and until the Democratic Socialists here break with the Democratic party and form a real third party, we will have more of the same, a mixed bag with most benefit going to the moneyed interests.

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From Alternet

Maverick Media / By Greg Guma Truth Decay: Conspiracy Theories and Hoaxes Are Blurring Reality
How about some accountability for the false prophets, gross opportunists, and irresponsible rumor-mongers who threaten society with truth decay?
May 25, 2011 | LIKE THIS ARTICLE ?
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TAKE ACTIONChange.org|Get Widget|Start an Online Petition � After his End Times prediction failed last week millionaire radio prophet Harold Camping eventually came up with an excuse. During his show “Open Forum” in Oakland on May 23, he explained that the world will still end in October. It’s a process and we’re just getting started. That’s a relief. At first I thought millions of people had just wasted days of time and energy fussing over some hairbrained idea.

There are so many theories out there. Obama is a secret Muslim – millions of people believe that, secular humanists want to repress religion, and liberals are plotting to confiscate people’s guns and push a “gay agenda.” At the opposite end of the political spectrum, there’s the assertion that 9/11 was an inside job and all that this entails. No offense meant. I’ve been called a “conspiracy nut” myself, specifically for saying that we should know more about the attack on the Twin Towers. Still, a modern-day Reichstag fire at multiple locations does qualify as a radical conclusion.

I usually resist the urge to challenge the controversial theories of fellow travelers, at least in mixed company. The other night, for example, during a discussion about Al-Qaeda after Osama, a speaker casually asserted that President Roosevelt knew about the attack on Pearl Harbor in advance and let it happen. No one said a word. I considered questioning the notion but let it pass.

Anything’s possible, right? Why be rude? But some theories and predictions are too important. They are widely accepted as indisputable and part of an overall world view, usually linked with an anti-establishment ideology. They have practical consequences for social action, can spark deep divisions, and influence how people see and treat others. In some groups, if you question the conclusions of a prevailing theory you’re either a dupe or a collaborator.

Deep skepticism is often at the root, a good thing in general. After all, so much of what we once believed has turned out to be a lie, or at least a very selective version of reality. But still, shouldn’t there be standards? Also, why do some theories get all the attention while others, perhaps more credible ones, get buried? And can’t we at least call people to account when their claims repeatedly lead down false trails?

In 2004, when friends claimed that George W. Bush would invade someplace – probably Cuba – before the election, I was skeptical but said nothing. Four year later, when colleagues embraced the idea that either a) there would be a pre-election invasion – Syria this time, or b) federal troops would be used to install Bush as dictator and block Obama’s election – in short, Martial Law was imminent – I took bets.

Last October word spread in activist circles that the rise in US Drone strikes and NATO helicopter attacks inside Pakistan were harbingers of something bigger. The war was going to be extended into Pakistan with the ultimate goal of seizing that nation’s nuclear weapons. Turns out they went after Osama, although many people believe that is also a lie and bin Laden was killed years earlier. These death conspiracies sound like the classic one about a fake moon landing – we never went there, right? – including phony video and a staged photo of the National Security brain trust looking at…what? Seal Team Six on a Top Secret movie set?

People were also predicting last year that Billionaire Mayor Mike Bloomberg would run for president (as an independent) in 2012, peeling off enough votes and states to hang the electoral college and deliver the White House to Sarah Palin. But while we now know that the prediction about Bloomberg’s run (and Palin’s victory) was based on nothing people can still plausibly claim that the US is preparing to invade Pakistan. Unfortunately, too many rumors of war begin to sound like crying wolf. On the other hand, by next year who will remember?

It’s easy for an extreme, often paranoid theory to circulate these days. In January, for example, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a press release to pilots saying that the Department of Defense would be testing the GPS system off the southern Atlantic coast. Cyberspace soon erupted with rumors that the Defense Department was hiding something, perhaps maritime war games, scientific experiments in the Bermuda triangle, or a plot to make GPS more accurate for government to track people in cars.

What actually happened? GPS is an outgrowth of space exploration and became public in 1983. The Defense Department remains in charge of software upgrades and satellite maintenance, and the Air Force has experienced some signal losses. The tests were part of an upgrade and took 45 minutes, followed by a 15-minute blackout. That’s basically it. Yet for some it was evidence of a secret government plot.

Speaking of plots, depopulation has been getting some attention lately, specifically related to the use of covert technology to allegedly cause earthquakes and tsunamis. The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, known as HAARP, is a joint military program involved in classified experiments involving the ionosphere. The basic claim is that it has been involved for decades in developing various types of weather-based and environmental warfare capabilities. It doesn’t help that the military has a name for this kind of thing – weather modification.

Still, using HAARP to cause earthquakes, wipe out regions and thin the herd is something else. Supporters of the depopulation theory say Haiti was a transparent example, claiming as evidence that a US task force was ready to invade before the earthquake occurred. Before that came the Indian Ocean tsunami, where people weren’t warned as soon as possible. Afterward came Fukushima, a full-scale assault not only on Japan, but on the oceans and atmosphere.

“The established pattern, with disasters and invasions, is incremental escalation,” explains a friend who supports the theory. Nuclear reactors in the US are therefore sitting ducks, just waiting for a HAARP attack. “And they have made it clear that an 80% reduction in world population is their goal,” he writes. Who made it clear? The overseers of the New World Order. Oh, Them.

Just before last Thanksgiving came news that China had briefly hijacked the Internet. I was skeptical at first, maybe burned out by too many theories and rumors. But there was evidence that the People’s Republic had cyber attack capabilities. No less than The Christian Science Monitor had reported that a Chinese group was linked to attacks on several US oil companies. The companies themselves didn’t realize the severity of the problem at first. The hijack rumor came from a report to Congress that said 15 percent of global Internet traffic had been briefly routed through Chinese servers earlier in the year. This included encrypted government mail.

Dmitri Slperovitch, a threat analyst at McAfee, called it “one of the biggest” hijacks ever. Somehow, for a brief period, all that digital information was re-routed at a small Chinese ISP and passed on to China Telecom. Nothing definite yet on how, why, or if it matters. For some reason, however, this story didn’t have legs, perhaps not resonating sufficiently with the current narrative of either the Right or the Left. Maybe it’s too abstract a problem, or too scary to consider for long.

Early in 2011 a rumor began circulating that Wikileaks is a CIA plot. The idea was that the leaks actually supported the US imperial agenda around the world. In short, Wikileaks was a big US intelligence con job that would be used to crack down on the Internet and advance a long-standing anti- civil liberties agenda. Evidence used to support this idea included the shutting down of Wikileaks servers in the US and the 2009 introduction of S. 773, The Cybersecurity Act, which if passed would give the president the power to disconnect private-sector computers from the Internet.

The problem here is that, while the Wikileaks-CIA plot looks like a distraction, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has begun to seize and shut down web domains without due process or trial. The initial focus has been sites that supposedly “violate copyrights” but the risk is that cyber censorship may be extended to, let’s say, combat alleged cyber terrorism. It’s a slippery slope.

Last Monday, after several more websites were shut down, DHS held a hearing on the move to give the President more authority over the Internet during an emergency. Senate Homeland Security Committee Chair Joe Lieberman noted that China “can disconnect parts of the Internet in case of war and we need to have that here too.” Similar discussions are underway in Europe. In this context, the Wiklieaks-CIA story was most likely an attempt at disinformation, one that didn’t go viral.

In early February the FCC voted to require that TV and radio stations, cable systems and satellite TV providers participate in a test involving the receiving and transmitting of a live code including an alert message by the president. It’s part of an update of the Emergency Alert System and complements other warning systems, including FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert System and a Commercial Mobile Alert System. In the future people will be able to get alerts through smart phones, blackberries, and so on. Personally not a priority, but many people want to be informed in the event of real crises.

For some, however, the test is proof positive that the President will soon commandeer every phone any time he wants, and for any reason the government deems necessary. If they want to scare us about a bombing, goes the logic, someone will call your cell phone or appear on your TV, no matter what you are watching. It boils down to this: Do you believe that Obama (or the National Security State, if you prefer) is “taking over” the Internet?

Here’s some background: The Broadcast Message Center, created by Communications company Alcatel-Lucent, will allow government agencies to send cell phone users information in the event of an emergency. Under the Mobile Alert System phones will apparently receive emergency alerts. Meanwhile, the FCC is looking at how wireless broadband can enhance emergency announcements. Does that represent a government plan to break into computers and wireless devices at will? In the end, the answer depends mostly on your level of distrust.

Perhaps the strangest development lately is Homeland Security’s “If you see something, say something” campaign. It’s a new public-private partnership between DHS and hundreds of Walmart outlets around the country. Seriously. What’s worse, it sounds ominously like asking people to inform on each other. There you have it – a big government, big business surveillance merger, and worse yet, a giant threat, the Walmart-Intelligence Complex. I’m kidding, but not entirely.

In short, some theories may be distractions or even deliberate deceptions, but others are worth considering, as long as we stipulate that they aren’t necessarily facts and resist exaggeration. The problem is that it’s becoming more difficult to tell the difference in an era when facts have been devalued. There are so many possibilities, the standard of proof appears to be getting lower, and theories tend to evolve, expand and mutate rapidly in unexpected ways as they circulate through cyberspace. As yet, there is little follow up to see whether new facts reinforce or discredit a particular idea or prediction. Corruption of truth meanwhile contributes to social division and civic decay. Yet there are apparently no consequences for stoking paranoia, intentionally confusing speculation with fact, or perpetrating a premeditated hoax.

So, how about some accountability for the false prophets, gross opportunists, and irresponsible rumor-mongers who threaten society with truth decay? Here’s a suggestion: Call them out publicly, post their names on some Wall of Shame, and then stop listening – it only encourages them.

This is adapted from Greg Guma’s Rebel News Round Up, broadcast live on The Howie Rose Show at 11 a.m. Fridays on WOMM (105.9-FM/LP – The Radiator) in Burlington. Greg lives in Vermont and writes about politics and culture on his blog, Maverick Media (http://muckraker-gg,blogspot.com

http://www.alternet.org/story/151079/truth_decay%3A_conspiracy_theories_and_hoaxes_are_blurring_reality?page=entire

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Huffington Post

Patriot Act Extension Passes Senate, Rand Paul Amendments Fail

AP/The Huffington Post First Posted: 05/26/11 05:39 PM ET Updated: 05/26/11 06:29 PM ET

The Senate voted 72-23 Thursday to extend the government’s Patriot Act powers to search records and conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists. The House was expected to quickly approve the legislation for President Barack Obama’s signature.

The action comes a month after intelligence and military forces hunted down Osama bin Laden. Facing a midnight deadline when three terror-fighting tools would expire, the Senate struggled to find a way to stage a final vote in the face of continued resistance from a single senator, Republican freshman Rand Paul of Kentucky. Paul’s amendment, which would restrict law enforcement from accessing firearm receipts, failed to pass the Senate on Thursday afternoon.

The Senate vote extends two provisions of the 2001 USA Patriot Act, one allowing for roving wiretaps and the other allowing searches of business records in the pursuit of terrorist threats. A third provision gives the government power to watch non-American “lone wolf” suspects with no certain ties to terrorist groups. All three provisions are viewed as valuable tools by law enforcement officials but are opposed by some who say they can lead to privacy right abuses.

The roving wiretaps and access to business records are small parts of the USA Patriot Act that was enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. But unlike most of the act, which is permanent law, those provisions must be periodically renewed because of concerns that they could be used to violate privacy rights. The same applies to the “lone wolf” provision, which was part of a 2004 intelligence act.

Renewal this time was pushed up against the midnight deadline by Paul, who argued that in the rush to meet the terrorist threat in 2001 Congress enacted a Patriot Act that tramples on individual liberties. He had some backing from liberal Democrats and civil liberties groups who have long contended the Patriot Act gives the government authority to spy on innocent citizens.

Paul also proposed an amendment that would restrict national security officials from examining gun dealer records in their efforts to track potential terrorists. Senate Democrats initially refused to consider the amendment, which threatened to let the Patriot Act provisions expire. But Democrats relented Thursday morning and agreed to allow a vote on the measure, in order to expedite passage of the Patriot Act provisions. Paul’s amendment failed 85-10.

=========================

Supreme Court upholds Arizona immigration law targeting employers
The high court ruling allows the state, and others, to penalize businesses that hire illegal immigrants.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents detain suspected illegal immigrants in Phoenix. A Supreme Court ruling will allow the state to revoke business licenses for those who hire undocumented workers. (Nick Oza, AP / May 26, 2011)

By David G. Savage, Washington Bureau

May 26, 2011, 5:59 p.m.
Reporting from Washington— The Supreme Court gave a big boost to proponents of stricter state laws against illegal immigration by upholding Arizona’s “business death penalty” for employers who repeatedly hire undocumented workers.

The 5-3 ruling gives more states a green light to target those who employ illegal immigrants. And because it rejected the contention that the state was interfering with the federal government’s authority over immigration, the decision also encouraged supporters of Arizona’s even more controversial immigration law. That law, which requires police to check the immigration status of people they lawfully stop and who they suspect are in the country illegally, will soon come before the court.

Related
Opinion: Immigration: You can’t rely on E-Verify
The ruling said Arizona could deny employers a business license after a second violation of its Legal Arizona Workers Act of 2007. Also upheld was Arizona’s requirement that employers check with the federal E-Verify program before hiring workers.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said Arizona’s licensing law “falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states,” rebuffing challenges from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Obama administration and civil rights groups.

The ruling on the employment question sets the stage for a high court showdown as early as next year in the even bigger battle over Arizona’s mandate for police detention of people they suspect are in the U.S. illegally, known as SB 1070.

Last summer, the Obama administration sued Arizona to block that law. A federal judge and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the administration that it interfered with federal enforcement prerogatives and put the law on hold.

Opponents and proponents of that law had dueling interpretations of the significance of Thursday’s ruling.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said she was “hopeful and optimistic” the high court would hear the state’s appeal later this year and revive SB 1070.

The law won Arizona nationwide fame as well as infamy. Brewer’s popularity skyrocketed, and polls showed SB 1070 widely popular statewide. But the law also prompted noisy protests, a recall drive against the bill’s author and boycotts that, by some estimates, cost the state millions of dollars.

Peter Spiro, a Temple University law professor, said the outcome did not guarantee Arizona’s police measure would be upheld. “SB 1070 pushes the envelope. It’s a different case,” he said. “But this is definitely a victory for those who are pushing restrictive immigration measures in state houses.”

Immigrant rights lawyers called the court’s decision disappointing but narrow.

“State legislators considering this decision a free pass to enact legislation targeting immigrants are gravely mistaken,” said Linton Joaquin, general counsel for the National Immigration Law Center.

In his majority opinion, Roberts noted that eight other states had passed laws similar to Arizona’s that punish employers for hiring illegal workers. They are Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

The ruling may revive a local ordinance in Hazleton, Pa., that would take away business licenses from landlords who rented to illegal immigrants. The measure was struck down by a federal appeals court in Philadelphia, but an appeal is pending in the Supreme Court.

The heart of Thursday’s decision centered on a few words in a 1986 federal immigration law. It said states and localities could not impose “criminal or civil sanctions (other than through licensing and similar laws) upon those who employ … authorized aliens.”

Shortly after then-Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano signed in 2007 what she called the “business death penalty” for employers who hired illegal workers, civil rights groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sued. They argued its provisions were sanctions and, therefore, were barred by federal law. But they lost before a federal district court and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Supreme Court affirmed those decisions Thursday in Chamber of Commerce vs. Whiting.

Roberts said there was a “high threshold” for striking down a state law on the grounds that it conflicted with a federal law, a passage welcomed by Arizona’s top officials. Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined to form the majority.

In dissent were Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. They said the majority’s interpretation overrides the 1986 provision barring sanctions against employers. It could also permit “discrimination [against] legal workers who look or sound foreign,” Breyer said. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case.

Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center, the legal arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the decision would lead to a “growing patchwork” of immigration laws across the country, creating obstacles for those conducting business across state lines.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, plans to introduce a bill that would require all U.S. employers to use the Web-based verification system E-Verify during the hiring process.

“I will introduce legislation soon to expand E-Verify and make it mandatory across the United States,” Smith said in a statement Thursday.

In the course of drafting the law, Smith has held meetings with the business community and plans to include a safe-harbor provision that would protect employers who have made a good faith effort to use the federal database. The bill could also phase in the requirement for small businesses.

More than 250,000 employers currently use the federal immigration database on a voluntary basis, and approximately 1,300 new employers enroll in the program each week. Use of E-Verify is required for all companies that receive federal contracts.

david.savage@latimes.com

Times staff writers Brian Bennett in Washington and Stephen Ceasar in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-court-immigration-ruling-20110526,0,5623472.story

Egypt To Open Border Crossing With Gaza

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Egypt is opening the Rafah border crossing to Gaza. This is a direct result of the deal between Al Fatah and Hamas. The deal was apparently brokered by Egypt according to the article. This is irritating to Israel and forces the USA to take a more active position in the peace process or be left behind by a more activist Egyptian regime. Israel may be forced to find new allies in the region, perhaps with Turkey or even, strange as it may sound, Iran. Already relations exist with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and to an extent, Syria and Lebanon, although they are not exactly open or obvious. But a more aggressive Egypt should force Israel to send out feelers around the Middle East to regimes seeking an understanding. Obama if he is smart will rebuff Israel instead of playing up the alliance, this insecure position regarding the USA should force Israel to make compromises that might resolve the Palestinian situation and get it to participate in the region as a neighbor and not as a western colony. We can only wish the people of the region the best of luck in resolving their differences. Getting the USA out of the picture, would only help speed up a resolution of the situation there.
Realistically the USA and Israel are so intertwined politically, with the Israel lobby so powerful in Washington, that it would take very strong presidential action to break it. Perhaps the best way for the US to act is with indifference. If the American president would simply draw down the support for the regime in Israel, but that is unlikely to happen. So what we will get is the strong hand of US interference because we have “interests” in the region. What they are besides gaining access to Saudi oil, is peripheral at best. But at least since the 1956 Suez crisis the US has had a firm hand in the region. Perhaps it is time to reconsider those interests, and take a step back from such active involvement in the Middle East. Ron Paul of all people seems to have a more intelligent policy when it comes to foreign interventions.

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From Washington Post

Egypt to reopen Gaza border crossing, raising Israeli concerns

By Ernesto Londono and Joel Greenberg, Published: May 25

CAIRO — Egypt will permanently open its border crossing with the Gaza Strip this weekend, the government announced Wednesday, underscoring how dramatically the uprisings that are roiling the Arab world could reshape the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Egypt’s interim military leaders, who had been instrumental in implementing the blockade under orders from then-President Hosni Mubarak, appeared to be responding to an increasingly vocal and empowered constituency that wants Egypt to decisively back the Palestinian cause.

Addressing a joint meeting of Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will not return to borders set in 1967. He also welcomes negotiations on “the status of settlements.”

The Rafah crossing is the only official entry point outside Israel into the Gaza Strip, an area slightly more than twice the size of Washington that is home to about 1.5 million Palestinians. Opening it will ease the blockade imposed by Israel — and supported by Egypt — after the Islamist movement Hamas took control of the strip in 2007. Israel fears the move could make it easier for the Iran-backed group to stockpile weapons.

The move comes as President Obama is stepping up pressure on Israel to acknowledge the new realities that the ongoing revolutions in the Middle East may bring. In a speech last week, Obama endorsed a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on Israel’s 1967 boundaries, with mutually agreed upon land swaps.

But during a state visit to Washington this week, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu presented uncompromising positions on negotiations for a Palestinian state, dimming already slim hopes for the resumption of peace talks.

Reconciliation efforts

A report by Egypt’s state-run Middle East News Agency said the Rafah crossing is being opened to “end the status of the Palestinian division and achieve national reconciliation,” a reference to Palestinian factions in Gaza and the West Bank.

Ghazi Hamad, the deputy foreign minister of the Hamas government in Gaza, said in a telephone interview that Egypt linked opening the border to the recent reconciliation pact it brokered between Hamas and Fatah, the mainstream Palestinian faction that administers the West Bank.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby announced a day after the reconciliation deal was struck last month that his country would soon take steps to ease the blockade, describing the nation’s involvement in it as “shameful.” The formal announcement Wednesday set the timing and terms and made clear that the initiative has the backing of the military generals who are serving as the country’s interim rulers until elections later this year.

“This is a very positive step,” Hamad said, adding that it could herald “a new era” in the Gaza Strip.

Egyptians have long supported the idea of a Palestinian state, and many harbor animosity toward Israel, fueled by a succession of Arab-Israeli wars. As Egyptians have continued to take to the streets in recent weeks to call for an array of reforms, Palestinian flags have become increasingly visible in those gatherings.

Earlier this month, hundreds of demonstrators were wounded and dozens were detained after riot police used tear gas and bullets to disperse protesters outside the Israeli Embassy in Cairo who were marking the anniversary of the 1948 establishment of Israel.

“Egypt has been under significant domestic and regional pressure to open the crossing and change the policy on Gaza,” said Elijah Zarwan, a Cairo-based analyst with the International Crisis Group think tank. “I think there’s been a recognition for a while that the crisis in Gaza had been a ticking bomb on Egypt’s doorstep.”

Under and after Mubarak

Addressing a joint meeting of Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will not return to borders set in 1967. He also welcomes negotiations on “the status of settlements.”

In 1979, Egypt became the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel, and Mubarak maintained formal ties with Israel during his three decades of rule. That policy came with trade and security dividends, but it became an irritant in the Arab world.

Bowing to Israeli concerns, and hoping to limit interaction between Hamas and Islamists in Egypt who opposed his regime, Mubarak’s government restricted the flow of people and goods through the Rafah crossing for much of the past four years. Until last year, Egypt opened the crossing only for a few days at a time, every several weeks, for a limited number of people, mostly students and people seeking medical care.

After a deadly Israeli raid on a Turkish flotilla carrying humanitarian aid and construction materials to Gaza in May 2010, Mubarak opened the crossing on a daily basis but restricted passage. The flotilla incident drew renewed international attention to the closure of the Israeli and Egyptian borders with Gaza, compelling Israel to ease its blockade.

Since the Egyptian revolution that ousted Mubarak in February, no more than 300 Palestinians a day were allowed to cross into Egypt from Gaza. Now that limit will be lifted, officials said, and other restrictions will be eased. The border will reopen Saturday, when old rules allowing Palestinians with passports to cross into Egypt between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on business days will kick in again, the MENA report said.

The Obama administration played down the significance of the full reopening of the crossing.

“The United States supports efforts to meet the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people in Gaza,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. “Efforts should also ensure that the transfer of weapons or other materiel and financial support for terrorism is blocked.”

But Nabil Fahmy, a former Egyptian ambassador to the United States who is a dean at the American University in Cairo, said the shift is long overdue.

“The decision is a correction of an immoral and ineffective policy of the past,” he said late Wednesday. “It reflects a posture that Egypt will pursue policies in line with those of everyone else in the Middle East.”

Israel keeps its Gaza crossings mostly closed to Palestinian passage, except for a limited number of people with permits to cross for medical treatment at Israeli hospitals or for business purposes.

Despite Israeli and Egyptian efforts to prevent weapons smuggling, Hamas has used tunnels along the Egyptian border to get weapons into Gaza. Israel has warned that fully reopening the Rafah crossing could allow Hamas to build up its arsenal, and on Wednesday, an Israeli official urged Egypt to continue blocking arms shipments to Hamas.

“Israel has no problem with civilian goods getting into the Gaza Strip,” said the official, who would discuss Israel’s position only on the condition of anonymity. “Our focus is on preventing Hamas from building up its very deadly terrorist military machine.”

greenbergj@washpost.com

Greenberg reported from Jerusalem. Staff writer Joby Warrick in Washington contributed to this report.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/egypt-to-reopen-gaza-border-crossing-over-israeli-objections/2011/05/25/AG6f8MBH_story.html

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From Ron Paul On Obama’s Middle East Speech

Press Release Source: LIBERTY PAC On Thursday May 19, 2011, 9:13 pm EDT

LAKE JACKSON, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Ron Paul, a twelve-term U.S. congressman, member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and 2012 Republican Presidential Candidate, remarked on President Obama’s speech earlier today about the United States’ Middle East policy. Please see the statement below.

“The President gave a speech today about our foreign policy in the Middle East, and once again this administration has proven that it does not understand a proper foreign policy for America. When will our leaders finally do what’s right for America and rethink this irrational approach we’ve followed for far too long?

“Israel is our close friend. While President Obama’s demand that Israel make hard concessions in her border conflicts may very well be in her long-term interest, only Israel can make that determination on her own, without pressure from the United States or coercion by the United Nations.

“Unlike this President, I do not believe it is our place to dictate how Israel runs her affairs. There can only be peace in the region if those sides work out their differences among one another. We should respect Israel’s sovereignty and not try to dictate her policy from Washington.

“The President also defended his unconstitutional intervention in Libya, authorized not by the United States Congress but by the United Nations, and announced new plans to pressure Syria and force the leader of that country to step down.

“Our military is already dangerously extended, and this administration wants to expand our involvement. When will our bombing in Libya end? Is President Obama seriously considering military action against Syria? We are facing $2 trillion dollar deficits, and the American taxpayer cannot afford any of it.

“Our military’s purpose is to defend our country, not to police the Middle East.

“As the President prepares to send even more support to Egypt, we should be reminded that it was our foreign aid that helped Mubarak retain power to repress his people in the first place. Now we have to deal with the consequences of those decisions, yet we keep repeating the same mistakes.

“I am not the only one who can see the absurdities of our foreign policy. We give $3 billion to Israel and $12 billion to her enemies. Most Americans know that makes no sense.

“We need to come to our senses, trade with our friends in the Middle East (both Arab and Israeli).

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Ron-Paul-Responds-to-bw-823683328.html?x=0&.v=1

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Amazon, Algae, And Agriculture

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

This is what might be considered end of the world news for real, Amazonian forest depletion. But there is a debate about what level of development existed in the Amazon. It seems that there may have been native civilizations there for centuries before the Europeans came. It makes a difference in whether or not there should be agricultural development in the Amazon. If the current state of the indigenous Amazon reflects the decay of a once flourishing civilization then the question arises, what happened? Was it a result of an influx of western diseases such as smallpox causing a catastrophic loss of life and collapse of the agricultural system or was it a result of a Mayan or Easter Island like ecological disaster exacerbated by warfare? It seems the Brazilian government wants to allow agriculture to develop willy nilly. But does the science and archeological evidence support their decision or is the Amazon the delicate rain forest that cannot support much exploitation without turning into a desert?

Whatever the truth may be, we are discovering the carrying capacity of the planet quite rapidly as humans move into ever inhabitable corner of the earth. Perhaps the Amazon and the Congo among other areas are simply places that have lost population and are the devastated result of the influence of Europeans with their diseases and slavery based economic development. We know of the Kongo people, in the area now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Angola, with whom the Portuguese established relations in the 15th century, as equals, at that time. Or they could have been destroyed by the folly of native exploitation. Or they could simply be what they have always been, large areas of forested land that provide oxygen for the planet, along with the algae of the oceans.

===========================

From BBC

25 May 2011 Last updated at 05:50 ET

Brazil eases rules on conserving Amazon rainforest

forest law divides farmers

Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies has voted to ease restrictions on the amount of land farmers must preserve as forest.

The amended law also grants some amnesties for previous deforestation.

Supporters say Brazil needs land to boost agricultural production, while environmentalists say destruction of the Amazon rainforest will increase.

Wrangling over the final bill is likely, as Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff indicated she would veto any bill that contained an amnesty.

After months of at times acrimonious debate, the Chamber of Deputies voted to overhaul the Forest Code, as the legislation is known.

“People believe they can deforest illegally because sooner or later all will be forgiven”
Philip Fearnside

National Institute of Amazon Research

Under the current law, 80% of a farm in the Amazon must remain forested; in other areas, the requirement is lower, falling to 20%.

However, in practice, the legislation has not been widely enforced. It is estimated that 20% of the Amazon, the world’s biggest rainforest, has been cleared, mainly as a result of logging and farming.

Under the new bill, small-scale landowners, who make up the majority of Brazil’s farmers, will be exempt from having to replant deforested land.

Other changes include:

allowing the use of previously excluded areas such as hilltops and slopes for some kinds of cultivation
reducing the amount of land that must be left intact along the banks of rivers and streams from 30m (100ft) to 15m (50ft)
allowing farmers to count forest alongside rivers and lakes on their land as part of their conserved area, so reducing the total amount of land they need to protect or reforest
One of the most controversial elements grants farmers with land of up to 400 hectares (990 acres) an amnesty if they illegally cut down forest before July 2008.

The legislation must now go to the Senate and then to President Rousseff.

“We do not have to cut down one single tree. We can increase agricultural output in already deforested areas,”

Assuero Veronez

National Agricultural Confederation

Her spokesman said she would veto any legislation that included the amnesty.

The changes were proposed by Aldo Rebelo form Brazil’s Communist Party (PCdoB), who argued that the existing rules prevented small farmers from making best use of their land to lift themselves out of poverty.

Farmers’ groups backed the changes, saying Brazil, as one of the biggest exporters of soy, beef and sugar, needed to boost food production in times of high commodity prices.

“None of the world’s large farm producers that compete with Brazil - the United States, Europe, China, Argentina and Australia - obliges its producers to preserve any forest,” the National Agriculture Confederation (CNA) said.

Amazon dream

Philip Fearnside of the National Institute of Amazon Research said the amnesty would “legalise the illegal”.

“People believe they can deforest illegally because sooner or later all will be forgiven,” he told the Associated Press.

But CNA Vice President Assuero Veronez said the changes would not increase deforestation.

“We do not have to cut down one single tree. We can increase agricultural output in already deforested areas,” he told AP.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Brazil’s then military government encouraged people to settle in the Amazon as a way of boosting economic development.

Over the past decade, authorities stepped up monitoring and the enforcement of laws, leading to a significant drop in the rate of clearance.

However, last week satellite images showed that deforestation had increased nearly sixfold in March and April compared with the same period last year.

Much of the destruction has been in Mato Grosso state, the centre of soya farming in Brazil.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-13538578

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from SCIENCE

4 FEBRUARY 2000 VOL287:786-789

www.sciencemag.org

Are the mounds, causeways, and canals in Bolivia’s Beni region natural

formations or the result of 2000 years’ labor by lost societies?

Earthmovers of the Amazon

by Charles C. Mann

TRINIDAD, BOLIVIA—In some ways, William Denevan says today, he didn’t know what he was getting into when he decided to write his Ph.D. thesis about the Beni, a remote, nearly uninhabited, and almost roadless department in the Bolivian Amazon. Located between the Andes Mountains and the river Guaporé (a major Amazon tributary), the Beni spends half the year parched in near-desert conditions and the other half flooded by rain and snowmelt. But it wasn’t until he made his first research trip there, in 1961, that Denevan realized the area was filled with earthworks that oil company geologists—the only scientists in the are—believed to be ruins of an unknown civilization.

Convincing a bush pilot to give him a flying tour, Denevan examined the earthworks from above. Much of the Beni is covered by a savanna known as the Llanos de Mojos (the Mojos Plains). But, to his amazement, Denevan saw what seemed to be the remains of transportation canals, pyramid-like mounds, elevated causeways, raised agricultural fields, and clusters of odd, zigzagging ridges scattered through the savanna. “I’m looking out of one of these DC-3 windows, and I’m going berserk in this little airplane,” recalls Denevan, who is now a professor emeritus of geography at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “I knew these things were not natural. You just don’t have that kind of straight line in nature.”

Today, almost 4 decades later, a small but growing number of researchers believe that the Beni once housed what Clark L. Erickson of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, calls “some of the densest populations and the most elaborate cultures in the Amazon”—cultures fully as sophisticated as the better known, though radically different, cultures of the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayas. Although these still unnamed peoples abandoned their earthworks between 1400 and 1700 C.E., Erickson says, they permanently transformed regional ecosystems, creating “a richly patterned and humanized landscape” that is “one of the most remarkable human achievements on the continent.” To this day, according to William Balée, an anthropologist at Tulane University in New Orleans, the lush tropical forests interspersed with the savanna are in considerable measure anthropogenic, or created by human beings—a notion with dramatic implications for conservation.

These views have thrust the Beni into what Denevan calls “the Amazon archaeology wars.” For more than 30 years, archaeologists have clashed, sometimes in bitingly personal terms, over whether the vast river basin could provide the resources for indigenous cultures to grow beyond small, autonomous villages. Until relatively recently, the naysayers had the upper hand. In the last decade, though, several archaeologists, including Anna C. Roosevelt of Chicago’s Field Museum, have published evidence that such societies did exist throughout the várzea, as the Amazonian floodplain is known, and the bluffs above it (Science, 19 April 1996, pp. 346 and 373; 13 December 1996, p. 1821).

The dispute over the Beni is similar. Using environmental arguments, skeptics contend that the Beni earthworks must be either natural formations or the remains of a short-lived colony from a richer part of South America—the Andes, most likely. “I haven’t seen any basis for thinking there were large, permanent settlements there,” says archaeologist Betty J. Meggers of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. “But if they were there, where is the solid evidence?” In particular, critics like Meggers point out, there is no indication of hierarchical organization in the Beni. Without it, they say, the kind of sophisticated society envisioned by Denevan, Erickson, and Balée could not have existed.

Resolving the controversy may have important consequences for the region—and all of Amazonia. If the region is inherently too fragile to support intensive use, its most appropriate future may be as a biosphere reserve supervised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)—that is, as an almost uninhabited eco-park. But if human activity has played an essential role in the region’s ecological processes for millennia, as Balée argues, then careful human exploitation of the land—such as allowing indigenous people to till land in areas used by ancients—is not only acceptable but essential to preserving its character. “Without a doubt the Llanos de Mojos represents one of the most extraordinary prehistoric landscapes anywhere on the face of the planet,” says Robert Langstroth, a cultural geographer who did his 1996 PhD. dissertation at the University of Wisconsin under Denevan. “The question is, how much of it is archaeological, and how much did the archaeological parts affect the natural?”

This is an excerpt from a longer article

http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~cerickso/baures/Mann2.html

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From Ecology.com

The Most Important Organism?

By Dr. Jack Hall

On a recent fossil collecting trip a friend asked, “What do you think is the most important organism on the Earth?” She knew full well I would answer, “Humans!” since we are the masters of our domain and without rival in the animal world (are we good or what?).

She was a bit surprised, and gave me the “Are you nuts?” look, when, without hesitation, I answered, “No doubt about it… hands down the most important organism on this planet is marine algae.”

“Algae?!?,” she said.

Phytoplankton are tiny microscopic plants - algae - that form the base of the marine food chain. Phytoplankton is most abundant in colder waters where there is an abundance of nutrients.

“Yes, Algae,” I answered. “Do you want an explanation or are you going to take my word on this?” I asked.

“Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you on that one,” she said. As we continued our hunt for shark’s teeth, whale bones, and anything else we could find, she finally broke down. “I don’t get it. We can change the world in so many ways…..what has algae done?

“Very simple,” I said. “Algae allows us and almost every other organism you can think of, living or dead, to be here.”

Suddenly, she got that look. You know, the one you get when that light bulb in your head clicks on….bing, there it is! “Ah, oxygen, right?”

“Correctomundo!” was my very scientific reply.

Seaweed are not plants, but are algae. Not only does algae provide much of the Earth’s oxygen, they also are the base for almost all marine life. Green algae (pictured) gets its color from chlorophyll and exists on or near the surface where there is plenty of sunlight. Green algae is not as common in the ocean as brown and red seaweed. It is also more closely related to land plants than any other type of algae.

It is estimated that between 70% and 80% of the oxygen in the atmosphere is produced by marine plants . Nearly all marine plants are single celled, photosynthetic algae. Yup, that’s right, good ol’ scum on the pond…green gak…..slip slimein’ away. Even marine seaweed is many times colonial algae. They are a bunch of single cells trying to look like a big plant (see seaweed photo), but they are really individuals.

We need marine algae a whole lot more than they need us. Think about it….70% to 80% of all the oxygen we breathe comes from algae! Without them we would really be sucking wind, but not for long! At this point you may be saying, “Yo! What about the trees and other land plants?” Well, trees and other land plants are very important, no doubt about it. But for pure survival, we couldn’t make it without algae.

Why does so much of our oxygen come from algae? Well, first of all, remember that the oceans cover about 71% of this planet and land is only about 29%. If we assume that every square mile of the ocean produces as much oxygen as every square mile of land, then this makes sense. The oceans would produce about 71% and the land 29% of the oxygen we breathe. Looks like we are in the ballpark don’t you think?

Marine algae exists in different concentrations throughout the world’s oceans, depending on the amount of nutrients that are available. The colder the surface waters, the more these essential nutrients — like iron — can flourish and support phytoplankton , which are microscopic algae. The above image indicates relative concentrations of marine algae throughout the world’s oceans, with the highest concentrations in red and orange, and the smallest concentrations in dark blue and purple. (Image: NASA - SeaWiFS)

Now the question is, “Are the oceans, indeed, as productive as the land?” At first you might not think so, after all when you look at the land there are trees and bushes and grass and all kinds of plants growing. They must crank out oxygen to beat the band! They do, but also remember that there are many places on land that don’t have much in the way of plants. How about Antarctica or the Sahara Desert along with many others? These are pretty good sized chunks of real estate where plants are few and far between. How much oxygen is being pumped out in these areas?

I would venture to say there’s not enough to keep a pack of wild hamsters (ever seen wild hamsters?) going for very long. So, some areas on land have an abundance of plants and produce a large quantity of oxygen while others have very few plants and produce very little.

The same can be said for the oceans. There are some areas that have an abundance of algae living in the waters and other areas that don’t. In the ocean there are areas of upwelling where cold, nutrient rich bottom water moves toward the surface. These upwelling waters mix with the surface water and produce an area that is like liquid fertilizer for plants. They go ballistic and there are billions of the little critters in the water just pumping out oxygen left and right. Other areas of the oceans don’t have much in the way of nutrients in the water and they are like the deserts on land with very few plants.

Not All Are Green: Count Your Algae!

There are three types of algae: red, green and brown. Some algae in the ocean are very small and drift in the ocean water. Those algae are phytoplankton. The most abundant type of algae is brown algae, with over 5,000 species (not all are totally brown). Red algae has over 2,000 species, and lives where light is dim, in deeper waters, mostly in temperate and tropical waters. Green algae is more common on land and in fresh water systems, but is the least common in the ocean where about 800 are known to exist.

Overall, the production of oxygen in the oceans is at least equal to the production on land if not a bit more. Plants on land are easy to spot. Plants in the ocean are a bit more difficult to see since they are single cells floating in the water. Even though you may not see them, they are there. Remember, these little cells go down to over 300 feet below the surface so they have lots of room to spread out.

Rainforests are the oldest living ecosystems on the planet. They cover 2% of the Earth’s surface or 6% of land, and are an important source of oxygen. They also are home to many of the Earth’s plant and animal species, but they also play a vital role in sustaining life beyond their ecosystems as they help regulate global climate and water cycle.

Plants on land and in the ocean are extremely important to us and we wouldn’t be here without them. Land plants provide us (and other critters) with food, raw materials like wood, and fiber to make cloth and paper. They protect the land from erosion with their roots, provide beauty and shade on a hot day, and produce oxygen as an extra added bonus although we could probably survive with the oxygen.

Marine plants are also used as food, but we tend to forget about them because they are so small and difficult to see. But remember, the next time you wake up in the morning, stretch and open wide with that big morning yawn, that breath of fresh air you are getting is due for the most part to our friend, the algae. If we kill them by polluting the oceans, we are also killing our vital lifeline.

http://ecology.com/features/mostimportantorganism/

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Wikipedia article on the Kongo Kingdom link

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Kongo

Random Talk About School, Work, And Life After Work.

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

I am semi-detached from the working world, or at least I have been for about a year now. I started back in school last winter and am enjoying the chance to write extensively about subjects that generally interest me, as opposed to work where most of what is done, is boring, repetitive and/or morally ambiguous in the best of circumstances. That as they say, is why it is called work. School is not work for me. It is a pleasure, although most of my classmates, fresh from high school and not particularly aware of the tedium ahead of them in the working world, are themselves mostly unenthusiastic about their classes. Not in the rebellious sixties, we-want-the-world-and-we-want-it-now, sense, but in a more resigned, is-that-all-there-is, sense. There is a palpable fear element that I don’t remember from my college days in the seventies. We were not feeling any impending doom, at least not in the urgent, economic, get-a-degree-or-starve sense that modern kids seem to have. It is not verbalized so much as it is a presence, like a cloud hanging over school experience, making everything have a tinge of desperation about it. I find it to be particularly unpleasant. It makes colleagues seem more like competitors for limited resources. This is a paradigm that has been deliberately created by the powers that be, they have some social experiment in mind. If this is an attempt to make Americans more competitive, and more docile at the same time, well, it may produce good test takers, but as far as decent human beings goes, well it seems the education system is failing. But then perhaps I ask too much. After all what is wrong with preparing people for the serious business of work. As if most workplaces demanded much more than ten percent of an intelligent person’s brain. Most jobs require that you show up, on time more or less, be able to follow simple instructions, be polite to the customers and your superiors, and perform certain repetitive tasks at the proper interval. That is about it. Sometimes there is a little stress and you have to perform at a rate that is uncomfortable, and there are long periods when looking busy is about all there is to do. But I speak of office work. It has been a long time since I performed tasks of manual dexterity, beyond being able to operate a keyboard and pick up a telephone. I can’t imagine working on an assembly line, or performing tasks that took real physical skill, although I am pretty handy with a mop.
Sales is the type of job where you don’t do anything at all, but you are constantly on edge, trying to please people. Because you’re entire purpose revolves around enticing somebody to buy from you and not the guy down the street. It is thoroughly degrading work. There are people who enjoy it. They see seduction as a game that brings financial reward. For me it always brought rejection, I was always a terrible salesman.
But now I am in a position where I may have to go back to work, at least part time. I am not sure what I will do. Probably some flunkey job, but I will wait until the wolf is at the door and there is some pressure to do or die. With a social security check every month the pressure is not so great. But Social Security is not much money, it is a survival wage, like unemployment. Ultimately not satisfying; there will be some pressure to find gainful employment which for the most part means, meaningless activity that produces a profit for somebody else. I basically had a bad attitude about work. I always saw it as a form of exploitation. I desired a world of communistic sharing of tasks. It may not have been as efficient, but it would have been fairer. But I was raised in a capitalistic country and now in a capitalist world. I am glad I am more or less off that wagon. I just hope I can figure out how to live on what I get from the government, the result of thirty odd years of labor, for the foreseeable future.
Projects on the other hand, are great. I always have lots of those. Right now I have to clean my place, get some blood work at the hospital, finish this blog, go to the university library and get a book on Chiang in the 9th century, work on my novels, and well, you know, there is always more to do than time to do it. In a couple of weeks I am back in school for the summer session. Life is reasonably good, even with kidney failure.

Llama Shit, Lars von Trier And We Are Still Here

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

World is still here. I don’t know anyone who raptured out. Maybe it’s the company I keep. My girlfriend last night said heaven looked like Thor’s home world, Asgard. That the Christian heaven is a pagan paradise, Valhalla, is, well, odd, but then why shouldn’t it be, Christianity has appropriated more things from paganism than that. Besides if you see the universe as a giant tree, Yggdrasil, it all begins to fall into place.

I have picked my favorite news item, about llama dung as being the best of the day. I also have selected an interview with Lars von Trier, a director that I admire, but I wondered why he made those stupid Nazi comments. Here is his explanation.

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From Guardian.co.uk

Dung loaming: how llamas aided the Inca empire

Inca culture spread from Andes after manure from llama herds provided fertiliser for corn crops at high altitude

Rory Carroll, Latin America correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 22 May 2011 15.10 BST
Article history

Research shows that Incas built citadels such as Machu Picchu after the earlier achievement of agriculture at high altitudes through the use of llama dung. Photograph: Pilar Olivares/Reuters

The Incas may have created the biggest empire in the Americas and built Machu Picchu, among other wonders, thanks to a previously overlooked ingredient: llama dung.

Manure from llama herds provided fertiliser which enabled corn to be cultivated at very high altitudes, allowing the Inca civilisation to flourish in the Andes and conquer much of South America, according to research.

The “extraordinary plant-breeding event” about 2,700 years ago transformed the region’s political economy and enabled the Incas to emerge centuries later, said Alex Chepstow-Lusty, of the French Institute of Andean Studies in Lima.

“This widespread shift to agriculture and societal development was only possible with an extra ingredient – organic fertilisers on a vast scale.” The study, published in the latest edition of the journal Antiquity, found corn pollen in the mud of Marcacocha lake, near Ollantayambo, showing the cereal could be grown at least 3,350m above sea level.

“From 2,700 years ago, we can see the beginnings of agriculture in the first appearance of formal field systems, the introduction of maize [corn], and weeding as common practice,” said Chepstow-Lusty, a British palaeo-ecologist.

The breakthrough reduced dependence on quinoa, a grain-like plant similar to spinach, and boosted calorie intake, leading to a decline in the growth and consumption of wild quinoa “and the origins of the Inca empire”.

Corn was introduced to South America from Mexico about 5,000 years ago but did not scale the Andes until humans enriched the soil with help from llama herds.

“They defecate communally so it is easily gathered,” said Chepstow-Lusty.

He made the discovery by studying the lake mud’s abundant mites, which eat animal dung.

Climate change, in the form of warmer temperatures, also helped Inca society to evolve by making it easier to cultivate corn at high altitudes.

The Incas also used llama manure as fuel to cook and make ceramics. Garcilaso de la Vega, an early Spanish chronicler, noted that farmers in the Cuzco valley also used human manure to fertilise crops.

In the 12th century, the Incas were just one of several tribes in what is today Peru; by the 15th century, they boasted an empire encompassing parts of modern-day Argentina, Boliva, Chile and Ecuador. The glory ended when Spanish conquistadores defeated the Incas and killed the emperor, Atahualpa, in 1533.

The citadel of Machu Picchu was abandoned and largely unknown to the outside world until an American explorer, Hiram Bingham, “rediscovered” it in July 1911. The anniversary is expected to boost the already large numbers of tourists who visit the site.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/22/incas-llama-manure-crops

=====================

From Der Spiegel

Interview with Lars von Trier

‘If Anyone Would Like To Hit Me, They Are Welcome’

Danish director Lars von Trier was kicked out of the Cannes Film Festival this week for his controversial statements about Adolf Hitler and his comment “okay, I am a Nazi.” He spoke with SPIEGEL ONLINE about the scandal — and did his best to clear everything up.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You have been declared persona non grata at the Cannes Film Festival after you made controversial comments about Adolf Hitler and joked that you were a Nazi. What is your reaction?

Von Trier: I am very proud of being persona non grata. I have never been one before in my life. And it suits me extremely well.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How so?

Von Trier: I feel so claustrophobic in the festival palais that I will be very happy not to go there. I now have an excuse for not going to Cannes… That’s maybe the good part. I would love to go home, but I think I should promote my film “Melancholia” as much as I can. My thing was — if it will help you, throw the film out. Please throw the film out. It’s fine with me.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: It sounds like the festival at which you have celebrated your greatest successes doesn’t matter to you at all.

Von Trier: It’s kind of shocking to me, these things. I respect the Cannes film festival very much. They have helped me a lot. I am a very good friend of Gilles Jacob, and he was very angry at me.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Can you explain from your point of view how your confusing statements at the press conference came about?

Von Trier: I made a connection from German romanticism to the values that were taken over by the Third Reich. People wanted me to say that Albert Speer was not a great artist. And that I cannot say, because I feel he was a great artist. He was an asshole and killed people. But for the truth we have to draw a line, as between sports and politics. He has been a fantastic influence on the afterworld.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The critique this week has primarily been focused on your comments such as “okay, I am a Nazi.”

Von Trier: First of all, I have a very famous Danish Jewish name. All my children have Jewish names. I have spent half of my life investigating my Jewish past, which turned out not to be my past because my father was not my father. I found out that I was not Jewish but a German. In the slang we use in Denmark — which is not funny, but stupid — a German is called a Nazi. So I was not a Jew but a Nazi, not meaning I was a Nazi, but meaning I was a German.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So the accusations that you are anti-Semitic are inaccurate?

Von Trier: I don’t like Israel’s Palestinian policies. But I am not Mel Gibson. I am definitely not Mel Gibson. I am the opposite. I have been to all these concentration camps and I think that the Holocaust is the worst crime in humanity. And I was naïve. Coming from Denmark, I thought this was some time ago and we should open up a little. This was wrong. It was stupid of me and I apologize for the pain I have inflicted on some people. If anyone would like to hit me, they are perfectly welcome. I must warn you, though, that I might enjoy it. So maybe it’s not the right kind of punishment.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The leadership of the Cannes festival would seem to agree. How can you explain the intensity of the reaction?

Von Trier: I believe it’s an especially delicate subject down here because the French have a history of being especially cruel to the Jews.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Sorry, but such statements don’t exactly seem calibrated to help you return to the festival’s good graces.

Von Trier: I am just so tired. Maybe I am too stupid and I should be carried around in a little cage with something in front of my mouth. But on the other hand, I do have some political issues I would like to raise. I think it’s completely stupid to bomb Tripoli. That is beyond what the United Nations should ever do. And that’s not because I think Moammar Gadhafi is a good guy. The UN was established to have different countries get together so they didn’t get involved a war. And now they are trying to spread American liberalism all over the world, which is not good. But nobody has talked about the film.

Interview conducted by Rüdiger Sturm

http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,763955,00.html

Today The End Of The World, For Real This Time.

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Today is the end of the world as we know it. Well every day is the end and the beginning, alpha and omega. We are living in the age when Martin-Luther-Jesus-Gandhi is up against the forces of evil, the Roman urge, as anyone who is a fan of professional wrestling will attest, it is not to far removed from the urge to kill, vicariously, in the great tradition of the gladiator games. Where does this urge come from, this evil propensity to maim and destroy? Is it nature or nurture? That is an old debate. But as a good Catholic boy, raised going to catechism class, I won’t be happy until you nail me up to a cross somewhere. Maybe, I spent my teenage years living with a bunch of crazy protestants trying to storm the gates of heaven with their own version of mix and match spiritual techniques, mostly involving long hours of manual labor working on their chapels and farms and such. They were preparing for the end of the world too, only they had a sophisticated science fiction scenario with civilization collapsing and their rural farms being some kind of monastic retreat where civilization would be passed on to the future generations. It was pretty cool feeling like you, me, personally held to keys to future generations being able to read Finnegans Wake and War and Peace.

I belong to a bunch of yahoo groups where people post a lot about the end of the world. Things such as planets colliding with the Earth, aliens taking over the government, even better, aliens taking over our brains in constant retreading of the old invasion of the body snatchers sci-fi theme, like some long forgotten memory trying to resurrect itself out of the old subconscious. I like the Hindu versions with whole worlds being swallowed up by the breath of a ginormous god being, Brahma. My dad used to ride Brahma bulls in the rodeo when he was young and I rode Brahma the god. But now in my middling ages, with a body collapsing like a death star into some super nova of cosmic light, heh, heh, well something like that, and it all seems to be rather, contrived, like the story I read this morning about some woman who murdered her mates and read classic literature to keep her mind occupied with a narrative between murders. She thought life was a contrivance, her Doctor thought he could contrive a new person out of the shell of her physical self, and like Frankenstein in reverse he created a human out of a monster, more or less by cutting her personality down to the biological essence of Stepford Wife perfection. The story was “The Darling” by Scott Bradfield.

End of the world today. Any last words from humanity? I prefer to assume it will go on, but damn, wouldn’t it be hot if we were all taken for a ride like the best Six Flags roller coaster and given all kinds of chills and imagined spills and came out at the end with a nice adrenaline rush? Sure it would. We all have a little Roman in us, but do we have some Martin-Luther-Jesus-Gandhi in there to balance it out? A little Taoist balancing act to keep the roller coaster from going off the tracks into some nightmare of Armageddon, wouldn’t that be nice. Gee, isn’t that what this is all about? These are scary stories to entertain and enlighten so we don’t go off and blow our brains out one sad and lonely night. Better yet, we cloak our brains in godliness on our preferred church days and imagine our way out of our dilemma. Good thinking, end the world. That ought to bring ‘em in, bread and circuses and a little blood on the floor. Then bring in Martin-Luther-Jesus-Gandhi to clean up the mess.

========================================

From Prophecy News Watch

Camping’s May 21 Rapture Followers Begin Depleting Life Savings

http://www.christianpost.com/

If you happened to learn about Harold Camping’s May 21 rapture prediction from a placard on a subway car or bus shelter in New York City, the ad was probably funded by Robert Fitzpatrick – a 60-year-old, retired transit worker from Staten Island who invested his entire life savings of $140,000 into the campaign.

“I’m trying to warn people about what’s coming,” Fitzpatrick told the New York Daily News. “People who have an understanding of end times have an obligation to warn everyone.”

Fitzpatrick isn’t the only person to empty his bank account to warn others based on Camping’s prediction.

NPR recently reported on another one of Camping’s followers, 27-year-old Adrienne Martinez, as saying, “Knowing the date of the end of the world changes all your future plans.”

So, instead of going to medical school like she planned, she gave up that idea. She and her husband, Joel, quit their jobs and moved from New York City to Orlando, where they rented a home and are currently passing out tracts. Joel says they are spending the last of their savings because they don’t see a need for one more dollar.

“You know, you think about retirement and stuff like that,” he said. “What’s the point of having some money just sitting there?”

“We budgeted everything so that, on May 21, we won’t have anything left,” Adrienne added.

As sincere as Camping’s followers are when it comes to warning the world about the rapture, and ultimately Judgment Day, several Christian leaders are issuing a different sort of warning.

“The Christian church has seen this kind of false teaching before,” said Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on his blog. “William Miller and his Adventist followers (known, surely enough, as Millerites) believed that Christ would return on March 21, 1844. In the 1970s, popular Christian preachers and writers predicted that Christ would return on various dates now long in the past. All this is embarrassing enough, but now we have the teachings of Harold Camping to deal with. Given the public controversy, many people are wondering how Christians should think about his claims.”

Mohler went on to say Christ specifically admonished his disciples not to claim such knowledge. And, he said, the Bible does not contain hidden codes that we are to find and decipher. Instead, he said, while Christians are indeed to be looking for Christ to return and seeking to be found faithful when Christ comes, we are not to draw a line in history and set a date.

“We are not to sit on rooftops like the Millerites,” Mohler said, “waiting for Christ’s return. We are to be busy doing what Christ has commanded us to do.”

W. Robert Godfrey, president and professor of church history at Westminster Seminary California, pointed out on the seminary’s blog, Valiant for Truth, a glaring omission from Camping’s prediction.

“Camping’s teaching reaches the status of heresy in his recent appeal to the world, ‘Judgment Day,’ an eight page statement online,” Godfrey said. “The saddest and most distressing element of Camping’s latest theological statement is that it is Christless. He does not write about Christ’s return, but about judgment day. In his eight pages of warning and call for repentance he writes only this of Christ: ‘Because God is so great and glorious He calls Himself by many different names. Each name tells us something about the glorious character and nature of God. Thus in the Bible we find such names as God, Jehovah, Christ, Jesus, Lord, Allah, Holy Spirit, Savior, etc. Names such as Jehovah, Jesus, Savior, and Christ particularly point to God as the only means by which forgiveness from all of our sins and eternal life can be obtained by God’s merciful and glorious actions.’”

Slightly differing versions of the document can now be found on the Family Radio website. One includes the quoted material mentioned by Godfrey. Another, the .pdf version, includes another paragraph directly below the one above, about the forgiveness of Christ.

Also joining the debate, Cal Thomas took on Camping in his recent column, saying the prophesized events of Matthew 24 haven’t been completely fulfilled yet. He concluded by saying, “I’m not expecting the end on May 21. That’s because of something else Jesus said. He said he would return when people “least expect it” (Luke 12:40). By that standard, Mr. Camping is wrong because he expects the end to come this Saturday. And so it won’t.”

Camping was recently interviewed by New York Magazine which pointed out that he was wrong about his first end of the world prediction in 1994, and wondered if he had any reservations about his ability to predict such things.

“In 1992, two years earlier than that, I had already begun to see that there was a good likelihood that 2011 would be the end,” Camping said, “but at that time when my research in the Bible was not nearly complete – there were whole books of the Bible that I had not gone through yet very carefully – I thought that at that time that there was a possibility it might be 1994, and so I wrote a book, ‘1994?’ but I put a big question mark after it, and in the book it also indicated that 2011 was also a good possibility. And so it was just a preliminary study that I’ve been able to complete during the last fifteen years.”

Camping believes the rapture will occur May 21 and that God will destroy the earth on October 21.


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