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The Cost of Midwest Flooding Rises

Posted by terres on July 2, 2008

Midwest Floodwaters Falling, Costs Rising

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Levees on the cresting Mississippi River held Sunday as the worst US Midwest flooding in 15 years began to ebb, but multibillion-dollar crop losses may boost world food prices for years.


Grain from a silo floats in floodwaters after the Meyer levee broke near Canton, Missouri, June 19, 2008. REUTERS/Frank Polich. Image may be subject to copyright. See RTSF Fair Use Notice!

Water levels on the river receded for the second straight day as mostly clear weather gave saturated areas a chance to start draining. Forecasts for similar dry weather in coming days gave further encouragement.

The swollen river was expected to crest Monday in St. Louis at 38.9 feet, 11 feet below the record set in 1993 and a level considered “manageable,” said US Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District spokesman Alan Dooley.

“The crest in the areas up the Mississippi River in the district has passed,” Dooley said. “The water is still up very high and it is up against levees.”

There were no fresh levee breaks reported Sunday. At least three dozen levees, berms and other flood barriers have been overtopped along the Mississippi in the last two weeks as the runoff from torrential rains this month pushed south along the main US inland waterway.

Several flood warnings remained in effect for communities in Missouri and Illinois, but officials said they expected the worst was over, with the focus now shifting to clean-up.

“We’re just mentally and physically exhausted,” said Winfield, Missouri, resident Carol Broseman, who fled her home for a shelter Saturday after flood waters engulfed her neighborhood. “I’ve cried all I can cry.”

The National Weather Service on Sunday forecast windy but mostly dry weather in the western and central Midwest states for the next several days, which will help waters recede further. Many Iowa rivers, which saw record flooding two weeks ago, were back near or below flood stage Sunday.

The Corps of Engineers at Rock Island, Illinois, reopened two locks on the Mississippi River but said four in the district remained closed with water still 3-5 feet above lock walls.

At one point 388 miles of the Mississippi River were closed to commercial traffic, from Clinton, Iowa, to the Jefferson Barracks Bridge, just south of St. Louis. The blockages have cost barge companies and other shippers millions of dollars.

COSTS, RELIEF REQUESTS RISING

The Midwest storms and torrential rains have killed at least 24 people since late May. More than 38,000 people have been driven from their homes, mostly in Iowa where 83 of 99 counties have been declared disaster areas.

Fears that as many as 5 million acres of corn and soybeans have been lost to flooding in the world’s largest grain and food exporter pushed corn and livestock prices to record highs in the last week.

The ripple inflation effect on global food prices as US prices soar has alarmed everyone from central bankers to food aid groups. Fears that livestock herds will be culled because of soaring corn feed prices may push meat prices up for years.

Flood aid and relief issues also poured into the political arena.

Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama said Saturday that Midwest levee breaks and flood damage were reasons to back his US$60 billion spending proposal to modernize US roads, bridges and waterways. Much of that would be financed by downsizing US commitments in Iraq, he said.

Iowa Gov. Chet Culver has estimated 45,000 square miles of his state had been hit by tornadoes or flooding, including 340 towns, with extensive damage to road and rail lines at a cost of “tens of billions of dollars.”

Chemicals from farm fields and other toxic substances left behind as waters recede have created a potential health threat. Damaged municipal sewage systems in places like Cedar Rapids, Iowa, were releasing raw sewage into rivers. But drinking water supplies remain unpolluted in most areas, officials said.

In Cedar Rapids, where officials have said 4,000 homes were damaged by this month’s flooding, government buyout plans estimated at US$80 million or more were under discussion.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has 43 disaster recovery centers open across the flooded areas of Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

In Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin, 56,096 registrations for assistance have been received from disaster victims and more than US$115 million approved for housing assistance and other disaster-related needs. More than 5,600 households have filed flood insurance claims. (Writing by Peter Bohan; editing by Vicki Allen)

Story by Carey Gillam – REUTERS NEWS SERVICE

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Posted in bush, climate change, Corporatocracy, corruption, ecosystems, environment, farmers, food, food prices, food riots, GHG Pollution, Global Warming, health, human rights, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

CEOs From Hell!

Posted by terres on July 2, 2008

Overpaying CEOs
by Ralph Nader
July 1, 2008

The worst top management of giant corporations in American history is also by far the most hugely paid. That contradiction applies as well to the Boards of Directors of these global companies.

Consider these illustrations:

The bosses of General Motors (GM) have presided over the worst decline of GM shares in the last fifty years, the lowering of GM bonds to junk status, the largest money losses and layoffs of tens of thousands of workers. Yet these top executives are still in place and still receiving much more pay than their successful counterparts at Toyota.

GM’s stock valuation is under $7 billion dollars, while Toyota is valued at over $160 billion. Toyota, having passed GM in worldwide sales, is about to catch up with and pass GM in sales inside the United States itself!

GM’s executives stayed with their gas guzzling SUVs way beyond the warning signs. Their vehicles were uninspiring and technologically stagnant in various ways. They were completely unprepared for Toyota’s hybrid cars and for the upward spiral in gasoline prices. They’re cashing their lucrative monthly checks with the regular votes of confidence by their hand-picked Board of Directors.


Chevrolet pickup trucks and SUVs are seen at a dealership in Silver Spring, Maryland, July 1, 2008. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas. Image may be subject to copyright. See RTSF Fair Use Notice!

About the same appraisal can be made of Ford Motor Co., which at least brought in new management to try to do something about that once famous company’s sinking status.

Then there are the financial companies. Top management on Wall Street has been beyond incompetent. Wild risk taking camouflaged for years by multi-tiered, complex, abstract financial instruments (generally called collateralized debt obligations) kept the joy ride going and going until the massive financial hot air balloon started plummeting. Finally told to leave their high posts, the CEOs of Merrill-Lynch and Citigroup took away tens of millions of severance pay while Wall Street turned into Layoff Street.

The banks, investment banks and brokerage firms have tanked to levels not seen since the 1929-30 collapse of the stock market. Citigroup, once valued at over $50 per share is now under $17 a share.

Washington Mutual – the nation’s largest savings bank chain was over $40 a share in 2007. Its reckless speculative binge has driven it down under $5 a share. Yet its CEO Kerry Killinger remains in charge, with the continuing support of his rubberstamp Board of Directors. A recent $8 billion infusion of private capital gave a sweetheart deal to these new investors at the excessive expense of the shareholders.

Countrywide, the infamous giant mortgage lender (subprime mortgages) is about to be taken over by Bank of America. Its CEO is taking away a reduced but still very generous compensation deal.

Meanwhile, all these banks and brokerage houses’ investment analysts are busy downgrading each others’ stock prospects.

Over at the multi-trillion dollar companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the shareholders have lost about 75 percent of their stock value in one year. Farcically regulated by the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs, Fannie and Freddie were run into the ground by taking on very shaky mortgages under the command of CEOs and their top executives who paid themselves enormous sums.

These two institutions were set up many years ago to provide liquidity in the housing and loan markets and thereby expand home ownership especially among lower income families. Instead, they turned themselves into casinos, taking advantage of an implied U.S. government guarantee.

The Fannie and Freddie bosses created another guarantee. They hired top appointees from both Republican and Democratic Administrations (such as Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick) and lathered them with tens of millions of dollars in executive compensation. In this way, they kept federal supervision at a minimum and held off efforts in Congress to toughen regulation. These executives are all gone now, enjoying their maharajan riches with impunity while pensions and mutual funds lose and lose and lose with no end in sight, short of a government-taxpayer bailout.

Over a year ago, leading financial analyst Henry Kaufman and very few others warned about “undisciplined” (read unregulated) and “mis-pricing” of lower quality assets. Mr. Kaufman wrote in the Wall Street Journal of August 15, 2007 that “If some institutions are really ‘too big to fail,’ then other means of discipline will have to be found.”

There are ways to prevent such crashes. In the nineteen thirties, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt chose stronger regulation, creating the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and several bank regulatory agencies. He saved the badly listing capitalist ship.

Today, there is no real momentum in a frozen Washington, D.C. to bring regulation up to date. To the contrary, in 1999, Congress led by Senator McCain’s Advisor, former Senator Phil Gramm and the Clinton Administration led by Robert Rubin, Secretary of the Treasury, and soon to join Citibank, de-regulated and ended the wall between investment banks and commercial banking known as the Glass-Steagall Act.

Clinton and Congress opened the floodgates to rampant speculation without even requiring necessary and timely disclosures for the benefit of institutional and individual investors.

Now the entire U.S. economy is at risk. The domino theory is getting less theoretical daily. Without investors obtaining more legal authority as owners over their out of control company officers and Boards of Directors, and without strong regulation, corporate capitalism cannot be saved from its toxic combination of endless greed and maximum power—without responsibility.

Uncle Sam, the deeply deficit ridden bailout man, may have another taxpayers-to-the-rescue operation for Wall Street. But don’t count on stretching the American dollar much more without devastating consequences to and from global financial markets in full panic.

Consider the U.S. dollar like an elastic band. You can keep stretching this rubber band but suddenly it BREAKS. Our country needs action NOW from Washington, D.C.

END

Posted in bankruptcy, banks, bush, cabal, china, economy, ecosystems, environment, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

China Dead and Missing Nos Climb, Again!

Posted by terres on May 22, 2008

80,000 people are dead or missing in China’s earthquake, 300,000 injured

The government’s figure for the dead is 51,000 with 29,000 missing. It’s not known how many survivors were rescued from the rubble. In Beichuan county, about two-thirds of the population were killed.


[You Killed My Baby!] “A mother gestures as she confronts Zhu Qi (R), education dean of Mianyang city, while she and more than 100 parents attend a memorial service for their dead children at the destroyed Fuxing Primary School in the earthquake-hit Wufu town of Mianzhu county, Sichuan province May 21, 2008.” REUTERS/Jason Lee. (Image may be subject to copyright. See RTSF Fair Use Notice!)


A mother holding a portrait of her dead son confronts Zhu Qi (L), education dean of Mianyang city, as she and more than 100 parents attend a memorial service at the destroyed Fuxing Primary School in the earthquake-hit Wufu town of Mianzhu county, Sichuan province May 21, 2008. Parents said their children died unnecessarily because of the bad quality of the school’s classrooms. REUTERS/Jason Lee (CHINA). (Image may be subject to copyright. See RTSF Fair Use Notice!)

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Posted in asia, bribes, china, ecosystems, environment, GENOCIDE, government, human rights, money, politics, racism, sleaze, Yajia, Yaqi | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Fueling Food Shortages

Posted by terres on April 27, 2008

Fueling Food Shortages
By Ralph Nader

Where is Harry Chapin when you need him? The popular folk singer (Cat’s in the Cradle), who lost his life in an auto crash 27 years ago, was an indefatigable force of nature against hunger—in this country and around the world.

To hear Harry speak out against the scourge of hunger in a world of plenty was to hear informed passion that was relentless whether on Capitol Hill, at poverty conferences or at his concerts.

Now the specter of world hunger is looming, with sharply rising basic food prices and unnecessary food shortages sparking food riots in places like Haiti and Egypt. Officials with the U.N.’s World Food Program (WFP) are alarmed. The WFP has put out an emergency appeal for more funds, saying another 100 million humans have been thrown into the desperate hunger pits.

Harry would have been all over the politicians in Congress and the White House who, with their bellies full, could not muster the empathy to do something.

Directly under Bush and the Congress is the authority to reduce the biggest single factor boosting food prices—reversing the tax-subsidized policy of growing ever more corn to turn into fuel at the expense of huge acreages that used to produce wheat, soy, rice and other edibles.

Corn ethanol is a multifaceted monstrosity—radiating damage in all directions of the compass. Reducing acreage for edible crops has sparked a surge in the price of bread and other foodstuffs. Congress and Bush continue to mandate larger amounts of subsidized corn ethanol.

Republican Representative Robert W. Goodlatte says: “The mandate basically says [corn] ethanol comes ahead of food on your table, comes ahead of feed for livestock, comes ahead of grains available for export.”

Corn growing farmers are happy with a bushel coming in at $5 to $6—a record.

A subsidy-laden, once-every-five-years farm bill is winding its way through Congress. The bill keeps the “good-to-fuel” mandates that are expanding corn acreage and contributing to a rise of global food prices.

Of course, more meat diets in China, futures market speculation, higher prices for oil and some bad weather and poor food reserve planning have also contributed to shortages and higher prices.

But subsidized corn ethanol gets the first prize for policy madness. It not only damages the environment, soaks up the water from mid-west aquifers, scuttles set asides for soil conservation, but its net energy equation qualifies for collective insanity on Capitol Hill. To produce a gallon of ethanol from corn requires almost as much energy (mostly coal burning) as it produces.

Designed to alleviate oil imports, hold down gasoline prices and diminish greenhouse gases, corn ethanol has flopped on all three scores.

Princeton scholar Lester Brown, an early sounder of the alarm of global food shortages and higher prices, writes in Science Magazine “that the net impact of the food-to-fuel push will be an increase in global carbon emissions—and thus a catalyst for climate change.”

Can Congress change course and drop its farm subsidy of corn ethanol this year? Observers say, despite the growing calamities and the real risk of severe malnutrition, even starvation in Africa, Congress will do nothing.

Farm subsidies, once installed, are carved in stone—unless there is enough outcry from food consumers, taxpayers and environmentalists. They are paying from the pocketbook, from their taxes and health. That should be enough motivation, unless they need to see the distended stomachs of African and Asian children on the forthcoming television news.

Unless we wake up, we will continue to be a country stuck in traffic—in more ways than one.

Don’t rely on the election year political debates to pay attention to destructive corn ethanol programs. For years I have been speaking out against this boondoggle, while championing the small farmer in America, but no one in positions of Congressional leadership has been listening.

They must be waiting for the situation to get worse before they absorb a fraction of Harry Chapin’s empathy and care.

END.
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Posted in America, ecosystems, environment, ethanol, food riots, human rights, hunger, poor, UN, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Cosmic Scale Evil: Money Fetishism and the Looming Omnicide

Posted by terres on September 22, 2007

The following is posted at the Peoples Voice
http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org/cgi-bin/blogs/voices.php/2007/08/08/p18766
http://tinyurl.com/289955

Liz
~~~~~~

Cosmic Scale Evil: Money Fetishism and the Looming Omnicide

Only after the last tree has been cut down
Only after the last river has been poisoned
Only after the last fish has been caught
Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.
~ Cree prophecy

Two frequently asked questions I receive regularly are, first, whether humanoids are an intelligent species; second, are they good or evil?

If, having evolved for 1.5 million years, a species is unable planning to survive another 20 years, I normally retort, and the actual chances of their survival in large numbers is about as big as a fat zero even in 10 years, would you consider that species intelligent or stupid? Humanoids depend on planet Earth and its life support systems to survive, yet they have wreaked destruction on the planet driving her ecosystems to the verge of imminent collapse. Would you say they are good or evil?

The activities of humanoids, especially the elite, are not consistent with the way of life!

What is Evil? Most everyone used to have a mind image or an emotional intelligence of what evil was, or represented. They readily identified evil with the wrongs of the world. Today, however, most definitions create confusion portraying evil as what is ‘anti-norm.’ The ‘new’ definitions, which are concocted from the ever-shifting narratives created by the Hollywood clique and their slick counterparts in the media, have permeated the public psyche with ease. Truth, goodness and other basic decencies of civilization play no part in those definitions. Never before in the history of civilization has sight overcome right to such outrageous extents.

Not surprisingly, the new definitions utterly fail to depict evil. If anything, they serve to pervert the meaning, while giving rise to fallacies of ad hominem, name-calling and demonizing of the subject. When George W. Bush was busy planning the genocide of Iraqis (George W. Bush and Tony Blair together with their puppeteers, cohorts and mercenaries have murdered about 1million Iraqis since March 2003 in their war of aggression), he called Iraq, among other states, an ‘axis of evil.’

Traditionally, within the monotheistic religions, evil represented what was ‘wicked,’ ‘malevolent,’ ‘sinful,’ ‘iniquitous,’ ‘immoral,’ or simply ‘against God,’ something to avoid, especially for fear of divine consequences.

Theologians’ paradoxical definitions, however, gave rise to the ‘problem of evil,’ the dilemma of reconciling the existence of evil (and suffering) alongside an omnibenevolent (the state of being perfectly good), omnipotent, and omniscient God. The futile attempts by the theodecians (philosophers) to solve this dilemma through self–negating theodicies resulted in lowering the threshold of common values of morality.

Most readers have come a long way from viewing the “almighty” as an angry Herculean male figure with a bloodstained sword in one hand, ready to slay and smite more sinners, while clutching to lightening and fire with the other hand poised to strike down or rain brimstone on the unbelievers who might escape the first pass.

‘Lord finally had it with Sodom, not to mention Gomorrah,’ goes the legend. So why has he spared the White House, not to mention 10 Downing Street? Why no pillars of salt stand staring at the onlookers outside the Capitol Hill or the Houses of Parliament? Surely, it cannot be for lacking evil.

Evil is as evil does,’ utters the modern ‘sage.’ But, he stops short of proclaiming what exactly evil is or his doings are. Is it a person, gene, meme, ideology, creed, philosophy? Is evil a he, she, group, race? Why do evil? How do evildoers keep score? When does evil occur? What is worst evil? What is cosmic scale evil?

Cosmic scale evil is the killing of everything, omnicide, the wholesale obliteration of all living beings on our planet, through systematic destruction of Earth’s ecosystems.

It has taken an incredible 4.5 billion years for our precious planet to evolve from a fiery ball to become the exclusive oasis of life, the solitary habitat for the living species in an otherwise cold, dark, inhospitable segment of the observable universe. Yet, in an infinitesimal fraction of that time the money fetishism of a cabal of moneychangers, who have corrupted all social, political and cultural systems manipulating the masses through deception and coercion, has sown the seeds of our destruction driving a living planet to certain ecological death.

The Babylonian cabal’s web of intrigue has perverted all spiritual and political ideologies as well as social and cultural institutions that might pose the slightest threat to their agenda, while establishing fake organizations [they are designed as management tools to control the masses and insure against unforeseen circumstances] and self-serving systems of economy and politics that have promoted and protected their nefarious plot to control the world, albeit an ultimately lifeless world.

They created a myth with a carefully calculated narrative that promoted their plot as ‘compassionate,’ ‘free world,’ ‘democratic,’ among an array of weasel words, while circumventing social conscience and exerting their control in the name of human community, but at the expense of destroying life on Earth. They created a veil of repression which obfuscated benevolent, sustainable economic and social models that would benefit humanity at no cost to the environment. They drove the world at full throttle toward omnicide.

As a result, 15 out of 24 ecosystems that are vital for supporting life on our planet face imminent collapse including fresh water, fisheries, air and water purification systems, and the systems that regulate climate, natural hazards, and pests—with the remaining one-third of our life support systems following closely.

Meanwhile, the Babylonian creed has helped the shareholders of the top 10 banks in the world amass combined assets of about 16trillion dollars in 2006 [c.f., total GDP for 2006 calculated at the official exchange rate was an estimated 46.7trillion dollars.] How much of 16 trillion dollars in paper, gold, platinum, diamond … could you consume to satisfy your basic needs in the middle of The Sixth Great Extinction?

Next: How to Stop the Looming Omnicide!
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August 8, 2007 By, Harry Saloor Founder, The Management School of Restorative Business, http://www.restorative-business.org

Posted in banks, ecosystems, evil, Fetishism, Omnicide | 4 Comments »