Interesting & Important News & Analysis, November 14, 2019

Rising U.S. Losses From Powerful Hurricanes Flag Need for Better Protection

Previous research suggested the growing costs of damage from storms were largely due to costlier infrastructure and homes in their path, rather than a rise in the strength or frequency of hurricanes themselves, said Aslak Grinsted, a study lead author.

But the new work showed the growing number of powerful hurricanes was the key factor in increasing losses, he said.


Fletcher women convicted on multiple charges in 2016 arson case

Sherry Lance, a Fletcher woman accused of arson in September 2016, has been convicted by a Henderson County jury of second-degree arson, insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit arson.


Fires Continue to Rage in Australia’s Most Populous State, New South Wales

The catastrophic fire warning is a first for Sydney. World Meteorological Organization spokeswoman Clare Nullis told reporters in Geneva that “catastrophic” was the top of the danger scale in Australia, and probably anywhere.


I recommend you read this next linked-article.

May The Fork Be With You

… organic agriculture is having its own struggles. As people have responded to their growing unease with the food they are offered in the store by turning to organic, some large corporate entities have decided that it is more profitable to change the meaning of organic than it is to change how they are producing the food.

This has resulted in years of conflict as the organic community struggles to keep organic real. Most organic farmers in America are real organic. But some of what is sold on the store shelves as certified organic is, at best, “Sort Of Organic.”

The two great failures are CAFOS and hydros. CAFOs are Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, which is a long term for confinement factory farming for animals. These practices are prohibited in the organic standards, and yet they continue on a massive scale.

The other significant fraud is the certification of soilless hydroponic fruits and vegetables. Right now many berries and tomatoes sold as organic in America are actually grown in pots of coconut husks with fertilizers fed to the plants much like an IV tube. Again, this is prohibited in the original law that created the National Organic Program, and again, it is being ignored by the USDA.

I would say that making America great means making America organic, truly organic.


Sounds fishy; but, in this case, hopefully that’s good.

Tipping the scales? Briton develops fish waste ‘plastic’


NAR bans “pocket listings”


Urgent update on the coup in Bolivia from Anya Parampil

Bolivia’s military coup has demolished the country’s democratic process. Anya Parampil explains why a November 13 vote in the Bolivian senate is so crucial.

The vote takes place a day after an unknown opposition lawmaker, Jeanine Áñez, declared herself president of the senate and country without any democratic mandate. Meanwhile, state security forces have launched an intimidation campaign against lawmakers of the ruling MAS party, which controls a vast majority of senate seats, preventing them from resisting the coup.

Anya takes aim at the Organization of American States (OAS) for the central role it played in the coup and enabling the systematic destruction of Bolivia’s democratic systems in the name of regime change.


A supposedly public and world encyclopedia that removes controversial aspects concerning people and events is engaging in counter-productive propaganda, not education. The countervailing narratives concerning James Le Mesurier should be immediately, fully, and permanately restored on the Wikipedia.

Co-founder of White Helmets’ Wiki page cleaned of controversy

The life and work of co-founder of the controversial White Helmets rescue group in Syria has come under scrutiny since his recent death in Istanbul, in fact, James Le Mesurier’s Wikipedia profile has undergone something of a rewrite, omitting anything detrimental.


The left channel of the audio balances out after the first two people talk.

Reminder of Corporate Media Lies on Venezuela

Found on my hard drive [with thanks to Paz Peace for subtitling].

This was from March 2019, when most Western corporate owned media were insisting most stores in Caracas were empty-shelved. At the time, I walked around Caracas noting how most of the shops actually had full shelves.
[https://youtu[.]be/3FvajYZ91fc] [https://youtu[.]be/QA4gTZvZYPU]

But for skeptics, that wasn’t good enough. So, I went with a friend on his motorcycle to Petare, which is generally dubbed the “largest slum in Latin America”, in other words a very poor area, where if there were empty shelves you’d think it would be there.

We first went to a central hub, filled with food shops, and then up into the hills where in smaller barrios we still kept seeing tables of produce for sale, signs for chicken, cheese, and stalls with full shelves.

This is not to say there is not poverty (thank you Western sanctions and economic war on Venezuela), but to highlight that what the media were screaming was patently false. They were painting scenes of chaos that didn’t exist. Recall that this was around the time the West was pushing the lie that Guaido was “interim president”, which he was/is not.

For more on Venezuela, I can’t recommend enough Dan Kovalik​’s excellent book, The Plot to Overthrow Venezuela: How the US Is Orchestrating a Coup for Oil [https://www.amazon.com/dp/151075072X], which gives the needed historical context to the current situation in Venezuela (the US-led economic war and quite overt interference in that country’s internal affairs) and surrounding countries where dictatorships and violations of human rights about, but the West and the bought-and-sold media keep hush about it (as with Saudi, israel) because those countries are allies…

Related:

“We’re not starving. This is a fight against a people that are trying to be free.”
https://youtu[.]be/ZGyjBsjTHZU

US is manufacturing a crisis in Venezuela so that there is chaos and ‘needed’ intervention
https://www.rt[.]com/op-ed/455081-manufactured-crisis-venezuela-us-intervention/

Venezuela isn’t Syria… but America’s war tactics are the same
https://www.rt[.]com/op-ed/459333-syria-venezuela-same-tactics-america/

Yesterday in Petare, largest barrio in Latin America (& one of poorest in Caracas), I saw not-starving ppl purchasing similar vegs, plus meats, walking like normal ppl, not like a “crisis”. Media is lying about a humanitarian crisis. Same media that doesn’t care about Yemen.
https://twitter[.]com/EvaKBartlett/status/1111409230043439111

I spent most of afternoon in Petare, one of poorest areas of Caracas & the most sprawling series of barrios in Latin America. Ppl I met there spoke about Imperialist & economic war against them, & how they will continue defending their country.
https://twitter[.]com/EvaKBartlett/status/1111048997853188099


Interesting & Important News & Analysis, November 9, 2019

This is premature in the extreme.

China, U.S. agree to roll back tariffs as part of trade deal -officials

On top of it, I know that what Trump is holding out for is not good enough. He won’t insist on a single democratic thing. The totalitarian dictator (who wants to rule the world) will be able to go right on his merry way making billions while he brutally prevents people from having any say in anything concerning government.

As for Xi making billions, it doesn’t matter what his salary is. He rules the entire nation. He lives exactly as well as he wants to. Jeff Bezos can’t really live any better than Xi wants to live, at least until the pitchforks come out in either China or the US or both.


This sort of arguing should not exist. We could end homelessness very easily. The only reason we don’t is because of greedy people who fear losing out on making even more money.

Texas governor opens homeless campsite amid feud with Austin


As shareholder support for climate-change action grows, SEC votes to throttle those voices

Investors use proxy advisers, Jackson said, because, “holding executives accountable for the way they run America’s corporations is difficult and expensive, and investors lack the time and money to do it. Today’s proposal imposes a tax on firms who recommend that shareholders vote in a way that executives don’t like.”


Facebook Sues Israeli Cyber Security Co. NSO Over WhatsApp Surveillance

Shir Hever discusses the strategy of the Israeli offensive cyber company NSO, its roots in the notorious Israeli “8200” military intelligence unit, and how it crossed a line that very few companies dare cross.


The differences between Labour and the Conservatives on fiscal policy

The Conservatives have learnt the lesson of 2017, and have ditched austerity in order to offer higher spending to the electorate.They hope voters decide that there isn’t much difference between the two parties on this score. But voters would be wrong to do so. In Labour’s case the extra spending is sustainable, whereas for the Tories it will not be. There are two reasons for this.

The first is that the Tories are not proposing large tax increases, while Labour almost certainly will – in the last election corporation taxes and taxes on high earners. (In 2017 the IFS suggested their match between extra current spending and higher taxes wasn’t perfect, but they agreed Labour would keep within its fiscal rule, which is what matters.) That means for a given fiscal stance Labour should have more money to spend on non-investment public spending than the Conservatives. And, assuming there is no collapse in demand ahead, their fiscal stance is now similar. (If there is a collapse, see below).

The second reason is Brexit. The Tories have negotiated a very hard Brexit, leaving the Customs Union and Single Market. I have argued that Brexit will not happen under Labour, but even if it did a much softer Brexit means less economic damage. Soft or no Brexit means higher incomes under Labour which in turn means higher taxes, and so higher spending.

What the Tories are counting on is that analysis by the IFS and others of the two party’s programmes will ignore the second difference, and use a common baseline (as the Resolution Foundation does here). Once you factor in Brexit, the Tories extra spending is unlikely to be sustainable. They willl be forced to raise taxes or cut spending to keep to their current balance target. It will be even worse if Johnson throws in some last minute tax cuts in a desparate attempt to ensure he gets a majority. The OBR might have shown all this in its budget forecast, but the budget was conveniently postponed.

Not only will Labour spend more on day to day government expenditure, but they also plan a much more radical increase in public investment spending. Whether you think that is a good idea will depend on how seriously you take the need for a Green New Deal, how much you want to reduce regional inequalities and how much social housing you want the government to build, among other things. That will mean more borrowing under Labour, but public investment of this kind should be financed by borrowing. No one should argue we cannot invest to reduce climate change because it means borrowing more!


Dispute Erupts Over Radios Utility Workers Use in California Wildfires

In 2008, Hytera hired three Motorola Solutions engineers who had worked at the company’s Malaysia facility. Hytera contends it didn’t know the three men had downloaded thousands of pages of internal Motorola Solutions documents until after the suit was filed. The men left Hytera last year.

Hytera said the supposed secrets Motorola Solutions says were stolen were publicly known and were just part of the Digital Mobile Radio standard. Hytera conceded certain lines of source code were copied, but says it was so little that it didn’t amount to an infringement.

“… certain lines of source code were copied, but … it didn’t amount to an infringement”? Really? It’s not the quantity that counts. It’s the ingenuity and code’s capability.


How Plaintiff Lawyers Help Corporate America Keep its Secrets

The secrecy exacts a heavy toll. In just a handful of cases Reuters analyzed, hundreds of thousands of people were killed or seriously injured by allegedly defective products – including cars, drugs and guns – after judges allowed litigants to file under seal evidence that could have alerted consumers and regulators to potential danger.

For help drafting the narrower protective order, Holland turned to Public Justice, a nonprofit organization that intervenes in cases to get court records unsealed. The group has developed a model protective order that lays out narrow definitions of what can be marked confidential and makes clear that simply marking a document as confidential is not a sufficient reason to later file the information under seal during court proceedings.

As the first and sometimes only people to know that potentially life-saving documents are being sealed, plaintiff lawyers should be the “first line of defense” against harmful secrecy, said Jennifer Bennett, a lawyer with Public Justice.


In Colorado, 24 High-Hazard Dams Are Seen as Problematic

Emergency plans obtained by the AP indicate that thousands of people living and working downstream could be at risk if those dams were to catastrophically fail, while separate inspection reports cite a variety of problems.


As Paradise Rebuilds, a Divide Over Safety a Year After Fire

“We’re not going to keep fires from burning through Paradise, so whatever they build up there should be something that can survive a wildfire,” Lunder said. “But just building a bunch of wooden houses out in the brush, we already saw what happened.”

… Paradise adopted only seven of 15 proposed fire safety standards and changed four of those it accepted.


Insurance agent admits to pocketing money meant for local business


Santa Barbara insurance agent arrested after allegedly leaving a client uninsured during 2018 mudslides


Ringleader of family arson crew pleads guilty in $4 million Operation Firebird insurance fraud case

Tyler Chen, 48, pleaded guilty this week in the Santa Clara County Superior Court following his arrest on multiple felony counts of insurance fraud and arson for his role in setting fires in a $4 million fraud scheme. His wife, Kim, 45, also pleaded guilty this week on multiple felony counts.


Boosting Resilience to U.S. Wildfires Should Be Insurance Industry Priority: I.I.I.

The I.I.I.’s paper said insurers are encouraging customers to harden their homes by installing Class A fire-rated roofs, metal screens which cover all vents, and double or multi-paned tempered glass windows. “Creating what’s called a defensible space around a structure can significantly reduce the risk of embers and surface fires spreading and igniting the structure.”


Walmart Settles Lawsuit Against Tesla over Rooftop Solar Panel Fires

… Musk said a settlement with Walmart would include third-party inspections and repairs. “Tesla will pay for the third party,” he said.


PG&E Extending Deadline for California Wildfire Damage Claims

… many wildfire survivors – still traumatized and struggling to get back on their feet – weren’t aware of their right to file a claim.


UT/TT Poll: It’s a Highly Partisan Issue but Texans Say Climate Change Is Happening

… 42% of Republican voters don’t think climate change is happening.

Cognitive dissonance? How many of that 42% made, or still make, a living off oil?


The Aral Sea Is Dying — A Victim of Environmental Malpractice

Along the Colorado River, climate change is causing aridification—the progression from cyclical drought to a permanent decrease in water—and threatening the welfare of 40 million Americans. In California, the demands of hydropower leaves farmers reliant on limited groundwater. (A study released Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications suggests that solar and wind energy may be able to take some of the load from hydropower, freeing up surface water for agriculture.)


Are Employees Pushing Insurers to Shun Coal in Climate Change Movement?


Ex-Tennessee Agent Indicted On More Than 70 Charges, Accused of Premium Theft


New Megacortex Ransomware Changes Windows Passwords, Threatens to Publish Data

If the MegaCortex actors are actually copying data, though, victims will now have to treat these attacks as a data breach going forward instead of just a ransomware infection.

This will ultimately add a whole new layer of complexity and risks to these types of attacks.


Specially Crafted ZIP Files Used to Bypass Secure Email Gateways


Trees Are Healing Our Planet

… there are many challenges with planning landscape-level projects decades into the future, especially as climate change alters local growing conditions. And unless the underlying causes of past deforestation are addressed, any new trees planted may suffer the same fate as the ones they are replacing.

So before we all stick shovels in the ground, we decided to take a look at some examples of resilient reforestation efforts and why they worked.


Fishery collapse ‘confirms Silent Spring pesticide prophecy’

Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, her seminal book on the dangers of pesticides in 1962. In their report, the Japanese researchers said: “She wrote: ‘These sprays, dusts and aerosols are now applied almost universally to farms, gardens, forests and homes – nonselective chemicals that have the power to kill every insect, the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’, to still the song of birds and the leaping of fish in the streams.’ The ecological and economic impact of neonicotinoids on the inland waters of Japan confirms Carson’s prophecy.”


Is the Run on the Dollar Due to Panic or Greed?

Banks are not serving the real economy. They are using public credit backed by public funds to feed their own private bottom lines.

The whole repo rigmarole underscores the sleight of hand on which our money and banking systems are built, and why it is time to change them. Banks do not really have the money they lend. To back their loans, they rely on their ability to borrow from the reserves of other banks, generated from their customers’ deposits; and if those banks withhold their deposits in the insatiable pursuit of higher profits, the borrowing banks must turn to the public purse for liquidity. The banks could not function without public support. They should be turned into public utilities, mandated to serve the interests of the people and the productive economy on which the public depends.


Sag Harbor School District investigates cyber-attacks on computer system

One of these decades someone besides yours truly will openly link the existence of cryptocurrencies to ransomware attacks and call for the banning of all said cryptocurrencies so the vast, vast majority of said ransomware attacks will stop.


Wood County Schools confirms ransomware attack


Security pros urged to get ahead of incoming BlueKeep exploits


Assange lawyers’ links to US govt & Bill Browder raises questions

Ben Brandon of Mishcon de Reya and Alex Bailin of Matrix Chambers co-authored an opinion article in The Times of London October 24, 2019 in which they repeated William Browder’s fabrications about the death of his accountant Sergei Magnitsky.

The article aimed to promote the Magnitsky Act which builds a political wall against Russia. It is based on the fake claim that Magnitsky, the accountant who handled Browder’s tax evasion in Russia, was really a lawyer who exposed a government scam.

Except that is not true, there is no evidence for it, and the lies are documented here. But the Act has prevented the Russians from collecting about $100 million Browder owes in back taxes and illicit stock buys.


Forged in Fire: California’s Lessons for a Green New Deal

… saddled with basic infrastructure made brittle by decades of underinvestment and privatization, combined with powerful market incentives to profit from disaster, they soon discovered that the decks were stacked against those early efforts. That’s why so many in the community have concluded that the impacts of climate disruption simply cannot be handled without big structural changes on the order of a Green New Deal. Some of these investments can be done locally; others will need bold state and federal support.

… it’s harder to feel good about being generous with your home and belongings when you keep hearing stories about the guy down the street who made a killing flipping his house thanks to post-disaster price inflation. Or the people buying up property in smoldering Paradise at bargain-basement prices. Or the developer who was fast-tracking plans to build a gated community outside of Paradise without public input or review — while seemingly having his luxury project subsidized with taxpayer dollars earmarked for disaster response.

It is experiences like these that have taught many Chico residents that, in the real world, climate action cannot be pried apart from the need to transform an economic model that systematically puts private profits above the public good. They have seen firsthand that while most people very much want to help their fellow humans after disasters, sustaining that empathetic impulse beyond the initial emergency takes more than good will. It takes good policy, alongside serious public investments.

Which brings us back to the Chico Green New Deal and its plan for green jobs, public transit, local food, reduced car traffic, and more affordable housing. As Brown puts it, a major lesson from the Camp Fire is that “one of the things we can expect is displacement” — people being forced to move from one community to another. Which is part of why investing in affordable housing is central to Chico’s climate plan.

But that lesson goes well beyond Chico. …

A Green New Deal-style approach — which fuses the battle against planet-warming pollution with the kinds of universalist health, housing, and transit policies that make daily life less stressful and more humane — is not, therefore, one of many possible climate solutions. Having exhausted every other option, it is the only kind of climate response that stands a chance of not going up in smoke.


Fed Goes Nuts with Repos & T-Bills but Sheds Mortgage Backed Securities

So the Fed is increasing its assets in huge post-Lehman-like leaps, with the $184 billion jump in September and the $94 billion jump in October to bail out the crybabies on Wall Street, so that the higher rates in the repo market won’t blow up some over-leveraged hedge funds or REITs that borrow in the repo market short term to cheaply fund their long-term bets.


Testimony bombshell: Obama administration tried to partner with Hunter Biden’s Ukrainian gas firm but was blocked over corruption concerns

So after weeks of Democrats and their media allies suggesting it was a “conspiracy theory” that the U.S. embassy had pressured Ukrainian authorities not to pursue certain investigations, Kent confirmed it.

So, the question comes down to whether the Obama administration was upset that cleaning up corruption in Ukraine wasn’t happening well enough or quickly enough or whether the Obama White House was upset that cleaning up corruption was actually happening too well and too quickly. How do we finally determine which was the real case?

As to those people who bristle at my even questioning the Obama administration’s motives, let me remind them that Obama flat out lied to everyone concerning the US spying on Americans domestically, including those who were not, I repeat, not communicating with anyone outside the US. Let me also remind them that when James Clapper openly admitted he lied, Barack Obama did not fire Clapper. Also, since that time when Clapper admitted it, Clapper has attempted to roll back his admission. When he did that, did you hear anything out of Obama or Biden that either of them disagreed with Clapper’s actions? You did not.

That whole situation was far from the only instance where the Obama administration attempted to get away with lying to everyone. Obama improved on occasion but never fully repented. How he handled the “Russia collusion” allegations at the end of his final term was very bad and quite revealing. I don’t say he was as bad as Hillary Clinton, but he went along with her on it and on other things when he clearly shouldn’t have.

None of it excuses Donald Trump and his loan applications versus his submitted tax forms or that he fired cruise missiles at Syria on the word of al Qaeda and IS members and backers (a clear war crime, among others).

The only way to save humanity from itself is for humans to stop engaging in cognitive dissonance. Face the truth that you’ve been lied to no matter who’s done the lying. Do not go along with lying in some sort of lessor-of-evils scenario. You know the kind of lying I’m talking about. I’m talking about the kind where we can’t exercise truly informed voting without the full truth.


‘Massacre’ of Indigenous Leaders in Colombia Is Result of Broken Peace Agreement

Yet another massacre of indigenous leaders in Colombia has sparked outrage across the country, as the right-wing government of President Ivan Duque faces increasing challenges to his already weakened leadership.