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Showing posts from December 30, 2014

America's Military: Were the wars worth the cost?

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[The longest war in American history has officially come to a close. And for many service members the overwhelming feeling is: good riddance. *RON*]

By Andrew Tilghman, Military Times, 15 December 2014

The longest war in American history has officially come to a close. And for many service members, the overwhelming feeling is: good riddance.

Personally, many troops simply are tired of deploying there. Professionally, many wonder what the 13-year war really accomplished.

"I don't think we learned anything because we are still fighting the same damned people," said Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Don Bradshaw, stationed at Camp Pendleton, California.

Bradshaw's sentiments are widely shared across the force. Pessimism about the U.S. mission in Afghanistan has grown steadily during the past several years, and today a majority of the force thinks the war's aims were unfulfilled, according to a recent Military Times survey.

For the p…

Delaware-size gas plume over West illustrates the cost of leaking methane

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[There's a permanent cloud of methane the size of Delaware floating over the fracking rigs of New Mexico, "so vast that scientists questioned their own data when they first studied it three years ago." *RON*]
By Joby Warrick, Washington Post, 29 December 2014
CUBA, N.M. — The methane that leaks from 40,000 gas wells near this desert trading post may be colorless and odorless, but it’s not invisible. It can be seen from space.

Satellites that sweep over energy-rich northern New Mexico can spot the gas as it escapes from drilling rigs, compressors and miles of pipeline snaking across the badlands. In the air it forms a giant plume: a permanent, Delaware-sized methane cloud, so vast that scientists questioned their own data when they first studied it three years ago. “We couldn’t be sure that the signal was real,” said NASA researcher Christian Frankenberg.

The country’s biggest methane “hot spot,” verified by NASA and University of Mic…

Five Reasons for Slow Growth

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[Notice that Reason #4 is basically corruption/the corporatocracy, but that he proposes no solution for this. *RON*]
Michael Spence, Project Syndicate, 29 December 2014

MILAN – A remarkable pattern has emerged since the 2008 global financial crisis: Governments, central banks, and international financial institutions have consistently had to revise their growth forecasts downward. With very few exceptions, this has been true of projections for the global economy and individual countries alike.

It is a pattern that has caused real damage, because overoptimistic forecasts delay measures that are needed to boost growth, and thus impede full economic recovery. Forecasters need to come to terms with what has gone wrong; fortunately, as the post-crisis experience lengthens, some of the missing pieces are coming into clear focus. I have identified five.

First, the capacity for fiscal intervention – at least among developed economies – has been underutilize…

High-Level Fed Committee Overruled Carmen Segarra’s Finding on Goldman

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[Realpolitik and the banking system. Disappointingly but unsurprisingly, the higher-ups in the Fed denied Carmen Segerra's reality and replaced it with their own. In so doing, they did not specify what evidence they considered in overruling Segarra, on what basis the decision was made, or whether it considered any of Segarra's documentation or examination findings. *RON*]
by Jake Bernstein, ProPublica, 29 December 2014

A committee that includes senior Federal Reserve officials reviewed and overturned a bank examiner's finding that Goldman Sachs lacked a firm-wide policy to prevent conflicts of interest, according to a top Fed official.

Bill Dudley, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, disclosed the action by the "Operating Committee" in a little-noticed aspect of his testimony last month before the U.S. Senate. Dudley said the panel was part of a new effort by the Fed to raise standards across the board by compar…

Backlash in Berlin over NSA spying recedes as threat from Islamic State rises

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[Evidently, as long as Angela Merkel's iPhone isn't involved, US spying on Germany is hunky-dory! *RON*]
By Greg Miller, Washington Post, 29 December 2014
BERLIN — In a crescendo of anger over American espionage, Germanyexpelled the CIA’s top operative, launched an investigation of the vast U.S. surveillance programs exposed by Edward Snowden and extracted an apology from President Obama for the years that U.S. spies had reportedly spent monitoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.

In an address to Parliament last year, Merkel warned that U.S.-German cooperation would be curtailed and declared that “trust needs to be rebuilt.”

But the cooperation never really stopped. The public backlash over Snowden often obscured a more complicated reality for Germany and other aggrieved U.S. allies. They may be dismayed by the omnivorous nature of the intelligence apparatus the United States has built since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but th…

Ebola Crisis Made Worse By IMF Austerity Plans For Africa: Study

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[IMF austerity policies contributed to "under-funded, insufficiently staffed, and poorly prepared health systems" in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, thus preventing "an effective response to the outbreak that has killed nearly 8,000 people, the academics allege in a report in The Lancet Global Health journal this month." *RON*]
By Michelle Faul, AP / Huffington Post, 30 Decemeber 2014

YORK, England (AP) — Professors from three leading British universities say International Monetary Fund policies favoring international debt repayment over social spending contributed to the Ebola crisis by hampering health care in the three worst-hit West African countries.

Conditions for loans from the IMF prevented an effective response to the outbreak that has killed nearly 8,000 people, the academics allege in a report in The Lancet Global Health journal this month.

The IMF denied the charges and quoted World Bank data to support its argument…

Greek Patience With Austerity Nears Its Limit

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["Nowhere have austerity policies been more aggressively tried — and generally failed to live up to results promised by advocates — than in Greece. After more than four years of belt tightening, patience is wearing thin, and tentative signs of improvement have not yet trickled down into the lives of average Greeks." See also Fears for fresh Greek crisis after poll called. *RON*]

By Suzanne Daley, New York Times, 30 December 2014

NEA IONIA, Greece — Alexandra Nikolovieni, 55, lost her job escorting young children on a school bus four years ago and has not been able to find another one since. To help financially, her daughter and her son-in-law, who have two children, moved into her house. But now they have lost their jobs, too.

Ms. Nikolovieni, who volunteers at a food pantry in this suburb of Athens, says that every month she sees more and more people like her, qualifying for bundles of groceries and picking out used shoes for themselv…