Category Archives: Deindustrialization

Council bosses defend use of special laws to spy on residents

Councils explain their use of ‘spying’ laws in Essex

yellowad.co.uk | Jun 24, 2010

By Matthew Stanton

COUNCIL bosses have defended the use of special laws to spy on residents – claiming they wanted to catch nuisance neighbours.

Castle Point Council has used powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 to monitor residents 40 times in two years – 22 in 2008/09 and 18 in 2009/10.

The council stated most of the instances involved monitoring noise across the borough.

A Castle Point Council spokesman denied officers were checking innocent people.

Chief executive David Marchant said: “In Castle Point, most of these instances relate to noise surveillance equipment used by our Environmental Health team to determine noise nuisances in residential areas.

“No charges were brought as the issues were resolved through other means.

“All councils are strictly regulated in the use of surveillance and at its last inspection by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners, Castle Point was given a clean bill of health.

“Surveillance powers are used largely as a last resort in cases of anti-social behaviour and community safety.”

Councils use the Act to detect crimes such as fraud.

However, some authorities also use the powers to probe problems such as dog fouling, fly tipping and graffiti.

Between April 1, 2008, and March 31, 2010, Essex County Council used the powers 68 times – 50 times in 2008/09 and 18 times in 2009/10.

An Essex County Council spokesman: “The service is required to comply with this legislation, and on occasion uses covert surveillance as a means of gaining information about people acting in the course of a trade or business.

“This means that we will observe traders, without letting them know that we are doing so.

“We also use this legislation in order to obtain communications data regarding potential defendants. Specifically the names and addresses associated with telephone numbers or e-mail addresses.

“Under no circumstances do we use intrusive surveillance and in fact we are prohibited from doing so by the legislation.”

Meanwhile, Rochford District Council has used the Act twice to investigate a suspected breach of planning control and a fraudulent benefit claim. Basildon used it three times and Southend just once.

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Green groups hope Gulf spill photos of dead dolphins horrify Americans enough to downsize and pump less gas

Green groups hope Gulf spill galvanizes movement

Associated Press | May 12, 2010

by Tamara Lush

VENICE, La. – In the weeks after an oil rig exploded and killed 11 men in the Gulf of Mexico, worried environmental groups scoured the water for oil plumes, set up animal triage centers and stretched boom across shorelines.

Activists hope their involvement doesn’t end there; maybe, they contend, this is the catalyst that America’s green movement needs. Will Americans be horrified enough by the news to pump less gasoline, buy hybrids and downsize their consumer lifestyle?

“We all need to take a hard look at how we’re living. And how that is having an impact on our world and the health of the planet,” said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “How long will it take for folks to wake up to the truth? Clearly, if there is a moment for us to wake up, this is it.”

But asking Americans to pay attention is easier if there are dramatic photos and videos tugging at heartstrings. So far, there have been few such images in this disaster. Though more than 4 million gallons have been spilled in the three weeks since the explosion, slow-moving currents in the Gulf have kept the thickest oil offshore and away from coastal wildlife.

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Gulf oil spill reaches Freemason Island as BP prepares to lower giant funnel

That hasn’t stopped environmental activists from trying to publicize how much the spill will affect the region.

Ten days after the rig explosion, Schweiger and a team of National Wildlife Federation staff had rented a condo in Venice, a small Louisiana fishing village 70 miles south of New Orleans that has become a staging area of sorts. Guys with GREENPEACE T-shirts mixed on docks with charter boat captains and international media. Leilani Munter, an IndyCar racer and environmental activist who blogs under the name “carbonfreegirl,” was there, taking video of the effect on local fishermen.

Last week, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune flew over the Gulf in a seaplane to survey the damage. He saw waves of rust-colored oil undulating through the blue water, toward sensitive bird habitat.

“We saw high concentrations of oil,” he said. “We flew over a very small portion of this. This is a spill that extends for miles and miles and miles and miles. It will be one of the largest manmade disasters ever and the impact will be profound.”

It’s been relatively easy for environmental groups to detail the spill’s human toll. Eleven men on the oil rig were killed. Thousands of fishermen on the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are no longer making money now that the federal government has shut down commercial fishing in a big chunk of Gulf waters.

It’s been a little more difficult to explain to the American public how the spill is affecting the environment — or why people should change their habits to help the situation. Only a few birds have been brought in to cleaning centers, and while several dozen turtles and a few dolphins have washed up — none with visible oil — scientists aren’t so sure that has anything to do with the spill.

Photos and videos of brown, pudding-like oil in the water near the well far out to sea don’t have the same impact that it would if and when such sludge makes it to beaches in big quantities.

It was images of another oil spill — a massive gusher off the coast of Santa Barbara in California in 1969 — that spearheaded the modern environmental movement and galvanized people to create the first Earth Day in 1970.

That spill coated miles of California coast and killed dolphins and seals. Among the conservation groups formed at the time were the Environmental Defense Center and Get Oil Out!, an anti-drilling group whose founder urged the public to cut down on driving, burn gas credit cards and boycott companies associated with offshore drilling.

Yet after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, environmentalists were hoping it would change both public policy, opinion and behavior.

“But it didn’t,” said Rick Steiner, a former University of Alaska marine conservation specialist who has been doing volunteer work in Louisiana for Greenpeace. “Exxon Valdez did make tanker transport safer. I was hoping it would result in a sustainable energy push in the U.S. but it didn’t.”

Steiner thinks this Gulf spill could “become like Chernobyl or Three Mile Island or Bhopal” — a moment where people, and politics transform.

“Maybe this is the straw,” he said. “Maybe this is the incident that will catalyze both the individual consumer’s behavior and the political policy change.”

It could change if more photos and pictures of oiled animals emerge.

“People have a deep connection to the wildlife and the beauty of the wildlife, and when they see those pictures of the birds, the turtles, the things that are harmed, there’s a gut emotional reaction,” said Marylee Orr, executive director of Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, a Louisiana-based advocacy group.

Advocates acknowledge there is a disconnect between consumer behavior — and the dependence on oil — and what is happening now in the Gulf.

“I would like to see people make a connection to this incident and their everyday behavior,” said David Ringer, a spokesman for the National Audubon Society. “For people to realize that our individual choices every day have a tremendous effect on the planet and all the life we share this planet with.”

IPCC Rainforest eco-tastrophe claim confirmed as bunk

Official UN website still shows it as fact, though

Register | Mar 12, 2010

By Lewis Page

More bad news today for the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as another of its extravangant ecopocalypse predictions, sourced from green campaigners, has been confirmed as bunk by scientists.

The UN body came under attack earlier this year for suggesting that 40 per cent of the Amazonian rainforests – dubbed the “lungs of the planet” by some for their ability to turn CO2 into oxygen, and also seen as vital on biodiversity grounds – might disappear imminently. This disaster would be triggered, according to the IPCC’s assessment, by a relatively slight drop in rainfall of the sort to be expected in a warming world.

Unfortunately it now appears that just such conditions have already occurred, and in fact the Amazonian jungles were unaffected.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the baseless IPCC projection originated in a study produced in 2000 by hard-green* ecological campaigning group WWF, which was also implicated in the IPCC’s equally invalid prediction that the glaciers of the Himalayas will all have melted within a generation from now.

According to the WWF report  (http://www.wwf.de/fileadmin/fm-wwf/pdf-alt/waelder/brnde/Forest_Fires_Report.pdf), which was not subject to scientific peer review – it was written by a freelance journalist and published by WWF itself – drying-up of forests will lead to runaway wildfires that will destroy the jungle and perhaps the entire planetary ecosystem. The document is full of terrifying phrases such as “the year the world caught fire”. It warns of imminent doom caused by drought cycles:

The world faces a positive feedback cycle in which climate change, exacerbated by forest fires and deforestation, increases the frequency of the El Niño phenomenon, which in turn causes more forest burning.

The world faces warmer more violent weather, and more forest fires … scientists believe the whole Amazon itself is threatened, with the rainforest being replaced by fire-prone vegetation. This has global consequences …

It was bad enough that the IPCC included this sort of speculative scaremongering in its 2007 Fourth Assessment Report. But now it has been conclusively disproven – so much so that even IPCC members pour scorn on it, though they haven’t retracted or amended their original endorsement of it.

NASA-funded scientists analysing the past decades of satellite imagery of the Amazon basin say that in fact the rainforests are remarkably resilient to droughts. Even during the hundred-year-peak dry season of 2005 the jungles were basically unaffected.
“WWF made it all up” – IPCC member speaks

“We found no big differences in the greenness level of these forests between drought and non-drought years,” says Arindam Samanta of Boston university, lead author of the new study based on NASA’s MODIS sat data.

“Our results certainly do not indicate such extreme sensitivity to reductions in rainfall,” adds Sangram Ganguly of the NASA-affiliated Bay Area Environmental Research Institute, another study author.

Even the IPCC itself now regrets listening to WWF.

“The way that the WWF report calculated this 40 per cent was totally wrong,” according to IPCC member Jose Marengo, commenting on the new research.

Which might beg the question of why his colleagues referenced the bogus WWF polemic in their 2007 report on what the world can expect: and why they still publish it today on the web (http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg2/en/ch13s13-4.html#13-4-1) as part of their considered opinion.

Samanta, Ganguly and their colleagues also consider that their results debunk another controversial paper (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1146663v1?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=Saleska+&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT) published in 2007, which said that the 2005 drought was actually good for the rainforests, causing them to “green up” due to more sunlight from cloudless skies.

These results are “not reproducible”, according to the new analysis, which indicates that in fact nothing much changed down on the Amazon during the 2005 dry spell.

Samanta, Ganguly et al’s paper, Amazon forests did not green-up during the 2005 drought, is published (http://europa.agu.org/?view=article&uri=/journals/gl/gl1005/2009GL042154/2009GL042154.xml&t=gl,2009GL042154) in Geophysical Research Letters (subscriber link). ®
Bootnote

*It’s WWF’s position (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/08/01/uk_must_abandon_growth_to_cut_co2/), for instance, that economic growth is evil and will destroy the planet. We should actually be praying for a prolonged and massive recession with no recovery afterwards.

The organisation started out as a fairly mainstream outfit intended to protect wildlife, but has nowadays widened its remit into protecting the entire planet from unsuitable human activities. The initials WWF no longer stand for anything
(http://www.panda.org/about_our_earth/faq/response.cfm?hdnQuestionId=3620012246264) in particular.

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UN climate change claims on rainforests were wrong, study suggests

Global warming worst case = Only slight misery increase

Now IPCC hurricane data is questioned

Himalayan glacier-tastrophe rumour melts away

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Unmade in the USA: Death of manufacturing in America

TOI |  Feb 27, 2010

by Chidanand Rajghatta

Gary Larsen’s eyes light up when he talks of the glory days of American manufacturing. A retired Boeing worker in the Seattle area, Larsen is watching US industry go into coma before his very eyes. His callused hands ferret out a floor shop manual from his working days that he says would have been proprietary knowledge till a decade ago. “I’m not sure anyone cares now,” he shrugs, offering it for scrutiny of a bygone era. Another yellowing in-house journal he fishes out has a picture of him on the cover. “We took great pride in making things,” Larsen sighs, “Today’s kids can’t make a thing.”

The fact that he still has the printed handbooks in the electronic age, years after he retired, says something. Last week, Larsen drove into Seattle looking for motor parts for a small boat he is building at home. He likes to stay connected — to reality; not in the online social networking sense today’s generation is familiar with. In fact, Larsen does not own a cellphone and rarely goes on the computer. In his free time, he tinkers with his three automobiles in his garage and makes assorted gee-gaws.

A few miles from his home, his old company Boeing still manufactures one of the rare few things that come with a “Made in America” sticker — big airplanes . But even that prowess is diminishing. More and more of the plane, including designing and manufacturing, are being outsourced. After a severe downturn in the post-9 /11 years, and a brief upswing, Boeing is in another nosedive, with its much-vaunted 787 way behind schedule. Last week, the company announced 10,000 lay-offs, and there was barely a ripple anywhere.

Here are some numbers, something Americans are not very good at these days. In the year 2000, more than 17 million Americans were employed in manufacturing. By 2009, that number had dropped to fewer than 12 million. The loss ranged across industries, and few sectors reflected it more than automobiles, America’s pride and joy for decades. In 2000, more than 1.3 million Americans built automobiles. In 2009, fewer than 674,000 remained. Similarly, nearly 700,000 Americans were employed making furniture. By 2009 that had dropped to 390,000. Clothes manufacturing jobs dropped two thirds, from 483,500 to 168,300.

The first signs of the manufacturing demise appeared several years back when Levi Strauss, virtually America’s clothiers for more than a century, shifted its last jeans manufacturing unit to Mexico (India is now a major jeans-maker ). Around the same time, in a move that sounded like a death rattle to Scrabble buffs, Hasbro, the company which made the game famous , outsourced the manufacture of the tiles (made of soft Vermont maple) to China and Malaysia. Today, American stores and supermarkets are filled with foreign-made goods. NRIs visiting India have a tough time finding “Made in America” products for relatives.

For a while, America didn’t care. The argument was made that the country was merely giving up drudge work; it still held the monopoly on hi-tech and intellectual property. After all, the theory went, although the iPod was being manufactured entirely in China, the US, which conceived and designed the device, still reaped 95 per cent of the profit; Chinese took the remaining meagre five per cent for their drudge work.

But this comforting model is now under question — and under fire. Americans are discovering that the Chinese and Indians and just about everyone else are moving up the value chain. First, even high-tech jobs began to migrate out of the US. Computer manufacturing jobs are down to just over a million from nearly two million a decade ago. Now China, India, and others are producing proprietary software and designs.

The most evocative example of America’s loss is the story of the cell phone. The first cell phone, DynaTAC 8000X, was developed in 1983 by Motorola, an American company. Of the 1.2 billion cell phones that were sold across the world last year, not one was manufactured in America. For Larsen and his ilk, who built the United States with their skilled hands, “Made in America” is a fast-fading memory, a historic footnote. If you find something “Made in America,” better stash it away. It could be worth a lot for money — as a collector’s item.

Bin Laden goes green, blames America for ‘global warming’

Global warming? You can blame America for that, says bin Laden

Daily Mail | Jan 29, 2010

Going green? Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, in a video still from 2007

Osama bin Laden blamed the United States and other industrialised countries for causing global warming in an extraordinary message issued yesterday.

In a departure from his usual religious rants, the Al Qaeda leader lectured on the dangers of climate change, claiming the only solution was to ‘bring the wheels of the American economy’ to a halt.

Rather than vows to inflict death and destruction on the U.S. and its allies, the man behind the September 11 atrocity in New York discussed the environmental future of the planet and monetary policy.

‘This is a message to the whole world about those who are causing climate change, whether deliberately or not, and what we should do about that,’ he declared.

He blamed Western industrialised nations for hunger, causing flooding and the destruction of fertile ground across the globe.

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And he warned solutions must be ‘drastic’ rather than ‘partial’.

Although bin Laden has briefly referred to climate change and global warming in past messages, this fresh audiotape was his first dedicated to the topic.

The speech, which included almost no religious rhetoric, has been interpreted as an attempt by the terror leader to broaden the appeal of his message beyond Islamic militants.

‘Talk about climate change is not an ideological luxury but a reality,’ he said in the tape released to the Al Jazeera television network, adding: ‘All of the industrialised countries, especially the big ones, bear responsibility.’

Bin Laden referred to the fact that while wealthy nations had agreed to the Kyoto Protocol that binds them to emissions targets, former U.S. President George Bush later rejected such limitations in deference to big business.

He called for a boycott of American products and the end of the U.S. dollar as a world currency.

‘We should stop dealings with the dollar and get rid of it as soon as possible,’ he said in the brief recording.

‘I know that this has great consequences and grave ramifications, but it is the only means to liberate humanity from slavery and dependence on America.

‘It is necessary for us to avoid doing business in the dollar, and to finish with it in the fastest possible time.’

The terrorist even used a quotation from American liberal political activist Noam Chomsky to support his cause.

He said: ‘Noam Chomsky was correct when he compared the U.S. policies to those of the Mafia.

‘They are the true terrorists and therefore we should refrain from dealing in the U.S. dollar and should try to get rid of this currency as early as possible.’

He argued that such steps would also hamper Washington’s war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Saudi-born bin Laden is still thought to be hiding in the mountainous areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The new message, the authenticity of which could not immediately be confirmed, comes after a bin Laden tape last week endorsed a failed attempt to blow up an American airliner on Christmas Day.

China surpasses Germany as world’s top exporter

washingtonpost.com |  Jan 11, 2010

By Steven Mufson

SHENZHEN, CHINA — China overtook Germany in 2009 to become the world’s top exporting nation, another milestone in China’s rapid rise and growing economic influence.

But in a year of global economic turmoil and weakness, China achieved the top ranking because its exports fell only 16 percent, while Germany’s exports fell more steeply.

China’s customs agency released figures Sunday showing that total exports last year were more than $1.2 trillion, slightly ahead of the $1.17 trillion forecast for Germany by its foreign trade organization, the Federation of German Wholesale and Foreign Trade.

“This is just one more step by China in attaining economic size commensurate with its population,” said Arthur Kroeber, managing director of Dragonomics, an economic research firm in Beijing. Germany has a population of about 80 million, while China’s population is about 1.3 billion.

“The next big news will be when China surpasses Japan to become the world’s second-biggest economy,” Kroeber said. Analysts say that is likely to happen this year.

Already in 2009, China also became the world’s biggest automobile market, and it is the world’s largest steel producer. Exports continue to fuel migration to coastal cities such as this one.

The country’s continued rise as an export powerhouse has strained relations with the United States, where many companies and labor unions have asked the government to impose import duties on tires, steel pipe and other goods from China.

The Obama administration, like George W. Bush’s, has urged China to increase the value of its currency, the yuan, which has helped make China’s exports cheaper than those from many other nations. But Premier Wen Jiabao said in late December that China would “absolutely not yield” to calls for an exchange-rate adjustment.

Statistics from China’s customs agency also showed that China remains a major importer, as well. In December, exports climbed 17.7 percent from a year earlier, the first increase in 14 months, but imports jumped 55.9 percent, to a monthly record of $112.3 billion.

The figures are likely to reinforce the government’s concerns about the economy overheating, and earlier this month the central bank slightly nudged up a key interest rate.

For all of 2009, the country’s imports came to $1.01 trillion, down 11.2 percent from a year earlier, the customs agency said. China’s trade surplus last year fell 34.2 percent, to $196.1 billion.

Those imports were largely commodities and machinery needed for infrastructure projects that have been spurred by the government’s huge stimulus spending plans.

“China has been one of the key drivers of the remarkable recovery in commodities markets in 2009,” said a recent Barclays Capital report. And while many analysts have said that China was stockpiling commodities, Barclays said that the most recent data, such as rising electricity consumption, suggested that China’s economy was strong and that it would continue to import everything from iron ore to oil to corn.

“The underlying drivers of commodity consumption are healthy,” Barclays said.

That will bolster countries providing raw materials to China. China’s shipments to the United States and the European Union grew 15.9 percent and 10.2 percent, respectively, from a year earlier, the customs data showed. Imports from Australia and Malaysia more than doubled.

“Eventually, though I don’t expect this for another 20 years or so, the [Chinese] economy will be bigger than that of the United States,” Kroeber said. “People are just going to have to get used to these facts — and to remember that most of these facts are simply reflections of China’s enormous population, and do not in any way indicate leadership in technology, innovation or productivity.”

China Manufacturing Expands

WSJ  | Jan 1, 2010

By J.R. WU

BEIJING — China’s Purchasing Managers Index rose again in December, the ten straight month of expansion in manufacturing activity.

The index rose to 56.6 in December from 55.2 in November, the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said Friday. A PMI reading above 50 indicates growth, while a reading below 50 indicates contraction.

Key activities of employment, imports and new orders grew, while new export orders fell, although they remained above the expansionary threshold, according to the federation’s data, which compiles the views on the PMI’s 11 component subindexes from more than 700 enterprises in China.

The PMI data suggest China’s economic growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2009 may have been its highest since the onset of the global financial crisis in late 2008.

The December reading shows China’s economic rebound continues to consolidate, but it may still be too soon to be overly optimistic about the trend, said PMI analyst Zhang Liqun in the federation’s statement.

Of the 11 categories that compose the PMI, nine rose, one fell, and one was unchanged in December compared with November.

The new export orders component, an indication of future exports, fell to 52.6 in December from 53.6 in November, the federation said.

Among components that rose, employment reached 52.2 last month, compared to November’s 51.1, while at the same time new orders were up, at 61.0 from 58.4.

The imports component also rose slightly, to 52.5 in December from 52.2 in November. Output was up at 61.4 last month, compared to 59.4 in November.

The federation’s PMI is the first of China’s economic indicators issued every month. China will issue data for its fourth-quarter gross domestic product and other December economic indicators later this month. The country’s quarterly economic year-on-year growth has been steadily rising since the start of 2009, boosted by massive stimulus measures.