Archive for October, 2008

Chimps 90 Percent Gone in a “Final Stronghold”

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

West African chimpanzees have declined by 90 percent in the last 18 years in an African country that is one of the subspecies’ “final strongholds,” a new study stays.

Scientists counting the rare chimps in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) found only about 800 to 1,200 of the apes—down from about 8,000 to 12,000 in 1989-90. Before the new survey, the country had been thought to harbor about half of all West African chimps.

“We were not expecting such a drastic decrease,” said lead author Geneviève Campbell, a doctoral candidate at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

The 1989-90 survey had itself represented a significant decline from 1960s estimates of about a hundred thousand West African Chimps in Côte d’Ivoire.

(See also: “Extinction Threatens Half of Primate Types, Study Says” [August 5, 2008].)


Grain shipments stalled in credit drought

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

The credit crisis is spilling over into the grain industry as international buyers find themselves unable to come up with payment, forcing sellers to shoulder often substantial losses.

Before cargoes can be loaded at port, buyers typically must produce proof they are good for the money. But more deals are falling through as sellers decide they don’t trust the financial institution named in the buyer’s letter of credit, analysts said.

There’s all kinds of stuff stacked up on docks right now that can’t be shipped because people can’t get letters of credit,” said Bill Gary, president of Commodity Information Systems in Oklahoma City. “The problem is not demand, and it’s not supply because we have plenty of supply. It’s finding anyone who can come up with the credit to buy.


Hunger in India states ‘alarming’

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

– This is India, hi-tech India.  Yeah right.

– See these stories for more fun: , , , , and I could go on….

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Twelve Indian states have “alarming” levels of hunger while the situation is “extremely alarming” in the state of Madhya Pradesh, says a new report.

Madhya Pradesh’s nutrition problems, it says, are comparable to the African countries of Ethiopia and Chad.

India has more people suffering hunger – a figure above 200 million – than any other country in the world, it says.

The report, released as part of the 2008 Global Hunger Index, ranks India at 66 out 88 countries.


Carbon Is Building Up in Atmosphere Faster Than Predicted

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

The rise in global carbon dioxide emissions last year outpaced international researchers’ most dire projections, according to figures being released today, as human-generated greenhouse gases continued to build up in the atmosphere despite international agreements and national policies aimed at curbing climate change.

In 2007, carbon released from burning fossil fuels and producing cement increased 2.9 percent over that released in 2006, to a total of 8.47 gigatons, or billions of metric tons, according to the Australia-based Global Carbon Project, an international consortium of scientists that tracks emissions. This output is at the very high end of scenarios outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and could translate into a global temperature rise of more than 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, according to the panel’s estimates.


Brazil government ‘worst logger’

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

Brazil’s government has been named as the worst illegal logger of Amazon forests by one of its own departments.

The Environment Ministry has drawn up a list of the 100 worst offenders and says all of them will be charged.

Topping the list was the Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Incra), a government department which distributes land to the poor.

The revelation came after an official report revealed that deforestation in the Amazon region was gathering pace.

The six largest deforested areas since 2005 all belonged to Incra, Environment Minister Carlos Minc said.

In total 550,000 acres of the world’s largest rainforest was destroyed on those six properties.

Greenpeace has accused Incra officials of illegally handing over rainforest to logging companies and creating fake settlements to skirt environmental regulations.


Nothing new, see these: , , , and

Make-Believe Maverick

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

– An excellent article on The Rolling Stone about John McCain.   If the man wins this election, God help us.

= = = = =   = = = = =   = = = = =

A closer look at the life and career of John McCain reveals a disturbing record of recklessness and dishonesty

At Fort McNair, an army base located along the Potomac River in the nation’s capital, a chance reunion takes place one day between two former POWs. It’s the spring of 1974, and Navy commander John Sidney McCain III has returned home from the experience in Hanoi that, according to legend, transformed him from a callow and reckless youth into a serious man of patriotism and purpose. Walking along the grounds at Fort McNair, McCain runs into John Dramesi, an Air Force lieutenant colonel who was also imprisoned and tortured in Vietnam.

McCain is studying at the National War College, a prestigious graduate program he had to pull strings with the Secretary of the Navy to get into. Dramesi is enrolled, on his own merit, at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in the building next door.

There’s a distance between the two men that belies their shared experience in North Vietnam — call it an honor gap. Like many American POWs, McCain broke down under torture and offered a “confession” to his North Vietnamese captors. Dramesi, in contrast, attempted two daring escapes. For the second he was brutalized for a month with daily torture sessions that nearly killed him. His partner in the escape, Lt. Col. Ed Atterberry, didn’t survive the mistreatment. But Dramesi never said a disloyal word, and for his heroism was awarded two Air Force Crosses, one of the service’s highest distinctions. McCain would later hail him as “one of the toughest guys I’ve ever met.”

On the grounds between the two brick colleges, the chitchat between the scion of four-star admirals and the son of a prizefighter turns to their academic travels; both colleges sponsor a trip abroad for young officers to network with military and political leaders in a distant corner of the globe.

“I’m going to the Middle East,” Dramesi says. “Turkey, Kuwait, Lebanon, Iran.”

“Why are you going to the Middle East?” McCain asks, dismissively.

“It’s a place we’re probably going to have some problems,” Dramesi says.

“Why? Where are you going to, John?”

“Oh, I’m going to Rio.”

“What the hell are you going to Rio for?”

McCain, a married father of three, shrugs.

“I got a better chance of getting laid.”

– More…

– Research thanks to Lisa G.

Andrew Lahde: Goodbye!

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

– This is a very interesting read.   Andrew Lahde, who operated a hedge fund that made an 866% return this last year by predicting the sub-prime melt-down, has decided to shut the fund down and say a few candid things about the banking industry, the folks that run it and about how the U.S. itself is run.  Well worth a read!

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

Dear Investor:

Today I write not to gloat. Given the pain that nearly everyone is experiencing, that would be entirely inappropriate. Nor am I writing to make further predictions, as most of my forecasts in previous letters have unfolded or are in the process of unfolding. Instead, I am writing to say goodbye.

Recently, on the front page of Section C of the Wall Street Journal, a hedge fund manager who was also closing up shop (a $300 million fund), was quoted as saying, “What I have learned about the hedge fund business is that I hate it.” I could not agree more with that statement. I was in this game for the money. The low hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy, only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America.

There are far too many people for me to sincerely thank for my success.  However, I do not want to sound like a Hollywood actor accepting an award. The money was reward enough. Furthermore, the endless list those deserving thanks know who they are.

I will no longer manage money for other people or institutions. I have enough of my own wealth to manage. Some people, who think they have arrived at a reasonable estimate of my net worth, might be surprised that I would call it quits with such a small war chest. That is fine; I am content with my rewards.  Moreover, I will let others try to amass nine, ten or eleven figure net worths.  Meanwhile, their lives suck. Appointments back to back, booked solid for the next three months, they look forward to their two week vacation in January during which they will likely be glued to their Blackberries or other such devices. What is the point? They will all be forgotten in fifty years anyway. Steve Balmer, Steven Cohen, and Larry Ellison will all be forgotten. I do not understand the legacy thing. Nearly everyone will be forgotten. Give up on leaving your mark. Throw the Blackberry away and enjoy life.

So this is it. With all due respect, I am dropping out. Please do not expect any type of reply to emails or voicemails within normal time frames or at all.  Andy Springer and his company will be handling the dissolution of the fund. And don’t worry about my employees, they were always employed by Mr. Springer’s company and only one (who has been well-rewarded) will lose his job.

I have no interest in any deals in which anyone would like me to participate.  I truly do not have a strong opinion about any market right now, other than to say that things will continue to get worse for some time, probably years. I am content sitting on the sidelines and waiting. After all, sitting and waiting is how we made money from the subprime debacle. I now have time to repair my health, which was destroyed by the stress I layered onto myself over the past two years, as well as my entire life — where I had to compete for spaces in universities and graduate schools, jobs and assets under management — with those who had all the advantages (rich parents) that I did not. May meritocracy be part of a new form of government, which needs to be established.

On the issue of the U.S. Government, I would like to make a modest proposal.  First, I point out the obvious flaws, whereby legislation was repeatedly brought forth to Congress over the past eight years, which would have reigned in the predatory lending practices of now mostly defunct institutions. These institutions regularly filled the coffers of both parties in return for voting down all of this legislation designed to protect the common citizen. This is an outrage, yet no one seems to know or care about it. Since Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith passed, I would argue that there has been a dearth of worthy philosophers in this country, at least ones focused on improving government.  Capitalism worked for two hundred years, but times change, and systems become corrupt. George Soros, a man of staggering wealth, has stated that he would like to be remembered as a philosopher. My suggestion is that this great man start and sponsor a forum for great minds to come together to create a new system of government that truly represents the common man’s interest, while at the same time creating rewards great enough to attract the best and brightest minds to serve in government roles without having to rely on corruption to further their interests or lifestyles. This forum could be similar to the one used to create the operating system, Linux, which competes with Microsoft’s near monopoly. I believe there is an answer, but for now the system is clearly broken.

Lastly, while I still have an audience, I would like to bring attention to an alternative food and energy source. You won’t see it included in BP’s, “Feel good. We are working on sustainable solutions,” television commercials, nor is it mentioned in ADM’s similar commercials. But hemp has been used for at least 5,000 years for cloth and food, as well as just about everything that is produced from petroleum products. Hemp is not marijuana and vice versa. Hemp is the male plant and it grows like a weed, hence the slang term. The original American flag was made of hemp fiber and our Constitution was printed on paper made of hemp. It was used as recently as World War II by the U.S. Government, and then promptly made illegal after the war was won. At a time when rhetoric is flying about becoming more self-sufficient in terms of energy, why is it illegal to grow this plant in this country? Ah, the female. The evil female plant — marijuana. It gets you high, it makes you laugh, it does not produce a hangover.  Unlike alcohol, it does not result in bar fights or wife beating. So, why is this innocuous plant illegal? Is it a gateway drug? No, that would be alcohol, which is so heavily advertised in this country. My only conclusion as to why it is illegal, is that Corporate America, which owns Congress, would rather sell you Paxil, Zoloft, Xanax and other additive drugs, than allow you to grow a plant in your home without some of the profits going into their coffers. This policy is ludicrous. It has surely contributed to our dependency on foreign energy sources. Our policies have other countries literally laughing at our stupidity, most notably Canada, as well as several European nations (both Eastern and Western). You would not know this by paying attention to U.S. media sources though, as they tend not to elaborate on who is laughing at the United States this week. Please people, let’s stop the rhetoric and start thinking about how we can truly become self-sufficient.

With that I say good-bye and good luck.

All the best,

Andrew Lahde

– hat tip to The Big Picture

How deep is the power of Corporations?

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

– A friend of mine sent me a copy of Obama’s most recent speech on the economy which was given on October 13th in Toledo, Ohio.    It’s an excellent speech with a lot of good ideas and moving rhetoric in it.  I like Obama and I think he’s going to make a good president – maybe even a great one since, if there was ever an opportunity to be a great president, this is the time.   The problems requiring new thinking and new approaches are everywhere he’s going to be going.

– But, I scoured  his speech looking for some recognition, some acknowledgment of the role multinational corporations have had in America’s decline – and I found none.

– I find it plausible that ideologues cannot see the role corporations are playing in the world today, but I do expect more from real intellectuals and thinkers.   And, I have to believe Obama *is* one of these.    He’s jut too good at what he does for it to be reasonable that he’s running on ideological auto-pilot.

– But, he doesn’t acknowledge, that I’ve seen, that he understands the place corporations occupy in the mess that America’s in.   And this, to me, is the best indication of just how very powerful and intractable the power of multinational corporations are – even in the highest levels of political power in the world.

– I believe he knows and I believe that he cannot say.    It would be political suicide for him.

– So, when he talks about creating American jobs and about how hard-working American workers are, he’s ignoring the huge back-drop that colors and underlies all of this.   And that is the fact that corporations, for the benefit of their shareholders, have utterly no compunctions about sending American jobs overseas.

– America’s manufacturing has largely gone to foreign shores.   America’s intellectual work has largely gone to foreign shores.   As Globalism has become a major thread in the economies of the world and in the strategies employed by multinationals, America has gone from being a wealthy nation of hard working producers generating profit for the country to a nation of consumers who sate themselves on cheap throw-away goods from China and other countries while borrowing ever more and sending our wealth overseas at ever increasing rates.

– What I want to know is just what America is going to use to rebuild itself?

– All the politicians talk about us ‘buckling down to work‘ and recreating America the strong, the prosperous, the productive.   Just what are we going to use to do this?   We are becoming a cardboard store-front nation.   We look good, we talk some bad jive but behind the scenes, there isn’t a whole hell of a lot left.   And what’s left, our growing negative balance of trade and deep consumerist obsessions are combining to  spew into the coffers of other countries and multinationals.

– And Obama and the other politicians tell us that we can overcome all of this – if we all just pull together and work hard.   Yeah, right.   That’s  like tell the band on the Titanic that they can prevent the sinking if they just play louder.

– Take a look through his speech here: and see if you can see any acknowledgment in his remarks of the place corporations and globalism are playing in the downfall of America.

– Folks, there is a very large elephant in the room that all of the politicians are afraid to mention.   But, until we take a square look at it, our economies, our global environments and our futures are going to be evermore in doubt.

– Research Thanks to Hans D.


Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

What can I say?

That’s our girl…

– Hat tips to Kiwiblog and Van for these

Cutting Down Old Growth Forests So You Can Wipe Your Ass

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

What’s left behind for your behindThats what is going on right now. Shocking new photos released today reveal the existence of a massive stockpile of old-growth logs that are destined to become disposable products like Kleenex tissue and Cottonelle toilet paper for tissue giant Kimberly-Clark Corporation (K-C). The logs originate from the Ogoki Forest, the single most ecologically valuable area left in Ontario’s southern Boreal Forest and the site of growing controversy.

The stockpile is evidence of Kimberly-Clark’s egregious mismanagement of the forests despite company claims that “much of [the] fiber from the Canadian Boreal forest comes to K-C in the form of wood pulp produced from sawdust and chips – or leftovers – of the lumber production process.” (1)

As these new photos and recent government correspondence reveal, Kimberly-Clark is currently purchasing huge quantities of pulp made primarily from whole, old-growth trees from intact areas of Canada’s Boreal Forest. According to the Ontario Ministry of Environment, the stockpile contained 85,000 cubic metres of wood as of the end of March 2008. That’s equivalent to over 7,000 logging trucks full of wood. Since the closure of an area sawmill in June 2008, this wood has been trucked to the Terrace Bay pulp mill where it is being turned directly into pulp for Kleenex and other disposable products. In total, the logs will have been trucked 6-7 hours from the forest to the mill.

What’s worse, even with this massive stockpile of timber already cut and waiting to be pulped, the Ogoki Forest continues to be logged, largely in order to supply Kimberly-Clark.


– Hat tip to The Sietch Blog