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Hong Kong billionaires in hot water

October 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Big News Network.com Saturday 13th October, 2012


In Hong Kong, the billionaire Kwok brothers have been given an adjournment in their high profile corruption trial.

The tycoons, Thomas and Raymond Kwok, were arrested in march by the Independent Commission Against Corruption which had been given the go-ahead to deal with widespread corruption.

The adjournment came when the prosecution called for more time to gather evidence.

The Kwok’s run Sun Hung Kai Properties which is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange. It is the world’s second-largest property developer by stock-market value.

The brothers are charged with a total of eight offences including conspiracy to offer advantages to a public servant.

A top government official, Rafael Hui, has also been charged along with two other people, Thomas Chan, an executive in charge of land acquisition at Sun Hung Kai, and Francis Kwan, a former banker.

It has been alleged payments and unsecured loans totalling around US$5 million were made.

 

Tens of thousands of dead fish are stinking up a 25-mile stretch of Lake Erie shoreline.

September 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Tens of thousands of dead fish stink up Lake Erie shore
 
September 5th, 2012
10:20 AM ET
 

Tens of thousands of dead fish stink up Lake Erie shore

Tens of thousands of dead fish have washed up on a 25-mile stretch of Lake Erie’s northern shore, and Ontario environmental officials say they could be victims of a natural phenomenon called a lake inversion.

The inversion brings cold water, which has lower oxygen levels, to the lake’s surface and fish suffocate.

“Essentially it’s a rolling over of the lake,” Ontario Ministry of the Environment spokeswoman Kate Jordan told The Chatham Daily News. “Something whether it be a storm, or cooler temperatures at night, or strong winds triggers a temperature change in the lake.”

Jordan said it was windy and choppy on the lake Friday night, according to a report in The Windsor Star. The fish kill was reported Saturday.

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the central basin of Lake Erie, between Cleveland on the south and Chatham, Ontario, on the north is particularly susceptible to oxygen deprivation, with the danger peaking in late August and mid-September.

Others suspect a sewage spill may have something to do with the fish kill.

David Colby, chief medical officer of the Chatham-Kent district where dead fish litter the beaches, told The Windsor Star that residents reported a strong sewage smell the night before the fish washed ashore.

“All kinds of people were woken out of a sound sleep by a stench and it was like a septic tank was backing up,” The Windsor Star quoted Colby as saying.

But Jordan said tests of lake water taken Saturday showed no signs of what might have killed the fish. The water was tested for oxygen, PH levels, conductivity and temperature, she said.

“The ministry did not observe any evidence of a spill or pollution and water quality measurements done did not show anything unusual,” Jordan told CNN.

The investigation was continuing, she said.

The dead fish included carp, sheepshead, perch, catfish and suckers, the Daily News reported, and Colby said most were of good size.

“I haven’t seen anything like this in quite some time,” the Daily News quoted him as saying. “The interesting thing is that most of the fish are sizable. There are very few little ones.”

Jordan told the Toronto Star the cleanup of the fish has yet to begin.

“We are having discussions with Environment Canada, the health unit and natural resources about that now,” the Toronto Star quoted her as saying.

Meanwhile, residents said the smell of rotting fish is overpowering.

“I had family here (on Monday) and I didn’t allow them to take the dog or the children down to the beach,” Chatham-Kent resident Patricia Pook told CNN affiliate CBC News. “I knew it was bad, but the smell is just overwhelming. It would make you sick to your stomach.”

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NaturalNews exclusive: UNITED-Continental airline pilots forced to fly with as little as 3 hours’ sleep, ‘worked until we drop’

August 12, 2012 Leave a comment

 

(NaturalNews) Whistleblower pilots flying for United / Continental airlines warn that they are being “worked until we drop,” forced to pilot consecutive long-distance flights with as little as three hours’ sleep. In a series of secret meetings with NaturalNews, three United / Continental pilots described the “utter hell” they are being put through:

“We are being worked until we drop,” one pilot to me in a recent face-to-face meeting in Texas. “United-Continental is flying us in violation of FAA legal requirements. Pilot fatigue is at red alert levels. This is an accident waiting to happen.”

The FAA requires pilots to have at least 8 hours of rest in any given 24-hour period. From the FAA’s website:

…a pilot is not allowed to accept, nor is an airline allowed to assign, a flight if the pilot has not has at least eight continuous hours of rest during the 24-hour period. In other words, the pilot needs to be able to look back in any preceding 24-hour period and find that he/she has had an opportunity for at least eight hours of rest. If a pilot’s actual rest is less than nine hours in the 24-hour period, the next rest period must be lengthened to provide for the appropriate compensatory rest.

But NaturalNews was told that United-Continental is operating in blatant violation of this rule. One pilot explained to me, in detail:

“The airline often schedules us with only nine hours of time from arrival of one flight to the departure of the next. They claim this is supposed to give us nine hours of rest, but on a recent turnaround in [city withheld for privacy], our flight had more handicapped customers than was recorded in the manifest, and we had to wait for more wheelchairs to arrive, which took an extra 45 minutes. Then we were over an hour on transportation to the hotel, and another hour for check-in and getting to the room. I had exactly 2 hours and 49 minutes of sleep before I was required to get up, shower, dress, check out, get back on the transportation van, get through the airport, and back on the flight deck for preflight. I then flew a long-duration trans-continental flight, managed to catch six hours of sleep after that, and was piloting yet another flight.”

The cost of pilot fatigue: Injury, death and lost planes

The cost of pilot fatigue can be catastrophic. Earlier this year, an Air Canada pilot awoke from an in-flight nap disoriented. He thought the planet Venus (which can appear as a bright “star” on the horizon) was an approaching plane, so he nose-dived the airliner to avoid what he thought was a potential collision.

The result? A 400-foot altitude plunge, 7 people in the hospital and 16 injured passengers and crew. As reported in the DailyMail: (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2130799/Pilot-fatigue-blamed-…)

Jon Lee, chief investigator, said the incident shows the problems airline crews face when dealing with being sleepy. He said: ‘This occurrence underscores the challenge of managing fatigue on the flight deck.’

Pilots have even died from fatigue, even while piloting flights carrying hundreds of passengers.

Did pilot fatigue kill Continental pilot Craig Lenell?

“One of our own had a heart attack and died a few weeks ago, in-flight,” the United-Continental pilots told me. The story checks out. The pilot’s name was Craig Lenell. He was described as being in “perfect health” and was piloting a Boeing 777 from Brussels to Newark. As Fox News reports:

Lenell died of a suspected heart attack midway through Continental Airlines Flight 61 on Thursday. Two co-pilots took over the controls. Passengers didn’t know anything was wrong until they landed and were met by fire trucks, emergency vehicles and dozens of clamoring reporters. (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,527465,00.html)

“If something doesn’t change soon, you’re going to see more pilots dying in-flight,” I was told. “Or worse, you’re going to see a fatal mistake, and 150-plus customers could be falling out of the sky.”

Pilot fatigue is even more critical when flying into difficult airports. Many airports served by United and Continental are surrounded by volcanoes and mountains. Localized weather patterns and storm cells make navigation very complex, even for experienced pilots. “The way we’re being flown with these lapses in sleep, it’s only a matter of time before we lose a flight,” one of the pilots told me. “[United / Continental] is rolling the dice with the lives of its customers.”

Pilot fatigue being pushed to its limits by airline company management

United-Continental is currently in a back-wages battle with its pilots. I was told that pilots have had their pensions stolen by the company. They’re owed back-wages dating back several years, the pilots told me, and the company is refusing to pay. As a result, pilots are staging a “work slowdown” that has caused the airline’s on-time flight record to plummet in recent months.

Over 1,400 pilots have been laid off by the company (http://crewroom.alpa.org/ual/DesktopModules/ViewDocument.aspx?Documen…), even at a time when remaining pilots are being stretched so thin that they’re often flying in a sleep-deprived state.

“Retired Continental Airline pilots alleged that Continental had breached the retirees’ pension plan by improperly calculating their salaries when determining their pension benefits,” reports Corporate Financial Weekly Digest (http://www.corporatefinancialweeklydigest.com/2012/02/articles/litiga…). “The retirees received an adverse ruling from the System Board, and, as they were expressly permitted to do both by the CBA and the System Board’s decision, commenced an action in federal court under ERISA challenging the ruling. The federal district court for the Southern District of Texas dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and the Fifth Circuit affirmed..”

The pilots got screwed, in other words. Their pensions have been raided, looted by the usual suspects. This, on top of the insane sleep schedules being forced upon the pilots, is a recipe for disaster.

Bottom line? Don’t fly United / Continental until the pilots get paid and well-rested

Personally, I won’t fly United-Continental until I get word that their pilots are having their pensions restored and sleep requirements honored. To get on an airplane piloted by a sleepy-headed, angry pilot being screwed over by the company he works for is not my idea of a safe flight experience.

Although pilots are among the most psychologically balanced people in any profession (they undergo routine psych evaluations and physical exams), even they have a breaking point. What the airline is doing to these pilots amounts to a type of work torture. Sleep deprivation, after all, is a commonly-practiced torture technique. While not all the pilots are sleep-deprived on all flights, getting on one of these airplanes right now is a bit of a “Russian roulette” game in that you have no idea which pilot is awake and alert versus which pilot is suffering from dangerous sleep deprivation.

Steer clear of United-Continental until further notice.

And to the management of United-Continental, remember this: The pilots make or break an airline. If you piss off the pilots, they will drive your company into the dirt. If you keep the pilots happy, they will deliver a remarkable record of on-time flights, efficient turnarounds and happy experiences for customers. And as a bonus, they won’t accidentally fly your precious hardware into a mountain or scatter passengers across a field somewhere, which is always a messy scene with lots of TV news coverage.

 

The Freeh Report and Joe Paterno, Part One


July 18th, 2012 |

Part One: The Philadelphia Inquirer Mangles the Flawed Freeh Report

What do you do when reporters from a major metropolitan daily newspaper—in this case, The Philadelphia Inquirer—demonstrate that they are completely incapable of reading a published report—in this case The Freeh Report—and providing their readers with a coherent summary of its contents? What do you do when the egregious misreading of that report by these reporters presents its readers a very false picture of how officials at Penn State handled Mike McQueary’s allegations of child molestation by Jerry Sandusky in February 2001? Perhaps you would recommend that the Philadelphia Inquirer receive the “death penalty” and not be permitted to publish its sludge for a full year!

Readers of my website might recall that, on 9 February 2012, I wrote a scathing critique titled “Incompetent Journalists at the Philadelphia Inquirer Slandered Joe Paterno”. Especially outrageous was the Inquirer’s 4 December 2011 editorial, which asserted: “Instead of alerting authorities, university officials and staff participated in what has all the markings of a cover-up. Their dismissal of the reported rape of a boy in a locker-room shower as mere ‘horsing around’ was an outrageous example of a mind-set that the university must now eradicate…”

As we now know, thanks to my investigation into that “reported rape,” the Editorial Board’s outrage was misplaced, directed at a pseudo-event created by the person who falsely summarized McQueary’s testimony in the grand jury presentment. As I made very clear in my article, “Three False Assertions by the Grand Jury turned the Press and Public against Joe Paterno and Penn State,” McQueary’s first-hand sworn testimony contradicted the summary of his testimony found in the widely reported grand jury report.

McQueary’s first-hand testimony contained his assertion that he “did not see insertion,” He also insisted that he never used the words “anal” or “rape”– since day one. Finally, McQueary testified that he never used the words “anal intercourse,” “anal sex,” or “rape” when reporting what he saw to Paterno, Curley and Schultz. In fact, the jurors who convicted Sandusky multiple times found him not guilty of the charge of anal rape of Victim 2.

The Philadelphia Inquirer never took any steps to correct the record, notwithstanding my repeated emails to its reporters, columnists and editors.

Nevertheless, one longs for the abysmally poor journalism practiced by the Inquirer then, especially after reading the garbage that is found under the Inquirer’s front page headline for Sunday, 15 July 2012: “The Penn State Paper Trail.”

Consider the first two paragraphs of that article: “Three days after Mike McQueary saw Jerry Sandusky molesting a boy in a shower in 2001, two top administrators at Pennsylvania State University had begun to craft a plan.”

“They would not notify authorities.”

The reporters who reached this conclusion—Jeremy Roebuck and Craig R. McCoy—cited a memo dated 2/12/2001, written by Penn State Vice President Gary Schulz as proof. The memo states: “Talked with TMC [Athletic Director Tim Curley] reviewed 1998 history.
– agreed TMC will discuss with JVP [Joe Paterno] + advise we think TMC should meet w JS [Jerry Sandusky] on Friday.
– unless he ‘confesses’ to having a problem, TMC will indicate we need to have DPW [Dept. of Public Welfare] review the matter as an independent agency concerned w child welfare
– TMC will keep me posted.”

If this memo supposedly proves that “They would not notify authorities,” my first questions for Messrs. Roebuck and McCoy are these:

1. What were the chances of Jerry Sandusky actually confessing?

2. Has Sandusky ever confessed?

3. If the probability of gaining his confession was extremely low, doesn’t that mean (according to the very memo you cite) that the next step would be to tell Sandusky that this matter will be turned over to the Department of Public Welfare?

4. Is there any evidence in the memo to indicate that Schulz and Curley had no intention of carrying out their threat?”

5. If the Schultz’s 12 February 2001 memo proves, as you allege, that “They would not notify authorities,” why did Schultz call the University’s outside legal counsel on 11 February 2001 to discuss “Reporting of Suspected Child Abuse? Why waste the time, if you have no intention of reporting the abuse?

Here’s another set of questions:

1. When you wrote, “The decision not to contact authorities was made final two weeks later in a flurry of e-mails among Curley, Schultz and then university president Graham B. Spanier,” did you actually read those e-mails before you went off the deep accusatory end?

After all, Schultz’s hand written notes for a meeting on 2/25/01 include the steps that are to be taken concerning Sandusky: “3) Tell chair of Board of Second Mile 2) Report to Dept. of Welfare. 1) Tell JS to avoid bringing children alone into Lasch Bldg who’s the chair??”

2. Is there anything in those notes that indicates Schultz, Curley and Spanier decided not to report to the Department of Welfare?

The next day’s e-mail from Schultz to Curley says: “Tim, I’m assuming that you’ve got the ball to 1) talk with the subject ASAP regarding the future appropriate use of the University facility; 2) contacting the chair of the Charitable Organization; and 3) contacting the Dept. of Welfare.”

3. Is there anything in that e-mail, which indicates that Schultz, Curley, and Spanier had made the decision not to report to authorities?

4. Again, I ask, did you actually read the material you reported on?

Readers who actually think about what they are reading will have noticed that Schultz’s notes for 2/25/01 and his e-mail of 2/26/01 contain no reference to any confession by Jerry Sandusky. They simply state a plan of action, which includes reporting to the Department of Welfare—as Pennsylvania State law requires. To that extent, these notes and e-mail actually sever the link that Messrs. Roebuck and McCoy attempt to create between Schultz’s notes of 2/12/01 and the “flurry of e-mails” two weeks later which “made final” their decision not to report Sandusky to the authorities.

In fact, it’s Curley’s e-mail to Schultz and Spanier on 2/27/01 which reintroduces the idea of a confession by Sandusky. As will be shown below, Curley is uncomfortable about going to everyone but Sandusky, “the person involved.” Here’s the relevant portion of Curley’s e-mail:

“After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday—I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps. I am having trouble with going to everyone, but the person involved. I think I would be more comfortable meeting with the person and tell him about the information we received. I would plan to tell him we are aware of the first situation. I would indicate we feel there is a problem and we want to assist the individual to get professional help. Also, we feel the responsibility at some point soon to inform his organization and [sic] maybe the other one about the situation. If he is cooperative we would work with him to handle informing the organization. If not, we do not have a choice and will inform the two groups. Additionally, I will let him know that his guests are not permitted to use our facilities. I need some help on this one. What do you think about this approach?”

Curley’s e-mail not only reintroduces the idea of a confession by Sandusky, but also implies that if Sandusky agrees to get professional help the Department of Welfare would not be notified. Spanier and Schultz not only agree with Curley’s proposal, but also praise it for being “humane.”

Thus, all three seemed prepared to violate Pennsylvania’s law to report allegations of sexual abuse if Sandusky admitted his problem and agreed to seek professional help. Presumably, that plan was designed to prevent more “incidents” like those of ’98 and ’01 while rescuing a friend. (I condemn this approach, but understand it.)

In fact, Spanier admits: “The only downside for us is if the message isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we become vulnerable for not having reported it. But that can be assessed down the road.”

But, again, I must ask: What is the probability that Sandusky will confess and agree to professional help. I believe that it was a lead pipe cinch that Sandusky would not confess.

Consequently, if Messrs. Spanier, Curley and Schultz stick to Curley’s revised plan, , these officials must report McQueary’s allegation to the Department of Welfare when Sandusky fails to confess.

Yet, that’s not the conclusion reached by the authors of the Freeh Report. In its grotesquely erroneous “gotcha” moment, the report asserts: “A reasonable conclusion from Spanier’s email statement that “[t]he only downside for us is if the message isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it” is that Spanier, Schultz and Curley were agreeing not to report Sandusky’s activity.”

No, that’s not a reasonable conclusion! Absolutely not! It totally ignores that part of Curley’s plan to report to the Department of Welfare in the extremely probable event that Sandusky refuses to confess and seek treatment.

Clearly, the Freeh Report has overreached. And I can’t avoid the suspicion that this overreach led to another—the barely supported conclusion that the need “to avoid the consequences of bad publicity” explains the cover up.

Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that the Freeh Report’s erroneous “gotcha” moment—which specifically identifies the day when the cover-up by Spanier, Schultz and Curley commenced—excludes Joe Paterno.

Perhaps as a silver lining in its dark cloud of journalistic malpractice, Messrs. Roebuck and McCoy also have little to say about Joe Paterno. Appropriately so. Nevertheless, they appear to not only have swallowed the unreasonable gotcha conclusion reached by the Freeh Report, but also to have attempted to work backward from that false conclusion in order to demonstrate that the decision not to report actually can be traced back to Schultz’s notes dated 2/12/01. It’s shoddy journalism at its worst!

An unbiased reading of the sketchy evidence would indicate that the decision not to report McQueary’s allegations to the Department of Welfare occurred after 7 March 2001, the day Curley actually met with Sandusky.

The available evidence suggests that Curley never confronted Sandusky and Sandusky confessed to nothing. Worse, Sandusky (brazenly?) offered to give Curley the name of the boy who was in the Lasch building shower with him that night—and Curley refused to take it.

If this information is correct (a very big “if”), then, according to the plan all three agreed to, one of them was obligated to report Sandusky to the Department of Welfare. But that didn’t happen and we still do not know why—even after the publication of the Freeh Report.

In the Freeh Report [p. 77], Spanier claims that Curley subsequently told him that Sandusky had confessed and agreed to get professional help. But, we know that didn’t happen, so somebody’s lying.

Moreover, in that same Freeh Report [p. 78], the lawyer representing the Director of the Second Mile charity claims that Curley told his client that “nothing inappropriate occurred.” That’s the story being told by Spanier, Schultz and Curley today – and they’re sticking to it.

(Personally, I find it difficult to believe that both Curley and Schultz came to the conclusion that “nothing inappropriate occurred,” especially after Joe Paterno reported to them McQueary’s allegations of something sexual between Sandusky and a young boy, and especially given the fact that both of them knew about the investigation of Sandusky in 1998. Paterno’s report, alone, should have triggered an automatic message to the Department of Welfare.)

Let’s hope that the trial of Curley and Schultz brings resolution to that assertion.

Source article:
http://www.walter-c-uhler.com/?p=541

BACK to margotbworldnews.com

Colorado Springs under threat as 32,000 flee Waldo fire


27 June 2012 Last updated at 21:31 ET

media images

Gov John Hickenlooper said “there is nothing firefighters could do when you get this kind of weather”

More than 32,000 people have fled Colorado‘s second-biggest city because of raging wildfires that have hit six other US states.

Traffic and smoke choked the streets as people left Colorado Springs and a nearby US Air Force Academy.

Evacuation orders were issued for much of the city as the fire doubled in size to over 24 sq miles (62 sq km). Some 800 firefighters have been deployed.

President Barack Obama is to tour the affected areas on Friday.

Just weeks into the annual wildfire season, there are also fires in Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Utah.

In Utah, a body was found in the ashes of a fast-moving wildfire to the south of Salt Lake City.

‘Epic firestorm’

At a press briefing on Wednesday morning, officials in Colorado said fire crews had worked through the night. But the blaze was only 5% contained.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

As we were driving, the ash was falling out of the sky”

Hillory Davis Colorado Springs resident

Weather conditions were not favourable.

Dry, hot temperatures are expected to continue across much of the US this week, with little chance of rain.

“We do expect all of our lines to be challenged today,” incident commander Richard Harvey said, adding that erratic winds could make their job harder.

One Colorado Springs hospital said it had treated about 20 patients in the last 24 hours for respiratory-related illnesses, a local newspaper reported.

The Waldo Canyon Fire, which began on Saturday, has been fanned towards Colorado Springs by winds of up to 65mph (104km/h).

A helicopter drops water on the Waldo Canyon fire burning behind the US Air Force Academy, west of Colorado Springs, 27 June 2012

A helicopter drops water on the Waldo Canyon fire burning behind the US Air Force Academy

“It was like looking at the worst movie set you could imagine,” Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said after surveying the fire from the air on Tuesday.

“It’s almost surreal. You look at that, and it’s like nothing I’ve seen before.”

Heavy ash and smoke was billowing from the hillsides west of Colorado Springs and southbound traffic was temporarily closed on Interstate 25, which runs through the city.

Fleeing residents covered their faces with T-shirts to breathe through the smoke.

Smoke from the Waldo Canyon fire drapes the foothills on 27 June 2012 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The fire is threatening many homes in the densely populated Colorado Springs area

“It took us an hour to drive a mile because of the traffic. It was really tense. As we were driving, the ash was falling out of the sky. We couldn’t see the street because of the smoke,” Colorado Springs resident Hillory Davis, 22, told the BBC.

Meanwhile, Richard Brown, the Colorado Springs fire chief, described the blaze as a “firestorm of epic proportions”.

The city of 419,000 people is Colorado’s second largest, situated just off the main north-south highway.

It is home to the sprawling campus of the US Air Force Academy, the top school for cadets joining the Air Force.

On Wednesday afternoon, academy officials said the fire had spread to about 10 acres of the campus. Some 2,100 people were evacuated from base housing overnight.

Firefighters from the Air Force and local crews were trying to stop the blaze reaching the academy.

Elsewhere in Colorado, the High Park fire in the west of the state has been burning for weeks and remains barely half contained, although fewer homes are under imminent threat.

In pictures: Colorado wildfires

27 JUNE 2012, US & CANADA

BACK to margotbworldnews.com

Categories: Top Stories, U.S., US News

Quebec Adopts Emergency Law To End Tuition Crisis


May 16 Student Protest In Montreal

CBC  |  Posted: 05/18/2012 7:10 pm Updated: 05/18/2012 11:21 pm

Quebec Emergency

Woman crying in front of a wall of Surete du Quebec riot squad police officers as they advance to remove striking students at the College Lionel-Groulx.The Canadian Press Images-Mario Beauregard

Quebec‘s legislature has voted in favour of an emergency law aimed at cooling tensions in the 14-week tuition hike crisis.

After debating the special legislation overnight Thursday, members of the national assembly (MNAs) voted 68-48.

The legislation calls for heavy fines for students and their federations, and strict regulations governing demonstrations, following months of social tension and protests that made international news.

Critics lined up to assail the law as an affront to civil rights, an overreaction, or ill-considered improvisation.

Thousands of people took to the streets in Montreal and Quebec City late Friday night to protest the bill’s passage.

Even international activist collective Anonymous weighed in on the “draconian” legislation via Twitter, stating simply “Expect us.”

The new law is based on three main pillars: It pauses the current school year at institutions affected by strikes; imposes steep fines for anyone who tries blocking access to a school; and limits where, how, and for how long people can protest in Quebec.

For some legal experts the law violates rights — while opposition leaders have called it “abusive.”

“It’s the worst law that I’ve ever seen, except for the War Measures Act,” said law professor Lucie Lemonde, referring to the notorious legislation imposed in Quebec during the 1970 FLQ crisis.

“We knew something was coming, but I didn’t think they would use it to change the rules of the game in terms of the rights to demonstrate,” said Lemonde, who teaches at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQÀM).

The law attacks an individual’s rights to freedom of expression, association and conscience, she said.

The head of the Quebec Bar Association, Louis Masson, said Bill 78 violates constitutional rights, including freedom of speech and the right to demonstrate peacefully.

The law also creates many roadblocks to organizing a peaceful demonstration, and presents “so many risks that an honest citizen practically will not go there.”

However, there were grumblings from some members of the bar that not all Quebec lawyers are opposed to the law.

Student groups promised to launch a court challenge against Bill 78 next week.

The law is designed to expire in July, 2013.

Critical reception

The Opposition has been extremely critical of the bill, pounding on the Charest government during the lengthy debate.

Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois calls the law “abusive” and promised to repeal it, if her party is elected to power in the future.

“The darkest moment always comes before the light,” Marois said in the moments before the vote.

“It will be time to change the government soon.”

Student leaders were also quick to denounce the bill soon after initial details of the legislation were released.

“This is actually a declaration of war against the student movement and not only against the student movement, but it restricted the liberty of speech, the liberty of association,” said Martine Desjardins, president of university student group FEUQ.

It was among several protest-related developments in Quebec on Friday as Montreal adopted a new, municipal anti-mask bylaw.

Bill 78 summary

Fines of between $1,000 and $5,000 for any individual who prevents someone from entering an educational institution.

Penalties climb to between $7,000 and $35,000 for a student leader and to between $25,000 and $125,000 for unions or student federations.

Public demonstations involving more than 50 people have to be flagged to authorities eight hours in advance, include itinerary, duration and time at which they are being held.

Police can order the protest move to a different spot.

Offering encouragement for someone to protest at a school, either tacitly or otherwise, is subject to punishment.

“Black Dust” in Tokyo? With 243,000 Bq/Kg of Radioactive Cesium


Freelance journalist Rei Shiva [Shiba] writing for Nikkan Spa, a daily tabloid in Japan (part; 5/15/2012):

福島県南相馬市内で発見された超強力な放射能を持つ謎の“黒い粉”が話題になったのは今年2月のこと。

It was this February when the super-radioactive and mysterious “black dust” found in Minami Soma City in Fukushima Prefecture was in the news.

1kgあたり108万ベクレル」というケタ違いの線量は衝撃的なものの、「南相馬での特殊な事例」として受け止められていた。ところが、その「黒い粉」は東京都内の至るところに存在しているという。

Although 1.08 million Bq/kg was shocking, it was considered to be specific only to Minami Soma. However, I’ve been told that “black dust” exists everywhere in Tokyo.

「放射線検知器を近づけてみると、明らかに反応があるので、汚染度が高いのかなとは思っていたのですが、まさ かここまでとは……」「黒い粉」を都内で発見した、市民団体「NO!放射能 江東こども守る会」の石川あや子代表は驚きを隠せない。「江戸川区のJR平井駅周辺で『黒い粉』らしきものを見つけ、採取したサンプルを神戸大学の山内知 也教授に検査してもらったところ、最大で1kgあたり24万3000Bqという数値が出たんです」。

“When I brought the radiation detector closer, it visibly responded. So I knew it might be highly contaminated, but didn’t know it was this contaminated…”, says Ayako Ishikawa incredulously. Ishikawa is the head of the citizens’ group “No! to Radiation, Protect Children in Koto”. [Koto-ku is one of the eastern Special Wards of Tokyo]. She says, “We found something that looked like “black dust” near the Hirai JR station in Edogawa-ku. We collected the sample and and asked Professor Tomoya Yamauchi of Kobe University to measure the radiation. The result was that it had the maximum 243,000 Bq/kg [of radioactive cesium].”

これは原子炉等規制法で定められた「安全基準(クリアランスレベル)」の約2430倍という、途方もない数値だ。

It is 2,430 times the clearance level [100 Bq/kg] specified by the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law.

「注意して見ると、『黒い粉』は都内の至るところにあります」と石川さんは言う。そんなにあちこちに高汚染の物質が転がっているのだろうか? という疑問を抱えつつ、「黒い粉」の調査に本誌記者も同行した。

“If you look carefully, “black dusts” are everywhere in Tokyo”, says Ishikawa. Such highly contaminated materials are everywhere? I decided to accompany her to look for “black dusts”.

まずは、JR平井駅から徒歩10分ほど。公営団地そばの運動場で「黒い粉」を発見した。フェンス近くで何か所にもわたって吹き溜まっていた「黒い粉」は、一見すると黒い土のように見える。近づいてよく見てみると、乾燥して干からびたコケやカビのようなものであるとわかる。

First, [to a location] about 10-minute walk from the JR Hirai Station. We found the “black dust” on the playground near the public housing. There were several drifts near the fence, and they looked like just “black soil”. When I took a closer look, they were revealed to be something like a dried moss or mold.

「この前来たときと微妙に場所が変わっていますね。風雨で移動したのかもしれません」と石川さん。ガイガーカ ウンターよりも信頼性の高い、国産のシンチレーション式放射線検知器を「黒い粉」に近づけてみた。すると数値が急上昇し、毎時2μSvを超えた。東京都の 平均的な空間線量(地上1m)の約20倍だ。山内教授は「一般的に携帯式の放射線検知器は周囲の放射線量の平均値を表示します。つまり、少量の物質に検知 器を向けて数値が急上昇するならば、その物質が極めて強い放射線を出している可能性があります」という。

Ishikawa said, “They are at slightly different locations. Rain and wind may have moved them.” We measured the radiation with the scintillation survey meter made by a domestic manufacturer because it is more reliable than a geiger counter. The number shot up quickly, and exceeded 2 microsieverts/hour. That is twenty times more than the average air radiation level (at 1 meter off the ground) in Tokyo. Professor Yamauchi says, “In general, a scintillation survey meter shows the average radiation level. If the number rises rapidly when the survey meter is directed toward a small amount of substance, it is possible that the substance is emitting extremely strong radiation.”

果たして、「黒い粉」の正体とは何なのか? そして、「黒い粉」の性質を利用した効率良い除染方法とは? 5月15日発売の週刊SPA!「首都圏を襲う[放射能の黒い粉]」では、「黒い粉」の元になる物質の怖さのみならず有用性もまた報じている。

What is this “black dust”? What is the efficient decontamination method using the unique properties of the “black dust”? Shukan Spa [weekly magazine] that will go on sale on May 15 has the article “Radioactive black dust striking the Tokyo Metropolitan area”, which will report on the danger of the substance that makes up the “black dust” as well as its usefulness.

I don’t see much point in comparing it to the clearance level of 100 Bq/kg which is applicable only to enclosed nuclear facilities. After the Fukushima nuclear accident, it’s a whole new ballgame where the disaster debris exceeding that clearance level is being shipped to Kyushu to be burned in a regular incinerator and the soil samples in Kanto and Tohoku easily exceed that level in many locations.

Even though I have reported on the “black dusts” in Minami Soma City (most recently, here), I am not completely convinced that this “black” substance is any different from a drift of dirt that one often saw on the road surface or near the drains even before the Fukushima nuclear accident. Cyanobacteria that supposedly make up the “black dust” are ubiquitous.

Professor Yukio Hayakawa of Gunma University says if the top 1 millimeter of the soil is taken the radioactivity can be extremely high, though he seems to think that “black dust” is a very good indicator of urban contamination.

No matter what it is or how it came about, it is clearly highly radioactive, and it’d better be removed to avoid contact. No municipalities are doing that, as they should.

Just don’t go multiply that number (243,000 Bq/kg) by 65 and exclaim “Look, Tokyo is more contaminated than Chernobyl exclusion zone!” The multiplier of 65 only applies to soil samples that are taken from the surface to 5 centimeters deep, and whose specific gravity is about 1.3g/cm3. If Tokyo’s “black dust” has the same weight as Minami Soma’s “black dust”, it would be less than 0.5g/cm3.

Source: http://ex-skf.blogspot.ca/2012/05/black-dust-in-tokyo-with-243000-bqkg-of.html

Categories: Asia, Environment, Top Stories

Pentagon admits it has no photo evidence of Bin Laden’s death


By Elliott Freeman

May 1, 2012 in Politics
Pentagon officials recently disclosed to the Associated Press (AP) that they could not find any photo or video evidence to confirm that Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was killed in the Navy Seal raid in Pakistan a year ago.
AP has submitted more than 20 requests for information surrounding the raid on Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound to the U.S. Government under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In response to the request for visual evidence of Bin Laden’s death, the Pentagon stated that it could not find any pictures or video footage of the raid itself or of Bin Laden’s dead body. It also told AP it could not locate any images of Bin Laden’s body that were taken on the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, the Navy aircraft carrier that reportedly lowered him into the sea after his death.
In addition, the Pentagon admitted that it could not find an autopsy report, death certificate or results of a DNA identification test for Bin Laden, in spite of claims made by President Obama and reported by CBC News that a DNA test was performed. These admissions follow a related FOIA response by the Department of Defense in February, in which it stated that it had no emails concerning the Bin Laden raid that were sent prior to its execution.
The Atlantic Wire reported in February that the CIA claimed it had visual proof of Bin Laden’s death, but the Pentagon’s admission that it does not have any evidence of this kind still raises significant questions, since its jurisdiction includes the Navy Seals that conducted the raid and the Navy ship that buried Bin Laden at sea. The latest revelation drew the suspicion of Lt. Col. Robert Bowman (ret.), the former director of Advanced Space Programs Development for the U.S. Air Force. “It makes the official story sound very fishy,” Bowman said in an interview with Digital Journal. “Without proof, I’m not buying it carte blanche.”
Bowman also pointed to the reports that Bin Laden died in 2001 or 2002, which have been supported by former FBI counter-terrorism chief Dale Watson, former assistant Secretary of State Steve Pieczenik, former U.S. foreign intelligence officer Angelo Codevilla and other intelligence experts. “This smacks of a cover-up,” Bowman added. Some organizations contend that the cover-up extends beyond the Bin Laden raid, including Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, a group of over 1,600 technical professionals that is calling for a new 9/11 investigation.
“The raid is not the only part of the Bin Laden narrative that doesn’t add up,” said founder Richard Gage, AIA. “It’s also highly unlikely that Bin Laden and Al Qaeda had access to plant the explosives that brought down the Twin Towers and Building 7.”
Meanwhile, President Obama called for a time of remembrance and contemplation on the anniversary of the raid. “I think for us to use that time for some reflection, to give thanks to those who participated is entirely appropriate, and that’s what’s been taking place,” he said on Monday, according to McClatchy News.
It remains to be seen how the public will reflect on the lack of credible evidence surrounding the demise of the world’s most wanted terrorist.
Categories: Uncategorized

The Nation: Lessons On Radiation From Hiroshima

August 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Greg Mitchell writes the Media Fix blog for TheNation.com.

The worst nuclear disaster to strike Japan since a single bomb fell over Nagasaki in 1945 occurred in the spring of 2011 at the Fukushima nuclear power plant following the epic tsunami. Earlier this week the New York Times reported (in a sadly submerged fashion, given the news from Libya) the disturbing news that a wide area around the Fukushima plant “could soon be declared uninhabitable, perhaps for decades, after a government survey found radioactive contamination that far exceeded safe levels….

“The formal announcement, expected from the government in coming days, would be the first official recognition that the March accident could force the long-term depopulation of communities near the plant, an eventuality that scientists and some officials have been warning about for months.”

Just two weeks ago, it was reported that radiation readings at the site had reached their highest points to date. The wide release of radiation, and fear of same, has forced the Japanese and others all over the world to reflect on what happened to the country in 1945, and the continuing (but usually submerged) threat of nuclear weapons and energy today.

In its main story marking the 66th anniversary of the atomic bombings, the Times highlighted the new activism of survivors of the bombing (the hibakusha) this year: campaigning against nuclear power, which has provided most of their country’s energy needs. No one in the world can relate to the fears of a wide populace terrified that they (and perhaps the unborn) may be tainted forever by exposure to airborne radiation.

My colleague Robert Jay Lifton wrote an op-ed for the New York Times titled “Fukushima and Hiroshima.” He pointed out: “One may ask how it is possible that Japan, after its experience with the atomic bombings, could allow itself to draw so heavily on the same nuclear technology for the manufacture of about a third of its energy. There was resistance, much of it from Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors. But there was also a pattern of denial, cover-up and cozy bureaucratic collusion between industry and government, the last especially notorious in Japan but by no means limited to that country.”

The Mainichi Shimbun sought out Sumiteru Taniguchi, now 82, and currently director of the Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors Council, for comment. It noted that while he normally talks quietly and haltingly, “when the conversation turns to the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant it is as if the floodgates open, and his tone suddenly turns harsh.” Taniguchi said: “Nuclear power and mankind cannot coexist. We survivors of the atomic bomb have said this all along. And yet, the use of nuclear power was camouflaged as ‘peaceful’ and continued to progress. You never know when there’s going to be a natural disaster. You can never say that there will never be a nuclear accident.”

As it happens, I have interviewed Taniguchi three times, in the United States and in Japan. He is perhaps the iconic symbol of the hibakusha today, thanks to footage of him taken after the bombing, showing him, months after the attack, still on a floor, spread-eagled, his entire back an open wound, flaming red. It was part of footage shot by a US film crew, and suppressed for decades, as I probe in my new book Atomic Cover-Up. (You can see some of the Taniguchi footage here.)

In April, 2011, five survivors’ organizations including Taniguchi’s Nagasaki group submitted a statement to the Japanese government declaring the collapse of the “safety myth” around nuclear power and demanding a change in the government’s energy policy to prevent creating any more hibakusha. And Hidankyo, where Taniguchi still served on the board, “has sent a statement to the government,” Mainichi Shimbun reported, “demanding that it distribute health record booklets — similar to the ones that are distributed to atomic bomb victims and can be used as proof of radiation exposure — to nuclear power plant workers and residents living close to them, and also provide periodic health examinations to those populations.”

Taniguchi pointed out that numerous A-bomb survivors over the decades had sought help from the government after falling ill or suffering cancer and other diseases, allegedly from radiation exposure, but had been “abandoned.” The Mainichi article closed with this question: Will the people who are suffering from invisible dangers in Fukushima be subjected to the same treatment?

Of course, the Fukushima disaster forced me to relive my own experiences in visiting the atomic cities, and my research into the American “cover-up” since. I was hardly alone. Writing in a New York Times op-ed after Fukushima, Nassrine Azimi, a senior adviser at a United Nations Institute, observed: “When it comes to nuclear issues — from atomic weapons to nuclear power — no two nations could be more irredeemably intertwined. After the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, despite dissenting voices of some of its own citizens, America drew mostly wrong conclusions as it plunged into nuclear expansion.”

She cited the book I wrote several years ago with Lifton, Hiroshima in America, for its painstaking account of “the relentless public relations campaign — unleashed by the Truman administration almost within hours of the Hiroshima bombing — that led to the Faustian bargain that blinded the Americans (and later the Japanese) to the insidious, long-term damage of radiation. Prominent journalists and media outlets of the time embraced, with enthusiasm, the ‘Dawn of the Atomic Age’ and America fell, in the authors’ words, into the ‘nuclear entrapment’ that is with us to this day.”

BACK to margotbworldnews.com

How to Lose Readers (Without Even Trying)

August 29, 2011 Leave a comment

image

(Photo by Francisco Diez)

Do you have too many readers of your books and articles? Want to reduce traffic on your blog? It turns out, there is a foolproof way to alienate many of your fans, quickly and at almost no cost.

It took me years to discover this publishing secret, but I’ll pass it along to you for free:

Simply write an article suggesting that taxes should be raised on billionaires.

Really, it’s that simple!

You can declare the world’s religions to be cesspools of confusion and bigotry, you can argue that all drugs should be made legal and that free will is an illusion. You can even write in defense of torture. But I assure you that nothing will rile and winnow your audience like the suggestion that billionaires should contribute more of their wealth to the good of society.

This is not to say that everyone hated my last article (“How Rich is Too Rich?”), but the backlash has been ferocious. For candor and concision this was hard to beat:

You are scum sam. unsubscribed.

 

Unlike many of the emails I received, this one made me laugh out loud—for rarely does one see the pendulum of human affection swing so freely. Note that this response came, not from a mere visitor to my blog, but from someone who had once admired me enough to subscribe to my email newsletter. All it took was a single article about the problem of wealth inequality to provoke, not just criticism, but loathing.

The following should indicate the general gloom that has crept over my inbox:

I will not waste my time addressing your nonsense point-by-point, but I certainly could and I think in a more informed way than many economists—whose credentials you seem to think are necessary for your consideration of a response. Do you see what an elitist ass that makes you seem? I think you should stick to themes you know something about such as how unreasonable religion is. I am sure I am not the only one whose respect you lose with your economic ideology.

Nothing illustrates why people should not leave their comfort zones than this egregiously silly piece….You make such good points about the importance of skeptical inquiry and about how difficult it is to truly know something that your soak the rich comments are, as a good man once said, not even wrong. Take care.

Sorry Sam. I used to praise and promote your works. You’ve lost me. Your promotion of theft by initiating force on others is unforgivable. You’re just a thug now, attempting cheap personal gratification by broadcasting signals which cost you nothing, just like Warren Buffett.

Many readers were enraged that I could support taxation in any form. It was as if I had proposed this mad scheme of confiscation for the first time in history. Several cited my framing of the question—“how much wealth can one person be allowed to keep?”—as especially sinister, as though I had asked, “how many of his internal organs can one person be allowed to keep?”

For what it’s worth—and it won’t be worth much to many of you—I understand the ethical and economic concerns about taxation. I agree that everyone should be entitled to the fruits of his or her labors and that taxation, in the State of Nature, is a form of theft. But it appears to be a form of theft that we require, given how selfish and shortsighted most of us are.

Many of my critics imagine that they have no stake in the well-being of others. How could they possibly benefit from other people getting first-rate educations? How could they be harmed if the next generation is hurled into poverty and despair? Why should anyone care about other people’s children? It amazes me that such questions require answers.

Would Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, rather have $10 billion in a country where the maximum number of people are prepared to do creative work? Or would he rather have $20 billion in a country with the wealth inequality of an African dictatorship and commensurate levels of crime?[1] I’d wager he would pick door number #1. But if he wouldn’t, I maintain that it is only rational and decent for Uncle Sam to pick it for him.

However, many readers view this appeal to State power as a sacrilege. It is difficult to know what to make of this. Either they yearn for reasons to retreat within walled compounds wreathed in razor wire, or they have no awareness of the societal conditions that could warrant such fear and isolation. And they consider any effort the State could take to prevent the most extreme juxtaposition of wealth and poverty to be indistinguishable from Socialism.

It is difficult to ignore the responsibility that Ayn Rand bears for all of this. I often get emails from people who insist that Rand was a genius—and one who has been unfairly neglected by writers like myself. I also get emails from people who have been “washed in the blood of the Lamb,” or otherwise saved by the “living Christ,” who have decided to pray for my soul. It is hard for me to say which of these sentiments I find less compelling.

As someone who has written and spoken at length about how we might develop a truly “objective” morality, I am often told by followers of Rand that their beloved guru accomplished this task long ago. The result was Objectivism—a view that makes a religious fetish of selfishness and disposes of altruism and compassion as character flaws. If nothing else, this approach to ethics was a triumph of marketing, as Objectivism is basically autism rebranded. And Rand’s attempt to make literature out of this awful philosophy produced some commensurately terrible writing. Even in high school, I found that my copies of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged simply would not open.

And I say this as someone who considers himself, in large part, a “libertarian”—and who has, therefore, embraced more or less everything that was serviceable in Rand’s politics. The problem with pure libertarianism, however, has long been obvious: We are not ready for it. Judging from my recent correspondence, I feel this more strongly than ever. There is simply no question that an obsession with limited government produces impressive failures of wisdom and compassion in otherwise intelligent people.

Why do we have laws in the first place? To prevent adults from behaving like dangerous children. All laws are coercive and take the following form: do this, and don’t do that, or else. Or else what? Or else men with guns will arrive at your door and take you away to prison. Yes, it would be wonderful if we did not need to be corralled and threatened in this way. And many uses of State power are both silly and harmful (the “war on drugs” being, perhaps, the ultimate instance). But the moment certain strictures are relaxed, people reliably go berserk. And we seem unable to motivate ourselves to make the kinds of investments we should make to create a future worth living in. Even the best of us tend to ignore some of the more obvious threats to our long term security.

For instance, Graham Alison, author of Nuclear Terrorism, thinks there is a greater than 50 percent chance that a nuclear bomb will go off in an American city sometime in the next ten years. (A poll of national security experts commissioned by Senator Richard Lugar in 2005 put the risk at 29 percent.) The amount of money required to secure the stockpiles of weapons and nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union is a pittance compared to the private holdings of the richest Americans. And should even a single incident of nuclear terrorism occur, the rich would likely lose more money in the resulting economic collapse than would have been required to secure the offending materials in the first place.

If private citizens cannot be motivated to allocate the necessary funds to mitigate such problems—as it seems we cannot—the State must do it. The State, however, is broke.
And lurking at the bottom of this morass one finds flagrantly irrational ideas about the human condition. Many of my critics pretend that they have been entirely self-made. They seem to feel responsible for their intellectual gifts, for their freedom from injury and disease, and for the fact that they were born at a specific moment in history. Many appear to have absolutely no awareness of how lucky one must be to succeed at anything in life, no matter how hard one works. One must be lucky to be able to work. One must be lucky to be intelligent, to not have cerebral palsy, or to not have been bankrupted in middle age by the mortal illness of a spouse.

Many of us have been extraordinarily lucky—and we did not earn it. Many good people have been extraordinarily unlucky—and they did not deserve it. And yet I get the distinct sense that if I asked some of my readers why they weren’t born with club feet, or orphaned before the age of five, they would not hesitate to take credit for these accomplishments. There is a stunning lack of insight into the unfolding of human events that passes for moral and economic wisdom in some circles. And it is pernicious. Followers of Rand, in particular, believe that only a blind reliance on market forces and the narrowest conception of self interest can steer us collectively toward the best civilization possible and that any attempt to impose wisdom or compassion from the top—no matter who is at the top and no matter what the need—is necessarily corrupting of the whole enterprise. This conviction is, at the very least, unproven. And there are many reasons to believe that it is dangerously wrong.

Given the current condition of the human mind, we seem to need a State to set and enforce certain priorities. I share everyone’s concern that our political process is broken, that it can select for precisely the sorts of people one wouldn’t want in charge, and that fantastic sums of money get squandered. But no one has profited more from our current system, with all its flaws, than the ultra rich. They should be the last to take their money off the table. And they should be the first to realize when more resources are necessary to secure the common good.
In reply to my question about future breakthroughs in technology (e.g. robotics, nanotech) eliminating millions of jobs very quickly, and creating a serious problem of unemployment, the most common response I got from economists was some version of the following:

1. There ***IS*** a fundamental principle of economics that rules out a serious long-term problem of unemployment:

The first principle of economics is that we live in a world of scarcity, and the second principle of economics is that we have unlimited wants and desires.

Therefore, the second principle of economics: unlimited wants and desires, rules out long-term problem of unemployment.

2. What if we were having this discussion in the 1800s, when it was largely an agricultural-based economy, and you were suggesting that “future breakthroughs in farm technology (e.g. tractors, electricity, combines, cotton gin, automatic milking machinery, computers, GPS, hybrid seeds, irrigation systems, herbicides, pesticides, etc.) could eliminate millions of jobs, creating a serious problem of unemployment.”

With hindsight, we know that didn’t happen, and all of the American workers who would have been working on farms without those technological, labor-saving inventions found employment in different or new sectors of the economy like manufacturing, health care, education, business, retail, transportation, etc.

For example, 90% of Americans in 1790 were working in agriculture, and now that percentage is down to about 2%, even though we have greater employment overall now than in 1790. The technological breakthroughs reduced the share of workers in farming, but certainly didn’t create long-term problems of unemployment. Thanks to “unlimited wants and desires,” Americans found gainful employment in industries besides farming.

Mark J. Perry
Professor of Economics, University of Michigan, Flint campus and
Visiting Scholar at The American Enterprise Institute and
Carpe Diem Blog

 

As I wrote to several of these correspondents, I worry that the adjective “long-term” waves the magician’s scarf a bit, concealing some very unpleasant possibilities. Are they so unpleasant that any rational billionaire who loves this country (and his grandchildren) would want to avoid them at significant cost in the near term? I suspect the answer could be “yes.”

Also, it seemed to me that many readers aren’t envisioning just how novel future technological developments might be. The analogy to agriculture doesn’t strike me as very helpful. The moment we have truly intelligent machines, the pace of innovation could be extraordinarily steep, and the end of drudgery could come quickly. In a world without work everyone would be free—but, in our current system, some would be free to starve.

However, at least one reader suggested that the effect of truly game-changing nanotechnology or AI could not concentrate wealth, because its spread would be uncontainable, making it impossible to enforce intellectual property laws. The resultant increases in wealth would be free for the taking. This is an interesting point. I’m not sure it blocks every pathway to pathological concentrations of wealth—but it offers a ray of hope I hadn’t seen before. It is interesting to note, however, what a strange hope it is: The technological singularity that will redeem human history is, essentially, Napster.

Fewer people wanted to tackle the issue of an infrastructure bank. Almost everyone who commented on this idea supported it, but many thought either (1) that it need not be funded now (i.e. We should take on more debt to pay for it) or (2) that if funded, it must be done voluntarily.
It was disconcerting how many people felt the need to lecture me about the failure of Socialism. To worry about the current level of wealth inequality is not to endorse Socialism, or to claim that the equal distribution of goods should be an economic goal. I think a certain level of wealth inequality is probably a very good thing—being both reflective and encouraging of differences between people that should be recognized and rewarded. There are people who can be motivated to work 100 hours a week by the prospect of getting rich, and they often accomplish goals that are very beneficial. And there are people who are simply incapable of making similar contributions to society. But do you really think that Steve Jobs would have retired earlier if he knew that all the wealth he acquired beyond $5 billion would be taxed at 90 percent? Many of people apparently do. However, I think they are being far too cynical about the motivations of smart, creative people.

Finally, many readers said something like the following:

If you or Warren Buffett want to pay more in taxes, go ahead. You are perfectly free to write the Treasury a check. And if you haven’t done this, you’re just a hypocrite.

Few people are eager to make large, solitary, and ineffectual sacrifices. And I was not arguing that the best use of Buffett’s wealth would be for him to simply send it to the Treasury so that the government could use it however it wanted. I believe the important question is, how can we get everyone with significant resources to put their shoulders to the wheel at the same moment so that large goals get accomplished?

Imagine opening the newspaper tomorrow and discovering that Buffett had convened a meeting of the entire Forbes 400 list, and everyone had agreed to put 50 percent of his or her wealth toward crucial infrastructure improvements and the development of renewable energy technologies. I would like to believe that we live in a world where such things could happen—because, increasingly, it seems that we live in a world where such things must happen.

What can be done to bridge this gap?

 

 

  1. The Gini coefficient is a measure of wealth inequality in a society. It is also one of the best predictors of its homicide rate—better than GDP, unemployment levels, energy consumption per capita, or any other measure of average wealth. This suggests that it is relative rather than absolute scarcity that motivates violent competition between people (see, for instance, Daly, Wilson, & Vasdev, “Income inequality and homicide rates in Canada and the United States.” Canadian Journal of Criminology, April 2001: 219-236).

 

Categories: Political Opinion
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