Category: Business

Finally — SHREDDIES have come to market in the U.S.!

UK-based inventor Paul O’Leary has received (as of 20th Jan 2015) a US patent for his ‘Underwear Garment’

“A significant amount of effort has been expended into research of clothing and, in particular, the aspects of underwear garments which help to promote confidence and self-esteem within a wearer. Such research and development has typically centred on specific areas of the human body, such as the chest or legs, resulting in a number of improvements in the form and function of, for example, brassieres, corsets and stockings. It is perhaps fair to say that less effort has been generally expended in this regard to the groin region.

The new invention – already being marketed under the tradename ‘Shreddies’ – is designed (amongst other things) to attend to some of these problems by filtering out flatulence via a ‘Zorflex’ activated-carbon back panel.”

RTFA for explanations of the science behind [pun intended] Zorflex and Shreddies.

Here’s a better posterior view from the marketing kickoff in the U.K..

Mark Bittman – Making sense of water

kanro-almond-sweets

Almost every number used to analyze California’s drought can be debated, but this can be safely said: No level of restrictions on residential use can solve the problem. The solution lies with agriculture, which consumes more than its fair share.

That doesn’t mean homeowners can’t and shouldn’t cut back.

But according to estimates by the Public Policy Institute of California, more water was used to grow almonds in 2013 than was used by all homes and businesses in San Francisco and Los Angeles put together. Even worse, most of those almonds are then exported — which means, effectively, that we are exporting water. Unless you’re the person or company making money off this deal, that’s just nuts.

California produces more than 400 commodities in many different climates, so it’s difficult to generalize about agriculture. Many farmers are cutting back on water use, planting geographically appropriate crops and shifting to techniques that make sense, like “dry” farming. Others, however, are mining water as they would copper: When it runs out, they’ll find new ways to make money.

So the big question is not, “How do we survive the drought?” — which could well be the new normal — but, “How do we allocate water sensibly?” California grows fruits and vegetables for everyone; that’s a good thing. It would be an even better thing, however, if some of that production shifted to places like Iowa, once a leading grower of produce. That could happen again, if federal policy subsidized such crops, rather than corn, on some of that ultra-fertile land…

The system is arcane, allowing some people and entities to get surface water nearly free. (This system, involving “senior,” as in inherited, water rights, has never been successfully challenged.) Others, sometimes including cities, can pay 100 times more.

In most areas, groundwater for landowners is “free,” as long as you can dig a well that’s deep enough. This has led to a race to the bottom: New, super-deep wells, usually drilled at great expense, are causing existing shallower wells, often owned by people with less money, to run dry…

Wise use and conservation — not new dams, not desalination — are the answers, and conservation means common sense should take precedence over profiteering.

People interested in wise use and conservation, democracy in economics instead of might makes right, don’t have million-dollar lobbying firms on retainer. It will take grassroots organizing in the most traditional sense to overcome the poeple who treat agriculture as simple commodity production where it produces the most profit. Often that is determined by how many politicians you own – not the quality of arable land.

Judge says uranium mine meets 1872 standards – can open by Grand Canyon

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 6.40.39 PM
This was up to Arizona standards in 1872, as well

Environmental groups plan to appeal a federal judge’s decision that would allow a uranium mine south of Grand Canyon National Park to operate.

In 2012, the Obama Administration passed a 20-year ban on new mining claims on more than a million acres of land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park.

Environmental groups recently sued the Forest Service saying it violated federal law by allowing the Canyon Mine, an old mine, to reopen without going through a new environmental permitting process, coming up with a cleanup plan and consulting with the Havasupai Tribe.

U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell rejected those claims saying the old mining right is valid under the 1872 mining law.

The Grand Canyon Trust’s Roger Clark is concerned about water contamination. He pointed to studies that found contamination in 15 wells and springs near Grand Canyon.

“All of this information is since the 1986 decision by the Forest Service to allow Canyon Mine to mine without any kind of ground water monitoring,” Clark said.

Energy Fuels plans to open Canyon Mine this spring. The price of uranium has picked up to $39 a pound after it dropped to a multi-year low.

That’s all that really counts with extractive industries. How much profit can they make for the number of dollars of effort they invest in their project. Health of the ecosystem, the people, future generations, all are meaningless.

These creeps would pay miners to extract the minerals from your bones if they could get away with it and it was profitable.

Wall Street executives speaking out about the crisis that gave us the Great Recession

It’s been nearly seven years since a financial meltdown almost destroyed the global economy. Some of Wall Street’s major players reflect on riding out the maelstrom.

Once upon a time, Jimmy Cayne, now 81, had a lot to say about the sad fate that befell Bear Stearns, the Wall Street investment bank he ran for nearly 15 years before its shocking collapse, in March 2008. In more than 20 hours of interviews with me that summer, portions of which later appeared in my book House of Cards, he blamed Wall Street competitors and an amorphous group of hedge funds for conspiring to take down the 85-year-old firm. He was especially angry about then New York Federal Reserve Bank president Tim Geithner’s decision to allow Bear’s competitors access to crucial Federal Reserve funding, permitting them to fight another day, while his firm was denied such funds and faced the choice of either filing for bankruptcy or being sold to JPMorgan Chase for a pittance (which is what happened). Smoking $150 Cuban cigars, obtained through secret sources in Lebanon, he fumed, “The audacity of that prick in front of the American people announcing he was deciding whether or not a firm of this stature was good enough to get a loan…. It’s just that for some clerk to make a decision based on what, your own personal feeling about whether or not they’re a good credit [risk]? Who the fuck asked you? You’re not an elected officer. You’re a clerk. Believe me, you’re a clerk.”

That was then. These days, Cayne isn’t talking. Neither he nor his attorney Melissa Prober, at Kramer Levin, responded to requests to speak about the financial crisis for this article. But Cayne is still around.

That’s just the beginning of the several sketches of the Masters of the World who went through crushing times at the start of the Great Recession. You know. That economic crash that most politicians – mostly Republicans – still either deny or take no responsibility for.

The article is a solid read. Frankly, I’m astounded whenever anyone on Wall Street does interviews with Bill Cohan. Anyone of the regular crooks, that is. Have nothing to hide then you won’t worry about the interview. But, Cohan will let it all out. Including his own critical analysis.

Indianapolis Mayor: so-called religious freedom bill caused years of damage

Greg Ballard
Click for video – which can be enlarged to full screen

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said it will take years for his city to overcome the damage from the state’s religious-freedom bill, which some corporate executives said would sanction discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Ballard, 60, a second-term Republican mayor of Indiana’s largest city, said legislators underestimated the potential backlash from passing the bill. Indianapolis, which is hosting the NCAA Final Four men’s basketball championship game Monday night, will feel the brunt of it as it lobbies for future events, he said.

“Will we take a hit on this? Absolutely,” Ballard said Monday during an interview on Bloomberg Television. “It’ll take years of rebranding to make sure people understand, once again, who Indianapolis is.”

Governor Mike Pence and state lawmakers responded to the furor last week, amending the law to say it doesn’t allow an organization or business to discriminate on several factors, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

All of this starts with Bill Clinton caving decades ago to religious conservatives who wanted the right to veto constitutional civil rights. They settled for a reiteration of rights codified by the Supreme Court decades before that.

The current interest in passing state laws which acknowledge the federal law is hyped by the same fundamentalists in conjunction with conservative Republican creeps trying to keep their base agitated enough to come out and vote in 2016. So, they overreached and promised to trump the Constitution. They knew there would be backlash. They hadn’t a clue how quickly the American populace in general has moved to favor full civil rights for all Americans. Gasp!

There aren’t a lot of times I endorse a boycott. This was one where even the threat of a boycott – backed up by corporate bigwigs of every political persuasion – was sufficient. It did the job. Who knows? It may even sink into the pig-iron knobs that serve as brains for the right-wing of our Supreme Court.

Yeah – I know the video is too long. But, you know, this is what a lot of Republicans used to sound like before they went over to the Dark Side. Ballard should send a repair bill to legislative Republicans.

Feds after oil and gas industry for underpaying workers

In states with the most oil and gas drilling, including Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota, the U.S. Department of Labor has won back pay for over 4,000 energy industry workers in just the past year.

It totaled $6.7 million dollars, accounting for a third of all such settlements by all types of industries nationwide…

Cynthia Watson, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Regional Administrator, said companies were shorting their workers, sometimes thousands of dollars each. She cited Department of Labor cases since 2012 that include:

A Houston company that builds drilling rigs that paid back $687,000 in back wages to 133 roughnecks and crane operators

A Louisiana company that provides labor services to the industry and paid nearly $2 million in back wages to 2,267 workers

A New Mexico company that agreed to pay nearly $600,000 to 121 to drilling rig “mud logging technicians”

Galvin Kennedy, a lawyer in Houston who sues energy companies on behalf of workers, said his cases most often involved “mid-tier oil and gas companies” that got “sloppy or greedy” and misclassified their employees as independent contractors and avoided paying overtime and other benefits

The oil and gas industry says blah, blah, blah.

The oil and gas industry is run by exactly the kind of greedy bastards you think they are. They whine that the paperwork is too complex and that’s why there is a problem. Hogwash!

It’s been decades since I worked in the industry and the problem ain’t news. Manipulation of work hours and on/off contract work has been going on ever since the first lawyer clambered up out of a petrochemical sewer and showed folks in the front office how to steal a little more back from workers.

Not any different from the thievery that force states like New Mexico to sue one or another fossil fuel outfit for years of hidden back taxes every decade. Part of doing business with these creeps.

Graphene light bulb set to be 1st commercial consumer application

In two claimed firsts, researchers at the University of Manchester have produced both the first commercial application of graphene and the world’s first graphene light-bulb. It is expected that this new device will have lower energy emissions, cheaper manufacturing costs, and a longer running life than even LED lights. And this isn’t just a pie-in-the-sky prototype, either. The team who developed it believes that the graphene light-bulb will be available for retail sale within months.

To that end, the University of Manchester has partnered with the UK company Graphene Lighting PLC to produce the new bulb and share in the profits of its sales. This will also make certain that the University is directly advantaged by commercial products being developed out of their National Graphene Institute (NGI)…

The University of Manchester told us that the light bulb comprises a traditional LED coated in graphene which transfers heat away from the LED, prolonging life and minimizing energy usage.

Known as “the home of graphene,” the University of Manchester is where this unique form of carbon was first isolated in 2004. This feat earned Sir Andre Geim and Sir Kostya Novoselov the Nobel prize for Physics in 2010. Today, with more than 200 researchers in a myriad 2D material projects, the University is at the forefront of graphene know-how.

The sort of consumer advancement that birdbrains like Michelle Bachmann and other Tea Party types sought to halt. They oppose funding of research in US universities of energy-saving means and practices. Efforts to retire incandescent light bulbs are considered a socialist plot.

Mail me a penny postcard when the Koch Bros. and their flunkies announce they’ll pay my electricity bill.

How many women made the Forbes Midas list? – You can’t be too cynical

In a bit of accidental perfect timing, Forbes just published its Midas List of top tech investors.

GGV Capital partner Jenny Lee is the first woman to crack its list of Top 10 investors, which is led by such well-known figures as Sequoia Capital’s Jim Goetz, who backed WhatsApp, the mobile messaging company acquired by Facebook for $22 billion, and Lowercase Capital founder Chris Sacca, an early investor in Twitter.

In the wake of the Ellen Pao gender discrimination trial, which shed a harsh light on the clubby world of venture capital, we decided to see how many women made it to the hot 100 of tech investors. The answer? Five (including Lee). That’s worse than the national average of 6 percent of female partners, according to research from Babson College.

Internet trends guru Mary Meeker, a general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers — the firm at the center of Pao’s suit — came in at No. 15 on the Forbes’ list. Biotech investor Beth Seidenberg, another partner at Kleiner, also made the cut.

Pao lost her suit, in a closely watched trial that captivated Silicon Valley and served as a referendum on the challenges women have faced in the world of technology and business.

FORBES continues to ignore it all. At least the part where change is accepted as a good thing.

Pepsi and Coke battle for the lead among losers


Still cranking out profits from carbonated water and sugar

Americans bought less soda for the 10th straight year in 2014…An annual report by the industry tracker Beverage Digest found that overall soda volume slipped 0.9% last year, moderating from the decline of 3% the previous year.

And the poor performance of diet sodas in particular led to a shake-up in the top 10 US soda rankings; even though people bought less Pepsi, it managed to regain the No 2 spot from Diet Coke, which suffered an even steeper decline. Diet Coke had knocked Pepsi off the No 2 spot in 2010…

Interesting to investors and hedge funds. Meaningless compared to good news for the health of the nation.

John Sicher, publisher of Beverage Digest, attributed the moderation in soda’s decline in 2014 to the continued growth of energy drinks. He also noted that Coca-Cola Co, PepsiCo and Dr Pepper Snapple Group have improved marketing for their soda brands.

Soda volume has been declining in the US since 2004 amid concerns that sugary drinks fuel weight gain, and a proliferation of alternatives in the beverage aisle.

They’re still cranking out easier profits from stuffing people with sugar.

Despite the ongoing decline of soda volume, the broader US beverage industry performed better than in the previous year with growth of 1.7%, according to Beverage Digest. That increase was driven by an increase in bottled water sales.

How dumb is that? Continued growth in designer water sales confounds any measure of intelligence.