Tagged: United States

Republicans pushing GE to ship $10 billion in work overseas

General Electric Co is taking steps to shift some U.S. manufacturing work overseas now that the U.S. Export-Import Bank will be shuttered at least until September…

GE Vice Chairman John Rice said the conglomerate is bidding on over $10 billion worth of projects that require support from an export credit agency (ECA) like Ex-Im.

With Ex-Im unable to extend new loans or guarantees thanks to an effort by congressional Republicans to shut it down, GE is arranging with ECAs in other countries to finance the deals involved, with much of the production going to GE plants in those foreign locations. The prospective government partners include Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Hungary, he said…

Ex-Im has been unable to consider any new financing requests since Congress allowed the bank’s charter to expire on June 30.

Rice’s comments come as the U.S. Congress starts a five-week summer recess with no clear path to revive Ex-Im in the months ahead. A group of conservative Republicans, who say the 81-year-old trade bank is a nest of “crony capitalism” that doles out government welfare to GE, Boeing Co and other wealthy corporations, want to keep it closed for good…

Rice, who is based in Hong Kong, said GE is not moving to shift work and jobs overseas “just to make a point” to Congress, but to win contracts that require export credit agency support. “We’re doing this because if we don’t, we can’t submit a valid tender,” he said.

In one such power-sector bid, for example, GE would do final assembly work on its aero-derivative gas turbine power generation units at GE plants in Hungary or China instead of a factory in Houston. It already has capacity in place, and export credit agencies willing to support the work, he said.

“Next year, if we win this bid, work that would have been in Houston will be someplace else,” Rice said.

In practice, shutting down the Ex-Im Bank handicaps small-biz as much or more than any other. Such questions devolve from commercial regulations and cause problems just like this one.

I expect Tea Party idjits will ignore the result they cause as often as ever. And if we’re really lucky, Luddites who panic over commerce taking place in a real world which now stretches well beyond the boundaries of the industrial landscape pre-World War 2 will join their peers on the Right.

After more than a half-century of political activism on behalf of the working class I was born into I’m still frustrated by sectarians who can turn an ordinary question of guaranteeing a loan – into religious fears over the purity of their bodily fluids.

Coal is getting to be worth less than dirt

Coal is having a hard time lately. U.S. power plants are switching to natural gas, environmental restrictions are kicking in, and the industry is being derided as the world’s No. 1 climate criminal. Prices have crashed, sure, but for a real sense of coal’s diminishing prospects, check out what’s happening in the bond market.

Bonds are where coal companies turn to raise money for such things as new mines and environmental cleanups. But investors are increasingly reluctant to lend to them. Coal bond prices tumbled 17 percent in the second quarter, according to an analysis by Bloomberg Intelligence. It’s the fourth consecutive quarter of price declines and the worst performance of any industry group by a long shot.

Bonds fluctuate less than stocks, because the payoff is fixed and pretty much guaranteed as long as the borrower remains solvent. A 17 percent decline is huge, and it happened at a time when other energy bonds—oil and gas—were rising. Three of America’s biggest coal producers had the worst-performing bonds for the quarter:

Alpha Natural Resources: -70 percent
Peabody: -40 percent
Arch: -30 percent


The map shows coal plants in 2010 that may be headed for retirement. Blue circles represent plants that will be shuttered by 2020, while yellow will convert to gas, and red have undetermined futures.

About 17 percent of U.S. coal-fired power generation will disappear over the next few years, according to an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). Obstacles include age, the abundance of cheap natural gas, and new EPA rules to cut pollution…

Even China, the world’s biggest consumer of coal, wants to be rid of it…While China’s electricity demand will soar in the coming decades, its coal use will remain relatively flat, peaking by 2030 and then declining, according to BNEF. The pollution is too thick and the alternatives too cheap for coal to flourish…

But even setting aside the environmental and health issues, renewables are on a trajectory to outcompete fossil fuels, starting with coal. Between now and 2040, two-thirds of the money spent on adding new electricity capacity worldwide will be spent on renewables, according to BNEF…

Pigs like the Koch Bros and their bed-buddies ExxonMobil et al are putting their last hopes into the Republican Party. Unlike their peers in archaic monarchies like Saudi Arabia, they have to confront minimal papier mache democracies like the United States. Conservatives like Republicans or Blue Dog Democrats needn’t involve themselves with science to decide policy. Their only decision is whether they require a new wheelbarrow to carry away the dollar$ on offer from the barons of fossil fuel – or the old one is adequate.

It only remains for the crowd in charge of the Democrat Party to decide if they will listen to reason, evidence-based science and concern for future generations of our species. For some that’s still a difficult questions.

Who is the insane outlier on guns?

In developed countries, there is a strong correlation between the number of guns and incidences of gun violence. In 2012, the US, which has the most guns per capita, also had the most firearm-related homicides of developed countries. Japan, which has the lowest rate of gun ownership, had the least:


Click to enlarge

VOX offers tidy, apt infographics on all topics. This batch is particularly relevant.

Take the time to wander through the collection of 13 cards at the bottom of the article.

Mexico latest Latin nation to pass USA on legalizing same-sex marriage


Hiram Gonzalez married Severiano Chavez in ChihuahuaCheros/AC

His church turned him away, his family discouraged him from a public fight and the government of the state where he lives vowed it would never happen.

But it did. Hiram Gonzalez married his boyfriend, Severiano Chavez, last year in the northern state of Chihuahua, which, like most Mexican states, technically allows marriage only between a man and a woman.

Mr. Gonzalez and dozens of other gay couples in recent months have, however, found a powerful ally: Mexico’s Supreme Court.

In ruling after ruling, the court has said that state laws restricting marriage to heterosexuals are discriminatory. Though the decisions have been made to little public fanfare, they have had the effect of legalizing gay marriage in Mexico without enshrining it in law…

As the United States awaits a landmark decision on gay marriage by the Supreme Court, the Mexican court’s rulings have added the country to a slowly growing list of Latin American nations permitting same-sex unions.

Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil already allow same-sex marriage. Chile plans to recognize same-sex civil unions this year; Ecuador approved civil unions in April; and Colombia grants same-sex couples many of the same rights extended to heterosexual married couples…

The shift in Mexico, the second largest country in Latin America after Brazil, is the product of a legal strategy that advocates used to bypass state legislatures, which have shown little inclination, and often hostility, to legalizing gay marriage.

In 2009, Mexico City, a large liberal island in this socially conservative country, legalized gay marriage — a first in Latin America. There have been 5,297 same-sex weddings there since then, some of them couples coming to the city from other states…

The Supreme Court upheld Mexico City’s law in 2010, adding that other states had to recognize marriages performed there.

Alex Ali Mendez, the lawyer pressing these cases, said the next step in the legal process was compiling enough injunctions in each state to reach a threshold under which the court could formally order state legislatures to rewrite their laws.

But experts said that Mexico had already reached a watershed.

A similar watershed exists among ordinary American citizens. Meaningless to Congress.

There are a fair number of judges in Mexico who hold to the traditions of law aiding the progress of their nation. Completely at odds with the philosophy of American conservatives and their pet judges on the Supreme Court. Progress for our nation, our people, means nothing to their theocratic minds. Preserving a backwards view of the past, as distorted as that may be, is their cardinal waypoint.

With politicians as corrupt as any in the hemisphere, Americans see the only exceptions being political action in blue states and the majority of federal courts. Still, when you get to the ultimate federal court in the nation, progress is held hostage to liars, frauds appointed by reactionary and cowardly hacks under Republican administrations.

Israel spied on US-Iran nuclear talks


Why does the waiter always ask me to speak into his lapel pin?

A cybersecurity firm has traced a virus, believed to be used by Israeli spies, to hotels which hosted the Iran nuclear talks.

Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab ZAO said in a statement Wednesday “Duqu” malware was found in three unnamed hotels immediately prior to talks between the United States and Iran over a proposed nuclear deal. The firm itself was hacked by the malware, developed in Israel and used by Israeli intelligence agencies, and found the hotels’ computers were also invaded when it searched for other victims of the scheme…

Kaspersky did not identify Israel by name as responsible for placement of viruses to enable eavesdropping on conversations and theft of electronic files, but the “Duqu” virus is essentially an Israeli invention which would take years to duplicate…U.S. intelligence regards the “Duqu” infections as Israeli intelligence operations, the Kaspersky report said…

The virus was also found in computers used at an event honoring the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz, Poland, which was attended by a number of heads of state in January.

Let me be clear. This little tidbit of info about Israel spying on US negotiations with anyone – is about the maximum level of what we will see either in the popular press or from the White House. Hypocrisy rules our government and there are no clearer examples than our policies on cyber-security and economics.

Obama will blather about currency manipulation whenever the calendar pops up with a reminder it’s time to accuse the Chinese government of doing something evil with money. Uncle Sugar relies on the truly ignorant to add incorrect statements about China controlling our Treasury debt, etc. – even though the largest holder of US debt now happens to be Japan. Who practices currency manipulation as a matter of corporate/state policy for decades.

The same follows with cyber-security. There are few tools as distinctive as Duqu or Stuxnet. The rest is presumption. Those two involve both the US and Israel, though Duqu is exclusive to the Israeli government. Tracing back IP addresses is horse manure. As any script kiddy can demonstrate.

Recall any TV report on a cyber-security breach that included as sidebar the fact that we live in the land that spends more than the rest of the world combined on cyber-spying?

Maps that explain the United States better than any textbook

Years ago, famed historian E.H. Carr made an apt point that one cannot separate the historian from history and that what we see in history books is not necessarily pure fact–it has been made and presented as such due to the judgments of a very fallible and selective person. All of this is to say that when it comes to getting to the reasons why the United States looks the way it does today, “truth”–if we can find it–is quite hard to come by.

For every historian who disputes the reasons why a certain war broke out or how a particular president’s decision changed the fate of America, there’s a map which lays hard data bare and allows for the viewer’s own interpretation. Maps aren’t as immediately exciting as a good story, which is why we tend to overlook them when trying to understand our present. We’d like to change that. Without further ado, here are thirty-three fascinating maps that explain the United States…

highest paid public employees
Click to reach this first map – and the rest

Everything you hear about the Mexican Drug War is crap!

An interview with Mexican investigative journalist Anabel Hernández

What are the biggest misconceptions that you see in the media about the drug war?

When I started to work on that book about Chapo Guzmán back in 2005, I had the same misconceptions that most of the media and journalists had in Mexico, the U.S. and the rest of the world. I had swallowed the story that Chapo Guzmán was just a brilliant criminal — a man so intelligent that he was capable of subjecting the governments of Mexico and the United States to his will. The Mexican government constantly said they couldn’t catch him because he lived in a cave in a mountain in the Sierra Sinaloa surrounded by people who protected him.

And those of us in the media had only concentrated on the legend of Chapo Guzmán, based on his violence, on the tons of drugs he trafficked, without asking ourselves, “How does he do it? How can this man be so powerful?” And the only way of explaining how the Sinaloa cartel and Chapo Guzmán became so powerful is with the complicity of the government…

I starting doing public information requests in Mexico to see if these things being said in [the U.S.] courts were true. What I found was that during Felipe Calderón’s so-called drug war, the cartel that was attacked the least, that had the fewest arrests, was the Sinaloa cartel. And in government statistics, throughout the Felipe Calderón administration’s six years, there were increases in marijuana production, increases in opium production, increases in amphetamine production, increases in drug consumption in Mexico. What kind of drug war is this where a cartel gets stronger, becomes the most powerful cartel in the world, and on the other hand, drug production reaches historic levels in Mexico?…

What’s the United States’ role in all of this?

For me, one of the truly pressing questions is: What does the government of the United States want? What is really its objective? To end drug production in Mexico? To destroy the drug cartels? Or to control them and administer the business? I’ve found, for example, that in the case of the Sinaloa cartel, there have been agreements between the DEA [U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency] and the Sinaloa cartel where they gave the cartel immunity — You guys traffic what you want, and in exchange, give me the names of the leaders of your enemy cartels. And that was how the DEA and the Mexican government went about capturing many of Chapo Guzmán’s enemies during the Felipe Calderón administration.

RTFA for more details – including Hernandez’ opinion about the abduction and murder of 43 students in Iguala.

What comes home to me is the failed War on Drugs continues a death spiral throughout every nation we infect with this stupidity, this incompetent, moralistic, absolutely backwards approach to the question of drug abuse.

USDOE tells Freeport LNG not to sell to Chinese customers – Free Trade, eh?

The U.S. Energy Department cautioned Freeport LNG Development LP against signing up Chinese customers for the company’s planned liquefied natural gas export terminal in Texas, Chief Executive Officer Michael Smith said.

“Early on in our project, we were quite frankly warned by the Department of Energy that it would not be looked at as politically correct for us to have a large Chinese customer,” Smith said…at the FT Energy Strategies Summit in New York. “One of the largest Chinese customers wanted a full train,” or processing plant, he said.

In return for signing LNG purchase agreements, Chinese buyers demand equity stakes, which they say are required by their lenders, Smith said. Aside from Cheniere Energy Inc.’s Sabine Pass terminal, which has an investment from a Hong Kong-based company, no U.S. export projects have disclosed Chinese customers…That contrasts with Canada, where Chinese investors are key backers of export projects.

A glut of natural gas production from shale reservoirs has spurred dozens of projects to export LNG. The U.S. may become a net exporter of gas by 2017, government data show. In China, the third-largest market for LNG, demand for gas as a cleaner alternative to coal and oil for power generation is rising…

The Energy Department has given final authorization to six projects, including Freeport’s, to export LNG to countries lacking a free trade agreement with the U.S…The only countries that can’t receive exports are those prohibited by U.S. law or policy, Lindsey Geisler said by e-mail.

If the department did advise Freeport not to seek Chinese customers, “the comment made by DOE was, in my judgment, ill-advised and probably made in the expectation of not being cited publicly, but perhaps to gently dissuade Mr. Smith from entertaining a Chinese terminal user,” Zach Allen, president of Pan Eurasian Enterprises, a…tracker of LNG shipments said.

Canadian LNG projects have attracted Chinese investors, who have bought gas supplies in the field and taken stakes in potential pipelines and shipping terminals. Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s project along the Pacific Coast counts China’s state-owned PetroChina Co. as an investor. CNOOC Ltd., another Chinese state-owned company, has a less advanced Canadian LNG proposal with Inpex Corp. and JGC Corp., both of Japan.

If you’re concerned about how Free Trade operates under the United States government, you can look at this tale as a classic example of our government as liars. Time after time, we get statements from the White House and Congress about China and other Asian nations – but, mostly China – needing to step up and spend their money in the United States. From Huawei to CNOOC, our government then steps in and tries to shut down business.

There is little or no difference between Conservative liars on committees controlled by Congressional Republicans and Liberal liars on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Key findings about the changing U.S. religious landscape

FSM
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Pew Research Center’s new Religious Landscape Study, the first since our 2007 study, draws on a massive sample size of more than 35,000 Americans to offer a detailed look at the current religious composition of U.S. adults. The size of the sample enables us to explore relatively small religious groups (including specific Christian denominations) as well as state- and metropolitan area-level data.

In addition to the full report, the findings of the study can be explored at a new interactive website. Here are a few of the key findings:

Christians are declining, both as a share of the U.S. population and in total number. In 2007, 78.4% of U.S. adults identified with Christian groups, such as Protestants, Catholics, Mormons and others; seven years later, that percentage has fallen to 70.6%. Accounting for overall population growth in that period, that means there are roughly 173 million Christian adults in the U.S. today, down from about 178 million in 2007.

Within Christianity, the biggest declines have been in the mainline Protestant tradition and among Catholics

The decline of Christians in the U.S. has corresponded with the continued rise in the share of Americans with no religious affiliation…People who self-identify as atheists or agnostics (about 7% of all U.S. adults), as well as those who say their religion is “nothing in particular,” now account for a combined 22.8% of U.S. adults – up from 16.1% in 2007…

There are clear differences between certain demographic groups when it comes to religious affiliation

The share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths, such as Islam and Hinduism, has grown modestly

You’ll find the whole report online over here. An interesting read especially if you find philosophy, personal and sociological, of interest. As I do.

Yes, we’re still about a half-century or more behind the rest of the industrial West when it comes to re-examining the beliefs we inherit from our less-educated forebears. Not much we can do about it except continue to encourage education. Folks can come to progressive conclusions on their own; but, it does help to have an extended opportunity to see what the whole world is learning and talking about. Ain’t many folks getting that from cable TV or this year’s hot social media.