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Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Aboriginal legends reveal ancient secrets to science

Meteor streaks across the sky against a field of star.

Scientists are beginning to tap into a wellspring of knowledge buried in the ancient stories of Australia's Aboriginal peoples. But the loss of indigenous languages could mean it is too late to learn from them.

The Luritja people, native to the remote deserts of central Australia, once told stories about a fire devil coming down from the Sun, crashing into Earth and killing everything in the vicinity.

The local people feared if they strayed too close to this land they might reignite some otherworldly creature.

The legend describes the crash landing of a meteor in Australia's Central Desert about 4,700 years ago, says University of New South Wales (UNSW) astrophysicist Duane Hamacher.

It would have been a dramatic and fiery event, with the meteor blazing across the sky. As it broke apart, large fragments of metal-rich rock would have crashed to Earth with explosive force, creating a dozen giant craters.

The Northern Territory site, which was discovered in the 1930s by white prospectors with the help of Luritja guides, is today known as the Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve.

Gigantic wave

Duane Hamacher is glad to see astronomy being taught in Australia's remote schools.

Mr Hamacher, who runs an Indigenous astronomy program at UNSW, says evidence is mounting that Aboriginal stories hold clues about events from Australia's ancient past.

Last year, he travelled to Victoria with tsunami expert James Goff, also from UNSW, to visit members of the Gunditjmara people.

"They describe this gigantic wave coming very far inland and killing everybody except those who were up on the mountaintops, and they actually name all the different locations where people survived," says Mr Hamacher.

He and Mr Goff took core samples from locations between 500m and 1km (0.6 miles) inland, and at each spot, they found a layer of ocean sediment, about 2m down, indicating that a tsunami likely washed over the area hundreds, or possibly thousands, of years ago.

The samples need further analysis but Mr Hamacher says it is a "very exciting" result that suggests the legend could be true.

Earlier this year, another team of researchers presented a paper arguing that stories from Australia's coastal Aboriginal communities might "represent genuine and unique observations" of sea level rises that occurred between 7,000 and 11,000 years ago.

Nick Reid, a linguistics expert from the University of New England in Australia, co-authored the paper with marine geographer Patrick Nunn from the University of the Sunshine Coast.

Fact checking

The crash landing of a meteor in the Central Desert would have been a fiery affair. A piece of Henbury Meteorite

The stories they analysed, which had been documented in colonial times, referred to water levels rising over coastal areas that were once dry.

By looking at historical records of sea level rise following the last glacial period, about 20,000 years ago, they were able to match the stories to coinciding dates.

Mr Reid says the relative isolation of Australia's indigenous people - living for 50,000 years more or less free from cultural disruptions - and the conservative nature of their culture could help explain why there is so much detail in their stories.

"Aboriginal people have very particular beliefs about the importance of telling stories properly, and about stories being told by the right people," he says.

They also employ a rigid kin-based, cross-generational system of fact-checking stories, involving grandchildren, parents, and elders, which Mr Reid says doesn't seem to be used by other cultures.

This extreme conservatism and adherence to accuracy can also be seen in rock paintings, drawings and engravings, which were often used to support oral legends, says Les Bursill, an anthropologist and member of Sydney's Dharawal people.

"They are replicated time after time after time, and if they vary, even by not very much at all, they are scraped off and re-done," he says.

Secret knowledge

The Luritja people tell of an object that fell to Earth, scarring the landscape. A crater created by a meteorite 4700 years ago in Central Australia

But Mr Bursill doesn't think Aboriginal communities are interested in sharing their knowledge with modern Australia.

Non-indigenous academics recognise that some Aboriginal communities are suspicious of outsiders.

But Mr Hamacher says his research group has been approached by a number of Aboriginal communities keen to tell their stories.

He says this sharing must be met with a "giving back process" that benefits the Indigenous community.

His team, for instance, has developed a range of educational materials relating to astronomy, which are now taught in remote schools.

It is all part of a growing recognition that Indigenous knowledge has a lot to offer the scientific community.

Australia's national science organisation, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), is working with Indigenous communities to improve environmental management practices, in order to prevent wildfires and improve ecological health and biodiversity.

But there is a problem - Indigenous languages are dying off at an alarming rate, making it increasingly difficult for scientists and other experts to benefit from such knowledge. More than 100 languages have already become extinct since white settlement.

About 145 Indigenous languages are still spoken in Australia by at least one person but a 2014 report by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies found that 75% of these were considered "critically endangered".

Pregnant bystander: Officer punched me in stomach, called me "black bitch"

© Unkown

Nicola Robinson

An eight months pregnant Chicago woman says an unidentified city police officer punched her in the stomach after she laughed at him for letting a suspect get away.

Nicola Robinson said she was standing outside with neighbors on Friday evening when three officers ran past in pursuit of a suspected drug dealer. After the officers failed to catch the suspect, the group laughed at the officers, the woman says.

That's when Robinson says a plainclothes officer approached and then shoved her while she was holding her 1-year-old son and then punched her in the right side of her stomach.

"As I got ready to walk in my building, he punched me on my right side as hard as he [could,] Robinson said. "After he punched me, he [said,] 'You black bitch, you better be glad I didn't hit you hard enough to make you lose your fucking baby.' "

Robinson's sister claims she witnessed the attack and the racist outburst, which she said shocked the other officers.

"The other two officers who [were] with him were standing there, and they're looking like, 'What are you doing?' But I guess they didn't want to say anything," Monique Dickerson said.

Robinson said the officer changed his demeanor when she pointed out that nearby apartment buildings are equip with surveillance cameras.

"Then that's when the attitude about him started changing, and he got real quiet," Robinson said. "You could tell in his face that he knew that, 'Man I have messed up.' "

Robinson said a building manager told her surveillance video clearly shows the officer punch her but the management company did not respond to media requests for comment.

Hospital records shows that Robinson spent five hours under observation before doctors cleared her to return home.

Chicago police have launched an internal affairs investigation into the incident, calling the allegations "very disturbing."

Local news coverage

Sham cancer charities bilked US donors for $187 mil, spent money on luxury

© Reuters/Gary Cameron

Government regulators have cracked down on four cancer charities, accusing the Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, the Children's Cancer Fund of America, and the Breast Cancer Society of cheating donors out of $187 million.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), all 50 states, and the District of Columbia claim that the four foundations fraudulently told donors their money would help cancer patients. Instead, money from the donations overwhelmingly went into the pockets of charity operators, their families and friends, and professional fundraisers.

According to the complaint filed by authorities, the charities "operated as personal fiefdoms characterized by rampant nepotism, flagrant conflicts of interest, and excessive insider compensation, with none of the financial and governance controls that any bona fide charity would have adopted."

The complaint further alleges that the charity executives employed family members and friends, and spent the donated funds on "" Professional fundraisers hired by the charities often received 85 percent or more of every donation, the FTC said.

"," said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

"," added Rich.

Two of the charities, Children's Cancer Fund of America (CCFOA) and the Breast Cancer Society (BCS), have agreed to settle with the government. Under the proposed settlement orders, their presidents and executive directors "," said the FTC.

Under the settlement, CCFOA will have to pay a $30 million fine, and the BCS will have to pay $65.5 million, corresponding to the amounts they collected from donors between 2008 and 2012. Litigation will continue against the Cancer Fund of America (CFA) and Cancer Support Services (CSS), and their president, James Reynolds Sr.

The explanation posted on the BCS homepage, signed by their executive director James T. Reynolds II, says that the organization and its officers "," but that they had decided not to engage in a ""

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring explained that this was the first time the FTC, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have filed a joint complaint, adding he hoped this would serve as a "."

"," Herring said.

© FTC.gov
Infographic by FTC.gov

Thirty-five states are charging the charities with filing false financial statements with state regulators by reporting inflated "" donations, to the tune of $223 million.

The FTC and 36 states are also going after CFA, CCFOA and BCS for providing professional fundraisers with "" and assisting and facilitating in violations of the FTC's telemarketing sales rule (TSR). The CSS stands accused of "."

Militarization is more than tanks and rifles: It's a cultural disease, acclimating the citizenry to life in a police state

"If we're training cops as soldiers, giving them equipment like soldiers, dressing them up as soldiers, when are they going to pick up the mentality of soldiers? If you look at the police department, their creed is to protect and to serve. A soldier's mission is to engage his enemy in close combat and kill him. Do we want police officers to have that mentality? Of course not."— Arthur Rizer, former civilian police officer and member of the military.

© rightwingnews.com
Militarized police.

Talk about poor timing. Then again, perhaps it's brilliant timing.

Only now—after the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security (DHS) and Defense have passed off billions of dollars worth of military equipment to local police forces, after police agencies have been trained in the fine art of war, after SWAT team raids have swelled in number to more than 80,000 a year, after it has become second nature for local police to look and act like soldiers, after communities have become acclimated to the presence of militarized police patrolling their streets, after Americans have been taught compliance at the end of a police gun or taser, after lower income neighborhoods have been transformed into war zones, after hundreds if not thousands of unarmed Americans have lost their lives at the hands of police who shoot first and ask questions later, after a whole generation of young Americans has learned to march in lockstep with the government's dictates—only now does President Obama lift a hand to limit the number of military weapons being passed along to local police departments.

Not all, mind you, just some.

Talk about too little, too late.

Months after the White House defended a federal program that distributed $18 billion worth of military equipment to local police, Obama has announced that he will ban the federal government from providing local police departments with tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers, camouflage uniforms and large-caliber firearms.

Obama also indicated that less heavy-duty equipment (armored vehicles, tactical vehicles, riot gear and specialized firearms and ammunition) will reportedly be subject to more regulations such as local government approval, and police being required to undergo more training and collect data on the equipment's use. Perhaps hoping to sweeten the deal, the Obama administration is also offering $163 million in taxpayer-funded grants to "incentivize police departments to adopt the report's recommendations."

While this is a grossly overdue first step of sorts, it is nevertheless a first step from an administration that has been utterly complicit in accelerating the transformation of America's police forces into extensions of the military. Indeed, as investigative journalist Radley Balko points out, while the Obama administration has said all the right things about the need to scale back on a battlefield mindset, it has done all the wrong things to perpetuate the problem:

  • distributed equipment designed for use on the battlefield to local police departments,
  • provided private grants to communities to incentivize SWAT team raids,
  • redefined "community policing" to reflect aggressive police tactics and funding a nationwide COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) program that has contributed to dramatic rise in SWAT teams,
  • encouraged the distribution of DHS anti-terror grants and the growth of "contractors that now cater to police agencies looking to cash DHS checks in exchange for battle-grade gear,"
  • ramped up the use of military-style raids to crack down on immigration laws and target "medical marijuana growers, shops, and dispensaries in states that have legalized the drug,"
  • defended as "reasonable" aggressive, militaristic police tactics in cases where police raided a guitar shop in defense of an obscure environmental law, raided a home looking for a woman who had defaulted on her student loans, and terrorized young children during a raid on the wrong house based on a mistaken license plate,
  • and ushered in an era of outright highway robbery in which asset forfeiture laws have been used to swindle Americans out of cash, cars, houses, or other property that government agents can "accuse" of being connected to a crime.
It remains to be seen whether this overture on Obama's part, coming in the midst of heightened tensions between the nation's police forces and the populace they're supposed to protect, opens the door to actual reform or is merely a political gambit to appease the masses all the while further acclimating the populace to life in a police state.

Certainly, on its face, it does nothing to ease the misery of the police state that has been foisted upon us. In fact, Obama's belated gesture of concern does little to roll back the deadly menace of overzealous police agencies corrupted by money, power and institutional immunity. And it certainly fails to recognize the terrible toll that has been inflicted on our communities, our fragile ecosystem of a democracy, and our freedoms as a result of the government's determination to bring the war home.

Will the young black man guilty of nothing more than running away from brutish police officers be any safer in the wake of Obama's edict? It's unlikely.

Will the old man reaching for his cane have a lesser chance of being shot? It's doubtful.

Will the little girl asleep under her princess blanket live to see adulthood when a SWAT team crashes through her door? I wouldn't count on it.

It's a safe bet that our little worlds will be no safer following Obama's pronouncement and the release of his "Task Force on 21st Century Policing" report. In fact, there is a very good chance that life in the American police state will become even more perilous.

Among the report's 50-page list of recommendations is a call for more police officer boots on the ground, training for police "on the importance of de-escalation of force," and "positive non-enforcement activities" in high-crime communities to promote trust in the police such as sending an ice cream truck across the city.

Curiously, nowhere in the entire 120-page report is there a mention of the Fourth Amendment, which demands that the government respect citizen privacy and bodily integrity. The Constitution is referenced once, in the Appendix, in relation to Obama's authority as president. And while the word "constitutional" is used 15 times within the body of the report, its use provides little assurance that the Obama administration actually understands the clear prohibitions against government overreach as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

For instance, in the section of the report on the use of technology and social media, the report notes: "Though all constitutional guidelines must be maintained in the performance of law enforcement duties, the legal framework (warrants, etc.) should continue to protect law enforcement access to data obtained from cell phones, social media, GPS, and other sources, allowing officers to detect, prevent, or respond to crime."

Translation: as I document in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the new face of policing in America is about to shift from waging its war on the American people using primarily the weapons of the battlefield to the evermore-sophisticated technology of the battlefield where government surveillance of our everyday activities will be even more invasive.

This emphasis on technology, surveillance and social media is nothing new. In much the same way the federal government used taxpayer-funded grants to "gift" local police agencies with military weapons and equipment, it is also funding the distribution of technology aimed at making it easier for police to monitor, track and spy on Americans. For instance, license plate readers, stingray devices and fusion centers are all funded by grants from the DHS. Funding for drones at the state and local levels also comes from the federal government, which in turn accesses the data acquired by the drones for its own uses.

If you're noticing a pattern here, it is one in which the federal government is not merely transforming local police agencies into extensions of itself but is in fact federalizing them, turning them into a national police force that answers not to "we the people" but to the Commander in Chief. Yet the American police force is not supposed to be a branch of the military, nor is it a private security force for the reigning political faction. It is supposed to be an aggregation of the countless local civilian units that exist for a sole purpose: to serve and protect the citizens of each and every American community.

So where does that leave us?

There's certainly no harm in embarking on a national dialogue on the dangers of militarized police, but if that's all it amounts to—words that sound good on paper and in the press but do little to actually respect our rights and restore our freedoms—then we're just playing at politics with no intention of actually bringing about reform.

Despite the Obama Administration's lofty claims of wanting to "ensure that public safety becomes more than the absence of crime, that it must also include the presence of justice," this is the reality we must contend with right now:

Americans still have no real protection against police abuse. Americans still have no right to self-defense in the face of SWAT teams mistakenly crashing through our doors, or police officers who shoot faster than they can reason. Americans are still no longer innocent until proven guilty. Americans still don't have a right to private property. Americans are still powerless in the face of militarized police. Americans still don't have a right to bodily integrity. Americans still don't have a right to the expectation of privacy. Americans are still being acclimated to a police state through the steady use and sight of military drills domestically, a heavy militarized police presence in public places and in the schools, and a taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign aimed at reassuring the public that the police are our "friends." And to top it all off, Americans still can't rely on the courts, Congress or the White House to mete out justice when our rights are violated by police.

To sum it all up: the problems we're grappling with have been building for more than 40 years. They're not going to go away overnight, and they certainly will not be resolved by a report that instructs the police to simply adopt different tactics to accomplish the same results—i.e., maintain the government's power, control and wealth at all costs.

This is the sad reality of life in the American police state.

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Cancer charities bilked donors for $187 mil, spent it on luxury for charity operators, their families and friends

Government regulators have cracked down on four cancer charities, accusing the Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, the Children's Cancer Fund of America, and the Breast Cancer Society of cheating donors out of $187 million.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), all 50 states, and the District of Columbia claim that the four foundations fraudulently told donors their money would help cancer patients. Instead, money from the donations overwhelmingly went into the pockets of charity operators, their families and friends, and professional fundraisers.

According to the complaint filed by authorities, the charities “operated as personal fiefdoms characterized by rampant nepotism, flagrant conflicts of interest, and excessive insider compensation, with none of the financial and governance controls that any bona fide charity would have adopted.”

The complaint further alleges that the charity executives employed family members and friends, and spent the donated funds on “cars, trips, luxury cruises, college tuition, gym memberships, jet ski outings, sporting event and concert tickets, and dating site memberships.” Professional fundraisers hired by the charities often received 85 percent or more of every donation, the FTC said.

Cancer is a debilitating disease that impacts millions of Americans and their families every year. The defendants’ egregious scheme effectively deprived legitimate cancer charities and cancer patients of much-needed funds and support,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The defendants took in millions of dollars in donations meant to help cancer patients, but spent it on themselves and their fundraisers,” added Rich.

Two of the charities, Children's Cancer Fund of America (CCFOA) and the Breast Cancer Society (BCS), have agreed to settle with the government. Under the proposed settlement orders, their presidents and executive directors “will be banned from fundraising, charity management, and oversight of charitable assets, and CCFOA and BCS will be dissolved,” said the FTC.

Under the settlement, CCFOA will have to pay a $30 million fine, and the BCS will have to pay $65.5 million, corresponding to the amounts they collected from donors between 2008 and 2012. Litigation will continue against the Cancer Fund of America (CFA) and Cancer Support Services (CSS), and their president, James Reynolds Sr.

The explanation posted on the BCS homepage, signed by their executive director James T. Reynolds II, says that the organization and its officers “have not been found guilty of any allegations of wrong doing, and the government has not proven otherwise,” but that they had decided not to engage in a “highly publicized, expensive, and distracting legal battle around our fundraising practices.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring explained that this was the first time the FTC, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have filed a joint complaint, adding he hoped this would serve as a “strong warning for anyone trying to exploit the kindness and generosity of others.”

The allegations of fundraising for personal gain in the name of children with cancer and women battling breast cancer are simply shameful,” Herring said.

Infographic by FTC.gov

Thirty-five states are charging the charities with filing false financial statements with state regulators by reporting inflated “gift in kind” donations, to the tune of $223 million.

The FTC and 36 states are also going after CFA, CCFOA and BCS for providing professional fundraisers with “deceptive fundraising materials” and assisting and facilitating in violations of the FTC’s telemarketing sales rule (TSR). The CSS stands accused of “making deceptive charitable solicitations.”

MysteryX-37B space plane poised for Wednesday launch

Mystery X-37B military space plane

A mini military space plane is poised for liftoff Wednesday on another long orbital test flight. But as usual, the Air Force isn't saying much about the unmanned mission.

This will be the fourth flight of an X-37B space plane, a secretive, experimental program run by the Air Force. The three previous missions also began with rocket launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The mystery test vehicle -- essentially a technology test bed -- is designed to orbit the Earth and then land like one of NASA's old shuttles. It is operated robotically, without anyone on board, and is reusable. It is 29 feet (8.8 metres) long -- about one-fourth the size of a NASA shuttle.

The longest X-37B flight lasted about 675 days; touchdown was last October. There's no official word on how long this one will stay up. All three previous missions ended in California.

USGS: Magnitude 6.0 earthquake hits Northwest of Tonga

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World debt to GDP ratio: 286 percent


© theeconomiccollapseblog.com

Did you know that there is more than $28,000 of debt for every man, woman and child on the entire planet? And since close to 3 billion of those people survive on less than 2 dollars a day, your share of that debt is going to be much larger than that. If we took everything that the global economy produced this year and everything that the global economy produced next year and used it to pay all of this debt, it still would not be enough. According to a recent report put out by the McKinsey Global Institute entitled "Debt and (not much) deleveraging", the total amount of debt on our planet has grown from 142 trillion dollars at the end of 2007 to 199 trillion dollars today. This is the largest mountain of debt in the history of the world, and those numbers mean that we are in substantially worse condition than we were just prior to the last financial crisis.

When it comes to debt, a lot of fingers get pointed at the United States, and rightly so. Just prior to the last recession, the U.S. national debt was sitting at about 9 trillion dollars. Today, it has crossed the 18 trillion dollar mark. But of course the U.S. is not the only one that is guilty. In fact, the McKinsey Global Institute says that debt levels have grown in all major economies since 2007. The following is an excerpt from the report...

Seven years after the bursting of a global credit bubble resulted in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, debt continues to grow. In fact, rather than reducing indebtedness, or deleveraging, all major economies today have higher levels of borrowing relative to GDP than they did in 2007. Global debt in these years has grown by $57 trillion, raising the ratio of debt to GDP by 17 percentage points(Exhibit 1). That poses new risks to financial stability and may undermine global economic growth.

What is surprising is that debt has actually grown the most in China. If you can believe it, total Chinese debt has grown from 7 trillion dollars in 2007 to 28 trillion dollars today. Needless to say, that is absolutely insane...

China's debt has quadrupled since 2007. Fueled by real estate and shadow banking, China's total debt has nearly quadrupled, rising to $28 trillion by mid-2014, from $7 trillion in 2007. At 282 percent of GDP, China's debt as a share of GDP, while manageable, is larger than that of the United States or Germany. Three developments are potentially worrisome: half of all loans are linked, directly or indirectly, to China's overheated real-estate market; unregulated shadow banking accounts for nearly half of new lending; and the debt of many local governments is probably unsustainable. However, MGI calculates that China's government has the capacity to bail out the financial sector should a property-related debt crisis develop. The challenge will be to contain future debt increases and reduce the risks of such a crisis, without putting the brakes on economic growth.

What all of this means is that our long-term global economic problems have gotten much, much worse. This short-lived period of relative stability that we have been enjoying has been fueled by unprecedented amounts of debt and voracious money printing. Anyone with half a brain should be able to see that this is a giant financial bubble, and in the end it is going to unwind very, very painfully. The following comes from a Canadian news source...

At the beginning of 2008, government accounted for a smaller portion of the debt pie than corporate, household or financial debt. It now exceeds each of those other categories.

"The current situation is much worse than in 2000 or 2007, and with interest rates near or at zero, the central banks have already used up their ammunition. Plus, the total indebtedness, especially the indebtedness of governments, is much higher than ever before," said Claus Vogt, a Berlin-based analyst and co-author of a 2011 book titled .

"Every speculative bubble rests on some kind of a fairy tale, a story the bubble participants believe in and use as rationalization to buy extremely overvalued stocks or bonds or real estate," Mr. Vogt argued. "And now it is the faith in the central-planning capabilities of global central bankers. When the loss of confidence in the Fed, the ECB etc. begins, the stampede out of stocks and bonds will start. I think we are very close to this pivotal moment in financial history."

But for the moment, the ridiculous stock market bubble continues.

Internet companies that didn't even exist a decade ago are now supposedly worth billions upon billions of dollars even though some of them don't make any money at all. There is even a name for this phenomenon. Internet companies that have gigantic valuations without gigantic revenue streams are being called "unicorns"...

A dizzying mix of bold ideas and lavish investments has catapulted dozens of privately held start-ups to unicorn status, defined as having market valuations of at least $1 billion often without soaring revenues to match. Social-sharing site Pinterest has soared to $11 billion. Ride-hailing company Uber is now worth a staggering $50 billion.

How long can the party last?

And these days, Wall Street even rewards companies that lose huge amounts of money quarter after quarter. For example, just check out what happened when JC Penney announced that it only lost 167 million dollars during the first quarter of 2015...

Yippee!!! JC Penney ONLY lost $167 million in the first quarter. The Wall Street shysters are ecstatic because they BEAT expectations. Buy Buy Buy.

This loss now brings JC Penney's cumulative loss since 2011 to, drum roll please, $3.5 BILLION. They haven't had a profitable quarter in over four years. But, they are always on the verge of that turnaround just over the horizon.

Wall Street has told you to buy this stock from $42 in 2012 to it's current pitiful level of $9. They tout the wonderful 3.4% increase in comparable sales. They fail to mention that first quarter 2016 sales are only 30% below first quarter sales in 2011.

They fail to mention that JC Penney burned through another $274 million of cash in the first quarter. Their equity has dropped by $1 billion in the last year, while their long term debt has gone up by $500 million.

This is how irrational Wall Street has become. JC Penney is ultimately going to zero, and yet there are still people out there that are pouring huge amounts of money into that financial black hole.

Sadly, the truth is that Wall Street is headed for a very painful awakening.

What we are experiencing right now is the greatest financial bubble of all time.

What comes after that is going to be the greatest financial crash of all time.

199,000,000,000,000 dollars of debt is about to come crashing down, and the pain of this disaster will be felt by every man, woman and child on the entire planet.

'Ag-gag' law targeting undercover workers adopted in North Carolina


© Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images/AFP

Senators in North Carolina passed a bill penalizing all video and audio recording in restricted workplace areas. Critics say it unfairly targets whistleblowers. Previously passed by the House, the bill is now headed to the governor for signature.

The state Senate passed House Bill 405, titled the "Property Protection Act," by a vote of 32-13 on Monday night. The bill would allow business or property owners to press charges against employees who intentionally enter restricted areas to record sound or video, reported Raleigh television station .

North Carolina governor Pat McCrory is expected to sign the bill into law.

The bill was sponsored by state Senator Brent Jackson, a Republican from Autryville. Jackson, a farmer, has twice previously proposed legislation, dubbed 'ag-gag' by critics, seeking to outlaw clandestine recording of agricultural practices by animal welfare activists. In recent years, several of such secret videos have exposed questionable practices at cattle and poultry farms in North Carolina.

However, public radio in Charlotte noted that the bill, as written, applies to all businesses in North Carolina and not just the farms. Any employee that knowingly records audio and video at the workplace and makes it public can be sued for court costs, punitive damages of $5,000 a day, and compensation for any actual damages caused by the recording's release.

Backers of Jackson's bill say it protects property owners from rivals or activists trying to steal information, but does not apply to whistleblowers. Critics of the bill disagree.

Senator Josh Stein, a Democrat from Wake, argued the bill would penalize whistleblowers, noting that North Carolina's whistleblower laws only protect employees in matters concerning their specific workplace rights, such as wages, workers' compensation and worksite health and safety rules.

"Our whistleblower law does nothing for an employee who brings forth a violation of the law that affects the general public," Stein said, citing the example of a pharmacist who might find his employer using drugs past their expiration date, but face civil liabilities under Jackson's bill if he took a picture of the expired drug label.

"We should not be going so far," Stein pleaded. "The public will be worse off as a result of this bill."

Senator Jackson says employees will not be liable for filming in areas where they are allowed to be. "This has to do with employees going to places they're not allowed to go," he said. "As long as they're allowed to move in those facilities, they wouldn't be liable."

Several states have enacted 'ag-gag' legislation, most notably Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Iowa. Activists who seek to document factory farm abuses are already subject to the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which allows harsh punishment for any damage resulting in a loss of property or profits for any entity that has a "connection to, relationship with, or transactions with an animal enterprise."

Iron in the brain boosts Alzheimer's risk

© old person/iStockphoto

High levels of iron in the brain indicates you are more likely to develop Alzheimer's, say researchers.

The findings, published in in , suggest it might be possible to arrest the disease using drugs that remove iron from the brain.

"We think that iron is contributing to the disease progression of Alzheimer's disease," says neuroscientist Dr Scott Ayton from the University of Melbourne.

"This is strong evidence to base a clinical trial on lowering iron content in the brain to see if that would impart a cognitive benefit."

Ayton says iron was first implicated in Alzheimer's disease in the 1950s, following post mortem studies showing higher iron levels in the brains of those with the disease.

"But there has been debate for a long period of time whether this is important or whether it's just a coincidence," says Ayton.

To help settle this question, Ayton and colleagues studied the link between iron and Alzheimer's disease in three groups of people: 91 people with normal cognition; 144 people with mild cognitive impairment; and 67 people with Alzheimer's disease.

At the beginning of the study, the researchers measured the iron binding protein, ferritin, in cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain, as a proxy for iron levels in the brain.

Over the next seven years they carried out regular cognitive tests and took MRI brain scans to look for degeneration in the brain.

In all three groups, those with high levels of ferritin had poorer cognition over the study period, had accelerated shrinkage of the hippocampus -- part of the brain involved in consolidating memories -- and were more likely to progress to Alzheimer's disease.

In the first study to quantify the effect of iron on Alzheimer's risk, Ayton and colleagues found that every 1 nanogram per millilitre increase in ferritin levels resulted in the the onset of Alzheimer's occurring three months earlier.

Ayton says the concentration of ferritin was at least as good at predicting progression to Alzheimer's as more traditional biomarkers, such as beta amyloid protein and tau protein.

Interestingly, the researchers found that those with the APOE-e4 gene variant, which is known to be the strongest risk factor for Alzheimer's after ageing, had the highest levels of ferritin in their cerebrospinal fluid.

This suggests that APOE-e4 may be increasing Alzheimer's disease risk by increasing iron levels in the brain, says Ayton.

Drug targets

Most Alzheimer's drugs try to stop the formation of plaque in the brain, caused by beta amyloid.

But so far, says Ayton, after 10 phase III clinical trials, this strategy has not worked.

Ayton suggests instead that it would be better to stop the build up of iron.

Just as there are drugs to remove excess iron in people with beta-thalassemia, he says there are safe drugs that could be used remove iron from the brain.

Ayton says the study also compared the levels of iron in the blood with that in the brain, and the findings suggest people should not worry about their iron intake.

Diet, iron supplements and giving blood would not alter the amount of iron in the brain, he says.

"Our evidence suggests that the amount of iron in the rest of your body doesn't affect the iron levels in your brain."

Giant craters found in Swiss Lake

© ETH Zurich
The "Crazy crater" is 525 feet (160 meters) wide.

Four giant craters were found by accident in the muddy floor of one of Switzerland's largest lakes, a new study reports.

Researchers surveying Lake Neuchâtel for evidence of past earthquakes spotted the craters near the lake's northwestern shore near the Jura Mountains. The biggest crater is 525 feet (160 meters) wide and almost 100 feet (30 m) deep. The pits are among the largest and deepest pockmarks ever found in Earth's lakes, the researchers said. The giant craters are similar in size to seafloor pockmarks created by methane-gas explosions. However, the researchers think that erupting groundwater excavated these "crazy craters."

"These craters are, in fact, springs," lead study author Anna Reusch, a doctoral student at the ETH Zurich Geological Institute, said in a statement.

Reusch and her co-authors found the craters at water depths of 328 feet (100 m) or more. The team was using ship-based sonar to search for sediment that had been disturbed by earthquakes.

The Swiss Alps occasionally shake from earthquakes of up to magnitude 6, studies have shown. Scientists are also investigating the risk of earthquake- and landslide-triggered tsunamis in Alpine lakes. In the past decade, researchers have discovered that tsunamis wiped out villages along the shores of both Lake Geneva and Lake Lucerne in the past 1,500 years.

But instead of ancient quake or tsunami deposits, Reusch and her colleagues stumbled upon an enormous feature they dubbed Chez-le-Bart crater ("Crazy crater"). "I never expected anything like this," Reusch said. "The craters were so interesting that we simply had to take a closer look at this phenomenon," she added.

© ETH Zurich
A schematic cross-section of a Lake Neuchâtel crater.

No one knows for sure how the craters formed, but the pits appear to occasionally spill over, perhaps violently, the researchers reported. The mud eruptions left behind distinctive layers of sediment that look similar to volcanic lava flows. The spillovers happened at least four times in the past 12,000 years, according to the study. The last mud eruption at Crazy crater happened 1,600 years ago, Reusch said.

Today, Crazy crater is filled with churning slurry of wet mud. The mix of water and sediment hides a deep crack that penetrates nearly 200 feet (60 m) down toward the underlying bedrock, the study researchers reported. Water welling up into the crack keeps the mud in motion.

The research team conducted detailed surveys of water and sediments in and around the craters. The results suggest these unusual features are connected to the Jura Mountains karst system, an underground network of limestone caves and cracks. The same limestone underlies the lake, and the scientists think that groundwater is bubbling up into the craters through cracks in the limestone rock. At least one crater directly overlies a major earthquake fault.

For instance, water inside Crazy crater is 47 degrees Fahrenheit (8.4 degrees Celsius), but the surrounding lake water is colder, at just 42 F (5.8 C). Chemical markers in the local karst groundwater are also a match for water drawn from the craters, Reusch and her co-authors reported April 21 in the journal

Swiss aid convoy delivers 300 tonnes of chemicals to clean Donetsk water


© Sputnik/ Mikhail Voskresenskiy

The water treatment chemicals - mainly aluminium sulphate — will provide 3.5 million people on both sides of the contact line with clean drinking water, according to Swiss authorities.

The convoy is allegedly the largest to have crossed the line of contact between Kiev-led forces and Donetsk militia since an armed conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine in April 2014.

"A 15-truck convoy organized by Swiss Humanitarian Aid reached the city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine today. After a journey of several hours from Dnipropetrovsk through areas on both sides of the contact line, the convoy delivered approximately 300 tonnes of chemicals to the Donetsk water company," the statement, published Friday, reads.

Over a year of fighting has put the Donetsk region on the verge of a humanitarian disaster, as important infrastructure has been destroyed and many local residents have been left without food, drinking water and electricity.

Switzerland has for months been providing aid to people affected by the conflict on both sides of the contact line. In addition to sending water treatment chemicals, Swiss Humanitarian Aid works alongside its Czech partner organization People in Need to repair damaged homes.

USGS: Earthquake Magnitude 6.7 - Pacific-Antarctic Ridge

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From sugar to Monsanto

Today's occupation of Hawaii by the Agrochemical Oligopoly

Hawai'i's year-round growing season is purportedly the main reason that the global agrochemical-seed industry has located itself in the islands. Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Syngenta and BASF claim that they operate in Hawai'i solely because of its "natural resource competitive advantage," and that their "contributions ... are at no cost to the State." It is certainly true that Hawai'i's climate is favorable for speeding up the cultivation of herbicide-resistant seeds and testing other agricultural technologies. But a lot more than sunshine makes Hawai'i's soils ideal to growing agrochemical industry products, and the social and political arrangements that facilitate the industry's occupation of the islands are neither "natural" nor without public costs.

Neoliberalism and American Imperialism

Hawai'i has long been a subject of U.S. imperialism—islands used for the generation and extraction of wealth (especially within the sphere of agribusiness), and a hub of its military operations. The current occupation of Hawai'i by agrochemical-seed corporations should first be situated within the context of the global conditions that have given rise to the industry in its present form—neoliberal capitalism and American dominance which, together, facilitate increasingly extensive privatization, corporate power and monopoly. Today just six companies control the worldwide markets in commercial seeds, agrochemicals and biotech traits, forming an oligopoly with tremendous power within the global food system.

While often (erroneously) called "free-market" policies, increasing amounts of government intervention and bureaucracy are required to secure the property rights, markets and profits of Monsanto and the gang. The U.S. compels other countries to adopt the "complex mélange of laws" that enable the agrochemical-seed industry to exclusively "own" seeds and restrict farmers from replanting. This state-enforced privatization creates new markets and profit opportunities for corporate agribusiness, while dismantling millennia old arrangements of collective seed saving, sharing and innovation by farmers.

As fewer companies have come to dominate the seed and agrochemical markets, poorer countries and farmers have been made increasingly dependent on global markets and these companies for agricultural inputs. Corporate-dependence is a direct result of neoliberal policy led especially by the U.S., which encouraged (or forced) a retreat of government support for agricultural development while "liberalizing" markets and devastating smallholder food production systems in the process.

While food producers and consumers rely on regulatory oversight of pesticides for their safety, regulation is a nuisance to the industry and can limit markets and profits. It has become common practice for the U.S. government to campaign, coerce and sue to weaken or wipe-out pesticide and Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) regulations in other countries, often in the name of "trade."

Of current importance, major proposed new international agreements like theTPPA (Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement) and TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) indicate a push for "harmonizing" participating countries' laws to permit the use of banned chemicals, to allow higher levels of pesticides used on foods imported from the U.S., and to block public access to "confidential business information" about pesticide ingredients and dangers. Official government "trade" negotiators are agrochemical-seed (as well as oil, tobacco and other major corporate) industry lobbyists, and chemical corporations themselves serve as advisors with access to top-secret proposed agreement text that even Congress members do not have.

Significant U.S. government funds, including national security resources, are spent enforcing and promoting the private interests of agrochemical-seed companies. The U.S. intervenes in other countries' affairs on direct behalf of Monsanto, including to negotiate seed royalty settlements, accelerate approval of their crops, and extend patent lengths. Meanwhile, Monsanto is pursuing mega-mergers that may enable it to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

The U.S. government's commitment to and investment in the agrochemical oligopoly currently roots itself in Hawai'i's soils, considered by many activists to be an illegally occupied territory. Agrochemical companies locate in Hawai'i because of its (highly contested) place "within" the U.S. Likewise, Puerto Rico—another colonized tropical island—is a main site of agrochemical experimental operations.

When the seed industry first arrived to Hawai'i in the 1960s, it was made up of dozens of small companies operating on the fringes of plantation lands. Beginning in the 1990s, these smaller companies were acquired by chemical corporations and began expanding onto lands recently vacated by sugar, while morphing their operations to reflect the novel directions of the emerging chemical+seed oligopoly—most notably, growing seeds engineered to be resistant to their herbicides, and testing new genetically engineered crops.

Operating within the United States is critical for the patent and other "protections" provided to the industry, as well as for the deregulatory approacht aken in regards to worker rights, human health and environmental protections. The U.S. regulatory system allows for activities that are prohibited in other developed countries, including the use of 82 pesticides banned in Europe. Some of these pesticides are used on an almost daily basis next to Hawai'i homes and schools. At the same time, "trade secret" protections block neighboring residents and even the State of Hawai'i from accessing basic information about open-air pesticide use. In other words, foreign corporations like Syngenta and BASF are permitted, indeed incentivized, to do things in Hawai'i that they are restrictedfrom doing in their home countries.

Operating within the U.S. is also necessary to the fluidity of the agrochemical industry's activities, enabling easy transfer through phases of seed growing and distribution, as well as between R&D and commercialization. Hawai'i has thus become an important node in the global chain of production the oligopoly uses to control the worldwide commercial seed, agrochemical and biotech markets.

Local Policy: from Sugar to Monsanto

Over the past decades, Hawai'i has changed from a landscape dominated by tropical monocrops of sugar and pineapple, to one of agrochemical-seed product development on the peripheries of a military-tourism economy. However, in many ways, today's plantations operated by Monsanto and Syngenta do not stray far from those of the "Big Five" sugar oligarchy's. Agrochem has directly inherited sugar's infrastructures and institutions and, similarly, operates by way of consolidated wealth, power and resource control, all undergirded by American hegemony and colonialism. As with all plantations, benefits are largely privatized while costs are socialized.

Without favorable land, water, forest, labor, infrastructure, tax and trade policies, sugar could not have been competitive or profitable on the global market, and the "Big Five" sugar oligarchy could not have held so much wealth and economic control. Likewise, in addition to U.S. government facilitation of product monopolies and corporate dominance, agrochemical operations today are conditioned upon a range of supports from the State of Hawai'i and general public—including the subsidization of land, water, research, infrastructure, pollution abatement and public health costs.

Land acquisition by agrochemical corporations is enabled by Hawai'i's colonial-plantation history of consolidated land control and State management of lands seized from the Hawaiian Kingdom in its overthrow. Like sugar, much of the land that the industry operates on are "State" lands that Native Hawaiians continue to be dispossessed of. Leases include 20 - 35 year agreements, most for over 2,000 acres, at rates as low as $50/acre/year for tillable acres and $1/acre/year for non-tillable acres. Hawai'i's plantation-descendant, large landholders similarly lease extensive acreage to the industry, reportedly evicting local farmers and ranchers for the higher paying multinationals.

Essential to the agrochemical companies, these large tracts of prime agricultural lands include irrigation infrastructure from sugar days, some of it maintained with public funds. While Hawai'i's laws guarantee water as a public trust resource, it continues to be diverted for the benefit of Hawai'i's most powerful business and landowning interests, leaving streams dry and Native Hawaiians, local farmers, and other users without water. Earthjustice alleges that the State's Agribusiness Development Corporation is "hoarding" and "dumping" millions of gallons of water daily where they lease lands to agrochemical companies. In addition to irrigation, ex-sugar lands are already equipped with drainage, electrical power and roadway systems to service the new corporate agribusiness tenants.

Direct financial contributions provided to agrochemical companies includeproperty tax breaks, General Excise Tax exemptions, and a history of unpaid taxes. Further, in the early 1990s policy-makers began offering investment capital and tax incentives for agricultural biotechnology research and development. A long, sugar-shaped history of cooperative relationship between large industry, federal and island governments, and public and private research institutions continues to operate for the agrochemical companies today. This both sidelines other agricultural research pathways in the public interest, and has raised concerns at the University of Hawai'i about the influence of agrochemical companies on intellectual inquiry. (Editor's note: more on this Wednesday.)

Amongst subsidies granted to both sugar and the agrochemical industry today, perhaps most lasting is the state-sanctioned use of the environment, which includes affects on marine ecosystems, soil microbes, native species, forests and freshwaters.

Other "externalized" impacts include those on worker rights, public health and economic well-being. Structural poverty, together with national and local policy, create the conditions for underpaid and under-protected labor in the islands. Federal guest-worker schemes enable agrochemical companies to bring in workers from poorer countries who lack the legal protections of citizens. While not well investigated in Hawai'i, "guest" workers are systemically vulnerable to debt servitude, wage exploitation, dangerous working conditions and denial of long-term medical care. Hawai'i is widely-considered one of the worst states in terms of policy that protects victims of human trafficking, including within the realm of agricultural labor. The primary anti-slavery organization in Hawai'i says it has documented multiple migrant worker deaths directly attributable to pesticides on both agrochemical company operations and local farms.

While some U.S. states have adopted public-health pesticide regulations to address inadequacies in federal law, Hawai'i has failed to do so. Hawai'i is one of only 19 states without regulations addressing the use of pesticides on or near schools. The Hawai'i Department of Agriculture, other State departments, large landowners, the Hawai'i Farm Bureau, and the industry all offer remarkably consistent lobbying positions against any and all proposed pesticide regulation, while county initiatives for health and environmental protection from agrochemical operations have been blocked in the courts.

While government support for agriculture is absolutely necessary to the public good, what is too often blurred is the difference between support for an agrifood system that contributes to goals of equality and sustainability, and support for large corporate agribusiness. "Agricultural interests" are not uniform or singular; very different, and sometimes competing, possibilities for Hawai'i's people are at stake. The frequent assertion that the agrochemical companies help to sustain local farming operations neglects the complete story of all that they displace and preclude. Further, that dominant narrative does not account for the wide range of public subsidies and supports that we all pay for their private benefit, or how we could, instead, direct precious natural resources, infrastructures, institutions and government funds to a different kind of food system and economy.

Hawai'i's sugar oligarchy past left largely intact a mono-economy: today's military and corporate tourism-based economy. Economic diversification is a widely-shared policy priority, and the agrochemical industry presents itself as an appealing "agricultural" and "high-tech" industry alternative, purportedly also contributing millions to the economy. But the industry's claimed contributions say nothing about to whom the vast majority of their benefits accrue, or the "costs" of pesticide exposure and toxic dust with which some communities are burdened. We should seek not mere "diversification" of Hawai'i's inequitable and dependent mono-economy—simply shifting toward a little less corporate tourism and a little more Monsanto agriculture—but seek to truly depart from a plantation past. Just as a plantation-structured society is not merely a "natural" matter of sunshine and "market advantage," so too is it not inevitable.

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Beemageddon: White House reveals national strategy to tackle honeybee decline


© Reuters / Dominic Ebenbichler

The dwindling number of honeybees in the US has been a constant worry for farmers in recent years - and now the White House is buzzing into action. On Tuesday, the Obama administration unveiled a new strategy aimed at protecting honeybees' habitat.

The National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators will seek to manage the way forests are burned by wildfires and replanted, how offices are landscaped, and how roadside habitats where bees feed are preserved.

Drawing on the work of 14 agencies, along with the private sector, it aims to reduce honeybee colony losses during winter to no more than 15 percent within a decade. It also states that the government and private entities will restore or enhance 7 million acres of land for pollinators over the next five years.

The strategy is based on findings from the Pollinator Health Task Force, created by the White House in 2014 to study the honeybees' decline.

"I have to say that it is mighty darn lovely having the White House acknowledge the indigenous, unpaid and invisible workforce that somehow has managed to sustain all terrestrial life without healthcare subsidies, or a single COLA, for that past 250 million years," said Sam Droege, a US Geological Survey wildlife biologist and an expert on native bee identification, as quoted by The Washington Post.

But 'Beemageddon' has actually been on the White House's agenda for some time. In fact, the federal government launched an action plan on the dwindling honeybee population as long ago as 2007.

President Obama himself has also expressed ongoing concern about the insects' ever-decreasing numbers.

During an Oval Office meeting in 2013, Obama asked White House science adviser John Holdren: "What are we doing on bees? Are we doing enough?" That discussion started turning the wheels for the White House Pollinator Health Task Force.

The president also signed off on the placement of a beehive on the South Lawn of the White House in 2009. The approval of a pollinators' garden later followed.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) stated in an interview that preventing the honeybee genocide was "an essential thing [that] we need to pay attention to."

The plight of the bees - described as a potential ecological disaster by some environmentalists and experts - has been a source of ongoing stress for beekeepers, farmers, and environmentalists, as the insects are relied upon to pollinate the plants that produce a quarter of the food consumed by Americans.

A government report released last month found that 42.1 percent of the US honeybee population died last year.

However, the exact cause of the mass deaths remains unknown - and has sparked fierce debate in the US.

Some have pointed the finger at a class of insecticide known as neonicotinoids, or neonics, which is used on crops such as corn, as well as on standard garden plants. Others have blamed the varroa mite parasite, along with the stresses that bee colonies endure while being carted from farm to farm during growing seasons.

The Obama administration has proposed spending $82.5 million on honeybee research in the upcoming budget year - up from the current $34 million.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing a series of studies on the effects of neonics on bees and plants; the first in a series of assessments is expected to be released later this year. The agency will also implement new restrictions on which pesticides farmers can use when commercial honeybees are pollinating their crops.

The IMF leaks Greece


© Reuters

Whenever secret or confidential information or documents are leaked to the press, the first question should always be who leaked it and why. That's often more important than the contents of what has been leaked. And since there's been a lot of hullabaloo about a leaked document the past two days, here's a closer look. Spoiler alert: the document(s) don't reveal much of anything new, despite the hullabaloo.

On Saturday, Paul Mason at Channel 4 in Britain posted an IMF document(s) that according to him says, among other things, that the IMF expects a June 5 Grexit - in one form or another - if there is no agreement before that date between Athens and its creditors, 'the institutions' (of which the IMF itself is one).

The leaking is simply what it is as long as we don't know the how and why. But the question will remain why somebody takes the risk to leak something only a small and select group of people are privy to. Is it leaked because it's politically important, does Paul Mason pay a lot of money for leaks? Or is it perhaps an intentional leak, in this case ordered by IMF higher-ups? And if so, for what reason? A veiled threat?

Fact is that when you look through the documents Mason published, you notice that he adds his own interpretation to them. Mason, to whom documents seem to be leaked on a regular basis - he wrote about 2 more leaked documents 3 months ago - for instance suggests quite strongly in his write up at Channel 4 that June 5th is the date for a possible default.

However, the documents don't mention that date. They only talk about June, not June 5. Mason writes about IMF 'staff': "They point to the €1.5 billion due to the IMF in June as the first vulnerable payment."

The €1.5 billion is not one payment, though. The first June payment, at least according to a Bloomberg overview , which is indeed scheduled for June 5, is 'only' €310 million. There are then subsequent payments to the IMF scheduled on June 12 (€348 million), June 16 (€581 million), and June 19 (another €348 million). These are rough numbers, there are slightly different ones doing the rounds; still, they'll do.

But June 5 is by no means carved in stone as a default date (€310 million might be feasible for Athens), though Mason does make it seem like that. Every single day counts now in the negotiations. And a €310 million payment on June 5 would buy Greece at least another week. Which may prove crucial. For both sides of the negotiating table. Greece might even miss one or two payments; the consequences of such a move would be mainly a political decision, meaning there's some room to move.

We noticed, by the way, another example of 'Masonic' interpretation in the video that accompanies the article. In it, Mason claims (at about 1:10) that "..the writer of this document thinks Greek pensions are too generous even now." While it's possible that he talked to the writer, or received additional information that he doesn't mention, fact is that the document doesn't corroborate his statement in the video. There's no mention of this claim. Maybe it's Paul Mason's own opinion?!

The main sticking points with the 'institutions' now seem to be 'labor reform' (i.e. down with the unions -how IMF can you get?) and pensions. Syriza has once again said this morning that it refuses to cave in on either. And there's also the case of the 4000 or so re-hired cleaning ladies and school guards. The well-paid negotiators from Brussels and Washington want them out of their poorly paid jobs again. Not going to happen on Tsipras' watch.

Yanis Varoufakis has already made clear what Syriza thinks should be done with the debt it owes to Europe: it should be swapped for paper with a repayment schedule that stretches way into the future. Looking at (re)payment schedules, it becomes clear this is not just a hollow idea. If Europe would allow for such a swap, Greece's debt picture would change radically overnight. It would take away a large part of the burden this year:

And when this year is over, everything looks a lot sunnier:
The biggest speedbump in Greece's repayment schedule is summer 2015. Take that away and things look completely different. All the institutions need to do is to provide Greece with some leeway. It's very possible to do so. If the EC, ECB and IMF decide not to allow for that leeway, there can -again- be only one conclusion, as I said before: Greece Is Now Just A Political Issue.

The 'big kahuna' issue for Syriza has been, ever since it won the elections in late January, that its voters want something seemingly impossible: an end to austerity combined with continued membership of the eurozone. 'The institutions' won't let Greece have both. Which has a lot to do with the fact that polls show continued support for euro membership in Greece; it's one big hammer that Tsipras can be banged over the head with, day after day.

'The institutions', and indeed the international media, expect Greece to cave in to their demands for more austerity at the 'final moment', because the alternative would not only be horrific - at least presumably - it would go against the wishes of the Greek people. What not a lot of people seem to understand is that Syriza can't give in, because it would mean the end of Syriza.

However, if the institutions force a Greece default, that would bring a potential disintegration of the eurozone much closer than it is today. And whoever says they're confident it can be contained are delusional liars. The risks for all three, EC, ECB and IMF, would far outstrip the few billion euros on which they may receive repayment a few years later. And they should not want these risks. Not if they have functioning neurons left.

But the biggest threat to the negotiations may not come from the institutions after all. It may well come from inside Syriza. As the Greek Analyst site reported this morning:

Call For "Rupture Now" By The Political Secretariat & Central Committee Of Syriza

Prominent members of the Central Committee and the Political Secretariat of Syriza are preparing an event for tomorrow, Tuesday May 19. Quoting from the event description, as well as the title of the invitation-pamphlet, the message of the event seems quite clear: "the only way out [of the impasse] is the choice of rupture with the lenders." :

The Moment of Truth For Syriza: "Rupture now with the lenders."

The moment of truth has arrived. The lenders are pressuring the government to sign a Memorandum agreement of neoliberal strategy (privatizations, demolition of the insurance-pension system and of the labour rights, ENFIA, VAT tax, etc.)

It turns out that the agreement of the 20th of February facilitated, objectively, this attack and "creative ambiguity" favored the powerful. The assumption that a radical program of anti-austerity can be build with the tolerance of the neoliberal steering wheels of the Eurozone proved wrong. Now, we are moving to the critical hour of decisions for the government, the party of SYRIZA, and the social majority.

We need to choose between the signing of the looming austerity agreement and the rupture with the lenders. SYRIZA cannot be turned into a party of austerity; neither can the government implement the Memorandum. This is the reason why, both domestically and abroad, proposals for the internal "cleansing" of SYRIZA and governmental solutions for "national unity" are put on the table.

For all those reasons, the only way out is the choice of rupture with the lenders. With a suspension of repayments [of the debt], measures that restrict the "freedom" of capital flight, governmental control over the banks, taxation of capital and of the rich for the financing of pro-people measures, support of this policy with any and all possible means, and with the possible break from the EMU.

For all of the above, we invite you to discuss in the open event of Rproject on Tuesday 19/5 in 7:00pm at ESIEA. Today, the future of workers, unemployed, pensioners, young people is judged. And at the same time, the future of the Radical Left in Greece, but also internationally.

Anatole Kaletsky thinks Syriza will blink. I saw that a few days ago with all of its assumptions and I thought: whatever. I don't even think Kaletsky knows what Syriza is. There are too many opinions and too many assumptions out there that see the negotiations as just that: negotiations (that will end badly for Tsipras and Varoufakis). But Syriza is not just another thirteen in a dozen political party. It comes with principles that it will not and cannot sell to the highest bidder. That, more than anything else, makes this a political issue.