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Tuesday, 11 August 2015

80 million plastic balls to prevent Los Angeles reservoirs from becoming carcinogenic

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is buying 80 million 4-inch black polyethylene balls to cover the surfaces of three Los Angeles reservoirs that serve 4 million residents. At a cost of 33 cents each, the hollow spheres are designed to block sunlight from turning bromide and chlorine in the water into bromate, a suspected carcinogen.

ballsPhotos of the ball manufacturing equipment at XavierC in Glendora, California.




From Currency Wars To Oil Wars - OPEC Ups Production To 3 Year Highs As Iran Output Surges

As China takes the currency wars to the next level, so OPEC, not to be outdone, rotates the oil war volume to 11. As Bloomberg reports, OPEC pumped the most crude last month in more than three years as Iran restored output to the highest level since international sanctions were strengthened in 2012. The response - as one would expect - is a plunge in crude prices, erasing all the ridiculous algo-driven gains of yesterday, pushing WTI back on the verge of a $42 handle.

As Bloomberg reports,

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, responsible for 40 percent of world oil supplies, raised output by 100,700 barrels a day to 31.5 million last month, the group said in its monthly market report, citing external sources. This increase came even as Saudi Arabia, which often curbs output toward the end of peak summer demand, told OPEC it cut production by the most in almost a year.

Iran may further expand output after reaching an accord with world powers on July 14 that will ease sanctions on oil exports later this year in return for curbs on its nuclear activity.

“Iran has been rising slowly but surely for a while now,” Abhishek Deshpande, an analyst at Natixis SA in London, said by e-mail. “It doesn’t need foreign investment to revamp existing infrastructure and prepare fields, resulting in the small increases you can see now. But the bulk of the increase is expected once it becomes clear sanctions will definitely be lifted.”

Iran increased output by 32,300 barrels a day in July to 2.86 million a day, the highest since June 2012, according to data OPEC compiles from “secondary sources” such as media agencies and international institutions. Sanctions to deter the nation’s nuclear research took effect in July that year.




The reaction - for once - makes sense...

 WTI is on the verge of a $42 handle

NYPD Ordered to Publicly Shame the Homeless by Taking Photos and Posting Online


New York, NY — NYPD police have recently been showing how compassionate they are by taking photos of homeless people and publicly shaming them online. The activity is not only condoned by the department, but it is being sanctioned and encouraged by high-ranking officials at the NYPD.

The ironically named “Sergeants Benevolent Association” sent out an email this week, ordering both police officers and their families to take photos of homeless people in embarrassing situations so they can later be posted publicly.

“As you travel about the city of New York, please utilize your smartphones to photograph the homeless lying in our streets, aggressive panhandlers, people urinating in public or engaging in open-air drug activity, and quality-of-life offenses of every type,” SBA President Ed Mullins said in the email.

The letter went on to criticize the fact that police are being filmed more and more recently and suggested that it is now time to turn the cameras back on the public.

“Shouldn’t accountability go both ways? We, the ‘Good Guys,’ are sworn to protect our citizens. Shouldn’t our public officials be held to the same standard?” the email read.

According to the email, the photos are intended to motivate politicians to “do something about the homeless problem,” but what they actually want to be done is unclear. Do they want laws that outright ban homelessness? Or just more power, in general, to use against the population?

The email cites examples of public urination and drug use, but these are activities that police are already arresting people for, so it seems that they may be pushing for more strict and specific laws against homelessness.

The letter railed against “failed policies, more homeless encampments on city streets, a 10 percent increase in homicides, and the diminishing of our hard-earned and well-deserved public perception of the safest large city in America…. Attempts to pass self-promoting agendas are not the answer to building relationships with communities who don’t trust the police. It only serves to lie to people who are trying to live life and share in a piece of the American Dream.”

One of the “failed policies” that Mullins was critical of was the recently proposed “Right to Know Act,” which would require cops to get permission from a suspect before conducting a search without probable cause for arrest.


Sadly, this sick NYPD homework assignment was even praised by the NYPost, who also seemed to have no compassion for the homeless population of New York City.

The police are now collecting all of the photos in a public Flikr album.

Below are some of the photos uploaded to their album. After looking through their photos, the only one deserving to be publicly shamed in this situation, is the NYPD.




What Every Parent Should Know: How Smartphones Destroy Children's Brain

Over 2 billion people now own smartphones and use their devices on a daily basis. Recent studies find that an average person checks their screen 150 times a day.

In the Western world, 56 percent of children between the ages of 10 to 13, own a smartphone. While that fact alone may come as a shock, it is estimated that 25 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 5 have a smartphone.

Everyone has seen it, and maybe you're even guilty of it yourself! You're dining at a restaurant when you see a family with young children. The children are quiet, but it's not because they're eating or they're listening to their parents. It's because their eyes are glued to some sort of electronic device.

Although electronics can be excellent for education and games, they can also be a crutch for parents and caretakers. If a parent uses tablets, phones, or computers to keep their child engaged, they may come to rely on these tools instead of being a hands-on parent. Find out what screen time can do to your kids.

The Increase in Screen Time

Screen time wasn't always a problem. Before the advent of smartphones and tablets, kids only had the chance to watch television. With outside time, outings, and school, it was uncommon for kids to spend more than a little bit of time with a screen at any given time.However, statistically, most kids spend hours in front of various screens every day!

This is very harmful, particularly during the first three years of a child's life. The American Association of Pediatricians does not recommend any screen time prior to the age of two, but by the age of two, 90% of kids watch television regularly. The screen time a


gets continues to increase as they age.

You can see the effects by looking at today's teenagers, who often have difficulty communicating in real life. Look at a group of teenagers and you'll see that most, if not all, are on their phones, rather than paying attention to each other.

Screens At Every Turn

Part of the danger comes with how widely available electronic devices are. Many homes have multiples televisions, smartphones, tablets, and laptops, making it incredibly easy for a kid to have access to a screen whenever they want. Even worse, many manufacturers are catering to increased screen time by producing kid-friendly tablets and devices.

When a child has their own device and their access to it is not restricted, they may take in far more media than what is appropriate.

What Screen Time Does to a Child's Brain

Let's get one thing straight: educational TV and games are a hoax when you're talking about babies and toddlers. Simply put, kids at this age do not get anything from educational material delivered electronically. They are better off learning from hands-on play and reading.

Children should be interacting with caregivers or other people the vast majority of the time. Young children are designed to learn from human interaction, which is taken away from them when they learn from screens.When your child is staring at a screen, their verbal skills,


development, and attention may be suffering.

These effects last well into the school years, making it difficult for kids to learn appropriately in school, pay attention, and build strong emotional connections.Though limiting your kids' screen time may be difficult, it is an effort that pays off in many different ways.

Next time you want to hand your child a device to help them calm down, try a book or conversation instead.

Thousands Of Americans Have Been Illegally Detained In Chicago’s CIA-Style Detention Center

Gitmo2Chicago6By Carey Wedler

The Chicago Police’s CIA-style black site, Homan Square, has seen more people detained than died on 9/11 or imprisoned at Guantanamo, according to a new report by the Guardian. The newspaper, which sued the Chicago police to obtain further details on Homan Square, reports overwhelming targeting of minorities as well as other sordid and violative policies.

From 2004 to 2015, at least 3,500 people were detained at Homan Square. These records do not cover the full span of the facility’s tenure, as it has been open since 1995. According to the Guardian, a grossly disproportionate ratio of detainees were minorities, “many accused of low-level drug crimes, [and] faced with incriminating themselves before their arrests appeared in a booking system by which their families and attorneys might find them.”

The majority of arrests were for low-level drug crimes. As the Guardian details, there were 1,175 arrests for heroin, 526 for cannabis, 484 for cocaine, and 464 for “unspecified” drug charges. 244 arrests were made in relation to firearms while other arrests were for “minor infractions such as traffic violations, public urination and driving without a seatbelt.” Other charges ranged from drinking alcohol in public to murder. More than half of all Homan Square arrests occurred 2.5 miles or less from the facility. Of 3,621 arrest records provided to the Guardian, about 3,540 incurred charges (the newspaper notes that “[v]ast amounts of data documenting the full scope of detentions and interrogations at Homan Square remain undisclosed”).

Though blacks make up 33% of Chicago’s population, 82% of those detained at Homan Square were black. Of the 3,500 detained, only three were allowed official visits from attorneys, two of which were on the same day in 2013. The Guardian noted it was able to find eight other instances of lawyers entering the facilities, though four were to accompany clients turning themselves in.

Craig Futterman of the University of Chicago Law School observed that “In Chicago, the police do not provide people with attorneys at the police station at the times they most need them: when they’re subject to interrogation…That’s what the Miranda warning is all about: the right to counsel while interrogated by police.” Though police have said that “any individual who wishes to consult a lawyer will not be interrogated until they have an opportunity to do so,” the Guardian notes that this would mean 3,500 people waived their right to an attorney.

Former top Obama aide and current Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who presided over ⅔ of the arrests— 2,522 since he took office in 2011—has insisted that Chicago police “follow all the rules.” However, in addition to the lack of access to attorneys, first-hand accounts reveal a starkly different story.

In February, the Anti-Media reported on detainees held for marijuana, shackled to poles, and denied lawyers. Since the initial news broke that month, 118 arrests have been made. Charles Jones was arrested (for a second time) on March 17 after police officers broke in his door looking for a 5’8” man. Jones is 6’4”, but when officers—some masked— found a firearm in his air conditioning unit, they took him back to Homan Square. He was shackled to a pole in an “interrogation room” and his requests for a lawyer were denied over the course of six to eight hours (others claim to have had similar experiences while other allegations include sexual abusestarvation, sensory deprivation, and beatings).

Jones suspects they conduct such arrests to extract information on drug dealers.

“The only reason you’re brought to Homan and Fillmore [the facility’s cross streets] is to extract information,” he said. “The police probably feel they need those covert operations because that’s the only way to get the intel they need instead of doing the good work – the hard work…It’s easy to just go grab someone, throw ’em somewhere – no food, no water, no access to the outside world, intimidating and threatening ’em.”

Jones’ wife and mother of his three children was unable to locate him once he was arrested, in spite of her slew of calls to police departments across the city. Jones is currently in the midst of suing the police department for a separate 2012 case where he claims he was charged for refusing to “give them information and cooperate with them.”

Rich Dressman, a white 50-year-old man, says he left town to evade pressure from police to act as an informant. “My life would be a lot easier if I gave them information,” he said. “I’d be home with a nice long shower and all that bullshit.”

Though police insist there is nothing disreputable about the facility, saying the square “merely house[s] undercover units,” the number and nature of arrests paint a markedly different reality. More people have been detained and charged at the formerly secret black site than werekilled on 9/11, though such abuses are often justified by the terrorist attacks that occurred that day (even as the Patriot Act and Homan arrestsoverwhelmingly focus on drug “crimes”). More people have been illegally detained at Homan than suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, the globally infamous military torture facility scorned for flouting due process and holding innocent people for a decade. Guantanamo has been open longer than the span of released records from Homan Square.

That the Chicago police continued to arrest people—even after news of its abuses sparked widespread outrage—highlights the impunity with which they operate. That the numbers far surpass other outrageous figures demonstrates the United States’ increasingly misplaced priorities and disregard for the justice and freedom it claims to protect.

As Flint Taylor, who helped pressure Mayor Emanuel and the police to provide compensation to victims of police abuses said, “Hopefully, Chicago’s political leadership and its establishment media will finally take notice and stop collaborating to bury this story, so righteously championed by the Guardian, under the rug of denial and false ignorance.” 

St. Louis County Charges Journalists Who Covered Ferguson Protests With Trespassing

Another reporter, Matt Pearce from the LA Times, reached out to the police, who seemed to indicate that the arrests had been a mistake (and from the descriptions offered by Reilly and Lowery, that sounds about right). Lowery and Reilly were then released and told that no charges would be filed against reporters.

And yet... prosecutors have decided to

move forward with the lawsuit

, charging at least Lowery with trespassing (Reilly has not officially yet been informed that he's been sued too, but

he expects to be

shortly -- and a reporter has


from the county that Reilly faces similar charges).

A court summons dated Aug. 6 — just under a year after Lowery’s arrest — was sent to Lowery, 25, ordering him to appear in a St. Louis County municipal court on Aug. 24. The summons notes that he could be arrested if he does not appear.

“Charging a reporter with trespassing and interfering with a police officer when he was just doing his job is outrageous,” Martin Baron, executive editor of The Post, said in a statement Monday. “You’d have thought law enforcement authorities would have come to their senses about this incident. Wes Lowery should never have been arrested in the first place. That was an abuse of police authority.

Meanwhile, it seems noteworthy that this comes just days after St. Louis County "settled" a lawsuit filed against it by another journalist, Trey Yingst, who had been arrested while covering protests in Ferguson in November. In that case, the county agreed to pay Yingst $8,500 and drop all charges... and evidence showed that

the police flat-out lied

about why they had detained Yingst -- using the same excuse they had used against Lowery and Reilly.

A Reason magazine reporter, along with other witnesses, also supported Yingst’s account. And video of the incident, posted that night on Twitter, shows police in skirmish formation approaching Yingst on the sidewalk. 

The St. Louis County Police Department, however, tweeted after the incident that Yingst was detained for “failure to disperse” and had “refused” orders from commanding officers to leave the street. A police report echoes the description of events in that tweet.

In the police department’s account, Yingst was standing in the street with protesters and impeding the flow of traffic when ordered to move to the sidewalk. It was then that Vollmer ordered Yingst -- three times, by his account -- to return to the sidewalk. But Yingst refused to do so, according to the report, and only “slowly walked backwards onto the sidewalk” as the police formation approached. 

“The whole police report was basically made up,” Yingst said.

Given that, you would think that prosecutors would shy away from immediately going after journalists where there was pretty strong evidence that they, too, were detained for bogus reasons, but apparently "reason" doesn't exist in the prosecutor's office in St. Louis County. I would imagine that both Lowery and Reilly will have pretty strong defenses, and that St. Louis County may end up handing over more taxpayer funds to both of them before this is over. Also, Reilly says he's spent the last year trying to find out the name of the St. Louis County police officer who slammed his head into the wall -- and figures that now that he's being charged, he might actually be able to find out who it was.

China "Loses Battle Over Yuan", And Now The Global Currency War Begins

Almost exactly seven months ago, on January 15, the Swiss National Bank shocked the world when it admitted defeat in a long-standing war to keep the Swiss Franc artificially weak, and after a desperate 3 year-long gamble, which included loading up the SNB's balance sheet with enough EUR-denominated garbage to almost equal the Swiss GDP, it finally gave up and on one cold, shocking January morning the EURCHF imploded, crushing countless carry-trade surfers.

Fast forward to the morning of August 11 when in a virtually identical stunner, the PBOC itself admitted defeat in the currency battle, only unlike the SNB, the Chinese central bank had struggled to keep the Yuan propped up, at the cost of nearly $1 billion in daily foreign reserve outflows, which as this website noted first months ago, also included the dumping of a record amount of US government treasurys. 

And with global trade crashing, Chinese exports tumbling, and China having nothing to show for its USD peg besides a propped and manipulated stock "market" which has become the laughing stock around the globe, at the cost of even more reserve outflows, it no longer made any sense for China to avoid the currency wars and so, first thing this morning China admitted that, as Market News summarized, the "PBOC lost Battle Over Yuan."

That's only part of the story though, because as MNI also adds, the real, global currency war is only just starting.

And now that China is openly exporting deflation, and is eager to risk massive capital outflows, the global currency war just entered its final phase, one where the global race to the bottom is every central bank's stated goal. Well, except for one: the Federal Reserve. We give Yellen a few months (especially if she indeed does hike rates) before the US too is back to ZIRP, maybe NIRP and certainly monetizing even more things that are not nailed down.

Here are some additional views from Market News that summarize what just happened in China:



China PBOC Loses Battle Over Yuan; War Continues

The People's Bank of China said Tuesday that the yuan will from now on better reflect market forces, but the central bank is unlikely to tolerate sustained depreciation so long as it feels it needs to maintain financial stability and avoid spooking capital flows.

The near-2% depreciation engineered via the central parity fixing on Tuesday was described by the PBOC as a "one-off revision." The yuan's real effective exchange rate has risen nearly 15% over the past year and the central bank said it wanted to correct this deviation. Tuesday's depreciation was presented as a reform step designed to improve the central parity fixing mechanism.

But the fixing rate, and the bank's explanation, rocked regional markets as investors sold off on concerns that China will now competitively devalue the yuan to help prop up its flagging economy.Domestic asset prices also weakened because a weaker yuan risks worsening capital outflows, leading to tighter onshore monetary conditions and possibly destabilizing the financial system.

A person familiar with exchange rate policy accepted that the move increases depreciation speculation but said the authority will continue to stabilize the yuan.

"The yuan may keep falling as the market needs time to understand but the central bank will keep the exchange rate stable because it is in China's interest to do so," he said.

Another person stressed the market reforms imbedded in Tuesday's statement and said "we cannot simply understand the yuan central parity from this depreciation angle." Tuesday's announcement comes ahead of an International Monetary Fund decision later this year on whether to include the yuan in the basket used to value its Special Drawing Right.

Traders in the interbank market noted big dollar sales by large institutions at around 6.3000 on Tuesday morning and suggested these banks could be acting on the quiet orders of the PBOC.

"It's the PBOC's invisible hand -- it looks like this is the first line of defense now," said a trader with one of the Big Four state banks. Another trader said the PBOC may step up intervention for now, but said the longer-term outlook is for a more market-oriented -- and presumably weaker -- yuan.

The central bank has kept the yuan stable for months in a quiet peg to the U.S. dollar precisely because of its concerns about capital flows and the need to maintain financial system stability.

It has faced mounting pressure from within the bureaucracy to allow the yuan to weaken to help support the export sector, MNI reported last week. July's dismal trade report -- showing an 8.3% y/y plunge in exports -- made the PBOC's ongoing resistance to depreciation untenable.

The new method for fixing the morning central parity rate does promise greater input from market forces. The PBOC instructed market makers that their central parity quotes "should refer to the closing rate of the inter-bank foreign exchange market on the previous day, in conjunction with demand and supply condition in the foreign exchange market and exchange rate movements of the major currencies."

But those bids will still be calculated by the PBOC for publication by the bank at 0915, giving the bank considerable scope to manage the exchange rate according to China's economic needs.

The PBOC may have lost the battle on the State Council, but it will continue fighting the war to maintain currency stability, particularly in the run-up to a Federal Reserve meeting next month which many now expect will result in the first increase in the federal funds rate in nine years.

All of the above, incidentally, was explained in our post from March 6 titled "How Beijing Is Responding To A Soaring Dollar, And Why QE In China Is Now Inevitable"