Monthly Archives: February 2017

28/2/17: Sentix Euro Breakup Contagion Risk Index Explodes


Sentix Euro Break-up Contagion Index - a market measure of the contagion risk from one or more countries leaving the euro area within the next 12 months period - has hit its post-2012 record recently, reaching 47.6 marker, up on 25 trough in 2Q 2016:


Key drivers: Greece, Italy and France.

Details here: https://www.sentix.de/index.php/sentix-Euro-Break-up-Index-News/euro-break-up-index-die-gefaehrlichen-drei.html.

Shell knew about climate change


Because I have been known to hang out with lefties, my position that the oil guys are not the enemy is quite a minority one. Part of this is personal—I have relatives who have devoted their careers to the difficult proposition of finding, transporting, refining, and selling the most interesting fuel source humanity is ever likely to find. In Tioga North Dakota, I went to high school with the children of the geologists and engineers that found oil in DEEP locations and ran the local refinery. So I KNOW these people are not monsters. I also know they are not stupid. My two lab partners in high school chemistry were sons of working refinery chemists and were amazingly comfortable and graceful around the subject.

There are two blindingly obvious truths associated with the oil business.
  1. The modern world is so reliant on liquid fuels that if one major oil company shut down for a month, there were be lines and buyer's panics like in 1973. If ALL of them shut down, life as we know it would come to an end. We NEED these folks.
  2. Of course we need to prepare ourselves for the end of the Age of Petroleum by building systems that do not need oil. This will be harder and more expensive than almost anyone admits. This absolutely necessary project will be most certainly powered by liquid fuels. We need petroleum to build the society that does not need it.
See. Making an enemy of the oil business is not only stupid, it demonstrates amazing ingratitude for some of the people that keep the rest of us alive. And here is a remarkable demonstration of my basic point. In 1991, Shell produced an accurate and informative film on the dangers of climate change. My guess is that if the crazy neoliberal political-economic zeitgeist had not been in its ascendency during that exact moment in history, Shell might have led the march into the post-petroleum economy. But the Euro was approved at Maastricht in February 1992 so neoliberalism was nearing one of its greatest triumphs. Unfortunately, neoliberalism is perfectly incapable of financing the kind of economy that can build the infrastructure necessary to eliminate the need of fossil fuels. So Shell went back to business as usual. Not very brave or imaginative, but under the circumstances, absolutely understandable and predictable.

‘Shell knew’: oil giant's 1991 film warned of climate change danger


Public information film unseen for years shows Shell had clear grasp of global warming 26 years ago but has not acted accordingly since, say critics

Damian Carrington and Jelmer Mommers, Tuesday 28 February 2017

The oil giant Shell issued a stark warning of the catastrophic risks of climate change more than a quarter of century ago in a prescient 1991 film that has been rediscovered.

However, since then the company has invested heavily in highly polluting oil reserves and helped lobby against climate action, leading to accusations that Shell knew the grave risks of global warming but did not act accordingly.

Shell’s 28-minute film, called Climate of Concern, was made for public viewing, particularly in schools and universities. It warned of extreme weather, floods, famines and climate refugees as fossil fuel burning warmed the world. The serious warning was “endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists in their report to the United Nations at the end of 1990”, the film noted.

“If the weather machine were to be wound up to such new levels of energy, no country would remain unaffected,” it says. “Global warming is not yet certain, but many think that to wait for final proof would be irresponsible. Action now is seen as the only safe insurance.”





A separate 1986 report, marked “confidential” and also seen by the Guardian, notes the large uncertainties in climate science at the time but nonetheless states: “The changes may be the greatest in recorded history.”

The predictions in the 1991 film for temperature and sea level rises and their impacts were remarkably accurate, according to scientists, and Shell was one of the first major oil companies to accept the reality and dangers of climate change.

But, despite this early and clear-eyed view of the risks of global warming, Shell invested many billions of dollars in highly polluting tar sand operations and on exploration in the Arctic. It also cited fracking as a “future opportunity” in 2016, despite its own 1998 data showing exploitation of unconventional oil and gas was incompatible with climate goals.



The projections for future global warming in Shell’s 1991 film stand up “pretty well” today, according to Prof Tom Wigley. Photograph: Climate of Concern

The film was obtained by the Correspondent, a Dutch online journalism platform, and shared with the Guardian, and lauds commercial-scale solar and wind power that already existed in 1991. Shell has recently lobbied successfully to undermine European renewable energy targets and is estimated to have spent $22m in 2015 lobbying against climate policies. The company’s investments in low-carbon energy have been minimal compared to its fossil fuel investments.

Shell has also been a member of industry lobby groups that have fought climate action, including the so-called Global Climate Coalition until 1998; the far-right American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) until 2015; and remains a member of the Business Roundtable and the American Petroleum Institute today.

Another oil giant, Exxon Mobil, is under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and state attorney generals for allegedly misleading investors about the risks climate change posed to its business. The company said they are confident they are compliant. In early 2016, a group of congressmen asked the Department of Justice to also “investigate whether Shell’s actions around climate change violated federal law”.

“They knew. Shell told the public the truth about climate change in 1991 and they clearly never got round to telling their own board of directors,” said Tom Burke at the green thinktank E3G, who was a member of Shell’s external review committee from 2012-14 and has also advised BP and the mining giant Rio Tinto. “Shell’s behaviour now is risky for the climate but it is also risky for their shareholders. It is very difficult to explain why they are continuing to explore and develop high-cost reserves.”

Bill McKibben, a leading US environmentalist, said: “The fact that Shell understood all this in 1991, and that a quarter-century later it was trying to open up the Arctic to oil-drilling, tells you all you’ll ever need to know about the corporate ethic of the fossil fuel industry. Shell made a big difference in the world – a difference for the worse.”
Prof Tom Wigley, the climate scientist who was head of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia when it helped Shell with the 1991 film, said: “It’s one of the best little films that I have seen on climate change ever. One could show this today and almost all would still be relevant.” He said Shell’s actions since 1991 had “absolutely not” been consistent with the film’s warning.

A Shell spokeswoman said: “Our position on climate change is well known; recognising the climate challenge and the role energy has in enabling a decent quality of life. Shell continues to call for effective policy to support lower carbon business and consumer choices and opportunities such as government lead carbon pricing/trading schemes.

“Today, Shell applies a $40 per tonne of CO2 internal project screening value to project decision-making and has developed leadership positions in natural gas and sugarcane ethanol; the lowest carbon hydrocarbon and biofuel respectively,” she said.

Patricia Espinosa, the UN’s climate change chief, said change by the big oil companies was vital to tackling global warming. “They are a big part of the global economy, so if we do not get them on board, we will not be able to achieve this transformation of the economy we need,” she said.

The investments the oil majors are making in clean energy are, Espinosa said, “very small, the activities in which they are engaging are still small and do not have the impact that we really need.”

Espinosa, who visited Shell’s headquarters in the Hague in December, said: “They are clear that this [climate change] agenda has to do with the future of their company and that business as usual, not doing anything, will lead to crisis and losses in their business.” more

On the verge of becoming failed states (once again)?

I attended an ISA panel Friday morning during which several participants discussed state failure or state collapse, although they were not necessarily referring to anywhere in the Americas (except maybe Venezuela). We really haven't heard those terms with regard to Central America in over five years. For Central America, 2009 was a really rough year. In Guatemala, Rodrigo Rosenberg's May murder-suicide led to protests seeking the dismissal of President Alvaro Colom, the man Rosenberg blamed for his murder before we learned it was his actual suicide.

One month later, Manuel Zelaya was overthrown in a coup and escorted out of Honduras into Costa Rica in his pjs. The instability caused by the coup led to increased violence, state repression, drug trafficking and organized crime. El Salvador escaped much of the talk about failed states at the time. Shortly after taking office in 2009, the FMLN and President Mauricio Funes suffered some threats from conservative forces indicating that they would suffer the same fate as Honduras if they took the country in too radical a direction.

I went to one meeting in Virginia in late 2009 to speak with US officials who were seriously concerned about Guatemala, and the Northern Triangle more generally.

During Friday's panel, I kept thinking that President Trump's policies are likely to increase stability instability throughout Central America, to the point where we will once again be speculating about state failure.

For the past several decades, Central American governments have reaped the benefits of mass migration. Central America has not created enough jobs to satisfy those entering the workforce  and migration has operated as a release valve. Private and public sector policies have done little to reduce the number of people living in poverty. Remittances in the form of billions of dollars each year have provided a safety net for people who otherwise would have nothing.

With thousands of people leaving each Northern Triangle country each year, thousands have also been forcibly repatriated. "Bad dudes" or not, public and private sectors have been unprepared to address the complications of reintegrating so many people. The US and Central America seem more cooperative on immigration and deportation issues today than they used to be but challenges remain and they are more likely to get worse with the Trump administration ramping up deportations and, just as bad perhaps, worsening the treatment of Central American nationals in the US.

A release valve, remittances, and cooperation on deportations might be ending if President Trump gets his way. Is it possible that Central American governments will now just work harder to satisfy the demands of their citizens? I'm sure they will but it hasn't always simply been about "will" or the "lack of willingness." Governing in Central America's Northern Triangle is really hard.

What we don't have a sense of is what the Trump administration will do with the US' relationships with Central America when it comes to trade, economic and security assistance, anti-corruption initiatives, and climate change and energy cooperation. If the US increases assistance in these areas (which I have no reason to believe it will), will any positive consequences offset the negative consequences of upsetting migratory patterns?

Australian Politics 2017-02-28 15:48:00

Uncategorized


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG says Turnbull is not conservative enough





Muslim fraudster caught but shows no remorse



We are just cattle to be exploited in her Muslim values

A millionaire Muslim woman who posed as a 'battling single mother' so she could live in public housing for 15 years has had her appeal thrown out of court.

Rebecca Khodragha, 44, appeared at Parramatta District Court on Wednesday to fight her three months home detention sentence, hoping for it to be lightened to community service.

The married mother-of-two, whose husband owns an electrical business which rakes in more than $1million each year, was given the sentence in 2016 when she was convicted of welfare fraud.

Rebecca Khodragha, 44, had her appeal thrown out in court on Wednesday and will now be kicked out of her housing commission apartment

The court was previously told that Ms Khodrangha's husband Khaled Sabsabi owned a lucerative electrical contracting business which was registered to the housing commission address.

At the same time Ms Khodrangha was claiming welfare benefits, the couple owned two other investment properties - in Lakemba and Greenacre - which they later sold for a significant profit.

Justice Martin Sides said mother-of-two had an 'absence of remorse' and 'complete lack of insight', and dismissed the appeal.

The court heard that despite the fraud conviction, Ms Khodragha is still living in public housing and receives Centrelink payments.

Ms Khodragha married husband Khaled in an Islamic ceremony in 1991 but their wedding was unregistered and the pair have been in a Punchbowl housing commission unit in the city's south-west since that year, 7News reported.

SOURCE





Must not refer to illegal immigrants as "fleas"

None of the "asylum-seeker" detainees are in fact refugees.  None of them came to Australia directly from their own countries.  So they already had refuge before they departed for Australia

LIBERAL Senator David Fawcett has clarified a statement where he appeared to describe asylum seekers as “fleas” while quizzing the Immigration Department over border protection.

The senator made the statement while responding to Employment Minister Michaelia Cash in a senate estimates hearing at Parliament House today. Minister Cash had defended the Turnbull Government’s track record on border protection by saying it was “still trying to clean up” a mess left by the former Labor government.

Senator Fawcett, a panel member of the estimates hearing, responded: “I’ll leave it there, I just question the ethics of nitpicking when your particular group brought the fleas in the first place.”

Senator Ian Macdonald, who made headlines this month by defending the Life Gold Pass for retired politicians, laughingly said “Nicely put.”

Senator Fawcett has since clarified his comment, saying he was describing the Labor Party’s dispute of a very small detail of processes at a time the Immigration Department was under great stress and that the stress was due to Labor policies at the time.

“If they were nitpicking they were responsible for the cause of the irritation,” he said.

Shadow Immigration Minister Shayne Neumann had called on the senators to apologise for their comments after they were initially made.

“It is beyond belief that a Turnbull Government senator would ever refer to vulnerable people seeking asylum as fleas, and even worse, to have other Coalition senators laugh, cheer and eagerly agree,” Mr Neumann told News Corp.

“Senators Fawcett and MacDonald should immediately apologise for their comments and start treating Australia’s humanitarian program with the respect and seriousness it deserves.”

SOURCE





Michaelia Cash nailed ABCC’s value by calling out building cartels

If you’ve been paying attention, you will know that this week people in the construction union and someone from academe have been jumping up and down, loudly catastrophising the impact of recent changes to the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation. Senator Derryn Hinch, who arranged to delay the implementation of the laws last year, reflected on his actions over the Christmas period. Now we have brought forward the key weapon in the fight against corporatised corruption in our building and construction sector: the implementation of an anti-corruption building code.

Hinch’s is a welcome move for consumers, employers and workers. It’s not so welcome for construction unions and the many businesses owned by them and operated in conjunction with employer groups. The rivers of dirty gold might dry up just a little.

Dave Noonan is the national secretary of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union’s construction division. This week, this newspaper carried a picture of him, looking suitably forlorn, alongside terrifying predictions of industry Armageddon. Contributing to the prophecies was University of Adelaide law professor Andrew Stewart. He railed against the inconvenience to business and denounced the code as an “unholy mess” of the government’s making.

If we are to believe these chaps, now that the industry will be required to not act corruptly, chaos, confusion and business disruption will imminently be upon us. Five thousand businesses will be in turmoil; there will be demands by the union for more money, marches in the streets, protests involving the manufacturing and transport sectors and, more generally, hell to pay.

Now is the precise moment that every single person in the country must ignore Noonan and his grieving mates. This is the wail of the ditched boyfriend, the spurned lover. We are seeing the break-up to end all break-ups: tier-one construction firms are going to have to break up with their dearly beloved chums in the unions. They will have to stop forcing their subcontractors into union enterprise bargaining agreements, and deal ethically with the subcontractors instead.

Unions are going to have to break up with the corporates that support them. Can you imagine the golf days that will have to be cancelled? Now, unions will have to go back to raising money the old-fashioned way, by walking up to workers at building sites in their lunch hour and asking them to join the union.

Noonan wasn’t the only one sooking in recent times. A few executives were a bit put out too. You see, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash nailed them, really nailed them, in parliament.

For decades, the big players in the construction sector have had the rest of the community conned. They complain about the unions, but really, they have always been in business with them. There is more profit that way.

In government ranks the penny has dropped, and Cash blasted the “big end of town”. She said, “I am not going to blame the CFMEU here, because ... it takes two to tango … So I am going to lump Lendlease in there and I am going to lump Probuild in there, on Hansard. I am going to say to them: ‘The reason we are doing this is to stop your cartel-like behaviour.’ ’’

Cash told parliament how small and medium-sized building contractors, if they want to work on jobs managed by tier-one builders such as Lendlease and Probuild, have to sign union EBAs at the insistence of the builders. This behaviour is forbidden by the new code.

Contrary to the union line, the code does not prevent building companies from employing apprentices or casuals, nor does it inhibit the safety of workers.

The code does not apply to unions at all, it only applies to companies. Simply, the code prohibits large companies from forcing smaller companies into union EBAs.

The punishment for breaking the code is the tier-one in question would be denied federal government work. As Cash said, subcontractors “cannot stand up to the CFMEU, they cannot stand up to Lendlease, they cannot stand up to Probuild’’ and that “what the code is seeking to do is break — we admit it — the ­cartel-like behaviour between head contractors and unions.’’.

Lendlease rejected the Minister’s characterisation, saying it is not engaged in cartel-like behaviour. Australia is known as the most expensive construction destination on the planet. There is ample proof that cartel-like conduct by tier-one builders and the construction unions has led us to this point.

Recently, I spoke with a contractor who was phoned by a tier-one firm and asked to consider tendering for some work. Several days later, a complete stranger to their completely non-union workplace arrived: a union rep. He mentioned the tender, dropped a union EBA on the desk and waxed lyrical about the “benefits of a union relationship”, but made the contractor aware he would need to be “kept happy”.

The contractor emailed the tier-one to say he wanted to tender for work but wouldn’t be entering into an EBA with a union. He already had an EBA with his staff, and everyone was happy, would that do?

A reply came straight back, his tender wouldn’t be required, not now, not ever.

Ominously, the email was signed off with the words “Good luck”. This is how a company in a cartel behaves.

Long live the code, and good luck to all those who breach it.

SOURCE





International students studying in Australia reach record numbers, Education Department figures show

Figures from the federal Education Department show there were 554,179 full-fee paying international students in 2016, an increase of more than 10 per cent on the previous year.

The higher education sector had the largest share of Australia's international students, with 43 per cent.

Of those the largest numbers came from China and India.

The vocational education sector accounted for 26 per cent of international student enrolments with English Language Intensive Courses attracting 21 per cent.

The schools sector only attracted 3 per cent of the total figure.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the numbers showed the importance of attracting overseas students. "International education is now our third largest export sector generating more than $21 billion of economic activity in Australia, supporting many jobs and providing benefits to both Australian and international students," he said.

"There are real upsides in terms of the jobs that are created, the opportunities for Australian students to study alongside international students and to gain exposure to people from more than 200 different countries who are now studying in Australia."

As well as the data on enrolments, the Government has released the results of last year's International Student Survey.

The survey found 89 per cent of students were satisfied or very satisfied with their overall experience in Australia.

SOURCE

Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here






The Dismal Oscars and How China Can Make Hollywood Make Better Movies

Academy Award - Source: Michigan.gov

We made it another year without having to suffer through watching the annual abomination that is the Academy Awards ceremony this past Sunday, where Moonlight was declared to be 2016's Best Picture after La La Land was.

The blame for the Best Picture snafu apparently lay with Hollywood's accountants, who had broken away from their regular work and also their regular Sunday-night game of Three Card Monte to hand out cards in sealed envelopes identifying this year's "winners" to people who are professionally trained to read whatever words are put in front of them while on stage. So it couldn't possibly have been the Academy Awards' producers fault, because who could possibly have foreseen that such a thing could happen during a live televised broadcast? Especially after those four other times....

That wasn't even the day's only disaster. Earlier, a "giant prop" used as part of a background set for a performance number at this year's Academy Awards crashed down onto the stage, ripping a large curtain and crushing a camera during a break in the event's rehearsals. So far, nobody has fingered the Hollywood accountants as also being behind that incident, but fortunately, at least no one was injured.

And then, there was the untimely premature death announcment for Australian movie producer Jan Chapman, which came in the form of her photograph appearing during the Oscar's "In Memoriam" segment, where she had been misidentified as Australian costume designer Janet Patterson, who sadly did pass away back in October 2015. The auditors from PriceWaterhouseCooper couldn't be reached for comment regarding their potential involvement in that mix up.

These three incidents demonstrating exceptionally poor quality control on the part of the producers of the 89th Annual Academy Awards were in *addition* to all the mundane things that make the annual Academy Awards televised broadcast such an awful viewing experience year after year, most of which are actually planned to happen. We knew better than to watch it before the broadcast began, but considering what happened, we're even more against the idea of investing any amount of time to watch future Academy Award presentations.

If this were baseball, what happened at the 89th Academy Awards would be strikes one, two and three against Hollywood's producers. If we were looking to invest money to make either money or art by making motion pictures, we would rank the idea of doing that behind the opportunity to buy Turkish bonds at ground floor prices.

Speaking of which, what kind of people actually invest money to make movies these days?

Increasingly, the generic answer to that question in recent years has been "Chinese investors", where a lot of money has been cashed out of China's economy to fund both movie productions and the acquisitions of Hollywood movie studios. In return for that largesse, Hollywood's producers have become especially accommodating to Chinese interests.

These deals have sparked concern over whether China’s expanding influence in Hollywood could lead to more pro-Chinese propaganda in U.S. films. The Chinese government tightly controls media content, and Hollywood studios have been known to alter films to feature China or the Chinese government in a more flattering light to gain access to the country’s lucrative film market.

If you were to go out into today's movie theatres to see the result of that influence, you would need to look no further than The Great Wall starring Matt Damon, which may be considered to be a prime example of the intersection of Hollywood movies that were purposefully made to satisfy the Chinese government's sensibilities. The good news, if you can call it that, is that despite its bad reviews, it is reportedly much more watchable than the annual Academy Awards ceremony.

While the movie did alright financially in China, it got bad reviews in that country, even though it was crafted specifically for it. Meanwhile, two weeks into its run, it's clear that it won't be making much money from American audiences.

Hollywood is in desperate need of a turnaround artist to fix its multitude of problems. But can its current predicament, where poor quality defines its intended blockbuster products and absolutely permeates the televised award show where it purports to recognize the best work done within the motion picture industry, even be fixed at this point?

Believe it or not, the answer may lie with the Chinese government, who in its desire to halt the flight of capital from that country, is cracking down on Chinese businessmen to keep them from making "irrational" overseas investments in Hollywood film productions, among other unseemly investments, where they suspect that the investments are merely a means for moving large sums of money outside of the government's control.

Responding to the still-hypothetical question asked by Hollywood Reporter in response to that developing crack down, "What if China's money stream stops flowing to Hollywood?", Ed Driscoll speculated that the end of that flow of cash into Hollywood's odd accounting system might actually lead to better quality movies:

Movies might suck less, for one thing, since their plots and dialogue are often dumbed for foreign consumption — not to mention censored as well to placate the Chinese government. Or as even urban haute bourgeois* left Vanity Fair asked in August, "Did You Catch All the Ways Hollywood Pandered to China This Year?"

But would Hollywood movies not made to specifically pass muster with China's government do more poorly at the box office in that country?

There is an interesting example from the biggest money-making movie of 2016: Captain America: Civil War, which not only dominated the U.S. box office, it dominated box offices around the world, including in China.

Better still, it drew strongly positive reviews that praised the movie's intelligence:

Critics Consensus: Captain America: Civil War begins the next wave of Marvel movies with an action-packed superhero blockbuster boasting a decidedly non-cartoonish plot and the courage to explore thought-provoking themes.

If you go down the list of 2016's top money making films, you'll find similar global box office results and critical summaries for movies like Finding Dory, Zootopia and The Jungle Book, which all earned considerably more money overseas than they did in the United States while they were also critically praised for their thoughtful qualities.

The only exception in the Top 5 grossing moving of 2016 is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which wasn't cited for many thoughtful qualities by critics. And in fact, Rogue One was the only movie in the year's Top 30 that made more money in the U.S. than it did overseas.

Dumbing down a movie script to make it more appealing to another country's cinematic censors is the wrong way to go if Hollywood producers are really in the business of making entertaining or thought-provoking movies that make money. All things considered after this year's multiple Academy Awards fiascos however, we wonder if Hollywood's producers should even be considered to be part of the entertainment industry. If we had to guess, we would think that they're really in some form of organized crime, because that makes more sense than the accounting system they use.