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Undernews: November 19, 2012

Undernews: November 19, 2012

Since 1964, the news while there's still time to do something about it


The rural seeping into our cities

Paula Cocozza, Guardian, UK - The ruralization of play is happening all over Britain, from Kinross to Bristol.

"We've gone past the tipping point, with more wooden things going in than not," says Mark Hughes, who runs a playground furnishing company in Bath, called Big Wood Play. No one wants metal these days, he says. Not even the children. At one school, he was painting the wood blue, at the head's request, when the kids started protesting, "asking us what on earth we were doing. They thought it looked nicer natural."

In parallel, a rural children's literature is flourishing, sometimes with bizarrely niche titles such as The Stick Book: Loads of Things You Can Make or do With a Stick. More things, possibly, than you can shake a stick at.

....Everywhere you look, the countryside has crept into cities and towns – the way we shop, eat, read, dress, decorate our homes, spend our time. Street food is sold out of revamped agricultural trucks, or from village-delivery style bicycles. City-dwellers are booking into a growing number of courses on rural life; urban bees and chickens are commonplace (though do keep up: ducks are where it's at now). And when Rebekah Brooks wanted to get the prime minister's attention? "Let's discuss over country supper soon."

...Marcus Fairs, who founded online magazine Dezeen, thinks the recession has brought "a maturing of the urban attitude, and it doesn't feel right to have things that are too shiny and polished". Fairs, who grew up in the village of Thuxton, Hampshire, in the 1970s, also thinks "people got bored by the debate of countryside v city, and realised that the best part of the country could be brought into the city. The whole hipster look," he says, with its jeans that fall short, checked shirts, dungarees, belt-back trousers or waistcoats and homespun jumpers, "is quite Amish. Dalston [in Hackney] is full of people who look like farmers."

...It seems a little sad that, for many, the most instinctive way to access the best of the countryside is as consumers; as if what we are really buying into is a sort of processed pastoral. You can't eat a bag of crisps without knowing something of the field of potatoes that gave them life. Pipers Crisps spell it out, promising theirs are "made by farmers". You can snack on Urban Fruit (that's dried fruit) or buy loaves from self-proclaimed "city bakers" – "you know, like a city farm", says Lisa Brook, who runs Flour Power, in south-east London. She, incidentally, like Fairs, grew up in the country.

....Ralph Pite is a professor of literature at Bristol University, writing a book on "ideas of the simple life". He thinks one of the reasons for our hankering for rural contact is that "people find the countryside damaged when they travel to it, and want to bring back in their own spaces what has disappeared out there".

...It would not be unreasonable, after all, to respond to the perils of globalisation and irresponsible banking with a quest for more contact with nature, more attention to the provenance of small, everyday things.

As Pite says, "You can't just wish yourself out of your industrial society. You're always going to be committed to it, one way or another. It's a question of finding ways of working within it to make it better." That might mean scrambling over fallen tree trunks or scrambling a hen-specific egg. And, of course, as we continue to make those choices, the countryside, sensing an appetite, will change too.

Department of Hmm...

Greg Mitchell - Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli leader and noted hawk Ariel Sharon wrote an op-ed today, stating "We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza...The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too....This needs to end quickly – with a bang, not a whimper." He's a major in the IDF reserves.

Making eco bricks out of trash

Utne Reader - Thanks to the ingenious idea of some Guatemalan villagers, the concept of building blocks made from plastic bottles filled with non-recyclable waste is spreading across the globe.

As Nicola Peel reports in Resurgence, the idea started in the small village of San Marcos la Laguna on the shores of Lake Atitlán in Guatemala. Unlike most villages in countries that lack organized waste removal, Peel noticed this one was clean and garbage free. After some investigating, she discovered that the walls of the village were made out of plastic bottles filled with non-recyclable waste. The bottles were compressed and used to fill chicken wire frames that served as the skeleton of the wall. Then, the walls were rendered using adobe and painted. The end result was a remarkably sturdy structure and a clean village.

The group behind the idea called itself Pura Vida Atitlán, and Peel was inspired to spread its story across the world. An environmental activist and filmmaker, Peel often finds herself visiting poor countries where waste removal is a serious problem. Since her visit to Guatemala, she has taught others how to make “eco-bricks,” helping build four food sheds in Ecuador with the method, and also helping a village in Bali clean up its formerly pristine beach by producing 340 eco-bricks in 24 hours. “All this shows how we can close our own cycle and how instead of throwing waste away, we can easily turn it into something else,” said Peel. Read more about this idea and Peel’s other work at

South Carolina Episcopalians ditch Christianity

Reuters - A majority of parishes in the conservative Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina voted on Saturday to leave the U.S. Episcopal Church over disagreements on issues including the national church's ordination of gay clergy and acceptance of same-sex unions.

The South Carolina diocese is the fifth Episcopalian diocese in the United States to leave the church's national body.... Congregations in San Joaquin, California; Quincy, Illinois; Fort Worth, Texas; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania have also left the U.S. Episcopal Church in recent years.

Polls: Palestinians have little American support

More than four times as many Americans, 59%, sympathize with the Israelis compared with those who sympathize with the Palestinians, 13%, in the conflict in the Middle East, according to a new CNN/ORC poll. In the survey, 57% also said that Israeli military action in the Gaza strip was justified, compared to 24% who said it was unjustified. Three out of four U.S. Republicans thought the Israeli action was justified, compared to 41% of Democrats and 59% of Independents.

The economics of your Thanksgiving dinner

Dave Juday, Economic Policy Journal - This year’s Thanksgiving dinner will be the most expensive ever. For that, much of the thanks can be given to ethanol – which continues to divert grain from food to fuel.

To be sure, this year’s drought didn’t help matters. The corn crop is a full 28 percent smaller than what was expected during planting season last May, and 13 percent smaller than last year’s. But while grain supplies were tightened, ethanol production nonetheless continued forward.

In light of the drought, a coalition of livestock producers and a bi-partisan group of eight governors requested earlier this summer that the federal ethanol mandate be waived to lessen the impact that ethanol has on corn prices. Less than one week before Thanksgiving, however, the Obama administration denied that request.

Because of the federal mandate, more corn now goes into ethanol production than into livestock feed. That mandate – which now stays in place despite the drought – has driven corn to record prices. High corn prices increase the cost of feeding livestock. Indeed, corn prices are now so high, some farmers have been driven out of the business. Those left must pass on costs.

... As for turkeys, about 70 percent of the cost of raising a bird is feed. Record corn prices mean more expensive turkeys – or bankruptcies

Consider, the American Farm Bureau Federation conducts an annual cost survey for a typical Thanksgiving dinner for 10. This year the estimated cost is $50.99. Back in 2006, before the federal ethanol mandate was in place, the cost of Thanksgiving dinner was $34.71. That’s a 32 percent jump.

Why the FBI is worse than Petraeus

Washington Post - The FBI started its case in June with a collection of five e-mails, a few hundred kilobytes of data at most.

By the time the probe exploded into public view earlier this month, the FBI was sitting on a mountain of data containing the private communications and intimate secrets of a CIA director and a U.S. war commander. What the bureau didn’t have and apparently still doesn’t is evidence of a crime...

How that happened and what it means for privacy and national security are questions that have induced shudders in Washington and a queasy new understanding of the FBI’s comprehensive access to the digital trails left by even top officials.

FBI and Justice Department officials have vigorously defended their handling of the case. “What we did was conduct the investigation the way we normally conduct a criminal investigation,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Thursday. “We follow the facts.”

But in this case, the trail cut across a seemingly vast territory with no clear indication of the boundaries, if any, that the FBI imposed on itself. The thrust of the investigation changed direction repeatedly and expanded dramatically in scope.

... On Capitol Hill, the case has drawn references to the era of J. Edgar Hoover, the founding director of the FBI, who was notorious for digging up dirt on Washington’s elite long before the invention of e-mail and the Internet.

“The expansive data that is available electronically now means that when you’re looking for one thing, the chances of finding a whole host of other things is exponentially greater,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-¬Calif.), a member of the House intelligence committee and a former federal prosecutor.

World Bank warns of economic effect of climate change

US News - The World Bank warned that if climate change isn't stopped or slowed down, the global economy will suffer greatly.

The report, titled "Turn Down the Heat," envisions a world that is warmer by an average of 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit). According to Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, the report is meant to "shock [the world] into action."

"A 4 degree Celsius world is so different from the current one that it comes with high uncertainty and new risks that threaten our ability to anticipate and plan for future adaptation needs," he writes.

A global temperature increase like one estimated by the World Bank would lead to "the inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production, potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates; many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves in many regions," water scarcity, and more natural disasters.

Monday morning line

Sam Smith - The good news is that Paul Ryan is back to sleeping in his House office.

The bad news is that the media is still hawking the fiscal scams of Ryan and those of his ilk as "reforms." Repealing the progress of the past - such as parts of Social Security and Medicare - is not a reform and for the major media to use the term is one more sign that it is no longer into journalism but is serving primarily as sales reps for the corporate and political establishment. The misuse of the term began in earnest with Bill Clinton repealing some of our welfare programs and the Glass-Steagall Act. From the media's point of view, lies are okay as long as they are shared by the leadership of both parties, so if Clinton and Obama want to help reverse 80 years of progress it must be fine.

In fact, the leadership of both parties, as well as Wall Street and the major media, are dangerously dysfunctional. The reason it's so hard to understand things like Benghazi and the "fiscal cliff" is because the only reason they make sense is if one accepts the dysfunctional reality and verbiage of those who created the problems in the first place.

In fact, Benghazi is a tiny spinoff of a major foreign policy disaster in the Mid East, and resolving the "fiscal cliff" will do nothing to get the economy rolling again.

But as long as the Mad Men run our politics, our economy and our media, who cares?

Post Office deficit grossly exaggerated

John Nichols, Nation - Two-thirds of the $15.9 billion “loss” involved what the Times referred to as “accounting expenses of $11.1 billion related to two payments that the agency was supposed to make into its future retiree health benefits fund.”

Those accounting expenses were imposed not by necessity but by Congress. And the imposition can be lifted, along with restrictions on the ability of the service to compete.

In 2006, a Republican Congress¬acting at the behest of the Bush-Cheney administration¬enacted a law that required the postal service to “pre-fund” retiree health benefits seventy-five years into the future. No major private-sector corporation or public-sector agency could do that. It’s an untenable demand.

A real bad time to cut the deficit

Robert Reich, Huffington Post - More jobs and growth will help reduce the deficit. With more jobs and faster growth, the deficit will shrink as a proportion of the overall economy. Recall the 1990s when the Clinton administration balanced the budget ahead of the schedule it had set with Congress because of faster job growth than anyone expected -- bringing in more tax revenues than anyone had forecast. Europe offers the same lesson in reverse: Their deficits are ballooning because their austerity policies have caused their economies to sink.

The best way to generate jobs and growth is for the government to spend more, not less. And for taxes to stay low -- or become even lower -- on the middle class.

(Higher taxes on the rich won't slow the economy because the rich will keep spending anyway. After all, being rich means spending whatever you want to spend. ) ....

Why don't our politicians and media get this? Because an entire deficit-cutting political industry has grown up in recent years -- starting with Ross Perot's third-party in the 1992 election, extending through Peter Peterson's Institute and other think-tanks funded by Wall Street and big business, embracing the eat-your-spinach deficit hawk crowd in the Democratic Party, and culminating in the Simpson-Bowles Commission that President Obama created in order to appease the hawks but which only legitimized them further.

Most of the media have bought into the narrative that our economic problems stem from an out-of-control budget deficit. They're repeating this hokum even now, when we're staring at a fiscal cliff that illustrates just how dangerous deficit reduction can be...

In fact, if there was ever a time for America to borrow more in order to put our people back to work repairing our crumbling infrastructure and rebuilding our schools, it's now.

Public investments that spur future job-growth and productivity shouldn't even be included in measures of government spending to begin with. They're justifiable as long as the return on those investments -- a more educated and productive workforce, and a more efficient infrastructure, both generating more and better goods and services with fewer scarce resources -- is higher than the cost of those investments.

In fact, we'd be nuts not to make these investments under these circumstances. No sane family equates spending on vacations with investing in their kids' education. Yet that's what we do in our federal budget.

Meanwhile, furthermore & on the other hand

Great thoughts of Marco Rubio

Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries. - Marco Rubio


During the Bush administration there were ten embassy or consulate attacks with 44 killed.


Recovered history: The internment of Aleuts during WWII


Alternative news update

Mid East
Congress Votes Unanimously to Support Israeli Aggression
Israeli air raid levels police building in Gaza City

Anti-GMO Activists Regroup after Defeat in California

Women Denied Abortions More Likely to Suffer Domestic Violence and Be on Public Assistance


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