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Coffee Tree Extinction And The Caffeine Blues

Coffee Tree Extinction And The Caffeine Blues


Is man’s second-best friend at risk of extinction?

What lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease, boosts your brain cells and adds years to your life? Health experts will tell you that would be coffee. A morning cup of Joe not only gives many of us the jolt we need to face the day ahead but it’s just plain damn good for you. Perhaps this is why scientists are issuing a dreaded warning: coffee tree extinction is on the horizon.

For the last 20 years, scientists have been studying the coffee bean which really does grow on trees. But research now shows that 60% of the coffee trees around the world are rapidly leaving the planet due to disease, deforestation – and dare we say, climate change.

Even if you throw out that last one – the climate change business – something is definitely going on with coffee trees that is rather distressing. While this news may come as a tragedy to those of us who live quite happily with our caffeine addiction, there are other worrisome aspects to this news.

Coffee Is Big Business

Widely consumed, coffee is a multibillion-dollar business. As of 2015, coffee represented a $225.2B industry in the United States. American consumers spent $74.2B on coffee in that calendar year which supported 1,694,710 coffee-related jobs. The National Coffee Association also estimates that the government rakes in $28B in taxes on coffee products.

Your cup of java is primarily made up of two types of coffee trees: Arabica (Coffea arabica) which represents 60% of the crop consumed. The other 40% is composed of Robusta (Coffea canephora). There are other smaller types of coffee species – a total of 124 to be exact – but these two represent the mother-lode of coffee that is farmed, traded and shipped to consumers worldwide.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Coming Attractions

Coming Attractions


Last night I had a dream. You were in it and I was in it with you….”
— Randy Newman

As in this age of Hollywood sequels and prequels, America prefers to recycle old ideas rather than entertain new ones, so you can see exactly how the 2020 presidential election is shaping up to be a replay of the Great Depression, with Roosevelt-to-rescue! — only this time it’ll be with somebody in the role of Eleanor Roosevelt as chief executive. Donald Trump, of course, being the designated bag-holder for all the financial blunders of the past decade, gets to be Herbert Hoover. As was the case in the original, economic depression will segue into war, with maybe not such a happy ending for us as World War Two was.

There should be no doubt that the money part of the story is on a slow boat to oblivion. The world has been running on loans to such a grotesque degree that it’s managed the impressive feat of bankrupting the future. The collateral for all that debt was the conviction that there were ample amounts of future “growth” up ahead to service that debt. That conviction is now evaporating as car sales plummet, and real estate goes south, and nations twang each other over trade, and global supply lines wither. Globalism is unwinding — and not for the first time, either.

As in the standard Hollywood screenplay format, expect an “all is lost” moment when the “hero” (the USA) faces the existential dread of realizing that there is no more borrowing with the collateral gone.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Beyond BuzzFeed: The 10 Worst, Most Embarrassing U.S. Media Failures on the Trump/Russia Story

Beyond BuzzFeed: The 10 Worst, Most Embarrassing U.S. Media Failures on the Trump/Russia Story

BUZZFEED WAS ONCE notorious for traffic-generating “listicles”, but has since become an impressive outlet for deep investigative journalism under editor-in-chief Ben Smith. That outlet was prominently in the news this week thanks to its “bombshell” story about President Trump and Michael Cohen: a story that, like so many others of its kind, blew up in its face, this time when the typically mute Robert Mueller’s office took the extremely rare step to label its key claims “inaccurate.”

But in homage to BuzzFeed’s past viral glory, following are the top ten worst media failures in two-plus-years of Trump/Russia reporting. They are listed in reverse order, as measured by the magnitude of the embarrassment, the hysteria they generated on social media and cable news, the level of journalistic recklessness that produced them, and the amount of damage and danger they caused. This list was extremely difficult to compile in part because news outlets (particularly CNN and MSNBC) often delete from the internet the video segments of their most embarrassing moments. Even more challenging was the fact that the number of worthy nominees is so large that highly meritorious entrees had to be excluded, but are acknowledged at the end with (dis)honorable mention status.

Note that all of these “errors” go only in one direction: namely, exaggerating the grave threat posed by Moscow and the Trump circle’s connection to it. It’s inevitable that media outlets will make mistakes on complex stories. If that’s being done in good faith, one would expect the errors would be roughly 50/50 in terms of the agenda served by the false stories.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Top Global Risks in 2019

The Top Global Risks in 2019

The suits are pressed and the jets are gassed up, as global political and business leaders prepare to converge in Davos for the World Economic Forum.

To prep the wide variety of world leaders attending the summit, the organization has just published its most recent edition of the Global Risks Report. The highly anticipated annual presentation puts the world’s most pressing issues into focus, giving a sense of what is top-of-mind for global decision-makers.

Below are the top five risks highlighted in this year’s report.

Visualizing the Top Global Risks in 2019

THE WORLD’S EVOLVING RISK LANDSCAPE

The report looks at two specific ways of evaluating global risks: 

  1. The likelihood of an event occurring
  2. The impact or severity of an event, should it occur

And over recent years, it’s clear that the composition of these top threats has evolved.

top global risks over time

In 2009, the world was still reeling from the global financial crisis, so economic concerns were naturally at the forefront of discussions. 

Today, the most likely scenarios to play out in the near future involve extreme weather events and natural disasters. Also trending upward are cyber-security threats and concerns over the security of personal data.

RISK PERCEPTION

Each year, the Global Risks Perception Survey looks at which risks are viewed by global decision-makers as increasing in the coming year.

global risks survey 2019

Some clear themes emerge from the responses:

A Breakdown in Geopolitical Cooperation
From trade wars to the dissolution of weapons treaties, cooperation between countries is on the decline. Leaders are concerned that this divergent geopolitical climate may continue to inhibit collective progress on important global challenges.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Brexit, EU, Germany, China and Yellow Vests In 2019 – Something Wicked This Way Comes

Brexit, EU, Germany, China and Yellow Vests In 2019 – Something Wicked This Way Comes 

– “Something wicked this way comes” warns John Mauldin
– Shaky China: Chinese landing could be harder than expected

– Brexit and EU Breakage: “I have long thought the EU will eventually fall apart”
– Helpless Europe: If Germany sneezes, their banks & the rest of continent catches cold
– We may see “yellow vests” spread globally: Economics is about to get interesting …


Source: TradingEconomics.com

For a couple of years now, the economic narrative has shown a comparatively strong US against weakness in Europe and some of Asia (NOT China). The US, we are told, will stay on top. I agree with that, as far as it goes… but I’m not convinced the “top” will be so great.

Americans like to think we are insulated from the world. We have big oceans on either side of us. Geopolitically, they serve as buffers. But economically they connect us to other important markets that are critical to many US businesses. Problems in those markets are ultimately problems for the US, too.

Last week I gave you my Year of Living Dangerously 2019 US forecast, but I didn’t discuss important events overseas. Summarizing last week quickly, I think the base case is that the United States economy slows down but avoids recession in 2019. That said, there are significant risks to that forecast, mostly to the downside.

Today we’ll make another literary metaphor to frame our discussion. “Something Wicked This Way Comes” is a 1962 Ray Bradbury novel about two boys and their horrifying encounter with a travelling circus. Later it was a movie.

In our case, something wicked most certainly is coming this way. Several somethings, in fact, approaching from all directions. The real question is how much damage this circus will do before it leaves town.

Shaky China

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Butterfly Defect: How Globalization Creates Systemic Risks

The Butterfly Defect: How Globalization Creates Systemic Risks

Preface. I’m fascinated by system risks, so I’ve included this, though there’s no awareness at all of peak oil or limits to growth or that energy, not money, is the basis of civilization and foundation of every single widget made and transported.  But since the next economic collapse may well be due to the financial system, and since money is how most people view the world, here are my Kindle notes.  David Korowicz has the best articles about systemic risk, I review three of his publications here.

***

Ian Goldin & Mike Mariathasan. 2015. The Butterfly Defect: How Globalization Creates Systemic Risks, and What to Do about It. Princeton University Press.

We are so accustomed to globalization that we take for granted the products and services we consume from around the world.

Our information technology (IT) services may run on Israeli software provided from Mumbai as we consume entertainment from Los Angeles filmed in South Africa on computers manufactured in China or Taiwan assembled from parts from more than 20 countries.

Individual and local choices have global impacts and vice versa: what happens outside our borders has direct daily consequences for each of us, every day. These connections are complex, frequently opaque, and often beyond our control. Yet together they are shaping how the world develops. As we will see, there is a growing likelihood that events in one place will have cascading effects in other areas, jumping across national borders and sectors

Globalization can generally be understood as the process driven by and resulting in increased cross-border flows of goods, services, money, people, information, technology, and culture. 2 These flows are multi-dimensional, and the number of connections between them is unprecedentedly large and growing exponentially. It is becoming deeper in that these connections penetrate a growing range of human activities. Increasingly not only people but also things are being connected—cars, phones, merchandise, and a rapidly widening range of inanimate objects and sensors.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Two Ways the System Is Rigged: HFT and Oligarchic Inheritance

Two Ways the System Is Rigged: HFT and Oligarchic Inheritance

The net result of a rigged system is the vast majority of the gains in income and wealth flow to the very tippy-top of the wealth/power pyramid.

We often hear how the system (i.e. our economy) is rigged to benefit the few at the expense of the many, but exactly how is it rigged? Longtime correspondent Zeus Y. recently highlighted two specific mechanisms that favor the top 0.01%: high frequency trading (HFT) and oligarchic inheritance, the generational transfer of immense wealth and the power it buys.

High frequency trading (HFT) is a mechanism only available to the few at the top of the wealth/power pyramid to skim money from markets–please watch the videos below for further explanation of how HFT works.

As for inheritance–we’re not talking about leaving a house or a small business to one’s offspring, or even a couple million of dollars; we’re talking about tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars. Some states impose an estate or inheritance tax, but at the federal level, the exemption of $11 million per person means a married couple can leave $22 million tax-free.

The number of people with more than $11 million to pass on is extremely small:

Estate tax in the United States

In 2018, the exemption doubled to $11.18 million per taxpayer due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. As a result, only approximately 2,000 people (or 0.0006% of the population) in the US are currently liable for estate tax.

The mega-bucks families and billionaires practice the fine art of philanthro-capitalism, leaving their vast fortunes in so-called charitable trusts that enable power and wealth to be transferred generationally.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Arctic Blast Brings Dangerously Cold Wind Chills To Northeast

Arctic Blast Brings Dangerously Cold Wind Chills To Northeast 

The coldest air of the year and possibly the Winter 2018-2019 season has descended southward toward the East Coast, can create life-threatening situations for those who lose power and cannot heat their homes.

Wind chill warnings and advisories have been posted by the National Weather Service from the Midwest into the mid-Atlantic, upstate New York and New England.

“After a strong winter storm impacted the East this weekend, cold air has spilled in behind this system. Temperatures Monday morning were in the single digits above and below zero across New England with teens above zero as far south as North Carolina. This, combined with gusty winds is making it feel even colder. As such, wind chill advisories and wind chill warnings are in effect across the Northeast as it will feel below zero through the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. This will have an impact on the ski resort industry, with some mountains electing to close due to the adverse weather conditions,” reported Meteorologist and owner of Empire Weather LLC., Ed Vallee.

Wind chills were below zero Monday morning in New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia. Interior locations such as Buffalo, New York, and Burlington, Vermont also experienced wind chills in the 20s below zero.

Subzero wind chills were even reported as far south as Asheville, North Carolina.

Monday’s highs are likely to hold the low teens along the Interstate 95 corridor that stretches from the Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area to Boston.

Although this arctic blast is expected to only last until late Tuesday in most locations, it signals the start of frigid conditions to end the month for the Northeast.

NOAA’s 6- to 10-day weather model illustrates portions of the central and eastern states are expected to see below-average temperatures Jan. 26 to Jan. 30.

Models are also indicating that the next shot of arctic air could arrive into the Midwest starting late this week.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

‘The gilets jaunes are unstoppable’

‘The gilets jaunes are unstoppable’

The gilets jaunes (yellow vest) movement has rattled the French establishment. For several months, crowds ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands have been taking to the streets every weekend across the whole of France. They have had enormous success, extracting major concessions from the government. They continue to march.

Back in 2014, geographer Christopher Guilluy’s study of la France périphérique (peripheral France) caused a media sensation. It drew attention to the economic, cultural and political exclusion of the working classes, most of whom now live outside the major cities. It highlighted the conditions that would later give rise to the yellow-vest phenomenon. Guilluy has developed on these themes in his recent books, No Society and The Twilight of the Elite: Prosperity, the Periphery and the Future of Francespiked caught up with Guilluy to get his view on the causes and consequences of the yellow-vest movement.

spiked: What exactly do you mean by ‘peripheral France’?

Christophe Guilluy: ‘Peripheral France’ is about the geographic distribution of the working classes across France. Fifteen years ago, I noticed that the majority of working-class people actually live very far away from the major globalised cities – far from Paris, Lyon and Toulouse, and also very far from London and New York. 

Technically, our globalised economic model performs well. It produces a lot of wealth. But it doesn’t need the majority of the population to function. It has no real need for the manual workers, labourers and even small-business owners outside of the big cities. Paris creates enough wealth for the whole of France, and London does the same in Britain. But you cannot build a society around this. The gilets jaunes is a revolt of the working classes who live in these places. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

World War 3 Alert: Iranian Forces Fire Rockets Into Israel, And The IDF Responds With “Waves Of Guided Missiles”

World War 3 Alert: Iranian Forces Fire Rockets Into Israel, And The IDF Responds With “Waves Of Guided Missiles”

Israel and Iran are edging dangerously close to a state of all-out war.  On Sunday night, Israeli forces rained missiles down on Iranian forces based in the Damascus area “for nearly an hour”.  According to the IDF, this was a response to “dozens” of missiles that were fired by Iranian forces in Syria toward targets in Israel earlier that day.  The Israelis were able to intercept the Iranian missiles, but if any of them had gotten through they could have caused a tremendous amount of damage.  Some of the missiles that Israel fired at the Iranians were reportedly intercepted, but quite a few of them did hit their intended targets. If the violence continues to escalate, we could potentially soon be talking about an all-out war between Israel and Iran in which both sides use their weapons of mass destruction.

The missile strikes against Iranian targets in Damascus made headlines all over the globe.  According to Syrian state media, there were “consecutive waves of guided missiles”

Syrian state media cited a Syrian military source as saying Israel launched an “intense attack through consecutive waves of guided missiles”, but that Syrian air defenses destroyed most of the “hostile targets”.

Witnesses in Damascus said loud explosions rang out in the night sky for nearly an hour.

The Syrians are boasting that they were able to destroy quite a few of the Israeli missiles, but independent observers confirm that quite a few Iranian targets were destroyed.

In the past, the Israelis have not always publicly acknowledged their attacks in Syria, but on Sunday night they released an immediate statement

“We have started striking Iranian Quds targets in Syrian territory,” Israel’s military said in a statement.

“We warn the Syrian Armed Forces against attempting to harm Israeli forces or territory.”


 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

NSW power imports in January 2019 heatwave exceed 2 GW, drive up electricity prices

NSW power imports in January 2019 heatwave exceed 2 GW, drive up electricity prices

Maximum demand for electricity increased from 9,500 MW on 13 Jan 2019 (16:00) to a whopping 14,000 MW on 17 Jan 2019 (17:30).

NSW-7days
Fig 1: Heatwave pushing up power demand
20190117 New South Wales
Pic 2: Power generation graph downloaded from Open NEM website
https://opennem.org.au/#/regions/nsw

Downloading the data in XLS format allows us to restack the above graph to show more details on coal:

NSW_power_generation_17Jan2019
Fig 3: NSW power generation with coal stacked first

“Black coal net of pumps” means that off-peak pumping for hydro storage has been deducted from the total coal generation. We see that the off-peak pumps replace only part of the main hydro generation (around 1/3) so Snowy would run dry without replenishment by rain.

Coal fired power generation reached around 9,000 MW by 1 pm and continued at that level until 10 pm. That is 93% of the maximum theoretical capacity of 9,660 MW as per following table:

NSW-coal-generation-capacity_2017-2028
Fig 4: Capacities of coal fired power plants in NSW


https://www.aemo.com.au/Electricity/National-Electricity-Market-NEM/Planning-and-forecasting/Generation-information
Note that Liddell’s capacity was reduced to 1,800 MW (which seems to be 4×450 MW). However, the Australia Institute has only 4×350 MW as per December 2018.
http://www.tai.org.au/content/unit-trip-liddell-nsw-2018-12-23
This aging coal plant is scheduled to be closed in 2022 due to ongoing technical problems.

Let’s zoom into generation excluding coal:

NSW_excluding-coal_17Jan2019
Fig 5: NSW power imports and generation without coal

When the demand peak happens between 16:00 and 18:00 solar output is going down. Imports can’t increase due to capacity constraints of interconnectors and also generation availability in other States so hydro has to cover the peak on top of gas.

NSW-interconnectors_2017

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry

Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry

Back in 2016, I posed the question in The Ecologist whether regulators in the EU were acting as product promoters when it came to the relicensing of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. The renewal of the license for glyphosate in the EU was being debated at the time and much evidence pointed to collusion between regulators and corporate interests whose sales of the herbicide add up to many billions of dollars a year.

In that article, I referred to evidence presented in various documents written by environmentalist and campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason. Now, in the wake of a new, important paper by Charles Benbrook (14 January) in the journal ‘Environmental Sciences Europe’, Dr Mason has lodged a complaint with the European Ombudsman accusing European regulatory agencies of collusion with the agrochemicals industry.

Mason has been writing to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the EU Commission over a period of 18 months, challenging them about ECHA’s classification of glyphosate. She notes that many people around the world have struggled to understand how and why the US Environmental Protection Agency and the EFSA concluded that glyphosate is not genotoxic (damaging to DNA) or carcinogenic, whereas the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), came to the opposite conclusion.

The IARC stated that the evidence for glyphosate’s genotoxic potential is “strong” and that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. While IARC referenced only peer-reviewed studies and reports available in the public literature, the EPA relied heavily on unpublished regulatory studies commissioned by pesticide manufacturers.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like

The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like

With the New Year and the US recovery soon to be record-breaking in duration, many are asking when the next recession is likely to come and what will cause it. While none of us has a crystal ball that gives a clear view of the future, there are a few things we can say.

First, and most importantly, the next recession will not look like the last recession. The last recession was caused by the collapse of a massive housing bubble that had been the driving force in the previous recovery. While economists like to pretend this was an unforeseeable event, that is not true.

There was an unprecedented run-up in nationwide house prices. It was clear that this was not being driven by the fundamentals of the housing market, as there was no remotely corresponding increase in rents, and vacancy rates were hitting record levels.

Furthermore, it was easy to see the housing bubble was driving the economy. Residential construction was hitting record shares of GDP, more than two full percentage points above its long-term average of 4.0 percent of GDP.

The wealth created by the bubble was also leading to a consumption boom, as people spent based on the new equity created by the run-up in the price of their home. This was also easy to see in the data, as the ratio of consumption-to-income hit record levels.

This history is important to review because many analysts are looking for the next recession to be a replay of the 2008 crash. If we pretend that the bursting of the housing bubble and subsequent downturn was an unforeseeable event, then there could be other unforeseen events that will sink the economy. For this reason, it is necessary to point out that the 2008 collapse was entirely foreseeable, economists just ignored the evidence that was visible to anyone who examined the economy with open eyes.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests

Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests

A State of Emergency That Does Not Say His Name

According to Vincent Brengarth, a lawyer at the Paris Bar, in recent years we have been witnessing a disturbing drift in police repression in France, more specifically since November 2015 when the state of emergency was pronounced and extended several times, before being integrated into common law. We would henceforth be under “a state of emergency that does not say its name,” with preventive arrests only based on suspicion, without concrete evidence of an offence.

Figures from the Ministry of Law Enforcement

On Saturday, 8th December, the “Yellow Vests” movement maintained its progress as it gathered a total of 136,000 demonstrators throughout the country (including nearly 10,000 in Paris), a comparable level on Saturday the 1stof December while 106,301 people were counted during the previous weekend, according to the, regularly underestimated, figures of the Ministry of the Interior. In the wake of the mobilisation on the 1st of December, the Minister Christophe Castaner was quick to review the figures of the 24th of November, as he re-evaluated the number of protesters to 166,000 people instead of the previously announced 106,000. We may notice this jump of nearly 60,000 people that suddenly appeared in the Department’s own numbers, an accounting manipulation that allows to say that the movement is decreasing…

Paris on insurgent alert

For this fourth Saturday of demonstrations for the Yellow Vests, 89,000 members of the so-called “law” enforcement authorities were mobilised, including 8,000 in Paris, supported by 14 “VBRG” (Véhicules Blindés à Roues de la Gendarmerie – Wheeled Armoured Vehicles of the Gendarmerie).

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A Call to Reinvestigate American Assassinations

A Call to Reinvestigate American Assassinations

To mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day a group of academics, journalists, lawyers, Hollywood artists, activists, researchers and intellectuals, including two of Robert F. Kennedy’s children, are calling for new investigations into four assassinations of the 1960s.

On the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a group of over 60 prominent American citizens is calling upon Congress to reopen the investigations into the assassinations of President John F. KennedyMalcolm XMartin Luther King Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Signers of the joint statement include Isaac Newton Farris Jr., nephew of Reverend King and past president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Reverend James M. Lawson Jr., a close collaborator of Reverend King; and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, children of the late senator. The declaration is also signed by numerous historians, journalists, lawyers and other experts on the four major assassinations. 

Other signatories include G. Robert Blakey, the chief counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which determined in 1979 that President Kennedy was the victim of a probable conspiracy; Dr. Robert McClelland, one of the surgeons at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas who tried to save President Kennedy’s life and saw clear evidence he had been struck by bullets from the front and the rear; Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower who served as a national security advisor to the Kennedy White House; Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and a leading global authority on human rights; Hollywood artists Alec BaldwinMartin SheenRob Reiner and Oliver Stone; political satirist Mort Sahl; and musician David Crosby.

JFK: November 22, 1963.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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