Daily Digest

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Daily Digest 5/28 - Antibiotic Resistance Spreads, A Very Bad Year For The Coal Industry

Thursday, May 28, 2015, 9:51 AM


The myth of victory (RZ)

Both Korea and Vietnam provided early examples of the difficulty military powers face in waging modern war. Both were, in essence, internal conflicts, and internal conflicts have become the new norm in modern war. Traditional wars in which nation states clash militarily have almost disappeared.

Why Baltimore Blew Up (sand_puppy)

As a visit to post-uprising Baltimore confirms, high-profile police murders are only part of the problem. An equally large issue is the obscene quantity of smaller daily outrages and abuses that regularly go unpunished by a complex network of local criminal-justice bureaucracies, many of which are designed to cover up bad police work and keep all our worst behaviors hidden, even from ourselves.

Australia dumbs down as government bets on baristas over brains (Arthur Robey)

Every country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has a plan to grow its scientific enterprise and aid its translation into technology, innovation and development, bar Australia, Chief Scientist Ian Chubb said.

I Don't Want To Be Right (Adam F.)

Until recently, attempts to correct false beliefs haven’t had much success. Stephan Lewandowsky, a psychologist at the University of Bristol whose research into misinformation began around the same time as Nyhan’s, conducted a review of misperception literature through 2012. He found much speculation, but, apart from his own work and the studies that Nyhan was conducting, there was little empirical research. In the past few years, Nyhan has tried to address this gap by using real-life scenarios and news in his studies: the controversy surrounding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the questioning of Obama’s birth certificate, and anti-G.M.O. activism. Traditional work in this area has focussed on fictional stories told in laboratory settings, but Nyhan believes that looking at real debates is the best way to learn how persistently incorrect views of the world can be corrected.

Cleveland, Justice Department announce police settlement (sand_puppy)

"As we move forward, it is my strong belief that as other cities across this country address and look at their police issues in their communities, they will be able to say, 'Let's look at Cleveland because Cleveland has done it right,'" Jackson said.

Extremophile bacteria could be key to solving nuclear problems (Arthur Robey)

"But by assessing the ability of these useful microbes to survive radiation stress, we can be more confident that the waste will remain locked-up for very long periods of time (many thousands of years), helped by a naturally evolving "biobarrier". Before this research, the assumption was that the radiation would probably kill off the bacteria that we are studying, but it seems that is not the case. It is potentially a very important finding for the nuclear industry, and illustrates how resilient biology can be!"

The Kill Switch (Chris M.)

Neuroscientists have studied the abnormal condition of psychopathy in addition to components of normal cognition — such as the recognition of emotions in the faces of others — that may have a bearing on the problem. And psychologists and sociologists have looked at the behaviour of ordinary individuals who identify themselves with particular groups and align their behaviour with that group.

World has no choice but to decarbonize: U.N. climate chief (Jason B.)

Rachel Kyte, the World Bank's special envoy for climate change, said to decarbonize economies, "we will need to begin with extraordinary ambition at the end of this year" in Paris where countries are due to agree a new global deal to tackle climate change.

Why Venezuelans worry more about food than crime (westcoastjan)

For the first time in years, shortages and inflation have replaced security as the biggest worry for Venezuelans, according to a recent poll by Caracas-based Datanalisis.

It is a surprising statistic for one of the most violent countries on earth.

James Turk: Silver in Backwardation- No One Wants the Counter-Party Risk (pinecarr)

The gold cartel must have a sense of humor. Just look at today’s 72 hour Kitco “spot” chart. As Turd Ferguson is fond of joking, even Stevie Wonder could see the HFT algorithm driven correlation between Friday and Thursday’s COMEX sessions.

It's Been a Very Bad Year So Far for the U.S. Coal Industry (Merle2)

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company is in talks with restructuring advisers in an attempt to manage $5.1 billion in long-term debt. The company has suffered three straight years of losses.

Shares in the company closed at 66 cents following the news — a 52-week low, according to the St. Louis Business Journal.

As Antibiotic Resistance Spreads, WHO Plans Strategy To Fight It (Merle2)

The plan calls for every country to have a system in place by 2017 to monitor for drug resistance. It also tries to reduce the use and misuse of antibiotics in health care settings and agriculture. The plan calls for more investment in new drugs. It even emphasizes the need to cut the incidence of new infections with simple measures, such as increased hand-washing in hospitals and clinics.

Why Aussies aren't buying plug-in cars (Arthur Robey)

"This got me thinking that if we have a small number of people wanting to buy electric vehicles and they face obstacles in the traditional sales process, then this is just another barrier to changing people's attitudes towards electric vehicles."

Ms Dini said preliminary research had shown that buyers exposed to electric vehicles were less opposed to a plug-in car.

Inching Toward Sustainability (bobwise32952)

Later, searching through farmers' conversations on the internet, I learned that earthworms were common in no-tilled ground, even without cover crops. Some described the gradual appearance of worms after no-till cultivation began. Conventional no-till involves regular application of herbicides, but earthworms can tolerate many of these chemicals.

India heatwave kills 800 as capital's roads melt (Jason B.)

"The state government has taken up education programmes through television and other media to tell people not to venture into the outside without a cap, to drink water and other measures," said P. Tulsi Rani, special commissioner for disaster management in the state.

Taxing organic products could solve California water problem, experts say (Oliveoilguy)

According to studies cited in the proposal, organic agriculture uses more labor, land, and water than conventional agriculture while producing much lower yields and wasting H2O. One of the studies cited was a 2008 Organic Production Survey of all 14,450 organic U.S. farms by the United States Department of Agriculture, which reported that organic corn, rice, spring wheat, and lettuce yields were, respectively 30 percent, 41 percent, 53 percent, and 70 percent lower than conventional yields.

Drought turns Californians against water bottling companies (Jason B.)

Still, people are angry that companies continue to bottle water during the fourth year of the drought, making money off of it. Meanwhile the governor has imposed mandatory water restrictions on residents for the first time in the state's history. Water districts must reduce the amount customers use by an average of 25%, or face fines. That means Californians need to pull back on watering their lawns.

Bird flu egg-splained: The impact goes far beyond your breakfast table (Jason B.)

The impact of this bird flu outbreak goes far beyond your breakfast table. The price of liquid, dried and frozen eggs used by food manufacturers has risen nearly 30% in the past month. And a potential shortage of these so-called breaker eggs is forcing corporations like McDonald's, Unilever, Panera and General Mills to scramble to find alternative suppliers and substitute ingredients.

Gold & Silver

Click to read the PM Daily Market Commentary: 5/27/15

Provided daily by the Peak Prosperity Gold & Silver Group

Article suggestions for the Daily Digest can be sent to [email protected]. All suggestions are filtered by the Daily Digest team and preference is given to those that are in alignment with the message of the Crash Course and the "3 Es."


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New Jersey Faces a Transportation Funding Crisis

Bridges across the state are falling apart. Roads are rife with potholes. Frustrated New Jersey Transit riders are facing another fare increase.

As many commuters bemoan the mounting delays and disruptions, state officials say New Jersey is confronting a transportation funding crisis with no easy way out. Voters are so fed up, support is growing for a revenue option long viewed as politically untenable: raising the state’s gas tax, which is the second lowest in the country.


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CHS on run away sickcare costs

How Healthcare Is Dooming the U.S. Economy (In Just 3 Charts)

Charles does another much appreciated evaluation of out sickcare industry and the drag it is having on the national economy.  He points out many factors.  All of these seem correct to me, though different people would weight the different factors differently.  

Here is one:  the escalation of high tech medical care in the final years of life.

I am reminded of the satire blog site for doctors called GomerBlog and the recent post:

The Average Health Care Consumer Believes that Death is Curable.


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On the ground in Baltimore


This is a great piece of reporting; not something I see very often from the media who are by and large anti-police.  I don't want to comment extensively on the contents, but I'm going to bold the portions I think the average person who's not familiar with urban life and urban violence to pay attention to.

BALTIMORE (AP) — Antoinette Perrine has barricaded her front door since her brother was killed three weeks ago on a basketball court near her home in the Harlem Park neighborhood of West Baltimore.

She already has iron bars outside her windows and added metal slabs on the inside to deflect the gunfire.

“I’m afraid to go outside,” said Perrine, 47. “It’s so bad, people are afraid to let their kids outside. People wake up with shots through their windows. Police used to sit on every corner, on the top of the block. These days? They’re nowhere.”

Perrine’s brother is one of 36 people killed in Baltimore so far this month, already the highest homicide count for May since 1999. But while homicides are spiking, arrests have plunged more than 50 percent compared to last year.

The drop in arrests followed the death of Freddie Gray from injuries he suffered in police custody. Gray’s death sparked protests against the police and some rioting, and led to the indictment of six officers.

Now West Baltimore residents worry they’ve been abandoned by the officers they once accused of harassing them. In recent weeks, some neighborhoods have become like the Wild West without a lawman around, residents said.

“Before it was over-policing. Now there’s no police,” said Donnail “Dreads” Lee, 34, who lives in the Gilmor Homes, the public housing complex where Gray, 25, was arrested.

“I haven’t seen the police since the riots,” Lee said. “People feel as though they can do things and get away with it. I see people walking with guns almost every single day, because they know the police aren’t pulling them up like they used to.”

Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said last week his officers “are not holding back” from policing tough neighborhoods, but they are encountering dangerous hostility in the Western District.

“Our officers tell me that when officers pull up, they have 30 to 50 people surrounding them at any time,” Batts said.

At a City Council meeting Wednesday, Batts said officers have expressed concern they could be arrested for making mistakes.

“What is happening, there is a lot of levels of confusion in the police organization. There are people who have pain, there are people who are hurt, there are people who are frustrated, there are people who are angry,” Batts said. “There are people, and they’ve said this to me, `If I get out of my car and make a stop for a reasonable suspicion that leads to probable cause but I make a mistake on it, will I be arrested?’ They pull up to a scene and another officer has done something that they don’t know, it may be illegal, will they be arrested for it? Those are things they are asking.”

Protesters said Gray’s death is emblematic of a pattern of police violence and brutality against impoverished African-Americans in Baltimore. In October, Batts and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake invited the U.S. Justice Department to participate in a collaborative review of the police department’s policies. The fallout from Gray’s death prompted the mayor to ask U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch for a full-fledged probe into whether the department employs discriminatory policing, excessive force and unconstitutional searches and arrests.

Baltimore was seeing a slight rise in homicides this year even before Gray’s death April 19. But the 36 homicides so far in May is a major spike, after 22 in April, 15 in March, 13 in February and 23 in January.

Ten of May’s homicides happened in the Western District, which has had as many homicides in the first five months of this year as it did all of last year.

Non-fatal shootings are spiking as well. So far in May there have been 91 — 58 of them in the Western District.

And the arrest rate has plummeted.

The statistics showed that even before Gray’s death, police were making between 25 and 28 percent fewer arrests each month than they made in the same month last year. But in May arrests declined far more sharply.

So far this month, arrests are down roughly 56 percent. Police booked just 1,045 people in the first 19 days of May, an average of 55 a day. In the same time period last year, police arrested 2,396 people, an average of 126 a day.

In fact, police did not make any arrests in the triple digits between April 22 and May 19, except on two occasions. On April 27, when protests gave way to rioting, police arrested 246 people. On May 2, the last day of a city-wide curfew, police booked 140 people.

At a news conference Wednesday, Rawlings-Blake said there were “a lot of reasons why we’re having a surge in violence.”

“Other cities that have experienced police officers accused or indicted of crimes, there’s a lot of distrust and a community breakdown,” Rawlings-Blake said. “The result is routinely increased violence.”

Rawlings-Blake said her office is “examining” the relationship between the homicide spike and the dwindling arrest rate.

“It’s clear that the relationship between the commissioner and the rank-and-file is strained,” she said. “He’s working very hard to repair that relationship.”

Emergency response specialist Michael Greenberger cautions against blaming the police for the violence. The founder and director of the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security, he said it’s more likely a response to Gray’s death and the rioting.

“We went through a period of such intense anger that the murder rate got out of control. I think it’s been really hard for the police to keep on top of that,” he said.

Lee disagrees. He says rival gang members are taking advantage of the police reticence to settle scores.

“There was a shooting down the street, and the man was standing in the middle of the street with a gun, just shooting,” Lee added. “Usually, you can’t walk up and down the street drinking or smoking weed. Now, people are everywhere smoking weed, and police just ride by, look at you, and keep going. There used to be police on every corner. I don’t think they’ll be back this summer.”

Batts acknowledged that “the service we’re giving is off-target with the community as a whole” and he promised to pay special attention to the Western District.

Veronica Edmonds, a 26-year-old mother of seven in the Gilmor Homes, said she wishes the police would return and focus on violent crime rather than minor drug offenses.

“If they focused more on criminals and left the petty stuff alone, the community would have more respect for police officers,” she said.

(Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

1. The police commissioner and mayor are in charge of the police department and they're looking everywhere BUT IN THE MIRROR to define the problem and come up with solutions.  Batts is widely distrusted and disliked among police nationwide who have followed his career and the wake of destruction and failure he has left in his path.

2.  What human being who is a police officer paying attention to everything that's going on would NOT be hesitant to get out of his/her car and do ANYTHING?  Imagine a common dilemma: a good, honest officer hears another officer screaming for help over the radio saying he's being attacked.  The good officer races to the scene and sees three men beating the officer who called for help.  The good officer gets out of his car and engages in baton strikes to get the men off the officer they're fighting with.  The next day it turns out the officer who called for help had done something wrong, initiated an unlawful unconstitutional stop, and it was caught on video.  The officer who initiated the stop is arrested for unlawful arrest and excessive use of force, and so is the good officer who responded to his broadcast cries for help.  (BTW: that's exactly what happened to the officers in the Freddy Gray incident. The prosecutor doesn't know what happened exactly, or when, but she has arrested all six when some or most of them most assuredly didn't do anything wrong or see the one(s) who did.)  We're now seeing the natural result of such a rush to judgment.
3.  When the allegedly racist police officers intensely patrol high crime neighborhoods and make as many justified stops as possible, who benefits from that?  Who calls 9-1-1 to report suspicious people or crimes in progress that these allegedly racist police respond to?  Yup: it's the mostly minority residents of high crime neighborhoods.  There's a Gordian Knot someone should try untying.
4.  We should spend less time focusing on individual "bad" officers, and individual "bad" acts, and focus more on THE WHOLE SYSTEM.  The system is badly designed and so it pushes the individuals within it toward bad results, regardless of the quality of the individuals.  It's like the Federal Reserve system and our economy which require constant growth in debt to stay afloat.  The systems are broken and the individuals within that system are pushed into thinking and acting in ways that almost guarantee a whole menu of bad results.  And the gall of the mayor and police commissioner to throw up their hands bewildered as if their police department had just been delivered into their hands last month by space aliens from another galaxy.  
5. And you can wax eloquently on the miraculous medical benefits of marijuana and that it's a safe recreational drug "no worse than alcohol" (which by the way is the biggest drug problem in the world), but notice how armed gang bangers love to strut around smoking it in public while terrorizing the public. There's another Gordian Knot waiting to be untied.  If "we the people" don't untie these Gordian Knots, I think it's supremely unfair to blame the police for over-policing them or under-policing them.
"Welcome to the Hunger Games.  And may the odds be ever in your favor."
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Apartheid Tom.

Coming To A Neighbourhood near you.

You have neither the right nor the responsibility to tell them how to live their lives. (Or does that only apply to Rhodesia?)

Let's sing
The more we are together, the happier we'll be.
But you guys will have to figure it out for yourselves. 
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More on Baltimore

Tom, that's some excellent stuff up there, thumbs up, lots to ponder.

I found this interview with David Simon to be especially good at setting the larger context for how we got here with respect to Baltimore's broken model of policing.  The full article is well worth it but it all boils down to incentives, bad politics, and the corrosive effect of the drug war.

I found this to be a compelling explanation of the myriad small 'mission creep' changes required to get Baltimore to the sorry place it now finds itself, and I'd love to get your take on whether this has the ring of truth to it from your perspective.

Also, I would encourage everyone to read the whole interview.

David Simon on Baltimore’s Anguish

Apr 29, 2015


David Simon is Baltimore’s best-known chronicler of life on the hard streets. He worked for The Baltimore Sun city desk for a dozen years, wrote “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets” (1991) and with former homicide detective Ed Burns co-wrote “THE CORNER: A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF AN INNER-CITY NEIGHBORHOOD”1 (1997), which Simon adapted into an HBO miniseries. He is the creator, executive producer and head writer of the HBO television series “The Wire” (2002–2008). Simon is a member of The Marshall Project’s advisory board. He spoke with Bill Keller on Tuesday.

"THE CORNER: A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF AN INNER-CITY NEIGHBORHOOD"1"The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood" by David Simon and former Boston homicide detective Ed Burns, 1997

BK: What do people outside the city need to understand about what’s going on there — the death of Freddie Gray and the response to it?

DS: I guess there's an awful lot to understand and I’m not sure I understand all of it. The part that seems systemic and connected is that the drug war — which Baltimore waged as aggressively as any American city — was transforming in terms of police/community relations, in terms of trust, particularly between the black community and the police department.

Probable cause was destroyed by the drug war. It happened in stages, but even in the time that I was a police reporter, which would have been the early 80s to the early 90s, the need for police officers to address the basic rights of the people they were policing in Baltimore was minimized. It was done almost as a plan by the local government, by police commissioners and mayors, and it not only made everybody in these poor communities vulnerable to the most arbitrary behavior on the part of the police officers, it taught police officers how not to distinguish in ways that they once did.

“If I had to guess and put a name on it, I’d say that at some point, the drug war was as much a function of class and social control as it was of racism.”

Probable cause from a Baltimore police officer has always been a tenuous thing. It’s a tenuous thing anywhere, but in Baltimore, in these high crime, heavily policed areas, it was even worse. When I came on, there were jokes about, “You know what probable cause is on Edmondson Avenue? You roll by in your radio car and the guy looks at you for two seconds too long.” Probable cause was whatever you thought you could safely lie about when you got into district court.

Then at some point when cocaine hit and the city lost control of a lot of corners and the violence was ratcheted up, there was a real panic on the part of the government. And they basically decided that even that loose idea of what the Fourth Amendment was supposed to mean on a street level, even that was too much. Now all bets were off. Now you didn't even need probable cause.

The city council actually passed an ordinance that declared a certain amount of real estate to be drug-free zones. They literally declared maybe a quarter to a third of inner city Baltimore off-limits to its residents, and said that if you were loitering in those areas you were subject to arrest and search. Think about that for a moment: It was a permission for the police to become truly random and arbitrary and to clear streets any way they damn well wanted.

How does race figure into this? It’s a city with a black majority and now a black mayor and black police chief, a substantially black police force.

What did Tom Wolfe write about cops? They all become Irish? That's a line in “Bonfire of the Vanities.” When Ed and I reported “The Corner,” it became clear that the most brutal cops in our sector of the Western District were black. The guys who would really kick your ass without thinking twice were black officers. If I had to guess and put a name on it, I’d say that at some point, the drug war was as much a function of class and social control as it was of racism. I think the two agendas are inextricably linked, and where one picks up and the other ends is hard to say.

But when you have African-American officers beating the dog-piss out of people they’re supposed to be policing, and there isn't a white guy in the equation on a street level, it's pretty remarkable. But in some ways they were empowered. Back then, even before the advent of cell phones and digital cameras — which have been transforming in terms of documenting police violence — back then, you were much more vulnerable if you were white and you wanted to wail on somebody.

You take out your nightstick and you’re white and you start hitting somebody, it has a completely different dynamic than if you were a black officer. It was simply safer to be brutal if you were black, and I didn't know quite what to do with that fact other than report it. It was as disturbing a dynamic as I could imagine. Something had been removed from the equation that gave white officers — however brutal they wanted to be, or however brutal they thought the moment required — it gave them pause before pulling out a nightstick and going at it. Some African American officers seemed to feel no such pause.

What the drug war did, though, was make this all a function of social control. This was simply about keeping the poor down, and that war footing has been an excuse for everybody to operate outside the realm of procedure and law. And the city willingly and legally gave itself over to that, beginning with the drug-free zones and with the misuse of what are known on the street in the previous generation as ‘humbles.’ A humble is a cheap, inconsequential arrest that nonetheless gives the guy a night or two in jail before he sees a court commissioner.

You can arrest people on “failure to obey,” it’s a humble. Loitering is a humble. These things were used by police officers going back to the ‘60s in Baltimore. It’s the ultimate recourse for a cop who doesn't like somebody who's looking at him the wrong way. And yet, back in the day, there was, I think, more of a code to it. If you were on a corner, you knew certain things would catch you a humble. The code was really ornate, and I’m not suggesting in any way that the code was always justifiable in any sense, but there was a code.

In some districts, if you called a Baltimore cop a motherfucker in the 80s and even earlier, that was not generally a reason to go to jail. If the cop came up to clear your corner and you're moving off the corner, and out of the side of your mouth you call him a motherfucker, you're not necessarily going to jail if that cop knows his business and played according to code. Everyone gets called a motherfucker, that’s within the realm of general complaint. But the word “asshole” — that’s how ornate the code was — asshole had a personal connotation. You call a cop an asshole, you're going hard into the wagon in Baltimore. At least it used to be that way. Who knows if those gradations or nuances have survived the cumulative brutalities of the drug war. I actually don’t know if anything resembling a code even exists now.

For example, you look at the people that Baltimore was beating down in that list in that story the Sun published last year about municipal payouts for police brutality, and it shows no discernable or coherent pattern. There's no code at all, it’s just, what side of the bed did I get up on this morning and who looked at me first? And that is a function of people failing to learn how to police. When you are beating on 15-year-old kids and elderly retirees – and you aren’t even managing to put even plausible misdemeanor charges on some arrestees, you’ve lost all professional ethos.



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That's good. It's social control.

Probable cause was destroyed by the drug war. It happened in stages, but even in the time that I was a police reporter, which would have been the early 80s to the early 90s, the need for police officers to address the basic rights of the people they were policing in Baltimore was minimized. It was done almost as a plan by the local government, by police commissioners and mayors, and it not only made everybody in these poor communities vulnerable to the most arbitrary behavior on the part of the police officers, it taught police officers how not to distinguish in ways that they once did.

“If I had to guess and put a name on it, I’d say that at some point, the drug war was as much a function of class and social control as it was of racism.”

What's really horrible is the difference in police tactics for criminal behavior in some neighborhoods compared to others. SWAT teams busting down the door vs. slap on the wrist. E.g.:


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David Simon

I highly recommend David Simon and his perspective on policing in Baltimore. 90% of what he says rings true with my experience. And he's one of the few thinkers/writers on the subject who sees the systemic issues I referred to. His insights shouldnt be surprising because he got them from "being there" where police are working and examining the whole system while immersed in it. He's not a pundit or an academic or an activist with an axe to grind. He's the real deal.

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