Alfred Palmer New B-25 bomber at Kansas City plant of North American Aviation 1942
“The opposition opposed the establishment of the committee.” No kidding.
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis will be in Washington on Sunday to discuss the country‘s reform programme with IMF chief Christine Lagarde, his office said Saturday. The visit takes place ahead of an April 9 deadline for Greece to pay back a €450 million loan tranche to the IMF. Amid ongoing concerns of a possible default, the Greek government on Friday said it would have no problem meeting the deadline. Greek officials say they are confident that they can soon reach a deal with international creditors such as the IMF over a bailout reform plan that foresees an additional €3.7 billion in state revenues this year. A key component of the plan is a clampdown on tax evasion. The government anticipates raising a further €1.5 billion from the sale of the state-owned Pireaus Port Authority and of 14 regional airports.
Also Saturday, a committee of investigation held a ceremonial session to mark the beginning of its mandate to find out who was responsible for Greece‘s debt crisis. President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras took part in the session. Pavlopoulos said as a member of the eurozone Greece has international obligations, but the country also has a right to national sovereignty. The opposition opposed the establishment of the committee. The investigation is to look into the term of socialist prime minister George Papandreou, who was in office from 2009-11; interim prime minister Lucas Papademos, who was in office from 2011-12; and the coalition government of conservatives and socialists that served from 2012-15 under prime minister Antonis Samaras.
Great ideas. Practicality may need to be discussed, but still.
The premise for the proposal to be presented in the following is that the government has a breathing space of a couple of months. At the end of that period a parallel electronic currency shall be put into circulation. But first, how does a parallel currency (to the euro) work? Proposals resembling the following have been put forth earlier by Andresen and recently by Hillinger. The additional (“parallel”) circulating medium of exchange to be proposed may be designated a Tax Anticipation Note (TAN), a term introduced by Parenteau. The TANs are used by the government to partly pay wages, pensions and for domestic purchases. The TAN enjoys confidence since anyone can use it to pay taxes with one TAN counting as one euro (more on this below).
Transactions are done via mobile phone/SMS, and automatically received and accounted for on a server with ample capacity at the country’s Central Bank or perhaps preferably, for political reasons, at a bank-like facility established for this purpose at the Treasury – from now on just called the TB: “Treasury Bank”. Such a mobile-based transaction system may be implemented through one of the technically proven schemes already in successful operation in some developing countries, also recently put in operation by the central bank of Ecuador. The system may be implemented to work also with older models of mobile phones, since it may be SMS-based (but there will be apps for smartphones).
There are no physical/paper TANs in circulation. The government has a TAN account at the TB with no limit. TANs are thus created out of thin air, but they are later destroyed when paid back as taxes. The government account is debited whenever it pays wages or pensions, or buys goods or services. All citizens and domestic firms are automatically assigned cost-free TAN accounts at the TB. Interested foreign entities are offered to have accounts (but we will expect TANs to be used only by domestic agents in an initial phase). The deposit interest rate is zero. At the start this is a pure medium of exchange, in that sense resembling physical cash. Lending is not considered as an organised option in the pioneer period of this system. (But spontaneous peer-to-peer TAN lending will emerge and grow.)
But will they use it?
Greece won’t default on payments to the IMF next week even as a lack of bailout disbursements has left government coffers nearly empty, according to the minister responsible for meeting the obligations. Greece has an IMF payment of about €450 million due on April 9. With euro-area officials withholding aid payments until an agreement is reached on economic overhauls, the government also has to get through a short-term debt auction a day before, to refinance €1.4 billion of six-month notes due April 14. “The country will pay the IMF on April 9,” Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas said in an interview on Mega TV on Saturday. “There’s money there for payment of salaries, pensions and whatever else is needed for all of next week. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t for the week after. This is a political decision that will be taken, and we will follow whichever political decision.”
Greece and euro-area authorities are in negotiations about a package of measures proposed by the government to repair its economy, a condition for the release of bailout funds. The standoff has left the nation’s banks dependent on European Central Bank loans, with Greece facing the risk of a possible default within weeks and a potential exit from the euro area. Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis will meet IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde in Washington on Sunday for an informal discussion on the Greek government’s reform package, according to an e-mailed statement from the Finance Ministry. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will visit Moscow next week, with Russia ready to discuss easing restrictions on Greek food products, according to Russian government officials. Russia isn’t considering financial assistance to Greece, they said.
“.. since in Greece virtually nobody pays the amount of tax they should, this is essentially a carte blanche to freeze and raid the funds of the wealthiest Greeks who have bank accounts in Germany..”
Greece is on the verge of complete monetary collapse and is now scrambling to “borrow” funds from local pensions and other public sources of scarce capital just to remain in compliance with IMF debt repayments and avoid a hard default. In fact, according to some, Greece may not have the funds to make its next mandatory payment due on April 9 to the IMF with the long overdue Greek exit from the Eurozone to follow in due course. Well, maybe not, because Germany has been kind enough to provide an idea where the foundering Greek “radical leftist” government can find some additional funds: by freezing and raiding the bank accounts of wealthy Greeks.
Of course, the legal loophole provision is that only those suspected (not convicted) of tax fraud would be eligible for such an asset freeze, however since in Greece virtually nobody pays the amount of tax they should, this is essentially a carte blanche to freeze and raid the funds of the wealthiest Greeks who have bank accounts in Germany (and soon in all other European nations) no questions asked. Dow Jones reports:
Germany would be willing to freeze the bank accounts of wealthy Greeks suspected of tax fraud, Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a newspaper interview on Saturday. “We have offered to freeze the bank accounts of wealthy Greek citizens that owe taxes to their homeland. The offer stands, but for that [to happen] the Greek financial authorities need to get active,” Mr. Gabriel told the German daily Rheinische Post. Europe is willing to help Greece, but the Greek government’s acceptance of previously agreed upon reforms is a prerequisite, he reiterated. Greece’s problems aren’t a result of Troika initiatives, he added. “Greece is a victim of its own economic and political elite,” Mr. Gabriel said.
But wait, we thought it was “austerity” that was to blame for everything. Does Mr. Gabriel, gasp, suggest that “austerity” is the name that crony, corrupt, incompetent European politicians have been giving to their actions to enable the unprecedented theft and transfer of wealth that has taken place in Europe in the past five years?
In this case Gabriel is spot on with this assessment – one which we said was precisely the case two years ago – and as such Germany has a solution: a one-time, sovereign bail-in, funded by the wealthiest Greeks. And here it gets interesting, because suddenly the options becomes very clear for said wealthy, tax-avoiding Greeks: align with Russia, or suffer deposit confiscation at the hands of Germany, or Switzerland, or France, or any other nation that has been alienated by the Syriza government. To be sure Germany tried to smooth out this contingency. Turning to Russia, Mr. Gabriel said he doubts Greece would seek to replace European partners with an allegiance to Russia.
“Even if I try, I can’t imagine that anyone in Athens is seriously considering turning their backs on Europe to throw themselves into the arms of Russia. And I also doubt that Moscow feels any pressing need to gladly fulfill some of Greece’s financial pipedreams, given the economic and financial situation there,” he said.
Perhaps, but keep in mind that it was the threat of the world’s wealthiest losing all their accumulated wealth that forced the Fed and its central bank peers to launch the biggest ever bail out of capitalism in 2008, at the cost of destroying the livelihood for hundreds of millions of middle-class Americans and Europeans. Because when there is nothing but desperation left, the rich do silly, self-serving things. The question is will Greece’s wealthiest make it clear to Tsipras that their money is off limits, and unless he can find a Eurofacing resolution that preserves their wealth, then he should promptly turn to Putin. With Greek money about to run out in the coming days, we should have the answer very soon.
“But wait, there’s more.”
The Census Bureau had trouble compiling the nation’s jobless rate in March and, because of this, I’m told, questionable shortcuts were taken. So when the Labor Department announces the new unemployment rate on Friday at 8:30 a.m. — and experts are predicting the figure will remain at 5.5% — take it with a giant grain of salt. Here’s why. Census, which is part of the Commerce Department, tallies the unemployment rate after conducting thousands of household surveys. It then projects what it gets from those surveys into a nationwide result. As you probably already know, the Fed is among the many organizations and companies that carefully monitor the unemployment rate and make important decisions based on that number.
So it’s a big nuisance if this figure is unreliable. But that’s exactly what it is — unreliable to the point of being nearly useless at best and fraudulent at worst. Just so you have it straight, let me go over the list of players I am mentioning in this column: Labor hires Census, which is part of Commerce, to conduct interviews that lead to the figure we know as the official unemployment rate. If you’re the type who can’t get enough government gibberish, you should know that this figure is also called the U-3 unemployment rate, which is the “total unemployed as a%age of the civilian labor force.” Here’s how the U-3 survey works. Census randomly picks the homes that are to be surveyed. Labor requires that 90% of those surveys be successfully completed.
Most of the homes are getting repeat surveys, so not everyone is a first timer. Before I started reporting on the method and lack of honesty in taking these surveys back in 2013, Census was easily able to reach that 90% goal. After The Post investigation, Census started coming up short. That led to a congressional inquiry and a probe by Commerce’s inspector general. Unable to cheat once a light was shown on its shady methods, all six Census regions showed declining survey success rates. March’s numbers were way down. Census was only able to complete 85.59% of March unemployment surveys nationwide, sources tell me. And that below-the-threshold number was only reached after Census extended its survey two extra days.
The survey should have ended on Tuesday, March 24, but was extended until Thursday, March 26, because the success rate was only 80.38% as of that Monday night. I’m not an expert on statistics, but this awful performance would seem to invalidate the results of a survey that relies on consistency to measure the ebb and flow of employment. When the survey finally ended on March 26, not one of the six Census regions had hit the 90% goal. The Atlanta region came closest at 89.19%, sources said. New York, which has always been a laggard, had a miserable 81.27%. So how much faith will you have in Friday’s unemployment number? But wait, there’s more.
“The lifting of the restrictions confirms the full restoration of confidence in the banking system..” Oh, boy!
Cyprus will lift next week the last of the capital controls that were imposed two years ago as part of a €10 billion European bailout. The last restrictions on international transfers will be lifted on April 6, Cyprus government spokesman Nikos Christodoulides said in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg. Domestic capital controls ended in May 2014. “The lifting of the restrictions confirms the full restoration of confidence in the banking system, the significantly improved business climate and essentially marks the return of the economy to normal conditions,” he said. Cyprus is emerging from the crisis that forced it to seek a bailout and impose a levy on depositors two years ago while Greece, which in 2010 became the first country to be rescued by its euro-area partners, continues its tug-of-war with creditors.
The end of the last capital transfer restrictions is the result “of all our hard work and consistency in the implementation of the obligations we undertook,” Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said in Nicosia today. Deposits have shrunk since the crisis, standing at €46.5 billion at the end of February compared with €67.5 billion in the same month of 2013, and Standard & Poor’s says lifting the controls may put the stability of deposit levels at risk. “We see uncertainty regarding the impact of the elimination of the remaining controls on international transactions on the stability of private-sector deposits,” S&P analysts led by Marko Mrsnik said on March 27.
Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe: Every TV news report on the economy in one.
“.. at more than $300 billion, the eurozone’s current-account surplus for 2014 was about 50% larger than China’s. ”
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which the European Union and the United States currently are negotiating, would, studies say, boost welfare and reduce unemployment in both economies, as well as in other countries. At the same time, the TTIP could help to restore confidence in Europe and the transatlantic community. But there is one major barrier to realizing these benefits: the euro. The problem stems from currency manipulation. Over the past three decades, the US has de facto tolerated currency manipulation by its major Asian trading partners, which built up large trade and current-account surpluses by suppressing the value of their currencies. But the US is unlikely to accept such behavior within free-trade zones.
Indeed, a bipartisan majority in the US Congress is already demanding that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a mega-regional free-trade deal involving 12 Pacific Rim countries – should include provisions barring currency manipulation. Discussions about currency manipulation have long focused on China, which is not part of the TPP, but could join it, or a similar arrangement, in the future. But the economy with the biggest current-account surplus today is not China; it is the eurozone. In fact, at more than $300 billion, the eurozone’s current-account surplus for 2014 was about 50% larger than China’s.
The reason for this is simple: monetary expansion, which leads to currency depreciation, is the only macroeconomic tool available to the ECB to boost the competitiveness of struggling economies like Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and France. As a result, current-account deficits in the southern countries have diminished or disappeared, while surpluses in countries like Germany have increased, causing the eurozone’s overall surplus to swell. An unsolvable problem for the ECB is that the euro remains too strong for the depressed southern countries and too weak for Germany. While allowing it to appreciate would help to reduce the current-account surplus, it would also exacerbate the economic distress in the depressed southern countries.
This, in turn, would further strengthen the populist and anti-European political movements that have capitalized on social hardship to win support. Some observers believe that the eurozone’s internal imbalances can be reduced if Germany increases infrastructure spending and allows wages to rise faster. But for many Germans, who withstood difficult social-security and labor-market reforms in 2003-2005, a deliberate effort to diminish hard-won competitiveness gains is not an option. The fact that 63% of German exports go to countries outside the eurozone – meaning that German companies must be able to compete with their counterparts all over the world, not just in the monetary union – makes the issue even more sensitive.
Shouldn’t someone shut him up?
First, former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke targeted critics of the central bank in Congress. Then he took a swipe at the economic theories of former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. Now, Bernanke is taking a shot at the eurozone’s largest economy, Germany. In his third blog post of the week, the Brookings Institution fellow took aim at Germany for its large trade surplus. He notes that at international gatherings, like the coming International Monetary Fund meeting, China gets criticized for its large and persistent trade surplus. But he points out China has worked to reduce its surplus—and Germany really has not.
True, Bernanke admits, Germany makes products that foreigners want to buy. “But other countries make good products without running such large surpluses,” Bernanke says. He says the euro is too weak to be consistent with balanced German trade. While that’s not Germany’s fault, he concedes, it nonetheless helps German exports. But what is the country’s fault is its tight fiscal policy that suppresses domestic spending. He gives three things that Germany could do—invest in public infrastructure, raise the wages of German workers, and use targeted reforms like tax incentives for private domestic investment. Bernanke also scolds Germany for not supporting the ECB’s quantitative easing program.
“It’s true that easier monetary policy will weaken the euro, which by itself would tend to increase rather than reduce Germany’s trade surplus,” he writes. “But more accommodative monetary policy has two offsetting advantages: First, higher inflation throughout the eurozone makes the adjustment in relative wages needed to restore competitiveness easier to achieve, since the adjustment can occur through slower growth rather than actual declines in nominal wages; and, second, supportive monetary policies should increase economic activity throughout the eurozone, including in Germany.”
Ok, want to restructure? Let’s talk Greece then. At least they won’t buy guns with the difference.
Ukraine’s government approved a list of debt that should be restructured under an IMF program to save the nation $15.3 billion, including $3 billion in Eurobonds sold to Russia. Ukraine’s sovereign and corporate debt incurred before Feb. 28, 2014 is included, the Finance Ministry said Saturday on its website. The last category covers state banks, the railways operator and the city of Kiev, according to the statement. Ukraine is trying to reach an agreement with creditors including Franklin Templeton, which holds about $7 billion in the debt, to save $15.3 billion through the restructuring. Russia says it bought the Eurobonds in 2013 to support the government of then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and is already contributing by not demanding early repayment.
“Up to now, we’ve been repeatedly saying that Russia doesn’t plan to restructure the Ukrainian debt and isn’t in talks on the issue,” Svetlana Nikitina, an aide to Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, said on Saturday by phone. The ministry hasn’t seen the Ukrainian decision yet, she said. The list of debts included may be published as soon as Monday, the Ukrainian Finance Ministry said in response to questions from Bloomberg. The decision on debt comes amid a relative lull in the one-year military conflict in two eastern Ukrainian regions that led the government in Kiev to seek assistance from the IMF. While casualties have waned following a cease-fire agreed on Feb. 12, Ukraine still has to complete negotiations on losses for international bondholders by May to keep funds flowing from the IMF.
That’s not kids’ stuff.
Confidence among manufacturers and exporters has taken a hit with export sales in February down 27% compared with a year ago. A survey found net confidence – which includes measures of cash flow, profitability, investment, staff and sales – fell into negative territory for the first time since April 2013. Net confidence was minus 13, down from 21 in January. The sample of Manufacturers and Exporters Association members covered companies with combined annual sales of $178 million, with 68% of those from exports. Association president Tom Thomson said currency volality was the biggest issue for exporters, with the big jump in the US dollar forcing up the price of some raw materials.
“We’ve been caught a little bit like a possum in the headlights,” said Mr Thomson. “We’ve not only got weakening against the US dollar but we’re also seeing a huge strengthening against the Australian dollar. “We’ve definitely got a double whammy effect going on at the moment.” Mr Thomson said exporters to Europe and Asia were experiencing similar problems. Demand from China had yet to bounce back after the Chinese New Year. Mr Thomson said big swings in exchange rates were challenging, but manufacturers were “resilient” and he was confident they would adapt.
And 36% is an even bigger drop.
New Zealand posted a small trade surplus of just $50 million in February with dairy exports down heavily, especially to China, New Zealand’s top export market. Some economists had expected a monthly surplus of about $350m. The trade shortfall for the year ended February 2015 was a deficit of $2.2 billion. Exports to China have boomed in the past few years, but melted down last year as dairy product prices plunged. Total exports to China in February were worth $740m, down more than 36% on the same month last year. However, Statistics NZ figures showed an 11% lift in seasonally adjusted exports to China between January and February, a gain of $64m.
China remains New Zealand’s biggest export market, worth almost $9b in the past year, just slightly ahead of Australia. But the trend for exports to China has been falling for the past year, and is down 45% from the peak in late 2013. In fact, it has returned to levels seen in 2012. Beef exports, on the other hand, are up from a year ago, with strong sales to the United States. Total exports were worth $3.9b for the month, just barely ahead of monthly imports which were also about $3.9b. Seasonally adjusted exports fell 3.2% between January and February, while imports rose 5.8%.
Even before the EU lifted the quota’s.
The Government is blaming a slump in milk prices on the world market being awash with milk. But New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said National’s economic policies and the high value of the New Zealand dollar were not helping dairy farmers. In the Global Dairy Trade auction prices dropped 10.8% overnight to $US2746 a tonne, the second fall in a fortnight. Mr Peters said he predicted the fall and it was a sign of rural areas lagging behind. “I’ve been saying it for a long long time – what you’ve got is a fixation with Auckland, hollowing out the provincial economies and sucking all the attention and money to Auckland and that is not going to go on any longer.” But Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy has told Parliament the dairy market fluctuated.
“The world is basically awash with milk. We’ve got milk currently that is displaced from the Russia ban from the EU looking for a new home, and of course we’ve got some stockpiling in China. So all of those things mean that right now we are in a very volatile dairy market.” Mr Peters said New Zealand had a free market system that no other country followed and he would legislate to control the exchange rate, similar to Singapore’s system. “The one country that’s not devaluing at the moment is New Zealand – every other economy has. And consequently we are leaving our people terribly exposed and the consequences are being seen in the Gisborne’s, the Whanganui’s, all round the country.” Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce firmly rejected that idea.
“Well, with the greatest respect to Winston I am old enough, and so is he, to remember the last time we tried to set the exchange rate in this country and it wasn’t that successful… “What he is basically saying is that he would legislate, presumably, to put the exchange rate at a level it won’t naturally go and that means effectively increasing costs for the consumer and decreasing costs for exporters.” Mr Joyce remained pragmatic about the fall in dairy prices. “It is challenging obviously for farmers and that makes it a bit challenging generally, but we fortunately are in a position where we have a lot of industries doing very well at the moment so it is probably less challenging than it would have been three or four years ago.”
Meanwhile, the Fonterra Shareholders Council said some frustrated farmers were considering leaving the co-operative due to the price slump.
“One of the flappiest at the moment is the global iron ore price. It’s barely noticed here but it’s an indicator of growing trouble..”
Chaos theory calls it the butterfly effect. It’s the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon could cause a tornado in Texas. The New Zealand economy has plenty of its own butterflies changing the weather for GDP growth, jobs, interest rates, inflation and house prices. Not all cause tornadoes, but there are plenty of head and tailwinds for different parts of the country. One of the flappiest at the moment is the global iron ore price. It’s barely noticed here but it’s an indicator of growing trouble inside our largest trading partner, China, and it is knocking our second-largest partner, Australia, for six. It fell to a 10-year low of almost US$50 a tonne this week and is down from a peak of more than US$170 a tonne in early 2011. Australia and Brazil are the biggest suppliers of iron ore to China.
China embarked on an infrastructure spree after the global financial crisis. Over the three years to 2013, China poured 6.4 gigatonnes of concrete, which was more than was poured in the US in the entire 20th century. All that concrete needed reinforcing with steel and China didn’t have enough iron ore and coking coal to make it. That building boom created a glut of apartments and debt, which China now needs to digest. The elevation of President Xi Jingping to China’s top leadership post in late 2012 was a key moment in the flapping of those iron ore wings. He realised China needed to move to a more consumer-friendly economy with cleaner air, water and food. Dirty steel plants have closed and projects mothballed. Apartment prices have fallen sharply over the past six months and demand from steel foundries has slowed.
At the same time, iron ore production in Australia has only now ramped up to its peak levels. Weak demand met high supply to produce a price slump. This all may seem irrelevant to New Zealand, but it’s not. The Australian dollar has fallen in response to the iron ore crash, while New Zealand’s dollar has remained strong because our economy is humming along, thanks to building surges in Christchurch and Auckland and plenty of spending and investment. That divergence between the Australasian economies drove the New Zealand dollar to a record high of well over A.98 this week. Westpac has started offering $1 for every A$1 sent by telegraphic transfer.
Dollar parity would make all those winter holidays on the Gold Coast and trips to shows in Sydney and Melbourne cheaper and generate a fierce headwind for manufacturing exporters and tourism businesses here that sell to Australians. President Xi has reinforced the contrasting effects of the changes in China on Australia and New Zealand by encouraging consumers and investors to spend more of China’s big trade surpluses overseas. Tourism from China was up 40% in the first two months of this year from a year ago, and there remains plenty of demand from investors in China for New Zealand assets.
“Dr. Moar, perhaps forgetting that this was a public event, then revealed that Monsanto indeed had “an entire department” (waving his arm for emphasis) dedicated to “debunking” science which disagreed with theirs.”
Reuters is reporting that Monsanto is demanding a sit-down with members of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). This international scientific body is being called on the carpet for reporting that Monsanto’s most widely sold herbicide, which is inextricably linked to the majority of their genetically engineered products, is probably carcinogenic to humans. In a DO-YOU-KNOW-WHO-WE-ARE moment, Monsanto’s vice president of global regulatory affairs Philip Miller said the following in interview: “We question the quality of the assessment. The WHO has something to explain.” Evidence for the carcinogenicity of Glyphosate comes from a peer-reviewed study published in March of 2015 in the respected journal The Lancet Oncology:
“Carcinogenicity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate”. “Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide, currently with the highest production volumes of all herbicides. It is used in more than 750 different products for agriculture, forestry, urban, and home applications. Its use has increased sharply with the development of genetically modified glyphosate-resistant crop varieties. Glyphosate has been detected in air during spraying, in water, and in food. There WAS limited evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of glyphosate. “Glyphosate has been detected in the blood and urine of agricultural workers, indicating absorption. Soil microbes degrade glyphosate to aminomethylphosphoric acid (AMPA). Blood AMPA detection after poisonings suggests intestinal microbial metabolism in humans. Glyphosate and glyphosate formulations induced DNA and chromosomal damage in mammals, and in human and animal cells in vitro. One study reported increases in blood markers of chromosomal damage (micronuclei) in residents of several communities after spraying of glyphosate formulations.”
Recently, I attended a talk by Monsanto’s Dr. William “Bill” Moar who presented the latest project in their product pipeline dealing with RNA. Most notably, he also spoke about Monsanto’s efforts to educate citizens about the scientific certainty of the safety of their genetically engineered products. The audience was mostly agricultural students many of whom were perhaps hoping for the only well-paid internships and jobs in their field. One student asked what Monsanto was doing to counter the “bad science” around their work. Dr. Moar, perhaps forgetting that this was a public event, then revealed that Monsanto indeed had “an entire department” (waving his arm for emphasis) dedicated to “debunking” science which disagreed with theirs.
As far as I know this is the first time that a Monsanto functionary has publicly admitted that they have such an entity which brings their immense political and financial weight to bear on scientists who dare to publish against them. The Discredit Bureau will not be found on their official website. The challenge for Monsanto’s Discredit Bureau is steep in attacking the unimpeachably respected Lancet and the international scientific bodies of WHO and IARC. However, they have no choice but to attack since the stakes are so very high for them. Glyphosate is their hallmark product upon which the majority of their profits are based.
The world’s most epic physics experiment will flip back on as early as Saturday. After a two-year tuneup, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will run at twice the power it needed in 2012 to find the Higgs boson, the long-theorized particle that confers mass onto matter. As monumental as the Higgs discovery was — its theorists won the Nobel Prize in Physics the next year — physicists still have very little idea what’s going on in the universe, beyond the stuff we can see, touch, and smell. A big question concerns “dark matter,” what scientists call the stuff that makes up 80% of galaxies but that doesn’t interact with light, atoms, and molecules. They know it’s there, but it’s hiding from us. With the Higgs in hand, finding traces of dark matter is the next big hunt in high-energy physics.
The Standard Model of physics is what scientists consider their working picture of how fundamental particles behave and interact. But it “has some holes in it,” says Verena Martinez Outschoorn, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “We know that our worldview, our model, our understanding of particles and their interactions is kind of a subset of a bigger picture,” she says. “We have reason to believe there are other particles out there.” The LHC is located at CERN, the scientific research juggernaut in Meyrin, Switzerland. It’s a network of superpowered, supercold, super empty magnet-driven beam pipes that zip protons around a 17-mile loop.
Some circle the ring in one direction; some trace the opposite path. How high-powered? Ultimately, 14 tera-electron volts, or 14 trillion electron volts (eVs). That’s a lot of anything. Neutrons popping out of a radioactive nucleus — nuclear fission — have about a million electron volts. Medical X-rays have about 200,000 eVs. Electrons hit old-fashioned cathode-ray television screens with about 20,000 eVs. How cold? At 1.9 kelvins (-456F), the LHC magnets are colder than outer space. How empty? The vacuum beam pipes that carry the particles around in circles are so empty they make the moon’s atmosphere look like a choking smog.