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marmar

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Florida is drowning. Condos are still being built. Can't humans see the writing on the wall?

Florida is drowning. Condos are still being built. Can't humans see the writing on the wall?
People tend to respond to immediate threats and financial consequences – and Florida’s coastal real estate may be on the cusp of delivering that harsh wake-up call

by Megan Mayhew Bergman


(Guardian UK) I stood behind a worn shopping center outside of Crystal Springs, Florida, looking for the refuge where a hundred manatees were gathered for winter. I found them clustered in the emerald-colored spring, trying to enjoy a wedge of sunlight and avoid the hordes of people like me, boxing them in on kayaks and tour boats, leering over wooden decks. The nearby canals were lined with expensive homes and docks with jetskis. One manatee breached the water for a breath, and I could see the propeller scar on its back.

2018 was the second deadliest year on record for manatees. Like many of our coastal species, they’re vulnerable to habitat loss and warming seas, which are more hospitable to algal blooms and red tide. Science has given us the foresight we need to make decisions that will reduce the future suffering of other species and ourselves, but we don’t heed it. Why?

Studies show that humans don’t respond well to abstract projections. We overvalue short-term benefits, such as driving SUVs, burning coal and building waterfront real estate. We choose these extravagances even though they impede beneficial long-term outcomes, such as saving threatened species, or reducing the intensity of climate change.

Humans tend to respond to immediate threats and financial consequences – and coastal real estate, especially in Florida, may be on the cusp of delivering that harsh wake-up call. The peninsula has outsized exposure: nearly 2 million people live in coastal cities. On the list of the 20 urban areas in America that will suffer the most from rising seas, Florida has five: St Petersburg, Tampa, Miami, Miami Beach and Panama City. In 2016, Zillow predicted that one out of eight homes in Florida would be underwater by 2100, a loss of $413bn in property. .................(more)

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/15/florida-climate-change-coastal-real-estate-rising-seas



U.S. Retail Sales Unexpectedly Fall the Most in Nine Years


(Bloomberg) U.S. retail sales unexpectedly fell in December, posting the worst drop in nine years in a sign of slower economic momentum at year-end amid financial market turmoil and the government shutdown.

The value of overall sales fell 1.2 percent from the prior month after a downwardly revised 0.1 percent increase in November, according to Commerce Department figures released Thursday after a four-week delay due to the shutdown. That missed all economist estimates in a Bloomberg survey that had called for a 0.1 percent gain.

Stock futures erased gains, Treasuries rose and the dollar fell, as the broad weakness across most sectors added to signs that U.S. economic growth is cooling from prior quarters -- potentially by more than projected. It may reinforce investor expectations that the Federal Reserve will hold off on raising interest rates this year amid concern about trade and global growth.

“These numbers are horrible,” said Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies LLC. “It appears to contrast quite sharply with reports of Christmastime sales that were generally seen as quite healthy,” and for the Fed, “rate normalization is on the back burner for a long time to come.” ...............(more)

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-14/u-s-retail-sales-fall-most-in-nine-years-amid-stock-plunge?srnd=premium



Subprime Arrives: Auto-Loan Delinquencies Spike to Great Recession Levels




Subprime Arrives: Auto-Loan Delinquencies Spike to Great Recession Levels
by Wolf Richter • Feb 12, 2019 •

“A development that is surprising during a strong economy and labor market”: New York Fed



Serious auto-loan delinquencies – loans that are 90 days or more past due – surged to 4.47% of total auto loan balances in Q4 2018, according to New York Fed data this morning. This put the auto-loan delinquency rate at the highest level since Q1 2012 and just 0.6 percentage points below the peak during the Great Recession in Q1 2011.



At the end of 2018, there were over 7 million Americans with auto loans that were 90+ days past due, 1 million more than at the end of 2010, at the peak of the overall delinquency rates, according to a separate report by the New York Fed. It added that “the substantial and growing number of distressed borrowers suggests that not all Americans have benefitted from the strong labor market.”

The dollars are big. Since the prior peak in Q2 2008, total auto loans and leases outstanding nearly doubled to $1.27 trillion (this is slightly higher than the data reported last week by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors as part of its consumer credit data). .............(more)

https://wolfstreet.com/2019/02/12/subprime-arrives-auto-loan-delinquencies-spike-to-great-recession-levels/




Retail sales sink 1.2% in December in the worst plunge in nine years


(MarketWatch) The numbers: Sales at retailers fizzled in December and posted the biggest decline in nine years in a worrisome sign for the U.S. economy, according to a long-delayed government report.

Retail sales sank 1.2% in December, the U.S. Census Bureau said Thursday. It’s the largest drop since September 2009, a few months after the end of the Great Recession.

Economists polled by MarketWatch expected sales to be flat. .............(more)

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/retail-sales-sink-12-in-december-to-mark-biggest-drop-since-2009-as-holiday-season-fizzles-out-2019-02-14



Resisting the Weaponization of Ignorance in the Age of Trump


Resisting the Weaponization of Ignorance in the Age of Trump



By Henry A. Giroux,
Truthout

Published
February 12, 2019


Ignorance now rules the U.S. Not the simple, if somewhat innocent ignorance that comes from an absence of knowledge, but a malicious ignorance forged in the arrogance of refusing to think hard about an issue. We most recently saw this exemplified in Donald Trump’s disingenuousness 2019 State of the Union address in which he lied about the amount of drugs streaming across the southern border, demonized the immigrant community with racist attacks, misrepresented the facts regarding the degree of violence at the border, and employed an antiwar rhetoric while he has repeatedly threatened war with Iran and Venezuela. Willful ignorance reached a new low when Trump — after two years of malicious tweets aimed at his critics — spoke of the need for political unity.

Willful ignorance often hides behind the rhetoric of humiliation, lies and intimidation. Trump’s reliance upon threats to impose his will took a dangerous turn given his ignorance of the law when he used his speech to undermine the special council’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He did so with his hypocritical comment about how the only things that can stop the “economic miracle” are “foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations,” to which he added, “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.” According to Trump, the Democrats have a choice between reaching legislative deals and pursuing “ridiculous partisan investigations” — clearly the country could not do both.

William Rivers Pitt is right in claiming that in one moment Trump thus tied “the ongoing Robert Mueller investigation inextricably to terrorism, war and political dysfunction.” As Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim point out, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi added to this criticism by “accusing Trump of an all-out threat to lawmakers sworn to provide a check and balance on his power.”

Malicious ignorance is a willful refusal to reflect enough to do justice to the complexity of an idea and its potential consequences. This is a kind of ignorance that combines the mindset of tyrants with a notion of unreflective certainty that banishes doubt and views opposing positions as acts of treason that are often deserving of some kind of punitive action. Unfortunately, we live at a moment in which ignorance appears to be one of the defining features of U.S. political and cultural life. Ignorance has become a form of weaponized refusal to acknowledge how the violence of the past seeps into the present, reinforced by a corporate-controlled media and digital culture dominated by fatuous spectacles and consumerist trivia. .............(more)

https://truthout.org/articles/resisting-the-weaponization-of-ignorance-in-the-age-of-trump/






Even Florida Woman has tired of Florida Man's antics



BROOKSVILLE, Fla. - A bizarre altercation between a Florida couple ended with a woman throwing a piece of meat at her boyfriend.

Jennifer Brassard, 48, of Brooksville was arrested on battery charges after she beat her boyfriend with a frozen pork chop.

According to the arrest report, Brassard and her boyfriend were engaged in a "verbal argument" on Friday when she threw the pork chop at the unidentified man. WFLA reports the man suffered a half-inch cut from the pork chop.

The boyfriend fled the house after the pork chop flew, and police determined Brassard was the primary aggressor in the disturbance. ..........(more)

https://www.local10.com/news/florida/florida-woman-arrested-for-beating-boyfriend-with-frozen-pork-chop




The Great Con of American Patriotism


The Great Con of American Patriotism
by Robert Scheer


(Truthdig) American soldiers born decades apart in the state of New York, Ron Kovic and Maj. Danny Sjursen, are two crucial dissenting voices that have experienced firsthand the futility and brutality of America’s interventionist wars. Kovic, a Marine veteran who was paralyzed in the Vietnam War, has spent the rest of his life fighting against the U.S. war machine. The film “Born on the Fourth of July,” starring Tom Cruise, was based on his book, a work he hoped would combine with his activism to dissuade young people from buying into the toxic patriotism that leads Americans to fight destructive, ultimately pointless wars.

In the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” Kovic tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer, “I couldn’t stop speaking against that war. I was arrested a dozen times. I—every single day was life and death. Every single day, I know that there could be another young man like Ron Kovic being paralyzed, another young man from a town or a farm somewhere in this country, being killed in that war that had to stop.”

Sadly, Sjursen, who says he watched the film based on Kovic’s life before he was even of age to join the military, explains that he wasn’t able to hear past what he calls the “faux patriotism” that pushed him to attend the U.S. Military Academy, as well as do tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I think the fact that I didn’t learn the lessons from Ron Kovic’s story,” Sjursen laments, “(is) proof of the power of the masculinity that is associated with military service, and this notion of nationalism and patriotism. It’s so prevalent that it’s, in some ways, if it’s not fought every day … it will continue despite the lessons before us.”

.....(snip).....

RK: I love my country, but my best way of showing my patriotism today is to tell the truth, and to continue to write, and to continue to tell what really happened, and what it really means to be wounded. What it really means physically and psychologically. You know, we have 20, what do we have, 22 Iraq and Afghan veterans a day committing suicide, and the suicide rate among Vietnam veterans still to this day is very high. So to tell the truth, continue to write the truth, that’s what patriotism is. ....................(more)

https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-great-con-of-american-patriotism/




Openings and Construction Starts Planned for 2019

Openings and Construction Starts Planned for 2019


(The Transport Politic) Despite recent declines in transit ridership in the U.S., the construction of major transit networks continues across the country—as well as Canada, Mexico, and the rest of North America.

In 2019, there will be 89 major heavy rail, light rail, streetcar, bus rapid transit, and commuter rail projects under construction across the continent. These projects will add more than 830 miles of new fixed-guideway transit—generally high-quality service that will improve the lines of residents. In total, they’ll cost more than $91 billion to complete—most of which is funded by local governments.



In the U.S., the Trump Administration has repeatedly been reluctant to invest in new transit lines, even as the U.S. Department of Transportation has continually poured money into highways across the country. Nevertheless, following the Democratic takeover of the U.S. House after the November 2018 elections, the government has begun releasing funding commitments for major new projects. Those grants are likely to continue as long as Democrats continue to hold control of the House.

But, as in years past, high construction costs plague infrastructure projects in the U.S.—and those high costs make the completion of effective transit networks more difficult. Among heavy rail projects under construction in 2019, the average line in the U.S. will cost $650 million per mile—compared to just $362 million per mile in Canada (when adjusted to U.S. dollars). Among light rail projects, the average U.S. line will cost $339 million per mile to build, compared to just $146 million per mile in Canada.* .......(more)

https://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2019/01/08/openings-and-construction-starts-planned-for-2019/



Chris Hedges: Goodbye to the Dollar


Goodbye to the Dollar
by Chris Hedges


(Truthdig) The inept and corrupt presidency of Donald Trump has unwittingly triggered the fatal blow to the American empire—the abandonment of the dollar as the world’s principal reserve currency. Nations around the globe, especially in Europe, have lost confidence in the United States to act rationally, much less lead, in issues of international finance, trade, diplomacy and war. These nations are quietly dismantling the seven-decade-old alliance with the United States and building alternative systems of bilateral trade. This reconfiguring of the world’s financial system will be fatal to the American empire, as the historian Alfred McCoy and the economist Michael Hudson have long pointed out. It will trigger an economic death spiral, including high inflation, which will necessitate a massive military contraction overseas and plunge the United States into a prolonged depression. Trump, rather than make America great again, has turned out, unwittingly, to be the empire’s most aggressive gravedigger.

The Trump administration has capriciously sabotaged the global institutions, including NATO, the European Union, the United Nations, the World Bank and the IMF, which provide cover and lend legitimacy to American imperialism and global economic hegemony. The American empire, as McCoy points out, was always a hybrid of past empires. It developed, he writes, “a distinctive form of global governance that incorporated aspects of antecedent empires, ancient and modern. This unique U.S. imperium was Athenian in its ability to forge coalitions among allies; Roman in its reliance on legions that occupied military bases across most of the known world; and British in its aspiration to merge culture, commerce, and alliances into a comprehensive system that covered the globe.”

When George W. Bush unilaterally invaded Iraq, defying with his doctrine of preemptive war international law and dismissing protests from traditional allies, he began the rupture. But Trump has deepened the fissures. The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement, although Iran had abided by the agreement, and demand that European nations also withdraw or endure U.S. sanctions saw European nations defect and establish an alternative monetary exchange system that excludes the United States. Iran no longer accepts the dollar for oil on international markets and has replaced it with the euro, not a small factor in Washington’s deep animus to Teheran. Turkey is also abandoning the dollar. The U.S. demand that Germany and other European states halt the importation of Russian gas likewise saw the Europeans ignore Washington. China and Russia, traditionally antagonistic, are now working in tandem to free themselves from the dollar. Moscow has transferred $100 billion of its reserves into Chinese yuan, Japanese yen and euros. And, as ominously, foreign governments since 2014 are no longer storing their gold reserves in the United States or, as with Germany, removing them from the Federal Reserve. Germany has repatriated its 300 tons of gold ingots. The Netherlands repatriated its 100 tons.

The U.S. intervention in Venezuela, the potential trade war with China, the withdrawal from international climate accords, leaving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the paralysis in Washington and disruptive government shutdown and increased hostilities with Iran bode ill for America. American foreign and financial policy is hostage to the bizarre whims of stunted ideologues such as Mike Pompeo, John Bolton and Elliott Abrams. This ensures more global chaos as well as increased efforts by nations around the globe to free themselves from the economic stranglehold the United States effectively set in place following World War II. It is only a question of when not if the dollar will be sidelined. That it was Trump, along with his fellow ideologues of the extreme right, who destroyed the international structures put in place by global capitalists, rather than socialists these capitalists invested tremendous resources to crush, is grimly ironic. .............(more)

https://www.truthdig.com/articles/goodbye-to-the-dollar/




Confronting the Great American Myth


from YES! Magazine:


Confronting the Great American Myth
The founders of the United States have the society they wanted—one that keeps people like them in power.

by David Korten posted Feb 01, 2019
This is part one of a two-part series.


We grow up in the United States proud of our nation’s historic role in leading humanity’s transition from monarchy to democracy. We rarely ask, however, whether the system we have truly fits the definition of democracy.

Merriam-Webster defines democracy as “government by the people.” What we have in the United States more closely resembles the Merriam-Webster definition of plutocracy, “government by the wealthy.” A nation ruled by big money is not a democracy.

The 2018 midterm elections inserted a wave of new political blood into Congress and many state houses—younger, more female, more racially and religiously diverse, less beholden to big money, and attuned to a strong public desire for change.

At the national level, the new representatives of a restless electorate encounter a system in political lockdown, at least until the next election. That makes this is a good time for a serious reality check on what will be required to achieve the democracy we thought we had and a future that truly works for everyone.

.....(snip).....

The original Constitution thus affirmed slavery, secured the rights of property, and limited the vote to White male property owners. Voting rights for other Americans—women, Native Americans, Blacks, and those with no property, including Whites—came slowly and to this day remain to be fully secured. ..........(more)

https://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/confronting-the-great-american-myth-20190201





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