Thursday 19 May 2011

What you won't see reported in the press ... unless you look hard enough

One thing that I am certain of more than anything else is that we can't rely on our media to get any sense of the mess that we are finding ourselves in.  In the world of NZ television and print media climate change and Peak Oil may as well not exist and I wouldn't  hold by breath about the media helping to make sense of what is happening in the world economy.

For a while now I have been using the Internet and checking in with CollapseNet just about every day.  They do a stirling job with their News Desk which is a digest of daily news stories taken mostly from conventional media that is relevant to understanding the road to resource depletion and economic/social collapse that we seem to be on.

I have decided, for my own satisfaction to take what I consider the most important stories from the past two weeks or so and to try and bring these stories together to attempt to paint a picture of what is happening around us while most of us sleep.

I have looked at major stories from around the world; I am, however aware that there are things happening in other countries that do not get reported and examples of individual and group suffering that just evades our attention.

The economic situation in Europe continues to worsen as the sovereign debt crisis spreads from Greece to Ireland, then to Portugal, Spain and Italy

Denmark has violated EU rules by reintroducing passport control at its border

One report from Reuters said that there is a risk of the crisis spreading to the ‘core countries

During this week the French head of the IMF Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested for alleged sexual assault.  It looks very much as if this was a set-up, either from another rival group within the IMF or within the context of French politics.  Even such an august publication as the Telegraph is willing to entertain ‘conspiracy theories

The arrest has sent shock waves throughout Europe.  He was supposed to be in Brussels on Monday for a meeting to discuss a possible further 60 billion euro bailout for Greece. 

He strongly supported policies that would help Greece avoid restructuring its massive public debt. and wanted to give Greece, Portugal and Ireland the time needed to put their accounts in order, and he also argued for softening the austerity measures associated with the bailouts for those countries. possibly providing a counter to the strict austerity policies favored by northern European leaders.

There have been several articles on the effects the economic crisis and austerities are having on Greeks

In the meantime one in five Spaniards under the age of 30 is unemployed and David Cameron has said that there are a million 16-24 year-olds without work in Britain.

The main story of the week has been the floods on the Mississipi as the floodwaters make their way down towards Louisiana and the coast bringing devastation to crops along the way.

Not only this but floods were threatening the oil and gas industries

Meanwhile other parts of North America are being threatened by crop failures due to wet weather while Texas is being threatened by the worst drought in years with wildfires.

The Canadian Wheat Board said fields are so muddy that only 3 percent of grain has been sown, compared with 40 percent normally. At the same time, drought left the  Kansas wheat  crop in the worst shape since 1996

The other big news of the week  is that the United States has now reached the its debt ceiling; the pension funds are being looted and it is probable that the debt ceiling will be raised allowing things to carry on for a bit longer, but also placing the possibility of default by the world’s largest economy on the agenda.

Meanwhile the super-rich continue their plunder and are getting richer.

Commentary from Mike Ruppert - politically, the US government and President Obama appear to be more and more out-of-touch and in recent time we have been sold the idea that the US and NATO are bombing the hell out of Libya to help a democratic rebellion; then that they have rid the world of Osama bin Laden.  Ever seen "Wag the Dog"? And now Obama has announced that they are going to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) despite the fact of ecological destruction; despite the fact that there is only 10% of estimated oil and that melting permafrost will make the process difficult.


Even though the consequences of the March earthquake and tsunami and the ongoing environmental catastrophe at Fukushima have completely disappeared from our headlines events in Japan continue apace.

At Fukushima the Japanese are losing the battle and there has been acknowledgement of a meltdown in the sense that the core of reactor no. 1 has melted through the containment and the fuel rods are dry meaning that radiation levels are too high for the reactors to be worked on. Meanwhile there are problems with the other reactors such as a lean of the whole structure of  reactor no.4.

This has been well documented elsewhere and I can highly recommend commentary by Arnie Gunderson of Fairewinds Associates.

Plutonium has been found more than a kilometer away from the site indicating that the surrounding area is likely to be permanently uninhabitable.

Japan has closed down another nuclear facility at Hoamaoka because of earthquake risks.

There are lots of stories coming out of Japan about energy shortages largely as a result of the accident in Fukushima. and factories have had to cut back production 
There have been consequent shortages of componentry manufactured in Japan which has affected industries in the US, Germany and China.  One example is Toyota which has cut back production of its plants in China. because of disruptions in supply lines

One plant, Renesas Electronics Corp which produces 40% of the world's automotive microcontroller chips is expected to be at 50 % capacity by mid- July.

Meanwhile Japan’s ten regional utilities more than doubled their crude oil consumption in April from a year earlier as they boosted output at thermal power plants.

Back in April Mike Ruppert gave his take on what he thought the downline effects of events in Japan might be.  Although he takes a decidedly apocalyptic view of things he may well turn out to be not that wrong, and what he said then is certainly being borne out by what is unfolding now.

Meanwhile China, on whom we are pinning so much hope is not without its problems.

One of China’s biggest headaches is energy shortage.  There has been shortages of gasoline in both China and Russia such that both have banned exports.

In the meanwhile there are shortages of electricity in many parts of the country (Hunan is one example);  and the country's press has been full of stories such as this one on a looming energy crunch, or this report from Reuters

The other big issue for China is water and its shortage, especially in the capital Beijing. Here is an article about drought in China

In the meantime inflation is a huge problem for China and the government moved again to head off inflation by requiring banks to hold more of their deposits in reserve, the eighth such move since November, despite little evidence that measure is taming prices and worries that it is depriving needy smaller companies of capital.

One article discusses the major problems in the Chinese economy and compares this situation with that in the United States prior to the Great Depression.

1) Massive disparity of wealth, income and education
2)  Rapid industrialization and displacement of labor
3)  Opaque and misleading economic and financial data
4)  Massive build-up of leverage across the “rising class”
5)  Bubbles in both residential real estate and fixed asset/infrastructure development
6)  Accelerating and uncontrolled growth in credit
7)  Expected transference of economic growth to domestic demand.
8)  Inflation and accelerating price/wage spiral

The major ongoing story is, however likely to be one of resource shortages combined with environmental problems such as water shortages as well as climate change (drought and flood)

At the moment events in the Middle East are dominating our headlines, especially events in Libya and Syria.

Whilst the contribution of Facebook and Twitter and even Wikileaks have been given plenty of coverage, little attention has been paid to resources in general and to food in particular.

Egypt, for example was one of the major importers of Russian wheat; when the Russians banned the export of wheat after their drought and fires last summer Egypt suddenly had to find a new source of grains.  Food prices have increased hugely in Northern Africa and there have been recent articles talking about the role played by food  problems in the area

In a recent article the Military Council in Egypt has warned of economic collapse

One story that certainly has not made it into the mainstream is the decline in oil production capacity in the Middle East.  The IEA has confirmed that actual production is declining (see the recent ABC documentary).  The flow of oil in that part of the world is less than guaranteed.  The Libyans have announced they won’t be exporting any oil until the war finishes and the situation in Saudi Arabia is far from stable.

There has been an increase in violence on the West Bank and on Israel’s borders especially with the marking of the Nakba in Palestine.
There have been amazing shots of young Palestinians crossing the border from Syria into the Golan Heights as well as demonstrations in other areas

Basically the popular revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt are failing; Egypt is falling into chaos.  The question is what happens if Arab anger gets directed back towards Israel and the Camp David accord which has determined much of Arab-Israeli relations for the past 30 years is challenged? 

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