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marmar's Journal
marmar's Journal
May 14, 2016

U.S. Bee Colonies Continue to Decline as Pests, Chemicals Blamed

(Bloomberg) U.S. honeybee numbers continue to drop, according to two new studies, with scientists blaming mite infestations while the pace of the phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder accelerated in the first quarter.

The number of commercial U.S. honeybee colonies declined 8.1 percent to 2.59 million in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s first-ever honeybee health survey released Thursday. Beekeepers needed to replace 44 percent of all their hives last year to maintain insects pollinating almonds, apples and other key crops, according to a separate study published May 10 by a group of researchers.

Honeybees pollinate about $15 billion worth of crops annually, according to the USDA. Environmental groups have expressed alarm over the 90 percent decline during the past two decades in the population of pollinators, from wild bees to Monarch butterflies. Some point to a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids as a possible cause, a link rejected by Bayer AG and other manufacturers. ..................(more)


May 13, 2016

Professor Richard Wolff's Economic Update: False Economic Recovery, True Journalism (audio link)

Listen: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36023-economic-update-false-economic-recovery-true-journalism

This episode provides updates on "carrred interest" tax loopholes, state subsidies for businesses, negative interest rates and bank "bail-ins" versus "bailouts." Finally, we interview reporter Bob Hennelly about the United States' false economic recovery and dissolving society, and real journalism.

May 13, 2016

The Ghosts of 68 Haunt the Election of 2016

The Ghosts of ’68 Haunt the Election of 2016

Posted on May 13, 2016
By Michael Winship / Moyers & Company

Watching the mad, mad, mad, mad world that is the 2016 presidential campaign, I was trying to remember a presidential campaign that was as jaw-dropping, at least in my lifetime, and easily settled on 1968.

For those too young to remember, imagine: As fighting in Vietnam rages on and the Tet Offensive makes us all too aware of the futility of our Southeast Asian military fiasco, Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy decides to run as an antiwar candidate against incumbent President Lyndon Johnson. Supported by an army of “Clean for Gene” college students knocking on doors and making phone calls, McCarthy does surprisingly well, and then New York Sen. Robert Kennedy gets into the race, too. Johnson makes a surprise announcement that he will not seek a second term in the White House and McCarthy and Kennedy duke it out in the primaries.

In the midst of all this, civil rights giant Martin Luther King Jr., is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, and riots erupt across the cities of the United States. Two months later, Kennedy is murdered in the kitchen of a Los Angeles hotel just minutes after winning the California primary. In August, eight years after his defeat by John F. Kennedy, the Republicans bring back Richard Nixon as their presidential candidate and the Democrats select Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who has not run in a single primary, as their party’s standard bearer. Simultaneously, a police riot against protesters outside the Democratic convention in Chicago leaves an indelible image of chaos, tear gas and blood. Nixon wins the election with a well-executed campaign set to the accompaniment of dog whistle signals against minorities and left-wing dissenters.

Oh, and one other thing — Alabama Gov. George Wallace, arch segregationist and race baiter, runs as the third-party candidate of the American Independent Party, campaigning as a rebel populist seeking the votes of the angry, white working class. He wins almost 10 million votes and carries five states in the South.

Baker’s book… is eerily reminiscent of what’s going on in 2016 America. ..................(more)


May 13, 2016

Silicon Valley Commercial Property Boom Ends, Totally Exposed to Big-5: Apple, Google, Facebook.....

Silicon Valley Commercial Property Boom Ends, Totally Exposed to Big-5: Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, LinkedIn
by Wolf Richter • May 12, 2016

[font color="blue"]This could get very ugly![/font]

Apple shares have plunged 32% from June last year, and $282 billion in shareholder wealth has evaporated, on swooning sales and crummy data from suppliers. Today shares fell briefly below $90 for the first time since June 2014. But still, Apple’s market capitalization is about $507 billion. And Alphabet’s is $498 billion.

Along with Facebook, Amazon, and LinkedIn, they constitute the Big Five in Silicon Valley, with a giant footprint on commercial real estate that continues to grow. So just how exposed is Silicon Valley’s office market to a slowdown among the Big Five?

Already, there are cracks in the foundation. According to the Q1 report by commercial real estate services firm Savills Studley, overall asking rent rose by 7.1% year-over-year, and vacant availability edged down to 7.6%. But deal volume for the past four quarters plunged 14% year-over-year to 7.5 million square feet (msf).

“Overall, this signals a shift to a more subdued market,” the report explained. Yet the big tech companies were still in an “unrelenting pursuit of talent and office properties” despite “growing concern about the challenging conditions for start-ups and a weak IPO market.”

But compared to San Francisco, leasing fundamentals “have not contracted as sharply.” Because in San Francisco, all heck is threatening to break loose. ..................(more)


May 13, 2016

Mergers Collapse, Bubble Deflates, Debris Hits Hedge Funds

Mergers Collapse, Bubble Deflates, Debris Hits Hedge Funds
by Wolf Richter • May 12, 2016

[font color="blue"]The “arbs” got caught on the wrong side of the M&A collapse.[/font]

Hedge funds are getting bloodied in one of their favorite games, after years of a giddy boom in mergers and acquisitions with ever sillier valuations, made possible by an endless flow of easy money from yield-starved investors and fee-hungry banks, under the eyes of regulators who’d conveniently fallen asleep.

But that M&A bubble is now collapsing. And many hedge funds that were into merger arbitrage got caught on the wrong side of the bet.

Merger arbitrage is a bet that an announced acquisition gets completed. With the announcement, the share price of the target company shoots up to somewhere near the bid. If there’s hope that the bid will be raised, the share price might overshoot the bid. Once the target company agrees to be taken over, shares usually trade slightly below the acquisition price until the acquisition is completed. These price differentials can be exploited by merger arbitrage.

These can be huge, leveraged bets on what are expected to be minor price differences. Risks are thought to be low – unless the merger collapses. That’s when these “arbs” can get their heads handed to them. ................(more)


May 12, 2016

Arctic Sea Ice Could Disappear This Summer

Arctic Sea Ice Could Disappear This Summer

Wednesday, 11 May 2016 00:00
By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report

Climate scientists tracking anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) have long feared what is referred to as a blue ocean event.

A blue ocean event means a complete absence of Arctic sea ice, allowing the heat of the sun to fully penetrate the open waters of the Arctic, which would then dramatically accelerate the rate of warming in the Arctic.

This dramatic shift would then cause a profound disruption of both atmospheric and ocean-current circulation around the globe, contributing to an increasingly ice-free Arctic, rising sea levels and dramatic increases in ACD everywhere.

This March, Truthout reported on the Arctic sea ice nearing a record low total volume, a measure that many scientists believe to be the single most important factor in determining the health of the Arctic sea ice. That same month, NASA reported that the winter Arctic sea ice extent had already hit an all-time low.

These trends, coupled with ongoing record heating in the Arctic, mean that it is not out of the realm of possibility that the blue ocean event could occur as early as this September. ..............(more)


May 11, 2016

AZ man trying to be a 'hero' charged after opening fire on shoplifting suspects on busy street

An Arizona man who was trying to be a “good guy with a gun” was arrested on multiple charges two months after he opened fire on shoplifting suspects.

John Haag was at a Walgreens in March when he spotted someone running from the store, and he asked employees if they’d been robbed, reported KNXV-TV.

The employees told Haag they had been robbed, and the chase was on.

The 25-year-old Haag ran from the store, jumped into his vehicle and pursued a U-Haul cargo van driven by the suspects, police said.

A witness recorded video of the pursuit on a busy Chandler street, and that video shows Haag pull alongside the cargo van, roll down his window, point a gun at the suspects and open fire. ..............(more)


May 11, 2016

Even a Time Finance Columnist Is Now Questioning American Capitalism

(In These Times) Casual browsers might mistake Rana Foroohar’s Makers and Takers for a Tea Party manifesto. The phrase is most famously identified with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who warned in 2010 that “takers”—i.e., people who receive more in federal benefits than they pay in taxes—were poised to become the majority of Americans, eclipsing the “makers”—the business owners and financiers who create hardy economic value.

But Foroohar, an economics columnist for Time and analyst for CNN, inverts Ryan’s callow sloganeering to devastating effect. Makers and Takers is a closely argued, richly reported anatomy of the sluggish, unequal and crisis-prone state of the U.S. economy under the dictates of financialization—the tax giveaways, financial-sector deregulation, securitized debt, etc., that are celebrated by figures such as Ryan.

Take, for example, the fanciful pretext for Ryan’s remarks: the well-worn lament that to even slightly increase regulations is to browbeat would-be job creators into a state of paralysis. In truth, Foroohar notes, “there isn’t a shred of evidence to suggest that lowering taxes on the rich makes them any more or less likely to invest or start businesses.”

Indeed, citing a 2015 report from the Office of Financial Research, Foroohar notes that since the great crucible of the 2008 meltdown, corporate earnings “are rising” even as “sales growth for most public U.S. companies is not.” Astonishingly, as Democrats and Republicans alike have nonsensically preached austerity to the nation at large, the investor class—the real layabout “takers”—has sunk into an ocean of red ink, with corporate debt ballooning from $5.7 trillion in 2006 to $7.4 trillion today. Most of this dosh is repackaged into exotic new financial instruments designed to maximize short-term shareholder returns. In the 1970s, American companies invested more than 15 times what they paid out to shareholders; now that ratio is below 2 to 1. ...................(more)


May 11, 2016

Why some suburbs are trying to be more like cities

[font size="1"]The suburb of New Rochelle, N.Y. has been struggling economically for the past few decades.[/font]

(MarketWatch) For more than a generation, the suburb of New Rochelle, N.Y., has been struggling with a stagnant economy, closed storefronts and tax revenue that has fallen even as New York City has boomed just 15 miles to the south.

Now this bedroom community is forging ahead with a plan to remake its low-slung downtown into a landscape checkered with office towers, high-rise apartments and new retail. Over the past year and a half, it has changed its zoning and signed on a team of developers to start building some of the planned towers — all in a bid to attract new employers and residents and breathe life into the local economy.

In short, this suburb is trying to look urban. And it isn’t the only one. Urbanization efforts in New Rochelle, a city of 79,000, offer a glimpse of changes taking shape in suburbs around the country. While the approaches vary, what they share is a general desire for urban-style development meant to appeal to youth and attract employers who might otherwise gravitate to cities.

Coast to coast

Tysons Corner, a giant collection of suburban-style office parks in Virginia near Washington, D.C., is pushing developers to build apartments, tall office towers and street grids. North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park — a bastion of isolated corporate campuses built in the second half of last century — is now trying to develop about 1,500 apartments mixed with offices for multiple companies, a first for the park. Officials there hope more will follow. ..............(more)


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