May 21, 2011

Illinois Wins Share of Big Ten Title - BIG TEN OFFICIAL ATHLETIC SITE

May 21, 2011
Illinois won a share of the Big Ten title with a 7-5 win over Indiana on Saturday.

Matt Dittman hit a walk-off two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to give the Illini their 29th conference championship and first since 2005. LARGE PHOTO

The Illini also clinched the No. 1 seed in the 2011 Big Ten Baseball Tournament.

Illinois and Michigan State finish the season as Big Ten Co-Champions after posting conference records of 15-9.

GO ILLINI !!!!  .... Monte

May 20, 2011

Taxpayers Subsidize Big Oil, World's Most Profitable Industry | Truthout

Friday 20 May 2011
by: Rinaldo Brutoco and Madeleine Austin,
World Business Academy

The US Senate couldn't muster the votes to end $2 billion a year in taxpayer subsidies for the five biggest US oil companies. The House had already voted to block efforts to repeal tax breaks for Big Oil, in sharp contrast to its vote to strip tax credits for small business health insurance.

The Congressional votes create a strong contrast between the US and other countries, including Germany, China, the Scandinavian countries, and most recently, Japan, who are leading the way to a new planetary fuel system that will replace oil and nuclear energy with renewable energy. In response to its nuclear disaster, Japan has renounced its plans to build new nuclear plants and announced it will redo its energy system "from scratch." Germany is using the Fukushima disaster as an opportunity to curtail nuclear power and boost its strong clean technology export sector. Other countries have curtailed or suspended their nuclear plans. But the United States, once a leader in science and technology that beat other countries to the moon, remains controlled by money politics, Big Oil, and climate deniers.

The oil industry is the most profitable industry in the world. US oil companies earn about $3 billion in profits every week, yet get $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies every year. In the first quarter of 2011, Big Oil's profits were up 38% from the first quarter of 2010.

The industry's outsize profits didn't stop it from squealing like a stuck pig over proposals to trim $2 billion from its annual subsidies and use the revenue to reduce the deficit by about $21 billion over 10 years.
The oil companies tried to characterize the end of their subsidies as a "tax hike," despite growing and widespread recognition across the political spectrum that tax breaks are just another form of government spending, one of several ways to provide direct support for an industry. Before becoming Speaker, John Boehner (R-Ohio) admitted that "tax deductions, credits, and special carve-outs . . . what Washington sometimes calls tax cuts are really just poorly disguised spending programs …."

As a recent Washington Post editorial about such "tax expenditures" pointed out, "an astonishing amount of "spending"—more than $1 trillion annually—is accomplished through the tax code, by way of tax credits or deductions. But there is little conceptual difference between billions spent to directly subsidize particular programs and billions spent indirectly in tax preferences. Either way, it's money the government does not have, and that adds to the deficit."

The Senators who opposed ending the oil subsidies received 5 times more in campaign cash from the oil industry during their time in Congress than the Senators who favored ending the subsidies (on average, $370,664 versus $72,145), according to an Oil Change International and Public Campaign Action Fund analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Who’s benefitting from the US oil industry's taxpayer subsidies? Certainly the oil companies' CEOs. Last year the CEO of Occidental Petroleum, the 4th largest US oil and gas company based on market capitalization, was near the top of a list of the median pay for top executives at 200 major companies. Occidental's CEO took home $76.1 million, up 142% from the year before, despite a majority "no" vote by shareholders on his pay package.

Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson earned $21.7 million in 2009—12 times more than the $1.8 million earned last year by the CEO of the Norwegian energy company Statoil, which is 2/3 owned by the Norwegian government. Tillerson’s pay was "more than double the combined $8.3 million that Statoil paid its nine top executives in 2010." [The comparisons are based on the most recent pay figures available.]

The average American pays a higher income tax rate than ExxonMobil, which is the most profitable Fortune 500 company for the 8th year in a row.

The Senate plans to have another go at the taxpayer subsidies later this year. Sign the Friends of the Earth petition and tell your Senators to "End the giveaway to Big Oil."

You know the system is broke when this BS takes place... got to vote them out until we get enough to reform the pay to play system... Monte

Farming With Nature - Permaculture with Sepp Holzer

This is a clip from the film "Farming With Nature" about permaculture farmer Sepp Holzer. We went to film Sepp Holzer for about 2,5 years. He created an edible landscape on 1500 m above sea level. Between the pinetree monocultures of Austria he built the biggest functioning permaculture landscape of Europe.  full length film

China warns of 'urgent problems' facing Three Gorges dam | Environment | The Guardian

Water being released from the Three Gorges Dam in central China's Hubei province. The state council has admitted the dam is creating a legacy of major environmental and social problems. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The Three Gorges dam, the flagship of China's massive hydroengineering ambitions, faces "urgent problems", the government has warned.

In a statement approved by prime minister Wen Jiabao, the state council said the dam had pressing geological, human and ecological problems. The report also acknowledged for the first time the negative impact the dam has had on downstream river transport and water supplies.

Since the start of construction in 1992 about 16m tonnes of concrete have been poured into the giant barrier across the Yangtze river, creating a reservoir that stretches almost the length of Britain and drives 26 giant turbines.

The world's biggest hydropower plant boasts a total generating capacity of 18,200MW and the ability to help tame the floods that threaten the Yangtze delta each summer.

But it has proved expensive and controversial due to the rehousing of 1.4 million people and the flooding of more than 1,000 towns and villages. Pollution, silt and landslides have plagued the reservoir area. Given the 254bn yuan (£24bn) cost and political prestige at stake, the government focused for many years on the dam's achievements and attempted to stifle domestic criticism of the project. But its public analysis has become increasingly sober.

A statement on the government's website read: "At the same time that the Three Gorges project provides huge comprehensive benefits, urgent problems must be resolved regarding the smooth relocation of residents, ecological protection and geological disaster prevention."

There were few specifics but China's cabinet, the state council, admitted several problems had not been foreseen.

"Problems emerged at various stages of project planning and construction but could not be solved immediately, and some arose because of increased demands brought on by economic and social development," the statement said.

Since the 1.5 mile barrier was completed in 2006 the reservoir has been plagued by algae and pollution that would previously have been flushed away.

The weight of the extra water has also been blamed for tremors, landslides and erosion of slopes.

To ease these threats the government said last year many more people may have to be relocated. This week it promised to establish disaster warning systems, reinforce riverbanks, boost funding for environmental protection and improve benefits for the displaced.

This is not the first warning. Four years ago the state media quoted government experts who said: "There are many new and old hidden ecological and environmental dangers concerning the Three Gorges dam. If preventive measures are not taken the project could lead to a catastrophe."

Last year, site engineers recommended an additional movement of hundreds of thousands of nearby residents and more investment in restoring the ecosystem.

The government has already raised its budget for water treatment plants but opponents of the dam say this is not enough. "The government built a dam but destroyed a river," said Dai Qing, a longtime critic of the project. "No matter how much effort the government makes to ease the risks, it is infinitesimal. The state council is spending more money on the project rather than investigating fully. I cannot see a real willingness to solve the problem."

The timing of the statement – as the government prepares to flesh out the details of its latest five-year plan – has prompted speculation of a possible push back against hydropower interests.

Peter Bosshard of International Rivers said: "While powerful factions within the government are pushing for the rapid expansion of hydropower projects, others are warning of the social and environmental cost of large dams and the geological risks of building such projects in seismically active regions.

"By highlighting the unresolved problems of the Three Gorges dam now, Premier Wen Jiabao, who has stopped destructive projects in the past, may be sending a shot across the bow of a zealous hydropower lobby which would be only too happy to forget about the lessons of the past."

The frank assessment of the challenges posed and benefits offered by the dam came amid growing concerns about a drought on the middle stretches of the Yangtze. This has left 1,392 reservoirs in Hubei with only "dead water" and has affected the drinking supplies of more than 300,000 people.

Chinese media reported this month that the Yangtze water levels near Wuhan hit their lowest point since the dam went into operation in 2003. Long stretches have apparently been closed to water traffic after hundreds of boats ran aground in the shallows.

There have been claims that the Three Gorges plant has exacerbated the problem by holding back water for electricity generation, but operators claim they have alleviated the problem by releasing 400m cubic metres of water from the reservoir. As a result the levels have fallen below 156 metres – the amount needed for optimum power generation.

A New Wall Street Investigation: Is the Hammer Finally Coming Down? | Rolling Stone Politics | Taibblog | Matt Taibbi on Politics and the Economy

Eric Schneiderman speaks to supporters on election night at the Sheraton New York November 2, 2010 in New York City.
Michael Nagle/Getty Images

Got a chance to meet Josh Rosner (co-author, with Times reporter Gretchen Morgenson, of the new book Reckless Endangerment) last night during an appearance on Eliot Spitzer’s In the Arena.We were brought in to talk about the new investigation of the banks that apparently is being launched by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, which looks like Countrywide and New Century first created huge masses of bad loans, committing every conceivable kind of fraud to get people into loans (from doctoring income statements with white-out to phonying FICO scores to engineering fake appraisals). They then moved the bad loans quickly to the big banks, which pooled them and chopped them up (this is the “securitization” process), sprinkled hocus-pocus math on them, and them sold them to suckers around the world as AAA-rated securities.
The questions Schneiderman will seek to answer are these: did the banks securitize loans they knew were fraudulent, throwing the rotten mortgages into the stew before serving them to customers? Did they also commit insurance fraud by duping the bond insurers (known as “monoline” insurers) into thinking the mortgages were not as risky as they really were? And did they participate in the fraud scheme on a more basic level by lending huge amounts of money to the Countrywides of the world, knowing that they in turn would immediately use that money to create the bad loans? In other words, did the banks financethe fraud in addition to brokering it?

The reason this is such a potentially deadly investigation for the banks is that they seemed to be so close to getting away scot free. There is another investigation into the banks’ mortgage abuses by the states’ Attorneys General, led by Iowa AG Tom Miller, that was rumored to be headed toward a settlement, despite the fact that nothing like a complete investigation has been done. The expectation for some time has been that the banks would eventually have to pay a significant, but eminently survivable, settlement for abuses during the bubble era. Although the Miller probe was focused on practices like robo-signing and other such documentation abuses, it could theoretically have covered securitization as well.

But if the AGs were to sign off on a friendly global settlement for mortgage abuses prematurely, it would be like a DA offering a millionaire murderer a 2-year plea bargain before the cops even had a chance to interview all the eyewitnesses. It would be a blatantly political arrangement. Such a desire to get some kind of deal done and sweep the mortgage mess under the rug once and for all seems almost universal among high-ranking politicians, and particularly in the Obama administration, which has acted throughout like it wants more than anything to simply get all of this over with and put in the past.

Schneiderman’s investigation throws a monkey wrench into all of this. The banks cannot enter into a settlement with 49 states. They need all 50 at the table. But if Schneiderman breaks ranks and goes off on an end-run investigation that plunges right into the rotten core of the fraud era, then the whole pipe dream of an easy settlement vanishes in an instant. This is particularly true since Schneiderman is the most important AG, being from the state of New York, where most of the crime was probably committed.

The amount of money investors lost in this fraud scheme is probably gigantic. The ill-gotten money the banks made off that same fraud is probably similarly huge. And the damage to society, in the form of mass foreclosures and other losses, is incalculable. If the banks end up being found liable for all of these offenses, they could face truly crippling fines and penalties. This goes far beyond the question of whether one bank like Goldman defrauded a client or two or lied to investigators. This probe could be asking whether the banks’ entire revenue model during the crisis years was based on fraud.

Everything I’ve heard so far indicates that Schneiderman’s investigation is not a publicity stunt and is an in-earnest attempt to get to the bottom of things. Which is cool. As Terrell Owens would say, Getcha Popcorn Ready!

May 19, 2011

One Lawman With the Guts to Go After Wall Street | Truthout

Thursday 19 May 2011
by: Robert Scheer, Truthdig

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman during a joint press conference in New York, November 12, 2010. (Photo: Todd Heisler / The New York Times)

The fix was in to let the Wall Street scoundrels off the hook for the enormous damage they caused in creating the Great Recession. All of the leading politicians and officials, federal and state, Republican and Democrat, were on board to complete the job of saving the banks while ignoring their victims ... until last week when the attorney general of New York refused to go along.

Eric Schneiderman will probably fail, as did his predecessors in that job; the honest sheriff doesn’t last long in a town that houses the Wall Street casino. But decent folks should be cheering him on. Despite a mountain of evidence of robo-signed mortgage contracts, deceitful mortgage-based securities and fraudulent foreclosures, the banks were going to be able to cut their potential losses to what was, for them, a minuscule amount.

In a deal that had the blessing of the White House and many federal regulators and state attorneys general—a settlement probably for not much more than the $5 billion pittance the top financial institutions found acceptable—the banks would be freed of any further claims by federal and state officials over their shady mortgage packaging and servicing practices and deceptive foreclosure proceedings.

At the same time, the SEC and other federal regulatory bodies are making sweetheart deals with the bankers to close off accountability for creating and collecting on more than a trillion dollars’ worth of toxic mortgage-based securities at the heart of the nation’s economic meltdown—a meltdown that has seen the national debt grow by more than 50 percent, stuck us with an unyielding 9 percent unemployment and left 50 million Americans losing their homes to foreclosure or clinging desperately to underwater mortgages. On top of which an all-time high of 44 million people are living below the official poverty line and fewer new homes were started in April than at any other time in the past half century. With housing values still in free fall, we continue to make the bankers whole.

As Gretchen Morgenson reported in The New York Times, the Justice Department division responsible for checking for fraud in the bankruptcy system has found a widespread pattern of deception by banks foreclosing homes, and she concluded: “So an authoritative source with access to a lot of data has identified industry practices as not only pernicious but also pervasive. Which makes it all the more mystifying that regulators seem eager to strike a cheap and easy settlement with the banks.” Not really surprising given both the enormous hold of Wall Street money over the two major political parties and the revolving door through which executives travel between firms like Goldman Sachs and the top positions in the U.S. Treasury Department and elsewhere in the government. The financial crisis occurred only because Republicans and Democrats passed the laws that Wall Street lobbyists wrote ending reasonable banking industry regulation installed in the 1930s in response to the Depression. And when the greed they enabled threatened the foundations of our economy, under Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, it was the bankers who were assisted into lifeboats that had no room for ordinary people.

Not surprising then to find all of the power players in on the latest deals: the Obama administration that had bailed out the banks but not troubled homeowners; the regulators and Fed officials who all looked the other way when the housing bubble was inflated; and the state attorneys general who backed away from going after the perpetrators of robo-signed mortgages and other scams used to foreclose homes.

But now Schneiderman has a chance to derail the deals, given that he is supported by the state’s tough 1921 Martin Act, which one of his predecessors as New York state attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, had used to good advantage in exposing the financial behemoths that are so heavily based in New York. The Wall Street Journal describes the Martin Act as “one of the most potent prosecutorial tools against financial fraud” because, as opposed to federal law, it doesn’t carry the more difficult standard of proving intent to defraud.

Last week, it was revealed that Schneiderman’s office has demanded an accounting from Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs as to the details of their past practice of securitizing those mortgage-based packages that proved so toxic. Maybe he will fail against such powerful forces, as did Spitzer and later Andrew Cuomo, but it is a test worth watching, since no one else, from the White House on down, seems to be concerned with holding the bailed-out banks accountable for the massive pain and suffering they inflicted on the public.

A video history of America's mighty forests

Sit back and enjoy this delightful video mini-history (with a beautiful musical soundtrack) of America's forests from Colonial discovery through the 20th century, courtesy of Lee Tigner, the craftsman at

Love the music and the topic!...Show expanded to full screen... Monte

Introduction to Biochar iCans for Educators

cover image.jpg
Basic natural draft pyrolysis and biochar with simple iCan stoves.

What can I do with one can?

I can make a stove I can cook a meal I can make biochar I can be carbon negative I can start to change the world

That’s why I call these stoves iCans

iCans for Educators 1.pdf

As it is my view that it is better to teach a person about pyrolysis and how to build their own stoves than to sell them a stove, I have created this short introduction to iCan stoves for educators.

The materials presented in the PDF are only intended as a guide to creating open source, hands on, teaching tools and to support curriculum material developed by others. Educators who went to high school in the 1960s may see some relationship to the excellent hands on teaching promoted by the PSSC Physics materials. I fondly remember ripple tanks and frictionless pucks amongst other hands on teaching tools.

For more on why pyrolysis and carbon negative solutions are critical, please read this article on “The risk of ocean death from CO2.”

See also: A Summary for Policymakers from the Second Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World

Bob Wells’ excellent A Letter from the Field.pdf is well worth reading.

From Cornell University: Biochar: An Ancient Solution for a Modern Problem

For more on why clean burning stoves are necessary, but not sufficient, please see the comment below.

This work is covered by CreativeCommons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

“Biochar” More Effective, Cheaper at Removing Phosphate from Water

biochar Phosphate poses one of Florida’s ongoing water-quality challenges. A process developed by University of Florida researchers using partially burned organic matter called biochar could provide an affordable solution, however. The process also yields methane gas usable as fuel and phosphate-laden carbon suitable for enriching soil. Phosphate is used to make fertilizers, pesticides, and detergents. Florida produces about one-quarter of the world’s phosphate, and its surface waters sometimes contain large amounts. Because the chemical can spur algae growth, it has caused water-quality concerns in some communities. Some water treatment plants filter phosphate from wastewater, but existing methods have drawbacks such as high cost, low efficiency, and hazardous byproducts. A laboratory study demonstrating the effectiveness of biochar for phosphate removal is published in the current issue of the journal Bioresource Technology. Bin Gao and Pratap Pullammanappallil, assistant professors in University of Florida’s agricultural and biological engineering department, say that crop wastes could provide raw material for the biochar. The study involved beet tailings, which are culled beets, scraps, and weeds removed from shipments of sugar beets destined for processing to make sugar. In the United States, sugar beets are grown primarily in the Northeast and upper Midwest, but the technology can be adapted to other materials. “It’s really sustainable,” Gao said. “We will see if it can be commercialized.” The researchers collected solid residues left after beet tailings and fermented them in an anaerobic digester, which yields methane gas. The material was baked at about 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit to make biochar. The biochar was added to a water-and-phosphate solution and mixed for 24 hours. It removed about three-quarters of the phosphate, which was much better than that removed by other compounds, including commercial water-treatment materials. The phosphate-laden biochar can also be applied directly to soils as a slow-release fertilizer. The research team plans to investigate whether biochar could remove nitrogen from wastewater, as nitrogen can also stimulate algae growth in surface water. They have also been testing the potential for biochar to purify water of heavy metals including lead and copper. Perhaps the biggest challenge the researchers face is making biomass technology more cost-effective. Pullammanappallil recently helped design, build and operate an anaerobic digester at an American Crystal Sugar Company facility in Moorhead, Minn. The digester processed beet tailings like those used in the study, and worked well according to Dave Malmskog, the company’s business development director at Moorhead. The university has filed a patent application for the phosphate-removal process andwastewater treatment facility representatives have shown interest in the technology.

Why Do Americans Continue to Deny Climate Change?

Complete video at: Journalist Mark Hertsgaard argues the United States is the only advanced industrial nation that continues to debate the existence of climate change. Though climate change skeptics only represent a minority of the country, Hertsgaard says their megaphone is large. He compares them to tobacco industry lobbyists who once rejected evidence that smoking causes cancer.

----- Healy Hamilton, the director of the Center for Applied Biodiversity Informatics at the California Academy of Sciences, talks with freelance science journalist Mark Hertsgaard about his latest book, Hot: Living Through the Next 50 Years on Earth. Mark Hertsgaard is the author of five books that have been translated into sixteen languages, including Earth Odyssey: Around the World In Search of Our Environmental Future and On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency. A correspondent for Link TV and The Nation and L'espresso magazines, he has written for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Time, The Guardian, Die Zeit and other leading publications around the world. His next book is called, Hot: Living Through the Storm: Surviving the Next 50 Years of Global Warming. Dr. Healy Hamilton heads the Center for Biodiversity Research and Information at the California Academy of Sciences, and serves as adjunct professor in the Department of Geography at San Francisco State University.

May 16, 2011

Conservations with Great Minds - Economist Richard Wolff

Thom Hartmann is joined by an economist Richard Wolff whose many books and more than four decades of teaching have focused on Marxian economics, economic methodology and class analysis. He is professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst and is currently a visiting professor in the Graduate Program of International Affairs at the New School University in New York City. His latest book is Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It.

Part 1

Part 2 - Mondragon_Corporation
Mondragon Corporation

MONDRAGON Corporation - 2010 - English - Ingl├ęs - Anglais - Englisch - Ingelesa from MONDRAGON Corporation on Vimeo.

Learn what Capitalism is...
Learn what Libertarianism is...
Learn what Modern Marxian Economics is...

Keep an open mind and listen ... well worth the time to view ... Monte

Introduction to Permaculture: An 18-Part YouTube Series

Introduction to Permaculture: An 18-Part YouTube Series
Overview – The Trailer: Samples from the Series
“The Case for Permaculture”
by Bill Wilson of
Midwest Permaculture

Total Running Time Approx. 1hr, 30min.
The information in these videos is also a part of :
Foundations of Permaculture Webinar Series
Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) Courses
“Essential Permaculture” Weekend Training

Outstanding!... Monte

May 15, 2011

Official Google Blog: A new kind of computer: Chromebook

A little less than two years ago we set out to make computers much better. Today, we’re announcing the first Chromebooks from our partners, Samsung and Acer. These are not typical notebooks. With a Chromebook you won’t wait minutes for your computer to boot and browser to start. You’ll be reading your email in seconds. Thanks to automatic updates the software on your Chromebook will get faster over time.

Your apps, games, photos, music, movies and documents will be accessible wherever you are and you won't need to worry about losing your computer or forgetting to back up files. Chromebooks will last a day of use on a single charge, so you don’t need to carry a power cord everywhere. And with optional 3G, just like your phone, you’ll have the web when you need it. Chromebooks have many layers of security built in so there is no anti-virus software to buy and maintain. Even more importantly, you won't spend hours fighting your computer to set it up and keep it up to date.

At the core of each Chromebook is the Chrome web browser. The web has millions of applications and billions of users. Trying a new application or sharing it with friends is as easy as clicking a link. A world of information can be searched instantly and developers can embed and mash-up applications to create new products and services. The web is on just about every computing device made, from phones to TVs, and has the broadest reach of any platform. With HTML5 and other open standards, web applications will soon be able to do anything traditional applications can do, and more.

Chromebooks will be available online June 15 in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Spain. More countries will follow in the coming months. In the U.S., Chromebooks will be available from Amazon and Best Buy and internationally from leading retailers. Even with dedicated IT departments, businesses and schools struggle with the same complex, costly and insecure computers as the rest of us.

To address this, we’re also announcing Chromebooks for Business and Education. This service from Google includes Chromebooks and a cloud management console to remotely administer and manage users, devices, applications and policies. Also included is enterprise-level support, device warranties and replacements as well as regular hardware refreshes. Monthly subscriptions will start at $28/user for businesses and $20/user for schools. There are over 160 million active users of Chrome today. Chromebooks bring you all of Chrome's speed, simplicity and security without the headaches of operating systems designed 20 to 30 years ago. We're very proud of what the Chrome team along with our partners have built, and with seamless updates, it will just keep getting better. For more details please visit