Dec 10

Posted by Samuel Phineas Upham

Have you ever wondered when and why we started raising fish in farms?  The article “Aquaculture’s Troubled Harvest,” by Bruce Barcott is all about the Aquaculture industry; how it started, why it’s booming, and why so many fisherman and environmentalists want it to stop.

According to the article, while Aquaculture seems to have many benefits, it ends up making a mess of the environment. Barcott follows the story of one area that has been negatively affected by fish farming: the Broughton Archipelago, Canadian islands and home of “one of the richest pockets of biodiversity on the North American coast.” Due to fish farming in the area, the killer whales have been driven out, shrimp fishermen started to pull out traps full of “farm muck,” and wild salmon began to contract a fatal disease they caught from the farmed fish. And the problems don’t end there.

However, despite its problems, the writer suggests that, “aquaculture is not going away.” “We’re eating more fish even as the oceans and rivers run dry.”

Read the entire article:

Sep 3

It doesn’t matter whether it is the current President Barak Obama or the Republican challenger Mitt Romney who will win the White House, next year going to be a tough year for the U.S. Main drag of the economy will be low growth, high unemployment, and the national debt.

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the U.S. estimated to grow only 2.1 percent in 2013. Earlier estimates called for approximately 2.5 percent growth. The existing tax breaks are due to expire at the end of 2012 and $600 billion dollar tax hikes and mandatory spending cuts due to start in 2013. Some estimates that the impending “fiscal cliff” will cause the GDP to go down by about another four percentage points causing a negative GDP growth for 2013.

As of August 2012, the U.S. unemployment rate is 8.1 percent. Historically, the average unemployment rate from 1948 to 2012 is 5.79 percent with an all-time low of 2.5 percent in May 1953.

The ratio of national debt to GDP in the early 1980s was approximately 50 percent and today it is nearly 90 percent. The savings rate of approximately 10 percent in the past has gone down to about 4.2 percent.

Jun 7

Unemployment benefits in the U.S. are a collaborative payment system by the Federal and state governments to compensative income for those who lost their employment. All 50 state as well as the District of Columbia, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico implements the unemployment insurance. The Social Security Act of 1935 encouraged all states and territories to establish the current unemployment benefits system through insurance.

The current program provides benefits up to 99 weeks for those out of work employees and the benefits will expire at the end of the specified period. Each state decides the length of time of benefits subject to Federal guidelines. As a result, most states now provide benefits only for 26 weeks and extended benefits may kick in at the end of the initial period. States also set the maximum amount of benefits which is paid on weekly basis.

Expiration of benefits not only impact individuals who received it but also widespread economic impacts due to reduce consumption, credit constrains, reduce demand and additional layoffs. Some argue that benefits encourage the unemployed to stay on benefits for the longest possible time.

Unemployment benefits are included as income for the beneficiary and therefore, taxable under the Internal Revenue Code.

May 17

There was no clear winner at the May 6, 2012 Greek parliamentary election. The pro- and anti-austerity measures deeply divided the country as seen in election results. The conservative New Democracy Party came on top of the field; however, did not receive a clear majority to form a new government. The top three groups based on the election results tried for several weeks to form a coalition government but were unable to do so.

According to the Greek constitution, in the event of a political deadlock, the top judge take over the government until fresh elections are held. The President Karolos Papoulias appointed top judge of the country, Mr. Panagiotis Pikrammenos as the caretaker Prime Minister on Thursday, May 17, 2012. He selected a cabinet of veteran economists, diplomats and academics.

New parliamentary elections are scheduled for June 17, 2012. Austerity measures imposed by the European Union once again will dominate the upcoming election. The Greek economy is in life support thanks to a $170 billion bailout package received from the EU and the World Bank with very strict conditions. Continuation of the loan requires compliance with the strict austerity measures agreed by the previous government. Greeks are in favor of exiting the EU currency.

Feb 18

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, 58 year old son of a revolutionary war hero, just concluded his five day tour of the U.S. He met with President Barack Obama and other leaders in Washington D.C., toured Midwest and California with Vice President Joe Biden. Xi, who is fond of U.S. movies and basketball, attended the fourth quarter of the Laker basketball game in Los Angeles on Friday, February 17, 2012 without a tie. This indicates his easy going style.

The importance of his visit is that he is scheduled to assume the presidency in China in less than a year from now. The transition of power expected to be smooth without riots in the streets of China or soldiers called out to streets. New leaders in China are best educated. Xi has a Ph. D. from a prestigious Chinese university. This is quite different from previous leaderships who were revolutionary leaders or Russian trained engineers.

His trip to U.S. was short on substance, but intended to be “get to know each other” kind of a tour. He toured farms in Iowa and met with state and local leaders as well as film industry executives in Los Angeles.

Apr 2

If the Republicans and Democrats do not reach an agreement about spending by Friday, April 11, 2011, there is no doubt that this will culminate in a government shutdown sooner rather later. Some experts believe that this is not about the disagreements about spending but actually about unrealistic ideological demands that the Republicans have been wanting for a long time now.

Most of these are associated with three things: healthcare, abortion and environmental protection which have little or nothing to do with our economy or the increase in number of jobs, and if that’s not enough, almost 800,000 federal workers will be unemployed, soldiers in the line of duty will not receive their paycheck and millions of Americans will have to wait to get tax refunds, small business loans and even Social Security applications approved.

Although, most people say that both sides have to be blamed for this debacle, the truth is that the Democrats (according to most experts) have actually given in much more than they should have since the $ 33 million that they have agreed to will take away vital aid from several important programs.

Despite the fact that Obama continues to urge both sides to discuss matters, most negotiators have revealed that the issues with spending was least likely on anyone’s minds. Since the Republicans cannot pass separate Bills on abortion and family planning, they are using the extortion approach to make a point.

And this is where most people are coming to the conclusion that it isn’t really about working in the best interests of the American people but are playing a dangerous game by being equally responsible for this imminent shutdown yet setting the Democrats up for the blame.

Dec 6

The United States of America, courtesy of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is playing on the belief that its Saudi Arabian ally is weak against putting a cap on terrorist fundraising activities in its own territory. This was reported on a cable featuring Clinton that was leaked by WikiLeaks and published in both the New York Times and The Guardian. Clinton says that it has been an unending problem for America that Saudi officials themselves fail to focus their policies on dealing with terrorist financial activities in the heart of Saudi Arabia.

Clinton also called out wealthy donors in the Arab country as the largest source of funds with which Sunni terrorists groups operate on a global scale. The secretary’s remarks were heard for the first time since the advent of WikiLeaks and their public disclosure of highly confidential government cables being exchanged in between embassies and consulates worldwide. As early as November 28, WikiLeaks has been releasing illegally obtained documents and government cables much to the dismay of the Obama administration.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange threatens to release up to 251,287 reports soon, as his latest exposures fuelled even more embarrassment on the part of Republicans in government. Quoting Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, Assange has inflicted a great blow to the nation and deserves prosecution to the highest extent by legal arms. After unending DoS (Denial of Service) attacks on WikiLeaks, Assange has resorted to switch domain names to keep his site operational. Meanwhile, Assange’s lawyer in the U.K. defends his client by giving hints on their possession of several, extremely sensitive documents.