UK Debt Is Actually £100 Billion Higher Than We Thought, Official Stats Body To Say

Courtesy of Huff Po:

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George Osborne’s austerity message is set to be dented by the government’s own statistics body, as it prepares to adopt new calculations that mean the UK’s public sector debt will be £100 billion greater than estimated.

The Office for National Statistics will bring in the new calculation this autumn as part of sweeping changes that include estimating illegal activities like prostitution and drug dealing as worth £10 billion to the country’s national wealth.

The UK’s debt will effectively increase from well over £1 trillion by more than £100 billion, or 7.3% of GDP, as the ONS attempts to improve its accounting standards changes introduced by the US, Canada and Australia.

The ONS will bring Network Rail’s debt onto the UK’s books and also stop classifying the state’s stakes in the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds as liquid assets that can be sold off quickly.

But in good news for the coalition, the ONS will give the UK’s GDP a boost of up to 5% (£75 billion) by reclassifying research and development as capital spending rather than a cost of production Continue reading

IPCC climate change report: averting catastrophe is eminently affordable

For those people that choose growth over the sustainability of our planet for future generations are malevolent fools. Not only do we need to look at renewables but alternative energies need to be sought and government black projects need to released to the public. Courtesy of Damien Carrington @ The Guardian:

Catastrophic climate change can be averted without sacrificing living standards, according to a landmark UN report published on Sunday. It concludes the transformation required to a world of clean energy and the ditching of dirty fossil fuels is eminently affordable.

The authoritative report, produced by 1250 international experts and approved by 194 governments, dismisses fears that slashing carbon emissions would wreck the world economy. It is the final part of a definitive trilogy that has already shown that climate change is “unequivocally” caused by humans and that, unchecked, it poses a grave threat to people and could lead to lead to wars and mass migration.

Diverting hundred of billions of dollars from fossil fuels into renewable energy and cutting energy waste would shave just 0.06% off expected annual economic growth rates of 1.3%-3%, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report concluded. Furthermore, the analysis did not include the benefits of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which could outweigh the costs. The benefits include reducing air pollution, which plagues China and recently hit the UK, and improved energy security, which is currently at risk in eastern Europe after the actions of major gas-producer Russia in Ukraine.

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The new IPCC report warns that carbon emissions have soared in the last decade and are now growing at almost double the previous rate. But its comprehensive analysis found rapid action can can still limit global warming to 2C, the internationally agreed safety limit, if low-carbon energy triples or quadruples by 2050.

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Thank Heaven For Gold Manipulators

Courtesy of Antal E Fekete @ Professor Fekete.com and as ever, he has a point:

This rejoinder was prompted by the Daily Bell interview with Bill Murphy of GATA (March 30, 2014).

I shall accept, for the sake of argument, Murphy’s premise that the dollar price of gold is heavily manipulated by the U.S. government in order to keep it in check. But while Murphy thinks that it is a great curse I shall argue, tongue in cheek, that it is a blessing in disguise. The difference between Murphy’s thinking and mine is the difference in financial survival strategies in the face of the U.S. government’s deliberate policy of destroying the dollar and, along with it, the savings and pension rights of people, to say nothing about destroying the world economy.

Apparently Murphy believes that there is only one reasonable investment strategy in gold, namely, buy and hold in the hope of huge capital gains. However, this strategy turns people into sitting ducks for the manipulators. They engineer violent changes in the dollar price of gold. They squeeze holders. They make them buy high and sell low. In a sense, people fall victim to their own faulty understanding of gold. True understanding makes a distinction between the price and the value of gold. The latter is constant (to the extent there are constants in human affairs); the former is the reciprocal of the wobbly value of the irredeemable dollar. When the dollar is down and falling, the gold price is up and rising, and conversely. The mistake most gold bugs make is that they identify the value of gold with its price. No wonder they fall victim to the manipulators’ tactics and consequently get separated from their gold, sometimes with severe losses. No wonder they consider manipulation a curse, even a criminal activity, and try to use legal means to stop it. That’s what GATA is about. Needless to say, this effort is an exercise in futility. It makes manipulation more pervasive, not less. The manipulators are emboldened by the success of their own tactics. Gold bugs get frustrated. Continue reading

Tiny particles may pose big risk

Courtesy of Anne Trufton @ MIT News:

Thousands of consumer products — including cosmetics, sunscreens, and clothing — contain nanoparticles added by manufacturers to improve texture, kill microbes, or enhance shelf life, among other purposes. However, several studies have shown that some of these engineered nanoparticles can be toxic to cells.

A new study from MIT and the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) suggests that certain nanoparticles can also harm DNA. This research was led by Bevin Engelward, a professor of biological engineering at MIT, and associate professor Philip Demokritou, director of HSPH’s Center for Nanotechnology and Nanotoxicology.

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The researchers found that zinc oxide nanoparticles, often used in sunscreen to block ultraviolet rays, significantly damage DNA. Nanoscale silver, which has been added to toys, toothpaste, clothing, and other products for its antimicrobial properties, also produces substantial DNA damage, they found.
The findings, published in a recent issue of the journal ACS Nano, relied on a high-speed screening technology to analyze DNA damage. This approach makes it possible to study nanoparticles’ potential hazards at a much faster rate and larger scale than previously possible. Continue reading

Personal independence payments are a punishment of the poor and ill

Social cleansing from the Tories and courtesy of The Guardian:

She calls it: “Heartbreaking, truly astonishing, I’ve never seen anything like this.” Emma Cross is a senior Macmillan Cancer Support benefits adviser, and she says delays in Iain Duncan Smith’s new personal independence payments (PIP) leave the sick utterly destitute. “Does anyone know how many people are struggling?”

Macmillan’s mountain of PIP cases includes a mother being treated with chemotherapy for bowel cancer, whose operation left her with a colostomy bag. She gave up work and, with no other family to help, her husband gave up his job to care for her and their two-year-old child, taking her to frequent hospital appointments. They claimed PIP last September – and they have heard nothing since. No-one answers queries, lost in the gigantic backlog.

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Until registered for PIP, which pays from £21-£134 a week, they can’t claim other crucial benefits: carers allowance, severe disability premium, escape from the bedroom tax, a bus pass, taxi cards to get to hospital, or a heating grant (she feels intensely cold). With credit cards maxed out, they have no idea what they’re due as PIP has tougher criteria: if this woman can just about walk more than 20 metres, she may get nothing now for mobility. Macmillan says people in this backlog are missing chemo appointments for lack of a bus fare.

“I wish this couple were an exception,” says Emma Cross. “But this is happening to so many.”

PIP replaces the disability living allowance, which Duncan Smith cut by 20% and abolished for new claimants; old claimants are being moved over. It used to pay out quickly, but PIP is an administrative calamity. The public accounts committee (PAC) queried why Atos won the contract to run it with its record of failure: Sue Marsh’s latest Spartacus report says 43% of appeals against DWP decisions based on Atos tests for employment support allowance are upheld. Margaret Hodge, the PAC chair, unearthed Atos’s tender for the PIP contract and found it had been “grossly misleading”, pretending to have hundreds of test centres inside hospitals, when in reality it had very few. Continue reading

And The Next Big Thing Is… Degrowth?

Courtesy of Charles Hugh Smith @ Of Two Minds:

This is not doom-and-gloom for society–it is only doom-and-gloom for the current unsustainable arrangement (Plan A).

The Grand Narrative of the past few centuries goes something like this: from religious authority to secular authority, from agriculture to industrial, from rural to urban, from local to global, from periphery to center, from decentralized to centralized, from low-density energy to high-density energy (from wood to coal to oil/natural gas), from industrial to communication technology, from gold to fiat currencies, from linear to non-linear (complex/fractal), from local scarcity and high cost to global abundance, from islands of prosperity to continents of prosperity, from cash to credit, from collateral to leverage,from productive to consumerist and from sustainable to unsustainable.

Many of these linear trends are running out of oxygen or reversing. Rigid hierarchies are being disrupted by self-organizing systems, centralization is being disrupted by decentralization, lower density alternative energy is distributed rather than concentrated, commodity costs are rising globally due to demand outstripping supply and leveraged credit is destabilizing financial systems across the globe.

In the past few decades, the growth narrative has depended on “the Next Big Thing” –the new disruptive technology that drives wealth and job creation.

In the early 20th century, the next big things were plentiful, and they clustered around transport and communication: autos, highways, aircraft, radio, telephony and most recently the Internet.

The progress of technologies tends to track an S-Curve, with a slow gestation (experimentation that drives rapid evolution of innovations), a period of widespread adoption and technological leaps, and then a maturation phase in which advancements are refinements rather than leaps.

Air travel is a good example: the leap from open-cockpit aircraft of the 1910s to the long-distance comfort of the DC-3 in the 1930s was enormous, as was the leap from the prop-driven DC-3 to the greater capacity and speed of the 707 jet airliner.

But since the advent of the Boeing 727 in 1964 and the jumbo-jet 747 in 1969, very little about the passenger experience of flight has changed (or has changed for the worse): the envelope of speed is little changed, and efficiency has improved, but these are mostly invisible to the passengers.

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Swedes to give six-hour workday a go

Courtesy of The Local:

Municipal staff in Gothenburg will act as guinea pigs in a proposed push for six-hour workdays with full pay, with hopes that it will cut down on sick leave, boost efficiency, and ultimately save Sweden money.

“We think it’s time to give this a real shot in Sweden,” Mats Pilhem, Left Party deputy mayor of Gothenburg, told The Local.

He explained that the municipal council would use two different departments – a test group and a control group, in essence. Staff in one section will cut down to six-hour days, while their colleagues in a different section stick to the ordinary seven-hour day. All employees will be given the same pay.

“We’ll compare the two afterwards and see how they differ. We hope to get the staff members taking fewer sick days and feeling better mentally and physically after they’ve worked shorter days,” he said.

Pilhelm said he hoped the move would create more jobs, as he had seen evidence that longer shifts entailed less efficiency. In some sectors, such as elderly care, the problem was not staff shortages, he claimed, but people working inefficiently over longer shifts.

He added that a Gothenburg car factory had recently tested the six-hour method and the results were encouraging. Continue reading