|Chinese yuan a currency of the future|
|Thursday, 15 December 2011 16:15|
|THE year 2025 will see the Chinese economy overtake the US economy, though the average Chinese will still be four times poorer than the average American. The Chinese economy, however, will continue to power along as Latin America and Africa also continue to enlarge their share of Chinese imports and exports.
There is no doubt that, should China navigate its political landscape well, the yuan is the currency of the future. And more importantly Chinese banks might be willing to extend loans in this currency.
Perhaps this is what Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono means by suggesting that the prevailing multi-currency system be restructured by replacing the United States dollar with the Chinese yuan.
He might feel that with sufficient praise singing, the Chinese might settle our crippling US$7 billion debt to the West in exchange for a yuan-denominated one and other concessions on the raw material front.
From a Zanu PF perspective, it may be a way out of our inability to raise funds elsewhere. It has some merit; if only we were credible borrowers even in the eyes of the Chinese.
Eric Bloch’s article “No tothe Chinese yuan” (Zimbabwe Independent, December 9) against the yuan is more driven by emotion than by trends, over the last few decades, on the ground.
At the end of the day gold reserves in our own central bank are the fail-safe way of guarding the national savings for a rainy day. The rest of the currencies, as both Gono and Bloch agree, are just a casino.
Carriers Admit to Installing Hidden App
The cellphone spying saga is heating up.
On Friday, Rep. Ed Markey joined Sen. Al Franken in demanding answers  from Carrier IQ, the company that has worked with mobile carriers to install a hidden application that has the ability to secretly track nearly everything users do — including the keys they press, the numbers they dial and the websites they visit — on more than 140 million cellphones. Researcher Trevor Eckhart uncovered the secret app.
Rep. Ed Markey has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Carrier IQ.
News about the issue has spread like wildfire, and every tech blog worth its salt is on the case . Here are a few updates that have come in since we first dug into this issue Thursday:
AT&T and Sprint have admitted to installing Carrier IQ’s software on their phones .
The Wall Street Journal’s tech blog AllThingsD spoke to Larry Lenhart and Andrew Coward, Carrier IQ’s CEO and VP of marketing, whose carefully scripted responses left a lot to be desired. “The software receives a huge amount of information from the operating system,” Lenhart said. “But just because it receives it doesn’t mean that it’s being used to gather intelligence about the user or passed along to the carrier.” In other words, Carrier IQ has the ability to track nearly everything you’re doing, but it doesn’t necessarily do anything with all that info. Why should we trust this company to do the right thing?
Also of interest is how Lenhart and Coward passed the buck on to the carriers. They’re essentially saying, “We just provide the tools to spy on you. The carriers decide how they want to use them.”
HTC (the maker of the phone that Eckhart used to expose Carrier IQ) claims it doesn’t receive data from Carrier IQ. Nevertheless, HTC and Samsung got hit with a lawsuit claiming that, as others have suggested, the software violates laws against wiretapping ).
Free Press is continuing to press Congress and the Justice Department to investigate Carrier IQ .
People are tired of these unwarranted, unannounced intrusions into their online lives. As Sophos analyst Chester Wisniewski put it, “the community is becoming fed up with being spied upon, our personal lives and habits being invaded through secret programs and increasingly complicated and confusing privacy statements.”
Josh Levy is the Internet Campaign Director for Free Press and the Free Press Action Fund. He was formerly the managing editor of Change.org, a social action site, and was a frequent commentator on the use of technology in the 2008 election as associate editor of techPresident and the Personal Democracy Forum.
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Joel Mbithi (left), farm manager of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute’s Kiboko Research Station, and Yoseph Beyene, CIMMYT maize breeder, discuss experimental plots. They are developing drought tolerant top-cross hybrids as part of the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project. This is run by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) in partnership with Monsanto and CIMMYT, which supplies germplasm and expertise. (Photo: Anne Wangalachi/CIMMYT. )
“The World According to Monsanto,” a groundbreaking documentary on this insidious company’s massive influence, was a recent Truthout Progressive Pick of the Week. Get the DVD by making a donation of $30 or more to Truthout! 
Skimming the Agricultural Development section of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation web site  is a feel-good experience: African farmers smile in a bright slide show of images amid descriptions of the foundation’s fight against poverty and hunger. But biosafety activists in South Africa are calling a program funded by the Gates Foundation a “Trojan horse” to open the door for private agribusiness and genetically engineered (GE) seeds, including a drought-resistant corn that Monsanto hopes to have approved in the United States and abroad.
The Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) program  was launched in 2008 with a $47 million grant from mega-rich philanthropists Warrant Buffet  and Bill Gates. The program is supposed to help farmers in several African countries increase their yields with drought- and heat-tolerant corn varieties, but a report released last month by the African Centre for Biosafety  claims WEMA is threatening Africa’s food sovereignty and opening new markets for agribusiness giants like Monsanto.
The Gates Foundation claims that biotechnology, GE crops and Western agricultural methods are needed to feed the world’s growing population and programs like WEMA will help end poverty and hunger in the developing world. Critics say the foundation is using its billions to shape the global food agenda and the motivations behind WEMA were recently called into question when activists discovered  the Gates foundation had spent $27.6 million on 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock between April and June 2010.
Water shortages in parts of Africa and beyond have created a market for “climate ready” crops worth an estimated $2.7 billion. Leading biotech companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow are currently racing to develop crops that will grow in drought conditions caused by climate change, and by participating in the WEMA program, Monsanto is gaining a leg up by establishing new markets and regulatory approvals for its patented transgenes in five Sub-Saharan African countries, according to the Centre’s report.
Monsanto teamed up with BASF, another industrial giant, to donate technology and transgenes to WEMA and its partner organizations. Seed companies and researchers will receive the GE seed for free and small-scale farmers can plant the corn without making the royalty payments that Monsanto usually demands from farmers each season.
Monsanto is donating the seeds for now, but the company has a reputation for aggressively defending its patents. In the past, Monsanto has sued farmers for growing crops that cross-pollinated with Monsanto crops and became contaminated with the company’s patented genetic codes.
In 2009, Monsanto and BASF discovered a gene in a bacterium that is believed to help plants like corn survive on less water and soon the companies developed a corn seed know as MON 87460. It remains unclear if MON 87460 will out-compete conventional drought-tolerant hybrids, but the United States Department of Agriculture could approve  the corn for commercial use in the US as soon as July 11. Monsanto plans to make the seed available to American farmers by next year.
GE crops like MON 87460 can only be tested and sold in countries that, like the US, are friendly toward biotech agriculture. WEMA’s target areas could add five countries to that list: South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique. The Biosafety Centre reports that WEMA’s massive funding opportunities pressure politicians to pass weak biosafety laws and welcome GE crops and the agrichemical drenched growing systems that come with them. Field trials of MON 87460 and other drought-tolerant varieties are already underway in South Africa, where Monsanto already has considerablepolitical influence . Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are expected to begin field trials of WEMA corn varieties in 2011.
The agency that is implementing WEMA is the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), a pro-biotechnology group funded completely by the US government’s USAID program, the United Kingdom and the Buffet and Gates foundations. The AATF is a nonprofit charity that lobbies African governments and promotes partnerships between public groups and private companies to make agricultural technology available in Africa. The Biosafety Centre accuses the AATF of essentially being a front group for the US government, allowing USAID to “meddle” in African politics by promoting  weak biosafety regulation that makes it easier for American corporations to export biotechnology to African countries.
WEMA and AATF swim in a myriad alphabet soup  of NGOs and nonprofits propped up by Western nations and wealthy philanthropists that promote everything from fertilizer to food crops with enhanced nutritional content as solutions to world hunger. Together, these groups are promoting a Second Green Revolution  and sparking a worldwide debate over the future of food production. The Gates Foundation alone has committed $1.7 billion to the effort to date.
There was nothing “green” about the first Green Revolution of the 1950s and 1960s. As population skyrocketed during the last century, multinationals pushed Western agriculture’s fertilizers, irrigation, oil-thirsty machinery and pesticides on farmers in the developing world. Historians often point out that promoting industrial agriculture to keep developing countries well fed was crucial to the US effort to stop the spread of Soviet Communism.
The Second Green Revolution, which is focused on Africa, seeks to solve hunger problems with education, biotechnology, high-tech breeding, and other industrial agricultural methods popular in countries like the US, Brazil and Mexico.
Africa has landed in the center of a global food debate over a central question: with the world’s growing population expected to reach nine billion by 2045, how will farmers feed everyone, especially those in developing countries? The lines of the debate are drawn. The Second Green Revolutionaries are now facing off with activists and researchers who doubt the West’s petroleum and technology-based agricultural systems can sustainably feed the world.
The African Centre for Biosafety and its allies often point to a report recently released by IAASTD, a research group supported by the United Nations (UN), the World Health Organization, and others. IAASTD found that industrial agriculture has been successful in its goal of increasing crop yields worldwide, but has caused environmental degradation and deforestation that disproportionately affects small farmers and poorer nations. Widespread use of pesticides and fertilizer, for instance, cause dead zones in coastal areas. Massive irrigation projects now account for 70 percent of water withdrawal globally and approximately 1.6 billion people live in water-scarce basins.
Increasing crop yields is the bottom line for groups like the Gates Foundation, but the IAASTD recommends that sustainability should be the goal. The report does not rule out biotechnology, but suggests high-tech agriculture is just one tool in the toolbox. The report promotes “agroecology ,” which seeks to replace the chemical and biochemical inputs of industrial agriculture with resources found in the natural environment.
In March, a UN expert released a report showing that small-scale farmers could double their food production in a decade with the simple agroecological methods. The report flies in the face of the Second Green Revolutionaries.
“Today’s scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production where the hungry live – especially in unfavorable environments,” said Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and author of the report. “Malawi, a country that launched a massive chemical fertilizer subsidy program a few years ago, is now implementing agroecology, benefiting more than 1.3 million of the poorest people, with maize yields increasing from 1 ton per hectare to 2 to 3 tons per hectare.”
De Schutter said private companies like Monsanto will not invest in agroecology because it does not open new markets for agrichemicals or GE seeds, so it’s up to governments and the public to support the switch to more sustainable agriculture. But with more than a billion dollars already spent, the Second Green Revolutionaries are determined to have a say in how the world grows its food, and agroecology is not on their agenda. To them, sustainability means bringing private innovation to the developing world. The Gates Foundation can donate billions to the fight against hunger, but when private companies like Monsanto stand to benefit, it makes feeding the world look like a for-profit scheme.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Gold is one of the most widely discussed metals due to its prominent role in both the investment and consumer world. Even though gold is no longer used as a primary form of currency in developed nations, it continues to have a strong impact on the value of those currencies. Moreover, there is a strong correlation between its value and the strength of currencies trading on foreign exchanges.
To help illustrate this relationship between gold and foreign exchange trading, consider these five important aspects:
1. Gold was once used to back up fiat currencies.
As early as the Byzantine Empire, gold was used to support fiat currencies, or the various currencies considered legal tender in their nation of origin. Gold was also used as the world reserve currency up through most of the 20th century; the United States used the gold standard until 1971 when President Nixon discontinued it.
One of the reasons for its use is that it limited the amount of money nations were allowed to print. This is because, then as now, countries had limited gold supplies on hand. Until the gold standard was abandoned, countries couldn’t simply print their fiat currencies ad nauseum unless they possessed an equal amount of gold. Although the gold standard is no longer used in the developed world, some economists feel we should return to it due to the volatility of the U.S. dollar and other currencies.
2. Gold is used to hedge against inflation.
Investors typically buy large quantities of gold when their country is experiencing high levels of inflation. The demand for gold increases during inflationary times due to its inherent value and limited supply. As it cannot be diluted, gold is able to retain value much better than other forms of currency.
For example, in April 2011, investors feared declining values of fiat currency and the price of gold was driven to a staggering $1,500 an ounce. This indicates there was little confidence in the currencies on the world market and that expectations of future economic stability were grim.
3. The price of gold affects countries that import and export it.
The value of a nation’s currency is strongly tied to the value of its imports and exports. When a country imports more than it exports, the value of its currency will decline. On the other hand, the value of its currency will increase when a country is a net exporter. Thus, a country that exports gold or has access to gold reserves will see an increase in the strength of its currency when gold prices increase, since this increases the value of the country’s total exports.
In other words, an increase in the price of gold can create a trade surplus or help offset a trade deficit. Conversely, countries that are large importers of gold will inevitably end up having a weaker currency when the price of gold rises. For example, countries that specialize in producing products made with gold, but lack their own gold reserves, will be large importers of gold. Thus, they will be particularly susceptible to increases in the price of gold.
4. Gold purchases tend to reduce the value of the currency used to purchase it.
When central banks purchase gold, it affects the supply and demand of the domestic currency and may result in inflation. This is largely due to the fact that banks rely on printing more money to buy gold, and thereby create an excess supply of the fiat currency.
5. Gold prices are often used to measure the value of a local currency, but there are exceptions.
Many people mistakenly use gold as a definitive proxy for valuing a country’s currency. Although there is undoubtedly a relationship between gold prices and the value of a fiat currency, it is not always an inverse relationship as many people assume.
For example, if there is high demand from an industry that requires gold for production, this will cause gold prices to rise. But this will say nothing about the local currency, which may very well be highly valued at the same time. Thus, while the price of gold can often be used as a reflection of the value of the U.S. dollar, conditions need to be analyzed to determine if an inverse relationship is indeed appropriate.
The Bottom Line
Gold has a profound impact on the value of world currencies. Even though the gold standard has been abandoned, gold as a commoditycan act as a substitute for fiat currencies and be used as an effective hedge against inflation. There is no doubt that gold will continue to play an integral role in the foreign exchange markets. Therefore, it is an important metal to follow and analyze for its unique ability to represent the health of both local and international economies.
Original story - How Gold Affects Currencies
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Amtrak Gets $562 Million For Electric Trains
Posted By Nino Marchetti On June 29, 2011 @ 2:30 pm In Transportation | No Comments
Amtrak’s attempts at high speed rail may or may not succeed, but its efforts in more regular rail look to be getting a big boost today via word from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) of a massive loan to help the railway purchase and get running new locomotives in the Northeast portion of the country. We first brought you word of this proposed purchase between Amtrak and Siemens for 70 electric locomotives back in October.
The DOT said it is giving Amtrak a $562.9 million loan under the Federal Railroad Administration’s Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program to help accomplish the purchase of these 70 Sprinter ACS-64 electric locomotives from Siemens. Plans call for the manufacturer to add 250 domestic manufacturing jobs in order to design and build the trains across several states. Additional, it is believed Siemens will work with suppliers from across the country to provide train components, “further boosting U.S. manufacturing.”
From what’ve we written about the Sprinter ACS-64 model before, we know it likely will operate at speeds up to 125 mph (201 kph) on the Northeast Corridor from Washington, D.C. to Boston and up to 110 mph (177 kph) on the Keystone Corridor from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The 70 Amtrak Cities Sprinter ACS-64 locomotives – said by DOT to still be in the final design phase – will replace existing units that have been in service for 20-30 years with an average of 3.5 million miles traveled.
If all goes as planned, the new trains will begin operating along regional and intercity routes in 2013 in a more energy efficient manner then previous ones used. Amtrak also believes they will help “improve frequency, performance and reliability” to a system not known for being on time most of the time.
URL to article: http://www.earthtechling.com/2011/06/amtrak-gets-562-million-for-electric-trains/