Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Monopolization of agricultural seeds

"We Have a Right to Save Seeds. Right?"
2013-10-21 by Cat Johnson [http://www.shareable.net/blog/we-have-a-right-to-save-seeds-right]:
Growing food should present no legal problems. You plant seeds, care for the plants, harvest the food, then save some seeds for the next year. Right?
Not anymore. Big agribusinesses are enclosing the seed commons. Seed ownership has become complex, littered with regulation, copyright issues, forgery charges and corporate manipulation.
The following video gives a brief overview of the current “crazy seed situation” in Europe. Created by the Open Solutions Project, the video uses talking (and singing) potato people to explain the barriers that prevent growers from saving and re-sowing seeds. It also shines a light on a sane solution to the problem: public domain seeds.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Interview with the Moneyless Man

2013-10-28 by Mira Luna for "Shareable.com" [shareable.net/blog/interview-with-the-moneyless-man]:
Mark Boyle is the author of the Moneyless Man and the Moneyless Manifesto [www.moneylessmanifesto.org], and is the founder of Freeconomy [justfortheloveofit.org] .
After studying economics and business in college, he managed two organic food companies in Bristol, UK. In 2007, a pivotal conversation with a friend sparked the realization that "money... creates a kind of disconnection between us and our actions" and he set up the Freeconomy Community. A few months later, Boyle inspired by the non-violent salt march Gandhi led across India and America’s Peace Pilgrim, he decided to live a more self-sufficient life without money, which he's done for the last five years. He insists that a moneyless life is not a new idea - it's the system of money itself that's a new development, existing for only a small fraction of human history.
I decided to interview Mark, not only because I believe money has had such a detrimental effect on the DNA of modern culture. But also, his story is remarkably inspiring in that, in a short period of time, he achieved great clarity of purpose and acted on it with such urgency and integrity. He embodies a courageous spirit that the world desperately needs right now.

Mira Luna: How did you come to the decision to embark on the moneyless journey and how did your background as a trained economist influence you?
Mark Boyle: There is an entire spectrum of ecological, social and personal reasons why I now believe that it's imperative that we, collectively and individually, wean ourselves off our dependency on money to meet our needs. However, it began as many journeys do with an initial impulse. It was 2007 and I had been feeling overwhelmed by the horrors I was witnessing around me - factory farming, homogenisation of cultures, bottom-trawling, sweatshops, deforestation, the mechanisation of our livelihoods and the general flat-packing of the Earth along the assembly line of industrial civilisation. I wanted to spend my life doing something I personally felt was meaningful, something to act as a counter-friction to the cogs of the machine economy. But as globalisation disempowers us through its sheer scale, I, like most of us, had absolutely no idea what to do about any of it.
After years of exploring these issues as deeply as I could, I came to the understanding that, in general terms, they had a common denominator - they were all different symptoms of our perceived separation, or independence, from the rest of the community of life: Nature. Money, through its function as a medium of exchange, allows us to consume products with components or ingredients from across the entire Earth. On a superficial level, and with a very narrow sense of self, this has many perceived benefits. What wasn't being spoke about at the time, however, were the intended and unintended consequences of money, and like all technologies, it has its consequences, regardless of whether we want to be honest about them or not. Apart from its widely ignored psychological, emotional, spiritual and physical effects on us personally, it also had the added consequence of allowing us to be protected from the abuses and massacres that occurred at every level of the supply chain of the products we consumed, and all the social and ecological problems associated with that.
So I began speaking out about these consequences. Yet after a while I felt that I had little right to, being enmeshed in the monetary economy as much as the next person. At that point I had no idea if it was even possible to move beyond monetary economics, or how it would feel as a human being to live without it mediating the majority of my relationships with the rest of life. So in 2008 I decided to give up money, initially as a one year experiment, to see how it felt, if it was possible, and what the lessons would be. It became the greatest experience of my life.
Of course, the reasons why I believe we would be wise to transition away from our dependency on money has evolved a lot over the subsequent years. The first half of my new book, the Moneyless Manifesto [www.moneylessmanifesto.org], explores these reasons and the philosophy behind moneyless living in depth, before describing a large toolkit of ways in which we can easily diversify our economies and build much more resilience and connection into how we meet our needs.
My education in economics has, rather oddly, been of great benefit to me, despite the fact that I obviously didn't go into studying it with this in mind. In order to create a new way of doing things, it helps to fully understand - as much as one can given the complexities of monetary economics today - how the current system works, and the cultural, anthropological and philosophical assumptions underpinning it. It also helped me understand, later in life, that economics should not be conflated with finance, and that monetary economics is but one, and a very recent one at that, model of economy.

"The Moneyless Manifesto by Mark Boyle" film by James Light [info@jameslight.tv] published on Oct 29, 2012 by "Gorilla Filmmaker Now" [www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVB-5Br5pVU]: Mark Boyle's new book The Moneyless Manifesto explores in-depth the social, personal, ecological and economic reasons why we may want to transition beyond money into a localised, gift-based economy.

Mira Luna: How has your life changed for the better or worse? What do you enjoy most about the lifestyle and what is most challenging and how have you overcome those challenges?
Mark Boyle: My life is much more connected, whole and integrated now, and so much for the better. Like every way of being human, it has its challenges, but these are offset by the many joys and adventures it has brought me.
The biggest initial challenge was overcoming the sense of insecurity I had felt in the first few months - I had no money, no bank account, nothing to fall back on. I was surprised by how much this affected me. However, the antidote was simple: experience. When, after a prolonged period of time, you meet your needs every day without the need for a connection-reducing medium such as money, you begin to trust in life a lot more, and in it as a way of being human in the world. You stop worrying and become part of the organic flow of Wild Nature again. No other species on Earth feels insecure about not having money, and for the majority of our time here, neither did we.
Another challenge was time. Everything seemed to take longer. In some senses, I partially overcame this by honing my own skills, and connecting with people in my community, but in other senses I overcame it by making my life more whole and integrated. Art was no longer something I'd create in the spare time that industrialism allowed me in the evenings and weekends - Art was integrated into every aspect of my life, from what I grew to what I created. Life became Art. Work became leisure. There was no segmentation of my life.
The amount of detailed challenges, in terms of the practicalities, I faced in the first year were fairly lengthy, and these I write about more in the first book, The Moneyless Man, which focuses primarily on the human experience of it all. What struck me, however, was that each of these challenges had a solution, sometimes old, sometimes new. The longer the first year went on, the more heart I gained from that understanding. Before long, living without money was the easiest thing in the world.
What do I enjoy most about it? That sense of freedom we all crave. I wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night, and in between I am able to do the things that I feel passionate about, and that give me meaning.

Mira Luna: What is Freeconomy?
Mark Boyle: Freeconomy is a skill- and tool-sharing project, organised online [justfortheloveofit.org], which now has local groups in over 170 countries around the world. Unlike bartering and swap schemes, Freeconomy was based on the idea of the gift, where everyone shared their skills, tools and advice on an unconditional basis, not because they wanted to get anything in return - whether that be money or a credit of some sort - but for no other reason than another person needs help with something. Freeconomy is to labor and tools that Freecycle is to stuff [www.freecycle.org], Couch-surfing to travel accommodation [www.couchsurfing.org] and so on.
We feel that people need inspiring again, and to feel good about the world and the communities they live in. What could make them feel better than someone coming over to their house, showing them how to make sourdough bread or fix their bike, simply because they want to be of help? Contrast that feeling with the money-dependent interactions we usually have, mostly with strangers with whom we'll never develop a meaningful relationship with, each day. The sense of community you feel in a gift-based model is tangible and uplifting, and this is the feedback we've received from many people from all walks of life across the Earth.
It is an economy based on interdependence and gifting, as opposed to the illusion of independence and the notions of credit, debt and exchange.

Mira Luna: How do you hope to impact the world?
Mark Boyle: I don't have any hopes in that regard. I believe the best you can do in life is what you feel is the greatest use of your time here, living with as much honor and courage as you can, yet with enough humility to realise that there are much greater forces than yourself taking care of things. The latter is not to say you should leave it up to Nature to sort things out - you are as much a part of Nature as anything else, afterall. So all I hope to do is all that I can.

Mira Luna: If other people feel they can't get away from using money, because of responsibilities, what more moderate or intermediate steps would you recommend taking?
Mark Boyle: In the words of Howard Thurman, "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." There is no one course of action I could recommend, other than following your heart with as much courage as you can muster. There is so much healing work - of our land, our communities, of ourselves - needed that the only sustainable course of action is one which you feel passionate about. Of course, many of these courses of action don't pay very well, therefore no matter what service you choose to give to the world, it can only help to become less dependent on money, even if living moneylessly is not your primary aim.
In terms of reducing your reliance on money to some degree, in The Moneyless Manifesto I outline what I call the Progression of Principles (POP) Model, which allows anyone, anywhere to make a transition from the highly globalized and monetized culture we live in today, to a much more local, gift based culture. And have a lot of fun in the process! It enables you to start this journey wherever you are at, and make positive changes in whatever timescale you feel is both realistic for you and appropriate for the convergence of crises we face.

Inspired? Check out www.moneylessmanifesto.org, Freeconomy, buy the book or read it online for free, and watch Mark Boyle's TedX talk below on living without money.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Solar-powered street lights

"World First for Stand-Alone, Solar-Powered Lighting Column" 
2013-10-15 from "SPX" [http://www.solardaily.com/reports/World_First_for_Stand_Alone_Solar_Powered_Lighting_Column_999.html]:
The height of the column and the number of solar modules can be tailored to the situation, up to a maximum height of 18 metres.

Oss, Netherlands -
Kaal Masten is presenting the Spirit: the world's first solar-powered lighting column that does not use mains power and is available in a complete series (up to 18 metres). As a result, we now have a complete range of stand-alone lighting columns that can provide top quality lighting anywhere in the world.
 The Spirit is a modular lighting column that exclusively uses solar energy and LED technology. The fact that cabling is a thing of the past means that Spirit columns can easily be installed at locations that do not have an electricity connection, such as motorways, rural road, car parks and mountain roads.
 The height of the column and the number of solar modules can be tailored to the situation, up to a maximum height of 18 metres.

Sustainable solution -
 The Spirit is the most sustainable form of public lighting. Electricity consumption is reduced to zero and the columns and batteries are entirely recyclable. The columns are also suitable for all high quality LED fittings - also one of the most sustainable choices - and manufacturer Kaal Masten is a CO2-neutral company.

The future -
 Jos van den Hurk, director of Kaal Masten, sees the introduction of the Spirit as a significant milestone; not just for his company but also for the sector as a whole.
 "This is the future of public lighting. Firstly because of the stand-alone nature of the column; governments and other managers of open spaces are no longer dependent on the mains network in order to realise top quality lighting, and therefore safety. In addition, sustainability plays a significant role; the CO2 footprint for public lighting will be substantially reduced as a result."
 The Spirit is being introduced during the Public Spaces Day (Dag van de Openbare Ruimte) in Expo Houten. The first Spirits will soon be installed at the TU/e in Eindhoven. This column has taken about 3 years to develop.

Vehicles 100+ mileage

Urbee vehicles
"3-D printer used to manufacture car body"
2013-10-15 by David R. Baker from "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/technology/article/3-D-printer-used-to-manufacture-car-body-4898454.php]:
The Urbee's plastic body is made with a 3-D printer. A cross-country trip in the lightweight vehicle is expected to require less than 10 gallons of fuel. Photo: Kor Ecologic

If Jim Kor gets his way, building a fuel-efficient car may one day be as simple as pressing "print." Well, almost as simple.
Kor heads a team of Canadian engineers designing a car whose plastic body can be manufactured with a 3-D printer. They've already made a prototype of their car, dubbed the Urbee, and are working on a second, more advanced version.
"What we like about 3-D printing is it can print anything," Kor said Tuesday during a presentation at the Verge technology and sustainability conference in San Francisco. "And when you can print anything, you can think of everything."
Kor's presentation, sadly, included just a small model of the Urbee, rather than the real thing. But San Franciscans may get a close look at the car in another year or so. Kor and employees of his startup company, Kor Ecologic, plan to drive the second prototype from New York to San Francisco in 2015.
And if their ideas pan out, the entire trip in the small, lightweight and aerodynamic Urbee 2 - equipped with an advanced hybrid engine - will take less than 10 gallons of fuel. That works out to roughly 290 miles per gallon, given the route that Kor plans.
He doesn't consider it a pipe dream. Kor and his colleagues, whose past work includes designing buses and farm equipment, have created a car whose every feature is designed to reduce the horsepower needed for travel at freeway speed.
It's low to the ground, shaped like a lozenge and almost as small. It seats two and runs on three wheels. And its body - basically one elongated bubble - is smooth enough to make most mass-market cars look like bricks.
"I tell people there are no square fish in the ocean," Kor said Tuesday. "There probably were, but they were eaten."
Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Kor and his team came up with the basic concept for the car, built a metal chassis and sculpted the body in clay.
They scanned the clay model into a computer, refined the dimensions after doing some virtual wind-tunnel testing, and fed all the specs into 3-D printing equipment from Stratasys at a facility in Minnesota.
The first body panels were ready within weeks, far less time than would have been required to make them from fiberglass. And the nature of 3-D printing, which builds objects by depositing ultrathin layers of material on top of each other, created panels with no wasted plastic - and therefore, no wasted weight.
The 2015 drive - assuming it happens - will largely follow in reverse the route of America's first cross-country road trip in a car. In 1903, Horatio Jackson and Sewall Crocker drove from San Francisco to New York, accompanied by Jackson's dog, Bud. The trip took two months and nine days. Kor wants his sons, Tyler and Cody, to drive the Urbee 2, along with their dog, Cupid.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Worker-Owned business is subsidized in Bolivia

"Bolivian government authorizes workers to take over closed or abandoned firms"
2013-10-10 by Richard Fidler [http://lifeonleft.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/bolivian-government-authorizes-workers.html]: Note - a correction to this article has been posted at 2013-10-24 "Bolivia’s Enatex, or how state sovereignty intersects with workers’ interests" [http://lifeonleft.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/bolivias-enatex-or-how-state.html].
LA PAZ − On October 7, President Evo Morales issued a government decree that allows workers to establish “social enterprises” in businesses that are bankrupt, winding up, or unjustifiably closed or abandoned. These enterprises, while private, will be operated by the workers and qualify for government assistance. 
Morales issued Supreme Decree 1754 at a ceremony in the presidential palace marking the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the Confederación General de Trabajadores Fabriles de Bolivia (CGTFB – the General Confederation of Industrial Workers of Bolivia). The Minister of Labour, Daniel Santalla, said the decree was issued pursuant to article 54 of Bolivia’s new Constitution, which states that workers  “in defense of their workplaces and protection of the social interest may, in accordance with the law, reactivate and reorganize firms that are undergoing bankrupty, creditor proceedings or liquidation, or closed or abandoned without justification, and may form communitarian or social enterprises. The state will contribute to the action of the workers.”
In his remarks to the audience of several hundred union members and leaders, President Morales noted that employers often attempt to blackmail workers with threats to shut down when faced with demands for higher wages. “Now, if they threaten you in that way, the firm may as well go bankrupt or close, because you will become the owners. They will be new social enterprises,” he said.
Labour Minister Santalla noted that the constitutional article had already been used to establish some firms, such as Enatex, Instrabol, and Traboltex, and that more such firms could now be set up under the new decree.
Business spokesmen predictably warned that the new provisions would be a disincentive to private investment and risk the viability of companies.
Santalla also said that firms that do not comply with their workforce obligations under the law will lose preferential mechanisms to export their products to state-managed markets. And he cited some recent cases in which the government had intervened in defense of workers victimized for their attempts to form unions. In one such case last month, Burger King, the company was fined 30,000 Bolivianos ($4,300 US), ordered to reinstate the fired workers and to recognize the union.
In the following article Alfredo Rada, Bolivia’s Deputy Minister of Coordination with the Social Movements, draws attention to some important developments within the country’s labour movement and suggests some means by which the unions can be more effectively incorporated within the “process of change” being championed by the government of the MAS-IPSP, the Movement for Socialism – Political Instrument for the Sovereignty of the Peoples.
"The working class and the political process in Bolivia"
by Alfredo Rada, Bolivia’s Deputy Minister of Coordination with the Social Movements, from "Rebelión" (translated from Spanish by Richard Fidler) [http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=175154&titular=clase-obrera-y-proceso-pol%C3%ADtico-en-bolivia-]:
Five months ago, I was in Tarija participating in a forum debating the political process in Bolivia, a process we call the Democratic and Cultural Revolution. One of those attending asked me whether it was possible to deepen this revolution, to make it an economic and social revolution, without the participation of the working class. My immediate response was no, that to consolidate a period of transition to the construction of a new form of communitarian socialism it was absolutely necessary that the workers participate within the revolutionary social bloc that has managed this process of transformations starting in 2000 in the so-called water war, when the overthrow of neoliberalism began.
It was a very relevant question since at that moment, in May of 2013, the mobilizations over the Pensions Act called by the leadership of the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB – Bolivian Workers Central) in opposition to the government of Evo Morales were at their height.[1] Strongly influenced by ultraleft political tendencies organized around the self-described “Partido de los Trabajadores” [PT -- Workers Party], the COB committed a monumental error in mobilizing their ranks with fevered speeches calling for replacing Evo with “another government,” as a leader of the urban teachers in Santa Cruz put it.
This maximalist orientation led the COB inexorably to defeat, since the strike and the mobilizations never met with popular support and in the end the union leadership had to retreat in virtual disarray. The diversion that led to the defeat originated in the characterization that the ultraleft makes of the present government as “bourgeois and pro-imperialist,” a simplistic deceit peculiar to the political currents of an excessively classist and workerist ideological mould that blocks them from understanding the varied nature of the Bolivian social formation, which can only be analyzed in terms that combine nation and class.
The present process of change is made up of a dynamic deployment of social class struggles within capitalism that are combined, sometimes in a contradictory way, with the historic struggle of the indigenous nations against the internal capitalism. That is the dialectical nature of this process, in which the anticapitalist and anticolonialist structural tendencies expressed in the political action of exploited classes and oppressed nations make possible the revolutionary transformation of the economic relations of exploitation, the political relations of exclusion and the cultural relations of oppression. Yet there is always the risk that this course of transformations, as a result of external pressures, internal fragmentation or programmatic concessions, will become exhausted or reversed.
Turning to the conflict with the COB, following its dénouement the government set itself the task of rapidly mending its relationship with the working-class sectors while at the same time the rank and file workers began to settle scores with the ultraleft leaderships within the unions. That is what has just occurred in the Sindicato Mixto de Trabajadores Mineros de Huanuni [Combined Union of the Mining Workers in Huanuni], an emblematic organization because that district, located in the western department of Oruro, has the largest proletarian concentration in the entire country. Its 4,500 miners more than a year ago had elected a union leadership radically opposed to the government. This leadership led in the May strike, the blockade of roads in Caihuasi and the blowing up of a bridge located in that locality. Today, weakened and isolated, that ultraleft that was perched for some time in the Huanuni union has ended up being removed by a mass general meeting of the workers, who also decided to approve the construction of a new political pacto de unidad [unity agreement] with the government of Evo Morales.
No doubt such repositioning within the workers movement will have a major impact on the future of the PT since that political instrument has now lost its backbone; the effects will also be felt in the orientation of the Federación Sindical de Trabajadores Mineros de Bolivia [Federation of Mining Workers of Bolivia] and in the COB itself.
Let’s look at another industrial sector, that of the construction workers. This is one of the fastest growing sources of employment owing to the expansion in public and private investment in new building construction. Everywhere in Bolivia’s cities you can see building and housing complexes under way, and with them the hiring of many workers as casual or piecework labour. But the unions in this sector are weak and dispersed, partly because their leadership tends to be controlled by the big construction companies but also because of the sparse regulation exercised by the state.
This submissiveness of the unions began to change at the most recent national congress of the Confederación Sindical de Trabajadores en Construcción de Bolivia [Bolivian Construction Workers Union Confederation], which met in the city of Santa Cruz. The construction workers elected a new union leadership and set their sights on the mandatory organizing of all the building workers, teachers and assistants, replacing oral agreements with the bosses with collective labour contracts in all construction projects. This will also be a means of overcoming the situation of “informal workers” that is one of the worst legacies of neoliberalism in a country in which less than 20% of the workers are unionized.
Manufacturing workers have been one of the hardest-hit sectors, decimated by the massive layoffs euphemistically labelled “relocations” by Supreme Decree 21060 of August 1985. The manufacturing sector was subsequently subjected for almost two decades to the labour flexibility policies of neoliberalism in order to reduce payloads and increase the profits of capital.
Today the manufacturing sector is undergoing a rapid reorganizing of the unions that has helped to strengthen the Confederación General de Trabajadores Fabriles de Bolivia [General Confederation of Manufacturing Workers of Bolivia]. Yet to be consolidated is the organization of new unions, particularly in the cities of El Alto and Santa Cruz, the two major concentrations of industrial factories in Bolivia.
The importance given to reincorporating workers in the process of transformations around a common programmatic agenda with the Morales government lies not only in the fact that it will help to bring together a strong labour base of support, but also that it will strengthen the anti-imperialist and revolutionary tendencies in the process. The programmatic agenda to which we refer could address the following aspects: (1) a new General Labour Law which, while preserving the advances already in the present law, will grant new rights to the workers; (2) a natonal campaign of massive union organization in all industries that are unorganized; and (3) the strengthening of the social and communitarian sector of the economy, in alliance with the nationalized state sector.

[Footnote 1] The COB demanded an increase in state pensions to 8,000 bolivianos ($1140) annually for miners, and 5,000 bolivianos ($715) for other sectors. The government offered 4,000 and 3,200 bolivianos respectively ($600/$470), saying that any more would risk the financial sustainability of its pension scheme.
The conflict saw miners, teachers and health workers take to the streets of La Paz, while roadblocks and strikes took place across the country. Police were deployed to break up blockades in Cochabamba and La Paz, leading to several arrests and injuries, while workers at the state-run Huanuni mine joined the La Paz protests, paralysing tin production and costing several million dollars.
Other social sectors in Bolivia organised counter-marches in favour of the government. Representatives of the Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (CSUTCB), and the Confederación de Mujeres Campesinas y Originarias Bartolina Sisa marched in La Paz to reject the blockades and mobilisations organised by the COB, while coca workers also protested in favour of the government in Cochabamba. At a rally in La Paz, Morales strongly criticised the COB leaders, accusing them of being at the service of imperialism, capitalism and neoliberalism.
After 16 days of protest, COB leaders agreed to lift the strike for 30 days to allow time to analyse a government offer to reform the current pensions system. Union leaders negotiated for several days in La Paz with officials from the labour and finance ministries, during which the union lowered its demand on pensions to 4,900 bolivianos for miners and 3,700 bolivianos ($700 and $530 respectively) for other sectors. It remains to be seen whether permanent settlement can be reached. (Source: “Strikes and blockades organised by trade unions in pension protest,” Bolivia Information Forum, News Briefing May-June 2013)

"Are American Transit Manufacturers Afraid of American Jobs?"

2013-10-10 by Rachele Huennekens of "Jobs to Move America" [fryingpannews.org/2013/10/10/are-american-manufacturers-afraid-of-american-jobs/]:
“Frankly, I’m surprised that American jobs are so controversial.”
These words, spoken by Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) senior researcher Linda Nguyen-Perez, hung in the air of a Chicago hotel conference room last week during the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Annual Meeting.
Linda and I attended the conference on behalf of the new Jobs to Move America campaign, explaining our effort to transit agency officials, consultants and transportation equipment manufacturers from across the nation. The budding coalition behind this movement unites community, small business, labor, faith, small business, philanthropy, academic and environmental groups, including LAANE, all of whom want to maximize the 5.4 billion American taxpayer dollars that public transportation agencies spend every year, to improve transportation systems, create good American jobs and generate opportunities for such struggling unemployed American workers as veterans, single parents and residents of low-income neighborhoods.
Linda made a special presentation to APTA’s Business Procurement Steering Committee on the Jobs to Move America plan. She revealed preliminary findings of research conducted with academic partners, demonstrating how many valuable components of buses and rail cars are currently being manufactured overseas because of weaknesses and loopholes infederal “Buy America” laws requiring at least 60 percent American-made parts [http://www.dot.gov/highlights/buyamerica]. Linda also laid out several alarming economic statistics, showing double-digit unemployment rates brought on by the Great Recession and continual offshoring of good-wage industrial jobsover recent decades. These have created a crisis for millions of American workers now facing “significant and multiple barriers to employment” [http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748704821704576270783611823972].
Sounds like a perfect opportunity to leverage taxpayer investment to create more good American jobs, right?
Wrong, according to the reaction of many manufacturing companies in the conference room. Business representatives raised objection after objection to the Jobs to Move America plan, declaring that they already manufactured as much as possible in the United States and denying the research findings of Buy America flaws. Other businesses threatened that they might have to lay off workers in existing American factories if they hired workers in another American location. One business representative even accused Linda and I of “micromanaging…[and] interfering with our business.”
Where was the disconnect? we wondered. Perhaps the companies were blind to the negative consequences of their business-as-usual practices, whereby they used taxpayer funds to manufacture so many of our trains and buses in faraway factories, limiting their U.S. investment to small “final assembly” facilities? Perhaps they didn’t see the devastating impacts of closed factories in communities across America’s Rust Belt and Northeast regions [http://www.nber.org/digest/aug13/w18949.html], or notice the more than 11 million unemployed Americans who are desperate for good jobs to support their families [http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm]? Perhaps they didn’t see how efficient and high quality our buses and trains could be, if they were made by skilled workers right here in America? Or maybe these manufacturers were truly afraid of American jobs?
Yet, as Federal Transportation Administrator Peter Rogoff pointed out in the Procurement Steering Committee meeting, “ultimately, the financiers of this project are taxpayers, and they care about jobs.” Rogoff also pointed out that “there is strong interest in strengthening Buy America” within the the Obama Administration, and told the business naysayers, "This is not just a discussion between advocates and industry… a key constituency are mayors and other elected officials, and they are very concerned about jobs and concerned about who is getting those jobs."
Manufacturing companies may be afraid of American jobs, but the Jobs to Move America coalition is not. In the months ahead, our campaign will continue to ask public transit agencies to invest billions of American tax dollars into good jobs, opportunities and factories, right here in America.

"Good, Local Jobs Prevail in Mountain View"

2013-10-10 by Dennis Raj of the "South Bay Labor Council" [http://www.calaborfed.org/index.php/site/page/good_local_jobs_prevail_in_mountain_view]:
With an overwhelming 6 to 1 majority vote, the Mountain View City Council passed a Prevailing Wage requirement for new affordable housing projects in the city. Mountain View, like other Charter Cities, was longer required to pay prevailing wages after a California Supreme Court ruling last year that made clear charter cities retain the autonomy to decide prevailing wage for themselves. Make no mistake; this is an important victory for the local economy, construction workers and the residents of Mountain View.
A prevailing wage ordinance requires the payment of an hourly wage, usual benefits and overtime, paid to the majority of workers, laborers and mechanics with a particular area. The history of prevailing wage dates back to early turn of the century, when the Davis-Bacon act was signed into law in 1931. Senator James Davis and Representative Robert Bacon sought federal legislation to protect local labor from displacement by migrant workers and competitive pressure toward sub-standard wages. Since then, prevailing wage regulations have been a driving force in shaping construction jobs as a pathway to the middle class.
Staff in Mountain View rightly ended their presentation with the assertion that including a prevailing wage requirement for affordable housing is a value judgment, a theme that was touched on by many members of the audience who spoke in favor of inclusion. Many of the speakers also touched on the benefits tied directly to construction, including encouraging a highly skilled labor force, improving workplace safety, and providing economic incentives for quality construction. There is also empirical evidence that the economic impact of a higher wage and more skilled workforce can be substantial, offsetting any increase in wages in the construction sector that might result from implementing prevailing wage.
Community members also spoke to the economic ripple effect of prevailing wage, citing a landmark study by Working Partnerships USA comparing construction with and without prevailing wage and the economic benefits brought about by using prevailing wage. The study links prevailing wage to a significant increase in local hiring, with upwards of a 59.4 percentage point increase in the percent of local funds going to local contracts. With prevailing wage, these are good jobs going overwhelmingly to local workers, bringing tax revenues and spending back to the community. Sally Lieber, who represented Mountain View as a member of the State Assembly made the most salient point of the night; without a prevailing wage, the workers constructing the affordable housing in Mountain View would be paid so little, they would be eligible to sign up for the affordable housing.
Choosing between prevailing wage and affordable housing is not a zero sum game; including a prevailing wage requirement in local housing developments is the right thing to do for the local economy. Last night the community spoke, the leadership listened and good, local jobs prevailed.

Friday, October 4, 2013


"UCLA engineers develop new metabolic pathway to more efficiently convert sugars into biofuels"
2013-10-03 from "SPX" newswire [http://www.biofueldaily.com/reports/UCLA_engineers_develop_new_metabolic_pathway_to_more_efficiently_convert_sugars_into_biofuels_999.html]:
The paper's other author is Tzu-Shyang Lin, who recently received a bachelor's degree from UCLA in chemical engineering.
 Los Angeles CA -
UCLA chemical engineering researchers have created a new synthetic metabolic pathway for breaking down glucose that could lead to a 50 percent increase in the production of biofuels. The new pathway is intended to replace the natural metabolic pathway known as glycolysis, a series of chemical reactions that nearly all organisms use to convert sugars into the molecular precursors that cells need. Glycolysis converts four of the six carbon atoms found in glucose into two-carbon molecules known acetyl-CoA, a precursor to biofuels like ethanol and butanol, as well as fatty acids, amino acids and pharmaceuticals. However, the two remaining glucose carbons are lost as carbon dioxide.
Glycolysis is currently used in biorefinies to convert sugars derived from plant biomass into biofuels, but the loss of two carbon atoms for every six that are input is seen as a major gap in the efficiency of the process. The UCLA research team's synthetic glycolytic pathway converts all six glucose carbon atoms into three molecules of acetyl-CoA without losing any as carbon dioxide. The research is published online Sept. 29 in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.
The principal investigator on the research is James Liao, UCLA's Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Professor of Chemical Engineering and chair of the chemical and biomolecular engineering department. Igor Bogorad, a graduate student in Liao's laboratory, is the lead author. "This pathway solved one of the most significant limitations in biofuel production and biorefining: losing one-third of carbon from carbohydrate raw materials," Liao said. "This limitation was previously thought to be insurmountable because of the way glycolysis evolved."
This synthetic pathway uses enzymes found in several distinct pathways in nature. The team first tested and confirmed that the new pathway worked in vitro. Then, they genetically engineered E. coli bacteria to use the synthetic pathway and demonstrated complete carbon conservation. The resulting acetyl-CoA molecules can be used to produce a desired chemical with higher carbon efficiency. The researchers dubbed their new hybrid pathway non-oxidative glycolysis, or NOG. "This is a fundamentally new cycle," Bogorad said. "We rerouted the most central metabolic pathway and found a way to increase the production of acetyl-CoA. Instead of losing carbon atoms to CO2, you can now conserve them and improve your yields and produce even more product."
The researchers also noted that this new synthetic pathway could be used with many kinds of sugars, which in each case have different numbers of carbon atoms per molecule, and no carbon would be wasted. "For biorefining, a 50 percent improvement in yield would be a huge increase," Bogorad said. "NOG can be a nice platform with different sugars for a 100 percent conversion to acetyl-CoA. We envision that NOG will have wide-reaching applications and will open up many new possibilities because of the way we can conserve carbon." The researchers also suggest this new pathway could be used in biofuel production using photosynthetic microbes.

"Solving ethanol's corrosion problem may help speed the biofuel to market" 
2013-10-03 from "SPX" newswire [http://www.biofueldaily.com/reports/Solving_ethanols_corrosion_problem_may_help_speed_the_biofuel_to_market_999.html]:
The paper, "Effect of Oxygen on Ethanol SCC Susceptibility, Part 2: Dissolution-Based Cracking Mechanism," written by Liu Cao, G.S. Frankel, and N. Sridhar, appears in NACE International's journal, CORROSION, Sep. 2013, Vol. 69, No. 9, pp. 851-862.
Houston, TX  -
If we're to meet a goal set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Renewable Fuels Standard to use 36 billion gallons per year of biofuels-mostly ethanol-the nation must expand its infrastructure for transporting and storing ethanol. Currently, ethanol is transported via trucks, trains, and barges. For the large volumes required in the future, transportation by pipeline is considered to be the most efficient method to get it to customers. The integrity and safety of pipelines and storage tanks is crucial, because ethanol is both flammable and, at certain concentrations, can cause adverse environmental impacts.
"One of the most important concerns with regard to the integrity of pipelines and tanks is the propensity of ethanol at concentrations above 20 volume percent in gasoline to cause cracking of steel," explains Narasi Sridhar, vice president, director of the materials program at Det Norske Veritas. "This phenomenon is called stress corrosion cracking."
The Pipeline Research Council International, a consortium of pipeline companies, and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration funded intense research to find the cause of cracking of steel in ethanol from 2005 through 2012. "We found that dissolved oxygen in ethanol causes cracking and if oxygen can be removed, cracking can be prevented. This and other engineering measures can form the basis for safe transport of ethanol," says Sridhar.
The fundamental mechanism of how oxygen causes cracking of steel is described in a paper by Liu et al., published in CORROSION journal. This paper is significant because it was extremely difficult to tease apart the fundamental processes occurring in ethanol due to its low electrical conductivity. By developing novel techniques, the researchers found that oxygen has two effects that conspire to cause the cracking of steel.
"The first effect is that oxygen protects most of the steel surface. It may seem counterintuitive that protection can lead to cracking of steel, but by protecting most of the steel surface oxygen channels all the degradation to occur on isolated areas of steel that is highly stressed. Such focused degradation results in rapid penetration of steel," says Sridhar. "The other effect of oxygen is that it pushes the corrosion processes to occur faster in the unprotected portion of the steel. Corrosion is an electrochemical process in which two electrons are emitted into the steel for every atom of iron corroding. Oxygen absorbs the electrons emitted by steel corrosion and propels the steel to corrode faster."
The practical implication of this paper is that it's now possible to prevent stress corrosion cracking without resorting to completely removing oxygen from ethanol, which is expensive to do. Sacrificial metals, for example, can be used to prevent cracking. Inhibitors can also be used to prevent cracking by reforming the protective film on steel faster.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

New Economy Week, October 12 - 18, 2013

Seven Days of Action for a more Sustainable World

message by Mira Luna for "Shareable.com":
The New Economy Coalition (a project of the New Economics Institute) is shining a spotlight on the emerging movement for a new economy with a week of action called New Economy Week. October 11-19th they will be highlighting events, actions, reports, works of art, and other projects across the United States and Canada. By making visible the thousands of things people are doing right now to build a new kind of economy, this event will inspire broader participation and catalyze a conversation for deep, systemic change.
All around the country, people are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work on building an economy that prioritizes people and the planet. From starting cooperative groceries, to implementing citywide participatory budgeting, to municipalizing energy companies, these democratic and decentralized wealth-building strategies are being embraced by communities as a means of systemic transformation. While our political system proves itself incapable of dealing with complex problems, people are creating parallel institutions that meet their needs and lay a foundation for long-term social change.
Right now there are over 40 events listed on the website and counting [neweconomyweek.org/calendar]. Shareable's new Sharing Cities Network is hosting a Sharing Cities Mapping Jam to map the new economy in cities across the country that week [shareable.net/blog/join-the-sharing-cities-network]. In Milwaukee, WI, the Riverwest Cooperative Alliance is throwing a Co-op Fest on October 12th to promote and educate the public about cooperatives [riverwestmke.wix.com/cooperativealliance]. That same day, the Pennsylvania Public Bank Project is hosting a workshop in Philadelphia on public banking for the community and neighborhood leaders [papublicbankproject.org]. Later in the week, in Montpelier, VT, Gus Speth will deliver a speech on “Measuring What Matters” that will be simulcast across the state. Shareable's new Sharing Cities Network is hosting a new economy Mapping Jam across the country that week. While representing only a sliver what’s happening in North America, these events demonstrate the breadth of strategies people are employing to transform our economy.
There’s still plenty of time to get involved. If you’re already hosting an event that falls within New Economy Week, go submit it on their website to get featured on the events page [neweconomyweek.org]. Want inspiration for creating a new event? Check out their action toolkit [neweconomyweek.org/get-involved] and Shareable’s “How To Share” Guide [shareable.net/how-to-share] for ideas about projects and events you can organize with your community. If you are outside the US or Canada, you can still host an event and next year hopefully organize a New Economy Week for your country.
Whether New Economy Week becomes an annual fixture (an Earth Day for the New Economy movement) remains to be seen. This year is very much an experiment. But if the momentum on the ground is any indication, New Economy Week – and all of the incredible work being done to build collective power and healthy communities – is just the beginning.

Join the Sharing Cities Network
Imagine a city where everyone’s needs are met because people make the personal choice to share. Where everyone can create meaningful livelihoods. Where fresh, local food is available to all. Where affordable housing and shared transportation are abundant. Where the poor are lifted up, the middle class is strengthened, and the rich are respected because they all work together for the common good.
Imagine a city where the people decide how the city budget is spent. Where the people own the banks, control credit, and create their own money. Where the people own the utilities that make green energy and internet access available to all.
Imagine a city where all this is possible without relying on the government or big banks. Where we don't have to beg leaders for change or sell ourselves out to “make it” at the expense of others. Where the more we share, the more we have. Where everyone wins.
Our dream at Shareable is that everyone gets to live in such a place. While ambitious, our dream is grounded in reality. Everything that's imagined above already exists. We know this because we’ve written about these pockets of sanity nearly every day for the last five years.    
What’s missing is there’s no single city where all these models are brought together. And until now there’s been few efforts to create such cities.
This is a call to change that.
Because there are proven solutions, there’s no need to doubt that it can be done. Because these solutions can be created by ordinary people, there’s no need to ask permission to start. Because there’s great need, there’s no reason to wait.
The time to build sharing cities is now.
So, today Shareable launches the Sharing Cities Network -- a grassroots network for sharing innovators to discover together how to create as many sharing cities around the world as fast as possible.
To kick off the network, Shareable is hosting a Sharing Cities Map Jam October 12-19th. The goal of the Map Jam is to map the sharing economies of 25 cities with 25 local teams.
While there’s no complete sharing city yet, we've found that every city has a much bigger foundation to build on than people think. There are cooperatives, community gardens, tool libraries, timebanks, bike kitchens, coworking and maker spaces, credit unions, farmers' markets, or their ilk nearly everywhere. 
We believe that making these oases of sharing visible will be an empowering first step for the network. After the Map Jam, we'll post the maps on Shareable for anyone to use, share, or copy. The network's next steps will be worked out together.
Please fill out the form below this message on the website [shareable.net/blog/join-the-sharing-cities-network] to learn more. We'll be in touch soon.