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Renewals

by DoDo Thu Dec 18th, 2014 at 01:07:28 PM EST

In this first train blog in a long time, I bring two disparate stories only connected by the theme of renewal and their closeness to me.

First, after more than two decades, there is a change at the helm of international trains between Prague and Budapest. Both the old and the new loco type was noteworthy for matching or exceeding the performance of contemporary Western products.

Czech Railways (ČD) 380 020 with an EC train to Budapest runs along the Danube on its last kilometres in Slovakia

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Solar Microgrids and Water Biomonitoring for Christmas

by gmoke Wed Dec 17th, 2014 at 11:34:19 PM EST

Solar Microgrids in Tanzania:
Maasai Stoves & Solar Project
International Collaborative
81 Kirkland Street, Unit 2, Cambridge, MA 02138

https://www.facebook.com/maasaistovesandsolarproject
http://internationalcollaborative.org/

Water biomonitoring in Costa Rica:
ANAI, Inc.,
1120 Meadows Road, Franklin, North Carolina 28734

http://www.anaicr.org

More about these programs below.

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Electricity prices in Europe

by ReGiNuss Wed Dec 17th, 2014 at 03:22:30 PM EST

Europe's energy sector is in the midst of a major transformation. Its gas and electricity sectors are moving from public monopolies into competitive private companies in liberalised markets and electricity generation is being decarbonised, with strong growth of wind and solar power in particular. The cost of energy is rising, creating concern about the effect on vulnerable households, and prompting calls for government intervention. As energy prices increase across the European Union (EU), consumers in some member states are paying considerably more for their energy than UK customers, according to a European Commission study. Statistic 2014: Electricity prices by type of user Europe cannot be treated as a single entity, for there are massive differences between individual countries in what households pay for their power. Government taxes and subsidies have attracted controversy for driving up electricity and gas bills, in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

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Germany eliminated tuition, while Americans are drowning in $1.2 trillion student loan debt (Update)

by Democrats Ramshield Tue Dec 16th, 2014 at 06:34:12 AM EST

(Cross posted by author from the Daily Kos)

Written by an American MBA expat living in Germany.
I was privileged with the support of the Daily Kos community to have ordinarily publish this diary which went onto viral status, having received over 30,000 Facebook shares and 588 Tweets.

I have since received from members of the Daily Kos community large substantial numbers of requests to update and republish the diary at DKOS as the original diary can no longer be commented on and participated in. Therefore I republished this diary yesterday where in response to requests from readers for updated material, I unpublished this diary and am republishing it today substantially in rewritten form as a service to the community.  

I am therefore impressed this is an important discussion that deserves our attention for a serious subject matter. Therefore as my reader, I would like to invite you to give this indepth report in the matter of this diary a close read. I'd also like to thank Meteor Blades and all of the original recommenders of that diary who are too numerous to repeat here. The recent events in Ferguson, MO and other such senseless tragedies perpetrated by the racist American police state have brought the crisis of our democracy into the international media spotlight.  

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Oil Prices Drop as Market Collapses

by ARGeezer Mon Dec 15th, 2014 at 01:51:18 AM EST

Will the Oil Collapse Kill Energy Junk Bonds?  (Yves Smith on Illari's post from Automatic Earth)

(The PBS News Hour Friday, December 12, noted that US oil prices dropped below $60/bbl Friday, causing the lagest drop in US stock markets in three years.)

Some context, (via Ed Harrison):

front-paged by afew

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How old are we?

by das monde Sun Dec 14th, 2014 at 09:32:46 AM EST

As we got a little interested in the age distribution of readers of this blog, I follow the Swedish royal suggestion to bring up a poll. Please contribute in making this survey representative.

And let's discuss, whether we should take on a mission to attract a batch of younger readers, or expand all age groups.

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Yesterday I turned 78.

by LEP Tue Dec 9th, 2014 at 06:48:03 PM EST

Just thought I'd pop in to say hello to all of my old friends of Eurotrib.

The old bod aint what it used to be and I don't get around as much on my feet in Paris as I used to; no more street demonstrations with camera for me. But the brain still seems OK; well enough to read Eurotrib and Daily Kos daily which makes it difficult to avoid depression. I really miss the annual meetups we used to have in Paris-one of the highlights of the year for me.

Many of you remember Raphael who came to the first Eurotrib meetup when he was 15 in 2006. He just started his Phd work in Physics at ENS in Lyon. Esther, who's 20 now, who also came to a meetup or two, finished two years of study as a sound technician and is now studying cinema at the Sorbonne.

I hope you are all doing well personally, especially AR Geezer who's having some health problems. If there is ever another Paris meetup count me in; even if I have to take a 40 euro taxi ride to get there.

Good holiday season to all!

Len

Comments >> (26 comments)

My left foot

by ARGeezer Mon Dec 8th, 2014 at 01:34:25 AM EST

I want to note that I have been dealing with health issues lately. I was hospitalized in mid September and then again on the 2nd of December. All of this arises from an exquisitely ridiculous bit of prat-fall. I have been using a mobility cart at large stores for several years due to my knees. In early August I drove one out to my car, started to get off by placing my left foot off the cart, then decided to reposition the cart further left and proceeded to do so without putting my foot back on the cart - thus running the cart over the foot with my 270lbs and the cart's ~ 100 lbs resting on the side of my left ankle. Then I had to reverse the procedure.

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Do It Yourself Solar: Austrian Self-Build Coops

by gmoke Sun Dec 7th, 2014 at 10:42:02 PM EST

In 1983, a couple of years after the second of the 1970s oil shocks and at a time when petroleum prices were relatively low, in a village near Graz, Austria, in the province of  Styria, a farmer and an engineer led a group of 32 people in building simple do it yourself solar heaters.  They said, "Our primary aim was to build a collector that was inexpensive and easy to build for every one of us. Having become aware of the 􏰜finiteness of natural resources, we also aimed at avoiding all material waste in constructing the collector. Other important aspects were the saving of energy, environmental protection, and community building. Everybody was expected to build their own collector in order to be sufficiently familiar with its function."

By the end of 1984, two more self-building groups with more than 100 participants were needed to meet the local demand for such solar heaters.  By 1986, the do it yourself groups were producing more collector surface area than all the commercial suppliers in Austria.  In 1987, the first build-it-yourself guide was published and in 1988 the Association for Renewable Energy (AEE) was founded to institutionalize the group build, self build, do it yourself solar movement which now included about 50 groups and more than 1,000 participants.

By the end of 1998 there were 360,000 m2 of solar collector area and about 30,000 household solar hot water heating systems built by the do it yourselfers, out of 100,000 private household solar systems with 1.3 million m2 of plate collector surface in all of Austria.  For a decade and more, do it yourself, self-build groups dominated the Austrian solar industry and the model was exported to Switzerland, the Czech and Slovak Republics, and Slovenia.

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Once again the ECB disappoints

by rz Thu Dec 4th, 2014 at 09:18:44 AM EST

From the Guardian live stream I found this:

[The ECB] has cut its inflation forecasts in 2014 to just 0.5%, from 0.6%.

The figure for 2015 has been slashed to just 0.7%, from 1.1%. In 2016, it rises to 1.3%, down from 1.4% in the previous staff forecasts.

Think about this: By its own forcast, the ECB will now miss its target for at least four years in row. And this while Eurozone unemployment is at 12%.

Even better:


Draghi says the ECB's growth and inflation forecasts have been revised down substantially; and he admits that these forecasts do not include the latest slump in oil prices.

So probably inflation will be even lower, then the already terrible forecast predicts.

This is obviously fully in line with the overall behavior of the ECB. At the beginning of the year, when inflation was at 0.8% what did the ECB do: nothing! It took another 8 month or so, until the ECB started a program to extend its balance sheet.

And why: Because inflation expectations are well anchored. Already this was quite strange: The ECB has a Mandate to keep inflation at 2%, not 'inflation' expectations. Now, you could argue that inflation exceptions at 2% guarantee that in 'the medium term' inflation will run at 2%.

But how are you going to keep inflation exceptions  anchored if, by your own forecast, you are going to miss the inflation target for 4 years in a row (this was already the case in the beginning of the year). And on top of this the ECB is in now way committed to overshooting. Such a asymmetric target guarantees inflation below the mandated 2%.

How is that not an issue yet! Are all Europeans so scared of inflation that nobody notices that the ECB is not doing its job?

Comments >> (15 comments)

Germany's Biggest Utility Changes Its Business Model

by gmoke Tue Dec 2nd, 2014 at 10:11:12 PM EST

"In a strategy approved by the utility's advisory board yesterday, E.ON [Germany's biggest utility]  is preparing to split into two separate companies sometime next year. The new (as-yet-unnamed) company will take on the company's coal, gas and nuclear assets, as well as its trading business and hydropower plants.

"Once the spinoff is complete in 2016, E.ON will focus exclusively on renewable energy, energy efficiency, digitizing the distribution network and enabling customer-sited energy sources like storage paired with solar. The reformed utility will be active in Europe, North America and Turkey."

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Germanys-Biggest-Utility-Is-Divesting-From-Centralized-P ower

Comments >> (8 comments)

Cabinet crisis in Sweden

by A swedish kind of death Tue Dec 2nd, 2014 at 04:31:06 PM EST

Tomorrow the new red-green minority government is facing a defeat in parliament as the four-party former government and the racist party have all declared that they will vote for the former government's budget. Or will they...?

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Leaving the Euro

by rz Sun Nov 30th, 2014 at 03:50:15 PM EST

I wrote a quite long comment in  Migerus Diary and I thought I should extend it even more and make a diary out of it.

In the comment section melo started a discussion about the Euro, in this case Germany leaving the Euro.

I posed the question to all participation in this thread

Would you recommend leaving the Euro? And: Would you vote for a party which recommends leaving the Euro?

The answers to this question I got could be divided into two groups:

Answer a)  Cyrille,  Migeru,  afew, (maybe melo):
We need a credible threat to leave the Euro, to change the European institutional setup. The exact nature of the changes has not been spelled out, but from our discussion on this blog it is quite clear that what would be needed is, i) changes to the 'Stability and Growth Pact', ii) The possibility for the ECB to directly finance gouvernments. iii) maybe a higher inflation target.

Migeru later specified:


Unless and until Article 123 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Article 104 of Maastricht Treaty) is repealed, all the rest is cosmetic.

Which is basically my point ii). I completely agree that this is the most crucial point.

front-paged by afew

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This, my friends, is why we can't have nice things

by Migeru Sat Nov 29th, 2014 at 12:16:24 PM EST

Earlier today in the European Parliament, Jean Claude-Juncker introduced his much-touted €300bn investment plan with these words:

I often hear that we need 'fresh' money. What I believe we really need is a fresh start and fresh investment. Others say we need more debt. We do not. National budgets are already stretched. The EU operates on balanced budgets and the abundant liquidity can allow Europe to grow without creating new debt. We will not betray our children and grandchildren and write more checks that they will ultimately have to pay off. We will not betray the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact that we have agreed jointly - this is a matter of credibility.

cross-posted on The Court Astrologer

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Bail-In? Will The Chute Open?

by ARGeezer Mon Nov 24th, 2014 at 12:20:30 PM EST

Vicious Circle(s) 2.0 While trying to sever the sovereign-banking link, we may be disregarding vulnerabilities from banks' mutual interconnectedness     Silvia Merler   Breugel  H/T NC

Since the beginning of the crisis - and more so since 2010 - Europeans have been looking at the sovereign-banking "vicious circle", tying the dismal fates of States and banks together. This has emerged as a characteristic disease during the euro crisis, and one of the stated objective of the European Banking Union project was precisely to remedy it. The idea was basically to achieve this goal in a twofold way, ex ante and ex post. On one hand, by imposing stronger and harmonised supervisory requirements (e.g. on capital) and by empowering a third-party, independent and hopefully high-quality, supervisor to oversee their fulfillment, thus rebuilding trust in supervision and in the financial sector's health. On the other hand, if a crisis turned out to be unavoidable, the second principle consisted in limiting recourse to taxpayers' money as much as possible therefore preventing doubts about the damage that bank rescue would inflict to the state of public finances.

The first principle was translated into practice by the creation of a Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) under which, on the 4th of November, the ECB took over supervisory responsibility for banks in the euro area. The second principle concretized by the introduction of the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD) which gives a framework for resolution of troubled banks, and by the creation of a Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM), who should ensure consistent and homogeneous application of it. Among the other provision, the BRRD contains a set of rules for the application of bail-in in bank resolution, strengthening the involvement of private creditor that de facto is already introduced by the amended State Aid framework.

Hence, there has been a remarkable shift in the European mindset about banking crisis, from a first phase in which bail-in was a taboo, to a second one in which it is considered as a new normal and welcome practice. And there is in principle nothing bad about this idea, but the question is whether in rapidly overturning the approach, European policymakers have not overlooked important weaknesses that still exists in the system and could have important consequences in the perspective of applying these new rules.


Twenty percent of EU banks' capital has as counterparties other EU banks and in Italy and others much of the state debt is held by its private banks.

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Austrian groundhog decade

by Cyrille Mon Nov 24th, 2014 at 05:22:27 AM EST

Via Paul Krugman, I see that Peter Schiff had this to say:

"The truth is that high levels of unemployment are historically correlated with higher inflation and low levels of unemployment with lower inflation. That is because an economy that more fully utilizes labor resources is more productive. More production brings down prices."

What??? Leave aside that pretty much everything in the Austrian worldview has been thoroughly refuted by evidence over the past 7 years -actually they will force you to leave it aside as they claim that Austrian economics is pure logic that is not refutable by evidence (handy, isn't it). Just look at the statement and... what???

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MSM Corruption and Capture Illustrated!

by ARGeezer Thu Nov 20th, 2014 at 04:15:28 PM EST

New York Fed, Goldman in Criminal Investigation for Sharing Confidential Information  Yves Smith  Naked Capitalism

A New York Times story manages to bury the lead, even given the salacious material, in an important story that provides more evidence of the overly-cozy relationship between the New York Fed and its favored large banks, particularly Goldman. The issue is sensitive in the wake of former New York Fed staffer Carmen Segarra releasing hours of tape recordings that show undue deference by the Fed employees towards Goldman....What is striking about the New York Times expose is how tortuous the writing is, and how it takes (and I am not exaggerating) three times as many words as necessary to finally describe what happened. For instance, it isn't until the 9th paragraph that the article mentions that this sharing of confidential information can be a crime and the authorities are giving a serious look into that very question.

The overview: a former New York Fed employee who had been assigned to work with banks obtained confidential information about a bank client that amounted to impermissible sharing of privileged regulatory information. As the Times states at the very end of the story:

   Goldman determined that the spreadsheet contained confidential bank supervisory information. Federal and state rules classify certain records, including those generated during bank exams, as confidential. Unless the Federal Reserve provides special approval, it can be a federal crime to share them outside the Fed.

    But proving that someone "willfully" violated the rules, as is required for a criminal prosecution, could be difficult. The rules are vague and even contradictory about which documents must remain confidential -- and when regulators are allowed to share them.

    Some of [Goldman employee] Mr. [Rohit] Bansal's information, the lawyers said, may have come from Jason Gross, who worked at the New York Fed at the time.

    Mr. Gross's lawyer, Bruce Barket, said, "We are cooperating with the federal investigation to the best we can."

They put the worst nine paragraphs down, beneath the copy from three reporters, apparently hoping that few readers will get that far. At least they published the story. It gets better.

It would seem time to change the status of The New York Federal Reserve Bank by abolishing it board and making it directly responsible to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the Chairman. That would obviate the possibility for Jamie Dimon or another powerful Wall Street Banker to have an inside position as a member of the New York Fed's board. Most Open Market Operations by the Fed are implemented by the NY Fed. Determing what to do about the New York Times and other MSM publications is more difficult.

Thrive SolarŪ

by gmoke Wed Nov 19th, 2014 at 01:27:02 PM EST

On Friday 11/14/14, Ranganayakulu Bodavula Ph D, Chairman and Managing Director of Thrive® Solar Energy Pvt Ltd (http://www.thriveenergy.co.in), spoke at Harvard's Center for Population Studies (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/population-development/).  On Monday 11/17/14, he spoke to the MIT student group, e4Dev [Energy for Development] (http://e4dev.tumblr.com).  

Thrive Solar Energy Pvt Ltd is a leading solar powered LED lighting solutions provider from India, offering

"14 types of solar powered LED lights that cater to the lighting needs of children, women, households and villages. Its lights are used by tea estate workers, farmers, weavers, vendors, dairy and any other village level vocation that is in need of a clean, safe and reliable light. Thrive Solar partners with NGOs, women Self Help Groups (SHGs), Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs), funding agencies, banks, donors, educational institutions and businesses to promote and distribute its lighting products to bottom of the pyramid (BOP) communities, located in off-grid and intermittently grid connected geographies."

Thrive is making 2 million lights per year at a price as low as $2 per lamp and are projecting 4 million per year production soon.  They do not sell directly to consumers but through the different agencies with which they work.  Nearly half of India still uses 12 lumen candles and 40 lumen kerosene lamps which can be replaced with 60 lumen solar lights.  Currently, the Indian government subsidizes kerosene and paraffin prices by $6 billion per year.  Thrive says it can provide solar lights to every Indian family now for about $1 billion.  

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Joschka Fischer on Vision

by Migeru Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 01:42:54 AM EST

Tageszeitung has an interview with Joschka Fischer this [Nov 1st..Ed] weekend: ,,Der erste Schritt ist eine Vision" (the first step is a vision, 31 October 2014) on the occasion of his new book advocating a United States of Europe. To the charge that he's being unrealistic in that, he answers with

Woran die EU gegenwärtig krankt, sieht man in allen drei großen aktuellen Krisen: Sowohl in den Sicherheitskrisen in Osteuropa, im Nahen und Mittleren Osten als auch in der Finanzkrise fehlt Europa die politische Kraft, der feste politische Rahmen. Die EU als Staatenverbund reicht dafür nicht mehr aus! Und wie immer in Europa ist der erste Schritt der Realpolitik eine Vision. Wenn ich Frau Merkel etwas vorwerfen muss, ist das ihre visionslose Kleine-Schritte-Politik. Ich habe nichts gegen kleine Schritte, im Gegenteil. Aber man muss wissen, wo das Ziel ist.
We see the present sickness of the EU in all three major current crises: in the security crises in Eastern Europe and the Middle East as well as in the financial crisis, Europe lacks political power or a strong political framework. The EU as a union of states no longer suffices! And as always in Europe, the first step of Realpolitik is a vision. If I have to accuse Mrs. Merkel of something it is her visionless baby-step politics. I have nothing against baby steps, on the contrary. But you have to know what the goal is.
More below the fold

promoted by afew

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Transatlantic Solidarity Deals a Blow to US Right Wing Group ALEC

by ManfromMiddletown Thu Nov 6th, 2014 at 02:14:09 PM EST

There is some rare good news today in American politics. ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right wing organization dedicated to bringing neoliberal policies, and worse to US state governments, has lost a major donor.  

SAP, a German-based firm with regional offices in the U.S., said Thursday that it will "immediately disassociate itself" from ALEC, the conservative coalition of state legislators and corporations that has come under fire in recent months for its opposition to environmental regulations.

"SAP has decided to immediately disassociate itself from ALEC," a company representative said in a statement given to the left-leaning Center for Media and Democracy and obtained by National Journal. "The membership had been under review for some time and is now being canceled."

When asked if the decision was because of ALEC's conservative stance on climate change, the representative replied, "Not only [that] position, on gun control and voter rights as well." ALEC has historically been tied to pushing looser gun control and stricter voter identification laws, but says it no longer works on social policies.

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News and Views

 20-21 December 2014

by DoDo - Dec 19, 26 comments

Your take on today's news media

 19 December 2014

by In Wales - Dec 18, 44 comments

Your take on today's news media

 New Weekend OT

by afew - Dec 19, 2 comments

Getting seriously solsticy

 Weekend Over OT

by afew - Dec 16, 21 comments

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