The Crisis of Credit Visualized

By the author: “The goal of giving form to a complex situation like the credit crisis is to quickly supply the essence of the situation to those unfamiliar and uninitiated. This project was completed as part of my thesis work in the Media Design Program, a graduate studio at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. For more on my broader thesis work exploring the use of new media to make sense of a increasingly complex world.”

See http://www.crisisofcredit.com

To watch this short animation in HD click here http://www.vimeo.com/3261363

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Venezuelan News Round Up

Chavez: Venezuela progressing towards food independence

CARACAS, June 14 (Xinhua) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday that the government has set targets for exporting food to neighbor countries and is progressing towards food independence.

During his weekly radio and television broadcast “Alo Presidente,” Chavez said Venezuela’s cattle herd now topped 12 million heads and is estimated to rise to 14 million by 2012.

Chavez hosted Sunday’s show from the La Bandera farm in southwestern state Tachira, a model socialist dairy farm set up on land seized from drug traffickers.

The Venezuelan government has seized 50 farms from traffickers, equivalent to 12,000 hectares suitable for livestock.

La Bandera now has 1,985 heads of cattle, up from 1,300 18 months ago; and produces 38 percent more milk, the Venezuelan president said.

Source: http://www.chinaview.cn

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Venezuela takes on Tetra Pak

Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez has threatened to ignore international patents and manufacture Tetra Paks to help reduce the need for imports.

Chávez told the audience of his weekly Aló Presidente show that patents were “universal knowledge” and Venezuela had the materials to produce the cartons itself. “We don’t have to be subject to capitalist laws,” he said.

Importing Tetra Pak materials is said to have cost the South American country $63m (£38.5m) in May alone. Tetra Pak was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

Chávez targeted overseas packaging in March when he seized 1,500 hectares of eucalyptus forest belonging to Irish packaging giant Smurfit Kappa that he said should be destined for food rather than cardboard.

In yesterday’s broadcast, Chávez said the government would have to seize packaging firms that did not deal with national food companies, although did not provide further information.

Aló Presidente is now in its tenth year and runs on Sundays on state TV. It starts at 11am and has been known to run for five hours.

The segment of the show on Tetra Pak and patents can be viewed in Spanish via the YouTube website by clicking here.

Source: http://www.packagingnews.co.uk/RSS/News/913111/Venezuela-takes-Tetra-Pak/

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Wrong type of passenger prompts Venezuela to redirect metro line

Plan for two stations in Caracas put on hold because it would have benefited ‘oligarchs’

Venezuela has redirected a new metro line away from a chic part of Caracas, one of Latin America’s most congested capitals, because it would have benefited “oligarchs”.

Authorities cancelled plans for two metro stations at Las Mercedes, a district of malls and restaurants, because it would serve the wrong type of passenger in a country undergoing a socialist revolution.

“That is a line which benefits the oligarchy,” said Claudio Farias, president of the state-owned company Metro Caracas. “We are redesigning it because we think this line makes no sense. Everybody goes to restaurants in Las Mercedes in their cars.”

Under redesigned plans five stations will be dropped from line five, which is intended to carry about 300,000 passengers daily from the central Zona Rental to low-income areas in the south-east.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/15/venezuela-metro-redirected

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Venezuela Orders End to Coca-Cola Zero Production

On Wednesday the Venezuelan Ministry for Health ordered the Coca-Cola Company to remove its product Coca-Cola Zero from sale for containing a cancerous ingredient, sodium cyclamate, an ingredient not included in the US version of the drink.

Jesus Mantilla, the health minister, said, “The product should stop circulating in order to protect the health of Venezuelans.” He said the product contains sodium cyclamate, which in large amounts can be harmful, and then announced that the product should be recalled, destroyed, and not produced anymore.

Divis Antunez, director of sanitary control for the Health Ministry, said the ingredient wasn’t in the company’s application that it made in 2007 and that was approved by the Ministry. Later, in a random test conducted by the National Institute for Hygiene Rafael Rangel, sodium cyclamate was found and the Health Ministry started a legal process for non-compliance with the Health Registry.

Antunez said that the recommended amount of sodium cyclamate for human consumption is 11 mg per kilo, whereas the new Coca-Cola Zero has 18-22mg per 10 mils, exceeding the amount approved by the Venezuelan Commission of Industrial Norms (COVENIN).

Yesterday Coca-Cola said in a press release, “The Coca-Cola Company and its bottler Coca-Cola Femsa Venezuela responsibly declare that Coca-Cola Zero doesn’t contain any ingredient that could be harmful to the health.” However, Coca-Cola said that until the government concludes its administrative proceedings it will suspend production in Venezuela and recall the drink.

Coca-Cola Zero is a drink without any calories (or an amount small enough to be rounded down to zero) and is marketed to young males who are self conscious of their weight but see Diet Coke as being for women. The diet and zero versions in the US, England, and Canada both contain non-calorie sweeteners aspartame (E951) and acesulfame K (E950), but in slightly different proportions and they therefore have slightly different tastes.

However the versions produced in Venezuela (as well as in Chile and some other Central American countries) have sodium cyclamate (E952) in larger proportions than aspartame. Whilst aspartame is cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), sodium cyclamate has been prohibited since 1969 when it was proved to cause cancerous tumours and congenital malformations.

Sodium cyclamate, when combined with other chemicals, has the capacity to sweeten up to 600 times more than sugar. According to Aporrea.org, it is also much cheaper than aspartame at $10/kilo compared to $152/kilo for aspartame.

In Mexico in August 2007, El Universal-Mexico reported that Coca-Cola was also putting sodium cyclamate in the coca-cola zero drink there. The article said that the drink contained 25mg of the ingredient for every 100g in a can of 355ml. Pro-U.S president Vicente Fox authorized the ingredient for the government’s list of permitted food additives in July 2006.

In February 2008 Mexican feminist news Cimanoticias reported that consumers had “triumphed” and that the ingredient had been removed from the drink.

Source: http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4516

Corruption Goes Right To The Heart Of The System

There is a range of different ways of making money out of parliamentary expenses – and our politicians have milked them all.

Many of the recent revelations in the expenses scandal are centred around claims relating to housing.

Shahid Malik, the justice minister, resigned last week pending an inquiry into the unusually low level of rent he was paying to a landlord in his constituency in West Yorkshire while claiming £66,000 in allowances for his London home.

Elliot Morley, a senior backbencher, was stripped of the Labour whip after “forgetting” that he had paid off his mortgage and improperly claimed more than £16,000.

David Chaytor, a backbencher, was suspended from the parliamentary Labour party after admitting an “unforgivable error” in claiming £13,000 for a mortgage he had already repaid.

Plasma TV

Most people are outraged at the extravagance of many of the claims – such as those of Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman who claimed £1,851 for a rug imported from a New York antiques centre and had tried to claim £8,865 for a plasma TV.

But to claim expenses for mortgages that don’t exist takes corruption to a new low. Continue reading

MPs’ Expenses Scandal – A Note Of Appreciation To All Taxpayers

Let’s be honest: you’ll never win the lottery.

On the other hand, the chances are pretty good that you’ll slave away at some miserable job the rest of your life. That’s because you were in all likelihood born into the wrong social class. Let’s face it — you’re a member of the working caste. Sorry!

As a result, you don’t have the education, upbringing, connections, manners, appearance, and good taste to ever become one of us. In fact, you’d probably need a book the size of the yellow pages to list all the unfair advantages we have over you. That’s why we’re so relieved to know that you still continue to believe all those silly fairy tales about “justice” , “equal opportunity” and “democracy” in the UK.

Of course, in a hierarchical social system like ours, there’s never been much room at the top to begin with. Besides, it’s already occupied by us — and we like it up here so much that we intend to keep it that way. But at least there’s usually someone lower in the social hierarchy you can feel superior to and kick in the teeth once in a while. Even a lowly dishwasher can easily find some poor slob further down in the pecking order to sneer and spit at. So be thankful for migrant workers, prostitutes, and homeless street people.

Always remember that if everyone like you were economically secure and socially privileged like us, there would be no one left to fill all those boring, dangerous, low-paid jobs in our economy. And no one to fight our wars for us, or blindly follow orders in our totalitarian corporate institutions. And certainly no one to meekly go to their grave without having lived a full and creative life. So please, keep up the good work!

You also probably don’t have the same greedy, compulsive drive to possess wealth, power, and prestige that we have. And even though you may sincerely want to change the way you live, you’re also afraid of the very change you desire, thus keeping you and others like you in a nervous state of limbo. So you go through life mechanically playing your assigned social role, terrified what others would think should you ever dare to “break out of the mold.”

Naturally, we try to play you off against each other whenever it suits our purposes: high-waged workers against low-waged, unionized against non-unionized, Black against White, male against female, American workers against Japanese against Mexican against…. We continually push your wages down by invoking “foreign competition,” “the law of supply and demand,” “national security,” or “the bloated federal deficit.” We throw you on the unemployed scrap heap if you step out of line or jeopardize our profits. And to give you an occasional break from the monotony of our daily economic blackmail, we allow you to participate in our stage-managed electoral shell games, better known to you ordinary folks as “elections.” Happily, you haven’t a clue as to what’s really happening — instead, you blame “Aliens,” “Tree-hugging Environmentalists,” “Niggers,” “Jews,” Welfare Queens,” and countless others for your troubled situation.

We’re also very pleased that many of you still embrace the “work ethic,” even though most jobs in our economy degrade the environment, undermine your physical and emotional health, and basically suck your one and only life right out of you. We obviously don’t know much about work, but we’re sure glad you do!

Of course, life could be different. Society could be intelligently organized to meet the real needs of the general population. You and others like you could collectively fight to free yourselves from our domination. But you don’t know that. In fact, you can’t even imagine that another way of life is possible. And that’s probably the greatest, most significant achievement of our system — robbing you of your imagination, your creativity, your ability to think and act for yourself.

So we’d truly like to thank you from the bottom of our heartless hearts. Your loyal sacrifice and ignorance makes possible our corrupt luxury; your work makes our system work. Thanks so much for “knowing your place” — without even knowing it!

How to Fix the Wall Street Mess

March on Wall Street

Demonstration on Wall Street

The richest 400 Americans — that’s right, just four hundred people — own MORE than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. 400 rich Americans have got more stashed away than half the entire country! Their combined net worth is $1.6 trillion. During the eight years of the Bush Administration, their wealth has increased by nearly $700 billion — the same amount that they are now demanding we give to them for the “bailout.” Why don’t they just spend the money they made under Bush to bail themselves out? They’d still have nearly a trillion dollars left over to spread amongst themselves!

Of course, they are not going to do that — at least not voluntarily. George W. Bush was handed a $127 billion surplus when Bill Clinton left office. Because that money was OUR money and not his, he did what the rich prefer to do — spend it and never look back. Now we have a $9.5 trillion debt. Why on earth would we even think of giving these robber barons any more of our money? Continue reading