January 2016

File: A sign outside a payday loan shark announcing their services, photographed on October 8, 2012. (Flickr / HelenCobain)

With successful films like Inside Job and The Big Short, the American people may finally be getting a handle on what really caused the 2008 financial crisis: Wall Street fraud. What has yet to be fully explored and comprehended is whether or how much the crisis changed the American people’s thinking on banking.

A positive change in thinking that seems to have come out of the 2008 financial crisis is a renewed skepticism of Wall Street’s claims about itself, especially the claim that the banksters can maintain a stable system by “self-regulating.” The ’08 crash made it exceedingly clear to most people that the financial services industry needs constant oversight or it will bring down the whole economy through reckless greed and its congenital criminality. This change in thinking has led to increased support for regulation and curtailing Wall Street’s economic and political power.

But losing trust in established financial institutions can bring negative changes in thinking too, if viable progressive alternatives are not presented – especially for younger Americans who typically have less knowledge and experience with finance.

According to the results of survey [PDF] performed by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center at George Washington University, 40% of millennials used a payday loan, pawnshop, tax refund advance or other alternative financial product in the past five years. In other words, many younger Americans have shifted to using the most predatory and parasitic financial services.

Some of this shift is likely not the result of a lack of knowledge but of desperation brought on by suffocating debts and the exhausting of traditional credit methods. Nonetheless, the best response to this horrifying trend is for all Americans, younger ones especially, to be informed of current progressive banking alternatives like credit unions as well as to be tought what they can do to manage and discharge their debts [PDF].

Part of the long term solution to predatory lending is to democratize banking with increased use of credit unions and the introduction of programs like postal banking. However, the ultimate solution is ensure that workers gain a larger share of the economy through increases in wages, which have been stagnant for over three decades.

Higher wages will not only prevent the need to us predatory financial institutions like payday lenders, they will also help level out a unequal society that is quickly spiraling down into a complete plutocracy.

Box Office: ‘Star Wars’ Makes Christmas History With $49.3M; ‘Daddy’s Home,’ ‘Joy’ Strong

Daisy Ridley, John Boyega in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'
Daisy Ridley, John Boyega in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’
 Courtesy of Lucas Films



Growing old gracefully! Maria Shriver shows Kris Jenner how it should be done as she attends her low-key 60th birthday bash

Her fellow celebrity matriarch Kris Jenner was marking the start of her seventh decade with an over-the-top Great Gatsby themed bash.

But classy Maria Shriver showed her rival how it should be done when she attended her low-key 60th birthday celebration in Bel Air on Friday.

The chic television journalist and former First Lady Of California wore a warm smile as she acknowledge her fans before heading inside to crack open a bottle of bubbly and blow out her candles in the posh area of Los Angeles.

Showing her how its done: Classy Maria Shriver avoided a Kris Jenner-esque circus by having a low-key birthday bash in Bel Air on Friday

How the Third Industrial Revolution Will Create a Green Economy

Posted: Updated:
 sustainable city

This essay is the first in a four-part series on the theme, “The Third Industrial Revolution.” Stay tuned for the next chapters and responses from leading global figures and technologists.

Behold: The New ‘Star Wars’ Trailer

You know you want it.

For those of you who sat through Monday Night Football just to catch the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer, you were rewarded handsomely with a foreshadowing of what some are claiming could be the best episode ever, byLost’s J.J. Abrams. The elements are certainly there, from familiar faces like Han Solo and Princess Leia to a dessicated Darth Vader to an epic Millennium Falcon chase and a bunch of brand-new droid characters.

Watch it above for yourself, and begin the countdown to Dec. 18.


Life on earth ‘began on Mars’

Geochemist argues that seeds of life originated on Mars and were blasted to Earth by meteorites or volcanoes
Mars Gale crater
Sunrise over the Gale crater on Mars. Was this where life began? Photograph: Stocktrek Images, Inc/Alamy

Evidence is mounting that life on Earth may have started on Mars. A leading scientist has claimed that one particular element believed to be crucial to the origin of life would only have been available on the surface of the red planet.

Professor Steven Benner, a geochemist, has argued that the “seeds” of life probably arrived on Earth in meteorites blasted off Mars by impacts or volcanic eruptions. As evidence, he points to the oxidised mineral form of the element molybdenum, thought to be a catalyst that helped organic molecules develop into the first living structures.

“It’s only when molybdenum becomes highly oxidised that it is able to influence how early life formed,” said Benner, of the Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology in the US. “This form of molybdenum couldn’t have been available on Earth at the time life first began, because three billion years ago, the surface of the Earth had very little oxygen, but Mars did.

“It’s yet another piece of evidence which makes it more likely that life came to Earth on a Martian meteorite, rather than starting on this planet.”

All living things are made from organic matter, but simply adding energy to organic molecules will not create life. Instead, left to themselves, organic molecules become something more like tar or asphalt, said Prof Benner.

He added: “Certain elements seem able to control the propensity of organic materials to turn to tar, particularly boron and molybdenum, so we believe that minerals containing both were fundamental to life first starting.

“Analysis of a Martian meteorite recently showed that there was boron on Mars; we now believe that the oxidised form of molybdenum was there too.”

Another reason why life would have struggled to start on early Earth was that it was likely to have been covered by water, said Benner. Water would have prevented sufficient concentrations of boron forming and is also corrosive to RNA, a DNA cousin believed to be the first genetic molecule to have appeared.

Although there was water on early Mars, it covered much less of the planet. “The evidence seems to be building that we are actually all Martians; that life started on Mars and came to Earth on a rock,” said Benner, speaking at the Goldschmidt 2013 conference in Florence, Italy. “It’s lucky that we ended up here nevertheless, as certainly Earth has been the better of the two planets for sustaining life. If our hypothetical Martian ancestors had remained on Mars, there might not have been a story to tell.”


Life on Earth may have begun 300m years earlier than previously thought

Discovery, if confirmed, indicates that living organisms appeared on Earth 4.1 billion years ago, remarkably soon after its formation

Electron microscope images taken during the analysis of the graphite specks, which were trapped within immensely old zircon crystals.
Electron microscope images taken during the analysis of the graphite specks, which were trapped within immensely old zircon crystals. Photograph: Bell et al, University of California, Los Angeles

Living organisms may have existed on Earth as long as 4.1bn years ago – 300m years earlier than was previously thought, new research has shown.

If confirmed, the discovery means life emerged a remarkably short time after the Earth was formed from a primordial disc of dust and gas surrounding the sun 4.6bn years ago.

Researchers discovered the evidence in specks of graphite trapped within immensely old zircon crystals from Jack Hills, Western Australia.

Atoms in the graphite, a crystalline form of carbon, bore the hallmark of biological origin. They were enriched with 12C, a “light” carbon isotope, or atomic strain, normally associated with living things.

It suggests that a terrestrial biosphere had emerged on Earth as early as 4.1bn years ago, said the scientists writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The US scientists, led by Dr Mark Harrison, from the University of California at Los Angeles, said the graphite was completely encased in zircon that was crack-free and could not have been contaminated despite the passing of aeons.

They wrote: “This study extends the terrestrial carbon isotope record around 300m years beyond the previously oldest-measured samples from south-west Greenland.”

Some non-biological processes could also produce the light form of carbon, notably meteorite impacts, said the researchers.

But the amount of extra-terrestrial carbon needed to account for the findings made meteorites an unlikely source.

“A biogenic origin seems at least as plausible,” the scientists added.

Confirming the connection with early life would represent “a potentially transformational scientific advance” they said.





50 Shades of Grey Would Look Much More Promising If This Was The Real Cast...

50 Shades of Grey Would Look Much More Promising If This Was The Real Cast…

“50 Shades of Grey” is coming out soon, but before it was announced, the Internet had all sorts of crazy fan casting ideas. Here’s what the movie could have looked like! (MORE)

The Crisis Of The Now: Distracted & Diverted From The Ever-Encroaching Police State

Unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it, and those who work at it,may see a totally different picture too late.”


Facing the Truth:
CNN’s Arwa Damon

Arwa Damon

Photo: Kim Badaw/Getty Images for CNN

Arwa Damon’s fearless reporting from the Middle East has made her a star at CNN. What she uncovered in Libya sparked a national furor.

 Katy Perry plays on Segeway at Burning Man in Nevada desert






Desperate Elephants Shot With Poison Arrows Travel To Humans For Help


David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust